When Chris was ten, the boys fell in with a smuggler for the Orion Syndicate who took them in to work as deckhands on his freighter. From that point on, Chris became obsessed with starships of all types, and often snuck aboard other vessels in Rigel's spaceports, causing his brother much consternation.
When he saw his first Rigel Cup competition, he "fell in love" with the Starfleet pilots. His interest in ships turned to obsession, and when he was fourteen, he bartered his pickpocketing skills for flying lessons from a Ktarian pilot. In less than two years, he had gained a reputation as one of the best pilots in the Rigel system, and his services were often employed by the Orions for whom his brother worked. Each year he tried to compete for the Cup, but was always refused admittance.
In 2377, Chris was hanging around the spaceport, hoping for a chance to meet one of the Starfleet pilots. He recognized an Orion leaving one of the Starfleet docks as a low-level Syndicate enforcer, and snuck into the hanger. He found one pilot dead and another unconscious, and saw that a bomb had been planted on their shuttle's impulse engines. Fearing that if he called for help the Orions would return to finish the job they'd begun, Chris "hot-wired" the shuttle and took it into open space. After a few moments, the still-breathing pilot regained consciousness, but by then they were being pursued by two Orion raiders. Chris headed for the system's outer asteroid belt, where he jettisoned the impulse drive, and the bomb detonated, taking out one of the raiders. Chris and the Lieutenant rode out the shockwave, which disabled communications, and hid in the asteroid belt until the USS Dauntless responded.
During his time at the Academy, he set new records on the Venus and Saturn Flight Ranges, though his record was filled with disciplinary remarks. He also served as a Cadre for Nebula Squadron in his junior year, and befriended freshman Jeffrey Sinclair.
Paris was indeed a good influence on Parks, honing his skills even more than the Academy had, and also tempering his rebellious streak.
In April 2383, Chris transferred to the USS Pendragon, initially as a relief conn officer. Within a few months he proved his worth and became a primary flight controller for the Pendragon's alpha shift.