Summary: They’re home… but it’s not what they hoped for. Estranged by circumstance and misunderstanding and kept apart by devious design, Voyager’s former command team are drawn into a world of danger, deception and political intrigue that could end up costing their lives.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven, Kim, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Sekaya, Original Female Characters, Original Male Characters
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Other, Chakotay/Seven, Kim/Seven
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Warning: Non-consensual sex depicted.
There’s a heartbeat fallen forever
You never believe me
But I just want to know
‘Cause I can’t let you go
– Rüfüs du Sol, Nocturnal
Chapter Twelve: Sub Rosa
Kathryn applied the hypospray to her neck and crawled onto her bed, resting the back of her hand over her eyes as she waited for the analgesic to work. Even with the curtains closed to keep out the harsh midday light, her head pounded sickly. She’d become so used to the constant, low-grade pain that it only became intolerable when it flared into a migraine.
Once again, she promised herself she’d see a doctor – a proper one, not just the duty medic at HQ – when she returned home. If she was going to sort out the rest of her life, she’d better start with her health.
For a moment, the thought of what awaited her on Earth seemed unbearable and she squeezed her eyes closed, trying to suppress the welling tears. It’s going to be fine, she pep-talked herself fiercely. I brought a ship home from the Delta quadrant in seven years. I can handle one tyrannical admiral and my sleazy, soon-to-be-ex-husband.
But the dread she’d felt in the pit of her stomach since Ryan had assaulted her would not be reasoned with.
Kathryn covered her face with her hands. It wasn’t the first time she’d survived such an attack. Ryan hadn’t even physically hurt her, unlike those other times. Why was she finding it so difficult to accept what he’d done?
Because I trusted him, she thought miserably. I married him.
And now, because that trust had proven so misplaced, she couldn’t be sure if her instincts were still reliable.
What if she was wrong to trust the other people in her life? Tora Jens had certainly turned out to be less than truthful.
What if she was wrong about Chakotay?
That’s ridiculous, she reminded herself firmly. Chakotay would never lie to me.
But he’d kept the truth from her before.
Kathryn sat up, staring dully at her hands curled in her lap. The analgesic had allowed her headache to abate to a just-bearable degree, and it was time to go to work. Her agony, both physical and emotional, would have to wait.
The afternoon’s peace talks between President Zife and Chancellor Martok proved an adequate distraction; the Klingon chancellor made no secret of his distaste for Zife’s political double-speak and his frequent impatient outbursts grew more colourful as the afternoon wore on. By the time Martok called a halt to the meeting and Kathryn escaped to her room to dress for dinner, her mood had lifted somewhat.
It plummeted again at the sight of Tora Jens.
“I believe I ordered you to return to Earth, Lieutenant.” Kathryn’s tone was the one she used to employ to make wayward ensigns, obstreperous aliens and even Tom Paris stand a little straighter. “What are you doing in my room?”
Jens clasped her hands behind her back. “Admiral, please hear me out.”
Kathryn gave her a short nod.
“I should have told you about the tracking device,” Jens began, “but I couldn’t be sure of the extent Admiral Kjogo was observing you, or me for that matter. She may have planted other trackers on you, or even listening devices.”
Kathryn shrugged off her jacket and tossed it into the refresher, ordering a cup of black coffee and turning back to her former aide. “You sound completely paranoid, Lieutenant,” she said flatly, sipping her espresso.
“With good reason, ma’am,” Jens pointed out. “Admiral Kjogo gave me explicit instructions to watch you and report back to her on your movements, your conversations, how you spend the little leisure time she allows you, even what you wear. She has every intention of continuing to monitor and control you, for as long as you’re of use to her.”
Slumping, Kathryn rubbed her temple, where her headache was returning in full force. “All right,” she admitted, “I can’t deny I have felt somewhat… constrained … since I began reporting to Admiral Kjogo. But that ends now, Lieutenant. When I return to Earth I intend to demand a reassignment.”
Tora’s eyes widened. “Admiral, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you play along with her. She’s dangerous.”
“So was the Delta quadrant,” Kathryn retorted. “And I survived that more or less intact.”
“If you want to stay that way, you should listen to me,” Jens stressed.
“You’re treading very close to the line, Lieutenant.” Kathryn tried to glare at the younger woman, but her head hurt so badly now that there was a blur before her eyes. Nausea welled in her throat.
“Please,” Jens insisted. “Let me help you.”
“No. This conversation is over. Dismi-” Kathryn broke off with a groan, doubling over as the migraine slammed into her, curdling her stomach and tunnelling her vision. Her almost-full cup fell from suddenly nerveless fingers, dark coffee soaking a stain into the white carpet.
Tora was instantly at her side, a hand on her shoulder, easing her to the floor. Kathryn could hear her whispering soft nonsense words at the edge of her consciousness. The young woman’s hand moved up to the nape of Kathryn’s neck, fingers gently stroking her skin. She felt the pain begin to lessen, a blissful cool dampening the acid fire that had taken hold of her every nerve and bone and muscle. The nausea ebbed, her vision cleared. The headache receded.
Kathryn straightened up and turned to stare at Tora Jens.
“How did you do that?” she demanded softly. “My headache has almost completely gone.”
An expression flitted across Tora’s beautiful face and was gone before Kathryn could identify it. “It’s an old Betazoid technique,” Jens answered smoothly. “I spent some time there when I was a teenager.”
“I’ve never known a Betazoid who could cure a headache that way.” Kathryn narrowed her eyes, but Jens’ face remained smooth and serene.
“Do you feel better now, Admiral?”
“Yes.” Kathryn let Tora clasp her hand and help her to her feet. “But if you think this changes my mind about firing you –”
“Admiral.” Jens’ voice took on that soothing quality again, and Kathryn found herself gazing into the younger woman’s blue eyes, curling her fingers around Jens’. “I really wish you’d reconsider.”
“I suppose,” Kathryn found herself saying, her voice halting, “I could give you another chance.”
Jens’ smile was brilliant. “Thank you, Admiral,” she murmured. “You won’t regret it.”
“You should dress for dinner,” Tora continued, still holding Kathryn’s gaze. “I’ll come back in time to escort you to the dining room.”
“All right,” Kathryn mumbled.
“Go now,” Jens said gently, patting her hand before she released it, and Kathryn turned obediently for the bathroom, shedding the pieces of her uniform as she went.
Showered, refreshed and outfitted in a black wool dress she favoured for its modesty, she waited for Jens to arrive before they made their way down to the hotel bar. Kathryn surveyed the room. The Orion she’d overheard discussing Trans-Quadrant Express’s alleged expansion the night before was standing in the far corner observing the room. Kathryn sent Jens off to order champagne and wandered over in the Orion’s direction, offering him a smile as she took up position at his side.
He eyed her with interest. “Admiral Janeway.”
Kathryn extended a hand. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.”
“I very much doubt that.” The Orion raised her hand to his lips. “My name is Tered.”
“Delighted to meet you.” She sipped her champagne. “How are you enjoying the conference, Mr Tered?”
Tered’s smile twisted slightly. “I’m finding it educational.”
“Oh? In what way?”
“Tell me, Admiral,” the Orion leaned in conspiratorially, “are you hoping to gather some kind of information for Starfleet?”
“I’m just making conversation.”
“Ah.” He leaned back. “Then you’re here on your husband’s behalf.”
Kathryn raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Mr Tered.”
“Then I’ll be blunt. Your husband is treading on dangerous ground, Admiral, and my employers are becoming displeased. Tell Councillor Austin to look after his own empire and stay out of ours.”
“His empire?” Her heart beat faster at the low menace in the Orion’s voice. “Mr Tered, my husband runs a small business delivering medical aid to people in need. I hardly think –”
Tered placed a finger over her lips, silencing her. “Don’t be disingenuous, Admiral. It doesn’t suit you.” His hand dropped. “Advise him that we’re keeping a close eye on him. If he chooses to annoy us any further, we’ll take everything he has, including his profitable little investment on Trebus.”
Her breath stuck in her lungs. “Trebus?”
“It’s been a pleasure talking with you, Admiral,” the Orion said, and walked away without another word.
“So this is Entera’s command centre.” Chakotay glanced around with studied ease at the richly decorated salon. “I have to confess, it’s not what I expected.”
“Ube here sees no point in being uncomfortable while we plan for war.” Senator Tal’aura’s patrician features curved into a slight smile. “Please, sit down, Captain. We have a lot of information to brief you on.”
“So it seems.” Chakotay settled onto the couch opposite Admiral Mekas, glancing from him to Tal’aura to Sikola, eyebrows raised. “War?”
Sikola lifted one shoulder. “As I said, Captain, we believe the Orions are arming for conflict. We want to be ready.”
“How can I help?”
Tal’aura leaned forward, pouring out four cups of tea from the elegant pot on the low table. “You’re aware of the increased Starfleet presence around the Borderlands trade routes, of course?” she queried, and at Chakotay’s nod, “As you’ve already been informed, we have a number of operatives and allies within the Starfleet ranks. Some of those are posted on the Borderlands patrol vessels.”
“One of whom is the agent you want me to vet for loyalty,” Chakotay confirmed.
“Yes. He’s the captain of the USS Zapata, stationed on patrol near the Briar Patch, as you Federations so quaintly call it. When we’re finished here, Kash will escort you to meet him.”
Chakotay nodded. “Tell me more about the Orions,” he requested. “What makes you so sure they’re planning an armed conflict?”
Mekas spoke up. “The number of Orion vessels traversing this sector has more than doubled in recent weeks. We’ve also detected a vast increase in the volume of armaments at two of the bases the Orions don’t think we know about.” He spooned sugar into his tea, stirred and tapped the spoon ringingly on the delicate rim of the cup. “Our intel suggests they’ll make their initial assault within the month. We want to ensure we’re more than ready to retaliate in force.”
Chakotay’s heart was thumping. “Where are they getting the weaponry from?”
Tal’aura made a disapproving face. “Largely, from my government, Captain.”
“From the Romulan praetor?” Chakotay turned to stare at her. “Then you’re a …” he fumbled for the right word.
“Traitor?” Tal’aura suggested, eyebrow raised.
“Dissident,” he compromised.
“Oh, well done, Captain,” murmured Sikola.
Tal’aura ignored her. “I’m not alone in my … reactionary politics,” she offered. “A number of senators and high-ranking Tal Shiar officials are displeased with the current praetor. Do not be surprised if a new one is installed in short order.”
“You have someone in mind?” Chakotay croaked. He could barely keep up with this conversation.
“You won’t have heard of him – he’s Reman. Never mind, Captain, this isn’t important to the matter at hand. Let’s get back to your mission, shall we?”
“You’re going to ensure Starfleet Intelligence stays out of our way while we prepare for the Orion assault. Our preference would be to avoid war entirely – despite the Ferengi motto, it’s bad for business – but it may be inevitable. If so, we don’t intend to be crippled by Starfleet interference.”
Mekas leaned forward. “Leave the politics to me, Captain,” he advised. “Your job is to take care of our back yard. Find out if the captain of the Zapata is playing both sides, sniff out any other traitors among our ranks, pass along any intel you hear from any source – Starfleet included – and keep Owen Paris off our trail.”
“Do you think you can manage that, Captain?” inquired Sikola.
Chakotay met her eyes, keeping his own hard and impenetrable. “I don’t doubt it, Legate.”
Sikola smiled. “In that case, welcome to Entera.”
Kathryn’s face hurt from holding her photogenic smile, her stilettos were murder on her feet, she felt bilious from swallowing an evening’s worth of backhanded compliments along with the Ajilon cuisine, and her headache had returned with a vengeance. At the first opportunity, she’d slipped away from the ballroom and all but ran to the turbolift that whisked her up to her suite.
She’d kicked off her heels with a groan of relief before the door even finished closing behind her. Stripping off the black wool dress – so much for modest; it had evidently been figure-hugging enough to attract the interest, and the hands, of more than one diplomat – she pulled on her oldest, most comfortable pair of jeans and – after a brief hesitation – picked up Chakotay’s sweater, which was still lying on the bed from this morning’s hasty escape.
God, was that only this morning? she mused, tugging the sweater over her head.
Immediately, she began to sneeze.
The sweater, she realised. I’m allergic to the sweater.
She yanked it off, eyes watering, and stumbled to the replicator for a hypospray. As soon as the antihistamine began to clear her system, she peered at the sweater.
There were several long, gingery-white hairs tucked into the weave. Hairs she recognised.
“It’s not the sweater,” she whispered aloud as several mental jigsaw pieces slotted into place. “It’s Sina.”
Chakotay had, at some point in the past twenty-four hours, been close enough to Premier Sina of Regulus to pick up the Caitian’s shedding fur on his clothing.
Sina knew things about Ryan’s business that Kathryn didn’t know.
Ryan was involved in something the Orions were displeased about. Something to do with Starfleet’s increased presence in the Borderlands. And something to do with Trebus.
Chakotay was investigating some kind of conspiracy.
Sina was involved in it, Kathryn realised. And so was Ryan.
She tossed the sweater into the refresher, pressed the control that would sonic-clean it of sneeze-inducing fur and pulled it on again. Then she sat at her personal console and ordered, “Computer, open a channel to Admiral Owen Paris at Starfleet Intelligence.”
~Katie, this is a nice surprise. How’s Ajilon? How’s the conference?~
“Ajilon is fine. The conference is as tedious as I’d expected. Owen, I’m sorry to launch straight into it, but I was wondering if you could tell me where Chakotay is at the moment.”
Paris’ eyes narrowed: a warning, she recognised. ~I’m afraid I can’t divulge that information, Admiral. Why do you ask?~
She debated quickly and opted for discretion. “I have … reason to be concerned about him.”
~He’s a big boy, Kathryn. He can take care of himself.~ Paris stared directly at her through the screen. ~Julia and I are looking forward to seeing you. Dinner at ours the night you get back, isn’t it? I hope you won’t be too tired from travelling.~
They’d made no such arrangement, but Kathryn had never been slow on the uptake. “Not at all. I’m looking forward to it too, Owen. See you then.”
He smiled approvingly. ~Enjoy the conference. And keep your ears open, eh? It might be tedious, but you’re shaping the future of the Federation out there. Paris out.~
Kathryn sat back, frowning. Shaping the future of the Federation? He’d sounded just like Ryan.
Ryan, who’d lied about who he was. Who had used his association with her to promote his own agenda and secure election to the Federation Council. Whose courier company, she’d intuited, was involved in far less noble business than errands of mercy.
There was something seriously shady going on here, and that short conversation with Owen Paris had told her that both he and Chakotay were aware of it and somehow involved.
Kathryn ordered herself a very large whiskey from the replicator, took it over to the window seat where she had a spectacular view of Ajilon City below, and sat down to think.
~Chakotay. Good to hear from you.~
“Admiral,” Chakotay responded. “I’ll file an official report in due course, but I needed to pass on some intel immediately. I’ve encrypted this transmission and activated a dispersal field. We should have about two minutes.”
Owen Paris tapped the console at his end. ~Secured here too. Go ahead, Captain.~
Chakotay launched straight into it. “I’ve breached Entera’s inner circle. Among others, it consists of Premier Sina of Regulus, Vice-Chancellor B’Kor of Qo’noS, Legate Sikola of Cardassia, Fleet Admiral Ube Mekas and Senator Tal’aura of Romulus, who hinted that there’s a Reman involved who also intends to make a play for the praetorship. You might want to look into it.”
Paris had grown more ashen with each name Chakotay recited. ~You’re absolutely certain of this?~
“I met them all personally.”
~It’s even worse than I feared,~ Paris muttered. ~Are they still suspicious of you?~
“Suspicion is a way of life for these people,” answered Chakotay. “But if you’re asking whether they’re convinced that I’ve switched loyalties, I think so. They’re sending me to the Briar Patch to assess a Starfleet captain who may have double-crossed them. Kash is picking me up in half an hour.”
Owen nodded. ~They’ll be expecting you to feed me sanitised information.~
“And they’ll want me to give them something good,” Chakotay countered. “Something they can verify. If you can prepare for that, Admiral, I’d appreciate it.”
~Use this frequency only in emergencies from now on,~ Paris instructed. ~You can’t risk it otherwise.~
“Understood.” A light flashed on his console. “We’re out of time, Admiral.”
~I’ll expect your official transmission soon. Oh, and Captain?~
~When this is all over, give Katie Janeway a call. I doubt you’ll regret it.~
“I intend to,” Chakotay answered softly, and cut the connection.
He debated contacting Jonah Miles, but decided he’d pushed his luck too far to risk another covert transmission. Section 31 would have to wait until he reached the Briar Patch. And besides, there was a certain satisfaction in keeping Paris informed ahead of the shadow operative. Although Miles would make him pay for it later, he was sure.
There was one person he wished he didn’t have to keep any secrets from, Chakotay contemplated later on in the shuttle, as he relieved Kash from piloting so she could catch a few hours’ sleep. He sighed, shifting in his chair. When this was all over – if he survived – he had every intention of telling Kathryn everything. About the fracture in their friendship that had led him to Seven, his regret and loneliness and the bad decisions he’d made; about his mission; but mostly that he loved her, and that he couldn’t see that ever changing.
If only he could have been honest with her last night on Ajilon. If only duty hadn't prevented him from telling her everything. From asking her if there was the slightest chance she felt the same way –
Idiot, he scowled, reminding himself that duty wasn’t their only obstacle. There was also the small matter of her husband.
Austin. He almost groaned aloud. Had Kathryn read the file he’d given her? She’d already told him she intended to leave Ryan, but what if she changed her mind? What if Austin changed it for her?
He was dangerous, and even the data Chakotay had given Kathryn didn’t tell her the half of it, but he couldn’t have told her he suspected Austin was a player in Entera. That, along with the nature of his mission, was strictly classified.
Then there was his sister and her family, living on Trebus where, he suspected, the discovery of the dilithium mine was about to change his tribespeople’s lives for the worse again. And Sekaya wouldn’t stay out of the conflict for long, no matter how dangerous.
It wasn’t the first time Chakotay had found himself keeping secrets from the people he cared about – not to protect them from the truth, but because his duty or his mission required it. But, he decided, it was going to be the last. If he made it out of this alive, he was done.
He wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but he hoped he’d get the chance to figure it out.
The shuttle arrived in the Obruli system, just shy of the Briar Patch, early in the morning as Kash emerged bleary-eyed and tousle-headed into the cockpit. “Thanks for taking over,” she addressed Chakotay, her jaw cracking in a yawn. “That green-skinned dancer robbed me of more sleep than latinum.”
“So what’s the plan?” Chakotay asked.
“We dock at the main shuttleport on Obruli. Our contact will meet us in a storage bay on level three. We’ll have a few hours before the Zapata crew finishes their shore leave. Make the most of them, Captain.”
“Right. Take over for docking, will you? I need a sonic shower.”
“You got it.”
He showered quickly, contemplated wearing his uniform and decided against it; there would be other ‘fleeters around and the less attention he drew, the better. The battered leather jacket, jeans and boots he pulled out of his tote bag smelled decent enough to tide him over until he could find a refresher. From the gleam in Kash’s eye and the once-over she gave him as he re-emerged into the cockpit, he figured he looked presentable.
The shuttle glided into the docking port and Kash shut down the engines, announcing unnecessarily, “We’re here.”
Obruli was a binary system and the fourth planet, where they’d landed, was dry, hot and prone to dust storms, one of which was kicking up as Chakotay and Kash stepped out of the shuttle. An automated greeter ushered them rapidly inside the main structure where the air was somewhat fresher. Chakotay glanced around; there were dozens of Starfleet crewmen here, mingling with local species and the occasional Ferengi or Orion; not unexpected on a trading world, particularly one that had a reputation for being slightly less than squeaky clean.
Level three was far less crowded, he was relieved to note. “This way,” Kash gestured, and he followed her to a nondescript door set into a bulkhead. “The storage hold is through there.”
He pushed open the door and stepped into a sparsely-packed, utilitarian space. Standing straight and tall by the cargo doors, his hands clasped behind his back, was a man in Starfleet uniform. A very familiar man.
Chakotay barely stopped himself from swearing aloud.
“Tuvok,” he demanded, “what the hell are you doing here?”