In Momento Temporis
Summary: All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Characters: Chakotay, Janeway, Kes
Disclaimer: The characters, the background and the reset button belong to Paramount. The rest is mine.
Notes: This story is set a couple of weeks after Unity, because my romantic little heart just had to try to make some sense of that episode.
Warning: Major character deaths. Truckloads of angst. Sex. Also, the occasional profanity.
Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment.
– Kurt Vonnegut
I. Loop One
~Senior officers to the bridge.~
Rollins’ comm jerks me out of a sound sleep and I’m half-dressed and rocketing into the corridor, pulling my jacket on, before I’m even fully conscious. It’s barely 0300 hours. The hallway is washed with crimson light but the red-alert klaxon is mercifully mute; Rollins, who’s been in command during Gamma shift, must have had it silenced. I stumble into the turbolift and feel it dip and lurch as the ship shudders. Weapons fire.
Can we not go a week in the Delta quadrant without some angry alien wanting a piece of us?
Kathryn is already on the bridge when I arrive, impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed, standing behind the helm with hands on hips. I look positively scruffy beside her and wonder how on earth she got there before I did, looking so flawless. I wonder briefly if she sleeps in uniform.
“Commander,” she acknowledges me.
I raise my eyebrows in return and indicate the large ship on the viewscreen. “I see we’ve made some new friends.”
She glances past me to Harry, who’s just arrived. He shakes his head. “They’re not responding to hails, Captain.”
Ayala hands over tactical when Tuvok enters. He looks immaculate too, but at least I beat him to the bridge. He steps instantly into his role, summing up the situation at a glance. “The alien ship is firing… Our shields are at thirty percent.”
Kathryn takes her seat beside me, her hands curving over the arms of her chair, the picture of calm command. “Target their weapons array and fire phasers, Tuvok.”
“No effect,” he replies after a moment. “I’m detecting a temporal displacement in their shield harmonics.”
Harry suggests sending out a deflector pulse at an inverse harmonic resonance to the ship’s shields. “Do it,” Kathryn orders.
A moment later, the alien ship explodes.
Kathryn bolts to her feet. “Get us out of here, Tom. Harry, re-route all available power to shields and structural integrity,” she shouts. I hear the warp engines engage and a couple of seconds later the shockwave hits us. We’re thrown around and I end up on my hands and knees next to Kathryn, who rolls upright, calling “Report!”
“Hull breach on Deck Four,” Harry shouts back. “The warp core is offline. I’m detecting temporal distortions spreading out from that shockwave.” He pauses, then adds, “Casualty reports are coming in. Two seriously wounded, no fatalities.”
“Tuvok, take a repair crew to seal that breach,” Kathryn says. Then she realises that he’s pitched forward over his console. “Tuvok!”
“Harry, do we have transporters?” I ask. He nods, so I tell him to transport Tuvok to Sickbay and lay a hand on Kathryn’s arm. She wrenches her eyes away from Tuvok’s dematerialising form. “I’ll take care of the breach,” I tell her gently, and she nods. I gesture to a couple of crewmen and we take the turbolift three decks down.
There’s a hole blown in the wall of the airponics bay; forcefields are holding, but it doesn’t look good. I clear a path through the wreckage of the planter shelves and start directing Lewis and Mendez in the repairs. I’m crouched by the EPS panel trying to shore up the forcefield power when I hear Mendez shout a warning, but before I can figure out what he’s trying to tell me, a shock of scorching pain punches into my chest and knocks me to the floor, and everything goes dark.
I wake up in Sickbay with a front-row view up the Doctor’s holographic nostrils.
“Ah, welcome back, Commander,” the Doc says, and before I can ask what the hell happened, he explains. “A tachyon surge from the temporal distortions intersected with the EPS console you were working on, and you were hit by a tachyon-infused plasma bolt and knocked unconscious. Your body was in a state of temporal flux when you were transported here, but I’ve counteracted the effects with a chroniton-infused serum. How do you feel?”
I mentally catalogue muscles and tendons, and figure I’ll live. “I’m fine. How long was I out?”
“A couple of hours. I’ll need to run a few tests to confirm you’re all right, but after that I’m confident you can return to duty.”
“How’s the ship?”
“Still in one piece, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more than that.” He moves away from my biobed and I follow him with my eyes. Tuvok lies on the bed next to mine. I sit up carefully, gratified that my head feels relatively clear.
“How’s Tuvok?” I ask.
“He sustained several injuries, but nothing I can’t repair. I’ve sedated him for the time being. I’ll let you know when he can be released.” The Doc comes back with a medical tricorder, scans me, asks me questions, and finally nods. “You can go, Commander. I’d suggest you try to stay out of the line of fire from now on, but I’m sure you’ll pay about as much attention to your safety as the Captain does to hers.”
I jump down from the biobed and clap the EMH on the shoulder on my way out of Sickbay. “Thanks, Doc. See you later.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” I hear him reply sarcastically, and I grin as I make my way back up to the bridge.
Kathryn smiles at me as I enter. “How are you feeling, Chakotay?”
I jog down to the command level. “Fighting fit, Captain. What’s our status?”
“Repairs to the hull are underway. Shields and weapons are at full power. The warp core is still down, but B’Elanna’s working on it. Looks like we’re stuck at impulse for the next few hours, at least.”
“Any sign of more of our new friends in the area?”
“Not yet. With any luck, that ship was on its own.” She gestures toward the ready room. “Join me?”
As soon as the door closes behind us she steps up to the viewport, staring out in the direction of the alien debris. I start to get a familiar sinking feeling. “What are you planning?” I ask suspiciously.
Kathryn turns to me and raises her eyebrows. “What makes you think I’m planning something?”
“You forget how well I know you.” I smile at her and she starts to smile back, but then her eyes shutter and she looks away. Just as she has every time we’ve talked over the past couple of weeks. And every single time, it hurts like hell. Because I’m the one who put that wall between us, that shadow in her eyes.
I fucked things up, and she won’t even let me try to apologise. That would mean there was something to fuck up in the first place, and that’s a truth she can’t – or won’t – admit.
I swallow it down again and try to focus on the problem at hand. “What’s your plan, Captain?”
“I want to get a closer look at some of that debris. I’d like to figure out why their shield harmonics have a temporal displacement signature. It may be something we can adapt to Voyager to give us a tactical advantage in the future.”
“Sounds reasonable. What’s the catch?”
“The tractor emitters were damaged in the explosion, and Lieutenant Torres estimates several hours til they’re repaired. So we couldn’t tractor the debris into one of the cargo bays even if we had warp drive to get to it.” She steps up close and meets my gaze head-on, the way she does when she’s going to say something she knows I won’t like, her hands clasped behind her back. “I’m going to take a shuttle, collect some debris and bring it back to Voyager to study it.”
I open my mouth to protest her plan to leave the ship while we’re so vulnerable, as she’s expecting me to do, but something makes me change my mind. “When do we leave?”
She stares. “We?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Chakotay, we can’t have both ranking officers off the ship at the same –” She breaks off when I raise my eyebrows at her. “All right,” she grumbles, and smiles reluctantly. “Meet me in Shuttlebay Two at 0700. You can drive.”
I run through the pre-flight checks, steer the Drake through the shuttlebay doors and set a course for the debris field at warp three. Kathryn activates the sensors and goes to the replicator for a coffee. “Have you eaten yet today?” she asks me.
I shake my head, so she orders me a cup of tea and tosses me a ration pack. “Not exactly haute cuisine,” she smiles as she takes her seat.
“It’ll do. Thank you.” I glance at her sidelong as she sips her coffee and works on a PADD. She appears perfectly at ease, but over the years I’ve become so finely attuned to her every nuance and fleeting mood that I can sense the slight underlying tension in the lines of her body. She’s made it clear she doesn’t want to get into it, though, and so I turn back to the helm.
We talk a little during the trip; ship’s business, crew gossip, that kind of thing. Nothing that allows us to stray from those fragile boundaries we’ve been skirting so carefully in recent weeks. It’s all so light, so serene on the surface: a captain and her XO with a publicly comfortable, well-meshed professional relationship. By the time we arrive at the debris field half an hour later and Kathryn starts scanning for a suitable piece of the hull to drag back to Voyager with us, my head is aching and my shoulders knotted from keeping my guard up.
And then, just as we lock onto a segment of hull, Paris hails us from Voyager: there’s a ship on an intercept course, and it matches the signature of the nameless alien vessel we accidentally blasted out of the sky.
The aliens take out the shuttle’s shields with a couple of shots. I fire back, uselessly; Kathryn reports no effect. “Take us to warp,” she orders. But before I can engage engines, the ship fires again.
Kathryn’s console explodes.
I’m thrown from my seat and by the time my head clears, the alien ship has gone. Emergency lights wash the interior and the shuttle’s cabin is filling with smoke from a damaged EPS relay. I grab a fire suppressant unit and douse the flames. “Captain,” I call as I pull myself to a chair and start assessing our status; we’ve lost most of the major systems and we’re dead in space. She doesn’t answer. I turn from my console, searching for her. She’s lying crumpled on the deck, halfway across the cabin.
“Shit!” I grab a medkit and jump to my feet. One buckles under me and I realise I’ve injured my ankle. I hop over to her. “Kathryn!”
Dropping to the floor beside her, I pull out a medical tricorder. No life signs.
Panic grips me but I fight it back. I check for a pulse; there is none. Supporting her neck, I roll her carefully onto her back. Her face is covered in plasma burns. The front of her uniform and half of her torso has been blasted away. I can see the white curve of her ribs through the jagged hole in her chest.
No! God, not again, please not again!
Seven weeks ago, our shuttle was caught in an ion storm and we crashed on a planet. She was critically injured and she died in my arms. I worked helplessly over her body for what felt like hours. I was desperate, holding her to me and screaming at her to breathe. It was the worst day of my life.
But then Tuvok and Doctor arrived and the Doc brought her back. Kathryn survived, and that night we went sailing on the holodeck together and I couldn’t stop staring at her, touching and stroking her with my gaze, as though if I looked long enough I’d finally be sure she was all right. I wanted so badly to take her in my arms and just feel her breathing, feel the blood throbbing under her warm soft skin and her pulse against my own, but I knew if I touched her I wouldn’t stop. I think, that night, she might not have made me stop. And that’s why I didn’t touch her.
In this moment, there’s nothing I regret more than not touching her then. I regret never holding her, never kissing her, never telling her how I feel with words that don’t hide and evade but say unequivocally what they mean. I’ll never have that time again, because she’s gone.
Someone is sobbing – harsh, gasping sobs – but there’s nobody else here, and I realise it’s me.
The Doctor repairs my broken ankle and runs a regenerator over the wound on my head. His holographic face is etched in lines of grief. He gives me a painkiller, then rests a hand briefly on my shoulder. “You’re free to go now, Commander. I understand there are … things you’ll need to do, but please, try to get a good night’s sleep.”
I walk out of Sickbay without a backward glance. But in my mind I still see her, lying on a biobed, flatline on the monitor, her body covered in a sheet.
Tom and the Doc came after us in the Sacajawea and beamed us out as soon as they were in range. I flew us back to Voyager while they tried desperately to bring Kathryn back. She was transported to Sickbay as soon as we were close enough to the ship, and the Doc kept working over her for another half hour. But he couldn’t save her.
None of us could save her.
I head to the turbolift on autopilot. I have to get to the bridge, assess our status, tell the crew. “Deck One,” I say. It’s the first thing I’ve said since we got back to the ship, and my voice sounds thick and unfamiliar. Nausea rises in my throat.
I gasp for breath, and then my fists are pounding the walls of the ‘lift, over and over. I only stop when my blood stains the turbolift wall and I’ve broken so many knuckles I can no longer form a fist. I lean against the wall. My legs can barely hold me, but I close my eyes and dredge up every last bit of strength I have, and I call for the ‘lift to resume.
I step out onto a bridge that’s shrouded in sorrow. I can’t look at anyone. I go straight to my chair and activate the ship-wide comm.
“All hands, this is Commander Chakotay.” My voice is calm and steady. “As many of you are aware, this morning the Captain and I took a shuttle to investigate the debris of the alien ship. We were attacked and the Captain was injured. Despite all best efforts, I am very sorry to inform you that Captain Janeway did not survive.”
For the first time, I have to pause. I grit my teeth.
“Captain Janeway was the finest officer I have ever had the privilege to serve with. She inspired us, made us into a family, and has kept us together for the past three years through her courage and determination. You all know how proud the Captain was of each and every one of you. I know she would want us to continue our journey home in the same spirit of peace and exploration that she upheld from the day we arrived here in the Delta quadrant, and we will honour that legacy.”
I finish while I still can. “A memorial service will be arranged in due course. Chakotay out.”
There’s absolute silence on the bridge when I cut the comm line. I look to my right, to her empty chair, and I can’t be there one second longer. I turn my head in the direction of the tactical station, where Tuvok has returned to duty. “You have the bridge. I’ll be –” My voice almost fails me. “I’ll be in the ready room.”
Everything is just as she left it. The monitor on her desk, displaying the log entry she’d apparently been making just before the attack - no wonder she made it to the bridge so quickly; she’d already been up and working when the attack came at 0300. Yesterday’s slightly-wilted flowers on the low table by the couch. The empty coffee cup with its lipstick stain. Her perfume flavouring the air.
I move to the upper level and stand at the viewport, as she always used to, staring out at unfamiliar stars.
The door chimes and I call for entry; Kes comes in holding a medkit. “Tuvok called me up here to see to your hands,” she says in her gentle voice. Without a word I hold them out for the osteo-regenerator and she works carefully to mend the broken knuckles, closes the cuts, then switches to the sonic cleanser to remove the bloodstains. When they’re healed, she presses my fingers gently in her own and leads me to the couch.
“Can I get you some tea?” she asks me.
“I’m fine. Thank you.”
My voice sounds normal. How is that possible? Nothing is ever going to be normal again.
Kes sits there watching me quietly until I finally rouse myself. “Is there something I can do for you, Kes?”
“I just wanted to tell you that you gave a fitting tribute to Captain Janeway. She was, as you said, a fine officer.”
“A fine officer,” I repeat, blankly. Is that what I’d said? A fine officer?
Kes watches me. “I’ll miss her,” she says, softly. She places her hand on my wrist and I stare at it without seeing it.
“Neelix is organising the memorial for tomorrow night,” she says. “He was hoping you’d give the eulogy.” She waits for me to speak. When I don’t, she goes on, “Perhaps you could tell us more about the fine officer she was. I’m sure you know a great deal about her Starfleet career.” She pauses. “After all, she was your friend.”
I can’t seem to see anymore; everything has blurred. My body is shuddering. Kes tightens her fingers on my wrist and suddenly I grab hold of her like I’m drowning, my face buried in her shoulder. Her gentle hands rub my back until the wracking sobs finally subside and I pull away, wiping my wet face on my sleeve. When she sees I’m back in control of myself she goes to the replicator and brings me back a cup of herbal tea.
I sip in silence for awhile, then finally look at her and see her eyes are bright with tears as well. “What am I going to do?” I ask her.
“You’re going to say goodbye,” she replies. “You’re going to mourn her, probably for a long time. And you’re going to get her crew home – get your crew home. You’re going to honour her by being the best captain you can be.”
It’s nearly 0200 before I fall into bed. I’m exhausted, empty in body and soul. I’ve spent hours overseeing repairs - pushing B’Elanna to find a way to reinitialise the warp engines, Harry to analyse our readings of the alien shield harmonics, Tom to increase our scanning range to detect any sign of more of those ships. I’ve felt Tuvok watching me, felt his silent assessment. He thinks I’m not coping.
I’m not stupid enough to think he’s wrong.
It’s Tuvok who finally made me stop. I’d been leaning over Tom’s shoulder, urging him to refine the navigational sensors, when I heard his quiet voice. “Commander, Gamma shift has begun and Lieutenant Rollins is here to relieve you. Might I suggest that you, and the rest of Alpha shift, get some rest?”
So here I am, alone in my bed, staring up at the ceiling and trying not to think. Fortunately for me, fatigue takes over and in a matter of minutes, I’m asleep.