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Author’s note: And now back to my favourite genre! Drama/Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe!! Mwa-ha ha ha haaa!! ‘((=/=))’ marks flashbacks, beginning and end.
It had been nearly two days since Tom had been released from sickbay but he had not been seen in public at all and worry was beginning to spread. The Doctor, Harry, Captain Janeway, Kes and Chakotay were the only ones who had seen Tom lately and they too worried about Tom and his state of mind.
There was no telling how his imprisonment and torture, at the hands of Seska and the Kazon, had changed him. They didn’t know Tom well enough to recognize any problems or issues that he would need to deal with to fully heal, if that was at all possible.
The computer complied with the inputted command but when a missing function was detected the female voice gave a warning to the user. “This program does not contain safety parameters, presenting extreme risk of injury-”
“Belay that,” Captain Janeway’s voice interrupted and the computer chirped in response and awaited further instruction.
Janeway held her own against the steely glare that was aimed at her. “Sorry Tom,” she said not sounding all that apologetic, “protocol.”
Tom just stared at her and Kathryn could only speculate as to what he was thinking. A brief flash of emotion crossed his eyes but Tom turned and entered holodeck one before Janeway could identify it. She watched him go wishing she could help him through the mental anguish but having never had so horrifying an experience she would not be able to connect with him or gain any semblance of his trust.
The doors to the first holodeck closed sealing Tom inside, alone. Janeway continued on her way to holodeck two so that she could, for a few minutes, drop the armour the she always wore as the Captain and just be Kathryn.
Inside holodeck one the grid had been replaced with holographic projections of the interior of the palace that Tom had grown up in. Faceless minions of the Fieran Empire walked past him paying him little mind and Tom felt a swell of anger at himself for making this hologram so much like reality where he was always ignored and overlooked.
In the eastern wing of the complex Tom entered the area that had been off limits for him as a child. Absently he rubbed the part of his arm where he had hurt himself when he hadn’t known that the weapons adorning the walls were for decorative purposes but were also kept in good condition, which meant keeping the blades sharp, as was tradition.
His destination as he meandered through the frighteningly accurate and realistic program was the practice room of the royal security force. As a child he had admired the guards. They had an air of invincibility around them especially the ones that bore the ‘silver shem’ like the one he now wore.
The Silver Shem was a status awarded to only a few members of the royal security force, those who had earned the right to bear one. The shem was a band of silver plated metal that was worn on the forearm and had special engravings on it. When this tradition had started it was used as a piece of armour for protection but nowadays it was more ceremonial but the significance was that same.
The shem was awarded to officers of the security force who had gone beyond the call of duty in order to secure the safety of others. Like others, Tom only wore his shem when he felt he needed the extra strength during trying times, like now.
The shem was hidden beneath the sleeve of his shirt his name engraved into the under side of it; Thomas Paris. With that surname, the silver shem was the closest Tom could ever get to being recognized as member of the royal family.
In the practice room Tom silently gazed at the magnificent weapons on their stands. He picked up one of the swords and lightly traced the deceptively slender blade. It seemed so fragile but it was stronger than its size suggested when used properly. Looking at the tips of his fingers Tom noted that he had not been cut by the blade, which is what usually happened when he handled the blades like this.
“Safety parameters,” Tom whispered to himself unhappily. How could he pretend this simulation was real if the danger wasn’t?
A few minutes later Tom was in the middle of the fairly large room wielding the weapon with ease and grace that only practice could award. With continuous loops and smooth motions the blade sliced through the air. Every so often there was a slight hum when the blade vibrated, evidence that Tom was performing the technique correctly.
The slow exercise was punctuated with swift motions as he defended against and attack invisible assailants. At the end of the exercise Tom held the handle of the sword with his right hand, with his index and middle fingers of his left hand on the junction of the blade and elegantly crafted handle. As he mover his right hand back, the flat side of the blade ran against his fingers before he swung the sword on a vertical plane and touching the tip to the ground in front of him as was the traditional ending to all floor exercises.
Despite his physical fatigue the exercise hadn’t calmed his soul the way it had in the times before. He felt nothing but isolation and pain and no amount of physical activity was helping but he needed something to take his mind off the past few weeks, anything.
“Computer, end program,” Tom ordered as he let the sword fall from his hand, something he would never usually have allowed to happen. Purposely allowing the handle of a weapon to touch the ground was to admit defeat to an adversary, whether it was another person or yourself.
The program fizzled away only a few centimetres before the handle touched the ground. Tom was returned to reality abruptly, the grey colour of the holodeck matching his mood perfectly.
Captain Janeway was meeting with her executive officer in her ready room. They had handled all the ship’s business and there last issue before they were done was one member of the crew.
“I’d offer my services as a counsellor, if I thought he’s even consider it,” Chakotay said before he took a sip of his tea. Janeway had a mug of coffee in her hand and Chakotay briefly wondered how she could stand to drink that stuff.
“I could order him, but I don’t think being forced into counselling will help.” She looked out the window to the stars beyond wondering if they could somehow inspire her. Finally she sighed and looked back to Chakotay. “We haven’t tried anything and we’re already out of ideas.” The irony brought a slight smile to both of their faces but it vanished quickly.
Kathryn was also contemplating how to approach Tom about what they had found in his database. What did ETF stand for and what type of organization was it? Other questions about Tom’s history were also shady. What had Tom been doing in the DMZ if he wasn’t part of the Maquis? There was still too much about him they didn’t know.
“You rang,” Tom said as he entered the ready room. His expression was neutral but by his straight back and stiff walk Captain Janeway could tell he was tense. He stood at attention but looked directly at her. Kathryn knew that the haunted look in his eyes would follow her into her dreams.
“I hope I wasn’t interrupting you?” Kathryn apologized.
Tom only shrugged and waited for her to continue.
“I just wanted to make sure that you’re alright.”
“Your concern is heart-warming,” Tom mumbled to himself, thankfully Janeway didn’t hear.
“Nothing.” he pauses. “I’m fine.”
Kathryn, of course, didn’t believe him and continued. “Commander Chakotay has offered his services as a councillor if you want to talk.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Tom said as he quickly tired of this conversation.
Kathryn gave him a look that told him he didn’t believe him. “You can sit down,” she offered.
“Are we done here?” Tom asked impatiently.
“We only want to help you Tom.”
“I didn’t ask for your help.” Tom started to leave. Kathryn quickly gets around her desk and cuts him off before he reached the side door that led to the corridor.
“Is this what you always do?” Kathryn asked softly. “Walk away?”
“I usually don’t have a choice,” he told her cryptically.
“Your job working for the ETF.”
Her statement caught Tom’s attention. He wondered how Janeway had found out about the ETF. He had noticed that his database had been accessed several times during his absence. Tom hadn’t checked specifically which areas had been accessed; lately it hadn’t seemed all that important.
“Elite Tactical Fleet.” Janeway said. “There wasn’t a lot in the Starfleet database about it.”
“And there’s a reason for that.”
“Care to enlighten me?”
“No.” Tom left.
Tom paced his quarters, something he had been doing more and more of with each passing day. He was becoming increasingly agitated. Nothing on Voyager could calm him and Tom knew that he had to get away but first he had to finish what he had started.
He went to his computer and began looking through the ships records looking for any suspicious transmission of power drains. They would be evidence of outgoing communications. Tom had a theory that Seska had a contact on Voyager and now that he had escaped from the Kazon, Seska would need her contact.
So now Tom had to figure out, who on Voyager would be desperate and stupid enough to want to help a traitor.
His door chime rang and Tom called for the person to enter. He remained seated at his computer while the person walked in. From the reflection in the window Tom knew that it was B’Elanna who had entered.
“Hey, Torres,” Tom said tiredly. He closed his program and turned his head to look at her.
“Back to work again?” B’Elanna asked. She had recognized the program that Tom had been using. It was one of Star Fleet’s standard internal search algorithms.
“Not exactly. I won’t be at the helm for a while,” Tom said miserably.
“Well, there’s always the holodeck,” B’Elanna suggested.
“I’ve tried that already,” Tom said as he ran his hand through his hair. He sighed and stood up. He was tired but restless. “By the way,” Tom said turning to face his guest. “Thanks for saving me,” he said softly. B’Elanna smiled after a moment.
“You’re welcome,” she replied simply. For the first time in too long she saw a light smile grace Tom’s features and she couldn’t look away, at least until the chime rang again.
Tom cleared his throat before calling for the person to enter. Harry Kim walked in and found Tom and B’Elanna standing rather close together. He paused halfway in and thought he should make up some excuse for an quick exit. “You know what, I forgot something somewhere-”
“Come in Harry,” Tom said moving away from B’Elanna slightly. Harry slowly walked in wondering what he had interrupted and what B’Elanna would do to him later.
“I thought I should see how you were doing,” Harry said and saw Tom cringe. Everyone wanted to help but they couldn’t. He couldn’t even help himself.
“I’m fine,” Tom said dryly.
“I think you need to get out more. We hardly see you around,” B’Elanna said.
Tom went to the replicator and ordered a glass of water. “Well what am I supposed to do? Voyager is exactly a great vacationing spot.”
The group lapsed into silence for a few moments before Harry spoke. He had to ask Tom about something. “Tom, what does ETF stand for?” Harry asked and looked at him expectantly.
“Why do you want to know?” Tom asked as he sat down in a chair.
This time it was B’Elanna who spoke. “We saw it in your database.” Harry and B’Elanna both sat on the couch and waited for Tom to respond.
Tom debated on whether or not to answer. They were seventy thousand light-years from home and wouldn’t get back any time soon. ETF wasn’t a top secret, just not common knowledge. Still, the less they knew the better.
“I just work for them,” Tom answered simply.
“What do you do?” Harry asked, wondering if Tom would share anymore with them.
B’Elanna hadn’t expected Tom to answer Harry’s last question but she had one of her own, actually she had two. “What were you doing in the DMZ and how do you know Sobey?” B’Elanna asked. She recalled when she had asked Tom earlier in their journey if he was part of a covert organization. He didn’t give her a straight answer but it seems she was right.
“Sobey and I worked together. We were somewhat like partners.”
“Somewhat?” Harry pondered. He had heard about the Betazoid man from some of the Maquis crewman.
“We usually work alone but Sobey and I watched each other’s back. As for the DMZ, we were both working.” Harry and B’Elanna were understandably curious. What work was Tom doing in the DMZ. To answer that question well, Tom would need to tell them more about the ETF, how it was independent of Starfleet, the Federation and any other organization in the Alpha Quadrant, but he couldn’t. “We were helping defend colonists in the DMZ. We had a two choices, join a Maquis sect or work alone.”
“And you chose to work alone.” Harry said. Tom nodded. Tom was silent in thought for a few moments and s slight smile curved his lips. “What?” Harry asked not understanding Tom’s expression.
“I was just thinking about him.” Tom’s smile faded. “I always thought I’d die first.” Harry and B’Elanna didn’t know what to say. What should they say? His thoughts were becoming very morbid and after his stint with the Kazon they thought it best to keep him in a more relaxed mood.
“Damn it,” Tom curse quietly and stood up. Harry and B’Elanna didn’t know what to make of his sudden change of moods.
“Tom-” B’Elanna began but was interrupted.
“He’s really gone, isn’t he?” Tom said but he had known the answer for a while now. He just chose not to believe it.
“I’m sorry, Tom.” B’Elanna said as she stood. She went over to him hoping that she could help him through this. Tom and Sobey were obviously very close and his death had no doubt been difficult for him to cope with.
“I can’t feel him,” Tom said in a hollow voice. He didn’t address anybody and the other occupants got the distinct feeling that Tom hadn’t even meant to say it out loud.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
Before Tom was forced to answer that question they heard sirens over the comm.
“Red alert! All hands to battle stations!” Captain Janeway’s voice was heard at every corner of the ship. The three officers in Tom’s quarters glanced at each other before heading for the door. B’Elanna headed for engineering but Tom followed Harry to the bridge.
“Tom where are you going?” Harry asked when he noticed that Tom was still with him.
They arrived soon after, Harry rushing to take his post. According to the sensors there were five Kazon warships coming at them. Janeway barked orders to her crew not noticing that Tom was on the upper deck near tactical.
“We’re being hailed,” Harry announce.
“On screen,” Chakotay said.
The screen changed to an image of Maj Cullah on the bridge of the lead vessel. Seska could be seen in the background. She and Chakotay looked eyes and she gave him a smile causing his blood to boil.
“Captain Janeway,” Cullah greeted. “I’m giving you this chance to surrender.” Cullah’s eyes scanned the faces of the bridge but stopped when he saw the blue eyes that he remembered being filled with pain.
“Cullah,” Tom greeted.
“You,” the Maj hissed. Tom just glared at him.
Seska decided to take over the negotiations. Screw Cullah. “Lower your shields and prepared to be boarded.”
The Captain gestured to Kim to cut the channel. “Tuvok charge weapons. Commander take the helm,” she ordered before turning to Tom. He was a better pilot than Chakotay but in his current state she wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle this. Tom was still staring at the now blank viewscreen where his tormentors had been only seconds ago.
Janeway was abot to say something to him when another alert added to the cacophony of sirens and warnings.
The computer’s feminine voice was heard over the comm, “Intruder alert.”
End Part 15
Only a few more parts (two, three, four, maybe five). But I’m not making any promises, except that I will finish this story. Remember, patience is a virtue.
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