No, that's not exactly right; when I left, I had Mark and Molly. Mark's married, happily I hope, and my dog, well, I hope someone somewhere is taking care of her the way I would.
My quarters, always immaculate - heaven forbid that a captain even dare to have a pillow out of place because you never know who is going to drop by - is especially repulsive to me as I stand in the center of muted grays and tired burgundies.
I lightly run my hand over table tops and shelves as I pass by, reveling in the sounds of PADDs and other odds and ends crashing to the floor.
I shed my jacket on the back of the sofa, knowing that no one will be by to share a Merlot tonight. On my way to the bathroom, I accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror; fascinated, I pause.
I see a pasty white face staring back at me, hazel eyes tinged slightly with green, and the hair, God, that hair - dry, brittle and thin, growing haphazardly in all directions. It is almost as if a chestnut-colored haystack is growing on top of my head, courtesy of the Borg.
The Doctor assures me that my hair will eventually revert to its shiny, bouncy, soft state and at the time, it did not matter because I saw Chakotay looking at me.
That first implant-free night, Chakotay ran his hands through my hair, his breath warm on my cheek, and his body curving against mine. He still found me beautiful and even with the remnants of my implants, he did not shrink away from me the way Tom did to B'Elanna at first and for that, I was grateful.
I shed the rest of my clothes and step into the shower. It takes a second or two to adjust the pulsing water to my specifications. Yes, I've forgotten how hot I like the water - almost scalding, something Mark would always complain about when we showered together - and how hard I like the pressure against my skin.
I stumble out, my muscles bruised but relaxed, and I lay on the sofa, wrapped only in the ivory towel.
Next to the sofa, there is the PADD, the one telling me that the Federation intends to detain Chakotay, Torres and the remaining Maquis members for questioning and perhaps, remand them for trial. I had received it in the days prior to our return to the Alpha Quadrant and after the initial read-through, I had tossed it aside, hoping that the message was a mistake, sent by accident, soon to be refuted once we arrived.
Once again, I was wrong.
I pick up the PADD and scroll through the list of charges levied against Chakotay's cell; the list, unfortunately, is endless: assault and battery, breaking and entering, burglary, civil disorder, larceny, robbery, manslaughter, terrorism, arson, conspiracy, destruction of property and finally, treason.
In the seven years we served together, I only asked Chakotay once about his life in the Maquis.
"What did you do?" I asked. We were enjoying dinner in my quarters in a thankfully peaceful interlude, sometime right after we discovered the Ares Four.
"Whatever it took," he responded. "Do we need to talk about this, Kathryn?"
"I would like to."
"I'd rather talk about what we found on the Ares," Chakotay said.
"You did enjoy that, didn't you?" I asked.
"Very much so. I guess there is still a bit of Starfleet left in me. Some of that so-called penchant for exploration?"
"We'll make a Starfleet officer of you yet."
"I thought I was already there."
I twirled some of my linguini around my fork and took a deep breath.
"Chakotay, I don't know when we're getting home or what's going to happen."
"But you're concerned."
"Yes. That's why I wanted to know."
"We were terrorists, Kathryn. Whatever falls under that definition."
"No, really. Specifics."
"I think what I said before sums it up nicely," he said evenly. "You wouldn't want to know. What we - B'Elanna, Henley, Chell, Gerron, the others - what we did, it may offend Starfleet sensibilities."
"There was one raid," Chakotay leaned back in his seat. "There was a remote Cardassian outpost, a supply base actually. Nerok Tor, actually. Medical supplies, I think. In fact, I think many of the supplies came from the Federation itself and that made us furious. We couldn't get basic medical supplies ourselves and here our government was giving the supplies to the enemy."
"So you led the raid?"
Chakotay nodded, "Yes. We leveled the outpost, burned it to the ground."
are anywhere from one hundred to one hundred and fifty. We didn't know for sure.
weren't always as precise as we would have liked."
We sat there in silence, neither of us making eye contact. I took a deep breath.
"You're right," I said. "I don't want to know."
back at the list of charges and wonder how many Nerok Tors Chakotay has to his
In addition, Chakotay has violated at least two of the Federation's General Orders.
I could argue that number two which reads, "No Starfleet personnel shall unnecessarily use force, either collectively or individually, against members of the United Federation of Planets, their duly authorized representatives, spokespersons, or designated leaders, or members of any sentient nonmember race, for any reason whatsoever," does not apply since Chakotay had left Starfleet prior to his Maquis days.
But then, there is General Order Nineteen: "Except in times of declared emergency, Starfleet personnel may under no circumstances convey personnel or material between planets or planetary systems when there is reason to believe that said personnel or material may be used to conduct aggression. This order applies to independent worlds within the Federation as well as to Federation members."
Even if we ignore the fact - the defense - that Chakotay's Maquis cell was primarily composed of former Starfleet officers, all of them were - are - Federation citizens.
The precision of words damn Chakotay, Torres and the others.
The Federation's memory is long, casting shadows across the ground and putting everyone in its path into darkness. Old feelings die-hard and I doubt there is one top Starfleet official in the Federation with any sympathy towards the Maquis or even with the ability to understand why they did what they did.
And forgive me, even after all this time, I don't know that if I understand.
You always remember first encounters. I remember my first glimpse of Kathryn Janeway when I beamed aboard Voyager after the encounter with the Caretaker. She was standing on her Bridge, arms akimbo, and her rather youngish face still unmarked by the trials of command yet to come. My very first thought as I materialized on the Bridge was, "Damn, that's an ugly hairstyle."
Yet as I advanced towards her, I absorbed every feature of her face; those greenish eyes beneath perfectly manicured eyebrows and the delicate upsweep of her cheekbones. Kathryn Janeway, helmet hair and all, was a beautiful woman, and I, being a man, could not help but notice this all-important detail.
That's not to say that I had romantic thoughts at that very moment nor did I ever speculate on what the future of my relationship with this woman would be. And I never thought we would be lovers; that thought never occurred to me.
Instead, I was rather irritated by our - and I mean the Maquis here - position. We were decidedly at a disadvantage and most of the time, the Maquis did its best work when the odds were stacked against us. Not this time; Kathryn Janeway commanded a state of the art vessel and I, well, I had nothing.
I hated her for that. Hated her for that unconscious superiority which would occasionally slip into her voice when she spoke about Voyager and the people who manned this Starfleet ship.
And her inexperience. She had been captain of Voyager for barely a few weeks and already she had stranded the Maquis and her Starfleet officers in the Delta Quadrant and the most optimistic of analysis came back with a traveling time of seventy-five years back to the Alpha Quadrant.
I suppose I'm the last person to talk about the principle of the matter and following one's heart when it comes to morality; I left Starfleet when the Cardassians attacked my home world and I did many things that in retrospect, I find objectionable and morally repulsive.
And so I did not trust Kathryn Janeway. I did not trust her motives and I did not believe that she could truly command Voyager.
Not even when she called me into her Ready Room and poured me a cup of coffee - a beverage I could barely tolerate at the time.
to talk about your presence on my ship," she said. And even then, her voice
was very territorial, very possessive. But then again, if our positions were
reversed, I imagine I would feel just as threatened.
I tried to feign nonchalance, leaning back in my chair - which incidentally was about a centimeter or two lower than hers - and trying to keep my features completely even and expressionless.
"We have a problem," she went on. "We are in the middle of the Delta Quadrant; it could take us years to get home."
"That's what Torres is telling me," I said easily. "Seventy-five to be exact."
"I'm sorry about your ship."
"She was a good ship. We went through a lot together."
"I've read your logs. and Mr. Paris, he has mentioned one or two escapades."
"I imagine he told you a lot. Anything to get off easy. That's his way."
"I know there is some bad blood between you and Mr. Paris, but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. Right now Voyager is our best chance of getting home," Janeway - and she wasn't Kathryn yet - said earnestly.
"Mr. Chakotay, I'd like you to remain on board this ship."
It was a gracious offer; after all, she could have proposed to drop me, B'Elanna and the others on some planet here in the Delta Quadrant while Voyager continued on its way home. I sure Starfleet would have loved that - one more Maquis ship destroyed, its crew unable to further affect Starfleet's uneasy truce with Cardassia.
So Janeway's invitation of a ride back to the Delta Quadrant was indeed welcome and in a way, somewhat unexpected.
"Thank you," I said. "And my crew?"
"Also welcome," she said. "Of course, I would expect you all to function as part of this crew - Voyager's crew."
"Of course. We wouldn't dream of sitting around."
"And that brings me to another matter," she said. "This is a Starfleet vessel. We may be in the Delta Quadrant, far from Starfleet's influence, but I intend to run this ship in accordance to its charter. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear," I answered.
"Good," Janeway said. "And one more thing."
I looked at her in silence.
"I, I need a first officer," she said in a low voice. "I need Tuvok at tactical and I think that, you, you have the experience that I need in my first officer."
Our eyes met and Janeway was the first to blink.
"You have the Starfleet training," she said. "And you can help ease the transition between Maquis and Starfleet, not that I think there will be tension."
to laugh at this last sentence. This type of remark was typical of Janeway in
the early days of our journey - naive and optimistic. Believe me, a few run-ins
with the Kazon, Hirogen and the Borg completely
obliterated this particular trait of hers.
"Will you do it?" Janeway pressed her palm down on the desk, focusing on the long, slender fingers fanning out.
"It's been a long time since I wore a Starfleet uniform," I mused. "Never thought I would again."
Janeway offered me that patient, mothering smile of hers. I would see that smile often as years went by and I grew to despise it - knowing that Kathryn Janeway thought she knew what was best for us without even asking us first.
"Now I need something from you," I said, surprising myself with my own boldness. "How do I know we won't be prosecuted the minute we get back into the Alpha Quadrant?"
Hunter looked at prey with frank honesty.
"You don't," she said. "I take my responsibilities very seriously, Chakotay. I assure you, I doubt that Voyager's initial mission will change once we get home."
I leaned back in my chair, rapping my fingers against the table. The cards were on the table and surprisingly, it did not bother me.
"I would be honored to serve as your first officer," I told her.
Hours pass slowly when you are waiting. I don't even know what I am waiting for, maybe a message from the Federation that this investigation of theirs is all a mistake and that Chakotay will be back at my side and B'Elanna will be back in Engineering. And then we will get the apologies and accolades I think - I know - we deserve.
Of course, that would be in a perfect world and unfortunately, I live here - wherever "here" might be at the moment.
The door chimes and I sit up, suddenly aware that I am still only wrapped in the towel.
"Who is it?" I call.
"Seven of Nine."
I sigh, "Give me a second."
My uniform is still lying on the floor of the bathroom and I pull on my gray T-shirt and black pants.
Seven enters, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
"I am bothering you," she says.
"No," I say. "Not at all.
She is still looking around, questions written all over her aquiline features.
"Sit, please," I indicate one of the chairs at the table. "Hungry? I haven't eaten yet."
"I do not require nutrition at this time."
"Then keep me company," I say. I walk up to the replicator and order tomato-basil soup and a hard-roll. "I could use the conversation."
"Lieutenant Paris mentioned that you had not been seen for some time. He was concerned."
Tom? Concerned? Now that was a surprise. But of course, he sent Seven to look on me; he wouldn't come himself and that said everything to me. He cared but could not bear to be near me.
"I just needed some time alone," I answer, bringing the food back to the table. Seven sniffs the air suspiciously and apparently, finding my food satisfactory, she settles back into her chair. "And there is nothing really left to do until Federation authorities allow us to leave the ship."
"Is there a reason why we are not allowed to leave?"
"Standard procedure whenever a ship returns from a deep space mission," I say easily.
"We have been docked for nearly twenty hours," Seven points out. I am amazed she doesn't point out to the minute how long we have been here. "The delay seems unusual to me."
I sigh, "There are some questions about. Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres."
"Their Maquis affiliation?"
Sometimes I think Seven of Nine is thirty going on five. Her utter lack of guile when it comes to human nature will be her downfall and it makes me uneasy about her future once we leave this ship.
I won't lie; I look on Seven as the child I do not have and like any mother, I delight in her accomplishments and grind my teeth at her obstinacy.
"If you commit a crime, punishment of one kind or another must follow," I answer carefully.
"Do you believe Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres have committed a crime?"
"Seven years ago, I did, yes."
"You do not any longer?"
"No. They are a part of this crew, a part of this family," I say with as much feeling I can muster. I put my spoon down. "What they did in the past, that is not relevant now."
"Starfleet believes it's relevant."
"Only because Starfleet is as unforgiving as it is rigid."
"What will happen to me?"
I fold my hands on the table, lean forward slowly, and make eye contact with Seven. I want her to know that I am sincere in whatever I say next.
"I do not know," I say truthfully. "They are interested in you, that I know, and they would like to know about you and your life as a Borg drone."
Seven cocks her head to the side, "I do not know what it left for them to know."
"You know Starfleet. They want to document everything," I laugh.
I sigh, "Yes, even you."
Seven meets my gaze straight on.
"You have encouraged me to explore my humanity," she says. "You have pushed me to become an individual."
"I have tried," I admitted. "Are you... pleased with your progress?"
"I am," she said quietly. "But I also have... feelings."
I look at Seven in surprise; many times, she would dismiss others, disregard their emotions as irrelevant.
"You're right," I answer. I reach across the table to touch the back of her hand, run my fingers over the metal tubules spanning the length of her hand from wrist to fingernail. "You aren't a science project. You never have been. I am sorry if I ever caused you to feel that way."
"I am not angry anymore," Seven says. "I was very angry when you would not return me to the Collective."
I laughed since I could now at the memory.
"Yes, I remember," I say. "You were like a teenager stretching the boundaries of what was allowed."
"I do not understand," she says.
"It's all right," I say. "Are you sure you're not hungry?"
Seven tips her head slightly.
"Your food... it looks appetizing."
"Let me get you some," I tell her. I replicate the same dinner - tomato soup and a hard roll plus a bit of salad - for her. She eyes the food with trepidation as I place it in front of her.
"Interesting," she says in much the same way Tuvok would.
"It's good. Comfort food."
don't feel well," I explain. "Sometimes you crave certain foods to make you
She spoons some of the soup into her mouth; her face contorts and then she smiles.
"It is good," she says.
"Good," I lean back in my seat. "Seven, I don't know what's going to happen. I'm as much in the dark as you are, but I promise - I will do everything I can to make sure you're treated, as you should be - as an individual."
Seven nods, "Thank you."
And I hope, unlike other promises I've made, this is one I will keep.
I find it difficult to talk about Seska. I think of her, remember those almond-shaped eyes and that deep red-brown hair slicked back from her smooth brow, and an itch develops at the back of my throat. My chest tightens and I have to inhale deeply.
It amazes me, after all this time, how Seska still affects me. I know that people think that I am hopelessly naïve, a poor judge of character, and yes, I did not see through Seska. Maybe I wanted to take her - and everyone else - at face value and believe that every word from their lips was the goddamned truth and nothing less.
I met Seska on one of our sorties into Cardassian territories. She had originally been on the Malina, a Bajoran freighter hijacked for Maquis use. The ship had sustained heavy damage and with the warp core in imminent danger of blowing, we had beamed the crew of the Malina to my ship.
Seska had caught my eye immediately. She was taller than most women onboard and she certainly towered over B'Elanna Torres. Seska also carried herself with an assuredness that I found refreshing and I loved the way her eyes sparked alternately with fiery temper and soft gentleness.
Seska always knew what she wanted; knew her needs and wants immediately and I fell into her "wants" category. I'd like to say I succumbed in a moment of incredible weakness, but it wasn't like that.
We were hidden in the caves of Alonius Prime, one of the few border colonies sympathetic to the Maquis. We had stopped off for supplies and to make much needed repairs.
is a disaster," B'Elanna declared flatly as we sat around a table, shoulders
bent in to keep from shivering in the damp atmosphere of the caves. I already
said this, but I want to reiterate that life as Maquis terrorists - as you call
us - was never glamorous. Often we were cold, hungry, wondering if today would
be our day to die. Certainly, we all walked around with a death wish; we each
possessed a fatalistic attitude, thinking,
"Yes, today is it. Today is the day Starfleet is going to aim that phaser cannon at us and that will be the end."
And of course, we wondered what the end would be like. Would it be quick and painless? Seska always advocated the self-destruction sequence, saying it was much better than the death by suffocation caused when you were sucked out of an airlock.
B'Elanna, on the other hand, preferred hand-to-hand ritualistic combat; there was no way our half-Klingon firebrand would ever commit suicide - she would die on her feet, with a phaser in one hand and a mek'leth in the other.
"A disaster?" Seska met B'Elanna's eyes straight on. "Could you possibly provide more information?"
And speaking of death, I think B'Elanna wanted Seska dead. I don't know what it was, but B'Elanna never liked Seska, not even for a half a moment. Maybe it just means that B'Elanna is a better judge of character than I am, but I prefer to think that it was more that they mirrored each other almost perfectly in terms of temperament.
"We've lost all flux capacitors," B'Elanna said coolly, directing her remarks at Tuvok and me, instead of responding to Seska.
Yes, don't look at me like that. Tuvok was there, and at the time, he was one of my more trusted colleagues; I figured that Vulcans didn't have the ability to practice deception. Again, I should have known better.
"Big deal, we can get more," Seska said.
shield harmonics matrix is out of alignment," B'Elanna continued. I could see
the heat rising in
B'Elanna's cheeks as she pointedly tried to ignore Seska.
"Can we fix it?" I asked.
"It will take time," she said.
"We don't have time!" Seska snapped.
"Well, I'm telling you what's wrong," B'Elanna shot back. "You fly the damn ship without any flux capacitors and it won't even get off the ground. You don't think I'm working as fast as I can? If I say it's going to take time, it's going to take time."
"I think you're stalling," Seska said evenly.
"Seska," I said.
"B'Elanna has no reason to stall," Tuvok injected.
to the Vulcan, Seska. I'm telling you, the ship has problems, serious problems.
I'm amazed we even survived this last raid. As it was, we limped our way here.
We're lucky there wasn't a Cardassian patrol in the
"It would have been a good day to die," Seska said without a tinge of irony in her voice. She got up, nearly knocking the chair over in abrupt movement. "I would rather die than spend another day in these damp caves! Prophets, the chill goes right to the bone. We'll all die down here from the cold."
"Seska," I said in an attempt to appease the angry Bajoran.
"Are you afraid?" B'Elanna's eyes were flashing. "It's good we found out now, isn't it, Seska? If you're afraid of what we're doing, then maybe you aren't in the right place. Maybe this isn't your battle."
"I'm Bajoran. This is my battle."
B'Elanna got up from her hair and rounded the side of the table, nearly colliding with Tuvok who had gotten up from his chair in an attempt to stop her.
"I'm watching you," B'Elanna breathed. "If I even see one thing that makes me stop and think twice, you better watch your back."
"B'Elanna," I said.
"I don't need to listen to this," Seska snarled at me. Her amber-tinged eyes snapped fire at me, her lips curling in anticipation of a fight, and her fists were clenched at her side. I won't lie; I found Seska fascinating at that moment.
We stood there for a mere second and then Seska thundered off in one direction and B'Elanna in the other, no doubt in search of her flux capacitors.
"I should check on. Seska," I said to Tuvok awkwardly.
"And I," Tuvok looked around. "I will attempt to find some kind of heat generator."
"Good idea," I said. And I'll be honest; in the entire time Tuvok was with us, the heat generator was the best suggestion he ever came up with.
I found Seska huddled in corner in the passageway furthest from where we had been meeting. Her teeth chattered as I came down the corridor, the little lantern flickering in my hand.
"I brought you a blanket," I said.
"I'm sorry about B'Elanna. Her temper sometimes gets the best of her."
"She is rude, Chakotay."
I crouched down beside Seska, putting the lantern to the side, and then draping the blanket around her shoulders.
"She means well."
"This isn't her fight," Seska said, but some of the bitterness in her tone had already started to evaporate. "What is she doing here anyway?"
"What are you doing here?"
"That's different. I'm Bajoran."
I smiled, "We all have our reasons. Some, like yours, are as plain as the nose on your face. Others are a little more opaque."
"Are you always this...?" she fumbled a bit by her side, arranging the blanket more securely around her. "Are you always so cheerful?"
"No," I said. "But that wasn't what you were going to ask, was it?"
"No," she said. "What you said, it was silly, but sweet."
She said, "Won't you sit down?"
I brushed the pebbles slightly aside with my fingers. "Sure."
The dampness seeped through my thin pants as I leaned back against the clammy stone walls. I shivered.
"Share my blanket?" she asked.
"Are we ever going to get out of here?"
"I plan on it."
Seska glanced at me sideways, her almond-shaped eyes narrowing into tiny slits.
"B'Elanna doesn't like me," she said.
"You don't like her."
"Do you like her?"
I sighed, "Seska, this is not a popularity contest."
She inched closer to me, her shoulder brushing mine.
"Do you always avoid answering questions?" Seska queried.
I had to laugh, "When it is political to do so, I try my best."
so," and without asking, she rested her head on my shoulder. "I can't believe
that only six hours ago,
we were going down in flames. I thought, `this is it, I'm going to die.'"
"I thought the same. In fact, I wake up every morning and think that."
"You think we'll be fighting this fight for the rest of our lives?"
"I hope not."
"Sometimes I think this is going to last forever."
"You think the Cardassians are going to cede an inch?" Seska asked. "Or what about the Federation? How many Federation vessels have you attacked recently? The Federation has a long memory."
"I prefer to not think about that," I said. "I like to think about why I'm doing what I'm doing."
Her hair was brushing my cheek and I shifted position awkwardly so I could wrap my arm around her. She was a stocky woman, big-boned and muscular - a rather unusual physique for Bajorans who tend to be more delicately built and slender. But at the time, she fit into the curve of my arm perfectly and I didn't think much more of her unusual stature.
What I admired most about Seska was her utter brazenness and her delicious sense of impropriety. She knew what she wanted and did not care what conventions had to be broken in order for her to get what she wanted.
Seska inched her hand up my thigh, and when I looked at her, her eyes were closed and her head tilted slightly back, her lips curled up in a half-crescent.
"Seska," I whispered. "What are you doing?"
"Shh," she said.
Slowly, she made her way to my waistband and I jerked when her warm fingers touched my cool skin. She was breathing calmly, but I could feel my chest tighten as her hand brushed over the hairs on my thigh. I knew I should protest; instead, I closed my eyes.
stood up, looking pleased with herself. I could almost sense her thoughts, the
"Could B'Elanna do that for you?"
down at me, extended her hand and said coolly, "The others are probably wondering
"You're right," I stumbled to my feet, marveling at the weakness in my muscles.
We didn't talk about what happened then and we never really did ever; instead, we grabbed our furtive moments anywhere we could from the dark corners of an abandoned supply depot or in the damp leaves covering the ground of a rain forest.
And not once did I suspect. She was that good.
I do mean that - in more ways than one.
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