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.
5. Present Irregular
- October, 2372 -
Voyager has detected a Starfleet ship through the alien sensor network, a means of communicating with home, and suddenly, my options have opened up again.
Their message has already been composed and transmitted, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. Lieutenant Torres used a photonically-enhanced carrier wave to strengthen the communication signal; I can reconfigure the secondary navigation console, my station on the bridge when I’m not at the helm, to send an almost-indetectable photonic pulse after it. It will attach itself to the carrier wave and be transmitted to the Starfleet ship along with Voyager’s message. I can encode the pulse with a message of my own, a series of numbers, apparently meaningless. It will most likely take some time, but eventually that numerical sequence will make its way, via Voyager’s datastream, to its intended recipient – any one of the many Obsidian Order operatives currently serving covertly within Starfleet. My message will of necessity be brief, but it will contain enough information to eventually be redirected to my mother, informing her that I am alive, and requesting further instruction.
It is risky, of course; the pulse could be detected by Lieutenant Tuvok or one of the other ship’s officers, but I am practiced in the art of masking my actions. I will use the same method I employed to conceal my communications to the Krenim ship, and delete all trace once the transmission is complete.
I am uncertain when I will receive a reply from the Order, but my people are resourceful and I have no doubt they will find a way. Until they do, I will maintain my cover and stay alert to opportunities.
I have considered enlisting the assistance of one of the crew – turning them, in other words – and during the early days in the Delta quadrant I studied the Maquis renegades in particular to assess the prospect of corrupting one of them to my means. Lieutenant Paris was another possibility, but he has assimilated with contemptible thoroughness and is now the very model of a Starfleet officer. For a time I considered compromising the Captain, and began to lay the groundwork that would ensure his compliance. But my seduction failed, and now that he has his beloved Janeway back I am aware I have lost any future opportunity.
There is something about her. Something that stirs in me a vague and long-buried emotion, or perhaps the memory of an emotion. In my efforts to preserve my assumed identity, I have compartmentalised, I have subjugated so much of my real self, that at times I find it difficult to access. Still, I can’t help feeling that somehow, she is connected to something I should know.
No matter. I have not been wasting my time with idle irritations. Since the Captain’s revelation that he suspects a Section 31 agent has infiltrated his crew, both Lieutenant Tuvok and I have investigated diligently, in our separate ways. He has not identified the agent, but I have. The agent’s identity will be of interest to the Order, and so I have included it in my coded transmission. All I need to do now is send the message, and wait; and I am so very practiced at waiting.
“We’re approaching the Tereshkova,” Kim announced. “Still no response to hails.”
“The shuttle appears to have suffered an attack,” observed Tuvok. “All systems are down.”
Chakotay stood. “Life signs?”
Kim shook his head, his dark eyes tense.
The captain nodded at Janeway. “You’ll need an EVA suit.”
“Tuvok,” Janeway summoned him, and they headed to the transporter room. They pulled environmental suits from the storage compartments. Tuvok had his phaser ready, Janeway her tricorder, as they beamed over.
Materialising inside the shuttle, Janeway took in the scene around her and almost lost the battle with her rising gorge. “Fuck,” she said involuntarily, then closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing, waiting for the nausea to subside. When she opened them, she saw that Tuvok had holstered his phaser and was scanning the … whatever … draped over surfaces around them. Her brain refused to recognise it as the stretched and dessicated human skin she knew it to be.
The shuttle’s walls were streaked in blood and grey matter. A torn Starfleet uniform, science blue, hung from a console. A boot lay discarded in a corner; when she looked more closely, she saw it still contained a roughly amputated foot.
“What happened here?” she asked faintly.
“Slaughter,” Tuvok replied succinctly. “Commander, I suggest we have the remains transported to Voyager’s sickbay for the Doctor to analyse. He should be able to determine whether this represents the remains of all four of the Tereshkova’s crew.”
Janeway nodded and tapped her commbadge. Frankly, she couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. “Janeway to Voyager. Transport Lieutenant Tuvok and myself directly to Sickbay, along with all humanoid matter the scanners can detect. Energise.”
“Report, Doctor.” Chakotay’s face was grey-tinged.
“There’s no doubt, Captain. This matter constitutes the remains of two humans, one Bajoran and one Betazoid, identified as Lieutenant Durst and Crewmen Foster, Nera and Suder.” The EMH was tight-lipped. He stood by the examination table and indicated the gruesome pile before them. “It appears they each underwent a complete osteotomy. The entire skeletal structure, musculature, ligaments and tendons, organs – all have been removed.”
“For what purpose?”
“I can’t say. My database contains the medical archives of the entire Federation, but it makes no reference to anything like this.”
“It almost looks ritualistic,” Chakotay offered. “Somebody carefully harvested the organs and entire internal body structure, and left the skin discarded. Some ancient Earth cultures used to practice flaying, but this appears to be the exact opposite. In those rituals, the skin was usually the prize and the rest of the body was discarded.”
Janeway grimaced. She was still pale, Chakotay saw, but composed. She addressed Tuvok. “Did your scans reveal anything about the weapons signatures on the shuttle’s hull plating?”
“The signatures were caused by high-yield polaron weapons. They do not correspond to any species we have yet encountered. However, we may be entering a contested or heavily-guarded area of space.” He turned to Chakotay. “Captain, I would recommend we take the ship to yellow alert.”
“Agreed.” Chakotay made to tap his commbadge, but before he could, Ensign Kim commed him.
~Captain, a ship is approaching at high warp. Its weapons are powered and their signature matches the scorch marks on the Tereshkova’s hull. It’s on an intercept course.~
“Red alert,” Chakotay replied. “I’m on my way.”
“The vessel is in hailing range,” Kim advised.
“Open a channel.” Chakotay stood as the viewscreen changed from the star field to the interior of the alien ship. An imposing humanoid stood front and centre, clad in heavy grey armour. Cold black eyes stared out from behind a metal faceplate.
~What are you?~ he demanded.
“I’m Captain Chakotay of the Federation starship Voyager. Who are you?”
~We are the Hirogen. You violate our space and our property. You will be our prey.~
“Your property?” Chakotay decided to ignore the last part of the HIrogen’s threat. “You mean the sensor network? We thought it was abandoned.”
~It belongs to us. Terminate your transmission and prepare to be taken.~
“Wait,” said Chakotay. “Your network gave us the unique opportunity to communicate with our people. They’re very far away and we’re expecting a message back –”
~All messages will be intercepted. This is your final warning. You will be taken as relics of the hunt.~
“Relics?” Chakotay’s face hardened. “You murdered four of my crew and violated their remains.”
~They were pitiful prey. Easily taken.~
“You’ll find we’re not so easily subdued. This ship is more than a match for yours.”
~Good. Strong prey makes for a better hunt.~
The Hirogen cut the channel. Instantly, Voyager rocked from weapons fire.
Chakotay met Tuvok’s eyes. “Target their weapons array.”
Tuvok complied. “I have destroyed one of their phaser banks. Polaron torpedo incoming.” The ship bucked again, and Tuvok reported, “Shields at sixty percent.”
“Evasive manoeuvres, Mr Paris.” Chakotay took his seat and met Janeway’s eyes as Voyager sliced to port, avoiding another bout of weapons fire. “Harry, what’s the status of the transmission?”
“Still lodged in the relay station, Captain.”
“Take us closer to it, Tom. Tuvok, fire at will. Kim, as soon as we’ve disabled the Hirogen ship, we need to stabilise that station’s containment field. I’m not losing that message.”
“Full impulse,” Paris reported. “The HIrogen are in pursuit.”
“I have disabled another of their weapons arrays,” Tuvok stated. “Two remain operable.”
“Sir, the gravimetric eddies from the singularity are increasing,” said Paris. “I can’t get us much closer than this.”
“Hold position. Tuvok?”
“Our shields are at thirty-six percent. The Hirogen are firing again … Captain, they are firing on the relay station.”
“They’ve destabilised the containment field,” Kim said urgently. “If we can’t shore it up the singularity could breach and initiate a chain reaction in the relay network.”
“Lieutenant, disable that ship,” Janeway ordered Tuvok.
“Preparing photon torpedoes, half yield. Targeting the remaining weapons banks. Firing.”
A few moments later, the Hirogen ship exploded in a fiery shock of light.
“Tuvok!” Chakotay was on his feet again. “What happened?”
“I am uncertain, Captain. Our torpedoes should not have destroyed them.”
Kim cut in, “Captain, the singularity is beginning to destabilise.”
“Can we get any closer, Tom?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” the pilot answered. “Voyager would take a beating. A shuttle could withstand the gravimetric eddies more easily.”
Chakotay looked to his first officer. “Commander, take the Cochrane to stabilise the containment field.”
She nodded, stood, and hesitated.
Protocol dictated that the away team consist of two members, minimum. She needed a pilot. And protocol also dictated that she assign the senior flight controller on duty to the mission.
Lieutenant Paris, anticipating the order everyone was expecting, had already half-risen from his chair, when Janeway glanced over to the secondary navigation console and said, “Ensign Seska. You’re with me.”
Paris froze. “Commander?”
“As you were, Lieutenant.”
“Commander,” he said more forcefully, standing to face her now. “I should be flying that shuttle.”
“You’re needed here on Voyager in case the Hirogen send reinforcements.”
She turned, dismissing him, but he moved swiftly in front of her and faced her down. “Sir, I am the chief helm officer and my place is on that shuttle with you.”
“And I’m the first officer,” she shot back, “and choosing the members of my away team is my prerogative.” She turned and headed for the turbolift, Seska at her heels.
“Return to your station, Mr Paris,” she heard Chakotay say quietly as the turbolift doors closed.
“Commander, we’re as close to the singularity as we can get,” Seska reported.
“Deflector online.” Janeway entered commands into her console. “Initiating the polaron pulse. The variance in the containment field is decreasing.” She checked her readouts, then nodded. “That should do it. Set a course back to Voyager.”
“Aye –” Seska began, and then the shuttle shuddered. “Commander, another Hirogen ship just dropped out of warp and fired on us. I’ve lost engines.”
Janeway tried to activate the comm. “Janeway to Voyager –”
“Communications are down,” Seska stated. “Shields are gone. We’re losing main power.”
Janeway checked the external sensors. “I’m detecting two other Hirogen ships five light years away, on an intercept course. Voyager won’t be able to help us.” She tapped her fingers, searching for options. “Ensign, do we have manoeuvring thrusters?”
“Yes. Helm control is failing.”
“Set a course for the Tereshkova. I’m sending out a wide-band thoron burst. It should hide us from the Hirogen’s sensors long enough to get us to that shuttle. Take up a position just off its bow.”
“Approaching the Tereshkova.” Seska guided the Cochrane into place. “Holding position seven point five kilometres from the shuttle.”
“All stop,” Janeway said. “I’m remodulating our hull frequency to match the Tereshkova’s. That should make us invisible to scanners.” She finished entering her commands. “Done.”
“Main power is offline,” Seska reported.
Janeway sat back. “And now we wait.”
“Captain, I have an explanation for the destruction of the Hirogen ship.”
Chakotay turned to Tuvok. “Let’s hear it.”
“Sir, I believe we should discuss this in your ready room.”
Chakotay raised an eyebrow. “Lieutenant Paris, you have the bridge.”
In the ready room, Chakotay offered Tuvok a seat. He declined, so Chakotay remained standing. “Report, Lieutenant.”
“I have discovered, with Ensign Kim’s assistance, that several apparently unconnected discrepancies appear to have been the work of a single person.” He handed Chakotay a PADD. “On stardate 49021.5, Ensign Kim detected that someone had accessed the power grid from an EPS node on Deck Seven and connected the communications system to the main power circuits. It seems a message was directed through the power grid and encoded in the waste energy from the propulsion systems. At the time, Ensign Kim believed it was an anomalous reading caused by the wide-spread systems failures Voyager was suffering at the time. He was incorrect. I have not determined the recipient of the message, but given the date on which it occurred, I would surmise the communication was directed toward the Krenim weapon vessel.”
Chakotay glanced up at him sharply.
Tuvok went on, “On stardate 49043.6, during the final battle with Annorax’s ship, our temporal shields were restored. Shortly before that occurred, another communication was directed through the propulsion relays. I have run a signal correlation trace and determined that both incidents were initiated from the helm.” He indicated the relevant data on the PADD Chakotay was holding.
Chakotay’s eyes went dark.
“An hour ago,” Tuvok continued, “a photonic pulse was directed toward the alien sensor network, several minutes before our torpedoes destroyed the Hirogen vessel. I have not yet determined the purpose of the photonic surge. However, it appears that our weapons were infused with a plasma burst which increased the torpedo yield to one hundred and twenty percent, causing the destruction of the Hirogen ship. Again, both incidents came from the same station; in this case, the secondary navigation panel.” He paused. “It appears a saboteur has been working aboard Voyager for some time.”
Chakotay said, “Seska.”
~Captain to the bridge,~ Paris said over the comm.
“Report, Mr Paris,” the captain asked when he and Tuvok returned to the bridge.
“A Hirogen warship just dropped out of warp and fired on the Cochrane.” Paris’ jaw was clenched. “I’m not detecting the shuttle on sensors. The ship is on an intercept course. Two other vessels are approaching, five light years from our position.”
“Shields,” Chakotay ordered. “Tuvok, disable that Hirogen ship as soon as it’s in weapons range.”
“Aye, Captain,” Tuvok answered from his station, and a moment later, “Firing. Their weapons have been neutralised. They are retreating.”
“Ensign Kim, find our shuttle. Tuvok, Paris, in my ready room. Now.”
“Interesting tactic, Commander,” said Seska. “I don’t recall learning that one from the Starfleet tactical manual.”
Janeway quirked a smile. “That’s because you won’t find it in any Starfleet manual. I learned that trick when I was in the Maquis.” She turned to Seska. “If you don’t mind me asking, Ensign, was there ever a time you considered joining the Maquis yourself?”
“Because I’m Bajoran?” Seska replied. At Janeway’s nod, she answered, “Yes, of course. But I felt I could do more good for my people, and the colonists in the DMZ, as a member of Starfleet.”
Seska leaned back in her chair. “There’s a story my father once told me during the Cardassian occupation, when I was a child in the work camps, before he was killed by one of the prison guards. I was an intransigent child, and I often protested against the cruelty of the Cardassian guards. In my early teens, I joined with some of my friends in planning an uprising against them. We cobbled together an explosive device from spare parts the guards had left lying around. My plan was to strap the bomb to myself and take several of the guards hostage, demanding that they stop beating and torturing my people. I was fully prepared to sacrifice myself for what I saw as the greater good.”
Janeway was listening intently. “Brave.”
“Foolish,” Seska corrected her. “My father discovered what we intended to do. He took me aside and told me to abandon my plans. To emphasise his point, he told me a parable.” She paused, collecting her memories, and went on, “High in the mountains of Bajor, many centuries ago, there lived a creature called the tika bird. She had lived for many thousands of years alone, until one day she miraculously laid three eggs. Her young hatched several days later, and the tika bird was filled with joy. She vowed that there was nothing in her power that she wouldn’t do to protect her young.”
Janeway’s fingers had stilled on the console. Seska went on,
“One day, a felor cat came climbing into the mountains. He hadn’t eaten for a very long time, and he was very hungry. By chance he came upon the tika bird’s nest, and he prepared to fill his belly with the three young birds. But then the mother, who had been out seeking food for her children, came back and saw what was about to happen. She placed herself between the felor cat and her young. The felor cat told her to move aside, but she replied that she would give herself to him to consume, as long as he would leave her young unmolested.”
A high, tight singing had begun in the back of Kathryn Janeway’s brain.
“The felor cat agreed, and the tika bird gave herself gladly to be eaten, knowing she had protected her young. But as soon as the cat had eaten her, he turned to the nest and ate her three children as well.”
Seska paused. “My father told me this story to illustrate the futility of self-sacrifice. He said my plan to put myself in the path of danger would fail. The Cardassians might agree to modify their treatment of the Bajoran prisoners to stop me from exploding the bomb and taking the guards to the afterlife with me, but as soon as I released them, they would kill me and go right back to their ways of torture and starvation.”
She glanced over at Janeway, but the commander’s face was turned away. Seska continued, “The Maquis put themselves in the face of death and danger to save their people in the demilitarised zone. But I knew their cause would fail. Whatever victories they wrought, whatever sacrifices they made, they could not stand against the Cardassian military. Cardassia would destroy them, and all of the colonies they were trying to save. I knew joining the Maquis would be futile. So I stayed in Starfleet, where I hoped I could do more to prevent the massacres of the colonists, and the war we all knew was coming.”
There was a sick knot in the pit of Janeway’s stomach and her spine felt crystallised, like ice. She could barely open her frozen lips to speak.
“Your father told you that story?”