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Author's Note: The author wishes to thank all those who provided constructive feedback on this story, particularly her editors Amy Hull and Dangermom. This is the missing letter from "Hunters" and was in response to a challenge from the P/T Collective Archive (yes, I finally took one of my own damn challenges...).
Admiral's Personal Log
(first draft, October 11, 1999)
From: Admiral Owen T. Paris
Personal and Confidential
To: Lieutenant j.g. Thomas E. Paris
Your mother never believed you were dead.
Five years. She refused to go to the memorial service. Your sisters went. Ann and Michael left the boys with her, and Claire and that... Claire and Marc—they got married, you know. Command waited to have the ceremony until last year, when Voyager was officially declared lost. Claire and Marc went. They said it was a touching ceremony. I was deep in negotiations with the Cardassians and the Bajorans—I couldn't make it. I'm sure you.... I hope you understand. I told her she should go. Your mother. I told her she should go—it would give her some kind of closure. She wasn't doing herself any good holding on to impossible hopes. But you know your mother. Stubborn as anything. I suppose you and the girls got that from her more than me. I've always prided myself on knowing when to let logic override my emotions.
But as it turned out, this time she was right. She'd gloat about it, if she wasn't so busy calling Starfleet Command, pestering them to find out what they're going to do to bring you home. Five years of believing, and I still thinks she was shocked to find out you were alive, and it wasn't just some figment of a mother's imagination. "I'd know if he were dead," she always told me.
I knew before it hit the news nets, of course. That business with the Prometheus—when they debriefed the EMH and found out the was from Voyager, I got the call then. We thought it was a crock at first, but those programmers checked him out up one side and down the other.
They gave me a copy of his debrief. It seemed.... I would have thought it was fiction, or some kind of crazy computer malfunction. 60,000 light-years. But if anyone could do it, Kathy Janeway would be the one. I always knew, even when she was a wet behind the ears Lieutenant, that she would make a fine Captain. When she approached me about granting you Observer status and taking you out of Auckland, I admit I thought she was being foolish. But she convinced me. Second chances and all that. And the fact of the matter was, I hoped she would succeed. Maybe she could get through to my headstrong son, knock some sense into him. God knows I'd tried and failed. And it stung a bit, admitting that Kathy might be able to reach you when I—your own father—wasn't able to. My pride took quite a hit. I'll admit that. I probably should have admitted that a long time ago.
I've read the catalogue of your achievements. When I found out that Janeway had given you brevet rank of Lieutenant j.g.... Janeway is as much of a hard-ass as I ever was, and she wouldn't have awarded you the rank if she didn't think you deserved it. And from what I've heard from the report, you deserved it. The warp ten experiment alone has pretty much assured your place in Starfleet history. Your mother thinks they should build a statue of you. She was only half-kidding. I know how hurt she was that you didn't want her to visit New Zealand. I told her it was pride talking—but I think more than anything else, she was always afraid that you died believing she didn't love you—we didn't love you.
Of course we love you. You're our son.
I'll be blunt: I know you don't think I was a very good father. And I know we haven't seen eye to eye in the past. But I want you to know that I was hard on you for a reason. Not just because you were my only son. I know you always felt singled out—but that's not true. I was hard on you because you needed it. You had incredible potential, Tom. And it broke my heart to see you waste it. And I probably went too far sometimes—and only succeeded in driving you even further into rebellion. But it was intensely frustrating for me—both as a father, and as a Starfleet officer—seeing a young mind so full of promise squander it in bars and chasing women. I know you think I was just living my life vicariously through you—but the truth is, I always had to work so hard at the things that came easily to you. If I had had half your talent...
You always poured so much energy into those damn hobbies of yours—from the monster movies to flying. And if you had just devoted a fraction of that effort to your career, you could have been the youngest Captain in the Fleet. Heck, you were always better with people than I ever was—again, your mother's gift, not mine. You had all the makings of a first rate officer, and it damn near killed me when you were cashiered. Not because you'd let down the family name—though I admit, that was part of it. But because you could have been a better officer than I ever was. And you threw it all away.
I was hard on you because you needed it, Tom. And I know you don't believe that, but it's the truth.
If I busted your chops, it was because you needed it. If I lambasted you for your mistakes, it was to make sure you never made them again—and I hope to God you learned from your mistakes, Tom. Caldik Prime was a tragedy, but your lying about it made it worse. And it took a man to admit he made a mistake, and I was proud of you for coming clean, even if I never said so at the time. The problem was, you should never have lied in the first place. I can't ever understand why you didn't see that from the very first. It's not about living up to my expectations of you, Tom. A real man doesn't give a good God damn about others' expectations—and what always bothered me is that you didn't know that. That you sacrificed your honour and your integrity out of pride. That was your only real crime. There's no room for pride—or ego—in Starfleet.
I know this is all in the past. And for all out differences, I hope you can let go of your adolescent fantasies that I was some kind of monster who never loved you. You are my son. Of course I love you. From the moment you were born, I would have moved heaven and earth to keep you safe, to protect you. I know you're a grown man, but to me you'll always be that little eight year old kid with skinned up knees, trying to scam your way out of bedtime to fit in just one more chapter of Jules Verne. Or whatever took your fancy that week—sailor, pilot, Indian chief. Your eyes always were bigger than your stomach, and you had such a taste for adventure. But you're not a child any longer. And I'm pleased that you've matured into, and these are your EMH's words, "a fine officer, and a man I'm proud to call a friend." I don't usually put much stock in computer programme's opinions, but Command insists that this EMH of yours is a kind of wonder the likes of which haven't been seen since they uncovered Soong's android. Frankly, no matter what kind of precedents there are, I still have problems with the idea that any computer programme can achieve sentience simply by being left turned on for five years, but... Well, a lot of that may well have to do with the fact that Lewis Zimmerman is such an incredible ass.
But the fact of the matter is, you've obviously finally found a place where you belong. And I'm glad you've finally achieved some of the potential I always knew you possessed. I always knew you had it in you, if you just applied yourself.
I had better stop now, before I make a complete idiot of myself. And your mother is here, waiting to write her own letter. But I wanted you to know that she and I are proud of you. And that we will do everything in our power to see that you are brought home. And we're looking forward to finally hearing from you.