Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 30/?
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!


"Report," barked B'Elanna as Seven entered the Bridge.

"We recovered twenty-seven crew members, including Mr. Tuvok, from the mines," Seven replied as she came to stand next to B'Elanna. "Mr. Paris and Ensign Kim are still on the planet, attempting to free an additional crewman that was being held in another area. The other crew have been taken to Sickbay for treatment."

"What's their general condition?" B'Elanna asked as she scanned her panel. There was a lot of activity in the mine. The computer core had failed and the secondary systems were going down like dominoes.

"With the exception of Mr. Tuvok, they are suffering from general fatigue and malnutrition. The Doctor stated he would make a full report later," Seven added.

"What's wrong with Tuvok?" B'Elanna looked up, her expression fierce, but inside she quaked. Oh, no, not *Tuvok*.

"The Doctor did not provide a diagnosis. He merely stated that Mr. Paris had best return to the ship in one piece, because he needed him to treat Cmdr. Tuvok's injuries," Seven answered. She looked anxious, "I have a message from Mr. Paris."

"What did Tom say?" B'Elanna's tone went down and became slightly anxious also. She knew it wouldn't be a good message. Things were not going as planned. Then she thought, when did they ever?

"He instructed me to tell you to wait only one additional hour for Ensign Kim and him to return to Voyager. If at the end of that time they have not reached the surface, you are to take the ship out of orbit. He specifically stated that you were not to send another rescue team down," the former Borg's voice had also lowered in volume and it had a stark tone. The return of Harry had been all too brief, and now she might lose him again. An internal wail of 'it's not fair' screamed at her from her aborted childhood. She squelched it with difficulty and maintained her gaze on B'Elanna.

"What's left on the clock?" B'Elanna asked.

"Approximately 38 minutes, sir," Seven answered.

B'Elanna looked struck for a moment, then gathered herself together and said, "Very well, Ensign. Take your station." I can do this, she chanted to herself. Tom's done it, Seven's done it, so I can do it. Make one decision at a time and just do it, B'Elanna.


Shut up! I don't have time for you.

*P'taq, you should make time for me*

I need to concentrate. I can't have a conversation with myself now.

*You are worried about that Human*

What if I am? He's worth worrying about. So's Harry.

*Do your duty. Act with honor*

I'm trying to, but I have feelings just like everyone else. It's hard.

*You have the strength...I have the strength...use both of our strengths. bIHoHrup!*

I don't have to kill anyone yet.

*You may have to kill your mate to save the others. Can you do that?*

If I have to, yes. But I won't unless it's the last option. There's no honor in wasting a good man because I was too timid to wait for a while.

*You begin to learn puq*

B'Elanna decided. "Ensign Seven, any indication that the Ibesians have discovered us?"

"No, sir," replied Seven scanning her board. "At present, they are occupied with evacuating the mine and trying to stop the failure of the secondary systems on the planet."

"How long before they're successful?"

"I estimate it will take two to three hours before they can repair the basic systems, such as air circulation and heat. The more complex and deeper functions of the computer will take a lot longer."

"Good," B'Elanna sat back and thought. "Ensign McNaughton, take us out of our bi-polar orbit and start a random elliptical orbit."

"What pattern should I use, sir?" McNaughton turned to ask.

"Just make one up, Ensign," B'Elanna smiled ferally at the Conn officer. "We want to keep them guessing as to where we are."

"Yes, sir," McNaughton smiled a little back and went to work.

"Mr. Neelix, is the ship secure and ready for action?" B'Elanna called from over her shoulder.

Neelix consulted his board and replied, "Yes, sir. Systems are secure and all decks report ready. The Doctor has removed the patients from Sickbay to their quarters. All except for Mr. Tuvok, that is," he looked up with concern.

"Torres to Sickbay. Doctor, what's the situation with Mr. Tuvok?"

"Sickbay. Lt. Torres, Mr. Tuvok is in no condition to be moved. He requires immediate surgery, and I can't perform it without Mr. Paris' assistance," the Doctor's tone was very worried.

"Can you stabilize him and keep him that way by putting him in stasis?" B'Elanna asked. "It could get very rough if we have to fight off some Ibesian defense forces."

"It wouldn't be advisable to put him in stasis," the Doctor said. "He might not come out of it."

B'Elanna's heart sank a little at this. "Well, just do the best you can, Doc. I'll try to keep the disturbances to a minimum. Torres out."

"We're coming up on the last door," Harry announced as he took some readings with his tricorder.

"How're the gas levels doing?" Tom huffed as he hefted the unconscious Geron up the last of the stairs.

"Not good, they risen several parts per million in the last ten meters we've climbed. They're dangerously near toxic levels," Harry added.

Tom rubbed his head, "Tell me about it. My head feels like its going to explode."

"We have to get out into the fresh air, otherwise, we're going to lose our judgment and our motor skills," Harry stated wearily. "It's just a matter of time."

"Isn't is always, Harry?" Tom replied. He put Geron down next to the door and said, "Can we open this without setting off the gas?"

Harry scanned the door and sighed. "It's too dense to tell what's on the other side. Most of the equipment in this mine is maintained pretty well. It wouldn't last in this environment if it wasn't. However, this is a door that may not have been used for a long time. Maybe not since the mine was built. There could be some friction opening it, and even the smallest spark could ignite this stuff," he finished and leaned up against the wall, his eyes shut for a moment, fighting off nausea.

Tom checked the time. "We've got to take the chance. We're out of time. Voyager's going to be pulling out of orbit in less than ten minutes."

Harry stood up and the two began working the mechanism to open the door. It was recalcitrant at first, but gradually yielded to them, and opened with a creak. They looked at each other in alarm, but there was no reaction from the gas, so they continued opening the door. A rush of cold air came in as the door opened wide. They wasted no time on congratulating themselves, and each took one end of Geron and crossed through the door.

The door opened out into a short tunnel with a wide opening. The ground was rocky and rough, and they stumbled a little as they went down the incline. Heading off to one side behind some large rocks, they laid Geron down on a reasonably flat place. Tom keyed his communicator, "Paris to Voyager."

"Voyager, Torres here," B'Elanna responded. "About time you guys made it to the surface."

"Yeah, well, we wanted to take the scenic route," Tom replied tiredly. "Can you lock on to us and beam us up?"

B'Elanna turned to Seven, who said, "Negative. The interference from the mine is too great. They will need to move at least five hundred meters away from the entrance and set their personal pattern enhancers."

"I got that," Tom said.

"Lt. Torres," Seven called.

"What is it Ensign," B'Elanna asked.

"I am detecting a large party of Ibesians approaching Mr. Paris' location. They are armed."

"Tom, you've got company coming," B'Elanna called.

"I've got them on my tricorder," Harry said. "They'll be here in less than ten minutes."

Tom eyed the terrain, which was slightly visible due to the light from Abraad's two moons. "We can't go that way," he gestured to a small gorge to the right. "And the Ibesians are coming from that way," he pointed to the left. "So, I guess the only place to go is down," he pointed to the cliff in front of them.

"Go down there, with Geron?" Harry whistled soundlessly.

Tom took off his backpack. "Take off your backpack and give me all the climbing gear you've got left," he ordered. "I can rig a harness for Geron and you and I can free climb down."

"I don't know about that," Harry said, but took off his backpack and pulled out the requested items. He then went over to scout out the cliff.

"You can do it, Harry," Tom replied, stringing together lengths of rope to form a 'cradle' for Geron. "Just think, the cliff won't even be trying to kill you." He looked up as Harry came back over. "Look, all we have to do is get 500 meters away from the entrance of the mine, then Voyager should be able to beam us out. How does it look?"

"It looks like there are a lot of handholds, at least as far as I could see," Harry replied. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just hold that there while I tie the knot. That's it. Here, put that around his waist and the between his legs. OK, we're set." Tom pulled out the last piton he had and drove it into the rock on the edge of the cliff. Putting a carabiner through the harness around Geron, he slipped the rope around himself in order to belay Geron down the cliff. "Get going, Harry. I'll lower Geron after you find a good spot to stop. This rope in only fifty meters long. You'll have to hold him there while I retrieve the piton and reset it lower."

"Got it," Harry affirmed as he lowered himself down the cliff face. "Here goes nothing," he muttered. He carefully felt for footholds and hung on for dear life as he slowly made his way down the cliff. He came upon a small ledge about thirty meters down and called up to Tom, "I'm in position. You can start lowering Geron."

"Belay on. Lowering," Tom yelled as he eased Geron over the cliff side and began paying out the rope slowly. It was not an ideal climbing situation, scaling down an unknown cliff, practically in the dark, with jury-rigged equipment and an unconscious crewman. He wished he had a spare hand to do another scan with his tricorder to see how close the Ibesians were. It really didn't make any difference, he supposed. If they got out, they got out. They couldn't move any faster without endangering themselves any more than they already were. Tom felt the slack on the rope as Harry caught Geron and eased him down to the ledge. Immediately he called down, "Off belay. I'm going to pull the piton and move down. Hold tight until I get there." Just as Tom pulled out the piton and slid down the edge of the cliff, the Ibesians came around the corner of the path. Tom tucked the piton between his teeth and proceeded to descend the cliff as rapidly as he had ever done in his life. After a few meters, he got into the rhythm, and began to make some time. The cliff was ideal for climbing. A few minutes later, he was on the ledge with Harry and Geron.

"We've got company," he whispered to Harry as he drove the piton again. "Get going as fast as you can. I don't know how long we'll be able to hide down here before they figure out where we've gone." Harry didn't say a word, but slipped over the edge of the cliff and began descending again. When Harry called up softly that he'd found another stopping place, Tom lowered Geron again, and they proceeded as before. They got down about 250 meters that way before a cry came up from the top of the cliff.

"Harry," Tom called down to where Kim looking for yet another ledge. "They're onto us. Haul ass!"

"Like I didn't know that," Harry muttered to himself, feeling desperately with the toe of his boot for another purchase. His hands were bleeding from the sharp rocks and his muscles were trembling with the effort of free climbing with so few rest periods. There wasn't a ledge anywhere here. He kept going and finally found a very small notch in the rock, scarcely more than the width of his foot, but is was solid and he couldn't go any further. The rope wouldn't reach. "Send him down," he called up to Tom. As bad as he felt, he knew Tom had it worse, bearing the brunt of the weight of Geron while descending the same rocks he had to. He pulled out his tricorder and checked the distance they had come. 300 meters, less that halfway to go. The weapons fire started then.

Tom lowered Geron and winced as the disrupter beam struck a rock right next to him. He was showered with rock chunks, some of them fairly large. Geron was almost down to Harry, he couldn't flinch now. He ignored the warm gush of blood that flowed down his forehead and the blinding pain from where the rock hit. Shaking his head slightly and blinking to clear his vision, he peered up at the top of the cliff. There were ten Ibesian guards gathered on the rim, all of them firing away. The whine of sonic weapons discharge filled thecamr, and the smoke from the destruction of the cliff hung like a smokescreen. Tom supposed that was the only thing that was saving them. The idiots couldn't figure out that if they stopped firing for a second, they might be able to target who they were after. The loosening of the rope let him know that Harry had taken hold of Geron. He pulled out the piton and stuck it into his tunic. It wouldn't do to lose the only back-up they had. If he lost his grip on Geron, the only thing that would keep the Bajoran from plunging to his death was that little piton.

Tom turned to face the cliff and put one foot down to search for a purchase. He winced as he discovered he had another wound from the rock debris in his right thigh. Lightly touching it, he sucked in his breath as he found a jagged wound about ten centimeters long, bleeding profusely. He didn't have time to seal it with his regen, so he reached into his tunic and tore a strip off of his t-shirt and wrapped it around his leg in a crude bandage. Pulling another strip off his t-shirt, he affixed this one around his head in an attempt to keep the blood from dripping in his eyes. The weapons fire continued, and rocks showered down on them. Tom moved as fast as he could down the cliff and finally came to where Harry had Geron braced against the side of the cliff.

"What took you so long?" Harry panted as he strained to hold Geron again the almost vertical face.

"I stopped to admire the view," Tom replied, peering down the cliff. "This isn't good. There's damn few handholds in this section. I think now is a good time to see if Voyager..." Tom paused as Voyager appeared in the night sky, firing its phasers with incredible precision at the guards on the top of the cliff. Tom could see them fall to the ground, stunned.

"That's the ticket, B'Elanna," he grinned up at the ship tapped his commbadge. "Paris to Voyager."

"Voyager here. Away team, standby to beam up," B'Elanna ordered, her voice triumphant.

"Standing by," Tom raised his eyebrows and laughed a little, then winced. Harry laughed a little too as they shimmered and disappeared from the cliff side. They hadn't needed to go 500 meters after all.

End Part 30 1