DISCLAIMER: You all know the drill - Paramount is God. All hail Paramount. They own everything in the Star Trek Universe - I'm just using my overactive imagination to take their characters where they refuse to go. All in the name of fun, not profit (I wish).
SUMMARY: Back on Voyager, Chakotay and Kathryn must deal with the repercussions of their imprisonment and escape.
THE LONG ROAD HOME
CHAPTER SEVEN : THE AFTERMATH
Chakotay was in his quarters looking out the window. His living area was almost completely bare since it had been cleaned out months before. About the only thing left was the furniture – the walls and shelves were empty and it hardly felt like his quarters. The lack of personalization in his surroundings made him feel isolated for some reason, and he was about to call B'Elanna to see if she was busy when his door chime rang.
"Come in," he called, and B'Elanna entered, towing a storage container in each arm.
"Speak of the devil," he said with a grin.
"Hello to you too," she replied, giving him a strange look. "I brought your things by. I thought you might want them back."
"You didn't recycle anything?"
"Some of it," she told him, as she sat down on the couch with the containers in front of her. "But I couldn't bring myself to get rid of most of your junk." She helped him unpack the first container and they started on the second one. Since she had been the one to pack his belongings, she remembered where most of it went and slowly helped him redecorate his quarters. When they were nearly finished the second container, he frowned as he looked at what little remained to be unpacked.
"You didn't keep my medicine bundle?" he said, surprised.
"Of course I did." She leaned forward to rifle through the bottom of the container. "It should be here…that's odd. I wonder where…" She broke off and the corners of her mouth turned up. "Uh…never mind. I know where it is. It's still in my quarters."
"There's more of my things in your quarters?"
"No," she said evasively. "Just the medicine bundle…maybe a few small items."
He could tell that there was something that she wasn't telling him. He stared at her incessantly until she finally broke down.
"All right," she sighed. "It's in my quarters…with the Captain's things."
That took him by surprise. "What?"
"I gave it to her after your memorial service. She asked me if she could have it, so I gave it to her."
He sat for a moment in silence. Her wanting to keep something that had been so important to him spoke volumes about what she felt for him. He tried to shake the thought off, but it was persistent. Would she have kept his medicine bundle if she felt nothing more for him than friendship? He didn't think so, but he hated to get his hopes up just so they could be dashed yet again. She had been overcome when she had seen him for the first time on the Vaadwaur ship, but that could have been just the joy of finding that her closest friend was alive after all. He remembered the look in her eyes the day they had given Takken the information, but he was beginning to wonder if he had imagined that. But then there was what she had said the night they had escaped the prison. Maybe she had just been delusional, he reasoned. That was probably why she had kissed him back. She probably didn't even remember it. He was distracted from his racing thoughts when something B'Elanna said caught his attention.
"I didn't think you'd mind if she kept something that personal," she was saying. "I felt really bad for her – she just wanted something to remember her Angry Warrior by."
"What did you say?" he asked, not believing his ears.
"I said she probably just wanted something to remember you by," she said, immediately catching her involuntary slip.
"That's not what you said." He leaned towards her, and B'Elanna shifted uncomfortably. "You called me her Angry Warrior. I want to know how you knew about that."
She was silent, and managed to avoid his gaze for a few minutes until she finally looked up at him.
"B'Elanna?" he prompted.
"She told me, okay?" B'Elanna sighed. She knew the Captain was very private about some things, this in particular, and probably wouldn't appreciate her telling this to Chakotay. It's for her own good, thought B'Elanna, and she proceeded to elaborate.
"I met up with her one night and she was reading the message that you left for her."
Chakotay stiffened. He had forgotten about the message – and it's implications. He hadn't considered how she would react to him after she had read that. He was forced to ignore the thought, though, as B'Elanna continued.
"She let me read it – don't worry, not all of it," she added when Chakotay looked up at her sharply, "And at the end you told her that her Angry Warrior would always be with her."
He relaxed a little, thinking that she didn't know the whole truth after all. The relief didn't last for long, because B'Elanna wasn't finished yet.
"I asked her about the reference, and she didn't tell me right then – but one night when I came to her quarters I reminded her about it and she told me the legend that you told her."
"She told you?" Chakotay was completely shocked. Kathryn rarely mentioned their time on New Earth to him, although she would make vague references occasionally, so he found it hard to believe that she would bring it up with anybody else. Especially something as personal as what he had told her that night.
"I wasn't even sure she remembered it," he whispered. "She never mentioned it again."
"Remembered it? Chakotay – she repeated it word for word without missing a beat." She leaned forward and put her hand on his arm, looking him in the eye. "She cried, Chakotay. In almost seven years I have never seen Captain Janeway lose control. When she told me that it wasn't really a legend, she cried."
He looked at her even harder. "She told you what?"
"That it wasn't really a legend from your people. Come on, Chakotay, even I could see that – before she told me."
He sat in silence, trying to process what he had heard. She had remembered the story, obviously in great detail. He had thought at the time from her reaction to it that it had touched her deeply, but when she had never mentioned it again and had made it clear that she would not pursue any kind of relationship, he had begun to doubt himself. Her reaction to repeating the story, however, would seem to indicate that it had meant a great deal to her – she just hadn't let herself show it. If she had been affected enough to cry in front of B'Elanna, then it must have been pretty bad.
He remembered again what she had said the night before they were rescued – how devastated she had been when he had 'died.' Maybe it was more than he had convinced himself; maybe if she realized what she had almost lost, then she would…
His thoughts were interrupted when B'Elanna got up to leave. He started to see her to the door, but before they reached it, she turned to face him.
"I know that you've probably convinced yourself that you don't have a chance with her," she told him, "But you didn't see her when she realized that you were gone. She looked as if her life had been stolen from her, like she had lost her reason for being. Talk to her – you might be pleasantly surprised." With that, she patted his arm and walked out the door before he had a chance to respond.
Captain Janeway took a deep breath as she straightened her uniform and adjusted the collar of her turtleneck for the umpteenth time. The Doctor had finally cleared her for limited bridge duty a week after their rescue, and she was in the turbolift on her way to the bridge for the beginning of alpha shift. The lift stopped and the doors slid open to reveal the welcome but slightly unfamiliar sight of the bridge. It felt strange stepping out of the turbolift for the first time in almost two months, but the feeling soon passed and she felt right at home.
Tuvok stood up at his station when she exited the turbolift. "Captain on the bridge," he announced formally. All heads turned towards the turbolift with smiles on their faces, and every officer on the bridge stood up to acknowledge her. The gesture nearly moved her to tears. It felt incredibly good to be back where she belonged, with her crew. Most of her senior staff was present – Tom and Harry were at their usual stations, Seven was standing behind Janeway's chair, and Chakotay was standing in front of his chair.
"As you were," she said, in a voice cracking with emotion, but nobody moved very far. She made her way down the stairs and walked towards her chair where Chakotay was waiting. He smiled at her and she slowly lowered herself into her chair, feeling its familiar contours as she settled into it. As soon as she was seated, everybody on the bridge returned to their stations but they were still looking at her.
"Status, Mr. Paris."
"We're on course for the Alpha Quadrant at warp 7," he reported. "All systems are nominal."
She smiled and leaned back in her chair. She looked over at Chakotay and saw that he was smiling too. She extended her hand towards his chair, and he took it and held it for a few seconds before he released it and they faced the viewscreen again.
"All-stop, Mr. Paris," she ordered. "Hold our position for now, at least until after this morning's briefing."
"Yes, ma'am." He entered the commands and then swiveled his chair around to face her. "It's good to have you back, Captain."
She acknowledged him with a smile and a nod. It's good to be back, she thought.
Fifteen minutes later, the Captain was seated at the head of the conference table. Besides the usual senior staff, Commander Walker and Lieutenant Oren were present to discuss the search for the Yukon.
Talia and Seven were standing in front of a display on the conference room wall and were showing a navigational chart to the rest of the crew.
"Stardate 54281," began Seven. "The Yukon is pulled into the Delta quadrant, approximately 500 light years from Voyager's position." A small blinking icon appeared on the chart to indicate Voyager's position, and another blinking icon appeared directly below it. "Here is Voyager's current position, approximately 200 light years from the Yukon." Another icon appeared below the other two, and a line connected Voyager's two positions. The icon indicating the Yukon was very close to this line, but not directly on it.
"Fortunately," said Talia, "Any of the crew who had warp capability, in a shuttle or otherwise, would have set a course for the Alpha quadrant, which puts the search area directly in front of us."
"What about anyone who might have been in escape pods?" asked Tom.
"They couldn't have survived long alone," said Talia. "They would have had to find an M-class planet, but Seven says that there aren't any close enough to the site of the attack for them to have made it."
"Not only that, the Vaadwaur claim that they destroyed all the survivors," said Mark grimly.
"Unfortunately, we have found evidence to corroborate that claim," said Seven. "Two months ago, just before the Captain was abducted, Voyager altered course to investigate a class-Y cluster. While on course, we detected multiple warp core resonance traces from a ship and a series of smaller vessels that had been destroyed. I have since analyzed it, and have determined that the signature is Starfleet. It was most likely debris from the Yukon and the destroyed escape pods and shuttles, since it was very near the coordinates that Commander Walker gave as the last position of the Yukon."
"Fine," said Janeway disappointedly. "I guess it's pointless to turn around, but I still want to keep looking. Seven, see if you can boost the range of the Astrometrics sensors and use them to scan for any Starfleet warp signatures. Now, is there anything else?"
Neelix spoke up. "The Wysanti have indicated a spaceport where they can arrange for a transport to take them back home. It would only be a detour of about four days."
She nodded. "Tom, when you get the coordinates, set a course. Anything else?"
"We'll have to find duty assignments for the Yukon crew," said Chakotay. "Not to mention quarters."
"I'll leave that to you and Commander Walker," she said. She had decided to make Mark next in command after Chakotay, although she had consulted with Tuvok first, not wanting to offend him. He had agreed that his primary obligation was as chief of security, and since he and Commander Walker were of the same rank, he had no objection to Mark having seniority since he was an experienced command officer.
"If that's all?" Heads nodded around the table. "Dismissed."
"I assigned Ensign Martens to the Science lab at her request, and Crewman Seitz volunteered to work in the hydroponics bay since he has some experience in horticulture."
Captain Janeway nodded as she went over the PADD and listened to Chakotay.
"What do you think of having Talia head up Gamma shift?" she asked Mark.
He thought about it for a few seconds. "She's a good officer. I think that she could do it. I trust her completely – my only reservation about her is that she sometimes errs on the wrong side of caution. She can be quite a risk taker."
"So I've noticed, but on this ship, that's part of the job. I'm sure we can straighten her out if we need to," said the Captain with a smile.
"It means Harry will have to give up the big chair," Chakotay pointed out. "He likes running the Gamma shift."
"I'm sure we can work something out. Now, what about quarters?"
"We don't have to find space for as many people as we originally thought," Mark told her. "Shawn Briggs and Amanda Harding are engaged, so they're sharing quarters. They'll probably be asking you to do the honors before long, by the way." He consulted his PADD. "Talia and Nathan have also said they'll move in together, much to my surprise. I guess a lot went on between them when I wasn't around – I had no idea they were involved."
"It's interesting how many couples from Voyager suddenly decided to share quarters, too," said Chakotay. "I've had three offers in the past two days alone for people to double up."
"Who?" asked the Captain, curious.
He consulted his PADD. "Uh…Ensign Larson and Ensign Brooks."
She nodded, glad to feel that she knew what was going on with her crew. "I've seen them in the mess hall together quite a few times."
"Lieutenant Hargrove and Ensign Harper," continued Chakotay.
"I heard Neelix mention something about that."
"And Ensign Parsons and Ensign Sharr."
"That one's news to me. Well, at least it frees up some living space."
"We shouldn't have a problem assigning quarters for the rest of the Yukon crew," agreed Chakotay.
They were interrupted when Neelix came over to their table with a pot of coffee. He poured the Captain some without having to ask her while he offered some to her two companions.
"Coffee would be great, Neelix," said Mark as he proffered his cup. "It's been over six months since I've had caffeine flowing through my veins."
"Hear, hear," said the Captain as she lifted her mug.
When Neelix had poured Chakotay a cup as well, he turned back to Captain Janeway.
"Captain, I was thinking of putting together a sort of welcome party for the Yukon crew. And for you and Commander Chakotay as well, of course – that's certainly something to celebrate."
"Sounds wonderful, Neelix. I look forward to it."
Captain Janeway looked around the mess hall in satisfaction. A large contingent of Voyager's crew was here for Neelix's party, and it was noisy and crowded. Neelix was going around passing out champagne to everybody, having a ball.
She picked up a spoon and tapped her champagne flute to get the crowd's attention, and everyone turned towards her. The twelve crewmembers from the Yukon were standing on her left, looking much better than when she had first met them. Mark was standing closest to her, followed by Talia, Nathan, and Jarel, and beside them were the other eight. The two civilians among them had asked permission to serve as crewmen, so all twelve were in uniform. Kathryn had to shake off the bad memories that arose from the scene – this was what she had been doing two years ago with the Equinox crew. This is completely different, she told herself, and tried to shake off the memory.
She raised her hand for silence, and the room hushed. "We're here today to celebrate new beginnings, and new friends. We've lost many good people over the course of our journey, but today we've gained some." She turned to the Yukon crew standing beside her. "On behalf of everyone on board, I'd like to welcome you all to Voyager…to our family. I'm sure that you will all be an invaluable addition to my crew as we make our way home." She raised her champagne glass. "To the journey – and to those who aren't here to share it with us."
The assembled crew echoed her toast, and shouts of "Hear, hear," were heard around the room.
When it was quiet again, Talia raised her glass. "And here's to sonic showers, hot meals, and warm beds," she announced, drawing laughs from around the room.
Kathryn was about to continue when Tom Paris stepped forward and raised his glass.
"And let's not forget the other reason we're all here today. To our commanding officers – it's good to have you back where you belong."
The cries of "Hear, hear" were louder this time, and many of the crew applauded. The Captain smiled at their devotion and stole a sideways glance at Chakotay, who was standing beside her. He was looking at her as well with a smile on his face. He raised his glass in her direction, and she returned the gesture before she addressed the gathered crew again.
"I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your efforts in rescuing Commander Chakotay and I. You all showed a courage and dedication far beyond even what I've come to expect over the past six and a half years. It's an honor to serve as your Captain."
The crew applauded again, and when it was obvious she was finished, the crew dispersed and began to mingle.
After moving around the room for a while, the Captain saw something that caught her attention – Mark talking to Seven. She had never seen Seven looking so relaxed in a social situation, although 'relaxed' was a relative term where the ex-drone was concerned. When she drew closer to them, she could overhear what they were talking about – Mark was telling her about the wormhole that had brought the Yukon to the Delta Quadrant.
"The fluctuations at the quantum level were extremely erratic. I've never seen anything like it."
"The Borg have previously encountered such a phenomenon, in spatial grid 2-4-7," she said. "They are extremely volatile and unstable anomalies."
"I wish we'd known that before we got pulled through it." He sighed, but then he smiled. "But exploring the Delta quadrant…it's an incredible opportunity. It's just a shame that so many people didn't make it this far."
Realizing what he was thinking, the Captain reached over and squeezed his arm. Seven also figured out what was on his mind.
"You miss your daughter," she observed, and he nodded. She paused, searching for something appropriate to say. "Perhaps she survived the destruction of the Yukon. If so, I am sure the feeling is mutual." She saw Harry and Jarel trying to get her attention, so she excused herself and walked over to them.
The Captain watched her leave with a maternal pride, amazed at how far she had come in her social interactions.
Startled out of her thoughts, she turned back to Commander Walker.
"Seven – she's amazing. I can't believe she was only freed from the collective a few years ago. I never thought anyone assimilated at such a young age could ever be rehabilitated."
She turned back and watched Seven from across the room. "Believe me, it hasn't been easy…for her or for us. But she's made incredible progress."
Turning her eyes away from Seven, she saw Chakotay watching her from across the room but avoided his gaze. They hadn't really had a chance to talk since their rescue – at least not in private. She knew she was going to have to deal with it sooner or later, and she sighed. She wasn't sure how she was going to proceed, and that was always something that disturbed her.
It had taken Chakotay this long after his conversation with B'Elanna – over a week – to get up the nerve to talk with Kathryn. He had seen her on duty and a few times around the ship, of course, but they had never talked for long and they had mostly discussed how the rest of the group that had been rescued was doing.
He watched her from across the room, trying to get her attention. Every time he tried to go over to speak with her, either somebody wanted to talk to him or she started up a conversation with someone before he reached her.
After about an hour, he saw her go to leave, and he excused himself and followed her out the mess hall and down the hallway.
"Kathryn," he called after her, and she stopped and waited for him to catch up. "Calling it a night?" he asked.
She nodded and took a deep breath, deciding to stop avoiding him. "Care to join me for a cup of tea?"
"I'd love to."
They were silent until they reached her quarters. He made himself comfortable on the couch while she got the tea from the replicator.
He wanted to talk about what was going to happen between them now, but before he got a chance she spoke as she came back from the replicator.
"Did you hear that Tom started a betting pool for guessing the baby's birthdate?"
"Yes. I figured I'd let it slide just this once. I could always use some replicator rations. By the way, did you hear they've decided on a name?"
She nodded. "Miral. I hadn't heard that they were sure, though. B'Elanna mentioned it to me months ago."
Chakotay saw an opportunity to steer the conversation in the direction he wanted it to take. "It sounds like you two got pretty close," he said carefully.
"I suppose," she said. "I'm glad I got to know her better."
"Me too. I think it'll do you both good."
She could tell that there was something else on his mind. "What is it, Chakotay?" He paused before he responded, and the answer came to her while she looked at him. "Have you…been talking to B'Elanna?"
He looked at her, surprised, and she knew that she had hit the mark. She let out a deep breath. B'Elanna more than anyone knew how upset she had been after they thought Chakotay had died, and if she talked to him about it…that could easily explain his demeanor right now – he wanted to know where she stood. She remembered that day in the prison – the day her arm had been broken. She had told him without saying anything that she returned his feelings. The day they had been rescued, she thought she had nearly revealed her feelings to him. Her memory of that conversation was foggy at best, but she specifically remembered apologizing to him. She had been going to tell him how she felt…but she thought she had blacked out before she had.
She couldn't decide whether she wished she had told him or not…but now that they were back on Voyager, things were different. Now, her Starfleet side was attempting to take control and was pushing those feelings to the back of her mind. Fighting the instinct that had controlled her for many years, she reached over and put her hand over his.
"What did B'Elanna tell you?"
"Not much," he admitted. "And what she did tell me was an accident. She said that you told her…the angry warrior legend."
She bit her lip and nodded. Of all the things for B'Elanna to have let slip…but it was too late now. "Yes, I did."
"I was kind of surprised – you don't even talk about our time there with me. I wasn't sure that you remembered the story at all."
"Oh, I remembered it…but talking about it with you brings up…issues…that I don't like having to deal with, at least on a regular basis. But sharing it with B'Elanna…it helped. A lot."
"I'm glad that she was there for you," he said, ignoring for the moment what kind of 'issues' it brought up for her.
"So am I." She looked at him affectionately and squeezed his hand. "But you were there for me too. I don't know what I would have done the past two months if you hadn't been with me. I'm not sure I would have made it without you."
"Of course you would have – you're the strongest person I know."
"I'm not always as brave as I look – I'm just really good at hiding it. I was so terrified sometimes…" She took a deep shaky breath. "It's hard to keep the whole experience straight in my head."
"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked, curious. She had been in and out of consciousness so often that he didn't know how much of their escape she remembered.
"Clearly?" She thought for a moment. "'I'll see you when I get back.'"
"Three months ago. We ate lunch together, and you got up to head out on your away mission. You smiled at me at said 'I'll see you when I get back.'" She blinked back tears. "You walked out of the mess hall, but you didn't come back. Everything after that moment seems like it was some kind of horrible distorted nightmare." He shifted closer to her and gave her a comforting hug, as much for himself as for her.
"Let me rephrase the question, then," he said when he pulled himself together shortly. "What's the last thing you remember from your nightmare?"
She frowned as she tried to recall. "Going up to the surface with you on the rope…heading for the ravine." She looked at him and considered her next words very carefully. She watched him as he looked at her - the concern in his eyes nearly moved her to tears. It would be so easy just to slip back into our old friendship, she thought as she watched him. So easy to ignore all that's happened between us. All she had to do was leave things the way they were right now, in this moment, and maybe everything would be okay. She wouldn't have to deal with any of her feelings for him, she wouldn't have to 'define parameters'. Is that what I want? she thought to herself.
As she was thinking, he reached over and put his hand gently on her forearm, a unexpected gesture that caught her by surprise – usually she was the one that initiated physical contact. The affectionate touch of his hand on her arm gave her a new strength, and she fought to suppress her Starfleet instincts. Taking a deep breath, she thought for a moment longer, and then smiled and looked at him.
"I remember telling you I was sorry. I remember telling you I couldn't imagine life without you. And I remember this."
She leaned towards him and brushed her lips against his, mimicking the way he had kissed her the night they had escaped. The contact lasted for a few seconds before she pulled away slowly. Their faces were inches apart, and they searched each other's eyes, each trying to figure out what the other was thinking.
They leaned forward and their lips met again, more forcefully this time. Kathryn slowly leaned back on the couch as the kiss grew more passionate, and he followed her. His hand ran up her arm, trailing across her shoulder and up her neck. He put it around the back of her head and entwined his fingers in her hair. Her hands were on his chest, but she gradually moved them until they were resting on his shoulders. After a minute, they broke apart. The only sound in the room was their heavy breathing as they stared at each other.
"Maybe I should go," he said carefully.
She closed her eyes and nodded. He kissed her softly on the forehead and pushed himself off of her.
"Good night, Kathryn."
"Good night," she replied quietly, and sat on the couch with her eyes closed until he was gone.
Captain's Log, Stardate 54914.6 I'm finally getting back into routine on Voyager after being back on duty for a week, but it's going to take me a while longer to catch up on what I missed over the past two months – not to mention keeping up with the day to day business of the ship. On a more positive note, sensors have detected an ion trail that may be of Starfleet origin. In the hopes that it may be an indication of survivors from the Yukon, we've altered course to investigate.
A few days after the gathering, Captain Janeway was in her ready room near the end of her shift catching up on reports when her door chime rang. "Come," she called without looking up.
Chakotay entered and strode over to her desk, PADD in hand. "Tomorrow's duty roster," he explained as he handed it to her.
She frowned – that wasn't normally something that he thought required her attention. She gave the duty roster a cursory glance and put it aside. "Thank you, Commander."
When he hadn't moved and was still standing in front of her desk a few seconds later, she looked up from her report. She wondered if he wanted to talk – they hadn't spoken in private since the other night in her quarters. She hoped that he knew better that to bring it up on duty, though, and the grin on his face was a good indication that it was something else.
"Was there anything else?"
He didn't answer right away and continued standing there, grinning foolishly.
"Are you sure that you don't want to have a closer look at that duty roster?" he said finally, teasing her.
She gave him a puzzled look, but humored him and reached for the PADD he had given her. She looked over it, but didn't see anything extraordinary.
"What exactly am I supposed to…" she began, but broke off when the absence of two names that were always on the roster caught her attention and she realized what Chakotay was trying to tell her, in his own twisted way.
Her head snapped up and she smiled, anticipation and excitement in her eyes. "B'Elanna?" His grin widened and he nodded. "When?"
"About an hour ago. The Doctor says that everything is normal and we should expect our newest crewmember in a matter of hours."
She stood up and walked around the desk, heading for the replicator. "How's she doing?"
"As well as could be expected. It's Tom that I'm worried about."
"Oh?" she said as she ordered two cups of coffee from the replicator.
"Not only is he a nervous wreck, but I don't envy him trying to comfort a half-klingon in labor."
She chuckled and handed him a cup of coffee as he joined her on the couch. When they were seated, an awkward silence filled the room. This was the first time they had been alone together since the night in her quarters, and they hadn't discussed it yet. For some reason that she couldn't put her finger on, Kathryn was hesitant to bring it up, and she cleared her throat uncomfortably.
Tuvok to Captain Janeway.
For once she welcomed Tuvok's interruption. "Go ahead."
We are approaching the coordinates of the ion trail.
"Understood." She got up quickly off the couch without looking at Chakotay and headed for the bridge. He followed her and they walked over to Harry's station at Ops where he was working with Jarel.
"What have you got?" she asked as she reached them.
Harry shook his head. "Not much. It looks like it's a few weeks old, so there's not much left of it."
"You can't tell if it's a Starfleet signature."
"We can't rule it out," said Harry. "But there's no way to tell for sure."
"Even if we knew for sure that it was Starfleet," interjected Jarel. "It wouldn't tell us anything."
"Why not?" asked Chakotay.
"Simple – the ion trail doesn't go anywhere. It starts at this position, goes a couple of light-years away, and comes back to a point three light-years from here."
The Captain moved around to stand beside the Bajoran engineer and looked at the console in front of her. She stared at it for a few seconds before inspiration hit.
"Where exactly does the ion trail turn around?"
Harry hit a few commands on the console. "An M-class moon," he said.
"An away mission," she whispered excitedly.
Unlike Harry and Jarel, Chakotay immediately picked up on her train of thought. "Are there any other ion trails that pass through the start and end points of the trail we noticed?" The Captain and Chakotay had realized that the ion trail could be from an away mission since in started in one place, went to an M-class moon, and came back – but not to the exact same place, which could be explained if the ship leaving the ion trail they had noticed had rendezvoused with another ship.
Harry and Jarel checked their readouts and their faces fell. "Yes – dozens of them," she said. "There's no way to tell which one might have had a smaller vessel with that ion signature."
"Well, it's a good sign anyways," said Kathryn.
Jarel nodded with a small smile, glad to believe that some of her colleagues were alive, but Harry was not so optimistic. "I'm not so sure, Captain. We can't even be remotely certain that this signature is Starfleet. We've encountered dozens of species whose ion trails would match this one."
Janeway gave him a disapproving glare. "I appreciate your analysis, Mr. Kim, but I prefer to look on the bright side."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, chastened. He had been about to tell her the probability that it actually was a Starfleet signature, but he held his tongue. From what she had said, he didn't think she's want to know that the match between the unknown ion trail and a Starfleet signature was only seventeen percent.
Captain's Log, Stardate 54916.3. We welcomed our newest crewmember aboard last night at 2200 hours. Mother and daughter are doing well, and I'm happy to be able to say the same for crew morale as we anxiously await the monthly datastream from Starfleet. I've been informed by Commander Tuvok that last month's data exchange failed due to the proximity of a quantum singularity. After going for two months without mail, the crew is understandably looking forward to news from home.
In Astrometrics, Icheb was studying some of his material for the Starfleet entrance exam when one of the consoles beeped. He walked over to it and pressed a button, and the main viewscreen was filled with a familiar mixture of simultaneous transmissions and data.
"Icheb to the bridge."
Go ahead, came the Captain's voice.
"We are receiving the compressed data stream from Starfleet."
Understood. We're on our way.
When Captain Janeway and Chakotay arrived in Astrometrics, they found that it was already crowded. Icheb was there, and he had been joined by Seven, Harry, Mark, and Talia.
"Incredible," Mark was saying as they walked in. "Look at the compression ratio and the amount of data they transmitted."
"The small amount of degradation is amazing considering the distance it traveled," added Talia.
"Anything of interest?" asked the Captain as they approached the group.
Seven and Harry turned around from where they were working. "Captain, I'd like to introduce you to Operation Watson," said Harry proudly as he handed her a PADD.
"It's an idea Seven and I came up with months ago that we submitted to Lieutenant Barclay."
"We theorized that if we used a quantum singularity to reflect a tachyon beam, we could amplify a comm signal," continued Seven.
"Which would make it possible to open a comm channel with Starfleet when the singularity is properly aligned," Harry finished.
Janeway stopped reading the PADD and looked up at them with excitement in her eyes. "You mean we could have real-time conversations?"
"With visual contact as well," confirmed Harry proudly.
"In theory," amended Seven. "We have not yet tested it, but Lieutenant Barclay believes that it is worth an attempt."
"When?" asked Chakotay.
"It will take approximately two weeks to make the necessary modifications, and the singularity will only remain in alignment for a few minutes per day – fifteen at the most."
"It's better than nothing," said Janeway. "This is high priority – get on it. Use any personnel you need."
She turned to Mark. "We have about 17 hours to reply to this datastream. Have your crew get their messages to Seven of Nine by 1800 hours. I'm giving you priority since none of your families are aware you're alive. With the exception of Chakotay and I, we've only been out of contact for two months."
"I'm sure we'll be able to fit all the messages in as long as everyone keeps it brief," said Chakotay.
"Still, I'd like anyone on our crew who can wait another month to do so, to leave more room for the others. I think that Tom and B'Elanna will want to send a few messages, so that will take up a little extra space. Icheb, could you route all the transmissions and data for my attention to my ready room." She turned back to Mark and Chakotay. "I have a few messages to prepare."
Mark chuckled. "'Hi, how are you, guess what – I'm not dead'?"
She laughed. "Something like that."
The Captain stopped in front of the doors to the Paris quarters and pressed the chime. The doors opened after a few seconds and she walked into the room. Tom stepped out quickly from the other room. She was about to greet him when he put his fingers to his lips.
"She's sleeping," he said quietly. "And so's B'Elanna."
She smiled and followed him to the couch. "We got the datastream from Starfleet this afternoon," she told him quietly. "I'm telling the crew to keep it brief this month to leave extra space for the Yukon crewmembers, but I expect that you and B'Elanna will want to send quite a few messages, and that's fine by me."
"Thank you, Captain, but we don't expect special treatment."
"Well, you should," she grinned. "The second child born on Voyager deserves a little extra space in our transmissions home. I expect your father would be glad to get a look at his granddaughter."
"I think so too. Speaking of which, I should get a bottle ready. If I don't get to her before her feeding time, she'll…" He was interrupted by a loud wail from the other room. "Wake B'Elanna," he finished with a mutter. "Excuse me, Captain." He started to get up to dash into the other room, but sat back down with a sheepish look on his face when B'Elanna came out of the next room holding her child, bouncing her on her shoulder to quiet her down.
"Sorry," said Tom. "I was just about to get her bottle when she woke up."
"It's my fault," said the Captain. "If I hadn't distracted him he would have gotten there in time."
B'Elanna had not noticed the Captain sitting on the couch, and started when she spoke. "That's all right, Captain – it's not your fault that my daughter has the vocal abilities of a klingon warrior, and the temper to match." She moved over to the couch with the baby. "But now that you're here, maybe you'd like to meet her?"
"I'd be delighted."
She took the child from B'Elanna as Tom went over to the replicator to get a bottle. "She's adorable, B'Elanna. I've been going to enter her into the crew manifest, but I needed a name first. Officially, that is – half the crew calls her by name already," she said softly as she ran her finger across the baby's cheek and shushed her.
"Miral," said B'Elanna with a smile. "Miral Kathryn Paris."
It took a moment for that to sink in, and B'Elanna watched in amusement as the Captain froze and then looked up at her. "Did you say Miral Kathryn Paris?"
B'Elanna nodded with a smile, and Tom grinned as well as he came back from the replicator with the bottle. "Assuming you don't mind, of course," said Tom as he sat down on the arm of the couch behind B'Elanna.
"Mind?" she whispered, tears forming in her eyes. "I'd be honored."
B'Elanna's grin widened and she looked back at Tom, squeezing his hand. "If we can do half as much for her as you've done for us, she'll turn out just fine," said B'Elanna quietly. The Captain handed Miral back to her mother and Tom passed her the bottle.
"The latest datastream from Starfleet just came in," Tom told her as she offered the bottle to Miral. "Are you going to send a message to your father?"
"I guess so," she said. "You?"
He nodded. "The Captain said we could send more than one message, so we'll have to start within a couple of hours."
"I'll need a sonic shower first," she muttered, rubbing her eyes.
"Anything interesting in the transmissions?" Tom asked the Captain.
"As a matter of fact, there was. Do you know anything about something called Operation Watson, B'Elanna?"
"No," she said, but then changed her mind. "Wait – you mean Harry and Seven's idea? Is it feasible?"
The Captain nodded. "If all goes according to plan, we should have a daily comm link within two weeks. As soon as you feel up to it, I'm sure Harry and Seven could use your assistance, but don't push yourself." She got up to leave. "I want to send the datastream by 1800 hours, so have your messages in by then."
"No problem, Captain," Tom assured her as he saw her to the door.
"I'll make you a deal, Mr. Paris. I won't mention Miral to your father if you don't mention my…resurrection…in your message. I want to surprise him, and I'm sure you do too."
"Yes, ma'am," he said as she left. He finished feeding Miral while B'Elanna had a shower and freshened up. When she came back, they read their letters from home and then began recording their messages.
"The problem with visual messages is that they're visual," muttered B'Elanna as she straightened her hair.
"You look fantastic," Tom assured her.
They made a message for her father, showing him their new daughter, before they began the one for Admiral Paris and the rest of Tom's family. They kept it short, feeling guilty taking up so much space in the transmission. Tom made sure not to mention Captain Janeway, but he couldn't resist giving his father a hint.
"Oh, and Dad? I know you'll probably want to get right back to work, but I wouldn't if I were you. There's at least one other message in this transmission that I think you'll want to see right away. Take my word for it."
(Yes, there's more. Much, much, more. Return to my index to continue to the sequel, "AWAKENINGS", or find it on my website kira4747)