Fealty

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: VOY: Fealty (Chakotay)
Date: 15 Feb 1996 12:45:09 GMT
Organization: Boston University
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DISCLAIMERS: The original characters, etc. belong to Paramount, except for
the character of Hannah Jemison and the story both of which
are mine.

WARNING: THIS STORY DOES CONTAIN SOME MATURE SUBJECT MATTER.

NOTE: It is my understanding that in some Native American cultures a stone
naturally formed in the shape of a heart is a symbol of protection
and, for lack of a better term, good fortune. In other words, it is
not something you would give to a casual acquaintance.

Further, any technobabble which appears in this story is just that
babble. I claim no real understanding of the real or fictitious
mechanics involved in Voyager’s design or operation.

BACKGROUND: Hannah Jemison made her first appearance in 1995 in the story,
`Regrets’. This is Chakotay’s and her fourth story. `Minimi’
is a quasi-nickname given to her by the first officer.

Fealty

By Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

“Ow!” Lieutenant Hannah Jemison opened her grey eyes to the sky.
Carefully raising her head, she peered at the man who bent over her stomach.
“Don’t move!” came the harsh command.
“But it hurts.”
“Look,” Commander Chakotay sat back on in his heels in exasperation.
“Do you want a raven or a vulture on your stomach?”
“A raven, but-”
“No buts then. Don’t move. This is difficult enough as it is. I told
you my brother was the artist in the family.” He bent back down.
Hannah slowly lowered her head. Gazing up at the puffy, white clouds,
she concentrated on what shapes she could see. She thought back to their climb
up the side of Mt. Runyon. Over the past few weeks, the first officer had
given her mountain climbing lessons on the holodeck; the tattoo was to be a
symbol of her first successful climb.
Finally, Chakotay raised up from his crouch, gingerly stretching the
stiff muscles in his neck and back. “There. All done.”
Jemison lifted up on her elbows to glance at the glyph which now
decorated the skin between her right hip and navel. A grin lit up her face.
“Thank you. It’s lovely. You’re a good artist, in spite of what you say.”
He returned the smile, but shook his head in modest denial. “Can I ask
you a question? Why a raven?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just always liked them, ever since I first saw
them on a visit to my grandparents’ farm in New England. People think they’re
ugly, I’ve always been fascinated by their power and intelligence.”
“Really?” The Indian leaned forward to stradle her, forcing Hannah
to lie back down. “In some of my people’s mythology, the crow is a creator, in
others, a trickster. Which are you, Minimi?”
“Perhaps some of both. I-ahhh.” Her train of thought vanished as he
began nibbling the flesh beneath her jaw. Her fingers wove their way through
the short greying hair. “Is this part of some ceremony I wasn’t told about?”
He chuckled softly and flicked the tip of his tongue along the outside
of her ear. “Maybe.”
“Janeway to Lt. Jemison.”
Chakotay groaned audibly in frustration as he rolled off Hannah.
“Yes, Captain.”
“Please report to my ready room, Lieutenant.”
“Yes, Captain. I’m on my way.” She turned on her side and gazed at
the prone figure. “You know, she’s getting good at, um, interrupting us.”
“Too good,” he growled, staring up at the sky. “Computer, end
program.”
The mountain top and sky vanished, leaving both of them lying on the
holodeck floor. Hannah stood up and tucked in her shirt. Turning, she offered
a hand to Chakotay.
Reluctantly, he grasped it, hoisting himself up. “Dinner tonight?”
“Of course.” She smiled, placing her arms about his neck. “Why? Do
you have other plans?”
“For after dinner, perhaps, if you’re interested.” The dark eyes
glittered suggestively.
“Mmm. Sounds intriguing. Any hint as to what they might be?”
A roguish grin lit up his features. “I suppose one hint wouldn’t
hurt,” he whispered, gently touching his lips to hers. “Or maybe even two.”
The second kiss lasted a little longer.
“Why stop there?” Hannah inquired as his mouth pulled away.
“Because you have to change and report to the Captain. And we both
know that wouldn’t happen if we didn’t stop right now.”
She let out a slow sigh of regret and stepped back. “Why are you
always the sensible one? 1800 hours in the mess?”
He shook his head. “My quarters. I’ve been saving up replicator
rations for a dinner for two.”
“Mmmm.” The grey eyes twinkled. “Real, non-Neelix food?”
“Real food.”
“A special occasion calls for something equally special.” Jemison bent
down and picked up her backpack.
“And just what do you mean by that, Minimi?”
Hannah laughed mysteriously as she headed for the doors. “You’ll see.”
She turned and blew him a flirtatious kiss before exiting.
“Trickster,” he chuckled to himself.

A few minutes later, Hannah presented herself to Captain Janeway. To
her surprise, Lt. Tuvok, the ship’s chief of security was also present.
“Ah, Lt. Jemison. Good of you to come. At ease.” Janeway glanced
up from her desk terminal.
“Captain. Lieutenant.” The young woman nodded at the Vulcan, who
inclined his head in reply.
“It appears, Lieutenant, that the ship is experiencing a few minor
system malfunctions. I wanted you to be aware of this, so you could exercise
more than your usual discretion when conducting experiments over the next
few days.”
“I understand, Captain, but couldn’t this have been relayed over
the comm?”
Tuvok cleared his throat. “I am afraid that I am the one who requested
your presence, both as a matter of protocol and curiosity. As head of security
for the ship, I thought it wise for me to receive confirmation of your
Intelligence affiliation. It is possible a situation could arise during which
a compromise of your knowledge might pose a danger to Voyager.”
Hannah’s jaw dropped slightly, and she quickly shifted her gaze from
him to Janeway. “Captain, I was under the impression that my `affiliation’
was to remain confidential.”
“It has.” The older woman frowned. “Lt. Tuvok read your report on the
Kazon and deduced your position on his own. He came to me to report his
suspicions and relay concerns over your possible capture by any group.”
“Furthermore, Lieutenant,” the Vulcan interjected. “As an undercover
agent, I was aware that I would be turning over the Maquis to Capt. Janeway
and a member of Star Fleet Intelligence. As only an ensign at the time, you
strike me as remarkably inexperienced for that assignment.”
The scientist shook her head. “I’m not the person to whom you were
to surrender the Maquis. My specialty is technological intelligence. I was
responsible for down-loading and evaluating the information contained in their
ship’s logs.”
“I see. Then, perhaps you can tell me who was responsible for
overseeing the transfer.”
“Does it matter, Lieutenant?” Hannah fired back, her fury mounting
exponentially. “He’s dead; he died when the Caretaker brought us over.”
“You are correct, Hannah.” Janeway interceded gently. “In that case,
it does no longer matter.”
“Then, may I be excused, Captain? That is unless you wish to
interrogate me further, Lieutenant.” The question bordered on insubordination,
but the junior officer was beyond caring. Two people knew now. How long did
she have before Chakotay found out?
“One more thing, Lieutenant Jemison. I have observed that you have
developed a friendship with Commander Chakotay.” The security chief continued,
unpreturbed by the young scientist’s emotional outburst. “I am curious. Is
this a continuation of your duties as an Intelligence officer?”
“*It* is personal. It has nothing to do with my former assignment.”
She spun angrily on Janeway. “You gave me a choice, Captain. Intelligence or
science, and I chose to be your science officer for the remainder of this trip.
I thought we had an understanding regarding this matter.”
The captain calmly levelled her gaze at the younger woman. “I simply
wanted to make sure we did, Lieutenant. Dismissed.”
Shooting a furious glance at the security chief, Hannah stormed out of
the ready room.
Janeway watched her exit. “A very spirited young officer.”
“Indeed.”
“Dedicated and conscientious, too.”
“So I have noticed, Captain.”
“I wonder if the Commander is aware of her feelings for him?” Janeway
raised questioning eyes to her old friend.
The Vulcan lifted one eyebrow in a knowing, silent reply.

Fuming, Hannah blew into the science lab, barely acknowledging Gerron’s
cheerful greeting. At least rescheduling the experiments would give her time
to cool off. Tonight promised to be special, and she didn’t want anything to
interfere with their enjoyment of it. Besides, Chakotay would want to know
what caused her irritability, and she couldn’t very well tell him, could she?
By the time, Jemison returned to her quarters, it was almost
1730 hours, giving her just enoungh time to gather a few things together.
Carefully, she removed the soft Rigellian knit dress from a drawer, letting it
fall to its full length. The material alone had cost her almost one week’s
replicator rations, but the outcome had been worth it. The dress looked good
on her, clinging to her curves in all the right places. She felt certain that
the Commander would likewise approve. Folding it with care, she placed it, a
fresh uniform and a few toiletries in a small box.
A few minutes later, she pressed the chime to Chakotay’s quarters.
Without hesitation, the door slid open.
“Right on time, as always,” he observed, stepping forward to embraced
her. Their lips locked in a lengthy kiss. “Mm. Now, what about this
surprise? And what’s in the box?”
Hannah glanced around. The room was lit by low candle power with the
coffee table set for an intimate dinner for two.
“Minimi.”
She lifted her eyes slowly toward his, a warm smile of appreciation
lighting up her face. He looked good, relaxed. The light cream shirt
emphasized his darker skin. Playfully, she undid the first three buttons,
exposing a portion of his broad chest.
He smiled at her boldness. A few months ago, neither of them would
have dared act upon these impulses. Inclining his head, their lips met again
briefly. “Now, Lieutenant,” The deep whisper made her skin tingle. “What
about this surprise?”
A puckish grin matched the shining grey eyes. “You’ll see. I just
need to borrow your bathroom.”
“Be my guest. You know where it is.”
A short time later, she emerged wearing the long navy dress, its design
cut to reveal one shoulder and the portion of her stomach where the tattoo was.
Her mahogany hair, held in place by two combs, cascaded down her back. She
thrust her right hip forward. “See. You’re not such a bad artist.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, a wide smile broke across Chakotay’s
features. “That dress is going to make it very difficult for me to keep my
mind on dinner.” He stepped forward and drew her into his arms.
Hannah laughed, curling her own arms around his neck. “That’s the
general idea, I believe. Although, I am starving. I designed the dress
deliberately to show off the tattoo.” Stepping back, she twirled around
causing the full skirt to fly out. “What do you think?”
The brow crinkled in mock deliberation. “I think you’re right. The
raven does suit you. You are both a creator and a trickster.” Grinning, he
pulled her close once again, silencing her retort with a lingering kiss.

The next morning, Chakotay woke up gradually, relishing each moment of
increased consciousness. Hannah still slept, cuddled up behind him, one arm
draped over his ribs, her head pressed against his back. He glanced at the
chronometer. 0630 hours. Time enough for a leisurly shower and breakfast
for two.
“Minimi,” he whispered, gently rolling over. Raising his arm, he
allowed her head to slip into the crook of his shoulder. “Minimi, it’s time
to get up. C’mon, sleepyhead.”
“Mmmm,” came the soft sigh. “Can’t we stay like this a little longer?”
“How much longer?”
“The rest of the day. Couldn’t you arrange for us to have the day
off?” Hannah snuggled closer and pressed her lips to his chest.
“No can do, lazybones. Although, I would if I could, believe me.”
He turned on his side to face her. “How about a shower and breakfast instead,
just the two of us?”
“Hmm. I suppose it’ll have to do.”
His tongue teased its way into her mouth. “Don’t worry. I intend to
make it worth your while.”
“Really? And just how do you propose to- ohhh,” Hannah moaned quietly
as the first officer’s hand slipped between her legs. He was so gentle, yet
insistent, coaxing her quickly into a moistened state of arousal.
Smirking, Chakotay brought his lips to hers. “Now, how about that
shower? You seem pretty awake to me.”
“So do you,” she retorted, feeling him twitch and harden beneath her
slim fingers.
His heavier body pressed her over onto her back. “Touche,” he
countered, covering her mouth again with his.
At 0750, they finally emerged from his quarters ready for duty. After
a quick check of the corridor, they kissed their farewells and headed for their
respective posts, tiny, secretive smiles on both their faces.

“Good morning, Commander.” Janeway stood in front of her chair as
Chakotay stepped onto the bridge.
“Good morning to you, Captain.” The first officer playfully inclined
his head in respect before taking his customary seat.
“You’re in a good mood,” she continued. “You obviously did not eat
breakfast in the mess.”
“No, Captain. I didn’t. What did I miss?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Paris commented from the helm. “The toast
seemed the safest thing to eat.”
“Oh. One of those meals.”
“Exactly.” Janeway nodded. “One of those meals.”
“Captain,” Ensign Kim interrupted. “Deck 9 is reporting a problem
with environmental controls again. Evidently, the entire deck just plunged
five degrees. Repair crews are responding.”
“Noted.” A frown creased the Captain’s brow. “Commander, Tuvok, my
ready room. Mr. Paris, you have the bridge.”
“Aye, Captain,” the young man responded.
“Gentlemen,” Janeway began as the doors closed behind them. “These
malfunctions are starting to concern me. The number of reports is steadily
increasing. Who’s to say what system will be effected next.”
“I believe, Captain,” Tuvok’s steady voice proposed. “That it would
be prudent to consider this as possibly more than a simple series of system
malfunctions.”
“What do you mean, Tuvok?”
“I am suggesting that since Lt. Torres has been unable to pinpoint the
source of the problem mechanically, the possibility of direct sabotage must be
explored.”
“Sabotage?” The Captain sank slowly into her chair. “Oh, Tuvok, I
don’t like that idea one little bit. However, given our past encounters with
the Kazon Nistrum, you may be correct. Investigate the probability, but this
must go no further than the three of us. If it is sabotage, someone on board
may be working against us, and I don’t wish to tip our hand as to our
suspicions.”
“Understood, Captain. I thought perhaps I might consult Lt. Jemison,
however. Her background might prove useful.”
At the sound of the scientist’s name, Chakotay started. “Jemison?
Why her?”
Ignoring her first officer’s outburst, Janeway nodded. “Of course,
Tuvok. Good idea. Dismissed.”
Silently, the Vulcan turned on his heels and exited, leaving a confused
Chakotay behind.
“Is there something I can do for you, Commander?”
“Yes, Captain. I’d appreciate an explanation as to why our chief of
security is asking our science officer to aid him in an investigation of this
nature. Surely, Lt. Torres or Ensign Kim would be the more logical choice.”
Janeway studied him for a moment. So, he didn’t know. Had Tuvok been
deliberately testing the waters when he mentioned Jemison? “I’m sorry,
Commander. I can’t answer that, but I do see the wisdom of his decision.”
The dark brow furrowed. “Is it because Jemison is Star Fleet and
Torres is Maquis?”
“No. I remain quite confident in Lt. Torres’ loyalty. Her past
affiliation with the Maquis does not enter into this.”
“Then why?”
“I am sorry, Commander, but as I said before, I can’t tell you.
Perhaps you should discuss this Lt. Jemison. Dismissed.”
The first officer stared back at her, first in confusion, then in
gradually increasing anger. “Very well, Captain.” With haste, he left the
room, cursing himself silently for his myopic stupidity.
That damned report of their capture by the Kazon. So detailed.
So precise. So utterly unlike anything an inexperienced officer would have
had the presence of mind to write. *Paetah! You should have seen the signs.
Janeway and Tuvok obviously did; perhaps they had even already known. Foolish,
blind old man.* He sat in his bridge chair deep in thought, barely
acknowledging Janeway’s resumption of command.
Deliberately, he took the lunch watch, avoiding the mess and Hannah.
He was determined to skip dinner, too. His heart was heavy enough; he didn’t
need Neelix’s cooking to weigh it down further.
Finally, at 1700 hours, Chakotay escaped the bridge for the confines
of his darkened quarters. Had it all been part of an assignment? Was all they
had shared meaningless to her? His thoughts returned to the previous evening.
She had looked lovely in that dress. And later . . . The intimacy they had
shared had seemed so genuine. He shut his eyes, bringing his fist crashing
down upon his desk. *Idiot! Would this be the first time intimacy proved
false? Or have you forgotten how close you and Seska used to be? Maybe you
wanted to forget.*
Taking a few deep breaths, he attempted to clear his mind before
calling to his guide. But she would not come. Instead, images of Hannah
flashed before him. Growling in anger, he slammed his palm down on the desk.
“Damn her!”

Hannah sat down in the mess at their usual table. *Where is he?*
She looked up as the doors opened. *Damn. Not him.* “Computer, location of
Commander Chakotay.”
“Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.”
*His quarters! But we always eat at this time.* Quickly, she rose
and headed for the doors. In the back of her mind, a carefully ignored
apprehension had been creeping up on her all day. It had begun when Tuvok had
asked for her assistance this morning. It had continued when Chakotay had
missed lunch. Now, as Hannah hurried down the corridor toward his quarters, it
threatened to overtake her. Uttering a small prayer, she pressed the chime.
“Come in.” The room was barely lit, and the voice was cold. Rather
than rise to greet her, he remained seated at his desk. “Yes, Lieutenant.
What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering why you weren’t at dinner.”
“I didn’t feel hungry.” His jaw tightened visibly. “Is this a
personal visit? If so, I don’t believe we have anything to discuss at the
moment.”
“What? I don’t understand.” *Oh God, he knows.*
“Really? I’m surprised. Let me put it another way. Has Lt. Tuvok
been making good use of your intelligence training today?”
“Chakotay, please. Let me explain.” Without asking permission, Hannah
dropped into a nearby chair.
The first officer glared at her. “You’ve had time to explain. You
chose not to.”
“No, you don’t understand.” The grey eyes pleaded. “I wanted to tell
you, but I was afraid. After Seska, I wasn’t sure how you would take my
disclosure, and I didn’t want to lose all that we had gained.”
“I see. So rather than be honest, you lied.”
“No. I never lied to you. I simply didn’t tell you I was SI.”
“It’s the same thing.” The white teeth bared in an angry sneer. “I
trusted you, Jemison. Tell me, were the rituals only a source of entertainment
or did you have a professional interest in them as well?
“I did them because I wanted to. I did them because they are a part
of you.”
“So you did them to pick my brain apart. Couldn’t my Star Fleet psych
profile have told you just as much?”
The young woman’s head shook vehemently. “No, you misunderstand.”
“Oh, really?”
“Yes, really,” Jemison snapped. “If you’d let me explain, you’d
realize that I care about you, Chakotay. I wanted to be a part of you life.
Can’t you see that?”
“I see plenty now. And what were you going to do if we got home.
Testify against me like a good little agent? A little surprise to relieve
the monotony of the trial?” The dark eyes glittered dangerously.
“No. I wouldn’t have testified. I would have resigned first.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t readily accept that assertion of
self-sacrifice.”
“Dammit, Chakotay,” Hannah swore. “It’s the truth. I wouldn’t have-”
“Truth? From what I’ve seen of truth and honesty over the past few
years, I’ve begun to doubt their existence.” He bent over a PADD. “I’m very
busy, Lieutenant. Please leave. I don’t believe we have anything more to
discuss.”
“Chakotay, please. Listen to me.”
Slamming a fist down on the desk, the Indian rose, barely in control
of his rage. “Dismissed, Lieutenant!” The voice thundered loudly within the
confines of the room.
Hannah’s eyes opened wide in fear, as prudence told her to beat a
temporary retreat. As she trudged toward the turbolift, a heavy emptiness
gradually replaced the anger she felt inside. *How could I have told him?
Even if I had, would his reaction have been any different?* She stepped into
the lift and leaned against the side of the car, fighting back tears.
“Deck 6,” her brain suggested automatically.
Sandrine’s was already up and running when Hannah reached the holodeck.
In one corner, the only other crewmember present, Tom Paris, was nuzzling the
neck of his `holographic honey’, Ricki. A sympathetic smile dallied on
Hannah’s lips. Poor Paris. Deep down, she knew he was a good guy. He
reminded her a lot of her late brother, Chandler. On the outside, a handsome
flirtatious ass, but on the inside, a guy who would risk his life to save a
friend.
The smile widened slightly as she remembered the first time her brother
had snuck her into a bar and gotten her plastered on real booze. He had
taught her how to play pool, throw darts and head off too amorous advances.
Of course, Chandler had had the good sense to know when to straighten up and
fly right; Tom didn’t, but then he had probably never had to. Having an
admiral as a father bought you a lot more unofficial leeway than a
Lt. Commander. That was really the only difference between Tom and Chandler.
Her brother had learned life’s lessons step-by-step; whereas Paris had had
the rug pulled out from beneath his feet and panicked.
As Hannah crossed over to the bar, she cast one more glance at the
fantasy couple. Poor guy. Ricki was probably the only `woman’ on board
who would give him the time of day. The Maquis, men and women, still
harbored some distrust toward him, and most of the Fleet girls wouldn’t
bother with such a screw-up. Well, all except the Delaney sisters, but they
gave almost every male the time of day.
“A shot of your best scotch, Sandrine, and don’t stop until I tell
you.” Jemison grinned half-heartedly at the blond proprieter.
“Right away, mademoiselle.”
A shot glass full of amber liquid was placed in front of Hannay. She
picked it up, turning it slowly in hand, watching the fire and lamplight
flicker in its golden depths. “Down the hatch,” she muttered, draining the
contents. “Another, please.”
As she waited, Paris ambled up, having quietly ordered the computer
to remove Ricki. It wasn’t often Jemison came in by herself. Usually, she
was either with her pool partner, Dalby, or more often than not, the Commander.
Tonight, though, she was alone, and experience had taught him to seize the
moment. Taking a seat beside Hannah, he nodded at Sandrine and pointed to
his own empty glass. “Haven’t seen you in here alone in some time. Where’s
the Commander?”
“Probably in his quarters. How the hell should I know?” Hannah
picked up her second drink and promptly downed it.
“Hey, take it easy, will ya? I’m just asking. You two come in here
quite often together, that’s all. Rumor even has it that you’re seeing each
other.” Carefully, Tom tested the waters to see if his hunch was correct.
“Oh yeah? Well, rumor has it wrong.”
*Bingo!* He watched her toss back her third shot. *Lucky those aren’t
real or she’d be falling off the stool in a few minutes.* “So, what happened?
You two break-up?”
“Look,” Slamming down her glass, Jemison spun angrily on the fair-
haired man. “I came here to drink and shoot a rack or two, not to discuss the
accuracy of the ship’s rumor mill, okay?”
“Okay. Sorry.” A look of contrite innocence crossed Paris’ face.
“Shall I set the table up?”
“Please.”
Thirty minutes later, Tom raised up from successfully sinking his
second straight 8-ball. “May I make an observation if you promise not to split
my head open with that cue?”
“Go ahead.” The grey eyes didn’t bother to look up as Hannah rounded
the table, emptying the pockets.
“Your mind isn’t on your game.”
“Really? And what gave you your first clue? The fact that I keep
scratching or the fact that you’ve won both games?”
“Actually, the fact that you keep biting my head off whenever I open
my mouth.” A playful smile crept across the handsome face. “That and the
little black cloud hovering about half a meter above your head.”
Hannah glanced up and grinned slightly. “You’re right. I’m sorry.
You’ve been polite, and I’ve been downright rude.”
“Apology accepted. Do you want to talk? It might make you feel
better.”
“Not really. I just want to get drunk and shoot some pool. Something
I haven’t done since . . . Well, in years, let’s leave it at that.”
“Sounds good to me.” Paris stolled over to the replicator. “I
believe this calls for the real stuff or rather as close as we can come. Name
your poison.”
“Let’s start with scotch, and then move on from there.”
Tom grinned. “A lady who mixes her liquors. You’re a woman after
my own heart, Jemison.”
“Not especially, Paris,” Hannah muttered under her breath as she placed
the balls inside the rack. “But in a crunch, you’ll do.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing. I was just trying to decide what my chances are for losing
a third game in a row.”
The pilot came up behind her with two full shot glasses and a bottle,
now only three-quarters full. “That all depends.”
“On?”
“On how well we blow through this bottle and how much you let me win.”
Throwing back his head, Tom drained his glass.
Hannah grimaced, tossing down her own shot. “I don’t intend to let you
win, Paris.”
“That’s good. I like a challenge.” He filled up both glasses, which
they quickly emptied.
“Oh, you do, do you?” A brown eyebrow lifted curiously. “And am I
a challenge?”
The blue eyes regarded her silently for a moment. “Yeah, you are.
I’ve been trying to figure you out ever since I first saw you in here.”
Tentatively, Paris brushed her cheek with his hand. “But up until now, I
haven’t had much success.”
Hannah shook her head sadly. “Don’t bother, Lieutenant. Underneath
this uniform, there isn’t much to see.”
Tom’s hand slipped behind her head and pulled her face toward his.
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” he whispered.
The kiss was everything Hannah had expected from Paris, soft, teasing,
and full of suggestion. But it was wrong, terribly wrong. Placing her hands
against his chest, she pushed herself away. “No. I’m sorry, Tom. It’s my
fault. I shouldn’t-”
“Shouldn’t what? Listen, Jemison, I’m not under any illusions as to
what is happening here. I heard you just fine earlier; in a crunch, I’ll do.
For one reason or another, you want some company tonight. Well, I’m not busy,
and I do find you attractive. So have another drink. We’ll shoot one more
game, and then, if you want, we can take the bottle and go back to my quarters
or yours and talk or whatever. How’s that?”
The hurt behind the nonchalent facade was clearly visible in the blue
eyes. “Tom, I’m so sorry. I-I didn’t mean to be so-so-”
“Audible?” The pilot grinned ruefully. “Forget it. We all need a
little company now and then, and like I said, I don’t mind providing it.” He
poured out a third round. “Now, come on. Drink up. It’s still my break, I
believe.”

“Ugh.” Hannah squinted at her still-uniformed reflection in the
bathroom mirror. The alarm had gone off ten minutes ago, and here she still
stood, her head thundering louder than a tropical rainstorm. “Why did I drink
so damn much?” The pale person staring back at her was mute.
At the sound of the chime, she finally pulled herself away from the
mirror. “Come in.”
“Hey, Jemison.” Paris called. He looked around the room. “Hey,
where- Oh, there you are. ‘Scuse me for saying so, but you look awful.”
“No kidding. Just how much did I consume last night?”
“A little less than me. That’s why I brought you this.” He held out
a glass containing a thick reddish liquid.
Hannah took it from him hesitantly and sniffed. “What is it?”
“Uncle Thomas’ hangover cure. Got me to more than one Academy class
on time after a too-wild night, and it’s getting me to the bridge today. Go
on, drink it down.” He gently nudged her elbow. “That’s it. Guaranteed to
put the twinkle in your eye and the spring in your step.”
“What’s in it. It’s awful.”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that. A few hopes, a few dreams.”
Paris stared thoughtfully down at the floor. *Correction, Thomas. A lot of
dashed hopes and more than a few lost dreams.* He grinned regretfully, shaking
his head. “Sorry to wax poetic on you like that. Just remembering when I
first concocted the potion my second year at the Academy. So, you feeling
better yet?”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” Hannah smiled. The pounding had slowed
considerably, and her stomach wasn’t quite as unsettled. “Thanks, Paris.”
“Don’t mention it. You make a good drinking buddy. Where did you
learn `The Cadet’s Proposal’?”
“I had an older brother. We shared the same sense of humor, suggestive
and at times downright bawdy.”
Tom chuckled. “Wish I’d met him. The three of us would have had a lot
of fun. Listen, I know it’s none of my business, but I hope you and the
Commander work things out. He and I don’t get along all that well; however,
I think the two of you make a pretty decent couple.”
Hannah fidgeted nervously. “Just how do you know about that?”
“I’ve been watching you two for a while now. At first, I thought I was
just sizing up the possible competition, but after a while, I realized that I
had already lost. Oh, don’t worry; you two were very good at keeping it
underwraps.” Paris snickered at her shocked expression. “In fact, the rest
of the ship is probably clueless, but every now and then, there was a gleam
in both of your eyes that couldn’t be explained away by simple friendship.”
His bright grin broadened. “You’re blushing, Lieutenant.”
The grey eyes darted around the room as Hannah desparately sought
an alternative explanation. In the end, her search was unsuccessful. “Yeah,
well. Whatever was once there won’t be visible to you or anyone else anymore.
He and I are through.”
“Hmm, so I might have a chance now?” The blue eyes twinkled
mischievously. “I have been waiting patiently.”
“You never stop, do you?” Jemison giggled. “A regular wolf in sheep’s
clothing.”
The pilot threw back his head in laughter. “That’s me. Look, I don’t
want to push you, but if you’d like to have dinner or shoot some pool
later. . . Well, you know.”
“Yeah, I know where to find you,” the scientist chuckled gently. “I’ve
got to get ready for my shift, but thanks for the potion, Tom. I really do
feel a whole lot better.”
Paris gave a little bow. “My pleasure, m’lady.” He headed for the
door, colliding with Chakotay as he exited. “Commander, I-I-”
“Save it, Paris,” the older man growled. “I’m not stupid. Now, get
out!”
The young man shot a hesitant glance toward Hannah before he bolted
down the hall. *Not exactly a good luck charm, are you, Thomas?*
“Well,” Chakotay continued, glaring at the pale woman before him. “It
didn’t take you long to find another sucker, did it? It’ll be interesting to
see who outcons who.”
“He’s not a sucker. After our argument, I paid a visit to Sandrine’s.
Tom happened to be there. We shot some pool, had a few too many drinks, and
talked. He only stopped by this morning to give me something for my hangover.”
She held up the empty glass before tossing it down the reclamator. “Although
why I’m explaining this to you escapes me. It’s none of your business what I
do in my off-hours.”
“Only when it interferes with your duties, Lieutenant.”
Hannah gaped. “My duties? I beg your pardon?”
The senior officer scowled at his subordinate, drawing subconscious
pleasure from her self-induced misery. “The breakdowns are spreading, Jemison.
The Captain wants us both down in engineering.”
“Fine,” the scientist shot back, her own eyes glittering angrily.
“Give me a second to change.” She disappeared into the bathroom, emerging a
few minutes later looking slightly less wan and dissheveled. “Let’s go.”
They walked to the lift in stony silence and waited for the doors to
open. When they did, Hannah stepped forward into nothingness.
“Hannah!” Chakotay’s hand shot out, missing her entirely.
The young woman’s scream echoed up and down the empty lift shaft as
she fell, one hand sliding down the wall until she clung precariously to the
deck’s floor.
“Hold on, Lieutenant.” The first officer lay flat on his stomach and
reached over the edge of the deck, slipping one hand around each of her arms.
“Can you get a toe-hold on anything?”
“I’m trying. There’s nothing here. If I can just . . . Got it! Now,
I can- AIIEEE!” Another scream filled the shaft as her foot slipped.
“It’s okay. I’ve got you. I’m not going to let you fall. Remember
what I taught you and try again.”
“It’s no use. My foot will slip again.”
“You’ve got to do it.” Chakotay grunted, his arms and shoulders aching
from the strain. “I can’t hold onto you forever.”
“Then, let me go.”
“You know I won’t do that,” he grimaced. “Now try again.”
With a small prayer, Hannah jammed her boot into the tiny gap. “Oww!
There. I think I’ve got it.”
“Okay, that’s it. I’ve got you. Oof! Damn, Jemison, you must be
putting on weight.”
“Shut up.”
A small grin crossed the Indian’s face. “C’mon. A little further.
There.” Forgetting his fury, he sat up and pulled the shaking body into his
arms. “It’s okay, Minimi. It’s okay. You’re safe, now.” Gently, he stroked
the mahogany hair while she clung to him, panting with relief. After a few
seconds, he touched his commbadge. “Chakotay to Janeway.”
“Go ahead, Commander.”
“Captain, a shipwide warning concerning the use of turbolifts should
be made. Evidently, they have become effected, too.”
“Understood. Janeway out.”
Chakotay looked down at the head resting against his chest. “Are you
all right?”
Hannah glanced up, her pupils still dialated in fear. “Yeah, I’m fine.
Thanks to you.” She chuckled nervously. “Seems like you’re always saving me
in one way or another.”
A relieved smile lit up the Commander’s features. “I’m just glad I
was here.”
“Me too,” she snickered. “Although, ten minutes ago, neither of us
would’ve said so.”
A rigid mask descended over the Indian’s face. “True. Perhaps we
should be getting down to engineering.”
Silently cursing her imprudent words, Jemison closed her eyes and sat
up. “You’re right, Commander.” Slowly, she got to her feet, swaying slightly.
The first officer’s arm clutched hers in response, concern momentarily
breaching the stony facade. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Angered by her weakness, she proudly shook free of his hand. “I’m
fine.” She took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”
The lift doors opened again, and this time a car was there, which took
them to engineering without incident.

Chakotay leaned back in his desk chair and closed his eyes wearily.
It was 1430 hours. After almost losing her down the liftshaft, he had worked
off and on with Hannah all day, trying desperately to maintain his professional
edge. The strain had taken its toll. Inhaling deeply, he spread his hands out
on the desk. Maybe now, he could contact his guide. The door chimed. And
maybe not.
“Come in,” he responded, ruefully opening his eyes to the call of duty.
“Can I do something for you, Mr. Paris?” Wonderful. The next to last person
on the ship he wanted to see.
The pilot grinned uneasily; Chakotay’s wrath this morning still weighed
heavily on his mind. “Actually, Commander, there was something I wanted to
tell you.”
“Oh?”
Paris clasped his hands anxiously behind his back and approached the
desk. “Look, Chakotay. Nothing happened between myself and Lt. Jemison last
night. We shot some pool, got drunk, and I escorted her back to her quarters.
Then, I left and went to mine. I didn’t touch her except to help her pull her
boots off. Honest. We were both too ripped to do anything other than pass
out.” The younger man paused. “As far as Sandrine’s goes, we might have
kissed once or twice, but that was all. She was hurt and needed a little
company.”
“And you were just the `man’ to provide it, weren’t you?” The first
officer’s face darkened considerably. He didn’t know what made him angrier
that she had hidden the truth from him or that she had turned to this
contemptible degenerate for comfort. “Why do you believe I need to know this,
Lieutenant?” The voice was deceptively quiet.
“Because I know how she feels about you, and I also happen to know you
have feelings for her.”
“Really?” Tanned hands gripped the chair’s arms so tightly the
knuckles whitened, but the temper remained miraculously in check. “And just
how did you come by this alleged piece of information?”
Paris raised an eyebrow. “Does it matter?”
“I think so. I’m not fond of having my private life being the source
of speculation among the crew.”
“Speculation?” The pilot gave a nervous chuckle. “Aw, come on,
Commander. I’d hardly call it speculation. The affection was plainly visible
if you knew what to look for.”
“Was it now?”
“Yes, it was. Look, Chakotay. I’m trying to help. Hannah wouldn’t
say what you two fought about, but whatever it was upset her badly. I thought
you might want to know that.”
The Indian glared at the conn officer. *Of all the people for Hannah
to confide in. Liar. Traitor. You two deserve one another.* “Get out of
my sight, Paris. And stay out of it, if you know what’s good for you,” he
growled, slowly rising to his feet. “I don’t need anyone, especially you,
telling me how to live my life.”
As the older man advanced around the desk, Tom back quickly away.
Chakotay had been angry with him before, but never like this. He could swear
there was even a murderous gleam in the dark eyes. “Yeah, sure, Commander.
No problem. The only place you’ll be seeing me is on the bridge.” Turning,
he practically dashed out of the room.
Chakotay sat down on the sofa, breathing heavily. He didn’t want to
think how close he had come to smashing that irritating, handsome face against
the bulkhead. Even more frightening was the pleasure he would have derived
from doing it. Sluggishly rising to his feet, he crossed the room and opened
one of the drawers in the wall. Inside lay his medicine bundle.
“Janeway to all senior officers. Please report to the briefing
room immediately.”
Sighing wearily, he shut the drawer and exited his quarters.

When the first officer entered, Lts. Tuvok and Jemison stood at the
head of the table quietly conferring with Capt. Janeway. Kim and Torres were
already present and both shot him perplexed looks. Paris followed him into the
room at, Chakotay noted with some satisfaction, a respectful distance. As he
and the pilot took their customary seats, the small sub-conference broke up,
allowing Janeway and Tuvok to sit down. Hannah remained standing at the
Captain’s right.
“What is about to be discussed must go no further than this room,”
the Captain began cautiously. “I cannot stress this point enough. Should the
information become generally known, not only would the ship be placed at
greater risk, but Lt. Jemison’s life would also be in danger. However,”
Taking a deep breath, she glanced up at the scientist. “We have discussed
this, and she has voluntarily accepted the risks. Lieutenant.”
Hannah cleared her throat. “All of you know me. What you do not know
is that I am not simply a science officer. I am a member of Star Fleet
Intelligence; my mission was to download and evaluate the infomation contained
within the Maquis ship’s sensor logs. Circumstances have obviously changed
that. So, I contented myself with fulfilling my cover assignment and becoming
a regular member of the crew. Nothing more, nothing less.” She stared
pointedly at Chakotay for a brief moment before continuing.
“But once again, circumstances have forced me to alter my position.
Research on the malfunctions the ship has been experiencing has led me to
discover the presence of a computer virus, and now, with Lt. Tuvok’s help,
I have found a way to eradicate it.” Hannah paused to allow what she said to
sink in.
Tom glanced at Chakotay. Now, it made sense. If the Commander had
found this out only recently, it would explain their abrupt separation. After
Seska, Chakotay had probably blown a gasket. Silently, the young man groaned
in sympathy. *Doomed from the start.*
A look of anger flickered across Torres’ face before her gaze fell
upon Chakotay’s stolid mask. *Professional, B’Elanna. Remember who you are.*
“A virus?”
The scientist nodded. “The virus, itself, is crude in design, but very
effective. I hypothesize that it was activated by remote control on a harmless
sub-space frequency. It appears to have been designed to spread slowly and
erratically until all major systems were involved. I have traced its
introduction back to environmental controls, a ship-wide system with very few
security lockouts. Implanting the virus would have been simple; anyone with a
rudimentary knowledge of Fleet computers could have installed it. The trick
would have been activating it.”
The grey eyes darted cautiously around the table. “I don’t think there
is any doubt as to who is responsible for that. However, since Seska has had
no recent access to the controls, either she planted it before she left or
someone on board is working for her. For that reason, each one of
you must be careful of what you say and around whom you say it. Neither the
Captain, nor I wish to establish a feeling of paranoia, but we must be careful
not to betray our suspicions. Should a Nistrum mole be in place, revealing our
suspicions prematurely could cause him/her to go into temporary hiding.”
“Fine,” Torres snapped. “But what do we do now. Most minor and
several major systems appear to have been affected. Purging those areas could
take days.”
“Exactly.” Hannah confirmed. “The virus has spread too far now to be
isolated and dealt with on a system-by-system basis. Mr. Tuvok, over to you.”
The Vulcan nodded. “I have taken the liberty of examining the charts
in stellar cartography. There is a small nebula about one-half light year off
our current course. Initial sensor readings indicated that its composition
should adequately mask our presence from other ships’ sensors.”
“So?” Paris looked questioningly at the Captain. “Why do we need it?”
“Because,” Jemison moved slowly around the table toward the pilot.
“We are going to have to shut down Voyager’s computer and re-initialize a
start-up, purging the virus in the process. If we don’t, the virus will
continue to spread, and as soon as we clean one system, we’ll have lost
another.”
Kim frowned. “That seems very drastic. Is this the only option we
have?”
“We believe it is.” Tuvok replied. “The Kazon are undoubtedly waiting
for the virus to render our ship inoperable before commencing an attack.”
“But such a procedure will take hours. It will leave us defenseless.”
B’Elanna protested.
“Precisely,” the scientist responded. “Hence the nebula.”
“All right,” The Captain placed both hands on the table and stood up.
“Mr. Paris, get us into that nebula. Mr. Kim, you will assist Lts. Torres and
Jemison in engineering. I want this virus eradicated as soon as possible.
Mr. Tuvok, I want all non-essential personnel confined to quarters and
engineering declared off-limits to all except Kim, Torres, and Jemison.
Commander, you will remain on the bridge with me. It appears all of us will
be pulling a double shift tonight.”
“A word of caution, Captain,” Hannah interrupted. “It follows that
many crewmembers, including the mole, will question their confinement.
I believe that we should inform them that it is for their own safety. Simply
tell them that we are attempting to correct the wide-spread malfunctions within
the ship’s systems. We don’t want to mention one word about the virus; again,
we want to tip our hand as little as possible.”
“Understood?” Janeway glanced around the room. “Very well.
Dismissed.”

Half an hour later, Paris spun around at the helm. “We’ve reached the
nebula, Captain.”
Janeway rose to her feet. “Good. Take us in, one-half impulse until
we reach the middle and then shut down all engines.”
“Aye, Captain. One-half impulse.”
“Janeway to Torres.”
“Torres here.”
“Lieutenant, we’ve reached the nebula. We’ll be shutting down the
engines in another two minutes.”
“Understood. Our first priority will be life support. We should
have it up and running within twenty minutes.”
“Acknowledged.” The Captain retook her seat and peered over at her
still-silent first officer. She smiled encouragingly at him. “I guess all we
can do now is wait. Hmm? Commander?”
His head jerked as if he had been asleep, even though his eyes were
wide open. “Yes, I suppose so, Captain,” he replied absently.
Janeway frowned. “May I see you in my ready room, Commander?
Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge.”
Slowly, Chakotay rose to his feet and followed her. Once the doors
shut behind them, she turned upon him quickly.
“Commander, I endeavor to make it a practice not to interfere in my
crew’s personal lives, and I don’t intend to start now. Whatever type of
relationship you had formed with Lt. Jemison is none of my business, but right
now, I need your full attention out there on the bridge. The ship’s computer
is going to hell due to sabotage, and as a result, we may be looking at another
Kazon attack. I need to know I can count on you to respond when necessary and
not remain lost in your own private thoughts. Is that clear?”
His humiliation was now complete. First, Paris, now, the Captain.
Chakotay drew himself up stiffly. “Yes, Captain. I apologize. The safety
of the ship and crew come first.”
“Good.” Janeway smirked. “That’s exactly what Lt. Jemison said when
she voluteered to reveal her identity to the senior staff. Make no mistake,
Commander, if we survive this latest crisis, her life will be in danger, either
from the saboteur or a vengeful Maquis crewmember. Right now, she is our ace
in the hole. Seska doesn’t know about her, and we need all the advantages we
can get.”
Concern flickered momentarily in the dark eyes. “Yes, Captain. I will
do my best to insure her safety.”
“See that you do, Commander. We need her.”

Three long hours passed before Torres contacted the bridge to announce
that life-support, communications, sensors and shields were back on-line.
“Good work, Lieutenant. Any idea how long before this ship is back in
working order?” Janeway queried.
“I would say another three hours, at least, Captain. Although, four is
possibly a more reasonable estimate.”
“Understood. Janeway out.”
A sensor alarm distracted the entire bridge crew.
“Captain, sensors are detecting a ship outside the nebula.” Tuvok
announced. “Design configurations match those of the Kazon. Apparently, their
sensors cannot penetrate the cloud well enough to locate us. However, they may
have hypothesized our location through sensor sweeps of the surrounding areas
of space.”
“Janeway to engineering. B’Elanna, I don’t want to rush you, but we
now have a Kazon warship sitting in wait outside the nebula. How soon before
we’ll have propulsion and weapons systems back on-line?”
“The engines should be coming on-line in the next forty-five minutes.”
“Good. And weapons?”
“Weapons will take longer. We haven’t even started on them.”
“Then, I suggest you do. Janeway out.”
Down in engineering, Hannah looked up from her console. “She wants the
impossible, you know.”
Torres smirked, but did not look up. “That’s why she’s the Captain.”
“I guess they’re all alike when you get down to it,” the scientist
chuckled uneasily. “Um, what was said in the briefing room, did it bother
you?”
“What part?”
“The, ah, personal part.” They were alone, except for Harry, who was
working at another console, but Hannah still felt hesitant about discussing
anything specific.
“You mean, do I feel betrayed?” Glaring, she swung on Jemison. “Yeah,
I do. How would you feel?”
“The same, I suppose. But it wasn’t done from malice, and now, there
is a risk involved.”
The engineer paused for a moment. “Yes, I can see where there would
be.” Her fingers resumed their dance over the console. She had only known
the scientist socially at Sandrine’s, but she had like Hannah. It had been
good to see her make Chakotay smile; something he rarely did after their
run-ins with Seska. “The Commander seemed quite accepting of your, ah,
report.”
Hannah snickered. “That isn’t the way I would have described it. He’s
had twenty-four hours to process the new information.”
“Twenty-four!” Torres spun around open-mouthed. “You mean, all this
time, he-”
“Had no idea?” The other woman shook her head sadly. “My fault, I’m
afraid. I should have kept him better informed, but I didn’t think things
would get so out-of-hand. Oh well, twenty-twenty hindsight.”
“So, you and he-”
Jemison shot B’Elanna a warning glance. “Yes. We had words over the
report omissions. I tried to explain my reluctance to brief him fully, but
no go. He wanted everything up front and by the book.”
Torres nodded. To her surprise, she could see both sides. Thanks to
Seska, Chakotay’s pride had suffered several attacks lately, and she could
understand Jemison’s hesitance to risk another one. “I think, I understand.
In many ways, he’s still Maquis, even though, he also tries to be Star Fleet.”
Hannah grimaced. “The entire crew is that way. Sometimes, there’s
a gap between the two sides that is difficult to bridge.”
“But we keep working at it.” Kim called over. “Are you two going to
talk and leave me to do all the work? In case you’ve forgotten, we’ve got
a Kazon ship sitting out there.”
“Point taken, Star Fleet.” B’Elanna grinned. “Jemison, do you have
any idea about getting the weapons back on-line faster?”
“What if we by-passed connecting the secondary relays. It would speed
up the response time and allow an increased amount of energy through the
phaser coupling?”
Torres shook her head. “But that would burn out the primary relay.”
“Not if we protected it by inverting the power matrix, making it more
compatible with the coupling’s output. As a result, the power of the phasers
would-”
“Almost double,” the engineer concluded, a broad smile spreading across
her face. “It’s worth a try. Harry, you and I will continue working on the
engines. Jemison, can you handle the weapons?
Hannah’s eyes twinkled. “It’s a pretty tall order, but I’ll do my
best. They should be ready within the hour.”

Forty more minutes passed before B’Elanna left her console and crossed
over to where the scientist sat. “Engines are ready. How are the phasers
coming?”
“Faster than I expected. The relays had been replaced with newer
versions, which were designed with similar upgrades in mind. Give me five
more minutes.”
“Good. Torres to the Captain.”
“Go ahead.”
“Captain, we should have engines and weapons within the next few
minutes, as well as a small surprise.”
Janeway shot her first officer a puzzled look before wearily drawing
her fingers across her brow. “I don’t need anymore surprises right now,
B’Elanna. Just tell me what you’ve done.”
“Well, it was Lt. Jemison’s idea, actually. We’ve modified the
phaser’s primary relays in order to get them back on-line quicker. The
surprise is that the modifications should give us an edge in a firefight.”
“You what?” The Captain sat forward.
“In principle, it’s similar to what is in the USS Defiant, Captain,”
Hannah responded. “And it should definitely be a surprise to the Kazon.”
Janeway took a deep breath, glancing quickly at Chakotay. His face
wore an increasingly familiar do-we-have-a-choice expression. “Very well.
I hope you two are right. We don’t exactly have a chance to test this little
improvement of yours.”
Without warning, the ship rocked as an explosion detonated off to port.
“What the hell was that?” The Captain swore, leaping to her feet.
Tuvok checked the sensor panel behind him. “It would appear, Captain,
that the Kazon have grown tired of waiting and are firing blindly into the
nebula. I believe they are trying to `flush us out’.”
A sly smile dallied on his commanding officer’s lips. “So, they want
us out, eh? Janeway to Torres. B’Elanna, two questions. Do we have engines
and weapons ready, and if so, once we clear the nebula can we go to warp?”
“Yes, Captain. To both questions.”
“Good work.” The Captain took the two steps down to conn and placed a
confidant hand on her pilot’s shoulder. “Mr. Paris, lay in a course, one-
seven-one mark two-three-eight, and prepare to initialize at warp eight on my
command.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Janeway turned back to the rest of the bridge. “Shields up. Red
alert. Mr. Tuvok, prepare to make use of our new phasers. All right,
Mr. Paris, take us out of here. Full impulse. Engage.”
“Captain, we are approaching the edge of the nebula,” Tuvok reported.
“The Kazon vessel has achieved a weapons’ lock on us, and they are firing.”
The ship shuddered.
“Minimal damage,” Kim shouted. “Shields are holding.”
“Return fire.” The Captain’s upper lip curled back slightly, baring
her teeth.
“Direct hit. Their shields have dropped to sixty percent.” The Vulcan
sounded almost pleased. “It would appear that Lt. Jemison’s improvement is
successful.”
Sparks flew from a nearby console as the ship shook beneath their feet.
“Firing phasers again.” The security chief announced. “Their shields
have dropped to twenty percent of maximum, and they have lost their weapons’
lock on us. The next shot will disable them, Captain.”
“Cease fire. Mr. Paris, let’s not hang around here any longer. Engage
warp engines.”
As the ship jumped forward, Janeway eased herself back into her seat.
“Janeway to engineering.”
“Torres here, Captain.”
“It would appear that Lt. Jemison’s modifications met with success.
My congratulations to all three of you. The entire crew owes you a debt of
gratitude.”
B’Elanna glanced at Hannah and Harry, huge grins of relief breaking out
simutaneously across all their faces. “Thank you, Captain. The rest of the
systems should be coming on-line in another three hours barring any further
Kazon encounters.”
“Good enough,” came the reply. “Janeway out.”

Chakotay sat on the floor of his quarters and waved his hands over the
contents of his medicine bundle, feeling their sacred power tingle in his
fingers. It was 0200 hours. The ship’s crisis had passed for the moment, but
his own personal one still weighed heavily upon him. His right hand came to
rest hovering above the dark grey river stone. Carefully, he picked it up,
respecting its water-washed smoothness broken by the carved design. Slowly, he
closed his eyes.
“Akoo-cheemoya. At this time of great upheaval, my spirit is disturbed
and wanders without purpose. I ask to speak to my guide, so that I may
discover the way back to my true path and face whatever comes with renewed
strength.”

It was autumn in the forest, and the crisp air made his spirit
tingle. Leaves crunched softly beneath his feet as he walked along.
The sound of strong wings beating the air caused him to look up. He
couldn’t see anything, but a hoarse caw told him it was a crow.
Shaking his head, he pressed on; his guide could not be far away, of
that he was sure. She was out there, somewhere, waiting patiently.
She could afford to wait; time moved differently for her; for him, this
time was all too fleeting.
In a small clearing, she rested, contentedly chewing on a
portion of fresh kill. As he approached, she looked up only briefly
before returning to her dinner, her greyed muzzle darkened by blood.
Choosing a fallen log for a seat, he addressed her from a
respectful distance. “Ohitika, I need your guidance. I thought I had
found my path, but it has vanished beneath my feet, tall grasses
growing over what once was clearly marked. I am drifting now; I do not
know which way to turn.”
The wolf continued to gnaw on the carcass’ leg, glancing up now
and again in mild curiosity. Above them, the crow circled and then
landed on the branch of a tall pine.
He went on. “I trusted her, the minimi, but she, too, has
proven false. My heart is heavy and every beat is an effort. Ohitika,
I need your help.”
The raven cawed loudly, gliding gracefully down to perch on the
kill’s partially exposed ribcage. The wolf growled, but did not
attack. Hungrily, the bird pulled off a few strips of meat and flew
away.
Almost immediately, it returned dropping something between the
wolf and himself, before vanishing back into the trees. Yawning, the
wolf stretched her way to her feet and like the bird, disappeared into
the forest.
Hesitantly, he rose, creeping forward to pick up the object, a
small, smooth river stone in the shape of a heart. “A heart of
stone?” he muttered, turning the rock over in his right hand.
“It is your choice, Chakotay,” came the familiar unspoken
voice. “Which hand gives you hope? The right? Or the left?”

In a flash of light, the first officer found himself back in his
quarters with much to consider.

Two weeks had passed since their harsh words, and Hannah had
purposefully kept herself out of his sight. She had even had Gerron deliver
the weekly reports, somehow always managing to busy herself with an experiment
during her usual delivery time. At first, Chakotay had been grateful for this
silence. It had given them both time to think. However, the time for quiet
consideration had ended; if either of them was to mend, words would have to be
spoken.
He found her alone in the lab, skipping the early dinner that they had
once shared. “Lieutenant, I’ve been meaning to congratulate you. Your work
during the ship’s latest crisis was exemplary.”
“Thank you, Commander.” Jemison glanced up quickly before returning
to her work.
“Hannah.” The voice was soft, almost pleading. “I would also like
to speak with you privately for a moment.”
The light pen, which had been dutifully recording observations froze.
“I’m afraid I’m on duty right now, sir. I believe it was you who said the time
for talking had passed.”
Stung by his own angry words, the older man paused. “I know what I
said. I was wrong. I’ve been wrong about a number of things recently,
especially you, Minimi.”
At the sound of the name he had given her, Hannah raised her eyes
making no attempt to hide the pain she felt. “Chakotay, please. I don’t wish
to discuss this. Not now, not ever. You were right. As SI, I have no
business fraternizing with you; I should not get close to you. I did for a
while and I was wrong. I betrayed you; I betrayed Star Fleet; and I betrayed
myself. I made my career choice years ago. It is a decision I must now
live with.”
“Hannah.” A tanned hand closed over hers, nimble fingers forcing her
to relinquish the pen. “A few years ago, I made a decision, too. I turned
my back on Star Fleet and took up the cause of the Maquis. It was a decision
that has brought me both pride and regret. Out here, though, we are faced with
a whole new set of circumstances, which we can confront either separately or
together. I would prefer we face them together, as fellow officers and
friends. I think you would, too.”
Lowering her eyes, the young woman found herself torn between the cold
safety of the lab and the warmth of the flesh surrounding her hand. Both were
equally real; both were a part of her; but only one gave her the strength to
brave the future. “And what happens if we get back home?”
“You will do your duty and turn me over to the authorities. I cannot
ask you to do otherwise; to do so would be wrong. Hannah, look at me.” He
patiently lifted the grey gaze to his own. “Seska has cast a long shadow over
my life; her ultimate revenge would be for my wounded vanity to keep us at
odds. You are not like her, Minimi. I know this.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I have watched you. You have put you own safety at risk to
save this ship; you have sacrificed every friendship you had forged to insure
this crew’s survival. You are loyal and dedicated, not to your Intelligence
agenda, but to this ship. From a crewmember, I could not ask for more; neither
can I from a friend.”
His finger traced the curve of her jaw regretfully. “We’ll never
recapture what we had, Hannah. You and I both know that, but I don’t want
to lose your friendship, as well. It brings me hope, and I need that.
We all do.”
“Chakotay, I-”
“Think about what I said, Lieutenant,” he intoned quietly. “You don’t
have to give me, or yourself, an answer yet; just know that whenever you are
ready to renew our friendship, I will be ready, too.” Releasing her hand, the
Commander cleared his throat. “However, perhaps you should get back to your
work for the present.”
“Yes sir.” With a pounding heart, Hannah watched the first officer
leave the room.

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