Part 8

Captain Kathryn Janeway's jaw was aching from clenching her teeth so tightly together. In her lap, her fingernails dug through the cloth over her knees. They hurt, too. Her spine was stiff, her back pressed against the chair back. Even her toes were pressed firmly against the bottom of her boots. Her entire body was rigid. Every major muscle and a few minor ones were stretched taut. She stayed totally still in this position for a few moments after the door to her ready room slid shut, after allowing the cause of her of her anger to exit.

Then, she drew her legs up. She wrapped her arms around her knees, letting her boots dangle over the edge of the chair, staring out at the stars. One thought better when compressed, she thought. And it was hell of a lot more difficult to break things from that position. Because she shouldn't break things. Including her teeth. With some difficulty, she relaxed her jaw. And then as a bombardment of thoughts struck her mind, her teeth clamped back together with the same force as before.

Tom Paris could have killed someone. He was probably trying to kill someone. One doesn't put those amounts of deadly poisons into food unless you want the person eating it to die. Quite painfully, considering the effects of some of those poisons. The stars flying by the window blurred. The Klingon laxative? That was something she might have expected. Digitalis in Tomato Soup? That was pure homicidal intent, and a sadistic homicide at that. The only reason lives hadn't been lost was the crew's willingness to go to sickbay when they felt horribly ill. That and the efficiency of the programmers of the Emergency Medical Holograph.

She ought to alter the charges against Paris to attempted murder for every dish he'd created. Keep him in the Brig ninety years instead of ninety days. When Voyager got back to the Alpha Quadrant, Paris would go back to the Auckland Penitentiary, just as she'd planned when they originally set off on the Mission to retrieve Tuvok and capture the Maquis. He'd just go back an old man. And she'd speak on his behalf at his next parole hearing, just as she promised. She'd speak on his outstanding ability to act like an upstanding citizen, and be practicing criminal behavior in secret. She'd tell them of his willingness to hunt down the Maquis, then get in frequent brawls with them and with the Star Fleet crew, and then stop fighting only to continue fighting in the most cowardly way possible, with poison in their meals. When they least expected it. When she least expected it.

Janeway unwrapped one of her arms, using that hand to rub the bridge of her nose. At one level, she knew the agonizing pain there was purely psychological, along with the fury she had for Paris, she felt immense guilt. She'd been the one to appoint him to the kitchen. She'd taken a long time deciding where to put him on the ship. She'd known the merging of the former Maquis and Star Fleet crews wouldn't be easy. She didn't need someone who was hated by both sides making it even tougher. So she'd put him with Neelix. Neelix liked everyone. And in addition to putting him in a position to try and poison the entire crew, she hadn't known what he was doing.

It had taken the anonymous transmission she'd received that morning, for her to realize that someone was trying to kill her crew. It distressed her to no end that she hadn't known. Hell, it pissed her off. And she knew, she knew from the expression on Tom's face, that she still didn't know the half of it. Someone who had just been found guilty of a multitude of crimes didn't look that relieved, unless they'd gotten away with more than they'd been caught for.

Which brought her to her second question, why the hell hadn't she known? The mess hall was quite obviously an instant suspect for originating a mass poisoning. If the EMH had reported a mass poisoning. Which he hadn't. And that wasn't a failure on the part of his programming. She wondered how good Paris' programming skills were. Quite good, she imagined. Causing a fatal shuttle accident, getting caught on his very first mission for the Maquis, his record made him out to be positively inept. Like hell.

Mr. Paris was anything but, she was beginning to realize. He was a pilot, a holograph programmer, a Gardner (and a decent one, she'd thought before today), and a damn fine liar. A liar who knew how to get to his enemies. She'd noticed the presence of Bajoran foods on the PADD. Who'd enjoy Bajoran foods? Why, people who worked rather closely with Bajorans, and spent time on Bajoran ships and Bajoran influenced planets. The Maquis.

The level that didn't know the pain in her head was purely psychological was rubbing the bridge of her nose raw. She'd have to check the Security schedule and find out who was stationed in the brig for the next ninety days. If it were any former Maquis crewmen, she'd have to have Tuvok amend it. One glance at the list and they would know just who he was trying to get. And then they would get him.

A Star Fleet crewmember might be pissed. Would definitely be pissed. But every one of them had a hell of a lot more restraint than any one of the former Maquis. The Maquis had calmed down significantly since the beginning of the journey. But she knew not to test them. Or tempt them. And beating the hell out of Tom Paris was an enormous temptation, and a test they'd fail. Chakotay's amiable nature hadn't rubbed off on his former crew.

There were times to trust the Maquis. This wasn't one of them.

Part 9 | Index page