Should Have Stood in Bed

Story Notes: Yet another dreaded “Janeway’s inner life” story from m.c.
moose. The trend of real-time inactivity begun in “Lies Our Fathers Told Us”
and taken to further extremes in “Personal Effects” is broken; the result yields
the title. The three stories I have written can be regarded as a loose trilogy.
Each can stand on its own, but there are common themes that flow (I hope)
through the three. The flow doesn’t necessarily correspond to linear time in
Voyager’s universe. I wrote “Personal Effects” before “Should Have Stood in
Bed”; that’s their aesthetic order. But read them as you will. As the Prophets
of DS9 instruct us, we should not be overly concerned with temporal order.

SHOULD HAVE STOOD IN BED
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: In the Fifth Year of the Journey

Kathryn’s knees hit the floor. Good. She had felt them hit. Or had she?
Had she felt her knees, or just the jolt of the impact. Damn, this was getting
hard. The pain had gotten so diffuse. She was losing any sense of tactile
localization. She hurt everywhere, but she was sure she could no longer feel
her hands. Were the bindings that held them too tight? Had they simply cut
off the blood flow and caused numbness? It was difficult to tell. She felt her
body start to pitch forward, vaguely noticed the upward flow of blurred
shadows in her visual field. As the motion stopped, she didn’t feel her face hit
the floor. Damn. She should have felt that. And was she still screaming? She
felt herself lifted, carried, then dropped again. Everything was still for a
moment, and then she heard Ensign Ayala’s screams. *Oh, hell,* Janeway
realized, *I must have stopped screaming. Sorry, Ayala. I’m really sorry.*
She leaned against the wall.

What a mess. What a horrible mess. This was supposed to be a simple
trade mission. Well, relatively simple. They were running out of options in
this sector of space. There were relatively few habitable planets, and fewer
still with a warp-capable culture likely to have the materials Voyager needed.
The situation was not yet desperate, but it was definitely uncomfortable. The
Trovalian homeworld seemed a promising possibility. It was clearly populated
by a warp-capable society. If the Trovalians weren’t overly friendly, they
weren’t overtly hostile either. They were willing to discuss the possibility of
trade, although clearly all the negotiations were to be on their terms. Only on
the planet. Only with the ship’s captain.

Tuvok advised caution. For once, Janeway was quick to agree. Yes, she
would beam down to the planet, but with her Chief of Security and another
security officer, an imposingly large security officer, along. All members of
the party would be armed, Ensign Ayala with a compression phaser rifle.
Voyager would maintain a constant transporter lock. They would insist that all
negotiations be conducted at the initial transport site. Fail-safe check-ins were
required every half hour; if Voyager didn’t hear from them, an emergency
beam out would be initiated. All the bases seemed to be covered. Even Tuvok
appeared comfortable with the arrangements, although he would have
protested the applicability of the term.

Disaster struck the second the transport’s hum faded. It was a trap, and
the away team fell into it head-first. The Trovalians immediately raised
interference shields to block Federation communications and transports. A
second field was activated at the transport site; it disabled energy weapons.
The Trovalians set upon the away team with, well, the weapons looked like
clubs, actually. Primitive, yet effective. Janeway saw the first one swinging
towards her head, then was pushed away as Ayala stepped in and took the
blow square in the jaw. A second club caught her full in the side; she doubled
over, desperately trying to draw breath. She never saw, and barely felt, the
blow that struck her on the back of the neck.

Janeway regained consciousness on the floor of some sort of detention
cell. A quick inspection revealed surveillance sensors near the ceiling, and the
slowly moving forms of Tuvok and Ayala. Like her, they had their hands
bound behind their backs. Both had bloody faces: Tuvok’s smeared with
green, Ayala’s with red. Janeway couldn’t tell if she looked as bad as they did,
but she suspected so. These Trovalians seemed to extend the same hospitality
to all their guests.

Speak of the devil, five Trovalians entered the room. One held a long
stick, but it looked more elegant and technologically sophisticated than the
clubs they had used earlier. *Ah,* Kathryn thought, *I knew we were dealing
with a civilized culture here.* The Trovalians were not much for the art of
conversation, however. Given a nod from the chief captor, the guard with the
stick approached her. He pointed the stick at her torso, and gave her a firm
push. Kathryn screamed out, as much in surprise as pain. She hadn’t realized
that the stick would deliver a strong energy charge. It felt, as best she could
describe, like a cross between a Klingon pain stick and a Cardassian disrupter.
Not agonizing, but certainly not pleasant either.

The Trovalian gave a pleased smile at Janeway’s response. He then
turned to Ayala, and prodded him. Ayala was prepared for the assault and only
flinched. The guard gave a slight frown, adjusted a setting on the stick, and
tried again. Ayala gasped as the stick made contact. The guard made a final
adjustment, and prodded Ayala again. This time, the man screamed.

Satisfied, the guard approached Tuvok. The guard attempted his
calibration procedure with the Vulcan, but the highest setting on the
instrument evoked only a tight grimace. The Trovalian in charge looked
disgusted and nodded to two of the other guards. Tuvok was taken to the
corner of the room, his hands secured to a bracket mounted on the wall.

Stickman, as Kathryn had decided to affectionately call the Trovalian
guard with the weapon, approached her and grabbed her arm. He pulled her to
the middle of the room, turned to one of the surveillance sensors, and waved
the stick as if to signal his readiness to begin. After a moment, he took a step
back and trained the weapon on her.

Although they had not spoken a word, the Trovalians had fully explained
their intentions to Janeway. She and the others were to be hostages,
bargaining chips. The device held at her side would not be used to extract
information. Rather, she and Ayala would be made to suffer as a
demonstration to coerce concessions from whomever was at the other end of
the transmission. And Janeway had a pretty good idea exactly who the
audience was.

She wasn’t pleased with what her assessment of the situation yielded. She
considered their limited options. Apparently, the Trovalians had decided that
Tuvok was too difficult a subject, which meant he wouldn’t be tortured. That
was good. Tuvok would be physically unharmed and mentally alert; he could
act if an opportunity arose. On the other hand, it appeared that the Trovalians
had been thorough in ensuring he was securely contained. It was unlikely that
Tuvok would be able to initiate an escape attempt. If an opportunity was to be
created, it would need to come from an outside source. Kathryn cataloged that
factor in her mind: Tuvok couldn’t enable an escape, but could aid one.
Limited potential, but at least some.

The potential for Ayala and herself was worse. While they were not
secured to the wall, it was clear that the Trovalians were experienced guards; it
was unlikely that she or the ensign would be given a careless opening to
exploit. Further, Stickman looked ready to begin with activities that would
quickly sap their physical strength.

Other factors working against them: none of them had any idea of their
current location or routes of escape; their communication badges were
missing; they had no weapons; they were severely outnumbered; Voyager’s
transporters had been rendered useless (otherwise they would have been
beamed-out when they missed the first check-in). All in all, not a promising
situation.

Gazing at Tuvok, she realized her friend had made the same dire
assessment. He leaned against the wall with a calm, far-away look in his eyes.
Meditating, she realized. Maintaining calm. Considering solutions,
possibilities, probabilities. Obviously, none held sufficient promise to merit
pursuit at this juncture. He would wait. For now, that was all he could do.

And what could Kathryn do? What was her best current course of action?
Stickman must have received some sort of signal; he moved to prod the stick
against her side. Time to decide. Kathryn decided to scream. If she didn’t
scream, Stickman would increase the intensity of the device. The greater the
intensity, the sooner she would succumb to the pain. While not agonizing, the
pain was intense and persistent. And, she realized as Stickman prodded her
yet again, the pain was somewhat cumulative. Yes, best to keep the stick on
the lowest setting possible. The lower the setting, the longer she could last.
And it was important to last because she had a good idea what would happen
once she passed out. It would be Ayala’s turn.

So there was a clearly defined course of action for her. Scream. And
keep screaming for as long as she could. Now there was a fine and noble goal
for a Starfleet captain. God, she hated hostage situations.

*****************
Kathryn’s take on the Trovalians’ intentions was dead on. She could take
cold comfort in that. Hostage takers always want something. The Trovalians
wanted weapons. High-power, focused-energy arms to be specific.
Compression phaser rifles to be exact. The Trovalians possessed warp
technology, but they had acquired it, not developed it. They were likewise
interested in acquiring high-performance weapons. Acquiring advanced
technology meant exploiting targets of opportunity. And Voyager made an
apparently easy target. An unaligned vessel, traveling alone. Easy pickings, so
it seemed.

Chakotay and the crew were working determinedly to prove the
Trovalians wrong. The acting captain was pretty sure he could defeat the
aliens’ shielding; Kim and Torres were on the problem, and Kim and Torres
were the best. It would have helped to have Tuvok there to work on the
solution. It would have helped to have Janeway. Of course, if they had Tuvok
and Janeway (and Ayala), they wouldn’t need a solution, now would they?
Damn, it was all so frustrating! Chakotay hated hostage situations. He was
sure they could beat this situation, but it was going to take some time. And
what was happening during this time was ugly.

Chakotay didn’t want to break the transmission link from the Trovalians.
It might prove useful to trace. Further, what was being transmitted over the
link might be useful for the Doctor. It might help in the development of a
countermeasure (if this was going to be a weapon of choice in the region of
space they were entering), or it might help in learning how to deal with the
weapon’s effects when (and Chakotay did mean when) they recovered the away
team. So he routed the signal to Sickbay. He certainly didn’t want it on the
bridge. He and the others didn’t need it as a motivation; they were already
sufficiently motivated. And they sure as hell didn’t need it as a distraction.
The team on the bridge had plenty to occupy their attention: find a way to
rescue their people, and keep the Trovalians thinking that Voyager was
cooperating with their demands.

Kathryn became conscious to the sound of a man’s screams. Ayala’s
screams. *Well,* she thought, *at least this isn’t as bad as Urtea II.* And it
wasn’t; it really wasn’t. Ayala was clearly in pain, but some of his screaming
may have been for show; hers certainly had been. He was probably trying to
protect her; keep the guards focused on him for as long as possible. She was
doing the same during her turns. When Owen Paris screamed during their
capture on Urtea II, it was a bottom-of-the-soul, utter agony wail. Kathryn had
never heard anything like it before and most sincerely hoped she never would
again. Admiral Paris screamed the keen of a man who was beyond all hope
and caring. He would have turned the Cardassians on her if it would have
stopped his pain. He would have betrayed anyone, everything, to make the
pain stop. No, compared to Urtea II, this was not so bad.

She just wished her vision would stop blurring. It made it so difficult to
maintain a proper awareness of her situation. Well, much of it was obvious, of
course. But she was worried about Tuvok. She thought she could hear him
breathing, but wasn’t sure. She wished she could see his face, communicate
with him somehow. But an entire length of wall separated them, and her
previous attempts to get closer were met with an abrupt shove back to her
original position. She wanted to let him know that she, and likely Ayala, were
exaggerating the severity of their suffering. To keep Stickman from using a
higher setting. To keep the guards occupied, maybe a little off-balance. And
to protect each other.

Ayala’s screaming stopped. It was always shockingly quiet in this time
when the guards switched victims. She heard Tuvok’s breathing; it sounded
disturbingly ragged to her. Had the Trovalians decided to torture him after all?
God, she wished she could see better. But the guards were lifting her up,
carrying her towards the center of the room. *Okay, Kathryn. Show time.*
But just then another feeling hit her. A familiar feeling. A wonderful feeling.
The from-the-stomach tingle of a Federation transport beam. She leaned
towards the sensation (although she knew it had no actual direction of origin)
and reveled in its embrace.

As she materialized in Sickbay, she still couldn’t see her surroundings
clearly. Objects appeared a little brighter, but still very blurry And her body
still felt both numb and plagued with a diffused, prickly pain. It was like when
her foot fell asleep, only an order of magnitude more intense. So Kathryn
listened and tried to sense with her body what was going on. She heard the
strident voice of the Doctor. “Get those bindings off their hands, Mr. Paris.
And I need their uniforms off. Now.”

She felt herself being lifted onto a biobed, but couldn’t feel the lifter’s
hands on her body. And the motions seemed exaggerated, as if she was being
thrown in the air and falling several meters. She was on the biobed now, and
thought she recognized the black-and-blue blur of the Doctor’s uniform. She
attempted to reach forward to catch him, but it sent her body lunging off the
edge. As the doctor caught her, she decided to try her voice. “Tuuvaaa” This
was hard. She focused her effort, tried again. “Otherrrss??”

She felt her body stilled and heard the Doctor’s impatient voice. “The
others are onboard, Captain. Everyone is safe. But you must lie still. I can’t
begin treatment with you thrashing about like this.” Kathryn glimpsed a
metallic blur moving towards her. “This will help you relax.” She heard the
hiss of a hypospray, but didn’t feel it. Then the room started to fade to black.
Damn. She hated when he did that.

**************
Kathryn awoke. She was in the Sickbay. Right. She remembered. She
looked around the room, experimenting with her eyesight. Much brighter.
Good. Still a little blurry. She imagined this was what it must have been like
to suffer from mild myopia back when humans were plagued with such visual
disorders. But her vision was much better. Probably would be fine. Next she
inventoried her body. She felt weak, definitely sore. But the pain was
localized to a couple of areas, not diffuse like it had been. Better still, it was
that dull, “been through the wringer” pain of previous injury, not present
assault. Definitely the feel of being on the mend, not dying or disabled. Good.

Turning her head, she scanned the environment for information. The
other beds were unoccupied. That was either good news, or very bad. There
wasn’t much other information to be gleaned. She could never judge the time
of day when she was in the Sickbay. The subtle diurnal rhythms of the ship
were masked by white noise and vibrations from the medical equipment. And
the lighting levels were set by the requirements of the Doctor’s activities, or for
the comfort of the patients, not to reflect the dampened day/night cycle
adopted by most of the ship. No, if she wanted more information, Janeway
needed to summon the EMH. She gave it her best attempt. “Doctor.” It came
out a croak, leading her to wonder if the Doctor had succumbed to his dearest
fantasy and removed her voicebox while she was sedated.

But her effort proved sufficient. The Doctor came gliding into her field
of view. Janeway was always amazed at how quickly the Doctor moved about
the Sickbay. At one time, she thought it might be some trick of his
holo-emitters, as if he were just sequentially projected at points along his
trajectory. But her closer inspection revealed that, no, he actually underwent
walking kinematics, just very smoothly and efficiently. Clearly, there were
advantages to having infinitesimal mass. That effortless grace was
demonstrated now as the Doctor lifted Janeway’s head, administered a
soothing drink, gave his usually greeting/inquiry (“Ah, Captain, you’re awake!
And how are you feeling?”), and began his tricorder scan, all in a single,
seamless motion.

“I’m okay,” she responded, mercifully with her own voice again. “How
are the others?” Kathryn pushed the tricorder ward aside.

*I see,* thought the Doctor. *We’re going to play this game again.* The
Doctor had come to realize early in his tenure on Voyager that the Captain did
not care to discuss her own condition until she had been briefed on the status
of other injured crewmembers. The Doctor held an alternative view that,
while she was a patient in Sickbay, the state of her own health should take
precedence. Neither was willing to relinquish their position lightly; absurd
interchanges had resulted from their mutual stubbornness. On one occasion,
the doctor had insisted that she respond to all his inquiries before he would
respond to hers. The ensuing laundry list of health checks (….”Your left big
toe?” “Fine!” “Your *right* big toe?” “Fine!”….) would have proved highly
amusing had either been in the mood for entertainment. On another occasion
the Doctor had yielded, but then proceeded to provide a complete briefing on,
not only the entire landing party’s medical status, but also summary statistics
from the last six months of shipwide check-ups.

The Doctor pursed his lips, but decided to relent. He concluded that
neither of them were really up for a battle of wills right now. “Lieutenant
Commander Tuvok suffered minor lacerations and contusions, and sustained a
mild concussion. He is resting in his quarters under remote observation.
Ensign Ayala also suffered minor lacerations and contusions, a broken jaw,
and symptoms resulting from the assault instrument your captors employed.
As best I can determine, the device was some sort of neural disrupter. Not as
sophisticated as those used by the Romulans and Cardassians, but effective
nonetheless.

“Using my creative therapeutic skills, I was able to develop an effective
countermeasure, a ‘de-scrambler’ if you will, for the neural trauma. Generally,
it was the peripheral nervous system that was most affected, although both you
and the ensign showed some impact to the visual cortex. I was able to release
Mr. Ayala to quarters several hours ago. He apparently had endured
significantly fewer assaults than yourself (though of somewhat higher
intensity). These higher doses were offset, and his recovery aided, by his
larger body mass, his youth, and his higher testosterone levels: women may be
more susceptible to the device’s effects than men.” Kathryn was amazed at the
Doctor’s mastery. Not his medical skills, although those were certainly
impressive. No, what amazed Kathryn is that the Doctor had managed to call
her a stubborn, little, old woman without uttering a single citable word of
insubordination. Smooth. The man was unbelievably smooth.

“Turning to you, now, if I may,” the Doctor continued as he re-initiated
his tricorder scan, not waiting for Kathryn’s consent, “your contusions and
lacerations are healed. You had two cracked ribs which are fully knitted, but
may prove tender for a day or two. You can expect some minor residual
effects of the neural trauma while your neuropeptide levels re-establish
themselves. In other words: a few aches and pains, and your vision should
clear.” As he concluded, the Doctor tested for tactile responsiveness, smiling
at the positive results.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” the Doctor took a step back, “Commander
Chakotay requested that I notify him as soon as you were awake.” The Doctor
reached for his comm badge.

“No, Doctor, wait!” Kathryn sat up quickly to catch his arm, and paled at
the blood loss from her head. “Before you do, I need to know what happened.”

It was unclear whether the Doctor was concerned by her change in color,
or her statement of apparent disorientation. In either case, the Doctor
regarded her closely and began to speak in a slow, careful voice. “You, Lt.
Commander Tuvok, and Ensign Ayala beamed down to the planet to initiate
trade discussion with the Trovalian representatives. Soon after your arrival,
you were attacked…”

Kathryn shook her head and pulled on the Doctor’s arm to stop him. The
head shaking, she discovered with a wave of dizziness, was a mistake. But the
arm pull had made him stop. “No, Doctor,” she attempted to clarify. “I know
what happened on the planet. Well, pretty much. What I need to know is what
happened on the ship. After we beamed down. What’s happening now.”

“Oh,” replied the Doctor. “Oh.” Well, this was good news. Perhaps the
Captain’s cognitive functions hadn’t been affected. And her color was better
now, too. At least when she kept her head still. “It became clear that the
Trovalians had used the ruse of trade opportunity to trap you and the others.
They contacted the ship with their demands, and began to send a broadcast of
you and Mr. Ayala being, uh, detained. Commander Chakotay didn’t want to
sever the signal, so he routed it here to the Sickbay. He thought it might be
helpful for me to use in monitoring the away team’s condition.” The Doctor
stopped and pursed his lips again. “It was useful, if somewhat lacking
in….taste.” The Doctor was clearly uncomfortable with what he had
witnessed, but continued. “Mr. Kim and Ms. Torres were able to determine
the transmission source for the detention cell’s shielding. The transmitter was
destroyed, and we were able to recover you and the others by employing
skeletal transporter locks. Once you were onboard, Commander Chakotay
ordered us to leave orbit. I felt us go to warp moments after your arrival.” The
Doctor wanted to finish this briefing and hail Chakotay; this discussion was
clearly moving beyond medical concerns.

“The transmitter was destroyed,” Janeway repeated. “How?”

“I’m not certain. I’m a doctor, not a weapons specialist. Some sort of
focused energy fire, primary phasers?” the Doctor hedged.

“So no additional teams were sent down?” Janeway persisted.

“No, not that I know of. Although proper procedure of informing the
Chief Medical Officer of offship operations is not always followed onboard
Voyager.” He couldn’t help adding that last part.

Janeway nodded. It didn’t bother her as much as her last shake. Maybe it
was the direction of motion. Maybe she was getting better. In any case, she
looked satisfied with the information the Doctor had provided.

At that moment, Chakotay strode through the Sickbay doors. He smiled
to see Kathryn sitting up, but then raised an arched eyebrow at the Doctor.

“Ah, Commander, I was just about to call you. The Captain is awake, as
you can clearly see.”

Chakotay crossed over to the biobed and gave Kathryn a hug. “Welcome
back.” He kissed her check. “Missed you. How are you feeling? Really.” He
pulled back and looked at her.

“Okay. Really. A little tired, a little sore. My vision’s still a bit blurry,
and fast head movement is not a good idea. Sort of like a really bad hangover
without the fun of the party.” She gave him a smile.

“Well,” he smiled back, “maybe we can have the party later. Walk you to
your quarters?”

“Let me check,” Kathryn replied. “Doctor, am I released from Sickbay?”

“To your quarters? Yes. I don’t see that keeping you in Sickbay would
likely benefit either of us. To the bridge, or any other duty area? No. And I
want to keep you on a monitor overnight.” The Doctor attached a small
transponder unit just below her ear. “I want you to be in bed, not on the
bridge. Is that understood?”

Kathryn looked at Chakotay. “Looks like you’re going to be a busy man.”
Realizing how her comment might be construed, she turned to the Doctor and
emphatically clarified, “I meant that Chakotay is going to be busy up on the
*bridge*, with both Tuvok and myself relieved to quarters!”

“Ah, yes, of course that’s what you meant,” smiled the Doctor. “And
Chakotay’s demanding bridge duties will greatly increase the probability of
your actually getting some rest!”

Damn that man. Hologram. Whatever. Always had to get in the final
word. And it was usually a good one, too.

******************
Kathryn slid off the biobed and allowed Chakotay to escort her out of
Sickbay. He wrapped an arm around her. Not a tight or intimate embrace, just
warm and supportive. Kathryn used their walk down the corridor to test out
her vision (getting better) and vestibular hypersensitivity (not as bad). Yes,
just a bad hangover. Crewmembers passed by and acknowledged their senior
officers, glad to see their Captain up and walking. Neither Kathryn nor
Chakotay spoke until they were inside the turbolift.

“Thank you for saving my butt,” Kathryn offered.

“And what a lovely butt it is. Any time, dear Captain,” Chakotay gave a
mock bow.

Kathryn reclaimed his arm and gave him a sideways glance, “So. Who’s
minding the store?”

“It’s Harry’s turn. I told him I’d be back by 21:00.” Kathryn’s confused
expression reminded him that she probably hadn’t regained her temporal
orientation. “That’s in about ten minutes.”

“Hmmm,” she responded mildly. “That certainly doesn’t leave time for
much.”

“No,” he sounded regretful. “Just a short walk to Deck 3. But Gamma
shift will come on at 24:00. And if things look quiet, I might take off early and
let one of the boys drive.”

Kathryn smiled at their private joke. Neither she nor Chakotay had really
accepted the fact that both Harry Kim and Tom Paris were fully able to handle
The Big Chair. It was silly. Both Janeway and Chakotay had been given
occasional bridge command when they were no older than Harry. Hell,
Kathryn assumed her first captaincy when she wasn’t much older than Tom.
Maybe it was just that Harry looked so young, or that Tom had been out of
Starfleet for a time. Maybe it was just that Kathryn and Chakotay were getting
old, and perfectly capable young officers were starting to look like kids to
them.

In any case, they both felt more comfortable if one of them, or Tuvok,
was in command during crisis situations. But at this point, Chakotay doubted
one was likely to develop. There was no indication that the Trovalians
planned to give chase, and Chakotay thought it improbable. The Trovalians
were bullies. Bullies tended to stick close to their established territory; they
seldom left their own playground. And otherwise, this region of space was
fairly empty. That was why they’d decided to deal with the Trovalians in the
first place.

So this might prove an excellent opportunity for Tom and Harry to get
some Big Chair time. Otherwise, Chakotay would be pulling double shifts for
the next few days to cover for Kathryn and Tuvok. He certainly didn’t relish
the idea of several consecutive 16 hours days. Besides, Tom and Harry were
both as qualified as any of the bridge officers on Gamma shift. Yes, time to let
the boys take the wheel. “I’ll try to take off by 22:00, 23:00 at the latest.”

“That would be lovely,” Kathryn smiled. “I’ll be home.”

The turbolift stopped at Deck 3 and they walked to her quarters. Once
the door closed behind them, Chakotay hugged her in a tight embrace. He said
nothing, just buried his nose in her hair and breathed deeply, wanting to
reassure himself of her presence, her reality. Kathryn did the same of him.
And as she took a deep breath, she came to a quiet realization: This man must
truly love her. Here he stood, inhaling her essence as if it were the most rare
and wondrous fragrance in the universe. *And truth be told,* Kathryn
admitted with a sniff, *after all I’ve been through today, I smell like a moose.*

********************
After a few moments, Chakotay left for the bridge. And Kathryn headed
for her bath. She peeled off the Sickbay scrubs and threw them in the recycle
chute. She hated walking the ship in scrubs, but really hadn’t felt up to
changing back into uniform just to walk to her quarters. She could have
invoked Captain’s privilege and called for an intraship transport, but that
seemed indulgent. Besides, she had enjoyed the walk with Chakotay. What
had happened to her uniform, anyway? She hadn’t seen it by the biobed, and
the Doctor hadn’t mentioned it. He (or Tom) had probably destroyed it getting
her out of it. Damn. That would cost a few replicator credits to replace.
Maybe there should be a new policy that uniforms lost in the line of duty
would be replaced without cost to the crewman. It seemed only fair. Yes, that
was a good idea. But it would probably look suspicious to implement the
policy right now.

Soaking in the tub, she started to catalog the things she needed to do to
tidy up the loose ends of this incident. She needed to read the reports her crew
had filed, write one of her own. She should thank Harry and B’Elanna for their
fine work during the crisis, go by to talk with Ayala and Tuvok. That should
just about do it. Then she could forget the whole, horrible mess. She wouldn’t
do anything tonight, though. She just wanted to go the hell to bed. And hope
that Chakotay managed to join her before she was too unconscious to notice.

Everything seemed much better the next morning. Her body certainly
did. She had only vaguely noticed when Chakotay crawled into bed with her,
although she could now recall that his embrace had been especially snug and
secure throughout the night. She was even less certain when he had left her
bed. He had to be on the bridge at 08:00. She didn’t wake up until nearly an
hour later. Kathryn grabbed her robe and some breakfast, and started reading
reports concerning yesterday’s events. First she read the one submitted by
Torres and Kim. (B’Elanna had learned it was acceptable Starfleet procedure
for department heads to file join reports, and exploited this newfound
knowledge to the hilt. She was especially eager to find co-reporters like Harry
Kim, who could probably file a prototypical Starfleet report in his sleep.) The
joint Engineering/Operations report gave a fairly dry recitation of the
challenges that were faced in identifying the nature and source of the
Trovalians’ protective shielding, and the techniques employed to ensure safe
transport of the landing party. Although the account was filled with technical
details and jargon, Kathryn read it with fascinated attention. She understood
the resourcefulness and, well, pluck Harry and B’Elanna had demonstrated
under what must have been very trying circumstances.

Yes, she would make a special effort to lavishly praise the two for their
efforts. For one thing, they richly deserved the reward. For another, they both
were so much fun to praise. Harry had obviously been conditioned from an
early age to seek it, and beamed like a puppy with every stroke. B’Elanna had
long been denied it, so it was delightful to watch her initially skeptical and
embarrassed reaction melt into a proud satisfaction that her worth was finally
recognized. And that their efforts had been instrumental in saving their
Captain and fellow crewmembers? Why, if uniforms still had buttons, both
Harry and B’Elanna would bust them.

It would also be good to have a talk with Ayala. Kathryn didn’t know the
security officer all that well; he was usually assigned to lower deck duties. But
she was generally impressed with the young man. He had certainly acted
bravely during this mission, or whatever the hell it had been…fiasco, perhaps?
She wanted him to know she was proud of his behavior, and appreciated his
efforts to protect her. Hey, anyone who takes a club to the head that was
meant for her was okay in her book.

That left Tuvok. She still didn’t have his report. That shouldn’t be too
surprising; hers wasn’t done yet, either. But Tuvok was amazing in his ability
to perform duties, even mundane ones, in the face of injury and adversity.
Perhaps that concussion he’d received was worse than the Doctor initially
realized. She definitely wanted to check up on him. Plus, she wanted to talk
with him. Something was definitely bothering him, down in that detention
cell. (*Well, Kathryn,* she thought, *there was something bothering all of us.
Trovalians.*) But no, there was something more. She knew that Vulcans
could only establish telepathic links with humans through direct touch. And
she knew that she certainly had no telepathic abilities. Yet she had still sensed
a strong, well, not feeling, but something emanating from him. She’d talk to
him.

Not having Tuvok’s report meant only Chakotay’s was left. Because of
the information she had weaseled from the Doctor, she had a pretty good idea
of the general events the report would describe. The reason she had drilled the
Doctor about events was that she needed some assurance, before she saw her
first officer, that Chakotay’s behavior during the crisis had been consistent
with Starfleet protocol. She had been a bit concerned, and now felt guilty
about her concern, that Chakotay’s actions might be swayed by their personal
relationship. Had she really expected him to transform into The Angry Maquis
Warrior, raining death and destruction on any who dare harm the woman he
loved? No, of course not. But she had seen Chakotay lead with his heart on
more than one occasion. Although, she had to admit, never when he was
acting as the commanding officer of Voyager.

And she knew from her own experience how difficult it was, even after
years of Starfleet training, to maintain an objective stance, to rise completely
above any baser human notion of retribution or revenge. She remembered, for
example, how difficult it had been for her to restrain herself when rescuing
Tom and Harry from that dreadful prison. In point of fact, even mounting a
rescue was stretching Starfleet policy; her two young officers could be viewed
as simply facing the consequences of an alien world’s justice system. But the
Aquitirian government had made just enough threatening statements to
convince her that she could, in good conscience, view this as a hostage
situation. Even then, Starfleet placed strict limits on her recourse: recover her
people with minimal impact; leave without further engagement. She had done
just that; heavy-stunning several aggressive prisoners was about as minimal as
she could make it. Afterwards, she felt good about the rescue. But in her
darker moments she could admit it; she wouldn’t have minded inflicting a bit
of damage on those cocky bastards.

Reading Chakotay’s report, she was truly impressed with the precision
and efficacy of his actions. Not only did this not sound like a Maquis
operation, it sounded like a Starfleet Rangers operation: a surgical strike that
completed all stated mission requirements with minimal impact. She really
did she feel embarrassed about her earlier concerns. Chakotay had done a
wonderful job. She doubted she could have done better; quite possibly she
could not have done as well (especially with Tuvok unavailable to assist her).
Chakotay had planned and executed a completely successful rescue and
recovery operation in under four hours. Starting from ground zero: a
completely unfamiliar enemy; an uncharted engagement area; totally unknown
enemy technologies. God, she was proud of that man.

Given the time course described in Chakotay’s report, Kathryn realized
that she and the others had been on the planet less than five hours. It had
seemed longer. Much longer. She surmised that if the old adage about time
flying were true, so must be its logical converse. That had certainly been her
experience. She realized that she had actually spent more time in Sickbay than
down on the planet. Well, then, that settled it. She would definitely ask the
doctor to sedate her *before* her next capture rather than after.

****************
After reading the reports, Kathryn decided she would invite Harry and
B’Elanna to join her for lunch in her quarters. Never mind her dwindling
replicator account, she wanted to fete her clever heroes. Both agreed to come
by at 12:00. By 13:30, Kathryn realized she’d be mooching coffee from
Chakotay’s account for the rest of the week. But it was a wonderful lunch.

Following lunch, she went to Ensign Ayala’s quarters for a visit. She’d
intended to keep her time there short. Junior officers often found a Captain’s
visit intimidating, and that certainly wasn’t Kathryn’s intent. She wanted to
make Ayala feel better, not scare him to death. But he was such a personable
young man that she found herself staying to talk with him for nearly an hour.

So it was almost 15:00 hours before Kathryn found herself at Tuvok’s
door. She had checked with the ship’s computer and knew two things: Tuvok
was in his quarters, and he had not yet filed his report concerning yesterday’s
incidents.

Kathryn engaged the chime and announced herself. The door opened, but
Tuvok did not great her at the threshold. Instead, she found herself entering
his dimly lit quarters. He sat across the room, gazing at his meditation lamp.
“Good afternoon, Captain,” he finally acknowledged her presence.

“Hello, Tuvok. How are you feeling, old friend?” Kathryn’s term of
address was manipulative, and she knew it. But she wanted to talk with
Tuvok, as much as it was possible, as Kathryn, not the Captain. Tuvok
sometimes accepted these overtures, sometimes did not. She waited to see
what he would do today.

“My injuries are sufficiently healed. The Doctor has cleared me to return
to duty tomorrow.”

Well, that was good news for Chakotay. But it was a complete dodge of
her question. And it wasn’t. It told Kathryn that Tuvok was not prepared to
give his usual response, ‘I am fine.’ Which meant he wasn’t fine. Although his
body was. So that implied his state of mind was not fine: he was troubled.
And to think some humans found it difficult to converse with Vulcans.

“What is bothering you, Tuvok?” Kathryn came and sat close to Tuvok.
She chose her spot carefully: not so close as to invade his personal space, but
sufficiently close that he must acknowledge her concern and address it.

“I have been reviewing the events of the past thirty-six hours. I am most
dissatisfied with the sequence that ensued, and my inability to anticipate them,
or provide an appropriate solution when they did occur. Moreover, I am
disturbed that our unpleasant experience with the Trovalians was not an
isolated incident, but rather representative of a general pattern of events we
have experienced in the Delta quadrant. Repeatedly, I have been unable to
properly anticipate security threats, and hence my defenses and
countermeasures have been proven inadequate to ensure the safety of this ship
and its crew. Upon reflection, I can only conclude that my skills as a security
officer are inadequate, or inappropriate, to deal with our current situation. As
Captain, it may prove in your own best interest, and the best interest of the
ship and its crew, to consider whether another candidate should be identified
for Chief of Security.”

Kathryn realized her mind was still functioning a bit too fuzzily to
properly parse Vulcan sentence structures, but she thought she’d followed the
gist of Tuvok’s polemic. He felt he had screwed up royally yesterday; it wasn’t
the first time he had screwed-up, and perhaps there was something unique to
doing business in the Delta quadrant that made it inevitable that he would
screw up again. Oh, yes, and one other thing: she should find a new Chief of
Security. Well. All that should be easy to respond to.

She considered repeating back his major points to ensure that she
properly understood them, but she knew how it tried Tuvok’s patience when
she did that. Besides, she didn’t want to suggest that she was, in anyway way,
accepting the truth or validity of his concerns. So she tried a different tack.

“First of all, Tuvok, I want you to understand that I don’t hold you
responsible, in any way, for our unpleasant experiences yesterday. I feel that
you, that all of us, made every reasonable effort to ensure the safety of the
away team. I know the Vulcan mind is not comfortable with the concepts of
‘bad luck’ or capricious events, but they do occur. Did we misread the
situation? Well, yes, obviously in retrospect I know we did. But did we miss
any clear clue, any logical indication, of what awaited us? I truly don’t think
so. Do you? Truly?”

“I spent a great deal of time considering that exact question. While we
were held in the detention cell, I reviewed the events that had precipitated our
abduction and the precautions we had taken to prevent such an occurrence. I
concluded that, no, we were not in error concerning our preparations. I then
spent the next several hours analyzing our situation in the cell, our behaviors
upon our arrival there, and what possible options we could exercise to
implement an escape, or at least minimize the physical harm sustained by our
away team.”

Kathryn remembered the results of her own cursory analysis. It was a
bleak situation without tenable options. She remembered hearing Tuvok’s
increasingly labored breathing as their time in the cell progressed. No wonder
her friend had been so distressed. Such a lengthy encounter with a problem
that held no logical solution would prove a highly stressful assault on a Vulcan
mind. “There really wasn’t anything we could do at that point. It was a terrible
situation. I’ve always hated having things taken out of my control like…”

“No!” Had Tuvok raised his voice? Had Kathryn actually heard Tuvok
shout? “No, Captain,” Tuvok continued in his normal tone, “your analysis is in
error. There was something I could have done in that cell. It would not have
necessarily enabled our escape, but it would have ensured minimal physical
pain and injury for the members of our team.”

Kathryn was totally baffled. “What, Tuvok? What should you have
done?”

“I should have screamed.”

“Excuse me?” Kathryn was now beyond bafflement. She could not
imagine how a screaming Vulcan shackled in the corner of their detainment
cell could possibly have helped their situation.

“When the Trovalian guard first prodded me with the weapon, I should
have screamed. Had I screamed, I would have been included in the rotation
for torture. Were that the case, I could have endured repeated assault with
minimal ill-effect, thus sparing you and Ensign Ayala pain and duress.”

Kathryn considered Tuvok’s statement. Did Vulcans experience guilt?
She didn’t think so. This was something different, but she didn’t fully
understand it yet. In the interim, she would try to allay his concerns. “You do
realize, I hope, that the Ensign and I were, well, overstating the extent of our
duress to ensure the pain level wasn’t increased.”

“That is not relevant to my point. My point is that I missed an
opportunity to minimize the damage inflicted upon members of the crew
because I failed to properly understand our security situation. From my
analysis of the Trovalians’ initial assault, I had concluded that they were an
aggressive, brutal people. I therefore concluded that a show of strength, a
failure to demonstrate pain, was the optimal response to a potential torture
situation. Given my set of working assumptions,” Tuvok added mildly, “I was
somewhat…disappointed…by your initial response to the torture device.”

*Great,* thought Kathryn, *now the stubborn, little, old woman is a wimp
as well.* She had to offer at least a marginal defense of her honor. “The pain
surprised me, Tuvok. The sound I made was more a yelp than a scream. The
Trovalians just couldn’t tell the difference.”

“Precisely, Captain. And, as it turned out, yours was the optimal
response. It resulted in your experiencing only the lowest setting of the
weapon and thus permitted you to protect Ensign Ayala by taking more than
half of the guard’s assaults. Yours was the best tactical response.”

“But my response was completely unintentional. I didn’t plan it. It just
happened, by luck, to help our situation.”

“Exactly my point, Captain. Unlike yours, mine was a calculated and, by
my analysis, optimal response. Yet it yielded the least satisfactory outcome.
That is what I found so difficult to accept, what so disturbed my meditations.
The realization that my best reasoned, most logical choice for a tactical
response was in error. And the larger realization that this is a pattern that
consistently reasserts itself here in the Delta quadrant.”

Tuvok stood, and turned away from Kathryn. “My tactical judgment was
in error yesterday. I should have screamed.”

Kathryn considered her response carefully before she spoke again. That
was a luxury she could enjoy in her conversations with Tuvok. She could take
however long she needed to formulate a reply. Unlike humans, Vulcans did
not find extended silences in their discussions to be awkward or embarrassing.
There was no need for idle discourse to fill gaps. Better to focus one’s mental
capacities on formulating a cogent response. She had one now. “Or we all
should have stood in bed.”

If this response was cogent, Tuvok couldn’t fathom how. “Captain?”

“We could have avoided the entire mess if we had all just stayed in bed
yesterday.”

“But you said ‘stood’ in bed. How would standing on our mattresses have
served our purpose?”

“I was using an old Terran idiom. I thought you might have heard it
before. Leonard McCoy was fond of it, probably used it around Spock and
Sulu. But neither passed it on to you, I assume.”

“Your assumption is correct. In my experience, neither Captain Sulu nor
Ambassador Spock employed antiquated Terran expressions in their speech.”

“Well, I think the phrase was originally was spoken by some athlete back
in the 19th or 20th century. After losing an important contest, he was asked
what he should have done differently. He responded, ‘I should have stood in
bed.’ It was a malapropism, an unintentional mangling of language. It’s
generally assumed he meant ‘stayed in bed,’ but misspoke.” Kathryn thought
about it for a moment. “I would imagine malapropisms are rare in Vulcan
syntax.”

“Indeed,” Tuvok concurred.

“In any case, the phrase came to take on an additional significance. Yes,
the athlete could have avoided his defeat by staying in bed that day, because he
knew that’s when his contest was scheduled. In life, however, we seldom
know when we will face our fights, when we will encounter an enemy or
challenge for which we are inadequately prepared. So, in order to consistently
avoid defeat with this approach, one would need to stay in bed every day,
never venture out.”

Kathryn regarded Tuvok carefully to see how her words affected him, but
he was extremely difficult to read. She decided to expand on her argument.
“We tried that, you know. Here, on Voyager. Remember our strategy those
first few months after we retook the ship from the Kazons? We minimized our
trade encounters, sent only one or two shuttle crafts to the exchange sites,
everyone onboard armed to the teeth. We took shore leave only on
uninhabited planets, and even then maintained a full crew complement
onboard. Remember that time? It may have been the safest two months of our
journey, but it was also the most unpleasant and paranoid time I can
remember. I hated it.

“If we had to spend fifty years, even five years, operating under those
conditions? I’d go insane. Then you’d have to find a new candidate for
Captain as well as Security Chief. Is it worth the danger and risk to be able to
explore this new domain? I think so, Tuvok. I wouldn’t have joined Starfleet
if I didn’t. Starfleet is about embracing exploration, seeking challenges and
opportunities. Those two months? We stood in bed.”

Kathryn again regarded Tuvok to see if he appreciated the meaning of her
argument. She was telling him how she wanted to live her life in the Delta
quadrant, how she wanted her crew to live. Security was important, certainly,
but it wasn’t paramount. She wouldn’t have them live a cloistered existence in
order to achieve it. Yes, being the first Federation explorers in this sector of
space was rife with dangers and challenges for which their Starfleet training
had often left them ill-prepared. But what was the real alternative? To
minimize contact with new races? Maintain a straight shot for home and stop
only when absolutely necessary? Approach all exchanges with the greatest
expectation of hostilities? Function under the assumption that anyone they
met would behave like a Kazon or Cardassian? As she had once told Seven,
that would make for a dull ride home.

Now Kathryn needed to ensure that Tuvok knew why she wanted, why
she needed, his help in dealing with these challenges. “As for your concern
that yesterday was just one more example of a pattern of bad security
judgments, I must disagree with your assessment. By my count, we’ve been
sucker-punched four, maybe five, times during our journey through the Delta
quadrant…”

“Sucker-punched?” Tuvok interrupted. Again, another unfamiliar Terran
colloquialism. Kathryn had never realized how many she used until she’d
taken her first Academy language course on Federation Standard. The course
had been developed to sensitize Starfleet officers to their use of vernacular,
idioms, and colloquialisms. Such speech acts could play havoc with
inter-species translations, and had led to several embarrassing incidents,
especially in first-contact situations. Kathryn had trained herself to use proper
Federation Standard in formal situations. But she found the language too stiff
and constrained for conversations with friends, even Vulcan friends. So,
Kathryn found herself constantly explaining obscure Terran references and
idioms to Tuvok. And sometimes found herself unable to explain, because she
herself was unaware of a particular phrase’s origin. It was just an expression
people used. Like the best explanation of why she used so many idioms: ‘You
can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the
girl.’

“Sucker-punched. It means to be taken completely unaware by an
attacker. And it implies a certain negligence, or naivet‚, on the part of the
victim. My point is, we’ve been caught with our pants down…,” Kathryn
winced. She wasn’t going to explain that idiom to Tuvok. “We’ve been caught
in an inadequate defense posture only a handful of times in the past
four-and-a-half years. Given our complete unfamiliarity with this quadrant of
the galaxy, the mores of its people, I don’t think that’s a bad record. I’ve
thought about the times we’ve been….inadequately prepared. In almost all
cases, it’s been because we’ve underestimated our opponents. No, let me
amend that. It’s been because we’ve overestimated them. We’ve overestimated
their moral stature, and have therefore been caught unaware by their nefarious
tactics.

“We underestimated how vicious and conniving Seska could be. Well, at
the very least, we dared hope she wouldn’t stoop to the tactics she did: using
her baby to blackmail Chakotay, using her own people as pawns. We
underestimated how devious the Trabe were: we thought they wanted peace;
what they wanted was a bloodbath. Tactically, we’ve demonstrated a
consistent flaw: We underestimate our opponents methods because we
overestimate their moral stance. But if we are destined to have a tactical flaw,
that’s one I can live with.”

Tuvok understood Kathryn’s noble Starfleet sentiment. But as Chief of
Security, he remained unconvinced. “If we lack adequate information
concerning our opponents’ culture and mores, we cannot adequately anticipate
their behaviors and threats. Since I am Vulcan, our situation in the Delta
quadrant places me at a most egregious disadvantage. My strength as a
security officer lies in my ability to quickly and accurately process myriad of
complex factors to determine an opponent’s likely tactics and techniques. If I
am unable to obtain the relevant information on which to base my
determination, I have little expertise to offer. I can only fall back on protocol
and standard tactics which were derived from experiences in the Alpha
quadrant, and which are proving distressingly inadequate for our current
situation. I am a Vulcan trained in the ancient logical methodologies of my
people. But if I am not given truthful information on which to apply that logic,
I feel I have little to contribute to matters of ship security. You would be
better served by a Chief of Security who can apply intuitions, one who can
deal with unique situations based on ‘hunches,’ as I believe they are called.”

“I don’t know, Tuvok,” Kathryn smiled sadly. “Our ‘hunches’ haven’t
panned out much better than your logic. No, if you consider all the cases,
your logic has served us better than any of our hunches. I have erred more
often by failing to follow your advice than I’ve suffered by following it. And
even in those case where I’ve chosen to follow a hunch and it worked, I still
benefited greatly from your counsel.”

Tuvok considered what Kathryn said. She could almost see him apply
truth tests to her claims. “Still,” he responded, “I must confess that I
experience a disquieting level of stress in my attempts to anticipate potential
hazards and security risks, given that I must do so based on inadequate or
erroneous information. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.”

Kathryn almost suggested that Tuvok should join the club. But she had
explained enough Terran idioms for one day. She saw that she had already
given Tuvok a fair amount to think about, and should probably bring this
discussion to a close. But she wanted him to consider two other factors. “I
want to ask you two questions, Tuvok. You don’t have to answer them now,
but think about them. If you are not the best choice for Chief of Security, who
is? In terms of intuiting people’s intentions, well, we’ve lost the two Betazoids
who were ever onboard: Stadi when the Caretaker grabbed us; Suder to the
Kazons. Not that I ever thought Suder could provide reliable insight to other
people’s mental states.” Kathryn thought sadly for a moment of the haunted
madman who had given his life helping to save her ship. “But seriously,
Tuvok. If not you, who? I don’t know of anyone whose insights I trust more
than your logic, not on matters of security. My second question is this: if you
weren’t Chief of Security, what would you do instead? We need to make the
best use of all our crew’s talents.”

“I will have to think about your first question. I had not, in my own mind,
selected a candidate for my replacement. In answer to your second question, I
believe the hydroponics facilities have been greatly neglected since Kes left us.
I thought I could attend to them.”

Kathryn gazed fondly at her old friend. She could easily image him in the
hydroponics gardens, applying the same precise care to the ship’s crops as he
gave to his orchid collection. She could also imagine herself joining him
there, working in the soil. But she saw that scenario occurring thirty or forty
years in the future, not next month. “I’m sure you could make a wonderful
contribution to our hydroponics bay. But I honestly don’t consider that the best
use of your talents. Sorry, old friend, I’m not willing to put you out to pasture
just yet.” With that Kathryn rose and started for the door. It wasn’t that late,
but she was starting to feel a bit fatigued. And some food wouldn’t hurt,
either.

But Tuvok stopped her short. “There is, of course, one other factor that
has been influencing my decision process.”

Kathryn turned to hear her friend’s final concern. “And what might that
be?”

“The fact that it is I who am responsible for you, and Voyager, being
stranded in the Delta quadrant,” Tuvok calmly stated.

Kathryn couldn’t imagine a statement Tuvok could make that would have
surprised her more. Perhaps if he’d stated that he was starting Pon Farr. No,
actually, she could claim some anticipation of that possibility. “*You*,
Tuvok?” her question came out almost as a laugh. “How could you possibly
hold yourself responsible for our presence in the Delta quadrant? Why, as I
recall, you even tried to dissuade me from destroying the Caretaker’s array.”
Kathryn really wanted to hear this exemplar of Vulcan reasoning.

“It is only logical. Had I not taken the assignment that placed me on the
Maquis vessel, I would not have been present in the Badlands when the
Caretake made his initial abduction. Had I not disappeared, you would not
have felt obligated to commit yourself, and Voyager, to the investigation of my
disappearance. Hence, neither you, nor Voyager and her crew, would be
located in the Delta quadrant at this juncture.” Well, it was a classic. Kathryn
had to give Tuvok credit for that.

“True, Tuvok,” Kathryn conceded. “But it was still my choice to accept
the mission to the Badlands. My choice to destroy the array. And had you not
accepted the assignment, another Starfleet operative would have been sent. He
or she would have disappeared. And Starfleet would have sent a ship, quite
likely Voyager, to investigate. So we still would have been brought here. And
I still would have destroyed the array. Logic supports your interpretation. But
it supports other interpretations as well.”

Well, if Tuvok wasn’t ready to quit for the day, she certainly was. She
turned and walked to the door. At the door, she turned to face Tuvok a final
time. “I’d like your report on yesterday’s events by 08:00 tomorrow. I need to
complete my report soon, and I don’t want to write it until I’ve had the
opportunity to review the findings and recommendations of my Chief of
Security. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Captain,” Tuvok replied. “I understand completely.”

****************
Chakotay came into her quarters a little after 21:30. “You’re home early,”
she observed happily.

“Well, the boys are demonstrating very responsible driving habits.
Besides, I wanted to check and see how ‘Mom’ is doing.” He sat down on the
couch next to her.

“‘Mom’ is fine. Really. Did you get anything to eat?”

“Yeah, I grabbed something mid-shift? Did you?”

“Yes, ‘Dad,’ I had a very nice supper. And I had a huge lunch with Harry
and B’Elanna. We used it as an opportunity to celebrate their incredible
wonderfulness.”

“A fine cause for celebration. And how did the Captain’s other
conversations turn out?” Chakotay started to rub her shoulders.

“My talk with our Ensign Ayala went very well. What a delightful young
man! No wonder I’ve heard so much gossip pairing him with various members
of the crew.” Kathryn relaxed into Chakotay’s massage. “Anyway, we had a
very honest talk. I thanked him for all that he tried to do; all that he did. We
got to the point where we could joke about it. He said he’d never realized how
much it could hurt to scream with a broken jaw; he wished the Trovalians had
found moaning an acceptable response. And we complimented each other’s
acting skills. We both expect to be nominated for best lead performance in a
torture or hostage role when the shipwide awards are announced.” Kathryn
clasped Chakotay’s hands and leaned back against his chest. “He’s a very
sweet young man. I’m glad I got a chance to get to know him a bit better.
Although we agreed that the circumstances left a bit to be desired.”

“And how was your talk with Tuvok?”

Chakotay’s closeness was starting to become a noticeable distraction.
Kathryn considered her options, and made a decision. “Talking about Tuvok
might take a while, and I’d like to spend some time in bed with you while I still
have the energy to enjoy it. Why don’t we head on to bed now and talk about
Tuvok afterwards?”

“Afterwards? After what?” Chakotay tried very hard to give Kathryn an
innocent look. His only reward was one of her ‘don’t-be-stupid’ looks as she
got up and started towards the bedroom.

“Seriously, Kathryn, I thought the Doctor wanted you to take things easy
for a couple of days.”

“The Doctor!” Well, that certainly pressed a button. “Chakotay, I’m a
forty-five-year-old woman. I’m the Captain of a Federation Starship. I will not
have the terms and conditions of my sex life dictated by a medical hologram!
Or any other medical officer, for that matter.”

“Kathryn. I’m acting captain. He’s chief medical officer. I really don’t
want to get in the middle of all this.”

Kathryn arched an eyebrow at Chakotay’s figure of speech. “I didn’t
anticipate a middle position in the activity I was planning. But fine.” She took
a few more steps towards the bedchamber, then looked over her shoulder and
played her trump card. “Be a coward.”

She knew Chakotay could never refuse a challenge.

*********************
Afterwards, they laid in bed, discussing Kathryn’s conversation with
Tuvok. “Well, I learned two new things today about my old friend,” she
commented. “First, it seems that Vulcans hate getting sucker-punched as
much as, maybe more than, humans do.”

“‘Sucker-punched’? Did Tuvok appreciate the term?”

“Not really. He found it imprecise. But he appreciated the sentiment. He
felt he was unusually vulnerable to such deceptions, but I convinced him that
we’ve all played the victim.”

“True enough.” Chakotay considered enlarging on the topic, but
remembered he was due on the bridge in only nine more hours. “And the
second thing?” Chakotay prompted.

“He holds, well, he held himself responsible for Voyager being in the
Delta quadrant.”

“And you convinced him otherwise?” Chakotay asked. Kathryn nodded
against his chest. “Good,” he continued, “because that’s a blame I should
assume.”

“You? How do you figure you’re responsible?” Kathryn was honestly
confused.

“Well, it’s the only logical conclusion. If I hadn’t been hiding out in the
Badlands, you’d never have come looking for me there. No encounter with the
Caretaker’s beam. No Delta quadrant. Simple.”

“It seems,” Kathryn said with a yawn, “there are any number of logical
conclusions concerning who should be blamed for our present location.” She
thought about her words. “I mean the ship’s present location.” She was quiet
for a few moments, then continued in a sleepy voice. “What this ship needs is
a scapegoat. Every good family has one. Ours was the dog. Phoebe and I
blamed everything on her. Who did your family use?”

“My uncle. My mother’s brother,” Chakotay supplied quickly.

“Did he live with you?” Kathryn asked.

“Live with us? No. He didn’t even live on the planet. He’d left for
another colony when he was a teenager. But that didn’t matter. Anything bad
would happen, it was his fault.”

“A scapegoat in absentia. Hmmm. I hadn’t entertained that idea. But it
has definite attractions. Who would you nominate?”

“Seska.” Again, Chakotay supplied his answer awfully quickly. Had he
thought about this before?

“She’s a definite candidate. I’d consider Q. If we limit it to onboard
candidates, Neelix’s a possibility.”

“No. He already takes enough grief about his cooking. Let’s bring up the
scapegoat idea at the next staff meeting. Paris can head up a committee and
poll the crew. We’ll establish an official, shipwide, scapegoat policy.”

“Fine idea. Oh, remind me to bring up another policy issue I think we
should address.” Kathryn was nearly asleep.

“What’s it about?” When she didn’t respond, Chakotay shook her gently
and asked again. “Kathryn, what’s the other policy issue you want to bring up.”

“It has to do with the crew losing uniforms while on duty,” Kathryn
mumbled.

“Losing uniforms while on duty. Hmmm. Well, Captain, you can
definitely count on my support for that policy.” When Kathryn didn’t respond,
Chakotay figured she must have drifted off to sleep. She probably hadn’t
gotten his joke.

But a few seconds later, Chakotay smiled as he felt a distinct poke in his
ribs. She hadn’t been asleep. She’d gotten it.

THE END

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