| It was another typical
day on the bridge-which lately meant boring-they really didn't have much
to do, just make it through they next few days journey to earth.
No big plans to make, no uncharted territory, no hostile aliens, just a
big ship on the last legs of a colossal journey. Voyager was in great
shape -- especially for a ship that normally would have been decommissioned
ten or fifteen years ago. All they had to do now was coast home.
She had gone over logs, updated recommendations to HQ and answered numerous welcoming hails from nearby ships --- some even Captained by people she knew. The days seemed to get longer, the closer they got to "Home". Finally the shift ended and she and Chakotay retired to their quarters.
"Tired?" She came up behind him at the view port.
"No---just--well, I don't know --saddened?" He put his arm around her shoulder. "A little let down--maybe?"
"I know --- it's like --suddenly it's over, all those years and ---now what?" She guided him toward the couch. "Hard to describe ---I'm happy we made it back -- it's what we devoted the last twenty five years to ----but do we really belong here?"
"Yea, kinda an odd feeling --we wanted this for so long, now we're almost home and it's sorta a disappointment."
"Different priorities, goals, different decisions---I know how you feel."
"Have you made any decisions? Will you stay in Fleet---"Admiral Janeway"?"
"I'm not an admiral -yet." She gave him a playful push. "I don't know. I don't know if I fit in anymore--I don't know how to live without this ship and crew anymore. I'm not sure what to do ---how about you?"
"Me, I'll do what I do best ---what I've always done. I'll follow my wife's lead --- go where she goes and do whatever she needs me to do."
"What would I ever do without you?"
"I hope you never find out." He hugged her close.
"Maybe, it's time we make a change----maybe I should go where you lead." She lay her head on his chest. "What do you want---if you could do whatever you want, when we get back---what would it be?"
"I don't know --there is no one special thing I really want to do. I'd like to take some time --just the two of us--to decide what we both want to do."
"Yea, when the smoke clears --we should get away by ourselves--when we can think."
"Paris to Chakotay"
"Away from our 'children'." He smiled and she rolled her eyes. "Chakotay here."
"We're in the mess hall --- why aren't you two here?"
He looked at Kathryn and she nodded. "On our way, Paris---Chakotay out."
"Everyone feels it --- that sense of loss." She stood and offered him her hand. "Come on-- the kids are waiting."
In the mess hall they found the usual group of friends and were happily surprised to see that this time Tuvok had joined them. Over the years, it was rare for him to socialize and then it would mostly be with Kathryn. Tonight however, he readily joined in the group, often leading the conversation. Even the stoic Tuvok had been affected by this strange sense of loss.
"Hi, nice to see you in the group, Tuvok." Kathryn took a seat next to him.
"It is necessary to insure the proper perspective on certain events-- it only seemed logical that I recount those that involved my own actions."
"Yes --- it would." She looked around the table for help.
'We were just mentioning a friend of your's Captain." Tom teased.
"My friend?---I can only imagine --who?"
"GATH--he's no friend of mine."
"Come on now, Kat you enjoyed his company---at least for a while." Chakotay razed her over the chuckles of the others.
"Now, every one enjoyed some time on Sikaris--- in the beginning."
"Yes, but you especially enjoyed Gath."
"Well, he was rather flattering."
"A major suck up you mean." Tom was his usual blunt self.
"Come on, he didn't gave a damn if the rest of us floated off into space---you were his only interest--and I must say from where I stood, you looked pretty interested yourself." Harry stood with Tom as always.
"Mr. Kim, as I recall-- where you stood was on Alastra--which was 40,000 light years away -- you couldn't see anything but--what was her name?" Kathryn turned to Tom for an answer, who just shrugged.
"Eudana-- her name was Eudana" Harry said indignantly.
"Very good, Harry," Sam poked Joe. "See Harry is a decent sort, he remembers her name over twenty years later."
"You always remember the ones that got away." Joe ducked as Sam swung at him. "Anyway that wasn't nearly as interesting as our uptight Captain swooning over this alien guy."
"UPTIGHT--that word gets used a little too much lately." Kathryn protested. "And I certainly didn't swoon!"
"It was close." Chakotay laughed. "I had never seen you like that."
"Like what? I wasn't that bad."
"Well, you were certainly not acting like the Captain." Tuvok's comment caught everyone off guard. "I must say, I, in all the years we worked together had never seen that kind of reaction from you."
"OK, so maybe I did over react--a little" She still smiled but grew a little more serious. "He called me Kathryn." She looked at each of them. "I know it doesn't seem important to you, but it was to me---all that time, since the day we left DS9, no one said my name. A little thing-- at first, but day after day, week after week, month after month and no one ever spoke my name---I know it was my fault in a way--protocol and all--but, it still made life very lonely. It was almost two years before anyone on this ship ever called me Kathryn, and then only Chakotay and only in private."
"Well, Kathryn, we all do it now." Tom said and then the others joined him in chorus "OFF DUTY!"
"Yes, but it took six years...."
"You are one stubborn woman." Chakotay put his arm around her shoulder and everyone laughed, except B'Elanna. "B'Ella, you're awful quiet over there."
"Yea, well I remember more unpleasant things about Sikaris." She glanced in Tuvok's direction.
"As do I." Tuvok looked around the table at the recognition on all the faces.
"Me too." Joe looked at Kathryn and she just nodded.
They had come to Sikaris for a little R & R and in the processed discovered a transport device called the trajector. The trajector used a space folding technique that enabled the Sakarians to travel great distances in almost a blink of an eye. The Sikarians, however, had their own version of the prime directive, which forbade them to give their technology to other races. The Captain had unsuccessfully negotiated with Gath to use the technology to sent Voyager closer to home.
Eudana introduced Harry to a man who was willing to trade the matrix for the stories contained in the Federation library, but the Captain rejected the idea as unethical. A side effect of the failed negotiations, was the Captain's discovery that Gath was interested only in the novel and once something or someone became familiar, he lost interest. After pointing this out to him, the Captain and her crew were unceremoniously asked to leave Sikaris.
A very distraught Captain returned to Voyager, canceled all shore leave and ordered all crew to return to the Ship and prepare to leave orbit. Not every one on the crew was as ethically concerned as the Captain and several members of the engineering staff---Seska, Torres and Carey planned to make the deal behind the Captain's back. With assistance from the chief security officer, the trade was made and the trajector secured.
After discovering that the quartz mantle of the planet was an important part of the process, the engineering crew decided to integrated the matrix and use it before the Captain had a chance to break orbit.
"Bridge to engineering." The Captain settled in the command chair.
"Ready to leave orbit."
"Aye Captain." Torres snapped back. "Thrusters on line."
"We have to do something." Seska hissed at Torres in the background.
"Mr Paris, take us out of orbit --4000 KPH."
"Aye, Captain." Tom's fingers caressed the console, but Voyager did not respond. "No response---thrusters are off line."
"Janeway to engineering ---What is going on?" Janeway was obviously agitated.
"We've got a phase variance in plasma conduit three. I'll have to check it out before we can engage thrusters." Torres tried to buy them a little time.
"When did this problem show up?" Janeway demanded.
"Just now Captain, it's only a slight variance --- I'll have it fixed in a minute."
"Keep me advised." The Captain was less than happy, she was uncomfortable here and wanted to distance herself and her crew from this place---and Gath.
In engineering Torres, Carey and Seska worked to bring the trajector matrix on line--hopefully they would be 40,000 light years closer to home before the Captain realized what they had done.
"All right, the matrix is activated." Torres watched the console.
"The trajector field is forming." Seska looked over her shoulder.
"And it's amplifying." Carey was getting excited. "Look how fast it's expanding!"
"That's the effect of the quartz mantle." Torres continued to monitor it's progress.
We're nearly at full field stage." Seska was excited now. "This is going to work!"
It was then that the alarms started to ring and steam began building up in engineering. People frantically checked and rechecked readings.
"What is it?" Carey was on the verge of panic.
"Plasma manifold is becoming unstable." Torres noted.
"I can compensate for that." Seska tapped the console.
"The manifold is being bombarded by anti neutrinos from the trajector field."
"ANTI neutrinos?!" Seska punched at the console.
"They must be the catalyst for the space folding process." Torres looked for answers on the edge of panic herself.
"It's not working" Seska was yelling. "I can't compensate for the instability."
"There is no way to compensate for a field that size." Carey was beginning to understand the problem.
They were punching at the consoles, frantically trying to disengage the trajector, as the smoke filled the room and the alarms continued to blare. There problem was even becoming evident on the bridge.
"Captain, I'm showing an unstable plasma manifold---we're headed for
a breach." Ensign Kim reported.
"We're on it Captain --no time to talk." Torres cut the link and began issuing orders. "Shut down the matrix."
"I can't" Seska fought with the controls "It's not responding."
"It's fused." Carey called out.
"Plasma temperature at 43 million calvin." Seska monitored the core.
"Carey ---get everybody out." B'Elanna ordered, as she fought with the matrix. "I can't unlock it---the command matrix is sealed."
"Plasma temperature at 50 million calvin." Seska reported, as carey chased people out of engineering.
B'Elanna punched at the control, pulled at the matrix and finally grabbed a phaser and shot it. The matrix exploded.
"Anti neutrino bombardment stopped, plasma temperature dropping." Seska took a deep breath.
"We didn't anticipate anti neutrinos." Torres sat down holding her head. "The trajector could never be compatible with federation technology."
"I'll start erasing the sensor logs." Seska moved to another console. "We can blame it on the phase discrepancy."
"NO---we're not going to cover this up." Torres put her hand up to stop Seska.
"Are you crazy!? We don't have to take the blame for this."
"But we're going to --- we disobeyed orders --- gambled it would pay off ---it didn't." B'Elanna hung her head, then looked up at Seska. "No-- we just can't pretend like this didn't happen."
"I don't understand ---there is no need for this."
"I'm sorry, if you don't get it, Seska --- but it has something to do with being able to live with yourself."
"That doesn't sound like you."
"If that's true ---than I take that as a compliment."
When the excitement settled, the danger had passed and the ship was in working order, B'Elanna Torres and Mr. Tuvok stood in the ready room, before the Captain's desk. The Captain was more angry than she had ever been and deeply disappointed. She was yet to learn the full extent of the conspiracy.
"I take full responsibility for what happened." B'Elanna stood nervously before the Captain. "There were others involved, but I was the senior officer ---and the culpability is mine."
The Captain stood behind her desk, leaning forward slightly, her fingers lightly drumming the desk top as she listened.
"Lieutenant Torres is not precisely correct, Captain. She was not the senior officer involved ---I was."
Tuvok's words stung the Captain, she turned in shock and disbelief, trying to fully comprehend his meaning.
"You." Her mouth moved, but the stunned whisper was barely audible.
"It was I who made the exchange --- the federation library for the trajectory matrix."
For a long moment the Captain stood still, trying to comprehend, to regain her composure. She looked down at her desk, up at B'Elanna, then settled on Tuvok.
"I will deal with you in a moment." She was hardly able to form the words as she studied the silent form of her chief of security, then she turned to B'Elanna. "I don't have the luxury of throwing you in the brig for the rest of the voyage ---I need you --I need every person on this ship. But I want you to know how very deeply you have disappointed me.-----If there are any further transgressions -- even minor ones--- YOU WILL NO LONGER BE AN OFFICER on this ship -- is that clear?" She never raised her voice, but the intensity was frightening.
"Yes, Ma'am." B'Elanna struggled to get the words out.
"Dismissed." She shook her head sadly as B'Elanna left.
B'Elanna left, Tuvok stood at attention, staring straight ahead --the Captain looked up at him, trying to fathom what had occurred.
"I don't even know where to start. I want you to explain to me, how you--of all people--could be involved in this."
"It is quite simple, Captain -- you have made it clear on many occasions, that your highest goal for the crew is to get them home -- but in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma ---I was the logical choice and so I chose to act."
"You did this for me? Because you knew I couldn't?"
"I accept the consequences of my actions --- I expect to lose my commission and to be court-martialed when we return to federation space."
Captain Janeway shook her head from side to side as she came around the desk, walking very close to him and looking up into his face.
"You are one of my most valued officers and you are my friend ---It is vital that you understand me here --- I need you. ---but -- I also need to know that I can count on you. You are my council, the one I turn to when I need my moral compass checked --we have forged this relationship for years and I depend on it." She walked away, then turned back to him. "I realize you made a sacrifice for me, but it is not one I would have allowed you to make. You can use logic to justify almost anything --that's it's power and it's flaw. From now on bring you're logic to me, don't act on it behind my back."
"You have my word --my logic was not in error, but I was."
"Dismissed." The Captain turned her back on her friend and officer, dropping her head into her hands, struggling to cope with this most difficult turn of events.
"That was a very difficult time, but we survived it and I think after a time we were better for it." Kathryn could still feel the hurt, even though she understood their actions. "As angry and hurt as I was at the time, I could still recognize the progress you had already made. When you first came on board you would not only have gone along with Seska's cover up--you probably would have initiated it."
"You're right I would have--in the old days." B'Elanna knew it upset everyone, even all these years later. "That took a while to get over."
"Yes, it did -- but this type of activity was not repeated, a hard lesson learned by all." Tuvok surveyed the group.
"Almost everyone, as I recall Seska never did learn her lesson." Chakotay shifted the focus and thus the mood.
"Seska, now there's a piece of work." Tom smirked "You sure can pick 'em, chief."
"I have also made some good choices." He winked at Kathryn.
"Not in those early years--Seska was only the very bad beginning."
"Yea, that was a great crew I had" Chakotay turned the conversation from his unlucky love life. "Tuvok here, worked for her, the whole time." He nodded his head toward Kathryn. "Seska was a Cardassian spy, who worked mostly for herself --B'Ella you did work for me -- didn't you?"
"Yea, Chak---for what it's worth, I was completely devoted to you." B'Elanna smiled. "Oh you mean the 'cause'--yea I was devoted to that too."
"So was Seska --well, maybe not professionally..." Tom shrugged.
"Don't remind me -- but, I do have to say, she made a mean mushroom soup."
"I remember, but the last time she made you mushroom soup, we all got our replicator rations taken away for two days --- including you!" Joe laughed. "Who else puts himself on report for tasting soup?"
"Stolen soup---she stole from the food reserves--and you all helped her! I was still trying to impress upon her, that we were no longer maquis --- we had rules and others to consider --she never did get it."
"She had already betrayed us to the Kazon ---it was too late." Kathryn recalled his ardent attempts to defend Seska, but didn't bring them up. She did play it out to the very end, even when you told her we knew--she kept you off balance--all of us really--that how she got away.
Their plan had worked and Seska had incriminated herself. Chakotay returned to a darkened sick bay to inform her of his findings.
"Chakotay ---is anything wrong?" See looked up from the bio bed surprised.
"It's over--we know who gave the technology to the Kazon. He spoke in a soft quiet voice.
"Who? She inquired innocently as she sat up.
"Look, I don't know what evidence you think you found but..."
"We found the evidence you put there for us to find--your own security code."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"We already knew where the stolen materials had been taken from before I met with you. We were monitoring the inventory manifest, hoping either you or Carey would try to cover your tracks.
"Hell of a way for me to cover my tracks---putting in my own security code for you to find?"
"That's exactly what you did---you knew no one would believe you could be that careless---You wanted us to believe that someone else was trying to frame you"
"Ever consider that maybe someone was?"
"We traced the computer station used to enter the data---oh you took us all around the system and back again, before we could locate the source ---but it was this system--in sickbay.
Sick bay suddenly went to full illumination as the Captain and Tuvok entered, accompanied by a security team.
"I'd almost say it was a maquis operation." Chakotay continued, "If I didn't already know you were a Cardassian.---Computer activate the Emergency Medical Holographic program."
"Ahh--Have I been called to testify?" The EMH spoke as he materialized.
"Before you even mentioned Orchet's disease to me, the doctor had already discounted that as a reason for your blood anomalies."
"And might I say, a Doctor less informed about Bajorian medicine, might have been fooled---but my program includes a complete Bajoran medical text on Orchet's disease. There is no way any childhood virus or Cardassian bone marrow transplant can explain away the genetic markers in your blood. ---You- Are- Cardassian- Ensign.
"But that didn't necessarily make you the trader we were looking for. We needed more evidence and you gave it to us. The one thing I still can't understand is-- Why?"
I did it for you--I did it for this crew--we are alone here--- at the mercy of any number of hostile aliens. Because of the incomprehensible decision of a federation Captain." She looked around Chakotay and glared at the Captain. Who destroyed our only chance to get home ---federation rules--federation nobility--federation compassion--- Do you understand if this had been a Cardassina ship we would be home now--We must begin to forge alliances--to survive we must have powerful friends. The Kazon-Nistrim were willing to be our protectors--in return for some minor technology.
"Minor technology!" The Captain returned Seska's glare. "That could change the balance of power in this quadrant."
"Change it in our favor--that is all that matters at this point!--building a base of power in the quadrant --You're a fool Captain." She turned back to Chakotay. "And you're a fool for following her---" She lowered her voice. "I can't imagine how I ever loved you. Computer command XJL." She shimmered in the blue glow of the transportor.
"Computer override transport in progress." Chakotay ordered.
"UNABLE TO COMPLY--SECURITY LOCKOUT IS IN PLACE."
"Computer identify the destination of the transport." Janeway asked.
"A KAZON VESSEL 14 KILOMETERES OFF THE PORT BOW."
"Yea, she had a way of getting people in trouble, didn't she." Joe laughed " Hell, she had a knack for getting me in trouble! And I'm sure glad she never 'loved' me --cause the things she did to you in the name of love almost got you killed and the crew along with you." He shook his head and patted Chakotay on the back.
"We survived her."
"Yes, Chakotay, because we did it together--not like that time you went after her by yourself and almost got killed---I almost left you behind with the Kazon." Kathryn gave him a 'Captain glare'
"But you didn't, thank you" He smiled at her
"Don't thank me--thank B'Elanna she's the one who argued your case." Kathryn shook her head.
"Yea --sure I said the words, but she was begging to be convinced." B'Elanna offered.
"I never said any thing of the kind." Kathryn pretended to be indignant.
"Oh please--even then I could see how you felt about him--no matter how much you denied it."
"She did dress me down and make me feel like shit afterwards though---that I remember."
After Chakotay recovered from his visit to the Kazon ship, he was summoned to the Ready room. The Captain waited for him, trying to imagine how this could happen. When Tuvok had disobeyed orders and traded for the trajector--she was hurt and betrayed and she thought it was the worse she could ever feel----She was wrong.
She sat behind her desk and her first officer----Chakotay-- stood before her. She watched him silently for a minute, all these months, she thought she knew him.
"Just tell me one thing--What were you thinking?"
"About keep our technology out of Kazon hands. I thought if I did it on my own I could keep the rest of the crew out of danger."
"That may be a very noble sentiment, but it wasn't your decision to make." She shook her head. OH Chakotay---We spent the last ten months together on this ship---I thought we had an understanding---Why did you choose to ignore procedure?"
"Seska was my problem---A problem I felt it was my duty to solve."
"So-you had a personal score to settle."
"I thought I was doing the right thing.."
Janeway got up from her seat slowly and came around the desk to stand directly in front of him.
"Really---tell me this-How do you expect me to keep order, when the first officer takes it upon himself to run off like some cowboy, because he decides it's a good idea. What you did was commendable--how you did it was not. You set a terrible example and on a personal note, you've made my job more difficult." She locked her eyes with his.
"If that's so -I regret it."
"I'm putting you on report---in case that means anything any more."
"It means something to me, Captain. It means I've let you down---and for that I'm truly sorry.."
"Bridge to Ready room." Tuvok's voice interrupted their words but not their eye contact.
"Go ahead Mr. Tuvok." She never moved her gaze.
"I think you and Commander Chakotay should come in here."
"On our way." She never took her eyes from his until she exited to the bridge.
"I have located an automated message beacon.." Tuvok reported.
"It is a message to Commander Chakotay from Seska."
"Would you like Mr. Kim to put it through to you office?" She watched his reactions.
"NO--I think I've spent enough time alone with Seska."
"Very well--" If it wasn't so true, she might have smiled at that. "Put it on screen."
"Hello Chakotay," Seska's smiling face appeared on the view screen. "Congratulations on your victory, I look forward to our next meeting. Oh--and there's something you should know. While you were unconscious, I took the liberty of extracting a sample of your DNA. I have impregnated myself with it--so I guess, more congratuations are in order---you're going to be a father." One more smile and the screen went dark.
Chakotay stood stock still in the center of the bridge, all eyes were on him. The Captain stared at him waiting for a reaction---his eyes slowly came to rest on hers, one moment --then he left the bridge. She let him go.
"Not my best day--first this one makes me feel like shit." He nodded to Kathryn. "Then Seska's big announcement --which just put the icing on it."
"You were so quiet for so long, after that---even I couldn't bring myself to pick on you." Tom injected some humor to lighten the mood.
"Seska was a lot of things--but never stupid." Kathryn mused. "God-- I hate her."
"Kathryn?" Chakotay didn't realize she still harbored such hostility toward Seska.
"What-that surprises you? God- Chakotay, she turned my ship inside out, betrayed us to the Kazon--on every possible occasion, the things she did to you...." She took a deep breath " And she still managed to get everything I ever wanted. At least we thought so at the time"
"She put us through it again, when that baby was born." Tom laughed. "Of course I saved the day and the ship."
"With a little help, from the doctor and Suter, as I remember." B'Elanna chimed in.
"Well yea, but we were really good." Tom smiled. "I remember that message---god Chak--she reeaally was a bad choice."
"Now he tells me." Chakotay laughed, but he remembered the message and everyone's reaction to it.
"Captain, we are being hailed on a sub-space frequency." Mr. Kim reported from his station.
"Are there any ships in the vicinity?"
"Tracking the source." Paris injected. "Seems like it's coming from an unmanned buoy---coordinates 140 mark 317."
"Looks like a Kazon signal, Captain" Harry added.
"Take us out of warp---open a channel."
The signal was weak and not very clear. The picture was full of interference and static, but Seska's face was discernible---as was the baby she held.
"Chakotay---they are going to take your son---When Culluh saw the baby----I hear them coming----I don't have much time ----when he saw the baby wasn't his -----Please Chakotay---help us--not for me---for your son." Seska was frantic, the picture moved the static made it difficult to see.
"I told you to stay out of here." Culluh's voice could be heard in the background.
"NOoo--please don't---don't take him, I beg you- no--no nooooo"
The signal was lost and once again the focus of the entire bridge was on Chakotay. The Captain watched the battle rage with in him and her heart broke. Finally she asked him to join her in the ready room.
They sat in silence for a few minutes and then Chakotay seemed to get angry. She watched him fight with himself and then the anger flared.
"This is not my responsibility--- She had no right to expect me..." He began to pace.
"She knows you, Chakotay---she knew how you would react when you saw your son in danger."
"I have a duty to this crew---I can't just leave and go looking for the child."
"And I'd never consider letting you go into a Kazon-Nistrim strong hold by yourself" She came toward him and leaned over her desk. "If we do this --we do this together...." She considered this a moment. "That's something else Seska would know too."
"Do you think it's a trap?"
"Do I think Seska is capable of manipulating you and me with this?----- OH YES."
"On the other hand -it was time for her to deliver." He thought about it more than he would admit "And that baby looked part Cardassian and part Human."
"And knowing Culluh..." She came around the desk to stand next to him. "I'm sure his pride was wounded when he realized the child wasn't his---it makes sense Chakotay---It might all be true."
"Still the safest thing would be to ignore this message and resume course."
"I'm not going to resume our course, just yet---I want you to think about it, Chakotay." She walked across the room, shaking her head. "It has to be your decision.-----If you choose to go after him---I know I speak for the entire crew, Starfleet and Maquis alike, when I say we'll stand behind you."
"I almost couldn't believe she would do that for me."
"You just spent three months on that planet with her---you didn't know she would react like that?" B'Elanna could never believe how these two blinded themselves to this for so long.
"One of the things I learned from that stay was---that this ship would always come before her personal happiness. She snapped back into Captain mode with such a vengeance--it was frightening."
"It was the only way I could handle it----but I could never have asked you to leave your child behind--not even for my ship."
"Which was exactly what you wound up sacrificing for him---if I hadn't saved the day." Tom patted himself on the back.
"That was an adventure. When Culluh smacked you ---god." Harry shook his head. "I never felt so helpless in all my life."
"Yea, Culluh said you were worse than Seska---didn't know how right he could be." Chakotay chuckled.
"Keep that up and you may find out." Kathryn threatened.
"I remember you helped me." Sam smiled at Chakotay. "I remember that sad smile when you took Naomi and carried her for me, on the planet."
"I remember her telling us we would eat worms if we had to ---an order yet." Harry made a face and everyone laughed.
"I for one, was pretty proud of her---she is truly a product of the 24th centurny and roughing it is not her style--she is a lady who loves the comfort and convenience of modern technology---and I should know--somehow I keep trying to share these primitive--at least by her standards --life styles with her and she truly hates it." Chakotay made everyone laugh.
"For someone who likes that lifestyle--you're not always very good at it." Kathryn jabbed back.
"Oh, here comes the fire thing again." He laughed.
Maje Culluh and Seska had stranded them on a primitive planet, without any supplies, food, weapons--nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had to search for food and water and shelter. They set up a primitive camp and with night falling they were desperately trying to start fires to warm them against the growing cold.
"Gather together in groups, that will help preserve body heat----this is not the time to be shy." The Captain walked through camp in search of Tuvok. "Tuvok."
"Captain, how do you like your eggs?" She was cut off by Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres, returning from their scouting mission. Harry handed one very large egg to the Captain.
"We found a nest about 2 kilometers away." Torres explained.
"And that's not all--cucumbers-or something like them. Vines full of them --2 hours from here." Harry was happy with his accomplishment.
"Take them to Nelix and tell him to hold off on the beetle stew--at least for now." The Captain made her way to where Sam held Naomi. "How's she doing?" She squatted down beside Sam.
"I don't know Captain. Seems tired and listless." Sam gave her a worried look and the Captain smiled in return.
"Maybe she's just adjusting to the environment---after all she was born in space. Make sure you stay close to the fire.---As soon as we have one."
Kathryn made her way over to Chakotay, who was rubbing sticks together --futilely. She squatted down to his lever.
"Trapped on a barren planet and you're stuck with the only Indian in the universe who can't start a fire by rubbing two sticks together." He tossed them away in frustration. "I was never good at this as a child and I'm still not good at it."
"Don't be so hard on yourself--none of the others have had any success with it either---must be the wood."
"We need kindling." He thought of something and began eyeing her hair. "of some sort..."
"What?!" She watched the strange expression on his face.
"Something my father once told me--about starting fires."
Before she could think about it and back out---not that she would have--but--. The Captain found herself with her head laying on a large stone as, Mr. Kim used a sharp rock to cut off a large lock of her hair. Her sacrifice was worth it and Chakotay managed to get a fire started.
"Too bad I was inside the cave--I would have liked to see that!" Chakotay laughed. "B'Elanna Torres, tough Klingon--running away."
"And we don't want to forget that I missed all this because..."
"We know Tom" They all spoke at once. "You saved the day!"
"And the ship, and all of you and I got rid--although not on purpose--I got rid of Seska in the process."
"Yes, you did." Kathryn sighed. "But even dead she wouldn't leave us alone."
"It was a simple training program---before she discovered it." Tuvok rejoined the conversation. "If I had properly deleted it---or Ms. Torres wasn't so nosy---it would have never happened."
"It was a great program-Tuvok, you really should have written more." Joe smiled. "I liked the whole evil Commander Chakotay thing."
"Me too." Kathryn laughed at the looks she received. "Come on, there is something very sexy about the bad guy."
"Now why should that surprise me?" Chakotay raised and eyebrow at her. "She has a thing for bad guys."
"Let's not go there." Kathryn warned.
"Why not, Kathryn?" Chakotay smiled. "Cardassian spys---Devore inspectors--not much difference. And he made it annoying clear he called you Kathryn"
"Oh please ---besides we were talking about Seska."
"Now Kat..." Chakotay was interrupted by newcomers to the group.
"I hope we're not interrupting anything." Naomi Wildman, now a young woman of twenty-four and an official part of the crew, entered the mess hall with her 'friend' and constant companion --Rebi He was one of four children they had rescued for the borg, many years ago, a quietly intelligent young man--a perfect compliment to Naomi.
"Not at all Naomi---join us." Kathryn winked, relieved to have a change of subject.
"We won't take up much time--but ..." Naomi stood tall and looked directly at Kathryn. "Captain, I --er We have an official request for you to consider."
"Yes, Ensign Wildman--what is it."
"I know we have only four or five days until we reach earth." She took a deep breath. "Captain before we get there--Rebi and I would like to be married. Will you marry us?"
There was a stunned silence, each person looking at the other. It wasn't a surprise that they would marry--just that they would choose now as the time to do it. Kathryn noted the tears forming in Sam's eyes--tears of happiness-and those in her own.
"Of course I will, Naomi, Rebi." Kathryn stood and hugged each of them. "But it would be rushed--not as nice as you could have on earth and your father--wouldn't you like him to be there?"
"Aunt Kathryn." Naomi slipped into the familiar mode. "I was born on this ship, lived my whole life here and in a sense Rebi was reborn here. We truly want to be married here --by you. And my father, well I don't know him--I'm sure I will and I'm sure he and his wife---my brother and sister are all very nice people, but this is my real family. Mom and Joe, Uncle Nelix, you and Uncle Chakotay--all of you--this is where I want to be married ---with all of you there."
"Well, looks like we have work to do. We have a wedding to plan." Kathryn relinquisted her hold on the young couple as the other moved it for hugs and kissed.
They had a celebratory toast of champagne---replicated,
even Tom had run out of supplies years ago.
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