Desperate Measures
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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.

Rated E

Cause we're joined at the heart
Beats faster, hits harder than a boxer
Whenever we are apart
Body language is an SOS
James, Don’t Wait That Long

===0===


Chapter Twenty: Lies and Revelations
October, 2379



“Well?” Ryan demanded. “Answer me.”

She watched through a film of tears as Ryan angled the disruptor pistol, pushing it upward into Chakotay’s soft palate. Chakotay flinched, tension bunching in his shackled arms as he tried to angle his head away.

“Please don’t hurt him,” she blurted.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Ryan taunted, twisting the disruptor viciously.

“Because I’m not lying.”

“Don’t insult me, Kathryn.” Scowling, Ryan yanked the weapon away, letting his hand drop to his side as Chakotay turned to spit blood onto the floor. “You’ve been lying to me all along. Making a fool of me, screwing him behind my back. How long has it been going on? Since you went to Ajilon, or before that?” He paused, narrowing his eyes. “Since the Delta quadrant?”

“I never lied to you about that,” Kathryn pleaded with him. “We were never lovers in the Delta quadrant.”

“Oh yeah?” Ryan shifted close to her, raising one hand to tangle in her hair, tipping her head back to force her eyes to his. “Tell me the truth, or I’ll kill him.”

“I am telling you the truth,” she whispered, eyes begging him to believe her. “It was on Ajilon Prime, right after you …” she bit back the accusatory words, afraid they would only make him angrier, “right after we … had a misunderstanding. I was upset with you, remember? And I was drinking, and he was there.”

She swallowed, blinking back tears.

“But it only happened once, Ryan, I swear to you. You don’t have to hurt him, because you have nothing to worry about where he’s concerned.”

Ryan released his grip on her hair, his hand sliding around to encircle her throat instead, and Kathryn couldn’t help her sharp intake of breath.

“If you believe that, Kathryn,” he told her in a voice soft with menace, “you’re even more of a fool than I thought you were.”

“Then I guess I’m a fool,” she said harshly, not trying to move away from his casually threatening grasp. “He slept with me to … divert my suspicions about him, or to obtain information from me … or maybe both. And I was … convenient, and … and willing.” She closed her eyes. “But it didn’t mean anything. Not to him, at least.”

“That’s not true.”

Kathryn’s eyes opened. Chakotay was staring directly at her, speaking to her as though they were the only people in the room, or the galaxy.

“I never lied to you about my motives, Kathryn,” he told her, the conviction in his tone cutting through the pounding of her head. “And they were never that complicated where you were concerned.”

He broke off on a wince as Ryan shoved the muzzle of the disruptor against his ribs.

“Thank you, Captain, for your input,” Ryan said with heavy sarcasm. “It’s time for you to shut up now. Kathryn, I’m going to ask you another question,” he continued, turning back to her. “But before I do, you should know that for every lie you tell me, the captain here will suffer.”

She dragged her gaze away from Chakotay’s with difficulty. “What do you want from me?”

Ryan’s hand tightened fractionally around her throat. “I want to know who you told about what was on that little data chip I found in your pocket.”

“Please, Ryan, think about what you’re doing. People are going to notice we’re missing –”

He shook her by the throat, cutting off both speech and air, and leaned down so that his mouth almost touched hers. “Somebody already noticed,” he ground out as she struggled against his imprisoning fist. “That’s why I was summoned to the central complex – there was a message from Earth. There’s a team out looking for you right now. Oh, don’t get excited,” he laughed at her as she went still in his grasp. “They’ll never find you. Not in time to save your lover, anyway.”

Ryan’s grip loosened a little, allowing Kathryn to gulp in air, and he moved aside deliberately so that she could see the way his disruptor was digging into the flesh of Chakotay’s abdomen.

“Kathryn, don’t give him what he wants,” Chakotay forced out through clenched teeth. “Just hold on.”

“Last chance, honey,” Ryan warned her. “You lie, and he dies.”

And he raised the hand holding the disruptor pistol, backhanding Chakotay across the face with it. Blood sprayed in an arc from his lacerated cheekbone, and when his head swivelled back in her direction Kathryn saw that his eye was already swelling.

“Stop it,” she begged.

“Then start talking.”

“All right,” Kathryn whispered. “I called Owen Paris.”

Ryan sighed theatrically. “There, was that so hard? Still, it’s the obvious answer, isn’t it – your mentor, Captain Chakotay’s superior officer … Who else knows?”

“Nobody else.”

Ryan holstered the disruptor in favour of delivering a punishing jab-straight combination to Chakotay’s solar plexus that made him grunt in pain and hunch over as much as the overhead shackles allowed him.

“Ryan, stop!” Kathryn yanked at her own chains, her body swaying involuntarily toward Chakotay’s. “I didn’t tell anyone else about the chip!”

“Then I guess I can kill your lover now and be done with it.”

“No!” she burst out, then, “Ryan, if you hurt him … if you hold us hostage … how long do you think you’ll get away with this? How much longer do you think the public will be fooled?”

“Long enough,” he told her with a slow smile that turned her spine to ice.

“Austin.” Chakotay’s voice was rough, but his tone of command was unmistakeable.

Ryan glanced at him, then back at Kathryn. “You heard me before, right? You’re not staying here. You’re coming home with me, and everything’s going back to the way it was.”

He slid his hands onto her hips, pulling her toward him, and Kathryn’s heart rate tripped into double time. She wanted to run, to freeze, to free herself so she could grab the nearest weapon and plunge it into his heart.

She wanted to melt against him, to let him kiss her and touch her until the pain and the desperation ebbed away, until she couldn’t think anymore.

“You don’t have to worry about anything.” Ryan lifted a hand to her face, angling it to trace his lips along her jaw. “I’ll make you forget about him.”

His mouth brushed hers. The ache in her head subsided and she began to lean into him, her eyes closing in relief. His other hand stroked slowly upward and as he cupped her breast, she parted her lips to allow his tongue inside.

Chakotay turned his head to the side, spat more blood onto the floor and growled, “Austin.”

Kathryn’s eyes flashed open and she jerked back from Ryan. At the sudden movement and the loss of his hands on her body, white-hot pain slammed through her head and she gasped, doubling over as far as her chained wrists would let her.

“You’re a coward,” she heard Chakotay say in a voice ice-cold with loathing.

She could barely process his words through the waves of nausea, but she thought, I know, Chakotay, and was glad that she already hurt so badly that this new insult barely dented her.

But Chakotay was still talking. “You’re pathetic,” he said. “You’ll only stand up to people who can’t fight back.”

Even through the ringing in her ears, Kathryn couldn’t understand that.

“Look at her,” said Chakotay, voice rising. “Look what you’ve done to her! You’ve done what seven years in the Delta quadrant couldn’t do. She’s the strongest, bravest, most remarkable person I’ve ever known, and you’ve done everything you can to strip that from her.”

Kathryn blinked, listening as intently as she could, even though her focus was wavering and her vision tunnelling.

Chakotay was talking about her. She was the most remarkable person he’d ever known.

And, even through the cotton wool her mind had become since the suppressant had worn off, she couldn’t imagine him describing her that way if he felt nothing for her anymore.

“But you couldn’t do it without cheating,” Chakotay went on, low with venom. “You’re a walking biological weapon, Austin, and you use your genetic abilities to lay waste to people’s lives. Like Kathryn’s life. Like your ex-wife’s.”

It took immense effort, but Kathryn lifted her head. She wanted to see the expression on Ryan’s face.

She wasn’t disappointed: his blue eyes, usually so affable, were narrowed with spite, and the face she’d always thought handsome now seemed malevolent and cold.

“What do you know about my ex-wife?”

Chakotay straightened up, ignoring the blood dripping from his chin. “I know her name is Maja Hansen,” he answered, each word dropping like stones into the space between them. “I know she’s never going to leave the psychiatric hospital on Vega Colony where you hid her twenty-five years ago. And I know about the baby. Your child.”

There was silence, thick and weighted, for an unfathomable stretch of time.

Then Ryan grated, “What child?”

 

===0===


As soon as they’d materialised on the transporter pad of the USS Mehit, Kim and Seven had set out for main engineering and the astrometrics lab respectively, and Tom had fallen in to Tuvok’s left as they strode along the corridors. The man in black, though several centimetres shorter than both officers, had easily kept pace with them. Now he sat calmly in the observer’s chair on the bridge, just to Tom’s left.

Tom had been slightly taken aback when Tuvok indicated he should take the first officer’s seat rather than the helm, but the reason soon became clear: the console between the command chairs lit up with a holographic projection of space that spanned the region between the Borderlands and the Romulan Neutral Zone, and Tuvok gestured for him to study it.

“Captain Chakotay’s last transmission before he disappeared originated in the vicinity of the Qualor system,” Tuvok told Tom. “As he was attempting to reach Trebus, it’s logical to assume he would have travelled in this direction.”

He traced the route with a finger.

“However, given that Entera’s base of operations is located here,” Tuvok pointed to the Celendi Nebula, several sectors away from Chakotay’s last known position, “we will need to scan a large region of space if we hope to find him.”

Moments later, Seven contacted the bridge.

~I have located a warp resonance trail matching the frequency of Kash’s shuttle,~ she announced. ~The isotope decay rate suggests that the shuttle has not exited the Hyralan sector within the past six hours.~

On the holographic display, Tuvok immediately zoomed in on the Hyralan sector.

“Why there?” Tom wondered aloud. “It’s nowhere near the Borderlands, and I thought that was supposed to be the hot spot.”

“For some time I have suspected that the coalition has a second base of operations in a less obvious location,” Tuvok allowed. “Perhaps we will find it in this sector.”

Jonah Miles spoke for the first time, his voice deceptively mild. “You neglected to report that suspicion to me, Captain Tuvok.”

“Why would Tuvok have to report to you?” Tom cut in.

“Commander,” Tuvok reproved him, then carried on smoothly, “Seven, can you locate the shuttle now?”

~I cannot,~ she replied. ~Nor have I identified any other Entera vessels in the region.~

Tuvok rose from his seat and addressed the ensign at the helm. “Set a course for the Hyralan sector and engage at maximum warp,” he ordered, then turned back to Tom and Jonah Miles. “Perhaps proximity will increase our ability to detect the shuttle.”

“Actually,” said Miles, his tone casual, “there might be another way.”

~Explain,~ Seven demanded over the open channel.

“Let’s just say that we equipped Admiral Janeway with a homing signal.”

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “I am aware that the admiral was allocated a personal transport device. Admiral Paris has already scanned for it. It has been deactivated or destroyed.”

“I’m not talking about her transporter.” Miles produced a padd, fingers flying over its surface. “I’m sending Seven of Nine a resonance frequency. Your astrometric sensors should be able to detect it.”

~Received,~ came Seven’s reply, then a moment later: ~This frequency is emanating from a biochemical compound in microscopic form.~

“Biochemical?” Tom frowned. “What is it?”

“It’s a slow-release, nanomedical pheromone suppressant,” answered Jonah Miles. “I administered it to Admiral Janeway several weeks ago.”

“I think you’d better explain,” Tom growled at him.

Miles waved a hand. “My intentions were benign, Commander, I assure you. The suppressant assisted her in maintaining her physiological health and emotional control, both of which were necessary if she were to succeed in her mission.”

“What mission?” Tom demanded. “This covert assignment Admiral Shanthi told us about? What was Janeway doing?”

Again, Tuvok intervened. “Admiral Janeway was doing her duty,” he responded to Tom. “That, I believe, is all the information you are entitled to.”

Tom opened his mouth to object.

“Stand down, Commander Paris,” Tuvok warned him, and, grudgingly, he subsided.

He’d forgotten Seven was still on the other end of the open comm line until she spoke.

~I have detected traces of the biochemical suppressant in the vicinity of the Vana’diel Nebula,~ she announced. ~The signal is intermittent.~

“The nanites are breaking down,” Miles said. “I expect the suppressant’s effectiveness is wearing off. Well, Captain,” he turned to Tuvok, “seems like we’ve found Entera’s secondary base. It’s a shame neither you nor Captain Chakotay managed to locate it sooner, but with any luck we’ll get there in time to retrieve our assets alive.”

Tuvok’s gaze found the man in black’s, and for the briefest of moments, Tom wondered if the Vulcan was about to hit the smaller man.

Instead, Tuvok asked, “Ensign Trabin, distance to the Vana’diel Nebula?”

“Thirty-six light years, sir,” the young woman replied. “At maximum warp, we’re still eighteen hours away.”

“We’ll never get to them in time,” muttered Tom.

“Yes, we will.” Jonah Miles stood smoothly. “Report to the shuttle bay, Commander.”

The Alpha Flyer was, as Shanthi had hinted, clearly a sister of the vessel Tom, B’Elanna and Harry had designed in the Delta quadrant, although the cockpit controls had – to Tom’s disappointment – been replaced by something a little more ‘fleet-issue. And when he slipped behind the helm and cast his gaze over the panel, he felt that same tightening in the pit of his stomach that he’d felt the first time his father let him take the controls in a class one shuttle.

“The fleet admiral wasn’t kidding about this baby,” he murmured as Tuvok slid into the co-pilot’s seat. “Refractive shielding, isodynamic warp drive … B’Elanna is gonna be so mad she missed the fun.”

“As the designer of the isodynamic propulsion system, Commander Torres has no doubt observed the fun countless times.”

“Yeah, on the holodeck,” Tom retorted. “And by now I guess she’s seen it in action on the Earth to Vulcan milk-run. Can’t compare to a high-stakes stealth mission to rescue Janeway and Chakotay, though, can it?”

Before Tuvok could reply, he glanced over his shoulder at the rear of the cockpit. Harry Kim sat at engineering, Seven at the science station, and Jonah Miles had folded himself neatly behind the auxiliary console.

“Everybody buckled in?” Tom called, and without waiting for an answer he punched the controls and rocketed out of the Mehit’s shuttlebay into open space.

As soon as they were clear, Tuvok ordered: “Commander Kim, bring the enhanced drive online.”

The feeling of slipping into high warp instantly, more smoothly than any ship he’d ever piloted before, put a grin on Tom’s face that he didn’t even try to hide despite the gravity of their mission. “My wife built this,” he whooped, watching the stars stream by.

“Time to our destination?” Tuvok asked.

“One hour, twenty-six minutes,” Harry Kim piped up from his second-row seat. “Wow. B’Elanna should win the Cochrane Medal for designing this engine.”

“Well, if you’ll excuse me,” Jonah Miles murmured, slipping out of his seat and moving toward the rear cabin, “I have a call to make.”

As soon as the hatch slid shut behind him, Tom glanced sidelong at Tuvok. “So, Captain, are you going to fill us in? Who’s the spook? Why did he give Janeway a pheromone suppressant?”

His pleasure at piloting the Alpha Flyer drained away as anger swelled in his chest and hardened his tone.

“I’m guessing her undercover mission involved spying on Councillor Austin. What the hell possessed you to let her put herself in danger like that?”

“Mr Paris,” Tuvok replied, “I’m aware that you are emotional about this situation, but you are bordering on insubordination. Please calm yourself.”

Tom wrestled his fury back under control.

“I beg your pardon, Captain,” he said stiffly. “I’m sure the admiral was a very logical choice for the mission, but I’m not the only one who must have been … emotional … to learn about it. So please, explain to me: how come Chakotay was okay with her sleeping with the enemy?”

Tuvok was quiet for a moment, then: “To my knowledge, Captain Chakotay was not informed of Admiral Janeway’s assignment. However, if he has been made aware of it now, I expect that he is not okay with it.

“You’d better believe that,” muttered Tom, and settled back in silence until Harry spoke up.

“We’re twenty minutes out from the Vana’diel Nebula,” he said. “Seven, are you picking up Kash’s shuttle on the sensors yet?”

“No. However, I am detecting an artificially pressured biosphere on a class-K planet thirty million kilometres inside the nebula. It appears to be protected by multi-adaptive shielding.” Seven paused. “The shielding is identical to that designed by Magnus and Erin Hansen as a defence against the Borg.”

“Your parents?” Tom confirmed, and at Seven’s nod, he went on: “In other words, this Entera Coalition has access to classified Federation technology. I guess that explains how they got Janeway here so fast. Whoever abducted her must have a ship outfitted with an enhanced warp drive.”

“Just like this one,” Harry muttered.

“If Entera has a vessel equipped with an isodynamic propulsion drive, it will be emitting a unique form of subspace radiation, even if its core is off-line,” Seven said. “Scanning for the radiation … I’ve detected a concentration of it within the biosphere, in proximity to a small shuttlecraft. There is also a warp trail, approximately six hours old, that runs on a parallel course to our own. The resonance signal does not match any of the frequencies supplied by Captain Tuvok, but …” she hesitated, fingers flying over her console, “I have identified the vessel’s call sign. It is registered with the Federation civilian database as the Delta Queen, call number TQE-01-omega.”

“TQE?” Tom repeated. “As in Trans-Quadrant Express? Ryan Austin’s courier company?”

Seven didn’t bother to reply.

Tom mumbled a string of curses under his breath that his wife would have been proud of.

“Status of our refractive shielding, Mr Kim?” Tuvok asked.

“We’re at full strength, Captain. Nobody has detected us, unless they’ve somehow got hold of our shield frequency.”

“Good. However, we must approach with caution. Mr Paris, slow to impulse.”

“Aye,” said Tom, taking the isodynamic drive off-line.

As the shuttle decelerated, his console beeped a warning.

“Whoa … proximity alert! A ship is approaching at high warp … They must have detected us somehow. They’re slowing … they’re at full stop right alongside us.”

“Identify,” said Tuvok.

Tom punched a few buttons, then started to laugh. “You’re not gonna believe this.”

“I don’t know,” Harry muttered from behind him. “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“Well, this is gonna make you wonder what was in your eggs. Take a look,” and Tom activated the viewscreen.

Poised in space beside them was the USS Voyager.

“We are being hailed,” Seven announced, just as Jonah Miles emerged from the rear cabin and slid back into his seat.

“Open a channel,” Tuvok ordered, then, “Alpha Flyer to Voyager, come in.”

~This is Commander Sereni, acting captain of Voyager. Sorry to surprise you, Captain.~

“No apology is necessary, Commander. I recommend you reactivate your refractive shielding before you are detected.”

~Acknowledged,~ Sereni replied, and a moment later the image of Voyager shimmered and disappeared from the viewscreen.

A familiar voice came over the comm line.

~Hey, flyboy. How d’you like my new engines?~

“B’Elanna?” Tom demanded, eyes wide. “What are you doing over there?”

~I told you today was the big field test.~ He could hear the smirk in her voice. ~I just didn’t mention we were testing the new drive on Voyager … or on the new Flyers.~

“Consider me amazed,” he parried.

“Commander Sereni,” Tuvok broke in, “I recommend you hold Voyager’s position while we approach the biodome. If Entera possesses isodynamic warp capability, it is possible they are also aware of the refractive shielding technology. They may be able to detect our presence.”

~Understood. We’ll keep a sensor lock on your shuttle. Voyager out.~

“Mr Kim,” Tuvok ordered, closing the channel, “find a way to transport our rescue team through the biosphere’s shielding without being detected.”

“I’m repolarising our hull to match the shield frequency of the biodome complex,” Harry answered, hands already busy on his console. “We’ll need to drop our own shields to transport, though.”

“Mr Paris, align our approach trajectory to bring us in behind the limb of the planet. That should minimise the likelihood that we’ll be detected.”

“Aye,” Tom answered. “One minute to transport range.”

Tuvok turned toward the rear of the shuttle. “For the duration of the rescue, Mr Miles will take point. Mr Kim, Seven – you will follow his orders without question. Is that understood?”

Tom glanced back in time to see Seven and Harry exchange a glance before they chorused, “Yes, Captain.”

“We’re in range,” Tom informed them.

Jonah Miles rose from his chair and moved toward the transporter pad. “Strike team, lock down your consoles and take position. Standard defensive formation.”

Harry, Seven and Tuvok arranged themselves beside him, each of them armed, each facing outward in a different direction.

“Maintain an open comm link, Mr Paris,” Tuvok ordered. “Lower shields for transport.”

Tom nodded. “Energising,” he announced, and watched them dematerialise.

 

===0===


“You didn’t know?” Chakotay squinted at Ryan Austin through his one good eye; the other was so swollen and bloodshot it was all but useless. “How could you not know?”

“Of course I knew Maja was pregnant,” Austin snarled. “But he was supposed to take care of that. He told me he’d deal with it.”

“Your father,” Chakotay realised. “The admiral. He took care of everything for you, didn’t he? Covering up your indiscretions, cleaning up your mess.”

He paused to spit a mouthful of blood onto the floor.

“I guess forcing your ex-wife to terminate her pregnancy was a step too far, even for him,” he continued. “So he lied to you instead, and had the baby secretly adopted. He covered his tracks so well that you never even knew. But you can’t hide something like that forever.”

To his relief, Austin moved away from Kathryn and focused his entire attention on Chakotay instead, shoving the disruptor under Chakotay’s jaw.

“Prove it,” Austin demanded.

Chakotay huffed out a laugh. “Sure,” he answered tightly, voice strained by the pressure of the disruptor muzzle. “Turn yourself in and I’ll prove whatever you want.”

Behind Austin, he could see Kathryn watching them: pale, trembling, but focused on their conversation. She was twisting her wrists inside the shackles and he could see blood running down her arms.

“Or I could just kill you,” Austin said. “Then it wouldn’t matter, because nobody would ever be able to prove a thing.”

“No,” Kathryn blurted, “Ryan, don’t …”

Austin swung around to face her, letting the pistol drop from Chakotay’s throat.

“Oh, don’t worry, honey,” he mocked her. “I wouldn’t disown our child.”

Kathryn shrank away from him as he moved toward her. “Don’t touch me,” she spat. “Don’t ever touch me again.”

The smirk dropped from his lips. “You ungrateful bitch –”

He raised his free hand to slap her across the face.

Austin,” bellowed Chakotay, wrenching at his chains in his desperation to stop the incoming blow.

The sizzle of phaser fire distracted them all, and Austin’s arm dropped to his side as he spun to face the far end of the room. One of the Klingon guards was already laid out on the floor. The other fell: heavily stunned or dead, Chakotay couldn’t be sure.

Into the open space charged Harry Kim and Seven of Nine, phaser rifles trained on Austin.

“Drop your weapon,” Kim shouted at him.

Austin fired at him instead, hitting Kim in the shoulder and knocking him to the ground, then immediately ducked behind Chakotay, using him as cover.

“Commander,” Seven called, but Harry didn’t respond. She glanced at his fallen form for a split second, but it was long enough: when her focus returned to Ryan Austin, he was aiming his disruptor directly at her.

“Why don’t you drop your weapon, sweetheart?” Austin jeered at her. “Looks like I have the advantage here.”

Slowly, Seven lowered her phaser.

“That’s right,” Austin taunted. “Put it on the floor and come closer. Hands where I can see them.”

Seven followed his orders, moving to stand beside Chakotay. “Are you all right, Captain?” she asked quietly.

“I’m fine,” he said, voice flat. “But the admiral needs immediate medical attention.”

“Oh, she’ll be all right,” Austin assured him. “I’ll take care of her.”

He wrapped an arm around Kathryn’s waist, the pistol in his other hand and pointed unwaveringly at Chakotay and Seven. Kathryn wilted against Austin’s supporting arm, head hanging; as far as Chakotay could tell, she was almost unconscious.

“Look at this, honey,” Austin was saying, his mouth close to Kathryn’s ear. “I’m gonna kill your lover and your foster daughter. I think that means I win.”

Then a voice came from behind them.

“Think again.”

Chakotay swivelled in his shackles. Standing behind him, dressed entirely in black and toting a phaser trained directly on Ryan Austin’s centre mass, was Tora Jens.

“Tora?” came Kathryn’s husky, disbelieving voice. “But I thought –”

“You thought I was Entera. I know, Admiral, and I’m sorry for deceiving you.” Jens stepped cautiously to her right, clearly angling for a better line of sight on Austin. “Now,” she addressed him, “let the admiral go.”

Instead of obeying, Austin hauled Kathryn in front of his body and aimed his disruptor toward Jens.

“Or what?” he taunted. “You’ll shoot me? I don’t think so. You’re Starfleet.”

“Yes, I am,” Tora Jens replied. “But I’m not your typical Starfleet officer.”

Chakotay looked between Jens and Kathryn, who was pale as milk and lolling against her husband as though her legs would no longer support her.

“Who do you work for?” he asked the lieutenant, although he was almost certain he knew the answer.

“The same agency you do, Captain.” Jens flicked a glance at Chakotay before turning back to Kathryn. “I was assigned to protect you, Admiral, and now I can finally fulfil my mission.”

She fixed her stare on Ryan Austin.

“Release the admiral,” she demanded, “and I’ll set my weapon to stun instead of kill.”

Austin barked out a laugh and swung the point of his disruptor from Jens to Chakotay to Seven. “Now, which one should I kill first, Kathryn?” he teased, lips close to her ear. “Your lover, your surrogate daughter, or your so-called protector?”

Lightning-fast, Jens moved to stand in front of Seven.

“Lieutenant,” Seven growled. “Stand aside.”

“No,” retorted Jens. “I’m not letting him hurt you.”

The muzzle of Austin’s pistol wavered. “Why the hell do you care about her?” he demanded of Jens.

Chakotay, who was wondering the same thing, looked from Tora Jens to Seven of Nine, noted the straight, slender figures, the full lips and blue eyes, and suddenly knew the truth even as Jens spoke it.

“I care,” Tora said clearly, “because she’s my cousin. And there’s only one member of this family who’s going to die today … Dad.”

There was silence.

The disruptor wobbled in Austin’s loosened grip.

With a desperate sob, Kathryn yanked so hard against her cuffs that she dislocated her thumb, allowing her to slip her hand free and grab for the disruptor. But she fumbled, unable to grasp it properly, and Chakotay could only watch with growing dread as Austin tried to wrench the pistol from her.

In the ensuing struggle, Chakotay heard the sizzle and saw the flash of energy as Austin’s weapon discharged.

Kathryn slumped to the floor, her body hanging limply by one shackled wrist; Ryan Austin let loose a furious curse; and Tora Jens aimed her phaser and fired at the middle of his chest.

Chapter 20