Future Foretold By Daniela Signor
It was a routine event, a common occurrence for everyone, but when it was over, the foundations of one person's world had been rocked.
" Entering the next solar system, Captain. " announced the Lieutenant at the helm.
" Thank you Mr Paris, put it on the viewscreen. "
The gray blandness of the viewscreen faded away to reveal a blazing sun, two blue planets orbiting above and a large asteroid belt curving below, it's asteroids containing a metal that cause it to glow red.
" Atmosphere, Tuvok? " asked Captain Janeway
" Both planets are barren with no viable atmosphere. "
" Very well. Mr Paris continue on course. "
" Yes Captain. "
" It's a face, " Ensign Kim suddenly exclaimed. As everyone turned to him in surprise, he stuttered, turned red and explained, " That's ... uh ... what this system looks like. "
Janeway looking back at the viewscreen, noted the planets positioned as eyes, the sun as a nose and the curving smile of the asteroid belt.
" I believe Mr Kim is correct, it is a face. " She replied seriously, despite the smile growing on her own face.
" With a grin like that and that red nose, " Chakotay stated, pausing as he waited for every ones attention, " you would have to call it, a cosmic clown. "
Laughter broke out at the commander's phrasing. No one noticed the one exemption, Tom Paris, who had turned completely white, those two words echoing in his mind, echoing words he had heard before, a long long time ago.
The shift soon ended and Paris made his way directly to his cabin where he seated himself before the porthole, watching the stars fly by as he tried to force from his mind one memory and failing. There he remained, alone in the dark for the remainder of the night, haunted by that one memory stirred to life by Chakotay's words.
" Had trouble getting up this morning? " asked Chakotay as Paris just made it for the start of his shift. To Chakotay's surprise, Paris made no smart come backs, simply apologizing as he relieved the ensign at the conn and checked Voyager's status.
It was a quiet day on the bridge but slowly the atmosphere became miserable and tense, for though conversation was made, there was one obvious voice missing. No jokes, smart comments or even casual conversation were made by their pilot. At the end of the shift, Harry tried to talk to Tom but Paris hid his emotions behind a calm mask and dismissed Harry's concerns. That night a certain person was again missing from the crowd at Sandrine's .
As the days passed, Paris returned to his usual self. It was a coincidence Tom convinced himself, those two words were nothing but a coincidence. He again began joking on the bridge, pestering his friend Harry and flirting with the ladies. His strange behavior was forgotten as no one noticed the fear lying deep within Tom's eyes or the tension in his body each time he sat at the helm.
Tom smiled to Kes as they walked along the corridors towards the kitchen. They both carried a load of food produce from the hydroponics lab. Chatting away, Tom was not paying much attention to what was ahead, so turning a corner he crashed straight into the back of the commander who was speaking with the chief engineer. The collusion knocked the box from Paris' arms, it hit the wall and bounced back, smashing into Tom's head and knocking him to the ground, unconscious.
Chakotay had been pushed forward but B'Elanna caught him and held him upright. At Kes' cry, they turned to their unconscious pilot and both joined her, kneeling on the ground around his body. Kes was talking to the doctor when a few minutes later Paris stirred.
" Ouch! My head! "
" Tom, just lie still, I need to see if you have a concussion. " Kes ordered.
" What happen? " Paris asked.
" You ran into me, Mr Paris. " Chakotay answered.
" And nearly knocked him to the ground, what was your hurry Paris? " angrily demanded Torres. Paris finally opened his eyes as he answered, his blurred vision clearing,
" I was just ...... " his voice faded away as he looked up at the faces surrounding him. The doctor's voice suddenly intruded, Tom could not make out the words, his mind focused on a different time, the past. As he realized exactly what it was he was looking at, his eyes widened in stark terror, all the blood draining from his face, turning him alarmingly white.
" No! No! " he cried softly just before he blacked out.
Chakotay looked around hurriedly, searching for what had just terrified the man beside him, for he had seen the horror and fear on Paris' face, but the corridor was empty. He turned to Kes and B'Elanna but they shared his shock and confusion. Kes was hugging herself, she had for a moment felt what Tom had felt.
" He was terrified, " she softly spoke, " terrified. "
" Could you tell why? " Chakotay gently asked.
" It was us, our faces that frightened him. "
" What! " B'Elanna questioned, angry and abrupt at the helplessness she felt. " You're mad, we didn't do anything to Paris. "
" No ......... it was just us being here. I don't understand it, it's just an impression I received but the situation terrified him. "
" But ......"
" Enough B'Elanna, " Chakotay ordered, " maybe the knock on his head rattled him. Let's get him to the doctor so he can be checked out. "
" All right. " Torres quickly agreed, glad to have something to do, something to help her friend.
Paris soon regained consciousness, claiming the last thing he remembered was walking along, talking to Kes, nothing about lying on the ground or passing out in terror. The doctor reported Mr Paris had a very slight concussion, nothing else and released him from the sickbay. Chakotay watched Paris closely on his return to the bridge, but Paris showed no hint of fear when he saw the Commander or spoke to him. He didn't know whether to believe Paris or not, about not remembering events in the corridor. But he remembered the fear and he would be keeping an eye on Paris. He watched now as Paris left the bridge, being excused after reporting a sore wrist, muscle strain from the accident .
Tom returned to his quarters and collapsed on the floor of his cabin, shaking from the strain of appearing happy and normal. His mind was pulled back to earlier, to waking up and looking around at the faces above him. He remembered the fear and finally he let the memory that caused it to fill his mind. He was back in the past, back in prison.
The old fool cornered him one week after Denison's death, how he had gotten into this section Tom couldn't guess.
" So Admiral's son, how are your dreams? " the old man had asked.
" Get out of my way! "
Before Tom could move, the old inmate had reached out and seized both Paris' wrists in a tight hold. He was much stronger that he looked Paris realized as he tried to struggle free.
" So you have no remorse over the young lad's death. Then I will have none for you. Shall I tell you how you will end this life, Admiral's son? Would you like to carry this burden? "
" Shut up! Stay away from me with your gypsy lies! " Tom ordered.
But the old man did not listen, simply turned Tom's hands palms up. He stared down for a moment in silence, then brought his burning gaze up to met Tom's eyes as he began to speak,
" These are the five signs that will lead to the admiral son's end.
The first - A cosmic clown starts the Admiral's son's final journey. Grinning through the stars to lead the way.
The second - The Admiral's son shall open his eyes to a world of freaks, the adult child, two halves fighting to be one, the profile of a face different from its mate and above the living ghost.
The third - An ancient enemy lays the first stone on the Admiral's son's funeral cairn.
The fourth - In chains, within bars, beneath nets the Admiral's son will be caged.
The fifth and last - The past lives once again when with your hands, you guide all to a fiery death.
There the Admiral's son will DIE. '
The old man released Paris' hands, turned without a word and simply walked away.
When Tom finally stirred, he found the afternoon had passed and it was night, he pulled himself to his bed but sleep eluded him as he reached the hardest and easiest decision of his life.
Paris had managed to drift off in the early morning which caused him to wake late for his shift. He hurriedly dressed and rushed to the bridge.
" You're late, Mr Paris. " Chakotay announced when he exited the turbo lift.
" I'm sorry Commander. " Paris moved forward, laying a hand on the current pilot as she made to give him the seat.
" Can you hang on for a few minutes? " he asked. At her nod, he turned to the Captain.
" Captain, may I speak to you privately? "
Janeway looked closely at Paris, noting the strain and lack of sleep evident on his face.
" Certainly Mr Paris, let's go into my ready room. "
Janeway walked in and sat behind her desk while Paris remained standing before her.
" I'm requesting an immediate change of duty assignments. "
Janeway looked at him in surprise, confused by the request.
" You want to be on another shift? " She asked.
" No I ........ I no longer want to pilot the ship. "
" What ...... but you love flying! "
" Yes I did Captain but I'm finding it a great strain at the moment. "
" The moment ....... for how long do you think you'll go through this phase? In case you have forgotten Mr Paris, we are far from home and replacements. You are our best pilot and I will use you as one. "
Paris gripped his hands tighter, Janeway couldn't see them behind his back, but his knuckles were white with the strain he was feeling. This was the only sign of the pain he felt at what he intended to do.
" I don't want to fly anymore, Captain. I was brought on this ship only as an observer not as a pilot, and if I have to resign my commission to get what I want, I will. "
Janeway sat back stunned, unable to deal with this totally unexpected event, Paris had seemed to assume his new rank and position on Voyager so easily, he had seemed so honored to be a part of the crew, but now, for no reason, he was throwing it away. Janeway became angry.
" Why Tom? Why throw it all away? Are you getting tired of following orders, of having to work, of having responsibilities? Why Tom, just tell me why? " She shouted.
" I can't do it anymore! " He shouted back, " I won't fly again Captain! You can't make me, even if I have to disobey a direct order, I won't fly! "
" Why? " Janeway cried again, her anger dying, leaving her baffled and confused.
" I can't cope anymore, all I think about lately is Caldrik Prime. I won't let that happen again, I won't kill again! "
" It was inexperience, Tom. You know that you are a good pilot, more experienced and responsible than you were then. It will not happen again! " Janeway insisted.
" A good pilot makes mistakes too Captain, I will not take that chance, I will not pilot anything again. "
Janeway tried to calm down, to think things through.
" I can understand your fears Tom but you've been flying since we were pulled here and you're needed exactly where you are, at the helm. I can't let momentary fear interfere with the running of this ship. Take a few days off, talk to the doctor but I want you back here, in the pilot's seat where you belong. "
" I won't change my mind, Captain. " Tom insisted.
" If you refuse to take your position, Mr Paris, you will be stripped of your rank and status. You will be marked again in the logs as an observer and confined to the brig when not carrying out routine maintenance. Do you understand Tom what you face? "
" I understand fully Captain what's ahead of me. " answered Tom, more truthfully than Janeway realized.
" Dismissed Mr Paris. "
" Yes Maam. "
Paris left, walking straight across the bridge and entered the turbo lift. He exchanged no words with anyone.
" Captain? " Chakotay called over the comm lines as he watched the turbolift doors close after Paris. Janeway answered, her voice weary,
" Commander, arrange some one to take Mr Paris shifts over the next three days then please come to my ready room. "
" Aye Captain. " He answered, startled at events.
Chakotay walked in to find Janeway seated on the couch, watching the stars through the view port.
" What is it Captain? "
" Sit down Chakotay, Mr Paris has informed me that he will no longer pilot Voyager. "
" What? " exclaimed Chakotay in disbelief, stunned firstly by the fact that a lieutenant has informed a captain of what he will not do and secondly by Paris' refusal to fly, the one thing Chakotay has seen him take unrestrained pleasure in.
" But why? " he asked.
" Tom said something about Caldrik Prime but I don't believe that was the true reason, one thing I'm sure of is that he will not change his mind. I've told him to take a few days to think about it but that was more to give me a few days to think things through. He is willing to be stripped of his rank, confined to the brig and work on maintenance only rather than fly. "
" You'd do that? " Chakotay asked, surprised since Janeway had always seemed to have a soft spot for Paris.
" No I wouldn't do it! Something is driving him to do this, he's .......... he's afraid of flying. I just can't understand it. "
" Afraid, " Chakotay murmured, " the other day Captain, when Paris was knocked out, he awoke for a few moments but something terrified him, scared him so much he blacked out. Kes said it was us."
" Us? "
" Myself, Torres and Kes, our faces. "
" None of this makes any sense. " Janeway complained.
" So, what do you plan to do? "
" I'll have the doctor run a complete physical on Tom and I suppose I'll have to re-assign him. I'll put him in sickbay, that way the doctor can keep an eye on him. Meanwhile you will ask around, talk to Tom, try to find out what's wrong? "
" I'll try Captain but Paris has never been the confiding type. "
" I know but something is going on inside his head and I want to know what it is? He's a good pilot Commander and he's turned out a good officer. I don't' want to lose that. "
" No, neither do I Captain. "
The rumors spread quickly through the ship, that Paris was ill, that he had lost his nerves, that Janeway had kicked him off the bridge, had arrested him, that Paris and Chakotay had come to blows or that Paris was wounded. All the possibilities but the simple truth, that Paris refused to fly.
Chakotay started with the most likely source of information, Paris' best friend, Harry Kim. He found Ensign Kim morosely pushing food around his plate instead of eating his lunch.
" May I join Mr Kim? "
" Of course Commander. "
" Harry, I need to ask you about Mr Paris. He has placed an unusual request before the captain and both she and I are trying to find out why. Have you notice anything strange lately? "
Harry looked at Chakotay thoughtfully, remembering the initial relationship between Tom and the commander and then remembering how it had changed.
" Whatever is wrong he is not talking to me about it Commander. It is something big, but I have no idea at all what. Just that Tom is troubled, has been for weeks now. At times it is so bad, he hides out in his cabin and other times , it is as if nothing is wrong. I'm sorry Commander, I've tried talking to him but he just says it's my imagination. He's just not talking to me. " Harry ended in frustration, pushing more food around in his plate.
" Maybe you can ask Neelix. " Harry nodded towards the kitchen.
" Why Neelix? " Chakotay asked in surprise.
" Tom's been working with him on some recipes .......... without leola root. " ended Harry with a small grin.
" I'll try that. Thank you Mr Kim. "
Chakotay moved to the kitchen, finding Neelix cleaning up as the lunch break was almost over.
" Hello Neelix, got time for a little chat. "
" Certainly Commander, I always have time for Voyager's First Officer. How can I help you? "
" I understand you have been spending time lately with Tom Paris. "
" Yes, he showed some concern about my use of certain ingredients, he believes the crew may feel some items are dominating the menu, from a human point of view. I don't understand it myself but anything to boost the morale of the crew. Tom has been helping me even out the usage. Very fair minded, you humans. "
Chakotay lifted his hand, covering his smile at Tom's manipulation of Neelix.
" Thank you Neelix, we.....ah......try to be. " Chakotay paused then continued, " What I'm actually after is whether or not you have noticed anything different about Tom lately. "
" Let me see, no he seems himself, maybe a bit more ....... changeable. "
" Changeable? " queried Chakotay.
" Yes, more moody, one minute joking, the other angry, but then Tom's always been sensitive about odd things. Why just last week, he threw one of my new ingredients away, every item, stated that as a human he just could not eat it. "
" What was it? " Chakotay asked.
" Grenitary Rocks, an acquired taste and very very crunchy, but Tom was adamant, he was not eating rocks, would not even take one from me, just to try it out, absolutely refused. "
" I guess Mr Paris just hasn't got that acquired taste. Thanks Neelix. "
Chakotay moved out of the kitchen, glancing around the mess room at the few remaining diners, Harry had left and no one else was there from Paris' limited circle of friends. He decided to head down to engineering.
"Hello B'Elanna, " Chakotay stated as he approached her, " Can I speak to you privately for a few moments? "
" Certainly Chakotay, Ensign take over for me. "
The two wandered to a quiet corner of engineering.
" What's wrong Chakotay? " B'Elanna asked.
" Why do you think something is wrong? " He protested.
" You just interrupted me in the middle of a warp calibration, now I know it is routine and the ensign can handle it, but you know I hate to leave these things to others. So you must be worried over something to drag me away. "
" All right, all right. It's Paris. " he admitted.
" Come on Chakotay, what happened the other day was an accident, he didn't do it on purpose, he is not trying to get himself off Voyager again. " protested Torres.
" I know B'Elanna, that's not what I'm talking about. He has placed a very unusual request before the Captain and I'm trying to find out why. " he explained.
" What type of request? " Torres asked.
" At this point, I'd rather not say. "
" Okay ...... well something over the last days has made him very mad. " she stated thoughtfully.
" Why do you say that? "
" He came to me and asked to use my callestics program, the klingon fighting one. Now the only time I use that one is when I'm mad at something, I figure Tom's using it for the same reason. "
" Any ideas on what he is so angry about? "
" None Chakotay, I just can't figure Paris out. " She ended, frustrated.
Chakotay was distracted by this show of emotion.
" You're trying to? " He asked hesitantly.
" Yes. " snarled Torres, then quickly added, " He helped me out on a few away missions, " she tried to explain," Oh forget it, I've got work to do. "
She hurried back to her staff and the warp calibration.
Chakotay wandered out, considered all he had learnt which was really nothing. Something was bothering Tom, something was making him angry and something just wasn't right with him. Considering his refusal to fly, this was something Chakotay could have deduced for himself. Chakotay looked up in surprise to find himself outside the holodeck, there was one person left who knew Tom well that he could talk too. He ran the program and entered,
" Hello Sandrine. "
" Allo Commander Chakotay, what can I get for you? "
" I'll have a loberian ale. "
He moved forward and sat at the bar, watching the other holocharacters mingle in the tavern.
" You are looking perhaps for that clinging leech Ricki? " Sandrine asked as she placed his drink before him.
Chakotay looked around in surprise, realizing the holocharacter was not present.
" Not really but I am surprised she's not here. "
" She only comes out when my Thomas is here, she clings to him and lately she been here all the time, " complained Sandrine. " He does not send her away. "
" Tom has been spending a lot of time here, I didn't notice. " Chakotay said in surprise.
" He comes after every one has gone, he sits drinking with that woman. " explained Sandrine.
" Why do you think that? " Chakotay asked, wondering if it was possible for a holocharacter to have the answer to Paris' strange behavior.
" He does it to punish himself, to remind himself of what he has lost. "
" Lost? " queried Chakotay.
" To him there seems so many things, his family's honor, his fiancee's love, his own self worth. So to that witch he comes, his own reminder, drinking and playing pool to all hours. "
" Has he seemed worse lately? "
" Yes but I do not know why, he comes to play pool, to drink, not to talk. I am sorry Commander but I can not help you or my Thomas. "
" Thank you Sandrine. " Chakotay left.
Chakotay gave his report to the captain, everyone he had spoken to believed Paris was troubled and angry over something but not one of them had any idea what it was.
The doctor took most of the day to run every test he could to check on Mr Paris' physical and mental health. His report to the Captain was brief, physically Mr Paris was fine, suffering from only a lack of sleep but mentally Mr Paris showed signs of being under severe stress.
Paris was seated in the empty mess room, pushing something around on his plate, the only noise came from Neelix as he rummaged around in the kitchen. The mess room doors slid open and Chakotay walked in, he paused to collect something to eat then made his way directly to Paris, sitting down opposite him. Paris waited for him to speak but the commander remained silent, finally Paris spoke,
" I've been expecting you. "
" I thought you would be. "
" There's nothing to talk about, I won't change my mind. "
" I didn't think you would. The doctor believes you are suffering from some kind of mental stress, talk to me, maybe I can help. .......... Let me try?"
Only silence greeted his plea, this time Chakotay broke the silence, pushing away his plate, he spoke,
" I also understand from the doctor you're not sleeping well. "
Paris become interested in examining the content of his plate, Chakotay continued,
' I have something for you, a meditation stone, it may help you sleep. " Chakotay took from his pocket a small smooth stone, a line seemingly scrawled all over it and laid it on the table before Paris. Tom raised his eyes to look at the stone, his hand reached out to pick it up. Chakotay was surprised to see it shaking. Paris held the stone in his hand, his mind on the third sign of the prophecy. Finally Paris looked up, his face filled with a great sadness.
" Thank you Chakotay, I'm honored that you would give one of your stones to me. "
" You saved my life, Tom. I owe you, for that and for other things. Giving me the chance to know you, I'd trust you to guard my back Paris. "
Paris looked stunned, " Thanks Chakotay, that means a lot coming from someone like you. "
" Like me? " queried Chakotay, surprised and pleased to find that Paris valued his opinion.
" Yes, you prefer honesty to deception and well, I've spent most of my life living the deception. "
" What do you mean? "
" Well as dear old dad told me, if I hadn't been his son I'd be nothing, so I acted the admiral's son. " Paris bitterly stated.
" You haven't seemed to be acting here on Voyager. " Chakotay protested.
" No, Voyager was my chance but no one can ignore who they are or what they've done. Tell me Chakotay, do your animal guides believe in fate, destiny? "
Chakotay was startled by this new twist in their conversation, but still answered thoughtfully,
" My spirit guide knows the paths my life may follow, sometimes they diverge, join and other times there is but one way. "
" One way. " Paris echoed, looking down again at the stone in his hand, his fingers curled around it. His face became shuttered, his emotions hidden.
" Thanks again Commander, but as your spirit guide and gypsy readings tell it, this was meant to be, the only way. "
Paris stood up abruptly,
" I won't ever fly again Chakotay. "
He marched out leaving Chakotay to try and understand what exactly had been said.
Later Chakotay ordered the computer to run a search, any link at all between Thomas Eugene Paris and gypsies. It was a long shot but Chakotay had no other clues, however vague this one was, about what was happening to Paris.
A grim silence hang in the room, the two people stood facing each other, each wishing to be some where else, to not have to witness the other's pain.
" Have you thought over your request during the last three days, Mr Paris? "
" Yes Captain. "
" Do you have anything to add, to change? "
" No Captain. "
Janeway sighed in defeat, but tried one last time.
" Do you have any further explanation? "
" No Captain, " Paris sadly answered, preparing himself to lose all that he had fought so hard to deserve.
" Very well, you will be re-assign to the sickbay. Your position trainee medic, dismissed. " concluded Janeway.
Paris looked surprised and waited but she did not continue.
" Um Captain, what about my rank, my cabin? "
" I have nothing to add Lieutenant. You are dismissed. "
" Aye Captain. " Paris stumbled from the room.
Harry came straight to sickbay at the end of his shift, finding Tom pouring over some medical text with Kes.
" Okay Tom, what's this all about. You've been re-assigned, you've been hiding from me for the last four days and for weeks you've been dismissing my questions and ....... you aren't TALKING to me! "
" Hi Harry, no need for all this drama, I simply asked the captain to move me. "
" But why? "
Paris didn't like lying to his friend Harry but he knew he had to give some story otherwise the crew wouldn't stop harassing him and the others involved for the reasons behind his reassignment.
" I'll tell you Harry. I just couldn't do it anymore. I thought I was over Caldrik Prime but flying has brought it all back. I don't trust myself anymore. "
There was some truth in what Tom said, enough to convince Harry that it was all true.
" Tom, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were having such a hard time. Is there anything I can do? "
" Just be satisfied by the new arrangements, I am. "
" All right, " Harry slowly replied, accepting it but not liking what he saw, Tom's tension and exhaustion. He needed to help, Tom was his best friend, " Buy you dinner? "
" Sure Harry ..... thanks. "
B'Elanna cornered Tom the next evening at Sandrines, the first night in weeks, he had gone to the holodeck when he could expect to see others there.
" They're calling you a coward. " she abruptly stated.
Paris froze momentarily, than continued casually with his pool shot.
" Good evening Torres, how's engineering? "
" Didn't you hear what I said? " she demanded.
" Yes. " Tom replied calmly.
" Then what are you going to do about it? "
" What can I do? "
" Prove that you are not a coward! "
Tom stood slowly and turned to face his angry friend.
" But I am B'Elanna, I'm afraid to fly this ship. "
Torres' face grew red in anger, Paris' calm responses and acceptance infuriated her, she reached out, grabbed Paris' pool cue and snapped it in two. Dropping the pieces on the ground, she turned pushing her way through the still audience of the other crew members and left the holodeck.
The weeks passed, people became accustom to the new arrangements and only a few still making loud statements around Paris when he was alone that they had always know he was a coward or something else along that line. Chakotay had received only one answer on the computer search he had ran, one prisoner of gypsy heritage had been at the New Zealand penal colony at the same time as Paris but at different settlements, it would be unlikely they had met so Chakotay dismissed the event from his mind.
Paris sat at the table, half heartedly eating the meal before him, uninterested in the events around him as he worked away on a datapad. Due to his new position his lunches no longer coincided with either Harry or B'Elanna's, so he sat alone.
He ignored the few loud comments coming occasionally from the table behind him, as a group of dedicated starfleet personnel vented their approval at no longer having to worry about the coward at the helm. He ignored the few looks of sympathy and pity and the more common looks of confusion and bafflement from those who just could not understand what Paris had done. He simply sat, working away until he realized some one stood beside him, talking to him. He looked up in surprise to find two people looking at him expectantly,
" I'm sorry Captain, Commander, I wasn't listening. "
" We asked Mr Paris, if we may join you? " Janeway repeated.
A wariness settled on Tom as he stiffened in his seat, nodding his permission.
" Certainly Captain, Commander. "
The two sat down, troubled by the attitude of the man before them and also by the distance in his voice and by the knowledge of the differences in their positions, now that Tom was no longer on the senior staff. Tom watched them cautiously as he became aware of the silence. Well he thought this was one way to shut up those behind him. The silence at their table was broken when Chakotay nodded at the datapad before him, asking,
" Another holoprogram? "
" Yes Commander, I'm putting some finishing touches on it then I'd like to show it to you. "
" What kind of program is it? " Chakotay asked, glad to see some excitement in their ex-pilot.
" Simply a training program, I've based it on a copy from starfleet academy but have altered it to suit the delta quadrant and thrown in a few unusual phenomena. "
" Which program? " Janeway asked, curious now.
" The pilot training program. " Tom rushed on, " I've got a bit more time free now and you don't need courage for holosuite flying. "
" Tom, " protested Janeway, " I've never thought you a coward, not when I first met you and not now. "
Tom's expression lightened at the captain's words, he could not resist adding,
" No captain, when you first met me I doubt very much coward is the first thought you had. "
Janeway grinned, " Exactly! "
The smile faded from her face and she became serious. Paris noted this and stood suddenly,
" If you will excuse me Captain, Commander, my lunch break is over and I have to report back to sickbay. Enjoy your lunch. "
He quickly exited the mess room.
" Damn! " Janeway exploded softly, " I had to ruin it, that's the first time Tom has made a impertinent comment to me in weeks. "
" I know Katherine, but we can both see Tom's suffering and neither of us can simply stand by when a friend is in pain. "
" That's it exactly, I gave Tom what he asked for but he just continues to get worse, the doctor states that his moods are erratic but nothing is wrong with him physically. "
" For whatever reasons, Paris has given up the thing he loves best, flying. No matter how he acts or what he says, this can't be easy for him. "
" I know but why, why did he do this, why is he hurting? Chakotay, if only he would talk to some one, let some one in long enough to get some help, I would be easier about this whole mess. As it is, things seem only to get slowly worse. "
" One thing I've always know about Paris, is that he is a survivor. Whatever is going on with him Katherine, I believe he will survive it "
" I hope so Chakotay I hope so, because this time when I see him in pain, I hurt. This time he's a friend, not a stranger. "
Silence fell as they finished their lunch and returned to the bridge, a bridge that felt empty even with its full crew complement.
Kes entered the sickbay to find Tom studying hard on a datapad and no sign of the doctor. She walked over to Paris, glancing over his shoulder to see what he studied so carefully. Tom was concentrating so exclusively on the datapad that he did not notice her and to her surprise, she found not a medical text on his pad but one short line.
" What is that Tom? " Kes asked.
Paris jumped in his seat, startled, his hand automatically shutting the datapad down.
" Just some personal stuff Kes. "
" What was that about nets. You're not planning on hunting and trapping some creature are you Tom? " She asked in disbelief.
" No Kes, it's just a riddle. " He reluctantly explained.
" Oh, I love riddles. I'm good at them too, show it to me Tom. "
Paris realized to make a fuss would draw more interest than he wanted, so he hesitantly showed Kes the fourth sign.
' In chains, within bars, beneath nets you will stand. '
" What's it met to mean? Do you have a hint? " Kes asked.
" It's most likely a location, probably on Voyager. "
" In chains .... The brig. " suggested Kes.
" I thought of that but what about the bars and nets. The forcefield could be bars but I can't think of anything that could be a net. "
" Yes, you're right. Oh good, this is a hard one. Let me think about it. "
Over the next week Kes came up with a few suggestions but none that totally satisfied the riddle.
" Captain, sensors are having trouble reading the planet through the upper atmospheric storm but I am getting a high energy reading similar to our dirthium stones. No signs yet of life. " Ensign Kim reported.
" Thank you, Mr Kim. Tuvok, can we beam a landing party down to the surface. " Janeway asked.
" While the planet surface is untouched by the storm, its interference is still too great. A shuttle should have no trouble piloting down to the surface. "
" Good. Commander arrange a team and get Mr Par.. " Janeway ended abruptly.
" Shall I bring Mr Paris along as medic, Captain? " Chakotay asked.
Janeway smiled her thanks at Chakotay's save as she nodded her agreement.
Paris entered the shuttlebay warily, relaxing only when he saw another crew member take the pilot's chair. He approached Chakotay.
" Lt. Paris, reporting as ordered. "
Chakotay turned around and noted the stiff form at attention before him.
" Relax Paris, you're coming down to the planet as medic. You might as well get comfortable on the shuttle. "
Paris nodded and moved off, watched by Chakotay. Chakotay had hoped that over time, Paris would talk about whatever was tormenting him but he had remained silent, though the strain was beginning to show. He was thinner and moodier, rarely mixing with the crew and these actions were making all of his friends worry. Chakotay hoped getting off Voyager for a few hours would help Paris relax a bit. The Commander nodded to the rest of the away team which included Tuvok to board the shuttle and they were soon headed down to the planet.
The passage through the storms was not dangerous, though the flight was not as smooth as Paris could have flown it. Once through scanners immediately located a large deposit of the energy readings Voyager had detected and so they landed the shuttle in a nearby clearing. The environment they found themselves in was forest, large immense trees with little growing beneath, which made the area below shaded and dark but still easy to navigate.
" I'm picking up life forms but these ....... trees seem to echo and distort the signals. " Tuvok stated, " I am unable to locate or identify them. "
" All right, everyone keep their eyes open and Mr Tuvok, try to clear up that signal. " ordered Chakotay. " Let's go check out these energy signals. "
The six men set off in single file and moved easily through the trees, 40 minutes later they reached the source of the energy. Tuvok ran an analyzer over the strange round rocks they had found.
" These are definitely the energy source and I believe they may be compatible with our energy systems. "
" Okay, let's collect a load and take them back to Voyager for a complete analysis. " Chakotay ordered.
Paris laid down his medkit and began collecting the rocks, he enjoyed being on a planet under an open sky again. As he paused and looked around, the contented smile on his face faded as from the trees there erupted a party of men. Chaos ensued. The starfleet personnel pulled out their phasers but the attacking party closed too quickly and were of a greater number. Hand to hand combat began, their pilot was surrounded by three men and forced to the ground and the two security men both were knocked out by blows to the head. Tuvok was holding off two of the attackers while Paris was using everything he had learnt, from the back streets of Marseilles to the New Zealand prison, to fight off the attacker who threatened him. He was holding his ground when he heard a cry to his right, risking a brief glance he found that one of the men had manage to get behind Chakotay and stab him in the back. Chakotay had collapsed to his knees and his attacker was about to finish him off. Paris realized he had to do something quickly, he threw a wide kick at his opponent, causing him to jerk back and giving Paris a few seconds. He used them to throw himself to his right, directly at the man raising his knife just above Chakotay's head. He crashed fully into the man, knocking him to the ground. They rolled together, each struggling for the knife. Finally Paris seized it and with a sharp punch knocked his opponent out cold. He was breathing heavy, kneeling on the ground, feeling bruised and sore as he looked up to see how Chakotay was. He found that another man had stepped out of the forest and now held a knife to Chakotay's neck.
" Move and he dies! " the man shouted, gaining Tuvok's attention as well. Paris glanced at Tuvok and watched as he lowered his hands from their defensive stance. Paris looked back at the man and Chakotay, dropping the knife he had taken. He was immediately seized from behind and pulled to his feet, his hands then bound before him with a set of chained handcuffs.
" You three, help your friends, " the man, obviously the leader of this collection of men ordered Paris, Tuvok and the pilot. One of the security guards was still unconscious, Tuvok picked him up, the other was dazed and unsure on his feet, the pilot grabbed his chained hands to help steady him. Paris moved towards Chakotay, pausing to pick up his medkit.
" Drop it! " ordered the leader, his knife pressing on Chakotay's throat.
" It's just medicine, " protested Paris, " He's hurt. " he added, nodding to Chakotay. The leader paused, seeming to consider his request but before the leader could answer another voice spoke,
" So let him die. "
Paris turned to face the speaker, finding it to be the man he had knocked unconscious . He was coming towards Paris with a very unpleasant expression on his face.
" Just as you will die, " the man continued, " no one gets away with hitting me. "
The man suddenly swung up his hand, his whole body behind the blow as he backhanded Paris across his face. The blow knocked Paris to the ground, the left side of his face aching, his head ringing and blood coming from his cracked lip.
" Horu, " the leader of the attackers called. " Leave it, I told you I wanted them alive. "
" So they're alive. " Horu answered as he swung his foot at the collapsed body before him. If the kick had connected properly it would most likely have smashed a few of Paris' ribs, as it was the kick was slightly off target and slowing. The blow caught Paris on his left shoulder.
When Paris finally cleared his head enough to look around he found Horu's body lying on the ground before him, dead. The attacker's leader was pulling out his knife from the body, he looked down into Tom's eyes.
" No one disobeys me. " He coldly stated, " No one ........ now get up and keep your friend alive. I may need him. "
Paris was chilled by the cold unfeeling gaze of the man, glad when the leader broke his stare, looking around to check on his men. Tom quickly grabbed the medkit and hurried over to Chakotay. Running the tricorder over the commander, he found the wound was deep and still bleeding but if taken care of should not be life threatening. He injected Chakotay with a pain killer, then treated the wound as best he could with his chained hands. He didn't know if he would have a chance again to administer to Chakotay so he added some old fashion treatment such as a bandage over the wound and around the chest to help reduce Chakotay's movements. Paris looked up when he had finished to find the leader watching him.
" Will he live? "
" Yes. " Paris answered, turning to let the other crew members know that their commander was all right.
" Good, " the leader replied, " let's move out! Oque, track our guests back to their ship. "
" Right away Cero. "
The starfleet crew were forced to march along, Paris supporting Chakotay as much as possible.
" Thanks Paris, told you that I trusted you with my back. " Chakotay whispered.
" We are in a bit of a mess. " Paris wryly pointed out.
" Yes but I'm alive, you saved my life again Tom. "
Before Paris could answer, he was pushed from behind.
" No talking. " One of the captors ordered.
The group moved along in silence.
It took almost 2 hours for the party to reach Voyager's shuttle. The two security men had recovered, both suffering only from headaches. Chakotay was pale and shaking but still able to walk, though it was with great relief that he sunk to the ground at the order to halt. The leader, Cero stood before the shuttle examining it than he moved around it, trying to find a doorway. He laid his hand on the control panel he discovered but nothing happened and pushing some buttons produced no results. He walked over to the group resting on the ground, seized the closest person who happened to be Tom and pulled him back to the shuttle.
" Open it! " Cero demanded.
Paris remained silent and still.
" Open it or your friend dies. " He ordered, nodding back towards Chakotay. Paris looked briefly at his companions before stepping forward and keying open the shuttlecraft's hatch. Cero grabbed Paris and pushed him back towards the others, ordering six of his men to find someplace to secure them. Cero then disappeared inside the shuttle, followed by two others.
Tom and the others were herded into a small nearby clearing, a steep cliff rose along one side and except for the small opening they were pushed through, the rest of the clearing was surrounded by an impenetrable wall of trees. The clearing was in shadows as above them the many branches of the trees reached out criss-crossing, cutting out most of the light.
While Tuvok and the other crewmen searched for any escape route, Paris checked Chakotay out as best he could, now that their captors had taken all their tools, excluding their comm badges which the attackers took to be simply rank insignia.
" Well Paris, how's it look? " Chakotay wearily asked.
" With care and rest, you'll be fine. "
" And without it? "
" For a stubborn indian like you, my prognosis is the same. " Paris replied with a grin.
" Save me from trainee medics. " pleaded Chakotay as he returned Paris' smile.
Before Paris could make a snappy comeback they were joined by Tuvok.
" How is the Commander, Lieutenant? "
" He'll live but I'd advise we get him to sickbay as soon as possible. Any way out? "
" No, this location seems very secure. "
Paris looked around, noting their enclosure for the first time, slowly he stood, his gaze widening in horror as he stared around them and then at the chains on him. His shoulders slumped with acceptance and despair, as he muttered softly to himself, ' in chains' looking down at his hands, ' within bars' noting the solid tree trunks surrounding him like bars of a cage, ' beneath nets you will stand ' finally looking up to the nets of branches above him. This was the final sign, soon he would fly again and ........ kill again. He looked around, these people were his friends, his crewmen and he was going to kill them all. He collapsed on the ground, his arms wrapped around himself, filled with a terrifying fear.
Chakotay and Tuvok had watched Paris' movements in surprise then shock at his sudden collapse, but before either could speak, the leader, Cero entered their cage.
" Who's the pilot? " he demanded.
All froze, silent then suddenly Paris unfolded himself, a look of grim determination on his face.
" I am. "
" Bring him! " Cero ordered.
" Paris, what are you doing? " Chakotay demanded. Seeing Tom's face had assumed an look of blandness, looking like he didn't have a care in the world. Chakotay turned to Cero, knowing he would get nothing from Paris, " Paris is our medic, he is not our pilot. "
Cero looked back at Paris, remembering his care of the wounded man. Tom saw that Cero had doubts and quickly stepped forward.
" It's true. I'm the medic but that doesn't mean I'm not a pilot. You can asked the onboard computer. It will verify that I can fly. " He saw Cero wavering, " I don't want to be stuck on this planet, that is our ship's only shuttle and they have no other way to get us off. I don't want to be stuck on this planet. "
The leader nodded, this sentiment he understood.
" Bring him. " He again ordered and Paris was dragged off to the shuttle.
Paris sat down in the pilot's seat, Cero seated beside him.
" I may not understand these controls but know this, I will kill you if you betray me, no matter where we are or what's happening. " Cero stared at Paris, making sure that his prisoner understood and believe him, though it was difficult to read any emotion in the man's eye, he sensed the prisoner felt uneasy, tense and frightened. This was good enough for him. He turned to the rest of his men,
" Six stay with me, the rest stay here and watch the prisoners. Once we have secured the main ship, we'll come back for you. "
" You won't capture the main ship and this shuttle won't be able to come back for your men. They'll be stuck here. " Paris quickly stated.
The men grumbled at this, the two who had started to leave halted, muttering, no one was going to volunteer to stay behind. Cero turned and hit Paris across the face.
" Shut up. "
He looked back, sensing the mood of his men, " Okay we all go but I want a bit of insurance, bring the wounded one here as well. "
As his men went around making preparation, Paris spoke up again.
" The shuttle can handle all your men but any extra weight will cut down our flying time once we have left the planet atmosphere. My captain won't shoot the shuttle while a member of her crew is on it, taking any one else won't make any difference to her but it will to the shuttle. " Paris protested.
" It will also keep you in line, I don't trust you. You're up to something. "
They were interrupted by the return of two of Cero's men dragging Chakotay.
" Anyway, " Cero nodded to Chakotay, " even if what you say about your captain is true, a leader is still worth more than a pilot. "
" Oh I'm not just a pilot. Computer state my name and rank, then state my father's name and rank. " Paris ordered.
' Thomas Paris, Lieutenant. Eugene Paris, Admiral. "
" You see, I'm a leader as well, even more important I'm the son of an admiral. A very powerful man in my world. Worth more than a wounded man who may die before you get a chance to use him. "
" What are you up to Paris, you know your father, " Chakotay was quickly interrupted by Tom,
" will do everything he can to get me back and I don't want you around spoiling things. If you drag him along, then get yourself another pilot. "
Cero moved forward, punching Paris again so hard that he was almost knocked from his seat.
" If I tell you to fly, you fly. "
" I'm awfully spoilt, " Paris stated as he pulled himself back up, wiping away the blood tickling down from his mouth. " Comes from having an admiral as a father, so many people want to do things for you. If Chakotay comes, I forget how to fly. "
Paris was strucked again, blacking out for a moment, he slurred, " Won't fly. "
" Believe me, if Paris decides not to fly, then he will not fly. " Chakotay stated, supporting Paris even though he had no idea what he was up to. Cero growled in frustration then he turned to Paris, taking out his knife he pointed it at Chakotay.
" I'll kill him! "
" Leave him and the others here alive and I'll fly you any where you want. Bring him or kill him and you can forget it. " Paris coldly bargained.
" So you care about your friends after all. "
" Not really but an admiral's son can't go around being responsible for killing people. Just isn't done. "
As Paris said this, he glanced back to Chakotay and Chakotay heard first the mocking tone but then saw in Paris' eyes, the memory of Caldrik Prime and the guilt of his friends deaths.
" Just isn't something an Admiral's son would do. "
Tom quietly stated.
" Fine. " Cero agreed in frustration, " but if you try anything, I'll kill you slowly and painfully and then I'll come back and finish off your friends. "
" We have a deal. " Paris agreed in relief, the signs had all occurred but now he was going to be flying a group of strangers. He didn't mind taking off on this flight, because he was sure of one thing, this trip would end up with everyone dead, including all these men that had threatened his follow crew mates. Cero nodded to his men to take Chakotay back to the others. In case Cero got any ideas Paris stated,
" I want to talk to the others just before we take off, just to make sure we both live up to our bargain. "
Cero nodded his agreement reluctantly.
An hour later Paris was escorted back to the enclosed clearing.
" Well ......... " Paris tried to begin cheerfully but continued in a sad tone, " this is goodbye. "
Chakotay angrily asked from where he lay resting.
" What is this all about Paris? "
" It would take too long to explain. " Tom wearily replied.
" I could order you to stay, " Chakotay threatened, uneasy over the tired accepting attitude of their normally impudent pilot.
" Don't do that, " Paris asked, then forcing a grin added, " I would hate to disobey my last order. "
The two guards pulled him away, pushing him back to the shuttle.
" Last! What do you mean last? " Chakotay yelled.
" You'll be safe here. The datachips on my desk, they'll explain everything. " Tom shouted as he was pushed into the shuttle. Five minutes later the shuttle powered up, rose and shot up, leaving the five starfleet crew stranded on the planet, alive and safe.
As the shuttle approached the higher atmosphere, Paris warned of the coming turbulence. The flight was a bit rocky but nothing serious and they were soon approaching the end of the interference. The communication console became active, though not very clear.
" Cochran, this is Voyager. Do you receive us? " Kim's voice was heard overlaid with static.
" Hold us right here. " Cero insisted as he caught his first glimpse of Voyager. " It has sensors, weapons. " He demanded.
" Yes. " Paris answered briefly as he worked to maintain their position.
" Cochran, this is Voyager. Respond. " Kim's voice ordered.
" I better answer him, you don't want them getting suspicious. " Paris suggested
" Talk to him, voice only and don't try any tricks. Keep us here in the interference. If we drift out, I'll kill you. " Cero pulled out his knife and lay the tip at Paris' throat.
" No tricks. " Paris echoed as he moved to answer.
" Voyager, this is the Cochran. Paris speaking. "
Captain Janeway answered.
" Mr Paris, is there something wrong with the shuttle, we read no faults from what our sensors can detect through this interference. "
" A small build up of ..... gamma particles, just recycling them out before moving on. " Paris invented.
After a small pause Janeway continued, " I'd like to speak to the Commander. "
" The commander remained on the planet while I brought up the first samples from the energy source we were reading. "
" You ..... who's flying that shuttle? " Janeway suddenly demanded.
" Why, I am captain, " Tom replied as he finally managed to reconfigure the communication array to a one-way visual between the increasingly difficult task of keeping the shuttle stationary. The viewscreen on the bridge of Voyager slowly changed to show a heavy static picture of Tom at the controls and a stranger seated beside him holding a knife. Janeway motioned for audio to be muted as Ensign Kim quickly reported,
" Sensors still have trouble reading the shuttle but I am getting a reading of about 11 lifeforms, Tom's cannot be zeroed in on, the transporter cannot lock onto him either ....... and captain, the storms in the upper atmosphere levels are increasing in strength rapidly. He needs to get that shuttle out of there quickly. "
Janeway signaled for the communication to be re-opened.
" Mr Paris, our sensors are reading an increase in storm activity, I suggest you finish ..... recycling the gamma particles and get out of the upper atmosphere. "
Tom was already more than aware of this. He turned to Cero.
" Look, she's right. I need to move us out of here, the storms are getting stronger. "
" We stay here. " Cero ordered.
" Voyager will not fire on us while I'm here. We don't have to worry about Voyager, we do have to worry about this storm. "
" I don't trust you and I don't trust your ship. We stay. "
Their conversation was heard by those on Voyager, but they could do nothing as the shuttle was rocked by a sudden violent electromatic burst from the storm. The movement threw everyone in the shuttle around and nearly stalled the impulse engines. With any other pilot they would have but Paris was the best.
Janeway spoke again,
" I will do nothing to endanger any member of my crew. Let Lieutenant Paris move the shuttle out of the storm, you are risking all your lives. "
" She knows! " exclaimed Cero.
" Voyager's sensors will be getting some readings from the shuttle, such as the number of people here. " Paris hastily exclaimed. His hands flew over the controls, using all his skill to keep the shuttle flying until he knew the shuttle could take no more.
" These storms are going to destroy the shuttle, I'm getting us out of here. " Paris shouted above the storms increasing noise. His hands moved rapidly over the console, bringing the shuttle forward.
" No one disobeys me. " burst out Cero, as he raised his hand and thrust down. Plunging his knife into Paris' chest. Tom slumped across the console and the shuttle began to tumble back towards the planet.
On the bridge of Voyager, all had watched in disbelief and horror at the sudden turn of events, the last image they had was of Paris falling back in his seat, a knife protruding from his chest, before the interference became too much and the screen filled with white static. Kim monitored the shuttle's path on the way down, as far as he could tell through the heavy interference, the shuttle had crashed.
Chakotay, Tuvok and the others looked up as a growing sound reached them. They watched as the shuttle came spinning down, just as it reached the horizon it seemed to pause for a moment, then it continued down. Even from such a distance, the others felt the shock of impact and the following explosion.
" Tom! " gasped Chakotay, realizing his friend was dead.
After an hour of violent increase in storm activity in the upper atmosphere, the storms disappeared allowing a relieved captain to contact her away team. The transporters were also able to function and the remaining members of the away team were beamed back onto Voyager. Sensors were also functioning perfectly, a full sweep of the planet revealed the site of two crashes, one their own shuttle, the other presumably the ship their attackers had been on. The energy readings were still highly favorable and so after Janeway listened to Chakotay's initial report she sent Lt. Torres down with a small team to investigate the mining of these stones and another team led by Tuvok was sent to investigate both crash sites while Harry closely monitored the storm activity.
Tuvok and three other members of the investigating team materialized at the crash site of Voyager's shuttle. They stood for a moment, just looking at the flat landscape with a large blackened hole in the middle. Debris was scattered all around, small pieces of the shuttle but the destruction was complete. Little remained and there was no sign of life.
" I want an immediate scan for life signs, also set your scanners to search for any comm badge signals. Each of us will take a quadrant with the impact site as the starting point. You have your assignments, proceed. " Tuvok ordered.
The four starfleet crew began their search, fanning out over the ground, finding other material remnants and some organic remains though they were not human. Within 30 minutes they had concluded their search of the area, Tuvok communicated his report to Voyager.
" Captain, initial scans completed, there are no survivors. A comm badge and other starfleet materials have been retrieved, damage by the crash, a knife with human blood and part of a starfleet uniform have also been found. Most of the remains of the shuttle and it's occupants burned up on impact, I conclude that these items are all that we will find of Lt. Paris. "
" Move on to the next crash site when you are finished there, " was Janeway's only response.
She looked away from helm position and hearing muttering, turned to Ensign Kim's station. She found Harry shaking his head, saying over and over again.
" I can't believe Tom's gone. "
Janeway was in her ready room when the chime sounded.
" Enter. " She looked up in surprise to find her first officer slowly making his way to her couch.
" Should you be out of sickbay? " she asked.
" No, the doctor tried everything to keep me there but I wanted to talk to you. "
A silence descended, finally Chakotay asked the question he hoped he didn't know the answer to.
" Tom Paris? "
Janeway looked out the porthole, her fingers tightening on her datapad.
" Tuvok found scattered fragments of the shuttle, that's all that remained. Every one in that shuttle died, Tom is dead ......... Why? " Janeway burst out, " Why was he flying? "
" I don't understand it Katherine .......... He volunteered, he insisted that he fly! They wanted to take me along but he refused to fly with me, said they could kill me while at the same time insisted I be left unharmed because he was the son of an admiral. He was ....... relieved to be flying again and at the same time I felt like he knew it would be the last time. I can't explain it, just as I can't explain anything Tom did over the last few months. "
They both fell silent, thinking about their dead friend.
" He did say something before they took off, that there were some datachips in his room that would explain things. " Chakotay added.
" They must be some chips, " stated Janeway as she ordered security to enter Paris' cabin and bring the datachips to her ready room. A few moments later, Janeway held the two chips found on Paris' desk.
" One's from three weeks ago and the other from ....... it was made during his time in prison. "
" I think we should start with that one. " Chakotay suggested.
Janeway nodded and placed the datachip into her console.
The image changed to a younger Tom Paris sitting in a darkened room, only a small light lightening the shadows on his face and the gray collar on his prisoner's uniform. He began talking, his voice harsh, bitter and uncaring.
' The kid's dead, so what! I didn't know him, he wasn't my friend, so I don't know why the old fool started raving that it was my fault. All we did was share a room, we had nothing in common, he had nothing to offer. If any one's to blame it's starfleet, they should never have sent the kid to a place like this. He was too trusting, naive, innocent, he didn't have a chance. It's his own fault he's dead, he was too weak. '
Paris turned away, grabbed a bottle of something and took a few mouthfuls, it looked like that was the end of the message but he turned back to the screen. Looking down at the bottle he stated,
' Not something you would find on an admiral's table, but good enough for me and I know dear old dad won't care one way or the other. Strange place to find the son of an admiral,' he added bitterly as he looked around, ' strange clothes, ' he added mockingly, ' and strange drink. It's created here in New Zealand, I'm sure the guards know about it but why should they care if a dozen or so of the convicts drink themselves to oblivion. Anyway if it is good enough for the son of an admiral, ' he chuckled harshly, ' it's good enough for traitors. '
He began to laugh, a harsh noise grating on those that listened, stunned by this side of the man they had know.
' The other inmates say this stuff will kill you but now after today, I don't have to worry about that, no I'm going the same way as my three good friends, crash and burn. You see, that crazy old fool may not be so crazy. I've heard the rumors, they say he can actually do it, that old gypsy trick of reading your future from your palm, and that's what he did today for me ....... and here it is ....... not as dramatic as when the old man did it but I remember the main details.
These are the five signs that will lead to my end.
Let's start with a cosmic clown who starts the Admiral's son's final journey. Grinning through the stars to lead the way. Ha Ha I always did like to begin with a joke.
Then the Admiral's son shall open his eyes to a world of freaks, the adult child, two halves fighting to be one, the profile of a face different from it's mate and above the living ghost. This I don't have to worry about, I've always hated going to the circus .... actually the truth is dad never took me to one.
Thirdly an ancient enemy lays the first stone on the Admiral's son's funeral cairn. This one shouldn't be too hard considering just how many enemies I now have.
Followed by in chains, within bars, beneath nets the Admiral's son will be caged. I start in a cage, I end in a cage, surprise, surprise.
Lastly the past lives once again when with your hands, you guide all to a fiery death.
There the Admiral's son will die. It's great, no more worry about how or when, I know it all now.
Paris took another drink after he had finished talking, beginning to appear the worst from the alcohol.
' It's a load of rubbish, no way I'm ever going to get the chance to fly again ........ anyway who out there cares ....... not me ........not my dad ........ not the dead. '
The datachip ended.
Janeway and Chakotay looked at each other in shock.
" He's so bitter and angry, much worse than when I met him in New Zealand. " Janeway stated.
" Perhaps he became more accepting later. " Chakotay shrugged, " I know one thing, there was a gypsy at the penal settlement the same time as Paris, I ran a check months ago because of something Paris had said, but this gypsy was in another district, I didn't think they would have met. "
" Well they did .... do you think this is why? Why Tom refused to fly again, because of this gypsy prediction. "
" Yes I do ...... but we have Tom's words themselves to explain. " Chakotay nodded to the other datachip. Janeway placed it into the console.
Tom sat at his desk, looking relaxed, confident and as if he didn't have a care in the world, so alive and normal to the two watching, it hurt. The only discordant note was the fact that his uniform was blue not red. In his hand, he held the meditation stone that Chakotay had given him. He began to speak, slightly nervous,
' I'm assuming that you have viewed the other datachip, if you haven't I suggest you do so ...... I thought of labeling them one and two or first and last ....... but decided not too. The other thing I'm assuming is that ........ I'm dead. '
He looked directly at the camera and gave a sad smile. It turned even sadder as he continued,
' I'm sorry about the others ....... at least it wasn't Voyager because there is NOTHING that would make me take the controls again. I have to believe this at least, that some one is looking at these datachips, that Voyager survived. '
He looked away, his fingers running over the stone he held.
' I'm sorry Captain, after the chance you gave me that I had to throw it all back in your face with no explanation. But I couldn't explain, I was too afraid that your scientific mind will say that everything had been a coincidence, simply random events ......... and how much I want to believe that ...... and if you had told me this Captain, I would have believed you. '
Tom looked back at the screen, smiling sadly again, but it faded away as he added,
' I couldn't take that chance. '
He paused for a moment.
' Commander Chakotay ...... I hope you're listening ........ I keep having a dream, that I'm flying the shuttle with you, Harry, B'Elanna, even Tuvok and Kes. Well, you can imagine how it ends. I hope you are alive ...... that you are all alive. Chakotay, strange how our relationship has changed. '
Tom's fingers tightened around the stone.
' You were the only other person I felt I could talk to, to explain to and who might understand. That day in the mess hall, I was so close but then you gave me this. '
Tom held up the stone.
' The first stone in my funeral cairn. '
" By all the spirits, " uttered a shocked Chakotay.
' I couldn't tell you after that because ...... I didn't want you telling me my fears were true, that the gypsy was right. I much prefer my current doubts. '
He ended with a small smile
' I want to thank you all, my time on Voyager has been the best of my life. So far from starfleet headquarters, I felt I was just Tom Paris, no one else ........no family name expectations, no ruined reputation ...... almost ....... still sometimes a part of me still felt it was back there with him, dear old dad ........ a part of me is relieved I won't have to see him again, won't after all I've done still be a disappointment to him ....... but I would have like to have gotten us home ..... to let them all see what I had made of myself. '
He shook off his rambling thoughts and added forcefully,
' Don't regret this Captain, the old gypsy was right, I was responsible for Denison's death. All I had to do was talk to him, be a friend ...... maybe then he wouldn't have killed himself...... but you saw how I was, I didn't want to help anyone, I didn't want to let anyone close, too busy being even there the son of an admiral, unreachable, strict, uncaring. Payments due Captain and I have a big bill ...... I hope this settles it. Goodbye Captain ........ I tried everything I could think of not to fly again, not to murder again ...... I'm sorry I failed .......... tell my family ......... tell my father ..........Goodbye. '
The message ended.
" He didn't deserve that, " exclaimed Chakotay, " he didn't deserve the grief of believing he would be responsible for his friends deaths again. He made a mistake but he paid for it. Captain, he saved my life again down on that planet. I wish he had come to me, talk to me, let me help him. "
" So do I Chakotay, he had become my friend also. "
They fell silent, trying to take in all that Paris had revealed.
" The fourth sign happened down on the planet, " Chakotay commented, " We were chained and placed into an enclosure, the trees and branches could have been bars and nets. Tom seemed to collapse, I thought it was shock but he must have recognized the surroundings. Tom told Cero, the leader that he was our pilot just after, he refused point blank to take any of us with them ........ he knew that they would crash, that he would die. "
" That all his friends were safe, at least he had that at the end. " Janeway concluded sadly.
Chakotay stood up and paced the room, ignoring the painful tinges from his back. He added bitterly,
" He deserved more. "
He began to leave, but turned back, nodding towards the datachips he asked,
" May I? "
Janeway nodded her permission as Chakotay scooped up the datachips and left.
Captain Janeway had made a ship wide announcement, confirming the rumors that had quickly spread, that Lt. Paris was dead. Harry Kim sat in his cabin, he had began to fell numb when he saw the knife plunged into his friend and the numbness has grown when his sensors had detected the shuttle's crash. The numbness had been complete when he had heard Tuvok's report from the planet's surface. Now, with this announcement he felt nothing.
The door chime sounded, he heard it distantly and ignored it, as he ignored the voice calling and the knock banging at his door. Finally the door opened and B'Elanna Torres entered, having overridden the door lock. She came over, sat down beside Harry and quietly spoke,
" Harry? "
The numbness faded abruptly, leaving Harry in agony, his best friend was dead. He cried out in pain, startling B'Elanna.
" He can't be gone. I need him, he keeps me sane in this crazy world we've been dragged to. What am I going to do without him. " He dragged in a few deep breaths, trying to regain control.
" He was my best friend ......... I miss him. "
" I know Harry. I know .......... I do too. "
There was nothing more to say, Harry and B'Elanna simply sat in that room, holding tight to each other and thinking of their friend, Tom Paris, who was now gone forever.
Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris had requested before his death that no service be held for him. All his belongings he left to his best friend Ensign Harry Kim to dispose of as he chose or to Captain Katherine Janeway should Ensign Harry Kim be unable to do this duty.
Harry had received permission from the Captain to leave Tom's things as they were for now as he was involved in mining the stones from the planet and just didn't have the time. Both the Captain and Harry knew this was a lie but they both pretended it was the truth. Harry and B'Elanna spent all their time on the mining operation, keeping themselves so busy that only occasionally did thoughts of Tom's death come into their lives. A strange sadness lay over Voyager, people found the hole in their lives left by Tom Paris' death much deeper than they ever expected.
The planet was high in some of the raw materials Voyager needed and Janeway planned to orbit the planet for at least five days. It was two days after the crash that Chakotay was finally released by the doctor and allowed to return to full duties. He was taking his lunch break, his thoughts far away from the brown things on his dish. Once again, the gypsy riddle was running through his mind as it had, again and again, since he had first heard it. There was something missing, he knew it but couldn't put his finger on it. Suddenly a comment from another table impinged on his mind. He turned sharply and barked, " What did you say? "
The poor crewman so addressed stammered, " Just that Lt. Paris wasn't a bad guy, I didn't mean anything by it. "
" Yes, yes, I understand but you said something else? " Chakotay persisted.
" Only that he wasn't bad for an admiral's son. " The confused crewman added.
" That's it. " shouted Chakotay, smiling as he realized what had been nagging at him. He sobered suddenly, " I've got to get down to the planet. "
He stormed out, leaving a stunned crowd in the quiet mess room.
Chakotay had been down searching the shuttle crash site for half an hour when his comm badge beeped.
" Chakotay, " he answered as he tapped his badge.
" Commander, may I ask what you are doing down there, " Janeway asked, " and not here on the bridge? "
" I'm sorry Captain, something has been bothering me about what was on those datachips. I just need to do some checking. Please Captain, I think it is important. "
There was a pause on the comm lines as Janeway realized what datachips Chakotay was referring too.
" Very well Commander, but we are detecting some more storms. Mr Kim calculates the landing party has about two hours before we will have to beam them up. So Chakotay, you have two hours. "
" Thank you Captain."
Chakotay looked around at the crater hole made by the shuttle, he had scanned the entire area but could find no traces of Paris. Now he widened his search, moving in an outward spiral from the crash site. Two hours passed and still no sign. He was beginning to believe that he was grasping at straws. Harry Kim contacted him, moments later.
" We are ready to beam you back on board, Commander. "
" Are the other landing parties on board? " Chakotay asked.
" No. no yet. "
" Bring them on board first, Ensign. That should give me another five minutes. "
" Very well Commander. " Harry replied, wondering what the Commander was up too.
Four minutes later Chakotay stumbled onto a small crevice, the tricorder recorded recent disturbances in the surrounding land but he was unable to scan beneath the surface. He bought his torch forward and looked down, the light drifted down till it rested on the ground and onto a foot wearing a starfleet standard issue boot. Quickly checking the walls of the crevice, he made his way down till he reached the crevice bottom. There he received a shock as from the darkness come a voice.
" You can't be here Chakotay, I'm still breathing ........ I think. "
" Tom, " gasped Chakotay, he had come to the planet, hoping there was a chance Paris was still alive, but not fully believing the possibility.
" I don't believe it. I found you ........ alive. "
" I thought so ........... I'm still alive .......... so ............ you better come back later Chakotay. " mused Paris.
Chakotay realized Paris was rambling, barely conscious.
" I don't think so Tom, a lot of people are going to be very happy to see you again. Now, this is going to hurt but I've got to get you out of this hole. "
He moved forward, feeling along Paris' body till he reached the shoulders, pulling Paris into a sitting position then up onto his own shoulders, ignoring the cries and groans from Paris. He climbed out of the crevice, immediately after he reached open ground, his comm badge activated.
" Commander, " sharply came Harry's voice, " I lost you for a minute. The storms are building, I have to transport you out immediately. "
" Mr Kim, transport two directly to the sickbay. Do you understand, two to sickbay NOW! "
" Yes sir. "
Chakotay felt the familiar tinge of the transporter beam just as Paris slumped unconscious in his grasp.
Janeway looked up at hearing Chakotay's command.
" Did the commander just say two? " she asked Harry in disbelief.
" Yes Maam, " answered a stunned Harry.
" Tuvok, you have the bridge. I'll be in sickbay. "
Janeway rushed into the sickbay to find Chakotay standing off to one side while the doctor and Kes worked over someone on the biobed. She moved forward, noting first the starfleet uniform, then the blue tunic and finally she saw the face.
" Tom! " she whispered.
She turned to Chakotay, stunned as she realized what he had been doing down on the planet.
" You went looking for him, why? "
" There was something bothering me about that riddle, today something some one said in the mess room made me realize what it was, it was... "
The doctor interrupted Chakotay before he could continue, coming to report to the Captain.
" Well, for someone who I've been told was dead, " he sarcastically began, " Mr Paris is in a very live state. He has a number of injuries, stab wound to the chest, fractured shoulder, broken right leg, broken right arm but these are all clean and healing, no complications. He is also undernourished, dehydrated and suffering exhaustion. With my superb care, you will have Mr Paris back on duty, cluttering my sickbay in a few days. Thankfully he will be able to return to his cabin tomorrow, that is, if a dead man had a cabin. " he finished starkly.
" Ah yes, thank you doctor. When can we talk to him? " Janeway asked.
" I'm keeping him sedated for the rest of today and for the night. You will be able to talk to him tomorrow morning. "
" Thank you doctor. "
A few minutes later the Captain made a ship wide announcement, Lt. Tom Paris had been found alive and was expected to make a full recovery. The doctor was kept very busy that afternoon and evening as a large number of the crew found excuses to drop into the sickbay. Harry and B'Elanna didn't make any excuse, just charged into the sickbay, touching Tom briefly to make sure he was here, alive and back with them, where he belonged.
Tom lay awake, looking up at the sickbay ceiling, confused, why was he alive, had he been wrong, what was he meant to do now. He didn't know anymore, he didn't understand. What should he do now? An hour later after the doctor had examined him, he had his first visitors, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. Tom greeted them half-heartedly, as if he wasn't sure they were there or even if he was here in sickbay. Chakotay could understand how Paris would be feeling so he began his explanation, the same one he had told the Captain yesterday.
" I believed you could still be alive Tom. That's why I went looking for you and why I found you. "
" So I was wrong. " Paris muttered.
" About the gypsy? " Chakotay asked, Tom nodded. " No Tom you were right, it was the riddles that led me to believe you were alive. "
" But I was to die, all of us were to have died! " Tom insisted, puzzled by Chakotay's words.
" No Tom, you weren't meant to have die. The admiral's son was meant to die ....... and I believe he did. "
" But I am the admiral's son! " Tom cried in frustration.
Another voice answered calmly, " No, you are Lt. Tom Paris of the Starship Voyager, a member of my crew. " Janeway announced.
" So what, that doesn't change who I was. "
" It can Tom and it has. " Janeway insisted.
Chakotay added to the explanation,
" You have proven to all of us here that you are more, much more than what you were in the past. Here you have had to rely only on what you brought to the delta quadrant, which was just you Tom, no one else. "
Tom suddenly understood, remembering when he had first woken up in the crevice and realized the situation. He remembered thinking it was a terrible way for a pilot to die, not one small part of him had thought that it was a terrible way for an admiral's son to die.
" It's gone! " Paris exclaimed as his breath rushed out of him.
" What Tom? " Chakotay asked.
" That voice, that piece deep within me that always knew I wasn't good enough, that I didn't deserve peace, that piece full of disappointment and shame, disgust. How could I be the son of an admiral. Nothing I did could change that small piece within me ....... but now it's gone .....I'm free! " he shouted in sudden joy. He laughed at how the sudden change in his mood had affected the captain and commander.
" I'm Tom Paris, Lt. The best pilot in the delta and alpha quadrants and a damn good officer, " he boasted laughing again. Both Janeway and Chakotay were smiling.
" I see we have our modest pilot back, " commented Chakotay, before he joined in with Tom's infectious laughter. But as his words registered to Tom, his laughter died away.
" I am back .... I can fly Voyager again, " Tom uttered stunned.
" Why ..... why would the gypsy give this back to me, he was so angry when he came storming through the crowd to reach me, he broke two bones in my hand when he seized it, then ..." Tom stopped, looking thoughtful.
" What Tom? " asked a fasinated Janeway.
" He just stared down at my hand, I was pulling and pushing at him, trying to get free. He just ignored me, until finally I gave up and just stood there. He looked up at me ........ his eyes, just thinking of them gives me the shivers, his eyes looked into mine. I know that they saw everything, everything I has done, felt and thought. He foretold me future, let go of me and walked away. I never saw him again. In fact it was the only time I ever saw him. Something must have gone wrong. "
" I don't think so Tom. " Janeway stated, " I believe Chakotay is right, that all who were meant to die, did in that shuttle crash. I think, in your own way, you needed help as much as that boy had, that you couldn't have helped him then. I think the gypsy must of realized that, and then foretold the death of the part of you that would never have helped another. "
" I also think the riddles were a test Tom. " Chakotay added.
" A test? How? "
" If you hadn't believed, if you hadn't given up one of the most important things in your life, flying ...... if you had acted as you thought the son of an admiral should ....... things would have turned out differently. Also if you hadn't changed since that time, you wouldn't have the friends you have now. "
" And you would not have come looking for me, my ancient enemy. "
Chakotay smiled, " No I would not have searched for the admiral's son. "
" Then I did have a choice, we had a choice. "
" Yes. "
They fell silent, trying to come to grips with all that had happened and all that they believed. Finally Tom spoke,
" I regained consciousness on the shuttle, before it crashed. I watched it crash. "
Janeway and Chakotay looked at him in shock.
" Can you tell us what happened? " Janeway asked.
" Well, " Tom began with a small grin, " my chest hurt like hell and I noticed there was a dagger sticking in me. Only a few of us were still in our seats, strapped in, the others were being tossed around as the shuttle tumbled down into the atmosphere. I remember it was getting hot. I reached for the controls, manage to get us level and slowing, I think I could have regained control if I had more time. But suddenly I was ripped from the shuttle as the hull cracked open, thrown out and flung to the ground. It was a rough impact, the breath forced out, everything jarred but nothing like it should have been. Luckily I fell on my back, the knife was gone, I don't know when. Nothing was broken, I got to my feet, stunned as I watched the shuttle crash in front of me. It was the pressure wave from the explosion that picked me up and pushed me back. I landed in the crevice, breaking my arm and leg. There was no hope of getting out or of anyone looking for me, no one would imagine I survived that crash. I decided the gypsy wanted me to have a long slow death, especially when I had a chance to feel around my open tomb. "
" The doctor was surprised at how well you were physically given all that had happened to you. " Janeway quickly asked after his chilling description.
" I had fresh water, fresh food and heat. " Paris explained, " There was a small tickle of water that I could easily reach with my left hand, whenever the wind blew hard, the fruits on the trees above me were blown off and into my .... cave. You might want to get Neelix to collect them, they have a very nice taste and then the rocks seem to store the day's warmth and radiated it during the night. It was just so .... right, I was sure that the gypsy had arranged it so I lived down in that hole a very long time. "
" Instead, " added Chakotay, " it was to keep you alive till you were found. "
" Till you found me, I guess this make us even Chakotay. "
" You saved my life twice on that planet, guess there are still a few things for us to settle. "
Tom rested his eyes, tired from all the talking and of trying to figure out what had happened and what was meant to happen.
" You're tired, " Janeway stated, " and I think we have discussed enough for now, get some rest Tom. "
She reached out and gave his hand a squeeze, then walked away. Chakotay hesitated a moment, then withdrew from his pocket, Tom's mediation stone.
" There is an old saying of my people, ' A true warrior is a man who can earn the respect of even his fiercest enemy. ' Here Tom, this is yours. "
He gave Paris the stone and walked away.
A week later, a week spent thinking, examing and puzzling over recent events till finally he simply accepted them and they fell into some sort of order, Paris dressed in his uniform, admiring once again the red coloring and made his way to the bridge. There seemed an awful lot of people in the corridor to the turbo lift, all giving him a nod or a smile. He stepped out of the turbo lift and onto the bridge to find all eyes on him. He reddened at the unexpected attention.
" Ah ... Lt. Paris reporting for duty. "
" Very well Lieutenant, " Janeway acknowledged, " Take the helm. "
" Yes Captain. "
Tom strode down, grinning now as he relieved the current pilot and slide into his seat. He paused for a moment, savoring the feel of the seat beneath him and the control panel before him.
" Course laid in and set. " He reported.
" Engage at warp 4. " Janeway ordered.
Voyager moved off into space. Silence descended on the bridge, broken finally by Ensign Kim as he muttered,
" It's about time things got back to normal. "
Laughter broke out on the bridge, every one was back where they belonged.
copyright@1998-June Daniela Signor