He stared discretely at her from across the mess hall. She sat alone, her long, fiery red mane draped around her face and tumbling down her shoulders. He could imagine that he saw her glowing, ice blue eyes from where he sat. They were two fiery orbs, hilighted by her red hair, set amidst her dark, hardened features. Her eyes were narrowed, like a snake's, surveying the inhabitants of the mess hall coldly, as if she was detached from the rest of the busy inhabitants, a severed limb from the whole body. One of her small, wiry hands was stretched out on the table before her, the long, thin fingers rhythmically tapping one at a time upon the hard surface of the table. He watched her gaze journey across the mess hall, surveying the inhabitants, checking the exits, an instinctive habit she had to have picked up over her years as a public enemy.
He realized her eyes had latched onto his, her gaze penetrating his gaze. They sat locked there for a moment, challenging from opposite sides, and he felt his darkened soul reaching out and searing into her. But she was ice, and immune to anything he did. Not a flicker of emotion rose to her cold face, and then, with a contemptuous nod, she acknowledged him before her gaze difted elsewhere. Chakotay felt his face burn crimson. He knew what she did was all just a show, the feigned show of submission to his authority, the feigned loyalty and sturdiness. He knew this woman, had stalked her since they were both children, his hatred fed with each labored beat of his heart as he closed in on his prey. He knew what that stony surface covered up, he knew the evil that lurked behind that facade. Pure, uncorrupted evil. She dared not release it now, not while she was at his mercy. Chakotay thought with a bolt of pain flashing through his head. Damn that Caretaker for this!
He had been closing in on her. Soon he'd have her, he had promised himself, checking the sensor readings for the ion path her ship had left. Janeway had taken quite a chance using such a tiny, weak ship to conduct her most recent attack in. Though it was lithe and maneuverable, the shields were weak and the ship easily damaged. In addition, the ship's weapons were feeble and ineffective.
His intelligence agents had been quick to inform him of her most recent attack, and Chakotay was soon on her tail, closer to her capture than he had been in the twenty one years since she escaped the Tarnoth Penal Colony, when her reign of terror arose. He almost spat at the memory of that fatal day, when he was twenty two, the news that Prisoner 007351, or Kathryn M. Janeway, had started up a riot and escaped from the maximum security prison. He had felt sick for days afterwards, had felt the awful sting of disgust in himself for allowing her to get free, after the cold blooded murder from years before. Then, gathering his wits about him, he had taken a memorable pilgrimage to his childhood home, on Kreivor Manor, where the calamity had taken place.
The memories were blurred, fuzzy from years of searching to try to uncover the full extent of them. To this day, he still couldn't remember all the details. He remembered the flames, the bright talons licking their way up the wall, clawing over the spilled furniture and the writhing bodies. He still remembered the screams... Oh Gods, the screams... He saw his father's face, staring up at him with dead eyes, trapped under the rubble across the room, choking even before the fire managed to consume him, struggling to free himself from the wreckage, calling for Chakotay to run, calling for Chakotay to help him, screaming. Chakotay, then eleven, stood there, watching, eyes wide with horror, as the world burned around him, as his father disappeared behind the wall of menacing flames. He vaguely remembered the strong arms of one of the colony's soldiers reaching around him, grasping him, pulling him out of the reach of the golden talons, sweeping him swiftly through the mansion, suspended in midair, feet dangling above the ashy ground as they plunged through the smoky darkness until they reached the outside, the fresh, uncontaminated air.
He was nursed back to health by a number of Cardassian and Bajoran nurses. Just hours after the fire, the Cardassian gul his father had held lands for explained harshly to a semi-conscious Chakotay the fact that a young Terran girl had been responsible for his father's death and the destruction of his estates, planting the bomb within the pack of supplies that was taken in by the estate twice daily.
"An event such as this," The gul spat, "Occurs regularly. This is the perfect demonstration why Terran scum is worthless in this universe, no matter what good laborers they may make." His smile, containing an indifferent sort of warmth, directed itself at Chakotay. "Though, there are some exceptions. Your father was a great man, and with proper instruction, you could become one, too. I shall see to your schooling and training, and rest assured, you'll become a great warrior in the Alliance."
"I don't care about being a great warrior." The reply tore angrily from his lips. "All I want is to kill that girl who killed my father!"
"Rest assured," The gul had replied, "She shall be punished severely for her actions. But you must realized, young Chakotay, that she couldn't have been acting alone... not at her age. There must have been someone behind it." He went on to explain how he suspected someone in the girl's community might be responsible, but there was no way to sort them out from one another.
"Why bother?" Chakotay had murmured. "Kill them all! Sort out the bodies!" The gul chuckled and patted him on the head.
"I believe you and I think on relatively the same wave length... At this very moment, a legion of my finest soldiers are destroying the village. I promise you, they'll apprehend her as soon as she arrives home from her daily shifts. What happens to her after that is up to you."
Chakotay had tuned the gul out as he spoke, thinking only of this little girl who had been responsible for his pain, for his father's screams, for the loss of his wealth... When the decision fell upon him as to the fate of the girl, he took the gul's advice and sent the girl to the prison facility-- a fate worse than any death she could receive. Instead of having a quick, instant death, she'd waste slowly away over the years, until she was broken both body and spirit-- then she'd die off. He turned it in his head just how she could have committed such an act alone, like he privately believed, despite the gul's assurances to the otherwise. The question plagued him for the next eleven years, until the day came when he received word of her escape from the prison facility she had lived in for all the years since her apprehension. He had read over the casualty reports with a clenched jaw. Then it hit him. She was just plain evil. She was not a product of the darkness, she was the darkness, born into it, consumed by it, eaten alive by it. How else could one so young kill? This is more than just vengeance, he had realized as he prepared to begin his twenty year hunt for her, this was about the destruction of evil, of the antichrist itself. Every man has his devil, and Chakotay knew he had found his.
Meeting his expectations, Janeway went on to become the most notorious terrorist the Alliance had dealt with in a century, pillaging, rampaging, robbing, and murdering hundreds to thousands of people within her years. When the rebellion arose, she reluctantly joined their ranks, being lured out of one life of bloodshed to a life of a different kind of bloodshed. Instead of lawless, motiveless killing like she had engaged in beforehand, she was now fighting for the 'Terran cause'. Chakotay had never bought into this rebellion of theirs. It was merely a bunch of disgruntled, worthless slaves who never contributed in any way to the welfare of the Alliance in the first place. As a mercenary employed and raised to serve the Cardassian/Klingon Alliance, Chakotay had a comfortable enough life already without the other fools in his race rising against what they considered tyranny. The fools. They needed to be kept as slaves. It was the best thing for people such as them.
His thoughts quickly drifted back to Janeway. He remembered just how tempted he had been to kill her when they were both stranded in the Delta Quadrant together, before the Kazon destroyed the array to prevent the ruthless Ocampa from getting their hands on it, preventing Chakotay and Janeway's vessels from getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. He had been shocked at the fact that she sacrificed her own vessel to save his own. On the viewscreen, he saw her ship about to careen with the Kazon vessel. He ordered her immediate transport out of her vessel for only one reason-- he didn't want her to die in an act of heroism. He wanted her to die shamefully, during one of her evil deeds like she deserved.
It had been with the greatest of reluctance that he had taken her on as his first officer. Unfortunately, he had no choice. He needed the Rebel crewmembers to fill in the places of the dead Alliance officers, and Janeway was the only way he could get control over the rebels. Even so, he had a hard time restraining himself. Each and every time she approached him, her cold eyes burning holes through him, his fingers itched to snatch his weapon out of his holster and kill her right there. The minute they got home-- then he could follow through and destroy her once and for all. But for now, he had to put up with her presence.
He had for almost a year now.
Clutching the report in her hands, Janeway approached the readyroom. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed some of her crew eyeing her nervously. Kathryn avoided the readyroom whenever possible. She didn't need to be alone with that tyrant. She stopped abruptly and turned her head towards the nervous crewman. When she caught his gaze, he quickly averted his eyes with a blush. He had reason to be nervous for her, she mused. The entire crew knew about how Chakotay had hunted her for twenty years, for some dark, heinous crime in the past which none of them were quite clear about. Janeway turned back and took the final steps into the readyroom, her lips almost twitching with the irony of the fact that she was still haunted every moment of her life, even after thirty-two years, by one fatal mistake...
She heard him call for her to come in. Smoothly, Janeway glided through the threshold of the readyroom. Chakotay was facing away from her, bent over something he was working on, only the back of his dark head facing her. He expected her to wait until he finished whatever he was working on. Impatiently, Kathryn shifted her weight. She wasn't one of those lower ranking officers he could push around as he pleased. Janeway paced strongly over so she was in his line of sight. When he must have realized it was her in the readyroom with him, he glowered up at her darkly.
"What can I do for you, Commander?" he demanded. Undaunted, Janeway set the report down on his desk.
"The personelle report for you, Captain." She didn't trouble herself with using the same tone back at him that he used at her. Janeway recognized what he was trying to do to her-- to break through her walls. It was almost amusing, she realized, a smirk pricking at her lips. He thought-- even after everything that had happened to her at his hands-- that he could bother her with this merciless persecution. He knew nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"Take a seat," he said. He eyed her cautiously, with an unwavering gaze, as she slowly sank down in the seat across from him. He felt her cold eyes on him as he read over the report. He wondered just what she thought as she stared at him like this, her knives piercing into him. Did she still remember the day she killed his father? Or was that just one death out of thousands, one that she'd forgotten in the pool of all the blood staining her soul?
"This report is indecipherable," he remarked. "It's like reading the grammatical context of a three-year old--"
She smiled dryly at him, eyes cold, face dead. "I'm afraid, Captain, in the Tarnoth Penal Colony, I didn't have much time to learn English grammar, so before you berate me for that, remember that you are the one who ordered the prelate to keep me imprisoned there, and as a result, I just can't seem to formulate reports to your grammatical liking. You should have thought of that consequence before you made them convict me to a life sentence." After the words left her lips, Kathryn wondered just why she had broached the forbidden subject. She shrugged it off and braced for the oncoming reaction.
He sprang to his feet, anger sprouting in him at the mention of their evil connection. "You should have thought of the consequence of life imprisonment when you killed my father!" He spat.
"But I was having so much fun as I was doing it." She replied, a smirk tugging at her mouth.
Chakotay almost punched her, almost wrapped his hand around her tiny throat and let her die, slowly, painfully, for that remark. He saw the smirk tugging at her lips, and he realized just how amusing she was finding this. She didn't take any of it seriously, and getting a rise out of him was her only intention. He clenched his fists, feeling his body shaking and seething with rage, but holding it back as he glowered down at her.
"Just remember," His voice shook-- he couldn't stop it. "Just remember that during those eleven years, as a result of your actions, you were tortured, raped, and worked to a skeleton at Tarnoth, while I was living in a palace on Cardassia."
She still gazed up at him, still in a relaxed, comfortable position, her fierce eyes glowing, her hair spilling down her back. He couldn't tell whether or not the last remark had fazed her, pierced some hemorrhage underneath the thick layers of defense she had under the surface. Coolly, icily, she rose in her chair until she was as close to eye level as she could be at her height.
"And just remember," She hissed, "That while your father was screaming in agony as his life burned away, I was dining in a local cafe."
Her reference to his father's murder pushed him over the edge-- as she intended to do. He felt his arm swing back, his vision honed in on her left cheekbone. She saw it coming. She didn't flinch, the light of self-satisfied triumph flashing in her gleaming eyes as she held her ground in front of him, not attempting to duck out of the way of his oncoming blow.
"Seska to Chakotay," His fist froze mid air. Janeway's gaze broke off from his, as she glanced at his combadge.
"Chakotay here," he barked, turning away from Janeway, clenching his fists as the muscles beneath his face contracted.
"We're detecting some sort of spacial anomaly off the port bow. Please come to the bridge."
"I'll be there in a moment," he replied, with a glance out of the corner of his eye at his first officer, now standing with her arms crossed stubbornly across her chest, feet planted on the ground shoulder width apart. The scrape was over. She was safe from him momentarily, not that she felt she was in any danger in the first place. Chakotay wondered, in some dark part of his mind, if he would have been able to stop with just one blow. Once he had started to release his years of rage upon her, would he be able to stop there? "Chakotay out." He nodded his head towards the door, and Janeway stealthily, like a tiger, walked over to the door, her every muscle coordinated and smooth as she made her way over.
He stepped out onto the bridge fast onto her heels. A few of the crewmembers looked up, wondering just what kind of talk they'd had in the ready room. None bothered to look at Janeway for some hint. She looked the same in any situation, nothing fazed her cool exterior. Instead, they glanced at Chakotay. From the slight flush on his cheeks and the slightly hastened mannered in which he spoke, they knew there had been some sort of spat. Paris, the helmsman, one of Janeway's old crew, turned his descreet gaze back to the viewscreen. He would give anything to know just what they had said in there, and to know just what dark secret existed between them.
He glanced once more at Janeway as Chakotay ordered for scans. She was leaning slightly forward in her seat, an odd spark in her eyes. Her features weren't so hard and unyielding now that she gazed at the viewscreen, enraptured. She seemed to have some odd fascination with spacial anomalies, he'd noticed, even before they ended up on the Alliance vessel, Voyager. The name really had a double meaning. It was called Voyager, similar to the human word, but Voyager was also in one of the Cardassian dialects the word for 'vengeance'. Knowing that Chakotay chose the name, Tom privately believed it mean the latter. He realized his mind was drifting, and he refocused on Janeway. Her eyes were narrowed, studying the swirling, bright mass on the viewscreen.
"... I recommend a shuttle be taken out for further scans," Tuvok was saying. Chakotay listened to this analysis carefully, unsure whether or not he should follow Tuvok's suggestion. He had come to trust Janeway's crew a bit more recently, but he always took his own crew's word over Janeway's crews. He glanced at Rollins, the man immediately ahead of Tuvok in the chain of command, for confirmation that what Tuvok was saying was correct, that they needed further analysis of the anomaly to make sure it wouldn't be a threat while they were in this region of space. Rollins gave an almost imperceptible nod.
"All right then. Tuvok, you can go on that shuttle... and we'll need a copilot."
"I'll go," Janeway volunteered from behind him. He turned, somewhat surprised. She was looking at him now, instead of at the viewscreen. He read in her face some sort of new light of... was it interest? It almost intrigued him to the point of letting her go, but then his familiar malice kicked in. Why let this woman indulge in anything?
"Actually, Commander, I was planning on accompanying him," Chakotay replied. Her face grew completely impassive as she settled back in the chair. They both knew what had just passed, even if the rest of the bridge was unaware of it. Chakotay had decided to go out of the mere intention of not letting her go and explore something that she might enjoy...
But he began to rethink his logic as he and Tuvok left the ship in the shuttle. He was leaving Voyager in Janeway's hands. While he didn't doubt she'd take care of the ship, he wasn't sure what trouble she'd cause while she had it to herself. Janeway had enough support from the crew, probably more sway over the general populace than he himself did... There was the danger of a Rebel mutiny when he was on the ship, and it was only escalated when he was off of the ship...
However, he had been off the ship before, and she had never tried anything before. But still, he never could know... And with Tuvok right here next to him; he could easily kill Chakotay if he caught him off guard.
"Sir," Tuvok spoke, "I'm detecting a wave of thoranic particles from the anomaly."
"Thoranic particles? Those can be used to line the replicator filters, couldn't they?" Chakotay inquired.
"They have been in the past," Tuvok replied, remembering B'Elanna Torres, the assistant chief engineer, the half-breed's report about how the replicator filters were being worn out with overuse.
"Let's beam aboard a sample and check them out," Chakotay said.
Tuvok's face lit with what could be considered alarm. "Captain, we have insufficient data regarding this anomaly to ascertain the risks involved--"
"Beam aboard a sample," Chakotay ordered, cutting him off, preparing a container for the particles to be beamed into. He was getting a sick feeling in his stomach and a weight on his chest as time passed and dread over Janeway being in command on his ship without him there.
Reluctantly, Tuvok keyed in the commands. Chakotay set the container down on the transporter pad and stood back, the blue light of the shuttle's transporter bathing his face as the gaseous matter shimmered into existence.
Chakotay pulled out his tricorder and took in a quick, first glance analysis. There was some strange substance mixed in with the particles. He reported this to Tuvok. "We'd better do some more scans--"
He never finished the sentence. Suddenly, the gas within the container flickered, then the container exploded. Tuvok ducked down to avoid the impact, diving behind his seat. As quickly as the chaos began, it ended. Tuvok crawled over to Chakotay, lying immobile and bleeding on the floor.
"Captain," There was no response. Quickly, he ordered the computer to autopilot the shuttle back to Voyager and emit a distress call. Tuvok ran the tricorder over Chakotay. He was alive, but badly injured, skin singed by the gas from the sample container.
"Chakotay," The quiet whisper breathed into his ear. A soft, gentle voice and tone, spoken in a warm, soothing way that he hadn't heard in a long time. There was a soft hand stroking his forehead, smoothing his hair back from his forehead. "Chakotay," The voice was louder, firmer now, with a note of authority that compelled him to push his reluctant, heavy eyelids open.
Soft, blue eyes gazed down into his, a smile lighting her lips as she realized he was conscious. "It's good to have you back, Commander."
Chakotay felt his insides grow cold. He didn't know what shocked him more-- the fact that it was Janeway ministering to him, or the fact that he was called Commander. He jerked back, out of her grasp. He stared, stunned at her. Her appearance had mutated since he last saw her. Her face was brighter, cheeks with a pink flush to them, her eyes softer, without the usual fierce gleam, her hair was shorter, a calm, reddish brown color instead of the fiery red, and somehow softer. Her expression told a lot, her features sympathetic and kind, reminding him of honey instead of steel.
"What's going on?" He demanded.
Her eyes flickered, confused at his tone for a moment, but then she attributed it to his disorientation. "You were injured right after you collected the Thoranic particles. Commander Tuvok managed to get you back here. Your injuries were heavy, but the doctor managed to repair them. Though," She admitted with a warm smile, "You gave us quite a scare for a few minutes."
Commander Tuvok? Why was she acting like this? Why was she dressed like she was? Something was wrong here. Was this an alien impostor?
I need to play along until I know what's going on, he reasoned. He gave her a shadow of a smile. "I see."
"Perhaps you'd like to rest awhile more, Commander," she observed. 'Commander' again, he noticed.
"I think I'd like to. I'll go back to my quarters and rest there, if no one has any objection," He said, holding his breath. If Janeway thought he was Commander of this-- this ship, then he undoubtedly had quarters somewhere.
"Of course. Do you want me to walk you there?" She asked.
"No!" He bit in quickly. Softer, then, "I can manage."
She nodded quietly, staring at him out of concerned eyes. It amazed him just how expressive her face was compared to how it usually looked. "You're sure you're all right?" He could hear a note of inquiry, suspicion in her voice. It wasn't hostile suspicion, just a curious sort of wondering.
"Just fine," he replied hastily. "Excuse me." Chakotay brushed past her towards the door of the sickbay.
"Captain! May I speak with you a moment?" A man's dry voice called. Chakotay turned, expecting the man to be addressing him. He was stunned when Janeway replied, "Of course, doctor."
She followed the doctor into his office. Chakotay felt his jaw drop open. He recognized the hologram. He was Zimmerman's creation, used on Alliance vessels to help subdue enemies when they commandeered the vessel, programmed to be ruthless and cruel. Now... he was a doctor?
Chakotay hurried out of sickbay, his stomach queasy. What had happened while he was gone?
Chakotay opened his eyes, his vision still swirling queasily around him. His body was weak and exhausted, and it was with the greatest effort that he managed to push his leaden body up by his elbows. He glanced around the darkened sickbay, curious as to why nobody was here when he awoke. He closed his eyes momentarily against his headache, recalling being in the shuttle with Tuvok, collecting the sample of Thoranic matter... His memory faded out there. Chakotay assumed he must have been injured and lost consciousness at this point in his blanked out recollection.
"Doctor?" He called, noting how dry and hoarse his voice sounded. There was no answer. "Computer, activate emergency medical hologram."
"That program is not recognized," Came the computer's monotonous reply. Chakotay's brow furrowed, and with a moan, he sat all the way up. He reached for his combadge, but his hand froze in midair. He was wearing entirely different clothes. It wasn't his starfleet uniform, it wasn't the medical garb-- it was civillian clothing. Odd, he thought. I need to contact someone. They can explain everything.
He got up and dropped onto the floor next to the biobed. Chakotay lumbered over to the nearest comn panel, his bones and muscles still sore from his injuries.
Tapping it, he called, "Chakotay to Janeway."
There was a pause for a beat, then her sharp voice, with a slight edge to it, came over the comn line. "What is it?" She snapped, her voice like a whiplash.
"Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if I could see you down in sickbay for a moment, if you're not busy," Chakotay said.
There was an uncertain pause, which was enough to prompt Chakotay's curiosity. "I'll be down in a few minutes. Janeway out." Her voice was monotonous, not uncertain, but not filled with the usual prompt note of affirmation.
I'll know what's going on in a few minutes, he assured himself, settling back on the biobed.
Janeway walked down the corridor towards sickbay. Her steps were slowed by the doubt and uncertainty that plagued her. What could he possibly want with her now? He never summoned her to his presence unless to meet about ship's business or berate her for sloppiness on one of her reports.
His tone... it had sounded so different over the comline. Less brooding, not harsh as if he would rather be cutting her throat instead of talking to her. Something was wrong here. She set herself on edge as she approached sickbay, careful not to let this strange, rare feeling of uncertainty show as the doors slid open.
"Captain?" He called. Janeway halted abruptly, her brow furrowed. She took another cautious step forward out of the shadows so he could see her face. He caught her gaze, his face sincere, his features soft. "Captain, sorry to bother you."
'Sorry to bother you.' He had said that over the comn line, too. She had thought it curious then, but now she knew something was seriously wrong. Plus, he called her 'Captain.'
"Excuse me? Did I hear you right, sir?" Janeway queried, taking a cautious step closer to him, courteous merely out of her wariness. Normally, she never addressed him as 'sir'... but it had been so long since she'd felt uncertain or insecure about any situation. Most things never had any effect on her. It was shocking just how much of an effect this was having on her now.
"What?" Chakotay was confused. Did she just call him 'sir?'
"I thought I heard you call me-- well, nevermind. What is it?" Get down to business, she reasoned.
"Well," Chakotay paused. "I was just wondering... why isn't anybody here in sickbay? I expected you, or the doctor, and when I tried to activate the emergency medical hologram, the computer had no idea what the program was not recognized."
What the hell is he talking about? Janeway wondered. She slowly said, "I'm sorry, Captain, but I thought you preferred me not to be present when you woke in sickbay... and somebody has to run the bridge..."
Did she just call me Captain? He wondered. He studied her, suddenly noticing how drastically she had changed in a appearance. She, too, was out of uniform. Her hair was long again, and not tied up in a tight bun or ponytail but left to spill loosely down her back. The locks were redder, and her eyes were a cold, icy blue. Her features were hard, her blood red mouth set in a grim line, her cheeks and face pale, with dark shadows brooding about her eyes. In fact, she looked almost dead, the only part of her face alive were the fierce eyes, eyes that projected an intensity that overwhelmed him. What was it he saw in them? Coldness, a hard fierceness that he had never seen from her before-- never seen from anyone.
That spacial anomaly, he realized. Could this be a parallel universe?
"Commander," He began, purely guessing. She had called him Captain, and it seemed that she had some authority on this ship, so he speculated that she was the first officer, "You did nothing wrong. I--I was just disconcerted." (She nodded her head coolly at this statement.) "What exactly happened to me?"
"You and Tuvok were collecting samples of Thoranic particles," (He noticed, with curiosity, her use of the word 'particles'. Being the scientist she was, he had expected her to use the correct term, 'matter'.) "You were injured. Tuvok brought you back to the ship with extensive injuries. Doctor Fitzgerald saved your life."
"Ah, Doctor Fitzgerald. Why isn't he here now?" Chakotay queried.
"He's off duty," Janeway replied. "You don't expect him to stay here during his free time, do you?"
"No," Chakotay hastily replied. "I just thought that someone would normally be on duty in sickbay..."
"That would be difficult considering that Fitzgerald is the only doctor onboard," Janeway replied coldly, a frown pulling at her lips. Then, taking another step forward, she boldly spoke, "Did your... injury... somehow affect your memory, Captain? You don't seem to be yourself."
He let out a breath. "I am a little disoriented... and some things are a bit fuzzy, but I think I'll be fine."
Janeway waited impatiently. Why did he call her down here? The question still echoed through her mind, no clearer now than it had been before. "If you want me to get Doctor Fitzgerald down here to check your injury out again--"
"I'll be fine," Chakotay cut in. The last thing he needed was their doctor to scan him and pronounce him just fine... that would arouse suspicion. "I think I just need to rest. I'll go to my quarters... and I suppose the ship is yours tomorrow."
Janeway watched him through narrowed eyes. She was still expressionless, emotionless, despite the suspicions raging through her. She didn't speak a word, but she nodded slowly and supplied, "Rest is always good."
Chakotay couldn't tell whether or not she had suspicions by looking at her. With his Janeway, he always knew what she was feeling. This one was different. She had a thousand walls built up around the fragile core. But knowing the Janeway from his universe-- she was sharp. He knew this one had probably already deduced that something was amiss, whether or not she'd let him catch on to it.
"All right. I'll see you tomorrow," Chakotay said, with a nod to Janeway. She didn't move as he left sickbay, but he felt her eyes following him. Those eyes-- the fierce, blazing eyes.
Captain Chakotay read over 'Captain' Janeway's profile once again.
He had figured it out. He was in a parallel universe, a universe with an alternate history. In this universe, there was an organization called the United Federation of Planets, consisting of Terrans, Vulcans, and hundreds of other species. The Bajorans and the Cardassians were deadly rivals, the Klingons were allies with the Terrans and enemies of the Cardassians. This Chakotay had been a Maquis rebel, a Terran whose home had been taken away from the Cardassian who had joined the Maquis to fight the Cardassians. His vessel had disappeared in the badlands. The revered Captain Janeway was sent after him. hey were both pulled into the Delta Quadrant, Janeway destroyed the array to keep it out of the ruthless Kazon hands, and they joined into one crew onboard Voyager.
So similar, yet so different. He thought, keying to scroll down in this Janeway's profile. Hardly the same ruthless terrorist as his Janeway was. Made the second youngest Captain in Federation history, at the age of thirty, had won several metals for valor and excellence in duty.
Chakotay pushed the console away. One Janeway was no different from another. They were probably both just as ruthless as each other, only expressed in a different form. He had concluded a long time ago that his Janeway was just plain evil, born that way. This Janeway must have been born that way as well, whether or not she openly expressed it.
And yet, when he read this Chakotay's logs, he realized his double had a positive outlook on Janeway. Almost... a loving one. Chakotay quickly pushed the thought aside with disgust. Needless to say, he knew enough now about who this Chakotay was-- a highly spiritual, very loyal man-- to play the part until he got the opportunity to get back to his ship. Only God knew what hell Janeway was raising back on his ship with his weak double present instead of himself.
His thoughts were interrupted by a chime at the door. He glanced up, called, "Enter!", and quickly shut off the console with Janeway's profile.
The slender woman paused in the light of the entrance way, then stepped fully in, letting the door hiss shut behind her.
He stared at her darkened form. She stood for a few seconds, watching him, then spoke quietly, "You never told me you could see in the dark, Chakotay."
"Computer, full lights," he barked. The room lit up, and he had to squint to keep his eyes from being overwhelmed by the full flood of the light. "What can I do for you, Captain?" He asked, almost stumbling over the word 'Captain', so unfamiliar coming from his own lips.
"I just wanted to check and see how you were doing," she replied, sitting down in a nearby chair uninvited. "You seemed out of sorts in sickbay yesterday, to say the least." Her blue eyes narrowed as they plunged into his, searching him with a gaze that seemed to reach to his very soul. She has beautiful eyes, he noticed for the first time. Even his Janeway had beautiful eyes, even if he never could tell. He usually was overwhelmed by the intensity of them-- he had never quite looked at them. They were the only part about Janeway that aroused any feeling other than hatred in him. His contempt and hatred for her usually overwhelmed everything else he might feel towards her. But those eyes-- they haunted him. Part of the reason was that they showed him that there was something beneath the cool surface other than just her evil-- something that scared the hell out of him-- an intensity of emotions and passion churning, and pain-- pain that he knew he had been the main factor in causing. Chakotay broke out of his musings. Where had that come from? He had never quite taken the time to look beneath his hatred for her, beneath her coldness towards him, to contemplate what Janeway could possibly feel, whether or not she knew she felt anything. Something about this new Janeway unraveled his web of hatred... Even though this was only the second time he had spoken to her.
"I'm fine," he replied smoothly, not sure what all to say to her. He tried to speak to her as if she was someone completely different than Kathryn Janeway. In a way, she really was. She was bright, happy, alive, vulnerable. His Janeway was hardened with a dead soul and a heart of darkness.
But if his Janeway was born evil, this one must have been as well.
"We did an analysis of the Thoranic matter. Unfortunately, B'Elanna concluded that it wouldn't be suitable for lining the replicator filters-- too much of it had been despoiled by the chrymocyroctic particles produced by the anomaly."
I don't understand a word of what she's saying, Chakotay thought. He had never been too learned in science. Not sure what to say, he spoke, "It's a pity. I know Torres really needed something for the replicators. She'll have to recalibrate all of the replicators herself now." He thanked the spirits that he remembered reading B'Elanna Torres, the half-breed, was chief engineer onboard this ship.
"Well," Janeway said, a smile quirking at the corners of her lips. "B'Elanna will have a field day with the repairs. She's actually been complaining for once of having too little to do."
"Well," He spoke slowly, "I think we can rest assured that we'll run into some Hirogen, Borg, or another damned spacial anomaly that will remedy that problem quickly."
Janeway grinned full out now. It lit up her face with a warm light, her eyes glowing with merriment. She was a beautiful woman... "With our luck, that wouldn't be too unlikely. But, quite frankly, I'd deal with hostile Hirogen or Borg any day before a grouchy B'Elanna Torres." He chuckled with her. It was friendly laughter, his hatred for this Janeway melting. He had to remind himself repeatedly to remember who he was talking to to keep from giving in to a reluctant liking for this woman.
Janeway seemed to be waiting for him to say something more. When he didn't, she abruptly slapped her knees with the palms of her hands and stood up. "Well, I guess that takes care of that. I'd better be heading back to the bridge if there's nothing more. Oh, and Chakotay," he glanced up. "Would you care to join me for dinner tonight?"
He couldn't help grinning, forgetting for a moment that this was Janeway and he was in a parallel universe. "Ah, the ulterior motive."
With a smile and a fake blush of shame, the other Janeway let her head hang slightly. "I have to admit that was one of my reasons for coming here."
"What time?" He asked. I shouldn't be doing this, he told himself, I should be looking for a way back to my ship. Besides, you know who you're talking to!
"Holodeck three, at 2000 hours. I'll expect you to be prompt, Commander," She said as she turned towards the door.
"I'll be there," Chakotay promised her as she slid out of the door.
He sat, staring at the closed door during the few minutes after her departure, contemplating why he had just agreed to dinner, wondering what exactly had prompted his brief loss of control.
He shook off the strange numbness of confusion that was descending upon him. He'd contemplate this all later. For now, he'd simply try to figure out what he'd do from here until he could figure out how to get home, and whether or not he should tell this crew about the fact that he was from a parallel universe.
Instead, he ended up unable to concentrate on the task at hand, staring at the chronometer, waiting for 2000 hours, one question stuck in his mind:
Why was she having this much effect upon him?
It had been a few days. Commander Chakotay had adjusted to the routine aboard this strange Voyager, playing his part carefully, constructing this other 'Captain' Chakotay's persona from the entries he had read in his personal logs. From what information he had gathered about this other crew, he figured it would be safer for him to refrain from revealing his identity. The crew was vastly different from before.
Seska was alive, his third in command. She was a full blooded Cardassian who didn't bother to hide her identity. Tuvok was a Vulcan rebel, B'Elanna Torres was (in the other Chakotay's logs) a half-breed rejected by both the Alliance crew and the Rebel crew, but she worked for the Alliance. Tom Paris was a pilot, part time alcoholic, and one of Janeway's crew. Harry Kim was a scar-faced, hardened rebel fighter. Seven of Nine was Anika in this universe, without borg implants, the other Paris's girlfriend and a former call girl. Neelix and Kes had never joined the crew. The doctor was no doctor, but a killer hologram designed to help defend the ship against invaders. Chakotay was working for the Alliance, one of its mercenaries. Janeway, last of all, was one of the rebel leaders and a notorious terrorist responsible for killing hundreds of people.
He didn't see her very often in this universe. She sat in the chair next to him on the bridge, but all attempts to start a conversation on his part were deflected, received with a suspicious glare on her part, and monosyllable responses. He reasoned that this Janeway and this Chakotay must have some ill humor between them. From reading some of this Chakotay's log entries, he noticed that she as referred to as 'The cold blooded-bitch' or 'Evil, conniving murderer'... He also noticed that this Chakotay repeatedly referred to twenty years during which he relentlessly chased her throughout the galaxy, but there was never a motive mentioned.
Now, he read over a few stray padds of information he had found on this ship's computer about parallel universes, containing far more information than the other Chakotay was finding on Voyager. This universe, he reasoned, had been so drastically altered by crossovers that it was only natural that they'd have extensive research conducted on them.
Janeway was currently on the surface of Umari Prime, a planet his Voyager had visited before looking at the spacial anomaly. She was collecting the materials for which the other Chakotay had agreed to exchange dilithium. Chakotay personally thought this other captain was insane for trading dilithium. It was a substance that was very difficult to come by. In his universe, it was Voyager that usually received dilithium from other ships.
He heard a beeping on a console behind him. Chakotay stood up and turned on instinct, about to call Tuvok for a report, shocked to see Rollins at the station. "Rollins, report," He called, trying to shake off the momentary shock at the unfamiliarity of seeing someone other than Tuvok at Tuvok's station.
"I'm detecting phaser fire near the away team's location--" He began.
"Seska to Voyager," Chakotay's combadge abruptly came alive. "Requesting emergency beam out for myself and the team members immediately next to me."
Chakotay nodded for the beamout to be authorized. "Who've we got?" He demanded after an interval of still silence during which the beam out occurred.
"Lieutenant Seska, Ensign Kraal, and Lieutenant Paris have been beamed up," Rollins reported.
"Patch me through to the transporter room," Chakotay ordered him. Rollins's fingers danced swiftly over the console. "Seska, where's Janeway?" He demanded.
"The Umarians tried to cheat us out of our foodstuffs. Janeway refused to leave until she got them. She ordered the rest of us to beam out. The insolent bitch--"
"Enough," Chakotay cut her off, tapping his combadge to close it. He glanced around the bridge briefly. "Tuvok, Rollins, and uh--" He paused glancing at a young Cardassian, "You, come with me. We're beaming down there."
"Sir..?" Tuvok was confused. What was he doing? Beaming down to get Janeway?
"Do you have a problem, Lieutenant?" Chakotay demanded, steel in his voice and eyes as they shuffled into the turbolift.
"Not at all, Captain," Tuvok replied stiffly as the turbolift zoomed down to the transporter deck. "I simply find it curious that you are concerned about the Commander's safety now after observing how the two of you... interact."
"I would do this for any of my crew, the commander included," Chakotay replied shortly. Feeling the puzzled glances of all in the turbolift, Chakotay realized just how out of character he was acting for the other Chakotay. He stared at the turbolift doors, jaw clenched firmly. It was probably best to remain silent for the next few minutes before he made more mistakes than he already had. But Chakotay refused to allow anything to happen to Kathryn, his protective instinct towards her extending even into a parallel universe with a completely different Janeway.
They materialized on Umari Prime, weapons drawn. Chakotay had made sure that they'd beam into an abandoned part of the facility they weren't any Umarians to fight from the start.
Chakotay glanced around. It looked significantly different than he had last seen it. The facility they had conducted negotiations in his universe had light, lime colored walls as shiny as pearls, with glass floors, and large, clear windows through which the glistening, fresh countryside shone through and flooded the rooms with light.
This facility had a sickly color of yellow painted on hard, unforgiving walls. The floors were all metal, like on a Borg ship, which clanked and pounded as you walked. This whole place reminded him of a Borg vessel. He almost wondered if they had modeled it upon the Borg example.
He squinted his eyes in the darkness, peering through his lashes to try to make out the shadowy objects lying in the inky blackness. Shadows crept upon them, drifting from one end of the room to the other, hinting that the Umarians had installed some sort of vague light source in the room, enough so one could make their way without tripping over themselves, but not enough so you could see your hand in front of your own face. The air was dank. It smelled musty with a faint, lingering stench like stale hay. The atmosphere was thick, and clung onto his face, hanging about like a dark pall of death.
They all paused for a moment, silently listening to the still air, waiting for any shuffle of movement that didn't come. Quietly, smoothly, Chakotay slid his tricorder out of the holster and opened it, the faint light bathing his face like gems in an uncovered treasure chest.
"This way," he whispered, stepping in the direction he was gesturing, waving the tricorder so his men could see through the darkness.
He heard their footsteps shuffle behind him as he honed in on Kathryn's combadge signal.
Commander Janeway mopped her forehead. It was literally dripping with sweat. This planet was sweltering hot, even at nighttime. She froze, paused, stilled her breathing and pressed her sweaty body back against the cold metal of the wall as she heard the evenly timed footsteps of one of the Umarian guards patrolling right near her. She clutched the cold phaser rifle with sweaty hands, her fingers instinctively itching to fire. She knew what to expect. She'd fire at him, probably kill him immediately. Hearing the phaser fire, other guards would run up, she'd fire at them, the rays tearing from her phaser, searing into the weak flesh. They'd scream, tumble to the ground. She'd feel the hot breath of the flames lick near her skin, the sound of them ripping through the air blowing into her ears, the fiery rays would flash in the darkness. Ethereal, fiery, deadly. Her heartrate increased and her palms grew more sweaty, her body trembling with a subdued excitement. It had been so long since she'd been able to merely let loose, been able to take all her aggression out and release it in one flaming hemorrhage...
Remember your objective, she rebuked herself silently. Things were different now. She was no longer free to do whatever the hell she felt like doing. Now, she had a duty to a vessel and a crew to whom she had give her all... And was serving underneath her tormentor, a man who had wronged her her whole life... And a man whom she had wronged... A man to whom she owed her upmost effort and loyalty.
She let out a slow breath. Quietly, she scampered from behind the panels, crept across the darkened corridor, avoiding the faint Umarian light. She had noticed earlier, before all the trouble began-- thanks to the gift for detail she picked up after she escaped from the prison facility at the age of twenty-- that the light had a five second interval. She timed her scramble carefully so her shadow wouldn't be projected across the wall of the chamber. The Umarians' own defenses were their own weaknesses, she mused as she reached the other side undetected. Cautiously, she slipped her tricorder out and checked the readings. The chamber with their promised foodstuffs, the foodstuffs the Umarians abruptly decided not to give them after they received the dilithium, was straight ahead.
Kathryn managed to slip undetected up to the door. She scanned the darkened chamber with her eyes. All she needed to get it was some sharp object she could use to interact with the keypad. She could pick the lock from there.
"Commander, I'm destroying you," Captain Janeway remarked with a bemused grin as she won the fifth pool game in a row.
Chakotay smiled, trying to hide his frustration behind a merry face, speaking through gritted teeth, "Yes, you are." And the night had been going so well! He'd dined with this Janeway on their 'holodeck', overlooking a computer-generated sunset over the ocean. He had managed to carry on small talk with her, able to quickly redirect the subject when she reffered to anything in the past that he had no knowledge of.
She was a great conversationalist, and she had an excellent sense of humor. His discomfort and inhibitions were soon worn off by the sweet wine and the ease of the conversation, and he was able to relax despite the fact that this woman had the same features-- the same voice, even the same manner in which she held her head high, set evenly above her shoulders with dignity-- during each and every moment that she spoke as the Janeway back on his Voyager had.
During the meal, he found his eyes following her hands as she gesticulated, focusing on her lips as she spoke, looking into her eyes as she listened. Her hands were soft, ivory white and delicate, smooth and gentle like a flawless pearl. Her lips were cherry red and soft, and her eyes were a beautiful color of sky blue, lined with long, feminine lashes. But at the same time, she still had a spark about her, a fire. She had authority and firmness in her voice, and intelligence projected in every word she spoke, a warm fire underneath the surface that could be kindled, and an intensity about her... Maybe not to the same degree as his Janeway, but she still had that intensity.
But now, the night had turned sour, after having repeatedly been crushed in pool by her during the small hours. Finally, Janeway smiled sympathetically at him. "Perhaps we should call it a night before I rob you of all of your rations."
Chakotay smiled, about to agree with her, to second her idea, when he suddenly felt some strange compulsion in him. He didn't want her to go... He didn't want to be separated from her. An odd tenderness crept into him, a warm rush of contentment. It was so alien to him, so unfamiliar.
"Actually, I was just thinking I wanted to take a walk. Would you join me?" He asked, surprised to hear his own voice so warm, devoid of all his harshness.
She smiled again. He loved seeing that smile. It was a beautiful smile, and to know he had been the one who had made her smile...
"We could go down to the hydroponics bay. Neelix was telling me the other day that a few new flowers have just come into bloom in Kes's garden." She suggested. Chakotay vaguely recognized the names 'Kes' and 'Neelix'-- the Ocampan assassin and the Talaxian slave who had begged Chakotay for protection from her. Chakotay had coldly turned down the request, and sent the dog on his way to fend for himself against the little telepathic girl.
"Lead the way." He gracefully gestured towards the entranceway in a chivalrous manner he had seen a male crewmember use for a female crewmember earlier that evening outside the messhall. Janeway smiled again, pranced past him out into the corridor, and he desperately hoped she'd lead the way to the hydropnics bay so he wouldn't make some mistake by leading them to the wrong place.
They were all there. The Umarians must have made a last minute decision when they decided not to give them the foodstuffs, Janeway mused. She had attached her combadge to the three large containers and signaled Voyager to beam them up. Kathryn knew the risk she was taking, parting with her combadge, but it was too risky to transport organic matter when one was transporting inorganic matter in bulk. Voyager's transporters had been malfunctioning lately anyway, so Janeway didn't think it was worth the risk. Plus, the shielding around the complex wouldn't aid the transporters at all.
As soon as the containers had shimmered out of her sight, Janeway swept her phaser rifle back up into her arms and propped it up on her shoulder. She walked lightly over to the door and crouched next to it for a moment, listening for any sound from the outside. Greeted by silence, she slowly eased the door open and crept out into the dark corridor. She glanced around the abandoned stillness, a sense of foreboding creeping into her.
The hairs on the back of her neck rose, and she felt a strange tingling in her upper back and ears. After years of fighting, Kathryn immediately recognized that instinct. On impulse, she spun the rifle around and ripped off a shot before she even had a clear sight of the person she was firing at, or even consciously was aware that he was standing behind her, preparing to discharge his weapon at her. By the time her eyes had adjusted enough for her to see his dark form, the guard was lying in a heap on the floor, smoke rising from his singed clothes.
Immediately, a red light filled the chamber, a rude alarm blaring with deafening noise, flooding throughout the compound. Janeway glanced up, not alarmed. Her body tensed as she braced for the oncoming fight. She raised up onto her toes and took off at a full sprint down the corridor towards the exit of the compound. She was detected now, so she didn't have time to worry. All Janeway knew was that she had to get as close to the exit as possible before they blocked it off to prevent her escape. If she was captured, she knew Chakotay wouldn't bother trying to negotiate for her life.
Kathryn heard a slight ruffling, and quickly tore off two shots in front of her, the shots tearing into two Umarians, throwing them back to the ground, unconscious. Jumping over them, Kathryn continued to sprint down the corridor, now attempting to stay cloaked by the shadows that lined the edges.
She felt a faint gush of air up against her warm skin and felt a thick presence right near her. Instinctively knowing she wouldn't be able to shoot this person on time-- they were right on top of her-- she swung the butt of her weapon around and slammed the guard across the cheek. As he dropped to the floor, she was surprised by the second shadowy figure that emerged from the darkness behind him, the shadows sinking off of him like he had just stepped out of inky water.
His hands gripped her weapon, preventing her from using it against him like a club. He gripped the weapon tightly and rammed forward, using Janeway's own desperate hold on the weapon as an anchor to propel her backwards clumsily against the solid wall of the corridor. Kathryn gritted her teeth as she was slammed rudely back with a breathtaking force, her bones crying out in protest as they were bruised and ground against one another. Clenching her jaw against the pain, biting back her cry, she tensed the muscles in her arms to try to prevent the weapon from coming any farther forward. Unfortunately, his strength was far greater than hers, and the weapon was crushed up against her throat, pinning her up against the wall and blocking the precious air from traveling into her gasping lungs. After a few futile seconds of trying to use her own strength to push the weapon away from her throat, Kathryn used a different approach. She rammed her knee up into his crotch, which she hoped was in the same place on an Umarian male as it was on a human male. He grunted and doubled over, the force of the weapon against her throat loosened enough for her to shove her left arm forward, pull her right arm back, and twist the weapon so it pointed directly at him. She squeezed urgently down on the trigger.
There was a bright flash of light, then he staggered back against the far wall of the hallway before he sank to the floor. Janeway gasped for breath in the sudden stillness, the blaring alarm having seemed to faded to being merely a background noise. She secured her grip on her weapon, then stepped forward so she loomed over him, feeling rage searing through her. She aimed the weapon at his head and discharged another shot to make sure he wouldn't arise again. Not wasting another moment, she stumbled down the hallway, her feet unsteady as she attempted to pick up her pace again. Her lungs were still sore and undoubtedly bruising from the crushing force of the weapon.
She came to a chamber at the end of the corridor. It was a massive room, with a large platform extending over a long drop with two corridors extending from the opposite side of the chamber. Kathryn slowed her pace and her breathing and crept out onto the platform, carefully surveying the space around her, illuminated by the light of the building's central power core that was alight in the middle of the chamber. She knew just how dangerously visible she was by the light of the power core. Kathryn noticed a form in one of the corridors and she quickly pressed back against the walls in the shadows, carefully aiming for the Umarian. If he came anywhere near her, she'd fire. She hoped, though, that he'd choose not to come into this chamber, otherwise the phaser fire might draw more guards. Suddenly, she realized there were a few more people rapidly coming from the other corridor. She cursed her reflexes for having slowed down and whipped around to fire at whoever was coming into the corridor. Her breath caught, and her finger stilled and refrained from putting the necessary pressure on the trigger. She glanced up and stared into the darkness. It was... Chakotay, Tuvok, that Cardassian, Daltor... What were they doing here?
Chakotay caught her eyes. She lowered her weapon steadily, staring with dazed incomprehension at him. Had he come to assist her? Impossible. To kill her? Likely. Instinctively, she knew she should kill him before he got to her, but on rare occasions, her conscience won out over her instinct, and luckily for Chakotay, this was one of them. This rare moment of conscience prevented her from raising her weapon back up again. While it saved Chakotay's life, it put her own at peril.
She became vaguely aware of the guard she had noticed earlier in the corridor next to Chakotay's raising his weapon. Her mind kicked back in and she raised her weapon at him, but was unable to pull off the shot before his shot enveloped her. Kathryn felt fire as every muscle in her body contracted. Her mind exploded in a pain, her vision darkened around her, and her muscles became clumsy. She felt her mind relax into a clumsiness as she was vaguely aware of her body stumbling towards the edge of the platform. She felt the tingling as every sensory gland in her body shut down, and she saw the ground rushing up at her, but she didn't feel the impact.
She felt nothing. Absolute numbness and stillness enveloped her. Her vision flickered and swam, caressed by darkness and a thick smog rapidly growing within it. She strained to move her muscles, though her mind was too clumsy to comprehend what she was doing. Her efforts only led to a slight twitching in her fingers and toes, and still, the prickling numbness. It was like she was in a mist, floating gracefully away, watching what was going on through her own eyes like it was on a viewscreen. There was a shadowy figure rushing into her sight. She couldn't think, but the strength of one in danger kicked in enough to propel her quivering arm into the air, allowing it to slink over to the weapon, clumsily fumbling for it with rubber fingers and managing to get ahold of it by sight only. She lifted it slowly out before her, pointing it at the person, doubting if she was going to be able to apply the pressure necessary to fire the trigger, or if she could still the quivering weakness of her arm long enough to hit the target accurately, the target rapidly vanishing into the mist obscuring her vision. Her mind was numbing more. She instinctively knew she was on the verge of passing out, but with red hot fire she managed to combat it, fight it off, prevent it from encasing her just yet.
"Kathryn," The figure called. She squinted, her thoughts still chaotic, uneven. "Kathryn, I'm going to help you... Just put the gun down."
Her mind clicked. It was Chakotay standing before her, Chakotay she had her weapon leveled at. She felt her palms grow a bit more sweaty, and she didn't lower her weapon, uncertainty gripping her through the daze of her half conscious-half unconscious state. What was she to do? She was helpless without this weapon. She couldn't fight anyone off, she couldn't run... What was to prevent Chakotay from killing her now? And if she was killed on an alien planet, he could simply blame it on the Umarians. The only reason he hadn't killed her on the ship was that her crew would rise up against him... But if aliens were responsible, it would be easier to get her crew under his control.
"No," She managed to murmur through her heavy, numbed jaws. Her left eye had sunk closed. Kathryn lacked the strength to hold the leaden lid up, all her strength being invested into holding this phaser up. Her arm was shaking with the exertion, the muscles, swarming with whatever toxins were in that weapon's beam, were rapidly being worn to exhaustion. "I promise, I won't hurt you," He murmured, his voice soft like honey, gentle as a lark as he took a slow, cautious step towards her. "I need to get you back to the ship. Trust me, Kathryn. Trust me." Something in his tone made her think back to the distant past, the past she had always tried so hard to bury, the past that had followed at her heels, haunted her every moment of her life. She remembered a wrinkled, blackened, charred twist of burnt flesh, dead eye sockets, mouth locked open in an eternal scream, fists gripped in agony. The entire body was twisted, like it had been writhing before the flames had been extinguished from it. She remembered just a tiny bit of pink flesh had still been present on the charred body, a reminder of what was once there...
She felt the blood thick on her hands, she saw the wound standing in front of her. The phaser shook even more in her straining arm. It was shaking violently now. With a gasp, she released the last hold on the strength she had been fighting to maintain, the arm dropping heavily, like lead, to the ground, the phaser sliding out of it.
Kathryn followed him with her left eye, the only muscle she still held her grip over, as he slowly approached her. He walked slowly, as if he was trying not to alarm her, but quickly enough to project his urgency at getting her up. Finally, when he was close enough, he knelt down over her. Kathryn felt something inside of her contract, a stomach muscle, maybe, as if on impulse to reflect whatever was coming. Instead of pain, she felt his strong arms sliding under her limp body, scooping her up, effortlessly lifting her up from the ground. Kathryn felt her feet dangling towards the ground, her head slumped over against his powerful chest. She was vaguely aware of the hard metal weapon he was holding in his right hand, underneath her legs, propped up to fire in case anyone got in their way. She felt her eyes drifting heavily closed as he traveled through the corridors, occasionally whispering that they were close to the exit, that she' be okay. She lost track of the way as her mind settled into the comforting numbness. Kathryn finally allowed herself to fully relax into his arms, her mind too tired to be suspicious at the moment.
Captain Janeway laughed as Chakotay told her another anecdote that he had heard during his time with the Maquis. She tried to hide the feeling that she had had in her gut all night--an odd sensation that something was amiss. It seemed like he was hiding something. She couldn't quite put her finger on what it was, though. And this combined with the way he had acted in sickbay yesterday...
She had hoped she could divulge what exactly was bothering him by inviting him to dinner. Kathryn usually tried not to encourage Chakotay's feelings for her by inviting him to do things (or encourage her own feelings for him through that same act), but today was different. He had scared the hell out of her when she walked into sickbay, seeing him burnt and unruffled, a sickly white pallor over his normally dark complexion. It had unnerved her, and the way he acted in sickbay afterwards had also puzzled her. When they first began dining, he was unusually stiff and perfunctory. Even though he relaxed and was soon joking with her like his usual self, there was something amiss.
She glanced at him, sitting next to her at the edge of one of the flowerbeds. There was a small fountain bubbling in the middle of the garden, one that Ensign Wildman had petitioned for two months to add. It added a cozy, surreal effect to the beautiful garden. Janeway was acutely aware of Chakotay's nearness, his warm breath on her neck, the occasional soft touch of his hands on her shoulders when he wanted her to direct her attention to another area of the garden. He was treating her differently, as well. Whereas earlier in the evening he was almost disrespectful of her, he now seemed to treat her like some sort of fragile statue, one that you had to handle carefully or it might break. His gaze was worshipful, he took in every word she said like it was the gospel. Everytime Janeway alluded to leaving, he managed to redirect the subject to something else, usually concerning her. He hadn't talked about himself at all this whole night, she realized.
Kathryn said finally, "Chakotay, it's late. I really must get some sleep." She smiled at him. "I've had a lovely evening, though."
Chakotay briefly considered trying to suggest another activity to delay her departure, as he had been doing all night, but now he realized it would cast suspicion on him to detain her for too long. Besides, this Janeway was just as headstrong as his Janeway. If she had her mind made up, she wouldn't be deterred, and it was clear to him as she said this that she had her mind made up.
"You're right." He hopped down from the wall besides the garden and held out his hands for her to grasp as she swiftly descended down from the wall. Kathryn slid down in a smooth, graceful gesture. She was coordinated, like his Janeway, only a different kind of coordination. Every gesture she made was smooth, elegant, like a dancer. His Janeway moved like a predator, stealthily, darkly, a natural killer, slipping through the shadows in the darkness, inching across the starless night, striking in a fiery inferno when one least expects it.
He watched Captain Janeway out of the corner of his eye as he walked her back to her quarters. He engaged her in casual conversation as his eyes ran over her chiseled, noble features-- features that conveyed strength and yet a tenderness and beauty at the same time. She was dignified. He faintly wondered if his Janeway would have become this woman if she had never killed his parents, if she had continued on in the normal Terran life.
Why did she do it? He wondered, eyes still tracing the lines of this Janeway's face. He couldn't believe, not after having met this Kathryn, that she was born evil. It had to have been acquired. But how? He had meticulously researched her family background. Her mother had died at an early age, and her father was a gentle artisan-- a noble man with a genial disposition, a man who wouldn't provoke violence needlessly. Then, how could she have committed such a barbarous act?
They halted in front of her quarters. She turned, looked into his dark eyes with her blue ones, smiled warmly, and quietly wished him goodnight. Chakotay felt a deep rush of warmth radiate through him, and his skin tingled. Her lips looked so soft, so inviting. Somehow, he managed to restrain himself from gathering her into his arms and pressing his lips onto hers, from giving in to his strong impulse to let her know what she meant to him. She was already turning away from him to imput the code for her quarters. Impulsively, Chakotay took one of her ivory hands in his own. She glanced at him for a moment, surprised. He said nothing, but raised the fingers up and lightly brushed his lips along them. "Good night, Kathryn." He murmured. He gently let her hand drift out of his, then he retreated back away from her. Kathryn stood in her doorway, stunned by the overt action for a moment, but a faint smile touched her lips, charmed by the simple, old-fashioned act of chivalry, the small gesture that showed so much warm affection.
"Good night," she whispered under her breath, taking a last glance at his retreating form.
As the next day wore to a close, Commander Chakotay was contacted by Doctor Fitzgerald. Janeway had finally regained consciousness and was requesting to speak with him in her office.
Behind him, Tuvok raised an eyebrow at the request. It was not what he expected of Janeway. She tended to avoid Chakotay as much as she possibly could. But then again, he had observed that there had been may unusual events in the past few days. He glanced at his superior officer, Rollins. He noticed Lieutenant Rollins' eyes following Chakotay as he left the bridge. He was puzzled as well.
Tuvok straightened his posture. He'd have to look further into this whole matter. It was too curious to ignore any longer.
As the next day wore to a close, Commander Chakotay was contacted by Doctor Fitzgerald. Janeway had finally regained consciousness and was requesting to speak with him in her office.
Behind him, Tuvok raised an eyebrow at the request. It was not what he expected of Janeway. She tended to avoid Chakotay as much as she possibly could. But then again, he had observed that there had been may unusual events in the past few days. He glanced at his superior officer, Rollins. He noticed Lieutenant Rollins' eyes following Chakotay as he left the bridge. He was puzzled as well.
Tuvok straightened his posture. He'd have to look further into this whole matter. It was too curious to ignore any longer.
Commander Chakotay walked into Janeway's office (his on the other Voyager). The light was dimmed out. She was standing, hands on her slim hips, feet shoulder width apart, her back to him, staring out at the stars as they flew by. He almost smiled at the familiarity of the posture.
Her long red hair tumbled down the back of her black tanktop, almost reaching the tan pants she was wearing. Her prominent muscles were faintly visible, protruding slightly through the skin of her well toned arms. Her muscular back flexed slightly as he entered, which made him aware of the fact that she knew he was there. His eyes drifted down her leg to the area just above her knee, where the black holster where she kept her weapon was located.
The holster was empty.
"Computer, lock door. Authorization, Janeway Beta Seven-One-Zero." She spoke as she spun around, the ugly weapon pointed directly ahead of her, aimed carefully with precision at Chakotay.
"What is this, Commander? The thanks I get for saving your life?" He demanded, trying to make his voice sound harsh and angry.
She stared at him. She didn't look angry or threatening. Her face was impassive, but her eyes were glistening in the starlight. "Who are you?" She demanded quietly.
"Excuse me?" Chakotay asked.
"Who are you?" She repeated. "I know you're not the Captain... That's obvious. Who are you and what have you done with him?"
"I got the impression the two of you didn't get along very well. Why would you care what happened to him?" Chakotay asked, looking at her with keen, narrowed eyes.
"I owe him my loyalty, whether or not I get anything back for it," She replied curtly. "Now, answer the question."
Chakotay glanced at her with narrowed eyes. "How did you know?"
Janeway blinked for a moment, then gestured with her weapon for him to sit in the chair next to him. He didn't take his eyes off of hers as he reached out a hand and felt for the chair before he lowered himself into it. Without looking away from him or letting the aim of her weapon waver in the least, Kathryn circled around the chair in front of her and slid into it, one leg rising up and crossing over the other as she studied him shrewdly, in a manner that showed she was almost relaxed. Her manner was almost unnerving-- the gaze of her fierce eyes, the way her body was relaxed and yet alert, the way she stared at him head on as if ready for anything he might say to her, able to divulge the truth from any of his lies.
"First of all," She spoke finally, after a few moments in which her piercing blue eyes ripped him to pieces for her careful analysis, "Your behavior in sickbay. Chakotay would never call me down to his presence for a status report. He'd call Rollins down for that. He'd never apologize to me, not for anything," (the last word was spat out almost viciously,) "And especially not for 'bothering me'. If there's one point in his life, it is to 'bother me.' Next, you tried to start up conversation on the bridge-- like we were old friends. The Captain hates me-- and for good reason. And then, to top everything off, you saved my life." She stared at him with a strange, lucid expression of curiosity alighting her face. "He lives to see my death. And you--- who are you?"
He took a deep breath before he explained, "When your Captain was in the shuttle accident, near the spacial anomaly, I was also in a similar accident. We must have somehow switched places. I'm from a parallel universe. I am Chakotay, but I'm not the one from this place. On my Voyager, I'm the first officer, you're the Captain."
Kathryn nodded thoughtfully, her eyes becoming distant. "The mirror universe." She murmured. "I've heard of it. Though," she admitted with a shrug. "I guess I never quite believed all the talk." She glanced up abruptly, her thoughts coming back to her location. "And in this mirror universe-- we aren't... Deadly enemies?"
Chakotay shook his head. "No, not at all. On the contrary, you are--that is, Kathryn is, one of my best friends... She's..." He faded off before his tongue slipped and finished the woman I love.
"She's..?" Janeway stared at him, waiting for him to finish the statement he had begun.
"It doesn't matter. Needless to say, we're good friends." He stopped, staring at her with a sudden alarmed realization. "Wait a minute. You say he wants nothing more than to see you dead?"
"That's the idea," she replied, staring curiously at him, waiting to catch his drift, her hand still tensed on her phaser.
"Do you think that my Janeway could be in any trouble? If he hates you so much..." Chakotay faded off as a dozen terrible scenarios filtered into his head. Janeway shook her head, closing her eyes briefly.
"He won't strike against anyone unless he's in immediate danger. Chakotay may be obsessive, but he's no psychopath. Hate is all he has." She paused, them murmured almost imperceptibly, "Hate is all I have."
Chakotay watched carefully as her weapon sank down, no longer tensed to shoot him. She stood up restlessly from her seat and paced over to the window, holstering her weapon and crossing her arms over her chest. She stared at the starscape again, haunted by her thoughts.
She didn't stiffen at his touch on her shoulder, didn't resist when he gently turned her to face him with a feathery light touch. He stared into her eyes-- he saw her pain, he saw her anger. Chakotay vaguely remembered reading a novel a long time ago, The Count of Monte Cristo. There was a character in the novel who was completely paralyzed. The only outlet he had for his emotions was through his eyes, eyes that were always so intense. Staring into her eyes now, he realized just how closely that tied in with her.
"What happened between the two of you?" He whispered gently.
Kathryn glanced up, looking into his eyes. She was in pain, soul-twisting, tormenting pain, which nipped at her heels every step she took, every breath she inhaled. It was soul deep, burying into her bones, burrowing, eating her soul alive.
"I killed his father," She whispered. Chakotay blinked in surprise. He hadn't expected this omission from her, certainly not something like this. He briefly felt a flash of his old pain, left over from when his own father had been killed. But there had to be something more to this. And there was.
"I was nine years old. Chakotay's father was a Terran 'turncoat', so to speak. He worked for the alliance. He fought for them during war time, and he held lands for a Cardassian gul named Dumar. I was born to two of the Terran slaves who worked on the lands. My mother died before I knew her, about a year after I was born. My father worked as an artisan. He wove baskets and constructed sculptures for the overlords-- he got out of heavy labor that way. I was too young to do any real labor yet, so I was assigned to daily shifts where I would carry messages and small boxes from place to place for the overlords. I don't remember much about my childhood... It was so short. I remember that day, though. I remember how hungry I was. I had to leave before the sun rose, and I wouldn't get home until it set.
"I had passed a street stand, one of the mobile cafes. They were cooking the best pastries there. My father had bought me one once, so I remembered just how good they were. I wished that I had at least one latinum chip. I could have bought one then..." She closed her eyes and shook her head briefly. "Gods, I'm getting off subject."
She continued on, "After I had delivered the message, I noticed a man and a woman on the street, whispering together. I didn't pay much attention, but the woman called, 'Little girl, come here!' She told me how tired she was, how she'd been working all day. She asked me, 'In mercy's name,' as she put it, if I could bring a little package to Kreivor Manor for her. I didn't think of the fact that she was too old, too fit to be doing the job I was doing. I assumed she was an errand runner, just like myself. I was still reluctant to do it, though, because Kreivor Manor was out of the way, and I thought we all had to do our own jobs and not other people's. But she smiled at me, and she held out a latinum chip. She told me she'd give it to me if I did it for her. I told her I'd do it, and she patted me on the head, then urged me to do it as quickly as I could. And, she added, 'If the guards at the gate ask you, tell them that this was your errand. You don't want me to get in trouble with my overlords, do you?'
"I took the package to Kreivor Manor. The guards checked out my certificate of authorization, (they didn't bother to inspect the package), then allowed me to carry it to the importing tube. I dumped it down like I would anything else. Then I left. I remember that I got to the cafe and bought the pastry. I was so proud of myself at the time. I traveled a few hours until I got home. I still remember it," She faded off, and abruptly turned away from Chakotay to stare out the window. "The sky was black-- so black, and the air was thick. I remember-- the village was burning. I wasn't sure what was going on. I ran to my home... I ran the whole way. I saw my father. He was dead, just lying there on the grass, covered in blood. Then the soldiers came. They all wore black, head to toe, black armor. One of them grabbed me by the arms and they pulled me into some vehicle. I didn't know what was happening. I remember they kept asking me so many questions, who I was working with. They used some sort of pain giving device on me. I was screaming already-- they didn't have to use it. I was sobbing, begging them to stop hurting me. I told them everything I could, I told them that a lady I didn't know gave me the box, they kept hitting me when I couldn't say who. They didn't believe me. It lasted for days. It seemed like an eternity.
"One day, they were very nice to me. They didn't hit me, they simply told me to come with them, very gently. I followed them into a small chamber. The Cardassian man pulled back a cover... It was Kolopak's body. They had managed to put out the fire before his body had been burned completely, but it hadn't been cleaned yet. 'You did this.' They said, 'And you are going to have to live with it for the rest of your life.' Then they locked me in the chamber and left me overnight with the body. I tried to look away from it, but I knew it was looking at me. I started screaming, crying, begging them to let me out. I must have passed out eventually." She sighed and closed her eyes against the stars. "The next time I woke up, I was in the Tarnoth Penal Colony. I spent the next eleven years there. Everything changed for me. My reputation had reached the Colony before I had. People kept asking me about the bombing-- how I could have killed at the age I was, what my motivation was. Every second, that man's death haunted me, followed at my heels like the fire had never been put out, and was turning back to consume me.
"When I escaped, I tried to change my identity. I tried to live a different life, but everyone expected something of me. Chakotay was hunting me, so I never could settle down in one place. The Terrans who recognized me expected me to be a ruthless, twisted killer. And finally, it all came crashing down on me-- the bombing, my father's death, eleven years wasting away in a prison camp, exile from the society of my own kind... I was walking down an empty street on a Bajoran moon at the time when it hit me. I stopped walking. I had nowhere to go. I had no purpose. I stood there. I didn't think. I stood there until I collapsed. I was waiting to die.
"When I awoke, it was hailing and freezing cold. There were no stars in the sky. No one was around. I was hungry, tired, in pain, but I felt nothing. I vaguely saw blood... as if through a haze. It was running down my arm, probably from a large hailstone. I realized that the hailstones were piercing my skin. They were large-- falling hard. I was surprised at just how good the pain felt--the pain on the outside killed the pain on the inside. I stood up in the hailstorm and let them crash down on me, a monster in the night. I don't know how much later it was when the Cardassian soldier came by to arrest me for sleeping in the street. I killed him.
"Everything was different from that moment on. I was the monster everyone thought of me as. I could kill person after person, and with each drop of blood spilled, the pain dimmed down. I stopped feeling weakness, or anything for that matter-- no fear, no love, no hate. They all faded to a sort of indifference. And yet, after having intentionally killed so many people, committed acts of evil so terrible... That one man's death has been the only one haunting me. Kolopak's death has followed me through my whole life. It's the only one that I feel guilty about... And the only one that wasn't intentional..."
She faded off, then took a few steps back away from the window and sank down into a chair. "I don't know what it is about you... That somehow I can confide in you when I've never dared tell anyone this before in my life... Maybe it's because you are somehow the same person that I wronged all those years ago..." She paused, studying him, attempting to wipe the sorrow on her face away. "Maybe because you saved my life... No one's ever gone out of their way for my sake before."
"Does he know this?" Chakotay asked gently.
Janeway let out a breath. "I can't imagine how he would. I've never told him of it, and the Cardassian interrogators passed my whole story off as bullshit when I told it as a nine year old." She paused. "No, he doesn't know."
Chakotay knelt down next to her chair. She wasn't looking at him. Her gleaming eyes were focused on the blackness of space, as if she could plunge into the great depths of the dark void and leave all the pain behind.
"If he knew, if he had known, I think he'd be forced to reexamine his entire perspective of you." Chakotay looked at her, daring to allow one of his hands to grasp hers. She glanced down at her hand, encased within his, with a strange indifference. She didn't try to jerk away, though, nor did she stiffen. She simply stared, face pale. "I can't imagine going through what you've been through. You have been wronged... Your whole life."
"And I have done wrong," She replied, her eyes drifting up to catch his. "Don't forget that. I've killed more people than I can count. If I had remained innocent, pure, after all that happened, then maybe I'd be worthy of your sympathy." She stood up, her hand tearing out of his. "But I didn't. I turned into the monster everyone expected me to be... And I didn't, not for one moment, feel guilty about it! I still don't. I still can't."
He opened his mouth to speak, but she spoke up again, "And you speak of Chakotay changing his perspective about me? It will never happen. For one, he'll never believe me... Not after all we've said, not after all these years. It's not about revenge for him anymore, not about his father, his lands," She turned to look at Chakotay again, "It's his vendetta. His hatred is all he's had for so long, and his hatred is embodied in me. It's about destroying me... And it doesn't matter what I have and haven't done. The fact remains, that I have been his enemy for thirty two years, and nothing will change that!"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Chakotay replied quietly. "You may know him, as his enemy... But underlying all his hatred, underlying all his life, he and I both are the same person... There are some things about a person that are there no matter what happens to them. Kathryn, he wouldn't hate you forever if he knew the truth. If he knew you-- Kathryn, any Kathryn Janeway-- as well as I do, he'd figure out that there's something more than just his father's murder."
She stared at him in the brief silence that followed that staement. For a moment, he thought she was going to say something, but she suddenly put herself in check. Then, an entirely new emotion fllickered across her face as something flared up in her eyes. "You think you know me, isn't that it? Because you know the Janeway in your universe, you think you can figure me out! You know nothing!" She spat. Shaking her head in exasperation. "This was a mistake, I knew it was a mistake."
"Kathryn," He took a step towards her. What was going on? Had he said something wrong, stepped over some forbidden line? He stopped short, her phaser once again leveled at his chest, her fierce eyes hard and cold as ice once again. She looked exactly the same as she always had, impassive, uncaring, hardened.
In a cold voice, she said, "Get moving. We're going to have to figure out what to do with you."
"What is it, Mr. Kim?" Captain Janeway asked sleepily as she walked onto the bridge. Her eyes were still puffy and draped with heavy lids after being so abruptly woken. She had her uniform on, somewhat crinkled by the haste in which she had donned it.
"There's something you need to see. It's about the Thoranic matter we collected..." Harry said.
"The Thoranic matter? I thought it was useless," Kathryn interrupted.
"It is," Harry assured her. He tapped a few buttons on his science console to show the data he had collected. "But while Seven and I were running a metallurgical analysis, we stumbled upon something interesting. Look at these readings." He pointed to a few algorythms displayed on the screen.
"Fluctuating atoms," Kathryn murmured, studying the readings intently. She didn't glance up when she asked, "Harry, do you mean to tell me--"
"They're fluctuating on five different frequencies," Harry supplied, glancing at her. "It looks like they've been constantly in transition."
"Transition from what?" Kathryn asked, looking back up at him with a puzzled expression.
"Not what. Where." Harry captured her gaze. "A parallel universe." Kathryn glanced into his dark eyes, searching his, one scientist to another. She glanced back down at the readings to confirm what Harry had supplied for her.
"So if these have been from a parallel universe..." Her eyes flashed with a sudden alarmed realization, and they flew back up to meet Kim's. "Commander Chakotay was covered with these when we brought him back to sickbay. Could there be any residual effects?"
"I'm... really not sure, Captain," Harry replied with a helpless shrug.
Kathryn's gaze drifted through Kim, not focused on him, but on something beyond her sight. Her blue eyes focused again and she glanced at him with a lucid expression that was devoid of her momentary alarm. "I'll have the doctor run some scans on him, just to play it safe."
Kim nodded, even though he knew that she wasn't consulting him. Her mind was already made up.
Captain Chakotay finally pushed himself out of his counterpart's bed. There was no use trying to sleep. He was too restless tonight.
Something was tormenting him. He wasn't sure what it was, but he knew it had to do with Kathryn... Janeway! Damn it! He corrected his mental use of the word 'Kathryn'. You're going to be returning back to that ship soon... and you've got to get used to the fact that she's your enemy again.
He had spent the whole previous day in sickbay, with the doctor running tests on him. Janeway and the doctor confronted him about the fact that he was on the wrong Voyager, and he openly admitted it. This Janeway, with pained betrayal flashing in her eyes, ordered him confined to quarters until they figured out just what to do with him and how to contact the other Voyager. While Chakotay wished to explain explain to her, to apologize for deceiving her, he knew he wouldn't get that chance to speak to her in private again. But God! If only he could talk to this Kathryn one last time before he was stuck with his again!
His eyes drifted to the other Chakotay's medicine bundle. His curiosity was piqued and he slowly approached it, leaning over and unfolding it with stiff fingers. It had been so long since he had gone on a vision quest. Years! His guide hadn't appeared to him since he began chasing Janeway, and he had finally given up trying.
He found himself sitting on the floor with his legs crossed. He'd try it one more time, for old time's sake.
Commander Chakotay paced restlessly behind the glowing forcefield of the other Voyager's brig. He noticed a few subtle differences between this brig and the one on his Voyager. For one, the room was darker. There were a few lights built into the walls, but they barely projected enough illumination to spread throughout the whole room. The forcefield generators, however, apparently had a much higher energy output than the ones on his ship. They glowed a blinding white color and stood menacingly in between his dim cell and the security post right outside of the brig. He had no doubt that if he dared touch the forcefield that he would be killed by the shock instead of midly stunned.
With a heavy sigh, he sank onto the bed of the brig, not taking his eyes off of the security officer posted right outside of the forcefield's reach. The mattress was hard, he noticed. He glanced down at it and pushed down on it with one fist, the gray material barely giving way under his touch. They might as well skip the mattress altogether and just have a shelf here. It would be just as comfortable, He thought grimly.
He heaved another sigh and pushed his back to the wall and crossed arms over his powerful chest, wishing he had his medicine bundle. He wanted more than anything to contact his spirit guide right now.
Captain Chakotay jerked to his feet with a cry. He stumbled back a few steps before he regained his bearings, his feet unsteady beneath him. He glanced around rapidly, his forehead lined with sweat, trying to recall what had just happened, why he had been so abruptly jerked out of his vision quest, trying to recall what he had seen during that vision quest.
Then the images came back to him... Images from a long forgotten time ago...
When he was fifteen, he remembered watching tapes of the Cardassian interrogation of Janeway, the little girl a few days after she had killed his father. He had put off watching these tapes for a while, and on his ship had been getting around to the last of them. She was sobbing furiously, crouched half-naked in a scrawny, shivering little ball on the floor. Not a bare inch of her pale skin was visible through the blood and bruises that marred it, and her dank hair was tangled and matted, clinging wetly to her face and hanging limply around her taut shoulders.
Surrounding her, towering above her, were six large Cardassian soldiers. Hovering over her, weapons gripped tightly in their hands, they fired question after question at her. When she gave an answer unsatisfactory to them, she received a hard kick, or was hit by one of the weapons. He remembered the little girl's crumbling resolve, how she began to say exactly what they wanted to hear just to stop the pain, just to be left alone.
But was it the truth? He hated the fact that he had to ask that now, after all these years. Twenty years of his life, he'd invested into pursuing her. Thirty two years of his life he'd spent feeding his hatred. It had burrowed deep into his soul, his vendetta, his reason for being, burrowing so deep so as to become a part of him, so as to become what defined him. But now, this brief excursion to a parallel universe had destroyed all that, ripped apart the ecstasy he'd achieved in his own malice, for it was ecstasy. It gave his life a purpose, gave him a reason for having thrown away twenty years. And leaving it behind... He couldn't even begin to imagine what he'd do without that hatred. But he couldn't continue if it was all false, if it was all a lie. He wanted something to define him, but he wanted it to be genuine! He would not live a lie!
He vowed that as soon as he got back to his ship, he'd watch each and every one of those tapes over again, because while he knew he couldn't trust the monster on his ship, and monster she was, no matter just how she had become that way, somehow, he knew he could trust that nine year old girl whose soul had died all those years ago...
Captain Chakotay awoke to the door chime. He sat up on his bed and called for the person to enter, hoping against hope that it was Kathryn, alone. He wanted the chance to explain, to apologize...
She paused at the entryway, then crept in. "I hope I'm not waking you," She said quietly.
"No... Not at all. Please, come in," he spoke quickly. He could sense a slight hesitation on her part, and her movement was like a blind man who suddenly could see.
"I spoke to your first officer," she said to him. She hadn't sat down yet. She was standing with her arms crossed in front of her chest and her best Captain's mask on. "You're returning to your ship as soon as we get the signal."
"I wouldn't count on getting that," Chakotay snorted.
"Yes, I sensed relations were a bit... strained between the two of you," she said slowly. "But she's a woman of her word. She'll send the signal."
Chakotay glanced up at her shrewdly through the darkness. A woman from a parallel universe, and yet she already seemed to understand the enigma on his ship better than he did.
"I guess the core is the same for everyone," He murmured.
"That's what I'd like to think," Kathryn replied. Her eyes were scrutinizing him thoughtfully. "You may not be my first officer, but you're like him in many ways."
"Hardly, Captain. He's a man of peace. I'm a man of war," Chakotay said, meeting her gaze in the dim light. "He defines himself by the future. I define myself by the past."
"It's a long story," He said tiredly.
"We have plenty of time."
He considered the wisdom of confiding in her. His instincts screamed for him not to... But something compelled him to put his faith in this woman. To him, she represented purity, a version of innocence that he'd never find in his universe, that he'd never find again. And time was running short.
"When I was eleven years old, my father was murdered. Someone planted a bomb in our estate, which immediately enveloped the house in flames. He was pinned under the rubble, and no one was willing to help him. I hope, to this day, that the smoke killed him... That he didn't burn alive." He said quietly. "He was an alliance supporter, and despised by many Terrans. It was immediately discovered that the bomb was planted by a nine year old Terran girl. Being just a child myself, it was never hard for me to accept the Cardassian explanation that the girl had been responsible for the act. They combed the remains for any evidence of other perpetrators, but they never found anything conclusive.
"At my father's death, I became the head of the estate. The matter was immediately transferred to my hands. Just a few minutes after the fire, when they first informed me of the suspect, I was angry enough to retaliate by ordering her village burned, and all the inhabitants killed. When they apprehended her, they managed to pry a confession out of her. They even gave me tapes of the interrogations for my own amusement. I didn't get around to watching them for a long time. I had a choice of either sending her to her immediate death, or letting her slowly waste away in an internment camp. I picked the latter.
"I hated her. With every single breath I took, for all those years, I hated her. She stole my life. My mother had died right after I was born, and my father, on his own, had raised me. He was a peace loving man. He wasn't a turncoat or a sellout, like the other Terrans said. He simply didn't want to fight, he didn't want violence. She tore my world apart, and I was determined to tear hers apart. I was enraged, when I was at the military academy, eleven years after the crime, upon learning that she had escaped. I dropped out of the academy and immediately used my influence to gather a hunting force. I was determined to find her... And when I found her, kill her. I was determined to avenge my father.
"She became quite famous as the years passed. She attracted the most infamous terrorists, all of whom paled in comparison to her. She was cunning, brave, and utterly ruthless. She spared no one in her anger, left no survivors in her wake. She never bombed people. No, that wasn't her style. The only person she killed that way was my father. No, she always had it with a personal touch. Always with guns. They'd penetrate any enclosure and slaughter every person there. And I became a hero, because I was tracking this murderer.
"One day, I had her cornered. We had managed to pursue her with our best ship, Voyager, into the badlands. I was on the verge of catching her. Then we were pulled by the caretaker into the Delta Quadrant. Most of my crew was killed, much of hers was killed. We were forced by circumstance to work together, but we never have gotten along. We're still deadly enemies... I had my cause, she had hers. I never doubted that what I had spent twenty years doing was the right thing..." At this, he paused in his long story, his eyes going from hard to soft. "Until I met you. You see, the woman I've been referring to is your counterpart. You're not evil, you don't have malicious intentions. For so long, I'd been able to excuse her as just having been born evil. It's implausible that a nine year old child would be a merciless killer, but I always could use pure evil as an excuse. But not now. Now, I need to seek the truth. I've been in denial all of these years. I still hate the Janeway in my universe. I can't help but hate her. But I can't hate you. And if... for some reason... there is a different side to the story... then I want to find it. I don't want to live in the past anymore. I know I must move on."
His eyes drifted up to meet hers. He hadn't been sure just what to expect from her, and was mildly surprised by the compassion he saw reflected in their depths.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "That must have been devastating for you."
"It's done," he said with a shrug. "And what's done is done."
They both jumped in shock when Kathryn's combadge chirped. "Tuvok to Janeway,"
Letting out a shaky breath, she slapped her combadge, breaking her eye contact with Chakotay and spinning around to face the wall. "Janeway here,"
"We've received the signal from the alternate Voyager." Tuvok reported.
"We're on our way. Janeway out." She turned back to face Chakotay, who was now standing. "Well, it's time to go."
"Kathryn," He said, hesitantly. She noticed something different about his demeanor, a touch of insecurity there that she hadn't seen before. "Kathryn, I'm sorry I deceived you."
"Given the nature of your relationship with my... counterpart," Kathryn said, eyeing him evenly. "I'd do the same thing in your position."
He nodded to her briefly, a mutual understanding shared between the two of them.
As Chakotay headed by her side towards the transporter room, he steeled himself for what was ahead. He had spoken with one Janeway about the incident. Maybe now, he could face the other.
She was sorry to see him go, as much as she hated to admit it. As Commander Janeway watched Chakotay step up onto the transporter padd, she felt a deep sense of loss. He was the first person in a long time she could connect to on a personal level. He was the first person who had given a damn.
Maybe he had come a bit too close to her, which was why she had to shut down to him. Janeway had made sure to keep her distance for the rest of his trip, speaking to him coldly and perfunctory. She was too vulnerable when she let her guard down. She wouldn't allow herself to appear weak.
She nodded her head coolly to the transporter technician. "Energizing," The Bajoran said coldly, hating to take his cue from a lowly Terran terrorist.
Janeway watched silently as one image faded from the transporter to be replaced by another image exactly identical. Something within her froze back over, and she took a cautious step forward and inclined her head coldly, devoid of emotion. "Captain."
His eyes flickered over her for a moment, in a manner that confused her, as if he was seeing her for the first time. It was vaguely unsettling. If she didn't know better, she'd almost think that he was the other one. Janeway restrained the impulse to ask the transporter technician if the transport had actually been successful. Instead, she waited in silence for her cue from the man before her.
Captain Janeway smiled her relief as her first officer stepped down from the transporter platform. " It's good to have you back, Commander."
"Believe me, it's good to be back!" He declared. She began to move towards the exit, but he held out his arm to stop her, a strange look on his face as his eyes wandered over her person.
"What's that look, Commander?" Kathryn asked, perplexed.
" Nothing." He grinned sheepishly. " I just realized I like your hair better this length."
Janeway briefly raised an eyebrow at him, a tiny smirk pulling at the corner of her mouth.. " And you didn't before?"
" No, I liked it before," He covered quickly as they stepped out of the transporter room. Halting outside the door, his eyes were soft now as he looked over her. " But I think seeing the alternative has made me realize just how much I appreciate what I have."
Janeway's smiled softly at him. She held his gaze in silence for a few moments before she finally broke it, gesturing down the hall. " Care to join me for a coffee?" She offered.
He grinned. " I'd be delighted." Looping her arm through his, they turned and walked down the corridor.
She was appraising him with a cold eye. No, not so cold anymore, Chakotay noticed. He realized as he stared at her, right after he stepped down from the platform, that it never had been a cold eye. Just shielded. From him.
"Captain." Her voice was cold, precise, a far cry from the woman he left on the other side. He vaguely wondered just what kind of reception that Chakotay was getting from that Janeway.
"I trust my counterpart didn't give you too much trouble, Commander," He said.
Face impassive, eyes puzzled, she glanced up at him. "He was quite agreeable, Captain."
Now what did she mean by that? He thought as he began to walk out of the transporter room. She took her cue from him and began to walk out after him. He headed down one way of the corridor, she headed down the other.
Some impulse forced him to look back. She was about to disappear around the corridor, her bright red mane hanging loosely down her back. A strange sense of urgency filtered through him. Somehow, he knew, if they headed away from each other now, it would stay that way for the rest of their lives. He had planned on reviewing all of the interrogation tapes for the answers, but he realized at that moment that he knew the answers already.
"Commander!" He called out.
She stopped in her tracks. Slowly, she turned around. Gracefully, he noticed, like the other one. Not predatory, like he had always seen her. She had some of the grace that the Janeway from the other universe had.
"Captain?" She inquired. There was an expression on her face. Was it anxiety?
"Walk with me," he ordered her.
She hesitated for a split second, uncertainty flashing across her face, torn between her suspicion and her hope that his experience had been similar to her own, before she walked back towards him. He waited as she silently crossed the corridor before he began walking again.
He said nothing. She said nothing. Neither was sure how many minutes passed. Like two eternal gladiators locked in a stale mate, they walked side by side, two parallel lines. Neither gave ground, neither took ground. They simply continued on their way.
Somehow, they both had the same destination on their minds.
When they reached the viewport, they both ended up staring at the vast expanse of space, lost in thought, almost oblivious to the presence at their sides. Immortal enemies. But they both shared one thing. They both shared the same darkness that stretched vastly eternal out the window before them. They both shared their current refuge, the ship that was carrying them home. And they both shared their hatred, animosity towards the other who had ruined their lives.
But somehow something was different. They both shared a hope. Maybe, just maybe, fate had played a hand in thrusting the two of them together. Maybe this voyage was not without a reason.
At the same time, both of them ripped their eyes off of the black canopy of space and ventured a glance at the other. They said nothing, both appraising one another with new eyes.
"I've wronged you," Chakotay spoke quietly.
"You have," She paused a beat. "We've wronged each other."
A few days ago, Chakotay could never have expected that reply out of her. Certainly, he never could have expected to admit what he just had. His dark eyes locked with her blue ones. They were beautiful blue eyes.
He turned back to the darkness stretching before them. Gesturing to it, he said, "It's a long voyage before us. It will be difficult, more so than any other voyage we've been on. There's a lot of dangerous space between us and home. That space, perhaps, will be the greatest obstacle we will ever have to overcome." He paused, and glanced back at her. "Except perhaps, the obstacle we're overcoming now."
Her eyes met his. He held his breath, lingering on her reply. Almost imperceptibly, she nodded to him. "Except the obstacle we're overcoming now," she affirmed quietly. "But we'll conquer them both... As allies."
With that gesture, she held out her right hand to him. Without breaking eye contact with her, he reached out and grasped it within his own. And so the two enemies, enemies of blood, enemies of all time, formed a partnership stronger than any force that could possibly go against them. And they formed a bond that would last for all time.