Title: Phoenix Fire
Pairing: C/P (predominantly)
Chapter Three (3/?)
Summary: Stopover at Deep Space Nine.
We are strangers in a strange land
The Plaza was abuzz with activity. People from different cultures and races mingled around in a river that was constantly moving, constantly changing. Nothing was the same. Humans, both civilian and Starfleet, rubbed shoulders with Bajorans. There were blue-skinned Bolians, stern-faced Vulcans and Trills; they strode along, chatting amiably or they simply gazed about, at the complexity which was Deep Space Nine.
Doctor Julian Bashir rubbed his eyes and leaned against the railing, staring into the crowd below. He marveled at the diversity of races represented walking along the Plaza. It was hypnotizing to watch the eddy and ebb of the flow of people.
Yet, sighing, he noted that they were all strangers. Transient, always moving. Never permanent. That group of Trill had just disembarked but they would soon leave for the Trill homeworld. The Bajoran delegation had just left earlier in the morning. There would be new faces arriving soon.
New faces. Julian Bashir frowned slightly. The Defiant had gone to escort the lost starship Voyager back to the station. Lieutenant-Commander Worf had accompanied Captain Sisko; the Klingon was keen to "protect" the captain and the Defiant from unforeseen circumstances. Bashir grinned. The Klingon could be so paranoid sometimes even though Bashir knew that he couldn't say it straight to the man's face.
Lost starship. Voyager. That was news indeed. The entire station was gripped with "Voyager fever": a sense of excitement was clear to see on the faces of the Starfleet officers as well as the civilians onboard DS9. Quark, the ever-enterprising Ferengi, had began to sell "Voyager vodka", much to the amused consternation of Sisko and Constable Odo, the security chief. People actually bought the drink which Julian and the rest considered a watered-down version of the real thing.
There were people he knew onboard Voyager. Old friends. Ex-colleagues. He wasn't sure if they were still alive because the energy wave that had swept Voyager into the Delta Quadrant was particularly powerful.
It had also swept the Maquis ship into the Delta Quadrant along with Voyager.
Whether the Maquis survived the energy wave was another story. But Bashir had heard news: the Maquis survivors seemed to have joined Voyager. Jadzia had told him about it the day before they left to meet the starship. He recalled being surprised. But the surprise faded away and it was soon replaced by a sense of awe and incredulity. Four years. Maybe five. They had gone for four years.
"Doctor?" The gruff voice right next to him startled the doctor right out of his reverie. Constable Odo regarded him politely.
"Oh yes, Constable Odo " Julian Bashir smiled warmly. "I have to apologize. I was just thinking "
Odo inclined his head slightly. "About the starship Voyager?"
Bashir nodded, taking another glance at the busy Plaza below him. The crowd seemed to have increased in numbers. Quark could be seen haggling with a slightly harassed shopkeeper.
"The Defiant will arrive at the station in ten minutes," Odo said, folding his hands behind his back. "I have just received orders from Captain Sisko "
"Orders?" Julian Bashir turned around to face the security chief who only gazed back unperturbed.
"Yes, orders." Odo said, preparing to leave. "Security purposes."
Bashir frowned again, this time feeling more worried.
"Voyager seems to have acquired Borg technology," the constable added, as if it was an afterthought. "With the recent disturbances we had on the station, security measures have to be maintained and followed."
"I see "
"I believe you have your own duties to perform, Doctor," Odo's tone held hints of reproach and humour.
The medical officer shrugged, chuckling. "Thank you." Satisfied, Odo strode away and Julian Bashir felt a chill traveling down his back with iced fingers. He stared out of the window, seeing only the familiar stars.
There were friends on that ship. Friends he hadnt seen for years. He closed his eyes, suddenly seeing a blonde man with a cocky grin and belligerent attitude in his mind. That man was onboard Voyager and Julian Bashir wasn't that sure if he would be coming back to a friendly environment. He glanced down at the Plaza, seeing Odo's figure weaving through the crowd. People immediately gave way for the station's security chief; he was accompanied with a formidable group of officers holding sleek phaser rifles.
They were headed for the Defiant 's normal berth.
*** *** ***
Guided by the station and the Defiant, Voyager slid past the magnificent Cardassian arches and came to rest next to her designated berth. The Feng Huang docked right next to her.
Throughout the whole thing, Captain Kathryn Janeway kept on her poker face, sitting aloof on her command chair. Even as her ship began her final approach towards DS9, she had acted cool and relaxed. In actual fact, her heart was pounding so loud in her chest she was surprised that it didn't burst straight away.
Chakotay glanced over and gave her a reassuring smile.
Voyager was finally secured and now she drifted along with the station's slow orbit.
They were home.
*** *** ***
Tom gazed quietly at the imposing Cardassian architecture. Deep Space Nine looked familiar and not familiar at the same time. It appeared cool, unmoved; it was the same station he had left four or five years ago. Yet, as he stared at it as Voyager eased into her docking position, he realized that DS9 had changed or he had changed.
Changed? He snorted to himself. Perhaps.
He placed his right hand on the wheelchair, noting its cool metal surface. It seemed to give him courage and he took heart from it. Behind him, he knew that the captain and the rest of the Bridge crew were going through the computer systems for the last minute before they disembarked.
They were instructed to leave the ship for a customary debriefing while the station's engineers checked Voyager thoroughly. The Borg technology detected must have caused a furore and Tom grinned ironically to himself. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Chakotay wink at him.
He had to smile.
Then, the Bridge crew began to leave the ship, one by one, Voyager came to a complete stand still. The familiar white noise halted and Tom shook his head, trying to tell himself that he wasn't deaf. It was simply due to the shutdown of Voyager's engines. But the silence was so loud, so thick that he became nervous.
He couldn't help thinking that the starship was trapped.
Relax, he told himself sternly. Relax, flyboy.
"Tom?" Chakotay's voice was soft. "Lets go."
So, he turned the wheelchair around, heading for the Bridge. Chakotay followed, right behind him and they went into the turbolift together, with Harry and the captain. There was a moment of silence as they surveyed the empty Bridge devoid of human activity.
"We are home," Harry spoke suddenly. Yet, he continued staring at the vacant Ops center with a wistful expression.
"Yes, indeed, we are " Captain Janeway nodded and the lift door hissed close like a comment.
Tom closed his eyes, feeling the sense of dread creep back into him. Everyone was unnaturally silent. He noticed the captain standing with her chin lifted high, the stance she would unconsciously adopt when she was either defiant or determined. Chakotay rested his hand on the back of the wheelchair.
The lift door opened and the first thing Tom heard were the sounds of people. Many people. He could hear the crowd through the metal walls, a faint susurrus of humanoid noises. It was familiar to him but he felt strange, as if he had slept for a thousand years and had woken up in the same place but with different people around him. He felt like Rip Van Winkle.
The rest of the Voyager crew waited at the gateway, all sixty-odd strong of them. Naomi Wildman stood with her mother, her eyes wide but not with fear. Neelix had positioned himself beside Samantha and he held her hand as if to give her courage. Ensign Hai stood at Samantha's right. Seven exchanged glances with Harry as he strode up to her. B'Elanna folded her arms across her chest, her posture defensive. Tuvok took his place slightly behind the captain, his Vulcan face unperturbed.
They all turned to face the captain as she raised her hand and smiled.
"We are home," Kathryn Janeway spoke softly but it carried in the quiet hallway. "We have made it through. We struggled, fought and lived for five years and we have the scars to prove it. Now we are back. Thank you, everyone."
"We face a new journey ahead now," she continued as the gate began to open and the crowd noises seeped in. "We are going to face it with courage and determination."
Chakotay's hand stroked the back of Tom's neck, feather-light. The younger man almost jumped.
Kathryn led the way, her strides confident, proud. They walked down the hallway, their footfalls hollow on the metallic floor. They could see a brown-skinned man in familiar Starfleet colors standing beyond the gate. Two other men joined him: a Klingon and a strange-looking gentleman in light-brown garments.
"Welcome back, Captain Janeway, " the brown-skinned man said, his voice low.
The crew of Voyager looked up and stared into an impressive row of raised phaser rifles.
Tom felt cold water drench his back and he could feel Chakotay tensing up. The rest of the Voyager folk murmured amongst themselves fearfully. Naomi hid behind her mother.
"What's this?" Janeway growled and the brown-skinned man gazed at her, his face calm.
"Security precautions," Benjamin Sisko explained, seeing the grey eyes of the woman turn steely with barely controlled anger. "The station has had a few incidents recently." He gestured to the strange gentleman who stepped forward.
"This is Constable Odo and he will bring you to the debriefing room."
Sisko regarded the Voyager crew, seeing a statuesque blonde in a teal-colored one-piece suit. His eyebrow lifted slightly. He also saw a fair-skinned man on a wheelchair? The blue eyes of the man stared at him unwaveringly.
Kathryn Janeway nodded stiffly to the station commander and followed Odo. Her crew moved behind her. The crowd parted for them, staring unabashedly.
Lieutenant-Commander Worf brought up the rear, his face stern.