BETRAYAL

(NC-17)

by Delta Story

January 2011



(Written for VAMB’s Secret Santa 2010 exchange for cara mia)

Setting: Post “Endgame”, pre- “Star Trek: Nemesis”


=^=

Hacking into Voyager’s computer wasn't so difficult. Not easy – no, it could never be easy but with a little information gleaned before hand, it didn't take more than ten minutes to insert the code. And all identifying search marks had been erased; not even the head of Section 31 would be able to detect a trail leading back to the perpetrator. Everything was there that was needed to set the plan into action. The clever thing was that the job could be done from anywhere – no entry onto Voyager was necessary. This would be the perfect crime.

But it really was not a crime. It was for the good of the galaxy, after all. Everyone knew ethnic cleansing was necessary every once in awhile; only then would the worthwhile survive. The history of every planet had dozens of examples of the necessity. Millions would be thankful in a matter of weeks.

=^=

"Good morning, Lieutenant," smiled Admiral Janeway as she hurried into her office on the first Monday of the new year. "I swear if it snowed in San Francisco this would be the type of weather – gray with a bite of chill in the air. At least it would be in Indiana." She tossed her satchel on the desk and its heavy slam betrayed its contents: a dozen PADDs that she had taken home with her over the holiday weekend. The steel gray rectangles erupted from her carrying case like a deck of cards going astray from a bad shuffle. She sighed wistfully as she bemoaned mentally that she had worked most of the holiday time, barely even noticing that the New Year celebration came and went. But her aide was certainly young enough to have enjoyed the festivities to the fullest. "So how was your holiday break, Chloe?"

"Absolutely the grandest, Admiral," the young woman chirped. Her slightly burnished face told the admiral that at least Chloe got away from the dreary San Francisco weather for a while. "Kurt and I went with his Academy roommate, Staskar, to the Parisses squares championship game in Arizona and we had a marvelous time! Even though I've been to most of the States, I'd never been to Arizona before. What a gorgeous place!"

Arizona – ah, Janeway had some fond memories of the place, too. Chakotay had taken her there a couple of times. They had avoided the populated areas and instead headed north into the mountains, using an all-terrain vehicle to explore some of the old Anasazi ruins and even looked at a large meteor crater that was there. Strange how the early American astronauts had used that place to train for moon missions! In retrospect, contrasted to places they had been in their galactic travels it was like comparing a toy top to a Vulcan four-dimensional gyroscope. But it had been beautiful – and sunny!

"I envy you your trip," Janeway sighed. "Arizona is a lovely place. So... how was the game?"

"Really exciting," the younger woman bubbled, her short dark blond hair bouncing as she talked. “It went back and forth until the last ninety seconds when the Andorian team became brutal and scored three goals in a row. The poor Bajorans never stood a chance after that. Oh, and we found a place that had tequila shot contests and..."

Janeway threw up her hands. "No, please don’t tell me that you fell for that trick! Chloe, Chloe..."

Chloe's green eyes widened. "What?"

Janeway shook her head. "And Kurt kept refilling your shooter glass until..."

Chloe's laugh rang through the office. "No, no; nothing like that! No, Admiral, it was quite the other way around -- Kurt is the one who can't remember much from that night. He really needs to learn how to play the game."

Now it was Janeway's turn to let out a heart laugh. "Good girl! We can't let these men think they can beat us at everything."

"No ma'am," Chloe smiled back. "I think he learned his lesson all right. I also think that’s why he asked Staskar to go with us – to help him in case he got into trouble."

“Staskar – he’s Vulcan?”

“Very much so,” Chloe laughed. “I guess Vulcans make the best wingmen for human ‘Fleeters. He had one shot and then announced that at least one of us should remain sober. But he can be a lot of fun, too. For a Vulcan, that is.”

Janeway shook her head in agreement. “I almost feel sorry for the Vulcans, always being the brunt of jokes regarding social skills or lack thereof. I’m really surprised that you and Kurt asked him to come with you.”

Chloe helped Janeway pick up the PADDs from her desk. “He’s no bother, really. He was on his own most of the time. But he was captain of the Academy Parisses squares team his senior year, so he was sort of a ‘plus’ for us to get into a lot of the behind-the-scenes activities. So how was your holiday, Admiral? Did you and Captain Chakotay do anything special?”

Janeway opened her satchel and sighed. "Not really. We each had a lot of work to do and wanted to make use the time. A holiday is really a great time to work, as there aren’t any distractions or interruptions. We did manage to go out for dinner on New Year’s Eve and watched the fireworks from MacArthur Park, but I’m afraid that was about it. However, I’m glad to know that you had a delightful break, Chloe.”

The admiral finished unloading the contents of her satchel. “I hate to break this up, but unfortunately there's work to be done,” she continued. “After you get settled, would you contact Admiral Ross for me? I've got some questions about one of these reports I received regarding former Maquis cells."

Chloe moved to hang up her jacket and her face clouded over. "They aren't still hounding you about Captain Chakotay's group that joined you on Voyager, are they?"

"No, this goes even further back into history. There are still some loose ends to the Mike Eddington fiasco that need to be tied up. Why Ross thinks I can handle I don't know – I was in the Delta Quadrant when all of that happened!"

"But he knows that you and Captain Chakotay are close and I'm sure it's really the captain that he wants to get the information from," Chloe persisted.

Janeway turned on her computer as they talked. “Not this time. Ross knows that Chakotay doesn’t have anything more to share. At times it seems that Ross is constantly trying to justify his own involvement in the debacle.”

Chloe silently slipped a steaming cup of coffee into Janeway’s hand. “Ah, you read my mind – thank you.” Janeway smiled back, inhaling the rich aroma while looking listlessly at the PADDs. “It’s handling this type of busy work that makes me long for the days on Voyager.”

“Let me contact Admiral Ross for you,” Chloe cheerfully rang back as she headed to the outer area of the office suite. Chloe’s voice continued with a bit of mischievous glee. “And be careful what you wish for, Admiral!”

=^=

Tom Paris appeared worn and bedraggled as he entered Chakotay’s office. There was no way that he could hide the dark circles underneath his eyes or put a bit of zip into his step – he was just plain tired.

“Good party weekend?” Chakotay couldn’t help asking as he saw the younger man.

“I only wish! Those days are long gone. No, Miral had both B’Elanna and me up for three nights in a row. You think teething is bad? Try being around a baby who has Klingon genes as her ridges grow! Man, what a set of lungs in that kid, although I really couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. B’Elanna said that the one good thing is that since this happens before Klingons are two, they rarely remember the pain involved. But then, maybe that’s how Klingons learn to handle their pain early on.”

“There’s nothing you can do for her?” Chakotay asked with sincere concern.

Tom tried to laugh. “Would you believe rubbing the area with Saurian brandy? At least that’s what B’Elanna said is recommended by Klingon maternal lore. Now myself – I’d drink the most of the brandy myself.”

“So that explains the dark circles,” Chakotay quipped.

“Not a drop, I swear,” Tom sighed, dropping his weary body into the chair beside Chakotay’s desk. “And today we have to go to Voyager to start on a list for checkout of the new photon torpedo systems.”

Chakotay tossed a PADD to his newly appointed first officer. “And don’t forget you have to check out the crew manifest. While we have a lot of familiar names listed, there also will be more than eighty new faces on our ship. As you’re now in charge of duty rosters, I want you to make sure that everyone is assigned properly. And please – no more Bolians in the galley! A few weeks of Chell doing the honors at the end of our Delta Quadrant tour was enough for ten lifetimes as far as my stomach is concerned!”

“Almost makes you wish for the good old days of Neelix’s leola root concoctions, huh?”

“Don’t push it, Paris,” Chakotay groaned. “Just make sure our kitchen staff can make a decent mushroom soup.”

“And tomato,” Tom couldn’t help but add while he skimmed the list of Voyager’s newbies. “Hey, I see we have a few refugees from Deep Space Nine. Maybe some of that Sisko culinary skill has rubbed off on them.”

Chakotay looked over the top of the PADD he held. “I think if you look into their qualifications further that most of them are in tactical. A lot of them had some up close and personal experiences with Cardassians.” The older man shivered and his face grew dark and hard at the mention the name of his old nemesis group. “Not that I don’t have some of that in my past experience. I know it’s past history now but even the ‘Fleet personnel involved in the Cardassian struggle used rather covert methods.”

“You’re not expecting any trouble, are you? I thought that Voyager was going to be used only for exploration and research.” Now it was Tom’s turn to become concerned and his voice became cold and wary. “Is there something you haven’t told me?”

Chakotay’s eyes met Tom’s, their message loud and clear: he was being serious here. “No. I’m keeping you entirely in the loop here. We learned long ago that it doesn’t pay to keep secrets from one another. We’ve both outgrown that bit of childishness… haven’t we? Or do I have to find another first officer?”

“No, sir,” Tom snapped back professionally, pulling himself straighter in the chair. “I’m sorry; guess it’s the lack of sleep.”

“Okay, I’ll accept that, Lieutenant,” Chakotay mumbled and tried to break the unexpected tension. “Now, how about some of Janeway’s favorite brew? We both probably need some.” He walked over to the replicator and ordered up two mugs of coffee. “Any guesses that she’s enjoying some of this right now, too?”

“No bet,” Tom smiled back, grateful that his captain eased the situation. “Even an old betting man like me knows when the odds won’t work.” He got up with his PADDs. “When do you want to go out to Voyager?”

“I’ve requested shuttle transport at 1000.”

“Sounds good.” Tom flicked off a casual salute. “Meet you at the shuttle bay.”

=^=

Everything was in place, the stern face allowed with the barest hint of a grin. Voyager had a new ops officer on the bridge, one who did not respond yet with a second nature to the ship’s intricacies. They would never notice anything is amiss until it was too late to correct. Now to get on with the second part of the plan.

=^=

Janeway called up every ounce of composure that she could but underneath, she was seething. The discussion with Ross was not going well.

“With all due respect, , I believe you’re out of line in thinking that the Maquis is starting up again. And, even if such activities were happening, I can assure you that Captain Chakotay does have any intentions of either supporting any such a movement, much less joining it.”

“Then tell me why there appears to be an undercurrent of unrest with some of his former Maquis members and some longtime Maquis sympathizers here?” Ross continued to badger.

“Any appearance of unrest probably comes from the fact that you are constantly putting these people under a microscope, looking for any misstep or hint of misbehavior. I can assure you that anyone would be uneasy with such scrutiny. If you would just leave them alone, you would see what I have known for several years – that these people have paid for their previous errors and are exemplary Starfleet personnel. Didn’t you read any of my reports?” Deep breaths, Kathryn; don’t let him see that he’s found one of your hot buttons.

“I have read them several times, Kathryn, and personally, I think they’re rather slanted with a bias towards the Maquis. Perhaps you and Captain Chakotay already had a personal relationship aboard Voyager that blinded you to your actions and any objectivity in your reports.” Ross’s words spit out as a declaration not a question.

It was all Kathryn could do to hold her temper. “My association with Chakotay aboard Voyager was strictly professional. Yes, we were good friends but we never crossed any line that you are insinuating.” Okay, so there was that time spent on New Earth. But that wasn’t aboard Voyager, so she was not lying. “I don’t think I need to defend anything in our actions.”

“I’m not asking you for any defense along that line, Admiral Janeway. I’m just stating that perhaps your personal feelings blinded you to any covert undertakings, both on Voyager and now. You are first and foremost an officer at Starfleet Command and I’m alerting you to the fact that some irregular actions are taking place, some of which may be within your personal circle. Mark my words, Chakotay is up to something.”

Kathryn couldn’t believe the paranoia that emerged from Ross’s words. “If you truly believe that, Admiral, why didn’t you speak up earlier? Why did you allow Chakotay’s promotion to captain and assignment to the refurbishing and future missions of Voyager?”

Ross’s eyes turned dark and cold. “I didn’t. I was the lone dissenter in both actions. I tried to get others on the board to see my point of view, but they were blinded by the dazzling exploits of Voyager and charisma of a rebel leader. Mark my words, Kathryn. He’s using you and he’s out to destroy you and then Starfleet.”

Janeway’s eyes and tone became just as icy as those of Ross. “Thank you for your words of warning, Admiral. I’ll take them under advisement. Janeway out.” She cut the link almost before her final word was uttered.

“What a bastard!” she seethed after the transmission was over. “He’s the one Starfleet should be investigating. What sort of burr got under his saddle and why?”

=^=

Chakotay knew the signs… and the sighs. “Long day, hmm?” he murmured, handing Kathryn a large glass of merlot as she came through the door.

The woman deftly took the wine from his hand and sank into the nearest chair and threw head back, closing her eyes. “Ross – argh! I think he’s my punishment for every sin I’ve committed so far in life… and for some yet to come. He’s a raving idiot! I swear, Chakotay, I don’t think anything in the Delta Quadrant wore me down more than the bureaucracy that there is on a daily basis back here.” She sat a bit upright and took a deep gulp of the full-bodied wine. “Is it the same for you?”

“Not quite,” Chakotay smiled back, walking over behind her. He began to massage her shoulders. “But I’ll agree that most days, even with overseeing the refurbishment of Voyager, I feel that I’m in that proverbial rut. Not that I miss the minute-to-minute survival mode of our time in the Delta Quadrant, but lately I feel that I’m just sleepwalking through a scripted scenario. Endless cups of coffee don’t even begin to energize the way good old fight or flight adrenalin does.”

“Mmm. Don’t stop,” she moaned as he pulled away.

“I’ve got to go check our dinner,” he said, softly planting a kiss on her cheek. “Someone around here has to see to it that we’re fed.”

She reached out for his hand and pulled him down to her, kissing him for real. “I guess that’s why I love you so much.”

Chakotay slipped away, making his way to the kitchen area. “Don’t give me too much credit,” he smiled. “I just got in a few minutes ago myself. I cheated and stopped off at Sala Thai and picked up some pad mah kua; I hope you don’t mind.”

Kathryn drew her knees up under chin as her eyes rolled back dreamily. “Yum – one of my favorites! You can spoil me like that anytime. That and some jasmine tea will help me forget all the venom Ross spewed forth today.”

“That bad, huh?” came Chakotay’s response from the kitchen.

“The man is madness personified,” Kathryn sneered as she pulled herself up and began to set dishes on the table. “Why he hasn’t been at least relieved of duty much less court martialed is beyond me.”

Chakotay came in with two steaming takeout containers and put them on the table. “My personal opinion is that every one of the top brass admirals has a bit of mental instability.” He felt Kathryn’s glare. “Present company excepted, of course.” He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her head.

“But there were a couple times on Voyager when you thought that I’d gone off the deep end,” she muttered, recalling several very dark moments.

“Well, yes. But I think we all experienced several trips into our personal demons during those seven years. And I think we all survived them, for the most part.”

“So you don’t have any deep dark secrets you’re keeping from me?” Kathryn asked coyly.

“Kathryn, I think you know me better than my own mother.” He lifted her chin and looked deeply into her eyes. “No one has ever known me in any way the way you do, Kathryn Janeway. You’ve seen me to the inner parts of my soul and then some.”

Kathryn felt the blood rushing to her face and other areas of her body. “Uh… I think we’d better eat before…”

Chakotay kissed her gently. “I agree. If we don’t, we might forget the food altogether.”

“Right. We might need the energy,” Kathryn winked back as she slid into her chair. “Because I’d like for you to finish that massage you started earlier.”

=^=

The remains of the dinner left on the table had long since grown cold and congealed on their plates.

"Shhh," Chakotay murmured as he shifted himself across the bed. "Just put yourself into my hands and trust me..."

Kathryn followed his request, allowing him to place her arms parallel to her body. She closed her eyes, sensing that he was moving up towards her head, straddling the top of her head with his muscular thighs. She smelled the salty muskiness of his body, and ached to take control of the situation on her own, but kept her promise of trust. Her acute ears heard him rubbing his hands together, detecting the sounds of muffled blowing, as he continued to rub his hands. Then... silence.

Suddenly, she felt him. His broad hands, opened into their massive expanse, placed themselves in the small of her back. Slowly, he pulled them up her back to her neck, his fingertips barely making contact with her body. He repeated the movement several times, each succeeding one a little firmer in its touch, bringing internal shivers to her.

The movement began yet again, but this time each hand was moving in large concentric circles -- his right hand moving clockwise; his left, counterclockwise -- up her back. As he reached her shoulders, he took the time to gently knead the muscles in each area until he felt her finally succumb to his pressure.

He again moved to her lower back. This time when he touched her, he brought the fingertips of each hand together, into a tight circle of finger pads. With the slightest contact, he ran the firm fingertips up either side of her spinal column, repeating the movement several times with an increased pressure each time. Her breathing became slower and deeper with each pass of his touch. Suddenly, there was a change in the fingers. They had spread, and his was walking them up and down, like playful crabs skittering across the surface of her back.

The flutter of fingers stopped momentarily, as he deftly shifted positions, quickly moving towards the lower part of her body, and straddling her legs. As she felt him move, she wanted to reach out and grab him; she already missed the warmth and aroma of his body hovering over her face and head.

But he did not give her any time to reflect. His hands were once again placed in the small of her back, but this time they moved lower. In syncopation, his hands began a rhythmical circling down to her buttocks, until his fingers lightly grasped some of the firm tissue and lovingly worked it. Slowly he began, not wanting to hurt her. Starting at the center of each area, he moved out to the sides. He now gently picked up the sides of each hip and rolled them in his hands for a few seconds, before allowing her body to regain its completely prone position. A repeat of the broad circles across her rounded buttocks led into massaging of the entire area, back up to the small of her back and then down to the tops of her thighs. He bunched up his fingers as before, leading them down onto the defenseless surface of her back thigh.

"Chakotay," she murmured, as his motions brought a release of tension of her external muscles and a tightening of her internal ones.

He sensed the changes that were occurring to her but remained resolute in his mission. He switched to long strokes of her legs, starting on the top and finally caressing the soft insides of her legs. All the way down, all the way up, careful not to touch anything but her legs. Her breathing slowed but frequently caught in short, irregular gasps as he continued.

His fingers gently grasped the muscular tissue of her legs, starting at the tops, and worked in a molding motion all the way down to her ankles. He took each foot between his hands. With his miraculous fingers, he found every ragged nerve fiber in them and teased away any residual tenseness. He took each toe, not wanting to deny these ignored parts of her body their time of contentment, carefully pulling and stroking each one. Small whispers of delight came from the woman beneath him.

When he was satisfied that her legs had been ministered to appropriately, he applied long, upward strokes, bringing him once more to her back. He stopped momentarily at the small of her back. Leaning down, he planted several kisses in its deep, dimpled crevice. His tongue quickly anointed the area with its wet warmth, followed by the relaxing kneading strokes of his healing hands.

Her arms became subject to his tranquilizing touch: long penetrating strokes down their lengths several times, followed by deep, firm massage. He moved to her left side and took her left hand between both his hands. He turned the palm up, and allowed his fingers to trace their dancing designs of small circles across the surface. Beginning with the smallest finger on the hand, he patiently massaged each finger, from base to tip, several times. He repeated the motions with her other hand.

While still holding her right hand, he moved himself into a position above her head. He took her left hand. Pulling her arms above her head, he twined his fingers with hers and in a chorus of movement, massaged all of her fingers at once, stretching and pulling them into compliant submission. His fingers continued this grasping movement down and around her hands, until his fingers completely encircled her wrists. He lowered her arms to the floor surface. He knelt down, and, taking each hand in turn, with cat-like strokes of his tongue he languidly licked the exposed palm surface of each hand.

The cool air of the room felt cooler still as his moisture evaporated from the warm, dry surfaces of her hands. The assault on her senses was not over, however; for now, starting with the thumb on her left hand, he grasped each digit in his mouth, as far down as its joint with her hand, and closed his lips around their find. He slowly withdrew each appendage, anointing its length with his sweet wetness.

Her sighs obliterated her senses to his next moves. He released her right hand, and gently rolled her body over, so that she was now on her back, as he himself assumed a new position of straddling her lower body with his legs. He placed his hands on her shoulders, and, barely touching her skin, skimmed down the long length of her body in long, sure strokes, stopping only when he reached her groin. Another time, and yet a third. His hands finally came to rest at the tops of her legs. Like butterfly wings brushing against sunflowers on a summer’s day, his fingertips delicately beat against the soft, sensitive inside areas of her legs, only to whisk up and outwards at the crevices between her legs and pelvis. Her arms instinctively rose to guide his hands to another place of delight, but she caught herself short, willing herself to submit to his tender, torturous touch.

Just when she thought that it was impossible for him to arouse any other feelings from her, he leaned down and flicked his ever-moistened tongue across the receptive skin of her abdomen. The satin sheen of moisture was starting to evaporate when he hastened the job by blowing warm whoofs of air from his mouth over her, bringing cascades of shudders from her. His moisture was disappearing from the surface, just as more was beginning to form rivulets inside her.

His hands moved upwards, alternately massaging and stroking until he came to her sides directly under her arms. His hands remained motionless. He silently leaned down and caught a nub of the soft, sensitive flesh of her underarm between his teeth, barely holding onto it. A series of gentle nips made her catch her breath, as paroxysms of sensation soared throughout her body.

Chakotay tenderly slid his hands inwards, allowing his fingers to palpitate her flesh as they moved, until his hands cupped each of her breasts. His thumbs began making lazy circles across her breasts, meeting their matching index fingers at her nipples. The dimpled tissue was firm and erect, anticipating the arrival of his touch. In a single movement, he delicately pinched and stretched each tit upwards, urging her entire body to follow their movements in an elegant arch.

He released his hold, still supporting her as she eased back into her prone position. He now took each nipple in his mouth, tugging and tasting her sweetness, re-igniting the implosions within her. As quickly as he had started, he stopped. Leaning down, he encompassed her mouth with his. She raised her arms, this time allowing herself to wrap them around his broad torso. Her hands eagerly explored his body, as each of their mouths greedily gulped that of the other.

Finally, he drew back. He gazed into her gleaming eyes, and, smiling broadly, he asked, "Kathryn, are you relaxed now?"

“Perhaps,” she grinned back. “At least I feel some sort of energy returning…”

=^=

“You know you have to do it, Chakotay. They’re expecting you.” Tom’s voice pled with insistence. “We’ve got fifteen minutes before we’re due.”

Chakotay emitted a low moan as he pushed back his desk chair. “Now I know why Kathryn hated these official functions. They never come at a convenient time and constantly break the rhythm of what you’re doing. Okay; where is this welcoming reception?”

“In the auditorium of building fifteen.” Tom looked around for Chakotay’s jacket. “At least you remembered that you had to wear your dress uniform – if I can find your jacket.”

“It’s on the back of the door in the bathroom,” Chakotay mumbled, lumbering towards the area to pick up the garment. “I think I’ve met just about everyone already; there’s very little point in this formality.”

Tom helped his commanding officer into the tight fitting white jacket. “Yes, you have. This is more like a before-the-game pep talk from the coach from my point of view. You know, like ‘rah, rah, let’s go win this one for the Gipper’.”

As struggled with a sleeve, Chakotay turned around to Tom. “The Gipper?” he asked, perplexed.

“An allusion to an early twentieth century rallying speech by a famous American football coach. There!” Tom stood back and looked at Chakotay. “You look suitably stuffy.”

“As do you, Tom. I don’t think either of us was meant to wear these monkey suits for an extended period of time. By the way, what do you think about our new ops officer, Kurt Thoran?”

“I like him,” Tom said, motioning Chakotay towards the door. “He’s had four years experience and has proven to be a quick study with learning about Voyager. In fact, I’ve even found him to be on the ship in his off-hours to hone his knowledge.”

“Did you know that he’s dating Kathryn’s aide-de-camp?”

“Chloe Hewett? Really? No, I didn’t.”

Chakotay slapped him on the back. “You’re slipping, Tom. In the not so distant past, you’d be the one who would have all the gory details.”

“Yeah. Well, things change,” Tom sighed. “I used to have Harry as my sidekick back then and Harry is one of the biggest gossips alive. B’Elanna tends to be a bit more close-lipped about who’s doing what with whom. Not that I miss my former life,” he quickly added. “But sometimes…”

Chakotay let out a hearty laugh. “Nothing like married life, is there?”

“All kidding aside, Chakotay, it isn’t bad at all. You might consider trying it someday before you’re too old.”

“Watch out who you’re calling ‘old’” Chakotay retorted with mock seriousness.

=^=

Chakotay’s face was grim on the screen in Janeway’s office. “Kathryn, can you help us? Admiral Ross has told me that he wants to replace Mike Ayala as the tactical officer on Voyager. He says that he doesn’t like another former Maquis in a senior position on the ship. I swear he’d have me off, too, if he could.”

“And I’d have Ross kicked out of Starfleet if I could,” Janeway answered. “He’s been hounding me almost every day about this, too. But neither he nor I have any say over the staffing of Voyager; that’s all come directly from Admirals Bullock and Henry. Don’t worry about it – Mike is your tactical officer and that’s it.

“Not to change the subject, but I heard via our sectional meeting this morning that you’re to get your orders soon for Voyager’s trial mission using the wormhole technology. Anything you can share with me?” She could tell by the embarrassed expression on his face that he had been blindsided with the announcement of what he had wanted to tell her personally.

“Official as of this morning – I was building up to tell you. We’re scheduled to go to Capella IV in four days. I think we should try a shorter shakedown cruise a bit closer to Earth but orders are orders and the crew is anxious to try out all the modifications. If all goes well, we’ll be gone only five days.”

“And if the wormhole doesn’t work, you’ll be stuck way the hell out somewhere for weeks,” Janeway retorted.

“Hey, that’s not you to be so pessimistic about trying out a new technology. Where’s your sense of adventure, Admiral?”

“Sometimes I think I left it in the Delta Quadrant, Chakotay. Here you are, getting to have all the fun while I’m stuck behind a desk with nothing to do but worry.”

“There’s nothing to worry about, Kathryn. Besides, in addition to having Tom as my first officer and Mike heading up tactical and Vorik in engineering, Harry will be with us, too, as sort of an ‘operations consultant’.”

“No Seven?” Janeway tried not to have any animosity in her voice.

“No Seven. And get that tone of jealousy out of your voice,” he teased, his eyes and dimples dancing. “It doesn’t become you. Besides, there really wasn’t much for you to ever be jealous of, Kathryn.”

“I know,” she sighed. “But there’s always something that nags at me.”

“Women!” Chakotay laughed while holding up his hands ala mea culpa. “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without them!”

“I thought that saying was the other way around – about you men,” Janeway snorted before smiling broadly. “By the way, I want you to take good care of that new ops officer of yours. He’s pretty special to my aide.”

“So I heard from Tom,” Chakotay said, nodding his head. “I’ll see to it that not a hair on his head gets harmed.”

“You do that or you’ll have two very unhappy women to answer to!”

“Aye, aye, Admiral. I read you loud and clear.”

Janeway nodded firmly. “You better, mister!” She leaned into her screen and her voice dropped to barely a whisper. “Now to an important decision: your place or mine tonight?”

At the other end of the transmission, Chakotay’s eyes darted around furtively, as if to hide their conversation. “I believe it’s your turn, Kathryn. But please don’t burn the water again.”

“Spoilsport,” she retorted, transferring a kiss to her fingers and then to the screen. “Until tonight.”

=^=

The next three days were a whirlwind of activity for both Janeway and Chakotay. She had to fill in for the quantum mechanics professor at the Academy who managed to come down with a previously unknown stomach virus after his holiday trip to Rigel, while Chakotay was putting in eighteen-hour days getting Voyager ready for her trial run to Capella IV.

The biggest modification to Voyager from a structural standpoint had been to the nacelles, as they had to be partially withdrawn into the hull for the flexibility needed in wormhole travel. B’Elanna had headed up the design for the project and was on site for much of the work. However, after the final rivet was in place, she turned it over to Vorik. “It’s your baby now,” she proclaimed. “You’re going to be the one in charge when the ship’s flying, so you might as well get in on the initial problems of starting them up. Keeping this ship running is an around the clock job.”

“Much like being a mother,” Vorik stated with a deadpan expression. “I see where this work experience honed your maternal skills, Commander.”

B’Elanna’s eyes glared at the Vulcan. “And she will always be my baby, if you catch my drift. You’d better bring her back safe or you’ll have me to answer to.”

Vorik’s Vulcan cool almost flinched under the fire of B’Elanna’s words. “It is illogical to make such a promise but I will do my best.” It was only after B’Elanna disappeared from sight that he realized that he’d been holding his breath.

However, the unseen modifications were the biggest additions. These were in the computerized operating systems that adjusted everything aboard Voyager to make the time and space jumps via the wormholes, from life support to hull integrity to warp core regulation. Even communications had to have major adaptations. Under the initial tutelage of Seven of Nine, this task had been Harry Kim’s major project over the past six months.

Although Kurt Thoran had had the assignment of ops chief of Voyager for only a few weeks, he eagerly assimilated the new techniques and showed an excellent level of competence in his duties. He missed his time with Chloe in those final days as he and Harry spent hour after hour doing meticulous checks and double-checks. But when he saw that Chakotay was going through the same rigorous schedule that left little time for Admiral Janeway the duty-enforced separation was less painful. Besides, Chloe and Admiral Janeway would be there for the send-off and Voyager wasn’t going to be gone that long. He thought about contacting Chloe for a last night out before their trip but decided against it. A good nights’ sleep would probably be the best thing for him. Yes, that was it: a call to Chloe and then a solid eight hours sleep.

=^=

Janeway glanced over at her aide. The young woman was in the admiral’s office with responses to the last batch of communications she had made for Kathryn. “Chloe, why don’t you leave? You don’t have to stay here until I’m ready to go.”

“Are you sure?” Chloe chirped. “I can stay as long as you need me.”

“No, no; I’m fine. I’m sure you and Kurt have something planned for his last night before Voyager leaves.”

“Oh, we’re not that involved, Admiral – if you know what I mean.” Chloe smiled. “Besides, I’ll see him tomorrow when you and I go out to Voyager for the official send-off. How about you and Captain Chakotay?”

“He’s busier than I am,” Janeway sighed. “So, tomorrow will be it. All prim and proper and professional.”

“Whoops; here’s one you missed!” Chloe picked up a stray PADD and glanced at it before taking it to Janeway’s desk. “Wouldn’t it be grand if we could manage to stowaway on Voyager with them? You know, hide somewhere and pop up after we were too far away for them to beam us back?”

Janeway shook her head. “Oh, my. You’ve been reading too many holonovels, Chloe.” She rested her chin in her hands and sighed. “I know I’ve been talking about needing a bit more excitement in my life, but that would assure all four of us of court martials for sure. No, we’ll go out to Voyager, wish them all bon voyage and then come back here to keep the home fires burning. Now… shoo! Go dream some more at home. Maybe start writing a holonovel.”

Chloe laughed as she put on her jacket and walked to the door. “I just might do that, Admiral! But until my writing career takes off, I’ll meet you at 0630 at the Chiokis shuttle dock to go out to Voyager.”

The door slid into place as Chloe left. Janeway flipped through the list of information that Chloe had just posted to her computer. A fleeting smile swept over her face – it looked as if she had caught up for one brief moment. But the split second she thought that, she knew that something else would pop up. As if the computer read her mind, a breep told her that there was an incoming message for her. From Voyager. Uh, oh; she hoped there wasn’t a problem. But the smile returned when she saw that it was Chakotay.

“So you’re still working, too,” he smiled. His face was weary but his dimples told her that just seeing her brought some relief.

“I was just leaving,” she said. “How are things going?”

“Slowly. I had hoped that we might have a bit of time before the launch but the way things look, I might just as well stay here on Voyager. I’ll have Crewman Telor pick up my things and bring them aboard.”

Janeway nodded with a sigh. “That’s what I thought might happen. There’s never enough time when you doing something of this nature.” She smiled and then chuckled.

“What so funny?” Chakotay grinned back.

“Something Chloe just said. In joking around, she mentioned that maybe she and I could ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ stay aboard Voyager when we come out for the formalities tomorrow.”

“Why does it have to be an accident? You’re an admiral, Kathryn, and you have a very close involvement with Voyager. You could just say that your expertise was needed and just stay.” Chakotay was half-serious in his contribution to the little fantasy.

“Don’t tempt me,” Janeway sighed. “No, with the way Admiral Ross is right now with this wild idea about the Maquis reorganizing, we’d better play this one by the books.”

“Ross is still on that jag?” Chakotay asked.

“Yes, he is. He’s bound and determined to find something brewing somewhere. Be careful, Chakotay, and tell Mike and any other former Maquis, including Tom, to watch their backs.”

A voice called to Chakotay from the distance. “I’ve got to go, Kathryn. We’ve got shuttles going back and forth for another couple of hours and it’s bedlam.”

“I’ll let you go. Do try to get some sleep,” Janeway sighed. “I love you.”

“And I love you,” This time, it was Chakotay who initiated a mutual cyber kiss.

How she wished that that kiss were real and that she could feel the warmth and security of his arms around her, lulling her to sleep as only he could.

Janeway picked up the last PADD and scanned its contents and suddenly felt herself go to red alert. This report had nothing to do with Ross’s paranoia or the latest round of Starfleet bureaucracy. It referenced some rumored unrest around Romulus and a band of renegade Vulcans who purportedly were forming covert alliances with Romulus. It further alluded to a possible terrorist attack on Vulcan and stated that forces were already in play to carry out the mission. Her blood turned cold when she read the ultimate goal: to destroy Vulcan and the Vulcan way of life.

She reread the report, trying to gain some sort of indication of where it came from and who wrote it. She downloaded it into her computer and examined the code, searching for any form of identification or source, but her work was for naught. She could go to B’Elanna but knew that Torres didn’t have the security clearance to deal with something of this magnitude. She needed to get this to someone who could look into it further and the sooner the better!

Ross had direct responsibility for Romulan affairs, but Janeway didn’t trust him any more than she trusted a Ferengi money lender. Admiral Venahil would probably be the best person to contact. She quickly buzzed Venahil’s office but he wasn’t there. Making a quick decision, she encrypted the file and sent it to Venahil’s computer, marking it ‘urgent’. Finally, she sent a message to his private communication system alerting him to the find. She would contact him again when she got home.

Before leaving her office, she placed the PADD in the small safe hidden from view on the bottom of the sofa in her office. Something told her that if this information proved to be true that the Federation had a more immediate problem on their hands than a restructuring of the Maquis.

=^=

Janeway struggled to open her eyes. Grogginess blurred her mind as well as her vision. She felt that she should be pushing off bed covers after a restless night’s sleep but through her haziness she sensed that she was walking, her body sagging against a supporting arm, her legs trying to fold like a blade of new grass. She tried to form words but only gibberish came out and she felt the warmth of sticky drool slither from between her lips, becoming cold as it made its way down her chin.

“You’re fine, Admiral Janeway.” Soothing words whispered into her ear as the supporting arm jerked her hard into a more upright position. “Just a few more steps and you can rest.”

Janeway tried to turn to see who was with her but her eyelids were like lead. Her “helper” slung her down onto a hard surface and she felt a something being wrapped around her hands and then her feet.

“Now don’t you go away,” the voice sang out with a chuckle. Janeway thought she heard the “whoosh” of a door opening and then closing but her mind felt like it was in another dimension.

Then… silence.

Where was she? Where had she been before this? The only thing she seemed to be able to dredge up was that she was leaving her office. She had heard something behind her but as she turned her head… there was nothing.

Deep breaths… take deep breaths, she told herself. Cold sweat trickled down her back as she still fought to will her eyes open. Her mind strained to place the voice that had spoken, but the sound and even the words were floating away like a dream upon awakening. From her current place, she could still hear the voice, muffled now by distance and probably a wall. There were a couple of jerks and she fell back into her seat. Soon she slumped in the chair as she succumbed to a drugged sleep, unaware once more.

=^=

The bright deep yellow glow of the early morning sun belied the chill still in the air at the Chiokis shuttle dock. Two of the four shuttles that had been making turnabout trips most of the night to Voyager awaited the small party of Starfleet dignitaries who were going out for a final formal inspection before the ship left on her new journey. Chloe Hewett paced back and forth in a valiant attempt to stay warm and also to dispel her concern that Admiral Janeway hadn’t shown up yet. She was twenty minutes late for their agreed-upon meeting time and it wasn’t like the admiral to be late. She would wait another five minutes before notifying anyone, as their shuttle wasn’t due to depart until 0700.

The allotted time passed and she looked up and spotted Admiral Paris. He saw her first and hurriedly approached her. “Lieutenant, where is Admiral Janeway? We’re about to board the shuttle.”

Chloe stood at attention, trying not to shiver. “I don’t know, sir. I just tried to reach her but couldn’t get a response.”

“That’s most unusual for her to be incommunicado,” Paris frowned. “I’ll alert Starfleet security to check for her immediately.”

“Should I go, too?” Chloe asked, obviously concerned for her superior officer.

“No, you stay here, Chloe. She’ll be looking for you when she shows up. Then you two can take the last shuttle out to .”

“Aye, aye, Admiral,” Chloe said, issuing a sharp salute and trying to remain as professional as she could.

=^=

This time, Janeway’s eyes flew open, only to be met with almost total darkness. She was still sitting, but now it was on a hard floor, with a wall behind her. She tried to push herself to s standing position but found that her hands and feet were bound in some way, probably with engineering tape. As disorienting as her surroundings were, adrenalin kicked in and Janeway’s mind became focused on the rules of survival: assess, evade, resist, escape. Time for those deep breaths again.

Focus, Kathryn, focus.

Her eyes began adjusting to the darkness. Through the inkiness, she ascertained that she was alone in a bare room. Her hands were secured behind her and she twisted them so that her right palm could feel the wall. It was cold and smooth – metal, or perhaps metal with some sort of a paint or protective finish. She didn’t dare risk a loud vocalization for fear that someone was close by, but she ventured a soft vocal “hello”. Its reverberation confirmed that the walls were metal and it sounded like the area was fairly small, maybe about three-square meters. A slight echo told her that the ceiling was at least three meters tall.

The area was musty but it also had a slight tang of a metallic smell, almost as if the area had been worked on or constructed recently. Especially for me? she wondered.

She inched along the floor, moving on her buttocks, propelled by pushing her feet along the floor and feeling her way with her hands against the wall. Suddenly, her hand came upon a seam in the wall covered by a thick metal strip. She felt a faint rhythm of motion in the seam area. The edges of the metal slat were smooth, ruling out any use of them to grind away the tape binding her hands. However, she continued exploring the area and felt the protruding edge of a rivet. She began the slow process of sawing away at the tape.

=^=

Chakotay and his senior staff welcomed the boarding elite of Starfleet. “We’ll do a quick walking tour of the ship, ending up in engineering where we’ll introduce you to the major upgrades of Voyager. Hopefully, after our flight to Capella IV, Voyager can be used as the model for upgrades to every class of starships. My first officer, Lieutenant Commander Tom Paris, will do most of the talking – most of you know that he’s much more proficient at that than I am.”

A rumble of low laughter rolled through the guests.

“Besides, he’s married to the person who designed the major modifications. I’m sure that with that relationship, he can give you quite a candid picture of all facets of the overhaul.”

Again his captive audience chuckled.

“Now, let’s begin, as I don’t want to get off to a poor start by having my mission late in leaving space dock.” Chakotay ushered the group to follow Paris, but pulled the senior Paris aside and whispered to him. “Admiral, have you seen Admiral Janeway? She was invited to come aboard, too, along with her aide, Lieutenant Chloe Hewett.”

Paris shifted on his feet and licked his lips nervously. “Uh… Lieutenant Hewett was at the shuttle dock and said that Admiral Janeway was going to be meeting us there. But the admiral hadn’t shown up when it came time to leave. The lieutenant had tried to contact her but there wasn’t any response. We’ve notified security to look into it; Lieutenant Hewett stayed behind to be there in case Admiral Janeway showed up.”

“What?” Chakotay blurted out. “She’s missing? What have you heard?”

Paris grabbed the younger man by the shoulders. “Calm down, Chakotay; I’m sure everything is all right. Perhaps she overslept or lost her comm badge – things like that happen. It isn’t that she’s an integral part of this mission.”

Chakotay’s eyes darkened. “Admiral, you know as well as I do that Kathryn does not oversleep nor she does ‘lose’ her comm badge. Are you telling me that you can’t even locate her badge? Something is wrong.”

“If it is, we’re on top of it. Right now, your responsibility is to prove Voyager’s capabilities to Starfleet. You’ve got to put your personal feelings aside for now. Starfleet security has their search for Kathryn as their number one priority.”

“They better have,” Chakotay seethed while clenching his fists. “And spirits help anyone who has harmed her.”

The two men hurried to catch up with the rest of the entourage, but Chakotay didn’t register any of Tom’s well-presented show and tell. All he could think about was that Kathryn missing.

=^=

Like Chakotay, Kurt Thoran was concerned why he hadn’t seen Chloe with the visiting dignitaries. Come to think of it, Admiral Janeway wasn’t there, either. Maybe the two women had something come up at the last minute but Chloe would have at least called. He buzzed his friend, Staskar. “Hey, buddy; I know that you’re assistant head of logistics. I was just wondering if you had seen Chloe and Admiral Janeway in any of your shuttle flights between here and Chiokis shuttle dock.”

“No, I have not,” replied the Vulcan. “My work has been here on Voyager ascertaining the correct assignment of supplies. My assignments do not deal with people.”

“Right; of course not,” Kurt sighed. “Sorry I bothered you. Everything okay on your end?”

“Naturally. I have maintained proper efficiency with all that my duty entails. Voyager is well stocked and can maintain a six-week mission, if necessary.”

“That’s what they thought the last time, when they went into the Badlands and look where they ended up!” Kurt couldn’t help but add his little bit of dark humor to the situation. “I’ll try to contact Chloe after we’ve gotten under way.”

=^=

Within an hour, all the official duties were concluded, including an official act of relaunch with a bottle of champagne. As the visiting dignitaries boarded the two shuttles to take them back to Earth and allow Voyager to begin her journey, Chakotay pulled Admiral Paris aside one last time.

The admiral had a worried look in his eye. “Sorry, Chakotay; they haven’t found anything. It looks like she didn’t even go home last night. Security is trying to see if they can pick up any tachyon particles indicating that she might have beamed or been beamed somewhere. I’ll contact you as soon as we hear anything… and I mean anything.”

The butterflies in Chakotay’s stomach morphed into vultures. His sixth sense told him that there was trouble brewing. Part of him wanted to say to hell with everything on Voyager and go back with Admiral Paris and join in the search, but he knew that Kathryn would never forgive him if he did – Voyager was like her child, and she wouldn’t want him to desert the ship and crew. With a cloak of foreboding weighing down on him, he watched the senior Paris leave. He turned to take his place on the bridge in the captain’s chair… in Kathryn’s chair.

As he swung around to sit down, he found Tom Paris looking at him, his eyes full of the same despondency that Chakotay felt. A quick shake of his head to his first officer let the younger man know that the situation didn’t look good but Chakotay’s face steeled itself with a stoical determination. “We have a job to do, Tom, and your father is on top of our other… concern.”

Chakotay took a deep breath and sat down, feeling the eyes of everyone on the bridge staring at him. He leaned forward and, opening a ship-wide channel, made his announcement. “To the crew of Voyager, this is Captain Chakotay. We are about to embark on a new life, a new purpose for this ship. Each of you is a part of this historic moment; each of you has worked diligently to get to this point. I know all of you have heard that Admiral Janeway is missing but we must follow through with our assignment, for that is what she would expect.”

Voyager’s new captain looked over to the new helmsman, a Klingon woman personally selected by Tom Paris for her quick hand and even quicker mind. “Maregar, take us out, impulse speed. Set course for Capella IV.”

“Aye, Captain,” the young woman answered, her heavy forehead ridges giving her a far sterner look than she felt. The heavily modified Intrepid class vessel swung starboard out of its mooring dock, aiming itself into darkness of space, with a myriad stars blinking their welcome.

Chakotay sank back into his conn chair, his mind conflicted with excitement of what lay ahead and dread of what had happened to Kathryn.

=^=

The jolt was small, almost undetectable but it was enough to distract Kathryn from her task momentarily. The smell in the room suddenly took on the mustiness of artificial air. And then it all came together for her: she was aboard a vessel of some sort. It had been stationary until a moment ago but now was in motion, maybe in flight. Voyager! She was supposed to be at Voyager’s relaunch. Was she possibly there? Was she locked away somewhere on her old friend?

She resumed her task of grinding away the tape with renewed vigor. She had no idea how long she had been in the room but her cramped muscles when she woke up told her that it must have been several hours. She fought through the void in her memory trying to recall anything before she found herself in this cell of a room. All that she could dredge up was that she and Chloe had said good night after making plans to meet at the shuttle dock to go out to Voyager. And then I found something. Her memory strained to remember the details but they remained hidden.

Hours passed; how long, Kathryn couldn’t guess. She was cold; she was thirsty and hungry. But she dauntlessly kept at her task while she prodded her mind. Suddenly, all attention was on a jerk of her hands – she had sawed through the tape! She gasped with surprise and rubbed her wrists for a moment before attacking the tape on her feet, which came off much more easily when fingers were available to act as tools.

She started to stand but her head and legs betrayed her as each reacted violently to the change in position. With steadying breaths, she used her arms to brace herself against the wall and she inched herself to an upright position. Instinctively, her hand flew for her comm badge to summon help but the familiar piece was not on her jacket. Of course not; that would have been the first thing out the window, she thought. Okay, let’s find a door. They had to get you in here some way. Supporting herself against the wall, she began to circle the room.

After a complete circuit around the area, Kathryn had not felt anything at arm level. She stooped a bit and made the trip again, this time locating a low door, like an entrance to a crawl space. You’ve been in an area like this before, she thought to herself. And then it came to her – a storage area off a Jeffries tube! She was on a ship and her instincts told her that that ship was Voyager. And she knew Voyager. A smile swept across her face as her fingers fumbled in the darkness for the hidden panel containing the emergency release for the door.

=^=

“Captain, I have an incoming for you from Admiral Paris,” Kurt Thoran called out to Chakotay.

“I’ll take it in my ready room,” Chakotay answered brusquely, “Tom…”

“Go,” the younger man said without needing to hear the words from Chakotay. “We’re doing fine out here.”

Chakotay practically ran into his sanctuary and activated the communication monitor. “What’s happening? Have you found her?” he spit out without any formality to Admiral Paris.

Paris shook his head. “Sadly, no. Not even a clue. I was hoping that at least we could track down her comm badge but we don’t even have that. However, just a moment ago, Admiral Venahil contacted me about a rather bizarre communiqué he received from Kathryn. It was sent under encryption from her office at about 2015 last night.”

“That was right after I last spoke with her,” Chakotay thought out loud.

“In your conversation, did she say anything about a renegade group of Vulcans trying to form an alliance with Romulus?”

“Renegade Vulcans?” Chakotay echoed. “No, she was telling me about Admiral Ross and his Ahab-like fixation of a possible resurgence of the Maquis – which, by the way, is purely a fabrication. No, nothing about Vulcans and Romulus. Who sent the report?”

“That’s the main reason Kathryn sent it to Venahil,” Paris continued. “She couldn’t figure it out, either. There were no traceable markings or cyber pathways that she could discern. She knew that Venahil or one of his staff had the expertise to dig out more information. But even they couldn’t come up with anything. All they can say is that it looks like it’s from within Starfleet and has an official release imbedded in it.”

“Why was it sent to Kathryn? She doesn’t have any connection with either Vulcan or Romulan affairs.”

“That’s part of the mystery,” Paris sighed. “But something tells me that someone thinks she knows more about this situation and is trying to prevent her from acting on it.” Paris’s expression became somber. “I have the horrible feeling that she’s been apprehended and is being held as a bargaining chip by these rogue Vulcans, to try to force Starfleet into working with them.”

Chakotay’s face took on a dark hardness. “But we know that Starfleet does not negotiate regarding hostages.” Further words needn’t be said; both men knew what he meant. There was a momentary silence during which neither of them dared to speak.

Paris broke the tension. “We’re not giving up, Chakotay. We’re on this from several different angles and we’ll find her.”

“Hopefully in time.” Chakotay’s face was rigid. “Please keep me posted.”

“You know I will,” Paris said sympathetically. “Kathryn’s a strong, resourceful woman; she’ll make it all right.”

Chakotay’s link with the senior Paris had barely been broken when he was buzzed by Tom Paris from the bridge. “Captain, can you come out here? Maregar is having some problems with the programmed course for Capella IV.”

“Can’t you take care of it, Tom? After all, you’re the expert at that position.” Chakotay was in no mood something that Tom should have readily fixed.

“That’s just it. There’s something that has been imbedded into the program that seems encrypted and it’s showing some course altercations that se can’t override.”

More encryptions? What the hell was happening? Chakotay stormed out onto the bridge. “All right. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Maregar stated without taking her hands off the control panel or her eyes off the view screen. “It seems that we’re being diverted from the course to the wormhole by about three parsecs. I’m implementing override functions and will try to reprogram our course manually.”

Chakotay frowned. “Can we reverse course?”

“Negative,” came Maregar’s answer. “Our course is locked; I can manage to change it any way.”

A barely audible curse came from Chakotay as he swung around. “Thoran, what can you tell me?”

The perplexed young man looked as troubled as Maregar. “I’m doing a backtrack check on the program right now, Captain.”

“Make it snappy,” Chakotay barked. “Or we’ll lose our window for getting to the wormhole.”

“Yes, sir,” Thoran answered, obviously perturbed.

“Tom, where’s Harry? Maybe he can help Thoran.” Chakotay didn’t want to insult his new ops officer, but he knew when it was time for an expert.

“He’s in engineering helping Vorik with last-minute adjustments to the nacelles.”

“Get him up here – now.”

“On it,” Tom answered, already making the connection to his old friend.

Maregar chewed on her substantial lip as her fingers flew on her instrument panel trying various entries into the program. Suddenly her furrowed brows deepened further and she turned to Chakotay. “Uh… Captain.”

“Tell me you have a solution,” Chakotay snapped going over to her.

“Not exactly,” her gruff voice cracked. “But I think I know where we’re going if we can’t break into this new code.”

“And?” Chakotay prompted.

“We’re going towards Vulcan.”

Vulcan?” Chakotay’s face first registered disbelief and then full understanding and his recent conversation with Admiral Paris came rushing back, flooding his mind with a chilling fear. Now he knew why Kathryn was missing – she had stumbled upon something that eventually would have told her that Voyager was going to be shanghaied; that someone had managed to get into Voyager’s computer and reprogram her destination. This mission wasn’t going to make Voyager a pioneer in expedient space flight – it was going to make her an instrument of destruction in a new galactic war.

=^=

“I’m kind of busy, Tom,” Harry snapped uncharacteristically when his friend buzzed him.

“We are too, Harry. But we need your computer skills up here on the bridge, like yesterday.” Tom quickly filled him in on the situation.

Harry’s eyes flitted back to Vorik as he listened, as if trying to solve the problem on the spot, briefly summing things up with Chakotay’s hypothesis. “I wonder if our problem might be tied in with yours. Vorik has discovered a fluctuation in the plasma pressure within the warp core, almost as if there’s an invisible manifold trying to divert it. We’ve got to stabilize it before we get to the wormhole because any irregularities could destroy just about every system in the ship.”

Tom read in between the lines. “You mean that the entire ship could act as a huge thermodynamic bomb?”

“You got it,” Harry nodded.

“Let’s trade you for Chakotay,” Tom said. “You get up here and help Kurt Thoran wade through this encrypted code and Chakotay can work with Vorik. He’s spent the last few weeks with B’Elanna down there and maybe his eyes can see something you guys haven’t.”

“Okay,” agreed Harry. “I’m on my way.”

Tom looked over his shoulder. “And Chakotay just left.”

=^=

Vorik had diagrams of the areas in question ready for Chakotay when he arrived. The most troubling section was that which injected the antimatter into the core, coming from the storage tank below them on deck twelve. “I am not getting a steady pressure,” Vorik explained. “It is as if an invisible jetty has been inserted. The pressure fluctuates, so it looks like it is a normal process of ebb and flow. But the post-entry readouts indicate a larger problem.”

“Is there any evidence that anyone is currently in that section?” Chakotay asked.

“There should not be,” Vorik answered. “But I shall check.” He quickly made a scan. “Most interesting. Indeed there is someone in that section and it also appears that there is someone in the Jeffries tube between decks twelve and eleven. However, I cannot ascertain who they are; they most likely do not have comm badges.”

Chakotay had a comm badge and he hit his. “Ayala, get security to deck twelve. We have an unauthorized entry into the antimatter containment room. There’s also someone in Jeffries tube twenty-two between decks twelve and eleven.”

He turned back to Vorik. “I’m going out to meet Ayala. You continue trying to come up with a solution.”

=^= Janeway carefully squiggled out of the small door space. She knew that there was a small platform between the room and the ladder in the Jeffries tube but she wouldn’t know where she was on the ship until she got out and she didn’t need any nasty surprises like finding that there was a ten-deck drop from her location. She straightened out on the platform and saw the identifying numerals on the wall: she was just below deck fourteen and she was indeed aboard Voyager. She needed to contact someone immediately but with only crew quarters in her immediate area, she didn’t want to risk running into… whom? She didn’t even know who had drugged her and hidden her. Engineering – that was only three decks up and there would be a lot of people there, plus she knew she would have a direct access to Chakotay.

Her chest tightened a bit thinking about him. How long had she been missing? Why had she been apprehended? Was he okay? She knew that he would be worried but not dare show his concern.

She stopped to listen to the background noises. The almost unperceivable whirr and vibrations told her that Voyager was in warp flight. How close were they to the wormhole? She didn’t want to be in the Jeffries tube, with its token protection, when they went through the anomaly. As stiff as her legs still felt, she willed them to hoist her up the narrow ladder. By the time she reached the portal to deck eleven and engineering, the combination of her capture and almost a year of desk duty at Starfleet let her know how out of shape she truly was. When she made it out of this mess, it was time to take control of that!

The Jeffries tube portal on deck eleven was about fifteen meters down the hall from the main entrance to engineering. Janeway cracked open the door and furtively looked up and down the hall before she hoisted herself into the open area. No one was around, so she swung her legs out and shakily stood up in the hall. Again, out of habit, her hand flew to her non-existent comm badge, ready to summon someone. She cursed under her breath when she didn’t find it. But she would be at the main door of engineering in just a few seconds and hopefully everything would be explained.

She was about to order the door to open when a large hand reached from behind her and clasped itself over her mouth. The hand on the person’s other arm encircled her waist, the grip strong and forceful, its action immobilizing her. “Not a word, Admiral,” a low voice muttered into her ear. “My hand on your mouth can easily slip lower and fracture your larynx before you could cry out. That would not be logical for you.”

Janeway tried to turn just enough to see who her captor was. The hand over her face was dark, the fingers long and slender. The voice sounded vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place it.

“I know you are attempting to forge a plan of escape but I would not try if I were you,” the voice continued. “I believe it is prudent for you to go back to Jeffries tube, only this time, you will not need to be sequestered. A push through the door and a fifteen- meter drop down to the bottom of the tube should take care of you. We no longer have need of you, as our mission is almost complete. There is no way anyone will ever know that you were on Voyager. Admiral Paris and his simpletons will spend days spinning their wheels trying to locate you.”

“But you didn’t expect any of Paris’s ‘simpletons’ aboard Voyager, did you? It’s over, Staskar; let her go. I’ve got my phaser no more than ten centimeters away from you and it’s set to kill.”

Janeway’s eyes opened wide as she heard Chakotay’s voice. She tried to turn but the Vulcan’s hand, true to his word, inched down towards her throat.

“Not before you kill her,” Staskar growled, starting to whirl around using Janeway as a shield.

“Wrong,” Chakotay snarled as his leg swung out and landed a forceful kick in the small of the Vulcan’s back before he completely turned.

The kick didn’t incapacitate the tall Staskar, but it was enough of a discomfort that he dropped his hold on Janeway and swung around to face Chakotay. Janeway ducked and ran away from Staskar’s grasp, rubbing her throat where his fingers had begun their wicked job.

Staskar’s leg went up and caught Chakotay’s phaser arm and the weapon went flying down the hall.

Janeway darted after the phaser, hoping to get it before Staskar could inflict severe damage on Chakotay. The Vulcan stood ten centimeters taller than Chakotay and, although he wasn’t as heavy as Voyager’s captain, his strength definitely doubled that of Chakotay. But Chakotay had years of fighting skills ingrained into him. As Staskar lunged at him, his fingers poised for a Vulcan nerve grip, Chakotay locked his arm around the Vulcan’s arm, pulling it painfully behind him. With his free arm, Chakotay bent his elbow and slammed it with all his force into the taller man’s solar plexus and then rammed his fist into the Vulcan’s throat. The maneuvers were enough to stun Staskar who showed some signs of damage. The Vulcan fell back but not before he shoved Chakotay into the wall. Staskar’s strength managed enough momentum that Chakotay’s head hit the metal surface with a hard thud and his head dropped in a traumatic stupor.

As Janeway lunged for the phaser, the toe of a black boot appeared out of nowhere and kicked the weapon out of her reach. “Not so fast, Admiral.”

Janeway jerked her head up at the familiar voice. “Chloe?” she choked in shock.

Taking advantage of Janeway’s submissive position, as soon as the weapon was out of reach Chloe followed through with a kick aimed towards Janeway’s face. The older woman saw what was coming and rolled onto her side in time for Chloe’s kick to miss its mark.

Thankfully, Janeway was against the wall and she could brace her still weak body as she managed to stand. But she was still on the defensive and saw that Chloe was coming at her with her elbow angled and ready to thrust towards Janeway’s throat.

Janeway quickly dropped with a slight bend in her knees and the blow grazed the top of her head, missing its more sensitive target. She thrust her right arm up with the heel of her hand extended forward and came up with a sharp jab into Chloe’s nose. A satisfying crunch followed by a blood-curdling scream from Chloe told Janeway that she had hit her target. To make sure the younger woman wouldn’t attack again, Janeway cupped a hand and slammed it against Chloe’s ear, rupturing the eardrum instantly. Chloe fell backwards in agony, her hands to her broken nose and her damaged ear.

Janeway’s attention turned to noises behind her where a few meters away, Chakotay and Staskar were locked in an arm-to-arm grip, neither able to gain on the other. But it was obvious that Chakotay was weakening under the Vulcan’s superior strength. Janeway weighed the best move she could make to help Chakotay. The phaser was an option but it was on the other side of Chloe, who was now crumbled on the floor. It would take precious seconds to clamor over Chloe and get the phaser and then risk hitting Chakotay rather than Staskar. The only other thing she could think of was to attack Staskar from the rear and hope that Chakotay could get out of his grasp, so that the two of them could act together to subdue the stronger man.

With her legs still weak, Janeway knew that she wouldn’t have enough power for a substantial kick. But her head would suffice, particularly with a bit of a run behind it. There was no time for anything else; this would have to work! With as much strength as she could muster for a sprint, she lowered her head and aimed for Staskar’s lower back and ran forward. The hit was more of a surprise than one of power but it was enough to make him lose his grip on Voyager’s captain.

As Staskar stumbled backwards, Janeway managed to initiate a forward kick. At the same time, Chakotay let go with a kick to the front of the Vulcan’s knee. His aim was true and the knee snapped; Staskar fell under the two-sided attack. He joined Chloe on the floor, unable to do much but groan and wallow in the pain.

Chakotay hailed Ayala to get security to engineering take the attackers into custody. As he talked with his tactical officer, he held out his arm and Kathryn fell into the welcome comfort of his embrace. She let her head sink against his chest and sighed at the rapid but steady beating of his heart.

“I was so worried,” he whispered into her rumpled hair. “No one knew where you were!”

I didn’t know where I was!” she whispered back. “Are you all right?” she asked, pulling back to look at him. “Thank goodness you showed up when you did.”

“I can return the thanks,” he smiled. “I guess we’d better get that phaser and set it to stun before anyone gets hurt.” He took her hand and they walked over to the weapon and he picked it up.

“What is going on?” Janeway asked as they secured the weapon.

“We still don’t know,” Chakotay answered, looking up and nodding at the three-man security team that had arrived. “Get them to the brig and stay with them. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

He turned back to Janeway, whose face showed the strain of her ordeal but also was full of questions. “All we know is that someone inserted a program into our course to take us to Vulcan rather than the wormhole and Capella IV and now it seems that there’s also some sort of device that is threatening to blow the warp core in a series of events when we get to Vulcan. I was called to engineering to help Vorik pinpoint the problem.” With that, they entered the main area of engineering. And just where have you been all this while, Kathryn Janeway?”

“Drugged and stuffed into a storage area off Jeffries tube twenty-two on deck fourteen. Lovely place to take a long nap and not be interrupted.” She acknowledged the looks of surprise from Vorik and the others in engineering. “But enough small talk. Let’s see what is going on here. And what’s going on with reprogramming our course?”

“Harry’s on top of that. Our bigger problem is down here. We can always reroute ourselves once we get to Vulcan, but we’ve got to be sure that we’ve got a means to do that and that Vulcan itself isn’t damaged.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Janeway said firmly but with a smile. “Fill me in on what you have.”

Vorik quickly briefed the two senior officers on what he had discovered so far, describing to them the fluctuations of the plasma flow. “We cannot detect anything doing this with our scan and we can’t physically go into the area without risking life-threatening plasma burns.”

“So we would have to shut down warp power, go to impulse and flush the antimatter chamber before we could physically check the system,” Janeway iterated. She turned to Chakotay. “Can we do that?”

“Not with the pirate program in place. We can’t change course or speed. Right now, that is.”

Janeway’s face lit up. “Do we have an EMH on board?”

“Of course,” Chakotay nodded. “Starfleet regulations always require one for deep space missions.” His eyes lit up. “That’s it – a hologram! We’ll have him go into the anti-matter room and do a scan of the systems. Kathryn, you’re brilliant!” He grinned and pulled her into a big hug.

“I’m sure you would have thought of it eventually,” she smiled back.

=^=

The EMH aboard Voyager was one of the newly programmed Mark IV series, fully functional on all areas of the ship. While lacking the broader programming that had been implemented over the years with the EMH on Voyager during her Delta Quadrant sojourn, the current series retained many of the personality quirks that were now being allowed. So it was not without some displeasure that Voyager’s current EMH was convinced that he was needed to perform this duty that would be detrimental to DNA life forms.

“Why is it that I’m ignored until you are in desperate need?” he asked acerbically.

Chakotay cajoled him by emphasizing that if successfully solved their problem, it would be so noted in his records and that he would probably end up with a Starfleet commendation.

The ego stroking worked and the EMH entered the hazardous area to perform the scan. After almost ten minutes of silent observations, the hologram’s eyes flew open. “Eureka! I believe I’ve found the problem!”

Following a rather long-winded explanation from the EMH, Chakotay summed up the doctor’s findings. “So what you’re saying is that the antimatter inductor’s partial deflectors have been replaced with non-functioning pieces that do nothing to ionize the plasma?”

“That is correct,” the EMH nodded.

Chakotay turned to Vorik. “Do we have any back-up partial deflectors?”

“We do,” Vorik nodded. He turned to the hologram. “If I talk you through the process, can you replace them?”

“If I can heal a hundred and forty-seven different species, I’m sure I can manage a little mechanical surgery,” snerked the EMH.

=^=

While Vorik and Harry oversaw the tedious job being done by the EMH, Janeway and Chakotay rushed back to the bridge. Ayala had passed along the news about Janeway’s appearance so there was a wild cheer when the former captain of Voyager appeared with the ship’s current captain. She acknowledged their welcome but hurried over to the ops section where Harry and Kurt were engrossed in their examination of the encrypted pirate code.

Kurt looked up briefly, his haggard eyes meeting those of Janeway. The sadness behind each set of eyes silently spoke of the sorrow both of them felt for each other – for the personal as well as professional deception by a young woman whom they both trusted and even loved in their own way. But they knew they had to press forward and do their jobs in spite of the emotional pain they felt.

“I’ve been keeping Starfleet informed of our situation,” Tom announced from the conn. “We’ve been instructed to continue to Vulcan if we think the danger of a warp core explosion is secure.”

“We’re just about there getting everything back in place,” Chakotay called out over his shoulder. “But I’d still like to see if we can get Voyager back on course and make our rendezvous with the wormhole. Let me contact them and see if they’ll let us continue.”

“What about our prisoners?” Tom queried. “I don’t think Starfleet would want us to continue the mission with them on board.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Chakotay laughed. “I’m sure they can find a nice, secure home on Vulcan until we can take care of them.”

“But not until we find out why they’ve done this,” added Janeway, walking over to the familiar area of the conn and without a second thought sitting down in the captain’s chair.

Tom leaned over to her from his chair, a gleam in his eye. “I think the folks on Earth are starting to piece things together. Admiral Venahil has discovered in that file that you sent him that Staskar is a member of a covert group of Vulcans who want to reunite with Romulus. Apparently this whole fiasco was the first of several planned terrorist attacks planned against Vulcan.”

“But why Chloe?” Janeway felt her throat tighten as she said the name of her aide. “How did she fit into all of this?”

“She was supposed to charm herself into your confidence and then feed information to the rogue Vulcans.” Tom lowered his voice before continuing. “And it seems that Chloe isn’t the only one who hoodwinked people. Staskar has a few Rasputin-like skills of his own, complete with all the hot emotions of an unrestrained Vulcan. The combination was overwhelming for poor Chloe, who fell for him hook, line and sinker. Sadly, poor Kurt was being played for a fool.”

Janeway couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “Looks like naivety goes along with the ops position. That reminds me of Harry Kim in his earlier years, before you so thoroughly ruined him.”

“Admiral, you wound me!” Tom feigned with wounded pride. But his face softened. “Then again… maybe so.”

Their conversation was interrupted with a whoop from behind them. “Got it!” Harry called out. “We’ve figured out how to restore our original course!”

Chakotay rushed to the helm. “Maregar, the corrected course for the wormhole is coming through. Lock it in and get us on our way. I’ll contact Starfleet and hopefully convince them to let us continue with our original mission.”

“You’ve changed your mind about our prisoners then?” Tom asked.

“Yes, I guess so. It just came to me that if we did drop them off at Vulcan, they might… um… ‘disappear’. I’ll talk to the powers that be and ask them to allow us to keep them on board.” Chakotay winked at his XO.

“Now,” he said turning to a rather bedraggled Janeway, “we need to get you cleaned up and have the EMH check you out.”

“I should be interviewing the prisoners with you,” Janeway protested.

“Not this time, Kathryn. My ship, my decisions.”

She started to say something he stopped her short by putting a couple of fingers to her lips. “No, no. I’m the captain now. I’ll have someone take you to sickbay and then to the guest quarters. I’ll come to check on you later.”

Kathryn knew he was right. She suddenly felt exhausted and there was no reason for her to commandeer the ship from him. “You promise?” she asked, her lips twisting into her little crooked smile.

=^=

It was cutting the timeline close, but Chakotay convinced Admiral Paris that Voyager had everything under control with needed repairs and corrections to the antimatter chamber and their corrupted database. He and Mike Ayala had spent a long time with their prisoners, interrogating Chloe Hewett first. The young woman suddenly became overwhelmed by the enormity of her actions, especially by her breech of trust with Admiral Janeway. The overriding guilt had her singing like the proverbial canary.

But Staskar didn’t crack. For all his talk about why Vulcans should not be committed to emotional control, he remained closed-lipped about the backers of his mission. After several frustrating hours working with the man, Chakotay decided that it would be better to hold him for the professionals who had more effective methods of extracting information. Ayala placed Staskar in isolation under heavy guard.

By the time Chakotay made it back to the bridge, Tom and Harry cheerfully announced that not only were they back in their original course but also had actually made up some speed and would be approaching the wormhole shortly.

“Congratulations, everyone. You’ve surpassed all expectations,” Chakotay smiled wearily. Before settling down for the approach, he walked over to the ops conn.

“Kurt, how are you? Are you going to be able to handle everything for this phase of our trip?”

The young man, whose face and indeed demeanor had been buried in his console, looked up at his commanding officer. His dark blue eyes were almost hidden behind dark circles and unshed tears. “I know my job, Captain, and will perform to expectations.”

“That isn’t what I asked, mister,” Chakotay stated somberly. “I know that you’re a dedicated Starfleet officer and will always do your best. It’s the person inside that I’m concerned about.”

A mixture of anger and disappointment overflowed from Thoran’s eyes. “It hurts like hell, Captain. And I’m ashamed to the bone. My best friend… the woman I was beginning to love… playing me for a sucker and a fool.”

Chakotay wrapped an arm around Kurt’s shoulders. “After this is all over, we’ll get together over a couple Andorian ales and I’ll tell you stories that will make yours look like a nursery rhyme. It happens to all of us, Kurt. We just have to learn from the experiences, pack them up and move on.”

Kurt silently drank in Chakotay’s words before nodding his head. “Understood, sir.”

Satisfied that Kurt understood what he said, Chakotay swung around to his conn chair. “Now lets’ see if we can cut a few weeks off a trip to Capella IV.”

=^=

“Well, we know it works,” Chakotay smiled, leaning back into the sofa in his quarters, his arm around a partially reclining Kathryn Janeway. “Both going and coming back. The system pinpoints the wormholes with accuracy and gets us through with a minimum of EM disruption. The technique is going to change flight methods within the Federation in ways we never imagined.”

Kathryn snuggled deeper into his embrace. “Congratulations, Captain. You’ve added another chapter to your already brilliant history.”

“You started all of this, Kathryn, with your perseverance in getting us back from the Delta Quadrant. Without those seven years and the wealth of information we learned, this would never have been possible.” Chakotay fingered her freshly washed hair and drank in the blend of the shampoo’s delicate fragrance and the aroma that was all her own; they lost themselves in the quiet for several moments.

Kathryn finally broke their silent reverie. “Did you ever expect us to be here, Chakotay?”

“You mean on our way back from Capella IV after only four days? Not really.”

“No, I mean here… like this. On the sofa in the quarters of Voyager’s captain,” she smiled, stretching up and nibbling on his earlobe before adding with a glint in her eyes, “without our uniforms, clad only in bathrobes?”

“Well, you had to have someone help you scrub your back.”

“I don’t think it was just my back you wanted to check,” Kathryn grinned back.

“Well, that, too.” Chakotay wrapped his arms around her and sighed. “Not only was our mission successful, but we’ve accomplished something else.”

“Discovered a new threat to the Federation way of life?” Kathryn asked somberly.

“In addition to that. I’m thinking something more personal.” He took her by the hand and pulled her up. “I’m thinking about the fact that it took us this long to finally make love in the captain’s quarters.”

“I thought we did just that about thirty minutes ago in the shower.”

“Showers don’t count,” he grinned. “That’s multitasking. I’m talking about something that would make the walls groan with ecstasy.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to make up for lost time,” Kathryn smirked, leading him towards the bedroom.

As soon as they were in the starlight-flooded room, Kathryn draped her arms around Chakotay’s neck. His muscles became taut with the expectation of what was to come while her eyes took on the feral stare that his did so frequently. She hooked her fingers through and around and under the sash holding his robe together, loosening its grasp. In one swift maneuver, she pulled the cinching sash and covering from off his torso. He gasped as the cool air from the room prickled his moist, skin.

"Is there something I can do for you, Captain?" she whispered into his ear, punctuating her words with her moist tongue around his ear.

Chakotay’s mind was muddled mush as his body took over. His semi-dormant member awoke as it sensed her. Words appeared behind his eyes, yet he could not will them to his lips. All sense of reality fled from his thoughts, with only the dancing starlight and the heat of her touch swirling around him. His fingers fumbled to repeat what she had done a few moments earlier; he sighed his pleasure as her robe slithered into a pool around their feet and she stepped out of the folds.

Without a conscious mandate, his arms encircled her, his hands cupping the rounded flesh of her buttocks, rocking her in the primordial rhythm of their bodies, their forms merged in measured movements, swaying to music that existed only in their beings. With tenuous backward steps, he led them to the wall by the door and steadied himself against the flat surface.

Kathryn’s hands found their way to his shoulders and she twined her right leg around his lower left limb, strong and firm in its stance. Like a vine sending out supporting roots, her leg clung to his. Once she was certain of its shoring, she proceeded to repeat the action with her other leg. Her hands slipped downwards and joined her arms in hugging his back. The motions had spread the opening between her legs, allowing the engorged tissues of her nether lips to embrace his column of tissue that nestled into the soft nest she provided.

The dance continued with a quick change in step. No longer was the motion in a horizontal line; vertical thrusts became the moves of choice. No decision was needed as he swiftly slid into her. Barely audible moans floated in the space around them.

She moved herself in short, sliding glides up his body, perspiration on both of them lubricating them externally, allowing them a dual sensation in their carnal knowledge. As her body elevated itself in readiness for another plunge, his lips caught one of her engorged nipples. An electrifying charge surged throughout her body with the sudden shock, sending a cascade of sensation through her. A resulting flood of delight, washing him with the warm wetness, met his next upward plunge. She cried out with the sudden climax. She leaned back, pulling his inserted organ with her. The unanticipated flex triggered his response, and he felt himself rushing to meet her orgasm. He quickly pulled her back to him, then plunged himself to the hilt several times in rapid succession. A fleeting flutter floated through her as his release culminated.

Their four legs suddenly became soft rubber. She released herself, and staggered to a standing position, while he steadied himself against the wall behind him. She stumbled over to his side and also leaned against the smooth coolness of the wall.

"Well, I don’t know about you... but I feel as if I just got out of my first zero-gravity experience," she smiled.

"Are you saying you need to get your land legs back?" he grinned back.

"If that’s what you want to call it," she answered.

He tentatively took a couple of steps away from the sustaining wall, testing the stability of his balance. He swayed a bit, and quickly sought support once more. "Hmm. Can’t say that I’ve ever been thrown off my balance quite like that."

"Are you saying that I am a disorienting experience?" she smirked.

"Kathryn, you’ve always kept me guessing," he laughed.

He leaned back, as if seeking a calm to his spinning head. She took the opportunity of his eyes being closed to turn and face him, her hands seeking out the erect tissue of his nipples and gently tweaking them. The sudden eroticism opened his eyes, as his head sprung upright.

"Kathryn, what..." he barely sputtered.

"Mmm... " she purred. "I think you may have awakened a sleeping monster."

"Well, it’s obvious that you are very much awake right now. What happened to that Starfleet admiral who was so tired a little while ago?"

He pulled her toward him, his mouth eagerly searching for hers and she welcomed the sweetness of his mouth. Hungry for more of his touch, she ran her fingernails up and down his back, wanting to ignite the fire within him. He received her message with the clarity of any command she had uttered, and he broke their embrace long enough to lead her back and onto the bed. His mouth continued its anointing kisses, slowly around her shoulders and arms. Their intensity grew as he progressed down her body, now interspersed with frisky flicks of his tongue and naughty nips with his teeth. Her skin had become a keyboard upon which he was playing a lively melody. His fingers joined in with the music, as they sought her lower lips, insinuating themselves into her waiting chamber.

Not to be outplayed by her lover, Kathryn reached around him, finding the long narrow opening between his legs. Her smaller fingers found the area just behind his tight testicles, and she pressed with increasing pressure against the sensitive gland there. As she herself came closer and closer to yet another sexual explosion, she was bringing him to another peak also. The flesh that had been becoming flaccid between them rapidly hardened into a throbbing pillar. Their mutual teasing and pleasing was taking them to another pinnacle.

He pulled back, only to quickly straddle her thighs and enter her. With the support of the bed this time, his thrusts were sure and hard and measured. Deeper and deeper he delved, filling her with a long-denied satisfaction. Her body rose to meet his movements, but in a staccato rhythm, its offset beat creating a further friction for them. Her cry came first, as the rivulets of sensation flooded through her, pulsing their ebbs against his thrusting member. He came to the brink, and he cascaded over the edge, with one massive release, followed by several slower, lighter tremors.

Suddenly, all was still. They laid back, their bodies exerted; their spirits exulted. Two pairs of glazed eyes met as a faint smile crept across his face, a smile that took over his face and suddenly brightened and warmed the room. The depth of his dimples drew her towards him as surely as any black hole. She was surrounded by its gravity-like attraction, which drew her to him. As if wanting to fill the void that had existed for so long, he hungrily sought her penitent lips, encasing them with the fullness of his.

A few moments passed; the only things heard in the area were short gasps of satisfied completion. Chakotay finally dared to break the silence as he grinned at Kathryn, who clasped his hand between them. “I think I just heard those walls groan.”

“It’s about time,” she smiled back as she rolled into his arms and they drifted off into a well-deserved slumber.

=^=

Voyager returned yet again to Earth to be welcomed as a successful pioneer. While the pomp wasn’t quite as stupendous as when she returned from the Delta Quadrant, she and her crew were nonetheless acclaimed as heroes both for their groundbreaking mission and for foiling the terrorist plot against Vulcan.

However, like most questions for which answers are required, more questions became apparent about the growing tensions regarding Romulus. Because Janeway had been involved so closely in the matter, Starfleet assigned her to head up a task force to look into the spreading unrest among ex-patriot Vulcans and their Romulan cousins. So much for any “boring” time locked behind a desk.

There wasn’t any question about Chloe Hewitt’s involvement with the plot, as she had confessed and told Starfleet everything she knew. Staskar was a more difficult situation, as the government on Vulcan wanted him extradited back to Vulcan to stand trial for his crimes. But as he was a Starfleet officer, Starfleet was demanding that he must first face Starfleet charges.

Forgotten in all the hubbub of the two miscreants, a lone figure huddled in front of a computer monitor deep within Voyager. He muttered as his fingers changed figures and characters on the screen but his expression took on a look of disturbing glee as a dark but furtive face appeared on the screen.

“You are late in contacting me,” the face on the screen said.

“I had to make sure I had a cloaked signal,” the man on Voyager answered. “But all is in place. Staskar will no longer be a concern to us in another four hours. He’s not divulged anything of value to Starfleet and now we can be assured that he never will.”

“You have performed well,” the contacted man stated.

“Thank you,” Kurt Thoran responded. He smiled briefly before terminating the connection.



~ fini ~


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