Part 9

Tom Paris had a hell of a time wrenching the Medkit open with the condition his hands were in. Once he got the regenerator out and working though, the relief was indescribable.

And if he concentrated on the physical relief then he didn't think as much about how scared he was.

Nothing had happened since that satellite thing had blasted his computer off-line.

Not a damn thing.

He kept waiting for the aliens who had activated the satellite to show their faces, but they didn't.

He kept waiting for the Maquis to discover he was an easy picking and blast him away. But they didn't, either.

Keeping an eye on the view screen-his only way of observing now-he continued working on his hands until the burns and scrapes were mere memories.

It had been only ten minutes since he'd pried himself off of the floor, but Tom could feel every second that was slowly ticking silently by. He almost felt like he was being watched. Which was why he felt the need to look like he was doing something else entirely as he carefully pried the bulkhead off the wall to see if he could manually mess with the components and bring the computer back up, all without touching the controls-which were completely destroyed at the helm-and which he didn't trust not to conduct another blast to his hands.

Not that he didn't think that the same incapacitating shock could be directed through the exposed electronics, but going for the components instead of the control panels seemed a tad bit sneakier.

The sudden hum of the computer and the intensifying light made Tom jump out of his skin.

Because he hadn't touched anything yet.

He turned around slowly, almost expecting to see someone already standing in the shuttle.

There was no one.

Not inside the shuttle, anyway. Through the view screen, he could see a massive ship that definitely hadn't been there when last he looked. He couldn't take his eyes from it as he crossed from where he had been standing to the front of the shuttle. One of the consoles chirped, but he couldn't look away from that huge ship. Or maybe it was a space station. Either way, it was giant.

It kept chirping, insistently, until Tom backed up and finally tore his gaze from the screen.

The ship, the enormous ship, was hailing him.

Apparently their logic was shoot first, then talk.

Tom dropped into the nearest chair, reaching over and activating the comm channel. He was facing away from the screen, as the chair had been turned away from the screen. He heard the screen activate as he began to swivel, the oddest feeling of fear and anticipation taking over his body like being doused in cold water.

The screen blinked from the view of the gigantic ship to a dark room, with a single nondescript occupant. Tom stared at the decidedly non-threatening alien, a slight figure with gray skin and a patch of skin resembling a roach instead of a nose.

It probably wasn't the wisest thing to do, considering that the alien had a much bigger ship-which was actually attached to the so-called satellite that had blasted him, the slightly damaged sensors were only now reporting-superior technology, and seemed to be quite good at damaging ships with inferior technology.

Tom did it anyway.

"What the hell is your problem?" He demanded before the alien could speak.

The hairless skin on the forehead of the alien shot up, indignation obviously not the reaction he was used to.

"I am the rear quadrant Defensive Minister of Pelora," the alien began, flustered.

"And I'm Tom Paris, pilot. What the hell did you do to my ship?"

"You violated Peloran law by attempting to damage my vessel," replied the Minister, gaining composure.

"And what about holding my ship? That's legal?"

"It's standard procedure when two or more related vessels proceed separately to the Peloran border."

"I'm one ship, Minister," Tom said, well aware that the alien was talking about the Maquis.

"I know that," snapped the Minister, offended. "You were followed closely by several disguised ships, of identical making."

"I *didn't* know that," lied Tom smoothly. "When that satellite-which I thought was a satellite, not a ship-detained me I thought I was in imminent danger and defended myself. I didn't know it was that it was a border procedure. I didn't even know this was a border," Tom finished truthfully.

The Minister looked exasperated, but not quite to the point of blasting Tom's shuttle again.

"You're transgression is forgotten, providing you abide by our laws if you are allowed to enter Peloran space."


The alien looked at relieved as Tom felt.

"Then, identify yourself and purpose."

"Tom Paris, pilot," Tom repeated.

And I'm fleeing the scene of a really ugly mutiny-no, that didn't sound very good.

"I'm going home. To the Alpha Quadrant."

"As you have no hostile intentions in Peloran space, you may proceed. However, you will be escorted by one of our ships to ensure your compliance to our laws. You cannot utilize weapons in our space."

It sounded to Tom like he just got a free escort of protection from the Maquis.

"Good," Tom said.

The Minister seemed to scowl, cutting off the comm channel.

From somewhere a smaller ship appeared on Tom's sensors. Smaller than the gargantuan, but bigger than Tom's tiny shuttle. Bigger than Voyager, by a bit. Tom felt the jolt as it extended another tractor beam and latched on to him. He could repair the helm in the time it took for the Peloran vessel to propel him through Peloran Space.

And he wouldn't have to worry about the Maquis.

Hell, maybe he'd just sleep.

Part 10 | Index page