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.
Cause they will run you down, down ‘til the dark
Yes and they will run you down, down ‘til you fall
And they will run you down, down ‘til you go
Yeah so you can’t crawl no more
– Kaleo, Way Down We Go
Chapter Six: Sheep’s Clothing
Chakotay mistimed yet another jab-straight combination and staggered back as the bag swung heavily into his shoulder. Swearing under his breath, he steadied the bag and bounced on his toes.
“Your mind is not on the job.”
“Fuck,” he blurted, almost jumping out of his skin. He whipped around to see who’d spoken.
Jonah Miles leaned against the back wall of the gym, arms folded.
“What are you doing here?” Chakotay turned back to the bag, pounding it a little harder than necessary.
“You haven’t checked in lately. I came to follow up on our investment.”
“Your investment?” Chakotay snorted. “Is that what they’re calling it these days?”
Miles pushed off the wall and skirted the boxing ring, stopping the bag firmly just as Chakotay lined up to hit it again. “I haven’t had a report from you in over a month, Captain.”
“That’s because there’s nothing to tell.” Chakotay fired a right hook at the bag. “I filed a report after I got back from Midrian. The mission was a bust.”
“And in five weeks Starfleet Intelligence has learned nothing new? Perhaps now you understand why my agency exists.”
Chakotay’s fist slammed into the leather, a centimetre from Jonah Miles’ head. “Do you think this is a joke? You have me lying to my boss, a man I happen to respect, not to mention betraying the organisation I work for. What the hell else do you want from me?”
“Results,” Miles said flatly. “Entera is expanding, Captain, and the Orion Syndicate isn’t happy. We’re heading for a trade war. The consequences to this quadrant would be devastating.”
He released the bag and handed Chakotay a water bottle.
“We know Entera has tentacles within Starfleet and the Federation government,” he continued as Chakotay’s glare subsided. “We don’t know exactly how far they reach or how high they go. Your mission is to find out.”
Chakotay was about to object when a memory drifted across his mind.
“If they’re that well-connected,” he said slowly, “one might assume that Entera also has influence within the other trade empires, and might be controlling some of the smaller independents.”
He weighed what he was about to do, sent a silent apology into the ether, and squared his shoulders. “Are you familiar with a courier company called Trans-Quadrant Express?”
“I am.” Miles’ eyes sharpened. “Admiral Bart Austin’s son runs it.”
“Yeah. I … met him a few weeks ago. Turns out he runs medical supplies and ore across the Alpha and Beta quadrants. I gathered his company is familiar with trade routes in and around the Borderlands.”
“If I recall correctly, Mr Austin is romantically involved with a friend of yours.”
Chakotay’s hands stilled. “And?”
“And I’m aware you and Admiral Janeway are somewhat estranged. Don’t you think it’s time to rekindle that friendship?”
Chakotay exploded. “I am not going to use Kathryn to get to her sleazy boyfriend!”
“Yes, you are,” the other man said mildly. “Remember what’s at stake here, Captain. You’ll utilise every angle, every lead and every person it's within your ability to use, in order to get to the bottom of this.” He patted Chakotay on the shoulder and sauntered toward the exit. “I’ll expect a report soon.”
“Fuck,” Chakotay muttered, throwing his gloves to the mat in disgust.
“Excuse me, Admiral?”
Kathryn looked up. “What is it, Tora?”
Lieutenant Jens fidgeted, and Kathryn frowned. Jens was not one to fidget.
“There’s someone here to see you. I’ve, uh, checked your schedule. You’re free until 1400 hours.”
“Show them in, then.” Kathryn clicked off the padd and rose behind her desk, smoothing her uniform.
The sight of the man who stepped into the room made her heart constrict. She actually had to curl her hands into fists to stop the sound that wanted to climb out of her throat.
“Captain Chakotay,” she forced her voice even, “this is a surprise.”
Tora shut the door and Chakotay took a couple of hesitant steps into the room.
“Hello, Kathryn,” he said.
“What can I do for you, Captain?”
“It’s Chakotay.” He sounded subdued. “I was hoping we could talk.”
She should decline, tell him she was busy… “All right,” she heard herself say, waving a hand toward the couch.
He sat. “Thanks.”
I need coffee for this, she thought, going to the replicator. “Can I get you something?”
“Sure. Tea would be great, please.”
She steadied the cups in her hands and placed them on the low table, sitting ramrod-straight as far from him as the couch allowed and clasping her hands in her lap.
He was staring at his boots and seemed in no hurry to speak, so she shifted in her seat and prompted, “You said you wanted to talk.”
“I want to apologise,” he said abruptly.
He smiled briefly, glancing at her. “For the way I acted at that banquet. I was an ass.”
She couldn’t disagree, so she sipped her coffee in silence.
“And I was hoping we could be friends again.”
She wanted to kick herself immediately.
“Because I miss you,” he said softly, holding her gaze. “Kathryn, I assume the fact that you never returned any of my messages means you’re angry with me, and I must have done something to hurt you. I find that intolerable. Whatever I did, I’m more sorry for it than you know.”
“I’m not angry with you.”
It rang false in her own ears, and Chakotay simply looked at her.
Her teeth ground together. Stop, she ordered herself. Don’t say it …
The petty edge to her tone was unmistakeable, and his eyes sharpened on hers with dawning understanding. Kathryn looked away, silently cursing herself. He always had known her far too well.
“Seven is doing fine,” Chakotay said slowly. “I haven’t heard from her in a few days, but the last time we spoke she was happy. I’m not sure if she’s more excited about installing her astrometrics arrays on the new line of ships, or working with Harry Kim.”
“We’re not together anymore,” he clarified. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if Seven and Harry are.”
As that revelation settled, her anger flooded back in. “Is that why you’re here?”
“I’m … not following you, Kathryn.”
“Seven ditched you, so you thought you’d see what I was up to?” She pushed up to her feet. “Are you lonely, Chakotay? Looking for someone to flirt with again to help you fill all those solitary hours?”
He rose as well. “No, that’s not why –”
“Isn’t it?” She stepped up close to him, glaring. “Seven years of possibilities and you’re telling me you never think about the road not taken? What was it you said to me that last day on Voyager … that we’re not in a command structure anymore?”
“I did say that,” he responded carefully. “But you made it clear that day, just as you had for the previous seven years, that you weren’t interested in … possibilities. And whatever I did to destroy our friendship, I want to try to put it right.”
Oh God, she realised, spinning away from him, I’ve got it all wrong. He wants to be friends. Just friends.
She felt stricken. Whatever attraction they’d once held for each other, it was long gone. On his part, at least.
It was that very thought – the acknowledgement, if only to herself, that she still felt so strongly for him – she, who was engaged to another man – that straightened her spine. Scrubbing her face of expression, she turned back to him.
“You have nothing to apologise for,” she made herself say. “You’ve done nothing wrong. It was all a misunderstanding.”
He was frowning.
“Really, Chakotay, it’s nothing.” She hesitated, then laid her hand on his chest. One last time, she promised herself.
He looked down at it. “Kathryn –”
And then he stopped, and took her hand in his, his thumb brushing over the diamond ring.
“You’re getting married?”
“Yes.” She forced a smile. “The wedding is at Christmas.”
“That’s less than three weeks away.” He was still staring at the ring. “Kathryn, I hate to ask this and please don’t take it the wrong way, but are you sure?”
She swallowed. “I said yes, didn’t I?”
He let her hand go, but seemed to be having trouble meeting her eyes. “Congratulations,” he said quietly. “I hope you and Ryan will be very happy together.”
Chakotay stepped back and finally looked up at her, a small smile on his lips. “I’d better go.”
At the door he paused. “Kathryn.”
This time when he looked at her she was almost knocked backward by the intensity in his eyes. “If you ever need me, I will always be here for you. Always.”
She stood in the middle of her office, staring at the empty space Chakotay had left behind and twisting and twisting the ring on her finger.
“So what do you think?”
She’d lost the thread of the conversation somewhere in the second sentence. “I’m sorry… what?”
Ryan put down his wine. “Kathryn, have you heard a single thing I’ve said in the last fifteen minutes?”
She hadn’t. She’d been replaying the memory of Chakotay’s visit over and over, lingering on the things she had always noticed about him – his low voice, the easy way he moved; the way his body seemed to incline toward hers, without conscious thought, whenever she moved close enough to touch him. The way his eyes darkened and his lips parted, drawing her gaze. That small smile he gave her, the one she’d always believed meant she had asked too much of him, but that he would acquiesce without protest.
Maybe she’d been wrong, all these years, about why he yielded to her wishes so uncomplainingly. She had always hoped it was because he loved her, but maybe it was just because he was tired of fighting.
She was tired, too; tired of guarding the softest parts of herself from him when he had always been able to breach her defences without even trying. Maybe she’d made the right decision in erasing his messages, and with them, his relentless presence in her life.
And maybe the dismay in Lieutenant Jens’ clear blue eyes, when Kathryn ordered her to deflect any future attempts at contact from Captain Chakotay, had merely been her own projection.
She straightened, sending Ryan an apologetic look. “What were you saying?”
“I was talking about running for the next local election,” he said with slightly exaggerated patience. “I’ve been speaking to a couple of acquaintances about the border skirmishes with the Ferengi and the Orions. It’s making life difficult for small traders, and a lot of people think the Federation should be strengthening its borders.”
She put down her fork. “Border patrol is a Starfleet responsibility, Ryan. I’m not sure you’d find much support within ‘fleet for political influence on how we arm our front lines.”
“Well, that’s where you come in,” he cajoled. “After all, with the heroic Kathryn Janeway on my side, surely Starfleet will see the wisdom of it.”
“What are you talking about?” She stared at him. “Ryan, I can’t use my position to help you gain a seat on the Federation Council. It would be a conflict of interest.”
“Why?” he asked. “Plenty of council ministers have come from the Starfleet ranks. Even a few presidents – Archer, Laikan, Sulu... Do you really think they didn’t trade on their ‘fleet connections?”
“Not while they were serving members of Starfleet,” she retorted. Her head had started to ache and she rubbed absently at her temples. “Besides, I’m not sure I agree with you. The Federation needs to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations with the Ferengi, not police them.”
“What about the Orions?” Ryan watched her over the rim of his glass. “I’ve heard they’re increasing their armaments in the Borderlands. If they annex any more planets, trade between the Federation and the Klingon Empire could be at risk.”
“You seem remarkably well-informed,” she commented. “Where did you hear that?”
“This is my livelihood we’re talking about. I make it my business to stay informed.”
“I see.” She folded her hands on the table. “I’ll look into it. That’s all I can promise.”
Ryan looked as if he was about to argue, but at the slight arch of her eyebrow his blue eyes cleared and he smiled at her. His hand rested over hers, his thumb rubbing softly along the inside of her wrist. It made her shiver.
“I’m sure you’ll agree with me once you have all the facts,” he pitched his voice low and silky. “And of course you’ll support me publicly when you’re my wife.”
The tips of his fingers brushed her inner arm. “Of course,” she echoed distractedly, mesmerised by his tingling, luscious touch. It tightened her nipples and raised the tiny hairs on her arms.
“I almost forgot to tell you – President Zife’s office called for you earlier.” Ryan brought her hand up to his mouth, and she sucked in a breath at the sensation of his lips moving warmly over her palm. “He’s giving a speech on Saturday and there’ll be a formal dinner afterward. They want you to be there.”
Kathryn frowned, the headache that had ebbed with his touch sending a sharp pulse into her temples. “I thought we were going to Indiana this weekend. My mother’s been looking forward to it.”
Ryan shifted his chair next to hers and tugged lightly at her fingers, blue eyes smoky and inviting. “What can we do? When the president says jump…”
“I ask how high,” she barely managed to breathe, and slipped out of her seat to sink onto his lap, winding her body around his.
He was still wound up, even after a dozen rounds with a burly Bolian cadet and thirty laps in the pool, but he knew if he worked out any more he’d feel like aged meat the next day. Pulling on his sweats after a quick shower, Chakotay left the gym for a walk around the rose garden.
At this late hour the garden was, as he’d expected, empty. He ambled slowly along the paths until fatigue dragged at his steps and he stopped to rest in the lee of the main Starfleet Communications building.
So Kathryn was getting married. Chakotay let his head thud against the wall, trying not to swear aloud. He’d had a sick feeling in his chest for three days, ever since he saw that diamond on her finger.
The door nearest him opened, letting out a waft of recycled air, and Chakotay kept still, hoping whoever was working this late wouldn’t spot him. He was in no mood for conversation.
“… sure I can talk her into it,” a male voice was saying.
The voice was vaguely familiar, he noted, frowning as he tried to place it.
“I should hope so,” came the acerbic reply.
Chakotay barely stopped himself from jumping. That was Nyla Kjogo’s voice.
“She doesn’t respond particularly well to bullying,” Kjogo continued, “and frankly, I’m tired of ordering her around like a recalcitrant four-year-old. It’s your job to charm her into this.”
“I’ll keep up my end,” the man retorted, letting the door swing shut. “You just make sure all the political pieces are lined up. I don’t intend to lose this election.”
Kjogo gave a short laugh. “You have the president’s endorsement, seven media channels on your team and you’re marrying the most famous woman in the quadrant right before the polls. You can’t possibly lose.”
Austin, Chakotay recognised, shock twisting his gut. He held as still as he could, listening intently.
“What about Paris?” Austin asked. “He’s a loose cannon. Can’t you muzzle him?”
“Leave Owen Paris to me.” Kjogo’s face was briefly illuminated as she tapped into a padd. “He has friends in high places, but not as high as mine. I can handle him.”
“A couple of well-placed threats might keep him in line,” the man mused. “I hear he’s very fond of his young granddaughter.”
Chakotay couldn’t help the grinding of his teeth.
“Must you stoop so low, Ryan? Show a little class.”
Chakotay heard the shifting of hands over Starfleet fabric. “You like it when I get low, Nyla.” Ryan Austin’s voice was smooth and treacly. “Don’t deny it.”
“Have you forgotten I’m Tandaran?” Kjogo sounded bored. “I’m immune to your particular brand of charm, so save it for Janeway.”
“Oh, shit.” Ryan spoke sharply. “What time is it? I’m supposed to meet Kathryn at the Four Seasons.”
“Then you’d better get moving, and make sure the paparazzi get a few good shots in.” She sighed. “I have to go too. I’ve got a meeting.”
The sounds of their footsteps moving away almost obliterated Austin’s low reply, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Fortunately,” Kjogo said tartly, “that doesn’t leave much.”
Austin laughed, the pair of them moved off in opposite directions, and Chakotay waited until he was sure he was alone again before slowly uncurling himself away from the wall.
His could barely process everything he’d overheard. The moment he’d met Ryan Austin his instincts had woken up and shouted a warning, but for Kathryn’s sake he had wanted to believe the man was genuinely good for her. And what the hell was Nyla Kjogo doing, conspiring with him? Clearly Austin was using Kathryn to launch his political career, but what was Kjogo getting out of their association?
That sick feeling in his chest returned, and with it a wild array of suspicions. He had to do something. But before he could act he needed the truth, and there was one logical place to look for it. He strode along the path toward the Intelligence building and let himself into his office.
Seated behind his desk, he drummed his fingers on it. “Computer, display the service record of Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo.”
The computer beeped obligingly and Chakotay hunched over the screen.
Kjogo, Nyla. Born 2318 in Hekta, Tandar Prime. Graduated Starfleet Academy in 2340, 97th percentile. Rose quickly through the ranks. Veteran of the Cardassian conflict. Commanded the 5th Squadron during the Dominion War and was awarded several medals for valour. Became the youngest Tandaran ever to be promoted to fleet admiral in 2375.
That didn’t tell Chakotay what he really wanted to know. What was her connection with Ryan Austin? Who were the “friends in high places” she’d boasted about? What game was she playing, and what did she want with Kathryn Janeway?
“Access Federation civilian database and display information pertaining to Ryan Austin, owner of Trans-Quadrant Express.”
Austin, Ryan. Born 2330 in Salva City, Vega Colony. Father listed as Admiral Bartholomew Austin. Mother unknown. Married to Maja Hansen of Vega Colony in 2351, divorced 2352. Relocated to San Francisco, Earth, in 2352. Registered owner of Trans-Quadrant Express from 2358 until present.
“Hansen,” he muttered. “Vega Colony…”
Seven had relatives there; a large contingent of Hansens had settled on Vega Colony half a century ago. Could Ryan Austin have been married to one of them?
“Computer, open a channel to Seven of Nine on the USS Mehit.”
~Chakotay,~ Seven looked pleased. ~Are you well?~
“Fine, Seven, thank you. How are you? How’s Harry?”
Seven coloured a little. ~I’m in good health. As is Lieutenant Kim. How did you…?~
“How did I know you two are together?” He shrugged, smiling. “Lucky guess. I’m happy for you. But listen, Seven, I have another reason for calling. When you visited Vega Colony a few months back, did you happen to meet a woman called Maja Hansen?”
~My father’s cousin.~ Seven pressed her lips together. ~No. According to my Aunt Irene, Maja Hansen is permanently confined to a psychiatric hospital and has had no external contact since her admittance approximately twenty-five years ago.~
Chakotay sat back in shock. “Do you know what she suffers from?”
~I do not. However, my aunt may be willing to speak with you on the subject. I’ll ask her to contact you.~
“At her earliest convenience, please, Seven. It’s important.”
~Of course. Is there anything else I can do for you?~
“No, thanks, Seven. I appreciate your help. Chakotay out.”
Seven’s image disappeared from the screen, and Chakotay chewed his lip, thinking. An abbreviated marriage to a woman who was committed to an institution when it ended, and a mother listed as unknown; mystery seemed to surround Ryan Austin. He wasn’t sure any of this was important, but it was curious.
He re-read Austin’s birth record. Born in Danwar Maternity Hospital on Stardate 7638.5 – he ran a quick mental calculation – October twenty-second, 2330.
“Computer, display Danwar Hospital prenatal records for the year 2330. Identify any instances of the name Bartholomew Austin.”
There are no results to display.
Chakotay frowned. Maybe Admiral Austin had never attended prenatal appointments with the mother of his child. “Broaden search to all obstetrics records, same parameters.”
There are no results to display.
“Shit.” Chakotay stood, pacing the room.
Incoming transmission from Irene Hansen, the computer informed him, and he sat quickly behind his desk, activating the viewscreen.
“Ms Hansen,” he addressed the sweet-faced woman onscreen. “Thank you for contacting me so quickly.”
~Annika said it was important. How can I help you, Captain?~
“This is going to sound like a strange question, but I hope you’ll indulge me … What can you tell me about your cousin, Maja Hansen?”
~Oh, Maja,~ Irene sighed. ~I haven’t seen her in almost thirty years. What happened to her was terrible.~
“What did happen?”
~I don’t know the details, I’m afraid. All I know is that she has acute psychological dissociation. I was told it’s incurable, though I don’t know what caused it.~ She paused. ~Anything else I could tell you is just rumour and speculation.~
“I understand. I’d like to hear it anyway, if you’re willing to tell me.” Chakotay leaned in, smiling just enough to show his dimples.
As he’d hoped, Irene relented and smiled back at him. ~Well, there was some talk that she was pregnant when she went into hospital, and that the baby was secretly adopted. I’ve never really known whether to believe that.~
Irene’s smile faded. ~Because I tried to find out. I wanted children but couldn’t have them myself, and when Magnus and Erin disappeared a few years later I lost my niece as well. If Maja had given birth to a child she was unable to care for, I wanted to know about it. But the hospital refused to give me access to her medical records.~
“I’m sorry,” Chakotay said honestly.
~I argued with those doctors for months,~ Irene mused. ~I was convinced they were stonewalling. It’s strange to think that the child would be about twenty-five now, just a few years younger than Annika.~
“Then you do believe it?”
Irene straightened, meeting his eye. ~A ward nurse passed on a rumour that one of the psychiatric patients had given birth and that a man had come to claim the baby. She didn’t know who the patient was, but she believed the man claimed guardianship because he was somehow related to the child. And that he was a Starfleet officer, someone high up in the ranks.~
“A Starfleet officer?” Chakotay stared at her.
~That’s all she could tell me. And I’ve never been able to confirm whether she was talking about Maja or another patient.~
He filed that away. “Do you know anything about Maja’s marriage?”
Irene shook her head. ~I’m sorry. All I know is it was very brief and ended when Maja had her psychotic break. I suppose whoever he was, he divorced her on grounds of mental incapacity. I can’t say I blame him.~ She paused. ~If there was a child, I suppose he’d have been the father. To be honest, that’s what makes me doubt that part of the story.~
~Well, if he knew he had a child, wouldn’t he have been the one to claim it? And Maja’s husband wasn’t a Starfleet officer.~
No, he wasn’t, Chakotay thought. But his father was. An admiral, no less.
He kept that to himself, though. “Thank you for your time, Ms Hansen,” he said. “And I’m sorry if I’ve stirred up any unpleasant memories.”
~It’s all right, Captain.~ Irene smiled at him. ~Things have turned out quite well for me, now that I have Annika back. And I have you to thank for that.~
“Actually,” he said quietly, “the person you have to thank for that is Kathryn Janeway.”
They said their goodbyes and he closed the channel, leaning back in his chair to sift through the information Irene had given him. Intriguing as it was, he needed another angle. Looking into Ryan Austin’s personal history was getting him nowhere with the problem at hand.
He thought back over the conversation he’d overheard in the rose garden. Threats to Miral Paris, political machinations, interference in Starfleet Intelligence operations… he didn’t know where to start.
A snippet of that unholy dialogue wormed its way to the front of his memory.
I’m Tandaran, Kjogo had reminded Austin. I’m immune to your brand of charm.
He straightened up. “Computer, access medical database, xenobiological section. Display Tandaran genome and list all known natural immunities.”
A long list of medical words appeared on the screen. Immunities to known poisonous or psychotropic substances, diseases, quirks of alien biology –
“Stop,” he said suddenly. “Computer, go back three lines and hold.”
Tandaran physiology is known to present a natural immunity to Deltan pheromones.
“Computer,” he said slowly, “display population breakdown of Vega Colony.”
The population of Vega Colony is 43.2 percent human, 36.8 percent Deltan, 7.5 percent Vulcan, 4.6 percent Andorian …
“Computer, halt.” Chakotay sat unseeing as the pieces slotted together.
Ryan Austin’s personal history was more than intriguing. It was vital to understanding at least part of what he’d overheard in the rose garden.
Tandarans were immune to Deltan pheromones.
Humans were not.
He’d learned in first-year xenobiology that exposure to Deltan pheromones could cause psychological and emotional effects in most humanoids, ranging in severity from sexual addiction and susceptibility to subconscious suggestion, all the way up to – in the worst case scenario – permanent insanity.
Ryan Austin’s unidentified mother, he intuited, had been Deltan. And her son had inherited the trait that Deltans were known for, a trait that Deltans in Starfleet deliberately suppressed due to its dangerous effects on most species. But Ryan Austin had never suppressed his natural ability. He’d used it instead, and the impact on his ex-wife had apparently been devastating.
And now he was using it to manipulate Kathryn.