Disclaimer : You know the drill...I own nothing, only my sinister view of the world :) and some caracters, and the story, and the idea behind it...The rest, I borrowed it :) and hope they don‘t sue me...
Background : Well, this really is the continuation of another novel, so it would be advisable to read that one first. For those of you stubborn enough not to do so, here‘s a lil‘ summary :
DS9 is still under occupation. The minefield is down, but the Prophets ridded the Federation of the Dominion reinforcements. Oh, yeah, perhaps the most important thing is that Voyager has returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Paris, Tuvok, Data and Crusher are on some sort of special mission for the Federation.
Voyager and Enterprise-E have fought in the battle with the Defiant. When things were running badly indeed for the Feds, some ‚old friends‘ appeared.
And now the Continuation...
Author‘s Note : Again, I have to apologize to all the P/Tlers out there. This one, I‘m afraid, is not really a P/T story either. Perhaps towards the End, but I dunno. But I think there will be plenty of feelings in this one, in other words, perhaps it will get a bit sappy. Or perhaps not. Well, last time we left Picard, hanging out with Sela (I hope you remember her), and Paris being hung out by some Cardassian lunatic. Well, lets see what I got for you this time. :)
Feedback will be appreciated, enshrined, and carefully read! Feel free to write. You liked it? You hated it? You survived it? Tell me about it :) Everything, from praise to scorn, goes to: email@example.com
Dedicated to Gene Roddenberry, for having invented Star Trek and making us believe in a better future, as always, and to William H. Keith jr. and Micheal A. Stackpole, some of my favourite authors. Oh, yeah, and to Terry Pratchett, my actual (!) favourite author. Also I would like to thank William Shakespeare, who helped me greatly in my last effort, even if he doesn‘t know it...and to the many poets who will appear in this one...As well I would like to apologize to all those who can‘t stand poems and whom I will bother with lots of them...this time and forever and ever :)
Dedication: In 1991, in what we call the 2nd Gulf War, the SAS, a British Special Forces unit, became actively involved in the conflict. An eight men-strong combat patrol of the 22nd SAS was send out to observe the Iraqui Main Supply Road, and, if possible, to locate and destroy Iraqui SCUD launchers. Their outpost‘s security was compromised on the second day, and the unit forced to withdraw. The patrol, Bravo Two Zero, fought its way out of immediate danger, losing one man, and then got separated. The missing three men, of whom two were wounded, headed to the Syrian border. One of them swam across the frozen Euphrat and was rescued. The other two didn‘t. The remaining four of the patrol were captured and submitted to brutal and barbarian torture, before being released. In total, the eight men of Bravo Two Zero left over 200 dead or wounded Iraquis behind.
This is for the three who didn‘t come back.
Note: The newly (or rather, soon-to-be) introduced character of Captain Chris Ryan is not named after me, but after Corporal Chris Ryan, SAS, the single soldier of Bravo Two Zero to make it over the Syrian border, after a 300 km march through the Iraqui desert, with only 2 packets of biscuits to eat and practically nothing to drink.
The Price of Admiralty
« Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown‘d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark‘d him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav‘n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis‘ry all he had, a tear,
He gain‘d from Heav‘n (‚twas all he wish‘d) a friend. »
Thomas Gray, Epitaph
Part 5 - "It‘s nothing personal, it‘s just the times."
Alex Renton swallowed hard, and tried to talk, but his mouth was dry and felt sore, from the day-long water deprivation. What had the Cardassian said? 6 days without water...Alex wondered how much longer he would survive without anything to drink. The words uttered from his throat were hardly understandable, even to Alex himself. He suspected that his capturers had pumped him up with drugs, to loosen his tongue.
‚Mr. Renton, the sooner we get this done, the sooner you will get something to drink. And...the sooner you will see your friends again,‘ Deka said.
‚They‘re alive?‘ Alex questioned.
‚Possibly. You see, some were not cooperating, if you understand.‘
Alex could virtually feel the cruel smirk the Cardassian officer gave him. Slowly circling around him, like a hunter playing with his prey, Deka questioned him further.
‚Who are you?‘ he inquired.
‚Renton Alexander, Lieutenant.‘
In the meantime, enough saliva had assembled in Alex‘s mouth and throat to allow him to speak normally.
‚Who are you?‘ the Cardassian repeated, this time louder.
‚Renton Alexander, Lieutenant,‘ Renton said confusedly.
The Cardassian slapped his face, hard.
‚Who are you?‘ he yelled. ‚No, wait. I will tell you. You are my prisoner, N° 5472.‘
The Cardassian walked over to behind his desk.
‚Where are you, N°5472?‘
‚This must be Corvus II...I-‚
‚I‘m afraid this isn‘t Corvus, .‘
‚It has to be! My team was on a mission here!‘ Instantly he kicked himself mentally, for giving away that piece of information, but he didn‘t even think before giving it. Apparently the drugs already began working.
‚Ah, there it is. Yes, your team was on a mission, but not here. This, my friend, is Siona Prime, a small planet near the Cardassian border. A harmless world, without any military installations apart from this.‘ Deka gestured to the room they were in. ‚A prison camp for POWs. I believe that‘s the term your government uses?‘
‚A prisoners of war camp? But we were told..‘
‚About a storage facility? We know that, N°5472, your green-blooded friend with the pointed ears already told me that.‘
‚Tuvok? Is he-‚
‚Alive? Oh yes, he lives...barely.‘ Deka merely whispered the last words, but it made his captive shudder.
‚So, N°5472, you were told to destroy a storage facility. But, instead, you awaken and you find yourself a prisoner of war, accused of terrorism. Your team has destroyed civilian buildings. What does that make you feel?‘
Alex grunted. ‚Do you expect an answer to that one.‘
‚My dear N°5472, you are a very stoic specimen. But your willpower is wasted here. The drugs I injected you will tell us everything we want. I would have preferred more Cardassian ways, but our allies, the Dominion, do not like what they call "atrocities".‘
‚What do your allies expect then?‘
‚A quick victory?‘ Deka suggested.
Alex snorted. ‚Great! A sadistic megalomaniac with a sense of humor.‘
For a moment, everything was silent.
He didn‘t even see what hit his head, before he fainted away.
When B‘Elanna Torres entered the mess-hall, her first reaction was to be surprised. The entire command staff as well as a good part of the crew had assembled, all wearing Gala-Uniforms. The tables had been re-arranged, so that all crew-members had a clear view on the Command staff table. B‘Elanna walked over to where Janeway and Chakotay stood. Both of them greeted her with a sympathetic nod.
Soon, Neelix called everyone to their seats. Slowly, the little conversation that there was ceased, as everyone waited for what was coming next.
And just as slowly, and in what people might call a dignified pace, Janeway walked up to her seat and placed herself behind it. She coughed slightly, and when she was sure of having everyone‘s attention she began to speak. ‚Ladies and Gentlemen, we have assembled here, in honour of two of our crew-members; Lieutenant Thomas Paris, and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. What can I say about those two? Tuvok once said that he had "learned to tolerate Tom Paris", and so did I. Over the years, I have grown accustomated to his cynic remarks and to this "Yes, ma‘am" only he could produce. But more than anything else, Tom Paris had earned my trust, and my respect; and I hope that others here also have learned to respect him. When I appointed him Lieutenant and pilot of this ship, some of you have protestes that a man of Tom‘s past should be given such a responsibility. But in those four years we were lost, Tom has worked hard, he had changed. Perhaps he looked at the Delta-Quadrant as a unique opportunity to make up for his past mistakes, to begin something new. He had succeeded in doing so; I can hardly count the times he saved this ship and its crew, or the numerous occasions he proved great courage and loyality. Many among you called him a friend, myself included. But he was more, he was a member of a family, this family. And as such a member, we mourn for him.‘
‚When is the last time you ate something? No, wait, I will tell you. You did never eat at all, did you? You must be very hungry.‘
‚As a matter of fact, I‘m not. The necessity to consume food is not unknown to me. Neither do I feel the lack of nutriments in a form of what you would call hunger.‘
‚You mean, you never eat at all? You don‘t consume anything?‘ Deka said indifferently.
‚From time to time, I inject a special mixture which ensures perfect working order.‘
‚I‘m afraid, all I can offer you is a glass of water.‘ Deka nodded into the direction of a glass, standing on a shelf, on the wall to Data‘s left. ‚All you have to do is to walk over and get it. But, I have to say, that will be dificult, with you cuffed to that chair. But, from what you said, I doubt you would even try.‘
The android remained silent.
‚Lieutenant Commander Data, you are in posession of certain informations we need, and we intent to get it. You can either cooperate or we will have to remove that information from your head...quite literally.‘
Looked at from outside, the new Starship Enterprise was considered beautiful by many. Her design was based on precise calculations of Warp-speed velocities, but nevertheless, her constructors had managed to give the giant ship an elegant form. Elegantly, Enterprise floated through space, keeping near to Starbase89. Slowly it completed its circle around the Starbase, showing itself from all perspectives. On the foremost point of StarFleet‘s flagship, seven feet high windows gave a splendid view of the void outside. The window places of the ship‘s re-creational facilities, Ten Forward, were famous aboard the ship itself. When one approached far enough, the attentive visitor could look through those windows, and see figures moving. On this particular day, the visitor would see seven crew-members, holding instruments in their hand; a Dixieland orchestra. Other things that the visitor would see, were balloons and paper streamers, hanging from the roof of Ten-Forward. And more people, some of them busy eating pieces of a cake, standing on a large table in the middle of the room, would sometimes look at the windows and admire their view. If the visitor would look even closer, he would see that the man holding the trombone was tall, dark-haired and wore a beard. And he would see a dark-skinned woman, wearing a slightly excessive hat, talking to a bald man, in his middle-fifties. He would see a dark-skinned man, wearing a VISOR, talking to an attractive woman, with long, black hair. And he would see the picture of a man, whose yellow, cat-like eyes, pale skin and rigid hair-do made him look a bit naïve, and even more clown-like.
And when the visitor would cross the barrier of those windows, he would age-old music, String of Pearis. And he would hear some conversation.
When the song came to a very specific point, all eyes in the room focused on the bearded man. Stares, saying "He never gets that place right" were all directed at him.
Seeing he got the undivided attention of Ten-Forward, Will Riker could not stand it, and started laughing and shaking his head, thus interrupting the whole song. Everyone in the room found himself giggling or at least smiling sympathetically , and after a few seconds of disorientation, the orchestra started playing again, but without Will Riker. He put down his trombone, and went over to his comrades, Geordi LaForge and Deanna Troi. ‚Geordi, I like your party,‘ he said to the dark-skinned man. ‚It‘s something else than all those other memorial service.‘ Geordi smiled. ‚It‘s about the same Data arranged for me, when I was dead,‘ he said. ‚It‘s only fair that I return the favor.‘ ‚I‘m sure,‘ the woman beside him said with a sad smile. ‚I‘m sure Beverly would have liked this too.‘
And the conversation would have continued, and after a time, the visitor would continue to wander across the room, and perhaps listen to another talk.
‚It‘s time,‘ the dark-skinned woman, wearing the extravagant hat said. She looked at the man in front of her.
‚I know,‘ Picard replied. ‚Guinan, I know you don‘t like it, but would you...‘
‚Yes. I‘ll say some words about Data,‘ Guinan interrupted him. Picard smiled. ‚I knew you would,‘ he said, then walked away, and positioned himself in the centre of the room. When he was sure everyone could hear him, Picard coughed slightly, then raised his voice. ‚Ladies and Gentlemen,‘ he said, ‚we have assembled...no, that‘s not good. Ladies and Gentlemen, Commander LaForge has arranged this...ceremony, to honor two of our crew-members, and two of our friends. Doctor Beverly Crusher and Commander Data have been on the Enterprise since the very first mission on Farpoint Station. For eight years, we could rely on their professional skills, and on their support for those they called friends. Of all present, I think I have known Beverly longest. I was very well acquainted to her husband, Jack, who was with me on the Stargazer, and I was what you could call a ‚friend of the family‘, whatever that means.‘ Picard paused for a moment. ‚The day I delivered Beverly the message that her husband had died - under my command - it was probably one of the worst day in both of our lives. Informing the next of kin about the decease of a loved-one, is never a happy duty, and yet it looks as though I have to do it again. Wesley Crusher is the only remaining member of our Doctor‘s family, and as her commanding officer it is my duty to inform him personally.‘ Picard closed and opened his eyes, and scanned the room for reactions. When it remained silent, he waved to Guinan, telling her to take his place. The woman walked slowly across the room, and stood beside Picard, who retired slowly in return.
Guinan studied the faces of the crew, then managed a brave smile and began to speak.
‚My people,‘ she said, ‚is known as a race of listeners. We listen to other people, we listen to ourselves, and we listen to nothing. I have known Data long, 5 years at least, and I have listened to him. He was a machine, yes, but he was my friend. I am not able to hold a long speech on his qualities, and I don‘t want to. Everyone who knew him, knows that he was loyal and benign. No, the most notable feature on Data was his search for humanity. It seems strange, a nearly perfect machine, wanting to become human, with all the flaws and imperfections it brings with it. But on his quest for humanity, Data looked only for the good things about humans. Humans, build communities. That is their strength. They build communities, and invite other races to join. The crew of the Enterprise accepted Data as a part of that community. Data wanted to acquire only the positive aspects of humanity, but realized that part of being human is being angry, enraged or sad. Though, in his naiveté, he still looked primarily for the good aspects, mercy, joy, love, and over time he managed to become more and more human. He was a good friend,‘ she closed, and because it seemed appropriate, she added ‚Thank you‘ and walked away.
After the ceremony, the visitor perhaps would feel like exploring Enterprise further. Perhaps, he would follow the dark-skinned man with the VISOR, who was now in one of the ship‘s corridors, heading for the cabin of a lost friend. When he came to the door, his hand automatically reached out to activate the doorbell, before he remembered why he had come and why no-one would open to the doorbell chiming. Instead he tapped in his personal code, and entered the room. He looked across it, and when he didn‘t see what he was looking for, he walked into the neighboring room, where a bed and some bookshelves decorated the room.
‚Spot? Where are you, you little devil?‘ Geordi said, getting on his knees and looking underneath the bed. Without warning, a furry flash sprang at him, and scratched him with it‘s claws. Geordi flinched and banged his head hard against the bed. In an instant Spot was out of the room, and running through the corridors. Still lying half-way underneath the bed, Geordi smiled, and touched his scratched cheek.
‚Gods, I hate that cat!‘ he muttered, still smiling, when he stood up and began pursuing Spot across Enterprise.
‚What we want, Vulcan, is your cooperation. Now, I know your race is very stubborn, but do you see this device here?‘
Gul Deka held out his left hand, and Tuvok recognized the little device - it seemed to be a remote control of some kind - he had seen before. He nodded.
‚Good,‘ Deka said, obviously satisfied with himself, ‚because this is one of my personal favorites. This device you see, will help us...communicate.‘ Slowly, he put the remote control on the desk behind him. ‚It can create pain. Extreme pain, in every part of your body; where I like.‘
‚As you so correctly remarked, I am Vulcan. Vulcans are able to handle their emotions...and pain,‘ Tuvok said, in that calm and logical voice of his.
‚My dear N°5535, it is my belief that there is a limit to everything.‘ Deka reached out and took the remote control. ‚Let‘s start with something easy.‘ He pushed some controls.
Outside the interrogation room, no screams were heard.
‚Commander Tuvok,‘ Janeway said, ‚was like a mentor to me. I learned much from him. His character, his typically vulcan attitude to everything, and his quiet always have had a soothing effect on me. I have known him for 8 years now, and I have grown to look at him as one of my closest and best friends. Before Voyager, he was a Federation spy on Chakotay‘s Maquis ship. And even though Commander Chakotay, with reason, felt as though he had been betrayed, it is my conviction that both of them respect each other, and perhaps even would have been friends one day, if not...‘ Janeway stopped, and gulped heavily. ‚I will miss him,‘ she concluded. ‚I will miss both of them.‘
Janeway raised her glass, and held it high in the air.
‚Gentlemen, a toast, on our two friends.‘
Silently, the crew imitated her gesture, and Janeway sat down again. B‘Elanna excused herself, pretending that she still had work to do and stormed out of the mess-hall, earning puzzled looks from her friends. Truth is, she ran away to hide, ran to her quarters, sealed the door, and finally collapsed, her back against the closed door. She hugged her legs, pressed her knees to her body and stared into nothingness. After sitting motionless for several minutes, she slowly stood up and walked over to the couch.
B‘Elanna buried her head in her favourite pillow and began to think. Before Tom had left for his mission, they had had a terrible row. The things he had said to her, about her relationship with her father, had hurt her, and made her furious.
But when she had heard the message that Tom was Missing In Action, probably dead, she had felt as though someone had grabbed her heart and torn it apart inside her body.
She had buried herself in her work, afterwards, but she knew she wouldn‘t be able to keep that behaviour up forever. And Harry...Harry was one of Tom‘s closest friends, and he still refused to believe him dead, four days after Janeway had informed them of the fate of their crewmates. She hadn‘t spoken with him for two days, not since their talk. She wasn‘t quite sure what feelings she harboured for Tom Paris, and even she had been surprised about the measure of her chagrin. But Harry had proven a true friend. Was she in love with Tom Paris? She did not know. People say you only know what you will miss, until it or he is gone. She missed Tom, that she knew. But she didn‘t know wether she missed him because she had grown accustomed to him, or because she cared enough about him to do so. Since the first time they met, when Tom joined Chakotay‘s Maquis cell, she had despised him. All the people she cared about had warned her about the crack-pilot and womanizer.
He‘s not trustworthy, Chakotay had said. He likes playing the lone wolf, and this attitude, mixed with him overestimating his skills, is dangerous. Stay away from him, or he will be your peril. B‘Elanna supposed Chakotay had held this speech to everyone he knew, but for some reason, they had impressed her. Sometimes, she mused, I look at Chakotay like a eight-year old girl to her eighteen-year old big brother. He may mean well, but Chakotay still can err.
And concerning Tom Paris, he could have been wrong. Right enough, the first months on Voyager weren‘t easy, dealing with him. But she was prepared to admit that he had changed.
And that during the last few weeks or months, Tom had grown to become one of her closest friends. Perhaps even more. True, he had a knack of enraging her, but by far most of the time, she simply enjoyed being with him. And now he was gone.
And she missed him. Terribly. And that made her wonder.
Had she fallen in love with him?
And if yes? How could that have happened? She had more or less avoided a long-term relationship for quite a while. Of course, there had been occasion when she had met men, but she had not been seriously interested in any of her, and probably that was why she had dated them, in the first line. She liked her independence.
Once in her life, she had been dependent. She had trusted Marc, depended on him, like all eight-year-old girls depend on their father. But he had left them, and hurt her. Since then, she had been very careful about whom she would trust.
She had been independent, because that was a safe way of not getting disappointed.
And then Tom Paris came, and now she was wondering if she loved the slightly arrogant, but somehow sweet, young man. And so she sat there, hugging her pillow, thinking.
After a time, she eventually fell asleep.
‚Mr. Paris,‘ a voice said, sounding strangely satisfied and, even worse, friendly. ‚How do you feel?‘
‚As though a great many heavy objects had fallen on me.‘
‚And indeed they have.‘ When no response came, the voice commanded ‚Open your eyes, Mr. Paris.‘
Slowly, Tom opened his eyes, at first he was blinded by at least 5 spotlights, shining down directly at him. Then, his pupils narrowed, as his eyes slowly adjusted to the bright illumination. After not long, he was able to recognize a human-shaped figure, standing under the spotlights, and slightly to the left of a big, oval table. With a slow pace, the figure approached him, and Tom recognized the man as a Cardassian. Apparently noticing Tom‘s struggle with the light, the man reached out and pushed a button, on some hidden console embedded in the desk. The spotlights dimmed, and now, finally, Tom could make out some details. The man was standing in front of his desk, his arms now crossed behind his back. When he turned and began to walk, Tom could see a small device in the man‘s left hand. Obviously the man was member of Cardassia‘s military. He was tall, approximately 2 metres, and had an old, pale face. He cercled around the chair on which Tom sat a few times, staring at him. Tom opened his mouth to speak, but he found he couldn‘t.
‚Mr. Paris, I am afraid you look devastated.‘
Tom looked down himself, and saw that he was clad in what remained of a prisoner‘s uniform. The left sleeve was missing, and on the rest of the clothings, he saw gaping holes revealing his flesh, dirty and on some places injured.
‚What happened?‘ he questioned.
‚You don‘t remember?‘ the Cardassian asked in all innocence, ‚You seriously don‘t remember? But, Mr. Paris, surely you must know where you are! Where are you Mr. Paris? Or, even easier, who am I?‘
‚Very good! At last you seem to be regaining your wits, Mr.Paris. I am indeed Cardassian. My name is Gul Deka. I am in command of this...outpost. Your name is Thomas Eugene Paris, Lieutenant, and sad to say, you seem to be my prisoner.
Admiral Owen Paris sat in his quarters aboard StarBase89, looking out at the stars, and thinking. Katherine Janeway had asked him to take part in the memorial service onboard Voyager, but he had declined the offer. He felt that he couldn‘t participate in such an event, when he was not even certain about his own emotions.
It was not as though he didn‘t love his son. Every parent, every father does, is bound to do.
And contrary to what Tom had once said, his head was not "too damn deep buried in your ass" to admit his errors. When he had heard about Tom‘s disappearance onboard Voyager, he had started thinking. He had come so far as too deeply regret what he had done to his son, years ago. Sometimes, the waves of emotions were too much for him to bear, and, now as well, he turned the little orange pill, that would end all his heard-aches, in his hands, musing wether he should or shouldn‘t make use of it. No, he decided, there still was hope. So he put the pill back into it‘s secret pocket, in his right sleeve, turned back, and buried himself again in his work.
« For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The opressor‘s wrong, the pangs of despis‘d love,
The law‘s delay, the insolence of office,
When he himself might his quietus make,
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
If not the dread of something after death
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns - puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we not know of. »
William Shakespeare, Hamlet