Title: Come of Age
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 01/99
Series: VOY
Part: 36/?
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!


B'Elanna finished reading the recent status report that Neelix had submitted on ship's security. She was just getting to the Conn report when Naomi Wildman appeared on the Bridge.

"Captain's Assistant reporting for duty, sir," Naomi said as she came to stand next to B'Elanna's chair. Her expression was resolute.

B'Elanna looked at her, then replied, "Very well, Ms. Wildman." She handed the girl the report padd from Ops with the full sensor report from Ensign Powers. "I need you to summarize this report for me. Ensign Powers and I are too busy to look at all the data at this time. If you find anything out of the ordinary, please notify Ensign Powers or myself." B'Elanna nodded to the Engineering station, which was empty. "You can use that station, crewman."

"Yes, sir," Naomi nodded once, but with enthusiasm. B'Elanna watched her go fondly. The girl had great potential. She was intelligent, calm under pressure, and finished her work without being prompted. The fact that she was sweet, kind, and affectionate were also in her favor. Besides, it got her out of sorting through the piles of data from the sensors for the last few hours. If there had been anything of major importance, the computer or Ensign Powers would have found it out by now. They were still in a holding pattern, waiting for news of Tom and the away team. It was work that needed to be done, and it would serve to keep Naomi busy and not worrying so much about Tom. B'Elanna knew that Naomi had put Tom in a sort of surrogate father place in her life. Tom didn't mind; she knew that he loved the girl as much as if she was his child. Naomi had been very happy since her mother had returned, but had clung to Tom, Seven, and B'Elanna as her mother worked through the problems she had readjusting to life on Voyager. B'Elanna sighed. She knew that she couldn't understand fully what the captives had been through. She made a mental note to talk to Tuvok about what she could do to help the crew members along with their recovery. The well-being of the crew was her responsibility as First Officer.

"Status report on shielding, Ensign Powers," B'Elanna called out.

"Shields holding, sir," replied Powers. "Sensors indicate that the planetary defense systems have not picked up on us at all."

"Maintain constant scans, Mr. Powers," B'Elanna ordered.

"Aye, sir," said Powers as she readjusted her board for the umpteenth time. She moved her hands by rote, knowing that she could do it in her sleep. However, she never felt less tired in her life. The away team was going into deadly territory, and the safety of the ship was in her hands. She was not about to relax her guard for an instant, but tried to relax her posture. It would be illogical to assume that she could maintain such a level of rigidity for any length of time. Catching herself making this mental statement, she almost smiled. That man was wearing off on her. There were worse things, she supposed, and rescanned the readouts, making a minor adjustment in the focus of the scan.

Tom and the away team filed out of the Flyer, secured it, and stood waiting. A couple of Ibesians, garbed in blue robes, appeared from a door and approached them. They were accompanied by two guards, but they had their weapons holstered, and appeared to be there more for the sake of protocol than to take the Voyager party into custody. This was affirmed by the greeting they received.

"Welcome to Ibesia Prime, Captain Paris," the Ibesian on the left greeted them. "I am Administrator Reddin," he gestured to the female at his side. "This is Administrator Frea. We are to escort you to Chancellor Scelesta's court."

"Thank you Administrator Reddin," Tom replied formally. "These are Ensigns Seven and Vorik, crewmen O'Connell and Sawra. We look forward to meeting with Chancellor Scelesta." Reddin made a motion with his hand, and Tom accompanied him, Frea and the others falling in behind.

"We appear to have been expected," Tom offered mildly.

"We received word of your coming several days ago," explained Reddin. "Chancellor Scelesta has been preparing for your arrival. It is not often we receive such a distinguished visitor."

"Really?" Tom said smiling politely, but his internal radar was going off the scale. This was just *too* nice and friendly. Not the welcome for someone who had destroyed a large money-making operation, kidnapped a ruling Administrator, and put a high producing mine out of operation for months.

They reached another set of doors through another of the high ceilinged hallways that the Ibesians seemed to favor. Reddin picked up a highly ornate knocker and hit it four times against the sounding plate, then stood back. The noise echoed impressively in the hall. Slowly, the doors opened into another high chamber. There was a large oblong table with an enormous high-backed chair, ornately carved. In the chair sat a small woman with blond hair, wearing a stark white robe, completely devoid of any belt or ornamentation. Her hair was pulled back into a simple coronet on her head and she wore none of the jewelry affected by the other Ibesians that Tom had seen. Around the table sat other Administrators in their blue robes. Frea took a seat near the far end of the table. Reddin motioned for Tom to accompany him as he walked up to the head of the table to where the Chancellor sat.

"Chancellor Scelesta, may I present Captain Paris of the starship Voyager," intoned Reddin formally.

Scelesta inclined her head, "I welcome you to Ibesia Prime, Captain Paris. Please," she motioned to a chair empty next to her. "Be seated. Would you care for refreshment?"

"Thank you, no," Tom answered, sitting in the chair, musing how similar this was to the last time he met someone in power on an Ibesian world. He felt just as uncomfortable, but determinedly did not let it show. He glanced over to the away team, who had been shuffled off to a far corner of the room.

"Do not trouble yourself about your crew members," Scelesta's voice warbled musically. "They will be well taken care of and will not be harmed in any way."

"Thank you, Chancellor," said Tom, echoing her pleasant tone.

"You have come a long way, Captain Paris," continued Scelesta. "What can we do for you?"

"I think that you know why I am here, Chancellor," he replied evenly.

"Your reputation precedes you, Captain. You are known for, shall we say, forcefully taking what you want from others. However," she smiled perfunctorily. "I have no idea what is it that you wish from us."

"If I have that reputation, it's because I've had to earn it," Tom said, his voice getting a little harder now. "I was recovering members of my crew that had been taken by force and enslaved by your people. Nothing will stop me from getting back the rest of my crew, Chancellor."

"I believe you, Captain," Scelesta intoned. "But you have no crew being held here against their will. Ibesia Prime is a peaceful, productive world. In fact, we are the envy of the region in our standard of living and the beauty of our planet."

"Supported by the total exploitation of other species," he replied without heat, but nevertheless with emphasis. "And you are holding two members of my crew here, Captain Janeway and Cmdr. Chakotay are their names. Ring any bells?"

Scelesta paused a moment as the Universal Translator changed Tom's vernacular into a phrase she could understand. "Oh," she said with comprehension. "You mean Kathryn and Chakotay?" She shook her head, "They are not being held against their will. They are staying here because they wish to. In fact, they requested asylum with us many months ago. They have become valued members of our society. In fact, they are the only two non-Ibesians that have attained free-person status."

Tom was utterly dumbfounded for a moment, "You mean to tell me that they are here voluntarily?"

"Why, yes," said Scelesta with a light laugh.

"We were told you were holding them for ransom," Tom said.

"They were brought to us by the Masaalians, yes. However, we recognized them at once as superior beings and took them out of the holding facility and placed them in their own set of rooms," explained Scelesta. "We treated their injuries and offered them a place to live. They are most pleasant people, although Kathryn is quite shy."

"I want to see them," Tom demanded.

"Of course," replied Scelesta mildly. "I will have Reddin escort you to their residence. He is quite close friends with Chakotay and even Kathryn does not mind having him about the house, I understand. Please, visit with them and see for yourself. I have already talked to them. They are quite happy here, and wish to stay. However, I know that you will wish to see this for yourself," she finished kindly and motioned to Reddin.

Reddin stepped forward and said, "If you will follow me, I will escort you to their residence."

"I wish my crew to remain with me," Tom said implacably.

"Of course," Reddin agreed quite reasonably. "Please, this way." The group filed out of the room and walked down another hall and came to a doorway that led outside. They then walked down a pathway that led through a small park and came out to an area of houses. Reddin pointed to a small but pleasant looking house, "That is where they live. Come, let's knock on the door. I don't think that Chakotay will be home right now. He works at the Ministry of Agriculture, but he may be coming home for lunch today. Kathryn should be here, though." He knocked on the door.

"Who is it?" came an achingly familiar husky voice.

"It's Administrator Reddin, Kathryn," called the Ibesian. "I've brought some visitors to see you and Chakotay."

"I don't want to see any visitors," Kathryn's voice took on a scared tone. "Make them go away."

"Now, Kathryn, you know that I would never harm you, and that I would never bring anyone to your home that would harm you. Please open the door. These people have come a long way to see you," Reddin cajoled.

The door then partially opened, and Kathryn peered out. Her hair fell past her shoulders, and she wore a light green robe. A wary demeanor cloaked her persona, and she looked almost fearful as she slowly opened the door all the way. "Please come in, Administrator Reddin," she finally said in a low voice. She would not meet Tom's eyes, but her glance slid sideways, taking in him and the rest of his party.

Tom made a decision, "Sawra, you and O'Connell wait outside. Seven, Vorik, you're with me." They followed Kathryn and Reddin inside the house. Moving toward a sitting room, Kathryn indicated to a simple chair, "Please sit down, Administrator Reddin. Would you like some tea?"

"That would be lovely, Kathryn," Reddin smiled at her, and she went into another room, presumably the kitchen area. "Captain, please sit down," Reddin nodded to Tom, who nodded and sat down in chair next to Reddin's. Seven and Vorik moved to the edge of the room and took two smaller chairs. "As you can see," Reddin continued. "They have a most pleasant home. Kathryn has made it her personal quest to make it as comfortable as possible, Chakotay tells me."

"You seem to know Chakotay very well," Tom noted.

"When he first came to Ibesia, Kathryn and he were assigned to me," Reddin said with fond reminiscence. "I found out his aptitude for agriculture and got him his position with the Ministry. They don't know how they got on without him," Reddin laughed a little. "As for Kathryn, well, she's very shy, but quite sweet. It takes a while to get to know her, but she's well worth the effort. She is also very intelligent, and in her spare time, has worked up some technological breakthroughs on some ongoing projects for our scientific community."

Kathryn appeared with a tray and some cups of tea, which she passed around to everyone. She picked up her own and sat in the remaining chair, and sipped the tea, not looking at any of her visitors directly.

"How are you feeling these days, my dear?" Reddin queried.

Kathryn started slightly, then looked up at him and replied, "Oh, a little better. Still a little queasy in the morning, but the compound the doctor gave me for making morning tea helps a lot."

"Yes, Carath always said that it did," he nodded knowingly. Turning to Tom, Reddin said, "I don't think you've been told, but Kathryn and Chakotay are to be congratulated. They are going to be parents in, what, six months or so?"

"Yes," nodded Kathryn shyly. "That's what the doctor said." Silence fell as Tom and the others took in this astonishing piece of news along with all the other data they'd had to assimilate that day.

Reddin then exclaimed, "I'm forgetting my manners! I'd like to introduce you to..."

"I know who he is," said Kathryn flatly. "He's Tom Paris, of Voyager."

"Well, yes he is," Reddin said cal

"Hello, Captain Janeway," Tom spoke for the first time, in a soft but steady voice.

"Don't call me that," she flashed, seeming to be angry and afraid at the same time.

Tom put his cup down on a small table next to his chair. He was very surprised by all this, but had to persevere, "All right. Hello, Kathryn. You remember who I am?"

"I remember," she replied shortly.

"We're here to take you back home to Voyager," Tom continued.

"I am home here," said Kathryn, looking directly at him for the first time. Her eyes were blazing with emotion. "Voyager is not my home, and I don't wish to return there. You should leave and not come back."

Tom couldn't believe what he was hearing. The Captain was sitting right in front of him, and she was telling him that she didn't want to return to Voyager, that she belonged on this world. He examined her face and body. There were no marks or injuries, even old ones, on her body. Her eyes were clear except for the anger now in them, her speech precise not slurred. She did not appear drugged or under any control. "You can't mean that," was all he could say.

"I do mean that," Kathryn said firmly. "Now get out of my house, and don't come back!" She was visibly upset, and then to Tom's utter horror and amazement, began crying.

A rear door opened and Chakotay entered the room. He strode immediately over to Kathryn, who sprang up and fell into his arms, sobbing. "What the hell are you doing here, Paris?" he growled, stroking Kathryn's hair soothingly.

"We were under the impression that you needed rescuing, Chakotay," Tom said evenly, feeling the reality of the situation getting away from him.

"Well, as you can see, we don't," Chakotay responded angrily. "We're just fine. So, you leave us alone and return to Voyager. We're not going anywhere with you. Our home is here," he added fiercely, and hugged Kathryn to him hard.

Reddin touched Tom's shoulder and said in a low voice, "I think we'd better go now, Captain Parisorn hey are both upset by this reunion. Perhaps they can be persuaded to talk with you later."

With a last haunted look at the couple, Tom gestured to Seven and Vorik, and they followed Reddin out of the house. They walked for a while back up the path they had come on, then Tom stopped and took Reddin by the shoulder, "You knew that they were going to react that way. Why didn't you tell me?"

"You wouldn't have believed me it I had," Reddin replied. "I knew that you would have to see them for yourself before you would admit that they do not wish to return to your ship."

"I still can't believe that they would want to stay here, rather than go home," Tom shook his head.

"Why not? They have a home here now. They are starting a family. They have position and stability. Why should you wonder at it?" Reddin said with puzzlement in his voice. "Is it not everything that anyone dreams of?"

Tom bit back his natural response of 'Not these people,' instead saying, "I just don't know what to think. I want to return to my ship and confer with my staff regarding this."

Reddin inclined his head, "It was thought that you might wish to do so. I will return you to your shuttle. I will instruct the Defense Forces to give you an orbital position."

Tom smiled tightly, "That won't be necessary, Administrator. I'll return to where my ship is. You'll be hearing from me soon regarding this matter."

"Very well, Captain Paris," Reddin replied graciously. "There is the matter of Administrator Cline," he continued delicately.

"We'll take that up then," Tom agreed with his best diplomatic smile.

Reddin smiled in kind as Tom and the others entered the landing area. His faced tightened and the smile disappeared when the Voyager crew members were out of sight. It was as planned, he mused to himself as he made his way back to the Chancellor's court. The clever Paris was about to be trapped by his own failings.

End Part 36 1