"GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT"
CODE: Paris, Torres, Kim, Seska, J/C (implied) & P/T
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SUMMARY: Voyager's crew react to Tom Paris' murder conviction by the Baneans in Season 1's "Ex Post Facto".
DISCLAIMER: Sigh! All characters and etc. pertaining to Star Trek Voyager belongs to Paramount, Viacom and . . . well, you know who.
NOTE: I realize that "Ex Post Facto" was never a favorite with VOYAGER fans, but I have always wondered how many of them reacted to Tom's murder conviction - especially a certain Chief Engineer.
B'Elanna burst into Sickbay and nearly blanched at the sight of her friend stretched out on a biobed. "Harry!" she cried and rushed to the ensign's side.
Poor Starfleet! His face looked ashen and tightly drawn. Dark circles formed beneath his eyes. B'Elanna's heart thumped rapidly at the frightening sight. "Kahless! Harry, what in the hell happened down there?"
"Ensign Kim is dehydrated," Voyager's holographic doctor replied in his usual dry tone. "Now, if you don't mind, I would like to finish treating him. Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tuvok have caused enough delays." He gave B'Elanna a slight shove and leaned over his patient.
Angered by the EMH's rudeness, B'Elanna raised her arm in a threatening manner. "B'Elanna!" The Doctor's medical assistant placed a gentle hand on the half-Klingon's shoulder. "Don't mind the Doctor," Kes continued. "He's just as concerned as the rest of us." B'Elanna found that hard to believe. "It's just that he hasn't developed a bedside manner, yet."
And probably never will, B'Elanna silently added. She took a deep breath. Calm down, B'Elanna. This is no time to have a Klingon tantrum. "Do you know what happened, Kes?" she asked the Ocampan woman in a shaky voice. "Last I heard, Harry and Paris were on the Banean homeworld, to receive information on how to repair our collimator."
"I . . ." Kes glanced uneasily at the two figures around the biobed. She gave a slight cough. "There was a little trouble with the Baneans, B'Elanna. Tom Paris was arrested for murder and the authorities held Ensign Kim for questioning."
Shock nearly rendered B'Elanna speechless - until she managed to squeak out a "What?" How in the hell did a friendly first contact develop into such a disaster? Naturally, she should have known that pig Paris was somehow responsible!
The Doctor pressed contents of a hypospray into Harry's neck. "Your hearing must be suffering, Lieutenant. Kes has just informed you that Lieutenant Paris was arrested for murder. Apparently, he had an affair with a married woman and killed her husband, who was working with Ensign Kim on your collimator."
"Doctor!" Kes protested.
Unfortunately for the Ocampan nurse, her protests failed to cease the EMH's runaway tongue. "And the reason Ensign Kim is suffering from dehydration," he continued, "is that the Banean authorities had questioned him for two days following Mister Paris' arrest. However, as of this moment, he is no longer in danger." He added with a smirk. "Thanks to me."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. Someone needs to do something about the hologram's personality subroutines. B'Elanna had a good mind to see to that task, herself. In a patient voice, she asked, "Is Harry conscious? I would like to speak with him."
"I just gave the ensign a sedative. He needs at least a few hours of rest before I can release him from Sickbay. You can see him later." The Doctor sniffed before turning his back on B'Elanna.
A growl threatened to rise from the Chief Engineer's throat, but she held it back. Instead, she fixed the EHM's back with a Klingon version of Janeway's death glare and stalked out Sickbay.
* * * *
Harry Kim took a deep breath and stepped outside the turbolift. Upon releasing him from Sickbay, the Doctor had ordered Harry to eat a meal before retiring to his quarters for more rest. The young ensign had every intention of getting a bite. After two days of interrogation by the Baneans without a meal, his stomach literally cried for food. However, eating was not the only thing occupying Harry's mind at the moment. He worried about the fate of his friend, still held in custody by the Baneans.
His stomach rumbled. He really needed to eat something! Even Neelix's Talaxian cusine would suit him. Harry picked up his pace, rushing toward the Mess Hall. Until he collided with another figure coming from the opposite direction.
"What's the rush, Ensign?" Harry immediately recognized the soft, deep voice that belonged to Voyager's new First Officer. Nor could he help feel a little intimidated by the older man's presence. Although he had agreed with the Captain's decision to integrate the Maquis with the ship's crew, a small part of him could not help but wonder if Voyager might find itself facing a Maquis uprising. To be honest, B'Elanna Torres was the only former Maquis he completely trusted.
Chakotay stared at Harry. "Ensign? Is there a problem? I asked what was the rush."
"Oh." Harry flushed again. "Sorry, Commander. I . . . I'm really hungry right now. I haven't had a bite to eat in two days."
The First Officer nodded. "I understand. It must be a relief to finally be back on Voyager."
"Yes sir, it is." Harry frowned as a sobering thought hit him. "I only hope that we get Tom back in time. Who knows what else the Baneans are doing to him?"
It happened in a flash. Harry noticed a slight stiffening of Commander Chakotay's shoulders at the mention of the Chief Pilot's name. Then . . . a smile tugged the corners of Chakotay's mouth. "Don't worry, Ensign. I'm sure the Captain won't leave him behind." His sincerity failed to reach his dark eyes, much to Harry's dismay.
The Mess Hall loomed ahead. Both men entered and walked straight for the new galley's counter. Lunch had drawn a heavy crowd. Harry took one look at the buffet displayed on the counter and headed for the nearest replicator. So did Chakotay.
Once Harry replicated a plate of angel hair pasta (Earth style) and shrimp, he glanced around the Mess Hall for a seat. Even after three-and-a-half months in the Delta Quadrant, the crew continued to segregate into Starfleet and Maquis cliques. Harry noticed that very few tables were filled with crewmen from both factions. His first instinct was to join a Starfleet table - until he saw B'Elanna signal him to join both her and Seska.
The half-Klingon smiled with relief at the sight of the newcomer. "Starfleet! I see that you've finally recovered. How are you feeling?"
Harry returned B'Elanna's smile with a wan one of his own. "Okay, I guess. I'm starving. Haven't had a bite in two days."
No sooner had he began to dig into his pasta, Chakotay joined them at the table. Seska glanced at the First Officer's food. "Goodness, Chakotay!" she exclaimed, laughing. "I've forgotten about your austere taste in food. Don't tell me. Mushroom soup and a salad?" Chakotay responded with a slight grimace.
Seska turned her attention to Harry and asked about his experiences with the Baneans. "I hear that Paris got arrested. What in the Prophets made them arrest him in the first place?" The smirk on her face told Harry that she already knew the answer to her question.
Several pairs of eyes, including the three around his table, focused upon Harry. He found himself very reluctant to answer Seska's question.
"I uh, . . . a misunderstanding on the Baneans' part," he lamely replied. Harry glanced at Chakotay, wondering if the latter had learned the truth from Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tuvok.
"C'mon Starfleet," B'Elanna urged. "What actually happened down there? All I know is Paris had some affair with the wife of a Banean scientist. Is that true?"
Harry sighed. He might as well tell the truth. At least correct a few rumors that had obviously reached B'Elanna's ears. So he told them. About Tom's flirtation with the very attractive Lidell Ren, Dr. Ren's murder, Tom's and his arrest, his interrogation and Tom's conviction. The moment Harry saw the disgust in his companions' eyes, he regretted opening his mouth.
"The Doctor was right!" B'Elanna declared. "I can't believe that you nearly died of dehydration because Paris got an itch in his pants!" Her dark eyes glowered with rage. For a moment, Harry imagined her in full Klingon battle dress, brandishing a bat'leth.
Harry sighed. "It's not what you think, B'Elanna. I don't even know if Tom had . . . uh, well, had any relations with Mrs. Ren."
"You mean sex, Harry," B'Elanna retorted bluntly. "An affair. In other words, he screwed her."
"Nothing happened, as far as I know." The expressions on both B'Elanna and Seska's faces told Harry that they did not believe him. Commander Chakotay's face remained stoic as usual. Yet, Harry suspected that he shared the two women's opinions.
Seska leaned forward, her blue eyes gleaming with spite. "C'mon Ensign Kim. This is Tom Paris we're talking about. He'll go after anyone with breasts. I realize he's your friend, but something must have happened between him and that scientist's wife. Why else would he have committed murder?"
"Tom never killed anyone!" Harry angrily protested. He blushed with embarrassment over his outburst.
The smile on the Bajoran's lips stated otherwise. She added softly, "How do you know, Ensign? Were you there at the time of the murder?"
Harry opened his mouth to reply and found himself unable to speak. What could he do? Admit that he never witnessed Tom's dalliance with Mrs. Ren? Or the actual murder? To do so would play right into Seska's hands.
Seska's smile curled into a smirk. "Did you say something, Ensign?"
"No," Harry replied shortly. He glanced at his companions' faces. The smirk remained fixed on Seska's lips. Doubt had crept into Commander Chakotay's dark eyes. And as for B'Elanna, anger toward Tom still brimmed in her eyes - along with a touch of pity toward him. To hell with them! If they were so determined to condemn Tom without any evidence . . . He rose from his chair. "Excuse me," he growled.
B'Elanna frowned. "Where are you going, Starfleet? You haven't finished eating."
"Back to my quarters." Harry picked up his plate. "I've just lost my appetite." He marched toward the nearest recycler, dumped his plate and resumed his march out of the Mess Hall.
* * * *
The entire scene played inside Tom Paris's mind, over and over again. The image of him and the beautiful Lidell Ren, locked in a passionate embrace. The confrontation of the two lovers. The scuffle. The small blade that suddenly appeared in his hand. And him, shoving the blade forward.
Inside one of Voyager's turbolifts, Tom heaved a sigh of relief. For once, he did not have to relive those horrible moments with the use of the implanted Banean engrams. He had his own guilty thoughts to thank. But it seemed a hell of a lot better than listening to his inner thoughts consistently berate himself.
The turbolift doors slid open on Deck 2. Tom stepped out into the corridor. How could he have been so stupid? Getting involved with a married woman? And now, he found himself facing justice, Banean style. Reliving the murder through the victim's eyes every fourteen hours. Shit! Not only was such punishment psychological torture; but according to Voyager's holographic doctor, the engrams were causing a degenerative neural damage to his brain. The only alternate punishment seemed to be death by lethal injection.
When Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tuvok had arrived on the Banea homeworld, Tom felt sure the Captain would wash her hands of him. Hell, just about everyone in his life had. And Tom suspected that everyone else aboard Voyager would gladly do the same, except for Harry. As it turned out, neither would Janeway. She insisted that the Banean First Minister release Tom to her custody. And she also ordered the Vulcan Security Chief to investigate the murder.
Since his return to Voyager, Tom had experienced another memory cycle, thanks to those damn engrams. The Doctor also treated his mild case of dehydration and ordered the Pilot to the Mess Hall for a much needed meal. Tom approached his destination, filled with trepidation. He had only encountered a handful of crewmen since his return. Judging from their reactions, the story of his arrest had not circulated throughout the ship. At least, not yet. However, it was only a matter of time.
Tom stepped inside the Mess Hall and all conversation stopped. Eyes that reflected smugness, suspicion and pure dislike stared at him. It seemed that time had arrived. Maybe not the entire crew knew what happened, but the occupants inside the Mess Hall obviously knew. The Paris assumed its position. Ignoring the stares, Tom strode toward the galley's counter.
"Afternoon Neelix," Tom greeted the Talaxian. "What's for lunch?"
The usually gregarious cook returned Tom's greeting in a manner one would not describe as friendly. "There it is," Neelix curtly replied, pointing out the buffet spread across the counter. "Take your pick."
Tom found himself on the verge of buckling under the suspicious stares and Neelix's coldness. But he was a Paris. He refused to give the others the pleasure of his public humiliation. Unless Tuvok discover the truth, he seemed doomed to have his brains fried by the engrams or his life cut short by a lethal injection. With his reputation further blackened.
After giving the Talaxian a cool stare of his own, Tom pointed to what looked like stew and some bread. Neelix picked up a tray and began to serve the food. Meanwhile, Tom helped himself to a glass of juice. Then he took his tray from the cook and murmured a quiet "thanks". The Talaxian responded with a derogative sniff. So much for politeness.
A quick scan of the dining room revealed an empty table next to one of the viewports. Unfortunately, Chakotay and Seska occupied the table next to it. Great! Tom sighed and headed for the empty table. The moment he sat down, conversation recommenced. Tom dug into his food. Hell, it was a lot better than meeting the contemptuous stares pointed at him. A few minutes later, his efforts to maintain a sense of privacy was dashed by Seska's mouth.
"I never thought I'd live to see this day, Chakotay," Tom heard the Bajoran ooze with spite.
Chakotay responded with a weary sigh. "What are you getting at, Seska?"
"Haven't you seen who is sitting at the table behind you?"
Tom kept his eyes glued to his food.
The First Officer coolly replied, "I know who's there."
A soft chuckle followed. "I'm sure you do, Chakotay. But don't you find it odd that Captain Janeway would allow a convicted criminal to roam free aboard a Federation starship?"
"Seska . . ."
"Oh, I know what you're going to say. The Federation already considers the Maquis criminals. But at least none of us have served time in a prison." Seska paused dramatically. "Or committed adultery and murder. But then, none of the Maquis is the Captain's personal reclamation project. Isn't that what you once called the young lieutenant, Chakotay?"
The Mess Hall fell silent for a second time. Tom's eyes focused on something other than his food - namely the First Officer's stiff back. "Cut it out, Seska!" the older man finally grumbled. "No one wants to deal with your crap!"
Seska's mouth formed a pout. Tom chuckled. Bajoran eyes narrowed dangerously glared at him. "You find something amusing, Lieutenant Paris?"
Tom smirked. "Well, there's you."
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?" Seska rose from her chair like an angry, red-haired goddess. Chakotay ordered her to sit down, but she ignored him. "What did you mean by that little comment?"
Tom continued, "For a woman who prides herself on being coy and subtle, you're not very good at it. If you want to insult me, Seska, do so. You don't need a third party."
Rage reflecting in her eyes, Seska stalked toward Tom's table. "In that case, Mister Paris," she hissed, looming over him, "I think you're contemptible. You're a liar, a traitor and definitely capable of murdering that Banean scientist. In fact, I don't see why Janeway would even bother trying get you exonerated. I would have left you on that planet to rot!"
Ignoring the murmurs of approval from other diners, Tom allowed a slow smile to stretch across his face. "Gee Seska, I didn't realize you were going to take my situation so personally. Did I hit a nerve?"
"You hit nothing, Mr. Son-of-a-Starfleet Admiral!" Seska snapped back.
All eyes fell upon the pair. An audience for Seska. How nice. If she wanted to publicize their fight, so be it. Smiling, Tom continued, "If you say so. Personally, I don't care what you think. And you're probably the last person on this ship who has any right to look down one's nose at me in moral outrage."
"What the hell? What's that suppose to mean?"
Tom shot back, "Take a wild guess."
Seska's trim body trembled in rage. "Listen, you piece of scum! If you think I'm a person of no morality, may I remind you that I joined the Maquis . . ."
"Yeah, I know, for a cause. You joined the Maquis out of protest against the Cardassian occupation of the DMZ. At least . . ." Tom gave his own version of a dramatic pause. "At least, that's what you say. Of course, I have my own opinion on that subject." Seska's face paled at his words. Curious.
Then Chakotay finally acted and rose from his chair. "That's enough, Paris!" he barked, glaring at the younger man.
"What?" Tom stared at the First Officer with innocent eyes. "I wasn't the one who started this conversation."
Anger mingled with embarrassment in Chakotay's dark eyes. He let out a gust of breath and stood next to the Bajoran. "Let's go, Seska. This conversation is over. Now."
"But Chakotay . . ."
"Now, Seska!" he insisted. "Let's go!" He grabbed the woman's arm. "Or do I have to drag you out of here?"
Dark eyes stared hard at Seska. She glared back. To Tom's amusement, she wilted under Chakotay's authoritive manner. "Fine!" she snapped. "I'll leave!" Seska's eyes bored into Tom's. "I'll see you later, Paris. Then again, maybe not, if the Baneans have their way!" She stalked out of the Mess Hall with Chakotay close at her heels.
Tom allowed himself a quiet chuckle. It was a rare moment when someone managed to get under Seska's skin. And he felt proud to be that person. However . . . her reaction to his comments about her time in the Maquis had surprised him. Had stumbled upon a secret of hers? Interesting.
A pair of eyes belonging to a crewman, glaring at him from another table attracted Tom's attention. Judging from the pips on the man's collar, an ensign. Tom stared back. "May I help you, Ensign?" he asked. The ensign looked away.
Another smile touched Tom's lips. He may be a doomed man, but at least he managed to have some fun before those engrams fried his brains for good. His combadge chirped. "Tuvok to Paris," the Vulcan's voice said. "Please report to Sickbay as soon as possible."
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Tom responded. "Paris out." So much for lunch. Tom tossed his spoon onto the tray. Oh well. This stew had not done much for his appetite, anyway.
END OF PART 1