AS FRIENDS

The lights flickered unevenly within the darkened cargobay. A hushed stillness hung in the air, broken only by the inaudible whispering of the two young men. The third figure, a young woman with long blond hair and full red lips, was silently lounging on her back on top of a cargo container, her thoughts distant as she dangled her long, slender legs over the edge of the surface. Her ocean blue eyes stared vacantly up at the ceiling. She was always so bored when Tommy had to have meetings with Harry! The least he could do was leave her out of it, but Tommy never liked to leave her alone. He was so possessive!

Her full lips curled up into a lascivious smile as her eyes scanned his person- his wild golden hair and his boyish blue eyes. She remembered how his eyes always used to look so naugthy... Used to. Not anymore. She was getting bored with Tommy. He wasn't the same anymore, at least not the same as he was the day he helped her earn the nickname "Seven"... She chuckled silently at the memory of Tommy and the other six men. She'd never been in such ecstacy before in her life!

Now Harry, he was different. Her eyes drifted over his rippling muscles and powerful chest. Deep scars were etched along his face. Her gaze ran over them. He was rough, he was dangerous. What she'd give for one night with him! But of course, he was just about the only man on the ship who'd never paid her a visit. He was always so grim, so serious. It titillated her. Annika Hansen knew from experience that the quiet, withdrawn type were the most passionate lovers.

Feeling a tingle of arousal, Annika rolled onto her stomach, brushing the hair that came tumbling down into her eyes out of the way, and complained, "Tommy, can we go soon? I'm so bored."

"Not yet, Seven. We're almost done here," Tom Paris assured her briefly before he turned back to Kim. "What were you saying?"

Shooting Annika an irritated scowl, Harry Kim demanded, "Why do you always bring her? Are you trying to get us all killed? I'm telling you, she'd rat us out for a good fuck."

Paris's eyes burned, the ugly scar that ran down his cheek blazing red. "You talk like that about my girlfriend again and I will kill you," His voice was a dangerously low growl.

Kim's eyes narrowed angrily at him, but he said nothing. He cast Annika one last flash of contempt before he turned his back to her and furitively whispered, "To sum up, Lieutenant Tarmok is prepared to feed us any important information about intellegence Seska and Chakotay might happen to come by. If they have so much as a hint about our activities, we'll know within an hour,"

"That's great," Paris said, trying to forget about the hateful words they had just exchanged. "And what about Janeway?"

Kim sighed. "That's the hard part. We thought she'd jump at the opportunity, but she hasn't said a word on the matter. No one's quite sure what her feelings are."

"Is anyone ever sure what her feelings are?" Paris said with a smirk.

"This is different, Tom," Kim said, his face grave and voice serious. "Without her support, I don't see how any of this will work. It's her we're trying to put in the Captain's chair! If we do this against her will, then... then her first act as captain might just be to throw us out the nearest airlock."

"Oh, give me a break!" Paris exclaimed. "Janeway and Chakotay hate each other! Janeway would kill him herself if there was no Alliance retaliation!"

"She's had the opportunity before. Look at this last week-- with that other Chakotay on board, she could easily have twisted the situation to her advantage!" Kim pointed out. "I don't know about you, but I think there's something more there. She seems almost, and I know it sounds crazy, but she seems loyal to him."

"Oh, please, Harry," Tom said scornfully. "You and I both know that's just a ruse."

Kim cast him a doubtful glance. "Let's hope you're right, Tom."

"I am," Tom attested. "You just wait and see."

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Janeway was staring out the viewport long after Chakotay had been called away. She mulled silently through her thoughts as the stars streaked by out the window. The recent change of events-- the drastic change of events-- still left her stunned, and only able to think about one thing: The other Chakotay had been right. Her Chakotay could change his perspective about things if he was presented with the truth; he wasn't entirely locked in his ways.

And, she looked down at her hand, the one he had grasped as they committed themselves to the end to their hatred, she wasn't entirely locked in hers either.

Her eyes drifted back up to the space outside the ship. What will this bring about? She wondered. How will things change? They certainly never could become friends, not after all that had happened. But then again, Janeway had never really had a friend in her life. She never could bring herself to trust someone with her life, never could bring herself to care what happened to another person. Somewhere, walking down the long path of hatred that had eventually enveloped her, she had ceased to realize just how far she had strayed from everything that made her human.

Kathryn felt a twinge of some emotion. Her brow furrowed as she considered it. What could it be? Regret? She could never tell when these things happened to her. She'd heard certain emotions described by other people, but she never understood them through her own experiences. She was a killer. She had killed thousands of people over the years. Some would say 'good riddance', for they usually weren't innocent people-- government officials, pirates, Cardassian soldiers, fellow 'terrorists', even some of her own crew when they got out of line. Of course, there had been a few innocent people. She had been dismayed when one of their attacks ended up destroying a Bajoran monastery instead of the intended weapons storehouse of one of her rivals, and had been displeased when a Romulan tourist transport stumbled upon one of their mines instead of an Alliance warship, but she'd never felt guilt, or regret, for those actions.

The only things she'd ever felt guilty for, the only way she could know just what that emotion was, was the death of Chakotay's father-- a death that was the malicious work of another person, a death that she was to blame for merely because of her childish naivety. She had been innocent when it happened. That one death had dictated the course of her life, had eventually twisted her into a monster.

She glanced down at her hands again, her long, thin fingers and sharp nails, like claws. She could feel the blood on them. Perhaps Kolopak's death was something more than just her first. Perhaps he represented all of them, the one death that would lead into what was to come, into what she was now.

Kathryn realized that her hands were trembling and quickly retracted her digits, unconsciously balling them into tight fists. Her temples throbbed behind her eyes, and for a moment, she felt light headed.

Kathryn reached a hand out to steady herself on the window pane. God knows what would happen to her if she passed out right here where any crewman could come along and murder her in her sleep.

This is the life I earned for myself, the one I promised myself after I escaped the camp. She thought in irony. Here's the great future I managed to chisel out for myself, a future where I have to constantly look behind me to make sure someone's not going to creep out of the darkness and stab me in the back.

She vaguely became aware of her shadowy reflection staring back at her from the window. Kathryn focused on it and studied it silently, recalling the other Janeway staring back at her from the viewscreen. She had been mildly surprised, somewhere in the back of her mind, at her counterpart's appearance. Her counterpart had her reddish-brown hair cut right above her shoulders. Her skin was glowing with color, and she had soft, feminine features. Kathryn was surprised at the fact that her counterpart was attractive.

Glancing at her own reflection, she contrasted the two. She knew she wasn't an attractive person. Years of hardship and neglect had sharpened her features, hardening them. Her mouth was set in a thin line, with harsh, suspicious eyes and a pale, almost sickly white skin tone. Her long, fiery red hair was tangled and limp, and only helped make her own face look paler in contrast. Her eyes were brighter, but not in a positive way. They weren't bright out of happiness, but were two embers glowing in the wake of a firestorm.

Sometimes when she caught a passing glance of her reflection, she'd see herself staring out of those eyes, a grim, souless gaze that told nothing yet revealed everything. Other times, she'd see someone else staring out of them-- her shadow, that small vein of twisted darkness that had slowly grown stronger and stronger as the years passed. It was always there, lurking, waiting. It was a presence at the back of her mind, one that made even her shudder.

She had a thin and wiry body with sinewy muscles twisted down bony arms. Her hands had long, thin fingers with prominent knuckles pushing at pale, vein-lined skin. Had any other person been looking through her eyes, she would be thoroughly unimpressive in appearance. But her disposition, her countenance gave her an fiery spark which electrified every muscle, every movement, every flicker of her eyes, even when she sat perfectly still, alive with an unnatural energy, one that would make her stand out in a room for the rest of her life, one that would draw all eyes to her when she entered the room for as long as she lived. She both fascinated and repelled, both intrigued and intimidated people-- one trait contradicting another until she was a walking enigma. Beyond understanding, not even known by herself.

She tore her eyes off of the viewport window and whirled around to leave the room. Kathryn instinctively knew she had been here nearly three hours, and she had far more important things to take care of at the moment; she was only wasting time lost in thought by the window. In accordance to Alliance regulations, she had a report to do about the most recent incident, documenting her own experiences and filling in her analysis of the events that had transpired, judging crew reactions and the expediency with which the situation was rectified.

As she stepped out into the darkened corridor, Paris, who had been plowing down the hall in a swift jog, crashed into her. She neatly caught her fall and was already steady by the time he regained his balance.

"Excuse me, Commander," Paris said, flustered. "I wasn't looking where I was going."

"That much is apparent," Janeway said blandly as she began to glide past him down the corridor. She heard a slight shuffling on Paris's part, and heard him intake breath as if he was about to speak. When he said nothing, she glanced back at him, a single eyebrow raising over an icy blue eye. "What is it, Paris?"

"Well, you looked tense. I was wondering if you'd like my assistance to unwind," Paris offered.

Janeway considered it for a moment. She had engaged in casual sex with Paris before. It never meant anything to her; it just was an expedient way to unwind.

"Maybe later," She replied vaguely. "I might drop by later."

"You don't mind if Seven's in my quarters at the time," It wasn't a question.

Janeway shrugged indifferently. "Doesn't matter," She turned and dissapeared in the shadows of the corridor.

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Chakotay rubbed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes against the headache throbbing in his temples. The stresses of the last few days were finally manifesting themselves, physically if not mentally.

He dropped the reports down onto the marble desk, exhasperated. He couldn't concentrate on this right now.

He paced over to the viewport in the readyroom and watched the stars for a few moments. His thoughts were wandering back to the other Voyager, to the Captain. Kathryn Janeway. It was hard to believe that was her name. It was hard to believe she shared that name with his Kathryn Janeway.

His thoughts switched from one to the other. He knew something significant had happened today, something he hadn't even realized the implications of yet, the impact it would have. Where would they go now? What would happen next? He had initiated the change, she had finalized it, but what would become of it? How could he have for her anything other than hate? She wasn't the other Janeway. She wasn't the same gentle, beautiful woman he had fallen in love with there.

His head shot up. Where had that come from? Fallen in love with her..? A shadow of a smile crossed his lips at the irony. He hadn't consciously even known it. Yes, he had fallen in love with her, the woman who, in his universe, was his arch enemy.

How would it be, sitting next to her on the bridge tomorrow? The next day? Sitting next to the woman he had hated for so long, the woman he had finally just established an uneasy truce with, the woman who, under different circumstances, he would fall madly in love with?

She and her counterpart had some things in common. They both had strength, the grit of a survivor. They both had inborn pride, dignity. But it seemed to him that the similarity ended there. While one had been nurtured and had grown up knowing hapiness, the other had descended into darkness, into a deep pit of hatred, the same one in which he had fallen.

Was it the goodness of the other Janeway that had attracted him? Could she have drawn him up out of the darkness, been his preserver? Could she have saved him?

Somehow, he knew it wasn't just that that had attracted him. Something about her, her spark, her vibrance, had drawn him to her. To some degree, his Janeway had that as well, but it was in a different form. It was no spark in her, it was a blaze, an inferno. She radiated with energy, but it was no comfort to him.

It terrified him.

Vaguely, Chakotay wondered just what impression his counterpart had made on her. A kinder, gentler version of himself. He tried to think about this other Chakotay, the one who had never experienced a vendetta that had torn him apart to his very soul. It would have been so easy for Janeway to take advantage of his counterpart... as naive as he was.

Physically, they were identical, which explained why he was able to fit in with the other crew so easily, and the other Chakotay with his. In both cases, Janeway had been the one who had noticed the difference. He could understand the other Janeway being the one who sensed the wrongness with him, but he couldn't understand how his Janeway had noticed what was wrong with his counterpart. She was sharp, he knew. After twenty years of tracking her, twenty years of her cunningly eluding him, he knew just how sharp she was. But he never could tell if she had an accurate impression of him, or any at all. Did she hate him as much as he had hated her? Or was she as indifferent, even mildly amused by him like she had always seemed to be?

By God, she did have a right to hate him as much if not more than he had hated her. Her father had been killed as a result of his orders, she had spent eleven years in an internment camp because of his orders, and she had not known a moment of peace for the twenty years he hunted her. While his own vendetta had consumed his life, it had destroyed hers. Was she really out for peace with him or was that just a ruse to gain his trust before she stabbed him in the back?

No. He quickly banished the thought from his mind. Janeway was many things, but she was not a liar. She did not deceive anyone. While she didn't openly show malice, if she disliked you, she never led you to believe otherwise. She wasn't wily... that was Seska.

Seska. He wondered why it wasn't her who had noticed the differences in him and the other Chakotay. She was about as sharp as Janeway, though not as subtle. He knew he couldn't trust her, but listened to her advice anyway. Somehow, he understood her far better than he'd ever understand Janeway. Seska was deceptive and shrewd, but she had a one track way of thinking. It was easy to know she was devious-- she never hid that.

He heard the door to his readyroom chime, and he called absently for it to slide open. He noticed in the window's reflection that Seska had sauntered in, and was approaching him with that swing of hers in her walk. Speak of the devil,

"Chakotay," She cooed softly, her arms draping around his broad chest. "It's good to have you back." He felt her soft breasts pressed into his back, but he didn't turn.

"Missed me?" He asked absently.

"More than you know." Her lips were right next to his ear and her breath hot against his skin for a few moments before they slid down his neck. "I've been aching for you."

"Don't bullshit me, Seska."

"The other Chakotay was so unresponsive," She murmered, her hands slipping to the seams of his uniform.

"You and he didn't--" Chakotay turned around towards her, not out of jealousy, but wondering just what that Chakotay would see in Seska after his Janeway.

"No," Seska said with a lascivious smile, her voice carrying a note of regret. "I told you, he was unresponsive. Of course, it's my own fault. I should have known something was wrong after he saved Janeway's life."

"I hadn't heard about that," Chakotay murmered.

"Yes, it's a shame, isn't it?" Seska smiled. "Would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of her. She was nearly killed by the Umarians."

"Why?"

Seska was busying herself with tearing off his uniform top, lacking the usual finesse. She must have been out of practice for a few days, he mused. "Oh, the Umarians tried to cheat us out of our goods. She insisted on retrieving them. It was sucide. There were hundreds of them in that compound," His chest was now bared to her now, and she shoved him backwards into his chair while she worked with his pants. She licked her lips, then lowered her head to take him into her mouth.

"Did she get them?" Chakotay asked as she began her work, his question cut off by a sharp intake of breath.

Her head lolled up. "In the end, yes. But it was such a waste of resources to send down an away mission to save her ass. Do you like this?" She purred, wrapping her lips around him again.

Panting, he gestured for her to continue, and inquired in a husky voice, "Why do you think she risked her life just to get some foodstuffs?"

Glancing up briefly, she slurred, "Because she's a fool."

"I mean really. Why do you think she did that?"

Seska snapped up, bristling in irritation. "Chakotay, if you want to talk about Janeway, we'll talk about Janeway. If you want to fuck, we'll fuck. I won't talk about Janeway while I'm--"

He held up his hands in surrender. "You win," She smiled in satisfaction, a smile that dissolved when he continued, "We'll talk about Janeway."

Seska's eyes were flashing daggars at him in intense anger. "Fine. Janeway." Her voice was sharp. "She did what she did because she's a crazy bitch. There is no further reason, there need not be any further reason. Why does she ever do what she does? That woman's unpredictable. She's deranged. The two factors go hand in hand." A pause. "Now that we've taken care of the unpleasantries," She smiled lasciviously. "Let's continue what we started."

What -you- started. Chakotay mentally corrected her, but he had no problem with her continuing it.

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Later, Chakotay lay on the bed, staring distantly up at the ceiling with cloudy eyes. Seska lay besides him, her damp hair matted beneath her on his chest, her body nestled within the arm he had carelessly draped over her. Neither had said a word for a number of minutes. The silence was thick around them, but he didn't seem to notice. He was preoccupied with his ghosts, which Seska just couldn't understand.

She was content to lie still for only a short time. Although she was exhausted from their intense lovemaking a few minutes earlier, she felt a slight twinge of longing for the easy conversation, absent of innuendo, that they usually had after their sessions, where they were both still bathed in the afterglow of their intimacy.

"What's bothering you?" She whispered.

His dark eyes met her brown ones, and he said nothing. He almost thought she was sincere. He remained silent, but his eyes reflected some emotion she couldn't quite comprehend.

"What happened over there?" Her voice was still quiet.

He smiled, a cold smile, but said nothing. He couldn't say anything, and she knew it. He had lost the ability to confide in someone long, long ago.

She reached up a hand and brushed his cheek lightly with her graceful fingers, running them over the prickly stubble of his incoming beard. With her feather light touch, a single finger ran down his neck to the dark hair matted on his chest, and combed through it vaguely. Putting in an amount of strength she didn't know her tired body had, she leaned up and brushed her lips lightly against his. She understood. Cold bitch that she was, Seska was capable of some compassion every once in a while.

When she rested her head on his chest again, he stroked her hair with his big fingers. It was damp still, but it was beautiful hair. He always loved women with long hair. Seska kept it well groomed. She always was meticulous about her appearance, and incredibly fastidious. He wondered vaguely about Janeway, just how her hair would feel running through his fingers if she ever took the time to look after it.

In a way, he thought neutrally, glancing down at Seska's smooth face, he could relate to Janeway. Though he'd never understand that psyche, she was born of the same tough material that he was. She lived off of neccessity, and she manifested exactly who she was. She didn't dabble in deception or put a false front in place of the true one. She was almost kin with him, as the prey is to the hunter, the white whale to Captain Ahab. They were of the same flesh and the same sympathies. She understood him, he thought, far better than Seska ever would. She alone could understand the shadow in his mind, for she had that same shadow in hers. If they didn't have animosity, maybe they'd make an interesting conversation.

His skin prickled, and he felt a real, sudden interest spring up in him. He had never, not in all the time he'd been pursuing her, or been associated with her, had a conversation with her. He had never really talked to her, nor she to him. There were depths and layers about each other that they'd never know, even about themselves that they'd never know until they were with the other. What would it be like, he wondered. If he could just have one conversation with her, would that put his mind at rest? Could he ever look his long time object of unwavering hatred in the eye and really speak casually to her?

Who was she?

Perhaps he could know. Maybe if he found out just who she was, then maybe, just maybe, he'd have some idea about just who he was.

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Janeway had left Paris's quarters right after they had sated themselves. She wordlessly slipped on her garmets, with his eyes following her from the bed. In the next room, Seven was taking a nap on the couch. Her long, fair hair was unbound and fanned gracefully around her pale face.

Janeway passed her on the way out. Her muscles had been relieved of their tension, but her mind was still on the edge. It wasn't relieved until she entered her own dark quarters and saw a single message blinking on the viewer

She blinked, then glanced back at the viewer to double check the message again. She couldn't read it, but she recognized the name of the sender.

She had halted midstep, poised to enter her quarters further, when the message had caught her eye. She hadn't moved a muscle since except the flicker of her eye. The message glared at her in the darkness, and seemed to blur before her eyes before she forced herself to focus them.

She wasn't sure how long she stood there, rooted in place, but finally, she took the steps necessary to get in front of the terminal and slide into the chair in front of her. The message still blinked at her, unwaveringly solid and bold in front of her. She reached out a hand and pressed the necessary buttons. In the computer's monotone voice, she heard,

Do you ever think about who you might have been?

She didn't remember dictating the reply until it was staring back at her, in letters just as bold and glaring through the darkness. Letters, an unknown code of jumbled nonsense. But she knew just what she had said.

Not until this week.

She pressed the send button, and leaned back in her chair. She hadn't turned on the light in her quarters, so the message was the only light cutting through the dimness surrounding her. The light from the stars provided a bit of illumination, enough for her to make out the shadows on the far wall. When she sent her reply, the message blinked out briefly, and a few minutes passed, minutes of silence while she sat in the darkness. Then, the console beeped briefly, and another message was staring at her, and the computer read,

Has it all been for nothing?

She had a pretty good idea what 'it' was reffering to, but she found it difficult to really comprehend the full spectrum of what he was saying. She had never been fully educated, and the ability to think about meaning, to comprehend the multiple layers of life and existence, had never quite been one she acquired.

She gazed at the stars, rushng past the window, for a few minutes before she replied. Her quarters were dark and empty around her, as still as death. They had always been this still. She finally dictated to the computer,

I don't know.

She waited a few moments, then another question arrived,

Are you happy?

It was a curious question for him to ask, and an even more curious question for him to expect her to answer. Somehow, though, she found staring at it with a clouded mind. It was as difficult a question to answer as it probably had been for him to ask. She dictated,

I don't know.

Nearly ten minutes passed before the last message was on her monitor.

Neither do I.

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Their eyes met only briefly as she entered the bridge, the first time they had come face to face since he had beamed back from the ship. A hidden knowledge was reflected in both of them, a little something more that they knew about the other, in that brief flash of mutual recognition. Then, their eyes ripped away from the contact and it was business as usual.

The shift moved slowly. It was quiet and uneventful compared to the rapid events of the past week. The bridge was silent, with occasional hushed whispers and formal status reports barely penetrating the silence.

In truth, it was unusually silent. Janeway and Chakotay were both preoccupied with their thoughts. Though Janeway didn't speak much anyway, every once in a while one of them usually would make a comment. Something, though, seemed to be shadowed in their minds, something was troubling them both.

Midway through his shift, Chakotay rose and handed the bridge over to Janeway. He walked out of the bridge past staring eyes while Janeway smoothly rose and claimed his seat. She was coordinated and fluidic in her movements, like the ripples over water, as she always had been. Her eyes betrayed nothing, and the bridge officers could tell nothing, so they gave up. Some people speculated about the nature of their relationship. Some speculated that their enmity was due to the fact that they were estranged lovers, a theory Seska battled furiously. Others thought Janeway and the other Chakotay had been lovers, or maybe even Chakotay and the other Janeway, or both. No one could tell. Somehow though, looking at the glacier cold heart possessed by their first officer, and the dry, callous attitude of their captain, they doubted either was capable of an emotion as deep as that.

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Cadarann watched the visitors on the monitor as they entered the complex. He'd join then within twenty minutes, but he wanted to wait to get an impression of them first. There were three of them-- a large, dark haired male, a reptillian, tall female, and another, smaller female with long, fiery hair. He watched in silence as they interacted, surmizing that the male was the one in charge. He frequently spoke, and mostly the reptillian female replied. The other female said nothing, but appearantly was paying more attention than she seemed to be, for she never seemed to be caught off guard when she was directly addressed.

The aliens were escorted to the lounge to await him. After about five minutes of uneasily waiting about, the male and the reptillian female both sat down in the lounge chairs. The third crossed her arms and stepped back a few paces, never taking her sight off of the other two or the door to the room. While the male and the reptillian female became engaged in a discussion, the red haired female simply stood as still as if she was a statue and waited.

Cadarann wondered if this meant she was a sentinel of some kind, watching with as much vigilance as she did, or if she was merely a subordinate of the other two. Somehow, though, he suspected the former. She carried herself with a natural air of authority that made him question his assumption that the male was in charge. Perhaps she was. Maybe with her race it was considered a dishonor to speak to a subordinate, which explained the minimal interaction between her and the others.

After a few more minutes of watching them, Cadarann decided he'd let them wait long enough and proceeded to the lounge himself. Upon his entrance, the red haired female shifted her stance slightly, and the male and reptillian female both sprang to their feet.

"Monar Cadarann, it's a pleasure to finally meet you," The male said wryly, his annoyed impatience radiated in his demeanor.

Cadarann was slightly taken aback by the rude reception, and began to apologize profusely, but the dark haired male waved him off with a careless gesture. He's obviously not learned in the art of diplomacy. Cadarann surmized.

"Please, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Captain Chakotay of the Alliance vessel Voyager. This is my first officer, Commander Janeway," The red haired female didn't step up at the gesture he made with his hand, but nodded at Candarann with controlled iciness. "And this," He spoke with gritted teeth, as if unruffled by Janeway not stepping forward when he introduced her, "Is my tactical officer, Lieutenant Seska."

The reptillian female swaggered up and flashed him a bittersweet smile. "Charmed," She said sourly as she inclined her head. Cadarann nodded back towards her. He glanced over the Captain's rugged person, his half shaven face, unruffled hair, and the powerful coordination he seemed to possess.

"It is a genuine pleasure to have visitors such as yourselves to our world. We don't normally have guests that travel from such distances as you have," Cadarann elegantly gestured for them to proceed past him out the door, where other members of the ministry were waiting to assist in hosting the aliens. "You must tell us more of your travels."

"We'd be happy to do that," Chakotay's voice had tamed down to a more diplomatic softness, "As soon as we conclude negotiations."

"Is there a hurry, Captain?"

"Unfortunately, we don't a lot of time to fully enjoy your hospitality. While there are materials on your world we require, we also must make our rendezvous at another stop that has other materials we require. Time is, after all, of the essence," Chakotay explained. Cadarann smiled, showing two rows of perfect, white teeth.

"Then we must endeavor to make your short stay as pleasurable as possible. Come," He beckoned them into a dining chamber.

Throughout the dinner, Cadarann struggled to form an impression of these people. Chakotay and Seska did all of the talking, while Janeway simply watched. She barely touched the food, but seemed to have no qualms about heartily enjoying the alcohol. In fact, all three of them were unusually heavy drinkers. The waiters were at the table every few seconds refilling their glasses. And none of them showed the effects, either. They seemed as sober and as level headed as they had at the beginning.

After enough alcohol, the red haired female began to answer questions with more than one word. She didn't become receptive though; far from it. Though she didn't actually appear to be trying to say it, the unspoken about her discouraged any conversation.

Chakotay was a fascinating character. He was at once accommodating and hostile; he gave one moment, took away the next. His eyes were dark and sharp, and his gaze seemed to bore straight into one's mind. His lips pricked up at jokes, and as he drank more alcohol, he bellowed a hearty laugh occasionally.

Seska put Cadarann on the edge. Something about her was bothering him, although he had no idea what. She had crafty eyes and a sly smile, with a sweet voice and polished words. She was more clean cut than the other two, well put together. She sipped her drinks delicately and used subtle flattery constantly. Talking to her, Cadarann could suddenly find himself wrapped around her finger, but then a gleam of... something... would spark in her eyes that would immediately set him on the edge again.

He invouluntarily found himself the most intrigued by the third one, the quiet one. He studied her person carefully. Just looking at her impersonally, she wasn't much. She was too thin, with only a semi-presentable appearance. Her face wasn't lined, but it wasn't young. She had no beauty, but she wasn't ugly either. He could see from her basic features that she definately had the potential to be attractive, but appearantly didn't care enough about her appearance to bother keeping herself well kempt. It wasn't her looks that drew him to her.

No, it was something else about her, something indefinable. Her eyes were glowing like blue fire. They reminded him of the iciest of winters, and the fiercest of storms. When she directed them at him, he could feel them burning into him like a thousand knives. Her eyebrows were arched sharply over them, too sharply to be fashionable, but only helped her general disposition. There was something about her that he couldn't grasp. When she spoke, she spoke directly and to the point with a voice like a razor edge. He felt the weight of her gaze, her presence even when he was turned away.

Something about her communicated itself to him without her even speaking. It tittillated him. He was frequently intimate with visiting female diplomats, and wondered just how to approach that purpose with this one. What would those eyes look like as she made love?

Throughout the dinner, he made an effort to get her to speak. She flashed him an knowing look before she replied briefly with carefully orchestrated answers.

Chakotay unconsciously stiffened. He had seen this happen before, on the majority of the negotiations that he attended with her, in fact. He knew Janeway seemed to attract people naturally, not due to beauty, but something else. Even Chakotay wasn't immune to whatever hold she could get over people, though his immense hatred had always held it at bay. She seemed to know the motive of the ambassador's attentions, too, because amusement pulled at her features. She looked almost as if she was going to laugh, but knew the better of it.

It disturbed him to no end during this negotiation. It was the same thing that usually happened, but this time it bothered him. Why?

He grimaced when he realized he must have been thinking of her, briefly, in terms of the other one that he had loved. He checked himself, and tried to shut out the bantering that was going on besides him.

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Later on, during the formal reception, Cadarann had managed to manuever Janeway to a private spot where he could speak with her on his own. After trying his hand at a little subtle flattery (which she received with a knowing smirk and a cold eye), he asked her bluntly, (with a line he frequently used on the tougher ones), "Do you believe in love at first sight, Kathryn?"

She didn't look surprised, but the question had taken her aback. She glanced at him squarely with a calculating gaze, and replied bluntly, "No. I don't believe in love at first sight. I don't believe in love, Ambassador."

His line was completely destroyed by her response, and he spent a few moments mutely opening and closing his mouth, staring in dismay at her, before he finally echoed flatly, "You don't."

"No, I don't," She replied as if the subject was already beginning to bore her. "I believe you can acquire an attachment to a certain person, but it'll soon get old and wear away as time passes. Why did you bring this subject up, if I might ask, Ambassador?" She asked innocently.

"I-- uh, no reason..." He floundered. Janeway frowned.

"If you want to fuck me, Ambassador, you could just come out and ask instead of trying to get there through flattery," She said bluntly.

He laughed uncomfortably. "You're very direct, aren't you?"

She shurgged noncommittally. "I've always believed in frankness."

Cadarann shifted akwardly from one foot to the other. "So... will you?" He asked quietly, as if the words were difficult for him to say.

"Will I what?" Janeway coaxed innocently, deriding indecent pleasure out of his discomfort.

He paused a long moment, scanning her eyes for any hint of mockery. Unable to read through her shielded expression, he finally asked quietly, "Would you like to... sleep with me?"

She gave him a venomous smile, her eyes glinting with a sadistic glee. "No way in hell, Ambassador."

With that, she turned and left him without a second glance. He was still standing in the middle of the garden in open-mouthed shock as he stared after her.

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She must have done something to get on his bad side. The first thing Cadarann did after he and Janeway came back from their privacy was walk over to Chakotay and demand that he leave Janeway on the ship in the future. The next day, he concluded the talks with almost undecent haste, bundling Voyager up with her goods and shooing her off on her own way as quickly as possible. His hospitality had all but vanished, replaced by a careful shield of perfunctory professionalism.

Chakotay was displeased with the undue relief he felt at Cadarann's reaction.

As they left orbit, Janeway must have sensed Chakotay's questioning gaze on her. Without taking her eyes off the viewscreen in front of them, she spoke sideways to him, "He wasn't my type." She glanced out of the corner of her eye at him, to gauge his reaction to her words. She couldn't read just what crossed his face, but a hint of amusement played at his features. She invouluntarily felt her own lip twitch up at the side.

He had a sense of humor, she mused. Or maybe not a sense of humor, just a sense of cynicism towards people that equalled her own.

Or did he?

His dark eyes met her blue ones, and it wasn't until that moment that she realized she had been staring at him. So why didn't she look away now?

He didn't break his gaze from her either, as if the moment of time had frozen to a halt. Gone was the quiet bridge chatter, the beeping of panels, and the pacing of restless officers around them. Gone was the bridge, gone was Voyager, gone was the entire universe. It was just the two of them. As it always had been.

As it always has been. Janeway thought.

For one moment, there was a complete frankness between them, the first real, eye to eye look they had taken of one another. She felt his eyes on her as her own eyes scanned his rugged features, his dark eyes, his muscular build. She noticed, for the first time, a bit of a jagged, red scar creeping out from underneath his shirt and running up his neck. She noticed, for the first time, how much power was contained in his muscles, in his arms and chest, as if he could grind bones to dust in one of his palms. She noticed, for the first time, how deep and absorbing his chocolate eyes were, as if one could drown in their depths...

No. The thought rushed through her head in an instant, like a flash of lightning. Even she couldn't comprehend just what the thought meant, why it had come and vanished so quickly, but it ripped her gaze away from him, with a breathtaking force, caging her eyes to the grey floor of the impersonal bridge. They stayed there for about five minutes, her cheeks burning crimson, though she couldn't compehend why. What was wrong with her?

She looked back up again, chanced a glance back at him, and saw his eyes impersonal and cold again, focused absently on the viewscreen, ignoring the stars that were rushing by in the dark void of space.

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As soon as her shift was over, Janeway arrived back at her dark quarters and scooped up a data padd. Guided by some strange compulsion, she turned on the computer panel and scanned through the computer archives, commanding the computer to dictate any hilights of Chakotay's personal character that she had taken notes of in her logs over the years. She had found it necessary to familiarize herself with him to effectively elude him.

As she listened, she took in with a sort of relieved satisfaction the fact that he was a heavy drinker, was known to use illegal narcotics upon occasion, and had been established as a chronic womanizer. A 'grade-A scumbag', no better than anyone else, worse than some. He was smart, but not brilliant on aptitude tests, was regarded as flexible in his morals, and questionable in his methods. He was an asshole, to put it briefly. An asshole and as much of a killer as she had ever been...

Well, nearly so.

Janeway knew that she, of all people, couldn't presume to chastise anyone for their crimes in the past. That would be hypocrisy to the extreme. But she could hold in against him, privately, if she allowed herself to. Flexible in his morals, questionable in his methods...

A womanizer.

It was common knowledge among the crew that he and Seska were lovers. However, that didn't stop him from fucking every female alien that happened to cross Voyager's path, or from sleeping with every availble woman in the crew. Paris was especially displeased when he realized one of these women was Annika.

Paris hated Chakotay, more than anyone. His hatred of Chakotay exceeded his loyalty to Janeway. Kathryn wondered if it was all due to the fact that Chakotay frequently found ways to visit Seven, or if it was because of something else. She had heard hints, here and there, about Paris and Kim working to incite a mutiny against Chakotay. Taking the safe course, Janeway refrained from taking any action either way. The instinct to hesitate before acting impulsively, possibly fatally, had saved her a dozen times before, and she was following it now. She wouldn't actively, even furitively support a mutiny.

In fact, she didn't support a mutiny.

It wasn't that she had no desire to command a ship again. Quite the contrary. Her natural inclination had always been to command others. No, it was something else.

Dear God, she had already killed Kolopak. She didn't want to kill his son, too.

She stood up and paced to the viewport, hugging her arms tightly to her chest and staring out at the dark expanse of space. It reached out forever, the dark void of nothingness. It was an infinite universe, and she was so small. It was easy to be lost, as she had been before. She never wanted to be lost again. She shuddered and hugged herself tighter. What if she was forced to make a choice? How could she make a choice, between her people and the man whose life she had destroyed?

She remembered vaguely some seven years back. A colleague of hers, Jean-Luc Picard, had reminded her, in that infuriatingly smooth voice of his, that her life had been destroyed as well by Chakotay, and to a greater degree. Janeway said nothing, scarcely gave it a second thought until now. But as she looked out into the void of space, standing within her darkened quarters, a spark of anger flickered through her. Not at Chakotay, at Picard-- at Picard because he never would be able to understand just what she was, what Chakotay was. How could anyone understand that didn't know?

"You were born nothing, you will die nothing." The Cardassian guard at the internment camp had hissed that in her ear a few years into her imprisonment. And she believed it, because she had already known it. In a universe so large, what is anyone but nothing?

We're all nothing, She reflected grimly, the stars streaming past the viewport. Some are just better at being nothing than others.

The ship was slowing down, she noticed. The stars were moving by more sluggishly, as if some force was dragging them back, if any force could be stronger than the stars.

Black holes. Black holes were stronger than stars. They were stronger than a million stars. No star could defeat a black hole. In the end, the black hole will always tow you in, then crush you. The black hole always prevails. And it grows stronger and stronger with each star it devours.

Stellar phenomena also held a sort of interest for her. She never spoke of it to anyone, but when Voyager stopped to investigate spacial anomalies, she always felt this small desire for them to stay longer, to thoroughly investigate it instead of just checking to make sure it won't impede their flight path. She wanted to understand them. They were fascinating, giants in space... unmovable, untouchable. One wrong move and you die. They were hazardous, and they were incredible. Absolutely spectacular. Fascinating.

Chakotay frowned as he tried to decipher Janeway's report. He had thought things were improving between them, but this somehow told him otherwise. Why were they always so poorly done? He knew she was articulate when she actually did speak, so why were these reports written with numerous, completely misspelled words, grammar mistakes, shifting of cases, and so many errors that were so simple to catch, even if you didn't know what to look for?

The only time he'd ever written this bad was when he was six years old, and was barely literate.

Maybe it was some sort of rebellion on her part, a way for her to buck against his authority. He restrained the overwhelming urge to yell at her, as he always did, for handing him in a report that was as good as not giving him anything. They never seemed to tell him what he wanted to know, and always wasted his time. He usually didn't even bother reading them, but he had ventured a try this time to find out more about her experience with the other Chakotay.

He called her into his office. Chakotay resolved that he wouldn't yell at her this time, like he usually did, but he would ask her why. Talk things out. God, he'd never had more than five sentences exchanged with her. He couldn't expect to talk things out. But, maybe he could get a little clearer about why this was.

The chime sounded, and he called for her to enter. He heard the door slide open, and her soft footsteps across the rug to his chair. When he judged she was standing before the desk, like an inquisitor, he turned around in his chair, report in hand, and glanced up at her. She had her eyes locked coldly on him, her face expressionless, no doubt already knowing what he was going to say. He surprised her by asking, "Why do you write your reports so poorly, Commander?"

She glanced at him, her face registering surprise. She paused a split beat, her expression carefully guarded, before she replied neutrally, "I don't write them."

Chakotay took a breath and let it out. Not one of the answers he expected, for sure, but it was enough for her to elaborate on. "Who does write them?"

"Crewman Jvarak, Captain," Janeway replied, her eyes scanning his expression intently, for any sign of what he might say.

Of course, Jvarak, Chakotay suddenly remembered the context of the one report Seska had shown him by Jvarak. They had been up late drinking and playing cards one night when she began to complain about how one of the crewmen who reported to her put no effort into his job. She showed him a report, and Chakotay decided that he should be demoted from his lack of effort. He couldn't spell or write to save his life.

"Why do you have Jvarak write your reports, Commander?"

"Because after you demoted him, he has enough time on his hands to do it," She paused a beat before adding, "And not many of my other crewmembers are literate."

"Why don't you write them yourself?" Chakotay demanded impatiently, trying to strike at the heart of the issue.

"I can't read," Janeway replied, not missing a beat. The answer took Chakotay aback. He wouldn't expect Janeway, of all people, to be illiterate. But suddenly, he was filled with understanding. It made perfect sense.

"I see," He replied neutrally, processing this new information. He paused a few seconds, in silence, before he asked, "Why haven't you tried to learn?"

"I don't have any time on this ship, nor did I have any on my old one."

"And before?" He pursued, "Why didn't you learn before hand?"

Something flashed across her expression, an inensity of emotions that he couldn't sort out. Her eyes snapped straight to his, glowing as fierce as embers. Her voice was sharp and bitter when she snapped, "You didn't send me to the interment camp to learn, you sent me there to die."

Chakotay lapsed into a stunned silence, and Janeway seemed more surprised than him at the bitterness in her words. For a moment, her expression was completely unguarded, a myriad of dismay and embarassment washing across her features. She whirled away from him, fists clenched at her sides as she tried to collect herself. He could hear her breathing. It was heavy and shaking, as if she was fighting some demon. Earlier he might have come up with a quick rejoinder, something like, "Damn right I sent you there to die, and I wish to God you had!" But nothing came to him now. It was at this moment that he first realized that he didn't hate her anymore, that he wasn't capable of hating her anymore. He could never hate her again, he realized, eyes on her back, her clenched fists and tense muscles. He couldn't hate her for a crime she didn't really commit, a crime that she'd been punished for unjustly her whole life. He couldn't hate her for the person injustice had shaped her into, the tormented monster she had become after all these harsh years.

The monster of his life, his own personal devil... She was a devil of his own making. The people who had been truly responsible for his life of hatred had escaped long ago. They were somewhere out there, free men or dead. And here he was with her, two souls, two people who had been children, their lives destroyed forever by the machinations of people who escaped judgement. And even now, after they'd acknowledged the truth, they continued to make war upon one another.

He felt anger puslate through him at those people, those faceless ones who had done this to them. Somewhere out there, they were lounging around in their own victory, having already deemed their plot from three decades before a success. They had destroyed their nemesis, Kolopak as well as his child, and a little terran girl had been the one to pay for their crimes. He wished more than anything that somewhere out there those people had suffered slow and terrible deaths... By God, he wished that they were suffering now.

He realized that he hadn't taken his eyes off of her. He probably should have done so when she was trying to get collected, for courtesy's sake, but he didn't. And now, before she had fully recovered, he said quietly, "I'm sorry."

He could no longer hear her breathing. His statement was greeted with silence and stillness on her part, as if she was trying to wait to see if this had really passed, if he had actually said the impossible. He watched as she slowly turned around to face him, no mask on her face anymore, only a look of utter confusion and disbelieving.

Her eyes flickered rapidly across his expression to try to read any deception or mocking in it, were shocked to find none. Her mouth hung slightly open in a stupified expression he had never seen her wear. Finally, she breathed, "What?"

"I am sorry," He said again, the words tumbling out of him quickly, so certain and absolute, like nothing he had ever spoken before, "I destroyed your family, your home, I destroyed you. I'm sorry about the wrongs I've done you, and I'm sorry I condemned you for a crime you didn't commit. I'm sorry I never left you in peace, that I never let you return to a normal life. I'm sorry I forced you to become what you hate. And," He took a deep breath, "I'm sorry that, for so long, I thought you were someone you weren't."

A number of moments passed in silence, their eyes locked together. Finally, Janeway drew a ragged breath, and said quietly, "I wouldn't have been any different in your place."

"You might have been," He said thoughtfully, eyes distant.

She smiled, without mirth or any other emotion than quiet irony. "I don't think I would have. Look at me, look at my lifestyle. Were our positions reversed, you probably wouldn't have become... this," She gestured helplessly to herself. "... You might have deserved more sympathy than I ever could."

"I don't know what I would have done in your place," He replied quietly.

"But you know more than anyone else in this universe," She said it so quietly it was almost inaudible to him.

His eyes were on her, soft and deep. "I know what it is to be alone... To be trapped within myself for eternity..."

Her eyes met his. "And so you know, more than anyone else, what you would be in my place."

"I guess I do," He said quietly, frankly. "I don't think I would have been much different than I am now. And I don't like that."

She was looking at the carpet of the readyroom, her expression unreadable. There was a long silence, both their thoughts distant as the stars streaked by against the dark canopy of space. Kathryn ventured a vague glance up at Chakotay. The readyroom was dim, and he was silhouetted by the bright stars. He's beautiful. She suddenly realized, her eyes scanning his dark, rugged features. How could a human possibly be constructed so perfectly?

"What was she like?" Kathryn asked quietly, breaking the silence.

Chakotay's eyes were cloudy, directed towards the dark stars. His arms were crossed across his powerful chest, and he stood in front of the window as if he could gaze at the entire universe to find the meaning that eluded him only from that spot. Her voice did not disturb him in the least when it broke the silence. Without looking away from the stars, he replied in a silky voice, "She was like no one I've ever met before. She was so strong, and so sure about just who she was-- yet she so gentle, and kind. She had so much power... not in the physical sense... but she commanded so much power within herself, and yet she controlled it. She seemed larger than life, like someone from another universe... and yet she was vulnerable and passionate. She was human, Kathryn," Absorbed in Chakotay's recounting of her alter ego, she didn't have a chance to be shocked at his use of her first name, "More human than I've ever been. More human than anyone in this universe. Of course, being human is derogeratory in our universe. But in theirs, it's a complement."

Kathryn did not say anything.

Chakotay, rousing back to awareness, cautioned a glance at her. Her arms were hugging tightly across her chest, and her expression was pale and unreadable. Her clothing hung loosely from her gaunt form, and even her arms looked spindly, her muscles strangely out of place, as if they had been formed not through being built up, but by something cruel and forced. Like the muscles of a slave...

She was a slave. He remembered suddenly. For eleven years she was a slave, a prisoner... because of my decree.

"Do you want to go get something to eat?" He blurted tactlessly. Staring at her gaunt form, all he could think about was that she needed to eat something. It had been at the back of his mind for the past few minutes, without him realizing it, and now the silence had provided him with an opportunity to correct that problem. She looked akward, he realized, when she didn't have her spark. When she was in this state, unruffled and baffled, her electricity seemed to fade off, and she looked unnatural. She had well toned muscle but so little flesh that she looked as if she would topple over any minute now. Her skin was deathly pale, as if she was stricken with some dire illness. If he could, he'd get her something to eat, then haul her down to sickbay. God knows what she had that made her so pale-- some ailment that she hadn't gone to sickbay about, perhaps. She never had been fond of sickbay. He vaguely recalled her collapsing on the bridge once after a hostile away mission. She had neglected to report to sickbay afterwards, and her injuries had caused internal bleeding. She had spent nearly five hours in surgery before her condition was no longer life threatening. Even after being sternly dressed down by Doctor Fitzgerald, she refused to go to sickbay unless it was absolutely necessary.

"Get something to eat?" She echoed tonelessy, staring incredulously at him.

"That's right. At the dining hall. I think Crewman Bates cooked tonight, and he's the most skilled chef we have. I don't know about you, but I'm starving." He paused his pointless rambling for a moment. She was still rooted in place, gazing expressionlessly at him. Chakotay hopelessly broke off his first approach, and, with a sigh, offered, "We can see, if, just for one meal, we can forget the past. Everything that has transpired in the last thirty two years... just forget it for one day. We can start with a clean slate, if only for a short time."

Her gaze was still hesitant, skeptical, but he could tell from her foggy eyes that the idea was taking root in her mind. After a prolonged second, a small smirk tugged at one side of her lips. "If anything, the crew's reaction to our eating together might be worth it."

Chakotay grinned to himself, thinking about the scene when they entered together. He suddenly glanced up. His wondering gaze met Kathryn's for a moment. He hadn't quite expected her to have a sense of humor.

As she walked out the ready room door, another grin threatened to break out across his face. Of course, he should have expected a sense of humor from her. He had known that the other Janeway had a sense of humor, so the potential had obviously been there.

"...the instructor at the military academy, a large, burly Cardassian named Gul Edan. I'd never met such an asshole in my life. He couldn't see past the end of his own nose. You know how the Cardassian courses emphasize teaching through example? Well, he seemed to have skipped that part of the manual. He'd order us on these long marches-- D'Hurukmar Death Marches, we'd call them. Do you know what 'D'Hurukmar' means?"

"I know a bit of Cardassian. Go on."

"Anyway, we'd go on these extremely long marches that exceeded the distance of any of the other units. So, he'd look good, we worked our asses off, and the whole time he stayed behind at base camp. We didn't know what the hell he was doing. We never did. So finally, one day, I snuck out of formation with this friend of mine. We crept back to the tent, and guess what we found? He was fucking the gul's wife! He was fucking Gul Dumar's wife right under the bastard's nose this whole time!"

Kathryn chuckled. "Dumar must have been furious. He's notoriously ill-tempered--"

"Damn right he is. When he found out, four men had to restrain him from settling Edan right there." Chakotay laughed, recalling the comical scene.

"Just how did he find out?" Kathryn asked, leaning back in her seat, gazing at him pointedly.

"We didn't nark him out, if that's what you think," Chakotay assured her offhandedly. "As much as we hated that bastard, it was more amusing than anything. If he'd found out we saw him, he would have given us hell during the formation marches. No... One of Dumar's secretaries walked in on them, caught them in the act. He was expelled from the instruction; shortly after, he was sent to the front line, I think. I always wondered what happened to that son of a bitch."

"He's dead," Janeway replied flatly. "And he was a sleaze to the end. We held him hostage for a few weeks, to try to procure some weapondry from the Cardassians, maybe get a few of our people free. We didn't meet with any sucess. Evidently, no one in Cardassian command cared enough about what the hell happened to him for them to bother to ransom him."

Chakotay chuckled. "That's not unlikely. Dumar had friends in high places. So, what happened to him?"

"We were just thinking about killing him when he raped the woman that brought him food-- this Betazoid-- Troi, or something. I can't quite remember her name. He signed his own death warrant." A grin spread across her face, and her eyes gleamed with menace, clouded with some distant memory. "We shoved a rifle up his ass and pulled the trigger. It took him nearly twenty minutes to die. He kept begging and pleading with us to let him go, this whole time torrents of blood streaming out of his..." She trailed off when she caught the turbulent expression on Chakotay's face.

Listening to her recount the Cardassian's death, taking in the delighted amusement that lit her features and the malicious gleam in her eyes, Chakotay had been chilled to the bone. During their dinner conversation, he had almost been able to forget himself... to forget the past. For a while, it was as if he was talking to the other Janeway. He had taken his own experiences and twisted them around to make them seem like anecdotes from when he was a Maquis. Now, he had been telling the truth to Janeway. She seemed mildly amused by them, even the ones that involved his long hunt for her. Every once in a while, she contributed when he spouted the negative about one of his Alliance superiors.

It was a crude slap in the face when she started on the vein about killing Edan. Telling someone about killing a person, and taking amusement out of the tale was bad. He couldn't criticize it, though, he'd engaged in that behavior at times himself. The sadistic delight he saw in her eyes, though-- that scared him even more. It reminded him of just who she was; it told him not to ever forget that, wronged as she was as a child, as decent as she seemed at times, she was very much the same person she had been for almost the past twenty years-- she still was the ruthless terrorist who had killed hundreds, maybe thousands. She still was the person with the blood upon her hands. She no longer was the counterpart of the tender, compassionate Janeway in the other universe. She was the monster bred of this one, the monster he had spent thirty two years trying to slay.

Chakotay was no humanitarian. He could never in a million years be called a humanitarian. But compared to the malicious, blood thirsty lust for cruelty that she displayed during their conversation, he was a saint. He had never taken delight out of another's death, or pleasure from another's suffering-- except for her.

He could not think of what to say when she trailed off from her tale, obviously realizing that she had gone too far in recounting the gory death. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, akwardly glancing around the messhall as if trying to shrug off the sudden discomfort that had descended over their conversation.

"I'd probably better retire. I've got shift early tomorrow," Chakotay said awkwardly. He rose, tray in hand. He offered, "Would you like to leave as well?"

Kathryn stared at him pointedly, her face expressionless again. She knew he was merely asking out of courtesy, and was secretly desperate for her to turn him down.

"I'm fine. I think I'll just mingle for a while," She replied, her eyes glassy. They both could see the falseness in the other's words. Janeway never mingled with anyone. She stuck out like a thorn in a social setting.

"All right. Good night." He turned away with undue haste. Kathryn did not wish him good night. Instead, she settled back in her seat, her expression cold. She watched him depart with a jaundiced eye. Her momentary embarassment shifted into resentment as the doors slid closed behind him. What right had he to be appalled at what she had done in the past? What right did he have to question her, when he had lived a fairy tale existence in comparison?

She ordered a few more drinks, remaining in the messhall about an hour more. The more she thought about it, the more angry she became. Why did I even agree to eat with him? She mulled angrily over these thoughts as she walked back to her quarters.

When she entered the dark room, it vaguely occured to her that she had been feeling so much more emotion in the past two weeks than she had in years. The numbness that had been cloaking all feeling for so many years was repeatedly being pierced open by these new emotions; it had happened so often recently that it was almost overwhelming.

She called for lights as she stepped into her bedchamber. No lights came on.

That was the only warning she received before a roar split through the air. Her muscles tensed just before someone slammed bodily into her from the side, knocking her off her feet and to the ground, crushing her to the floor underneath him.

She opened her mouth to call out for lights, for security, for something-- but she never found out what. A thick, stifling cloth of some kind was stuffed over her mouth. She fumbled with her hands to try to gain leverage, or get her footing under her in the darkness. She twisted to try to writhe out from underneath her heavy opponent, but she didn't succeed. A large hand wrapped around her wrist and pinned it uncerimoniously to the rough carpet. The other wrist was trapped between her body and his.

Blindly, Kathryn managed to wrench her wrist out from between them. She grapsed up towards the person's face. Knowing she wouldn't be able to strangle him with one hand, she felt for the person's face. The stubble of an incoming beard brushed her hand briefly before she found her target. She jammed her thumb into the softness she knew to be his eye. He cried out in pain, and a moment later slammed his fist brutally across her jaw. Her head slammed against the carpeted floor, and the dark world grew darker; her body betrayed her, losing all strength for just long enough for him to fully secure her.

When her feeling was back, she tried again to move and found herself immobilized. After a few seconds, Kathryn relaxed her struggles, hoping he would ease up when she did, allowing her a chance to escape. A few endless moments passed in the darkness, his breath hot upon her cheek, his mass heavy and pinning her to the floor.

Soft footfalls sounded upon the carpet near her head, and it occured to Kathryn that someone else was in the room. A shadowy figure bent over her, and hissed in a familiar feminine voice, "Caught in the unawares, aren't we Janeway?"

Seska.

Kathryn renewed her struggles against her captor with a new vigour. Seska. She knew the moment she recognized that voice that if she did not escape, she would die. Other people could be counted on to make mistakes that would betray them, but she knew Seska. Seska was good. Seska would not make mistakes.

Seska's harsh laugh rang out in the darkness, and she made a sweeping gesture with her arm. Following cue, Janeway's captor wrapped an arm in a choking grip around her neck, hauling her up, her face smothered against his chest. A third person who Janeway had not noticed secured her legs before she even had time to react, and Seska clapped restraints upon her wrists. A sinewy rope was wrapped crudely around her mouth to hold the cloth in. Kathryn struggled in the man's arms and attempted to cry out for the person in the next quarters, a cry that easily would be heard through the thin walls. But the cloth smothered her cry and effectively eliminated it.

"Come on. Dalby cleared the corridor for us," Seska hissed. The two men with her grabbed Janeway's squirming form and quickly hauled her out of the quarters into the bright corridor. Kathryn squinted blindly into the overwhelming light. She peered into the light to try to spot her captors. Markor. D'Kraal.

I'll kill those bastards, and Dalby! She seethed angrily as she stumbled between the two men, Seska following at her heels.

As they reached the transporter room, she was shoved rudely to the floor. Seska circled around to adjust the transporter settings while Markor and D'Kraal leveled their weapons at her.

Left to herself, Janeway twisted onto her back and looped the manacles under her body so she could have her wrists in front of her. Ripping out her gag with her restrained hands, she directed her razor sharp glare at Seska and snarled, "Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Seska? If you kill me the Terrans will rebel, I swear it."

Seska smiled maliciously at Janeway, her eyes gleaming with unmasked hatred and her tan skin bathed with the faint green glow of the transporter console. "I'm not so sure they will, Kathryn. After all, half of them think you've cast your lot with Chakotay."

"What are you talking about?" Janeway demanded incredulously. She fumbled with her handcuffs to try to work them off without Seska or her accomplices noticing.

Seska approached her like a serpant, slow, calculating. She hissed, "Don't pretend you don't know. Everyone saw you in dining hall together just a few hours ago."

"So, what?" Janeway demanded, intently gazing at her captor's face. Then, reading the expression in Seska's eyes, it dawned on her. At first, her mind was overwhelmed with disbelief. Then, her lips curled up into a twisted smile. "It can't be..." A faint chuckle escaped her lips as she eyed Seska with scornful contempt. "You can't be jealous, can you, Seska?" At the look of forced denial on Seska's face, Janeway bellowed a crude laugh. "That's it, isn't it? You're jealous and now you want to space me. Oh my God... you must be fucking kidding me! That's what this is about!"

Eyes blazing, Janeway pulled herself up to a sitting position, glaring levelly at Seska, feeling more empowered now that she knew Seska was motivated by rash emotions and not a calculated bid for power ( and because she was finally slipping her handcuffs off of her wrists). "Let me go now," She said softly, "And I will forget this ever happened. If you do not, I swear to God, when I get out of this, I will kill you myself." Her gaze swept over the two guards. "And you, too."

"Fuck you! She can't do shit!" Seska roared in outrage, taking long strides over to Janeway and jerking her up roughly by the forearm to demonstrate her superiority. "You can't do anything, Janeway... And you won't get out of this. I promise you that, you scrawny bitch--"

At that moment, Kathryn's left restraint finally jerked off. Knowing she had to act quickly, Kathryn whipped her leg around and flipped Seska's legs out from under her. Seska cried out and stumbled to the ground. Ripping her arm out of Seska's grasp, Kathryn quickly snatched Seska's weapon from her holster, then grabbed the other woman by her long, dark hair and hauled her uncerimoniously to her feet. By the time the two guards managed to train their weapons on her, she had Seska in a headlock, effectively shielding herself from the weapons. Jamming the gun into Seska's side, she ordered, "Drop it or she's dead."

A look of blank shock registered on Markor and D'Kraal's faces before they took their cue from Seska's deadly glare and dropped the guns at their feet. Eyes narrowed, her arm firmly locked around Seska's neck, she barked, "Kick them over here."

The two men did not hesitate. They clumsily stepped forward and nudged the phasers forward with their feet, with a lack of coordination that was characteristic of the underlings in the Cardassian and Klingon societies from which the two of them came.

The phasers slid half way to Janeway's feet before coming to a dead halt in the middle of the transporter room. Careful to keep her grip steady on Seska, Janeway took a few cautious, careful steps backwards. Seska stumbled as she was forced to take clumsy steps backwards, and nearly knocked Janeway over-- not unintentionally, Janeway knew.

The silence was thick enough to cut with a knife. The two guards loomed over near the door, eyeing their discarded weapons and the two women carefully, anticipating the moment Janeway was open to attack.

"What are you planning on doing, Janeway?" Seska growled, her voice choked from the tight headlock. Her nails dug into the skin of Janeway's forearm, which she had been clinging on to since she had been put into the headlock.

Kathryn didn't reply. She took a few more steps backwards, and then carefully eased herself up onto the transporter platform, hauling Seska up after her. Her gun never wavered in it's aim-- right toward the plactoa-- the main artery in the Cardassian body. It ran right down the right side of the body. If she fired the phaser, there would be no time for Seska to get to sickbay before she bled to death. Kathryn's finger itched to pull the trigger, to put an end to the woman who had been her arch enemy since she came aboard. Common sense overruled her savage instinct, though, for she knew if she killed Seska it would be easy enough for Markor or D'Kraal to scoop up their weapons and kill her.

"Listen up," Kathryn commanded, glaring at the two guards. Oh yes, she'd kill them both later. But for now... "Beam us both to the bridge. One beam. You space me, you'll have to space her too, because I'm not letting her go. I promise you, Chakotay might spare you for my death, but he certainly won't let you get away with hers!" D'Kraal walked cautiously over towards the transporter console, not ripping his eyes from the two woman. Seska said nothing. Her eyes blazed with impotent fury, and her lips threatened to twitch into a snarl. Janeway's face was a mask of indifference, but before she was enveloped by the beam, her eyes met his. They glowed luridly into his, as ice cold as death. Don't forget about me, you bastard... Her gaze promised him . I'll be the last thing you ever see.

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"There's no justice on this ship!" Paris fumed. "Seska tries to kill Janeway, she gets off scotch free. If one of us tried to kill Chakotay, you bet we'd be executed!" He slammed his fist down upon the table for emphasis, knocking the checker peices off of their squares and some to the floor.

"You idiot! Now we're going to have to start all over again!" Kim exclaimed in frustration, furiously gathering up the peices that had been knocked to the carpeted ground.

Paris gaped at him incredulously for a second as the younger man tried to figure out where everything had been. Growing furious at the younger man's trivial concerns, Paris snatched up the checker board by one corner and flung it across the room, scattering the peices everywhere. "Will you listen to me?" He demanded.

Kim cried out and sprang to his feet, fists clenched and eyes blazing. "What the hell is your problem, Paris?" His temples throbbed with barely checked rage. Paris had to fight not to crack up at Kim's comical display of emotion.

"Harry, I'm talking about real life issues here, and all you give a damn about is a checker board!" Paris exclaimed in agitation.

Kim bellowed out a crude laugh, dropping back into the chair behind him. He stared pointedly at Paris, not concealing his mocking contempt. "You're talking about justice, Paris? Since when did you give a damn about human rights issues? We all know you're just after Chakotay because he fucks Seven from time to time!"

"That's not what this is about!" Paris protested angrily, turbulent emotions crossing his face.

"Give me a break. Everyone knows that's what this is about. I'll bet you're sorry Seska didn't succeed, because Janeway's death surely would have meant the end of Chakotay's ass," Kim rejoindered. He paced away from the table and began to scoop up the checkers peices.

Paris glared at him, a sharp reply on the tip of his tongue. Control your temper, He reminded himself, closing his eyes for a few moments to try to collect himself. After a count of ten, he took a deep breath and opened his eyes again, sure that he could better control himself.

"Harry," He began slowly, "I'd be lying if I said that wasn't part of the reason. I hate that bastard. If he thinks he can just fuck up a perfectly sound relationship and not have some sort of retribution because of it... well, he's going to learn he's wrong... dead wrong. But that's not the only reason I have."

"Then what is the other reason?" Kim asked wearily, preparing himself for the bullshit that was about to follow.

Paris caught Kim's skepticism, and pointedly ignored it. "The other reason is because this ship is unjust. The terrans have the short end of the bargain. We have practically no positions of power. He keeps Janeway as first officer only because he wouldn't have a crew if he didn't... And even so, he treats her with so much disrespect. I know she's, by Alliance law, a terrorist... but had our positions been reversed, I think she would have given him a chance to prove himself. And besides that, he's a sellout. What kind of self respecting Terran would work for the Alliance in exploiting his own people?"

Harry glanced around with his dark eyes, as if instinctively checking to make sure nobody was around to hear. It was a ludicrous gesture, seeing as the two men were alone in Paris's quarters, but it was an ingrained habit. Taking a step closer to Paris, he said quietly, "I've heard some... rumors in the past few days."

Paris perked up at this, eyes narrowing. "Do tell, Harry."

Casting another furitive glance around the room, Harry spoke rapidly, "Ensign Doufrey was working in the jefferies tube, fixing a conduit right outside of Janeway's office when he heard some sort of conversation going on between her and the other Chakotay. Now, he didn't hear much of it, but he heard something about Chakotay's father. He said that Janeway confessed to killing him, when they were kids. You know how she was in the internment camp? Well, that's what sent her there. She was nine years old, and that's why Chakotay's been after her all these years."

"No way. I knew she started her career early... but not that early," Paris breathed, eyes glowing. "Go on."

"Well, Doufrey is not the most reliable source. But I've heard some other rumors. For one, I heard that Chakotay and the other Janeway were lovers. Of course, I've also heard that Janeway and the other Chakotay were lovers."

"I'd discount those rumors. The Janeway-Chakotay estranged lovers rumor has been going around the ship since we were stranded out here. This is just a new variation of it," Paris said offhandedly.

Kim's eyes gleamed. "I wouldn't have thought anything of them either... but tonight, they were eating together in the mess hall. And talking. They were very animated... laughing and telling old 'war' stories, if you'd like to put it that way. We were all shocked. It was almost like they were friends."

Paris's jaw fell open. "No..."

"Yes," Kim confirmed.

Paris rubbed his forehead thoughtfully, trying to scrub through his brain about what this ruse could be about. What was going on with Janeway and Chakotay? After his thoughts rushed through his head, he could only sputter in incredulous outrage, "Janeway picked a damn bad time to get friendly with Chakotay!"

Kim's lips twisted into a grim, cynical smile. "I told you, Paris. I told you, god damn it! She has some sort of loyalty to him. Just when we've already made plans, we've even fucking contacted her and revealed almost all of it!"

Paris didn't respond. His eyes were dark with rage that he could not express. His fists were clenched and folded in front of him. Kim could see the throbbing around Paris's temples. Harry could imagine the force of the blood that was pumping through Paris's veins, just how strong it had to be to make such an appearant ripple.

"Janeway still hasn't said anything about it?" Paris inquired quietly, his voice cutting through the stillness.

"She hasn't said anything in favor of it," Kim replied, eyes focused intently on Paris's shielded expression. Paris's eyes were still distant, and Harry couldn't read what was going through the other man's head.

"She's said nothing against it, though," Paris murmered.

"After all this, you're not suggesting we go ahead--" Kim began in disbelief

Paris met Kim's gaze with his own. "I'm not suggesting. I'm saying that we are going ahead with it. We have no reason to back down now."

Kim paused a beat, eyes rapidly flickering over Paris's expression to try and discern some hint of doubt or jest. When he found none, Kim shook his head hopelessly. "You're fucking crazy."

"If Janeway dissaproved of it, we would know already," Paris said vehemently, as if he was trying to convince himself as well as Kim. "She's just keeping neutral so she can disclaim any responsibility if it fails, which it won't! It's a perfectly warranted tactic." Paris stood up and paced over to the viewport.

"You don't know that," Kim said.

Paris spun around to face him, revved up for a confrontation. "You're right, Harry, I don't know that. At this point, we don't know shit! All I know is that she was almost assasinated today, by Chakotay's biggest supporter, and she won't be in a mood to put up with any more Alliance bullshit. We kill Seska and Chakotay, rid the ship of all Alliance power, and she will go to our side. She will lead us if we hand the ship to her. I have no doubt of her." He paused a moment. "Besides, she's not exactly known for her unshakeable morals."

Though his expression was still doubtful, Harry didn't say another word in protest. He found himself thinking, I hope to God you're right, Paris...

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It took all night for her anger to die down.

She was allowed only to pace furiously back and forth in her quarters, her vision tinged with crimson in her rage. She took little comfort in the fact that Seska, too, was confined to quarters until the full details of the incident could be sorted out.

Janeway glanced down at her fists, clenched so tightly that the knuckles were bright white. If that bitch was here right now, she'd wring the life out of her by that scrawny neck...

Immediately upon materializing on the bridge, swarms of Alliance crewmembers had descended upon her, ripping Seska out of her grip and wrenching the phaser from her arm. Of course, the Terrans had joined the tumult, prying the Alliance supporters off of Janeway and attacking them furiously. The bridge broke into an all-out fight, and it took Tuvok, Rollins, and three security team to break it up. Bruised and battered, Janeway had stumbled to her feet, glaring fire at Seska. Seska, also bloodied, sneered at her, her flaming expression promising Janeway that she wasn't out of danger yet. Kathryn took an agressive step towards her, oblivious to the fact that she could start the fight all over again, and was stopped by a phaser in her side.

Tuvok, expression regretful, gestured for her to back off. Janeway glared at him, seething with adrenaline, and took a reluctant step back. Seska smiled and sauntered away.

Now, after a brief visit to sickbay ( she hated sickbay), she was confined to quarters. She was furious, not just at Seska and the Alliance supporters, but also at Chakotay.

That bastard... She thought angrily, stopping for a moment to glare out the window. He probably set me up.

At first, it was just a ludicrous suggestion, fueled by her anger. But the more and more minutes that passed, the more and more sense that the thought made. He was with her in dining hall, and had ensured that she be detained from her quarters for a certain amount of time-- time Seska could use to set up her trap. Then, after that time elapsed, he abruptly left. And, of course, having been seen out with her in public in an almost friendly fashion, no one could openly suspect him of having a hand in her death.

A logical part of her mind spoke quietly that she was being absurd. It was Seska, and Seska alone who had tried to kill her. Seska was being ruled by her ambition to be first officer, and jealousy over Chakotay. That had to be it! Kathryn reasoned that she had to be underestimating Seska's emotions. Chakotay had no involvement in this, whatsoever...

But her reason did not win out. Her anger did.

When a message from Harry Kim appeared on her console later that night, a message that requested whether or not he should proceed with the mutiny plan, Janeway's impulsive anger triumphed, committing her to that which she had been opposed to all along.

She sent back, "Proceed."

As Janeway stared into the empty blackness of space, the computer reported that Kim had received the message.

A chill ran down her spine.

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Something was wrong today, Chakotay mused, glancing at Janeway out of the corner of his eye.

She was silent, as usual, staring straight ahead, her sharp features schooled into nonchalance, her long hair tucked behind her ears and tumbling down her back. Her eyes, though, were glittering with some emotion he could not read.

He let out an uneasy breath and caged his eyes sharply on the black stars before him. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end, but he wasn't sure just why.

She must have noticed that he was cutting off orders more harshly than usual, and shifting positions in his seat every few seconds. His nerves were on the very edge, and he couldn't pinpoint just why.

She glanced coldly at him, her cold blue eyes glassy and the right side of her lip twitched up into an insolent smirk.

"Captain, if you really need to use the rest room, I can handle the bridge for a few minutes," she murmered quietly, not loud enough for the whole bridge to hear, but provoking titters from those nearby.

Chakotay realized that his shifting restlessness must have implied that to her. He glanced over at her to reply, his eyes flashing to hers.

Something cold within her eyes froze his blood. They looked back at him, desolate and empty of soul, as hollow and shadowed as death.

Oh God... something's very wrong, He thought.

"I think I can hold it a while longer, Commander... but thank you for looking out for my welfare," He replied with strained courtesy, glancing away as he replied, meeting her eyes again only to gague her reaction to his reply.

What he saw did nothing but confirm his fears.

For a fraction of a second, her eyes flickered with uncertaintly.

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"Half-breed! The engineer's dead!" The Klingon called to her from where he was crouched by the body.

B'Elanna Torres vaulted over to where the dead Cardassian, Duktor, was lying. Her eyes ran briefly over his charred features, his eyes wide and glazed and his face plastered in the eternal snarl with which he had met his death. She took a deep, calming breath, her head spinning in dizzy elation. That makes me chief engineer! Me!

"Half-breed, we have problems." The Klingon snarled, snapping her abruptly out of her ecstatic haze. The condescending tone in his voice, the scornful glint in his eyes, put her back in her place, brought her back down to this plane. His eyes reminded her that, chief engineer may be her position, but that didn't change who she was. She still had the cursed terran blood running through her veins.

At least, she thought triumphantly, I have authority. No one here in engineering will be able to call me 'half-breed' once I'm firmly established.

"Report!" She barked, as Duktor always had before her. Voices called from the smoky depths of engineering--

"There was a disruption in the warp field!"

"The warp engines stalled... power is out on decks seven through nine..."

"What kind of disruption?" B'Elanna called, her hands furiously dancing over the controls to fight the power draining from the ship's systems.

"I can't tell. "

"What do you mean, you can't tell?" B'Elanna snapped harshly. "Was it something that just... happened, or was it sabotaged?"

Silence was her only response.

B'Elanna's eyes burned in the direction of the voice. She'd find out who that insolent targ was later. For now...

"Bridge to engineering, report!" Chakotay's voice filtered through the darkness. Nearby, two fire teams were fighting a console that was a blaze.

B'Elanna hesitated instinctively, waiting for Duktor to reply. Then, her conscious mind kicked in and she slapped her own combadge.

"This is Torres. There's been some kind of disruption in the warp field. The warp engines stalled, and we've lost power from decks seven to fourteen. We have yet to determine the cause, but..." She glanced down at her glowing display to double check, "It appears to have depleted our supply of dilithium. Oh, and by the way, Duktor is dead."

"How low is the dilithium supply, Torres?"

Relief shot through her that he didn't address her as "half-breed". Perhaps he recognized the importance of her new position. "It's at thirteen percent capacity. Captain," She felt her fingers tingling. For the first time, she got to report the dire news! "We have enough to run the ship for about two days more of warp. After that, we're dead in the water." The cloudy steam of the warp engines spouted briefly into her face, obscuring her vision in a haze. B'Elanna averted her tender skin away from the heat until the cloud passed, unconsciously chiding herself for the terran gesture. True Klingons liked pain!

"Is the situation critical at the moment?" Chakotay demanded, his voice ringing and fuzzy through the smoke.

"No. We're fine for now. I recommend we give the engines a few days rest until we figure out just where we're going to get more dilithium." She reported to him, simotaneously mulling over that Chakotay was a terran, and he had her respect. Maybe some terrans weren't bad. Of course, Janeway had her respect, too, but Janeway was one of the terrans she despised. Who wouldn't despise a terrorist?

The voice floated back to her, "Reccomendation noted. Go to all stop. Chakotay out."

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"Good soup tonight, huh, Commander?" Kim inquired, leaning over to scan the thick, reddish substance.

"Haven't tried it yet," Janeway replied, ladeling out a cup of the slop into her bowl. She brushed past him as she made her way over to a table. Sinking into her chair, she followed him with sharp eyes as he circled around and sat at the table directly behind her.

"It tastes good," Kim commented. "What do you think?"

Janeway snorted, and glanced over her shoulder at him. "Is there a point to this conversation, Mr. Kim? Or is this some form of double talk that I'm just not catching on to?"

He glanced uneasily, and she laughed wryly. "You might as well sit at my table. If you you haven't noticed, the mess hall is conspicuously empty. Sitting directly behind me is more suspicious than just sitting with me," She said, pushing the chair across from her out with her foot.

He flushed, grabbed his bowl, and plopped down across from her. Shooting her an uneasy grin, he commented, "I really didn't like the soup, anyway."

Janeway studied him coldly, expressionless. "From what I hear," She intoned, "The other Voyager serves far worse."

"One advantage to our universe. Perhaps the only advantage," Kim commented, eyes darting down to the soup to hide his uncertainty. The only person who could have told Janeway about the other Voyager was Chakotay. If they had been talking about food... Well, enemies usually didn't discuss cuisine together.

"I'm still in," Janeway said suddenly, her gaze intense. He realized she had been watching him this whole time.

"That's a relief," He muttered.

"You did a good job with the engines. Better than I expected," She appraised, a spoonful of the soup poised midair. "I think you should know, there's been a change in plans."

"What?" Kim asked, head shooting up warily.

"Chakotay's spontaneously decided that I'm to accompany him to the surface... or you could say that he's to accompany me. Whatever you're planning, you'll have to take that into account."

Kim's eyes narrowed thoughtfully, mind snapping back into planning mode. "Our plan was..." He trailed off, glanced around. The mess hall was as empty now as it had been a few minutes ago, but he still lowered his voice to continue, "Our plan was to take him out first. Then we go about the rest of it. Someone on the away team will have to kill him on the surface."

Janeway's eyes snapped to his, and he held her gaze. Dark eyes glittering, he repeated, "Someone."

She nodded mutely, receiving the message. Then her gaze flickered, averted to the starscape spanning outside of the windows. He felt a twinge of worry. The uncertainty, anything less than absolute certainty, was out of character for Janeway. His brow furrowed as he scrutinized her expression, trying to read past the mask. Her emotions lay in her eyes, he had figured out long ago. He tried to look into them, to see what they conveyed, but they were bleak and dull, as impassive as the distant expression she wore.

"Someone," She reiterated absently. Kim breathed a sigh of relief. She had not lost her focus.

He rose to his feet, grasping the empty bowl in his hands. She seemed to have forgotten about him, and he turned to leave.

"Harry," She called softly.

He stopped in his tracks and turned back to her. Her eyes bored right into his, her expression indefinable. She asked quietly, "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?" He asked uncomfortably.

"Why do you want them dead?" She asked. He knew who 'they' were.

"I--" He faltered. He thought. He could only say, "They're the Alliance."

She nodded slowly, digesting his words. "I see. Good night."

He nodded back to her uncertainly. "Good night."

She heard the door slide shut behind him, and fell back to musing, staring bleakly into the red colored soup. Thick and red. Like blood. She dipped the metal spoon thoughtfully into the soup, swirled it around, watching the liquid ripple and slosh against the sides of the bowl. They're the Alliance... She glanced at the door briefly before looking back at the soup. But what does that matter now, out here? Seventy-five thousand light years from any of that? What does any of the past matter?

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Batehart on the left, Watkins on the right, stepping to the left. Still in range. He nodded. That's a good sign. He's keeping his watch.

Janeway unconsciously eyed the other Terrans as she hovered by Chakotay's side. He was saying something as he scanned the rock. Torres was behind him, recording the data he sent her. Kathryn kept close track of the movements around her. When she signalled, the trap would be sprung. The timing had to be just right, or they'd be decimated by the Alliance guards Chakotay had with him.

She shifted restlessly, watching as Torres tapped more data into the tricorder, hearing the scuffling footsteps of the restless Ensign Kramer behind her. She shot him a glance, noticed his hand twitching towards his weapon. He met her eyes, and she glanced pointedly down at his hand. He followed her gaze, realized his obvious, restless gesture, and quickly retracted his hand. No use giving away their intentions before it was time.

She noticed D'Breen wander off behind a rock, his patrol following him. Good. That was what she was waiting for.

Her gaze darted rapidly around the clearing, insuring that her people were all in the right places. She could feel the rapid thumping of her heart in her chest, the blood rushing in her veins. Janeway took one last look at the living, breathing Chakotay, dark eyes intent upon the readings before him. The thought rushed through her head, Dear God, what have I gotten myself into? She cursed herself for her weakness, and hardened her resolve. Remember, Kathryn, he would have let Seska kill you. She tapped her communicator, grabbed her phaser with the other hand, and barked, "Now!"

Chakotay's gaze snapped up from his work, dark eyes mirroring suprise, and dismay, because he knew exactly what was about to happen. Janeway felt her throat constrict at the shattered look on his face, her certainty about her righteousness faltering for a moment, making her hesitate to fire. It was the snarl that twisted upon Torres's lips that shook her out of her stupor. Before either of them had a chance to react, Janeway ripped off a shot with her phaser. The beam enveloped both of them, slamming Chakotay square in the chest and hitting Torres on the shoulder. Their bodies flew back like rag dolls. They seemed to soar through the air in slow motion, landing upon the ground with a sickening thunk. She gazed at them as if in a trance.

Around her, the air was electrified with phaser fire. Frantic yells and shouts came from the lips of Alliance crewmembers as they rushed back to the clearing. They unholstered their weapons, but too late. The attack had been too well planned, too crafted. Kim and Paris had organized this to the letter. The unprepared troops had no chance. The night flashed with light, and cries of pain filtered through the air. Janeway watched impassively, taken aback by the macabre atmosphere. Was this real, or was it a dream?

She felt a beam impact the rock behind her, and a jagged split of rock caught her in the side of the neck, embedding into her tender flesh. She hit the dirt in front of her, one part of her mind cursing herself for her spacing out and allowing herself to get hit, the other part still lost in a fog of confusion. The pain tingled up her back, through her joints, and she could feel the blood warm and sticky as it trickled out of the wound. The artery must have been peirced. She clenched her teeth against the pain, and moaning, clawed her way across the dirt sprinkled earth towards the bodies of Chakotay and Torres.

The air was filled with sounds of pain, sounds of death. They were nothing new. Janeway ignored them, pulled herself up next to Chakotay, and reached out a hand to feel his pulse. His skin was rubbery and clammy to her touch. His pulse weakly pattered against her fingers.

Her world grew redder about her, and with each labored beat of her own heart, more blood left her body, her strength ebbed a bit more. She smiled wryly, marvelling at the irony of dying like this. Paris played me for a fool, She reflected. She didn't have the strength to pull away from Chakotay's body, so she simply allowed herself the luxury of slumping against him. Her face upon his chest, she could hear the weak thump of his heart, the jagged gasps of breath.

Was my phaser on kill? She wondered briefly as her thoughts began to blur. He should be dead now, shouldn't he?

Then her mind began to fade upon her. Kathryn could no longer think clearly, no longer desired to think clearly. After a lifetime of pain, she could feel the universe fading around her. She relaxed, let the quiet envelop her. Death wasn't so bad. Life was infinitely more painful.

She forced her eyes open to gaze at Chakotay one last time. As they sunk closed again, her last thought broke the silence: They hadn't changed their ways after all.

THE END