Kiaa'meral

Summary: Janeway agrees to an unusual trade with a race of telepathic aliens, and dips a toe into seven possibilities.

 

Characters: Janeway, Tuvok, Chakotay, Seven, Paris

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/other

 

Disclaimer: Paramount's universe; fanfic's playground.

 

Warning: Most of this story could be rated PG-ish, but there's some heavy stuff in a few chapters, particularly Chapter IV. You have been warned.

Rated E

Part VII | Betrayal

 

Early in the third year of Voyager’s journey, they encounter the unstable Delta quadrant exit point of the Barzan wormhole. They discover two Ferengi manipulating a nearby pre-warp society for profit and beam them onto Voyager, intending to bring them back to the Alpha quadrant through the wormhole. The Ferengi manage to escape, but a piloting error causes them to crash-land on an uninhabited moon, and Voyager sails through the wormhole to emerge triumphant within hailing range of Barzan II.

 

The news travels fast. Within eight hours they are greeted by a Starfleet scout ship, the Nova-class USS Blake. It is carrying Vice Admiral Hayes, who happens to be catching a ride home after an inspection of Starbase 54. Hayes welcomes Voyager home and requests an immediate audience with its captain.

 

Kathryn beams over to the Blake. She explains their method of transport to the Delta quadrant and their fortuitous discovery of the wormhole that brought them home, then provides Hayes with a brief sketch of Voyager’s adventures along the way, as well as the integration of the Maquis, Tom Paris, and two Delta quadrant natives into her crew. She is unsurprised that Hayes’ spine straightens at this. He requests background information on Neelix and Kes, and questions her thoroughly regarding the parolee Paris, but it’s obvious to her that he’s leading into his main topic of interest. She decides to head him off at the pass and bluntly informs him that the posts of chief engineer and first officer, left vacant by the deaths of her original crewmembers, have been filled by former members of the Maquis cell she was sent to track down. Hayes is unable to completely hide his reaction when Kathryn coolly informs him that in fact, the Maquis renegade Chakotay is in charge of her ship at this very moment.

 

Hayes regards her in silence for a long moment, then taps his commbadge and instructs Captain Mendoza to implement Protocol Alpha. Two security officers appear in the briefing room. Kathryn looks at them questioningly, then turns back to Hayes, who stands. “Captain, please accompany these officers to the medical bay.” She begins to protest, but Hayes holds up a hand. “This will go much better for you if you comply.”

 

In Sickbay the Blake’s CMO draws her blood into a test tube, holds it up and gives it a small shake, then nods to the security officers. Kathryn is mystified, but when she asks for an explanation the doctor merely answers that they’re checking she’s human. The guards return her to the briefing room, where Hayes and Mendoza wait. Kathryn demands to know what’s going on.

 

“The Maquis prisoners are being detained in the Blake’s cargo bay,” Hayes replies. “Your aliens are in the brig. The remainder of your crew have been confined to quarters until we can verify their identities.”

 

Kathryn is furious. She tackles the second indignity first. “Neelix and Kes are vital members of my crew and no threat to Starfleet. What right do you have to imprison them?”

 

Mendoza answers calmly, “If after assessment they indeed prove to be non-threatening, Captain, rest assured they will be free to go.”

 

“And my crew? Why are they being confined to quarters? What testing are they undergoing and why did your doctor sample my blood?”

 

Hayes steps in. “Captain, your untimely trip to the other side of the galaxy has left you uninformed about the current situation in this quadrant. You will be fully debriefed in due course. I assure you, these precautions are necessary.”

 

“Then that leaves only the former Maquis. I’d like to know what will happen to them.”

 

“The Maquis are traitors and terrorists,” Hayes replies coldly. “They will be transferred to a penal institution and will stand trial for crimes against the Federation and its allies.”

 

Kathryn’s eyes flash. “Commander Chakotay and his former crew are fine officers without whom Voyager would not be here. They have proved their allegiance to me and their commitment to following Starfleet regulations since the moment they joined my crew.”

 

“Save it for the Board of Inquiry, Captain Janeway,” Mendoza says coldly, and Kathryn’s head jerks up.

 

“I’m being court-martialled?”

 

But Mendoza declines to say anything further, and Hayes waves over the security officers, who escort Kathryn to unused crew quarters on the Blake and take up their posts outside her door. She prowls the room, but communications have been disabled, and no matter how sweetly she talks to the replicator it won’t produce anything more potent than coffee.

 

It takes a week to reach Earth, and when they get there Kathryn has still not been allowed contact with any of her crew. By the time she’s escorted into Starfleet HQ, she’s worked her way through spitting mad to cold and deadly. She’s sequestered in a room with five officers of Vice Admiral rank or above, who have clearly familiarised themselves with her logs from the previous two years and begin grilling her immediately. They start by demanding an explanation for her transgression against the Prime Directive in destroying the Caretaker’s array and move on through her contact with the Romulan scientist Telek R’Mor through the time-displaced wormhole and her attempt to form an alliance with a Kazon sect. By the time they start interrogating her about Seska, she realises the sick knot in her stomach is no longer anger but anxiety. But it’s only when they begin questioning her closely about the weeks she and Chakotay were stranded on the quarantine planet that her nervousness blossoms into fear.

 

They believe she’s been compromised, she realises, that she is and always has been a Maquis sympathiser. They think she and Chakotay have been lovers since the early days of the journey. They even suspect that she never intended, when ordered to search for Chakotay’s ship in the Badlands, to take him and his crew into custody. And no matter how strongly she insists that she had every intention of following her orders, how angrily she defends her decisions in the Delta quadrant, or how vociferously she denies that her relationship with her first officer was anything but professional, it appears that their minds have already been made up. She is stood down from active duty for an indeterminate period pending further investigation, demoted to the rank of Commander and advised that she is very unlikely to ever be given command of a starship again.

 

Shell-shocked at this betrayal by the organisation she has idolised all her life, she’s almost too numb to protest at the similar treatment extended to her crew, and is in any case powerless to intervene. The Starfleeters are coldly debriefed, allocated two weeks’ leave apiece and told not to leave Earth until ordered otherwise; at the end of their leave, most are assigned to starships or stations spread across the quadrant, with no two Voyager crewmen being assigned to the same base. The EMH’s program is decompiled. Kes and Neelix become guests of Starfleet Intelligence; when Kathryn tries to contact them she is informed that access is restricted to officers with a security clearance far above hers. Tom Paris is immediately returned to New Zealand, despite his original sentence being long served, pending further charges of conspiracy to commit as-yet unspecified crimes against the Federation. And the Maquis are remanded to a high-security facility orbiting Sycorax. No matter what strings she pulls or favours she calls in, Kathryn cannot uncover any more useful information than their location.

 

When she finally drags herself out of her traumatised daze and begins to get angry again, she realises that this is not the Federation she left a little over two years ago. The ever-uneasy peace treaty with Cardassia is on the verge of disintegrating, the Klingon Empire has revoked the Khitomer Accords, and Starfleet believes war with the Dominion is inevitable. Several months before Voyager’s return, Earth was placed temporarily under martial law when it was believed that changelings had infiltrated Starfleet; Kathryn recalls Admiral Hayes’ insistence on testing the Voyager crew’s blood to confirm their humanoid status almost immediately after the ship entered the Alpha quadrant, and finally begins to understand the atmosphere of paranoia and fear her unwitting crew has returned to. She begins to read every datastream she can get her hands on from the Cardassian front and Deep Space Nine, and realises that the Maquis, with their attacks against Cardassian targets and their unofficial alliance with the Klingons, are the unstable element in this precarious political landscape. Voyager’s Maquis could not have returned to the quadrant at a more unforgiving time.

 

She reaches out again to the people she believed were her friends and allies in the Admiralty, hoping to help Chakotay and his crew in some small way, and soon finds that she has few friends left in Starfleet. Even Admiral Paris, perhaps still smarting from the re-incarceration of his son, curtly tells her that her Maquis are the lucky ones, to be in prison instead of facing almost certain death at the hands of one of the major Alpha quadrant powers. And then one night three months after Voyager’s return, tired and dispirited, she comes home from yet another interrogation session to find a strange woman in her apartment.

 

The woman’s name is Sveta, and she has a plan to break Chakotay’s crew out of prison, but she needs Kathryn’s help. It’s risky in the extreme and may involve injuring or killing Starfleet officers. It will spell the end of Kathryn’s career in Starfleet, and if caught, her freedom.

 

Kathryn agrees.

 

One week later she boards a shuttle to Jupiter Station. Once there, she dresses in civilian clothes, changes the colour of her hair and eyes and registers under an assumed name as a passenger on a Bolian freighter heading for Denobula. Sveta and several Maquis comrades await her in three small fighter vessels concealed in the freighter’s cargo bay, where Kathryn will hand over stolen Starfleet credentials; these will enable them to break through shield and sensor grids once the fighters reach the prison facility at Sycorax. Kathryn herself will change ships again at Denobula, heading eventually for Bajor.

 

The Bolian captain, a Maquis sympathiser, will allow Sveta’s team to depart the cargo bay once the freighter reaches a particular set of coordinates among the moons orbiting Uranus. The rescue team will beam in, liberate Chakotay’s cell and escape with them in the fighter ships, rendezvous with a Betazoid medical transport on the other side of the Oort cloud, and break for freedom.

 

At least, that’s the plan. And up to a point, it goes surprisingly like clockwork. But when the freighter docks at the Denobulan spaceport, Kathryn is arrested and returned to Earth.

 

She is brought before Admiral Nechayev, head of the Maquis taskforce, and told she is going to prison unless she discloses Sveta’s plan. Realising that this line of questioning must mean Sveta succeeded and Chakotay is free, she calmly declines. So Nechayev leans forward and coldly informs her that Starfleet Intelligence predicts Cardassia intends to forge an alliance with the Dominion, and if that comes to pass, the Maquis will be caught in the crossfire, swatted down like so many insignificant gnats. If Kathryn wants any of her fugitive friends to survive, their only hope is to be captured and returned to their Federation prison.

 

Nechayev has pushed the right button. Swallowing a silent prayer for forgiveness, Kathryn gives them up.

 

Chakotay, Sveta, Torres, Ayala and a number of others are apprehended by Starfleet patrols several days later and brought back to stand trial on Earth. Kathryn, pardoned but retained indefinitely by Starfleet as a security risk, is called as a witness. She praises the Maquis’ service on Voyager, describes her horror at their imprisonment and explains her part in the jailbreak and subsequent decision to assist Starfleet in re-capturing them, although she has been ordered to omit Nechayev’s classified predictions about the Cardassian alliance. When she is excused from the witness stand, B’Elanna spits on the floor in front of her. Kathryn meets Chakotay’s eyes, and wishes she hadn’t. She knows in that moment that Chakotay will never forgive her.

 

A month after the trial and incarceration of her former crewmates, the alliance between Cardassia and the Dominion is made, and Jem’Hadar warships attack the Maquis bases and colonies, killing all but a handful. The Alpha quadrant goes to war. Kathryn begs to be sent to the frontlines, but she is a rogue element. Starfleet assigns her to a paper-pushing job at HQ where they can keep her under control. She watches the datastreams. Friends and former colleagues die in battle – Tuvok, Megan Delaney, Lyndsay Ballard, Harry Kim. Tom Paris is released from prison and dies in a bar fight in Rio de Janeiro. Then the Breen attack Earth, and her mother, her sister and her sister’s family are killed.

 

Kathryn has nobody left. When the war ends, she petitions the Federation Judiciary for clemency for the incarcerated Maquis, arguing that they were right about the Cardassians all along. As if Starfleet didn’t know that, or had any wish to be reminded of it. Her lobbying only increases her unpopularity with Starfleet Command and she is quietly forced to accept an honourable discharge.

 

Some years later she has settled on Ronara Prime, in what used to be the Demilitarised Zone, where there is still plenty of work to be done in reversing the devastation wrought by the war, when she thinks she sees a familiar figure. It’s the set of the shoulders, the angle of the head. Heart pounding, she hurries through the dusty street. Her quarry stops, perhaps sensing her approach, and turns to face her. Her breath catches in her chest and she tries to speak, forms her lips into the shape of his name, but his eyes pass over her as though she isn’t there.

 

=/\=

She finds it hard to shake the cold hollow in her stomach when she comes back into consciousness this time. She turns to face her tak’aan, wondering who it will be this time, which of the crew she betrayed. But it’s Seven of Nine, who never existed in the illusion she’s just lived, and she exhales a shaky breath of relief.

 

“Are you all right, Captain?”

 

Kathryn starts to nod, remembers the loneliness, the utter desolation of that life, and has to admit that she is not. “Give me a moment, Seven,” she murmurs. She concentrates on her breathing until she has herself back under control. Before Seven can ask, she begins to talk.

 

Voyager got home after two years or so,” she says slowly, “but home was nothing like we’d hoped. You remember the first Command updates through the Midas array? The ones that told us about the Dominion’s alliance with Cardassia, and the war that followed?”

 

Seven nods.

 

“In the vision I saw, we arrived just in time for the beginning of it all. The Maquis were considered enemies and were imprisoned, as was Tom Paris. The rest of us were treated with suspicion. They thought we might be Founders. I suppose I can understand that reaction, considering the timing of Voyager’s arrival.”

 

“Similar, I imagine, to Starfleet’s likely reaction to a liberated Borg drone.”

 

Kathryn looks at her sharply. “I will never allow you to be treated that way, Seven.”

 

Seven pauses, then decides to employ the diplomacy the Doctor has been so careful to teach her. “I have no doubt you will protect me to the best of your ability, Captain.”

 

Kathryn sinks back in the tub with a sigh. “I can understand your concern, Seven. My protection didn’t do my crew much good in the timeline I saw.” She bites her lip. “I tried to help Chakotay and the others escape. But Starfleet caught me and convinced me to turn them in. They said if I didn’t, the Maquis would all be killed in the crossfire when the war started, and I couldn’t bear to let them all die. They never forgave me.” Kathryn closes her eyes.

 

“You betrayed them in order to save their lives,” says Seven. “I once made a similar choice.”

 

“You did,” Kathryn realises. “When the Queen discovered we were trying to steal a transwarp coil, and you agreed to return to the Borg as long as Voyager remained unassimilated.”

 

“Even if you had not rescued me,” Seven says softly, “I believe I would not have regretted that choice.”

 

“And I didn’t regret choosing to save their lives, either, in that scenario,” Kathryn admits. “But I lost them anyway, and that’s something I found very hard to live with.”

 

After a moment, Seven asks, “If Voyager were to reach Earth tomorrow, how do you believe Starfleet will react to those of us on board who were once Borg?”

 

Kathryn sighs. “I’d like to think that everyone on this ship will be treated with the same respect any Federation citizen should receive. But after what I saw in that session, Seven, I just don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about how the Federation must have changed since the Dominion War.” She decides not to tell Seven about the recent transmission from the real Admiral Hayes, requesting an update on the status of the Maquis, and shivers. “I will admit that perhaps I’ve been wilfully ignoring it, and that’s something I need to change. But I promise you that no matter what happens, I won’t let any harm come to you, or any of the crew.”

 

“Captain,” Seven says, and waits for Kathryn to meet her gaze, then says with quiet emphasis, “I trust you.”

 

Kathryn finds she can’t do anything but smile, and grasp Seven’s hand. Seven returns her pressure, then gently disengages. “I should return to duty.”

 

She pauses at the door, and adds, “Pleasant dreams, Captain.”

© 2021 by Mia Cooper