Prisoners Of Our Own Device
Summary: “You were in an accident. Can you tell me your name?”
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Another prompt challenge from Helen8462, who added a choice of sabotages:
The answer to that question is No, or, Put in something non-canon-compliant.
I opted for both.
Part Three: This could be heaven or this could be hell
Kathryn blinks and her surroundings swim into focus. The room she’s in is dingy and small. Faint light filters through dirty vertical blinds, casting the walls in a sickly mint-green. She’s lying on a threadbare couch which might be comfortable if it weren’t for the broken spring poking into her back.
But the sight she sees as she turns her head is so beautiful it makes up for all of it.
“Chakotay,” she exhales, struggling to sit up.
“Hey, take it easy. You’re not doing so well.” Chakotay slides an arm around her back, supporting her as she groans and raises her uninjured hand to her head. “You have a fever from the infection. Here, drink this.”
She sips the water gratefully. “Where are we?”
“My hotel room. Although I think they call it a motel, actually.” He gives her a small smile.
“How did you pay for this? Is Voyager here? Have you contacted them?”
“Kathryn, slow down.” Chakotay hands her two white capsules. “Antibiotics. Take them, and then I’ll tell you everything I know.”
Impatiently she swallows them back with a gulp of water, letting her head fall back against the cushion. “Report, Commander.”
“I haven’t been able to reach Voyager,” he tells her. “My combadge was destroyed when those thugs jumped us. I chased them off, but one of them stuck me with a knife.”
He raises his shirt to show her and her eyes widen in horror at the bandage across his abdomen.
“It’s fine. But I passed out from blood loss, apparently, and by the time I came to I was in an ambulance.”
For the first time she notices how exhausted he looks, his golden skin paler than it should be.
“They stitched me up, pumped some blood into me and I discharged myself to look for you, but of course you weren’t in the alley anymore. And I couldn’t find you at any of the local hospitals. Nobody had any record of Kathryn Janeway.”
“I didn’t know who I was,” she blurts. “Post-traumatic amnesia, the doctor called it.”
He looks horrified. “Are you all right now?”
“My memories are back, yes. Chakotay, how did you know where to find me today?”
“I didn’t. I was desperate. In the end I figured you’d try Chronowerx eventually. If you were still alive.” His voice cracks ever so slightly and she grips his hand.
“I’m okay,” she says gently. “Chakotay, we need to contact Voyager.”
“I still have my tricorder,” he answers. “I’ve tried increasing the scanning range, but I’m no engineer. Are you up to taking a look at it?”
Kathryn nods. “Help me up?”
He manoeuvres her upright on the couch and brings the tricorder over.
“I don’t suppose you have any coffee?” she asks hopefully as she starts tapping buttons with her good hand
He says nothing, and when she looks up she finds him watching her with an expression in his eyes that she isn’t sure how to define.
“It’s good to have you back, Kathryn,” he says softly.
An hour later she lays the tricorder in her lap with shaking hands.
“They’re not up there.”
Chakotay’s brow furrows as he turns from the tiny kitchenette, carrying two mugs of tea. “What do you mean, they’re not up there?”
“I mean I’ve tweaked this thing until it should be able to detect life on Alpha Centauri, and I’m not detecting any sign of Voyager.” She clenches her fingers, staring at the dull brown carpet. “What I am detecting is a temporal displacement signature. It’s too recent to be the rift Voyager came through from our century.”
“So what does that mean?” Chakotay sits beside her.
“It means,” she says evenly, “that either Voyager returned to the twenty-fourth century without us, or Henry Starling launched Braxton’s timeship and went to the future.”
Chakotay stares at her. “If Starling launched the Aeon, Voyager would have taken any measures necessary to stop him activating the temporal matrix. Which means…” he hesitates, “which means, given that you and I are still here, they’re unable to rescue us.”
He doesn’t need to spell it out.
“That’s not even the worst of it,” Kathryn says quietly. “If Starling goes to the twenty-ninth century in that timeship, everything Braxton told us will come to pass. The entire Sol system will be destroyed. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
Kathryn wakes with a jolt as the door to their motel room swings shut. “Chakotay?”
“It’s me.” He holds up a plastic bag. “I went to get supplies.”
She pushes upright on the bed, testing her limbs for pain, and finds that it’s receded somewhat. Her head feels clearer, too.
Chakotay sits on the edge of the bed. “You’re looking a little better. Let me check your temperature.”
Obediently she lets him slip the primitive thermometer under her tongue. When he takes it out and reads it, he smiles.
“Your fever’s broken. How’s your arm? Any pain?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.” She pushes the sheet away and stops abruptly, realising her legs are bare beneath the oversized Nirvana t-shirt. “Could you pass me some pants?”
He hands her a pair of sweats from her bag of hand-me-downs and turns his back politely to allow her to dress.
“How long have we been here now?” she asks, sitting at the kitchen bench while he brews coffee.
“Four days, give or take.”
“Any word from Tuvok or Tom?” She holds her breath, even knowing his answer. If he’d heard from the other half of the away team, he’d have told her so immediately.
Chakotay shakes his head. “No Vulcan lifesigns on the tricorder either. I guess they made it back to the ship.”
Kathryn accepts a cup of coffee and stares into it. “What are we going to do, Chakotay?” she whispers.
He leans across the bench to take her hand. “What we always do, Kathryn. Survive.”
There’s a television in their room. It only works occasionally and the picture is grainy, but it’s enough for Kathryn to watch the news broadcasts. Henry Starling is still missing, Chronowerx is on the verge of receivership, and there are no more reports of UFO sightings.
She sets up the tricorder to scan continuously for signs of Voyager in orbit, of increased temporal flux, of anything that might indicate they have a chance of getting home. Within a day, she’s feeling strong enough to venture outside and insists that she and Chakotay return to Braxton’s alley.
He’s gone, and with him goes another little piece of her hope.
They’ve been living in the hotel for a week when Chakotay tells her the money is running out. He’s rigged the tricorder to siphon cash from the ATMs, but he’s concerned that sooner or later they’ll be caught. He says they can’t afford to stay in the motel, as insalubrious as it is. He says they need to find a cheap place to rent. They need to get jobs.
Kathryn goes along with it. While Chakotay searches for a place to live, she teaches herself to use the internet on the local library computers. It’s not long before she’s proficient enough to create them false identities – birth records, social security numbers, bank accounts. By the end of their second week in Los Angeles, they have enough forged documentation to enable ‘Jack Taylor’ and ‘Kate Jensen’ to enter the workforce.
They move into a tiny third-floor studio apartment. It’s cheap by local standards, and it’s not hard to see why; the plumbing is noisy and the hot water unreliable, the walls are paper-thin, and they have to stock up on roach killer. Kathryn sleeps in the bed – or, rather, fold-out couch – at Chakotay’s insistence. He stretches out on the floor.
Chakotay gets a construction job on his second day of hunting, leaving Kathryn alone with her tricorder. He leaves before dawn and returns exhausted in the late afternoon; most days he stumbles straight into a shower, picks at whatever she’s ineptly cooked for dinner and passes out.
Kathryn shops for groceries, visits the library and scans the newspapers for any hint of the return of Voyager, or of Henry Starling, but the walls close in on her whenever she’s alone in the apartment. She’s bored, and lonely, and terribly homesick, and she finds herself snapping at Chakotay despite his unfailing good humour.
In a way, it’s New Earth all over again, only this time they’re not in paradise.
Kathryn has to wait until her cast is removed before she can find work, but the minute she leaves the local walk-in clinic, her arm bare and skinny from muscle wastage, she lands a waitressing job. She’s fired within the hour for dropping a tray of drinks on a customer. Undaunted, she fronts up to a clothing boutique. She loses the job a couple of hours later when her new boss gives her a pop quiz on fabrics and laundry instructions, which she fails miserably.
When Chakotay arrives home that afternoon he finds her curled up on the couch, her face set and her shoulders taut. The tricorder is in pieces on the kitchen bench.
“Get up,” he orders her. “We’re going out.”
“Out?” She stares at him. “Chakotay, we can’t afford it.”
“We’ll manage.” He rummages in the closet, pulls out jeans and a black scoop-necked top with only one fraying cuff, tosses them to her. “I’m taking you out for dinner.”
“What if I don’t want to go?” The set of her mouth is mulish.
“I’m not giving you a choice, Kathryn. You need a break, and so do I.” He pushes a hand through his hair and meets her glare. “I’m taking a shower, and you’d better be ready to go when I get out.”
“Yes, sir,” she mutters sarcastically to his retreating back.
“I’ll take two shots of your cheapest tequila,” Chakotay orders the barman.
Kathryn has talked him out of taking her to a restaurant. Instead, they’ve found a dive bar with a pool table, and her eyes have lit up for the first time since they were stranded here.
He leans against the bar and watches as she hustles her first victim, smiling proudly at her when she cleans the table. “Guess I won enough cash to cover a few more drinks,” she grins at him, and Chakotay laughs back, delighted to see her happy.
Even if it’s only for tonight.
She plays a couple more games, then shuffles onto the bench seat beside Chakotay in the booth he’s settled into. They clink glasses and laugh, and Kathryn’s head spins lazily as the alcohol bubbles through her blood.
“Another?” he smiles at her.
Her automatic reaction is to say no; she’s the captain, after all, and she has to keep a clear head … Except she’s not the captain anymore. She’s not the accomplished Kathryn Janeway, with her doctorates in cosmology and her intimate knowledge of advanced technology. She’s Kate Jensen, who lives a hand-to-mouth existence in a rented hovel and can’t even keep a job in the service industry.
“Yeah,” she says, holding Chakotay’s gaze a little longer than she’s ever allowed herself before. “Keep ‘em coming.”