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.
Why don't you invite the devil inside
To dance around my living room?
Only got a table for two
I put my face inside my hands
'Cause I fucking hate the things you do
Tash Sultana, Salvation
Chapter Fifteen: Invite the Devil Inside
~Finally,~ Sekaya’s dark eyes flashed fury through the comm screen. ~Anyone would think you’ve been avoiding me, brother.~
Chakotay couldn’t help squirming. His sister was right: he had been avoiding her calls. Now that he knew Lieutenant Sklaar was with Miles’ agency he was watching his back ever more assiduously for signs of traitors aboard his ship. His cover with Entera relied on them believing he had no ties to friends or family, that he was motivated solely by a lust for power. It was bad enough that the Orion Syndicate had threatened the safety of everyone he cared about; he couldn’t give Entera the same leverage.
Deliberately, he coloured his tone with irritated dismissal. “What is it, Sekaya?” he demanded. “I’m busy.”
He glanced up at the screen to see her eyes fill with hurt confusion. ~What’s wrong with you, Amal?~ she asked. ~Our planet has become a mining world, worth nothing but the profit others can strip from it. You promised me six months ago that you’d make this right. Now you won’t even take my calls?~
Chakotay swallowed, forcing himself to go on. “I’m sorry you’re finding it difficult to cope with reality, sister. Maybe you should talk to the ruling council about finding a new home. Trebus is more trouble than it’s worth.”
He stared at her hard, willing her to understand. To play along.
To his relief, comprehension dawned in her eyes.
~I see,~ Sekaya said coolly. ~Well, perhaps you’ll get your wish, Captain. The ruling council seems to believe we need protection from these Borderlands traders and has decided to sell the mining rights to your Federation friends. Considering the protection they offered us last time someone tried to take our world from us, I am not hopeful.~
Chakotay couldn’t help his short intake of breath. He could see the anger and frustration scrawled all over his sister’s face and he longed to ease her distress, but he had to keep up the charade.
“Good,” he said, his tone abrupt. “Getting off that dustbowl would be better for you and your family. You should find somewhere safer to live.”
~And you should pay more attention to what’s important,~ Sekaya snapped. ~Look around, brother. There’s a war going on without a single shot being fired, and once again our people are caught in the middle of it. You left Starfleet once to fight against injustice. Have you really changed so much that you won’t do it again?~
“Yes, I’ve changed,” he forced himself to retort. “I’ve given up on lost causes, Sekky. You should try it.”
~We have nothing more to say to one another,~ Sekaya said flatly. ~Contact me when you’re ready to see the truth, Chakotay. Until then, goodbye.~
She closed the channel, and Chakotay shot to his feet, pacing his ready room in agitation. Though they’d both been playing a role, that conversation with his sister was sharply, painfully reminiscent of the last angry exchange he’d had with his late father.
And what she’d told him, about the Federation buying the Treban mining rights – was it true? He had to know.
He pulled the holo-communicator from his pocket and with a few swift commands to the computer, had activated a dispersal field and a warning countdown. He’d have three minutes at most to get the information he needed.
Fortunately, Jonah Miles answered his comm call immediately.
~It’s true,~ Miles confirmed when Chakotay told him what he’d learned. ~And there’s more.~
Chakotay braced. “Go ahead.”
~President Zife is about to enact a new policy to restrict free trade across the quadrant. There will be sanctions against the Orions and the Ferengi.~ Miles’ mouth twisted in displeasure. ~I’m sure you’re aware that the Starfleet presence in the Borderlands will be even less welcome now. You’d better prepare yourself, Captain. Things could get unpleasant.~
“Sekaya was right,” muttered Chakotay. “We’re already at war.”
Usually, Seven of Nine had no trouble applying her full attention to her work. Concentration came naturally to her, as did multi-tasking.
Today was different.
The conversation she’d had with Admiral Janeway over lunch the previous week continued to play through her memory. The admiral had probed for information regarding Maja Hansen’s psychiatric condition, about which Seven knew little. Janeway had then stunned her by relaying a rumour that Maja Hansen had given birth a quarter-century ago, soon after she’d been hospitalised.
The child, if it had ever existed, would be an adult now, Seven mused. Her second cousin. Strange, how curious she was about this possible relative; once, she’d thought family was irrelevant. Her adopted family on Voyager, and later, her Aunt Irene, had taught her differently.
Seven had admitted to Admiral Janeway that she had no knowledge of Maja’s alleged child, but had promised to investigate. She had mentioned it to Harry that night, but their conversation had taken a philosophical turn about their own potential children, and then he’d kissed her, and Seven’s mind had no longer been on Kathryn Janeway or Maja Hansen.
“Seven of Nine?”
“Yes?” Seven turned from her console.
The woman who’d addressed her came forward into the lab, hand held out for Seven to clasp. “I’m Vela Marquez, aide to President Zife.”
Seven gave the woman her full attention. “How can I help you?”
Marquez’s eyes strayed to the holographic display behind Seven’s head, which showed a simulation of the optronic relays that powered the new, enhanced astrometric sensors. “The president has asked for a status update on your sensor technology. How soon will it be ready to install in the remainder of the Hawking-class fleet?”
“The arrays are being installed in each ship as it is constructed,” Seven answered. “Completion of the fleet is scheduled for this coming December, but If President Zife is displeased with our progress, perhaps he should address it with the Utopia Planitia shipyard.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Marquez hitched a hip onto Seven’s console, leaning in confidentially. “To be honest, the president Is mostly worried that by the time the fleet is ready to head for the Beta quadrant, we won’t have enough dilithium left to launch them.”
“Why would there be a dilithium shortage?” Seven frowned at her. “It’s my understanding that the Federation has just purchased the rights to a mine in the Dorvan system, and there are several mines around the Borderlands in active production.”
“You seem well-informed, Miss, uh, Nine.” Vela studied her manicured fingernails. “I suppose you’re aware of the political situation in the Borderlands. The Orion Syndicate is less than pleased with Starfleet’s presence along their trade routes.”
“You may address me as Seven.” She cocked her head, studying the other woman. “Are you implying the Orions intend to restrict the Federation supply lines?”
Marquez offered her a disingenuous smile. “Let’s just say the president is keen to ensure we find other, less disputed sources of essential minerals.”
Seven’s frown deepened and she was about to question the woman further, when Harry came around from behind the half-wall between his office and Seven’s. Marquez straightened up, eyeing him with interest.
“You must be Commander Kim.”
Harry offered a hand. “Pleased to meet you. Did I hear you say you’re from President Zife’s office?”
“Vela Marquez.” She clasped his hand and released it. “I understand you’re partly responsible for the design of these sensor arrays. Tell me, Commander, from what distance can they effectively detect mineral deposits?”
“The sensors can pick up a wide range of resonance frequencies, crystalline or otherwise, from a distance of up to three sectors of space,” Kim answered. “Is there really expected to be a dilithium shortage, Ms Marquez? Will it affect Starfleet operations on a wider scale?”
“I’m sure there’s really nothing to worry about, Commander.” Vela pushed off from Seven’s console and moved toward the door, high heels clacking. “Keep me apprised of your progress, won’t you? President’s orders.”
She disappeared, and Harry turned to Seven with a frown.
“If the president wants to know what our sensors can do, he should have arranged to find out through Admiral Shanthi,” he stated. “Why wouldn’t he come through the usual channels for information?”
Seven shrugged. “I wouldn’t care to speculate.”
“Maybe not, but I would,” Harry muttered. “I bet Tom would, too.”
“Commander,” Seven cautioned, “perhaps this isn’t a matter for idle speculation.”
“You’re right, Consultant.” Harry smiled at her. “I’ll inform Admiral Shanthi. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do a little poking around on my own time, does it?”
Seven looked thoughtful. “Ms Marquez mentioned the Orions are displeased by Starfleet’s presence in the Borderlands,” she murmured. “Perhaps Captain Tuvok can offer more information. He was stationed there until recently.”
Harry’s eyes sharpened. “Even better, what about someone who’s out there right now?” he suggested. “Maybe it’s time you tried to get in touch with Chakotay again.”
Though she’d never spoken with her before, Kathryn would have recognised the woman on the other side of the comm screen even without her distinctive facial tattoo.
“Sekaya,” she blurted, then immediately, through a throat suddenly tight with fear, “Is Chakotay all right?”
Sekaya’s eyes expressed a dozen different emotions before settling on satisfaction. ~I knew it,~ she muttered. ~Just friends, my ass. No, Admiral, he’s fine,~ she went on hastily as Kathryn shifted in anguish. ~He’s an idiot, but he’s fine.~
“Thank God,” Kathryn breathed, then, “I’m sorry, we haven’t properly met. But I feel like I know you. Chakotay always spoke so highly of you.”
~Likewise.~ Sekaya’s smile revealed dimples that made Kathryn’s heart constrict. ~That’s why I’m contacting you, Admiral.~
“Please call me Kathryn.”
The dimples deepened. ~I’m honoured, Kathryn.~
“So, what can I do for you?”
~You can tell me what you know about the Federation buying up the rights to the dilithium mine on my planet.~
Kathryn’s mouth twisted. “I only just heard about it, Sekaya. I don’t know what to say.”
It’s deplorable, she wanted to rail, but she couldn’t. All her life she’d worked toward becoming a Starfleet admiral so she could use her authority to help people. And now that she wore the stars, she couldn’t even speak freely, let alone wield her power. Hell, she didn’t have any power.
Sekaya was under no such limitations. ~I’ll tell you what to say,~ she offered. ~You can inform that president of yours that not every Treban is as willing to bow to pressure as the ruling council seems to be. The councillors might be old and tired of fighting, but plenty of us are ready.~
“Fighting?” Kathryn stared at her. “Sekaya, are you in danger?”
~I’m fine. But I’m worried about my idiot brother.~
Kathryn managed to curb her reaction this time. “Why?” she asked cautiously.
~Because when I spoke with him yesterday he wasn't acting like himself. I think he’s in some kind of trouble.~ Sekaya chewed her bottom lip, eyeing Kathryn thoughtfully. Apparently satisfied, she continued, ~I don’t suppose you’d know anything about that?~
Kathryn stared back at her and wondered if Sekaya would be as good at reading what she didn’t say out loud as her brother always had been.
“I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” she told the other woman. “But I’m sending you my private comm frequency and access code. Use it any time if you ever need to get in touch with me.”
Sekaya’s expression flickered with gratitude as Kathryn encoded and transmitted the frequency. ~Thank you, Kathryn,~ she murmured. ~And I hope we meet in person someday.~
“So do I,” Kathryn said softly, signing off.
She eased back in her desk chair, twisting the heavy diamond ring on her finger and frowning unseeingly at the blank screen. She’d known about the mine on Trebus since she’d returned from the Ajilon conference, her curiosity fired by the warning from Tered, the Orion. But now that the Federation had laid claim to it, something didn’t sit right.
She thought back to Tered’s words, that night on Ajilon Prime.
Tell Councillor Austin to look after his own empire or we’ll take everything he has, including his profitable little investment on Trebus.
“Computer,” Kathryn said slowly, feeling for the words as she spoke them, “display all current information pertaining to the Dorvan system. Cross-reference with any news items regarding Councillor Ryan Austin or Trans-Quadrant Express.”
Files found, the computer informed her. There was a chirp and data began to scroll onto her screen.
“Stop,” Kathryn ordered. “Play most recent file.”
The file was a news clipping, dated from – Kathryn checked her chronometer – less than fifteen minutes earlier. A young Andorian female appeared on the screen; Kathryn recognised her as the trade affairs correspondent for one of the independent news organisations. She stood in front of the Palais de la Concorde, leaning confidentially into the camera, her antennae vibrating with excitement as she spoke.
At 0900 hours local time today, President Zife announced strict new sanctions against the Orion Syndicate and the Ferengi Trade Consortium, the reporter said quickly. The recent trade deals with Midrian, Japori and a number of other Borderlands planets, brokered by Admiral Kathryn Janeway of USS Voyager fame, have strengthened the Federation’s foothold in the region, which is renowned for producing over sixty percent of the Federation’s raw dilithium resources, as well as other critical materials.
A graphic of the Dorvan system appeared in the corner of the screen and zoomed out to display its position relative to Earth. The reporter continued:
The president also announced that exclusive mining rights have been negotiated with the inhabitants of Trebus for the newly-discovered dilithium source on their planet. Strict limitations on interstellar merchant travel along trade routes between the Sol system and the Cardassian Union have also been imposed, with licenses for courier and supply services being awarded only after intensive scrutiny by the Federation Trade Council. At the time of reporting, licenses had been temporarily awarded to a number of small courier fleets, all of whom appear to be affiliated with Trans-Quadrant Express.
The image on screen switched to stock footage from a black-tie dinner Kathryn and Ryan had attended several days earlier. Kathryn saw herself, standing on the wide steps of a grand hotel in stilettos and a strappy, silky dress, a fixed smile barely concealing her headache as her husband addressed a paparazzo. Ryan looked smug and handsome in his dinner suit, his hand splayed possessively over Kathryn’s bared lower back.
Neither Admiral Janeway nor her husband Ryan Austin, the Federation councillor for trade and owner-operator of TQE, could be reached for comment.
“Son of a bitch,” Kathryn swore aloud, slamming her palm down on the console to shut it off. She shot to her feet, ignoring the increased pounding in her head, and strode to the door. Yanking it open, she found her aide – the immediate, tangible object of her ire – directly in her path, a padd in one hand.
“Admiral,” Jens exclaimed. “I was just coming to see you –”
“Let me guess,” Kathryn seethed. “It’s about a statement President Zife issued half an hour ago and the subsequent news reports which heavily imply that I’m complicit in manipulating the political and economic situation in the Borderlands to benefit my husband’s merchant company.”
“What’s more important,” she glared, “is why you didn’t know. Apparently, at least one newscaster has tried unsuccessfully to reach this office for comment. You should have been the one to field those calls, Lieutenant. Care to explain?”
“Ma’am, I never received any calls.” For a moment, Tora looked as furious as Kathryn felt. “It seems Admiral Kjogo ordered all incoming communications diverted to her office this morning.”
“Did she?” Kathryn couldn’t suppress her growl in response to that. She moved menacingly toward Jens and the younger woman side-stepped hastily. “This is the final straw,” she hissed as she pushed past.
“Admiral, where are you going?” Jens’ voice rose in alarm.
“Where do you think I’m going?” Kathryn shot over her shoulder. “I’m going to register my formal protest with Admiral Kjogo, and then I’m going to find the nearest journalist and let them have the real story.”
Jens bolted after her, almost spinning Kathryn around with a firm hand on her arm. “No, ma’am, you’re not,” she said emphatically, and when Kathryn turned to berate her, wide-eyed, Jens grasped her by both shoulders and ducked her head to catch and hold Kathryn’s gaze, pitching her voice low and soothing. “You don’t want to do that,” she said. “It’s not wise.”
No, Kathryn thought, resisting Jens’ soft, hypnotic murmur. No, this isn’t right.
Nausea rose in her throat and she swayed, putting a hand to her suddenly splitting head.
Jens moved long, cool fingers up to cup her jaw, spreading them into points around the curve of Kathryn’s skull. “Please trust me,” she continued, the cadence of her voice sinking into Kathryn’s bones and loosening muscle and sinew. “It’s better for everyone if you stay out of this.”
Kathryn stopped struggling and gazed back into her aide’s blue eyes. She felt the headache ease, felt her mind clear.
Tora’s right, she thought, I should calm down. Antagonising Kjogo won’t help anyone.
It all seemed so simple, so obvious.
“That’s better,” Jens smiled. “Why don’t you sit down, Admiral? I’ll bring you a cup of tea.”
As she released her hold and turned away, Kathryn glimpsed the expression that crossed her aide’s face, and wondered why she read guilt and regret before Jens’ features smoothed out again.
~Red alert,~ came the urgent voice of Commander Sereni, Chakotay’s first officer, over the comm. ~Captain to the bridge.~
“Report,” Chakotay bit out as he hastened form the turbolift to his chair, immediately pulling up the flow of data from the various bridge consoles.
His tactical officer hurried to reply. “Sir, an Orion interceptor just dropped out of warp and fired a phaser shot across our bow. It’s Captain Tered’s vessel.”
The big Orion who stared at Chakotay through the viewscreen was not wearing his usual supercilious smile.
“Captain Tered,” Chakotay addressed him coolly. “Why have you fired at us?”
~That was a warning shot, Captain. Vacate this sector immediately or the next time I fire at you, I won’t miss.~
“We’ve been through this before, Mr Tered.” Chakotay rose, keeping his stance relaxed and his tone calm. “The Orion Syndicate doesn’t have sole claim to the Yaraka sector. Starfleet has every right to be here.”
~Not anymore,~ Tered retorted. ~The Yaraka system and its neighbours, Trialas and Turkana, are now under Orion protection. If your fleet does not commence a retreat to Federation space within the next ten minutes, we will open fire.~
“For what reason?” Chakotay asked, frowning.
He and Tered had been doing this dance for two months now, but the Orion had never threatened him so openly before. He wondered what had changed.
~Perhaps you haven’t yet been informed. Your president has announced his intent to interfere with Syndicate operations in this sector. He’s trying to shut us down. That is the reason.~ Tered showed his teeth. ~Now, move your little ship out of my way or I will blast you out of the sky.~
Zife wants to cut the Orions out of the sector? Chakotay’s blood chilled.
Outwardly, he simply raised his eyebrows. “Your ship might be large, Captain, but it’s no match for sixteen of ours.”
~I see only one Starfleet vessel, Captain Chakotay,~ Tered answered smugly. ~And by the time your fleet comes to your rescue, we’ll have obliterated you.~
Chakotay held up his hands. “We can resolve this peacefully, Tered. Why don’t you beam over to my ship and we can –”
He cut himself off as a warning light on his console began to blink.
“Lieutenant?” he snapped, turning to his operations offer.
The young Grazerite muted the comm line. “Captain, I’m detecting ten – no, twelve Orion vessels on approach, all with weapons powered.” He paused. Anxiety coloured his voice as he added, “Reports are coming in from the Ripley and the Lily Sloane. Sir, they’re under attack!”
“Channel on,” Chakotay growled, turning back to the viewscreen, where the Orion had risen to his feet, his expression thunderous. “Captain Tered, what’s the meaning of this? Why have you attacked my fleet?”
~You have that backward, Captain,~ snarled Tered. ~Your people fired first. We simply defended ourselves.~
Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. “If that’s true, let’s end it here. Stand down your weapons and we can each tend to our wounded.”
~No more talking,~ the Orion roared, and cut the channel.
“Shields to full,” Chakotay ordered immediately, taking his seat and thumbing the comm open. “All hands, this is the captain. Secure your stations and prepare for battle –”
Before he could complete his order the Zapata was pummelled with a volley of torpedoes so powerful that within minutes they’d lost shields, weapons and engines. Ensign Trabin did her best to manoeuvre the crippled ship through an asteroid field on thrusters only, but another barrage from the Orion interceptor took their deflector offline and the structural integrity field began to collapse.
Consoles exploded throughout the bridge, the cries of the wounded muted by the shrieking of alarms and the deep boom of torpedoes impacting the hull. Chakotay’s ops officer reported hull breaches on three decks immediately before he was knocked unconscious by a percussive impact that began deep in the ship’s bowels.
The magnetic interlock system failed, sending superheated plasma racing through one of the Jeffries tubes, igniting the main EPS conduit and belching foul-smelling fire onto the bridge. Two crewmen were caught in the blast. By the time Sereni leapt from her chair to tend to them, they were dead.
And then the assistant chief engineer commed the bridge – it was a miracle the comm system was still working – to report that the warp core was destabilising and she couldn’t shut it down, and when Chakotay asked after the chief engineer she told him that Lieutenant Sklaar and three other engineers had been taken to sickbay with devastating plasma burns.
The attack had been so swift and so brutal that the Zapata hadn’t managed to fire a single shot.
With nine of his sixty-strong crew reported dead and another dozen critically injured, Chakotay allowed himself only a fraction of a moment to grieve the imminent loss of both his people and his first Starfleet command, and ordered all hands to abandon ship.
“You too, Ensign Trabin,” he roared, realising the young woman was still fighting to keep the Zapata on an even keel. “Get to an escape pod. Now.”
Reluctantly, she locked the helm into autopilot. “What about you, sir?” she shouted over the increasing whine of strained metal.
“I’ll be right behind you.”
She nodded, disappearing into a Jeffries tube just as the lateral bridge stations shrieked in a chain reaction of energy build-up and exploded into flames.
As he vaulted the railing behind his chair and bolted after his helmsman, Chakotay didn’t see the beam falling from the buckling ceiling, and he never felt the impact as it crashed into his left shoulder and pinned him to the deck.
Kathryn ordered a hypospray and an extra-strong black coffee and took them over to the couch below her office window, closing her eyes as she waited for the analgesic to do its work.
Lieutenant Jens had left for the day; Kathryn had ordered her to get some rest, despite Jens’ half-hearted protests, pointing out that the lieutenant had spent the past eight hours running interference with the media. Now that she was alone and Jens had diverted all incoming communications back to Admiral Kjogo’s office, Kathryn finally had time to think over the day’s events.
The Federation News Service was downplaying the connection between Ryan’s company and the new trade licensing President Zife had ordered, but almost every other news channel was hyping it up. Kathryn couldn’t help shaking her head in disbelief; had Ryan really thought the media wouldn’t pick up on such a brazen conflict of interest?
And how had she ended up caught in the middle of it?
More to the point, why hadn’t she predicted this? Had she been so relieved that Kjogo was giving her meaningful work to do, so deeply under Ryan’s manipulative control, that she’d been unable to see those Borderlands trade deals for what they really were?
Shaping the future of the Federation, Kathryn scoffed to herself. More like helping the Federation transform into an economic imperium.
She kneaded fiercely at the knots in her neck. It dismayed her deeply that not only had she married a man she now knew was using his political platform to broker shady deals for the Entera Coalition, but that she hadn’t realised what was really going on. Worse, she’d enabled it. She’d allowed him to use her to push his agenda. And now, because of her trade negotiations with Midrian, Japori and the other Borderlands planets – because of her public presence and implied endorsement of Ryan’s politics – because of her obliviousness, Chakotay’s people were in trouble, and Chakotay’s life was in danger.
Kathryn tipped her head back against the window and closed her eyes, replaying Sekaya’s concerns in her mind. Chakotay isn’t acting like himself, she’d said. I think he’s in some kind of trouble.
Chakotay’s ship was patrolling the Borderlands, walking the knife-edge between diplomacy and outright hostility with the Orion Syndicate. And President Zife had just announced his intention to cut the Syndicate out of that profitable, resource-rich sector.
Not for the first time since she’d heard the newscast that morning, Kathryn’s stomach clenched with fear.
Be careful, Chakotay, she thought, wishing that somehow he could hear her. And come back to me.
There was a polite cough, and Kathryn’s head jerked up, cooling coffee splashing onto her hand. A man was sitting on the edge of her desk. He wore a neatly-tailored, dark-grey suit and a slight smile.
Kathryn lurched to her feet, her hand immediately at her hip, seeking a weapon that wasn’t there.
“Oh, don’t worry, Admiral Janeway,” said the man. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
She eyed him: human, average height, slight build; medium-brown hair and hazel eyes. Nondescript and unassuming-looking.
But something warned her that despite appearances, she wouldn’t best him in hand-to-hand combat.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded harshly. “What are you doing here?”
The neat, slender man smiled at her. “You can call me Jonah Miles,” he replied. “As to why I’m here, that may take a little time to explain.”
He gestured her to a seat. Kathryn remained standing and folded her arms, glaring at him. Miles gave a small shrug.
“To begin with,” he said, “I work for an organisation known as Section 31. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of us?”