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                                                    TEN YEARS

RATED PG


Part 4:   2388


           It was evening.  Chakotay sat on his cot in his cell, staring at the little patch of night sky he could see through his window.  Seemed to be clear tonight, he mused.  He laughed at himself.  Since when did the weather matter to him?  He was glad, though, to be able to see outside, even if it was just a bit of sky.  The first three years had been spent in an interior cell with no window.  He hadn’t liked that at all.

           Those had been the worst years, those first few, when everything and everyone seemed to be determined to make his days as miserable as possible.  Big things, little things, didn’t matter.  In the end, he had kept his sanity mostly by looking on his whole predicament as a contest – one that he was determined to win.  No matter what they did, he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing him break. 

           But it had been hard, very hard indeed.  He was completely alone.  Despite Kathryn’s words on that awful day when he had last seen her, he thought she must have given up, abandoned him.  He had never heard from her, or anyone else for that matter.

           In his more rational moments, he reminded himself that most likely prison policy forbade any contact between a convicted traitor and the outside world.  In the less rational ones, he cursed them all to hell and back, or at least the Delta Quadrant.  Even his animal guide refused to come near him, not that he could reach her very easily without his medicine bundle, but he had hoped she might appear.  She didn’t.

           In the end, he had retreated into a numb, emotionless shell, untouched by anyone.  It was not, could not, be a permanent solution, but for the time being, it had worked. 

           Then one day, he had received a visitor – the prison’s deputy governor.  At first, he had been very suspicious.  The man was Starfleet after all – this was a military prison.  But he seemed quite friendly and, despite himself, Chakotay responded.  The deputy governor asked a number of questions and the reason for his visit became clear – he wanted to hear about the Delta Quadrant.

           Commodore Jandersley was a frustrated bureaucrat.  He had entered the Academy full of the same dreams as every other cadet.  It was there that he had shown a remarkable talent for organization and administration.  He was, somewhat against his will, pushed into the bureaucracy.  And there he stayed.  Not for him the excitement of deep space, the thrill of first contact.  Instead, he spent the best part of his career pushing padds around his desk, overseeing supplies, analysing data.  He was very good at what he did, as admiral after admiral reminded him every time he requested a transfer to a ship.  He should be content to make his contribution to the greater good of Starfleet in the manner best suited to him.

           As the years passed, and it became clear he would never get into space, he resigned himself to the inevitable, but did request a change of environment.  He had had enough of Headquarters and all the backroom politics that were part and parcel of it.  He requested assignment to the corrections division, specifically Auckland in New Zealand. 

           A number of his superiors tried to change his mind, but he was adamant.  If he was too old to go into space, as they said now, he wasn’t too old to run a prison.  Command conceded his point – he was appointed deputy governor.  When the governor of the day retired two years later, Jandersley was the obvious replacement.

           He found he enjoyed his position.  He had a set routine which rarely varied, his responsibilities were clearly defined; within them, he had pretty much a free hand.  He was a fair man who refused to tolerate cruelty but who would come down hard on anyone, prisoner or guard, who broke the rules.

           Chakotay had already been in Auckland for over three years when the commodore first arrived.  Not long after that initial contact, he found himself moved to a different cell, one with a window.  A small one, to be sure, but still – a connection to the outside.

           The commodore’s visits were irregular, following no particular schedule.  Chakotay knew he must be very careful not to show any favouritism.  That could result in extra attention from the guards as well as the other prisoners, attention which frequently took the form of beatings and worse.  He didn’t need that.

           Jandersley continued to do small favours for him; his medicine bundle had mysteriously reappeared one day – he had never expected to see it again.  He was allowed to use a padd now and again, both for reading and writing.

           Of course, there were things the commodore couldn’t do.  At the top of the list was visitors.  The governor had received very specific orders – Chakotay was to be kept in solitary confinement most of the time with no visitors.  Ever.

           The commodore did not consider himself to fall in that category.  Once he learned Chakotay’s history, he made a point of meeting him.  He wanted to hear about all his adventures.  For him, it was the next best thing to actually being there himself.  When Chakotay grasped this essential point, understanding dawned.

           And so a friendship of sorts was born.  Neither would ever call it that, but for all intents and purposes, that’s what it was.  The years passed, and Jandersley succeeded to the governor’s office.  Now that he had the ultimate authority, he felt a little more secure in their relationship.  He brought Chakotay into his office to work, on the grounds that all that perfectly good Starfleet training was going to waste.  He was bending his orders, and they both knew it.

           The only scare they got was in the eighth year of Chakotay’s imprisonment when an inquiry from Headquarters demanded a report on his status.  Jandersley was able to reply, in perfect truth, that he was a model prisoner who never caused any trouble and who was kept apart from the general prison population ninety percent of the time.  He heard nothing more and assumed some nameless bureaucrat had decided to check up on him.

           And now, he had reached the last night.  Tomorrow, the ten years would be up and Chakotay would be free.  Rather to his surprise, he felt a certain reluctance to leave.  He laughed at himself again.  Guess the weather would matter after all.

     _______________________________________________________


           He stood in the governor’s office, dressed in civilian clothing for the first time in – how long?  Seventeen years?  Good heavens, so it was!  In one hand, he clutched a padd which contained his official release; the other hand was grasped firmly in the governor’s.

           “Take care of yourself, my friend.  There have been some rather strange rumours floating around lately, and last week, I had a very arrogant commander wanting to know exactly when you would be released and where you were going.  I didn’t like his tone, so I told him you’d be out tomorrow and that you had said something about friends in Australia.  Also last week, Jenkins found that someone had been snooping around the north perimeter.  Be careful, Chakotay.  I suspect something is going on but I don’t know what.”

           Chakotay smiled warmly at him.  “I will, Commodore, and thank you.  Both for your warning and for all you’ve done to make my life here easier.  I’ve enjoyed your company and friendship – I’m going to miss both.”

           “As will I.  Goodbye, Chakotay.  You know you’re welcome here if you ever need a refuge.”

           That made him laugh but he knew the commodore meant well.  And perhaps the idea of seeking refuge in a prison wasn’t such a bad one.  He would be protected there.

           He walked out the main door into the street.  The clear skies of the day before were gone.  It was raining hard, and very quickly, his hair was soaked and water was running under his collar.  He didn’t care – it felt wonderful!   He ambled down the sidewalk, enjoying his freedom.  No worries, no responsibilities, just him.  He felt great!

           But, mindful of the governor’s warning, he did glance behind him from time to time, and so it was that he realized he was being followed.  He looked around carefully, spotted a side street and dodged down it, immediately darting behind a wall protruding out from the building beside him.

           He waited.  After several minutes, he peeked out warily just as a smallish figure in a long coat and large hat turned away from his hiding place.  The person moved slowly across the street, trying to peer around unobtrusively.  But clearly he or she was looking for him.

           He stepped out cautiously, all senses at red alert.  The figure continued to meander along the sidewalk opposite.  He worked his way across the street, using any cover he could find.

           Once on the same side, he moved more quickly until he was right behind.  Then he grabbed an arm and yanked the figure around hard.  There was a gasp and he froze, open-mouthed, as he found himself staring at Kathryn Janeway.

           She reacted first and hurriedly dragged him into the nearest doorway where she threw both arms around him, hugging him as hard as she could.

           “Chakotay!” she whispered urgently.  “Oh, how you startled me!  I’m so glad to see you, but we must get away – as quickly as possible!  We’re in danger here.  But I have a plan.  No time to explain!  Come!  Quickly!  And don’t say a word!”

           Before he could speak, she grabbed his hand, peered around the doorframe and tugged him forward.  They made their way to the next side street, and ducked behind several large crates as she tapped her wrist.  Transporter, he thought, as they dematerialized.

           He had yet another surprise as they stepped down off the transporter pad.  B’Elanna appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and hugged him very tightly for a minute before telling Kathryn that Tom was ready but they must hurry.  She kissed him lightly on the cheek as Kathryn pulled on his hand again.  “Goodbye, Chakotay.”  Her eyes were shining.  “I’ll see you soon – I hope.”  Kathryn had him out the door before he could reply.

           Down the corridor, around a corner and into a shuttle bay, they trotted.  He began to feel as if he were in a dream – or Alice in Wonderland.  What next?  Oh, of course.  What else? he thought, as Tom Paris waved them into a shuttle and told them to prepare for lift-off.

           He started to speak as he strapped himself in, only to have Kathryn cover his mouth with her hand.  He looked up to see her shaking her head.  Her meaning was obvious.  He sighed and settled back.  Eventually, he mused, I guess someone will tell me what’s going on.

           As the shuttle rose, Chakotay could see they were in a space dock, one of the big ones that could house a dozen starships with room to spare.  He could hear Tom talking to someone, realized it must be the Control Centre and Tom was requesting permission to depart.  He missed the next part, and then suddenly the shuttle darted forward, they were through the open doors and out into space.

           The shuttle swung around; he could see Earth hanging below.  He looked questioningly at Kathryn but she laid a finger across her lips.  They must remain silent.

           Their journey was short, he discovered, only to the shipyards at Utopia Planitia, just one more among dozens of craft travelling back and forth.  There, they floated to one side as Tom eased the little ship close to a number of nondescript vessels of every size and configuration.  Finally, using thrusters only, he nudged up next to an older runabout and activated the docking clamps. 

           As they passed through the hatch to the larger vessel, a shadowy figure slipped past them, apparently to take the shuttle somewhere else.  It all happened so quickly that Chakotay had no time to see who it was.  Tom and Kathryn hustled him into the runabout, and again indicated the need for silence.  Patience, he thought, be patient.  They’ll explain when they can.

           Tom settled into the pilot’s seat, fired up the thrusters and activated the comm.

           “Central Control, this is the runabout Yukon.  Request permission to depart for Vulcan.”

           “Yukon, this is Control.  Permission granted.  Safe journey.”

           “Thank you, Control.  Yukon out.”

           Tom engaged the impulse engines and carefully took the runabout out of the yards, staying in the shadow of a big starship.  Chakotay was mystified by this maneuver, but had given up trying to figure out what was going on.

           Away from the yards, Paris set course for Vulcan and went to warp.  Half an hour passed during which no one moved or spoke.  Chakotay had closed his eyes, willing himself to relax.  He went over all the events of the past several hours, since he had walked out of prison, and he began to smile.

           For ten years, his life had been one long routine, with very little variation from one day to the next.  Now he had gone to the other extreme.  He laughed silently, glad to feel his brain coming alive with a stimulation he hadn’t known since they had left the Delta Quadrant.

           Tom chose that moment to walk back into the rear compartment, where they were sitting.

           “All clear, Captain.  No sign of pursuit.  And we’re beyond the net now.”  He turned to Chakotay.  “Good to see you, man.”

           Janeway breathed a sigh of relief and slumped slightly, before turning to Chakotay.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t let you say anything.  There’s a series of listening posts linked together around the whole solar system.  We’re not sure just how sensitive they are, but we couldn’t take any chances.  But we’re outside it now.  So it’s okay to talk.”

           Chakotay opened his mouth.  “Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on?!”   They were the first words he had spoken since saying goodbye to the governor.

           “It’s a long story.  Make yourself comfortable.  Tom, you didn’t happen to remember….?”

           Paris grinned at her.  “Of course I did.  Here you go.”  And he handed her a large, steaming mug. 

           Chakotay experienced a strong sense of déjà vu as well as something deeper.  How many times had he seen Kathryn Janeway, coffee in hand, working through a problem and coming up with yet another brilliant, if somewhat unorthodox, solution.  He felt a sense of relief creep over him.  His world had righted itself – he was back where he belonged.

           “Want one, Chakotay?”

           “Sure – two sugars, please.”  Her eyebrows rose.  He settled happily into his chair.

           “We’re on our way to Vulcan,” she began.  “At this moment, it is the only place in the federation, the Alpha Quadrant for that matter, where I can be sure we’ll be safe.  We believe Section 31 is close behind us, but if we can just get to Vulcan, we’ll be all right.  Even they can’t play their games there.”

           “Who or what is Section 31?” asked Chakotay.

           Janeway went on.  “Section 31 is a very shadowy agency, top secret, with unlimited power, as far as we can tell, and under no discernible authority.  Not that we could ever discover, anyway.  They routinely commit all kinds of illegal acts – theft, kidnapping, torture, murder – and no one can stop them.  Their operatives are highly trained and known to no one.  They can be anywhere.  They thrive in an atmosphere of terror and fear.  And we believe they were preparing to kidnap you.  That’s why we had to hurry you away so quickly.”

           “Me!  Why?!”

           “You’re an ideal candidate.  Starfleet trained but with Maquis instincts.  No family, no one to care about you, or ask nosy questions.  That’s one of the ways they recruit their people.  They use others, too, of course.  We were never actually sure, but my gut told me we better not take any chances.

           “So, over the years, I put together a plan, and with a few of our crew, pulled it off.  Well, hopefully.  I won’t breathe easily until we get to Vulcan.”

           “Why Vulcan, Kathryn?”

           “Section 31 can’t operate there – the Vulcans are very particular nowadays about who comes to their planet.  They have initiated stringent security measures.  Unless a visitor has a sponsor living there, or can prove he or she is a genuine refugee, they are not allowed to land.”

           “But – all Federation citizens have the right to move freely between member worlds!” he protested.

           “Not anymore,” interjected Tom.  “A lot has changed, Chakotay.  It’s a very different Federation from the one we knew.  Sometimes, I think we would have been better off staying in the Delta Quadrant.”  He sounded quite bitter.

           Janeway patted his arm.  “Keep your hopes up, Tom.  Don’t let them get you down.  There are still lots of good people.”  She continued.

           “Tuvok has arranged permission for us to live on Vulcan, in exile, yes, but we will be safe.  Tom will be staying, too, and B’Elanna will join us shortly.”

           Chakotay looked at Tom.  “B’Elanna and Vulcans!  I’m not sure we’ll survive!”

           “I know what you mean, but it was either that or – nothing.  There just isn’t anywhere else to go.”

           “It’s not ideal, I know,” she went on, “but as Tom says, it’s all there is.  I’m sorry, Chakotay, to have made all these decisions and given you no say at all, but really, we had no choice.  And the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about!  At least we’ll be free to live our lives in peace and security.”  She paused.  “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

           He heard the worried note in her voice.  He let her stew for a minute longer before giving her his best smile, dimples and all.  “Sounds great to me.”

           She covered her face, her hands shaking.  He held such faith in her, even after all this time.  What did I do to deserve him, she thought, because I don’t.

           He moved forward, kneeling in front of her and taking her hands.  “Kathryn, look at me.  I don’t pretend to understand it all yet, but you do – and that’s good enough for me.  Wherever you are is where I want to be.  Vulcan, Earth, the Delta Quadrant – it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together.”

           “Oh Chakotay!” she cried, and threw herself into his arms, burying her face in his shoulder.  He wrapped her tightly to him, kissing her hair and nuzzling her.  She could feel his hand rubbing her back.  Oh, he felt good!  She had needed him for so long!

           Tom sat quietly, watching them and feeling some of his bitterness drain away.  Something good was coming out of all the fear and misery.  He got up and slid back into the pilot’s seat with a smile on his face.  Wait ‘til B’Elanna heard about this!

           Kathryn lifted her head, her face wet.  Chakotay bent, gently kissing her eyes, cheeks, before brushing his mouth over hers.  Again and again, he just barely touched her until she couldn’t stand it any longer, and pulled down his head.  He couldn’t help but smile even as her tongue rubbed against his;  Kathryn really would have to learn to slow down, appreciate each part of the whole.  He would enjoy teaching her.  He pulled back, running his tongue lightly over her lower lip, watching as her eyes half closed and she moaned softly.  There, he thought, much better.  Then he bent his head and slowly slid his tongue over her teeth and around her mouth, exploring, tasting.  Finally, he tucked her head into his shoulder, content just to hold her.

           “I thought you had forgotten me,” he whispered to her.  “When you didn’t come, when no one came, I thought that I had been abandoned by all of you.”

           She was trying, rather unsuccessfully, not to cry.  “I couldn’t come, Chakotay.  We didn’t dare draw their attention to you or us.  It was the only way.”  And she went on to tell him of Bashir and his experiences with Section 31.  “It was he who told me to lie low.  Make plans, be prepared, but not make any move until you were free.  The last thing he said was a warning not to underestimate them.  I took him at his word.”

           “In my more rational moments, I knew there was a good reason.  It was just – the first years were hard, Kathryn.  Once the commodore arrived, things got better.  We even became friends, after a fashion.  Now that I think about it, he must have known something odd was going on.  He warned me to watch my back.  That’s how I spotted you.”

           “I have rarely been more startled in my life!  You really scared me – I thought I was done for!”

           “I’m sorry.  I didn’t know it was you.  That coat hid you very well.”

           “I was just lucky it was raining so I had a good reason to wear it.”  She looked up at him.  “Am I forgiven for deceiving you?”

           “Oh my Kathryn!  There’s nothing to forgive.”  He took her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes.  “I love you, now and always.  I don’t want us to be separated every again.”

           “I love you, too, Chakotay.  We’re going to make a good life for ourselves.”  He kissed her gently to seal the promise. 

         _____________________________________________________


           Tuvok met them upon their arrival at Vulcan, and took them to his home.  He explained that all concerned felt it would be best if they stayed with him and T’Pel, for a while anyway.

           One more surprise awaited them.  Who should come out to greet them, grinning from ear to ear, but Jake Sisko.  Kathryn was delighted to see him, introducing him to Chakotay and Tom.

           “I’m so glad to see you safe, Jake.  I couldn’t imagine where you had gotten to!”  she exclaimed.

           “It’s a long story, Kathryn.  I’ll trade you mine for yours.  Deal?”

           “You bet,” she replied, laughing.  “We all have a lot of catching up to do.  Are you going to write a story about all this?”

           “A whole series of stories, but we have to time it just right.  The elections are coming up in a few months – that’s when those in power are most vulnerable.  We’ll hit them then.”

           “Just tell me when.  We’ll be right behind you.”



Epilogue:  2389



           Six months later, and one month before the elections for the president, council and general assembly of the Federation, Jake Sisko published the first of six articles detailing the history of Section 31.  The second and third parts covered the experiences of Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien on Deep Space Nine.  The fourth and fifth dealt with Kathryn’s adventures, first on her own and later with Chakotay.

           As each one came out, successive shockwaves of surprise and anger rolled through the Federation from one end to the other.  The sixth and final article focused on Vulcan, going to great lengths so explain how so many Vulcans had tried to warn anyone they could about what was happening – and how they had been ignored and/or shouted down.  Jake didn’t pull his punches.  While he laid specific blame for Section 31’s existence at Starfleet’s door, he argued that the general public’s complacency and unwillingness to face the truth, had contributed in large part towards encouraging Starfleet’s more militaristic admirals.

           Well, the public was complacent no longer.  Kathryn and Chakotay were reanointed as Voyager’s lost heroes, the story of their years in the Delta Quadrant rehashed over and over again.

           While both Starfleet and the politicians tried to ignore the furor at first, it just wouldn’t die down.  The President was no fool; he realized pretty quickly that decisive action was required – right away! or his political career was finished.

           The Assembly was recalled for a special session to deal with the crisis.  Statements of “grave concern about Starfleet’s methods” were handed out by all and sundry.  Admirals who had had free rein for years were called on the carpet to explain their actions in precise detail.  Several tried to take early retirement as a way out, but the politicians were having none of that.

           Anyone with the rank of commander or above, and who had served in the last twenty years, could expect to have his or her records checked meticulously.  The only exceptions were the crews of Voyager, Equinox and any other ship which had been away from the Federation for at least five years. 

           Eventually, the worst of the uproar began to abate.  The elections were held, the President – to his great relief – was reelected as was the Council, but the message was clear.  The sleeping giant, i.e. public awareness and concern, had been awakened, and would be paying a lot more attention to current affairs.

           Starfleet was in chaos.  The various revelations had resulted in a witch hunt, which continued long after the elections.  Finally, the Vulcans were asked to take over temporarily, until the guilty could be determined.  A sort of order followed, but not the lessening of tension.

           At the same time as Starfleet was cleaning house, the Council issued a set of stringent new guidelines, designed to better control any unruly admirals.  At the top was a simple statement clearly spelling out the lines of authority, from civilian to military, not the other way around.  There would be no more Section 31’s.

       ________________________________________________________


           Kathryn Janeway and her husband, Chakotay, remained silent on Vulcan throughout all the turmoil.  Neither saw any need to comment on the situation.  Jake had done an exemplary job.  Kathryn was teaching part time at the Vulcan Science Academy, “to keep her hand in”, she said.  In fact, she found she enjoyed it enormously.

           Chakotay had finally found the time to pursue his first love – palaeontology.   At present he was assisting on an archaeological dig on the southern continent, uncovering one of Vulcan’s ancient cities.

           Tom and B’Elanna Paris were involved in experimental ship and engine design at the Vulcan Research Institute, spending much of their time gleefully turning the very logical Vulcans on their pointed ears.

           Jake Sisko returned to Earth once his articles were published, to great acclaim.  His future was assured.

         _____________________________________________________


           Kathryn came home a bit early one afternoon to find a visitor, Owen Paris, waiting for her.

           “Owen!  How nice to see you!  What brings you here?  Are you looking for Tom?”

           “Hello, Kathryn,” he answered wearily.  “No, Tom and I are not on speaking terms at present.  He blames me for Starfleet’s treatment of his wife, apparently.  At least as much as I can gather.  No, I came to see you.”

           “Well, sit down then.  Can I get you anything?”

           “No thanks.  Kathryn, I’ll be blunt.  Starfleet wants you back.  They – we – are in an awful mess!  Everything’s been turned upside down, no one knows who they can trust, who they can’t.  Headquarters reeks of fear and suspicion.”

           She nodded slowly.  “And?  Why do they want me?”

           “You’re clean, and everyone knows it.  The one person absolutely beyond reproach.  We need you.”

           “To do what exactly?  Clean up after you, Nechayev, the rest of them?!”  Her voice rose in anger.  “No, Owen, I spent too many years there, trying to preserve my sanity, my life.  I lost all faith in Starfleet.  Besides, I’m not the person for the job.  You need young people, the ones who still have the stars in their eyes, who believe in Starfleet.  I don’t, not anymore.”

           He slumped in his chair, then got up, fatigue evident in his posture.  “I told them you wouldn’t do it.  But at least I tried.”

           “What are you going to do?”

           “I’m going home.  I’ve handed in my resignation; this was my last duty.  Now – I’m going home.”

           “Owen, go see Tom.  Try to talk to him.  Maybe he’ll listen.  I’ll come if you like.  Right now.”

           But he shook his head.  “No, Kathryn, right now I’m just too tired.”  He tried to smile as he went out the door.  “Goodbye, my dear.  Ask Tom to drop in on me – that way he can decide if he wants to see me.  I don’t want to force anything.”

           He was right, she thought.  “I’ll do that.  Goodbye, Owen.”

           After he’d gone, she sat down with a cup of coffee.  As she reflected on what he’d said, she realized that she thought of Vulcan as her home now.  They were happy here and she didn’t want to leave.  On the spur of the moment, she decided to go see Chakotay.  He would be most interested in the admiral’s visit.


The End

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