Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 13/?
Rating: R
Codes: P/T, K/7, EMH Doc, Neelix, Vorik, Naomi Wildman
Summary: Spoilers for Night and 30 Days. After an encounter with a hostile species, most of the crew of Voyager is scattered throughout a region of space as prisoners. Tom Paris leads what's left of the crew in an attempt to recover their missing members.
Disclaimer: Paramount's property, my story, who wants to go a round with the Bat'leths?
Feedback: Encouragement/criticism gladly responded to. Flames will be consigned to the nearest airlock where proper venting procedures per Starfleet Engineering regulations will be followed.
Posting: OK to ASC, ASCEM, BLTS, & PT Fever. Please notify me if you post anywhere else...I love to see my name in lights!


"You are violating the airspace of the Ibesian Syndicate. Stand to and prepare to be boarded or we will fire upon you," the announcement came over their comm system.

"By who or what," said Tom sarcastically. "You haven't got a ship off the ground. Your ground defense systems can't target a ship so low. If I wanted to, I could strafe your whole city." Tom paused a beat, "And I want to. Vorik, target their energy relay systems, fire at will."

"Yes, sir," came Vorik's reply. "I have targeted the three major power centers of the city and have fired at all of them." He consulted his panel. "Direct hit on all three. One system is completely knocked out, the others are severely damaged. The entire city is on back-up power."

"Target the back-up systems also, but don't fire just yet," said Tom. "This is Captain Tom Paris. I would suggest that your stand down your ground weapons and the ships you were scrambling to intercept me. I'm not in a charitable mood and could blast your emergency power systems into microscopic dust if provoked."

"This is Controller Bell. Please state the nature of your demands," a new voice came onto the line.

"Well, Controller Bell," said Tom rocking back in his chair. "I'm just here to make us both some money, that's all."

"Activate your viewing screen," said Bell.

"Uh-uh, Bell," warned Tom waving a finger. "You are not in a position to give me orders." Tom's voice hardened. "I'm reading a landing area in the center of the city near a large arena type building. I'm going to land there. I expect no trouble from you or your government, Bell. And, if I do get some trouble, my friends will be very unhappy. My friends tend to shoot first and ask questions later, if you get my meaning. They have even better weapons and shielding that I do."

"We will await your landing," said Bell in a subdued voice.

"You just do that," Tom came back with satisfaction and cut the link. He turned and grinned at Seven and Vorik. "We're in, kids!"

Vorik and Seven both nodded but said nothing. They looked at each other. Vorik remarked quietly to Seven, "Mr. Paris seems to be enjoying this very much."

Seven replied, "He is." They both nodded in each other's direction in mutual agreement that humans were sometimes the oddest of creatures, finding humor and enjoyment in the strangest of situations.

Tom just smiled at them, but was internally feeling the strain. Here was the next big step, another risky situation he was placing the crew in. He felt so responsible for Seven and Vorik, and the thought of anything happening to them was devastating. He finished the landing precheck and began to make the necessary adjustment to systems to land. "We're on final approach," he called to Seven and Vorik. "Standby on sensors and weapons. I want to know if they move so much as a muscle in our direction."

"Yes, sir," came Vorik and Seven's replies almost simultaneously.

They landed without incident and scans of the atmosphere revealed no known dangers to Humans and Vulcans, the atmosphere tolerable, if not ideal. They proceeded out of the Flyer, armed to the teeth. Tom used his communicator to set the ship's computer on standby with a defense mode to be activated if the Ibesians attempted to interfere with the ship in any way. A small group of the Ibesians appeared and approached them.

"That's close enough," said Tom to them when they were within scanning distance of their tricorders. Seven and Vorik were already scanning them.

"Weapons are present on each member of the group, sir," said Vorik.

"Sonic disrupter type with relatively low power capacity," added Seven. "But they could disable us."

Tom gestured to Seven, who moved to disarm the group. They had expressions of distaste on their faces, but made no verbal protests. Vorik kept the group covered with the phaser that had materialized in his hand as soon as he had detected their weapons. Seven then destroyed the weapons with a short burst of her phaser.

"Well, boys," said Tom pleasantly. "As the old saying goes, take me to your leader." The Ibesians just looked at him for a moment, then as a group turned and walked toward the entranceway of a large building. Tom said in a low voice, "Let's follow them. Be on the lookout for an attack, they may try and ambush us to use us as bargaining material to negotiate with our 'friends'." The others acknowledged him.

They progressed to the entryway of the building and passed through the doors. It was a long, high-ceilinged hallway that ended in another set of doors, very ornately carved. It looked like it was meant to impress. Tom dismissed it as window dressing for the Ibesian's marks. He quietly scanned the hallway, which also had a number of side doors not readily noticeable as they blended into the color scheme. One such door opened without any signal by their welcoming party, so he knew that they were being scanned. The leader of the party, dressed in yellow, beckoned Tom and the others to follow him. The rest, dressed in a combination of orange and yellow, fanned out next to the door, looking like an honor guard. Tom didn't like it, but knew that it was some kind of test. He smiled perfunctorily, inclined his head to Seven and Vorik, and proceeded to the door. The colors of the hallway were as garish as the clothing of the Ibesians, and that tugged at his mind a bit, then he realized that that was it. He called, "They're chameleons!" and jerked to one side as another Ibesian, dressed in a combination of red, orange, and yellow seemingly materialized from the wall near the open doorway and approached him with obvious intent to attack. Tom didn't bother reaching for his phaser, he just hit the alien in what he assumed was its neck, hoping that their physiology was similar to humans and there were a lot of sensitive nerve endings there. It appeared that he was right, as the Ibesian staggered a bit. It gave him enough time to pull out his phaser and fire a burst that rendered the Ibesian unconscious. Tom looked around. Two attackers had gone after Vorik, and he was just giving the last of them a Vulcan neck pinch. He had a phaser in one hand, so Tom assumed that he had taken care of the first alien with it. Seven had dealt effectively with her two assailants also. Hmmm, thought Tom. They'd scanned them and decided that the Vulcan and the former Borg needed two attackers, while the Human had only required one. Interesting.

More attackers had appeared, but it was soon discovered that the situation had not resolved itself to their satisfaction. The 'honor guard' with its leader was sitting in a circle in the middle of the hallway, under the guard of Seven and Vorik. Tom was leaning against the wall near the doorway that they had been directed to, his arms folded. His demeanor was relaxed and taunting, but he held a phaser in his hand, and his eyes never stopped scanning the room. The Ibesian that approached him was dressed in blue and green, so following the idea of spectral progression as rank, he supposed that this guy was a little higher on the scale of things. He looked again, and took it back. It was not a guy. It was a female. She did not look happy, but had a resolute expression on her face.

"You are very observant," she said as she approached him. Tom noted that she was armed with a small disrupter weapon visible on her belt, but that appeared to be all. "You are also fortunate in your choice of companions. They are very strong," she finished looking briefly at Seven then staring at Vorik.

"They come in handy, usually," said Tom easily. He stood up from the wall and said, "I take it the testing is over, and now we can proceed to talk with someone in authority here?"

The female looked at him appraisingly and said, "Yes, the testing, as you put it, is over...for now," she paused, then continued. "I am Controller Nara. I am to be your guide while you are here."

"Tom Paris," said Tom pleasantly. He pointed out his companions, "This is Seven of Nine and that is Vorik." His voice took on a steelier tone, "We look forward to enjoying the Ibesian hospitality and some good entertainment. I hear there's a lot going on here."

Nara nodded and said, "There is much to be seen here, Captain Paris. If you will follow me?"

Tom agreed and motioned to Seven and Vorik, who fell in behind him without a word. Vorik continued to watch the group of Ibesians on the floor until they had passed through yet another doorway that had appeared in the wall of the hallway.

"You are very cautious," said Nara as they proceeded down a narrow passageway and into a small chamber. She indicated that they should sit. They all sat but Vorik, who took up a position far from the entry door after making a quick scan of the room.

"I'm very alive," replied Tom. "And prefer to stay that way. My companions will see to it that I stay that way."

"Again, I say that you are fortunate in your choice of companions. They appear to be very loyal," said Nara.

"They like to get paid," said Tom with a laugh. "I pay very well. Right Seven?" and he reached as arm over and caressed her cheek and moved up to her eyebrow implant and tapped it lightly.

"Yes, Captain," drawled Seven in an even huskier voice that usual. "Very well, indeed."

Nara looked at Seven as if she couldn't quite believe she talked and acted that way for real, then gave a shrug. "What about your other companion, Captain Paris? I have never seen a species quite like him. What is he?"

"I am Vulcan," said Vorik. His menacing demeanor had not let up since he had set foot on the planet. It was very impressive. Apparently Nara was entranced by it.

"You are physiologically very superior to most species I have encountered," said Nara with frank admiration. "You would be stunning in the arena."

"I decline such an honor," said Vorik impassively.

Nara appeared to understand that she would not be getting much response from Vorik and turned to Tom. "You appeared quite suddenly, Captain. You destroyed much property and have caused us great inconvenience, yet you say that you wish to trade with us? This is not a very logical course of action." Vorik's left eyebrow rose at this in spite of himself. Nara did notice this and made a note to follow up on it later. Very interesting.

Tom had leaned back on the couch that he and Seven were seated on. His hand continued to play with Seven's hair and stroked her cheek, almost absently. His appearance was of someone who was completely relaxed and just taking it all in. "I wanted to make an impression. It won't take you long to repair the damage. I'm sure you have lots of people wanting something from you, Controller Nara. It appears to me, though, that you have control of this whole sector, and that there is little that you need from anyone. Except, the raw materials for your little entertainments that make up the bulk of your income," he finished with a calculating smile.

"You appear to have a lot of information about us, while we know relatively nothing about you," said Nara.

"Well, there's not much you need to know about me, Controller," said Tom easily. "Let's just say that I have access to more of what you want, and cheaper that the Masaalia do. And, with fewer hassles in the bargain."

"You are able to provide the raw materials we require? I find that hard to believe. The quantity we need for this planet alone requires an entire fleet of Masaalian ships to supply us. Then there our other operations throughout this sector. You cannot possibly be able to supply us what we need," finished Nara shaking her head.

"I can," said Tom flatly. "And, I am willing to give you a taste of what I can provide. The last few months we've had to make a few adjustments to our operating procedures, but we've got the hang of it now, and we have been coming and going in your sector as we please. We have over two hundred prisoners on board right now, including a contingent of Masaalians."

At this last statement Nara looked a little horrified. "You have Masaalians as captives? Do you wish to have every last one of them hunting you down to kill you?"

"We can deal with them," said Tom dismissively. "They can't touch us. We have neutralized their seeker technology and certainly have them outgunned and outclassed in the capabilities of our ships."

"Ships?" questioned Nara. "You have more than one?"

"And you said that you didn't know anything about us," returned Tom chidingly. "You think that we only have the one ship? We've been acquiring them ever since I decided to become a player in the region. My engineers have been converting the old drive systems to our technology and now we have a whole fleet of ships that are capable of completely destroying whoever comes after us."

"Then why do you want to trade with us?" said Nara with suspicion.

"You have the raw materials I want and need," replied Tom. "We are going to get ourselves outfitted with enough supplies to get home in style. We'll stick around long enough to get what we need, keep you supplied in what you want, and then, when it's time to go, I'll sell you the fleet to use for your own. You won't have to depend on the Masaalians for your supplies. You'll have the capability to gather your own supplies with superior ships." Tom leaned forward and set the hook. "You will control the entire sector from the gambling, mining, supplies, transport, and beyond. You will even be able to expand from this sector out further. Think of it, Nara," said Tom with a malicious grin. "You'd be unlimited in your ability to expand." He sat back again and said, "I have what you need, Nara. You have what I want. Let's do a little business."

Nara was thoughtful, but Tom could sense that she liked what she had heard. He was confident that she would pass on what he had said to the higher ups. This was what they needed, someone to be their advocate. He waited for her response. It was not long in coming.

"I will take your proposal to the ruling Administrators. They will decide if they wish to hear more. You will remain here until I return," she said getting up.

"I'll stay here for exactly one hour, Nara," said Tom firmly. "Then, I will leave, and I will not be neat when I leave. You are responsible for my safety," he continued. "If anything happens to me, my ships will destroy your world. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Captain Paris," said Nara. She left and the door closed seamlessly behind her.

Tom's hand dropped from Seven and he sat up a little straighter. He motioned to Vorik who got out his tricorder and began a detailed scan of the room. Seven got up and began an investigation of the room's furnishings and panels. They both finished in a few minutes and returned to where Tom sat.

"No sensors are scanning us at this time, sir," said Vorik.

"There are no functioning systems in this room. It appears to be a well furnished cell," said Seven.

Tom nodded and said, "Then we wait for Nara to get back to us."

"How long do we wait?" said Seven.

Tom smiled and patted the couch next to him, "For an hour, Seven. Have a seat. They could be back at any time, and we want them to find us as they found us."

Seven sat back down and felt uncomfortable. She knew that it was being back in the suit that the Doctor had designed for her transformation from Drone to Human, but it no longer felt comfortable. She knew that comfort should be irrelevant, but somehow, it was. She wriggled a bit in her seat and Tom looked at her. She grimaced slightly, and he had the audacity to laugh.

"What's the matter, Seven?" teased Tom. "Can't get comfortable?"

"It has been some time since it has been necessary for me to wear this particular article of clothing, Mr. Paris. I find that I prefer my uniform," she said with asperity.

"I see," said Tom with amusement that he did not try to hide. "Well, no one looks better in silver lame than you, Seven, rest assured," he smiled a little kinder this time. "Just remember, it's for a good cause."

"Yes, sir," replied Seven. "I'm trying to keep that uppermost in my thoughts."

Tom chuckled a little and turned to Vorik. "You appear to have caught the eye of our guide, Vorik. Why don't you see if you can't exploit the relationship a bit. She may have access to the information that we need."

Vorik looked vaguely uncomfortable himself, but replied, "Yes, sir. I will endeavor to extract what information I can from Controller Nara."

"Give it the old college try, Vorik," said Tom encouragingly. "We need to catch a break if we are going to proceed with all speed on this." He looked down at the table. There was a group of clear topped boxes, which looked like they might be games. He opened one and found some pieces that could be not unlike chess. There was a board that had triangles instead of squares and he fiddled with them for a few minutes. He looked up at Seven, who was watching him curiously.

"Hey, Seven. You want to play Ibesian chess?" said Tom as he set up pieces in what he guessed was the right order on the board.

"No," was Seven's reply. However, she added, "But, apparently you do, and you will need a partner. Mr. Vorik can remain on guard. Who shall move the first piece?"

Tom looked at Seven and smiled. She had really loosened up recently. "Why don't you go first. I'm guessing that these are the equivalent of pawns, and..." They passed the time away, Tom periodically checking the minutes left in his set time limit. He knew that the Ibesians would play it very close, pushing him to see what he would do. He wanted them to know that he would not take anything off of them, and that he would be willing to destroy them, just as he had destroyed their power systems, if he did not get what he wanted. The time limit he had set with B'Elanna was almost up. He knew that if he did not contact Voyager soon, they would assume that he and the others were lost and begin the backup plan. He was very uneasy, but his face was blandly amused by the intricacies of rules that Seven had deduced from the game pieces and board. It would not do to let up now. He waited and played the game.

End Part 13 1