With the grand finale over and done with, the episode ‘Thirty Days’ probably seems like a distant memory.

But a few months ago I came across the story of ‘Billy Budd’ by Herman Melville, and it offered a new explanation as to why Captain Janeway was so harsh on Paris. So I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.

Note: Included is edited script from both the novel and the film version.

As always, thank you to Danielle and Ab for making sure this was sea-worthy. 

Feedback would be greatly appreciated – klingonwarrior@ntlworld.com 

This story is for Herbie the house spider. Herb, I admire your tenacity. 


“When I saw that ocean today, it reminded me of the first time I read
Jules Verne…”

“Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris. I hereby reduce you to the rank of 
Ensign. And I sentence you to thirty days solitary confinement.”

“Little ween the snug card-players in the cabin of the responsibilities of the sleepless man on the bridge."
 Herman Melville, ‘Billy Budd’


Sleepless Men 
by Lay McDaniel, 15-8-01

PROLOGUE – the 1st day 

She sighed heavily, and reached for the ever-present photograph frame resting on the table. It was an early photo, one from her childhood. She was sitting on her father’s shoulders, one arm wrapped tightly around his head so that he could barely see, and the other reaching for the sky. Her mother was holding hands with her father, but stood slightly back, as if ready to catch her lively daughter in case she fell. 
As always, she felt that pang in her stomach when she looked at the image. For every time Starfleet principles were undermined, home seemed further and further away. 


Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager let her eyes linger upon the padd in front of her. It had been given to her on the thirty-second day. It was now the thirty-fourth. Funny – she had fallen into the habit of substituting the stardate for simply numbering the days, as if a whole new calendar had sprung from the day of his demotion. Day One.
 He had delivered it personally, standing to attention the whole time. His only request was that she read it. 
She had suffered atrocities at the hands of the Cardassians, stared down Ancestral spirits, set foot upon a Borg cube and remained unto her self. 
Yet the hand which held the padd trembled, and her stomach twisted in apprehension of what it might contain. For four years, he had been her exemplary officer, her “personal reclamation project”…her friend. Was this the final cannon volley to down the half-sunken ship? And once the ship came to rest on the sea bed…was there any hope of raising her?
All these thoughts came to taunt her in the deepest, darkest hours of the night. And these were the thoughts which prevented her from accessing the data contained within the padd. Until now.
Was it her inborn curiosity which made her fingers reach to switch it on? She couldn’t say. All she knew was that the display lit up, revealing a name. 

Billy Budd.

She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. ‘Billy Budd’, she knew faintly, was the name of an 19th century Earthen novel. She had been expecting a letter from her pilot, expressing his anger, or sense of injustice, or both, for his arguably harsh sentence. Not a book.
She settled for tossing the padd onto her bed, and turned her hand to more mundane matters.


 She couldn’t sleep. As a little girl growing up in Indiana, she would often climb up onto her window seat and read by the pale light of the moon. Her father would enter her room in the morning to see his daughter curled up in the cushions asleep, a book lying across her knee. 
 Moons were not visible from space, and starlight was nowhere near bright enough. So she had to make do with the lamp next to her bed. 
 That night, as her hand groped along the bedside table for some reading material, it fell across the padd. For lack of anything better, she activated the display and began to read.

 The story seemed simple enough at first. She consumed a chapter or more every night, even if she wasn’t suffering from insomnia.
 Billy Budd, the young, good-natured British sailor serving aboard the HMS Indomitable during a time of war with France, persecuted along with the rest of the crew by the sadistic master-at-arms, Claggart. At first, she thought that Paris was likening her to this ‘Claggart’ figure. Ensign Paris may well have wondered why he was treated to a particularly cool reception that day on the bridge. 
 But as she kept reading, she realised that this was not the comparison Tom wished to make. 


It was on the forty-sixth day, in the early hours of the morning, when she came across it. The message. What he had been trying to tell her all along.
She broke down and wept.

It was the scene of the court martial. Claggart had indirectly caused the death of a young sailor, and then covered it up by laying a charge of mutiny upon those who knew the truth. Billy Budd he cited as the leader. Claggart confronted Budd with the charge, in front of the Captain -  a Captain Vere, who had a particular soft spot towards Billy. 
The inner turmoil of Budd  was evident as he tried to maintain his innocence, a nervous stammer preventing him from making his defence. So Budd struck the master-at-arms instead – one blow to the jaw. The blow had fatal consequences, for Claggart died instantly. 
Budd was thrown into the brig, whilst the senior officers of the ship held a court-martial to determine his fate. The Captain gave his testimony, along with other members of the crew, professing Budd’s innocence; that the blame fell on Claggart for spreading the lies in the first place. All agreed that the master-at-arms had the blow coming to him; “indeed”, one officer said wryly, “I’d have struck him myself.” 
  The court’s verdict looked favourable; however, the Captain asked to speak once more. And it was these words that were the essence of Tom’s message. 

“Budd killed a man. His superior officer. Your verdict sets him free, and so would I wish to do. But are we free to choose as we would if we were private citizens ? The Admiralty has its code – do you think it cares who Budd is, who you and I are?
“But surely,” argued the officer of the marines, “within that code, each crime is different.” 
“At sea in time of war, an impressed man strikes a superior officer and the blow is fatal’. Now according to the act, the mere fact of the blow would be enough to hang him. Be it fatal or no. The men know this as well as you and I. They know the penalty for Budd’s  action.”
“I can see that, sir,” the officer replied,  “but this case is exceptional. And pity if we are men must move us.”
“And so am I moved. But we cannot have warm hearts betraying heads that must be cool.” 
 The man looked away bitterly. “Officers are only men in uniform. We have our standards, ethics, scruples.”
 The Captain moved towards him. “When we first put on this uniform , we resigned our freedom. The gold we wear show that we serve the King. The Law. I am bound by an oath I took when I was half the age of any of you here. You took that oath as well. There’s no escape.“
 Asked a young officer, “Couldn’t we mitigate the penalty if we find him guilty?”
Vere shook his head. “No. The penalty is prescribed.”
Angrily the officer stood. “Can you stand Budd’s murder on your conscience?”
“Our consciences are private matters,” countered the Captain calmly, “but we are public men. Dare we give our consciences precedent over the code that made us officers?”  
The young man shot back his answer - “I still say let him go. I won’t bear a hand to hang a man I know is innocent. My blood’s not cold enough for that. I cannot give the kind of judgement you wish to force from us.“
The Captain moved to face him. “We do not deal with justice but with the law. Can’t you see that you must first strip off the uniform you wear, and then your flesh before you can escape the case at issue here?”
 The officer’s features were heart-breaking to witness, as he came to the slow realisation that the words spoken by his Captain were the truth. Budd had to hang. There were no other options open to them.
 Vere saw this, nodded, and stepped back to address the room. “Do not think me pitiless in first deciding sentence on a luckless boy,” he said quietly. “I feel as you do. And for myself; revulsion. Shame. And rage.” 
In Captain Vere, Captain Janeway found a kindred spirit. There were no other people on Voyager with whom she could talk with about these kind of matters – not even dear Chakotay, because, quite simply, she was the only Starfleet Captain in the entire quadrant. How could the crew understand her constant fight to reconcile the harsh and distant Starfleet law with the extraordinary circumstances of the Delta Quadrant with which she was faced with every day?
The book was his way of saying that he knew. Not that he understood – for that understanding was shared by Captains alone. But he knew why he’d been demoted. He knew the rigid structure of Starfleet better than anyone else on the ship, had had the regulations drilled into him from childhood, was aware of the penalties for breaking the rules. 
 He knew. And that was enough. 


Epilogue – the 47th day

  After her epiphany, she’d tried to catch him alone, to talk to him. An encounter with a hostile race – and having to deal with the aftermath, made that impossible. So it was when she dived into Neelix’s kitchen a little after midnight for a cup of coffee that she saw a lone, familiar figure sitting in the corner of the messhall. She approached the person quietly, mug in hand, grasping it tightly. 
 “Mind if I join you?” 
 He jumped, startled, taking his feet down from the table. “Not at all,” he flustered, pulling up another chair. He waited until she was seated before he took his again.
 She watched him carefully over the rim of her cup. He hadn’t looked this uncomfortable since that day in sickbay after the warp ten incident, when he’d tried to apologise for kidnapping her. A far cry from the easy, maritime conversation they’d shared over coffee barely a month ago.
 “Thank you for the book.” 
 His eyes flicked towards her, his expression blank. 
 “Did you enjoy it?” 
 So innocuous, so polite…as if he was enquiring about Neelix’s latest concoction. 
 “Very much so. Particularly the scene of the trial.” 
 That got a reaction out of him. Unconsciously, he leaned forward, unable to mask the apprehension in his voice as he said “Oh?” 
 She continued. “Yes, I was particularly struck by the argument given by the ship’s Captain.” 
 His expression could be described as one of pure relief. For, unbeknownst to her, he’d lain awake for countless nights, wondering whether she would read it, delete it, take offence at his forthrightness, or worse still – miss the message altogether. 
A mischievous look entered his eyes as he commented wryly “Thank goodness Starfleet doesn’t approve of the death penalty.” 
 She felt something inside her fall at his joke. Tom must have seen her stricken look, for he apologised immediately. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.” He looked down, clasping his hands together, wringing them in what she took to be a gesture of nervousness. He met her eyes suddenly. “My father gave me that book, you know.” 
 “I didn’t think he shared your passion for the sea.” 
 He laughed bitterly. “He doesn’t. He gave me the book when I announced I was going to join the Navy. I thought he’d given it to me as a token of encouragement.” He shook his head at this, as if disgusted at his own naivety. 
 “After I read it, he told me that the Navy needed people who understood the structure and rules, and had the discipline to obey them, people who could think with their heads and not with their hearts, people who wouldn’t end up with a noose round their neck. In short, they didn’t need people like me. 
  It was only later that I realised he was describing Starfleet as well.” 
 Indignation rose within her, but she pushed it down. Now wasn’t the time to debate the principles of the Federation. She knew all too well where he stood on the subject, and vice versa. 
 So instead, after taking a sip of her coffee, she asked “Why did you give me that book?” She was interested to hear it from him, in his own words. 
 His brow furrowed, and he cleared his throat, as if trying to find the words to say. “When I was in the brig, Harry told me how tired you were looking. I thought maybe it was because you were feeling guilty…so I wanted to tell you that I knew the consequences before I took the Flyer down. You were only doing what you had to.” A deep blush was creeping across his face, testament to his embarrassment. “And – it was to apologise for letting you down. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been grateful for the chance you’ve given me onboard Voyager. 
 “What about the deed itself?” 
 Surprised anger flared in his eyes. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, Captain. This wasn’t one of them.” 
 This man didn’t belong in this era. He belonged to the time of James T. Kirk, a time where officers were indeed only men in uniform, a time where Starfleet and the Prime Directive were thrown to the wind if needs be. 
 Perhaps there was a place for that still, here in the 24th century. But not on her ship. 

They’d talked for a little while longer, until she’d used tiredness as an excuse to leave. She reflected, somewhat sadly, on their conversation as she traced her way back to her quarters. Their friendship was far from mended – perhaps it could never fully be restored to what it once was. But at least they’d made a start. 
She entered her cabin and changed into her night clothes. As she climbed under the covers, she caught sight of the book. She held the light weight in her hands, staring at it. 
The fundamental difference between Captain Veer’s ship and hers was that her crew was made up of misfits – young men and women who, for whatever reason, had chosen to leave Starfleet and join the Marquis. Some hadn’t even joined Starfleet in the first place. Unlike Captain Veer, she couldn’t expect all of them to adhere to Federation principles, because many of them, like Tom, held the unshakeable view that Starfleet was deeply flawed. Yet what else could she do?
Once again, she felt the weight of their situation bearing down on her. Finding a middle ground, a compromise, was almost impossible. Either stick religiously to Starfleet protocol, or abandon it completely. The former worked…just. 
She put down the padd and let out a soft sigh. All she’d ever wanted to do was explore space. Nothing more. How had it all gotten so complicated? 
She looked again at the picture lying on her bedside table, and, for the millionth time, wished she was home.   

Th End