Summary: Secrets are remembered, a deception is revealed, and Kathryn Janeway learns the consequences of sacrifice.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Tuvok, Kim, Torres, Kes, Neelix, EMH, Seska, O. Paris, Original Characters, VOY crew
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Paris, Kim/Torres
Disclaimer: Most characters and some dialogue and situations belong to Paramount, with a bit of cherry-picking from Jeri Taylor’s Mosaic. Any dubious science or technobabble is entirely my responsibility.
Notes: Book 4 of the Parallels series. Related episodes: Message in a Bottle, Hunters.
Warning: Depictions of violence and non-consensual sex, as well as the consensual variety.
Part One: Present Tense
~ September, 2372 ~
Personal log, Ensign Seska Miko, stardate 49062.8. I started cross-training in Engineering today. Lieutenant Torres assigned me to shuttle maintenance under Lieutenant Nicoletti. Considering the rate at which some members of this crew destroy, damage or misplace shuttles, I’ll probably be there for the next sixty years, or however long it’s going to take us to get home. I’m a pilot. I should be flying shuttles, not tinkering with them. I know we’re in a unique situation and we all have to pull together and I signed on for this when I joined Starfleet but ... it can be so lon- so, uh, isolating. I wish ... oh, never mind. End log.
I lean back in the comfortable chair and half-close my eyes, relaxing. I have been undercover before, though never for as long as this, and always before there have been times of escape, whole days or even weeks when I could disappear, let the mantle of my assumed personality slide away and be myself again. This role I have been playing for eight years now is a second skin, and shucking it off is no longer easy.
“Computer, replay log.” I listen with a critical ear to my performance – it is convincing, if I do say so myself. A young Starfleet pilot, thrown light-years from her home, struggling bravely to contend with the privations of a long and dangerous journey. I save the log and ask the computer to dim the lights.
There are many things I detest about being on this Federation starship. The endless backup procedures and safety measures which mean every task takes twice as long to complete; the do-gooder morals which require us to answer every pathetic distress call; the short-sighted and self-defeating adherence to the vaunted Prime Directive. But, and I know it sounds ridiculous, the thing I hate most of all is recording my personal log.
We Cardassians value our privacy. The very notion of recording my thoughts and feelings and the mundane details of my day, to be stored in the ship's computer and accessed by senior staff whenever they feel the need, is complete anathema to me. The fact that these are the thoughts and feelings of the displaced young Starfleet officer I appear to be and not really mine is scant comfort. Over the years, she has become a part of me; I have learned to think as she would, feel as she might. It can make my task difficult at times, but it is also why I am so good at what I do.
When Janeway and Paris had been rescued from the Krenim weapon ship, sixty-six of the Voyager crewmen evacuated several months ago had still been missing. Of those, thirty-eight had since been located. Four had been confirmed dead – Boylan, Crag, Nozawa and Platt. Four were discovered on a barren L-class world – Rollins, Molina, Ashmore and Andrews, who had been dazed when Voyager found them, explaining that one minute they’d been prisoners in the Arkaan camp and the next every Arkaan guard had vanished, along with the prison itself. Anderson and Mendez, whose escape pod Ensign Culhane had seen vaporized by Arkaan fire, had reappeared at their stations on Voyager when the temporal shockwave hit. As saddened as she was by the loss of the three species who’d helped Voyager, Commander Janeway was not overly sorry to discover that the temporal reversion had also wiped out the Arkaan.
Twenty-four were still missing, and Stellar Cartography was working overtime to map their possible courses. Janeway had assigned Ensign Kim to work with Ensign Megan Delaney on boosting the astrometric sensor array. Thanks to the increased sensor capabilities, they had succeeded in detecting the subspace transponder signals of several of the other missing escape pods, and Voyager was on its way to collect more of its absent crewmen.
They had also made contact with the Rilnar, who had informed them that in this timeline Annorax was a footnote in history, a brilliant temporal physicist whose experiments had nevertheless failed repeatedly, who had eventually been expelled from Krenim academia and had lived out the rest of his life on a long since abandoned colony world. The Rilnar, despite their understandable skepticism of Voyager’s story, had provided safe haven while they repaired the damage from Annorax’s attack, helped them replenish their supplies and sent them on their way. Kathryn Janeway could not help but wonder how different things would be now if Voyager’s temporal shields had not been reactivated when the space-time shockwave hit. Sometimes, in the long dark insomniac hours, she wished bitterly that she could obliterate the past year from her memory. Perhaps, if she could, she’d be able to sit in her comfortable chair on the bridge without wanting to disappear.
“Approaching the coordinates.” Lieutenant Paris’ voice, toneless, broke the silence that had held on the bridge since Chakotay handed it to his first officer and went to his ready room to catch up on reports.
“Captain to the bridge,” Janeway said, equally inflectionless.
Chakotay emerged and took his seat. “Open hailing frequencies,” he ordered, and at Kim’s nod he went on, “Voyager to escape pod 47-alpha. Lieutenant Carey, Ensign Brooks, respond.”
~Carey here, Captain!~ came the excited reply. The scene that followed – the transport of Carey and Brooks, the reunion with their closest friends and colleagues, the exchange of stories – was a variation on the theme that took place every time they rescued another of the missing, but Voyager’s crew never tired of it.
Neelix determined that each rescue was cause for a party, and as first officer, Janeway knew she was expected to attend each celebration in the mess hall. It was unfortunate that despite the easing of her heavy heart each time they brought back another member of the family, she had never felt less sociable in her life.
She was unenthusiastically pinning up her hair in readiness for the party marking the safe return of Bristow, Lewis, Swift and Jurot when Chakotay came to her door. “I thought we could go together,” he explained.
She nodded. “What time are we expected?”
“Not for a while.” He settled himself on her couch without asking. “I was hoping we could talk for a bit first.”
“About what?” She perched warily on the opposite end.
“About what happened to you on the Krenim ship,” he said carefully.
Her face went blank. “It’s all in my report,” she answered after a pause.
“I don’t think so, Kate,” he said, gently. “Something’s been weighing you down since you got back to Voyager. Did Annorax hurt you?”
“No.” She conceded that that was not the entire truth, and clarified, “Not physically.”
‘You were on that ship for eight months,” he went on. “I know you were in isolation for the first few weeks. Then you tried to gain Annorax’s confidence by working with him on temporal calculations, but didn’t succeed. Tell me what happened after that.”
“After that,” she answered tonelessly, “as I noted in my report, Tom – uh, Lieutenant Paris befriended Obrist, the first officer, and attempted to convince him to stage a mutiny. Before he could complete that mission, Annorax simulated an attack on Voyager and convinced us that he had destroyed it.”
He was watching her with dark and sympathetic eyes. “And you continued in that belief for almost four months, until Obrist informed you Voyager hadn’t been destroyed.”
They were quiet for a while. Finally Chakotay spoke. “I can’t imagine what you went through, Kate.”
She said nothing.
He tried another angle. “You saw a counselor after the loss of the Galileo. Unfortunately, we don’t have one on this ship, but I’d like to help you if I can. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, perhaps one of the other crewmembers would suffice. Kes, maybe, or the Doctor. Or, if you’d prefer to talk with someone who shared the experience, maybe Lieutenant Paris …” He trailed off. She had risen from her seat and was standing at the viewport, staring out. If he’d been a casual observer he might have thought she was at ease, but he’d never been a casual observer where she was concerned. He could see the tension in her shoulders from halfway across the room, could see that her hands were clasped, white-knuckled, behind her back. He didn’t know how to bridge the distance between them.
She spoke without turning. “I’m sorry, Captain. I have a headache. May I be excused from attending the party?”
“If that’s what you want,” he answered. “But remember I’m here if you need me.”
“I will,” she said, and he let himself out.
Tom Paris, knowing his presence was expected at the parties Neelix threw for the returned crew, had nonetheless taken to avoiding them as far as he could by volunteering to help in the kitchen. Occasionally Neelix asked him to pass around canapés or serve drinks, but as often as he could, he retreated to the galley where he could stir pots and stack plates in relative solitude. Small talk and smiling were two talents he seemed recently to have lost, and he figured it was better for everyone if he wasn’t forced to attempt them. Besides, he wasn’t just hoping not to be seen, he was hoping not to have to see her.
Luckily, she appeared to have begged off this shindig. Her absence helped somewhat to loosen the tense muscles cramping the length of his spine. Tom wasn’t sure if his physical tension was an effect of his insomnia or part of the cause; all he knew was he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. He felt numb, dazed; displaced. Working the helm with her sitting a few feet behind him was torment, but when he gratefully ended a shift and returned to his quarters, he found no respite there either.
Harry Kim came into the kitchen carrying a stack of empty plates. “Thought I’d find you here. Neelix is going to start thinking you’ve made a career change if you’re not careful. Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”
“No thanks, I’m good,” Paris replied automatically.
Kim assessed him for a minute. “Want to get out of here? I have holodeck time saved. We could go skiing?”
“No thanks,” he said. “I’m good.”
“Sure,” Kim answered. “Keep telling yourself that. Maybe you’ll eventually believe it.”
Tom couldn’t even be bothered to retort.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Kim demanded, keeping his voice low in case Neelix overheard. “Ever since you came back from that timeship you’ve been walking around acting like a Vulcan. You and Commander Janeway both. The bridge is about as fun as a Klingon painstick ritual these days. What happened to you?”
“Nothing,” he answered. “Everything’s fine. See you later, Harry.”
He’d got as far as pulling on the sweatpants that served as pyjamas and climbing into bed for what he knew would be another wakeful night when the door to his quarters chimed. Perhaps the last person he expected to see when he opened it was Tuvok.
“Lieutenant,” he said blankly. “Is there a problem?”
Tuvok indicated in the negative. “May I enter, Mr Paris?”
“Make yourself at home.”
Tuvok settled on a chair and Paris took the couch opposite. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“I am hoping it is more what I can do for you,” the Vulcan replied. “I have observed that since your return from the Krenim vessel, you appear to be distracted by private concerns.”
Tom’s mouth hardened into a flat line. “Do you have any complaints about the way I’m performing my duties?”
“None,” Tuvok replied. “My concern is for your mental and emotional wellbeing. I have no wish to intrude. However, I may be able to offer some assistance.”
Paris felt chastened. “How?”
“I am practiced in a range of Vulcan meditation techniques, some of which can be adapted to allow other species to assert some control over their emotional states. If you are willing, I can guide you through such procedures.”
You’re acting like a Vulcan, Harry Kim had said, and Paris had wished fervently that he could sublimate his emotions the way Vulcans did. Well, here was his chance. “When do we start?”
“How’s the cross-training program coming along?”
Alpha shift had long since ended and Chakotay and Janeway were in his ready room going over status reports. The cross-training had been Tuvok’s idea; he’d proposed it as a contingency plan if Voyager were ever to be left with minimal crew complement again. Neelix and Kes had been first to volunteer, claiming they’d benefited greatly from learning new skills during their year of hell. Janeway had worked with Tuvok to draw up a shift roster. “Pretty well, all things considering,” she answered. “Everyone can see the benefits, even if some don’t like being out of their comfort zones.”
“Any more developments on finding our missing sheep?”
“Nothing yet. I’m heading to Stellar Cartography when we finish here.”
“Keep me apprised.” Chakotay keyed his PADD off. “Hungry?”
“No, thanks. I’m fine.”
He levelled a look at her. “At the risk of sounding like the Doctor, when did you last eat?”
She sighed. “All right, you win. Mess hall?”
“Here will do.” Chakotay went to the replicator and returned bearing fragrant plates of chicken biryani, knowing she was partial to it. She picked at it listlessly. “How are you doing, Kathryn?” he asked in as mild a tone as he could muster.
“I’m fine, Captain.”
“It’s Chakotay,” he reminded her gently. “We’re not on duty now.”
“Right. Chakotay.” She put down her fork. “I’m sorry, I can’t.” She scraped back her chair. Chakotay stood with her. Whatever he’d been about to say was cut off by the chirp of her commbadge.
~Kim to Janeway. Please report to Stellar Cartography.~
“On my way.”
“We’ve picked up a signal,” Kim told her when she entered the lab. “One of the subspace beacons. It’s about thirty light years away, but it appears to be near a quantum singularity. We’re having trouble isolating the beacon’s location through the gravimetric interference, and we can’t get a comm signal through.”
Janeway moved to the console between Kim and Delaney. “Have you tried compressing the signal?”
Kim nodded. “It starts to degrade when it gets too close to the singularity. And we’ve reconfigured the sensors about as far as we can. The singularity is emitting gamma-ray bursts and there’s too much interference to get a clear lock on the beacon’s location.”
Janeway was staring at the display screen. Subspace instabilities and gamma-ray emissions. Somewhere, a memory was stirring.
“Tachyons,” she burst out, suddenly.
Kim and Delaney looked at her, uncomprehending.
“Modulate the deflector array.” The words came quickly now, tumbling over each other in her haste to crystallise the memory. “Tie it into the sensor grid and send out a series of tachyon pulses. They’ll bounce off the quantum singularity. We can map the tachyon echoes and pinpoint the beacon’s location.”
Kim was staring at her, open-mouthed.
“Do it, Ensign,” Janeway suggested, and he turned back to the console to carry out her orders. Within a few minutes the subspace transponder signal appeared steady and unblinking on the astrometric display.
“There it is! It’s the shuttlecraft Tereshkova,” Kim said. “Wow, Commander, how did you come up with that?”
“It was just something I remembered,” she said softly, and he could tell she wasn’t really talking to him. “Something from a lifetime ago.”