Disclaimer; See part one

                                                          TEN YEARS


Part 2:  2378 – 79

           Kathryn Janeway stood in a small, windowless room, a room with two entrances and divided down the middle by a force field.  She was waiting for Chakotay.

           Her feelings at this moment could best be described as jumbled.  She wanted desperately to see him, hear his voice and yet, at the same time, she knew the reality of their situation would be brought home to her once she did.   She felt anger, worry, anticipation and, deeper than all those, fear.

           She had fought hard for this meeting, pestering any admiral she could find.  Finally, she had succeeded with the proviso that she would harass them no more.  She had ten minutes.  She had protested, loudly, and was told it was that or nothing.  She took the ten minutes.

           The door opened, a guard came through, looked her over carefully, then beckoned.  Chakotay came in, his hands and feet in shackles.  Another guard followed.  They planted themselves one on each side of him and stared at her with identical expressions bordering on insolence.  She raised her chin and glared back, refusing to be intimidated.  They had the grace to lower their eyes.  Chakotay grinned slightly.  Very few people could withstand that look.

           “How are you, Commander?”  she began.

           “I’m fine, Captain.”

           “We have little time so I’ll get to the point.  I am going to keep fighting for you.  I’m not letting go, but I don’t know how successful I’ll be.  I don’t want to raise your hopes unduly, but I do want you to know that I will keep trying.  You won’t be forgotten, Chakotay.  I may not succeed, you may well be here for ten years, but I will not forget you.  Whenever you can, look towards the Delta Quadrant.  I will do the same.”  She paused.

           “Kathryn, my crew?  Our people?”

           “I’ll look after them.  They’re fine; I’ve been in touch with every one and made each promise not to lose contact.  They all send their love and support.  It may not feel like it in here, but a lot of people are behind you.  We’ll be waiting for you.”

           “Kathryn, don’t.  Go on with your life.  Don’t wait for me.”

           “Of course I will.  You are part of my crew.  A captain never abandons a member of her crew.  I’ll be here.”

           One of the guards spoke.  “One more minute.”

           “Chakotay, I…”  Damn the guards’ ears!  She couldn’t say what she wanted to.  “I…goodbye, Chakotay.”  Her lip trembled despite her best efforts.  He started to reach out a hand.  “Take care, Kathryn.  I won’t forget you, either.”

           He saw in her eyes what she couldn’t say and nodded his head.  He knew, she thought, relieved.  He smiled at her, letting her see all that he felt.  And then he turned away  and disappeared through the door.  She, in turn, hurried out her door before her legs collapsed.

           Outside, Phoebe was waiting for her.  She took one look, grabbed her sister’s arm and led her quickly away.  They just made it to the hovercar before Kathryn broke down completely.  Phoebe held her, letting her cry, while silently cursing every admiral in Starfleet, in particular Alynna Nechayev.  When Janeway finally stopped, Phoebe asked her one question, although she was already pretty sure of the answer. 

           “You love him, Katie, don’t you?”

           Kathryn nodded her head, miserable, not yet able to speak.

           “And you never told him?”

           A shake of the head answered her.

           “For god’s sake, Katie, why the hell not!  He loves you, doesn’t he?  Of course he does,” replying to her own question.  “You only have to look at him to know that!”

           “I….I wasn’t sure,” came out hesitantly, in a sort of croak.  She cleared her throat.  “I couldn’t do anything, say anything, while we were still out there.  I was his captain.  I simply couldn’t.  And anyway, I really didn’t know what I felt.”

           “And now?”  pressed Phoebe.  “Do you know now?”

           “Yes,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes again.  “Oh Phoebe, what am I going to do?  Ten years!”  she wailed.  “Ten years!  How can I survive without him!”  She buried her face in her hands, trying to stifle her sobs.

           Phoebe took her shoulders in both hands.  “Look at me, Katie.  You will survive.  You’ll survive because you are Kathryn Janeway, Captain Kathryn Janeway.  You’ll survive this just like you survived seven years in the Delta Quadrant.”

           “But there, I had Chakotay.”

           “And here you have me, and Mom.  You’re not alone, Kathryn.”  Unknowingly, she echoed Chakotay.  “We’ll get through this. Together.  And when the ten years are up, you will have Chakotay.  Look forward to that day.”  She hugged her tight, trying to be as reassuring as she could.

           In truth, Phoebe had been rattled by Kathryn’s tears.  She was the older sister, always in control, always knowing what to do.  Now it seemed their roles had been reversed.  Unsure of what she was doing, Phoebe could only hope her instincts were right.  
              Kathryn sat back and wiped her eyes.  “Let’s go home.  I need to get away from here.”  Her glance encompassed not only the prison but Starfleet headquarters as well.


           In the days that followed, Kathryn continued to poke and pry at Command.  She was truly puzzled by the vindictiveness shown to Chakotay.  The shackles were a case in point – totally unnecessary as he couldn’t possibly escape.  And the length of the sentence – she certainly didn’t call ten years lenient.  Eventually, she was ordered to appear before Owen Paris.

           “Kathryn, what are you doing?  I thought you promised to leave Chakotay’s case alone.  Yet I’m hearing from several different people that you’re still at it, like beating a dead horse.  Let it go, Kathryn.  It’s over, done.”

           “I promised not to fight the verdict, Admiral, and I haven’t, but the length of the sentence – ten years! – with no parole!  Come on, Owen!  Nechayev said she would put in a good word for him, ask for leniency in light of his service on Voyager.  Obviously, she lied.”

           Paris surprised her.  “No, she didn’t.  She did make an informal request to the board – and they were lenient.  Don’t you know what the penalty for treason is?  He’s lucky not to have been executed!”

           “What?!  What are you talking about?!  The Federation doesn’t condone execution,” she saw the look on his face, “at least not the Federation I knew.”

           “I keep telling you, Kathryn.  Times have changed!  A convicted traitor can be executed.  Oh, there are a whole series of appeals, and the Council has to approve, but it can happen.

           “You must understand the way things are now.  There is a lot of hatred still, particularly in Starfleet, for a turncoat like Chakotay.  He was one of us, for god’s sake!  He turned on us, attacked us, killed us!  Of course, people are going to hate him!  What do you expect!”

           “I guess I expected mercy.  Doesn’t seem to be much of that around anymore.”

           “Kathryn, for your own sake, let it go.  Let him go!  The best thing you can do now is pick up your career, get on with your life.  Forget Chakotay.”

           “When hell freezes over!” she snarled and walked out.

           After that interview, she was more circumspect but no less diligent as she dug through files, searching for reasons why Starfleet couldn’t free him.  But after several weeks, she had found no other answer.  The Maquis, particularly those who had once served in Starfleet, were detested.  Very few had ever said anything in their defence, and those few had been quickly shouted down.  The level of hatred astonished her – she found it hard to believe in this day and age, but there it was.  She realized that Paris had been right – Chakotay could have been a lot worse off.

           She knew she had reached a junction of sorts – keep on digging until her own career was in ruins, or follow the admiral’s advice and go on with her life.

           In an effort to gain a better perspective, she put the whole issue aside for a while and plunged into work.  Voyager had brought back an extraordinary amount of data, much of it in raw form.  Her input was essential as several teams of analysts began to sort through information gathered on every conceivable subject.  Starfleet had discovered that for all practical purposes, Janeway was the best source for answers on just about anything.
           Headquarters could not bring itself to call on either a former Borg drone or an ex-Maquis half-Klingon; Tom Paris refused to cooperate as a result of the perceived insult to B’Elanna; and Tuvok had departed to Vulcan shortly after their arrival, and didn’t appear to be leaving any time soon.  That left Harry Kim as the only other bridge officer available, and he didn’t have Janeway’s knowledge.

           But as the captain poured through the logs, reports and trivia amassed in Voyager’s databanks, she made an unsettling discovery.  Chakotay was everywhere – it didn’t seem to matter what subject she was studying, inevitably he would appear, one way or another.  She had never stopped to think about just how much he had been involved in all aspects of the ship.  Of course, as first officer, he should have been, but nevertheless, he did seem to keep popping up, no matter what file she was reading.  His constant presence, even in such an indirect fashion, did nothing to set her mind at rest.  Finally, she requested leave.  She would go and see Tuvok.  She needed a fresh perspective and a good dose of Vulcan logic to clear her mind.


           “Captain, I am gratified to hear from you.  I trust you are well?”

           “Yes Tuvok, I’m fine.  Well, sort of fine.  Ah, actually, no, I’m not fine.”


           “Tuvok, could I come and visit you?  I seem to be in a muddle.”

           “Yes Captain, of course.”  He hesitated.  “What sort of ‘muddle’?”  He made it sound like a disease.  To a Vulcan, it probably was.

           “I’ll tell you all about it when I get there.  Is next Tuesday all right?”


           “Good.  I’ll see you then.”

           Janeway signed off, suddenly feeling better.  Tuvok would help her get sorted out in no time.  She hadn’t realized how much she had missed him.  For years, more than she could recall off hand, he had served as her ‘moral compass’.  Only once had he failed her; she could still remember as if it were yesterday how bitterly disappointed she had been.  But he had promised her then that he would never let her down again, and he had kept that promise.  She certainly needed a compass right now.

           However, as she should have known, there are no easy answers.  The discussion between Janeway and Tuvok quickly spread out to include far more than just Chakotay’s situation.

           Vulcan was a planet and society at a crossroads, and, as a whole, in need of a ‘moral compass’.  Many Vulcans were most unhappy with the direction the Federation had taken in the last few years since the end of the war with the Dominion.  Tuvok, of course, did not actually express a ‘feeling’, but his meaning was clear.  To a people dedicated to peace, the militaristic tendencies so much in evidence now, and the pervasive influence of Starfleet on so many aspects of life, were most distasteful.

           They responded logically, at first attempting reasoned discussion and debate about the future of the Federation.  When they were shouted down, and decried as a bunch of bleeping pacifists, they withdrew.  At first just a few, then by the hundreds, Vulcans resigned their positions throughout the Federation at large and retreated to their home planet.  No one actually said anything but everyone understood – a pacifist reaction to an untenable situation.

           Janeway was appalled both at what was happening, and, even more, that she had remained totally unaware.  Now that she thought about it, and mentally counted heads, she realized she had seen very few Vulcans lately.  In her self-absorption, she simply hadn’t noticed.  Tuvok then contributed even more to her unease.

           “Captain, have you, in the course of your research, ever heard of Section 31?”

           “Section 31?”  She paused.  “No, I don’t think so.  Why?”

           “Then I must warn you.  Be careful, Captain, very careful indeed.”

           “Tuvok, what are you saying?  What should I be careful about?”

           He sat back, took a deep breath and embarked on such an extraordinary tale that if it had been anyone else, she simply would not have believed it.  But Tuvok didn’t lie, not to her – she knew every word to be true.

           “Just a few days after our return to the Alpha Quadrant, I happened to accidentally overhear a vague reference to ‘something’ called Section 31.  I was not meant to hear the conversation and indeed, would not have, if the persons involved had been aware of my presence.  It was very short – one person asked the other in a low voice if he had ever heard of it.  The second person replied ‘sort of’ and asked why he wanted to know.  He answered that a friend of his had not been seen for a while, and when he asked around, was told ‘Section 31’, as if he should know what that meant.  His companion lowered his voice even more – even I could hardly make out his words – and stated that the less said about it, the better, but he shouldn’t expect to see his friend any time soon, if ever.  That was all I heard.

           “I was curious and started to investigate just what Section 31 could be.  I found nothing.  A complete blank.  I would have dropped the matter at that point, were it not for what happened two days later.

           “The deputy head of Starfleet Security, Commodore Ponsonby, abruptly called me to meet him at shuttle bay 7 at Headquarters.  On my arrival, we departed for the shipyards at Utopia Planitia,” Janeway’s eyebrows rose at that. “Exactly.  Once there, we walked into a ship that was still in the initial assembly stage, just a skeleton really.  Only then would he speak.  He asked me first what I knew of Section 31; I replied very little.  He then ordered me, very specifically, not to search for any information on it under any circumstances.  Nor to ever mention it to anyone.  The man was extremely nervous, which, believe me, Captain, is very uncharacteristic of him.  No one in his position can afford to have nerves.

           “As you can imagine, I was most puzzled by the entire episode.  Contrary to my orders, I did attempt to discover more, but only from other Vulcans.  They knew very little, but each one had the same warning – stay away from Section 31.  At the same time, I became aware of Vulcan’s predicament.  All in all, I decided it was time to retire.”

           “Retire!  You never said anything!  Why didn’t you tell me!  Tuvok – we’ve known each other too long, been through too much together for secrets.”

           “I apologize, Captain.  At the time, you were busy at Headquarters with the Maquis situation.  I didn’t wish to distract you from your goal.”

           “Oh Tuvok.”  She smiled fondly at him.  “You have never been a distraction.  I’m sorry I got so caught up with the others that you felt I had no time for you.”

           “Captain.  I did not ‘feel’ any such thing!” he replied, as indignant as a Vulcan could be.  “I simply did not wish to divert you from obtaining the freedom of our fellow crewmembers.”

           “I’m sorry.  Of course you didn’t.  Funny, that’s why I came to see you.  It rather got lost in your story.”

           “What was that, Captain?”

           “Chakotay – and what I should do about him.  I’m at a turning point.  I don’t know if I should keep looking for more reasons why they have been so harsh to him, or if I should follow Owen Paris’ advice to let it go and get on with my life.  It’s all so puzzling.  The vindictiveness, Tuvok, is extraordinary.  They are deliberately making everything as tough as they can – within the law, of course.  I don’t understand it.”

           “Actually, I think I do.  We are in a unique situation.  We have had seven years to get to know the commander very well.  He has never, in that time, behaved like a Maquis.  So we have rather forgotten what he was.  But think back to the man you were sent to capture.  That is the person Starfleet remembers.  They don’t know the commander the way we do.  You must also consider the revenge factor.  The commander is paying now for others’ sins as well as his own.”

           “Yes Tuvok, I see what you’re getting at.  It’s much the same thing that Owen Paris said, although your explanation is much clearer.  So you don’t think there is any other reason?”

           “I cannot say for sure but I would think not.  If there were, surely you would have uncovered some reference to it by now.  Set your mind at ease.  The commander is hated, yes, but for obvious reasons.  I do not believe there are any other, more covert ones.  I would think that, with the passage of time, his treatment will improve.  I do not believe, however, that he will be released before he has served his full sentence.”

           Janeway nodded her head.  “Then what do you think I should do?”

           He sat in thought, hands steepled.  After a few minutes, he looked at her somewhat speculatively.  “May I ask you a personal question, Captain?”

           She knew what was coming but indicated yes.

           “Are you in love with the commander?”



           She waited.

           “And do you believe he is in love with you?”

           “I know he is,” she stated with quiet certainty.

           Patience, she told herself.

           “What do you think the commander would wish you to do?”

           “I know what he said.  I don’t know if that is what he wants.”

           “What did he say?”

           “The same as Admiral Paris.  That I should let him go, get on with my life.”

           “You refused…”

           “Well, of course I did, Tuvok!  I couldn’t abandon him like – like an old shoe!”

           “No, naturally you could not.”

           “Over and above anything else, he is a member of my crew.  And a captain does not, ever, abandon a member of her crew.  Ever.”  She settled herself more firmly in her chair, chin up, hands folded, every inch the captain.

           “Perhaps, however, you might let it seem as if you were letting him go.  I am concerned, Captain, for your safety.  I think that if you keep searching the files as you have been, sooner or later, you are going to discover information that could prove dangerous to you.   I believe the commander is safe.  I am not so sure about you.  The best advice I can give you is to be patient.  I know this is hard for you, but there are situations beyond your control.  This is one of them.  And I know the commander would advise the same thing.  He will be free eventually.”

           She sighed.  Well, there was no disputing Vulcan logic – and it did make sense.  “You’re right, Tuvok.  I don’t think I can really give up, well, I know I can’t, but I will stop hunting for every scrap of information.  Thank you.  You have helped – a lot.”

           “As always, you are most welcome, Captain.  Now, tell me about our shipmates.  I have not had news for some time.  Are they well?”

           They spent the rest of the day and evening in a similar fashion.  Janeway returned to Earth the next day in a much clearer, if more resigned, frame of mind.

           True to her word, she did no more investigating.  Instead, she threw herself into her job, trying to work herself into exhaustion.  Both her mother and sister became alarmed and begged her to slow down, take a day off occasionally.  Well, it hadn’t helped – she still saw Chakotay at every turn.  She began to wonder if she should resign her commission but something, some instinct, held her back.  She decided to hang on in the hope that she could do more for him from inside the organization, although do what, she didn’t know.

           And then, one night at a party, she met Jake Sisko.


           Kathryn didn’t know it at the time, but Jake had wangled an invitation to this particular gathering specifically to meet her.  He was a journalist in search of a story, and he thought she would make a good one, if he could just get to her.  So far, she had adamantly refused all interviews, citing Starfleet regulations.  In truth, she just couldn’t be bothered.  Command was quite happy  to back her up; they didn’t especially want her connection to Chakotay and his incarceration splashed all over the media.

           But Jake had connections very few other reporters did.  The son of a highly respected captain, now deceased, he was accepted in Starfleet circles, even though he was a civilian.  As a result, he was able both to find out that Kathryn Janeway would be at the Jamiesons’ party and get an invitation.  He was sure that if he could only meet her, he could talk her into an interview.  He could be very persuasive.

           Kathryn found this young man to be most charming.  She was a little disconcerted to discover he was a journalist, but as he promised that everything would be “off the record”, she decided not to snub him.  As they talked, an idea began to form in the back of her head.  Maybe Jake could help her.  Reporters had all kinds of sources, didn’t they.  He could probably find out anything.  She resolved to put it to him.

           “So what do you say, Captain?  Will you consider it?”

           “I’m sorry, Mr. Sisko.  I was distracted.  Could you please repeat that?”

           Jake sighed.  He was beginning to lose hope – clearly she had something else on her mind.  “Would you give me an interview, Captain?  I know you have turned down most requests,”  “all of them”, she interjected.

           “Oh.  ALL of them?”



           “It’s not appropriate for me to draw so much attention.  A lot of people were involved in the effort to get home.  It’s not fair to the others to single out just me.”

           “I see,” he responded slowly.  “If we emphasized the role played by the entire crew, then would you do it?”

           “I might.  But I’d ask for something in return.”

           “What’s that?”

           “Information on Section 31.”

           “Section what?  I’m not familiar…”

           “Apparently, it is some sort of top-secret group operating within Starfleet.  What it does, who’s in it, I don’t know.  Anything you can find out would be helpful.  What I do know is that a lot of good people are very afraid of it.  My former chief of security resigned because of a perceived threat from it.  He’s a Vulcan, Mr. Sisko. I don’t have to tell you that Vulcans don’t scare easily, but he was afraid.  You do this for me and you’ll get all the interview you want.”

           “You’ve got a deal, Captain.”  Jake was excited – he had scooped everyone else.  “Let me talk to my editor and we’ll arrange a time.”

           “Thank you.  Call me when you’re ready.”

           Jake left the party in high spirits.  Unfortunately, the next day, his editor took a far different view.

           “I’m telling you, Jake, you don’t want anything to do with her.  No one does. 
She’s persona non grata.”

           Jake stared at him, stunned.  He couldn’t have been more astonished if the man had suddenly grown two heads.

           “Sid, are you crazy!  Everyone has been trying to get an interview!  She told me herself she’s turned them all down!  This is the scoop of the year!”

           “Jake, Jake, listen to me!  Everyone WAS trying to get to her – not now.  Word has come down, unofficially of course, to stay away from her.  And I’m not about to cross Nechayev, lemme tell ya!”

           “Is that who you heard from?  Nechayev?”

           “No, I tell you, it’s all very unofficial.  Ask anyone at HQ and they’ll deny it, but there was no mistaking the message – leave Janeway alone, don’t go near her.”

           Jake was very disappointed.  He had been so pleased and now all his efforts were for nothing.  He remembered Kathryn’s request, but decided not to mention anything about that!  In fact, now that he thought about it, there might be an even better story here, if he could just dig at it.  He wouldn’t worry Sid about it just yet, no sense in upsetting him.

           He tried to keep disappointment in his voice.  “That’s it, then.  Guess I’ll have to find something else.”

           “Sure, Jake, you do that.  Anything – just not Janeway.”

           Jake smiled to himself.  Sid had just unwittingly given him carte blanche.  He hurried back to his desk.

           An hour later, Kathryn received a polite note regretting that he must cancel the interview, but would hope to reschedule at some indefinite date in the future.  He would let her know.  Puzzled, she pondered his message for some time.  There was something more in it, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  She remembered Tuvok’s warning.  Was it possible Jake had been told to stay away from her?  Had Section 31 gotten to him that fast?  And why did she pose a threat?  She had no answers, and, it appeared now, very little chance of even looking for any.

           A little over a month later, she came back to her office one day to find a note, written on paper, tucked under a pile of padds.  With people constantly in and out, she had no idea where it might have come from.  Unsigned, it was very short, suggesting first that she talk to Miles O’Brien and/or Julian Bashir, and second, that she eat the note once she had read it.  She nearly burst out laughing until she realized who must have sent it.  She ate it.

Part 3:  2380

           The captain smoothed her dress uniform and gave her face one last check.  She looked perfect, very captainly.  Tonight’s gathering would mark the second anniversary of Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant.  Two years, she reflected.  Who would have thought two years ago that everything would go so wrong, so fast.  Chakotay still languished in prison, she wasn’t even sure where.  Her crew were scattered all over Federation space – she wouldn‘t see more than half tonight, and most likely, none of the Maquis except B’Elanna. 

           Thank goodness for her and Tom!  Without their unwavering support, she knew she would have given up long ago.  And Seven.  There was an unexpected bonus.  The only being ever to successfully stare down an entire room full of admirals, including Nechayev, and inform them that they were “small”.  Janeway had actually blessed the Borg at that moment!  Seven had more than repaid all the attention and nurturing she had received on the ship.  And there were Phoebe and Gretchen, unflagging in their efforts to keep her from despair.  She wasn’t alone, she knew that and was very grateful.

           Although she had stretched it out for as long as she dared, her job sorting through Voyager’s data was winding down.  The analysts had taken over – they would be at it for years, she thought, but her part was done.  Command was asking, had asked several times lately, when she would like to take another ship.  She had kept her nose clean, had not pried anywhere and made no attempt to see Chakotay.  Apparently, a new ship would be her reward.  And if that ship just happened to be sent on a very far-reaching mission, maybe even back to the Delta Quadrant, then Starfleet would have killed two birds with one stone.  She couldn’t take the chance.

           She knew she was probably overreacting, but she couldn’t help it.  Her disillusionment with Starfleet was complete.  And she still had been unable to find a good reason to meet either O’Brien or Bashir.  Hopefully, that would change tonight.

           With the party in full swing several hours later, Janeway managed to draw the doctor to one side and ask if she could come and see him the next day.  She was due for her annual physical and wanted him to do it.  To say the doctor was astonished was an understatement.  The captain asking for a check-up?!  Unheard of!  He gave her a hard stare – she seemed quite anxious – and reminded her that he was still working with Dr. Zimmerman on Jupiter Station.  She should go to Starfleet Medical.  She knew that, she said, but she wanted him to do it.  He could, couldn’t he.  She would come to Zimmerman’s lab.

           The doctor was completely nonplussed.  The captain’s behaviour was quite atypical, and she had an edge to her voice, as if she were nervous.  Nervous?!  Kathryn Janeway?!  Never!   But she certainly seemed to be.  Curious now, he agreed to see her the next afternoon.

           Janeway breathed a sigh of relief.  She had been really worried for a moment that he would turn her down flat.  She couldn’t force him to do it, in fact, she should go to Medical, but she had found out, in one of the routine ‘new postings’ bulletins, that Dr. Julian Bashir would be seconded temporarily to Dr. Louis Zimmerman for the next week.  It was now or never.

           Upon her arrival at Zimmerman’s lab, the EMH ushered her into a small room complete with biobed and monitors – sickbay in miniature.  Before he could speak, she opened her tricorder and swept it over the equipment, floor, past all four walls and the ceiling.  With a satisfied nod, she closed it and turned her attention back to the doctor.  He looked suspicious but only told her to prepare for examination.  However, once he had her seated on the biobed with most of her clothing removed, he got straight to the point.

           “Now, Captain, enough beating around the bush.  Why did you really come here?”

           “I told you – for a check-up.”

           “And?”  He frowned at her.  She sighed.

           “And – an introduction to Dr. Bashir.”

           “Bashir!  Really, Captain!  Isn’t he a little young for you?!”

           “Doctor!”  No mistaking that tone of voice.  “I want to meet him because maybe, just maybe, he can help me help Chakotay.”

           “I don’t see how.  Can you elaborate?”

           “I can, but in the interests of your own safety, I won’t.  You’re going to have to trust me.”

           His face softened.  “I’ve always trusted you, Captain.  Wait here.”  He left the room.

           She was still trying to decide exactly what to say when a tall, thin, rather stern-faced man came in.

           “Captain Janeway?  How do you do.  I’m Julian Bashir.”

           “Doctor.  Thank you for seeing me.  I believe we have a mutual acquaintance, Jake Sisko.”

           “Ah, Jake, yes.  How is he?”  His voice softened and his face transformed as he smiled.

           “Well, I hope.  It’s over eighteen months since I last saw him.  Have you met him since then?  And if so, did he mention my name?”

           “Yes, I have and no, he did not.  Should he have?”

           “I was sort of hoping he had – it would make my next question a bit easier to ask.”

           “I’m mystified, Captain.  Could you explain.”

           “Sit down, Doctor.  This is going to take a while.”

           Starting with Voyager’s return, Janeway gave him as concise a version of her story as she could.  He listened without interruption, reacting only when she mentioned Section 31.  Then he blinked and swallowed.  If she hadn‘t been watching him closely, she would have missed it.  At the end of half an hour, when she had finished, he rose, paced around the room twice and looked at her hard.

           “A most interesting tale, Captain.  But I am still in the dark about what you want from me.”

           “I’m sorry.  I thought I had made it clear.  What can you tell me about Section 31?”

           “Never heard of it,” he replied a little too quickly.

           “Doctor.”  Janeway was becoming exasperated.  “Jake took a considerable risk to get a note to me giving your name and that of Miles O’Brien.  I can’t find him, but I did find you.  I have checked this room – it is safe to talk here.  Please.  I’ve explained the situation.  You can verify all of it.  And the EMH will vouch for me.”

           He stared at her.  “He already has, Captain.”  He sighed and sat down.  “Very well.  Here goes.  I hope I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life.”

           As Julian Bashir related his encounters with Section 31, Kathryn’s heart sank.  This was far worse than she had ever imagined.  These people, apparently, were completely paranoid and totally out of control.  They appeared and disappeared like vengeful shadows.  She found it hard to believe that any official body, Starfleet or otherwise, could have given anyone so much power.  What on earth had they been thinking!  This whole affair seemed more suited to the twentieth century than the twenty-fourth.

           The doctor finished his tale.  “Do you see now why I had to be so cautious?”

           “Oh yes.  But it isn’t all that bad, is it?  Surely there are still some good people left who don’t condone this sort of terror.”

           “I guess there are, but they are lying low for now.  I would advise you to do the same.  You will gain nothing by challenging them, and quite possibly will lose everything.  Right now, they have the upper hand.  Bide your time, watch, make your plans.  When the commander is freed, be ready.  From what you’ve told me, it sounds as though they will try to recruit him, if they haven’t already.  As long as he is behind bars, he’s safe.  But once he’s out, the danger increases tenfold.

           “As for you, continue as you have.  Keep out of the way and don’t accept any posting outside the solar system.  Make up whatever excuse you need to, but stay as close as you can.”

           “One concern I have – I don’t know exactly where Chakotay is being held now.  I would feel more confident if I knew what prison he’s in.”

           “Perhaps I can help you there.  Let me see.   When are you going back?”

           “Not for another hour or so.  The EMH has yet to do my annual check-up, which is why I am not properly dressed.”

           “Tell him to be very thorough – he wouldn’t want to miss anything.”               

           “Doctor.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.  You have given me the best advice yet and a sense of hope.  I can wait now, knowing what I have to deal with.”

           “I’m glad to help, Captain.  Rather makes up for all the evil they’ve done.  Don’t underestimate them, ever.  You’ll pay with your life – and so will Chakotay.”  He disappeared quickly and a moment later, the EMH came in.

           “Well, Captain?”

           “Thank you, Doctor.  You’ve done more good than you know today.  Someday I might even be able to tell you about it.”

           “Hmph.  Let’s get started.  I hear you need a very thorough exam.”

           Two hours later, as she was dressing, Zimmerman paged the EMH.  He stepped out for a minute, and when he returned, said one word.  “Auckland.”  She smiled somewhat ruefully.  Tom would get a chuckle from that, if he ever found out.

           She actually hugged the doctor – this was a day of surprises, he thought – and laughed when he called her back from the door.  “By the way, Captain, you’re in excellent health but the caffeine levels are high.  Still drinking too much coffee, I see.”  She waved goodbye and departed to her shuttle for the return journey, considerably lighter of heart.