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.
And how can we win when fools can be kings
Don't waste your time
Or time will waste you
Muse, Knights of Cydonia
Chapter Sixteen: Darkest Days
“Whoever you are,” Kathryn Janeway growled, “I want you out of my office now.”
The man remained exactly where he was, leaning casually against the edge of her desk as though he owned it. “Jonah Miles,” he repeated patiently. “And I’m afraid I can’t oblige, Admiral.”
“Then you’d better talk fast.” She reached into a pocket and pulled out her personal transport device, holding it up to show him. “One voice command and I’m gone, so make it good, Mr Miles.”
“Very well.” The man looked amused. “My organisation has wide-ranging authority to seek out and neutralise threats to Federation security. We have representatives in the civilian population – like myself – as well as throughout Starfleet ranks, whom we task with gathering intelligence, monitoring risk and, when necessary, mitigating it. We are –”
“Wait. Wait just a moment.” Kathryn’s hand strayed to her temple. “Mr Miles, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Starfleet Intelligence –”
“– is hampered by scrutiny and its necessary adherence to the Federation Charter. Section 31 has no such limitations. Admiral,” his voice rose as she started to object, “I’m sure you’re utterly scandalised, but perhaps you’ll do me the courtesy of allowing me to finish and save your questions for the end?”
With difficulty, Kathryn shut her mouth and gave him a short nod.
“Thank you. Now, as you’re aware, your husband and President Zife have just manoeuvred us into an adversarial position against the Orion Syndicate. You’re also aware of the rise of a merchant organisation with political and economic ties to all the major quadrant powers, known as the Entera Coalition.”
He waited, clearly watching her expression; Kathryn tried to keep it blank, but judging by the smug light in his eyes, she failed.
“My agency has been concerned about Entera for some time. We’d sent a number of covert agents to penetrate it but until recently, we’d had little success. Your former first officer changed that.”
Kathryn sucked in a sharp breath. “Chakotay? He’s –”
“A Section 31 agent. Yes.” Miles pushed off the edge of the desk. “A very effective one, as it turns out. Representatives of our agency are required to demonstrate a certain … ruthlessness in getting to the truth. They’re encouraged to use any and all resources available to them. Colleagues. Friends.” He moved a step closer. “Lovers.”
It took a beat. But when his meaning curled into her heart and took hold, Kathryn couldn’t stifle the small, pained sound that issued from her lips.
Jonah Miles did her the courtesy of averting his eyes from her shocked, white face. “However, Captain Chakotay’s cover requires that he maintain his post as commander of the border force in the Yaraka sector, which means he currently has little opportunity to investigate Entera’s inner circle. You, however, have the perfect opportunity.”
She was still shaking from the impact of Miles’ emotional blow, and her head was thudding, and she felt as though her foundations had crumbled beneath her. “What do you mean?” she managed faintly.
“Your husband, Admiral. I’m sure you were devastated to learn of Councillor Austin’s involvement with the Entera Coalition. It didn’t escape our notice that while you’ve remained married to him, you were living separately until a couple of months ago. Still, it puts you in a useful position.”
“To do what?”
“To gather intelligence. We need to identify Entera’s entire power base and find out what they plan to do next.” He stepped closer. “We want you to work for us, Admiral.”
Kathryn couldn’t help her incredulous laugh. “You want me to work for a secret agency I’d never heard of until tonight?”
“If you’d never heard of us, clearly we’re doing our job, aren’t we?”
“But your very existence contravenes the principles on which the Federation is founded –”
“Then it’s fortunate that we don’t exist.” He smiled without humour.
“Sophistry, Mr Miles,” she grated. “In any case, how do I know I can trust you?”
“You don’t. But if Entera continue to expand their influence – if they gain control over the Romulan government, for example, or the Klingon Empire – the entire quadrant could be destabilised and the Federation as you know it may well cease to exist. Can you really take that kind of risk with the future of the Federation?”
The future of the Federation. Kathryn stared at him. The first time she’d heard Ryan use that term she’d scoffed at it, thought it melodramatic. Hearing the same words from Owen Paris’ lips, and now from Jonah Miles’, it didn’t seem at all amusing anymore.
“Use this to contact me whenever you have something to report,” Miles ordered, handing her a small holo-communication device.
Kathryn studied it, lying in her palm like an inert grenade.
“Is Owen Paris one of your agents?” she asked, looking up.
A small smile appeared on his face. “For your own safety, Admiral, you’re better off not knowing the identities of our other agents. And be extremely careful whom you trust.”
He turned for the door, then paused to glance back at her.
“You should see a doctor about that headache,” Miles suggested, and then he was gone.
Captain? … hear me?
He was buried under thick layers of soil; it was in his ears and in his mouth, muffling both sound and breath. Somewhere, sunk beneath the surface of his awareness, there was pain and dread, but it was all so removed. So far away.
... help me get this beam off him. Careful … his spine …
There was a sense of pressure, as if he wore an EVA suit and someone was tugging at his sleeve. Voices wavered and coalesced; the quality of the light changed, and he felt an icy spill of panic bathing the back of his neck. Somebody cried out; was it him? He couldn’t tell.
It didn’t matter anyway.
… hold on, Captain … have to move you …
Weightlessness, vertigo; his skin flying apart from his bones. Fire curled into his consciousness, streaking agony along his nerves. He screamed, but he couldn’t be sure he’d made a sound.
… the hatch … get him inside! Thirty seconds until warp core breach ...
The very air around him felt harsh on his skin. Was he on fire? He opened his eyes and saw nothing.
Ensign, hit the launch doors!
He felt the explosions in every single vertebra – a succession of deep, reverberating booms – and the agonising thrust of gravity as he and his nameless companions were catapulted into who-knew-where. Pain slammed into him and he shuddered and groaned.
Commander, he’s still conscious. Is he going to be all right?
Just fly the pod, Trabin.
“No, Captain,” came the gentle reply, “it’s Commander Sereni. You’ve sustained serious injuries and we need to get you to the nearest medical facility.”
“Ship,” he mumbled. “Status.”
“Report,” he managed, thick and harsh, teeth gritted and tasting metal.
“I’m sorry, Captain. The Zapata is gone.” Sereni laid cool fingers on his hand. “Thirty-eight crew made it to the escape pods.”
Thirty-eight. That was bad, he thought, but he wasn’t sure why. His mind felt viscid and sluggish. He knew this should concern him, but he couldn’t seem to hold onto that knowledge for more than a moment or two.
“The Orions have retreated. I guess they made their point …”
Sereni’s voice faded out and he blinked against the darkness, stomach churning lazily.
“… twenty ccs terakine. That should help with the pain, if not knock him out,” he heard her saying.
It took him several seconds to process the meaning of her words. “Hurts,” he muttered.
“Yes, sir, but don’t worry. We’ll be docking with the Mehit in a few minutes. I’m sure they’ll fix you up …”
He felt the hiss of a hypospray and a cool wave of relief suffused his veins.
“Wait,” he tried to speak, “important,” but it was too late. The hypospray had done its job, and Chakotay sank into the muffled, insensible dark.
Rain clung persistently to Kathryn’s shoulders as she hurried across the gardens of Starfleet Headquarters toward the Turner Building. It was past 2200 hours, but she was banking that Owen Paris’ workaholic habits hadn't changed a great deal over the years she had known him.
She was right.
“Kathryn,” he greeted her as she entered his office, a smile breaking across his face that quickly turned into a frown. “Are you all right?”
“Do you have a moment, sir?”
At her uncharacteristic hesitancy, Paris rose and came over to guide her to a seat. “I always have time for you, Katie. Now, talk to me. Is it the news reports?”
Her hand strayed to rub at her temple. “I’m not sure if I – maybe I shouldn’t –”
Owen’s eyes sharpened. “Hold on,” he said, and strode over to tap a few buttons on his console. “You can speak freely now,” he told her, returning to the couch.
She gave a bitter laugh. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to speak freely again.”
Paris’ frown deepened and he opened his mouth to question her.
“Forget it,” Kathryn mumbled. “Owen – what do you know about the president’s new trade sanctions?”
“Not as much as I should,” he admitted grimly. “The president kept his cards close to his chest on this one.”
“I suspect he was advised to do so.” Kathryn’s fingers pressed circles at the edges of her skull, trying to relieve the worsening pain. “It’s obvious that Ryan and Admiral Kjogo have been planning this for some time. I can’t believe I didn’t figure out what they were doing. Worse, I helped them. I’ve let Kjogo manipulate me into pushing her trade agenda and I’ve let Ryan use me for publicity and –”
She broke off, biting back the confession that shamed her.
“Kathryn, forgive me,” Owen said gently when she fell silent, “but five months ago when I told you to go back to your life and pretend you knew nothing about the Entera Coalition, I didn’t mean go back to a marriage that makes you so unhappy, and dare I say it, unwell. Don’t try to deny it,” his voice rose slightly as she objected, “a blind man could see how badly your head is hurting. You have a headache almost every time I see you these days. What does your doctor say?”
Despite herself, Kathryn’s shoulders tensed. “I haven’t – it’s nothing –”
Paris’ voice was soft and shocked. “If you haven’t sought medical attention, Kathryn –”
He was interrupted by the harsh beeping of his communications console.
“Hold that thought,” Paris muttered, raising a finger to indicate she should stay silent as he turned the comm terminal to face him. “Paris here.”
~Sir, I have an incoming transmission from Captain O’Leary on the USS Mehit,~ Paris’ aide informed him. ~It’s flagged priority one, sir. Admirals’ eyes only.~
“Put her through,” Paris ordered, blue eyes flickering upward to meet Kathryn’s as she moved closer.
“Should I leave?” she mouthed.
“You’re an admiral, aren’t you?” he smiled at her. “You can stay.”
A moment later, the terminal came to life again and Paris straightened.
“Captain O’Leary,” he greeted. “Report.”
Kathryn had never met the woman Paris was speaking to, and couldn’t see her face, but she knew the sound of bad news coming. Unknowingly, her fingers found the edge of Paris’ desk and clenched on it tightly.
~As you know, the Mehit has been conducting field tests of our new sensor arrays in the Borderlands this past week,~ O’Leary was saying. ~We detected weapons fire in the Trialas system and proceeded to investigate, but before we could reach Trialas, we received a number of distress calls from several escape pods located in the Yaraka system. The distress calls were all encoded with Starfleet signatures. We altered course to retrieve the pods and discovered thirty-eight survivors from the USS Zapata, which was, I’m sorry to report, completely destroyed.~
She heard the words, but there was a thick layer of protective wadding between her and the sharp reality of them. Kathryn stared at her own whitening knuckles as her fingers gripped the edge of the desk in front of her. There seemed to be a faint, whining echo in her ears.
“… report on Captain Chakotay’s status?” she heard Paris ask.
~… gravely injured … surgery to repair internal organs … fortunate he survived at all … wouldn’t care to speculate on his prognosis, I’m afraid.~
“Thank you, Captain,” Paris said quietly. Kathryn could feel his eyes on her, but she couldn’t look at him. Couldn’t seem to focus on anything but the lines and whorls across her own knuckles. “Anything else?”
~Yes, sir, and this is something I find difficult to believe despite hard evidence, but it seems that Starfleet fired first.~
“What?” Paris’ gaze snapped back to the vidscreen.
~Our sensors indicate that the USS Ripley was the first to launch a quantum torpedo at one of the Orion vessels in the Trialas system. Unfortunately, she was destroyed with all hands, as were the USS Lily Sloane and the enemy combatants, and so far there’s no trace of the black boxes from either of our ships.~
“Understood. Captain, I’m going to have to cut you off there. I’ll expect your full report shortly. Paris out.”
He cut the channel, rising immediately to bolt around his desk and grasp Kathryn’s upper arms.
“Kathryn,” he said firmly, loudly. “Can you hear me? Sit down, now,” and she felt him put his arm around her and guide her to a chair.
She tried to follow his instructions – breathe in, slow, easy, out – but her heart was beating so quickly, her hands trembling so badly, and there was a grey blur behind her eyes and she thought she might throw up. And then, suddenly, there seemed to be so many people in the room, and somebody was crouching beside her and speaking to her soothingly – Admiral, can you hear me? It’s Tom Paris. I’m going to give you a hypospray, all right? Just some analgesic and a mild sedative – and there was a hiss and a sensation of spreading cool, and the thundering of her heart began to slow and the nausea to abate, and the pounding, sickening roar in her head receded to a dull, manageable ache behind her eyes.
“Tom,” she said thickly, “what are you doing here?”
“Happy coincidence,” he answered. “Feeling better?”
Despite herself Kathryn’s heart twisted in agony, and it must have shown on her face, because Tom’s eyes widened in alarm.
“Admiral?” he asked, a hand on her shoulder, then when she buried her face in her hands, “Dad, what the hell’s going on?”
“I’m sorry, Tom,” she heard Owen answer. “Captain Chakotay’s ship was attacked. He’s in critical condition in the Mehit’s sickbay.”
Tom sucked in a breath. “I’ll comm Harry,” he said after a moment. “He and Seven are on the Mehit. They’ll make sure he’s getting the best care.”
Kathryn raised her head to look at him. “Thank you.”
“Speaking of care, Admiral, how long have you been having these headaches?”
She shut her mouth. Over her head, she saw Tom exchange a glance with his father.
“All right,” the younger Paris conceded, “you’re under no obligation to share your medical status with me, but –” he hesitated.
“But,” Paris senior continued, “as your superior officer, I can order you to seek attention for any medical condition that appears to be negatively impacting on your ability to function.”
Kathryn remained silent.
Tom sighed. “Can I at least scan you?”
“No,” said Kathryn frostily.
“Then let me call Doc –”
“Cap- I mean, Admiral…”
“No,” she snapped. “No doctors. No scans. Just leave me alone!”
Two pairs of near-identical blue eyes stared at her as her desperate, panicked shriek echoed in the room.
“Tom,” Admiral Paris said eventually, “would you excuse us, please?”
“Call me if you need me,” Tom answered, striding to the door. He stopped for one last, worried glance back at Kathryn, then disappeared.
“All right, Katie,” Owen said mildly when they were alone, “are you going to tell me what’s going on, or do I have to keep trying to guess?”
“… received a subspace communication from your sister, Sekaya, at 2214 hours, enquiring after your health. It’s difficult to impart an uncertain prognosis such as yours, Chakotay, especially to a family member so far away. Sekaya seemed particularly distressed that the two of you had argued when you last spoke … Chakotay? Are you awake?”
He tried to swallow. His throat was so dry, so dry –
Cool water trickled over his parched lips, so welcome it was almost painful, and he grasped for it with tongue and gums. A few drops eked their way into his throat and he coughed, and that was worse.
“Allow me to help you.”
A strong, slender hand slid under his neck, carefully easing his head up at just the right angle. He drank thirstily; the straw was pulled away, and he groaned a wordless complaint.
“You inhaled a great deal of smoke and your oesophagus and pharynx are swollen. You must be careful.”
He thought about choking, and coughing, and how much that would hurt, and decided she was right.
Seven lowered him carefully back to the pillow. After a long moment, Chakotay slitted open his eyes. The room was dim, but there was enough light to identify it as a sickbay, and enough to read the anxiety in Seven’s blue eyes.
“What,” his voice scratched in his throat, and he paused to try again, “what are you doing here?”
“You’re on the USS Mehit,” she began. “We were performing field tests in the region when we received your distress call.”
“My ship –” Chakotay cut himself off.
The Orions, he remembered. The Zapata destroyed. Thirty-eight survivors.
The Ripley fired first.
And he knew why.
“Get me a comm device,” he gasped, trying to push himself upright on the bio-bed.
“Chakotay, you have to rest –”
“That’s –” he stopped to cough, “that’s an order.”
Seven’s brow creased. “Yes, Captain,” she said, and disappeared from his bedside.
A moment later she was back, with a blue-jacketed Trill in tow. “I’m Dr Neve,” she informed Chakotay. “Your condition is very serious, Captain, and you’ve just come out of major surgery. I can’t recommend –”
“Save it,” he cut her off, motioning Seven forward.
Reluctantly, Seven placed a communication unit in his outstretched hand.
“Thanks,” Chakotay muttered, falling back against the pillow. “I need privacy.”
They both stared at him.
“Please,” he said, pointedly.
“You have five minutes,” Dr Neve told him, turning on her heel. Seven followed her with only a silent backward glance.
He was already feeling the pull of exhaustion and pain as he debated his options: Owen Paris, or Jonah Miles? The information he had to impart was vital to Federation security. He desperately wanted to hand it over to Starfleet Intelligence, not Section 31, but this comm unit was incapable of generating the kind of dispersal field he needed to guarantee his signal was kept secure, and he couldn’t be sure that Paris had the necessary encoding equipment in his office.
Miles, however, kept that kind of covert gear to hand, and had the wherewithal to wipe out any trace of Chakotay’s communication with him as soon as they’d cut the connection.
He opened a channel to Jonah Miles.
~Captain.~ For perhaps the first time in their acquaintance, Chakotay thought, he’d surprised the man. ~Forgive me for saying so, but you look like hell.~
“Secure this line,” Chakotay ordered him gruffly.
~Done,~ Miles responded. ~What do you have for me?~
“The Ripley started that battle,” Chakotay said. “The tactical officer was Entera. I’d bet my life he was under orders to incite a war and make it look like the Orions started it.”
~Interesting,~ murmured Miles. ~And quite a coincidence, coming so soon after President Zife’s sanctions against our green-skinned friends.~
“My point exactly.” Chakotay stared at him.
Miles’ eyes narrowed. ~Are you suggesting that President Zife is Entera?~
“He’s spent the past year making territorial deals with the Borderlands planets, his Starfleet liaison is Ube Mekas, and he’s just given an insanely lucrative trade route to Ryan Austin,” Chakotay pressed his lips together to stifle a cough. “You do the math, Miles.”
Jonah was silent for a moment, then said smoothly, ~Thank you for your service, Captain. You’ve been quite useful.~
“That’s it?” Chakotay croaked. “No new mission?”
~I expect you’ll be out of commission for some time.~ Miles gestured vaguely at him. ~That looks painful. I should leave you to rest -~
“Wait,” Chakotay tried to sit up and groaned in pain, “what about Trebus? What about Kathryn?”
But he was talking to a dead black screen.
As with every other painful secret she’d ever had to reveal in her life, Kathryn knew the only way to get through it was as quickly and as bluntly as possible.
“Ryan’s mother was Deltan – a fact he’s apparently managed to conceal from everyone – and he has shown no scruples about using the abilities he inherited from her. I discovered that he was married once before, and the effect his … biology … had on his previous wife meant that she was confined to a psychiatric institution for the rest of her life. And I believe,” she swallowed hard, forced the words out, “my headaches are a symptom of the same physiological cause. He manipulated me into marrying him and used the publicity from that to kickstart his political career, and he’s still manipulating me.”
Owen Paris’ face was blank, an utter lack of expression that Kathryn knew meant he was struggling to conceal powerful emotions.
“Manipulating you?” he repeated carefully. “How, exactly?”
“Psychologically. Emotionally.” She refused to look away. “Sexually.”
She stood, pacing the floor. “Whatever he has done or is doing to me, it pales in comparison to his involvement in this mercantile conspiracy. And I can’t stand by and allow my husband to warp the Federation into something I’m ashamed of. Not when it’s within my power to help stop it.” She stopped in front of Paris, who had risen to his feet. “So I’m sorry, Admiral, but I’m afraid I have to disobey your orders. I have no intention of staying out of this.”
His eyes softened. “What are you suggesting?”
“I’m already on the inside,” she answered, chin raised. “I’m working at getting him to trust me again. As soon as he lowers his guard, I’ll start looking for evidence.”
“Of what, exactly?”
“Of whatever he’s planning, and whoever’s in on it with him,” Kathryn replied. “You told me yourself that Entera has spies throughout Starfleet. And that you don’t know how high the conspiracy goes.”
“Kathryn…” Owen rubbed his forehead. “You’re not trained for covert operations, and you definitely can’t do this alone.”
“I learned a few things in the Delta quadrant.” And I won’t be alone, she thought, slipping a hand into her pocket to finger the communication device Jonah Miles had given her. “In any case, I won’t put anyone else in the line of fire.”
“It’s too dangerous, and I’m still your commanding officer. It’s my duty to keep you safe.”
“We’ve been down this road before, Owen,” she answered softly. “You know this is an argument you won’t win.”
She watched the shared, agonising memory cloud his eyes.
“Why do you think it’s so important to me that you make it out of this whole?” he asked her, his voice raw with decades of suppressed guilt and anguish. “I failed in my duty last time. I can’t –”
“You didn’t,” she interrupted him. “I made my own choices then, and I’m making them now.”
“This isn’t a choice anybody should have to make.”
“No,” she agreed. “But I’m making it, anyway.”
Brave words, Kathryn thought ruefully, but they hadn't quite given her courage enough to face going home to her husband immediately after she left the Turner Building. Instead she went back to her own office.
She was, somehow, unsurprised to find Jonah Miles waiting for her.
“You’re in my chair,” she informed him coldly.
He stood slowly, a smile twitching the corners of his lips. “My apologies, Admiral. I thought you might appreciate news of your erstwhile first officer.”
Kathryn’s fists curled. “Chakotay? Is he all right?”
“He’s recovering, though it’s hard to tell from his mood.”
“What happened to him?”
Miles slid a padd across her desk. “The full report from the Mehit’s CMO.”
The words blurred before her eyes. “Summarise it, please,” she said harshly.
“Suffice to say, Captain Chakotay’s internal and spinal injuries were extensive, but thanks to modern medicine he’ll make a full recovery.”
At those words, Kathryn pressed a hand to her mouth to hold back the sound that wanted to escape.
“Well,” said Miles, “now that that’s out of the way, Admiral, shall we get down to business?”
“Business?” she repeated faintly, still trembling.
The agent placed a small medical case on her desk and opened it, extracting a hypospray. He was standing at her side so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d even blinked, one hand wrapped around her upper arm, the other holding her chin, tilting it away from him to expose the side of her neck.
Kathryn tried to jerk away and found she was completely unable to escape.
“What the hell are you doing?” she growled, struggling.
Miles held her still with ease. “This is a suppressant tailored specifically to dampen the effects of Deltan pheromones.”
Kathryn’s spine chilled.
“How did you know about that?” she whispered, twisting to read his eyes. “Did Chakotay tell you?”
“Actually, no.” Jonah Miles looked faintly displeased. “It seems the good captain hasn’t been entirely forthcoming with me.”
“Then how –” She cut herself off. “Oh my God. The communicator you gave me … it’s a listening device. I should have known …”
Furious, she managed to yank herself free of his grasp.
“How dare you?” she hissed at him. “You invaded my privacy.”
“Oh, spare me the melodrama, Admiral.” Miles leaned a hip against the edge of her desk, allowing the hypospray to dangle from his fingers. “I don’t care about your traumatic past or your dirty laundry unless it affects your ability to carry out your mission, which is why I’m here. So please, come here and take your medicine like a good girl.”
It was only with the greatest difficulty that she refrained from leaping at his throat, and she trembled with the effort of holding back.
“Let me put it this way,” Miles went on. “You’ve already made up your mind to carry out this mission for Section 31, Admiral, whatever it takes. You’re an intelligent woman, so you can be under no illusions as to exactly what you’ll be required to do. The more sexual contact you have with Councillor Austin, the more your body and mind will continue to be compromised. Eventually your system will be overwhelmed by the chemical and biological imbalance caused by the pheromone overload, and there will be no way to reverse the effects. You’ll be permanently incapacitated, most likely confined to a psychiatric institution for the remainder of your natural life – and that’s if you survive it at all. The headaches can grow so painful that some commit suicide rather than suffer them any longer.”
He straightened up, holding out the hypospray.
“Take the suppressant, Admiral. Please.”
After a long moment, Kathryn reached for the hypo and applied it to her neck.
Jonah Miles nodded. “Thank you,” he said. “Now don’t you think it’s time you went home to your husband?”