Lines in the Sand IV, part VII

By Seema

My father always managed to get the last word in; even dead, he still gets to me. Harry says the logs arrived a few minutes after I left with Janeway and Tuvok for Alonius Prime. The date-stamp indicates that the logs were uploaded about thirty minutes prior to the destruction of the starbase.

It's nice to know that my father's last thoughts were of me.

My sisters and mother have also written to me. Nice of them, I think, to acknowledge that I'm alive. Right after Caldik Prime, I became person non grata for my mother and sisters. I bet they even talked about me in muted tones, the same way you'd talk about a cranky great-aunt, God rest her soul, who passed on to the great relief of the rest of the family.

Mother, always concise and to the point, welcomes me home in her elegant but distant fashion; Isobel and Julia talk about their careers, their families, their homes, but reveal nothing of themselves in their words.

It hurts, especially from Isobel, whom I had considered a close confidant, since she is only eighteen months younger than I am.

I set their letters aside in favor of my father's logs.

I admit, in the years since I last saw him, I've lost a sense of the man. Childish memories remember someone who was cold and distant, but then, you remember what you choose to.

There were good times with my father, like the time he took me to the space museum or when he nervously guided me through my first flying experience.

Why can't I remember the good instead of constantly dwelling on the constant friction between the two of us?

I suppose because admitting I did care for my father and that I may have loved him in my own lazy way would hurt too much now.

I enter my quarters, acutely aware of everything around me. I'm suddenly - and strangely - fascinated by the texture of the gray carpet. For the first time, I realize the lone painting - maroon and purple splashes of paint on a white canvas - on my wall is damn ugly. I never liked the bedspread and the pillows are soft and lumpy. B'Elanna's gray turtleneck, the one with the stain on the wrist from some Engineering mishap, lies on armrest of the sofa. I remember helping her out of that turtleneck, running my hands over her smooth skin, and then nibbling at that spot directly between the shoulder and neck, while she wrapped her arms around me.

I kick off my shoes and let them lie where they fall; no one will be coming by to trip over them.

Or so I hope.

I have been thinking of this moment for hours now, this moment when I can actually sit down and with clarity, listen to my father's logs. I don't know what I hope to find, don't know what I'm going to feel; I suppose I'd just like to know that Owen Paris, at one time, was a real person.

I want him to be flesh and blood, like me, and I want to know that he bled red like I do.

An awful lot to ask, isn't it? And I know, as well as the last person, that you can't always get what you want.

Especially where Owen Paris is concerned, there is no way you can hedge your bets.

I lie down on my bed.

"Computer, play logs of Admiral Owen Paris," I say.

I close my eyes, put my hands behind my head and cross my feet at the ankles.

Interestingly enough, this chunk begins the day Voyager vanished and my father's entry for that day consists of one line only: "My boy is gone."

The next log entries are filled with excruciating detail regarding Starfleet's efforts to locate Voyager and also, of the various theories circulating about our strange disappearance. As months go on, Father's thoughts regarding Voyager and especially me, are relegated to a Cinderella-esque status; it's nice to know my return wasn't a burning obsession for Dad. His tone is occasionally conversational and sometimes even affectionate, especially when he talks about Julia's daughter, Linsey. He records Linsey's birth - in 2373 - with a sense of awe and then proceeds to spend the next year chronicling everything from the first tooth to the first step.

His voice lulls me to sleep and when I wake up, I'm aware of a different tone.

"Anya asked about Tom today," my father says. "She came into the kitchen and asked what I - what Starfleet - was doing to find her son. She emphasized the word `son,' maybe to drive home the point that she thinks I haven't contributed enough in the search for Tom. It's just another item in her long litany of ways I've let our son down. I've tried so many times to explain, but Anya won't listen. If I could, I would have saved Tom, but when do you stop? Anya thinks never. She thinks I should have stepped in after Caldik and she wouldn't speak to me after they - or as Anya would say, - I, sent Tom to New Zealand. Since he's disappeared, she hasn't said much at all. Not about Tom, not about anyone. Today, out of the blue, she asked. I told her that Starfleet has every reason to believe the crew of Voyager is alive and well. She didn't look convinced at all and she asked again, this time saying, `Owen, what are you doing to bring your son home?' and I was forced to admit the truth; I had done nothing but attend meetings and discuss various options, evaluate and discard. I had no solutions. Anya stood there in the doorway and she looked so - well, so not like Anya, that it scared me. I asked her what was wrong and she laughed. `If you have to ask, Owen,' she said and then her voice trailed off. Finally she said, `You know, it's all right, Owen, to say his name. You - we - can talk about Tom. I think - I think I would like that.' She left then, not giving me the chance to respond. I don't avoid talking about Tom - I don't have a way of talking about him that will leave me with a good feeling. That - that's a terrible thing to say about one's son. I wish things had been different."

I stretch out and roll onto my back. My father's logs continue, but I'm no longer listening. In a way, I don't know if I have made a terrible mistake by invading the privacy of a dead man, but at the same time, he wanted me to have the damn logs. He wanted me to hear what he had to say.

He wanted me to know that my mother actually cared enough to speak up and that no matter what he would say later, he had been so disappointed at one point that he did not know what to say about me.

Damn cold place to be.

Hurtful too.

The logs of Owen Paris do a fairly decent job of telling me about Reginald Barclay's Pathfinder project from Starfleet's viewpoint. Apparently, the project earned a lot of scorn from the powers that be and poor Barclay had to put up with a great deal of ridicule before he finally received permission to go ahead; amazingly, it was my father who pushed for the Pathfinder project.

"I haven't said anything to Anya but I think this Barclay fellow may have something. His ideas are unconventional and I understand he has been under psychiatric care in the past. But, for Anya's sake, I can't ignore any opportunity to communicate with Tom. It would be nice... to talk to Tom."

My father's voice drifts off in this log and soon I hear only a hiss, as if he had forgotten he had been recording a log in the first place. I forward the logs to the next one.

"Begin log. Lately, Anya has taken to ignoring me completely. She seems to huddle under her own hurt, not bothering to tell me what the matter is. I would ask, but what's the use? I'm sure whatever is bothering has to do with Tom; hell, everything has to do with Tom these days. I tell Anya about the latest developments and she regards me in icy blue silence. I don't know how to reach her or convince her that I'm doing all that I can. The other day, she told me that I couldn't possibly know what she, as a mother, was going through. I had no answer, but I felt resentful; why does everyone thinks I have forgotten Tom? I haven't. Not for a single moment. End log."

"Begin log. I was in Tom's room today. I still think of it as Tom's room even though he hasn't slept there for years. Isobel found me looking through Tom's things and she asked me what I was doing. I told her I was thinking about Tom and she said, `You think he's alive?' and I hated that she articulated my worst fears. I held Isobel's hand tightly until she pulled away. I told Isobel that I believed Tom was coming home and she looked at me, somewhat sadly, I think. `I don't want to hope, Dad,' she said. `It hurts too much.' I asked Isobel if she missed Tom and she didn't answer me right away. Like me, she lacked the right words to express herself.

`I miss him,' she admitted finally. `But Tom, he's not... he's not reliable, Dad. He does what he wants. Maybe he was never on Voyager. Maybe he's here and always has been. Isn't that a possibility?' Isobel's right. Tom is erratic. During his time at the Academy, there were periods of time when we had no idea where Tom had disappeared to and I remember Anya pacing the length of the living room, worrying over a son who could not even give us the courtesy of a note. This time though, I know that Tom isn't ignoring us.

`Tom is on Voyager. I know that for a fact,' I told Isobel and she shrugged. 'Maybe you're right,' she said. `But it's less painful to think that he's hiding from us than the possibility that he might not be... alive.' I told Isobel, very firmly, that Tom was alive and was coming home. `I hope you're right,' she said. God, I hope I'm right too. End log."

A log from the next day indicates that this is the day we made contact with Starfleet Headquarters.

"Begin log. I heard Kathryn's voice and for a moment, I experienced a sense of surrealism, of excitement, of genuine relief. Kathryn sounded the same, even with a bit of an echo over the communication channel and some fuzziness, but that was Kathryn Janeway. I asked her how she was and she replied, `Very well. They're an exemplary crew - your son included.' The tone of her voice made me wonder what stories Tom had told Voyager about me. Rather a frightening thought that my reputation could be spread into the furthest reaches of the Delta Quadrant. And so I said the first thing that came to my mind: 'Tell him... tell him I miss him. And I'm proud of him.'

Kathryn answered, much to my disappointment; I would have liked to have heard Tom's voice, but she said, 'He heard you, Admiral.' A few seconds and a couple words more, and that was the end of the communication but I told Tom, right? Maybe too little, too late, but some things, you shouldn't wait for. And I'd waited six years. When he gets home, we're going to talk, just the two of us. I don't think we will be ever at ease with each other; there is too much tension and no amount of talking will ever heal the wounds. But an effort, that's what I'm looking for. An effort from me, an effort from him, and maybe, we can begin to understand each other. Computer, end log."

I stop the logs there; enough of my father's inner angst for now. Reacquainting yourself with the dead, at the very least, is unnerving.


What bothers me most is the "why." The simplest explanation is most often the correct one; in that case, I'd like to think that we've stepped through the looking glass. On a whim, I had Harry and Seven double-check the temporal sensor logs, a move that earned me a raised eyebrow from the former drone, but surprisingly, no comment. And they both responded to my request respectfully, but with a bit of sadness, that no, this was not a mirror universe and yes, we had arrived in the same Alpha Quadrant we had left behind.

"I could double-check navigational sensors to make sure those aren't malfunctioning," Harry offered helpfully. I shook my head.

"Thank you, Harry, but not necessary," I told him. "I- I wanted to be sure."

"Of course," Harry said. Both he and Seven wore similar expressions; I know they both thought that I had finally lost all of my senses.

It would be ironic, wouldn't it? The Hirogen, Krenim, Borg, and Kazon hadn't managed to drive me crazy, but a few conversations with Starfleet pushed me right over the precipice. I suppose I can expect to spend the rest of my days in an institution, picking daisies when they let me out for air and babbling incoherently about Starfleet conspiracies.

After the court martial, of course.

My last conversation with McArthur makes it very clear that I'm treading water; I'm tiring and there is no indication that anyone, including McArthur, will extend me a lifeline before the waves close over my head.

I press my hand against my forehead.

"Captain?" Tuvok is right behind me, his voice low, but concerned. He puts his hand on my shoulder and I turn to face him.


"You are not well."

"It's a headache. Nothing serious."

"You have been under considerable strain. Maybe you should rest?"

I look at my friend gratefully. His suggestion is the best I've heard in days.

"Good idea," I answer. "I will. You have the bridge, Commander."

I take one last look around and offer up a smile in an effort to put a happy face on our current situation. But I know that no one is fooled.

"Are you all right?" Harry asks sotto voce as I pass him. "Captain?"

"I'll be in the Messhall if you need me," I answer.


You never think about the kilometers of gray carpet on Voyager until you can't lift your head to look at anything else but the floor. The carpets are still clean, due to Chakotay's diligence while I was traipsing around on the Borg cube.

God, of all the stupid things I've done...

That particular mission - someone must have been looking out for me, since I'm now staring at clean carpets and not the metal grid flooring of the Borg cube.

The Messhall is sparsely populated when I get there and Neelix stands behind his counter, reading a PADD.

"Coffee," I tell him without preamble.

"Captain!" Neelix says energetically. "How are you?"

I grunt at him, a response Neelix ignores. He pours out the coffee, and hands me the steaming mug.

"Is everything all right?" Neelix asks; he follows me to a table at the furthest corner of the Messhall. I sit down, cup my hands around the mug, and bite my lip.

"You're the third person to ask me that in the last ten minutes."

"There must be a reason for that, right?" Neelix asks reasonably.

"I'd be lying if I told you that everything was going according to plan," I tell him.

"There has been talk," Neelix says.

"Of course," I say. "I should never count the Voyager rumor mill out."

"It might help if you talk to the crew."

"I will, when I know what's going on."

"They are worried about the former Maquis."

"I am too."

"We heard stories about Alonius Prime and how Chakotay decided not to come back with us," Neelix says. "The crew respects the Commander; they are concerned."

"I know, Neelix."

"And Lieutenant Torres? Is she all right?"

"According to the Doctor, she's on the road to recovery."

I look down into my coffee and note my own fuzzy features reflecting back from the dark liquid. Neelix leans forward.

"The crew is worried about you, Captain," Neelix says. "They - they care about you and they know... they know when something is wrong."

"Neelix, I appreciate your concern-"

"You need to talk to the crew. Just tell them what's going on. They are all excited about being home and most of them are making reunion plans. I know you don't want to temper that enthusiasm, but please, they need to know."

I smile at Neelix. When we first met, I was angry with him for deceiving me and yet, in seven years he has become a trusted member of my crew, and the one person I can trust to give me a gentle analysis of my crew's psyche.

"I've never thanked you," I tell him softly. "I- I appreciate everything you've done for me, for Voyager."


"No, really. You made yourself indispensable in so many ways and I am grateful. No matter what, that much is true."

Neelix, damn him, his eyes mist over and he reaches over and grabs my hand.

"It has been an honor to serve with you," he tells me. "No matter what they say about you, I'm sure there is no finer captain in all of Starfleet."

"I'll take what I can," I tell him. "But will you be absolutely candid with me?"

"What do you want to know?"

"I want to know if I took too many risks. Did I endanger the crew more than necessary? Did I give orders which were contrary to our mission?"

Neelix settles back in his chair.

"You did what needed to be done," he says. "The circumstances, they dictated unusual procedures. You couldn't follow the rule book."

"Chakotay would have said the same. What do you think?"

Neelix considers carefully. Today he is wearing his blue suit with the gold trim; a blue and
white striped shirt is visible in the V of his coat. From the mottled skin of his neck and face to the golden tufts of hair, artfully arranged in Talaxian fashion circa seven years ago, he cuts a comical appearance. Yet, despite this clownish appearance of his, Neelix's expression is completely serious and contemplative. I feel a sudden rush of emotion for this man who joined my crew and quickly earned our trust and loyalty; I'm also infinitely glad that he choose to remain with us.

"Be honest," I urge. "I need to know."

"I think there were certain circumstances when you might have done well to heed Commander Chakotay," Neelix says carefully.

"You're referring to the Equinox?"


"And to Seven?"


I sigh. "I didn't have any choice," I tell him.

"You believed you didn't have a choice," Neelix says gently. "I think you wanted an alliance with the Borg to succeed so you would have something to your credit when you returned home. There's nothing wrong with that, Captain. But when you forcibly detained Seven of Nine against her wishes, now that, that's where you went wrong."

"You don't spare feelings, do you, Neelix?"

"You asked for candid talk."

"So I did. What else, then?"

"You want me to come up with more examples?"

I leaned forward.

"How about the mission to infiltrate the Borg cube? Was that a situation when I should have listened to Chakotay?"


I lean back in my chair.

"So you agree with all of... them?"

"I don't understand who this `them' you're referring to is," Neelix says frankly. "But Captain, do you have regrets?"

"I am apparently suffering from an incurable case of guilt," I try to laugh it off but Neelix glances at me, concern obvious in his wide eyes. "All right, it's true. I do have regrets and guilt is something I'm not very good at. I'd like to not feel this terrible about the way things have turned out."

"Can I ask you a question? Candidly?"

"Of course."

"If you hadn't done some of those things you are concerned about, what would you have done instead?"

"I don't know," I confess. "I did whatever it took to get my crew home. Getting home, that was what was important nothing else. Sure, I could have settled us all on some uninhabited class-M planet, the first one that came along. That would have been the easy way out, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," Neelix nods.

"I made a commitment to my crew, Neelix," I tell him seriously. "I didn't take the easy way out and I made mistakes. I was wrong; I admit that. I- I guess I just didn't expect to feel this way about it all."

"And you have other concerns? About the Maquis?"

"Especially the Maquis. I'm not optimistic."

"You think the Commander and the others will be on that planet indefinitely?"

"Who knows?" I push my chair back in a momentary fit of restlessness. "Chakotay certainly has no wish to leave. He's with his friends now and he wants to remain with them. You know, Neelix, you serve with people for a certain amount of time and you think you know them. God, it hurts when you find out the truth."

"Are you sure Chakotay really wants to stay?"

"I asked him so many times to come with me. I was tired of hearing the question myself, but I had to make sure."

"If Commander Chakotay is staying behind, there is a reason for it," Neelix lowers his eyes, so that he is no longer looking at me directly. "The Commander cares about you, Captain; he wouldn't abandon you. Not now."

I bite down on my lip, trying to swallow the lump growing in my throat.

"I hope you're right," I tell the Talaxian.

"Captain," Neelix says gently. "Don't dwell on those things which hurt you. You cannot change the past, so you must accept it; the consequences you face now are not of your making. As you said, we could be living on a class-M planet in the Delta Quadrant now. It's to your credit that that is not the situation."

I get up from my chair as Neelix takes my empty cup. I pause to look at him.

"Thank you," I tell him. "I appreciate the conversation."

"And Captain?" Neelix places a gentle, but restraining hand on my forearm. "You can't be all things to all people."

I nod, "So I'm learning."

The walk back to the Bridge seems interminable and in some ways, disappointing. At one point, I stop, and lean back against the curved wall of the corridor. I note the fluorescent lights lining the tops of the corridors and the thin, illuminated lighting strips running along the bottom of the walls.

And that damn gray carpet.

Seven years is a long time to walk on gray carpet.

When we get back, I'm going to make a recommendation to the starship interior design: no more grays and browns. Really.

But I know it's not the colors of Voyager which are irking me at this moment. Rather, it's a sudden realization, a truth undeniable that has suddenly become clear to me.

I never thought I'd get tired of Starfleet.

Funny how things change.


The listening session continues. Admiral Paris speaks, and I note with amazement, that my father's voice is curiously monotone and sleep inducing.

This time, I lay on the sofa, covered with a soft, blue blanket, while I listen.

"Begin log. I invited Reginald Barclay for dinner tonight. He stopped by my office around fifteen hundred to confirm that I had indeed invited him. `I- I wanted to make sure- sure that you had meant - meant to invite me,' Barclay said. He stood in front of my desk, playing with his hands and shifting his weight from foot to foot. A gentle flush of red colored his cheeks and I felt the urge to stand up and give him a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. But of course, that kind of behavior is inappropriate, so instead, I remained seated and confirmed the invitation. `It is so - so nice of you and, and Mrs. Paris,' Barclay said. `Thank you.' I told him that the dinner invitation was the least we could do for him since his project had made it possible for us to communicate with Voyager. Barclay was punctual, not that I would have expected otherwise. I introduced him to Anya and she was warm and gracious. Dinner was rather a stilted affair, as Barclay is not a skilled conversationalist and Anya and I had long fallen out of the habit of speaking with each other. Anya pressed him for information about Voyager but Barclay couldn't share much more than we already knew. I could tell Anya was disappointed, but she continued to entertain, smiling her patented artificial smile, her teeth clenched tightly together. I'm really trying, I am, but it gets harder everyday. End log."

The next few logs are boringly Starfleet. Promotions, demotions, a few comments about the Dominion War and some stray notes about a peace treaty or two.

"Begin log. Julia came today with Linsey; John is out of town, so Julia was feeling the strain of being alone. Linsey demonstrated her temper for us today and Julia sent her to her room. In many ways, she reminds me of Tom when he was her age. And speaking of Tom, I sat down the other night to try to remember everything about him. We have some old holoimages of him, but most are from his Academy days. I can only imagine what he looks like now. What amazes me though, is aside from the three major incidents - expulsion from the Academy, Caldik Prime and New Zealand - I can't remember anything else about Tom. I know there were good times, times when we got along, but I'm at a loss. I wish I could remember."

Again, my father drones on and on about his adorable little granddaughter. I get the feeling though, that my daughter's child is less than angelic and not entirely deserving of such blind adoration.

"Begin log. Linsey broke one of Anya's vases today and Anya didn't say a word. She just scooped up the pieces, with a warning to Linsey not to come closer. I watched from the doorway and a second later, Julia came by to see the damage. `I'm sorry, Mom, really,' Julia said. Anya shrugged. `Don't worry about it,' Anya said. `It's just a vase. I can replicate another one.' Julia grabbed Linsey and lectured the little girl in a voice that made me cringe. Later, I asked Anya about it. `Where did Julia learn that?' I asked. Anya looked at me in surprise. `From you,' she said. `You always talked to Tom like that.' That night, we slept with our backs to each other. End log."

I sit up then, feeling a bit sick. I get up and replicate some tomato soup. I think about turning on the television as I eat, but then that reminds me of B'Elanna, who mandated no television during dinner.

"When that thing is on, you don't talk to me," B'Elanna said. "I refuse to play second fiddle to one of your cartoon characters."

"But B'Elanna-"

"Please," she held up a hand. "We get little enough time together as it is; I don't want our time together to be marred by that thing."

So the television stays off.

B'Elanna's got me well trained.

I wonder if she knows that.

I finish up the soup and resume my place on the sofa.

"Computer, resume Admiral Paris' logs at the last mark," I command. The computer obliges.

"Begin log. We're getting messages from Tom on a monthly basis now. They are short, rather curt messages. He doesn't tell us much, which disappoints Anya greatly. She is the one who composes the messages back; apparently, I am not worthy of writing to my son. Her messages are a barrage of questions, most of them involving his eating habits. Tom never answers her questions directly, so we assume he is well, healthy, and eating enough. End log."

"Begin log. We got a long letter from Tom today. The stardate indicated that he wrote this a while ago. He began it simply saying, `Mom, Dad, I had to borrow the space to send this from B'Elanna Torres, so I hope you understand.' The letter went on about a demotion to ensign he received. Anya and I both listened to Tom's story and in a few places, his voice actually cracked. Anya bit her lip and I didn't say anything. When the log was over, Anya got up and left the room, but I stayed there and played the letter again. And again. Finally, Anya came back.

`What is the matter with you?' she asked. `Are you just looking for another reason to be disappointed in your son?' She didn't give me a chance to respond because we heard Linsey crying in the next room and Anya went to check on her. I sat back in my chair, contemplating Anya's question. To be honest, I don't know why I listened to Tom's letter so many times. I think, in retrospect, I just wanted to hear the sound of his voice. End log."

"Begin personal log. I saw Julia out in the garden today, apparently cutting flowers for an arrangement. We're having a party tonight and Anya's all aflutter with the preparations. Everything needs to be perfect. So in an effort to escape my wife, I went out into the garden. It was a nice day, warm, with a slight breeze and the sky was a faded shade of blue. `Can I help?' I asked and Julia looked at me with obvious surprise.

`I'm all set here, Dad,' she said. `But thanks for asking.' She pointed at the basket of flowers at her feet. `I just need to get these done before Linsey wakes up,' she said. `Really, that child runs me ragged.' I nodded in a manner I hoped was sympathetic. `It will pass,' I said. `I remember you and Tom, you had the devil in you.' Julia looked at me. `You never talk about Tom,' she said. I shrugged. `What's there to say?' I asked. Julia laughed then and picked up her basket. `A lot,' she said. 'You could say a lot, but you don't. You never have. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe it wasn't the devil in us, maybe we just wanted to talk to you.' I grabbed Julia's arm. `Was - was I a good father, Julia?' I asked.

Julia considered and she looked off into the distance, looking so serious, that I was afraid of her answer. `You had a career, Dad,' she said. `Starfleet needed you. We were proud, you know, all of us. Isobel, Tom and I, we were proud that you were so important, but sometimes we needed a father.' I nodded. `I'm sorry, Julia,' I said. But she shook her head. `Doesn't matter now,' she said. 'Excuse me. I've got to check on Linsey. Make sure she's not getting into more trouble.'

She handed me the basket and went inside. I took the basket in and gave it to Anya. Anya started to arrange the flowers with her usual artistic flair. I stayed and after a moment, Anya asked, `Do you want something, Owen?' And I swallowed hard, because for the first time in years, I lacked sufficient courage. I said quietly, `I want to know if there was a time when you, you needed me and I wasn't there.' Anya dropped the flowers, but then got to her knees to pick them up. `Yes,' she said finally. And she refused to say more. End log."

The next few logs revert to the standard what "Admiral Paris did at work" format. Once again, there are boring, excruciatingly detailed notes about a peace treaty that suddenly fell through.

Hardly interesting, considering I'd never heard of the world before, but apparently, it was a matter of great importance to my father.

In a fit of impatience, I fast-forward to the last logs my father recorded.

"Begin personal log. I talked to Rodney today. He said Voyager is on its way. I asked about the Maquis and Rodney said that no conclusion had been reached. I noted something needed to be done and Rodney agreed with me. `There are careers at stake here,' I told him and Rodney nodded. `I know, Owen,' he said. `Don't think I haven't thought about it.' I tried to remember what little I could about Chakotay and could come up only with a faint impression of a calm, utterly expressionless man who spoke in low tones. Not once during those negotiations did he raise his voice. At the time, I was livid to be sitting across the table from someone who had once worn a Starfleet uniform. I don't understand how you could turn your back on the great institution that is Starfleet.

I later learned that Michael Eddington, of all people, and Ro Laren, both former officers also, had also been involved behind the scenes. It made me furious to know this. At least Chakotay had resigned his commission prior to joining the Maquis, but Eddington? Eddington was still one of us. I suppose when Voyager disappeared and Ro Laren vanished, I let myself get complacent. Who was there to tell the story of what happened? After all, Eddington's been dead for years; went down in a blaze after being hunted for years by Captain Sisko, God rest his soul. They martyred him, you know. The Maquis still speak the name of Eddington with whispered reverence and I don't understand. I never did. End log."

"Begin personal log. This peace treaty is going to be the death of me. At least the negotiations keep me away from the house. Anya started cleaning. Tom's coming home, so everything must be spotless. She even went into his room and started putting things into order. I highly doubt that Tom will return home. I just hope he'll hear me out when we finally meet face to face. End log."

"Begin personal log. I talked to McArthur today and recommended that Voyager dock at Starbase 87. Rodney didn't like the idea. `You know that particular starbase is a disaster, don't you?' Rodney asked. `I don't think that's the kind of welcome we should give to Voyager.' I listened to Rodney's protestations and then cut him off as firmly as I could. `Don't argue,' I told him. `I have a plan.' Rodney didn't look happy. `I don't like the tone of your voice, Owen.' I tried to reassure him, but Rodney still looked uneasy.

Finally, I said, `I need to settle the Maquis question. Sending Chakotay to Alonius Prime where he still can talk, no, that's not going to work. Not this time.' Rodney argued with me. He said that it was very possible Chakotay did not remember me; after all, Chakotay had ample time to say something during the datastreams sent back to Earth, yet he never did. `That doesn't meant he won't say something now,' I argued back. In the end, McArthur agreed with me. Voyager would dock at Starbase 87 and he would stall until I arrived. And then, well... end log."

"Begin personal log. Left today for Starbase 87. I didn't say good-bye to Anya. I doubt she'd even notice my absence. I suppose it's better this way. I should feel guilty, but I don't. Besides, it's better that Anya doesn't know what I've planned. Hell, I don't even know if I want to know, but I've got to do something. I've been talking to the others and we all feel a sense of trepidation. Rodney is very nervous. He doesn't like it at all, but he agrees that something must be done. `Send them to Alonius where they can all rot if you'd like,' Rodney said. I nodded. `That's the back-up plan," I said. `Someone proposed a resurgence of the Ghasa virus.' Rodney looked at me with disgust obvious on his face. `I can't believe you'd actually do it,' he said. I laughed then, more out of hysteria and stress than anything else. `I know,' I answered. `I can't believe I'd do it either.' End log."

"Begin personal log. I saw Captain Janeway today. She looked the same, maybe a bit thinner than I remember, but she certainly carried herself with more height and authority. Her new confidence fits her well and I'm pleased with the change I see in her. We talked for a long time and she told me about Tom. I enjoyed hearing about my son in glowing terms and I'm eager to see him as soon as possible. Of course, there are those damn peace treaty negotiations making such a meeting next to impossible to arrange and of course, the question of what to do with the Maquis needs to be decided.

But the situation is now infinitely more complicated. I found out from Kathryn that Tom had married B'Elanna Torres - the woman who had given up her allocated space in the datastream so he could tell us about his demotion. For the first time, I felt guilt about what I had planned. Rodney stopped by that night and urged me to change my mind. `There's always the Ghasa virus,' he said. `Send them all to Alonius Prime, conveniently forget a medical supply shipment, and they all die. It's simple and a lot less messy than this.' And I considered his words carefully.

Once begun, I couldn't turn back. `Let me think about it,' I answered. Rodney looked at me seriously. `You'll ruin your career,' he warned. `If you do this, it will be a lot worse than trading with a few terrorists. This is murder, Owen. Think about it.' He got up and left. I couldn't sleep, thinking about Tom, B'Elanna Torres, and Kathryn's plea to me to help the Maquis. The idea of a relationship with Tom means a lot to me, but I don't know if I can turn back now. I knew even before I left home that I had already lost everything. Or maybe I lost it all when I sat across from Chakotay all those years ago. I don't know. End log."

"Begin personal log. It bothers me that Tom never told me about his marriage. Granted, Kathryn said it happened very suddenly, but during all of our communications, he never even mentioned B'Elanna Torres, save the one time. I didn't believe things were so bad between us that he could not even mention his relationship. I haven't said anything to Anya about B'Elanna Torres. She may have the same difficulty I have in accepting a Maquis as a daughter-in-law. Or maybe, just to spite me, she will welcome B'Elanna with open arms. I'm trying, really I am, but I cannot bring myself to accept my son's choice. So maybe Tom was right not to tell me. I'm glad I know now. It makes what is to come easier. End log."

"Begin log. Tom was on the station today, but because I was in those damned meetings all day, I didn't get a chance to see him. I'm tired of these logs, by the way. Tired of recording them, tired of listening to my own voice. Anyway, Tom was on the station today, and he stopped by the interrogation room. Apparently he made a racket trying to see this B'Elanna Torres. Security dragged Tom out and escorted him to Voyager. According to the security detail, at one point, Tom turned to them and said, `I want her back in one piece. If you even touch her...' Tom didn't finish his statement, but Security correctly logged the it as a threat. So add another black mark to my son's record. End log."

"Begin log. I've made a decision. Maybe this is where it ends. I haven't said anything to Rodney yet, but he did send me a brief message this morning. The plan is on, evacuate by 1400. That doesn't give me much time. Damn. I've been trying to figure out these encryption logarithms for the last hour now. I'd ask for help, but I don't want to tip my hand. End log."

"Begin log. Not much time now. Rodney has already left the station. He told me to hurry. I've finally figured out to reroute the release order. The last thing I want is for suspicion to fall on Rodney for anything in this mess. And in my own selfish way, I don't want any of this to be traced back to me. I don't want Tom to hate me anymore than he already does. I guess it's too late for that. End log."

"Begin personal log. Seems ironic to record this just an hour or so before death. It's not every man's luxury to plan for his death, so I feel lucky, Tom, very lucky. To be able to pick the time and the circumstances, that is indeed a luxury. I want you to know that Chakotay, B'Elanna Torres and the others should be safe. I've ordered their evacuation and I hope they made it off the station.

It's too late for me, Tom. I've already started the process that will destroy this starbase. I know there's a lot you don't understand. I know you're probably bewildered. Hell, I'm confused myself. I suppose you want to know what happened when I sat down to negotiate with the Maquis. Well, I was in it for myself. For the first time in my life, I saw an opportunity, which would benefit me and not Starfleet, so I took the chance when asked. All I wanted was the land. Rich soil plus a nice vein of latinum running through the rocks just below the surface. You're surprised, aren't you?

Money doesn't motivate us, or so the Federation likes to think. Starfleet compensates me well, Tom, but you can always be richer. So when I was given the chance to own this property, I couldn't pass it up. So we made the deal. I didn't set out to renege on the offer, but I justified the breaking of the contract by the simple fact that these were terrorists, plain and simple.

They never said a word because we hunted them down, day and night, but everyday, those of us involved in the scheme were terrified that one of them would speak and maybe, Starfleet would take them seriously. But it never happened. Chakotay was on Voyager, seventy thousand light years away, and who knows what happened to Ro Laren? I believed that the truth would never surface and I could contemplate the lines of latinum to my heart's delight.

Congratulations, Tom, you now own some land on Dorvan IV. It wasn't practical to live there in the past because of the Dominion War and tensions in the DMZ, but it might be all right now. If I ever had a regret in my life, it's that I made a promise and didn't keep it. And I'm not talking about the Maquis; my opinion of them has never changed. I'm talking about you, Julia, Isobel, even your mother.

I should have been there, but I wasn't. I didn't think at the time, and I regret so much. So, I hope you understand, Tom. I don't have much time. I did save your wife for you, so maybe that makes up for the past when I wasn't the father you needed and wanted. And there's the land - that's yours to split evenly with Isobel and Julia. Tom, I wish nothing but the best for you and B'Elanna. Goodbye. End log."

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