Continued from Devastation 3/4

For warnings, codes and disclaimer, see part 1/4


Devastation 4/4

"Voyager, can you get a lock on us now?"

The words slide out of my mouth without a hitch and then I blink,
suddenly confused as to where I am. The air is hot around me, the day
blazing, humid and sultry. The earth below me is dry and parched, arid
and desolate.

It's a place that is eerily familiar.

"Affirmative, but we are getting only five signals."

I almost jump at the voice that comes out of my combadge. I look down,
baffled, at the uniform I wear, a red and black Starfleet observer's
uniform, and am suddenly aware of others' presence beside me. Both my
arms are around people on my sides and I turn my head left and right
to find myself looking at the Talaxian Neelix, the Ocampa Kes, and
Torres, and Harry. The last two are clad in Ocampan attire and
suddenly I realize this is a dream.

A new variation of the same dream.

I find myself slipping into the role as if doing a stage play, the
words tumbling out of my mouth with ease, words that have been etched
into my brain, repeated many times in my mind over the past one year.
Though this is the first time I am dreaming about actually being on
the surface, the first time I am seeing anyone other than Chakotay.
All the previous versions were about the insides of the tunnel.

But it's still a dream, of course. Just another crazy, demented image
dreamt up by my delirious mind.

"The others..." I start, speaking into the combadge again, and
suddenly stop as my eyes fly up to watch an explosive beam jolt down
from the sky to hit the surface and I hear myself scream at everyone.

We fall down to the ground in unison and brace ourselves as the earth
shakes, clouds of dust rising up to add to the confusion.

My eyes move to rest on the hole, the opening to the tunnel, in the
ground a few feet from me, dust blustering up from it, and sense a
feeling of déjà vu' go through me.

My right hand rises to tap the combadge once more and I hear myself
speak again. "Paris to Janeway!" My voice has the same note of
apprehension as it had one year ago - and just as was the case last
time, there is no answer to my hails. "Chakotay. Tuvok," I hear my
voice shake. "Do you read?"

No answer as expected. I glance towards the other four; coming to the
same conclusion I did the last time. "Voyager, prepare to transport
everyone in this group but me," I say into the combadge, as I get up.

"Aye sir," comes the reply.

"You're not thinking of going back there."

It's Neelix, looking at me incredulously, and I almost smile at his
timing. Strange things recurrent dreams are, impeccable and
indefectible in their exactness. Instead I just stare at him,
realizing it doesn't matter what I think. My role in this dream is
predetermined and won't change the outcome no matter what I do. As
always. "Well, a fool needs company," Neelix squares his shoulders and
turns to Kes. "Take care of yourself, dearest. I'll see you soon."

I run to Neelix and take his combadge off his shirt, handing it to
Harry instead. "Voyager, make that three to beam up. Lock on to the
other combadge and energize."

We watch them shimmer into the transporter beam and turn towards the
tunnel again. I follow the Talaxian as he climbs down the hole, into
the hot, dusty tunnel. The cave shakes with each explosion on the
surface and we find our descent become difficult with every passing
second. Yet it's a dream - a nightmare - and it has to be relived, as
the curse it is to me, over and over again.

We pass the energy barrier and find ourselves on the staircase again.
The visibility here is even worse as dust fills the cave with every
shiver on the surface, but we relent, moving down the stairs, aware of
the lack of time on our side.

"Here they are," Neelix calls out and then I spot them too: Captain
Janeway sitting beside the black Vulcan Tuvok who seems injured.

And Chakotay, laying on the platform a flight below them, his one leg
twisted to one side at a painful angle.

"Neelix, help me with Tuvok," Janeway orders, and the Talaxian moves
to the task, helping the Vulcan up on his feet with her help and they
move quickly, climbing the stairs up to the mouth of the tunnel.

"I'll get Chakotay," I hear myself repeat, but they are gone already,
vanished into the tangle of my delirious mind.

It's a dream, just a dream, yet my heart is thudding again - frenzied
in my chest.

I look at him, curled to one side, his large, clammy hands clutching
the railing in a painful grip.

"Get out of here, Paris, before the whole thing comes down."

The same words, the same angry tone, the same sad, hurt look in his
ebony eyes. Why are you so angry, Chakotay? I want to ask him. Please
don't think that I betrayed you because I didn't, I want to scream.

Rile him up, I hear Torres say in my mind. Rile him up to no end, she

I find myself moving on the shaking floor towards the flight that
leads down to the platform he's lying on. "I intend to," Strange,
unfamiliar words roll out off my tongue. "As soon as I get YOU up." I
grab the shivering rails with both hands as my heart starts pounding
inside my chest. A surreal, peculiar feeling sinks down on me.
Something is wrong.

"You get on those stairs, they'll collapse," he pants, his face
twisted in pain that is too familiar to me. "We'll both die."

Rile him up; rile him up good, she screams in the chaos of my confused

I find myself moving down the flight, my hands gripping the rails
furiously. "Yeah, but on the other hand," I take deliberate steps that
feel almost habitual and yet strangely unacquainted at the same time.
"If I save your butt, then your life belongs to me."

What the hell am I doing? I am supposed to be just playing a part in
this dream. So why is my traitorous mouth going off like this?

An explosion rocks the surface and the whole staircase jolts, making
me fall to one side and I watch with growing panic as his position
shifts as well, the blast jerking him to a side. But with
characteristic steel determination, he holds on to the railing.

Rile him up, she cries, stay in character for Kahless' sake.

"Isn't that some kind of Indian custom?" my mouth speaks for me as I
grab the rails to steady myself again.

"Wrong tribe." he wheezes through teeth clenched in pain, his brow
wrinkling at the discomfort - or perhaps at my strange behavior. Stay
in character, is it?

"I don't believe you," I find myself smirking at him and my heart
curls up inside my chest at my audacity. He's in pain, he's hurting
and you're smiling? I hear my brain screaming at me. Yet my eyes widen
as my legs lumber down the shaking stairs and reach his side in three
quick strides.

Scoop down dammit, scoop fucking down and fucking pick him up, Torres
screams. Her voice is hoarse with yelling at me and my head is hurting
at all the noise. But I have to listen to her, yes I have to listen to
her, otherwise she'll probably break my neck when I wake up, since
this is obviously a dream on fucking steroids.

I watch, flabbergasted, as my upper body bends down and my left hand
shoots out to move behind his right shoulder. My fingers curl around
his shoulder blade, my wrist and thumb curving to grab the meaty part
of his shoulder.

And suddenly it hits me.

His smell. His heady, earthy scent, sinking into my senses, the feel
of his body shifting under my hand, as slight tremors jolt through his
strong, wide frame.

Rile him up, Torres screams inside my head, and I feel like screaming
back at her to shut the fuck up. But the words that come out of my
mouth are directed at him instead, and are strangely much more
peaceful than I feel inside.

"I don't believe you."

There's an alien smirk on my face, a cocky, insolent amusement playing
in my eyes, which I am sure he can see. It's wrong, my brain screams,
you're gonna lose him again if you keep this up, he hates you, he
hates this attitude, he's gonna fucking die. But I am not listening to
my brain anymore. I am not listening to anyone, not to myself, or to
Torres either. I am playing a bizarre role in a twisted, strange dream
on a freaking mind trip.

"You'd rather die than let me be the one to rescue you?" I smirk at
him, riling him up.

Yes, I am riling him real good.

His eyes meet mine in confusion. Yes, even he knows the role we're
both supposed to play in this dream and he's wondering what the hell's
gone wrong with me.

But I watch, puzzled, as he shakes his head in a strange surrender.

"Fine, be a fool."

I freeze as he throws his left arm around my neck, my heart suddenly
racing as his body comes in direct contact with mine, his scent almost
completely consuming me.

"If I have to die, at least I'll have the pleasure of watching you go
with me," he snarls in between clenched teeth.

My throat is suddenly too tight to let any more words out. I take a
deep breath, his scent filling my nostrils, and with our arms secure
around each other, I pull back to straighten up. I pause a moment to
steady my hold around him, and then turn around, keeping my left arm
around his bicep and grab the metal rail with my right one. He curls
his left arm around my neck, his right one holding the rail to steady
himself, as I help him move up the stairs, keeping his broken leg in

Rile him up, rile him up dammit, Torres is still screaming in my head,
don't go out of character now, Paris.

His body is flat against mine, his muscular chest pressed against my
back, the feel of him making it harder for me to think. But my mouth
is still mouthing off.

"Isn't there some Indian trick, where you can turn yourself into a
bird and fly us out of here?"

Fucking genius, Tom, my brain grumbles at me, he's going to let go
now, he hates you, he fucking hates you, you moron.

But as we move up the flight, I hear his soft grunt against my neck.

"You're too heavy," he says, his hold tightening against my chest.

We climb off the flight and just as soon as we do that, an explosion
rocks the surface, shaking the entire staircase violently. I watch,
frozen with a familiar terror, as the platform we were on just a
moment ago, tears off the flight and falls down into the dark, rocky

The platform that fell down a year ago, and took Chakotay with him.

The same platform that always fell down in all my previous dreams.

What the hell is going on?

"What's the matter, Paris?" he huffs in my ear, taking me out of my
trance. "A little explosion shook you up?"

His tone is sarcastic, taunting.

My heart is thudding up a storm inside my chest, my brain confused to
no end, but the taunting is MY job, my dear captain.

"Not in your life, Chakotay," I smirk at him, gripping his arm tightly
and increasing my speed as I move up the stairs.

He swears under his breath, his fingers digging into my shoulder
almost painfully, as we climb up one flight after another, moving up
the stairs with quiet urgency.

"Fuck you, Paris," he growls against my neck, his breath hot and
sweltering against my skin.

"Anytime, Chak," I smirk as my mouth mouths off again.

See, Torres? I am riling him up. Bet, you wouldn't have to break my
neck now, would ya?

He's strangely silent after that exchange, as we cover the rest of the
distance with quiet precision, the explosions on the surface only
slightly slowing us down. Strange dream it is. Going on and on like a
fucking stuck record, unending like a long winding road leading into
oblivion. I should be waking up pretty soon. I wonder how long my
crazed brain will play havoc with my sanity?

As we reach the mouth of the tunnel, I climb up first and then bend
down to help him up, my heart suddenly beating faster in sympathy for
his bad leg. He's in pain and here I am hurrying him around, dragging
him up the shaking stairs. But he's strong and resilient and I didn't
hear him complain even once.

And besides it's nothing but a bizarre dream, right?

I find myself tapping onto my combadge, playing a part of the stage
play that was never planned, and ordering a beam out for two. A moment
later, we find ourselves in Voyager's sickbay, my fingers still around
his left bicep, and I blink in confusion as the EMH comes hurrying
over to our side.

"Help me get him up on the bio-bed," the holodoc orders, an impatient
yet familiar frown on his face.

I stare at him, suddenly feeling more flabbergasted than I have ever
been in my life. What the HELL is going on here?

"Mr. Paris, didn't you hear what I said?" the EMH scowls at me. "Help
me get him UP on the BIO-BED."

The impatient sigh from Chakotay shakes me out of my stupor and I
stand up, helping the EMH tug the leather-clad Maquis up and onto a
bed. As the doctor busies himself with fixing Chakotay's leg, I let my
gaze move around the sickbay. The same familiar bulkheads around me,
the same ceiling above me, and the same wonderful bright lights shine
overhead. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment and then open them,
looking down, waiting for the soft ground to appear and the dry grass
to spruce up. But its all nothing but regulation Starfleet duraplex

Wake up, I tell myself, wake up now. It's a dream, a crazy, deranged,
psychotic dream. Wake me up please, Torres, I silently plea.

But Torres is sitting in the sickbay right here with me. Kes, the
Ocampa, is running a small instrument over her and Harry is sitting on
a bio-bed, apparently looking just fine.

The sickbay doors slide open and my eyes widen as Captain Janeway
walks inside, looking around at everyone. She walks to Harry first, as
he straightens up and slides off his bio-bed, and asks him how he is.
Then she goes to Chakotay and the doctor tells her the fracture is
almost repaired. She acknowledges Torres and Kes with a nod and then
turns to me.

"How're you, Mr. Paris?" her gaze is soft, her voice concerned.

My ears buzz with the commotion inside me as I force a smile on my
face and nod at her. "I am fine, ma'am." My throat tightens as
memories of the last time I beamed up on Voyager wash over me. I had
failed Chakotay and my meeting with Janeway had occurred on the

Wake up, wake up, fucking wake up, I scream inside my head.

"Bridge to Janeway." A voice comes over the comchannel.

"Go ahead," she replies.

"Captain, two Kazon ships are approaching the array."

"Set a course." She moves towards the door. "I am on my way."

My eyes follow her out of the sickbay, my confusion blinding.

"We've got to get back to our ship."

My head snaps back to look at Chakotay, who's sliding off the bio-bed,
his leg apparently healed. He's motioning towards Torres, who follows
his example, climbing off the bed she was lying on.

"I strongly advise you to rest." I hear the EMH complain somewhere in
the background but I can't hear anything else he says. My feet march
me out of the sickbay, following the man I just brought back from the
Ocampan stairs, in a convoluted version of my strange unending dream.

Torres and Chakotay are walking ahead of me briskly, headed towards
the turbolift, as I try to keep up with them, confused as hell as to
what is going on in my head. I walk after them, my fingers curling and
uncurling in frustration, and with a restless sigh, I shove my hands
inside my pockets.

And freeze.

There's something inside my right pocket, something I hadn't expected
to find in there at all. I abruptly halt in my stride, wrap my fingers
around the object, and slowly pull it out.

It's the shell.

A shiver goes through me as I feel my knees buckle with an
overwhelming weakness and surely I would have fallen if it weren't for
the bulkhead on my side that I grip with my left hand's shaking
fingers. My head snaps up to catch Chakotay's retreating bulk
disappearing inside the turbolift's closing door, Torres on his side,
and a strange, alien moan escapes my throat.

"Tom, are you alright?"

It's Harry on my side, looking at me with worried eyes.

"But how could this be?" I am talking to myself, not able to pay
attention to Harry's concern, as I press my back to the wall, my
throat convulsing. "This was supposed to be with him, dammit, it was
part of the dream."

"What dream?" Harry asks, exasperated. "What's wrong, Tom?"

I close my hand tightly around the shell and squeeze my eyes shut for
a moment, trying to calm my racing heart.

And suddenly it's clear to me.

Chakotay wasn't wearing this shell around his neck when I went to get
him up the stairs a little while ago. I didn't see the shell with him.
I didn't see it because it wasn't WITH him.

Just like he wasn't wearing this shell around his neck a year ago, the
day I failed him, because it wasn't with him then either.

Except there's only one difference this time.

This time I didn't fail him.

This time I didn't let him fall.


Voyager's bridge is on fire.

At least that's what it smells like.

There's too much smoke, too many exploding consoles, and a deafening
commotion of conduits spitting electric sparks, as crewmembers fall
left and right with every shot the Kazon take at us. The scenes
unfolding around me are way too reminiscent of the events that took
place twelve months ago for my liking.

I take a deep breath and look down at the chronometer for the
umpteenth time.

No, not events that took place twelve months ago. Events that took
place. when? In the future? In a dreamt up past? In another lifetime?

Even if my still-confused brain keeps telling me that those were
events that took place a year ago, the chronometer in front of me
tells a different story. The time, it says, is 1734 hours, and the
date April 28, 2371.

But shouldn't that be 2372?

"Voyager to Janeway."

I hear Harry hail the captain behind me and wet my suddenly dry lips.

If it's 2372 now, then what the heck is Harry doing here? He died a
year ago too. And so did most of the bridge crew. If its 2372, then
what am I doing here? Why am I sitting at Voyager's helm? What am I
doing, guiding and flying the graceful sleek ship in the midst of
enemy fire, helping tactical to fight back the Kazon, inventing
evasive maneuvers right on the spur of the moment - not caring whether
they'd ever be approved by Starfleet?

And besides, I can still feel the darn seashell inside my trousers
right pocket.

"Go ahead," Janeway responds from the array and I flinch in my seat.

Oh but this is too reminiscent, too familiar, too fucking out of this
world. Like last time, Janeway has again left me in charge of the
bridge and gone down to the array with Tuvok. And I just know I am
going to screw this up again.

I look up at the viewscreen, my heart in my mouth, and then look down
at the readings. The Kazon have apparently realized that we won't be
contained by their three tiny, infuriating scout ships and have called
for backup.

"We've got problems here," Harry reports to the captain, as the huge
brown monster whale of a ship comes into view. Its mammoth
proportions, its bizarre yet colossal size, makes it look way too
imposing, way too intimidating, and I hear my heart hammering inside
my chest.

Too fucking reminiscent.

I hear the exchange between the captain and operations at the back of
the bridge and can very well remember what this ship did to us the
last time. It ripped us apart, completely, relentlessly, without any
qualms whatsoever. My palms are sweaty all of a sudden, my mouth dry.
There are too many of them and only one of us.

No sooner than the words are heard in my mind, is my attention
diverted to the small blip zigzagging across my sensors.

I am wrong.

We're not alone this time. Chakotay is at the helm of his Maquis
cruiser. He's alive and he's on his ship and I never got the fucking
chance to give him back his shell. My brow wrinkles as I watch the
Kazon ship fire on the tiny cruiser and then feel my heart swell as
the man at the helm swings the small ship smartly around the hits,
rising and dipping with absolute precision, firing back at the
shield-less Kazon ships with unerring vehemence.

There are times when only a pilot can tell the precise control and
splendor in someone else's flying. I had seen Chakotay fly during the
Maquis and always knew he was a damn fine pilot but the maneuvers I
see him pull on the viewscreen right now make me feel proud.

My attention is suddenly redirected to my own controls as Voyager
rocks again, the huge Kazon ship turning more of the firepower in our
direction, and I take the ship through a series of defensive
maneuvers, my heart clenching inside my ribcage at the assault.

I remember what this shit did to us the last time, as I feel my
adrenaline-infused body tense with rising terror.

So consumed I am by the task at hand that I nearly jump in my seat
when I suddenly hear Chakotay's voice come through the comchannel.

"Paris," he addresses me, his tone sharp. "My crew is coming over.
Tell one of your crackerjack Starfleet transporter chiefs to keep a
lock on me. I am gonna try and take some heat off your tail."

Beam over his crew? The Maquis? On Voyager? No, not again, this isn't
right, this was what went wrong the last time, this can't happen
again, my brain screams at me. What the hell is he planning to do?

Yet when I open my mouth, my recently awakened cocky persona does the
speaking for me.

"Acknowledged," I hear myself replying. "But don't think for a second
this makes us even, Chakotay. Your life is still mine."

Huh? What the hell's wrong with me? He's beaming over the crew to
Voyager and apparently going off on some last minute intrepid,
kamikaze stunt and all I can do is remind him of the life-debt?

Rile him up, I hear Torres' shrill voice cry inside my head, stay in
character, you idiot.

But as Chakotay whirls his small cruiser between incessant weapons
fire, propelled towards his target, zipping around and firing at the
scout ships at his tail end, I watch the big Kazon ship turn its full
attention on him.

He's going to blow up, I think to myself, my throat tightening with
fear, as my heart sinks low in my stomach - which all of a sudden
feels ready to heave and spew all its contents in one ragged breath.
He's going to blow up because I didn't give him his good luck shell.

"I am holding a lock on him, sir." I hear someone report behind me.
"But he's getting too close."

The shell, he doesn't have the shell, my brain screams at me, and
instinctively, my hand slides inside my pocket, my fingers curling
around the smooth curved ridges of the seashell. Granules of coarse
sand are damp against my palm, as I feel someone's presence next to
me.  I look up to find Torres standing beside me, her eyes riveted to
the viewscreen, naked fear etched on her dark, expressive face, and
swallow heavily.

Scoop him up, she speaks inside my head, you have to scoop him up.

"I am getting you out of there, Chakotay," I yell into the comline.

"NOT YET," he screams back at me, still advancing towards the Kazon
ship, as the whole bridge watches the spectacular view with their
breaths held in trepidation.

The scout ships increase their bombardment on us and the whole ship
shakes, consoles exploding all around the bridge. As smoke once again
fills my nostrils, the horrific thought occurs to me that if we took
any more fire we might lose the transporters, and then we won't be
able to beam Chakotay off his ship.

"You're breaking up," I scream into the channel, watching the small
cruiser fly towards the gigantic ship in a bold, straight line, its
shields lighting up like Federation Day fireworks under the continued
fusillade. "Standby for transport."

"WAIT," he yells, as we all hear explosions in the background on his
own bridge.

My fingers clench tightly around the seashell, my stomach in helpless
knots, as we watch the cruiser get closer and closer to the giant
ship, phaser fire hitting him with a vengeance, until he's almost onto
the Kazon, he's almost there, he's about to collide with them. And at
that one last nanosecond, when he's nothing but a burning, flaming,
ball of fire, we hear his scream,


And he rams the cruiser into the belly of the Kazon battle ship, and
we watch, aghast, as he blows up into smithereens, leaving nothing but
shreds of burning debris in his wake.

For a second or two, there is pin drop silence on the bridge, as the
only sound I hear is my heart thudding inside my chest, and then I
find my voice.

"Transporter room two." My voice sounds strange to me, high-pitched,
shaking. "Do you have him?"

There's a beat when there's no response to my query and I feel my
heart lurch inside me. And then his soft voice comes over the channel.

"They got me," he replies back, an unexpected hint of a smile
enriching his deep voice.

I feel myself go limp as a wave of enormous, immeasurable relief
cascades down on me.

Everything is a blur after that. I am only aware of the swish of the
turbolift doors opening behind me as Chakotay walks down the bridge to
come and stand next to me. Everything else is a haze as my fingers
automatically move on the console, moving the ship around, doing the
work that I am supposed to do.

I am hardly aware as, despite my previous fears, Janeway and Tuvok
return back to the bridge unscathed and she opens a channel to
exchange pleasantries with the Kazon Maje.

I am barely conscious as she orders me to move the ship away from the
array so that Tuvok can fire tri-cobalt charges at the station to blow
up our only chance to return to the alpha quadrant.

I don't even pay attention when Torres charges up to the diminutive
woman and demands to know whom she thinks she is to make these
decisions for everyone. I only hear Chakotay's soft yet firm voice as
he grabs the half-Klingon's shoulder and tells her to watch her mouth
in front of the 'captain'. Or something to that effect.

I only feel his presence next to me, behind me, all around me, as his
scent fills me and consumes me, until all I can breathe is him - hot,
musky, and earthy. I watch with glazed eyes as the torpedoes are fired
at the array, one after the other, and our ticket back home is blown
into shreds of blazing, burning metal right in front of everyone.

Everything is all right.

Chakotay is alive.

Nothing else matters to me.

I scooped him up to safety this time.

End Devastation