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.
Looks turn to lovers, flames into fires
Jack loves his tragedy, Queen her desires
You look well suited like you came to win
Lust, spite and malice, your degrees of sin
Placebo, Spite and Malice
Chapter Nineteen: Degrees of Sin
Chakotay had undergone torture before.
Once, when his Maquis cell had raided a Cardassian weapons facility, he’d spent twelve hours in captivity after tripping an alarm their sensors hadn't warned them about. Torres, Bendera and Ayala had stormed in to rescue him, but it had taken him three days in a medical facility to physically recover, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever fully recovered mentally.
Then there was the time he’d let Seska and her Kazon cronies capture him, but that had mostly involved him taking punches, something both his Starfleet tactical training and his boxing experience had equipped him to handle. Of course, that incident had ended with the theft of his DNA and the emotional torture of realising, months later, that Seska’s manipulation had led to the capture of Voyager.
This, though … this was something different.
He had never met a Reman before. Now, having met the man Shinzon addressed only as ‘Viceroy’, he quite fervently hoped he never would again.
“Tell me how much you know,” the Reman demanded in a voice like winter. “What have you told Starfleet? Do they know about our plans?”
“What … plans?” Chakotay forced out through gritted teeth as his body shuddered involuntarily, legacy of the series of neuro-synaptic shocks the Reman had delivered using a slender rod akin to a Klingon painstik. “You mean … your fiendish scheme to … overthrow the galactic overlords … and rule the cosmos?”
He’d almost bitten through his tongue the first time the Reman had touched that rod to his spinal column. Each time it was used on him, shooting arcs of agony bowed his fingers and toes and energy seemed to thrash around inside his body, like a current with nowhere to escape.
The Viceroy hadn't been averse to using his fists, either; in between applications of the Rod of Doom, as Chakotay had mentally christened it, he’d cracked a couple of Chakotay’s ribs, loosened a few teeth, bloodied his nose and mouth and left an intricate pattern of bruising across his torso and back. Being strung up from his wrists by a pair of self-sealing duranium cuffs meant there was nothing Chakotay could do to protect himself, except keep up a satirical internal monologue in which he cast the Viceroy as Doctor Chaotica and himself as the hapless sidekick, awaiting rescue by Captain Proton or, preferably, the Queen of the Spider People.
Far worse than the physical pain, though, was the mental torment.
Chakotay hadn't known Remans had telepathic abilities. The Viceroy was able to tap directly into his mind simply by touch; almost like a Vulcan mind-meld, but far less benign, pulling thoughts and memories from him as easily as a cork from a champagne bottle, twisting them into something hateful and terrifying and projecting the images back into Chakotay’s tortured consciousness. After the third time he was forced to endure mental visions of Kathryn screaming as she died in ever more protracted and horrible ways, Chakotay was wondering if his own death would be preferable.
Chaotica’s Brain Probe had nothing on that.
“Tell us what Starfleet Intelligence knows,” the Reman intoned, grey lips close to Chakotay’s ear, “and the pain will stop.”
“Forget it,” Chakotay rasped. “Your heinous designs are … no match for the might of Captain Proton …”
His words slurred into exhausted laughter.
“He’s making no sense,” he heard the Viceroy utter in disgust. “Shinzon, we must return you to Romulus. We’re wasting time here.”
Shinzon turned from the pilot’s seat. “We’re fifty thousand kilometres from the Vana’diel Nebula. Kash’s shuttle has already docked with the complex. She is preparing to receive the captain as soon as we’re close enough to transport him.”
“Good,” rumbled the Viceroy, “then I will enjoy my final opportunity to probe this human’s mind.”
Talon-like fingers curled around Chakotay’s skull, and ribbons of blinding fire pulsed into every nerve and pathway, flooding his mind’s eye with images so vile, so violent, that all he could do was scream.
Seven of Nine stepped through the translucent double doors on the twelfth floor of the Communications building at Starfleet Headquarters. It was still early enough that the building was close to empty, but lights glowed in the office at the end of the corridor.
She could hear movement inside as she slipped through the entrance; the door between the anteroom and the inner office was ajar, and she watched silently for a moment as the dark-haired young woman in command red bent over the imposing desk, rifling through drawers and tapping at the computer terminal.
The young woman uttered a sigh of what Seven presumed was frustration and straightened up, kicking the desk drawer shut. Seven stepped out from behind the door, blocking her path and bringing her to an abrupt halt.
Only for a moment.
“Excuse me,” the other woman muttered, trying to push past.
Seven’s hand shot out and encircled her arm. “Lieutenant Jens, a moment please.”
Tora Jens struggled against Seven’s grip, but Seven held fast, and after a moment Jens stilled with only a brief, longing glance in the direction of the corridor.
“You can let go of me now,” she said, looking pointedly at Seven’s Borg-enhanced hand.
Seven released her. “Where is Admiral Janeway?”
“She’s not available right now,” Jens answered, “but I can leave a message for her.”
“That won’t be necessary,” replied Seven. “You’re the one I came to see.”
Jens went still. “Why?”
“Because I know who you are,” Seven said with calm emphasis, “and what you’ve been doing.”
For a moment Jens didn’t react. Then she straightened her spine, all the warmth draining from her blue eyes.
“Whatever you think you know, Seven,” she began, “you don’t have the first idea –”
Her combadge chirped.
Cutting herself off, Tora drew a quick breath and tapped it. “Lieutenant Jens.”
~Jens?~ the man on the other end of the comm demanded in surprise. ~I was trying to reach Admiral Janeway.~
“She’s had her communications diverted to me, Admiral Paris. How may I help?”
~You can tell me where the hell she is,~ growled Owen Paris. ~And don’t bullshit me, Lieutenant, because this is shaping up to be a very bad day.~
Seven’s eyes stayed locked with Jens’ as the other woman’s expression changed. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know where she is.”
The click of dead air was the only reply, but Tora Jens wasted no time: she moved immediately back into Janeway’s office and tapped into her computer terminal again.
“What are you doing?” Seven demanded, following her.
Jens didn’t answer, so Seven moved around behind the chair Tora had hastily pulled up and watched her fingers flying over the console.
It didn’t take long for her to follow what the other woman was attempting – and failing – to do. Seven reached down and pressed her hand over Tora’s, stilling her movements.
“I think you’d better start talking, Lieutenant.”
She ignored the voice; her head ached so, and it would be so easy just to go back to sleep, maybe for a week or more …
Kathryn, wake up.
“No,” she mumbled. “Too early.”
“Kathryn, you need to wake up!”
She jerked upright, or tried to, and came awake in a jolting rush when she realised she couldn’t move her arms. Forcing her eyes open and squinting against the searing light that assailed them, Kathryn sucked in air and stilled, trying to calm her spinning head.
“God,” she groaned, and stopped to swallow hard as her stomach lurched.
Too much champagne, her flawed memory suggested, and she tried to bring her hands down to massage away the spiking pain in her temples, only to be stopped by some kind of restraint.
“What the hell –”
“Kathryn,” said that insistent voice again, and her eyes went wide.
“Chakotay?” she whispered, raising her aching, throbbing head.
He was standing right there. Right there in front of her, barely two metres away. But how could he be there?
She blinked away the dizziness and realised that he wasn’t a hallucination, or a figment of her drugged imagination. He was real. He was bare from the waist up, and his torso was covered in blackening contusions, and there was blood on his face. And his arms were shackled above his head.
Just as hers were.
She yanked against whatever was holding her, a whimper escaping her lips as she squinted up toward the ceiling. “What is this?” she grated. “Why am I tied up?”
“Kathryn, look at me,” Chakotay said firmly. “Focus on my voice, and breathe in and out, slowly. We’re going to get out of here, okay? I promise.”
Kathryn closed her eyes and breathed, letting the sound of his soft, even voice flow over her until she was pretty sure she could keep both the panic and the nausea at bay. She opened her eyes and nodded.
Looking around, she saw that they were in a narrow, near-empty building of some kind; a disused storage warehouse, she surmised. The floor was dirty and there was a long stretch of grimy windows along one wall. Harsh yellow light filtered through them, but she couldn’t be sure if its source was natural.
At the opposite end of the cavernous space were two Klingons in full battle regalia, both carrying oversized disruptors. Their eyes were focused on her and Chakotay. Kathryn turned away.
“Where are we?” She kept her voice low.
Chakotay observed her for a moment longer before replying. “Somewhere inside the Vana’diel Nebula, apparently. I heard Shinzon mention it.”
“We’re in the Hyralan sector?” Kathryn felt her brow crease in bewilderment. “That’s over two days from Earth at maximum warp. How long have I been unconscious?”
“They brought you in a few hours ago,” he answered. “You were obviously sedated, but for how long, I don’t know.”
“We’re over thirty light years away from the Borderlands,” she said faintly, then remembered his other comment. “And who’s Shinzon?”
“Apparently, he’s about to become the ruler of Romulus. Although how a human in league with Remans intends to pull that off, I’m not sure.”
“My guess is it has something to do with assassinating the rest of the Romulan Senate,” Kathryn answered, “which is supposed to be happening any minute now, by my estimate.”
Chakotay wrenched at his chains in frustration, only subsiding when one of the Klingons growled and took a half-step forward. “Damn it, we have to get out of here,” he muttered.
“Any ideas?” She was trying to wriggle out of her cuffs without attracting attention, and wincing in pain at the fruitless effort.
“I was hoping you’d come up with a brilliant plan, since I seem to be failing at it.” He huffed. “Some intelligence agent I am. I didn’t even know Entera had a facility here.”
Kathryn stopped twisting and tugging at her bonds and stared at him. “Then nobody has any idea where we are.”
Chakotay said nothing.
“Except for one person,” she continued, her voice slack with horror. “The one person I commed after I found the evidence. Even though Owen told me not to speak to anyone.”
“My aide,” whispered Kathryn. “Tora Jens. I told her I was going to be out of contact, and the next thing I knew, Ryan had abducted me and we were on his personal shuttle. Oh God, Tora has been watching me all along … spying on me, reporting back to Kjogo. She’s with Entera. She must be.”
“I’m sorry,” said Chakotay, his eyes soft with sympathy.
She shook her head minutely, as though that would dull the pain of yet another betrayal. “I should have known,” she muttered, her gaze sliding away from his, “but then, it’s pretty clear that I’m not the greatest judge of character where those close to me are concerned.”
Chakotay frowned, but before he could question her the doors at the end of the long room slid open. Swivelling in her shackles, teetering on the stilettos she was still wearing, Kathryn watched as Ryan Austin strode toward them.
He grabbed a utilitarian chair from behind a column, dragging it with him, and when he was a metre or so from where they were both suspended he sat on it, crossing one leg over the other and smirking at them each in turn.
“You don’t look so good, honey,” he addressed Kathryn, his voice dripping with false concern. “Headache?”
She pressed her lips together.
“I could help you with that, you know,” Ryan offered. “Lay my hands on you, make you feel good.”
He leaned forward, stretching out a hand until he could touch her knee, then let the tips of his fingers drift upward along her bare thigh. Kathryn jerked away, and he laughed.
“Don’t touch her,” Chakotay growled.
“So you can talk,” drawled Ryan. “I was starting to wonder if I should’ve just had Kash kill you back on Qualor II. Your ability to keep your mouth shut is pretty impressive, considering.”
“Considering what?” Kathryn demanded. “And who the hell is Kash?”
“Considering your lover’s ability to withstand Reman hospitality,” Ryan answered. “And don’t be jealous, Kathryn. It’s unbecoming.”
Maybe if her head wasn’t pounding so badly she’d be able to make sense of this, but as it was, she latched onto the only thing she could unpick. “He’s not my lover,” she mumbled, staring at her feet.
“Right,” said Ryan in a flat tone that indicated his utter disbelief. “I’m willing to overlook your past indiscretions, Kathryn, as long as you promise to be a good girl from now on.”
“What are you talking about?” she frowned, lifting her head to squint at him.
“Did you think I wouldn’t find that nasty little data chip? It was in your cloak pocket, honey. You didn’t even think to hide it in your panties.” Ryan snickered. “Not that I wouldn’t have looked there.”
Kathryn’s eyes widened. The evidence, she realised, staring down at herself. Her cloak was gone, and with it the precious data chip.
“I’ve destroyed it,” Ryan went on, “and that’s the last time I’ll underestimate your hacking abilities, so don’t bother trying that trick again.”
“What do you want from me?” she asked him, drained and dizzy.
Ryan got to his feet and crowded up close to her, hands spreading around her waist, lips nuzzling at her ear.
“I want everything to be the way it’s supposed to be,” he crooned, his fingers stroking upward over her ribcage as Kathryn began to tremble. “You’re going to quit Starfleet and have my children, and I’m going to be president of the Federation.”
“You’re delusional,” Chakotay cut in, his voice a growl. “And if you don’t get your hands off her, I’ll kill you.”
Ryan didn’t so much as glance at him. “I’ll even consider letting the captain live,” he added to Kathryn, “as long as you do as you’re told.”
He cupped her breasts, stroking her through the thin material of her dress, and Kathryn moaned in despair as her body responded. She wrenched herself sideways, felt the blood begin to trickle down from her abraded wrists as she twisted in the shackles to get away from him. Her ankles buckled and she lost her footing, and Ryan laughed at her as he pulled her against his body.
“Stop fighting it, Kathryn,” he ordered her, his voice almost gentle. “Just give into me. You know you want it. You know I can make you feel good. Just give in –”
An insistent chirping interrupted him, and he broke off with a muttered curse. He held Kathryn’s body close with one hand, reaching into his pocket with the other.
“What?” he snapped into the communicator.
~It’s Kash,~ came the reply. ~You’re needed in the central complex. We’ve received a priority message.~
“On my way.”
Ryan closed the channel and looked down at Kathryn, his scowl morphing into a grin.
“Don’t go anywhere, honey,” he mocked, releasing her. “I’ll be right back. Watch them,” he added to the Klingon guards.
She slumped in the shackles as Ryan strode away, a sob catching in her throat.
“Kathryn,” Chakotay whispered urgently as soon as they were alone. “Kathryn, look at me. Are you all right?”
“What do you think, Chakotay?” she responded, her voice flat with exhaustion.
She could feel the weight of his gaze on her, but it hurt too much to raise her head, and looking at him hurt even more.
Still, if she was going to die – and she would rather die than submit to the fate Ryan had planned for her – it would be better to let him go with grace than with any regrets between them.
And so Kathryn scoured the last reserves of her emotional strength, lifted her gaze to Chakotay’s, and said, “There’s something I need to tell you.”
~Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Commander Kim.~
Already loping down the front steps of their apartment, Harry tapped his combadge. “Go ahead, Seven.”
~There has been a change of plans. Please meet me at Admiral Paris’ house.~
Harry stopped short, bewildered. “Why are we going there?”
~I will explain everything when I arrive. Please hurry. Seven out.~
He sighed, tapping his badge to open a new channel. “Kim to Commander Paris.”
Kim could hear Miral chattering in the background. “Are you at your mom’s?”
~Yeah, just got here. Miri wanted to detour through the park, and -~
“Stay where you are. Seven just told me she’s heading to your location, and so am I.”
~Why would she be – Hold on, my dad just … Harry, I’ll see you when you get here. Paris out.~
Harry broke into a jog.
By the time he’d hopped off the Trans-Francisco and pressed the door chime at the Paris house his imagination had run wild, but it hadn't prepared him for what was to follow.
Tom opened the door, freshly uniformed but with pips slightly askew and hair mussed, and grabbed Harry by the jacket front to usher him inside. “Come on, they’re waiting in the study,” he urged, then, eyes cutting over Harry’s shoulder to the woman just arriving, “Hi, Seven.”
“Commander,” she responded. Harry noticed that she appeared tense and that her breathing was accelerated, and placed a calming hand on her arm.
She nodded, then turned to Tom. “Where is Commander Torres?”
“Testing her enhanced warp drive on the Sol to Vulcan run.”
“The isodynamic propulsion drive?” Harry asked, distracted despite himself. “You didn’t tell me it was ready for field testing.”
Tom shrugged, looking simultaneously proud and envious. “I just wish I was the test pilot.”
“Her absence is unfortunate,” Seven murmured. “But we’ll adapt.”
Tom led them along the vestibule, pressing his palm to a discreet panel beside the study door. It slid silently open. Inside, three men waited: Admiral Paris, who was hunched over the computer terminal at his desk and barely spared the newcomers a glance; Captain Tuvok, standing straight and still to the admiral’s left; and a human man Harry had never seen before. Aside from Seven, he was the only one in the room who was not in Starfleet uniform; slight of build, average of height, with brown hair and an unassuming countenance, he was dressed completely in black and stood calmly by the window with his hands clasped behind his back.
There was something about him that raised the small hairs on the back of Harry’s neck.
“Who is that?” he whispered to Tom.
“Beats me,” his friend muttered back.
Seven’s cool, assessing gaze swept over the man in black and her eyes narrowed, but she didn’t remark on his presence. Instead she favoured Tuvok with a terse nod then addressed Admiral Paris.
“Is everyone here, Admiral?”
It sounded, to Harry, as though Seven was running this briefing, or whatever it was. He exchanged another glance with Tom and saw that his friend was every bit as baffled as he was.
“We’re just waiting for one more,” replied Owen Paris. A soft chime at the door made the anxious lines in his face soften slightly. “Here she is,” he muttered. “Let her in, son.”
Obediently, Tom keyed open the door to admit Taela Shanthi, the former Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet.
“Gentlemen,” she greeted them, moving into the centre of the room, “and Seven, of course.”
Harry had to consciously remind himself to close his mouth.
Shanthi locked eyes with Tom, Harry and Seven in turn. “Let me begin by saying that anything you hear or observe today must be treated in the strictest confidence,” she told them gravely. “Lives depend on your ability to keep your silence and to act without hesitation when ordered to do so by one of the command-level officers in this room. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said smartly, echoed a moment later by Tom. Seven gave a short nod.
“Good. We have a lot to cover, so please save your questions for the end.”
And she began to talk.
“Several hours ago, while on a mission posing as an enemy operative, Captain Chakotay broke cover and attempted to contact his sister on Trebus, presumably to warn her of President Zife’s intent to allow Cardassian mining on the planet and inquire after her safety. He failed to reach her and has since gone missing.”
Harry’s breath caught in his chest.
“Shortly thereafter, Admiral Janeway, who was also working covertly,” at this, Shanthi briefly glared at the man in black, then continued, “apparently found evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate several members of the Romulan Senate with the intention of destabilising the Empire and installing a Reman in the power vacuum. She reported this to Admiral Paris and promptly disappeared.”
“Oh, fuck,” blurted Tom, then clamped his mouth shut. “Pardon me, Admiral.”
Shanthi spared him a brief nod. “We believe Admiral Janeway and Captain Chakotay have been abducted by an organisation known as the Entera Coalition. The goal of this coalition appears to be political and economic control over the resources and superpowers of the Alpha and Beta quadrants, and in that, they have almost succeeded. Along with their Reman and Romulan allies, their members include highly placed officials in the Klingon and Regulan governments, Caretaker Sikola of the Cardassian Union, several Starfleet flag officers, Councillor Ryan Austin and President Min Zife.”
“Janeway’s husband is involved in this?”
“Tom,” growled Owen Paris warningly, but the younger Paris was already holding up a hand in apology.
“Starfleet Intelligence,” Shanthi paused momentarily, “and its … unofficial allies … have been working for some time to bring down Entera, but it appears the coalition is several steps ahead of us. Entera have manipulated the political situation across the quadrant to their advantage without regard for life or liberty. Now your former commanding officers’ lives are in danger, along with the knowledge they each possess, which could be the key to bringing down Entera with minimal bloodshed.”
She looked at the three of them solemnly.
“So we’re going to save them.”
Harry felt like he was waking up from anaesthesia; he could barely keep up with the hammer-blows of information Admiral Shanthi was dealing them. “May we ask questions now, sir?”
Shanthi’s dark eyes flashed amusement. “Go ahead.”
“How can we help?”
“I’m glad you asked, Commander Kim. You and your companions are here today partly because your association with the two officers in question will, I hope, make you highly motivated to retrieve them, and partly because you each have a special skillset or knowledge that will be of vital importance.”
Shanthi turned to the other officers in the room for the first time.
“I’ve temporarily commandeered the USS Mehit, and Captain Tuvok will assume command for the duration of this mission. Commander Kim and Seven of Nine: you will perform the functions of chief engineer and astrometrics officer, respectively; your intimate familiarity with the Mehit’s sensor technology should offer a distinct advantage.”
“Excuse me, Admiral,” Kim ventured, “but how will that help us?”
“Admiral, if I may?” Tuvok cut in smoothly.
“By all means.”
Tuvok turned to Kim. “During my time as a covert operative, I was able to determine the unique warp resonance frequencies of many Entera vessels. Since Captain Chakotay returned to his undercover assignment two weeks ago he has supplied me with several more, including that of the shuttle owned by his contact, a Trialan named Kash. It’s reasonable to assume that, should we trace that shuttle’s warp frequency, we may be able to track Chakotay’s current location and from there, Admiral Janeway’s. However, Kash’s shuttle could now be anywhere within five sectors of space. Our chances of locating it will be greatly increased with your expertise and the sensors you and Seven designed.”
“I won’t let you down, sir,” Harry promised.
Shanthi waited until all eyes had returned to her, then continued: “The Mehit will carry a skeleton crew, all of whom I’ve personally vetted, and a strike team. When we’ve located Janeway and Chakotay, the rescue team will approach on board a specially customised Delta Flyer-model shuttlecraft.”
Tom’s eyes lit up.
“I thought that would interest you, Commander Paris,” Shanthi said dryly. “The Alpha Flyer is a prototype outfitted with refractive shielding and an isodynamic propulsion drive. That should help you get the strike team in close without being detected, and give you a quick getaway when they’ve retrieved the hostages.”
“Me?” Tom asked faintly. “I’m going to pilot it?”
“Try to contain your excitement, Tom – there is a mission at stake,” but Shanthi smiled at him before she turned to his father. “Owen, you’ll coordinate the rescue effort from here and run interference with any of Entera’s representatives on Earth, should that be necessary.”
“What about you, Taela?” Owen Paris’s voice was gruff.
“Me? Oh, I’ll be the one throwing myself into the line of fire, so to speak,” Shanthi said airily.
“You’re going to cause a media storm to distract Entera,” he deduced.
“No,” she replied. “To get their attention. Zife’s expecting me to fight my expulsion through proper channels, like a good Starfleet officer. He won’t anticipate me coming at him in public, and he doesn’t handle curve balls well.”
“So you want him off-balance. Making mistakes.”
Shanthi inclined her head. “Any more questions?”
When none were forthcoming, she allowed her stance to relax fractionally, turning to the other woman in the room.
“Over to you, Seven.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Seven said smoothly.
Harry’s eyes went wide in shock. “You knew about this?” he murmured to his girlfriend.
“Not until recently.” Seven reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a small object which she held out for their inspection on her open palm. “This data chip contains evidence of what I believe to be the next stage in Entera’s endgame – the execution en masse of the Romulan Senate – as well as communications which implicate Entera in the recent assassination of Castellan Alon Ghemor of Cardassia. It also contains a detailed record of Chancellor Martok’s travel and appointment schedule for the upcoming week. I can only surmise that the Chancellor is Entera’s next intended target.”
“Seven, where did you get that?” Harry breathed.
A flicker of discomfort crossed Seven’s face and she glanced at Shanthi as if for instruction, but the fleet admiral held up a hand to stall her.
“This isn’t the time for non-essential questions,” Shanthi said firmly. “You have a mission to accomplish and very little time in which to execute it, so unless anyone has any further pressing concerns…?”
“Only one,” replied Seven, and turned her cool blue gaze on the man in black, still standing silent and motionless by the window. “Who are you?”
For the first time, the man spoke. “I’m someone who is well acquainted with the missing assets, particularly Captain Chakotay,” he replied, lips curving upward in a small smile. “My name is Jonah Miles, and I’m here to ensure this mission succeeds.”
“I know about Section 31,” Kathryn said, keeping her voice low so that the Klingon guards couldn’t hear her. “I know you’ve been working for them. I have, too.”
She forced herself to meet Chakotay’s eyes and found him staring at her.
“What?” he whispered after several beats of silence.
“Not as long as you have, obviously.” She looked away again. “I was only recruited a few weeks ago. Apparently I was in the right place at the right time.”
“Kathryn,” Chakotay spoke through gritted teeth, “I think you’d better tell me everything.”
“All right,” she said. “A man appeared in my office one night and told me he represented a covert agency that does the dirty work Starfleet can’t; a kind of Tal Shiar for the Federation. He claimed you were working for them to bring down the Entera Coalition, but that your posting on the Zapata meant you weren’t able to spy on Entera’s inner circle.”
She paused to breathe through a surge of nausea, and could hear Chakotay’s teeth grinding.
“He recruited me to take on that mission,” she carried on. “I guess it was the perfect solution … me being married to one of Entera’s chief conspirators. Oh, I’m sure Mr Miles was suspicious of me, too, but –”
“Wait,” Chakotay interrupted. “Did you say Miles? Jonah Miles?”
Her eyebrows rose at the torrent of expletives that poured from him in response.
“I’m going to kill him,” Chakotay growled. “He was supposed to be keeping you safe, not putting you in the line of fire!”
“You told him about us,” Kathryn whispered, eyes widening in horror. “That’s how he knew about –”
She cut herself off abruptly.
“Knew about what?” but then Chakotay’s own expression changed. “Oh,” he said softly. “Ajilon Prime.”
Kathryn hadn’t thought anything could hurt more than the moment Jonah Miles had told her she’d been nothing but an asset to Chakotay, just someone he could leverage for the sake of the assignment, but now … Her throat was closing over, her chest tight, her eyes blurring with helpless tears.
He hadn't just slept with her to further his mission. He’d shared that secret with Section 31, and allowed them to use it to manipulate her.
And she was so very, very tired of being manipulated.
“Just tell me one thing, Chakotay,” she forced out against the twisting, choking pain. “Was the payoff worth the wait?”
He stared at her, and through the sheen of her tears she couldn’t be sure if his eyes held pity or disdain.
“Kathryn,” he said, “what are you talking about? What payoff?”
“Seven years, Chakotay! Whatever else we were, I always believed we were friends … at least until the end … but maybe it’s my fault,” she broke off, heaving in air, grasping for control. “I killed it – I killed us. At the end of it all there was nothing left … nothing … and that’s how you could use me like that.”
She was really crying now, her words jumbled and choked out between sobs. Her head was splitting, but it was nothing compared to her heart.
“I hope it was worth it, Chakotay,” she hiccupped. “Hope I wasn’t too much of a disappointment after all those years. Hope I was a decent fuck, even if I was a lousy excuse for a friend…”
Head hanging, she dissolved into weak, muffled, hopeless sobs, pathetic small sounds of anguish that seemed so loud in the silence. Eventually, drained of energy, even those died away to nothing.
It was only then that she realised Chakotay was silent too. He couldn’t even be bothered to offer feeble apologies, let alone denials.
So this is it, Kathryn thought, dizzy with grief. There’s really nothing left of us at all.
Then everything got even worse.
“I thought you said he wasn’t your lover, honey,” came the hated voice of her husband, her captor and tormentor. “What else have you been lying to me about?”
Raising her aching head, Kathryn looked into the dark, despairing eyes of the man she loved – the man who had been rendered mute by the disruptor muzzle shoved in his mouth by the monster she’d married.