She fell into his arms. He hugged her tightly to his chest, taking a step backwards and pulling her with him, away from the Kazon thug's drawn weapon. "Don't provoke them," Tabor begged, his voice merely a whisper in her ear. "Please. Just do as they say. I don't want you hurt."
She should have known better, but when the end of a Kazon phaser had been thrust into the small of her back, prodding her forwards, she'd lost all sense of reason for a moment. Twisting around, she'd first kicked her captor hard in the shins, then thrown a fist towards his ugly face. Unlike the kick, the Kazon had been ready for the punch, catching her fist in his empty hand, and throwing her backwards with a force that knocked her off balance. Tabor had caught her.
In all her time in the Maquis, through firefights, reconnoitres, and ship-to-ship combat, she'd never felt such a potent blend of fear and fury as she felt right now. This, more than any real experience she'd had since the Cardassian attack on her homeworld, brought back to her the memory of that day – the day she'd been rudely awakened from her ignorance of just how brutal a place the Galaxy could be. "How is this happening again?" she cried, wriggling around in Tabor's grasp. "This can't happen again."
The Kazon were taking the ship. Evicting her from her home. And Seska was behind it; as if the bitch hadn't done enough damage already.
Tabor was paler than Jor had seen him since that day when Seska had been revealed as a Cardassian spy. "Just stay close to me," he said, shushing her. "As long as we're together, it'll be all right."
But she heard the undercurrent of doubt in his assurances.
"Control your woman, Federation," the Kazon thug spat, taking a menacing step towards them. "Or next time I won't be so gentle with her."
Tabor stiffened, but wisely kept his mouth shut. Jor didn't need him to throw the Kazon a retort to know just how outraged he was.
Mercifully, so far, no one seemed to have been seriously injured. A Cardassian boarding party would already have cracked a few skulls, maybe dragged off a few crewmen that they liked the looks of for some extra entertainment. The Kazon just seemed to want to round all the Voyager crew up with a view to getting them off the ship. At least that's what it sounded like from the snippets she'd been able to overhear as the intruders yelled to each other.
With Tabor's hands clutched to her arms, Jor let him guide her past the warp core and towards a huddle of a dozen engineers that the Kazon had already gathered together near the main doors. Kneeling, with their hands clasped on top of their heads, the Voyager crewmen were calm and quiet. Professional. Not just the commissioned Starfleet officers like Vorik and Ashmore, but the Maquis – like Hogan and Dalby – too. Following Tabor's lead, Jor got down to her knees beside him and raised her hands to her head.
"It'll be OK," Tabor repeated quietly, offering her what he no doubt hoped was a look of encouragement. But she could see the anxiety in his wide eyes. An anxiety that turned to a cold hatred when he switched his focus from her face onto the Kazon foot soldier standing behind her. A Kazon that took exception to Tabor eyeballing him.
"What are you staring at?"
Tabor clenched his jaw, saying nothing that might aggravate the man. Unfortunately, his stare had done enough.
"I asked you a question, Federation. Do you think that insolent look will scare me away? Perhaps there is something wrong with your eyes. If you like, I can fix them for you."
Jor wanted to turn and tell the Kazon bastard to fuck off, but her better judgement prevailed. Tabor remained silent, turning his eyes downwards now, slumping his shoulders. That flash of defiance in him had passed. He looked meek. Vulnerable. This experience would bring back plenty of unpleasant memories for him too. Of a time when he'd been subjected to this kind of treatment on a regular basis.
"On your feet, all of you," ordered a different, more authoritative Kazon voice, saving any further escalation of the situation between Tabor and the underling. "Take them to the cargo bay on deck seven," that same voice ordered his men. "The Maj has us on route to the Hanon system. We'll be dropping them off when we get there."
That announcement caused a ripple of scornful laughter to emerge from the other Kazon present. None of the Voyager crew dared to ask what would await them in that star system, but anxious, questioning looks passed between them, answered with shrugs and pursed lips. The fact that they were all – presumably all – still alive suggested a prison. Perhaps a labour camp. Like Gallitep or Batal on Bajor.
Herded in groups of three or four into the turbolifts, Jor made sure to keep tight to Tabor's side. The Kazon that Tabor had glared at went to escort another trio of Voyager crewmen. Unfortunately, the thug that Jor had kicked earlier was the same one now leering at her in the confines of the turbolift. Copying Tabor's example, Jor averted her eyes from both that Kazon and his equally brutish companion. Ashmore, pushed into the lift with them, had bloodied knuckles, Jor now noticed. Presumably, he'd made contact with a Kazon head. So, she wasn't the only one who'd made a futile attempt to resist. That made her feel less foolish, but no less angry.
They reached deck seven in no time at all, were shoved out into the corridor and driven the short distance to the cargo bay. The bridge crew were already there, most of the science staff as well, clustered together on the floor at one end of the large space. Janeway appeared dishevelled with what looked like a bruise to her cheek. Others bore cuts to their faces. A couple had minor plasma burns.
"What's in the Hanon system?" someone whispered. The chorus of murmured replies all spoke of the same uncertainty, though one voice did utter the vaguely enlightening, "Seska wouldn't say. Only that it'll be our new home." It sounded like Harry Kim. Grunted threats from the Kazon guards put an end to any further discussion. The rest of the crew were gradually loaded in among them. All except Paris, Suder, and the EMH. Suder, presumably, had been killed when that explosion had ripped through deck eight, the centre of the blast located next door to his secure quarters. The Betazoid's passing would not be much mourned by his shipmates.
Jor leaned in close to Tabor's side, stretching an arm across his back as they waited. And waited.
An indeterminable time later, they felt the warp engines come online. What seemed like an eon after that and the ship dropped to impulse. Then, a distinctive hum signified that the atmospheric thrusters were engaged.
Without warning, Jor felt the shimmer of the transporter beam tug upon her molecules, and then she was on Voyager no more.
"This is why it's important not to rely on the UT," Tabor was saying to Grimes, reminding the young crewman of their conversation a few weeks back. "If I didn't speak your language, I'd be in difficulty now, wouldn't I? The same with Neelix and Kes."
"Yes, sir," Grimes humbly replied, as they scoured the scrubby ground in the stinking air for anything that might be of help to their survival.
It was the longest sentence Tabor had managed to string together since the crew's incarceration in the cargo bay. Admittedly, talking had been strongly discouraged by the Kazon guards while the crew had still been cooped up on the ship. But, since they'd been transported to the planet's surface, had been stripped of their comm badges, and had watched Voyager fly away without them, Tabor had been worryingly quiet.
He'd still tried to offer Jor reassurances, but they were with fleeting smiles and brief touches rather than with words. His demeanour had changed when that Kazon guard had singled him out. He'd seemed to surrender at that point, not just outwardly but within himself.
But, a constant internal debate over the 'how's and 'why's that this could be happening wasn't going to solve anything. It just used up energy. Here they were, stripped of anything useful but the clothes on their backs and the boots on their feet. Cursing the fact that events had led to this – wondering where along the chain this could have been prevented – was useless. The 'if only's' were plentiful: 'if only' Seska's 'plea for help' had been seen for what it was; 'if only' someone had realised why the Kazon kept targeting the secondary command processors; 'if only' whatever form of explosive Tierna had managed to get past a medical examination had been detected before he could set it off creating that massive energy discharge. But, it was too late to change those events. It was more productive to accept what had happened and channel every bit of energy into working out how to survive here. That was easier to think about than to actually put into practise. Jor still had to fight the urge to collapse to the ground, place her head on her knees and cry. But she was fighting it. There was a difference between acceptance and surrender.
Trudging along as part of Neelix's search group, they'd so far found nothing that could be used as a weapon or tool, no source of fresh water, and nothing that looked edible, let alone nutritious. Not even a specimen of the ubiquitous leola root.
"Mr. Paris will bring help. I'm sure of it," Neelix repeated. Over and over again. "My fellow Talaxians will come to our aid."
But Tom didn't know where the Voyager crew had been taken. So, even if he'd managed to get past the Kazon ships and reach help, how would that help get to the Hanon system?
The stench of rotten eggs – hydrogen sulphide – had filled the crew's noses from the moment they'd materialised on the dirt. But when the wind blew in from a certain direction, the odour became even more powerful. It was beginning to make Jor feel queasy. Then again, that sick feeling could be attributed to not having eaten in hours, or merely to the fact that she was reeling from the Kazon attack. From them taking her home away. They were probably, at that moment, trashing the crew quarters, the airponics bay, Janeway's ready room with those giant ornaments...
Taking that moment to pause, Jor lifted her head and glanced around at the others in the group. They were spread out over a fairly small area, the farthest members still well within sight of her. Macormak was perhaps the only member of their group to look glummer than Tabor. But Macormak been perpetually dismal ever since Bennet's death during that away mission with Tuvok a few months back. Hogan was relatively upbeat. Golwat, though complaining of hunger, was in good spirits otherwise. Jor didn't know the others well enough to accurately judge how they were bearing up, but they seemed calm, at least on the surface. And she felt less afraid now herself. Or, at least, the fear that remained was on a level that she could cope with. The crew might be marooned, but at least they weren't in chains.
With a subtle motion to get Tabor to follow her out of earshot of the others, Jor answered the quizzical look he gave her, murmuring, "You've been very quiet."
"Have I?" he deflected, shrugging.
"Is anything bothering you in particular?" Jor probed. "Anything beyond the general crappiness of our situation?"
"I'm all right," he said, his expression betraying him. "Beyond the general crappiness of the situation. Beyond the … incredulity that Janeway and Chakotay could let Seska fool them again."
The decision-making process that had led to Voyager taking the bait that Seska had dangled hadn't filtered down to the lower decks in detail. But it seemed that the final decision to alter course had been Chakotay's, Janeway having left it up to him. Jor supposed it had been a difficult one: to balance the risk that what Seska had said in her recorded message was true with the risk that it was another one of her lies.
The 'good of the many' philosophy that Tabor had favoured when Janeway and Chakotay had been left behind on what they'd named 'New Earth' would have had Voyager ignoring Seska's message. Jor hadn't explicitly asked Tabor whether he thought the safety of Chakotay's son was worth a deviation from that logic. But she was going to ask a direct question now. "What happened with that Kazon in engineering? You begged me not to provoke them and then you did just that. And then…" She let the sentence hang, inviting him to finish it for her.
Tabor halted in his stride. Jor stopped beside him. "That Kazon I stared at," Tabor said, clenching and unclenching his jaw, "he made me feel about ten years old."
Jor chose not to prompt further then, merely acknowledging what he'd told her with a nod and a brief touch of his shoulder. She'd suspected as much – that Tabor had experienced some kind of flashback. Respecting his silence, they resumed their slow walk across the ground, her keeping her head down to survey what lay underfoot, him – as she could see in her peripheral vision – with his head raised.
And then, in his own time, he began to explain in a wavering voice, "When I was about that age, I was assigned to a work detail under a Cardassian guard who took a particular interest in tormenting a friend of mine – an older boy who had the misfortune to be disfigured from a mining accident. When we assembled one day to return from the work area to our living quarters … in my stupidity, I stared at that Cardassian. I wanted him to see how much I hated him." Laughing humourlessly, Tabor shook his head. "As if that would have bothered him in the slightest. So, he pulled me out of the line. Took his knife from his belt and said that if I ever looked him in the eye again, he would blind me with it."
The tales Tabor told of his youth never failed to shock Jor in their cruelty, even though she had heard him talk of many similar happenings: beatings, periods of solitary confinement in pitch darkness, summary executions of family and neighbours. If fate had turned a different way – diverted by the tiniest fraction away from the path that Tabor's life had indeed taken – Tabor would never have made it through the Occupation. He wouldn't be here with her now. But then she wouldn't be here now either, most likely.
"Knowing how they tortured Chakotay, I don't doubt that some of the Kazon are capable of violence on the scale of the Cardassians." Tabor continued.
"But, we're all here in one piece," Jor reminded him – needing to remind herself also. "Maj Cullah obviously finds it more amusing to dump us in this wilderness to see if we can survive without technology than to take us to one of their penal colonies or kill us outright. At least we have a chance here."
"I wonder if they'll come back and check on us," Tabor said. "Count how many of us are still breathing in a few weeks or months."
He stumbled then and Jor had to grab the loose material at the back of his uniform jacket to steady him. "Sorry, I wasn't concentrating on my footing," he said, quickly recovering his poise. "Too busy looking at the scenery. If circumstances were different, I might find this landscape beautiful – in a primeval sort of way."
"Yeah, well, maybe we could hope that some tourists might come calling and discover us here," Macormak sniped, listening in from a dozen paces behind.
Jor took a deep, calming breath, reflexively wrinkling her nose at the effort. Tabor clenched his jaw again and didn't respond to the jibe. Tempers were bound to flare given the situation. Turning her eyes downwards, Jor continued to scan the ground keeping to Tabor's elbow as he wandered along. They would cover more ground if they fanned out further, but nobody seemed to want to get beyond earshot of their comrades.
Something caught her eye. Some stringy-brown leaves that looked as if they might be attached to… She crouched, scrabbled in the dirt surrounding the leaves, and felt a surge of anticipation as she managed to unearth a measly-looking root of some kind. It wasn't a leola root, but maybe a close cousin. Neelix might know.
"Neelix, over here," she shouted, spying the Talaxian up by the top of the rocky ridge talking with Hogan. Neelix came running. Perhaps she should have made the call seem less urgent so as not to get his hopes up. Golwat was closing in eagerly too, as was Mulcahey.
"It's probably nothing," Jor told them, as they got near enough to see what she'd found.
"Nobody will thank you if it's a primordial leola," Tabor joked, his sentiment cheering her more than the content of his words as he helped her to her feet.
Neelix took the root from her hands, sniffed it, and was about to snap it in half when a scream pierced the air. As Neelix dropped the root and sprinted towards the source of the sound – up the rocky outcrop towards Hogan's last location – Jor and Tabor followed with the others. Grimes was first to reach the Talaxian, with Macormak close on his heels.
"Hogan!" Neelix yelled. Receiving no reply, the Talaxian spun around to those crowding in behind him. "I asked Hogan to gather up these bones," Neelix explained breathlessly, gesturing to the debris at the entrance of what looked like a tunnel. "Something must have attacked him. We have to mount a rescue."
"Should we really go in there?" someone behind Jor asked. "We've got no weapons to defend ourselves with."
Jor shared a look with Tabor, knowing that their two minds thought alike. Weapons or not, they had to go to Hogan's aid. Neelix was already crouched, grabbing several of the largest pieces of bone to arm himself.
"We're coming in with you, Neelix," Tabor told him, restraining the Talaxian with a hand on his arm. "Wait two seconds."
Tabor picked up another couple of the longest bones from the ground. Jor did likewise. Then, with Neelix leading the way and Grimes and Macormak forming the rear guard, Jor and Tabor moved into the tunnel. It looked constructed rather than naturally occurring at least here at its entrance. Perhaps there were cave-dwelling aliens on this world. The Kazon had never said it was uninhabited.
With no flashlights or materials to make a flame, they wouldn't be able to go far before darkness overwhelmed them. But they hadn't gone more than five metres before Neelix stooped to pick something up off the ground. The light still penetrated well enough for them to see what he carried as he turned around to face them.
Jor's breath caught as she realised what it had to be. "Hogan's uniform?"
"It looks like it," Neelix said.
"But … where's Hogan?"
Tabor ordered Grimes and Macormak to crouch. Their tall frames were blocking the light. "That looks like a bloodstain on the ground there," Tabor said, dipping his hand to it.
"And a trail leads back a few paces…" Neelix slowly described, "… and then nothing."
"Do you think … do you think something ate him?" Grimes called forward.
Unable to hold the reflex back, Jor retched, and, if it hadn't been so long since she'd eaten, she would have vomited right there. While death was hardly unfamiliar to her, the thought of Hogan being eaten alive by some alien monster was overwhelmingly nauseating, especially thinking of all the missions he'd come through in the Maquis and on Voyager.
"I can't see very well, but it looks like the tunnel narrows right down just a little further in," Neelix told them from a few paces onwards. "It's like a large worm hole. I'm not sure if a human would be able to fit in there."
"An intact human," Grimes pointed out, dry heaving himself the moment after he'd said it.
Jor pushed past Tabor and Neelix, wanting to see this narrowing down for herself. She felt around with one hand in the semi-darkness before crawling on her hands and knees. The roof of the tunnel lowered, the sides closing in proportionally.
Tabor's hands on her waist pulled her back. "Come away from there. It's not safe," he said. "Whatever took Hogan might still be close by."
Her adrenaline depleting, she accepted Tabor's advice.
So, they shuffled back to the open air. The first piece of material in Neelix's hands was black with a small gold area attached: a partially-shredded uniform jacket. Another piece was blue-grey: underclothes. A larger piece of black must have been Hogan's trousers.
There'd been no body, not even a scrap of flesh or a piece of bone. But the evidence looked pretty damn conclusive. Hogan was dead.
By the time Neelix's group made their rendezvous with the others, a place to make camp had been found. After what had happened to Hogan, neither Jor nor Tabor were too enamoured with the idea of moving into an enclosed area, even if this was more of an overhang at the base of a cliff than an actual cave. Air did flow through readily, and there were no obvious burrows that might conceal carnivorous creatures large enough to attack a humanoid in the way Hogan had been.
The news of his death had been met with great sorrow from everyone who'd heard Neelix tell it. Hogan had been well thought of by all and a good friend to many. B'Elanna wasn't there to hear the news at its first issue having gone out with Harry Kim and another search party to look for food. When she and Kim did return a couple of hours or so later – in triumph for having collected not only eggs but vegetables – Chakotay broke the news to her. B'Elanna was, by her standards, admirably restrained, merely kicking at a pile of shingle and vocalising the same words Jor had been cursing with internally when she'd learned of Hogan's fate herself.
Neelix had expressed his guilt for asking Hogan to collect the bones at the entrance to the tunnel. Jor, in turn, felt terrible for calling Neelix away to look at that stupid root. Janeway wouldn't hear any talk of blame. Jor tried to push the self-reproach away.
A short while later, by the firelight, she sat in silence with Tabor and Dalby watching Tuvok fashion spears, a bow, and arrows out of some wood and other materials that had been collected. The Vulcan worked quietly and skilfully, seemingly oblivious to any conversation going on around him, though of course he'd be listening to every word that was said within his earshot.
From out of the shadows, B'Elanna approached. She brought with her a couple of the cucumber-like vegetables that her search team had earlier discovered. "Share these between you," she said, handing the vegetables to Jor. "There's not much, but it'll quench your thirsts a little."
Jor did as instructed. The vegetable was mostly water in composition and the few mouthfuls did help alleviate her dry throat, but, if Chakotay's solar stills didn't work as planned, then they'd all be in big trouble come the morning.
"I hate enclosed spaces like this," B'Elanna grumbled under her breath, exchanging a look with Dalby as she sat down beside him. "They don't bring back the best of memories."
"At least as far as we know, we're not surrounded by tons of unstable mineral deposits," Dalby said, without any trace of sarcasm. Like Jor, Dalby had understood B'Elanna to be referencing the Maquis mission that had been nearly fatal to Jor and the others who'd taken part in it. "I wouldn't have objected if the Kazon had left us with some rations," Dalby went on. "Even those goddam Starfleet MREs we had after the cave in."
Tactfully, he stopped there. Even though B'Elanna had brought the subject up of her own accord, it would be best not to expand on it too much without her lead. B'Elanna still gave herself a hard time about the mission where she'd mistaken unstable mineral deposits for Cardassian weapons signatures: the first away mission she'd commanded for the Maquis. Jor, Tabor and Dalby had been part of her team. They'd been stuck underground for three days by a cave in and forced to dig themselves out with their bare hands. Injured during the initial fall of rocks, Jor's condition had slowly deteriorated as the strike team's medical supplies had been depleted. But they'd all survived, against the odds.
"Ration packs would certainly beat worms," Jor said wryly. She'd tried a few of the disgusting, wriggling things that were found in abundance underneath loose rocks. Choking them down, she'd tried not to vomit them back up and waste them. Having once eaten insects in the Maquis didn't make it any easier to stomach them now.
"We should keep talking to a minimum," Chakotay called around. "Talking wastes body water."
Dalby rolled his eyes. B'Elanna let out a sigh. But, knowing Chakotay was correct, the four of them quieted and the background chatter diminished to a subtle hum.
B'Elanna wandered away to speak – sparingly – with Ayala. Dalby left to find Gerron. As people started to lie down and shut their eyes, Tabor discreetly led Jor into a more secluded area, picking a spot to settle down into for the rest of the night. Yosa, Jarvin and Carlson would be their closest companions, positioned a half a dozen paces away. Any alien attack would have to get past those three men before reaching Jor and Tabor, and, in any case, Tuvok had some of his security officers staying awake in shifts around the perimeter. Although further from the fire, in this nook they were sheltered from the breeze that agitated the air in the more open area of the overhang.
Tabor lowered himself to the ground. "Come here," he said softly, inviting Jor into his arms, catching onto her reluctance and reminding her, "Janeway insisted that the crew huddle together for warmth. Who are we to disobey the Captain?"
Jor managed a small smile, sitting beside him and resting her head on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer and leaning back against a large boulder. Thinking on it for a moment, Jor relaxed, throwing an arm out across his chest, choosing to take full advantage of the circumstances. Privacy would be sorely lacking as the Voyager crew struggled to eke out an existence in this wilderness. And she and Tabor were merely sharing body heat as ordered. Although the kiss that he planted in her hair probably wouldn't be considered part of Starfleet survival strategy, as much as it did warm her insides. And Janeway's exact words had been 'huddle together in groups' rather than pair up with a romantic partner…
"We've been spoiled on Voyager with soft beds and environmental controls," Tabor murmured wearily, fidgeting and jolting her as a result.
"You make a reasonable pillow when you keep still," she quipped, trying to make some light of it. It was true though. In the Maquis they'd been used to sleeping rough in various climates. On occasion, they'd had to live off the land, finding drinkable water and edible plants. Jor had never personally hunted for food as a Maquis, but, on one particularly disastrous mission, Meyer and Ayala had tracked and killed a wild deer-like creature to sustain the strike team until rescue could arrive. But they'd always had tools: tricorders, maps, weapons. Even when that tech had been cobbled together or second-rate it had been worth a lot more than a few wooden spears and a solar still made from a dead man's uniform.
The dull throbbing of her toes that had been niggling at her all day, forced itself to the front of her awareness now that other distractions had been removed. As much as she didn't want to move out of Tabor's embrace, Jor decided it might be wise to take off her right boot to inspect the extremity. Not that there was much that could be done to treat the damage.
"Those Kazon have unbelievably hard shin bones," she said with a sigh, drawing her arm back from Tabor's chest, stretching forwards to free her foot from its coverings. "But I still wish I'd kicked him even harder."
"You took me by surprise, doing that," Tabor said. "You've always been so in control when we're in a fight."
"Well, I never had a Cardassian so up close to me like that the Kazon was. Except for … that first time," she reminded him. Wincing as her boot came off, Jor flexed her toes – they all seemed to move despite the pain – then pulled off her sock to gingerly palpate them.
Tabor drew himself upright behind her. "Do you think you actually broke something?"
"No," she told him. "My toes feel a little swollen, but everything's moving properly. They're probably bruised, but I can't really tell."
Feeling the chill of the air on her bare skin, she quickly put the sock and, with more difficulty, the boot back on.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep," she said, leaning back in to Tabor once more.
"We should try to get a nap at least," he whispered, the tiredness becoming even more evident in his voice. "How long have we been awake now? Close your eyes."
There was no answer to his question. Time had passed without measure since they'd been forced out of engineering. But about twenty hours had gone by from the time they'd reported to their posts for their shift to when the Kazon had boarded.
Jor tried to drift off for a good few minutes – she'd slept in far more uncomfortable positions in the past – but, with her heavy-lidded eyes shut, the echoes of Hogan's agonised scream seemed louder. The reality that another of their friends was gone forever hadn't yet fully sunk in. It probably wouldn't for a while. She shivered, giving in to the guilt she knew Hogan wouldn't want her to feel. "If I hadn't found that stupid root and called for Neelix, Hogan might not have been taken," she mumbled. To make it worse, Neelix had determined that the plant belonged to a family of poisonous perennial herbs. It was utterly useless to them.
Tightening his grip on her, Tabor inhaled deeply, paused and then released the breath more slowly. "What could Neelix have done unarmed against a lifeform that can apparently eat a man whole and spit out his clothing? Besides, anyone of us could have seen that plant and called for Neelix's attention."
As true as that was, it didn't make Jor feel much better.
A commotion broke out then around the farthest fire in their line of sight. Chakotay's easily recognisable silhouette was visible gesticulating to a smaller, female figure. Voices were raised. Another figure – Tuvok – appeared, heading purposefully towards the three Maquis closest to Jor and Tabor. Jor tensed, fidgeting through Tabor's embrace into a more upright position to observe better. His chin soon hovered above her shoulder.
"Crewman Jarvin, please come with me," Tuvok ordered.
"Something wrong, sir?" Jarvin asked, springing to his feet.
"Neelix and Kes left the camp and have failed to return," came Tuvok's reply, the Vulcan already moving away to approach another huddle of crewmen. "I am assembling a search party."
Yosa and Carlson had also risen to stand as Tuvok spoke, their backs to Jor and Tabor. "Can we help, Lieutenant?" one of them - it was Yosa's voice – called out anxiously.
"Remain where you are and stay calm," Tuvok instructed them. "No one else is to leave the camp."
It was one thing after another. Her stomach tied in knots, her already sunken heart beating harder in her chest, Jor slumped back against Tabor. "Now, I definitely won't be able to get any sleep."
By the afternoon of their first full day on the planet, now on friendly terms with the sentient but primitive natives, things seemed to be looking up for the marooned Voyager crew. Tabor nodded to himself as he plodded along in the long, strung-out line of crewmen and their native companions; it was about time the universe gave them a break.
Despite concentrating on his footing on the uneven path, he couldn't stop his mind from straying to the activities that he should have been doing on this day – or around about now. The invitation he'd extended to Gerron for another game of springball had been accepted. While Tabor had found socialising with his young compatriot hard work in the past, he was now finding increasing enjoyment in Gerron's company, and he knew that Gerron appreciated spending time with a fellow Bajoran – someone who could empathise with what Gerron been through as a child. Dalby, Chakotay, and some of the other Maquis had always made themselves available for Gerron to talk to, but they could never fully appreciate the horror of the Occupation and the effect that could have on a person.
More frustrating was the fact that Jor had been scheduled to take another piloting lesson with Tom in a few days' time: another step further along a path that had taken great courage for her to start upon. She was finally starting to confront and take advantage of aspects of her past that, to protect herself, she'd been denying had ever existed. Then, back in engineering, that Kazon bastard had jabbed her in the back with a phaser and scared her so much that she'd done something Tabor had never seen her do before: she'd completely lost it. It had taken every iota of self-control Tabor possessed not to lunge for the Kazon himself, but not reacting to such provocation had been hardwired into him from an early age.
The excitement of Kes and Neelix's rescue had happened away from Tabor and Jor's presence. Neither of them had been selected by Captain Janeway for the additional search team she'd assembled to go after Chakotay and Tuvok's rescue party. Through the mostly sleepless night, past dawn and into the morning, Tabor and Jor had stayed at the camp with the majority of the crew, watching helplessly as baby Naomi ailed in her mother's arms, and waiting anxiously for the senior officers to return.
Tabor had seen enough sickly infants and frightened mothers in his youth to last a lifetime. If he'd believed it would work, he would have petitioned the Prophets that this would not be another child denied a life by Cardassian wickedness. But, he left the praying to Gerron, and, to his shame, tried to ignore the noise of the baby's listless cries.
Then, when those sent out had all returned safely, the planet had had to go and start spewing lava and shaking the ground under the camp, forcing them to pick themselves up and make a run for it.
But making friends with the aliens would mark a real turn of fortunes, Tabor hoped. The aliens – akin in their cultural development to the ancient cave dwellers of prehistoric Bajor or Earth – knew the terrain, would know where to find fresh water, food, and other shelter. That knowledge would be a huge advantage to the Voyager crew going forward.
And then, as they navigated a sprawling rock formation on the way to – presumably – safer ground, Voyager itself appeared in the distant sky accompanied by the low rumble of its atmospheric thrusters. Tabor might have thought he was hallucinating from dehydration if it wasn't for the fact that every other person standing on that rocky ridge had looked up, gasping or pointing upwards in shock. The natives must have thought it was a giant flying demon descended from the heavens. Chakotay and Kes tried to calm them, to communicate that (if the aliens didn't already realise from seeing its first landing) this was the vessel from which the one hundred and fifty newest inhabitants of their planet had come.
Of course, depending on who was in command of the ship, Voyager's arrival might indeed spell the doom of those one hundred and fifty and their native allies. The giant flying demon analogy might be very appropriate.
Tabor turned to Jor who stood immediately behind him in the line.
She looked uncertain, reflecting the expression that he felt on his own face. "Do you think Cullah's changed his mind?" she said.
"And come back to finish the job?" Tabor finished.
"We're sitting ducks here if it's the Kazon flying the ship."
"If it's the Kazon, then we'd be sitting ducks wherever we were."
Others around them were more optimistic.
"It must be Paris and the Talaxians," exclaimed Grimes, a couple of positions along the line next to Neelix.
"I said Tom would save the day," Neelix cried.
"Are they landing the ship?"
"There's so much seismic activity in the area, would that be wise?"
"If it's Paris then why would he land the ship? Why not just park it in orbit and beam us up from there?"
"Who says he's going to actually land?"
"I can't see Voyager anymore, can you?"
After a further few minutes of such speculation – the ship having loomed large and then disappeared over their heads, the senior staff trying in vain to invoke a sense of calm – another round of gasps was heard as three uniformed Talaxians materialised on the ridge near to Neelix. Voyager's morale officer nearly fell off the edge in his rush to reach them, arms outstretched in joy and relief.
The first Talaxian to accept Neelix's wild embrace managed to extricate himself to move towards the Captain and loudly announce (his words translated through a Starfleet UT), "I am Eldax, second deputy to Commander Paxim of the Prema Two colony. I'm pleased to inform you that Voyager has been reclaimed from the Kazon-Nistrim and is under the control of your officer Paris. Please stand by for transport." Only snippets more could be heard from Eldax and his Talaxian comrades as they were drowned out by the barrage of questions yelled at them and more excited chatter from the natives.
"We boarded … killed some…"
"Cullah … took the escape pods, and…"
"Paris said that … in a shuttle..."
Neelix's relief was shared in full by every member of the crew. Tabor grabbed Jor around the waist and hugged her tightly. Chell punched the air. Henley's celebration involved a torrent of well-meant profanities before she remembered that young ears were in the vicinity.
"Settle down, people," Janeway's voice in full command mode cut through the noise, finally subduing the clamour for the most part. Tabor relinquished his hold on Jor, accepting a hearty handshake from Dalby and waving across to Chell and Yosa. But, as the initial flush of relief left his system, he was left wanting more information: specifically, what had happened to Seska? The thirst for that knowledge was quickly pushing his gratitude and elation into the background. It sounded as if Voyager's escape pods had been launched, the retaking of the ship had resulted in deaths, something had happened with a shuttle…
The Talaxian delegation started to pass out comm badges. The Captain received one first. She then, after an exchange with the lead Talaxian, started directing the distribution of the rest. At least that's what it looked like she was doing. It was difficult to see.
"Engineering and operational staff first," Janeway said loudly above a resurgence of sound. "And be calm, people. We're all getting out of here shortly."
The Captain dematerialised soon after she said those words, along with B'Elanna, Harry, and Sam Wildman with the baby.
"We can see who Paris likes the best," Dalby quipped without malice.
"If I was Paris," Henley shot back, good-naturedly, "retaking the ship after the Kazon had trashed it, I'd want every damn engineer I could lock on to up there in a heartbeat."
And Henley made a good point. Beyond the jubilation of the rescue, there was a lot of hard work to be done.
"Voyager had taken a battering even before the Kazon boarded," Tabor added.
"But, with a little time and effort, the ship can be fixed," said Jor.
Parts could be replaced. Unlike people. Unlike Hogan.
So, where was Seska? Was she a prisoner in Voyager's brig? The ship and crew would never be safe if they carried that snake in their midst all the way to the Alpha Quadrant. If he'd been nearer to the Talaxians, Tabor would have asked them outright what they knew, but he wasn't going to lose his decorum and yell. Not yet, anyway.
Receiving a handful of comm badges from Henley, Tabor passed one to Jor, took one for himself and gave the rest to Dalby.
"Only a day without it, but I'm so glad to have it back," Jor said, fixing the badge to her jacket as Tabor simultaneously attached his badge to his own.
Every ten seconds or so, another small group of crewmen would beam up, but none of them between Tabor and the Talaxians, which would allow him to move close enough to speak with them. Two groups had gone. Then three. Surely, the transporter beam would lock onto him soon.
Tabor reached for Jor's arm at that point. She looked at him curiously and then understanding showed in her eyes. When they left the planet's surface, they would make sure they were together.
They materialised on the pad with Dalby, Swinn and Golwat, the Bolian immediately falling to her knees and kissing the floor. Beyond that, the first thing Tabor noticed was the smell: no more volcanic gases. He filled his lungs with the clean, filtered air. The Talaxian operating the transporter was accompanied by another pair who handed out canteens of water by the room's exit doors. The newly arrived crewmembers reached for the drinks urgently. Jor reminded Tabor to take it easy as he drained one canteen then took another; rehydrating too quickly could be dangerous. Though, judging by the tang to it, this was electrolytically-balanced rehydration solution not plain water.
"If you'd move along please," the transporter operator said impatiently. "We've already locked onto the next group."
"Do you know what happened to Seska?" Tabor called back to the Talaxians as he paused at the exit. Receiving a blank stare from all three, he elaborated, "Maj Cullah's Cardassian … woman."
"She's dead. Killed during the attack to reclaim the ship."
Hearing those words, spoken so matter-of-factly, Tabor froze. He could barely think to process the news at first, let alone command his mouth to move in reply – to ask for further information. He felt a hand on his arm, but couldn't take his eyes from the nearest Talaxian's casual gaze to see who that the hand belonged to. Though he knew who the hand belonged to.
As six more officers materialised on the transporter pad, stepped off with happy chatter and lunged for the awaiting refreshments, the hand began to tug Tabor's elbow. "Hey, let's make some room in here," Jor said softly.
Letting her nudge him into the corridor, he shook his head, blinking, replaying the statement. Seska was dead. It was the best outcome he could have hoped for, and yet… Part of him had wanted to see the bitch incarcerated. To gloat at her.
But she wouldn't have remained in the brig for long. Like Suder she'd have been put in secure, comfortable quarters, not left to rot behind a force field, there to meet the stares of the curious like some museum exhibit.
From his position in the corridor at Tabor's other side, Dalby called to the Talaxians through the open doorway. "Do you know any details? Was she shot by your guys?"
"Sorry, friend," a Talaxian voice responded. "We were the rear guard. Missed most of the real action. Our comrades up on the bridge will know more. Or ask your Lieutenant Paris."
"We have to get to engineering," Jor said, as more arrivals filed past them to head for the turbolifts. "B'Elanna will know what happened to Seska. And we'll have work to do."
Dalby took his leave then. Tabor took a few more sips of his drink, willing the shock out of his system. Jor was right. They had work to do. And he hadn't missed the subtext. Don't make a scene here; you'll regret it later.
So, still numb, feeling not the sense of triumph he might have expected to, he nodded to her, managed a tight smile, and they followed the crowd.
Janeway peered at him askance from behind her desk.
"I'd like permission to view the body," Tabor reiterated, rephrased. "Just for a minute. Not to pay my respects. I'm happy to admit that I wouldn't be there out of respect for her. It would be out of respect for myself, something I feel I need to do because, as a Bajoran…" He fumbled over the words, his pre-rehearsed speech gone awry under the Captain's piercing stare.
"Seska's betrayal affected you more deeply – more personally, perhaps – than it did some others," Janeway finished, comprehension beginning to show in her softening expression.
"I'd not want to belittle how anyone else felt about it, Ma'am … Captain," Tabor told her, when it became clear she was waiting for him to continue explaining himself. "But, yes, I have carried a weight with me this past year. The weight of the way she insulted all Bajorans by taking on the face that she did, and the guilt that, as a Bajoran, I didn't see through her lies in all the time she was with us."
Sighing, the Captain broke eye contact for the first time in their exchange, turning her gaze downwards for a brief moment. "I think I can understand that. In a way."
"And, I'd feel some closure, I think, if I could see Seska as she is now."
"A dead Cardassian," Janeway stated.
"Yes," Tabor confirmed, just as plainly.
Without further deliberation, Janeway gave a nod. "I don't have any objections, Ensign. You can make arrangements with the Doctor."
Taking her grim smile and the return of her attention to the computer in front of her to indicate his dismissal, Tabor thanked her, turned on his heel and exited the ready room as fast as he felt protocol would allow.
In the turbolift, he pressed his comm badge. "Tabor to Jor."
"I'm here. Did she agree?"
"She did. Meet me outside sickbay?"
"I'll be there shortly."
He waited in the corridor, not stepping close enough to the sickbay doors to activate their opening. In the three days since Tom and the Talaxians had rescued the rest of the Voyager crew, the EMH and Kes had been busy treating the various minor injuries that the crew had picked up on Hanon IV and during the Kazon attack. According to Kes, the Doctor's workload had now returned to normal. If only that were true for the engineering team, still up to their noses in repairs. The Captain was insistent that duties were arranged to give everyone as much opportunity to rest as possible – that the non-essential, more 'cosmetic' repairs be put aside until later. But Tabor had just come off a sixteen hour shift, and here he was using his much needed sleeping time to visit the corpse of his enemy, roping Jor into it with him.
Jor arrived, as promised, not a minute later. Tabor hadn't asked the Captain whether Jor might be permitted to accompany him. But, to his mind, Janeway hadn't specifically prohibited any bystanders. In any case, having Jor along as he spoke with the EMH would be a comfort. And if she just happened to hang around for the viewing, well … was Janeway really going to keelhaul anyone for it?
Jor reached for his hand, giving it a quick squeeze. "You're sure you want to do this?"
They'd already debated the pros and cons the previous evening before knowing if the Captain would even give permission. B'Elanna had told them that Chakotay had paid such a visit to sickbay on returning to the ship at Hanon IV. That had given Tabor the idea to ask for the opportunity himself. To see Seska one last time – as she looked now, a Cardassian – might give a further resolution to the shame, guilt, and hatred that he'd been feeling since Seska's exposure as a Cardassian agent.
"I'm certain," Tabor replied, wishing he could keep hold of Jor's hand through the next five minutes. As much as he wanted to proceed, he wasn't relishing the prospect, unsure of how he'd react. As Jor released him, he stepped up to the sickbay doors and, when they hissed open, he walked on through with her at his side.
"This is a sickbay, not a funeral home," blathered the hologram, earning himself a pleading stare from Kes and a withering glare from Jor.
Tabor could just about find the humour in the sarcastic response given to his simple request, but he had little patience for it at that precise moment.
"If you could just get the body out of stasis for two minutes, I'd be very appreciative," Tabor said, as evenly as he could manage. "If it's not too much trouble."
The Doctor cleared his holographic throat, and, when he spoke again, his tone was more compassionate. "Of course, Ensign. I'll fetch it for you immediately," it – he – said, turning to his assistant. "Kes?"
The young Ocampan smiled patiently, accessing the main computer console such that, a moment later, the shimmer of a transporter beam landed a zippered body bag onto the leftmost biobed. "Would you like me to leave?" Kes asked, her open gaze directed at Tabor.
"That's quite all right, Kes," Tabor told her gently. "We'll be out of here momentarily." He took a fortifying breath, locking eyes with Jor and drawing strength from her before moving across the room to the head of the biobed alone. "If you would Doctor," Tabor said, gesturing to the seal on the bag.
The hologram complied, moving up the other side of the bed and slowly lowering the top section of the zipper.
As they'd learned months ago – though Tabor had not seen the results with his own eyes – Seska had been in the process of restoring her Cardassian physiology. The stony face revealed had the spoon-shaped brow indent common to all Cardassians. The bony ridges around her eyes and running vertically up the sides of her forehead were less pronounced than on a typical Cardassian face though, when taken with the neck ridges, definitely indicative that this woman belonged to that race. But the skin, even in death, was of a much warmer tone than in any Cardassian. Likewise her hair wasn't dark brown or black as in every Cardassian woman Tabor had ever seen before. And it was more ginger than the shade Seska had worn in the guise of a Bajoran. Quite garishly red. The bitch always had to make a statement.
"Are you all right?" Jor called across.
Closing his eyes for a moment, Tabor then glanced up and aside. "She doesn't look so dangerous now, does she?" he said, avoiding a direct answer yet reaching out all the same.
Jor seized on the implied invitation and came to his side, peering down with a knitted brow. "She can't hurt anyone again. She's no longer a threat to us."
"I do feel safer now," Tabor said truthfully, lowering his gaze once more. "And…" He paused a few moments to gather his thoughts. "I am glad to have seen her like this. If I have to remember her at all, I want it to be like this. Powerless." Snorting a humourless laugh, he couldn't resist adding, "And with that wicked tongue of hers silenced."
Seska had finally got what she deserved. She was, as Jor had said, no longer a threat to them. At least not physically. But, despite those facts, Tabor didn't feel the lightening of spirit that he'd hoped for on acknowledging them. Though he was losing the most recent focus of his hatred towards Cardassians, the underlying loathing still remained. There, in front of him, was a Cardassian. The only good kind of Cardassian; a dead one. The first Cardassian – appearing as such – that Tabor had seen up close in a long time. And even though all the Cardassians he'd faced as a Maquis – and most that he'd encountered in person on Occupied Bajor – had been male, seeing this representative of that cruel people brought out a bitterness in him that he didn't wish to have surface.
From the corner of his eye, he was aware of Jor's stare upon him. Having seen what he'd wanted to – needed to – Jor would want to get him back to her quarters to talk things over before they got a few hours of much needed sleep. The trouble was, he couldn't honestly tell her that he felt unburdened as he'd hoped. He could lie to save her concern, hoping that, in time, he would feel that relief. But to lie even once would be a dangerous precedent to set.
Unfortunately, Seska was – had always been – merely the tip of the iceberg. For the last year, Seska had been the face that Tabor put upon what he hated most. Before her exposure as a spy, when he'd visualised the evil of the Cardassians, he'd focused on Moset, the so-called Doctor who'd killed his brother and grandfather. And before Moset, as a young boy, it had been Darhe'el, the Gul in command of the Gallitep labour camp.
For now, Tabor needed to say something. "She's no longer a threat to us," he echoed, affording Jor a small smile and motioning for the Doctor to seal up the bag. "What will you do with her body?" Tabor asked the hologram.
"I await the Captain's instructions," the hologram said. "But I can't imagine we'll be giving Seska a hero's send off."
Unlike Hogan, who'd been given the standard Starfleet funeral service. Hogan himself might have taken issue with all the flags and whistles, but it had been meant as a tribute to his service. And even Suder's brief, perfunctory funeral had at least been attended by the ship's three most senior officers, Neelix, and Kes. There'd been whispers that a few others might wish to pay their respects to the Betazoid whose heroic actions had been so critical in the retaking of the ship. But, in the end, it seemed no one else wished to incur the disapproval of their less forgiving colleagues by showing Suder that courtesy.
"I'd like to be informed when she's – it's – gone from the ship," Tabor said, directing his request to Kes, hoping to avoid any further smart remarks from the EMH. "Assuming that it's not to remain in stasis, and that the information isn't privileged, of course."
"I'll let you know as soon as I'm able," the young Ocampan assured him.
And so, it was over. Tabor backed away from the biobed, watched the bag dematerialise. The Doctor started huffing and puffing over some test results he needed to examine to determine just how the native medicine that had helped baby Naomi's breathing difficulties back on Hanon IV had worked. Tabor didn't want to spend any longer in sickbay regardless. If hotfooting it out of there meant that he had less time to work out what he was going to say to Jor in the privacy of her quarters, then so be it.
"Ready to go?" Jor asked.
Tabor nodded. "We're all done here."
She gazed around her quarters. The small space that she could call her own, though she gladly shared it with Tabor. It looked lived in. Had been. That clean smell that had greeted her the first time she'd set foot inside was no longer present. Instead, the faint mingled scents of cleaning products, personal hygiene items (his as well as hers), and fresh linen added to that 'lived in' quality.
By a stroke of fortune, her quarters had been overlooked by the Kazon when they'd moved through the ship leaving a trail of vandalism in their wake. Aside from where items had been tossed from their usual locations when the inertial dampeners had failed to fully compensate, everything was tidy and, most importantly, unsoiled.
Tabor's quarters had fared less well, though better than most. The Kazon intruders appeared to have genuinely appreciated the painting of Bajor that hung on the wall above his bed. It remained there, undamaged. The holo-image that Darwin had posthumously given had thankfully been tossed or had, perhaps, fallen under the sofa, and was also intact. But Tabor's bed had been slept in (there was Kazon hair on the pillows), eaten in (judging by the detritus between the sheets), and, most bizarrely, exhibited phaser burns to the headboard. Some of Tabor's clothes were missing from the closet. Others had been shredded and the pieces strewn about like confetti. And, worst of all, the bathroom was smeared in filth. Perhaps if the idiots had spent more time concentrating on defending their prize rather than defiling it, they'd not have lost Voyager to a lone (albeit strategically gifted) Starfleet officer and a bunch of Talaxians.
Jor had helped Tabor make a start on clearing the place up. But, with that entailing a good few hours of scrubbing and scouring – even with Starfleet cleaning technology at their disposal – and barely enough hours in the day just to work, eat and sleep, Tabor was taking up temporary residence with her on deck four. Given the number of nights he'd spent with her in the weeks leading up to the hijack of the ship, it wasn't much of an adjustment for either of them to make.
It felt like the end of another chapter in her life – their lives. Seska was gone, the threat that she posed was no longer hanging over their heads. Suder – a lingering reminder of the violent end that had befallen their friend Darwin – was also dead. Hogan – another part of their old lives as Maquis fighters – had passed on too. Voyager would soon be beyond Kazon space. Beyond the reach of the Vidiians. That marked a natural end to the first stage of the journey.
"You're looking a little lost," Tabor called through the open bathroom door. "Faraway."
Jor hadn't noticed that the whine of the sonic shower had abated. "I'm pretty sure I know exactly where I am," she replied lightly. "That's what I was contemplating: where we've gotten to."
"'We' as in you and I?"
"Partly. But also all of us. Voyager. Not just in terms in where our location lies on a star chart, but…"
"In what we've become?" Free now of the grease and grime that had covered him head to toe by the end of today's double shift, Tabor – dressed for bed – came into the living area and headed for the replicator.
"I was just thinking through what's changed – what happened back at Hanon IV and more generally since we've been in this Quadrant."
"I wonder what our friends back in the Alpha Quadrant would say if they knew of everything we'd been through. Of how we've all changed."
With a steaming mug of tea in each hand, Tabor came over to join her on the sofa. Jor took the mug he held out for her, sniffing and not recognising the blend.
"Vulcan spice tea number seven," Tabor explained. "I'm on a mission to try them all." Like her, he was still fascinated by the range of offerings that the replicator could produce.
"But none us of have changed fundamentally," Jor said, picking up the previous thread.
Tabor nodded. "No. Not even Henley who's almost had a personality transplant on the surface. But at her core, she's the same."
"You think she's getting bored of Pablo?" Henley hadn't mentioned any such thing to Jor, and Jor was usually the first to know – whether she wished to or not – when Henley had a dilemma.
"Maybe. I've seen her eyes wandering."
"That doesn't mean her legs will follow. Becoming attached doesn't mean losing the ability to spot a handsome man." Tabor frowned at that, but Jor was glad she'd said it nevertheless.
"I don't like to think what Li Paz or Meyer would make of the new Chakotay," Tabor said, clearly still preferring to think on that than on Jor's previous point.
Chakotay was, at times, almost unrecognisable from the fierce captain who'd led his Maquis cell on countless missions in and around the DMZ. Though it was probably the 'old' Chakotay that they were now seeing on Voyager: Chakotay as he'd been during his prior Starfleet career – before the murders of his family. Janeway had assigned her anthropology-loving first officer the delicate task of bidding farewell to the Hanon IV natives while Voyager was made ready for departure. Chakotay seemed to thrive on such assignments. Li Paz and Meyer would likely be left wide-eyed by that.
"I could see them applying the word 'neutered' to him," Jor said. And that was one of the politer terms that came to mind. "Not that I personally believe it's a fair assessment given the circumstances."
Snorting a laugh, Tabor set down his tea and picked up a handful of PADDs from the table, rifling through until he found the one he wanted, and replacing the rest in a neat stack. "Neither of those two would have served under Janeway."
"I go days without thinking about them all now," Jor admitted, a pang of guilt hitting her right in the gut as she once again glanced around at the relative luxury in which she and Tabor were living, keenly aware that if fate had not intervened to throw them halfway across the Galaxy and land them on Voyager, they would likely not be enjoying the relationship that they now did.
"So do I. But that's how we have to be in order to keep moving forward. Not forget about them, but … be OK with not bringing them to mind on a daily basis."
Almost as if they'd died. Like her family.
Tabor fingered the PADD in his hands, his head bowed but his eyes turned up to her. "I thought I'd read for ten minutes before bed. If you don't mind."
Something constructive to focus her mind on might be a good idea. Jor smiled her agreement, telling him, "Then I'll do the same." Looking though the stack of PADDs herself, she chose the one that held the copy of Hikaru Sulu's Judgment and Decision Making for Helmsmen, a classic text according to Tom Paris. A lot of the information contained in the book seemed basic common sense, but there were aspects to space flight that didn't apply in low altitude atmospheric flying, so Jor still found it useful to browse through. "Robots from the Centre of the Earth?" she quipped, leaning across to see what Tabor was reading.
"No," he said with mock indignation. "A History of Earth Cinema, actually. It's a classic. A must read. At least according to –"
"Tom Paris?" They laughed in unison when Jor held up her own PADD for Tabor to read the title page and note the subject matter, settling down then to study their respective books in easy silence. Tabor would perhaps learn something he could apply to his new interest in holoprogramming. Jor hoped that by continuing with her piecemeal approach to pilot training she would eventually come to enjoy the process instead of merely enduring it.
The most important thing was that they were together. And, as Voyager continued on the long journey towards the Alpha Quadrant, from now on, more than ever, they would make the best of it.