10 The Inquiry Bell: Against the Grain
TIME INDEX: 18:03:09
WITNESS: Paris, Thomas Eugene, CMDR, XO, USS Perseus NCV-901
EXAMINER: Toloruk, Rima, UFP Justice OLC
Kathryn Janeway watched Commander Tom Paris take the stand – taking his place among the accused, in front of his father the Admiral, his captain, and two former captains – in a narrative of accusation it seemed he was destined to replay. But when Janeway saw them look at each other, the Commander and the Admiral, the father and the son, she saw no judgment in his father’s eyes; and no anger in Tom’s. There was only the circumstance – they were here as officers. For once, family didn’t seem to be in question. She wished B’Elanna was here to witness it. She would no doubt be proud of them both.
What Janeway couldn’t understand was Tom’s insistence on throwing himself in with the accused. It was his prerogative to exercise – but the Board of Inquiry had been satisfied with his statement, and requested his presence as a technical advisor alone. Of course, Kathryn knew Tuvok no doubt would have shouldered the very same responsibility – and self-sacrifice – but had obviously, mysteriously, declined to do so. She could only surmise that Tom had successfully averted Tuvok’s accountability of captaincy, and gesture of fealty to his crew. It was, after all, Tom’s wife
standing for the accusations. An emotional reaction that Tuvok, perhaps illogically, but in an almost human wisdom, respected from his first officer.
She made a mental note of the limitations of the holographic record – and would never again see such reenactments as complete.
“Commander Paris. You were once a Maquis, before they drummed you out. Rear Admiral Valxaen here, we all know, is a hero of the Dominion War – a Fleet Commander of a Federation Task Force in Bajor Sector during that time; with only the humm, unfortunate loss of a few starships, he adequately
defended the DMZ against many Jem’Hadar attacks – despite being undermined by diversion of military resources against the unpredictable Maquis threat. I myself had many live fire confrontations with the Maquis as an advisor on a Federation ship in the DMZ, when we were forced to protect Cardassian outposts from Maquis vigilantism. I think for some of us, however such things are long past.”
“No hard feelings?” Tom shifted his gaze from the Counselor to the inscrutable Rear Admiral, glanced away and shut up.
“So I want you to know that I don’t believe you had anything to do with any plot. The questions I have to ask you, then, aren’t designed to implicate you. I just wanted you to know that. And we are sensitive to your concern for your wife’s and daughter’s health at this time. We hope we can keep your involvement to a minimum to give you a chance to be with them as soon as possible.”
“Do you have anything to add to any of the testimony you have heard here today vis-à-vis the events or crew actions leading up to the incident?”
“Nothing, only to say that officers Vexa and Grifahni acted with commendable resourcefulness and courage in the face of certain destruction. I’m proud to have served with them – and to have seen them in action.”
“Commander Paris. You are married to the accused Commander B’Elanna Torres. She also serves under you on the Perseus. Correct?”
“Yes. We’ve served together
many years, and I can tell -”
“She, among others brought together by Voyager’s unfortunate first mission that stranded you in the Delta Quadrant, had prior to that been a devoted and very active member of the Maquis. Correct?”
“In the past
“Yes or no, please, Commander.”
“Prior to Captain – sorry, Admiral Janeway’s synthesizing us all into one crew -”
Tom quieted. “Yes.”
“In fact, on more than one occasion hadn’t Commander Torres, then Lieutenant, reprogrammed a Cardassian weapon of mass destruction called - ” he checked his padd – “Dreadnought
? She was something of an expert on tinkering with highly
sophisticated Cardassian military technology, was she not?”
“You read the report. She also happened to save a planet and two million lives from certain destruction from that weapon – and risked her own life doing so.”
“Yes, quite heroic, I’m sure. Considering it was she that had stolen the Dreadnought away from Cardassian hands, and reprogrammed its targeting to put another planet in harm's way in the first place. We only have one question for you. What, in your experience, was Commander Torres’ personal position on quantum slipstream technology, the Perseus, and, if any, its implications for – the Maquis?”
Commander Paris’s words caught in his throat, and he entreated the Board. “I thought – I thought I would be questioned as her commander. Not as her husband.”
Toloruk pressed: “If you're unwilling to divulge information that will aid in the determinations of this Board of Inquiry, Commander....”
“It doesn’t make sense
. B’Elanna was on
the vessel. With our daughter
“A question was put before you, Commander. I suggest you answer it.”
Commander Paris deflated. “If it’s not too late – I think I’d better talk to legal counsel before I say anything more.”
“It is a right you have already waived,” insisted Rima Toloruk. “And I doubt anyone here would be willing to advise you at this stage. I’m sure the Judge Advocate from Bolarus might be more than willing to reassure you for your testimony; however in her capacity as Legal Advisor to the Board, she is ethically prevented from doing so. Despite I’m sure, her own frustrations with the Cardassian threats on her homeworld. Cardassians, I’m told, wear coats made of Bolian leather. Quite unpleasant.” He ignored the cold, flaming gaze of the silent, well-conditioned JAG officer – and the flicker of disgust that crossed Admiral Valxaen’s hardened mien. “Perhaps Commander you are worried about implicating your wife? But Commander Paris, surely you must realize that if she is innocent, any evidence you give will only support that plea. If she is guilty, it will have been her own doing. You don’t deserve to be punished as well.”
Tom smiled. “It’s not about me, Counselor Toloruk,” he replied. “And I’m certain that B’Elanna – if she were here right now – would tell you anything you wanted to know about her opinion, to anyone shortsighted enough to ask for it. But if anything I said somehow contributed to her arrest
– what would happen to her medical treatment then? Can you assure me it would continue? Can anyone?”
“I can.” Everyone turned to the Vulcan Emissary Kel’Akann, who stood and walked around the table to face the bench. “By your leave, Admirals, Captain. If the Commander so affirms, I would offer my services as Advocate at this time.”
The room erupted with murmuring.
The bell sounded.
“And I can assure Commander Paris that regardless of the outcome of this inquiry, I will personally see to it, in my capacity as advisor to the President of the United Federation of Planets, that the medical treatment of his wife and daughter will continue unabated in any capacity whatsoever.”
“This is highly irregular!” The Zakdorn Counselor shook his hands in the air and walked away. “The Emissary is a member of the Board! And not always the most -”
“A nonvoting member, I remind you,” Kel’Akann continued, “and one which is here unofficially, at the personal behest of the President. My presence here is entirely voluntary, I assure you. And you may now address me as ‘Advocate’.” Advocate Kel’Akann turned to Tom, and Janeway took a good look at his long narrow face, and drawn cheeks. His thick white hair was clipped short and drawn forward – against the grain, and perfectly controlled. Though his manner was slow and deliberate, in a mindful and constant state of concentration, there was something about Advocate Kel’Akann she couldn’t quite put her finger on. If she didn’t know better, she would say it was something almost…childlike
. If she didn’t know better.
“Commander Paris, you may answer any of the questions the Inquiry puts to you. Or you may remain silent. The choice – not the burden of proof - is entirely yours. To paraphrase Surak, we shall 'let the chips fall where they may'.”
Tom Paris looked at Kel’Akann with a bemused lack of understanding. “Yes sir, no problem. And – thank you, Sir.”
“Logic requires no thanks. But all the same, you are welcome.” The entire assembly waited as Advocate Kel’Akann strode across the floor and took a new seat – provided for him at the table for the Accused.
Sublieutenant Vexa closed her mouth.
“Counselor? We’re waiting,” said the Admiral Janeway hologram.
“Hm? Yes. Yes. Commander Paris, to repeat the question,” he checked his padd, “What, in your experience, was Commander Torres’ personal position on quantum slipstream technology, the Perseus, and, if any, its implications for the Maquis?”
“She said that quantum drive could be bad for the Maquis, because it would eventually reduce the importance of the Bajoran Wormhole. That would lead to an even further reduced Federation presence in that sector and especially the Demilitarized Zone. She believed the Cardassian Union would hardly sit idly by in an economic morass while Federation-Bajoran ships run through the sector with quantum slipstream drives. Cardassia would watch that technology filter through the sector, and then reassert a stranglehold over its holdings in the DMZ until it had that technology for itself. It would create an opportunity that neither the besieged Cardassian Union, nor the Maquis could ignore. It would likely lead to – war.”
The assembly broke into a din of unrest.
The bell rang – to little avail.