Lies Our Fathers Told Us

Story Notes: This is a “Janeway’s inner life” story from m.c. moose. In it,
reference is made to events described in Jeri Taylor’s ‘Mosaic’, but it should be
possible to understand this story without having read the book.

LIES OUR FATHERS TOLD US
by m.c. moose (c/o fnkaiser@aol.com)
(copyright, 1998)

Disclaimer: Paramount/Viacom holds all copyright, trademark, and patent
rights to Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and
all original characters of those series. No infringement of those rights is
intended or implied by their use in this story.

Time Frame: A Month After “The Killing Game”

She had forgotten all about the “mystery message.” Hell, given the events
of the last several months, she was amazed that *anyone* remembered it. Yet
there it was on the PADD before her, along with Seven’s terse request that the
Captain inform her of the priority that should be assigned to decrypting the
file.

B’Elanna had first brought the file to Kathryn over two months ago. It
was one of the last fragments recovered from their aborted communications
with the Federation, the Alpha quadrant, home. The header was missing, and
the file was encrypted. Torres had assumed the message must be for Janeway.
It was the logical assumption; who else would be allowed to receive an
encrypted message? Surely Starfleet had insisted on screening all
transmissions. In fact, the message probably was from Starfleet, eyes-only for
Captain Kathryn Janeway. But none of her Starfleet codes, past or present
(well, long past or recent past), keyed the message.

So the file became a literary sword-in-the-stone: “whosoever shall key in
the proper encryption code shall receive a message from home.” It became a
game. Paris started a betting pool. Kathryn’s own hunch was that one of the
Maquis managed to sneak it into the communication stream. But that theory
proved wrong, and seemed sadly laughable once they learned the fate of the
Maquis movement.

The message made the rounds, but people began to lose interest. None of
the more interesting theories panned out, so the gossip and bets died out. As
for the draw of the prize itself, well, the allure of a message from home
became less enticing as people started to deal with the harsh realities that
many of their letters contained, and the harsher reality that these were one-way
missives with no opportunity to reply or hear back again. The prize became
less and less attractive. It reminded Kathryn of the teenage joke she and
Phoebe shared: “First Prize: a one-week summer vacation in Indiana; Second
Prize: a two-week summer vacation in Indiana.”

Phoebe: now there was an interesting thought. Funny that she had not
gotten a letter from her sister. It was possible, of course, that her letter had
been one that had gotten lost. It was also possible, of course, that Starfleet had
limited all the families, even the captain’s, to a single letter. But if that were
the case, would Phoebe have relinquished the privilege to Mark? Not bloody
likely, especially when she essentially knew what Mark would write: “puppies
are fine, glad you’re not dead, I’ve moved on — you’d like her.” No, Phoebe
would not have stood still for that. She’d insist on being there to soften the
blow; at the very least, she’d need to write that Mark had gotten fat, bald, and
boring, even if these were categorical lies.

Kathryn sat back in her chair, eyeing the PADD. It was late. She had a
thousand things to do. The last month had been a nightmare of unending
work, trying to rebuild her ship (again!) without a proper spacedock, without
proper parts and supplies, without proper Starfleet support. Well, at least she
could take a perverse pleasure in the fact that some of the damage she had
inflicted herself. She wasn’t even sure why that thought amused her; clearly
the stress was getting to her. She should get back to work. She should go to
bed.

She keyed in the code she and Phoebe used since they were children,
passing messages they didn’t want parents, then teachers, then roommates, then
lovers, to “accidentally” read.

The words cascaded over the screen, seemingly glad to be freed from
their encryption prison. She caught her sister’s closing signature as it streamed
by, followed by what looked to be a number of pages from Starfleet files.
*Curiouser and curiouser,* she thought. *Well, no more work or sleep
tonight.* She scrolled to the top of the message.

Dear Kathryn,
Words cannot describe the relief we felt when word came. Mother
dropped ten years from her face in that instant. She had taken the news of
your loss very hard. Strangely, she had somehow accepted that marrying a
Starfleet officer meant possibly dealing with his loss, but not that having a
child in Starfleet might result in the same. Plus, you’ve always had that unique
talent for cheating death–I guess she never considered, never really accepted,
that she might someday lose you. I’m beyond joy that you’ve proven her right.
I’m assuming that encrypted letters will be the last ones distributed. If I’m
wrong, if you haven’t read the letter from Mark, STOP RIGHT NOW. READ
NO FURTHER. REALLY. I MEAN IT, KATHRYN.
Still reading? Okay. I’m sorry about Mark. I’m very sorry. But really,
he’s gotten bald and fat and boring anyway. Well, no, he hasn’t. Mark is still
Mark, as he always was and always will be. And he suffered terribly when he
thought you’d been killed. Like Mom, I don’t think he ever really believed that
you could die. You always seemed so indestructible to him (at least
physically). He once told me how, even when we were kids, he was amazed
how you could stand in the middle of harm’s way and come out completely
unscathed (while he would end up battered and bruised just sitting on the
sidelines watching). The first couple of years were extremely hard for him.
So try to be happy for him. He deserves to be happy.
Speaking of the first couple of years, I think both Mark and I became a bit
obsessed by our need to find out what really happened to you. Maybe we just
needed some closure on your disappearance; we both found it hard to accept
what Starfleet kept telling us. No sign of battle, no sign of accident, just gone.
So we started digging and hounding. We probably used up every ounce of
influence and pull either one of us every had or will have. In fact, we probably
have used up all of yours as well. We got access to every ‘Fleet file possible. I
guess being part of the Quester group carries some weight, and being the
daughter of a ‘Fleet admiral and sister of a captain is not without advantage
either.
Kathryn, I am very disturbed by some of the things I have learned. I feel
that Starfleet has lied to you and used you throughout your career. I am also
disturbed by how relatively nonplused Mark seems by all this. Maybe you
knew, or suspected, some of the things I found and had discussed them with
him. Maybe his experiences consulting with Starfleet have made him more
jaded than me. Perhaps I still hold an idealized vision of Starfleet; I just don’t
know. I haven’t shared any of this with Mother. I worry that it would put the
ten years back on her face; I worry that it would kill her. I debated whether or
not to share this information with you. At some level, it seemed very unfair to
burden you further, and I’m not sure what, if anything, you can do with
information anyway. On the other hand, I know how you hate it when
someone keeps the truth from you. And that’s what Starfleet has been doing
for over twenty years now. I know the captain is always supposed to be told
the condition of her ship, no matter how bad it is. So that’s what I’m doing;
you’re the captain.
Remember that there are people here who love you; know that we will
continue to wait for you. I love you. I will maintain the watch.
Always,
Phoebe

Kathryn took a deep breath and put down the PADD. This was not the
time to read what Phoebe had found. She was exhausted. There wasn’t
anything she could do about anything anyway; with the loss of the
communication array, sixty thousand light-years was once again a very long
way from home. What was the point? Phoebe was probably being overly
dramatic. Mark hadn’t said anything about this in his letter. Was it because he
didn’t think it worth mentioning, or did he think it was better if he and Phoebe
staggered the body blows? Kathryn sighed and picked up the PADD — Phoebe
was right: she was the captain.

The first report Phoebe had enclosed was the classified file on the
mission Kathryn had flown with Admiral Owen Paris to the moon of Urtea II.
That was during her first tour out of the Academy; she had been a junior
science officer onboard the Icarus. The purported mission was scientific, and
Kathryn was thrilled that a major focus of study was massive compact halo
objects. She had done her junior thesis on the subject under Paris’ direction,
and knew he had hand-picked her for the mission. She couldn’t imagine a
more exciting (and fast-tracked) start to her Starfleet career. Enroute, there
had been a rather disturbing briefing: yes, they were going to study halo
objects on this expedition, but there was a covert aspect to the mission. It was
critical that Starfleet gather fleet movement data on the Cardassians. Kathryn
was surprised, but not shocked; it was not uncommon for Starfleet to include
reconnaissance operations in “normal” missions. Given the volatile situation
with Cardassia, she would have almost been surprised if they weren’t checking
up on things, especially considering the proximity of their operations to the
Cardassian border.

Most of the file was familiar to Kathryn. Familiar, and painful. She and
Paris were in a shuttle in transit to the moon when they were caught by the
tractor beam of a Cardassian warbird. Yes, they were going to retrieve
scientific data from a sensor array on the moon, and yes, there probably were
other sensors collecting less benign data as the Cardassians suspected. But
Kathryn didn’t know any of the details of the covert operation, and Gul Camet
quickly surmised her relative state of ignorance. So it was Owen Paris who
had undergone the excruciating Cardassian torture while Kathryn huddled in
her cramped cell: cold, bleeding, and more frightened than she thought a
proper Starfleet officer should ever be. If only he would stop screaming….
They had been rescued, and everyone made a full physical recovery. But that
haunted look in Owen Paris’ eyes remained. It was still there the last time
Kathryn had seen him, when she went to talk with him about having his son
Tom join her mission to the Badlands.

Kathryn let out a frustrated sigh. Why was Phoebe rehashing all this?
Yes, Starfleet had been less than forthright about the nature of their mission.
But would she have refused the mission had she known about the covert
component? She doubted it. This was clearly a career-advancing mission.
And being in Starfleet, even in the Science track, meant that you contributed to
the defense of the Federation. Cardassia was a clear threat to the Federation at
that point. Hell, Cardassia was a threat again. The paper-thin accord that had
ceded so many border planets, that had been the genesis of the Maquis when it
was clear the Federation had abandoned the residents of those planets? This
treaty had quickly been abandoned by the Cardassians once they felt they were
in a position of strength: another delightful piece of information the crew of
Voyager had gleaned from their Alpha quadrant missives. No, the Urtea II
mission was tactically sound; it was just bad luck that she and Paris had been
captured. And ‘Fleet took care of their own; Justin and the other Rangers had
come screaming in like the cavalry. Owen had said it best: the mission was
highly successful; the commendations they received were well deserved.

But looking at the PADD once again, Kathryn realized there was more to
the report, a part of the file she had never seen before. She read it carefully,
then re-read it to make sure she fully understood its import. The capture of the
shuttlecraft had been planned, fully orchestrated by Paris and the Rangers.

Starfleet knew the Cardassians possessed advanced interrogation
technology and needed to get hold of this technology. Then, Starfleet
engineers could reverse-engineer the hardware and work with ‘Fleet scientists
and physicians to develop effective countermeasures. If Starfleet couldn’t
defeat this technology, Federation security was severely compromised; any
captured officers would pour forth their full knowledge of ‘Fleet operations
and strategies.

It was clearly worth the risk of two officers to procure this technology,
even if one was a line admiral. And if Paris were made to talk, he really didn’t
know that much that would compromise ‘Fleet security. Paris had spent most
of the past few years teaching at the Academy. Much of his expertise was in
theoretical science (of little interest to Cardassia), and most of his knowledge
of fleet technology concerned “mature” technologies that the Cardassians had
fully studied and cataloged. As for information concerning the Icarus’ current
mission, well, did anyone *not* realize that they would be gathering
intelligence information? And as for Ensign Janeway? She knew even less.
Yes, it was a reasonable risk, Paris had agreed. That the Cardassians thought
they had snagged an admiral? That would make the ruse quite compelling.
That a green ensign, mouthing an obvious party-line of “we were only
collecting scientific data” was also caught in the net? More compelling still.
Yes, Starfleet had created a very believable trap, and it was sprung flawlessly.

But Starfleet intelligence didn’t quite agree with Paris’ assessment that the
mission was a complete success. There was one major disappointment
concerning the mission’s outcome, and Janeway suppressed a shudder when
she read it: Starfleet had hoped to recover two of the subdermal torture
devices. Damn the luck; they had to settle for one.

Kathryn took a deep breath and considered what she had read. It really
wasn’t that surprising. In retrospect, she knew that the Federation needed to
learn a great deal more about the Cardassians than the movement of their fleet.
The Cardassians were new and dangerous enemies. They were aggressive.
They did not subscribe to the same rules of war as the Federation. Torture was
an accepted (hell, admired) form of interrogation. Starfleet was desperate to
understand the technology Cardassians used to extract information from their
prisoners. It was imperative that Starfleet develop effective countermeasures
to these methods. Otherwise, entire campaigns would be compromised by the
capture of a single officer. Kathryn understood the necessity. Wars could only
be won if your side’s technology was as good as the enemy’s, preferably better.
If the enemy used a technology you found morally untenable, it was critical to
find a way to render it useless. This battle for technological superiority was as
vicious as any space skirmish, and it was never-ending. It was largely fought it
the world of covert operations. The prices paid here were as high as in any
“hot” war, and sometimes the participants were far less aware of the dangers.

As for the possibility that Owen Paris had used her, had lied to her?
Well, she had started to notice Owen’s feet of clay long ago. And Owen
wouldn’t have had so far to fall if she hadn’t put him so high on a pedestal to
begin with. She couldn’t help it; she was far too prone to hero-worship. And it
didn’t help that she had met Owen when she was only a junior at the Academy.
Nor did it help that he was an expert in her particular area of scientific study,
and looked to be the paradigm of a Starfleet officer, like her father. And was
willing and able to spend time with her, unlike her father. Okay. Let’s not go
there.

But with time, she recognized that Owen Paris was not without faults.
Oh, he was still one of the most admirable Starfleet officers she had ever met.
But the way he handled the affair with Tom’s accident and court-martial, well,
Kathryn found that pretty unforgivable. So did Owen’s wife, and his
daughters. Yes, the picture of a perfect, happy, Starfleet family Owen
displayed on his desk was a lie. And it was, to Kathryn’s mind, a clearly worse
lie than any he told her to ensure a successful mission for the Federation.

************
Kathryn glanced at the next file, and realized its contents might prove a
bit more of an emotional challenge. It contained the classified debriefing that
was held after the crash of the Terra Nova, the crash that had killed her father
and Justin. Well, leave it to Phoebe to keep raising the bar. *Okay, I can
handle this,* Kathryn thought. *The nightmares have stopped. I can live with
my mistake, the cost of my inability to decide. Bring on the dragons; how bad
can they be?*

She found her answer to her question in the first sentence of the report:
“The crash was orchestrated so to have been survivable by all flight crew
members.” Orchestrated? How can the crash of a prototype spacecraft be
orchestrated? The answer was simple: by Starfleet Intelligence.

The atmosphere in Admiral Janeway’s office was bleak. Design images
of the Terra Nova had been leaked, stolen; it didn’t matter: the Cardassians had
them. Two and a half years of intensive design and development invested in
the new Starfleet attack ship, and now everything could be fully compromised.
If the Cardassians could get the information they already had about the ship,
chances were good that they could get more. The tide of the technology battle
would turn in Cardassia’s favor. Again.

Hours of discussion. How to salvage the project? How to locate and stop
the leak? How to throw the Cardassians off the trail? A solution was
suggested, ridiculed, but then reconsidered. What if the ship was made to
appear a complete failure? What if it crashed during its preliminary flighttest?
They could trace the leak of the test results to its source and stop the
information flow. The last intelligence the Cardassians obtained would
indicate that Starfleet had an unstable vehicle, unable to fly even in a benign
test environment, much less under battle conditions. The Cardassians would
direct their attention elsewhere, and Starfleet could complete their newest
weapon, their technological edge. Advantage: Starfleet.

But the flighttest and the crash had to be completely convincing. The
Cardassians must not suspect a staging. To this end, Edward Janeway insisted
he be part of the flighttest crew. He was the ship’s principal designer and was
known for a hands-on approach. His presence would lend credence to flight.
Admiral Janeway then suggested Justin Tighe, a Starfleet Ranger, serve as test
pilot. Cardassia knew that the Rangers would be among the first users of the
new vehicle, so it made sense that the test pilot would be drawn from the
Rangers’ ranks. The few people at the table who knew Edward well enough to
have heard that Justin was engaged to Kathryn looked vaguely uncomfortable.
Boy, what kind of weird father-in-law, son-in-law dynamics were developing
here? Discomfort turned to shock at Edward’s next suggestion: “I think my
daughter Kathryn needs to be part of the flight crew as well. I’ve included her
on every one of my ‘first flights’ since she turned thirteen. We sort of
considered it her rite of passage, much to her mother’s dismay.” Owen smiled
at the memory of battles fought in the Janeway household over this quaint
family tradition. “If Kathryn were excluded from this flight, it might raise
suspicions.” The silence in the room was deafening. Edward looked around
the table and continued. “So, I hope all of you are as motivated as I am to
ensure the entire flight crew survives this crash.”

The design team was motivated. Highly motivated. The vehicle was
already designed to maximize crash survivability. This ship was going to be
used in atmospheric dogfight battles as well as in space. Given this
near-planet mission, some were certain to crash onto planet surfaces. Crew
loss needed to be minimized. Even so, additional steps were taken to
ruggedized Terra Nova’s flight deck. The rest of the ship would be totally
destroyed; it would be sacrificed to save the crew.

Of course, some concessions had to be made for security reasons. None
of the reports from Starfleet Intelligence suggested that the Cardassians would
be bold enough to attempt to recover the wreckage, but then again, sometimes
the reports were wrong. So it was decided that only the flight-critical
components of the ship’s advanced technology would be operational. All
advanced technology systems would be onboard, but they wouldn’t be
functional. For the most part, this didn’t concern the design team. There were
only a few components that met the advanced technology criteria: technology
not yet familiar to the Cardassian. The augmented aft shields fell in this
category, as did some of the weaponry, but the former weren’t needed and the
latter wouldn’t be mounted for the initial flighttest anyway.

The only issue that raised real concern was the transporter. This ship was
designed with the latest generation transporter. Why would Cardassia care
about acquiring Federation transporter technology? Well, because this
generation of the hardware possessed enhanced bio/chemical filtering
capabilities to prevent possible shipwide contamination when crews exposed
to bio/chemical hazards were beamed onboard. Clearly, it would be to the
Cardassians’ advantage to find ways to defeat these filters. Nothing would
please the Cardassians more than to know that evacuation of victims of their
bio/chemical weapons would compromise the health and safety of an entire
starship crew.

So, no. The transporter could not be operational. Brief consideration was
given to replacing the transporter with an older model. But the Cardassians
knew the ships specifications; if the transporter found in the wreckage didn’t
match what was indicated on the drawings, suspicions would be raised.
Besides, who the hell would need to use Terra Nova’s transporter? The one on
the Search and Rescue ship would be used to recover the crew.

Who the hell, indeed.

When Kathryn was twelve, she read a twentieth century novel called
“Sophie’s Choice.” One of her teachers recommended it to her; he said it
would give her something to think about. Boy, did it ever. The story was
about a young German woman who, through a series of tragic circumstances,
is arrested with her children and sent to a concentration camp. At the train
station to the camp, she is confronted by a German soldier who informs her
that, since she is a German, she will be granted a “luxury.” She will be
allowed to save one of her two children, but only one. That is her choice:
Sophie’s choice. Sophie protests that she cannot possibly make such a choice;
she should not be asked to make such a choice. The soldier shrugs and
responds that if she doesn’t choose, both children will be killed: her choice.
The woman is frantic; she doesn’t know what to do. Finally, in a panic, she
chooses to save her son; his younger sister will die. Much of the rest of the
book dealt with the curse of her choice. Her decision continues to haunt her.
After the war, she moves to America, but she can never escape her remorse.
Ultimately, Sophie kills herself. Her choice has destroyed her.

Kathryn developed an obsession with this story as only an early
adolescent can. She dug up a viddisc with the movie that was made from the
book. She read about the author. How did he come up with this idea? Was it
a true story? But what really intrigued Kathryn was that, for the first time in
her young life, she encountered the idea that they may be situations for which
there is no correct answer, no acceptable choice. Throughout her childhood,
Kathryn had been rewarded for being “the bright child.” It had seemed that
every problem had a solution; given enough thought, every puzzle could be
solved. But that wasn’t the case here. Kathryn repeatedly considered all the
possible options. What could Sophie have done? She could choose one of her
children. Perhaps she could find a good reason to choose one: the girl was
healthier, the boy was older and better able to fend for himself. Something,
anything to make the decision livable. But Sophie couldn’t find that comfort;
no mother could. Or she could refuse to decide, and both children would die.
No, there was no correct choice. All paths let to loss.

Fifteen years later, after the crash of the Terra Nova, Kathryn Janeway
found herself on a frozen planet, confronting Sophie’s choice. Her father and
Justin were trapped in the flightdeck of the ship, and the ship was sinking into
the water. She had enough energy to transport one of them. Not both. She
had to choose. Sophie’s choice.

But Kathryn was a Starfleet officer. And James T. Kirk had taught
Starfleet officers what should be done with a no-win situation. Kirk had
figured it out when he was still a cadet at the Academy: if you can’t win the
game, change the rules. He reprogrammed a no-win mission simulation so
that he could win: rescue the stranded, escape unharmed. The Starfleet
solution.

The Academy no longer used the simulation. At some point the
instructors realized that you could use simulations to quicken response times
and improve battle skills, but it was much harder to create a compelling moral
dilemma; the simulation just wasn’t real and the students knew it. But Kirk’s
lesson was real, and the cadets remembered it. Don’t accept defeat; change the
rules.

So Kathryn stood at the transporter console in this frozen wasteland,
desperately rerouting power through the phaser couplings to gain enough
energy to transport both men to safety. She raced against the rising water and
her failing body to get the power reading up to 800 megawatts. The instant the
unit had adequate energy, she initiated the transporter sequence…and nothing
happened. Nor did anything happen on her subsequent tries. The fuselage
sank into the water. She hadn’t changed the rules; she still was in a no-win
situation. She had tried to avoid Sophie’s choice, and in the process lost both
her father and Justin.

By the time Starfleet’s Search & Rescue team arrived, there was only one
living crewman to recover. She was taken to a Starfleet medical facility to
heal her broken body. And, it was decided, to also relieve her mind of those
final memories of the failed transport. Already Kathryn Janeway had a
reputation throughout Starfleet as a tenacious problem solver. If she awoke
with the memory of a malfunctioning transporter, she would damn sure find
out why the transporter had failed. She would know she had the routed the
necessary power; it should have worked. If Kathryn pursued her investigation,
she would discover that the transporters had been intentionally disabled, and,
well, it was easy to see where all this could lead. No, better to work with her
already willing defense mechanisms to suppress those memories. Her failure;
her inability to make Sophie’s choice. So mental barriers were carefully
constructed; an alternate scenario took root in her memory, and flourished
there. For fifteen years, through multiple retellings and silent, grieving
recollection, the implanted memory served as her reality.

Until one day in the Delta quadrant, tens of thousands of light years away
from Starfleet support, when the barriers started to crumble. Without the help
of Starfleet counselors, without the support of her family, with only the help of
an Emergency Medical Hologram whose programming did not include
counseling or psychiatric subroutines, Kathryn Janeway had to cope with the
guilt and anguish of what had happened on that ice planet: she had failed, and
because of her failure Justin and her father had died. She hadn’t managed to
change the rules; she hadn’t managed to make Sophie’s choice.

And now she sat in the quiet of her Ready Room with a new realization:
the choice was never hers to make. It didn’t make a damn bit of difference
what action she had taken. Starfleet had placed her in the worst no-win
situation; she hadn’t even been given Sophie’s choice. The only choice she had
on that planet was whether to watch Justin and her father die or to turn away.
That was the cruel lie in Kirk’s lesson; it wasn’t always possible to change the
rules. At some point in life, one encounters a true no-win situation. Even Kirk
had faced this realization, although it was surprisingly late in his career. The
Klingons had the weapons. They made the rules. They would kill either Kirk’s
son or Savik; they killed Kirk’s son.

What had this lie cost her? Only the pain and guilt she had struggled with
for the last two years. Living with the knowledge, now shown false, that she
could have saved one of the two men. Justin. Daddy. What a burden that
false knowledge had been.

It had almost cost her the ability to command. The collapse of her mental
dam and the subsequent flood of memory had come at a most inopportune
moment, in the midst of their encounter with the Tokath. She was on the
bridge, for God’s sake, but her mind was back on that damned ice planet,
seeing Justin and her father slipping towards death, knowing her failure. As
she stood on her bridge, caught between the compelling past and the
demanding present, she was terrified that she would be unable to deal with the
present crisis. The memories, the fear of another failure, the inability to
decide, all consorted to paralyze her. The current situation with the Tokath
was hauntingly familiar. The landing parties were in danger, but to return for
their rescue might destroy Voyager. Save her away teams or protect her
onboard crew. Sophie’s choice again. No-win.

Luck was with her that day. Kirk’s solution worked. She changed the
rules, forced the Tokath back into hibernation. Rescue the stranded; escape
unharmed. A clever, creative, Starfleet solution. It had saved the day, but it
hadn’t saved Kathryn. Not really. She knew she still had to deal with the true
challenge of command, when rules couldn’t be changed and the best she could
do would be to minimize the loss. She knew that Sophie’s choice would
confront her again, demanding that she weigh the cost of each option, decide
who to sacrifice. She knew she had failed Sophie’s choice that day on the ice
planet. She worried she would fail again, and her crew would pay the price.
Commanding officers had to be able to choose. And to not let the choice
destroy them.

As it turned out, Sophie’s choice presented itself not long after their
encounter with the Tokath. It was embodied in an individual born from a
transporter accident. His name was Tuvix. Tuvix was a hybrid of Neelix’s and
Tuvok’s genetic makeups. He wasn’t either of them. Nor, the crew quickly
discovered, was he simply the sum of them. He was himself, a unique
individual. Kathryn liked him. The whole crew did. He was intelligent,
charming, insightful, and loving. He had a zest for life. And he held an
unshakable belief that the procedure developed to reverse the accident’s effect
was nothing short of his cold-blooded execution.

Ultimately, the decision was placed in Kathryn’s hands. Tuvix, or Tuvok
and Neelix. Her choice. Oh, there was Starfleet protocol to guide her:
minimize loss, choose the greater good, respect prior claim. But interpretation
of these axioms was subjective; logic could be twisted to support either side of
the argument. She knew what she faced. It was Sophie’s choice.

She chose Tuvok and Neelix. It was left to her to administer the
hypospray that would permit genetic separation. Tuvix stared at her with sad,
confused eyes as she started the procedure. It was left to her to activate the
transported sequence. She and the others watched as Tuvok and Neelix
materialized on the biobed. And at that same instant, Tuvix became a deleted
pattern in the transporter’s buffer.

Kes rushed to embrace Neelix. Kathyn approached her returned crewmen
and quietly greeted them: “It’s good to have you back.” Then she turned and
left Sickbay. The walk to her quarters was one of the longest of her life.
There was no way she could feel anything but horrible about what she had just
done. Her decision haunted her, but it did not destroy her. She had
transcended Sophie’s choice.

So this lie had cost her, she realized. It had, for a time, diminished her,
threatened her. But she recovered, and defeated the demons it created. She
was more concerned about the demons these events would have created for her
sister. Phoebe now knew that her father hadn’t been killed in an accident, but
rather had martyred himself to preserve Starfleet security. And she knew that
he was willing to risk Kathryn’s life, and Justin’s as well, to achieve this end.
Kathryn wondered if Phoebe could possibly understand their father’s actions.
Did Phoebe understand that he was, truly, only doing his job? Could she
appreciate that the tragedy that resulted was simply the result of a cascade of
unforeseen misfortunes? Bad luck that the section with her father and Justin
landed in the water. Bad luck that nobody insisted on _some_ sort of
operational transporter. Bad luck (or bad planning) that the Search and Rescue
team didn’t want to appear to be “hovering” at the crash site, and had no
inkling of their dire situation. And damn bad luck that Kathryn was whisked
to another quadrant before Starfleet could help her cope with her recovered
memories, to help her understand that she never was responsible for the death
of the two most important men in her life.

Kathryn worried that Phoebe might now think their father a monster,
unfeelingly throwing his loved ones in harm’s way to protect his damn
creation. She wished she could talk with Phoebe and make her understand.
Edward Janeway wasn’t a monster; he was simply a Starfleet officer. She
hoped Phoebe could understand. She hoped Mark would help Phoebe
understand.

And what did Kathryn understand? Well, she understood that she felt like
the butt of a remarkably unfunny cosmic joke. First, she suffered the greatest
lost in her life because the Terra Nova’s descent trajectory was off by less than
a degree; because Starfleet was afraid to provide them with a working
transporter in fear it might fall into the hands of a Cardassian strike team
which never, as it turned out, came anywhere near the site; because their
Starfleet backup, unaware of their desperate need, arrived too late. Then she
had had to deal with the mistaken guilt of causing her father’s and Justin’s
deaths because the only people who could have told her the truth were seventy
thousand light-years away and presumed she was dead anyway. She was half
tempted to check to see if Q was in the room.

And she sadly understood that she would never know whether or not
Justin was aware of their mission’s true purpose. Yes, he had been part of the
planning for Urtea II, but that didn’t mean Starfleet would have included him
on this latter occasion. Would he have agreed to the plan? For himself,
without a doubt. He was a Ranger. Rangers took risks. A lot of risks. On
average, five percent of the Rangers were lost during operations each year. At
first blush, that didn’t sound too bad; if 5% were lost, that meant 95% survived.
But Kathryn had done the math before she accepted his marriage proposal. If
Justin stayed with the Rangers for twelve years, as he planned at the time, his
chances of survival were about 50-50. Not very good odds, but Kathryn
accepted them. She did not try to delude herself into thinking only the least
competent Rangers were lost, that Justin would survive on the basis of his
superior skills. No, all Rangers were superior. The loss was completely
capricious. Kathryn simply decided that loving Justin was worth the risk; she
would cherish whatever time they had together. As it turned out, that time was
painfully short.

But would Justin have agreed to place her in danger? Kathryn didn’t think
so. She remembered what he had said after his unit rescued her from the
Cardassians: “I just knew I wasn’t going to let them hurt you.” No, he would
not have agreed. Justin had been very protective of her. Perhaps he felt guilty
about her involvement in the Urtea II mission. Perhaps he simply loved her
that much and didn’t know how else to express it. She smiled at how
uncomplicated, how unrealistic, their youthful love had been. No, Justin
probably was not a part of this lie. Probably not.

**************
Kathryn’s eyes froze when they reached the header line of the next report.
This was the file on Voyager’s mission to the Badlands. The mission to
capture the Maquis. The mission to rescue Tuvok. The mission that landed
them here, now. It was this last fact that gave her pause. The other files were
about missions long ago, decades old. If there were offenses Starfleet had
committed against her in those files, they could be viewed with the objective
detachment time affords. Bygones.

But what she would read in this file would impact her present. Probably
her crew; possibly her ship. Moreover, whatever convenient lie of omission or
commission Starfleet concocted had not been addressed to a green ensign or
junior grade lieutenant. No, this would involve a lie to the captain of a
Federation starship. This would mean the truth was withheld from a person
responsible for the lives of her entire crew. This was…this was wrong; this
was a betrayal. Should she read the file? She had to read it. She was the
captain. She had to know the condition of her ship. Her vehicle. Her vessel.
Her soul.

Starfleet Intelligence was horrified. Preliminary reports had been
confirmed. A Maquis vessel a disappeared from the Badlands without a trace:
no debris, no phaser energy residual, not even a warp signature trace. It was
impossible; no known natural phenomenon could account for this. That left
one likely explanation, a terrifying explanation: a new Cardassian weapon, and
they were testing it on the Maquis.

The increased aggressiveness of the Cardassians was a continuing worry.
Yes, a treaty was in place, but nobody in the upper echelon of Starfleet held
any illusion that this pact would ensure security. It was clear that the
Cardassians were mounting their forces, and using exercises against the
Maquis to test new tactics and technologies. Oh, it was an imperfect testbed;
the Maquis employed guerrilla tactics, and their ships and hardware were
hardly state-of-the-art. But many of the Maquis were former Starfleet officers,
employing Starfleet strategies and sensibilities. No, the test situation was not
ideal, but it would suffice. And Cardassia was not ready to mount a full-scale
attack on Federation space.

Or were they? That was what was so disturbing about this recent
development. If the Cardassians possessed a means of such total destruction,
it could well mean a significant shift in the balance of power. Starfleet had to
know: what had really happened to that Maquis ship? It was a delicate
situation. Starfleet could not simply cruise into the Badlands and mount an
investigation; the area was under Cardassian jurisdiction. No, Starfleet needed
a sound justification, a rationale that the Cardassian government must accept,
if not approve.

In this regard, Starfleet had a possible opening. The Maquis, after all,
were their enemy as well. Further, there had been a Starfleet operative, a
Lieutenant Tuvok, on the Maquis ship that vanished. Starfleet could, quite
legitimately, suspect foul play on the part of the Maquis. Yes, they had a right
to investigate the disappearance of their officer–where had the Maquis taken
him? Now Cardassia was over a barrel: either they admit that they had
destroyed the Maquis ship, or they permit Starfleet to mount a mission to the
Badlands.

The choice of which ship, which captain to send was not difficult.
Voyager was the first fielded Intrepid-class vessel with bioneural circuitry.
This could prove a critical advantage in negotiating the Badlands. The
millisecond savings the gelpacks gave the control system could mean the
difference between avoiding and impacting deadly obstacles. In fact, this
mission could serve as the final, critical field test of this new technology.
Further, the crew complement was relatively small. Not as small as a
strike-force vessel, but Cardassia would protest if such a ship was sent. It had
to be an explorer ship; that was what Starfleet sent on investigative missions.
And Voyager was probably the smallest and most agile explorer ship in the
fleet. Yes, Voyager was the right ship.

Was Janeway the right captain for the mission? Again, this was not a
difficult decision. To replace her would raise suspicion; that was to be
avoided. Besides, she was probably a good choice for the job anyway. True,
she had limited experience in covert operations, but she would not be
functioning as a covert operative. She would be functioning as a starship
captain on a rescue mission. For that function, she was well trained and highly
motivated. Very highly motivated. Tuvok was one of her oldest and closest
friends in Starfleet. She knew his family, cared deeply about his welfare.

It was clear she hadn’t fully approved when Tuvok accepted the mission
to infiltrate the Maquis. It was, she had told him, “a remarkably reckless
undertaking for a disciplined, Vulcan security officer.” That was her public
comment; in truth, she wasn’t sure how much she believed in spying against
the Maquis. True, by the terms of the peace accord, the Maquis were the
recognized enemy of both the Federation and Cardassia. And there were
mounting reports of Maquis attacks against Starfleet. But at some visceral
level, she felt that many of the Maquis’ actions were those of people who had
been pushed too far back into a corner. And like the Maquis, she had no great
love for the Cardassians. They had hurt her, they had hurt people she cared
about. And although even she recognized the convolutions in her logic, she
held them responsible for her Father’s and Justin’s deaths. Moreover, she knew
that a number of the Maquis leaders were former ‘Fleeters, Starfleet officers
who had resigned their commissions to fight for “the enemy.” That was not
done lightly; that was done at a terrible personal cost. It was, simply, an ugly
situation. None of this was what Starfleet should be about.

But Tuvok was a strong motivation. And Starfleet could diminish her
other concerns. A number of the more vicious Maquis attacks, especially
those against Starfleet personnel, had not been tied to a particular cell. In the
absence of information to the contrary, well, there was really no reason that
Captain Kathryn Janeway couldn’t be led to believe that these atrocities had
been committed by Chakotay’s cell. It was not outside the realm of possibility,
and it would improve her motivation: Tuvok in the hands of blood-thirsty
Maquis.

So she would be motivated. And she was good, very good, at thinking on
her feet. That would be a real asset for this mission; Starfleet wasn’t at all
sure what would happen out there. The best case scenario was that Janeway
would find answers (if not the ship). Or possibly, the data from the covert
sensors Starfleet Intelligence was piggy-backing on Voyager’s arrays would
provide the information they needed. The worst case? Cardassia would
decide it was time to test their weapon on a more appropriate target: a
Federation Starship. It would be a boldly aggressive act, but then, Cardassia
was becoming increasingly bold and aggressive. And they could always blame
the ship’s destruction on the vicious natural phenomena of the Badlands, as
they had with the Maquis ship. If this came to pass, Starfleet Intelligence
could only hope that they recovered enough telemetry data to make the
mission worth its cost.

For the best case scenario, Janeway was a good choice. She had the
science and engineering background to ask the right questions. She also had
excellent diplomat skills in dealing with the Cardassians; quite remarkable,
actually, considering her experiences with them. In truth, she was effective in
her dealings for two reasons. First, she was only able to interact with
Cardassians by completely suppressing all her feelings; as a result, she
revealed absolutely nothing in her negotiations other than what was conveyed
in the verbal exchange. The Cardassians Guls tended to interpret this as a lack
of guile, and so they trusted her. Why, it was almost like dealing with a
Vulcan. Second, many of the Guls found interacting with women, especially
Human women, greatly defused their natural aggression. It wasn’t sexual, not
really. It was more that dominant Cardassian males felt an instinctive
competitiveness when dealing with another male; they could not dare make a
concession, show a weakness. When interacting with a woman, that
dominance stance was disarmed. They could actually be, much to Starfleet’s
amazement, reasonable–at least in the short term. Yes, Janeway would ensure
that no inadvertent escalation occurred on this mission. And that was critical.

That left the worst case scenario. Were Janeway and her crew
expendable? Was Voyager? Hardware first. It was never good to lose the
first ship of a class, for reasons both technological (even after extensive testing
and prototyping, a great deal is learned during initial field operations) and
psychological (the design is seen as a failure; future crews regard the ships as
deathtraps). But for reasons already considered, Voyager was the right ship for
the mission. It could be replaced if necessary.

Could the crew be replaced? Largely, yes. Voyager’s crew was highly
competent and fiercely loyal to Janeway; certainly good qualities to have, but
hardly unique in Starfleet. Probably the most uniquely talented crew member,
excluding the captain, was Tuvok. It was unusual to have a Vulcan dedicate
himself to security; most Vulcans in Starfleet pursued Science or Engineering,
a handful chose Command. And Tuvok brought a unusual perspective to bear,
having served in Starfleet under Captain Sulu during Starfleet’s “cowboy” days
as well as in the current era. But Tuvok was already lost; he was not a factor
that need be considered in the decision process.

Janeway presented an interesting case. She, too, brought an unusual mix
of talents to her position–a background in science and engineering prior to
pursuing command track. And she was a Starfleet legacy; her father had been
an admiral, a highly valued ship designer. Born wearing Starfleet diapers, as
the saying went. Janeway was a good captain; it would be a shame to lose her.

But truth be told, there were few Starfleet captains who wouldn’t be a
shame to lose. And Starfleet had to be realistic about the developing situation.
The Federation was going to go to war with Cardassia. It was really only a
question of when, not if. So pragmatic choices had to be made about which
officers were most valuable in light of current events.

Captains of Federation starships served three roles: explorer/scientist,
ambassador, and warrior. These were the three implicit pillars of Starfleet,
and the weight of importance shifted among the three depending on the
fortunes of the Federation. As the Federation moved towards war, the
demands on ‘Fleet captains shifted away from explorer/scientist: first to
diplomat, then to warrior. Sometime, as with the Borg invasion, the shift
didn’t really bother stopping at the diplomat leg.

Janeway was an exemplary explorer/scientist. She was born to the role
and obviously relished it. This was, to her mind, the most inspiring of
Starfleet’s “trinity” of goals, and she embraced it fully. But when the war
came, science and exploration (unless it contributed to the war effort) would
be put on a back burner. Janeway was a most competent diplomat, very
effective with the Cardassians. But truth be told, Starfleet suspected the time
for diplomacy with Cardassia was coming to an end. So that left warrior. Was
Janeway a valuable warrior? This was a harder call.

On several occasions, Janeway had demonstrated a genuine talent for
battle. But never had she demonstrated a taste for battle. It was obvious that
she gained no pleasure from her victories; she clearly saw her military actions
as an unpleasant necessity, nothing more. The debriefs of her battle
encounters, both planned and inadvertent, showed her to be a clever strategist
and inventive tactician. It was obvious that she could generalize her problem
solving skills from technical goals to military ones. But it was equally evident
that she did so with reluctance, perhaps even regret.

In the course of her Starfleet career, Janeway had been involved in only
one extended conflict: Wolf 359. By the end of the campaign, it was clear she
was emotionally exhausted, possibly clinically depressed. The loss of crew
members was extremely hard on her. As her second in command phrased it,
“every time someone died, the captain died a little as well.” This was an
understandable, even commendable, human reaction. But it was a highly
dangerous reaction for a military commander. If the Federation went to war
with Cardassia, *when* the Federation went to war with Cardassia, even the
most clever and inventive captains would lose many people under their
command. They couldn’t afford to die a little each time; if they did, they
would soon be dead themselves. And Starfleet couldn’t afford dead captains,
especially those who would still be in command of a starship.

So if Janeway was to be lost in the Cardassian conflict, perhaps it was
best to lose her now, in a setting where her passions and talents could serve her
best. In a setting where her loyalty and attachment to her crew, to Tuvok, was
an asset to the mission rather than a drawback.

Of course, Janeway could not be informed of the true purpose of the
mission. Starfleet Intelligence was not ready to release their latest findings to
line command. Then, too, the situation was highly unpredictable. In was
certainly within the realm of possibility that the Cardassians would escalate
things; they could choose to retain and question Voyager’s crew. In such a
case, it would be better if Janeway didn’t know the mission’s true purpose.
Once again, Starfleet countermeasures had fallen behind Cardassian
interrogation technologies.

Janeway couldn’t know. None of the crew could know. Starfleet
Intelligence had toyed with the idea of having an “inside man”: that newly
assigned ensign at Operations, Harry Kim, had seemed a possible choice. He
could verify that telemetry data were flowing, ensure that none of the crew
noticed or suspected the convert data gathering. He had minimal loyalty to
Janeway; hadn’t met her, was only grateful that she had selected him to join
her staff. He could easily be convinced that he should “serve the greater
good.” But ultimately, the idea was abandoned. It was too risky. The covert
technology should function fine in autonomous mode. The crew would have
too many distractions to notice any trace signatures the sensors or telemetry
produced, or they would attribute them to energy phenomena in the Badlands.
No, it wasn’t worth the risk. Not with the Cardassians. Kim might be a
screamer.

So the decision was made. Captain Kathryn Janeway accepted a mission
from Starfleet, but the mission she accepted wasn’t the one she undertook.
Starfleet accepted her actual mission for her. As if she were a green ensign.
As if the captain of a starship didn’t have the right to know the condition of her
ship, the terms of her assignment. She didn’t. The stakes were that high.
Cardassia with a weapon of unlimited destruction. Starfleet had to know.

It was interesting. Kathryn had never actually reviewed her orders for the
Badlands. In the flurry of activity that preceded the mission, shuttling to New
Zealand to pick up Tom Paris, rushing through flight prep to leave spacedock
more than a week ahead of schedule, she had never actually looked at the
orders. She knew they were approved and logged; that was sufficient. She
knew what the orders said (and that was true; no mention was made of the
covert activities in the official mission orders), and there far more pressing
needs. But that left an open question: who signed the orders? There must
have been two signature from senior command level. All missions with a high
probability of vessel loss and/or crew casualty required a second signature.

Kathryn pulled up the file containing Voyager’s mission orders on her
desktop monitor and scanned to the bottom signature area. The name on the
left was familiar, expected. Admiral Alynna Necheyev was head of Starfleet
Uniformed Security. It was logical that she would have had to approve this
mission. If the mission was a success, Necheyev would receive the lion’s share
of the accolades (and be left with the task of soothing Janeway’s extremely
ruffled feathers following the debrief). And if the mission failed, well,
Necheyev would be the one who had to deal with all the fallout, all the crap.
Kathryn silently reminded herself that, should they return to the Alpha
quadrant, she should avoid all positions involving senior desk command.

Her eyes then drifted slowly to the right, drawn by curiosity, repelled by the
dread of knowing. Who else would have signed the orders? Who would be
willing to usurp her command and put her, her crew, at extreme risk? When
she saw the name, the answer was utterly shocking; the answer was utterly
obvious: Admiral Owen Paris.

What happened next had happened to her before. On several occasions,
when she had been confronted with an extremely emotionally stressful
moment, she found herself standing outside herself, watching to see how she
would react. She almost surprised herself by speaking her first words aloud in
over six hours: “Oh, God. Tom.” Owen had signed the orders knowing full
well that she planned to use Tom as a guide in the Badlands. She had told
Owen her idea; he had said nothing, absolutely nothing, to discourage it. It
would have been easy to dissuade her; she was uncertain how much of a
contribution Tom Paris could make. His time with the Maquis had been brief;
his information was probably outdated. And Janeway really wasn’t sure she
wanted to put up with the young man’s bad-ass attitude, on this or any other
mission. But Owen had said nothing against the idea. What had he said?
God, it was four years ago. Something neutral, something unmemorable,
something like, “Well, if you think he can be of some help, go ahead.” Go
ahead. Take my son into a deathtrap. What the hell, your dad did the same to
you. And you weren’t a screw-up. Jesus. Tom.

Kathryn continued to watch herself, and found it interesting to analyze the
reaction she observed. Why was she so concerned about Tom? She was
running out of fingers on which to count all the people who had been betrayed,
all the people who had done the betraying. And the line between the two
groups was disturbingly blurred: her father — yes, he’d lied to her, but had they
lied to him? Justin — how much had he known? Secrets carried to their
graves, graves that weren’t supposed to be. So why be so bothered about
Lieutenant JG Thomas E. Paris, who was alive and healthy, sound asleep five
decks below, living a better life now that his last five years in the Delta
quadrant. Why was Tom so troubling?

Because Tom was family. Owen’s family. And Tom wasn’t Starfleet.
Not at the time. Jesus. What was Owen thinking? She stopped herself and
tested the logic of her outrage. Did this really matter so much? Was it really
valid to parse the world into neat “Starfleet / Not Starfleet” categories? Yes,
yes it was. What if her father had decided to take Phoebe on the flighttest?
That certainly would have made the ruse more compelling to the Cardassians
— the proud father, wanting to show off his new creation to *all* his children.
Family pride was one Federation value that the Cardassians could understand,
perhaps even share. But it was unthinkable; it was so wrong. Daddy would
have never even entertained the idea. It really was different with Kathryn.
She had bought into the Starfleet system. Should the system have been more
honest with her? Perhaps. Perhaps it couldn’t.

What justification could Owen have used? That Tom was once Starfleet?
That Tom would have been Starfleet if he hadn’t screwed things up and
behaved so dishonorably? Did Owen see this as a chance for redemption? For
Tom? For himself? Owen’s motives were beyond her right now. Hell,
everything was slipping beyond her right now.

What did she need to understand? What could she hope to understand?
Starfleet. She had to understand Starfleet. If she could understand Starfleet,
she could understand her father and Justin. She could probably even
understand Owen Paris, at least as he related to her. It wouldn’t explain Owen
and Tom, but she would have to set that aside for now. She felt her mind
quiet. She had identified the challenge; she could deal with it now.

What did Starfleet owe her? Did it owe her the truth? Phoebe clearly
thought so. It was funny; of the three women in her family, Phoebe had best
dealt with her father’s death. Kathryn had been a mess. Well, there were
clearly extenuating circumstances, but still: she had been a mess. Her mother
was better than she was, but still clearly had problems. Looking back, Kathryn
realized that her father’s death had been a shock to her mother because she
thought he had gotten beyond the danger in his career. He had over 30 years
with Starfleet; he now worked a planetside position in starship design. She
thought he was past worry. She was wrong. So her mother was shocked, but
she coped. And Phoebe was there for her. Phoebe was there for them both.

But now Phoebe was haunted by the idea that her father was killed by a
lie; a lie in which he was a knowing participant, but a lie nonetheless. That
was the shock for Phoebe: that Starfleet personnel are killed by Starfleet lies.
She had no idea.

Kathryn, on the other hand, had a very good idea. Lies were sometimes
necessary. Especially in difficult circumstances, when dealing with a
desperate enemy. Or when dealing with an enemy who possesses little
morality as you understand the concept. How daunting and frustrating it must
be for Starfleet Intelligence to compete with the Obsidian Order. She
imagined it must be like playing tennis with an opponent who’s allowed to use
a compression phaser rifle instead of a racquet. Advantage: Cardassia. No,
she would not condemn the methods of Starfleet Intelligence. In truth, it was
amazing to her that they didn’t employ even more devious techniques.

Perhaps that was the difference between Phoebe and her (and Phoebe and
Mark). She and Mark had learned “the necessity of compromise.” They had,
in very different ways, grown beyond the illusion of Starfleet as a perfect
ideal; hell, perhaps Mark never held such an illusion. Even as a child, he had
demonstrated a healthy talent for skepticism, and, of course, his family wasn’t
‘Fleet. But Phoebe was the free-spirited child of a much admired Starfleet
officer. She hadn’t chosen a career in Starfleet, so her exposure to the
organization centered around her beloved father, her envied sister, and the
pomp and circumstance of Starfleet ceremonies. She had never heard, as her
sister had, the cynical postulate circulated among Starfleet cadets: “the number
of commendations awarded following a mission is proportional to the sum of
the number of people whose performance was exemplary plus the number who
had gotten screwed.” Phoebe probably still believed what was said in Starfleet
speeches, or at least thought the speaker believed it.

So when faced with some ugly truths, Phoebe couldn’t gracefully remove
Starfleet from its pedestal. For her, the Ideal Organization became the Evil
Empire. But Kathryn knew better. She knew that, at its best, Starfleet was
truly the best and brightest of hopes. And at it’s worst? Well, Kathryn knew
that, even at its worst, Starfleet was the “Lesser-of-the-Two-Evils” Empire.

Yes, Kathryn’s father would put her life, and Justin’s, and his own (of
course) at risk. They were Starfleet officers who had taken a sworn oath to
defend the Federation. And if she, and possibly Justin, weren’t allowed to
know the particulars of a given mission, well, that was too damn bad. Even
Owen’s actions towards her were defensible, certainly when she had been an
ensign, and even when it had compromised her command. So long as they
acted in the best interest of the Federation, it was the right and duty of senior
officers to take whatever risks they thought necessary, for themselves and
those under them. That was why it was so important that people in command
hold the right ideals. That was why Owen’s actions concerning Tom were so
troubling.

It was not in the best interest of the Federation to put one of its civilian
citizens at risk without that person’s knowledge or consent. It didn’t matter if
that person was a convicted criminal, it didn’t matter if that person had once
been Starfleet. And it was especially wrong if the motive was revenge,
retribution, or redemption. Damn. She couldn’t go there. Back on track.
Back to Starfleet; back to her.

She could make peace with her father. She could make peace about
Justin (although it troubled her that she would never know the exact nature of
the peace that was needed). She could even make peace, at least for herself,
with Owen Paris. In some perverse way, the fact that all of them could place
her at risk was a validation of their opinion of her as a Starfleet officer. All of
them were more the warrior than she; Justin definitely was, Owen as well, and
yes, even her father. She wondered if her father had felt a conflict between his
duties as a command officer and his duties as a father. Yes, he probably had.
And it was probably a credit to him, and her, that he could still make the
choices he did.

And what of Starfleet? Again the question: what did it owe her? It had
given her extraordinary opportunities for exploration, unparalleled facilities
for science. And when she switched tracks to command, it had given her
training, support, and, ultimately, the chance to captain a most amazing
starship. Starfleet had educated her, trusted her, rewarded her, and, in many
ways, fulfilled her. It had also lied to her, given her a number of postings
without regard to her personal needs and wishes, and exposed her to danger so
many times that her medical file was probably longer than her service record.
But wasn’t all this the agreement, wasn’t this the pact, wasn’t this what they all
signed on to “as Starfleet officers”?

Yes, but…and here a revelation struck her. The past few months had been
a time for revelations. The letter from Mark made her realize how she was
using him, and the promise of home, to hold herself apart from a life in the
Delta quadrant. What had she called him? “A safety net.” Hmm. That was
probably a misnomer. A safety net is unobtrusive; it’s just there in case you
fall. No, Mark and the others had been a safety harness; protecting her, but
also constraining her motions, restricting her ability to run, to leap. To do
much of anything other than stand in one place. She was tired of the safety
harness; she would learn to live without it.

And now a new revelation, another epiphany in the Ready Room. The
clarity of it was absolute and startling: She would never mean as much to
Starfleet as Starfleet meant to her. She loved Starfleet; Starfleet valued her. It
was not really a bitter realization, more a surprised recognition of the inherent
inequity. It was necessary that Starfleet be able to function without her; she
must be expendable. That was the nature, the strength, of Starfleet as an
organization. It was not dependent on, could not be destroyed by the demise
of, a single individual. If someone fell, another would take their place. It had
to be that way. Oh, certainly, there could be great leaders and legends. But
Starfleet did not falter when Kirk disappeared, nor did it wither when Spock
resigned his commission. It was an absolutely necessary asymmetry in the
Starfleet/officer relationship: the officer must maintain a complete devotion
for Starfleet; Starfleet must be willing to lose any of its officers for good
cause.

Kathryn pondered her new insight, examining it with her “remarkable
intelligence,” as Owen had once called it. And the logical extension of the
insight reached her as well. She could spend her life in Starfleet, but Starfleet
could not be all of her life. There had to be more, or she would be less.
Maybe that was what had happened to Owen. He let Starfleet become
everything to him, and the rest became diminished, reduced, absent. Perhaps
his decision concerning Tom resulted from his inability to differentiate
Starfleet from the rest of his life. The “Starfleet / Not Starfleet” parsing may
be simplistic and artificial, but it was probably also critical. It was probably a
necessary ingredient towards finding balance in one’s life. Balance. A life.

She thought about Mark and her relationship with him. Their lives.
Their balance. She wasn’t really sure they had a balance. It was more a series
of compromises, a set of acceptances and constraints. He knew she loved
Starfleet; he was not going to share that love, or that life. He would not join
her on a generational ship; he refused to be an ONSS (Onboard, Non-Starfleet
Spouse). He had his own life and his own career, which was only tangentially
concerned with Starfleet. He would not have children with her so long as she
held a field position. If she took a desk job, joined the faculty of the Academy,
he would reconsider. Until then, he was willing to love her, encourage her,
care for her dog while she was on missions. But it was always there, an
implicit constraint on his commitment. A way to hold back slightly, to protect
himself from the potential of pain. Phoebe had said that Mark thought
Kathryn indestructible, but that wasn’t true. He had seen her emotionally
shattered, and he knew that she was physically vulnerable as well. He knew.
And he protected himself.

As for her, she was grateful for the love and support he was willing to
give. She knew that what her father had with her mother was very rare, and
she wasn’t sure she would ever want Mark to have to go through what her
mother had. She suspected that Mark had felt more than grief when he finally
accepted her death. He probably felt relief, probably release: he no longer
need fear for her.

So Mark was released, and was finally securely happy; he had a wife.
And where was Kathryn? What did she have? She had her ship. Well, she
had most of it, and in another couple of weeks she’d have the rest. She had her
crew. And she had Phoebe, and Mom, waiting…keeping watch. But the watch
keepers were far away; almost sixty thousand light-years away again. She
needed more, here, now.

The crew. She knew everyone on the ship. She knew nobody on the ship.
Oh, they were excellent colleagues, and she felt comfortable joking with them
on the bridge and in the mess hall. But where were the deep friendships?
With Tuvok, of course, but a deep friendship with a Vulcan, especially one old
enough to be her grandfather, had certain….constraints. She loved Tuvok and
valued his friendship, his counsel, more than she could ever say. But there
was always certain limits to their interactions: when she could touch him
(seldom), when he would indulge her wicked humor (a bit more often). No,
Tuvok’s made for a rich addition to a portfolio of friendships. But singularly,
or as one of a very small number, their friendship could actually exacerbate
her feelings of loneliness.

She felt friendly toward B’Elanna, but the command structure put a strain
on their interactions. When Kathryn tried to have deep, personal conversations
with her, it was as if B’Elanna thought she was being tested, as if Kathryn was
probing for weaknesses. Their age difference probably didn’t help either, but
that should be something they could get past. In many ways, they were
remarkably similar, from their humor to their temper. Kathryn had merely
found ways to be more subtle about both. The potential for a deep friendship
was definitely there; she just had to get B’Elanna to stop seeing her as The
Captain, at least in social settings.

That certainly wasn’t a problem for Tom Paris. Like her, Tom had grown
up as a Starfleet brat. Pips on the collar held little intimidation for him. Tom
probably felt more comfortable joking and teasing with her than anyone
onboard. He knew that captains are people like anyone else. Prick them and
they’ll bleed; tell them a really funny dirty joke and they’ll laugh, maybe even
on the bridge.

But there was a tension between Tom and her as well, and she damn well
knew it’s source: Owen Paris. She had been one of her father’s golden officers.
No doubt Tom had been forced to suffer many unkind comparisons. Even on
his best days, Admiral Paris was not one for cutting slack. Unfortunately, Tom
probably didn’t know that Kathryn and the other junior officers were likewise
inundated with “my wonderful son” stories, at least they were before Tom’s
accident. God, Kathryn had gotten tired of hearing about “my amazing
Tommy.” What was that little brat doing piloting Starfleet simulators when he
was barely out of training pants? (Okay, so he was five.) Weren’t their rules
restricting facility usage!? At some level, Kathryn was just dying to hear that
Tom Paris had taken a fall, had failed at *something*. And when he did, when
he failed so totally, Kathryn felt very guilty about her evil wishes.

Perhaps that had partly motivated her to include Tom on the mission to
the Badlands. She really wasn’t sure how useful he could be, but she wanted to
give him a chance to prove himself. To her, to himself. Owen’s complete
abandonment of his son seemed harsh and unfair to Kathryn. Yes, Tom had
fallen from grace, but shouldn’t there be the chance for redemption? There
should always be a chance for redemption, for a new start. Even for Tom.
Even for her.

A new start. Well, that certainly refocused her thoughts to Chakotay.
How many new starts had they made? There were almost too many to count.
When he and his crew first joined hers. After the first mess with Seska. After
the second mess with Seska. After she excluded him from her efforts to flush
out the Kazon spy. On New Earth. After New Earth. After she almost died in
the shuttlecraft crash. After he almost died, but didn’t because of Riley
Frazier. After the Borg. So many starts, such a strange dance they had
performed these past four years. Could they really try again? She’d like to,
especially without that safety harness to constrain her.

****************
Kathryn looked at the chronometer on her desk: 04:47. She closed her
eyes. She had stewed in her own mental juices long enough. She needed to
talk to someone. Who did she need to talk to? Back home, the decision would
have been easy. She would have talked with Mark. She could talk about
anything with him. She had talked about everything with him. That was one
of the most wonderful things about him. She could admit to being scared,
uncertain, confused. Sometimes she would speak to him about her feelings,
directly from her soul. Other times she would carefully objectify the issue,
and the two of them would be awake until the early morning hours holding
endless philosophical discussions about whether the ends justified the means,
how to weigh the needs of the few against the many, if absolute standards of
morality and behavior could be defined. In retrospect, she knew that many of
these arguments must have seemed sophomoric and pedantic to a world-class
philosopher like Mark. But Mark was a wise man, an infinitely patient man,
and he understood that what they were really talking about were issues that
were troubling Kathryn deeply, so deeply that she needed to mask them with
an intellectual facade. God, she missed talking with Mark. Maybe as much as
she missed the sex. Maybe more. Maybe not.

Mark and Phoebe. The two people back home who she could talk to
completely without censor. Mark was a bit kinder than Phoebe. When
Kathryn tried to use her objectifying masks with her, Phoebe would tell her to
cut the crap and say what was really bothering her. But it was okay; she was
still safe with Phoebe. She had to be more careful with her mother, especially
after her father’s death. Any sign that her daughter was in pain, hell, any
indication that Kathryn’s life was less than perfectly wonderful, clearly
disturbed Gretchen Janeway. Kathryn had erred in this regard only once. It
was a month after her return from Wolf 359. She was certain she had talked
out all of her demons with Mark. She was so sure that she insisted that he
leave to attend a major conference in Europe. She’d be fine. She’d visit her
mother.

Things were okay her first few days back in Indiana. Then the nightmares
started, then the wandering, haunting thoughts. One morning at the breakfast
table Kathryn came out of her distracted trance to see the concerned face of
her mother. Kathryn recognized that face; it was the one she had seen after the
Terra Nova accident, the face her mother wore when she was afraid that she
was destined to lose her daughter as well as her husband. Kathryn never
wanted to see that face again. She arranged to be called back to Starfleet
Headquarters on “urgent business” the next day. In truth, the urgent business
was to join the rather lengthy queue for an appointment with a counselor.

Starfleet Counselors. Very popular after Wolf 359. Not a single one to
be found here in the Delta quadrant. No counselors, at least no official ones.
Just friends. Friends and advisers. She considered her options. Who did she
want to talk to? Who did she need to talk to?

Did she need to talk with Tom? No. There was nothing to be said.
Nothing to be gained but pain. No point in sidling up to him at the bar and
saying, “You know, Tom? You were right. Your father *is* a stone-cold
bastard.” Better he keep his current thoughts. His dad loves him; his dad’s
proud of him. That’s what B’Elanna had told him to assume the letter from
Owen had said. What *had* that letter said? What actually happened to that
letter? Kathryn never broached the subject, but she found it rather unlikely
that Owen’s message had gotten lost as B’Elanna claimed. They had recovered
messages both before it and after it in the data stream; and there hadn’t been
any interruption in the stream at that time, at least none that Kathryn could
recall. She suspected that B’Elanna had “lost” the letter, that she had censored
it to protect Tom. If so, Kathryn would respect that. B’Elanna had been a
wonderful addition to Tom’s life. Probably better than getting to pilot
Voyager, probably better than regaining his commission. Tom had already
known he could fly again. He had already known he could function as a
Starfleet officer again. But what he hadn’t known is that he could be loved
again, truly, deeply, and simply.

She thought about talking to Tuvok, but quickly dismissed the idea.
There really wasn’t much to tell him about Starfleet’s betrayal, not as it
impacted him. He was already aboard the Maquis ship when Starfleet
launched Voyager’s covert mission. Their only betrayal to Tuvok was that they
used him, used Kathryn’s love and loyalty to him, to ensure her enthusiastic
participation. And if Kathryn’s decision process had been swayed by her
emotions, well, logically that would be Kathryn’s failure, not Starfleet’s. In
fact, he would probably chastise her for her failure to recognize the
unlikelihood of Starfleet jeopardizing a newly commissioned starship and its
entire crew to mount a rescue of a single officer, especially given the limited
probability of success.

Oh, he might be somewhat disapproving of the fact that lies had been
told. Tuvok had a clear disdain for untruths; most Vulcans did. In fact, it had
fascinated (and amused) Kathryn to watch Tuvok handle situations where he
was forced to lie. On the few occasions she had witnessed, he had been under
orders to do so. Tuvok had two techniques he chose to employ. His first,
preferred method was to omit critical information so that the party he was
attempting to mislead would draw the desired erroneous conclusion. If this
failed, Tuvok would revert to his second strategy; he would create a logically
ambiguous statement whose more probable interpretation would result in the
misinformation. Kathryn long ago realized that she had never actually heard
Tuvok state a blatant lie. It would be interesting to see if she ever would. She
had, after all, more than fifty years to catch him in one.

If Tuvok was a bad person to ask to lie, he was an abysmal person with
whom to discuss matters of the heart. In fact, in all the time she had known
him, Kathryn had attempted to discuss emotionally laden issues with Tuvok
exactly twice. Each of the times had been excruciating–for both of them. The
fact that there had even been a second time was, she decided, the clearest
possible evidence that Kathryn Janeway did not accept failure gracefully.

She knew who she could talk to about matters of the heart. It was the
person she wanted to talk to now. Another wise and patient man, very much
like Mark. Very unlike Mark. Little of what she had learned this night
concerned him directly. Oh, she supposed she should mention Starfleet’s
falsification of his file. She wondered if anyone in Starfleet had shown the
courtesy to correct it. If not, she would have to see to that when they returned.
Otherwise, her advocacy for the Maquis crew would prove unfairly difficult.
Or maybe they had only altered the copy they sent her; she was the only one
who had needed convincing. She imagined she might apologize for the
influence the misinformation had played on their early interactions. That
would prove an interesting conversation: “I’m sorry I kept giving you my ‘laser
glare’, but I was under the mistaken impression that you were most likely
plotting the best way to slit my throat while I slept.”

How unfair those lies were. How absurd. Oh, Chakotay had his dark
side; she was sure he could do dreadful things in the heat of battle. But then
again, so had she. Chakotay had a moral center. He had one of the strongest
souls she had ever encountered. Blood-thirsty Maquis. She didn’t know
whether to laugh or cry.

Instead she decided to walk. Her path was taken without thought; it was
automatic. Of course, she walked this path several times a day. But usually
the path stopped at her cabin door, not the one beyond. She could have
stopped at her quarters to change, but she didn’t want to. She wasn’t even sure
she could. She was drawn to his door. To seek a conversation partner, to seek
a soulmate, to seek a balance, a redemption.

She was amazed how light she felt. In her mind, in her soul. The irony
didn’t escape her. Phoebe had worried that the information in the files would
overly burden her. If fact, it had served as the catalyst to free her. It had
lightened her load, opened her to new possibilities. New starts.

Chakotay finally responded on her third hail. When he saw her uniform,
her clearly energized state, he was immediately concerned. “Captain? What’s
wrong?” He was obviously trying to shake off his deep-sleep state. “Is
something wrong with the ship?”

“The ship? Oh. No. Everything’s fine. I’ve just been reading the
‘mystery file.’ It turns out it’s from my sister, Phoebe. I really wanted to talk
with you about it.”

“Phoebe. Talk.” This was definitely not getting any less confusing for
him. His captain was waking him up at, hell, what time was it? He glanced
over his shoulder at the chronometer: 05:02?!? Because she wanted to talk?
This was the first opportunity either of them had for a night of uninterrupted
sleep in over a week, and she’s been up in her Ready Room reading a letter
from her sister? And now she wants to talk about it? Now?!? He leaned
against the door jam and washed his hand over his face. He looked at her with
a smile somewhere between exasperation and bemusement. “Well, Captain, I
certainly hope you intend to make this worth my while.”

“Oh, I think so, Commander.” Kathryn placed her hand on his chest as
she crossed the threshold. “I most definitely think so.”

THE END

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