A/N: I don't own "Star Trek: Voyager."
Jenny Delaney swallowed, as she stepped into the ready room. Out the windows, Jenny had a nice view of Deep Space Nine. She kept her eyes on the space station, half because she was too nervous to face the captain.
Jenny almost jumped. Captain Janeway was at her desk, looking at Jenny over a PADD. The Victorian bun the captain sported made her seem even more intimidating. Jenny hoped she'd made herself looked presentable. Her dark curls were pulled back into a short, professional braid, and her green uniform was fresh out of the replicator.
"Captain." Jenny attempted a smile.
Janeway moved around her desk, and gestured to her sofa. "Have a seat Ensign."
"I think I'll stand, if that's all right."
Janeway nodded. "All right then."
Jenny's hands were entwined tightly behind her back. She was nervous—terrified actually—that the Captain would refuse her request.
"So," Janeway eyed a PADD in her hand. "You've requested to be transferred from the U.S.S. Blackbird to Voyager, on personal grounds."
After a long pause, Jenny realized the captain was waiting for a response. "That's correct Captain."
The captain glanced back down at her PADD. She looked like she was about to ask an uncomfortable question.
"I don't want to pry into your personal life, Ensign. And if there's anything you aren't' comfortable telling me, you certainly don't have to. But know that the more I know, the more comfortable I'll be accepting your request."
"If you'd tell me then, in your own words Ensign, why you've requested this transfer."
Once more, Jenny glanced out the window at Deep Space Nine. The station's Cardassian design reminded her painfully of the whole situation.
"If I may ask, Captain, what do you know already?"
Janeway set her PADD down on the desk. "I know that your full name is Jennifer Ephanine Delaney. You're 22 years old. You're from Earth, French Canada. You're a relatively recent graduate from the Academy, and the Blackbird is your first assignment. You've served Captain T'Preem for five months, working work in stellar cartography. All of your Academy professors and senior officers aboard the Blackbird speak highly of you." Janeway paused. "I also know that in your last year at the Academy, you sent a request into Starfleet, asking to be notified on any news regarding a member of the Maquis named Megan Delaney."
Jenny tried to imitate her Vulcan captain from the Blackbird, keeping her face devoid of emotion.
Janeway began to move back around her desk. "You're not the first person to make such a request to Starfleet. Families have been torn apart by this…situation." The captain stopped behind her desk, but didn't sit. "Unfortunately, Starfleet hasn't had the opportunity to honor most of those requests—the Maquis work in secrecy, and are usually pretty good at staying hidden. So if I have a chance to help you get news on your sister, I'll do everything in my power."
Jenny's blood was firing, as she fought to stay still. Was the captain gently telling her, no, go home?
"So you get word that your sister is serving aboard a Maquis ship that's being monitored by Starfleet, and that my crew's being sent to capture it, and now you've requested to transfer to Voyager." Janeway stared hard at Jenny. "I assume you understand that if and when we capture the Maquis crew, all members will be arrested, and probably sent to prison."
Janeway finally sank into her seat. "I have to be blunt, Ensign. Your sister will be lucky if she ends up in prison. We have a bit of a situation on our hands, with the Maquis vessel. We're not certain if anyone onboard is still alive at this point."
Jenny felt herself grow cold. Janeway's expression told her that she'd probably visibly gone pale.
"But," the captain added, "I'm an optimist. Perhaps it's wishful thinking, seeing as my security officer and old friend is also aboard that ship."
That hit Jenny like a splash of water. The captain suddenly seemed less frightening, more human.
"Ensign, I want to help you find your sister. You deserve to be reunited with her, as much as I do with my security officer. But I have to be certain that this is a decision I won't regret. As an officer aboard this ship I'll expect you to exercise the same objectivity as any other crewmember. We might find that the Maquis crew has been wiped out. We might find them alive, but be drawn into a battle with them. I need to know that you'll be prepared for the worst, and that you won't lose your sense of duty."
Jenny drew in a breath. She hoped this wouldn't sound snarky; it was the only defense she could come up with. "I didn't lose my sense of duty to Starfleet when my brother-in-law was killed by the Cardassians, or when my sister joined the Maquis. And I won't lose it aboard Voyager."
The captain searched Jenny's eyes, as if trying to read her.
"In that case," Janeway's mouth turned up into a small smile, "Welcome aboard Ensign Delaney."
It was a moment before Jenny was able to reply. "Thank you Captain," she stammered, and repeated, "Thank you so much!"
"Thank me after we've found the Val Jean." Janeway reminded her.
On her first day aboard Voyager, Jenny combated the fear and anticipation of finding Megan with the excitement of being aboard a new ship. She spent her free time walking through the corridors, building a map in her head, and getting to know her shipmates. She met Dr. Anders, and his Vulcan nurse T'Pai. (The Vulcan somehow managed to be more pleasant than the disgruntled human doctor.)
Jenny started to make new friends. One who stuck out was a cute, Asian-American man named Harry Kim. He was with a taller, brown-haired man named Tom Paris. They talked for a few minutes about their experiences at Starfleet Academy, before going separate ways. Then Jenny met the chief engineer, pleasant, soft-spoken Bolian woman named Lt. Tarrotz. When Jenny mentioned Tom and Harry to Tarrotz, the engineer's sky-blue face seemed to take on an uncomfortable expression.
"What is it Lieutenant?" Jenny asked.
Tarrotz didn't meet her eye. "It's nothing." The Bolian smiled. "It's good you're getting to know your shipmates, Ensign. Keep meeting people. Make friends, and don't judge."
Jenny bid the engineer goodbye, and made for the mess hall. She hadn't planned on eating lunch this early, but she was now eager for the gossip on Paris or Kim—whichever was the one Tarrotz didn't want her to "judge"—and Jenny had a feeling that the mess hall was the place to get it.
After replicating herself some pasta, she picked out a table of people who seemed engrossed in a particularly enthusiastic conversation. A young Bajoran girl with brown hair and large eyes; an equally young man, who would've looked like a Hispanic human, save the Trill spots that ran down his neck; and a slightly older human man, with red hair.
Stopping in front of the table, Jenny asked smoothly, "May I join you?"
The redhead sized Jenny up with a grin. "Sure!"
She took a seat. "Jenny Delaney."
The redhead reached across the table to shake her hand. "Austin Sullivan." He had a British accent. "Call me Sully, off-duty of course."
The Bajoran introduced herself, "Tal Celes."
"Eem Biagan," the Trill said.
They conversed briefly about their job duties, and what they'd been doing before Voyager. Tal and Eem were fresh out of the Academy. Sully had served aboard the Jupiter station, Deep Space 2, Deep Space 7, and three different starships; he admitted to having a bad habit of "hopping jobs," forever in search of what was right for him. Tal Celes was one of many Bajorans who went against tradition, and put the individual name before the family name, like humans and most other species did, making her professional name "Crewman Celes." Eem, like most Trill, was not joined; but he hoped that by accomplishing something on Voyager, he might earn the Trill counsel's attention and be considered for a symbiont.
When the opportunity presented itself, Jenny asked, "So what's the big deal with Tom Paris and Harry Kim?"
Tal looked confused, but Eem and Sully both took on somber expressions.
"I don't know about the other guy," Eem said darkly, "But I've heard about that Tom Paris. He was pulled out of prison to help Janeway track down the Maquis."
Jenny and Tal looked at each other, then back at Eem.
"So, what," Tal said, "He's serving aboard a starship, instead of serving time in prison…? You can do that?"
"No." Sully said. "He's getting released early from prison, for helping us with this one mission. Paris is a Maquis, that Starfleet captured."
Tal's eyes widened. "Paris is a Maquis…?"
Jenny's eyes also widened, but not out of horror. "Interesting." She stirred her pasta. "Don't think I've ever met a criminal before." Well, aside from Megan…
Tal shook her head. "But what makes Paris so special? What's he got on this one Maquis ship?"
"He served with them." Sully explained. "He was a member of Chakotay's crew. Didn't get along with him though, from what I hear. No surprise Paris is helping us capture him."
Jenny almost dropped her fork. "Paris served on the ship we're after?"
Sully nodded. "Yeah. Like I said, he was a member of Chakotay's crew. I hear-talk he was more of a mercenary for hire though, not really into the Maquis 'cause' and all that."
Eem said in a low voice, "Didn't Paris get kicked out of the Academy, for killing three other pilots…?"
"And then lying about it." Sully added. "Makes me sick."
In any other situation, Jenny would have had a whole mountain of conflicting opinions on Tom Paris. But today, all she cared about was that Paris had been on that ship with her sister.
Tal misunderstood Jenny's reaction, and assured her, "I'm sure Starfleet wouldn't have Paris aboard Voyager if he could be any kind of threat." She shrugged. "I talked to him, he seemed a decent enough person."
Sully shook his head, wrinkling his nose. "Why are so many of the girls sayin' that?"
"The fairer sex is a little too forgiving, sometimes." Eem muttered.
This changed the subject to a discussion about sexism and stereotypes, which Jenny didn't really partake in. When Tal made a point, Jenny nodded or said "Yeah," without really listening.
Paris, she had to have a word with Paris. Find out of Megan had been alive when he'd last seen her. If she was okay. If she'd changed.
Jenny's duty shift began in twenty minutes. She wolfed down her pasta, and bid her new friends goodbye. As she hurried down the hall to her station, her mind was racing.
As soon as her shift was over, as soon as it was over, Jenny would talk with Tom Paris. Actually, she could call him on her com badge right now, but she feared that would get her into trouble—contacting another shipmate on-duty, for a personal call. She had to prove to Captain Janeway that she was a professional, not losing her objectivity. When her shift ended…then again, when did Paris's shift end?
Jenny never made it to her station. She was almost there, hurrying down the hall, when Janeway's voice suddenly bellowed from her com badge:
"All hands: brace for impact!"
The reality of Janeway's warning had hit harder than Jenny could ever have imagined.
The hallway was filled with smoke. Alarms were flaring. Through the fog, Jenny made out the shape of a motionless body across the hall from her. Nearby, someone was coughing. She turned and saw an elderly black man in a green uniform, his gray hair spotted with blood. She pulled him up, and helped him on to sickbay.
Not surprisingly, sickbay was already pretty packed. Jenny led the older man through the crowd, searching for a place where she could sit him down. Something on the floor made her stop suddenly. Two bloody, mangled bodies, that someone had pulled over and lain carefully against the wall. Doctor Anders and Nurse T'Pai. Both had their eyes closed, probably by the person who'd dragged them there. Next to Jenny, the old man sighed, also looking at the bodies.
"Minor concussion," a voice made Jenny and her shipmate jump.
A bald man in a green uniform was scanning the old man's injury. The doctor (was he a doctor?) swapped his tricorder for another tool, and quickly healed the injury. The motion was fast and perfect, it almost wasn't…human.
The old man croaked, "You the emergency medical hologram?"
"I am." The hologram replied flatly. "Next!"
Jenny and the old man swapped a glance, while the hologram moved on to another patient.
"Nice bedside manner," Jenny muttered.
In the midst of the pandemonium, Jenny suddenly saw Paris, with Harry Kim. They seemed to be helping the holo-doc treat injuries. She made sure the elderly man could stand on his own, before rushing over to Tom Paris.
He looked up over the crowd at her.
"Paris I need to talk to you, now."
Paris was treating a half-conscious woman on a biobed.
"Little busy at the moment," Paris returned his attention to his patient.
Speaking as quickly and clearly as she could, Jenny said, "I have a sister aboard Chakotay's ship. Megan Delaney."
Paris almost stopped his work, but caught himself. "Delaney…" he squinted. "Sorry, I gotta focus on my patient here…there's a Delaney on the ship….more of a science, engineer-type, not always up on the front line…"
Harry Kim glanced at Jenny for a moment, before forcing his attention back to his own patient.
"You're not just saying that?" Jenny asked Paris desperately.
"I may be many things," Paris said smoothly, "But I'm not a liar." He paused, running his dermal regenerator up his patient's neck. "Delaney was fine last I saw her."
Kim and Paris finished with their patients, and began to help another onto a biobed.
Before Jenny could ask Paris another question, everything vanished, in a gold hum.
And suddenly, Jenny was in a sunny field.
Her shipmates stood around her, looking as confused as she was. They were on a…farm? It looked like the entire crew was here.
"Don't believe your eyes Mr. Paris," she heard Janeway say, for the benefit of everyone else as well as Paris. "We've only transported a hundred kilometers. We're inside the array."
Kim added, "There's no indication of stable matter. All this must be some kind of holographic projection."
Suddenly, a middle-aged woman dressed like a farmer's wife approached the captain with a tray of corn.
"Oh, you poor things. You must be tired out. Come on and sit down and rest awhile. Have a cold drink, hmm?"
"No, thank you." Janeway was taking this a lot better than Jenny was. "My name is Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation Starship Voyager—"
The woman cut her off. "Now, just make yourselves right at home. The neighbors should be here any minute—Oh! Why, here they are!"
A group of people dressed like some cartoonish stereotype of farmers emerged from the trees.
"This isn't real," a man near Jenny whispered. "Right?"
Jenny shook her head. "I grew up on a farm in Quebec. Any idiot who thinks this represents actual farm life—"
Jenny was cut off by a loud banjo, being played by an old man.
While taking in the bizarre scene, she spotted Tal Celes.
"Tal!" Jenny ran towards her friend.
The Bajoran turned, and hurried over to meet Jenny in the middle.
"Jenny!" Tal gasped. "Oh thank the Prophets you're alright. Sully's dead."
"S—" Jenny didn't even allow herself to ask the question. "What about Eem? Have you seen…?" she trailed off, when she caught the somber glance of a shipmate standing behind Tal.
"Eem Biagan?" the man (an Asian human in a green uniform) asked nervously.
Jenny swallowed and nodded.
"I tried to get him to sickbay," the man stared ahead at her. "He didn't make it."
Eem and Sully, who she'd just seen—Eem, fresh out of the Academy—joined Voyager to get a symbiont, to live forever, and instead—
"What," Tal stammered to the man, "What happened?"
"I don't know—one minute we were working…"
Jenny couldn't even pay attention to the man's testimony of her new friend's death. The unfairness of it all—Eem wouldn't get his symbiont, Sully wouldn't get to "find himself"—and if they didn't get those things, she suddenly realized, then there was no cosmic reason, none at all, that Jenny should get to find her sister.
"Tal!" she suddenly interrupted the man's story. "I, I need you to do something for me,"
"Move around," the captain suddenly announced, over the banjo music and laughter of dancing hillbillies. "Scan the area. See if you can find anything that might be a holographic generator."
Tal and Jenny grouped up with the man they'd been talking to, who introduced himself as Crewman Haru Saito. They continued their conversation, as they combed the farm.
"What were you going to tell me before, Jenny?" Tal asked.
"I have a sister," Jenny kept her eyes on her tricorder and the farm ahead of her, as they walked. "Megan Delaney. She's a Maquis, aboard the Val Jean. I transferred to Voyager to help catch her. If I don't make it, I want someone to tell her," Jenny stopped, realizing she had no idea what she wanted Megan to know. "Just tell her I was here."
Saito watched Jenny, speechless.
Tal gave a curt nod, and said, "I'll tell her, if it comes to that."
Jenny was momentarily surprised by how well Tal took the news. But then she recalled that as a Bajoran, the poor girl had probably lived in a Cardassian labor camp, and heard tragic stories like this many times before.
"So," Jenny changed the subject. "Did we lose any other shipmates I should know about?"
Saito looked down. "I heard we lost the chief engineer."
Jenny looked up sharply, and exchanged a glance with Tal. She glanced around the farm, and didn't see any blue faces.
"Commander Cavit and Lt. Stadi," Tal added after a moment. "I heard they were killed on impact."
Jenny figured it was her turn, and added, "Dr. Anders and Nurse T'Pai."
They searched the farm, and found nothing but a pen of goats, a fire pit filled with (delicious smelling) roasted corn, and two ungentlemanly hicks who kept asking Tal and Jenny for a dance. Tal sighed in frustration. Saito reached out to pet one of the goats. Before his hand touched its fur, they were suddenly beamed away again, in that gold hum.
Jenny's head felt heavy. She couldn't move. She couldn't even lift her eyelids. Her entire body felt tingly, and stiff. A sharp pain entered her abdomen, as something thin and cold drove into her. She heard a tiny sound begin to form in her throat, but stopped short of crying out. Someone else was screaming—a young man, whose voice sounded vaguely familiar. Jenny was terrified, because she had been searching for something extremely important that she now might not find, and she couldn't for the life of her remember what it was.