A/N:    My thanks to Dago for not only providing the original idea, when she voiced a wish on Vamb for an end to Renegade’s unfinished story “Disclosures”, but also for assistance regarding structure and title.   Dago, this is for you.

As always, many thanks to Shayenne who went above and beyond the call; her timely suggestions have made this a much better story

 

The dream sequences can be identified by the italicized smaller print like this: ‘dream’

 

Renegade’s stories on which this tale is based can be found at http://freespace.virgin.net/tony.siobhan/renegade/rstories.htm

 

 

Haunted

 

By Mary S.

 

 

 

 

Set between the fourth and fifth seasons, shortly after Voyager enters the void:

 

           The cabin door swished closed, allowing Kathryn Janeway to plop onto her couch in relief.    Her shift finally over, she had retreated immediately to her quarters.  Keeping up a brave face for the crew was proving to be much more exhausting than she’d expected.   

 

           With a sigh, she leaned her head on the back of the sofa and closed her eyes.     Voyager had only just started her two-year passage across this empty region of space and already Kathryn felt the walls closing in.    How, she wondered, was she ever going to survive two years of this…blackness?  No stars, no planets, no nothing!  

 

           Her depressing mood was threatening to overtake her once more.   “Suck it up, Janeway,” she ordered herself.  “For the sake of the crew, you have to make the effort.   And,” she continued to mutter aloud as she pushed herself to her feet, “in the meantime, how about a nice, hot bath?   If nothing else, maybe that will help me sleep better tonight.”

 

*****

 

           Several hours later, after an evening in which she had tried to relax as much as possible, even substituting an herbal tea for her beloved coffee, she headed for bed.   She felt drowsy, her eyes were heavy – surely tonight she would get a decent night’s rest.   Once she had a proper sleep, she was certain she would feel much more like her old self.  

 

           On that determined note, she climbed into bed where she fell asleep almost immediately.    And dreamed of a Voyager where she and her first officer had crossed the final barriers and become lovers – until he turned out to be someone else entirely….

 

 

           Sitting at her desk, her back aching and her eyes drooping from fatigue, Kathryn forced her tired brain to absorb the information on the PADD in her hand – engineering’s latest report on the myriad systems failures which had been occurring over the last week.   Finally B’Elanna had been able to narrow down the cause – a nearby subspace anomaly.   With a sigh, Kathryn laid down the PADD.   If it wasn’t one thing, she reflected, it was another.   At least this time, it was a one-time event; the anomaly was now far behind them and unlikely to cause any more problems.    However, with so many systems compromised, B’Elanna was requesting as much help as possible to effect repairs.  They were in a potentially hostile part of space.    With weapons and shields off-line, Voyager was a sitting duck.  

 

           She raised a hand to her commbadge.  Janeway to Torres.”

 

           “Torres here,” came the reply in a weary voice.

 

           B’Elanna, send me a list of what personnel you need and where, and I’ll pass it on to Chakotay for assignment as soon as he comes back.”

 

           “Sure, thank you, Captain.”

 

           “And I want you to get some rest.  You’ll be able to oversee repairs much better after a good night’s sleep.   That’s an order, Lieutenant.”

 

           “Yes, Captain,” responded B’Elanna formally, but Kathryn could hear the gratitude in her voice.   She must be absolutely exhausted if she was too tired to put up an argument.   “Torres out.”

 

           At that moment, the outer door to her quarters swished open and Chakotay came in, rubbing his face.   His uniform was filthy, his hands covered in dirt.  Giving her a mere glimpse of a smile, he headed straight for the bathroom, and in a moment, she heard the sonic shower.   

 

           Several minutes later, he came out looking a little more wide-awake and definitely cleaner.

 

           “Do you want something to eat?” she asked.

 

           He shook his head.  “All I want is to climb into bed and sleep for a week,” he replied, his voice hoarse with fatigue.  

 

           “You and who else?” she muttered, struggling to her feet.  “I’ll be there in a minute,” she added as he climbed into bed.  “Oh, and before I forget, I’ve read B’Elanna’s report and told her to let us know what personnel she requires.   We need to get repairs done as soon as we can.”

 

           “I’ll deal with it,” he yawned, “tomorrow.   Tonight my brain has gone to mush.”

 

           She patted his shoulder.   “Go to sleep.”

 

           Even as she spoke, his eyes closed and his body relaxed as his breathing evened out.   Leaning over, Kathryn gently kissed his cheek before turning aside to pull off her uniform.  

 

           As she prepared for bed, her eyes fell on Chakotay sprawled under the covers and she couldn’t help smiling.  Despite all their travails, she was blissfully happy, and she knew Chakotay was, too.    ‘Smartest thing I ever did,’ she reminded herself, ‘the day I let go of my safety net.   Thank you, Mark, for going on with your life – you’ve allowed me to go on with mine.’

 

           Settling down beside him, she called for lights out.   As she started to drift off to sleep, she made a mental note to ask him once more about the apparent disagreement between him and Tuvok.    ‘Last thing we need right now is discord between two senior officers.   I need to get to the bottom of whatever the problem is and settle it once and for all.’

 

           However, the next morning, when she pressed Chakotay yet again to tell her what was going on with Tuvok, he flatly refused.   “It’s nothing, Kathryn, I’ll handle it,” was his answer as he dashed out the door.  “I have to go so I can get these assignments worked out for B’Elanna.   Don’t worry about Tuvok and me.   It’s all fine.”

 

           But it wasn’t ‘fine’, she knew; however, obviously now was not the time to pursue it.   ‘I’ll talk to Tuvok,’ she decided as she headed for the bridge.   But she had no more success with him either.

 

           ‘There is no problem,’ he was quick to reassure her, his face even more inscrutable than usual, a sure sign, in Kathryn’s experience, that indeed there was a problem.    At that moment, however, her attention was diverted by B’Elanna’s request for help resurrecting the data files and she had to let it go.   ‘Later’, she promised herself, ‘once this crisis is settled.’

 

           However, ‘later’ never came.

 

***** 

 

           Some time after, as she worked on restoring the personnel files, Kathryn discovered an odd encryption in Chakotay’s records.  At first she was only mildly curious, but as the code resisted all efforts to be deciphered, she began to wonder what it could possibly be.    Her competitive instincts were roused, and she persevered until suddenly quite a different file appeared. 

 

           She could hardly believe what she was reading!  

 

           In growing astonishment, which rapidly shifted to horror, she learned that Chakotay was not a rebel Maquis at all but a Vice Admiral in Starfleet, head of Covert Operations, a division which she had never even heard of.   When they were pulled into the Delta Quadrant, he had been a Starfleet spy on a mission to subvert and bring down the Maquis.

 

           Numb with shock, she sat back in her chair, her mind a maelstrom of questions and suspicion.     As she attempted to make sense of her appalling discovery, one fact became blindingly clear.    Now she knew exactly what had caused the rift between him and Tuvok, who had to be aware of Chakotay’s true status.    What was she going to do?   Confront him with her knowledge?  Remain silent?   No, she couldn’t do that – he knew her too well.   He’d realize at once that something was wrong.   

 

           As her brain began to clear, her first stunned reaction rapidly morphed into anger.   Damn him anyway!   Couldn’t he have told her?  Was she not trustworthy enough?    How could he have so betrayed her?! 

 

           Getting to her feet, she paced furiously across the ready room and back.   At that moment, her commbadge chirped.

 

           Neelix to Janeway.   Captain, the party is about to start in case you’d forgotten.”

 

           Damn!   Tom and B’Elanna’s engagement party!   In her agitation, she had forgotten all about it.  “Thank you, Neelix, I’ll be along in a few minutes.  Janeway out.”

 

           Chakotay would be there, of course.   How was she going to face him now?

 

*****

 

           Arriving at holodeck one, Kathryn strode in, a cheerful smile pasted on her face, determined not to let her own misery contaminate the celebrations.   Unfortunately, almost immediately Chakotay came over to greet her, giving her a quick hug.  “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” he murmured as he kissed her cheek, then tightened his grasp as he felt her tense.   His eyes narrowed.  “What’s wrong, Kathryn?”

 

           Wrong?  He had the gall to ask her what was wrong?!

 

           In a split second, all her resolve to keep silent deserted her.

 

           With a gasp of horror, she back-pedaled frantically, trying to put some distance between them.    Her completely unexpected reaction to his presence had the immediate effect of silencing everyone nearby.    Mouths gaped open in astonishment as the captain’s face paled, her eyes huge, an expression of revulsion settling on her face.    People blinked and blinked again, unable to believe their eyes.    For uncounted seconds, there was complete silence before several voices started to murmur.

 

           “What’s going on?’

 

           “What’s happening?”

 

           “What’s the matter with the captain?”

 

           Frozen, Chakotay could only stare back at her, his face tightening with anger. 

 

           Almost the entire crew surrounded her, watching in absolute silence, yet all she could see was him and his betrayal.  Seizing a glass, she shouted to the room.   “I propose a toast!   To the crew of Voyager and its commanding officer…Admiral Chakotay!”

 

           Heads turned as voices muttered, “What?!  Admiral?!  What’s she saying?!”

 

           B’Elanna moved forward, her voice nervous.   Chakotay, what’s going on?  What is she talking about?”

 

           Desperately, Chakotay tried to move but his feet seemed to be glued to the floor.   He turned his head enough to look at B’Elanna, who was gazing at him with eyes filled with sudden fear. 

 

           More and more frightened, she seized his arm, shaking him.  Chakotay, talk to me!  Tell me what she means!”

 

           From behind, Kathryn spoke up scathingly.  “Go on, Admiral, tell her – if you have the guts, that is.”

 

           Tom stepped to B’Elanna’s side but his gaze was fastened on Chakotay.  “Tell us what?” he demanded.

 

           The silence continued as Chakotay stared at B’Elanna before turning to look back at Kathryn.  

 

           “Well, if you won’t say anything, I will,” continued Kathryn, relentless in her anger.   Lifting her head to look around at the crew, she spoke, “I have just discovered within the last hour that our first officer here is not a commander at all but a Vice-Admiral in Starfleet, head of a secret group known as Covert Operations.   All those years when the Maquis believed he was one of them,” her eyes narrowed as she spat, “he was actually spying on them for Starfleet.”  

 

           She paused for a moment before continuing almost reflectively.  “You know, it’s always struck me as a little odd that I was ever ordered on this mission.   I mean, much as I value Tuvok, it seemed almost overkill to send a brand new, state-of-the-art starship after a mere lieutenant, no matter how good a spy he was.    I guess now we know the real reason, don’t we, Admiral?”

 

           B’Elanna stared at him in horror.  “This can’t be true!  Can it?!   Chakotay, talk to me!  Tell me she’s lying, she’s deranged!   Anything!”

          

           “I’m sorry, B’Elanna,” he muttered before visibly pulling himself together and turning to stride out the door. 

 

           With a howl of rage, B’Elanna leaped to follow but Tom was quicker, grasping her arm tightly and refusing to let go even when she pummelled him.   “I’m going to kill him!” she screamed but Tom simply hung on tightly.  

 

           Beyond them stood Kathryn, her eyes fixed on B’Elanna.   For a moment, their gazes met and held, each knowing exactly how the other felt – Chakotay had betrayed them both.

 

*****

 

           Days of misery passed, one relentlessly following the next.

 

           Feeling betrayed not only by her lover but also by Tuvok, her oldest friend, who had kept Chakotay’s secret for four years, Kathryn retreated to her ready room and her quarters, interacting with no one beyond what was required during her duty shift.

 

           Several times, Chakotay tried to talk to her, to beg her forgiveness but she refused to have anything to do with him beyond the bare minimum necessary to run the ship.

 

           Most of the crew were similarly horrified, B’Elanna and Tom in particular voicing their fury at Chakotay’s betrayal, even going so far as to wish for his death.

 

           Only Harry Kim and, to a lesser extent, Tuvok, defended his actions.

 

           Meanwhile, as the tension increased to unbearable heights, cascade failures continued to attack the ship, damaging one system after another, even the doctor’s program.  

 

****

 

           Several days after the disastrous evening in the holodeck, Chakotay went to sickbay for an analgesic for an increasingly severe headache; there he found Harry trying to restore the EMH.   Deciding work might be a better antidote than a hypospray, he offered to help.

 

           “Great,” answered Kim, as his fingers danced across the control panel.  “I’ve spent the last two hours at this with no luck at all.   I could use another pair of eyes; I’m so tired now of staring at this thing, I can barely see!”

 

           With a nod, Chakotay set to work.

 

           Almost another hour passed before Harry threw down the hypospanner in frustration, then rubbed his eyes.  “Damn it!   It’s in there somewhere but the systems are so contaminated…!”

 

           “Harry, you’re exhausted,” declared Chakotay as he studied a tricorder yet again.   “The readings are indicating a possible contamination in Jeffries tube 37.  I’ll go down and see if I can trace it from there.   Why don’t you take a break, get something to eat and then meet me back here?”

 

           Wearily, Harry agreed.   However, he was so tired that after Chakotay had gone, instead of going to the mess hall, he lay down on one of the biobeds.  ‘I’ll just rest my eyes for a minute,’ ran through his head; in moments, he was sound asleep.

 

*****

 

           Harry woke gradually.  Shaking his head, he glanced at his chronometer, then froze in astonishment.  Over two hours had passed.  Where was Chakotay?   Surely, he should have been back long before now.

 

           Quickly exiting sickbay, he hurried to the Jeffries tube only to find Chakotay lying at the bottom of it, critically injured.    Frantically, he scrambled back up the ladder and leaped into the corridor, shouting for help.

 

*****

 

           Her heart pounding with dread, Kathryn dashed to sickbay.  Suddenly, all the unhappiness of the past few days had been pushed away and her only thought was to be by Chakotay’s side.  Upon entering, she found Tom Paris standing beside the biobed, the diagnostic shell activated.   His gaze was focused on the readings and even from across the room, Kathryn could see his concern.

 

          “The doctor?” she asked hesitantly.

 

           “Still offline,” replied Paris briefly, his eyes never leaving the console.   He remained silent for another minute before turning to face her.  “Captain, uh…he’s in critical condition.”  He paused, then added, “And I don’t have the knowledge, I don’t know what to do!”  His voice reflected his frustration.

 

          Her face paled.   “Then…do what you can,” she whispered.  “I will help, however I can.”

         

           As she spoke, she felt fingers grip her arm.   Looking down, she realized Chakotay was trying to speak.   She leaned over, close to his mouth.   Ssh, Chakotay, I’m here and we’re going to make you better.”

 

           “Kathryn…” he gasped, “must…tell you.”  His eyes closed as he fought for breath.  “Be…careful. Trust no one….”

 

           His strength gone, he fell back as the sensors blared a warning just before the monitor flatlined….

 

 

 

           Abruptly, Kathryn awoke, her eyes flying around frantically until she realized she was lying in her bed.   

 

           A dream!   It had been a dream!  Although the events were so vivid in her mind, she could hardly believe they hadn’t happened.   She could still hear the fear and anguish in Chakotay’s voice and see the tears on his face as he desperately murmured a warning to her to take care and trust no one.   And then the whine of the flat line after his body convulsed one last time.

 

           Was it really only a dream?   It seemed very hard to believe and yet, here she was, in her bed, right where she was supposed to be.

 

           For a moment, she contemplated trying to go back to sleep, but her thoughts were too jumbled, her mind filled with discordant images.  

 

           Scrambling out of bed, she pulled on her robe then headed to her replicator.

 

           “Computer, coff – ”  She paused then changed her order.  “Make that tea, blend Chakotay four.”

 

           Immediately, a mug of steaming tea appeared. 

 

           Picking it up, she cradled it in her hands before settling into her favourite spot on the couch.   Automatically, her head turned to look out the viewport at the passing stars; however, her inquiring gaze met only blackness.  With a sigh, she twisted around to face the room – for a moment, she had forgotten the void.

 

           From there, her thoughts skittered back to her dream.   It had been so vivid, so real.    She was still having trouble believing that all those events – their love affair, her accidental discovery of Chakotay’s real mission, the accusations of betrayal levelled not only by her but most of the crew, followed by his apparently fatal accident – had never happened.  

 

           Before she could stop herself, she actually asked the computer for Chakotay’s location, only to be told he was in his quarters.

 

           “Asleep?”

 

           “Yes.”

 

           “Really, Kathryn,” she lectured herself, “where did you think he was?  In sickbay, dying?!   Don’t be ridiculous!   It was merely a bad dream, if a more realistic one than most, so finish your tea and go back to bed.   And stop being foolish!”

 

           But although she did return to her bed and tried to sleep, her mind remained in too much of a whirl.   Eventually, she gave up and arose, deciding she would get an early start to her day.    Although, she reminded herself when she looked out the viewport again, she didn’t exactly have a lot to do.

 

           ‘Now don’t go thinking so negatively,’ she told herself severely, ‘go for a walk around the ship.   That will fill an hour and by then it will be time for breakfast.’

 

           On that determined note, she brushed her hair, finished applying her makeup and headed out the door.   ‘Think positive,’ would be her mantra.

 

******

          

           Despite her best efforts, however, the effects of the dream persisted, and subconsciously, she began to look at Chakotay differently, even with suspicion.   At odd moments of the day, she would catch herself gazing at him abstractedly, her mind in a whirl.   Could it be?  Was it possible?

 

           Whereupon she would realize what she was doing and give herself a mental shake.     ‘It was a dream, only a dream’, she reminded herself repeatedly, ‘so get over it.’

 

           The following afternoon, she even spent several hours hunting through the database for any mention of a secret department within Starfleet known as Covert Operations; of course, she found nothing.   ‘Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,’ whispered her treacherous brain before she caught herself. 

 

           “Oh, for heavens’ sake!” she berated herself.  “This is ridiculous!”

 

           But with very little to occupy her otherwise, the dream continued to haunt her.   

 

           When Chakotay reminded her about his invitation to dinner in his quarters that evening, she found an excuse to cancel even though she knew she was being foolish beyond reason.    His concerned gaze swept across her face but he said nothing except to wish her a pleasant evening.  

 

           As Kathryn watched him walk away, she nearly went after him to say she’d changed her mind.   But she didn’t.    Misgivings slid through her mind and try as she might, she simply couldn’t escape the thought that even though there was not a shred of proof, there might be some truth to her suspicions.    With a heavy sigh, she turned to enter her quarters, not wanting to spend the evening alone and yet unable to push it all away.    With very little to distract her, the dream was gradually becoming the main focus of her thoughts.

 

*****

 

           Always attuned to Kathryn’s moods, it didn’t take long for Chakotay to become aware that something was bothering her.    Her blank gaze at odd moments and her air of distraction were clear indicators that she was gnawing at a problem.

 

           At first, he phrased his concern casually, merely enquiring one morning at the end of yet another short daily briefing if she had anything on her mind she’d like to discuss.   When she immediately shook her head, he let it go in the hope she would work through it on her own.   He was quite aware that Kathryn valued her privacy and didn’t appreciate overly nosy first officers prying into her personal affairs.

 

           But when her mood persisted through another two days, he decided to ask her point blank what was wrong.   Her answer – “I’m fine” – did nothing to reassure him.    Kathryn was an extremely stubborn woman, requiring a lot of patience if he was to get her to talk about whatever was troubling her, so once more, he backed off.

 

           However, by the time a week had passed, Chakotay had had enough.  Her sudden odd moods, so different from her usual warm demeanour, was starting to cause the crew to look at her with concern and ask him what the problem was.    One evening after their shift, he cornered her in her quarters and bluntly demanded to know what was going on with her.

 

           By now, Kathryn was feeling quite bedevilled by her dream.   She had tried every way she knew to put it aside but no matter what she did, it hung over her like a foul miasma, tainting everyone around her with suspicion.

 

           For several seconds, she debated how to respond to Chakotay’s question.   The determined look on his face told her he would no longer be put off with “I’m fine”.

 

           As her eyes focused on him, her mind seemed to clear.    Here was her best friend, voicing his concern for her.   At that moment, it seemed only fair to explain why she was in such a funk, particularly when he was so much a part of the reason.

 

           With a sigh, she gestured him to a chair.  “Have a seat, this may take a while,” she told him as she sank wearily onto the sofa.   “I don’t know what caused it, maybe this horrible region of space, but whatever it was, about ten days ago, I had an incredibly vivid dream.”

 

           Leaning forward, Chakotay stared at her intently.  “What sort of dream?   A nightmare?”

 

           “Not initially, no, although eventually it certainly became one.”  She paused to gather her thoughts, then focused her eyes on his.  “It was about us, here on the ship, only things were a little different….”

 

****

 

           By the time Kathryn had finished relating her dream half an hour later, Chakotay had run the gamut of emotion.    Initially, disbelief then hope as she told him of their love affair, later anger, quickly followed by worry, all of which left him quite exhausted and more than a little puzzled.   Where in the universe had this come from?   After all this time, what could have prompted such a dream?    Why now, after four and a half years on their own?  Did Kathryn still not trust him?   Despite all they had been through in the Delta Quadrant, it would certainly seem so, which could cause all sorts of difficulties for them professionally as well as personally.   He sighed heavily, wondering what he could possibly do to prove his allegiance to her.

 

           Her voice broke into his morose thoughts.  “As I said, it’s all extremely vivid, to the point that I’m wondering if I somehow experienced an alternate reality.  Although I don’t see how that could be….”  Her voice trailed off as she hesitated before she returned her attention to him, adding, “So tell me, what do you think?”

 

           Chakotay looked at her, wondering where to start.  “What do I think?” he repeated, stalling as he tried to figure out what to say before shrugging his shoulders.  “To be honest, I don’t know.   I could say it was just a dream but obviously, from the way you’ve been acting recently, it’s more than that to you.   My people would say that your subconscious is telling you a truth, and perhaps that’s so.   However, I can say right now that if that’s the case, I don’t like the ‘truth’ that I’m hearing.   You’re making absolutely ridiculous accusations without a shred of proof!  Me – a Vice Admiral?!  I mean, come on, Kathryn!  And ‘Covert Operations’ sounds like something out of one of Tom’s holonovels!  Let me tell you, when I joined the Maquis, I committed myself to them completely.”  

 

           He relaxed in his chair, adding in a tone of reason.    “And really, when you think about it, what possible ‘hidden agenda’ could I have here in the Delta Quadrant?”  He held out his hands towards her.  “Kathryn, this is me.  What you see is all there is.”

 

           “I know that, Chakotay,” she answered but her eyes continued to gaze on him almost dispassionately, as if she were weighing his response.

 

           “So what’s the problem then?” he persisted when she kept silent.

 

           Hesitating, Kathryn debated how much to say.   Despite his assurances, she still had a gut feeling that he was hiding secrets from her.  Should she voice her suspicions?    For a second longer she demurred before throwing caution to the winds.   “The problem is,” she replied, “that I don’t really know what to believe.   My head is telling me that I should accept you at face value and yet this little voice keeps niggling at me that you’re not being totally honest with me.”

 

           Chakotay threw up his hands in exasperation.   “What would you have me say?!” he all but shouted.   “I have no secrets – well, none that amount to anything!”  Jumping to his feet, he stood over her, his face tight with anger.  “Have Tuvok perform a mind meld if that’s what it will take to convince you, I don’t care!  But don’t stop trusting me merely because of a dream!”

 

           For a moment longer, he glared at her before spinning on his heel and storming out of her quarters.

 

           Disheartened, Kathryn continued to sit still, wondering how they had ever gotten to that point.  ‘It was only a stupid dream!’ she kept reminding herself. 

 

****

 

           The next morning, upon her arrival on the bridge, Kathryn did her best to appear just as she always did, settling into her chair and asking for a status report as was her usual custom.

 

           Beside her, Chakotay kept his attention firmly fixed on either the console between them or the PADD clutched in his hand.   That he wasn’t actually reading either was quickly obvious, at least to her.    What remarks she addressed to him merely concerned ship’s operations, and his replies were equally brief and to the point.   

 

           Although they each made an effort to appear as normal as possible, it soon became clear that the tension between them was apparent to the bridge crew.   Twice, Tom shifted in his chair to glance back at them with a worried frown, and Kathryn was sure she could feel Harry’s eyes boring into the back of her head.   

 

           Worried that their argument would lead to dissension among the crew, she soon retreated to the ready room, ostensibly to work although in fact, there was very little work to be done.   She remained there until the end of shift when she headed to the mess hall for dinner only to discover Chakotay was already there.   Realizing she would have to sit with him in order to preserve the fiction that all was well between them, she quickly used the excuse of too much work and took her dinner on a tray back to her quarters. 

 

****

 

           The following day, instead of going to the bridge, Kathryn headed directly to her ready room via the back entrance, and again spent the day there.   That evening after shift, rather than take the chance of meeting Chakotay in the mess hall, she returned to her quarters where she ate alone.

 

           Although she achieved her object of avoiding Chakotay, she was now spending all her time alone.   With no outside distraction, her thoughts about the dream were allowed free rein. 

 

           ‘Could it be true?’ she wondered, ‘and he’s denying it?’

 

           Her mind took a sudden jump sideways. ‘And what about Tuvok?  Is there something he knows and hasn’t told me?’

 

           Her first reaction was no, she knew him too well but then she reminded herself that he was Vulcan; quite possibly, despite the fact they’d shared a mind meld, there were many things she didn’t know about him.

 

           ‘Maybe,’ she speculated, ‘he did indeed recruit for Covert Operations but has repressed all memory of it.’

 

           On the spur of the moment, she accessed his personnel file to try and discover if her supposition was correct but all she could find during the time he’d been an instructor at the Academy was a list of the courses he’d taught.  There was nothing to tell her what else he might have done.    

 

           Her curiosity now thoroughly aroused, she attempted to learn whether any of his file was encrypted but beyond the standard Vulcan privacy codes, which she was well aware were used by every Vulcan in Starfleet, there was no sign.   

 

           Disgusted with herself for entertaining groundless suspicion, she pushed back from her desk.   This was ridiculous; she was seeing conspiracies where none existed.   With renewed determination to put the entire mess out of her head, she retreated to the bathroom where she drew a hot bath and had a pleasant soak before retiring to bed.

 

           But that night, she dreamed again, this time continuing the dream from the moment of Chakotay’s apparent death….

 

 

           Kathryn stared in disbelief at the monitor flatlining, unable to believe what she was seeing.  Beside her stood Tom, equally shocked.  Precious seconds slipped away before her captain’s persona kicked in.    “Tom!  We’re losing him!   Do something!”

 

           Reacting automatically to the snap of his captain’s voice, Tom leaped to Chakotay’s side, snatching up a hypospray as he moved.   His fingers shook as he pressed the plunger then glared at the monitor, willing it to indicate a heartbeat.

 

           Nothing.

 

           Frantically, Tom tried every method he could think of to revive Chakotay but each one proved useless.   Finally, in desperation, he resorted to slamming his fist onto Chakotay’s chest, striking him as hard as he could, which finally shocked his heart into beating once more.   

 

           With a heartfelt sigh of relief, his fingers shaking, he reloaded the hypospray and injected Chakotay once more.   Wearily, he collapsed into the nearest chair. 

 

           Next to him, Kathryn was holding onto the biobed, her eyes glued to the monitor.   “Will he make it?” she whispered finally.

 

           Tom shrugged.  “I…don’t know, Captain.   All I can tell you is – he’s not dead.  Not yet.”

 

           From across the room, B’Elanna moved over to stand beside them, her face pale as she gazed on Chakotay’s face.   Her lips tightened but she made no sound until suddenly, she turned and screamed at Tom to get out of the damn chair and do something!

 

           “I don’t know what else I can do, B’Elanna!” he screamed back, “I don’t have the expertise.  If you want to help, get the EMH online!   That’s his best chance of survival!”

 

           Quickly, Kathryn intervened.  “All right, all right!” She grabbed B’Elanna’s arm as the younger woman stiffened with rage.   B’Elanna, Tom’s right.   We need the EMH and we need him now.”

 

           “No, please,” B’Elanna begged, all the fight gone out of her.  “I…I feel so guilty!  I said such terrible things….   Please, let me stay with him.”

 

           But Kathryn could see her way now.   B’Elanna, I’ll make it an order if I have to.   Take Harry and find a way to get the EMH up and running as soon as possible.”

 

           Slumped in a chair, Harry raised his head, his eyes inexpressibly sad.   Very slowly, he got to his feet.  “She’s right, B’Elanna.   I don’t want to leave either but if there is something we can do to help Chakotay, then we should do it.”

 

           Moving to her side, he tugged gently on her arm.  “Come on.  Let’s get to engineering.”

 

           B’Elanna took a deep breath, then straightened.   “Very well.”  With a quick glance at Tom, who hadn’t moved, she turned and strode out the door, Harry on her heels.

 

           Tuvok to Janeway.”

 

           Kathryn turned away slightly.  Janeway here.   What is it, Commander?” 

 

           “Captain, may I ask how the commander is doing?”

 

           “He’s alive.   For the moment.”   She knew there was something on Tuvok’s mind.  “What is it?”

 

            “I am concerned about Commander Chakotay’s welfare.   I wish to post guards around sickbay, both here and outside in the corridors.”

 

           Her eyes widened in sudden surprise.   “You think his fall wasn’t an accident?” she asked, her voice lowered.

 

           Tuvok hesitated before answering almost reluctantly.   “I have no actual evidence but…” He paused again, then continued, “I am proceeding on a ‘hunch’.”

 

           “Very well.  Do it!” she ordered before walking back to the biobed where Tom was once more scanning Chakotay.  

 

           Turning to face her, Tom indicated the readings.   “He’s starting to slip again, Captain, there’s internal bleeding, and it’s filling his chest.  From what I can see, if he’s to have any chance of surviving, I have to perform surgery.”  His eyes bored into her.  “And you have to assist.”

 

           Kathryn stared at him in horror.   “Tom!  I – can’t….”   Her voice died away as she realized that Tom needed her.   If she refused to help, Chakotay would certainly die.    Her mouth set in a grim line.   “What do I do?”

 

*****

 

           Hours passed as Tom focused desperately on his task, even as fatigue threatened to overtake him.    Blinking rapidly, forcing his weary brain to concentrate, he struggled on while Kathryn offered encouragement.   

 

           At one point, when Chakotay’s heart stopped once more and the cardiac stimulator failed again to revive him, Tom resorted to an old technique – open heart massage, in which Kathryn also had to assist.     Shutting her brain to everything but the immediate task before them, at Tom’s instruction, she forced herself to actually hold Chakotay’s heart in her hands, her rhythmic massage maintaining his circulation until it restarted.

 

           Finally, Tom was able to repair the punctured lungs and close the incision, much to both his and Kathryn’s relief.  Settling into chairs on each side of Chakotay’s biobed, they sprawled in exhaustion.   Now all they could do was wait and see if Tom’s efforts had been enough.

 

*****

 

           While Tom and Kathryn worked to keep Chakotay alive, Tuvok began his investigation into the accident.   Very quickly, he learned that Harry had been the last person to see or communicate with the commander.   Calling the ensign to his office, Tuvok went over and over Harry’s story, while the young man stood in misery, shoulders slumped, his eyes filled with a mixture of anger and sorrow. 

 

           Eventually, goaded beyond control, his temper snapped and he berated Tuvok.  “Why do you keep asking me the same thing, over and over?!  I’ve told you everything I know!”

 

           “So you say,” came Tuvok’s infuriating reply.

 

           “Damn it, Tuvok, I was about the only friend Chakotay had left!” screamed Harry, his face red with fury.   “I looked up to him, admired him!  I would never, never have caused him harm!   Why are you haranguing me when you should be out there questioning the ones who hated him?   Why aren’t you doing your job?!” 

 

           For a moment, Tuvok simply gazed at him before turning to pick up a PADD.  “In fact, Ensign, I do believe you.   I had hoped there might be some small detail which you had forgotten, one crucial clue that would lead us to a suspect but clearly, there is not.”

 

           Deflated, Harry merely shook his head.  “Can I go back to work now?”

 

           “Yes.  You are dismissed.”

 

           Wearily, Harry plodded out the door and back to engineering, where he found B’Elanna still struggling with the EMH program.    

 

*****

           

           More hours passed as Kathryn and Tom continued to hover over Chakotay, repeatedly checking his readings, desperate for the slightest reassurance that he would live even as the spectre of death loomed over them.  

 

           At one point, realizing that Tom was silently berating himself for not being able to do more, Kathryn offered what reassurance she could.   “You’ve done everything possible, Tom,” she told him, “you mustn’t blame yourself.”

 

           But he merely brushed aside her words as he might swat a fly.   “We all have our demons, Captain,” he answered cryptically before turning back to the console once more.

 

           Exhausted beyond measure, eventually Kathryn fell asleep in her chair but her rest was short-lived.   Once more, she dreamed, this time of Chakotay laughing at her naïveté, her unwillingness to accept the real truth about Starfleet.    The harder he laughed, the angrier she got until finally, driven to a murderous rage, she seized the nearest sharp implement and stabbed him to death.

 

           Her own scream of terror woke her; before Tom, jumping up in alarm, could reach her, she had leaped to her feet and dashed out of sickbay.    Her heart was thudding frantically and she nearly collapsed in the turbolift.     When the computer demanded a destination, automatically, she ordered it to the bridge, instinct driving her to seek refuge in the safest place she could think of.   But her mind continued to replay the dream, leaving her terrified that it was telling her a truth – that in reality, she despised Chakotay and wanted him dead.    

 

*****

 

           Some time later, Harry arrived in sickbay to find out if there had been any change in Chakotay’s condition.     However, when Tom merely shook his head and went to sit in the doctor’s office, Harry lost his temper.

 

           “There must be something you can do!” he shouted, his voice breaking with emotion. “Look at you, you’ve given up!   You’re not even trying to save him!”   

 

           “That’s not true!” screamed Tom in sudden fury, but Harry simply spun on his heel and stormed out the door, their shattered friendship one more casualty of this never-ending nightmare.    

 

           Wearily, Tom peered into the console on the doctor’s desk, continuing his search for some procedure that might yet save the commander’s life.    But try as he might, he could find nothing. 

          

           When B’Elanna appeared sometime later, she found Tom sobbing broken-heartedly for all that the crew had lost.   “We were united,” he told her as tears streamed down his face, “things weren’t always good and it seemed someone was always trying to kill us, but we were together – one crew – and now look at us!  Everyone is suspicious of everyone else….”   His voice broke as she wrapped her arms around him.

 

           “I know, Tom,” she murmured gently stroking his hair, “I know.”   As she comforted Tom, she tried to resolve her own muddled feelings.  But all she could think of to do was pray for a miracle that would restore Chakotay to them and with his survival, their broken lives.

     

*****

    

           Meanwhile, after spending a half hour on the bridge, Kathryn had retreated to her ready room and in an effort to distract herself, was making a praiseworthy effort to reduce the never-ending pile of reports on her desk.    She was actually making progress when her door chime rang.

 

           “Come.”

 

           The door opened to admit Harry Kim, looking lost and frightened.

 

           Her heart sank but she tried to maintain a professional demeanour.  “Yes, Ensign?”

 

           “Captain….” He began then paused as his eyes skittered around the room.

 

           Attempting to put him at ease, she got up and moved to the replicator.  “Coffee, black.  Anything for you?”  She glanced at Harry but he shook his head.

 

           Retrieving her cup, she sat down on the couch and indicated he should join her.   As he sat down next to her, she sipped her coffee then placed the cup on the table and turned to face him.  “All right, Harry, spit it out.   What’s bothering you?”

 

           Taking a deep breath, he blurted out, “Captain, why does everyone hate Chakotay so much?”

 

           “No one hates him, Harry,” she retorted, ignoring her own conflicted feelings.

 

           “If that’s the case, then why is there a rumour going around that his accident was no accident?   That someone pushed him down that tube….”

 

           Caught off-guard, Kathryn could only stare at him as she recalled Tuvok’s concerns.  However, right now she had a more immediate concern.  If such a rumour was circulating among the crew, it could only lead to further trouble; she needed to stop it immediately. 

 

           Straightening in her chair, she pulled the mantle of authority more tightly around her.    “Harry, I can’t believe that any member of this crew could do such a thing!   It isn’t possible!”

 

           He gazed at her steadily, his eyes giving away nothing.  “Isn’t it?” he finally replied.

 

           “No!” she retorted, beginning to get angry.

 

           But before she could add anything else, he rose to his feet.  “I have to get back to B’Elanna.  We’re still trying to restore the EMH program.”   He plodded to the door then turned to look at her, still sitting on the couch.   “Captain, I have one request.   Please don’t let Chakotay die alone.  He doesn’t deserve that.”

 

           Long after he’d gone, Kathryn remained seated, his words echoing through her head.

 

*****

 

           In sickbay, Tom continued to gnaw at the reason why Chakotay was not responding to treatment.    It simply didn’t make sense.   His readings should have stabilized by now but they hadn’t.   Sighing heavily in exhaustion, he prepared to go over every procedure yet again, praying he hadn’t made some fatal mistake somewhere.    But try as he might, he could not find the problem.  Except for one brief period of consciousness, Chakotay continued to remain unresponsive.

 

           Some time later Kathryn reappeared in sickbay for a quick update before returning to her quarters to rest.   Not long after, Harry came in but only stayed long enough to hear the latest news before returning to Engineering.    Determined not to let the commander down again, he refused to rest until the EMH program could be activated.  

 

           An hour after his visit, Chakotay woke up again, this time remaining conscious for several minutes.

 

           His hopes soaring, Tom hurried to take a new set of readings.   However, there was only minimal change and his heart plummeted again.  

 

           “Tom,” murmured Chakotay, his voice weak, “how bad?”

 

           “It’s not good,” Tom tried to reply diplomatically but his bleak expression gave him away.  Realizing this might be the last time he could carry on a coherent conversation, he added, “Chakotay, I’m sorry.    Sorry for not being able to do more, and I’m really sorry for all the terrible things I said.  I…didn’t mean it, none of them.”

 

           “I know, Tom,” replied Chakotay.   His face tightened in pain and he clutched Tom’s arm.  “There’s something you need to know and I may not have another chance to tell you.   I know this will be hard to believe but it’s the truth.    The accident on Caldik Prime was not your fault.   Your father set you up.”

 

           His eyes widening in shock, Tom stared at him, speechless.

 

           “He had good reason for his actions.   He was trying to protect you….”  Chakotay paused, gasping in pain, “…protect you from….assassins….”    As he paused once more, his eyes rolled back in his head and he blacked out again.

 

           For nearly a minute, Tom simply stood beside the biobed, trying to process what Chakotay had said.   It seemed impossible but as his brain began to click over, he realized it could well be true.   It would certainly explain a few puzzles that he had never been able to figure out.   But to deliberately sacrifice three cadets to save his life!    Tom didn’t know what to make of that and yet, why would Chakotay make up such a tale?   There was no reason that Tom could see.

 

           With a shake of his head to clear his brain, he resolved to put it all aside and get back to work.   Chakotay was dying – that fact took precedence over everything else.

 

*****

 

           Over the next two hours, Tom ran test after test with no positive results.   Even though Chakotay should have regained consciousness by now and be on the road to recovery, in fact, his condition was steadily worsening.

 

           “There has to be a reason,” muttered Tom for the umpteenth time.  “It simply doesn’t make sense.”  He rubbed his eyes, trying to force his tired brain to work.  “Think!”  he told himself.  “Talk it out!  Every test has come up negative.   None of the conventional treatments are working.   So – why aren’t they working?   Is there something else?    An external cause….”    His eyes snapped open.   “You idiot, Paris!” he berated himself as he snatched up a tricorder.   “You never thought to scan for any anomalous readings!”

          

           Hands shaking with fatigue mixed with excitement, he quickly recalibrated the tricorder then stepped up to the biobed and passed it slowly over the commander.    A beep made his eyes light up but he forced himself to relax and run the scan again.    This time, he had to be sure he was right.     Another beep sounded.     Tom leaned against the biobed as he examined the readings.   There – what was that?   An odd reading in one enzyme, which should be coming up as perfectly normal.

 

           For a moment longer, Tom stared at the tricorder before dashing into the office to enter the data into the computer.   Seconds later – he finally had an answer.    Poison!   

 

           Could it be true?   It seemed ludicrous but it made sense – all of it, too much sense.   

 

           Quickly, he hailed Tuvok.    “Commander, report to sickbay immediately.”

 

           However, when Tuvok had been shown the results, his reaction was not what Tom expected.   Instead of formulating a plan to discover who would poison Chakotay, the Vulcan turned on Tom, all but accusing him of attempted murder!

 

           Poor Tom could scarcely believe his ears!  “What are you saying?!   You think I’ve done this?! Are you out of your Vulcan mind?!”

 

           Tuvok’s eyes bored steadily into him.   “You were very angry with the commander.   A number of people witnessed an altercation in the mess hall.”

 

           “What?!   That was B’Elanna!   I was trying to hold her back!”  Frustrated, Tom paced across sickbay and back before stopping in front of Tuvok and pointing a finger at him.   “Okay, so say it is me.   Why would I call you in here now to tell you what I’m doing?   It makes no sense.   It’s not logical!”

 

           Seconds passed as Tuvok considered his words before he relaxed slightly, his voice almost sighing.   “After further consideration, I am forced to agree with your reasoning.  Yet someone on this ship is guilty. ”

 

           “Thank you,” replied Tom in heartfelt relief.

 

           Tuvok turned his attention to Chakotay.   “In spite of the poison, has the treatment been successful?”

 

           “No,” sighed Tom, “it hasn’t.   I’ve tried everything I can think of and nothing helps.   This poison is most insidious – it’s blocking every drug, every procedure I try.  That’s what finally made me realize there might be an external factor which was causing Chakotay’s unresponsiveness.”  His eyes turned back to the Vulcan. “I’ll be frank, Tuvok, unless we can find an antidote, I’m out of options.”

 

           “Then let us begin to search for that antidote,” replied Tuvok, moving to stand in front of the console.

 

           Together, they started to work, gradually narrowing the possibilities not only for the kind of poison but when it might have been ingested.  

 

           Tom’s fingers flew rapidly over the PADD as he added in each bit of information that appeared until suddenly, he exclaimed, “Cardassian!”   

 

           Beside him, Tuvok paused, looking at the results.   “Run it again.   We must be certain.”

 

           But two minutes later, the computer verified Tom’s conclusion.   “It’s Cardassian,” he declared, “there can be no doubt.”

 

           Swiftly, Tuvok moved over to a wall console and began entering various commands.   As his fingers flew across the panel, he spoke.  “Mr. Paris, I must enjoin you not to speak of this to anyone, not even the captain.  Not until I have the results.”  

 

           “Uh, results of what?   And why can’t we tell the captain?  Shouldn’t she know?”

 

           “In due course, but not until I have a run a complete shipwide internal diagnostic.   Hopefully, it will provide some answers.”

 

           However, initiating the diagnostic automatically sent an alert to the captain’s quarters and within minutes, she was striding into sickbay. 

 

            “Report!!” she demanded, her eyes warning that she would accept nothing less than the absolute truth.   Tuvok, what’s going on?!”

 

           Straightening to attention, Tuvok began to speak.   “Captain, I believe it is time for you to be told the truth, despite the admiral’s orders that I remain silent.     You must know that for many years now, there has been a conspiracy by certain high-ranking Starfleet officers to sell out the Federation to its enemies, the Cardassians.”

 

           “What?!” exclaimed Kathryn.  

 

           Beside her, Tom stood silent, unable to find words for what he was hearing.

 

           Tuvok continued, his tone never changing.   “Nearly thirty years ago, two admirals, Owen Paris and Edward Janeway, learned of the plot.   I was brought in to find and train promising cadets as counter-agents.   Chakotay was one of those cadets.   Another was Kurt Bendera, whose death was no accident.   You should be aware that there is an infiltrator on board this ship who, when an opportunity presented itself, killed Mr. Bendera and who has now poisoned Admiral Chakotay.”

 

           Kathryn sagged against the nearest chair.  “I need to sit down.”      

 

           Reaching into his jacket, Tuvok handed her a data chip.   “I took the precaution of removing this from the admiral’s quarters for safekeeping.  It will verify what I am saying.   It was recorded by your father, Admiral Janeway.”

 

           “Tom, run it, will you?” asked Kathryn, her voice wavering.

 

           Inserting the chip into the nearby console, Tom and Kathryn together stood mesmerized as Edward Janeway spoke, his words confirming Tuvok’s tale.   He ended by telling her to trust no one.   The same advice given her by Chakotay days earlier, Kathryn remembered.

 

           After retrieving the chip, Tuvok produced another.   “This is from Chakotay, to be viewed in the event of his death.  He entrusted it to me some time ago.   I think that even though he is still alive, it could be useful to hear it now.”

 

           Kathryn was numb with shock and could only nod her head.

 

           The information on the chip, they soon learned, contained Chakotay’s logs which were a  complete record of his observations of the crew over five years as well as his unsuccessful attempts to identify the infiltrator.   At the end, he appeared seated at his desk.   “Kathryn, I’m sorry you’re having to watch this and I’m even more sorry I could never tell you the entire truth.   It has caused me more grief than you will ever know.   But this much is true.   I love you, and I always will, in this life and beyond.”

 

           Silence reigned in sickbay as they all contemplated Chakotay’s words.  

 

           Suddenly the monitor over the Chakotay’s biobed sounded an alarm, causing them to focus on the commander, whose body was thrashing about uncontrollably. 

 

           Leaping to his side, Tom snatched up the tricorder.   “We’re losing him!” he shouted as he reached for a hypospray and rapidly dialled up a sedative.

 

           Across from him, Kathryn leaned over, cradling Chakotay in her arms.   “Hang on, Chakotay!” she cried out, “you can’t die!   You simply can’t!  You have to fight!”

 

           Even as she spoke, Chakotay sagged in her arms, completely unresponsive.

 

           “Tom, is there nothing…?” her eyes pleaded with him.

 

           For a moment, Tom stood motionless, his eyes fixed unseeing on the monitor before he turned to her.   “I’ve just had a brainwave!   What if we put him in stasis until we can find an antidote?   It will buy him some time.” 

 

           “Do it!” she ordered, tapping her combadge to order a stasis unit be transported into sickbay.   

 

           When the unit had arrived and been programmed, Tom and Tuvok quickly lifted Chakotay into it, then set the controls.

 

           “There,” said Tom with a heartfelt sigh, “at least now he’s safe, for the time being.”

 

           Kathryn turned to Tuvok, her tone one of steel.  “You will redouble your efforts to discover who has done this.   Top priority!   I am declaring war on this infiltrator and I will not rest until he or she is found!”

         

 

           Slowly Kathryn awoke, her brain fuzzy and confused.   There was a conspiracy, she remembered, one which had already taken the life of Bendera and which now threatened Chakotay.   Who was it?  Who was the person who had successfully avoided detection for five years?  

 

           Blinking, she sat up and as she did, her head cleared.   “Another dream,” she murmured softly, “with more twists and turns.   Chakotay, the ‘bad guy’ became Chakotay, the ‘good guy’.”   She rubbed her face, then climbed out of bed.   ‘What does it mean?’ she wondered, ‘why am I having these strange dreams?  They’re so clear and vivid, not the usual kind which you start to forget almost at once.   I can remember these ones, all the little details.   So why am I having them?’ 

 

           As she ruminated, she ambled across the living area to her replicator where she ordered a cup of tea.    Once settled on the couch, she wrapped her hands around the mug while she tried to make sense of the dream.   But as before, it was useless.

 

           A thought struck her and on impulse, she decided to write down all the events of the dreams, so she would have a clear record of them.  As well, it was something to do, something positive amid a sea of frustration.   ‘If I can’t figure them out right now, maybe in the months and years ahead, they will start to make sense.   This way I won’t have to worry about forgetting them.’

 

           Immediately, she rose to collect a PADD from her desk.   Soon her hand was moving rapidly over it, only hesitating occasionally as she searched for the right words to describe her dreams.     Once finished, she carefully placed the PADD in a bottom drawer of her desk, under several others where it wouldn’t be easily found.   Why she did this, she didn’t know; it simply seemed to be a sensible precaution.

          

******

 

           Although she didn’t experience either dream again, Kathryn’s mind remained unsettled.    The lack of any excitement and the never-ending monotony both contributed to a gradual decline in her mental well-being and a slide into a constant state of depression.     Other nightmares disturbed her sleep now.  The faces of dead crewmembers – Cavit, Kaplan, Ballard, Darwin, and especially Kurt Bendera – haunted her dreams again and again, repeatedly forcing her to wake abruptly and leaving her shaking, her nerves in shreds.

 

           Guilt, never far away at the best of times, overcame her at these moments and she would sit huddled on her sofa in darkness, tears streaming down her face, unable to exorcise their ghosts.

 

           “My fault,” she would whisper over and over, “it’s my fault we’re stranded out here, my fault they died.   If I hadn’t been so self-righteous, so damned arrogant, they would still be alive.    It’s all my fault.”

 

           Completely misinterpreting a casual remark by a young ensign, overheard in the mess hall, she began to believe that her crew blamed her just as much as she did herself for Voyager’s travails.  

 

           From there it was a simple matter to convince herself that the less the crew saw of her, the happier they were.    Therefore the best thing she could do for them was to hide away in her quarters and leave the ship to Chakotay to captain, which he was certainly more than capable of doing.

 

           Within a few days, Kathryn had informed Chakotay and Tuvok that she was retiring to her quarters indefinitely and was not to be disturbed except for weekly reports.

 

           Completely at a loss, with no explanation for her reasons, the two officers debated how to respond before deciding there was little they could do to stop her; as long as she appeared to be rational, they had to abide by her orders.    However, they assured each other, if she showed signs of losing her grip on reality, they would not hesitate to call in the doctor and if necessary, relieve her of command.

 

           Neither man, however, wished to take such a drastic step without definite proof of mental instability.

 

           “As long as she seems to be sane,” stated Chakotay, “I don’t think we have any grounds, do you?”

 

           “No,” agreed Tuvok reluctantly, “we do not.”   His tone left no doubt, however, that he was as unhappy as a Vulcan could be with the current state of affairs.

 

*******

 

           Weeks passed into months, the crew did their best to keep themselves occupied with whatever tasks and projects they could think of, and the captain continued to maintain her isolation.   Only Chakotay ever dared to ring her door chime, and then only to deliver brief status reports.   Otherwise, she remained alone.

 

*******

 

           A surprise attack on Voyager by unknown ships followed by the timely intervention of a Malon freighter was enough to jerk Janeway out of her self-absorption.    The puzzle of these new alien species quickly seized all of her attention, allowing her to push her demons to the back of her mind.    

 

           Subsequently, the discovery of a quick exit to normal space via a vortex and the refusal of her crew to allow her to remain behind in the void so they might escape made her realize that in fact, they were much happier and more content with her in their midst, leading them homeward just as she always had.

 

           Much to everyone’s relief, she soon regained all her old optimism and strength of mind.

 

           “Just needed something to do,” she told Chakotay the day after Voyager had regained normal space.   “As well as something to look at,” she added, glancing out the viewport at the plethora of stars.

 

           “You’re not the only one,” he assured her.  “I think everyone is very relieved to have a view again.”   His hand covered hers as he sat in his favourite spot opposite her.   “Kathryn, don’t let that happen again.  Please.”

 

           Her mouth tightened fractionally but she didn’t pretend to misunderstand him.   After a moment, she bowed her head and became absorbed in their joined hands.   “I’m sorry,” she murmured, “I know I wasn’t fair to you.   It was simply….I don’t know….how do I explain?”   Her head came up and she gazed into his eyes.   “It all started with those damned dreams!”

 

           “Dreams?” he asked, puzzled.  “I thought there was only one.”

           “Oh, no.   I had a second one, which continued on from the first but ended just as abruptly.   It was very unsettling.”

 

           For a moment, he remained silent before asking, “Want to talk about it?”

 

           She started to refuse then abruptly changed her mind.   With a shrug, she replied, “Sure, why not?   Maybe talking about it will make it go away, because, believe me, nothing else has!”

 

           Slowly at first, then more quickly as she got into it, she recounted the events of the second dream. 

 

           “So there it is,” she finished, sitting back on the sofa.   “Usually, a dream will have some basis in reality, but try as I might, I can’t figure out where either of these ones came from.”   She paused with a yawn.  “And with all that’s happened in the last few days, I’ve got lots of other things to think about now, so I’m not going to worry about them anymore.   Besides,” she continued with a warm smile, “they’ve caused far too much dissension between us.    I need you in my life, both professionally and personally.”  She reached to grasp Chakotay’s hands, gripping them tightly as she gazed at him intently.  “I don’t want to lose you.”

 

           He moved to sit beside her.  “I don’t want to lose you either, Kathryn, particularly over such a nebulous thing as a dream.”  He smiled down at her as she yawned again, then slid his arm around her shoulders.

 

           With a happy smile, she snuggled into his chest, closing her eyes.   “This feels nice,” she murmured.

 

           “Indeed it does,” he answered softly, his eyes warm with affection.

 

           As they sat in comfortable silence, he reflected that it was a very good thing he’d had the foresight, shortly after arriving on Voyager, to carefully expunge certain files from the computer database.    Kathryn would never know.   Indeed, no one must ever know….