All the standard disclaimers apply, Paramount owns the characters etc. This story takes place after the episodes 'Lifesigns' and 'Resolutions' but before the discovery of the portable holo emitter in 'Future's End' Part Two.

This is my first attempt at fan fiction so I would love some feedback! Let me know what you think, even if you hate it! My e-mail address is: excaliber2@clara.net

"ANTIDOTE"
By Beatrice Dante


Commander Chakotay lay on the biobed as his life signs blinked above him on the sickbay monitors. He had been there for a week now, the virus that he had caught on a recent away mission showing no indication that it was about to leave him to his own devices.

"Doctor? Are you there?" he called. Sickbay was quiet at this time of day and he felt like company, even the Doctor's.

"Of course. Where do you suppose I could have got to?" The holographic physician, as irascible as ever, walked over to the bed and ran his tricorder over his patient.

"Well, you might have deactivated yourself," Commander Chakotay insisted, nonplussed.

"I would hardly have done so while in the middle of a highly complex analysis of your blood samples. I told you earlier I would be working on them this morning."

"It must have slipped my mind," said Chakotay wryly. "So what is your verdict?"

"On your health? Well, I'm still working on that," the Doctor avoided a straight answer.

"I get your drift," replied the Commander. "You haven't found a cure yet."

"As I said, I'm working on it," repeated the Doctor. "You'll have to learn to be a more patient patient, that's all."

Chakotay snorted. Coming from the Doctor this was a bit rich. Watching him return to his study of the medical readouts, Chakotay suspected that the Doctor was on the defensive not so much to allay his patient's fears as to reinforce his own professional self-confidence. Voyager's Chief Medical Officer was acutely sensitive regarding his work, incredibly proud of his achievements but immeasurably crushed by his failures which fortunately were few in number. Nor was his frustration over his continuing confinement to sickbay lost on the Commander. B'Elanna had reported that when her most recent attempt to give him access to the rest of the ship had failed he had taken it badly. He had pointed out to her how hard it was to perform the role of Chief Medical Officer on board the USS Voyager when he lacked the means to make a simple house call. In an attempt to appease him she had promised to try to find some more time to work on the problem but feared that he still felt sidelined. "He just finds it hard to accept that I have other demands on my time," she had complained to Chakotay. "He is so impatient!" she had insisted. Chakotay had taken on board her comments and suspected that such worries were doing nothing to improve his bedside manner.

"So how are you feeling this afternoon?" the Doctor asked, as if to prove the Commander wrong. He had just accessed one of his new 'bedside manner' sub routines installed after complaints from certain crew members about his 'attitude.' Personally he couldn't see any point in such niceties. He knew perfectly well the Commander's condition without the need to ask him but humans, bizarrely, seemed to gain reassurance from a Doctor who felt the need to put such a question. Or so Kes, his assistant, had told him and he relied on her judgement absolutely in such matters.

"I feel dreadful," the Commander replied, looking greener than a martian invasion.

"That figures." The EMH studied his medical tricorder. "We are going to have to give you another blood transfusion. Kes, will you make the necessary preparations?"

"Right away, Doctor." The tiny Ocampan appeared from behind a monitor and began to assemble the necessary equipment and blood supplies. The Doctor watched her at work out of the corner of his eye, thinking how fortunate he was that he had ended up with her as his apprentice rather than that upstart lieutenant Tom Paris.

"By the way, Kes, do you know if anyone has heard from Danara yet?" The Doctor scrutinised the hypospray he was holding, carefully avoiding Kes's gaze. He did his best to sound casual and matter of fact. The plan had been to see if Dr. Pel could help provide an antidote for the Commander - his suggestion, motivated partly by self interest he had to admit. He missed Danara a great deal and would love to see her again. At any rate, whatever his motivation, the Captain had agreed to the idea and they had set a course for the Vidiian homeworld where she lived. Two days ago they had entered orbit and a message had been sent to the planet. But right now Kes had no good news for him.

"I haven't heard. Surely you would be the first to be told if she had been found." Kes studied the Doctor, puzzled.

"I'm always the last to be told anything, I thought you would have learnt that by now," the Doctor snapped, feeling inexplicably irritated. He strode quickly into his office, slamming the door behind him.

Kes was by turns upset and puzzled. She knew he had been under some stress lately but couldn't recall that he had ever actually lost his temper with her before. Sure, he whined a great deal, but never got really angry. She glanced at the Commander, who had raised his eyebrows.

"He can be sharp at times. He's just a program, he doesn't realise the effect of his words." Chakotay said, trying to be reassuring. But he failed.

"He is not just a program," protested Kes. "He has feelings, emotions just like anyone else. He can understand exactly what he is saying. And he has never spoken to me like that before."

The Doctor's tiny assistant turned away from the biobed. "And I think I know what the problem is." But before Chakotay could ask what that might be, she too had dashed into the Chief medic's office and slammed the door. Chakotay sighed and suspected he wasn't going to get that transfusion for a little while after all.

* * *

The Doctor sat down behind his desk and stared at his monitor. It was blank. In his present mood he realised it would be futile to attempt any work. He thought back to the brief time he had spent with Danara when Voyager had rescued her, after she had fallen ill travelling alone in space. He had nursed her back to health, he had fallen in love with her and they had spent many happy days together before she had to return to her people. He missed her a great deal. But she had given him a gift that in his opinion was irreplaceable and which he would always carry with him, the realisation that he was a living being, not just a computer simulation to be controlled by other people. Kes had tried to teach him this from the start but he doubted that it was something which could be learnt like a medical text. It had to be given, someone had to need him, not just as a patient needing a doctor but as a person needing a friend and companion. Never having had a family, he believed he had missed out on much that others took for granted. Danara, by loving him unreservedly, had made him feel wanted and alive and he had come to feel much more than just an emergency medical hologram.

He tapped a key on his keyboard. "But I must work," he said to himself. "It's no use daydreaming, the Commander is relying on me. Especially if..."

Too late he realised where his thoughts were leading him. "Especially if Danara didn't reply to their message. Especially if she couldn't reply, if she were dead."

No! There were a hundred reasons other than that why she might not have replied. The message must simply have failed to reach her, or been intercepted by Vidiian intelligence. That had to be the reason. The Doctor put his head in his hands.

"Don't worry, I'm sure we'll find her soon enough." The Doctor looked up to see his small assistant looking at him kindly with her soft eyes.

"Kes. I'm sorry - about what I said to you." Despite his distress, he felt bad at having nearly bitten her head off.

She smiled and sat on the corner of his desk. "I forgive you. I realised as soon as you said it there must be something on your mind. It was so unlike you, you've always been so kind to me. You're worried about her, aren't you."

The Doctor looked at the desk. "Is it that obvious?"

"Well, it is if you know someone as well as I know you, and I want you to know I am here if you want to talk. I know how fond you are of her."

The Doctor smiled. Kes never ceased to amaze him with her ability to understand other people's feelings. He would have put it down to her telepathic abilities but that clearly wasn't the case with him. She couldn't read his mind.

"Thank you, Kes, but I am really going to have to continue my work. We need to find a cure for the Commander."

"It didn't look like you were doing very much when I came in."

The Doctor frowned. "No, I had a momentary lapse in concentration."

"And you know as well as I do why that was. I didn't notice that you were running a diagnostic on your program this time." Kes
wasn't going to give in so easily. The Doctor recalled the last time he had told her he was suffering from such symptoms, soon after he had first met Danara. Then he thought he was suffering from a serious systems failure and was on the verge of calling engineering.

The Doctor sighed and visibly sagged in his seat. "I do miss her, Kes. And I wish she would answer our message, just so that I know she is alright."

"She'll be in touch, I know she will," said Kes softly and kissed him gently on the cheek.

* * *

"Commander, are you ready for your transfusion?" asked Kes as she reappeared from the Doctor's office. She pushed a trolley stacked with imposing medical equipment over to the biobed. The Commander wondered briefly what had passed between the two medics. They seemed such an unlikely pairing it was remarkable that they had such a successful working relationship. But for now he was more worried about himself and the impending transfusion. He hated them though there was one advantage to them. Someone usually came to hold his hand to comfort him....

"Do you know where the Captain is?" Voyager's first officer seemed to brighten slightly.

"No, you saw her the last time I did. When she came to check on you a couple of hours ago." The Doctor had approached the bed and was setting up the equipment.

"She normally turns up every hour," Chakotay frowned.

"Maybe she's busy on the Bridge," said Kes.

"Maybe." Chakotay sighed. "She works too hard, don't you think?"

The Doctor didn't reply.

"But Doctor, I thought you eavesdrop on everyone from up here? I thought you always know where everyone is."

"I have never 'eavesdropped' as you put it. It is my job to occasionally check on the well-being of the crew, that is all. Anyway, if you remember the Captain suggested that I check a little less often, so I have no better idea where she is than you do. Ask the computer if you want to analyse her movements."

Chakotay looked sidelong at the Doctor. He wasn't quite sure how much the EMH could see of his feelings for his Captain. "I might just do that. Computer, locate Captain Janeway."

The familiar and feminine metallic voice of the ship's computer joined the conversation. "Captain Janeway is not on the ship."

"Not on the ship! Then where is she?" Chakotay struggled up on his elbows.

"She beamed down to the Vidiian homeworld an hour ago." The computer made the announcement as though it was reading the Federation e-mail directory.

The Doctor struggled to restrain Voyager's first officer. "Now look. Don't make me use a hypospray. You're in no condition to go on a harebrained rescue mission."

"Doctor, since the Captain's not on the ship I'm clearly in command here...."

"Since you are clearly not fit for duty, I am in command here. In fact, I'm always in command in sickbay. So lie down and be a good patient."

Chakotay, exasperated, reached for his comm badge. "Chakotay to Tuvok."

"Tuvok here. What can I do for you Commander?" The Security Officer's voice crackled over the ship's communications system.

"The Captain. She is not on the ship. Where is she, and why wasn't I told?"

* * *

"Commander, I am well aware that you are Voyager's first officer. However, your current state of health means that you are clearly not fit for duty and so I am in command. And in my judgement it is simply too great a risk for any of the crew to beam down to the surface. Furthermore, may I remind you that the Captain herself expressly forbade anyone from making such an attempt. I am rather surprised that she ignored her own advice." Tuvok, Voyager's steadfast security officer, frowned - as much from worry as puzzlement. He had been just as surprised as Chakotay to discover that Janeway was not on the ship.

"It would not be the first time the Captain has ignored her own advice. She has even been known to ignore my own expert judgement on medical matters," interjected the Doctor.

Chakotay ignored the comment. "So how do you propose we should find her and return her to the ship?"

"That is a question that I am currently considering," replied the Vulcan. "As yet I do not have a satisfactory answer. We will of course continue monitoring the planet's surface in an attempt to pinpoint her location, but as yet we have had no luck. I am of course open to suggestions."

"Well you have to do something, Tuvok, and soon. You will have to send an away team to the surface to find her." Chakotay's agitation was not lost on Voyager's Chief of Security.

"Commander, I appreciate your concern for the Captain's well-being, but I cannot jeopardise further members of this crew in what would almost certainly be a futile mission."

Chakotay wrung his hands in dismay. "I'm sure we could work out a plan that wouldn't be a suicide mission, Tuvok. We've negotiated with the Vidiians before. Surely the Doctor can disguise one of the crew, as we did before."

"I am afraid, Commander, that it is too late to try any such trick again. We have already broadcast our presence here and are under close surveillance. We will not be able to send in a landing party undetected. If you were in command, would you not take the same position? No one will contact or beam down to the planet while I am in command. However, if you come up with a plausible alternative strategy, I'll be on the Bridge." And with that he left.

Tuvok's stubbornness was infuriating. "Damn Vulcans," thought Chakotay. "Their logic is like a brick wall, it has to be maintained even if all around it collapses in ruin. If only I could find a way around it, since I sure can't see how to knock it down."

Kes had by now retired for the evening and the Doctor had deactivated himself. The sickbay lights were dimmed. Before Kes had left she had given him strict instructions to get some sleep, but right now nothing was further from his mind. He lay on the biobed for several hours, wracking his brain for an answer until he finally reached a decision.

* * *

Janeway sighed and paced the Vidiian prison cell she was locked in like a caged leopard, cursing silently. She had been such a fool. Her judgement must have been impaired by concern. She sure wasn't helping the Commander from her present location.

She ran over recent events in her mind. Yes, she was in no doubt that it had been a good idea to approach the Vidiian planet. It was risky to be sure - and she suspected the Doctor's suggestion had other than purely medical motives - but they had succeeded before in finding an antidote the last time Voyager had faced an incurable disease and it seemed the only option. Last time they had asked the Vidiians for help it had been herself and Chakotay who had been affected and stranded on New Earth - this time it was only Chakotay.

Chakotay! Maybe it wasn't just concern that had made her take such a ridiculous decision to embark on a solo raid of the planet's primary medical installation. It certainly didn't seem a very rational choice in the cold light of day. She couldn't deny that the Commander was attractive, and she certainly valued his friendship, but she refused to accept that her feelings went any deeper. Heavens, if her judgement was this impaired for the sake of a friend, just
imagine....

"No! I'm not even going to think about it," she said out loud, and hit the stone wall with her fist.

* * *

Ensign Rhodes had just ended a tiring shift in Stellar Cartography. The proximity of the Vidiian homeworld offered a rare opportunity to study the planet at relatively close quarters. She felt as though she had run enough scans that day to chart an entire quadrant.

Stifling a yawn, she made her way purposefully towards her quarters. She couldn't face one of Neelix's concoctions tonight - she would just use some of her replicator rations, she decided.

Approaching the sickbay corridor, she didn't have much further to go. She turned a familiar corner - and fell straight over the prone body of Voyager's First Officer.

* * *

"Really, Commander, I thought you had more sense." The Doctor prodded Chakotay with a tricorder.

"I'm afraid I have to agree with that conclusion." Tuvok had arrived on the scene and was studying the patient with a furrowed brow.

"I'm sorry, Tuvok, I just had to try to do something."

"It's no use, he just won't listen to me, Lieutenant. He really is the most difficult patient I have ever had. Well, apart from Neelix." The Doctor considered the Talaxian to be an impossible patient. He would rather treat a Horta. "I would suggest you post security guards outside sickbay."

"Doctor, you are exaggerating the seriousness of the present situation. I do not believe the Commander is foolhardy enough to try to leave sickbay a second time. Is this not the case, Commander?"

"I promise to be as good as gold." Chakotay grinned.

"In that case, I will be on the Bridge. Good day Doctor, Commander," and Tuvok left the room.

Later, when Chakotay had finally fallen asleep the Doctor and Kes continued their research in the adjoining office. Although their hope lessened with each day, they were determined to work tirelessly until every avenue had been explored.

"Kes, do you have the results of that second tissue scan yet?"

"Yes, I'm just collating them now. They're negative, I'm afraid."

The Doctor turned around and scratched his head. "Well, frankly, I'm running out of ideas. I'm beginning to doubt if there's a cure to be found for this malady. It's proving more resistant than the entire Borg collective."

"Maybe we'll have to look elsewhere for a solution, then."

"What do you have in mind?" The Doctor looked quizzically at his assistant.

"I mean we should look to the planet." The beginnings of an idea was forming in Kes's head.

"But Tuvok won't even let us communicate with the Vidiians, let alone send someone down there. He says it's too dangerous."

Suddenly it clicked. "Yes. It's dangerous for the rest of the crew, but Doctor, it's not so dangerous for you. You have no organs to steal."

"Me?" The Doctor looked by turns surprised, thoughtful and alarmed. "I can't even step outside sickbay, and you think I should go down to the planet."

"Yes, why not? You said yourself B'Elanna has just made a breakthrough on the construction of your portable emitter. You said she thinks she'll have a working model up and running in a week. And I'm sure she could finish it much quicker than that if it was needed urgently."

The Doctor sat down suddenly. He felt as if a weight had just landed on his head. Kes was right, of course. It would be much less risky for him to visit the planet than any of Voyager's flesh and blood crew members. He couldn't be sent to organ processing. But he had no Starfleet training, he wouldn't know where to start on a rescue mission. Surely it was a job for Voyager's professional heroes? Surely the crew wouldn't think him capable of such an expedition? He looked at Kes in confusion.

"Just think about it," she said. "You know where Tuvok is if you want to suggest it," and she resumed her work, leaving the Doctor to mull over the problem and, she suspected, muster his courage.

* * *

"I think it's a splendid idea. Tuvok, you've got to agree." Chakotay was wildly enthusiastic with the Doctor's suggestion. The three of them, plus Kes and B'Elanna, had met in sickbay to discuss the issue.

"It is certainly an interesting proposition." Tuvok, though as cautious as ever, was intrigued. "Lieutenant, in your opinion is the portable emitter up to the task?"

Chief Engineer Torres had created the device and more than anyone on the ship knew its limitations, but she felt they were not overwhelming. "It still needs some fine tuning, but I think we can get it to support the Doctor, even at such a long distance from Voyager. We've been making rapid progress on it in recent weeks. I'll look into it straight away if you wish."

"Yes, please do so," replied Tuvok. "If you can reassure us that the emitter is reliable, I propose that we put the Doctor's plan into operation. I can see no alternative at this stage."

"Fine, I'll get right on it," said B'Elanna and headed back to engineering. The Doctor remained silent although Kes was sure he was on the verge of speaking. She could see the continuing doubts running through his mind and wondered what she could do to reassure him. Tuvok was about to return to the Bridge, but she decided to stop him with a question. It was the least she could do.

"Tuvok, perhaps we should plan the Doctor's route on the planet? He is, after all, rather unused to away missions."

Tuvok stopped halfway to the door and studied the young Ocampan. He had a great deal of respect for her. "You are right, Kes. It momentarily escaped my attention that the Doctor has not undergone the usual Starfleet training. We will discuss the plan of action shortly - and Doctor, I will arrange for you to be briefed on what to expect on the planet."

"Thank you, Tuvok," said Kes as Voyager's temporary commander left sickbay.

"Yes, thank you," shouted the Doctor, although the comment was directed as much at Kes as at the Vulcan.

* * *

Having been fully briefed and with the emitter declared fit for duty, the Doctor stood on the transporter pad, shuffling slightly. Kes stood behind the console with Tuvok.

"Good luck, Doctor," she said. The corners of the Doctor's mouth lifted a little as he struggled to momentarily quiet his chattering teeth. He hoped he would feel better when he reached the surface.

"We have been able to locate the exact spot where the Captain beamed down to the planet," said Tuvok. "After that we cannot tell which direction she took. You will be on your own."

"I understand," said the Doctor.

"Are you ready then?" asked the Vulcan. "Please stand still if so, I cannot energise unless you are in a stationary position."

The Doctor nodded and moments later the transporter engulfed his image.

* * *

He materialised in a brightly lit, roughhewn stone tunnel that stretched perfectly uniformly in each direction. "Well, at least I've only got a fifty per cent chance of going the wrong way," he muttered to himself as he began striding along the passage. Pointing his phaser and tricorder ahead he tried to tread as softly as he could, acutely conscious of his solidness. He wished he could assume his natural holographic state where he would be completely impervious to weapons - unless the emitter was hit of course - but while he was carrying material objects there was no alternative.

Another side effect of remaining solid was that his other senses were finely tuned. He noticed there was a distinctly unpleasant smell in the air which was getting stronger the further he went. It was like... well, he'd rather not mention it. Let's just say that with his medical background he could recognise it without difficulty.

He could hear nothing at all but his own footfalls, which sounded very loud. Trailing his fingers along the damp stone, straining his ears for any sound, he made his way in what he hoped was the right direction.

He was approaching a twist in the tunnel and moved closer to the wall, cursing his shadow which sprawled unhelpfully across the floor. As he edged his way around his worst fears were realised, he heard voices - and they were coming closer.

He froze, raising his phaser, set to stun. He could hear only two voices. 'At least it's not the entire Vidiian security detachment,' he thought to himself in a vain attempt to bolster his failing courage. He noticed his phaser arm was trembling, so clapped his other hand over it to steady it and waited.

The aliens rounded the corner. There were indeed two of them, and they spotted the wide-eyed Doctor at once. Raising their weapons, they fired. The Doctor released his phaser and the air was filled with energy discharges. One of the Vidiians slumped to the ground unconscious.

It was then that the Doctor felt a searing pain in his chest and staggered against the wall. He had never felt really serious pain before, he wasn't even aware that it was possible, and it filled him with horror. His head swam a little, but his remaining adversary was lifting his weapon for a second shot.

Realising his danger, the Doctor fired again, hitting the Vidiian who fell to his knees and dropped his weapon. Staggering over to the fallen alien, who was cowering on the floor, the Doctor picked up the discarded weapon.

"Please. Don't kill me," wailed the alien. "I was only doing my job."

"I won't," gasped the Doc, "if you tell me where I can find Captain Janeway and Dr. Danara Pel."

"They are being held," sputtered the alien, "in detention section two. We found them both this morning breaking into the primary medical installation in this sector."

"Very good. So how do I get there?"

"It is not far from here. Follow the passage to the end, then turn left, then right. You will come to a number of cells."

"Thank you. You have been very helpful," said the Doctor. "Now I am going to have to stun you. Don't worry, it won't do you any permanent harm," he added when he saw the growing alarm on the Vidiian's face.

The Doctor stunned the Vidiian and then sank back down against the wall fumbling for his communicator. Sweat beaded his forehead. He thought he was going into shock.

"Doctor to B'Elanna."

"B'Elanna here," Voyager's chief engineer answered from her station on the ship. "How's it going down there?"

"I've been injured!" said the Doctor. "I'm in pain!" There was panic in his voice.

"Has the emitter been damaged?" asked the engineer, frowning.

"No, but I've been damaged," said the Doctor weakly.

There was a pause on board the ship. Then, "Doctor, if the emitter is okay, you must be too." B'Elanna was well aware of the Doctor's tendency to over-dramatise.

"But it hurts!" protested the Doctor. "I've been hit by weapons fire. I must be dying!"

"In your solid state it probably will hurt if you are hit, but it won't do you any harm, I promise. Don't worry, Doctor. You're fine."

The Doctor didn't sound convinced. "Are you sure?"

B'Elanna smiled despite herself. "Yes, I'm sure. The pain will wear off in a few hours."

"How do you know?" persisted the Doctor.

"Well, it's a matter of physics. I could try to explain it to you if you wanted me to, though this probably isn't the appropriate moment."

"No, it isn't," agreed the Doctor. "I guess, if you say so, I had better keep going. I've discovered where the Captain and Danara are being held so I'll see if I can find them." He got to his feet, and winced.

"That's really good news, Doctor. Well done. And don't worry, nothing will happen to you unless you damage the emitter."

"Thank you B'Elanna," said the Doctor, slightly sheepishly. "I'll be careful. I only wish I could use a hypospray on myself."

"A bit of pain never killed anyone, Doctor," replied the engineer. "Look at it as a learning experience. Now you know what your patients have to suffer."

"I hope you aren't suggesting that I allow my patients to suffer in this way, Lieutenant," objected the Doctor, grimacing. "If I did, you would be right to charge me with malpractice."

"No, I wasn't suggesting that at all." B'Elanna laughed. "Be on your way now, B'Elanna out."

Having been partially reassured, the Doctor continued on his way, following the directions given by the Vidiian. He dashed nervously past side tunnels and crept around corners, hugging the walls.

Eventually he reached an open space that he presumed was a security post, and was relieved to see that it was unoccupied. 'I hope that doesn't mean the guard is checking on his prisoners,' thought the Doctor, peering into the side passage where he could just make out a series of cells stretching into the distance. The cells, he noted, were little more than cages with stone pallets inside. It looked more like a zoo than a prison, especially as the few inmates were of a variety of races. It occurred to him that in less dire circumstances he could have taken the opportunity to study the anatomies of a few new delta quadrant species.

The tunnel sloped gently downwards and the lighting was much poorer in this part of the complex. It was also much colder, the Doctor noticed. He didn't like the look of it at all. But there was no alternative. He stepped into the passage and began creeping along the line of cells. He saw Talaxians, Kazon, the odd Ocampan and many other races, all looking equally miserable. He wished he could help them but there was little he could do. He could only try to reach the Captain and Danara.

The further he went the fewer inmates he passed, as most of the cells were empty. He was just beginning to worry that he was too late, that the Captain and Danara had already been processed when suddenly he saw that a cell a few feet ahead had an occupant who appeared to be wearing a Starfleet uniform. Hurrying up to the bars, he found Captain Janeway. Her hair was dishevelled and she looked exhausted, but apart from that seemed unharmed.

"Doctor! Am I glad to see you," she said, her relief apparent. "I'm delighted to see B'Elanna has finally got your portable emitter working."

"Thank you, Captain. I'm sure you will also be interested to know that I have a communicator for you," said the Doctor, handing it through the bars. "Voyager is waiting to beam you up."

"Excellent," she said. "Good work, Doctor. But, Dr. Pel. I believe she is being held here too. Have you found her?"

The Doctor frowned. "No, not yet, Captain. With your permission I would like to keep looking."

"Granted. I would join you too, but I have the antidote Commander Chakotay needs...."

"Your break-in was successful, then?"

"You've heard about it already? News obviously travels fast around here." Janeway smiled. "Anyway, yes, I have the antidote, so I want to get it to the ship as soon as possible."

"Of course. Kes is quite capable of administering it."

"Good. That is what I had suspected. Besides, Doctor, it looks as though you hardly need my help down here," and she grinned at her Chief Medical Officer.

The Doctor just puffed up his shoulders. He was beginning to feel quite courageous, he decided.

Moments later the Captain beamed up to Voyager and the Doctor went on his way. It was getting darker down the far end of the passage, dustier, damper and totally silent. Horrible, he thought. Creepy. He started to glance over his shoulder periodically despite himself. He was becoming less worried about meeting a stray guard down here and more concerned that he would instead bump into some sort of ghoul. The ceiling was beginning to drip, he hoped with nothing more than water, and he was increasingly wondering whether any flesh and blood being had been this far down the tunnel for several years past. His chest still hurt and his stress didn't help him, but he told himself that heroes couldn't expect an easy ride.

And so it was that he found his beloved Danara. She was lying on a cold stone slab in her cell, the deepest in the complex, eyes shut tight. At first he thought she was dead, though a quick check with his tricorder confirmed that she was only sleeping. He smiled. He had found her! How long had it been since he had last seen her? He was keen to wake her - he wondered how she would react - but his first priority was to check her health.

Carefully putting his baggage through the bars of the cell, the Doctor switched briefly to pure holographic energy, stepped through the iron rungs, then reconverted to his solid state - for once thankful that he could do so. Kneeling by the slab, he peered into her face - quietly checking her medical condition, taking great pains not to wake her. She was fine, he decided. The phage had advanced to be sure, but was not life threatening at this stage. It seemed B'Elanna's DNA had helped her more than he dared hope.

Only when he had satisfied himself that she was well did he speak.

"Danara, wake up," he whispered. He took her hand. "I've come to take you out of here."

She stirred slowly and opened her eyes. She had such lovely eyes, the Doctor thought, no phage could hide that.

"Shmullus!" she exclaimed, a smile leaping across her face.

Before he knew what had happened her arms were around his neck. He had forgotten how sweet her voice was.

"Yes, it's me." He didn't know what else to say as he took her into his arms. A lump had formed in his throat and words didn't seem to convey how he felt.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, amazed by his sudden appearance.

"I'm here to rescue you, what else?" he replied.

"It's so good to see you," she said softly.

The Doctor just nodded and put a finger to her lips. He gently brushed her cheek as he noticed tears had formed in the corners of her eyes and had begun to roll down her face. "I love you, Danara," he said, and bent his head to kiss her.

"I didn't think you could leave sickbay?" said Danara a little later.

"B'Elanna built me a portable emitter," explained the Doctor. "It's good enough to do the trick and get me out of the office. But tell me, why are you in this dungeon?"

The young Vidiian unwrapped her arms and sat upright on the edge of the pallet, the Doctor beside her.

"By chance I discovered Captain Janeway trying to break into our principal medical complex," she said with a wan smile. "I agreed to help her find what she needed - but we were discovered." She sighed. "Stealing drugs alone is a capital offence. Supplying them to off-worlders is considered treason."

"Do you mean..." The Doctor couldn't bring himself to say it.

"Yes, they are going to execute me and send me to organ processing," she said. She hung her head as the Doctor tried to comfort her.

"Then I will take you to Voyager," he insisted. "The Captain is a reasonable woman and I'm sure she will grant you asylum. And if she refuses I will... I will... organise a mutiny," he declared.

Danara laughed. "Shmullus, you are as funny as you always were. I can just see you leading a mutiny," she giggled. "But seriously. I would love to come to Voyager if the Captain would allow it."

"I will ask her right now," said the Doctor, rummaging among his pile of equipment for his comm badge.

"Doctor to Captain Janeway."

The communicator crackled and Janeway's familiar voice filled the cell. "Janeway here," she answered from her position in sickbay. She was sitting by the biobed, hand in hand with Chakotay who was suffering the effects of the antidote - although Kes was assuring them both that it was working as expected.

"I've found Danara and she is well," explained the Doctor. "But I have a request to ask."

"Go on," said the Captain when her Chief Medical Officer paused momentarily.

"Captain, because she helped you find the Commander's antidote it appears Danara has been... sentenced to death," he said, struggling with the final words. "I was wondering if, under the circumstances, she could come with us...."

Janeway sighed. The request was more complicated than perhaps the Doctor realised, but she knew how much the Vidiian meant to him. This was the type of decision she didn't like to have to make. "Doctor, you must realise that ordinarily we can't interfere with a planet's judicial process," she said as tenderly as could. "It counts as a violation of the Prime Directive."

"Yes, I know," the Doctor replied anxiously, "but had you not beamed down to the planet in the first place this situation would not have arisen. Surely the Directive has already been disturbed?"

There was silence on the other end of the comm link. Janeway couldn't dispute the Doctor's logic. 'He's almost a match for Tuvok,' she thought wryly. She sighed. "Doctor, you're right, I was the one who started this." The Doctor detected the hint of self recrimination in her voice. "So - under the circumstances - it seems only reasonable to grant your request. Danara may join you on Voyager."

"Thank you Captain!" said the Doctor breathlessly as Danara flung her arms around him yet again.

"And I put you in charge of seeing that she settles in," added Janeway as an afterthought, the amusement in her voice discernable even over the comm link.

"I think I could manage that," he said, handing Danara a comm badge. "We're ready to come up."

And a few moments later the Doctor and his beloved dematerialised together from the Vidiian homeworld.

END

Copyright 1997 by Beatrice Dante. Reproduced on the Official Robert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author.


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