Many many apologies for taking so long to complete this story. Suffice it to say I've had the year from hell, and fanfiction has been the furthest thing from my mind.
Thank you to Lady Day and Night, Aleia McKingston, Asthore, jewlz-sheridan, Bragi151 and kk for the reviews!
This is the final chapter!!!
Part Two - Chapter Five
A short time later Harry and Chakotay were one again staring out at the Tescheg array. For a moment Chakotay allowed his mind to drift back to his first encounter with one of these truly alien constructs. At times he cursed the day he'd looked out of the Liberty's front viewport, expecting to see the honey-hued vortexes of the badlands, only to see that ominous, pulsing array.
But then he had to remember the friends he'd made – Tom, Harry, Neelix, the Doctor. Even Neelix and Tuvok.
And of course, he'd met Kathryn. At first he'd only agreed to become her first officer out of obligation – not to her, but to his crew. He had to look after their interests, and he could only do that from a position of authority. He'd quickly become interested in the Captain as a person. What made her tick? What had brought her to Voyager's bridge? She was neither male nor middle-aged like most other 'fleet Captains, and that fact piqued his curiosity. As he began to get to know her, he'd become fascinated by her. He'd watch her when she wasn't looking, and try to figure out what was going on behind those often unreadable eyes of hers.
It had hit him like a sledgehammer when he'd realised he loved her. The move from fascination to obsession to love happened so quickly it had caught him off-guard. As such, it had only taken her a few weeks to find out how he felt, and truth be told, he had a sneaking suspicion she'd figured it out before he had.
Those seven years in the Delta Quadrant had seen them weather many storms. She'd been angry with him, both professionally and personally on many occasions. She hadn't voiced her feelings during any of his dalliances with passing aliens and she'd barely uttered a word of disapproval over his short-lived relationship with Seven. But he'd been able to tell by the sudden distance between them that she was upset. And for years that was the only reassurance he had that she was at all interested in him.
In reverse, Chakotay had tried to support her in every way, even in relationships (even when she got together with Michael, which he had to admit, had unsettled and miffed him more than a little), only ever getting upset when she got together with Jaffen because she wasn't in her right mind.
They'd become closer after Voyager's return home. She'd been his rock during the inquest following the Loran II incident. When he'd been reinstated as Voyager's Captain, she'd been the first person he'd sought out, enveloping her in a long hug the second they were away from the Admiralty and the media. They'd both gotten pretty emotional, but some things remained unsaid.
And that had been his biggest regret when she'd been killed by the Remans just a few weeks later.
"...Are you listening?!" Harry's irritated voice brought Chakotay back to the present.
Chakotay blinked and turned his attention to the pilot's console.
"We've got a lock on the computer core," he said without inflection.
"Well that was quick sir," Harry quipped.
Chakotay smirked a little. He and Harry had grown a lot closer and had developed a true friendship following Voyager's return home. Harry was not beyond taking Chakotay down a peg or two when the need arose.
"...Well?" Harry said.
Like now, when his mind was elsewhere.
"Sorry Harry...Can we transport from this distance?"
"No sir. We had to get closer by 100,000 kilometres."
"Vorik to Chakotay. We are at the array. There are no signs of the Sentinels."
"That's the first piece of good news all day. We've located the computer core and are moving in to retrieve it."
"Yes Sir. Vorik out."
"Chakotay to Danzil. Follow us in."
Back onboard Voyager, Miral Paris had broken into her toy chest and was delighting on pulling every toy out onto the floor. Miral was taking advantage of B'Elanna, whose mind was a million miles away. All day B'Elanna had been to-ing and fro-ing from their quarters, leaving her in the care of Astall, and then Sekaya, all the while saying that she was going to see Auntie Kathryn.
Miral couldn't really remember having an Auntie Kathryn,but she had seen pictures of her.
Miral finally pulled out a toy 'Space Bee' from the chest and left the rest of the toys scattered on the floor. She climbed onto her bed and sat back on the window sill, turning on the holographic show the Space Bee contained.
As a soft melody played out accompanying a slideshow of federation ships Miral felt a presence in the room along with her.
"We've got the core," Harry grinned as his console beeped.
"Vorik to Chakotay. We are in transporter range of the remainder of our quantum torpedoes...Initiating transport...We have the torpedoes."
Chakotay nodded, opening communications to both flyers "Vorik, Lyssa, Danzil...good work."
He closed off communications and turned to Harry.
"That was too easy."
"Something's not right here," Lyssa shook her head.
"I am inclined to agree with you," Vorik said.
"Really? I thought Vulcans didn't have gut instincts."
Vorik keyed in Voyager's co-ordinates, "You are correct. However logic dictates that we should have encountered resistance from the array, given our previous engagement with the Sentinels."
Harry's console beeped. "Uh-oh..."
"We've got company."
Chakotay looked of the front viewport, the Tescheg array eerily looking like it's Delta Quadrant counterpart as dozens of Sentinels swooped into view.
"Chakotay to Vorik and Danzil....return to Voyager, now."
Vorik and Lyssa's flyer was first to leave, followed by Danzil's ship, but as Chakotay keyed in the co-ordinates, the Sentinel's glow died down, and Chakotay found his ship unable to move. The sentinels swarmed around them, moving as one, blocking off every avenue of escape.
"Engines unresponsive," Chakotay stated the obvious.
"Weapons are offline."
The Sentinels surrounding the flyer remained darkened, obviously emitting a dampening field to immobilise the ship. A moment later, one emerged from the swarm, glowing red. Chakotay and Harry felt the sickening, burning pain they'd felt earlier return as the unknown weapon began to literally cook them alive.
Miral became silent, looking for someone to explain why she felt like she was being watched. She moved from her seat and climbed down from her bed, and walked quietly and deliberately towards the bathroom door.
Reaching the other side of the room, she turned round and let out of a sharp cry...
Harry clutched at his sides as he succumbed to the pain and passed out, blood flowing from his ears and nose. Chakotay felt the pain of his eardrums rupture as he tasted blood in his mouth.
He tried desperately to reach the self-destruct, when the pain began to subside...
Miral's voice failed her, and her call for help had seemingly gone unheard by B'Elanna in the next room.
Standing next to Miral's bed was a tall, slender, ghostly figure of a woman with a piercing gaze. Miral felt like this woman could stare right through her.
The woman moved closer, gesturing with one finger for Miral to remain silent. Her skin was pale and fragile and her hair was platinum blonde. Her eyes resembled those of a cat, with a pink hue and an unreadable expression. She was now within easy reach of Miral and she bent down to examine the girl further, grabbing her by the chin. For the first time since their eyes made contact, the alien looked away, before looking back at Miral, a dangerous smile on her face. The woman leaned forward whispering in her ear.
"You don't realise what you have just done for your crew, child."
The woman got up and walked back to the corner she appeared in.
"I was never here..."
With that, the woman seemed to fade away, and Miral's shock and terror gave way to tears and cries for her mother.
A moment after the pain stopped, the red sentinel and all of the darkened sentinels began to retreat back to the array.
Chakotay took a gasp of air, choking on the blood and saliva in his throat. He couldn't help it, and had to spit it out.
"Vorik to Chakotay. Are you alright Sir?"
Chakotay looked over to Harry who was still out cold. He hadn't heard Vorik but had noticed his comm panel light up and assumed he was asking how they were.
"I'm not sure...We need to get Harry to sickbay."
"Miral honey, are you okay?" B'Elanna rushed in as she heard Miral's sobs.
"The lady looked like a ghost...she grabbed me and I was so scared and...."
"Oh sweetie, it was just a bad dream...come here," B'Elanna said as she embraced her daughter.
Miral knew she hadn't been dreaming, but for now all she wanted was her mother's love and attention, so she simply hugged her in return.
The away teams were debriefing in sickbay as Chakotay and Harry were being treated.
"You're both very lucky," Tom said as he finished repairing Harry's eardrum. "If you'd been exposed to that weapon any longer, your internal organs would have liquefied."
Harry shuddered at the thought. "That was the most horrid, unsettling sensation, that weapon. And agonizing to boot."
Chakotay nodded, agreeing but still thinking things over.
Kathryn who was behind the forcefield at the main biobed seemed to read Chakotay's thoughts.
"What made the sentinels behave the way they did out there...It was if they were hesitating, or even thinking about what to do with you. Normally they do their job and retreat to the array. No hesitation, no change in behaviour."
Danzil nodded in agreement, "And that tactic...that was one we've never seen before. They would still have used their typical volleys, even if they'd not been successful in the past. For them to act in such way..."
"Regardless of their behaviour," Harry interjected, "we managed to get all of our components back, with no casualties. I suggest we lay in a course away from that array."
"Agreed." Said Lyssa. "They overpowered our defenses once, they might be able to do it again."
"We can help you plot the safest course through this area," said Danzil.
Chakotay nodded, "That would be helpful, though I'm afraid I must admit I'm at a loss as to where to take our ship. Home's on the other side of the galactic rift. We can't go back."
"My advice would be to stay close to the Kabai," Kathryn said.
"We'll take that under advisement – once we know exactly who you are."
"-For all we know, you've been fooling the Kabai as well...You're going to be detained on this ship until we know who you really are."
Danzil sighed, staring at the ground, "I must let you know I object to this course of action, but in the interests of building good relations between our peoples...I will let you keep Qatala onboard Voyager on the proviso that she is returned to us to complete her worker's contract once her identity is verified. Failure to release Qatala once you've conducted your tests will be seen as an act of aggression."
Danzil's eyes met Chakotay's, and Chakotay nodded again.
Danzil looked around Voyager's senior staff. He had high hopes for building an alliance with these people, but he didn't trust Chakotay, and found the older man's lack of trust to be disconcerting. He didn't seem to take people at face value, and despite the highly dangerous life Danzil led, he still liked to take people at their word.
"If there's nothing more, I'll return to my people. We will be in touch within half an econ."
Danzil turned to leave sickbay, flanked by Harry and Lyssa.
Once Harry and Lyssa were gone, Chakotay turned to Tom and Vorik.
"Give me a minute here."
"Okay," Tom said, glancing at Kathryn.
Dutifully, he and Vorik filed out of sickbay, leaving Chakotay alone with Kathryn.
Kathryn stared back at him, her expression almost wholly unreadable if it weren't for the hurt in them. Chakotay wouldn't let his feelings interfere, and returned her gaze with a cold stare.
"We'll repeat the tests we did earlier, and guards will be stationed here twenty four hours a day. I've had the access codes changed, and secondary locking mechanisms installed in all Jeffries tubes and lockers. You're not going to give my crew the slip again."
"Fine," Kathryn responded curtly, "but your going to feel awful when you finally realise that it's me, Chakotay."
"Maybe...but the woman I knew died a year ago...I remember the disbelief and the panic I felt when I heard she was gone...the sickening pain of grief, the anguish when what had happened began to sink in...I stood at her grave after the funeral and...." he stopped for a moment, "and you being here, pretending to be her, it's brought it all back when I was finally beginning to...not get over it...but starting to move on with my life again.
"I don't know why you're doing this...whether or not you're getting a kick out of hurting all the people on this ship that cared about Kathryn...but I will find out who and what you really are...I don't think a Q kicking us halfway across the Local Group and us running into you is just a coincidence...I think you know what's going on here, and I won't rest until I've got my crew home."
Chakotay glared Kathryn, but she didn't flinch, opting to give him a passive stare instead.
"Believe what you want to believe Chakotay...but the facts will speak for themselves."
Chakotay's expression grew angrier, and after a moment he turned and marched out of sickbay.
Kathryn looked to the ground, and bit her bottom lip in an attempt to contain the tears she knew were threatening to escape.
This was going to be tougher than she thought...
To be Continued...
Thank you for reading!!
This story will be continued in Voyager Andromeda: The Kabai coming soon!