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Summary: From "Caretaker" through to "Basics". Seasons 1 and 2 from a lower decks perspective: Jor, Tabor, other Maquis and Starfleet. With small doses of Paris and Torres for good measure. (Because I can't leave those two alone.)
Rated T: Some violence and strong language.
A/N: Back around the beginning of 2014, I had an idea to write about what some of the junior officers/crewmen on Voyager might have been up to in the background of all the events we saw with the senior staff on screen. So, coinciding with a re-watch of the entire seasons 1 - 7 on DVD, I started writing a series spanning piece, not really knowing what I ultimately had in store for the 'minor' characters I'd chosen to include. I had a list of episodes that I wanted to focus on (and those changed a little as the piece progressed) and I knew I wanted to follow-up an earlier piece that I'd written ('Rockfall'). Well, three months or so on, I somehow found myself with 65K+ words and I'd only written as far as 'Basics'. I do hope to continue on and write the events of seasons 3 – 7 at some point in a sequel, but, as it stands, this piece spanning seasons 1 and 2 is self-contained.
Massive amounts of thanks to Delwin for being a total legend in beta-ing this and providing constant encouragement and advice.
Feedback, as always, is welcome.
She gazed around her assigned quarters. Her quarters. Not a bunkroom shared with half a dozen others. How long had it been since she'd had her own bedroom? And she'd never had the luxury of a bathroom all to herself, not even back home. Before.
Jor pulled off her boots – new, shiny, Starfleet issue – and padded over to the sofa, savouring the feel of carpet under her bare feet. Carpet. How long had it been since she'd stayed in a place that had soft floor coverings? Granted, it wasn't spongy, luxurious deep pile, but it wasn't cold and hard like the bare deck plates on the Val Jean. And it was clean. When she lifted a foot – just to check – her sole showed not a trace of dark grime.
When she'd first been shown to these quarters an hour ago, a bundle of uniform pushed into her hands, she'd not had time to test out the furniture, only to shower and change before the tetchy Starfleet crewman who'd dropped her off had returned to escort her to deck two. In the mess hall, she'd found a dozen of her Maquis comrades – all looking peculiar and bewildered in their new attire – and a dark-haired human lieutenant striving to make himself heard above the general clamour. There'd been no sign of Chakotay, but Ayala had soon ordered those assembled to 'shut the hell up' and listen to the Starfleet officer. There followed a short instructional briefing, and PADDs were handed out wherein the Maquis would find written summaries of the most important points that the lieutenant – Rollins, was his name – had covered: the basics of shipboard etiquette, how to operate various pieces of standard equipment, where to assemble in an emergency, and so on.
Gingerly, Jor sat down on the sofa, pausing on the edge of the seat for a moment before letting herself sink back into the cushions, closing her eyes to give maximum attention to her sense of touch. And smell. The room had such a clean odour. Or, more to the point, there was no odour at all. It wasn't that it smelled sterile, like a medical facility or a science lab. The air recyclers were so efficient that the only thing she could smell was the faint odour from the newly-manufactured fabric of her uniform. Her Starfleet uniform. She opened her eyes and looked down at herself. The gold jacket seemed unnaturally bright. When had she last worn anything of a primary colour? After … it had seemed inappropriate to wear anything that wasn't black or grey – brown or beige, at a push.
And she never wanted to wear red again.
Unlike most of the other quarters that the Maquis had been assigned to, these in which Jor found herself had not been occupied by a member of Voyager's Starfleet crew on the journey out from Deep Space Nine. She wasn't moving into the short-lived home of some poor dead Starfleet sap, killed in the crossing. According to Rollins, the Vulcan crewman who should have occupied these quarters had fallen ill with Tarkalean flu back on DS9 and had not been able to continue on the mission.
Jor had struck lucky on another front, too. Some of the others had to share quarters. This was typical for unranked crewmen on smaller Starfleet vessels apparently. Scuttlebutt was that Chakotay intended to present Janeway with a list of officer candidates to ensure that the Maquis were represented in positions of responsibility throughout the ship. If his suggestions were approved, any of those promoted that were sharing accommodations at present might be moved to single quarters and vice versa. So, Jor tried not to get too used to the idea of a room to herself. Torres, Seska and Henley were the only three other female members of the Maquis aboard. Starfleet propriety was such that male and female crewmen wouldn't be expected to share quarters except in extreme circumstances.
Torres would be on Chakotay's list. The half-Klingon was the most inventive engineer Jor had ever met. Seska would make the list too. Henley, on the other hand… Jor could only hope that when things had been settled, she'd have the luck not to get lumbered with Henley again. Some people just didn't click, however hard they tried, and Jor and Henley were a prime example of that phenomenon.
Closing her eyes once more, Jor shifted around to lie lengthways across the sofa. There was another half hour before she had to report to engineering for further orientation. It seemed that the Starfleet types were in a dilemma, needing help to repair damage done to the ship during the crossing and by the Kazon attack, but first having to familiarise those of the Maquis that were engineers with the Intrepid-class ship's layout and novel bio-neural circuitry. Of course, Torres would figure all that out in a heartbeat. To her it would all be instinctual, plus she had those two years at the Academy behind her. If Janeway had any sense, she'd put Torres in charge of the whole department right away.
When Chakotay had appeared in Voyager's cargo bay to address the gathered and agitated Maquis, there'd been a clamour of incredulity. All manner of colourful suggestions as to what Janeway could do with her uniforms and Starfleet regulations had been offered. Dalby's proposal had been especially inventive and seconded by an uncharacteristically vocal young Gerron. Seska had wondered if Chakotay might have received a blow to the head and lost his sense of reason. The fact was, the Maquis had no ship of their own any longer and spending the impossibly long journey in the brig or as cargo was unthinkable. With Tabor quiet at her side, Jor had listened patiently as Chakotay explained in detail – as much detail as he could at that point – what was likely to happen now. Voyager needed skilled people. The Maquis had a lot to offer. They were important, and, thus, would be valued by Janeway and her Starfleet crew.
It made sense. Perfect sense. But that rationale didn't make the overall situation any less unbelievable. It was the third 'new start' Jor had been forced to make in less than two years. Around twenty-four months ago, she'd stepped off the transport ship that had taken her away from her homeworld at its first port of call. Salva IV was another planet located along the Federation-Cardassian border with a primarily human population. In hindsight, Jor might have predicted that the Salva system too would eventually become a Cardassian target. She might have stayed on that transport ship until it had travelled deep into secure Federation space. But, at the time, she'd just been glad to put a few light years between herself and her past. And if she'd not decided to take a chance on Salva IV for that new start, she would never have met Tabor.
When the Occupation of Bajor had ended, Tabor had passed up on the chance to return to his home planet. Instead, he'd left the overcrowded squalor of the Bajoran refugee camps on Valo II for the open spaces and opportunities of Salva IV, arriving there a few weeks before Jor had. By the time – six months later – the colonists on Salva IV and the other inhabited planets of that system had been given fifty-two hours to leave by Cardassian forces, Jor and Tabor had become good friends. Outraged at the disruption to their lives once again, they'd joined the Maquis together. The Maquis had become their new home. And then that displacement wave had hit the Val Jean, throwing the ship, with Jor and Tabor on it, into yet another new and drastic situation.
The chime of her door mechanism caused Jor to open her eyes with a start, wondering if she'd dropped off to sleep and was late to report for duty. But as she rose and queried the computer for the time, its answer reassured her that only a few minutes had passed since she'd kicked off her boots. Striding over to the door, slapping the release panel, she greeted her visitor.
Tabor. In Starfleet uniform, minus facial stubble, and with his earring nowhere to be seen. No doubt there was some Starfleet regulation prohibiting jewellery, though the Bajoran symbol of faith was hardly a fashion statement. It had been a long time since she'd seen Tabor in anything other than the drab leather, wool and cotton of the Maquis, and he was rarely as clean shaven as he was now. He'd only taken the earring off once in the time that she'd known him, when a comrade – the mutual friend from the Salva IV colony who'd got them into the Maquis – had been blown up in a botched demolition. For two weeks after the incident, Tabor had gone bare-eared. He hadn't discussed his reasoning, and he'd started wearing the earring again without commenting on his change of heart. She'd never pressed him on it.
Whatever he was wearing, or not wearing, he was a welcome sight. Smiling, she stood aside for him to enter. "Finished your tour?" she asked, somewhat needlessly.
Tabor nodded, returning her smile, the door hissing shut as they moved inside. "Crewman Celes was very … informative. I take it Lieutenant Rollins was more concise?"
"I think he rushed through just so as he could get away from us. I've been back here for twenty minutes."
"I think Celes – she's their only Bajoran … until now – I think she was nervous too. She kept eyeing up Gerron though. Even tried flirting with him, I think."
"Him and not you?" Jor thought aloud, a spark of something she didn't wish to examine at present flashing in the back of her mind.
Tabor's eyes narrowed for a split second. "Just him. She's too … what's the word … loquacious? For me, anyway. I was getting tired trying to pick out the relevant bits in what she was saying to us."
Jor laughed lightly, that unpleasant spark snuffed right out. "You know you can speak Bajoran to me now, don't you? The Starfleet UT will translate for you."
He shrugged. "I've got into the habit of speaking English. It'll be hard to break."
In the Maquis, universal translators had been a luxury, not a standard piece of kit issued to all. Having learned English from human aid workers in the refugee camps of Valo II, Tabor had always used that language to communicate with Jor.
They wandered over to the impossibly comfortable sofa. Jor wondered briefly what the bed was like, but she wasn't going to get a chance to try it out for many hours yet. If it was as plush as the sofa, she'd never want to get out of it. Tabor took his boots off as he sat down beside her, rubbing a hand over one heel. All this technological innovation, yet Starfleet couldn't make comfortable footwear. Perhaps, like the rules and regulations, the boots would wear in.
"You really do look different," Jor said, looking Tabor up and down once more.
His mouth twitched into a half-smile, his gaze taking in her appearance for perhaps a little longer than necessary. "You too."
She cleared her throat. "The sonic showers are something, aren't they? I don't know when I last felt this clean."
"The one in my quarters was a little aggressive, actually. But I soon got into the control port and tweaked the settings."
"Is that allowed?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "I'll bet there's some regulation about unauthorised maintenance. Probably a dozen forms to fill in before you can turn up the heating."
Tabor rolled his eyes. "Yeah. B'Elanna will be flipping out big time about the rules and regs. She's already down in engineering helping their deputy chief fix a problem with the dilithium chamber hatch. Word is she's asked if Hogan can go and help too."
"Why Hogan?" she asked, piqued on Tabor's behalf. "You're a better engineer than he is."
"But he knows more about Starfleet systems than I do. He grew up on Starbase 211, remember? His parents were warp engineers. They won't let us loose to work until they're satisfied we won't make any of the problems worse. It's understandable."
They fell silent for a moment, Tabor – unconsciously, it seemed – running his fingers around the edge of his right ear lobe, and growing deep in thought. And she knew exactly what he was thinking.
"Atara and Roberto know their way around a Starfleet engine room," he said eventually.
Both Atara and Roberto were ex-Starfleet officers who'd joined the Maquis around the same time as Chakotay had. The day before the Val Jean had been chased into the Badlands by Gul Evek, Atara, Roberto and four other members of Chakotay's Maquis cell had been sent on a mission to resupply a weapons cache near Bajor. The six were due to rendezvous with the Val Jean after two weeks. That was three days ago now. Jor had been trying not to think about that missed rendezvous. About what the absence of the Val Jean at the rendezvous site would mean for those six left behind in the Alpha Quadrant.
"They'll think we're dead, won't they?" she said softly.
Tabor swallowed hard before giving his non-answer. "They'll look for us. But they won't be able to make much of an extensive search in the Badlands."
"They might think we were destroyed by a Cardassian warship, but they won't find any debris. So the obvious conclusion will be that we were hit by a plasma storm. A plasma storm might not leave any debris."
With a slow nod, Tabor met her gaze. "Yes," he conceded. "I expect they will think that the Val Jean was destroyed. And that we're all dead."
Jor let out a long breath, looking away from her friend as she blinked back tears that threatened to form. It wasn't that she was embarrassed to cry in front of him. But she didn't want to report to engineering with a snotty nose and red eyes. Crying would have to wait until later.
"He'll be all right, you know," said Tabor. "He's not that fresh-faced kid anymore."
He spoke of Nelson, of course. The young Setlik III survivor who had dropped out of high school to join the Maquis and avenge the murder of his family. Jor had felt duty bound to help the young man settle in to his new life as a resistance fighter. Looking after Nelson had helped take her mind off her own problems. Tabor had taken Nelson under his wing too, and the three of them had become inseparable.
Nelson shouldn't have been sent on that resupply mission. But Jonas had gone down with Mendakan pox, and Nelson had volunteered to take his place so that the sick man could recuperate in the relative comfort of the Val Jean's tiny infirmary. Tabor was right; Nelson had grown up a lot in the past year. But the kid was still going to be hit hard at the disappearance of most of his new family – not just Jor and Tabor, but the others he'd formed a bond with too, like B'Elanna, Kurt Bendera, and Ken Dalby.
"I told him we'd see him again soon." Jor looked back to Tabor, unsure of quite what she wanted him to tell her. The bond between Tabor and Nelson had been strained of late.
"Sahreen will look out for him," Tabor said, blinking.
That was some reassurance, at least. Nelson wasn't on his own.
They fell into silence again for a long moment.
"Is it just me…?" Jor began, "… but I feel guilty seeing all this." She gestured to the sofa on which they sat, to the bed, table and chairs. "The facilities on this ship – the computer system, the medical tech … there are even two holodecks. Can you imagine where we could go?"
Tabor's face brightened at that. "Earth. Or Bajor. We could visit Jalanda city. Or take a trip down the Holana River."
"Do you think they'll let us use the holodecks?"
"One crew, Chakotay said, remember? How can they not?"
Bringing her knees up onto the seat of the sofa, Jor turned to look out of the long window behind. There was nothing to see except the star streaks of warp travel, but the cramped bunk rooms on the Val Jean hadn't even had a window. "One crew, under a Starfleet captain," Jor stated, knowing that the full reality of that would take some time to sink in.
Tabor shifted to mirror her position, his knees meeting hers. "A Starfleet crew."
Snorting loudly, Jor kept her eyes fixed on the star streaks, deciding that one could easily become hypnotized by them. "If someone had told me a couple of days ago that I'd be putting on this uniform, I'd have told them that I'd die first. And I don't want to be stuck out here, out of the fight."
She turned to face Tabor now. "This Captain Janeway, she made a tough call in the interests of protecting a vulnerable people against an aggressor."
"Unlike those Starfleet officers who helped negotiate the Treaty and set up the DMZ."
"I want to disagree with what she did, and with what Chakotay did in helping her strand us all out here."
"But you can't."
Shaking her head slowly, she looked him directly in the eye, asking, "Can you?"
His hand sought the missing earring again. "It would be … hypocritical, wouldn't it? To be a Maquis, and yet to disagree with Janeway protecting the Ocampa from the Kazon. It's at great cost to us, but we're alive and well, and we do still have a state-of-the-art starship to carry us home."
"Across seventy thousand light years," she reminded him. With the prospect of a stay in a Federation 'rehabilitation centre' at the end of it. If they did, in fact, make it back.
Tabor glanced to the stars, then turned his eyes back to her again. "So, let's make the best of it."
She had her head stuck in the innards of a monitoring station on engineering's upper walkway when she heard his approaching footsteps. She knew instinctively that it was him, though he trod a little heavier in his Starfleet boots. A portent of the position he was about find himself in, perhaps?
The footsteps stopped behind her. "How many pips?" she asked, making sure to mark up the relevant control circuits inside the workstation before she rose to greet him face to face. She'd been half an hour already isolating the faulty circuit. To lose her place now would be extremely irritating, even if she were interrupting her work for a good cause.
"Just the one," Tabor told her. "And it's still a line on the rank bar, just a gold one instead of a black one."
"Hmm. So, B'Elanna and Ayala were the only two to make lieutenant?"
"It seems that way."
Finally assured that she'd be able to pick up where she'd left off, Jor extracted herself from the workstation, straightened and turned. Her eyes naturally were drawn immediately to Tabor's collar. "Do I have to salute you or something?" she quipped.
"Only when we're on duty," he returned dryly.
She crossed her arms deliberately across her chest, making him laugh.
"Are you mad that you didn't get upgraded too?" he asked, reaching up to finger the provisional rank bar.
"No way. I've got enough to do without being responsible for supervising other people's work as well."
At that, Tabor's face fell a little.
"Hey, you'll be fine," Jor reassured him. "Chakotay wouldn't have put your name forward if he didn't think you were up to the task."
Tabor nodded. "It's not that so much." Moving to lean on the railings, he glanced over the side before turning his attention back to a now puzzled Jor. "I'm in charge of shuttle maintenance on beta shift."
"Isn't shuttle maintenance what you were hoping to be assigned to?" Jor asked, feeling like she was missing something and about to look stupid when he explained the catch.
"It's not that. It's Beta shift. You're on Alpha shift."
"Oh." Of course. That was a bit of a downer. Beta shift's leisure time – the eight hour period after their duty shift ended – coincided with Alpha shift's on-duty hours. Alpha shift's leisure time coincided with Beta shift's sleep period (the eight hour period before that duty shift began). Jor was still trying to get her head around how Voyager's shift pattern operated, but what Tabor's news boiled down to was that they weren't going to see each other all that much, especially as it was more than likely that, in reality, those off-duty periods would be much shorter than they were scheduled to be. Voyager required a lot of maintenance just to keep things ticking over, regardless of any combat or other damage that might befall the ship. With so many Starfleet-trained engineers and technicians lost in the crossing to the Delta Quadrant, these next few weeks would be particularly busy. There was a lot to learn for the Maquis crew. Settling in to their new roles would be easier if they could share some downtime with those they were closest to among their comrades.
Of course, duty rosters were bound to change as time went on: as department heads discovered who worked well together (and who didn't), and which of their draftees had which particular aptitudes. Furthermore, new friendships would be forged – even between old enemies – but Jor's heart couldn't help but sink as she processed the information.
"So, you'll have to stay up late and wait for me to get off duty if you want someone to listen to you complain about say … Chell," she said to make light of it.
"I'll make a point of it," he assured her.
Jor knew she shouldn't be standing around chatting; the burnt-out circuits weren't going to fix themselves, and even though it didn't appear to be a critical piece of equipment – Lieutenant Nicoletti had openly delegated this task to Jor because it was time-consuming, yet simple – Jor would strive to finish the task ahead of 'Starfleet's' estimate merely to prove a point. But if she and Tabor were going to be spending so much time apart, then Starfleet could give them a couple of minutes.
"Hey, I had my first run in with the notorious EMH before I got called up to Janeway's office," Tabor said, with a roll of his eyes and a contemptuous snort.
"Did you hurt yourself?" she asked, her eyes scanning him for any signs of damage. Which was silly in retrospect, given that the whole point of an EMH was to treat any injury.
"No. No, I'm fine," he quickly assured her. "But I got called up to sickbay for a routine physical. The hologram wanted a blood sample from me to go on my file. "
"Is it really as bad as everyone says?" she asked carefully, knowing that, with Tabor, any discussion of doctors and medical facilities required tactful handling.
"It's a highly advanced piece of medical kit. It doesn't have any bedside manners, but I'd say we're lucky to have it on board given the lack of any other physician."
"It must be able to provide better care than we've been used to before now."
"Yes. As long as you don't want any sympathy from it."
Access to advanced medicine in the Maquis had been limited not only from the point of view of supplies, but because the number of medically-trained personnel in the organisation was so low. Most people could be trained to administer basic first aid, but more serious injuries and illnesses required diagnostic equipment and therapeutic devices that the average Maquis did not know how to use, even if that equipment could be obtained. There'd been plenty of sympathetic field medics in the Maquis, but more than sympathy was needed to save the lives of the sick and injured, let alone to help them back to a level of fitness such that they could get back in the fight. Jor would happily take technology over compassion anytime when it came to healthcare.
"I've been thinking about going to see it … him," she said. Given that the hologram was modelled on a human male, she supposed that it – he – could be addressed as such. It might be easier for everyone if a name was assigned to him.
"You're still getting headaches?" Tabor asked, pointing to his own head with a frown.
"Sometimes," she admitted.
"Oh." His voice took on an accusatory tone. "You've never mentioned them lately."
"Many people get headaches from time to time. I don't know that I wouldn't have them even if I hadn't suffered a head injury in the past."
She should have known that that excuse wouldn't satisfy him.
"Did you get many headaches before?" he enquired sceptically.
"No," she conceded with a sigh.
Though the original, complex head injury she'd suffered two years ago back on Orcadia had been treated by qualified doctors, something, it seemed, had healed insufficiently, perhaps because those doctors had lacked the sophisticated technology that Federation hospitals were equipped with. The EMH might be another silver lining in the grey cloud that was Voyager.
"I'm sure the EMH will be able to help you. You should go to sickbay now. Don't wait until you're summoned." Trying to lighten the mood, Tabor tugged at his collar, "Maybe I could order you to go. Do you think?"
She scowled at him, though knowing that he had her best interests at heart, she couldn't feel any real annoyance. "I will. It's just…"
Tabor nodded in understanding, saying softly, "You'll have to describe to him how the original injury occurred."
"Exactly." And, as annoying as the headaches were, it was tempting just to continue to put up with them rather than recount her own personal experience during the Cardassian attack on her homeworld. The pain was never so bad that she couldn't carry out her daily activities. But there was another thought at the back of her mind: that investigations would find no physical damage or biochemical imbalance that explained the headaches – that the Doctor would conclude that the headaches were psychological in origin. She'd made a few searches through the medical database. If the pain was deemed to be psychosomatic then it would be difficult to treat and she might just have to put up with it anyway.
"You know that if you wanted me to come with you to sickbay – if it would help – then I would do."
The depth of concern that came through in his delivery of those words chased the scowl right off her face. "I know you would," she told him with a grateful smile. "Thanks."
Tabor peered over the railings again and Jor followed his example. Down on the lower level, Vorik, the young Vulcan, was instructing Kurt and Seska in some aspect of the warp injectors. Behind Vorik's back, Seska made an exaggerated yawning gesture to Jonas, who was monitoring (supposed to be monitoring) one of the displays. Jonas, like Henley, was another that Jor had never warmed too. And knowing that Jonas was here instead of Nelson, however wrongly that reason, made Jor dislike Jonas all the more.
Seska suddenly snapped her attention back to Vorik's demonstration. A moment later, Nicoletti walked past the core. When the Starfleet lieutenant had continued out of the way, Seska resumed her childish behaviour. Jonas made an adolescent gesture back, grinning like a Marvan wildcat.
Nudging Jor's elbow with his own, Tabor leaned in close and whispered, "Let's make sure we stay clear of any trouble. I'm not saying we shouldn't back up our comrades if needs be, but I don't want my privileges revoked over some … petty fun-poking."
Jor hummed her agreement. "I'm guessing if trouble starts it'll centre around Paris," she muttered. "When I was in the mess hall earlier, Ayala had to bundle Yosa out of there. Yosa would have skewered the bastard on his dinner fork. Paris, that is, not Ayala. Obviously." Yosa was not taking the situation well at all. He refused to speak to Chakotay, blaming the Maquis leader even more than Janeway for the fact that he was stuck in the Delta Quadrant.
Sighing, Tabor turned and moved back from the railings, out of the sight of those below. Jor followed, edging back towards the task she had on hold. "I should get on," she said. "Show these Starfleet types what hard work really looks like."
Tabor nodded, bidding her farewell and backing away towards the lift that would take him down to the lower level. "Things could certainly get very interesting," he called as he turned on his heel.
Jor stuck her head back into the innards of the workstation. She couldn't agree more.