"Hello, Tom." he said amiably.
"Oh, hello, Commander. Sorry about being so late--I didn't hear the computerized wake-up call." Paris said, adding his best aww-shucks smile. Chakotay wasn't taken in.
"Paris, this has got to stop--this is the fifth time this week! This week! This is completely unacceptable." Chakotay admonished. Paris did his best impression of regretful innocence, but again, Chakotay wasn't taken in.
"If this happens again, it will go on you record." Chakotay said finally. "And I want you to help Neelix gather food down planetside."
Paris sighed, and nodded. Chakotay walked over to Harry Kim, the young ensign at Ops. "Harry?" he said in a low whisper. Harry nodded. "I want you to go by Paris' quarters next tomorrow morning to wake him up. Is that okay?"
"Sure," Harry agreed. "No problem."
"Good." Nodding his thanks, Chakotay went back to his command chair, certain that everything was under control.
Neelix was in his element down on the surface. The alien marketplace was not so foreign to him, and he expertly steered his pack-horse--Lt. Paris--to the best locales for fresh fruit and vegetables. Paris followed obediently, and Neelix was secretly thrilled that Paris had been chosen to escort him on this trip. That meant that while the lieutenant was with Neelix, he couldn't be flirting with Kes! Neelix didn't like the pilot all that much. And trusted him even less.
Paris, meanwhile, was nearly bored out of his skull. Here they were, on an exotic planet, and Neelix was only looking at the food! Paris sighed, hefted the half-full bag of food higher on his shoulder, and trudged on. The planet's climate was tropical, which was good if you were here to party, but not-so-good if you were in a humid marketplace wearing Starfleet issue synthesised wool uniforms. The sweat was dripping down his back, and Paris mentally subjected Chakotay to numerous imaginative tortures. He knew the first officer of Voyager didn't like him, but he hadn't realised that it was this much.
"Paris!" called Neelix irritably. "Hurry up! We haven't got all day!"
Thank God for that, Paris thought tiredly. Otherwise I'd be dead by noon.
They eventually made a break for food. Neelix got them some vegetable soup and some alien-looking bread to eat, and they sat down under a tree at the edge of the marketplace.
Sitting down, and regarding the country side, Paris realised how beautiful the planet was. This region was very mountainous, and the village they were in was situated on the side of a steep cliff. Paris watched the fog roll down off one of the higher peaks in complete fascination, when he suddenly heard someone scream.
"Did you hear that?" he asked Neelix.
"Hear what?" asked Neelix in return.
Paris heard the scream again, and it was definitely the scream of a young girl. The natives being quite humanoid, Paris was sure that it was indeed a girl screaming, and ran off in the direction it was coming from. Neelix sat bewildered, while Paris tore off.
"I knew it." he said bitterly. "He's defecting. He's a traitor. Well, if that's the way he's going to be, fine. I'll just leave with out him." Neelix tore off a chunk of bread and ate it angrily.
Paris finally narrowed the source of the sound to the nearby cliff edge. The screams had subsided, and were replaced with sobbing. No one in the village noticed or seemed to notice the screams. If anything, they were ignoring them.
Paris ran to the edge, and peered over to see a young woman hanging by the root of a tree. She was dangling precariously over a thousand foot drop.
"It's okay, I'll help you," Paris said, hoping that his good intentions went through the Universal Translator.
The woman struggled to get a grip on the rockface, but clods of dirt came away in her hand.
"Can somebody help?" Paris yelled. Many of the villagers looked over, but then looked away just as quickly. No help there, he realised. It was up to him. He knelt down, and stretched his arm out as far as it could go. It was mere inches away from the woman's grasp. Finally he lay on his stomach and reached. The woman hesitated for a moment, then grabbed on to his wrist. The minute she grabbed on to his wrist, she let go of the root, letting herself be totally supported by Paris.
Paris braced himself for the weight of the woman holding on to him, but surprisingly she weighed almost nothing. He started to haul her up, still thankful for all the Starfleet regulations regarding proper exercise and weight training, when she suddenly bit his wrist. She sank her teeth into his arm, drawing an alarming amount of blood.
Paris was so surprised, he paused pulling her up in mid-air. She was left dangling over the cliff edge, but she didn't look even frightened any more. Instead, she gave him a long silent look, and let go.
"No!" Paris yelled, trying to get a hold on her again, but it was too late. She plunged to the depths, disappearing in the thick white mist.
Paris pulled himself up, and stared in confusion over the edge. His arm was bleeding profusely, but he hardly noticed. Hardly. It hurt incredibly, and when he finally got over his shock, he staggered to his feet and tried to find Neelix.
Neelix was not where Paris had left him. The supplies were gone, and there was no trace of the Talaxian cook. Paris swore in five different languages, then staggered to the beam-down/up site. Neelix wasn't there either. Paris tapped his communicator with his good arm. No one answered. By now he was feeling very dizzy, and his arm hurt so badly he was starting to black out. He tripped over something on the ground, and collapsed, barely conscious. He tried the communicator again, and realised that it hadn't worked because he hadn't tapped it hard enough. Now he gave it a good thump, and when the Transporter chief answered, Paris started to say his name, but blanked out.
"You left him there?" Janeway said incredulously. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Neelix shrugged.
"He ran off, and didn't come back. I figured that if you wanted him back so badly you could trace him with your communi-thingies." the Talaxian replied dryly. Janeway rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"Of course we can trace him, but that's not the point--"
"Transporter room to Captain Janeway," sang out the aforementioned communicator. "This is Ensign Bateheart."
"Yes Ensign?" Janeway said, turning her attention to the disembodied voice, but motioning for Neelix to stay were he was.
"It's Lieutenant Paris," Bateheart said. "I beamed him aboard, and he was badly injured."
"Then beam him to Sickbay!" said an exasperated Janeway.
"I did, Captain," came the response. "I was just letting you know."
Janeway nodded wearily. "Janeway out," she said, cutting off the ensign. She glared at Neelix. "If anything happens to Paris--" she warned. She turned and stormed out of the briefing room.
The Doctor glanced at the medical tricorder. The patient had nothing more than a flesh wound, and yet he was reacting as if he had been amputated at the elbow. As it was, the Doctor cleaned the wound (expertly, of course) then gave the patient a broad antibiotic to guard against infection.
"You are fit for duty. You may return to your post," the Doctor said, snapping the tricorder closed. The patient did not respond. The Doctor poked the patient's leg, but the patient seemed to be unconscious again. When first beamed into sickbay, the patient was unconscious, but soon woke up and began griping about "quack doctors".
The Doctor found the archaic remark amusing for half a second, then told the patient to shut up so that he could treat him. The patient did so, but apparently fainted from the "pain" he was feeling. According to the tricorder, the pain level was tolerable and the Doctor didn't see how screaming about it could solve anything.
"Kes," he called. "I could use your assistance."
"Of course, Doctor," the Ocampa replied. She walked out of the office carrying her own tricorder. " Flesh wound, treatable with simple cleaning and sterilization against infection," she diagnosed. The Doctor beamed.
"Wait a second--" Kes continued. "There seems to be unusual activity in the brain--wait, it's gone."
The Doctor checked his own readings. Nothing out of the ordinary, and the patient seemed to be reviving himself.
"You are fit for duty," the Doctor repeated. "You may return to your station. You will return to Sickbay tomorrow to assess healing."
At that moment, Janeway stormed in. "Lieutenant!" she called, seeing Paris sitting up on the bio bed. Paris flinched. "You have something to explain."
"I heard someone scream," Paris said, correctly guessing that she was talking about him running off from Neelix. "I ran off to help her--"
"Her?" queried Janeway with any eyebrow raised.
"A young woman. I tried to help her, but she bit me."
"She bit you?" Janeway said, a bit incredulous.
"She bit you?!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me that?! Who knows what sort of organisms were present in her saliva! And directly into the bloodstream, too!" He pushed a protesting Paris onto the bio bed for more inoculations. Janeway decided that was probably more than enough punishment for the mean time, and left to go back to the bridge.
The next day, Harry headed down the corridor. He was on his way to wake-up Paris, who had been discharged from Sickbay yesterday. Paris had been strangely withdrawn since then, complaining of headaches but refusing to revisit the Doctor. Harry was not terribly worried, for he knew Paris' habits of complaining to gain sympathy.
He reached Paris' door, and pressed the chimes to wake him up.
Paris was not feeling like himself. His headaches had become increasingly painful, to the point where he could no longer see. He sleep was fitful, with him continually tossing and turning. His arm was also very painful and tender, although the Doctor examined it and found it to be completely free of infection.
He'd had enough of the Doctor for a while, so he had stopped telling Harry and the others about the headaches so that they would stop recommending a visit to the sickbay.
He sat up in his bed, unable to sleep. His head was pounding so hard, he could barely keep his eyes open. He decided to get up and get a glass of water. He slipped his legs out of the coverlet, and tried to stand up, but his body refused to obey him, and instead let him fall to the floor with a rather loud thud. A dull thud at that.
He listened to the thud that he made, and analyzed it, completely detached from reality. He was no longer in control of himself or anything else.
Harry pressed the chimes again, and the doors slid open. Paris was standing in the doorway, surprising Harry.
"Oh, you're up--" the rest of the sentence didn't make it out, as Paris suddenly grabbed Harry by the throat and wrested him to the ground, choking the breath out of him. Paris dragged the unconscious ensign into his quarters, and went prowling for something to eat.
Chakotay looked at the ship's chronometer and sighed. Not only was Paris late, but Harry was late too. No doubt Paris was making Harry be late as well. Chakotay shook his head. Harry Kim was a brilliant man, and a skilled, if somewhat green, officer, but he couldn't pick friends worth beans. If Paris was even worth beans, which he wasn't, in Chakotay's estimation.
Janeway looked up from her PADD to the pilot's station, which was manned by Ensign Bateheart. She frowned, and glanced towards the Ops station, which was manned by Ensign Rollins. She looked quizzically towards Chakotay when she was suddenly interrupted.
"Help!" came Neelix's hysterical voice over the conn. "He's got a kni--"
The voice cut off in the last moment.
Tuvok was already off the bridge.
One thing that Vulcans, especially Chief-Of-Security Tuvok prided themselves on, and appreciated in other people, was efficiency. By the time he found out where Neelix was, and arrived at the Mess Hall, his security team had closed off the section and arrived at the same time he did at the Mess doors, phasers drawn.
The doors whooshed open, to reveal the darkened Mess Hall, empty of people, due to the fact that it was between meals. Even thought the Mess was always open, there were regular times for meals, and in between those times, it was pretty dead.
Tuvok scanned the tables for any intruders. His calm, efficient, analytical Vulcan mind had already figured out that the threat was probably the reason for Kim and Paris being late. Well, some dark corner remarked sarcastically, Harry was late because of the threat; Paris was probably just sleeping in again. But Tuvok never listened to that small dark corner anyway.
"Lieutenant!" one of his guards yelled. Tuvok rushed to the kitchen to find Neelix, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Tuvok had Neelix beamed to Sickbay immediately, but not before he realised that Neelix's wounds were the result of attack with a knife, but there was no knives lying around anywhere in the kitchen. Meaning the threat was armed.
As Kes helped the Doctor stabilise Neelix she got a funny feeling. In the back of her mind she felt something very odd, that made her think of something growling. She instantly dismissed the feeling, and concentrated on Neelix.
B'Elanna Torres yawned as she got on her shift. She debated going to bed earlier, but dismissed the idea, as that would cut down on the amount of time she would have to work on getting ahead of the many repairs that Voyager always ran into.
She checked the work she needed to do, and prepared her tools. She had to fix something in one of the Jefferies tubes. As she neared the tube door, she heard a funny noise, almost like a scuffling, coming from inside the tube.
She opened the door to reveal Paris.
"Tom?" she said hesitantly. He growled in response. B'Elanna was thoroughly confused. Why was Tom growling at her? Then she noticed his teeth had changed shape, become more pointed, and he had more facial hair than he usually did. However, she noticed something a bit more ominous: he was holding a bloodied knife. B'Elanna reacted quickly, absorbing the information, then trying to slam the hatch closed. Paris managed to get himself between the door and the wall, acting as a wedge, and pushing out. B'Elanna knew she was physically stronger than Paris, but she was barely even keeping the door in the position that it was in.
"Conner!" she screamed, yelling at one of the engineering staff. "Get Tuvok down here now!"
"Sir?" Conner asked hesitantly.
"Don't argue with me! Do it!"
If it's one thing you don't argue with, it's an irate klingon, or even an irate half-klingon. Conner tapped his badge. "Engineering to Lieutenant Tuvok. There's a situation in Engineering."
"What sort?" asked Tuvok's calm voice.
"I don't know, but Lieutenant Torres is fighting it in a Jefferies Tube?"
"Understood. Tuvok out." Conner stood for a moment, undecided to his course of action, then decided to change shifts away from Torres'.
Tuvok was quick, B'Elanna had to give him that. He was there in barely thirty seconds after the dopey Ensign Conner made his call for help. B'Elanna made a mental reminder to transfer Conner off her shift, so she could surround herself with more competent people.
"Lieutenant Torres, I must ask you to get out of the way," Tuvok said politely. " I do not want to risk shooting you and not the creature."
"It's not a creature, it's Tom Paris!" B'Elanna shrieked, starting to lose her battle to keep the door partly closed.
"Indeed. Then he is in worse trouble than sleeping late," Tuvok said with an eyebrow raised. "Please step clear of the door."
B'Elanna nodded, and leapt out of the range of Tuvok's phaser. Paris, his pushing efforts suddenly more than necessary, tumbled out of the Jefferies tube and on to the floor. Tuvok fired. The shot, set at stun, hit Paris square on, but Paris didn't even seem to notice. He growled, then tried to attack B'Elanna. She managed to fend him off while Tuvok fired again at a higher level. Paris was barely slowed.
Tuvok seemed a bit puzzled, while B'Elanna was trying to keep Paris from hurting her without injuring him too much. Finally, Tuvok set the phaser to a high setting [the highest without being fatal]. Paris screamed when the bolt hit him, and stopped suddenly in the middle of the hall. B'Elanna watched him warily, but he merely gave her a quizzical look, and fell over.
"Well," the Doctor said, examining Paris on the force-field isolated bio bed. "I always thought Paris was a bit beastly, but this is ridiculous."
"Can the jokes, Doctor." Janeway snapped. "We need to know what happened, whether it's reversible, and more importantly--"
"Whether it's communicable. Yes, I'm fully aware of the severity of the situation." The Doctor flipped open the tricorder and started taking readings.
"I can feel--" Kes said suddenly.
"What? Go on, Kes," Janeway said. "Anything may be helpful."
"Well--" Kes stumbled for words. "I can feel--something--but not Paris--more like an animal--presence in the back of my mind."
"Animal, you say? Then it could be Paris." quipped the Doctor. Janeway glared, but he was already continuing with his readings.
"I think that something did this to Paris." Kes said finally, "What I mean is--I mean I know something was done to him but--well, I think that something has possessed him." she finished.
"Possessed him?" said Janeway incredulously.
"That would concur with my readings." The Doctor interjected. He snapped his tricorder shut and turned to address Janeway. "The brain patterns of our normal--so to speak--Mr. Paris are vastly different from the Mr. Paris you see before you. Some thing has been engineering an accelerated biological change within Mr. Paris, resulting in the changes you see before you."
"Can you reverse it?" said Janeway, concern showing visibly.
"Once I isolate the cause, yes." The Doctor said. "Until then, we'll keep him in here--" he was interrupted by a beep from the tricorder. "Ah, he's waking up."
"Tom?" Janeway murmured. "Can you hear me?"
Her answer was a low growl coming from the throat of her former pilot. He started struggling against the force-field. He kept growling until the Doctor sedated him with a hypospray. The Doctor turned to face Janeway. "I'll do my best," he said, resting a hand on her shoulder before turning to go into his office.
It was later that night when Kes was visiting Neelix that she got her strange feeling again. She was sitting next to Neelix's bio bed--they'd fixed the damage caused by the wounds, so he'd be all right in a few days--when she felt a tingle on the back of her neck, and she felt her hair stand on end.
She turned and saw Paris crouched on the floor in the inclose. The Doctor had cut the inclose off from the rest of the Sickbay with a force-field, meaning that Paris could get off the bed and stretch his legs.
He was in the corner, almost out of Kes' range of vision, and he was staring at her. It was a frightening sort of stare. Very penetrating, but the worst part was the sheer animalism of it. It may have looked like her friend Tom Paris, but it wasn't. Not really.
The more Paris stared at her, the more Kes had an irrational urge to turn off the force-field. She had no logical explanation, but she couldn't escape the feeling.
Paris continued to stare at her.
Kes became more and more agitated, until finally she got up from her chair and started pacing. She debated with herself whether or not to turn on the Doctor--who was on his recuperation break--but decided not to. Paris met her gaze, and his eyes followed her everywhere she walked.
Suddenly his eyes rolled up in his head and he tipped over.
"Tom!" she yelled. In her instinct to help, she closed down the force-field and rushed to his side. The minute the field came down, Paris leapt to his feet and tackled her. She was thrown to the floor, and he landed on her. She was about to yell and turn on the Doctor when Paris bit her. He bit her neck. That was more than enough to ruin her composure: she screamed, loudly, shrilly, and alerted every sound-activated sensor in the Sickbay and neighbouring rooms.
The Doctor come on line. "Please state the nature of the emergency--uh oh."
Paris growled, turning his attention from Kes to the Doctor. That gave Kes enough time to scramble out of the way. She ran behind the Doctor. "Lock yourself in my office," he said quickly. She nodded. She ran, and closed the doors.
The Doctor turned back to Paris. He picked up a hypospray, and advanced. Paris back off. He knew enough to be wary, and avoided the Doctor at every turn. Tuvok entered through the suddenly opening door. He summed up the situation and brought up his phaser to fire.
Paris recognised that gesture too, and tried to duck out of the way, but in doing so, ran into the Doctor, and more accurately, the Doctor's hypospray.
"Good work, Doctor," Tuvok said, holstering his phaser.
"Not now, Tuvok--lock my office doors!"
"Just do it!" Obediently Tuvok locked the office doors. Kes stood puzzled for a moment. She tried to open them, but failed. She looked quizzically at the Doctor through the glass, but then doubled over in pain. It was then that Tuvok noticed the bite and streaming blood on her neck.
"He bit her." he said, a bit redundantly.
"Very good. You win the Logic Award Of The Year. Now help me get this hairy horror back in the containment field." The Doctor snapped.
He and Tuvok dragged the unconscious Paris back to the bio-bed. "I've got a lot of work ahead of me," the Doctor said, tugging on his uniform top. Tuvok merely dipped his head in response, and headed out to inform Captain Janeway of the new developments.
It was two weeks later before the Doctor isolated the virus which had caused the transformation.
"Apparently, it is a micro-organism which can mimic different cells. It can mutate quite rapidly, turning from a blood-cell to a brain cell in Mr. Paris in a matter of hours. It originally blended in with Paris' DNA so well that I was unable to detect it at the first instance." The Doctor bowed his head in apparent shame for not having realised Paris was harbouring a parasite capable of disguising itself. His head snapped back up, his ego restored. "What the organism does is essentially turn its host into a violent individual, by affecting higher brain functions. I'm guessing that's what a normal version would do."
"Guessing?" asked Janeway.
"Normal?" asked Chakotay.
"I had Neelix talk to some of the villager healers when he felt up to it, and apparently the organisms usually only attack animals."
"You mean they're aware of it?" asked Janeway.
"Yes," the Doctor continued. "The woman Paris found was in fact, infected, and known to be so by the villagers, who ignored her pleas for help."
"So that's how he was originally infected," murmured Chakotay. "I see, Doctor. Please continue. The normal behaviour?" he prompted.
"Ah, yes. The normal behaviour is to create madness in animals. However, when the organism attacks sentient life, it meets a few roadblocks."
"The aversion to killing." Tuvok surmised.
"Exactly. So what the organism did was redirect its tactics." The Doctor paused to let them figure it out.
"So the organism changes its host to an animal form, then creates the madness." Janeway realised.
"Exactly. It used out-of-date information in Paris' DNA to re-create something which it could then control."
"Interesting." Tuvok murmured.
"That's not the half of it. The organism is so perfectly camouflaged inside Paris' and Kes' brains that if our technology was not as up to date as it is, I wouldn't have been able to detect it at all. So they're just lucky they have my superior technology and knowledge to deal with this," the Doctor said proudly. He continued despite the rolled eyes of the Captain and First Officer. "The villagers claim that the organism was a plague from an angry god, but a beneficial goddess gave them the cure."
"There's a cure?" asked Janeway.
"There is, and I've begun administering it at once." the Doctor said proudly. Janeway nodded.
"Good work, Doctor." she said.
"I know," he replied, and clicked the screen off. Janeway suppressed a chuckle.
Paris sat up on the bio-bed in his Sickbay gown and shivered. Why did Doctors still make patients wear these flimsy backless things? When did they ever need to get to a patient's back in a hurry?
Kes was one the bed next to him on one side, Harry on the other. Harry was sitting up as well.
"You're not mad, are you?" Paris asked.
"What, that you viciously attacked me and caused me to be marooned in Sickbay for a week, not including these stupid check-ups to make sure I'm not going to turn into a demented monster next full moon?"
"I guess you're bitter," Paris remarked dryly.
Harry laughed. "Not really. Just don't go around saving demented damsels in distress in the future."
"I am officially putting it #1 on my list of Things Not To Do." Paris laughed, Harry laughing with him, the topic already delegated to another story to tell the Mess Hall....