The Price of Freedom: Priorities

The Price Of Freedom: Priorities
By Jessica Ferroni

*He loved me, too. And all that time, he
never said a word, never let on.*
She was walking, walking nowhere in particular.
She only had to get away from the forest, from
the hologram frozen in time with the mixture of
sadness and hope on its face.
*Why didn’t he tell me? Oh, Tom. Where are
you now?*

“I do *not* believe this!” Tom Paris moaned
as he wrestled with the shuttlecraft’s controls
in vain. “This cannot be happening! This isn’t
happening. That’s it. It isn’t happening. It’s
all a figment of my imagination.” Somehow, though,
the enormous Cardassian warship dwarfing the
Federation shuttlecraft seemed too real to
be a figment of his imagination.
Tom slammed his fist into the bulkhead in
frustration. Shields were almost gone. Why
had he left Voyager, again?
The small craft shuddered, and finally the
shields gave out. Tom closed his eyes. He
wasn’t ready to die. He didn’t want to die.
The thought that maybe he shouldn’t have left
that chip with Janeway crossed his mind.
“I’m sorry, B’Elanna,” he whispered.

*****

There she was. A majestic spiral surrounded
only by the blackest space: Deep Space Nine.
It was good to be home. Kathryn Janeway could
barely contain the excitement on her features.
“Take us in, Mister Par — Ensign Bayhart.” If
any of the crew noticed the error — and
undoubtedly they did, for they missed Tom Paris’
presence as much as she did — they didn’t say
anything.
Following the instructions from the spacestation,
Voyager glided to rest at a docking pylon. “Nice
job, Ensign,” Janeway complemented.
Bayhart nodded. “Thank you, Captain.”
Janeway raised her voice. “Janeway to crew.
We have arrived at Deep Space Nine. It’s been a
a long five years, but now we are finally home.
I know you all are in a hurry to contact loved
ones, but we need to stay calm and orderly. Remember
that you are still the crew of Voyager, and I expect
you to act in such a manner.
“Starfleet will doubtless wish to question
every one of us, Federation and Maquis, and I
want you all to know that it has been a pleasure
serving with each and every one of you.”
Janeway paused for a moment. “Janeway out.”
She turned briskly to the bridge crew.
“Dismissed,” she said simply.
The bridge crew filed out until only Tuvok
remained.
“Yes, Tuvok?”
“Are you coming, Captain?” He was itching to
contact his wife, Janeway could see that.
Vulcan or not.
“Yes, Tuvok. I’ll be along shortly. Go on.”
She remained on the bridge long after it had
emptied. With a touch of sadness she traced
the edge of the pilot’s chair. She did not
want to have to speak with Admiral Paris about
his son. But she had sworn Tom that his father
would know. Would know his son had proved
himself many times, and had won the respect
of the crew.
B’Elanna Torres stumbled onto the bridge.
“Captain!” Her voice was frantic.
“B’Elanna, what is it?” Janeway asked worridly.
“What’s wrong?” Something in Tom’s message?
“We have to go back! Captain, we need to
go back!”
“B’Elanna, calm down,” Janeway soothed. She
started to lead the distraught young woman to
the pilot’s chair to sit down, but thought the
better of it and guided her to the captain’s
chair instead. “B’Elanna, tell me what’s
wrong,”
“Captain — Tom….he lo….he needed
me….he still needs me….We have to go
back….”
“B’Elanna,” Janeway said softly, but Torres
was hysterical.
“Captain, you don’t understand!”
“B’Elanna, I didn’t know you cared this much
about Tom,” said Janeway gently.
“I didn’t….I mean, I didn’t realize it….
until now.”
Torres’ sentences were jumbled, and Janeway
tried to calm the young woman down enough to get
some helpful information from her. “B’Elanna, what
was in the message? What was on the chip Tom Paris
left you?”
“He told me….he said….he said that he
did care about me, Captain.” The young woman pulled
herself together with effort. “I’m sorry, Captain,”
she said calmly. Embarrassment colored her features.
“Please forgive me.”
“B’Elanna,” Janeway said soothingly, “It’s alright.
You care about Tom. I understand. But we can’t
go back, not now. And how would you find him?”
“I will, Captain,” Torres said with fierce
determination. “I’ll find him.”
“B’Elanna,” said Janeway gently, “don’t you
think you’re acting a bit irrational?” It pained
her to say so, but B’Elanna wasn’t acting
normal. *I guess you never realize what — or
who — you’ve got until you lose it. And then you
become desperate to get it back.*
B’Elanna stood abruptly. “You’re right, Captain.
I apologize,” she turned on her heel and exited
smartly before Janeway could think of a reply.

* * * * *

B’Elanna Torres was miserable. He could see that
by just looking at her face. “B’Elanna?”
She started. “Oh. Chakotay.”
She looked thrilled to see him, he thought dryly.
“Yes, it’s me. Mind if I join you?”
“What? Oh. No. Not at all. Sit down.”
“B’Elanna, are you okay?” He’d never seen her
like this before.
“Yes. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know, you just look miserable.”
“Miserable? Why would I be miserable?”
Ah. She was moving on to sentences with more
than four words. “I don’t know. You tell me.”
She actually laughed. “Tell you why I’m miserable?
Tell *you* why I’m miserable? Maybe it’s because
I left the greatest thing that’s ever happened
to me in the Gamma Quadrant! Does that tell you
why I’m miserable??!!”
“B’Elanna….”
“Of course you wouldn’t understand. You’ve got
everything you need right here. Why did we have
to come back to the Alpha Quadrant, anyway??”
“*B’Elanna*….”
“But what if the Captain has a fiancee here?
What if you lose her? Then you’ll know how I feel.”
“B’ELANNA.”
“WHAT??!!” She reined in her temper quickly.
It would do her no good to lash out at Chakotay.
“I’m sorry,” she said meekly. What was happening
to her? Stupid Tom Paris. Stupid Tom Paris who
had left her here, alone. Stupid Alpha Quadrant.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
*Get ahold of yourself, Torres,* she berated. *This
is Chakotay.* “I think I just need to rest for
awhile, Chakotay. Since I don’t have anyone to
announce my return to, I think I’ll go back to
Voyager and lie down.”
“Okay, B’Elanna, if that’s what you want to
do….” his voice trailed off.
She nodded and left. Chakotay rested his chin
in the palm of his hand. Ever since they had
arrived in the Alpha Quadrant, B’Elanna had been
acting….strange. Come to think of it, she been
acting strange since….
“The Gamma Quadrant,” he mumbled aloud.
“Paris….Oh, B’Elanna.”
“What?”
He started. “Oh. Kathryn.”
He looked thrilled to see her, she thought dryly.
“Yes, it’s me. Mind if I join you?”
“What? Oh. No. Not at all. Sit down.”
“Chakotay, are you okay?” She’d never seen him
like this before.
“Yes. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know, you just look miserable.”

Ta-dah! To be continued…..

If you think I am being unfair to the rest of the
crew — and I don’t doubt that I am — remember that
this series focuses mainly on Tom Paris and B’Elanna
Torres. If you wish to do another crewmember’s point
of view, by all means you have my permission to do so.
Just mail me a copy of your story when you’re finished. 🙂
_____________________________________________________________________________

Copyright December 1996 by Jessica Ferroni on all original story content.
Not meant to infringe on copyrights held by Paramount or any other copyright
holders of STAR TREK: VOYAGER. Please do not reproduce for anything other
than personal reading use (including fanzines) without written consent of
the author. Comments are welcome at jessica@p24818.cle.ab.com.

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