By Niels van Eekelen
An Alternate Universe adventure in four parts.
Captain's log, stardate 48322.7.
It has been a little over a week since the events that pulled my ship and crew to an uncertain future in the Delta quadrant, and I have since recorded every detail of what happened in these logs, but I still strongly feel the need to talk about it. It is a great loss that there is no counselor on board Voyager; right now, we could all use one.
It all started when the Maquis ship the "Gul's Fear," under command of captain Mirda, and also carrying my tactical officer, Mr Tuvok, who was on an undercover mission, mysteriously vanished in the Badlands. As soon as we got permission, my first officer, Cmdr Chakotay, and I took Voyager, freshly off the docks, to investigate.
We could find no trace of the Maquis ship in the Badlands, but instead were hit unexpectedly by a displacement wave of unknown origin... I lost a lot of good people then, I'm afraid. Lt. Stadi at the Conn, my doctor, my chief engineer... Just too many good men and women. When we regained exterior sensors, Voyager was in the Delta quadrant, 70,000 lightyears from our homes and families.
The events that occurred on the array we found there along with the Gul's Fear are not really of any importance anymore, since the Caretaker is gone, so I'll waste no more words on them, but when we were returned to our vessel, and the Maquis to theirs, we found that ensign Kim, my operations officer, was missing.
On contacting the Maquis, I learnt from a Mr Ayala that one of their number was also missing. B'Elanna Torres, their engineer. Tuvok's reports had called her "strong-willed, a temper true to her half-Klingon blood and brilliant at her profession." To accept my offer of cooperation, Mr Ayala needed permission from someone who stayed off-screen. At the time, I wondered why captain Mirda did not speak to me himself. According to Tuvok he was a man "extremely pleased with himself" -- Tuvok even called him "illogical," which is as close to a swearword as a Vulcan will get -- but I soon learnt that he had died when the displacement wave hit the Gul's Fear.
When the two Maquis and Mr Tuvok materialised on my bridge, I was startled. It was not captain Mirda whom I found myself facing, but Thomas Eugene Paris, the son of my former captain. Tom's face looked so much like his father's that if not for the difference in age, I might have adressed him as admiral. It was not that Tuvok hadn't mentioned Mr Paris in his reports -- quite the contrary -- but to actually see what the son of a man I respect so highly had become was quite something different from reading about it.
Apparently I was not the only one who had reason to be displeased with Mr Paris' appearance, judging by Chakotay's reaction. It is not often that Chakotay is unable to contain his emotions. I shall have to ask him about what happened between him and Paris; if not for Mr Tuvok, I believe the two of them would actually have started a fight right there on the bridge.
Mr Tuvok's revelation of his true mission with the Maquis did nothing to lighten Mr Paris' and Mr Ayala's moods, but at least it diverted their attention. In retrospect, with a fuller knowledge of Mr Paris' character, he took it very well. He might have looked at Tuvok like he wanted to skin him alive, but he didn't say a word about it.
With the death of captain Mirda and the abduction of Ms Torres, Mr Paris was the highest ranking officer among the Maquis -- now, I'm not sure whether Paris or Torres ranks highest, or would, if they were still on the Gul's Fear.
We soon turned to the matters at hand, which led to our first alien encounters in this quadrant. We met the Ocampa, a peaceful people, thankfully, with whom we found our missing crewmembers. We also met the Kazon, who -- well, suffice to say we have made no friends among the Kazon, mostly thanks to our Delta quadrant "guide," an alien called Neelix.
Our... misunderstanding... with the Kazon ultimately forced us to battle them. No, that is not quite true. We battled them to protect the Ocampa from them. I was on the array with the dying Caretaker during most of the battle, but I have watched the sensor logs and I must say that the Maquis saved the day. Voyager was hit badly and lost her weapons systems, but the Gul's Fear kept the enormous Kazon mothership busy. And more than that.
Mr Paris literally flew circles around the Kazon. Whatever can be said about Mr Paris -- which is a lot -- he is one heck of a pilot. Which is one of the two reasons I even allow the likes of him on my bridge.
But ultimately even he couldn't keep it up and the Maquis ship started to disintegrate. Fortunately, Voyager was able to beam out all of the Maquis before it was too late. Also fortunately, by that time the Kazon ship was adrift and of no danger to Voyager.
The rest, as they say, is history. I decided that the protection of the entire Ocampan species outweighed our need to get home and destroyed the array. Torres, Paris, Chakotay and I then agreed to unite our two crews -- also joined by Mr Neelix and an Ocampa called Kes -- so we can face the voyage home as one.
A note on that last point: the merging is hard on both sides and will take a long time. There have already been several instances that might have become violent if security had not interfered. Mr Paris, now Lt Paris, is not helping very much either. The only Starfleet member of our crew he even talks to off-duty is ensign Harry Kim, and he has considerable influence among the former Maquis.
"Computer, end log," said Captain Janeway. She sighed. They would never make it those 70 years if the current tension kept up, but she didn't know what to do about it. Perhaps it would just fade away in time.
A chime sounded to indicate that someone wanted to enter the ready room. The captain's last thought reverberated unpleasantly in her head while she spoke: "Enter." The door to the bridge opened and Mr Chakotay and Mr Tuvok stepped through, Chakotay's face grim, Tuvok's expressionless, perhaps even more so than usual.
"Captain," the commander greeted, "we have another situation."
The captain shifted uneasily. If it ever really came to blows between Starfleet and Maquis, the damage to morale might be irreparable. "What happened?"
It was Tuvok's turn to respond. "The situation has of yet been insufficiently explained, captain, but security has just been called to your private dining room, where several crewmembers are currently arguing and threatening violence loudly."
"Those crewmembers are both Maquis and Starfleet," Chakotay supplied. To his mind, there was little doubt who had started it. Captain Janeway very nearly smiled. Her private dining room; that would be Mr Neelix' Messhall now. Tuvok strongly disapproved of the Messhall, its location, and Mr Neelix in general.
"Paris? Torres?" The captain stood up regretfully and started toward the bridge. She would have to go put a stop to this herself.
"Lt Paris is at the scene, though he appears to have arrived only after the argument started. Lt Torres is currently in Engineering."
"Have her meet me at the Messhall." She probably had as much influence on the Maquis as the captain herself had. "Mr Chakotay, you have the bridge. Mr Tuvok, you're with me." Janeway was already deep in thought when she heard Tuvok contact Lt Torres. She suspected that Paris might have caused some of the prior incidents on purpose, but if he hadn't been there when the argument started, he couldn't be responsible, could he...?
When Janeway and Tuvok arrived at the Messhall, the security detail was already waiting at the door and Lt Torres just came running down the corridor. They entered together. Before the doors had opened, all that the captain and B'Elanna had been able to hear were some barely audible voices, but when they entered those voices became people yelling as hard as they could.
Six or seven people were standing at the room's center, nearly at each others' throats. The two Maquis among them were outnumbered two to one, but that didn't seem to hold them back. A little over a dozen others were sitting at various tables, all staring, either fascinated or horrified, at the argument in process. Mr Neelix seemed to have retreated to his kitchen, from where he was watching, half-hidden behind the counter, with a mortified expression on his face. Both B'Elanna and Janeway also immediately saw Tom Paris sitting at a table in the far corner of the room. He was the only one there who had noticed the new arrivals thus far. Why didn't you stop this? B'Elanna thought angrily. Did you cause this? thought Janeway, not much less angry.
"Dalby! Hiller! What in the name of Kahless do you think you're doing!" B'Elanna yelled before the captain had a chance to open her mouth. A dead silence fell over the Messhall as everybody suddenly noticed the captain's presence. The engineer didn't waste any time, though. She stalked over to the two Maquis and began berating them, repeatedly using some Klingon words that would probably better not be translated.
The captain very nearly grimaced. This was not what she had had in mind. The immediate danger seemed to be past, though, and that was what was the most important. She walked to the Starfleeters that were involved and talked to them herself. She did not speak half as loud as Lt Torres, but the look in her eyes alone seemed to work miracles.
"... and the captain can throw you both into the brig for all I care!" B'Elanna finished. She was furious. She didn't know which side had started it this time, but both should have known better. These near-fights always started over reasons not even a full Klingon would fight over. If they were ever to get home, this had to stop.
"I don't think there is need to go quite that far," the captain spoke behind her. B'Elanna whirled around in surprise, she had thought the captain would still be too busy to listen to what she were saying. The five Starfleet all looked properly chastened, and, B'Elanna realised, so did Dalby and Hiller. "However," the captain spoke on to the troublemakers, "the seven of you are hereby confined to your quarters untill your next duty shift. The security officers will escort you there. Dismissed."
Janeway looked around the Messhall as Tuvok took the arguers away. The tension in the room was still there, but that probably was mostly because she was still there. There must be something that she could do to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.
"Ms Torres, Mr Paris, I need to speak with you. In my ready room. The rest of you," she said in general, "enjoy your meals." Though judging by the smells coming from Neelix' kitchen, that would be difficult.
Tom got up slowly, to visualise his objections as to why he should come. B'Elanna noticed he looked like he hadn't bothered to go to bed the previous night. "Sure, captain," he said, "on my way immediately."
Captain's log, supplemental.
After reading his file, and even after reading Tuvok's reports, I always had the feeling that there would be something of his father in Tom Paris, that I would find something better than what was described about him. Perhaps I'm just a hopeless romantic... but then again, sometimes you can just trust your instincts blindly. Hmph. I wonder what Lt Tuvok would have to say about that.
Unfortunately I must admit that I have not seen a glimpse of that better side Mr Paris may or may not have yet. To tell the truth, what I've seen so far is just an arrogant, stubborn man. But a charismatic one. If I said "left" and he said "right" all of the former Maquis would probably run to the right. And he would do it just to spite me and Mr Chakotay. Mr Paris' people would die for him, and I believe he would die for them. If I cannot find some way to make him see reason, this could become a very long and unpleasant trip. End log.
The captain sat down in her chair and turned to the two lieutenants standing in front of her desk. Lt Torres was standing up straight, by the look on her face probably because she was wondering whether she had stepped out of line with her rather unusual way to settle the trouble in the Messhall. Lt Paris, on the other hand, looked as if he'd rather be in his bed, and like he could use it, too.
"Let's get on with it, captain," Tom said irritably when Janeway remained silent. "Just blame it all on me and then I can go lie in my bed for a while."
The captain's voice was cold as ice. "Are you saying I should blame this mess on you, Mr Paris?" She had just been thinking about a way to bring up her suspicions about just that without just throwing it in Paris' face.
Paris suddenly had a hurt look on his face. "Ma'am, why could I possibly want to start fights when I love you all so much?"
Janeway gave him the Look. Tom knew this was exactly as far as he could go, but then, he hadn't expected more. He sighed.
"Let me put it this way, captain, I have one hell of a headache. I messed with one of the replicators last night to get some real wine and --"
"You actually did that?" B'Elanna interrupted Tom incredulously.
"I think I just said that. Anyway, last night me and Ayala set out on our brave quest to rediscover what it is to be drunk, and this morning we -- or at least me -- had the good fortune to rediscover what it is to have a hangover." B'Elanna raised a hand in front of her mouth to hide her barely contained laughter. "The point being," Tom continued, "if I wanted all that noise, do you honestly believe I would have started it now?"
B'Elanna realised there was no way she could hold back her laughter and thus let it go. If the captain's desk hadn't been there to bounce into, she probably would have fallen to the floor. Even the captain couldn't hold back a small smile, though, of course, what Mr Paris had done was against regulations.
Holding his head in one hand, Tom grinned impishly. "Could you please laugh at me a little softer, B'Elanna?"
When the chief engineer had regained her composure a minute later, captain Janeway continued their conversation.
"I think I can indeed stop that line of thought." She'd noticed that Paris hadn't denied any previous involvement in the near state of war between the two groups of her people. "But -- what I really called you here for to talk about -- something must be done to ensure the peace on my ship. Do you at least agree on that?"
They nodded, Paris reluctantly.
"Good. No matter how much the two of you are both lieutenants, the Maquis still see you as some sort of captains, so you can have a major influence. If you have any ideas that might help, please tell them, because I'm at a loss."
Actually, as the conversation progressed, most ideas came from the captain, though Torres did her best to match her. Still, the plans they came up with were improbable to be succesfull, impossible to carry out, or simply ridiculous at best.
Tom used his hangover to be pretty much left out of the discussion. Not that he could have added much to it anyway. Perhaps he could have undone what he had started, perhaps not. If he'd wanted to. If he'd dared to. He really hadn't set up the trouble in the Messhall, nor any of the other numerous near-fights, but to say that Tom had nothing at all to do with them might just have been a lie to big even for him.
At the end of the conversation -- when the ideas became more and more desperate -- Tom was drawn in a bit more. It hadn't gone unnoticed to captain Janeway that Tom's attitude was not much of an example to the other Maquis, but quite the opposite.
To that, Tom basically told her that they should all just look at B'Elanna, though he chose his words just a bit more carefully than that. He admitted it, but made no promises to change in any way. Still, he managed to keep Janeway satisfied.
"... so if you think of anything else, I'll always be glad to hear," the captain finished. Well, at least now two of the Maquis have agreed that peace must be made, she spoke glumly in her head. "Dismissed."
After they left the captain's ready room, Tom and B'Elanna walked in silence for a while until B'Elanna finally spoke. She would return to Engineering to finish her shift -- Suder and Darwin had better have that plasma conduit fixed by now -- and Tom was going to his quarters and hope his hangover would pass before his own next shift started. He could go to Sickbay and get something for his headache, but even that wouldn't be worth seeing the Doctor make absolutely no effort to hide his amusement at Paris' condition.
"Tom?" B'Elanna finally said.
"The captain was right, you know -- about you seeming to try to keep the crew separated. What's your bone with Starfleet? Why can't you accept it's necessary for us to work together if we're ever to get home? It can't just be that they didn't want you."
"I can hardly be angry at them for that," Tom replied in his most innocent voice, "it was their loss. A guy like me can always find a job."
"Tom, I'm serious."
"Well, maybe so am I." For the first time since they started talking B'Elanna looked at Tom. He was staring at to floor a few feet in front of him, coincidentally looking exactly as she herself had just been doing. As she had heard in his voice, Tom's face had formed the mask he showed to most of the world. His shields were up. He was not going to tell her what this was about. B'Elanna sighed. No matter how alike they were -- how much they actually understood each other -- sometimes Tom was still as much as a mystery as they day they met. More, even. Much more. That first day she hadn't seen beyond the mask.
He had been directed to captain Mirda's cell by somebody higher-up when their previous pilot had died. A hotshot ex-Starfleet pilot who had joined the Maquis for his own reasons, and an arrogant one at that, he had arrived one morning, an hour late for his pick-up. It hadn't been his fault that time, but B'Elanna had soon come to see it as typical for his attitude, and few in the cell thought any better of him. Just some of the women, and seldom for long. But when the crew had started to respect Tom after he'd saved them all in the asteroid belt of Xaris Minor, he started to change as well. Now B'Elanna could safely say that Tom would give his life for any of the Maquis on Voyager.
What B'Elanna saw behind Tom's mask today startled her a little. He had far more emotions hidden away than was generally believed, even by his friends, but never this, not unless a Cardassian warship had at the very least locked its phasers on them. B'Elanna could swear she saw fear.
When she stepped into the turbolift she turned and locked her eyes on his face. "Tom, just think about it. What foolish old grudge is worth keeping over a hundred people at each others' throats?"
The doors closed.
B'Elanna sighed again. "Engineering." She would get to the bottom of this, but it would take time.
The doors closed.
Tom Paris stood there for a minute after B'Elanna left him alone. A "foolish old grudge" she called it. And it wasn't even that much. It was true. He was deliberately keeping Starfleet and Maquis at odds. Not that everybody would have just liked each other if he hadn't been there, but he and B'Elanna and Janeway could heal most of the schism if he would just try. But he didn't, and he knew why.
There was no "grudge" -- except perhaps with Chakotay -- but in truth he didn't do anything because he was afraid.
Him, Thomas Eugene "Arrogance Impersonate" Paris, afraid! Afraid his dirty little secret would get out. Among the Maquis, no one had known why Starfleet had thrown him out. Among the Maquis, he had real friends, and he was given respect. Among them, after saving all of their lives at least once, and probably more often, Tom had been able to forget, most of the time, the ghosts that haunted him, the three people he had killed when he'd flown that shuttle and had screwed up. Tom had little doubt that every single Starfleet officer on Voyager knew about it. If his friends would start to listen... There would be little respect or friendship left after that.
But what B'Elanna had said stung him. Indeed, it wasn't "worth" it. He was supposed to care about his people, dammit! Instead he was afraid to loose the life he had built for himself, afraid for those accusing stares to return...
Tom didn't even notice he had started walking until he stopped in front of the door to his quarters. Instinctively Paris checked his face -- and thanked god he had his mischievous look firmly in place. He definitely didn't want anybody to see him looking like he was feeling.
He hesitated at his door. His hangover was the farthest thing from his mind right now, but he didn't want to go back to the Messhall and he remembered that the holodecks were tremendously overbooked, so he went in anyway.
There was always a certain feel to a room if you were not alone, and Tom felt it in his quarters.
"Seska?" he called. The Bajoran woman came walking leisurely out of the adjoining room. She had an intent smile on her face and was wearing a dress that was most definitely not a standard issue Starfleet uniform.
"How did you get in?" Tom asked, slightly surprised.
"You taught me everything you know, didn't you?" Seska replied as she put her arms around Tom.
"Uh uh," Tom disagreed, "I taught you everything you know." He returned the gesture and held her tight.
"Whatever. Anyway, you taught me how to get into other people's quarters without their permission." She paused. "Now bend down that tall body of yours so I can kiss you." And they did. At length.
"So, Helmboy, did Janeway give you any trouble?" Seska asked a little while later.
"Not really," Paris answered -- after he'd taken a moment to get his breath back. He wasn't surprised that she knew where he had just come from. Somehow she always knew that sort of things. "She's not really such a bad person, even if she did serve under my father."
"I thought you liked bad women." Tom smiled at that.
"Some kinds of bad, yes. Are you bad, Seska?" he said teasingly.
She gave him an evil sort of grin and started to pull Tom gently by his hands to the other room. "Come to the bedroom and I'll show you just how "bad" I am."
Tom didn't object.
A week later, Cmdr Chakotay was surprised to find himself sitting in a bar called "Sandrine's" in Marseilles, Earth, in a holoprogram created by Tom Paris, and even more surprised to be talking to Lt Torres, his arch-nemesis' closest friend.
Chakotay had gone to the holodeck because he had heard about this fun program where everybody was welcome. When he'd entered, and Paris had seen him, he had given Chakotay a look that was certainly not very welcoming, and truth be told, if he had known in advance that it was Paris' program, Chakotay probably wouldn't have come. But he had to admit that it was fun.
When he'd entered the bar's "owner," a woman called Sandrine, had immediately tried to flirt with the commander, so when he saw Harry Kim sitting at one of the tables, he'd gone to him at once. Harry won't mind, he'd thought, the kid is always trying to make us senior officers feel less isolated.
Chakotay only saw B'Elanna Torres sitting across the table from him after he sat down, and it was too late to go away then. Nine days ago, Kathryn had made the Maquis lieutenant Chief Engineer instead of Joe Carey. Chakotay still believed that that decision had had more to do with Paris' constant nagging about it and an effort to keep the peace on the ship than with who actually deserved the job, but she was good at what she did. She had already once saved Voyager from a quantum singularity.
Harry had looked as if it had been his intention to get the two of them at one table and tried to start a conversation between them. It had been a bit awkward at first, but now Harry just sat back in his chair with a smug smile on his face and Chakotay and Torres did all the talking. Mission accomplished, thought Harry Kim, if those two can like each other, than there is hope for all of us.
Tom Paris stood at the pool table with his cue in one hand. He was playing a game with Ayala, who was just putting the six ball in the side pocket. Seska hung on Tom like she wanted to sit on him; even he felt embarrassed by her sometimes. But he wasn't paying attention to either of them.
He was looking at Harry, B'Elanna and especially Chakotay, sitting at one table, talking. One friend, one enemy and Harry, of whom Tom wasn't sure if he dared to call him friend. It felt strange, seeing the three of them -- especially B'Elanna and the commander -- together, apparently enjoying themselves. Harry probably had something to do with that. Tom didn't like it. Tom Paris, he thought idly to himself, are you jealous? He thought he could honestly answer `no' to that question. What B'Elanna did was her own business, after all. But he couldn't stop thinking that Chakotay, of all people, would be delighted to tell Tom's friends all about the shuttle accident.
It was funny, but Harry had never mentioned the accident -- though Tom suspected he did know -- and somehow Tom knew that he never would if he didn't start about it himself.
Ah, well, Tom had realised some time ago that the truth would come out sooner or later, though he hoped for later.
Perhaps B'Elanna wouldn't believe Chakotay if he told her. Both Tayl Hiller and Lon Suder had come to Tom, telling that they had heard some some sort of rumour about him, but both of them just thought the Starfleet were trying to "make bad air" for Tom, as Tayl had put it. Tayl was from a strange race, always talking about the air. Maybe B'Elanna wouldn't believe Chakotay either. He sighed. Sooner or later.
"Hey Helmboy," a voice suddenly whispered in Tom's ear, nearly making him jump, "it's your shot."
Tom looked at Seska, then at the table. Ayala grinned at him, then became serious. "Forget about that guy, Tom." He had apparently seen where the pilot had been looking. "He's not worth the bother."
As he aimed his shot, Tom wished that were true.
Again time passed. The next two weeks, B'Elanna and Chakotay talked regularly, and sometimes ate together. They laughed together, and talked of serious matters to either of them or both. B'Elanna didn't quite yet tell Chakotay the things that she had buried deep in her heart, her father foremost among them, but still... In short, they became friends, much to Harry's pleasure.
Every time Tom saw the two of them together, he thought Chakotay was going to tell her and his heart dropped to his boots. What he didn't know was that B'Elanna and Chakotay had an unspoken agreement that neither of them was ever to mention Tom unless it was from a professional point of view. Just like she and Tom never mentioned Chakotay when they were talking.
The tension on Voyager seemed every bit as high as the day the two crews -- or rather the two halves of the crew -- had been forced together, but the open hostilities started to appear at greater intervals.
"Seska to Paris," sounded from his combadge.
"This is Paris," Tom responded, "Find anything interesting?" They were both part of one of the several away teams sent to this unnamed planet, where vast amounts of dilithium were supposed to be buried. So far, after several miles of the abandoned tunnels, they had found absolutely nothing. First Tom thought the makers of these tunnels must have robbed the place dry, but then what had caused the sensors to show dozens of kilotons of unrefined dilithium?
"I hoped you had."
"No. This place is duller than Tuvok." Tom used his flashlight to take another look around. Still nothing but brown rock surrounded him
"Ha!" Seska laughed, "are you bored, Helmboy?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?"
"When the away mission's over, we and the other Maquis could always take over Voyager to stir things up a bit." It wasn't the first time that Seska mentioned that, and each time she did, Tom was less sure she was joking. He was afraid that if he took the bait and said yes, he would wind up actually doing it.
"Seska, not funny."
"Look who's tal-" Suddenly the ground began to shake as if the planet's inertial dampeners had just dropped off-line. Tom was thrown around all through the tunnel, but thankfully the ceiling held. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over, and everything went still.
Tom got up slowly, his uniform and face covered with dust and his heart jumping in all directions. He was just about to contact Voyager, when --
"Voyager to away team leaders! Acknowledge please." The captain's voice sounded alarmed.
"Away team number one reporting, captain," Tuvok's voice sounded almost instantly over the commlink, as calm as he ever had been. "All are accounted for and unharmed. We had just reached the surface when the earthquake commenced."
Tom tapped his commbadge. "Captain, this is away team number three. We're all spread out, but I don't think any of the tunnels collapsed, so everybody should be all right."
"Good," the captain said, "Chakotay?"
The captain tried again. Still no response.
Tom started to worry, too. B'Elanna was with away team two. "Paris to Torres... Paris to away team number two. Can anyone hear me?" Nothing.
After another minute of silence, captain Janeway spoke. "Lt Paris, take your away team and go to the number two tunnel system. Tuvok, you're too far away. Go to your shuttle anyway and fly in if it's still necessary at that time. I'm sending in help, but it will take several hours for it to arrive." If Tom could have seen Janeway's face right now, he knew it would be near pure white. They still didn't get along, but Tom knew that she cared deeply for each member of her crew.
"On our way, captain." Silently he cursed the planet's atmosphere for making a simple beam-out impossible. "Away team two, listen up. Everybody acknowledge and then head for the tunnel entrance as fast as you can."
"Ayala to Paris, I'm on my way."
"This is Simms, me and Hudson are on our way up."
Suder, Seska, Wildman, Nicoletti and Dalby followed, but then it remained silent. Tom's breath caught.
"Neelix? Are you there?"
Tom took a deep breath in both relief and anger when the reply came in. "Oh! Er, yes, well ehh, yes, I mean... I'm here, Mr Tom -- Lt Paris, that is. That was quite a ehh... a terrifying experience, wouldn't you say?"
Neelix, Tom thought, I just thought I didn't have to tell Kes you were dead, but if you don't shut up, I'm coming there to strangle you.
"Neelix," he said out loud, "just go to the tunnel entrance, all right?"
"Of course," Neelix replied simply. Tom sighed, and started running himself.
He was last to reach the surface, as he had taken the deepest branch of the tunnels. The rest of the away team stood panting while Suder and Ayala helped Tom out of the hole. Suder was looking around as if he expected to see Borg and Cardassians in every direction, and was ready to take them on.
"Easy Lon," Tom told him quietly, "put that phaser away." Louder, he said, "Come on everybody, let's move! It's only about a mile." And then probably several more in the tunnels, he added to himself.
Tom set a steady pace, and no one complained. They all knew friends could be dying. When they arrived at the number two tunnel entrance the pilot immediately jumped down into the entrance cavern and started calling the names of the number two away team, beginning, of course, with B'Elanna. He did not see the furious look Seska, the last one to come down, gave him.
Then the ground shook again. It was not as bad as the first quake, but bad enough. Seska was thrown down the opening, into the cave, and fell the two meters to the floor. The emergency repairs on the inertial dampeners, so to speak, hadn't held. Tom was afraid that this meant there would be more quakes.
When he could, he jumped to his feet and reached Seska before any of the others.
Seska got up slowly and moaned. "I'm fine."
"Are you sure? You're bleeding."
She pulled her bleeding arm loose out of Tom's grip and said: "I'll be fine." Tom wished he could be sure, but he had no time to waste. He turned when he heard a sound coming from one of the tunnels.
"Mr Paris," said a familiar emotionless voice from the dark.
"Vorik!" Tom hurried to him.
"The rest of the away team is some five hundred meters down this tunnel. There are several injured that require immediate medical assistance. I came here to attempt to make contact with you, Mr Tuvok, or Voyager."
Paris wanted to hear just who was injured and how badly, but he'd get to them quicker if he didn't ask. "You're injured," he noticed.
"Yes, my ankle was broken during the second quake," Vorik commented calmly.
"Ethe, Mike, help Vorik out of the cave, then join the rest of us," Tom ordered.
"Mr Paris, are you still there?" the captain's voice spoke from Tom's combadge.
"Captain, we're at the entrance now. We have Vorik and he gave us directions to find the others. He says there are several wounded."
"Acknowledged. Tuvok's team is on its way, but it will take them about fifty more minutes to get to you."
"Tuvok always gets to me, ma'am, but this time, he'll be late. We're going in for the others."
'Going in for the others,' though, was easier said than done. Either Vorik had forgotten to mention that half of the ceilings in the tunnel had come down, or it had happened after he had passed, but in any case, it had happened. It took Tom's away team nearly half an hour of clearing a path and squeezing themselves through narrow openings where that wasn't possible before ensign Wildman, who was in front, saw a light up ahead.
"Hey there!" she called.
There was a moment of startled silence, and then ensign Hogan's voice called enthousiastically. "Over here!" he yelled.
Soon the entire away team -- Hudson and Simms had caught up with them ten minutes ago -- was in a large cavern, that was miraculously still completely intact, treating the more seriously wounded with the emergency medpack they had brought. They found that communication with the ship was down, but decided that they could worry about that later. Tom only stopped to see if everybody was alive until he finally found B'Elanna at the far end of the cavern, near a tunnel.
Her face was drained of blood and her leg, which bleeded nastily, was twisted at a wrong angle.
"How are you doing?" Tom said as he kneeled by her side. "Give me a hypospray!" he called to Neelix. "For the pain," he explained to B'Elanna. Tom counted seven people in the cavern. Plus Vorik, that meant two people were still missing. He hadn't seen Chakotay anywhere, and someone else... Tom put pressure to B'Elanna's wound to slow the bleeding until the medpack got to them.
"Paris," she said irritably, and obviously in pain, "I'll be fine." She stopped to breathe, then continued. "Chakotay... he went in there..," she nodded at the tunnel, "...to get ensign Mishowa. She fell... Went to see if she was alive." Reluctantly, Tom stood up, just as Neelix arrived with the hypospray.
"I'll go take a look. Neelix, give her something for the pain, but she'll still need to be able to move out of here." And he vanished into the tunnel.
"My, my, my," Neelix said jollily as he administered the hypospray to B'Elanna. He had read all about Federation Medicine, just in case, and it was proving to be very useful already. "Mr Tom is really a natural leader when it comes down to it, isn't he? We're all in good hands."
"I suppose," said B'Elanna. Neelix blathered on, but B'Elanna really didn't pay attention. She looked at where Tom had gone. He wouldn't leave Chakotay here, would he? she wondered. Tom and Chakotay really hated each other. No, he wouldn't. Not Tom.
That she knew that for a fact did not stop her worrying, though. What if Tom couldn't get Chakotay? Or what if Chakotay was already dead?.
B'Elanna became so lost in thought that Tom startled her when he returned from the tunnel a few minutes later and started to help her up. Strangely enough, he had a determined look on his face, and B'Elanna couldn't figure out what it meant.
"There a precipice a little way down that tunnel," said Tom to B'Elanna, "It's steep. If Chakotay isn't able to get up himself, there is nothing I can do." To the rest of the people in the cavern, he said: "Let's get everybody out. No telling when the next quake will come." He starting walking to where his away team had come in.
B'Elanna let herself be directed to the tunnel. She knew that Tom wouldn't -- couldn't -- let any life be lost if he thought he could save it. But then, halfway across the cavern it suddenly hit her. If he thought he could save it. The determined look. Tom had convinced himself he couldn't help Chakotay. She stopped dead in her tracks. She didn't know whether she should punch him in the face in anger or beg him to go back. Tom looked at her askance.
"Tom, about Chakotay," she began.
"What?" His tone was clearly defensive. If B'Elanna had still had any doubts, Tom had just taken them away.
"Can't you just go down to see how he is, at least? If he's alive?"
"B'Elanna! The chances that I could get him out of there are so small your entire engineering staff couldn't compute them." So there was at least some chance now. "Besides, the roof could come down any moment." That had been the wrong thing to say, and B'Elanna knew Tom knew it. Now he was saying he didn't want to go down because he might not come back.
"If it had been a Maquis -- or anybody but Chakotay -- down there, wouldn't you gamble for that chance, no matter how tiny?"
They had started moving again, and this time it was Tom who stopped. His face was lost in shadows to B'Elanna's eyes. She knew he would tell her to shut up.
"B'Elanna..," Tom started, then paused for a long second. "You're going to owe me big for this. Real big," he said when he finally turned to look at her. He then handed B'Elanna to ensign Jonas, who had escaped the earthquake relatively unharmed. Tom must have felt something of the glare Seska gave him and Torres together this time, because he turned to look at her.
"Seska, help Jonas here with B'Elanna. With any luck, Tuvok will be there when you reach the entrance cavern."
"And where do you think you're going?" Seska replied curtly.
"The ensign, the indian and I will be right behind you." With the nine members of his away team besides himself here there should be plenty able hands to help all the wounded.
Seska silently cursed Paris. She could see that he was at his most stubborn right now and she would not be able to influence him. It would be good if Chakotay would survive, but if he was saved like this...
Two very different women stood looking at the tunnel where Tom had once again hurried into for a few long moments, lost in thought, before they left in the opposite direction.
The captain sat in her chair on the bridge with her knees crossed. Her fingers were drumming impatiently on the arm of her chair. It was so frustrating! First they had lost contact with Chakotay's team, and then Paris' as well. She had thirty people down on that planet and all she could do was wait! Normally she would never have sent so many of her crew on an away mission at once, but the crew had really been in need of some time on a planet after being on Voyager for so long, and there hadn't been supposed to be any danger! It was infuriating.
She was furious at Geology. They had reported no seismic activity at all, nor any indication that there would be any. Until an entire continent suddenly began to shake. But the captain was more furious at herself. She should have learnt by now that in the Delta quadrant, nothing was what it seemed to be, especially if something seemed safe.
"Mr Kim, any change?" she asked, for the umpteenth time.
"No captain," replied the ensign from the Operations station, "we still can't make contact."
"Keep trying. Lt Tuvok's position?"
"Approaching the number two tunnel entrance right now, captain. He'll be able to go in in less than ten minutes." All she could do was wait. God, how she hated waiting!
Tom let himself drop the last two feet to the ground as the tremors began again and held his head protectively in his arms. The quake was worse than the second one, though probably not as bad as the first. I just hope the others will make it aboveground safe, he thought. Then he thought again. To hell with the others! They were a lot closer to the surface than he was. This was the second precipice he'd come down since leaving the cavern. And there was no one around to notice, so he could be afraid. But just a little, preferably. He heard a loud thud inches to his right and winced.
Just like it had been with the previous two quakes, everything went still from one moment to the next. Tom, now completely covered with brown dust, got up slowly. When he saw the size of the rock that had fallen to his right, his eyes widened. If it had fallen just a single foot more to the left, Tom would have been very flat and very, very dead.
He started when he heard a groan nearby. "Is someone there?" a strained voice spoke from the darkness. Chakotay.
"Chakotay! How nice to see you!" Tom called in the voice he knew the commander hated. That he had to save him was no reason to let him enjoy it. Chakotay raised a hand to protect his eyes from Tom's flashlight.
"Paris? What the heck are you doing here? Get to the surface!" Tom noted that an enormous rock was lying on Chakotay's legs. He wondered if he could get it of.
"In a bit, Chakotay. Where's ensign Mishowa? I'm here to rescue her, you know."
"She's dead," said Chakotay, "a falling rock crushed her head." A moment before his voice had been filled with shock, and even some anger, but now the pain had returned, physical as well as psychological. Inside, Tom cursed and cried over the loss of a life for a moment. Of course, he didn't let any of it show.
"Well," he said as cheerfully as he could manage, "if I can't save the lady, you'll have to do."
"I will make it up by myself, Paris, if you don't mind." Chakotay voice was ice. How can he be so cold? he thought. Paris, paying no attention to the older man's objections, went over to the boulder on Chakotay's legs and tried to tip it over. Then, he put his back to it and pushed harder. It moved, but bare inches.
Tom stopped a moment, panting. He had run most of the way down the tunnels, so he already was nearly out of breath. "No doubt," he panted, "without me, you'd be on your way already." He started pushing again. This time, he managed to lift one side enough so that Chakotay could crawl out from under it. He had to pull himself away with his arms.
When the commander had moved far enough, Tom dropped the rock. He winced. A sharp ledge cut his right palm. It wasn't a bad cut, but it had already nearly vanished in the dust covering Tom from head to toe. Being a Maquis taught you the use of keeping your wounds clean soon enough.
When Tom looked at Chakotay, however, he forgot his own slight injury. The man's left leg was twisted in all directions. His right leg was severely bruised, but miraculously, it did not appear to be broken. Well, Tom thought wryly, at least the pressure applied has stopped most of the bleeding.
"Thank you, lieutenant," Chakotay said, his voice telling he wasn't sure if being saved by Tom Paris was worth it, "I'll be fine from here on." And he actually managed to get to a near sitting position. In any other man, Tom would have admired the willpower; Chakotay, he pushed back onto the floor.
"I'm so sorry, sir," Tom mocked, then anger filled his voice, "but I'll be damned if I came all the way down here for nothing!" He then hoisted the injured man onto his back. Chakotay still refused to cooperate, but simply didn't have the strength to do anything about it. "Would you mind terribly holding on yourself?" Tom said. He would need all the strength in his arms to climb the two precipices. Damn, the man was heavy! Fortunately, Chakotay decided to oblige.
"So," Tom panted when they -- he -- had climbed the first precipice about halfway, "now that I've saved your but, it belongs to me, right? Isn't that a sort of indian custom?"
"In your dreams, White Man." Chakotay's hostile voice made Tom smile. He decided that he would make this weight on his back laugh before they reached the surface. He had lost a bet to make Tuvok smile back in the Alpha quadrant, but this should be much easier.
However, when they reached the second precipice, Chakotay still hadn't cracked a smile -- or maybe he had, but Tom couldn't stop to look over his shoulder -- and Tom's breath was getting in serious trouble of running out.
"You're incredibly dull, you know that?" Paris said while he rested for moment.
"Careful, lieutenant, this borders on insubordination," the indian responded. Ha! He was getting at least some response. He started climbing the wall.
"Oh, I'm sure they'll forgive me at the court-martial," Tom said in between heavy breaths, "after all, I came down here in an act of bravery and insanity above and beyond the call of duty." After that, they fell silent for a while. Tom was getting desperate: the man just hated him too much to laugh.
At the top of the precipice, Tom breathed a sigh of relief. From here on, the tunnel would only angle upwards slightly. The others should have made it out by now. And there had been no further quakes for quite a while.
He shouldn't have thought that.
Chakotay fell roughly to the ground and flew up again a few times when the tunnel shook again and Paris dropped him. The commander managed to shield his head, when, with the final tremor, part of the ceiling came down, but saw Paris' be hit. The lieutenant stumbled and leaned on the wall.
"Paris!" Chakotay shouted over the dying ruckus, "You all right?" The darkness hid Tom's smile.
"Worried, commander? About me?" He walked over to Chakotay and painfully picked him up again. "My head's used to worse," he added. Fine! Chakotay thought. Paris could bleed to death for all he cared. But to his surprise, or perhaps not, that didn't sound sincere right now even in his own head. They started walking again, a bit slower then before.
"Chakotay," Tom started again after a while, "do you know what would happen if the Borg assimilate Vulcan?"
"Resistance is illogical," Tom replied in a solemn voice.
Tuvok frowned. Curious. He was standing a hundred meters into the tunnel directly connected to the entrance, and if he was not mistaken -- which would be a highly illogical assumption -- his Vulcan hearing had just detected a sound that could only be identified as laughter. Cmdr Chakotay's laughter. Curious indeed.
A minute later, the lieutenant saw his Vulcan hearing confirmed in one way, and denied in another. Tuvok saw Lt Paris coming down the tunnel, carrying an apparently injured and immobilized Cmdr Chakotay on his back. But as far as Tuvok could determine, the commander was not at all in a mood to have laughed, which seemed only logical -- as far as emotions could be described by logic.
Voyager's security chief quickly sent the three crewmen waiting with him to assist the two exhausted officers, and contacted his captain.
"Tuvok to Voyager. Captain, Cmdr Chakotay and Lt Paris have just exited the unstable part of the tunnel."
"Thank god!" the captain exclaimed, and then fell silent for a moment. "And ensign Mishowa?" she queried hesitantly.
"She is not with the commander and lieutenant, and it is unlikely that she would have been left behind, were she still alive. However," he said, forestalling his captain, "I will question the commander about her condition."
"Do that, Tuvok. And get everybody... all survivors up to Voyager as soon as possible."
"As ordered," Tuvok confirmed and cut off the commlink. The others were now near him and he turned to Cmdr Chakotay, who was being supported by ensign Simms and Lt Carey. "Commander," he greeted, and got a tired nod in return. "Can you tell me of ensign Mishowa's present condition?"
The commander was silent for a while and opened his mouth to speak twice, but as of yet, nothing came out. This told Tuvok all he needed to know, but he still required a confirmation.
"She's dead. Now can we get out of here?" Mr Paris snapped. Tuvok turned to frown at the young lieutenant, who was leaning heavily on ensign Hudson. He might appreciate that the man was to the point, but he should not have interrupted his superior officer like that.
"I... agree with Mr Paris, commander. You are obviously in need of medical attention."
Chakotay nodded. "Take us out of here, Mr Tuvok."
"Congratulations, Mr Paris," the Doctor said, running a tricorder over Tom's head, "you have actually managed to receive a blow to the head which has not resulted in a concussion."
"So he will be all right, then, Doctor?" captain Janeway spoke before Tom had time to irritate the EMH further. They had arrived in the last shuttle forty minutes ago and HoloDoc had just finished with Chakotay a few minutes earlier. Aside from Tom and Chakotay, there were five other wounded still in Sickbay, but all would recover quickly. The captain, Kes and B'Elanna were also there. B'Elanna had been cleared to leave immediately after she was treated, but she had waited to hear if Tom and Chakotay were going to be all right. For a while there, she had been afraid that she had sent Tom to his death.
"With rest, captain, a lot of rest." He looked at Chakotay, who was just sitting up slowly on his biobed, from the corner of his eye and added: "The same goes for Cmdr Chakotay, I might add. Lots of rest." He didn't know why he bothered. Nobody listened to him anyway.
"I'm certain they will both make sure they get enough rest," the captain said, not really paying attention anymore. The Doctor shot her a doubtful glare. "Commander, when you feel up to it, I would like your report as soon as possible."
"I can give it to you right now, captain," said Chakotay, now standing on his feet without wavering.
"Good," said Janeway, "let's go to my ready room."
"Rest! He -- needs -- rest !" the HoloDoc called after the two officers while they left Sickbay.
B'Elanna saw her chance and took it while the Doctor stood scowling. "Um, I'd better get back to, uh, Engineering." And she left. Tom, unfortunately, wasn't as quick to respond, and the Doctor turned on him while he was still getting up.
"No!" He pointed an accusing finger at Tom. "At least one of my patients will get the rest he requires!" Left with only Tom Paris, he knew that his was a lost cause, but he had to try. It was his duty. Tom didn't even pause.
"Sorry, Doc," he said as he moved for the door, "but I really can't leave all my fans wondering if they'll ever see me again." Without Kes, who had left just before the captain and the commander and with the other patients all peacefully sedated, the Doctor was left standing in Sickbay alone.
He sighed dramatically and spoke with a martyred face and voice: "The least they could do is to try to remember how to turn a program off when they leave."
And I wondered if it was a good idea to give Mr Paris the command of an away team, captain Janeway thought the next day. She took the two cups of coffee out of her replicator and turned to her desk, where her first officer was sitting. She had actually wondered if Mr Neelix would not have been a better choice and had only refrained from choosing him because she had been afraid he would turn the away mission into a picknick outing. Paris had done better than she had expected him to.
When she sat down in her chair and handed one of the cups to Chakotay, the captain had to suppress a frown. The commander, usually reasonable to a fault, knew very well that the lieutenant had performed very well, but he seemed determined to make it seem less so.
"From what I hear, captain, if not for Lt Torres, he would have left me down there to die -- and ensign Mishowa too, he didn't know if she were still alive then, yet."
The captain took a sip of coffee; it was too hot again. She wondered if there was something wrong with her replicator. "From what I hear, commander, you tried to stay down there to die when only Lt Paris could help you," she countered.
Chakotay scowled at the hot cup in his hands, a bit embarrassed.
What happened, Janeway pondered, that made you and Mr Paris hate each other so much, Chakotay? She vowed that she would find out, somehow.
"You know, some good might have actually come of this," Tom said lightly to B'Elanna. They were sitting at a table in Sandrine's, watching but not paying attention to a game of pool going on between Harry Kim and the Doctor, who had recently gained the ability to transfer himself from Sickbay to the holodecks.
"What?" B'Elanna answered, "have you stopped hating Chakotay?"
Tom made a face somewhere between a grimace and a grin. "I wouldn't go quite that far." Suddenly the grin broke free and nearly split his face in half. "No, I was thinking more about how the two of you are deep in my debt now."
B'Elanna put her face in her hands and groaned. She should have known. Paris wasn't going to let her forget this for a long, long time.
A cheer rose from the pool table. To B'Elanna, it seemed to mock her. To Tom, it was applause.
The captain sighed. Well, she could always try again later. She would. She had vowed she would find out only twenty minutes ago. At least the commander seemed to have given up on trying to put an ugly face on Lt Paris as well.
"So has someone found out why the sensors showed all that dilithium down there, yet?" she asked her first officer.
"Lt Torres brought back a sample of the planet's rocks. She says it reads practically the same as dilithium on our sensors. The composition of the rock was also the reason we had trouble communicating. As long as there were wide tunnels connecting us to the surface we could talk, but after they collapsed..." He left it hanging.
"I don't suppose these rocks can be refined into any sort of fuel?" the captain asked.
"I'm afraid not." They sighed in unison.
"It looks like we'll be going to Mr Neelix' traders' station after all."
The corners of Chakotay's mouth turned up ever so slightly. "Are you afraid your morale officer will replenish his stores of leola root, captain?"
Janeway returned his smile. "I'm just not so sure I trust Mr Neelix' evaluation of his absolutely honest trading partners." For a moment captain and commander were lost in their seperate thoughts, then Chakotay stood up.
"Well," he said, "I have an early shift tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep. With your permission, captain..?"
"Dismissed, commander." She watched him walk away and when he reached the door, she said: "Chakotay?"
He turned in the doorway. "Captain?"
"I don't know what happened between you and Mr Paris" -- though I certainly will -- "but don't you think it is about time to forget, if not forgive?"
"Kathryn," Chakotay spoke wearily, shaking his head softly, "what happened... It will not be easy to forget, not for a long time, if ever." His eyes watched something far away for a moment, then refocused. "For neither of us, I suppose."
B'Elanna silently called herself Klingon swearwords. It had been a perfectly nice evening -- as long as Paris had refrained from getting too witty. So why had she had to mention Chakotay and chase him away? She'd known what the effect would be, but she was so damn curious why two of her best friends hated each other so much.
"Hey, Maquis, is something wrong?" She looked up from where she had been staring at the floor to see Harry sitting down in the chair Tom had vacated a little while ago.
"Nothing," she lied.
Tom Paris hummed softly to the music as he and Seska danced around in her quarters. Seska didn't care for dancing herself, but she'd discovered a long time ago that it was a good way to keep Tom occupied and to keep him from thinking too much -- or just to shut him up -- while she herself could concentrate on the matters at hand.
Tom had been a little tense when they came here, but the dancing's relaxing effect was starting to work. The Torres woman had tried to get him to give an explanation for his grudge with Chakotay. Tom hadn't told her a word, of course, but it still annoyed Seska to no end. Even she herself didn't know what the grudge was about. Had they been in the Alpha quadrant, she would have known it nearly as soon as she knew there was a grudge, or a Chakotay. But here, in the godsforsaken Delta quadrant, where she didn't have access to her resources...
But those were matters for another time. It had been over a day and Seska still didn't know how to handle the consequences of the away team incident. She didn't even know exactly what they were! She had read the reports, of course -- even the one only the captain had been supposed to read -- but they only contained the bare facts. Tom had saved Chakotay. End of story.
But Seska needed more than that; she needed to know how that rescue had influenced them both. With luck, Chakotay would only despise Tom more because he owed him his life, but her gut told her that wasn't so, and Seska trusted her gut. She had built her entire strategy of how to preserve the schism between the Maquis and the Starfleets on Voyager on the animosity between the two men. If Chakotay had just died, Seska could have found some other reason for distrust, but if they started to respect each other it would be disastrous. And if that happened, it wouldn't just be Chakotay who would feel respect -- you couldn't just save a man's life and still think you wanted him dead.
If only that fool Tom had demanded the place of first officer when he'd had the chance! He could easily have done that, as she had told him many times. If Janeway had turned him down on that, the current hostile situation would have seemed a peaceful paradise next to what it would have become. It was too late now, of course, but if he had demanded it at the beginning... The step from first officer to captain was a small one. One Seska could have arranged.
Once Tom were in the captain's chair, he would have done anything if he thought it necessary for his people. And Seska could make him believe almost anything was necessary.
Seska decided she would just have to watch how this one turned out and then make the best of it. She had no doubt she could do that. Through Tom Paris, the Maquis were all so easily manipulated. None of them realised the influence Tom had on them, not even he himself.
And then there was Torres. Yet another problem. Seska had had extensive training on how to discover and to make use of the slightest emotional eddies and she was literally the best. With her experienced eye Seska had seen what existed between Torres and her Tom the first time she had seen them together. Fortunately, she had also soon discovered that they hid it, from themselves as much as from each other. Unfortunately, since their arrival in the Delta quadrant, more and more seemed to be slipping through their mental shields. If they discovered their love for each other, Seska's influence on Tom would become virtually nonexistent. Not to mention that her Tom would most probably simply dump her.
Perhaps it was time to reestablish negotiations with that Kazon maje. It had been some time since they last talked, and he should have cooled off by now.
Suddenly Seska was pulled back to the present when she bumped into the bed, hard, and fell to a sitting position.
"Ow! Watch where you lead, Helmboy!" she chastised her dancing partner.
Tom sighed. "I'm sorry, Seska. My mind was just lightyears away."
Seska had to suppress a smile at that. He should know. No, she thought as she started to pull Tom down onto the bed, no, he shouldn't know. She wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, now, would she? But when the time was right, poor Tommy-boy would be in for quite a shock.
Story written by Niels van Eekelen. © Copyright 2004 Telltale Productions.
Since I claim that Paramount owns Star Trek, Voyager and everything in and on it, I also disclaim any claims I might have on that ship which is way out of this world (and quadrant). But I do claim my right to claim all claims on this story, and I disclaim all claims Paramount might claim on it. By the way, this story is just for fun, not profit etcetera etcetera. I borrowed ensigns Simms and Hudson from the P/T Collective (thank you) and disclaim any rights there are to claim on them.
Beta-read thanks go out to Maaike van Eekelen.