The View From Down Here

By Seema

Disclaimer: Paramount, blah, blah, blah.

Author's note: Written for Yahtzee's 'first line' challenge, found here. First line provided by Yahtzee, additional support and thoughts provided by Rocky.

I used to have one hell of a view.

Standing on Voyager's bridge, looking out the viewscreen, at all the Delta Quadrant had to offer, and then to compare that to what I see out my office window now: the rundown 'historical' barracks of the Presidio. My office is one of the smaller ones on what they call "Admiral's Row"; the Brass says it's a matter of seniority, I say it's a matter of petty jealousies.

These days, I spend more time 'pushing paper' than anything else. The Brass say I make a good ambassador; Tom said it was more like I was Starfleet's 'pin-up girl'.

"You know, the one who gets to be on all of the recruiting posters and a few times a year, they'll trot you out at some of the big events because you're the one who succeeded, who exemplifies Starfleet tradition in every sense of the word, but they don't actually want you to do anything," he said. I hadn't taken Tom seriously at the time; we were at a reception and he was never without a drink of some kind in his hand. And so I did what any good commanding officer would do: I took the tumbler gently out of his hand and led him back to his wife.

But his words are never far from my thoughts. Some days, I'm so busy with meetings and agendas belonging to fellow officers, I don't have a moment to myself to reflect out the window, to contrast the peeling paint and rotting wood-frame houses to the stars and nebulas of the DQ.

On other days, when I'm not running from meeting to meeting, I take a walk out towards the Golden Gate Park. The Brass tell me that in the very near future, they plan a plaque of some kind to commemorate Voyager. It's been over a year now since we came home and the idea was proposed to me. I hear the Board for Historical Achievement, Commemoration and Preservation can't make up their mind over whether to go for the Voyager-shaped water fountain in the middle of a small rose garden or a brass statue of yours truly, gazing out across the slate-gray waters in the direction of Marin County; the cynic in me says, if anything, we'll end up with a plaque on a tree.

The truth is, Starfleet is strapped, in both financial and human resources. The Dominion War, despite having officially ended about five years ago, is still straining and grabbing at everything Starfleet has to offer; we may have 'won' the battle, but it's the cost of peace we're still paying for in one way or another. It's for this reason the 'historical barracks' are growing increasingly dilapidated; there's just nothing left to restore them to their original state. When I walk past the barracks, I feel a lingering sadness. The 'miracle' of Voyager still manages to capture imagination, and some of the stories told now have been 'air-brushed' for audiences. There's a shiny gleam to Voyager, a skillful spin put out by the powers that be. The Dominion War hurt morale; the Brass counted on Voyager to restore us all.

The floorboards squeak beneath my boots when I walk down the corridor to my office; my door is the second to last on the left. The office across the hall from me is empty, the admiral who used to reside there having been recently re-assigned to the Sixth Fleet, now patrolling near Betazed. The corner office is also empty; it used to belong to Admiral Nechayev, who died suddenly a few months ago of a rare parasitic infection; she had received a 'burial at space' aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, complete with a long and surprisingly conciliatory speech from Captain Picard, reciting all of Nechayev's many achievements; those of us who had been aware of the prickly relationship between the Captain and the Admiral wondered how he had managed to keep a straight face as he read of the list of her accomplishments. Navigate Starfleet long enough, and I imagine the art of dissembling comes as second nature.

Tom, who had somehow managed to wrangle himself an invitation to the funeral, courtesy of his father, had stood at my elbow.

"Consider it a preview," he had said, irony underlying his voice. "I bet they do something on a scale this grand for you too. You're their new hero."

I had scoffed. "Don't count on it, Tom. Words are one thing, actions something else entirely."

"One thing's for sure," Tom had said. "You won't have to worry about Nechayev watching your every move now." And I had realized, from the tone of his voice, Tom held Nechayev responsible for the fact I was now tied to a desk; after all, she was the one who publicly called me a 'loose canon' for some of the actions I took in the DQ and somehow the label had stuck. While I appreciated Tom feeling resentful on my behalf, I hadn't bothered to correct him. My adversary is gone, but there is no sense of triumph; Nechayev was only part of the problem.

I haven't yet decided what I want to do. It'll be years, if ever, before Starfleet assigns me another command. The reason to keep me earth-bound, they say, is because of my diplomatic skills. They need me here to meet with the various ambassadors who come begging for aid. I've grown weary of the counter-argument, that those very skills they laud are what will make me so effective in space.

Of Voyager's senior staff, only Harry Kim and I still remain in Starfleet. Harry's doing well, finally upwardly mobile and I know he's pleased he's no longer the "longest-serving ensign in Starfleet history." I admit, I still feel a little bit guilty about that, but I did have my reasons; if I had promoted everyone on Voyager according to schedule, by the time we'd come home, we'd have been a ship of captains and admirals.

Ironically, I'm an admiral now, thanks to a promotion board decision that came within months of our return. "This means great things for you, Kathryn," Nechayev had told me as she delicately pinned the bar of admiralty on my collar. "This is only the beginning for you."

And then she had assigned me to the office next to hers. "To develop a closer working relationship," she had explained. "You can learn a lot from me, from my experiences, from what I've done."

Tom later pointed out the truth was something less than Nechayev's sudden and intense desire to mentor me. "She wants to keep an eye on you, Admiral," Tom had said. "You heard herself in the press conference. She's afraid of what you'll do if you're let loose into space again."

As much as I didn't want to believe it, I knew Tom's assessment of the situation was dead on. After enduring hours of debriefing, I now know I have the reputation of being a maverick, that the years without answering to a higher authority in the DQ have come back to haunt me. The irony is before our mission to the Badlands to capture the Maquis, I was one of the most dyed-in-the wool, by the book bureaucrats the Fleet had.

I've made inquiries and there are science expeditions set to leave every few months; Chakotay, in fact, has joined a team excavating on Betazed and he's suggested I might be interested in something similar. I'm just not ready to say I'm finished with Starfleet yet; that famed Janeway stubbornness keeps me in my lonely office gazing out the window at the remains of what once was.

But damn, I used to have one hell of a view

~ the end

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