War Crimes

War Crimes
VoyWriter

Disclaimer: Paramount holds the StarTrek name and characters prisoner. I am
simply here on a visitors pass subject to revocation at any time. Please feel free to
distribute this electronically with all disclaimers and comments intact and
without revision. VoyWriter 1996.

Comments welcome at VoyWriter@aol.com
Thanks to YCD for an insightful discussion that brought the ending into focus for
me and ended my own torture.

Kathryn Janeway exited the turbolift to the bridge.
“Commander Chakotay – in my ready room,” she ordered in a barely contained
voice that bespoke a greater fury beneath. She did not wait for him to
acknowledge.
The bridge crew exchanged furtive glances as Chakotay excused himself from
Tuvok and followed Janeway’s tapping footsteps to the ready room.
He paused before activating the doorslide. Janeway’s imperious tone had
infuriated him, but his temper would not serve him with her and he knew it. He
forced his breathing to slow and then entered.
Janeway was pacing before the observation window, her expression unreadable at
first, but quenched in coldness when she turned to him.
What in the hell had happened to cause such a reaction?
“Please sit Commander,” she directed tightly. She was giving no quarter.
He hesitated a moment, but then nodded and took his usual chair at the meeting
table. For now, an exercise in restraint and control seemed the best course of
action.
“Might I ask what this is all about?” he wondered in what B’Elanna Torres called
‘that damned soft voice of his.’
Janeway took her time crossing to her desk, choosing to stand behind it rather
than sit. She had containment issues of her own to handle and she did not intend
to let emotions to rule this meeting.
When she finally she spoke, her voice carried its usual distinctive tone, though
perhaps with a harder edge. It was the best she could do at the moment.
ÒI was reviewing Mr. SuderÕs effects,” she began.
Chakotay nodded. It was a standard procedure when a crew member died.
Chakotay himself had collected the items and made them ready for her. There
hadn’t been much – a few tapes on botany that Tuvok had recommended, some
clothing, a meditation stone. It was an unremarkable collection and somehow sad
that this was all that was left of the man.
ÒDid you know he kept a journal?Ó Janeway continued.
ÒIÕm not surprised,Ó Chakotay replied. Suder had been a fairly meticulous person,
albeit a fanatical one. “Although I didn’t notice it in his effects.”
“He made recordings over the botany tapes.”
“I didn’t play them,” Chakotay said patiently, though he wondered where this was
all leading.
“I did,” she told him, her voice clipped.
“I gather something you heard there upset you.”
Her mouth tightened and she watched Chakotay carefully as she spoke, gauging
his reaction. “In an effort to exorcise his demons, apparently Mr. Suder decided to
document his time in the Maquis.”
The muscle in Chakotay’s jaw contracted. It was enough. Her eyes registered a
disappointment so great that it nearly drove all other emotion from them.
Chakotay sat in silence. He knew what the tapes contained. He knew what Suder
had said. He also knew the truth of it. In a sense he was relieved, yet he was bitter
as well to have his past thrust upon his future without choice or warning.
“It was a different life,” he said at last.
“It’s a life you are still accountable for,” she insisted harshly.
He pushed up from his chair and rapidly paced the room. “I have held myself
accountable every minute of every day,” he spat. “What would you have me do,
Kathryn?”
“Chakotay, you tortured Cardassian prisoners in ways that go far beyond ethical
treatment,” Janeway breathed in almost palpable pain. She couldn’t recall being
so disillusioned.
He stood before the observation window, a dark silhouette. “I can’t change the
past.” His voice was quiet. He was shaken, too. He turned to her.
“Do you plan to relieve me of duty?”
She drew in her breath. “I don’t know.”
“Would it be easier if I resigned?”
“Easier? Yes.” Suddenly she was tired, her voice weary. She met his gaze evenly.
That was not easy.
“I’m guilty, Kathryn. Guilty of every damned thing Suder said on his tapes and
probably more. I’m a Federation felon. A dangerous man. And you have me in the
command structure of your ship. And you have me in your life.”
She looked at him without blinking and then turned her eyes for a moment to her
desk. She stabbed the comm line. ÒMr. Tuvok,Ó she called. ÒPlease report to the
my ready room.Ó
She waited until the Vulcan Security Chief had entered and the door slid closed
before speaking again, her eyes locked on ChakotayÕs. She owed him that much.
To say these words with his gaze firmly fixed in hers.
ÒCommander Chakotay,Ó she stated formally. ÒAccording to Federation law and
Starfleet Regulation I have no choice but to charge you with crimes against the
Cardassian people in violation of the Geneva Convention and Shankir Principles.
I hereby order your arrest and confinement. You are entitled to a hearing on this
matter within two days. Mr. Tuvok will advise you of any other rights. You are
officially relieved of duty.Ó She nodded at Tuvok, her eyes still matched with
ChakotayÕs. ÒThatÕs all Lieutenant.Ó
Janeway turned away. It was the damned hardest thing she had ever done.

Janeway sat in the dim light of her quarters before the observation window. There
were stars before her, though she did not see them. She was exhausted, but could
not find sleep.
She had gone so far as to change for bed, loosen her hair, slip between the sheets,
close her eyes. That only made it worse, for the darkness brought memories of
other dark nights. Nights shared in a camp on a new world. Sweet winds.
Tempestuous storms. Magical stories. Contentment.
She was not one to question her decisions. She did not, in fact, question this one.
She simply wished it did not have to be. She wished she did not know what she
knew. She wished the decision had not been hers to make. These were not
feelings of regret, but rather something closer to grief, if in fact, not grief itself.
There had a been a parade of crew members through her ready room the rest of
the long day, each with their own agenda. She had yet to collect her own thoughts
and god knows they were scattered wide.

B’Elanna Torres been the first to take Janeway by storm. The Engineer had been
furious and ended up throwing her comm badge on the desk in resignation. She
was not interested in Janeway’s explanations, the fact that Chakotay himself had
corroborated Suder’s testimony, that this had been forced on Janeway and she
herself was reeling from the blow. B’Elanna saw only perceived injustice, an
inability to forgive on Janeway’s part and the trap of Federation law and Starfleet
regulation. She had paced the ready room with long angry strides demanding that
Janeway make an exception and enumerating her reasons for it loudly.
“What more does someone have to do to prove their loyalty?” B’Elanna spat.
“Next you’ll find someone’s letters home and lock me up, too.”
“B’Elanna…” Janeway started, but the Engineer was not ready to listen.
“When I left Starfleet it was because of this same inflexibility,” B’Elanna raged.
“Well it was the right decision. The problem was I let myself be talked back in.”
She tore her comm link from her tunic and slapped it down on the desk. “And
that’s a problem I can take care of right now! I am Maquis, too. Captain,” she
growled with angry pride. “How are you going to deal with that?”

Amazingly, or perhaps not so, Tom Paris was next. Tom had taken a different
approach. Tom understood fallibility – and accountability – and he had
experienced forgiveness at Janeway’s hand. It was ironic that the one man
Chakotay had counted as enemy in his first hours on Voyager had ended up his
advocate.
“It’s not that I think what he did was right,” Tom drawled, his practiced careless
manner serving a backdrop to his real concern. “I mean – I don’t love the
Cardassians, but rules are rules…It’s just that, well, it’s a different world out here,
Captain. I kind of see it as a new start for all of us. How’s it so different than my
situation?”
“This is far more serious than that, Tom,” Janeway had tutored. “Every principle
for which Starfleet and the Federation stand have been abrogated by Chakotay’s
actions. I cannot let it pass. We are out here alone, true, but we must hold fast to
the vision that lead us here,” she said fiercely. “It is the one thing we cannot risk.”

Harry Kim was just plain upset. Kim could handle the unexpected in the form of a
nebula, invading warship or hostile world – what disturbed him was a change in
his own world. There had been too many changes, too much uncertainty. Janeway
had tried to calm his fears.
“It’s normal, Harry, to wish for things to be different. We all have wished we were
home, for instance. But when things can’t be the way we want them, we need to
accept them as they are,” she said gently.
“It’s just that I can’t imagine Commander Chakotay doing the things they say.”
“They?” Janeway raised an eyebrow. Damn she hated the rumor mills.
“There’s just a lot of talk,” Harry said uncomfortably.
“I’ll let you know what to listen to, Mr. Kim,” she said briskly. “Until then I
suggest you mind your station and leave the others to their business.”

Neelix and Kes appeared together.
“You know this is not good for morale,” Neelix started immediately. “Not good at
all. Are you sure this isn’t just some kind of misunderstanding? I mean, Mr. Suder
was not in the best of health,” he said delicately. “Perhaps he was attributing his
own actions to the Commander. I read once…”
“I think what Neelix means is that this seems so unbelievable,” Kes finished
plaintively.
“Dearest, you always look at the best in people,” Neelix said affectionately. “It is
one of your most endearing qualities.”
“There is still good in Commander Chakotay,” Kes insisted. “He’s done many kind
things for me – for all of us.”
“He did risk his life to help protect the array from the Kazon,” Neelix concurred.
“Isn’t there any possibility of a second chance, Captain?”

“The Commander has clearly made some very good friends,” Tuvok
acknowledged when Janeway shared the day’s events with him. “Regrettably that
is not a mitigating factor in this case.”
“Isn’t it?” Janeway wondered aloud. “I mean, shouldn’t it be?”
“Starfleet regulation is very clear in this matter, Captain,” Tuvok advised.
Janeway waved a weary hand. “I know, Tuvok. As is Federation law. You are
right of course.”
“As was your decision to arrest and confine the Commander,” Tuvok told her.
“And as your statement advises, Captain, the Commander did substantiate Mr.
Suder’s taped log. He – confessed – if you will. There is ample evidence to support
your actions. You merely acted in accordance with regulation.”
The knowledge made her feel no better.

Janeway rose and crossed to the observation window, pressing her forehead
against the cool surface.
Was it possible that she really knew Chakotay so little? Understood him so little?
There was the real disillusionment – to have been so close, shared so much,
known so little.
And tomorrow, what? Sit in judgment? Sentence him to confinement for the
duration of his life? Death would be more humane.
Chakotay had already refused counsel. He did not intend to argue the matter, he
told Tuvok when the Vulcan advised him of his rights.
He is making this too easy, Janeway realized. Just as he made his arrest easy. He
had nearly given her permission to arrest him? Why? she wondered, pacing about
the room. To spare himself from revealing more? To spare her from hearing
more? Was his truth worse than Suder’s?
She hugged her arms tight. Who was she here – Captain, friend, lover? Her mind
lightly touched the new word tying it to old memories. And which was she first?
To what part of herself did she owe her loyalty?
How should she judge what was right? She believed in Federation principles, in
Starfleet regulations, with all of her being. She had dedicated her life to
upholding them. She also believed in this man with a part of herself that had not
felt so fiercely protective at any point in her life, nor so passionate. This
uncommon man. He did not deserve common treatment.
She crossed to the desk and tabbed on the computer. “Computer, activate view
only for security block A-1.”
The holding cell was dimly lit, lights turned down for sleep save one near the bed.
Chakotay was awake, sitting unmoving on the bunk, his uniform exchanged for
the drab gray jumpsuit of confinement.
His gaze caught the red light which signaled the camera had been activated. He
looked up. She could see his eyes. There was no censure in them.
“Activate voice and open dual view,” Janeway directed. “Interrupt log,
authorization Janeway K-4.”
“Chakotay,” she said softly. “It’s Kathryn.” She used her given name. She wanted
him to know that it was not the Captain of Voyager who had stolen in to visit him
this night. This was the woman who had shared his life those sweet, short months
on New Earth.
“Hello Kathryn.” He said softly, understanding and warmth in his voice.
She eased into the chair behind her desk and reached out to touch the viewscreen
with her fingers. “Will you tell me about it?” she asked.
He saw her hand, felt her fingers tender on his face, and nodded. “I’ll try.”

“When I received the news about my father’s death, I was teaching tactical
support,” Chakotay began, recalling what had come to be a pivotal event in his
life. “It had been a hell of a long day – we’d been doing first term tactical
simulations on the training holodeck and had been at it for hours. I had made
dinner plans, but I was too beat to go through with them so I canceled and just
went back to my quarters. The message was waiting.”

Chakotay stepped into the darkened room and directed the lights up to quarter
brightness. It had been a rough day – first term simulations were always a battle.
In fact, if they’d been using real Starfleet vessels they might have depleted their
forces. Setting up simulations on paper was one thing, but when the cadets had to
actually work them through in the lab, any flaws became evident.
Unloading a stack of data padds listing raw scores that would end up grades by
morning, he headed straight for the bedroom, absently tabbing the comm panel to
active as he passed it.
He had his boots off and uniform stripped to the waist when he heard the urgent
message tone repeat on the comm panel. He hurried to retrieve the message. It
had been relayed through on a non-regulation channel, bypassing Starfleet
entirely and dropping into his personal mail delivery.
There were few words. It was not easy to send protracted messages via long range
off-line channels and this one was no exception. He learned that his father was
dead – killed in the border wars – and he was asked to come home and fight to
honor his father’s memory. There was no signature. It was too dangerous to put
one’s name to anything if one was a member of the Maquis – and Chakotay knew
this message had come from the Maquis, probably his father’s second.
He stabbed the screen dark and simply stood for moment, wondering just what it
was he was supposed to feel. Sorrow? Rage? Vindictiveness? He felt none of that
– only emptiness, only an overwhelming sense that once again he had failed. He
had not been there to fight the fight. He had disappointed.
Heading back into the bedroom he finished changing into a loose pair of pants
and open tunic, and then ordered a cup of tea from the replicator. He left the mug
sitting, untouched on the pad.
A large slashing viewport ranged the height of his quarters no wider than a man.
He could see beyond the station to the stars beyond. To the life beyond.
He still remembered the look in his father’s eyes those many years ago when a
much younger Chakotay had told him of his admission to Starfleet Academy.
What had it been – disappointment, concern, a bare hint of amusement, dismissal
of the topic.
“That is not our place, any longer Chakotay,” his father had said on the day his
son departed for Earth. “We were cast out from there. This,” he extended his arms
broadly to encompass all their peoples’ lands, “this is our place. And this is your
destiny.” He poked his son in the chest. “You may not see this today, but you will
eventually. And you will return and it will become you more than you would ever
guess. It will burn in you,” he promised.
Chakotay had shaken his head at another diatribe and left both disturbed and
dismayed that there had been no fond farewell.
He crossed to the viewport and rested an arm against the rounded frame and his
head against that. It seemed as if nothing had ever burned in him as it had in his
father’s blood. He was a good officer – an excellent officer according to his
service record. As an instructor he was thorough and well liked by cadets and
peers. His students were the tops in tactical training and in demand by the best
Captains and ships.
He had friends, activities, a couple of fairly serious relationships with women
over the years – but he had not found passion. Not for his career. Not for himself.
How could his father’s blood run through his veins and not deliver him that
passion?
“Answer that, father,” he said aloud to the stars as the first of many salty tears
slipped down his face. He did not bother to brush them away. It was the least
honor he could do a man who had given his life for his people and for his cause,
and his blood to a son who could not find it’s promise.

“I stood there for an hour,” Chakotay revealed to Janeway. “Afterward I was
exhausted. It was as if some breakwall had let loose and drained away my
strength. I don’t ever recall feeling so lost and alone as that moment.”
Janeway touched her fingers to the viewscreen. “I wish I could have been there to
help.” She wished she could help now. ÒDid you leave then and go home?Ó
He shook his head, pulling his feet up onto the bunk and draping his arms over his
knees. ÒNo. I didnÕt see how that would help. I was disconnected from that life,
Kathryn. I felt as distant from it then as I feel from the Maquis now. I still
honored the traditions in my own way, but I no longer lived them as when I was
under my fatherÕs roof.Ó
ÒYet you did go back,Ó Janeway reminded him. ÒWhat changed your mind?Ó
A dark stare met her question. “You are hereby ordered to report before a casual
board of inquiry at 14 hundred hours,” Chakotay repeated flatly. “You are entitled
and advised to seek counsel.”
“You were called before a court martial board of inquiry?” Janeway raised a
speculative eyebrow. “To answer what charges?”
“I was accused of receiving unauthorized transmissions from known enemies of
the Federation in violation of whatever damned regulation applied.” It had been a
humiliating and infuriating experience to stand before his superior officers and
peers and answer charges of collaborating with the enemy – in this case, a father
he’d been at odds with for years.
“They traced the message about Kolopak’s death,” Janeway said quietly.
Chakotay nodded, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. It had been a long
day. “Apparently a tracer had been attached to my comm months before – when
the fighting really heated up in the zone. They had only the single transmission,
but I was Kolopak’s son and in their minds I was guilty by association,” he said
bitterly.
“Surely your service record…”
“My service record meant nothing compared to a single two line message and the
blood in my veins, Kathryn,” he pressed with a savage fierceness that made her
draw back from the view screen.
Chakotay rose abruptly and paced the short length of his cell. Just telling the story
made him restless and brought back all the feelings of that day – disbelief, rage,
fear, shame, betrayal.
“That day, Kathryn, I finally understood what my father had been fighting for,
what my people had been fighting for since the beginning of our association with
the white man. And I realized the dishonor was mine. Despite their actions, this
betrayal was not Starfleet challenging an officer over his personal mail – that was
just their paranoia and fear. It was my betrayal, Kathryn, for failing to honor a
sacred trust,” he said in a hushed, but caustic voice.
He pressed a hand on either side of the viewscreen and stared hard at Janeway’s
image. She could see the tension in his face and could almost feel his efforts to
control it. As she watched, his eyes cooled to an obsidian glass that would have
quenched even a Cardassian fire.
“I did not honor my peoplesÕ traditions, or help to build new ones, or defend the
old ones. That was my shame. And I vowed that day never to forget where my
loyalties should lay.Ó
“But there were no charges,” Janeway observed. “There’s nothing in your record.”
“I received notice of my father’s death,” he said evenly. “My personal comm logs
confirmed the message. The inquiry was dismissed with without prejudice or
finding. I resigned my commission the next day and left to join the Maquis.”
He dropped his head back, closing his eyes and then opening them again to meet
hers. “My people say that you live many lives – each separate, yet each bridged to
one another to form a whole. So I have been son, student, teacher, renegade,
commander…Ó
Lover, Janeway added silently.
ÒAnd now they have become me,Ó finished Chakotay.
There was silence, for a moment, and then Janeway spoke. ÒStarfleet was wrong
you know,Ó she told him. ÒWhy didnÕt you fight them on it?Ó
ÒI thought I did,Ó Chakotay replied pointedly.
ÒWith the Maquis.Ó
ÒWith the Maquis,Ó he nodded.
ÒHow did you get out to the border worlds?Ó Janeway wondered.
This brought the hint of a grin. ÒA friend gave me a ride,Ó Chakotay remembered.
ÒA friend?Ó
ÒDemora Sulu.Ó
ÒHighly placed friend,Ó Janeway noted with interest. ÒI know she was your
sponsor at the Academy.Ó
ÒWe stayed in touch over the years,Ó Chakotay revealed. ÒI think she saw me as a
project that was never quite finished,Ó he said with a self-deprecating grin.
ÒYou told me once that there were those in high positions in Starfleet who
disagreed with Federation policy in the borderlands,Ó Janeway remembered.
ÒYou were able to get weapons, codes, even ships. Was she your contact?Ó
An Admiral now, Demora was known to be a contrary in her Captaincy,
preferring to run her ship just on the edge of Starfleet regulation. Perhaps it had
come from years of patrolling the border areas and badlands, or perhaps it was
merely her own stubborn will injecting itself into the situation.
Regardless, it made for an interesting study. If Sulu really was Chakotay’s contact
in Starfleet, breaking Federation law with the tacit approval of a Starfleet
Admiral added a new dimension to the Maquis struggle.
Janeway waited for Chakotay’s reply. She could tell he was struggling with the
answer, weighing his loyalties. Betrayal of one friend balanced against the trust of
another.
ÒCaptain Sulu followed her own conscience,Ó he responded at last. It was the best
answer he could give her. It would have to be enough.
Janeway accepted it and moved on.
“And once you returned to the Maquis – what then?” she asked, tucking one leg
neatly beneath the other and resting against the back of the chair. Her hand
unconsciously touched the viewscreen, keeping contact, however distant.
“I was welcomed home as the prodigal son, finally come to terms with his
heritage and taking his rightful place as a warrior among his people. It was
dammed exhilarating,” Chakotay said honestly. “I spent the first few months
teaching Starfleet tactical skills to the cadre leaders and pilots. Frankly it wasn’t
unlike what I had been doing for Starfleet.”
“And then…”
“And then I was given a ship. Sent out on patrol. Given command. I was in the
fighting now – the distance was gone. I started to feel the blood on my hands,” he
remembered. And he had gotten used to that feeling after so much of it, and the
revulsion that had accompanied it went away along with the faces and names of
those who were killed, comrade and enemy alike. Then a some point, he started
to need the blood, because it had defined him – and he was lost without it.
Those days seemed so distant now, yet the feelings were still raw enough to make
him edgy if looked for them. He had questioned his own humanity and found it
lacking. The thought of losing himself once again in that vision was unnerving -
yet she was asking for it, and he owed her that – more – but that, if nothing else.
The lines of his jaw tensed. Janeway watched him struggle, watched him fight to
keep the peace he had made within himself.
There was a cost associated with this, she knew. A price they would pay whether
the truth convicted or vindicated.
“Chakotay,” she said softly, calling him back.
His gaze flicked to the screen, to her – his expression, dark, intense, a mirror to
his soul, reflecting both loss and the hope of salvation. He had survived intact
once with the help of this woman, but that was before she had understood this
darkness and how it had driven him.

Chakotay pushed the light blanket off and sat up on the edge of the bed, rubbing a
hand through his short cropped hair. His bare feet were cooled by the metal
decking, the sweat evaporating from his chest and back and thighs, taking the
night with it.
He glanced across the bed. Seska was still sleeping. It had been another angry
night with her. Accusations, demands. Then furious, almost violent sex.
Unsatisfying in every way save the most basic. His interest in her had dissolved
weeks ago and he had ended it then. He was not a man given to leaving things
unfinished.
Last night had been an aberration – one he vowed not to repeat. She had found
him exhausted from days without sleep and hours of battle and taken advantage
of that vulnerability. It made him feel more used than his role as prodigal son in
the Maquis.
He had only let the relationship go on so long because even as harsh and
unrelenting as she had become, Seska had still touched some human part of him.
And with a spirit on the edge of being swallowed by the blood lust of the war,
even that tenuous contact had been something – though inevitably not enough.
He reached for his pants and tunic, pulled them both on and then his boots and
weapons belt. There was no running water at this camp – a hulking derelict of a
wasted freighter serving as a waystation command post and shipyard – so he
would wear the stench of battle along with the blood. He adjusted the belt around
his waist, reflexively checked his weapons, rekeyed the power levels, reset the
safeties.
He was so accustomed to feel of a weapon in his palm that it had become
pedestrian – like cup of coffee – ordinary, expected.
When had he become so callus, so jaded, so hard? Where had idealism given way
to reality? With what crew member’s death, what lost ship, what Cardassian face
dissolving before his weapons had he become a part of the war – inside it, tasting
it so it began to nurture him. When had the anger become him?
Leaving Seska and the barren room he had been given as quarters, he headed to
the control room of the freighter/command post, grabbing a cup of coffee from a
half functioning replicator in the corridor.
There was the usual commotion in the control room. He ignored it and crossed to
an open terminal, entered his authorization and reviewed the nights logs. Minor
skirmishes, other than that, relative quiet. It had been that way too long -
something was up. Chakotay could feel it along the back of his neck. He ran
through the sensor sweeps. Nothing. There should have been something.
ÒSnap.Ó The word was whispered, but taut. Suder.
Chakotay stopped. Turned.
ÒThe trap springs.Ó Lon SuderÕs voice was strung with barely controlled tension.

Chakotay flicked his eyes to Suder and then back to the terminal and then back to
the man. “Walk me to the ship,” he ordered, turning toward the door before Suder
could respond. He headed down the corridor, toward the air lock which now
accessed the outside.
“It’s too quiet out there,” Chakotay said, stepping into the thick morning air,
knowing Suder followed and listened. “I want to take a ship out, test the waters.
But, I don’t want a lot of attention – not just yet.”
“Where to?” Suder breathed, suddenly close at Chakotay’s arm.
“I want to take a trip under the net. See what we can hear.”
Under the net. Slip in beneath the communications web the Cardassians had set
up along the border to monitor incoming traffic. It was risky. The web was tight,
nearly impenetrable. The Cardassians had no mercy for trespassers. Chakotay had
done it twice. Come out both times. The experience evened the odds – a bit.
“We’ll need something fast, small,” Chakotay continued. “Limited crew. This is
reconnaissance. You,” he turned for a moment to Suder, “Torres. That’s enough”
“Torres is at the depot,” Suder said, referring to the repair dock where the larger
ships were serviced and refitted. “She won’t be back until tonight.”
“Damn.” They needed someone at ops. His best choice was his worst. He stopped.
“Something clean and fast from the yard,” he told Suder. “I’ll get Seska.”

Suder found a sleek half-sized fighter. It had been Vulcan once. It was a mixed
breed now, but had been tooled up and fitted with a few surprises – a Starfleet
issue sensor system for one. How it came to be at the waystation, Suder didn’t say
and Chakotay didn’t question. Seksa wondered, but got no answers – not in the
past, especially not today, from Chakotay. She knew the Maquis had friends.
They had resources. There always seemed to be ships. It was rumored there were
even sympathizers high in the ranks of Starfleet. No one would confirm anything.
Chakotay took the helm, Suder the second seat and weapons. Seska sat behind
them at ops – communications, sensors, environmental all at her touch. They got
clearance fast. This station was used to traffic that needed fast ins and outs. They
kept their monitors tight, their sentries alert.
“Wide sweep,” Chakotay ordered Seska as they headed into open space. “I don’t
want any surprises.” “Weapons at standby,” he directed Suder. “I’m taking the
long way, but we might invite company all the same.”
They didn’t. Nothing. It was not right.
“Where the hell are they?” Chakotay muttered. “Recheck sensors, Seska,” he
ordered. They were getting near the net. They should have seen something.
Patrols at least. The lack of activity made him edgier than had they been
surrounded by fleet of cruisers.
“It’s quiet,” she reported.
Chakotay made a snap decision. “We’re not going in,” he announced, quickly
rekeying a course change into the helm. “We’re going back. I don’t like this. Any
of it.”
An alarm klaxon went off in the cabin just as the ship swung around.
“Too late. Here they are,” hissed Suder, bending to his station.
“Cardassian. Three ships.” Seska’s report was a curse. “One warship, two short
distance fighters. They must have been following us just out of range.”
“Dammit! Show me, Seksa!” Chakotay worked the helm as Seksa transferred the
data on the incoming ships up to his display. He checked the pattern – two fighters
out front, the warship hanging back. Standard formation. Easily out maneuvered
in open space. Not with the web at his back. They were like a moth in a net.
The Maquis fighter had a small modified warp engine – warp 2 capabilities. He
would use it all. They shot past the first ship. Under the second. Weapons burst
around them, rocking them. Sensors went down. Seska swore and pounded her
panel in absolute frustration.
“I need those sensors,” Chakotay shouted over the alarms. “Suder-” he snapped as
the first ship flashed by again.
Suder cursed. Without sensors he was shooting blind. He guessed. Stabbed the
keypad. Fired. They felt the concussion waves as Chatokay slid past. Were they
that close?
“Seska where the hell are those damned sensors.” It was not a question.
“I’m trying!” Her hands stabbed at the keypad, using every rerouting trick she
knew. Nothing came up.
The interior of the fighter erupted.
Seska was knocked from her seat by the concussion. She ended up on the floor on
hands and knees behind Suder who had been slammed against the bulkhead. His
face was bloody. His body limp. Seska panted for breath.
Chakotay crashed hard against the helm, bracing against the blow. He heard his
arm snap and felt the pain abstractly. His back burned. He smelled his own blood.
It mixed with the acrid odor of burning circuits. Then he felt the tractor beam
grab the ship.

Janeway closed her eyes, opened them again. “You were taken prisoner.”
Chakotay was silent, pressing the demons away, regrouping, returning to the
safety of the brig and Janeway’s voice.
“It was a mistake trying to go out there,” Chakotay said quietly, sitting on the
edge of the bunk, finally ending the ceaseless pacing that had accompanied his
words.
Janeway, too, paused, trying to relax her body. She pressed a hand behind her
neck and rubbed at the knots. There were things she could share too – about the
Cardassians – things she should share.
“I’m going to get a cup of tea,” she told him, pushing away from the desk. “I can
activate your replicator if you want something.”
He shook his head. “No. Thanks.”
“I’ll be a minute, then.”
He watched the screen, caught a glimpse of soft coral moving from his view. He
leaned back in the bunk, his head against the bulkhead, his eyes closed.
“Chakotay.” Janeway touched the screen as she murmured his name. He looked
exhausted. Depleted. That was a part of the price. He opened his eyes. The look
was hollow. More payment.
She set her mug on the desktop and settled back into the chair.
“Can you tell me what happened – on the Cardassian ship?”
He opened his eyes now, drew his knees up and rested his hands lightly atop
them, his back still against the bulkhead.
“The Cardassians beat us up for a few days,” Chakotay said with deliberate
understatement. “They worked on my arm…” His expression shifted. She couldn’t
read it through the screen. “They did things to Suder you won’t find in any
journal. They seemed to get particular pleasure in that, and in making me the
audience.”
Janeway saw the flicker of remembered horror in his eyes, heard the undercurrent
of bitterness that he was trying so hard to swallow. There was more there, she
knew. Some of it he could not share with her. Would not.
“What did they want from you?”
“They never said. We were Maquis. We were very near their space. We assumed
that was enough.”
“What about Seska?”
“Seska disappeared right after we were taken into the warship. She never
discussed what happened to her. After what they did to Suder, we allowed her
privacy.”
“You never talked about it?” Janeway mused, half to herself. There were reasons
for not talking. Most of them not good. And the results not good either.
“Who would we talk to, Kathryn?” Chakotay asked with just a hint of chagrin.
“There are no counselors on Maquis ships. There is no time for that kind of
self-involvement.” The bitterness surfaced again in his voice.
“Do you think Seska was involved?”
“Was she privy to the plans? At some point, yes, I think we now know she would
have been. When? I don’t know. She could have taken the sensor web down. We
wouldn’t have known if the drop-out was from a hit or her doing. We wouldn’t
have considered sabotage in any case. She could have simply set the proximity
alarms to allow the Cardassian warship to get close to us. She may just have
wanted to watch them work us over.”
This was all said with a coolness that begged for closure on the subject. Out of
both respect and kindness, Janeway accordingly did not pursue it.
“How did you get away?” she asked instead. “Since you are here I presume you
escaped, or otherwise left.” She absently stirred her tea. She had yet to take a sip.
“We were traded.” Chakotay said simply.
“Traded?”
“Starfleet arranged to have some political prisoners released in exchange for us.”
“That doesn’t make sense, you were felons – wanted by the Federation,” Janeway
exclaimed in disbelief.
“We were a very small part of a larger package. Names on a list. Unimportant.
Unnoticed.”
“Who’s list?” Janeway knew the answer already, but she wanted him to tell her, or
refuse to. She wanted to see just how far his loyalty would carry him – just how
much did the Maquis owe Demora Sulu?
“What’s the point of this?” he asked with frank weariness.
He wasn’t going to tell her. She would not have expected less. Still, she had tested
him. He looked at her, knowing that.
She did not apologize. He would not have expected less.
Janeway drank the tea now, considering what he had told her. She took just a sip,
then set the mug back on the desk. Her hands rounded the cup, held it, let it go,
folded on the desk. Her expression hardened now, slightly, but visibly.
“After these experiences,” she began – her voice was harder, too, he could hear the
cool edge – “I presume that is when the incidents described in Mr. Suder’s logs
began?”
He met her calm even gaze with one an equally frank one. “No.” he said with
equanimity. “That is when they stopped, Kathryn.”
She was silent for considerable time. “The hearing is scheduled for 0800 hours
tomorrow. Try to get some sleep. Goodnight, Commander.”
Chakotay held her gaze a moment and then replied. “Goodnight, Captain.”
She reached forward, dimmed the lights in her quarters, ordered the computer to
resume one way observation and logging, and sat, staring at the image on the
screen.

They used Janeway’s ready room for the hearing. With three senior officers
involved, she wanted to stay near the bridge. And with the growing climate of
upset aboard the ship over this incident, she also wanted to isolate it from any
more speculation. It was a private hearing – she would brook no discussion. Not
from an angry B’Elanna Torres, nor a concerned Harry Kim, nor a curious Tom
Paris, nor a sympathetic Kes and Neelix. Only duty personal were allowed on the
bridge – at their stations – no additional crew were even permitted on deck. It was
a closed hearing. Period.
One of Tuvok’s security staff brought Chakotay in. They had to walk the short
distance from the bridge turbolift to the ready room. It was unavoidable. Curious
eyes watched as their former First Officer left the lift, walked the few steps before
the guard, waited as the door slid open, entered and went in, alone.
He looked like hell, Tom thought. But who wouldn’t. It was a rotten deal. He had
figured they were past all this – alone here in this new place.
Harry thought he would always remember the silence on the bridge. He wondered
if one of them shouldn’t have said something – offered some words of
encouragement. No one had, though.
B’Elanna had been at his cell when the guard took him out. She had made angry
noises. Chakotay had told her to get her comm badge back and return to duty. She
had stared in disbelief.
Kes and Neelix had been at the brig level lift. Kes touched Chakotay’s sleeve
warmly. Neelix offered those encouraging words Harry had wished for on the
bridge.
Now in the ready room he faced only Tuvok and Janeway, but it was Tuvok who
sat behind the Captain’s desk. Janeway stood by the observation port, a silhouette
against the pattern of unfamiliar stars.
“Please be seated, Commander,” advised Tuvok, gesturing to a chair pulled before
the desk. “And be aware that these proceedings are being recorded.” He waited
until Chakotay had taken the seat before he continued.
“Captain Janeway has chosen to abstain from these proceedings,” Tuvok
announced. “I will, therefore, magistrate the hearing. Do you have any objection
to this, Commander? It is within your right to request someone else.”
Chakotay breathed softly, turned his head toward the viewport, caught Janeway’s
profile, the set of her jaw, her determination not to meet his gaze.
“No,” he said to Tuvok, finally looking away. “I have no objection.”
“Very well. In your statement yesterday you advised you wished no counsel. Is
this still correct? I will remind you that you do have a right to counsel at anytime
during the hearing.”
“I wish no counsel. That is correct.”
“That is so noted,” Tuvok advised. “I will begin then. I have reviewed Mr. Suder’s
journals and your statements of yesterday – both the formal statement to myself
and the Captain’s statement of your conversation. These both indicate an
admission of guilt on your part. Do you wish to refute that or alter your formal
statement at this time?”
“No.”
“Are their any mitigating circumstances that you can tell me which would
influence these proceedings or my decision?”
“No.”
“Do you wish to make another statement at this time?”
“No.”
“Very well,” Tuvok noted, folding his hands carefully on his desk. “I have given
this matter careful study over the late night hours and have determined that
according to both precedence and law, the personal journals of an individual
suspended from duty for mental imbalance are not admissible in a hearing
proceeding. Therefore I am declaring Mr. Suder’s logs inadmissible. While your
statement does still stand, it is now a confession to evidence which no longer can
apply. Therefore, it is as well abrogated. I am dismissing any charges. You are
released Commander and your rank and command status reinstated. These
hearings are officially closed. End log, Tuvok, C1.”
Tuvok rose, nodded to both Chakotay and Janeway and then left the ready room.
There was a long silence which the Janeway finally broke.
“You have your reinstatement, Commander,” Janeway advised quietly, not
looking back from the window “I suggest you return to duty.”
“Aye Captain,” he breathed softly, rising from the chair. He walked toward the
door, stopped just before he reached it and turned back into the room.
“I wish I had better answers for you, Kathryn,” he said softly.
She turned, finally.
“I spent my time at the hands of the Cardassians, Chakotay,” Janeway told him.
“Nothing like what you went through, but enough to scare the hell out of me. I
still cannot countenance your actions.”
He met her gaze. It was unreadable.
He drew a breath. “Someone once told me that there is a difference between
fighting a war for a just cause and fighting one for someone else’s abstract
principles or politics,” he said. “I always thought this to be true. But I have
learned that the price for anger and rage is always the same.”
Janeway slowly closed her eyes and then opened them again. “Dismissed,
Commander,” she told him.

finis

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