Double Dealing, Part 2: Witch Hunt

DOUBLE DEALING – PART 2: WITCH HUNT

BY MALCOLM REEVE

“Shields at thirty seven percent,” Harry yelled, as the spatial displacement
wave shook Voyager to her bones.

“The rift is still closing,” Tuvok reported, bracing himself as the ship was
buffeted again.

“Tom,” Janeway called urgently, “can you get us through?”

Tom glanced up at the view screen, fuzzy with interference, and saw the point
of calmness that marked the opening in the rift. It was even smaller than the
last time he’d looked, and was almost directly above them; it was like looking
up from the bottom of a well.

“I’m trying,” he told them, as he frantically worked the controls.

“It’s closing too fast,” Tuvok warned. “The spatial distortion waves are
hindering our progress. At this speed we won’t make it before it closes.”

“Can we go to warp?” Janeway asked.

“Not in these plasma fields,” Paris told her, scanning his controls and making a
series of rapid calculations. “The warp bubble would collapse almost
immediately.”

“I believe that a tactical withdrawal would be prudent,” Tuvok observed. “If
we get caught in the rift as it collapses….”

“I can make it!” Tom insisted, his mind working frantically; he refused to fail
them in this.

“Inertial dampers at sixty percent,” Kim warned.

“Compensating,” Paris replied.

“Tom, we can’t risk the ship…,” Janeway called, staggering against the heaving
deck as she made her way to stand behind him.

“Captain, I can do it,” he told her, his eyes never leaving the controls. “I’ve got
an idea.”

“What idea?”

“Captain, the rift will collapse in one minute and thirty-five seconds,” Tuvok
warned.

“We can use the spatial distortion waves to push us through the rift…”

“How?” Janeway asked.

“If we extend the warp bubble BEHIND the ship, the action of the distortion
waves breaking against the warp field would push us through.”

“But won’t the bubble collapse?” Janeway asked.

“Captain, you’re right,” B’Elanna interjected from engineering. “But as the
bubble collapses, it will release an energy pulse ahead of the wave, and we can
use that to force us through the rift.”

“Kind of like surfing…?” Janeway smiled. “I like it!”

“The only problem is staying far enough ahead of the wave,” Tom pointed out.
“If it catches up with us, we’ll wipe out!”

“Captain,” it was B’Elanna again. “I calculate that with our remaining
di-lithium reserves, we can project a warp bubble only ten kilometres behind
Voyager.”

Janeway looked grim. “Then let’s hope that’s enough,” she said, returning to
her seat. “Mr Paris, Ms Torres, when you’re ready…”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Tom started adjusting the controls. “Torres, divert all power to
the warp nacelles.”

“Shields down, all power diverted,” B’Elanna replied.

“Okay,” Tom took a deep breath. “Standby,” he studied his controls again,
searching for the next spatial distortion wave; yes, right on cue. He turned the
ship away from the wave, and towards the collapsing gateway home, and then
punched the engines. If his calculations were correct, he’d have to hit 1000
kps just as the spatial distortion wave surged in behind them, and… “Initiate
warp bubble,” he told them. “Surf’s up!”

“The inertial dampers won’t fully compensate,” Kim called from ops, “so
everyone hang onto something.”

“All hands, brace for impact,” Chakotay’s voice rang throughout the ship.

“Here goes!” The spatial distortion wave rippled under the warp bubble,
lifting it and the ship, carrying Voyager faster than her impulse engines could
ever manage.

“Distortion wave 9.8 kilometres and closing fast, Captain,” Tuvok reported.
“Hull temperature rising.”

“Twenty-seven seconds to total warp bubble collapse,” B’Elanna added.

“That long?!” Tom muttered, as he fought to maintain Voyager’s heading
through the rift.

Plasma flares scorched the ship’s hull, swamping the view screen. “Captain,”
Kim called, “we’re getting plasma fires along the edge of the wave.”

“Noted,” Janeway replied, her attention fixed on the view screen.

“Hull temperature approaching safety parameters,” the ship’s computer
informed them calmly.

“The rift will collapse in 15 seconds,” Tuvok warned, sounding slightly less
concerned than the computer. “Distortion wave 5.3 kilometres behind, and
closing at 350 meters per second.”

“C’mon!” Tom quietly urged Voyager, struggling to keep her heading in the
right direction.

The ship began shuddering alarmingly. “Inertial dampers failing,” Kim
warned.

“Hull temperature has exceeded safety parameters.”

“Almost there…” Even as the words left Tom’s lips, the rift spat Voyager into
cool, calm space. “Yes!” he yelled, slapping his hand against the console in
triumph.

“All stop,” Janeway ordered, standing up. “Good job, Mr Paris. I don’t ever
want to do that again, but, good job.”

“Thank-you Captain,” Paris replied, allowing himself a small smile of relief.
“Piece of cake.”

Janeway smiled, and turned to her other officers. “Now, Ensign Kim, let’s see
where we are.”

“Some of the sensors were burned out…re-routing the subsystems,” Kim
paused for a moment. “Captain, if our sensors are working correctly, we’re
70000 light years from out last known position…on the other side of the
galaxy!”

“Can you get the view screen working?”

“Standby, Captain. There, got it.”

They all watched as the view screen hesitantly flickered back into life. At first
the image was fuzzy, but slowly it began to clear, and the whole crew watched
in astonishment. A planet hung in the stars before them, glittering like a
turquoise gem in the heavens.

“I’d say that was an M-class planet, Captain,” Paris quipped.

“Earth!” Janeway breathed, her eyes wide. “Tuvok, can you confirm?”

“Confirming location now Captain,” he studied his console for a moment.
“Location confirmed. We are in the Alpha Quadrant.”

“Is the chronology correct?” Janeway asked, holding her breath.

The bridge was silent as Tuvok worked. “Chronology confirmed,” he said at
last, looking up.

The Captain let out a deep breath. “Then we made it. We’re home.”

No one spoke; it took a moment for the truth to sink in. After three years of
travelling they had made it back; they had been away longer than any of them
had expected, and had come home sooner than any had dared hope.

A soft bleeping sounded on the bridge broke the silence. Harry was the first to
rouse himself. “Captain,” he reported, “we’re being hailed.”

Janeway smiled. “On screen.”

A squat, close-set face filled the view screen; it’s owner looked startled. “This
is Lieutenant Brouden, of Terran Defence Perimeter Station three, please
identify yourself immediately.”

“Lieutenant Brouden, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Federation
Starship Voyager.”

Brouden looked closer, his piggy eyes narrowing with suspicion. “Voyager?”
he said at last, looking down and scanning his records. His eyebrows rose, and
he looked up at them again. “You were lost over three years ago!”

“Not lost, just far from home, Lieutenant,” Janeway told him. “It’s a long story,
and I’m sure that Starfleet will be very interested to hear it, but right now, we
just want to get home. May we have permission to dock?”

“Standby, Captain,” Brouden told them, and the screen flicked onto the
Starfleet logo.

“Captain,” Kim reported, a tone of surprise in his voice, “We’re being
scanned.”

“Well they seem VERY pleased to see us,” Paris noted, failing to keep a touch
of bitterness from his voice.

“Considering the sudden, and somewhat violent, nature of our arrival, a degree
of suspicion is understandable,” Tuvok commented.

“I agree,” Janeway replied, returning to her seat.

“We’re being hailed again,” Kim reported, transferring the image directly onto
the screen.

“Captain,” Lieutenant Brouden appeared again. “You are cleared to dock at
McKinley Station. I am transmitting a flight path through the defence
perimeter, please do not deviate from the specified path, and proceed directly
to McKinley Station. The perimeter will be deactivated in 10 seconds.”

“Defence perimeter?” Janeway asked. “Since when has Earth needed a
defence perimeter?”

Brouden smiled sourly. “Since the war started, Captain.”

“What war?”

“With the Klingons.”

“The Klingons?!” Janeway was astonished, and automatically thought of
B’Elanna.

In engineering, Torres’ face was like stone as she listened to the exchange.

“Much has changed since you’ve been gone,” Brouden told them, looking down
at his controls again. “Perimeter deactivated. Please proceed to McKinley
Station. Oh, and Captain,” the lieutenant said, finally cracking a smile.
“Welcome home.”

***

Janeway gazed out of her quarters’ picture window, as Voyager, docked at
McKinley Station, lazily orbited the beautiful azure globe below. Home. At
last. It hardly seemed possible.

She sighed. In idle moments, and in her dreams, she had often imagined their
homecoming. It had always been full of exuberant celebration, irrepressible
relief and joy, and yet she felt none of these emotions as she sat there watching
the Earth slowly revolve beneath them. Instead she felt a little melancholic,
regretful of everything that she would lose; never again would she have a
command like Voyager, and she knew now that she would miss it terribly.

A gentle bleep announced the presence of someone outside her quarters.
“Come,” she called, not taking her eyes away from the window. The door
hissed open.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” a familiar voice commented.

She turned around and smiled; it was Chakotay.

“Very. Yet,” she paused, “somehow it looks a little distant. Does that sound
strange?”

Chakotay shook his head. “I know what you mean, and I heard Kim saying the
same thing earlier.” He shrugged, “Voyager’s been our home for the past three
years, and we’ve had only one objective in our lives: getting home. Now we’re
here, and we’re leaving Voyager, everyone’s bound to feel a little unsettled. I
know I do.”

He put a peculiar emphasis on those last words, making Janeway look sharply
into his face. “How are the Maquis crew doing?” she asked.

Chakotay sighed. “We’re nervous,” he replied at last. “I don’t think any of us
expected to reappear right in the middle of the Terran system – some of us
would probably rather be in the Delta Quadrant!” He laughed darkly as he
spoke, but Janeway doubted he was joking.

“I’m going to recommend amnesty for all the Maquis on board Voyager,” she
told him. “And if any want to stay with Starfleet, I’ll be more than happy to
sponsor their applications.”

“Thank you, Captain”, Chakotay said. “I’ll pass that along.”

There was a long silence. At last Janeway voiced the question that she knew
they were both thinking. “And what about you, Chakotay? Will you stay?”

He frowned, staring out the window towards Earth. “I haven’t decided yet,
Captain,” he told her honestly. “I’ll need to see how things have changed since
we’ve been gone. I know I’ve changed,” he told her with a smile, “but has the
Federation, and have the Cardassians?”

Janeway didn’t reply immediately. What could she say? It was his choice. “I’d
hate to lose you,” she said at last. “I’ve never served with a better First
Officer.”

Chakotay returned his gaze to her. “Thank-you,” he said quietly. “That means
a lot to me.”

***

Tom’s quarters were dark. He liked it that way. Gazing out of the window, he
watched Earth pass overhead, as Voyager slowly orbited the planet. He
wondered if he was the only one on the ship who thought that Earth’s pale blue
iridescence was cold and un-welcoming. They’d been in orbit for almost
twelve hours now, and still nothing; no contact from Starfleet, and no contact
from his father. The latter didn’t surprise him, but Starfleet? Why were they
so silent?

Closing his eyes again, Tom tried to relax. But it was impossible. His life was
about to change completely, and he had no idea what was going to happen.
How could he relax? He wished he could talk to someone about it, but even
that was out of the question. B’Elanna was the only person who would really
understand, and she…. Well, she was out of the picture. YOU’VE
BETRAYED EVERYONE ELSE IN YOUR LIFE. WHY NOT US? He
clenched his teeth, and stood up, forcing her words out of his head.

“Computer, lights,” he ordered, squinting against the sudden brilliance.
Moping around in the dark wasn’t doing him any good. I NEED COMPANY,
he thought, and headed out the door.

As he entered the mess hall, something struck him as odd. It took a moment to
figure out exactly what it was, but suddenly it became clear. One side of the
room was full of Starfleet crew, smiling, joking and laughing, the other held
none but Maquis, who sat grouped together, talking in low, serious tones.
NOW THIS IS INTERESTING, he thought to himself, smiling bitterly.
WHERE DO I FIT IN?

As he stood at the door, taking in the situation, he noticed B’Elanna watching
him from the group of Maquis. That made his decision; “Harry,” he called,
striding towards his friend amid the Starfleet crowd. “What’s up?”

“Hey, Tom,” Harry called. “Where’ve you been? You’re missing the party!”

“Party?” he asked, flopping into a chair, and casting a look towards the
Maquis. “Doesn’t look like everyone’s in the mood for celebrating.”

Harry frowned. “I guess it’s hard for them,” he conceded, “but the Captain will
sort everything out.”

Tom had his doubts about that, but didn’t bother arguing. Whatever happened,
they’d find out soon enough.

“So, have you talked to Libby yet?” he asked instead.

Harry smiled self-consciously. “Not yet. No one knows we’re back – they want
to inform the families of those who didn’t make it first….”

Tom frowned. “How long can that take?” he asked. “Don’t you think it’s a bit
odd that we haven’t heard anything from Starfleet – it’s been over twelve
hours!”

“C’mon Tom, you sound like the Maquis!”

“Really? Well, maybe they have a point. We don’t know exactly what the…”

“This is the Captain.” Janeway’s voice cut across every conversation in the
room. “I have just spoken with Admiral Cabot at Starfleet Command. He has
officially welcomed us home and has opened comm links to the surface relays.
Those of you who wish to contact your families may now do so.”

An excited thrill buzzed through the room at her announcement, and Harry
grinned at Tom with an I-told-you-so look in his eyes. Tom ignored him.

“Before you all rush off,” Janeway continued, “I can also announce that
representatives of Starfleet command will be meeting with our senior officers
tomorrow, to arrange for the debriefing of the crew. We hope to have you
ALL at home with your families as soon as possible.”

Harry grinned broadly. “Still worried?” he asked Tom.

Tom shrugged in response. “If I were YOU, I wouldn’t worry about a thing –
apart from where you’ll be posted after your promotion.”

“Promotion?” Harry asked, surprised.

It was Tom’s turn to grin. “If you’re not a lieutenant by the end of the week, I’ll
be…”

“Janeway to Paris,” the Captain interrupted them again.

“Paris here,” Tom replied.

“Please see me in my ready-room, Lieutenant.”

“On my way, Captain,” Tom replied, a sinking feeling in his stomach turning
him suddenly cold. It must have shown on his face, because Harry’s smile
faded.

“What’s that about?” he asked.

“I’ll find out,” Tom replied, standing up and forcing a smile. “I’ll catch up with
you later. I want to hear all about your conversation with Libby!”

Harry smiled again. “You got it.”

As he left the room, Tom glanced towards B’Elanna. She watched him go in
silence.

***

“Come in,” Janeway called.

“You wanted to see me, Captain?” Lieutenant Paris asked as he stepped
through the door.

He looked apprehensive, so she smiled encouragingly. “Sit down Tom,” she
offered, waving him towards a chair. “How are you?”

Tom raised an eyebrow. “Fine, Captain,” he replied, seeing through her
pleasantries immediately.

She smiled grimly, and got straight to the point. “Tom, your father will be one
of the Starfleet delegation arriving on board Voyager tomorrow.”

He didn’t speak at first, but she saw his jaw clench and his eyes go hard.
“Thanks for the warning,” he said at last.

“I know that you’ve not always seen eye to eye with him Tom, but perhaps
things will change now.” She smiled again. “You’re a very different person
from the man I met in the New Zealand Penal Settlement.”

“Perhaps,” Paris replied. “But that won’t make any difference to him.”

Janeway turned to her console. “I’ve written performance appraisals for all the
senior officers,” she told him. “And I’ve transmitted them to Starfleet for their
inspection.” She turned her screen to face him. “This is yours.”

Paris leaned forward to read the report, and she was pleased to see it produce a
tight smile. “It’s very flattering,” he said at last, “But it won’t make any
difference. He won’t read it.”

“I was asked to transmit the reports by Admiral Cabot,” Janeway began. “I’m
sure your father…”

“‘I don’t need anyone else’s report to tell me about my own son.'” Tom
shrugged, “His words.”

Janeway was silent. She knew Tom was probably right; her service with his
father had not been easy. He was a difficult man.

“If there’s anything else I can do, Tom,” she offered, “just let me know.”

Paris got to his feet. “Thanks, Captain, but it’s fine. He can think what he
likes about me. I don’t care.” He smiled, but there was no warmth in the
expression. “I’ve got nothing to prove to him now.”

She knew that wasn’t true, and so did he. As he turned to leave, she spoke
again. “I’ve been lucky enough to serve with two members of the Paris family
now,” she said. “And if there were a choice, I’d rather serve with the
Lieutenant than the Admiral, any day.”

Tom turned towards her, a genuine smile on his face this time. “Captain,
that’s…” he stopped, shaking his head, not quite sure what to say. “Thank you,”
he said eventually.

“See you at 10.00 hours in the briefing room, Lieutenant,” she said with a
smile. “We’ll see if we can knock some of the stuffing out of Admiral Paris.”

Tom grinned, “Yes, Ma’am.”

***

Engineering was silent. The engines were off-line, cold and lifeless, and the
dim lights only added to the feeling of emptiness. B’Elanna sat at one of the
consoles, staring moodily at the unresponsive screen.

She should have been happy. They were home! After all the difficulties,
hardships and dangers they had faced, they were home. Yet she wasn’t happy.
She was worried. The future, so long an endless journey, had suddenly rushed
towards her, and it was frighteningly empty. She had no plans, she had no idea
what she would do. She wasn’t even the same person who had left the Alpha
quadrant. And then there was Tom. The possibility, no, she corrected herself,
the fact, that they would part forever turned her cold.

Standing up, she walked once more around the empty room. It was late, her
body ached and she knew she should get some sleep. In the morning she
would know what her future might hold; Maquis? Starfleet? She dared not
even contemplate what war with the Klingon Empire might mean for her.

With a sigh, she turned and strode out of engineering, PROBABLY, she
thought to herself, FOR THE LAST TIME.

***

Janeway was only half way through her first cup of coffee of the day – and was
enjoying the luxury immensely – when she was hailed from the bridge.

“Captain,” the voice of Ensign Eddings said, “Admiral Cabot’s office is hailing
you.”

Janeway sighed. “Thank-you ensign, put it through.”

Putting down her coffee, Janeway sat down in front of her console and flicked
on the screen.

“Good morning Admiral,” she greeted him.

“Good morning Captain, I apologise for the early hour, but I would like to talk
to you prior to this morning’s briefing.”

Janeway smiled. “Well, how can I help you?”

The Admiral looked serious. “In person, if we may Captain.”

“Of course,” Janeway replied, suddenly curious. “May I ask what the matter
concerns?”

“It’s a sensitive issue, Captain,” he told her. “We’ll discuss it when I come
aboard in, say, twenty minutes?”

“Very well,” Janeway agreed.

Cabot nodded once, and the communication ended. Turning away from the
screen, Janeway frowned to herself; something about this felt wrong. She
finished her coffee without tasting it, and headed for the shower. But try as
she might, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

***

The transporter beam shimmered, and the figure of Admiral Cabot
materialised on the transporter pad.

Janeway stepped forward to meet him, Chakotay by her side. “Welcome
aboard, Admiral,” she said. “May I present my First Officer, Commander
Chakotay?”

“Captain, Commander,” the Admiral greeted them. “It’s a pleasure to be
aboard.”

Admiral Cabot was a man of middle years, his greying hair receding from a
round, fleshy face that held watery blue eyes. His middle had grown heavy
with the passage of the years, and something about the way he walked gave
Janeway the feeling that he was nervous. Perhaps it was the way he kept his
hands folded behind his back, as if he were hiding something from them. Or
perhaps it was the way his eyes seemed to slide from hers whenever she
looked towards him. Nevertheless, he was amiable, and they exchanged the
usual empty chatter as they walked towards her ready-room.

This early in the morning the Bridge was still manned by the skeleton night
crew, who stood to attention as Janeway, Chakotay and the Admiral made
their way through. When they reached the door to her ready-room, Cabot
stopped. “Captain,” he said, glancing at her First Officer, “I need to talk to you
in private.”

Janeway frowned. “Admiral, I can assure you that…”

“It is no reflection on your officer, Captain,” Cabot told her. “It’s a question of
Starfleet protocol.”

“Starfleet protocol?” The words felt strange in her mouth, and she smiled. “I’m
sorry Admiral, I guess we’ve been gone so long we’ve started to develop our
own protocol.”

The Admiral did not return her smile. “So I understand,” was all he said.

Chakotay exchanged a brief, expressive, look with her, which she understood
immediately; he didn’t like this anymore than she did, but he wasn’t going to
make an issue of it. “Thank-you Commander,” was all she said. He nodded
once, and left them.

“Can I offer you some coffee, Admiral?” Janeway asked, when the doors to her
ready-room had closed behind them. “Tea?”

“No, thank-you,” Cabot replied, lowering his bulky frame into a chair. “I’ll get
straight down to business, if I may.”

Janeway sat at her desk. “That suits me,” she told him, leaning slightly
forward, and waiting for him to begin.

He folded his hands across his belly, and stared out of the window. “I received
your officer’s reports yesterday,” he began. “Starfleet have some…issues that
need to be addressed.”

“Issues?” Janeway replied, keeping her tone calm. For now.

“Although we understand your reasons, Captain,” he said, “Some among us
have reservations about the wisdom of appointing known terrorists into
positions of authority upon this vessel.”

“All my officers have given exemplary service to this ship,” she told him in a
tone her crew would have recognised as dangerous.

Cabot raised a hand. “We’re not disputing that, Captain,” he told her, “Or your
decision, given the circumstances.” He sighed, and turned his watery eyes on
her. “However, the political situation here is very different now, and it makes
this situation rather more delicate.”

“You mean the war with the Klingons?”

Cabot nodded. “That’s part of it,” he agreed. “It was our alliance with the
Cardassians that forced us into war with the Klingon Empire, when they
attacked Cardassia.” He sighed again. “You can imagine how the Maquis
have reacted – they think this is their chance to get Cardassia out of the
de-militarised zone for good. We even have reports that the Klingon High
Command are supplying the Maquis with weapons, perhaps even cloaking
technology.”

Janeway let out a deep breath. “This is serious, of course, but how does it
affect my crew?” she asked. “We’ve been out of the entire quadrant for over
three years!”

“If it were just the Klingons, perhaps it would be easier,” Cabot told her. “But
in truth, that’s just a side show. We have bigger fish to fry.”

“Admiral…?”

Cabot leaned forward, and lowered his voice, as if he was reluctant to speak
the words. “I can tell you this much, Captain,” he said. “The Federation is
expecting war. A war the likes of which we have never seen.”

Janeway felt her stomach twist down towards her toes. “War with who?” she
asked.

Cabot’s face was grim. “With the Dominion.”

“The Dominion?” Janeway asked, stunned. “How do you know? What
preparations have we…?”

Cabot cut her off. “I don’t know much more myself Captain,” he told her. “No
one knows the extent of Dominion penetration into Starfleet, so all
intelligence information is restricted. No one knows more than necessary.
And I can tell you nothing more than I already have.”

Janeway shook her head, trying to collect her thoughts. She had never
imagined, even in her worst nightmares, that they would return to find the
Federation at war! And such a war as this promised to be!

“Admiral,” she said at last, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
“How exactly does this affect my crew?”

Cabot sat back in his chair, which creaked slightly under his weight. “Captain,
your ship disappeared near the worm hole that leads to the Gamma quadrant.
You now appear, three years later, without warning, at the heart of the Terran
defensive perimeter. And to make matters worse, half your crew are known
terrorists, sympathetic with the enemy with whom we are currently at war. It
would seem suspicious at the best of times. And these, Captain, are far from
the best of times.”

“Are you saying that we’re accused of being…what? Klingon spies? Agents of
the Dominion?”

“You’re not being accused of anything, Captain,” Cabot told her. “I just
wanted you to be aware of the full situation, before we de-brief your officers.”

“I thank you for the warning Admiral,” Janeway told him. “And I can assure
you that my crew have had no contact with either the Klingon Empire or the
Dominion at any time during the past three years.”

Cabot smiled, a smile as thin and watery as his eyes. “I’m sure you’re right
Captain.”

“I AM right,” Janeway replied, a defiant tone in her voice. “And we will do
everything in our power to prove that to you, and to anyone else in Starfleet
who suspects our loyalty.”

***

There was tension in the air as the officers assembled for the morning briefing.
B’Elanna could sense it the moment she walked into the room. Her eyes
immediately sought Chakotay. As the only other Maquis present, he was the
only one who understood her trepidation. He gave her a small smile, and a
reassuring nod. Next to him, Harry was grinning as he gave Paris an animated
account of his conversation with Libby. Apparently, all had gone well on that
front. Tom was smiling too, as he listened to his friend, but B’Elanna knew
him well enough to see the tension behind his eyes, and the worry evident in
the set of his jaw. Taking her seat opposite them, B’Elanna remained silent
until the door opened again, and Tuvok entered.

“You look happy,” B’Elanna commented, seeing an unusual lightness in his
step.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “That would not be an accurate observation,” he
told her.

“Did you contact T’Pel?” Harry asked, breaking off his conversation with Paris.

“I did,” Tuvok confirmed, sitting down next to B’Elanna.

“Then he IS happy,” Harry agreed, a twinkle of excitement in his eyes.

“I am content,” Tuvok corrected him.

“C’mon, Tuvok,” Paris joined in, “admit it. You’re happy!”

“Lieutenant,” Tuvok responded, “I will admit this much: I will find it restful to
spend some time with my family, where I am not continually pestered…”

“Pestered?!”

Tuvok ignored him “…pestered to express emotions which I do not feel.”

Tom laughed, and B’Elanna found herself smiling. But the smile soon faded; it
just made her realise how much she was going to miss him, to miss them all.

The door swished open, and Captain Janeway entered, closely followed by two
men. Everyone around the table stood to attention, and as she stood, face
front, B’Elanna found herself looking directly at Tom. His eyes were fixed at
some point on the wall behind her, but she saw his face drain of colour, and if
she hadn’t known him better, she would have sworn that there was panic in his
eyes.

“At ease,” Janeway said. “Admiral Cabot and Admiral Paris are here to talk to
us about the debriefing procedure the crew will follow.”

ADMIRAL PARIS! B’Elanna looked over at the portly white-haired man who
was Tom’s father; she couldn’t see a family resemblance. Tom, she noticed,
didn’t move his gaze from the wall behind her.

“Please sit down,” Cabot said, as he took a seat at the head of the table.

B’Elanna kept her eyes on Tom as she sat, but he didn’t look at her, he didn’t
look at anyone. Everyone else, however, was watching him. Everyone,
including his father.

“I would like to begin with congratulations, if I may,” Cabot started, turning
towards the Captain. “You have done a fine job bringing your ship home,” he
told her.

Janeway smiled, but B’Elanna thought there was an undercurrent of frost in her
expression. “Without the men and women in this room, Admiral, we would
have never made it.”

“Of course,” Cabot continued, until he was interrupted by a snort from
Admiral Paris.

“You forget,” the Admiral said, “that if you had not been in pursuit of some of
the men and women in this room, you would never have found yourself
stranded in the Delta Quadrant to begin with.”

B’Elanna felt her hackles rise at the comment, but forced herself to remain
silent. She glanced at Chakotay, whose face was hard and dark, and then she
noticed Paris. His face was flushed an angry shade of red, and his fists were
clenched together where they rested on the table before him.

Janeway was silent a moment. When she spoke, her voice was decidedly cool.
“Admiral,” she said, “when you have had time to read my report, you will see
that no one here had…”

“The Admiral doesn’t read reports,” Tom’s voice was bitter, and B’Elanna could
see that he was trying, but failing, to control his anger. “The truth gets in the
way of his preconceptions…”

“Lieutenant!” Janeway snapped.

“Sorry Captain,” Tom muttered, his fists balled so tightly that his knuckles
were turning white.

“I see that you’ve learned little in the way of discipline since you’ve been away,
Thomas,” the Admiral said, turning to face his son. “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

B’Elanna could see the struggle as Tom clenched his jaw shut against his
anger, and refused to respond.

“I hope he hasn’t caused you too much trouble, Kathryn,” Admiral Paris
continued. “I know how difficult he can be.”

“Lieutenant Paris is an exemplary officer,” Janeway replied immediately. “If
you had read my appraisal of his performance…”

“I don’t need anyone else’s report to tell me about my own son,” the Admiral
interrupted.

B’Elanna saw a bitter smile flicker across Tom’s face as his father spoke, but
he made no further attempt to reply.

“Perhaps we’re getting a little side-tracked,” Cabot interjected smoothly.
Admiral Paris snorted again, but lapsed into silence.

“It isn’t our intention to keep you here for long,” Cabot continued, “so I’ll just
run through the procedure. Each member of the crew will be debriefed
individually…”

“That’s a lengthy process,” Chakotay commented.

Cabot shrugged apologetically. “I’m afraid that we have no choice. We are at
war, Commander. Security is of the utmost importance.”

“With respect,” Chakotay continued, “we have nothing to do with this war.
We’ve been out of the quadrant for over three years.”

“Commander,” it was Janeway’s turn to interrupt. “There are reasons.”

REASON’S THEY’RE NOT TELLING US, B’Elanna thought. And from the
look Chakotay gave the Captain, his thoughts were running in the same
direction.

“I see,” was all he said, but his resentment was evident. And she was sure that
the Captain noticed it too; she looked unhappy, but said no more.

“A de-briefing schedule has been established, starting with the senior officers,”
Cabot went on, “You are to report to Ariane House at Starfleet HQ, ten
minutes prior to your scheduled de-briefing session.”

“And what then?” Chakotay asked.

Cabot’s face was a blank, and B’Elanna couldn’t help but notice the way his
watery eyes seemed to avoid looking at any of them. “That will be decided
after you have been debriefed, Commander,” he told them.

“After…?” Chakotay replied. “What exactly…”

“This matter is not open for discussion, COMMANDER,” Admiral Paris told
him. “You are under orders. I assume, as you are wearing our uniform, that
you are willing to obey our orders?”

It was all B’Elanna could do to stop herself from leaping across the table and
putting her hands around the throat of the arrogant bastard. If she hadn’t
known that it would let the Captain down, she doubted that anything would
have stopped her. Chakotay’s eyes burned with anger as he spoke, but he too
owed his loyalty to the Captain. “Yes, Admiral,” was all he said, yet somehow
he managed to make the words sound like an insult.

Admiral Paris got to his feet. “That will be all,” he said stiffly. They all stood
to attention, as the Admirals and the Captain turned to leave the room. Just as
he reached the door, Paris turned to his son. “I expect to see you later,
Thomas,” was all he said, before he strode out of the room.

“Not if I see you first,” B’Elanna heard Tom mutter under his breath. But the
look of shame and hurt on his face killed the joke dead.

***

“Tom!” B’Elanna called out, later that day, as she saw Paris leaving his
quarters. It had taken her long enough to decide to go talk to him, and she
wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip past now.

He turned, surprised, at the sound of her voice. “B’Elanna,” he greeted her
cautiously. He didn’t look happy, but he did his best to force a smile. “How
are you?”

“Fine,” she paused. “Look, I just wanted to say…those things your father said,
he was wrong.”

Tom smiled bitterly. “I’m used to it,” he said, staring down at his toes. “I try to
just ignore him.”

“Tom,” B’Elanna began, “we need to…”

“I’m sorry,” he interrupted her, “But I have to go – my debriefing is in twenty
minutes, and I’d hate to be late!”

She smiled. “Sure. Well, I’m scheduled for mine in an hour, so I guess I’m
right after you.” She hesitated for a moment, “Maybe we could…”

“…meet up afterwards?” he finished.

“Yeah, that’d be…”

“…great! I’ll see you then.” With a brief smile, he turned and headed towards
the turbolift. B’Elanna watched him go with a lighter heart than she’d known
since their return to the Alpha Quadrant.

***

Tom Paris stood before three Starfleet officers who sat behind a long, curved
table raised on a dais. Behind them was a window that stretched from floor to
ceiling, overlooking San Francisco Bay. In the distance the Golden Gate
Bridge could just barely be seen through the light morning mist.

The three judges conferred for a moment before the most senior of them,
Admiral Cabot, turned to Tom and spoke. “Thomas Eugene Paris, your parole
is hereby revoked,” he pronounced in a grim voice. “You are stripped of your
‘field’ commission, and you will be removed immediately to the New Zealand
Penal Settlement.” Looking sternly at him from across the tribunal hearing
room, the admiral spoke again. “Do you have anything further to say, Paris?”

“No. What’s the point?” Tom asked bitterly. “I was naive to expect anything
better from Starfleet.”

“You received the verdict you deserved,” Admiral Cabot replied coldly.

“Verdict? I thought this was supposed to be a debriefing, not a trial.”

Admiral Cabot leaned forward, a thin smile freezing his watery eyes.
“Consider yourself debriefed, MR Paris.” Waving a hand at a guard, the
Admiral bellowed: “Now take him away.”

***

The Captain was drinking her morning coffee in her ready-room when her
comm badge bleeped. “Chakotay to Janeway. Can I have a word with you,
Captain?”

“Of course, Commander.”

Turning away from her console as the door slid open, the Captain beckoned
him to take a seat. “How can I help you, Commander?”

“Harry’s just told me that B’Elanna and Tom have been missing since yesterday
afternoon,” Chakotay said, taking the offered chair.

“Missing?” she asked, giving him a knowing smile.

Chakotay shook his head. “They both had the early shift this morning, and they
haven’t reported for duty.”

Janeway’s face darkened. “That’s not like them, but given the circumstances, I
think we can cut them a little slack, Commander.” She smiled again. “Still,
we should make every effort to locate them and to ensure that they’re okay.”

“Well, I’d stay and help you, but I’ve got my debriefing in twenty minutes,”
Chakotay told her.

“Go ahead,” Janeway waved him towards the door. “I’ll look into this while
you’re away.” She gave him a serious glance: “I’m sure they’ll have a perfectly
reasonable explanation.”

Chakotay smiled his agreement, and got up to leave. “Oh, by the way, I know a
wonderful restaurant down by the bay, if you’d care to join me later…?”

Janeway’s eyes lit up briefly, before other considerations clouded them. She
looked down at her desk. “I’m sorry, Chakotay, I’d love to, but I’m meeting
Mark later… we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Chakotay looked away, nodding. “I understand. Well, I’ll see you later then,
Kathryn.”

“Yes,” she smiled. “See you later.”

***

By mid-morning, Janeway was very irritated. “No, you don’t understand,” she
explained to a bored looking official, who was doing his best to make her go
away. “I’ve already spoken to Starfleet Security and they transferred me back
to you”.

“I see, Captain. Please wait a moment while I…”

“No, wait, don’t put me on…” Janeway said desperately, but before she could
complete her sentence, he had disappeared from the screen.

A few minutes later, the screen flared to life again. A toadish man with,
slicked back hair and a wide, gleaming smile appeared: “Captain Janeway! I
am Lieutenant Commander Rayscomb. I am so sorry that you’ve been getting
the run-around today. There seems to have been a little misunderstanding.” He
smiled insincerely. “I DO have news of the crew members you were enquiring
about: Thomas Eugene Paris and B’Elanna Torres.”

“That’s right,” Janeway replied. At last she was getting somewhere!

Rayscomb affected a serious expression, as insincere as his smile. “I’m afraid,
Captain,” he explained, “that we have had to detain both of them.”

“What?!” Janeway exploded with anger: “Detain them? Why?”

Lt Commander Rayscomb smiled disingenuously. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty
to disclose that information.”

Janeway gritted her teeth. “Where are they being held?”

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to disclose that information.”

“Then disclose this,” Janeway fumed, her anger barely under control. “I want
to know why I wasn’t informed of this immediately.”

“There does appear to have been an oversight, Captain,” Rayscomb replied
smoothly. “But please allow me to correct that immediately. If you wish, I will
furnish you with a complete list of crew members detained so far…”

“Detained so far…?!” she breathed, hardly believing what she was hearing.
“How many?”

“Fifteen, as of this morning, Captain.”

She was stunned. FIFTEEN! “Give me the list,” she demanded, her voice
bleak. HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING TO HER CREW?

The list immediately flashed up on the screen and Janeway quickly scanned it;
the conclusion was inescapable. She flicked the screen back to Rayscomb: “I
demand to speak to Admiral Cabot immediately,” she fumed.

“I’m sorry, but the Admiral is currently attending a debriefing session,” the
Lieutenant Commander told her.

“Then get him out of it!”

Rayscomb smiled calmly. “I’m sorry, but that’s not possible.”

“I can assure you, Lt Commander,” Janeway growled, “that I will not let this
matter rest here.” Before he could respond, she terminated the link.

She looked again at the list of names, everyone of them a former Maquis. Her
heart sank: Cabot had double-crossed her, but her own sense of betrayal must
pale beside that felt by her detained crew members. She was implicated in
their betrayal and that was something she was not prepared to accept.

AS SOON AS CABOT COMES OUT OF HIS DEBRIEFING, I’LL… Cold fear
suddenly froze her heart, as she realised exactly who he was debriefing:
“Chakotay!” His name came out a whisper.

***

As he materialised on the prison transporter pad, Tom realised that this was
not the Re-hab centre he had been expecting.

“Paris,” the guard prodded him in the back with his phaser rifle. “Move it.”

The heavy shackles on his ankles made walking difficult, but he dared not
complain. A nasty bruise on the back of his head had been the reward for his
first, and only, complaint. As he shuffled along between the guards, he looked
around him. The walls were not the clinical steel he had been expecting, but
were dark, cold, stone. Stone not in blocks, but carved out of the earth. He
glanced up, and felt the oppressive weight of stone above him. He was, he
realised, deep underground.

“Keep walking,” his guard snapped, and Tom returned his attention to his feet.
This was worse than he had ever imagined! Ripped away from his friends
without any time to say goodbye and sent to this…hole. He knew he would
never see them again; it was a bitter thought, but in a strange way it held some
comfort. At least he would be spared the ignominy of having them see him in
this place. He could fade away in anonymous darkness.

Heavy doors clanged shut behind him. Tom looked up as a tall, hard looking
man, with eyes as cold as steel, came to stand before him. “I am Governor
Irving,” he said in a voice as harsh as his face. “Welcome to the New Zealand
Penal Settlement.”

“Thanks,” Paris replied. “I appreciate the warm welcome.”

Irving’s smile was bitterly cold. “You are a traitor, Paris. You will never leave
this place. You will never be released, and escape is impossible. There are no
doors, no windows, no visitors. There’s only one way out, and that’s in a box.”

“Since when has Starfleet started …?” A mind shattering blow struck him from
behind. He pitched forward, and found himself face first in the dirt.

“Keep your mouth shut, Paris, or your stay will be shorter than you think.”
Irving’s voice rang in his ears, as if coming from a distance. “Tag him and take
him to his cell.”

When his mind could focus again, Tom found himself lying on a narrow cot,
staring at a barred ceiling. The air felt cold, and he shivered in the thin, grey
prison garb he’d been given to wear. Sitting up, he gingerly touched the side of
his head, and flinched immediately. Trying to distract himself from his
pounding head, he looked about him. He was in, well, it could best be
described as a cage, about two meters wide and two meters high. Above him,
and to the side, were other cages, stretching as far as he could see, and below
him the same. The cage door was open, and a ladder by the side of the door
led down to the floor ten meters below. This was definitely not the Re-hab
centre he had expected. As he swung his legs over the side of the bed Tom
noticed that his shackles were gone. In their place was an electronic ankle tag.
That at least was familiar; he remembered it from his previous incarceration.

Suddenly, an alarm started ringing, very loud and very close to his cell. He
slapped his hands over his ears, but it was too late to protect his aching head.
When the alarm fell into silence, Tom noticed that people were pouring down
the ladders, towards the floor. Peering out of his door, he grabbed the arm of a
rough-shaven man who was sliding expertly down the ladder past his cage.

“What’s going on?” Tom asked.

The man shook his arm loose irritably. “Chow’s up,” he said, and hurried on his
way.

Not feeling hungry, but with nothing better to do, Paris followed the man down
the ladder and allowed himself to be swept along by the crowd towards what
appeared to be the mess hall.

The men and women formed a rough line, under the watchful gaze of armed
wardens, and shuffled past the various food replicators. Paris joined them, not
caring what landed on his plate. Everything seemed so unreal. Only yesterday
he’d been eating breakfast with Harry and hoping to have lunch with B’Elanna;
he wondered if she’d waited for him after her debriefing session. He would
never know. The thought turned his stomach sour, and he pursed his lips
against the sadness that welled up in his throat. But if he knew anything about
prison, it was that you never showed weakness.

“Lieutenant Paris?” the voice sounded disbelieving.

Tom turned around in surprise. He saw a thin young man sitting at one of the
tables behind him. “Lieutenant Paris!” he said again, standing up. “It is you!”

Looking closer Tom realised that he did recognise the man. He left the food
line and made his way over. “Ensign Eddings? What are you doing here?”
Tom asked in astonishment.

The man shrugged. “Same as you, I guess,” he replied. “They’re arresting all
the Maquis.”

Tom stared. “All of you…?” Then he noticed the others at the table, about a
dozen of them, all staring at him.

“They just sent us straight from the so called debriefing sessions,” Eddings told
him.

Tom suddenly felt the eyes of other prisoners on them, and realised they were
attracting attention. “Sit down,” he ordered, acting the officer without
realising it. He looked down the table, and nodded to the familiar faces.
“Something’s not right here,” he muttered to himself. His own imprisonment
had been unpleasant, but not a surprise. But the detention of all the Maquis
crew? It seemed out of character for Starfleet, even for the unbending
Starfleet he knew.

“Are there any other officers here?” he asked Eddings. “Torres or Chakotay?”

“No, sir,” Eddings replied slowly. “Not Chakotay, but if Torres was detained,
she won’t be in here.”

Tom frowned, “Why not?”

“They’ll have put her on the other side.”

“The other side of what?” Paris asked, the Ensign’s tone alarming him.

“The other side of the prison, Sir,” he replied. “The Klingon side.”

Tom’s stomach tightened at the thought. He knew B’Elanna was well able to
take care of herself, but in a place like this, full of Klingons? “Is there any way
we can find out if she’s in there?” he asked, trying not to sound as desperate as
he felt.

“You could go look through The Gate.”

Tom frowned again. “What gate?”

Eddings’ eyes shifted to a point above Paris’s head. “That one,” he answered.

Turning around, Tom saw the massive iron gate, reaching from the stone
ceiling to the floor. It towered above the mess hall, and even above the banks
of cages. It was so huge that he hadn’t noticed it before.

“But I wouldn’t recommend it, sir,” Eddings continued, “The Klingons don’t
like us getting too close…”

“I’ll take my chances,” Tom told him. If B’Elanna was in there, he had to find
out. He had to know if she was okay, and if not, well he’d just have to get her
out of there. Whatever it took.

“Ensign,” he said, starting to eat his food. “Who knows we’re in here?”

Eddings shrugged. “No one.”

“I doubt that,” Paris told him. “Sooner or later the captain’s going to notice
that half her crew is missing.”

“Huh,” Eddings grunted. “She’s probably the one who put us here.”

Tom’s head snapped up. “That’s not true, Ensign. If the Captain knows we’re
here, you can be sure she’s doing her best for us.”

“Aye, sir,” Eddings replied, a little sullenly.

“But in the meantime,” Paris continued, “we have to assume she isn’t able to
help us.”

“So..?”

“So,” Paris gave him a small smile. “If we’re going to get out of here, it’s going
to have to be a strictly Maquis operation.”

“Aye sir,” Eddings replied, with a brighter gleam in his eye.

***

The prison routine was not difficult to understand. Each morning the cell
doors swung open at the sound of the ear-piercing alarm. And each morning
Tom leaped out of bed at the sound, almost hitting his head on the barred
ceiling. Then, breakfast; replicated slop that was meant to be porridge, but
which looked more like something a sick cat might produce – from which end
of the cat, Tom couldn’t be certain. After breakfast, there was nothing to do
until the next meal, and lock-down for the night. Absolutely nothing; no work,
no entertainment, no exercise.

He’d been in a few prisons in his life; the Viidian mining colony, the
God-awful place where he and Harry had nearly died. But at least there had
been something to DO in those places, even if it had just been struggling to
survive. Tom had the feeling that if he stayed here much longer he would die
of boredom; there were certainly enough people who looked like they’d already
gone past that point as they sat rocking, muttering inaudibly to themselves.
He’d rather die.

If there was a focal point of entertainment in the place – aside from the
frequent, bloody, fights that broke out – it was The Gate. The massive iron
portcullis that separated the Klingon and human inmates from each other stood
at the heart of the complex, and could be seen from every point in the prison.
It was the focus of attention for most of the prisoners, Klingon and human
alike, who amused themselves by trading insults with each other, while
keeping far enough away from the gate to avoid some of the less literary
missiles that were hurled through the heavy bars.

It soon became clear to Tom that admitting he had a friend on the other side of
The Gate would do neither of them any good. He desperately wanted to know
if B’Elanna was in there, but asking was impossible. He hardly knew if he
wanted to see her there or not; if she was there, then she was a prisoner. He
hated to think of her locked in this place, but he longed to see her again! And
if she wasn’t there, then perhaps she was free. He wanted her to be free, but
then, he knew, he would never see her again. So, he lurked with the rest of
them, close to the gate, straining for a glimpse of her, and not knowing if the
sight of her would fill him with joy or despair.

After about a week, he was beginning to surrender any hope of finding her, and
he tried to comfort himself with the idea that she had evaded capture. Then
one day, soon after breakfast, a commotion on the other side of The Gate
attracted his attention. Someone was yelling, and as he drew a little closer he
could make out the words.

“You scum sucking, no-good, double-crossing bastard!” A raucous bellow of
Klingon laughter followed the words.

Peering through the crowd, Tom watched a familiar figure step forward, her
small frame tiny against the burly Klingon’s who bulked around her.

“I thought I recognised your stench, Paris,” she yelled. “I might have known
you’d end up in a place like this!”

“Torres!” he shouted back, understanding her game immediately, and hiding
the overwhelming relief he felt at the sight of her. “So they got you too?
Good. I hope you’re miserable in there.”

“I can handle it,” she retorted. “I see they’ve kept you alive this long – pity.”

“Make you nervous?” he asked, getting into the part, and stepping closer to the
gate, trying to see her more clearly. “You hoped they’d kill me, didn’t you? So
that I wouldn’t be able to come after you.”

“Hah!” B’Elanna laughed. “I’m not afraid of you, Paris. I look forward to the
day when we can settle this, just the two of us – alone!”

“For once we agree,” he replied grinning, and meaning it. “But I’m afraid we
won’t be alone. I’m not the only one your little manoeuvre landed in here. I’m
sure the others will be – almost – as eager to get their hands on you as I will.”

“I’m not afraid of your friends either, human,” she scoffed, taking another step
closer to the gate, and into a murky pool of light. “I look forward to the day
when I can take you all on!”

Paris could see her clearly now, and he forced himself not to react when he
saw the large red welt that marred her beautiful face. “That day may be closer
than you think, Klingon p’tak,” he retorted, stepping closer still.

“Good,” she replied. “My hands itch to feel your blood!”

“Then why wait?” Paris asked, reaching the gate and gripping its heavy bars.
“Or are you afraid of me?”

“Pah,” B’Elanna spat. “A Klingon child could rip out your beating heart, and
hold it in his hands!” With that, she too rushed at the gate, her hands reaching
for Tom’s throat. Her grasp was strong, and Tom began to see stars. A
LITTLE TOO REALISTIC, he thought to himself.

Sirens wailed throughout the prison. Their little scene had attracted too much
attention.

Grabbing the front of B’Elanna’s prison uniform, he pulled her close to him,
their faces separated only by the bars of the gate. “Tonight,” he whispered as
quietly as possible. “Oh-two-hundred hours.” Then he let her go.

“Human dog,” she spat, and kicked him sharply in the shins.

He collapsed with a yell, just as the guards arrived. He felt their batons smash
over his head, and onto his back. Curling up against their blows, he tried not
to imagine the same thing happening to B’Elanna.

***

Tom lowered himself gently down onto the bench next to Ensign Eddings, and
pretended to eat his supper. The pain from the beating he had suffered made
him nauseous, but he didn’t want to attracted any more attention.

“I need your help, Ensign,” he said in a low voice.

Eddings nodded once, without looking up.

“I’m going to meet Torres tonight,” he said. “I need a distraction ten minutes
after lock down.”

“After?” Eddings asked. “How are you going to get out of your cell?”

“Leave that to me. I just don’t want them inspecting it too hard.”

“You think Torres can help us?” Eddings asked. Paris understood his question.
The guards would be severe with anyone causing a disturbance after lock
down; he was asking a lot from the young Ensign. It was too much to ask for
the sake of a mere romantic liaison.

“The only way out of here is by transporter,” Paris said quietly. “Prisons are
always shielded against external transports, so if we’re going to get out, we’re
going to have to rig the prison transport. And you can bet that circumventing
their security won’t be easy. But if anyone can do it, it’s B’Elanna.”

Eddings nodded, “I see,” he said, and raised his eyes to Paris. “Then give her a
kiss from me,” he said with a sudden, mischievous grin.

Tom shook his head, surprised at feeling a little self-conscious. “I’ll bear that
in mind Ensign,” he said, returning his attention to his meal.

***

Getting the ankle tag off was easy. At least the design for that was still the
same. He left it, blinking quietly to itself, under the rumpled blankets in his
cell. Visual inspections were cursory at the best of times, electronic tagging
was believed to be far more effective, and with Eddings’ distraction, Tom
hoped that his presence would not be missed.

He found the darkest spot he could, between the mess hall and The Gate, and
slid into the crevice between two stinking containers of leftover food. He felt
as if he had been there for hours when the lock-down signal sounded. And he
knew he had another four hours to wait. Grimly he listened to Ensign Eddings
begin shouting, he heard the thud, thud, thud, of the guards’ running, booted
feet, and the dull, fleshy thumps and stifled groans as they administered their
punishment. But it worked, the lights dimmed, the inspection ended, the night
began, and Paris was free.

His body cramped and re-cramped as he crouched in the dark, but he dared not
move before the appointed time. At length, the hours passed, as slowly and
painfully as any he had yet lived; the only thing that kept him going was the
thought of B’Elanna.

A slight sound in the silent blackness of night alerted him. It was time.
Forcing his cramped limbs to work, he crawled out of his hiding place, and
edged his way slowly, cautiously, towards The Gate. When he reached its cold
bars, he stopped, and strained to hear in the darkness. Somewhere, to his left,
he heard soft, gentle breathing.

Barely daring to move, he stepped silently towards the sound. When he was
close enough he risked a whisper, expecting lights and a rain of hammer blows
at any moment. “B’Elanna?” his softest whisper sounded like a shout. But he
didn’t care; soft hands met his on the bars of The Gate.

“Tom,” she breathed, her breath caressing his cheek.

In the darkness he could barely make her out, but her eyes glimmered softly in
the almost total dark, and her hands clutched at his.

“Are you all right?” he asked, reaching through The Gate to touch her face.
“Have they hurt you?” his voice was barely more than a breath.

“I’m fine,” she replied. “And you?”

“Fine.” They were both lying, and they both knew it. But it didn’t matter; they
were alive, and they were together. Her face and hair felt deliciously soft
under his fingers, and all he wanted to do was hold her. But Ensign Eddings’
sacrifice was fresh in his mind, and he knew he couldn’t waste precious time.

“We have to get out of here,” he whispered.

“The transporters are the only way,” she replied, her fingers entwining
themselves with his.

“Can you break their access codes?” he asked.

“If you can get me into the transporter room.”

“I’ll work on it,” he replied.

“Who else is in there with you?” she asked him.

“Twelve Maquis, but not Chakotay.”

He heard her sigh softly. “I never expected this,” she said quietly. “I had no
idea you’d been in a place like this…”

“I wasn’t,” he corrected her. “It must have been built since we left. Perhaps
since the war started.”

B’Elanna didn’t answer for a moment. “Tom,” she whispered at last, forcing
words through a throat thick with emotion. “The other day…what I said…”

“Don’t worry about it,” he interrupted her quickly. “Not now.”

“No,” she told him, “I didn’t mean…” A loud clang interrupted their
conversation. They both froze. Heavy booted footfalls echoed somewhere
above them.

“Two nights from now,” Tom breathed, giving her fingers a final squeeze,
before he crept quietly back towards his hiding place.

As he crouched again in the darkness, he could still feel her breath, the
softness of her face, her hair; he already knew that he loved her, but for the
first time in days he felt that she might still love him. If he hadn’t been in
prison, squashed between two stinking garbage cans, he might have been
happy.

***

“I’m sorry Mark, I really can’t talk right now,” Janeway explained, doing her
best to keep her temper. “I’m just about to meet with Admiral Cabot.”

“But Kate,” he protested, “you’ve been home over a week, and we’ve only seen
each other once!”

“I know,” she sighed. “But you must understand what’s happening, Mark. I’m
responsible for these people, and I can’t rest until I find out exactly what’s
going on.”

“I’m sure that Starfleet knows what it’s doing,” he told her. “You have to trust
them.”

“Do I?” she replied quietly. “I’ve spent the last three years trusting no one but
this crew; suddenly, I don’t feel like changing that very much.”

“You know what, Kate,” he replied, an edge of bitterness creeping into his
voice, “I’ve tried to be patient, but if you don’t have any time for me, fine. You
go run after your Maquis friends. You know where I am, if you want me.”
With that, he ended the transmission.

Janeway scowled at the blank screen; she didn’t remember Mark being this
unreasonable. Perhaps he’d changed over the last three years, or perhaps she
had.

The bleep of the comm system interrupted her thoughts. “Captain,” Kim’s
voice announced, “Admiral Cabot has just arrived.”

“Thank you Ensign,” she replied. “Have him brought to my ready-room.”

She stood up and left her quarters with a determined stride. Perhaps now she
would get some answers. The Admiral was already waiting for her when she
arrived, but she made no apology for not being there to greet him; she was in
no mood for the niceties of Starfleet protocol.

“Thank you for coming, Admiral,” was all she said, as she sat down at her
desk.

“Of course, Captain,” Cabot replied, smiling. “I understand your concerns.”

“Let me be blunt,” she told him. “Unless you tell me, immediately, why my
crew have been detained, where they are being held and on what charges, I
will refuse to co-operate any further with this sham. No one else will leave
this ship.”

“Captain,” Cabot said, his watery eyes turning suddenly icy. “You know that
you can’t do that. Unless you’re thinking of disobeying a direct order.” He did
nothing to disguise the threat in his voice, but she ignored it.

“I will not abandon my crew,” she insisted, her direct gaze not wavering for an
instant.

Cabot sighed, almost regretfully. “Kathryn,” he said, in a softer voice, “I know
that you consider these people to be members of your crew, but you must
remember who they really are: our enemies, at war with the Federation.”

Janeway shook her head. “You’re talking about half my crew, and three of my
best officers!” Her tone turned grim. “They have risked their lives for me, and
for this ship, countless times. I will not abandon them.”

Cabot turned icy again: “They are terrorists and murderers.”

“They are my crew. And they deserve better than this.”

“Do they? Why?” Cabot’s watery eyes narrowed. “Why should we show
mercy to the brave Maquis TERRORISTS who have left behind countless
widows and orphans?”

“I won’t argue with you about their past,” Janeway replied, not finding the
subject a comfortable one. “But the fact is, for the last three years they have
been a good and loyal crew. I owe them my life, several times over, and I will
not allow this injustice to be perpetrated against them.”

“Injustice!” Cabot laughed. “The Maquis abandoned all claim to Federation
justice long ago.”

“I thought justice was blind, Admiral,” Janeway observed.

“Would you have us release them?” he asked, incredulous. “Free them to
return to the Maquis? To continue aiding the Klingons in the war against us?”

“If that is their choice,” she replied.

Cabot shook his head. “That’s not possible. They pose too great a risk.”

“Admiral,” she softened her tone, trying a different tack. “Some of them may
return to the Maquis, I agree. But I think you’ll find that many of them would
seek to stay in Starfleet. And I can assure you that Starfleet would only benefit
from their presence.”

“Not as much as the Maquis would,” Cabot replied. “We could never trust
them.”

Janeway scowled. “I have trusted them for the last three years. With my life,
and with my ship.”

“Voyager was their only way back from the Delta Quadrant. Loyalty was in
their own best interest.” Cabot shrugged. “What they will do now is anyone’s
guess.”

“But you can’t imprison them on a guess!” she objected, outraged.

“Of course not,” Cabot agreed smoothly. “But we don’t need to. They were
wanted for their crimes against the Federation long before they left the Alpha
Quadrant. ”

Janeway was silent for a long time. His logic was impeccable, yet she knew
this was wrong. It was unjust, and she expected better from Starfleet.
Something significant had changed here in the last three years, and she didn’t
like it.

“And how about Tom Paris?” she asked at last. “He’s already served his
sentence.”

“He was only on parole, Captain,” Cabot reminded her with a cold smile.
“Considering the current situation, it was thought unwise to release him. His
loyalties have always been…unpredictable.”

Janeway nodded in silence, her thoughts running ahead of her. “I want to see
them,” she demanded in a quiet voice. “Where are they being held?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” Cabot told her. “But, I’ll see if I can arrange a
visit. I believe that you’re due to be debriefed tomorrow?”

Janeway inclined her head in agreement.

“I’ll see what I can do about it then,” he told her, standing to leave. “Oh, and
Captain, a word of advice, if I may?”

“Go on,” she replied, not liking the note of menace in his voice.

“Your adamant defence of the Maquis has been noted,” Cabot told her. “For
your own good, Captain, you’d do well to distance yourself from them. I’d hate
to see your own loyalty put in doubt.”

“Noted, Admiral,” was all she said in reply.

***

“Did you see her?” Eddings asked the next morning, as he came and sat next to
Tom at breakfast. He made no mention of the split lip that slurred his speech,
or the angry bruises that half closed one eye.

Paris nodded, glancing up at his badly beaten colleague with a mixture of
anger and guilt beating in his heart. Eddings shrugged slightly, and struggled
to smile.

“If we can get her into the transporter bay, she can get us out,” Tom murmured
in a low voice, trying to sound more confident than he felt.

“How do we get in there?”

“I’m working on that,” Tom replied. Then, nodding towards The Gate, he
continued. “You see that patch of smooth grey rock, just to the left of The
Gate?”

Eddings glanced over, moving nothing more than his eyes, “U-huh.”

“It’s one-way plastisteel – a window. I’d put good money on that being the
transporter room.”

Eddings looked again, closer this time.

“Don’t stare!” Paris hissed.

“Sorry Lieutenant,” Eddings apologised, returning his attention to the
unappetising breakfast.

“And don’t call me that either,” Tom added. “It’s hardly appropriate in here,
and anyway I’m not a lieutenant anymore – they stripped me of my rank.” He
hoped the words didn’t sound as bitter as they tasted.

An awkward silence settled around them, until Eddings spoke again: “I
would’ve joined Starfleet, if they’d let me,” he said, his young voice sounding
sad. “I never expected this.”

“Neither did I,” Paris agreed. ALTHOUGH B’ELANNA DID – I SHOULD
HAVE LISTENED TO HER.

“I never knew Starfleet were so…brutal,” Eddings continued, one hand tracing
the bruising around his eye. “All those times Captain Janeway insisted on
upholding Federation values, and when we get back…They’re no better than the
Kazon!”

Eddings’ words stopped Tom, spoon half way to his mouth. He was right; this
was all wrong. Very wrong. “The Federation ISN’T like this,” he said slowly.
“Or they weren’t. For all the troubles I had with Starfleet, I was never treated
like this. Never. Something’s different.”

“Perhaps it’s the war?” Eddings offered.

Tom shrugged, pushing the spoon into his mouth. “Perhaps,” he said, around a
mouthful of food, “but it…”

“On your feet, Paris,” a guard suddenly barked, jabbing him sharply in the back
with a phaser-rifle. Setting his spoon down, Tom slowly stood up, meeting
Eddings’ concerned gaze with what he hoped was a confident smile.

“Move it,” the guard snarled, shoving him roughly forward. Tom found
himself surrounded by six heavily armed men who watched the prisoners, and
him, with undisguised malevolence. He walked in silence, keeping his eyes on
the floor, while inside adrenaline set his heart racing: LAST NIGHT! THEY
KNOW! This meant trouble. That was bad enough, but if they knew about
him, then they might know about B’Elanna too. And if they hurt her…his
fingers curled into fists at his sides; he’d never felt so helpless.

Ahead of him he heard the swish of an opening door, and looked up as the
guards marched him into their control room. Making the most of the
opportunity, Tom glanced around. He saw transporter controls to his right,
and directly before him was a heavy steel door. It must lead to the Klingon
side of the prison, he guessed. But it was closed, and there was no sign of
B’Elanna. IF WE COULD BREAK INTO THIS ROOM…, he mused, but his
thoughts were interrupted: Governor Irving strode into the room.

“Cuff him,” he ordered in a brittle voice.

“What’s going on?” Tom asked, as a guard bound his wrists together.

Irving’s eyes were as cold as the stone that surrounded them. “You have a
visitor, Paris,” the Governor replied, clearly displeased.

Unexpected hope squirmed in the pit of Tom’s stomach: the Captain! Irving
stepped close, speaking softly, his breath hot against Tom’s face. “You might
have friends in high places, Paris,” he warned darkly, “but while you’re in here
you’re mine. Remember that!” Irving gestured toward a guard: “Take him
down.”

He was escorted along a long, dimly lit corridor. Another door hissed open at
their approach, and the guard propelled Tom into a sterile, brightly lit room. A
Starfleet officer was waiting for him, sitting behind a small table, but it was
not the Captain; it was his father. Tom stared in astonishment.

“Leave us alone,” his father addressed the guard.

“Sir, my orders are to maintain constant…”

“I’m giving you new orders,” the Admiral snapped. “Out!” Discomfited, the
guard left, the door hissing shut behind him. “Sit down,” the Admiral ordered
Tom.

“Why are you here?” Paris asked, not moving towards the offered chair.

“I think you can guess,” his father replied, staring at him with those cold blue
eyes he remembered so well.

“Not really,” Tom answered.

“I’m not in the mood for any of your nonsense,” his father snapped. “Do you
think I enjoy visiting you in these places?”

“How should I know? You never have.”

“Don’t play games with me Thomas. I’m here for the same reason I came last
time – to offer you a deal.”

LAST TIME? Tom’s confusion kept him silent. WHAT’S HE TALKING
ABOUT?

The Admiral misinterpreted his silence. “I take it you’re interested?” he asked.

“What’s the deal?” Tom replied, sitting down cautiously.

“I want your name.”

“My name?”

Admiral Paris leaned forward, “I need it on this.” He produced a PADD. “Put
your name to this, and you’ll walk out of here with me. You can have your
commission back, a posting of your choice…”

“What does it say?” Tom interrupted.

“It’s a deposition – about Janeway’s involvement with the Dominion.”

“The Dominion? In the Gamma Quadrant?” Tom shook his head, baffled.
“The Captain isn’t involved with them – we’ve been in the Delta Quadrant for
the past three years!”

“All you have to do is sign it.”

“No,” Tom told him. “I won’t.”

“Listen,” his father snapped. “This is your last chance. Do you want to spend
the rest of your life in here?”

“You’re asking me to lie – to betray my friends. And I won’t do it.”

“As I recall, you’ve never had a problem with that.”

Tom coloured at the allusion, but refused to lower his gaze. “Then I guess I’ve
changed,” he told his father. “And so have you.”

“You’re being an idiot,” the Admiral hissed, “as usual. You know what it’s like
here. Have you forgotten what happened last time? They nearly killed you.”

“Last time?” Tom shook his head, “What are you talking about? I’ve never
been here before.”

“Thomas!” his father’s face reddened with anger. “I’ve had enough of this. I
don’t know what your game is, but it won’t work. I’m offering you the only
chance you’ll ever have to get out of here. Take it. Like you did before.”

“I won’t lie to save myself.”

“Then you’ll die here,” his father told him, standing up. “I should have let you
die last time you landed yourself in this pit. You were a waste of time then,
and you still are.”

With that he stalked out of the door, leaving Tom staring after him in
bewilderment. LAST TIME? THERE WAS NO LAST TIME. I’VE NEVER
BEEN HERE BEFORE!

***

When the guards threw him back into the prison compound, Tom was still
feeling shell-shocked. What had his father meant? Why did he want him to
lie about the Captain, and why did he keep saying that he’d been in this place
before? Deep in thought, he wondered back to the mess hall.

“Lieutenant,” Eddings asked, rushing towards him. “Are you all right? What
did they want?”

“I’m fine,” Tom assured him. “But I’ve just had the strangest conversation…”

He was interrupted by a loud wail of sirens which abruptly filled the air. “New
prisoner,” Eddings shouted over the racket.

Standing on one of the mess-hall benches to get a better view, Tom watched as
a squadron of eight wary and heavily armed guards dragged another inmate
into the prison. The man they escorted was barely conscious, and when they
threw him into his cell he fell to the floor with a quiet groan. Tom couldn’t get
a good view of his face, but he could see enough; a tattoo, dark against
unhealthy pale skin. It was Chakotay.

Tom waited until the guards had retreated to their barracks before he pushed
his way through the milling prisoners, and into Chakotay’s cell. The
commander had made it to his hands and knees by the time Tom arrived, so he
carefully helped him onto the narrow bunk. By the look of him he was in
pretty bad shape, although Tom couldn’t see any obvious injuries.

“Morning, Commander,” he said with a grim smile, lifting Chakotay’s feet onto
the bunk.

Chakotay opened his eyes. “Paris?” he whispered through a sandpaper-dry
throat.

“Is he okay?” Eddings asked from the doorway.

Paris turned, “See if you can get some water, will you?” he asked the young
ensign.

“Where…?” Chakotay tried to sit up, but Paris pushed him firmly back down.

“The New Zealand Penal Settlement, apparently,” Tom told him. “But they’ve
changed the decor since I last visited.”

Chakotay smiled, but kept his eyes closed. He looked exhausted. “What day
is it?” he asked, his voice still a rasp.

“Day?” Tom considered the question. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think I’ve
been in here nine days, so that makes it….”

“Nine days!” Chakotay’s eyes shot open, and then he covered his face with his
hands. “They questioned me for eight days. Straight.”

Tom shook his head, and let out a low whistle. This was definitely all wrong.

“Lieutenant?” Eddings was back, and held out a flask which Tom took from
him with a nod of thanks.

“Here,” he offered it to Chakotay, “you look like you need a stiff drink – but
I’m afraid it’s only water.”

Helping the commander to sit up and rest against the barred walls of the cell,
Paris handed him the flask. He let him drink his fill before he asked the
question. The question that had become so blindingly clear:

“So, Commander,” Tom asked conversationally, “where the hell do you think
we are we? ‘Cause we sure aren’t in Kansas anymore.”

***

The memory of sirens faded as darkness descended over the prison. B’Elanna
lay on her back, staring up through the bars on the ceiling of her cage, her eyes
blinking against the impenetrable gloom. She didn’t mind the dark. When the
lights went off she could relax, cease the relentless vigilance that kept her
alive. The Klingons here didn’t like her; she was half human, a weak, pitiful
disgrace to her race. She sighed. It wasn’t the first time she’d experienced this
kind of prejudice. Pushing the thought from her mind, she closed her eyes and
remembered the previous night. It brought a smile to her lips.

Removing the ankle restraint had been easy, but the long hours waiting in the
cold darkness had not. She’d heard shouts and running feet from the other side
of The Gate, and her heart had almost crawled its way up to her throat. IT’S
TOM, she’d thought to herself. WHO ELSE CAN IT BE? THEY’VE FOUND
HIM SNEAKING OUT. THEY’RE KILLING HIM!

It had taken all her human reason to overcome the Klingon urge to batter at the
iron gate until it let her through; the waiting had been agony, barely daring to
hope that he would be there. She’d lost track of time in the endless darkness,
and at last could wait no longer.

Creeping out of her hiding place, she had inched along the gate, barely daring
to move. And then she’d heard him whisper her name! The wave of relief that
had rushed over her had almost driven her to her knees. Almost. She WAS
half Klingon after all.

Their conversation had been too brief, but, oh so sweet! She remembered the
warmth of his touch as his fingers had tangled in her hair, the concern and
longing in his voice when he breathed her name. She could have torn the
wretched gate from the wall! And then the guards came, and they had to part
before she could tell him that she still loved him. That she always had. TWO
NIGHTS FROM NOW, he’d whispered. It wasn’t long, but it felt like an age.

B’Elanna opened her eyes and stared again into the darkness. The bars above
her head gleamed a dull grey in the blackness of the prison night. She
wondered how many nights she would have to lie there and look at them.
FOREVER, she told herself in irritation, IF YOU DON’T QUIT ACTING
LIKE A LOVE-SICK SCHOOL GIRL AND TRY TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO
GET OUT OF HERE!

Forcing thoughts of Tom firmly from her mind, she turned her attention to the
transporters. She’d seen them briefly on the way in, and she was pretty sure
they had a secure power supply lock-out, which would mean she’d have to rig
an alternative power source. That shouldn’t be too hard if she could get her
hands of a couple of the phaser rifles the guards carried, but she’d…

Her attention was suddenly caught by a faint glitter on one of the bars above
her head. With her eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness, she sat up to get a
better look. Someone had scratched something into the metal of the bar. It
was a name: Worf – a good Klingon name. She peered closer. There was
something else too, a date. She read it, and then read it again more closely. It
was still the same. A date ten years ago. But this place wasn’t here ten years
ago.

She lay back down. OKAY, she said to herself, I RECKON THERE ARE
TWO ALTERNATIVES. EITHER STARFLEET HAVE BEEN SECRETLY
IMPRISONING KLINGONS FOR THE LAST TEN YEARS – UNLIKELY,
FOR ALL THEIR FAULTS, OR…She paused before she finished the
thought…THIS ISN’T THE ALPHA QUADRANT WE LEFT BEHIND.

***

“C’mon!” Tom urged, “It all adds up!”

“The wrong Alpha Quadrant?” Chakotay asked, sounding dubious and stuffing
another spoonful of food into his mouth.

“Look,” Tom continued, “You were in Starfleet, did YOU ever see anything
like this?”

“No,” Chakotay was forced to agree. “But that was before the war started,
obviously…”

“Ah, the war,” Tom interrupted. “And how likely is THAT? War with the
Klingons, after decades of peace! Doesn’t it seem a little odd?”

“It’s politics,” Chakotay shrugged. “The alliance with Cardassia forced the
Federation into war when the Klingons attacked the Cardassian home-world.”

“Oh, right,” Tom seemed to be enjoying himself. “And do you really think the
Klingons would decide to launch an attack on Cardassia, just like that? It
doesn’t make any sense!”

“Paris,” Chakotay put his spoon down, and leaned forward. “None of that
proves that this is the WRONG Alpha Quadrant.”

“And what about my father?” Tom asked. “He told me he had visited me here
before – that I had nearly died here – that he had offered me a deal to get out.
But none of that ever happened!”

Chakotay stared at him for a moment. “I can’t explain that,” he admitted.

“C’mon, Chakotay,” Tom persisted. “Don’t you see? As stiff as Starfleet were,
they were never…” he gestured around them, “like this.”

Chakotay remained silent for a long moment, considering. “Perhaps you’re
right,” he agreed at last. “Things have certainly changed. But if you ARE
right, then no one’s coming to get us out of here.”

“You don’t know that,” Tom objected. “If the Captain and the others have
figured it out, too…”

“You don’t think they’re all in someplace like this?” Chakotay asked darkly.

Tom froze. “The Captain…?” he said, astonishment in his voice. “They
wouldn’t.”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. “They asked me a lot of questions about
Kath…about the Captain. They wanted to know what I thought of her decision
to DELIBERATELY strand Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, when we could
have used the Array to get home.”

“What did you tell them?”

“The truth, of course, but that’s not what they wanted to hear.” He leaned
closer and lowered his voice. “The Captain told me something before I left the
ship. Admiral Cabot more or less told her that they suspect us of being
Klingon agents…”

Tom barked a derisive laugh, but Chakotay silenced him. “Or, worse, spies for
the Dominion.”

“The Dominion…?” Tom’s eyes widened in understanding. “So that’s my
father’s game.”

Chakotay nodded. “They don’t believe we were ever in the Delta Quadrant at
all.”

“Then we’re on our own,” Paris replied grimly. “To this Starfleet, we’re the
enemy. We can’t rely on their justice, that’s for sure.”

Chakotay smiled wryly. “Sounds familiar,” he replied. Tom gave a short,
humourless laugh; each of them had received rough justice at the hands of the
real Starfleet.

“So, now what?” Tom asked. “There’s no Voyager coming to our rescue this
time.”

“Well, I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life in here,” Chakotay told him,
a spark of excitement in his dark eyes. “And I reckon if they’re going to treat us
like outlaws, we’d better start acting the part.”

Tom grinned. “Then I guess we’ll abandon Starfleet protocols on this one?” he
guessed.

“A strictly Maquis operation,” Chakotay confirmed, smiling dangerously. “No
holds barred.”

END OF PART 2

If you have liked this so far, part 3 (the conclusion – phew!) has also been
posted. Please also E-mail me to let me know how you liked it –
106625.3210@compuserve.com.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.