Though Much Is Taken, Much Abides...
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
-'Ulysses', Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Ephemeral but oh so haunting glory. That, Commodore Kathryn Janeway thought, was about all the sum of her past was.
Staring at the ship holospecs on her desk, she tried to offer a smile at her companions. "You seem to have things well in order. I'm assuming that she's ready to leave spacedock at short notice?"
"We're almost ready" Tom Paris offered an engaging smile. "You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to send and confirm reunion invitations for a hundred fifty or so crew. I'm still convinced that we came up with a few invisible crewmen. Despite all Seven's pretenses of perfection, she got as confused as the rest of us in the end...and downright ornery. We think we can be ready to ship off in a week."
"You invited the proper Starfleet brass?"
"You're one. Commander Troi will represent the Enterprise and Pathfinder. We wanted to keep it personal. Just Voyager and her crew once more." Chakotay offered.
"I'd like to talk to you about that, Commander." She waited until Tom took the cue and left before standing, pacing in the airy Fleet command suite. "I understand the importance of this to the crew, but I have several ongoing conflicts to clear up...I command a fleet now. I really can't spare three months for a reunion tour. I was thinking of just keeping Taya home with me..."
"She's your ship, Kathryn." His expression was stony. Same old argument, same old defense. "They're your crew. If a Commodore can't take three months to relive her glory days with her family, who can?"
"I can't." Her tones were soft, level. "You've known my resistance to this. Voyager is decrepit, out-dated, ancient in comparison to the ships of today. Troubles are brewing at every diplomatic border. A reunion tour of the most famous starship ever is not wise. Enemies will see her as a target or a trophy. Risking the lives of my former crew for such a trivial journey is not my idea of a suitable mission. Out of respect for you and my former crew, however, I have given my permission. But don't expect me to commandeer her, Chakotay. I've left those days behind."
Crashing waves, swooping gulls, and tequila with an umbrella. Some how the light had never seemed so bright...or so fragile. Swinging her legs around to sit up on her beach lounge, Deanna Troi sighed, pushing her shades up with one finger and dusting off her legs with the other hand.
"I've always been under the impression that when the counselor is depressed on vacation, the universe had might as well crash to an end." Flopping down beside her and pushing off his own shades, Captain Will Riker stared at her in exaggerated concern.
Smiling despite herself, she put on a game face, hoping to ease the concern practically radiating from him. "Thank goodness someone took out insurance."
"Dee." He brushed a strand of wet hair back, earning a wan smile. "Is it the Voyager fiasco?"
"Its hardly a full-blown fiasco." She ribbed, leaning back. "Admittedly, Commodore Janeway is stacking up an alarming number of 'steam release' sessions, but the crew seems happy enough. Most of them have settled, I can even say that most of the Maquis are *happy* in their new positions. Seven of Nine has finally decided to shed her spandex skin and embrace humanity..." A small laugh exploded.
He chuckled too, well-remembering the alarm of some of the more conservative fleet brass upon Seven of Nine's quite...revealing...arrival in full catsuit.
Her smile faded, arms hooking over his shoulders soothingly. "I'm fine, Will. A little frayed on the edges, but I suspect that playing psychiatrist to Voyager's crew and training for command certification would do that to anyone." Leaning back, she examined him. "I need time by myself, you're absolutely right. You have six months freedom while your ship is being finished. Why don't you take my place on the reunion mission? You've been dying to go, and I assure you that I would be perfectly fine on a little getaway."
"They know you, Dee." He shook his head. "I haven't gotten to know any of the voyagers very well. You know their deepest, darkest secrets.."
"My point exactly, Mister Riker." She sprayed sand on him playfully. "Having the counselor along would spoil the fun. You're the next best thing to me. Go, Will. That's a counselors order."
He eyed her, finally sighing. "All right, I'll see about it. But that's not the important thing, Deanna. You've been going melancholy on me for weeks. If its about the command..."
"I understand that you want the command." She gripped his hands. "And I understand your doubts about my own career changes and the idea of having a baby. It would be difficult, not only continuing a relationship, but sharing a child between two commands. Its not the most rational desire I've ever had, but I have to try for this command. I don't see any wisdom in waiting to have a child either. I'm not getting younger, you kn-" She laughed quietly, struggling away from reprimanding hand slaps. "Stop that. The time to reproduce is now..."
"You pulled that from one of Beverly's tacky birth clinic ads, didn't you?" Tugging her onto his lap, he laughed freely, eyes nontheless darkening in worry.
She placed a quieting finger over his lips. "Go see about that reunion, Captain. We can discuss this when you return. Go." She shooed him up. "You're stealing natures light from me."
"Its a holodeck!" Standing, he gave her a mock glare.
"You're stealing the captains light, then." She retorted, watching in bemusement as he left.
God, she hated arguments.
Removing her spectacles and placing fingers at her temples, Kathryn Janeway peered around her San Francisco apartment. Cooing infant on the floor, pacing Indian in the foyer. Pursing her lips, she stood, striding over to him. "Chakotay. You're making Taya nervous."
His gaze was withering. He had quite a few of those. Indian trick, maybe, Maquis trick, most likely. She was probably the only person he had never managed to stare down. She encircled his waist with her arm, nudging him to a chair and sighing. "Chakotay. Lets not do this on your last night here."
No reply. Her temper flared. Striding away, she waved to the bedroom. "I packed what I thought you would want to take. If you people rewired the replicators right, you can get most of it on Voyager."
"I added some of Taya's things." His tones were quiet. "You're going to be busy the next three months. She would only end up at a sitters or Fleet day care anyhow, so I've decided to exercise parental judgment and add her to Voyager's passenger roster."
Exercise parental judgment. Right to the point. She crossed her arms, swallowing an exclamation, measuring her words. "You are aware of the risks this...tour...entails."
"No more than ordinary life with Starfleet's most infamous target of assassins and traitors alike."
Touché. She lifted the querulous Taya off the floor, pacing thoughtfully along the same path he had given up. "This is because I refused to go."
His brow shot up. "Hardly. I don't follow petty retribution, Kathryn, and certainly not with a child as collateral."
"Well then." Her breath exploded in a hiss of exasperation.
"Kathryn." His voice held infinite patience. "We're going to miss the shuttle. Paris is very particular about his departure times. I'll contact you as soon as we're aboard and you can tell her goodnight." Prying the child from her grip, he lifted the few bags as well, heading out the door, shaking his head.
She sat back down, holding her throbbing head between her hands. Damn him and Voyager.
Twenty Years Later
"I have reached an epiphany." Scooping her padd and cup of coffee up simultaneously, Miral Torres-Paris took a seat in the small Parisian cafe, watching her companion expectantly.
Shoving her ludicrously out-dated spectacles off her nose, Admiral Kathryn Janeway sighed, turning off her own padd. "Not again. Honey, I can't take many more of the quarter Klingon-Tom Paris variety."
"I haven't experienced a Klingon epiphany in years." The young officers tones were amused. "And my father couldn't have been too taxing on the nerves if boring old Admiral Paris is any indication of how the Paris genes run."
Janeway frowned at her adopted protege, eyes barely hiding her own amusement. "Tom Paris was nothing like his father, Lt., and I've no doubt he would bless me for saying so. Although, insulting the old man is hardly proper..."
"But, you just did, so we can be...mutually and unofficially reprimanded." The womans eyes sparkled in a manner definitely more along the lines of her half-Klingon mother. The admiral sighed at the memories, leaning back in her seat.
"Very well, share your realization."
"I forgot." Miral held up a hand, halting the exasperated exclamation she saw forming. "But I do have something else to discuss with you. Reg Barclay has been working on a new idea..."
"No." Kathryn Janeway sat up swiftly, lips tightening.
"No?!" The girls tones held sulky indignation highly reminiscent of her fathers.
"No!" The admiral said. "Voyager has been missing this time for nearly two decades, Mira. Barclay has a charming, but highly...dangerous...obsession with her continued status. I thought finding her once would have quenched his fascination. To try a second time is a wish for self-destruction."
"And this coming from the captain who didn't go down with her ship."
"Very nice try." Janeway's eyes darkened. "But it won't work. It was a reunion mission. I chose not to attend. I'm in no way responsible to my former crew or Starfleet for Voyager's second disappearance. Took half a decade of counseling to convince me of it, but I've settled on my innocence. Voyager is a flying Dutchman, Mirie. We haven't heard a word from her in two decades. Even our first voyage had better statistics than that. She's gone, as are the rest of the crew...and your mother and father. I haven't raised you just to see you off on some damned mission of fancy for Mister Barclay!"
"I've already been assigned to the mission. We're to take a small ship and explore the nebulous region where she disappeared...there are indications of distortions that sensors haven't been advanced enough to pick up until now. I'm to serve as Voyager's historic liaison and mission commander."
"And a thin connection to the lost ship suddenly makes you fit to find her?"
"Hardly thin." The quarter Klingon's tones were brittle. "My parents were aboard her. Their friends. The only family I had known, and, I once thought, yours as well. Sorry to presume that seven years together might actually have made you come to care for them. Or your daughter."
"Don't..."Janeway sat her mug down, closing her eyes and inhaling. "Ok. Enough. You reign in the Klingon irrationality and I'll reign in the urge to slap the unholy hell out of you."
"Fair enough." Miral sipped from her cup, fingers nontheless trembling with restrained anger.
Her mentor gazed at her probingly. "Who else did you have in mind?"
"You were an idea..."
"As I said, a brief idea. Ensign Inara Troi has volunteered."
Janeway nodded, raising her cup as she motioned expressively. "Childhood friend of yours, right? I haven't seen her in a while. Anything like her mother?"
"Her mother is a perfectly good counselor."
"Indeed. She also crashed the Enterprise D and was passed over for a command."
"No one gives the poor woman any credit." Shaking her head despairingly, Torres-Paris sighed. "However, if it makes you feel better, Inara is a pilot...and a damned good one. On scale with my father. She also specializes in search and recovery operations. I think Barclay influenced that, much to Deanna Troi's displeasure."
"So you have the Troi-Barclay aspect." A sudden thought hit the Admiral. "Barclay...she isn't his?"
A raised brow. "Thankfully not."
"Perhaps. No one is certain. Inara was born only a few months after Captain Riker went MIA with Voyager, so its a possibility. Commodore Troi never speaks of him."
There had to be some kind of story behind that one. She had indeed been out of touch with the universe. Sipping, Janeway nodded in distraction. "Naomi. Naomi Wildman...Sam was on the reunion trip, but Naomi stayed here with her father. Wouldn't she be a prime candidate?"
"If she were available." Miral's tones were bland. "Moirae mission, two months ago. Two ships crews taken by a wormhole race."
"Shes in a prison camp?"
Son of a bitch. The former captain of Voyager swallowed, eyes stinging.
The younger womans tones softened as she touched her companions arm. "Look, I won't bother you anymore with this. I just thought, being Voyager's captain and my adopted mother, you deserved to know. The mission has a grant for a year before Starfleet pulls us off it. Unless we get a miracle, I'm not expecting to be back before then. I have to do this."
Janeway nodded, glancing away. "If you do...by some astounding feat...find them...tell your parents I'm sorry."
"For not going with them?"
"No, honey, but hold out hope if you like. I apologize for passing my coffee addiction along to you." The former captain of Voyager grinned.
"And if I see Chakotay?"
The smile faded, eyes darkening bitterly. "Tell him that the captain is always right."
"Ready?" Tugging at her daughters regulation braid, Deanna Troi paced a small circle in her office.
"Quite." Dark-haired Inara watched her petite mother in tolerant amusement. "So is the mission commander. Lt. Torres-Paris says you have precisely five minutes to spit out the motherly advice."
"I've never spent an entire five minutes on motherly advice." Troi said indignantly. "However...the Lt. can wait. Rank does have its privileges. I was feeding that little imp chocolate when she was a child."
"Speaking of rank...care to explain how you got from Commander to Commodore without the captain again?"
"Damn Starfleet and their preference to keep me out of a command chair." Troi smiled, halting. "All right, that took a minute. What else?"
"You promised to prepare a message for Captain Riker."
"I haven't had time." Brushing the idea off brusquely, Deanna stared out a window at the bay. "Besides, you know how inept I am at words."
"You're a counselor, for gods sake."
"Yes. I'm good at plucking thoughts out of fertile minds and reshaping them into coherence, but when it comes to organizing my own...its a feat of incongruity that I have yet to master. You know better what to say if you see him than I. IF you see him. I doubt any of this is even within the bounds of hope, but, if you and you quarter Klingon friend insist...well, I never argue with a Klingon or a Troi. Worf and mother taught me that much. Say what you will."
"Does that include 'Hello, Will, you have a daughter'?"
"Perhaps he does. I wouldn't advise betting replicator rations or risking an awkward introduction on it. Could be a son. Fate only knows what he's been up to all these years if he's alive."
"Inara, no. This isn't something I'm going to expand upon." Deanna raised her hands in protection. "You have the right to do tests all you desire if you really want to learn the identity of your father. I cling to my right not to tell you. Please, respect that. I don't want to part on an argument."
"You're stubborn, your continued beauty at an advancing age is remarkably annoying, and you behave more like grandmother every day, but I do love you." Smiling ruefully, the young woman pressed a kiss to her mothers lips, dancing away to escape the outraged smack. "Goodbye, mama."
"Safe voyage, Inara." Shaking her head, Commodore Deanna Troi transferred an uneasy gaze out the window again as the door closed behind her daughter.
"Should I make an appointment?" Leaning against a bulkhead, Kathryn Janeway stared into the darkened Commodore's office. Turning, a clearly startled Counselor Troi offered a smile, waving her to a chair.
"Not at all. I just saw Inara off. She tells me that Lt. Torres-Paris has things in hand."
"As much as any Torres-Paris offspring could, I suspect." Chuckling, the admiral settled in. "She inherited both the irrationality and the natural penchant for testing boundaries without even realizing any are there."
"You seem to have dealt with it well enough. She's a remarkable young woman."
"I've dealt with it better than you thought I would two decades ago." The reminder was quiet, but steely.
"I'm a counselor and a Starfleet officer, Admiral, my duty is to question what I cannot emphatically support. Twenty years ago, you were not in a condition to raise a child. Neither was I for that matter, but we did, and, I believe, managed well enough." Troi stared briefly into her drink. "I said some rather unprofessional things all those years ago. Perhaps I genuinely thought that you might have been clinging to Miral out of grief for your own daughters loss, or perhaps I was just an emotional wreck myself and lashing out. I had no right to be on the case, and that's why I withdrew. I wasn't willing to place that little girls fate on my shaky judgment."
Janeway shook her head, eyes distant. "Chakotay and I had been arguing for days before the trip. He knew that I wasn't willing to go, and that alone angered him, but when I tried to get him to leave Taya with me...it was our biggest row to date-we rarely argued, but when we did it was quiet, and one of us catapulted before it got deep enough to really wound. Old habit from Voyager..damage control. On that ship the slightest festering animosity could turn into full blown rebellion on the part of any number of crewmen. So when we got home and Taya came along, we still kept our arguments calm. That time was no different. Chakotay, the picture of calm and reason. She went. And I lost her. It only made me angrier by far when a Fleet runner dropped Miral back on my doorstep, with a note from Torres and Paris that they had last minute concerns. They didn't trust Voyager to a safe reunion journey, so Chakotay had Taya and I had Miral. Once we knew Voyager lost... I had no right to turn to Mirie like I did..I did wonder often if I was playing substitute, and I suppose that's our one major bone of contention. She accepted my love, but she is quite adamant about preserving her true parents heritage." A brief smile escaped. "I've always wondered at why you and I haven't been closer acquaintances than we are. We seem to operate at parallels. We certainly have a history of linkage. Will Riker, Reg and Pathfinder, Mirie and your daughter...the damnable counseling sessions."
"The most interesting I've ever led." Troi laughed, leaning forward, eyes full of understanding, and the former captain realized with shame that she had fallen right into the age old counselors 'talk it out' trick. Shaking her head, she sighed.
"I did support you for a command."
"I had no doubt that you didn't. Admiral Paris was the main detractor. Perhaps it was for the best. I've had the chance to really hone the counseling skills."
"Mirie and Inara...they'll take care of one another."
"I would expect nothing less. They are, as you put it, linked. The question is, why are we here moping in the darkness? I've heard of a little coffee and chocolate cafe..."
"It pays for more than Commodore's, by all means."
They left laughing.
"Are we set?" Landing in her co-pilots seat with a thump, Miral leaned forward to scan the consoles, ridged nose crinkling in vexation as she rummaged through the supply bag. "Tuna. Why, I ask, does a Betazoid fix tuna sandwiches?"
"This *is* a mission, Mirie, not a field trip. We outgrew those a while back." Inara Troi pointed out, steering gracefully through spacedock doors. "Besides, I like tuna."
"Not my fault, you live with a therapist." The quarter Klingon mumbled, bending to rummage beneath the seat, then settling with a padd. "Bid adieu, Ensign."
"USS Enterprise, Ambassador Worf, and Starbase DQ-79 bid adieu in turn, Lieutenant." The pilot offered with grave professionalism.
"Proceed, then, I have a Klingon romance novel to read."
"I thought Janeway confiscated those."
"Only long enough to read them. She insists on equal sin."
"I wouldn't call it sin, just rather torrid...and bone-breaking...enjoyment."
"You have a Klingon boyfriend, helmie?" Leaning forward, Torres-Paris laughed at the blush stealing up her longtime friends cheeks. "Kahless, if your mother knew..."
"Shut the channel, you two, before we're forced to join you as chaperones." Came Janeway's gravelly voice.
"I thought you were off on a coffee bing, Admiral."
"Commodore Troi and I had a suspicion that your departure might bear supervision. Bon voyage, Lt."
"Au revoir, Admiral, Commodore." Closing the channel, Miral smiled in satisfaction. "Take us out, Inarie."
"Heading set, second star to the right and fate help us if Voyager's luck has rubbed off on us." Keying in the commands, Inara sat back, grinning.
"You're going to have to do better." Backing up out of the jeffries tube, Tom Paris shook his head, blinking as his gaze settled back on the gloom of Voyager's emergency lights.
"30% is all I can get...Captain." The young woman before him said sharply, hands settling on her hips, lips curling up in distracted annoyance. It was a series of gestures so unnervingly like her mother that he almost felt a chill, but shook it off, tugging at his chin stubble instead. Time for a shave. As soon as they had fucking power.
Sighing, he practiced his patient veneer, pulling on the captains mask...damn, he hated the captains mask. Happy, dad? You got your captain of a son. No matter that it was through the deaths of the best officers I've ever known... "Not good enough. You've done better. I remember a time when you actually managed...oh, 70%. Try for it, it can't make you any more tired or irritable than you already are."
"I am not irritable." Thunderclouds crossed her lean face, definitely a Janeway expression on a Chakotay canvas.
He took her arm, leading her to a corner. "Look, Taya. You've been Chief Engineer and pulling miracles that even B'Elanna couldn't manage since you were fifteen. You've kept Voyager, and by default, us, alive for five years. Saying you can't do it now is saying you've gotten slack. I don't have room for slackers in the active crew body. You want to try it, I'll put you out to go find that colony Riker set up or in stasis with your father and the rest of the damned senior staff. Understood, Chief?"
Lips working, she finally settled on an angry wave, stomping off. He heaved another sigh, tugging at his four-pipped collar with a vengeance.
"I'd like to talk to you." Striding up the hill, Paris stared grimly at Captain Will Riker.
Riker sighed quietly, releasing the four-legged critter he had been examining and straightening, bristled face wide with a deliberately welcoming smile. Knowing Paris' Maquis history, along with his own double's, he hadn't been very...friendly...at first, but time and experience had taught him that friends were necessary parts of life here. He had spent the past twenty years working on it, for all the good it had done. Paris didn't trust easily. "You've wandered a long way from your ship, Captain."
"She's not going anywhere." Tom grunted, taking in the view. Nice enough slope, but deceptively aesthetic...on a good day you could reap a survival and not much more from this planet. Proud pretenses aside, Riker and his flock had a lot more difficulty than not eking out a living, but he grudgingly admired the sheer determination poured into it.
"A burned out chief engineer who shouldn't even have such a post at such a young age, a few dead officers and a few dozen dead crewmen, power outages, poisoned food, the typical. What working sensors we have show storms forming. You should bring your people to Voyager. Not much, but she's shelter."
"We've weathered them before." Will stretched, grimacing lightly.
"Why didn't you take her? Voyager? You were the ranking officer, damned sure the ranking officer after Tuvok and Chakotay and my wife died."
"I didn't want a busted ship, Paris, and I didn't want your ship. Voyager...I was a guest. I would never have been welcome to captain her...a foreign parasite, if you will. You spent seven years with those people. They trust you, know you. You're family. I couldn't have shoved myself in if I had wanted to, and I didn't want to. I have my own family back home." The older man sighed, running callused hands through his hair, eyes unusually sober. "You're tired. You've been at this for more years than your exhausted mind lets you calculate at once, your crew is obstinate, all your good intentions seem to be going rotten. You just want to throw your head back and howl. Welcome to the captaincy. You had to be there before you really respected Janeway and her seven years of hell and understood why she wasn't willing to try again, didn't you?"
A faint nod of shamed assent. "We didn't support her. Chakotay I think bore down on her the hardest, they were fighting when he brought Taya aboard. Took her, I guess. She contacted the ship a couple of hours after he boarded, I stepped into the ready room just soon enough to hear the tail end of one hell of a confrontation. He cut her off, didn't call back. I think, after getting stuck out here, that that's what killed the old man. The memory of that last fight. We always knew he would rather die than hurt her, and god, did he hurt her that last night. And Taya." He frowned painfully, eyes dark. "She's so damned much like them both. Its a continual balancing act for me, whether to strangle his brat or adore the captains whelp. I've tried to be all things to her...captain, substitute parent, friend...but she's as tired and depressed as I am, and we've both got stubborn streaks."
Riker nodded quietly, shoving his hands into his pockets and cocking his head to squint at the brightening sunlight. The place would be a broiling desert in hours. So much for quality vacations. Shaking his head, he turned back. "I'm no empath, Paris, but I doubt you decided to visit after three years silence just to share grievances."
The younger man grinned, but it was edged with bitterness, amused exhaustion. "No, Taya listens to those well enough and adds in free and quite frank thoughts on them. No, our nefarious planetary prison keepers have made a return entrance. A few dozen of them surprised the ship the other day. Apparently a Fleet ship has been nosing around the distortions again, they wanted to do the usual round of interrogations and torture. We lost another two crewmen. That makes the third round in a year. I think the Federation is getting close to smelling them...and by defect us...out."
"What happened to the ships?"
"Said to have been destroyed, but I get the feeling that the crews are still around somewhere, maybe the isolated prison caverns in the north. So, Captain Riker, I'm deferring judgment and asking advice from an equal. Do we let more ships come to their doom, or lift ourselves out of our self-woven shroud of doldrums and try to get off this rock?"
"It was never a matter of laziness, Paris, just lack of resources and hope." Enterprise's former first officer paced. "Sometimes getting out of a prison bubble is easy enough, but when you've got a dead ship and distortions all but making the entire area invisible to the rest of the universe...and thereby, help...it gets damn complicated. I've spent twenty years thinking on it, and I haven't found a plausible way. That, I have to admit, wounds my pride. I get the sensation that unnamed other Starfleet captains could have figured this one out in a matter of weeks."
Tom Paris chuckled, sincere for once. "I know the sensation. Come back to Voyager, Captain, perhaps we can figure this monster out if we pool resources. Chief Taya has been plotting with the new information, but she hasn't offered to share yet. I may have to pry it out of her. We're running out of time."
A crouching death trap. Not exactly the most favorable phrase to describe a Starfleet ship, but William Riker couldn't find a more accurate one. The initial crash had left Voyager battered, unflyable, but she had still looked like a lady. Of course, it had been nearly twenty years since he had set foot on her, and admittedly, he thought, stroking his white hair, a lot could happen in twenty years. Still, it didn't make him anymore comfortable stepping into the groaning, darkened mess.
Paris seemed unruffled by it all, or perhaps just hardened, as he led the way through makeshift corridors. "Lifts are down again, we have to prioritize when it comes to power and repairs. The briefing room is reasonably whole, if you don't expect a five course meal from the replicator. The rest of the senior staff is waiting."
And what a staff. Chief Engineer Taya Janeway, a diminutive, glaring young woman with Chakotay's Native American tint and her mothers eyes. Shaking his head, he moved on down the line...none of them familiar. These were, of course, former junior officers and noncom's who had served seven years on Voyager, but they seemed as uncomfortable as he grouped around the table. When he had left with his colonists, Harry Kim, B'Elanna Torres, and Seven of Nine had at least been there. It seemed surreal without Voyager's rightful officers.
Sitting, he smiled cautiously at the engineer. "Taya...I knew your mother."
"Didn't everyone." She raised a brow, tones neutral. Meeting her eyes, he fought back a sudden swell of immense grief and pity. The face, the motions, the frail little body, was much the image of Cadet Kathryn Janeway, his friend and his delight, but the eyes...the eyes were old, tired, bitter, laced with innumerable fires and emotions, and he recognized, with sorrow, that this young woman, barely old enough to be out of Academy if back home, was far older in spirit than even her mother had been after seven years in the Delta Quadrant.
Leaning back in the captains seat, Tom Paris watched them expressionlessly, waiting patiently as the other man worked mentally through not just whom they would be working against, but whom they would be working with. Gaze drifting to his engineer, he rubbed his neck absently, trying to drink her in through a fresh perspective. Medium height, tawny skin, but blue Janeway eyes, Kathryn Janeway's lips and expressions, short, cropped hair that was an oddly attractive mixture of Indian black and Janeway's chestnut. Not bad looking at all, but thin, as they all were, tired, more bitter than some. Taya Janeway had shouldered a lot of responsibility in five years, and much as she snarled about it, the fact that she stuck with it said more than words ever could. Under other circumstances, in another time and place, she would have sat as well as Kathryn Janeway in a command chair.
In another time and place.
He sighed, straightening. "Lets get down to business."
The one detractor of coffee highs was that they never quite lasted long enough to stave away the wolves of the universe.
Pressing a hand to her temple, Admiral Kathryn Janeway paced in the office of Admiral Owen Paris, head of Starfleet Command, biting back an inexorable, thoroughly unabashed desire to wring his increasingly corpulent neck. "The Ananke was the final of three small ships, minimally crewed, to mysteriously disappear in the fringes of this distortion. In the case of the previous disappearances,no evidence was found, but this time the crew of the Ananke-Miral and Inara Troi-managed to send out a transmission giving us the briefest of information. They circled the distortions, noted an odd anomaly, moved closer, found out it was a planet, took scans, found evidence of human life. Unfortunately, the alien gatekeepers of that particular area of space found them as well and apparently sent out a barrage of energy weapons, driving them to a landing. In the time since, both planet and ship have completely disappeared from our detection. Now, why, Owen, should we NOT send out backup?"
"We only have so many ships to give a god damned black hole alien, Kathryn." The older Paris looked as exasperated as she felt. "This is obviously a subspace race...we could chase them in circles and simply end up staring at thin air. Voyager is gone. I thought that you, of all of us, had accepted that long ago."
"Your granddaughter was on that third ship, Owen." Her voice lowered dangerously as she leaned over his desk. "My adopted daughter. Your son, the person I adored as much as I could have a son of my own, my birth daughter were on Voyager. I had only given up hope because there was no evidence that Voyager stood a chance of still being out there. Now, with those scans, I know that my ship and my family are out there, and I'll be damned if you stop me from helping them. Make no interference an order if you desire, but I assure you, I'll have no qualms about turning in my commission and hijacking a god damned ship if I have to. I've already gotten Commodore Troi's agreement on the matter, and I think that you'll find the Enterprise and her crew a force to be reckoned with as well."
"To think." He shook his head, leaning back, looking older than ever before. "That I created you."
Home. She hadn't realized just how much she had missed the dear old lady Enterprise until she had returned. Sliding a hand along a bridge banister, Commodore Deanna Troi smiled in spite of the chaos of the present time, finding her safe place once more. Yes, home. I'll bring you home, Inara. Tapping a com channel, she stood back, hands folded tightly in nervousness. "Admiral, are we set to go?"
"Just as soon as Ambassador Worf determines which Klingon weapon is most suitable for today." Janeway's gravelly voice broke through, equally buoyant. "Ah, he's settled for a mere phaser like we weaklings. Lets go."
Hiding a smile, Deanna Troi turned and met helmsman Ensign Aura La Forge's crystalline gaze. "Take us out, will you?"
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Crawling forward in the dim recesses of the prison caverns, Tom Paris poked his chief engineer in the back, coughing at the dust.
Her hiss and the boot tapping not so gently in his face was warning enough. He moved back, irritated. "Well?"
"I dampened the force fields, put a lock on security alerts, but we only have a few minutes. We have to find your Starfleet mystery hunters now." She sat back, readjusting her phaser, wincing at a gash in her shoulder.
"Stay here." He ordered. "I'll go in, meet you back here."
She chuckled, a definite Janeway throaty chuckle. "Not on your life, Captain. My mother could be in there."
Somehow, absurdly, he realized that it was the first childish hope he had ever heard voiced from this pariah. He nodded, relenting. "Go then. Lets make it fast."
"Its an automated shielding system." Inara Troi stared at the panel before her. "They forced us in with a damned computer program!"
"Sabotage it." Miral moved forward, glancing around the dim alien caverns, perplexed and relieved at once that there didn't seem to be any resistance to fend off.
"Didn't learn that at the Academy." The Ensign knelt, prying out a panel, elegant fingers slapping buttons and switches with an uncanny accuracy. Then again, her friend mused, she had been 'niece' to an android. Speed probably rubbed off. "But then again, I didn't learn Klingon sex from the Academy either."
"Good grief, ENSIGN."
"I'm relieving stress. Doctor Crusher gave me that particular tip-whenever nervous, try being a smart-ass, even if you can only talk to yourself. It works. I hear your father was a master at the technique, Mirie."
The Lieutenant chose not to comment, merely lifting a brow as they moved out of the room. "Do spare a report."
"Certainly. I've incapacitated the planetary shielding grid and set up a fail-safe. Should any dissenters arrive, they'll have a roadblock of epic proportions to navigate. I also managed to pull off a sensor scan-the Federation tag we detected earlier is located about twenty kilometers away."
"That's a long walk."
"We don't have to. Two human lifesigns in cavern level five, tunnel twelve. I think we found the family."
"I heard something." Shining his torchlight forward, Paris halted, listening to the grinding drawing near. Someone else crawling through. He swore. "Back up."
"Wait." Fumbling for her tricorder, Taya hastily reconfigured for scans. "They're human. No one on our crew, but I am detecting quarter Klingon and quarter Betazoid lifesigns..."
Betazoid. Mind flashing back to Will Riker and Deanna Troi, he inhaled. Quarter Klingon, quarter Betazoid...unlikely pair to be wandering here...unless they were looking for something.
He swore again. "Lets go after them, then."
"The distortions are clearing up." Janeway remarked, pacing Enterprise's bridge. "And there most certainly is a planet out there."
"We should be cautious." Troi moved away from her position behind the captains chair. "This is what Inara reported before she and Miral disappeared. It could be a ploy to tractor us in."
"Maybe." The former captain of Voyager admitted, fingers running across the science panels quickly. "But it has the tag of a localized disruption. Inara and Miral reported random weapons push from all around the planet. Looks like the enemy ran away with ther tails between their legs. Someone probably compromised security and shut down the grid."
"We are being hailed." Worf's voice boomed across the bridge, droll as always. Troi shared a look with her companion, moving towards tactical.
"Can you identify them?"
He shrugged, brows lifting. "They are already on screen."
Wheeling, she took in the grainy image. A subterranean tunnel, not much light, but a definite chorus of voices, two of which she recognized enough to sag in relief. "Lt. Torres-Paris? Ensign?"
"Mother!" Another breach of protocol, Inara realized, but to hell with it, she was too damn happy to worry about regulations.
Another figure moved forward as Deanna spared a reassuring smile. "I must say, Admiral, when you play hide and go seek, you play with nice toys."
Janeway pressed forward, eyes filled with painfully obvious relief. "Mister Paris."
"You can call me Captain." He grinned tiredly. "With all due respect, I'd like to see those pips in person. You've outshone me again. Not that I was ever ahead..."
"Its good to have you back, Tom." She chuckled, then sobered. "I'm sure a survivor roster will be pulled together soon enough, but tell me-how many?"
"Too few, ma'am." His voice was quiet. "Too few."
Closing her eyes, Deanna Troi steadied herself against the torrent of emotions she expected, but none came, none...and then, she realized, despairingly, that her greatest fear had been true, the bond had severed. The endearment held none of the special magic. It was just a word from a tired and old voice, as uncaring as herself. She sighed, turning. "Will."
He was white-haired, dirty, but grinning, replenished in spirit, if a sadness in his eyes hinted at the same thoughts she held. "You have an exceptionally beautiful and entertaining daughter. Command track, is she?"
"Dabbles in a bit of everything, but piloting is her high point." Slowly moving forward, she came to rest directly before him. "Will, she isn't your-"
"I know." He interrupted quietly, understandingly. "But does she?"
"I haven't had the heart to shatter her dreams." She crossed her arms, paced again, repelled by the gulf between them, wondering how it had come to be there. Where had Imzadi gone?
"A noble thought." He captured her, eyes probing. "But have you ever given thought to being just human? Looking beyond the Betazoid sensitivities and...bonds?"
"I looked beyond the bond." She sat, tones breaking as she gripped his hand. "And I saw a vista more cold, more alien, than anything I'd ever encountered..."
"We're Enterprise officers, Dee. We're crewmates, and friends. I've walked through fire with you and I'll gladly do so again, Imzadi or no Imzadi. I haven't left you. I've just given you room to fly." Kissing her forehead, he moved out of her office quickly, but somehow, she suspected, prayed, that he would be back. Yes, he would always return.
Sitting, she steadied herself, tapping her com badge. "Inara? I have to discuss something with you."
It wasn't her ship.
Oh, physically, realistically, that was a bit of an exaggeration, this was indeed the same starship she had commandeered all those years ago. But emotionally...Voyager had changed, darkened, folded in on itself, been swept up in confusion and impenetrable grief. Running a hand down a charred wall, Kathryn Janeway stared at the mauled and battered warp core, dead weight, clearly defiled in a fury only a living creature could have managed. She was humbled, somehow, at just how much she had taken for granted during those seven years. They had been lost, yes, but Voyager-their home-had been safe, warm, stable, bright, full of life and civilization. This...this Voyager...was as dark and cracked as her current captain...and engineer. Closing her eyes, she sighed.
"I suppose I should fess up and say that I did that." The voice to her right was calm, subdued, tired, nothing like the lightly mocking tones of the past. Turning, Tom Paris smiled at her, whimsically, but no warmth emanated. "Night after Lanna and Seven died, I suppose, I'm not very good with dates anymore and the computers dating system is...well, malfunctioning. Seven years ago, I should say-I told B'Elanna-no, ORDERED her- to drop warp core repairs, eject the damned thing, give it up, but she didn't. Still held out hope that we would fly again, for me, I guess. She and Seven went behind my back to do the repairs, a storm hit, knocked the ship about, systems went haywire-the core erupted in minor bouts. She and Sev were burned hideously by the leakage, but the ever brave Klingon had to go back in and stabilize it, save the ship. She was hit by another explosion, Seven went back in to get her, they both died in a mass of heat and falling debris. Most ironic moment in Voyager's history, Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres clinging to one another for dear life-dead." His lips quirked darkly. "Chakotay, Tuvok, and Harry were killed in the initial crash, Lanna, Seven, and I did our best to raise your daughter-but something went wrong, very wrong. Even before Lanna and Seven died, I could see the darkness in her, but afterward...she was a loose canon. I shouldn't have put her up for B'Elanna's replacement, but she was all we had. Its hardened her. I see in her myself thirty years ago, and that's not a pretty sight. Not only did I betray myself, I turned something wonderful of yours and Chakotay's..." His voice dropped, breath ragged, and she knew without turning that he had tears in his eyes.
Sighing, she encircled his torso in her arms, a laughable, utterly stupid gesture considering the fact that he was several heads taller than she was, but what else was there to do? Say 'You could never disappoint me, Tom.' 'It wasn't your fault.'? No, those were phrases he had heard all too often, phrases that cut him more deeply than insults, and she knew from experience that as a captain, no amount of talk could convince him that the blood of lost crewmen and burden of chances gone wrong wasn't on his hands.
Giving in, Kathryn Janeway hugged her former helmsman and they both cried over the ship and memories that they had both come to recognize as lifeblood.
There was no requiem for a captain.