Standard Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom owns Tom and Harry, the good ship Voyager and the rest of its crew. I am just borrowing them and will put them back neatly when I am finished with them. This story is just for fun. No profit will be made.
Janeway paced back and forward, outside the President's suite, wondering what to do next. She was at a complete loss, waiting for Tuvok to return from wherever it was he had gone.
Once their tricorders were again working, and they had scoured the clearing where the mercenaries' vehicle had been left, they had gone back to the shielded basement and searched it thoroughly. Tuvok had confirmed that it was indeed Tom's blood in the room - all of it. She now shuddered to think how badly he was hurt.
Veron had then been summoned back to the city, the President had needed him urgently. When they had returned, Tuvok had asked to speak to Garnoff's former intended, Julase, merely saying, at Janeway's raised eyebrows, that he believed she should be questioned.
She had been sure it would be a waste of time. The President was helping the mercenaries, although what his motive was, she had no idea.
Veron, busy with the President, had dispatched one of his men to go with Tuvok and she had decided to trust her chief of security. Tuvok had proven himself to be a superb investigator in the past.
Veron appeared in the hallway with them. "I'm sorry to have kept you and the Commander waiting like this. We've had an emergency and are still trying to find out what happened. The President will see you now."
Janeway and Chakotay made their way into the room. The President sat behind his desk and Janeway was shocked at his appearance. He was pale and drawn, shaking with suppressed emotion.
"Everything is falling apart," he said sadly. "My trusted guards, can no longer be trusted. Two more of them stole my ship. They were supposed to be guarding it and they took it instead."
Janeway and Chakotay exchanged glances. "They stole your cruiser?" Chakotay finally said.
"No, my new ship. I haven't even traveled in it myself yet."
"You have another ship? Is it shielded the way your cruiser is?"
"Not exactly. It's far more advanced. Where our other shields block out sensor readings, this new ship has the ability to appear invisible to sensors. You would not even know it was there."
"How fast is it?"
"A little faster than my cruiser. Speed is not something we have been able to advance very far in. You are far more advanced in that respect, just as we are where shielding is concerned."
"You seem to need a lot of protection," Janeway commented.
"My position is a dangerous one. I leave all the security details up to Veron. He is the best leader of the guards any President has ever had. The ship was his latest idea."
"And this ship was stolen while we were on our way to the security house?" Janeway asked.
"Almost as soon as you left here."
Veron sighed unhappily. "They put up the dampening field, stole the ship and moved your crewmen into it. They could be anywhere in the system by now."
"They'd be heading for Caldon II," Janeway said. "That's where the penal settlement is. They probably plan to break Garnoff out of there."
"That's if Garnoff even got there, in the first place," Chakotay said suddenly. "The security guards that took him, might never have delivered him. Do we know for certain that he's there?"
"Yes Commander," Veron said quickly. "I spoke to the penal settlement myself. Garnoff is definitely there."
"Then, I think that's where we should head." Janeway watched the President carefully. She wasn't going to let him out of her sight. "Mr. President, perhaps you should come with us?"
The President nodded. "I feel it is my duty."
Janeway could feel Veron's eyes on her. "I do not think that is a good idea," he said. "I no longer feel confident trusting any of my guards. Six of them - perhaps more, are involved in this mercenary band. I believe I should stay here to investigate. Find out who we can trust."
"The President will be quite safe with us," Janeway said.
"You just want to keep an eye on him," Veron accused. "Mr. President, I think you should know, Captain Janeway believes that you are in league with the mercenaries."
"Me? Why that's ridiculous. Why would you believe such a thing?"
"There are a lot of suspicious circumstances," Janeway answered, deciding not to deny it. "The mercenaries are obviously getting inside information. Only you and Veron knew of the house and only the two of you knew we were headed there. Veron was with us, so that leaves you."
"Well I can assure you, I didn't contact anyone."
"No, I do not believe you did," said a quiet voice behind them. "I apologize," Tuvok added. "I did not mean to startle anybody."
Janeway nodded. "How long have you been here?"
"Long enough to hear most of this conversation." He turned to Veron. "You did however contact somebody, did you not Veron?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, unless you mean when I spoke to my wife, Parma?"
"That is exactly what I am talking about."
"I didn't try to hide the fact that I contacted her. The President was with me at the time."
"I am aware of that. What did you tell her?"
"I simply said I wouldn't be home tonight. I told her that we still hadn't found the missing men and had one more place to investigate. But I didn't tell her where we were going, and she has no idea about the security house."
"You are sure of that?"
"Yes." But Veron did not sound certain. He sounded worried and confused.
"You are not certain."
"I may have told her something when we were last moving the location. I'm not sure." He seemed to grow angry. "What does it matter, if I did? Surely you don't suspect Parma? The idea is ludicrous."
"On the contrary. I am led to believe that she is behind the whole thing. That she is in fact one of these mercenaries."
"What?" Veron sat down in a chair, while everyone looked at Tuvok in amazement.
"Tuvok, are you sure about this?" Janeway asked.
"I have spoken to Julase, she has informed me of all relevant details. I have also carried out some further investigation."
"I'm sorry, but I find this very hard to believe. One of the mercenaries? It's impossible! You may have made me believe my wife hired these mercenaries and did in fact give them as much information as she could to help them, but not this."
"She was far more upset about Garnoff than you told us, is this not true?"
"Well, yes - but---"
"You were very insistent that your wife not be suspected, when we first discovered our crewmen's disappearance. Why did you not tell us then, how upset your wife had been?"
"I didn't want to believe it. And there was the rather large problem of payment. Although being leader of the guards ensures us a comfortable living, it certainly does not involve riches. Parma could not possibly have paid the mercenaries what they would have asked."
"If she is indeed one of them, there is no payment issue."
"Perhaps, but they are a very clever bunch. They wouldn't risk everything just to help Parma exact some type of revenge."
"They would follow her orders however, if she was their leader."
"Yes." Tuvok looked towards the President. "You stated, Mr. President that you brought Veron's wife and two small daughters back with you from Caldon IV. May I ask if this was at your suggestion or her request?"
"She pleaded with me to come, actually. I couldn't say no."
"It is as I suspected. Is it not also true that as she is Veron's wife, she can come and go as she pleases?"
"I suppose so," the President said slowly.
"She has been seen many times with the four guards that we have now established as being part of the mercenary band."
"Even if she has, it doesn't mean she is their leader. This is all circumstantial and doesn't prove anything. It's pure fantasy. You have no proof," Veron said angrily.
"On the contrary. I have documented evidence from your own late second-in-command. He was investigating the mercenaries, as per your orders."
"Yes, that's right, but he died before he could report his findings to me. I went through his papers, but couldn't find any notes."
"He kept a journal," Tuvok told them. "It is quite complete. All of his findings are in it. I am surprised you did not find it."
"I did glance through his journal , but it seemed to be personal things."
"You should have taken more time to read through it properly. It was very - fortunate, that the journal was still in his office."
"I haven't had time to clear out his office, yet." Veron stared at the journal in Tuvok's hand.
Tuvok handed it to him. "I have highlighted the relevant areas."
As Veron sat quietly reading, the President paced the room in agitation. "We must arrest Parma immediately."
"It is too late. She has disappeared. No one has seen her since the dampening field was activated."
"Veron's wife, the leader of the mercenaries." Chakotay shook his head. "Well at least we now know why they always seemed to be a step ahead of us."
Janeway nodded. "Let's get moving. Voyager is a lot faster than any ship the Caldons have, even this new cloaked one. We should reach Caldon II long before they do. We'll give them a little surprise."
Veron jumped up at that. "I would like to come too."
"Of course," Janeway said understandingly.
Veron suddenly turned to Tuvok. "My daughters. Where are they? You said that Parma had disappeared, but what of them?"
"I do not know. They were not at your residence."
"Then I have to find them."
"She may have taken them with her."
"To a prison break? I don't think so. She must have left them with some one. I am sorry, Mr. President, but they must be my first priority. I hope you understand."
"Of course. Go."
Tuvok stepped calmly forward, blocking Veron's path. "Stop! Excuse me Mr. President, but Veron is not leaving this room."
Tom groaned as he rolled over. He lay on his back looking up at the roof of the small ship. Harry's face came into view, peering down at him intently. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess. What happened?"
"You lost consciousness. We're on a small ship headed for our rendezvous with Garnoff." He lowered his voice, although the four mercenaries at the front of the ship were not paying them any attention. "I don't think Voyager's going to be able to find us, Tom. This ship's got some sort of cloaking device. They call it shielding, but it makes us invisible to sensors."
Tom slowly sat up, grimacing as his nose started to throb. "What was the big rush back there, anyway?"
"I think the Captain nearly found us. That's what the mercenaries said, anyway. They said that she would have arrived at that house, just after we had left."
"Damn!" Tom noticed his friend's crestfallen expression. "Hey, look at the bright side, Har. She hasn't given up on us yet. She's right on these guys tails."
"She was, you mean. She'll have no idea where we are now. She probably thinks we're still on the planet."
"She'll figure it out, Har. She got this far, didn't she?"
"Yeah, I just hope she figures it out in time. From what I can understand, these mercenaries have a leader, that's working undercover. He must be very high up, as he seems to know everything. That's how they've managed so far."
Tom sighed and gingerly touched his face. His nose was definitely broken. "This is pretty painful. How's your back?"
"Still sore, but it's not unbearable. I can still move around."
"Good, 'cause somehow or other we have to take control of this ship."
"What? Are you crazy? Now I know when you fell, you hit more than your nose."
"Harry, we have to make our move now. When they're not suspecting anything. If we wait, they'll meet up with Garnoff and it will be too late."
"Tom, it's too late now. There's four Caldon's over there. In our present condition, we'd be lucky to take out one of them, between us, so what are we going to do with the other three?"
Tom grinned wickedly. "Shoot 'em."
Harry's eyes opened wide as he saw Tom indicate the top of his left boot. Carefully keeping an eye on their captors, Tom slowly slid the tip of a Caldon handgun out, for Harry to see.
"Where the hell did you get that?" Harry hissed, panicking that one of the men would turn around and see.
"The Caldon sitting next to me in the vehicle had it hidden in his boot. He was too busy watching behind us, to take any notice of me. He didn't even feel me take it and he obviously still hasn't missed it."
Harry shook his head in amazement. "You are unbelievable. Do you know how to use it?"
"How hard can it be? A gun's a gun. You just point it and fire."
"As long as you point it the right way and know what to press to make it fire."
"Damn! You're right. I guess I'm going to have to at least take a quick look at it."
"I'll try to block their view of you with my body, just in case one of them decides to turn around."
"Okay. I'll be quick."
"What are you two doing, over there?"
Tom, just about to pull the weapon from his boot, quickly slid it back down again.
"Nothing," Harry answered.
"Why don't I believe you?" The mercenary stood up and came over to glower down at them.
"All right, if you must know," Tom said airily. "We were just discussing how we were going to overpower the four of you and take over the ship."
The mercenary laughed. "Very funny, little man." He went back to his seat and sat down, still watching the two of them.
"You know," he said suddenly, standing up again. "I don't trust you. I have a rather suspicious nature, you see."
He pulled out a length of cord from his pocket and motioned for them to turn around, away from each other. They soon had their hands tied together. The mercenary, with a small laugh, then went back to his seat. "Make yourselves comfortable. We'll be landing shortly."
"Tuvok, what are you doing?" Janeway cried out in surprise.
Although Veron was a lot bigger than Tuvok, Tuvok's Vulcan strength kept him where he was.
"I apologize, but Veron is the only one who can tell us where Ensigns Paris and Kim are."
"Me? I don't know what you're talking about."
"Tuvok, we know where they'll be - Caldon II, and if we don't hurry, they'll arrive before us and it'll be too late," Chakotay said urgently, hurrying across the room.
"I disagree, Commander. Caldon II will be the last place to find them."
"What are you talking about, Tuvok? We haven't got time for this," Janeway hissed.
"Caldon II is what I understand you term, 'a wild goose chase.' I believe that the two Ensigns are somewhere entirely different, Captain."
"Why? And what makes you think Veron knows where they are?"
"This has been his plan, right from the start, Captain. He is the leader of the mercenaries."
"What? But I thought you said his wife, Parma, was." Chakotay said.
"No. I said I was led to believe that she was. I followed all the clues that Veron left for me, - the terrible temper tantrums that Parma had performed - telling Julase that she would have retribution. Discovering that she had been seen so many times with the suspect guards. On going to question her, finding that she was missing. And the small mention - that aroused my suspicions in the first place, to ensure that I spoke to Julase - that your second-in-command had met with an unfortunate accident a few weeks ago."
Tuvok eyed Veron coldly. "However, I was disturbed by the good fortune that led me to finding the journal. I do not believe in - luck. Therefore, the logical conclusion was that I was meant to find it. That it had been left there deliberately for me to find. A 'plant'. On that assumption it seemed logical that the path I had been following was also a 'plant'."
The Caldon President stood shaking his head in bewilderment, while Veron glared steadily at Tuvok.
"Your wife is no doubt involved in this group as well, but you are the brains. You were very clever. Our suspicions of you, which were acute in the beginning, had subsided. We trusted you. You put the blame on your wife, who was safely out of the way, and then under the guise of looking for your daughters - of whose whereabouts I am sure you know - you would have left here, only to have conveniently disappeared."
Veron pushed past Tuvok with a roar and ran for the door. Four guards on the other side stopped him.
Veron surrendered with a sigh. "What gave me away? It was the lie I told about speaking to the penal settlement, wasn't it? The Commander caught me unexpected with that one."
Tuvok nodded. "When I started to believe that you had a hidden agenda, I contacted the penal settlement myself. They told me they had never heard of a prisoner called Garnoff." Tuvok then turned to the President. "Your remaining guards are loyal to you Mr. President. The others, along with approximately six civilians, formed the band of mercenaries that have eluded you for so long."
The President looked at Veron sadly, still trying to come to terms with what had happened. "Why?" he whispered almost to himself. "You had everything. One day you would have been President."
Janeway looked at the President in surprise. "He would have?"
"Yes. It is our custom that when the President retires the leader of the guards takes over the presidency. Why Veron? I don't understand."
"The presidency? The President has no power," Veron spat out scornfully. "You are nothing more than a figurehead for the council. You live in luxury, but have no riches of your own. It all belongs to the state and you are accountable for everything you spend. That is not how I want to live. As the leader of the guards I had far more power and as the leader of the mercenaries, far more riches."
"Why this revenge plot against my two crewmen?" Janeway demanded.
"They ruined everything. I needed Garnoff to be my second-in-command. I could only truly trust four of the guards. Things were becoming difficult. Some of the guards were suspicious, especially my second-in-command."
"So you killed him and hoped to replace him with Garnoff," Janeway accused.
"Yes, but then your men came and Garnoff was relocated and Julase would have nothing more to do with him. We needed access to her riches as well as her family's contacts."
"Tom and Harry spoilt all that," Janeway said wryly. "You should have moved on. Exacting your revenge was your undoing."
Tuvok shook his head. "I believe the mercenaries had more than retribution on their minds when they kidnapped Ensigns Paris and Kim."
"What do you mean? You don't think Tom and Harry are in danger after all?"
"No Captain. I believe they are in deadly danger, but while the President and his guards have been busy helping us with the search for them, Veron has taken advantage of the situation. Mr. President, I believe you will find that the Caldon treasury has been robbed."
The President gasped. Veron chuckled. "You're good. I definitely underestimated you."
"Tell us where our crewmen are," Tuvok ordered.
"I can't do that. They have to pay. I may not be there to see it now, but at least I'll know we had our revenge."
Captain Janeway stood looking up at the tall Caldon, almost twice her size. Her gaze didn't waver. "You will tell us where our crewmen are," she said coldly. "And you will tell us - now!"
Veron visibly flinched and turned away. "Never!"
Tom tried to swallow the bile in his throat as he was pushed out of the ship and came face to face with Garnoff.
They had landed on a rocky, desolate moon and Tom shivered at the chill in the air. He wished desperately for his jacket. All he had on was his singlet and that wasn't going to be much protection against this cold climate. The atmosphere was breathable but a lot heavier than he was used to. He felt weighted down and sluggish.
"So, little man. We meet again. This will be fun."
Tom felt Harry, still tied to him, stiffen, and turned a little so that he could see too.
Garnoff laughed. "And here's your little friend. I think I'll start with him first. You can watch, so you'll know what to expect."
Tom could feel the weight of the weapon in his boot. A lot of help it was going to be if he couldn't reach it. He twisted against the bindings once more, trying to loosen them, without success.
A Caldon woman came out from behind some rocks, calling out as she got closer, "Has Voyager left yet?"
"No," one of the men answered. "She's still in orbit of the planet. The sensors on that ship are marvelous, Voyager's still coming through clearly."
The woman frowned as she stopped in front of them. "They should have left by now and Veron should be on his way. Something's happened."
"Maybe it's taking them longer to figure things out than we thought it would," Garnoff suggested.
"No, I don't think so," the woman answered. "Veron would have given them a helping hand if need be. Something's wrong. I can feel it."
"Do you want us to stay here in case you need us?"
"No. We'll stick to the plan. Take your share and go meet up with the others. We'll all rendezvous at the agreed time and place. Garnoff and I will wait here for Veron. We'll be able to keep an eye on Voyager with the ships sensors. Your ship's behind those rocks - now go."
The four mercenaries took off at a run and the woman turned back to Tom and Harry. "Now what are we going to do with the two of you while we wait?"
"I have a few good ideas," Garnoff said, laughing.
The woman laughed also. "Now, now, little brother. You'll just have to be patient. Veron wanted to be here for this. Let's give him a little longer." She pointed to some boulders not far away. "You two sit over there. Garnoff, keep an eye on them. I'll watch the sensors."
She disappeared inside the ship and Tom and Harry made their way over to the boulders, slowly and awkwardly. Leaning their sides against the boulders they sat down carefully, while Garnoff watched them with a huge smile on his face.
Harry gulped. "I think we're in real trouble here, Tom. Is there any way you can reach that gun?"
"No. Not while we're trussed up together like this. I'll just have to wait until he unties us, and then make a grab for it."
"The problem is, I don't think he's going to untie us until he's ready to kill us. And Veron will be here by then too."
"Yeah. I think they've got some fun and games planned."
Harry gulped once more. "What do you think they're going to do to us, before they kill us, I mean?"
Tom sighed. "The details aren't important Har. Let's just say we're going to have a competition to see which of us can scream the loudest."
Harry shuddered, although it was Tom that was shivering with the cold. "I don't want to be tortured Tom."
"Believe it or not, being tortured isn't on my top ten favorite list of things to do, either."
"Don't Tom. How can you joke at a time like this? I'm scared, and I don't care if you think I'm weak."
"I don't think you're weak, Harry. I think you're honest. I'm scared too. But I'm not giving up and neither are you."
The time dragged. Garnoff sat just watching them. Harry shuddered every now and then, but Tom shivered uncontrollably.
"I wish I could give you my jacket," Harry told him. "I'm cold too, but nothing compared to you. At least I've got my skivvy on underneath. This temperature doesn't seem to affect Garnoff at all."
Tom didn't even attempt to reply, knowing that his shivering would make it impossible to talk anyway. He was feeling tired and sleepy and had to struggle to keep awake. Harry was like a warm water bottle at his back. Nothing hurt anymore. He wasn't even cold. He snuggled down into the warmth.
"We're getting no-where here," Janeway said angrily. "We'll never get him to tell us."
"We're running out of time," Chakotay said in frustration. "It may be too late already."
"You are right," Veron crowed. "As soon as Parma realizes that you haven't taken the bait and left for Caldon II, and that I am not coming, she and Garnoff will kill your two men and continue our plans."
The President shook his head in disgust. "And to think I trusted you. I even liked you."
"I find myself wondering how long your wife will wait for us to leave," Tuvok stated. He had been sitting for some time now, deep in thought.
"Not much longer, I'm sure. Even now, she'll be wondering what's wrong."
Tuvok gave a thoughtful nod. "I believe that Ensigns Paris and Kim are being held close by."
"On this planet?" Chakotay said in surprise. "The Caldons can find no trace of the ship around here. Our technology might not be able to pick it up, but they can."
"Their scanners and sensors are very short range. The ship itself has the longest range sensors on their world," Tuvok answered. "Mr. President, how far would you estimate that they can reach?"
"Why, all the way to our moons," the President answered proudly.
"Exactly," Tuvok said simply.
Veron cursed, while Janeway smiled at him in delight and clapped him on the shoulder. "Tuvok, you're a marvel."
The President motioned for four guards to come into the room and take Veron away. After they were gone, the President turned eagerly to the away team. "I would guess that they are on the third moon. There are all sorts of safety breeches they would have had to bypass on the other two."
"We'll assume that that's where they are," Janeway said briskly. "They are waiting for Voyager to leave orbit and head for Caldon II, so I think that's what we should do. Chakotay, I want you to take Voyager just outside of their sensor range and wait."
Chakotay nodded. "Aye Captain."
"They'll also be waiting for a ship carrying Veron to leave shortly after. Let's see if B'Elanna can adjust the Delta Flyer's signature to appear Caldon. Get her to bring it down here immediately."
Chakotay nodded once more. "Yes Ma'am." He slapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Voyager. Energize."
"Hey!" A boot kicked Tom's leg - hard. "Don't get too comfortable. Dying a nice, easy death like that, isn't part of the plan."
Tom moaned and tried to snuggle down again, only to be kicked in the midsections this time.
"If you want to keep him alive so that you can kill him painfully, you'd better keep him warm," a voice shouted. Somewhere in Tom's dazed mind he recognized it as Harry's.
There was a sharp slapping noise and Tom wondered where he had been hit. He didn't feel anything. He managed to open one eye, only to see Garnoff hitting Harry once more. "You shut up!"
Tom started to protest at the treatment of his friend and was hauled roughly to his feet, Harry being pulled up with him. Garnoff then proceeded to slap his cheek, until Tom was sure he now had a broken cheekbone to go along with his broken nose.
When Garnoff was sure he was alert again, he turned to Harry and grabbed him by the hair. Harry's eyes watered from the pain. "Keep your friend awake or I'll see if your screams will do it instead." He pushed them both against the boulders and made his way over to sit down with his back resting against the side of the ship.
"Are you all right, Tom?" Harry's voice trembled.
"Yeah," Tom said hoarsely. "Don't worry, I won't fall asleep again."
"We'll have to try to move over a little bit. There's a sharp piece of rock a little to our left. We may be able to cut through this cord."
As they wriggled around, Garnoff called out. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Trying to keep warm," Tom told him, shivering between each word.
They had managed to move themselves against the sharpened piece of rock and knelt quietly until Garnoff had relaxed his gaze. Tom's arms were too numb from the cold to be of much help, so Harry moved the cord over the rock slowly and steadily, stopping whenever Garnoff turned their way.
Garnoff suddenly stood up when Harry had the cord frayed about a quarter of the way through. He went to the hatch of the ship and called out. "Hey, Parma? Anything happening? I don't think we should wait much longer."
"Damn it! Hurry Har. I think Garnoff's getting impatient."
Harry rubbed the cord as fast as he could, taking advantage of the fact that Garnoff had his back to them.
"Nothing so far," the woman's voice called out. "I think you may be right. I know Veron wanted to have the pleasure of killing one of them himself, but I don't think Veron would want us to wait any longer."
"That's more like it." Garnoff turned around suddenly and Harry froze. He made his way over to them, his eyes glittering menacingly.
"The cord's almost cut through," Harry hissed. "Pull Tom - now."
Tom pulled forward as hard as he could and Harry did the same. The cord broke with a small snapping sound and they both fell forward into the dirt. Harry rolled over and jumped up quickly to face Garnoff, who was standing there with his mouth open.
With a growl, Garnoff lunged forward, sending Harry crashing to the ground.
Tom frantically tried to get his hands working, he had no feeling in them at all, to reach in to his boot and get the gun. Garnoff was pounding Harry's head into the ground again and again, while Harry tried desperately to get the huge Caldon off.
Tom finally managed to pull out the gun, and taking a quick look at the firing mechanism, pointed it at Garnoff and fired.
Garnoff let out a howl of pain as his shoulder was soon drenched in blood. He whirled around to stare at Tom in disbelief, clutching at his shoulder as he did so. Then with a snarl he reached out his good arm and back-handed Tom as hard as he could. Tom went flying backwards, the gun slipping from his fingers, as he landed with a thud against the boulders.
Tom watched through a fuzzy haze, as Harry stood up dizzily and threw himself at Garnoff once more. There was movement behind him. Parma, alerted by the sound of her brother's painful roar, pulled Harry off of him and tossed him away. She quickly trained her weapon on him.
"Where did they get a gun from?" she spat out angrily.
Garnoff stood up slowly and picked up the gun that had fallen just out of Tom's reach. He stood there panting heavily and didn't answer her.
Parma checked his shoulder. "I'll get some bandages," she said quickly. "Will you be all right, while I'm gone?"
Garnoff gave a small grunt and bending down picked up a still dazed Tom around the throat, and then hurled him at Harry.
Harry, who was attempting to sit up, fell back with a groan as Tom landed on top of him.
Parma hurried back into the ship and came back a few moments later with a wad of bandages. As she attempted to bandage Veron's shoulder she said quietly. "Voyager has left orbit and is headed for Caldon II. Veron is on his way now."
Garnoff grunted once more. "He's going to miss all the fun," he finally said. "I don't intend waiting any longer."
Parma nodded. "Go ahead."
Garnoff reached down and hauled Harry to his feet once more. "Hold the other one," he snarled. Parma knelt down on the ground next to Tom and pulled him to her. Tom struggled, but Parma had him in an iron grip. Garnoff towered over him. "You are to blame for everything. Now you will pay."
Parma's grip on him tightened, still more. Tom continued to struggle.
"By the time I have finished with you, you will beg me to kill you," Garnoff continued, as he pulled Harry's arms above his head and tied him to one of the boulders. "I want you to watch closely while your friend suffers. And know this. Whatever he suffers, you will also suffer, only much more. Much, much more."
Harry's face was full of fear, his eyes pleading for what, Tom didn't know. He could do nothing. Nothing to stop what was about to happen. Parma was far too strong to break away from.
Garnoff pulled out a knife and inspected it closely. "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be skinned alive? I think your friend is about to find out."
"No," Tom gasped in horror.
Garnoff smiled back at him as Harry started to make little whimpering noises. "I think I'll start with the stomach. I'm sure there's lots of flesh there." He slashed at Harry's jacket, ripping the uniform open. Harry screamed as Garnoff made a small incision just below his navel.
Harry's shrieks continued as Garnoff began slicing his stomach. Tom, with renewed strength, struggled once more, screaming at Garnoff to leave Harry alone - pleading with him to stop.
He brought his head forward and then abruptly jerked it back, hitting Parma in the nose, as he did so. She cried out in agony and let go. Tom threw himself forward, on to Garnoff, who had no trouble in pushing him away.
Tom fell back into Parma, who was still holding her nose. She made a grab for him, but he lunged out of the way. Garnoff pulled out his weapon and fired.
A burning sensation erupted in his side and he fell to the ground. Parma scrambled over to him, her weapon poised, and turned him over. He made a grab for the gun and catching her off guard, pushed her backwards.
Garnoff, with a curse, lunged towards him and Tom, not knowing where the Caldon heart was, decided to play it safe and aimed for his head. He fired.
Garnoff went down with a crash, barely missing Tom as he struggled to his feet. Tom turned away, sickened at the sight of the hole he had blown straight through the Caldon's head. He dropped the gun.
Parma screeched and dashed for Veron's weapon, picking it up and pointing it at him. "Now you die," she hissed.
Tom shut his eyes and waited for the inevitable.
"The sensors are showing two human life signs on the surface." B'Elanna's voice shook with emotion.
"How many Caldon's?" Janeway asked crisply.
"I would advise extreme caution," Tuvok said calmly. "They will be extremely dangerous. There is also the possibility that the other mercenaries are inside the ship. Our sensors can not penetrate it."
The Captain nodded. "I know. That's why I'm hoping we can simply beam Tom and Harry out of there. Right from under their noses. If they stay out of the ship, we shouldn't have any problems. Can we get a lock, yet?"
B'Elanna shook her head. "We're still too far out."
Janeway cursed softly to herself, before turning to the front of the Delta Flyer. Hamilton was manning the helm, in Tom's place. "Take us in closer."
"Our ploy may have worked. They don't seem to suspect that it's not Veron coming to meet them." Janeway turned to look over at the Doctor. "How are Tom and Harry's life signs?"
"I can't tell who's who without their commbadges. They're still alive, although one of the life signs is very erratic."
"We'll only be able to beam one up at a time," B'Elanna warned. "If they see either Tom or Harry disappear they'll probably try to shoot the other one."
"Then we'll have to be quick between beam outs," Janeway told her. "Tuvok, ready the tractor beam. As soon as we're within range, lock onto that ship of theirs."
Tuvok and B'Elanna sat ready at their controls while the Doctor continued to keep an eye on the life signs on the planet. Janeway went over to stand behind him, peering over his shoulder.
"We'll be within range in twenty seconds Captain," Hamilton reported.
The Doctor gave a small exclamation. "One of the human life signs has just gone critical. He's dying."
Janeway clenched her teeth. To get this close to them, only to have one of them die now was unthinkable. She willed them to hold on.
"One of them is dead," the Doctor announced in excitement. At both the Captain and B'Elanna's gasps he quickly qualified. "One of the Caldons I mean."
The Captain let out the breath she was holding as Hamilton called out from the helm. "Coming within range in - five - four - three - two -"
"Now," she barked, knowing she didn't really need to, as both Tuvok and B'Elanna were already reacting.
The Doctor rushed over to the transporter padd and she was one step behind him. The transporter shimmered and Tom appeared, the wound in his side gushing blood. He collapsed into their waiting arms as they dragged him from the padd.
Parma screeched in rage as Tom flickered out of existence just as she fired the weapon on full blast. The boulder he had been leaning against, disintegrated. She turned immediately to Harry and aimed once more, but he too disappeared before she could fire.
Turning, she ran for the ship, stopping in surprise as she realized it was now hovering above her.
Bellowing in rage, she turned and ran. She didn't get very far, however, before the Captain and Tuvok beamed down in front of her.
"Drop your weapon and surrender," Tuvok said, calmly pointing a disruptor rifle at her.
"Never," she snarled. "I'd rather die." She lifted her weapon.
"That wasn't one of the options," Janeway said grimly, firing her phaser. Parma fell to the ground. "I had it set on heavy stun," the Captain told Tuvok as he checked Parma to ensure that she was really unconscious. "Hopefully, she'll stay out until Voyager arrives. We'll have her beamed straight to the brig."
Tuvok nodded, standing guard over the Caldon woman.
Janeway slapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Delta Flyer. Parma has been secured. How's Tom and Harry?"
"Both should make a full recovery," the Doctor reported. "Mr. Paris's condition is serious, but stabilized. He will require immediate surgery when Voyager arrives. Ensign Kim's wounds are superficial, although painful. He has been given something for the pain."
"Thank you, Doctor. How far away is Voyager?"
B'Elanna's voice answered her. "Ten minutes at the most, Captain."
"Well done, every one." Janeway smiled in relief and settled down to wait quietly with Tuvok for her ship.
Tom woke up to the feel of someone caressing his forehead. He gritted his teeth and opened his eyes - ready to push the Doctor's hand away - to see B'Elanna smiling down at him.
"Well, who did you expect?"
Tom groaned a little and attempted to sit up. "You'd be surprised."
The Doctor hurried over. "Mr. Paris, please lay back."
Tom decided to do as he was told, as the pain in his side was still quite severe.
"Is Harry all right?" he asked quickly.
"He's fine - better than you actually," B'Elanna reassured him.
Tom sighed in relief as the Doctor waved a tricorder over him. "You'll have to stay in here for the rest of the day, for observation."
Tom nodded, too weak to feel like arguing.
"Is Harry really all right?" he asked quietly. "Garnoff was going to skin him alive."
"Harry told us," B'Elanna said, stepping out of the way so that Tom could see him, sleeping peacefully in the bed next to him. "He was pretty upset, but Chakotay's had a talk to him. He seems a lot better."
"Chakotay?" Tom grimaced and shook his head. "He's probably traumatized for life now."
B'Elanna swatted his arm. "Very funny. Chakotay was very helpful actually. He said he'll come and speak to you later."
Tom groaned. "No thanks."
"Well the good news is that the Doctor's given you both the next four days off to recuperate."
Tom smiled in delight.
Captain Janeway watched her two troublesome crewmembers as they joked with each other from their respective biobeds. The Doctor had brought her up to date on their conditions and she smiled in relief that they both seemed to be doing so well.
Chakotay stood next to her and spoke softly. "So the question is, are you ever going to let them off the ship again?"
She gave a small laugh. "Never."
Tom and Harry looked up as they came towards them. They both smiled. "Gentlemen, I'm pleased to see you both back in one piece. The Doctor says that you'll both be able to leave here shortly."
"The sooner, the better," the EMH said dryly.
"Yeah, well no offense Doc, but I can't wait to get out of here either," Tom said with a laugh. "Harry and I have been discussing where we'll be going first."
Harry nodded eagerly. "The Doc's given us the next few days off, Captain." His face fell a little. "That is all right, isn't it?"
She nodded. "Of course. I approved the suggestion."
Harry beamed once more. "We've just been trying to work out where to go first. We've got a lot to cram in, in just one day. B'Elanna said we were leaving the Caldon system the day after tomorrow."
They were at present in orbit of Caldon IV, the crew using the chance to get in a little more shore leave before they left.
"You're planning to go back down to Caldon IV?" Chakotay asked.
Tom and Harry both nodded. "That's all right, isn't it?" Tom asked with a slight frown.
The Doctor sniffed. "Why you would want to is beyond me. I would have thought you'd had enough of this system."
"But we never really got to enjoy ourselves here," Tom said. "Now the danger's past, we can relax." He noticed the Captain's frowning face. "Is something wrong?"
She sighed. "I'm not very keen on the idea of either of you leaving the ship."
Both of their faces fell. She felt a twinge of guilt. "I'm sorry. It's just that with everything that happened I think it's best if you stay on board."
She rushed on as Tom opened his mouth to speak. "I know none of it was your fault and it seems a little unfair. Almost as if you're being punished, but under the circumstances---." Her voice trailed off as Tom and Harry exchanged miserable glances.
"If you think it's best," Tom said slowly. "But we never really got to have any fun down there, if you know what I mean. Being kidnapped and tortured wasn't very - well you know." Her guilt intensified. It really wasn't very fair.
"We would have been extra careful," Harry chimed in. "Even taken security guards, if you'd preferred." He looked up at her, his eyes wide and innocent.
She felt herself wavering. They had had a very traumatic experience and it did seem as if she was punishing them. "I-," she hesitated.
"It's all right Captain. We understand," Tom told her reassuringly. "I guess we'll just sit quietly in our quarters. It's for our own good, I suppose." He looked up at her sadly, and her heart melted. Perhaps she could go down there with them. That way she'd know they were all right.
She opened her mouth to make this suggestion, when Chakotay cleared his throat. "Um, Captain? Isn't Tuvok handling all the shore leave rosters? Perhaps you should let him handle this?"
"Tuvok?" She looked at Chakotay in confusion as he gave her a significant look. "Of course," she said suddenly. "I'll leave it to Tuvok. Whatever he decides, is fine with me."
Tom and Harry looked at each other in dismay and she tried not to smile. "I'll ask him to come and see you now." She gave both of their shoulders a squeeze and left sickbay quickly, Chakotay right behind her.
"That was close," she said with a laugh. "Thanks."
Chakotay smiled. "I wish I could be a fly on the wall. I can picture it now. The two of them giving Tuvok that mournful look. He'll probably raise his eyebrow slightly and they'll burst eagerly into all sorts of reasons why they should be allowed shore leave. Tuvok will have all sorts of arguments as to why they shouldn't." He chuckled and she joined in.
"I do feel a little mean though. How about if we give them unlimited access to the holodeck instead?"
Chakotay nodded. "I'll see to it."
She went into her ready room and finished her report on what had happened these past few days.
It was less than an hour later when her door chime sounded. "Enter." Tuvok walked in and stood at attention in front of her desk. "That was quick," she remarked. "I take it they knew it was a lost cause?"
Tuvok's eyes did not quite meet hers. "I have given the Ensigns permission to partake in shore leave."
She gasped. "You did?"
"You informed me that it was my decision," Tuvok defended himself.
"Yes, yes I did. But I didn't think you'd give in to them."
"I did not 'give in', Captain. I merely acknowledged the validity of their arguments. It was a logical decision, based purely on---."
"Oh Tuvok," Janeway shook her head in despair.
Tom hurried into sickbay, a bright smile on his face. "Hi Doc! I'm back."
"So it would seem. I trust you had a pleasant four days?"
"Yeah Doc, it was great. I have to tell you though, I couldn't wait to get back on duty on the bridge. I really missed the conn." He purposefully left out any feelings he may have had regarding his sickbay duties.
The Doctor sniffed, noticing the omission. "You're ten minutes late, Mr. Paris."
"I am? Sorry. I met Ensign Briggs in the corridor and---."
"And chatting up female members of the crew far outweighs any official duties you may have in here?"
Tom flushed a little. "I didn't say that. I'll make up the ten minutes."
The Doctor nodded. "Yes, you will."
Tom sighed. His Doc was back. A small smile played around the corners of his mouth. YESSS!!!
Chakotay had told him that he'd had a talk to the Doc and that hopefully things would be a little more normal now. He had also told him that if he ever needed his help again to just yell. Tom had smiled politely, knowing that would never happen, and thanked him.
Tom focused back on what the Doctor was saying. "Now come along. We have a lot to do."
"We do?" Tom looked around at the empty sickbay. "It seems pretty quiet to me."
"That is why we must take advantage of it. It is time to clean out the cupboard."
"Again? But we only just did that. I did and then you did as well."
The Doctor nodded. "I am not happy with my new arrangement. I think perhaps yours was better."
"Mine? You didn't like mine, remember?"
"I think you should rearrange the cupboards again and if I don't like the arrangement you can shift it back again."
"I think it's good the way it is."
"That's because we have nothing to compare it with. Now come along, you'd better get started."
Tom moved a few things, grumbling to himself. "You don't really want me to rearrange this the way I did last week, do you?"
"Your idea had merit."
"It did? What idea was that exactly?"
"You stated health reasons, if I remember correctly. All that bending will be good exercise for you. Of course, I'm not saying that we'll leave it that way. Merely that I'd like to see it, to refresh my memory."
Tom groaned. "Okay Doc, you've made your point. I'm really sorry about that."
The EMH merely smiled. "While you're doing that I think I'll give you a spot quiz. Your studies have been woefully neglected. In fact, considering that you can no longer remember the purpose of the pancreas, I think I should test you on everything you should have learnt by now."
Tom stared at him incredulously. "You're going to test me on everything I know? That'll take ages."
The Doctor sniffed. "Let's not exaggerate here. If I were to test you on everything you know, I have my suspicions that it wouldn't take long at all."
Tom rolled his eyes. "Very funny Doc."
"I thought so. That isn't what I said. I said I would test you on everything you should have learnt after more than two years under my tutorledge."
"Doc, that's going to take hours, maybe days. I've got a date with B'Elanna tonight."
"Not any more. I have already contacted Lieutenant Torres and explained the situation. She understood perfectly."
Tom gritted his teeth. "This is a joke, right? You're just trying to pay me back for the last time I was on duty in here."
The Doctor shook his head. "I do not play jokes Mr. Paris. Come along, the cupboard is waiting. Now tell me. What is the main purpose of the pancreas?"
Tom slapped his commbadge. "Paris to Chakotay."
'Chakotay here. What is it Tom?'
"Help!" Tom yelled.
T'Pam March 200
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