"Crossing the Line"
Author's Note: I think “Random Thoughts” missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the character of Tom Paris and how far he’s willing to obey Starfleet laws. We know he found reason to break them in “Thirty Days,” so why not for B’Elanna?
“You know the rules, Tom. We can’t pick and choose which laws we’ll respect and which laws we won’t.”
“Nobody can be expected to control their thoughts.”
Privately Janeway agreed, but she only said, “Tell that to the Mari.”
“Are you just going to let them put her through this process?”
“I’m doing everything I can to stop it. Neelix is going to file a diplomatic protest. And Tuvok and I will be going over the witness statements. Maybe we can poke a few holes in the Chief Examiner’s case.”
“And if you can’t?”
“Then let’s hope the Doctor can figure out how to reverse an engramatic purge.”
“And if he can’t?”
They stepped into the turbolift. “Bridge,” Janeway commanded before turning to Tom. She was, in fact, trying not to think about that possibility. “There is only so much we can do, Tom. You know that. Starfleet regulations require us to act within alien laws.”
“Even when it’s impossible?”
She had no answer for that.
“This is ridiculous! We can’t just let them tamper with her brain because she thought the wrong thing!”
“If you have another idea, I’ll gladly explore any and all avenues. I don’t like this.”
“Maybe you don’t dislike it enough.”
Her voice was hard and cold, duranium-tough and wounded by his implication. “Computer, stop turbolift.” The lift stopped, and she looked Tom straight in the eyes. “You have crossed the line, Lieutenant. I will do everything in my power to get B’Elanna back as soon as possible. I would do no less for any member of this crew. But we have principles and regulations that come with these uniforms, and everyone on this ship knows it.”
“They didn’t all put the uniform on voluntarily.”
Tom was opening old wounds, and Janeway did not have time for it. “Nobody was forced to accept a commission.”
“And the alternative was what? Seventy years in the brig? Not exactly a free range of choices.”
“What do you suggest, Lieutenant? We break B’Elanna out and leave at warp nine? And next time there’s something we want, we’ll take it by force? Starfleet makes rules for reasons. We don’t have to like the consequences, but we have to accept the principles. Without them, we’d be little better than pirates.”
“Oh, I’m sure an alliance with the Borg was straight out of the Starfleet handbook.”
When Janeway glared at him, Tom Paris would never have guessed that the severity of her reaction was caused by her own insecurities. All he saw was a captain so committed to words on a padd that she refused to save the woman he loved. It was intolerable.
“Lieutenant,” she said after a second that seemed to last forever, “I am going to my ready room to work on B’Elanna’s case. I suggest that you go to your quarters and rest. Your emotional attachment is obviously affecting your judgment.” He was about to speak, but she held up her hand. “If you go willingly, we will forget that we ever had this conversation.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then you’ll leave me with no choice but to confine you to your quarters.”
He looked away, at the door. “Computer, resume turbolift. Nearest deck.” Still looking at the door, he continued, “I’ll go. But if anything happens to B’Elanna-”
“Don’t say it, Tom.”
“I don’t think I could forgive you.”
The doors opened to reveal Deck 2. Tom walked out without looking back. Neither he nor anyone else heard the captain whisper, “Neither do I.”
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