The Game
By Morticia

Part Eleven

"I fully appreciate the problem, Captain Dvarek. However, we cannot
assist you," Kathryn advised sorrowfully.

On the viewscreen, the alien captain's eyes widened in disbelief.

"But our sensors have shown us that although you would have to drop
your shields, your hull is strong enough to penetrate the planet's
atmosphere, and your ship has the ability to land, which ours does
not. There would be little or no danger to your ship or crew,
Captain," he argued.

Kathryn sighed and exchanged a sorrowful glance with Chakotay. His
own eyes filled with equal agony, he gave her a tiny nod of support
for her decision.

"It is not a matter of danger, Captain," she explained. "It is a
matter of principle. Our people have a policy of non-interference in
primitive societies. We call it the Prime Directive. It is our most
sacred, and sometimes, as now, most heartbreaking rule. But it is a
good rule and there for a reason."

"You'd let them die because of a rule?" the Alien screeched in
disbelief. "That's no better than murder!"

Kathryn straightened her shoulders proudly.

"It is most decidedly *not* murder, Captain. What is happening below
is a natural disaster. It is tragic and terrible and we grieve for
the people who will lose their lives on the surface below. However,
as you yourself have pointed out, the planet will become
uninhabitable within days. Now that the temperature has dropped to a
level fatal to almost all of the indigenous lifeforms, it is too late
to save the planet.

"If we were to land, and take the survivors on board, what would we
do with them? Would we transport them to an empty planet and abandon
them? Without shelter or crops, they would probably starve or freeze
the first winter. Or do you suggest we take them to an inhabited
world and force the natives to accept them as refugees?"

"Surely that would be better than letting them die," Dvarek
hissed, "or are you all so selfish and heartless that it means
nothing to you that they die?"

Chakotay saw Tom stiffen at the helm and prayed desperately that he
wouldn't interfere in the Captain's decision. He knew how badly Tom
struggled with the Prime Directive, as indeed they all did, yet
Kathryn *was* right.

Below them a tragedy was occurring. A world and its population was
dying. Yet if they interfered and helped Dvarek save the survivors
and took them to another occupied world, they could inadvertently
cause the destruction of the second planet too.

Just as small-pox had nearly wiped out the North American Indians, so
these people could harbour diseases that could kill an alien race.
The few hundred souls that they could rescue might be the death of

Or their presence could start a war, or a jihad of ethnic cleansing,
if the people of the new planet rejected the arrival of the survivors.

The Prime Directive wasn't a pretty textbook theory. It had been
created because *both* of those tragic scenarios had already taken
place on other worlds, with other people. Starfleet had paid for the
lesson of the Prime Directive in blood.

"You cannot let my people die, Captain," Dvarek cried passionately.

Chakotay and Kathryn exchanged a confused glance.

"I don't understand. These people are clearly at a low level of
technology and you yourself said you were on a mission of mercy to
rescue people you described yourself as little more than savages,"
Kathryn challenged.

Dvarek sighed apologetically.

"Perhaps it is your translation device malfunctioning, or merely my
failure to explain myself correctly to you. We *do* call them
Savages, but it is not a description, but a label, if you will. They
aren't native to this planet. They are the descendants of a group of
malcontents from my own homeworld.

"They tired of our technology, yearning for the days when our people
were more at home with nature. Eventually our government gave in to
their pleas and allowed them to colonise this small world. Our people
expected them to swiftly return home with their tails between their
legs. Instead, they thrived, bred and in the ensuing generations they
forgot that they had ever originated from another world.

"Periodically, over the generations, ships such as mine have been
sent to check upon their welfare. We do not interfere. We are just
shepherds, casting our eyes over the lost sheep, but allowing them to
go their own way. We did not anticipate this disaster, however. That
an asteroid so huge should hit the planet and destroy half of the
land mass.

"The resultant dust cloud has choked the atmosphere, preventing solar
radiation from getting through. so they are freezing to death. The
cloud is too thick for our transporter devices to function. Our
shuttles can only carry a few people at a time and this ship cannot

"That is why I sent the distress signal out, and providence meant
that you were passing. I understand your Prime Directive, but it
doesn't apply here. Rescue my people and I will take them home. They
will be welcome. Imagine the riches that they will bring to our
We need their bravery and vitality.

"When their ancestors left our planet we mocked them. Now, we
understand that they were the bravest of us all. Their children are
our children. Please help me to take them home where they belong."

As the alien Captain ended his eloquent plea, his eyes filled with
tears of emotion, Tom Paris turned around from his console and
quietly said,

"Could I please speak with you privately, Captain?"

She saw Chakotay stiffen beside her and hid a smile at his
protectiveness towards Tom.

"Later, Tom," she said firmly. She knew Tom still resented her over
the incident at Monea, and obviously thought she had the PD rammed so
far up her ass that she couldn't see reason if it slapped her in the
face. She was still a little angry at him though for his lack of
faith in her.

She didn't *want* to abandon the people below. If these were Dvarek's
people then his request was sufficient justification to save them.

"But Captain," Tom stage whispered.

"I said later, *Ensign*," she snapped.

His face whitened at the title and he turned back to face the helm.
She would have felt guilty about slapping him so publicly except that
she knew her next words were what he was waiting to hear.

"Drop shields and take us down, Mr. Paris," she ordered.

His head flew back to face hers in wide-eyed disbelief.

She almost smirked.

"Now, Mr Paris."

"Yes, Ma'am," he drawled.

"Thank you Captain, I can't begin to tell you how grateful we are for
your assistance," Dvarek gushed from the viewscreen.

Tom's hands flashed over the helm, Voyager's engines growled to life
and the ship began to move.

On the viewscreen, Dvarek smirked, then his eyes widened in disbelief
and he roared a scream of outrage as he saw Voyager reversing away
from the planet.

"Mr Paris, what the hell are you doing?" Kathryn roared as the pilot
slammed the ship around in a looping arc, pointed her nose away from
the planet and prepared to jump to warp.

"Saving our asses," Tom yelled back, *I hope*.

Behind them, the dusty planet splintered apart as the dozen ships
projecting the illusion broke formation and tried to race after them,
only to break off the chase, one by one, as the agile ship looped and
twisted away at warp nine.

It was only when Tuvok pronounced that all pursuit had apparently
been shaken that the Captain called an all halt.

"My ready room NOW, Mr Paris," she snapped and stalked stiff-legged
from the bridge.


"Would you care to explain your behaviour, Ensign?" she snapped as
the door closed behind them.

Tom scuffed the carpet miserably with his foot. He had no illusions
about how this was going to go. It didn't matter that he had just
saved their asses. He had disobeyed a direct order.

"I'm sorry, Captain," he muttered.

"Why did you do it?" Kathryn demanded.

"He was lying. It was a trap designed to make us drop our shields,"
Tom replied simply, unable to look her in the face.

"Evidently. However, since our scans of the planet had given no
indication of the deception, and Dvarek's performance fooled me, and
I'm no fool, how did you know?"

"I, um, I just had a feeling," Tom replied sheepishly, unwilling to
confess that Dvarek's smooth performance had reminded him uncannily
of himself.

"He was like a verbal gymnast. He changed his story half-way through
but he did it so smoothly that you couldn't see the seam," he added,
his voice almost admiring.

"You disobeyed a direct order, Tom," Kathryn spat.

"I know," Tom replied miserably.

"This isn't the first time," she added.

"I know," Tom repeated, cringing slightly.

"And you remember what happened *last* time?" Kathryn demanded.

Tom flinched as he imagined spending the next 30 days in the brig
without Chakotay. The thought was even worse than losing his solitary
remaining pip.

"Yes, ma'am," he almost whimpered.

Kathryn was proud of the way he just stood there waiting for her
judgment. He hadn't argued. He hadn't pointed out that it had been
her failure to listen to him that had forced him to act. He hadn't
mentioned the fact that he had undoubtedly saved all of their lives.

No. Despite his actions, Tom *had* learnt the lesson that the command
structure was there for a reason and that there was rarely an excuse
to flaunt it.

"Your actions today were unorthodox but exemplary, Tom. I will enter
that in my log with a recommendation that should we return to the
Alpha Quadrant it should be reason for a commendation. In the
meantime, I think that 30 days double holodec allowance is the best
award I can offer you since I understand that you and the Commander
have been *enjoying* those particular facilities."

Tom nearly collapsed in relief. Instead of 30 days in the brig, he
was getting 30 days of extra holodec time. He grinned in appreciation
of the Captain's odd sense of humor, although he decided he was
definitely going to have to talk to Chakotay. He didn't care if the
Captain *was* Chakotay's friend, it still didn't seem appropriate for
him to be telling her about what he and Tom did in the holodec. Hell,
he hadn't even given the details to Harry.

"Thank you, Captain," he said sincerely, his eyes sparkling with

"Thank *you*, Lieutenant," Kathryn replied.

For a moment the look of complete astonishment on Tom's face was
almost funny. It was only when he slumped to the floor in a dead
faint that she realised she should probably have broken the news to
him more gently.

As she called for an emergency medical transport, upset that she had
underestimated how much stress Tom must have been under as he not
only flew the ship to safety but thought that he would have the book
thrown at him too, it crossed her mind that the expression in Tom's
eyes before he fainted had been nearer horror than gratitude.


"Hi," Harry said, as Tom's eyes fluttered open.

"Hi, yourself," Tom replied, blinking as he realised he was in
Sickbay. "What happened?"

"You fainted," Harry sniggered.

Tom's face drained of color as he remembered *why* he had fainted.

"Fancy after all these months, you got your pip back all by yourself,
after all," Harry giggled. "You're a hero, Tom."

Tom bit his lower lip nervously.

"So," Harry continued cheerfully. "You don't even have to go back to
him at all. It's not like you've got to worry about him figuring it
out. You got your rank back fair and square and there's nothing he
can do about it. Talk about falling on your feet."

"Harry," Tom whispered.

"Yes, Tom?" Harry asked happily.

"You know I made you a promise," Tom began,

"Absolutely, Tom, which is why I'm here," Harry beamed.

"Well, promises are really serious things, I know, and I meant it
when I said it," Tom said carefully.

"Of course you did," Harry agreed.

"Well, there's um, something I need to tell you only I don't know how
to say it. I should have said it before but I couldn't face it, only
now I know I've only made it worse by not telling you before and, oh
shit, Harry, I don't know how to admit it even to myself," Tom

Harry's brows furrowed in confusion.

"Whatever it is, just say it. I don't mind what it is. I won't be
shocked. I mean I *might* be shocked, but I won't judge you. I never
said anything when you told me you were going to fuck the Commander
into giving you your rank back, did I? And you've got to admit that
was pretty low."

"Yes, pretty low just about sums it up," Chakotay spat from the

As soon as he had been able to escape from the Bridge he had
practically run to the Sickbay. All the way he had been imagining the
ways in which he and Tom could celebrate Tom's return to grace, only
to arrive in time to hear Harry's last words and realise that he was
the biggest fool in the galaxy.

"Chak?" Tom wailed in panic, fighting his way out of the bedcovers
and racing towards the stone-faced Indian.

"Bastard," Chakotay replied, and punched him in the face.

"Tom!" Harry howled in anguish as Tom crumpled to the floor.

Chakotay turned to Harry with a face devoid of all emotion.

"You want this *garbage*?" he hissed. "Then keep it."

And turning on his heels, he walked out of the door.