Damaged Goods
by
Sapphire
November 1998 - Current

Unfinished Snippet from The Grab Bag


The door to Tom Paris' quarters slid open at a touch from Chakotay. He quietly slipped inside to be met with a whirlwind of activity. Tom darted from one corner of the room to the other, rapidly stuffing personal effects into a duffel bag. The mission notification for him to take the Delta Flyer and map out the planets in the quadrant ahead of Voyager had come up rather abruptly. That it was a solo flight on top of the rush didn't please Chakotay, but to be fair, he had to the Captain hadn't had much choice in the matter. With a majority of the crew down with Sonorian Fever or currently recovering from it after the illness had swept through the crew, Voyager had few crew that were working at full capacity. Chakotay himself was in the recovery stages but back on duty. Tom had lucked out and not fallen victim to the Fever at all. Kathryn didn't like sending Tom out alone but, as Tuvok had pointed out, Tom was more than capable of handling any situations that would most probably arise and Voyager was, after all, only a call away.

"Almost ready?" Chakotay asked his lover.

"Just about," replied Tom as he darted by again to grab a couple of datapadds off the table near Chakotay before rushing back across the room to stuff them into the duffle bag. "I have to be down in the shuttle bay and ready to launch in ten minutes. That includes the pre-launch sequence."

"So, no time for long good-byes then," Chakotay interpreted.

"Sorry, no." Tom grabbed up the duffel bag, slung it over his shoulder, gave Chakotay a quick hard kiss on the mouth and flew out the door.

Chakotay was left behind in the abandoned silence of Tom's quarters -- left wondering how he managed to kept up with the younger, energetic man. They'd been together nearly fourteen months and Tom's endless supply of energy and zest for life never ceased to amaze Chakotay. It was one of the many things he loved about Tom Paris.

Chakotay was caught offguard when the door to Tom's quarters abruptly slid back open and Tom blew back into the room. Chakotay was engulfed in a warm embrace as a familiar tall, lanky body nestled in close to his. Lips claimed his, taking Chakotay in a possessive display that quickly flamed into more intimate passion. Chakotay returned the embrace. Their bodies meshed together as one as they danced together with the familiarity of lovers who know from numerous intimate encounters how to please each other.

Chakotay, his hands kneading Tom's buttock's through his uniform, regretfully pulled back. "You'd better go."

"Yeah." Tom's voice was breathless. The fingers of his left hand stroked Chakotay's hair while his right hand moved to trace over his lover's face. "You know I love you, right?"

"Always, Tom." Chakotay gently kissed him. "Always."

With that, Tom pulled away and shot out the door once more. "See you in three days!"

Those would be Tom's last words to Chakotay for a very long time.

~*~

TWO MONTHS LATER

"How is Subject Zeta coming along?"

Kirio glanced over at Maltec as they made their way through the compound. He shrugged. "He's a stubborn one. Refuses to bend to our will."

"Spirited?"

"Oh, yes, I think you could say that." Kirio smiled. "Don't worry. We're not too far behind schedule with him. A few more days in the Tank and we'll have his spirit broken enough where we can begin to work with him."

Maltec, recalling the fire in Subject Zeta's eyes when he had first been brought to them, requested, "Don't break him completely. I have a feeling this one might be worth more if we allow him retain a bit of his spirit."

Kirio stopped and stared at his superior. "You don't want us to bury his individuality completely?"

"No." Maltec's gaze grew distant. "I have special plans for this one."

"You intend to train him yourself?" Kirio was surprised. Master Maltec hardly ever took on that task himself any longer.

"Yes." Maltec's attention returned to his subordinate's shocked features. "Yes, I do. Alert me when you're ready to remove him from the Tank. I wish to be present."

"As you wish, Master Maltec." Kirio made a slight bowing motion with his upper body and took his leave of Maltec.

~

The vidcam inside the Tank zoomed in on Subject Zeta. Subject Zeta growled at it. The eyes of his enemies were upon him and he was helpless to prevent it.

Subject Zeta huddled against the cold metal wall of the Tank. The dim lighting in the Tank allowed just enough brightness for the Eye to record Subject Zeta's status.

Subject Zeta's nudity gave evidence to his sparse diet. They fed him just enough to keep him alive and no more. Underweight, his ribs were too prominent. His skin was caked with dirt, and his hair and beard, matted with dirt and sweat, were long and straggly.

Subject Zeta no longer remembered who he was or where he had come from. He had brief flashes of people and places from time to time. A ship that sailed through the stars. A woman in red and black who had courage. But the most persistent vision was of a man with dark hair and dark eyes and a warm smile. Love. That man was Love.

Subject Zeta frowned. What was Love? He no longer remembered.

His fierce blue gaze flung daggers of hate at the Eye and he gave a low animalistic growl of warning that held no vestiges of his humanity. If Subject Zeta had been privy to the file that his keepers kept on him, he would not have recognized his own description:
 

Designation:  Subject Zeta
Species:  Human male
Point of Origin:  Alpha Quadrant--Earth
Prior Designation:  Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris Serial Number ___________, Starfleet, Starship Voyager


As far as Subject Zeta was concerned, Tom Paris no longer existed. His only existence consisted of pain and survival. Not even conscious of his actions, Subject Zeta relieved himself, ignoring the track of urine that ran down his leg.

He returned to his protective huddle against the far wall, turning his back on the Eye and returning to his small world. He existed. Nothing more, nothing less.

~*~

Chakotay had been dreading this meeting for weeks. Squaring his shoulders, he entered the Captain's ready room. His shoulders slumped when he saw she sat at her couch rather than the desk. That meant bad news. Bad personal news.

Silently, he took a seat opposite here. Janeway wasted no time on preliminaries. They had both known this day was coming.

"I'm sorry, Chakotay. We can no longer stay in this area of space and search for Tom. We've been here two months already. While none of the crew begrudges this time to search for a missing crewman, even you have to admit at this point it's a lost cause. We haven't had so much as a hint as to what happened to him. And we both know that if Tom had been able, he would have gotten word to us somehow."

Chakotay stared past the Captain's shoulder out the viewport for several long moments. Finally, he refocused on Kathryn Janeway. "Are you officially declaring him dead?" He knew his voice sounded defeated but he could no longer keep up the facade of hope. After two months there was little to hope for.

Janeway shook her head. "No. Missing in action."

Chakotay's gaze returned to the starscape outside the viewport. Missing in action. There would be no service then. No good-byes. Just a closing on the book of life for Tom Paris.

As if reading his thoughts, Kathryn Janeway offered, "Would you like some personal time off?" They never discussed his and Tom's relationship but Janeway had given him her wholehearted support when Tom had come up missing, knowing how this would devastate him.

"Maybe a day," Chakotay accepted, knowing he needed to meditate and say his good-byes to Tom -- to his lover. He couldn't escape the feeling that he was giving up on Tom but he was at a loss for what else to do. Two months of searching, all of Voyager's best putting in overtime on the search, and not a single clue had turned up as to Tom's whereabouts. He and the Delta Flyer had simply disappeared.

Chakotay jumped when he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder. He hadn't even seen Kathryn stand and move to his side.

"We're almost at shift's end today," she said gently. "Consider yourself off-duty until the day after tomorrow. If you decide you need more time, all you have to do is ask."

He nodded as he stood.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Chakotay?" she asked.

He met her eyes square on for the first time since entering the room. This was killing her too, he realized. She didn't want to give up on Tom any more than he did. They simply had no choice.

"Just spread the word . . . about Tom." He paused. "And let everyone know that I don't want to be disturbed until I'm back on duty." He fully intended to close himself off in his quarters for the next day and work through this.

"Done. Com me any time, day or night, if there's anything you need."

"Thank you, Kathryn."

~

Kathryn Janeway watched her first officer leave her ready room. His whole demeanor reflected the battering his emotions had taken the last two months. It hurt to lose Tom. Kathryn had sincerely believed if they ever reached home again that Tom Paris would be one of the ones who lived to see it. It hurt worse to see Chakotay so defeated. He and Tom had been together for nearly two years. It had been as close a relationship between two people as she had ever seen and Kathryn had felt privileged to be a witness to these two men's blossoming feelings for each other. It had been a magical time. She would miss seeing them together.

It hurt to see Chakotay without Tom by his side. She couldn't lose the feeling that Tom Paris was somewhere out there, still alive, and that she was abandoning him here, but she had to put the rest of the crew first. She knew if they hadn't exhausted all possible leads that Chakotay would have stayed here to continue the search for Tom. She was thankful she wasn't losing him as well and made a promise herself to see Chakotay through this.

~*~

Maltec studied Subject Zeta as he was led into his chambers. The guard had him on a choke chain but Maltec could see that was unnecessary. Subject Zeta, the same subject who had fought them tooth and nail, was now a docile creature. Maltec hoped that Kirio was true to his word and that they hadn't completely broken Subject Zeta's spirit. This one, if handled right, had much potential.

Once the guards had Zeta in the large tub of steaming bath water, Maltec motioned them out of the room, ignoring the guards' surprise that Maltec would attend to the subject on his own at this point in the training. Maltec had long since left the dirty little details of these sessions to those of lesser rank. But Subject Zeta was special. Maltec would be his only handler, until Subject Zeta was ready to be presented to the Elite for services.


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