by Delta Story

        July 2005


        The first thing she did whenever she entered the apartment was to kick off those damned boots. Although in concession to her age, Admiral Kathryn Janeway now wore the lower heeled version of regulation footwear, they still weighed in hot and heavy at the end of the day. Just the sheer action of throwing them off seemed to divest her of accumulated pressures and stress.

        The second thing she did was click on the videoviewer - not necessarily to scan for any messages or relate to anything reflected on its screen... it was just the noise and distraction that she needed. Even now - years after Voyager's return from the Delta Quadrant - she hadn't learned to live with silence. After the twenty-seven years of that journey, in that closed environment, she had grown accustomed to the continual undercurrent of clamor.

        She padded over to the replicator, arching her back in a long stretch while wiggling her toes with a sigh for another evening ritual: "Hot tea with lemon," she commanded. The mug materialized and she wrapped her hands around its rounded sides, the warmth of the liquid radiating from the mug into her body.

        She juggled the hot mug between her hands as she made her way to the large stuffed chair by the vidscreen. After a day of sitting in various Starfleet chairs, her body longed for the comfort of the old friend in her quarters. She sank into its cushioned embrace and stretched her legs onto the low coffee table in front of her before she finally took a sip of the tea. Ah, yes - this was her favorite time of day.

        She closed her eyes as the vocal buzz from the screen droned on. She'd heard all of this before - just different names, different dates; the stories never changed.

        A flicker through her closed eyelids indicated a change in story; her eyes flitted open. A wide vista of arid openness filled the screen. The imager honed in on a pixie-sized reporter, dwarfed by the tall lanky man next to her.

        The young female interviewer squinted as she faced the vid-imager. "Today I have with me Dr. Jabari Cornejo from Northern Arizona University. Professor Cornejo has spent much of the last four years working here in the Morah Mountain area of the Mohave Desert, studying petroglyphs left by indigenous people of the area from hundreds of years ago. But you say you have found something new, Professor - what can you tell us about your findings?"

        Janeway leaned forward with sudden interest as the vid-imager zoomed in to a close-up of the field researcher. He appeared to be young - about half her age. His long, angular face matched the tall, lanky body; dark eyes matched skin heavily tanned by long hours under the desert sun of southern California. As he nodded his head, a medium-length ponytail bounced along his neck. "Well, Ms. Fuentes, I honestly don't know what to say - or least where to begin. As you probably know, the rock drawings of this area are fairly well known, so well known that we have a difficult time keeping the general public away from them and from defacing them. However, last week my group and I found a new grouping of petroglyphs, some we had never seen before, nor could we find any documentation of any other sightings."

        "And where are these new discoveries?" the reporter prodded.

        Cornejo's smile was soft but his eyes firm. "I'm not at liberty to reveal the exact location; we don't want these new glyphs to become another tourist attraction!"

        The reporter tried not to look chastised as she tried another angle of attack. "So how old do you think these drawings are?"

        "Ah, that's where things really get interesting," Cornejo continued, his face and eyes dancing with the thrill of the unknown. "You see, we've been in this area before - even documented this very stand of rocks about three years ago. They are of a very unusual geologic makeup - basalt with sandstone layers, with no noticeable buildup of desert varnish on their surfaces. But, at that time, there were no markings on these rocks - none whatsoever."

        "So these really could be counterfeits, the work of current vandals. Couldn't you see this right away?" the woman asked.

        He nodded his head. "Indeed we could - and that was our immediate suspicion. However, we did age testing - and we found these markings to be authentic... and at least six hundred years old." His eyes took on a faraway look as he paused, obviously trying to figure out what he was going to say next. "In addition to this peculiar finding, the glyphics on the rocks do not seem to be comparable with any others we have in this area of the country. They most certainly don't appear to be done by the Chemehueve people who lived here up until about four hundred years ago."

        "Do you have any theories about their lingual origin?" Fuentes continued.

        "The closest I can determine is that they are of Central American background. I have managed to make out a few symbols that match some from the Mayan culture, but that isn't my area of expertise. I've invited a colleague from the Universidad de San Ignacio in Belize to come view the glyphs and help with an interpretation."

        The reporter needed more information. "When do expect your associate - what did you say his name is? - to arrive? When can we have some additional information?"

        "Her name - she's a she - is Professor Mixtli Peraza," Cornejo smiled. "And she's just as interested in this as I am. She is hoping to arrange her schedule to join me within a week, as she's currently in the field herself, working on the post-classical excavation at K'axeb."

        Janeway grinned at the reporter's somber face, the woman's head nodding in agreement, as if she were intimate with every detail that Cornejo mentioned.

        "I understand why you aren't keen on giving out the exact location of the petroglyphs, Professor, but can you give us an example of what they look like?"

        "Oh, certainly; no problem there! In fact, maybe someone viewing this story might be able to help us out, too." Cornejo held a holoimager screen towards the imager recording the interview. "Here's a bit of what they look like."

        Janeway's eyes suddenly darted to something in the markings that she recognized. Off to the right of the screen, a figure that appeared buried in the dark shadows jumped forth. It immediately gripped her focus and tugged at the recesses of her mind. There, with no doubt, was the symbol that she knew all too well, for it had adorned the left temple of her dear friend of so many years - it was the exact design of Chakotay's tattoo.

        Muddled memories flooded her mind - Chakotay, gone now for almost eleven years; Chakotay, whom she loved as much as... how much? No, she shook her head. I mustn't go there...

        She came to her senses just as the young reporter signed off from her interview. "This is Lisa Fuentes and I've been talking today with Professor Jabari Cornejo." The woman's image faded, only to be replaced once again with the strange glyphs that Cornejo found.

        Janeway was no archeologist, but there was something about this finding, something that drew her into the glyphs themselves, as if they were calling out to her, challenging her to delve into their mystery. What was the name of that young man? Jatel... no, Jabari - yes, that was it - Jabari Cornejo.

        Her body suddenly felt invigorated. She drained the remaining tea, now tepid, from the mug as she rose from the sofa. Even before she got to her destination, her desk, she voiced a command. "Computer, information on Jabari Cornejo - how can I contact him?"

        "Jabari Cornejo... professor of aboriginal archeology at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, is... currently unavailable. Please try again later," the computer voice droned.

        "Well, of course he's unavailable - he's out in the field," Janeway snapped at the inanimate voice. "But certainly he has a communicator with him..."

        "I am unable to access communicator service at this time," announced the canned voice.

        There's more than one way to get this done , the older woman fumed to herself. "Computer, contact me with Lisa Fuentes at Transgalactic News."

        It didn't take much to intimidate the young woman into giving her Cornejo's communicator codes. Sometimes rank and reputation were worth all the hassle!


        "You're Admiral Janeway ? The Admiral Kathryn Janeway?" Cornejo asked, his voice filled with a tint of awe.

        "Well, that's who folks lead me to believe I am," she smiled back at him on the monitor. Sometimes she wondered when all this hero worship would end!

        The stunned younger man regained a bit of his professional demeanor. "Well, I must admit, this is quite an honor - and also a surprise. Why have you gone to so much trouble to get in touch with me? The message passed along by my department sounded urgent."

        Janeway allowed herself a small grin - perhaps she had been a bit brusque with the very young administrative aide at NAU. "Professor, I've just seen a vid interview you did with Lisa Fuentes..."

        "The new petroglyphs," he said, suddenly serious.

        "Yes," she nodded."

        "Do you have any experience with them? Have you seen anything like them in your travels?" he asked, his voice heavy with hope.

        "No," she answered. "Not exactly. But there was one drawing... one design... that I have seen before - and the glyph showed it exactly as I remembered it."

        She could hear his spirits rise - and his curiosity piqued before he even spoke. "You have? When? Where?"

        Her eyes lit up with delight. "Would you believe on the face of a friend?"

        Cornejo paused a moment as he absorbed the meaning of her words. "Yes!" he shouted out in sudden recollection. "Yes - I remember now! The man who was your first officer on Voyager during your Delta Quadrant years... Chal...Chaf" he fumbled.

        "Chakotay," she finished for him, her voice. "Yes, he's the one. He had a tattoo on his left temple. And among your glyphs is an exact replica of his tribal design."

        "Who were his people?" Cornejo continued, suddenly filled with interest.

        "Well, although he himself was from Dorvan V, I believe his Terran ancestors were from the Central America area," she answered.

        Excitement radiated from the young archeologist. "I knew I was on the right trail! I'm waiting for Mixtli Peraza from Belize to join me - her specialty is Mayan petroglyphs. I'm hoping that she can decipher this message for us."

        Janeway paused, collecting her thoughts. "Professor..."

        "Please, Admiral - call me Jabari," he interrupted. She smiled. "All right - Jabari, I was wondering - if it didn't break any rules or regulations you or your institution have - I was wondering if I could join you and your colleague in examining these latest discoveries."

        "I would be honored!" he answered, his voice alive with eagerness. "I'm sure that Dr. Peraza would feel likewise." He paused as a sudden thought crossed his mind. "By the way, didn't Commander Chakotay have an interest in archeology? Don't I remember that he did some research upon Voyager's return?"

        Janeway felt emotion rise in her throat, remembering how he tried to bury his depression in his work upon Voyager's return. "Yes, he did. He had... many passions."

        "Do you have access to any of his records?" Cornejo continued, hoping to gain more information about the mysterious runes.

        "No, I don't think they're around anymore," Janeway answered.

        "Pity - ah, well; it was a thought," the young man sighed. However, his demeanor quickly brightened. "But we'll certainly look forward to having you with us." "I believe that Mixtli is trying to come on Monday - would that be convenient for you?"

        "I will make it so," she answered. "I'll take two or three days personal leave - I've certainly got it coming to me! Now... where would you like me to meet you?"

        "Let's not make it too tough on you, Admiral - at least, initially," he laughed. "Can you catch a shuttle to Panamint Springs? There's a place there called the Stovepipe Inn that should suit your needs..."

        "But aren't you working from a site in the desert?" she asked.

        "We are - but it's rather... um... primitive," he answered.

        "And you don't think an old lady like me can take it?" she teased. "Tell you what - let's compromise. Give me your coordinates and I'll take a shuttle to Panamint Springs, but then I'll beam to your site."

        Cornejo couldn't win - tougher men than he had succumbed to the will of Kathryn Janeway over the years. "You have yourself a deal, Admiral. I'll send you the information."

        The screen went blank. Janeway sat back in the chair as the recalled images of the petroglyphs scrolled across her mind. A sudden chill ran through her body as one design leapt out at her - why was Chakotay's tattoo pattern there... and why had the images only now been found?


        Perhaps it had been a mistake to go to Panamint Springs first, thought Janeway as she stood under the blast furnace sun next to Cornejo and Peraza - it had been too easy to slide into the ambiance and comfort of the beautiful desert inn before tackling the desert. Even dressed in light, loose clothing rather than her uniform, she knew she'd lost her 'edge' at acclimating to harsh climates.

        "Are you sure you're up to this?" Cornejo asked, his hand at the elbow of the older woman.

        "I've faced rougher climates and terrains than this," she chided, pulling away from him. "I wouldn't be here unless I was ready. Now - let's get on to these new findings of yours. Have you seen them yet?" she asked the young woman to her right.

        "Not in reality," Peraza answered. "Jabari sent me some holoimages, though, and I believe that many of the figures look familiar with some of my finds of cultures about six hundred years old."

        Cornejo pulled ahead of them, his building excitement evident. "The stones are just beyond that rise up ahead; we'll be able to see them from the other side."

        Janeway's legs and knees strained against the hard surface of the rocky terrain - it had been a while since she'd pushed herself in an environment such as this outside of a holodeck. The 'real thing' proved more of a challenge than she'd expected. She gratefully accepted the willing assists from the younger woman as they climbed over the rocks. She felt her face flush with the exertion.

        The two women regained their footing and turned to look at the marks emblazoned on the flat surfaces of the rocks. "Here we are," Cornejo announced, his face glowing with exhilaration. "Six-hundred year old petroglyphs that appeared within the last few months - quite a puzzle, wouldn't you say?"

        Peraza let out a slight gasp. The markings on the light gray rocks covered a large area, about five meters long and a meter to a meter and a half wide. "May I?" she asked of her associate as she leaned over to touch them.

        "Of course," he answered. "You're the expert."

        She reverently traced the outlines of one of the closest symbols, a semi-circle with peaked rays coming from its arc. She rubbed her fingers together, studying the feel and texture of the rocky residue on them. "Interesting. There's residual grit - the symbols definitely pecked into the rock, not chiseled. But how can they be as old as you say without the protection of desert varnish?"

        "That's what's been bothering me, too," Cornejo answered. "You would think that with the symbols being pecked rather than carved that they would show some signs of erosion without that natural protection."

        Peraza pulled a tricorder from her belt and scanned the rocks. "You're right - these glyphs have to be at least four hundred years old. Even the symbols themselves seem to be from that era."

        Janeway's curiosity was getting the better of her. "Pardon me for asking, but wouldn't the populations of that recent an era use letters... an alpha system... rather than pictorial means of communication?"

        "Not necessarily," the younger woman answered. "Sometimes, it was thought that by using symbols, there was better connection or communication with the spirit world... the afterlife." She turned towards Janeway. "And remember... many Terran languages still use glyphs... symbols... as their structure, particularly those of the Asian areas."

        Janeway blushed with her faux pas. "Of course," she said meekly.

        Peraza smiled and pulled back to take in the entire panorama of the petroglyphs. "Now - let's see what we have here."

        She walked the length of the rocks several times, deep in thought. Even through the shadows made by her hat brim, Janeway saw the woman's eyes seeking out something she recognized... something familiar with which to start. Janeway and Cornejo stepped back, waiting in silence as she made her observations.

        She stopped at the far right and paused. "Well, I don't think we have random markings; there seems to be a coherent and progressive statement, with a repeat of several of the patterns." She leaned down and pointed to a design at the far right. "However, this design appears only once, and it almost looks like it could be a signature, left by the writer/artist. I believe that this is the design that you said you recognized, Admiral?" she asked.

        Janeway's breath caught - the woman was pointing to the design that copied Chakotay's tattoo. "Ye... yes," she stammered. "It was the tribal marking of my first officer on Voyager. It was on his left temple." She looked at Peraza as the other woman's eyes whirled through a mental inventory.

        The younger woman snapped her fingers as she found her answer. "That's it - the rubber tree people! Am I correct?"

        Janeway smiled and nodded her head in agreement. "That's right; you're very good."

        "I wouldn't be doing my job if I couldn't remember things like that," the small dark woman laughed. "Actually, this gives me a clue as to where we can start - by recalling the ancient scripts of the rubber tree people." She jogged back to the left of the rocks and called to Janeway and Cornejo. "Come on - we can all start to look for repeats of symbols and phrases. If all three of us work on this, we can figure it out. Like this - " she pointed to one of the glyphs. "I've seen it several times. See? It's a circle split into halves with a zigzag line between the two halves. Using Central American patterns, this represents conflict or war. And this one..." she pointed to a square that held several stick figures, "means 'tribe' or 'family'." She leaned over, her fingers moving along the symbols, as if she were following the lines in a book. "Let's break the rocks into sections and we can each take holoimages of what we see. Remember to number each one so that we can recreate the sequence."

        The three people dived into their tasks, suddenly oblivious to the blazing sun making its arc through the skies. They rested only long enough to replenish the water lost in the desert climate, ignoring the heat or other discomforts. Even Kathryn Janeway worked with the energy and stamina of long forgotten years - how she loved projects like this! By late afternoon, the three wearied people beamed back to Panamint Springs.

        "I don't know about you two," Cornejo said, "but I can stand a nice long shower and some time to put my feet up before we tackle anything more."

        "You read my mind," Peraza laughed. "Although I love being under the desert stars at night, it's good to be able to relax in a bit of comfort, too." She headed towards the stairs of the inn then turned to her two companions. "How about we meet in an hour for some dinner and then take a look at what we have?"

        "A deal," the man smiled in agreement. "Is that all right with you, Admiral?"

        Janeway's lips pursed with a half-grin. "Trying to humor an old lady, are you?" She let out a genuine laugh. "I can tell a set-up a mile away!"

        But as they each retired to their rooms, she let out a big sigh; it had been a long day, and a nice, long bath was just what she needed. Maybe it would give her some time to reflect on the strange feelings that were escalating within her. She didn't feel apprehensive, but there was something that nagged at her, like there was a precipice around the corner that begged her to jump... into the unknown, towards a path that would change her life.


        Thankfully it was the 'off' season at the inn. After dinner, Cornejo, Peraza and Janeway took over the game room, lining up tables end-to-end and spreading copies of their holoimages along the long contiguous surface.

        Mixtli Peraza flourished a handful of markers in a rainbow of colors. "Here - we'll start by looking for the 'knowns' and writing the meaning of those symbols on the images. It's really a gigantic crypto-puzzle!" She handed Janeway two markers. "Admiral, why don't you look for any with the symbol for 'family' or tribe'... the one of the square with the figures."

        Janeway nodded her understanding. "I'm on it," she called out, her voice signaling a refreshed person - the bath and a simple meal certainly had worked their magic!

        An hour... two hours... the trio worked along, but with little progress. Mixtli Peraza shook her head, obviously not happy with the slow work. "I really thought earlier I had a grasp on this, but now... it's just not falling into place the way I thought it would." Cornejo leaned back and stretched, his lank body curving into a long arc. "We might be a little bit too close to it right now. Let's ask if we can leave our work here overnight and come into it fresh in the morning."

        Peraza rubbed her neck and arms, sighing with weariness. "I'd really like to keep at it, but maybe we should get some rest." She glanced over at the carved chronometer on the wall. "It's almost midnight; tomorrow will be here soon enough."

        The two younger people walked towards the door leading to the lobby. "Admiral?" Cornejo called out, "are you coming?"

        She waved him off without turning to look at him. "Yes... yes. I'm just trying... there's something here that is..." But she knew she was tired, too. She turned and joined her colleagues. "You're right. We all need some rest."


        The sounds of the desert night slipped into Janeway's room. She had fallen asleep almost the minute she laid down in the bed, but now she was wide awake. Was it that lack of city noises in the background? Was it the sudden chill of the desert night in contrast to the blazing heat of the day? Or was it that nagging foreshadowing that had surfaced earlier?

        She padded over to the window and pulled back the blinds covering it. The illumination of an almost full moon lit the stark landscape around the inn, its light casting long shadows around the scrub mesquite and cacti. The drone of a few insects leant the murmur of background sounds to the scene. A sense of isolation chilled her, something that she hadn't felt in a long time - a time for quiet reflection and thinking, some things she rarely found in her busy life.

        The air, though still, was cold; she wrapped her arms around herself as she suddenly shivered - her robe lay over by the bed and she stood in the night air only in a thin nightshift. She closed her eyes, taking in long deep breaths of the fresh, clean air, relishing its refreshment. She massaged the muscles in her neck, tightened by the labors of the day. She kneaded and rubbed, smiling at memories long since past, of another time and another place... and of someone else working out the knots in her weary body.

        Her hands stopped their motions; her eyes flew open. That's it! she thought. I know the message of the glyphs! She quickly got dressed and ran down to the game room.

        She had the key to the puzzle!


        The early staff at the inn came on duty and found their oldest guest working on the project lined up in the large recreation room.

        "Good morning!" the admiral greeted them cheerfully. "Looks like it's going to be a gorgeous day!" She raised her hand, her fingers grasped around a mug handle; she nodded towards a steaming carafe on a hot plate. "I hope you don't mind - I made some coffee."

        "That's what it's here for," the day host smiled at her. "Glad to know that you feel at home here."

        She took a sip. "That I do - lovely place! By the way... did my colleagues leave wake-up call requests?"

        "Yes, they did," the young man answered.

        "When you call them, would you please tell them that I'm here in the game room... and that I have something to show them?"

        "Yes, ma'am," he answered.

        "Please - not 'ma'am'," she grinned. "It's not 'crunch time' yet!"

        The puzzled man turned and went to his desk.


        Within fifteen minutes, Cornejo and Peraza hurried into the game room, breathless in their rush.

        "You've found something?" asked Peraza, running over to the holoimages, now labeled with words in bold lettering.

        Cornejo let out a gasp as he noted the complete deciphering of the runes. "Admiral... this is... this is... amazing!"

        Janeway shook her head. "Not really. Even more intriguing is how it got there... and when." She smiled at Peraza. "Mixtli, you got me started with your initial 'knowns' - the codes for 'war' and 'people'. As I picked out those words, I recalled a story I was told once upon a time, one that I remember quite well. Symbols and words fell into place. This is what I came up with."

        Peraza began at the far left and read the words as Janeway had matched them with the symbols:

          "An angry warrior lived his life in conflict with the rest of his tribe, a man who couldn't find peace, even with the help of his spirit guide. For years he struggled with his discontent, but the only satisfaction that he ever got came when he was in battle. This made him a hero among his tribe, but the warrior still longed for peace within himself. One day he and his war party were captured by a neighboring tribe led by a woman warrior. She called on him to join her because her tribe was too small and weak to defend itself from all its enemies. The woman warrior was brave and beautiful and very wise. The angry warrior swore to himself that he would stay by her side, doing whatever he could to make her burden lighter. From that point on her needs would come first, and in that way, the warrior began to know the true meaning of peace."

        The younger woman looked up, her eyes bright with excitement. "From the way it looks, I think you've unlocked the code, Admiral." She smiled with her approval but still appeared puzzled. "It's a lovely story, but not one with which I'm familiar. I don't recall it from any collections of ancient legends."

        Janeway smiled, her face flushed with inward remembrance. "That's because I don't believe it is an 'ancient legend' - it's one that was improvised on the spot and told to me to explain... um... the needs of the moment." She walked over to the one picture without a word placed upon it - the image of Chakotay's tattoo marks. She lovingly traced the lines of the design. "By him... by Chakotay." In spite of herself, emotion welled up and she heard herself choke on his name.

        Cornejo rushed over to her. "Admiral? Are you all right?" He wrapped an arm around the shoulders of the slight woman.

        She shrugged, tossing off the momentary lapse into sentimentality. "Yes, I'm fine. Just some old memories, that's all. Times and places... and people... long since gone."

        Peraza shook her head. "I'm quite confused now," she said. "You say that he - Chakotay - made up this story... and told it to you? That it wasn't part of his heritage?"

        Janeway smiled. "I'm certain of it. I... I called his bluff when he told it - I asked him if there really was an 'ancient legend'. He blushed and laughed and admitted that he had made it up...." The emotion caught up with her again as the memories of that night replayed as clearly as if it had been last night. "He said that by telling a story, he could say... tell me... something... easier."

        The younger woman began a slow pace, her head and chin jutted forward in deep thought. "Then why... how... are we seeing this now... as relics from several hundred years ago?"

        Janeway laughed, the tone of which sounded somewhat peculiar. "Time travel - let's not get into that; it always gives me a headache!"

        "And let's not forget that Chakotay has been dead for several years," Cornejo added. He looked at Janeway rather strangely. "Tell me, Admiral - have you made any ghostly trips to the desert, walking in your sleep or something like that?"

        "Not I," Janeway affirmed emphatically.

        "It's almost as if he came back from the dead and left it as a message," Peraza said, half-jokingly.

        "Maybe he did," Janeway answered quietly. She felt the startled looks of the two younger people in response to her statement. Suddenly serious, she looked at Mixtli Peraza. "Do you believe in such things, Professor - people speaking beyond death?"

        "No, not really," The younger woman suddenly blushed, as if saying that she hadn't meant such a flippantly toned response. "I mean you no disrespect, Admiral."

        Janeway patted the woman's hand. "And none taken, my dear. It's just that stranger things than that have happened in my life," Janeway chortled. "I have found over the years that not everything can be answered by facts and observations or cause and effect. I wonder..." Her voice faded as her eyes took on a faraway look.

        "Admiral? Are you all right?" Cornejo prodded.

        She jumped from her thoughts. "Yes... I'm fine." A smile spread across her face. "I... I'm sure that we are all just a little bit mistaken in our facts here. Mixtli, it's quite probable that Chakotay had heard this story before, and he conveniently led me to believe that he had invented it just for me." She turned her smile to the young man. "And Jabari, I'm sure that you and your associates had just overlooked this stand of glyphs before - that they really have been around for a long time. You know how the desert can play tricks on your eyes! I'm just happy that I could be of help to you in decoding the symbols."

        "It's been an honor to have had you with us," Cornejo responded.

        She drained her coffee mug and looked up at the old chronometer on the wall. "My - would you look at the time! I really should be pulling my things together and getting back to San Francisco."

        "But... aren't you going to go back out to the desert with us?" asked Peraza.

        "I'm sure you can carry on and finish your documentation without me," the older woman answered. "I've really been too much of a bother to you already..."

        "Nonsense!" cried Cornejo. "In fact, I think you may have missed your calling! I'd love to have you around some more..."

        "Have your assistant call mine - you can put me on retainer," she smiled as she left the room. "Jabari... Mixtli... it has been a pleasure to meet you and work with you. I owe you a big favor; please don't hesitate to let me know if there's ever anything I can do for you."

        The two younger people sensed that their time with her was over. "The honor has been all ours, Admiral," Peraza nodded, her voice filled with unspoken emotion. "Good luck in whatever your future brings."

        Janeway smiled at the younger woman. A future that just might be my past, she thought.


        Her fingers rolled over the engraved letters and numbers of the small rectangular stone, just as they had 'read' the message of the petroglyphs. "I don't know how you did it, Chakotay, but you found a way to come back to me. All the words... all the promises... of that night so long ago - now to see them... to hear you again."

        She brushed away minute grains of sand that rested inside the grooved letters. "I've made my decision, my dear friend. I know; you're telling me that I'm being impulsive, that I haven't considered the consequences. Yet what did you expect, calling out... reaching out across time and beyond death like that? I' think I've found a way... to make it 'right' - to rectify all the wrongs we've done to each other since then."

        She kissed her fingertips and brushed them across his name. "Chakotay - my wonderful one, my beloved. It's time for the warrior queen to rescue her angry warrior."

        ~ finis ~

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