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.
As you stand upon the edge
Hanging in the balance
And fate may fall down upon you
While the devil is knocking
Valerie Broussard, Awaken
Chapter Eighteen: Desperate Measures
“Admiral Janeway, over here!”
“Councillor Austin, if you’d look this way, please …”
“Mr President, could you step forward a little?”
“Admiral!” “Councillor!” “President Zife!”
Bulbs flashed, leaving ghostly after-images floating before Kathryn’s eyes as she posed, straight-backed and scantily clad, on the steps of the Palais de la Concorde. She was flanked by Ryan and President Zife, with a uniformed Admiral Kjogo on Zife’s other side and Admirals Ube Mekas and Ch’ura beyond the Tandaran woman. Ryan’s hand rested possessively on her lower back, and Kathryn forced herself to not shrug him off, to remain still and poised, to tilt her chin at the perfect angle for the cameras and smile, and smile, and smile …
She wondered what fresh hell was happening now. She and Ryan had been en route to yet another diplomatic dinner when Ryan had received the summons to Paris. There’d been no time even to change their clothes; a fact she regretted bitterly, both because she stood out like a coquettish beacon against the uniforms and tailored suits surrounding her, and because Paris at dawn was desperately cold.
Worst of all, she thought the suppressant Jonah Miles had given her a few weeks ago must be wearing off, because lately, every time her husband put his hands on her, she found it harder and harder to remember how much she hated him.
Finally Zife’s aide, Vela Marquez, raised her hands and asked for silence, and the flashes and bids for attention died away as the president stepped up to the podium.
“Citizens of the Federation, representatives of Starfleet, members of the press, and everyone else joining us across the Alpha quadrant and beyond,” Zife began, “thank you all for your attention, which I promise not to tax too severely.”
A smattering of chuckles greeted him, along with a brief flicker of holo-cameras.
“I have two announcements to make today, and in the interests of brevity there will be no questions at the end. My aide, Ms Marquez, will field any follow-ups through the usual channels.”
He paused, his face falling into grave lines.
“Last month our brave Starfleet colleagues suffered tragic losses in the conflict in the Yaraka sector. As a direct result of that, I ordered Fleet Admiral Shanthi, the Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet, to increase our armed presence in the Borderlands region until we can be assured that there will be no further attacks by the Orions. Unfortunately, Admiral Shanthi did not see fit to offer the good citizens of the Federation such protection.”
Zife paused, meeting the eyes of several of the rapt journalists in the front row. Kathryn felt her heart begin to thud as she tried to calculate the potential devastation of whatever bombshell he was about to drop.
Whatever it was, it was clear from Ryan’s smug expression that he knew exactly what was about to happen.
“As you would be aware,” continued Zife, “a sitting president can call an emergency meeting of the Starfleet Board of Admirals to rule upon pressing matters of Federation security, and tonight I have done just that.”
A low murmur began in the crowd below.
“In the interests of avoiding further bloodshed in the Borderlands, I have ordered Admiral Taela Shanthi’s removal as Commander-in-Chief. This decision does not require further endorsement; however, it must be made in the presence of at least four flag officers. Thanks to Admirals Mekas, Ch’ura, Kjogo and Janeway, that requirement has been met.”
Kathryn was barely able to stifle the gasp that rose in her throat. You treacherous bastard, she thought, her anger divided equally between the two men flanking her.
“My apologies, Admiral Janeway,” Zife turned to her, bestowing her with a smile. “I understand you and Councillor Austin postponed your evening plans for this.”
She forced a stiff nod in return, and felt Ryan’s fingers tightening on her hip in warning. “Of course, Mr President,” he cut in smoothly.
Zife turned back to the crowd; the noise was swelling and he held up his hands for silence. “You’ll be wondering, of course, who will replace Admiral Shanthi as Commander-in-Chief,” he said, turning to the tall, olive-skinned Tandaran woman on his other side. “Allow me to present Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo, the new head of Starfleet.”
The holo-cameras in the crowd lit up like strobes, and the blood pounded in Kathryn’s ears. She could feel herself trembling, could feel the colour draining from her face.
“You knew about this,” she hissed to Ryan under cover of the rising tide of sound.
“Smile, honey,” he muttered back, dipping his head as though sharing a secret with her. “Remember, the galaxy’s watching.”
Zife allowed the hubbub for a while, then called for quiet again. “Settle down, I’m not finished yet,” he called drolly, to scattered laughter.
When all was hushed, the Bolian’s smile faded and he rested his hands on the podium, again seeking eye contact with members of the crowd.
“You all remember the Dominion War,” he said, his voice pitched low and serious. “You all know that I would do anything in my power to defend the Federation from those who would destroy it. And if that means strengthening our borders – if that means striking first at those who would harm us – then that is what I’ll do. Because that is what will keep us all safe.”
My God, Kathryn thought. He really believes that. He really believes he’s making the right choices for all of us.
“And,” Zife went on, “if that means extending the hand of friendship to those we once called our enemies, then I will do that, also. Which brings me to my second announcement.”
Kathryn, and everybody else present, tensed.
“An hour ago, I received word that Alon Ghemor, Castellan of the Cardassian Union, has been assassinated by persons unknown.”
Zife paused to allow the shock that followed this statement to echo around the open square.
“The Cardassian government has called a state of emergency and has named a former military leader, Legate Kiana Sikola, as caretaker in chief until a new castellan can be elected. I have contacted Caretaker Sikola to offer the resources of the Federation in seeking the assassins who would destabilise Cardassia’s hard-won peace, and have assured her that the alliance between us remains unbroken. With that in mind, and knowing that Cardassia’s resources are stretched to breaking point and have left them unable to obtain a number of necessary raw materials, I have entered into an agreement with the Union to allow them access to the dilithium mine situated on the fifth planet of the Dorvan system, which is, of course, conveniently located to the Cardassian border.”
It was at that point that Kathryn’s knees buckled, and Ryan’s vice-like grip as he pulled her close to his side was the only thing that kept her upright.
For two weeks, ever since his feigned defection, Chakotay had run mindless errands and lent his muscle – for labour or for violence – whenever and wherever he’d been ordered to do so. But Kash shadowed him constantly, and his requests to enter the command centre in the Celendi Nebula had been ignored, and Chakotay couldn’t escape the suspicion that he was being kept in the dark.
So much for his admission to the inner circle of Entera. He hadn’t even found out, until he was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of Kash’s shuttle the day before, that their passenger out of the Borderlands was Senator Tal’aura, whom they were to transport to a cloaked Romulan vessel on the edge of the Neutral Zone. As for Mekas and Sikola, he’d discovered on quizzing Kash, they’d long since returned to Earth and Cardassia respectively.
Now, sitting in the bar on Qualor II after having dropped off their covert cargo, nursing a synthale while he waited for Kash to return from her paid-by-the-hour entertainment, Chakotay glanced up at the silent viewscreen behind the bartender’s head and sighed in resignation.
Who else would he expect to see, standing on the steps of the Palais de la Concorde, surrounded by the president, Starfleet brass and her ever-present, detestably handsome husband, but Kathryn Janeway?
She looks cold, Chakotay thought, then, looking closer, no. She looks devastated.
“Hey,” he called to the bartender, “excuse me. Could you turn up the volume, please?”
“… entered into an agreement with the Union to allow them access to the dilithium mine situated on the fifth planet of the Dorvan system,” the president was declaring, and Chakotay’s spine snapped straight, “which is, of course, conveniently located to the Cardassian border. I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Treban ruling council, without whose generosity this peace accord would not have been possible …”
The glass slipped from Chakotay’s hand and shattered on the floor, but by the time the bartender had finished shouting after him, Chakotay was long gone.
It was easy to steal the shuttle; he’d downloaded Kash’s prints into a holographic data chip months ago for just such an eventuality. As soon as he’d broken orbit of the planet he set a course for the Dorvan system and went to warp seven, the shuttle’s top speed.
“Computer,” he ordered, “open an encrypted communication channel and direct the signal to Sekaya of Trebus.”
Unable to comply.
“Explain,” Chakotay demanded.
The signal is being deflected by subspace interference.
“Damn it,” Chakotay muttered. “Computer, boost power to the –”
Warning, the computer interrupted him. Proximity alert.
“Shields up,” he snapped. “Identify.”
Incoming weapons fire, reported the computer, and as the little shuttle shuddered, Direct hit to the port nacelle. Warp engines are off-line.
“Computer, identify that ship,” Chakotay said harshly.
Unable to identify, the computer answered helpfully. Incoming transmission.
“Open a channel,” he snarled, then, “Whoever you are, cease fire immediately!”
~Hello, Captain Chakotay,~ came Kash’s self-satisfied purr. ~If you’ll adjust the viewer of your shuttle – excuse me, my shuttle – to a polarisation variable of point zero three, you’ll be able to see us just as clearly as we can see you.~
Silently, Chakotay did as she suggested, and clenched his teeth at the sight of a sleek craft of Romulan design, obviously cloaked, and obviously trespassing.
“Whoever is flying that thing,” he remarked, “you’re taking quite a risk visiting this side of the Neutral Zone.”
~Perhaps,~ replied a baritone that seemed, to Chakotay, faintly recognisable, though he couldn’t place it. ~But I think it’s a risk worth taking. On screen.~
Chakotay found himself looking into his viewer at Kash, his Trialan contact, seated next to a pale, shaven-headed man who was unmistakeably human, despite his Romulan garb.
And, somehow, familiar.
“Do I know you?” Chakotay asked him guardedly.
The man’s lips turned up at the corners. “Not exactly,” he answered, “but that’s a story for another day. In the meantime, Captain, please lower your shields and prepare to beam aboard.”
“I don’t think so,” answered Chakotay. “I’m a little busy right now.”
~I’m afraid I must insist, ~ the man replied steadily. ~Drop your shields, Captain. There’s no need for bloodshed today. ~
“Tell that to Zife,” he retorted, hands busily flying over the console before him. “There’s about to be a whole lot of my people’s blood on his hands.”
~We’re wasting time, ~ Kash muttered. ~Target the secondary dorsal generator with a two-second phaser pulse. ~
The man raised an eyebrow.
~Trust me. I know my ship. ~
Chakotay did his best to avoid the incoming phaser blast, but Kash was right: she knew her ship, and his evasive manoeuvres could hold off the far more powerful Romulan shuttle for only so long. Eventually the shot hit true, and his shields collapsed, and he felt himself dematerialising.
When his molecules had re-formed, he found himself standing on a Romulan transporter pad with two disruptors aimed at his chest.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Captain Chakotay,” the bald man smiled without warmth or sincerity. “My name is Shinzon.”
Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl.
At least Zife had been as good as his word about not taking questions after his shock press conference, Kathryn thought. But, instead, he’d insisted that she and Ryan join the rest of his contingent at his private residence to celebrate Nyla Kjogo’s promotion to Commander-in-Chief, and so she was forced to sip champagne and smile as she stood at her husband’s side, pretending she didn’t mind that his hand was always in contact with her waist or her shoulder or the nape of her neck.
Finally, when it was approaching four in the morning, San Francisco time, she made her excuses, claiming an early start in the office and the need to catch some sleep. Ryan reluctantly allowed her to go home alone when she insisted she’d transport there directly and comm him the moment she rematerialised.
She did. And then she waited a further fifteen minutes, for safety’s sake, before she let herself into Ryan’s study and broke into his computer.
It wasn’t the first time she’d tried to hack into his personal files, but until now, she’d never managed to be half a world away from him. Still, she’d have to work quickly. Distance would mean very little if Ryan had procured his own personal transport device.
“Come on, Arachnia,” she whispered, as alphanumeric sequences scrolled before her tired, smarting eyes. “Where would an evil mastermind hide his secret plans for galactic domination?”
She giggled, then stopped abruptly. Must have had too much champagne, she thought, rubbing her eyes.
Insistent beeping interrupted her from her communications console in the next room, and Kathryn left her search parameters running while she hurried to answer it.
“You look exhausted, Owen,” she greeted the silver-haired admiral on the vidscreen. “That was some press conference, hm?”
~Are you all right, Katie?~ Paris frowned at her.
Kathryn pressed her fingers to her temples, which had begun to throb heavily. “Just a little too much French champagne. Had to celebrate Kjogo’s promotion, even though I’d rather kick her in the face,” she muttered, then at Paris’ growing expression of alarm, waved a hand. “Forget it. What’s up?”
~Chakotay has gone missing.~
Instantly, all trace of drink-induced mirth left her, leaving Kathryn dry-mouthed, with a sick, thudding headache.
“What do you mean, he’s gone missing?”
~He sent a coded transmission from the Qualor system saying he was breaking cover to head for Trebus, and if he didn’t check in with me again in three hours I should assume he wasn’t going to make it.~
“His cover?” Kathryn’s hand strayed to her throat. “You mean he went back to Entera? What the hell for?”
~To bring them down from the inside.~ Paris was looking at her with alarm. ~Kathryn, I’m very concerned about you. You don’t look well.~
“I’m fine,” she snapped. “Owen, how could you do that? How could you let Chakotay go back undercover? I told you I’d handle it, and I – I –”
She broke off into a laugh that held no happiness.
“Who am I kidding?” she asked the empty room, throwing up her hands. “I had no idea what they were planning. I didn’t know that Ryan and Kjogo would manipulate President Zife into selling Trebus to the Cardassians. Oh God, Owen, what will they do to Chakotay’s people? How can we stop this?”
~Janeway!~ barked Owen Paris, and when she stopped abruptly, staring at the vidscreen in shock, he nodded. ~That’s better. Now listen to me, Admiral. Whatever you’re planning to do, I want you to stand down. You are not to put yourself in any further danger. Do you understand?~
Kathryn bit her lip, then dropped her gaze. “I understand, sir. Janeway out,” and she tapped the channel closed before Paris could speak again.
Then she wrapped a cloak around her skimpy, sparkly evening dress, activated her transporter, and materialised in the outer vestibule of Nyla Kjogo’s office.
It took time to break into Kjogo’s inner sanctum, crack the passcode on her personal console and initiate a search and sweep. But either she was getting better at the cloak-and-dagger stuff or Kjogo wasn’t quite as sneaky as Ryan was – perhaps because she didn’t have a curious wife to contend with – because in less than twenty minutes, Kathryn had found what she was looking for.
“Oh God,” she whispered aloud, speed-reading the damning information on one of the many files she’d hacked into. “Zife is no puppet; he’s every bit as complicit as the rest of them … and Ube Mekas … Ch’ura …” Her hand strayed to the knot at the back of her neck, wishing she could knead away the pain so she could think straight.
And then she found something that made her forget her headache altogether.
Reaching into her cloak pocket, she brought out her combadge and opened a channel to Owen Paris.
~Kathryn?~ his voice came through. ~Where are you?~
“I’m in Admiral Kjogo’s office,” she answered, “and I’ve found something you need to see. I’m downloading it to a data storage chip now, but Owen –”
~Didn’t I order you to stand down?~ he demanded, gruff with frustration.
“Yes, and I said I understood that order. Admiral, you have to listen to me,” Kathryn insisted. “I’ve found evidence that a member of Entera is intending to carry out the assassination of several Romulan senators and install a Reman as the new praetor. It’s expected to take place within hours.”
There was a pause.
~Kathryn, close the channel and transport to my house immediately. Do not contact anyone else. Just get here now.~
“Aye, sir,” she murmured, and tapped her combadge, rising from the chair.
But just as she tucked the data chip into her cloak pocket, the office door opened and Nyla Kjogo strode in, stopping short as she locked eyes with Kathryn.
“Seven, are you seeing this?”
“What?” Seven asked distractedly, most of her attention on the file she’d unearthed from the depths of the classified Starfleet database.
“It’s all over the news – Seven?”
Harry appeared in the doorway to her study, and Seven quickly shut down her terminal and turned to him.
“Yes?” she asked, smoothing out her expression.
Undeceived, he cocked an eyebrow. “What are you up to?”
“It’s not important.” She shook her head. “What news?”
Harry gestured her into the living room, and together they watched the report playing out on the large vidscreen.
When it had finished, Seven murmured, “That would explain why I’ve been unable to reach Sekaya … Harry, we need to contact Chakotay. He may need our help. See if Commanders Paris and Torres can assist you. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Harry retorted archly. “Where are you going?”
Seven was shrugging on her jacket and striding for the door. “To solve a different mystery.”
“What are you doing, Kathryn?”
She straightened up, letting the data chip slip unobtrusively into her pocket. Nyla Kjogo’s eyes were wintry, but Kathryn refused to let fear chill her.
“I think the real question, Admiral,” she replied, “is what have you been doing?”
“Whatever you think you know …” Kjogo took three steps into the room, letting the door close behind her and locking her eyes on Kathryn’s, “I recommend you keep it to yourself. You have no idea what’s at stake here, and if you decide to start meddling in things you don’t understand –”
“Oh, I understand all right,” Kathryn interrupted her, hands on hips. “I understand all too well, Commander-in-Chief. But you know what really burns me up? It’s just how long I’ve let you get away with it. You, and my lying conspirator of a husband, and that traitor of a president.”
She watched Kjogo’s demeanour change; watched the calm settle over the older woman’s expression like a blanket of snow.
“And what do you think you can do about it, Kathryn?” Kjogo asked her, almost gently. “Expose us? Take us down? You’re in it up to your pretty little neck.”
“Yes, I am, thanks to you,” Kathryn ground out. “Well played, Admiral. But there’s one thing you haven’t counted on.”
“Oh?” Kjogo smiled at her faintly. “What’s that?”
“I don’t care if I spend the rest of my days in a Federation penal colony mining dilithium with a pickaxe and a shovel, just as long as you’re right there suffering alongside me.”
And she pushed past the woman who had made her life hell for the past eighteen months, hoping that Nyla Kjogo would be surprised enough by Kathryn’s sudden backbone that she’d give her time enough to escape.
“You’re kidding me, right?” Tom Paris was attempting to braid his almost-two-year-old daughter’s curly hair and simultaneously stop her from flinging her breakfast all over the kitchen; he could barely spare his best friend a glance. “B’Elanna’s at Utopia Planitia testing her brand new super-charged warp drive. There’s no way I can call her back to Earth now.”
~Then you’ll have to do,~ Kim cajoled him from the other side of the vidscreen. ~Come on, Tom, I need your help, and so does Chakotay.~
“It’s my day off,” whined Tom. “What am I supposed to do with Miral?”
“Harry,” yelled Miral, waving. “Uncle Harry.”
~Hi, Miri,~ Harry waved back. ~Tom, can’t your mom take her?~
“Fine,” Tom gave in; he knew and Harry knew there had never been any doubt that his protests were token, anyway. “Give me thirty minutes. And call Tuvok – if anyone knows how to get hold of Chakotay, it’ll be him.”
~What about Admiral Janeway?~
“Really, Harry? When’s the last time those two had a civil conversation?”
~Okay, okay.~ Harry held up his hands. ~I’m going. Bye, Miri.~
Miral flung a spoonful of porridge at the terminal and it spattered onto the image of Harry’s forehead just before the screen went black.
“Nice aim, kid,” muttered Tom, grabbing a cloth to wipe it clean. “Let’s go.”
Kathryn fished for her combadge in the depths of her cloak pocket again, pressing it between finger and thumb as she hurried out of the Communications building and along the mist-laden paths of the HQ grounds.
“Janeway to Lieutenant Jens.”
The badge chirped. ~Jens here, Admiral.~
“I’m sure I don’t have to ask if you’ve seen the news.”
~No, ma’am. I’ve prepared a statement for you and am waiting in your office.~
“Thank you, Lieutenant; I expected nothing less. However, I won’t be coming into the office today. In fact, I’ll be uncontactable until further notice.”
~Admiral?~ Jens sounded alarmed. ~Is everything all right?~
“All right?” Kathryn’s steps faltered. “No, Tora. But I intend to make it right.”
“Never mind that.” She sighed, slowing to a halt. “Just field my calls, will you? I’ll be in touch as soon as I can.”
~Admiral, please -~
“Janeway out,” Kathryn said firmly. Then she deactivated the combadge and dropped it back into her pocket, pulling out her personal transport device instead.
She set coordinates for the Paris house and initiated transport, expecting to materialise on the front porch.
But as her body took solid form, she looked at her surroundings and discovered that she was standing on the transporter pad of a shuttle of unknown design. Rising from the pilot’s seat, a wicked-looking phase pistol trained on her, was her husband.
“Hi, honey,” he said. “Thought you said you were going home to bed.”
“Ryan,” she glanced around quickly, taking in the sleek cockpit, “what’s going on? Where are we?”
“You know, I just realised I haven’t yet taken you for a joyride in my little Delta Queen. And I named her after you.” He grinned at her. “Or did I?”
Kathryn met his eyes. “Maybe you named her after your mother.”
Ryan lost his smile.
“You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?” he said coldly. “But you never did learn that sometimes it’s better to just stop asking questions. Especially when poking your nose into things that don’t concern you could get you hurt.”
“Hurt?” Kathryn scoffed. “You don’t care about hurting anyone, least of all me. All you care about is power and wealth and –”
She gasped, her words cut off as Ryan lunged forward, the hand that wasn’t holding the phaser snapping around her wrist like a vice. He yanked hard and she stumbled on her stiletto heels, falling against his body; he spun her, pulling her back to his chest, his arms wrapped around her and the pistol’s muzzle tucked up against her jaw.
Ryan’s breath was hot against her ear. “Why couldn’t you just be my wife, Kathryn?” he hissed. “I’d have given you everything, and all you had to do was just – play – along.”
The muzzle dug into the soft flesh under her chin, and Kathryn’s voice came out strained. “If you wanted someone you could bully into submission,” she managed, “you shouldn’t have picked me.”
And she raised her right heel, slamming her stiletto down into the bony centre of his foot.
Ryan howled, his arms tightening convulsively around her waist and chest until Kathryn gasped for breath. She struggled, but he was fiendishly strong and the headache she’d been suffering all night seemed to have quadrupled in strength. She felt weak, dizzy; the lights of the shuttle’s consoles danced and wavered before her eyes. She pushed feebly at his arms and swallowed hard against the gathering nausea.
This isn’t just the champagne, she realised.
“What did you do to me?” she asked, her voice slurred. “What did you put in my wine?”
“Something to make you a little more submissive,” Ryan growled through teeth gritted with pain. “And this should finish the job.”
She felt him fumbling in his pocket, felt him press something to her neck, felt the familiar hiss of a hypospray.
“Say goodnight, Kathryn,” she heard him gloat, his voice fading and distorting as though it was coming through an echo chamber, and then she knew nothing more.