Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Six seasons in review: "Resolutions", "Basics", "Coda", "Scorpion", "Equinox", "Fair Haven", "Unimatrix Zero", "Workforce", and "Endgame"
When Gene Roddenberry comes to me and complains, I'll stop.
Kathryn Janeway saw the walls of Sickbay around her and felt the hard cushions of a biobed under her back. The EMH puttered silently around the room, but her first officer leaned over her, concern evident on his face.
"Chakotay," she said, and her voice sounded weaker than she liked.
"Kathryn." He took her hand in his.
She pulled it back again, under the guise of propping herself up on one elbow. "What happened?" she asked.
"It looks like you were bitten by an insect on our excursion last week. You were running a high fever for days - nothing in the medkit helped." He brought his emotions under control, saying more casually, "I thought I'd lost you a few times there."
Her eyes strayed from his face to the EMH's back. "Couldn't the Doctor find a cure?"
Chakotay turned to follow her gaze, then looked back at her, more worried than before. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"We were stranded on New Earth for a few weeks. I'd almost accepted our predicament as permanent when Tuvok hailed us." Chakotay started, but Kathryn's attention was on her own tale. "He'd contacted the Vidiians and gotten the antidote from them. We beamed aboard Voyager and resumed our duties." She glanced around Sickbay again. "The Doctor said we were completely cured. Have I had a relapse?"
Chakotay thought for some time before speaking, and when he did, he did not reply to her question. Instead, he asked, "Why did Tuvok come back for us? He was under orders not to try to contact the Vidiians."
She smiled knowingly. "It can be difficult for a Vulcan to lead an irrational human crew, especially when many of them consider him a spy and a traitor. Besides, I understand that Ensign Kim objected to leaving us behind."
"The crew needed you," Chakotay said, almost as a question.
Janeway laughed. "Harry wanted his mother-figure, perhaps. At least we're back aboard Voyager, and on our way home."
"We're stranded here," Janeway said. She saw about her a desert world of scrub and rock, its only shelter low, dark caves.
Chakotay perked up. "Yes, we are."
"Kazon, carnivores, cavemen... Let's hope Paris finds the Talaxian cavalry."
Chakotay's cheer dissipated swiftly. "Let's hope so." He turned back to his task of gathering food, and Kathryn directed the crewmen she saw in the business of survival.
Some time later she saw Voyager streaking across the sky, and Chakotay's gaze followed hers. Their eyes met, and he knew what she had seen - that vision of her ship which was always foremost in her mind.
She talked about a talent show, and Chakotay followed along, keeping up his end of the conversation without ever expecting to be in control of it. He'd grown accustomed to such discussions, which tended to lead to perilous adventures in which he shared silently.
This time was different. Kathryn began the conversation again, from the top, and he repeated his impromptu opinion of Harry Kim's performance in the latest show. Then she stopped speaking, as though she'd realized that they'd already had this conversation. She wandered ghostlike through scenes of her own imagining; though he'd thought he was accustomed to their peculiar situation, at one point he wept over her, lying lifeless on the ground of the only world which had ever defeated Kathryn Janeway.
Afterwards she told him about the alien who'd showed her version after version of her own death, hoping to steal and consume her soul. Strange demons haunted her, he thought.
They were in the Delta Quadrant; he supposed it was inevitable that the Borg would appear. Janeway was, in her unique way, a galactic tourist who had to hit all the hot spots. "Borg space fills thousands of solar systems," Janeway had said. "There's no way around them, but there just may be a way through."
Of course, there would be a way through. Things always went Janeway's way, in the end, no matter how improbably. He thought she would best the Borg, elude them by taking the Northwest Passage, unmarked on any starchart yet clear in the Captain's mind.
She had a PADD before her, and read reports about the Borg aloud to him. "It is my opinion that the Borg are as close to pure evil as we've ever encountered," some captain or other had once said. Chakotay wondered whether the words were on the PADD now, or merely in her mind. Yet he felt closer to her then than he had in the past year, when in a moment of doubt he reassured her and she replied, "Three years ago I didn't even know your name. Now I can't imagine a day without you."
That moment of contact was not to last. She drew away; something bigger and stronger than the Borg appeared, Species 8472. He tried to convince her to turn back from Borg space, to settle down on a nice, peaceful planet - he had just the planet in mind.
She reacted badly to the suggestion, if making an alliance with the Borg could be considered reacting badly. He told her the tale of the fox and the scorpion, but she would not listen. Chakotay could feel Janeway drawing away, yet he let his frustration and isolation come out in a pointless argument. The Captain refused to turn back.
He forced himself to calm down, to draw the argument to a close. In response, she whispered, "Then I guess I am alone, after all." But she had her ideal crew, her indestructible ship, her mythic mission. He had only a specious job description - he was the one who was truly alone.
Janeway remained distant for a year, but at some point her brusqueness turned to silence. Around her she saw only darkness, with Voyager a single beacon of light. Chakotay tried to rouse her by playing to her ideals. "This ship needs a captain, especially now." He wasn't sure what the dilemma of the day was - something about radiation, again - but it was always urgent.
She berated herself for getting them trapped in the Delta Quadrant; he tried to talk her out of it, without success. The darkness he knew to be psychological - a true "void," as he nicknamed it for her, was impossible in space. Certainly a light-blocking void 2,500 light years in diameter would have been noted on star charts long ago - the entire galaxy was less than 100,000 light years across. Janeway's Voyager would have taken more than two years to cross it, yet to hear her tell it, the Void had snuck up on the ship, or vice versa.
Even if there were a region of the Delta Quadrant so large and starless - which, of course, there was not - stars beyond it would be visible, as would the hot core of the Milky Way. She mentioned no substance that might be blocking the light of distant galaxies, light that had begun to shine when the universe was new, and would go on for billions of years after Voyager and all her crew were stardust.
He found it disturbing that a former scientist had set aside such a basic law of physics as the conservation of energy in order to mope in a private, incredible void. He was glad when she saw the stars again.
Chakotay had never expected such a life, and such duties, as he had found under Captain Janeway. She ignored his advice on the rare occasions that she asked for it; she ignored him even as he kept everything around her running smoothly. He did everything for her, and she behaved as though it were nothing. She even found herself another Starfleet captain to keep her company, then discovered Ransom's crimes and turned on him viciously.
He objected, and found himself relieved of duty. That, he realized afterwards, was the point at which he had truly lost hope for Kathryn Janeway, for the woman he had once known but recognized no longer. He would get her to eat, to rest, to take the occasional break from her mad quest through the heavens, but he would no longer allow himself to hope for their future.
She saw the holodeck around her, playing some new holoprogram of Tom's. The sun was setting over the green hills, and Chakotay couldn't help noticing her good spirits. He walked up to her and was introduced to the Irish hologram.
Later, when he found her reading a replicated book, he asked her about it. "'Hills most green, hearts unseen'?"
"Jane Eldon," she admitted. "I'm catching up on a little reading."
"Those hills and hearts wouldn't happen to be in Ireland?" Chakotay would have preferred New Earth, but any bucolic planetary setting was progress.
She glared at him, but clearly wasn't angry. "You can wipe that smirk off your face. It's not what you think."
"I wasn't thinking anything," he said, "but now that you've mentioned it..."
"I have an interest in Irish culture."
Chakotay grinned. "It's understandable. They've produced great writers for hundreds of years," he said. "Not to mention great bartenders."
Kathryn laughed again. "He's a hologram."
He ad-libbed a bit more, encouraging her in her illusionary pursuits. Chakotay wasn't sure afterwards what had prompted him to do so - perhaps he hoped this outright phantasm would provide a road out of her self-absorption. On the other hand, the dream-within-a-dream aspect of Michael Sullivan might lead her deeper into the specters of memory which had haunted her these past four years.
At this point, any change seemed positive.
He changed his mind about that quickly enough, when he heard about the latest crisis and her plan for dealing with it. What would become of her, if she lost her mind to the Borg Collective? He pictured her as a grey-skinned drone aboard an impossibly large cube, going stiffly and soullessly about her duties. What would he do if she could not find her way out of the Collective mind?
He had to argue with her, no matter how fruitless all past debates of that sort had been. "Remember when I said I didn't have any objections?" he asked as she was hurrying away from yet another staff meeting.
"Can't this wait till I get back?" she asked, restless at any delay.
He thought quickly. "I realize I'm not going to talk you out of this, but I'll be damned if you're going in there alone."
She barreled on toward some deck or cargo bay only she could see. "We've got a lot of work to do, Commander."
"You said you wanted my support," Chakotay called after her. "Then take Tuvok and B'Elanna with you." If she was still the Kathryn Janeway he'd once known, she wouldn't sacrifice her officers on a hopeless mission.
Finally she stopped to listen. "And if I don't?"
What if, indeed? "I may only be first officer, but I still pull a few strings around here. The Doctor could be persuaded to question your medical fitness..." His voice trailed off as he tried to think of a backup argument when this one failed.
Janeway wasn't pleased. "I was hoping for your unconditional support."
He shrugged. "This is the best I can do."
He was surprised and relieved that she gave in so readily. "Tell them to pack light," she said. He trusted her to bring Tuvok and Torres back, and therefore, to bring herself back. It was a close call, but he managed to frustrate her self-sacrificial drive yet again.
The quadrant had been quiet for some time, so he thought it was safe to leave her. He went on a five-day journey to restock their supplies and when he returned, he found her deep in another illusion. Kathryn Janeway had gotten a day job and a boyfriend named Jaffen. She, along with most of Voyager's crew, seemed well-settled despite their sudden career changes.
She didn't recognize him when he spoke to her; he was tempted to leave her in her pleasant reverie, but he had to try, at least, to talk her out of it. He succeeded eventually; she contacted Voyager, freed her crew from the alien brainwashing, and resumed command of her ship. He was surprised that she left the boyfriend behind.
"It may not have been real, Chakotay," she told him, "but it felt like home. If you hadn't come after me, I never would've known that I had another life."
He appreciated the irony for a moment, then said, "Are you sorry I showed up?"
"Not for a second," she replied. Her attention was back on the journey home.
He supposed it was the best he could hope for.
Near the end, the Captain began talking to herself.
Wormholes, the Borg, time travel - it was the usual thing, if in an unusual dosage. For some reason she - the Admiral, not the Captain, though Kathryn played both roles - seemed to think he was involved with the Borg drone she'd adopted almost four years before.
The Admiral was willing to break all the regulations his own Kathryn held dear; she warned herself against the consequences of adhering too devoutly to the Starfleet rulebook. Chakotay rather liked the new Janeway.
This particular dissociation was not to last long. The Admiral disappeared into the Collective, and the Captain saw that precious jewel of a planet she'd wasted so many years in finding.
"Mr. Chakotay," she said to him, "the helm."
Kathryn played the part of returning heroine with panache - she should have been an actress, he thought. He could see the adulation of the crowds, the more discriminating praise of the Starfleet brass, and the joy of long-awaited reunions, all reflected in her eyes. She was swept away in the excitement; it was weeks before the bands in her mind stopped playing victory marches, and months before she had time for her former first officer.
She sat down beside him one day, imagining a modern, spacious home in some temporary quarters Starfleet had assigned him. To him, it was the same old emergency shelter. "Chakotay," she said, "we've been friends for a long time now."
"Seven years," he said. Seven long and frustrating years...
"It all went by so quickly. We never had the chance to spend time - quality time - together." She saw his sand paintings on the walls; Chakotay had not dedicated all his time in the Delta Quadrant to survival. Sadly she added, "Now you're with Seven."
The Borg drone, of course. "There's nothing between me and Seven, Kathryn. That was mostly in the Admiral's mind, or her timeline."
"Maybe there's someone else..." she said, letting her voice die away.
"There's never been anyone else, Kathryn," he said, meaning it quite literally.
She smiled at him, but there was doubt in her eyes. "Starfleet has offered me a promotion," she said, as if it were another external event completely divorced from Kathryn the person. The universe demanded things of the Captain, and the Captain complied.
"Haven't you given enough of your life to Starfleet? It's time to think about yourself - not the crew, not the Alpha Quadrant, but Kathryn Janeway."
"I don't know if I remember how to be just Kathryn." Her voice conveyed her doubt that, when the universe was calling, she could refuse to open the comm channel.
Though Chakotay was long past hoping, he jumped at the opening. There had to be something he could say, to convince her to come back to him. "Speaking of Seven," he said casually, "she's analyzed the technology Admiral Janeway used to reach us in the Delta Quadrant. Starfleet Research has put together a prototype shuttle. Of course, the technology is designed for a one-way trip..." His voice trailed off.
"You're suggesting retiring to the Delta Quadrant - permanently."
"I have just the planet in mind."
"New Earth," she said, with a slight tone of reverence.
"To tell the truth, I could use some help in the garden." Inadvertently, he glanced out the window.
She gave the proposal some thought, and broke the bad news to him gently. "We wouldn't survive the trip," she said. "Admiral Janeway used an experimental drug to protect her against tachyon emissions."
After all these years, Chakotay was quick on his feet. "The EMH extracted it from her bloodstream when he examined her aboard Voyager. Starfleet Medical has replicated it, even improved upon it." He watched her closely. "What do you say to one last adventure?"
Kathryn smiled. "I don't think I could have adjusted to commanding a desk after all these years."
They stood beside the shuttle, hand in hand, their eyes for once seeing the same trees and fields. New Earth was green and lush, a paradise whose beauty even Chakotay had lost sight of over the years. The sunset was especially beautiful.
"I'd forgotten how lovely this place was," Kathryn said. She walked down a gentle hillside to their old shelter. "It's as if we'd never left."
He gave half a smile, and knelt to pluck a weed out of the vegetable garden.
"That's odd," she said. "The garden ought to be overgrown by now."
"Maybe the monkey's been weeding it," he said with a grin. She looked down at him, dismay in her eyes, and he stood and took her hand. "Don't worry about it, Kathryn," he told her. "We're home now. We've always been home."
"We're stranded here."
"Tuvok's not coming for us this time," he said. He waited until she nodded in agreement, and they went into the shelter together.
The title is from the end of "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.