CONFUSING THE MEMORIES
Disclaimer: Voyager, Tommy, Kath and the rest of the crew belong to Paramount. I’m just having fun, - honest. No profit will be made from this story.
Sequel to ‘Continuing The Memories’.
Warning: Lots of angst. *Sigh*
Confusing The Memories
"I’m hit!!!" A voice shrilled out.
Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris of the Starship Voyager ducked for cover behind a huge boulder, as a volley of shots rang around him. "Hang on Jerry! I’m coming!" he yelled back. There was no answer. "Damn it!!" he swore under his breath. Taking a deep breath he cautiously poked his head up and looked around quickly. He could see Jerry lying on the ground a few meters away. He was not moving.
A sudden scuffling behind him, made him turn around quickly. Neelix came running and threw himself against Tom. "Neelix, keep your head down," Tom whispered urgently. "You’re likely to get it shot off."
Neelix nodded as he gasped for breath. "This is bad Tom. Real bad. Most of the men are dead."
"I know," Tom answered grimly.
"What are we going to do?"
Tom frowned. "I’m not the one in charge. Chan is."
"I think he’s dead."
"Damn it!" Tom swore again. He suddenly noticed that Neelix was unarmed. "Where’s your weapon?"
"I dropped it," Neelix admitted, a little shamefacedly.
Tom snorted. "Don’t let Tuvok find out. You’ll never get him to take you seriously about getting into security."
"I think we have more important problems at the moment."
"True," Tom admitted. "Neelix, you’d better stay here. I’ll keep pushing forward."
"I’ll create a diversion."
Neelix nodded. "Just promise me you’ll reach the top of the hill. Kill as many of them as you can on the way."
Tom grabbed him by the arm, as he was about to take off. "I can’t let you sacrifice yourself, Neelix."
"I’m no good without a weapon anyway," the little Talaxian argued and pulled away from Tom. He tore around the side of the boulder and Tom’s eyes shut involuntarily as he heard the gunfire. "Damn it!!" he yelled for the third time in as many minutes. "Neelix, I promise your death won’t be in vain." With that he fled for an outcropping of bushes further up the mountain.
As gunfire echoed all around him he ran faster than he’d ever ran before, and threw himself the final few meters to the relative safety of the shrubbery. He lay there panting for a few seconds before sitting back up and taking in his circumstances. There was a huge tree a little further up and if he could just make it there he would be in reach of the enemy’s base camp.
Filling his lungs with oxygen he took off again at a fast pace. Not fast enough. ‘Splat!’ He looked down at his arm in astonishment as he still continued to run towards the tree. Red oozed all over his jacket sleeve, but he couldn’t worry about that now. He had to make it to the tree. Finally, the huge tree’s trunk hid him from the enemy’s fire. But they knew he was there. It wouldn’t be long until a new assault started.
Gunfire erupted all around him again and he was just in time to see a flash of green, before a body hurled itself against him. He grunted at the impact. "Jeez Harry," he complained.
"Sorry Tom," Ensign Harry Kim, looking a little wild-eyed, apologized. He suddenly noticed Tom’s arm. "Oh God! You’re hit."
"It’s just a flesh wound. They didn’t get me in the head or the chest - I’ll live."
"You won’t be able to use that arm though," Harry warned him.
Tom shrugged. "Even one armed we’ll still get them. Come on. Their base is within our reach. You go that way." He pointed to his left. "I’ll go right."
Harry shook his head. "I’ll go right."
"What difference does it make?"
"I’ve been heading towards the right all the way up this hill. I think it would be bad luck to change now."
"Are you for real?"
Harry nodded firmly. "It’s kept me alive hasn’t it?"
Tom couldn’t argue with that. "All right. Have it your way. I’ll go left - to be slaughtered - you go right."
"On three," Harry said. "One, two, three."
They both took off in a sudden burst of speed- Tom careful to keep his arm at his side as the air surrounded them with projectiles.
A sudden scream from Harry made Tom look over his way. He scrambled behind some more shrubbery as he watched in horror as his best friend reeled awkwardly and fell to the ground. The fatal shot had hit him directly in the forehead.
Yelling ferociously, Tom made a headlong dash for the top of the hill, heedless of the projectiles whizzing above his head. The enemy leader turned around in surprise as he suddenly landed amongst them and grabbing her around the neck, pulled her against him. Putting his weapon to her head, he snarled to the rest of her followers. "Drop your weapons."
"And what if we don’t?" the second in command asked huskily walking towards them slowly.
"I’ll shoot her."
"Go ahead. Then I’ll be the leader."
Tom hesitated. That was all the leader needed. She managed to take him by surprise and the next thing he knew he was sprawled on the ground at her feet. "You should have killed me when you had the chance," she crowed triumphantly. She leaned down and yanked him to his feet. "I have to give you credit. You made it to the top. That’s more than the rest of you pathetic males were able to accomplish." She snorted derisively. "I don’t think much of your little plan once you got here though." She turned to her second in command. "Shoot him."
"My pleasure," the second said with a throaty laugh walking up to face him. She pointed her weapon at his forehead and squeezed the trigger. The impact sent Tom to the ground.
"Jeez Kath! That stung," he said as he sat on the ground rubbing his forehead. He managed to spread the red paint all over his face and hands. "You’re not supposed to shoot someone at point blank range."
Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager, smiled evilly. She then held out her hand to help him back up. "You’re dead Tom," she told him. "I think that means we won." She turned to their leader who gave a full-blooded Klingon war cry. "The girls beat the guys, the girls beat the guys," B’Elanna sang at the top of her voice.
A bedraggled group of men soon appeared at the top of the hill. Each was splattered to some degree in bright red paint. Neelix clapped his hands in delight. "That was fun, wasn’t it?"
"No," Harry said quickly, a disgruntled look on his face. "I think we should have made it a rule, that you could only get shot in the chest. This paint will be hard to get off my head."
"Nonsense," B’Elanna snorted. "It comes straight off in water Harry. By the way, I loved your scream when you got shot. It sounded almost real."
"Shut up," Harry said crossly. "It just surprised me, that’s all."
B’Elanna chortled. "Yeah right Harry." She looked up as a giant bear of a man stepped up behind her. "Well, Mr. Leader Of The All Powerful Men, I think we proved our point. That’ll teach you to make sexist remarks."
Lieutenant Chan Mangrove from security grimaced slightly as he looked down at his lover. "I didn’t say anything sexist. I just made a small observation that most women weren’t as strong as men. You only proved how much more devious you can be. That has nothing to do with brute strength."
"Chan please!" Tom said quickly. "Don’t start her up again. We all know that B’Elanna’s stronger than everyone else here, except maybe you."
"And that gets me back to what I was saying this morning. She’s the exception."
Kathryn stepped forward. "Lieutenant! Cease and desist! That’s an order."
Tom watched in amusement as the love of his life played mediator. She was diminutive in stature, but that hid an iron will and grim determination. Few dared to cross her. She felt his eyes on her and looked back and winked. He smiled in delight and let his mind wander.
Of course, daydreaming about Kathryn was what had got him into this mess in the first place. He had been sitting at the table at breakfast planning he and Kath’s anniversary dinner, which would be in two days time. The conversation had flowed around him, but he hadn’t paid much attention. They had been together for six months and he had decided to ask her to marry him.
He knew she was the one for him. He couldn’t see any sense in waiting any longer. He was making all sorts of elaborate plans when Chan, who was sitting next to him, had elbowed him in the ribs. "You agree with me Tom, don’t you?" he’d asked him, jolting him out of his thoughts.
"Huh?" he’d said stupidly. "I guess so."
As soon as he’d said the words, he’d wished them back. B’Elanna’s eyes had lit up victoriously. "We’ll soon see about that. I challenge you to prove it. The girls against the guys. Anyone in?"
There had been murmurs of assent from around the table. Tom had leaned towards Kathryn. "What’d I just agree to?"
She’d laughed. "That will teach you to pay attention. B’Elanna I’d like to be in on this too, that’s if you don’t mind?"
"The more the merrier," B’Elanna answered. "Everyone meet on the holodeck at nineteen hundred hours. You guys won’t know what hit you."
Tom shook his head. That had certainly been true.
"I think we all had a very enjoyable time," Kathryn was saying diplomatically. "Now, I think a lot of you men need to clean up."
Just then her commbadge chirped. "Seven of Nine to the Captain."
"Go ahead," she answered.
"Please report to astrometrics - immediately."
"Yes Ma’am," Kathryn said with a slight smile on her face. Seven still had a lot to learn about the social graces. She headed toward the holodeck doors after giving Tom a quick pat on the arm.
As Kathryn entered astrometrics she couldn’t help the sarcasm. "You summoned me, Seven?"
"That is correct Captain," the ex-Borg answered. "I have discovered something. A spatial phenomenon only 3.4 light years directly ahead."
"Let me see," Kathryn peered at the area that Seven had highlighted on the view screen.
"There were strange verteron emanations from this region," Seven told her.
"Have you scanned for neutrino disturbances?" She tried to keep the excitement from her voice.
"Yes Captain. On investigation there is an extremely high proton count in the area."
"This sounds like a wormhole."
"That is correct Captain. I have taken the liberty of launching a probe."
"Good work Seven," Kathryn beamed. She tried to keep her emotions in check. It was too soon yet. They had had so many disappointments over the years. She would wait until official word came back from the probe. She looked down at the sensors again and then frowned.
"Seven, this anomaly is inside Taman space."
"Yes Captain." The word ‘so?’ hung in the air.
"We agreed to bypass their section of space. Sending that probe in is in direct violation of our agreement with them." At the time the agreement had been easily reached. The Tamans were a strange xenophobic people with many different factions, each fighting with the other, and they did not take kindly to trespassers inside their space.
As it would only take two weeks to go around their boundaries, Kathryn had readily agreed to bypass them. She didn’t like the feeling of being bullied, but felt that it wasn’t worth starting a war over. They had had enough disputes as it was.
"You believe I should have not sent the probe in?" Seven asked her.
Janeway shrugged. "It’s too late now. Besides, I’m interested to find out if this is a wormhole and if so, where it leads. We’re so close to it. If we’re lucky the Tamans will never know."
"The probe is at the co-ordinates and is sending back telemetry." They waited a few minutes in silence, while Seven studied the readouts with the Captain looking over her shoulder. "It is a wormhole," she finally confirmed.
"Send it in," the Captain ordered quickly. Her excitement was mounting.
Everyone grouped around the conference table talking excitedly. According to the probe, the wormhole ended over ten thousand light years away, in the direction of the Alpha Quadrant. They had sent a second, then a third probe to confirm the readings.
The Captain had called for a senior staff meeting immediately afterwards.
"What about the Tamans, Captain?" Harry asked worriedly. "Do you think they’ll let us use it?"
"I very much doubt it Ensign," Tuvok answered instead. "Considering how territorial they are, I believe we will have to fight our way to it."
"Can we just make a quick dash for it? It’s not that far away. Maybe we could get there before they even knew what we were doing," Harry asked hopefully.
"The Tamans must already know that we have discovered the wormhole." Tuvok didn’t seem to mind squashing the light glowing in Harry’s eyes. "Our probes would have already alerted them. I believe that they will try and stop us. They have us outnumbered Ensign."
"Yeah, like fifty to one," Tom said.
"Their weapons are also superior to ours," Tuvok added.
"Well maybe Seven can enhance our shields even more than she has, so that we can deflect their weapons."
"You have an inflated opinion of my abilities Ensign Kim. Although there is always room for improvement, I am not a miracle worker," Seven said, one eyebrow raised.
"Why don’t we just ask for their permission?" Tom asked flippantly. "They’d probably be so surprised that some one bothered to ask, you never know, they may even say yes."
"That’s not such a bad idea. It’s certainly worth a try."
Tom’s mouth fell open as the Captain made her remark. "Um, I was only joking."
"Well, I’m not. We could offer them something in return. Trade with them. They must know that we want to use it, so they’ll be prepared to stop us if we make a dash for it. At least this way we’ll come across as honorable people. It can’t hurt to ask. What’s the worst that will happen?"
"They’ll say no?" Chakotay answered.
"If they do, then we’re no worse off," Janeway said. "Anyway, I’ve been known to be very persuasive," she added with a grin. "You never know, I just might be able to talk them into it."
She got up from her chair at the head of the table and headed for the door. "I’ll contact them from my ready room." The Tamans only liked to speak one on one. They wouldn’t appreciate it if she had all the senior staff listening to their communication. "I’ll be back. Cross your fingers," she told them.
"I believe the Captain is being too optimistic," Tuvok said as the doors closed behind her. He looked pointedly at Harry, who was grinning from ear to ear. "Do not get your hopes up."
Harry frowned at him. "If they do say no, we’re not going to leave it at that are we? I mean; I’m willing to fight my way to the wormhole. Aren’t you?"
"Harry, we’d never make it," Tom said quietly. "We’d be blown away before we even got close."
"There has to be a way," Harry said stubbornly. "We’re talking about shaving nearly ten years off our journey here."
"I think I’d rather spend another ten years out here than die right here and now."
"You have a lot of faith in our fighting abilities," Harry told his friend sarcastically. "For all you know they could be so busy fighting amongst themselves that we’ll be able to slip right past them."
Tom snorted in disgust, his feelings on that little optimistic viewpoint quite plain. "Listen to Tuvok, Harry. Don’t get your hopes up."
B’Elanna, who was sitting next to Harry, patted his knee. "Harry, they're right."
This was the last straw for Harry. "I don’t care if we get killed in the attempt. At least we’d be ten years closer to home." He flushed in embarrassment when he realized what he’d said.
"Ensign, you are being illogical," Seven informed him. "You are letting your emotions rule your thoughts." She turned to Tuvok. "Am I not correct Commander?"
Tuvok, who had his mouth open to say the exact same thing, quickly shut it. "Indeed," he merely said instead.
"I think we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here," Chakotay said quietly. "I’m banking on the Captain’s powers of persuasion. As I think we’ve all discovered over the years, she’s a very determined woman. Perhaps while we’re waiting for the Captain to come back we can put our heads together and come up with an alternate plan in case the Tamans do say no. Provide a distraction of some sort, so we can make a dash for the wormhole. Preferably one that doesn’t get us all killed in the attempt," he added with a grin.
This kept them all busy until the Captain returned. There was an unreadable expression on her face as she re-entered the conference room.
"Captain?" Harry asked eagerly, as she sat back in her chair.
Janeway gave a small smile. "I managed to get in contact with a leader called, Nirran. She was very reasonable. Apparently quite a few of the leaders are. She told me something rather disheartening however. The space on the other side of the wormhole is also Taman. They use the wormhole as a sort of tunnel between their two areas of space. Very, very rarely do they let anybody else use it."
"So, if we did make a dash for the wormhole we’d just have them waiting for us at the other end," Chakotay said.
Janeway nodded. "The good news is that they’ve called a Leaders Conference, and I've been invited to state our case."
"A Leaders Conference?" Chakotay asked.
"All the leaders of each Taman faction get together and vote on any major decisions affecting this region," she explained. "It’s a democratic society apparently. Majority rules."
"And you think you can persuade them to let us use it?" Harry sat forward eagerly.
"I’m not sure," the Captain said slowly. "I think I might be able to though. Nirran seemed quite hopeful. I only have to convince just over half of them, don’t forget. Others will vote for us just to upset other factions. I think we have a good chance."
"What’s the catch?" Tom asked. "Did Nirran say what they would want in return?"
"I would have to agree to destroy all documentary evidence of the wormhole’s existence after we have gone through. Other than that all they would want is some medical supplies and equipment."
"I am surprised Captain," Tuvok said. "I did not believe that they would even consider our proposal. I am concerned however. What is to stop the factions that vote ‘no’ attacking us as we make our way to the wormhole?"
"Apparently they abide by the majority rule, whether they agree with it or not."
"You only have their say so for this Captain."
"Why would they lie, Tuvok?"
"They never venture outside their own space. While we are positioned here we are safe. This could be their way of inducing us into their territory."
"Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly," Tom said in a soft melodious voice.
Janeway frowned at him. "I don’t believe that. They seem to be straightforward in their dealings."
"I’m afraid I share Tuvok’s concern," Chakotay said. "After all Captain, we don’t know these people at all. We were told to avoid them. I have a feeling this could be a trap."
"If it sounds like a trap, looks like a trap and smells like a trap, then it probably is a trap," Tom suggested.
Janeway positively glared at him this time. "Well I don’t believe that it is. I’m willing to take that chance. Now, keep Voyager in this position and wait for my return. I must leave at once." She stood up abruptly.
"Leave?" Chakotay looked at her in surprise.
She nodded. "To go to the conference."
"Who’s going with you?" he asked in confusion.
"You mean you’re going alone? I thought Voyager was taking you there."
The Captain shook her head. "You’ll wait for me here. The leaders all go alone to the conference. I’ve agreed to do the same."
"Are you crazy?" Tom said before he could stop himself. "This is definitely a trap."
The look she gave him would have frozen the sun. "Thank you for your input Ensign," she stressed his rank. "However, as I have already stated, I do not believe that it is."
"You don’t even know these people. They certainly haven’t proven that they’re friends."
"They haven’t proven to be enemies either." The Captain’s voice was cold.
"How can you trust them?" Tom argued. "This is too big a risk."
"Tom’s right," Chakotay said grabbing hold of her arm as she attempted to leave the room. "This is not a good idea Captain."
She pulled her arm free. "I’m not asking for your opinions. I’m willing to do whatever I have to, to get us ten years closer to home. If that involves a little risk, then so be it."
"A little risk?" Tom’s voice rose incredulously as everyone started talking at once.
She stood looking at them all with her hands on her hips. "Enough!" she suddenly yelled. "Unlike the Tamans this is not a democratic society." She pointed to the pips on her collar. "I am the Captain here and unless you’re all willing to commit mutiny, what I say goes. If you try to stop me, I will call security and have you thrown in the brig. Is that clear?"
"Aye Captain," everybody but Tom answered.
"Now, you have your orders."
Tom took a step towards her. "That includes you too Tom," she said angrily.
"Kath please. This doesn’t make any sense. I can’t let you do it."
"My ready room now, Ensign," Janeway barked. She marched briskly out of the room and Tom, with one last look around the room, followed her out.
‘That’s what you get for getting too chummy with the crew,’ Kathryn told herself as she walked angrily into her ready room, Tom right on her heels. Perhaps her relationship with Tom had made them all think they could cross the boundaries with her. And Tom! He had argued with her and called her ‘Kath’ at a senior staff meeting. Well Tuvok had warned her that he was too emotional.
She turned around when she reached her desk, and Tom came to an abrupt stop behind her. "You crossed the line in there, Tom," she said angrily. "We’re on duty. You forgot your place."
"To hell with my place," Tom spat back furiously. "Why are you deliberately trying to get yourself killed?"
"I’m doing no such thing. And I don’t have to answer to you. We are Captain and Ensign at the moment and don’t you forget it. In the six months that we have been together, we’ve never had a problem between our personal and professional lives."
"Well we’ve got a hell of a one now. I can’t let you go." He blocked her path as she attempted to walk out of the room.
"Tom, I meant what I said in there. I’ll have you thrown in the brig, if you try and stop me. I’m not bluffing."
"Kath, it’s too dangerous," Tom pleaded.
Kathryn stood looking up at him, breathing heavily. This situation was out of control. Tom was determined to make it personal and she needed to bring it back on a professional level. She’d thought that they could keep their relationship completely separate. Obviously when the situation was a little hazardous, Tom couldn’t do that.
She’d sent Tom out on three dangerous missions over the last six months, and never once had she hesitated. If she’d been a little more anxious than usual, until he reported in, she knew she hadn’t shown it. She knew that she was taking a chance but it was no more than she’d done before. Hell, she’d negotiated with the Borg alone for god’s sake. The senior officers reaction was a worry, but Tom’s especially. She needed him to back her up, not ask her if she was crazy in front of everyone, she thought angrily.
"We promised each other that we’d never let our relationship get in the way of my command, Tom. You’re breaking your promise to me. Now as Captain of this ship, I am ordering you to get out of my way. You have three seconds to back down or I’m calling security."
Tom slowly stepped out of the way. "I’m sorry Captain," he said bitterly.
Kathryn sighed. "Thank you Tom," she said softly. "I don’t want us to part like this."
"Neither do I," Tom answered. They stood gazing into each other’s eyes.
"I don’t have time for this now," Kathryn finally said. "I have to go. Tom you need to remember that I’m the Captain of this ship. First and foremost. Before everything else. If you can’t handle that, then so be it."
"What’s that supposed to mean?" There was fear in Tom’s eyes now.
They needed to talk about this - but not now. She didn’t have time. She had to leave immediately, if she was going to meet with the Taman leaders at the set co-ordinates. If she were late to the conference, it wouldn’t look good.
"I’m simply saying that you need to do some thinking while I’m gone. We’ll talk about it when I get back."
"If you get back, you mean. You take too many chances Kathryn. One day your luck will run out. I’m not the only one who thinks that. Everyone in that briefing room thinks the same thing."
"We’re talking about ten thousand light years here, Tom. I’m willing to take some chances to get us nearly ten years closer to home. I’m willing to do anything to get us home quicker. You should know that about me by now."
"I do," Tom said sadly. "I just wish you weren’t so willing to die for the cause."
Kathryn shook her head. "You don’t understand."
"I do you know. You feel responsible for us being stuck out here."
"I am responsible for us being stuck out here."
"No, you’re not. The Caretaker is responsible, and only the Caretaker. Why can’t you see that?"
"I haven’t got time for this debate, Tom. I just wish you could understand, that I’m doing this for you. For all the crew, but most especially for you."
"For me? Why me?"
"You need to get back to Earth, Tom. You need for your father to see how you’ve turned your life around. How you’ve changed. He’d be so proud."
Tom shook his head in disbelief. "Dad’s opinion of me doesn’t matter anymore. I thought you knew that. Don’t put that burden on my shoulders Kath. Don’t go out and get yourself killed over some mistaken belief about me."
"I’m not going to get killed." Her commbadge beeped.
"Vorik to the Captain."
"Your shuttle is now fully prepared, Captain."
"Thank you Ensign. I’ll be right there." She looked back up at Tom. "Wish me luck?" she asked softly.
"Gods," Tom pulled her to him and buried his face in her hair. "I wish you more than luck. Please stay safe Kath. Please come back to me," he pleaded brokenly.
"I promise," she answered softly, hugging him tightly to her. She quickly pulled away and hurried from the room.
Walking briskly to the turbolift, she ignored both Tuvok’s and Chakotay’s disapproving stares. It would be a different story when she came back with permission to use the wormhole. As she entered the lift she thought guiltily about what she had just said to Tom. She shouldn’t have told him that she was doing it for him. She wished the words back, but it was too late now.
Sighing heavily she hurried to the shuttle bay. She’d work everything out with Tom as soon as she got back.
Chakotay watched with concern as Tom made his way to the helm and sat down. The pilot looked terrible. There were dark circles under his eyes and his skin had a gray pallor. They hadn’t heard from the Captain for almost two days now and Chakotay was worried. She had contacted them to let them know she had reached the conference on time and that she wouldn’t be able to contact them again until it was over. She had even warned them that it could take a few days, so not to worry. But Chakotay was worried and by the looks of him so was Tom.
So was Tuvok in that quiet Vulcan way of his. As Chakotay looked around the bridge and took in Harry’s grim features and B’Elanna’s anxious twitching at the engineering station, he could hear some nervous chattering from behind him. Damn it all anyway. Sitting here twiddling their thumbs, waiting for word from the Captain was affecting them all.
"Seven of Nine to the bridge. Commander Chakotay, please report to astrometrics."
"On my way," Chakotay nodded to Tuvok as he headed for the turbolift, officially handing over control of the bridge. As he made his way down the hallways he wondered what Seven wanted. She had been monitoring the wormhole, so he assumed it was something to do with that.
"What is it?" he asked as soon as he entered astrometrics.
"Commander," Seven acknowledged him. "I wanted you to see this. There has been some unusual activity at the wormhole. Many ships have passed through it in the last ten minutes."
"Maybe that means that the conference is finished. There was a lot of traffic before the conference."
"Why then have we not heard from the Captain? The conference is being held many light years away. For these ships to arrive back at the wormhole, they must have left many hours previously. The Captain has had plenty of time to contact us."
"Maybe she couldn’t leave straight away." Chakotay frowned. Seven was obviously worried as well. Not that she would admit it of course. She would say that worry was irrelevant and a waste of time. The fact remained though that the conference was a good three hours away. Why hadn’t the Captain contacted them when it was over? She must be on her way back by now.
"Try scanning for the shuttle. She may be having trouble with communications."
"I have already done that Commander. There is no sign of the shuttle."
"All right. Well keep looking. I’ll be on the bridge."
As soon as Chakotay re-entered the bridge he turned to Harry. "Contact the Tamans for me please, Ensign."
"Which ones?" Harry asked.
"Just send a broad communication and we’ll see who answers. I know they only like one-on-one conversations so I’ll take it in the Captain’s ready room."
A few minutes later Chakotay found himself talking to Nirran, the same Taman leader that the Captain had contacted. "I don’t know what to tell you, Commander. Your Captain left the conference many hours before the rest of us. She should have returned to you more than three hours ago."
"Could she have been ambushed?"
Nirran shook her head. "We promised her safe passage to and from the conference, no-one would have harmed her. Perhaps she has had mechanical difficulties with her shuttle."
"Perhaps, but we can find no sign of her on the scanners. Were your people tracking her shuttle by any chance?"
"As I told you Commander, she was promised safe passage. To our people a promise is sacred. There was no need to track her. She promised us she would go straight to the conference and back again, so we did not monitor her at all."
"I will try to find out what has happened to her for you."
"Thank you, that would be most kind, Leader Nirran. I am wondering how the conference went. Did we get permission to use the wormhole?"
"No Commander, I regret to say that you did not. It was very close however. You only needed two more votes. Your Captain was most upset when she left. I will contact you as soon as I find anything out."
Chakotay thanked the leader again and closed the channel, trying to swallow his disappointment. So the answer had been ‘no’. Well he wasn’t really surprised. He hadn’t gotten his hopes up. Telling the crew would be hard, however. Especially with the Captain missing somewhere.
It was several hours later before Leader Nirran could contact Chakotay. His face was grim when he came back out of the Captain’s ready room after speaking with the leader. "Senior staff meeting straight away, include Seven and Neelix," was all he said before disappearing into the conference room.
Tom felt his stomach churn. It was bad news, he could tell. As his heart started pounding loudly in his chest, he signaled to Hamilton to take over the conn for him and he jumped up and followed Chakotay. He could hear Tuvok telling the others to join them in the conference room.
"What’s happened?" he asked as soon as he entered the room.
Chakotay turned to face him. "Sit down Tom. I’d prefer to wait till everyone’s here."
The door swished open as Harry and Tuvok entered. "I don’t think I can wait," Tom said swallowing hard. "It’s bad news isn’t it?"
Chakotay hesitated before nodding. "I’m sorry Tom," he said softly. "I’ll explain everything when the others arrive."
Tom put his head down. He didn’t care about the details. Kathryn was dead. Some Taman faction or other had killed her, just as they’d all tried to warn her. Why didn’t she listen? He felt so damn mad at her. How could she be so reckless? He barely registered the swish of the doors announcing the arrival of the rest of the senior staff. He knew that Harry was sitting next to him, patting his arm and he felt B’Elanna sit on the other side of him, her face full of concern as she touched his shoulder.
He didn’t look up. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him, but steadfastly kept his gaze on the tabletop. His anger mounted. Chakotay was telling everyone what had happened, how Kathryn had been captured by one of the Taman factions when she had broken her promise and not returned immediately to Voyager. How she’d been trying to talk to two of the leaders about their decision to vote ‘no’. Trying to get them to change their minds.
She hadn’t realized that she was breaking one of their most sacred laws. Promises were always kept. No matter what. The faction that had captured her had tried, convicted and sentenced her before letting anyone else know what had happened.
A roaring began in Tom’s ears and he could no longer hear what Chakotay was saying. He felt like he was going to burst if he didn’t do something - anything. Smash his chair against the table, or maybe his head. No. Someone else’s head would be better. Kathryn’s. She’d gone and gotten herself killed damn it!!!
And it was all his fault. She’d done it, for him. She’d risked her life for him. For some reason she thought his father’s opinion meant more to him than she did. Why would she think that? Somehow he must have made her believe it. How? What did he do or say to make her think that? How could he have been so stupid?
Other people were talking now but he was still wrapped up in his own thoughts and couldn’t hear what they were saying. The roaring in his ears was getting louder. This was all his fault. The guilt was unbearable. Kath had promised him, she’d be back. She’d lied to him. How could she lie to him? They never lied to each other. He felt angry with her and the roaring was so loud now, he thought his eardrums might burst. He had never felt so mad at anyone in his life before.
He was shaking, but couldn’t seem to stop. Taking a few deep breaths he tried to control himself. Screaming at the top of his lungs was not the right way to behave, he was sure. His father had drummed into him the right way to behave and this wasn’t it. Of course, he never could do anything right. His father was always pointing out all the little things he was doing wrong.
He slowly became aware of Harry talking to him urgently. And the Doctor was leaning over him. What had he done? Had he screamed? He didn’t think so. He could taste blood on his lips and realized he must have been biting down on them. Anything to stop the screams from erupting.
His mind suddenly latched on to what Harry was saying. "We’ll get her back Tom. We’ll get her back."
Back? Back from where? What was he saying? Kathryn was dead. You can’t come back from the dead. Or can you? He suddenly looked across at Neelix and then at Seven. Were they going to use Seven’s nanoprobes like they did with Neelix that time? Could they even retrieve Kathryn’s body?
"I don’t understand," he managed to grate out.
"We’ll find a way to rescue her," Harry repeated what he’d been trying to tell Tom.
"Rescue her? But she’s dead? Isn’t she?"
"No Tom. She’s not dead," Chakotay told him quietly.
The doctor sighed as he looked around the table. "Mr. Paris is in shock. I do not believe that he heard everything we were discussing."
"Kath’s not dead?" Tom repeated as he struggled to grasp what was being said.
"No," Chakotay said firmly. "She has been captured by the Tamans."
"I heard all that," Tom answered, his mind already more alert as he registered the wonderful news. "I know what she did. I know she’s been convicted and sentenced. I thought that they had executed her. Where is she then? Are they holding her prisoner somewhere?"
"She’s been sentenced to ten years hard labor on one of their prison colonies," B’Elanna told him, grabbing hold of his hand and squeezing it tightly.
"For deviating off course?" He couldn’t believe it.
"For breaking her word," Tuvok corrected.
"Do we know where this prison colony is? Are we going to rescue her?"
Chakotay nodded. "It’s on the other side of the wormhole. Ten years away. The Tamans said we can pick the Captain up when we finally reach there. In ten years time."
"No!!!! We have to get to the wormhole."
"That is what we have been discussing, Mr. Paris. So far we have not been able to come up with a viable plan, that does not get us all killed." Tuvok looked as upset as any of them had ever seen him. "The Tamans are expecting us to try a rescue and have posted many ships around the wormhole. There are also many hovering near the border."
"Even if we did manage somehow to get past all of them and get through the wormhole, they’ll be waiting for us on the other side," Chakotay put in. "We have the problem then, of getting past them - finding the prison colony and getting the Captain out - and then somehow managing to get out of Taman space."
"We’re not giving up are we?" Tom asked softly. "I’ll take the Delta Flyer. If you can just keep them distracted I’ll make it to the wormhole. I know I can do it. Just give me the chance to try."
"We’ve talked about that too Tom," Harry told him. "Even if you did somehow manage to make it to the wormhole, you’d be taken as soon as you got to the other side."
"We have discussed many options. So far none of them are feasible," Tuvok added.
"So, we are giving up," Tom said his voice rising in anger. "Well, I’m not. I can’t."
"None of us are giving up Tom," Chakotay told him quietly. "Everybody here is determined to find some way to rescue the Captain. We need options. I don’t intend to leave her behind, I promise. All we need is a plan."
The new prisoner looked around at her surroundings. Not too bad considering. It could have been a lot worse. Ten years hard labor. She’d expected some sort of rock quarry, with her chipping away at the rocks until she dropped down in exhaustion. Instead she saw a huge field, full of different food crops. Her job would be to help harvest them. She’d been told that if she behaved herself the work would get better.
The sleeping quarters weren’t too bad either. They were clean and tidy and the other prisoners seemed quite friendly. She could do this. They had told her that Voyager would pick her up at the end of her sentence. She hoped that never happened. She hoped that they found a way home long before her ten years were over.
Kathryn sat down on a log and looked up at the sky. She didn’t have to work today. Today was for settling in and getting her bearings they had told her. Everyone had been very friendly and polite. That was because she was not regarded as a dangerous criminal. She had been sent to the farm instead of the camp and that made all the difference apparently.
She closed her eyes and Tom’s face came to her straight away, as it always did. She missed him terribly. How was he? Was he all right? She didn’t believe that they would see each other again. The possibility that Voyager would be there at the end of her sentence was so small that it was hardly worth considering. She doubted that they would be able to pick up the pieces after ten years, anyway.
Tom deserved a better future than waiting around for her. She hoped with all her heart that Voyager was able to find a way back home. Her thoughts drifted to all the good times they’d had together and a small smile played around the corners of her mouth.
At least she had her memories. And they would have to do.
She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. Feeling sorry for herself wouldn’t help anything. She stood up and headed for the mess hall. This was her home for the next ten years, so she’d better make the most of it. Setting her shoulders back in a determined manner she entered the huge room and looked around for someone to give her something to do. Captain Janeway was no more; she was gone forever. Kathryn Janeway was here now and she would make the best of it.
End Part One