A Year of Hell episode addition. This one is for my friend Pook. Great minds think alike…. Or is it small minds never differ?
The Captain and crew are plagued by flashbacks of Voyagers destruction.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
B’Elanna had been searching for almost an hour before she finally found her, crouched beside the charred remains of an open hatch. Tools and broken circuit relays lay strewn all around her. She was just sitting there with tears streaming down her face, staring at the silver pocket watch in her hand.
B’Elanna approached quietly, not wanting to startle her. She moved into her field of vision, but still her presence went unnoticed. She gently placed her hand on Kathryn Janeway’s arm, and whispered. “Captain? Are you alright?”
Kathryn lifted her head slowly, and looked at her with such pain-filled eyes that B’Elanna felt the tears prick behind her own.
“Oh, B’Elanna, I miss him dreadfully.” Her face crumpled, and in a gesture that surprised B’Elanna more than anything that had happened over the last seven months, Kathryn Janeway wrapped her arms around her legs, dropped her head on to her knees and sobbed.
B’Elanna slumped down beside her and felt her own tears trail down her cheeks. She sat shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with her captain, the closeness as necessary to her as it was for the distraught woman at her side. She intimately understood her grief. Tom had been beamed away at the same time as Chakotay, and she’d lost both her lover and friend in that God-awful moment.
She’d been in engineering when they were taken, and had no idea they were gone until after Voyager had sped away from the temporal weapon ship. Harry had broken the news to her later in her quarters, and her initial reaction had been to try to push her way past him and get to the captain. She’d wanted to shake and rail at the woman who had abandoned the two most important men in her life. Fortunately, Harry had held her back and managed to talk some sense into her. After she’d destroyed almost everything in her quarters – that wasn’t already broken – he’d pulled her into his arms and held her while she howled out her anger and pain. They’d held tight to each other as they tried to comprehend their loss.
That had been five months ago. They’d struggled on. Scratching and clawing out an existence on what remained of their once proud and beautiful ship. The crew were long gone and they’d had no word of them since their departure. There were only the seven of them now, and things were grim. There was almost nothing left of the ship. The outer hull was gone and most of the primary systems were damaged beyond repair. The secondary systems were maintaining life support, deflectors and inertial dampeners. The temporal shields were still operational and they had minimal weapons, but much of the ship was uninhabitable and their lives were being lived between the bridge and the mess hall. The replicators had been offline for months and they had been eking out a meagre existence, living on rations and recycled water.
The Captain had become obsessed in her quest to destroy the temporal ship. Without any thought for her own wellbeing, she’d driven herself blindly onwards, determined to bring an end to Annorax’s temporal incursions. She’d become tough and unrelenting in her pursuit, holding herself rigidly aloof from the six of them. The Doctor had tried to curtail her headlong dash towards self-destruction, but had met with steely resistance. She was a formidable woman. Chakotay had always hinted at her stubbornness and over the last few months, they’d all had a chance to witness it in its full glory.
After Chakotay and Tom had been kidnapped, she’d become even more hardened and flinty. Harry insisted that she was suffering acutely from their loss, but she hid it well. The only time B’Elanna had seen any chinks in her armour was the day she’d spoken to the crew in the mess hall, just before she’d ordered them all into the escape pods. She reminded everyone that they would all be together again, and had given B’Elanna a reassuring pat when she promised to get Tom and Chakotay back. Her voice had wavered, but she’d retained her control. Always the captain.
However, this person sobbing next to her wasn’t the captain. This was the woman, Kathryn, crying for the man she loved. B’Elanna had always had a notion that there was more to the command team’s relationship than met the eye. Tom had been convinced of it, and had tormented them both with his clumsy attempts to get them together. How many turbo lift, and door malfunctions had he and Harry engineered over the years? She smiled through her tears at some of their antics. The command team had tolerated their buffoonery, but maybe Tom and Harry hadn’t been too far wrong in their assessment of the captain and Chakotay’s feelings for one another.
The captain lifted her head and turned away, wiping her eyes. She still held the watch in her hand as she tried to regain some control. “I’m sorry, B’Elanna. You shouldn’t have to witness something like this.” She looked up at her. “But thank you for being here with me.” There was so much grime everywhere that her tears had left a trail of pale clean skin down her face.
B’Elanna just nodded and smiled grimly as she wiped her own eyes. “I’m glad to help.” She took a deep breath. “That’s a lovely watch, Captain. I’ve been meaning to ask you where you got it.”
B’Elanna watched as the captain stroked her fingers lovingly over the face of the silver watch before giving her a tearful smile. “Chakotay gave it to me for my last birthday. It was just before they were taken.” She gripped it in her hand and held it to her chest.
“He gave it to me on the Bridge. I had no idea it was my birthday. Trust him to remember something like that.” She gave a half hearted chuckle. “I was busy trying to reroute power through the mangled engineering station and I offhandedly told him that I couldn’t accept it and ordered him to recycle it. He disobeyed orders and kept the damn thing.” She swiped at another tear. “I found it in his quarters yesterday, while Neelix and I were doing the deck by deck damage report.” She ran her finger lovingly over the watch face again. “Boy, am I going to have something to say to him when I get hold of him. That’s no example to set for the junior crew.” She sniffed, but couldn’t really get up the steam to laugh at her own attempted joke. B’Elanna just smiled and patted her arm.
“I’m sure Chakotay will have some dubious but valid excuse as to why he disobeyed your orders. He was always good at rationalising things like that. And if not, you can always take it out of his hide.” Kathryn turned to her with a wry look. “Could be interesting.” B’Elanna finished with a smile.
Kathryn smiled back at the remarkable young woman who had become such a fine officer and it seemed now, a good friend. She took a deep breath.
“I never told him, you know. I never told him how much I loved him. That is one of my biggest regrets. And then when he gave me this… I was so worried that if he knew how much I needed him, it would weaken me. I should’ve realised he would never have taken anything from me. He only ever gave, and I happily took, except this one time when my acceptance would have meant so much to him. But I refused, and I hate that I did that to him.” She caressed the watch again. “Do you think he’s forgiven me, B’Elanna? I hurt him dreadfully that day and he was gone so soon afterwards that I never got the chance to say I was sorry.” Her voice was barely a whisper by the time she finished speaking.
B’Elanna laid her hand on the captain’s arm. “Captain, I’m sure he’s forgiven you. He loves you and would have understood. He knows you better than you think.”
B’Elanna watched the woman in front of her visibly relax. She was certain that what she said was true. Chakotay loved the captain, she was absolutely sure of this now. But apart from that, he understood her, and he would’ve known why she couldn’t accept his gift. With the ship falling apart around her, and so many of her crew dead or dying, the last thing she could do was accept something that was meant to bring her joy. B’Elanna understood. She’d got to know her captain a lot better over the last few months. There is nothing like facing death together time and time again, to allow you to see how another person ticks.
She’d come to admire, and in her own way, love, this small tenacious woman sitting here beside her, and she knew, if anyone could get them out of this nightmare, it was Kathryn Janeway.
“Captain, I know we’ll get them back. I know you can do it.” Kathryn looked at B’Elanna with a sad but resigned look on her face.
“I don’t know, B’Elanna. Just at the moment I really can’t see us getting out of this one. I hope you’re right though. I really hope you’re right.” And with that she tucked the watch into her waistband of her pants, and wiping her eyes again, she gave B’Elanna a weary smile. As she sat up, she slapped her thighs and turned back to the damaged panel. “Well.” She blew out a breath. “Back to work. We certainly won’t be going anywhere if I don’t get these systems up and running again. What do you say, B’Elanna, shall we try to get a replicator online and have a decent meal for a change? I’ve had enough ration bars a la Neelix to last me a lifetime.”
“Sounds good to me, Captain.” The captain nodded at the engineer, all business, but leant over quickly and placed her hand on B’Elanna’s arm, giving it a quick squeeze. “Thank you.”
B’Elanna briefly laid her hand over her captain’s and nodded back. Then both women turned to the broken circuit relays and began the tedious task of trying to get some of the basic systems operational again.
It was all for naught in the end. Less than three weeks later, Voyager, along with her captain and the temporal ship, were destroyed. But their destruction and her death precipitated the erasure of that time line. The last seven months ceased to exist and they were thrown back in time to the days before they met the Krenim, Annorax and the deadly temporal weapons ship.
Captain’s Log. Stardate 51252.3
“The past couple of weeks have been uneventful, but we’ve made excellent progress on the new Astrometrics Lab.”
The bridge was a picture of calm orderliness. Seven and Harry Kim were standing at the Ops station when the captain turned to them. “When can you bring it on line?”
Seven answered. “We just did.”
Harry couldn’t help his enthusiasm from breaking through as he spoke to the captain. “In fact, we’re in the process of charting a new course home.”
Kathryn smiled. His enthusiasm was contagious. “I’d say this is cause for celebration.”
Warning beeps came from the Tactical station and Tuvok interrupted the cheerful banter. “A vessel is approaching off the port bow, Captain.”
Kathryn turned to the viewscreen. “On screen.”
“They’re hailing us.” Harry announced.
“Open a channel.”
A humanoid male with scaled temples appeared on the viewscreen. “You’ve entered Krenim space. State your identity.”
“Captain Janeway, of the Starship Voyager. We’re just passing through, trying to get home.” Kathryn made a point of looking and speaking in tones that could not be construed as antagonistic. She’d learnt here in the Delta Quadrant that seemingly benign first contacts had an uncanny knack of going from hospitable to hostile in a heartbeat.
“This region is in dispute. I suggest you avoid our territory.”
She smiled warmly. “Thanks for the warning.”
“Good journey.” The screen went blank.
Chakotay quickly reviewed the navigation logs on his centre console. “Tom. Plot a course around Krenim space.”
Chakotay looked around the bridge. “So what do you say? How about a ground breaking ceremony for our new lab?
Harry beamed. “Sounds great.”
Kathryn leaned in conspiratorially and spoke quietly so that only Chakotay could hear. “I think I’ll replicate a bottle of St Emilion for the occasion. 2370. I hear that was good year.” They grinned at each other. It was going to be a good year.
They made their small detour around Krenim space and attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Astrometrics Lab. Life aboard the Starship Voyager was quiet and uneventful.
That was until some of the crew began to have disturbing dreams and strange hallucinations.
The Doctor was used to the occasional crewmember turning up in his sickbay with disturbed sleep and the odd nightmare. The nature of their mission lent itself to varying levels of tension and trauma, but when the trickle became a torrent, he felt it was time to bring it to the captain’s attention. He’d been unable to find a cause and none of the sufferers had been under any unusual stress.
She read his report and was duly concerned but not overly. She ordered numerous sensor sweeps of the area, but there appeared to be no external reason for the crew’s strange malady. There were no planets within sensor range, no unusual radiation readings, no neurogenic fields or anomalous readings of any sort. She advised the Doctor to keep her informed and to monitor the number and type of hallucinations. Perhaps they could put together some sort of hypothesis at the next staff meeting. At this point, it didn’t seem to be interfering with duties, and it was more uncomfortable than dangerous for those concerned.
Kathryn filed the incidents to the back of her mind. That was until she had become a victim.
Chakotay had invited her for dinner, ostensibly to go over the crew schedules for the next month, but also for a bit of ‘down time’. She smiled as she made her way along the corridor to his quarters. She tried to tamp down her delight at spending the evening with him. She’d been in love with her first officer for years now. It was something that was part of her these days. When she’d first realised what had happened, she’d been terrified. What if he found out? How would she ever hide it? But as time had gone on, she’d learned to control her feelings and her reactions, although every now and then they caught her unaware. She was thinking of yesterday when they’d arrived at the Astrometrics Lab together. They were laughing at some ridiculous nonsense when she’d turned to find him looking at her with undisguised affection. Before she had a chance to think, she’d reached over and placed her hand on his chest. He’d stared at her for a moment before gently placing his hand over hers and giving it a squeeze. She smiled to herself as she reached his door. Those little moments made it all worthwhile. One day, she thought to herself, one day they’d be home and they could pursue this wonderful love they had for each other.
With a contented smile on her face, she pushed the chime outside his quarters, but when the doors slid open, she was confronted with the terrifying vision of utter destruction. The door was off kilter and ruptured conduits and broken pieces of bulkhead were strewn all over the floor. All his furniture was upended and the charred remains of many of his personal effects were littered around the room. It was a picture of violent devastation.
She was shocked, and terrified, and overcome by a searing sense of loss. “Chakotay! Oh God! Chakotay, where are you?” She staggered and began to stumble into the room. The next thing she knew, Chakotay was holding her firmly by the shoulders and she was staring into his concerned eyes. She gasped as the world righted itself. Gripping the front of his jacket to hold herself steady, she looked around the pristine room. There wasn’t a thing out of place.
“Kathryn, are you okay? What happened?” She was still trying to gather her wits and shake the terrible sense of dread.
Chakotay put his arm around her shoulders and led her over to the couch. “Here, sit down before you fall down. I’ll get you something.”
He moved quickly to the replicator and ordered her a brandy. “Here, have this.” He handed her the glass and she took a small sip as he sat down next to her.
“Thank you.” She shuddered and tried to slow her breathing. “I don’t know what that was, but my God, it was terrible, and so real.”
“What happened?” He was looking at her with concern. It took an awful lot to rattle Kathryn Janeway.
She shook herself again, trying to throw off the feeling of despair her vision had left her with. She took another sip of the brandy and then placed it on the table. She took hold of Chakotay’s hand, in the hope that it would anchor her here in this reality. He held it between both his hands. It reassured her.
“I have no idea what happened but everything was destroyed – in absolute ruin. The bulkheads were blown in and the conduits and panelling were in pieces. Everything was burnt and broken, and you were gone. That much I knew for sure. You weren’t here on the ship and I was all alone. God, it was awful.” She reached for her drink and took another grateful sip. Tears were not too far under the surface, and she was having trouble shaking the deep-seated feeling of anguish and desperation. She felt raw and so vulnerable.
Chakotay squeezed her hand. “We should go and see the Doctor. Something’s not right. Come on, no arguments, let’s go.” He stood up and hauled her up off the couch. He was determined, and by the look on his face, she wasn’t going to be able to wheedle her way out of this one. Mind you, she was still terribly shaken and realised a trip to sickbay was in order, even if it was only for reassurance from the Doctor that she wasn’t crazy.
Chakotay escorted her from his room and kept a firm grip on her elbow all the way to sickbay. She wasn’t sure if it was for support or if he thought she might bolt if given the chance. It was comforting however, and helped her regain some of her equilibrium.
By the time they’d reached sickbay, she was more herself, and was now feeling a little foolish at being so upset by what was obviously another of the strange hallucinations that had been plaguing the crew for the last week or so. It was definitely time to get to the bottom of this. If something like that happened in the heat of battle or during any sort of intricate or dangerous manoeuvre, it could put the entire ship at risk.
The doctor was hovering over an ensign from engineering and there were two other crewmen on bio beds waiting to be seen.
She and Chakotay waited in the doctor’s office.
Chakotay leant towards her. “How are you feeling now? Any more visions?” She gave him an irritated look. It sounded insane when he asked questions like that.
“No, nothing. And it wasn’t a vision as such. It was more like … opening the door into a different reality. A flash of something. There must have been some sort of shift in the space time continuum. What I saw was real, not a figment of my imagination.” She tapped her comm. badge. “Janeway to the bridge.”
“Kim here, Captain.”
“Harry, scan for temporal rifts or fractures in subspace. Anything that might explain these time shifts and visions that are affecting the crew. Let me know as soon as you have anything.”
She stood up and began pacing, irritated at her inability to articulate something that was virtually impossible to explain. How could you describe not only what you saw, but also the painfully real feelings and emotions that came with the experience? It had been so vivid.
The Doctor entered his office. “Captain? Commander? What can I do for you both?” He walked behind his desk and began uploading his tricorder into the main data base. He then looked up at both of them with a questioning glance.
Kathryn was now hesitant about talking about this. The further away from the experience she got the more unreal it seemed. Much like a dream that fades over time.
Chakotay could see her hesitance and spoke up. “The Captain has just had an episode of what she thinks was a shift in space/time.”
The Doctor stood up and walked around his desk waving the hand held scanner over her as he approached.
“Your norepinephrine levels are elevated which is consistent with the other crewmembers who have been affected. I agree with you, Captain. There is some form of temporal anomaly responsible. I just haven’t been able to track it down yet. Can you please recount your experience? I’ll see if it corresponds to the scenarios that have been emerging.” He continued to scan as she recalled the horrifying moments at Chakotay’s door.
“I rang the chime at the Commander’s door and everything was normal, but when the door opened his room was in a shambles. It was a scene of total devastation. The bulk heads had collapsed and almost everything was destroyed. The vision was bad enough, but it was accompanied by real emotions as well. The feelings of loss and despair were almost overwhelming. They gave the experience a searing sense of reality. I could even smell the burnt furnishings and the ozone of plasma leaks. I stumbled into the room and the next thing I remember was the Commander holding me up and calling my name. It must have only lasted a matter of seconds but it was as real as you are to me now.”
“I am a hologram, Captain. I am, in essence, not ‘real’.” She gave him an exasperated look. “But I will accept your comment on face value.”
He kept scanning and harrumphed a few times. “Well Captain, you fit the profile of all the other victims of this phenomenon. I still haven’t found a reason for it and to be honest with you, it has me quite puzzled. What I can tell you is that all the crew who have had these experiences speak of the destruction of Voyager and the loss of lives.”
At that moment Seven of Nine staggered into the room. “Doctor, there is something wrong …….” The Doctor and Chakotay leapt forward and grabbed her as she collapsed, unconscious. They lay her down on one of the spare bio beds and the doctor scanned her and frowned.
Kathryn moved to the side of the bed and watched the Doctor worriedly. “What is it, Doctor? Is Seven being affected as well?”
“It’s difficult to tell, Captain. There appears to be some irregularity in both her Interplexing Beacon and Chronometric Node. For those two Borg systems to be affected, there has to be some sort of temporal anomaly involved. I’ll stabilise her systems and then get to work on trying to isolate data from her Temporal Transceiver. If there is some sort of temporal glitch, there will be information stored within that particular node. If nothing else the Borg Collective certainly have dibs on the ability to manipulate the temporal plane.” He scowled again as he looked at the readouts from Seven’s cranial implant. He then looked up at the captain. “She is stable for the moment and I’ll inform you as soon as I know anything. If you’re feeling well enough, then I suggest you go to your quarters. Otherwise I can give you a sedative and you can pull up a biobed.”
Kathryn backed away instinctively. “No, no, I’m fine. I’ll take your advice, Doctor, and return to my quarters. Thank you and keep me informed.” She took one more worried look at the young Borg woman and then with a nod to Chakotay, they left sickbay.
Kathryn frowned as she walked along with Chakotay. They turned to one another and spoke simultaneously.
“I think we…..”
Kathryn touched his arm and smiled. “You first.”
He smiled in return. “I was thinking that we should go over our contacts for the last month or so. There might be some clue as to what’s happening. It could be as obscure as a space borne virus, or something more sinister. Perhaps something was planted on Voyager intentionally.”
She frowned at him. “My thoughts exactly.” They entered the lift. “Deck Eight.” Kathryn rubbed her forehead. “It can’t have been anything too distant. The hallucinations and nightmares only began about a week or so ago. We’ll start with the most recent events and then work our way back from there.”
Chakotay nodded and they exited the lift on Deck Eight and made their way down to the new Astrometrics Lab. Seven and Harry had done a superb job and they’d had the ground breaking ceremony only days ago.
They stepped up to the central console together. Kathryn activated the screen. “Computer, list any and all contacts that Voyager has made over the last…” She looked at Chakotay questioningly. “…four weeks?” He nodded his agreement. “Four weeks. In chronological order.”
A list of about twenty items came up on the screen. They began with the nebula they’d encountered two days ago and after discarding that, moved back steadily. Nine days ago, they had encountered a single Krenim ship that had warned them away from their disputed space.
It seemed benign enough, but something niggled in the back of Chakotay’s mind. So he played a hunch. Kathryn was about to move on to the next item when he put his hand on her arm. “Just a moment, Kathryn. Computer, analyse the propulsion and weapons systems of the Krenim vessel.”
Kathryn turned to him with a strange look. “What prompted that?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. There is just something about this that seems … I don’t know… wrong.” He gave her a helpless look. “Let’s just call it a hunch, shall we?”
She nodded. “That’s as good as anything else we have so far.”
The computer voice piped up. “Analysis complete.”
The data scrolled across the screen in front of them. The Krenim propulsion systems were nothing out of the ordinary, ion based, with limited warp capability, but Kathryn was astonished to see that their weapons had a temporal signature. She looked at Chakotay. “Well, how about that? Anymore hunches?”
Even he looked a bit surprised. “Hmmm. Well, none just at the moment, but this does warrant further investigation.” He downloaded all the information they had onto a PADD. He waved it in the air. “We can go through this after we’ve had something to eat. Dinner’s still waiting.”
Kathryn nodded. “Fine, but let’s just drop into Sickbay on the way. The Doctor may have found something.”
They entered sickbay to find the Doctor hovering over Seven. The young Borg woman was looking very pale. Kathryn moved to the side of the bio bed eyeing her protégé worriedly. “How is she, Doctor?”
He placed a hypospray on Seven’s neck and administered the dose. “She is suffering from an unusual form of sensory dyskinesia. It is definitely temporal in nature. I’ve downloaded the data from her Chronometric Node and Temporal Transceiver. The computer is analysing the information now and reconstructing the temporal stream. I’ll keep you informed, Captain, and the information will be forwarded to you as soon as it’s available.” He placed a cortical monitor on Seven’s neck and closed the arms of the biobed over her. “She is stable for now.”
They moved towards the main console as Kathryn spoke. “We think we may have found the cause.” The Doctor looked up. “The Krenim vessel we encountered nine days ago carried weapons with a temporal signature. We’re not sure yet of the significance of this, but we have some data to look over.”
The Doctor nodded his head. “I’ll check the information as well and compare it to the signatures stored in Seven’s node. We might track down the culprit yet.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Please keep us updated about her condition and send that information through to the Commander’s quarters as soon as it’s available.” She checked the readouts above Seven’s bed one last time before she turned and left sickbay. Chakotay followed her.
Kathryn took a seat at Chakotay’s desk and began downloading and analysing the data on his console.
Chakotay brought two steaming plates of vegetable lasagne to the table. They ate as they studied the information on the Krenim ship. Kathryn was using her fork to point out the strange fluxes that they’d picked up on sensors just after the encounter with the ship. The computer was unable to confirm whether they were temporal in nature.
She took a mouthful and then tapped the screen with her fork again. “See that, Chakotay. That definitely indicates some sort of rupture in the time continuum.” She swung around and waved her fork at Chakotay. “If the Doctor can narrow down the time period that was affected, we might be able to piece together what is going on.”
Chakotay sat back a bit to avoid the brandished fork. “Hey Kathryn, careful with the cutlery. If you get any more animated, there’ll be an eye out.”
She chuckled. “Oh, sorry.” She placed her fork back on her almost empty plate. “That was delicious by the way. Thank you.”
He smiled. “My pleasure. Coffee?”
She gave him a wry grin. “You have to ask? Surely you know me better than that.”
Suddenly the air between them became electric. Chakotay had to bite his tongue to stop himself from answering that question. In the loaded silence, their heated gazes bore into one another.
“Sickbay to the Captain.”
Kathryn took a sharp breath and tapped her combadge as she tried to get her emotions under control. “Janeway here, Doctor.” She kept her eyes averted as she tried to control the flush that was rising up her neck to her cheeks.
Chakotay took a deep breath and picking up the plates, moved to the replicator.
“The analysis is complete, Captain, and I’ve sent the information through to the Commander’s console.”
The icon appeared on the console and she opened the file. “Thank you, Doctor. I have it here.”
“I think you will find it very interesting, Captain. They are fragments of visual files and show what appears to be an alternate timeline. You are viewing them from Seven’s perspective. I’ve done a preliminary analysis, and it seems we lived over eight months in a reality that has been eradicated from this timeline.”
“What?” Kathryn checked the information on the screen. “Are you telling me that we are living an alternate time line to the one that is recorded on Seven’s Chronometric Node? Over eight months?”
“Yes, Captain. As I said, that is just my initial analysis. I am going to spend some time looking at the evidence.” Kathryn could hear a monitor beeping. “I must get back to my patients, Captain.”
“Of course. Thank you, Doctor.”
She looked at Chakotay with raised eyebrows. “Over eight months of another life. What I can’t understand is why we’re having these glitches and overlaps. There’s no evidence to suggest that once the timeline was corrected that there should be any recollection of the previous one. It, in effect, didn’t occur; therefore there shouldn’t be any knowledge of it. But then again, if we’ve been thrown back in time, it must have occurred somewhere in the continuum.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “God, I hate temporal mechanics. Let’s get another cup of coffee before my headache takes up permanent residence.”
She moved over to the replicator and asked Chakotay if he’d like something.
“A tea, thank you.” He was watching her carefully. She was prevaricating. This was unusual behaviour for Kathryn. Here was a woman whowould have everything done yesterday, if it were possible. Whatever she had seen and felt earlier today had upset her deeply.
She handed him a steaming cup and sat next to him on the couch. She took a deep breath. “OK, let’s have a look at what we’ve got.” She reached forward and began the playback.
It was like watching a living nightmare. They sat there completely stunned as they watched Voyager and her crew systematically destroyed and decimated. Great swathes of the hull were torn or blown away as day after day more of their crew were killed and injured. They witnessed Tuvok’s encounter with the torpedo that blinded him. The mess hall resembled an ancient battlefield hospital, with row after row of beds filled with maimed or dying crewmen. Bulkhead by bulkhead and conduit by conduit, their beautiful ship was being obliterated.
The bridge was in ruin, and she almost cried when she saw herself refuse the watch Chakotay had tried to give her. Why would she have done that? The look on his face pierced her very soul. Kathryn closed her eyes only to open them and again struck with horror as she saw Chakotay and Tom beamed off the ship. No wonder she’d felt that profound sense of loss. He hadn’t been there. The sensation revisited her and she bent forward hugging herself. She could almost feel herself being sucked down into a vortex of hopelessness and despair.
A hand gripped her shoulder and she turned with a jolt to meet those much-loved dark eyes. This was her reality, the one where he was here beside her. She heaved a great sigh of relief. He squeezed her shoulder. “Do you want to stop the playback?”
She shook her head. They needed to watch this, to gather information and find some solution to their problem. She just had to keep reminding herself that what they were watching was not their reality.
In this nightmare world the crew had evacuated the crumbling ship and been jettisoned in the escape pods. She watched with such pride as the remaining crew battled on tenaciously, but also cringed at her own metamorphosis from stoic leader to a brittle and hardened martinet. She could barely watch as this person forged onwards like a woman possessed, giving no margin and taking no prisoners. Scarred and battle weary, her other self brought tears to Kathryn’s eyes as she farewelled her senior officers, hugged Tuvok and stayed alone on the bridge of her beloved ship. She was wearing the watch and chain that she had refused to accept from Chakotay earlier.
The final scenes were from the bridge of another vessel, presumably where Seven had been sent for the final battle.
Chakotay and Tom materialised on the vessel, and she held her hand to her mouth to stifle a sob as this other Chakotay was restrained by Neelix and the Doctor. He was trying to fight his way back to her. It was heartrending. Kathryn heard Chakotay groan as they watched Voyager plough into the side of the enemy vessel, destroying both ships and presumably resetting the timeline.
Kathryn sat back on the couch and dried her eyes. My God, what a nightmare, and they’d lived this horror for the better part of a year. Just the thought made her shudder.
Chakotay was watching her, acutely aware of her distress. In truth, he was equally traumatised. What they’d witnessed had been horrific. When he saw her shudder, he couldn’t hold back any longer and reached over to pull her into his arms.
Kathryn wrapped her arms around him and held on tight.
He whispered to her. “Kathryn, I’m so sorry. I tried to reach you, but they wouldn’t let me go to you. If I’d had a choice, I would never have let you die alone.”
She spoke into his shoulder. “I wasn’t alone. You were safe, and that was all I needed to know.” She held him tighter. “I can’t even begin to imagine living through that.” She shuddered again. It was a shock. Seeing the events of that timeline and with the residual feelings of despair and loss so vivid in her mind, it gave that reality a solidity and substance that made it even more terrifying. She buried her face into Chakotay’s shoulder. His presence, his scent and the feel of his arms wrapped around her, anchored her here in this world. “It must have been so awful for her. I know without you she would have felt so alone. I feel so sorry for that Kathryn. Losing her crew and having to watch her ship slowly destroyed; God, it must have been like a living nightmare. And to have lost you too. I don’t know how she could have borne it.”
“She was you, Kathryn. You’re one of the strongest and bravest people I know. You hung on and fought grimly until the end. You won, but I don’t think I could bear to see that again. I just wish they would have let me be with you.” He stroked her back and ran his fingers lightly through her hair. “I’d promised to always be by your side and I know it would have broken my heart to not be able to keep that promise.”
Kathryn pulled back a little and looked at his face. He was as deeply affected by what he’d seen as she was. It slammed home to her how lucky she was to have him there with her. She knew, from her brief encounter with that other timeline, how desperately her other self had missed that Chakotay. Now wasn’t the time to think of protocols or parameters. In fact now wasn’t the time to think, full stop. So she didn’t. Lifting her hand, she cupped the side of his beloved face and leant forward and captured his lips in a gentle kiss. It wasn’t a kiss to enflame, but a brief kiss of promise, reassurance, and deep love. She pulled back. “I know, Chakotay. If it had been possible you would’ve been at my side.”
He was looking at her as if seeing her for the first time. He ran his fingers over her brow and along her jaw line. He traced along her cheek where the scar had stood so starkly against her flawless skin. It was his turn to shudder. He slid his hand through her hair and pulled her towards him. Their lips met again. This time the kiss was deeper and Kathryn relaxed and melted further into his arms. Their mouths opened and tongues met and when they pulled away from each other this time, their love for one another was unashamedly written on their faces. Chakotay pulled her on to his lap and she tucked her head into his shoulder as he cradled her. They both needed the comfort of this closeness. They sat in silence for several moments finding calm and tranquillity within the chaos that the last few hours had visited upon them.
Kathryn lay nestled in his arms and slowly the tension began to ease. She felt a serenity and peace permeate her soul. She couldn’t wait another moment. She had to tell him. What she’d just seen was evidence enough to convince her that the present was a precious thing and that the future could be snatched away in an instant.
She lifted her hand and held his cheek. Raising her head slightly, she whispered into his ear. “I love you. In this reality or any other. I love you.” She dropped her head back down on to his shoulder, but felt him tremble and his arms tightened around her.
He turned his head so they were cheek to cheek and whispered in her ear. “I love you too. More than you could ever know.” She kissed his neck and he could feel her smile against him. The tranquillity of the moment was shattered by the chirp of her combadge.
“Bridge to Janeway.”
She sat forward and tapped her communicator, but remained on Chakotay’s lap. “What have you got, Harry?”
“We have found evidence of some sort of cataclysmic temporal disaster. There are subspace fractures scattered all through this area of space. They are all of varying sizes and ages. Some are almost gone, some are decaying, and some appear to be quite recently formed. I’ve done a spectral analysis of the ship’s hull and we’ve intersected dozens of these pockets or fractures since we entered this area of space. Each one we encounter is interfering with the molecular cohesion of the hull plating.”
Kathryn was sitting rigidly on Chakotay’s lap. “Harry, bring us to a full stop. The Commander and I are on our way. Janeway out.”
They felt the ship drop out of warp and slow. Kathryn slid from his lap and stood. He pulled himself off the couch and they headed to the door. Just before they triggered the opening mechanism, Kathryn put her hand on his arm and stopped. He turned to look at her, almost fearful of what he would see. Her eyes bore into his then she reached up and touched his lips with her fingertips.
The gesture was more intimate than a kiss and conveyed so much. He held her hand, kissed her fingertips and smiled gently. “Let’s go.”
She nodded and smiled in return. “Let’s.”
Together they marched out the doors towards the lifts.
Once on the Bridge they made their way to the Ops station. Harry had a graphic of the ship that showed multiple ‘hot spots’ where the subspace fractures had intersected Voyager’s hull. There was also a display of the surrounding space. It resembled a minefield. The ruptures were littered across light years in every direction. Each rupture was in a state of temporal flux and there was no way that Voyager could travel this area of space without eventually losing structural cohesion and ultimately being destroyed.
Kathryn stood staring at the display, contemplating the problem. She turned to her right. “Tuvok, could our shields be modified to deflect the fractures?”
He nodded. “I will begin working on the modifications, Captain. Seven of Nine’s assistance would be invaluable on a project such as this.”
As if conjured by magic, the lift doors opened and their resident drone stepped on to the bridge looking cool, collected and none the worse for wear for her sojourn in sickbay.
Kathryn was surprised to see her. “Seven! What are you doing here? Has the Doctor released you from sickbay?”
Seven moved over to the ops station. She was carrying a hypo spray. “Yes, Captain. He has developed a chroniton infused serum that neutralises the temporal affect of the subspace fractures.” Seven quirked her brow. “I am surprised he has not informed you of his latest ‘ingenious breakthrough’. His words, not mine.” She added sote voce.
As if on cue, Kathryn’s combadge chirped. “Sickbay to Bridge.”
“Yes, Doctor. Seven has informed us of your discovery. That’s excellent work.”
“Thank you, Captain. It was an exceptional piece of medical creativity, even if I do say so myself. If I were in the Alpha Quad…”
Kathryn turned to Chakotay and rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, as I said Doctor, well done and thank you.”
“You’re most welcome, Captain. I am inoculating the crew as we speak. I sent a hypospray with Seven with enough doses for the bridge crew. Mr Paris, if you would be so kind as to do the honours.”
Tom turned from the conn. and looked at the captain. She gave him a nod and he moved to the upper level, taking the hypospray from Seven. He inoculated the captain first, then Chakotay and then moved from station to station until all had received a dose.
While Tom wended his way around the Bridge, Kathryn turned to Seven. “I would like you to work with Tuvok on the modifications to our shields. We need to find some way of deflecting the ruptures.”
Seven gave a curt nod. “Yes, Captain. In fact, I have information from the alternate timeline that will allow me to make the modifications. We need to match our shields to the temporal variance of the ruptures and then we must match the deflector array to the inverse of that variance.”
“Very well. Tuvok, accompany Seven to deflector control. And Seven, if you relay the variance, I’ll modify the shields from here.”
With curt nods, both Seven and Tuvok left the bridge.
“Come here, Tom.” Kathryn called him over to her and took the hypospray from him. He tilted his head and she gave him his dose.
“Thanks, Captain.” Tom made his way back to the con.
Kathryn relaxed a little, letting her shoulders drop slightly. Chakotay noticed and placed his hand lightly on her lower back as they moved to their command chairs. She turned to him as they sat and spoke quietly. “I feel a lot better knowing that I won’t be victim to another one of those episodes.”
“I think the whole crew will be pleased. It was disconcerting for everyone. But I suppose we should be grateful that we only had to endure flashes and didn’t have to live the entire timeline.” He shook his head. “I still can’t believe that it all happened.”
“Neither can I.” She rubbed her forehead. A headache was making itself known. Damn temporal mechanics.
“Seven of Nine to the bridge.”
“Go ahead, Seven.”
“Captain, I am sending through the temporal variance for the shield modifications. As soon as those are implemented we will be able to bring the enhanced shielding on line.”
“Thank you, Seven.” Kathryn turned to Ops. “Harry, have you got them?”
“Aye, Captain.” He turned to the console behind him and input the data. He looked back at the captain. “Shield modifications complete.”
“Seven? You can bring the temporal shielding online.”
There were several heartbeats of quiet and then Seven spoke. “Temporal shields are on line, Captain. I would recommend a velocity of no greater than warp six to avoid destabilising the shields.”
“Understood. Tom, plot a course towards the Alpha Quadrant. Warp five.”
“Yes, Ma’am. Course plotted.”
“Engage.” She heard the muted thunk of the nacelles and then the almost imperceptible thrust of the engines as they moved into warp.
Chakotay was monitoring proceedings on the central console. “How are those shields holding up, Harry?”
“All the readings are stable, Commander. Shields are holding and no subspace fractures are intersecting the hull. Long range sensors indicate that we will clear this area of space in four days and six hours at our current speed.”
Kathryn slumped back into her chair. It was now the early hours of the morning. The Gamma shift was here on the bridge, hovering behind their senior staff counterparts. She leant over to Chakotay and whispered. “I think it’s time for hand over and a good night’s sleep.” She stood up and turned to Harry. “Ensign, you have the bridge. Gamma shift, once you’ve received instructions, take your posts, and the rest of you, get some rest.”
There was a chorus of ‘Aye, Captains’ as she and Chakotay made their way to the turbo lift.
They stood in tense silence in the lift. Chakotay was unsure of what to do. Kathryn could sense his tension and took a step backwards resting her back against him. His arm wound around her waist and he held her close. He kissed her neck as she tilted her head back and held on to his arms.
“Hmmmm. Feels good.”
“Hmmmm. Sure does.” He mumbled against her neck.
They pulled apart as the doors opened on deck three. They stepped out and began walking towards her quarters. Chakotay tried to maintain the correct distance between them, but Kathryn moved close to his side and gently slid her hand into his. He turned to look at her, but she kept her eyes straight ahead, with just a hint of a smile breaking through the calm visage.
They arrived at her quarters and Chakotay lifted her hand to study her fingers. “Kathryn, would you mind coming to my quarters for a few minutes? There’s something I want to show you.”
She nodded. “Sure.”
They walked a little further up the corridor to his door. Kathryn hesitated a moment as the doors opened. The memory of her last visit was still quite vivid in her mind. He took her hand and pulled her in. “Lights 50 percent.” She shook herself. It was going to take some time to purge the terrible feelings of hopelessness and fear that the initial encounter had left her with.
“Have a seat, Kathryn. Can I get you something?”
She gave him a ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ look.
He laughed as he ordered a coffee and tea from the replicator. He placed them both on the table then excused himself and disappeared into his bedroom.
Kathryn took a grateful sip, closing her eyes and relishing the moment. They were safe, alive, her smile widened, and in love. It was a good feeling.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him as he re-entered the room.
“Thinking good thoughts?” He sat down next to her.
“Thinking about you actually. So yes, definitely good thoughts.”
He leant forward and brushed his lips across hers. “Here.” He handed her a small velvet pouch.”
Kathryn looked at him questioningly. He nodded towards it. “Open it. You’ll see.”
She placed her coffee cup on the table and undid the string, sliding the contents of the pouch into her hand. It was a beautiful silver watch and chain. The same one that she’d so callously rejected in that other timeline. “Oh, Chakotay, it’s beautiful.” She turned it over in her hands, and then looked up at him. “Why now? Why are you giving this to me now?”
“I just wanted you to know that no matter what reality we are in, that I love you. I replicated this a few weeks ago. It was to be for your birthday, but somehow, now seems like a more appropriate time to give it to you.”
“Thank you. I’ll treasure it always.” She continued to examine the watch then turned to him and grinned. “It has a story to go with it, doesn’t it?”
He smiled. “You know me too well.”
She smiled happily and caressed the side of his face. “Yes I do. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Yes.” He kissed her sweetly and touched the watch as it lay in her hand. “It’s a replica of the nineteenth century chronometer worn by a Captain Cray of the British Navy. His ship was hit by a typhoon somewhere in the Pacific and they were given up for dead. But eight months later he sailed his ship into London Harbour. There was very little left of it, a few planks and a sail, but he got his crew home. Just like I know you will, Kathryn. It seems that even time won’t stand in your way.”
“So it seems.” She placed the watch and pouch on the table and then leant forward and kissed him gently. “Thank you. For everything.”
“I think it’s me who should be thanking you. You saved us all again.” He pulled her close and they leant back on the couch. “It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”
She snuggled into his side. “Wonder about what?”
“Well, it makes you realise how fluid time really is. How many timelines are there? How many parallel universes or how many threads? We’ve certainly had our share of encounters with temporal phenomena.”
He grinned at her. “Headache already?”
“You know how I feel about temporal mechanics. I’m also a little tired.”
Chakotay moved away from her suddenly. “Well, you’ll probably want to go to bed.” He stood up and held his hand out to help her from the couch.
“You’re right. I should get to bed.” She started to move across the room and then did a left turn and headed towards his bedroom.
“Are you coming, Chakotay?”
“Umm Kathryn, that’s my bedroom.”
Turning to him, she rolled her eyes. “Chakotay, one thing that today has taught me is that no one owns the future. We have no idea what tomorrow might bring, so it’s important to live for today. I think a very wise man once told me something along those lines. It’s only taken me a little over a year and the destruction of my ship and everyone I’ve loved to figure it out.” She crossed her arms and leant against the doorway of his room. “So Chakotay, are you willing to tempt fate with me?”
He was by her side in a heartbeat. “Always.”
Together they moved into the darkened room and made love like there was no tomorrow.