Walking Across Egypt

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Organization: Penn State University
Date: Fri, 1 Nov 1996 09:16:52 EST
From: Macedon
Message-ID: <96306.091652JRZ3@psuvm.psu.edu>
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: REPOST: “Walking Across Egypt,” (VOY) (C) – Talking Stick/Circle

Note: For clarity–“Chaim” does not rhyme with “chain.” The
initial consonant is one of those rough Hebrew gutturals, rather
like the “ch” in “loch”: Khaim. Cherel, however, does rhyme with
Sheryl. And the title is a respectful nod to Clyde Edgerton,
whose writing I much admire.

DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount studios, the
following a nonprofit work of fanfiction. No resemblance to any
persons, living or dead, is intended.

WALKING ACROSS EGYPT
Little Otter, c1996
(aka “Macedon”)

“Like Moses we are walking into the promised land.
We’re walking across Egypt, our hearts together band….

I’m walking (walking), walking (walking), walking across Egypt.
Walking across Egypt, my heart shall see the way.
(My stride) My stride shall not be broken,
There will be no delay….”

Clyde Edgerton, words and music, c1987
Found in appendix, WALKING ACROSS EGYPT

The sphinx loomed slow, her size made deceptive by distance.
She grew as we moved toward her. A single monument, mum with her
mystery, she perched beside a tiny oasis. The setting sun had
painted her red.
She was not really a sphinx. She was an alien monument with
a humanoid head and a body that struck as subtly lion-ish. But
Chaim Anielewicz had dubbed her “the Sphinx” and that had stuck,
just as the name “Egypt” had stuck for the planet itself. Chaim
owned that one, too. He wore a perverse sense of humor like his
yarmulke.
“Holy prophets! Can we stop for a minute?”
I turned to look. Jinn Cherel–Chaim’s orthodox Bajoran
wife–had been lagging almost since we had started. Now, she
stuttered to a halt and leaned over to rest her hands on her
knees. Her face, or what was visible under desert-issue, was
streaked by sweat and white dust, creating a zebra effect. Tuvok
looked the same.
“I’m just not cut out for the desert,” she said. Chaim had
walked back to stand beside her, offer her his water-flask.
Tuvok shot me a look that said, *You* picked her. Crossing
his arms, he said, “Halting under the full heat of the sun is not
a logical choice, Ensign Jinn. I suggest we continue moving back
to camp–and keep your head-covering on.” Cherel had removed it.
“I’m *hot*,” she said.
“You will be much hotter with it off–not to mention the
fact you will become quickly dehydrated.”
“Not all of us are desert-rats,” Chaim muttered only half
under his breath.
“Anielewicz!” I snapped. I didn’t even have to say the
rest.
He signed. “Yes, sir.” And to Tuvok, “Sorry, sir.”
Tuvok glanced over at me, one eyebrow up. Then without a
word, he turned to continue the march. Cherel sighed loudly, but
went forward with the rest. I dropped back beside she and Chaim.
“Chin up, Jinn. We’re almost there.”
“I still don’t see why Voyager can’t just *beam* us back and
forth. All this trekking around in the heat is killing me. I
have blisters the size of peyla shells on my feet.”
“Voyager isn’t beaming us because we don’t have the energy
to waste.” It wasn’t necessary to tell her that; she knew
already. I said it as much for my own comfort as hers. I was no
more fond of sand and grime and blistering heat than she was.
“There’s an oasis full of water. You can take a swim when
we get back,” I offered.
“If the Prim will let us.”
That had come from Jorland, who also had dropped back to
walk with us, leaving Tuvok out ahead alone. I glared at
Jorland. “I don’t give a damn what you think of Tuvok
personally, but racist slurs are as unacceptable now as they were
on my ship. Call a Vulcan a ‘Prim’ again in my hearing and I’ll
set your butt to scrubbing the decks, mister.”
The rest of our walk passed in uncomfortable silence. Back
at camp, we each went off alone to take care of the call of
nature or wash up a little before dinner. Chaim and Cherel may
have gone off to do something else. I supposed I could forgive
them. The oasis had a certain romantic charm with its wild
foliage and flowers as big as a man’s hand. Too bad the captain
couldn’t see it.
Shit! What had led to *that* connection? It was a question
I didn’t especially want to pursue. I drowned it under a double-
handful of water, scrubbed sand out of my hair. Military buzz
had its advantages.
A rustle and footstep. “Commander?”
I stood, turned. Tuvok had materialized out of the leaves
behind me. “What is it, Mr. Tuvok?”
“I wished…to thank you, for what you said out on the
sand.”
“Calling down Anielewicz? He was out of line and knew it,
but he’s a good man…just a little protective of Cherel.”
“No–I was referring to what you said to Ensign Jorland.”
“You heard that?”
He did not reply, simply tapped one ear, his point made.
Bad pun, Chakotay, I thought.
I began to strip off the desert clothes. I wanted in the
water. Dropping my voice for Vulcan ears, I said, “I thought
part of the captain’s goal in sending him down here with us was
to present a united front in bold print right under Jorland’s
nose.”
Tuvok tipped his head. “And that was your only motivation?”
“No.”
“I didn’t think so.”
I had reached my skivvies. Tuvok cleared his throat, raised
an eyebrow. “I will…leave you to your bath.” And he walked
away through the foliage. I grinned after, then waded into the
water. It felt chill next to the air.
Jorland. I didn’t like the captain’s decision to include
Jorland on this away-mission. It was, as Tuvok would say,
“logical.” We did need to present a united front: a phalanx line
of locked shields with no break for an enemy to exploit. Ever
since Tom Paris’ little revelation in Janeway’s ready-room during
the ‘Great Maquis Strike’, as it had been dubbed, Janeway had
been pressing the issue of unity in the command team. It was not
that I disagreed, or particularly minded having the captain at my
elbow during off-time as much as on, but that also meant I got
Tuvok in the bargain–and Jorland on my away-team.
Well, Tuvok’s away-team. This one was his baby. “Logical”
there, too. Desert-bred Vulcan to lead a desert mission. It was
also, I suspected, an apology from Janeway. She had taken my
side. Finally, after a limbo of two years, she had taken my side
when Tuvok had snapped at my heels and my authority one time too
many. I figured I could grant him his away-mission. Besides, he
was still up to his pointed Vulcan ears in maquis. I grinned.
Janeway’s apology had an edge it seemed. Or maybe she was trying
to teach us both a lesson.
“Chakotay, Tuvok–you’re on this one together, Tuvok in
charge this time, but Chakotay, assemble a crew from this
selection.” And she had handed me a PADD on which every name was
maquis. “Tuvok, you assemble equipment and get Torres’ shopping
list. Dismissed, gentlemen.” I and Tuvok had looked at each
other like two toms measuring whether we had space enough to pass
without being forced into a confrontation. Then we had turned
for the door. But before we could reach it, Janeway had called,
“Oh–one last thing. Chakotay, be sure Jorland is included on
this team. And show him that united front.” She had smiled
sweetly.
Damn clever captains.

II.

“B’Elanna should be here soon with dinner.”
“Yeah, but is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”
“As long as B’Elanna’s not cooking–”
“But Neelix is.”
There was laughter. I stepped clear of the path from the
oasis, out into the clearing we had cut three days ago for our
camp. Starfleet standard-issue pup tents in disgusting military
green were lined up neatly off to the side of the firepit. Chaim
had started the fire, stood feeding it reeds from the oasis.
They smoked greenly. What was it about fires that fascinated
even supposedly advanced cultures? Too bad we had no wood, but
wood was a bit hard to come by, in the desert. We made do with a
kit igniter; it burned blue on natural gas. B’Elanna brought
supplies of that too, each evening she came to deliver dinner and
collect the day’s mining work.
As if thinking about her had called her, a spirit conjured
by wishing, she materialized in a shower of sparkles, over by the
tents. Her hands were full of carry-out boxes, other supplies in
packs strewn around her feet.
“The pizza lady is here, darling–do we have a tip?”
B’Elanna shifted boxes to shoot Chaim a bird. “My New York
boy with his weird food,” Cherel muttered, rising to help
B’Elanna. She peered into one of the boxes. “Oh, barf. I wish
it was pizza.”
“Whatever it is, it’s got to be better than field rations.”
I sat down on one of the rocks we had placed around the firepit.
Cherel held up a bit of twisted breadish stuff that was
striped pink and blue. “Are you sure?”
We all laughed. B’Elanna brought over the boxes and set
them on another rock while Cherel and Jorland transferred our
day’s mining work from our collector to B’Elanna’s. Fishing in
the pocket of her uniform, B’Elanna pulled out a small box. She
tossed it to Chaim. “You wish is my command, Lord Anielewicz.
Is that the one you wanted?”
“Hey, hey!” He slid out his bluesharp, held it up.
Firelight flashed off metal. “Thank you, Queen Be! Boredom hath
ended.”
“Boredom!” I looked up. “You’ve been the one howling for
stories every night, Anielewicz. If I was ‘boring’ I wish you’d
have said something a little earlier. Might have saved my
throat.”
Chaim grinned. “Sorry, cap…commander.”
The slip was lost on none of us. We all pretended to ignore
it. Two years but some of my old crew still slipped
occasionally. At least they hadn’t done it yet within the
captain’s hearing. But in light of recent trouble, and with
Jorland right there, I wished Chaim had watched his mouth a
little better.
Now, Jorland came over to sit down on the rock to my right.
“It is a little like old times,” he said. “Chaim with his harp;
all of us here. Except for Queen Be in gold and black, I could
almost believe we were back on Crazy Horse.” He tossed a little
stone at the fire. It clanged against the steel side of the kit
igniter.
B’Elanna started. “The gas,” she said, moving to collect
it. A moment of awkwardness. Then Cherel rose to sift through
the packs B’Elanna had brought, came back with her Bajoran b’eta
in its oblong travel case. She drew it out, checked the tuning.
Eleven strings jangled quiet in the air. She had it on guitar
tunings, I noticed, instead of Bajoran: a twelve-string minus
doubled low E. Chaim blew soft into his harp. It sighed out
memories of smokey rooms and sour beer shared around a pool
table. Cherel began re-tuning to Chaim’s pitch. Twang, twang.
It could drive a sane man crazy.
Getting up, Chaim walked over to the dinners. The one on
top was marked with a Star of David, Neelix’s way of noting which
was kosher. Another had a Vulcan IDIC, for Tuvok. I had
overheard him complain once to the captain, “All these special
diets!” I didn’t envy him the job, even if I was usually less
than thrilled with what he turned out.
Finishing up, Cherel set aside the b’eta while Chaim passed
out dinner. We settled in to eat, B’Elanna sticking around for
the company but turning down offers of pink and blue bread.
“I’ve seen enough of that to last a lifetime, thanks.” Then she
held up the one unopened dinner. “Where’s Tuvok?”
“Walking the perimeter,” I said.
“Doesn’t like our company, eh?” Jorland spit a seed into
the sand. “Too many maquis for Mr. Starfleet Spy.”
Clever, Jorland. Even if the others were not among those
dissatisfied, and generally tried to forget Tuvok’s deception,
bringing it up still reminded them of a bitterness buried.
“Tuvok is just doing his job, Jorland. He’s responsible for this
mission. If it was me, I’d be out walking and he’d be eating his
dinner hot.”
“Yeah? Well I think it should have been you. Just one more
example of the captain passing over you for him. But you’re XO;
you should be in command.”
Silence. Jorland had voiced what all of us there around the
fire had thought at one time or another–even me. If I hadn’t
thought it in relation to this particular mission, I had thought
it often enough in relation to others. And Chaim and Cherel, and
B’Elanna–they numbered among the heart of my old crew, loyal as
dogs. Even if they didn’t want to hold a grudge, it was in their
nature. Jorland knew exactly which buttons to push, damn him. I
had to address it.
“Egypt is a desert, Erik.” I used his first name to add
impact to what I said, personalize it. “Tuvok is a Vulcan. He’s
forgotten more about the desert than I ever knew. It would have
been foolish to put me in charge with Tuvok available.”
“What about Arizona?” That from B’Elanna. Not a good sign.
Getting the others to argue his points was what Jorland was
after. “You’ve spent time in Arizona–you told me.”
“Arizona was summer vacations to visit relatives, or later,
my mother. I’m content to have Tuvok in charge this time around,
lieutenant.”
“This time,” Jorland said. “What about next time? Or the
time after that? Some of us just want to see you get your due–
captain.”
“Enough, Jorland. That was out of line.”
“It’s just us here, Chakotay.” ‘Us’ meaning maquis. He
nodded at Chaim. “Some of us still think of *you* as our
captain.”
I stood up, walked off a few steps. “I’m not the captain.
Get used to it.”
*Damn* Jorland. The little snake knew his business. His
last remark had pierced even me, knowing what I knew of his real
intentions. But God, I missed command. Much as I hated to admit
that, it was true. And much as I liked and genuinely admired
Janeway, she was not so much better than me to make me feel my
natural place was in the second seat. Positions could have been
reversed. What might it have been like, to captain Voyager?
Your ambitions are speaking, Chakotay. I wasn’t captain and
God forbid that I should be. It would mean Janeway was dead. That
thought left me feeling a bit queasy in the gut.
Admit it, I told myself. You’ve let her get under your
skin. Truth was, she had gotten under my skin a long time ago.
I needed to take a walk in the air, clear my head, but I
didn’t dare leave Jorland alone among the rest. That would be
too golden an opportunity. As it was, I had set myself to work
with him during the day, just to keep him away from Chaim and
Cherel. And if I was putting up with him all damn day, I wasn’t
going to walk off and leave him the field now. A little heat
came with the job.
Behind me, I could hear Chaim and Cherel start to play,
B’Elanna beating awkward time on an empty collector case:

Mustang Sally, guess you better
slow that mustang down.
Mustang Sally, now baby–guess you better
slow that mustang down.
You been running all over town, oooo,
I guess you gotta put your flat feet
on the ground.

And Chaim went off wailing on his harp. Man, that boy could
play. The first time I’d heard him, I’d have sworn I was
listening to sampled harmonica played on keyboards if I hadn’t
been watching him with my own two eyes. It was unnatural, what
he could do on the harp.

All you wanna do is ride around, Sally.
All you wanna do is ride around, Sally.

“Ride Sally, ride.” Cherel and B’Elanna trying valiantly to
stay in tune with one another.
I heard the rapid crunch of feet in sand, turned. Tuvok
appeared like flying Pauguk out of the dark, robes swirling
around him. “Put away those instruments *now*.” He was as close
to agitated as he ever got.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Have you no concept of how well that harmonica travels in
night air over the desert?” he snapped. Then, hearing himself,
he took a breath and added more calmly, “You may play the
stringed instrument, as long as it is played softly. But put
away the harmonica–and the…drum.” He eyed the plastic box in
B’Elanna’s lap. “And next time, ask permission before sending
for such items.”
Chaim was looking irritated. “Well if you don’t like my
playing, you can just say so, boss.”
Up went the eyebrow. “It is not a matter of liking or
disliking, ensign. It is a matter of common sense–unless your
intention was to send out an invitation to the locals.”
“Can’t they see the fire?” Cherel asked. “I’d think that a
bigger invitation than Chaim’s harp.”
Tuvok shook his head. “I placed the fire such that, on the
flat of the plain, it is not easily visible.” He hesitated, then
added, “My order truly is no comment on your musical abilities,
Mr. Anielewicz. Your playing is…quite proficient.”
Chaim nodded. His temper was hot, but he was a reasonable
man. I was more concerned with Jorland, who had leaned back
against one of the stones, eyes narrow. Assessing. More grist
for his mill. I had better do something.
“Tuvok, you play don’t you?” I knew damn well he played.
He looked at me. “Yes.”
I held out a hand for Cherel’s b’eta. She passed it over
and I offered it to Tuvok. “Join us.”
He eyed the instrument, me, then with the barest flick of
eyes took in Jorland. Almost reluctantly, he accepted the
instrument. Sitting down, he bent over it to listen to pitches,
run fingers over the fretless board. “You must appreciate that I
have never played a b’eta before.” Then he began to pick,
stumbling a little, but it was clear he had natural talent–maybe
more than Cherel. I had not really expected that. He had never
joined the crew on Crazy Horse when they had sat down to make
music. Of course, he had not had an instrument of his own there.
Yet I wondered if he might have avoided us because we offended
his ears. I grinned at the thought. Gerron and Magda, singing
together, would offend anybody. Chaim put up with them because
he could drown them with the harp.
What Tuvok played fit the ambiance rather better than blues.
Leaning back, I let my imagination conjure circles of nomad
Vulcans, dancing in and out among their fires, robes flying in
the hot air beneath a sky full of stars. Rapt, the others
listened to him–even Jorland. I shivered. It was one of those
moments when one sees real, sees what is, not what seems to be.
The world of the spirits touches ours, merges. This, I realized,
was what we could have on Voyager. I thought again of Janeway’s
request that I create ceremonies for the crew, but ceremonies
were not like soup from Neelix’s kitchen: throw in this and that
and hope it turns out edible. Sacred time, sacred space…these
things are given to us, not produced on order. What is manitto–
holy–in the world, it shows itself only when watched sideways.
Therefore my people have learned to look at the world sideways.
What I was seeing here–this was manitto, mediwiwin. A
moment of communion. Geezhigo-Quae, the Sky Woman, spread black
arms above us like a blanket.
But sacred time–real time–is not something most of us are
permitted to visit more than occasionally, and all magic ends.
Tuvok finished the piece, handed Cherel back her b’eta, and rose
to return to guard duty, taking his dinner with him. B’Elanna
beamed back to the ship. The rest of us turned in. I was
awakened what seemed only minutes later, but the sky was light
with dawn. Tuvok was shaking my ankle through the tent flap.
“Wake up, Commander. Hurry.”
I crawled out, followed Tuvok to the western edge of the
little oasis. He pointed in the direction of the mountains–two
hours’ walk–where we had been doing our mining. There was a
cloud of dust on the horizon.
“Company,” was all Tuvok said.
I wondered if they had seen us mining, or if Chaim’s harp
had ‘invited’ them after all. “Shit.”

III.

I have never crashed a camp so fast in my life, even in the
maquis. The locals arrived at a frightening pace, riding great
shaggy beasts as ugly as camels. I wondered if these spit, too.
Just five of us were not enough to hold them off. Tuvok had
considered beaming us back to Voyager, but decided against it.
“We need not assume the locals are hostile,” he said. Standard
Starfleet approach. But even as he said it, I could see the
doubt in his eyes, weighing what he had been trained to believe
against his own suspicious nature and the history of his world.
“We have been using someone else’s water,” he said. “On Vulcan,
that would once have been a killing offense.” Nevertheless, he
simply informed the captain we were about to have guests, had us
pack the camp, and then we waited: Tuvok, Chaim, and me. Jorland
and Cherel were sent into the bushes–our backup, just in case.
The locals arrived battle-ready, their steel weapons drawn,
flanking smartly to encircle the oasis. Seeing the three of us
sitting patient and empty-handed, the leader raised an arm and
the rest waited while he approached. “Let me speak,” Tuvok said.
I just nodded. Tuvok stepped forward. Very deliberately and
slow, he unwound the veil from his face. So did the other. Skin
black as Tuvok’s and brows slanting up across a crenelated brow.
Well, we had seen enough humanoids across the quadrant. And
Kazon sure as hell looked like Rastafarian Klingons. Was it such
a surprise to find vulcanoids on a desert world? But even Tuvok
seemed a bit amazed. Slowly, he removed his entire headdress to
show the ears. “Keep yours on,” he said to us in an undertone.
The leader followed Tuvok’s example.
Yep. Vulcanoid. The man could have passed on Romulus.
“We are strangers in your land,” Tuvok said. “We ask
hospitality.”
The leader glanced up at the sphinx looming over us. “You
have appeared in Her place, using Her water.”
“If we have offended, we beg forgiveness. But we are, as I
said, strangers here. We meant no offense. We beg your
forgiveness if we have encroached on holy ground.”
The leader considered this, put his headcovering back on.
So did Tuvok. Some of the others had dismounted their…
whatevers…to come closer and eye Chaim and me. One pushed back
a bit of my headcloth to study the tattoo. I pulled away.
“Commander,” Tuvok warned.
“A painted man,” the bedouin in front of me said.
“He…is a holy man,” Tuvok replied. “He is marked as a
holy man.”
I just stared at Tuvok. “Yeah, right,” I muttered.
“Commander–” Tuvok began.
“‘Commander’,” the leader interrupted. “This is the holy
man’s name?”
I stepped forward. “My name is Chakotay. Commander is my
title.”
The leader dismounted and fell on his face. The others all
followed suit. I just gaped. “Her Ladyship must have called you
to Her precinct,” the leader said. “We will obey Her command.
You are welcome in this place.”
I turned to Tuvok. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
“The Commander accepts your piety,” he said. “Will you give
us your name, so that we shall know how to call you and your
people? I am Tuvok. This is…Chaim.” I guess he figured a
Polish surname a bit much for them.
“Sa`ad they call me.” The leader remained on his face.
“Ummm–you can rise,” I said. Being bowed to made me damn
fidgety. I could just imagine what B’Elanna would say, or Paris.
Or Janeway. Wasn’t there a Starfleet regulation about not
impersonating gods and priests?
The leader got up. The others rose as well.
At that very minute, there was a shout behind us. We all
spun. One of the other bedouin emerged from the bushes, holding
Cherel, sword at her throat. Chaim made a choked sound. The
leader spun on Tuvok, on me. “A woman! You have fouled Her site
by bringing a woman!”
“Great,” I muttered. But before anyone could try to
explain, Jorland had exploded from the bushes as well, firing at
random. One of his blasts stunned the leader. “Goddamn!” I
shouted. “Jorland–put away that weapon!”
It was too late. The bedouin had erupted into motion. “A
demon!” they were shouting. “A Jinn!”
A Jinn? I guess the translators were just pulling things
out of the air from comparable mythology. I dove for my pack.
Tuvok was rolling in the sand, fighting for a sword, then he had
it and for a moment, I was faced with a vision from the Vulcan
past. I dug in my pack for my phaser but never got it free.
Someone hit the back of my head and everything went black.

***

I woke to find my hands and feet tied. Groggy, I shook my
head, decided that had been a bad idea when the world spun.
“Commander?” said a voice beside me. Chaim.
“Anielewicz? Where the hell are we?”
“In a tent, I think. It’s just the two of us.”
“What happened, back at the oasis? The last thing I
remember is trying to get my phaser. Someone drummed me good.”
“They got us all. They used Cherel and you to make Tuvok
drop his sword. They already had me. Jorland ran off into the
bushes, but they went after him. I don’t know where he is now.”
“What did they mean by calling Jorland a Jinn?”
“I don’t know, commander.” He hesitated. “Did you notice?
They’ve divided us up based on color. You and I, we’re dark-
haired and dark-eyed, so they put us together.”
“And Tuvok and Cherel–”
“Are out by the fire, but they aren’t sure what to make of
her ears. And nose. I think they think it’s a deliberate
mutilation.” He sounded half-amused, half-frightened.
Understandably. She was his wife.
“And Jorland?”
“Like I said, I don’t know what happened to him. But he’s
blond. He’s the only one of us who’s blond and fair.”
I didn’t answer, tried sitting up and found I could do that
without my head spinning. The tent was dim but I could make out
Chaim across from me, tied similarly. I looked down at my bonds.
So much for my status as inviolable holy man. I still couldn’t
believe Tuvok had said that.
Chaim was watching me; I could feel his eyes, waiting for me
to decide what to do, pull a rabbit out of a hat. This was not a
good situation, with all of us divided up this way: two in one
place, two–maybe–in another, and who knew what about the fifth.
“We’ll get out of here, Chaim,” I said. “All of us.” He nodded.
It was the usual obligatory assurance, but they always seemed to
believe it. That was the power of command. They believed you,
and you couldn’t let them down.
Think, Chakotay.
But before I could mull it over, the flap opened. Sudden
sunlight was blinding; I held up tied hands to ward it off.
After a moment, I could see it was the leader–Sa`ad. He was
wearing one of our communicator pins. “Holy man who commands
demons,” he said, and smiled. Damn vulcanoids really did look
satanic when they were grinning. “Sorcerer-Commander. You and
the one called Chaim will come with me.”
Well, what did we have to lose?
Wait, Chakotay, don’t answer that.
Rising gingerly, we stumbled out into sunlight, blinked.
The sight that greeted us took my breath. Behind me, Chaim
grunted.
Jorland, stark naked under the merciless sun, spread-eagled
upside-down. His face showed the marks of his capture and his
white skin was mottled blue with bruises. “Behold your pet
demon,” Sa`ad said. “At nightfall, we will offer him to Her
Ladyship–a holocaust.”
I jerked my head around to stare at the leader. “Do you
normally practice human sacrifice?” I snapped.
Sa`ad raised an eyebrow, looking for a moment uncannily like
Tuvok. “Human? That”–he nodded at Jorland–“isn’t human. He
bleeds the color of fire–a Jinn, just as we thought.” A Jinn, a
fire elemental. The translator had got it right.
But niceties of translation aside, Chaim, Cherel and I would
have to be very careful not to let ourselves be cut.
I glanced around for the firepit where Chaim had said they
held Tuvok and Cherel. There they were: Tuvok chained by the
leg, Cherel beside him. Her Starfleet desert-issue had been
replaced by dress these people no doubt thought more “proper” for
a woman–veils and skirts full enough to trammel a mule. If we
had to make a break for it, how the hell would she run in that?
And barefoot in the bargain.
Across the distance, I caught Tuvok’s eye. He nodded,
faintly. I shot a glance at Jorland, he just nodded again. They
must have told him, too.
“All of us,” I muttered under my breath, remembering what I
had said to Chaim earlier. “We’re all getting out of here
together.”
But how, I had no idea.

*** End Part I ***

WALKING ACROSS EGYPT
Little Otter, c1996
(aka “Macedon)

IV.

We were given food sometime around mid-morning. It was
brought into the tent by two young men who set it on the floor
and pushed it across to us before backing out quickly. Our comm
badges were gone so we couldn’t understand them. Sa`ad had taken
our personal effects, Chaim told me. Comm badges, Cherel’s
earring, Chaim’s wedding band, a chain of Jorland’s–and my
medicine bag. The bag, Chaim said, had been lifted off my neck
by a stick when I was out cold. No one had wanted to touch it.
They might not recognize the comm badges as equipment, but they
understood a bag of power when they saw one.
I would have parted with my comm badge quicker. I could
have just asked Sa`ad to give it back–it held nothing of
material value–but knew he wouldn’t. These people assumed I
needed the bag to do my “sorcery.” They weren’t about to give it
back to me. Once again, I cursed Tuvok’s half-assed comment
which had marked me out to them as a “holy man.”
According to Chaim, our comm badges had aroused much comment
as jewelry pieces. “A delta-quadrant fashion-statement,” had
been his smart-aleck assessment. But given what he had said
about the bedouin reaction, I suspected our captors had decided
the badges were our tribal totem. Accurate in a strange way.
Voyager was a little like a tribe. Maybe more than a little. In
any case, Sa`ad–who was indeed the chief–had taken to wearing
one of the badges around. I understood the principle. It was
supposed to be a kind of sympathetic magic: control the totem and
control the people who claim it. I just hoped Janeway didn’t
take it into her head to beam us back and wound up with Sa`ad
instead. Then he really *would* be convinced I was a sorcerer.
Not that it was likely. Starfleet considered beam-out
rescues a last ditch option when dealing with less advanced
cultures. People who disappeared in sparkling clouds tended to
leave problematic myths behind them. But thinking of the
captain, I wondered what she was up to right now. She had to
know we were in trouble. Tuvok had informed her that we were
going to have company and, when he did not report back, she would
surely have guessed something had gone wrong. She must be
working on a way to get us out. I hoped.
While Chaim and I ate–as best we could with hands tied–I
kept one ear cocked for sounds of possible rescue. When we had
been taken out to view Jorland, I had been able to fix where our
“prison tent” was, in relation to the rest of the camp. We were
being kept at the east edge; apparently no one wanted to get too
near the stranger’s “holy man.” That might actually work in our
favor. We wouldn’t have to fight through the middle of camp. As
for where we were in relation to the oasis, that was harder to
tell. The nomads had clearly taken us up into the foothills but
we couldn’t have gone too far because it was only late morning.
Outside, people were settling down, headed into tents to
escape the murdering heat of midday. When mining, we too had
been forced to stop for a noon-to-three siesta. Not even Tuvok
could work in desert blaze; the rest of us had just melted into
little puddles. As a result, our daily output had been thin, but
Tuvok had not wanted to work at night, either. “Animals hunt at
night,” he had said.
I thought of Jorland out there, hanging in the sun. I
wondered if, when we finally cut him down, he would even be able
to walk. A sunburn could be severe. I didn’t even want to
contemplate immolation; it wasn’t going to happen. The man might
be a weasel, he might have been plotting with Kilpatrick to use
the unrest on Voyager to take her over, but I didn’t intend to
let him be sacrificed to a hunk of stone in the desert.
“Chakotay–” Chaim’s voice cut into my contemplation.
“What is it?”
“Do you think they’ll bring Cherel and Tuvok in here?”
“I don’t know.” I scooted across the floor so I could see
out the tentflap: a little triangle on freedom. Our guard
stamped feet, dun robes swaying around him. I couldn’t see above
his knee but the firepit was visible, no one around it now and
the fire itself dead. Breakfast was over. I wondered where the
nomads had taken Tuvok and Cherel but didn’t say anything to
Chaim. It would just make him worry more. Unfortunately, women
captives–especially in a society like this one–faced a danger
men usually didn’t. It wasn’t that men were never raped, or that
male Starfleet officers hadn’t suffered it in the past, but it
wasn’t common. Part of Starfleet training for women included how
to deal with rape if it should occur. Cherel hadn’t had that.
Of course, Cherel had lived through the Occupation–a more brutal
lesson in fortitude, with rape as a common Cardassian tool.
Maybe I had absorbed too much of Tuvok’s “Starfleet Superiority.”
Cherel was tough, tougher than Chaim. She could deal with what
she needed to. But I didn’t like it that I didn’t know where the
nomads had taken them. With luck, she was still with Tuvok.
Time crawled. I continued to sit near the door, watching
what I could and fighting with my bonds. They were too tight;
whoever had tied them had known what he was doing. The more I
struggled, the tighter the rope got until I’d nearly cut off
circulation to my hands. I didn’t need that. Chaim sat on the
other side of the tent, saying nothing. Once or twice, he tried
to dose but just ended up shifting about restlessly.
“Hey, kid–” I called once. He looked over. “We are going
to get out of here.” He nodded, but with a little less certainty
than before.
Sitting by the door, looking out at sand blowing through
camp and the periodic shifting of the guard’s feet, I sank into
black frustration. I was not a patient man, not in truth. I had
learned to wait and watch for openings, then make my move–but it
was not easy for me. I preferred to do. “Chakotay! Learn to
listen to the world,” my father had said often enough. “Sit
still and listen. Young things rush through life.” I was no
longer young, but I still had a hard time just sitting. Part of
the reason I had taken up wood-carving was to give my hands
something to do. “Fidgety,” my mother had called me. Among our
people, that wasn’t a compliment.
What annoyed me most at the moment was that I couldn’t think
of a plan. Then again, I wasn’t really a planner, a strategist.
The heat of the moment. Give me an opening and I can exploit it,
make a decision on the instant. But plans–no. Janeway was the
strategist. She was also the one with freedom to act; my hands
were tied. Literally. I had to wait for her intervention, then
be ready to leap. Just a little diversion. That’s all I needed,
just a little diversion. And the midday siesta was surely the
time for it. “Where are you, captain?” I muttered under my
breath.
In fact, I was so intent on watching what I could see of the
camp perimeter that I nearly missed what happened right under my
nose.
The guard suddenly stiffened, went up on tiptoe. Then a
pair of dark hands lowered him silently to the ground. The flap
opened all the way and I found myself looking into Tuvok’s face.

V.

“Tuvok!”
In reply, he put a hand over his mouth for silence, then
dragged the guard inside. Kneeling, he cut through the bonds on
my hands and feet. I rubbed life back into them while he moved
on to do the same for Chaim. Drawing us together, he handed us
knives. For himself, he had the sword from the guard outside our
tent.
“Where’s Cherel?” Chaim asked, voice low and nervous.
“She was taken to the chief’s tent.”
Chaim was moving almost before Tuvok could finish. Both of
us grabbed him to hold him back. “Listen, ensign!” Tuvok hissed.
“We will find both your wife and Mr. Jorland, but if you wish
some probability of success, we must do so *quietly*. If the
camp is roused, we will not succeed in escaping. Three of us
cannot fight everyone. Do you understand?”
Chaim turned away to retrieve his head covering where he had
dumped it after removing it. The tent was hot and close. “Yeah,
I understand.” He turned back to Tuvok. “But you understand
something, too. She’s my *wife*. I don’t leave without her.”
“I do understand,” Tuvok said.
“No, you don’t.”
“Anielewicz,” I said, “Tuvok is married.”
Chaim stopped, looked at Tuvok. “Oh.”
Tuvok just raised an eyebrow. Then the moment of tension
passed. “Sa`ad’s tent is, unfortunately, at the center of camp,
however most of our captors are asleep or resting. As it is
somewhat easier for one individual to move about without being
seen than for all of us to do so, I shall go alone.” Chaim
started to protest but Tuvok raised a hand. “Don’t be foolish,
ensign. I am more familiar with various patterns for sentry
postings, not to mention the fact my strength equals theirs while
yours does not. I shall go; you and the commander will stay
here.” He looked at me, looked at the guard he had dragged into
the tent, at the sword in his hands, then handed it over.
“Commander, dress yourself in that man’s clothing as quickly as
possible and post yourself outside the tent. You are roughly of
the same size and height. If someone notices that the guard is
missing, it will not go well for us.”
With Chaim’s help, I started stripping off the man’s outer
robe. “How long will he stay out?”
“Several hours. I shall return in much less than that. In
fact, if I do not return within half an hour, you and Ensign
Anielewicz will have to leave without me.”
“I’m not–!” Chaim began.
Tuvok held up his hand once more. “If I do not return,
chances are good that Ensign Jinn and I have been recaptured and
you will be of more value to us trying to get back to the oasis
in order to contact Voyager.”
“Speaking of Voyager,” I said before Chaim could reply, “I
don’t suppose you managed to retrieve our comm badges?” Or my
medicine bag. “Comm badges would considerably simplify things.”
Tuvok shook his head. “They, too, are being kept in Sa`ad’s
tent. With the badges, as you say, matters will be much
simplified. And we shall have a better chance of rescuing Ensign
Jorland.”
He glanced once at the unconscious nomad, now wearing only
under-robes. I was shedding the top layer of my Starfleet
dessert issue. “Commander, leave your robe for him. Cloth is
difficult to come by, in the desert. An expensive item.” Then
he was gone. I thought about his words as I stepped into the
nomad’s stinking outer clothing. Tuvok’s apparent coldness was
belied sometimes by small gestures, like telling me to leave my
robe…not that I wished to carry it with me while trying to
escape, but that had not been Tuvok’s motivation.
I took up station outside the tent, tried to mimic the
stance of the man as I had seen it–a little restless and
inclined to put his feet too far apart for real balance. It was
a good thing Tuvok had suggested I take the man’s place. Less
than a minute after I had emerged, two other bedouins sauntered
by. They did not speak, just raised a hand in that nearly
universal gesture of greeting. I raised mine back. They walked
on. I let out the breath I had been holding. Fortunate that
these people had face-wraps.
Time passed. I could see Jorland from here, upside down in
the sun. He was tied to an X-shaped cross. Hadn’t one of Jesus
of Nazareth’s followers been crucified upside down on an X-shaped
cross? I remembered the chipping frescos I had seen in the
little Spanish church in Arizona when my mother had dragged me to
Mass. Each saint with his own symbol, all done by an amateur
hand–but it had given me something to look at while the priest
droned on and my mother clicked through her rosary. I recited
their names in my head. Andrew, Mark, John, Paul…Peter. Peter
had supposedly been crucified on an X-shaped cross.
I had never expected those miserable hours to be useful.
Religion was one of the things which had driven my parents apart.
Jorland seemed to be unconscious; I had not seen him move
once in the past fifteen minutes. Maybe the sun had exhausted
him. Overhead, birds wheeled. Every world had its scavengers.
The deadline which Tuvok had named was creeping nearer.
Half an hour. “Where is he?” Chaim muttered in the tent behind.
I started to say ‘Patience,’ thought better of it. One of
the things I had learned about Chaim, in the maquis, was that
vocalizing was his way of releasing tension.
Two more guards were approaching. I straightened, hoped
they would just pass by but they were coming right for me. Then
Chaim made a sound behind and emerged from the tent. One of the
‘guards’ ran forward, gripped his hand. Cherel. They
disappeared inside. Tuvok followed and I started to. “Stay on
guard,” he said, settled himself just behind the tent flap.
“What happened?” I asked in an undertone. “And now what?”
“*I* found *him*,” Cherel said from inside.
“Indeed. The ensign had already effected her own escape.”
Tuvok sounded vaguely impressed. “Part of what took so long was
that, when I arrived at the chief’s tent, I found Sa`ad…stabbed
with a tent-pike…and Ensign Jinn missing. Along with our
equipment.”
“Jael and Sisera,” Chaim muttered.
“The comm badges?” I asked.
“They weren’t there,” Cherel answered.
“WHAT?”
“They weren’t there. All they had was my earring, your bag,
and the phasers. I couldn’t find Chaim’s ring or Jorland’s
chain, either. But Sa`ad had the phasers and bag inside some
kind of religious kettle-thing with candles all around it.
Containing the demon-magic, he called it.” A hand emerged,
holding my bag. I took it and slipped it around my neck.
“Did he say what he did with the badges?”
“No.”
“The chain, ring, and part of the comm badges are made of
gold,” Tuvok said. “I suspect they have been given out to
Sa`ad’s warriors. A gift-exchange culture.”
I sighed. I disliked leaving the badges, but in all
likelihood, these people would melt them down for the metal. And
without Voyager in orbit, they were useless technology. It would
be centuries, maybe millennia, before anyone here would be able
to recognize solid-state electronics.
But that still left us with the problem of Jorland. Without
the comm badges, we couldn’t just sneak over towards where they
had him, then make a break for it and call for an emergency beam-
out. And we couldn’t stay here much longer, either. These
people would not siesta all day, and someone would check on the
chief sooner or later only to find him dead.
My thought must have been prophetic.
“Jorland–” I started to say to Tuvok, but a cry interrupted
me. Then someone began wailing. “Shit. Cat’s out of the bag.”
The other three scurried from the tent; we all looked at one
another for a split second. “Anielewicz, Jinn,” Tuvok said,
“head east, up into the hills above the camp. We’ll follow.”
Cherel started to protest. “Now!” I snapped. “Tuvok and I
will get Jorland.” It would likely take both of us. If Jorland
could still walk, I’d eat my turban.
They left. Tuvok and I went in the other direction, racing
towards the place where Jorland hung while bedouin boiled out of
tents like ants from anthills. Confusion reigned; no one stopped
us or paid us any mind. They had, however, closed in around the
base of Jorland’s platform, anticipating that we would try to
rescue him. Tuvok pulled me back into the shadow of a tent.
“It’s impossible,” he said.
“We have to!”
“Commander, look at him!” I looked. Even fifty feet away,
I could see that he was fried like a lobster, unconscious as I
had thought, tongue lolling between lips parched black, or– I
could see now that they were not parched black; they were black
with flies. Flies had settled on his wounds, too. I could not
even be sure he was alive. I turned back to Tuvok, whose eyes
had that odd blazing quality that Vulcan eyes sometimes get. It
was as if they had swallowed one secret feeling too many and were
ready to burst from it.
“You’re asking me to abandon a man to be burned alive,” I
said.
Tuvok started to reply–probably with ‘it’s logical’–but
shut his mouth for a moment. Finally, he said only, “Yes.”
I didn’t have time to think about it. The bedouin had quit
rushing frantically about and I could hear someone calling out
orders. Even in a foreign tongue, I knew orders when I heard
them. I had to choose: Jorland or me. I could pull rank on
Tuvok, even if this was his mission, and order him away. He had
a better chance of getting Cherel and Chaim back safely. I could
then try to get Jorland down and out of here. It wasn’t
necessarily a suicide mission, just likely to be one.
Had it been Cherel or Chaim, I would have done so. Had it
been *Tuvok*, I would have done so. Had it been nearly anyone
else, I would have done so. But it was Jorland.
“Let’s go,” I said to Tuvok. He nodded once, sharply, as if
he understood the choice I had weighed and made. Then he led the
way towards the edge of camp. Just in time. The nomads were
swarming towards Jorland’s platform, as if they blamed the
‘demon’ for the death of their leader. Or maybe they just wanted
to take revenge on the only captive still available to them.
They circled the platform: a seething, shouting, roiling mass. I
glanced back once as we ran. At least it provided a distraction
for us. They could have put warriors on their ‘camels’ and ran
us down, but instead they were all gathered around the platform.
Perhaps the death of Sa`ad had caused enough confusion among his
seconds to prevent anyone organizing sensibly for a while.
We were at the unguarded perimeter before I looked back
again. I stopped dead.
They were burning him.
Someone had run to get fuel, or such fuel as they had in the
desert–a precious commodity. And now they had thrown in the
torches. Fire caught, bloomed, burned rapidly.
On the X-shaped cross, Jorland began to move. He was alive.
“Tuvok–”
Tuvok had stopped too. “Commander, we have to go.”
“I can’t.”
Every child is sickly fascinated by horror, and history
provides plenty: stories of torture, impalings, whippings. But
what had always made me shudder most were the tales of people
burned alive.
“I can’t,” I said now as I watched the figure on the cross
wake slowly and begin to scream. “I have to go back–”
Vulcans are strong. I had never before appreciated just how
strong. Tuvok gripped my wrist and held me fast. With his other
hand, he drew his phaser, aimed, and fired, all in one motion.
It happened so fast I barely had time to blink. Jorland was
there, alive and screaming, then he was gone in a burst of
energy. The bedouin turned as one animal to where we stood
exposed on a little rise towards the foothills.
“Move,” Tuvok snapped.

VI.

The bedouin did not charge us. At first, I wasn’t sure why:
two men against an entire tribe of several hundred people? What
made them hesitate? But as I followed Tuvok across the rocky
ridge rising behind the camp, he called over his shoulder, “We
have created a new myth today, commander: the painted sorcerer
and his pet white demon. They fear us. More precisely, they
fear you.”
We had reached the top of the ridge and he paused to let me
come up beside him. I thought about what he had said and how
these people were likely to interpret today’s events: the
“sorcerer” and his “apprentice” appearing at the last minute to
snatch the sacrifice from the flames by means of magic fire.
They would not understand what had really happened.
“We killed a man today, Tuvok.”
Turning, Tuvok started down the ridge behind. “We shall
discuss that when we are safely away. For the moment, we must
find Ensigns Jinn and Anielewicz.”
But once again, Cherel found us. From the safety of a rocky
outcrop, she and Chaim had seen the last of the drama down below,
including Tuvok’s shooting of Jorland. Now Chaim looked Tuvok up
and down once, but said nothing. Cherel didn’t bat an eyelash.
In the maquis there had sometimes been hard choices, just as in
the Resistance before that. She was a pragmatic woman.
Nevertheless, I was concerned about her. On our way further
into the hills, I moved up beside her. “Are you all right?”
She glanced over at me, something hard in her eyes. “I will
be.”
She wasn’t giving me any openings. I would have to make
one. “Back there in the tent with the chief–”
“He’s dead,” Cherel interrupted. Her tone said clearly that
it was not open to discussion right now, and perhaps never would
be. Cherel was forthcoming only to a point. There was much in
her past that she did not discuss with anyone. I wondered how
much even Chaim knew.
“If you want to talk about it….”
“I’m not fragile, Chakotay. Don’t patronize me.”
“I’m not implying you’re fragile. But we all need to talk
sometimes.”
She stopped and put her hands on her hips, glared up at me.
“You might not mean to imply that I’m fragile, but you’re sure
acting like it. If I choose to talk, I’ll pick who I want to
talk to. Don’t play the vedic with me, Chakotay. It pisses me
off.” And she went to walk beside Chaim. I frowned. Had I been
patronizing? Or was she just–understandably–feeling touchy
about it all? Sighing, I rubbed my nose. It was sunburnt.
Tuvok set a killing pace but we all understood the necessity
and had no wish to be caught by the bedouins. About a mile from
camp, the wadi down which we had been traveling narrowed to
barely ten feet; I eyed the cliffs to either side. “Tuvok, think
we can do something to slow up pursuit?”
He followed my line of sight and line of thought.
“Perhaps.” He drew his phaser. “You take the east, commander; I
shall take the west. But we should have a care. If we dam the
wadi too well, it could produce disastrous ecological effects.”
“Just enough to slow them up, Tuvok. Just enough to slow
them up.”
He nodded. We set to work, blasting into the cliff wall
about a hundred feet up, letting boulders roll down until we had
blocked the wadi to twice the height of a man. It could be dug
out if they needed to for the flood season, but it would halt
direct pursuit on “camel”-back.
We went on then at a slightly slower pace, but both Tuvok
and I kept our eyes on the heights above. The wadi seemed to run
a direct line through the mountain foothills. Tuvok had said we
had been taken south of the oasis “about half a day’s walk.” We
were headed back there because it was the most likely place the
captain would look for us, now that we had no comm badges by
which to contact Voyager. Unfortunately, it was also the first
place the bedouin would look for us and Tuvok seemed to be
weighing the wisdom of heading back directly versus spending the
night in the hills to throw them off. Yet the oasis was the only
known water source in the area–besides the well in the bedouin
camp. The necessity for water might make our decision for us.
We had none except a single canister Chaim had thought to
snag from the guard Tuvok had nerve-pinched into unconsciousness.
Tuvok measured it out to us in excruciating amounts while he
continued to make side-trips, looking among the rocks for any
hint of a spring. By mid-afternoon, our situation was growing
desperate with only a little water sloshing in the bottom of the
canister, and no salt. Tuvok, who had been carrying it, drew it
off and passed it to me. “Share it out among you.”
“Tuvok–”
“It is logical. I can survive on less water than you
three.” Then he turned away and headed off again, leaving us no
room to argue with him. We did as he told us. We had to trust
him.
He came back, looking grim-faced. Without speaking, he led
us forward. After a few minutes, I moved up to walk beside him,
spoke in a low voice. “What will we do if we don’t find a
spring? Can we make it back to the oasis without water?”
He glanced over. “I could–but I do not know about humans.”
“Maybe it would be best if we find a cave somewhere, get out
of the heat, and let you go on alone to contact the captain so
she can rescue us.”
He shook his head. “I will not leave you; there are
entirely too many potential dangers.”
“Tuvok, don’t make me order you to do it.”
He glanced at me again. “You could order me; that does not
mean I would obey you.”
Authority, again. It always came back to an issue of
authority between us. “I am first officer, Tuvok. I know you
don’t like it, you’ve never liked it, and you don’t like me. But
if I give you an order, you will obey me–or you sacrifice that
damned chain of command you count so precious.”
He didn’t say anything for a while and I regretted my hasty
words. Until the Great Maquis Strike, something almost like
friendship had been developing between us. But in the three
weeks since, it had become increasingly evident that the tension
dividing fleet and maquis had blown that all to hell. Despite
the warning Paris had given us–that Kilpatrick and Jorland had
decided the conflict in the command team was an exploitable weak-
link–and despite the captain’s insistence that the three of us
should spend more off-time together, it was clear that Tuvok
would rather have been anywhere else but in my company.
Almost fifteen minutes passed before he spoke again. The
strain had mounted so that I nearly dropped back to leave him to
lead alone. But finally, he said, “I do not ‘dislike’ you,
commander. I may not always agree with the choices you make, and
I may not always approve of your command style, but I do not
‘dislike’ you.” He hesitated, finally went on. “I have known
the captain a very long time. While we have served together only
four years, I knew her before that. I knew her when she was a
child. But do not mistake our…closeness…for any desire on my
part to be first officer. I do not want, and have never sought,
that position. Had you not been available–or had you been
unwilling–to take it, I would have done so from necessity. But
I do not want it. Such are not my ambitions.”
I wasn’t going to let him get away with that. “Maybe on the
surface you don’t. But every time you challenge my authority in
public–and you do challenge it!” I said before he interrupted.
“Every goddamn time you challenge it, you erode a little more of
that authority and make it harder for me to get respect from
fleet officers. They watch you Tuvok, and if you claim now not
to want the second seat, that’s not the way you *act*…and they
read how you *act*.” I thought about what Cherel had said to me
earlier. “So I’m telling you–either back off and let me *be*
XO, or I’m going to drop it in your lap and you can have it.”
And at that moment, I would have done so. All the resentment of
two years, imperfectly covered over and then uncovered again,
shot up like a geyser. It was a good thing that Chaim and Cherel
were following so far back because my voice had gone up with it.
In that annoyingly calm tone, Tuvok replied, “And if I do
not approve of your command decisions? If I see you making a
fatal mistake? I have lived more than twice as long as you,
commander. I dare say I have learned something in that time.”
“If you have an objection, you come discuss it with *me*,
mister. Me–not the captain. And I’d value your experience, as
long as it was given, not shoved down my throat unasked. I’ve
always had an open door policy; You know that from the maquis.
But I cannot continue to work without *your* support as well as
the captain’s. I can’t deal with the normal problems of ship’s
discipline if you’re always there breathing down my neck.”
He thought about this. “I agree. And I am aware that…
some of my behavior…has placed you in an untenable position.
For this, I apologize. Yet I have had the best interests of
Voyager in mind.”
“And you think I haven’t?”
He actually sighed. “I did not say that. But whatever your
intentions, commander, you must admit that the results of some of
your choices have not always *worked* in Voyager’s favor. The
‘Maquis Strike’ being only the most recent affair which comes to
mind.” This was offered dryly.
“Tuvok, if you want to lay out a litany of my errors, I can
play that game, too. I seem to recall a certain mindmeld with
Suder….”
“That placed *me* at risk, commander. Not the ship.” He
all but snapped it.
“And an incapacitated chief of security doesn’t risk
Voyager?” He did not reply. “We’ve both made mistakes;
quarreling over them isn’t going to solve anything. I said that
if you have a problem with one of my choices, you can come talk
to me about it. I’ll hear you out.”
“And if I have your word that you will give due
consideration to my suggestions, then I shall indeed bring them
to you.”
“I won’t promise to always agree with you, but you have my
word that I will always listen to you. No more shitting.”
“No more…shitting.”
I offered him my hand. I didn’t know if he’d take it but I
had seen him shake hands with others without batting an eyelash.
He took it. His grip was strong. Then, in a purely Vulcan
gesture, he placed his closed fist across his chest. I did the
same.
We walked on then in comfortable silence. Talking had made
my throat dry but I felt better for it. Even if we were to die
here, something had been cleared up. “Tuvok,” I began, wanting
to clear up something else, “Why–back at the oasis–did you tell
the chief that I was a holy man? I thought it was against
Starfleet policy to lie about things like that.”
He glanced over at me. “But I did not lie, commander. You
are a ‘holy man’, whether you realize it or not–” He broke off
abruptly, looked up, shading his eyes.
“It’s just birds,” I said. A flock of birds had come down
to light on a scrub bush, one of the few we had seen, which clung
tenaciously to the side of the wadi.
“‘Just birds’, commander? ‘Just birds’ may indicate a water
source.” And he headed for the scrub.

*** End Part II ***

Standard Disclaimers, see Part I. For the curious, the reference
to the Vulcan “sixth sense” comes from Roddenberry’s novelization
of ST:TMP. I did not make it up. It somewhat conflicts now with
what Tuvok said in “Innocence,” but this was written before that
episode.

WALKING ACROSS EGYPT
Little Otter, c1996
(aka “Macedon”)

VII.

A little spring, barely more than a dribble, welled among
the rocks. Around it, someone had chiseled out a basin for the
water and there were steps cut up the side of the wadi. Tuvok
nodded, as if he had been hoping to find something like this.
“Stay here,” he said to the three of us. “Do not drink yet.”
“*Why*?” Chaim sounded plaintive.
“Because it may be dangerous to your health.” So saying, he
left us.
We waited. Within ten minutes, he returned, phaser
holstered, his walk relaxed. “You may drink.”
We did so. When we had finished and Chaim had refilled the
canteen, Tuvok brought out of his robe a little block of white.
Salt. Using his knife, he cut off a slice for each of us.
“Where did you find this?” I asked, touching the sliver to my
tongue. It was bitter and impure, but my body had begun to crave
it.
Tuvok nodded at the stairs leading up. “There is a cave
above the floodline–not an unusual arrangement. In a desert,
where there is water, there is also, typically, occupation. In
this case, the water source is not sufficient to support a
village, but it is sufficient as a stopping place for travelers.
Thus, I had wanted to ascertain that no one else was here, before
we took water. I do not know the customs of this world, but on
Vulcan, taking water without an invitation led to more wars than
I care to enumerate.”
“Why didn’t you worry about that at the *oasis*?” I asked,
exasperated.
“There were no sign of occupation at the oasis.”
“The sphinx wasn’t a sign? We landed in somebody’s holy
precinct!”
Tuvok hesitated. “Vulcans never assigned divinity to
images; we had a different concept of the numinous, due to our
awareness of the All. Thus, it did not occur to me that the
oasis might be unoccupied because it was regarded as holy
ground.”
I’d heard about the Vulcan “sixth sense” before. They said
they didn’t “believe” in God, they *knew* God. The idea was not
so foreign to me, but some of my friends had found it too much to
credit: “How can they *know* there’s a god!”
Now, I said only, “I don’t think your delta-quadrant kin
share that worldview.”
“Evidently not.” He gestured to the stone stairs. “Let us
go up. The three of you should rest, and I can climb to the top
of the wadi to check for possible pursuit.” We followed him to
the cave.
It was not big but contained necessary items: more chunks of
salt, some pottery to carry water, animal manure as fuel for a
fire together with flint for starting one. A blackened portion
of floor near the entrance showed where generations of travelers
had built fires. I wondered who was responsible for keeping the
place supplied but was too tired to wonder long. The three of us
stretched out while Tuvok went to take a look around from above.
I must have slept; when I woke again–feeling better for
rest and water and salt–I could see Tuvok by the cave entrance,
squatting patient on guard. He seemed very *right*, dressed in
desert issue and silhouetted by the reddening light of late
afternoon. It painted the wadi wall opposite. I sat up. Beside
me, Chaim and Cherel had curled together on Chaim’s cloak, her
head on his arm. They were asleep, too.
Rising, I went to join Tuvok; he did not turn his head to
look at me as I squatted down beside him. “I didn’t mean to fall
asleep. If I were still a cadet, Captain Sulu would’ve had my
ass in a blender for that.”
“You were exhausted, all of you. And I had said that I
would be on guard above.” He paused, added, “But yes, the
captain probably would have.”
I looked over. “You knew Sulu?”
“I served as an ensign under him.”
It was an unexpected commonality. I wondered what stories
he could tell. “Sulu sponsored me into the academy,” I said.
“So I was aware.”
We were silent then for a long time, just listening. Wind.
The occasional cry of a bird. My mind drifted to trips I had
taken with my maternal grandfather into the Arizona desert. We
would climb a mesa and just sit looking out over the plain,
sometimes for hours on end. Occasionally he had sung in Dine, but
if I had tried to talk, he had shushed me. “Listen to the land,
Chakotay. You like the sound of your own voice too much. Learn
to listen with both ears and see with both eyes.”
Now, remembering, I sang quietly, “Seated at home behold me;
seated amid the rainbow; seated at home behold me; Lo, here, the
Holy Place!”
When I was done, Tuvok asked, “What is that?”
“A Navajo mountain chant. My grandfather taught it to me,
and his grandfather taught it to him, back many grandfathers. He
used to take me out into the desert. We would be gone for days.
I never knew where we were going or when we would return; at the
time, I thought he did it just to tick me off. He was always
saying that I was too attached to the clock. Too white.”
“And were you?”
“Too white?”
“Too attached to the clock.”
“Probably. I was too white, too.”
His eyebrow flickered. “I have never understood the human
tendency to divide race according to differences in phenotype.
It is inaccurate in the extreme.”
“But highly visible.”
“Indeed.” Almost involuntarily, he glanced over his
shoulder to where Chaim and Cherel slept.
“Vulcans never had race-prejudice?”
“Vulcans define ‘race’ differently than do humans. In
truth, it is not a term we use. One’s clan and tribe is far more
significant. Our wars were ethnic, not racial. Persons of the
same skin color were as likely to fight as to make alliances.
Vulcan’s history is very different from Earth’s.”
He shifted, resting his knee on the stone floor, and changed
the subject. “From above, I was able to locate the sphinx and
approximate our distance. It is still some ways off, and I fear
we will have a difficult time reaching it on a single canister of
water, even rested and replenished. Therefore, I shall take the
canister and go alone to contact the captain. The three of you
will be safe enough here, with a source of water and fuel. I can
travel much faster by myself after dark.”
“I thought you said it wasn’t safe to travel after dark?”
“It is not safe if it is unnecessary, but we no longer have
that option. If the bedouin are watching the exits from this
wadi–as they almost surely are–and if they are hoping to catch
us as we approach the oasis, it will be much easier for one
person traveling at night to successfully elude detection. Thus,
I will depart at sunset.”
“It sounds like a reasonable plan except for one thing.”
“Yes?”
“I’m going with you.”
“Commander–”
“Tuvok, listen. You know as well as I do that it’s wiser
for us to travel in pairs. Something could happen to you out
there alone.”
“If something happens to me, it would then happen to both of
us if you were with me.”
“I didn’t mean capture, I meant something simple–an
accident. You may know the desert but accidents happen. We go
together. Chaim and Cherel stay here together.”
He sighed but, interestingly, did not object further. “You
rest now,” I told him, “I’ll keep guard.” Nodding once, he went
back to lay down. I settled in to listen with both ears and see
with both eyes.

VIII.

Sitting alone while the others slept, I had time to think
and to pray. Removing my bag, I drew out from it tobacco, which
I offered to the winds of the Four Directions and to this desert
earth which had given us water from her breast, and last to
Gicimanitto who is the One Spirit from which all life springs,
all the levels of the world: spirit and beast–two-legged and
four-legged and winged; all that is green, all that is stone, all
that is water; air above, fire at the world’s heart, the sun
which grants life…. On these I called, removing a small
feather from my bag, a prayer feather. I set this in my left
hand. In my right, I held a smooth river stone painted with the
symbol of my manitto, Myeengun. I was now ready to “talk holy.”
Manitto kazo.
But what could I say? I had left a man to his death today.
Sitting there, facing out over the wadi, I found I had no words.
My mouth was foul with words already: “Let’s go.” They damned
me.
I put away the stone and feather, and just sat.
Some time later, when the sun hung on the noose of the
horizon cutting the world into light and shadow, I heard someone
moving behind me and turned to look. It was Chaim. He joined me
at the cave mouth, arms locked around his drawn up knees.
“Cherel’s still asleep.”
“Tuvok and I are going to leave after sunset, to head back
to the oasis and try to contact the captain. We won’t all make
it on one canteen of water, and I won’t let him go alone. Will
you and Cherel be all right? I could change my decision.”
He shook his head, dark eyes flicking over the wadi. His
people, too, had once been desert people. Apiru. Wanderers.
That was a long time ago. “We’ll be fine,” he said.
“With luck, we’ll be back to get both of you before
sunrise.”
He just nodded. Together, we watched the sun disappear.
Finally he said, “Don’t kick yourself about Jorland. I saw
you–you started to go back. Even for him.”
Did Chaim know more about Jorland than I thought he did?
“What do you mean ‘even for him’?”
He looked down, drew in the dust between his knees. “Old
man–” It was a term of respect, not insult. “Old man, you try
to father us all, even those who don’t deserve it. Jorland was a
mercenary. Some of us fought the Cardassians for our homes, or
for loved ones. Magda, Gerron, Cherel…you. Others fought for
justice. Me. We Jews never did learn how to submit meekly.
Isra-el: ‘He who wrestles with God, and wins.’ I chose to fight
Cardassians for my wife’s sake. But Jorland…he fought for pay.
A mercenary. Back at the oasis, I’m surprised he came out
shooting instead of keeping mum and staying hidden. I would have
expected the latter.”
“But he did come out shooting. And I left him to die. I
thought he might be dead already but still–I left him. I broke
my trust as his commanding officer.”
“You, however, were not placed in command of this mission.
I was.”
Tuvok. We both jumped; neither had heard his approach. I
stood, turned. “I realize it’s your command–”
“Do you?” But it was not asked in challenge, not precisely.
“We will need to depart soon.” Glancing at Chaim, he said, “The
commander and I plan to return to the oasis in order to contact
the captain.”
“He explained it to me,” Chaim said.
Tuvok nodded, turned back to fetch fuel and drag it forward,
set it burning. “You will need the fire for warmth. And one of
you must remain on guard at all times. Keep your phasers within
reach. I dislike having the fire; it will be a beacon. But it
is necessary. If we are gone more than a day, you should fill
one of the clay jars and attempt to reach the oasis yourselves.
I am certain the captain is looking for us, as well. She will
not leave orbit until we–or our corpses–are found.”
It was not a pleasant thought, but trust a Vulcan to state
it bluntly. For once, Chaim offered no smart remarks, simply
listened and nodded as Tuvok gave him further instructions,
should he and Cherel need to make the trip.
Finally it was time to go. Cherel had still not woken and I
didn’t want to wake her. Going over, I knelt down and looked at
her sleeping face. She was frowning. I wondered what spirits
troubled her dreams.
We climbed down the steps and stopped at the spring to fill
the canteen one last time, then drink until we were fair to
bursting. Tuvok set off in the direction of an exit from the
wadi which, he explained, he had seen from his scouting above.
It was full dark by the time we reached it, but even so, we made
our way out cautiously and with phasers drawn. Just before we
reached the mouth, Tuvok paused, motioned me to a halt. Bending
near, he whispered, “I’ll scout ahead alone; stay here.” I set a
hand on his arm, but he pulled free. “I can move silently in
sand; *you* cannot.” And he was gone.
Fifteen minutes later he was back. “Come.” Exiting, I saw
a pair of bedouin stretched out on the sand, probably nerve-
pinched. I had not heard any sound of a struggle. “It is a
direct trip from here,” he said. “Perhaps three hours walking.
We will be there before midnight. “We set out together across
the sand.
“What makes you think the captain will be waiting?” I asked.
“More likely, she’ll have scanned that area first, then begun
sweeps of this whole sector.” It was what I would have done.
“The mineral deposits in the mountains will render such
sweeps difficult at best. She will continue to scan the oasis,
on the chance that we can return there–which, in fact, we are
endeavoring to do.”
I nodded, didn’t try to speak. I was tired and hungry, and
walking through sand dragged at my feet. More, the night air was
turning cool rapidly. It chilled the sweat on my skin. We went
on in silence for some time, each of us locked in our own
thoughts. My world narrowed to the path in front of me and the
shadow of the sphinx in the distance, a black riddle against the
starfield.
After about an hour, we stopped to rest and drink. Tuvok
studied my face while I tipped back the canteen. “Something is
troubling you, commander.”
I wiped my mouth, handed him the canteen. “You might say
that. You might say I’m pursued by a dead man’s spirit.”
He did not pretend confusion, capped the spout instead.
“There was no alternative.”
“There was! We could have *tried* to cut him free.”
“Let me rephrase my words. There was no other *logical*
alternative. We could have tried to cut him free and been killed
ourselves. I fail to understand why you continue these self-
recriminations. It was not your responsibility; it was mine.”
I shook my head. “It would be nice to use that as an
excuse, but the choice belongs to us both, Tuvok. We’re both
going to have to explain to the captain why we left a man to
die.”
“The captain may thank us. The loss of Jorland is hardly an
imposition. The man was guilty of conspiracy to mutiny. The
only reason I had not already arrested him was because the
captain had forbidden me to do so. He earned his death.”
Turning to face him, I snapped, “He was not up on that
platform as a result of plotting with Kilpatrick or anyone else.
He was up there by chance–the chance that made him born blond.
He didn’t deserve to die for that. Had he been up there for his
own mistake, then *maybe* I could justify having left him. But
he wasn’t. Whatever else he did, he didn’t earn that death. Nor
can I escape the fact I didn’t like him, and a part of me is glad
he’s dead because it solves a problem.”
Tuvok stood and looked down at me. “I should not like to be
human. Humans insist on clouding their decisions with emotional
responses, making choices more complicated than they are.”
I stood as well. “There aren’t any simple answers, Tuvok.
The world is too complex for that. You say killing Jorland was
necessary, and somehow that makes it right? Or you call the
maquis criminals because we refuse to accept the Federation
treaty with Cardassia–but you ignore the Federation’s refusal to
acknowledge their accountability which led to our rebellion in
the first place.”
“The maquis *are* criminals. The law clearly says–”
“I don’t give a damn what the law says! Just because
something is the law doesn’t make it just! What’s right, what’s
wrong…it all depends on where you’re standing.”
His jaw tightened. “A society cannot exist without laws.”
“I didn’t say it could. But laws were made for people, not
people for laws. It’s not black and white.”
He breathed out. “Commander, in your understanding of
reality, perhaps it is not. But that is not my understanding.
Vulcan is a planet of extremes.” Looking out across the desert,
he pointed towards the oasis. “Fertile land”–and his hand swept
from the oasis to indicate the dunes about us–“dead land. Black
land and red land. The heat of day; the cold of night. The line
between sunlight and shade. Even our language reflects extremes:
ash…kar. ‘On the one hand this…on the other hand that.’
Dualities. You wish to see the universe as multivalent. I see
it in dualities.”
I just stared at him. I’d never thought about it that way
before. After a minute, he went on, “In every situation, there
are two choices–the logical one, and the illogical one.”
“But even Vulcans argue about what falls into which
category,” I pointed out. “It depends on their *perspective*.”
He nodded. “Indeed. But that is the reason for logical
argument: to convince one’s opponent–or to be convinced if the
other’s argument is superior.”
“And what happens when you’re not convinced? But neither
are they?”
“One agrees to disagree.”
“Ah! Then you reach a point that you concede the other side
might have some validity.”
“No, one reaches a point when one realizes the other side is
unable to see reason.”
“*Why*?” I asked him, fairly pouncing.
He seemed uncomfortable. “It would depend on the situation.
There may be any of a number of causes.”
“Exactly! The *situation*, Tuvok. Every situation is
different, and every man and woman has a different set of life
experiences. Even Vulcans don’t all see the universe the same.
It depends on where we stand. Things don’t have to be in
opposition. Sometimes difference is simply difference, and
what’s justice for one isn’t justice for another.”
“That leads to chaos. One cannot choose to obey a law or
not, based on ‘it depends’. Who shall judge? Is one free to
murder at one’s whim?”
“But didn’t we make just that decision this morning? It may
have been ‘logical’ to leave Jorland, but does that make it
right? I’m not saying there are no principles, Tuvok. There
are. We may each see the world differently, but we are *not*
free to please only ourselves. We’re all related. That means
we’re all responsible for one another–even those we don’t like.
Even Jorland.”
“Your argument follows no logical thread that I can detect.
First you argue one thing, then you argue another.” He started
walking. I started to explain further but in between one step
and the next, the old familiar tingle and whine of transport
initiation caught us.
We rematerialized on Voyager, the captain awaiting us with
hands on hips, lips thin. “Well, gentlemen–are you quite
finished playing Lawrence of Arabia? Where’s the rest of the
landing party?”
Tuvok and I looked at each other; Tuvok stepped forward.
“Ensigns Anielewicz and Jinn are safely in a cave; I am prepared
to lead a rescue mission to their location.” He hesitated.
“Ensign Jorland…is dead.”
Janeway looked from one of us to the other. “Tuvok, get a
comm badge and security team and find my crewmembers.” She
turned to me. “Chakotay–I want a full report. Now. In my
readyroom.” And she stalked out.
Tuvok raised both brows, glanced at me, at B’Elanna behind
the transporter controls, then left without speaking. B’Elanna
had come over to grip my hands, her face full of relief. “You
had us all pretty scared. The captain’s been stalking the
bridge, snarling under her breath.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be buoyed by that, or intimidated.
Either way, I had some explaining to do. Removing my head
covering, I tucked it under my arm, squared my shoulders, and
went to deliver my report.

IX.

The captain listened to my report without comment. I spared
nothing, from our initial contact with the nomads and Tuvok’s
claim that I was a holy man, to the possible rape of Cherel, to
our decision to abandon Jorland. I even related as best I could
my conversations with Chaim and Tuvok.
When I was done, she rubbed her eyes. “I don’t know whether
to thank you or to reprimand you, commander. Both, I think. For
both of you. Jorland’s death is a mixed blessing at best. We’re
rid of one of them, but the dissatisfied also have a martyr now.”
I shook my head, sank lower in the couch. I was so damn
tired. “A martyr, no. Jorland is–was–the kind of officer who
could cause more trouble alive than dead. People didn’t *like*
him, even in the maquis. Witness Chaim’s reaction. He was
recognized for what he was: a hired sword. Even so, he knew what
he was about and while people didn’t like him, that didn’t mean
they wouldn’t listen to his insinuations…which is why he was
dangerous.” I thought of B’Elanna taking his side that evening
around the campfire–the only conversation I had *not* shared in
full with Janeway. “Despite the fact the maquis had misfits and
hired criminals, the majority are not like Jorland. We didn’t
ask a lot of questions about a person’s background, but it became
evident pretty quickly if they were with us for personal reasons
or for pay. Jorland won’t be a martyr. Chaim and Cherel know
what happened. And mercenaries don’t make good martyrs.”
“That depends,” she said, standing and going over to her
replicator. “Coffee, commander?”
“Juice, actually,” I said. Coffee was the last thing I
wanted.
She brought me orange juice and I drank it down without
pause. She watched, a bemused smile on her face. “Maybe I
should get you some food, too.”
“Let me finish this report. Then food. Then sleep.”
She nodded, pulled up a chair to face where I had collapsed
on her couch. I was still dressed in dusty desert issue, though
I had lost the stinking outer robe I’d taken from the bedouin.
“I understand what you’re saying, commander,” she began. “But
Kilpatrick may manage to turn all this to her advantage anyway.”
“Possible.” I thought about it. “This is actually a case
where you’re likely to face more misunderstanding from Fleet than
maquis. The maquis knew Jorland, and death was always lurking
around the corner, anyway. We lived with her as a bed-partner.
The Fleet will have a harder time understanding how Tuvok and I
could just…leave a man.”
She studied me, turning her coffee mug idly in her hands.
“Commander, did you never have to order an officer to his or her
death?”
“Once or twice,” I said, meeting her gaze, then dropping
mine. I stared instead at the empty glass in my hand, set it
with a deliberate clink on the glass coffee table. “This is
different.”
“How is it different?”
“First, he *was* a mercenary, not a volunteer. He wouldn’t
willingly have gone to his death. Mercenaries don’t play that
way. They know all about gambling, but they don’t place losing
bets. They’re not fighting for any reason but pay and they’re
not going to accept an assignment where there’s not at least a
fair chance of coming out alive. It’s different when you’re
dealing with volunteers–either maquis or Fleet. Fleet take an
oath. The maquis may not have any oaths, but a willingness to
die is inherent in what most of us were about. We were fighting
for a cause. Jorland wasn’t. I’m not sure the man believed in
anything but himself. That’s why he won’t make a martyr. But
it’s also why we shouldn’t have left him.”
She was watching my face with that odd intensity she
sometimes got. It made me damn nervous, like she was seeing
through my skin. “What you say is all true–but that isn’t
what’s bothering you about having left him, Chakotay.”
Frowning, I stared at the carpet. I didn’t want to tell; it
tasted too much like failure, bitter-bitter on the tongue.
Reaching out, she set a hand on my knee. “Joseph–”
Strung too tight, I spit a laugh. “I don’t deserve that
name! If you want to call me something besides Chakotay, my name
is Peshewa.” I rose to walk to the viewport. She had been too
close. “What’s bothering me about leaving Jorland? The fact that
had it been any of the others–Chaim, Cherel, Tuvok–I would have
at least *tried* to get them free. Even knowing I’d likely have
died with them, I’d at least have tried. But I decided Jorland
wasn’t worth my life. What gave me that right? I’m no god.”
I heard her get up and come over, then her hand on my arm,
spinning me around. It was not gentle. “Listen to me,
commander. If you intend to wallow in self-pity every time you
have to make a life-and-death decision, you can hand over those
pips right now. I don’t need a first officer who second-guesses
himself constantly. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions,
even for people who didn’t ‘volunteer’. That goes with command.
I’d have been pissed as hell if you’d gone after Jorland and
gotten yourself killed. Pissed and grieved. He wasn’t worth it.
And not because of who he was, or what he had been planning to
do. Trying to rescue him would have been a suicide attempt and
one life is not worth two. Even had it been Chaim or Cherel or
Tuvok–or you–*leaving* that person would have been the right
choice for the rest.”
“I would have wanted it that way, captain. Jorland didn’t.”
“It doesn’t matter what you would have wanted, commander.
And it doesn’t matter what Jorland wanted, either. Tuvok is
right this time. *Logic*, Chakotay. You may not have liked
Jorland, and he may have been the most dangerous conspirator
because he was a professional–but it doesn’t *matter* if you
hated him or loved him. You made the logical choice.”
“And logic is supposed to justify it?”
“Yes! You’ve confused guilt with responsibility. You–and
Tuvok–are *responsible* for Jorland’s death. But that doesn’t
mean you didn’t make the right decision. Responsibility isn’t
guilt. In my career, I’ve ordered eighteen men and women to
their deaths, knowing it was to their deaths. I’m *responsible*,
and I accept that responsibility. I remember every one of their
names, and I talked personally to every one of their families.
But I refuse to carry guilt for their deaths. And I refuse to
let you carry guilt for Jorland.”
I was irritated. “As I said, captain, I’ve also ordered
people to their deaths. But can you really tell me that you
never doubt yourself–even in the middle of the night?”
She shook her head, walked away a little and looked back at
me out of the corner of her eyes. “I wonder all the time. I’ve
just become marginally adept at not eating out my heart over it.
Tuvok was right about you–you are our holy man, Joseph Chakotay.
The one of us who insists on leaping theological bulls and
impaling himself on the horns. Just don’t let your bull-dancing
interfere with command.” She turned full to face me. “Now, go
get some food and some rest. You’re off duty for the next
twenty-four hours. You earned it. When you wake up, why don’t
you drop by Sandrine’s? I’ll have Tom run the program.”

X.

I ate, slept for almost eleven hours, got up and ate again.
I felt as if I were recovering from finals at the academy: that
vaguely spaced feeling that descends when one’s normal sleep
rhythms have been broken. But I wasn’t nineteen any more and my
body objected to being treated as if it were. When I had
finished with my “breakfast,” I pushed back my plate and nursed
my coffee, staring blankly at the beige wall of my quarters. I
should put on some clothes and go to Sandrine’s. The captain had
invited me. I glanced at a chrono. It was twenty-hundred, ship
time, and I wondered if anyone else would still be there–other
than Paris. I doubt the captain had expected me to sleep this
long. I wondered how Tuvok, Chaim and Cherel were, if Tuvok had
had any trouble finding them. But I hadn’t heard a peep, and
surely the captain would have called to say if there had been a
problem.
“Move your bones, Chakotay,” I told myself, pushed back the
chair. Why did I suddenly feel so old?
I walked over to my closet, glanced in: a neat row of
uniforms on one side, a few liberty clothes on the other–my old
maquis “uniform,” plus a few things I had replicated since. I
didn’t feel like wearing a uniform tonight, though ever since
Janeway’s announcement that maquis could wear civilians’ clothes,
I had made a concerted effort to go in uniform, both on duty and
off. I could not have said why; I just knew it was something I
had to do. In any case, there had been no need for me to wear
liberty clothes; I had not been back to the storytelling circle
since my tale about Joseph. I had not felt ready–too
embarrassed perhaps. The circle might be better off without me
there to stir up trouble. What I had meant to accomplish had
backfired.
My only concession to the change in regulations had been the
addition of my medicine bag–but that I had carried in my pocket.
Hanging around my neck, it tended to get in the way. I had
almost not worn it planet-side but had changed my mind at the
last minute. Now, I regretted that choice. Somehow the bag
seemed symbolic of the entire trouble.
“Holy man,” whispered through my head. Irritated, I removed
the bag now, tossed it on the dresser. I was not a holy man. My
father was a holy man. My father had seen visions. I was a
warrior, not a shaman. No manitto had given me a validating
dream. It was not my place to beat the drum, make mitig wakik.
I grabbed my old maquis shirt–partly to be contrary, but
partly because it was broken-in and comfortable. I would go out
of uniform tonight and see if Janeway’s grace extended to her
maquis XO. But I would not take my bag. Instead, I walked over
to the Dine pot on the corner table. I used it to drop things
in: nail clippers, a button, a pocketful of change from some
alien world–I couldn’t remember which, an old ring that had
belonged to my father, and the Bajoran earring the captain had
given me. Les Voyageurs. I pulled it out to look at it again.
Damn Magda. Leave it to her to think of this.
But tonight I would take the earring. Les Voyageurs. I
slipped it into my pocket and slapped my comm badge on my shirt,
exited my quarters.
The party was still on in Sandrine’s. The captain was
ruling the pool table, as usual, Paris watching at her shoulder
and Tuvok from a stool off to one side. That was interesting;
Tuvok didn’t often come here. I doubted Sandrine’s was a
Vulcan’s idea of entertainment.
Sandrine saw me first, appeared at my elbow. “Monsieur
Chakotay! C’est bon! And what is your pleasure tonight?” She
leered up at me.
“Nothing right now, thanks.” I ducked away. Sandrine was
the sort of woman who rattled me–even in a holographic version.
I preferred to be the hunter, not the hunted.
I nodded to Tuvok; he nodded back. The captain was setting
up a shot so I didn’t interrupt, wandered the room’s periphery
instead. Tuvok and I weren’t the only ones there from the away
team. Chaim and Cherel sat at a table up by the stage. They
waved me over. B’Elanna, Harry Kim, and Phil Aimes were with
them. Phil kicked out a chair for me. “You looked like warmed-
over grits, commander.”
Grinning, I rubbed my eyes. “My compliments to you, too,
Phil.” Turning to Chaim and Cherel, I said, “How are you?”
“Fine.” Chaim tapped his blues harp on the table. “Tuvok
came after us, just like you said, some time between midnight and
dawn there. We got back here at thirteen hundred. Then *I*
slept.” He thumbed at Cherel. “She’d slept most of the night
away already.” Cherel shoved at him in good humor, but it was
brittle.
“Mon p’tit minou!”
I turned. “Magda. What is this? Maquis old home week?”
“Shhh,” she scolded, snaring another chair and nodding at
Harry. “Cher Kim is not maquis! We are Les Voyageurs!”
I just chuckled, pulled the earring out of my pocket and
dropped it on the table. “Well. And what do you all think I
should do with that, then?”
“Pierce your nose?” B’Elanna suggested. I glared at her.
Magda bent over to pick it up. Face serious, she pinned it
to my shirt right beside my comm badge. Cherel made a valiant
effort not to look offended. Magda was trying to fix the cuff to
my badge, but it didn’t want to stay. Finally she got it pinched
hard enough.
“What’s going on over here?” asked a new voice.
“Ma Capitainne! We are decorating mon p’tit minou. Qu’est-
ce que vous pensez?”
“What?” Janeway asked.
“She wants to know what you think,” I translated. I looked
down at the earring affixed to my badge, remembering Sa`ad. Our
totem indeed. Les Voyageurs.
Janeway studied the strange configuration of comm badge and
earring on my left breast, reached down to straighten it. Were
all little girls everywhere taught to straighten men’s clothes?
Abruptly, her serious face split into a grin. “You want the
truth? It looks positively absurd. But I like it.”
We all burst out laughing. At almost the same time, a new
crowd burst through the door. Carey and Dalby–together?–and a
handful of others, including Klauss from security and Verrier,
arm in arm. They had all been somewhere else first–somewhere
with something more potent than synthehol. Klauss noticed Tuvok
a little late, turned three shades of red. But Dalby just
grinned and saluted with all the expansiveness of a good buzz.
Tuvok’s eyebrow flickered and he rose from his stool by the pool
table, came over to the captain. Magda touched his arm.
“Temper, temper, Cher Tuvok. Notice their configuration–three
of one, five of the other. Interessant, non?”
He glanced at her. “Should we be pleased when Fleet
personnel mimic a maquis lack of discipline?”
I started to rise; B’Elanna spoke first. “I think you’ll
find it’s *Carey* who has the still, Tuvok.”
The captain was smiling her predator’s smile. “Chakotay,
when was the last time we had a red-alert drill?”
But Magda waved her hand. “Not tonight, ma cherie. As a
teacher, one must learn when to apply the ruler and when to look
the other way. Tonight is a night for looking away.” Smiling,
she reached over to pat Cherel’s hand. “We have back nos
enfants, as well as minou and Monsieur Tuvok.” Then picking up
Chaim’s blues harp, she tossed it at him. He caught it. Barely.
“Musique!”
Chaim glanced at Cherel, who shrugged; then he glanced at
Phil, who just turned in his chair to see if the piano had been
included tonight. It had been. Sauntering over, Phil pulled out
the bench and sat down. Cherel followed, reaching for her b’eta
case. Chaim followed them.
Janeway, Tuvok and Paris took the vacated chairs. “Is this
the infamous harp that called the bedouin?” Janeway asked, but
with a grin to take any sting out of it.
The three on stage were tuning up. Then they set off on
Antarian blues. The captain tapped the tabletop and nodded in
time. I leaned over, my hands folded neatly. “You like the
blues, captain?”
“The captain can *sing* the blues,” Tuvok replied, sounding
proprietary.
“Tuvok!” she snapped.
I looked from her to Tuvok. Paris had leaned over. “You
sing, ma’am?” She just glared him into silence.
Grinning, I sat back in my chair and raised a hand to get
Sandrine’s attention. At least with synthehol, I don’t have to
worry about my people’s genetic curse. “Wheat beer,” I said to
Sandrine. “I don’t care which brand.”
Magda sniffed at me. “Beer! a Dieu ne plaise!” To the
hologram, she said, “*Wine*,” stressing it. “Province,
preferablement.” Then to us, “Southern wine is far under-
appreciated.”
I snorted.
Magda patted my hand. “Four years I have tried to cure
minou of his attachment to German cat piss.”
“*Wheat* beer is hardly cat piss.”
Sandrine had reappeared. “ALL beer is cat piss, mon p’tit,”
she said, but with a smile and wink at Paris, who had a beer of
his own.
“French arrogance,” I muttered and took a drink. Magda
kicked my foot. Janeway seemed vastly amused by the entire
exchange. Harry, who had never been on Crazy Horse, looked
horrified to hear a mere ensign–even one old enough to be my
mother–tease the XO. I wondered what the kid would think if he
knew what “minou” meant.
“It’s a woman thing,” I said to him. “They aren’t happy
unless they can put us in our places.”
This time *both* Magda and Janeway kicked me, and B’Elanna
aimed a napkin wad at my head. Harry finally caught on and
laughed. But it was the high-pitched laugh of one slightly
uncomfortable.
Onstage, Chaim, Cherel and Phil had finished their first
song. We clapped. So did Carey and Dalby and company. “That
boy can play *and* sing,” Janeway said. I just nodded.
Chaim adjusted the little headset, spoke into the mic.
“This one is for the Queen Be. Phil, let’s have some frogs.”
I put my face in my hand. “Shit.” But it was too late.

“Jeremiah was a bullfrog!
Was a good friend of mine.
Never understood a single word he said,
but I helped him a-drink his wine.
And he always had some mighty fine wine.”

Paris was grinning; Magda had thrown back her head laughing;
Harry looked utterly baffled. And B’Elanna…the Queen Be had
climbed up onto the table beside ours to dance while the rest of
the maquis beat time on whatever came to hand: bartop, stools,
pool table, chairs….

“Joy to the world,
All the boys and girls, now;
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea,
Joy to you and me.”

The captain appeared dumbstruck–as well she might. Within
a minute, Chaim had turned Sandrine’s into a madhouse. Except
for Tuvok, the fleet officers were gaping openmouthed…like
frogs. And Tuvok–who had seen this before–had sunk down in his
chair. Janeway turned from watching B’Elanna to stare at me,
lean over the table and shout above the noise, “Commander, do you
want to *explain* this?”
“Not really,” I shouted back.

“If I was the king of the world,
Tell you what I’d do:
I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the wars,
And make sweet love to you.
Singing, joy to the world….”

This time, the fleet officers in Carey’s group joined in–
except for Klauss, who seemed entirely too self-conscious with
Tuvok there. B’Elanna had reached down to grab Paris’ hand and
pull him up on the table with her.
Abruptly, Janeway started laughing. “This is crazy–but I
like it.”

“You know I love the ladies;
Love to have my fun.
I’m a high night flier and a rainbow rider,
And a straight-shootin’ son of a gun–
I said a straight-shootin’ son of a gun.
Joy to the world….”

We all got in on it that time–except for Tuvok, of course.
But with the captain singing, even poor Klauss seemed to decide
that she was allowed.
And my captain floored *me*. Tuvok hadn’t been kidding.
She could sing. Counter-point in perfect tune, over the top.
“Joy to the world. All…all the boys and girls…. Joy, Joy…
deep blue sea. Joy to you and me.”
Music is strong medicine. A song of power. We made
mediwiwin that night, and they had no need of me as holy man to
beat the drum. B’Elanna did it with her feet on the table. Joy
to the world. I watched the captain dance with Magda. I’d throw
away the bars and the cars and the wars….
Near the end, seeing me sitting at the table alone, they
drew me out to dance with them. Music is strong medicine. But
so is dance. I danced with my captain; we called down the
manitto.

Mediwiwin mitig wakik.
Anishinaabe nimio, nantakoosimino, nimikon.

We’re the people, let’s dance.
We are all proud. Let’s all dance.

Phil ran a slide down the keys, brought it to a halt at the
same moment the bar doors burst open and Neelix came rushing in.
“Captain!” he shouted, paused, looked at all of us in various
states of social dishabille, then shook it off and called out:
“Kes is in labor!”

*** FINIS ***

Comments and suggestions are always welcome. I can be reached at
jrz3@psu.edu. To find out what happens next, see Peg Robinson’s
“Raisins and Almonds,” in the archive.



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