"Computer. Plain, tomato soup. Hot," he ordered.
The soup shimmered into existence. Tentatively, he touched the
The bowl was ice-cold.
Well, at least the computer got most of it right. Yesterday, he
got gagh instead of Tomato soup. Still, he had to give it to the Acting
Engineering chief. Joe Carey was it? Carey had other important things
to attend to besides replicator malfunctions. Apparently, even he got
desperate enough to do something about it.
Whistling softly, Tom settled the bowl on his tray and steeled
himself to face the world. The USS Voyager world.
As he made his way to a table, he tried to look as if he didn’t
care. The crew – both Starfleet and Maquis, had settled in two neat
groups at different corners of the messhall. Maquis on the darkened
left, Starfleet on the right, well-lighted.
And since he belonged to neither, he thought the middle table –
long and intimidating as it was – was appropriate.
At the bright area, suspicion was clear on the faces of the
Starfleet crew. A furtive glance at Maquis tables revealed hatred.
<Well, let’s not go there then.
A soft whistle, a cynical mask. A sip of chilly tomato soup. <I
don’t care what you think. I am not afraid of any of you
Who was he kidding? The last few days had been a rush of events,
no time to think, just act. And for one deluded moment, he felt as if
he *belonged*. Part of the team. Needed. Relied upon. No New Zealand
Penal Settlement or Maquis involvement to mar the thrill of being at
the helm of a starship again.
After the Kazon left and life more or less got back to `normal’,
reality returned. And it came back in the darkness of his quarters –
his supposed *temporary* quarters. The spartan furnishings jolted him,
and he realised with startling clarity that he would spend the rest of
his natural life with the Maquis and Starfleet crew, both whom perhaps,
rather see him dead.
And the Captain? What made him think that she would forget his
status as former felon?
A scrape of a chair and his hand froze instinctively. The figure
was already at his table. Tom stared at the Maquis uniform. The defiant
pose, the clenched fists. Fists he didn’t want to have any contact
with. Especially with his breakfast still progress.
He looked up, flashed a cocky smile. "What can I do for you,
O’Donnell merely stared at him, his lip curled. Hatred flashed in
his black eyes.
"My brother was in your ship," he growled.
Ah. The Maquis ship he piloted when they were captured. Of course
it didn’t matter to O’Donnell – not that he knew – that Tom surrendered
in order to save the ten crewmembers in that very ship.
"I hear he has a great view in the New Zealand Penal Colony," Tom
found himself saying. <Great Tom. Just Great. You just have do it the
wrong way, don’t you?
The effect was instantaneous. O’Donnell’s face turned a mottled
red and he slammed his fist on the table, splashing Tom’s cold Tomato
soup on the shiny, black table.
And just as quickly, Tuvok appeared out of nowhere at O’Donnell’s
side, a firm, restraining hand on his shoulder.
"At ease, Mr. O’Donnell. Or I shall remove you to the brig," the
O’Donnell whirled angrily, flinging the Vulcan’s hand from his
shoulder. "Don’t touch me, traitor!" he growled. With a last look at
Tom, he walked to the darkened corner of the messhall, where his Maquis
The tension in the messhall was thick. On the right side,
Starfleet officers whispered among themselves, casting furtive glances
at him. The Maquis were deathly quiet, all boldly staring at him.
<Looks like I’m already the popular guy around here, Tom thought
"Mr. Paris. Captain Janeway requests your presence," the Vulcan
Tom looked up. Immersed in bitter thoughts, he had forgotten that
Tuvok was there.
He was silent for a while, weighing the implications. After a
while, he pushed his cold soup aside, lifting solemn blue eyes to meet
grave, dark ones.
"I think I should try plomeek soup next time, don’t you think
Tuvok merely stared.
* * *
"Come in," said the Captain.
He entered, seeing the Captain staring at the Observation window
before she turned to him, mild surprise in her eyes. She gave him a
The smile was a good sign.
"You asked to see me, Captain?" Keeping fear in check. Sarcasm
creeping into his voice. Inwardly, he sighed. The Captain didn’t need
his `rapier wit’. Not now. He softened his tone of voice by giving her
a small smile.
"Mr. Paris, you have a problem," the Captain said gravely,
folding her hands.
<Didn’t have to tell me that bit, Captain. But he kept quiet.
"I’ve invited Chakotay and the other Maquis to become part of
this crew," Janeway said. "It seemed the only reasonable thing to do,
under the circumstances.
His mind returned to the messhall, to the suspicious glances of
the Starfleet crew. But most of all, to the hatred gleaming in the
Maquis faction. His situation was…interesting, to quote a Vulcan. He
managed to throw her a cocky grin, one he perfected during his time
with the Maquis and then at the penal colony.
"Will you provide a bodyguard for me, Captain?"
Janeway gave him a small smile. "It seems you already have one."
That threw him off. "I do?" he blurted out. Harry? That’s
"Mr. Chakotay said something about his life belonging to you?
He’ll be taking responsibility for your safety." Janeway seemed
He wanted to laugh. Chakotay, ever the noble one, despite the
history between them. "I think I’m going to enjoy this," he said.
"Don’t be so sure. He’s also going to be my first officer.
Everyone aboard this ship will report to him," she paused giving him a
pointed look. "Including the lieutenant assigned to the conn."
His cynical side nearly laughed it off: It’ll never work!
Starfleet and Maquis working together? A Maquis first officer? A conn
Blue eyes opened wide.
Did she mean-
"Me?" he blurted out, his cynical mask gone.
"I’ve entered into the ship’s log on this date that I’m granting
a field commission of lieutenant to Thomas Eugene Paris.
Congratulations," she gave him her hand.
He shook it with both hands. His mind searched for something
witty to say, but all he could do was blurt out his gratefulness. "For
the first time in my life…I don’t know what to say!"
"You’ve earned this Tom. I’m only sorry your father won’t know."
Usually, the mention of his father would’ve sent stabs of anger
and pain to his heart. But this time, in such a long time, it was
filled with hope.
"He’ll know. When we get back," he promised.
The Captain had given him respect. Returned his dignity. But most
of all, she had renewed his reason for living.
For that, *he* would make sure they return.
* * *
He walked to his quarters with his eyes staring ahead, but at
nothing. For the first time since things began to settle down onboard
Voyager, he did not notice the disdain and distrust in the faces of the
crew as they passed him in the corridors.
The smart-mouthed `best-damned pilot’ was, to put it simply –
"Tom, wait up!"
Tom turned in time to see Harry Kim run up to him.
"I heard!" Harry said, beaming. "Congratulations," he said,
patting him on the back.
Tom gave Harry a grateful smile. What did he do to deserve this
man’s friendship? He wasn’t used to getting something without strings
"Thanks. How’s repairs?" he deflected the conversation.
"Painful," Harry grimaced. "B’Elanna and Carey had a, uhm,
`professional misunderstanding’. The Captain told them to work together
after the announcement was made."
"Announcement?" he echoed stupidly. They had begun to walk down
"That the Maquis shall be part of the Starfleet crew. Obeying
Starfleet rules. *Wearing* Starfleet uniforms," he said, worry
furrowing his brow.
"That’ll cramp their style," Tom jibed sardonically.
"It’s going to be tough," Harry stated the obvious, giving him a
"Not for you," Tom said in return. He didn’t have to remind the
Ensign why. He stared ahead.
"Things will change. 70 years can do that," Harry reminded him,
his tone turning sad.
Tom could only return a weak smile. Then he noticed that the
ensign was staring at something in the distance, his expression tense.
Curious, Tom followed the gaze.
At the bend of the corridor, about twenty feet away was Chakotay,
surrounded by Seska, Chell and O’Donnell. Chell stared at the Starfleet
uniform in his hands in a mixture of fascination and disgust, fingering
it as if to see if it was real. The others whispered in low, urgent
Tom spared Harry a tiny glance before walking towards the group.
"Paris!" Harry hissed.
"Don’t worry," Tom whispered back. "I just want to get close
enough to hear what they’re saying."
Harry sighed but followed.
"And you agreed?" Seska hissed.
"Our main mission is to get home. And until we do, we are a
Starfleet crew," Chakotay said, his voice firm. He gave the Bajoran
woman a hard stare.
Chell, the Bolian, snorted. "You expect us to wear these?" the
Bolian threw his uniform to the floor. "It’s not even the right
colour," he complained petulantly.
"We can take them, Chakotay. With a ship like Voyager, unbound by
stupid Federation rules, we can make it home *our* way. We won’t blow
up our ticket home because of some stupid Federation dictate," Seska
said, determination flashing in her eyes.
Tom froze, his blood turning cold. A successful mutiny could
change everything. His lieutenantship would mean nothing. His life even
Chakotay gripped Seska’s shoulders with surprising strength. The
woman froze, startled. Paris was surprised himself - he knew that they
were lovers. Such rough handling wasn’t Chakotay’s usual style, but the
determination in his eyes, that annoying honour was still reflected in
"Suggest that one more time, and I’ll put you in the brig. Is
that clear, *Ensign*?"
They stared at each other for a long time. Paris could see Chell
shuffling his feet. O’Donnell looked shocked. Chakotay had a way with
people, Tom thought wryly.
"Aye, aye, sir," Seska said after a long minute. Chakotay
Paris inadvertently expelled a breath he held for too long. The
sound alerted the Maquis group to his presence. Seska glared at him,
her eyes wide with anger and shock.
"You! He’s spying on us!" Seska hissed.
O’Donnell stepped forward, his eyes blazing.
<Any second now, and I will be in sickbay, Paris thought. Behind
him, Harry cursed.
"Stay back, Harry. This isn’t your fight," he warned, fixing his
eyes on O’Donnell’s angry ones.
"What are you going to do, Paris? Report us? You better think
twice, traitor!" O’Donnell growled, making a show at cracking his
knuckles. Tom forced a smug smile.
"What’s the matter, O’Donnell? Afraid of poor little me? Looks
like you’re not as brave as you appear," Tom said nonchalantly.
The anger blossomed into full-blown rage, and Tom saw O’Donnell’s
fist coming towards him. He stepped back reflexively, but it was
Chakotay had O’Donnell’s fist in a tight grip. With a quick
manoeuvre all Starfleet cadets learnt at the Academy, Chakotay had the
Maquis pilot’s arm pinned behind him at a painful angle.
O’Donnell grimaced, but did not give Paris the pleasure of a
yell. He merely glared at Paris.
"I’ll have you know, that you were about to strike a senior
Startled looks from O’Donnell, Seska and Chell. It was enough to
give Tom a ripple of perverse pleasure.
"And unless you want to end up in the brig for the next two
months, you may rethink your punch and apologise to Lieutenant Paris,"
Sweat beaded on O’Donnell’s forehead. His glare, if it was
possible, became more hateful. The silence was unbearable, but Paris
merely stood still, afraid to break the tension.
Then in a strained hiss: "I’m sorry…Lieutenant," O’Donnell spat.
Chakotay released O’Donnell. O’Donnell glared at him for a long
time. Tom merely returned a defiant stare in return. With a final
glare, O’Donnell turned, walking away from all of them. Seska and Chell
followed suit, giving Tom looks he couldn’t interpret.
With that brief demonstration, Chakotay showed the Maquis that he
was serious about the Maquis not touching Paris. And with Chell as a
witness, the word will spread quickly enough. He felt eyes staring at
him. He returned Chakotay’s gaze, feeling a mixture of curiosity and
irritation at the same time. They had gained a measure of respect at
the Ocampan caves, but the tension between them had not disappeared.
They were silent for some time, unsure of what to say. Past
betrayals. Angry words. They did not have the most pleasant of
relationships, and yet here was Chakotay – his `protector’.
Tom was uncomfortably aware of Harry’s presence behind him.
"Harry, if I could have some time alone with -" he gave Chakotay
a nod, "-Commander Chakotay." It came out all wrong of course. It
sounded snide, sarcastic, cynical.
"Sure," Harry replied softly, giving them both a worried look
"If you think I’m about to say thanks, you’re mistaken," Tom said
after Harry was gone.
"I never expected anything that polite from you, Paris," Chakotay
returned, his voice cold.
Tom was quiet. Then, softly: "Thanks. This time. But don’t bother
next time. I’ve fought my own fights. I certainly don’t need your
Tom pursed his lips and glared. "No. Spending time in prison can
be very educational," he said, giving the Maquis leader a smirk.
Chakotay ignored his sarcastic remark.
"We *will* have a semblance of a working relationship, Paris. If
*this* is going to work."
"Of course," he answered glibly.
Chakotay blinked. He certainly hadn’t expected a swift response.
"I may have been a traitor, Chakotay," Tom said in a low,
strained hiss, his eyes narrow. "But I’m certainly no fool. Commander."
A reminder about their changed roles. About that Starfleet banner
that now hung over their heads, traitors that they were.
Chakotay regarded him, a contemplative look on his face. "I’m
glad we have an understanding, Lieutenant."
"Likewise. Sir." Tom backed away, giving Chakotay a lop-sided
grin. "Now, if you don’t mind. I’ve got some unpacking to do."
Chakotay merely nodded.
When he was some distance away, Tom finally allowed his anxiety
to surface. His legs shook, weakened by the surge of adrenaline. But
somehow, he made it to his quarters.
"Computer, lights," he said in relief when the doors hissed
closed behind him.
He stared at the his quarters in disdain. The harsh light was not
flattering on the décor. Or what’s left of it. The bed was tilted at a
wild angle, jostled by Voyager’s violent upheavals. The dining table
had overturned, his things strewed across the floor. He walked to the
bathroom. The mirror was cracked. He fingered the crack in mild
Sighing, he walked over to the bed and shifted it to the correct
position. Once done he sat on it, suddenly feeling the exhaustion of 50
hours of non-stop work and anxiety. He rested his face on his palms,
staring at the only decoration in his room – a generic painting of
Mars, now titled at a helpless angle.
His quarters was stark. Untouched. Boring.
He turned to look at his reflection on the overturned dining
His home, he thought in mild amazement.
And Tom Paris got up, dusted the bed, kicked his things to a
corner, set the dinner table right, adjusted the generic painting and
turned to see how it all looked. Bearable, yes, but something was still
Snapping his fingers, he shuffled through his things on the floor
and found it. Beaming, he checked to see if the object was undamaged
and walked over to the painting. Satisfied, he placed the 20-inch model
of a ’57 Chevy on the table below the painting.
"Welcome home, Paris," he said, crossing his arms. And was
------------c September 2000