Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Just a chat, really.
Two marked quotes from "The Mask" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Two unmarked quotes from the Bible. Title by Ovid. Copyright has expired on all of the above.
How they'd gotten involved in the Asthani civil war was beyond them. It seemed to have something to do with a flaw in the Universal Translator and an unhappy coincidence of body language. No one minded, really - the rebel cause was just, and space was dull for the crew of Voyager when things weren't exploding around them. The only problem was that pesky Prime Directive; Captain Janeway went through more trouble and danger to extricate Voyager from the war than just fighting their way across the sector would have caused them.
Now Chakotay, the XO who couldn't leave well enough alone, was in her ready room trying in his clumsy way to comfort her.
"You did the right thing, Kathryn."
She winced as though he'd backhanded her across the face.
"Whatever you do, Chakotay, don't say that to me again."
He looked concerned, and confused. She didn't want to explain, but the words came out of her mouth before she could stop them.
"So many people pay the price when I do the right thing. The Asthani are just the latest in a long list of Delta Quadrant species who have gotten in the way of Truth and Right and been trampled for it."
"Are you questioning the Prime Directive?" her XO asked.
"No, not per se. If we were Ferengi trading our way across the quadrant, trying our best to follow the Rules of Acquisition, we would have the same problems. Maybe the list of the dead would be different, but they would still be dead in the name of a higher good."
"It's a violent quadrant. People die." Such was the simple Maquis attitude. A flicker of hope lit her face at his words.
"You're right! What of the trail of bodies, when they were alien, furry, spotted and horn-nosed?" He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. "Let us consider them, for the moment, as so many Cardassians who lived by the sword and died by the sword. 'How calmly, calmly smile the dead, / Who do not, therefore, grieve!'
"But the morgue I made of the Delta Quadrant is the least of my concerns. Think instead of my crew, who have suffered so, here in this uncharted backwater of the galaxy - far from their friends, their families, their lives. They are all trapped here because I did the right thing by the Ocampa.
"And will Starfleet reward them for it, or will they jail the Maquis and split up the rest of the crew? Do the Q keep tabs on us, and will they return us good for the good we have done?"
She stared at him, as though she were waiting for an answer, but his face was dark. He finally understood her problem - she should never have asked herself that question, never mind voiced it aloud.
"Don't ask, Kathryn, please don't ask. For if the Q do not reward good, they certainly will punish those who dare to say they rule unjustly."
"I'm asking!" she shouted, not at him, but at the walls of the room. To him she whispered, "I'm asking - why does my crew have to suffer? Why does everyone close to me suffer when I do the right thing? Why do you suffer? Why do I? What did I do wrong?"
"You didn't do anything wrong, Kathryn." Nor had he.
"Maybe I should, then, Chakotay - maybe I should do something wrong. Let's kill some transdimensional aliens for fuel, Chakotay. Let's sell technology to the warmongers of this backwards quadrant. Let's go back and fight in the Asthani's civil war - let's violate the Prime Directive. Let us take arms together, you and I, Chakotay, against the Q."
"Shall we make a tower with its top in the heavens, Kathryn? It seems to me I've heard that story before - it doesn't end well."
"And what of our story, Chakotay - is it going any better? You're my XO; what's your alternate plan?"
He sighed and said, "Curse God and die."
"I'm glad we're on the same page here."
"Since the first sun rose over the first world, it has been this way. Why are you upset now?" he wondered aloud. "Surely you noticed a long time ago."
"Everyone has an account, Chakotay, of what right she did in her life, and what wrongs. And then there's the other account - what happiness she saw, and what sorrow. My conscience doesn't bother me, but my eyes are tired.
"When you're tired, you make mistakes. The biggest mistake of all is to realize that if you did a little wrong, you could be so much happier for it. For I've done so much right and gotten only sorrow for my trouble, Chakotay - what difference would one sin make, compared to the potential benefits? Because without a little sunshine, just a little ray of it, I will die. I'll call the Continuum down on my head, and they who have slain trillions will not hesitate to put me out of my misery. Unless..." Her voice trailed off.
"Unless?" he prompted her.
"Unless I can break just one regulation, and save myself from despair."
"If you could, you would have done it already," he realized aloud. "But you never feared the gods, Kathryn, or death, or the cold vacuum of space, or the 70,000 lightyears between us and home. You will go on doing the right thing because you always have, regardless of whether the Q were keeping track. If they persecuted you specifically for your virtues you wouldn't back down, because you would be right and they, merely inscrutable."
"You damn me with your praise."
"Perhaps." He paused, then asked, "What sunshine?" but she was suddenly quiet. "Not Sol," he said when she turned to gaze out the viewscreen at the distant stars, "no, not Sol. Tell me, Kathryn."
He leaned across her desk and reached out his hand. She hadn't the energy to resist his touch on her jaw - he turned her head back to face him. "Say it, Kathryn."
"That, too, would be wrong." Though there were tears in them, her eyes were bright. 'Such brightness dying suns diffuse', he thought. Like a trillion martyrs before her, she would march into the fire: the higher the flames, the greater the honor - or was it dishonor? - to the gods who let men burn.
He drew his hand back, but held her eyes. Plucking off his commbadge, he put it down between them on the desk. When he reached for his rank insignia, her eyes went wide. With a twist the bar was free; he dropped it, and the little clink echoed louder than a shout in the small room.
Two tears made their way down her cheeks, but she shook herself and replied, "It's a ploy - a trick of words."
"The spirit of the law is malevolent, Kathryn. What Q will come down to us and chide us for obeying only the letter of a protocol written at the other end of the galaxy?"
She didn't answer. He stood and walked around the desk to her, then took her hand. She stood up before him shakily.
"Don't make me make it permanent - I will if I have to. I, too, have been known to leave a trail of bodies behind me and strand my crew far from home for a just cause. And at this moment, I don't care if all 150 of us die, so long as we die in the sunshine." He stroked her hair and wiped a stray tear from her cheek.
"But is this the reward," she asked him, almost inaudibly, "or have you taken arms with me against the Q?"
"There's the heart of the matter, Kathryn - you can never tell for certain. Maybe we're better off not knowing."
He leaned down and kissed her. As she clung to his warmth, she thought she felt the scales tip.
Video meliora proboque; Deteriora sequor means "I see the better way and I approve of it; I follow the worse."