Fragile Things

Summary: An encounter with a quantum rift sends Janeway and Chakotay on a journey through what might have been.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Voyager crew

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

 

Disclaimer: Paramount built the amusement park. We just play in it.

 

Notes: All quotes are from Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things story collection, and I’ve borrowed heavily from the TNG episode Parallels.

 

Warning: Dubious consent elements in a couple of chapters.

Rated E

Note: A translation matrix is provided below.

=/\=

6. Everything You Know Is Wrong - Chakotay (III)

Stardate 51136.6

 

She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong.

 

 

Well, this is different.

 

I expect to see the sickbay ceiling when I open my eyes, but instead it’s the curved grey of a bulkhead. My cheek is pressed not to a linen-covered pillow but into rough grey carpet. I drag myself slowly to a sitting position, clutching my head. When I’m able to, I stand, holding onto the wall for balance.

 

“Computer, where am I?”

 

~Deck three, section alpha-two.~

 

I shake my head to clear it and regret it instantly; the lights of the display panel to my left swim sickeningly. “Computer, confirm location.”

 

~Deck three, section alpha-two.~

 

The door to my right leads to the captain’s quarters. What the hell am I doing here?

 

I make my way to the turbolift. “Bridge,” I order the computer.

 

~That location is not available.~

 

The turbolift must be malfunctioning. “Take me anywhere on deck one, then.”

 

~Unable to comply.~

 

“Why not?”

 

~Turbolift controls have been re-routed to engineering.~

 

“Fine,” I mutter, and step back out into the corridor. I tap my commbadge. “Chakotay to engineering.”

 

~Carey here.~

 

“What the hell’s wrong with turbolift zeta-three?”

 

There’s a brief pause, then he answers, sounding cautious. ~There’s a fault in the anodyne relays, sir. I’m making repairs as we speak.~

 

“Get it done,” I answer irritably. “Chakotay out.”

 

I need to get to the bridge and make certain I’m in the right place. But the pounding in my head isn’t abating, and I’m starting to feel nauseated. I can either go to sickbay – not an appealing thought – or take a hot shower in the hope it’ll relieve my headache. The second option wins.

 

I trudge down the hallway to my quarters and enter my access code. Access denied, the panel informs me. I try it again – I must have mis-keyed the sequence – with the same result.

 

Squinting, I realise the name on the doorplate is not mine.

 

Torres, it says.

 

My stomach tightens. Following a hunch, I reverse my course.

 

The nameplate on the captain’s door says Chakotay.

 

I tap in my code, and the door opens. My feet carry me inside and I glance warily around.

 

This is definitely the captain’s quarters. But there’s no Risan urn on the viewport ledge, no painting of Voyager on the wall, no vase of flowers on the dining table. Instead, the throw rug I replicated to look like the one my sister made me in a previous life is tossed over the back of an armchair. And my medicine bundle sits, neatly tied, on the low table near the couch.

 

Cautiously, I step into the bedroom.

 

The bureau drawers are sparsely filled with T-shirts and pants I recognise, and there are no Starfleet uniforms hanging in the closet.

 

It’s abundantly clear that this is not my reality.

 

“Computer, who is the captain of this vessel?”

 

~The captain of the USS Voyager is Captain Chakotay.~

 

“On what date did I assume command?”

 

~Stardate 48326.8.~

 

About four days after we rescued Harry and B’Elanna from the Ocampan planet. God, what happened here? Clearly we’re still in the Delta quadrant, so she must have destroyed the Caretaker’s array. But then what?

 

Did I take her ship from her? Or – something even worse occurs to me -

 

“Computer, is Kathryn Janeway on board this vessel?”

 

~Affirmative.~

 

Thank God she’s not dead. “Locate her.”

 

~Kathryn Janeway is in engineering.~

 

“What’s her position on this ship?”

 

~Assistant engineer, reporting to B’Elanna Torres.~

 

“Is this a Federation Starfleet ship?” I already know the answer.

 

~Negative. This vessel is the property of the Maquis.~

 

Shit.

 

I head back out to the living area, sit at the desk and pull the computer toward me. “Activate personal log. Display the first file recorded after Stardate 48326.8.”

 

=/\=

 

Two hours later I’m slumped over the desk with my aching head in my hands, all thoughts of taking a shower forgotten. I’ve watched most of his logs from the past three years and I’m reeling from what I’ve learned.

 

Kathryn destroyed the Array, as in my universe. And later, as in my universe, she called my counterpart into her ready room to discuss what should happen next. But that conversation, it seems, didn’t go the way it did in my reality.

 

In my universe, she spoke to me as an equal. She stated our situation calmly and proposed that we join forces. She was firm on the decision that we’d run a Starfleet ship, but she told me she had every intention of treating my crew fairly. And I believed her. I committed myself to following her orders, and despite a few teething problems – B’Elanna, Dalby - she has always kept her word.

 

In this one, apparently, she addressed the issue differently. From my counterpart’s retelling, it seems she immediately presented him with three options: confinement to the brig, resettlement on a planet or assignment to an appropriate post on her ship. She proposed that he take the position of first officer but made it clear that this offer was contingent upon his ability to keep the Maquis in line.

 

He reacted the way I likely would have at the time: he told her she could keep her lapdog’s job, and then demanded to know how she expected to run her ship on less than a skeleton crew.

 

I’ll manage, she’d replied, then called Tuvok in to escort him to the brig. The rest of his crew she’d locked down in the cargo bay, where they were to be held until a suitable M-class planet could be found to leave them on.

 

Within twelve hours, they’d escaped from the cargo bay, liberated that other Chakotay from the brig, and taken the ship.

 

Seven of the Starfleet crew were killed in the takeover, including Tuvok and Harry Kim. Two of the Maquis – Tabor and Henley - died as well. That Chakotay had then brought Kathryn, shackled and under guard, to the same cargo bay where the Maquis had been held and stood her to face her remaining crew.

 

You have a choice, he’d told her. Nobody else needs to die. And they won’t have to, if you’ll serve under me.

 

And so, to save the lives of her crew, she’d agreed.

 

He’d assigned her to engineering under B’Elanna’s watchful eye and kept two armed guards on her at all times until he could be reasonably certain she wasn’t planning anything. After six months or so it seemed she’d accepted her fate. He began allowing her to attend tactical meetings, giving her more access to ship’s systems. He began to spend more time with her – after all, she was the only other person on the ship who knew what it was like to be captain. And she was intelligent and interesting and undeniably beautiful.

 

He still expected her to attempt a mutiny. But as the months, and then years, passed, she gave no sign of it, and in fact began to seek him out when she was off duty. They ate dinner together almost every night in his quarters. She grew relaxed in his presence, smiled at him often, touched him on the arm or the chest.

 

There was a party in the mess hall for the New Year’s Eve just gone. The whole crew attended, and there was plenty of drinking amidst the laughter. Afterward, he and Kathryn stumbled back to his cabin for a nightcap, and when she’d finished her brandy she pulled him close and kissed him.

 

I listen to my counterpart retelling the events of that night – how he’d responded to her kiss, how she’d stepped back and removed her clothes, slowly and with her curling half-smile, how they’d spent hours in his bed. He’s been in love with her for a long, long time. I guess some things are a constant in any universe.

 

So they became lovers. Almost every night after that, she’d come to his quarters, wrap her body around his and lead him into his bedroom. I watch the joy in his eyes as he talks about her in his logs, the quiet amazement that they’ve made this slow transition from enemies to lovers, and I wonder.

 

=/\=

The first thing I need to do, I decide, is assess the situation. And I can’t do that dressed in Starfleet uniform, so I take that shower – finally – and pull on the closest clothing to hand.

 

“Computer, what’s the time?”

 

~The time is 2345 hours.~

 

A few minutes before shift change. “Who’s currently in command?”

 

~Michael Ayala.~

 

“And who’s commanding Gamma shift?”

 

~Kurt Bendera.~

 

Shit. It’s a stab to the heart; it hadn’t occurred to me that as well as having lost people in this universe who are still alive in mine, the opposite might have also happened. To see Kurt again …

 

I shake it off. I need to find someone I can trust. Someone who’ll help me get the hell out of this twisted reality and back to mine.

 

“Computer, locate B’Elanna Torres.”

 

~B’Elanna Torres is in Jeffries tube 57-delta.~

 

Repairing the interface to the navigational array, probably; on my Voyager we’ve had recurrent problems with the gel-pack relays in that section. “Chakotay to Torres.”

 

~Yeah?~

 

Yeah? It sets me off-balance; if I’d needed a reminder that this is not a Starfleet ship, B’Elanna’s cranky, casual response would suffice.

 

“Meet me in my quarters on the double.”

 

There’s a slight pause. ~Thought you had a hot date tonight. Janeway decided not to open her legs for a change?~

 

It takes a herculean effort to stomp on my visceral, outraged response. “Just get up here, Torres. Now.”

 

~You got it, boss. Torres out.~

 

I pace off the anger of B’Elanna’s insult while I wait for her to arrive, and it’s not until the door chimes that it occurs to me to wonder: if Captain Chakotay did indeed have a ‘hot date’ with Engineer Janeway, what happened? Why isn’t she still here?

 

And why did I wake up in the corridor outside his quarters?

 

“Come.”

 

B’Elanna steps in, all tangled curls and grimy leathers, and pushes past me to flop onto my couch, one leg hooked over the arm. “So? I’m here.”

 

I take the armchair opposite and lean forward, elbows on my knees. “B’Elanna, I have to tell you something, and I need you to bear with me on this.”

 

“Kahless,” she exclaims, eyes widening. “Is she pregnant?”

 

“What? No!” I hesitate. “I mean, I don’t know. I’m not – that’s not –”

 

She raises an eyebrow at me. “You okay, boss?”

 

“I’m not your boss. At least, not in the way you mean. I’m Commander Chakotay of the Federation starship Voyager –”

 

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

 

“- and I’m not from this universe.”

 

She stills, her face wary. “Where the hell are you from, then?”

 

I shrug. “An alternate reality. Pretty different from this one, as far as I’ve seen.”

 

“I’ll say,” she mutters. “Federation starship Voyager? You got any proof?”

 

Without a word, I go into the bedroom, pick up my uniform jacket and bring it back to toss in her lap.

 

Hu’tegh,” she breathes. “You’d better start talking.”

 

=/\=

“She made me a lieutenant? And I wear the uniform … we all do?”

 

B’Elanna sits back, the whiskey I’d poured at her request about five minutes into my story forgotten on the low table in front of her.

 

“This is all pretty unbelievable, Chakotay. I can’t picture you taking orders from her. You’re as pissed off at Starfleet as the rest of us.”

 

“Well, believe it. And I didn’t put on the uniform for Starfleet. I did it for her, and I did it for us. It was the only way to guarantee my crew’s safety.”

 

“Not the only way,” she mutters. “We run this ship. And Janeway takes orders from you.” She smirks. “And from me, for that matter.”

 

“I’m not here to change the way things work in this universe. I just want to get back to my own.”

 

“Okay. Tell me about this subspace rift.”

 

I explain the warp core overload, the attempted transport, the shifting between quantum realities.

 

B’Elanna nods. “It sounds like some kind of quantum tether phenomenon. Your first encounter with the rift caused it to breach, which broke down the barriers between quantum realities and led to you shifting out of your own universe. From what you’ve told me, each time a shift occurs you end up on an alternate Voyager. I’d speculate that the breach is somehow linked both to Voyager and to you.”

 

“Does that mean if I shift again I’ll end up on another Voyager and not on the Val Jean, or in some Cardassian prison?”

 

“Theoretically, yes. Unless I’m wrong and the tether isn’t related to Voyager, in which case you could end up anywhere.”

 

I decide not to follow that disturbing train of thought – as B’Elanna pointed out, it’s theoretical. “And the captain – I mean, my captain?”

 

“You think she’s out there shifting realities as well?”

 

“It’s possible.”

 

B’Elanna taps her chin thoughtfully. “You were both in the same shuttlecraft when you encountered the rift, you were both hit by the tachyon discharge, and presumably you were both transported out before the core breached.”

 

“So how do we get back?”

 

“I have a few ideas, but we’re going to need help.” She smirks. “Quantum theory isn’t my specialty – it’s more your girlfriend’s scene.”

 

“My girl-” I stop. “Oh. You mean, uh, Janeway’s.”

 

Instead of answering, she taps her commbadge. “Torres to Janeway.”

 

~Janeway here.~ Her husky contralto sounds both cool and wary.

 

“I need your help with a little mystery. Meet me in engineering.”

 

I can hear the hesitation on the other end of the line. ~Is it urgent?~ she asks, finally. ~I was sleeping.~

 

“Yeah, it’s urgent,” B’Elanna snaps. “Get down there in five minutes. Torres out.”

 

“B’Elanna,” I say harshly when she’s cut the line. “Is it really necessary to speak to her that way?”

 

“Trust me. She needs reminding who’s boss.” B’Elanna curls gracefully to her feet. “You coming?”

 

“Yeah. I’m coming.”

 

She moves toward the door, but it remains closed. “Computer, open the door.”

 

~Unable to comply.~

 

“Why the hell not?” she snaps.

 

~Controls have been routed to engineering.~

 

“Override. Authorisation Torres Zeta-Four.”

 

~That authorisation code is not accepted.~

 

“What the fuck?” she snarls. Tapping her commbadge, “Torres to engineering.”

 

The comm remains silent. Swearing in a mixture of Klingon, Bajoran and Spanish, B’Elanna rips off the control plate beside the door and starts tinkering with relays and circuits.

 

“The turbolift controls were routed to engineering earlier,” I tell her. My gut is clenching, but I’m trying not to jump to conclusions. “Something I should know about?”

 

“Everything was working fine when Carey asked me to look at those damn gel-packs in the navigational array,” B’Elanna growls. “And why he asked me, the chief engineer, to fix something a fucking high school student could’ve –”

 

She stops, turns to stare at me.

 

ghuy’ maghwl’,” she growls. “It’s a fucking mutiny.”

 

=/\=

 

I prowl around these half-familiar quarters. The Jeffries tube access behind the captain’s bed is, as expected, not responding to voice commands, nor will the computer obey my demands for a site-to-site transport. I can’t raise the bridge, engineering or sickbay. If any of the Maquis can hear my comms, they’re either unable or unwilling to reply, and I don’t bother to contact any of the former Starfleet crew.

 

Fortunately, it takes B’Elanna less than twenty minutes to override the door controls. We leave our commbadges on the dining table and arm ourselves with the phasers I find taped under Captain Chakotay’s bathroom cabinet, crouching low as we flatten ourselves behind the opened doors. I toss a shoe out into the hallway, but the half-expected weapons fire fails to materialise.

 

I jerk my head and B’Elanna whips into the corridor, phaser ready. “Clear,” she whispers, and I follow her out. We crab-walk toward the nearest Jeffries tube hatch, watching each other’s backs, but the hallway remains silent and deserted as she quickly breaks into the access hatch. I snatch a tricorder from behind the storage panel just inside the tube and start scanning.

 

“Two life forms seventeen metres ahead,” I murmur. “One Bajoran, one Bolian. No commbadges.”

 

“Chell or Golwat?”

 

I readjust the tricorder. “Male,” I tell her, smiling, and she grins back, “One of us, then,” as we start to shuffle in their direction.

 

“Chell,” I hiss when we’re close enough for them to hear, and his anxious blue face appears around a corner. He sags in relief when he sees us.

 

“We thought you were locked down in quarters,” he says. “And B’Elanna was supposed to be trapped in a Jeffries tube near nav control.”

 

“How do you know that?” I demand.

 

“We were repairing the deflector array,” he explains. “We finished sooner than expected, and when we climbed out of the tube behind main engineering, we heard Janeway, Carey and Nicoletti talking about it. Nicoletti said she was about to initiate crew quarters lockdown. Janeway said she’d already taken care of you, boss. We had to get out of there before they found us, so we didn’t stick around to hear any more.”

 

I digest that; it doesn’t take a genius to realise Janeway must have drugged or shot Captain Chakotay, and he somehow made it into the corridor before I switched places with him. It makes sense to take out the captain and the chief engineer. Knowing her, though, she’d have refrained from using lethal force. Unfortunately, that would probably be her undoing.

 

I shake it off and return my attention to Chell. “So what are you doing on deck three?”

 

“Trying to get to the bridge. They must’ve detected us, though. They’ve sealed us out of all the upper deck access ports. We’re trying to break through now.”

 

And he leans sideways to indicate his partner in crime, who’s busy manipulating a control panel near the access hatch that would lead us to deck one. The Bajoran woman spares me a brief glance over her shoulder and my blood chills in my veins.

 

“Seska,” I rasp.

 

=/\=

Of all the dead, departed colleagues I might have hoped to see again in this reality, it has to furnish me with the one I only ever see in my nightmares.

 

“Good to see you too, Chakotay,” she says snidely, returning her attention to the hatch. “I guess Janeway’s little seduce-and-stun plan didn’t work out quite the way she hoped.”

 

“Apparently it worked well enough for her to try taking over the ship,” I mutter without thinking.

 

“Serves you right for thinking with your dick,” Seska replies pettishly. “Don’t worry, chesei. We’ll get the ship back. And then I’m going to enjoy killing your little Starfleet xati.”

 

“There’ll be no killing,” I rap out sharply. Then, when even B’Elanna turns to stare at me in disbelief, I amend, “unless I expressly order it.”

 

Seska mutters something no doubt insulting under her breath, then louder, “Got it,” and the hatch swings open. She slides in, followed by Chell and B’Elanna. I take up the rear, and Seska’s halfway up the ladder to deck one by the time my foot’s on the bottom rung.

 

“Phasers to stun,” I remind them all as we reach the top. B’Elanna starts working on the hatch that will deposit us behind the tactical station on the bridge. Seska leans her back against the wall and regards me through half-lidded eyes.

 

“There’s something different about you,” she says over B’Elanna’s quiet curses as the locking mechanism refuses to release.

 

“Like what?” I’m not interested in looking at her, let alone making conversation.

 

“Oh, I don’t know.” She curls the corners of her lips. “You look … soft. Not angry enough. You don’t look like a man who’s trying to save his ship from a mutiny led by his traitorous lover.”

 

“Jealous?” I snap at her, knowing it’s a mistake the moment it passes my lips.

 

She laughs, her eyes showing genuine amusement. “You know I gave up on you years ago, chesei. You’re too old to keep up with me.” She rolls her hips obscenely, grinning. “Don’t feel bad for me. Tommy keeps me well-satisfied these days.”

 

The only ‘Tommy’ I know on this ship is Tom Paris. I glance at B’Elanna, who returns my look without expression. “We’re ready here,” she says quietly, tipping her head toward the access panel.

 

I pull out my tricorder. “Eleven life signs. Seven have commbadges. Looks like we have two ‘fleeters at tactical, one at ops, and two covering our people on the command level. I’m reading Jenkins at the helm and Ballard at the engineering station.” I look around at them. “B’Elanna and I will take out tactical, then I’ll take helm and the engineering station while she locks down the bridge. Chell, you cover the ops station. Seska, head for the command level. Stun setting,” I remind her. I stare at each of them in turn. “Ready?”

 

“Ready,” they all reply.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

I shove the hatch open and dive out, rolling to the right and coming up with my phaser trained on the tactical station. Rollins is already reaching for his own weapon but I stun him quickly and throw myself sideways to avoid Bennet’s phaser. I hear Bennet groan and drop heavily to the floor as B’Elanna takes him out, followed by the thud of Hargrove hitting the deck at ops, but I’m already crouching low and running to fire at Jenkins, who ducks behind the helm console. From the corner of my eye I see Ballard drop. I hear Seska shout something triumphant. Jenkins pokes her head out from behind the helm and I take her out, then turn to find Chell training his weapon on Ashmore, who’s kneeling, hands clasped behind his head. Anderson lies on the deck beside him.

 

The four Maquis who’d been under guard stand to greet us – Ayala, Bendera, Yosa and Jor. Kurt Bendera is grinning as he steps toward me and slaps me on the back. “Nice going, boss.”

 

To his surprise, I grab him in a fierce one-armed hug, then let him go. “It’s good to see you, Kurt.”

 

“Likewise.” He shrugs, then turns to glance around the bridge at all the unconscious former Starfleet officers. “Now what?”

 

“Now we take back our ship.”

 

=/\=

“Don’t be an idiot, Chakotay,” Seska snaps. “They outnumber us two to one. If we’re going to win, we have to use lethal force, at least on some of them. That should make the others fall in line.”

 

“If you make me repeat myself again, Seska, you’ll be getting acquainted with the inside of the brig,” I snarl back at her. “Think about the long game. Thirty of us can’t run this ship – we need the ‘fleeters. That’s why I let them live when we took this ship three years ago, and that fact hasn’t changed.”

 

“If you think you can trust them again, you’re even more deluded than I thought,” Seska snorts.

 

“I don’t need to trust them if I hold their ringleaders in the brig,” I tell her abruptly.

 

“So Janeway, Carey and Nicoletti?” Seska puts one hand on her hip in challenge. “You’re going to lose half the experienced engineering staff in one hit.”

 

“Carey and Nicoletti will still be put to work. They won’t try anything without Janeway.”

 

“And where will she be?” Seska sneers. “Warming the captain’s bed?”

 

It’s the last straw. My fist is connecting with her quasi-Bajoran jaw before I can even think about stopping myself. Seska picks herself gingerly up from the floor, shooting hate-daggers at me.

 

“I’ll worry about crew assignments when we’ve taken back this ship,” I hiss at her when I’ve got enough control of myself to speak. “Until then, shut the hell up and follow my goddamn orders. Understood?”

 

Her voice is sweet as poison. “Understood.”

 

I nod to B’Elanna, who leads the others over to the engineering station, Chell staying behind to keep a phaser pointed at Ashmore. As Seska pushes past me I grab her by the elbow, my fingers digging, hard, into her deceptively smooth flesh. She stops, glaring at me, then down at my hand.

 

Nu peret ka, vrerUj tunka,” I whisper to her.

 

Her entire body freezes. I can almost hear the tendons in her neck creak as she raises her eyes to mine. For the space of three or four seconds, I look into her eyes and see the true Seska – not the simpering-sweet Bajoran, not the scheming Kazon ally, not even the half-crazed displaced Cardassian who used her son as a pawn to start a war. Just Seska, distilled to her essence, a cold-burning coal of self-interest and loathing.

 

Then she smiles like ice cracking, and I let go of her arm and turn away.

 

=/\=

B’Elanna fits us all out with commbadges that emit a dampening signal and are tuned only to each other’s frequency. I send Ayala, Jor and Chell to the armory first and then to search out any other Maquis crew they can find, leave Bendera and Yosa in charge of the bridge, and take B’Elanna and Seska with me to engineering.

 

The turbolifts are back online – Janeway must be confident that she’s locked all the Maquis down in quarters or has them under guard – so what would’ve been a miserably long descent through the Jeffries tubes is instead a matter of moments. Out of caution, we order the ‘lift to take us to deflector control instead of main engineering. It’s only a five-minute crawl through the tubes from there.

 

We encounter no resistance and see no sign of anything amiss. Which, really, should have been my first clue.

 

Just behind the hatch that leads from deflector control onto the main floor of engineering, I pull out my tricorder and scan the area. “I’m picking up three life forms, all human,” I whisper. “Two by the warp core, one by the auxiliary control station. Seska and I will take them all. B’Elanna, get to work on establishing system control.”

 

They both nod, so I edge open the hatch and slip out, Seska close on my heels. She fires at the two officers standing in front the warp core and I swing around to cover the one at the control station. It’s Freddy Bristow.

 

“Who’ve you got?” I call to Seska.

 

“Larson and Dorado,” she says, sounding furious. “Where the hell is Janeway?”

 

“I’m right here,” comes a cool, husky voice from the upper level of engineering. Motioning Bristow into the centre of the room so I can keep my phaser trained on him, I crane my neck to see her. Then she comes into view and I almost drop the phaser.

 

Her hair is short, like the way Kes used to wear hers, sharpening the lines of her cheekbones and jaw, and she’s wearing a tank and tight leather pants. The lift descends from the upper level, and when she steps off it’s like every fantasy I ever had is slinking toward me.

 

“Hello, Chakotay,” she says in that husky voice, her mouth curling in a half-smile.

 

I swallow, hard.

 

Beside me, Seska hisses with fury. “They have us surrounded.”

 

I tear my gaze away from Kathryn and glance around. Carey and Nicoletti have phaser rifles trained on us from the upper level. Baxter, Rollins and Molina have appeared from who knows where to level their phasers at us, and Mulcahey has B’Elanna bailed up at the auxiliary station.

 

The main doors open, and my roving team – Ayala, Chell and Jor - is shoved inside at Starfleet phaser point and ushered over to stand near B’Elanna.

 

“Drop your weapons,” Kathryn orders.

 

“Fuck you, Starfleet,” Seska snarls.

 

Kathryn doesn’t even spare her a glance. “Call off your dog, Chakotay. Nobody has to die today.”

 

I lower my phaser. Mulcahey nudges B’Elanna and with a growl, she follows suit. Seska turns to glare at me, and I stare back at her. “Do as she says, Seska.”

 

Seska lets out a string of Bajoran curses and tosses her phaser to the floor.

 

I turn to Kathryn. “Now what?”

 

She regards me calmly. “I gave you a choice three years ago, and you made the wrong one. So today I’m offering you a simpler choice. What’s it to be, Chakotay? Resettlement on an uninhabited world with the rest of your little band of rebels, or will you serve under me?”

 

“And what happens to my people if I choose door number two?”

 

“They’ll be treated fairly.” She pauses, cocks her head at Seska. “This one, though, is not welcome aboard my ship.”

 

“Fairly?” I repeat. “Will B’Elanna stay on as chief engineer?”

 

“No,” Kathryn says. “But if she proves herself trustworthy, I’ll consider reinstating her.”

 

B’Elanna snorts. “Forget it. I’ll take exile over working for you.”

 

“Me too,” Chell declares, and Ayala simply glares at her.

 

“And you?” Kathryn turns back to me.

 

We lock eyes.

 

I search hers for a sign, no matter how slight, of any kind of softer feeling. Any sign that she cares for me – for him – at all.

 

And I think I see it. In the depths of her eyes, there’s a flicker of some kind of emotion, but before I can name it, it’s gone.

 

I understand. She could have loved him. Maybe, in a way, she did. But he took her ship, and I know she would never accept that.

 

I stare at her, my voice even. “I stay with my crew.”

 

“As you wish,” she says, then nods to Baxter. “Beam them all to the brig.”

 

“Wait –” I shout, realising what’s about to happen, but before I can explain what effect the transporter will have on me, my molecules are being ripped apart as the dematerialisation sequence takes hold and the pain renders me unable to speak.

 

=/\=

Translation matrix:

 

Hu’tegh = fuck! (Klingon)

ghuy’ maghwl’ = goddamn traitor (Klingon)

chesei = sweetheart (Bajoran)

xati = whore (Bajoran)

nu peret ka, vererUj tunka = I know you, deceitful creature (Cardassian)

© 2021 by Mia Cooper