Premise: Alternate-universe Voyager story. Splits off from our Voyager during "Caretaker", while Janeway and Tuvok are on the Array. After Chakotay sends his ship crashing into the Kazon battleship, the battleship goes crashing into the Array. In canon, Janeway and Tuvok aren‘t hurt, and Janeway destroys the Array later on.
In this universe, the impact of the Kazon ship causes the Array to explode. BOOM! No Janeway, no Tuvok, no way home. In the absence of any real authority figures left on Voyager, Chakotay and the Maquis commandeer the ship. Much like in "Worst Case Scenario", Chakotay plans to do things more the Maquis way, whatever it takes to get home.
An alternate universe Voyager story
by Margaret Berger (MaisieRita@aol.com)Copyright 1997DISCLAIMER: Star Trek:Voyager and all its cast and crew belong to Paramount. I‘m taking them out for a spin around the block, but I promise to make them wear their seatbelts.
(C and P, PG-13)
WARNING: This story is rated PG-13 for language. That‘s it. No sex. Not even implied sex. I can‘t believe I really wrote this.
Chakotay stared out the window of Janeway‘s office—correction, his office. Damn, it was big. He didn‘t feel quite comfortable there, yet. It had been over a week, yet he still felt like he was an intruder there. There wasn‘t too much of Kathryn Janeway evident in the room; after all, they‘d only been on the ship a few days, she hadn‘t had time to unpack before she was killed. Just a few coffee mugs, some personal padds, and one photograph of a smiling man in a grey sweater. A husband? A relative? A lover? Chakotay couldn‘t guess.
Chakotay sat down at the chair behind the desk, found himself drumming his fingers nervously on the polished surface. They‘d supplied Neelix and Kes with ample supplies of water and food in exchange for star charts of the surrounding areas, and had said good-bye two days earlier. It was funny. Chakotay had been starting to like the little guy. And he‘d miss Kes, too. She was sweet, and wise beyond her years. Her year. Spirits, she was only one. Chakotay laughed to himself. Hard to believe.
His fingers landed on a padd, carefully separated from the rest. It was from Seska: her proposal to form an alliance with the Kazon. Her ideas made sense; they were one ship, stranded a lifetime away from the Alpha Quadrant, and unless they miraculously found the Caretaker‘s wife or a wormhole, it was going to be a long, long time before they ever saw home again. How could they hope to survive out here, one ship, with no allies? The problem was, Chakotay didn‘t trust the Kazon at all. On the other hand, Voyager was already in need of massive repair. They‘d spent the past week just trying to clean up the mess left behind after the unplanned trip to the Delta Quadrant, and still, almost a quarter of the ship‘s systems were inoperative.
B‘Elanna was doing her best, but the disgruntled Starfleet crew who knew the ship were being none too helpful, and most of the Maquis engineers had no formal training. B‘Elanna was already butting heads with Joe Carey, who would otherwise have been in charge down in Engineering. They‘d even had a fight the previous day, and B‘Elanna had broken his nose.
Chakotay sighed. He didn‘t want this job, really. Too many problems, too many questions, too few answers. And then there was the big problem, the one he couldn‘t figure out how to handle, the one currently sitting in the brig ...
Tom got restlessly to his feet and started pacing. Six, seven, eight, nine ... turn. One, two, three ... His feet could do it automatically. He‘d walked kilometers over the same small stretch of floor. This was worse than solitary confinement back in Auckland. At least there, they took you out for exercise once a day, let you out for long enough so you wouldn‘t go nuts.
Maybe that‘s exactly what Chakotay was trying to do. Drive him insane. Well, it was working. Another day or two of this, he was going to start screaming from sheer boredom. Nothing to do, no one to talk to, nowhere to go. The only breaks in the monotony were when the guards came, silently, to drop off his meals. At least they were feeding him. Not that the food was so great. Some problems with the replicators, probably. They‘d gone off-line after the impact with the distortion wave, and they hadn‘t been fixed before Janeway had been killed.
A wave of depression washed over him, and he sank to the bed. Gods. How did he keep managing to do this to himself? He‘d been pretty sure, in prison, that he‘d fucked up his life as much as he could have, that he‘d hit rock bottom. His only consolation had been that things were so bad, they couldn‘t possibly get worse, that there was nowhere to go but up.
Well, he‘d been wrong. Shit. Another bad decision. It had seemed so easy at the time ... Janeway came to him, offered him a way out of prison, if he‘d help her find her missing ship. Better yet, the ship was Chakotay‘s. Good gods, it was too perfect. Nail the bastard who‘d sent him flying into a trap, get out of prison at the same time. Never mind that Janeway thought she‘d send him back when the mission was over. He‘d find a way out of it, somehow, he was sure.
So he‘d gone with Janeway, to help find her damn missing crewmember. Well, they‘d found him all right. And now Janeway and Tuvok were dead, and Tom was stuck on the wrong side of the galaxy on a ship under Chakotay‘s command. Shit. ‚What was your price this time?‘ Sanctimonious asshole. As if he‘d have done any differently. Hell, he probably would have. Chakotay would never have sold out, he was way too self-righteous for that.
Tom dropped his head in his hands and miserably reviewed what he suspected were his only options. 1) Stay in the brig for the next 70 years. 2) Get tossed out an airlock. 3) If he were very lucky, get dropped off on a planet somewhere, left to fend for himself.
Damn, it was too depressing to think about. He rose to his feet, and started pacing again. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, turn. One, two, three...
... four, five, six ... Chakotay was pacing around his office, trying to think calmly. Damn it, of all people, why did it have to be Paris who had saved his life? Spirits, the man had probably been placed in this life just to plague him.
The door chime rang. "Come in," he called out.
Seska walked in with B‘Elanna. "Captain," Seska said, a hint of a grin on her face.
"Knock it off, Seska," Chakotay replied wearily. "What can I do for you?"
"Nothing," she said, insulted. "B‘Elanna and I were going to get dinner, and we thought you might like to join us."
"I‘m not hungry," Chakotay said, walking over to the window and staring out at the unfamiliar stars.
"Chakotay," B‘Elanna said, "you need to eat. You won‘t do us any good if you end up in Sickbay. You‘re the only one holding the crew together. You know that."
He sighed, and nodded, reluctantly. "I know, but I can‘t eat right now. I have to decide what to do."
"About the Kazon?" Seska said, perking up.
"About the Kazon, too," Chakotay replied. "I was actually thinking about Tom Paris."
"I don‘t understand why you haven‘t killed him yet," Seska said, brutally. "We‘re running low on resources as it is, and he‘s taking up precious food and energy that we can‘t afford to waste."
"He saved my life."
"So I‘ll kill him. He only saved you to impress Janeway."
B‘Elanna looked at Seska curiously. "Why do you hate him so much? What did he ever do to you?"
Seska frowned. "His father ... ... ... it doesn‘t matter. He‘s a traitor.
He deserves to die."
Chakotay said, "I‘m not sure I want to kill him, Seska."
She made a face. "What other choice is there? You can‘t keep him in the brig for 70 years."
"I know that. Look, I need to think about this. I don‘t feel like eating right now, o.k.?"
"O.k.," Seska said reluctantly. "Come on, B‘Elanna, let‘s go."
Chakotay watched them leave, then shook his head and closed his eyes. Suddenly, the office, which moments ago had seemed too big, seemed too small. He had to get out, take a walk, clear his mind.
Tom was still pacing, not bothering to count his steps, simply unable to sit still any longer. It had been hours since the last meal; he guessed it was almost time for dinner. More barely edible stew, he supposed, made from some kind of tuber which that Neelix fellow had given them.
The outer door to the brig opened, and Tom looked over expectantly. His stomach dropped down to his feet. Oh fuck. Chakotay. His heart started hammering in his chest. Chakotay hadn‘t come to see him once yet; he‘d ordered Tom taken into custody as soon as the Maquis had seized the ship. Maybe he‘d decided to kill him, finally. Tom noted the phaser on Chakotay‘s belt, and felt his knees go a little bit weak. He hadn‘t included getting shot as one of his options. Chakotay wouldn‘t shoot him in cold blood, would he? Christ, maybe he would.
He forced a calm mask on his face. Shit, even if he was going to die, there was no way in hell he was going to let Chakotay have the satisfaction of seeing how scared he was. No fucking way.
Chakotay walked up to cell, gazed at him pensively for a few minutes. Tom grew quickly uncomfortable with the scrutiny, and with the silence, but for once in his life, he had no idea what to say.
Finally, Chakotay spoke. "How are you?"
Tom stared at him stupidly for a minute. "How am I? How do you think I am?"
Chakotay ignored the sarcasm. "Are you all right?"
Tom gave up. This was beyond him. "I‘m fine. What do you want, ‚Captain‘?"
Chakotay‘s face hardened. "I‘m trying to figure out what to do with you."
"Having difficulty making up your mind?"
"You could say that."
"I should have let you die down there."
"Maybe you should have. Why didn‘t you?"
"I‘m too soft-hearted. Besides, I wanted the satisfaction of punching you later. Unfortunately, I never got the chance."
"Is that why you haven‘t killed me yet? Because I saved your life?"
"Are you still deciding whether or not to kill me?"
"Yes." Chakotay‘s face was impassive.
Tom felt suddenly sick to his stomach, but he controlled his face.
"Lots of people urging you to do it?"
"Yeah, I guess no one here would care if you did." He was trying to sound flippant, but heard the tremor in his voice and cursed it.
"Harry Kim would care. He asked me to not to kill you."
Tom smiled briefly in spite of himself. "Figures. How is Harry?"
"He‘s pretty upset at how things turned out."
"This was his first mission. Fresh out of the Academy. Be gentle with him, o.k., Chakotay? He‘s just a kid."
Chakotay nodded. "He‘s tougher than you think. He‘ll be fine." He looked at Tom, speculatively. "He thinks I should let you out of the brig, and let you join the crew."
Tom snorted. "I‘d be dead in a week."
"If you lived even that long."
"You don‘t want to keep me locked up in here for 70 years, though."
"Yes. Got any ideas?"
"You could drop me off on a planet somewhere."
Chakotay looked at him thoughtfully. "You‘d never make it back to the Alpha Quadrant. You‘d never get home."
Tom shrugged. "It‘s better than being dead." He looked Chakotay squarely in the eyes for a second before the older man tore his glance away, uncomfortable. Tom laughed bitterly. "You don‘t want to do that either. I get off too easy that way? The Maquis want me punished."
Chakotay admitted it. "Yes."
"The easiest thing would be to kill you."
"Not easy for me."
"No, I suppose not."
Tom stared at him, saw the indecision in Chakotay‘s eyes, and nodded slowly. "You can‘t stand this. You don‘t want to kill me, because I saved your life. Sorry, Big Man. Sometimes life just sucks that way. The hard decisions are hard."
Chakotay turned away, hands clenched into fists. "I don‘t even know why I came down here."
"To gloat. Admit it, Chakotay, you get a kick out of knowing I‘m stuck in here, that I live or die based on your word."
"I‘m not enjoying this."
"I‘m not. Seska‘s telling me to kill you and get it over with already. Some of the other Maquis would rather have you executed publicly, and Harry Kim is in my office every day begging me to spare your life, reminding me how you saved mine. Believe it or not, Paris, this isn‘t how I like to spend my days."
Tom snorted. "Am I supposed to feel sorry for you now?"
"No," Chakotay said, suddenly exhausted. "I‘m leaving." He turned for the door.
"Wait." Tom‘s voice was quiet.
"What is it?" Chakotay turned around slowly, half afraid that Tom was going to plead for his life. Gods, no, as if this wasn‘t bad enough already. When he was facing the cell, though, Tom was sitting on the bed, looking at him with nothing but resignation written on his face.
"Chakotay, I‘m not going to beg you ... I mean, that life-debt thing, it‘s crap, I know that, but ... I‘m going crazy in here, alone like this. You‘re the only one who‘s talked to me since I was locked up." He shook his head, once, slowly. "Could you let Harry come in, once in a while? Or at least give me something to read. Something. I can‘t take this any more."
Chakotay knew that if it had been Seska standing here, she‘d have turned and walked out without bothering to reply. Of course, if it had been Seska, Tom wouldn‘t have bothered to ask. Chakotay was almost tempted to leave, let Paris sit here and rot, who cares if he was bored, but he looked at Tom‘s face, saw the silent pleading there, and came to a quick decision. "I‘ll send Kim down with some padds for you. You‘ll be monitored while he‘s here."
Tom nodded. "I know." He swallowed heavily, closed his eyes, and forced the words out. "Thank you."
Chakotay looked at him measuringly. "Don‘t thank me. I still might decide to kill you."
"I know that, too."
Chakotay took one last look, turned back for the door, and left the brig.
A week later, Chakotay was no closer to a decision than he had been. Seska was in his quarters again, still pressing him to make an alliance with the Kazon.
"I told you already," Chakotay said, beginning to lose his patience, "I‘m not willing to do that. I don‘t trust them."
"They‘re powerful, Chakotay," Seska said. "We need friends like that."
"They enslaved the Ocampans," he answered back. "They use fear to intimidate. I don‘t want those kind of friends."
Seska blew out air angrily. "Fine. You‘re going to regret it, Chakotay."
"Maybe I will."
She rounded the table, sat on the edge near him. "What are you going to do about the crew?"
"What about the crew?" Chakotay asked, lost.
"They‘re getting restless. The Starfleet crew don‘t respect your command, and the Maquis think you‘ve gone soft. I‘ve heard it from more than one person. You‘re going to have to do something to re-establish your authority, Chakotay. Something to convince them that you are the captain of this ship."
"What do you suggest?"
"Kill Tom Paris." Chakotay opened his mouth to protest, but Seska silenced him. "The longer you let him sit in the brig, the more the Maquis distrust your motives. He sold us out to Starfleet, Chakotay."
"And you think he deserves to die for that?"
"Yes. I‘m not the only one."
Chakotay looked at her carefully. "You‘ve changed, Seska. Since we got out here, you‘re different. Harder."
"I‘m adapting," she said, shrugging. "You need to adapt, too. Too many people are depending on you to get them home. You can‘t do that if the crew doesn‘t respect your authority." She reached into his desk, handed him a phaser. "Do it, Chakotay. It‘s the only way."
Chakotay stared at the phaser for a long time. The only way... the only way to consolidate his authority, to show that he was firmly in command, and, not the least, to punish the man for his treason ... one life weighed against the lives of many ... Slowly, woodenly, he reached out to her and took the weapon, then stood up. "Let‘s go."
Harry was there, again. Tom had told him, a few days ago, that these visits were the only thing keeping him sane, and Harry had looked at him very seriously, and promised to come every day, for 70 years, if that‘s what it took.
Sweet. Harry was really sweet. Tom had never met anyone like that, not anyone in Starfleet, at any rate. But then again, Harry wasn‘t in Starfleet any more. None of them were. Actually, Tom was the only one on the ship left in a Starfleet uniform. He was pretty sure Chakotay made him wear it so anyone who saw him would be reminded of his treachery. Not that anyone came to see him, except Harry. And tonight, Harry had brought someone else.
Tom remembered B‘Elanna Torres from the Ocampan caves, but he hadn‘t exchanged more than a few words with her. Harry, on the other hand, had spent a lot of time with her, before they were rescued. Now he‘d latched onto her much the same way he‘d first latched onto Tom. A friendly face. He talked about her constantly, B‘Elanna this, B‘Elanna that. Finally, Tom had told him to shut up and bring her, already. He‘d been joking. Why would a Maquis crewmember, especially one who was close to Chakotay, want to come see him?
But she‘d come, maybe just because Harry had asked her, or maybe because she was curious. She‘d been silent so far, only nodding cordially when Harry had officially introduced them. Tom was uncomfortable with her there; it made him feel like a specimen under glass, so he wasn‘t doing much talking either. Harry kept up the conversation, talking about the day‘s events. He was still at Ops, the only former Starfleet member Chakotay allowed on the bridge.
Harry was rambling on about the problems they were having trying to reroute power from the holodeck for use by other systems, when Chakotay and Seska walked in. Tom saw Chakotay‘s stony expression and got cold all over. Oh shit. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. Don‘t let him see it, flyboy. Don‘t let him see that you‘re afraid.
Chakotay came close to the cell, fixed Tom with an unwavering gaze. "Harry. B‘Elanna," he said softly. "Leave."
Harry took one look at Chakotay, saw the intractable expression on
his face, saw the phaser at his side, and paled. "Captain, you‘re not
"I‘m going to do what I have to do, Mr. Kim," Chakotay said, flatly, never breaking contact with Tom‘s eyes.
"You can‘t!" Harry said, desperately. "Please, sir, you can‘t do this."
Chakotay turned to face him, eyes cold. "Are you presuming to tell me what I can and can not do?"
"No, sir," Harry said, backing off slightly from Chakotay‘s furious glare.
"Good. I was afraid you were under the mistaken impression that this was a democracy. You‘re not in Starfleet anymore, Mr. Kim. Keep that in mind in the future. Now leave."
"But sir," Harry said, his voice pleading.
"B‘Elanna, will you please escort Mr. Kim out of the brig?"
B‘Elanna stood still for a minute. "Chakotay, are you sure about this?"
Chakotay took a deep breath. Even B‘Elanna was questioning his decisions, in front of a Starfleet officer, no less. Seska was right. He had to establish his authority, for once and for all, make it clear that he was in charge. "B‘Elanna, that was an order. Get out, and take Harry with you."
B‘Elanna stiffened angrily, before muttering, "Yes, sir." With only a second‘s sympathetic look at Tom, she took Harry by the arm and led him slowly from the room.
"Mr. Paris," Chakotay said.
Tom took a deep breath, willing his voice not to shake. "Made up your mind, I guess."
"Yes. I‘m sorry." Chakotay unhooked his phaser from his belt.
"Seska, deactivate the forcefield."
Tom closed his eyes briefly, fighting back the frightened tears that were threatening to spring to his eyes. Don‘t show him, flyboy. Keep it together for a few more minutes. He took another deep breath, straightened his back. Hell, if he hadn‘t been able to live like a Paris, at least he‘d be able to die like one. Hold your head up, Tom, he heard his father whispering. Stand tall. He lifted his head defiantly and opened his eyes.
The soft buzz of the forcefield deactivating sent a chill down his spine. Oh shit. This was really it. His heart was pounding so hard, he could barely hear over its noisy rhythm. Breathing was an effort.
Chakotay stood outside the cell, phaser poised. "Come out of there," he said, gesturing with the phaser. Tom hesitated for only an instant, then took a few cautious steps out of the cell, into the main room. Chakotay watched him. He looked calm, damn it. How could he be so calm? Chakotay had been afraid the younger man would break down, beg and plead for his life, but Tom hadn‘t uttered a word. He wasn‘t even pleading with his eyes. Spirits, with death mere seconds away, he was still standing proudly, back straight, facing forward. Chakotay had always assumed Paris was weak, that being an admiral‘s son had made him soft, but he was being forced to revise his opinion. The man wasn‘t even afraid of dying ...
Then he took a closer look, saw Tom‘s chest heaving, breaths coming too rapidly, saw Tom‘s hands clenched tightly at his sides, saw the fear unsuccessfully hidden in his eyes. He was afraid, just too proud to beg for his life. Not from Chakotay.
Chakotay was feeling a little dizzy. It‘s now or never, he told himself. Go ahead and do it. You‘re not making it any easier on him by waiting.
Tom saw Chakotay‘s grip tighten on his phaser, and felt his stomach lurch. Please, he prayed, don‘t throw up before it happens. Go out with some dignity. His eyes kept threatening to close, and a scream was waiting at the back of his throat. He forced it down, looked straight at Chakotay and whispered, "Don‘t miss."
The comment made Chakotay pause. Paris always had to get in the last word. Chakotay didn‘t understand him at all. Gods, how could he go through with this, the man had saved his life... an offhand remark Paris had made the week before flashed through his mind and jogged his curiosity, gave him a reason to wait. He relaxed his arm muscles slightly. "Why did you want to punch me?"
"What?" Tom looked like he was about to be sick.
"You said you saved my life so you could punch me."
"Chakotay," Tom said, voice barely above a whisper, "if you‘re trying to give me a few more miserable minutes of life, I‘d rather you didn‘t. Just get it over with." The anticipation was agony; his heart had never pounded so fiercely, his stomach had never been twisted so tightly. He was afraid he was going to collapse, or vomit, or start screaming, and that‘s not how he wanted to die. Oh gods. He didn‘t want to die at all.
Chakotay closed his eyes briefly. "Humor me. Why did you want to punch me?"
Tom was breathing heavily. "I can‘t believe you‘re ... why do you care? It doesn‘t matter anymore. You‘ve got the ship, you‘ve won."
"Tell me, Paris. Please. A last request."
"I‘m the one that‘s supposed to get the last request," Tom said, trying to joke. Gods, he was going to faint if he had to stare down the barrel of that phaser too much longer. He forced his mind to concentrate. "I wanted to punch you for sending me to prison."
Chakotay was stunned. "What are you talking about? I didn‘t send you to prison, Paris. You got caught."
"Of course I got caught. You sent me into a trap."
"They were waiting for us. Three starships. We never had a chance. Didn‘t you know?"
They stared at each other for a few seconds, then Chakotay said softly, "You thought it was my fault. That‘s why you came after me."
Tom nodded, once. "That was part of it. Prison was ... pretty lousy, Chakotay. I‘d have done anything to get out of there. Getting back at you was just icing on the cake."
Another few tense seconds passed, then Chakotay lowered the phaser. "Get back in the cell," he said, with no emotion in his voice.
Tom stared at him, blankly. His brain was still sluggish. I can‘t take this again, he thought. Next time he comes back for me, I‘ll be screaming. "If you‘re sparing me now just to come back and kill me later, you‘re not doing me any favors."
"I‘m not going to kill you. Get back in the cell."
"Chakotay!" Seska said furiously. "What the hell are you doing?"
Tom didn‘t move. He watched Chakotay turn slowly to Seska, fire in his eyes. "I am not going to kill him," Chakotay said deliberately, clearly enunciating each word.
"Why not?" she spat out. "You don‘t believe that fairy story about a trap, do you? He sold you out to Starfleet, Chakotay, don‘t you remember? We discussed this. You have to kill him."
Chakotay‘s face froze, and Seska‘s eyes widened. She took a step backwards. "Don‘t ever forget I am the captain of this ship," Chakotay said, softly. "I do not take orders from you. You take orders from me." Seska nodded once, almost meekly. Chakotay continued, oblivious. "I am not going to kill Tom Paris, now, or ever. He saved my life, he owns it. So long as I‘m alive, he is not to be harmed. Do you understand that?" At Seska‘s nod, Chakotay said, "Good. See that the rest of the crew understands it as well. Paris, get back into the cell."
Numbly, Tom stepped back into the cell, remaining on his feet while Chakotay reactivated the forcefield and left with Seska, without saying another word. As soon as the doors had shut behind them, Tom‘s legs gave out and he collapsed heavily onto the bed. His whole body was shaking. Shit shit shit, he thought to himself. Shit. Shit. Shit. He stayed there for hours, huddled on the bed, arms wrapped around himself to contain the trembling that he was powerless to stop.
The next morning, the guards appeared at breakfast time, empty- handed. "Get up," the taller one said. A big bruiser. Tom scanned his memory for a name. Ayala, he thought. Chakotay had brought him along when he‘d first beamed over to Voyager. Tom didn‘t move.
"Get up," Ayala repeated, firmly.
Ayala‘s mouth tightened. "Don‘t talk. Get up."
Tom stood up, finally. The other Maquis deactivated the forcefield, and Ayala gestured for Tom to come out of the cell. They led him out of the brig, down the corridor to a turbolift, and then to a small room on a different deck. Crewman‘s quarters, it looked like. Ayala and his associate pushed Tom roughly inside and left, locking the door behind them. Breakfast, long since cold, was waiting on a small table.
Tom was starving. Sometime in the middle of the night, he‘d woken up and thrown up all he‘d eaten for dinner. Nerves. Got to him, sometimes, when things were bad, and last evening had been pretty damn bad. He didn‘t bother looking around the room, certain that there‘d be nothing interesting to find; instead, he sat down and ate his meal. Afterwards, he prowled around the quarters, surprised to find his dufflebag in the bedroom. Packed hastily, it looked like, but all his stuff was there.
After he‘d showered, shaved, and, thank the gods, put on some clean clothes, he threw his fairly rank uniform in the ‚fresher. There wasn‘t much else to do, after that. The replicator had been deactivated, as well as the computer. He spent the rest of the day staring at the walls, wondering what the hell was going on, discarding implausible explanation after implausible explanation.
Harry arrived after dinner, so relieved to see Tom alive that he couldn‘t speak for a long time. He came barreling through the doors and hugged Tom silently for a while. Tom was overwhelmed; he felt tears prickling in the corners of his eyes. He disengaged himself gently. "It‘s all right, Harry. I‘m o.k."
Harry stared at him. "I thought he was going to kill you."
"He almost did. I‘m not sure why he didn‘t."
A female voice answered him. "He‘s not a killer." Tom looked up, startled to see B‘Elanna standing at the entrance to the bedroom. "I didn‘t think he‘d be able to go through with it."
Tom snorted. "He came pretty damn close. I was about 5 seconds away from being phaser dust."
"He wouldn‘t have pulled the trigger."
Tom didn‘t answer. Just thinking about it was making him queasy. He sat down on the bed to hide his suddenly weak knees. "Harry, do you have any idea what‘s going on?"
Harry answered, "Chakotay decided it was inhumane to keep you locked up in the brig any longer. You‘re confined to quarters."
"For how long?"
Harry looked uncertain, and B‘Elanna spoke up. "Indefinitely, I think. Until he decides what else to do with you."
"How long will that take?"
B‘Elanna shrugged. "He‘s pretty busy right now, Paris. Don‘t hold your breath."
Another system malfunctioning. Sweet spirits, this was ridiculous. "How long," Chakotay heard himself asking wearily, "until you can get life support up to full capacity?"
Harry and B‘Elanna looked at each other silently, exchanging some sort of message with their eyes. "I don‘t know," B‘Elanna said finally. "A few days? Maybe ... if we can even get the supplies we need. Everything‘s falling apart; we‘re holding it together with spit and optimism."
Chakotay rubbed at his eyes tiredly. He wasn‘t suited for this. Suited to be an officer on a Starfleet starship, yes. Part of the command structure, even. But not captain. At least, not captain of a doomed ship. In the Maquis, there had been an immediate goal, an immediate threat. It had kept the crew cohesive, given them focus and purpose. Here ... everything was falling apart around them, and their goal was 70 years distant.
He blinked and shook his head to clear it, moving on to the next item on the agenda. "Supplies. Have we been able to locate additional sources of food?"
Harry and B‘Elanna exchanged another look. "According to
Neelix‘s star charts," Harry said, "we‘re approaching a planet where we can restock."
Finally, some good news. "How long until we reach the planet?"
"One week," Harry said, quietly, leaning back in his chair, away from Chakotay.
"One week," Chakotay repeated. "And when will the emergency rations run out?"
"In about eight days," Harry said, leaning even farther away from Chakotay.
"That doesn‘t give us much of a margin of error."
"No, sir," Harry said.
Chakotay sighed. He had a headache. "I don‘t want to deal with this right now. I think we‘ve covered all the major points. We can talk about the rest later."
"Sir?" Harry ventured. "What about Tom Paris?"
"What about him?"
"He‘s been locked up in his quarters for over a month."
"Your point being?"
"His point, Chakotay," B‘Elanna said, with a warning glance at Harry, "is that you said you‘d decide what to do with him, that you didn‘t want to leave him in the brig for 70 years."
"He‘s not in the brig."
"He might as well be," Harry protested. "He hasn‘t left those quarters since the day you put him there."
"Has he been complaining?"
B‘Elanna jumped in before Harry could say anything. "No. We just feel badly for him. Those cabins can get really claustrophobic after a while."
"Mr. Paris should be thankful he‘s not dead," Chakotay said dryly. "If he‘s having trouble with claustrophobia, he can contact the Doctor. I‘m sure there‘s an appropriate medication for it." The throbbing in his head grew worse. "I‘m sorry he‘s unhappy. I haven‘t had time to think about it. When all the problems with the ship have been fixed, I will decide what to do with Tom Paris. All right?"
The ship shuddered, and the warning klaxons of a red alert interrupted them seconds before they were thrown violently to the floor. "Captain to the bridge," a voice cried over the comm system.
In his quarters, Tom had just finished sculpting a pretty pathetic bird when a violent jolt landed him on the floor, covered with clay. The lights in the room dimmed, and the red alert sirens sounded. Tom wondered what was going on. He had no station to report to, nothing to do in case of emergency. He wondered, idly, if the lock on his door would unlock in a case like this. He tried it. It didn‘t open.
He shrugged and set about cleaning up the clay. Several more jolts threw his few possessions around the room. One particularly rough one sent him slamming into the wall. "Inertial dampers off-line," he muttered to himself. "Strap yourselves in, boys."
The ship began to shudder and groan. "What the *hell?" he wondered, out loud. "Who‘s the idiot flying this ship?" The particular pattern of shakes and rolls might have seemed random to someone else, but Tom was a skilled and intuitive pilot. He paid careful attention to the feel of the ship. "They‘re trying to manually compensate. This isn‘t some 10-person crew Maquis fighter, it‘s a damn starship, you idiots."
Another jolt. Another roll. "Starboard nacelle is out. Jeez, the containment fields aren‘t going to hold much longer—oof!" He crashed into the wall. Tom wisely decided that the bed was the safest place to be, and lay down on it, praying it was securely bolted to the floor. What a disaster. He would have sworn he could hear the ship creaking.
Suddenly, the doors to his quarters slid open. Ayala stood there, bracing himself against the door frame. "Captain Chakotay wants you on the bridge," he said tersely, waving a phaser at Tom.
"What? You‘ve got to be mistaken." For a minute, Tom was convinced that this was a ploy, that Ayala was going to use the confusion as an opportunity to get rid of Tom for once and for all.
Ayala glared. "You‘re wanted on the bridge. You can walk or I can carry you." Another jolt shook the ship and Ayala almost fell.
Tom waited until the shaking stopped before rising from the bed. "All right," he said, flippantly. "How can I turn down such a charmingly phrased invitation?"
He followed Ayala out the door. Once in the corridor, Ayala motioned for him to walk ahead of him. They made their way slowly and carefully to the bridge, clinging to the walls when necessary, Tom uncomfortably aware of the phaser pointed at his back. The ride in the turbolift wasn‘t nearly as bad as Tom had expected; the ship‘s violent motion had calmed slightly. Tom suspected that someone possessing at least a passing familiarity with Starfleet vessels had taken control of the helm.
They emerged from a turbolift onto the bridge minutes later. It was a mess. Smoke filled the air, only the emergency lights were working, and there were exposed wires dangling from the ceiling, shooting sparks in random directions. Tom was only minorly surprised to see Chakotay sitting at the helm. He‘d known since his days in the Maquis that Chakotay was an excellent pilot.
"Paris," Chakotay said, with no prelude, stabbing angrily at the helm controls, "We‘re stuck inside a quantum singularity. The gravimetric distortions are crushing the ship."
"What do you want me to do about it?" Tom asked, crossing his arms defiantly. "If you‘ve crossed the event horizon, there‘s no way back."
"There‘s a hole, where we entered. B‘Elanna located it using a warp particle stream. We think we can get back out the same way we came in, but the ship‘s coming apart around us."
"The inertial dampers are off-line, and so‘s your starboard warp nacelle," Tom stated.
Chakotay stared at him. "How do you know that?"
"I can feel it." Tom crossed to the conn, scanned the displays. "I can get you out, but you‘re going to have to increase the shield strength back to maximum, and divert all non-essential power to the navigation systems."
B‘Elanna was sitting at the Engineering console. "I‘ve already shut down all the non-essential systems. Life support is at minimum levels. I can bring the shields back up to maximum, but only for a few minutes."
"That‘s all it will take," Tom said, sitting down at the conn as Chakotay vacated the seat. "Wait until I tell you to do it." He started punching in commands, one after the other, smoothly, eyes flashing from the console in front of him to the viewscreen. He could sense Ayala standing behind him. "Chakotay, tell your trained gorilla to get his phaser off my ass. You either trust me to fly this ship or you don‘t."
He could hear Ayala‘s curse, then Chakotay‘s sharp tones. "Put your weapon away, before I take it away from you."
Tom‘s fingers were flying across the console. "Shit, the gravimetric flux density is off the scale. I wish the inertial dampers were working." The ship shook violently. "Sorry," Tom said. "It‘s hard to keep us steady ... there‘s graviton waves coming at us from all directions." A few more tense minutes passed. The ship was shaking almost continuously, and Harry was nervously counting down the time until a hull breach.
"We‘re in position," Tom called out finally. "Torres, I need maximum shields and all power routed to the port warp nacelle, now."
"Confirmed," she said.
"Hold on, everybody," Tom warned. "I can get us out, but it‘s not going to be fun..." With a shudder, the ship jumped to warp, and chaos filled the bridge. The few crewmembers who hadn‘t braced themselves found themselves flying across the bridge. A few of the remaining working consoles exploded, and the resulting smoke filled the air, made it difficult to see and breathe.
Chakotay clung to his chair, desperately. Tom was busy working the conn, not speaking any longer. Chakotay wasn‘t even sure how Tom was staying in his seat. Probably too busy to go flying around. He could hear Tom cursing softly under his breath, willing the ship to hold together, coaxing the engines to perform.
Then, suddenly, it was over. Chakotay breathed a huge sigh of relief. "We‘re out," Tom said quietly. He stayed at the conn for only a few minutes more, making sure the ship was well clear of the singularity. Once it was obvious they were in normal space, Tom got up from the conn before he was asked to. He turned around, stared at Chakotay challengingly. "That‘s twice I‘ve saved your butt, Chakotay," he said.
Chakotay stared at the pilot. An angry retort jumped to his lips, but he swallowed it, and said, instead, "That‘s twice. Thank you. Mr. Ayala, please escort Mr. Paris back to his quarters."
The next morning, Tom was up early, cleaning his quarters. He hadn‘t slept well—the excitement of the previous day, after almost two months of forced inactivity, had left him restless. He forced himself back into his usual routine. There was so little to do, so little to keep him busy, that he‘d gotten into the habit of alternately messing up and cleaning up his quarters. Wreck them one day, clean them the next. If nothing else, it helped pass the time.
His thoughts drifted to Chakotay. Damn him, anyway. How long is going to keep me in here? That‘s twice I‘ve saved his ass. The least he could do is put me off the ship, let me have some sort of life. Tom glared furiously around the cabin, sick of looking at it.
The door chime startled him. It wasn‘t time for breakfast yet, and Harry never appeared until dinner time, so it must be ... "Come in, Chakotay," he called out.
Chakotay entered, a little bit flustered. "How did you know it was me?"
"I‘m psychic. Didn‘t you know?"
Chakotay took a breath to calm himself. Paris was wearing that irritating smirk again. It always drove Chakotay crazy, made him want to hit the man and wipe it off forcibly. "I just came by to thank you for yesterday. You saved the ship."
"You‘re welcome. I didn‘t do it for you. I just didn‘t want my ass blown sky-high because your pilot was incompetent."
Chakotay turned away, took another deep breath. His eyes fell upon a few pictures leaning up against the wall. "Did you paint these?"
Tom‘s eyes followed his gaze. "Yeah. They‘re pretty lousy. I‘m not much of an artist, but ... ," he shrugged, "... it‘s something to do."
Chakotay nodded, absently. He saw the ruined bird from the day before. "You sculpt, too?"
Tom snorted. "I have less talent as a sculptor than as a painter."
Chakotay nodded again. "Any other hidden talents?"
Tom crossed his arms belligerently. "Look, Chakotay, as much as I love having you here, I‘ve got a really busy day ahead of me, so if you don‘t have anything more to say, you might as well leave."
Chakotay frowned. Damn, the man wouldn‘t let anything be easy. Everything was always a challenge, he was always trying to provoke an argument ... Chakotay wondered if his idea was even worth mentioning. Gods, if only Paris weren‘t such a damn good pilot.
From the way Tom was viewing him, contempt and dislike shining in his eyes, today wasn‘t the best day to bring up any new proposals. It was all right. He could wait. "If you‘re really busy," he said sarcastically, "I‘ll leave." He turned for the door.
Tom watched him, still feeling angry. Shit, that was just like the man. ‚Thanks for saving my life again, Paris. I‘ll go now.‘ Gods, he couldn‘t stand it. He had to get off this damn ship. "Chakotay," he said, trying to sound firm. "The least you could do is put me off the ship."
Chakotay turned back, looked at him thoughtfully. "You‘re right. It would be the least I could do." Tom stared at him for a second. He hadn‘t been expecting any sort of capitulation, much less one so soon. Chakotay took advantage of Tom‘s silence. "The very least I could do is let you go. You‘ve saved my life twice. I owe you that much. But," he paused for a second, "I might have an alternative."
"I could assign you to the conn, permanently."
Tom blinked. "What?"
"You heard me."
"I‘m not sure I did. Why would you do that?"
"A couple of reasons." Chakotay had been thinking about this the whole night before, for hours, until he‘d managed to fall into a restless sleep. "For one thing, you‘re the best pilot on the ship. For another, you‘re using up energy and food but not contributing anything back for it. And lastly... you‘re right. I owe you." He looked at the pathetic blob of clay passing for a bird. "Besides all that, you‘re a lousy sculptor."
Tom almost smiled. Almost. "What‘s the catch?"
"What‘s your price? You‘re not just letting me fly the ship with no strings attached."
"Yes, I am. No strings. No catch. You‘ll be a regular member of the crew. On a trial basis, of course."
"Of course. And if it doesn‘t work out?"
"I find a space station and drop you off. You go your way, we go ours."
"Uh huh." Tom nodded skeptically. "Seska‘s not going to like it."
"I‘ll deal with Seska. She‘s not in command here, I am."
Tom looked at Chakotay‘s face. "You still don‘t like me."
Chakotay admitted it. "No. You don‘t like me either."
"That‘s all right. So long as we understand each other."
Tom looked around his quarters again. He‘d been itching to get out of them, but now that he might be able to, he found himself getting unaccountably nervous. "Chakotay, if I leave these quarters, I‘ll be dead by tonight."
"No you won‘t. I‘ll ensure your safety. The Maquis won‘t bother you. They may not like you, but they won‘t hurt you."
"Uh huh," Tom said again. He looked around. It wasn‘t really much of a decision to make. "All right, I‘ll do it. On a trial basis."
"Fine," Chakotay agreed. "You‘re on duty at 1400 hours." He walked towards the door, then paused. "Computer, reactivate the replicator and computer terminal in these quarters, authorization Chakotay - 7 Alpha 3."
"Replicator and computer terminal have been reactivated," the computer replied neutrally.
"Computer, do you still have the voice record of Thomas Paris on file?"
"Reset the entry authorization program for these quarters to operate on voice command of Thomas Paris, authorization Chakotay - 7 Alpha 3."
"Confirmed. Entry authorization program for these quarters is keyed to the voice command of Thomas Paris."
Tom stared at Chakotay, no trace of emotion on his face. "I hope you don‘t expect me to thank you for this."
Chakotay looked back at him bleakly. "No. It never occurred to me that you would." He walked to the door. "I‘ll see you on the bridge, Paris."
"I‘ll see you on the bridge. Captain."
It occurred to Chakotay, as he walked out to the hall, that that was the first time Tom had ever called him ‚Captain‘ without making a mockery of the word. Hell, it was a start. Maybe they could actually make it work. And if not ... well, there were plenty of space stations and planets around. If nothing else, he could get Tom Paris out of his hair once and for all.
On the other side of the door, Tom was standing, immobile, too stunned by events to move. Finally, he shook his head and laughed. Of all the options he thought he‘d had, he would never have guessed he‘d end up piloting this ship. Who knew, maybe they could actually make it work. And if not ... well, there were plenty of space stations and planets around. If nothing else, he could escape from Chakotay once and for all.
The end, sort of.