Author’s Note: This is the first in a series called The Janeway Logs where I write from Captain Janeway’s perspective of events that happened in between various episodes. I always thought that some episodes and characters had effects that lasted throughout the series, even if it was never mentioned again in the episodes. I hope you all enjoy these logs.
Space affords one little comforts aside from personal reflection and the constant view of the stars. Nothing is guaranteed here, far from anything familiar in the Alpha Quadrant, and every species we encounter is something else to add to the database. These are my personal logs. I’m sure no one will ever glance over these again, or really be curious as to what I did in the rare time my mind spent unoccupied with the predicament of coming home. I am writing for my own catharsis. I am writing because, whether anyone gets to indulge their interest in one day reading these, I need to get things off of my chest. The heaviest thing to carry is a soul filled with guilt. My responsibility is to get my crew home. I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager and this is just one of the many stories I have to tell. It happened soon after Jetrel had passed, leaving Neelix with a heavy burden. This is the story of a few ghosts that came to life.
My sleep had not been sound yet it had given me the luxury of a few minute’s relaxation. I am not one to dream of anything in particular, nothing of deeper meaning or close to the visions that Chakotay’s spirituality gifts him with. Mine are just fragmentations of smaller meanings in an attempt to quilt themselves together. I had been having a rather strange one, about Neelix cooking away his memories, when I was paged to the mess hall. The mess hall which had previously been my own personal dining quarters. Who needed such a large room to contemplate? I had convinced myself that Neelix was entirely correct, though very brash, in his actions. One must humor the Talaxian for his heart and not his tact.
I had just finished placing my hair into a tight and serviceable bun when the doors to the mess hall slid open and I saw Neelix quivering on the ground. Next to him was Chakotay and, naturally, Kes. The young and beautiful Ocampan had come on the ship as part of the crew with her lover Neelix. They had something sweet and innocent about their love though, I worried a times, it had a certain immaturity about it. Their love reminded me of my time at the Academy when two young peers would come together, share moments in time, and then separate to move on with their careers. Sadly, Kes would have a maximum of nine years to live an entire lifetime. My concerns went to Neelix on that horrible day she would leave us. My concerns were even more great when I saw the way Kes held him.
“What on Earth happened here, Chakotay?”
“Kes requested my presence in the mess hall and Neelix hasn’t said a word since I’ve arrived. His lips move”, my first officer said in concern, “but nothing comes out.”
“He kept screaming about ghosts, Captain!”, Kes said with the hint of tears brimming, “We were shelling some Vedarin roots to make a pasta tomorrow for lunch, you know Neelix has been keeping late nights since Jetrel’s death, but tonight was like no other. He dropped his simmering pot and started speaking with no one.”
“No one?”, I asked in concern as I lowered myself to get a look at Neelix, “Has he been ill at all? Has he been to see the Doctor?”
“I’m not sure. If he’s not been feeling well, then he hasn’t said anything to me. I didn’t know what to do, Captain, he just started arguing with the air around us. It was like he could see something not even I could sense”, Kes finished while trembling.
“Neelix”, I said while I placed a hand on either side of his face, “you can speak with me about anything. What did you see which Kes couldn’t?”
Chakotay placed his hand on Neelix’s shoulder, “You are among friends. You are part of this crew. We’re here to help.”
Chakotay’s reassurance filled me with pride on the unification of my crew. Somehow I had always feared the Maquis would never feel welcome as part of Starfleet. We had been sent to get them, after all, and their ship had been destroyed to save our own. I was not surprised by Chakotay’s kind words, for being the captain of his own rebel ship, he certainly had a deep compassion that I admired. It was something I planned to highlight to Starfleet the second we returned from the Delta Quadrant. If it was the last thing I would do, even if it meant career suicide, I would get amnesty for the Maquis who joined our ship and became part of my crew. I guess one could say I felt like a mother who felt a personal connection to her crew. Neelix was part of that crew, and he had paled even more since I entered the mess hall. His silence, when it finally broke, was not in response to anything we had said. It was something incoherent.
“Monster! I’ve given you forgiveness and you torment me for everything! You were a liar! You’re a cruel demon!”, Neelix screamed while waiving about his arms, “I will not see you in my afterlife, you have no place with any of them! They won’t want to know. They need to forget.”
“Neelix”, I said with a firm and measured voice, “you need to tell us who you’re speaking with. We can’t see them. Is it someone you know?”
His eyes went to mine and sent a jolt of fear through my body, “It’s Jetrel…and he said he’s not leaving this ship unless I save him.”
Neelix had been sedated, brought to the Doctor, and put through diagnostics to assure he had not been in any physical danger. His readings were normal, from what the Doctor knew of Talaxian physiology, and I couldn’t help but be relieved that my ship’s cook and guide to the Delta Quadrant was not going to drop dead of any malady. He was, however, still mumbling to himself when the sedation ran its course. Kes had been by his side eagerly and Chakotay, in his own mystical beliefs, took his claims seriously. It had been an argument we had as soon as Neelix had been sedated. No, I did not believe the ghost of Jetrel had been haunting Neelix. I believed it was something else entirely. However, as little as I knew about the Delta Quadrant, I could have been wrong. I had no idea how the afterlife was connected or individualized. This was something deeper which I was apprehensive to explore. I had made up my mind to go to my ready room when something strange happened.
The lights, on the hallway leading to the turbo lift, flickered violently. The ship had not been hit to my knowledge and, before I could tap my commbadge to waken B’Elanna and ask her about hall maintenance, my curiosity was answered. The atmosphere in the hall became ice cold and I felt a shiver up my spine. I felt a presence behind me and I turned. Then, to my own surprise, I saw the hint of something familiar in the corner of my eye. I turned again and it wasn’t there. Suddenly I felt the atmosphere warm and the lights return to their regulated illumination. I took a deep breath and turned around to head toward the medical bay. Clearly I had not gathered all of the facts. Before I could reach the medical bay, I heard a familiar voice behind me.
I can never forget what we leave behind. My children. My wife. I turned again and drew my phaser. Would a phaser work if it was an entity fooling with the minds of my crew? I felt the atmosphere turn chill again and fought the urge to shiver. Whoever was out there, they would not get the satisfaction of my visible discomfort. I moved closer toward the direction of the voice without saying a word. My feet felt like hard blocks of ice, unwilling to move. That voice had been all too familiar to me, and it did not belong to a member of my crew. It was the voice of Jetrel. Suddenly, I had started to believe Neelix.
“Captain?”, Chakotay asked as I moved quickly into the room, “Is there something wrong? You’re pale. Should I get you coffee?”
“Don’t worry about me for now. I think I just had a run in with Neelix’s ghostly visitor. Kes, are you sure that you’ve sensed nothing out of the ordinary?”
Kes sighed, “I have been trying to focus myself since Neelix has been sedated, but I can’t focus on anything. I don’t sense any strange living presence here on the ship. Everything feels familiar.”
“That’s the problem”, I said as I put my hands on my hips, “I don’t think it is living at all. Though the scientific part of me wishes to hesitate saying this, I am starting to believe Neelix is right. Is it possible for our ship to be haunted?”
Chakotay nodded, “It’s entirely possible. I have heard stories of a guilty soul being tied to one place, asking for help to clear the guilt.”
“How could we possibly clear Jetrel of guilt?”
Chakotay shook his head, “I’m not entirely sure. His crimes aren’t something that could be easily undone.”
Before I could comment, Neelix sat upright and put his hands over his face. He had started to mumble something but, as I noticed between his fingers, he looked more coherent. The Doctor moved from his office to attend to his patient, his medical tricorder out. Kes put her hand gently on the Doctor’s arm and shook her head. Because they had some form of understanding, a friendship through their mutual studies in the medical field, the Doctor nodded and put away the tricorder. Kes looked to her lover, the one who risked life and limb to rescue her from the abuse of the Kazon, and wrapped her arm around him. What Neelix needed was support. I had the feeling that Neelix would be the one to save the day this time.
“I understand his guilt”, said the Talaxian with a sad undertone to his voice, “because I have my own. I told you how I felt like a coward, how I fled from battle only to return too late. My family, my friends, everything I cherished had died because of some weapon. Jetrel’s weapon.”
“Yes, Neelix, but we can’t keep living in the past. You have showed your courage in many situations since I’ve met you”, I said with a soft smile, “and I know you have the courage to get through this. Whatever it is.”
“It’s Jetrel’s spirit. He can’t rest, can’t ascend into the afterlife, because of what he left behind with him.”
“His guilt?”, Chakotay asked.
“No”, replied Neelix, “his family.”
“I thought his family ostracized him after they discovered he designed that bomb. He told us that he lost his wife and his children to their own shame”, I said with an eerie shiver which I contained, “and that he hadn’t seen them in years. What would he want of them now?”
“Forgiveness”, said Kes as she looked in understanding at her lover, “because everyone deserves forgiveness if they’re truly sorry.”
“Captain, may I make a request?”, Neelix asked me.
“Of course, anything you need to make this right”, I offered.
“Then I’ll need you all to leave the medical bay, for the Doctor to manually end his program, and an hour’s time to write”, Neelix said.
I followed his requirements, still unsure as to whether my ship was haunted by the ghost of someone plagued with guilt. It had seemed almost Dickens-style to me, with the ghosts visiting someone to teach them a lesson, and redemption permeating the entire situation. There were still factors which I would like to explore. I wanted to check the sensor logs, search for anomalies which could have been playing tricks on the mind. Neelix, due to his physiology, could have been effected by it and conjured up his own images of his recent ordeal. It hadn’t been very long since Jetrel was on the ship, attempted to bring back his own monstrous version of past victims, and then died in sadness. Then again, I couldn’t deny my own experiences in the hallway while heading to the turbo lift. Could the ghost be following Neelix?
Even though we had left the medical bay, the three of us waited outside for Neelix. We heard nothing from inside, but I knew Neelix was writing. I could only guess at what he had to do, but I would give him whatever time he needed. I felt the air turn cold around me and Chakotay, always the protector, moved in closer to Kes and myself to block a draft. I couldn’t tell him that there wasn’t a draft. I had experienced this same chill when I heard the strange voice of Jetrel in the hallway. If he had existed as a ghost, he was in that medical bay with Neelix, and they were settling the score. I admired Neelix for facing this on his own, for wanting to settle things without bringing danger to his friends.
I saw the lights flicker the moment I heard the sound of the medical bay doors opening. Neelix handed me a data pad with a sad smile and embraced Kes. I looked at the data pad but I couldn’t recognize the names. Who had he written a letter to? Chakotay patted Neelix on the shoulder and, to my surprise, Neelix seemed at ease. Had the entire event unfolded in such a short time? Had this all been some crazy form of a dream? I couldn’t deny the possibly that, for the first time in my life, I had a vivid dream that felt akin to reality. Any moment, I could wake up and smile in relief that my mind conjured up the entire adventure. Neelix spoke, and it brought me to the realization that I was very awake.
“Jetrel didn’t have any friends before his death, and he had lost contact with his family completely”, my Talaxian friend said, “but that doesn’t mean that his heart had accepted that. No one can accept being fully alone…especially when they die. My forgiveness was his blessing, but he needed one last thing. He needed the closure of telling his family the rest of the story.”
“That is why he was…haunting….you? To write a letter to his family about the remainder of his life?”, I asked in surprise.
“It’s temperamental of a ghost, and awfully strange, but I can’t say I deny any of the things which happened to me tonight”, he replied.
“You don’t have to explain yourself or your actions, Neelix, I trust you. You’ve proven yourself to me these last few months.”
“Thank you Captain, but I still feel such guilt”, he said, “and I’m not sure his family will ever read what I wrote.”
“You can at least send it to them”, Kes said as she kissed his temple, “and hope for the best. You’ve done your part.”
The next evening, Neelix had been alone in the mess hall cooking something that smelled strangely appealing. Some of his best recipes came in the most unexpected combinations. I had went under the premise of getting that sludge-like brew he called coffee, but I was concerned with my crew member. There had been no reports of any failure in circuitry, atmospheric controls, or anomalies in the area. Had we all imagined that the ghost of Jetrel was haunting Neelix? I didn’t have the answer to what exactly happened, and I still don’t now. At that moment, however, I had only been concerned with the well being of my friend and crew member.
“You know, I have to say, that the remodeling you did to my former dining room is quite impressive. Will you open up a restaurant in the Alpha Quadrant once you get there with us?”, I asked with a smile.
Neelix smiled at the corner of his mouth and shook his head, “It depends how long I stay for the journey. I will only be useful as a guide for so long.”
“Oh, I don’t have any intentions of kicking you off this ship. After all, you keep the crew fed and the morale up.”
“I’m glad you have confidence in me, but I’m not entirely too sure I have such confidence in myself.”
I raised an eyebrow, “Neelix the Talaxian trader feeling a lack of confidence? It’s unheard of. I can’t believe something like a visit from an old acquaintance, or whatever it was exactly, could shake your spirit in such a way.”
He looked up with sad eyes, “How will I know if his family ever read that letter? How will I be sure they understood who he was before death, how he dedicated the remainder of his life to fixing what he hurt?”
“You can’t be sure, Neelix, but you should know that you did what few in your situation would. You proved your complete forgiveness and your unrelenting compassion by doing exactly what he wished. Somewhere, in whatever form o afterlife exists, you have given rest to Jetrel’s soul.”
“How do you know that I wasn’t coward? That I didn’t do it just to end his haunting?”
I shook my head, “The Neelix I know has never been a coward. He has picked his share of battles, done some creative wording to get out of a sticky situation, but he’s certainly not a coward.”
“What makes you so sure about that?”, he asked smugly.
“Because”, I said as I placed my hand over his own, “you’re my friend, and I’m proud of that.”
We looked at each other in complete silence. I could sense that Neelix would always carry a degree of shame with him, a feeling of self-doubt when it came to the destruction of his home world and his letter to Jetrel’s family, but I admired him all the same. It is how we carry our burdens that matter. No one spoke of the haunting after it happened. We had all went about our business and let that chapter close. I still remember the words of Jetrel, and the way Neelix looked at me when he handed me that letter. Despite the years that separate us from the past, we can never truly forget those we leave behind.
Copyright 2012. The characters in this story, as well as the Star Trek: Voyager universe, are copyright Paramount. This is a fan fiction meant for entertainment and not profit. No infringement is intended. Thanks to all who take the time to read my work.