Chapter 4

"The Laresa IV disembarked early this morning, sir," Admiral Paris's aide, a thin pasty-faced lieutenant advised efficiently from the other end of the comm link. "We have every reason to believe that your son transported to Cairns before dawn local time and was on board when the vessel left port.

Owen stared stonily at the view screen for a long time before responding. When he did his voice was clipped and emotionless, barely concealing his acute anger. How could the boy do this? He'd been granted privileges and opportunities that most could only dream about, and yet he'd cast it all carelessly aside for some reckless adventure with that Lefevre girl.

"I want the boat intercepted and my son returned ASAP, is that clear lieutenant?"

The young officer cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, well sir, that might be a little… difficult." He paused briefly to check the Admiral's reaction, then wished he hadn't.

"It's a civilian vessel, Admiral, on an official GEA expedition," he continued quickly wanting to get it over with. "Starfleet have no jurisdiction."

That definitely got a reaction as Owens fist pounded down heavily onto his desk. "To hell with that," the older man spat furiously "Connect me to Senator Patello, she's on the GEA board."

He'd recently helped the vile woman secure a place at the academy for her idiot nephew. Now it was time to call in the favor.

"We'll soon see about jurisdiction…"


So distracted was he at that moment, fuelled by an overwhelming blinding rage and sense of betrayal, that he wasn't immediately aware that Miriam had entered his study until her soft voice calling his name for the second time cut across his tirade.

"Owen, don't."

He had no idea how long she had been standing there, what she had heard, but the disconsolate look on her beautiful face spoke volumes. Not for a second did he consider that he might be partially responsible for his wife's troubled state. That honor was all Thomas's as far as he was concerned, and he would make damned sure the boy suffered the consequences for causing his mother such distress.

Miriam moved from the shadows to his side, laying a hand on his arm.

"Leave him be Owen, let Tom have his summer."

Owen stared incredulously into the face of the woman he had loved unconditionally for more than thirty years. When he had regained a level of composure he turned quickly back to the comm "Stand by for further orders, lieutenant," he snapped, pausing the link with a sharp jab of his finger. The screen reverted instantly to a Starfleet logo.

"Miriam…" he began, rising from his chair to face her properly. His large frame almost dwarfed her slender one, but she stood her ground.

"I'm just asking you to trust him, this once," she urged. The ghost of a smile touched her lovely face and lit her blue eyes. "He's a lot like you, you know." her tone was almost teasing. "Brave, loyal, spirited… "

"Wild, impulsive…" Owen cut in.

"Which are the same qualities that first attracted me to you all those years ago," she countered.

"…headstrong, disobedient," Owen added caustically.

Miriam Paris sighed, shaking her head sadly. "And that's what this is really all about, isn't it? Disobedience. For probably the first time in his life our son has made a stand for something…someone… that's truly important to him. But by doing that he's undermined the authority of the mighty Admiral Owen Paris."

"This is not just about Richelle Lefevre," he snapped out. "There's more at stake here than you realize, Miriam." His large hands gripped her shoulders as his gaze burned into hers. "Thomas has gone AWOL, he could be in serious trouble…"

"No he hasn't." She pulled out of his grasp and took a few steps away from him.

"What?" he rasped out, not sure he'd heard correctly.

"Starfleet Academy only requires the consent of two senior officers for the release of a cadet during summer break " Miriam squared her shoulders and lifted her chin defiantly, in a move eerily reminiscent of her son. "He already had authorization from Commander T'Elko…and I got an old friend of mine to second it. Tom is now officially on leave."

Admiral Paris stared blankly at his wife, before sinking back down into his chair. Not quite the reaction she anticipated, but better than the she could have hoped for under the circumstances. Miriam headed for the door which opened soundlessly at her approach. Just before she exited, she turned to her husband once more.

"Leave him be just this once Owen, let him find his own path. Otherwise we could lose him for good."

For some time after his wife had left the room, Owen Paris sat in quiet contemplation. Mulling over her words; wondering what he had done to so distance himself from his own family. A small part of him knew she was right;; knew he pushed the boy too hard at times and was then surprised when he occasionally showed some grit and pushed back. But another more dominant - uncompromising - part of his psyche couldn't quite come to terms with this reasoning and bitterly resented these acts of disloyalty from both his son…and now his wife.

Dismissing his own misgivings, Owen leaned forward and tapped the key pad of the comm link once more. "Connect me to Senator Patello!"