I wish for emptiness and sudden light
Summary: “What are you, Jean-Luc? Are you ever putting on the pips again, or are you planning to wander about the galaxy digging up relics and whistling for Starfleet every time you get yourself into a jam?”
Characters: Picard, Janeway, Crusher, Seven, Laris
Codes: Picard/Janeway, Chakotay/Seven, Picard/Crusher, Janeway/Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Star Trek universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: References to: TNG episodes 1x09 The Battle, 2x13 Time Squared and 3x26 The Best of Both Worlds; VOY episodes 6x10 Pathfinder, 6x26 Unimatrix Zero and 7x25 Endgame; PIC episodes up to 1x05 Stardust City Rag; Nemesis; and Children of Mars. I’ve used bits and pieces of Jeri Taylor’s Mosaic and Christopher L Bennett’s The Buried Age, but only the bits I liked. Forget about the post-series books altogether.
The title and the quotes at the beginning of each section are from Semicolons by Zubair Ahmed.
Sunrise: unbreakable dawn.
I open your book.
It has no pages.
The Centaur Tavern, Proxima Centauri – 2390
The novelty of beckoning a bartender and unashamedly ordering a Romulan ale has long worn off. These days, or so Laris tells him, all the kids are drinking Ferengi stardrifters. The ingredients have been hard to come by since the Federation rejected Ferenginar’s third application for membership.
Jean-Luc, who has developed an appreciation for tradition, orders the ale and hunches into the corner of his booth, letting his eyes slip out of focus. It’s his first trip off-world in three years, and he doesn’t remember space lag ever fatiguing him like this before.
Maybe he’s just getting old.
So old and tired that he hasn’t even noticed the woman approaching his booth … but as she slides in opposite him and his eyes go wide in recognition, Jean-Luc hopes fervently that nobody else has noticed her either.
“Annika Hansen,” he whispers. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s Seven of Nine. I’ve gone back to my roots,” she says flippantly. “And I was in the neighbourhood.”
His eyebrows rise. “We’re nowhere near Romulan space.”
“Former Romulan space,” she corrects.
Jean-Luc presses his lips together, studying her. The last time he saw her in person was a decade ago at some Starfleet function. Back then she’d been immaculately groomed – posture straight, pale hair in a neat chignon, a fitted jumpsuit accentuating her slender figure – but the Seven of Nine in front of him is different. Her clothing is looser, crumpled, the colours drab, and she slouches in her seat. He wonders how much of that is disguise.
“I’ve heard rumours that you left Daystrom to join the Fenris Rangers,” he says. “Is it true?”
“Word gets around.”
“But why?” he asks. “They’re vigilantes. What could possibly make you want to join them?”
Seven’s face hardens. “Still living in a fantasy world, I see. Wake up and take a look around, Picard. The galaxy has changed since the good old days.”
“When were those good old days, exactly?” he retorts. “During the Dominion War, perhaps? The Borg invasion?”
“Point taken,” Seven concedes. “The short answer to your question is that I joined the Rangers to protect the people Starfleet abandoned in the not-so-Neutral Zone.”
“I take it there’s a longer answer.”
“There is, but let’s just say I have deeply personal reasons for doing what I do. Enough about me. I’m here to pass on a message.” She tilts her head. “And to ask a favour.”
“Your housekeepers,” she says. “I’m told they helped you escape the Tal Shiar five years ago. They should know that there’s still a bounty on their heads, and if they want to live, they can never leave Earth.”
He nods; it’s disappointing, though not unexpected. “And the favour?”
Seven’s gaze flickers. “I’m looking for the truth about what happened to a friend of mine.”
“And you think I can help you with that?”
“Surely you still have some contacts in Starfleet.”
Jean-Luc starts to say yes, of course, but when he starts a mental list of the Starfleet officers he could still call on for help, he realises that it’s depressingly short.
“Or maybe you can ask your Romulan friends,” Seven continues, apparently following his thought process.
“What can you tell me?”
She folds her hands on the table and looks down at them. “All I know is that he was on a secret assignment, commanding a vessel in the Beta quadrant. I don’t know the name of the ship. A few months ago I heard from a contact in the Tal Shiar that he was killed in action. I haven’t been able to find out any more than that.”
“Not much to go on,” Jean-Luc points out. “What was your friend’s name?”
Jean-Luc’s fingers slacken on the glass of ale. He wonders how many more surprises the evening will bring.
“What about –” he swallows. “Have you heard from Kathryn? Where is she? Is she alive?”
Seven’s eyes gleam in genuine amusement. “Who do you think I work for?”
While he’s grappling with that, she drains her previously untouched whiskey and leans in, voice low.
“They were together for five years before Chakotay’s death. And no, I don’t believe his untimely demise had anything to do with their relationship. As far as I know, Starfleet had no idea they were seeing each other.”
“Was he passing information to the Rangers?” He waits for her answer, and when she stays silent, taps the table impatiently. “I can’t help you if I don’t have all the facts, Seven.”
“Of course he was,” she says. “Join forces with a band of noble vigilantes from his position within Starfleet? He and Kathryn appreciated the irony.”
She rises, tossing a data chip onto the scarred wooden table.
“This is everything I know about Chakotay’s service record since Voyager rescued me in the Delta quadrant. Don’t try to contact me – I’ll be in touch. And, Picard …”
“I repay my favours.”
It’s late, and his second glass of Romulan ale sits warm and undrunk on the table before him. Jean-Luc pockets the data chip and gets to his feet. His bones creak more than they used to, these days, and he wants his bed.
He makes his way through the corridors of the space station and taps the entry code that will admit him to quarters.
Inside, Beverly looks up from the book on her lap and smiles at him. She has changed out of uniform into silk pyjamas, and there’s a soft woollen shawl around her shoulders.
“Did you enjoy your drink?”
“It was fine,” he tells her, shucking his jacket and slinging it across a chair. “I think I’ll turn in.”
“Me too; I have an early lecture tomorrow.” She closes her book, rising from the armchair she’s curled into. “What will you do with yourself all day?”
He shrugs. “I’ll amuse myself somehow. There’s a display of Manraloth artefacts in quantum stasis on Level 47, I’m told. It’s been more than thirty years since I encountered one.”
“Oh yes – on your first attempt to retire from Starfleet.”
More than thirty years, he thinks, marvelling that it seems like yesterday. He remembers the titian-haired lieutenant who’d moved too close to the quantum field protecting the artefact, and the static that had sizzled around her. How he’d felt, later, as though she was transmitting that static charge to him everywhere their skin touched.
Beverly comes over and rests her arms around his shoulders. “I still don’t think retirement suits you, you know, Jean-Luc.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think I’ve had plenty of excitement for one lifetime.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say such a thing.”
“Truth be told, I’m looking forward to getting back to my vineyard.”
Beverly sighs and gives her head a small shake. “Aren’t you lonely, living all the way out there in the country? Don’t you miss the stars?”
“Not at all. I’ve developed a taste for the simple life, and I have Zhaban and Laris to keep me company.” Jean-Luc turns them both in the direction of the bedroom, an arm around her waist. “Besides, I’ve been thinking of getting a dog.”
They slide into bed together and Beverly calls for lights out.
“Doctor,” Jean-Luc says into the quiet dark.
“So formal,” she answers with a laugh, “Admiral.”
“If I were to look into the mysterious death of a former colleague, would you be prepared to misuse your access to the Starfleet medical database to assist me?”
There’s a certain smugness to her tone when she responds. “I knew you couldn’t really give up the excitement, Jean-Luc.”
“Will you help?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you,” he murmurs, and revels in the rare opportunity to hold her as they drift into sleep.