Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 14/?
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!


The last minute of the time limit Tom had set was counting down. He got up from his unfinished game of 'chess' with Seven and walked over to where Vorik was standing.

"You all set, Vorik?" he inquired tightly.

"Yes, sir. I have the charges ready to be placed should the Ibesians fail to return within the remaining 47 seconds," said Vorik.

"Good," replied Tom. He looked over to where Seven was replacing the game pieces, "You ready to go, Seven?"

Seven put the last pieces in the box and stood up. She resisted giving her outfit a tug and said, "Yes, sir."

"Let's get it over with, then," said Tom, knowing this was the final hurdle to jump before the Ibesians would really take them serious as 'players'.

Seven got out her tricorder and Vorik placed his charges near the area he had noted as where the door was concealed. They coordinated their efforts and the charges were set. Tom noted that the time was more than up. They all backed off to the far end of the room and Seven set the charges off from her tricorder. They made a low boom and the door panel disintegrated as planned. They had to phaser several guards that were right outside the chamber, and then made their way back down the passageway to the entry hall door. There was a mechanism on the wall next to the door, and Tom worked it for a moment, then the door opened. Seven and Vorik covered him as he entered the hall. The sound of clapping greeted them as they came out of the doorway. A male figure in blue stood at the end of the hall by the doors, next to him was Controller Nara. Tom relaxed a bit. This was good. They had their audience with the higher ups.

"You have wasted an hour of my time," Tom called to the male in an irritated but controlled voice. "I'm very expensive, and not inclined to play games when I want to do business. Do you treat all your prospective associates in this manner?"

"Forgive our trial of you, Captain Paris," said the male as the Voyager party approached where he stood with Nara. "We seldom have any contact with new business associates that have anything of interest to us. We tend to be skeptical of newcomers. Especially newcomers of a defeated species," he finished with a little malice.

"Ah, but I am not defeated, nor am I likely to be," shot back Tom with an equally malicious look. "I've thrown out the old rule book and have written my own. I don't subscribe to the tenants that my former Captain did, and I think you will find that I'm a little nastier an enemy to deal with."

"I have observed the damage you did to our city without any provocation, Captain," replied the Ibesian. "So I am willing to admit you have come along from your earlier encounters with the Masaalians. They have interesting things to say about you, when we can convince them to talk about you, that is. It seems that you have generated some respect within their closed empire. That's something that I've not ever heard them speak of regarding another species." The male then made a gesture with his hand and said, "I am Administrator Yelm of the Ibesian Syndicate. I am intrigued by your proposal and would like further details." He turned to where the double doors had opened and motioned to Tom and the others. "Please follow me and Controller Nara. She will see you situated in quarters a bit more to your liking while the other Administrators are notified of the need for a meeting."

Tom followed Yelm and nodded for the others to do the same. "I need a secure channel to contact my lead ship, Administrator Yelm. Otherwise, you could have a very messy situation."

Yelm turned back to look at Tom, "Chaos and destruction seem to follow you everywhere, Captain Paris."

"It's a gift," said Tom with a direct look at Yelm, playing 'eye chicken'.

Yelm looked away first and said, "A channel will be provided for you. Controller Nara will arrange it." They came to a split in the passage and Yelm made to go right and Nara took them to the left. Yelm stood at the divided area of the corridor and watched them go out of sight, saying, "I will see you at the administrative meeting, Captain Paris."

Tom followed Nara as she led him through labyrinthine corridors with off-shooting passages and doors at frequent intervals. There were no marks on any of the doors or corridors. He looked at Seven and she nodded. Their scans of this building had proven correct. It was eerily similar to the Vandal ships' habit of making a maze of their living spaces. Seven periodically reached out and put her hand on the wall of the corridor as they turned, as if keeping her balance. For effect, she tottered a bit on her heels, as if she wasn't used to walking much. In reality, she was marking the walls using a chemical compound that they had developed that left an atomic signature that could be picked up on and read by a tricorder or a Borg eye implant. A trail of bread crumbs, should it prove necessary to make a hasty exit that afforded no time to stop and ask for directions.

They reached a set of interconnected rooms that were luxuriously furnished, and Nara led them into the main chamber. She said, "Here is your suite. Please remain here until we call you for your meeting, Captain Paris. It should not take too long before the Administrators are ready for you." She walked to a panel on a desk and made some adjustments. "This is a communication device. You can access our central communications system and contact your ship, Captain." Tom looked it over and said that he understood. Nara looked at Vorik and then Seven. "If you can bear to be parted from your associates, I would be happy to give them a tour of the facilities," she smiled at Vorik here. Vorik remained impassive as usual, and even keyed up his mental output of thought waves containing menacing images and dark thoughts. It seemed as though Nara was picking up on them in some subliminal way. She seemed utterly fascinated by him, which was his objective.

Tom walked over to where Seven stood and put an arm casually around her shoulders and drew her to him. He said, "Take Vorik. I don't like to be away from Seven for any length of time, Nara." His gaze turned to Seven and he leered a bit, "You know what I mean, I think."

Seven tried to look receptive to Tom's advances and forced herself to relax in his embrace. She could detect his encouragement from the expression in his eyes, although his face had a smirk on it that was very familiar to her from watching him interact with Lt. Torres. "Yes," she breathed out and nuzzled his shoulder a bit. "I wish to stay with Tom." She could feel Tom stiffen just slightly, then relax. So, he wasn't as calm about this after all. Somehow, this made her feel better.

Nara looked satisfied at this last exchange herself and said, "Very well. If you will follow me, Vorik?" Vorik looked at Tom and then silently followed Nara out of the room.

Tom and Seven sprang apart and each began scanning the room with their tricorders. Tom located a scanner in one of the walls and proceeded to phaser it out of existence. It made a mess of the pretty wall, but it would scan no more. There was no response from the Ibesians, so he figured that they had expected it. Seven found another in the next room and repeated his performance. They continued throughout the suite and located six more scanners and one recording device. When they were all satisfactorily destroyed or dismantled, they returned to the main room. Tom went to the communications system to put in a call to Voyager.

"Paris to Voyager."

"Voyager, Torres here," came the sound of B'Elanna's voice.

"Lt. Torres," said Tom in a bantering tone. "So nice to hear your voice. We've been welcomed with open arms by the Ibesians, so to speak, so you can stand down your weapons and tell the other ships that they don't need to respond."

"So nice to hear from you to, *Captain*," B'Elanna came back with. "I'll notify the other ships. Do you require any assistance?" What she really wanted to say was, do we need to come in guns blazing and rescue your ass out of there?

Tom chuckled and said, "No assistance needed, Lieutenant. Just standby for now. I'll want to set up a data transmission of a good view of our current cargo for the Administrative Council. They're getting together for the meeting now, so it shouldn't be to much longer. I'll let you know, Paris out." Tom cut the transmission that he knew would be monitored. He didn't like talking to B'Elanna like that, but it was necessary to show that he had full control of his 'staff' and that he meant business about the cargo he carried. The plan was proceeding; they would find their missing crew members. He just needed to keep that in mind when he felt like he was losing his nerve.

B'Elanna sat back in the command chair and shook her head. It was such a relief to hear from Tom. There had been literally minutes left in the time span they had set up as the parameter for his success or failure in the attempt to breech the Ibesian stronghold and make a deal with them. It was still not concrete, but she got the sense that things were proceeding on track. Tom had such a way about him when he was running what he called a 'rig'. She had a lot of confidence in him, but she still worried. She scanned over the data on her screen and began reading the reports that she had piled up. She marveled at how many of these Tom always routinely read and dealt with, rather that pass onto her. She really appreciated the sheer volume of his daily tasks, after only one day of doing them. All this, and he retained his sense of humour, most of the time anyway. She resolved that if he could do it, so could she.

"Lt. Torres," called Ensign Powers. "There's activity on the fourth planet. Five ships have launched, sir. They appear to be heading for different points in the system."

"They're going to start a search pattern," said B'Elanna with satisfaction. "They have no idea where we are." She consulted her screen and punched up some data. She nodded once and said, "Continue in our present position, Mr. Baytart. Ensign Powers, maintain a close watch on our shielding configuration. They will undoubtedly use some of their Vandal friends' seeker programs to attempt to lock onto our position. I want to know immediately if our Borg algorithmic series falters." Which it had better not, she thought, because I don't have a clue what to do next if it does. "Mr. Neelix, keep a sharp eye on ship's Security systems. I want to know what they're doing before they do it to us.

"Yes,Lieutenant," said Neelix.

"Aye, sir," replied Powers.

"Yes, sir," said Baytart, with just a little hesitation in the 'sir' part of his response. B'Elanna's eyebrow raised at this. She got up from her chair and walked down to the Conn. She casually glanced at the control panel and then smiled a smile at Baytart that Tom Paris knew and had a healthy fear of.

"Mr. Baytart," said B'Elanna, her voice razor sharp. "It's is so nice to have you back with us and manning the Conn. I'm sure you're enjoying it, too?"

"Yes, sir," said Baytart, wary of this attention. "I'm just not used to the changes around here, yet, I guess." His voice evoked a feeling that he disapproved of some of the changes but didn't think he could voice it directly.

"Yes, things *have* changed," replied B'Elanna. "A lot. You've missed the last few months around here, Mr. Baytart. It's been a long, uphill struggle, especially since we lost almost all of our pilots. Did you know that we had to borrow Ensign McNaughton from Geologic Sciences? She had pilot cross training at the Academy, but nothing much more. She did just great, however. Mr. Paris thinks she'll make a fine additional to the Conn staff." B'Elanna turned here to go. She looked back at Baytart and added, "Carry on, Mr. Baytart." What she didn't say, but came through loud and clear, was 'You can be replaced, Mr. Baytart. So, straighten up!' Baytart's "Yes, sir." was a lot more believable this time. B'Elanna returned to her seat with satisfaction. She glanced around the Bridge. Powers was busy *looking* hard at her board, but there was a flush on her face. Neelix actually had a small smile dancing around his mouth and he nodded slightly to B'Elanna, who acknowledged his support. They had gone through hell together, and regardless of one crew member's dissatisfaction, they had done pretty well. They would continue to cope she vowed to herself, and to achieve. It had become a matter of personal honor to her that they finish what they had started.

Controller Nara led Vorik down even more passages to another door. It opened and they stepped into a lift. The lift went up for quite some time. The doors opened, and Nara motioned him out. They stepped out into a passageway that appeared to be made out of glass. The floor was opaque, but the sides and top of it were clear and revealed a fading light of the sunset. Evening had come to Barnok IV. Nara started walking and Vorik followed her. The passageway widened out and there was a viewing area with couches and chairs. She went to a couch that had room for two, barely, and sat down. She indicated that Vorik should sit next to her, and he did, an eyebrow climbing.

"Why do you do that?" asked Nara with curiosity. She wasn't taking in the view at the moment, her attention was fixed on Vorik. Vorik maintained his gaze on view of the city as the light from the planet's star slowly reduced and the city's lights began to be brighter in the coming gloom. He waited a few more moments and turned to Nara.

"Do what?" he inquired, although he knew what she had meant.

"That curious movement with your eyebrow," she responded, putting her hand up to touch his brow. One of Vorik's hands reached out to intercept hers in a lightning quick motion. she gasped a bit as he forced her hand down, which pulled her close to his face. The sound was not one of dismay, but of surprise and excitement.

"It would be prudent not to touch my person," warned Vorik, looking steadily into Nara's eyes.

"Perhaps I do not wish to be prudent," breathed Nara, not trying to pull herself from Vorik's grasp.

"Then perhaps you should state your intentions, Controller Nara," replied Vorik. He was a little lost as to how to proceed from here. His training as a Starfleet officer and engineer had not prepared him for this sort of assignment. Needless to say, his training on Vulcan had not much applicability here either. He hoped Tom's confidence in his acting ability was not misplaced. She seemed to be totally enraptured with him, which made him doubt her logic and judgment, but served his purpose quite well. He thought of what Tom would do in a situation like this, and decided that he would most likely 'wing it', an appropriate sentiment for a pilot. Vorik decided that he could do that and waited for Nara's response.

"I intend to show you a very good time," said Nara smiling. "If you're through looking at the view, I have another place I'd like to show you."

"I am at your disposal," said Vorik standing up after disengaging his grasp on her. She seemed somewhat disappointed that he let go of her, so he offered her his hand to assist her getting up. She smiled at him gratefully, and tucked her arm around his.

"I will take you to the arena," she said with an air of suppressed excitement. "We've got a whole new show, with a new species. They're the same one as your Captain...Humans."

"Yes, you have possession of some of our former crew members," said Vorik as they proceeded back to the lift.

"You don't sound too concerned about them," said Nara, her inquiry seemingly offhand, but Vorik knew that it was very important to give the right answer here.

"They were irresponsible to get caught," said Vorik with his usual lack of inflection. "Captain Paris is of the opinion that they are not needed on the ship if they can't take care of themselves. I concur."

"You are very tough, aren't you?" said Nara with admiration. They reached the lift and she pushed the call button. "I really like that. The way you don't even have any expression in your voice, and yet you get your feelings across very clearly." She shivered here as they stepped into the lift. "You're pretty ice cold all the way through, aren't you? Yet, you have a hot sensuality that is underneath it, I can sense it."

Nara leaned closer to him with her last statement, and Vorik could feel her breath on his face. The woman was definitely very strange. To hear himself described in such a manner was ludicrous, yet somehow slightly pleasing. He didn't want to delve into that. He wondered if Jan thought the same way about him. He resolved to discuss it with her when he returned to the ship. Clearly, this was a matter that would require a great deal of thought as the logic of it escaped him completely. He finally said, "You are a perceptive woman, Controller Nara."

"Just make it Nara, Vorik," she cooed as they exited the lift at yet another level. Vorik's eyebrow went to work again and she looked even happier. Mentally he was cringing, but he impassively maintained his contact with her arm.

The entered a large room, with seats that were graduated in level. The view was of an arena with various walls, cages, and gates. There was a pen at one end and a gate that led out of the arena at the other. It was the maze. It was quiet in the arena, there was no 'act' in progress. Nara led Vorik to what appeared to be the best seats in the house. Here, you could see the entire arena area, all the action. Vorik could see dark stains on the walls of the maze, and he deduced that the Ibesians had left the stains there as a comment to the participants of what would become of them if they did not outwit their stalkers. It was a circus of horror, even without any participants in the arena.

"It's pretty quiet now," said Nara. "But, tonight, there will be lights and screaming fans, and lots of betting." She sounded utterly satisfied with the prospect. "After your Captain finishes his meeting with the Administrative Council, I hope you will be staying on the view the spectacle tonight."

"I do not know his plans in the matter," said Vorik. "It would be logical for us to not concern ourselves with items that have not been decided on. I would suggest we spend our time more purposefully."

"I like the way you think, Vorik," said Nara with a grin. She pulled him toward the exit and said, "I have another place, a more private place, I want to show you. Come on." They made their way to another lift and entered it.

Vorik could sense a suppressed excitement in Nara, and he wondered where she was taking him. It was logical to assume that she had come to some sort of decision about him, because she had abandoned the tour and was taking him to a *private* place. That would be her quarters most likely. This was good. She was making this a lot easier than he had thought it would be. This stopped him for a moment. Was she attempting to deceive him? He thought through their time together. She seemed somewhat vacuous and illogical to the extreme, yet had a certain shrewdness in her questioning of him. To him, she appeared genuine, if distasteful in her actions. He would have to go with his assessment of the situation. There was not time to find another source of information, and Nara was at a fairly high level of the government here. He would find out when they were alone if he was being deceived by her. He hoped that it was not too late at that time. He also hoped that Tom was having success in his salesmanship with the Administrators.

They stepped out of the lift and made their way to another doorway. Entering the room, decorated in the fairly garish colors that the Ibesians seemed to favor, he acknowledged that his assessment of Nara had been correct. This was a living quarters, presumably hers. He turned to face her, his eyebrow raised. She sighed and moved up to him, putting her arms around him and kissed him soundly. He didn't move a muscle, then, very carefully he put his hands up to her head. He noted that this kiss was very different from Jan's, and that he did not like it at all. Nara was almost predatory in her movements, and he received no pleasure from it, nor did he find it fascinating in the least. His hands moved to the proper placement and he began the meld. Gradually, his sense of the room faded as his mind became one with Nara's. Her receptiveness was a great aid in the bond and he felt his way through her mind, carefully searching for the data that was needed. He found what he was looking for fairly quickly. He then concentrated on clearing her mind of the memory of the meld. He placed another memory there, one that Nara would be able to accept as the replacement for this time. As he broke the meld, Nara collapsed in his arms as she became unconscious. It was as he had told her to do. He placed her on the bed and then mussed the bedclothes a bit, then began to undress her. When she was naked, he slipped her under the covers and went back out into the main room. He carefully checked the entire quarters for recording devices and sensors. There were recording devices and sensors there, but they had been disenabled. He slid the dagger out of his boot and put it on the table in the center of the room, then left. He had much to report to Mr. Paris.

End Part 14 1