A/N: Crewmen Mariah Henley appeared once, in the Season 1 episode "Learning Curve." Noah Lessing, like all the Equinox crewmen, appeared only in "Equinox." Short stories have been published featuring the Equinox five, but I wasn't happy with them, so once again, I've turned to fanfiction.
I don't own "Star Trek: Voyager." If I had, the recurring characters would have recurred more often.
Mariah Henley had come a long way since the childish delinquent in need of Lt. Tuvok's special training back in Year One. The year following that seen Mariah making new friends among the "Starfleets," taking anger management advice from B'Elanna Torres, a drunken one-night stand with Chell (that part she usually tried not to think about), and finally standing up to that Dalby.
Over the years Voyager's various social circles changed, as the line between "Starfleet" and "Maqius" faded. The senior staff were all one tight-knit group now, often considered a clique, though most of them made an effort to interact with the rest of the crew. Ayala, Andrews, Baxter, and the rest of the ship's security officers became as close as the police force of a small town. B'Elanna's engineering team, and various other departments, formed familial bonds. The "problem" crewmen, like Tal Celes and Billy Telfer, tended to stick together. These days, Mariah Henley identified first and foremost as a "nightshifter." She'd taken the nightshift early on, being a "problem crewmen" back then and wanting to avoid the senior staff's attention; by now she'd grown attached to the shift. Mariah worked in the lower decks, alternating between the transporter rooms, engineering, and odd repairs wherever they were needed.
Mariah had gotten used to following Starfleet protocol, but her bad attitude often resurfaced during stressful situations, which were plentiful out in the Delta Quadrant. And the Equinox incident had been one of the most stressful by far. And the stress wasn't ending tonight. This shift was going to start with her repairing a power cell with Crewman Noah Lessing, one of the "Equinox five." This was going to be interesting.
The man who stood waiting for her next to the damaged component was a young black human with a shaved head. He looked and carried himself like your typical Starfleet darling. Those innocent boyish features couldn't possibly be more ironic. That murder had no right to wear that green science uniform, or that com badge. There was another irony, Mariah realized with some humor; she was actually protective of Starfleet's name, now.
"Crewman Henley," Lessing held out his hand with a sickening politeness.
"Crewman Lessing," Henley replied with a rehearsed curtsey. "Let's get started."
Lessing didn't seem surprised that she'd refused his offer for a handshake.
Mariah quickly volunteered to do the close-up work, crouching inside the section of the wall where they removed the panel, so she wouldn't have to look at the Equinox murderer. Lessing sat outside, handing her tools and entering codes on the regular wall panel when Mariah needed him to. He continuously made attempts at conversation, and Mariah impressed herself with how professionally she deflected them. It took over three hours for Lessing to finally push the wrong button.
"Guess I'll have to get used to being a night owl," he said off-handedly, as he handed Mariah the next tool. "I suppose Captain Janeway put us Equinox felons here on the nightshift so she wouldn't have to put up with the sight of us."
Her and the majority of the crew, Mariah thought. She refused to dignify Lessing's comment with a verbal response.
Trying again, Lessing added, "I'm surprised there was enough room on the night shift for all of us."
Mariah heard herself blurt out, "Courtesy your old captain."
She didn't pause her work to look at Lessing, so she didn't see his face. For several moments, the only sound was the hum of her modulator echoing inside the gutted wall.
"If you an opinion about Captain Ransom," Lessing finally said evenly, "You can just keep it to yourself."
"You sad your captain's dead?" Mariah said, matching his flat tone. "I've got a dead friend too. Her name was Niko Jarot. One of your aliens got her in the face."
She was hoping this would give him the hint that it was time to shut up, for the rest of this job. But instead, he said, as if trying to sympathize with her, "Those things really are demons. Or as close to them as any—"
"No," Mariah pushed herself out of the wall and sat up on her knees, to face him. "They were angry that their friends were murdered. I don't blame the aliens, Lessing."
She kept her eyes locked with his long enough to see he got the point, then climbed back into the wall.
"You were close with Jarot?"
Mariah replied with a nod that he obviously couldn't see. A minute or two later, she suddenly decided to give him a real answer. She was back "outside" now, changing her tools, so she was able to see that he'd returned to monitoring the wall panel by now and jumped slightly when she began speaking.
"She was the first Starfleet I hit it off with." Swinging her new tool in her hand, she dove back into the wall. "I met her through Jor. Jor's half Betazoid, and Jarot was the only full Betazoid on the ship. So those two were buddies from the start. They were one of the pairs that helped ease the two crews together, like Torres and Kim." She winced as she accidently burned her finger. "Nothing ever bothered Jarot. Not when her friend Stadi died, and left her the only one of her species onboard. Not when Captain Janeway got us lost out here. Not when she had to hide with Tuvok and Vorik in mid-transport, when we were passing through those xenophobe's space. I swear, when she got hit by that alien, she looked more annoyed about the fact that she was dying."
After a while, Lessing said, "I talked to your chief conn officer, Lt. Paris, yesterday."
"He said he wasn't going to judge any of us. 'Everybody has a past.'"
"Good for Lt. Paris."
"According to him, a lot of people in this crew have a past."
Oh, you did not. Don't even try to go there.
"A quarter of your crew are former terrorists. You have a Borg drone working in Astrometrics. A con at the helm, who killed three officers and then lied about it."
There was so much wrong with the way he'd worded all of those, Mariah would gladly have punched him solely on Paris's, Seven of Nine's, or her Maquis comrades' behalf's.
"I guess I can see why Commander Chakotay saved me from that psychopath Janeway, since he used to have his own loyalties—"
Mariah pushed herself back out of the wall, her fist tightening around her tool. "Don't you dare talk about my captain, either one of them! You call Captain Janeway a 'psychopath?'"
"Why not? She's made alliances with the Borg—"
"To save the galaxy from Species 8472, who were a bigger threat! Everything Janeway's done has been for the safety of others, including getting us stranded out here! She's passed up chance after chance to get us home, to get herself home, because it would've meant hurting someone innocent! Your precious Captain Ransom slaughtered innocent sentient life form after life form just—"
"—like your precious Commander Chakotay slaughtered Cardassians on a regular basis?"
Mariah was screaming now. "Don't compare your sick experiments to the Maquis you Federation fuck! You're exactly why the Maquis started, you Starfleet hypocrites, pretending your society was so saintly and heroic while you screwed people over! The Maquis fought to protect our families, not kill innocents for convenience! Chakotay saved your worthless ass because he's a saint who can't eat a chicken patty without feeling guilty!"
Lessing was leaning away from her, looking intimidated. He opened his mouth but she cut him off, still yelling.
"Tom Paris killed those three people on accident, and felt guilty enough to turn himself in a week later! Seven of Nine was a drone, how could you even think to blame her for what she did? No one on this ship is like you! We all have pasts here and we all had allegiances, but one thing we always had in common was basic human morals! I can't think of a single crewmember on board, not one, who would do what you did on their own free will!"
"You think we were in our right minds?" Lessing spat. "You spoiled…" He glanced around the hall. "You have an Intrepid-class ship, with functioning replicators and warp drive, and a crew of two hundred to fall back on! We had a tiny cruiser ship, with a crew of less than a hundred to start with, and none of the luxuries—"
"Hey!" Mariah's face spread into a massive, mocking smile. "That sounds a lot like life in the Maquis!" She shook her head, still grinning furiously at him. "So that's what happens when you take a Starfleet's luxuries away and put them in the same place as a Maquis crew! They start murdering aliens to get their warm beds back sooner! Oh, Starfleet is God."
"Then why you still here? Why're you still wearing that com badge?"
"Because I've actually come to respect what Starfleet is supposed to stand for!"
"You're acting real Starfleet right now!"
"You wanna see my Maquis side?" Mariah brought her tool around like slashing a knife, leaving a long burning mark across Lessing's face.
Grabbing his face, Lessing swung at Mariah with his free hand. She dodged it easily, and turned to stalk away. Still heaving in pain, Lessing picked up the heavy tool kit and swung it into the back of Mariah's head.
By the time Lt. Walter Baxter and his security team arrived, they'd both discarded their tools, resorting to their fists, feet and fingernails. They were both treated to an angry lecture from Captain Janeway, confined to quarters for a week, and stripped off holodeck privileges for a month. In the grand scheme of everything Voyager was undergoing, the incident barely made weekly gossip.
Integrating the Equinox survivors into the crew was at the bottom of a list of difficulties the ship faced over the next several months. Soon after Mariah's fight with Lessing, Voyager took on a terminally ill Bajoran woman, a former drone from Seven of Nine's old Unimatrix, who lived less than a month. After that, Lt. Torres had a near-death experience and became a born-again Klingon; the Doctor experimented in daydreaming, with disastrous results; and a handful of the senior officers went crazy again. In other words, nothing changed.
Until the day Starfleet made contact.
Like most big events on Voyager, it happened in the middle of the day, when Mariah was fast asleep. Her recurring anxiety dream about searching the ship for the last bowl of Neelix's marsupial surprise was cut short by her friend's voice blaring from her com badge.
"Chell to Henley! Chell to Henley respond!"
Without taking her face out of her pillow, Mariah fisted up her com badge from the bed stand. "Chell," she said quietly, "we had better be at Earth, or else someone better have died."
"Closer to the first one."
Henley rolled over and shot up in her bed. "What?"
"Voyager just received a message from the Alpha Quadrant! A Dr. Broccoli, or something, I don't remember his name, he stabilized a micro-wormhole to act as a two-way communication for Voyager and Starfleet command!" After a pause, the Bolian added, "Just thought you'd want to know."
Mariah was too stunned to offer a sufficient response. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. I'm off to contact the rest of the nightshift! Uh, who else is on the night shift?"
"I," she rubbed one eye. "think their names should be listed on the duty roster." She was still in a daze. "Henley out."
When she entered the mess hall for breakfast a few days later, everyone was talking about recent news they'd received from home. Gerron and T'Vora, a Bajoran and Vulcan respectively, were discussing a few old Maquis comrades who'd turned up alive. Mariah quickly joined their table.
"I found out my old fiancé's alive," Mariah said eagerly.
"The one who worked with explosives?" Gerron asked, pouring himself some more Bajoran kava juice.
Mariah nodded, digging into her omelet. "She's working with fireworks now. She got captured by the Federation right before the Dominion's massacre. Then got an early release and a pardon for helping Starfleet during the Dominion War. She's married now, living on some new colony. Adopted two orphans whose parents were killed by the Dominion."
"You are happy for her," T'Vora observed.
"Well I didn't expect Jen to wait. God knows I didn't."
The Vulcan seemed impressed. "I have always admired how logical you are, for a human."
Her mouth full of omelet, Mariah said jokingly, "That's racist."
Low voices from behind caught Mariah's attention.
"…I don't know what to tell them."
"Starfleet had no right to blow our private records to our families."
She recognized the voices. The first was Marla Gilmore, the "good Equinox crewman," as she was often called behind her back. She'd redeemed herself slightly, in some people's eyes, when she'd helped save Voyager and end the killing of the aliens. And unlike Noah Lessing, who owned the second voice, Gilmore made the guilt she felt clear to everyone.
"I think we've forfeited our right to privacy, Noah."
"No Marla, don't let these hypocrites make you think you deserve this abuse! Your jail record is your business. There was no reason for Starfleet to tell our families we're facing prison time if we get home."
"Well it'd be kind of hard to avoid bringing it up, when summing up our situation!" Gilmore argued. "I'm sure they'd have figured it out themselves, after hearing about what we did. Starfleet probably just wanted to clear it all up right away so they wouldn't panic any more than they were going to. Besides, do you think your sister and parents will want you back, if you can't even admit to what you did? Open your eyes Noah, even Captain Ransom knew it was wrong by the end."
"Captain Ransom always felt guilty. But he was looking out for us!"
"That doesn't make him innocent!" Marla hissed.
That was really her problem with Lessing, Mariah decided. His adolescent admiration for Ransom, his inability to see the wrong of what his captain, and he himself, had done. Marla Gilmore was now just another Voyager crewman with a bad past; albeit, one much worse than most others,' but a past that she had at least turned away from. Mariah was cynical about there being any such hope for Lessing.
The incident that changed Mariah's mind about Noah Lessing began, as usual, during her "nighttime." She came awake initially not knowing where she was, or who she was. Last she remembered, she had been shooting madly—"mad" here being used in every possible sense of the word—and had stopped only when she noticed her commanding officer vaporizing bodies on the ground, and realized that the shootout was over. She'd killed dozens of people, including several small children. Shot them while they were running from her. After blasting a row of adult colonists, she'd moved onto the crowd of boys and girls without any thought at all, like shooting down Ta'kla pins during a game of D'rat. As soon as shot the first little boy, her friend Crewman Gerron followed her lead, helping her shoot down the entire group of fleeing, crying children. The youngest was maybe a year old, being carried by an older sister, herself no more than seven.
Why had she killed children? And why had she encouraged Gerron to follow her?
Mariah gazed around her surroundings, struggling to make sense not only of her thoughts, but her senses. For a moment, she was sure she was in a clearing in a forest. But looking at the trees, she found herself struggling to decide if they looked like brown wood, or gray metal. The bright light in the distance, was that the sun rising, or the bedroom lights over her bed on Voyager?
Her mind finally cleared, and she found herself standing in the middle of her quarters, in her pajamas, holding an invisible weapon in her hands like a mime.
Mariah couldn't remember sleepwalking once in her life. Nor having such a vivid dream. It was still clear in her memory, like something that had really happened, and was slowly coming back to her.
What species were those colonists? Where and how had that massacre happened? How and when had Mariah and Gerron, Voyager crewmembers, been able to partake in such an event, much less willing? And what the hell was "D'rat?"
She touched her head. This wasn't a dream, this was a memory. A real, if incomplete, memory. But an impossible one.
She was going insane. Oh god. It had happened to the senior staff over and over, and now it was happening to Crewman Mariah Henley. She was under alien influence, or radiation poisoning, or Seven of Nine's nanoprobes. Pretty soon she'd probably start phasering her shipmates and steal a shuttlecraft. Not wanting to add too all the headaches poor Captain Janeway was probably experiencing every week, Henley quickly hit her com badge.
"Henley to Sickbay!"
A soft, low hum answered her, comparable to the proverbial "ringing in your ears." She recognized it as the com system's busy signal. For a moment, she relaxed in the knowledge that she wasn't the only one having problems, then began fretting over the fact that the whole ship might be going insane. (Again.)
Figuring she might get called up to some emergency shift now, Mariah tossed on her uniform, and hurried out of her quarters. She wasn't three doors down the hall when she heard the sound of someone crying from around the corner, a woman. Coming around, she saw Jenny Delaney on the floor, sitting against the wall, with her face in her hands. Her twin Megan was leaning over her, attempting to calm her. (One told the twins apart by their uniforms; Megan's was gold and Jenny's green.)
"Henley!" Megan stood up. "Something's wrong with Jenny. She keeps saying she's killed people, partook in a massacre of some kind."
"She's not the only one," Mariah sighed.
Megan cocked her head.
"It's half the ship," another voice said faintly.
It was Annalie Blackhorse, a young Starfleet woman who occasionally did night shifts. Mariah didn't know her that well, and remembered her mainly as one of the other Indians onboard besides Commander Chakotay, and always getting pissed off when people only knew her as one of the other Indians onboard besides Commander Chakotay. Blackhorse's usual dry attitude was gone, however. She walked weakly down the hall, supported by her boyfriend, security officer Walter Baxter.
"It's not real," Baxter assured Mariah and the twins. "It's some kind of alien brainwashing. The captain just had a breakdown in Astrometrics. They Doctor's ordered everyone affected to the Mess Hall."
"When?" Mariah made a face.
"A few minutes ago."
"I was awake a few minutes ago, I didn't hear—" when Baxter nodded, she realized that a lot of people probably hadn't "heard" the Doctor's announcement.
"We'll be fine," Water assured his girlfriend.
"I know we will," Blackhorse slowly pointed at an empty spot on the floor. "But what about him?" she laughed weakly. "Th-they should've known, shooting at us wasn't the way to get a head in life." She whispered deliriously, "Was that too soon? That was probably awful. Let's head on down to the mess hall." She laughed deliriously, before slumping unconscious in Baxter's arms.
Once in the Mess Hall, those mentally functioning well enough to do so began debating venomously over whether the incident was real or not. Gerron had memories of the incident, but his didn't match up with Mariah's.
"I saw you there," the young Bajoran said. "But I wasn't shooting alongside you. I accidently killed you."
"Well I'm pretty sure I'd remember that," Mariah said.
Jenny Delaney was lying on her side, hugging her cot. "Do you think it's real?"
"No." Mariah said quickly.
"How do you know?" Megan asked over the tea she was pouring for her sister.
"Because! I've never…it can't be, no one here would do that! Look none of us here on Voyager are saints, I've killed plenty of Cardassians in the Maquis, but that was in battle! I may not know what's going on but I know myself, and I'm not a murder!"
"It's real." Noah Lessing said with conviction.
He was sitting on a cot a ways away, with his back to Mariah's group.
Mariah smiled cruelly at him. "You'd like to think that, wouldn't you. Misery loves company."
"But that's exactly it Mariah," Noah moved slightly to look at her over his shoulder. His voice was feint, his face blank. "You said yourself just now, you're not a murderer, so how would you know what it actually feels like to be one? Well I am one, and this is exactly the same. This feels exactly like it did on the Equinox. The only difference is my victims looked a little more human this time." More quietly he added, "You're denying it because you don't want to think you'd be capable of it."
Mariah liked to think she was above such petty denial. "I'm capable of plenty of stupid shit. That's why I'm a crewman and not a lieutenant. But Captain Janeway—"
"Is your captain." Lessing said. "You've trusted her for years. And Tuvok, Chakotay, and Torres. You don't want to think that any of them might be capable of making you capable of…"
To Mariah's shock, Lessing began to cry softly into his hand.
The two other Equinox crewmen who'd been sitting with him, Marla Gilmore and James Marrow, instantly began trying to comfort him.
"Ransom was a father to us," Gilmore explained to Mariah and the others who were watching. "We served him for years before getting lost in the Delta Quadrant. And before we began killing those aliens, he'd gotten us out of as many scrapes as Captain Janeway did for you. The Borg, hostile aliens, poisoned nebulas…"
She needn't have gone beyond the word "father." That itself, that single word, spun the entire situation around like a Daboo wheel. Mariah could stand by what she'd said before, no one on Voyager was like the Equinox five; but a little girl in the ghettos of Turkana IV was very much like them.
Mariah moved around Lessing's cot and knelt in front of him.
"I had a father, Lessing." Her voice was Starfleet professional, but not the forced polite one she usually used around the Equinox crew. She spoke as if revealing a sincere lesson to a child or friend. "I had a dad. I owed him my existence, the food on my plate, the roof over my head, and he never let me forget it. So I let him do whatever he wanted. To me, and to my little brother." She brought one shoulder up in an ironic shrug. "He wasn't a 'bad guy.' He was our dad. He bought us ice cream, taught us how to play cards, helped us with our homework. So whatever methods of discipline he used, however he wanted to have us to 'thank' him for dinner…"
It occurred to Mariah that she was revealing this extremely persoanl information not only to Noah, probably everyone else close enough to eavesdrop.
"When the law finally got us out of that house, my brother and I were placed in a facility for abused children. And our counselor told us something I'll never forget." Mariah swallowed. "He said, 'Everything your father did for you came with being a parent. You don't owe him any more than what comes with being a child.'" Her eyes flicked to Gilmore and Marrow, then back at Lessing. "Captain Janeway hasn't made the sacrifices she has because she's some kind of saint; she does it because she's a Starfleet captain, and that's what a captain's supposed to do. She knew that when she accepted her position. And that's why she's never asked any more of us than what a Federation crew is supposed to give. Captain Ransom wanted to murder his way back home, and he had no right to ask you to help him do it. You didn't owe it to help him, and you don't owe him your….unconditional respect. Love him if you want, but you don't owe him shit."
Lessing stared at her, wiping his nose, and for a minute she thought he was going to berate her again, for insulting "his captain." But instead he only looked down at his hands in his lap.
Lessing was wrong. It wasn't real. Well, the memories technically were real, but no one on Voyager owned them. They were coming from a "memorial," a beacon generating the memories of long-dead aliens, to ensure that the massacre they'd experienced was never forgotten. The device had been programmed to bring in elements from the visitors' personal lives. This, as Neelix explained, was why he had seen Commander Chakotay in his "memory," and why his persona had been someone protective of children. The device wanted the receivers to relate to the memories as much as possible.
Mariah and Lessing worked silently in the transporter room. It was a slow night.
"Henley," Lessing said without looking at her. "I owe you one."
When he didn't elaborate, she glanced up slightly, viewing him out of the corner of her eye.
"For that speech. For splashing me awake." Noah drubbed his fingers on his consol. "Ransom was a father; an abusive father." He added, "Not that that excuses me following him."
Mariah didn't know what to say at first. "You're young. You were probably the Ensign Kim of your senior staff."
He looked at her. "Ensign Kim?"
"He's basically the baby of the senior officers here on Voyager." She hesitated. "You lost most of your entire crew. I can't imagine," she grimaced, and looked back down at her consol. "I was never good at the whole sympathy thing."
Noah breathed deeply, as if preparing to say something uncomfortable.
"I'd like to buy you a drink."
Mariah's fingers froze over her consol.
"Man to man," he said. "I know you don't swing my way."
"Actually, I like a bit of peanut butter and jelly," Mariah explained. "But I'm not interested in dating anybody any at the moment." She looked up at Noah. "But I can always use a friend."
Lessing was watching her with an unreadable face.
"And a drink."
"Alright." He returned his attention to his lifeless console. "What time?"
"How about right after this shift," Mariah suggested. "There's a program some of us nightshift crewmen always hang out at after shifts. The senior staff used to be all over it, the first few years out here. But they lost interest for some reason, so a few of us hijacked it. It's called Sandrine's. Based off a real bar in France, on Earth. I can promise you, a bunch of our fellow nightshifters will be there. Let's get see if we can't get Gilmore or Marrow or someone to come with. Sandrine could use some fresh customers."
Noah made a face just short of smiling. "'Nightshifters'…"
CANON FACTS: Mariah Henley appeared in the Season 1 episode "Learning Curve," along with Chell, Gerron, and Dalby. (Chell became a recurring character, but the others did not). Lt. Walter Baxter appeared in a few early-season episodes. Jor and T'Vora appeared in the Season 7 episode "Repression;" Jor's species was never revealed, nor was the Vulcan woman named, so those details I made up.
Jarot appears in the Season 5 episode "Counterpoint;" she is a Betazoid, and as such, must hide with Tuvok and Vorik, from the anti-telepath villains. Jarot is never seen nor mentioned again, and in the Season 6 episode "Dragon's Teeth," Janeway laments that she doesn't have a Betazoid to help her detect lies. This has caused some fans to speculate that Jarot was one of the many casualties in one of the episodes between these two, like "Equinox."
Annalie Blackhorse is an OC from my stories "New Age Hippies" and "The Silver Bird." She's growing on me, but I'm struggling with how to include and develop her in a way that serves a purpose to the series. (I don't want to do what's often done in "Voyager" novels, where the author needlessly shoe-horns their bland human OCs into roles that would be served just as well by Harry Kim, or one of the canon recurring characters in need of development.)
FANFIC RECS: If you enjoy lower-decks stories, here are a few others on this site that I recommend:
"Three Anniversaries," by Spiletta42, which chronicles an ongoing friendship and affair between Sam Wildman and Joe Carrey, over the course of the journey. You'll find out what the two were going through in episodes like "Scientific Method" and "The Killing Game."
"A Little Piece of Paradise," by Aaunty Pasta, which fills in two plot-holes: the fate of the Borg baby from "Collective," and of Marla Gilmore from "Equinox." In my opinion, this story humanizes Gilmore more than the TV show and published novels ever did.
"Angel of Mercy," and "Skate Away," by Laura Schiller. The first features Noah Lessing from "Equinox," and the second, Lindsay Ballard from "Ashes to Ashes."
Finally, I'll be an egomaniac and suggest some of my own: "Duplicate" (where Naomi learns the truth about her birth); "My Sister's Caretaker" (a backstory for the Delaney twins); and "My Crew" (where Chakotay tells the Maquis on Voyager what happened to their comrades back home).