The Tie That Binds

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From: crime@bu.edu (mary self)
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: VOY: The Tie That Binds
Date: 3 Jul 1996 16:11:32 GMT
Organization: Boston University
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DISCLAIMERS: All original characters belong to Paramount. The story and any
other characters, including Hannah Jemison, are my creations.

NOTE: This is the fifth story in the Chakotay/Jemison series. I have used
the religion/philosophy of the Navajo as a basis for some of the
elements of Chakotay’s religion. However, I deliberately created my
own prayers for him to use. (I thought copying actual prayers would
be inappropriate.) I also endeavoured to stay away from religious
specifics for two reasons: first, my own ignorance of the
intricacies of the Navajos’ belief system and second, because I believe
that by the 24th century all religions would have evolved into
something different from what we see today, i.e., as human culture
changed, so would religion to meet its needs. That being said, it is
not my intention to belittle or misrepresent Native American
philosophies in any way, and if you feel that I have, I apologize
in advance.

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Part one

Tobacco

Chakotay let out a long sigh as he entered the mess. An hour for
recreation, another for dinner, and then five or so hours of fitful slumber
until his 2330 alarm. He hated the late shift. His body never fully adjusted
to the time difference. Just one of the perks of being a senior officer,
he thought, personal disquiet for one month, then three months of relative
normality. He smiled to himself. In an odd way it reminded him of the stories
his mother used to tell him about young children who wandered away and lived
with their animal brothers and how they would have to be coaxed back slowly
or be lost between the two worlds for good. The grin fell from his face.
Across the room, Hannah Jemison sat with Tom Paris sharing a laugh,
undoubtedly due to some witicism of Paris’. The first officer ground his
teeth, scanning the room for a friendly face. Torres sat with Kim, and he felt
reluctant to interrupt their animated conversation.
“Feeling the distance of office, Commander?”
He spun around. Kathryn–he would always think if her by that–stood
behind him, a small grin turning up the corners of her mouth. “Perhaps you
would care to join me?”
“Of course, Captain.” A relieved smile briefly lit up his features.
No one liked eating alone.
They got their trays and sat down two tables away from Jemison and
Paris. Jealously, he watched Hannah’s grey eyes light up as the two officers
bantered back and forth. She had a quick wit, and he wondered if the pilot was
up to the challenge. To his immense disappointment, it appeared Paris was.
“Commander, have you heard a word I said?”
He looked down at his plate. “No, Captain. I’m sorry. Not very good
company, am I?”
“I’ve had better. And I’ve had worse. It’s never easy, is it?”
“What?” His fork stabbed some greyish-green buttons, which Neelix had
assured him were vegetables.
“Seeing someone you care about with another.”
His eyes darted to Hannah, then back to his plate. “What’s done is
done. Life goes on,” he replied.
“Yes, it does.” The Captain took a bite of something purple, grimaced
and swallowed. “Although between you and me, it won’t if you eat this.” Her
fork nudged the violet mound.
Chakotay grinned. “My lips are sealed, to the critique and the food.”
Janeway let out a throaty laugh, which caused Hannah to glance over.
Briefly, he held her gaze before she looked away.
“On another topic,” the Captain continued. “The Riatans have reported
trouble with one of their hydroponic production facilities. A fungus of some
sort, and in return for some supplies, I’ve agreed to send them our assistance.
I thought Lt. Jemison and Ensign Salaar would be the logical choice. What do
you think?”
“How could I disagree? Jemison is our science officer and Salaar’s
background in fungii would make her an obvious choice. Have you informed
them?”
Janeway nodded. “Yes. They depart in a shuttle at 1100 hours and
return at 2300 hours, unless problems arise with eliminating the fungus.”
“Sounds all right. Just the two of them?”
“Yes. Riata isn’t very far. They should be fine. It’ll be a test for
Jemison as well, leading her first away mission.”
Chakotay chewed his last bite of food. All in all, only a mildly
disgusting meal. “Well, Captain, I hate to eat and run, but duty calls in
under six hours. I think I’d best be going.”
“Understood. Pleasant dreams, Commander.”
“Same to you.” Locking his sights on the doors, he steered himself
out of the mess without another glance at the two officers seated less than two
meters away.
When he reached his dark quarters, he removed his uniform and stretched
out on the bed. Weeks had passed since Hannah’s head lay on the pillow next to
his. He could almost see her pale body, luminous against the dark sheets.
He missed holding her the most, or maybe touching her, hearing her sigh as he
caressed every centimeter of flesh, sometimes tracing and re-tracing the tattoo
with his fingers.
The tattoo. He had practiced drawing the damn thing for a week before
committing it to her stomach. A raven. A creator. A trickster. All of
Hannah’s hidden talents. “I never lied to you . . . I wanted to be a part of
your life.” And he pushed her away proud fool that he was, leaving the door
wide open for Paris. It didn’t take that opportunist long. Lunch, dinner,
Sandrine’s. Had they-? No, it was best not to wonder. This was Paris,
after all. He had to face facts. He had lost her. With a groan, he rolled
onto his side and stared at the empty pillow before angrily flipping over,
away from the offensive reminder. What was done was done. Life continued,
and right now, he needed sleep.
At 2400 hours he relieved Tuvok from his watch. No major concerns.
A small disturbance had occurred at Sandrine’s–Porter and Francisco again.
Cartography had finished mapping their present location and had moved on to
sector one-five. And Baxter had dislocated his shoulder for a third time,
with the Doctor threatening to amputate the arm if it happened a fourth time.
He eased himself into the Captain’s chair. At least for the next twenty-four
hours, he was in no danger of seeing Voyager’s newest couple.

1900 hours. Chakotay lay on his back staring into the darkness above
his bed. He wasn’t sure exactly what had triggered the memory. Maybe it was
watching Wildman and her daughter at dinner, which made him think of his
own son, which made him think of his father. Whatever slender thread of
thought had led him here, he could remember the moment clearly and that
surprised him because he had been so young and excited.
It was the day before his departure for the Academy. The charcoal sky
had threatened rain all day. He hoped it would hold off. His friend, Hoa,
planned a party for later, and he knew Manya would be there with her slim legs
and trilling laugh.
As he was getting ready, his father called to him, and together they
walked down one of the dusty, red clay paths which separated the crops in
the fields. When they reached the rows of tobacco, Kolopak knelt down beside
a large green plant.
“What is this, Chakotay?” His father’s broad hand caressed the veined
surface of a leaf.
“Tobacco, Father.” He answered impatiently. His friends were waiting
for him back in the village.
“Yes, but it is more than that. What happens when we smoke it?”
“It binds us together. We become one people with one heart.” He had
memorized the correct response years ago.
“And you have smoked it with me, haven’t you? With your brother, your
uncles, all of your family?”
“Yes, Father.”
“Good. And what does that tell you?”
“That we are united. We are a family.”
The older man shook his grey head, staring at him with that all-too-
familiar expression of pity. “No, it is more than that. You are not a child
anymore, Chakotay. You are a man. There are consequences for your actions and
you must learn to live with them. Against my wishes, you have chosen to
leave us. I cannot stop you. But wherever you go, you will still be with us.
You are a part of us. When the time comes, you will realize we are also a part
of you, and when you choose to come home, you will be welcome. Remember this.”

His body twisted in the sheets, his left arm falling across the second
pillow. Half-awake, he rolled away from the emptiness and stared at the
chronometer. A few more minutes and he would have to get up. He groaned.
Another restless night.
“Tuvok to Commander Chakotay.”
Sighing, he stretched over and turned on the lights, blinking in the
unwelcomed brightness. “Chakotay here.”
“Commander, it is 2300 hours, and we have had no word from the shuttle
or Lt. Jemison.”
“What?” He bolted up. “What do you mean there’s been no word?”
“Precisely what I said. She contacted us once at 1910 to inform us of
her departure, but since then, we have received no additional communications.
Long-range sensors do not detect the shuttle or its engine signature.
I thought you would want to know.”
Chakotay kicked back the covers, slipping quickly out of his pajamas.
“Have you informed the Captain?”
“I have.”
Snatching up his uniform, he dashed into the bath. “I’ll be there in
five minutes. Chakotay out.”
The lift felt as though it took twenty minutes instead of the usual
thirty seconds to get from his deck to the bridge, and he counted out loud,
reaching eighteen-one-thousand when the doors finally opened.
“What’s the story, Tuvok?”
“Exactly the same as when I initially informed you, Commander,” the
Vulcan stated with an irritating serenity. “The Captain is contacting the
Riatan authorities, and she has instructed that we adjust our course to match
the shuttle’s and begin thorough scans. So far, we have detected neither the
shuttle, nor its debris.”
“Understood. I’ll take over now and continue the search.” That word,
debris, thrown out so cooly by the security chief, echoed unpleasantly in
his ears.
“Commander, my shift does not end for another forty-seven minutes.”
“I am aware of that, Lieutenant, but as of this moment, I am relieving
you. Is that clear?”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “Yes, Commander, quite clear. I yield the
bridge to you.”
Chakotay sat down in the Captain’s chair and activated the viewscreen
to his left. “Ensign Carreras, patch this monitor into the sensor array.
I want to view the results as they come in.”
“Yessir.”
The screen lit up with incoming data. Nothing. He sat quietly. Tuvok
was cold, but not inefficient. Had he really thought he could spot something
the Vulcan hadn’t? Sitting forward, his eyes flicked over the flood of data.
“Maintain heading. One-half impulse.”

Nine hours later, the ship crept forward, her long-range sensors
stretched to their limits. At conn, Ensign Bathart tapped first his index,
then his middle finger on the cool, tri-polymer display. Chakotay continued
to stare at the monitor, ignoring this minor interruption in the stillness.
Something. There had to be something, some clue. Nothing. He sighed heavily.
“Report.” Captain Janeway strode onto the bridge followed closely by
a frowning Lt. Paris.
The first officer rose to his feet. “Nothing, Captain. No sign of the
shuttle. Did the Riatan authorities know anything?”
“Not a thing. The ship left their immediate space at 2100 hours with
no report of trouble.” She turned toward conn. “Mr. Paris, bring us to course
two-five-seven mark three-one. I’m widening our search pattern. Even if
something did happened, we should have located them by now on our current
heading.”
“Two-five-seven mark three-one,” the young man repeated. “Course
laid in.”
“Engage,” she ordered as she took her seat.
Sitting down beside her, Chakotay turned his attention back to the
monitor. His right eye stung with fatigue. He blinked twice and rubbed both
of them, stifling a yawn with mild facial contortions.
“Chakotay, have you had breakfast yet?” Janeway leaned over the arm
of the chair to whisper.
He glanced up. “Hm? No, Captain.”
“Then, I am ordering you to the mess. I don’t want to see you back on
this bridge for at least an hour.”
“Captain-”
She raised her hand, and he knew it was useless to protest. “One hour,
Commander. That’s an order. I’ll notify you immediately if we find anything.”
“Yes, Captain.” With a tired smirk, he hauled himself to his feet and
trudged to the lift. “Deck 2.”
The mess was almost empty when he entered. Four crewmembers sat at a
table and two others sat on the sofa. The young woman on the sofa laughed, and
he felt a twinge in his chest. A shared cup of coffee a few days ago, a
shared laugh. It had almost been like old times, and they had both known it.
“Commander.” Neelix bustled out of the kitchen. “You look in need of
nourishment. I think I can re-heat some of this morning’s throck pudding, and
I believe there’s some chuli fruit left and maybe some-”
“Just coffee, Neelix. That’s all.”
“I’m sorry, but we’re out of coffee.” The cook wagged a pudgy finger
at him. “Besides, that’s hardly a proper breakfast. You’re getting as bad as
the Captain, skipping meals and consuming only coffee. Now, what can I get
for you?”
Chakotay shrugged. He was too tired to argue. “All right, some toast
and juice, then.”
“That’s better. Now you sit right down here, and I’ll be back with
your order before you can say subnitricphosphate.” The Talaxian tapped the
side of his head and grinned. “Picked that one up from Kes.”
He returned in an instant with two pieces of toast and a glass of
yellow juice. “Here we are.”
“Thanks, Neelix.” Chakotay bent over the food as if he was ravenous,
fearing the cook would change into his guise of morale officer.
“You’re welcome, Commander. Enjoy.” After a friendly pat on the
shoulder, the Talaxian returned to the kitchen.
Chakotay took two bites then pushed aside the food. Even heaped with
jam, the toast had no taste. Sighing in frustration, he waited for Neelix’s
back to turn before he dumped the food down the reclamator and escaped out
the door. Forty-eight minutes left. Sleep wasn’t the answer. His mind was
too unsettled. Maybe one of the holodecks was free.

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Tobacco, cont.

“Computer, run program Chakotay-four-alpha.” Clad in sweats, he stood
impatiently at the doors to holodeck two.
“Program running. You may enter when ready.”
The doors slid open and the bright light of day beckoned. Home, or
at least as close as he could come. It was a variation of the program he had
created for Hannah, but in this version the early morning sun rose over
the hill behind him as he stood on the floor of the valley. A light breeze
blew through the grasses and trees, shaking dew from the leaves. Hidden in the
branches above him, a bird called out a hoarse good-morning to its mate, who
answered from a nearby tree.
He walked along the road which encircled the fields, his footsteps
frightening a gnatcatcher out of a nearby bush, and he watched it rise in a
flurry of yellow feathers into the safety of a roundnut tree. To his right,
a red and black striped lizard poked its head out from beneath some fallen
leaves and studied him carefully with beady black eyes.
The course was so familiar, all the way to the end of the fields,
around them and back. Gradually, he quickened his pace, his feet pounding,
then almost gliding across the dusty earth as he finally found his stride.
Rows of corn flashed past, followed by the beans. Then, the squash.
The chiles. The sweet peppers. The tomatoes. He peeled away his shirt, the
flow of air whisking beads of sweat off his chest. His throat burned, and his
tongue darted around his mouth seeking moisture. When he was a young man, he
ran the distance twice, easily; one time, he even ran it three times on a dare;
but now, his body grew tired halfway through the return leg. He sucked in a
lungful of needed oxygen. He had almost reached the tobacco. Only a few more
meters, then turn.
“Janeway to Chakotay.”
He halted, panting hard. “Chakotay here.”
“We’ve found the shutt-”
“I’m on my way. Computer, end program,” he shouted, snatching up his
shirt.
When he reached the bridge, Janeway stood beside Tuvok at Tactical.
“What’s the story?” he asked breathlessly.
“We’ve picked up the shuttle on long range sensors, Commander.” The
security chief reported. “It has sustained some damage and is currently adrift
without life support.”
“I’m not reading any lifeforms.” Harry Kim called over. “The shuttle
is empty.”
Kathryn’s worried eyes met his. “Mr. Kim, tractor the shuttle on
board. Janeway to Torres. B’Elanna, I want an engineering crew to go over
every centimeter of that craft. We still have two crewmen missing,
and I want some answers. Lt. Paris, scan the surrounding area of space and
see if you can pick up anything out of the ordinary.” She shook her head.
“I just don’t understand what could have happened. Before I agreed to the
mission, the Riatans assured me that there had been no hostile activity in this
sector for months.”
“Captain, I’m picking up the remnants of a warp trail.” Paris
announced from conn. “Bearing one-two-eight mark six-seven. It’s very faint
and is dissipating quickly.”
“Lt. Torres, do you have anything to tell me yet?” She asked.
“According to the ship’s sensor logs, the shuttle was tractored on
board a ship, which doesn’t match any ship on file. My guess is that the
shuttle was released after Jemison and Salaar were taken on board.”
Chakotay almost sighed with relief. “Well, in that case, we know it
wasn’t the Kazon; they would’ve kept the ship.”
Kathryn continued to frown, taking little comfort in his observation.
“Mr. Paris, plot a course along that warp trail and engage at warp nine.”
“Aye, Cap’n. Warp nine.
“Janeway to Mr. Neelix. Could you please report to the bridge? It’s
urgent.”
“Yes, Captain. I’m on my way.”
A few minutes later the lift doors slid apart.
“Captain, you wanted to see me?” The Talaxian’s gaze darted between
the three senior officer’s clustered around Tactical.
“Yes, Neelix. Two of our crewmembers have been kidnapped. We don’t
know by whom. I was hoping you might be able to throw some light on this by
identifying the captor’s ship and their possible destination.”
“I’ll do my best.” The amber eyes peered at the screen. “I don’t
recognize the ship, but on this heading, we will enter the Wolon system. Many
crews have vanished in this sector.”
“Vanished?” Janeway repeated.
“Yes, Captain. Ships have been found adrift without their crew, but
many others have passed through without incident. To be honest, I always tried
to stay clear of the area.”
Tuvok met Chakotay’s dubious gaze and raised one eyebrow, inclining his
head in silent agreement. “Captain, the dissipation of the warp trail
indicates the ship has at least a ten hour head start. The trail will not
remain detectable to our sensors for much longer.”
“So noted. Neelix, can you tell us anything more about this area of
space?”
“Well, hundreds of years ago, this sector was under the control of
the Cassic. They were a powerful people, and colonized many of the planets in
this area by force. But about three hundred years ago, they abandoned their
conquests, and became very insular, to the point of withdrawing from well-
established colonies. No one has heard from or seen them in a long time.
Legends have it that they died out either from disease or from internal dissent
which led to civil war. No one really knows the truth.”
“And the crews that vanished, have any of them ever resurfaced?”
Chakotay asked.
“No, Commander, not that I’m aware of. I’m afraid that is all I know.”
Janeway flashed the alien a tight-lipped smile. “You’ve been a big
help as it is, Neelix. Thank you.”

Chakotay’s fingers drummed on the mess hall table. Most of the salad
remained on his plate; lunch, like breakfast, had little taste. He bolted down
a few bland bites and looked across the dining hall to where Paris sat
with Kim. What was it Hannah saw in the irritating jackass? True, the young
man had become an almost model officer, risking his own life time and time
again to save the ship and his fellow crewmates, and yet occasionally,
something in that pale, mocking face sent shivers up Chakotay’s spine. An
undefinable apprehension similar to what he had felt waiting in the cave on
his first vision quest.
Total darkness had surrounded him then, and little by little, he had
lost track of time. He had huddled in the chilly dampness, hungry and alone,
listening to the water drip off the rocks and splash into an invisible well.
He had prayed and waited with sharp rocks between his toes to keep him awake.
He had been so afraid. He didn’t want to die there, by himself, in the dark.
Then, an icy wind had whistled down around him, a high-pitched
whine which had frozen him to the bone, and in its swirling mist, he had seen
his ancestors. Some had ridden horses; some had run; others had simply stood
there. One image in the group had finally stepped before them all, and he had
recognized it as his grandfather, who had died years before. At first the
elder had only stared at him in a sad, pitying way, but when the old man spoke
his name in that ghostly voice, he had shaken so hard he had thought the rock
would crumble around him and he would be buried in the darkness forever.
Summoning the last of his strength, he had scrambled to his feet and
run, stumbling toward the cave entrance, until he emerged into the heated
blindness of midday. After his heart had stopped pounding, he had slowly made
his way back home, where, ashamed of his fear, he had told his family he hadn’t
seen anything, that he had failed. His father had gazed long and hard
at the bruises and scrapes, but had said nothing, and in his heart, he had
known Kolopak had seen past the lie.
Three years later, his brother had made the same journey, recounting a
tale of a magnificent eagle, who had shown him the land of their forefathers.
He had been so jealous of that vision, as jealous as he was of Paris now.

“I do not appreciate this interruption, Captain.” The green-skinned
face on the viewer bore a remarkable resemblance to a Kazon. “We are in the
middle of a Baktoi, a most important rite to our young men.”
Janeway nodded solemnly. “I apologize for the intrusion, Minister, and
believe me, I wouldn’t contact you if it was not absolutely necessary.
You see, we recovered one of our shuttles a few hours ago, minus her crew.
Sensors indicated one of your ships was in the area at the time. We were-”
“Just what are you implying, Captain?”
“I’m not implying anything. We were simply hoping that your ship might
have seen something or offered them aid.”
The dark eyes shifted, and the head tilted upward so that the gaze
rolled off the tip of the green nose. “I highly doubt it. We try to keep
contact with inferior species to a minimum. Had such contact occurred, I would
have heard about it. Now, if you will excuse me.” The screen went blank.
“What a helpful guy.” Paris commented.
“Captain,” Chakotay said quietly. “I’m no Betazoid, but every
instinct I have tells me he was not being truthful.”
“I agree, and personally, I don’t take kindly to being referred to as
an inferior specie. Mr. Kim, scan the surface for any anomalous readings or
lifeforms.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the ensign replied. “This is strange. Captain, in spite
of all the buildings on the surface only a small area seems to be occupied by
any lifeforms, approximately one to two thousand humanoids. I’m also reading a
wide area of EM interference north of the city.”
“Could it be a natural phenomenon?”
“I’m not sure. Sensors are having a difficult time penetrating it, but
by its signature, I’d have to say it is artificially created, as if someone
doesn’t want us to see what is down there.”
Chakotay leapt up the stairs and stood beside Kim. “Can we adjust the
sensors to penetrate it?”
“I think so. It’s a wide area, but the field is on a non-rotating
frequency. There. Sensors should work now, but transporters will take
slightly longer to modify.”
The Captain nodded. “Understood. What do you see?”
“A forest, one river, a couple of tributary streams. There
is a band of twenty lifeforms, fifteen of which are humanoid, moving in a
westerly direction. It looks like a hunting party of some sort, the way they
are spread out. Wait a minute, I’ve found them, Captain. About 50 meters
ahead of the group, I’m picking up one human and one vulcan female. From their
speed, I’d say they were running. Captain, one of the humanoids just fired an
energy weapon in their direction.”
“What! Tuvok, get the Minister back.”
“No response to our hail, Captain.”
Paris looked back at Janeway. “Captain, we’ve go to get down there and
help them.”
“I realize this, Lieutenant. Mr. Kim, what is the status of the
transporters?”
“Not yet, Captain.”
“Inside the field,” Chakotay noted. “Not outside. I could take an
away team down and look for a way to get them out of the field on the surface.”
Kim’s hand smacked the console. “They’ve changed course. They are
running toward the edge of the field, and they aren’t stopping. They- Oh god.”
The young man looked up, shock frozen on his face. “Captain, one of them hit
the field. She’s gone. Vaporized.”
Chakotay’s hand gripped the console, his knuckles turning white.
“Which one?” he whispered.
“Sensor’s read only a human lifeform now. It must have been Salaar.”
The first officer glanced at Janeway. “Captain-”
She nodded. “Go ahead, Commander.”
He flashed her a tight grimace. “Tuvok, you’re with me. Baxter,
Sanchez, meet us in Transporter room two, and bring two phaser rifles. We may
encounter resistance.”
In two minutes, the party materialized on the surface. Tuvok whipped
out his tricorder as Chakotay tapped his commbadge.
“Where is Jemison now, Mr. Kim?”
“She’s about 30 meters ahead of the men, running a parallel course
to the field.”
Barking reached the away team’s ears. Dogs!
“Commander, initial readings indicate that this field is maintained by
strategically placed conductors. If we knock out a sufficient quantity, the
field should weaken enough for us to enter and rescue the Lieutenant.” Tuvok
said.
“Fine, fine. How many and where?”
“I believe five should meet our needs. Ensign Sanchez, aim your rifle
at that small collection of stones on top of that boulder. Lt. Baxter, aim
yours into that tree, third branch from the bottom. Commander, aim yours at
that small log, and I will aim at that second tree from the left. Maximum
settings. Fire.”
Sparks erupted from the four targets. “Good.” The Vulcan observed.
“The field strength in the immediate area has decreased by eighty-seven
percent. One more lost conductor should allow us safe passage.” The security
chief aimed at another tree and fired.
Through the trees, Chakotay saw a racing figure, close behind her were
several large animals. A shower of sparks fell on her and she stumbled, but
kept going.
“Hannah!” Charging the field, he didn’t stop to check its strength and
felt a weak charge tingle in his skin as he passed through. The animals
were too close. If she went down, he might not reach her first. A light
flashed, and she fell. Crashing through the trees, he slipped on the
dry leaves and slid to the ground beside her. He fired at the approaching
creatures, and the lead animal fell, causing the others to halt, sniffing at
the dead creature.
Sparks rained down from above. He covered her body with his own as a
tree limb dropped beside them. At the sound of running footsteps, he raised
his head. Tuvok and the other two members of the away team surrounded them,
pointing their phasers at the group of approaching men.
“How dare you! How dare you interfere!” A being resembling a green-
skinned Talaxian shouted.
Tuvok stared at the alien. “I believe the more appropriate question
would be how you assume the right to kidnap and hunt our crewmembers. Your
actions have resulted in one, perhaps two deaths.”
Chakotay gently rolled Hannah over. She was breathing and her pulse
was strong.
“She’s not dead. She’s only stunned.” The male informed them. “And
the other one would still be alive, if they had followed the rules. They
should be honored to participate in our Baktoi.”
“Willing participation?” The first officer grunted, taking Hannah in
his arms and struggling to his feet.
“Put her down!” The young man demanded. “She is mine. You have no
right to take her. By the rules of the Baktoi, I have won her.”
“Won her?” Chakotay repeated in disbelief. “You mean kidnapped and
shot her. You are the one with no right to her!”
Twigs snapped behind the away team, and more green humanoids stepped
out from behind the trees. Surrounded.
“That is where you are wrong. By stunning her, I have won the hunt.
Now, if you will- what the? Get them!” The young man sputtered as the
prisoners disappeared in a shower of lights.
As soon as they materialized in Sickbay, Chakotay lay Hannah gently on
a biobed, then stepped back to allow the Doctor room.
“Encouraging,” the hologram muttered. “Considering what happened to
Ensign Salaar, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She will make a full recovery.”
Before Chakotay could inquire how she was, the ship rocked beneath
his feet.
“Janeway to Chakotay and Tuvok. Please report to the bridge.”
He scowled. He wanted to stay here, but duty came first. “On our way.
Doctor, will you inform me the moment she regains consciousness?”
“Of course, Commander.”
Within seconds, Tuvok and he were back on the bridge under the flashing
lights of a red alert.
“Break orbit!” Janeway yelled.
“It’s no good.” Kim informed her. “Three ships are coming through the
planet’s atmosphere. They’re going to try and cut us off.”
“Hail the lead ship.”
The Minister appeared on the viewscreen. “Captain, I must insist you
return the female to us immediately. She is necessary for the completion of
the Baktoi.”
“NO!” The word leapt from his lips before Chakotay could stop it.
“My first officer speaks for me.” Janeway responded. “I will not
allow my people to be hunted no matter how important the ritual is to you.”
The Minister frowned. “We are not the barbaric people you believe us
to be, Captain. We do not hunt for the joy of it. The Baktoi was created to
preserve the peace, as well as our race.”
“Your race?”
“Yes. Hundreds of years ago, the male of our specie contracted
an incurable disease which proved harmless to them, but deadly to our women.
Female infants either died within an hour of birth or were miscarried, and
during the birthing process, the disease was transmitted from the infants to
the mothers, who died within a week. Only the male infants survive. Our
civilization, once vast in its reaches, began to crumble due to internal
fighting among our young men over the few healthy women that remained, but soon
those women died, too. Therefore, we were forced to look beyond our
specie, and fear of reprisals from our former colonies led us to do so in a
less than honorable way. Detaining crews also insured that the number of
women eligible for mating remained small, and the fighting only worsened.
The Baktoi was designed to eliminate this problem. The female is not injured,
and every male that participates abides by the rule that the man who stuns her
wins the right to sire offspring by her. As you may have noticed, my own
mother was Kazon. She survived my birth by a week and a half. It is not a
solution we like, Captain, but it has insured the survival of our race. And
that is why I must insist you return the female to us. Core has won the
right to sire a child by her; this may be his only chance.”
“I sympathize with your problem, Minister, but not your method of
dealing with it. I will not allow any of my crew to participate unwillingly
in such a solution.”
“Then, we will take her back by force, and you may find yourself
participating in our Baktoi, Captain. Think about it. One female or your
ship.”
The Captain leveled her gaze at the humanoid on the viewscreen. “I
do not respond well to threats, Minister, and I will not surrender my crewman.”
“Very well.” The image vanished.
“Captain, the three ships are maneuvering into attack formation.”
Paris said.
Janeway spun on Tuvok. “What is your analysis of their ships’
capabilities?”
“Their shields are no match for our weapons. A few strategic hits
should render them inoperable.”
The ship shuddered around them.
“Direct hit.” Kim noted. “Shields are holding. Minor damage to decks
twelve and fourteen.”
“Mr. Tuvok, return fire.”
“Firing phasers. A direct hit. One of the ships has lost its shields,
and the other two are withdrawing. Perhaps they concluded it was illogical
to risk their limited population on such a full-scale assault.”
“Perhaps. Mr. Paris, put us back on our original course, warp eight.”
“Aye, Captain.”
“Engage.” Janeway sat down and activated her monitor. “Report,
Doctor.”
“Aside from being stunned, the Lieutenant’s most serious injuries are
a twisted ankle and minor cuts and abrasions. I could wake her, if you wish.”
“No, let her sleep, Doctor. She’s been through a lot over the past
twenty-four hours. Notify us when she wakes.”
“Understood, Captain. Sickbay out.”

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Tobacco, cont.

Before the start of the evening shift, the Doctor contacted the bridge
to say that Lt. Jemison had regained consciousness. With an upsurge of
jealousy, Chakotay noted the brief smile on Paris’ face before the young man
turned back to the helm. At 1600 hours, the pilot leapt up, barely
acknowledging his replacement, and disappeared into the lift. Chakotay almost
let out a growl of frustration, his own intention to leave subverted by a
scheduling question from Ensign Umori.
When he finally reached Sickbay, Paris was already there, holding
Hannah’s hand and stroking her forehead. Closing his eyes to the sight, he
turned to leave.
“Commander.” Her voice stopped him in his tracks.
Squaring his shoulders, he plastered a mask of concern on his face
before spinning around. “Yes, Lieutenant?”
“Tom tells me you’re the one who led my rescue. I wanted to
thank you.”
Chakotay nodded, moving closer to the bed. “How are you doing?”
The grey eyes darted about, never lighting on any one thing for very
long. “I’m not sure. In a way, I still have trouble believing this is
Voyager.”
“When you take me to the cleaners at Sandrine’s, you’ll believe it.”
Paris smiled, his slim fingers feathering her cheek. “You just wait and see.”
One corner of Hannah’s mouth turned up. “I suppose.”
The pilot’s smile broadened. “You will.”
Chakotay swallowed hard, tightly clasping his hands behind his back.
“Perhaps we should let the Lieutenant rest, Mr. Paris.”
“A sound idea.” The Doctor remarked, stepping out of his office. “My
patient could use some rest, and she won’t get it with you two gentlemen
loitering about like prospective suitors.”
Hannah burst into a gravelled laugh; Paris flushed scarlet; and
Chakotay felt the heat rise in his own cheeks. He drew himself up stiffly.
“I believe you are mistaken, Doctor. I came by to check on Lt. Jemison
as a friend and as a first officer.”
The hologram shrugged. “Call it whatever you wish, Commander. It will
have to wait until morning. The Lieutenant needs sleep.”
The pilot gave Hannah’s hand a squeeze before releasing it. “I’ll stop
by tomorrow. Sleep well and call me if you need anything.”
“I will.”
The warmth in Paris’ expression vanished when he looked at Chakotay.
“Commander,” he said, before striding briskly for the doors.
Chakotay felt two sets of eyes fall upon him. Directing a small nod of
encouragement at Hannah, he followed the younger man’s exit with his own.

The Doctor gave Hannah permission to leave Sickbay in the next
day’s morning report, and with an eye on beating Paris to the punch, Chakotay
restructured his morning schedule to leave him in the vicinity of Sickbay a
few minutes before noon. First, a casual chat, and then maybe lunch in the
mess if she felt up to it, he thought as he neared the doors.
Almost whistling with confidence, he strolled into Sickbay. “Good
morning, Lieutenant, or should I say afternoon?”
Hannah spun around, tucking a few loose strands of hair into her usual
bun. She was already in uniform. “Good morning, Commander. What brings you
here?”
“I knew you’d be leaving; so, I thought I would stop by and see if I
could interest you in lunch.” He paused. “Why the uniform?”
“I thought I would stop by the lab and put in a few hours. As for
lunch, I’m sorry, but I made other arrangements this morning.”
He almost smacked his forehead in disgust. How could he be so stupid?
Paris probably stopped by before the morning shift began. As his mind groped
for some graceful departure, the doors slid open behind him.
“Ready to go, Jemison?” The pilot entered, a wide grin spread across
his face.
“You bet. I’ve had enough of this place for a while. Was there
something else, Commander?”
“Nothing that won’t keep.”
“Then, let’s go, Paris. I’m starved.”
With a nod to the first officer, Paris encircled Hannah’s waist with
his arm and guided her out of Sickbay. Chakotay watched the doors close behind
them before he realized how tightly his fists had clenched. Chagrined, he
loosened his fingers.
The Doctor came out of his office. “Is there something I can do for
you, Commander?”
Surprised, he stared blankly at the hologram. “Do something? No,
there’s nothing anyone can do. Excuse me.”

He skipped dinner, heading to holodeck three for a run instead, eager
to hear the gravel crunch beneath his feet. “Computer, run program, Chakotay-
four-alpha.”
“Program is already running.”
“Already run- Who initiated it?”
“Program was initiated by Lt. Hannah Jemison.”
He gazed silently at the display, trying to decide whether or not to
enter. “Computer, how many people are in holodeck three?”
“There is only one crewmember using it at this time.”
Maybe she wanted to be alone. On the other hand, after all that
happened maybe she needed someone to talk to. “Computer, open the doors.”
He stepped onto the dry road. A meter away, a figure in a teal-
collared uniform stared out over the corn, the shoulder-length mahogany hair
flapping gently in the wind. He drew up beside her. “Mind if I walk
with you?”
A paler then normal face glanced up. “I’m afraid I’m not very good
company right now.”
“Neither am I, depending on who you ask.” He flashed her a quick
smile, which she only half-heartedly returned.
“I’ve never found that to be the case,” she said.
“At first you did.”
“That was before I got to know you. After that, I decided you weren’t
so bad.”
“I’m relieved to hear it.”
A small silence descended until they were halfway past the corn.
“I read Tuvok’s security report a little while ago.” She said.
“According to him, you charged through the field before he scanned it for
safe passage.”
“You needed help. I didn’t think to wait. Perhaps I should have.”
“You know you should have. You could have been killed. I don’t need
two deaths on my conscience.”
“If I hadn’t gone through, you wouldn’t have had to bear the guilt for
long. For all we knew at the time, their weapons were set to kill, not to
stun. How do you think I would’ve felt watching you die while Tuvok ran his
damn scan?” He paused. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken like that.
At the time, I did what I thought was right. You’re here; you’re alive.
That’s what matters.”
They reached the beans, the morning breeze gently fanning their faces.
He looked up at the sky. It was a crisp, clear blue, free of clouds, the kind
of blue which should fill a person’s spirit with hope. “You know, I’m
surprised to find you here. I thought you’d be eating dinner with Lt. Paris.”
“He invited me, but I declined. I told him I wanted some time alone.”
“Then, maybe I should-” He stopped in the middle of the road.
She shook her head and kept walking. “No. You can stay. I don’t
mind your company.”
They walked on a meter or so before he worked up the courage to speak
again. “You two spend a lot of time together. You like him, don’t you?”
“Tom makes me laugh. He helps me forget how-” Her mouth slammed shut.
“How what?” His curiosity peaked. The tone of voice was not what he
had expected; somehow it lacked the excitement new love often gave. “Hannah,
talk to me.”
She shrugged. “My mom’s birthday was three weeks ago, and I’ve been
thinking about her a lot lately. She doesn’t know her surviving child is still
alive, and I keep picturing her and my dad just sitting together alone in
their quarters. It’s an image I can’t get out of my mind, but Tom helps me
forget things like this. He makes me smile. He gets me drunk. Sometimes,
it’s almost like Chandler is here with me.” She roughly wiped a tear away with
the back of her hand.
Chakotay swallowed hard, the image of a runabout exploding once
again in front of him. “Hannah, I know I’ve said this before, but if there was
any way I could-”
“Please. Please don’t apologize anymore. You know, it’s funny, but I
think I even understand how you must have felt when the Galileo exploded. I
told Salaar to disobey the rules. I didn’t know the force field was there,
and because of my ankle, I couldn’t keep up with her.” She halted and stared
up at him, her eyes dark grey and pleading. “One minute she was running, and
the next, she was gone. She didn’t scream. She didn’t fall. She just
vanished, as though she had never even been there.”
He saw her lower lip tremble and he knew she was fighting tears.
“Hannah-”
A small cry escaped her throat, and she threw herself against his
chest. He wrapped his arms around her shaking body, hugging her close. The
fingers of his left hand burrowed deep into her hair and pressed her ear over
his heart.
“Hannah, it’s all right. It wasn’t your fault. You told her what you
thought was best. If you had known the field was there, your answer would have
been different.” His lips brushed the top of her head, and he inhaled the
scent of her shampoo. He missed the smell of Ocampan jasmine lingering on
the pillow next to him. He had almost forgotten its sweet fragrance. No, he
couldn’t forget it; it would still be with him even years from now, anytime he
walked into the airponics garden.
“Hannah, it’s all right. It’s one of the hazards of leadership out
here or in the Alpha Quadrant. At one time or another, you lose people under
your command. It’s painful; it’s unfair; but it happens. We aren’t perfect.
We make mistakes.”
She pulled her head away and looked up at him, tears glistening on her
face. “But how do you stand it? How do you deal with the pain and the guilt?”
He took a deep breath. “To be honest, sometimes I don’t, at least not
very well, and there is no one method that fits all people and all situations.
Sometimes I come here. Sometimes I talk to my guide. Sometimes I just walk
around the ship; it centers me, reminds me that I’m not alone, that others are
depending on me.” He stared deeply into the leaden eyes. “You aren’t alone,
either, Hannah. Whenever you need to talk, come to me. I’ll be here.
Remember that.”
She nodded. Then, a flush slowly crept into her cheeks and she
released him, twisting out of his arms. “I’m sorry, Commander. I didn’t mean
to go to pieces like that.”
Commander. Not Chakotay. Commander. He stiffened. Everything he had
just said had fallen on deaf ears. She would never come to him; pride wouldn’t
allow it. “That’s quite all right, Lieutenant. It was understandable, given
the circumstances.” Angry, he spun around and began walking away. No, he
wouldn’t let it drop, not this time. He turned back.
“Hannah, we should talk, and I don’t mean about what happened on the
planet. I mean about us.”
She drew a quick, audible breath. “I don’t understand. What is left
to say? I made a mistake. I admit that. I should have told you everything,
but I didn’t, and I’ve apologized. What more can I do?”
“How about forgiving yourself? I’ve forgiven you; I’ve told you that.
I also told you I want to keep your friendship, but all I’ve gotten recently is
the silent treatment.”
“That’s not true. We’ve talked.”
“Really? When? Almost everytime I turn around you’re with Paris,
and I don’t intend to make it a threesome.”
“Excuse me, but since we weren’t seeing each other anymore, I thought
I could spend time with whomever I choose. Or was I mistaken in that, too?
You’re the one who wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to explain myself.
You’re the one who said things would never be the same between us. Just what
is it you want from me, Commander?”
He stared down at the red dirt under his feet. What he wanted and the
options he had left open to himself were two very disparate things. How could
he tell her what her nearness did to him, the nervous warmth that rose out of
his belly and flowed slowly through every vein and artery, suppressing all
thoughts of reason with an older, instinctual craving. How could he tell
her that in spite of all that had happened between them, he wanted to make love
to her, right here, right now, in the middle of this dusty road with
the sky, the lizard, and the gnatcatcher as witnesses. He raised a hand to
touch her face, but stopped it in mid-air. Far beyond her, large leaves of
tobacco waved in the wind. She was right. There was no formal tie
between them. She was free to live as she chose. His hand dropped lifelessly
to his side.
“Nothing, Lieutenant. I’m sorry to have bothered you. I’ll
leave now.” Turning away, he called for the exit.
As the doors shut behind him, he sagged against the corridor wall,
letting the metallic clang reverberate through his body. He wanted his heart
to hear it. The door was shut. There was no going back. Placing one
foot in front of another, he trudged off toward his room. He needed sleep.
Tonight would be his last late shift for another three months.

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Part two

The Valley
One Month Later

Somewhere it was raining. Yes, definitely raining because it was dark,
almost pitch black, and he could hear the thunder approaching, the way it did
over the hills back home with giant blue-black storm clouds tumbling over one
another in their race to blanket the sky. He lay on his stomach, his eyes
still closed. A searing bolt of lightning ripped across the horizon; so he
lay there quietly and waited for the storm to pass.

They had left Voyager the previous morning in a shuttle. The trip
through the planet’s atmosphere promised to be risky, but the plasma storm,
which erupted without warning, proved more treacherous than expected. It took
all of Chakotay’s skill to guide the battered craft down to the rocky surface.
Initial sensor readings said the planet was uninhabited, and a quick
visual of the surface told anyone why. Thick, charcoal clouds kept the surface
windswept and barren, except for the isolated outcropping of scrubbrush, and
how that survived was a mystery because little light penetrated the dense
atmosphere. All across the landscape jagged towers sliced haphazardly through
the ground, creating tiny raw valleys surrounded by walls of rock pockmarked
with caves and overhangs.
He landed in one of the valleys. The shuttle was badly damaged, with
one of the nacelles almost sheared off by the storm. The three of them were
trapped until Voyager missed them at the rendezvous point, but they were
uninjured and in a good position to survive the next two to three days.
The native rock was high in magnacite concentrations, which made even
surface scans with tricorders highly inaccurate. So it wasn’t until Nicoletti
screamed that he and Sanchez looked up to find themselves surrounded by Kazon.
Their ship had crashed five years ago, and only a handful, seven or so,
had survived. At first, they just wanted the shuttle so they could leave, but
when they discovered it wouldn’t fly, they became enraged, beating Sanchez and
him, as if the two of them had willfully sabotaged the only means of escape.
The Kazon then escorted their new prisoners to the remains of their own ship
and threw them into a cell.
Nicoletti, the attractive engineer, died first. Five years of
isolation on this world had left the Kazon starved for female company. Their
leader claimed her for himself, and clumsily tried to rape her while the others
held Sanchez and Chakotay away at phaser point. She fought hard and well.
In the end, the male grasped her around the neck and slammed her repeatedly
against the wall in frustrated rage. The final time, her head snapped back,
hitting the metal with a resounding crack. She stared past the Kazon at
Chakotay, her eyes wide in surprise. Her mouth opened and blood poured out
before she crumpled to the floor with a sickening thud. Since then, her body
had remained in the cell with them.

One eye cracked open and he peered through the slit of matted lashes
at his surroundings. The cell. Yes, the cell. He could remember now.
He tried to move, but pain ripped through his body, sudden and brutal, like the
storms on the surface. He lay on his stomach, one arm crushed beneath
him. They were only toying with him. They knew which bones were shattered,
which joints were mangled. He didn’t even bother to scream anymore.
Sanchez? Where was Sanchez? He slowly raised his head. Oh God, it
hurt. He stared into the darkness. Over there, a black mass. Sanchez? His
dry throat crackled like burning tender. He wasn’t even sure if he had spoken.
The form didn’t move, and he lowered his head. It hurt so much.

“Of course, it hurts.” His mother scolded, her black hair pinned up
in a bun, the way she wore it when she cooked. “I told you it was fresh
from the oven.”
He didn’t reply, four throbbing fingers jammed tightly in his mouth.
The bread smelled so good. He had run all the way from the top of the small
hill, where he had been watching his father, grandfather, and uncles irrigating
the fields below.
“Here. Let me see, my little contrary.” She pulled the fingers from
his mouth. “You always have to find things out for yourself, don’t you, little
one? Oh, that’s not so bad. Here.” She took down a jar of herbed fat from
a shelf and smeared it over his fingertips. The pain reduced to a tingle,
and then stopped.
He watched her move the bread aside and return to chopping vegetables
for the night’s stew. A giant yellow squash stood in the sun drying. She had
already hollowed out its interior to use as a serving dish, and nearby the
seeds sat in a bowl waiting to be salted and roasted. He licked his lips; he
could almost taste their nutty flavor.

His tongue ran along the outside of his mouth, swollen, raw, and caked
with dried blood from the cut over his lip. How long had he lain here?
Voyager would be here soon, wouldn’t she? Sanchez? He raised his head.
No, Nicoletti. Why did they leave her here? She was dead. He couldn’t
save her.
He lifted himself up on one elbow and slowly brought his knees under-
neath his body. It took several minutes, each more excruciating than the last,
before he sat up, propped against the cold wall. His breath came in heavy, but
shallow gasps because of the pain in his ribs. He cradled his left arm in his
lap, the wrist twisted lifelessly off to the side. His right eye was so
swollen it would not open. He raised his right hand to his face. The whole
right side seemed to throb in different rhythms, and he could feel the blood,
thick and partially dried over the multitude of cuts and bruises.
The door to the cell slid open, and his left eye squinted in the light
it allowed inside. Something large and dark fell in a lump at his feet. He
heard a harsh laugh and a promise that he was next before the door shut.
The lump moved spasmodically, hissing and rattling like a sack full of
snakes. He drew his feet away, cringing against the wall. It rolled over, its
glassy eyes staring at him hypnotically. It drew an unsteady breath and called
his name. He sat there, frozen to the spot. It closed its eyes. The chest
rattled once, twice, and then fell silent, leaving him alone.

“Haiie!” He kicked the horse’s flanks, urging it up the precipitous
slope. Only a little farther. He pulled back on the reins and brought the
roan to a bellowing stop, its hooves pounding the ground clumsily in
mid-stride. His dog, Tikal, trotted up beside them, its tongue hanging out.
They stood on top of the hill now, the tallest one of the four that
ringed his village. Throwing one leg over the mare’s back, he slid to the
ground and sat down. The summer sun was setting over the opposite hill,
filling the sky with oranges, reds, pinks and purples. Tikal wandered up and
lay down beside him, placing its muzzle on his knee. He stroked the shaggy
brown and white head and received a warm lick of affection in return.
Here, alone on this hillside, he found the quiet he sought, a place
where he could think and dream of a life beyond the tiny cluster of adobes
nestled so securely in the valley below. The idea of flying to different
worlds, seeing new people and places intrigued him. Maybe life out there would
seem less claustrophobic, less restrictive, travelling from place to place,
always learning something new. It sounded ideal to him, but he knew his father
would disapprove, and his friends would not understand.
Perhaps his mother could talk to Kolopak. She was the one who had
encouraged him to read all those books as a child. She was the one who stayed
up late, helping him to prepare for exams at school. Wouldn’t she be
proud to have a son graduate from the Academy? Wouldn’t it please her to see
him step off a transport in uniform? He closed his eyes, inhaling the spicy,
sweet smells of cooking rising up from the homes. He could see her, tears
of pride falling from her dark eyes, her cheeks flushed with excitement as she
spotted him in the crowd of arrivals. Maybe then his father would realize that
he had been wrong.
A cool breeze stirred the tall grass, and Tikal raised its head,
the ears swiveling forward. The wind carried her voice up the hill.
“Chakotay!” He scrambled to his feet and leapt upon the horse. “Hee-yaa!”
He spurred the mare faster and faster down the hill, until its legs seemed
to run on the wind itself. Tikal raced to keep up.
His mother waited in the doorway, framed by the glow from inside the
house. She looked tired, the eyes red from strain. “Dinner is ready,
Chakotay. Hurry.”
Obediently, he slid off the horse and left it tied to the post by the
trough. Tikal followed him indoors. He stopped at the kitchen basin to wash
his hands and face before taking a seat at the table. His father raised a
stern eyebrow.
“Where have you been, Chakotay? You have kept us waiting.”
“I rode over to Naho to see the Star Fleet officers.”
Kolopak’s gaze travelled up the table to his mother before returning
to him. He waited for his father to say something, but the man remained
silent while they ate.
Twice, his mother grimaced and shifted her shoulders, and he glanced
at the loom. The blanket was almost finished. A star graced its center,
surrounded by images of the four cloud people; only the pale figure of Dawn Boy
was incomplete. His mother would need her neck rubbed tonight. Maybe he could
talk with her then about the Academy.
“I have made arrangements to leave for Earth in two weeks.” His father
announced. “And you will accompany me, Chakotay.”
“Two weeks? But in two weeks the Magellan will be stopping here. One
of the officers promised me a tour.” He had been waiting for over a month to
see the Constellation-class ship, ever since Captain Sulu said it might be
stopping by. “I can’t go. Take Kelo instead.”
“You are the older son, Chakotay. It is important that you come. When
I am gone, the family will be your responsibility. It is necessary for you to
know the history of our people.” A piercing glare fell upon him. “What is
more important? Your family or some starship?”
“My family, but-”
“No buts. You worry me, Chakotay. You act at times as if you have no
relatives. Without family, what is a man? He is nothing. He is lost. It is
the family which gives us meaning, which gives us life.”
“Yes, father.” He sighed. How many times had he heard this speech?
Too many times to count.
“Then in two weeks, you will leave with me for Earth.”
“But-”
“Enough!” His father thundered. “The matter is settled. Your star-
ship will have to wait.”

The Kazon came for him just as they promised. Now, he lay on his
belly where they dumped him, each breath slicing sharp and deep like a
scalpel. He opened his eye and stared at the blackened crusts which had once
been his hands. At least, they didn’t hurt anymore; the damage to them was
too deep, irreparable, in his mind.
His body shook with pain. He had to turn over. He couldn’t stay like
this with his weight on his ribs. He bent his legs under him. Oh God, this
was going to hurt. On the count of three. One. . .Two. . .Three. A scream
echoed in the cell, and it startled him to hear it over the waves of pain
crashing down around him. He thought he had lost his voice a long time ago.
“Here, let me help you.” The tone was deep and soothing. “There,
that’s better, isn’t it?”
He lay still, breathing as lightly as his burst of effort would allow.
The voice echoed uncomfortably in his skull; yet he doubted its existence.
Sanchez? He heard a chuckle.
“No, not Sanchez.”
He opened his eye. In spite of the darkness, he could see the figure
clearly. A human male about his age, though it was hard to tell with
the beard, crouched bedside him, arms resting on knees. The eyes were a
piercing dark grey, their seriousness belied by the playful grin which crinkled
the sides of the mouth.
“I know you, don’t I?” The man asked, looking him over carefully.
“Yeah, I do. You were two years ahead of me at the Academy. I used to get
up in the morning, open my dorm blinds, and there you were, running, smooth
as silk. It was incredible. I used to watch you cross the compound on your
way back to the upper classmen’s dorm. Heck, I’ll be honest. I envied you,
always wished I could run like that. I figured you were practicing for the
marathon, but you never entered it. If you had, I would have put money
on you.” The grin widened. “I guess running to you was more than competition,
huh, Chief?”
The word still rankled him, but he could tell by the smile it wasn’t
meant unkindly. It was one of those frustrating nicknames upperclassmen gave
to freshman cadets, which had unfortunately stuck in his case. He nodded.
“I thought as much. You were quite a ladies’ man, too, as I recall.
Brought out the maternal instincts in all the female cadets with your shy,
quiet ways. My girlfriend was in a psych class with you. She said you were
always on time, in the front row industriously taking notes. Although, every
now and then, she said you would make some wry observation that would leave
the whole class in stitches. I guess it’s the shy, silent types you have to
watch out for, huh?” The figure laughed shaking a close-cropped head of
brown hair.
Chakotay closed his eye. He had enjoyed his years at the Academy, but
he had been an outsider, never quite fitting in, always on the fringes, always
frustrated. For four years, the power of his medicine bundle had wasted away
in the bottom drawer of his chest, covered by a blanket and a few sweaters he
never used. Instead of it, his morning run had brought him peace, preparing
him for the rest of the day by focussing the energy that might have gotten him
tossed out of the institution.
“Hey, Chief, you going to sleep on me?”
He opened his eye. A grey eye winked at him. “Am I that boring?”
Chakotay shook his head.
“That’s good. I guess you’ve got some girl on that ship you’re on,
huh? C’mon, sure you do. You can tell me. No? I’m surprised. I figured a
handsome man like you would have someone, even- Uh-oh, I hear something.
Sounds like someone’s coming.” A pale, cold hand squeezed his shoulder.
“Don’t let ’em get you, Chief. We made it through the Academy; we’re the best,
remember.”
The icy pressure on his shoulder faded. The figure was gone. The door
opened and a shaft of light fell across the floor. He closed his eye. Maybe
if they thought he was unconscious . . .
He listened to their footsteps. They stopped first at Sanchez; then,
they moved toward him. Quiet and loose. He had to stay loose.
A hand seized his bruised chin, roughly shaking his head. His brain
sloshed from one side of his skull to the other, and a whimper escaped. He
couldn’t stop it. A boot kicked him in the side, sending a shooting pain
across his chest. Groaning, his body rolled with the kick.
One of the Kazon said something, but he couldn’t make out the words.
He could only focus on the fading footsteps, and then, the darkness closed in,
burying him alive.

“Hey, Chief! You still with me?”
Chakotay opened his eye. The man crouched beside him again. The face
looked more familiar now. It had the same cocky mannerisms that he hated so
in Paris.
“That’s good.” A white smile lit up beneath the manicured mustache.
“You had me worried here for a while. I thought that kick might have been too
much. But you’re tough. You’ll make it.”
His lips cracked apart as he struggled to speak. “Who?”
“Does it matter? My grandmother always said once you start seeing
ghosts you’re done for anyway.” The image threw back its head in a long, harsh
laugh. “Don’t know if that’s true or not. Didn’t see any myself. I didn’t
have time. Oh, don’t look so surprised, Chief. You knew I wasn’t really here.
How could I be?”
The figure leaned closer and puckered its lips. “See, nothing. No
breath. Hee-hee, you should see your expression. I suppose your people have
different ideas about spooks and spirits, huh? Turn a dead man face down so
his spirit can’t rise and all that? Heck, when it all boils down, though,
dead is dead no matter who you are or what you believe.
“Maybe I should be a stern spirit and ask you if you’ve made peace with
yourself or if you’ve led a good, decent life.” The man paused and grinned.
“But that ain’t my style, Chief. You’ve heard of Admiral Prideaux, a giant of
a man with all the joviality of someone attending a funeral. Well,”
The voice lowered. “I’ll share a little story with you. Once he came to my
dad’s station for some diplomatic function or something, and I snuck a whoopee
cushion into his seat at the head of the table. Hee-hee. You should have seen
it. This pompous, granite-faced figure turning beet-red. Ha-ha. It was
hysterical. But you know what was funnier? Watching all the yes-captains
and lieutenants in his entourage trying to keep a straight face. Thank God,
my sister was too young to be there. She would’ve laughed and given the whole
thing away. She never was any good at keeping her feelings secret. If she
likes you, she likes you; if she doesn’t, you know it.”
The image sat down cross-legged and sighed. “Sometimes I worry about
her, you know. My kid sister, I mean. She’s a tough little cookie, but she
listened to me way too much. I told her all the wrong things. I didn’t know
it at the time, but I do now. Talk about learning things too late.”
The ghost sniffed and drew a thumb under each eye. “Funny, huh? That
we can cry and laugh and regret just like we did in real life. Some paradise.
Let me tell you, it’s no fun being dead. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not
tough or anything. It’s just that, well, it’s just not fun. Maybe if I had
someone to share it with, hmm?” The man paused and winked. “Know any good-
looking female ghosts? I could show ’em a good time. No? Oh well. It’s no
fun being alone, Chief. Whether you’re here or there, it’s no fun being alone.
Maybe you have to live to be a hundred before you can find peace, or
one hundred eighty if you’re a Vulcan. That’s my advice: live to be a hundred,
Chief, and spend that time with someone you love. She’s out there waiting.
You’ve got to believe that.” Icicle fingers gripped his shoulder and squeezed.
“So long, Chief. See you in sixty-some-odd years.”
An explosion rocked the floor beneath him, and he heard angry shouts
and cries of pain coming from the corridor. Feet pounded past the cell, then
phaser shots, then more footsteps, which halted outside the door. He closed
his eye, and prayed for them to be friendly.
The door slid open. A tiny spotlight swept the room. Somewhere behind
it a voice muttered. “Oh sh*t!”

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

Part Three
The Hilltop

The smell, or the lack of it, was what he noticed first. Then, someone
stroked his forehead, his mother maybe, the way she always did when he was sick
and tired and feverish. It felt good even when he woke up cranky, tangled in
sweat-soaked sheets. But he couldn’t smell his own stink now because he was
clean, as purified as he had been before he entered the cave when Kolopak had
dotted yellow pollen under his eyes and down his nose so the spirits would
recognize him as one of their children.
It was dark now, and he could hear the voices, the whispers of men and
women. He strained his ears, but could not understand what they said. What
were they talking about? He wanted to ask, but his mouth refused to work.
Sometimes, the voices would go away for a while. Each time they did,
his stomach would shake and tremble and tell him that he wasn’t ready to stay
in the cave. And each time, he would scream and try to run after them, begging
them not to leave him alone in the darkness, and somehow, the voices would
hear him and return. Someone would touch his cheek or brush his forehead,
and everything would be all right, and he would sleep for a time in peace.

Hannah sat beside the biobed, stroking the greying hair. One eye was
gone. The Doctor had removed it and then sealed the lid over the socket to
prevent further damage to the area. The swelling and bruising had disappeared,
and the broken bones had knitted. Her gaze wandered down his arms to his
hands, lumps of fresh pink flesh, the fingers fused together to allow the
damaged tissue to heal faster. His mouth twitched, for the fifth time in as
many minutes, and her fingers traced the movement as if trying to comfort
whatever dream disturbed his sleep. His head jerked away, and the left eye
blinked open, gazing first at the ceiling, then the walls, then at her.
He was alive. Alive and on Voyager. And *she* was smiling at him.
Something was wrong though; his vision wasn’t right. He blinked long and hard.
His right eyelid wouldn’t budge, maybe it was still swollen shut. His dry
tongue passed over cracked lips. “My eye?”
She shook her head. “It was too badly damaged. The Doctor removed it
and temporarily sealed the socket. He’s working on a replacement using a
sample of your DNA.”
“How long have I-?”
“You’ve been in Sickbay four days. The Doctor said it was amazing you
were still alive. You lost a lot of blood and were bleeding internally where
one of your ribs punctured a lung. Another hour down there and you probably
wouldn’t have made it.”
“Oh.” His mind weaved drunkenly, attempting to follow the path of her
words. He tried to remember all that had happened, but it drifted in and out
of his conscious mind like puffs of smoke, and maybe that was a blessing. He
knew Nicoletti was dead. Sanchez? Yes, Sanchez died, too. He alone survived.
The voices in the darkness. Dark. Pitch black. Blackened. His hands.
He lifted his head with difficulty. Flippers. He almost laughed. Pink
flippers. No fingers. Just pink flippers with tiny nails.
“The plasma did a lot of damage, not just to the skin, but to the
nerves.” She said. “The Doctor plans to separate the fingers tomorrow if all
goes well, but you’ll have to use neural enhancers to control their movements.
It’ll be temporary. With the enhancers and therapy, you should regain near
normal use in a few weeks.”
He nodded and fell back upon the pillow. Near normal use. What was
near normal use for flippers? Swimming? He looked away from her and closed
his eye.
“Tired?” she asked.
“Yes.”
“Would you like me to stay? I don’t mind, really.” Her hand brushed
his cheek.
He tried not to flinch. “No, I’ll be all right. Just tell Kes or
the Doctor.”
“All right. I’ll stop by later. Sleep well.” She tucked the sheet
about him, and he could hear the disappointment she tried to conceal in
her voice.

Chakotay stared down at the ten uncontrollable strips of pink flesh.
The Doctor had separated his fingers that morning, and Hannah had stopped by at
noon to spoon-feed him his lunch. He hadn’t eaten much. Food made him sick,
and he had thrown it all up after she left.
He could remember as a child pressing the palm of his tiny hand against
the massiveness of his grandfather’s. It was a strong hand, lean and leathery.
His grandfather had been a proud man, tall and powerful and wise, a leader in
their village, a man his people respected. When he was very young, the old man
had lifted him onto his shoulders and carried him with that long, swinging
stride into the village or to the fields or up into the hills to hunt for
herbs. To him, the man had been a giant, taller than his father and
undefeatable, and with the old man’s help, he had been a giant himself,
who could see every cloud, every tree, everything in all four directions.
Then, the disease had come, and all the sandpaintings, chants, and
medicine wheels couldn’t stop it from ravaging the old man’s body. His father
had said modern medicine could help slow the progression of symptoms, but his
grandfather had stubbornly refused to be treated by modern medicine. There was
no cure. Death came no matter what. What was the point?
So day by day, hour by hour, he had watched the giant shrink until it
became a shriveled, helpless old man, who could no longer tell stories or pick
up his grandsons or feed himself. And day by day, he had become ashamed of
this false giant, ashamed of the one who could not wipe his own chin when food
spilled out of his sagging mouth. Death had seemed to deliberately drag its
feet, taking its time as if it knew there was no threat that the feeble old man
might get well.
The wrinkled hands had become cold and grey, burning his young
flesh like dry ice, and the elder’s breath had rattled so loudly in the thin
chest that it filtered through the mud wall and entered into his dreams at
night, filling them with snakes and witches and bears. Toward the end, he had
refused to go into his grandfather’s room, even though Kolopak said the dying
man was asking for his “little warrior”. He had been five years old at the
time, but it had frightened him so much that he had made a silly, childish vow
to never become so ill and helpless.
He stared down at the metal bracelets connected by wires to the rings
around his pink fingers. A slow smile twisted his mouth; then, realizing no
one else could see the humor, he turned on his side and curled up beneath
the blanket.

His boots kicked up the dust as he walked. The coarse red powder
swirled intimately with the remaining puffs of grey smoke, and he drew the
bandana across his nose until the wind subsided. Swarms of flies, their hairy
bellies swollen with food, hummed in his ear causing him to swat at them
continuously. On either side of the road, stores and homes still smoldered,
their once gleaming adobe walls, greyed and crumbling. His boot kicked a shard
of pottery, and he crouched down to pick it up. It retained the design of corn
husks, squash vines, and a portion of a black figure containing a star field.
Resting his arms on his knees, his eyes scanned the soil. Another piece lay
nearby, one that fitted perfectly to the one in his hand. A ceremonial dish.
He shook his head and stood up, dropping the two pieces in his pocket.
This was not his village; it was Naho, but he knew it well enough.
Although, now, it was empty; the survivors had fled into the hills, leaving the
dead behind, unburied, unprepared for their journey. His own village he knew
to be in much the same condition.
He had spent many hours here, talking with the Star Fleet officers.
It was here that Captain Sulu had agreed to sponsor his application to the
Academy. But Star Fleet had not been here three days ago. *He* had not been
here. And the Cardassians like so many others had ignored the treaties and the
words they had spoken. Angry tears stung his eyes. He wiped them away and
continued down the street. He had almost reached the center of town.
The worst fighting had occurred there, bloody hand-to-hand combat,
leaving both Natives and Cardassians dead. The stench was overpowering,
seeping through his skin until he could taste the rotting flesh in his mouth.
He gagged and quickly tied the bandana over his face, leaving only his eyes
exposed. So many bodies. He didn’t want to count how many; he didn’t want
to know. Most were Natives, but there were quite a few Cardassians, too.
One of the Native bodies lay on its stomach with its arm outstretched,
a red bandana and a silver bracelet on its wrist. The bracelet had the
familiar pattern of tobacco leaves etched into the metal. “Hoa?” He turned
the body over. Grubs were hard at work on the part of the face which had been
buried in the dirt, their fat, white bodies wiggling in the hollow of the
right eye. His best friend and his sister’s husband. He shivered violently,
choking on the warm liquid surging into his throat. The body dropped from his
grasp, and he stumbled away. Somewhere behind him, he heard the rattle of
a gourd.
He sat up gasping, tiny rivlets of sweat running down his face and
chest. Sickbay, he told his thundering pulse. Sickbay. Breathe. His eye
swept the darkened room. It had been a long time since he had that dream.
Slowly, he lay back down. Sleep remained a long way off. Maybe the Doctor
could- No. No drugs. It was only a nightmare. A very old, very tired
nightmare. He was simply out-of-practice in dealing with it.

“Dammit!” Chakotay growled as the metal rod slipped from his
tenous grasp. It bounced off the bio-bed mattress, hit his open palm, and
hopscotched its way across the Sickbay floor, where Kes retrieved it from
under a cart. No matter how loud his brain shouted his hands pretended not
to hear.
“Perhaps we should return to using the smaller bar for the present.”
The Doctor said.
“No!” Chagrined by his outburst, he lowered his voice. “I can do
this. Let me try again.”
The Doctor shrugged and Kes handed the rod to the hologram.
“Perhaps a break is in order, Doctor.” The Ocampan suggested.
“Good idea.”
“No. I want to do this.”
They both stared at him. They didn’t understand.
“Commander,” Kes addressed him in her soft voice, so much like the
patient tone his mother used. “You’ve made a great deal of progress over the
past two days. You have to give your muscles and nerves time to reacquaint
themselves. There is no need to push yourself so hard. The progress you have
made so far is very encouraging. Why not take a break? You can try again
after lunch.”
She was right. He knew it. He expected too much. The fact that he
could grasp the rods at all testified to his determination. He should be
pleased.
“One more time, then I’ll stop.”
“Very well.” The hologram extended his hands palms up, holding the
bar by the ends.
Chakotay stared at the bar, his brow knitting in concentration. In his
mind, he could feel its smooth rounded shape, how heavy it was, how cool to the
touch. His hand reached out and slowly closed about it. It shook as he lifted
it out of the Doctor’s hands. The muscles were tired, aching from fatigue and
unwilling to listen to anything his mind had to say. They rippled and twitched
and finally contracted, opening his hand and releasing the rod.
It bounced off the bed again and rolled across the floor, stopping at
Kathryn’s feet. She bent down and easily picked it up. “How is the therapy
coming, Doctor?”
“Quite well. I have been pleased with the Commander’s progress. He,
however, has not been.”
“Oh?” The Captain raised an eyebrow. “And why is that, Commander?”
His jaw tightened. “Pride, I suppose, Captain. I don’t like being
spoon-fed.”
“Have you ever heard the expression `pride cometh before a fall’?”
“No, I can’t say I have.”
“It’s an old quote, European in origin, I believe. My mother often
repeated it to me.” She smiled. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Chakotay. I
need you back in the chair, but not until you’re ready. Understand?”
“Yes, Captain.” He replied between clenched teeth. Platitudes. He
wouldn’t be stopped that easily.
“Good. I stopped by to see if you would join me for lunch.”
“Lunch? In the mess?” His eye darted about the room wildly as he
searched for any excuse other than the truth. “To be honest, Captain, I’d
rather not.”
“May I inquire why?”
“Uh, because-”
“Commander, what did I just tell you about pride?” Her tone was stern,
making him feel like a child.
He swallowed hard. “You realize I can’t feed myself.”
“I know that. I’ll help you. Chakotay, there is no reason to be
embarrassed. The entire crew understands, probably better than you think they
do.”
“I’ll bet.” He growled under his breath.
“Excuse me?”
“Nothing, Captain. I apologize.” He slid off the bed. “Do you mind
if we stop by my quarters? I’d rather not go to the mess in pajamas.”
“Of course. I’ll return him to your care in one hour, Doctor.”

He tried to ignore the sudden silence which seized the mess when they
walked in. Kathryn continued the lopsided conversation admirably, chatting
about the bridge, the engines, and anything else that came to mind. He was
also fairly certain she thought he was unaware of the quick motion she made
behind her back for the crew to resume talking.
He wore his olive workout clothes. The shirt and the pants were both
pull-on. He was embarrassed enough by the thought of Kathryn feeding him;
asking her to help him dress was out of the question.
“Commander, it’s so good to see you up and about.” Neelix beamed over
the counter. “By coincidence, I happened to prepare corn salad today. I was
going to bring some by Sickbay later, but since you’re here, I guess I don’t
have to. I’ve also prepared some orei fungus; some marinated Ventorian
peppers; and roasted hearts of the Falagonian palm. All vegetarian and all
quite delicious, if I do say so myself.”
“Mmm. It does look good, Neelix. Could you fill two trays and bring
them over to our table?” She nodded toward the only vacant table for two.
“Of course, Captain. I’ll be delighted.”
“Shall we, Commander?”
He followed her over. “Don’t you think you carried it a bit too far?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I could buy the stopping by to ask me for lunch, but don’t you think
the corn salad and all-vegetarian menu is a little much? What exactly did the
Doctor tell you?”
“Commander, I assure you I knew nothing about the menu. However, since
you brought the matter up, yes, the Doctor has spoken to me. He tells me you
aren’t sleeping well and remain distant to anyone who visits, including
B’Elanna, almost as if you didn’t want any visitors.”
“I don’t.”
“May I ask why?”
He held up his hands. “Don’t you think it’s obvious? Metal and wire
make them work, not me. I don’t like being pitied, Captain. I never have.
As a child, I would almost have to collapse before I would admit I was ill.”
She shook her head. “That’s not a healthy attitude, Chakotay. Oh,
thank you, Neelix,” she said as the Talaxian placed two heaping trays
before them.
“Maybe not, but you didn’t grow up watching your grandfather die,
becoming more and more helpless each day. If you had, you might view things
differently.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. Open.” She shoved a forkful of corn salad into
his mouth.
He chewed the food slowly, wondering if he could pulverized it enough
to swallow it past the lump in his throat.
“What did your grandfather die of?”
“Sand’s disease, a neuro-muscular disorder. It’s comparatively rare
and incurable. In the end, he could only lie in bed. He couldn’t sit up or
feed himself. My mother used to have to change the bed two to three times a
day.” Tears stung his eyes. She had been so tired by the end of the day.
“On top of that, she was pregnant with my sister and had to watch out for my
little brother. I was five years old, but Kelo was only two and less
independent than I was.”
“That must have been a difficult time for all of you.” Kathryn held
up another bite of food which he reluctantly accepted. “I know when my
grandmother became ill, the burden fell heaviest on my father because he was
the oldest of her four children. I was in the Academy by then, protected
to some degree from the situation, but my sister was not so fortunate,
and she wrote to me every week complaining. I told her she was being selfish,
but looking back, I’m not sure I would have felt differently if I had been in
her shoes. I suppose for you, being a young child, it must have been worse,
maybe even frightening.”
He carefully avoided her sympathetic gaze. “Yes, it was.”
He whispered. “But that was no excuse.”
“Excuse for what?”
“Nothing. Twenty-twenty hindsight. Nothing I can change. Let’s talk
about something else.”
“Very well. Crewman Hogan has shown a great deal of competence in his
job performance. I thought. . .”
He let her talk, barely maintaining a grip on the slender thread which
strung the words together. He chewed, nodded, and agreed when pauses dictated.
Paris, Jemison, and Kim sat nearby. By Kim’s expression, he could tell the
ensign was suffering through another bout of homesickness or some crisis of
equal magnitude, and snippets of their conversation interwove with her words.
“But I want to be faithful-”
“I think Hogan would make a good transporter-”
“C’mon Harry, what happens if we never make it back?”
“Sobroul’s work has also shown improvement.”
“Like my brother used to say, there’s plenty of fish in the sea; it’s
just a matter of knowing where to drop your line.”
Too late. He dropped the thread. Their words had no meaning now.
His mind wandered freely, drifting into the past, finding its way back to Naho,
back to his grandfather, back to the cell on the planet. “I want to see my
little warrior.” Sanchez writhed on the floor before him, his body rattling
and hissing as he drew his last breaths. “Com…man…der.”
“Commander.” Kathryn’s hand shook his arm. “Chakotay, are you all
right?”
The room was silent. He stared at her, blinking rapidly, caught
between the reality of his memories and reality itself. Something grazed his
left cheek. It was her napkin. He raised a hand to his face. The left side
was damp.
She grasped his right hand. “Do you want to finish lunch or would
you prefer to return to Sickbay?”
A bitter swelling pressed against the back of his throat. “My room.”
He clenched his teeth. “I won’t make it to Sickbay.”

WARNING: Some people may find scenes in this story disturbing.

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

The Hilltop, cont.

A damp cloth bathed his face. Chakotay sat on the floor of his
bathroom leaning against the cool tiles. He had thrown up until his stomach
muscles quivered with exhaustion, leaving him too feeble to move. Kes crouched
down and ran a med scanner over him. Kathryn stood behind her.
“Will he be all right?” Janeway asked.
“Yes. I’ll get him into bed and give him a sedative. Commander, I
want you to stay right here. I’ll be back in a minute. Captain, may I speak
to you a moment?”
He almost laughed as they stepped out of the bathroom. He couldn’t
have followed them even if he wanted to; sitting up seemed to be the only
activity he was capable of at this particular moment. He strained his ears,
but heard only the faint outlines of words. Then, Kathryn reappeared at
the door.
“Chakotay, I have to get back to the bridge. Pritchett is on his way
to help Kes move you to your bed. I’ll come by later at the end of my shift.
All right?”
He nodded. His throat burned, and the weakness of his limbs spread to
his mouth. Kes brushed past the Captain and applied a fresh cloth to
his forehead.
“Everything will be just fine, Commander. We’ll get you into bed, and
then, you can take a nice, long nap.”

His eye opened. It was dark, but he knew he wasn’t in Sickbay. The
bed was too wide. His eye darted around. His room. He clutched the blanket
to his chest. So many memories. So many times he had let others down, those
who had depended on him. His father, his grandfather, Sanchez. Tears formed
a lump in his throat.
A black figure rose out of a chair and walked toward him, perching on
the edge of the bed. “How do you feel, Commander?” The soft blue light behind
the headboard lit Hannah’s face.
“Where. . .where’s Kes?” He asked hoarsely.
“I relieved her so she could go have dinner.”
He ran his tongue along his upper lip. The sour taste of vomit
lingered in his mouth.
“Can you sit up?” Hannah placed a hand on his shoulder and pulled,
shoving two pillows behind his back. “That’s better. Now, rinse your mouth
out. I though you might want to.”
She handed him a glass of green liquid. Without questioning, he
drained the contents, swishing the cool, refreshing mint over his teeth. He
spit into the glass and handed it back.
“Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it. Can I get you something else?”
“No.”
“Neelix should be coming by with some vegetable broth. I made him
promise no leola root.” She smiled, placing the glass on the nightstand.
He flexed his hands. The stiff fingers groaned in protest. They would
never hold a spoon.
“Do your hands hurt?”
“No.”
His hand cramped across the palm, causing him to grimace.
“Unh-hunh. I thought so. Turn your head.” A hypospray hissed in his
ear. “Kes left this behind. It’s a muscle relaxant. The Doctor thought you
might have overdone it a little this morning.”
“And do you plan on feeding me?” His jaw tightened as he tried to
control the contempt in his voice.
“Since I’m here, yes. Do you have a problem with that?”
“No.”
A heavy silence descended, and he watched her pale hands twist in her
lap. She was nervous. Good. He wanted her that way. If she was on edge, she
couldn’t pity him. No understanding smiles, no soft eyes. He intensified his
gaze and watched as she withered before him.
The door chimed. Hannah jumped to her feet. “That must be Neelix.”
She came back with a tray of yellowish broth. Removing the napkin, she tucked
it inside the neck of his shirt. The advantage was lost. The sympathetic
smile returned, and he hated her for it.
“Now how do you want to do this? Do you just want me to feed you, or
do you want to try feeding yourself with me helping when necessary?”
“I don’t care.”
“Look, Chakotay, I’m trying to help you. I know this isn’t easy for
you, and I-”
“You want to help? You want to help? Then, get the hell out of
my room! And take your goddamn mercy meal with you!” With a quick jerk, he
knocked the tray across her lap.
Hannah screamed as the burning liquid soaked through her uniform.
Leaping to her feet, she scrambled out of the jumpsuit. He stared at the
growing red splotches on her thighs. “There’s a dermal regenerator in
the bathroom. You might want to use it.”
Her mouth fell open. “That’s it? No `I’m sorry’?”
“No.”
Jemison snatched up her uniform and disappeared into the bathroom. He
stared at the mess on the floor, the tray, the silverware, the upside-down
bowl. Had he really? Of course, he had, in one swift, clean, efficient move.
She had not even had time to react until the liquid seeped in, burning her fair
skin. He kicked off the covers and stumbled to the bathroom.
“Hannah, open the door. Please. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have-”
The door slid open. She was back in uniform, her eyes flashing with
anger. “You’re damned right you shouldn’t have. I came here to help not to
be abused.”
“I know. It’s just that-” He hung his head. Dear god, why had he-?
Of all the crew, how could he have done this to her? Her image swayed before
him, and the floor shifted beneath his feet. He leaned against the doorjamb
and slid swiftly to the floor. Dense air pressed in about him. The dust,
the smoke, the smell of rotting flesh, they all hovered around him in thick
clouds that fresh air couldn’t penetrate. He choked on the foul atmosphere.
Voices mumbled nearby. He reached out and grabbed someone’s arm. He couldn’t
breathe. Didn’t they understand? He couldn’t breathe! Then, a breeze hissed
in his ear, stirring the clouds and bringing in clean air.

Naho again. As he walked down the street a stream of pebbles
showered down a broken wall behind him. “Hello? Anybody there?” A piece of
wood clattered to the ground. He whipped around. “Hello? Come on out. I
won’t hurt you.” No reply. “Maybe it was the wind.” The town was deserted.
“A ghost town,” he declared for all to hear.
He continued toward the center of town, as he always did, even though
he knew what he would find there, but a movement out of the corner of his eye
made him stop short of his destination. The alleyway was empty, except for the
smoldering debris of wood and clay. The hair rose on the back of his neck.
A chill wind blew down from the mountains, driving black smoke into his eyes.
He shook his head. Maybe he had been wrong. It had been only an impression,
like a shadow. He turned away, back toward his original destination.
Chakotay. The voice was small and frail. He wasn’t sure if he had
even heard it. He shook his head. He was too old to let his imagination run
so wild. Keep going. He drew the bandana across his face. The stench would
hit him at any minute. Somewhere ahead he heard a faint rattle, like that of a
baby’s toy. The closer he drew to the center of town the louder the rattle
got. He covered his ears, but the noise thundered on, hundreds of seed-filled
gourds thrashing around him until he could no longer stagger forward. He
swayed unevenly before crumpling to his knees. “Stop! Stop it!” His voice
vanished into the heavy rumbling which pummeled him from all directions.
“Stop! Please Stop! Please!”
“Commander! Commander!” Firm hands shook his shoulders. “Commander
Chakotay, wake up!”
Chakotay swallowed his breath and opening his eye, gazed around the
room. Tuvok sat beside him. It was silent. Everything. Dead silent.
“Tuvok?”
“I believe you were having a nightmare, Commander. You kept asking for
something to stop. May I inquire as to what you were referring?”
“A rattle. It was deafening. I couldn’t even hear myself think.” He
smirked and released the blanket he hugged to his chest. “I’m all right now.”
“Indeed?” An eyebrow shot up in disbelief. “Then I will return to
my seat.”
“A watch? They’ve got me on a watch?”
“It was either that or carry you back to Sickbay. Both the Captain
and Kes were of the opinion you would feel more comfortable in your quarters.
However, the Doctor recommended that you not be left alone, and given your
nightmare, I find his suggestion to bear merit.”
“I suppose Vulcans don’t have nightmares.”
Tuvok cocked his head to one side. “That would be an incorrect
assumption on your part. However, we are taught as children to deal with
them in a considerably more logical manner than human children are, but I would
be remiss if I said that my dreams following my mindmeld with Mr. Suder were
anything less than unsettling.”
Chakotay smirked. “My apologies, then. Personally, I find all this
fuss over a few nightmares unsettling.”
“The concern also stems from the two panic attacks, Commander.”
“Panic attacks? I don’t have panic attacks. I got a little dizzy
earlier, and lunch disagreed with me, but *I* do not have panic attacks.”
“That is your opinion. According to the Doctor, the two times you
collapsed you exhibited symptoms common to stress-related panic disorders.”
The Vulcan sat back in the chair and stared at him over steepled fingers.
“Perhaps if you were to talk about your nightmares.”
“They are nothing new. They relate to my first visit home after the
Cardassian attack on our colony. I’ve had them off and on for years.”
“I see. And the rattling?”
“That is new, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Now, let me go
back to sleep.” He hunkered down under the covers and turned away from the
irritatingly placid face. The ship’s first officer, and everyone thought he
was loco. He closed his eye, too exhausted to quarrel with popular opinion.
Only sleep mattered to him now.

Hannah looked lovely, possibly more beautiful than he had ever seen
her. Her dark brown hair, shining in the bright sunlight, hung freely
catching the occasional wind. She wore an ankle-length dress the colour of
summer corn and sprinkled liberally with tiny blue flowers. In her hand, she
carried a large wooden basket. Her lips parted in a wide smile.
“Chakotay, you were right. This is a perfect spot for a picnic.”
She squinted up at him, the sun hitting her full in the face.
They stood on the northern-most hill above his village, the old
roundnut tree offering them dappled shade beneath its sprawling branches.
Down below, people moved about the homes, drawing water from the well and
heading out into the fields.
She spread the blanket on the ground and began to unpack the basket.
As she took the contents out, a fly crawled across one of the plates.
Laughing, she shooed it gently away. “What’s a picnic without insects?
I expect the fly’s gone to tell the ants about it now.” Humming, she continued
to set out the food.
He knelt down, but didn’t respond. His gaze wandered down her dress
following the curve of her hips and legs until it reached her exposed ankle,
which led his imagination beneath the cotton fabric and up the length of her
body, revealing every centimeter of concealed flesh.
She settled next to him, lifting a spoonful of food toward his mouth.
He shook his head and turned his face away, angered that she thought
he was still so helpless.
Hannah sighed and lowered the utensil. “Chakotay, please. I’m only
trying to help. What is it you want from me?”
Slowly, his gaze swung back to her. Her head hung down, the mahogany
hair shielding her face. Brushing aside the dark strands, he seized them by
the roots and yanked her head back, filling her open mouth with his tongue.
The spoon fell from her hand, its contents spilling onto the dress. Her hands
pressed against his chest, but he grabbed her shoulders, preventing her
escape. His fingers bit deeply into the pale skin as he forced her onto
her back, his heavier body securing hers against the ground. She squirmed
beneath him while he kissed her, small cries choking in the back of her throat.
His right hand closed about the slim neck. “Don’t scream.”
Her grey eyes opened wide. “Don’t. Please don’t. Please.”
“Shhh.”
As his left hand slid the dress up her leg, a shriek filled the
quiet air.
Chakotay sat up shaking. Sweat poured from every pore, and his fingers
were thick with blood and pain. Her scream still echoed in his head. Why?
He would never hurt her like that. Oh god, his hands ached, the metal rings
biting savagely into the swollen flesh. Moaning, he folded his arms against
his chest and bent over his lap.
“Chakotay?” A voice called to him from the darkness. A figure
approached and sat down on the bed. “My god, you’re shaking.” Arms wrapped
around him, pulling him close.
It felt safe in her warm embrace, filled with the odors of sage and
thyme. She knew him. She would understand. She always had. “Mama, teciltik.
Nimopoloh. Tatetesowalis. Mama, it hurts.”

He sat on the sofa underneath the windows. The dream continued to
haunt him, with Hannah’s beauty and his savagery. Her actions had been kind,
her clothing modest, her words affectionate and caring, and he had turned on
her with a violence that shook him to his brittle roots. Why? Why her?
He cared for her, but–oh god!–he had wanted to hurt her. Was it just that he
wanted someone, anyone, to feel as helpless as he did? If that was the case,
he had succeeded. She had screamed; she had begged; and he had felt powerful
until he halfway woke up, his hands cramped and throbbing. The weakness which
had invaded his mind and body had truly revealed itself then, and he had fallen
into B’Elanna’s arms, calling her mother and crying that everything was
twisted, that he was lost.
He looked out the window at the streaks of light. To think about it
made him sick. Everything made him sick now: food, sleep, words. He inhaled
deeply several times to counteract the nauseating heat spreading under
his skin. He could throw up later, but not now. For the present, he had to
remain outwardly calm and collected, even if on the inside his mind splintered
like dried wood.
The door chimed. He took another deep breath and drug his gaze away
from the stars. “Come in.”
“B’Elanna said you needed to see me.”
“Yes, Captain. I do. Please sit down.” His hand swept over the
vacant portion of the couch in one cool, carefully controlled motion.
“She also tells me you do not wish anyone to visit and that you wish to
discontinue your physical therapy.” Kathryn perched on the edge of the sofa.
“That is in part correct. I have asked Kes to supply me with the
necessary equipment and exercises. I will be continuing the therapy on my
own.”
“I could order you back to Sickbay.”
He nodded. “You could, but I believe you know that would not be in
my best interest.”
“And just what would be in your best interest, Chakotay? To allow you
to wall yourself up in these quarters?”
“Yes, Captain. If you do not honor my request, I will be of no use to
you as a first officer.” He glanced briefly out the window before continuing.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I will be afterwards, either, but I have
to try. You see, my people believe that a balance exists everywhere in nature.
To be well, a man must maintain a degree of harmony between his physical,
mental, and spiritual states; however, as you have seen, this is currently not
the case with me. Back home it would only be a matter of finding a chanter or
medicine man, as you might call him, to help me re-establish this balance, but
out here, well, let’s just say there aren’t too many Native chanters available.
“I suppose the Doctor would label my condition post-traumatic stress
syndrome, and to a certain degree, he would be correct both in his diagnosis
and treatment, but it goes much deeper than that, to causes he does not
know and cannot treat.” A sad smirk wrinkled his mouth. “We all have our
inner demons, Captain. Mine have chosen to surface at this time, and I must
find a way to manage them. It is something I have to do. Alone.”
She studied him long and hard, as if doing so would pry the lid off his
carefully sealed jar and reveal to her the inflamed contents of his soul.
Purposefully, he retained a detatched expression, in time she might find out,
but not now. He had to view the contents himself first.
“Oh, Chakotay. What am I going to do with you? My training as a
commanding officer says I should order you back to Sickbay, but I can’t bring
myself to do that. To judge the best course of treatment without regard for a
person’s belief structure has long been proven ineffective, even harmful to the
patient. Let me speak with the Doctor. I will inform you later of my
decision; until then, you may remain here on your own.” She moved closer
to him. “Perhaps you and the Doctor could find a middle ground between the
two treatments?”
“Perhaps, but I doubt it. I don’t relish the idea of being sung-over
by a hologram, even a Native one. It would be like being christened or married
by a holographic priest.”
“Point taken.” Her hand reached over and covered his, squeezing it
briefly. “Don’t worry, Chakotay. We will get you through this. You will
get better.”
He tried to smile, but it felt horribly false. “I hope so, Captain.
I don’t much like the person I am now.”

DISCLAIMERS: See part 1.

The Tie That Binds

by Carly Hunter
copyright 1996

The Hilltop, cont.

With their help
In beauty I shall walk
With their help
In beauty I shall think
With their help
In beauty I shall speak
With their help
In beauty I shall live

Chakotay chanted the words softly as he placed the last stone into
position on the medicine wheel. In silence, he reviewed the preparations he
had made over the past two days. He had sweated; he had bathed; he had taken
no food; and he had expelled all that lingered in his belly. Now, he stood in
the middle of the room stripped of everything except a pair of shorts and the
enhancers, which he kept on because without them he could not complete the
necessary tasks.
He lowered himself to the floor and unwrapped the soft skin of his
medicine bundle, spreading the items out with a deliberate slowness to convey
tranquility and respect. As he grasped the river stone, his hand spasmed and
it fell to the floor with a loud thud. He cursed and immediately regretted
his words of anger. Such feelings might invalidate any compassion his prayers
elicited. He had to stay loose. Carefully, he gripped the stone again.
This time it did not slip. He clutched it to his heart and placed his right
hand on the akoonah.
A tingling began in his fingers and spread through his hand and up his
arm until his whole body vibrated to the mild current. His skin grew warm, a
surge of blood flushing his cheeks. He closed his eye and removed his hand
from the akoonah. With the river stone clasped securely to his chest, he
tilted his head upward toward the ceiling.
“Akoo-cheemoya, let the Old Ones hear my cry. I am alone. My body
is broken and ugliness afflicts my mind and spirit. I need their help. With
them, my body will mend. With them, my spirit can find peace. With them, my
mind will know only beautiful thoughts. I am alone. I am a poor one. I have
no tobacco to offer. I have no one to sing over me. I have run when I should
have walked. I have walked when I should have stood still. I have trembled in
fear when I should have shown courage. I am lost. I am alone.”
Darkness swept in, swirling around him. At first, he thought he had
returned to the cell, but a damp chill told him otherwise. Water dripped, drop
by hesitant drop, into an invisible pool. The cave.
He stretched out his hands and felt his way down to the floor. He sat
in silence listening to the water. The droplets had fallen ever since his
grandfather found the cave, and he suspected they had trickled down for
hundreds, perhaps thousands of years before that.
He shivered in the cold, hugging his knees to his chest. He understood
why this place had frightened him so as a child. It was a sacred place, filled
with the force of life and death. Fear of such a place engendered a respect of
its power, but his blind terror had been destructive, not respectful. He knew
better now. He had learned.
*Ancestors. Hear me. As a child, I ran from you. I ran from my
grandfather, from my father, from myself. I am older now. I have learned.
I ask for your forgiveness. I ask for your help. Let your son become well so
that he can honour you properly in the years to come.*

Hours later, he woke up shivering on the floor of his quarters.
They had not come, none of them, not even his father. Sighing, he drew a
blanket around his shoulders, then returned the sacred objects to their
protective pouch. Tired, but not discouraged, he moved to his bed. He would
sleep a little now. Later, he would exercise his hands, prudently though;
he didn’t want any repeats of the pain and stiffness from three days ago.

Chakotay hugged the stone to his chest and waited. A small puff of
smoke floated before his eyes, followed by a larger one, until a thick cloud,
pure as snow, surrounded him. Then, it vanished, leaving him in a darkened
doorway. Light flickered in the room beyond. Kolopak sat on the floor before
the altar fire. His grey hair was pulled back into a small ponytail, and his
eyes were closed in meditation. The fire in front of him crackled, the flames
leaping and prancing like corn dancers at the spring festival.
“Father?” He whispered, reluctant to disturb the older man’s
concentration.
“Shhh, Chakotay. Join me.”
He stepped into the circle, outlined by yellow corn pollen, and
sat down. The heat from the fire stung his bare skin, wringing the moisture
from his pores. He watched his father’s lips move, a low, unintelligible
murmur reaching his ears. Without opening his eyes, Kolopak rose and drew
breath from the four directions. As he faced the fire again, he finally opened
his eyes.
“Now, Chakotay, what was it you wanted?” His father stared at him
before quickly stepping around the altar. He crouched beside him, touching the
sealed eyelid and turning the flesh and metal hands gently between his own.
“My son, what has happened to you?”
“I was captured and tortured, Father.” He whispered, unable to look
into his father’s worried eyes.
“By the Cardassians?”
“No, by the Kazon, the same people who took my son from me. They
captured three of us. I survived; the others didn’t. They died in front of
me. There was nothing I could do.” His head drooped lower. “I was their
commanding officer, and I could not save them.” A warm tear splashed onto his
thigh.
“Your Star Fleet learning does not help you cope better with loss and
guilt, does it?” His father asked softly. “It is made of wire and metal, not
earth and water. It can feed your mind; it can strenghten your body; but it
cannot comfort your spirit, can it?”
“No, Father.”
“Which is why you have come here, why you have come home, to nourish
yourself back to health, to remember your actions and make peace with them.”
He nodded. “Yes, Father. I regret many things I have done.”
“Regret? Regret is a Star Fleet term. Regret is lodged in the mind.
If you only regret your actions, you will never get better. Only remorse is
lodged in the heart. If you feel remorse, you can understand the consequences
of your actions and learn from the experience. Remorse will allow you to
continue on your journey wiser for what happened. Regret will not let you
do this. You may journey on, but you will repeat your mistakes because you
do not feel them.”
“How do I know the difference?”
“You will know. You will feel it in here.” Kolopak thumped his chest.
“And it will bring tears to your eyes, which you cannot ignore.”
Chakotay sniffed and raised his head. “Well, to one eye, at least.”
A tight smile stretched across the older man’s face. “Very well, one
eye, then. The question is, Chakotay, do you feel remorse or only regret?”
“I don’t know. I do know that I want to apologize to you, to
grandfather, and to our ancestors. I ran away from each of you, and in doing
so, I ran from myself. You were right when you said I would never belong
wholely to Star Fleet, that I would be forever split between our world and
theirs, but I find merit in both. To tear myself from their world would be
equally wrong because it is a part of me, too.”
Kolopak nodded, patting his shoulder as he got to his feet. He walked
carefully around the edge of the circle. “So, now you must become a bridge
between the two.” He stopped and smiled. “I should tell you, no one was more
proud of you than your mother and I were when you graduated from the
Academy and received your first assignment, although at the time I could not
bring myself to admit it. I was worried about you. I thought success would
allow you to truly turn your back on your people. So I criticized and argued
with you the few times we did talk, pushing you further away, instead of
welcoming you back home. I should have had more faith in you.”
His father paused. “You see, I have felt my share of remorse, too.
You are my son, and I am proud of you. What you have done in the past cannot
be changed. The important thing is to apply the lessons from those mistakes
to your future.” Kolopak crouched beside him and ruffled his hair. “Do not
worry so, Chakotay. Enjoy your life. Grow old with happy memories, and leave
regrets to Star Fleet. Forgive yourself. We have.”

“Commander, I am relieved to see you looking so well.” The hologram
walked out of the office as Chakotay entered Sickbay.
He raised an amused eyebrow. “What did you expect, Doctor? I’ve only
been a hermit for six days. All I have to show for it is slightly looser
clothing. Kes left a message that my eye was ready.”
“Yes, I have it in stasis. The vision may not be as accurate as you’re
used to, but we should be able to correct it to a close approximation.”
“Then let’s get to it.” He hopped up on a biobed and grinned. “I’ve
been a one-eyed jack long enough.”
The hologram nodded. “Very well. Before we begin, how are
your hands?”
Chakotay extended them, curling and flexing the fingers. “Their
strength and accuracy are improving. I’ve begun using the no. 10 rod,
alternating it with the dexterity tests.”
“Fine, fine.” The Doctor ran the scanner across the palm and fingers.
“According to these results, you may begin removing the enhancers for short
periods of the day. I advise you start out with only ten to fifteen minute
intervals three times a day. If they become tired or painful, replace the
enhancers and notify me. After three days, I want to see you again and if all
is well, we will increase the time. However, I should warn you that when you
remove them, you will experience a decrease in performance until your hands
become used to doing things on their own.”
“I expected as much, but I still won’t be sorry to take them off.”
“So I gathered.” The hologram walked into the laboratory, returning
almost immediately with a tray. On it, surrounded by a clear fluid, lay his
eye.
Chakotay frowned, his mouth twitching in apprehension. He tried not to
look too closely at it, but it kept drawing his gaze back. In a few hours, it
would be a part of him, working in concert with his other eye. He didn’t know
whether to be amazed or revolted. It seemed so lifeless and sterile sitting
there, and he wondered for a moment if he should allow it to be implanted, but
it was a part of him. His DNA had suffused it with the potential for life; it
was up to him to carry it the rest of the way.
“Now, remember, ” The Doctor was saying. “You will not have perfect
vision immediately. It may take a few more operations to adjust-”
“I understand, Doctor. Let’s begin.”
The hologram stared at him for a moment, perhaps not fully
understanding his desire to be whole again. “Very well. If you will go change
and then lie down on the surgical biobed, I’ll summon Kes. The whole procedure
should take about five hours.”

Chakotay leapt into the air and checked the ball’s momentum with his
chest. The orb bounced off, hovering about two meters over the hardwood floor.
With a high kick, he sent it spinning to Mancuso, who bumped it toward the
metal goal ring.
He liked team hoverball. It seemed at once to be a combination of
soccer and the ancient Meso-American game of ringball played by his ancestors,
even though the game had not originated on Earth. Its roots actually went back
to the planet Keltris. Some Keltrans still played the game in its earlier
form, using long, flat wooden bats strapped to each arm and making them look
like ungainly birds. When played that way, jumping was not allowed, and the
ball was smaller and harder, reaching speeds up to 75kph. You didn’t want to
get hit by a grand slam, but it was inevitable you did, and he had seen some
of the younger veterans of the game, who came to the Academy. They bore their
scars proudly, like warriors, and they scorned the soft version of the game
he played. Although, the truth was that they couldn’t play the Earth version
worth beans. They didn’t know how to leap or to block or to score. So to
cover their failure, they stuck their short, pug noses in the air and gazed
down at the other players from the highest seats in the gym.
“Over here, Mick. I’m wide open.” Wallace bellowed.
Mancuso looked around desperate to find a yellow jersey in the wave of
red speeding toward him. Chakotay leapt to his feet. Mick always panicked in
the crunch, but if he could reach him before the others, and if he could butt
the ball just right…BAM! The ball ricocheted off the wall exactly where he
aimed. It flew over the approaching players heading straight for Wallace.
His roommate backed up slightly allowing the ball to slow its momentum, then
jumped up bouncing the ball off his head and through the goal in one glorious
motion.
The small crowd was on its feet, stomping and hollering. They won!
His team of seniors had beaten the undefeated young upstarts from the sophomore
dorm. The team surged around Wallace, lifting him onto their shoulders,
the hero’s ruddy face shining under the gymnasium’s bright lights.
Chakotay swung his arm around Mancuso. Mick was a good player, but he
worried too much, kicking himself for weeks for mistakes he had made.
“C’mon, Mick. Let’s go join the celebration. We deserve it.”
His teammate shook his head. “You go on. I’ve got something else
to do.”
“Like what? Blaming yourself for what could have happened? Mick,
what’s done is done, and we’ve won. That’s what matters.”
“But we could’ve lost, if you hadn’t acted, and it would have been
my fault.”
“But we didn’t lose. We won. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Relax.
Hell, you don’t freeze up nearly as much as you used to, and you’re the best
leaper on the team.” He grinned. “C’mon, Mick. We all deserve this.”
Mancuso nodded and together they followed the crowd toward the locker
room. As they neared the door, Chakotay cast one last glance over his shoulder
at the defeated team. Most hung their heads, but one kid with dark brown hair
didn’t. He stared at Chakotay, a smile slowly spreading across the fair face.
“Good game, Chief.”
Mick snickered. “Guess he doesn’t know how much you hate that name.”
Chakotay smirked. “The name is Chakotay, paleface, and same to you.”
“Commander, can you hear me? The operation was a complete success.”
Kes’s soft voice rose over the approaching roar of the locker room.
Gradually the lights faded, replaced by a darkness, so peaceful and quiet he
was reluctant to leave it behind.
“Commander?” Kes called to him again.
A tiny grin crinkled the side of his mouth. “Be right there.”

Chakotay pushed the chime to Hannah’s quarters and waited, nervously
reviewing the carefully-worded apology he had composed over dinner. A few
seconds passed, and he pressed the chime again. He knew she was in there.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” The doors slid apart. Hannah wore a navy
satin robe over pajamas of the same colour. They stared at each other, his
eyes roaming over her in thinly disguised appreciation until she found her
voice. “Commander? What can I do for you?”
“I was hoping I could talk to you for a few minutes, that is, if I
promised not to throw any soup.”
A tiny smile appeared on her face as she stepped aside. “Of course.
Come in. How is your eye doing?”
“Good. The Doctor plans to make the final adjustment tomorrow morning,
and I hope to resume duty the following day. May I?” He gestured toward
the sofa.
“Yes, please. Let me move that.” She bent over to pick up the book
she had been reading. “What was it you wanted to talk about?”
“Nothing much really.” He sat down, his eyes lighting upon a silver
picture frame on the coffee table. He leaned forward to pick it up. Beneath
the protective glass was a picture he had never seen before of a man and woman,
a brother and sister. The man was clean-shaven and handsome in an almost too
confident way, but he had his arm protectively wrapped around Hannah’s
shoulders, his dark grey eyes smiling with pride, not cockiness. “Is this
your brother?”
Hannah sat down beside him, her thigh just grazing his, the warmth and
substance of her muscle passing through the smooth fabric she wore. “Mmm-hmm.
The day I graduated from the Academy. I’m always telling Tom how much he
reminds me of Chandler, so he asked me to dig out a photograph. It was in the
bottom of one of my drawers. I planned on putting it away as soon as Tom had
seen it, but now that it’s out, I think I’m going to keep it out.” She took
the frame from his hand and moistened the tip of her finger on her tongue
before rubbing it across a smudge on the glass.
“He looks familiar. Did he play hoverball at the Academy?”
“All the time. He loved the game. His team was undefeated his junior
and senior year.”
Chakotay watched her stare at the picture. “He loved you. In the
photo, I mean. You can see the pride in his eyes.”
“Yes, I guess you can. You know, I didn’t expect him to be there that
day. He was off on some assignment, but somehow he got back in time literally
to see me accept the diploma.” She smiled, but a sadness clung about her eyes.
“I thought the world of him. I thought he knew everything, well, not
everything, but you know what I mean. It’s taken me this long to realize
he didn’t.”
Chakotay chuckled lightly. “That’s part of growing old. It’s taken me
this long to realize my father knew a lot more than I thought he did.”
He looked at the photograph in her lap. “I can see why you say Paris reminds
you of Chandler. I doubt he and I would have gotten along any better than
Paris and I do.”
She frowned. “Tom’s not a bad guy, Commander. I know he’s made some
mistakes, but he’s done everything he can to repay his debt to society. You
know, he was part of the team that found you on the planet.”
“I know. I read the report. I guess if he keeps saving my life, I may
have to start liking him.”
A wry grin crinkled the left side of Hannah’s mouth. “Would that be
so bad? I could say the same thing about you.”
His jaw tightened. “I suppose I deserve that.”
“Do you?”
“Yes, I think I do.” He cleared his throat. “Look, Hannah, I’ve acted
very jealously over these past few months. I want you to know that no matter
what I may think of Paris personally, if he makes you happy, that is what’s
important. And as far as the soup goes,” His gazed drifted to the floor, and
he redirected it toward her shocked expression. “I’m sorry. I was feeling
angry and guilty over many things, mostly my own actions. I had no right to
take it out on you. You had done nothing to deserve it, and I’m very relieved
you weren’t more seriously burned.”
“Commander, I-”
He shook his head, giving a half-hearted chuckle. “Don’t interrupt me,
now; this is hard enough as it is. I hope you can accept my apology, and I
also hope that with time we’ll be able to move past our present discomfort and
become friends again. No matter what has happened or will happen in the
future, I will always think of you in that way.”
She smiled and held out her hand, the flesh, metal, and wire of his
closing tightly around it. “I will, too.”
For the first time in months, the grey eyes shone up at him with
undisguised affection. A pleasant warmth rose up out of his belly and washed
over his body. He quickly released her hand and rose to his feet. “I should
be going. I believe the Doctor would prefer I was alert, rather than tired
tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, I think he likes playing the grumpy one in the Doctor-patient
relationship.” She giggled and then, lowered her head, but not before he saw
a pinkish tint spread across her cheeks.
“Well, good night, Lieutenant.” He hurried for the door, exiting
with such speed, he barely heard her reply over the doors shushing closed.
“Good night, Chakotay.”

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