As time wore on I accepted what had happened. What other choice did I have? When there was an emergency when I was at the conn, I learned to call for relief as soon as the red alert sounded. I knew that once everyone had awakened, I would no longer be able to concentrate. The crew's emotions as they churned to consciousness created a cacophony with which I could not deal in a crisis.
Most of the time, once someone else (usually Tom) came to the helm, I would slip away to Sickbay, to stay with the Doctor and Kes. Unless a large influx of casualties flowed in, I could have a measure of peace there. If it got too bad, the Doctor would load me into a stasis chamber and I would sleep away the crisis. The Doctor, of course, was a sophisticated computer program and didn't have thoughts of the type that a telepath could access. Kes' growing powers of mind were groomed by Tuvok so that I didn't need to worry about her.
Lieutenant Benara Stadi, Chief Helm Officer of Voyager, spent most of the ship's encounters with hostile Delta Quadrant races such as the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Hirogen, the Voth, and even the Borg, sealed up like a present to be presented to the victor. When the Nyrians took over Voyager, I was the first one they sent to the Habitat. I'm not sure how they knew I would be a danger, because of my now too-acute telepathic sense. Maybe they were just lucky to pick me first. When the Srivani scientists came on board, I didn't see them. They put me into a coma immediately, and I don't even know what sort of experiment they might have been working on with me. My marvelous eyes were closed. They were as undetectable to me as to everyone else, other than Seven.
Solace in the arms of another would have been wonderful, had I been able to find someone to give it, but it was not to be. Since I was now officially Tom's immediate supervisor, I could no longer entertain any thoughts of taking advantage of that enticing body of his.
Of the rest who survived our trip to the Delta Quadrant, none really pleased me. Perhaps it is too much to expect to find a soul mate when the pool of available souls is so small. Actually, not many did pair up during our seven year journey back home. Perhaps if the trip had lasted longer, the prospect of remaining alone for the rest of our days may have motivated more of us to settle down. Maybe that someone would only be reasonably compatible in personality, not the passionate love for life everyone hopes to find but so seldom does. Given the odds, it was remarkable anyone at all found their heart's desire on Voyager. I think that may be why all of us lived vicariously through Torres and Paris as they engaged in their stormy but ultimately gratifying romance.
Even when I first woke up and was struggling with my sanity, Tom's antics engaged me in a way no one else's did. I often amused myself with the gossip about him. The dichotomy between the outer and inner man was so great, I wasn't surprised it took so long for Tom to realize he wasn't the man he portrayed himself to be: the unrepentant ladies' man and incorrigible flirt. The man did have standards, even when he was flying at every woman on the ship at warp speed. For a long time, there were only two whose opinion really mattered to him, and one of them - the captain - was definitely off limits. And, okay, my opinion mattered, too, but only because I was his boss. That made me off limits, too.
The ironic thing is, I never really was his boss in the way that usually meant. He was the chief helm officer in every way except on the ship's command flow chart. Everyone knows that the chief helm officer should be the best pilot on the ship. I wasn't - certainly not any more. Although nominally I remained the head of the Navigation Department, in charge of the pilots as well as Stellar Cartography and Astrometrics (until La Borg arrived, that is), for all intents and purposes, I ceded the helm chair to Tom.
Tom always reported to me. To him I was always his superior, always Lieutenant Stadi, never Benara. In my less praise-worthy moments, I attributed this to his desire to deal with me in order to avoid more contact with Commander Chakotay than was absolutely necessary. Whenever I was feeling well enough to be fair, I knew it was Tom's ingrained adherence to Starfleet protocols that was to blame. Even if I had wanted to be one of the women he pursued, he would never have done it. He couldn't have done it.
It always amused me, in a black comedy sort of way, that Voyager's ex-Starfleet, ex-Maquis, ex-con Bad Boy could adhere as rigidly to the essential, established protocols like non-fraternization while seemingly being offhandedly non-compliant with them. I knew the truth, because his mind shouted at me all the time. He had that choir boy face with the Lothario grin slapped over it, disguising his most noble impulses with a wisecrack, in a fruitless effort to hide the pain of his own past from himself. It was as if he felt he didn't deserve the acceptance of others. He punished himself, far more than his imprisonment at Auckland ever had. Whenever I was in the same room as Tom, I had to deal with mental double and triple images of him, not only from everyone around him, but from Tom himself. The best way to describe it, I guess, is that it always felt the way it did looking through a badly out-of-focus astrometrical instrument at a star. He oozed out so many overlapping and confused emotions, I could never get a comfortable fix upon him.
Once I was able to control my disability enough to be able to relate to the crew, I often wanted to kick Tom for pretending to be something he wasn't. I didn't see him at his very worst, fortunately - I was comatose or locked up in stasis during those first couple of months. I heard about it later. Everyone said he acted like a total pig whenever he wasn't on duty at the helm.
Thanks to those first few days before the Caretaker took us, I knew what he was hiding. It wasn't so bad when he was in Sickbay during the captain's first foray into making him the "Doctor's nurse." He was always on his best behavior when he was caring for me while I was recovering from my injuries. Whenever I had to deal with the multi-layered Mr. Paris elsewhere, however, I struggled.
It was strange. Maybe I could have fallen in love with him, if I had let myself, but I have my pride. I was satisfied with the memory of his flirtatiousness when we'd first met, when he'd been so appreciative of my charms - until he caught sight of Voyager. Besides, I knew who really fascinated him, and it wasn't me any more than it was any of the other women who gossiped about him mercilessly at the same time they lusted after him. It was really always B'Elanna.
What was it he saw in her? Besides the fact that she was beautiful, brilliant, feisty, the possessor of a loyal, loving heart, and perfect for him?
Seriously, all sarcasm aside, thanks to my inability to completely filter out what others were thinking, I have a few other ideas, too. For one thing, their early life experiences had plastered both with massive self-esteem problems. Despite the differences in the details, their early family lives had set them up for dysfunctional adulthoods. They both felt like failures, trying to work their way to self-respect and self-knowledge. Ironically, they ended up with the perfect opportunity to do just that on Voyager. They were so far out of the mainstream of life in the Federation, they only had to worry about what our own crew felt about them. Once the crew realized how lucky we were to have their consummate skills, they became fiercely protective of the pair. And very early on, both Tom and B'Elanna recognized how fortunate they were to be on Voyager, too. Neither of them really wanted to get "home." Life was better for them in the Delta Quadrant.
I perceived, long before they did, that they were truly meant for each other. Actually, I can't take a lot of credit for that. I think everyone on board the entire ship knew they were meant for each other before they did. Didn't take the empathic senses of a telepathic Betazoid to figure that one out.
It was just about the only betting pool on board Voyager Tom didn't have any part in running. I was never allowed to bet, of course. Everyone assumed that, as a telepath, I would have inside information. I probably did, in most cases, but who could anticipate that a young Vulcan going into pon farr for the first time would finally force the issue? That they would let down their respective guards then long enough to admit their true feelings to one another? Or that afterwards, they would hold out for several more weeks before taking that last step to become lovers? Then it took them even more years before they finally broke down and decided to marry. I think I wanted to kick both of them many times before then. I don't remember now if that pool was ever awarded to anyone. Deciding at which point they finally were "together" was complicated, that's for sure.
Our trip home was eventful, as has been related far better by many others. At the outset, we expected we would need to travel for 70 years to get back to Sector Zero-Zero-One. We did it in a tenth of the time. There were losses, of course. Kaplan, Jetal, Ballard, Hogan, Bendera, Carey, andso many others. Every one was so painful to me, since I could not prevent myself from sharing everyone's pain. For me the worst of all was Kes. She started out as a total unknown, but as her telepathic abilities developed, she became almost like a sister. Thanks to her studies with Tuvok, by the second year of our journey Kes was helping me with my mental shielding. When she left the ship, I missed her so very much. I was in very bad state for quite a while, particularly since the Borg and Species 8472 were threatening Voyager around that time, too.
Everyone was in very bad shape during that time. We all woke up each day wondering if this was the day we would lose the battle and be assimilated. Adding to the trauma, the captain was terribly upset by the rupture in the relationship of Chakotay and herself. They had actually become quite close after being marooned on that isolated planet for a few months, not to mention when we took that unexpected foray into the twentieth century. For a while, I thought they would be the first to become a couple (since Tom and B'Elanna were dithering so much around that time).
But first, because of Riley Frazier and the former Borg community, and then after Seven-of-Nine came on board, the wedge driven between them, thanks to the Borg, never completely healed. He always did his duty as her first officer, but Captain Janeway went her own way every time anyway no matter what he said. It worked out well enough, I guess, considering that we did finally get home, but it cost both of our most senior officers so much grief. That non-fraternization policy creates as much or more pain at times than it is designed to prevent.
It was lonely for her, especially during the last year of our journey, after Seven developed a romantic interest in Chakotay. The captain was very accepting of their relationship outwardly, but I knew how much it hurt her. I found it impossible to block out her sadness and loneliness. She'd become our mother, not just our commanding officer, but always on her own. In this case, being a single parent was just too much for one person to handle. Chakotay was perfectly willing and able to be our "father" if she would allow it. But she wouldn't.
The worst time was when we encountered the other Starfleet ship, Equinox. I missed a lot of that, because I landed in stasis in Sickbay again, with some sort of dampening shield placed around my body because they didn't want those attacking aliens to find me. I was too vulnerable, not only to the emotions of everyone on board Voyager, but also to those mental shrieks from the attacking aliens. Maybe if I hadn't been shut away, I would have picked up on what Captain Ransom and his first officer Max intended soon enough to prevent what ended up happening. When I did wake up, the chill factor between the captain and Chakotay was so severe, I almost asked to be put back in stasis to avoid the turmoil emanating pulse-like from the minds of both of my superior officers.
The captain had that love/hate relationship going on with the Borg for so long, it's not surprising they ended up being critical to our return home. By the time the Borg children came on board, we were happy to have them, since we'd already had a chance to return Seven to some degree of individuality. We had some practice with the process! I was sorry when Mezoti left Voyager. I didn't mind when the twin boys were returned to family members, but I found her to be quite delightful. Since Mezoti's own people the Norcadi didn't want her, I think she really would have been better off with Voyager's crew. Rebi and Azan's family took her in, but she would have been such good company for Naomi Wildman. Marla Gilmore took care of the little Borg baby and eventually adopted her.
I'm still upset I never caught on to what Icheb's parents were up to when they asked for his return, but the Brunali are like the Ferengi. Betazoids can't read them. I'm happy Icheb ended up coming all the way home with us, since I could relate to him without his thoughts buzzing inside my head all the time. He's turned into such a fine officer. Icheb visits me whenever he is near Betazed if he can and keeps me filled me in on what is happening with the rest of our crew.
Ensign Kim, finally promoted to Lieutenant after the return, is now a Lieutenant Commander. He seems to be doing the "loneliness of command" thing so many ambitious officers end up doing. Such a waste. Tom and B'Elanna are on their third child. She's still in Starfleet after her pardon, although most of the Maquis left after the return. I can't say I blame them. They were freedom fighters, not officers committed to life aboard a starship, let alone Starfleet itself. They'd had enough of it in the Delta Quadrant! Tom is a flight instructor at Starfleet Academy. That's the best job I can think of for him, particularly since he's also a committed father. No wandering the stars for him, leaving his family behind at home, the way his father the Admiral did with Tom's own family.
Tuvok has retired to Vulcan. When he resigned his commission, he stated it was for "personal" reasons. No one doubts the true reason is that he never intends to spend another pon farr away from his wife for the rest of their lives. It was tough on him, especially when he and Tom were lost in that gravity well for what seemed like only a couple of days to us, but was perceived to be an exile of months for Tuvok and Tom. They thought our ship must have left them long behind before we were finally able to rescue them.
Chakotay and Seven were a couple for a while, but I always had a hunch it wouldn't last. He was her "first boyfriend," (Harry Kim would have liked to have been that to Seven, but she never made it easy for him). I'm not sure Seven - or I guess I should call her Annika Hansen now, since she's gone back to her birth name - will ever commit to a long-term relationship. It's ironic. The woman who was once part of the Collective, who was frantic when she was separated from the others in her Unimatrix, is now one of the most solitary people I've ever known, but there you are. Captain Janeway put so much time and energy into her pet project, the restoration of the Borg Seven-of-Nine back into the human Annika Hansen. It was more or less a success. Seven did return to humanity, but not all the way back. Eventually she had a falling out with Chakotay, and he went off to rebuild his native world, Dorvan. Alone. I haven't heard from him since. Lieutenant Icheb hasn't, either.
Captain Janeway came to see me a few times after our return to the Alpha Quadrant. Now that she's an admiral, she no longer has the time to come to see me often. I guess I can understand. She's dedicated her life to her career. The last time she visited, we discussed the sacrifice that Admiral Kathryn Janeway made to help us get home. It's possible that future has been compromised, and she'll never have to make that sacrifice. Temporal mechanics was never very comprehensible to me anyway, and Admiral Janeway claims it gives her a terrible headache. I can identify with that! She's not taking chances about her future, however. If that sacrifice must be made, she will make it with a clear conscience, with no husband or child left behind to mourn her loss. I find that very sad.
Actually, I live quite a solitary life myself. My mental state is still fragile, thanks to my disability. The specialists all believe I've reached a plateau in my recovery. I can never expect to develop the capacity to shield myself from the thoughts of others any better than I have to this point. Most of the examiners have told me I've done better than they could have anticipated, under the circumstances. I always thank Tuvok and Kes for that.
I participate in telepathic studies and attend symposiums when I'm asked, as long as they take place in isolated places and with limited attendance by non-Betazoids, who are unable to shield their thoughts away from me. It's still so difficult for me to cope with a multiplicity of minds. There's some thought the treatments given to me - spending extended periods of time in stasis, coupled with intensive mind meld treatments - will become the standard for treating "Stadi Syndrome" in the future.
I hope so. So many Betazoids end up taking their own lives because they are unable to live with themselves if they suffer from Stadi Syndrome. I would like to know my travails have brought some good to others by providing a viable treatment to combat this condition. If only I could have healed myself, the way Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres healed each other on our long journey back home!
Sometimes I think that it might have been better if I did die when the Caretaker stole us away, all those years ago. At other times, I'm glad I'm here to tell my story, to bear witness to what was the most extraordinary voyage of discovery known in the annals of Starfleet. In my humble opinion, Captain Janeway and the crew of Voyager surpassed the legendary Captain James T. Kirk in that regard.
Just my opinion, of course!
Paramount owns Star Trek Voyager and all the characters. No claim of ownership is being made. Lt. Stadi's first name was never given in the credits or any literature I've been able to find about Voyager. I do not know if someone else came up with the name Benara Stadi, but somehow it fits her. If someone else did invent it, thanks! Sorry I can't identify you by name.