Lines in the Sand IV, part III
Anticipation kills me.
Watching Chakotay fumble for words and wondering exactly what he will say has me on edge. He is right - that much I have to admit. I am taking a gamble, hoping that his information will somehow provide the "out" my people need.
Yes, despite what Chakotay says, I still don't see the distinction. I don't see Maquis and I don't see Starfleet; I see Voyager's crew. Janus-faced we are, true, but we couldn't have survived seven years in the Delta Quadrant without each other.
I ask very softly. He doesn't look up. Somehow, the lines on his palms are
infinitely more interesting to him. In a way, his silence reminds me of that second just before your stomach leaps right into your throat - that rush of excitement and fear that precedes a plunge from heights.
My sister - she hated those rides at the carnival; she would hold onto the safety bar, white-knuckled, her eyes closed tight. On the other hand, I loved every moment. Loved that free fall, and then that slight tickle of a laugh that bubbled up when I realized I had survived something death defying. Or maybe that was my own misguided sense of immortality; when you're young, you're allowed to think you can fall forever.
But of course, the adult in me has a very different sense and it's one that Chakotay is driving home in a way that I had never thought.
If I fall now, there won't be a safety net. There won't be a red-faced, heavy-set ride operator smiling gap-toothed at me while I walk away drunkenly.
"You never saw the destruction," Chakotay says very quietly. "You never saw the death."
"You don't know what it's like to see your family dragged from their home and their land, screaming."
"You're right, I don't."
"When the offer came, we took it," Chakotay glances at me. His expression is serious, his tone pensive. "I didn't think myself capable of violent anger, Kathryn. I always prided myself on equanimity. You know I don't always think violence is the way out."
"But you do - you have been violent."
"I changed the day my father was murdered."
Chakotay lowers his eyes and suddenly, there is a spot on the wall directly above his head that is unbelievably fascinating to me.
"Then the Cardassians arrived. I don't know how many there were, but we were certainly out-numbered. I think even at that time, we still thought the Federation would come to our aid. We were horribly misguided."
"You knew the terms of the treaty."
"Theoretically, yes. Practically, no. It's one thing to understand a particular edict, Kathryn; it's a completely different matter when you live it."
"Like a mirror," I say with a bit of feeling. "You know, the ones that distort you? Until you step away, you don't realize that you aren't ten meters tall."
Chakotay looks at me blankly.
"Haven't you been to a traveling carnival, Chakotay?" I ask.
He shrugs, "No."
Silence again. Slightly uncomfortable, but necessary. I clear my throat.
"You fight a long time for something you believe in, something that you think you can win, and all that's left is a field, once alive with crops, and you are there, cradling your father's body. He didn't want to be saved. I'm sure if we had tried, we could have saved him, but he said no. He said no."
Chakotay takes a deep breath and stands up. He stretches and then walks to the far wall, the only one with a window.
"I don't blame him, Kathryn. I think, if our positions had been reversed, I would have done the same. You can only fight for so long."
"I don't understand. When was this deal made? Before your father's death?"
"Were you there?"
Silence again and then a slight nod.
"Michael Eddington, among others. Don't know if you've heard of him. I brought B'Elanna along because I didn't want anything to happen to the ship that would prevent us from making the meeting, but she never attended any of the negotiations."
"Did you talk about what went on with her?"
"Just vaguely," Chakotay says. "She asked a few questions, I answered them, but you have to understand. In the Maquis, we didn't ask because knowing too much put the entire cell in danger."
"So I hear," I say. "Resistance Cell Dynamics with Professor Glendale. Sounds like a physics class, actually."
"You took that class too?"
"An easy elective," I smile wryly. "I planned to apply some of the philosophy Glendale taught when I went after your ship."
"Too bad all of that book learning went to waste."
"Indeed," I say. "Who were the others, Chakotay? Who else was involved in the negotiations?"
"No one who is alive now and no one has heard from Ro Laren in years," Chakotay says. I look at him in surprise at the mention of Ro Laren who was the first Starfleet officer to openly defect to the Maquis. I assumed, like everyone else, that Ro was dead, but Chakotay apparently believes otherwise.
"Ro is still out there?" I ask. Chakotay shrugs.
"She wasn't with Eddington during that last battle and Starfleet never caught her," Chakotay chuckles. "Ro always knew how to run circles around Starfleet. It's a trait that made her a good asset to the cause. I wouldn't be surprised if she was simply out there, lurking, waiting for the right moment to expose the real traitors."
The way he stresses this last word, 'traitors,' irks me greatly.
"With whom did you make the deal?" I demand.
"Does it matter?"
"Why do you keep saying that? Of course it matters!"
"I did most of the negotiating," Chakotay says. "But Eddington was the driving force behind the talks. He arranged the talks, you know. Set them up, and then during the breaks, he would drill me and then coach me on what to say next. He was still wearing a Starfleet uniform then."
"Did Starfleet know about Eddington's involvement?"
"No, no," Chakotay shakes his head. "They had no idea."
"Who are `they'?"
Chakotay shifts in his chair.
"McArthur?" I ask very softly. "Was it Rodney McArthur?"
"No," Chakotay offers a grin. "He was the only one who wasn't there."
"But he knew."
"Yes, of course."
"I've known the Admiral a long time. He's a good man, Chakotay."
"I knew you'd say that. That's the inherent problem with perception. We allow people to see only those facets we want them to see. But it wasn't McArthur. It would have been so easy. I knew McArthur's son, John, at the Academy. We're the same age, took many of the same classes. I saw John only once after we graduated. He died three days later."
"An unfortunate scuffle."
"Yes," Chakotay says. "He crashed a shuttle while inebriated. He was badly injured. That's when I found him. We brought him back to camp, gave him medical treatment. He hadn't been gone even a day before he called in the Federation on us. That's gratitude, isn't it? We save his life and he turns us into the authorities. We had warning though. Ayala followed him. So when they came, we were ready. It was... unfortunate."
The pieces are falling together slowly. I see a clear picture of Admiral McArthur grieving over his only son. I see the murderer - Chakotay - emerge from the depths of the Delta Quadrant and here, finally, is the chance for revenge - the chance to avenge a death.
"Who?" my voice is sharp and impatient. "Chakotay, who were they?"
"Don't you hate it when the mirror shatters, Kathryn?"
"You're scaring me."
"No," he says. "I'm just telling you what was - is. I'm not entirely convinced that McArthur is behind this, but it's a definite possibility. He certainly had the means to engineer the destruction of a starbase and he had the motive. John McArthur was one of many who died for a variety of reasons and by the law, we should stand trial for that death and the others. But you know, in those long hours of questioning, Admiral McArthur never asked about what happened to John. It was almost as if it didn't matter."
"Because he knew you would not leave the starbase alive."
"Maybe," Chakotay says. "But I don't think that's the reason."
"What do you mean?" I lean forward. "You just said McArthur was a possible suspect."
Chakotay shrugs and then picks up a rock - the one and only useless object in this otherwise utilitarian setting.
"Aren't you going to tell me?" I ask.
"I think he didn't ask because he knew in the end that it didn't matter," Chakotay says. "If you have high-ranking Federation officials afraid of a group of terrorists for any reason and know that those people are going to do anything to prevent certain facts from coming out, then the details don't matter. I got the feeling that Admiral McArthur was stalling. He was waiting for someone or something."
Chakotay turns the rock over in his hands, examining it closely. He holds it up to me.
"See this? It's metamorphic," he says. "Note the granoblastic texture."
I take the rock from him. There is nothing extraordinary about this rock, nothing at all. I put it down as Chakotay returns to his seat.
"I didn't know you liked rocks," I tell him.
"There's a lot you don't know about me."
Sometimes Chakotay makes me feel very small. I'd compliment him on that ability, but I hate it when he cuts me down like that. So I do what I always do when he makes a pointed comment I dislike: I change the subject.
"Chakotay?" I ask softly. "Who do you think McArthur waiting for?"
My former first officer looks at me in surprise, almost as if he didn't realize that he hadn't answered my question.
You don't ever think about how your day is going to play out when you first kick off the covers in the morning. Of course there are scheduled events - a meeting here, a lunch date there, and of course, that "things to do before I die" list - but you don't really ever know how your day will end up.
If I had known, I would have never gotten out of bed to face what is rapidly becoming the longest day of my life.
I didn't think it possible for an hour to contain more than sixty minutes.
Didn't think it possible for there to be more than sixty seconds in each one of those damn minutes.
Back when B'Elanna and I were floating out there in space, now that felt like a long time. When B'Elanna decided to move on over to the Borg cube, time literally stretched out until it frayed at the edges.
The Doctor moves mechanically, and he never - not once - makes eye contact. He does not sing as he often does to pass time, and he rarely says anything more than, "Mr. Paris, pass the hypospray" or "Mr. Paris, I need ten milligrams of such and such drug."
Tuvok, never a great conversationalist, stands with exceedingly proud posture against the wall, arms folded across his chest, his gaze leveled on Jessup, who stares back at us angrily.
Occasionally, the Ktarian's eyes drift to B'Elanna and his expression softens.
The one saving grace is that all of us - Tuvok, Jessup and I - have been inoculated from the virus, thanks to the Doctor's quick work. At least I know I won't die a blithering, blood mass, though I suppose there are more humiliating ways to say good-bye to life.
"Tom," Jessup's voice is low. I eye him and the Doctor nods at me. I let go of B'Elanna's hand and walk over to Jessup.
"What?" I ask.
"Is she going to be all right?"
"The Doctor thinks so."
"I didn't mean to leave her."
"I understand. It's okay."
"No, it's not."
"You didn't know."
"Maybe I did," he says.
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that maybe I did know."
"What are you saying?" my voice is very low.
Jessup runs a hand through his hand.
"You left her on purpose? Did you infect her?" I ask in my most dangerous voice.
Tuvok hovers over us, casting a lithe shadow over us. In the background, the Doctor hums "Someone To Watch Over Me" - his tune of preference when tending to the sick.
"No," Jessup laughs. "I would never hurt B'Elanna. God, I love her."
I pretend not to hear this last confession of Jessup's and ignore the bile accumulating in my mostly empty stomach. So what if he loves B'Elanna? I'm the one she married, right? Of course, in the Delta Quadrant, the options open to B'Elanna Torres were limited, but still... possession is nine-tenths of the law, right?
"Then...?" I ask as calmly as I can. "What are you saying?"
that insect bit her, I should have paid more attention," Jessup says. "I've
symptoms before. Damn, I watched Janie die and I should've known. Should have known."
Tuvok relaxes. No potential murder suspect here. In a way it's disappointing; I'd love to hang Jessup up by his underwear and plant my fists squarely in his gut.
"It's not your fault," I respond, a bit more nicely than I would have liked to. In truth, I really do want to throttle this man who left B'Elanna out there in the woods. It would be nice to have a go at him right here, but of course, that would disturb the Doctor's efforts to cure B'Elanna. In the interest of selfishness, I hold back.
"When we found her, I thought I would be the one to save her," Jessup goes on. His eyes are glassy and I note that his skin is flushed. "And she would be grateful... so grateful. So, maybe that's why I was late. Because I thought she would appreciate me, and be so grateful-"
"What are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about. You and B'Elanna. She doesn't deserve you."
"We're talking about this again? You really do have a one-track mind. You might as well come out and say what you want to say since you obviously can't move on from this subject. So go on, explain yourself."
"She needs someone who can support her, who can see her for the complex individual she is. She needs someone honorable."
that hurt, damn it. You can badmouth my DNA all you'd like and hell, I'd join
you in that particular sport since I'm so good at it myself, but question my
honor? Now I'm mad
I lunge at Jessup, my fist making much needed contact with the tender skin of his cheek.
"Lieutenant!" Tuvok grabs me by the shoulder, pulling me off of Jessup. I note with satisfaction that the former Maquis fighter strokes his cheek gingerly.
"You haven't changed," Jessup says bitterly. "You still use your fists to communicate."
"Only when provoked," I say evenly as I shrug off Tuvok's grip. Jessup struggles to his feet and with some small measure of glee, I notice that his breathing is labored.
"I don't suppose you ever cared what happened to us after your little joyride!" Jessup yells.
"Gentlemen, quiet!" the Doctor roars.
"I saved lives! If I hadn't surrendered, we would have been killed!" I yelled back.
"If you had been true to the cause, you would not have surrendered. B'Elanna, Chakotay, Seska, Suder, me - none of us would have surrendered. We would have rather died!"
"Forgive me for wanting to live! I've never had a death wish! Never. I didn't join the Maquis to end up dead and forgotten."
"So then I was right all along. You joined because you wanted to drink and women -"
"Yes and the Maquis would be the ideal place for that," I scoff. "Don't be ridiculous."
Jessup's voice was very soft, "I watched you, Paris. Did you sleep with every woman in the Maquis?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
"Does B'Elanna know?"
"She knows I've made mistakes in the past. She knows there have been women."
"Does she know how many?"
"It's not important."
"Does she know that sometimes you didn't even know the names of the women you slept with?"
"B'Elanna knows what she needs to know. She can ask me anything and I won't lie to her."
"I'm not the same man you knew ten years ago."
"Ha!" Jessup flails his arms as he takes a step towards me. Tuvok holds onto my arm.
"Calm, Lieutenant," Tuvok says.
I shrug Tuvok's arm off and duck as Jessup's fist narrowly misses my cheek. Tuvok immediately puts himself between the two of us, obviously miffed that he did not react fast enough to prevent Jessup's actions.
"Look, whatever happened, it happened almost ten years ago," I say. "Let's put it behind us, all right?"
"Do you know my sister died because you surrendered?" Jessup asks. I look at him in surprise; I didn't even know the bastard had a sister.
"That's right, Tom," Jessup goes on. "You were supposed to rescue a group of colonists from Arcady. You remember this, right?"
"Of course I do. How could I forget the only mission I ever ran for the Maquis?"
The memory itself, however, is faded. I remember a planet, its scars visible from space. I remember the desperate calls for help and then, the Federation vessels narrowing on us. For the first few nights in Auckland, I replayed that scenario - reviewed every detail in my mind - before assuaging my conscience with the salve that yes, I had done right this time. For once in my stupid, goddamned life, I had done the right thing.
I had been unselfish and for once in my life, I hadn't attempted one of the million daredevil scenarios playing through my head.
In those moments before I surrendered, I remembered Caldik Prime. Thought of the dead as the Federation pounded us with their superior fire power, and I remembered the mothers and their quivering lips and red-rimmed eyes.
And I realized, as I contemplated my small crew of five, that I didn't want to add to the body count already to my credit.
So, I opened the hailing frequencies without asking anyone and got an admiral - Gil Atherton, I think his name was - who evidently had been in Starfleet since the creation of time, his skin leathery and his eyes bloodshot.
I knew him from the haughty soirees my parents held once a month. The top brass would swarm en masse into our house, descending upon the hearth of the Paris family with their loud, abrasive voices and commanding statures; each talked louder and more quickly than his predecessor. During these elegant parties, my mother would swoop in and out of the crowd, her voice unnaturally high-pitched and her eyes glittering with excitement; I often wondered if my father realized that my mother injected herself with an antidepressant prior to these little gatherings. So my mother, perfect in black dress and white pearls, blond hair neatly pulled back from her face and arranged perfectly, would dance attendance on these Starfleet officers, taking compliments on home and cooking graciously.
And then would come the command to bring out the Paris progeny. We - my two sisters and I - would troop out freshly scrubbed and heaven forbid if there be even a crease in our clothing - and we would smile brightly for the admiration of all and the honor of our father. Our father would present us each in turn, giving each officer the opportunity to pinch our cheeks and wonder at our futures in Starfleet.
"Of course the Paris family has had a long, distinguished service record," my father would invariably say. "There is no reason for that to change now, is there?"
Everyone would smile, my father would beam and my mother's eyes grew brighter; as for us, we would be brilliant, brief and gone, slipping away and hiding in the darkest corners of the garden, hoping that the dirt clinging to our shoes would not give us away.
"Tom Paris," Admiral Atherton said in his clipped voice full of Federation authority.
"I surrender," I said very clearly. "We surrender."
And I did not look at the stunned expressions around me; obviously, they didn't mind dying for a cause. I did mind. Dying, that is.
"Your father will be disappointed," Atherton said.
"Did you hear me? We surrender."
"I can't believe this," Atherton said. He shook his head, looked properly mournful, and then looked back at me. "Very well. I accept your surrender."
beamed us off of the smoldering wreck of our ship, and while we watched, they
tossed a couple of torpedoes at it for good measure. I shrugged off the destruction
of the Maquis ship the same way I shrugged off everything else. Another milestone
marking yet another failure for Tom Paris. It seemed to me that I was doomed
to inconsequentiality - a crime for a Paris.
Atherton, probably out of loyalty to my father, called me into his Ready Room before depositing me unceremoniously in the brig with the rest of the Maquis.
"So this is where you turned up," Atherton began.
"With the Maquis."
"It would seem so."
"Your father did not raise his son to turn traitor on all that the Federation holds dear."
"What my father did or did not do is not relevant," I answered evenly.
"Shame on you," Atherton rose, drawing himself out to his full height. "Your father is a splendid man, a shining example of what a Starfleet officer ought to be. You do him dishonor with your actions. You do realize that you will never have a career in Starfleet now, don't you?"
I looked squarely at Atherton and nodded.
"I never wanted one," I told him. "I... I wanted-"
And then I stopped, unable to complete the sentence. Atherton stared at me.
"Tom?" he asked.
"You're right," I said. "I'm an utter failure. I have ruined the Paris name." I was pandering now, but Atherton soaked it all up; doubtless he would run to my father and tell him about the humbling of one cocky Tom Paris. Maybe, my father would be pleased with my admissions. Maybe he wouldn't care.
"That's all?" Atherton asked.
"Isn't that enough?"
I remember standing there in Atherton's Ready Room very clearly. That particular moment in my life strings itself along with all of the other moments of dismal failure. For once, just once, I'd like to be acknowledged for doing the right thing. Just once.
And evidently, this surrender of mine won't register as a credit for Tom Paris.
As I look at Herid Jessup, I'm amazed that his lips are still moving; thankfully, I barely hear the words dripping from his lips. B'Elanna has accused me in the past of not listening, of drifting away when she is telling me something of the utmost importance; I see now what she means. With difficulty, I bring myself back to the present to focus on what Jessup says.
"Are you listening?" Jessup is evidently furious with me.
"Yeah, yes, of course."
"You never did evaluate the consequences of your actions-"
"I went to Auckland, isn't that enough? Have you ever been to Auckland? Damn uncomfortable place. You complain about the one blanket in the Maquis, we didn't even get one in the prison camp."
"There you go again, feeling sorry for yourself," Jessup shoots back. "Did you ever think what happened because you surrendered?"
"No," I tell him. "Are you happy now? I didn't think about it. So what?"
"Well, because you surrendered, they never got off the planet. In fact, the Cardassians moved in the very next day. The colonists fought, Tom. They fought for their homes, their land, and for their lives. I managed to go there a few days later and their blood still stained the soil."
"I didn't know!" I yell at him. "How could I know what would happen? I had to make a decision and I made one."
"You took the easy way out!"
"No, I did not!"
"Gentlemen!" the Doctor's voice is loud behind us. "If you might be so kind to remember, I do have a patient."
We go quiet,
but we still glare at each other with suspicion. Jessup is the first to blink,
I extend my hand.
"We don't have to like each other," I tell him. "In fact, go right on hating me and that's quite all right with me. I'm sorry about your sister. I didn't know. But right now, I don't have enough in me to care. I should, but I don't. I'd like to let the past be the past. I've changed and I'm tired of having to prove that to everyone. So, you do what you like; I don't want to fight anymore."
Jessup shrugs, "You're still a despicable pig."
I smile at him; he doesn't deliver the insult with same flair as B'Elanna.
"I'll take that as a compliment," I say.
Go to part IV
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