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"JANEWAY TO PARIS!" Sounded on the comm badge.
The abrupt sound jolted Paris from his sleep.
"Janeway?" Paris asked groggily as he picked up his comm badge in the dark.
"I need you in the shuttle bay immediately!" Janeway's voice said with such menace that Paris came fully awake in an instant.
"I'm on my way, what happened?" Paris asked as he pressed the light switch beside the bed.
"I don't know yet. I just came to check on the progress of the shuttle Freedom, and the shuttle bay door wouldn't open. The bay is repressurizing now." Janeway said in a nearly hysterical voice.
As Paris finished pulling on his pants, he realized that Bey wasn't in his usual place beside him.
Icy fingers of dread ran up his spine as he realized that when he went to bed, Bey was in the shuttle bay working on the primary weapon on the shuttle Independence.
"Bey was in there." Paris said into his comm badge as he fastened it to his shirt.
"So was Carey." Janeway said in a helpless tone.
In the week that they had all been awake and functioning, people had paired off. The strange thing was that everyone seemed almost fanatical about their devotion to each other.
Maybe it was the removal of the illusion of 'classes' and social pretenses that made the difference.
* * * * *
Paris arrived at the shuttle bay at a run.
"I swear to God that I could repressurize the thing faster just by blowing into it with a straw." Janeway said in frustration.
"What do you think happened?" Paris asked with full worry in his voice.
"I don't know. Carey was working on the thrusters... I should have stayed with him..." Janeway said as tears filled her eyes.
"I should have made Bey take a break. He'd been working on that pulse cannon all day. It just makes him so happy to be able to help..." Paris said as tears filled his own eyes.
"COME ON YOU ANTIQUE PIECE OF SHIT! OPEN!" Janeway screamed as she pounded ineffectively on the shuttle bay door.
Paris pulled her into a comforting hug and whispered, "Hurting yourself won't make it go any faster.
"The Klingon inside me disagrees with you." Janeway said as she huddled into Paris' chest.
The sound of the door beginning to open stopped further conversation and they broke apart to see what was inside the shuttle bay.
"The Freedom is missing." Janeway said in disbelief as she walked into the bay.
"Look around for Bey or Carey. We'll worry about the shuttle in a minute." Paris said as he rushed into the room.
"If they were in here when the door opened, their bodies would have been blown into space." Janeway said darkly as she ran to the shuttle Independence and tried to get the door to open.
Paris was by her side, hoping against hope that Bey and Carey were inside.
A hiss sounded as the shuttle door opened slowly.
Janeway rushed inside before the door was fully opened.
"Thank God!" Janeway gasped from inside.
Paris felt a flood of hope flow through him as he hurried into the shuttle behind her.
His hopes fell as he saw the unconscious form of Carey sitting in one of the passenger seats.
Silence fell over the shuttle as Janeway checked Carey for signs of injury.
Paris walked out of the shuttle in a daze as the possibilities flooded through his mind.
"Call Dalby for medical assistance. I think he's been stunned." Janeway called from inside the shuttle.
"Yeah, Dalby, I'll call her." Paris said absently and walked to the comm panel just inside the door of the shuttle bay.
"Paris to Dalby." Paris said, then waited the three seconds that they had discovered was needed for the computer to recognize and perform the command.
"Dalby, I need you to get to the shuttle bay for a medical emergency." Paris said, trying to sound professional.
"I'll be right there Cap. Dalby out." The female voice responded.
After� a moment of thought, Paris pressed the button again and said, "All hands." then waited.
"This is Paris. I need everyone to go to their work areas and look around for anything missing. Either someone has boarded our station or... one of us has stolen our only working shuttle... Come to the mess hall when you know anything." Paris finished with an ache in his heart.
[How could you do it Bey? I love you so much... how could you?] Paris asked himself as tears filled his eyes.
A minute later Dalby rushed into the shuttle bay carrying her med kit.
"He's in the Independence." Paris said in a pained voice.
Dalby looked at Paris with concern for an instant, then hurried into the shuttle.
"I'll be in the mess hall." Paris said in the general direction of the shuttle.
"I'll join you as soon as I know that Carey is going to be okay." Janeway's voice called in response.
Paris nodded and walked slowly out of the shuttle bay.
* * * * *
"What's going on Paris?" Nicoletti asked with concern as Paris walked into the mess hall.
"Bey and the Freedom are missing. That's all I know for sure." Paris said quietly.
"Oh my God! How could this happen? Who..." Nicoletti asked, then she noticed the sullen expression on Paris' face.
"Bey took it, didn't he?" She asked with sympathy in her voice.
"I don't know. I just don't know." Paris said in a dejected tone.
"Four cases of our ration bars are missing." Chell said as he hurried out of the kitchen.
"As well as several containers of water." Vorik said as he followed Chell into the mess hall dining room.
"Makes sense." Paris said quietly.
"There's an energy core missing from atmospheric control." Wildman said as she walked into the mess hall with a serious look on her face.
Paris just nodded.
Wildman hurried to Nicoletti and pulled her into a hug.
Kim walked into the mess hall and looked at Paris expectantly.
"Report?" Paris reluctantly prompted.
"Scanners and proximity detectors have been taken offline." Kim said efficiently.
Paris nodded, then thought to ask, "You say, taken offline. Not damaged?"
"Correct. The systems were turned off during the night." Kim said with the raise of an eyebrow.
Paris nodded, and his thoughts became more serious.
"The energy cell we were working on for the Independence's new weapon is missing." Gerry called as he hurried into the room.
Paris nodded as if he expected the report.
Janeway walked into the room with a worried look on her face.
"How's Carey?" Paris asked with concern.
"Dalby confirmed that he's been stunned with a phase pulse whip. She says that he'll probably be out for about another hour." Janeway said with distraction.
"Is he going to be okay?" Paris asked quietly.
"Yes. In fact, Dalby says that the whip was set to cause minimal damage... Bey is the only one who knows how to set it so precisely." Janeway said with apology in her voice.
"I'm glad he's going to be okay." Paris said in thought.
"Can you tell me what's going on?" Janeway asked as she took a seat.
"Well, we're missing some supplies... from the sound of it, whoever... Bey is planning to be away for at least a few weeks. He took food, water, a spare atmospheric core for an extended journey, and a spare energy cell for the shuttle's weapon." Paris said in deep thought.
"I knew we should never have trusted a fucking Cardie!" Gerry said gruffly.
"No Gerry. I think you're wrong." Paris said firmly.
"But Cap. He stole our shuttle. How can you still side with him?" Gerry asked in disbelief.
"Mainly because I have the same memories that you do of Cardassians. If he were doing this because he's driven by some 'Cardassian' instinct to be evil, then he wouldn't have done it this way." Paris said as he looked into Gerry's eyes.
"Think about it. He was in atmospheric control. He could have just turned off our atmosphere and left us to die in our sleep. He could have destroyed our sensors and left us blind, instead he just turned off the sensors in the night so we couldn't follow him." Paris said in a definite voice.
"And he could have killed Carey." Janeway said softly.
"That's right. He only stunned Carey enough to knock him out. He made sure that Carey was safe inside Independence before he depressurized the shuttle bay." Paris said firmly.
"But he stranded us." Chell said as he cuddled into Vorik's chest for comfort.
"If you think about it, we're no worse off than we were yesterday..." Paris began to say.
"We had a working shuttle yesterday." Janeway said firmly.
"Yes, a working, 'short range' shuttle that could carry five people at most. I don't know what Bey's plan is, but I believe in his good heart and loving nature. I'm willing to trust him." Paris said quietly.
"Well, since I don't have a penis to think with, I'm going to stick with the facts. It looks to me like he stranded us here and left to find a new place to live... or maybe some new friends..." Nicoletti finished with full sarcasm.
"I think you're wrong." Paris said in a cold, professional voice.
"Well, I think it's time for a change in leadership. Janeway wouldn't let her personal feelings cloud her judgment and put us in a situation like this." Nicoletti said firmly.
"Do you think I'm wrong?" Paris asked Janeway with honest curiosity.
"I think that you want so much for Bey not to disappoint you that you might be inclined to make assumptions the rest of us wouldn't." Janeway said diplomatically.
Paris nodded at the statement.
"There's enough of us here to take a vote. Who's with me?" Nicoletti asked the group.
"You don't need to do that. Janeway, if you'll be willing to take over, I'll step aside." Paris said in thought.
"Of course I will, and for the record. I hope you're right about Bey." Janeway said with sympathy.
"Then will you promise me one thing?" Paris asked hopefully.
"What's that?" Janeway asked cautiously.
"If Bey comes back... will you promise to let him explain?" Paris asked hopefully.
Janeway thought about it seriously for a moment, then responded, "If he comes back, I'll give him whatever benefit of the doubt that I can, without putting us at undue risk."
"Thank you. Now that you're leader, what do you have for me to do?" Paris asked, feeling all eyes in the room watching him.
Janeway thought for a moment, then said, "I intend to use my captain's training and behave like a captain. In doing so, I'd like to divide the work along these lines. Paris, I'd like for you to be my executive officer. Your duties would include overseeing the daily operations of this facility and reporting back to me. I'll continue to personally oversee the outfitting of our remaining shuttlecraft."
"How is that any different than before?" Nicoletti asked in confusion.
"The only noticeable difference will be that I will be making the final decision on matters that effect us all. Other than that, we'll continue with business as usual. I had my reservations when we started this 'democratic dictatorship' but I can see that with this small of a group, that it is simple and efficient." Janeway said seriously.
"Thanks Janeway." Paris said quietly.
"Your welcome." Janeway said courteously, then said in a firm voice, "Now Paris, as your first act as my XO, would you see that the kitchen staff provide us some breakfast? I think we're all ready to start the day."
"Aye Captain." Paris said with a bit of a smirk in his expression.
"I like the sound of that." Janeway said with a teasing smile.
"Paris I need you in med bay immediately." Janeway's voice called over his comm badge.
"On my way." Paris said, then said to Vorik and Chell, "I'll have to get back to you guys later. Go ahead and make up a loaf of the bread and call me when it's ready. If you can pull this off, the whole crew is going to be very happy."
"You got it Cap." Chell said with a smile as he watched Paris hurry out of the room.
* * * * *
Paris walked into the medical bay to find Kim laying on a treatment bed.
"You asked to see me?" Paris asked as he walked to Janeway's side.
"Yes. Kim, do I have your permission to disclose this information?" Janeway asked formally.
"Proceed." Kim said without inflection.
"It appears that Kim is pregnant with your child." Janeway said frankly.
Paris looked around the room and noticed Dalby's disapproving stare.
"I... Um... " Paris stammered.
"She has asked my permission for an abortion." Janeway said seriously.
"She can't." Paris said in a gasp, then turned to Kim and said, "You can't."
"I would not expect a Human to understand the cultural significance of this matter. To mate without the blood fire of pon'farr is a cultural taboo. It is evidence of an action of the most emotional and animalistic order. Therefore it is logical to terminate the pregnancy." Kim said without emotion.
"Wait. You're saying that because we had sex without you being in 'Vulcan heat', you're going to kill our child?" Paris asked disbelievingly.
"A child is the product of the union between chosen and bonded mates. The cellular mass within me is the product of the instability I suffered upon awakening with both Human and Vulcan memories. Now that I have gained full control of my mental discipline, the removal of the cellular mass is all that remains to free me of the evidence that I ever behaved so... emotionally." Kim finished with a look of distaste at saying the word.
"Wait, you said removal... we're in a research facility with about a thousand maturation chambers. Would you allow us to remove the embryo so that it can survive?" Paris asked hopefully.
Kim thought about the suggestion, then said, "I would agree on the provision that you genetically alter the cellular mass to remove all Vulcan characteristics. I do not wish to publicly or privately acknowledge the resulting child in any manner."
"That could hurt the baby." Paris said in a whisper.
"Nevertheless, it is a requirement if you are to proceed with my permission." Kim said coldly.
"Dalby, do you know enough about genetics to help me do that?" Paris asked desperately.
Dalby was looking on in shock at the heartless way that Kim was talking about her child.
"Dalby?" Paris asked again, more insistently.
"Um... No Cap. I know the textbook basics, but not enough to do it." Dalby said with distraction.
"I can help you." Janeway said seriously.
"Thanks Janeway." Paris said with relief.
"There is one further matter." Kim said firmly.
"What's that?" Paris asked with worry again.
"I must insist that no one outside this room be told of my role in the creation of the cellular mass." Kim said coldly.
"I swear, I'll never tell." Paris said immediately.
"Of course." Janeway said with assurance.
All three turned to Dalby with matching looks of question.
"As if anyone would believe me. I won't tell." Dalby said with a roll of her eyes.
"Dalby, do you know enough about the maturation chambers to get one set up?" Janeway asked seriously.
"Yes. Where do you want me to set it up... I mean... if it's in here, it's going to raise some questions." Dalby said reluctantly.
"Can you set it up in my quarters?" Paris asked quietly.
"Are you sure?" Janeway asked in a cautious voice.
"Yeah. Completely sure." Paris said quietly.
"I can set up one of the small tanks in about... two, maybe three hours." Dalby said in thought.
"Good, if you'll get that started, Paris and I will extract the cellular mass and begin the genetic alterations." Janeway said seriously.
"Just let me grab some tools and I'll be right on it." Dalby said quickly and ran to the far end of the room where she kept her tools.
"We'll need another genetic pattern to replace Kim's." Janeway said as she gathered the medical instruments she would need.
"I know." Paris said quietly.
"I wouldn't mind. I mean, I don't want to be your child's parent, but I'd be willing to share my genetic material." Janeway said sincerely.
"Let me ask you something first..." Paris said in thought.
"Go ahead." Janeway said softly.
"Do you think it would be ethically wrong to use Bey's genetic material?" Paris asked in a small voice.
"You still love him after everything that's happened?" Janeway asked with surprise.
"Yeah. Pretty pathetic huh?" Paris asked with a pained smile.
"No. Pretty romantic. I honestly hope that your faith in him is rewarded someday. And to answer your question, I think that if he returns, it will be because he truly loves you and he will be honored that you wanted to have a child that shared his genetic material. If he doesn't..." Janeway trailed off with an apologetic look.
"Then I'll have our child, so I'll still have part of him with me." Paris said with a look of sorrow.
"So let's stop talking and just do it." Janeway said as she turned her attention back to Kim who was reclined on the examination table.
"Yes, thank you Janeway... And thank you too Kim." Paris finished with an honest look of gratitude directed at Kim.
"I do not understand why you are thanking me." Kim said with the arch of an eyebrow.
"I'm thanking you for allowing us to do this. If you had refused, I wouldn't have liked it, but I would have respected your wishes." Paris said honestly.
"I am willing to accommodate your wish for the cellular mass to continue to develop. To do otherwise would cause undue emotionalism which is disruptive to efficiency. Accommodating your wishes in the matter will reduce the possibility of animosity between us... it is logical." Kim said in a toneless voice.
Paris smiled and said, "Yes. Perfectly logical."
"This is going to be faster than trying to rewrite the genetic markers in a fully grown adult." Janeway said as she carefully worked on identifying the correct genetic codes.
"I'm just afraid that we'll hurt the baby by changing it." Paris said as he watched Janeway's every move.
"If you want to go and check on the rest of the crew, this is going to take a while longer." Janeway said in a measured tone.
"Unless that's an order, I'd really rather be here." Paris said seriously.
"I don't mind if you stay. There just isn't anything for you to do." Janeway said, not looking away from her work.
"Thanks. Everyone knows their job and they don't need me looking over their shoulders anyway." Paris said softly.
"No one feels that way. Everyone sees your visits as a sign of interest and appreciates that you take the time to visit with them. In fact, I've had one crew member say those very words to me." Janeway said with a smile in her voice.
"Really? I thought they might feel like I didn't trust them or that I was checking up on them." Paris said with surprise.
"Not at all. It's part of your charisma. When you make your rounds, it's like you're just stopping in to visit for a while. They know that if they're having problems, they can tell you and you'll see that they get help. Aside from that, now that you're not the 'leader', you seem much more relaxed and approachable." Janeway said, then looked up from her work.
"Are you done?" Paris asked in surprise.
"I'm done tagging the code of the cellular mass... I'm sorry, baby. Now I need to start identifying and tagging the corresponding codes in Bey's genetic structure." Janeway said frankly.
"I'll get his genetic sample. Thanks again for doing this." Paris said as he walked to the stasis unit that housed the genetic material from everyone on the base.
"It's my pleasure. Since I was able to get the Independence finished, I've been feeling like I don't have a way to contribute to the station." Janeway said in thought.
"I wish you'd told me sooner. I could have found another project for you." Paris said as he approached with the dish containing Bey's genetic sample.
"I don't need busy work. I can find that for myself. I'm just... we're not making any progress toward getting off this station." Janeway said in thought, then put the sample into her micro-scanner.
"Well, there's that ship graveyard that we've been looking at for two weeks." Paris said frankly.
"I know. But with our limited scanning ability, the risk is too great. We've seen signs of small ships weaving through those wrecks, apparently scavenging them. We have one working shuttle, we can't risk having it damaged or destroyed." Janeway said in thought as she set the controls of the micro-scanner to decode the genetic material before her.
"I was thinking the same thing last week... even with two shuttles, I felt that the risk was unacceptable." Paris said softly.
"The chances of us finding anything usable is remote. Anything that was once of value has probably been picked over or taken already." Janeway said distantly.
"I agree. But I don't see what other alternative we have. We can't stay here. Eventually someone is going to investigate this asteroid and find us. If that happens... well, I don't see us surviving the encounter no matter how that goes." Paris said grimly.
"We could meet up with a peaceful species." Janeway said in a pained voice.
"I spent a few days pouring over everything the scanners have picked up the past few years. From what I observed, I think it's safe to say that there are no peaceful species in this sector. At least not with the capability of space flight." Paris said in a defeated tone.
The scanner made a clucking noise to indicate that it had finished it's decoding.
Janeway began to work on identifying the correct genetic codes as she said, "I know the Ocampa are around here, and by all accounts, they are a peaceful people."
"Then they must be planet bound, because all I've seen in this sector of space is one space battle after another. There aren't any fleets from what I've seen. The most ships I've seen travel together is three at a time, and in one of those battles, I saw one of the ships turn on his own allies. From the behavior I've observed, I'd say that these people are tribes, all fighting for domination of this area of space." Paris said in thought.
"So you think we have a bunch of small clans fighting for dominance. Occasionally two or three might band together for a common purpose, but then they start in-fighting. Right?" Janeway asked speculatively.
"Yes. And they're barbaric. When they've disabled an opponent, they don't stop until they've destroyed him. If any escape pods are ejected, they hunt them down and destroy them too. If you're ever in the mood to be sick to your stomach, I can recommend a couple of particularly disturbing battles." Paris said seriously.
"Not that I want to be queasy, but I may have to review some of the battles so I can see the strategies they use." Janeway said in thought as she continued to work.
"There are two that I think you should look at because they seem to be some of the more powerful clans. The scanners identified the ships as Kazon-Nistrum and Kazon-Ogla... they seem to show up more often than the others so knowing what techniques they use could be helpful. As far as the rest... they show up so infrequently, that it wouldn't be worth your time." Paris said carefully.
"I'll do that. In fact, if you'll set it up for tomorrow, I'll spend the morning watching the scanner images. I'd like to know what to expect if we ever get the opportunity to face them in space."
"To do that, we'll need a ship." Paris said frankly.
"I know. Hopefully Kim will be able to spot one on the scanners that might be fixable enough to use." Janeway said as she tagged genetic markers.
"Would you like me to get you some coffee?" Paris asked casually.
"Yes, that would be a great help. I've got a while longer on this." Janeway said in thought.
"I'll be right back." Paris said in a distant voice.
"Don't worry Paris... she's going to be fine." Janeway said with a smile as she looked up from the screen.
"She?" Paris asked cautiously.
"I wasn't sure if I should tell you, but... yes. It's a girl." Janeway said with a smile.
"I guess I'd better start thinking of baby names." Paris said as his eyes seemed to light up.
"After you get my coffee." Janeway said firmly.
"Aye Captain." Paris said formally, then broke into a smile.
* * * * *
"The maturation tank is all set up and ready to go." Dalby said as she walked into the med bay.
"We'll be ready for it in about an hour." Paris said as he watched the progress of the genetic resequencing on the micro-scanner.
"I just wanted to say that I'm happy for you Cap. Even though you didn't plan this, I'm glad you're going to have a kid." Dalby said shyly.
"Me too. I just hope the genetic resequencing doesn't hurt her." Paris said as he kept his eyes on the screen.
"Her? It's a girl?" Dalby asked with a smile.
"Yes. What do you think of 'Wendy' as a name?" Paris asked as he glanced away from the screen.
"Wendy Chakotay? Um, I think you'd better try again." Dalby said with a queasy look.
"I see what you mean. Do you have any suggestions? I'm really not coming up with anything." Paris said helplessly.
"Trixina, Saralinda, Berthetta, Lurlene..." Dalby said in thought.
"And you shot down Wendy?" Paris asked with disbelief.
"Hey! Those are my kid's names... well, I guess they're my sisters now..." Dalby trailed off in thought.
"No offense Dalby, but... I think I'll figure it out for myself." Paris said with a pained, apologetic look.
"Whatever, I just wanted to let you know it's ready and waiting for you. I'm gonna go grab some grub before I head down to level four to scavenge for supplies. Do you want me to pick you up some food while I'm at it?" Dalby asked curiously.
"Yeah, if you wouldn't mind. I don't want to leave this." Paris said, his gaze fixed firmly on the display again.
"I can tell. I'll be right back, you just watch after little Hilda there." Dalby said with a smile.
"No." Paris said firmly.
"Gladys?" Dalby asked as she took another step toward the door.
"No." Paris said, this time with a chuckle in his voice.