A New Endeavor
Setting: Post Endgame... Teero is Back!
Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount, I just add a little more romance and fix some continuity.
“It’s been a long day, Kathryn, why don’t you call it a night and join the party on the holodeck?”
She looked up at Chakotay. “I keep thinking this must be a dream. It’s hard to believe we’re finally home.”
“Yes we are, and if you keep sitting in here by yourself, you won’t feel any different.”
Looking at the computer interface, she noted, “I’ve received almost two thousand messages since we arrived, and they’re still coming in. I don’t know how I’ll ever get through them all.”
“Really? That many?” Chakotay came around her desk to peer over her shoulder. “Who from?”
“I’ve isolated the ones from my family and anyone with a title of Admiral. Beyond that, they seem to be from friends, press, civilians, dignitaries, and I don’t know who else.”
“Let’s have someone go through them for you.”
“I might need help gathering info for the debriefings, too, but I haven’t received the schedule, yet. Surely, they’d comm me, don’t you think?”
“Most likely.” He leaned forward to get a closer look. “Any from Admiral Harris?”
“Just one saying he’ll come aboard in the morning.”
“Same one I got. Until we know more, we could get someone to put a significant dent into these, and set up a ship-wide message board for general wishes to the crew.”
“You’re right, although I might want to separate out personal messages, first.
“Of course.” He squeezed her shoulder until she looked up at him. “So, we’re home, we’ve defeated the Borg, a baby has been born, and the Maquis have been pardoned. I think that’s enough work for one day, don’t you?”
“I’ve been pushing that issue for years, but the Federation Council didn’t seem to appreciate my wish for expediency.”
“Thank you for that,” he stepped back to let her come out from behind her desk. “I’m glad they didn’t belabor it now that we’re home.”
“So am I.” She started to say something else but stopped.
“What is it?”
Kathryn waved away the thought. “Oh, it’s nothing. I was just going to ask if I could hug you.”
His smile broadened as he pulled her into his arms. “I told you a long time ago that my shoulder is always open to you.”
Relishing the warmth and comfort of him, she relaxed into his embrace. “I know, but that was when you weren’t dating someone. I waited too long to take advantage of your offer.”
Not letting go, he said, “I’m still your friend, and I seem to recall you taking advantage of my shoulder not too long ago.”
She closed her eyes. “I’d hoped you’d forgotten about that.” After they had left Quarra, she had allowed herself about an hour to grieve what they’d been through.
Chakotay whispered, “That night meant a lot to me.”
Withdrawing from his arms, she said, “Thank you for being such an understanding and caring friend.” She wanted to add something about being a great first officer, but didn’t want to diminish her gratitude for his friendship. “I don’t know what I would’ve done out there without you... without your friendship.”
“You’re welcome.” He straightened his jacket as he collected his emotions. “I’ll tell you one thing that you wouldn’t have done without me. You wouldn’t have gone to any parties.”
She clicked her tongue as she took his proffered arm. “I’ll let you in on a little secret.”
“I would’ve gone to most of them. I just waited for you so I’d have a handsome fella to walk in with.”
He did a double take before a slow grin spread across his lips. “I’ll pretend to believe you.”
After changing clothes and collecting Seven from the cargo bay, they arrived at the holodeck. Seven seemed displeased that Kathryn was accompanying them to the party, but Kathryn decided to shrug it off and enjoy the night. Her ship was home and she felt like she could finally let her hair down with her Voyager family.
Almost the entire crew was in the holodeck. The few that weren’t would be relieved from duty soon and others would take their places. Kathryn looked around, and with each happy face she saw, a little guilt and stress lifted from her shoulders.
Chell walked over to them carrying a tall glass of something pink. “Captain, you’ve got to try this!”
Kathryn accepted the drink from the exuberant Bolian “Thank you, but I hope you’re enjoying yourself and not just serving everybody.”
“Oh, I am, Captain! I am!” He said as he danced away.
Kathryn suddenly found herself drawn into a conga line and did her best to keep up even though she was holding her drink and had no idea how to do the steps. The line dissipated once she was into the middle of the floor and she suddenly suspected a ploy to get her dancing.
She looked back at Chakotay who was watching her with a huge smile on his face until Seven drew his attention away.
Kathryn hadn’t danced in years and wasn’t quite sure how to get her body moving. She had always been content to watch her crew from afar. Tom must have picked up on her hesitation because it wasn’t a minute later when he set her drink on a nearby table and took her hands in an attempt to teach her a dance move.
“Captain, step to the right, to the left, and then rock back. Right, left, rock back. Right, left, rock back. There you go!”
Not caring how she looked, she laughed. “Does this dance have a name?”
“Swing!” he shouted over the music as he led her in a turn that messed up her rhythm. She stopped until she got the right, left, back steps going again.
Kathryn asked, “Shouldn’t you be with B’Elanna?”
Tom pointed to a group of women huddled in a far corner of the room. “She’s got plenty of help.”
“Miral is here? It’s too noisy!”
“Don’t worry! The Doc made special little earplugs.”
Kathryn faltered in her steps while she was talking, but managed to get back into the rhythm. Tom spun her around few more times, but every time he tried something new, her feet got tangled up and they both ended up laughing.
As the song changed, Harry interrupted, “May I have the next dance, Captain?”
“Of course, but be warned, I have two left feet tonight.”
“No problem.” Harry turned to Tom. “B’Elanna is ready to go.”
Tom said, “Goodnight, you two have plenty of fun for me.”
Harry led Kathryn in another dance that didn’t go much better. Still, Kathryn was having a great time and found the joy of her crew contagious. She was glad that Chakotay encouraged her to attend, but she missed his company. She looked around the room and found him sitting at a table, smiling and talking to members of the crew. Seven sat near him and seemed focused on watching the crowd on the dance floor.
The Doctor arrived at the end of the next song. “Ensign Kim, may I cut in?”
“Of course.” Harry turned to her and said, “Thanks for the dance, Captain.”
“My pleasure, Harry.”
The Doctor said, “Now that Miral is safely back in her quarters, I decided to take a spin around the floor. Are you familiar with the waltz?”
Kathryn laughed as she stepped into his waiting arms. “That’s one dance I know, but my rhythm seems to have taken a detour tonight.”
“Don’t worry. You can’t hurt me when you step on my holographic toes.”
“Glad to hear it.”
Once they were moving, Kathryn asked, “Doctor, in any of your social lessons with Seven, did you include dancing?”
The Doctor cringed. “Yes, and she put Lt. Chapman in sickbay with a torn rotator cuff because she was a little too forceful.”
“Why do you ask?”
Kathryn nodded towards Chakotay and Seven. “She isn’t dancing, but she’s studying everyone as if she wants to.”
The Doctor followed her gaze and said, “Ah. I think she’s still uncomfortable with the concept. Maybe she’s afraid she’ll hurt her partner.”
“Perhaps I’ll ask her to dance in a little while. She can’t hurt me.”
“Doctor,” she said with her eyes twinkling. “You read my mind.”
They finished the dance and Kathryn took a break to get a drink. She found a seat with a group of ladies who were involved in an animated conversation. “Mind if I join you?”
Susan Nicoletti said, “Not at all, Captain.”
The group scooted around to make room, but their previous conversation had stopped. Kathryn said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt. Carry on.” She waved her hand, encouraging them to continue as she downed half of her drink.
Sam Wildman asked, “Thirsty, Captain?”
Kathryn put her glass down. “Very! I’ve just danced three songs with half of my senior staff. I suspect a conspiracy,” she mused.
Susan said, “Only to get you to have some fun.”
“Watch that drink, Captain. It’s potent,” said Deborah Lang.
“Noted,” Kathryn said as she drank more, already feeling the warmth of the cool liquid.
The group laughed, and Nicoletti said, “I’ll get you another.”
While Susan stepped away, Kathryn asked, “So, what were you discussing before I arrived? It looked like fun.”
Sam admitted, “Actually, Captain. I hate to admit it, but we were gossiping.”
“Really?” Kathryn hunched in closer. “About whom?”
Deborah said, “Oh, just about who we thought would end up together when we got back, compared with who is together tonight.”
Sam discretely elbowed Deborah in the side, but Kathryn caught it. Sam tried to cover the awkward moment by saying, “For example, we thought Gilmore would end up with Culhane, but she’s been dancing with Jarvin all night.”
Kathryn accepted the drink that Susan brought, and took a long swig. “I thought Gilmore was dating Sofin?”
“That’s old news. They broke up over a year ago.”
“Really? What else don’t I know?” Kathryn touched her face. She knew she must be flushed from the alcohol already.
Susan laughed. “There’s a loaded question if I ever heard one.”
“I really want to know. Who is Harry seeing?”
“Celes? I thought she was with Telfer?”
Sam said, “No, they’re just friends. Telfer seems to have his eyes on Deborah here.”
Deborah asked, “Would you stop saying that?” The whole group laughed and Deborah explained. “You see, Captain, they’re convinced that I should ask Billy out.”
“Because he needs a strong woman,” added Susan.
“So why does it have to be me?”
Sam said, “Because he’s been glancing at this table all night.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s interested in me. Could be any of us.”
Sam was beaming as she said, “Not me! I get to see my husband in two days!”
Kathryn asked, “Have you received a message from him yet?”
“Yes, he’s on his way from DS9 now. There’s a whole group headed back to Earth together.”
“That’s wonderful news!”
“What about you, Captain. Anyone waiting?”
“My mother and my sister.”
Susan interrupted, announcing, “Seven is dancing with the Doctor!”
All of them turned to look at the awkward attempt at dancing. Kathryn said, “I was afraid she wouldn’t try it.” She turned back to the group of ladies. “That’s who you were talking about earlier, wasn’t it?”
Sam said, “Yes. Sorry, Captain.”
“No need to apologize. I was just curious. Who did you think she would end up with?”
Deborah said, “Exactly who she’s dancing with. Doc has had his eyes on her for a long time and their personalities seem so well matched.”
Kathryn nodded and took a long draw of her drink to finish off the second glass. “He definitely has a soft spot for her.”
They were all quiet for a moment before Susan said, “All right. I’m just going to say it. We thought for sure Commander Chakotay would end up with you when we got home.”
“I see.” Kathryn looked over at Chakotay with longing until she realized that he was headed her way with a smile on his face. She turned back to the ladies and whispered, “Well, ladies. The night is still young.”
The whole group stared at her with surprise as Chakotay arrived. He touched Kathryn’s shoulder. “Dance with me?”
“I would love to.” Kathryn stood and winked back at the group of women.
Susan called out. “Careful, Commander, she’s had a few.”
Chakotay replied, “Maybe she’ll relax and enjoy herself, then.”
She was beaming as she took his arm. “I already am.”
He led her to the dance floor and even though the music was upbeat, he took her in his arms as if the music was a soft ballad. “I’ve been watching you tonight.”
She felt a shiver as his hand rested on her back. “Have you?”
“You look happier than I’ve seen you in a long time.”
She stepped closer, her hand moving up his shoulder. “I am.” She wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the proximity to him that was making her warm all over. “Seeing the crew happy makes me happy. You were right, I can finally let go a little.”
“Well, I think you could have done that on occasion out there, but I’m still glad to see it now.”
She looked up into his dark eyes, trying to read his uneasy expression. “What’s on your mind?”
“Me?” He looked away and said, “A lot of things, I guess.”
“That’s understandable. We haven’t talked much in the past few weeks. You surprised me when you told me about Seven.”
He sighed. “Yeah.”
Sensing that he wanted to change the subject, she asked, “Are you nervous about the debriefings?”
“Debriefings?” His gaze returned to her. “No, not really. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m not nervous. Why do you ask?”
“You look tense.”
“Tense?” He relaxed his shoulders and drew Kathryn a little closer. “Maybe I just needed to dance with a beautiful woman.”
She felt at home in his arms as he led them in a swaying motion that kept a decent rhythm with the faster music.
Hesitantly, he offered, “Seven said that dancing is superfluous. Or at least it was until the Doctor insisted.”
“He does have a way of getting her to do things.”
“Did you know that she goes to him for advice on dating me?”
Kathryn tried not to laugh. “No, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
“We’ve had three dates so far. Four, if you count this as one. Each one has been a prescribed event as advised by him.”
“You ought to shake it up, see how she responds.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’ve already learned that it’s best to let her make the plans.”
“But you must enjoy dating her, don’t you?”
Chakotay looked over at Seven dancing with the Doctor. “I find myself surprised by what I’m discovering in her. Although she can still be damn frustrating, she’s soft under that abrasive exterior. And she’s a child in so many ways. I feel like she needs me.”
“Do you need her?” Kathryn held her breath as she waited for his answer.
Looking back at Kathryn, he paused before replying, “I need someone.” He pressed his hand gently against her back. “I need to care for someone who wants…”
She swallowed hard in expectation of what he was going to say next. When he said nothing, she offered, “Someone who wants to be loved?”
“Yes.” His eyes were glued to hers.
“Someone who wants to be loved without duty getting in the way?”
He nodded, seemingly unable to speak, as his fingers moved along her hip.
“We’re home now.” She moved her body closer and fiddled with the neckline of his jacket. “The crew is safe.”
“Is that all that’s held you back?” He studied her carefully.
Smiling nervously, she said, “I suppose you could say it’s both that simple and it’s that complicated.”
He tilted his head. “But have you wanted a relationship with me?”
After a moment’s pause, she looked up into his eyes. “With every fiber of my being.”
Chakotay let out a shaky breath and pulled her closer. “Then my only question is whether you think Seven will be okay without me?”
Silently cheering, Kathryn’s fingers grazed the side of his neck. The touch was electric. “We’ll make sure she has help adjusting and finding her place.”
“I hate to leave her at such a vulnerable time.”
“She’ll be okay.” Kathryn let their hips touch. “I, however, am going to need a great deal of tender, loving care when all of this is over.”
“Is that so?” His hand pressed more firmly into her lower back. “Weekend at your Lake George cabin, perhaps?”
“Weekend?” She shook her head. “How about a month or two?”
Chakotay smiled softly at her. “If we weren’t here, in front of the whole crew right now…”
“I know.” Her thumb rubbed gently across his skin. “Just dance with me. I don’t want to leave the party yet.”
His eyes brightened as he moved to take both of her hands. “I haven’t done this in a long time.”
“Do you know how to dance the Salsa?”
“Nooooo,” she said nervously.
“We’ll go with something easier then.” He tapped his communicator, “Chakotay to Tabor.”
“You’re running the music tonight, right?”
“How do you feel about something slow and Latin?”
“Coming right up.”
Kathryn asked, “Latin?”
“In my youth, I used to be pretty good.”
With a quirky half-smile, she asked, “Where did you learn to dance?”
“In nightclubs, and from my mother. Latin music and customs were a heavy influence on her culture. Before she married my father, that is.”
“And I thought I knew everything about you.”
“Not quite everything.” He winked at her as the Latin rhythm began and a few of the crew cheered for the change of music. “I saw you waltzing?”
“Yes, but that’s the only partner dance I know how to do.” She squeezed his hands in nervous anticipation.
“Ever heard of the Rhumba?”
“I’m going to step all over your feet.”
He shook his head. “Same foot pattern as the waltz, but in four.” Holding both of her hands, he stepped forward into the basic pattern, his strong hold forcing her to follow.
It wasn’t long before she picked it up. “Okay, I can do this.”
“Now the fun part.” He grinned as he pulled her closer and placed her hands on his hips. “The hip action.”
Kathryn glanced over at Seven nervously. She didn’t want Seven to be upset by how close they were dancing. However, it looked like Seven was concentrating on a similar lesson from the Doctor.
Chakotay squeezed her hips. “It would help if you were watching me, Kathryn.”
“Just checking on Seven. She’s focused on the Doctor.”
Chakotay did a brief check himself and said, “Good.” He gripped her hips lightly and said, “Push out your hip on the leg that is moving.” He put pressure on her opposite hip to guide her along.
The touch of his hands took the radiating warmth of the alcohol to the next level. She was having trouble concentrating on anything except the feel of his hands. “This isn’t as easy as you’re making it look.” However, she was definitely admiring the way his hips were moving.
“You’re thinking too much. Just feel it.”
She moaned softly. “Oh, I don’t think that’s the problem.” She clutched his shoulders firmly and said, “I’m feeling plenty and can’t seem to manage coherent thought.”
Blushing, he pulled back and took her hands again. “Maybe we’d better try this in a different way.”
“Must we?” She tried to step closer again, but he kept the new distance between them. He laughed quietly and she melted at the wonderful sound.
“We must if you’re going to learn this dance.” He put their palms together with fingers laced.
She squeezed his hands. “This brings back memories, doesn’t it?”
Taking a deep breath, he said, “It certainly does.” He moved their hands in a circular motion that accompanied the rhythm of the dance. “See if this helps you get the motion.”
Studying his hips and their hands, she started to feel some movement in her hips. Quiet with concentration, it was a few minutes before she asked, “How am I doing?”
He smiled. “We’ll practice.”
“That bad?” She raised an eyebrow.
Closing the distance between them and retaking the classic ballroom hold, he said, “Just making an excuse to dance with you more.”
Feeling dizzy from intoxication, she threw her head back in a laugh.
He stared at her for a moment, smiling. “It’s good to see you happy.”
“It’s good to feel happy.”
The tempo of the music picked up. “Let’s try something even easier, the Merengue.” He pulled her close and said, “It’s just like walking in place. Right, left, right, left.”
“Still with the wiggly hips?”
He nodded. “And I get to hold you really close.”
“I like the sound of that,” she whispered.
Moving them in circles, Chakotay helped her get the feel of the dance. “You know how to turn in the waltz?”
“Same goes here. Just walk as you turn.” He lifted her arm, and she tried to spin in one beat and got tangled up on her other foot. She fell against him and he caught her before she hit the floor.
Laughing hard with him, she climbed back up to her feet. “Maybe that wasn’t quite it.”
Yosa and Henley were dancing nearby when Yosa asked, “Having trouble there, Commander?”
Chakotay waved them away, still laughing with Kathryn. “It’s her first time.”
Kathryn added with amusement, “And I didn’t realize I had quite so many feet!” The two laughed as they danced away.
He pulled her close again. “No more spins.”
“Did we stop spinning?” She closed her eyes and leaned against him.
“Hmmm… I think it might be time to call it a night. I think you’re intoxicated.”
“Just a little. Mostly, I’m clumsy and tired. It’s been a long day.” She laid her head against his chest. “I love you, Chakotay.”
He closed his eyes and held her tightly. “I love you too, Kathryn.”
They swayed gently to the Latin music, enjoying the close proximity and warmth of each other’s bodies. She felt more than at home, she felt at peace.
She whispered, “This is nice.”
Squeezing her gently, he hummed in response as they swayed absently, disregarding the flurry of movement around them.
A few minutes later, the Doctor tapped on Chakotay’s shoulder. “May I cut in?”
Chakotay opened his eyes and quietly responded. “The Captain is a little intoxicated. I’m holding her up until she feels like she can walk out of here.”
Kathryn raised her head at the exaggeration, and realized it was for Seven’s sake. She played it up a little and let her speech slur a little. “Hi. Chakotay got stuck with me.”
The Doctor responded. “I can see that. Lucky for you, I anticipated a bit of inebriation tonight and brought a full hypo with me.”
Sad that she was about to lose the warm feeling, she asked, “Just give me enough to get out of here. I’ll be fine.” After the medication was injected, she rubbed her neck.
Seven asked, “Captain, could the Doctor escort you to your quarters? I would like to dance with my date.”
Reluctantly, Kathryn pulled away from Chakotay. “Of course, Seven. My apologies for keeping him so long.”
“No apology necessary, Captain. The Doctor was instructing me.”
“Glad to hear it. Ready to go, Doctor?”
“Whenever you are,” he answered.
Kathryn decided not to touch Chakotay as she said, “Goodnight, Chakotay. Goodnight, Seven.”
“Goodnight, Captain,” they answered in return.
Kathryn walked towards the holodeck exit with the Doctor. As they passed by Susan and Deborah, the two ladies looked at Kathryn quizzically. As if sharing some sort of conspiracy, Kathryn paused and whispered, “The night’s not over, yet, ladies.” She didn’t try very hard to hide her smile as she caught up with the Doctor.
In the corridor, the Doctor said, “You weren’t as drunk as you were pretending, Captain.”
“Just trying to help Seven save some dignity, Doctor. After all, I was dancing rather close with her date.”
“Ah. Well, she’s about to break up with him, so I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Kathryn stopped in her tracks. “What?”
The Doctor rocked on his toes as he announced his big news. “Seven and I came to a mutual agreement to develop a more intimate friendship now that we’re home.”
Choked up, Kathryn coughed to clear her throat. “Really? What brought this on?”
“Well… I’m not one to kiss and tell….”
“You’re not? Wait… you kissed her?” Kathryn wished she hadn’t held back with Chakotay now.
The Doctor clapped his hands together, and whispered, “Well, not yet, I was speaking metaphorically. But I believe we will take that step soon.”
She took a deep breath. “That’s quite a turn of events. I guess I didn’t have to worry about her dignity after all. I was afraid she’d be hurt by what she saw.”
“You and the Commander? You mean…?”
“Perhaps so.” She didn’t want to give too much personal information away, but everyone who saw them dancing would already be suspecting.
The Doctor had a bounce in his step as they resumed walking to the turbolift. “That’s good news. Really good news.”
“Yes, yes it is.” She was very glad that things were working out for all of them. She thought of her older self who had sacrificed her life for them just hours earlier. Kathryn wished the Admiral could see how quickly things had turned out as she had hoped.
It wasn’t long after Kathryn got back to her quarters that Chakotay arrived, irked. “She dumped me.”
“The Doctor told me she was going to.” She tried to lead him to the couch, but he remained standing just inside the door with his hands firmly on his hips.
“She said I was too old for her, and that more than a few people had informed her of that fact.”
“And earlier you said she was like a child,” Kathryn pointed out.
“I know, but that wasn’t what our relationship was about.”
“Seven is still very immature, emotionally. She obviously doesn’t understand the concept of letting someone down gently.”
“Obviously. She could have spared me the details of why I’m an unacceptable love interest.”
She reached for his hand. “If it’s any consolation, I think you’re an ideal love interest.”
“Thanks.” He dropped his head and sighed dejectedly.
When he remained silent, she touched his chin to encourage him to look at her. “Is there something else?”
He took a deep breath before answering. “She said I was trying to turn her into a substitute for you, and after the way you and I behaved tonight, she accused me of using her to make you jealous.”
“So we hurt her feelings. I’m sorry, Chakotay.”
He winced. “Hey, I’m the one who asked you to dance and then heated it up with the rhumba.”
“It takes two to tango, right?”
“And three to really complicate matters.”
Kathryn stepped into his embrace. “Other than some bruised egos, I don’t believe this as complicated as you think.”
“This isn’t about my ego.”
“She could have used more tact, and we could have been more discreet. In the end, she’s with the Doctor, and you’re with me. I hope that’s an acceptable outcome for you?”
His head snapped up. “She’s with the Doctor?”
“That’s what he told me. They plan to form a more intimate friendship.”
Stepping away from Kathryn, he rubbed his neck. “She failed to mention that.”
“Did you mention me?”
“Well, no, but she was the one doing the talking. I was a bit too offended to say much of anything.”
He interrupted, “I’ve been dumped for a computer program?”
“He’s more than that and you know it. And have you forgotten that you were going to split up with her?”
“Of course not, but it’s the way she did it and what she said.” His voice grew louder. “I was not using her to make you jealous. I was only trying to help her, which is exactly what she asked for when she approached me last week.”
Kathryn asked, “This has only been going on for a week?”
“That’s beside the point.”
She didn’t understand why he was getting so worked up unless Seven had hit a nerve. “Is it possible that she was right?”
He locked eyes with her. “Are you belittling my feelings for you? The ones I’ve tried to keep hidden for seven very long years?”
“Chakotay, I would never…” A new guilt swelled inside her chest making it difficult to breathe.
“Forget I said that.” He rubbed his forehead.
“Don’t you know that I had no choice? We had to keep a professional distance because we bore the responsibility for the lives of every person on this ship!”
His voice cracked as he said, “Kathryn, I’m sorry.” He moved to hold her, but she stepped away.
She put up her hand to stop him. “I think you should go.”
“I don’t want today to end like this.”
“Neither do I, but it’s a little late for that.”
He tried to hold her again. “Please, Kathryn. I don’t want to mess this up for us.”
Her anger began to melt a little at the worried look in his eyes. Calmly, she said, “You haven’t messed this up. I just thought you understood how I felt.”
“Not completely, and I realized a long time ago that there wasn’t anything I could do to win your love. At least that’s what I thought.”
“Chakotay...” she said with a sigh.
“Nevertheless, I fell in love with you and tried to convince myself that our friendship was enough. When Seven suggested dating, I was just so tired of being alone.”
“I don’t fault you for going to her, even though it nearly broke my heart.” Kathryn moved into his arms again. “There were so many times that I wished…”
He folded her into his embrace and kissed the top of her head. “I wish I had known. Maybe we could’ve found a way.”
They held each other in silence for a long moment until Kathryn pulled away. “Let’s talk more tomorrow. We’re both exhausted and as much as I’d like to invite you to stay, this isn’t the time.”
He nodded in agreement. “This has been an extremely long day.”
“But a good one, overall.”
Smiling weakly, he said, “We’re home.”
“I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Goodnight, Kathryn. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She watched him leave and then went to straight to bed, too tired to give anything much thought.
The next morning, Kathryn and Ensign Wildman were hard at work in the ready room when Chakotay arrived. He said, “I didn’t expect you to be at work so early.”
Kathryn said, “I woke up at 06:00 and Sam was already in the mess hall when I arrived. She said she’d help me.”
“Naomi is so nervous, she can’t sleep. B’Elanna was kind enough to let her help with Miral this morning,” Sam added.
“How many messages have you received now?” Chakotay asked.
“Have you worked out a plan?”
Kathryn said, “She’s putting them into about eight different categories, and we’re going to ask Headquarters to handle press requests.”
“Sounds good,” Chakotay said. “Admiral Harris’ aide just sent word that he’ll arrive at 09:00, and would like to meet with you and me before adding the rest of the senior staff. The rest of the day, I’ll be making housing assignments, getting the crew packed, and preparing to disembark tomorrow.”
“I’ll be giving the admiral a tour of engineering and astrometrics, followed by a meeting with the top engineers at Starfleet regarding our enhancements.” Kathryn checked her schedule. “And then it looks like I have some time to get myself packed.”
Chakotay asked, “Ensign, would you excuse us for just a minute?”
Sam closed the computer interface and said, “Of course. I’ll move down to my quarters to keep working on this. Captain, I’ve got the category folders up on your computer so you can access them as you have time. I’ll notify you of anything that is extremely urgent.”
“Thank you, Ensign.”
“You’re welcome,” Sam said as she left.
Chakotay took Kathryn’s hand and drew her into an embrace. “There is something very important that I overlooked last night.”
“Oh?” She put her arms around his neck and pressed against him. “What’s that?”
“This.” He lowered his lips to catch hers in a full, deep kiss.
She felt like she was melting as his mouth tenderly connected with hers. His hand dropped low on her back and pressed firmly, his fingers gently caressing and arousing her. His lips were warm and wonderful, pulling her closer, tasting and savoring. She felt like she was melting into him.
After he broke the kiss, she slowly opened her eyes and said, “Definitely an oversight that needs to be tended to often.”
Resting her forehead against his cheek, she said, “I’m sorry about arguing with you last night.”
“You have nothing to apologize for. However, I need to be groveling at your feet, begging for your forgiveness.”
“No, you don’t. You were upset and you’d just had your feelings hurt. Besides, we were both exhausted.”
“What I should have done was shaken off what Seven said and come to you, happy to be free, and then made passionate love to you.”
Kathryn blushed and pulled her head back to look into his eyes. “Perhaps we should save that for Lake George.”
Mischievously, he said, “Oh, no. I don’t think so.”
He took her hand and opened her palm to his lips, placing a soft kiss on the sensitive skin. “Tonight is our last night on Voyager.”
Completely focused on the sensuousness of his touch, she only responded with, “Yes.”
He moved to the inside of her wrist and placed another kiss. “And we need to celebrate.”
Lowering her hand, he softly kissed her lips. “After dinner with the crew, I’ll come to your quarters, 22:00.”
“Mmmm…hmmmm,” she said as he kissed her again. She asked, “You’re sure that you want to jump into this tonight?”
“You’d rather wait until we know each other better?”
She smiled. “So that we can take this slowly and not rush things. Perhaps wait until we have our lives to ourselves before we share them with each other.”
“That’s one option.” He flashed her a dimpled grin. “However, I’ve dreamt of making love to you all over this ship. I’d like at least one of those dreams to come true.”
“22:00 it is, then.” She reached up and wiped a smudge of her lipstick off his chin. “Now go so I can make myself presentable again. I have some work to do before we meet with Harris.”
“Aye, my Captain.” He tucked a stray lock of her hair back into place, gave her a quick kiss, and said, “See you at 09:00.”
Kathryn walked back to her desk chair and slowly sat down, all the while thinking about what he’d suggested and the lingering warmth of his kisses. She had to admit that she had often wondered what kind of lover he would be, and judging by her response to his kisses, it was going to be one hell of a night. She took a deep breath to clear her mind and set to work.
“Captain Janeway!” Sam hurried down the corridor to catch up, a panicked look on her face.
“Wildman? Is something wrong?”
Shoving a PADD towards her captain, Sue said, “This came after lunch and I’ve been waiting until the admiral left to show you. We need to act as soon as possible. I almost called Commanders Chakotay and Tuvok, but I knew you’d want to see it first.”
Kathryn scanned the PADD quickly as Sam was talking. At first, she thought it was just another welcome home message, so she scanned to the bottom to see whom it was from. Her eyes shot up to Sam’s. “Teero!”
“He’s threatening you, Captain! Hasn’t Starfleet caught him yet? Is he sending this from prison?”
Kathryn put her hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Calm down, Ensign. I don’t know what his status is, but I will find out. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
“But Captain, he said that you’re going to fall from your glory! That your unholy reign is about to end! That your…”
“Ensign!” Kathryn snapped at the younger woman. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. That will be all.” Sam froze at her captain’s abrupt dismissal. Kathryn knew she had never been so stern with Wildman, but the ensign was panicking.
Sam nodded shakily and backed away. “Aye, Captain.”
“Ensign...” Kathryn called out. When Sam turned back around, Kathryn said, “Try not to worry. Teero is an unstable man and he’s probably just trying to drum up publicity for his cause. Trust me when I say that I will look into it immediately.”
“Thank you, Captain.” Sam nodded nervously as she turned and walked away.
Kathryn rubbed her neck as she resumed walking to her ready room. She mumbled, “And the afternoon was looking so quiet.”
She checked in with Paris on the bridge to confirm that they were still holding position just outside of Earth’s orbit. That done, she retired to her ready room to look into her newest challenge, Teero Anaydis.
The first thing she did was to query the Starfleet computer to see what the current status of Teero was. “Classified,” Kathryn read out loud. “Damn.” She tried several decryption methods, but got nowhere. She picked up the PADD to read his message.
<I>Greetings Captain Kathryn Janeway,
As you can imagine, I was astonished to hear of the remarkable event of Voyager’s appearance in the Terran system this very day. It is an occurrence that is most unexpected. On behalf of the thousands of slaughtered and imprisoned Maquis, along with the destroyed colonies that they protected, I am eager to use this opportunity to fulfill my stratagem to rid the universe of the most evil of oppressors.
My attempt to remove you from Voyager and eradicate your domination over the Maquis did not go as expected. Upon this realization, I began a new endeavor to make certain the future of the Maquis in full glory, both those on Voyager and those imprisoned on Earth. To accomplish this, your control over their actions is to be extinguished. Therefore, you will be extinguished. You will fall from your glory before it is realized. Prepare for your unholy reign to end. It is the will of the Prophets.
Teero Anaydis, Vedek of Bajor</I>
Kathryn put down the PADD and drummed her fingers on her desk. She had only skimmed it earlier, but now she understood Sam’s reaction. The letter was disturbing if not outright sinister.
Kathryn pulled the message up on her computer to initiate security protocols. She examined the path of the message header and determined that its network of origin was a civilian server used by colonies in Sectors 011 through 013, which included millions of sub-networks. She keyed in a few more search parameters and saw that it was rerouted through Sector 011 and that the actual origin was concealed. Without access to the network’s authorization and authentication protocols, there was little she could do to determine which systems were involved.
Taking a deep breath, she tapped her communicator. “Janeway to Chakotay.”
“Our visitors have departed and I have returned to the ready room. What’s your status?”
“I’m meeting with the science department to make arrangements with the Starfleet Science Institute. Afterwards, I need to check in with ops to see how packing is going. Is there something I can help you with?”
Kathryn hesitated, but replied, “I’ll fill you in later. Meanwhile, I’ll follow-up on the proposed debriefing schedule and forward it to you.”
“I appreciate that, Captain. We can discuss it over dinner.”
She could almost hear the smile in his voice. Knowing that he was in a room with a number of people, she ended the conversation. “Very well, Janeway out.”
Skimming the message from Teero once more, Kathryn tried to think of what she could do on her own without discussing it with Chakotay or Tuvok, but no one knew Teero better than they did. Tuvok had enough on his mind with his mental illness, and there was nothing Chakotay could do about the situation at the moment anyway.
She didn’t believe that Teero could endanger her while she was aboard Voyager or under the protection of Starfleet security during debriefings, so she decided to address the situation with Admiral Harris at the next opportunity.
She put the letter to the back of her mind to discuss with Chakotay that evening.
After a final dinner in the messhall with the senior staff, Kathryn was back in her quarters, packing up her personal belongings in the crates that had been left outside her door. She had already packed her ready room and brought all remaining work to her quarters. It was almost 22:00 and she was finishing up so she would be ready when Chakotay arrived.
Her stomach was in knots as she anticipated being intimate with Chakotay. And, of course, the impending debriefings, anticipated publicity, and reunion with her family were all in her thoughts as was the death threat. She picked up the PADD containing Teero’s message and sighed.
At dinner, Chakotay had sensed her anxiety and had pulled her aside to ask if everything was okay, but she had told him they had something to discuss in private. It hadn’t been the time or the place to bring it up.
She finished putting her books in a crate and decided to do the rest of the packing in the morning. It wasn’t five minutes later when Chakotay rang her chime. She had just stepped out of the sonic shower and threw on her robe to answer the door. “You’re early, and I’m not ready yet.”
As soon as the door closed behind him, Chakotay pulled her into his arms. “You look ready to me.” He kissed her softly, his mouth lingering against her lips.
She attempted to step away, but he wouldn’t let her go. “Just give me a minute. I want to get dressed.”
“Really, there’s no need. You can undress me, instead.”
Laughing softly, Kathryn responded with seriousness, “We need to talk, first.”
He let her pull away, but held onto her hand. “Are you having second thoughts? Is that why you were so quiet earlier?”
She placed a hand on his chest to reassure him. “No, definitely not. Not about us and not about tonight. But I do have something that I…”
“Shhh…” He folded his arms around her again and silenced her with a quick kiss. “Everything else can wait.”
She struggled with whether to force him to listen to her, but she knew it would ruin their evening together. He had told her earlier that he wanted a chance to make love with her at least once on Voyager, so she decided to tell him in the morning. “All right. It can wait until morning.”
He held her close. “I love you, Kathryn. I can hardly believe that I’m not dreaming.”
The love in his eyes made her decide to forget about anything else. “I love you, too.” Leading him to the bedroom, she said, “Computer, lights out.”
Kathryn woke slowly the next morning, content and sated as memories of the night before flooded her mind. She turned to see that Chakotay was gone, but the aroma of coffee assured her that he hadn’t gone far. She rolled to the side and hugged his pillow close, the scent of him still lingering on the soft fabric.
She felt the bed sag behind her just before he said, “Good morning.”
Turning over slowly to greet him, she replied with a satisfied smile. “A very good morning.” She sat up to receive the coffee he offered, holding the sheet against her naked chest.
“I heard you stirring, and I thought you might like this.”
She noticed that he didn’t look as happy as she thought he should. “Something’s wrong. What is it?”
“I couldn’t sleep, thinking about everything that needs to happen today, but I didn’t want to leave. So I finished packing your personal items in the living area, and then started going through your PADDs to see what needed to be finished up this morning.”
She released the breath she didn’t know she had been holding. “Ah. You found the letter.”
His jaw clenched and he rubbed his hands together roughly. “My God, Kathryn.”
She put the cup down on the nightstand and held his hands. “As soon as I see Harris today, I’ll show it to him and we can formulate a plan. Teero’s file is classified and I can’t tell if he’s loose or in prison somewhere.”
He shook his head. “You won’t see Harris until after we walk down the gangplank and across The Presidio through a huge mass of people with press everywhere.”
“Chakotay, we can’t change those plans just because a lunatic wrote me a nasty letter. So many people are looking forward to it.”
It was his turn to squeeze her hands. “Unless Teero is in a prison surrounded by at least a dozen telepathic armed guards, you are absolutely not going to take that walk.”
“Chakotay, you’re over-reacting.”
“No, I’m not. If Teero is looking for publicity, this would be a prime opportunity. It would be perfectly reasonable for Starfleet to decide that due to security reasons, the plans have changed.”
Getting angry, she said, “You know that I don’t tolerate threats and I’m not about to start yielding to them now.”
“Kathryn, the man is insane. You know that. Yes, he might just be trying to scare us, but if it’s anything else, this walk could be your last.” His eyes were piercing.
She pulled her hands away from his. “Have you thought about the message this would be sending him? Threaten me and I hide? He has to know about the celebration on the Promenade, and he’ll know that he’s the reason for canceling it. We’ve been faced with much worse without running away with our tails between our legs!”
“Think about how a suicide bombing might affect the families of our crew who had just seen their loved ones arrive home safely.”
“That’s enough, Commander.”
“Kathryn, don’t you dare pull rank on me right now! This is your life at stake!”
“Then you’d better watch what you say.” She grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around herself. “How could you possibly suggest such a horrific scene?”
“Because I’m afraid that is exactly what is going to happen. Of course, he won’t want to hurt any of the Maquis, so we should consider more focused attempts on your life.”
“Damn it, Chakotay!”
“I know you don’t tolerate threats, but I will not let you go out there today, even if I have to personally restrain you.”
She knew that she was not going to win this argument unless she pulled rank. And doing that today would cause a kind of publicity that she did not want to inflict on herself or on him.
“Did you at least notify Tuvok? He’ll want to know.”
Kathryn shook her head. “Tuvok is dealing with other things right now.”
“What other things?” The irritation in his tone of voice clear.
She hesitated before she explained, “He has a degenerative neurological condition. I don’t want to burden him.”
Chakotay looked away and closed his eyes. “I see. When did you learn of this?”
“Last week. My older self told me as one of the reasons why I needed to get Voyager home. He can get help on Vulcan.”
“And when were you going to share this with your first officer?”
“When it was clear that it affected his ability to do his job,” she stated.
“Uh huh,” he
replied. “Which means that he must still be able to do his job, which begs the
question of why you didn’t tell him about the letter.”
Kathryn rubbed her forehead and looked at Chakotay. Finally, she said, “You’re right. His condition is not affecting his ability to do his job, it’s affecting my ability to trust him to do his job, which is why he probably didn’t tell me about it in the first place.”
Chakotay said nothing, but it was evident that his anger was dissipating.
She conceded. “All right. Let’s call Harris as soon as I get dressed and see what the situation is.”
He closed his eyes and nodded in gratitude. “Thank you.”
She watched him in silence while she willed herself to accept her decision. She was angry with him for scaring her, but she realized that was what got her to listen. Reaching out to him, she squeezed his arm and said, “I’m sorry that you found the letter that way. I was going to break the news to you gently.”
He opened his eyes and looked intensely at her. “When?”
“This morning, after we got up.”
“When did you receive it?”
“Wildman brought it to me after Harris left yesterday.”
He sighed. “That’s what I thought.”
“That’s when you called me, and I was busy. And it’s not something you could have told me at dinner.”
“I wanted to tell you when you got here last night, but it would have ruined our time together.”
“I just wish…” He stopped talking with a shake of his head.
“You wish that I would have interrupted you by calling a red alert because my life had been threatened?”
His mood lightened slightly. “Well, that would have gotten my attention.”
“I know you still feel bad about the mutiny that Teero influenced, and in that letter, he’s using the name of the Maquis. I was worried about how you’d take it.”
He pursed his lips and nodded. “You had every reason to be concerned. It was a good thing that all of your breakables had already been packed or I would have smashed a few when I read that.”
She rose up to her knees and hugged him, the blanket dropping between them. “I felt like throwing a few things yesterday myself. And Sam was near-panicked when she gave it to me.”
“Is she the only one who knows?”
Chakotay rubbed her bare back. “I’ll discuss it with Tuvok this morning – he needs to know, even if he isn’t well. Keeping him in the dark will not help. The rest of the senior staff can be filled in if necessary.”
Goose bumps prickled her as he gently caressed her skin. “All right.”
“You need to get dressed.”
“I bet that’s the only time I’m ever going to hear you say that.”
He kissed her quickly. “You’re probably right. Get ready and I’ll replicate you some breakfast. Then we’ll call Harris.”
After he stood up, she said, “Thank you.”
“For what?” he asked.
“For understanding why I didn’t tell you yesterday.”
He sighed. “Then it’s good you didn’t wake up thirty minutes earlier. I wouldn’t have been so understanding.”
She assured him, “It’ll be okay.”
“It has to be.”
The goose bumps returned at the seriousness of his last words before he left the room. She was thankful that the letter wasn’t going to cause a rift in their relationship. Their conversation had proven that they could argue and come out trusting each other, although she needn’t have worried because they’d been doing it for years.
Ready to get to the bottom of the issue and solve the problem, she got out bed and jumped into the shower. It was going to be a long, but very exciting day.
“That didn’t go well.” Kathryn was sitting at her desk as she closed the computer interface. She had just spoken to Admiral Harris about the letter and he was furious that she hadn’t notified him immediately upon receiving it.
Chakotay was leaning against the desk and had participated in the conversation. “No, it didn’t, but now we know that Teero is still at-large. At least Harris is calling off our walk, although I’d rather he call off our landing too.”
She rested her forehead in her hand. “I really hate doing this to everyone.”
He rubbed her back gently. “They would understand if they knew.”
“That’s the problem. They won’t know unless something happens.”
“We better let the crew know about our change in plans.”
Kathryn nodded and tapped her communicator. “Janeway to all hands.” She paused for a moment to give everyone a chance to give his or her full attention. “Due to security precautions, after Voyager lands on The Presidio, we will be transported directly to the planned reception area inside Starfleet Headquarters. It is imperative that we protect the safety of the crew and the thousands of civilians waiting for us, so we will not be walking down the gangplank into the waiting crowd. I know this is a disappointment, but I’m confident that you’ll agree that we need to ensure everyone’s safety as we take this final portion of our journey together. Janeway out.”
“How many of them do you think are complaining about it as we speak?”
Chakotay pulled her to her feet and into his arms. “Only the ones who dreamt about being showered with publicity.”
She rested her hands on his shoulders. “At least this will move the day along. It would have taken us a couple of hours to move through the crowd.”
“Longer to round up the stragglers.”
“And we’re going to beam directly to the room where we were already planning to assemble. The crew’s families will know where to go. It’ll be fine.” Kathryn wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “You know, it’s really nice that I can hold you whenever I want.”
He nuzzled his lips against the side of her head. “Yes it is. These next few weeks are going to be difficult, but knowing that we’ve got each other at the end of each day will make it easier.”
Kathryn smiled against his ear and whispered, “With a nice long vacation when it’s all over.”
The senior officers took their places on the bridge for the final landing on the Presidio. While they were still gathering, Tom asked, “Captain, may I ask why our plans changed?”
Kathryn half-smiled in amusement. “You may always ask, Mr. Paris.”
“You just might not get an answer,” Chakotay added.
Harry said, “Don’t mind him, Captain. He was just hoping someone would carry him on their shoulders through thousands of adoring fans.”
Tom leaned back in his chair. “Can you imagine it? People from all over the Federation are down there, all gathered to catch a glimpse of the heroic pilot who flew the long-lost ship through the perils of the Delta Quadrant, at last bringing her safely home.”
“We owe it all to you, Mr. Paris,” Kathryn said sarcastically.
Harry suggested, “Maybe you could ask B’Elanna to carry you on her shoulders through the reception room?”
Kathryn looked at Chakotay who was trying not to laugh. “I am sorry to have dashed your plans, Mr. Paris, but we had to ensure everyone’s safety. The gathering crowd was getting too large to manage.”
Tom commented, “You’d think they would’ve anticipated a large crowd before they planned it.”
Harry said, “Incoming transmission from Starfleet, Captain.”
“Put it through, Ensign,” Kathryn responded.
Admiral Harris appeared on the main viewscreen and said, “Good afternoon, Captain. We’re just about ready for Voyager’s landing. As we discussed before, there will be a publicly broadcasted exchange between Voyager and Admiral Ross, Chief of Starfleet Operations that will include your permission to enter Earth’s atmosphere and the go-ahead to land on the Presidio. After the ship is secured, notify me and we’ll begin transporting the crew to the reception area, starting with you and Commander Chakotay. Any questions?”
Kathryn responded, “None, sir. We’re ready.”
The admiral nodded and said kindly, “Welcome Home, Voyager.”
“Thank you, sir. Glad to be here.”
“Stand by for transmission.”
Kathryn turned to the bridge crew behind her. “Everyone ready for this?”
Harry jumped in quickly with an answer. “Yes, Ma’am!”
She looked at Chakotay. “Stand with me, Commander.”
Chakotay rose and took his place to her left. “Always.”
Kathryn felt nervous that the entire Federation would see her in just a moment. She smoothed down her hair and straightened her jacket.
Chakotay whispered, “You look fine.”
She smiled up at him.
Harry said, “Ross is ready, Captain.”
Kathryn took a deep breath, quickly squeezed Chakotay’s hand, and said, “On screen, Ensign.”
The view screen was split between Admiral Ross and the crowd gathered on the Presidio. Ross said, “Good afternoon, Voyager!”
Kathryn waited to respond until after the waiting crowd’s cheer died down. “Good afternoon, sir.”
“Three days ago, you arrived in the Alpha Quadrant in an unprecedented blaze of glory. You do know how to make an entrance, Captain.”
Kathryn smiled, and as instructed earlier, said, “We are very glad to be home, and we were happy to deliver a crippling blow to the Borg Collective on our way.”
The crowd cheered again and Ross had to wait before speaking. “The Federation is delighted to welcome you home and we are all looking forward to hearing your stories and learning about your discoveries.” After pausing dramatically, Ross said, “Voyager, you have permission to enter Earth’s atmosphere and are free to land on the Presidio where an awaiting crowd is eager to welcome you.”
Waiting again for the boisterous crowd to express themselves, Kathryn replied. “Thank you, sir, and we’ll see you soon. Voyager out.”
As soon as the transmission ended, Chakotay said, “Well done, Captain.”
Kathryn rolled her eyes. “Let’s get this show on the road.” She and Chakotay returned to their seats. “Mr. Paris, blue alert. Vent plasma from the nacelles and prepare to activate atmospheric thrusters.”
Tom asked, “Permission to show off, Captain?”
Smiling broadly, Kathryn responded, “Permission granted, Lieutenant.”
Chakotay called out. “Ensign Kim, maintain full scans for unauthorized transports and any unusual energy signatures. Commander Tuvok, stay alert for any possible weapons discharge or tampering with ship’s systems.”
Tuvok replied, “Aye, Commander.”
Harry asked nervously, “Are we expecting to be attacked?”
Kathryn did her best to hide her disapproval of Chakotay’s orders. She did not think it was necessary to spook the crew during one of the most exciting moments of their lives.
Chakotay answered Harry. “I think it’s wise to take precautions. This is a highly publicized event and a large number of us were previously war criminals.”
Tom turned around quickly. “Is someone threatening the Maquis?”
Kathryn answered immediately. “No, Mr. Paris. Attend to your duties. Mr. Kim, there is no need to worry. Voyager is quite safe, but we don’t want any scheming members of the press getting on the ship.” She smiled at him to assure him that all was fine. However, she glared at Chakotay to let him know that she was not pleased.
Although the mood on the bridge was dampened by Chakotay’s orders and the resulting questions, the bridge crew was still joyful as Tom did his best to show off for the landing. Kathryn imagined that he’d been dreaming about this moment for days, if not years. Despite her displeasure with Chakotay, Kathryn took his offered hand across the console as the ship descended through Earth’s atmosphere.
Once the ship set down in San Francisco, Kathryn asked Harry to put her through to the entire ship. “Attention all hands. Before we disembark, I want you to know that it has been an honor serving with each and every one of you. This voyage has been a remarkable experience, and although it was extremely difficult at times, I will always remember the happy moments that we shared throughout the journey. The relationships we have developed will last a lifetime, and I treasure each of you like you were my own family. I look forward to meeting your loved ones and watching as you set out on your next adventures. Janeway out.”
Kathryn and Chakotay left the bridge to head to the transporter room. Alone in the turbolift and standing side by side, Kathryn asked, “Did you have to scare them?”
“I’d rather scare them than lose you.”
She sighed and shook her head. “Are you going to be like this until Teero is in custody?”
They exited the lift and walked down the corridor. Kathryn said, “My mom and sister should be waiting. I’d like you to meet them.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
She looked at him to see his reaction as she asked, “As soon as we’re free to leave San Francisco, would you come with me to Indiana?”
“I would love to. In fact, I was hoping our plans would coincide for the foreseeable future.”
“I’d like that.” She stopped just before the doors to the transporter room opened. Turning to him, she put her hands on his shoulders and rose up to kiss him. His arms held her gently as they lingered for a long moment. She looked into his eyes and said, “Thank you for staying by my side for these past seven years. I love you.”
“I love you, too. And there will be many more years ahead for us.”
She turned to trigger the door for the transporter room to open and stepped through saying, “Lucky me.”
They stepped up onto the transporter platform and Ensign Lang asked, “Are you ready, Captain, Commander?”
Kathryn looked at Chakotay and he nodded. “Ready as we’ll ever be. Energize.”
Deborah said, “It’s been a pleasure serving under you both. I’ll see you soon. Energizing.”
They materialized in a very large meeting room to see the crew’s families standing around the perimeter. Immediately, everyone in the room began applauding the command team, and Kathryn smiled broadly at them. She held up her hands to quiet them and said, “Thank you for the welcoming reception. It’s good to be home and I know you’re excited to see your loved ones. The rest of the crew will be here momentarily.”
Admiral Owen Paris walked up to Kathryn while she was talking. “Katie, welcome home.” He took Kathryn into a huge bear hug that she returned gladly. Owen let go and held his hand out to Chakotay. “Commander, it’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”
Chakotay nodded and shook Owen’s hand. “Thank you, sir. It’s my pleasure to meet my most inventive pilot’s father.”
Owen laughed and said, “I’ll take that as a compliment. Katie, there are two people waiting to see you.” He put his hand on her shoulder to lead her towards the circle of guests. “The families have strict instructions not to mob whoever materializes in the center of the room.”
As soon as Kathryn saw her mother, tears filled her eyes and she all but ran into Gretchen’s arms. “Oh, Mom.” They held each other for a long moment. Kathryn heard people commenting on the Janeways’ happy reunion around her, and then heard Chakotay and Phoebe introducing themselves to each other. Kathryn pulled back, wiped her tears away, and then lunged into a hug with Phoebe.
When the sisters finally let go, Gretchen held Kathryn at arm’s length and said, “Oh, Katie. Let me get a good look at you.”
Kathryn smiled and turned to look at Chakotay. “Mom, Phoebe, I’d like you to meet Commander Chakotay, my first officer, and very dear friend.”
Gretchen let go of Kathryn and pulled Chakotay into a hug. “Welcome home, Chakotay. It’s an honor to finally meet you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Janeway,” he said as they let go of each other. “It’s an honor to meet you as well. I’ve seen your picture, but I had no idea Kathryn resembled you so much.”
Kathryn turned around to the middle of the room as she heard a big commotion. Harry, Tuvok, Tom, B’Elanna, and Miral had just arrived and created quite a commotion with their relatives. Kathryn smiled and turned back to her family. “Things are going to get pretty lively in here.”
Gretchen said, “I am so glad you decided not to walk here from the ship. Did you see all the people outside? That would have been a nightmare.”
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay and said, “You can thank him for that. He was a little concerned about our safety outside.”
Phoebe looped her arm through Chakotay’s and said, “Good call. I like you already.”
As more crew arrived, the noise in the room got louder. Chakotay, Kathryn, and her family got closer together so they could hear each other. Kathryn asked, “Mom, if it’s okay with you, Chakotay and I would like to come to Indiana after the debriefings are over.”
Phoebe raised an eyebrow. “So this means that you two are an item?”
Kathryn held her index finger to her lips. “Not so loud, Phoebe. We don’t want the whole Federation to know yet.”
“That’s wonderful, Katie!” Gretchen said. “I was so worried that you were alone out there. You should have told me!”
Chakotay interjected, “This is pretty new for us.”
“Two days,” Kathryn added.
“What took you so long, Katie?” Phoebe asked, her arm still looped through Chakotay’s.
Kathryn smiled up at Chakotay, “Oh, just my own Indiana stubbornness.”
The three Janeway women and Chakotay talked until the rest of the crew arrived. After the last of the crew had a chance to find their families, Admiral Harris greeted Kathryn and led her to a stage at one end of the room. Attached to a large truss above the stage were a line of monitors, microphones, cameras, and other recording devices.
Admiral Harris said, “We’re going to do the boatswain’s pipe greeting and broadcast it out to the crowd.”
Kathryn asked, “Isn’t this overdoing it on the publicity?”
Harris clapped her on the back. “You’re a celebrity, and everyone wants to be part of the excitement.”
Kathryn turned to Chakotay who had followed her and Harris. “Could you find Crewman Nozawa for me?”
“Of course. Be right back.”
Kathryn turned to her mother and sister, who had also followed them over. “We’re going to do an old naval tradition for the public.” Kathryn pointed up to the cameras. “I’m not sure what happens after this.”
Gretchen said, “We were told that we could talk with the crew for the rest of the day, as long as we stay in here or in the dining hall of the adjacent building.”
Phoebe said, “Unless they have more publicity fun scheduled for you, Captain Katie.”
“I'm not sure, but there might be something I need to attend to.” She looked at her mom. “You’re sure that it’s okay for me to bring Chakotay home?”
Gretchen smiled and hugged her daughter. “Of course it is. He seems like a good man.”
Phoebe added, “And I need to get to know my future brother in law better.”
Kathryn started to say something, but Crewman Kashimuro Nozawa came up to them. “Captain, Commander Chakotay was delayed by Mr. and Mrs. Kim, but he said you needed me?”
“Yes, did you bring your Boatswain’s pipe?”
“Of course, Captain.”
“They want us to whistle ashore for the public.”
Nozawa nodded. “Very well, Captain.”
Harris returned asking, “If you’re ready, Captain?”
Kathryn said, “Just a moment. Commander Chakotay has my notes for my address.”
Phoebe interrupted, “I see him, Katie. You start while I go get him.”
Kathryn and Nozawa stepped up on the platform while Harris addressed the room. “Welcome home, crew of Voyager. We’re going to begin in just a moment with a whistle ashore which will be broadcast outside and on the Federation News Service. Stand by.”
Kathryn smiled at her mom while they waited for the broadcast to begin. She saw Phoebe coming forward with Chakotay just as Harris said, “Go ahead.”
Nozawa sounded the boatswain’s pipe in fine naval tradition.
Harris stood apart from Kathryn and called out, “Ahoy. Who goes there?”
Kathryn smiled and called out, “U.S.S. Voyager.”
Harris asked, “Your business here?”
“The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager requests safe harbor.”
“Welcome ashore, U.S.S. Voyager.”
Nozawa sounded the boatswain’s pipe again, and the room erupted in applause.
Kathryn shook hands with Harris and then Nozawa as each left the stage. She turned to the audience and then remembered that she didn’t have her notes. While the applause continued, Kathryn motioned to Chakotay and stepped forward to take the PADD from him. As she started to step back, she heard a large clanging sound above her and saw Chakotay’s eyes open wide in horror.
The applause stopped abruptly and the audience gasped. She started to look up, but Chakotay grabbed her arm and pulled her off the stage. As she was falling, she felt something heavy hit her back and pain shot up into her neck. As they hit the floor, Kathryn felt a sharp pain in her face so strong that she thought she was going to black out. Chakotay quickly rolled them out of the way of whatever had hit her and then covered her with his body.
When she stopped moving she felt a sharp pain radiating through her back, and the side of her face felt heavy and numb. The floor beneath her was spinning and Chakotay’s weight on top of her made it hard to breathe.
Chakotay rolled off and anxiously asked, “Kathryn? Are you hurt?” He brushed her hair away from her eyes. “You’re bleeding.”
She heard the Doctor’s concerned voice. “Captain, lie still while I scan you.”
Dazed, she lifted her head and brought her hand to her temple.
“Captain! Please don’t move!” the Doctor urged. “I need a medkit!”
She looked at her hand and saw blood. In the background, she heard Harris’s voice calling for security, and she heard several of her crewmembers keeping the crowd calm. She heard her mother’s voice, but Kathryn was so disoriented that she didn’t know where to look. As she lay there, she felt someone wiping the blood off of her fingers and someone else applying pressure to the wound on her forehead.
The Doctor said, “She has a concussion and a severe contusion to her lower back, but she’ll be okay.”
An unknown voice instructed, “Alert the Headquarters clinic to expect a patient. Doctor, a medic will be here in a moment.”
“What’s the delay?”
“Security locked down this room.”
The Doctor sighed heavily and then said to his patient, “All right, Captain, you can sit up. Your spine isn’t damaged.”
Kathryn felt a couple pairs of hands helping her into a sitting position, and then she closed her eyes to fend off the dizziness and the pain that radiated from her back.
“Give her a minute,” Chakotay said.
Kathryn followed the direction of his voice and leaned against him, letting him steady her. She felt a cold pack pressed against her back. Eyes still closed, she asked, “What happened?”
“The equipment truss fell,” Chakotay answered.
“The Commander pulled you off the stage just in time,” the Doctor added.
“Still broadcasting?” Kathryn asked.
“No, Katie.” Kathryn realized that the other person holding her was her mother. “The cameras all crashed with the truss.”
She opened her eyes slowly and saw three worried faces close to her. She looked at all of them and then past the Doctor to the platform. The heavy truss had crashed through the stage floor and the dust was still settling. Immediately she thought about Teero’s threat, but didn’t know if he could cause this. She slowly looked back at Chakotay with questioning eyes, but didn’t dare ask in front of her mother. He shook his head slightly, telling her that he didn’t know.
A medic arrived, but the Doctor wouldn’t allow him to tend to Kathryn. He took the hypospray that the medic was about to give her and examined its contents. “Are you insane?” he cried out.
Kathryn jumped at his outburst. Chakotay asked, “What’s wrong, Doctor?”
“He was about to give her a sedative. You never give a sedative to a patient with a head injury!”
The medic didn’t reply.
The Doctor shook his head and said, “Just give me the dermal regenerator.” The Doctor was handed the tool and before he even turned it on, the tool overloaded and sparked, startling her again. The Doctor dropped it and said, “Could someone get me a functioning medkit, please!” He picked up the regenerator saying, “It’s a good thing I’m not an organic or this would have burned my hand quite severely.”
Apprehensive about this chain of events, Chakotay said, “Doctor, let’s wait to treat her until we can get to a proper medical facility.”
The Doctor insisted, “As long as I will be the one treating her, that’s fine.” He muttered about the malfunctioning medkit and took out his own medical tricorder again to re-scan her.
Kathryn studied the eerily blank expression of the medic and anxiously said, “We need a security officer over here.”
Chakotay followed her sightline and then agreed, “You’re right. Kathryn, will you be okay for a minute while I speak with Harris?”
Kathryn nodded and then cringed at the pain that movement caused in her back.
After Chakotay led the medic away, Gretchen asked, “Katie, are you dizzy or nauseous?”
“A little dizzy, but it's passing.” She gave her mom what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “Did anyone else get hurt?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Gretchen looked around the room. “Looks like everyone is fine. They just seem to be worried about you and that fallen truss.”
“I’m right here, Katie.” Phoebe answered from behind Gretchen. “I’m just trying to stay out of the way.”
“You’re fine, Phoebe. I’m just a little disoriented.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Phoebe said. “Your Chakotay is some kind of hero.”
The Doctor interjected, “Yes, he is. The captain owes him her life many times over.”
Kathryn added, “I’m pretty sure it’s mutual, Doctor.” She realized that she hadn’t made introductions yet. “Doctor, this is my mother, Gretchen Janeway, and my sister, Phoebe Jenkins.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Doctor.”
Chakotay returned and quietly told Kathryn, “Admiral Harris has already assigned an investigator from Starfleet Intelligence.” He nodded towards the medic being taken into custody. “And he’ll start with the medic.”
The Doctor asked, “You think the medic intended to cause the captain harm?”
Kathryn said, “It’s unsettling that he was inept and arrived with malfunctioning equipment right after a major accident.”
Chakotay said to the group gathered around Kathryn, “Keep this quiet, all of you. No need to convict a man before he’s even questioned. Until we know otherwise, it was just a coincidence.”
Gretchen nodded. “Of course, Commander.”
Kathryn said, “I’d like to try to stand up and address the crew.”
“Take it slowly,” the Doctor said.
With the help of Chakotay and her mom, Kathryn slowly got to her feet. They had to steady her until the dizziness passed, but she was able to remain standing. The crew and their families applauded until Kathryn held up her hand to make them stop.
The Doctor told everyone, “She’s got a pretty bad headache.”
Kathryn smiled weakly and said as loud as she could considering the pain she was in, “Can you hear me if I speak without amplification?”
“Just barely,” someone from the crowd responded.
An ensign brought over a microphone for her to use. She took it and said, “Now can you hear me?”
“Yes!” came a chorus of replies.
“Well, life is an adventure, is it not?” Kathryn asked. After the rumbling agreements from the group gathered around her, she spoke again. “I think perhaps we might have been safer outside after all. Unless the sky were to fall.” They chuckled quietly.
“Despite this small setback, our arrival plans shouldn’t be changing. Take this day to spend time together. My comments on Voyager parallel what I was going to say here. It’s been an honor serving with each one of you, and I look forward to meeting your families and hearing about any plans for your next adventures.” Kathryn had to grab Chakotay’s arm because she felt faint. He put his arm around her waist while she finished speaking. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, the Doctor is going to help me find a medical facility and then I’ll join you for dinner. Have a wonderful afternoon.”
Harris stepped forward and said, “Commander, you may accompany the Captain. My aides will take care of your crew’s needs.”
“Thank you, sir.” Chakotay nodded and helped Kathryn walk out of the room. Gretchen and Phoebe followed as Harris began giving instructions to the Voyager crew about where to go next.
The Doctor had to argue with the medical staff, but was at least able to assist with Kathryn’s treatment. Afterwards, she wanted to rejoin the crew, but was out-voted and sent to her temporary quarters to rest for a few hours.
Once settled on her bed, Kathryn was lectured by the Doctor, “Contact me if you feel any pain or dizziness.”
Kathryn said, “I feel fine and perfectly capable of joining the rest of the crew.”
Setting a glass of ice water on the nightstand, Chakotay said, “Just humor him, Kathryn.”
“You’re not helping.” She eyed him with annoyance.
“Katie? Are you hungry?” Gretchen came in with a tray of food and set it on the bed next to her daughter.
The tray had more food on it than she could eat in a week. “A little, yes.”
“I found a linen closet, Katie.” Phoebe brought in a stack of pillows. “I thought we could prop these up behind you so you’d be more comfortable.”
The Doctor looked around and said, “Well, Captain, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of your three nurses. Do try to take it easy for at least a couple of hours.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Kathryn muttered. Her nurses took seats in her bedroom to watch over her. “Are any of you hungry? There’s more than enough food here.”
Gretchen said, “We’re fine. We ate not too long ago.”
Chakotay eyed her plate of food and picked up a croissant. “I’ll help.” He spoke to Gretchen. “I hope we didn’t worry you earlier.”
“Worry me?” Gretchen rolled her eyes. “I haven’t seen my daughter for seven very long years, and within an hour, she’s a victim of an accident for which you suspect foul play. Now why should I be worried?”
Kathryn said, “I don’t think we can discuss the situation with you, Mom.”
Gretchen waved her concerns away, “I’ve been around Starfleet enough to know when not to ask. And I’m not going to add to whatever stress you’re under by being a nervous Nellie.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Kathryn said.
“Commander, you’ve kept her safe for a long time. I trust that you will continue living up to my unrealistic expectations?”
Chakotay smiled. “I’ll do my best.”
“So, tell us about yourself,” Gretchen said. “We can take advantage of this quiet time and get to know you better. I doubt we would’ve had a chance to talk like this around the rest of the families.”
“All right,” he smiled. “What do you already know?”
Phoebe chimed in. “Dashing and upstanding Starfleet officer turned fearless Maquis criminal turned heroic Voyager first officer.”
Kathryn cleared her throat. “Yes to everything except the criminal part.”
“But you were sent to arrest me, darling,” he noted with a glint of humor.
“Darling?” she asked, one eyebrow raised. “Technically, yes. But…”
Gretchen interrupted, “I knew it!”
“Just like your father, you knew those Cardassians couldn’t be trusted. Not for a minute.”
Kathryn shared a look with Chakotay before continuing her earlier sentence. “Technically, I was sent to arrest him, but my plan was to retrieve my security officer and find out information on Chakotay’s activities.”
Chakotay picked up a piece of cheese and said, “Want to know what I think?”
While Kathryn’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, Phoebe leaned towards him and replied, “I would love to know what you think.”
Nodding towards the bed, he said, “I think her memory has been clouded by seven years of my influence.”
“Is that so?” Kathryn asked. “I, on the other hand, think my memory is as clear as a bell.”
Gretchen tilted her head. “I wouldn’t count on that, Katie. You did have a concussion earlier today.”
Chakotay asked Kathryn, “You don’t think that all this time working next to me and the other Maquis has given you a bias?”
She conceded, “Of course it has, but I find it difficult to believe that I would’ve arrested you based on false charges. After all, you resigned your position before becoming a Maquis, and your tribe had ceded their membership in the Federation, so technically, you weren’t breaking a treaty.”
“But you only know that because you’ve spent hours talking to me. Back then, you wouldn’t have had the time or the motivation to learn that about my past.” He bit off the end of a strawberry. “Mmmm, fresh fruit from Earth. Amazing.”
Phoebe asked, “How can you tell it’s not replicated?”
He held up a berry and pointed out a blemish. “It’s not perfect, and that makes it absolutely perfect.”
Kathryn reached for a strawberry herself and inspected it. “Oh wow, you’re right.” She bit into it and hummed happily as the juices ran down her chin.
Gretchen chuckled and said, “I’ll make a point to have only fresh foods while you’re in Indiana.” She stood up and suggested, “Commander, may I make a sandwich for you? Although, this turkey is most likely replicated.”
“No thank you, Mrs. Janeway. I'm a vegetarian.”
She faced him in surprise. “Are you really? I would never have guessed.”
“I am,” he confirmed.
Kathryn asked, “Why is that surprising, Mom?”
“Big, strapping fella such as this?” she said as she waved towards Chakotay. “You don’t strike me as the type, especially since you seem like such a fighter.”
He tugged on his ear and blushed a little. “Only when I have to be, ma’am.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Kathryn waved a finger at him.
“Oh?” Gretchen turned to her younger daughter.
“He’s a boxer,” she said, fighting a yawn.
Chakotay nodded. “Well, yes, but that’s just for exercise. I was referring to why I became a vegetarian in the first place. In my tribe, the young men were expected to participate in the hunts to gather the meat.” He reached for another berry. “As a youth, I wasn’t very interested in learning the ways of my tribe and tried to do just about anything to prove to my father that I wasn’t destined to be one of them.”
“Sounds like typical teenage rebellion,” Gretchen said as she eyed Phoebe.
Phoebe replied, “So I didn’t want to go into Starfleet. Is that really so bad?”
“Of course not, dear. You just didn’t need to go out of your way quite so often to make your point.” Gretchen returned her attention to Chakotay. “Go on.”
He smiled at Phoebe. “Anyway, my father said that if I didn’t participate in the hunt, I wouldn’t get to enjoy the spoils. I convinced myself that I was a vegetarian out of spitefulness and ever since, I haven’t been able to stomach meat.”
Gretchen asked, “Would it be too personal to ask about your family?”
“No, no, of course not,” Chakotay said softly. “My sister and my cousin are my only living relatives…”
Kathryn’s eyelids grew heavy and she dozed off listening to the comforting sounds of her family’s voices around her.
While Kathryn napped, she was aware of Phoebe leaving to be with her husband and daughter, and Chakotay leaving for a meeting with Starfleet Intelligence.
Later, she woke to a quiet room filled with the glow of sunset. The warm light, the absence of the sound of the ship’s engines, and the knowledge that she was truly off duty filled her with a sense of peace. She stretched languorously and groaned as her sore body protested, but she didn’t mind in the least.
Gretchen poked her head into the room. “Katie? How are you feeling?”
“Relaxed. The light is so gorgeous.”
Following her daughter’s gaze out the window, she said, “Yes it is. I'm afraid that I take it for granted.”
“I'm sure I never will again,” she said with a sigh. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Your commander left a little over an hour ago. You’ve been out like a light since.”
“My commander?” she asked with a smile.
“Isn’t he?” Gretchen stretched out on her side next to Kathryn on the bed.
“Well, yes. I suppose he is.” Kathryn felt almost giddy. “Mom, he’s a wonderful man. I’ve wanted to love him for so long.”
“Haven’t you? Loved him, I mean.”
“Yes, but not openly. I couldn’t. He was my first officer.”
She nodded. “I just didn’t believe that I… well, I just couldn’t.”
Gretchen brushed Kathryn’s hair away from her forehead. “You don’t have to explain. I'm happy to know that you had each other, and there’s no sense in fretting over the past.”
Looking into her mom’s eyes, Kathryn said, “I wished for you out there. Not that I wished you’d been there, but…”
“Me too, Katie.” Gretchen’s eyes teared up. “Me too.”
Kathryn’s eyes started filling too. “Look at us.”
“I'm just so glad you’re home. I won’t say that you’re safe and sound, but you’re home.”
“Yeah, about that,” Kathryn sighed.
“If you can’t tell me, don’t.”
“I shouldn’t, but I want to. An insane man is threatening me…”
Nodding, she continued, “I can’t explain the details, but security will be tight until he is found.”
“Do you know who he is?”
“Yes, but he won’t be easy to find.”
Gretchen thought for a moment and said, “We’ve beaten the odds before, and we’ll do it again, right?”
“Right,” Kathryn said with a smile.
Changing the subject, Gretchen asked, “All right then, if you’re feeling up to it, I’d like to go meet your crew.”
“Then let’s do it. I just need to freshen up.”
Kathryn and Gretchen arrived at dinner to a warm welcome from all the extended Voyager families. After mingling for about twenty minutes, Kathryn was very glad to see her two most senior officers joining the group and Chakotay making his way to see her.
He gently held her hands and studied her face. “How are you feeling?”
“I'm fine, really.”
“Getting asked that a lot?”
“By everyone. I was sore, but the Doctor has already fussed over me and given me an analgesic.” She pulled him aside. “Have you learned anything?”
“Starfleet Medical has agreed to let the Doctor work with them to compare the brain scans he took of the Maquis crew with those of the medic we detained. The medic’s C.O. says that his personality was definitely altered, much like ours were when we were under mind control.”
Kathryn nodded. “What about the truss? Any leads?”
“The metal had traces of nitric acid at the separation points so we know that it was sabotaged. They’re holding three people who had access to the crawl space above the ceiling for a medical exam and questioning, but their personalities don’t appear to have been altered, so we’re afraid that the perpetrator got away. However, we haven’t ruled out the possibility that their minds were affected without their knowledge.”
“So, what’s the plan? Wait for another attack?”
“There are a few leads that Intelligence is following up on, including security camera images from the past three days and they’ve got their best people tracing the message. Also, they’re checking all Bajorans and former refugees who are currently in the area.”
“I doubt he’d be that obvious.”
“I agree, but at least it’s a start.” He touched her back and nodded towards someone who was coming their way. “The Kims, and then we need to get something to eat.”
Kathryn turned around with a well-practiced smile. “Hello, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
Harry said, “Captain Janeway, I’d like to introduce you to my parents, John and Mary Kim.”
As they all shook hands, Chakotay said, “I know we didn’t get a chance to talk much earlier, but Harry has told us so much about you, we feel like we already know you.”
“That’s right,” Kathryn said, beaming. “I’d love to try your famous apple pie sometime, Mrs. Kim, and I’d love to see your sculptures, Mr. Kim.”
Mr. Kim asked with surprise, “He spoke of my artwork?”
Kathryn nodded. “Yes, he did. I believe his favorite piece is a pair of doves. Isn’t that right, Ensign?”
Joyfully, Harry replied, “That’s right, Captain. I'm surprised you remember, but then again, you dabble in art yourself.”
She shrugged, “Now and then.”
John Kim asked, “What medium?”
“Clay when I want to work out my frustrations or watercolors when I feel like relaxing. I'm not very good, but I do find it therapeutic.”
“Art is a wonderful form of expression. If you ever have a chance to visit us, I’d love to show you my gallery.”
“It would be an honor to see it,” Kathryn replied graciously.
Mrs. Kim asked, “Are you a musician as well?”
“No, although I certainly wish I were. I do enjoy listening to your son play, however.” She squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “His talents brought us all great joy.”
John Kim asked Chakotay, “And what about you, Commander? Do you dabble in any art form?”
“Sand paintings,” he replied. “It’s an art that my mother excelled at, and when I do it, I feel a connection to her.”
Harry commented, “There’s a beautiful piece in his office of the Arizona dessert. It glows like a sunset.”
“Thank you, Harry.”
Mary Kim asked, “Captain, are you feeling well after this morning? I’ve been so worried about you.”
“I'm fine,” she assured her. “It was just a bump on the head and a bruise on my back. Nothing the Doctor couldn’t heal, and I rested this afternoon which did me a lot of good. It’s been a very busy week.”
“Now, you can’t take these injuries lightly, Captain. You’ll find as you get older that women take longer to heal. A friend of mine had a fall and it took her six months to get back to normal because she didn’t take the time to rest.”
“Mom,” Harry tried to interrupt.
“Son, this is important. Captain Janeway hasn’t had older women around her in a long time to give her advice and I'm sure she’d like some.”
Chakotay tugged on his ear and tried to keep from smiling.
Kathryn said, “Thank you, Mrs. Kim, but I really am fine.”
“Have you had your bone density checked? I’ve met the holographic doctor and he seems like he’d be thorough. I prefer a female doctor because they understand our issues better.”
“He’s quite thorough, I can assure you,” Kathryn said with a chuckle. “Too thorough sometimes, but yes, my bone density is fine. Voyager’s doctor and a doctor from Starfleet Medical checked me this morning after the incident.”
Harry interrupted again. “Mom, Captain Janeway is one of the toughest people I know. I’d wager that she’s even stronger than most men, so you don’t need to worry.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Kathryn said.
Chakotay put his arm around her. “However, she hasn’t had dinner, so if you’ll excuse us?”
“Of course, Commander,” John said. “It was a pleasure to meet you both and I do hope you’ll visit us in South Carolina sometime.”
“I’d like that, thank you,” Kathryn replied.
That evening as Chakotay walked Kathryn back to her quarters, he asked, “May I come in?”
“Of course. I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes.”
Once inside, he asked, “With this change in our relationship, I'm unsure about what’s a given and what propriety should be. We have separate quarters, but do you want me to stay in them?”
“Yes.” She motioned to the sitting area and said, “We need to talk.”
“Oh,” he said as he sat on the uncomfortable couch.
Kathryn rubbed the back of her neck and yawned as she sat next to him. “I’d like to put our relationship on hold for the time being.”
“On hold?” He quickly leaned forward. “What exactly does that mean?”
“Don’t get upset, please,” she asked. “That’s the last thing I want.”
“All right,” he said, mustering patience. “Just tell me what’s on your mind so I’ll understand.”
“With all that’s going on, I'm feeling overwhelmed. And then with this Teero situation, my head is spinning. I didn’t expect that it would escalate into this type of scenario so quickly.”
Chakotay relaxed and opened his arms, inviting her to lie against him. “Come here.”
She went to him without hesitation. Once she was snuggled against him, she said, “I need you, but I can’t give you anything right now. It’s not fair to you, and this is exactly the reason I didn’t want to start this relationship on Voyager.”
Rubbing her back, he said, “Will you promise me two things? Three, actually?”
“Depends on what they are.”
“One, until we’re on leave and this situation is resolved, whatever you need from me, will you just let me know or will you just avail yourself of it? No questions asked and no explanations needed, all right?”
“That’s not exactly fair.”
“It’s fair because we don’t need to add a complicated relationship to everything else we’re dealing with. We know each other well enough that this should just be intuitive.”
“What about your needs?”
“I'm hoping that being able to hold you when we’re alone and knowing that we have the future to look forward to will be enough for now. However, if I need anything else, I’ll let you know. Will that work?”
“Yes. What’s promise number two?”
“Promise me that we will move forward with this relationship as soon as possible.”
She looked up and smiled, bringing their lips together for a simple kiss. “I promise. Now, what’s the third?”
“Wherever we end up living, we have to get more comfortable furniture. This couch, or whatever it is, is not good for cuddling.”
“Absolutely, I can definitely promise you that. I doubt that whoever designed the furniture for Starfleet had cuddling in mind.”
The next day passed without event as the bulk of the crew was given short debriefs and personal leave was arranged.
It wasn’t until the second morning in her temporary quarters that Kathryn noticed something suspicious. She was staring at her coffee cup when her door chime rang.
“Come,” she said with confidence, knowing that there were security officers stationed outside her door.
Chakotay walked in and joined her in looking at her cup. “Something wrong?”
“Yes,” she said as she set her favorite mug down with an annoyed sigh. “That lunatic ruined my lucky cup.”
He looked a little closer and saw that the plastic rim of the cup was disintegrating in front of their eyes. “Kathryn?” he asked with alarm.
As she put her uniform jacket on, she said, “I wouldn’t have even noticed that the coffee was poisoned if I’d left it in the ceramic cup that the replicator gave me. Whatever he put in there didn’t get along with mine.”
Chakotay rubbed his neck. “Did you order coffee or anything else from this replicator yesterday?”
“No, you brought me that wonderful mocha drink from the dining hall, remember? The rest of the day, people brought me coffee from other sources.”
“That’s right,” he said with a sigh. “Have you reported this yet?”
“Only to you, my dear.” She picked up her satchel and was ready to go.
Chakotay gave her a sideways glance that was half amusement, half relief as he tapped his commbadge. “Commander Chakotay to Admiral Harris. Code Three.”
“Harris here, Commander. Is there a problem?”
“Yes, sir. The captain’s replicator needs to be checked, and we’re leaving a cup of coffee on her table that needs to be taken to the lab, along with the empty replicated cup it originally came in.”
“Damn it,” he said. “We went over that with… nevermind. Did she drink any of it?”
“No, sir. She’s fine.”
“Have someone get her a tricorder and have her check everything before she eats or drinks it. Understood?”
Kathryn piped up, “I can assure you that I will, Admiral.”
“You all right, Captain?”
“I will be once I get a drinkable cup of coffee.”
Harris chuckled over the comm line. “Very well, Captain. We’ll see you shortly. Harris out.”
Before walking out, Kathryn looked back at her old, battered cup and said, “I think that cup had just enough luck to do right by me one last time.”
Chakotay put his arm around her shoulders. “I believe you’re right.”
Kathryn addressed her senior staff which was gathered around a table in a conference room at Headquarters. “Good afternoon. I called you here to find out how things are going and to give you a couple of updates.”
Tom glanced around the table and asked, “Shouldn’t Harris or someone from Starfleet be here?”
“No, I just wanted a quick meeting with my staff,” Kathryn replied. “Don’t worry, Harris knows.”
B’Elanna asked, “Is something going on? He’s been acting really odd, asking unusual questions every time he sees one of us.”
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay and then back at B’Elanna. “Questions such as?”
“Questions like what our position was on Voyager, as if he doesn’t know. And he asks vague questions about our backgrounds. He asked what professor I took quantum physics with.”
Harry added, “And he asked me where I studied abroad, not because he was interested, but like it was some kind of test.”
Tom nodded. “I’ve heard it from quite a few of the crew, Captain. It’s like he’s trying to catch us in a lie. Does this have something to do with the accident on the day we landed? Does he think one of us is responsible?”
Kathryn scratched her temple and sighed. “Well then, I guess we can skip the preliminaries and just get right to what I wanted to discuss. No, the admiral is not trying to catch any of you in a lie.”
Tuvok commented, “On the contrary, Captain. That is what the admiral is trying to do. In a manner of speaking.”
“What?” B’Elanna yelled.
Chakotay interjected before emotions escalated. “You all remember Teero Anaydis?”
“The mind control freak?” Tom asked.
“Yes, he wrote the captain a threatening letter before we disembarked, which is why…”
Harry interrupted, “…why we changed the landing plans. You were afraid he would try something.”
Tuvok said, “We believe he was indirectly responsible for the collapse of the truss that nearly cost Captain Janeway her life.”
Kathryn said, “And this morning, the coffee that came out of my replicator was laced with acid.”
The Doctor jumped up and came at her with his tricorder, “You didn’t tell me that! How much of it did you consume?”
She held out her hand to forestall him. “None of it. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had.”
Chakotay stated. “We felt that it was prudent to let you know what’s going on because now that there have been two attempts on the captain’s life, we expect there to be more.”
Tuvok continued, “The questions that Admiral Harris has been asking are to find out if you’re under mind-control. We suspect that the personnel that have been responsible for the two incidents thus far were under mind control, just as the former Maquis on Voyager were.”
“We do we only suspect they were controlled? Why aren’t we certain?” Tom asked.
Chakotay replied, “Only one individual has been detained thus far, and yes, he was definitely under mind control. We only have suspicions regarding other possible perpetrators.”
Kathryn stood and walked towards the window. “I need all of you to be vigilant about watching each other and watching the rest of the crew. You’ll know when someone is acting suspicious without arousing more suspicion in the process. Admiral Harris wants to put us on lockdown, but I believe that we’re more likely to catch Teero if he has access to me.”
“But Captain,” the Doctor said.
She faced her staff, putting her hand on Chakotay’s shoulder. “I understand the risks, but I also know that I'm surrounded by people who are keeping a very close eye on me and who will help me get medical attention as quickly as possible should the need arise.
“We’re dealing with an insane individual here. If we cut off his only avenue to me, he’ll find another one that is possibly more destructive or one that could endanger the lives of civilians. We need to avoid that at all costs. Understood?”
“Yes, Captain,” several replied.
“With one, possibly two more attempts, Starfleet Intelligence could pinpoint and isolate how Teero has managed to break through our security.”
B’Elanna asked tentatively, “What do you suppose his plans are once he has succeeded?”
Chakotay replied, “We believe he wants to recruit me to restart the Maquis, and he thinks the captain is standing in his way.”
“Why restart the Maquis?” Tom asked.
“Revenge?” Chakotay suggested with a shrug. “He mentioned in his letter that he wants to rid the universe of an evil oppressor. I believe he’s speaking about the Federation or the Cardassians.”
Tuvok noted, “However, we’ll catch him before he fulfills his plan.”
“That’s right,” Kathryn said with assurance.
As Kathryn was about to enter her quarters that evening, she made eye contact with both security guards, just to assess their mental awareness. “Lieutenants, how are you this evening?”
“Just fine, ma’am.”
“Fine. Do you need anything, Captain?”
“When was the last security sweep of these quarters?”
“Nineteen hundred hours. Everything checked out.”
Looking at both again, she decided they were cognizant. “Very well. Thank you, gentlemen.” As she went inside, she heard one of them make a report that she had entered her quarters for the night.
Using her tricorder, she made her own sweep and found nothing out of the ordinary. Still, she was on edge because she expected another attempt against her life to come at any moment. She took off her uniform, turned on the sonic shower, scanned the shower before she got in, cleaned herself as quickly as possible, and then put on sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Still anxious, she made herself a cup of herbal tea and scanned it. Finding nothing, she decided to go ahead and drink it. However, before she brought it to her lips, she decided to do one more test. She placed a drop of the tea on a plant leaf to see if it would react. She watched it for about five minutes before she said to herself, “You’re going crazy. You know that, don’t you?”
She left the tea and walked out of her quarters. “Gentlemen,” she said in greeting to the officers standing sentry.
“Captain,” one responded.
“I’ll be back,” she said hesitantly.
“Of course, ma’am.”
She looked at their eyes again, but didn’t see anything suspicious. As she walked down the corridor, she listened to see if they would report her leaving, but they didn’t.
Kathryn arrived at Chakotay’s quarters and rang the chime.
The door opened to reveal him wearing almost the exact same thing as she. “Kathryn? You okay?”
“May I come in?”
He stood aside quickly. “Of course.”
Once the door closed behind her, she said, “I would like to invoke promise number one.”
It took him a second to comprehend, but then he smiled softly. “Sure, what can I do for you?”
“I don’t feel like being alone in my quarters.”
“All right, let me grab a few things and I’ll go back with you.”
She nodded and then changed her mind. “No, let’s just stay here. I feel safer.”
“Security hasn’t done a sweep here.”
“True, but Teero doesn’t want to hurt you.”
He took her hand and led her to the bedroom. “You’re right. Let’s get some sleep.”
They crawled into bed and he spooned up behind her, nestling her in his arms.
“This is nice,” she said.
“Are you comfortable?”
“Very. I might get a little warm, but for now, I love this.”
Chakotay reached up and drew her hair back away from her neck so he could place a soft kiss below her ear. “I love this, too.”
“Keep going with kisses like that, and we might find ourselves in a compromising position.”
He chuckled. “Is that a bad thing?”
“Normally? No. I just get the feeling that I'm being watched or that at any moment, something’s going to happen. I don’t want to be caught with my pants down.”
Tightening his hold on her, he said, “I understand, and I’ll keep you as safe as I possibly can.”
Chakotay woke to the sound of his door chime and Admiral Harris coming inside hurriedly, “Commander! Wake up!”
He jumped out of bed and hurried into the living area. “What is it?”
“It’s Janeway! Sensors have detected a poisonous gas in her quarters. We can’t get in, and transporters can’t find a lifesign to lock onto. Engineering is attempting to cut through her door now.”
Before he had a chance to respond, Kathryn came in from the bedroom. “There isn’t a lifesign because I'm here.”
Harris breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God.” He started to tap his commbadge.
“Wait, before you call off the team, I think we should use this as an opportunity to fake my death.”
Both men looked at her as if she were crazy. “Kathryn?”
“Look, he’s just going to keep trying until he succeeds, and I'm tired of it. Make arrangements to transport me in there at the last possible second. Have the rescue team pull me out, pretend that I'm dead, and hide me someplace safe. Then, maybe Teero will contact Chakotay and make his next move.”
Chakotay nodded. “She’s right.” He turned to Harris. “The only way to assure her safety is to get her off his radar. He thinks she’s in his way, so let’s take that out of the equation.”
Harris said, “All right. We don’t have much time. Captain, I’ll have an oxygen mask transported in here, put it on, and be ready to transport into your quarters. Commander, come with me and be ready to put on a show.”
Chakotay turned to Kathryn to say something, but she waved him on. “I know, but you have to go. Be careful.”
Once the men were gone, Kathryn brushed her fingers through her hair and rubbed the sleepiness out of her eyes. She took calming breaths and tried to relax. When the oxygen mask appeared on the floor in front of her, she grabbed it, switched it on and held it to her face. It was only a moment before she felt the tingle of a transporter beam grab hold of her. She closed her eyes and held her breath.
Once she materialized in her quarters, she saw that it was full of an orange gas that made her eyes burn. She squinted and made her way to her bed to lie down. Seconds later, she heard the medical team breaking through the door.
Only one medic came into her quarters. He yelled through his own oxygen mask, “Keep that mask on until I tell you to drop it. If you breathe any of this, you’ll start coughing.”
She nodded her understanding.
He picked her up and when she reached up to help him, he yelled, “Captain, you have to be dead weight!”
“Right,” she yelled and sagged in his arms as he moved towards the door.
He yelled, “Hold your breath and drop it.”
She did as instructed and they moved out into the corridor.
The medic called out, “We’re clear!”
She took that as a signal to carefully let out the breath she was holding. Immediately, she heard Chakotay anxiously call out her name and the commotion of a huge group of people watching what was happening. She even heard a baby crying, which she assumed was Miral.
Kathryn was placed on a stretcher and a medical team went to work. She had no idea how they managed it, but alarms were going off as if the equipment wasn’t registering any vital signs at all. An air mask was placed over her face again, one that would pump air into her lungs, but it was placed so that any air pumped would escape against her cheek. Nodes were placed on her forehead and a medic yelled, “Clear!”
For a moment, Kathryn panicked, afraid that an electric surge would run through her body, but nothing happened. Since that’s exactly what they wanted it to look like, it was okay.
Chakotay yelled out, “Do something! Hang on, Kathryn!”
The medical team increased the voltage of the charge and pretended to shock her again. She thought they were doing a terrific job of trying to save her life, and if she really were dying, she would’ve applauded their effort.
Kathryn heard B’Elanna say, “Chakotay, you’ve got to give them room to work,” and her heart went out to her friends who didn’t yet know that this wasn’t real.
The alarms continued to blare in absence of a lifesign until finally, someone said, “Time of death, twenty-three forty-seven.”
“NO!” Chakotay shouted as he dropped to his knees beside her.
Someone told him, “I'm sorry Commander. She was exposed to the gases for too long. There’s no neural activity and her blood is saturated.”
Tom, who was trying to quiet Miral, yelled out, “Nanoprobes! Surely we can use nanoprobes to reactive her brain. Where’s Seven? Where’s the Doctor? Someone call them!”
Admiral Harris took Tom and the doctor in charge of the medical team aside saying, “Paris, tell us about these nanoprobes.”
Chakotay removed the oxygen mask from her face and kissed her softly on the lips. With a pained whisper, he said, “Oh, my sweet Kathryn.”
She whispered, “Tell our friends.”
Brushing her hair away from her face, he found some tears and let his body shake.
B’Elanna knelt down and wrapped her arms around Chakotay, “They need to take her. Maybe Seven and the Doctor can help at Starfleet Medical.”
He nodded and caressed Kathryn’s face one more time before he slowly stood, watching over her prone form as two medics crossed her arms and spread a blanket over her body. The entire medical team transported away, leaving a bereft group of bystanders in shock over what they’d just witnessed.
B’Elanna wrapped her arms around Chakotay. “I don’t know what to say.”
Holding her, he whispered into her ear, “Don’t react, but it will be okay. This is a ruse, but we don’t know who is watching.” Chakotay held B’Elanna tighter as she jerked in surprise.
“Damn you!” B’Elanna whispered angrily.
Admiral Harris came over to him and Chakotay pulled away from B’Elanna. Harris said, “Commander, my condolences.”
Chakotay nodded and made a show of wiping his eyes. “Thank you.”
The Admiral squeezed Chakotay’s shoulder. “I’ll take care of her arrangements. Try to get some rest and I’ll contact you in the morning.”
“One of us should contact Kathryn’s mother before Mrs. Janeway hears about it in the news.”
Harris nodded. “I’ll talk to Gretchen.”
Rubbing his eyes, Chakotay nodded. “What about Kathryn’s quarters?”
“Security is handling it. Get some rest, Commander.” Harris called for transport and beamed away.
Chakotay looked around at all the people who were waiting for him to say something. Quietly, he asked himself, “What do I tell them?”
Tom heard him and handed Miral to her mother. He addressed the crowd, “We’re all in shock over what has just happened and like you, I want some answers. But we’re not going to get any right now. Instead of focusing on that, let’s each think about how Captain Janeway has touched our lives. Go back to your quarters and try to get some sleep.”
“Thank you,” Chakotay mouthed to Tom as he came back over to where he was standing with B’Elanna.
“You’re welcome. You looked at a loss for words.”
Harry came up, shaking his head in devastation. “I don’t believe it.”
The four of them gathered close so that only the senior officers currently living in the temporary quarters were included in their circle. Tom whispered, “Chakotay? Did you tell B’Elanna?”
“How did you find out?” she asked.
“They wanted me to pipe down about the nanoprobe technology.”
Harry asked, “What am I missing?”
Chakotay hugged him and whispered into his ear much like he had with B’Elanna. “Don’t react, because we don’t know who is watching. The captain is fine. This is a ruse.”
He closed his eyes and sighed in immense relief.
B’Elanna demanded to know, “When did you plan this?”
“Spur of the moment,” Chakotay replied.
Harry whispered, “Aren’t we worried that Teero can read our thoughts?”
Tom shook his head. “Bajorans aren’t telepathic. That’s the reason he performed the mind control experiment on Tuvok in the first place and why he used him to communicate with all of the Voyager Maquis. Even at that, Vulcans usually have to use a mind meld to communicate with non-telepaths.”
Chakotay’s mouth opened with sudden realization. “That’s it. He’s got to be using a telepath here at Headquarters to do his communicating for him.”
“Speaking of Vulcans, where is Tuvok?” B’Elanna asked.
“He’s meditating at a Vulcan monastery tonight,” Chakotay replied. “He hasn’t been feeling himself lately.”
“I thought something seemed a little off with him,” Tom replied.
Harry asked, “So what now?”
B’Elanna said, “Come back to our quarters and we can grieve together. We’ve got two bedrooms and a long couch so we can all talk for a little while and then get some sleep.”
Once Kathryn and the medical team rematerialized, the sheet was lifted and a physician said, “All right, Captain, you can breathe normally now.”
She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Never realized how difficult it is to look like I'm not breathing.”
He smiled and said, “I'm Dr. Beck and we’re at Starfleet Medical. Since you were in that gas for a few minutes, I’d like to run some scans to make sure you really are okay.”
Nodding, she noted, “It made my eyes burn.”
“Mine too,” said a man who was setting up a scanner at her side.
Kathryn looked at his rank and asked, “Were you my angel, Commander?”
“I was,” he said with a smile. “Lieutenant Commander Nicholas Andrews, at your service, ma’am.”
“Thank you.” She looked around. “Thank you, all, for the dramatics and for what I'm sure would have been a very heroic rescue attempt should I have actually needed it.”
Beck said, “Let me assure you that we wouldn’t have stopped so soon had you actually been in crisis.”
“Good to know.”
Andrews asked, “I don’t suppose we can ask why we were faking your death, can we? If word of this gets out, the Federation is going to be one unhappy place.”
Kathryn furrowed her eyebrows. “We haven’t decided how to handle publicity yet, so if anyone asks about the details, your reply is ‘no comment.’ And since you obviously know that I'm alive, I can tell you that we’re trying to draw out a suspect who has made several attempts against my life.”
Beck scanned Kathryn’s eyes and said, “Let me run a regenerator over these, and we’ll see if we can lessen the irritation. Andrews, we’ll do the same for you once we’re done here.” As he worked, he explained, “That gas you two were exposed to was nasty stuff.”
“Do you know what it was?” Kathryn asked.
“Yes, we were studying it while engineering was trying to break down the door. It was a combination of chemicals that are used as cleaning solvents and landscaping fertilizers throughout the grounds. Separately, they’re inert. Combined properly, they’re lethal.”
“Same thing with the coffee this morning.”
“Coffee?” he asked as he finished with her eyes.
“My coffee was tainted with an acid that the replicator would normally produce as a solvent.”
Beck glanced at his scans again and said, “Were you treated for that earlier?”
“I didn’t drink any of it, although everyone seems to be sure that I must have.”
He put his tricorder down. “I suppose we’re just being overly cautious.”
At that moment, a nurse commed the room, “Doctor Beck, Admiral Harris wishes to speak with you immediately, but I told him that you’re with a patient. He said it’s a matter of urgency.”
Beck looked at Kathryn for approval. When she nodded, he said to the nurse. “Send him in.”
As Harris came in, Beck said to Kathryn, “All right, Captain. You can sit up.”
“How’s she doing?” Harris asked.
“Fit as a fiddle.” Beck told his patient, “I don’t see any systemic damage from the exposure. You might find that your eyes and skin continue to be irritated over the next twenty-four hours, so I’ll give you eye drops and an analgesic lotion. Let me know if they don’t suffice.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
Harris addressed everyone in the room. “Do I need to state the obvious that what you’ve witnessed tonight is confidential?”
He received “No sir,” in reply from everyone.
“Should anyone ask, you are not to confirm or deny her death, you are simply to reply, ‘no comment.’ We do not want news of her death to spread like wildfire. Understood?”
“Understood, sir,” Beck replied.
“If any of you encounter a coworker fishing for information about Janeway or who appears to be in a mind-controlled trance, alert Dr. Simpson here at Starfleet Medical immediately.”
Harris asked Beck, “Are you finished with the captain?”
The doctor handed her a bag with the medication in it and said, “Yes. She’s free to go.”
“All right then, if you’ll excuse us, I’d like a word with the captain alone before we transport away from here.”
The medical staff filed out immediately, all of them stealing last glances at their famous patient as they went.
Once alone, Harris asked her, “Kathryn, are you sure you’re all right?”
“I'm perfectly fine, Admiral. I can assure you that it takes more than a few death threats to rattle me.”
He shrugged and said, “I don’t know why I should expect otherwise. After all, you are the formidable Captain Janeway who survived the perils of the Delta Quadrant.”
“Is that what they’re calling me upstairs?”
“Something like that. We haven’t had a chance to talk alone yet, but I must say that you’ve earned a great deal of respect among the brass and they have definitely noticed you.”
She smirked. “Noticed me? Well, I should certainly hope so!”
Smiling in return, he said, “So, here’s where we stand. I’ve spoken to your mother and filled her in on our little farce.” He held up his hand to stop her protest. “I refuse to lie to Gretchen Janeway.”
“I'm glad to hear it.”
“For tonight, you’re coming home with me. Midge has the guest suite ready for you. If you’re comfortable with us, you’re welcome to stay until this situation is resolved. If not, we’ll put you in a Starfleet safe house or maybe Owen Paris will let you use his vacation home. We’ll work it out.”
“Thank you, Admiral.”
The next morning, Chakotay was transported to a private residence to see Kathryn, but he didn’t know where. As he materialized on the lawn, he looked around and saw that it was a secluded location with plenty of forest around. In fact, he couldn’t see another building in any direction. The house appeared modest in size, but he couldn’t really tell how far back into the trees it extended.
Before he had a chance to ring the door chime, Admiral Harris came out and said, “Good morning, Commander. Come on in.”
“Thank you, Admiral. Is this your home?”
“Yes, it is. Please make yourself comfortable.”
“It’s a beautiful location. I’d ask where we are, but I don’t want to compromise Kathryn’s safety by knowing.”
“Then I’ll be happy to tell you all about it once this mess blows over.” He directed Chakotay down a hallway. “Kathryn’s back here having breakfast. Have you eaten?”
“No, actually, I haven’t. I didn’t want to face the rest of the crew in the dining hall this morning.”
“Understandable. Let’s get you something, and then we’ll get down to business.”
When Chakotay entered the room where Kathryn was sitting, his world seemed right again.
She turned to him with a huge smile, looking very relaxed and at home in the sunny, glass enclosed room. “Good morning. Did you sleep well after I left?”
Not willing to hide their relationship from Harris after the night before, Chakotay leaned down and gave her a simple kiss. “No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t.”
“You look hungry. Did you go back to your quarters?” she asked as she began preparing him a plate.
Harris watched the two of them interact with amazement.
“No, the three musketeers drew me into their nest and we stayed up until two talking. I eventually fell asleep on the bed in Miral’s room.” He topped off her coffee before he sat down and she passed him the sugar.
“What’s B’Elanna’s take on this?” Kathryn asked.
“She’s ready to knock heads together, of course.”
“Tom had an interesting observation though.”
“Oh?” Harris asked.
“We need to be looking for a telepath. Teero needs one to communicate for him because Bajorans don’t have that ability. On Voyager, he used Tuvok, and only when Tuvok was able to overcome the mind control was he able to rein us back in.”
Kathryn’s coffee cup paused in mid-air. “So someone who is telepathic at Headquarters has to be starting and stopping the mind-control. That’s the only way it would work.”
“Right,” Chakotay confirmed. “And the person is probably Vulcan since that’s the species he used for his mind experiments. Teero has to be near enough to send this telepath into work every day under his control.”
Kathryn asked, “Is it possible that Teero is hidden inside Headquarters somewhere?”
Harris replied, “Intelligence has ruled out that scenario, but after last night, I think it’s worth revisiting.”
“Regardless,” Kathryn said. “I'm confident that he will seek you out now, Chakotay. Are you ready?”
“The ‘oppressor’ that he referenced in his letter – my gut tells me that he’s talking about Cardassia. Do we have any intelligence on whether they are regaining strength, Admiral?”
“They aren’t, Commander. And trust me when I say that we are aware of the situation.”
Kathryn said, “But that doesn’t mean Teero isn’t seeking revenge for their war crimes. He wouldn’t care if they aren’t a threat anymore.”
Chakotay nodded. “The Cardassian occupation of Bajor was brutal and I can fully understand why any Bajoran who endured their torture would have a hard time letting it go.”
Harris said, “The peace treaty doesn’t ask Bajor to forgive Cardassia. It merely calls for a ceasefire.”
“I realize that,” Chakotay agreed, “but we’re dealing with a psychotic individual. Terms like ‘peace’ and ‘ceasefire’ aren’t in his vocabulary. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn that Teero’s psychosis is a direct result of Cardassian medical testing. They left a lot of mental instability behind. And unfortunately, the Maquis seemed to attract some of those individuals.”
“Which brings me to one of my concerns, Commander.” Harris sat down and topped off his own cup of coffee. “Is anyone from Voyager’s crew mentally unstable?”
He and Kathryn both shook their heads. “Not anymore,” Kathryn replied.
“Not anymore?” Harris asked.
“We had a couple,” Kathryn explained. “But because of the trials we went through, we found them within the first two years of our time together.”
Chakotay said, “Not everyone we came home with is Starfleet officer material, but they are intelligent, hard workers, mentally stable, and very loyal to both of us.”
Harris looked at Kathryn. “Should I ask this in front of the Commander? Are you loyal to Chakotay because you two are intimately involved?”
“I think you just did.” She set her coffee down and said quite clearly, “Chakotay and I decided to act upon our feelings only when we returned to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“You really expect me to believe that?” Harris held up a hand. “I'm not criticizing you, it’s just not believable. You know each other too well.”
Chakotay noted, “We worked side by side for seven years. We ate almost every meal together, and we were each other’s closest confidants.”
“Look, here’s the bottom line,” Kathryn stated. “If I didn’t trust Chakotay, I wouldn’t have given him my love. It doesn’t work the other way around. Not for me.”
“Fair enough,” Harris said. “I suspect this is going to get dicey and I don’t want there to be any questions about who we do and do not trust.”
Chakotay said, “The tricky part will happen when Teero takes control of my mind. That’s what I don’t know how to avoid, nor do I know how to regain control.”
“Tuvok will help,” Kathryn said. “It’s going to be hard on him with his diminishing mental capacity, so I don’t want to use him until we absolutely have to. This is personal for him, so I know he’ll do what he can.”
Kathryn spoke to Chakotay. “You should talk to the Doctor. See if his exams from your experience showed anything that would’ve made it possible to regain control, either on your own or with medical assistance.”
Chakotay nodded. “He and Dr. Simpson from Starfleet Medical are already working on that.”
“Right,” she said with a sigh. “I'm just trying to think of what we can do to help you. I know that we didn’t talk about it after the fact, but do you remember your actions?”
“Yes, it was like a bad nightmare.” He rubbed his eyes.
“Did you have any control, at all?”
“I don’t know, but I like to think that it was my choice to hand Tuvok a malfunctioning phaser rather than a working one.”
She reached across the table and squeezed his hand. “I like to think so, too.”
Harris asked, “Was there a driving purpose behind your actions or did it feel as if every movement was programmed?”
“It was more of a driving purpose.” Chakotay took a drink of coffee before continuing. “One where logic and deductive reasoning weren’t part of it. For example, the drive was to get rid of the Starfleet crew and then take Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant.”
Kathryn eyed him over her coffee cup. “I would’ve wished you all the luck in the universe.”
“Exactly,” Chakotay replied. “It was not a practical scenario by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps Teero thought Voyager was out in the Delta Quadrant on some kind of joy ride or classified Starfleet mission. I like to think that I had some influence on how I was planning to get rid of the Starfleet crew. Certainly, dropping them off on an M-Class planet was a humane option and not one I would associate with Teero.”
Harris asked, “Do you think he expects you to take control of Voyager now?”
Kathryn nodded. “I think it’s very likely. Let’s get the shipyard started on some modifications to Voyager today.”
“What kind of modifications?” Harris asked.
“What’s the status of the ablative armor and the transphasic torpedoes?”
“They were removed as of yesterday. We can’t let that kind of technology sit around.”
“Agreed. Then make sure she’s space-ready, remove as much classified material as possible, and make it possible for Chakotay to hijack her. Remove her torpedoes, but don’t leave her defenseless. Give her shields and phasers. If they come up against Cardassians, I want them to be able to defend themselves. If they come up against Starfleet, I don’t want them hurting anyone.”
Chakotay asked, “Shouldn’t we be making this harder for Teero, not easier?”
“I don’t want you killing anyone, but I want to see what Teero’s ‘stratagem’ is. He’s got something planned to destroy his perceived enemy and I want him stopped before he does it. If we stay ahead of this situation, we can control it.”
Harris said, “Kathryn, we might need your help with Voyager today.”
“Great, put me to work. Might not be a bad idea to get some of the original Starfleet engineering and ops crew onboard to help as well. If it’s okay with you, I believe we should suspend debriefings while the crew grieves the loss of their captain.”
“We can do that.”
Kathryn said, “Chakotay, have a conference with the former Maquis and let them know what’s going on, short of the fact that I'm alive. Perhaps knowing what they’re up against will give them an advantage when and if it they fall under Teero’s control.”
He asked, “Should we talk to the ones who are in prison as well?”
Harris said, “I can’t imagine that they’d be able to break out.”
Chakotay noted, “Yes, but it’s also hard to imagine that someone would be able to attempt murder inside Starfleet Headquarters.”
“Good point. Is there one person in prison you think we should talk to? A leader?”
“A friend – Svetlana Korepanova.”
“Very well,” Harris said. “Sounds like we have some work to do. Let’s see what the day brings and reconvene tomorrow morning if necessary.”
Kathryn nodded. “Admiral, may I have a moment alone with Chakotay?”
“Of course.” He stood and looked around. “I’ll just, uh, go somewhere else.”
Once the admiral left, Chakotay asked, “Kicking a man out of his own dining room?”
“This is called the breakfast nook, actually. Isn’t it lovely?” She looked around. “I could live in a place like this.”
“You definitely look at home here.”
She shrugged. “It’s not so much the size of the place, just the natural setting. Too many years looking at gray walls, I guess.”
Chakotay asked, “You doing okay after last night? Any ill-effects?”
“My skin is a little itchy, but I'm fine. It’s really strange though.”
“My hunch that something was going to happen. That’s why I came to your quarters.”
“I'm certainly glad you did.”
“Me, too. How’s the crew taking it?”
“They’re devastated, of course. It’ll be good for at least some of them to see you on Voyager today if we can make that work.”
“Just have to keep it quiet.”
“They will. We can trust them.”
“Absolutely.” She took his hands across the table again. “And you know that I trust you, right? Without any reservations?”
“I do, Kathryn. But if I lose control of my mind…”
“I'm anticipating that you will lose control, but I know that you won’t be responsible for your actions. I’ll take precautions that you’re not going to know about.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”
Grinning, she asked, “Have you ever known me not to have a backup plan?”
“No,” he said with a smile. “I just hope that whatever I do doesn’t make things worse.”
She took his hand and held it between hers. “Whatever happens, wherever he has you go, I will bring you and every member of my crew home safely. We’re in this together, Chakotay. Just like you told me last night when I was feeling apprehensive, I’ll keep you as safe as I possibly can.”
Chakotay stood and invited her to join him. “Let me kiss you, just in case this is our last time to be alone for a while.”
“If you insist,” she said as she eagerly stepped into his embrace. As soon as their lips touched, she melted against him.
Kathryn had just installed a homing device in the bowels of Voyager when she returned to engineering. As soon as she walked in, all conversation ceased.
She looked around at her crew’s shocked expressions. “As you can see, reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Some applauded, some whooped, and others just laughed. Harry and Tom shared an amused look at the crew’s reaction.
Brooks asked, “Does Chakotay know, yet? Poor man was in bad shape last night.”
Kathryn replied, “He knew at the time. He was even talking to me while I was supposedly dead.”
“Wow, I didn’t know he could act that well.”
Kathryn smirked. “He did a good job, didn’t he?” She motioned for her people to come over. “Gather around.”
Once they were near enough for her to talk to, she asked, “What do you know about why you’re here?”
Seven replied, “Our orders are to prepare Voyager for launch. Are we going on a mission?”
“Yes and no.”
“Explain,” Seven demanded.
Vorik stated, “And if I may be so bold, we are also interested as to why none of the former Maquis are here.”
“Commander Chakotay is meeting with the former Maquis at Headquarters. Torres knows that I'm alive, but the rest of the Maquis do not. We’d like to keep it that way.”
Seven asked, “May we tell anyone else?”
“No,” Kathryn said. “Here’s the situation. You recall when the Maquis were under mind-control from a Bajoran called Teero Anaydis? Most of you were attacked by your fellow crewmen and imprisoned aboard this ship.”
Ashmore asked, “Is Starfleet prosecuting them because of that incident?”
She shook her head. “No, but Teero has made an appearance and has attempted to assassinate me several times this week. He has the notion that I'm somehow preventing the Maquis from reforming. Now that I'm out of the way, we believe that he will make contact with Chakotay and put the Maquis under mind control again. Our goal today is to prepare Voyager so that Chakotay and his team can hijack her.”
“Excuse me?” Tom asked. “We’re what?”
“You heard me. We need to draw Teero out of hiding and find out what his ultimate plans are, and the only way to do that is to let him carry out his plan. We’re taking a big risk, but one that I believe will pay off.”
Seven asked, “Should we sabotage Voyager to make it difficult for them?”
“No, but I do have specific instructions on how I want Voyager prepared. After we’re finished, I need all of you standing by to go with me to another ship. However, you’re not to tell anyone else, specifically not the former Maquis.”
“Understood, Captain,” Vorik stated.
“Divide yourselves into teams so we can make quick work of this. I don’t know how long we have to do this, so let’s get it done.”
Kathryn hadn’t seen Chakotay since that morning two days earlier at the admiral’s house. They’d decided to keep away from each other, not knowing when and if Teero would make a move. Voyager was ready, and the guards surrounding the ship were minimal. Seven had encrypted most of the ship’s computer system so that only navigation, weapons, power, and life support were available for use.
Meanwhile, Kathryn and the original Starfleet members of her crew were aboard a ship named the Astra, holding position at Utopia Planetia. It was a small science vessel that only had half a crew and was between captains. Starfleet had given Janeway temporary command so that she could follow Voyager when and if it was hijacked by the Maquis.
Seven had already worked her magic on the propulsion system to boost the Astra’s speed up to warp seven in an emergency, and with their modifications to Voyager, Chakotay wouldn’t be able to get past warp six.
They were on the Astra’s bridge, going over the ship’s systems when Tom asked, “How long do you think we’ll have to wait for something to happen?”
“I'm having trouble being patient too, Mr. Paris. We just have to be ready.”
Harry asked Tom, “Have you talked to B’Elanna?”
“Not since Tuesday. I miss her and Miral like crazy, but I know she misses Miral worse.”
Kathryn said, “There’s really no reason that B’Elanna has to be involved in this. She could stay at your parents. It might even make our jobs easier.”
Tom breathed a sigh of relief. “I would love that. B’Elanna will hate it, though.”
Harry pointed out, “If there is anyone who could break through Seven’s encryptions on Voyager, it would be B’Elanna. If she’s not there, we have a better chance of success.”
Seven stated, “My encryptions were based on Lieutenant Torres’s abilities. She will not break them.”
Tom said, “You often underestimate my wife. However, she'll be furious if you take her out of the action, Captain.”
Kathryn nodded and told Harry, “Open a secure channel with Admiral Harris.”
They waited a long moment until Harry announced, “Channel open, audio only.”
“Harris here, channel secure. What is it, Captain?”
“I have a request.”
“Would you pull Lieutenant Torres and find a way to get her to the Astra?”
Harris hesitated. “Will she go willingly?”
“Tell her that the mission will have a greater chance of success if she’s not fighting against us. At first, make her think she's being put on leave, though. Don't let her know she's coming here until she arrives.”
“All right. Anything else?”
Kathryn stood up. “An idea just occurred to me. Let’s provoke Teero and see what happens.”
“How do you propose we do that?”
“After Torres is secured, I want you to place the Voyager Maquis under house arrest. Come up with some crime like, uh…”
Harry interrupted, “…charge them with your attempted murder, Captain.”
“That’s good,” Kathryn replied. “Chakotay will know they are false charges. If Teero has the ability to lock down my quarters, he has the ability to unlock theirs. He’ll know the Maquis are being wronged and that may infuriate him.”
“It’s worth a try,” Harris said. “We’ll do it in two hours, when all of the Maquis are together in the dining hall.”
“Good, hopefully they won’t be on lockdown long.”
Kathryn told her crew, “All right, I suggest we take a dinner break. Things might get interesting tonight.”
“It’s about time,” Tom said.
Dalby slid into the seat across from Chakotay. “Something’s up, Chief.”
His fork stopped in midair. “A lot of things are ‘up.’ Would you be more specific?”
“Notice who’s not here?” he asked as if it were obvious.
Chakotay sighed in exasperation. “If you have something to say, then say it.”
“Sorry, sir. I know that you’re, well, I know that you were close to the captain.”
Chakotay leveled a glare at the younger man. “Who’s not here?”
“It’s Torres. They took her away this afternoon.”
“I'm aware of that.”
“Do you know where they took her?”
“No, I do not.”
“Is she in some kind of trouble?”
“No.” Chakotay took a drink of his water. “You recall what we’re expecting to happen, right?”
“Of course. You think we’re going to be put under mind control by that Bajoran nut job again, but this sitting around doing nothing is driving us crazy. What are we doing here?”
“We’re waiting.” He stretched his neck. “Personally, I'm glad Torres is out of the picture because it means our chances for a successful mutiny against Starfleet just plummeted and it also means that if our plans of coming out of this unscathed backfire, Miral will still have a mother. Whoever decided to remove Torres from the action has my thanks.”
“I heard Torres was pissed.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
Before anything else could be said, Admiral Harris and a contingent of armed security officers came into the dining hall and over to Chakotay’s table.
Unsure what was going on, Chakotay stood. “Admiral?”
“Commander Chakotay,” Harris said loudly. “I am hereby placing you and the Maquis personnel from Voyager under house arrest, effective immediately.”
His mouth dropped open in surprise and it took him a moment to reply. “Under what charges?”
“Conspiracy to commit murder against Captain Kathryn Janeway.”
Chell threw his tray off his table and yelled, “This is preposterous! The commander would no more hurt Captain Janeway than he’d hurt a fleedle!”
Dalby yelled, “You
can’t do this!”
The entire room went into an uproar.
Chakotay raised his fingers to his mouth and whistled to get everyone’s attention. Once they quieted, he yelled, “That’s enough! Now listen up, people. I don’t need this behavior from you right now and Captain Janeway would be appalled if she were here. We’re merely under house arrest pending charges. Neither I nor any of you, have been officially charged. All this means is that we are to go back to our quarters and we’re staying there. So get up and follow the nice security officers back to your cozy little rooms. And stay there. That’s an order. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” they said with distaste.
Harris held out a hand to stall Chakotay as the others moved on ahead. Chakotay pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed his face in exasperation at the immature behavior of his officers. Once they were out of earshot, he said, “Sorry, sir. They’re on edge.”
“I know. We all are.” He nodded towards the exit of the dining hall. “Walk with me.”
Chakotay asked, “I take it the removal of Torres was my friend’s idea?”
“Yes, as was this charade. She thought a little provoking might stir some action.”
“I thought so. These false charges have her name written all over them.”
“Literally,” Harris cleared his throat, trying not to smile. “We expect you to be approached by a telepath. Don’t resist. Voyager is ready.”
“And you’ve got my back?”
“Yes, and we know that you’ll be unable to control your actions. All you need to do is lead us in the right direction.” Once they turned the corner into the living quarters, Harris said, “Now, it would help this look a little more convincing if you were to act as irate as your crew was about these charges. I promise I won’t take offense.”
“All right, but you asked for it.” Chakotay stomped off and then turned around and yelled at Harris. “And another thing. You can take your lazy ass back up to your golden office and go to hell!”
“Commander!” Harris yelled after him as he stormed into his quarters. “Commander Chakotay!”
B'Elanna marched onto the Astra's bridge and glared at Kathryn. "I should be with the Maquis."
Tom stood up and went to his wife. "I'm glad you're here."
She blew out a frustrated breath. "It's not where I belong."
Kathryn said, "We have a better chance of succeeding with you on our side. And we have to succeed."
"That's what this is about?"
"That's what this is about." Kathryn stood and directed the younger woman to the engineering station. "I want you to help both us and the Maquis without having your mind controlled by Teero. I need you operating at peak performance, not focused on whatever evil plan he has up his sleeve."
She relaxed her shoulders and looked at her husband. "I thought you were coddling me again."
Tom cringed. "Can I at least confess that I missed you?"
"Hmph," B'Elanna said as she sat down at the terminal. "We'll discuss how much, later."
Chuckling, he said, "You can count on it."
Kathryn said, "Let's catch you up to speed."
"Thanks." She looked up at Kathryn and added, "Oh, and I'm glad you're not dead."
With a wink, she replied, "Me, too."
Harry announced, “Captain, we’re receiving a secure message from Admiral Harris. Audio only.”
“Put it through.” Kathryn rubbed her chin as she listened. “Go ahead, Admiral.”
“Security monitors picked up movement outside Chakotay’s quarters, but instead of drawing him out, individuals went in. They’ve been in there for twenty minutes.”
“Three. One Bajoran, one Vulcan, and Chakotay. I’m tempted to arrest them, but I wanted to confer with you.”
Kathryn’s eyes narrowed. “It’s too easy. I highly doubt the Bajoran is Teero.”
“That’s why we’ve waited. We sense it’s a trap to see if we’ll jump on them.”
“Status of the other Maquis?” Her fingers tapped on the arm rest.
“On lock down in their quarters.”
“Any movement in New Zealand?”
Kathryn looked to Tuvok. “Do you have any input?”
“Logic dictates…” He paused as he thought.
When Tuvok said nothing else, Harry offered, “Captain, if Teero has something like a weapon of mass destruction, shouldn’t we let this play out so we can find out where it is?”
Tuvok nodded. “Yes, that is what logic would dictate.”
On the comm line, Harris said, “I agree with your officers, Kathryn. We should continue to let this play out. I have Dr. Beck standing by in case we see any fluctuations in the commander’s life signs.”
Kathryn blinked. “Thank you, Admiral. Keep me informed.”
Tom turned around from the helm. “I wonder if Chakotay is resisting the mind control.”
She shook her head. “He knew it was coming.”
“That doesn’t mean he isn’t fighting it at a subconscious level.”
Kathryn leaned forward and laced her fingers together. She studied the view screen where the image of Earth spinning on its axis glowed brightly in front of them. “He’ll let it happen, Mr. Paris.” She admitted to herself that she was worried that Teero’s men were trying to read his mind to learn if Starfleet had set a trap.
She considered for a brief moment that faking her death at a later time could’ve kept Chakotay in the dark, but that action might also have hardened his heart so much that he would’ve no longer cared about the outcome of the mission. Not to mention, it would’ve been cruel and would have undermined the trust that they’d built.
Regardless, she was out of the way now, and she hoped that would appease Teero. He just might be cocky enough to think that the Maquis could defeat her. After all, he knew that it was Tuvok who had overcome the mind meld last time, not Chakotay. Or did he know that? She rubbed her lips as she thought about that revelation. What did Teero think happened out in the Delta Quadrant? She narrowed her eyes and whispered, “Doesn’t matter. He has no idea who he’s dealing with.”
“What was that, Captain?” Tom asked.
“Hmmm?” She looked at her helmsman.
“You said something.”
“Oh.” She smiled. “Just that Teero may think he can take on me and the entirety of Starfleet, but he has no idea who he’s dealing with.”
“Damn straight!” Tom nodded with assurance.
In the darkness of his temporary quarters, Chakotay was pushed forcefully into one of the chairs at his dining room table and then his hands were tied harshly behind his back. He instinctively struggled against his captors, even though it is what he had expected. Losing control over his mind was a real fear for him and no matter how much Kathryn insisted that she was watching over him, he couldn’t help but worry that there might be permanent brain damage from what was about to take place.
A Vulcan that he didn’t know positioned his fingers on Chakotay’s face and said, “It is counter-productive to struggle, Commander. This won’t hurt.”
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Initiating a meld so that I may read your thoughts.”
Chakotay looked past the Vulcan to the other person standing in the room. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“Never you mind, Commander. Or should I say, Captain?”
“I gave up that title a long time ago.”
“And we’re going to help you get it back,” the man said as he came into the faint light cast by the reflection off the moon.
“You’re Bajoran,” Chakotay said as he tried to shake the Vulcan’s fingers off his face. “Are you Teero’s accomplice? Did you kill Janeway?”
“An unfortunate, but necessary step in this process.”
“Why?” he demanded.
“Because you love her.”
“Go to hell,” Chakotay spat.
The Bajoran got up in his face. “You see, Vedek Teero knows that’s why you were able to resist the mind control last time. That inexplicable connection between lovers is a strong one. Without that connection, he will succeed. You will lead a resurrection of the Maquis and you will bring redemption to Bajor. Vedek Teero is most certain that victory will be ours and you, yes you, will share in that glory.”
“I will have no part of this.”
“Oh, but you will.” The Bajoran looked smug as he made a grand sweeping gesture with his hand. “And you’ll be a hero to all of the Bajoran people.”
Chakotay struggled again in his bonds, trying to break free.
The Bajoran yelled, “Vulcan, do you what you’re told. Initiate the meld!”
As the cold fingers touched his face, Chakotay forced his mind to shut down. This mind meld could blow the whole operation. As much as he tried not to think about their plans, that’s exactly what came to his mind. It was damn frustrating, like telling someone not to think about cats.
Chakotay couldn’t resist as his gaze was drawn into the black pools of the Vulcan’s eyes.
In his mind, he suddenly heard the Vulcan’s voice. <I>‘Let me in and we can help each other. I am also being forced against my will. The Bajoran cannot hear our thoughts.’</I>
Surprised, Chakotay stopped fighting and listened to the man. <I>“Teero Anaydis has a Tricobalt weapon set to detonate on my home colony of Deneva Prime. If I do not cooperate, he will murder millions of people.”</I>
Chakotay asked, <I>“Can you hear my thoughts?”
“Do you know if he plans for us to board Voyager?”
“Yes, that is the plan.”
“Pass a message about your colony to one of guards for Admiral Harris. If the guard is unconscious, place it in his hand.”
“Is Captain Janeway alive?”</I>
Chakotay cleared his mind, not wanting to give an answer.
The Vulcan released the meld and turned to the Bajoran. “I probed deeply, but it appears that Starfleet is in shock over Janeway’s death. They are debating their next step and they are holding the Maquis until they can complete an investigation.”
“You see,” the Bajoran said as he came over to Chakotay. “Starfleet holds nothing for you, Captain. They intend to put you in prison with the other Maquis. Join us and bring retribution for their many wrongs.”
Chakotay glared at the Bajoran. “I’d rather take my chances with Starfleet. They’re not insane.”
The Bajoran backhanded Chakotay across the face. “Vulcan, initiate the mind control.”
The Vulcan stepped between the Bajoran and Chakotay and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
On the Astra, Harry reported, “Captain, we’re receiving a coded message from Harris.”
Kathryn stood and turned around. “What does it say?”
“Stage two is in progress.”
Nodding, Kathryn took a deep breath and said, “All right, people. This is it.”
“We’re ready, Captain,” Tom replied.
She retook her seat and crossed her legs. “Harry, can you put the image of Voyager on the view screen?”
The ship that had been their home for so long was docked at Utopia Planetia. Her stay on the Presidio had only lasted a few hours as Starfleet rushed to get the ship full of technology secured in a less visible location. However, one of the changes that Kathryn had made was the location of the docking port. Voyager was now in a less secure position than she had been while the ablative armor had been removed.
Kathryn didn’t know how the Maquis would get up to the orbiting station, but she knew that either Teero had already figured that out or that her people would come up with something.
They waited in silence for what seemed like an hour, but in fact it was only about half that time when they saw some movement on the screen in front of them.
Harry announced, “Sensors are picking up additional life-signs on Voyager’s docking bay.”
“How’d they get there?” Tom asked.
“Unknown,” Harry replied.
Kathryn said, “Focus the image on the boarding ramp and magnify. I want to watch for any visual signals.”
Tuvok said, “They’re under mind control, Captain. They would not give visual signals.”
“Very logical, Commander, but I still want to watch them.”
Once the view screen had the image positioned where she wanted it, Kathryn stood and walked a little closer. The Astra’s screen was smaller than Voyager’s and she was used to having the image fill up more of her line of vision.
She breathed in sharply when she saw flashes of phaser fire take out the security guards on the boarding ramp, but relaxed as the green glow made it evident that they were using stun settings. She was reminded how Chakotay had told her that although Teero's directive had been to eliminate the Starfleet crew, he had made the decision regarding how it was to have been accomplished.
A dark head led the way and Tom shouted, “There’s Chakotay!”
Kathryn nodded and watched carefully as her first officer keyed in the access code that would enable them to board Voyager. His first and second try didn’t work, but his third did. She had left their command code rotation in place, but the days had passed so the code wasn’t the same as when they had disembarked. She smiled as she mumbled, “That code will work there, commander, but it won’t break Seven’s encryptions onboard.”
Tom chuckled beside her. “Give them an inch and they expect a mile.”
“What?” Kathryn asked, not taking her eyes off the view screen.
“Old cliché from an ancient measuring system.”
She frowned at his explanation, but watched as the other Maquis followed Chakotay onto Voyager. At the end of the line were two men she didn’t recognize. “Harry, can you magnify any further?”
The image was pixilated, but she could see the glint of jewelry on one man. “He’s Bajoran. Is that Teero?”
Tuvok said, “No, Captain. I don’t believe so.”
“How can you tell?”
“Teero Anaydis has a diminutive build and is quite spry. He’s also very suspicious of those around him. This Bajoran is robust and appears confident in self-assured in his bearing.”
Kathryn watched the second man as he held back. He was checking the life-signs of one of the downed guards. The Bajoran spoke to the other man and waved as if to tell him to hurry along. When the second man boarded Voyager, Kathryn was able to identify his species. “He’s Vulcan.”
“Affirmative, Captain,” Tuvok replied. “And his behavior toward the downed security guard is illogical considering the circumstances.”
Harry asked, “Because he cared whether the guard was still alive?”
“Yes. I suspect that he was either troubled by the violence, he was hesitant to board the ship, or he was seizing an opportunity for communication.”
Kathryn spun around to face Tuvok as she considered his suspicions. “Harry, send an encoded message to Admiral Harris. We need to know if the Vulcan left a message with that guard. He was probably in Chakotay’s quarters earlier this evening.”
Tom said, "Voyager's main power is coming online, Captain."
"All right." She took her seat, neatly crossing her legs. "Let's see what they do."
"What do you predict?" the helmsman asked.
"An attempt to pick up additional crew in New Zealand."
"Ah yes, my old stomping ground."
Kathryn smiled at him. "And I can only think of one or two days when I wondered if I should've left you there."
"Only one or two?" He laughed. "I bet Chakotay could add a few to your list."
"None from recent years, I can assure you." She turned to Harry. "Anything to report?"
"No ma'am." Harry ran his fingers over his display, systematically checking everything. "Wait, yes. They've accessed Voyager's primary systems now. Engines are powering up."
Tom asked, "Are they going to crash out of the docking port?"
Alarmed, Kathryn said, "Alert Utopia Planetia to lock onto the life signs of station personnel and transport them to safety."
Knowing they couldn't risk using Kathryn's voice, Harry opened a com signal and relayed the instructions himself. In only a moment, the downed security guards were transported away.
Kathryn breathed a sigh of relief and then braced herself as she watched Voyager's nacelles brighten in color, indicating that warp drive was online. It was difficult to watch her ship from the outside, even though she knew that Chakotay was in command. Well, as much as he could be considering he wasn't in full control of his actions.
Only a moment later, Voyager's impulse drive kicked in and the ship burst out of the docking ports, destroying the dock that had held it and making a few deep gouges in the outer hull of the ship. Kathryn cringed as she thought of the lives that action had almost cost, relieved that Tom had voiced his concern.
Harry announced, "We received a report from Admiral Harris. There's been a breakout at Auckland, as you predicted. They aren't sure how many Maquis escaped during the initial blast so he wants us to monitor how many are transported away. The penal colony's sensors were damaged. Further breakouts have been contained."
Kathryn nodded. "Acknowledge and prepare a response. Tom, move us into position."
From a distance, they monitored Voyager as she came around Earth and flew over Oceania. Harry monitored his readings and announced, "Eleven humanoids including five humans, four Bajorans, and two Vulcans. Transmitting that data to Harris now."
Tom reported, "Voyager is powering warp engines. Do we follow?"
"In a moment. Stand by."
They watched as Voyager disappeared from view.
"Are we sure they're headed for Cardassia next?" Tom asked. "We don't want to lose their warp trail."
"We won't. I installed two homing devices." She stood and walked over to Tuvok's station. "May I key in the frequency of the devices for you?"
"Frequency, captain?" he asked.
"Of the homing devices," she said patiently as she worked. "On Voyager. We're going to track them." Once she was finished, she squeezed his shoulder. "Why don't you return to quarters and do some meditation, Mr. Tuvok. I'll call you to the bridge when we encounter Voyager again."
He looked at her for a moment and then nodded. "Very well, Captain."
After he left, Tom commented, "He's not well, is he?"
“It comes and goes,” she said as she worked with the next security officer to track Voyager's position. Tom turned to his station to prepare the ship to jump to warp.
Harry said, "Incoming communique from Admiral Harris, Captain."
"On screen," she said as she retook her seat.
Harris immediately asked, "Do you have their warp trail?"
"Yes, and we're tracking a homing signal. We'll find them. What have you learned?"
He looked relieved as he continued. "Good work, Kathryn. Things are a mess at Auckland, but I can tell you this, we didn't have any Vulcan inmates, and we only had two Bajorans."
"So, there's a possibility that one of the Bajorans is Teero," she stated.
Harris nodded. "We hope so, because if we don't catch this man... well, I don't have to tell you."
"No, you don't. I'll get him, Admiral. But what about the rest of the Maquis? You said there were almost fifty there?"
"Yes, Chakotay briefed one of his former colleagues several days ago, and they evidently tried to capture him for us. We haven't figured out exactly who he took, yet. They could be our security officers or Maquis."
"Understood. What about our message to you? Did you find anything on the security officer at the docking port?"
Harris turned to another person and asked a question. They waited for a moment and then he returned looking somber. "It is as you suspected, a message. The note indicates that he is a Vulcan named N'Rel and he is being blackmailed into cooperating. Teero has tricobalt weapons ready to detonate on Deneva Prime."
Kathryn rubbed her neck. "That's how Teero got the telepaths to help? Why didn’t he just control their minds like he did Tuvok?"
"Perhaps he probably didn’t have enough time to set that up, or he wanted to stay in control.” Harris shrugged. “Regardless, I'll send another ship to Deneva. You worry about Voyager. Once we find the tricobalt devices, I'll let you know. I don't know if you'll have any way to let this Vulcan know, but if you do..."
She nodded. "Perhaps the other two Vulcans that they picked up in New Zealand are from the same colony."
"I hope so, but we'll get a message to all planets with Vulcans to scan for tricobalt weapons."
"Good idea. We'd better head out."
"God speed, Kathryn. We'll keep you informed."
"Thank you, Admiral."
It was pretty clear once they were en route that Chakotay had been correct about the intended target. They were headed towards Cardassia. If it had been a different planet, Kathryn might have warned them, but she didn't want the Cardassians destroying Voyager before she had a chance to save her people.
She called a mission briefing in the dining hall to talk to everyone who would be involved. The Astra's skeleton crew was left running the bridge.
"Okay, people, here's the situation. Voyager is headed for Cardassia and we've deduced from Teero's original letter to me that his intention is to launch some kind of attack against the planet. We need to prepare for anything from an attack on the capital city to an attempt at genocide."
Tom asked, "Is Starfleet sending any other ships?"
Kathryn nodded. "Two ships will be holding position outside the sector in case we need assistance, but for now, they are leaving it up to us."
"Does Cardassia know?" B'Elanna asked.
"No. I don't want them seeing Voyager as a threat unless it becomes absolutely necessary. You know as well as I do that they tend to shoot first and ask questions later."
Seven noted, "With Voyager's current armament, they don't have the means for defense against such an attack."
Kathryn replied, "True, but we don't know what Teero may have smuggled onto Voyager, if he will be making a stop first, or if there is something already in place on Cardassia that he needs personnel to execute. Getting our hands on his weapons and taking Teero into custody is the reason we're letting this play out. Once we know what Teero is planning, we'll retake Voyager."
She passed a crate of PADDS to Harry to distribute to everyone in the room. "These contain your boarding party team assignments. You will be armed with phasers set to stun and hyposprays that contain a neural inhibitor. Use force if you have to, but your main objective is to inject all personnel with this hypospray."
The Doctor continued the explanation. "The subject will lose consciousness for fifteen to twenty minutes. Upon waking, it is our hope that they will have regained control of their mental faculties."
"What if they haven’t?" Lang asked.
"Then the patient will be dazed and unresponsive until we can give them further medical treatment," the Doctor replied.
Kathryn said, "They won't, however, start fighting you again. We'll be boarding through a hole in the aft shield that we'll disable via remote placed earlier this week. We also modified internal sensors to give false readings. If they happen to discover the problem, I'm certain that they won't have the time or the manpower to diagnose and fix it."
"Your teams will work through the lower decks first and gradually take the ship. Wear the commbadges of any personnel that you incapacitate so that if they are contacted, you can impersonate them. The people that you encounter who aren't from our crew could be Maquis who were imprisoned or they could be working with Teero. They could also be civilians or Starfleet personnel who have been coerced. So, please use the minimum force required on everyone."
"It will take us two days to get to Cardassia at our present warp six, so get some rest. Voyager is being manned with only thirty-eight individuals, so they will likely be exhausted when it comes time for the face off. I want all of you thinking with clear heads so that we come out of this with a minimum of casualties."
"Once all personnel except for the bridge crew have been subdued, Mr. Paris, Tuvok, and I will beam over and lead the team that will take the bridge."
Alarmed, Tom immediately said, "Captain? They think you're dead. Wouldn't it be better to let them keep thinking that?"
"No, Mr. Paris. If we need Chakotay's command codes to stop something, we will have to break his link with Teero without rendering him unconscious. If anyone is going to reach him, it will be me.”
Tom quietly asked, “Is Tuvok up to this?”
Kathryn said, “Commander Tuvok will be there in case we need a mind meld to reach Chakotay."
Seven said, "I can break his command codes."
"Maybe, maybe not, but you can come to the bridge with us and try."
"But you outrank him," Harry pointed out. "Your codes will override his."
"Not if he has marked me as deceased in Voyager's computer. He assumes command and my codes are null."
Lang asked, "Wait, all this time, that's all it would have taken for Chakotay to lead a mutiny? Just tell the computer you were dead?"
The corner of Kathryn's mouth twitched as she tried not to smile. "Trust means a lot, doesn't it?" Quickly, she added, "But really, a few dozen Maquis against all of you? No contest."
B'Elanna snorted. "If we were still out in the Delta Quadrant, I'd say, 'game on.' We'd see just who could outsmart who."
Tom nudged his wife. "Thankfully, they aren't bringing their A game this time."
Kathryn shook her head. "They aren't operating with full cognitive function and their basic instincts are warring with whatever Teero has programmed in them. Remember that, for the most part, their Maquis cell didn't have revenge against the Cardassians as their primary goal. It was protection of the colonies. This action isn't one they'd condone."
Harry reported, “Captain, incoming transmission from Starfleet Command on a secure channel, marked Level 9. Should I route it to the ready room?”
“Please,” Kathryn said as she stood and went into the unfamiliar ready room. She’d only been there twice since coming aboard, preferring to stay on the bridge since she was without a first officer and her chief or security was operating at low capacity.
She keyed in her password and Admiral Harris immediately spoke.
“The threat against the Deneva Colony has been mitigated.”
Kathryn released the breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Was a weapon found?”
“Yes, a tricobalt device in an apartment building, one previously occupied by a group of unknown Bajorans.”
“Bajorans lived there without arousing suspicion?”
“Bajorans are settling throughout the Federation, Kathryn. And it’s not unheard of for them to keep a certain level of anonymity.”
“Have you checked any other colonies?”
“No, but the entire Federation is on alert. All four Vulcans that we suspect are involved came from the same city on Deneva.”
“Are they in collusion with Teero?”
“No,” Harris replied with a shake of his head. “It appears to be coercion. These four were taken from their homes last Wednesday.”
“The day we arrived,” Kathryn noted.
“They’re students at the Vulcan Neurological Institute. After talking with their families and colleagues, we discovered that Teero has been harassing them for about six months.”
Kathryn sat back. “Not too long after his failed attempt to cause a mutiny on Voyager. What do we know about the Bajorans involved?”
“Not much,” he admitted. “We have some surveillance that shows them with Teero, but we won’t be able to determine their involvement without a full investigation.”
“Regardless, I gave my people instructions to use minimal force. We’ll retake Voyager with as little damage as possible.”
Harris asked hesitantly, “How is your crew holding up?”
“They’re focused and ready. Why do you ask?”
“There’s been concern, I guess you could say, that they’ll be hesitant to fire on their crewmates or that they’re fatigued after seven years in deep space.”
Kathryn raised an eyebrow, but did not reply.
He held up his hands, “Not that I have any doubts...”
“Then I don’t need to justify that with a response.”
“My apologies, Captain,” Harris said with a little bit of mirth. “They just don’t know you well, yet.”
“Rest of the brass, but I’m not worried. You’ll dazzle them soon enough.”
She grimaced. “Our exploits over the last seven years weren’t dazzling enough?”
“Your exploits have been kept confidential. Only a few know what you’ve been up against.”
“I see.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “I didn’t realize that I still had to prove myself...”
“Not to me, Kathryn. Not to me,” he assured. “ETA is still twelve hours out?”
“Yes, Sir. We’ll reduce speed on approach until we’re certain of their intentions.”
“Contact me if you need any assistance, but otherwise, we’ll maintain comm silence.”
"All stop," Kathryn said as the Astra arrived at a nebula on the edge of the Cardassian system. "Report."
Harry said, "Voyager is holding position inside the nebula, Captain. The Gallant and the Cassiopeia are on an intercept course and should be here within the hour."
B'Elanna's voice called out, "Engineering to the Bridge."
"Go ahead," Kathryn replied.
“A starship can mask their approach to the system by emitting neutrino emissions. They mix with the non-ionizing particles of the matter in the gas clouds."
"Wouldn't Cardassia know and monitor that?"
"They certainly used to, but they also used to police this side of the nebula for approaching ships. There used to be a shield grid in place here, but it has been deactivated."
"Did Voyager deactivate it?"
Harry interjected, "No, ma'am. It appears to have been dormant for quite some time."
Kathryn called out, "Computer, what is Commander Tuvok's current status?"
<I>"Commander Tuvok is asleep."</I>
She rubbed her chin and then said. "Okay, B'Elanna. Did the Liberty ever use this nebula?"
"Yes, for a rescue mission. There's an arm of the nebula that swings into the system and when Cardassia comes into orbit, it's a short trip to the planet at high warp. I don't recall how far and it's tricky. Tom could do it, but I don't know that any of the pilots that Chakotay has could manage it."
Kathryn took a deep breath. "Chakotay himself might, but if they can mask their approach..." A feeling of dread washed over her. "Harry, scan Voyager for tricobalt weapons."
"Aye, captain, but we didn't leave anything of that nature on Voyager, and they haven't had a chance to get any onboard."
"Just do it."
Harry's fingers worked over the console. "No active tricobalt weapons signatures, Captain."
Seven said, "There are other substances besides tricobalt that would be capable of mass destruction."
"Start scanning for them. I wouldn't put it past Teero to try to blow up the entire planet."
"He could use the nebula gases," B’Elanna pointed out.
Kathryn shook her head. "That would destroy him, and Voyager, too."
Tom noted, "He could be crazy enough to try a suicide bombing."
"That he is," Kathryn agreed. "And igniting the nebula gases would certainly take him and his previous oppressors out in a blaze of glory."
Seven noted, "He would have to power the deflector dish with nadion particles in order to make that happen. That would take several hours."
"Mr. Kim, scan Voyager for nadion particles."
"Confirmed, Captain. They are gathering them from the nebula itself."
Kathryn asked, "B'Elanna, are you still with us?"
"Can any of you think of another way that Voyager could be used to destroy Cardassia?"
Tom said, "Only by ramming the ship directly into the planet, but the nebula gases would certainly have a more disastrous effect."
"How much time do we have until Cardassia is within range of the nebula?"
Harry replied, "Two hours, forty-seven minutes, Captain."
"All right, now that we've confirmed the target and have our probable weapon, it's time to re-take Voyager. Let's get our people back."
Using the nebula to mask their approach, Kathryn brought the Astra within transporter range of Voyager. "All stop, Mr. Paris."
"Aye, Captain. Powering down thrusters."
"Bridge to Transporter room, is Team Alpha ready?"
"Ready, ma'am," Lang replied.
"Stand by." Kathryn scrutinized Voyager's hazy image on the view screen for a moment before she said, "Mr. Kim, deactivate the remote aft shield generator."
"Their aft shields are down. Seven life signs on lower decks."
"Bridge to Molina. There are seven targets on decks twelve through fifteen. You are clear to proceed."
After a moment of silence, Tom turned around and said, "Captain, I really don't like the idea of you going over there."
"You've already made your point, Mr. Paris." She looked at the view screen again. "But I have a promise to keep."
"Even if that means your death, Captain?"
She furrowed her eyebrows. "Have a little faith, Mr. Paris."
Harry reported, "Scans show the away team is moving through the lower decks."
Tapping her armrest, Kathryn wondered out loud, "Do you think Chakotay would have someone use a tricorder to monitor life signs? If he remembers our conversations, he knows we're out here."
Tom said, "Remember when that the Nyrians replaced our people with theirs? We could do that and Teero might not notice a large discrepancy in the number of people onboard."
Kathryn nodded. "Excellent idea, Mr. Paris.”
“I don’t think it will trick them for long.”
“I’ll take any advantage I can get.” She tapped her commbadge. “Janeway to transporter room.”
“Yes, Captain,” Lang replied. “Team Beta is standing by.”
“As Voyager’s crew is incapacitated, transport them to a secure location on the Astra. Try to keep the number of life signs on Voyager constant.”
“Aye, Captain. Like with the Nyrians?”
“Exactly.” Keeping the line open, she looked expectantly at Harry. “Status, Ensign Kim?”
“Team Alpha has entered Jeffries tubes 36 and 38. We show 15 life signs in engineering, all on Deck 13.”
Kathryn nodded. “Team Beta, did you copy?”
B’Elanna replied. “Copied, Captain. We’re ready. And as soon as engineering is secure, we’ll take the deflector offline.”
“No unnecessary risks, B’Elanna. Understood?”
“Same goes for you, Captain. See you on the other side.”
Lang stated, “Energizing.”
Kathryn saw Tom take a deep breath and exhale slowly, but his attention remained focused on his console.
From the security station, Kathryn heard, “Rollins to Andrews.”
“We will be receiving incapacitated personnel from Voyager. Establish security protocol gamma-three. Coordinate with Lang and Sickbay.”
“Understood, Andrews out.”
Kathryn nodded at Rollins. “Very good. Is Wildman on standby with Tuvok?”
“Yes, Captain. Ready to wake the commander?”
She nodded her agreement. “Earlier than planned, but I want him to be ready.”
As he contacted Samantha, Kathryn turned to Harry. “Report.”
“Team Beta has moved into position.”
The bridge crew on the Astra waited in silence.
Harry informed them, “Detecting phaser fire.”
“Life signs?” Kathryn asked.
They waited again. When Kathryn’s commbadge chirped, she smacked it harder than necessary. “Go ahead.”
“Torres here,” she said, clearly winded. “We’ve got them, Captain. All Maquis and one Bajoran, not Teero. They weren’t even carrying phasers.”
“Excellent work, Lieutenant. Proceed as planned and keep me informed.” Kathryn watched Tom as he relaxed his shoulders.
Rollins stated, “We have twenty-two in custody, Captain. Eight have been transferred to the Astra’s Cargo Bay.”
“Casualties?” she asked.
“Assessment in progress.”
Harry interrupted, “Crew quarters show only four life signs. They’re Vulcans, Captain.”
“No other personnel?”
“Bridge to Hargrove.”
“Hargrove here, Captain. Team Gamma is standing by.”
“You only have four Vulcans in crew quarters, Lieutenant. No security.”
“Understood, Captain. Should we proceed with the plan to incapacitate them?”
“Use your judgment, but they might be willing to assist.” She looked at Harry. “Ensign Kim is sending you their specific locations. Once those decks are secure, rendezvous outside of in Engineering and stand by for further instructions.”
She heard Lang say, “Energizing,” before the commline was cut.
Rollins reported, “I’m happy to report that Voyager’s deflector dish is malfunctioning. It’s leaking Nadion particles back into the nebula.”
“We’ll celebrate later.”
“Janeway to Murphy, is Team Delta ready?”
Harry reported, “Two in sickbay, four in the messhall, two in sensor control, two in the armory.”
“Copy that,” Murphy replied. “Transporting now.”
They waited in silence until Rollins reported, “We now have a total of sixteen in custody in the Cargo Bay, equal to the away team numbers. All are unconscious, Doctor reports no severe injuries.”
Kathryn nodded. “All right, Epsilon. Let’s get ready.”
Personnel replaced the bridge crew as Kathryn, Tom, Seven, and Rollins made their way to the turbolift while Harry took command.
In the lift, Tom asked, “Is Tuvok up to this?”
“We need him to help Chakotay if I can’t get through.”
“It’s just...” Tom paused, not sure what to say.
“I know, Tom. Once this is over, we’ll make sure he gets to Vulcan as soon as possible so they'll be able to help him. His condition only appears to be deteriorating quickly because he stopped taking a medication so he can perform the necessary mind meld."
Tom nodded. "And how would we have helped him in the Delta Quadrant?"
She took a steadying breath. "We wouldn't have been able to."
The turbolift opened and they walked in silence down the corridor to the transporter room. There, they met Chapman, Mitchell, and Tuvok, along with Samantha Wildman and Megan Delaney who was equipping the team with supplies.
As she holstered a phaser, Kathryn asked, "How many people on Voyager’s deck one?"
Lang replied, "Six, all on the bridge."
Kathryn went over to Tuvok, “Are you ready for this?"
"I don't know if I'll be effective at purging Chakotay's mind completely, but I believe that I'll be able to reach him."
"Anything you can do will be helpful, and we won't ask unless it becomes absolutely necessary."
Tom reported, “Team Epsilon ready, Captain.”
They stepped up onto the transporter pad and Kathryn said, "Energize."
They rematerialized on deck three, outside her former quarters. Molina and Jefferson were there to greet them. "All decks are secure except deck one, ma'am. There are six people up there. Two humans and four Bajorans."
"Do we know who the other human is besides Chakotay?"
"Doyle is up there, as is Tabor."
"Tabor?" Kathryn blinked. The young man had never served a day on the bridge.
"The only thing we can figure is that Teero wanted our Maquis Bajoran to have a front row seat."
Kathryn went to a panel on the wall and tapped it. "Computer, recognize voice pattern Janeway, Alpha one four seven."
"Voice pattern denied. Kathryn Janeway is deceased."
"Well, that answers that question." She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Astra."
"Go ahead, Captain," replied Harry.
"How long until Cardassia is within range of the nebula?"
"Twenty minutes, ma'am, but the deflector dish only has enough nadion particles to blow out a continent or two."
"Only,” she said with a sigh. “All right, alert the two ships standing by to raise shields and fill them in. We're heading up to the bridge. I do not have command access. Understood?"
Tom asked, "What does he understand, Captain?"
"What we all understand. That our first priority is the lives of the people on that planet. We put them at risk by letting this play out and it's our responsibility to protect them."
"What is he going to do?" Seven asked.
"Destroy the deflector dish before Cardassia is in range."
“That would destroy Voyager,” Seven noted.
“Yes, it would.” Kathryn unholstered her phaser, checked its setting, and said, "Chapman and Mitchell, come in from the briefing room. Jefferson and Molina, use the Jefferies access near the science station as back up. Tom, you'll come in from the ready room. Seven, I want you to stay in the ready room and work on decrypting the command codes. Tuvok, stay with her until we need you. Rollins and I will come from the corridor by ops and assess the situation. Two taps from my commbadge is our sign. Let's go."
Team Epsilon was in position with Kathryn listening to the conversation on the bridge from her position around the corner from ops. She could tell that Tabor was working that station from his anxious breathing.
She looked back at Rollins to make sure he was in position behind her. A quick nod in response told her that he was ready to cover her.
Chakotay stated, "Internal sensors aren't functioning and we can't reach engineering."
A whiney, shrill voice yelled, "Fix this! Fix this now! We only have fifteen minutes and were losing nadions!"
Chakotay ordered, "Doyle, get down to Engineering and find out what the problem is."
Kathryn waited as the former Maquis officer left the bridge. She knew her crew would intercept him.
The whiney voice yelled again. "You imbecile, there's an engineering station right here. Use it!"
"But we need an engineer," Chakotay replied.
"You're the captain of this ship. Figure it out, you worthless buffoon!" The shrill voice continued to berate him and Kathryn winced as she heard the sound of an impact with flesh followed by a grunt from Chakotay.
Her senses were so fine-tuned to her bridge that Kathryn could tell he was at the engineering station by her ready room. She tapped her commbadge twice, signaling the team to move. Once she heard the swoosh of other doors on the bridge, she turned the corner and grabbed Tabor. Quickly, she injected him with a hypospray and felt him slump to the floor.
As soon as she looked up, she saw a phaser pointed between her eyes. "Well, look who we have here. If it isn't Captain Janeway, risen from the dead."
"Teero," she acknowledged as she pushed his phaser aside.
"Did you really think you could barge in here and take over?"
"Yes, actually, I did," she said as she looked around. Tom and Tuvok were on their knees with phasers pointed at the backs of their heads. Chapman and Mitchell were unconscious. The others weren’t visible and she knew that Rollins hadn’t revealed himself, yet. Chakotay was studiously working at the engineering station, not paying much attention to what was going on.
Teero growled, "I suppose I have you to thank for the leak in my deflector dish?"
"Noooo," she said with a click of her tongue as she moved around to the front of the ops station. "You have a former Maquis to thank for the leak in MY deflector dish."
He shoved her hard against the console, "And just where do you think you're going?"
Refusing to show pain, she replied cooly, "We need to have a little talk about what you're doing here." She waved at the view screen which showed an image of Cardassia Prime. "Surely you can think of more interesting places to visit with old friends like Chakotay." She made a point of saying his name loudly. Her effort was rewarded when he stopped what he was doing and looked at her.
Teero erupted in anger and knocked her to the floor. "Stop distracting him!"
Chakotay took a step towards them as if trying to figure out what was going on.
Kathryn grumbled, "Looks like you're the one doing the distracting."
Teero got down in her face and said, "You can't stop this, Janeway! You can't break him! You’re going out in a blaze of glory right along with the rest of us. You’re a fool, Starfleet!"
The other Bajorans holding phasers laughed and Janeway took advantage of the distraction to bring a knee up against Teero and knock him down. Molina and Jefferson appeared and took out the Bajorans holding Tom and Tuvok. Kathryn struggled with Teero for a moment until she felt his weight release when Rollins cold-cocked him on the side of the head.
Kathryn ran across the bridge to Chakotay and held his unshaven face. "Chakotay? Do you know me?"
His eyes didn’t quite meet hers and she could tell that he was struggling with the commotion around them.
“You know me. I'm Kathryn. We have to get Voyager away from here." She turned to Tom who was already at the helm. "Do we have navigational control?"
"Negative." He communicated with Harry to put a tractor beam on Voyager and to transport Chapman and Mitchell to Astra's sickbay.
Kathryn turned to back to Chakotay who had an eerie, glazed, and unfocused look in his eyes. "Take the helm, Chakotay. Get Voyager to safety."
"Need to destroy them. They destroyed my home."
"No, I'm your home, Chakotay. Help me save lives."
Tuvok shouted, “Captain!!”
Kathryn heard phaser fire, grabbed Chakotay, and hit the deck. Heat and fire seared through her shoulder as she tried to hold Chakotay down. He pushed her aside and scrambled to try to get at Teero.
Kathryn watched in horror as Chakotay ran at the Bajoran while all of her officers were firing upon him.
“Cease Fire!” she yelled just in time to keep the phasers from hitting Chakotay, too. The combination of the five weapons incinerated Teero’s body into nothingness.
She lunged for Chakotay and grabbed his hands, focusing his attention back to her. “Chakotay? Look at me!”
Anger pulsated through the veins at his temples and Kathryn couldn’t remember ever seeing him so enraged. “Chakotay... It’s me, It’s Kathryn!”
Chakotay yelled, “He was going to kill you!”
Kathryn heard Seven's voice call out, "I've broken through the navigational lockout. Lieutenant Paris, move Voyager away while I try to disable the launch sequence."
“I know,” she said breathlessly as she looked into his glassy eyes. “I’m okay, Chakotay. I’m okay.” She stroked his face, his shoulders, his hands. “Do you know me? Who am I?”
His eyes cleared a little as he finally looked directly at her. “You’re my Kathryn.”
Nodding with relief, she urged, “Help us, Chakotay.”
“Help you?” he asked, his confusion still evident. He seemed to be reacting on instinct, but wasn’t free of the mind control.
“Stop the launch sequence. Only you can do it. Do you remember your code?”
Chakotay turned quickly and looked at the screen. “Cardassia... They killed my family!”
Kathryn drew his attention back to her. “I’m your family, Chakotay. I’m right here. What’s your code, Chakotay?”
“Delta Omega Three Four,” he stated.
“Tell the computer, Chakotay. Say Computer, Disable Launch Sequence, Delta Omega Three Four.”
“Computer, Disable Launch Sequence, Delta Omega Three Four,” he repeated.
The computer voice replied, “Launch disabled.”
In a moment of pure relief, Kathryn sagged against him and his arms instinctively went around her. She cringed in pain as she finally let the phaser burn register.
Rollins took over for Tom. “Check them, Paris. She’s hurt.”
Tom grabbed a med-kit as Rollins communicated with the Astra. He scanned Kathryn and then pulled her away from Chakotay to sit at the Engineering Station. “Let me help you, Captain.”
She nodded tiredly and called out to Tuvok, “Can you reach Chakotay?”
Tom wrapped gauze around her arm. “You need surgery, but this should stop the bleeding.”
“Bleeding?” she asked absently.
“From the phaser blast, Captain.”
Tuvok touched Chakotay’s face, saying, “My mind to your mind... My thoughts to your thoughts.”
They all jumped as Chakotay roared and pushed Tuvok away. He yelled, “Where did you take her!?!?”
The turbolift opened as Hargrove, Murphy, and a Vulcan ran out.
Chakotay shouted at Hargrove who had attracted his attention, “What did you do with her?” He looked ready to attack.
Kathryn stood quickly and went back to him, just in time for him to swing around in confused anger and make a solid impact with the side of her head and face. She fell back from the force of the blow, feeling dazed and shocked as someone pulled her to a safer distance.
Molina lifted his phaser to take aim at Chakotay when Murphy shouted, “Hold your fire!”
Kathryn was no longer able to focus on what was going on around her. She struggled in vain against Tom’s hold.
The Vulcan bravely went up to Chakotay and used his superior strength to hold onto the large man’s flailing arms. He boldly stated, “Commander, remember me. Remember our meld.”
Chakotay tried to shake loose from the Vulcan. “You did this! You did this to me!”
“Let me undo it, Commander. Let me bring you back.”
Chakotay was breathing hard as his eyes fell on Seven. “Help me!”
Seven stepped forward. “Chakotay, we’re here to help you.”
“Seven?” he asked, confused. “Where’s Kathryn? She was just here.”
She paused, avoiding looking at Kathryn while she thought of how to respond. “Let us help you so you can go to her.”
Kathryn’s head throbbed as she tried to focus on how the Vulcan was touching Chakotay’s face.
A few seconds into the meld, Chakotay collapsed to the deck, taking the Vulcan with him as their connection was broken.
“Chakotay!” Kathryn called out as Tom held onto her.
“He’s okay, Captain,” Hargrove said. “Just give him a moment.”
The conversation around her became muted as Kathryn’s mind grew fuzzy. She realized that she must be worse off than she thought as her shoulder burned terribly and her head felt like it had been hit with a battering ram.
Rollins reported, “Astra is holding at the edge of the nebula. I’m bringing Voyager up beneath her.”
A long moment later, Chakotay came into her field of vision, tears in his eyes as he took her hand and looked her over. "Oh, Kathryn."
She squeezed his fingers, relieved to see the clarity in his eyes. "You okay?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm not okay!" Chakotay looked up at Tom. "Is the Doctor onboard?"
"He's on the Astra. We’ll transport her over."
Chakotay hesitantly touched her swollen face. "Where’s Astra? How close is she?"
Tom tapped his commbadge, “Paris to Astra. Can you transport?”
Harry replied, “Astra here. Only for a moment. There are two Cardassian ships out there.”
“Lock on to the captain’s commbadge and transport her directly to sickbay.”
“Preparing to transport,” Harry replied.
Chakotay whispered to her, "Hang on, Kathryn.”
"I’m okay," she whispered.
A moment later, Harry said, "Energizing."
"I love you," Chakotay said as he watched Kathryn dematerialize in a shimmer of blue light. He stood up and went to the helm. "Where are we?"
"In the Cardassian system.”
“I know this nebula,” he commented.
Tom replied, “We had hoped to get away without the Cardassians noticing that we were even here. I'm not too interested in talking to them. Are you?"
"No, not really."
Seven reported from Tactical, "Voyager’s weapons are offline, shields holding."
"Weapons? What was I about to do?"
She replied, "Ignite nadion particles with a series of polaron bursts."
Chakotay blew out a deep breath, "Thank you for stopping me."
“It was the captain.”
He rubbed his eyes as he walked to the command center to check on the status of the ship. He sank tiredly into his command chair. "How long were we under the influence of Teero?"
Tom followed him, replying, "About 57 hours."
"Any casualties besides Kathryn?" he asked as they watched Tuvok stare blankly at the security station.
Tom shared a glance with Seven and said, "All of the Maquis, Teero’s people, and a few Starfleet people were rendered unconscious. Some received severe phaser burns. Chapman and Mitchell are likely in critical condition."
Tom tapped his commbadge and summoned a few more officers to the bridge.
The Vulcan stepped forward, “Commander Chakotay. I am Rek of the Denova Colony. Do you recall communicating with me?”
“I do. Were you able to get a message through about your home?”
“Yes, Commander. Lieutenant Torres tells me that my home is safe.”
Chakotay nodded as he rubbed at the stubble on his jaw. Looking at the readings in front of him, he said, "I must be exhausted. I can't make heads or tails out of these sensor readings."
Tom said, "Yes and no. You are sleep deprived, but we also did quite a number on this ship before you hijacked it. I just hope that the captain kept a record of all the modifications that we made."
Seven said, "We're receiving a hail from Astra."
"Onscreen," Chakotay said as the replacement bridge crew arrived.
Harry's image appeared. "Commander, we're about to exit the nebula, but there are two Cardassian ships waiting for us. I recommend that you put on a Starfleet uniform or let Paris take command."
"Do I have enough information to talk to them?"
Tom stepped in. "Probably enough to bluff your way out of it, but I think you'd better let me take the big seat on this one.”
“I am feeling out of sorts.” He glanced at where Tuvok was still staring at the security station. "And I think Tuvok might be in the same boat."
Tom said, "Why don't you let Harry transport you two over to the Astra's triage area. Let us take it from here."
Chakotay rubbed the back of his neck and nodded tiredly at Harry on the view screen. "All right, but if the situation with the Cardassians escalates, call me. You two don't have experience dealing with them."
"No time like the present." Tom ushered Chakotay towards the steps. "Plus, there are two additional Starfleet ships out there. We'll be fine, Commander."
Chakotay stepped up and gently laid his hand on Tuvok's arm saying, "Let's go." He nodded towards the view screen, signaling the okay to transport.
Once they materialized in the Astra's dining hall/triage area, Chakotay turned to Tuvok and asked, "How are you feeling?"
"I am not well. I should return to meditating."
"Would you like to see the Doctor first?"
"He cannot help me, only a ritual on Vulcan with my family will provide a cure. However, the Doctor could restart my medication. We stopped it so that I could complete a mind-meld with you."
"I understand. Thank you," he replied.
"The Doctor is busy. Captain Janeway is injured."
"Yes, she is." Chakotay took Tuvok's arm and led him towards one of the empty beds. An unknown ensign came up to them, her eyes wide and nervous. She asked, "Are you Commander Chakotay?"
"I am. And you are?"
"Nurse Boley,” she said anxiously. “If you’d please, take a seat on one of the empty beds. I need to begin a neural scan. We expected you to be unconscious when you arrived."
He smiled weakly. "I need to help Commander Tuvok, first. Do you know if he had quarters assigned on this ship?"
"Yes, he did.” She turned her attention to the Vulcan. “Is he injured?"
"No, but he needs to return to his quarters to rest." Chakotay looked around for someone from the Voyager crew and saw Samantha Wildman coming to them. "Sam?"
"Commander, how is he?"
“He wants to meditate. Can you take him to his quarters?”
"Of course, Commander," she said, as she led Tuvok away.
Chakotay turned to the nurse and asked, "Is sickbay full? Can we do this scan there?"
"Yes, all the beds are full. We had to move three people here just fifteen minutes ago for three new patients. If you're worried about privacy..."
"No." He held up a hand. "I just want to check on one of those new patients. But let's go ahead and do this. I know she's in good hands and I don't want to get in the way."
"All right." Following him to a bed, she waited while he took off his leather vest and boots.
Chakotay took a moment to look around the triage area. It seemed as if all of the former Maquis, plus a few more people, were sound asleep throughout the room. "Are they sleeping or sedated?"
"They were all given a neural inhibitor and the loss of consciousness has lasted longer than expected. Once the Doctor has tended to the emergencies, he'll try to rouse them. He assures us that they're in no danger."
Nodding, Chakotay laid back. "I trust him. When he arrives, would you let him know that I'm not unconscious and that I'd like a report on Captain Janeway?"
He closed his eyes and was sure he fell asleep before another thought crossed his mind.
When Chakotay opened his eyes, the Doctor was kneeling over him.
"Commander? Don't be alarmed."
He sat up quickly. "What's wrong?"
Kathryn touched his arm and whispered, “Shhh, everything’s okay.”
His gaze snapped to her, seeing her wearing a green sickbay top over her uniform slacks. “You’re here?” he asked as he grasped her hand.
“I’m here,” she assured quietly and touched her lips. “Everyone is still asleep.”
Chakotay looked around and saw the same thing he had earlier - all of his former crew sleeping on cots spread throughout the room. “Is everyone okay?”
“They’re going to be just fine,” the Doctor replied.
He looked back at Kathryn. “Is it over?”
“Mostly. Admiral Harris has arrived and is handling the diplomatic issues. We’re about to head back into Federation space.”
Shaking her head, she said, “He didn’t survive.”
Chakotay breathed a sigh of relief, but then asked, “Did I kill him? Did you?”
“No, neither of us, but I’ll explain later,” she assured. “Let’s get you treated.”
“Treated,” he asked as he looked at his body. “Am I injured?”
“You’ve had a rough few days, Commander.” The Doctor lifted a hypospray to his neck and emptied the contents. “That was nutrients and electrolytes. Let’s take off your shirt and tend to your contusions.”
He started lifting his arms and winced at the pain in his shoulders.
“Nurse Boley,” the Doctor said to the young woman standing by. “Scissors?”
She stepped forward to cut Chakotay’s shirt away, but Kathryn intercepted and took the tool from her.
“I’ve got him,” she said as she slid the scissors under the hem of Chakotay’s sleeve and began snipping through the fabric.
Chakotay watched Kathryn for a moment before asking, “Are you okay now? Earlier...”
“I’m fine,” she assured him as she continued cutting through his shirt.
“You’d say that if...” he began, but she interrupted.
“I know, but I really am okay. The Doctor treated my injuries and now I just need to rest, which I plan to do in a few minutes, with you next to me.”
“How bad was she?” Chakotay asked the Doctor as they all worked together to remove his shirt.
“Concussion, contusions, phaser burn, nothing out of the ordinary for our fearless captain.”
Kathryn mumbled, “Don’t know about fearless...”
They all looked up when Nurse Boley gasped at the sight of Chakotay’s torso.
He looked down at himself, “It’s not that bad, is it?”
The Doctor addressed the nurse, “That’ll be all. Thank you.”
Kathryn bit back her smile as she helped the Doctor treat his bruises.
“What?” he asked her.
She licked her lips before replying, “I don’t think her gasp had anything to do with your injuries, my dear.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, and that makes it all the more endearing,” Kathryn said as she patted his firm pecs. “She’s a bit star struck.”
Some time later, Kathryn woke to the warmth and heaviness of Chakotay’s body snuggled up against her. She looked out the viewport and saw that they were traveling at warp which meant they were back in Federation space. With that assurance, she relaxed back into his arms and let her mind be at peace knowing they were safe and secure.
A few minutes later, Chakotay whispered, “Are you awake?”
Kathryn snuggled against him. “Trying not to be.”
“Can’t sleep?” he asked with concern as he brushed her hair away from her neck.
“Just thinking about the fact that I have absolutely no responsibilities in this moment, and I want to take full advantage of it.”
He chuckled as he kissed her neck and drew his hands up to hold her intimately. “I can help with that, if you’d like?”
“Mmmm,” she moaned with a stretch. “If you’re not too sore.”
Rolling over to lie on top of her, he murmured against the top of her breast, “A little exercise should help.”
The Astra momentarily came out of warp and then re-engaged. Kathryn looked up from her book and was about to contact the bridge to ask for a report when she realized that she didn’t have to care about it.
Chakotay called from the bedroom, where he was getting dressed after his shower. “What was that?”
“Don’t know, don’t care,” she replied absently.
A few minutes later, their door chime rang. Kathryn called out, “Enter.”
Harris stepped in, “Captain? How are you feeling?”
“Much better than yesterday,” she answered as she began to stand.
“No, no, please stay seated,” he waved.
Chakotay came out of the bedroom and greeted their guest. “Admiral,” he said with a nod.
“And how are you, Commander? I understand that Teero was quite abusive.”
“Yes, but I don’t recall much of the experience.”
Harris nodded. “Maybe that’s for the best.”
“Please, have a seat.” Chakotay offered as he went to the replicator, “Can I get you anything?”
“Nothing, thank you,” Harris said as he sat across from Kathryn. “I came aboard to check on you two and give you an update on the situation.”
Kathryn noted, “We’re doing well. Mostly, we’re just exhausted from the last several weeks.”
“Yes, it has definitely been a whirlwind for you and your crew.”
Chakotay handed Kathryn a fresh cup of coffee and then sat down, setting his glass of water on the side table. “I know I’m feeling a little dazed by the experiences. This week alone will take some time to process.”
“I know you were worried about the mind control, Commander. Any ill-effects?”
“Nothing a little rest won’t cure.”
“Glad to hear it,” Harris replied.
Kathryn said, “I glanced at the synopsis of the incident report this morning. The Cardassians were a bit angry?”
“As expected. They knew of Teero and were incensed that we didn’t warn them.”
She shook her head. “I couldn’t risk what they’d do to Voyager.”
“I understand and so does the Federation Council. We all know that the only thing the Cardassians could’ve done to stop the attack was to destroy Voyager. Your report, as well as Ensign Kim’s, clearly indicates that you were prepared to do the same.”
Chakotay bowed his head and rubbed his jaw.
“What will be the fallout of this?” Kathryn asked.
“The Cardassian government wants a more open line of communication with the Federation. I like to think that’s a positive outcome, but as you know, they aren’t easy to deal with. Someone’s going to get saddled with a pretty rotten position as their liaison.”
Kathryn held up her hand. “Don’t even think about it.”
“We wouldn’t do that to you, Kathryn. Especially with your history. Besides, you’ve earned a much better posting than that.”
“Have I?” she asked, sharing a glance with Chakotay.
“Absolutely. I haven’t been given the go-ahead to make you an offer, but you can expect a promotion in the near future. Your gift of diplomacy would really be an asset to the admiralty.”
“Then the brass trusts me, now?”
Chakotay asked, “Trust you? What’s this about?”
With a sigh, Harris explained, “This situation with Teero and Cardassia understandably produced a lot of anxiety. Most of the admiralty and the Federation Council didn’t fully comprehend what you and your crew are capable of, and they were a bit uneasy. I can assure you that we will be making a detailed report following your debriefings that will leave no doubt in their minds, whatsoever, that you both, and your crew, are worthy of any and all trust that we have placed in you.”
“Thank you,” Kathryn replied with a nod.
Harris continued, “And I must add that Kim and Paris really stepped up to the plate on this one. Kudos to your fostering of their command skills.”
“They’re fine officers,” Kathryn noted.
“Well, on that note,” Harris stood. “I’ll be going so you two can continue resting. My ship is going on ahead, but we’re leaving Cassiopeia to escort Astra and Voyager back to Earth.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine on our own,” Chakotay noted as he stood with the admiral. “Astra seems to be a good little ship.”
“She is, Commander, but with Voyager crippled and so valuable to us, we want to make sure she’s protected.”
“Understood.” Chakotay shook hands with the Admiral and walked him to their door.
“Rest up, you two. We’re going to hit the debriefings hard when you return so we can get you and your crew on a much deserved leave of absence.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Kathryn nodded.
After Harris left, Chakotay stayed at the door and looked at Kathryn with concern. “I fully understand why you were prepared to take us out.”
She nodded for him to continue.
“It’s the most difficult part of command, having to send friends…”
“And why we shouldn’t…” He got choked up.
She stood and came over to embrace him. “I was on Voyager with you. I would’ve died, too.”
“You shouldn’t have come over.”
“I had to.”
“I know.” He held her tightly. “Let’s hope that the admiralty is a much safer place for you.”
She smiled against his chest. “What about you? What do you want to do?”
“Teach perhaps,” he said with a shrug. “If they’ll have me.”
“I’m sure the Academy would love to have you back. Maybe I’ll even join you there in a few years.”
He pulled his head back to look her in the eyes. “A few years?”
“Being an admiral with diplomatic responsibilities sounds interesting, provided my home base is with you.”
Kathryn cocked her head to the side. “Yes, with you, as in together, in the same house. Are you game?”
Chakotay captured her lips in a deep kiss.
“Captain, Commander, thanks for coming by,” the Doctor said as they arrived in Astra’s sickbay. “Dr. Beck at Starfleet Medical asked for a report on your health, Captain, and I thought it’d be a good idea to give both of you a follow up before we get back to Earth.”
“Beck?” Chakotay asked.
Kathryn nodded as she hoisted herself up onto the biobed. “He treated me after my supposed death.”
The Doctor muttered, “You could’ve let me on that little farce, you know.”
“My apologies, Doctor. It was a spur of the moment decision.”
He sighed as he checked her with his tricorder. “Just glad you’re still around for me to complain to.”
“Me too, Doctor. Me, too.”
His wand paused. “Hmmm.”
“What is it?” she asked as she tried to look at the readings.
“Your hCG levels are high.”
Kathryn started to shrug it off and then realized what he was saying. “What?”
“hCG?” Chakotay asked.
The Doctor showed her the readings. “No other signs, though.”
While studying the data, she asked, “Can you do a deep scan, just to confirm?”
“Sure, lie back,” the Doctor instructed.
Chakotay asked, “What’s wrong? Is she sick?”
Kathryn held his hand and she relaxed on the bio-bed. “It’s the pregnancy hormone.”
His eyes widened in surprise. “But...”
The Doctor cut in. “It doesn’t mean she’s pregnant, but she could be. Her levels weren’t high two days ago when I treated her, and I’m not detecting a heartbeat.”
“Then something’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.
“No, nothing’s wrong,” the Doctor assured as he directed his scanner at her abdomen. A slow smile spread across his features. “Congratulations, Captain, Commander. We have an adorable little blastocyst here.”
“Oh wow,” Kathryn said with trepidation.
“And tucked away in the mesoderm, is the beginning of a lovely circulatory system. We should hear a heartbeat within a few days.”
“Is it okay?” Chakotay asked. “She was hit pretty hard.”
“Just fine, Commander,” the Doctor said gently. “You hit her head, not her abdomen.”
“What?” he asked. “I hit her?”
Kathryn glared at the Doctor. “He didn’t need to know.”
“Kathryn?” Chakotay carefully touched her head. “<I>I</I> hit you?”
She squeezed his hand. “No, you didn’t hit me. I just got in the way of your very strong and fast moving fist.”
Chakotay closed his eyes. “Please don’t joke about this.”
“I’m not,” she assured. “You were panicked because you couldn’t tell where I was. I ran to you at the same time you were turning and ready to fight. We collided. That’s all.”
He looked at her, imploring her to be truthful. “You’re sure that’s all it was?”
“I’m positive. Tom had been treating my phaser wound and in your delirious state, you lost track of me.”
He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “I’m so sorry.”
The Doctor said, “My apologies. I assumed it was in the report.”
Kathryn shrugged. “I sort of glossed over that part.”
“Let me get some vitamins for you.”
Now alone, Chakotay whispered, “You’re sure?”
“Absolutely sure,” she confirmed. “And Chakotay?”
She whispered, “We’re pregnant!”
He laughed and lifted her into a hug. “I can’t believe it!”
“I guess you weren’t on boosters?” she chuckled.
“No, didn’t really need them, and it didn’t even occur to me.”
“Me, either.” She held his face in her hands. “First time lucky, it seems.”
“Are you okay with this?”
“Yes,” she said with a huge smile. “I’m very okay with this, and the timing couldn’t be better.”
He gave her a warm kiss and said, “I love you, Kathryn.”
“I love you, too.”
Kathryn walked out of the bedroom to see Chakotay reading on the couch by the viewport. “Now that we’re in range, I’m going to contact my mother. Will it bother you if I’m talking over here?” she asked as she pointed to the desk.
“Of course not. Would you like me to give you some privacy?”
“Not necessary. I think she really likes you.”
Back to his reading, he mumbled, “Glad someone does.”
Kathryn rolled her eyes at his sarcasm and sat down to key in the connection. It had been over a week since she had spoken to her mother, before the faked death incident.
Gretchen’s face appeared on the monitor and she immediately dropped her shoulders and smiled. “Katie...”
“Does this mean the danger has passed?”
“Yes, it does. Crisis averted.”
“I’m so glad. Where are you?”
“On our way back to Earth. We should be in orbit tomorrow evening.”
“And then what?” Gretchen asked.
“We’re going to plow through the debriefing process as quickly as possible so we can all go home to our families.”
“Really? How long do you think that’ll take?”
Kathryn picked up the PADD with their schedule. “For Chakotay and me, it’ll be a week. Provided that we’re available for follow-up questions as needed.”
“What about celebrations and publicity?”
“None that I know of. Word is they’re trying to get us on leave for a much needed rest.”
“And your commander? Is he still planning on coming home with you?”
Kathryn looked over the top of her monitor and shared a smile with Chakotay. “Yes, he is,” she said as she looked back at the screen.
“Glad to hear it. Since I have a week, I think I’ll order some new furniture for your old room. That bed might’ve worked for you as a teen, but…”
“Don’t tell me you still have my childhood furniture in there?”
“Call me sentimental.”
Kathryn laughed. “Are the walls still gray?”
“Yes, they are. Dreadful.”
“Perhaps we can help you redecorate that room when we get there, then.”
Chakotay piped up, “I’d love to see your childhood room, just how it was.”
“Well, I’ll at least have a larger bed delivered. You can pick out a headboard and whatever else you want when you get here.”
“It’s your house, Mom.”
“I know, but I was hoping I could talk you into moving here. I’d love to keep it in the family, but Phoebe doesn’t want it.”
Kathryn started to reply, but her mom cut her off.
“I’d move out,” she offered.
“Oh, Mom, don’t do that. We can talk about it when we get there. Chakotay has never been to Indiana – he should at least see it before deciding if he wants to live there.”
“Does that mean what I think it means?” Gretchen asked eagerly. “Can he hear me?”
Kathryn looked up as Chakotay came around the desk to join the conversation. “Yes, I can hear you.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean for you to join us. I wanted to dish about you.”
“Dish?” he asked with a smile.
“You know, get the details. Talk about how wonderful you are, speculate on your relationship.”
“Oh,” he laughed. “Well then, carry on then, ladies. Don’t let me stop you.”
Kathryn patted his hip as he stepped away and then turned back to her mom. “We can talk more when I get home, but yes, our plan is to make this relationship permanent.”
“I was hoping that would be the case. He seems like such a good man.”
“He is, but give us some time before making any announcements or plans. We’re pretty exhausted.”
“Of course, Katie.” Gretchen blew her daughter a kiss. “I’m just so happy.”
“Me too, Mom. I’ll contact you once we get settled back into our quarters at Headquarters.”
“Looking forward to it already. Bye, dear.”
After the communication closed Chakotay mumbled from his seat across the room, “I was hoping for a bigger dish than that.”
Kathryn laughed as she joined him on the couch. “You want me to extol upon your virtues?”
“Sure,” he said as he put his arm around her and held her close.
“I’d rather show you,” she replied as she kissed him.
Although Kathryn and Chakotay had remained on the Astra, most of their crew had transferred back to Voyager by the time they approached the Sol System. Word had gotten out to the Maquis members that Captain Janeway was very much alive, much to their relief.
On the last evening before they arrived back on Earth, the crew threw another party, this time celebrating what would probably be their last time together for a while.
As soon as Chakotay and Kathryn stepped onto Voyager’s holodeck, she was pulled into Dalby’s arms. Kathryn gasped at the suddenness of it, but then laughed as she hugged him back.
“Forgive me, Captain,” he said as he let her go. Winking at her, he added, “I didn’t know how much I liked you until you died.”
She laughed again. “Thanks, I think.”
Ayala came up to her as well. “Captain, we were so relieved.” He shook her hand and then said, “Oh, what the hell,” and pulled her into a second hug.
When Doyle stepped up and asked, “Is this hug-the-captain night?” Chakotay waved the men away. “Hey you guys, back off. She’s mine.”
“So we hear!” Dalby said as he slapped Chakotay on the shoulder. “Are congratulations in order?”
“What?” Kathryn asked, taken aback.
Dalby looked at her oddly. “I thought I heard rumor of a wedding?”
“Oh, that,” she said with a nod. “Yes, but how’d you find out?”
“Just rumors, and trying to get Chakotay’s goat. Why? What did you think I was talking about?”
At that moment, Brooks came up to them with a couple drinks. “Captain, Commander, compliments of Chell.”
Kathryn started to take hers and then paused. “Alcoholic?”
“Very,” she replied with a laugh.
Holding up a hand, Kathryn shook her head. “No, thank you.”
“None for me, either, but thank you,” Chakotay said.
Dalby started to say something, but Chakotay interrupted. “Look, Miral is here! Kathryn, let’s go see her. Gentlemen, Sue, see you later.”
Sue stared after them and said, “Hmm, I guess she overdid it on the alcohol at the last party.”
“Or not,” Dalby smirked after the departing couple. “Congratulations, indeed.”
As they walked away, Kathryn said to Chakotay, “I think he just figured out our secret.”
Chakotay winked at her as Tom came up to them. “Captain? May I have this dance?”
She looked at Chakotay who was already reaching to take Miral from B’Elanna. “Of course, Tom. Lead the way.”
They walked onto the dance floor and Tom took her into the classic ballroom hold. “Don’t worry, we won’t try the swing again.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Tom. That was pretty fun.”
“Maybe we’ll practice and then show off at a Voyager reunion.”
He shrugged. “I’d hate to think we’ll go our separate ways and never see each other again.”
“It’s a good idea.” She patted his shoulder. “I haven’t thanked you for all you did this week. You made a fine first officer.”
“Happy to help, although it did get a little dicey there for a bit.”
“You did very well, and you were almost as over-protective of me as Chakotay would’ve been.”
He laughed. “Yeah, well, someone has to watch out for you. I assume by the rumors I hear that he’s going to be taking that position permanently?”
“It looks that way, although we haven’t set a date.”
Squeezing her in a sort of a hug, he replied, “I’m thrilled to hear it. If I may ask, though?”
“If you run off to elope, take B’E and me with you? We’d love to be there.”
“Thank you, Tom. I don’t think my mother would be very happy if we did that, but a small wedding with a few friends does sound nice.”
He looked down at her again and asked more seriously, “Are you okay, though? I was worried about you for a while out there.”
“I’m doing fine, Tom,” she assured. “But am definitely looking forward to a nice, long vacation.”
After the dance, Kathryn spied the same group of ladies she’d spoken to at the last party and made her way over. Standing between a couple chairs, she said, “Good evening, ladies. Any new developments in your matchmaking predictions?”
Wildman laughed and the others looked a bit uncertain on how to respond. Sam said, “Just yours, Captain.”
“That’s not true,” Nicoletti remarked. “Doc and Seven are together now, and Celes dumped Harry.”
“What?” Kathryn asked. “Is Harry okay?”
“He’s fine,” Lang said. “Word has it that he’s going to reconnect with his former girlfriend on Earth.”
“Oh, that’s good news,” she replied as she felt Chakotay’s arm settle around her waist from behind. She looked up into his smiling face. “Hi there.”
“Hello.” He nodded to the rest of the table. “Good evening, ladies.”
Some nodded in his direction and a couple answered verbally. “Evening, Commander.”
“Looks like you’re having fun over here,” he remarked.
Kathryn gave him half a smile and explained, “It seems these ladies think we would make a nice couple.”
He laughed and asked the group, “So I have your permission to date the captain?”
“Absolutely,” Lang replied. “And if the rumors are true, you should go ahead and marry her, too.”
He tugged on his ear. “I’ve heard that from several people tonight.”
Kathryn whispered, “Ask me to dance, Commander.”
“Gladly,” he said as he winked at the other ladies and then extended his free hand to Kathryn. “Dance with me?”