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.
I know it breaks your heart
Moved to the city in a broke down car and
Four years, no calls
Now you’re looking pretty in a hotel bar and
I, I, I can’t stop
- The Chainsmokers ft Halsey, Closer
Chapter Nine: Broke Down
Ryan left the apartment, as she’d asked him to, and Kathryn stood under the shower until her shakes died down to a fine tremor, then dressed and activated her personal transporter, materialising in the anteroom of her office at Starfleet Headquarters.
“Good morning, Admiral,” Lieutenant Jens greeted her. “The conference on Ajilon Prime has been confirmed and President Zife has requested you attend. You’ll be leaving at 1500 hours today.”
It seemed to take a long time to process Jens’ words. “I thought Admiral Kjogo was taking that conference,” Kathryn said finally.
“She’s coordinating the PR effort from Earth. The president is keen to smooth things over with the Klingons and he believes your presence at the conference will generate some positive publicity.” Jens shrugged sympathetically. “Here’s the travel itinerary.”
She took the padd. “You’re coming, right?”
“Okay, good.” Kathryn stared unseeing at the padd. “Good.” She rubbed her forehead with a hand that she noticed too late was trembling and curled her fingers into a fist at her side. “How long as this conference supposed to last?”
“Five days, with two days’ travel time either side.” Tora was watching her carefully. “I’m sorry you’ll be away from your husband for so long, especially so soon after your wedding.”
Incredibly, Kathryn felt laughter bubble up from deep inside her, barely stifling a burst of it by dropping the padd to clamp both hands over her mouth.
Jens looked alarmed. “Admiral, are you okay?”
She reached out to touch Kathryn on the shoulder – a warm, gentle clasp of her hand. Gradually, Kathryn’s breathing slowed and her shakes eased away.
“I’m fine,” she said eventually, and to her surprise she did feel clearer, more in control.
And she had nine days’ reprieve to look forward to: nine days away from Earth, from Kjogo, from Ryan. Despite knowing she’d only be there as decoration, Kathryn felt light with relief.
“Tora, could you clear my schedule for the day? I need – I’d like some time to – Just tell anyone who calls that I’m not to be disturbed.” She emphasised, “And I mean everyone, including my – including Councillor Austin.”
“Of course, Admiral,” Jens replied, blue eyes clouded with concern. “Call me if you need anything.”
Ryan would be at work, she reminded herself as she left her office. It was safe to go back to her apartment. She had to pack, and she should call her mother to let her know she’d be away, and that would be easier from her own home.
But the thought of walking through her own front door made her stomach roil. Instead, she stopped in at her favourite café for a coffee to go, and found herself wandering through the gardens behind it. This was where she’d last seen Chakotay. Where he’d told her Ryan was not who he claimed to be.
God, why hadn’t she listened to him? No matter estranged they became, she had always known Chakotay would never lie to her. She’d trust him with her life.
She was overcome with a wave of longing to be near him, and before she’d fully intuited her intention she was almost running toward the Turner Building, where Starfleet Intelligence was housed. If she could just see him, talk to him, maybe he could help her make sense of all this …
His office was empty. Loitering in the hallway outside, Kathryn wondered what to do next.
Her head jerked up. “Owen! I was just –”
“Looking for Chakotay?” Owen gave her an understanding smile. “He’s out of the system. But since you’re here, why don’t you come into my office? I haven’t seen you since before your wedding. You can fill me in on what you’ve been up to.”
He put a hand under her elbow and she let him guide her into his corner office and onto a plush armchair. Handing her a cup of coffee, Owen settled himself opposite her.
“So,” he said, watching her, “how’s married life?”
“Fine,” she said automatically.
Owen raised his eyebrows and she gave herself a mental shake.
“I’m just a little preoccupied. Sorry.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Katie.” Owen laid a hand on her arm. “What’s bothering you? Is it Ryan?”
She couldn’t stifle a bitter laugh. “I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
But Kathryn was already regretting her outburst, and waved a hand dismissively. “It’s nothing. Forget I mentioned it.”
He sat back, observing her. “I’ve known you for a long time. If your instincts are telling you something, you should trust them. I’ve never known them to be wrong.”
Kathryn sighed, slumping into her chair. “Maybe I’m just tired. I’ve been on this goddamned PR rollercoaster since Voyager came home. I’m surrounded by strangers and people who want something from me and I’ve barely even seen my family and I … I miss my crew. I miss them.” She leaned forward. “Tell me about Tom and B’Elanna, Owen. Tell me about Miral.”
So he did. He told her about Tom’s promotion to lieutenant commander and his job training elite piloting cadets. He told her about B’Elanna, leading the engineering team that had picked apart Voyager’s adapted alien technology, and her new role designing enhanced warp engines for long-range vessels. He showed her holos of Miral, now a chubby, scowling fifteen-month-old who’d started taking apart replicators and waste reclamation units.
And Kathryn relaxed and laughed for what felt like the first time in years.
After their third cup of coffee, Owen’s aide poked his head around the doorway. “Sir, you have a meeting in five minutes.”
“God, what time is it?” Kathryn checked her chrono; it was noon. “I have to go or I’ll be late for my transport. Thank you,” and she stepped into her former mentor’s arms for a hug. “You have no idea how badly I needed this.”
“Any time.” Owen hugged her back. “And if you don’t mind a piece of advice from an old man – don’t let anyone run your life anymore. I don’t care if it’s a fleet admiral, your husband or the president of the Federation. You need people around you that you can trust and depend on.” He paused. “And dare I say it, I think you know who those people are. You came here looking for one of them.”
From their first night at the Ajilon Prime conference, Tora Jens had demonstrated an impressive ability to charm the attending traders and diplomats, relieving Kathryn of much of the burden of her usual smile-and-flirt routine. Grateful, she was now taking advantage of the opportunity to fade into the background for a change.
Two seats down an Orion was holding a terse, low-voiced conversation with a Rigellian, and Kathryn leaned against the bar, sipping champagne and politely trying not to listen in. It was difficult; snatches of it kept floating through her preoccupation with the harsh words she and Ryan had exchanged over the comm when she was safely ensconced on the transport to Ajilon.
“… signed a treaty with Midrian. How will that impact on…”
We need to talk about this, Kathryn. Ryan’s eyes had been hard with anger.
What is there to talk about? she’d fired back. You seem to have difficulty with the concept of consent.
“… new trade route to the Cardassian Union. I hear Starfleet are…”
I’ve said I’m sorry, Ryan had sighed. What more do you want from me?
I need some time away from you. Hurt had lodged hard in her throat. If I can’t trust you to respect me, I’m not sure I can stay married to you.
“… the president. Martok demanded he pull back his border patrols…”
Don’t say that, he’d pleaded, reaching for her image on the comm screen. Kathryn, I love you.
You picked a strange way to show it. She’d shaken her head. I need time, Ryan. At least give me that.
“… new deal with Trans-Quadrant Express?”
Kathryn jerked into the present.
“So I heard,” the Orion was saying. “Everyone wants to deal with TQE now. That pretty-boy CEO made a smart move, running for Federation Council.”
The Rigellian snorted. “Doesn’t matter. We control the Verex to Tomed run, and the Sona are in our pocket. TQE won’t break into those sectors, no matter who’s bankrolling them.”
The Orion murmured something Kathryn didn’t catch, and the pair of them moved away.
She stared unseeing into her glass. Bankrolling them? she wondered. Ryan had told her his company was partially funded by the Federation, but to her knowledge the Federation had no intention of taking over trade routes controlled by the Orions. And Ryan’s company freighted medical supplies to planets in need. Why would they be expanding into the merchant routes?
Had he lied to her about the cargo he transported?
And if he’d lied about that, what else wasn’t he telling her?
I think Ryan is half-Deltan, and he’s using his genetic abilities to manipulate you.
Nausea gripped her stomach and she shoved her empty glass onto the bar and pushed through the crowd, riding the ‘lift up to her hotel room. Stripping off her dress, she tugged on leggings and a long, loose shirt, sat cross-legged on the bed and fired up the portable console she’d brought with her.
“Computer, access Federation civilian database. Display all known records pertaining to Councillor Ryan Austin.”
Thirty minutes later she got up and went to the replicator and ordered a double whiskey, which she drank in two gulps with shaking hands.
She supposed this was the information Chakotay had discovered. Unbelievable as it seemed in this day and age, the identity of Ryan’s mother was a mystery. But given the high proportion of Deltans living on Vega Colony it wasn’t a stretch to surmise that she had been, as Chakotay believed, Deltan.
Kathryn was well aware of the effect of unsuppressed Deltan pheromones on most humanoid species: addiction, susceptibility to mind-control, even insanity. But she had met Deltans before, even served with them. Most either took a benevolent approach to using their natural abilities and became healers – they could absorb and minimise pain – or chose to take an oath of celibacy to protect their crewmates and colleagues.
Some Deltans, though, chose a darker path. It happened rarely. But it did happen, and she was beginning to believe she’d had the terrible luck to marry one.
Almost equally disturbing was the discovery that theirs wasn’t Ryan’s first marriage, a fact he’d neglected to mention to her. She couldn’t understand why he’d keep it a secret when she had been quite open with him about her own unfulfilled engagements to Justin and Mark.
How many secrets was he keeping from her?
She couldn’t prove anything. It was all half-truths and implications, data missing or perhaps deliberately obscured. All she had was her instinct, and it was screaming at her that the man she’d married had been lying to her – and everyone else – about who he really was.
Chakotay tossed his tote bag on the hotel bed and stripped off the nondescript shirt and pants he’d donned for the shuttle ride to Ajilon, throwing them in the refresher. His uniform was stuffed into the bottom of the bag. He wouldn’t be wearing it for the next few days; his Entera insider, Kash, had told him to dress inconspicuously. It wasn’t as though Chakotay’s allegiance was a secret to Kash’s superiors, she’d said, but there was no need to draw attention to it.
Besides, the only Starfleet officers at this conference formed President Zife’s personal contingent, and it was best if Chakotay avoided them. The fewer questions asked about his presence, the safer he’d be, Kash claimed.
Avoiding them didn’t look like it would be a problem. Zife and his hangers-on were sticking to the opulent functions hosted in hotels around the centre of Ajilon City, and Kash had already informed Chakotay that the meeting she’d lined up with an Entera representative would be taking place in a less prominent location.
He ducked under the shower to scrub the travel grime away, towelled off and pulled on another unremarkable outfit of jeans, turtleneck sweater and a heavy overcoat against the outside chill. Kash would be stopping by any minute now to pick him up for the meeting she’d arranged. He wondered if this was it – his lucky break, his ticket to the upper echelons – or if he’d have to be satisfied with more mid-level lackeys.
Her console beeped, jarring Kathryn out of contemplating the bottom of her whiskey glass.
Incoming transmission from Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo, the computer informed her.
She’d avoided a couple of prime photo opportunities over the past few days, and she’d been expecting this call. Sighing, Kathryn drained her glass before switching on the viewer.
“What can I do for you, Admiral?”
~You can tell me what you’re playing at, Kathryn. I thought I’d been clear about your purpose on Ajilon.~
“Dress like an expensive tart, flirt with important men and smile for the cameras,” Kathryn answered flatly. “Yes, Admiral. You’ve made your orders perfectly clear.”
Kjogo’s eyes narrowed. ~I’m glad we understand each other. When do you plan to start holding up your end of the bargain instead of hiding in your hotel room?~
“Bargain.” Kathryn snorted out a hollow laugh. “What bargain is that, Admiral? The one where you own me for the rest of my life? What is it that I get out of this bargain, exactly?”
Kjogo sat back. ~You’re overwrought,~ she stated. ~Maybe I’m pushing you too hard. Why don’t you take the night off? Get some sleep, and I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning. Have Jens book you into a spa for a couple of hours tomorrow.~
Kathryn eyed her suspiciously. “This is … unlike you, Admiral.”
~You’re in this for the long haul, Kathryn.~ Kjogo smiled. ~And neglecting your health isn’t good for the baby.~
She almost dropped her glass. “What baby?”
~The one I’m counting on you to produce some time in the next year. Surely you see how good it’ll be for your image.~
Kathryn gaped at her. “Admiral, I don’t even know where to start with that statement.”
~Well, you’re not getting any younger, so you’d better not waste any more time. I’m certain Councillor Austin agrees with me on this.~
She went rigid. “Oh, are you?”
~So he says.~
“When did he say that, exactly?”
Kjogo shrugged. ~At Councillor Betek’s dinner last night. He mentioned how pleased he would be when you stopped your booster shots.~ Her eyes cut right and she nodded to someone Kathryn couldn’t see. ~Duty calls. Get a good night’s rest, Kathryn. I expect you on top form tomorrow.~
The screen blinked off.
Kathryn sat in trembling silence for a moment. Then she flung her empty glass at the wall and screamed.
The shattering of the glass kicked her shakes into high gear and she jagged to her feet, pacing her hotel room. The walls were closing in on her. She took a shuddering breath and forced her pulse to slow.
She had to get out of there. Shoving her feet into comfortable boots, she grabbed a hooded cloak from the closet, dropped a few credit chips into the pocket and strode out of the room, wishing she could slam the door behind her.
Chakotay ducked his head under the low mantel of the doorway and followed Kash into a dimly-lit room where the only sounds were the chink of gambling chips and the hushed murmur of conversation. He blinked against the gloom.
A bouncer gestured for him to remove his coat, and Chakotay held still while the man patted him and Kash down for weapons. At the bouncer’s nod, Kash grabbed his elbow to lead him over to a table.
A Caitian sprawled in one of the hard-backed chairs, his long tail coiled over his arm. His felinoid eyes narrowed as Kash and Chakotay approached.
“So this is our tame Starfleet captain?”
Chakotay inclined his head. “Captain Chakotay. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The Caitian made a purring sound that Chakotay guessed was a laugh. “Sit down, Captain. Kash, fetch us a drink.”
Chakotay eased into the chair opposite. He’d recognised the man instantly, but was unsure whether to let on until the Caitian inclined his head.
“You know who I am.”
“Premier Sina of Regulus.”
“I’d have been disappointed if you didn’t recognise me.”
Kash slid into a third chair, sloppily depositing a couple of glasses in front of them. Chakotay picked his up to study it. Romulan ale.
“I wasn’t aware that Regulus was involved with Entera,” he said, sipping cautiously.
Sina gave him a satisfied smile. “Then we’re doing our job well. I expect you’d be surprised to discover the extent of our reach. But first things first.”
He drained his ale and set down the glass, leaning in so close his tail brushed Chakotay’s sweater. “You performed a favour for us by ensuring our continued access to the Treban dilithium mine,” the Caitian said. “I’m aware you’ve been compensated, but I’m interested to know if you’re prepared to offer us further favours. You’d be well-rewarded, of course.”
“What kind of favours?”
Sina watched him closely. “We have a contact on one of the Starfleet patrols in the Borderlands. He’s been quite useful to us in keeping Starfleet and the Orions away from our trade routes. Unfortunately, we’re no longer certain he’s trustworthy. A shipment of great value to us was recently lost en route from the Cardassian Union on his watch.”
“I see. What is it you want from me?”
“We want you to observe him. Find out if he’s playing both sides and report your findings to us. Nothing more, at this stage.” The Caitian smiled. “Consider it a test of both your loyalty and his.”
Chakotay nodded. “Shouldn’t be too hard. What’s his name?”
“It’s not necessary to divulge that at this time. You’ll be leaving Ajilon Prime tomorrow. In a few days you’ll be provided with everything you need to know.” He slid a couple of credit chips across the table. “Until then, enjoy the city with our compliments. Kash will introduce you to the charms of its nightlife.”
It was clearly a dismissal, so Chakotay stood and said his goodbyes, then followed Kash out of the gambling hall.
“That went well,” Kash offered, rubbing her hands.
“If you say so.”
Kash shrugged. “He didn’t shoot you on sight – I’d call that a success. Come on, let’s get a drink.”
Avoiding the glittering, gilded hotels and bars in the city centre, Kathryn trudged through streets and alleys until the low boom of music drew her to a dingily-lit doorway. She pushed open the door and squinted into the low light of the club. One glance at the clientele and the barely-clad Orion dancers wandering the room told her she was unlikely to run into any of the president’s contingent in here, but still, she had no intention of being recognised. She kept her cloak on and her hood up as she took a seat at the bar.
“Yridian whiskey, straight up,” she ordered, tossing a credit chip on the bar. “And keep them coming.”
Getting drunk wasn’t going to solve her problems, she decided midway through the second glass. And tonight it didn’t seem to be numbing the pain either. She rested her elbow on the bar and dropped her head into her hand, eyes closed, letting the thumping beat of the music roll through her body.
How could I have mistaken this for love, or something close to it? she wondered. Was she really so lonely that she’d allowed a sexual predator to charm his way into her life? To marry her?
“… think that dancer likes you, Captain,” uttered a low feminine voice beside her. “Fifty credits and you can take her home.”
“She’s not really my type,” a man responded with a chuckle.
Kathryn’s eyes shot open.
“Well if you’re not interested, I am,” the female said. “Our transport leaves at 0600. Don’t be late.”
The man leaned in beside Kathryn and motioned to the Andorian behind the bar. “Yridian whiskey,” he ordered with a sigh.
The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Popular choice tonight.”
Kathryn huddled into her cloak.
“Excuse me?” her neighbour asked.
The Andorian nodded in her direction. “You and the lady might as well share a bottle.” He capped it and left it on the bar between them, turning away to serve another customer.
Kathryn squeezed her eyes shut, gathered her courage and pushed back her hood as she turned to Chakotay.
His eyes went wide.
“Don’t say it,” she joked feebly. “What’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?”