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.
Send somebody to me alive
Send somebody vital
Send someone not likely to die
Send someone who's vital
Send a fighter
Highasakite, Someone Who’ll Get It
Chapter Seventeen: Desperate Times
Chakotay spent ten days under constant medical care, first in the USS Mehit’s sickbay under Dr Neve’s watchful eye, then at Starfleet Medical, before he was discharged. Even then, Seven of Nine insisted on collecting him and escorting him directly to the apartment she shared with Harry Kim.
She was surprised that Chakotay didn’t offer much more than a token protest. He had always been able to accept unexpected situations with equanimity, but she also knew he was proud and extremely private. And there was something wrong, something distant and despairing, in his manner that concerned Seven deeply. He seemed preoccupied, almost obsessed, with scouring the political news and with tracking down every last report on the Borderlands skirmish that had destroyed his ship and several others, but when Seven or Harry tried to draw him into conversation on these topics, Chakotay seemed anxious to change the subject.
On the fourth evening of Chakotay’s stay, Seven invited Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres for dinner, hoping to lift his mood, but he picked at his meal, spoke little and when B’Elanna’s questions became a little too pointed, he excused himself to the balcony, claiming he needed air. B’Elanna followed him, and Seven’s acute hearing picked up her raised voice even through the closed doors between them, but Chakotay did not appear to be responding and a few minutes later she reappeared, scowling.
“Anyone know a good counsellor?” she growled, stabbing her fork into her half-eaten steak.
Seven tilted her head. “I am acquainted with several; however, it’s my understanding that Captain Chakotay would be restricted to speaking with counsellors who hold an extremely high security clearance.”
“He’d better talk to someone,” B’Elanna declared, “before I cut out his useless tongue,” but the tremble in her voice spoke of the anxiety she was trying to hide behind her anger.
Tom and Harry had been exchanging silent glances across the table.
“Maybe he’s having a rough time over losing his ship,” Harry offered. “According to the casualty reports, he lost almost half his crew, too.”
“So I heard,” Tom said. “I happened to stop by my dad’s office right after the call came through, but we didn’t talk about it much – too busy dealing with a medical emergency of our own.”
“What emergency?” Seven asked.
Tom opened his mouth, hesitated, and closed it again. “Never mind. What happened out there, anyway? You two were on the scene. Did the Ripley really fire first?”
“Where did you hear that?” Harry asked him, frowning.
“Does it matter, if it’s true?” Tom pushed his plate away. “And these trade sanctions – if I were the Orions I’d be preparing for full-scale war. You think the Federation is ready for that, so soon after the Dominion invasion?”
“The Klingons won’t let that happen,” B’Elanna declared. “If it comes to open conflict between the Federation and the Orions, they’ll weigh in on our side.”
“You sure about that?” her husband asked. “Martok isn’t Zife’s greatest fan, and the Klingons won’t be too worried if the Borderlands mining planets are closed to them. They’ll still have Rura Penthe for dilithium, and there are plenty of other mineral-rich systems on the Beta side of their territory.”
“Then that explains it,” murmured Seven.
“Explains what?” Harry turned to her.
“Vela Marquez’s interest in the Hawking-class fleet,” she replied, then explained for Tom and B’Elanna’s benefit: “The president sent his aide to inquire after our readiness to launch the fleet into the Beta quadrant as planned this coming December. She implied that there was a possibility the Federation might run short on dilithium resources, even with ...” she hesitated, “even with the mining interest on Trebus.”
Tom swore softly under his breath and muttered, “It’s happening, then.”
At that moment Chakotay reappeared in the doorway, and all four faces turned toward him.
“Whatever you think you know,” he told them gruffly, with heavy emphasis, “you don’t. And I’d advise you – no, I’m ordering you – to stay out of it. Understand?”
“Chakotay …” Tom stood slowly. “Whatever is going on, it’s obvious you’re in the thick of it and so are Tuvok and Admiral Janeway. We can help you.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” Chakotay growled. “Stop asking questions, Commander, for the sake of your family. I won’t tell you again.”
He turned away, and a moment later they heard the front door swish closed as he left the apartment.
“Excuse me.” Seven pushed back her chair and strode into the adjoining room, opening her communications console. She tapped in a quick sequence to encrypt the channel and waited, but no response was forthcoming. Instead her signal was deflected.
Frowning, she returned to the dining table.
“What is it?” Harry asked softly.
“It’s Sekaya,” answered Seven. “I just tried to contact her but I can’t establish a connection. Subspace nterference is deflecting my signal. It could be a natural phenomenon, but this has never happened before.”
“Want me to take a look?” offered Harry.
“I’ll come too,” B’Elanna volunteered.
Seven gave them a small smile. “Your assistance would be appreciated.”
As the four of them filed into the next room, Seven heard Harry ask Tom in a low voice if he intended to follow the captain’s order to back off.
“What do you think?” Tom muttered in response.
Her determination bolstered by that of her friends, Seven straightened her spine and began to catalogue the things she knew, and the things she didn’t.
Being blindsided by a juicy news exposé that painted her, variously, as a naïve political arm-accessory and a corrupt, publicity-hungry mastermind might have been painful for Kathryn’s soul, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It gave her the perfect excuse to be angry with her husband, and consequently, to avoid his sexual advances.
The night the news story broke, bolstered by the pheromone suppressant Jonah Miles had given her and feeling strong and pain-free for the first time in months, Kathryn marched through the front door of their apartment and into the living room where Ryan was waiting for her, and confronted him immediately.
“How could you do this to me, Ryan?” she demanded, concealing her righteous, impotent fury under a thick layer of wounded pride. “I’ve had Tora fielding calls from journalists all day long, and for once they’re not calling to ask which designer I’m wearing. The least you could have done out of respect for me – your wife – was to have warned me!”
“Although I suppose I only have myself to blame,” she said tremulously, ignoring him as she unfastened her belt and tossed it over the back of the couch, followed by her jacket. “How could I have been so stupid – so blind – to have not seen this coming? All those trade negotiations with Japori and Midrian … all those publicity tours … Admiral Kjogo and her tight leash…”
“Kathryn, I’m –”
“And you, husband – how can I ever trust you again?” She rounded on him, hands on her hips, and had to take a quick half-step back as he reached for her. “No, don’t touch me! I’m not ready to forgive you, Ryan. You used me.”
“Kathryn, please!” He pushed a hand through his hair, dishevelling it handsomely. “Give me a chance to explain.”
She thought about how convincingly he played his distress, with just the right balance of guilt and supplication against his authority, and tried to remember that she was supposed to be falling for it, not recoiling in disgust.
“It had better be a damned good explanation,” she replied, harsh with hurt that wasn’t entirely feigned. “Because at this point I’m not even sure I believe you ever loved me.”
His eyes narrowed at that, and she checked herself hastily: she’d never been one for melodrama, and Ryan knew it. She softened her voice.
“I’m sorry,” she forced out, pressing her fingers to temples that, for once, didn’t throb, “I’m upset, and I’m not thinking straight. This headache …”
“Let me help you with that,” Ryan soothed immediately, coming close to spread his hands around her skull, the pads of his fingers pressing lightly. It reminded her briefly of the technique Jens used, and she wondered if, had she really had a headache, he might have eased it the same way Jens did.
As it was, the touch of his hands on her made her shudder, and she stepped quickly away before he noticed.
“No,” she husked, “please don’t, Ryan. I need … I need some time,” and she hurried up the stairs and locked herself into the spare bedroom, thanking fate for giving her a reason to sleep alone.
She managed to maintain her injured façade for almost three weeks before Ryan finally lost patience with her.
“Are you going to make me pay for this forever?” he asked her, frustrated, after they’d returned home from yet another interminable formal dinner and been waylaid by the press on the steps of the restaurant. Kathryn had remained silent and tight-lipped while Ryan fielded their questions and all throughout the ride home, and when Ryan had helped her off with her coat and tried to take her in his arms, she had shrugged him off.
“Do you think I don’t have a right to be angry with you?” she asked him evenly, moving away. “You’ve seen the latest reports, haven’t you? Eighteen months ago I was the darling of the Delta quadrant, and now they’re calling me the bitch of the Borderlands.”
He followed her into the lounge room. “Nobody ever accused the Bolian Star of quality journalism, Kathryn. And who cares, anyway? This will all blow over with the next big story.”
“And then what?” She turned to face him. “My reputation is in ruins, at least in the public eye, even if technically I’ve done nothing wrong.”
She watched Ryan’s reaction carefully.
“So that’s what you’re worried about?” he chuckled. He reached for her, his hands curling around her bare upper arms, thumbs rubbing slowly against the soft skin inside her elbows. “Let me deal with the press, okay? This is all my fault, anyway. I’ll make it clear you were acting on my behalf.”
Kathryn bit her lip, pretending her shiver at the stroking of his thumbs was due to arousal rather than revulsion. “And what about my career? I know the president and Admiral Kjogo are on our side, but –”
“Our side?” he repeated, smiling down at her. “Does that mean you’re not mad at me anymore?”
“Oh, I’m still mad at you,” she replied, letting the breath hitch in her throat as he pulled her closer. “My popularity at Starfleet Command has taken a nosedive, thanks to you.”
“Then give it up,” he cajoled, brushing his lips against her cheekbone. “If we’re lucky, you’ll have to take time off soon anyway…”
“Why?” She strained to sound sultry when all she wanted to do was knee him hard between the legs and run.
“Because,” he murmured, “you’re going to stop taking your boosters, and we’re going to make beautiful babies together.”
Ryan pulled back. “Unless you don’t want that,” he said, searching her eyes. “But I thought you wanted children.”
“I do,” she said hastily, forcing conviction into her gaze. “I just … let’s take it one step at a time, okay?”
A slow, dangerous smile curled his lips. “Fine by me,” he rumbled. “Let’s take the first step right now.”
And he pulled her against his body and captured her mouth with his.
It was worse even than the first time Ryan had pressed past her refusals; worse than pretending on Proxima Station. Because this time, instead of being flooded with a tide of want, the suppressants left her body and mind cold and unresponsive. And she was forced to pretend that his every touch – the skim of his fingertips along her waist, his lips on her bare shoulder – was spiralling her into a state where she couldn’t have said no to him even if she’d wanted to.
She had never worked so hard in her life to convince a man of her skittish, yet eager desire for him. And she’d never been so relieved to have kept him waiting, because after their three-week abstinence Ryan was easily led to believe that she wanted to rush to completion, and didn’t waste time on the preliminaries he usually took pride in. As he thrust inside her, Kathryn turned her head aside and closed her eyes to hide the tears she couldn’t bear him to see.
In the morning, Ryan asked when she was due for her annual physical, and Kathryn, remembering that Tora Jens had already reminded her twice last month that she was, in fact, overdue, mumbled that she’d have to check her diary.
“Why don’t you make an appointment, anyway?” Ryan suggested, coming up behind her chair and resting his hands on her shoulders.
He leaned in to nuzzle his lips against her cheek, and Kathryn forced herself not to stiffen.
“To get your booster reversed,” he said, silkily. “I know you said one step at a time, Kathryn, but let’s face it – neither of us is getting any younger.”
Kathryn’s teeth clamped down on her lower lip until she could trust herself not to scream. Then she turned to smile at him.
“I know,” she said, stroking his cheek. “I’ll make an appointment soon, I promise.”
For the first time in three weeks, Kathryn arrived at her office with a headache.
“Admiral,” Tora Jens greeted her, blue eyes clouding as she noted Kathryn’s fingers pressing at her temple. “What would you like first – coffee, or shall I help you with that?”
Kathryn rolled her eyes. “This is nothing, Tora. Coffee will be fine, thank you.”
Her aide brought a tray into Kathryn’s office a few minutes later, pouring two espressos. Kathryn raised an eyebrow. So it was going to be one of those mornings.
“I couldn’t help but notice that your headaches seem to have eased these past weeks, Admiral,” Jens began. “I’m very pleased for you. May I assume that you found the time to visit Starfleet Medical?”
Kathryn accepted the cup Jens held out to her. “You’re free to assume whatever you wish, Lieutenant,” she replied before raising it to her lips and breathing in the scent of coffee.
Tora’s lips twitched. “Yes, Admiral.”
Kathryn relented. “No, I haven’t had my physical, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Then I’ll book you in –”
“No,” Kathryn said sharply, then frowned at her own reply.
Jens blinked at her. “Admiral, as you know it’s a Starfleet requirement for all officers to undergo annual medical examina-”
“No! I won’t let them touch me –” Kathryn stood abruptly, shoving the cup and saucer onto the low table beside her. Her heart was thudding sickly in her chest, her stomach tight with dread.
This is the way I felt when Tom Paris wanted to scan me, she remembered, and every time my mother insisted I see a doctor. What in the hell is wrong with me?
Tora Jens was watching her closely. “Is there a reason you don’t want to see a doctor, Admiral?” she asked, her voice low and soothing. She reached out to touch Kathryn’s wrist, her fingers cool. “Did a doctor hurt you once?”
Kathryn yanked her hand away. “You don’t have to talk to me as if I’m a child,” she snapped. “This isn’t some latent trauma, it’s just –”
What? she wondered. She searched her own reactions; it was as if the mere idea of visiting a medical professional – of being scanned and examined – enveloped her in visceral fear. A fear that felt alien, as though it didn’t belong to her.
As though it had been implanted.
She thought about all the known effects Deltan pheromones could have on humans. Some were benign, like their ability to reduce pain; some were hostile: sexual addiction, mental illness, susceptibility to subconscious suggestion …
Ryan hadn't just abused her reputation and her body; he’d been brainwashing her. All this time he’d been using her to get what he wanted, any way he could. If it hadn't been for Chakotay, she might never have discovered what he was doing to her.
And she’d have ended up just like his first wife: alone, insane and institutionalised.
She shuddered. If Section 31 hadn't decided to recruit her, that was to have been her fate. And they had only taken an interest because of her usefulness to them, not because they actually cared about her wellbeing.
Just like Ryan. Just like Kjogo.
Even Chakotay, though she didn’t doubt his motives in warning her about Ryan, had used her – had taken her to bed, she thought with an aching sense of shame – to further his mission.
She’d been right all along. She was alone.
Three weeks after the Battle of the Borderlands, Chakotay was cleared for duty and promptly reported to the Turner Building.
He’d contacted Jonah Miles once during his convalescence, requesting new orders, and was informed that Section 31 had the situation in hand and his services were not required at this time; when he protested, Miles deactivated the communication signal and the next time Chakotay tried to open a channel, he found that he couldn’t.
Frustrated, he’d sent an encoded message to Kash to let her know of his status and that he intended to return to the Borderlands as soon as he was able. It took a day, but he finally received a reply, ordering him to report to home base for what she referred to as “the final phase”.
The final phase of what? he’d wondered. Six months ago, when he’d visited Entera’s home base at the Celendi Nebula and met with the coalition’s astonishing trio of leaders – Ube Mekas, Tal’aura and Sikola – they had indicated that they preferred to avoid a war in the Borderlands. But he’d suspected even then that they knew conflict was inevitable and were simply waiting until the timing of it was optimal to their interests. And that suspicion had been confirmed when he realised it was an Entera spy who’d initiated the battle in the Yaraka sector.
People had died in that battle – Starfleet officers; his crew. He had almost died. If Section 31 thought he intended to sit back while they pulled some other poor bastard’s strings, just because Chakotay was no longer of immediate use to them …
“Captain, the admiral is available to see you now.”
He was almost relieved at the interruption to his brooding. Rising, he nodded his thanks to the aide holding open the door for him.
Owen Paris stood before his desk, piercing gaze locked on Chakotay as he entered the office. “Good to see you’re in one piece, Captain,” he said, offering his hand.
Chakotay clasped it briefly. “I wouldn’t have been, if it weren’t for my XO and my helmsman. They came back to save me at great risk to themselves.”
“I’ve read the reports,” Paris replied. “Commander Sereni and Ensign Trabin have both received commendations for valour and offered their choice of reassignment. You should know they’ve both requested to remain under your command.”
Chakotay ducked his head. “That’s … gratifying.”
“And a credit to your abilities,” Paris said pointedly. “It wasn’t your fault the Zapata was destroyed, Captain. As I said, I read the reports. Your ship was plagued with malfunctions and, frankly, should have been recalled to Utopia Planitia for a full inspection; you never stood a chance against an Orion interceptor. It’s thanks to your actions that you managed to save thirty-eight officers.”
“Out of a crew of sixty-five,” Chakotay said softly. “No casualties are acceptable, Admiral, but that’s an intolerably high fatality rate.”
“I know,” Paris said, his tone equally sombre.
“You’re right about the malfunctions, sir,” Chakotay went on after a moment. “The Zapata underwent a complete overhaul before Tuvok took command and was registered fit for service, yet almost every week we discovered a new problem.”
“That can’t be coincidental.”
“My thoughts exactly. Someone was sabotaging her. I believe the Orions had an operative aboard, and …” Chakotay hesitated, “I reported my concerns to my handler, but as far I know, he was unable to identify the saboteur.”
Paris had gone still. “Your handler,” he repeated slowly. “Care to explain, Captain?”
Chakotay swallowed hard. “About a year ago I was recruited by an agency whose representative claimed that they worked in the interests of the Federation but outside of its restrictions. This man, who became my handler, said his agency wanted to bring down Entera and believed I was in the ideal position to help them do just that.”
He scrubbed a hand over his face, avoiding Owen Paris’ steely glare.
“I was sceptical at first, but he convinced me that he was telling the truth. He also convinced me that Entera was a greater threat to the Federation, and the stability of the Alpha quadrant, than I’d previously suspected. And he warned me about the situation on Trebus before Starfleet had even the faintest inkling about it. So I agreed to work for his agency. I wanted to expose Entera and protect the Federation, and I needed to protect my people.”
He raised his eyes to Paris’ at last.
“You already know everything I’ve told my handler, with one exception. I believe President Zife is one of the key players in Entera. I don’t know if he’s holding the power or merely a pawn for Mekas and the others, but he’s definitely involved. And we need to bring him down.”
There was silence when he’d finished speaking; silence that lasted long enough that Chakotay shifted his feet.
Then Paris said, “I was wondering when you’d finally come clean.”
Chakotay stared at him. “You mean you’ve –”
“Known all along? Yes.”
He frowned at the admiral. “How did you know I’d come clean at all?”
Paris gave him a small smile. “Because I’m a good judge of character, Chakotay, and my judgement of your character is that, while you’re quite able to play a role when required, you’re not naturally dishonest. This must have been tearing you up. A year,” he murmured, shaking his head. “You lasted longer than I thought you would.”
“How did you know, sir?” Chakotay asked. “I mean, about Section 31.”
Owen Paris laughed. “I’ve been in Starfleet for a long time, and I come from a very long line of ‘fleet brats. Section 31 has existed since the Federation was chartered. Do you really think the agency could have maintained its secrecy or its power base without recruiting heavily from Starfleet ranks?”
“Then you’re –”
“An agent? No. But I’m a realist. I don’t condone some of their methods, but I’ve worked with them when it’s expedient and in the interests of Federation security. And I have the advantage of a long-standing friendship with someone very high up in the agency. Someone I trust.”
“Who?” Chakotay started to ask, then shook his head. “Never mind. I’m not sure I want to know. In any case, Admiral, it seems I’m no longer useful to Section 31. As soon I contacted my handler to pass on my suspicions about the president, they cut me off.”
“You gave the agency the same information you gave me?” Paris confirmed, and at Chakotay’s nod, went on, “Then they must be working to bring the coalition down from the inside. There must be an operative planted inside Zife’s administration, or somewhere else very close to Entera’s power base.” He clasped Chakotay’s shoulder. “One thing I’ve learned about 31 is that they always have a backup plan for their backup plan. If I were you, I’d consider yourself excused from duty, and be glad of it. You did good work, Captain, but it’s over now.”
“What if it’s not enough?” Chakotay insisted, beginning to pace. “Entera has a stranglehold on the Borderlands, a monopoly on the trade routes between Earth and Cardassia and now sole rights to the Trebus dilithium mine. They’ve seeded the Romulan Star Empire, the Cardassian Union and the Klingon Empire. They’re controlling the Federation president, if not taking their orders from him.”
He stopped in front of Paris, his eyes boring into the older man’s.
“Starfleet has already lost good people, thanks to Entera’s machinations,” he went on. “According to my sister, Trebus is on the verge of violence. The Borderlands are about to explode into further armed conflict. More people are going to die, Admiral, and Section 31 doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to stop it.”
Paris’ eyes were grave. “What are you proposing?”
“Stopping it before it starts,” said Chakotay. “You said yourself you don’t condone the agency’s methods, so let me try another way. I’ll take a leave of absence and use it to defect to Entera. I’ll figure out their next move. And I’ll put a stop to it before anybody else ends up dead.”
“And what about you?” asked Owen Paris. “What if you end up dead?”
“Then it’s been an honour serving with you, Admiral.”