After she finished speaking with Jean-Luc, Kathryn had spent a long time simply staring out of the view port in her ready room and considering her limited options.
Her first and major problem was Cavit. He would awaken shortly and find himself in the brig and then all hell would break lose. She had the option of returning him to his quarters before he woke. After all, she had shot him in the back so he didn't know her identity. On the other hand, it wouldn't take him long to corner Tom Paris to find out. Then he would undoubtedly tell Tom that she was SCC rather than FIA and she would lose her control over the young man.
If Tom stopped obeying her, she would be forced to terminate him.
So, as much as the idea of cold-blooded murder upset her, she realised she had no option. Cavit had to die before he became Tom's own death sentence.
She opened her personal secure locker and rummaged inside for the small vial that she had secreted in the hollowed out interior of a shoe heel. The poison was undetectable, one hundred percent lethal and the symptoms imitated a brain hemorrhage. The downside of the poison was that it wasn't an instantaneous death for the victim. Cavit would spend a couple of agonising days in sickbay as the blood cells in his brain slowly clotted.
It was, perhaps, a measure of her determination to save Tom Paris that she managed to convince herself that Cavit's pain was deserved for the way he had treated Tom. She still felt physically sick though, as she ordered security to transport Cavit back to his quarters and then hurried to greet him there.
Cavit was slowly regaining consciousness, blinking dizzily and staring around himself in confusion, so Kathryn had no trouble in slipping a dose of the poison into a mug of coffee and offering it to his shaking hands.
"What happened?" he asked groggily, sipping at the coffee and grimacing slightly as though it were too bitter.
"Sugar?" Kathryn asked sweetly.
Cavit shook his head and gulped another mouthful of the dark, pungent brew.
"This coffee is shit," he muttered, but proceeded to drain the mug.
"We have problems with the replicators," Kathryn replied quietly, looking at Cavit with something akin to amazement. She had just killed this man. He was dead and she was carrying on a conversation with him as though he were still alive. No matter that it would be several days before his corpse was cold and still. He was dead. She had killed him, and she didn't even feel bad about it. What kind of monster was this war making her?
"I ache all over, like I was run over by a shuttle. What happened?" Cavit asked.
"I'm not sure. Tom Paris commed me, said you'd passed out. He didn't explain what he was doing in your quarters but it was pretty obvious, so as soon as I was sure you were alright I decided not to send you to sickbay. I thought you'd appreciate the chance to clean up before the Doctor checked you over," Kathryn said mildly.
Cavit sniffed himself and his nose wrinkled. He smelt like a Risan whore. His head was beginning to throb unpleasantly, a tight feeling between his brows promising him the mother of a headache to come. He looked uncertainly at the Captain. He knew Tom would have been smart enough to cover up his injuries before summoning help, yet Cavit still had expected Janeway to give him a lecture about fraternization.
"I guess the rumors about Tom Paris are true," Kathryn drawled, taking an obscene amount of pleasure in the way Cavit's face whitened at her words. He was squinting at her, a little painfully, and she wondered whether the poison was already at work in his brain cells.
"What rumors?" Cavit asked carefully, his tongue feeling oddly thick in his suddenly dry mouth.
"That he can fuck people's brains out," Kathryn replied with deliberate crassness. "You obviously had one hell of an orgasm, Cavit," she smirked.
Cavit blinked in surprise and then matched her unexpected smirk with his own. "Yeah, I did," he replied. Of course, he decided, that was what had happened. He had simply come so hard he had lost consciousness and that stupid prick Paris had panicked. "I need a shower," he mumbled.
"I'll see you on the bridge later, Commander," Kathryn said pleasantly and left his quarters.
Cavit stumbled towards the shower, dragging his uniform tunic off, and staggered as a bolt of pain knifed through his head.
"Fuck," he snarled, changing direction and heading for his terminal instead. He quickly punched in a secure code and Doctor Farrand's face appeared on his monitor.
"You alright?" Farrand asked, his eyes narrowing in concern at Cavit's bloodshot eyes.
"Yeah, but I've got a fucking headache you wouldn't believe. Send something over would you?"
"Sure. How did it go with Paris?"
"He's with the program. The conditioning has held," Cavit mumbled. "I guess I maybe got a bit carried away with the little slut."
"I'm going to have to get some of that ass myself before he leaves," Farrand laughed. "You look like you just did ten rounds with a Vulcan in Ponn Farr."
Cavit chuckled nastily.
"He's a sweet slut, Doc," he agreed. It was the last thing he ever said. He staggered painfully against the console as another wave of agony swept through his head and then he collapsed.
Farrand's face filled with concern and Cavit was swept up in a transporter beam and deposited in sickbay.
Kathryn turned away from her monitor and gave a deep sigh of relief. Cavit hadn't broken her cover and hadn't caused any problems for Tom. Finding out that Farrand was obviously FIA was a blow though. She began to wonder whether she could trust anyone.
She needed to check the Personnel records of all the crew, she decided. Any strange postings in their histories might indicate an FIA cover-up. The Admiral was a wily old dog and she wouldn't put it past him to have infiltrated his people into the crewmen's ranks as well as the Officers.
In the meantime, she needed to keep Tom closely at her side and well away from Farrand. At least the Doctor would be too occupied with trying to save Cavit's life to interfere with Tom for the next couple of days.
Cavit was still clinging miserably to life three days later, but he hadn't regained consciousness at least and Kathryn knew that Tom had been left alone because not only had no one tripped the silent alarm she had placed on his quarters but Tom's whole attitude had shifted slightly.
He was stood on the Bridge with her, his arms casually folded over his chest as he guided the ship into the Badlands and he was no longer bristling with nerves like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He had even spared her a small tentative smile each time that she had addressed him directly and his obvious decision to trust her promise that he wouldn't be sexually abused under her command woke some long-dead feelings inside her that she secretly acknowledged as being somewhat maternal in nature.
Whatever happened next, she was determined to get Tom out of it in one piece and hopefully into Chakotay's hands. She just prayed that Chakotay was the man that Will and Jean-Luc described since she couldn't begin to imagine how much it would hurt Tom if he were rejected again by the only person he had ever dared to love.
/Please don't be a hard-ass, Chakotay/ Kathryn prayed at the view screen. She knew that anyone who had managed to stay undercover in the Maquis *and* become one of their leaders, without allowing any suspicion to fall on his shoulders, had to be a ruthless and dangerous man. Chakotay must have been in numerous situations where he had been forced to sacrifice Starfleet lives to further the Maquis cause or he would never have retained his position.
What kind of man could kill his own comrades, just because of some vague hope of serving the "greater good"? A hard man. A man whose sense of duty was greater than his individual desires, and if he was such a dutiful soldier of the SCC, wouldn't he automatically agree with the SCC's blanket order to euthanize the Mods? What if he was a man who might find it impossible to bend enough to accept the flaws that had been inbuilt within Tom Paris?
Perhaps Tom would die at Chakotay's hands rather than Dukat's. The only comfort in that thought was that at least Tom would die a cleaner, less painful death.
Shit, she hated her life, the decisions that she was forced to make. Tom Paris was just a sacrificial lamb and her only options seemed to be to chose the alter that he died upon.
Her musings were halted by a violent shaking of the ship. She saw Tom stagger and grab the handrail for balance.
"Keep her to the edge of the plasma storms, Lieutenant Stadi," Kathryn instructed the young woman at the helm. She was half-tempted to let Tom take over the pilot's seat. She had read his files and between his natural abilities and his modifications, he was undoubtedly more skilled at the helm than Stadi.
On the other hand, Stadi was going to be her pilot for a long time after Tom was either "missing" or dead, so she may as well start showing the young woman some faith in her abilities.
"I'm picking up a coherent tetryon beam," Harry advised, from Ops. His voice was a little too excited. Kathryn spared him a smile. The first mission was always hell but she had a feeling the young Ensign was going to work out fine. At least *he* wasn't a fucking FIA plant.
"There's a displacement wave traveling towards us," Johannsen said from tactical.
"Full impulse," Kathryn snapped.
"We can't outrun it," Stadi replied nervously.
Fuck. Were *all* her crew just inexperienced kids?
Before she could complete the thought, the ship was buffeted by a shock wave so great that if felt as though Voyager were a fly that had been casually swatted by a vast palm. The bridge went dark as power failed and people were hurled out of chairs and into unyielding consoles. The emergency lights flickered on to show sprawled corpses, live dangling electrical conduits and flames licking hungrily out of shattered stations.
"Hull breach on decks 14 & 7, Captain," Harry squeaked.
Kathryn was so pleased to hear his voice that she kindly ignored his obvious panic.
"Crew quarters?" She snapped.
"The inner seals came down after Sickbay decompressed," Ensign Wildman replied after she had pushed Johannsen's corpse off Tactical to read the ship's schematics.
Well, that solved the Cavit and Farrand problem at least, was Kathryn's first uncharitable thought.
Tom was alive, she noted with relief, blood pouring from a deep gash in his forehead that would have killed any other human. At least the lights were dim enough that no-one but herself could see the miraculous way that his skull was visibly knotting itself back together. He bent down over Stadi who was lying a few feet from the Helm. Then he looked up and met Kathryn's eyes.
"She's dead," Tom told Kathryn, his expression filled with sadness and fear.
She had no time to comfort him, no time to comfort any of them. The warp engine was threatening to blow.
"Ensign Kim, I need you to go and check what's left of the Sickbay. See if you can get the EMH on line to deal with the wounded. I'll be in Engineering."
Tom looked helplessly around the Bridge, at the shattered bodies and the blazing consoles and wondered, selfishly, whether this meant he was reprieved. Surely Voyager would have to abandon the hunt for the Crazy Horse and limp home now. He could go back to Auckland. He liked Auckland, didn't he? There was no need for him to get involved with this. Except maybe Janeway would let him fly the ship home. That would be nice. To fly again, even if it was in a broken ship taking him back to prison.
His mission was over. He couldn't even be blamed for the fuck-up this time. It would be Janeway's ass that the Admiral kicked, not his.
Strangely that thought wasn't as comforting as he had thought it would be. It wasn't that he liked Janeway exactly. She was FIA, after all, and he knew what kind of person that had to make her.
Even so, she'd been decent to him and he could count on one hand the number of people who had ever treated him nicely. Actually, he could count them on three fingers. And one of them was heading for the possible deathtrap of the shattered Sickbay.
As he saw Harry enter the turbolift, Tom gave a last despairing look around the ruined brig and then chased after him. Harry was the only friend he had and he was damned well going to look after him.
Helping Harry drag the corpses out of Sickbay to make room for the injured, Tom couldn't help his lips twitching in satisfaction at the fact that both Cavit and Farrand were dead. He resisted the urge to kick them both as he lay them in the corridor, but it was more fear of being observed that stopped him than his moral conscience.
He remembered Farrand from Caldik Prime. He was the bastard that had re-broken his legs because they had started to heal too quickly and the FIA needed to keep his modifications secret. Tom had understood the need for the deception. What he hated Farrand for was his deliberate failure to give Tom any painkillers before doing it just so that he could take advantage of the agony-induced lust that had ripped through Tom's body as a result.
Farrand had fucked him so hard that Tom couldn't have walked even if his legs hadn't been shattered in sixteen places.
Tom took advantage of the confusion, temporarily sacrificing Harry to the surprisingly obnoxious EMH, to quickly check the Sickbay computer files for any records of himself. Using his FIA codes, Tom quickly found and deleted all the encrypted files that contained his name. What he didn't realise was that as soon as she had identified Farrand as FIA, Kathryn had set up a feed-back loop from Sickbay that ensured that any file that mentioned Tom was ghosted into her private files as it was erased.
Tom shut down the console and walked over to where Harry was nervously trying to help the increasingly irascible Doctor. Before he reached their side, Harry disappeared. The patients on the bio-beds followed suit and then, before Tom could complete his attempt to slap his comm badge to warn the crew, he was caught in the transporter beam himself.
The EMH was left alone in Sickbay and within seconds, he was alone on the ship.
Kathryn looked in disbelief at the vast alien array that dominated the View Screen. She didn't even know how to start filing a report on the bizarre experience that they had all just shared. At least the entity had released them all. Now all she had to do was figure out how to convince it to send them home.
She could see the Crazy Horse powering up, so it was safe to assume that its crew had also been returned. Perhaps it was time to announce herself to Chakotay so that they could pool resources. It wasn't as if any of the FIA operatives were their main priority now. Politics seemed a little moot when you were seventy years away from the war.
Nevertheless, she had to be extremely careful. She couldn't afford to publicly reveal her allegiance to Chakotay because when they *did* get home, he would be effectively finished as an operative. The SCC would be furious with her if she blew his cover.
"Captain, Harry didn't come back with us. He's not on the ship," Tom's voice emerged from her comm. badge.
She quickly checked with the computer. The note of panic in Tom's voice had sounded genuine but she wasn't ready to trust him yet. He was right, however. Harry wasn't on board.
Perhaps the entity had mistakenly sent him to the Crazy Horse. At least that gave her the opportunity to finally speak face to face with her supposed 'enemy'.
She signaled the Crazy Horse and the view screen filled with the sight of the other ship's tiny bridge. She flushed as she had her first sight of Chakotay. She had seen his image on her files but it hadn't prepared her for the sheer animal magnetism of the man. He virtually screamed dangerous and for a moment she found it hard to believe that he wasn't truly a Maquis. No wonder no-one had broken his cover. It was almost impossible to imagine a force of nature like him constrained within a Starfleet Uniform.
She felt a sudden sympathy for Tom Paris. No wonder the young man had found himself unable to resist the dark warrior that glared out of the view screen. The thought of Tom drew her eyes to the dark-skinned Vulcan who was seated in the background. Presumably that was Tuvok, the spy. Kathryn cautioned herself to be extremely careful as she proceeded with this conversation.
"We seem to be missing a member of our crew," she said. "Is he with you?"
Chakotay's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"We are also missing a member of our crew, B'Elanna Torres, our engineer."
His voice practically dripped with suspicion as he glared at her, as though perhaps her claim to have a missing officer was simply a way for her to cover up her own kidnap of his Engineer. Didn't he *know* she was SCC? Shit.
He seemed to be no-one's fool and yet she herself knew that at least two members of his crew were spies. She sighed as she acknowledged to herself that she had absolutely no idea how many of her *own* crew were spies. What the hell happened to simple wars where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black so you at least knew who the hell your enemies were?
"Captain Chakotay, we both seem to have the same problem. I suggest we work together to get our respective crewmembers back," she said tiredly, letting him see her own honest despair and exhaustion in the hope that he would reciprocate her acknowledgement that they were both just human beings trying to do a job.
"How do you know my name?" he challenged.
"We were looking for your ship when we were caught in the displacement wave," Kathryn replied calmly, although she had a feeling that his puzzlement was genuine. Damn, maybe none of Will's messages had reached him and he *didn't* know that she was SCC. She would have to hope he would co-operate with her until she had a chance to brief him on her mission.
"Three of us will beam over to your ship," Chakotay snapped.