Matters of Discipline

Chapter 4

It was day twenty-eight on Voyager. It had been a strange month. Even though the ship had been flying at warp speed, the crew had experienced a feeling of being suspended in time, of life on hold until the month was over. Now, there was a sense of anticipation running through the decks of the ship - except for one corner of Deck Fifteen of course. Mortimer Harren never noticed or cared about anything except his mathematical theories. Everyone else knew that day thirty was in sight.

The ship's Captain, her First Officer and her Security Chief sat at one end of the large table in Voyager's briefing room. After so many years together, these most senior of the officers had a comfortable working relationship. It was a relationship that had survived several early bumps in the road, including a period of time during which the Captain questioned her First Officer's judgment. At the time, they were dealing with Seska, a former Maquis crewmember. After Chakotay left Voyager, without authorization, to handle Seska's betrayal in his own way, the Captain had, for a time, withdrawn some of her confidence from him. She had second-guessed how he would react in similar situations, to the point that she had allowed herself to be persuaded to exclude him from the plan to expose the spy among them on Voyager.

The atmosphere in the room today was very different from the atmosphere back then. It was also considerably different from the mood at the meeting held in the Captain's ready room four weeks ago. Today, Captain Janeway radiated energy. Commander Chakotay sat at her right hand, quietly ready to begin. Lt. Commander Tuvok sat at her left with his PADDs arranged neatly and precisely in front of him. Chakotay and the Captain each had a mug of their beverage of choice within easy reach. Mr. Tuvok held to his Vulcan sense of decorum and declined any refreshment. This was a meeting about ship's business after all.

The Captain took a sip of her coffee, leaned forward and began. "Gentlemen, Mr. Paris' thirty days will be up at the end of the week. Since we've already addressed every possible charge that a Starfleet lawyer could raise against Mr. Paris over this incident, I think we can move forward with confidence once his sentence is completed." They had indeed been thorough. Since his sentence was already dictated by their agreement with the Moneans, why waste the opportunity to pre-empt any future Starfleet action? "It is important that we plan his transition back to duty carefully," she continued. "These first days and weeks will be critical in determining how well he adjusts."

"Indeed. Captain, Tuvok agreed. "Being treated as a prisoner can change a person's self perception. Upon release from the brig, there is a certain period of adjustment needed to recover from this experience. The transition can be a relatively quick one or it can be a long, difficult process."

"Do you anticipate that Mr. Paris will have difficulty re-adjusting to his role as an officer on the ship?" Chakotay asked.

"I have found that human behavior is often unpredictable. However, I believe that there is reason for optimism. Mr. Paris has proven to be a resilient individual. He has found a way to endure the worst of his confinement. It would still be wise not to leave a successful return to crew status to chance. I recommend that Mr. Paris return to his regular duties as quickly as possible. It would also be beneficial to allow sufficient opportunity for interpersonal and recreational activities. This will assist him in re-affirming his identity as a member of the crew. I personally accept responsibility for monitoring Mr. Paris during his transition period."

The Captain nodded. She respected Tuvok's expertise in these matters. She knew that, despite an occasional misstep when interacting with humans, he was more perceptive than many people gave him credit for.

"Mr. Chakotay, have you set up a duty schedule for Mr. Paris?" she asked.

"Yes, I've set up some flight simulations for his first morning. He can cover a half shift at the helm in the afternoon. I've also arranged Lt. Torres' schedule to match Mr. Paris' schedule for the next while. I understand that Mr. Kim has saved up quite a few holodeck rations. Several of the crew have donated rations to help out. Even Seven of Nine chipped in."

The Captain glanced up from the PADD that he had given her to review. "Seven?"

"Apparently, Captain, when Mr. Paris has time to relax on the holodeck, it contributes to helm efficiency.

"Of course," she said. "Why didn't I think of that?"

"Captain, are you certain that you wish to postpone the resumption of Mr. Paris' duties in Sickbay?" Tuvok asked. "Those duties were a part of his regular routine."

"Sickbay will have to wait. It is more important to get Mr. Paris fully up to speed at the helm. Besides, it won't hurt for the Doctor to have this little reminder that he is also supposed to follow my orders. Maybe he will appreciate Mr. Paris' contributions a little more if he has to make do without them for a while longer."

Chakotay made an additional entry on his PADD.

"Now to plan for the next step," the Captain continued. "We know that discipline isn't just about punishment. The word is built around the idea of learning. Mr. Paris has been a valued member of this crew. He has also been headstrong and impulsive. He has sometimes treated rules as negotiable. Our challenge is to get him to learn to consider all the consequences of his actions before he acts. I expect to end up with a better officer when this is all over. Mr. Paris may not be interested in moving up the chain of command. But, I would not be doing my job as his commanding officer if I didn't give him every opportunity to develop his skills to keep that possibility open. That holds true whether we make it home next week or years from now."

"What did you have in mind?" Chakotay asked. "He's already had a lot of experience being in command on the bridge. I don't see you tempting him with the prospect of studying to make Captain."

"There is more to command than being in charge on the bridge and there are other steps Mr. Paris can be persuaded to take without mentioning the word 'Captain'. That's where you come in, Commander."

"Oh?" Chakotay ventured cautiously.

"We know that Mr. Paris has a unique talent for questioning orders," she commented dryly. "As I recall, that's almost a job requirement for First Officer. Mr. Paris has already had experience as Acting First Officer. When Tuvok filled in as Captain and you and I were on New Earth, I understand that Mr. Paris did an excellent job."

"That is true, Captain," Tuvok confirmed.

"We should encourage those talents. There is no one who can do a better job preparing Mr. Paris to be a good First Officer than my own First Officer. I can't think of anyone more qualified to teach Tom how to question orders without crossing the line."

"Are planning to train him to replace me as First Officer?" Chakotay asked, his lips quirking upward in a teasing smile.

"Not a chance!" She answered him with the faintest trace of a smile of her own. "Seriously, though. Would you be willing to put in the time to work with Tom, to teach him what it takes to be a good First Officer?"

"I don't mind helping Tom. We still have our ups and downs, but I've found that a bit of humor goes a long way with him. In a pinch I can always get him to come around if I tell him that I need his help. It should make for an interesting experience. If necessary, I can commiserate with Tuvok. You can pity both of us while you relax over your coffee.

"Oh, you can't make me feel guilty, Chakotay. I've saved the hardest job for myself. I am the Captain after all."

"What are you planning to do, Kathryn?"

"I am going to teach Mr. Paris to appreciate and follow Starfleet regulations," she announced grandly.

Chakotay groaned. "I take back what I said. You have my sympathy. I can see you getting Tom to review the regulations. Just how are you going to get him to want to stick to them?"

"You underestimate me, Chakotay. You are not the only one who knows how to get around Tom's defenses. I have a few tricks up my sleeve."

Then Kathryn became more serious again. "I am sure you have noticed that there are times when I have, shall we say, bent the rules? Out in space, Captains are given a large area of personal discretion because there are times when it is simply necessary to be creative. But, if Captains just ignore the Starfleet regulations that are inconvenient, we cease to be Starfleet officers. A good officer has to learn to follow rules first, in order to know how and when to be 'creative' with them."

"So you can pity me while you relax over your herbal tea." Kathryn threw Chakotay's earlier line back at him. "I intend to meet regularly with Tom, and use every means necessary to keep our lines of communication open. I have no intention of letting him slip away and lose himself the way he did after Caldik Prime."

"Captain, if you don't mind me asking, what did happen at the Caldik Prime hearing?" Chakotay asked. "I reviewed the official record before we recruited Tom to the Maquis. If we hadn't needed his skills so badly, we never would have taken him. It didn't make sense to us that he was so conveniently off by himself in that bar. We were taking a big risk, gambling that he wasn't a spy. After getting to know Tom better over the past few years, it still doesn't make sense that he ended up alone in some bar."

"I've gone over the records several times myself, the Captain admitted. "I know that despite the way that Tom talks about being kicked out of Starfleet, he was actually allowed to resign. He was 'forced' to resign as he made a point of telling me that first day in New Zealand. But he still resigned. That meant that he had the right to reapply to Starfleet, the way Tuvok did after he resigned from Starfleet many years ago. Whether Tom's application would have been accepted without proof of some serious attitude changes is another matter. But the option was always there for him."

The Captain paused for a moment, deep in thought. "It is what happened after Tom left Starfleet that puzzled me the most. There are other people out there who have left Starfleet for various reasons. It's not in Starfleet's best interests to have disgruntled ex-Starfleet officers getting into trouble and giving Starfleet a bad name. Starfleet looks after its own- even after they've left. Starfleet offers counseling, along with various other services. One entire department is assigned to monitor ex-Starfleet personnel. As you know, that's one of the reasons why we had so much information on you and B'Elanna," she told Chakotay.

Chakotay did indeed know. When he resigned from Starfleet to join the Maquis, he had worked hard to try to elude that Starfleet interest.

The Captain stared into her mug. "Somehow Tom slipped through the cracks. Instead of directing him toward channels that would help him to rebuild his life, Starfleet let a highly trained pilot sink into a drunken state and get picked up by the Maquis."

"The Maquis were always wary of Tom," Chakotay commented. "We bought his services, but we never really trusted him. When Starfleet picked him up on his first mission, we were convinced that we were right all along about him being a plant, or at the very least that he had sold us out."

"Even though he was sent to prison, Commander?" Tuvok inquired.

"The New Zealand penal colony didn't seem like that much of a hardship. From a Maquis perspective, it meant good food, a warm bed and no Cardassians trying to kill you. That seemed like a pretty good deal back then. Since hearing from home, many of the former Maquis crewmembers on Voyager have come to know better."

"I don't think we'll ever know exactly what happened after the Caldik Prime hearing. My best guess is that some misinformed officer assumed that an Admiral could look after his own son. Anyone who has ever met Admiral Paris would know that he would expect proper procedures to be followed and would assume that Tom was receiving help through regular Starfleet channels." Kathryn held onto her mug with both hands. "I think there were some hard questions asked when Tom was recruited by the Maquis and even more when he ended up in prison. Maybe that's why it was so easy to get him out of Auckland. You know, he didn't have to be released from prison and go all the way to the Badlands on Voyager just to give us the little information that he did have."

The Captain looked at both of her officers in turn. "Whatever reasons there were back then for leaving Tom to cope on his own, I have no intention of allowing it to happen again. We are going to do whatever it takes to make sure that he knows that he has people on this ship he can turn to for support."

Days later, Tuvok was at work in his office. He looked up from the reports on his desk and checked the ship's chronometer. Then he put his PADDs aside to begin his walk down to the brig. Soon, the ship's corridors would be busy with shift change. For now they were deserted and refreshingly quiet. He stopped outside the brig and rechecked the chronometer. It was time.

Tuvok went inside and nodded his instructions to the guard on duty. The force field shimmered and disappeared. Tuvok noted that Mr. Paris still had not shaved. It was time to make it clear that Mr. Paris was still an officer on this ship and that he was expected to both look and act like one. "Rise and shine, Ensign Paris. Your thirty days are served. Perhaps you would care to shave?"

Tom accepted what he knew was an order. He stepped out of his prison cell to join Tuvok.

Tom Paris was a free man.

He was not alone.

The end

This story line continues in the story, The Next Morning.

Author's notes:

1) On the one hand, Kathryn Janeway has been criticized for doing Chakotay an injustice by not including him in her plan to use Tom to uncover the spy on Voyager. On the other hand she has also been criticized for not setting any consequences for Chakotay's actions when he ignored her authority and left Voyager to retrieve the stolen piece of technology from Seska. It made sense to me to connect the two events so that, yes, there were consequences for Chakotay's actions. The consequences were that he had to endure being pushed to one side when the Captain was dealing with matters, like the spy plan, that put Chakotay in the position of questioning the actions of his former Maquis crewmates.

2) There was a list of charges read against Tom. Despite frequent criticism around this point, violating the Prime Directive was not one of them. When Tom set up that conversation with Riga about a hypothetical course of action, he explained that if Riga, a member of a technologically advanced civilization, asked Tom for help, the Prime Directive permitted Tom to respond. Tom was never charged with any infractions against the Prime Directive.

3) I decided to have Tuvok monitor Tom's readjustment, based on events in the Season Five episode, Gravity. It gives a reasonable explanation why it was Tuvok who was with Tom on what was otherwise a routine shuttlecraft flight. Note that this episode was filmed right after Counterpoint, although not aired until after Bride of Chaotica. The actual filming order puts this episode early in Tom's transition back to his duties.

4) The idea for Chakotay agreeing to teach Tom about being a First Officer comes from Season Seven's opening episode, Unimatrix Zero Part Two. With Captain Janeway and Tuvok both away from Voyager and Chakotay acting as Captain, Tom puts himself forward as Acting First Officer. When Chakotay criticizes Tom for one of his First Officer actions, Tom replies that he learned from the best, indicating that he means Chakotay.

5) The idea for Kathryn to plan to have frequent talks with Tom comes from several small scenes in various episodes. In the Season Five episode, 11:59, Tom is part of a small, informal group, sitting around in the Captain's quarters. He is lounging on a chair with his feet up, as if he is quite comfortable being there. In the Season Five episode, The Fight. Chakotay has visions about people and places on Voyager. In one of his visions, Captain Janeway comes to the door of her ready room with Tom Paris standing behind her in the ready room. This must have been a common enough sight for Chakotay to visualize them this way in his hallucination. In the Season Seven episode, Natural Law, the Captain insists that Tom agree to comply with local laws in what is otherwise an unnecessary exercise, underlining that this is an important issue between them.

6) For the suggestion that Starfleet is open to the return of 'damaged' officers, consider the case of Ensign Ro from The Next Generation. She continued to be an officer in Starfleet after serving a sentence in the stockade.

7) For Kathryn's comments about Admiral Paris, refer to the Season Six episode, Pathfinder where Admiral Paris insists on respecting chain of command procedures and refuses to circumvent protocol even when the possibility of contact with his son is involved.

8) The idea that Starfleet maintains responsibility for ex-officers is tenuous, but plausible. As I mentioned in the main body of the story, in the Season One episode, Caretaker, Captain Janeway and Starfleet still have easy access to records on Chakotay. Starfleet has enough information to know how to successfully infiltrate Tuvok into his crew. In the Season Two episode, Non Sequitur, Harry's database contains current information about the alternate Tom Paris who, by then, hasn't been in Starfleet for a minimum of two years. Also, in the same episode, the other Tom thinks that Starfleet has sent Harry to try to get Tom involved in some project and it doesn't seem unreasonable to Harry that Tom assumes that this could happen. Lastly, from the series, Deep Space Nine, there is the intensity with which Captain Sisko feels responsible and insists that he has to track down, Michael Eddington, the Starfleet officer who deserted to the Maquis after serving under him. I actually hope that Sisko was acting on more than just personal motives. Otherwise his actions in that particular episode seem rather extreme and even disturbing.