Deception

Disclaimer: All Hail Paramount and TPTB. The characters are owned lock,
stock and barrel by you know who. But, heck, everyone deserves lives.
This story was originally written as a ‘Strange New Worlds’ submission and
sigh, rejection.

Star Trek: Voyager
“IN THE FACE OF DECEPTION”

By Shalee Stewart, July 1997
Rated PG-13, J/C

Commets? Email me: castmuse@wahpeton.means.net

“Oh . . . what a tangled web, we weave–
When first we practice to deceive–”

Captain Kathryn Janeway awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright in her
bed. Her heart beating wildly, Kathryn slowly focused on her surroundings and
quickly, thankfully, determined that she was alone. Asking for the time; the
computer informed her it was 1930 hours. A deep sigh escaped her as she rose
and went into the bathroom. Splashing cool water on her face, Kathryn caught
sight of her reflection. It was just dream — Kathryn told herself, it had to be.
Still, she wasn’t quite sure exactly what the dream had been about, but it left
her feeling disoriented and a little lonely. For a moment, she stared at the
woman in the mirror. Damp strands of auburn framed a flushed face as
haunted blue-gray eyes looked out at her. She had a feeling of foreboding, she
couldn’t dispel and Kathryn shivered as the air around her suddenly turned
chill. Turning on the lights, she donned a robe and padded in the other room.
The uneasy feeling persisted as she moved to the replicator, procuring Some
iced tea. Removing the cup, Kathryn walked over and sat behind her desk.
Activating the computer terminal, she began an entry into her log–

Captain’s Personal Log–Supplemental
I had the dream again. Though, I haven’t been to retain much detail
after awakening. Just a few images really, but I feel sure that it means
something. Whether that something pertains to Voyager or just me, I didn’t yet
know. Although, I have an idea the dream may have to do with the Jahane, a
vessel that we recently lent aid. Or, rather it’s captain, NorChallen. He, as well
as the four members of his crew who call themselves Roddineans, have been
very helpful to us in gaining insight to this sector.
Personable and handsome, I’ve found myself a bit overwhelmed by
NorChallen. So, because of my position and the difficulties that could ensue,
I’ve decided to keep as far away from him as I possibly can. Perhaps, this is not
a subconscious effort as much as it is a conscious one and this has led to the
dream. I–

Kathryn broke off; startled as the door chime sounded. Hot tea splashed
from the cup as she stood abruptly. Muttering an expletive, Kathryn put the
cup down; tightening the sash on her robe as she approached the door, which
opened automatically.
The dark man on the another side was also startled but by the captain’s
appearance, “Captain, is everything alright? You’re not ready.”
“Ready?” Janeway murmured questioningly.
“We had a date on the Holodeck.” Chakotay prompted, his gaze
unwillingly roaming over her as he noted her disheveled appearance.
Kathryn looked at her first officer for a moment, confused. Then she
remembered, “Oh god, the Holodeck. Chakotay, I’m sorry. I lost track of the
time. I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” She ushered him in and disappeared into
the bedroom.
Twenty minutes later, Chakotay and Janeway were outside the
Holodeck. The former Maquis stole glance at the auburn-haired woman at his
side. Janeway still seemed distracted but she DID look better, Chakotay
thought. Yet, she also appeared vulnerable and that perhaps, disconcerted the
commander more than he cared to admit, even to himself. He pushed away his
thoughts as the Holodeck doors opened to reveal — complete darkness??
Janeway turned to look at Chakotay in puzzlement. At the same time
there was a loud cheer.
“SURPRISE–”
The lights flashed on and instantly they were surrounded with crew
members wishing Janeway, who was speechless, a happy birthday; they had
fooled her completely. Janeway directed a hostile glance at her first officer,
that faded when she caught his eye. Her lips curved into a bemused smile.
“I’ll get you for this, Commander–” Janeway threatened mockingly.
Chakotay groaned softly, “I know, but it was worth it.”
Janeway chuckled as she found herself drawn into the crowd that also
included the crew of the Jahane and their captain. She accepted NorChallen’s
good wishes, feeling a bit awkward. The Roddinean seemed to be intent on
making her uncomfortable. Still, as black eyes raked over her; Janeway found
herself wondering what he saw. Presently her attention was called away by
Neelix as everyone gathered around the pool table in ‘Chez Sandrine’. Janeway
glanced over her shoulder to see NorChallen hovering on the fringe of the
group. Harry Kim’s voice brought her back to the task at hand.
“Captain, are you going to blow out the candles?”
Janeway smiled at the young ensign as she looked down at the blazing
cake, that appeared to have WAY too many candles.
“Of course, she is, Harry,” Tom Paris answered before Janeway could
speak. “But first she has to make a wish.”
Janeway nodded and closed her eyes, making a wish for them all as she
blew out all of the candles.
Chakotay leaned close to whisper as applause overwhelmed them, “Bet
I know, what you wished for.”
Janeway grinned, “Let’s just hope it comes true, very soon.”
“I’ll second that,” Chakotay proclaimed as he boldly kissed her cheek,
“Happy Birthday, Kathryn–” He bestowed a smile on his captain before
stepping back to allow others to come forward. From the his vantage point,
Chakotay watched the woman, whom he held in great esteem and adoration.
He decided; despite her earlier disarray Janeway still managed to look
beautiful in a simple blue dress with her hair softly styled. Chakotay
swallowed hard; he felt very protective of Kathryn Janeway. Having professed
his feelings to her once on a planet now light years away; Chakotay once again
silently vowed to let nothing harm her if it was within his power.
The evening passed quickly and Kathryn soon found herself in the
company of NorChallen, albeit reluctantly. They were at a secluded table,
discussing of all things, quantum mechanics. As a scientist, Kathryn was
intrigued by the alien’s knowledge, yet his other charms were not unnoticeable,
in fact they seemed scream out to her for recognition. It took her a moment to
realize, she had lost the thread of the conversation and NorChallen was
looking at her rather curiously.
“Captain Janeway, are you alright?”
Kathryn smiled, trying to conceal the warm flush creeping up her
cheeks, “Fine, thank you.”
NorChallen returned the smile as his hand covered hers. His touch
seemed almost electric and Kathryn could swear she felt a pulse of energy pass
between them.
“I must admit something to you, Captain.” He stopped as he gazed into
her eyes, “That seems a bit formal. May I call you Kathryn?” Janeway nodded
at the same moment noticing, that most of the crew including Chakotay and
the other Roddineans had left. “Kathryn, I find myself growing quite fond of
you and your ship. Perhaps, we could form an alliance of sorts.”
“Meaning, WHAT exactly?”
“Just that, you have been very helpful to me as I hope we’ve been to
you. It is a relationship, I would like to see continue.”
“As much as I to would like that; it just isn’t possible. Voyager is on an
odyssey of sorts.” Kathryn related as she met his gaze, “You see, I made a
promise to get this crew home.”
NorChallen cocked his head slightly as he looked deeply into her eyes,
“And how long will this journey take you?”
“A long time–” Kathryn murmured as she forcibly dropped her gaze
from his and stood. NorChallen followed her. In front of the fireplace, she
turned to face him, her eyes misty. “It’s going to take us at least seventy years
to get home and that’s at maximum warp.”
“A lifetime–”
“Yes, and more–”
“It must be a terrible burden,” NorChallen whispered as he brushed his
fingers along her cheek. “Why don’t you just find a planet and colonize it?”
“There may come a time, when we have to seriously consider that
opinion, but not yet. Not while we still have the power, supplies and strength
of will to attempt the journey. I– We have to at least give it a shot.” Kathryn
intoned, her eyes pleading for him to understand.
NorChallen nodded very slowly, “I won’t mention it again.”
“Thank you–” Kathryn murmured as an awkward silence ensued
between them. After a moment she spoke again, “Well, it looks as though the
party is over.”
“Yes–” NorChallen drawled, “May I escort you to your quarters?”
Kathryn nodded accepting his arm as they left the Holodeck. The
journey to Janeway’s quarters was uneventful and as the couple paused before
the door, NorChallen seemed distracted.
“Captain?” Janeway prompted her voice was low and a bit unsure.
“My friends call me, Challen–” The Roddinean provided as he took a
step nearer to her. “I would be honored, if you did as well.”
Kathryn was backed against the door as she looked up to meet his dark
gaze. For the first time, she saw silver flicks dancing in the black depths. The
effect was almost mesmerizing.
“I need to go inside now. I have a heavy duty schedule tomorrow.”
“I understand–” NorChallen murmured as he leaned in closer.
Kathryn’s hand searched blindly for the keypad to open the door as she felt a
bizarre kind of panic welling up within her. Yet, she stood transfixed by
strange, alien eyes as his lips touched hers. It was only brief contact for at the
same moment Kathryn’s fingers found their goal. The door slid open and she
stumbled backward and would have fallen, if not for the strong arms that
encircled her waist. Unnoticed, the door closed behind them.
“Challen–” Kathryn whispered breathlessly as the alien drew her
closer.
“I’ll leave, if you want me too.” NorChallen murmured reading the
confusion in her azure gaze. He had seen it many times before but he couldn’t
help himself as he kissed her again. After long moments and with some effort,
Kathryn pushed him away.
“Please–” Kathryn struggled for words from her muddled mind but
NorChallen’s presence intoxicating. She felt an intense upsurge of relief wash
over her as the door chime sounded. Without thinking she called out, “Come
in–”
The door slid open to reveal Chakotay, looking imposing in the
doorway. Dark brown eyes narrowed as he saw NorChallen with Janeway, yet
words would not pass his lips.
His moment past, the Roddinean took his cue, “I wish to thank you for
a– very interesting evening.” He raised Janeway’s hand to his lips, “Goodnight,
Kathryn.” The alien tossed a jaunty grin at the first officer as he passed and
was gone.
Chakotay’s eyes sought out Janeway’s, “I just wanted to see if you were
all right.”
“I’m fine–” Janeway answered with what she hoped was a confident
smile. But the commander wasn’t fooled, she could see that. ‘But he’s too much
of a gentleman to say anything.’ Kathryn mused.
“Well, I DO apologize for the intrusion.” Kathryn smiled weakly and
she nodded her acceptance. “Sleep well, Kathryn–” With those words
Chakotay stepped back and allowed the door to close between them. He didn’t
like what he saw here, but who was HE to say something. Yet, thoughts of her
followed Chakotay all the back to his quarters.
* * * * *
At the morning briefing, Chakotay kept his eyes averted as Kathryn
Janeway entered the conference room. He was still a bit embarrassed that he
had intruded on her privacy. Still, whatever had occurred between Janeway
and NorChallen, it seemed to have unsettled her as much as it had him.
Janeway appeared to be preoccupied throughout most of the briefing, saying
little or nothing until confronted. Chakotay led the proceedings until it came to
the captain’s daily pep talk, AND he was surprised when it was necessary to
prompt Janeway into the action. Seemingly unruffled yet distant Janeway
completed the task and dismissed the officers, though SHE was the first out
the door. Another oddity as most often she was the last.
“Commander–” Tom Paris ventured as he caught up with the first
officer as they walked onto the bridge. Janeway had apparently disappeared
into the Ready Room. “What’s up with the Captain? I’ve never seen her like
that before.”
“I know but I’m sure it’s nothing she can’t handle,” Chakotay stated
simply as he took his seat and motioned Paris to do the same. The helmsman
exchanged a bewildered glance with Harry Kim, who simply shrugged and
returned his attention to his duties.
* * * * *
Kathryn Janeway loved being home, at least the holo-created
representation of home. She could remember the hours she sat on this knoll,
though most times IN the tree rather than under it. It was all so simple back
then, when all she would have to do is walk half mile to her parents house. Her
mother would be in the kitchen and her father in his study, and all would be
well. Unfortunately, this wasn’t real, and she wasn’t a half a mile from home;
she was 70,000 light years away. But this little fantasy made Kathryn feel, just
a tiny bit closer.
Sighing softly, Kathryn leaned back against the tree and allowed her
mind to review her encounter with NorChallen. Even today, her skin tingled
slightly from his touch. Yet, she still wasn’t sure how they had ended up in her
quarters. Though, Kathryn found herself being both miffed and thankful that
Chakotay had interrupted them. Still–
“Am I intruding, Captain?”
Kathryn Janeway jumped at the deeply masculine voice that rumbled
through her musings. She looked up and found the Roddinean captain staring
down at her.
“No, of course not–” Kathryn replied as she tried to composed herself.
“Please, join me.”
NorChallen smiled and situated himself under the tree next to her. His
gaze followed hers to a purple and orange sunset.
“It’s beautiful. Very peaceful,” NorChallen commented and turned to
study Janeway’s profile. “This place must be very special to you.”
Kathryn’s gaze shifted to his as she smiled, albeit sadly, “It’s home.”
“I understand–” Both were silent for a moment, then NorChallen
spoke. “I would like to apologize for my actions last night. They were
inappropriate. The last thing I wanted to do is push you into something, you’re
not ready for.”
“Thank you, but an apology isn’t necessary.”
“Well, perhaps we could start again. Would you have dinner with me
on my ship, Captain?” NorChallen asked as he stood and offered a hand to
Voyager’s captain. Kathryn accepted the gesture with a smile as she got to her
feet to stand toe to toe with the alien commander.
“Yes, I believe I would like that. But why don’t we make my quarters?
You are my guest after all.”
“Excellent — Is 1900 hours all right?” NorChallen asked. Kathryn
nodded as he impulsively took her hand in his bringing it to his lips as he
murmured, “Until tonight then, my Kathryn.”
A kind of giddiness over took Kathryn Janeway as she exited the
Holodeck shortly after NorChallen. Her mind was consumed with the notion of
what to wear and how she would fix her hair. So involved in her musings was
she; Janeway hurried past Neelix and Kes, without even seeing them.
“Now, that was odd.” Neelix observed, “She didn’t even say hello.”
“I think, she has someone else on her mind.” Kes answered with a
knowing smile. Confused, Neelix looked at her strangely. “Captain
NorChallen–” Kes prompted.
“Well–” Neelix harrumped, “I hope it’s not serious.”
“Why not? Even someone like Captain Janeway, has the right to
socialize. To be cared for . . . even loved.”
“But why him? Why not someone else? Like Commander Chakotay.”
“Neelix, relationships are very complicated, you know that. Given time,
anything can happen.”
Neelix smiled at the young Ocampa, barely three years old, yet she
sounded so wise, “You’re right, as always.” He concurred as they continued
down the companionway.
* * * * *
In her dream, Kathryn Janeway watched herself smile in the mirror as
darkly weathered hands manipulated a brush with repeated precision through
her hair. It had been a long time since she felt like this. A VERY long time,
indeed. As if bidden, the equally dark face of a man appeared in the mirror
beside hers. His features, through slightly alien with sharply jutting
cheekbones and a high brow capped by a long mane of black-blue hair, were
not unpleasant to look at. His eyes like ebony-cinnabar offered a hazy
reflection of her own smoky cerulean gaze. They stared at each for a long
moment before–
“What are you thinking, Kathryn?”
Stirred from her inner musings, Kathryn smiled across the table at the
Roddinean. Dinner had been a wonderful experience and the evening had
passed quickly. NorChallen was very disarming and made pleasant
conversation, and Kathryn found herself hanging on his every word.
“I was just wondering, if everything with you has to be an occasion.”
“Having something to celebrate or look forward to, is always preferable
to dreading the experience.” NorChallen provided as he poured her another
glass of wine.
“Challen, I–”
“My Kathryn, I find myself looking forward to being with you and that
in itself IS an occasion to me.” NorChallen proclaimed as he rose from his
chair offering a hand to Kathryn. Then Then tthey stood face to face, or rather,
head to shoulder, as NorChallen was a good foot taller than Kathryn. Still, that
didn’t seem to matter as music filled the room and they began to sway gently to
the rhythm.
As they danced, Kathryn felt a strange kind of euphoria wash over her.
She didn’t even think about stopping him as NorChallen bent his head and
kissed her. All Kathryn knew was she didn’t want him to leave — not this time.
“Stay with me, Challen. Please–”
“As you command, my Kathryn.”
* * * * *
Thomas Eugene Paris whistled softly as he strolled down the corridor
headed towards the Mess Hall. Nearing the Captain’s Quarters, Paris observed
an uncommon sight. Dropping back into an alcove, the helmsman waited until
Janeway and her ‘guest’ parted company. After counting to ten, he stepped out
of hiding place and nearly collided with the Roddinean captain.
“Good Morning, Paris–” NorChallen greeted the Lieutenant merrily
and then continued on down the companionway.
Wide-eyed, Paris watched the alien until he was out of sight, “Why is it
always the ones, you least expect?” He mumbled to himself.
* * * * *
Scant moments before Paris’ untimely observation; Kathryn Janeway
awoke slowly, allowing herself a luxurious catlike stretch as her gaze roamed
the semi-darkness of the room. Sitting up she called out softly, “Challen–”
When there was no response she rose and pulled on her robe before wandering
into the living room. There she found the man in question about to leave.
“Challen, what are you doing?” Kathryn called out.
The Roddinean turned looking a bit startled, from which he quickly
recovered, “Good morning, my Kathryn. Did you sleep well?”
“Very well, thanks to you,” Kathryn responded, her voice rough with
emotion.
NorChallen chuckled softy, “Not a difficult task, I assure you.” The
man with the darkly alien features smiled as he drew Voyager’s captain into his
arms. She looked into his abyssal eyes and was lost to the moment as his head
slowly descended toward hers . . .
Long moments passed before Kathryn dropped her head to his chest.
When she spoke, her words were muffled slightly, “Were you really, going to
leave without saying good-bye.”
NorChallen gently disengaged himself, stepping back to hold her at
arms’ length, “I thought it best, if I left early.”
Kathryn nodded. He’s right, of course. There’s no sense in adding fuel
to Voyager’s gossip mill. Their fingers clung to the last moment as the door
opened behind NorChallen.
“I’ll see you later, yes.”
“Yes–” Kathryn murmured as their eyes met briefly. NorChallen
impulsively pulled her to him for an almost desperate kiss and just as quickly
released her and was gone. The door slid soundlessly shut between them.
Seconds later, the silence of Janeway’s quarters was broken by the
chirp of the Comm-system and Kathryn answered almost absently, “Janeway
here?”
“Captain, I apologize for the hour but I need speak with you as soon as
possible?” Chakotay related, his tone grave.
“Of course, is there a problem?”
“Possibly, but I’d like to discuss it with you in person.”
Janeway frowned. She didn’t like the way this was sounding.
“Very well, I’ll meet you in my ready room. In thirty minutes–”
“Aye Captain. Chakotay out.”
The link closed and Kathryn sat down on heavily the bed, her mind
racing. She felt very out focus and there was this negating feeling, that
whatever was wrong had to do with her– and NorChallen. Kathryn sighed
again and began to ready herself for what could lie ahead.
* * * * *
“I tell ya, I saw him go into her cabin.”
“Man, I didn’t think the Captain would go for a guy like that.”
“Hey, I guess it takes all kinds.”
“That’s enough!” Ensign Harry Kim said angrily, “You talking about a
superior officer.”
The two crewmen looked at each other and laughed, “Not as superior
as we thought, now, is she?”
“I said, that’s ENOUGH!” Kim reiterated as he stood up and faced
down the two naysayers. He had been listening to them for the last ten
minutes. In fact, everyone in the Mess Hall was tuned into the conversation.
“Even Captain Janeway has a right to a private life.”
“Yeah, yeah . . . so speaks her ‘golden boy’.”
“Come on, Kim. Aren’t you just a little bit interested? I mean . . . this is
better than all that stuff about her and Chakotay. Hell, this is better. There
were witnesses.”
“It’s not my business.” Kim defended, “AND certainly it’s not yours, so
let it go.”
“But–”
“Hey, you heard him. LET-it-go.” Tom Paris ordered as he caught the
end of the conversation.
“Alright fine–”
“Yeah, whatever you say, Lieutenant.” Both men relented and hurriedly
left the Mess Hall. Paris and Kim glared after them.
“I can’t believe they could talk about Captain Janeway like that.”
“Face it, Harry. Truth is stranger than fiction.” Paris said as he sat down
across from Kim.
The young ensign looked appalled, “How can YOU say that?”
Paris shrugged, “It’s true. I saw them myself about ten minutes ago.”
“But– I mean, I never thought that–”
“That even a starship captain can have needs.” Paris completed the
statement. Kim nodded. Paris continued, “Well, I suppose, that’s what you get
for putting someone on a pedestal.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Kim agreed, then looked Paris straight in the eye.
“How does it make you feel? I mean, after what happened between you and
her.”
“Harry, if you’re asking, if I’m jealous? The answer is no.”
“But you’re still bothered by it,” Kim said, continuing to probe.
Paris sighed, “Yeah, I’m bothered. I don’t like the guy, Harry. He’s not
good enough for her.”
“Like YOU would know, what’s good enough for Captain Janeway.”
B’Elanna Torres challenged as she approached the pair.
“Eavesdropping B’Elanna?” Paris mocked.
“No . . . I could hear you the moment I came in.” The half Klingon
Engineer shrugged, “Besides, everyone’s talking about it.”
“So, what’s your opinion of Captain NorChallen?” Kim asked, wanting
to get another perspective.
Torres sat down, “I can easily see how someone could fall for him.
Even someone as strong-minded as the Captain.”
“You actually LIKE him.” Paris stated indignantly.
“I didn’t say that,” Torres answered, hotly. She sighed, “It’s just, I don’t
think, he’s ALL that he makes himself out to be. He’s TOO perfect. You
know–” The dark-haired woman looked Paris and Kim straight in the eye,
“Besides, it’s not really our place to approve or challenge the choices the
Captain makes with her private life.”
The two men exchanged glances and were about to respond, when
Chakotay’s voice came over the Comm-system along with the ship-wide
whoop of klaxons.
“Yellow alert– All personnel report to duty stations–”
“Saved by the bell–” Torres muttered as she followed Paris and Kim
from the Mess Hall.
* * * * *
Some twenty-nine minutes after speaking with Kathryn Janeway,
Chakotay was pacing the Ready Room as he tried to get his thoughts in order.
He didn’t like how this situation with Janeway and NorChallen was making
him feel. The worst part was, Chakotay decided, he didn’t know if his
discontent stemmed from the dislike instant he felt for the man or– Chakotay
shook his head. In either case, it was his duty to protect his captain, even if it
was from herself. As if on cue, Janeway entered perfectly coifed and
composed. Chakotay immediately noted something new about her. A woman
in love? He found himself hoping, not.
“Well Chakotay, prompt as ever, I see.” Janeway bantered as she
procured a cup of coffee from the replicator. “Now, what was so important?”
To Voyager’s first officer, the cheerfulness Janeway exhibited seemed
almost forced. He took a deep breath, waiting until the Captain was seated
before speaking.
“Captain, I apologize but I have on some disturbing information, you
need to know about.” Chakotay paused as he felt Janeway’s inquisitive gaze,
but he dared not meet it. “Six hours ago, we picked up a subspace transmission
being sent from Voyager. It was masked by our engine emissions but not very
well.”
“Where was it directed?”
“Toward a nebula about a half a light-year away. It’s concealing a
vessel of unknown configuration.”
Janeway looked solemn as she spoke, “Do you know who sent the
transmission?”
“No, but I–” He broke off, stalling as he tried to tell her what he knew.
Janeway nodded, her cool facade dropping as she said quietly, “I’m
listening, Commander.”
Puzzled by her tone, Chakotay looked up and was lost as he fell into
twin pools of azure. He sighed and dropped into a chair opposite Janeway, his
own dark brown eyes holding an unfathomable look.
“The signal originated from the terminal in your quarters, Captain.
AND used your access codes.”
“My– Are you sure?” Janeway asked stunned by the revelation.
“Yes–”
Janeway nodded as she rose and walked over to the windows. Chakotay
followed; concern etched deeply on his dark face. Again he was stymied for
what to say. Janeway saved him the trouble.
“You should know, I have no memory of sending such a message.
AND–” Janeway stopped as she released deep sigh. “And if I didn’t, then that
only leaves one person who could.”
“NorChallen–” Chakotay provided quietly as he watched his captain
and dearest friend, struggle to gain control of her emotions.
After an awkward moment, Janeway nodded as she took a deep breath
and turned to face him, “We were together . . . all night. He . . . would have
had ample opportunity to make the transmission after I was asleep.”
“You gave him your access codes.” Chakotay stated incredulously.
“NO–” Janeway said a little too loudly; her voice immediately dropped
to a whisper. “No, I didn’t. I wouldn’t. But then I haven’t exactly been myself
the last few days.”
Chakotay gave her one his quirky little smiles, “No, I guess you haven’t.
You’ve seemed more than a little distracted.
Janeway smiled back, “Distracted, that’s one way of putting it.” She
wrapped her arms tightly around herself in a protective gesture. “Ever since
Challen came aboard I’ve had this feeling. It’s like–” She stopped and dropped
onto the sofa. “Like I’m walking in a dream.” She sighed, “I don’t know how to
explain it, it’s so strange.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me.” Chakotay gently prompted as he
sat down next to her.
“No, I do. But I think, I need some time alone to sort things out first.
Would you mind?”
“No problem–” Chakotay said as he squeezed her hand and stood. “Call
me, if you need anything.”
“I will–” Janeway promised and watched as the commander strode
through the door. But before she could even begin to collect her thoughts,
Chakotay’s voice and the Yellow Alert klaxon, beckoned her to the bridge.
* * * * *
Aboard the Jahane, NorChallen paced his bridge restlessly. By the
Great Bird, he hated this deception. Wasn’t he, NorChallen, above such
practices; he should have no need for such trickery. The Roddinean sighed
inaudibly as his thoughts turned the woman, who commanded great starship,
Voyager. Captain Kathryn Janeway was a formidable presence and not easily
swayed by the charms of a man. Yet, he needed her. More than he had ever
needed a woman. Any woman. And though, it had been easy to conquer her
using his unique biochemistry, NorChallen had found after that last night he
would have rather won her over the old-fashioned way. But it was too late for
that and he knew it. The deed had been done.
“Captain NorChallen–”
Startled, the Roddinean turned to face his second officer; a rather
motley yet loyal character named DonMarick, “What is it now?”
“Sir, I feel that I must inform you, I do not agree the way this mission is
being handled. Surely, Minister Raudeel will be disapproving.”
NorChallen’s eyes grew dark.
“Watch where you step, DonMarick. You may find the floor missing.
Raudeel is my problem.”
The another man shrank visibly under NorChallen’s steady gaze.
“Captain, I would not presume to–”
“Nor should you.” The Roddinean interrupted hotly only to stop
himself, then continue in a calmer tone. “I value loyalty, DonMarick. We have
been friends for many years. BUT I will understand if that loyalty is not to
me.” The other man looked stricken. NorChallen continued, “Whatever
happens, know this, my friend . . . I will not allow Raudeel to carry out his
plans. He will not have the Voyager.”
“But that’s what this was all about, why we were sent here. The
Consortium wants their technology. If they don’t get it, we don’t get paid.”
“Don’t you see, Marick. This isn’t about just us anymore. These people
helped us, provided supplies and medical care. They didn’t care who we were,
only that we needed assistance. They are not the villains the Kazon made them
out to be.” NorChallen sighed, “AND last night I betrayed, the trust of a
woman . . . I’ve come to respect . . . and love.”
“It doesn’t matter. We have no choice but to do what the Consortium
wants.”
“I won’t bet on that, Marick.” NorChallen noted cryptically as he seated
himself in the command chair, just as others entered the bridge. In a low tone,
he advised, “Do what you must. I will not hate you, old friend.”
DonMarick’s eyes widened impossibly as his loyalties were torn.
Finally, he shook himself and moved to stand next to NorChallen’s chair. “By
your command, Captain–” The Roddinean smiled his approval and began to
issue orders.
* * * * *
“Report–” Kathryn Janeway demanded as she entered the bridge.
“Captain, we’ve picked up a vessel approaching at high warp.”
Chakotay answered as Janeway took her seat.
“Can we identify them?”
“It appears to be the same configuration as the Jahane, yet slightly
larger.” Tuvok responded just as Paris and Kim bounded onto the bridge.
“Let’s see it.” Janeway ordered as she directed her gaze at the main
viewscreen, “Mr. Kim, have Captain NorChallen report to the bridge.”
Several seconds passed before the young Ensign answered, “Captain,
NorChallen is not aboard Voyager.”
“Wha–”
“Captain, sensors indicate the Jahane is taking the point and powering
her weapons.” Tuvok reported to a stunned Janeway. She exchanged a glance
with Chakotay as she stood up and moved to the center of the bridge.
“Raise shields– Mr. Paris, take us to evasive position.”
“Yes ma’am–” The helmsman acknowledged as his fingers danced
across his console. With expert precision, Paris brought ship into a defensive
posture.
“It’s appears that they intend to protect us,” Tuvok observed from his
tactical station. “Curious, considered we out gun them ten to one.”
“Chivalry isn’t dead.” Paris quipped just as he caught Chakotay’s sharp
glance. Quickly, he refocused his attention back to his console.
“Mr. Kim, hail the Jahane.” The words were barely out of her mouth,
when the ship was rocked with an explosion and Janeway went tumbling along
with everyone else as the inertial dampers failed. When she opened her eyes,
Kathryn found herself staring at the ceiling of the bridge. “Damage report–”
Janeway called out as she pulled herself up, wincing at the crushing pain in her
side, that probably came from bruised or broken ribs and the pounding
headache that had her seeing double. Her eyes stinging with acrid smoke,
Janeway scanned the bridge. Everyone appeared to be all right except for a few
bruises.
“A direct hit on the port nacelle from the approaching vessel. They’ve
somehow breached our shields. We’re venting dry plasma.” Kim reported.
“Bridge to Engineering– B’Elanna what’s happening?”
B’Elanna Torres’ voice came back strained as the commline crackled,
“Warp engines are off-line. Life-Support is on emergency backup and the
Comm system is–” The Chief Engineer’s voice faded into sputters and was
lost.
“Dammit–” Janeway muttered as she impatiently brushed escaped
strands of hair from her face. She winced at the pain and cursed the rampaging
creature, trumping around in her head. “Harry, get down to Engineering.”
Kim acknowledged the order and headed for the turbolift.
“What’s our status?” Janeway inquired to noone in particular.
“Plasma vents are back on-line and we’ve regained attitude control.
Shields at 35%.” Chakotay answered from Ops.
“Remodulate the shields. Where’s the Jahane?”
“Fifty hundred kilometers off our starboard bow–” Tuvok reported
from Tactical as the ship veered again suddenly; though this time was Tom
Paris’ doing.
The helmsman flashed an apologetic look at Janeway, who was
clinging to the railing behind him, “Sorry, about the ride. Just trying to stay in
one piece.”
“Keep it up, Mr. Paris. Put the Jahane between us and that ship.”
“Kathryn, you should go to sickbay.” Chakotay told her as he noted the
captain’s injuries.
Janeway shook her head and muttered through clinched teeth, “No, not
now–”
“Captain, the Jahane is hailing us, as is the other ship.”
Janeway was torn. Which one to respond to first?
“Put the other ship through first, then uplink the Jahane.”
In a few seconds, the viewscreen lit up and presented them with a
picture of a rather bedraggled, self-indulgent man.
“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager.
Why have you fired on us?”
“Minister Raudeel of the NaBast Consortium. Surrender your vessel–”
The rotund man demanded by why of an introduction.
At that moment the Jahane joined the conversation, “Raudeel, don’t you
ever let up?”
“Surely, you know better, NorChallen. Or, have you lost your touch?”
NorChallen caught Janeway’s gaze briefly, noting her disbelief and
shock.
“Oh, I think you know the answer to that, Raudeel.”
“Mmmm, of course, though I am surprised it’s taken you so long to turn
against me.”
“Sometimes, it’s hardest to see what’s right in front you.”
“Very noble, but it doesn’t matter. With or without you, I will have this
vessel.”
“You’ll have to go through me first, Raudeel.”
“As you wish–” Both ships severed communication.
“Captain, the other vessel is powering weapons. The Jahane is right in
their path.” Paris announced.
“NO!” The Captain’s eyes glinted with madness as pain both emotional
and physical encompassed her being. Watching the unthinkable happen before
his eyes; Chakotay took command.
“Tuvok, target phasers their weapons array. Use the Jahane as cover if
you have to.” The former Maquis ordered as he wrapped his arms around
Janeway to keep her from Paris’ back
“Firing phasers–” The Vulcan reported as twin bolts of energy lanced
out from Voyager. They slipped under the belly of the Roddinean ship and
piercing the hull of Raudeel’s ship, destroying its weapons and efficiently
disabling it. Though the NaBast vessel managed to get off one shot, it struck
the Jahane squarely. “The Jahane’s has been severely damaged. Her warp core
is breaching.”
“Challen–” Janeway murmured as she slumped in Chakotay’s arms.
The first officer gently lowered the captain into her chair.
“Beam survivors directly to Sickbay. Where’s the NaBast ship?”
“Forty thousand kilometers and retreating–” Paris answered as a bright
explosion lit up the screen. “There she blows–” The blond Lieutenant muttered
under his breath. The Jahane was gone.
“Tractor the NaBast ship. Then get a security team over there. And
stand down red alert–” Chakotay ordered as he gently lifted the captain,
cradling her against his chest. Then he turned to Tuvok, “Lieutenant, you have
the bridge.”
“Aye sir–”
* * * * *
Sickbay was in chaos as Chakotay hurried through the door with
Janeway. Three of the Roddineans were dead and the Doctor was working over
DonMarick as NorChallen hovered nearby, apparently unscathed. Kes was at
the first officer’s side immediately.
“Put her down here, Commander.” Kes said motioning to a bio-bed.
Chakotay did as bid then backed away slightly to allow Kes to do her work.
After a few moments, the Doctor joined them.
“Readings show she’s has three bruised ribs and a slight concussion.
Stress levels are higher than normal. That’s no surprise . . . but there’s also,
some sort of bio-electric residue present.” The Holographic Doctor intoned
rather clinically as he went work.
Ten grueling minutes later, he had treated Kathryn Janeway’s physical
injuries and was now attempting to ascertain what had caused her erratic
behavior on the bridge. “And though, there’s no sign of narcotics in her system.
She seems experiencing the classic symptoms of drug induced euphoria.”
“You mean as she’s addicted to something?” Chakotay demanded as
dark accusing eyes found NorChallen. Roddinean did not flinch under the first
officer’s gaze. “You know something. YOU did this. HOW?”
NorChallen sighed as he looked away from his injured second officer
to Chakotay to the woman on the bio-bed, “You see, we Roddineans have a bit
of a nefarious past, when it comes to getting what we want. The outer dermal
layer of our skin emits a bio-electric field, it reacts like an hallucinogen on
some. Making them very susceptible to suggestion.”
The Doctor was nodding and the Commander was shaking his head,
appalled.
NorChallen hurried on, “Understand, once my clan were philosophers,
we followed the teachings of GenRoddin, our greatest visionary. But as a
people, we were not what you would call self-sufficient. Our clans were small
and tended to squabble among themselves. We relied on trade to meet our
most basic of needs . . . food, medicine, and the like. The Consortium was
more than willing to provide those things to us but in payment they demanded
the worst of us.” NorChallen looked up once again to meet Chakotay’s gaze.
“Our children were starving . . . our People dying. We saw no other alternative,
then to ally with the NaBast. We took to deception.”
“So, you roam the sector looking for a potential victim. You pretend to
be disabled. Earn trust of the vessel’s crew, then you turn them over to the
NaBast and wash your hands of the entire thing.” Chakotay surmised angrily.
“Yes–” NorChallen whispered as he returned his gaze to Janeway.
“That was until I met, your captain. A remarkable woman. And you, the rest of
the crew, you gave to us without asking for ANYTHING in return. It was
unheard of, and it didn’t make an impact until after I transmitted your shield
modulation frequency to Raudeel and returned to my Kathryn’s side.”
NorChallen’s mouth turned upward into a tender smile. “I sat, just watching
her. She appeared like now, so vulnerable and beautiful. I couldn’t let Raudeel
spoil that.” The Roddinean held Chakotay’s gaze for second. “I wish you AND
Kathryn to know, that what happened between her and I was complete
coercion on my part. I allowed her to believe, she had a choice but in the end,
it was just me. Be assured, once I have gone her perceived attraction to me
will fade and she will remember all that has happened.” Chakotay looked torn,
he glanced at the EMH.
The Doctor shrugged, “Maybe it’s for the best.”
Chakotay said nothing as he observed Tuvok’s entrance to Sickbay.
NorChallen knew it was time to go.
“Commander, I cannot begin to apologize for my actions.”
“No, you can’t. I just want you off this ship. Mr. Tuvok, will make sure
you and DonMarick get safely aboard the NaBast ship. Then what happens IS
up to you”
The Roddinean nodded solemnly as he cast one last look at Janeway,
only to be surprised to find her staring at him. When their eyes met briefly, it
was NorChallen, who had to glance away for her anguished gaze. Those same
blue-gray orbs that he had grown to adore, followed him as he exited sickbay.
* * * * *
Chakotay hesitated before the door to Kathryn Janeway’s quarters. It
had been three days since the NaBast ship, now under NorChallen’s command,
had departed. Surely, that was enough time for her to come to terms with what
had happened. Even if it wasn’t, just sitting in her quarters cut off from
everything, wasn’t doing Janeway or the crew any good at all. Voyager needed
its captain back. Taking a breath, the first officer jabbed the door buzzer.
There was no immediate response. I’ll give it one more minute, then– Before
Chakotay could finish the thought, the door opened.
“Chakotay–” Janeway exhaled as she stepped aside to let him enter.
“Captain, I–” The Commander began, a bit unnerved by the fact that
even though it was well into the afternoon, she had her hair down and was
wearing a robe.
“Here to check up on the recluse.” Kathryn challenged with a slight
smile but it did nothing to belay the dark circles under her eyes and sallow
complexion.
“Something like that. I thought you may like to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Kathryn murmured as she turned away
from him to stare out the window.
“I see, well, should you decide differently–” Chakotay left the offer
hanging in the air between them. Starting to leave, he noted his birthday gift to
her on the coffee table. He picked it up and smiled, remembering how
surprised Janeway had been when he gave it her. The picture in a hand-carved
frame was of himself and Kathryn; he had taken it on ‘New Earth’. “I remember
when I took this picture, I thought I was dead man for sure.”
Clearly seeing what Chakotay was trying to do Kathryn turned and
gave him wistful smile, “You didn’t exactly capture us at our best.”
“That’s for sure.” Chakotay concurred with a chuckle, “but it was fun.”
Silence fell once again between them and without warning Chakotay watched
as Kathryn’s reserve crumbled. She dropped to the sofa burying her face in her
hands.
At a loss, Chakotay sat down, putting a hand lightly on her arm as he
spoke, “Kathryn, you don’t always have to be the captain. There’s room for the
woman, too.”
“I know–” Kathryn murmured as brushed a hand across her eyes and
met his gaze, “but sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two.” A sad
smile curved her lips, “I was such a fool, Chakotay.”
“No, you weren’t.” Chakotay proclaimed taking her hand, “Deception
can have many faces. Most of the time, we never recognize them all, until it’s
too late.”
“From Maquis to analyst, quite a career move.”
“Just be thankful, I’m not regaling you with a story.” Chakotay quipped.
They shared a half-hearted laugh. “Kathryn, I’ll be whatever YOU need me to
be.”
“Thank you–” Kathryn whispered as she took a deep breath and slowly
released it. “But . . . you’ve done what you can. The rest is up to me and I think
it’s time Voyager’s captain came back. Don’t you?”
Chakotay smiled and stood, “As far as I’m concerned, she come and go
as she pleases.” He gave Janeway a smart salute, turned on his heel and was
gone.
Kathryn smiled gently, secure in the knowledge that she had gained
something out of this after all– A rare friendship and perhaps one day,
something more. With those thoughts she focused on the stars as Voyager
continued on her long journey home . . .

END

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