Vignettes In Possibility
Tom Paris was convinced that he'd never met such a stubborn, willful, outright mean creature in his entire life. Still, there was a hidden softness behind the cold eyes before him. More to provoke than because he believed it, he leaned back and offered his critical analysis. "You, Jade, remind me of your father somehow. I've heard other say it as well. Not many see Janeway in you."
"They fail to take into account that I am *nothing* like my father." Her tones were precise, cold. "My father...adopted one, that is...was a fool, always praying for glory and accepting everything less. Starfleet...he saw as his salvation. They killed him. He was never quite acceptable by their standards." Her laughter was bitter. "It destroyed him. He finally went AWOL and I haven't seen him since. As for my biological father...I've never known him. I was an inconvienent mistake, and when Harry Kim offered to clean up the spoils, I'm told that he was all too eagar to concede."
"I see." He said quietly. "And your mother?"
"You know a good bit about your former shipmates scandels and mishaps. You know who she was."
Tom smiled. "The infamous Kathryn Janeway."
"Yes." A slight nod.
He met her gaze, then changed the subject. "You were Starfleet yourself. What happened to the pips?"
"Disallusionment." She took a sip from her coffee mug, gaze going pensive, head tilting in thought. "Anger. Foolishness." Shaking her head, she smiled. "Those Janeway emotions cost me a lot. The story of my life....or...nonlife." Something undefined flashed into her life momentarily.
A short nod of empathy. "I haven't spoken to her directly for...god, years. You?"
Jade shifted her gaze, smiling edgily. "As said, my own worst self cost me a lot. She's never been entirely comfortable with me, symbol of her one major disruption of protocal that I am. I spent most of my childhood with Harry...when he left I was eleven, spent a few years in quiet seclusion with the help and an occasional evening with her if duty didn't call. I left for academy an unnamed orphan with no regrets and when she eventually severed all communication, I wasn't especially heartbroken. Kathryn Janeway was not meant to be a mother, Paris. She was meant to be...whatever the hell her ideal of a captain is. None of its real enough to bite through the mental blocks of hers."
He was quiet for a moment, then nodded at her. "Coffee."
"You just remind me of someone I once knew a long time ago...wouldn't know her now, I'm afraid...like you, very much a coffee addict. You remind me of her in other ways as well."
"Not the infamous Captain." A brief, genuine smile. "There are billions of identical coffee addicts in the universe, Paris. Its a shared neurosis."
He stood, grinning, and tousled her hair. "Right. Goodbye, sweetheart, I have a daughter to see off."
She turned in the chair, raising her voice to be heard as he walked away. "Paris? Will this be the last time I see you?"
He paused. "Oh, no. You've grown on me, and I owe it to...Harry...to help. I'll find you again."
Surprisingly, the woman mused, she looked forward to it.
He came with a guest the next visit. Stretching in her corner table, she ordered another coffee, watching them unobtrusively as they worked through the crowd. Civvies on the other one as well, though Jade would have recognized her with or without the Starfleet engineering colors. They made it to the table, he pulling out a chair for the diminutive half-klingon. "Jade, sweetheart, B'Elanna Torres."
"Your wife." She smiled, held out her free hand, marveled at the warm grip of the older woman. "You do realize that you are putting your career at risk by seeing me?"
Torres laughed curtly, dryly, watching as Paris headed off to find drinks. "I'm with fleet because they need me, not because I need them."
She nodded. "Harry spoke a great deal about you. He held a lot of good memories of his best friends. "
Torres nodded, putting to words what Paris had restrained. "Why did you leave fleet, Jade? Not the best beauracracy, of course, but we do have our perks...and according to talk, you were on your way to being one hell of a commander someday."
"Thats what they said about Chakotay. He died in a Federation prison camp."
The engineer flinched, but refused to rise to the deliberate baiting. "He had his demons. As his...and Harry's...friend, I would hope that you would at least give beating yours a shot."
"I'm not interested in rehabilitation, Captain, I'm interested in finding my erstwhile adoptive father, alive or dead. Call it...chasing demons. His, mine, ours...who knows?"
B'Elanna stared into her glass momentarily, slender, dark fingers dancing across its surface. "I'll help you. I'll put my neck out for you, and I'll throw away everything it has taken me decades to build. But you must know, above all else, that my help is by no means a promise of success, and it is not for you. Its for Harry, for everything Janeway was never able to be to you, and for the man you'll never know as your father. For Tom Paris will never be your father, Jade. Understand that now. I won't allow you the chance to destroy him."
"My reputation does indeed precede me." Jade smiled tightly.
"He didn't know, Jade. He didn't ask Harry to clean up any mess, he is actually a bit more noble than that, rumors aside. Janeway refused to take you home from hospital, Tuvok and Chakoay confided in poor Harry, and he offered to take you. I don't know what the dear old bitch told you, and I'm frankly tired of trying to unravel the mystery that is Kathryn Janeway. I only know that Tom had no idea you existed, and he still has no idea that the little rebel Kim is his daughter."
"That may be true, but why, may I ask, are you protecting him? Hes done more than his share of dallying, I'm certain I'm just one of his byproducts. I thought you Klingons a bit more spirited when it came to defending your territory."
A brief, quirky smile. "You don't know me very well, then. You really don't know any of us. That, young lady, along with your sweeping generalities, will be your destruction." Standing, she held out a padd. "These are the directions to our quarters. I wouldn't advise a beam in, Starfleet is fond of unwonted scans for fugitives. Go there tomorrow and wait until I return from headquarters, Tom leaves for a mission tonight, our daughter is already gone. Wait for me. Goodnight, Jade."
There was nothing of worth to steal. Laughing inwardly at the self-damning lack of morality the thought showed, Jade paced around the expansive San Francisco apartment, eyes taking in the view. The usual Starfleet trophies, comfortable furniture, an odd assortment of what she thought might be twentieth century antiques. The photographs, some old camera print, some holoimagery, caught her eye. Paris and Torres, a small fore-head ridged girl, a followup graduation picture, a few old shots of a group that she recognized instantly. Janeway in old command red and black, shooting an irritated look at the camera as she moved down Voyager's corrider, Janeway and Chakotay in the mess, unaware of the camera, laughing together. Harry and the Borg. Harry and Paris and Torres. The Vulcan. The Talaxian, brandishing a spoon. She felt an odd twinge of irritation and wistfulness.
Turning as the door slid open, she crossed her arms. "Nice place."
"Its livable." Torres dropped a stack of padds, moving towards the replicator for a drink. "Nothing here that would sell on a black market."
The half-Klingon actually smiled. "I thought you would. You found the pictures, I see. Between them Tom and Chakotay terrorized Voyager with the damned cameras. Its nice to have the momentos, though."
"Does it ever pain you to look at them and realize just how rotten they've all become?" Jade moved. "Janeway gone into her own little Starfleet bubble of pedantry, Chakotay dead from prison camp woes, Tuvok in seclusion, the Borg half insane after being the Federation's little test subject, Harry gone AWOL. Quite a collection of misfits."
"They were good people." Torres said quietly. "Unfortunately, good isn't always good enough. They played the game and lost."
"I won't be that foolish."
"You'll probably be more so." B'Elanna waved a hand towards a sofa. "What can I do to help you?"
"I require a ship."
"I'm an engineer, kid, not a royal officer." A faint smile. "The rank is purely for show, and damn sure isn't as powerful as a command rank. I can't put in a request for a ship."
"I didn't ask you to. You have half a dozen in dock being refitted, at least half of which are still operable. Just point me to one and find me a viable escape plan."
The older woman arched a brow, neither refusing nor conceding. "What would you do with it?"
"Unconfirmed reports have Harry in the war zones. There are no transports in or out...only ships that get in are military, mainly Starfleet, and my status as a criminal doesn't exactly shine favorably on a request for passage. To get in I need a ship, now. I can't afford a civilian vessel. I assure you that I'm more than capable of hijacking a small vessel on my own, but in doing so I would inevitably leave casualties. The previous option is bloodless and more convienient."
Captain Torres eyed her briefly. "Why haven't you asked your mother? She may be many things, but I find it difficult to believe that even the Kathryn Janeway of today would turn her daughter in."
"She wouldn't. She would 'unwittingly' leave a tracer on my comm signal and leave the turning in up to one of the endearing fleet spies in the vicinity. Knowing Janeway, she'd follow up with a box of coffee chocolates to keep me company in the holding cell. She sure as hell wouldn't help me get a ship."
"You don't put a lot of stock in things as simple as love, do you?"
"I haven't been given reason to." The response was clipped. "Will you help me or not?"
"Be ready tomorrow morning. I have a surprise for you. In the meantime, get some sleep. Even you need sleep. I won't turn you in overnight. Sweet dreams, Jade."
The younger woman smiled bitterly as the door shut. "Oh, no, I don't. Sleep is a rather worthless endeavor for me."
The quiet, instead of lulling, proved uneasy. Too many nights camped in war holes and target camps, Jade supposed, slipping out of bed and pacing in the room she had been waved off to. Paris and Torres' daughters room, if the small momentos left around were any indication. She admitted to a slight jealousy for the older-and unmet-quarter Klingon. Her..hell, half-sister, if one wanted to swell on biological technicalities.
She didn't, instead sitting back down on the bed and lifting up a photo album. Old kind, Paris had a fondness for the inate and archaic, and his cherished daughter had apparently picked up on it. The pictures spanned two decades. Torres didn't seem to age much with time, probably a gift of the Klingon genetics variety. Paris had gone through a rather turbulant amount of weight ups and downs, she noted with a suppressed smile, and the hairline had continued its glorious recession. Apparently he had finally looked into hair treatments and settled on athletic fitness. The pictures of he and the daughter...yes, he had doted on her from birth, that much was obvious. She had inherited her mothers beauty and brains, fathers charm. One of the universes brightest.
Pretty much everything Jade had never been expected to become.
Standing, the young woman shook her head, hesitating as she sat the album down and pulled on her coat. She had one more visit to make.
Crystalline regulation and unapologetic dischevel. It was the oddest damn mixture of a design scheme she had ever seen, made more odd by the fact that the owner firmly believe that both...and coffee...were essential ingredients to happiness. Gently prodding the floor for stray objects and cursing, Jade struggled for bearings in the darkened apartment of one Kathryn Janeway.
"The floor is clear." The thin, gravelly voice made her halt, turning. "I'd advise you to watch for the prehensile plants, though. These damn wall crannies simply don't contain them any more." Moving forward, the Admiral ordered lights, leaning against a corner, brow raised. "Good night to you as well, Jade. I admit to being difficult to track down these days, but midnight visits are still considered inordinate. Don't tell me you forgot the coffee cakes."
Biting back a hiss of annoyance Jade moved forward, keeping her tones neutral. "It should never be this easy to break into Admirals quarters, you know. I thought fleet was a bit more cautious."
"Unofficially, they keep hoping someone genuinely interested in slashing my throat will slip in." Janeway flicked a brow upward, motioning towards the kitchen table and setting out coffee. "Officially, I requested no security...for little events like this. Despite your apparent beliefs to the contrary, I would find it distasteful to awaken being told that my daughter had been blown to oblivion on my doorstep in a lousy break in attempt. Although, in all fairness, you don't make the attempts often enough to fail. How long this time, six months? I thought you'd permaneantly switched over to fourth and fifth party messages and insults. I have to admit, the emotional blows were less stinging, but your lovely voice was rather missed..."
"Do you talk just to hear your own voice?" Tones faintly disgusted and exasperated, the younger woman leaned back in her chair.
Kathryn Janeway smiled widely, brow lifting in amusement. "Its a very unique voice, one that used to have rather a lot of impact. These days, I'm afraid, the impact is purely self-recognized." Straightening, she let the officers mask slip back on. "But you didn't go to all the trouble of breaking in to empathize with my wistful delusions of grandeur. What are you up to now, young lady? More assassinations, or just the odd terrorist mission? Should I be alarmed for my personal safety?"
"I really hate you." The remark was off-handed and deadly serious.
"I know, honey." Janeway sipped at the coffee. "But you have to admit, the coffee can't be topped. Whats the mission of the day?"
"I intend to go find Harry."
A short, curt chuckle. "He left of his own volition, I somehow doubt he wants to be found this late in the game."
"I'm concerned about him."
"He wasn't so concerned when he dumped you back onto my doorstep."
"He obviously thought you worthy of the challenge."
"Closest I'll ever come to a compliment from you. I take it with appreciation." Voyager's former captain smiled. "Very well, so you want to find Mr. Kim. What happens when you succeed? Should I plan for leave? Will I be required to mop up tears after he gets up the nerve for a brush off?"
The ensuing silence was frigid. Jade finally stood, eyes stony. "You haven't changed."
"No." Janeway nodded briefly, eyes sad. "I haven't. Somehow, though, I feel as if the rest of the universe has. Nothing has been damn sane since..."
"Voyager." A tight smile. "Your answer to all your woes. Just click those Starfleet heels and wish for home and the Delta quadrant, maybe your 'Q' will take pity on you and delete the past twenty odd years...and me. I assure you, I won't complain."
Kathryn Janeway exploded upward from the chair, eyes furious as she spun around. "Damn you, Jade, don't turn away from me..." She cut the string of invectives short, slamming her palm against a wall.
Her midnight visitor had slipped out a back window.
Starfleet Command was, for all its hyph, little more than a cheaply designed prison.
Swinging around in her desk chair, Admiral Janeway stared at the woman poised in the seat before her. Poised, yes, that would describe her, calm, collected, distant, utterly bland. It was the first time in...what, twenty two years? that B'Elanna Torres had met her gaze face to face.
The last meeting hadn't gone well.
Janeway hadn't intended to break the news to the half-Klingon so abruptly. To be honest, she hadn't intended to break it at all, but she had been tasked with promoting her former chief engineer, and the devils within her had reared up. Tactless. Hell, yes. She had congratulated Torres on her promotion to captain in one moment and said 'I'm afraid I'm having your husbands child.' in the next. To her eternal credit, Torres hadn't thrown her through the nearest wall, though the urge had clearly been there. Furious Klingon rage had simmered for a moment, a thousand emotions flashing across the smooth dark face, and then the icy calm had descended like a veil. Smoothly bending down to pick up the dropped pips, B'Elanna Torres had met her gaze for only a brief second, then spoken. "I'm aware that he was drunk that night. I had to scrub your perfume off him. The stench was horrific, but he doesn't remember any of it. You won't tell him. Best of luck in raising your bastard, Admiral."
And, for the first time in years, Kathryn Janeway had obeyed an order, from a subordinate, no less. She had never told Tom.
Jade had been born six months later. She had refused to be near her, and, after some debate, Tuvok and Chakotay had agreed to let Harry Kim take the apparently fatherless infant on 'temporarily'...that was, until the mad kat regained some semblence of reason. It had been four months before she had regained reason and determined to set out after the man and child of her dreams. It had been four more days before she learned that Chakotay was rotting in Federation prison for more rebellion and Jade had been officially adopted by one Harry Kim, who was not inclined to give her up.
She had not contested. And, of course, in the time since, all hell had broken loose.
Mind returning to the present, she straightened. "I want to know what my daughter is up to."
Torres raised a brow. "Why would I know?"
"You've been harboring her."
"You gave her coffee cakes." A flicker of amusement crossed the dark eyes. "She doesn't digest them well, you know. She tossed her guts up all morning. Luckily, I have experience with ornery, ill Paris offspring."
"Shes been into contact with him."
"He doesn't know." The engineer stood, pacing. "She isn't interested in hurting him, I'll give her that much credit. Truthfully, I don't know what else she wants, or what shes up to. Finding Harry is a stupid cover story coming from an intelligent monster."
"A monster of my creation, of course." Bitterness lacing her tone, Janeway replicated coffee.
"We're all monsters of your creation in some way, but no, I don't place blame for this one completely on you." Faintly vindictive amusement snaked through the other womans tones as she turned. "You didn't intend to bring her into existance. You're a lousy drunkard, but not a deliberate whore. Harry did leave her...forcing her back into your unloving care. Chakotay successfully got himself killed before he could impart any native wisdom to her, and Tuvok has secluded himself from the universe in general. I had my own part in the crime, cutting her off from Tom. He might just be the only innocent among us. I just hope it stays that way. I don't give a damn what else she does, admiral, but if that she bitch tries to harm my husband or daughter..."
Janeway raised a brow. Nice to see that her volatile engineer could still work up a temper. "You see my quandry. She bitch she is, but shes still my daughter, and, appearances to the contrary, I haven't completely lost all sense of humanity. I don't know what shes up to, but she is on a path to destruction, and I intend to stop the downfall before she destroys us all."
Torres laughed roughly. "And just how do you expect to stop a self-contained bomb from imploding on itself?"
Gods, she hated food.
Sitting up and pushing a strand of blond hair off her pale face, Jade Kim cursed. The finest criminal in the system, and she had been tucked into bed like a weak kitten by a half-Klingon who hated her guts. It simply wasn't her life. Closing her eyes, she lay back.
"If you want that ship you're going to have to pull yourself out of it." Torres remarked from the doorway.
"Get dressed. I'm going with you, we rendevous with the rest of the group tonight."
Standing, Jade shook her head. "No. I have to do this alone."
"'Alone' isn't going to operate the Voyager."
"You took the damned Voyager?!"
"I must have earned rights on the old wreck somewhere along the line." B'Elanna remarked, tossing her a shoe. "Though, technically, we're borrowing it. Admiral Janeway and Captain Torres want to take the old lady for a cruise before shes finally destroyed. We sneak you onboard, fine tune the systems to be mostly automatic, and the chariot is yours. The question is, wheres the ball?"
"I thought you said she was abandoned!" Harry Kim curled further into the jeffries tube, wincing as Voyager's emergency lights slowly kicked in.
"She was!" The Doctor protested indigantly, shimmering out of view for a moment then reappearing. "Oh, DEAR. Just who we did not need to see..."
"Back to work, Mr. Kim..."
"The captain and B'Elanna."
"You photonic idiot." The words were heavy, doomed.
"I'm not the only one around."
"I have to go explain to them...hell! How am I supposed to explain? Doc!" Kim moaned as the EMH disappeared.
"Someones here." Torres pointed out the sensor readings on a nearby console. "Its Harry."
"Well, that was entirely too easy." Kathryn Janeway paced her former bridge in distraction. It was odd. Twenty years, and the place looked the same as when they had last departed. Clean. Fresh. Not the burned out parts store Voyager had supposedly become in over twenty years of spacedock.
Torres looked equally puzzled. "I'm getting readings. Holomatrixes and such have popped up all over the ship, most appear to be running."
"That would explain the appearance." Janeway waved a hand around, finally resting it on the third party members arm. "Jade? What is it?"
The young woman smiled faintly. "I'll leave it to the Ensign to explain."
There was no time to question the baffling remark, but Janeway spared a querelous frown as the bridge doors swept open. Harry Kim all but bolted in, looking alarmed and terribly flustered. "Ah...Cap...Admi...oh, hell."
"I'm glad we're on the same wavelength, Mister Kim." His former commander said mildly.
"You're not going to believe this, but its true, so listening would be a good..." Kim ran fingers through his hair, gaze finally settling on Jade. "Oh, Jade. I wish you hadn't found out."
"Someone, please?" Torres waved a hand in exasperation. "You have us on this one, Starfleet."
The nickname made him wince. Finally, he sighed. "Doc?"
The EMH shimmered into view, looking equally reluctant. "If you insist. Captain...Voyager is experiencing a holodeck malfunction."
Janeway stared at him. "You were deleted years ago."
"Yes...no...well." The hologram looked mildly flustered. "Let me continue. Voyager's holosystems have been bleeding into the main systems, setting up holomatrixes, running scenarios. The crew seems to be caught up in one of these...well, what I'm trying to say is that none of your previous twenty years have technically happened. Or, technically perhaps, but realistically..."
"Doctor." Kim snapped. "See, Captain, I first noted the discreprencies while...when Jade was with me. Odd things at first, she never seemed to be sick, no injuries. Sometimes she would...well, disappear. Not your typical running away, just plain particle dissolution. Shes human, but with oddities..."
"We initially thought that I was the butt of a cosmic experiment." Jade supplied, sharing a look with her adopted father. "And it was fun, for a bit. Then Harry picked up on other things, barely notable shifts in scene or scenario. He left. I thought he had abandoned me, but in later studies of his files and notes, I picked up on what he suspected. The holoscenario. All of it. Except for Voyager's crew."
"My studies led me to the Voyager...the holoship and the real one seem to run at parallels, of a sort." Harry continued. "I based my studies on the holo Voyager, but was somehow shifted out of the scenario. The Doctor explained his side of the oddities, and we've been working ever since to alter, or shut down, the programs."
"And I've been trying to find a way to do the same." Jade finished, eyes shifting away, taking in the expansive room.
"You say that none of this..." Janeway motioned. "Exists except for the crew. Jade is here, and this is clearly not a holodeck area."
"She could be carrying her own internal emitter." Kim theorized. "Or, if the holodeck safeties are disengaged, her...ah, well, the doctor suspects that impregnation in a holo...would be possible without safeties...I mean, you and Tom were REAL..."
"I get the point." Janeway cut him short.
Harry shook his head. "Once the holoscenario is disengaged the things such as age...death..." He stared briefly at Jade. "Birth...will revert. If the holodeck safeties were on."
"So." Jade leaned into a corner. "If your holodeck safeties are on, in an hour or so you should all be back to normal, with a very alive Chakotay, and I won't exist. Nice painless way to write away a mistake, eh, mother?"
"And if the holodeck safeties are off?" Janeway ignored the barb.
"Then we've got twenty years to add to the med logs and a hell of a lot of explaining to do to my husband." Torres strode away, looking exasperated and befuddled. "My warp core...dammit. Doctor, if you've touched my systems..."
"I believe we have it all in line." The Doctor reappeared on the bridge a final time. "All that stands to be done now is shutting off holodeck systems and seeing what remains."
"A moment, doctor." Janeway turned to the young woman beside her, hand reaching out to touch then pulling back. "Jade..."
"You have a crew to get home, Captain." Jade straightened, lifting a brow. "And you have to admit, this particular holodeck scenario hasn't been very pleasant."
The captain smiled faintly. "I've seen worse. You haven't experienced your fathers..." Her tones dropped off abruptly. "Jade, if you don't exist after this.."
"I won't remember anything you say now. Go on, do it." The girl said quietly.
Kathryn Janeway nodded tightly, turning. "Shut down systems."
"My ship disappeared." Tom Paris sauntered around the corner, looking outraged. "Is this somebody's idea of a joke? Lanna? Lanna?" Halting, he grabbed his wifes arm, pulling back in startled amazement as his hand brushed her...swelling...stomach. Then, drawing back, he stared around. "The holodeck."
Lt. B'Elanna Torres shook her head. "We have a lot to talk about, helmboy."
The name startled her, the warm, familar tones more so. The voice of a dead man. Closing her eyes, the captain of Voyager steadied herself, hands curling around a railing as she turtned, forcing a smile.
"You look good, Commander."
"I feel alive." The devilish grin flashed. "Good enough for the moment." Then, quietly. "Was any of it aside from us real?"
She blessed his tactfulnness and cursed the reminder. Finally shaking her head, she looked away. "Apparently not."
He caught her arm as she moved away. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be, one report of Paris-Janeway offspring is quite enough for a journey." Her tones hardened. "It never happened, Commander. It won't be mentioned again. Lets get this ship home."