Romancing the Stone: Stage I

"Breaking Ground"

Darrel W. Beach

Original draft, June 1997
Revised, November 1998
Revised and HTMLized, July 2002

Author's Note:

This story begins in the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, approximately 3 weeks before the episode Resistance.

The following presentation is rated PG for adult language and some implied adult situations. Parental guidance is suggested.


     The Intrepid-class Federation vessel, the U.S.S. Voyager, quietly cut through the calm black of space at Warp 6.  For the first time in many months the Delta Quadrant seemed to be in harmony with itself, and the small Starfleet crew revelled in it.

     God, this is boring.
     That was the only thing Tom Paris could think of, having sat at the Conn station now for over three solid hours.  The space in front of the good starship Voyager - as well as the space behind, above and below - was completely void of activity.  There was absolutely nothing out there to attract the attention of anyone on the bridge, much less himself.  No planets, inhabited, life-sustaining or otherwise.  No subspace or gravametric fluctuations or anomalies.  No aliens, friendly or hostile, to intercept the vessel.  No signs of massive interstellar masses of any kind to force a course correction.
     Sure, it had been a welcome change of routine from the random attacks by Kazon or Vidiian ships, but that was six days ago.  Now the sudden serenity was only a huge source of irritation to the navigator.  How exciting was it to sit and stare at a blank sensor grid all day?  At the moment he'd even prefer indications of Borg activity instead of the mind-numbing nothingness.
     It didn't help the situation any that they were only travelling at Warp 6.  Both Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Torres felt the extra stress exerted on the engines at increased speeds over a long duration posed too much risk of long-term damage, especially in light of their restrictions to maintenance.  It was a matter of possibly getting home in a couple of centuries as opposed to possibly never making it back at all.  Still, Tom ached to simply let fly - punch the engines up to their limits and take their chances.  It would be a thrill and a half to see just what capabilities the ship possessed, but he knew the captain would never tolerate such undisciplined behaviour.  Whether they depended on his piloting skills or not, she would have Lieutenant Tuvok throw him in the brig without a second thought.
     This sucks.  Of all the times to be stuck in a patch of dead space... who's brilliant idea was it anyway to make it a Starfleet rule that the Conn must be manned at all times?  We could put the ship on auto-pilot right now and it wouldn't make a damn's worth of difference.  This really sucks.
     They have no idea the kind of hell this is, having absolutely nothing to do.  Ol' Janey and Mr. Tattoo get to catch up on their paperwork and crew rosters and junk like that.  Harry's always busy whether or not there's anything interesting out there to look at.  Why doesn't he find a wormhole or something already?  I'd rather be back in prison now; at least I'd be given something to do.

     It just wasn't fair.  He couldn't find a way to escape the dull confines of the bridge, not since B'Elanna had banned him from Engineering yesterday over an attempt to make unnecessary modifications to the navigational control systems.  I don't care what she says, I did not incite a riot.  Without the proper stimulation, it didn't take long for Tom's thoughts to wander away from the console.  He casually looked over to his left at an attractive young ensign manning the science station.  Man, oh man, she'd be perfect for curing my boredom right now.  I could show her a few manoeuvres they don't teach in flight school.  If only she wasn't dating Calwell already.
      Maybe that's why this bland space is getting to me; I'm all wound up because I've been flying solo ever since Harry refused to go out on another date with Jenny Delaney.  Now the sisters are dating someone else because they're using the double-date-or-no-date routine and I've been getting turned down ever since.  I had an easy mark with Megan and Harry goes and screws it all up!  Hell, if anyone needed Jenny Delaney to take the edge off his frustration, it's that uptight little ingrate.  No, that's not fair; I'm blaming Harry for my own frustration.
     I bet my problem is I've been on this ship too long.  By now my reputation - as inaccurate and ill-deserved as it is - has been circulated throughout the whole ship.  That's probably why the women are so reluctant to go out with me.  They're not giving me the opportunity to dispel those myths.  And now it looks like my time is running short to get a good catch.  The Delaneys are unavailable.  Kes is just a friend and devoted to Neelix.  Lieutenant Matthews is dating Hargrove. Mariah Henley and Colin Imbro are an item.  Gallagher, McCormick, Yarro, Renehan and Dvorak aren't interested.
     So who's available?  B'Elanna Torres?  Ha!  Yeah, like that'll ever happen - she hates my guts.  I'd have a better chance of surviving a space-walk in my skivvies than getting a date with her.  Sam Wildman?  Even overlooking the fact that she's married, she comes with extra baggage.  I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of responsibility yet.  Nicoletti?  Not really my type.  The captain?
  He shuddered.  Ugh, that's too creepy to think about.  That'd be like dating your aunt.  Besides, by the time she realizes she's not married to the ship Commander Chakotay will be right there waiting for her.
     "Mr. Paris?"
     Now let's see, who else is there...?
     "Mr. Paris!"  The captain's sharp questioning tone cut through his train of thought.
     "Y-yes, sir!" Tom blustered, snapping his head around to look at her.  She did not look happy.  Everyone on the bridge stared directly at him, with looks of questioning and discontent about them.  He could feel the rush of heat in his face under the ensign's scrutiny.  How humiliating, to be caught daydreaming on the bridge.
     "In my office now, mister," she growled.  Tom wanted to find a dark little hole to crawl into instead, but slunk in behind her.  He pulled himself back to attention as she turned around sharply to regard him with a hard stare after the office door slid shut.
     "Mr. Paris, would you kindly explain to me why you weren't monitoring the Conn just now?"
     His thoughts raced, spinning wildly out of control.  His usually quick, sharp wit failed him.  "Ah, well... uh...."
     Captain Janeway leaned forward slightly and poked a finger into his chest.  "Lieutenant, I asked you a question; I expect an answer."
     "I, uh, my apologies, Captain," he fumbled.  "I just, uh, got bored and lost my focus."
     "Bored?  Are you telling me that you're tired of piloting my ship?"
     "No!  Captain, it's not that at all.  It's just -"  He searched for the right words.  "Well, I find that our present situation is less than stimulating."
     "Oh, is that all?" she exclaimed as if enlightened by the explanation.  Her posture seemed to relax.  "Well, I can't have my navigator under-stimulated, now can I?"  She stepped over to her desk and activated the communication panel.  "Mr. Tuvok, it appears that Lieutenant Paris is suffering from a lack of stimulation on the bridge.  What would you say to reassigning him to night security detail for the next two weeks?"
     "I will get on to the task immediately, Captain," came the tinny response.
     By now Tom's jaw had bounced off the deck plate a couple of times.  "Y-you can't be serious! Captain, I -"
     "One more word out of you, Lieutenant, and I'll make it a month.  That's how serious I am."
     Tom instantly choked up.
     "That's better.  Now listen up.  When you're on my bridge I expect you to be alert and disciplined at all times.  It doesn't matter if we end up travelling through this kind of space for ten days or ten years, I expect you to keep yourself on your toes while at your station.  And I don't care how you do it, either; all I want to know is that I can rely on you to be prepared at any time and at a moment's notice.  So I'm putting you on night security for two weeks so you can think about that the next time you begin to feel bored on my bridge.  Now get back to your station, Lieutenant."
     Tom wasted no time or words as he spun on his heels and made a hasty retreat from her office.  He didn't know why the captain was so grouchy today, but for whatever reason, he had no desire to test her patience any further.  Two weeks of night security detail was bad enough.

     Lieutenant Tuvok studiously browsed through the security personnel duty roster for the upcoming evening.  The captain's sudden request to transfer Lieutenant Paris to night watch had been unanticipated but not totally unexpected.  For a long while he pondered over the pilot's irreverent and audacious behaviour on the bridge.  He considered it quite inappropriate, especially during events when discretion or decorum were in order.  Frankly, why the lieutenant hadn't been reprimanded much sooner was an enigma, but one for which he predicted the captain would resolve eventually.  Now it seemed that the moment he had waited for had finally arrived.
     He isolated the name he sought, the one officer he knew would be the ideal instructor for Lieutenant Paris.  She was perhaps his best security officer on staff, a perfect model of Starfleet discipline and order.  Responsible, competent, efficient - he had every confidence that Lieutenant Calloway would more than adequately handle the task of straightening out the impertinent young navigator.  He made the update to the duty roster and sent it out to the entire night shift, then forwarded a copy to Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris.

     A beep from the message panel stole Tom's attention away from the Conn, where he pretended to be busy for the captain's sake.  His shoulders began to droop as he absorbed the contents of the message.  They weren't wasting any time; Tuvok had slotted his next shift for tonight, paired with a Lieutenant Leena Calloway.  He didn't recognize the name; he'd have to look up her personnel file later.  Right now his stomach was telling him it was time for lunch.
     Checking the chronometer, he got up and headed straight for the turbolift, following on the heels of Ensign Kim.  As the lift hummed its way silently to its destination, Harry's gaze darted between Tom and the far wall a couple of times before he mustered the courage to speak.  "So, uh, what happened in there, Tom?"
"I don't want to talk about it, Harry."
"Oh.  Okay."  They stood there in silence until the turbolift stopped and deposited them on Deck 2.
     "I've been temporarily reassigned to security duty.  Graveyard shift."
     "Ah.  Sorry to hear it.  When do you start?"
     "Tonight.  2330 hours."
     "Hm, double shift.  Tough one."  They entered the mess hall and grabbed a couple of lunch trays.  Tom customarily wrinkled his nose at the sight of the food on the plate as they sat down at a table in the corner of the room.
     He wondered if the ensign was more familiar with his new partner.  It would save him the trouble of looking up her personnel file.  "Harry, what do you know about Lieutenant Calloway?"
     The ensign's eyes widened with surprise for a fraction of a second at the mention of her name.  "'Callous' Calloway?" he whispered.
     "Oh, great, like I needed to hear that," Tom muttered before taking a bite from his main course.  He instantly made a sour face and reached for a napkin.  "Ugh.  You know, you'd think that after sixteen months Neelix's cooking would get better, or that we'd at least get used to it being so gross."
     Harry looked at the fare at the end of his fork and decided to set it back down on the plate.  "So why do want to know about Calloway anyway?  Thinking of asking her out or something?"
     "No, nothing like that.  Tuvok assigned me to work with her.  Only now you've made me wish I'd been assigned to waste extraction instead."
     "I don't blame you.  From what I've heard, Lieutenant Calloway is one hard nut.  She takes her assignments very seriously - works strictly by the book; if it's not done precisely the Starfleet way, she can be difficult to deal with.  You'd almost think she was a Vulcan the way she acts on the job.  That's how she got her nickname.  You'd better watch yourself, Tom, you don't want to get on her bad side."
     Tom frowned.  "Perfect.  I bet Tuvok has been itching to pin her on me since we got here."  He stood up from the table and grabbed his tray to leave.  "Thanks for the advice, Harry.  I've got a feeling I'm going to need it."
     "Glad to help, Tom.  Oh, and one more thing."
     "Have fun tonight!"
     "Ha-ha.  Real funny, Harry, just hilarious.  I might have to go to Sickbay, my sides are splitting."
     Harry just grinned and watched his friend leave, then turned his attention back to lunch.  Looking at the cold plate in front of him and considering Tom's opinion, he decided he wouldn't risk a possible case of food poisoning.

     It was turning out to be a really lousy day for the normally upbeat pilot.  Caught half-asleep at the wheel just as a tedious week of travelling through the mundane surroundings of space caught up to him.  Chewed out by the captain and put on night watch - which, thanks to Lt. Tuvok, started less than twelve hours after his regular shift on the bridge ended.  And to top it all off, he had less than five hours in which to get some rest for his first shift and nearly slept through his alarm.  It was bad enough his head ached from lack of sleep, but he didn't want to find himself on the wrong side of some stiff, square jawed Starfleet security drone.  He had already reached his monthly quota of problems.  A quick shower and change of clothes, and he was out the door to get a small snack from the kitchen before reporting to the security office.
     He jogged into the entrance a full minute early, much to his relief.  Already there were approximately a dozen people assembled in the room enjoying a quiet, pleasant conversation.  Maybe this won't be so bad after all, he reconsidered, recognizing a few faces from previous away missions.  He angled himself into a corner to observe the proceedings while the last few crewmen came in.
     The low hum of noise disappeared as one officer stood up at the head of the table.  "Okay, people.  In case you missed Lieutenant Tuvok's posting, here are tonight's assignments...."
     Tom had to stop his chin from hitting the floor.  The foreman was a total babe!  How was it he hadn't run into her before now, after all this time?  This was a small ship; there weren't many places to hide, especially when they were the only Federation ship in the entire quadrant.  Besides, he made it a point to make himself familiar with each and every attractive female officer on board.  His train of thought from earlier that day returned in full force.  He conjured up at least a dozen different scenarios that he and she could spend their weekend together when he noticed he was being addressed.  He hadn't noticed that they were the only people still present in the security office.
     "I would presume that you're Lieutenant Paris?" the foreman asked.
     "The one and only, Lieutenant, ah -" he replied, taking note of the Starfleet rank of junior lieutenant.
     "Calloway, sir."  She frowned and looked at the PADD in her hand.  "Lieutenant Tuvok lists your assignment as disciplinary rehabilitation.  Is that correct, sir?"
     Silently he was giving thanks to the Vulcan for setting him up with this goddess, even despite the black description Harry provided him.  "I'd prefer to call it a minor misunderstanding."
     She looked at him cynically.  "Right.  Come with me, sir.  We have to audit the weapons lockers on Decks 10 and 11."
     Tom almost had to hurry to keep up with her as she marched quickly out the door and down the hallway.  "You know, you don't have to be so formal with me.  In fact, I don't like being addressed as 'sir'.  My name's Tom."
     She stopped and turned so quickly he almost knocked her over.  "With all due respect, sir, I know all about you."  She was a picture of reserve and calm, but he could see the flare of hatred in her eyes.  "I know about how you killed those three officers in that shuttle crash.  I know how you attempted to cover up your mistakes by denying the truth.  I know that you got expelled from Starfleet because of your treachery.  And I know that you were apprehended as a member of the Maquis and sentenced to prison.
     "Now I want to make myself perfectly clear: I may have to work with you, but it doesn't change the fact that you are a loathsome individual.  Now I suggest we report to the weapons lockers on Decks 10 and 11; we're falling behind schedule."  She turned and headed for the turbolift just as quickly as she had stopped.
     Tom stood there stunned for a second before realizing what he was supposed to be doing.  So much for making a good first impression.

On to Chapter 2...

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