EMPATHOGEN
by E. L. Zimmerman

CHAPTER EIGHT

With lucid visions of Tom Paris and that inviting smile of his still dancing in her head, B'Elanna Torres marched into the Mess Hall, where she found Harry Kim snacking alone. The ensign solely occupied a corner table, his shoulders slumped, his right hand pressed firmly to his cheek, his left hand slowly bringing Tallaxian potato chip after chip after chip, Neelix's latest tasty concoction, to his mouth. "Harry," she began, approaching him, "you look like a man with the weight of twin nacelles on his shoulders. Intrepid class."

After a few seconds, he glanced up, convincingly surprised to find the chief engineer standing at his side.

"What?" he asked. "Did you say something?"

Firmly, she placed her hands on her hips. "Harry?"

"Huh?"

"What's on your mind?"

Curtly, Harry pushed the plate of chips away. "Nothing," he replied, agitated.

"Then why stop with the chips?" she asked. Bending forward, she fished one from the small pile remaining on his plate. Crunching it in her mouth, she tried, "The other night, you couldn't keep your hands off these."

"I'm not hungry anymore," he argued, crossing his arms, "if that's what you mean."

She swallowed the Tallaxian potato chip and reached for another. "No, that's not what I mean. I mean," she said, popping the second chip in her mouth, "what's bugging you?"

Trivializing, he shook his head. "Nothing. I'm just ... not hungry."

Sighing heavily, she pulled out a chair and sat down next to him. "I've nowhere to be except some Jefferies tubes, Starfleet, so you might as well crack right now."

Shrugging, Harry leaned forward and then sat up straight. He focused his eyes straight ahead, not looking at his shipmate. "I've been thinking about home," he said minimally.

"Earth?" she asked, genuinely taken back.

He nodded.

"Harry, Earth is 70,000 light years away. There are plenty of other topics to occupy your mind right now. Your position on the bridge. The experience you're gaining. The friends you're making. What about that Zell I've seen you hanging around with? Why not think of her?"

With a slightly accusing tone, he suddenly demanded, "And I suppose you never think about the Alpha Quadrant, do you?"

"Of course, I do, Harry," she admitted, lazily brushing at the few chips left on his plate. "I also lose myself in what I'm doing. Engineering keeps me busy. Frankly, I can't think of a better way to pass the time."

"For the next seventy years?"

Unexpectedly, B'Elanna found herself dreamily wondering what Tom Paris was thinking about doing for the next seventy years. He was a hotshot pilot. His position was on the bridge and hers was decks below in Engineering. She knew that he had a passion for tinkering with a variety of holographic programs, some exotic, some romantic. Where did she fit into his life? Would she fit into his life somewhere over the course ...

... of the next seventy years?

Slowly, she brought a small handful of chips to her mouth and munched. "I'm going to ask one more time," she stated, patiently. "What's bugging you, Starfleet?"

Harry frowned. "Do you ever feel anger? I mean ... total, relentless, maybe even unqualified anger?"

Snickering, she slipped out, "Have you forgotten that I'm part Klingon?" Successfully finishing her shipmate's supply of Tallaxian chips, she now slid the plate away from her. "Harry, I feel anger every day of my existence." Shrugging, she added, "When it gets overwhelming, I just try to do as Captain Janeway once told me, and I try to take life one step at a time ... instead of rushing headlong into regret."

"B'Elanna," he began, softly, "what would you say if I told you that ... that I know some of the crew who are feeling very angry right now."

"I wouldn't be surprised," she admitted. "It's been a tiring six months."

"I'm not sure you're following me," Harry confessed. Leaning closer, he continued, "What would you say if I told you that these angry few were so incensed with the Captain and our voyage right now they're talking mutiny. They're talking about abandoning Voyager and setting up a permanent colony here in the Delta Quadrant."

"They've had their chance," B'Elanna counseled. "The Captain gave everyone that chance before. If I remember correctly, no one took it. We stood together, two crews coming together as one."

"Yes, but that was then, B'Elanna," he cautioned. "This is now."

"Harry," B'Elanna replied, sliding her chair closer to his, "if some of your friends have decided that they don't want to hitch a ride home, why don't you tell them to talk with the Captain? I can't speak for her, but I can't imagine that she'd force anyone to continue to the Alpha Quadrant who truly didn't want to go. I would think that, while she would openly admit her fears for their safety, Captain Janeway would gladly set your friends down somewhere habitable. Perhaps even here. On Rintella. It seems hospitable enough. Your friends could work hard and make their own homestead."

"What about the technology?" Harry pressed.

"What about it?" she countered.

"As Starfleet personnel, aren't we all entitled to our own little piece of Federation technology?"

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying ... don't they deserve Voyager just as much as we do?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Harry, that isn't cold feet about the voyage ahead your friends are having." She considered him icily. "I'd call that mutiny."

Lowering his head, Harry Kim lost himself to the swirl of emotions he was feeling.

Anger.

Frustration.

Anger.

Alienation.

Anger.

Isolation.

Anger.

Confusion.

"Anger," he muttered.

"What?" B'Elanna asked.

"Nothing," he replied.

To Harry Kim, life wasn't making much sense.

"It is mutiny," he asked innocently, "isn't it?"

"It's nothing less," B'Elanna answered, definitively. "And, if I were you, I'd think seriously about warning the Captain." With dead seriousness, she added, "Because if you don't, Starfleet, I will."

Next Chapter
Return to Fan Fiction Return to the Databank