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Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Title: I am become hollow
Characters/Pairings: Paris/Kim, Paris/Torres
Full header info posted with Chapter One


Harry’s analysis of the sensor logs confirms that Tabor never left the holodeck after I spoke to him. Whatever happened to him, it happened here in the theater. So while Harry performs another diagnostic on the logs, and B'Elanna works off her frustration terrorizing her engineers, I’m sitting in the empty theater trying to make the holodeck reveal its secrets.

“Paris to the Doctor.” I wait while the Doc activates his com badge. If I can get a better idea of what I’m looking for, maybe I can figure out a better strategy.

“Yes, Mr. Paris?” His voice is distinctly annoyed. He must not have figured out how to awaken Tabor yet. After knowing the Doc all these years, and working beside him as medic, I have learned to recognize that particular tone. Means he hasn’t found a way to diagnose and therefore cure the patient.

“Sorry to disturb you, Doc.” If I know him at all, he’s sitting in his office, a deep scowl fixed on his features, as he searches his database repeatedly, putting Tabor’s medical information through every possible simulation. I’ve learned to respect that gruffness. He takes defeat as a personal offense and tenaciously refuses to give up until he turns it into a successful cure. “I’m trying to figure out what happened to Tabor here in the holodeck. I was just wondering if you’ve learned anything further about his condition. Something that would help me know what to look for.”

There is a short pause as the Doc decides whether or not to tell me anything. “I haven’t yet determined the exact cause of his condition. But I have found medical evidence to suggest that he was attacked. Unless new information surfaces, it would probably be safe to ignore environmental conditions until you have exhausted all other possibilities.”

So someone, or I suppose something, attacked him. “Thanks, Doc. If I find anything that might help you diagnose or treat him, I’ll let you know immediately.”

“Acknowledged.” I’m about to close the com line when I hear him clear his throat.

“And Mr. Paris?”

“Yes, Doc?”

“Good luck.” I smile at that. He seems to think of me as his sidekick in the fight against disease and illness. No rocketpack, but just as heroic I guess.

“You too. Let me know if you need any help in sickbay.”

Closing the com channel, I turn my attention back to the holodeck control console. If he was attacked, that means there was someone else here. That means there should be a photonic impression of them imbedded in the program. Like a footprint in the sand. A visual shadow of where the holomatrix adapted around them. If they stayed in one place long enough, I should be able to get a distinct image of them.

I start to work, beginning the slow process of gradually dampening the photonic ambiance, comparing the actual photonic placement with the projected results of an empty program. Then I have to eliminate the explainable variances, like the displacement from where B'Elanna and I were sitting, and enhance those that I can’t account for. Considering Tabor was here for more than three hours before I talked to him, it will be a very long process.

My com badge chirps, startling me in the silence of the deserted room. “Kim to Paris.” I tap my badge eagerly. I asked Harry to notify me immediately if he found anything unusual about the holodeck in the logs.

“Yes?”

“You were right, Tom. Somebody altered the logs, deleted several files. I’ve run all the data recovery algorithms I can think of, but they’re gone.” So there is something here worth hiding.

“That’s okay, Har. I think I’ve found another way to recover that information.”

“I’ve done all I can do here. Do you need a hand?” He sounds eager. I’m sure he’d love to do something productive after hours running recovery programs unsuccessfully. And this process will go a lot faster with his help.

“Sure. I’m in the holodeck.” Besides, I work better with my sidekick.

“Great. I’m on my way.” He closes the channel immediately, no doubt already on his way out the door.



I push back from the console and let Harry take over. We’ve been at this for hours now. After defining the basic outline of the attacker, the work is even more tedious. Now we have to determine which specific photons were displaced at a specific point in time so we can clarify the image further, eventually creating a precise image to identify the assailant. Harry and I have been taking shifts for a while, switching off to get a new perspective.

I pick up my coffee mug and sit in the front row, as far away from the ghostly image of Tabor as possible. I take a sip and immediately spit it back into the mug. Disgustingly cold. The last time Harry took over, I went to get us coffee from the mess hall.

The ex-Maquis were just leaving the mess hall when I got there. I caught B'Elanna on her way out to find out what happened. Seems our attacker is targeting only the former Maquis, so they’re traveling in teams and carrying phasers. I wasn’t informed, so I guess that means I’m considered Starfleet this time. I tried to convince Chakotay that I could team up with B'Elanna, that I would protect her. After all, I am her husband. But apparently, I’m not Maquis enough to avoid suspicion. So she’s paired with Chell.

On the way back to the holodeck, I got suspicious looks from almost everyone I passed. It’s like when we first ended up in this quadrant. The Starfleet crew doesn’t trust me, because I was Maquis and a convict. The Maquis think I’m a traitor, because I helped Janeway navigate the Badlands. I hope the attacker thinks I’m Starfleet. Then I just have to worry about B'Elanna.

After the palpable tension of the rest of the ship, it was a relief to come back to the holodeck and Harry. He’s the one who saw me for what I was, maybe someone even better, from the very beginning. Don’t have to worry about him trusting me.

“Sickbay to Paris.” The com badge interrupts my thoughts, and I’m instantly on alert. If it’s personal, he identifies himself as the Doctor. When he calls himself sickbay, it means he’s acting in a medical capacity and needs my assistance.

“Paris here. What is it, Doctor?” When he’s in medical crisis mode, I try to respond without my usual familiarity.

“Please report to sickbay as soon as possible. We have several more coma patients, and I need your assistance.”

“On my way, Doctor.” I stand up immediately and smile reassuringly at Harry, who is listening with a worried expression.

“And Tom?” My smile evaporates immediately. Despite our deepening friendship, he rarely calls me by my first name. I feel that prickling sense of impending doom on the back of my neck again. “One of the patients is B'Elanna.” He quickly adds, “She’s stable and in no danger. But I wanted you to know before you walked in and saw her.”

I can’t manage to form words for a moment. Just stand there with my mouth hanging open. I should have been there to protect her. Should have insisted. She probably abandoned Chell in the first thirty minutes. She can’t stand to be dependent on anyone, even under captain’s orders, and Chell could never be stubborn enough to win once she started arguing. Or he’s in sickbay too. I should have been there.

“Tom?” The Doctor’s voice, sounding worried. And Harry’s dark eyes carefully watching me. He has moved out from behind the console, ready to be at my side in an instant if I need him. That as much as anything pulls me out of it.

“I’m okay.” My voice is shaky. Too shaky to convince either of them. Harry takes a step toward me. I stretch one hand out to stop him. “I’m okay. Really.” This time my voice is firm. I nod reassuringly at Harry and can see him visibly relax. “I’m on my way.”

I close the com line, but don’t leave yet. Harry moves the rest of the way and puts his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll finish here. We’ll figure out who did this.”

I smile at him. “Thanks.”

He smiles back and pushes me toward the exit. “Now go take care of her. Let me know if you need anything. Anything at all.”

“I will.” I make my way out of the holodeck and to sickbay automatically. This time, I barely register the suspicious looks as I walk down the corridors. All I can see is B'Elanna lying there unconscious. Because I wasn’t there to protect her.

By the time I actually enter sickbay, I have mentally prepared myself. Locked off the emotional part of my brain. Just focus on doing my job the best I can. Caring for the patients, helping the Doctor find an explanation.

But it still hits me when I first see her. My throat constricts, and for a moment, I’m not sure if I can stand. Then the Doctor’s at my elbow, pressing a medical tricorder into my hand. “Come on, Tom. Let’s find a way to help these people.” He stays close, until I manage to nod.

“Right.” My voice is thick with emotion. But I activate the tricorder and move to the nearest biobed, not ready to see B'Elanna lying there again just yet. The Doc’s right. The only way I can help her now is to figure out what happened to all of them. And I need to stay busy to keep it from crushing me anyway. Just focus on my job.

After the fourth scan, I’ve composed myself enough to look around sickbay and see something other than B'Elanna. Gods, so many people now. Even Chakotay. And judging by the bruises that the Doc is repairing, he had time to put up more of a fight than the others.

I go over to help the Doc with Chakotay. His injuries appear to be the most severe. “Do we know what happened to him, Doctor? Why he’s so much worse than the others?” While the Doc repairs the bruised ribs along his left side, I close up the cuts on his fist with a dermal regenerator.

“The others seem to have been taken by surprise. Chakotay had time to call for security. And he obviously put up a fight. Just not enough to last until the security team arrived.”

“At least he had time to get in some blows of his own.” And considering the Commander’s boxing prowess, I’m sure they hurt like hell. But I have to admit I’m glad they took B'Elanna by surprise, whoever they are. If they were able to overpower Chakotay, they would’ve been able to overpower her as well. She would’ve given them quite a fight, but the result would’ve been the same. Coma. At least this way, they had no reason to beat her the way they did Chakotay.

I look over at her again and examine her motionless form, checking to make sure that I didn’t miss any bruises. Nothing. Although I’m sure she has the same microfractures that the Doc found on the other victims, there’s nothing visually apparent. She looks calm and peaceful, like when I awaken in the middle of the night and just lie there watching her sleep.

But it’s not like that at all. Even in her sleep, I can see the flicker of life. The flutter of her eyelids as she dreams, the tiny movement of her hands, the soft exhalation of her breath coming deep and regular. Not like this absolute stillness. Only the slight rise and fall of her chest to indicate she’s breathing at all. And someone did this to her.

My throat threatens to tighten up on me again, and I tear my eyes away from her to look around at the other beds. Crewman Jor, whom I’d been treating earlier. A man I don’t recognize in command reds. One of B'Elanna’s engineers, Yosa or something. Chakotay. And of course B'Elanna.

No Chell, so I guess I was right about B'Elanna leaving him. And… “Where’s Tabor?”

The Doc looks up sharply, confused for a second. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I forgot to tell you. Torres and Chakotay were brought in almost immediately after that, and it got kind of hectic.” He smiles slightly. “Tabor has recovered. We still don’t know what caused his condition, or his recovery for that matter, but his synaptic pathways stabilized themselves. He’s fine.”

I smile back. If Tabor’s condition fixed itself, then B'Elanna’s might do the same.

A monitor beeps over Yosa’s biobed, alerting us to a change in his condition. The Doc and I quickly move to his side. The Doc studies his tricorder for confirmation, then smiles widely. “He’s coming out of it. Synaptic pathways are stabilizing, just as Tabor’s did.”

I grin back. “And he was the second to be attacked?” The Doc nods. “So they’re waking up in the order they were attacked. Meaning it may just be a matter of waiting until the body has time to heal itself.”

“Not necessarily,” the Doctor cautions, but he’s grinning widely. “However, based on the evidence thus far, that does seem to be the pattern.”

Yosa’s eyelids begin to flutter slightly, and we focus our attention on the patient. After a moment, his eyes suddenly open. He looks around quickly, and I lay a hand gently on his arm to reassure him. “Why am I in sickbay? What happened?”

The Doc’s voice is soft and soothing. “You were found unconscious in a Jeffries tube.” He leaves out the part that he was attacked, by someone as yet unidentified, and smiles reassuringly. “You’ve been unconscious for more than a day, but your synaptic functions have returned to normal.” He puts his hand on Yosa’s other shoulder as he continues. “You’re perfectly fine now.”

Yosa closes his eyes in relief, and the Doc turns his smile to me. For a moment, we share a moment of triumph, connected by our smiles and the conduit of our hands resting gently on the patient. Another patient awake and up to specs. What seems to be a pattern of recovery for the other victims. And most importantly, for me anyway, a real hope that B'Elanna will recover just as easily.

But underneath his smile, I see the Doc tighten his jaw with determination. I nod in understanding, and he takes his hand from Yosa’s shoulder, moving to study his tricorder again. He’s right. Yosa may be okay now, but we don’t know what caused his coma or what made him come out of it. The sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can help the rest of them.

“Janeway to Sickbay.” The Doc moves into his office for privacy, leaving Yosa in my care. He taps his com badge and listens intently for a moment, frowning slightly. He closes the channel and motions for me to join him.

I carefully modulate my voice to convey calm and reassurance before speaking to Yosa. “I’ll be back in just a moment.” I wait for him to nod understanding, then join the Doctor. Keeping a close eye on Yosa through the window, I wait for the Doc to tell me what’s going on.

“I will be in the brig if you need me.” He prepares a medkit and transfers his program to the mobile emitter as he continues. “I don’t know who, but apparently the captain has identified a suspect. We are to maintain absolute secrecy until she gives orders to the contrary. Ranking medical personnel only.” Meaning him and me.

“If she has correctly identified the assailant, you should have no further patients. If I learn anything about the method of attack that will help you wake them, I will inform you immediately. Otherwise, Crewman Jor should be the next to awaken. Assuming we were correct in our analysis of the pattern.”

“Understood. Do you want me to notify you as they come out of it?”

“The captain has requested that we not be disturbed.” He starts out the door, then sticks his head back in the office to add, “Although I’m sure she would like to know when the Commander wakes up.”

Continue to Chapter Three