Romancing the Stone: Stage I

"Breaking Ground"

Darrel W. Beach

Looking for story notes?  You'll find them in Chapter 1.


     The turbolift ride to Deck 10 was unbelievably quiet, Tom still felt cowed from the security officer's scurrilous outburst.  He almost didn't want to believe it had happened, either; she had reacted with such vehemence one would have thought he had just been released from the penal settlement rather than over a year ago.  He thought that issue had been resolved with the rest of the Starfleet crew, so why was she bringing it up?  He looked at her carefully in an attempt to gauge her, to solve the puzzle before him.  She remained at attention, her eyes fixed upon the far wall.  Her face was set as stern and cold as a slab of granite, blocking out everything except the tasks ahead of her; he sensed she was aware of his scrutiny but chose to ignore it.
     She stood about 175 centimtres in height, taller than average for a woman.  Her figure was lean and trim but possessed soft, ample curves.  In fact, by the way she was so voluptuously proportioned he wouldn't have believed she was a security officer if he hadn't known it to be true.  She wore her dark hair long and pulled back into a tight knot, not cropped short as most security officers preferred.  He studied the graceful lines of her profile, the high cheekbones, the small narrow bridge of her nose, the soft pink curve of her lips, and decided she would look at least twice as beautiful if she wasn't brooding as she was now.  She could easily be one of the most attractive women on the ship if she smiled and wore her hair down.
     Lt. Calloway stepped out of the turbolift at a brisk pace.  Tom followed two steps behind, appreciating the sight in front of him.  Despite how the all-business attitude her Starfleet security training shaped her, there was still a small waggle in her gait.  He certainly enjoyed the unconscious mannerism, but he would have enjoyed it more if the woman hadn't already declared her contempt for him.
     His slight smirk melted into a frown over that troubling thought.  It had almost been a year and a half now since being unceremoniously dumped into the other side of the galaxy.  Sure, at first it had been difficult working with the rest of Janeway's Starfleet crew.  His presence on the ship was still very much a sensitive issue: after all, he carried with him a damaged reputation wherever he went.  Tom Paris, betrayer of the Federation.  Tom Paris, Starfleet criminal and Maquis turncoat.  Tom Paris, unreliable, untrustworthy, unpardonable.  It was the biggest hurdle he faced during the merger of the two crews.  It had taken a lot of time to prove his loyalty to the ship, but he had gained the trust of his Starfleet shipmates - or at least he had thought so, until tonight.
     Leena accessed the weapons locker with her clearance code and slipped out a PADD from a small cabinet adjoining the entrance.  She forcefully shoved it into Tom's midsection, to which he responded with a surprised grunt.  "Here, sir.  Start cataloguing the contents of the spare item bins over there," she ordered, pointing to a line of shelves.  "Please bring me your report when you're finished."  She disappeared into the racks of phaser compression rifles before he could get out a word.
     "Yes, ma'am," he muttered to himself, throwing open the first bin. Harry was right; she was going to be a tough nut to crack.
     As he fumbled through the containers of phaser power cells, he mulled over her stinging words again.  This whole first encounter had not gone according to his plan.  He figured he'd set a friendly atmosphere, be incredibly polite and courteous - play up the chivalry angle.  Then he'd question her about her personal life, like where she grew up and why she'd chosen to become a security officer and stuff like that.  Then after a few days of getting to know her and using his natural charm he'd try to set up an arrangement to meet outside of work, and that would be that.
     Well, that plan was ancient history now.  Certainly an inane question such as 'Where are you from?' wasn't going to crack the thick layer of ice she had put between them, and she definitely had no intention of changing that situation.  She hadn't uttered a single word to him all morning.  What he needed now was some way to influence her perspective of him.  Unfortunately, as uncomfortable as it made him feel, there was only one option available to him.
     "You know, Calloway, I don't know what you've heard about me, but you should hear what I have to say about it."
     "We don't socialize while on duty, sir.  I'd advise returning to work before we fall behind schedule further," she announced flatly.
     O-o-okay.  That went well.  He wasn't sure if this 'we' she referred to was meant to apply to all security officers or just them, but he wasn't about to push the issue at the moment.  If it was an actual security ordinance he certainly didn't want to get into more trouble.  He'd simply have to wait for another opportunity to attempt a conversation with her.

     Tom now completely understood Harry's reaction to the mention of her name at lunch time: Calloway was blacker than black.  Apart from instructing him what procedures to follow as they tallied up the stocks of Type II phasers and such, she never spoke a word to him all night, nor would she address him directly to his face.  While he admired her figure from behind, the constant view of the back of her head grew tiresome.  It wasn't as if he hadn't expected this type of behaviour from the Starfleet personnel at the beginning of their tour, but now?
     He looked at the steaming plate of food on his tray and grimaced.  If there was one thing worse than Neelix's cooking, it had to be Neelix's cooking re-heated.  He could be at least thankful the Talaxian himself wasn't here to dole out his high-spirited anecdotes along with the meals: for an itinerant space raider he was awfully sensitive about his culinary skills.
     "Hey, Paris, what are you doing working the graveyard shift anyway?" Robert Fowler asked, spotting the lieutenant and waving him over to a group of security officers.  He happily joined them, recognizing a few familiar faces.
     "I decided I wasn't getting enough work on the bridge, so I decided to take over the security department." The quip earned a few chuckles.  "Actually, I got into a bit of trouble this morning and this is my penance for the next two weeks.  The best part is that I get to work alongside of 'Chuckles' over there."  He nodded over to Leena, who had perched in a quiet corner of the room alone.  Whether or not she heard the conversation, she made no indication of paying interest to them.
     Ensign Renehan looked around him to see to whom he referred.  "Oh, so Leena's decided she doesn't like you, huh?"
     Tom sat down beside her.  "In a word, yes.  Apparently my reputation means a lot to her."
     "What'd you get busted for to end up with her, Tom?" Fowler inquired.
     "For being human, Rob," he answered vaguely.  "That's all you need to know."
     He glanced over to where his current partner sat and ate by herself.  She had openly and bitterly groused about being put eleven minutes behind schedule, which of course was all his fault for disrupting her work environment with his ineptitude.  To further stress her displeasure she refused to sit at the same table with the other security officers because of the invitation they'd extended to him.  He figured she was purposely putting distance between them to avoid getting to know him.  Harry was completely wrong in his assessment of her.  She was worse than a Vulcan: a Vulcan could be incredibly stubborn, but you couldn't make a Vulcan hate you.
     "I don't get it, Jackie," he remarked to Renehan, who sat beside him.  "We've been out here for what, fifteen, sixteen months?  She still thinks I'm the lowest form of life to be crawling around on this ship.  I thought I'd finally been accepted into this crew.  What gives?"
     Renehan cast a second look at Calloway, following Tom's gaze.  "Huh, I'm not surprised.  Leena's a real stiff.  She still doesn't really trust any of the Maquis yet, and I doubt that'll change any time soon.  In fact, she's pretty stand-offish with a lot of the other Starfleet officers as well.  I know she has a few friends on board, but there aren't many."
     Ensign Fowler picked up the thread.  "Yeah, whoever taught her at the Academy did a really good job of brainwashing her.  She believes that anyone who doesn't or can't live up to the principles of Starfleet isn't fit to lick the mud off her boots.  She's pretty pig-headed about it too; if she so much as finds out you bullied other kids in grade school you're automatically on her bad list.  Holds a grudge better than a Bajoran, she does."
     "Boy, if ever anyone needed to loosen up, she's the one," Tom commented.  "Fortunately for her, I'm an expert at helping people loosen up - particularly women."
     Renehan laughed heartily.  "You are a cocky bastard, aren't you?"
     "What?  You don't think I can do it?"
     "You're welcome to try, Paris, but I doubt you'll get far."
     He grinned.  "Just give me some time, Renehan.  I'll put a fire under her."
     "Yeah, right."
     "Just make sure you give us a full account of what happens when you do, Tom," Fowler prodded.  "An achievement like that will be a story of legends."
     As the laughter drifted around the table, the focus of the discussion finished her lunch and strode over.  "Break's over, sir."
     "What?  That couldn't have been half an hour already."
     "That's because it's only been about nineteen minutes, sir."
     Tom could feel his blood pressure increase.  "But we're allowed a half hour for meal breaks.  I'm not even finished yet!"
     "I don't like it anymore than you do, sir, but since we have to review all of the night's duty reports, we only have three hours to complete the audit of the weapons locker on Deck 11.  To avoid falling behind schedule even further it is necessary to shorten our break.  Might I remind you that you're the one responsible for putting us eleven minutes behind schedule in the first place."
     Easy, Tom.  Control your temper.  You don't want to cause a scene in the mess hall.  He had no qualms about striking a woman if the situation required it, but it wouldn't help his cause to punch out the woman he intended to get familiar with.  Calmly he set his fork down and politely excused himself from the suddenly silent table.  Subdued conversations started up again once the two officers had departed.
     Reaching the turbolift, Tom decided to address the situation.  "Lieutenant, the way you spoke to me back there was not only rude but bordered on insubordination.  I'm willing to let it slide not only because I wasn't trained to be a security officer, but because I'm a nice guy."
     "Sir, I am merely following Lieutenant Tuvok's orders, which clearly stated that I was to supervise your activities for the next two weeks.  That is an assignment I take very seriously, and would hope you take it seriously as well.  Your position on the senior staff may entitle you to certain rank priviledges, but I still outrank you on seniority.  For the next two weeks I expect you to follow my orders.  I am not your baby-sitter.  So unless you want me to put you on report for negligence and insubordination, you will abide by my schedule unless I say otherwise."  With that the turbolift doors whisked open and she took off down the corridor.
     Tom ground his teeth and tried counting to ten as he followed three paces behind.  She'd damn well better be worth it, that's all I can say.

On to Chapter 3...

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