A Fire of Devotion: Part 4 of 4: Hotter Than Hell: Chapter Seven

As beautiful as the sunrises on Quarra were, Kathy Janeway had little time to enjoy today’s as she tried to find a supervisor. She needed this job, and being late on her first day was not a good way to make a first impression. She knew this planet had a bit of a labor shortage which might save her, but she would still rather not risk it. Factory work was a bit beneath her skill-set, but better to get her hands dirty here than to keep them clean behind a desk on the shithole planet she was born on.

“Excuse me,” she asked a pink-skinned alien who was about to pass her, “can you tell me where I can find the supervisor?”
“Over there,” the alien said, pointing to his right.

“Thank you,” Kathy said, jogging off in that direction. She made her way to a small office with a window that overlooked this part of the factory floor. The supervisor seemed to realize what she was there for just by looking as he stepped out to meet her and immediately, but politely, asked for her authorization and licenses.

He looked at them, smiling. “Level 6 in thermodynamics and quantum fusion? I’m impressed, Ms. Janeway.”
“Thank you, sir,” Kathy said. “And I apologize for being late. I boarded the wrong transport and-”
“Ended up at the Atmosphere Filtration Facility? Don’t feel bad, I did that my first day too. Happens to nearly two-thirds of the new hires in the first week. But around here we have a saying. ‘First is forgiven.’ Don’t let it happen again, but as this is your first infraction, and a minor one at that, it won’t go in your file.”

“Thank you, sir,” Kathy said.
“With your skills I’m surprised Atmo didn’t offer you a job when you got there,” the supervisor said. “But since you’re here, your job is to monitor the primary reactor coils. They process more than eight thousand metric-”
“Eight thousand metric tons of tylium per second at 94% thermal efficiency.”

The supervisor chuckled. “Well, hopefully we can help you keep that level of enthusiasm for the job. We like to keep our workforce happy. If you have any problems, let me know.”

The supervisor turned to walk away, then stopped.
“Oh, just a head’s up, we have a new efficiency monitor who also just started and she can be a bit… abrasive. She is good at her job though so listen to what she says, and try not to let her demeanor get to you. I guess being overly blunt comes with the territory when you’re a cyborg.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, sir,” Kathy said. As soon as the supervisor walked away, she immediately got to work. It didn’t take her long to get into a rhythm. So much of one that she almost didn’t notice when a co-worker attempted to hand her a datapad with new specifications.

“Ah, thank you.” she said to the alien, who simply nodded and walked away. She began entering the specifications when suddenly an error alarm went off.
“Of for the love of-”
“Input Error 145,” the automated alarm said between beeps. Kathy tried to correct, but was met with a “Command Code Violation 2308” for her efforts.
“Come on,” she said, leaning in closer to the machine in front of her, hoping against all logic that being nice to the damn thing would work where her inputted instructions had somehow failed. “If you stop with that alarm, I promise I will never violate you again.”
A hand reached into her peripheral vision and touched a button on the console, stopping the alarm immediately. She turned to see another alien, a male by all appearances, who was entering code of his own.

“You almost started a core overload,” he said, though lacking the kind of judgement she would’ve expected from someone telling her she’d almost gotten everyone in the building killed.

If this is normal around here, she thought, maybe I should get a new job.
“I would’ve corrected it,” she said defensively. She wasn’t entirely sure of that in actuality, though she doubted it was entirely her fault and made a mental note to double check the specs she’d been handed earlier.
“Well,” the alien man said, “I’m sorry for interrupting then. And for eavesdropping. I overheard you talking to your console.”
“Well, it was either that or some percussive maintenance,” Janeway said, feeling a little embarrassed.
“Percussive main- Oh, you mean hitting it,” the alien man said, chuckling. “I like that. Percussive maintenance. I’ll have to remember that one. I’m Jaffen, by the way.” He extended his hand, and Kathy shook it.
“Kathryn,” she said. “I only let my friends call me Kathy and we’re not there yet so don’t even think about it.”
“Understood,” Jaffen said. “I work just down there,” he said, motioning his head down towards the end of the workfloor.
“This station doesn’t require two operators,” a voice said. Kathy turned and saw a blonde-haired human woman with obvious cybernetic implants where one of her eyebrows should’ve been, and another just under her right ear.
This must be the efficiency monitor I was warned about, Kathy thought.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” Jaffen said, offering the cyborg a handshake as well. Kathy wondered if he’d picked that up from one of the other humans on this planet, or if his species had somehow developed that form of greeting on their own by sheer coincidence. “I’m-”
“Employee 1326,” the cyborg said. “And you,” she added, glancing at Kathy before returning her focus to a device in her hands, “are Employee 8584. Since you’re new here, you may not be fully familiar with labor protocols.”
She looked at Jaffen again. “But you should be aware that fraternizing is not permitted during work hours.”
“And what’s your number if you don’t mind my asking? Or do you get a name?”
The cyborg sighed. “Annika Hansen. I am the new efficiency monitor.”

“Ah,” Jaffen said, “I didn’t know they’d hired a new one so soon.” He shook his head. “I’m happy for Masala of course, but I’m gonna miss him around here.”
“Now that you know,” Hansen said, “you can return to your work station.”
“For the record,” Kathy said, “we weren’t fraternizing. Jaffen just helped me correct an input code error. Speaking of-”

“Finish quickly,” Hansen said, nodding politely, and briskly turning and walking away.
“Yes ma’am,” Kathy said quietly.
“She’s a charmed one isn’t she?” Jaffen said.
“I think you mean ‘charming,’” Kathy said, “but yeah.”
“Anyway, from where I was standing I thought we were fraternizing,” Jaffen said with a friendly smile. Kathy chuckled, shook her head, and went back to work. “Maybe we could get acquainted after work.”

Kathy almost reflexively said “No,” but hesitated for a moment.

Should I? She thought.
“I can’t,” she said out loud. “I appreciate the offer but with this new job, I don’t really have time to socialize.” She casually pointed in the direction Annika Hansen had gone.
Jaffen shrugged.
“Well, I suppose I could ask out the new efficiency monitor,” he said, though the tone of his voice suggested he didn’t really intend to.
Kathy snorted a laugh. “I take it they don’t have wedding rings on your homeworld.”

“I know what those two words mean individually,” Jaffen said, “but I’m afraid I don’t know the context. Is this a… your race is called Human right? Is it a human thing?”
“Yeah,” Kathy said. “Did you notice that ring on Hansen’s hand there? That means that she’s already spoken for. Some lucky guy, or girl, gets to wake up next to the bipedal calculator every morning.”
“Huh,” Jaffen said. “Oh well. See you around, Kathryn.”
Kathy was surprised at how easy Jaffen was to let down. Not that he didn’t seem disappointed, just that, unlike some males of her own species, he wasn’t going to push the issue and that one “No” was enough for him. She found herself watching him as he walked away. She wondered if maybe she should’ve taken him up on his offer. She then wondered if she’d been too harsh in her initial assessment of Annika Hansen.
Or maybe the first impression was right on, she thought, and the only reason someone married her was for that rack of hers. I mean hell, I’m not even into women and I thought about it for a second.

Jaffen waited by the bar, figuring the human women he had his eye on would show up sooner or later, but he didn’t spend too much time watching the door. He was already starting to feel like a stalker for having gone this far. Usually a “No” was all he needed, but there was something in the way that Kathy had said it, hesitating before doing so. Or maybe he was just trying to rationalize his actions to himself, he was willing to admit that.

To pass the time, he shared some stories about his jobs on his homeworld and on various freighters in the sector over the years. Some of the workers listening had heard the stories before but seemed to enjoy hearing them again, while others were clearly new to the place.

He finished telling a story about a poor young worker who, having never heard of Jaffen’s species, had attempted to insult Jaffen’s father to no avail.
“Eventually, I finally explained it to him. I’m Norvalian. I don’t have a father,” he said, everyone in the crowd laughing, except for one of the newer people, a dark-skinned humanoid with pointed ears.
“I’m afraid I do not understand,” the newcomer said.
“It’s… complicated, Mister, um ,”
“Tuvok,” the pointy-eared man said.
“Mister Tuvok. It involves a centuries-long war, a sterility plague, and some creative genetic research that-” Jaffen stopped when he noticed Kathy Janeway entering the bar, somehow managing to avoid walking into anyone even though her attention seemed glued to her data pads rather than her surroundings. “I’m sorry, Mister Tuvok, perhaps some other time.”
“I look forward to hearing it,” Tuvok said. “I am interested in learning as much as I can about the histories of the races who are now my co-workers.”
“Just remember to always ask nicely,” Jaffen said as he moved past his friends towards the table where Kathy was now sitting.

“I thought you didn’t have time to socialize,” Jaffen said, sitting down across from her.
Kathy looked up with a small smile, but the rest of her face conveying annoyance.
“I’m not socializing,” she said, “I’m reviewing these manuals then getting something to eat.”

“Well, I recommend the latara broth, and the section on coefficients,” Jaffen said. “I can help you with the manuals if you like. We won’t be fraternizing.”
Kathy looked at him contemplatively for a few seconds then laughed.
“You are not that great at this,” she said. “Either you’re a lot younger than you look and I’m your first attempt at flirting, or you don’t usually try this hard.”
“Well, you’ve got me there,” Jaffen said. “Normally once a woman says ‘no thanks,’ I move on. But there’s something about you. Not just your looks, though you are quite lovely, but something in your demeanor. I have to wonder why you’re just a low-level worker like me. You have an aura around you. I’ve seen it before. Some of the better freighter captains I’ve served under had it. The kind of men and women who you followed orders from not because you had to, but because you wanted to.”

Kathy tilted her head, as if not sure how to take the compliment.
“So, you have a thing for authority figures?” she eventually said with a smirk. “Maybe you should be pursuing Efficiency Monitor Hansen.”

“I doubt her wife would appreciate that,” Jaffen said.
“Her wife?”
“I asked around,” Jaffen said. “Apparently her and her spouse adopted an alien orphan and live in the higher level apartments. The wife, Samantha I think her name is, works at one of the local biotech companies in the R&D division. Explains why they can afford a place like that so soon after getting here.”

“Well, good for her,” Kathy said. “Everyone deserves a shot at happiness. Even the officious, nitpicky, micromanaging types.”

Annika Hansen wrapped her arms around her wife’s waist while the later worked on cooking whatever it was she was cooking. The smell filled the apartment, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Still, she didn’t think it needed to be quite that strong. She didn’t say so out loud though.
“We can afford a chef, Sammy,” Annika said, following up her statement with a kiss to the back of Samantha’s neck.
“I know,” Sam said, “but like I said the three other times you’ve brought up this week, I like cooking. I have more control over this stove than the equipment at work.”
Annika sighed.
“They still treat you like a plebe over there? Jerks. You know more about xenobiology than any of those guys.”
“I know, Annika, I know. But, humans are still the newbies on Quarra.”
Annika had to admit to herself that Sam was right. It could’ve been worse though, she supposed. It wasn’t as though they were discriminated against, or victims of any sort of bias-motivated violence. They just hadn’t been around long enough to settle in like so many of the other species had. The Quarrens didn’t seem to mind one bit that there were whole neighborhoods in the major cities where they could walk around without seeing another one of their own, yet they never showed any sign of being uncomfortable doing it. She just wished Earth had been more like that. She and Sam wouldn’t have had to leave. Being a cyborg got you enough dirty looks alone. Being a cyborg and gay…

“But enough about me,” Sam said as she began chopping up some purple vegetable Annika didn’t recognize. “How was your day, Efficiency Monitor?”
“Only you could make that title sound sexy,” Annika said. Sam opened her mouth to reply when the sound of the door to the smaller of the apartment’s two bedrooms opened and Naomi, their adopted daughter, came out, rubbing her eyes as she sat at the dinner table.

“You fell asleep while doing your homework, didn’t you?” Sam said.

Naomi looked embarrassed. “Yes, Momma Sam,” she said.
Sam sighed and walked over to the little girl, handing off the knife she was using to cut the vegetables to Annika.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Sam said, bending down so she and Naomi were face to face. “I told them they were giving you too much study to do for your age, but they didn’t listen. I’m not mad. You just need to let me know next time if you get tired early, okay?”
“Okay,” Naomi said. The little girl looked up at Annika. “Momma Ann, did you hear? Some more humans started working in the factories today. Do any of them have kids? I’d like to make some friends.”

“I did know we got some humans in today sweetie, but I didn’t ask any of them if they had kids. It was too busy. If I can find a few minutes tomorrow I can ask around, though.”
Annika liked being around Naomi. As useful as her cybernetic implants were, there were times when she almost felt like they controlled her more than the other way around. Being home however, she truly felt human. That made the sideways glances she’d get from the workers whose errors she’d have to correct worth putting up with.

“I better finish dinner,” Sam said. “Why don’t you two talk about your days while I finish up?”

“At the very least let me help clean your utensils as you go,” Annika said.
“No, no, you don’t need to do that. Besides, your job is more physically demanding than mine. Now sit, relax.”

Annika sighed, but smiled as she did so. “You’re too good for me, Sammy.”

“I can’t believe I let you keep me out this late,” Kathy said, chuckling as she and Jaffen walked down a flight of stairs.
“Well, I thought it was my responsibility to help you study those manuals,” Jaffen said.

“Of course you did,” Kathy said, laughing.
“And now that I have,” Jaffen continued, “you should be less likely to overload the core.”
Kathy chuckled at that as the two of them came around the corner. Even this close to the plant, the air still was surprisingly clean smelling, if a bit cold for her tastes.

“You know,” Jaffen said, “with all this fascinating discussion about thermal coefficients you never told me where you’re from.”
“A planet called Earth,” Kathy said.
“Well, I meant where on Earth,” Jaffen said. “Judging from the humans I’ve seen so far it seems like a pretty diverse planet. Different skin tones, body types, even eye shapes. I’ve met a few species with that kind of diversity, but not that many. Usually in this sector the only real differences between people are gender, height, weight, age, maybe hair and eye color, but that’s pretty much it.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Kathy said. “The place is overpopulated, polluted, and not a lot of work.”
“Sounds a little like my homeworld,” Jaffen said. “Guess we’re both lucky to be here.”

“It’s nice to be in a place where different species get along so well,” Kathy said.
“Oh, so you admit we’re getting along,” Jaffen said.
Kathy laughed. “I was speaking in a broader cultural context,” she said.

“I’m rather impressed you were able to say that while laughing,” Jaffen said.
Kathy sighed, and shook her head.
“It’s just… I mean there’s a lot of violence back home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jaffen said.

Kathy pulled her coat tighter around here.
“The nights get so cold around here,” she said. “Reminds me of Bloomington during the winter time.”
“Bloomington?”

“The city where I grew up, on Earth.”
“I like the name. Every major city on my homeworld is named after either some boring scientist or some pompous politician.”
“We have cities like that too,” Kathy said. “My favorite city name though, and I do kinda regret never visiting it to see what it was like before I left, was a place called Truth or Consequences.”
Jaffen laughed. “Really?”
“I shit you not,” Kathy said.
“I assume that’s human slang for ‘I really mean it,’” Jaffen said.
“It’s almost curfew,” one of a pair of Quarren policemen said. Kathy had to turn around to see them, glad she’d noticed them out the corner of her eye earlier or they might’ve spooked her. They were armed of course, but the way their coats covered their holsters it was clear they didn’t expect, or maybe even didn’t want to be able to reach them. The one who had spoken was smiling at them. He probably figured they were heading home.
“We just live over there,” Jaffen said, pointing towards the tallest of the housing complexes off in the distance.
“Okay,” the officer said. “Have a great night.” He and his partner turned around and headed back up the street.

“That’s another thing Quarra has over Earth,” Kathy said. “The police around here don’t walk around like they expect every single one of us to attack them at a moment’s notice.”

“You know, I do have a spectacular view of the river from my living quarters,” Jaffen said.
“Well, seeing as I live in the same building, I can see the river too,” Kathy said, which was mostly true. She could see the river nearby. But really only during the day, when she had to be leaving for work shortly, and thus could never really take the time to appreciate it. At night, it was damn near impossible except for the occasions when a police hovercar would happen to pass over it.

“I really have to get to sleep,” Kathy said, rubbing her hands together to warm them up. “Maybe another time?” she said.
Jaffen smiled. “For a moment I was afraid I was making you uncomfortable,” he said.
“Trust me,” Kathy said, lightly touching Jaffen on the arm. “That’s a good thing.”

“Son of a-” Kathy said as an alarm noise went off while she worked on her station. It took her a moment to realize the alarm sound was different, and no one seemed bothered by it. A few people didn’t even look up from their work, while others headed towards one end of the work floor.
“It’s not an alarm,” Jaffen said, coming up to Kathy from the side, making sure she saw him coming. She appreciated not being snuck up on. “It’s time for our inoculations.”
“What inoculations?” Kathy said.
“You didn’t know? It’s routine, they give ‘em out free of charge to employees here. It’s to protect against any ambient radiation. Seems a bit overkill to me. I’ve never seen any sign of radioactivity around here. The safety equipment may look old, but it’s solid. Trust me, I checked. First thing I did when I started here. I’ve worked a few freighters with lax standards before, so I know shoddy safety procedures when I see them.”
“I feel like I should’ve been told this earlier,” Kathy said. “Why isn’t everyone-”
“Some of the species who found their way here for work have natural immunities. No point in giving them an inoculant against something that can’t hurt them anyway.”
“Good point.”

Kathy walked with Jaffen to get in line for the inoculations. Up ahead she saw Annika Hansen, and ahead of her, the dark-skinned, pointy-eared man Jaffen had been talking to at the bar a few days ago. He seemed jittery, and when the employee with the injectors went to give him his inoculation, he flinched.
“That’s odd,” Jaffen said. “Tuvok never struck me as the nervous type.”

“Friend of yours?” Kathy said.
“Not really,” Jaffen said. “I met him the day before I met you. He’s also new here. His people are called Vulcans, if I remember right.”
Tuvok got out of line and headed back towards his work station, but even from this distance Kathy could tell he looked shaken.
“Could he be having a reaction to the inoculation? He doesn’t look too good.”
“Maybe,” Jaffen said. “It hasn’t happened before. Can you keep my place in line? I’m gonna check on him.”
“Okay,” Kathy said.

After a five-day trading mission with a race called the Nar Shaddan, Chakotay, Neelix, and Harry Kim, all aboard the Delta Flyer were en route back to Voyager. However, only Chakotay was in the cockpit. Neelix and Harry were in the rear compartment, the former looking over the latter, who clutched his stomach as he lay on the extending biobed, grateful that Tom had included one in the ship’s design.
“In six years,” Harry said, “I’ve never been on an away mission worse than this one.”
“That’s just the stomach pain talking,” Neelix said. “These parasites are certainly causing you trouble, but off the top of my head I can think of several instances where you went through far worse than some mild food poisoning.”
“Mild?” Harry said, curled in a fetal position. “You call this mild? My ankle didn’t hurt this much after getting a bulkhead dropped on it.”
“Case in point,” Neelix said. “The Year of Hell was really more pleasant than this?”
“That wasn’t an away mission,” Harry said.
“Okay, you got me there.”

“Why did you let me drink that Falah nectar?” Harry said.

“I did try to warn you it wasn’t safe,” Neelix said.
“With hand signals, that I couldn’t see,” Harry groaned.
“I didn’t want to risk offending our hosts,” Neelix added, sheepishly.

“I should’ve just said I was a strict vegetarian like Chakotay,” Harry said.
“In my defense,” Neelix said, “I had no idea the meat they used to make that drink was raw. If I had, I’d have risked the insult. Clearly Nar Shaddan stomachs are far sturdier than human ones.”

The comm chirped, and Chakotay’s voice summoned both of them to the cockpit, apologizing to Harry as he did so.
“Let me help you up, Lieutenant,” Neelix said.
“Thanks,” Harry said, taking Neelix’s arm. The two slowly walked their way up to the cockpit, a mercifully short journey, but the steps made Harry felt like he going to vomit each time his foot landed.
He eased into the chair by the tactical console while Neelix took sensors.
“What is it, Commander?” Harry said.
“We’re at the rendezvous coordinates,” Chakotay said, “but there’s no sign of Voyager, and they’re not responding to hails. Start scanning on all frequencies.”
“Got it,” Neelix said.

“They’ve got to be out there somewhere,” Chakotay said.
Harry thought for a moment about suggesting that maybe they weren’t; that the worst had happened and they’d been destroyed, or at least been forced to flee. He decided that pessimism was the result of the alien parasites doing metaphorical backflips in his stomach, and kept the opinion to himself.

“I think I have their warp trail,” Neelix said. “I’m also picking up residual energy signatures. Weapons fire, maybe?”
Harry looked at his own console.
“Good catch, Neelix,” he said.
“I’m plotting a course to follow the trail,” Chakotay said.

“Long range sensors are picking up a nebula a few light years ahead. I can’t pick up anything inside it, which means it’d be a good place to hide,” Harry said.
“That also means we’re going to have to be really careful following them in,” Chakotay said. “I’d hate to find them by running into them.”

“What about who they were fighting?” Neelix said.
“The weapons fire signature was degraded,” Harry said. “Another few hours we wouldn’t have picked it up at all. Whatever happened, happened days ago.”

The Delta Flyer entered the nebula, visibility severely reduced, but the ship’s Borg tech-enhanced sensors cut through the interference fairly easily.
“Guess whoever the attackers were,” Harry said, “they didn’t have sensors as good as ours.”
“Then how did they get the upper hand?” Neelix asked.
“Numbers, most likely,” Chakotay said. “A technologically inferior foe can still hurt us if there are too many of them to fight.”
“I found Voyager,” Harry said. “Hull’s mostly intact, no serious hull breaches, but she took one hell of a beating.”
“Lifesigns?” Chakotay said.
Harry winced, as much from the pain as from the results of his scan.
“None,” he said. “But, all the escape pods are gone, so maybe…”
“Maybe the crew is okay? We can certainly hope,” Chakotay said. “Can we beam over?”
“Affirmative,” Harry said. “We’ll have to do it that way since I can’t get the shuttle bay doors open from here.”
“Stay here and wait for the doors to open,” Chakotay said. “Neelix, you’re with me.”

“Yes, Commander,” Neelix said.

“We’ll beam to the bridge,” Chakotay said, “we can, or at least should be able to, access all systems from there, plus maybe the ship’s logs can tell us what happened.”

After putting on environmental suits, in case life support was one of the systems off-line, and readying phasers just to be safe, Chakotay and Neelix transported from the Flyer over to Voyager. The bridge was empty, and the only illumination came from the glow of exposed EPS conduits.

“Looks like someone was trying to do repairs,” Neelix said.
“Agreed,” Chakotay said. He looked around and wondered if the work had been done before they abandoned ship, or if some one had stayed behind. If the latter was the case though, why hadn’t the Flyer’s sensors picked them up? Unless they’d died while trying to fix the ship, he thought.

Chakotay motioned for Neelix to follow him to the auxiliary engineering console on the bridge.
“I’m going to see if I can get the main power back on line from here,” Chakotay said. “It’s possible they powered everything down to help them hide. Otherwise we’ll need to replace some power conduits by hand.”
Chakotay began manipulating the controls, grateful that there was some power going to the console, while Neelix knelt down to put a panel back in place, since the conduit behind it was clearly in working condition.
“Stop what you’re doing and turn around!” Chakotay heard someone yell from behind him. He thought it might the Doctor’s voice but the helmet muffled the sound somewhat. He did as he was told and motioned for Neelix to do the same. It was the Doctor, a wristlight pointed at them, and a phaser in his other hand. He also had a red uniform on, meaning that for the first time, the real Emergency Command Hologram protocols had been activated.
“Doctor,” Neelix said, “It’s us. Neelix and Commander Chakotay.”
The Doctor smiled and lowered the phaser. “It’s good to see some friendly faces. Heck, it’s good to see any faces at all.”

“Have you been doing repairs all by yourself?” Chakotay asked.
“I’m afraid so. Sorry I haven’t gotten life support back up yet, but since I was the only one here it wasn’t a priority.“
“Makes sense,” Neelix said.

“Can you tell us what happened?” Chakotay asked. “I’ll take the short version for now. I can do a full debrief once we get the air circulating again.”

“Roughly twelve hours after you left,” the Doctor said, “we hit some sort of subspace mine. It wasn’t long before I was inundated with casualties, all suffering from tetryon radiation.”
“Did you try using the Jetrel inoculation?” Neelix said.
“That only works if you inject before exposure,” The Doctor said. “I treated the patients as best I could but the ship was still flooding with radiation. Captain Janeway gave the order to abandon ship, since the warp drive was off-line. She ordered me to stay behind and activated the ECH program. The plan was to get the crew out of the radiated area and find the nearest habitable planet. I was to stay with the ship and try to get all the radiation vented while the distress signal was active. Either I could get it done and pick them up myself, or someone would come to help and I’m the only crewmember who could survive that kind of prolonged exposure, seeing as I’m a hologram.”
“What happened next?” Chakotay said. “Why is Voyager in the nebula?”
“I never even got the chance to start the repairs before things went sideways,” The Doctor said. “Shortly after all the escape pods were launched, an alien vessel showed up and immediately locked onto the ship with a tractor beam. I hailed them immediately of course. The captain of the alien vessel tried to claim Voyager as salvage and that it belonged to him, even though I was clearly in command.”
“Probably figured since you don’t have lifesigns,” Neelix said, “that you don’t count. I’d chalk it up to a salvage rights dispute, but he was there way too quickly. I bet he planted that mine.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Chakotay said. “I assume you tried to fight back?”
“I did,” The Doctor said, showing a hint of pride in his expression. “I was able to take out the enemy vessel’s tractor emitter and engines with phasers.” He frowned. “That’s about when the other two ships showed up.”
“What happened to the escape pods?” Neelix asked.
“I don’t know. I can only assume they were taken. Or at least I hope they were. I was able to evade the other two ships and hid in this nebula. I eventually got the warp drive back on-line and the radiation vented, but every time I tried to leave the nebula I detected more ships searching for me.”

“Any idea who they are?” Chakotay said.
“Not any race we’ve encountered yet,” The Doctor said.

“So either someone wanted to capture us based on our reputation,” Chakotay said, “Or we just had the bad luck to stumble on a pirate operation. I could believe either, frankly.”
“What’s our next move, Commander?” Neelix said.
“Get life support back on-line, get Harry’s stomach taken care of, then we go find our people,” Chakotay said.

Tuvok was nervous. He didn’t like feeling nervous. He was starting to realize he didn’t like feeling anything. He felt as though if he didn’t merely control but suppress his emotions he might lose his mind. He watched the woman, Kathy Janeway, at her station. He was sure he knew her. Not just from the bar after work, where he had said hello to her once, or from what Jaffen had said about her. He knew her before coming to Quarra, somehow. That shouldn’t have been possible. The only other planet he’d known before this place was Vulcan, and there were no humans there.

He winced and closed his eyes, and had another vision like the one he’d had before getting his inoculation yesterday. He was wearing a different uniform than his work one. He saw Janeway on a hospital bed, wearing a similar uniform, but with a different color on the shoulders.

“We’re going to treat your injuries,” a Quarren doctor said to Janeway.

This is too vivid, it can’t be just a dream or a hallucination. Can it? Tuvok thought.

He was sure he’d seen the doctor in his vision around before. Kadan, his name was. He was sure of that.

The vision persisted, and Tuvok saw himself struggling to get out of his own hospital bed as a device of some kind was placed over Janeway’s head. He heard himself demand that the doctor stop. Why, he had no idea.

“Release her immediately,” he heard himself say.
“Restrain him,” Doctor Kadan said.
Tuvok felt the strong arms of two Quarren guards grabbing his own, when the vision went away and he, abruptly, was snapped back to reality.
Or the present if that was something that really happened, he thought. He felt sweaty, and anxious. He looked around, wondering why no supervisor had come to talk with him about standing around yet. Perhaps he hadn’t been staring at Janeway as long as he’d thought.
He saw Efficiency Monitor Hansen in his peripheral vision, but she wasn’t looking at him. Yet.

Best not to annoy Seven of Nine, he thought. He moved to get back to work, but then stopped.
Why did I think of her as Seven of Nine? What does that mean?
“You all right, Tuvok?” Tuvok turned and saw Jaffen behind him.
“What? Yes, sorry. I… I am not feeling well,” Tuvok said, which was mostly true. He liked Jaffen, but didn’t want to tell him he thought he was hallucinating. He doubted they’d let him keep working here if the higher-ups knew.

“Oh,” Jaffen said. “Do you want me to help you get to the infirmary?”
“No,” Tuvok said, a bit more forcefully than he’d wanted to, surprising even himself. “I mean, not yet. I can still work at my station. If it gets any worse I’ll go right away. I promise.”
Jaffen looked like he didn’t entirely believe him, but merely shrugged.
“If you say so,” he said, and walked away.

“First officer’s log, Stardate 54597.9,” Chakotay said, working while he talked. Neelix had poked fun at him earlier for keeping up with his logs, but it wasn’t mean-spirited. In fact, Chakotay wondered himself why he did it too. He thought maybe it was to keep himself from letting his mind wander to thoughts of what could be happening to the rest of the crew. He knew deep down that once he started to think that, he would inevitably start thinking the worst.
“After restoring primary systems,” he continued, “we have left the nebula to try and find the crew. Although there’s still a lot of damage, we’ve been able to reconfigure our sensors to detect subspace mines based on the data collected by the ship’s sensors once we got full power restored. Lieutenant Kim has been running continuous scans, but there’s still no sign of our people. On the bright side, the ships that were searching for us seem to have given up.”
Chakotay stopped as the computer voice announced that power to the secondary propulsion systems had been restored.
Good work, Doctor, he thought. He wondered briefly how Harry was doing in astrometrics, but figured if he’d found anything he would contact the bridge immediately. Chakotay finished his log entry as the manual work he was doing finally paid off and full lighting was restored to the bridge.
“And the Commander said, ‘let there be light,” he said to himself. He was not normally one to joke on the bridge, but he figured with no one around to judge…
The turbolift door opened and the Doctor, still in command reds, walked out.
“I’ve repaired the deuterium injectors,” he said, not waiting for Chakotay to ask for a report. “Anything else you need?”
“Could you get to work on the ruptured plasma conduits on deck 10?”
“Of course, Commander. Hopefully, once this is over I can get back to my regular uniform.”
“Why not do it now?” Chakotay said. “I don’t see why the ECH program would stop you.”
“It doesn’t stop me from switching back to EMH if that’s what you mean,” the Doctor said. “But I only have access to the Captain’s codes while in ECH mode, and ECH mode comes with the red uniform and the 4 pips.”
“So technically you outrank me,” Chakotay said. “Surprised you haven’t started giving me orders.”
“Yes, well,” the Doctor said, “if I had more people to work with I might do that. I feel like my place should be on the bridge, but I also know there are only four of us.”
“If your program is telling you to take charge,” Chakotay said, “maybe you should. Isn’t that what we designed it for?”

The Doctor shrugged. “Maybe if I didn’t have the ship’s first officer aboard I would. I’d better get to work on those conduits.”

“Kim to Chakotay,” Harry Kim’s voice said over the comm.
“Go ahead,” Chakotay and the Doctor said in unison. The Doctor looked sheepish, but Chakotay just smiled. He’ll get the hang of it, he thought.

“I’ve found them,” Harry said, “An M-class planet, about three days away at maximum warp.”

“Transfer the coordinates to the helm,” Chakotay said. He stood up. “Doctor, you have the bridge.”
“Oh. Okay,” the Doctor said, reluctantly taking the center seat.

Three days later, Chakotay found himself in a position he knew that many of ancestors had faced in the past. That of desperately wishing he could punch a government official in the face.

“I have personally interviewed several of the individuals named on your crew manifest. None of them know who you are,” the Quarren bureaucrat on the screen said, sounding like a parent who’d just caught a child in a fib. It had taken hours to get even the man to listen to him in the first place, and now this. He looked at the Doctor, sitting at the helm, and Harry at tactical. If it weren’t for the half dozen well-armed battle stations in orbit, he’d consider just giving the order to launch an all-out rescue mission.
“Nor have they heard of a starship Voyager.”
“I’d like to speak to them myself,” Chakotay said, not explicitly saying he didn’t believe the Quarren, but hoping it came across in his tone.

“That’s not possible,” the Quarren official said.
“If you’re telling the truth,” Chakotay said, allowing some of his anger through more to keep it from exploding than to intimidate the official, “you have nothing to lose by letting us talk to them.”
“Unlike other planets in this system, we grant our guest workers full protection under our laws.”
“What exactly are you protecting them from?” The Doctor asked.
“Unscrupulous individuals attempting to acquire skilled laborers,” the Quarren said.
“We’re not trying to acquire laborers,” The Doctor said, shouting. “We’re trying to find our friends!”
Chakotay started to think of a way to ask the Doctor to calm down without giving the Quarren the impression that he was facing a divided crew, small as it was, but the Quarren responded quickly, with a statement that to Chakotay’s mind sounded at least partially practiced.
“Most of your friends have excellent positions in the Central Power Facility in the capitol. Why would any of them want to travel thousands of light years to a planet on the other side of the galaxy when they have safe, comfortable lives right here?”
“Because it isn’t their home,” Chakotay said, knowing full well that it wouldn’t mean anything to the official.
“I suggest you look elsewhere to increase your labor supply,” the Quarren said. “If you attempt to disturb any of our citizens, we will respond with force.” With that, the communication line cut out.
“What an asshole,” Harry said.
“Any luck with the scans?” Chakotay said.
“There’s no way to beam through their shield grid. This is one of the most well-protected planets I’ve seen in my life.”
Chakotay sighed. “Take us out of orbit.”
“We’re not leaving them behind,” the Doctor said, sounding hurt.
“No,” Chakotay said. “But I want these people to think we are.”
“Do you already have a plan, Commander?” Harry asked.
“I think so,” Chakotay said. “Chakotay to Neelix.”
“Yes, Commander?” Neelix replied over comms. Chakotay was glad that the Talaxian wasn’t on the bridge during the conversation. That gave him an advantage he could use to help get the crew back.
“I know it’s been awhile, but is your old ship still flyable?”
“A few containers fell on it during the fight with whoever planted the mines,” Neelix said, “but all the damage is cosmetic. Why do you ask?”

The kiss felt like it had gone on for hours, but when Kathy looked at the clock she saw it hadn’t even been two minutes.
“Wow,” she said.
“Well put,” Jaffen said.
“So, was that better or worse than the coffee?” Kathy said, jokingly,

“Ooh, tough call,” Jaffen said with a wink. “You know. If your homeworld makes drinks like that I’m amazed you ever left.”

Kathy laughed.
“Caffeine is responsible for the industrial revolution,” she said.
“Is that a literal or metaphorical revolution?” Jaffen said. “‘Cause I’ve seen both in my travels.”

Kathy laughed. “I can explain later.” She leaned in to Jaffen, and sighed as he hugged her close.
I can’t remember ever feeling this comfortable before, she thought.

Samantha Wildman sighed as she heard Naomi get up, leave her room, and start moving around the kitchen.

“Honey, stop,” she said.
“What’s wrong?” Annika said.
“The kid’s awake.”
“So?” Seven said, smirking as she wiped her lips on the bedsheet.
“I don’t want her to hear us,” Samantha said.
“You don’t want her to know her parents have a healthy and active sex life?”
“Well, yes, but, I mean, shit, look, can you at least see what she’s doing in the kitchen?” Samantha shifted her body on the bed so she could kiss Annika on the mouth. “I promise I’ll still be wearing my birthday suit when you get back.”
Annika sighed. “You better be,” she said in a mock threatening tone, never losing her smile as she did so.

She opened the door, loosely closing her robe even though she didn’t really care that much what if anything her kid saw. The “talk” was going to have to come sooner or later, and Naomi seemed mature enough to be able to handle it.
“Hey kiddo,” she said to Naomi, who was taking a mug with some steam coming from it off the cooking console.
“Oh, I’m sorry if I woke you up, Momma Annie. I just had trouble sleeping, and one of the other kids at school said his mom uses this drink called tea. I thought I’d give it a try.”
“Well, okay,” Annika said, stepping forward and looking down into the mug. “It’s hot though so be very, very careful. And don’t drink it in bed. Here,” she added, pulling out two of the chairs at the dinner table. She sat in one and motioned for Naomi to take the other, which she did, smiling, obviously glad that she wasn’t in trouble.
“So, why did you have trouble sleeping? Bad dream?”
“Sort of,” Naomi said. “It was really weird. I dreamt I was on a spaceship, with you and Momma Sam, and you were wearing these neat looking uniforms. And I had a big brother, who was a cyborg too.”

“Oh really?” Annika said, amused at her adopted child’s vivid imagination. “What was your big brother’s name?”
Naomi frowned. “I can’t remember.”
“That’s okay sweetie, most people can’t remember their dreams. And those that do tend to really only remember the really weird parts.”
“It felt really real though,” Naomi said. “Like we really lived on a spaceship. And Momma Sam was my real Mom, and I was only half-alien.”
Annika patted Naomi on the shoulder. “You should write all this stuff down, kid. You’ve got quite the imagination there, I bet you could be a writer someday.”
“Do they have writers on Quarra?” Naomi said. “All the books at school are textbooks.”

“I don’t know actually,” Annika said. “I’ll look into it. But for now, you go ahead and try your tea and go back to bed, okay?”
“Okay.”

Naomi took a sip of her tea, said it was gross, put the cup back on the cooking console to be recycled, and went back to her room. Annika watched her as she did all this, but couldn’t help but ponder what Naomi had said.
You know, she thought, I actually do see some of Sam in her. I hadn’t thought of it before. She shook her head, not wanting to think about it anymore. It was probably just her seeing things based on Naomi’s dream. She went back to her room, Samantha waiting exactly as she’d promised.
“Now, where were we?” Annika said.

“Any progress?” Chakotay said as he entered astrometrics, The Doctor close behind him. Neelix turned from the console to face Chakotay.
“I’ve spoken to the captains of eight vessels that have left Quarra in the past two weeks,” Neelix said. “None of them knew anything about our crew, but every single one of them offered me a job. Apparently, there’s a severe labor shortage in this system and a lot of competition for workers.”

“That explains a lot about what the Quarren official was telling us,” Chakotay said. “And that’s also our in. Neelix, get your ship ready. Doctor, I’m going to need some cosmetic surgery.”
“Why?” The Doctor said, sounding concerned.
“I’ve already spoke to several government officials on that planet. They know what all of us look like, except for Neelix since he wasn’t on the bridge. I need to look like another alien if I’m going to get down there.”

“I can only alter you cosmetically,” The Doctor said. “If they do a full DNA scan-”
“I doubt they’d risk turning away a potential employee if the labor shortage is as severe as I’m led to believe,” Neelix said.
“So, Neelix and I are going to be a couple of Talaxians looking for work,” Chakotay said.
“I bet we’ll make a striking pair,” Neelix said, smiling.
“I’m not sure your skin is equipped to deal with Talaxian facial hair,” The Doctor said, “but we can give it a try. Worst case scenario, I can go for something easier to reverse later, like Icheb’s species, or a Bajoran perhaps.”
“Let’s get on that then,” Chakotay said, leaving astrometrics, not bothering to tell the others to follow him as they were already falling in behind him.
“”I’ll also give you both subdermal transponders so we can transport you through the shield grid if there’s trouble,” The Doctor said.
“How would that work?” Chakotay said.

“Their shields aren’t exactly like ours. Mister Kim explained it to me in detail, but suffice it to say, unlike our shields which can only be beamed through with superior technology, theirs can’t block a concentrated enough signal.”
“Good thinking,” Chakotay said.
“I think the Lieutenant deserves a share of the credit,” The Doctor said, “but thank you.”
“You’ll be in charge until we get back,” Chakotay added.
“Are you sure, Commander?” The Doctor said.
“If you’re worried about Harry, he’ll know better than to put his ego above the ship. Besides, he helped design the ECH program, so he knows what you’re capable of. He’ll follow your orders same as if you were me or Captain Janeway.”
“Well, all the same, I’m certainly going to keep an open mind to any suggestions he may have.”

Annika Hansen didn’t think this was anything for her to worry about. Despite the employe she was told to go talk to having skipped his last few inoculations, her records showed his work had not suffered, at least not yet. Slower than it had been, yes, but that was from a starting point of him easily eclipsing most of his peers. Tuvok, a.k.a. Employee #8583, could probably run this place as well as if not better than current management with some more time and experience.

But orders were orders, so go to speak with him she did. She’d been in line behind him once before, so she was sure she knew exactly what the issue was; his fear of needles. Maybe some subtle threats about unemployment would spur this Tuvok character to get over it and go to the infirmary.

She walked up to him, noticed that he seemed to be gripping the side of his console far too hard, and became somewhat worried. She let none of that into her voice though, keeping her usual calm, even robotic demeanor as she spoke the employee’s number, and then name when he didn’t respond.
“According to records,” she continued, “you have neglected to report for your last two inoculations.”
Tuvok did not respond, but slowly turned his head to look at her. He appeared to be sweaty.
“The inoculations are for your protection,” Annika said. “A sick worker is not an efficient worker. Report to the infirmary immediately.”
Tuvok looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time.
He must be getting sick, she thought. I may need to call for help to get him to the infirmary if it isn’t too late.
“Seven. Of nine,” Tuvok said.
“What?” Annika said.

“Seven of nine. It’s your designation,” Tuvok said, starting to shake somewhat, the sweat on his brow becoming more noticeable.
“My employee number is 8586,” Annika said. Tuvok grabbed her so quick she hadn’t realized his hand was on her face and that one of the other workers was calling for security until she was pushed up against Tuvok’s console, his other arm gripping hers.
“What are you-”

She stopped talking when she saw something, like a vivid memory. Herself, in what looked liked a large room, shelves with massive containers on one side, and technology not unlike that of her cybernetic implants lining the wall behind her. A young man, possibly a teenage boy, with visible cybernetics of his own was sitting on the ground, playing a game with Naomi.

She snapped back to reality in time to hear Tuvok say to her as guards pulled him off her, “I don’t believe you are who you think you are!”
Annika slumped down, feeling drained despite the fact that all Tuvok had done as far as she could tell was grab her arm and touch the side of her face.

As the guards dragged Tuvok towards the infirmary, the other employees staring, the employees she recognized as Jaffen and Kathy Janeway came over to ask her if she was okay.
“What the hell was that all about?” Kathy said as Annika waved off her support.
“WE DON’T BELONG HERE! WE DON’T BELONG HERE! THIS ISN’T RIGHT! WE DON’T BELONG HERE!” Tuvok’s voice carried through the room even with the door closed.
“I should’ve said something,” Jaffen said. “I noticed he was acting weird the other day, but I thought maybe he’d just had a rough day.”
“He missed some inoculations,” Annika said, calming herself down, and wondering if she should tell her wife about this, not wanting her to worry but not wanting to hide things from her either. “Likely this is a result of radiation sickness.”

Was that vision a result of his sickness too? she thought. What did he do to you? And why did you see the boy from Naomi’s dream, her imaginary big brother? Tuvok may be sick, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on.
Annika wondered why her own inner voice was so willing to accept what was obviously the ramblings of a disturbed and likely radiation poisoned individual, but despite that, she didn’t hesitate to withhold the vision when speaking to her superiors about the incident later.
Kathy and Jaffen offered to walk her home, but she declined. Walking towards her apartment after end of shift, she decided she would tell Samantha about what had happened, but not mention the vision to her either. At least not yet.

“Qualification Level 3 in microkinetics,” the supervisor said to Chakotay as he followed him down a flight of stairs in the main power facility, the place where he was led to believe most of Voyager’s crew had ended up. “You could use some improvement in that area, Mister Kotay.”
“I appreciate the honesty,” Chakotay said, responding to the alias that Neelix had provided him; Amal Kotay. “I imagine some people in your position would overlook something like that during a labor shortage.”
“Level 3 is still better than average,” the supervisor said. “I see you are Level 5 in thermionic conversion though. That’s the main reason you’re here and not at a less crucial facility. We lost a thermionic specialist yesterday.”
“Did he find a better job?” Chakotay asked.
“Health problems,” the supervisor said. “Developed some minor radiation poisoning and attacked our Efficiency Monitor.”
“Oh no,” Chakotay said.
“She’s fine, but we gave her the day off. She seemed a bit shaken up by the experience. My own superiors didn’t like it, but I figured a day with the wife and kid would do her some good. She may act like a robot when she’s on the clock, but she’s as fragile as any other sentient.”
The Efficiency Monitor must be Seven of Nine, Chakotay thought, as he happened to glance to his right and see one of the Delaney twins walk right past him without recognizing him. She wasn’t the only Voyager crewmember he’d seen today who didn’t seem to know who either he or Neelix were since they’d arrived last night. He doubted his Talaxian disguise was that good, and none of them seemed to recognize Neelix either. Whatever the Quarrens had done to them was brutally effective. He just hoped it was reversible.
“Someone you know?” the supervisor said.
“No, just, never seen her species before,” he said.
“We have a diverse workforce here. Megan over there is from a species called Human. We got an influx of them a few weeks ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a species with so much variety in skin pigmentation. But enough about alien biology. Your workstation is over here.”
“Thank you,” Chakotay said.
“You’ll be required to report your readings to the Controller at regular intervals,” the supervisor said. “Small variations are common, so unless the reading is off by more than one-third of a percent, you can ignore it. Helps save space on the data readers.”
Chakotay was about to respond when he saw Captain Janeway, wearing one of the standard work uniforms, happily going about her own job at a workstation not too far from the one he’d been assigned to.
“Are you listening to me?” the supervisor said, and Chakotay realized that he’d been staring.
Damn, I can’t believe I did that, he thought. I hope I didn’t compromise the mission.
“I’m sorry sir,” he said, “I’m just excited to be here.”
The supervisor looked at Janeway, and back at Chakotay.
“Right. Well, just so you know, we don’t allow fraternizing on work hours. Also, she’s already spoken for, but you didn’t hear that from me.”

“Oh?” Chakotay said, reflexively, and immediately wished he hadn’t.
“Yeah. Jaffen. Good guy. You’ll like him too. One of the best people we’ve got around here.”

Chakotay decided to play along, and laugh as though the supervisor had read his reaction to seeing the Captain alive correctly.
“Well, thanks for saving me from embarrassing myself,” he said.
“No problem,” the supervisor said. “This station has been vacant for a few hours now so you’re going to have to work harder than we usually let new hires do, so I’ll get out of your way.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Chakotay said, wondering what his next move was going to be.

Neelix hoped that how weird the situation felt wasn’t showing as his face as talked to Tom Paris at the bar. It was Tom, he’d introduced himself as such, but apart from that and his basic personality, everything about the man was different. Neelix noticed that as they spoke he kept glancing over at B’Elanna Torres, sitting with a couple who apparently were expecting a child of their own at the other side of the establishment.

“At the end of the day, losing my job at the power plant was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Paris said as he handed drinks to a pair of patrons. “So many rules and regulations. It was like a military operation.”
“I know what you mean,” Neelix said. “Report here, reroute power there; almost like serving aboard a starship.” He put a slight emphasis on the word starship, wondering if that would trigger any memories in Tom, hoping that whatever the Quarrens had done to them wasn’t permanent.
In my experience, the more thorough the brainwashing, the less effective the brainwashed, Neelix had thought to himself earlier, and this was as good a time as any to test that.

“Have you ever done that?” Tom asked.
“You’re looking at the former captain of his own cargo vessel,” Neelix said.
“Mmm. Must be quite a life,” Tom said.
“You ever work on a ship, Tom?” Neelix said.
Tom scoffed. “Hell no. Space travel makes me sick. I was practically asleep the whole way here.”
“So, do you know most of the people who come in here?” Neelix asked.
“A lot of them,” Tom said, after being briefly distracted by the sound of B’Elanna laughing. “This is a great place to work.”
“Seems like it,” Neelix said.

“If you’d like I could put in a good for you to my employer,” Tom said. “I’m not sure what it is about you, but you seem like someone comfortable around food or drink.”
“Well, I know a few people that might beg to differ on that,” Neelix said.
“Ah, Neelix,” he heard Chakotay’s voice say, and he turned to see that Chakotay had entered the bar while he and Tom were talking.

“I was wondering when you’d get here,” Neelix said, “Amal Kotay, this is my new friend, Tom Paris.”
Having to act like they didn’t know any of their crewmates had been easier on him than he’d thought, and so far it looked like Chakotay had been handling it well too, but he doubted they could keep it up forever before one of them slipped up. They needed to find out what had happened and get their people back quickly. He hoped Chakotay had more to go on than he did.
“What can I get ya?” Tom said.
Chakotay pointed at Neelix’s drink. “That looks good.”
“I’ll get you one, Tom said, heading a few feet off and turning around. Neelix leaned in and whispered.
“I was assigned to the primary fusion chamber. Mulcahey and Tal were there too. Neither of them recognized me.”

“I think at this point we should just assume everyone on the crew has had their memories tampered with,” Chakotay whispered back.
“And they all seem to really love their jobs,” Neelix said.
“It’s like they’ve all been programmed to be happy here,” Chakotay said.
“Here you go,” Tom said, handing a drink to Chakotay.
“Thank you,” Chakotay said.
“Hey there,” a voice Neelix didn’t recognize said. He turned to see Captain Janeway and a man he didn’t know standing behind them. “I’m Jaffen, this is Kathy. You two look like you’re new here.”
“We are,” Chakotay said. I’m Amal Kotay, and this my friend Neelix.”
“Friend?” Tom said. “Figured you two for brothers.”
“Hmm, nah,” Jaffen said, smiling, “I don’t see it.”
“Would you two care to join us?” Kathy said.
“Uh, actually I was hoping we could eat alone tonight,” Jaffen said, gently placing his hands on Janeway’s shoulders.
I wonder if he’s been tampered with like the others, Neelix thought. If he and the Captain became this close after the memory alterations, then maybe we should consider bringing him with us.
“Some other time perhaps,” Chakotay said.
As Jaffen and the Captain walked away, Neelix saw Tom quickly move from behind the bar. He watched as he offered to walk B’Elanna home.
“Apparently,” Neelix whispered to Chakotay, “whatever was done to their memories, they aren’t together. He thinks she’s carrying another man’s baby, someone who walked out on her. In a way, it’s almost like watching their courtship happen all over again. With a lot less arguing this time. Tom doesn’t even realize he’s trying to become a stepdad to his own offspring.”

“If she’s walking home alone,” Chakotay said, “this could be our chance to get someone back to Voyager. Maybe find some clue as to what happened and develop a treatment for the others.”
“Not going to lie, Commander. I know we’re doing it for the right reasons, but essentially kidnapping a pregnant woman…”
“It feels gross to me too, for what it’s worth,” Chakotay said. “I’ll try to get ahead of her. See if you can be seen following her without looking like you’re trying to be seen.” Without another word, Chakotay headed out, and Neelix followed close behind.

Chakotay had meant what he said to Neelix. Though if pressed, he would admit that calling how he felt about this “gross” was actually an understatement.
Taking short cuts through several alleys, walking at a steady clip when he was sure someone was watching, but running when he was sure they weren’t, he got ahead of B’Elanna quickly enough. He saw her look nervously behind her at a following Neelix.
While looking back, she walked right into Chakotay.
“Oh, excuse me,” B’Elanna said nervously. Not the reaction Chakotay normally expected from her when they got in her way.
“I’m sorry,” Chakotay said.
“It’s.. it’s okay, I should really watch where I’m going.” She watched Neelix walk past her, looking forward, and sighed.
“B’Elanna,” Chakotay said. She turned around.
“How do you know my name?”
“It’s a long story,” Chakotay said. “I just want you to know, that we’re really sorry we have to do this.”
Neelix had come back around while Chakotay had B’Elanna distracted, and wrapped his arms around her. Instead of fighting back like she normally would, which meant Neelix had little trouble holding on despite the fact that were she her regular self he’d be on the ground in severe pain by now, she started screaming for security.
Voyager, we’ve got B’Elanna,” Chakotay said. “Lock on to Neelix’s signal and beam them to sickbay.”

“Acknowledged,” Harry’s voice replied.
“Help me!” B’Elanna cried out, her face going pale with terror. Chakotay felt as though his guilt were literally punching him in the stomach. Hopefully, once the Doctor fixed whatever had been done to her memories she would focus her anger on the Quarrens, and not on him and Neelix for grabbing her like this.
“Let her go!” A Quarren security guard yelled out, his weapon pointed at the three of them as the transporter beam locked onto Neelix and B’Elanna. The second guard aimed the beam of his flashlight at Chakotay’s face, clearly trying to blind him, but Chakotay was able to avoid it, and he bolted around a corner, not wanting to get shot before they could beam him out too.
“Stop!” the first guard yelled.
“Harry, I need an emergency transport, now!” When the channel opened, Chakotay heard the sound of the red alert klaxons in the background.
“Sorry, Commander,” Harry said. “We’re under attack. I had to raise shields.”
“Dammit,” Chakotay muttered. “All right, get Voyager to safety. I’ll figure something out. Go!” He closed the channel without waiting to hear Harry’s response, and kept running. He ran for several minutes, his breath becoming winded, but the security guards were clearly in better shape than their uniforms had led him to believe. He found himself at an open platform, and swore. Only a railing, and a view of the city ahead of him. The only way down from here without going back the way he came would be a fast but lethal one.
He looked around, and saw a panel that he hoped he could use to sabotage the lights and get past the pursuing guards in the confusion. He found a loose pipe, and used it to smash the panel. Lights went out, and so did a force field around the railing that he hadn’t even realized was there. He wondered if it was always in place as additional accident prevention, or had to put up by security to prevent his escape. He supposed it didn’t matter, and he got into position, waiting for his chance to get past the guards. Maybe he could knock one out and take his weapon.
Here’s hoping their guns have stun settings, he thought.

A lone guard came up to the platform, flashlight in one hand, weapon in the other. He went up to the railing and put a hand out as if to test to see if the force field was still there. He put down the light, and touched his communicator.
“Alert Emergency Medical, the suspect may have tried to ju-”

Chakotay grabbed the man and slammed him hard against the wall, causing him to drop his gun. Chakotay took it, and fired at a portion of the wall next to the guard, who reflexively ducked. Chakotay started to head back to the stairwell leading to the platform when a beam of light came out of the cloud of steam that had formed after he destroyed the panel. It struck him the left shoulder and he fell back into, and nearly over, the railing. It hurt, but he pushed past it, and rushed the second guard, who hit his head on the floor grating when Chakotay slammed into him. He groaned, alive, but didn’t get up.
Favoring his injured shoulder, Chakotay started running again. Eventually, he made it back to the bar where Tom had been working. Everyone seemed too involved with whatever they were doing to notice the man with the bleeding shoulder walk in. The wound was small, and the blood hadn’t spread beyond the shoulder pad so far, but he made sure to take a seat in a booth that allowed him to keep that shoulder as out of view of the other patrons as possible.
“Ah, I was hoping I’d see you again,” he heard Captain Janeway’s voice say. He turned to see that, while he was looking at his left hand to make sure he could still move the fingers without difficulty, she had walked up to him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Chakotay lied. “Just, tired. First day at a new job.”
“I know how that can be,” Janeway said, smiling. “I just wanted to apologize for earlier. My friend, Jaffen, he was a little rude to you earlier when we asked you and your friend Neelix to join us.”
“That’s okay,” Chakotay said.
“Well, you’re more than welcome to sit with us tonight if you’d like. We’re celebrating.”
“What’s the occasion?” Chakotay said.
“Jaffen and I are moving in together,” Janeway said smiling.
Chakotay felt a pang of regret. Not for himself; while there had been something there once, it had pretty much been lost forever after he’d disobeyed orders and broke the deal with the Borg against Species 8472 almost four years ago. What he was worried about was what would happen with her and Jaffen once, or even if, the Doctor restored all her memories. Despite the Captain’s apologies, he didn’t feel Jaffen had been too rude at all. He seemed nice enough. And even with her memories altered, he could tell this was still his Captain he was talking to. If she trusted Jaffen, he felt he could too. Or at least he hoped he could.

“Congratulations, but I think I’m going to go home,” Chakotay said.
“Okay,” Janeway said. “Have a good night, Amal.”

The bridge shook violently as the Quarren ships attacked. The shields surprisingly held, but Harry Kim doubted that would last.
“I can’t penetrate their shields,” Harry said, now back at tactical once the Doctor returned from sickbay where had Neelix looking over a sedated B’Elanna.
The Doctor, at the helm flying the ship, looked up at the viewscreen.
“Maybe we don’t have to,” he said. “The Battle of Vorkado. It’s in my tactical database. A Romulan captain disabled two attacking vessels by creating a photonic shockwave between the ships.”

“How’d he do that?” Harry said.

“Fire a photon torpedo to go between the two Quarren vessels, then fire phasers at the torpedo.”
Harry nodded, smiling. “Good thinking.” Harry did as he was ordered, and the resulting shockwave knocked the pursuing vessels off their course, their shields glowing under the onslaught of energy. “The ships are largely undamaged, but the shockwave seems to have affected their sensors. They’re breaking off.”

“I don’t think they’ll be bothering us again,” The Doctor said, smugly.

A proximity alert beeped at Harry, and he looked down at the tactical readout.
“Five more ships on an intercept course,” he said. “What’s your tactical database got for this one Doc?”

“Transporters are damaged, shields are failing, We have to retreat and come up with a new plan.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Harry said.
“Once we’re out of range of Quarren sensors,” The Doctor said, “switch me back to EMH mode. I’ll have access to more treatment options to try and help B’Elanna in the meantime.”
“Is that a good idea?” Harry said. “Your tactical database-”
“Won’t mean anything if we rescue the rest of the crew without a way to change them back. We’ll be outnumbered by approximately 31 to 1 by people who think we’ve kidnapped them, in an enclosed space. I like those odds even less than then the ones against the Quarren ships.”
“Fair point,” Harry said.

A pair of Quarrens, one wearing garb similar to the official Chakotay had spoken to during his initial attempts to contact the crew, and another security guard, entered the bar, Chakotay kept his face turned away from them, trying not to be noticed, and planning for a way to slip out.

The first man went up to the bar and started speaking to Paris. Chakotay didn’t hear what the first man said, but Tom’s response was loud enough that he was able to pick it up, as well as apparently getting the attention of several other patrons.
“We run an honest business,” Tom said.
With some of the other patrons conversations halted, Chakotay was able to hear the rest of the conversation.
“We’re investigating the disappearance of two people who were seen leaving this establishment earlier this evening. One was a young pregnant woman-”
“B’Elanna? What happened to her?” Tom asked, dropping his cleaning rag and sounding concerned.
“You knew her?”
“I’ve been helping her. Her baby’s father’s a deadbeat who bailed, so I was helping her settle in, meet other parents around the city.” Tom sighed, and looked at the floor. “I offered to walk her to her transport, but she insisted she was fine. I should’ve gone with her.”
“Did you think someone was going to try and hurt her?”
“The city is supposed to be safe!” Tom said, sounding angry. The detective, or at least Chakotay assumed he was a detective, actually flinched, but didn’t respond other than to look at his data pad.
“The person with her when she vanished was described as short, with mottled skin and facial hair.”
“That sounds like someone who was in here earlier,” Tom said. “Neelix, I think his name was. Said he was Talaxian.”
“Never heard of them,” the detective said. “Did this Neelix talk to anyone else while he was here?”
Chakotay took that as his cue to slip out. Thankfully, the security guard managed to walk right past him, not seeing his face or his wounded shoulder.
I guess the guards I knocked out never got a good look at me, he thought, grateful that no one seemed to notice him leaving.

Shortly after managing to land Voyager in the crater of a moon with a paramagnetic core to hide the ship’s energy signature from the sensors of any Quarren ship that might come looking for them, the Doctor got up to head to sickbay to begin working on fixing B’Elanna.
“Good hiding place, Doc,” Harry said, “but if any of their ships get close enough to the crater all someone would have to do is look out a viewport.”
“As far as the Quarrens know, Mister Kim,” The Doctor said, “we haven’t returned to this system after warping away from our original pursuers. If they can find us here, they’ve earned that. Now, if you would be so kind as to switch me back to EMH mode. When I’m an ECH the only medical procedures I can do are one’s I’ve performed before and are in my memory database.”

“Got it,” Harry said, touching a few buttons on the tactical console. The Doctor’s uniform changed from red back to blue, and he nodded.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll be in sickbay.”

The Doctor quickly made his way there, where Neelix still stood by the side of B’Elanna’s bio-bed, as if worried someone might try to take her away again.
The Doctor did his scans, and figuring it would be simpler to just tell Neelix what was happening rather than asking him to leave, which rarely worked anytime in the past,.
“The scan on the left,” he said, pointing to a monitor showing two brain scans, “was performed during B’Elanna’s last physical. The one on the right is from the one you saw me perform. The memory centers of her brain have been dramatically altered.”
“That fits with what the Commander and I saw when we down there,” Neelix said. “But some of the crew members I talked to down there seemed to remember parts of their real lives. Things like what planet they were born on, their names. Why not just change everything?”
“I don’t know,” The Doctor admitted, using the most disliked phrase in his entire vocabulary apart from ‘I did all I could.’ “Whoever did this was very sophisticated though. Selectively manipulating memory engrams takes much more work than just doing a complete mind wipe. Perhaps the Quarrens felt that erasing everything would make them less efficient as workers.”

“Can you undo the damage?” Neelix asked.
“I believe so, but it will take some time.”
“I wish there was something I could do to help,” Neelix said.
The Doctor thought about it for a moment. “Maybe you can.”
“Doctor?”
“She’ll require several treatments,” The Doctor said. “In between, you could expose her to familiar sites, surroundings. Take her to her quarters, show her engineering, pictures of those on the crew she was closest to. Just don’t rush it. This is going to be very traumatic for her.”
“Understood,” Neelix said.

Doctor Ravoc read off the list of symptoms the patient named Tuvok had to his superior, Doctor Kadan.
“Anxiety, acute depression, and when I interviewed him he insisted that he’s not who he’s supposed to be. Says that we’ve stolen his…” Ravoc looked at his note. “His katra, whatever that is.”

“Conclusions?” Kadan said. His cold demeanor concerned Ravoc somewhat. Of course, some detachment was required as a physician, lest the empathy for the sick become overwhelming, rendering you unable to function. But Tuvok wasn’t dying, that was clear. Yet Kadan spoke of him as he were a cadaver and this was medical school.
“Tri-lobe regression complex? Polar-affective disorder maybe?”

“Neuropsychiatry isn’t a guessing game, Doctor Ravoc,” Kadan said.
Ravoc knew what Kadan wanted to hear. “Dysphoria syndrome.”
“You have been studying my research,” Kadan said, smiling. That smile unnerved Ravoc no end but he had no idea why.
“According to your work, the condition is very rare,” Ravoc said.
“It is. I’ve treated this man before,” Kadan said. “Apparently he’s suffered a relapse. Recommended treatment.” The last statement was spoken like a demand. Ravoc hated being talked to like he was still at a teaching infirmary, but he didn’t want to lose his position here.
“Engramatic resequencing is typically indicated,” he said.
“You seem skeptical,” Kadan said.
Ravoc sighed, annoyed with himself for not hiding it better. “Resequencing is a radical procedure, Doctor Kadan.”
Kadan stepped forward, as if trying to intimidate Ravoc. “If he had a malignant tumor would you be afraid to cut it out.
“No, of course not.”
“This syndrome is just as insidious,” Kadan continued. “It requires aggressive treatment. Get started.” Without another word, Kadan turned around and left. Once he was sure Kadan was out of earshot, Ravoc groaned.
“This is a hospital, not an authoritarian dictatorship,” he muttered.
Tuvok, who Ravoc had thought had been asleep this whole time tried to get up, straining against the straps that held him to the bed. “Please, help me.”
Ravoc sighed as he filled an injector. “That’s what we’re here to do,” he said, beginning the treatment despite the nagging voice in the back of his mind telling him that he shouldn’t trust Kadan.

Annika Hansen shook her head to clear the latest vision, this one tinted green as if looking through some kind of liquor bottle, and seeing a massive structure, filled with cyborgs like her, but all with much more technology embedded in their bodies, and their skin pale as if dead. The phrase ‘cyborg zombies’ entered her mind briefly and she almost laughed at how silly the term sounded.

She couldn’t shake the concerns though. This had all started when Tuvok had touched her. She went to see the supervisor, but decided to keep it vague. She couldn’t risk being fired, not when her family had really settled into their new apartment.
“I want to know the status of Employee #8583,” she said.

“Good morning to you as well. Efficiency Monitor Hansen,” the supervisor said.

“I apologize for my directness,” Annika said. “There is simply some concern amongst the other workers that his condition is contagious.”
The supervisor worked his console. “Ah, the man removed by security the other day. He has been hospitalized, yes. But you can tell anyone concerned that-”
The supervisor was interrupted by the sound of the door opening, and another man stepping into the office. “Pardon me, am I intruding?”
“Not at all, Investigator,” the supervisor said.
“My name is Yerid,” the investigator said, “and I’m looking into the disappearance of two your employees. Names of Neelix and Torres.”

“Both of them failed to report for work today,” Annika said.
“What about this man?” Yerid said, tapping a few button on his data pad and handing it to Annika, who held it so the supervisor could look at the image on it as well.
“Employee #9363. Amal Kotay. He didn’t report for work either,” Annika said.
“I’d like to see his personnel file,” Yerid said, “and I’ll need to interview anyone who may know where he is.”
“Of course,” the supervisor said. “Though for the sake of my other employees I’ll need a court order first. I don’t want my people concerned for their privacy while they’re keeping this place running, I hope you understand.”
“As a formality?” Yerid said, though Annika detected a bit of annoyance in his voice.
“Of course. I’ll have the file ready for you well before the order arrives,” the supervisor said.

Janeway went back to her apartment one last time. It was exciting, but also mildly amusing to her that she hadn’t even gotten used to this place yet before moving to another one. She had never felt the way she felt about Jaffen with anyone before. Not even Mark, the man she’d left when she decided that Earth wasn’t for her. She didn’t hold it against him that he’d wanted to stay where he was born, but it had still hurt her to see the look in his eyes when she’d returned his ring.
“What the hell?” she said when she opened the door and found it dark. It was daytime, but the window covers were closed. “Lights,” she said. They didn’t come on.
“Well, glad I already have a new place,” she said out loud. “Saves me the trouble of having to call maintenance.” She looked for her last pair of boxes, when she saw the rag on the floor. She knelt down to look at it and saw blood. Red, like hers.
“Kathryn,” a voice said, and she gasped, nearly falling over. Leaning against the wall behind her, out of sight from the front door, was Amal Kotay, the man everyone had been looking for ever since two of her co-workers had vanished last night. He was holding a weapon, but looked like he was about to pass out.
“What do you want?” she said.
“You told me you were moving out,” Amal said. “I needed a place to hide.” He winced as he struggled to his feet.
“Jaffen knows where I am. He’ll come looking for me,” she said.
“I don’t doubt that,” Amal said. “He seems like a good man.”
“He is,” Kathy said, surprised at how little fear she felt despite a wanted man pointing a gun at her. “They say you had something to do with the disappearance of a pregnant woman.”
“I did,” Amal said. “Her name’s B’Elanna. She was brought to this planet against her will, and her memories were tampered with.”

“Why should I believe that?” Kathy said, though inwardly she found that she actually did. Why are you taking his word for it? she thought.

“Honestly, you shouldn’t,” Amal said. “I wouldn’t, if I were in your position. But she’s not the only one in this city I’m trying to help get home. I need you to trust me, so…”
Amal, breathing heavily as he did so, leaned down and put the gun on the floor. He tried to kick it over to her but was too weak so it was too far away for either of them to grab.
Kathy could’ve called for security right then and there, but she didn’t, surprising even herself.
“You can report me if you want,” Amal said, “but all I’m asking for is a place to stay until my friends come back for me.”

After a long silence, Kathy stepped forward. “We’re going to have to do something about that arm.” She opened one of the boxes, grateful that she had not already taken her towels to Jaffen’s place.

“The waiter?” B’Elanna said, holding the picture that Neelix had given her. “From the tavern?”
Neelix nodded, having found a picture of the two of them at their wedding, each holding a champagne glass, smiling as they looked in each other’s eyes. It wasn’t the best photo of the couple ever taken, but Neelix figured that a better looking one might be easier to dismiss as doctored.
“Lieutenant Tom Paris, our pilot, and B’Elanna Torres, our chief engineer. On their wedding day,” Neelix said.

“Wedding? He’s my husband? Does that mean…” she looked down at her stomach.
“You’re having a girl,” Neelix said.
B’Elanna lowered the picture, but still held it, as she walked around her and Tom’s quarters, slowly touching all the replicated 20th-century era items that Tom kept as decoration and the bat’leth on the wall that had been gifted to her by Kohlar.

Neelix hoped the fact that she had not outright rejected any of this as real was a sign that the first treatment had gone well. An object up against one of the walls seemed to have caught her focus, and Neelix looked where she was looking.
“A replica of a device called a television,” Neelix said. “You gave it to Tom as a gift.”

“He watches cartoons,” B’Elanna said. Neelix smiled.
“Yes,” he said.
“How do I know that?” B’Elanna said.
“Because you’re starting to remember,” Neelix said.
B’Elanna kept looking around, stopping when she saw what was going to be her baby’s crib. She gently touched the mobile above it, first the tiny Klingon Bird of Prey, and the tiny Voyager.
“I’d wondered why he was so protective of me,” she said.
“I’ll be outside if you need me,” Neelix said, heading out into the hall.

Kathy snuck into the plant, and opened a panel on a side wall, looking for a ‘dermal regenerator’ as Amal Kotay, or Chakotay as he’d started insisting he be called, had called it. She’d heard it referred to as a ‘wound sealer’ during training, but didn’t want to argue semantics. When she closed the panel she almost jumped when she saw Annika Hansen standing there.
“Your shift ended three hours ago,” she said.
“I know,” Kathy said. “My friend, Jaffen employee 1326, he cut himself, and he’s too stubborn to go to the infirmary.”
“Removing property from these premises is not permitted, Cap-” Hansen looked confused briefly. “Miss Janeway,” she corrected.
Was she about to call me Captain? Kathy thought.
“I promise I’ll have it back first thing in the morning,” she said. Hansen looked like she was about to tell Kathy to put it back, but then she seemed to get distracted by something she saw at the other end of the work floor.
“Be sure that you do,” she said, before unceremoniously heading in that direction.

Annika noticed that the supervisor had left his office while she was speaking to the employee Kathy Janeway. Figuring this was her chance to find out what was going on, she ignored her instinct and allowed Janeway to take the wound sealer, much to the other woman’s visible confusion, and headed towards the stairs to the supervisor’s office.
She began manipulating controls on the supervisor’s console.
“Display the personnel file for Employee #8583,” she said.
“Access restricted,” the computer’s electronic voice replied. She finished the work she’d started before even making the request, and only a second later the same voice said, “Security clearance verified.”
The data filled the screen in the blank space next to Tuvok’s picture, first left to right then right to left, but Annika was used to reading Quarren by now.
“Display all medical and historical data for the employee’s species,” she said.
“Data unavailable.”
“List all files accessed by this employee since he’s been here,” she said.
“Personnel files. Employee 8582, Nozawa, Kashimuro. Employee #8584, Janeway, Kathryn. Employee #8585, McKenzie, William.”

She looked at the pictures on the screen. Most of them were human, including herself, but she also saw the missing pregnant woman, Torres, as well as blue-skinned alien with a bifurcated face, among others. The only common thread was that all had arrived on Quarra at roughly the same time. She almost gasped when she saw the face of a teenage boy who was listed not as an employee, but as attending a special school in another city for talented youths. The teenager was the one from her first vision, the one from Naomi’s dream.
“Icheb,” the computer said his name was.

“What the hell is going on here?” she said to herself.

“You need a doctor,” Kathy said to Chakotay as she sealed the wound on his arm. She wondered if there was something wrong with the device as his skin seemed to get darker as it healed, but she realized that it could be something to do with his physiology.
“That’ll have to wait ‘til I’m back on Voyager,” Chakotay said.
“That’s the name of your ship?” she said.
“For almost seven years,” Chakotay said.
“You’re its captain?” Kathy said.

“First officer,” Chakotay said, looking Kathy in the eyes in a way that made her uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as she felt she should be. “My captain is one of the people in this city whose memories have been altered.”
“Hmm,” Kathy said. “Well good luck finding him.”
“Her,” Chakotay said.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Quite alright,” Chakotay said. “So, you monitor power coils at the planet?”

“That’s right,” Kathy said. “You already know that though so what’s your point?”
“You’re obviously very capable,” he said. “You could probably run that plant.”
“Why would I want all that responsibility?” she said.
Before Chakotay could respond, there was a broken chirping sound coming from his hand.
“What’s that?” she said.
“My people are trying to contact me,” he said to Kathy. “Chakotay here,” he said into his hand.
“Are you okay, Commander?” a voice responded.
“For the time being. Can you get me out of here?”
“No, sir. We’re eight light years away.”

“How were you able to transmit that far without the signal being detected?”
“A triaxilating frequency on a covariant subspace band. B’Elanna’s idea,” the voice on the other end said.
The pregannt woman they kidnapped? Kathy thought. Maybe he was telling the truth all along. Though if I doubted it, why was I still willing to help?
“I take it she’s feeling better then,” Chakotay said.

“The Doctor says she’s been responding very well to the treatment.”
“Good to hear, Harry.”
“Have you located anyone else from the crew?” the man named Harry said.
“As a matter of fact,” Chakotay said, looking Kathy in the eyes. “I’m sitting with Captain Janeway right now.
“What?!” Kathy said, bolting upright and nearly tripping over herself as she stepped back.
“Judging from what I just heard,” Harry’s voice said, “she doesn’t remember who she is.”

“She’s understandably skeptical,” Chakotay said. “How soon can you get back into transporter range?”
“We’ll need another day or so to finish repairs,” Harry said. “Quarren orbital defense gave us a bit of a beating after we got B’Elanna back. Nothing major, but neither the Doctor nor I think we should risk going back until we’re at 100%.”

“Good call,” Chakotay said, smiling. “I can see both of you making Captain once we get back to the Alpha Quadrant.”

“I won’t tell the Doctor you said that,” Harry replied. “His ego’s big enough as it is.”
Chakotay laughed.
“Okay. Let’s maintain radio silence until I contact you. I’ve got an idea about shutting down the shield grid, but I want to make sure it’s plausible. Chakotay out.”
Kathy didn’t know why she let the conversation play out before she started yelling at Chakotay, but she was more ready to start ranting.
“What you’re saying is absurd,” she said. “Why did you call me Captain? Are you trying to tell me my memories have been messed with too? How can we possibly have served together, we’re not even the same species.”
“More than a hundred races make up the Federation,” Chakotay said. “Your oldest friend, Tuvok, is Vulcan.”
“Tuvok? The man who went nuts at the plant the other day?”
“You were there when his youngest child was born,” Chakotay said. “When he went missing seven years ago, before we met, you promised his wife you’d bring him home.”

“Helping you was a mistake,” Kathy said, angry at this man coming into her life, angry at herself for letting him in. She had a good job, a good partner; she didn’t need any of this confusion.
“Listen to me,” Chakotay said, standing up. “There are more than a hundred of Voyager’s crew working around the power plant. Your crew. When our ship gets here I’ll be able to prove it to you.”

“Go to hell,” Kathy said.
“Hand me that dermal regenerator,” Chakotay said. “Let me show you. I’m not Talaxian. I’m human like you. Our Doctor-”
“Gimme a break,” Kathy said, rolling her eyes.
“I can’t remove every change he made with just that,” Chakotay said. “But I can expose enough of my real face that you’ll see I’m telling truth.”
She didn’t believe him, but figured she could at least take out some of her frustration. “Will it hurt?”
“A little,” Chakotay said.
“Then let me do it,” Kathy said, holding the wound sealer, or dermal regenerator as he kept calling it, like a weapon. Chakotay pointed at his forehead.

“Start here,” he said. She did so, taking some pleasure in his wincing, not sure what she expected to happen, but she almost dropped the device when she saw his facial spots vanish, like a racial characteristic shouldn’t from just a healing device. More and more human-like features appeared on his face as she moved it over him.
She hated to admit it, but the evidence was staring her in the face. Literally,

“We’re the same species,” she said.
“We’re more than that,” Chakotay said. “We’re friends.”
“I… I need some air,” Kathy said.
Chakotay made no effort to stop her. A huge risk, seeing as she was tempted to call security as soon as she was in the hallway. Why she didn’t then she had no idea. She just walked to Jaffen’s apartment.
“I was starting to worry,” he said.
Kathy immediately, barely pausing to take a breath, told him everything that had happened after she left here the last time, in as much detail as she could remember, even an aside to Annika Hansen’s odd behavior at the plant.
“Am I hearing this correctly?” Jaffen said. “You’re actually helping this man?”

Kathy nodded.
“He abducted one of the workers,” he said.
“She’s a member of his crew,” Kathy said, not sure why she was so quick to defend him now when mere minutes ago she was ready to turn him in.
Am I starting to believe his story? she thought.
“Right, and you’re the Captain,” Jaffen said.
“No need to be so condescending,” Kathy replied.
“I don’t mean it like that. I bet you’d make a hell of a starship captain if you wanted to be one,” Jaffen said. “I mean that he’s trying to convince you that you’ll have a better life if you go with him. You’ve got a good job here. You have me. Why are you willing to risk-”
“Why would it be a risk?” Kathy said. “Are you saying that if he’s right and I am captain of a starship I can’t take you with me?”
That made Jaffen pause. He sat down.
“I’ve lived on ships before,” he said, much calmer now. “They’re cramped. Even the decent ones hardly have any good viewports to see the stars out of. The food was bland most of the time. I don’t want to go through that again. This Voyager would have to be one hell of a ship for me to even think about it.”

Kathy nodded. Jaffen was right. She had a good life here, and she was putting it on the line for a man who had already clearly lied to her, regardless of his reasons. Why should she risk her relationship and her freedom?
“What’s the name of the lead investigator in B’Elanna’s disappearance?” she said.
“Yerid,” Jaffen said.

Chakotay paced Janeway’s now former apartment, wondering if she’d decided to call security. As much like herself as she seemed to be, she also seemed completely different; afraid of the burdens of command.
He heard the door open and he turned around, to see the detective from the bar, and two armed guards.
“Stay where you are,” the detective said. Chakotay went for his weapon, but he was too slow and was shot in the stomach. He doubled over in pain, a pain worse than the one from the shoulder wound.
He passed out.

“I don’t know them,” Amal Kotay, or whatever his name was, said when Yerid showed him pictures of B’Elanna and the man identified as Neelix. After being treated for his injuries, and having most of his admittedly impressive alien prosthetics removed, Yerid began interrogating him as soon as was possible.

“I think you do,” Yerid said. “And I think you were involved in their disappearance.”

The female doctor scanning Amal Kotay’s body touched Yerid’s shoulder. “I found some kind of communications device embedded in his hand,” she said.
“Remove it,” Yerid said.
“Listen to me,” Amal Kotay said. “You and I have one thing in common.”
“What’s that?” Yerid said, in a mocking tone of voice, wondering what story this suspect was going to spin.
“We’re both investigating disappearances,” Amal said. “If you answer my questions, I’ll answer yours.”
Yerod thought about it for a second, and decided it couldn’t hurt. Even if this man was lying to him entirely, he could still learn useful information from that.
“Okay,” he said, but before Amal could say anything another doctor walked in, flanked by two armed guards.
“I have an order to transfer this patient to Division 6,” he said.
“Division 6?” Yerid said. The second doctor handed the first one a data pad.
“Neuropathology,” she said, sounding as confused as Yerid felt. He didn’t like anyone interfering with an investigation, and this was blatant interference.

“We have reason to believe he’s mentally ill,” the second doctor said.
“”How could they know that?” Amal said, looking at Yerid. “They’ve never examined me.”
“My suspect raises a very good point,” Yerid said, standing up and crossing his arms. “I’m going with him.”
“I’m sorry sir,” the second doctor said. “but my orders are to bring him for immediate treatment.”

“This man is a suspect in a serious crime,” Yerid said, though his instinct was telling him that Amal Kotay might actually be one of the more trustworthy people in this room at the moment. “I’m not letting him out of my sight.”
“If you check the order you’ll see it’s been approved by the Director of Investigations,” the other doctor said.
My own boss is going along with this? Yerid thought. That can’t be right.

“Let me see that, Doctor…”
“Ravoc, sir.”

Yerid took the data pad and looked over it very carefully, and sighed.
“My real name is Chakotay,” the suspect started saying, talking fast as the guards started wheeling his bed out the door. “I’m an officer aboard the Federation starship Voyager. Members of my crew were abducted and their memories were altered and they were put to work here. I can give you names, descriptions-” The door closed, cutting off the rest of what he was going to say.
“That poor man,” the doctor said. Yerid looked at her.
“Yes, but I don’t think he’s lying. Something’s not right here, and I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

Back in ECH mode, the Doctor sat at Captain Janeway’s desk in her ready room, while Harry stood across from him.
“I’ve been analyzing the sensor data we recorded about the Quarren ships that attacked us,” he said handing Harry a PADD, “and I think I’ve devised a way to evade their sensors.”

“I’ll implement this plan right away, Sir,” Harry said.
“Sir,” The Doctor repeated. “I think that’s the first time you’ve called me ‘Sir’ since the ECH program was activated. Not sure how I feel about it.”
“You’ve earned it,” Harry said.
“Well, all the same, once we have the crew back it’ll be nice to go back to just being the EMH for awhile. Not that I dislike being in command, mind you…”
“That chair does have a certain appeal to it,” Harry said, smiling.
The Doctor opened his mouth to agree, but the sound of a comm channel opening interrupted him. He and Harry went over to the console on Janeway’s desk. It was Chakotay hailing them, but the signal was weak.
“We’re receiving you sir, go ahead,” Harry said.
“I’m having trouble with my transceiver,” Chakotay said. “This may be the last chance we have to talk.”
Something seemed off in the Commander’s voice. The Doctor looked at Harry, wondering if he picked up on it too, but he didn’t seem to.
“What’s your status?” Harry said.
“I’m almost ready to shut down the shield grid. I’m sending you encrypted instructions. They’ll tell you when and where to enter orbit.”
“We have it, Commander,” Harry said.
“Chakotay, out.”

Once the communication line was broken, Kadan had Chakotay put back under sedation.
“Well,” Doctor Kadan said, “now you know where to find Voyager.”
“I’ll have three ships with me,” another alien in the room said. “They won’t get away this time.”
“They’d better not. You should’ve been able to capture their ship last time.”

“If you’d done your job right the first time,” the power plant’s supervisor said, standing on the other side of Chakotay, “we wouldn’t have a problem now.”
“How was I supposed to know their hologram could handle a firefight? Or that they had people off-ship?” the alien captain said, storming off.
As he left, Doctor Ravoc came in, and Kadan inwardly swore. This young man was asking too many questions. He’d hate to have to rewrite his memories too.
“Aren’t there patients you should be taking care of, Ravoc?” Kadan said.
“Uh, yes, sir,” Ravoc said. “But I’ve been thinking, this is the second person we’ve admitted with Dysphoria Syndrome this week, and both worked at the power plant. Witnesses say that this man had no contact with Tuvok, our other patient. Maybe we should issue a health alert-”
“Do you think I’m incompetent?” Kadan said.
“Sir?” Ravoc said, clearly thrown off by Kadan’s sudden anger, which was the goal all along.
“This man,” Kadan said, motioning towards the supervisor. “is in charge of personnel at the power facility. I’ve informed him of the situation.”
“I’ve already taken steps to ensure the safety of the rest of my employees,” the supervisor said.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” Ravoc said, looking down.
“No need to apologize,” Kadan said. “You concern for your patients is admirable, but don’t worry. This man is already responding to treatment.”
Ravoc nodded. Kadan could tell though that he still had doubts, but as long as he didn’t ask any questions, he could put off anything more drastic to keep him quiet.

Annika looked around, feeling nervous. At least she’d had the foresight to tell Samantha where she was going, if not why. She didn’t want to worry Sam if she didn’t have to.

Investigator Yerid sat across from her at the table in the bar.
“Why would this Tuvok be collecting information about his co-workers?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Annika said. “But one of the names on that list is B’Elanna Torres; the woman who went missing. They both began working at the plant on the same day, along with over fifty others, also on that list. Over 120 names in total, all arriving on the planet the same day, and being hired within the same week. Myself included.”
Yerid’s facial expression gave it away; he had as many questions about this as she had, if not more. Her initial instinct to trust him with this seemed to be the correct one.
“More than a hundred skilled employees, most of them of the same species, arriving all at once? Could be a coincidence, but…”
“But it happening during a labor shortage?” Annika said.
“Exactly what I was thinking.”
“You’ll also note that every single name on the list passed through the central hospital. Now, it is routine for new arrivals to be examined by quarantine control, but as you can see here, they were processed through-”
“Division 6,” Yerid said.
“Every single one of them.”
“Something is going on,” Yerid said. “And Division 6 is at the center of it.”

“What do you mean?”
“Had a run in with one of their people yesterday. Took my suspect away from me before I had a chance to do a real interrogation.”

“What’s more,” Annika said, “even though the records show I came through neuropathology, I have no memory of being there. Neither do my wife, or my daughter.”
Yerid looked around, as though he were as afraid he was being watched as she had been. “What do you expect me to do?”
“You can start by interviewing Mister Tuvok.”

“I want to,” Yerid said, sighing. “But I can’t.”
“Why not?”

“I’ve been taken off the case. Happened at the same time Division 6 took Chakotay out of my custody. ‘Relieved of duty’ were my superior’s exact words.”

“Yerid, there you are,” the bartender, Tom Paris, said, coming up to their table, looking worried. “Have you found anything about B’Elanna?”
“He’s been relieved of duty,” Annika said.
“Oh,” Tom said, looking defeated.
“This man is also in Tuvok’s file,” Annika said, looking at Yerid again.
“What file?” Tom said
“Why don’t you tell him?” Annika said.
“Tell me what?” Tom said, sounding more and more agitated.
“I can’t go back to the hospital and start asking questions,” Yerid said. “I’d be reported. But maybe you could.”

“Me?” Annika said. “You’re the detective.”
“And that’s what I’m known as around here,” Yerid said. “And that puts me at a disadvantage in a situation like this.”
“Could someone tell me what the hell is going on?” Tom said.
Annika had Tom sit down, and she explained to him everything she knew. Tom seemed to take it all in stride.
“The first time I saw her,” Tom said, “B’Elanna I mean, I felt like I already knew her. If what you’re saying is true, is it possible that I did? What do they do in neuropathology anyway?”
“Treat mental illnesses,” Yerid said. “Or at least that’s the official story.”

Later that day, after further conversation and planning with Tom and Yerid, Annika went to the hospital. She presented herself as having concerns about her health, and a secretary directed her to the office of a Doctor Ravoc.
“What seems to be the problem, Miss Hansen?” he said, sitting down behind his desk.
“Recently, I’ve been…” she said, her practiced concern sounding to her ears as good as she’d hoped.
“I’m a doctor, you can trust me,” Ravoc said. “What seems to be the problem?”

“I’ve been experiencing some disturbing thoughts,” Annika said. “I don’t believe it’s anything serious, but I would like to speak with someone.”

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” Ravoc said. “Let me look up your file.”
She gave him her employee number from the power plant, and her file appeared on the screen behind Ravoc, who turned around to look at it.
“Ah, you have been a patient here before,” he said.
“Yes, when I first arrived.”
Ravoc turned back to look at her, seeming equal parts confused and concerned. “You were treated for Dysphoria Syndrome?”
“I have no recollection of that,” Annika said, which was completely true. She’d never even heard of such an illness.
“These disturbing thoughts you mentioned,” Ravoc said, “would you characterize them as hallucinations?”

Annika almost flinched. This was getting uncomfortable. But she had to see this through.
“What’s the cause of this syndrome?” she said.
“We’re conducting studies to determine that,” Ravoc said. “Fortunately, we have one of the foremost experts on the condition working here.”
“I’d like to speak with this expert,” Annika said.
“Well, Dr. Kadan’s very busy-”

“As am I,” Annika said. “Perhaps I should return when he is free.”

She got up to leave, but Ravoc put up a hand to stop her. “Wait here,” he said. “I’ll find him.” He got up to leave himself, leaving Annika alone in his office while he went to look for this Kadan he’d mentioned.
As soon as the door closed, Annika went to the console he’d been using, and started looking up more information.

Kathy stared out the window towards the river, while Jaffen cooked dinner. The door chime alerting them that someone was outside distracted her from her thoughts. Despite herself, she couldn’t help thinking about what Chakotay had said about her being a starship Captain.
She went to open the door.
“I’m Yerid, with Criminal Investigations,” the man outside said.
“Yes,” Kathy said. “I remember you from when that Torres girl went missing.”
She felt Jaffen’s hand on her waist.
“Inspector, come in. Is there anything we can help you with?”

Yerid kept looking at her, and back at the data pad in his hand.
“You’re Kathryn Janeway, correct?”
“Yes,” Kathy said.
“Do you know this man?” he tapped a few buttons on the pad then showed it to her. An image of an unconscious Chakotay was on it now, more of his disguise removed. He looked more human than ever now.
“No,” Kathy said, not sure why she lied, but knowing she was in too deep to start now.
“I thought maybe you’d met him.”
“Why?” she said.
“He was found in your former living quarters in possession of a wound sealer that you removed from the power plant.”

“I was the one who helped him,” Jaffen said. Kathy appreciated him trying to cover for her, but she stepped up. She’d been caught in the lie, she had to own it.
“He said he was from a starship,” she said, as she took Jaffen’s arm in her own. “And that members of his crew had been abducted.”
“He was obviously lying,” Jaffen said.
“Maybe not,” Yerid said. “I want to know everything he told you.”
“Hold on,” Jaffen said, “why would you believe-”
“I have my reasons,” Yerid said.
Kathy had a bad feeling about all of this. If the very man who’d arrested Chakotay was leaning toward believing him, what did that say about her refusal to believe it?

“How could she just walk out?” Kadan yelled, slamming a fist on Ravoc’s desk.
“She was a voluntary patient,” Ravoc said, understanding where this anger was coming from. “There was no reason for Security to stop her.” Ravoc went over to the console that Annika Hansen had hacked into. “She accessed 64 restricted files. All of them for people diagnosed with Dysphoria Syndrome.”

Ravoc looked deeper into the files.
“According to the records all these patients arrived on the same day,” he said. He suddenly realized that Kadan was slowly moving towards him, as if getting ready to ambush him.
“You’re listed as attending physician in every case,“ Ravoc said. “If there was an outbreak, how didn’t I hear about it?”
“Does it matter? I treated them all, and they were all discharged.”
“It says they were all discharged to the main power facility,” Ravoc said, continuing to face the monitor and hoping Kadan couldn’t see his nervousness. Something was going on that he didn’t know about, and his superior was involved. That scared him. “That supervisor you were talking to yesterday, that’s where he worked.”
“I explained that to you,” Kadan said. “I was informing him of a potential health threat.”
“That man you had me transfer out of Criminal Investigation,” Ravoc said, pulling up another file, “he claimed that his friends had been abducted, had their memories altered, and were put to work.”
“What are you implying?” Kadan said, defensively. Ravoc’s suspicions were being confirmed as he was forming them.
Ravoc knew that Kadan didn’t have a weapon, so he took a deep breath and tried not to look worried.
“You’re making false diagnoses,” he said, “selectively changing what people remember so they think they came here willingly to pick up work during our labor shortage.”
Kadan’s face betrayed his mixed emotions. He looked almost as proud as he did angry.

“Very good, Doctor Ravoc,” he said. “But a more gifted physician would be able to see this in the larger context.”
“What context could possibly make brainwashing people acceptable? Including,” Ravoc glanced back at his console. “Two children?”
“The real public health threat on Quarra isn’t Dysphoria Syndrome. You’ve already figured out we made that up. The threat is the labor shortage. The only cure? More skilled workers.”
“We’re doctors,” Ravoc said. “We help patients, not break them. What you’re doing, it’s wrong. I don’t care about your reasons.”
“We’re helping them lead happy, productive lives,” Kadan said.
“By altering their memories?”
“The treatment I provide improves their lives,” Kadan said. Ravoc could tell he was being pitched to. Kadan wanted to bring him in on this conspiracy. He wondered if he should reject it outright, or pretend to go along to try and bring it down from the inside. “And makes them better workers. In turn, our economy improves.”
“You’re profiting from this, aren’t you?” Ravoc asked.
“Doesn’t a physician deserve to be compensated for his services?”
“Obviously I don’t think doctors should live in poverty,” Ravoc said, thinking of his own above-average sized apartment in the outskirts of the city. “But getting rich off of messing with people’s heads? Lying about diseases? I’ll report you.”
“To whom?” Kadan said. “My research is funded by the Ministry of Health.”

“Criminal Investigations then.”
“The department whose director signed the order transferring Mister Chakotay, or Amal Kotay, or whatever name he uses, to our hospital,” Kadan said.

“Am I the only one who didn’t know about this?” Ravoc said.
“No,” Kadan said. “But I think it best for everyone that I not tell you how many people are involved in total. In case you get any ideas about exposing us. You never know who you might be trying to expose this to.”

“She’s considered dangerous,” one of two Quarren guards said, showing an image of Annika Hansen to Tom Paris.
“She’s never been in here,” Tom said as he went about the work of closing the bar for the night.
“You’re sure?” The other guard said.
“I think I’d remember meeting a cyborg,” Tom said.
“If you do see her, report it immediately,” the first guard said. “She needs to be hospitalized.”
“I’ll let you know if I do,” Tom said, closing and locking the door behind the guards as they left.
“It’s safe now,” Tom said. Annika, Kathy Janeway, Jaffen, and Yerid all came out from the back room into the dimly lit bar.
“Thank you,” Annika said.

“Well if you really wanna thank me,” Tom said as everyone started taking seats around a table, “you can tell me what’s going on.”

“It appears this Chakotay was telling the truth,” Annika said.
“So, everyone at the plant has had their memories altered?” Jaffen said.
“I do not believe so,” Annika said. “Not every arrival since the labor shortage began has been through Division 6.”
“Well, that’s something at least,” Jaffen said. “I’d hate to think that I was secretly a father of three or something like that.”
“You’re Norvalian, remember?” Kathy said, playfully poking Jaffen in the arm.

“Am I really?” Jaffen said with a smirk.
“Can you do that some other time, please?” Yerid said, sounding annoyed.
“Your name was not in Dr. Kadan’s files,” Anika said to Jaffen. “You are likely exactly who you believe you are.
“Shouldn’t we report this to the authorities?” Tom said, surprised at himself for taking this new information in stride. You’d think this wasn’t my first time having my memories messed with, he thought.
“I’d need more evidence before making any accusations,” Yerid said. “And seeing as the director of CI is likely in on it, that means I’d need to know who I can trust before making any accusations.”

“Chakotay said he had more proof of my real identity,” Kathy said. “Aboard a ship called Voyager.”

“How do we locate it?” Annika said.
“When they contacted him,” Kathy said, “they were using… What was it? A triaxilating frequency on a covariant subspace band?”
“Are those real words?” Tom said.
“Ssh,” Yerid said.
“There’s a subspace transponder at the power plant,” Annika said.
“Kathy and I aren’t on the run,” Jaffen said. “We should go. Annika, what about your wife? Does she know what’s going on?”
Annika sighed, and lowered her head. “I didn’t get the chance to tell her anything before I left for work this morning. She must be scared.”
“Don’t try to contact her,” Yerid said. “The guards will be watching your place. And if there’s a big conspiracy going on I wouldn’t put it past whoever’s involved to try to use them as leverage against you.”

“Perhaps,” Annika said, “if I were to return to the hospital with you, in your custody, we can use that as an opportunity to help Chakotay and Tuvok.”
“Could work,” Tom said. “No one’s been asking around about Yerid. Far as anyone involved knows he’s holed up in his apartment complaining about being taken off an important case.”
Yerid nodded.
“I’ll go with you two,” Tom said to Jaffen and Kathy. “I don’t know how much I can help, but it’s better than sitting around and waiting.”

Annika listened closely while pretending to be unconscious as Yerid spoke to Doctor Kadan.

“I had to sedate her,” Yerid said. “She wouldn’t come voluntarily.”
“Her condition has obviously worsened,” Kadan said, scanning Annika. “I’ll treat her right away.
“There are some other patients I’d like to interview, Yerid said.
“These people can’t be disturbed,” Kadan said. Annika heard the sound of Yerid pulling his sidearm from his holster. Annika partially opened one eye, and saw Kadan going for something on the wall by him, presumably an alarm of some kind. She bolted up and grabbed his arm.
“I suggest you comply,” she said.

Kathy wondered just how Jaffen had learned how to break into secure buildings so easily as the door to the power plant opened.
“Be careful,” he said, staying just outside to stand watch. She gently touched his shoulder as she went in, Tom Paris close behind her. The two of them made their way to the supervisor’s office, Tom staying outside that door to provide additional cover, and began manipulating the controls, trying to contact Voyager.

The screen changed, and she saw what looked like a large room. She saw Neelix, and another human, fairly clearly despite some minor static.
“Captain?” the human said, and she recognized his voice as the one Chakotay called Harry.
“So I’m told,” Kathy said. “Just, call me Kathy for now.”
There was a brief pause.
“Yeah, I’m not doing that,” Harry said. “Where’s the Commander?”
“Chakotay’s been hospitalized. He told me you had proof of who some of us really are.”
“We do,” a woman’s voice said, and the missing pregnant woman, now wearing a uniform like Harry’s stepped into view.

“You’re the woman who was abducted,” Kathy muttered.
“Chakotay was supposed to deactivate the shield grid,” B’Elanna Torres said. “So we can transport you and the others to safety. If you could find a way to shut down main power, the shield grid will go down too.”
“Will you help us?” Harry said.
Before she could answer the image on the screen shook, and the lights on Voyager’s bridge dimmed.
“We’re under attack,” a voice from off-screen said. “Three ships. Not Quarren ones this time. They’re the same ships that planted the subspace mines.”
“Please,” Harry said to Kathy. “Shut down the shield g-” The signal cut out.
Tom slid into the supervisor’s office.
“We got company,” he said. Kathy looked and saw the supervisor, followed by two armed guards coming towards them from one direction, and a lone, but much larger guard coming down another.
“Either your boyfriend sold us out,” Tom said, “or he’d triggered an alarm and didn’t realize it.”
“Stay where you are,” the large man said, not seeing Jaffen come up behind him and zap him in the neck with the same tool he’d used to open the door.
“Stop!” the supervisor yelled as Jaffen grabbed the fallen guard’s weapon and fired towards them, hitting one guard, and sending the other guard and the supervisor scattering for cover.”

“I saw them coming,” Jaffen said, “so I let them slip past so I could get the drop on them. I’ve never been a combat guy, so they ought to be embarrassed with themselves for letting me get away with that.”
Kathy gave Jaffen a big kiss, and took his hand and headed for the door. She didn’t need to tell Tom to follow.

“So much for evading their sensors,” Harry said.
“We should’ve asked exactly when Chakotay was hospitalized,” The Doctor said from tactical. “This was probably a trap. If they knew exactly where we’d be…”

He didn’t need to finish the thought. Harry realized he was probably right. The ship shuddered after another volley from the ships attacking them.
“Transporters are off-line,” B’Elanna said.
“Of course they are,” Harry said.

Annika, Yerid, and Kadan, the latter with Yerid’s gun pressed into his back, entered the room where two nurses worked on Chakotay and Tuvok, one each.
“Tell them to give us some privacy,” Yerid said quietly.
“You’re dismissed,” Kadan said to the nurses. If they had any questions, they kept it to themselves as they walked out.

“Disconnect them,” Yerid said to Kadan.
Annika saw a third occupied bed, and a man with the same technology over his head as Tuvok and Chakotay.
“Doctor Ravoc? What is this man doing here?”
“Dysphoria Syndrome,” Kadan said, casually, as he disconnected Chakotay.

“We’re losing shields,” Neelix said after another volley. So far firing back had done nothing, the enemy ships having learned from their first encounter with Voyager what her phasers were capable of. They weren’t getting in as many shots as they could’ve, but the trade off had worked for them, unfortunately.
“Any ideas from your tactical database?” Harry said.
“Nothing that would help us in this situation,” The Doctor said.
The same ships that took the crew… Harry thought.
“How many escape pods do we have left?” he said.
“Five,” B’Elanna said.
“Prepare to eject three,” Harry said.
“I don’t think abandoning ship is a good idea,” The Doctor said.

“Neither do I. Can you create a dampening field around the briefing room to mask our life signs?”
“I believe so. Why? Oh, wait. I see. Very clever, Lieutenant.”
“Thanks, Doc. B’Elanna, Neelix, follow me to the briefing room. Doc, once the pods are launched, put up the dampening field.”
“And then detonate the explosives that will be in the escape pods,” The Doctor said, smiling.

As the pods being launched were the ones closest to the bridge, it didn’t take long for Harry and the others to rig them. As they worked, The Doctor picked up signs that the Quarren shield grid had gone down. That was one less thing to worry about.
Once the door to the briefing room closed, The Doctor jettisoned the pods and activated the dampening field. Within seconds the pursuing ships had grabbed them in their tractor beams, one pod per ship, just as hoped.
The Doctor saw he was being hailed, and he sat in the Captain’s Chair before answering the hail, smiling.

“Well, hologram,” the captain of the hailing ship said. It was, in fact, the same man who The Doctor had beaten before and who had abducted his crewmates. “Your crew has abandoned you again. I suggest you surrender your vessel.”
“You should realize by now that I’m not programmed to do that,” The Doctor said, tapping a button on the chair’s arm. The viewscreen switched back to a view of the attacking ships. The Doctor pushed another button, and the escape pods exploded, the shockwave knocking them back, and disabling the tractor beams in the process. He worried for a moment they might start attacking again, but instead, as the ship’s righted themselves, they turned and warped away.
“Looks like the Quarrens are going to be in the market for new pirates,” The Doctor said, smiling, then realizing that no one was around to hear his one-liner. The door to the briefing room opened, and Harry, Neelix, and B’Elanna filed out.
“B’Elanna, we’ll be needing those transporters,” The Doctor said.
“On it,” B’Elanna said.

“ECH log, supplemental. All the crew have been transported back to Voyager, and thanks to my experience with Lieutenant Torres, their treatment is proceeding rapidly. While they’re recovering, I still have a few command duties left to perform.”

“If it weren’t for your efforts,” the Quarren Ambassador said to Yerid as the two of them sat across from The Doctor, Neelix, and Harry Kim, “this whole conspiracy might never have been uncovered.”

“I’m just glad it wasn’t as many people as I feared,” Yerid said.
The Doctor suppressed the urge to point out that had the conspiracy been that large it would’ve been statistically impossible to keep it a secret for as long as it had been.
“What’ll happen to the workers?” Harry asked.

“Well,” the Ambassador said, “we’ve identified several thousand of Kadan’s patients. Once treated, they’ll be repatriated. Thank you for sharing your notes with us, Doctor.”

“No thanks necessary,” The Doctor said. “It was the right thing to do.”
“I apologize once more on behalf of my government,” the Ambassador said. “But if you’ll excuse us, there are some of Kadan’s co-conspirators currently in hiding, and I imagine Investigator Yerid here would very much like to get to work on catching them.
“Gentlemen,” Neelix said, “I can escort you to the transporter room.”

“There is something I do not understand,” Icheb said, as he stepped into his alcove.
“Just one?” Samantha said as she was helping put Naomi to bed.
Seven chuckled.
“Go ahead, Icheb,” she said.
“Why was your marriage to Ensign Wildman left in place,” Icheb said, “but not that of Lieutenants Paris and Torres?”
The cargo bay got quiet. Seven and Samantha looked at each other, the “I don’t know, do you?” unspoken between them.
“Does it really matter?” Naomi said.
“Well, no,” Seven said.
“But now I really wanna know,” Sam said. “This is gonna drive me nuts, isn’t it?”

“We may never know the reasoning,” Seven said, “but perhaps you would settle for plausible possibility?”
“Sure. You have one?”
“I’ll let you know when I do,” Seven said.

Janeway felt both comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time in her uniform. Her old memories had been restored, but the new ones were still there too. At least this time she wasn’t getting PTSD out of the deal, but the mixed emotions were still unpleasant.
She was walking around her quarters, re-familiarizing herself with all her belongings, when the door to her quarters opened. Jaffen walked in, a Starflet security guard behind him.
“You can wait outside,” Janeway said to the guard.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
“I can see why you’d rather live here,” Jaffen said.
“I’d offer you a position,” Janeway said. “We could always use another skilled engineer. But as a Captain, it wouldn’t really be appropriate for me to fraternize with another member of the crew.”

“Well, that’s understandable. At least my memories weren’t tampered with. Annika, or I guess I should call her Seven, was right. I really did come to Quarra looking for a better life. And since I’ve been offered a promotion, I guess I found it.”
“Promotion?”
“They had to replace our shift supervisor,” Jaffen said. “Something about acquiring shift workers illegally.”

Janeway chuckled. “Well, you’ve earned it.”
Jaffen nodded. “So, I guess I should take it. I mean, unless…”

“Well,” Janeway said, moving closer to Jaffen. “I did say it’s inappropriate for a Captain to fraternize with a member of her crew.”
“But?”
“But we’re 30,000 light years from home,” Janeway said “If Starfleet doesn’t like it they can’t exactly fire me.”

Jaffen smiled. “I was hoping you’d say something like that.”

Captain Janeway and Jaffen embraced, and didn’t stop for a good long while.

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