Part 39

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Naomi Wildman sat in the puddle on the grass where Neelix had dropped-no, practically *thrown*- her on his way over to her mother. She'd stayed in the position in which she'd landed: legs and arms skewed, back of her head and neck nearly submerged in the deepest part of the puddle, with the most outraged facial expression she could manage to produce.

When he didn't notice her predicament-and he didn't, which made her all the more irritated-she finally became uncomfortable and sat up. She tried to shake the water off, but it had already seeped into her jumper. She'd already been damp from the rain, but now she was soaked.

She folded her legs so she was sitting cross-legged, crossing her arms and doing her best to reproduce her mother's most intimidating look.

No one noticed.

Neelix was talking to her mother in quiet but urgent tones, and neither one of them looked towards her.

Naomi's angry eyebrows sank even closer to her eyes.

She'd heard that kind of conversation far too often of late. It was obviously an important, secretive discussion. Neelix had her mother's rapt attention, and some of the others on shore leave were walking over, looking just as curious. Neelix's words were so hushed she couldn't hear a single word, not even after discreetly scooting closer.

She hated this.

She hated that the adults thought they should have conversation that was obviously intriguing without including her.

Purposefully excluding her.

Her mother did it all the time with Ken Dalby. They would have soft conversations, and although she usually couldn't hear the words she could tell by the increasing force with which her mother produced the quiet sentences that it would have turned into a shouting fight if she hadn't been around.

Lately, that was nearly the only kind of conversation her mom and Ken Dalby had.

She'd asked her mother what they were talking about.

Her mother had said she wasn't happy with some of his duty reports.

That didn't even make sense. Ken didn't report to her mother.

So, she'd asked Ken, who was usually quite willing to do or tell her anything she asked.

Ken had said they'd disagreed about duty shifts.

She absolutely hated being lied to like that.

She'd asked the one adult who would be truthful with her. Tom.

Tom had laughed and eventually explained that adults just like fighting.

That hadn't sounded any better, but it wasn't nearly as insulting as her mother's and Ken's responses.

Come to think of it, maybe that was why her mother had wanted to get off Voyager and take shore leave on this yucky green planet, to have time away from arguing with Ken.

Naomi looked back at her mother.

On second thought, maybe that wasn't it.

Her mother looked just like she did after those arguments with Ken.

She was pale in the face, eyes wide, talking quietly and angrily to Neelix and to the others who had joined the cluster.

"I don't know!" Naomi heard her snap at someone. "I'm not going to be around to find out."

Her mother stepped out of the circle that had formed and scooped up the pack that someone had brought down to go hiking with. She flung it over her back and started walking toward Naomi.

Naomi thought it might be wise to hold in the yelp that nearly squeaked by her lips when her mother pulled to her feet and started walking much to quickly away from the campsite.

"Mom, where're we going?"

"The caves. Up there."

Naomi followed her mother's finger to the looming green mountains above them.

"Why?"

"Just to look around."

Another lie.

"It'll be pretty."

The anxiety in her mother's voice ruined any legitimacy in that statement.

Naomi trudged beside her mother's fast moving boots, looking back as she heard a twig snap behind her.

Following them were Chell and Neelix, at a much slower pace.

As far as she could tell, they were staring up at the empty sky.

They were looking for Voyager, just like she was.

But they didn't look happy at all.

Part 40 | Index page