Author: D'Alaire M.
Date Posted: May, 1999
Rating: T, for some violence, language and mild adult themes
Codes: DRA; A/U; P & T, J, C, crew
Archive: Here, AO3 and my site only.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Trek; no infringement is intended.
Summary: If the array hadn't interfered, what roads might have been taken? This A/U begins two weeks after Voyager travels into the Badlands in search of the Maquis ship Liberty, and then 9, 18, and 30 months after that time.
Notes: Reposted after a long hiatus at the request of AlphaFlyer. (Thank you for the push, AF!) Feedback is welcome.
His eyes opened without complaint in the middle of the night. For no reason it seemed, though he waited several moments to feel something - a blast, commotion, the surge of a plasma field knocking the ship's inertial dampers offline for a moment.
There was nothing.
His eyes remained open, and he belatedly realized his heart was beating hard, though he felt cold. He slowly let his held breath go. Another night uselessly spent trying to sleep. Another night uselessly trying to escape his own spinning thoughts if but for a while.
Since he'd left Auckland, it had been like that. Hell, a lot longer than that, really, since well before Auckland. He wondered when he'd stop expecting it, when he'd just let it go and stop bothering until exhaustion simply took him. But then, his dreams probably wouldn't be good ones, either.
Pulling himself up from the couch where he'd tried and failed again-and accepted that failure so easily, much to his chagrin-he went to the sink in the corner of the small room he'd been issued. He did not take this for granted. After months at Auckland, it was a luxury to be able to use that sink without knowing surveillance loomed over him, or that he'd be checked on by the guards in the corridor, who seemed foolish enough to think that shaving was precarious enough to require a witness. For all the freedom in his work there, the cells were heavily guarded in spite of the mechanical means of keeping tabs on the inmates.
He knew what it really meant. Being in prison alone took away their liberty, standard rations eaten with ears all around them in the mess gave them little pleasure in their meal (not that many people talked to him once they knew what he was), progress hearings were an exercise in guilt, the live guards at night denied their privacy and forced them to sit, hour after hour, with nothing but their own contemplation for company-a frightening enough prospect in itself. Purposeful labor outside with some freedom was meant to be a relief from that.
He'd seen their tactic after only a month of that routine and thought it very clever.
He splashed the cool water over his face, threading a bit of the moisture through his hair. With another handful, he sipped, cleansing his dry mouth. Straightening, wiping the water away with his hands, he looked in the mirror.
He saw nothing there-nothing that held any interest to him, anyway, except perhaps the lines that had begun to mark the corners of his eyes and maybe the tinge of darkness beneath them, too. He was getting used to the shadows, though.
Some might have called those lines now finding his boyish, chiseled features those of laughter. In his mind, he could hear such sounds as he'd heard them before, though no images followed them. What laughter had he had in years that didn't express some kind of sarcasm, he wondered numbly, staring at his eyes to the point where the rest of his face blurred away. None of it was for any sort of happiness, a pure, real laugh that actually felt good...
He blinked. Focused.
He turned away from the sink, walked across the room. He could not remember in his already clouded recollection when last he laughed. Truly laughed.
His heart slowed. He felt slightly ill.
He came close to the wall, paced across in the other direction. Then he stopped.
It was the middle of the night.
There was nothing for him to do.
There was nowhere for him to go.
She didn't know whether to lash out at those arrogant bastards or throw up. Janeway, the oh-so-supreme captain, tried so hard to look like a scolding mother there-so patronizing, the younger woman had already thought up a hundred gruesome deaths for the bitch before the Federation's charges against them had been so smugly listed.
At the same time, she knew they'd won-Starfleet.
They would be convicted. She would be tried and convicted.
She would go to prison. Prison.
She wondered suddenly how the hell she'd gotten herself to that point. It was not what she'd dreamed, worse than what she'd ever feared. Her quick mind screamed continuously inside her: How could she have grown up on Kessik with all her youthful, lofty dreams to become a convict someday? Worse than that, a half-Klingon convict. If not approved of before, she couldn't imagine her mother's reaction to her languishing in prison after getting herself caught... Caught trying to fight the good fight, an honorable fight, one she knew she believed in.
She knew well that her initial involvement had been accidental. Her remaining with the Maquis had nothing to do with honor in the beginning, but coming across a place for herself. Well, maybe a little longer than that, and maybe for being needed, too, for the work she could do - and perhaps not wanting to go it alone, even if essentially she still was...
But that didn't matter anymore. She was there, and those people were her friends. They'd been through hell and back together. She'd become convinced of their need to fight, to defend those innocent colonies against the Cardassian incursions. She knew it was necessary, their purpose.
That didn't matter now, either. They were out of it. Soon to be inmates. Locked away, forced to work under the careful eye of the Federation. Imprisoned.
Her heart lurched with the thought.
Her captain-she could kill him. He was taking it so well. While Chakotay was undoubtedly furious to be caught and betrayed as they had been, he warned them all not to try anything when they were shuffled into the cargo bay to hear their charges. When Voyager first commandeered their ship, he'd tried to placate them, telling them they'd figure something else out if possible. They quickly learned, however, that the Starfleet captain wasn't taking any chances with them, immediately rewriting the Liberty's command protocols, transporting every trace of weaponry and securing the crew. Soon after that, their Vulcan tactical operator revealed himself and handed over every bit of information of the Liberty, its crew and sect connections. At that point, Chakotay ordered them not to anything. Better they get shorter sentences by cooperating, he said, than longer by trying something foolish.
He was looking out for them.
She both admired and hated him for it.
She'd considered the possibility of incarceration-some of her friends had gotten caught. She knew it could happen, just didn't think about it, was too busy to think about it. Like every other time in her stupid, confused and increasingly embittered life, reality was smacking her in the face and she could do nothing but let it happen.
Standing solidly on the cargo room deck, all she wanted to do was run-run fast and away, try again to make it work that time. In a moment a part of her deemed her greatest moment of cowardice, she suddenly, desperately wanted just one more chance to try again, anywhere and would do anything to get something in her life right enough that it wouldn't turn against her again.
This time, the choice wasn't hers.
There was nowhere she could run.
If she could just clear her mind a little...
Deep in the Badlands, the space was not unpleasant. It was an irony Janeway couldn't quite get over at first after they settled into the "clearing" they'd found the Maquis ship floating in, heavily damaged. The shards of plasma radiation, not too far away but far enough, twisted up and around like irradiated trees in a wild storm. There they stayed for the time being, in that natural void. It was, in what way it could be, beautiful.
The plan was to repair the Maquis ship to enough of a capacity that it could be flown out by one of the Starfleet pilots, under the protective lead of Voyager. The Federation needed the ship not as much as its memory banks-any information on Maquis systems and defenses. The old ship was rigged and difficult, though. They'd tried simply downloading the core with no success. Besides, it would not be easy to transport over fifty people on her small ship securely.
She would not go by her chief of security's suggestion to keep the Maquis in the cargo bay for the duration of the journey. That seemed...cruel, even if they truly did not deserve too much mercy from her. What earned it for them was their captain's wise calm. He had kept his people in line and with relative graciousness accepted his defeat. That had earned enough of her respect.
Janeway understood the man's embarrassment as well.
For such a proud man to be defeated in his purpose must have been hard, but that catching him was no great feat of skill for her should have been worse. Her determination and his bad luck won that battle.
The Maquis ship had been disabled after it hit a plasma stream and drifted into that clearing as if lifeless. Voyager, having found nothing in either the Terikoff Belt nor around the other planets they found in the succeeding two weeks of searching, had finally turned around and tried another route. Only when they had run out of options, when it seemed like they might have to turn back, they picked up the slightest remnant of an ion trail.
At impulse speed, they came upon the Maquis ship and ran a scan to see their engines were indeed disabled but safe, all the systems were on emergency power and the shields, deflector and weapons were offline as well. Drifting but alive. So Janeway ordered Stadi to stop above it, told Kim to lock on a tractor, and then opened a channel.
When he answered her hail, she could see the frustration and humiliation on Captain Chakotay's face and yet heard in his tone the resignation of a full-throated leader. Voyager had found them madly trying to make repairs, but the captain surrendered it when he knew Starfleet's purpose, and knew there was nothing for him to do otherwise. He held no attitude that wasn't understandable, promised to keep his people under control.
It was the mark of a leader who knew when to quit. Even if it had served her purposes quite well, she honestly did admire that in him.
Better to lock them away on their own ship, confine them to quarters with security posted. Get their ship on its feet again. Go home. Chalk up their success and move on.
She smiled at the knowledge that they would be home soon.
Their mission had taken a while as it was.
If the Maquis captain continued to be cooperative, it wouldn't take much longer.
In his angry heart, he thought he was insane for capitulating as he had. Any other captain might well have just put the ship on self-destruct...which might have been possible had any of their systems been online.
He had lost, by a fluke. Bad luck. The souls of his people were telling him it was time to follow another...
A muscle in his jaw jumped as he clenched his teeth.
The spirits could go to hell just then for all he cared.
Glaring at the back of Ensign Rollins' head as he stepped from the access junction and onto Voyager's clean, carpeted deck, he couldn't give a damn about religion. He'd tried-tried and lost. That's all there was. Figuring out the meaning could come some other time. He'd have plenty of it soon enough.
Predictably, his resignation did nothing to calm him. The only thing that had really kept him in line, made him cooperate as Captain Janeway's crew overtook his ship station by station, was looking at his own crew. Their sallow, shocked and dirty faces, trying to comprehend the reality of what their captain had so proudly said they'd avoid at all costs, spun in his head. Some of them were still very young, more were one-timers he'd not expected to keep longer than that one trip.
They were scared and totally unprepared, well past wanting to go home again, such as their home might have been, or just go away. Chakotay knew this before they'd even hit that damned plasma steam that knocked his small ship to pieces. They weren't prepared for any of it.
That crew, colonists mostly, hadn't known conflict like that before the Cardassians betrayed that foolish treaty with the Federation, certainly nothing about fighting a war before coming aboard and entertained the thought of a noble death more readily than capture-and mainly because their captain had, too. They didn't know the system as he did, either. Though Chakotay knew they would be treated well-certainly better than had they been captured by the Cardassians-he knew their lives as they knew them had ended, twice over.
Their purpose gone, the fight far from them, even the most seasoned of their colonists would feel the designation of "convict" soon enough. Their parole would keep them in a protected state for at least the same amount of time as their sentence. By the time that was served, whatever fight the Maquis had now would probably be over...much as he hated to think about that.
Worse, such a fate might be better for them.
As for his "outsider" crew... They seemed to be already feeling it too hard. Ayala had already been to Voyager's doctor after ramming his fist into a bulkhead and hadn't unclenched his jaw since. Seska had sneered bitterly and publicly for their not destroying the ship, or fighting the Starfleet crew with small arms. Throughout Janeway's charges, he watched her mouth, poised on a word. His stare kept her quiet. Jonas grit his teeth at his captain's orders and snorted and mumbled at every other sentence Janeway mouthed. No stare stopped that attitude. Nearby and silent since extracted from her engineering station, Torres looked torn between murder and tears. She was young, arrogant but hard on herself. Considering how she acted, though, fight or flight would more likely be fight-unless he could make her feel guilty enough for considering taking any stupid risks. She'd taken them before, and guilt worked with her then.
All in all, every kind of reaction might have been expectable in their situation, and it was a bad one-definitely not the worst that could have happened, but nowhere near a success in their purpose, either.
So to give them all a chance at the least consequence-probably about six months in one of Starfleet's penal colonies with one year of parole-the former Starfleet officer cooperated.
It wouldn't reflect badly at his own trial, either, he had to admit.
At least their deaths or tortures wouldn't haunt him.
He still wished he'd won, though.
He'd all but settled on just keeping his meals to his quarters and not setting himself up for any more stupidity for the duration of their journey. Every person on the ship now knew who and what he was, and all but Harry and Stadi had shunned him, contained their conversations to monosyllables, stared at him after he walked away, avoided his attention unless it was necessary.
Tom knew what it meant: Starfleet civil.
Among all that, Stadi had surprised him. Then again, Kim likely talked to her. Tom wouldn't have been surprised to know he had. They were bridge officers, were starting shifts together-they probably spoke on a daily basis, were getting to know each other...gossiping.
Still, Harry Kim was proving to be one of the good guys, communicating with him once and a while, inviting him out to breakfast or dinner, or to the holodeck. The best time they had on Voyager was the day Harry challenged him to a flight simulation. Kim was openly curious about the former pilot, had heard stories-some true, some interestingly glossed over-and finally needled him into a simulation, playing awkwardly with his ego until he finally gave in. He owed Harry that much, he figured, and he couldn't deny he wanted to fly again.
Through the Krillian Asteroid belt, they veered and zoomed in a Starfleet prototype shuttle (after Tom made some personal adjustments). For a moment - maybe one or two - he could feel himself swell with the adrenaline of the flight, that particular joy and rush, the true knowledge that he was in his element and acing it.
He banked and angled, throwing Harry off his feet as he got a feel for the generated controls. Speeding through another tight pattern of rocks, veering through with little care and a growing grin, the pilot became blind to his controls, eyes pinned to the viewscreen, flying on instinct. Nothing else was there. He could almost feel wind rushing past, his heart and soul unearthed as he darted through the obstacles all around him. It was heaven.
For a moment, he was free - freed.
He almost laughed. Really laughed.
But it wasn't real. It never would be real again. Never.
Never. What was done would never be undone. Ever.
An asteroid hit them. The simulation stopped. He stared at the collision, frozen before him. Dead, like the others. Done, like whatever career he might have had. Lost like his chances to ever, ever get it back again - his family, his friends, any life worth living - to redeem himself for his own stupid selfishness and arrogance. All of it. Gone.
His hands began to shake.
"I've never seen anybody maneuver through the Krillian Field like that," came Stadi's smooth alto from behind him. She'd snuck into the deck during the flight. Her tone was sympathetic.
He exhaled, bent his head slightly. His heart was still beating with the rush, soon after with panic.
"That was incredible," Kim breathed. "You really do have a gift!"
"Not anymore, Harry," he replied, cursing himself even as he spoke. He stood from the conn and moved to leave, only to see the understanding gaze of a fellow pilot before him.
She knew. Damned Betazoids. He could tell she knew. He moved around her.
"I'm sorry," she said as he passed.
He nodded. "So am I. But that doesn't make much difference now, does it?"
He cursed those words too. Not that it mattered. Once Janeway gave up her search for her security officer, he'd be back on Earth and he'd never see them again. Nothing, not even his exposing what little he knew about the Maquis - screwing them over, too - really would affect anything in the long run. As if he'd made a difference even in his half-hearted betrayal. He knew he hadn't anything to give Starfleet, and Janeway knew it. He had nothing to lose by showing them some old breadcrumbs.
Nothing more to lose, as it were.
That night, Kim and Stadi dropped by to invite him to dinner. Grudgingly, he went. In their company, he was able to avoid the stares pointed at him, even when they burned into his back, stabbing him freshly with whatever they'd chosen to think about him. But he stopped caring about that. He even stopped caring about Kim stumbling around topics trying to get him to talk more about himself and Stadi's simultaneous tactful attempts to keep the conversation away from flying.
They decently tried to make things better for him since. Nevertheless, he remained mostly alone, choosing to pace the corridors alone during the gamma shift, enjoy the view from the mess hall then, sip slowly at a mug of coffee and try not to think, look at the plasma fields and wonder what could have been...
Even so, he knew the uselessness of those thoughts. He was there, nobody, belonging to nothing but the penal facility for a while longer. They'd used him for what he was worth-not much if anything-and now just needed him to stay out of trouble until they could tuck him away again.
Then what? he'd ask himself over and over. Get a job somewhere; roam around again until I find something, anything that wouldn't be nothing? Or just get drunk and stay that way until someone has the good sense to kill me? What the hell am I going to do now?
Starfleet surely wouldn't have him again. The Maquis - he laughed at the idea - would likely be those people with the good sense and a gun. Everywhere he went, people would somehow know about him sooner or later, and he knew already there was no redemption for both a liar and a traitor who had a penchant of repeating his mistakes, even when he didn't mean to.
Sooner or later, it'd go sour. Something would go wrong and he would be in the middle of it somehow.
So maybe it'd be best, he thought, to disappear, get away from Starfleet, who all of his life had been prevalent and powerful, which he had used to gain his end and had dumped him when he proved untidy and untrustworthy. He was already exiled from the Maquis-if not for being captured, and then for helping Starfleet, he was surely damned. He'd gone to them in desperation in the first place, predictably made the worst of his month long sojourn then screwed up his one moment of conscience there. Chakotay hadn't sought him out for his sunny personality, he knew, but it sometimes bothered him, knowing he'd made himself into a decoy for them, essentially gave himself up to protect the Liberty... No good deed goes unpunished, he reminded himself with a soft snort of resignation.
He turned another corner. Like Starfleet, the Maquis saw what they wanted, used it, threw it out when it wasn't what they'd expected.
Problem is, he'd earned it all. All of it.
Indeed, it'd be for the best, to get away from all those people who'd already decided on him, get away, start again and try like hell to get it right that time. He knew he might...maybe. He knew, deep down, he really wanted to. Or maybe he'd just make it worse by trying.
Still, what other choice did he have? Simply dying, getting it all over with, cutting short a bad thing...no. He couldn't go that far. For some reason, even when things were worse than they were now, dying by his own hand just never crossed his mind. Interesting, that.
So, for the time being, he walked, silently, slowly, down Voyager's wide, comfortable corridors, his best and only cure for yet another restless night's sleep. Though it was morning, he thankfully met no one there, preventing him any further inspiration for his nagging uncertainty. Not that anyone bothered to talk to him-even if the staring continued. But even that had ebbed after he'd made a few adjustments in his own right.
He'd long given up wearing the singlet he'd been issued, but replicated a couple simple, dull-colored trousers and shirt sets so better to just blend into the walls rather than parade around with the insulting, rankless uniform that he knew he did not even deserve to wear. People bothered him less, too. He never went back. That along with fewer-or, better, more carefully timed-public appearances had kept people generally out of his way.
Harry had been great, Stadi had been kind, but there were a hundred and fifty other people on board he didn't want to deal with. They certainly didn't want to deal with him, even if they talked behind his back and treated him like a pariah.
He wondered if he'd ever sleep well again outside the feeling of pure exhaustion. He forgot what that was like. Just...sleeping.
Barely thinking, half numb, Tom paced through the corridor and let his mind roam to what could be when someday he'd be left to his own devices again. He could just enjoy things around him maybe and live day to day, or maybe he'd find something to do that had some kind of purpose, something that would interest him, keep him straight. For the first time in days, he actually relaxed as his mind wove up scenarios and possibilities, even dreams. It didn't matter if they crashed soon after or turned ugly. They were never real to begin with.
Not much was anymore, anyway.
Then he turned and spotted a shadow. He looked up.
"What are you doing here?" he blurted.
Captain Chakotay's eyes had already narrowed to deadly slits. His fists clenched.
"You!" he spat. Before the guard could stop him, Chakotay's fist flew into Tom's face-and the other swung around for a backup. "Traitor!" he bellowed and shook off Rollins' hand to get another blow in.
The Maquis' victim was caught shamefully off guard, took the punches hard and straight: It happened so quickly he barely realized Chakotay had attacked him.
His bones cracked upon contact. He heard them pop like sticks inside his head.
Already he could feel the blood collecting in his septum and behind his eyes, swelling quickly and disrupting his vision - and then whiplash in his neck when another fist hit his jaw, cracking a tooth, maybe two.
He was strangely numb to it. It was the most bizarre feeling...
The last thing he saw was the floor.
He felt himself hit it with a thud.
The last thing he thought was that he had it coming to him.
"That young man came aboard my ship, under my protection, Captain Chakotay. I expect you would show me at least the courtesy of not trying to kill a member of my crew."
"He's not a member of your crew," Chakotay replied curtly, unaffected by other captain's icy glare. "You said yourself, he's a convict looking for an easy out. -And you gave him one."
"He never made any requests," she returned, equally unmoved, "I did, and I made the deal that bought him whatever reprieve he gets. He told me what he knew wouldn't help us. I took the chance-and he was right. We didn't need him after all. But even if he had made the deal and had led us to you, that gives you no right to attack him on my ship."
"He still sold us out-and in the Maquis, that's a death sentence."
"Obviously, your own treatment of him didn't earn his loyalty."
"Paris doesn't know the meaning of loyalty."
"And you're not Maquis anymore." Janeway watched her point flicker across his tight face. "Even if you do return to the DMZ once the Federation deems you safe again, the Maquis will never have you back. That life is over-just like it is for Mister Paris. The difference is, he's had enough time to realize that."
Soon, you will too, she added silently, seeing him blink for what seemed like the first time since he got there.
She turned away from the Maquis Captain and returned to her desk, to her coffee, her seat. She leaned back. "I would lock you personally in the brig, Captain, if I didn't need your help repairing your ship so we can all get safely out of here. We agreed that allowing your crew to maintain their quarters, where they would be more comfortable, would be easier for everyone involved. You also told me you did not see our deaths as an option for your defeat-which as you probably know I do appreciate."
"I don't see any victory in adding to the dead," he clarified.
"True. And I thought I could trust you, your being so rational and willing in more than that respect. But this..." She gestured aimlessly towards the door, shook her head. Finding the other man's small, angry eyes, she released her breath. "I want to make this as easy for you as it can be. I came to get my chief of security back, first and foremost..."
Chakotay visibly flushed at the reminder.
Traitors and spies... Even Janeway knew she'd be just as flustered in his position - wondering, perhaps, how many others were readying to betray them all. Who knew, with a rag-tag bunch such as the Maquis were? Though, to her knowledge, there'd only been Tuvok.
"But I know how this must be for you," she finished.
He looked at her again.
"I'm a captain, too, who looks after and protects my crew to the best of my ability and works to get our mission done with the least consequence possible. It's a dangerous life, sometimes more than others, but we do choose it, don't we? You were an officer once, so you know that all we can hope for is to do what we feel is best and move on. Were I in your position, I honestly don't know if I could have been as cooperative. I would still have done what I felt was best for my people, however difficult."
Chakotay let out his breath. "I believe you."
She nodded. "Then you'll believe me when I say I have no personal grudge against you, nor your crew, despite my rank and convictions?"
Chakotay swallowed the bile in his throat. "You have been fair," he admitted, "in all of this. More than most captains I've known probably would have been."
Janeway took that point for what it was worth. "Thank you," she said. "Not many Maquis captains would say that, either. However," her tone returned to its firm line of gravel as her fingers flattened upon her desktop, "under these most recent circumstances, should you so much as look at another member of my crew - temporary or otherwise - the wrong way, I'll have you buried under the coldest prison the Federation has to offer. Am I clear in this, Captain?"
His eyes flickered, and his jaw twitched. Suppressing a smirk, he gave her an appreciative nod. "You're good."
"I mean it, Torres!" Chakotay snapped, glaring hard down to the fiercely lit young woman. "You'll do nothing. Starfleet's got this ship so rigged, I'm surprised we can turn on the lights!"
"I can get past all that!" she insisted. "You say I'm good at getting out of tight spaces, and I am. Just let me try!"
"No way. -That's an order!"
"What?" she sneered. "Janeway's got you under her thumb now, too? That's one hell of a way to go down with your ship, Chakotay."
"You want to spend the rest of your life in a Federation prison-do it on you own time," he returned coldly. "But don't make things worse for the rest of us because you can't deal with this! Janeway's fair, but she won't put up with any crap. Most of our people aren't prison material. Some are just kids. You know that. So give it up and deal with it. Issue closed."
"So we're just going to give in to them?" she demanded. "Let them just shuffle us away? Some concern you've got for them, when you'd walk them in there! Well, I can keep us out, and Seska told me-"
"Seska would have us all dead if I listened to her!" He grabbed Torres' shoulders, shook her sharply, like an overwrought child. "Listen to me! If you do anything stupid, I will not claim responsibility for you. You will be off my crew, out of my conscience and out of the Maquis for good. I've told you four times: No tricks, no violence, no sabotage. If you can't follow my orders, then you're finished here - for good. They can lock you in their brig and I won't stop them. I mean it."
He also knew that would do the trick, once she had a minute to think about it.
Predictably, she yanked herself away and glowered at him. "Funny how loyalty works both ways," she snarled. "You're pissed off because Paris screwed you over-and you'd do the same to me for trying to help, because you're too afraid to fight them from a corner. This is your ship, Chakotay!"
"Not anymore," he pointed out. "There's Starfleet at every post, and I will be leaving it when we're taken into custody."
"It doesn't have to be like that," she pressed.
"Don't you think I already considered everything already?" he countered. "Don't you think I tried when they first tractored us? Tried to prevent them coming on board? You know damn well we didn't have the shields much less enough systems power to prevent it. We were dead in the water-and right now, the best thing for the other people on board, who don't have as many options to think about, is to-"
She shook her head quickly. "No. -Please, just hear me out. If I just-"
"Torres, NO!" he yelled, feeling as if his head would explode. It was going nowhere-she was beyond registration. "You will do nothing. Do you hear me? If I have to lock you in a closet, you'll obey me! I don't want to see you get double time because you couldn't sit tight or keep your temper in check."
His concern flew over her head. Her breath was jerky, her shoulders heaving with each intake. Her face was white with indignation, fury, frustration.
The last time she had been that belligerent, he'd been simple and disappointed, telling her quietly that she was wrong, like a father tired by his disobedient child. He had been that time, too. Unfortunately, it wasn't working as quickly as he wanted it to. She was too nervous and full of her ideas. On a day already gone wrong, she was already proving to him an exercise in both uselessness and humiliation. Thus, she'd earned his darker temper.
But she hadn't even blinked at that, either. Instead, spinning, growling, "Bastard" behind her, she left him there in the corridor.
Chakotay saw her turn towards the crew quarters; for a moment, he breathed his relief. At least she'd take some time to think about it. She usually came around when she did.
A moment later, he closed his eyes.
The best for all his crew, even that bitter, brilliant, desperately scared young woman he'd saved a year before. Like so many others on his ship, he'd come across her by chance, and used her for what she had.
I got her into this, the captain realized, suddenly and without pride. I used her gifts and her temper to get us out of rough spots. I was the one who made her believe, who showed her what we were fighting for, *gave* her the cause. She was all too ready to use her wit and nerve to take out the Cardassians, to vent her demons...
The captain heard a shuffle and her curses beyond the turn in the corridor. She'd pushed someone aside and ordered them out of her way, her growling reproaches reverberating down the metal deck.
Where would she be now if I'd simply taken her to safety and let her get on with her life...like I should have? Should have...
The deck faded to silence.
I got her into this. I enlisted her, burned more hate into her when none of this was any of her business - just like Janeway got Paris into...their sickbay. In a way, I got Paris - the useless waste - into all of it, too... Would either of them be here if I hadn't?
The captain still stared at the hole his engineer had disappeared into.
No. But there's no way to take that back now.
Chakotay turned and headed back into the middle of his ship-his ship, with his people, who he'd sworn to protect. Even her. Turning again, he returned to engineering, and then to the station he needed to work on.
"Captain Janeway wanted me to work on the memory banks," he told the lieutenant standing there, soberly yet honestly, "and even I know they're a little difficult."
Planting himself at the panel, he did what he needed to do.
For them all.
Stalking inordinate paths around the bunkroom, she seethed in long, drawn breaths, feeling the tremor within her all but ignite her skin. She had considered everything, and he wouldn't even hear her.
B'Elanna was sure her plan was foolproof. She'd spent the first two nights after their capture plotting it out, making sure it would work, making sure it was something he would agree to.
She had to get them out of this. She couldn't let Starfleet win - and she knew he didn't want them to, either. She was sure of that. She knew it would work.
He'd told her to forget it.
She couldn't let them take her that easily. She wouldn't!
He was tucking tail, after everything he'd told them, everything they'd been through, all of his promises and pride and his confidence. Now that he was cornered by that Starfleet captain - so sure and pleased with herself when she lectured them like children. Janeway was probably just loving her win. Worse, now he was just lettingthem haul them off so nobody would be 'hurt.' For the crew's good?
In a way, he was right.
Six months-six years: What difference did it make? She'd still be an inmate, locked away and under Starfleet's thumb. She'd never be able to go back to the Maquis-that was another home gone. She certainly would never get back with her mother-even if she wanted to. Her father-if he didn't want her when she was growing up, he sure as hell wouldn't then. Starfleet - she spat a laugh at the very notion - as if she ever had a chance with them anyway.
So it made no difference what she did. She'd been going nowhere before she got in the Maquis, and there she was again. All over again.
She should have known nothing would change.
But in a way, Chakotay was right. If she was caught, it'd reflect badly on everyone.
But it would work,her mind played over and over, like a feedback loop, coming with more insistence with each rotation. A wide-beam transport wasn't a difficult thing for any of them, and she could get past the Starfleet codes, get them when they weren't expecting it. She'd done it a hundred times. It was always how they'd survived, with the element of surprise. She could get those Starfleet off their ship, lock them up, grab what they needed off Voyager-and their people would all be behind her.
It was a chance. They couldn't lose anything. Even Seska said it'd work, and she was the most pessimistic person B'Elanna knew.
She clutched to that hope, then, that shot of a chance in that otherwise impossible situation.
It could be done.
But Chakotay wouldn't even hear of it.
What's happened to him - and in only two days? What the hell's wrong with him? Where's the person who told me that the risk was always worth it when it came to staying free and alive? The one who never gave up, even when his lousy ship was on its last legs and managed to keep us one small step ahead of the game despite it all? -Where's the person who said to hell with Starfleet?
She stopped in the center of the room, her chest rising and falling, more and more slowly, breathing through her mouth, swallowing. She choked as her breath started again.
Yet she knew he was trying to protect them all. That was his way. He was always looking out for "his people," no matter how hard it was on him.
But even that didn't matter anymore where she was concerned. He'd absolved himself of her.
She turned around, but went nowhere. Not that there was anywhere to go.
For his crew, the captain, being a captain, would let himself suffer the downright humiliation of having Starfleet drag him, his ship and crew, to one of their prisons. He'd be a martyr - at least to them - for looking out for them all. He'd told her before he'd probably get a couple years, maybe three; the rest, likely six to eighteen months, depending. Mostly six. But they'd be alive and free again someday.
So, whatever she did wouldn't reflect on him, either. He wouldn't claim responsibility... But if she was successful, there'd be nothing for any of them to worry about. He'd be angry - "disappointed," most likely - but they'd all be free. If for some reason it didn't work - But it will! - she'd have some more time in prison...and totally alone, kicked off his crew, no longer Maquis for acting more like one... He looked like he meant it that time.
But she knew it would work. She could feel it in every bone, every nerve, all the instincts she'd both cursed and was thankful for. She'd predicted every contingency, especially Starfleet. Despite that, it was a coin flip.
She drew a long, deep breath; her eyes closed, opened again.
Her fists unclenched.
Thinking again on the possibilities, B'Elanna felt a wave of numbness pass over and through her.
A cold trembling like none she'd known followed it.
"Captain," Chakotay nodded as he continued to work on the panel at his fingers.
Janeway moved to look down at his work and offered him a small grin. "Captain Chakotay."
He regarded her. Businesslike, but he could tell her salutation was sincere. So very Starfleet, what he remembered well from his own years there. Totally professional camaraderie. It was oddly comforting to him then.
They might have been enemies, she might have been subjecting him and his crew to prison without any mercy there, but she had been as equitable as she could be. Of course, she was being allowed to do her job, so she had the freedom to be generous. He understood that from his own experience and knew he would probably do the same in her position.
"I've rerouted all the engine protocols to the systems your people installed," he told her. "You shouldn't have any more transfer blocks now."
"You're welcome," he answered quietly, returning to complete his work.
"Captain," said Commander Cavit as he approached, handing Janeway a PADD. "We're about ready to reinitialize the warp drive. We've diverted all power but life support and navigation to the engines. We think that'll do the trick."
She smiled, nodded sharply. "Then the antimatter containment field is cooperating this time? Good work. Let's go to it, then. -Mister Nelson, bring the magnetic constrictors online..."
Chakotay knew in any other circumstance, that would be good news...and maybe it was then, too. He looked at some of his crew who'd agreed to help. They were tired, their eyes held no emotion.
"...and watch the plasma relays. We were having trouble realigning them. In fact..."
It would be good just to start getting it all over with. It'd be easier on everyone involved. They could start to end it, move on...
He hated it, but it was all he could do.
Chakotay's head came up when he felt a gentle touch on his arm. Janeway's stare, softened strangely, found his again. "Yes?"
"May I take your station for a moment? I'd like to watch the antimatter containment - just in case."
He assented, moving a step to the side. But no farther. He wanted to watch it too - just in case.
With a few more orders from the Starfleet captain, the warp drive was brought back online. Suddenly, the cloud of misty blue and white filled the chamber before them.
"Warp drive is online," came an engineer's satisfied confirmation before -
- An alarm screamed out directly after. The blue mist within the core flashed and another system sounded its klaxon.
"What the hell was that?" Janeway demanded as she punched on the console. "I'm getting a massive energy disruption in the... Where is that coming from?"
"Someone's brought the transporters online!" Nelson shouted over the alarms. "But those systems were realigned to stabilize the coil relays!"
"That's not right!" Chakotay felt his heart jump when he looked down-saw what was happening. The saboteur was trying to increase power to the transporters, ignorant of the reroutes-and he realized-
"Damn her!" he snapped and shoved Janeway aside.
"Shut up!" Chakotay ordered and started overriding as fast as he could.
"Antimatter containment is failing!" called one man he didn't know.
His fingers flew over the keypad, locking out, shutting down-
"The core will breach in two minutes at this rate-"
"Take it offline!" Janeway commanded but went to do it herself.
Chakotay found the source-shut it down. Another lockout. He overrode it.
She's going to get us killed! his mind yelled inside the deck's sudden chaos - and he desperately wondered if she knew he was the one trying to stop her.
"Janeway!" he shouted, seeing the drive plasma begin to vent damningly into the engine room. "Tell one of your people to cut power to the coil assembly!"
Janeway shot a stare at one of her people, and they went to it. "You know what's happening?"
"Yes!" he snapped and punched the panel. Tapped in a few more commands. Found her...cut off her access...
Then it stopped.
The deck whined down, systems failing.
Plasma haze drifted over the deck, to the vents, clearing slowly from around their feet...
All but the emergency power remained on the deck...
...And the only thing he could think to do at that very moment was to smack that bright, young engineer that he'd brought aboard his ship. Punch her hard.
For a wild, furious moment, he knew she could take it. He knew more that she deserved it for nearly getting them killed, nearly killing another ship full of innocent officers as well, for betraying them, his trust, his orders, his resolutions, his acceptance of their fate. Everything he'd done for them. For what?
In her frightened, twisted mind, she was doing it for them. Doing what he might have done if he didn't know better - if he didn't have a bone of sense in him.
She'd disobeyed him outright. Not even an hour after he'd threatened her, warned her, tried to convince her.
I should have locked her in that closet.
She took her own risk. Again. This time, he knew he had to follow through on his own risk, too.
For all of them - and her - he had to do what he said he would.
He looked down on the panel, sighing hard in his heavy chest, then glanced to Janeway. Several long seconds later, he unwillingly resolved himself to his decision.
"Tell your transporter chief to lock onto this signal and beam her in here," he told her quietly.
The Starfleet captain paused, her eyes on him, then tapped her comm badge.
Not a minute later, he was looking his former engineer in the eyes.
Materializing in the middle of the engine room she'd once claimed as her own, the young woman looked like an animal caught in a light beam, ready to bolt; frozen, she jerked her head when she spotted the phaser pointed at her side.
She almost spoke, but her words stuck to her open lips. Tears or murder: The former seemed more likely there, if only for her shock and humiliation.
Chakotay didn't bother trying to speak, only stared at her. He knew she was desperate, she was upset, she wasn't really thinking, reacting on her instincts to free herself. Because of that, he also knew that with her wits, she was a danger to them all. In her frame of mind, she simply didn't see that - wouldn't see that. Even if it was just starting to register, he knew, deep down, that he couldn't trust her again.
She was his friend, but she'd gone against him one too many times. She had to pay for that, learn the real consequences of rebellion. They'd all have to, soon enough.
He was through with her. He had to be. He'd done enough. Too much.
She was all theirs.
Janeway almost didn't have to be told. What she was witnessing was as plain as it was pitiful. She looked at the two in turns - the tersely frightened young woman, the silently furious captain.
She broke his orders... Why? Janeway thought. Certainly we might have expected something to happen. But she looks so...surprised, like a headstrong child who gets caught with their finger in the pie, knowing they shouldn't ruin it, but convincing themselves that just one taste won't...
Again, Janeway was forced to reconsider Tuvok's suggestion, wonder if it was indeed the best thing to keep them on that ship. Obviously there was at least one - who knew how many more? - who was desperate and foolish enough to sabotage their own safety to escape. Their Maquis captain had assured her of his orders...
Or maybe she's merely trouble he honestly thought he'd averted? He did stop her after all. Maybe it's time I found out for myself what I'm dealing with. We have the time, thanks to her.
Looking around at the other Maquis, those who hadn't turned quickly away from the scene seemed to be waiting for something horrible, for one or the other to burst their tightly contained energy...
But no such explosion occurred.
Rather, Chakotay said, "Captain Janeway, you have my permission to take this woman to your brig - for her protection as well as ours." His face ghosted regret, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, all in seconds; then it steeled again as he turned away. "Her name is B'Elanna Torres, and she was my engineer. Do with her as you see fit. I trust you'll take care of her. She's no longer a member of my crew, and no longer my responsibility."
With that, he went back to work, beginning to assess the extent of the damage. The other Maquis crew barely met her eyes as they likewise tried to do something besides get involved in what had transpired. Moving to them, their captain quietly told them what to do to make their repairs-again. They obeyed without pause, if not with one last fleeting glance to their former superior, the engineer.
Nobody defended her.
He had given her up. Even that surprised the Starfleet captain.
Looking back again, Janeway watched the blood drain completely from the young woman's hardened face. She had not moved. Her small, still body stood in the midst of the world she seemed only then to be realizing was no longer hers.
She stood alone, open for all to see, a monument to a mistake.
Mercifully, Janeway motioned to Tuvok. "Please escort this young woman to the briefing room and post what security you deem appropriate," she told him. "I would like to speak with her myself."
The girl shot a glare at her, her first move since materializing in the room. It burned hatefully into the corner of Janeway's eye, accusing, demanding, insulted...
Finding something new to point at - aim at. Anything.
Janeway did not return it.