"Yes, sir!" Tom responded enthusiastically to Chakotay's order to
assemble an away team. Frankly, it was about time they finally got off
their cans and did something. He slid out of his chair and worked his
way to the security station. "Nice work, Calloway," he murmured. "I've
got to give Harry credit for channelling your stress into that console. The way you were going, I thought you'd start cracking heads at any
Leena glowered at the pilot for his unintended slight. "Keep talking, Paris. I'm sure we could arrange something."
"Uh, maybe later." Tom took a step back. She'd reacted a little stronger than he'd expected. She obviously wasn't as happy about the plan as the rest of bridge. He had to diffuse this situation, and quickly. "Anyway, how about taking point on our little prison raid? I hear you're pretty handy with a phaser."
That seemed to work; Leena lowered her ire. "Then you have a good ear." She hesitated. "I just don't know if I should go, though; right now I'm second in command of security. My place is on the bridge."
"Leena, I've been watching you all day. I know how much you want to go down there and get Tuvok." He gripped her shoulder supportively. "Don't worry about the bridge, it'll still be here when we get back."
She sighed, defeated. Tom was more perceptive than she gave him
credit for. He had teased her with the right bait to get her mind off
her recent futility: an opportunity to lead a charge to find Tuvok. As
the acting chief, she shouldn't have considered leaving her post; she
could put Voyager in the dubious position of losing its top two
security officers. However, she felt the pull of loyalty to Tuvok. If
there was a chance to get him out, she wanted to be there to do it. "Murphy, cover for me." She hustled into the turbolift before she could
change her mind. Tom followed her in. "Exactly what kind of moron do
you take me for anyway?"
"Pardon?" he asked, startled.
"Cut the act, Lieutenant. I know what you're up to. You think that by doing me a few favours that I'll feel obligated to reciprocate."
Tom looked genuinely hurt by the accusation. "You wound me, Calloway. How is it that you see an ulterior motive behind everything I do?"
She looked squarely at him. "Tell me I'm wrong then. Are you trying to score brownie points with me or not?"
Tom levelled his gaze with hers. "Absolutely."
Leena stood there, thunderstruck. Somehow she expected him to dodge the question, or at least lie in that playful style of his. Not for a second did she believe he would come right out and admit the truth.
"I'm not going to lie to you, Leena. I'm doing this because I want to prove to you that I'm capable of being unselfish, and because I want you to like me. Can you think of a better way to befriend a person than by doing nice things for them?"
Her mouth bobbed, trying to find purchase on an acceptable response. "Uh...er...no."
"Good. I'm glad we got that straightened out."
Leena had to consciously force her legs to operate in order to follow Tom out of the turbolift and into the transporter room. It took her brain a few minutes to process what had happened. She likened the experience to being run over by a hovercar. By the time she regained rational thought Neelix, Pietr Ogdanovich and Justin McCabe had joined them.
Tom tapped the badge on his chest as soon as they assembled on the pad. "Paris to Bridge. The away team is assembled and in position for transport."
"Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Stand by."
The next minute was surprisingly tense as they waited for Chakotay's order. Leena shifted into full alertness. Tom fidgeted, double-checking the setting on his phaser. What were they waiting for?
Chakotay's voice finally broke the suspense. "Transporter room, stand down. Sorry, away team. It didn't work."
Leena squinted her eyes to adjust to the low-lit tunnels. No
surprise, really; making prisoners the most uncomfortable in their
rehabilitation environment was usually indicative of most despotic
ruling bodies. Tom immediately had his tricorder activated and scanning
the branched entrances. "I'm reading a large concentration of humanoid
life signs about 500 metres north-east of us. I'm guessing we'll have
to take the left tunnel. McCabe, you and Ogdanovich take point. Neelix
and I will be right behind you. Calloway, cover our backs, make sure
than no one tries to sneak up behind us. Okay, let's move it, but be
cautious." The unit headed briskly into the mouth of the left tunnel.
Leena side-stepped her way down the corridors, glancing over her shoulder every few seconds. She kept her composure up and her body relaxed even though adrenaline coursed through her veins. Damn, it felt good to be lurking behind enemy lines, under the constant threat of being caught, her phaser resting comfortably in her palm.
Leena was impressed with Tom's display of leadership. It contradicted the image of the cocky, malingering coward she had envisioned of him. A lot of things he'd done lately had surprised her, though. He had shown her one of the skeletons in his closet to vindicate himself against her hasty conclusions. He had given her a kick in the pants when she needed it. He had gone out of his way to put her career back on track. He wasn't nearly the villain she had made him out to be.
"Whoa!" Everyone froze and centred on Tom as he stared at the tricorder readouts. "Move it! I just read two pulsed energy discharges at our destination."
The quintet bolted down the corridor. Leena's heart pounded with fear, not exertion, terrified that they hadn't acted fast enough. She couldn't begin to measure how sick she'd feel if Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tuvok had been executed mere moments before their liberation.
McCabe and Ogdanovich rounded a bend and ran into a couple of armed guards. The guards were more surprised than anything, not anticipating that a pair of Starfleet officers would suddenly be bearing down on them. The security officers, prepared for confrontation, didn't even slow down their charge. They disappeared down the next turn before the guards toppled unconscious to the tunnel floor from a pair of phaser stuns.
Tom pumped his legs harder to try to keep up with McCabe and Ogdanovich, grimly wondering if he should increase his daily exercises when he returned to the ship. At least Neelix appears to be labouring, too. With a physique like his, he should be struggling to keep up. Looking past a shoulder, Tom caught a most welcome sight: twenty metres down the corridor stood B'Elanna and Tuvok! He broke stride, jogging his way down to a steady walk. I've got to find a swimming program for the holodeck, he lamented, pulling in large doses of oxygen as he approached the two other lieutenants. Tuvok looked a little roughed up, and B'Elanna a little shaken, but otherwise relieved to see the rescue team. "Man, I never thought I'd say this, Tuvok, but you're a sight for sore eyes."
The Vulcan held a steady gaze at Tom. "Indeed."
Leena came in behind Tom and gasped when she saw Tuvok's battered countenance, eliminating the feeling of elation when she espied him from further down the passage. "Sir, are you all right? What did they do to you?"
"Do not be concerned, Lieutenant. I was subjected to physical duress by Magistrate Augris and his enforcers, but they were not successful in their objective of extracting information."
With that addressed, one question remained. Tom beat her to it, though. "Where's the captain? Is she here?"
"She's in the tunnel off to the right just ahead, Tom," B'Elanna said distractedly. Tom slipped around the group and down the tunnel. Neelix took his cue and tagged along.
"Lieutenant Calloway, we are on our way to recover a number of captives belonging to Mr. Darod's resistance movement. We will require assistance to escort them out of these passages."
Leena looked over her shoulder. "Ensign McCabe, Ensign Ogdanovich, please escort the lieutenants and show them the way out." She then looked back at Tuvok. "If you don't mind, sir, I'll stay behind and escort the captain back to the ship."
Tuvok lowered his eyebrows slightly and, almost imperceptibly, nodded. Leena recognized his gesture of approval, and the significance of it touched her. He knew of the regard she held for Captain Janeway. "Very well, Lieutenant." He then motioned at the ensigns to follow his lead and the group disappeared down the tunnel.
Leena followed the path Tom and Neelix had taken, wondering what was delaying them. Neelix stood at the mouth of the adjoining tunnel looking unusually sullen. Her anxiety resurfaced. What had happened? She quickened her pace, and stopped abruptly when she reached the Talaxian. What she saw took her breath away.
In the middle of the chamber, Captain Janeway huddled over the body of a man, her tears staining his face as well as her own. Knelt at the captain's side, Tom gave her both emotional support and enough personal space to grieve. That single moment topped off all the redeeming qualities in Tom that Leena had seen in one day: loyalty, compassion, altruism, frank honesty, courage, leadership...was this the same Tom Paris she thought she knew?
"We'd better go now, Captain," Tom gently advised. "This place is going to be crawling with guards pretty soon."
Janeway caressed the dead man's face one final time, wiped away the moisture in her eyes, and stood up. "All right, I'm done. Darod, just make sure Caylem receives a proper burial. He deserves that much respect, at least." The man must have made quite a sacrifice for the captain to be so concerned, Leena thought. She wondered how he was connected to the events that had recently taken place.
"Don't worry, Captain, I'll make certain he gets the best of treatment, and a monument erected in his honour."
Janeway smiled at Darod. "Thank you." She glanced at Tom and Leena, telling them she was finally ready to leave. Leena led the way out as Darod moved to gather Caylem's still form. "Tom, thank you for giving me that last moment. Caylem had his peculiarities, but he was a truly brave and caring person."
"I could tell he meant a lot to you, Captain. Believe me, I know what it's like to lose someone very special and not have the chance to pay them the proper respects."
Leena's stomach twisted into a knot when she heard that. "Captain, I believe we're clear to beam up to the ship now."
"Very well, Lieutenant. Any time you're ready."
Leena gratefully tapped her communicator. "Lieutenant Calloway to Voyager. We have four to beam up."
Leena winced again at the sight of Lieutenant Tuvok's contusions
as she walked into the Security office. The Vulcan's tolerance for pain
was admirable but the visible discolourations on his face indicated just
how cordial his Alsaurian guests had been. She derived some small
satisfaction from knowing that Augris had been killed at the hands of
Caylem. The old man had deserved such an honour after the years of hurt
and suffering Augris had inflicted upon him. Regrettably he had also
perished in the attempt but he would at least be rewarded with being
rejoined with his family in the great hereafter. "You wanted to see me,
"Yes, Lieutenant, I do." Tuvok set down a report on his desk. "I've had the opportunity to speak with Commander Chakotay since my return to the ship."
Uh-oh. A heavy feeling settled into her chest. She dreaded what he would have to say about what they inevitably discussed.
"The commander informed me of his altercation with you on the bridge. I found myself troubled by his account of the incident. Your adversarial conduct with Commander Chakotay was insubordinate and unbecoming a Starfleet officer, Lieutenant," he said grimly. "That is not the type of behaviour I would have expected from you."
"I can explain that, sir," she replied, although she didn't believe she could.
"Indeed?" Tuvok questioned. "You accused the commander of mutiny."
Her face turned a bright shade of red. That statement sounded more like a death knell than an observation. "It was...in my opinion, sir, that Commander Chakotay's decisions were not made for the best interests of the ship. I...suspected...that he might foil our attempts to rescue you and the captain, and take command of the ship for himself." Her voice, in line with her confidence, fell flat.
"I see." Leena heard, in spite of the speaker, the disapproval and disappointment in Tuvok's voice as he acknowledged her explanation. "Lieutenant, considering the recent social and career changes you are experiencing I understand how your present state of mind might be agitated. That does not, however, excuse your reckless manner on the bridge. Your affront to Commander Chakotay was highly inappropriate and irrational."
She couldn't bring herself to look him in the eyes. "Yes, sir. I'll accept whatever discipline you deem necessary." She could already see her recent promotion snatched away.
After an indeterminable silence Tuvok folded his arms across his lap. "I have discussed this matter with Captain Janeway and the commander. The commander has decided not to make an issue of this confrontation. He explained how his precautionary attitude toward you served to instigate this affair. By his estimation you have already punished yourself enough with your self-imposed confinement and therefore he did not see the need to strip you of rank or sentence you to confinement. The captain supported his recommendation. She also added that, although your infraction is sufficient grounds for dismissal from Starfleet and confinement to the brig until you can be brought before a judicial panel, Voyager must make full use of everyone aboard if we are to succeed in our task of returning to the Alpha Quadrant. This I have taken in consideration.
"I must confess that I am partly responsible for this outcome, since it was I who confided in Commander Chakotay of your infirmity. However, it still does not excuse your transgression against him. Your accusations were based on incomplete information and personal emotions. As a security officer, you should know the importance of gathering evidence through unbiased, controlled procedures. It is therefore my judgement that you be suspended from duty for the next 72 hours to contemplate your actions on the bridge. Your position as assistant chief will of course be re-evaluated as well. At the end of your suspension you will be put on stand-by duty until further notice."
Leena waited for him to continue. There had to be more to her punishment than that. After a long moment she realized he wasn't going to say any more. "I don't mean to criticize, sir, but that's it? No demotion?"
"Your wariness of the commander's motives closely resembles my own caution when the two crews were first merged into one. My daily interactions with the commander and the others, however, enabled me to work past my initial suspicions. You, on the other hand, voluntarily removed yourself from such interactions; you do not have the same insight that I have amassed. Thus, it is logical to suggest that your mistrust of the Maquis would have been supplanted if not for your self- imposed isolation. It would not be appropriate to penalize you."
Numbness enveloped Leena. Under ordinary circumstances she would have been facing some time in the brig, probably even a court-martial hearing. She should feel happy that circumstances were far from ordinary on Voyager. So why did she feel so hollow all of a sudden?
"You may return to quarters, Lieutenant, unless there is something you would like to discuss further?"
"Hmm? Oh, n-no, sir. Thank you, sir." Leena left the room in a daze. She found it difficult to accept this slap on the wrist as just for her atrocious behaviour. It didn't seem big enough for some reason, only she didn't know the reason.
She wandered through the corridors, trying to make sense of the impossible situations that had played themselves out in the last few days. She had a rakish pilot, who had a great deal more character than anyone realized, vying for her affections. This very same person, a moral misfit, had bested her in a trial of compassion and honesty, had set her on the path to personal stability, and still she had almost mutinied against her first officer. Now she had been given a light reprieve from her superior when, by all rights, he should have prosecuted her to the fullest extent of the law. Just thinking about it made her head ache, so instead she let her mind go blank. The thinking could be put off until such time that she would be better equipped to handle it. Which, at the rate she was going, would take far longer than the three days she'd just been given.
On to Chapter 6...
Return to the Stories page