EMPATHOGEN
by E. L. Zimmerman

CHAPTER TEN

Rintella's sun, a huge glistening orange sphere, dipped ever nearer the distant horizon, and Captain Janeway leaned against the pavilion's edge, clutching the railing, squinting at the brilliant sunset, marveling at the simple fact that none of her present surroundings were a holodeck creation.

Behind her, she enjoyed the hum of Wyxlyn Falls' shimmering pounding on the rocks below. Around her, she studied the smiling faces of a now happy crew, all basking in the glow of a new world. Wyxlyn Falls was a intoxicatingly beautiful sight, but Janeway couldn't help but wonder if the Voyager would ever look as magical, in space, as the waterfall did behind her now.

She was awakened from her chance by the chirp of her communicator. "Ensign Kim to Captain Janeway."

Responding, she tapped the badge on her gown. "Janeway here."

"Captain, I need to speak with you. It's urgent."

"Harry, what's the matter?"

"I'm sorry to inconvenience you, Captain, but could you beam back aboard the Voyager?"

"Harry, you know that's not possible," she replied, glancing around to ensure that the conversation remained private. "The Rintellan satellite network would scatter my atoms faster than a photon detonation."

"Not necessarily," he said.

"Not necessarily?" she quipped. "That's not very reassuring."

"Brall'tor put me in contact with one of the planet's scientists," Kim explained. "Mr. Wupt'fen of the Rintellan Stellar Brigade. If I understood him correctly, he can modulated a limited power fluctuation around a set of specific coordinates in their satellite defense grid over their northern hemisphere, very near the city."

"If you understood him correctly?" she repeated. "That's still not very reassuring."

"The flux won't last long, Captain," Harry advised. "Perhaps fifteen seconds. However, that should grant me more than enough time to establish a sensor lock on your comm signal and beam you through the grid. I'm at the transporter now myself, making the adjustments. With Wupt'fen's assistance, I should be able to bring you up in the next ten minutes. I just need to make sure that our communications haven't been monitored."

'Monitored?' she thought. 'Who would be --?'

"Harry," she began, curiously, "who might be monitoring our conversation?"

"Captain," he replied, "I believe that's all I should say over an open -"

Grimacing, Janeway covered her ears from the electronic squeal resulting from what she immediately identified as a communications dampening field.

Quickly, she tapped her comm badge.

"Janeway to Ensign Kim."

She received no response. Persistent, she tapped her badge again.

"Janeway to Voyager."

Still, she heard no reply.

Finally, frustrated, she slapped her comm badge hard.

"Janeway to Chakotay."

Her badge chirped, and she heard, "Chakotay here, Captain."

"Commander, where are you now?"

"Hiking," he replied, "just below the pavilion with some of the Rintellans. We're near the bottom of Wyxlyn Falls."

"Good," she told him. "That means you're not far away, and I'm in need of a shuttle pilot."

"What's wrong, Captain?"

"I'm not sure," she replied, "but we're headed back to Voyager."

"All of us?" he asked.

"No," she said, her mind already in command mode, formulating a number of theories as to what Harry Kim could have been referencing. "Just you and I. There's no need to alarm the others. I'm not even sure of what message I'd be delivering anyway. We'll let them enjoy the rest of their shore leave. For you and I, it's back to work."

"The Delta Quadrant's yet to give us a dull moment," he replied with a laugh. "I'm on my way, Captain."

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