Owen Paris was not in a good mood. It was only 0900 hours and already he'd reprimanded four students and threatened to expel a fifth for gross incompetence. And, on top of that, his secretary was mysteriously absent.
He sat down at his desk, a miniature replica of Starfleet's newest intrepid-class starship now occupying the space where he'd once kept a photograph of his son. Sighing, he picked up a padd and wondered how to begin his report on his five offending cadets.
It had been a basic-level survival exercise—seventy-two hours on an L-class planetoid with a gaseous atmosphere, limited vegetation, and no geological formations that might serve as shelter. The challenge was the lack of 24th-century equipment; no tricorders, commbadges, rations, or scanning devices could be used, although basic supplies like med-kits were allowed. It was a test to see how cadets, coddled by today's technology, could adapt to the environmental conditions on an unknown world using limited resources.
Usually the teams of five cadets survived the three-day test with nothing more than a few scratches and a few less pounds, but when Owen Paris arrived at the Holodeck Training Center to assess his cadets' performance, he was greeted with the sight of five completely naked cadets sitting around a campfire.
Aghast, he'd ordered all five cadets to immediately clothe themselves. The two female students jumped up and began pulling on their Starfleet uniforms at warp-speed. The three male cadets seemed to be stalling for time, apparently dreading having to explain themselves to legendary Admiral Paris.
"What is the meaning of this?" Owen demanded once the students were once more fully-clothed. His eyes searched the faces of the five cadets, careful not to let his gaze drift anywhere below their necklines.
"Admiral Paris, I can explain, sir," said Cadet Anandi. Her dark brown hair, usually worn loose and on the border of violating Starfleet protocol, was for once tied back with what looked like a long blade of grass.
Owen Paris nodded slightly at the half-Argelian girl. Her people were known for both their peaceful habits and their sexually hedonistic nature. Owen found himself praying to any god that would listen that he wasn't going to learn about an exceptionally ill-timed Argelian escapade.
"Well, sir, we couldn't scan the atmosphere, but the blue gas appeared similar to toxic atmospheric compounds found on one of Argelius's moons," Cadet Anandi said, sounding remarkably composed for a young woman who, moments before, had been completely naked in front of her male superior. "I decided we had to combat the adverse effects of the toxins using extractions from natural vegetation," she continued, gesturing enthusiastically with her hands.
It was only then that Owen noticed the pile of grass stacked next to the campfire, where a basin of water and two stones were placed nearby to cook and then crush the plant material.
"Since all endemic vegetation must have produced a natural defense to the toxins in the atmosphere, I thought it would protect us from poisoning if we coated our skin in the plant material," Cadet Anandi explained, pointing expressively to their rudimentary tools.
Owen wondered if her empathic abilities were strong enough to sense his dubiousness. "If you thought these gases were toxic, why didn't you construct gas masks from the supplies in your medical kits?" he demanded, turning his glare from Anandi to look the other four students in the eye. One by one the other four blanched, then looked down in embarrassment.
"Sir, the toxins on Argelius's moon only cause epidermal rashes, but are not poisonous to breathe…" Anandi trailed off as Owen returned his attention to her. Owen's eyebrows and lips were forming what his son had once termed, underneath his breath, his "Gorn Glower." The unexpected memory of Tom made the Admiral's eyes narrow further.
"So, based solely on the color of the gas, you extrapolated that this atmosphere is composed of an obscure toxin found only on Argelius's moon," Owen said, pausing to make sure there could be no doubt how absurd he found this conclusion. "Then, instead of testing this theory by conventional methods such as observing rates of evaporation," he continued, pausing again to observe one of the male cadets flinch, "you instead decided to undress yourselves, removing any protection your garments may have offered, and proceeded to coat yourselves in alien vegetation, after lighting a large fire in an atmosphere that may have proved extremely combustible. Is this a correct description of your performance?"
Silence, and then a quiet chorus of, "Yes, sir." Cadet Anandi had, for once, no discernable inflection in her voice.
"Report to my office at 0800 hours for an official reprimand. I don't think it will come as any surprise that you have failed the first examination of this course," Owen said, then turned his back on the cadets before barking, "Computer, arch!" He walked out of the Holodeck, the echo of his departure ringing loudly in the cadets' ears.
The failure of his students reminded Owen of his son, though he took comfort that even Tom had performed better in his basic survival classes despite earning only a B minus in the course.
Putting down the padd containing the write-up of his students' abysmal conduct, Owen stood up from his desk and began walking towards the door when suddenly his secretary entered the room, holding a padd in her hands.
"Nicole, please remember to announce yourself before entering," Owen said, stepping to the side as his blonde secretary turned and closed the door.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I wanted to give this to you immediately," she said, extending the padd to him before turning around and leaving as quickly as she had arrived.
Owen thumbed through the padd's controls, entering his passcodes to access the classified information, happy for the distraction from the day's disappointments. Perhaps there had been some headway tracking down the rogue Maquis ships that were straining the Federation's peace treaty with Cardassia.
Instead, the report made him wish he was back in the Holodeck.
centeriThomas Eugene Paris Enlisted as Observer on USS Federation Starship/i/center
iCaptain Kathryn Janeway, who will lead the latest Starfleet intrepid-class starship on its first mission, has requested that the Federation Penal Colony in Auckland, New Zealand, temporarily release Paris from his sentence to serve on board/i Voyager…
Tom Paris's few personal effects were on the small table in his new quarters. Captain Janeway had given him a field commission of Lieutenant so he'd been provided with a slightly larger room located nearer to the bridge. The move from Deck 14 to Deck 6 had taken just one trip; he only had a small duffle bag containing his belongings from the Penal Colony since iVoyager's/i mission was, after all, short-term.
Tom placed the small replica of a 20th century American battleship at the far end of his table, trying to decide what angle would make the space look less empty.
The beeping sound of the doorway caused Tom to abandon his attempt at home décor. "Enter!" Tom said, turning around as Harry entered his quarters.
Harry looked tired, his usually gelled hair falling in wisps across his forehead. Tom wasn't surprised at the Ensign's bedraggled appearance; it was their first mission and already Voyager was guaranteed a place in the history books as Starfleet's shortest-lived starship on record. It was enough to make anyone look a little rough around the edges. Any inormal/i person, anyway; deep down, Tom grimly suspected he somehow thrived on disaster. Why else would he find it so inexorably?
"Hey Tom," Harry said, interrupting Tom's thoughts and sitting down at one of the two chairs. "What's this?" he asked, picking up another one of Tom's few belongings.
"A toy soldier, circa 1958," Tom replied, sitting beside Harry and doing his best to keep his voice light-hearted. "They were called G.I. Joes."
"Do you have any more? So you can make them fight?" Harry grinned, turning the soldier over in his hands and examining the antiquated plastic.
Tom laughed. "I was thinking of replicating another one. I think I'll call her G.I. Janeway."
"You can play Joe. I want to be on the winning side," Harry joked.
Despite himself, Tom felt his grin fade as he regarded his only friend on iVoyager./i "You have a lot of faith in the captain," Tom said, meeting Harry's dark brown eyes. He imagined he could see in them a reflection of everything he wasn't—a man unerringly loyal, persistent, eager. Naïve.
"Yeah, I do," Harry answered. "I trust her. She'll get us home."
Tom was beginning to regret initiating this conversation. He didn't want to crush Harry's optimism, but the fact remained that they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant along with murderous Kazon sects, a holographic doctor programmed with more subroutines for sarcasm than was medically advisable, a possible Maquis insurrection, and a replicator that offered 14 varieties of Tomato Soup.
Tom pushed his dark thoughts about the ship's replicators aside and grinned at Harry. "Well, maybe by the time we get home you'll outrank me again," Tom said, running a hand through his sandy blonde hair and lifting his eyebrows in an expression that taunted, iGo ahead, I/i darei you./i While it worked fairly well in bar fights at Sandrine's, it had no effect on Harry, who rolled his eyes at him.
"I suppose even Captain Janeway makes errors in judgment," Harry intoned, mock-seriously. "I suppose with you at the helm we'll be jetting to the nearest M-class planet where the female population outnumbers the male."
"You know me too well."
"I know too well a woman would have to be desperate for you to have any hope of success," Harry said, and laughed when Tom's blue eyes rounded with affected indignation.
"Tuvok to Lieutenant Paris."
Tom lifted his eyebrows at Harry and tapped his commbadge. "Paris here."
"Report to Security immediately."
"On my way," Tom replied, already on his way out the door, with Harry trailing behind him.
"Wonder what Tuvok wants," Harry said, walking with Tom halfway to the turbolift before turning to head to his quarters.
"Oh, I can only begin to imagine," Tom said. "See you later Harry."
Harry looked at him quizzically, but didn't press the issue. "Night, Tom."
Minutes later Tom was standing in front of Tuvok's office, wishing he had taken the time to replicate a Starfleet uniform with his rank; as it was, he was dressed in civilian attire, which made him feel even iless/i Starfleet than usual.
Wondering if Tuvok's telepathic abilities had already alerted him to Tom's presence, Tom pressed the keypad and walked into the Security Chief's domain.
"Sit, Mr. Paris," Tuvok said, not bothering to glance up from his padd. Tom did, and tried to clear his mind of any stray thoughts he didn't want Tuvok to sense. Immediately Tom wondered if Tuvok had "heard" him thinking that he wanted to keep his thoughts private. Annoyed, Tom gave it up as a lost cause and focused instead on the report Tuvok was reading, deciding not to take offense to being addressed as "Mr. Paris" rather than "Lieutenant."
Finally, Tuvok looked up from the padd and arched one of his eyebrows slightly; if Tom didn't know better, he'd say the Vulcan was regarding him with curiosity. But of course, Vulcans didn't feel curiosity, much less express it.
"I wanted to talk to you about your role on iVoyager/i," Tuvok began. "Now that you have been assigned the rank of Lieutenant, there are certain responsibilities expected of you now that you did not anticipate before taking this assignment."
"I realize that," Tom said, wondering if all Vulcans pointed out the obvious when beginning one of their logical deductions or if Tuvok was just especially anal. "I have been debriefed by Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay already."
"I am aware of that," Tuvok replied. Tom wondered, somewhat inappropriately, if Tuvok didn't blink as an intimidation tactic, and if so, if he had learned it from a certain Starfleet admiral. "But I have Captain Janeway's approval to give you a project regarding your original purpose on board."
"What, to provide intelligence on Maquis movements?" Tom said, the unexpected topic dragging his thoughts away from his father and bringing him solidly back to Earth, figuratively speaking. "I don't think we're going to find out too much of their plans in the Delta Quadrant, sir." He wondered if that had sounded as sarcastic out loud as it had in his head, though it was probably a moot point, as Tuvok probably heard it both times.
Tuvok's eyebrow remained quirked, and he gave no acknowledgement to having heard Tom's sarcasm. "As iVoyager's/i Chief Security and Tactical Officer, it is my job to protect everyone on board using any means at my disposal. You are in a unique position to observe the Maquis now because of your past history with Starfleet and your temporary allegiance to them," Tuvok said. "I want you to observe the Maquis and inform me of any mutinous activity you may uncover."
"You want me to spy," Tom said flatly.
Tuvok merely looked at him, still without blinking. Tom felt certain he would never challenge a Vulcan to a staring contest, despite the amount of practice he'd had as Owen Paris's son.
"I think you're overestimating my influence with them," Tom said, not liking the look on Tuvok's face now any more than he had earlier. "As you probably already know, Chakotay's not exactly a big fan of mine, and neither is B'Elanna, though I guess she probably feels equally contemptuous of everyone who didn't sign up for her cause—"
"Be that as it may, your allegiance to Starfleet is questionable as is your role on this crew," Tuvok interrupted. Tom wondered if Tuvok could detect the blood pooling in his cheeks or if he didn't need any visual cues to let him know how shamed and angry that statement made him feel. "You are the only one on board who could conceivably gain the trust of Maquis members and alert Security of any threats."
"Should I send my reports to you or to Captain Janeway directly?" Tom said, resigned to his fate as—what—double or triple-crossing spy? His allegiance had changed so many times it was hard to keep track, and that made his face burn even more.
"You will deliver them to me over a secure channel that has been set up in your quarters," Tuvok said, handing him the padd that he had been reading when Tom walked in. "You will find additional details here. You may discuss this Security Operation with no one except me or, if an insurrection is imminent, with Captain Janeway."
"Understood," said Tom, glancing down at the padd in his hands. He saw it contained only a few text files of information, judging by the amount of storage space left on its memory.
"You are dismissed, Lieutenant."
It was only after Tom had returned to his quarters that he realized Tuvok had addressed him by his rank.