Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 20/?
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!


Tom walked over to where Neelix stood with O'Connell and Blake. "Get that shielding equipment broken down and returned to the ship, Neelix," he ordered. "I'm going to open the prisoner cell doors now."

"I'll go with you, sir," said Neelix as he motioned for the crewmen to get the equipment.

"Not necessary, Mr. Neelix," said Tom lightly, though his face showed a little tension. "It's just a little quirk of mine to let the others go rather then have them vaporized or crushed by the destruction of the arena, so it's my responsibility to go in there and let them out."

"They might not be so friendly, Tom," Neelix's voice had concern in it. "And you know that even with your personal pattern enhancer, the shielding in the building is too strong to get a good lock on you. Your pattern could be lost if Voyager tried to beam you out from there. You'll have to make it back outside."

"I'm well aware of that fact," replied Tom as he checked his phaser and pattern enhancer. He looked up at Neelix, who had a grave expression on his face. "I'll be OK, Neelix. Get up to the ship," his voice was gentle but carried the element of command to it. Neelix nodded, but he swallowed heavily as he turned to go meet with the crew returning with the shielding equipment. Tom watched them shimmer out of sight, then turned and entered the arena building for the last time.

The noise from the prisoners, who had realized that there was a jailbreak on, was intense. Tom went to the guard's station where Seven and Vorik had worked before to open the cell door. The station was ready to go. After examining it for a few minutes, Tom put in the commands he thought would open the rest of the cells. From the clanging and roar of voices, he assumed that he had made the correct sequence on the computer. He moved swiftly now, more cautious than ever. The prisoners had found the breach in the wall and were pouring out through it, some dragging injured or unconscious comrades, others practically crawling toward the opening. A few prisoners were shoving and hitting as they made their way to the hole in the wall, and Tom yelled at them and gestured with his phaser. The words probably didn't mean anything to them, but the phaser made an impact, and they calmed down. Tom watched as the prisoners filed out through the hole, impatient to be on his way, but not willing to condemn them to death. He couldn't save them all, there wasn't room enough for them on the ship. But, they were free now, and quite possibly could better their positions by fanning out through the city and finding or taking help. He didn't worry himself about how the Ibesians would cope with this. They were not deserving of any pity at their plight, as far as he was concerned. The flow of prisoners had reduced to a trickle, then none. He loped down the corridors, scanning for any remaining prisoners. There were none and he returned to the hole in the wall. Carefully, he came outside, looking quickly but warily looking for an ambush from some of the prisoners, but there were none around. They had all left the area with amazing alacrity for those who were injured. It was fine with him. He activated his personal pattern enhancer and tapped his commbadge.

"Paris to Voyager..." his voice trailed off as the blow to his head felled him to his knees. Arms then grabbed him and began tearing at his clothes and belt, hitting and pulling. He felt the stabbing pain of a knife sliding into him as the shimmers of the transporter pulled him out of awareness for the moment. He came to on the transporter platform, several of his assailants still clustered around him. Loud voices and the sound of phasers firing came at him as he swam at the edge of awareness for a moment. Then, his vision cleared and he stood up. Neelix was there, supporting him as he staggered off the platform. Security team members pulled the prisoners out of the transporter room to the Brig.

"You need to be transported to Sickbay, sir," said Neelix anxiously.

"No time for that right now, Neelix," replied Tom in a tight voice. "Where's the knife?"

Neelix looked Tom over and found a small piece of metal that had been honed into a knife stuck in his lower right side, between two ribs. "It's here, Tom," and pointed to its location.

Tom nodded and keyed his commbadge. "Paris to Torres, send the final signal to the bombs, then get us out the hell of here, B'Elanna, full warp."

"Torres to Paris, consider us underway. What's the situation down there?"

"Under control, Lieutenant. I'm on my way to Sickbay to check out the casualties. I'll be up in a while to check on things." Tom looked at Neelix as if to forestall him saying anything. Neelix just shook his head and took a stronger grip on Tom as he almost fell over.

"Aye, sir," replied B'Elanna, a hint of suspicion in her voice, but accepting the situation for now. "Torres out."

Tom reached up to wipe a trickle of blood off the corner of his mouth, "I think you better beam me to Sickbay, now."

"Get us to Sickbay, now!" barked Neelix to Crewman O'Malley at the transporter console and they disappeared.

B'Elanna called over to Powers, "Send the signal to the devices now, Ensign."

"Aye, sir," replied Powers. She examined the readings on her board. "They have all detonated, sir. The building has lost structural integrity and has collapsed on itself. The internal communications from the Ibesians show a growing deterioration in the effectiveness of their computer system. I estimate that they will lose full function of their system in less than ten minutes, sir."

B'Elanna felt a great deal of satisfaction as she ordered, "Mr. Baytart, get us out of orbit and on course for the Abraad mining colony, Warp 6."

"Aye, sir," Baytart said and made the necessary entries on his board. "We're out of orbit and on course for the Abraad systems. Estimated time of arrival there at Warp 6 is two days, sir."

"Very good, Mr. Baytart," said B'Elanna. "Torres to Sickbay. Doctor, please report on the casualties."

"Sickbay here," came the Doctor's harassed voice. "I'm a little busy now, I'll call you when I have an update. For now, everything looks fine, and most of the prisoners are relatively stable."

"Who's the worst?" asked B'Elanna with brisk concern.

"Currently, it's Mr. Paris, as usual," replied the Doctor acerbically. "He'll live, but I'm going to have to stop talking to you and work on him. I'll need his help with the others, so I thought I'd patch him up first."

"Carry on, Doctor," B'Elanna cut off the link. She was completely furious with Tom for not letting on that he had been injured in the operation when he had contacted her. Then she was worried, then irritated, then just plain antsy for news on him. She pulled her command screen to her and began working to take her mind off of the infuriating man that she loved, in Sickbay as a patient and not to work, again.

"Mr. Neelix, please hand me that deep tissue regenerator and the second hypospray on the left," the Doctor ordered. Neexlix fumbled for a bit and complied.

The Doctor muttered to himself about people who had to play hero and kept getting beaten and stabbed in the process, and he pulled Tom back from the brink, again. It was a relatively easy wound to treat. He scanned the lung and repaired the torn tissue, then sealed it. Giving him the medication to stabilize his electrolyte balance and stimulate him back to consciousness, he nudged Paris. "Wakey, wakey, Mr. Paris," he said the gentle tone of his voice belying the sarcasm of his words.

"Uhmfgph," muttered Tom for second, then blinked his eyes and his vision cleared. "Hiya, Doc," he got out and moved his hand to his head.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Paris," the Doctor said briskly and handed him a tricorder. "Get up and give that bed to someone who really needs it now. I need your help to treat these people," he added.

Tom sat up and groaned a little and said, "Sure, Doc. Just gimme a second and I'll be fine."

Neelix looked a little horrified by this, but the Doctor just nodded once and moved off to the next patient, Joe Carey.

Tom made to stand up and Neelix clucked and helped steady him. "It's OK, Neelix, I'll be fine," Tom said shaking his head to clear it. "The Doc's right, it's a relatively minor injury once treated, and you need to get back to Security and deal with our new guests."

"All right, sir," said Neelix uncertainly. "If you say so."

"I do, and thanks, Neelix," added Tom with a smile. "You've been saving me a lot lately."

"Well, somebody has to," replied Neelix with just a hint of the Doctor's trademark dryness in his tone. Tom gave a short laugh and a wave and Neelix turned to go.

Tom made his way over to the instrument tray and picked up a hypospray and walked over to the bio-bed with Harry on it. Seven was standing at attention next to him. They had both been watching the Doctor work on Tom, but had not interfered. Tom noted that not a word had passed between them.

"Harry," said Tom scanning him. "You've got three broken ribs, internal bruising, and that lovely cut on your forehead. You are one lucky son of a bitch. Hold still, and I'll regen your ribs and the cut. The bruises will just take some time to heal. You'll be a little sore for a couple of days."

"That's OK," replied Harry matter of factly. "I'm used to it."

"I'll just bet you are," murmured Tom as he made adjustments in his equipment, then healed his broken ribs. "You've got residual traces of numerous broken ribs and one fracture of your left ulna, and assorted levels of healing cuts and bruises. You have nice muscle tone, but your body fat is down to 2.4%, less than healthy for you, I might add." Tom began working on the cut on his forehead. "I prescribe a hot bath, a meal, and some sleep. I'll put through authorization for all the returning crew members to have replicated meals for the next week. You all are underweight and suffering from malnutrition."

"Yes, mother," replied Harry in a disgusted voice.

"Just make that yes, sir, Ensign," Tom replied blandly, but in a serious voice. He turned to Seven and said, "You may return to your duties on the Bridge, Ensign, and tell Lt. Torres to meet me in Sickbay. We'll have a full debriefing on the mission later."

"Yes, Mr. Paris," said Seven, and with a quick look at Harry, left the Sickbay. The confrontation between the two of them would just have to wait. Ensign Kim was not functioning at his normal level, so it would be more logical to wait until he had more fully recovered. Tom had taken the opportunity to let Harry know exactly what her position in the crew was these days while letting B'Elanna have the chance to look over the returned crew. She made a mental note to thank him when she got the chance. She knew that he was worried about Harry and her. She supposed that it was justified, given the circumstances.

"What do you mean, 'her duties on the Bridge'," asked Harry with suspicion. "Since when does Seven have any duties on the Bridge, and why is she wearing a Sciences uniform?"

"She's wearing a Sciences Uniform because she is the currently the department head of Astrometrics and Ops. I wanted her to wear a gold uniform, but she stated that when you returned to the ship that you would be assuming your duty as head of Ops and that she would be returning to full time in Astrometrics. I considered her reasons, decided I concurred and made the assignment. As for her Bridge duty," Tom added putting the final touches on the one-time cut on Harry's forehead. "She's Acting Second Officer, so I sent her up to relieve B'Elanna, who's probably going to want my head for not telling her I was injured. There, you're all set to go. Make sure you don't try killing anything more strenuous than a bottle of synthale for the next couple of days and you'll be fine."

"That makes you..." Harry looked at Tom incredulously.

"Acting Captain Paris, at your service," Tom quipped as he helped Harry off the bio-bed. "Oh, and Harry," Tom added in a playful tone, "get a haircut."

"Apparently, things have changed a quite a bit since I was last on Voyager," Harry finally got out.

"Yes, they have," Tom said seriously. "Go get some rest, Harry. It'll all make a little more sense when you've had some sleep."

Harry raised his eyebrows, but nodded as made his way out of Sickbay heading for his quarters. He paused a moment at the turbolift, trying to recall what deck they were on, then remembered and strode into the lift and gave the command. He sagged against the wall of the lift as the realization that he was safe from attack, really safe, sunk in. He staggered out of the lift and made it to the door of his quarters. Keying in his last password sequence, he was pleased that the door opened. Making his unsteady way to th> Tom continued to work on the rescued crew members, who were having the same reactions that most of the others had experienced upon being restored to the ship. He passed out as much caring speech and reassurance as he did medicine. He walked over to where the Doctor was examining Joe Carey again. Sam Wildman, who had fairly mild injuries, was standing next to Joe's bed on the other side. "Well, Doc, what do you think?" asked Tom.

"Lt. Carey is by far in the worst condition of the returned crew members," replied the Doctor. "I have not seen this paticular type of virus before. Ensign Wildman states that just before their rescue, a new group of prisoners were brought it, and that they possibly were the carriers of this contagion. I have found no evidence of it in the other crew members, so Mr. Carey is the only unfortunate one."

"I didn't find any infection in the other crew members, either, Doc," Tom said thoughtfully. "Did Joe ever have any direct contact with these new prisoners, Sam?"

"Yes," replied Sam looking up at Tom. "That first day, he was required to spar with one of the new prisoners to see how they fought. They were all so weak, it didn't take long for him to defeat him. At the kill, the blood just sprayed all over Joe, so I suppose he could have been infected then."

Sam seemed to not notice that both Tom and the Doctor had made note that she talked about 'theIt hl' in such a matter of fact way. This set of prisoners had been through their own particular hell, thought Tom with another flash of anger directed toward the Ibesians.

"What can I do to help, Doc,?" asked Tom finally.

"Continue to treat the superficial wounds of the others, Tom," directed the Doctor. "I'm going to take some samples and work on this infection. He's stable for now," the Doctor directed this at Sam. "You should return to your quarters and clean up. There's someone who really wants to see you, but I don't think you'll want to receive her looking like that."

"Naomi?" gasped Sam. "You mean, she's alive?"

Tom quickly walked over and grabbed Sam as she swayed. "She's just fine. She was in the last shuttle with me from the planet," said Tom gently. "We returned to the ship to find the fighting was almost over, and the damage had been inflicted already. We didn't have any choice but to leave before the entire ship's systems totally disintegrated. We didn't know where you were, and they were going to wait around and destroy the ship when the defensive systems were down."

"Where is she?" Sam begged the Doctor.

"I believe she's with Ms. Delaney in the hydroponics bay," replied the Doctor looking at Tom. "I directed the two of them there to keep Naomi out of the way during the operation."

"Good work, Doc," Tom praised the Doctor. "You go get cleaned up, and I'll finish up here. We'll meet you at your quarters in about an hour, all right?" he directed at Sam.

Sam looked like she was going to cry for a moment, then replied, "Yes, sir. That would be just fine." She walked out of the Sickbay, her face suffused with joy.

Tom rubbed at his eyes for a moment, as there appeared to be something blurring his vision, then turned to get back to work. The Doctor looked at him appraisingly then walked to his office to begin his research.

End Part 20 1