Janeway and Picard are requested for a diplomatic mission. (J/C and P/C)
VAMB Secret Santa 2014
Categories: Characters: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: Yes Word count: 13384 Read: 29976 Published: 17/01/15 Updated: 17/01/15
Janeway and Picard are requested for a diplomatic mission. (J/C and P/C)
VAMB Secret Santa 2014
1. Chapter 1 by Cheshire
2. Chapter 2 by Cheshire
3. Chapter 3 by Cheshire
4. Chapter 4 by Cheshire
Disclaimer: No infringement intended and unfortunately Trek doesn’t belong to me.
Request: A J/C story, can take place at any point in the timeline, as long as one of the TNG couples (Picard/Crusher or Riker/Troi) somehow plays a role. Angst is fine, but a happy ending please.
Queen of Diamonds by Cheshire
Kathryn grasped his sleeve, waving with her free hand and nodding where she needed to as the holocamera lights trained on her every move.
“I hate this,” she said through a smile, whispering into Chakotay’s ear and delighting the cameras with their secret exchange.
“Just keep walking,” he said back, dipping his head so no camera would be able to catch the movements his mouth made while he spoke. “If we stop now, they’ll eat us alive.”
It took several more minutes but they finally covered the last few meters of red carpet and were safely inside. They grinned in relief at each other for a brief second and then put their game faces back on. Cameras weren’t allowed inside the hall, but there was still a reception line to complete before they were truly safe. Moving politely down the line, they glad-handed ambassadors and admirals, planetary officials, and the occasional actor that had earned an invite to the Presidential Honorees Annual Ceremony.
At the end of the line, Kathryn stopped to speak with the president’s chief aide as Chakotay shook hands with a holodrama director that wanted to make a movie of Chakotay’s life in the Maquis.
“I promise you’ll be portrayed very fairly,” the director said, leaning in conspiratorially. “After all, everyone knows now you were right all along.”
“I’m sure it’ll be great,” Chakotay nodded, freeing his hand, “if you’ll excuse me.”
He caught up to where Kathryn was standing, watching the crowd inside the ballroom. He placed his hand on the small of her back, making her jump. “Sorry,” he laughed, “at least we survived the preliminaries.”
She blinked at him for a second before her expression cleared and she looked back the way they had come. “Yes, we did.”
“What did the chief bootlicker want?” he asked, guiding her forwards.
Presidential Chief Aide Marcek had earned the nickname from Kathryn after sending her daily and sometimes hourly updates for the past month about how the awards ceremony would be conducted and what duties her role included. It seemed every step had been dictated and every moment scripted. There was absolutely no room for improvising when it came to the president’s scheduling.
“Oh, he just had some last minute instructions,” she said absently before giving him the same smile she’d been giving to all of the politicians. “Nothing to worry about.”
He nodded agreeably, but something about her tone was off. “Everything all right?”
She nodded, scanning the room again. “Everything is fine.”
Chakotay accepted two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one off to her. “Looking for anyone in particular?”
“Yes,” she said, indicating a small cluster of officers with her chin. “Would you excuse me for a minute, Chakotay? I need to speak to Captain Picard.”
“I’ll go with you.” He easily matched her stride. “I wouldn’t mind saying hello to Doctor Crusher again. I haven’t seen her since your last stay in the hospital.”
Kathryn frowned but didn’t answer. As they approached the small group of officers, it broke up and Picard noticed them. He nodded immediately to Kathryn. “Admiral.”
The redhead on Picard’s arm waited a beat and then smiled beautifully at Chaktoay. “Commander, it’s nice to see you again.”
“Good to see you, too,” he said then carefully nudged his date in the side. “Kathryn, you remember Doctor Crusher, don’t you?”
Kathryn finally seemed to remember her manners and smiled briefly in the other woman’s direction. “Yes, of course. How are you this evening?”
“Nice to see you outside of a medical facility, Admiral,” Beverly said easily, “and congratulations on tonight’s award.”
“Thank you,” Janeway replied, looking at Picard. “Captain, I’m afraid I need a few minutes of your time to discuss an upcoming mission assignment.” She looked back to Crusher and Chakotay. “If you’ll excuse us, it shouldn’t take long.”
Picard set his untouched glass of champagne down on the nearest table and gestured for the admiral to lead the way. He inclined his head. “Beverly. Commander.”
“Captain,” Chakotay replied and then watched as the two senior officers exited through a side door. He looked at Doctor Crusher, who was still watching the door as though they would imminently reemerge. Chakotay cleared his throat and got her attention. “What do you think?”
She nodded, seemingly to herself. “I think it’s time.”
*4 weeks earlier*
The room was filled with bright sunlight. Something that would annoy the hell out of Kathryn if she’d been trying to sleep late, but this morning she just smiled sleepily and turned her head towards the other side of her bed. Chakotay had a closed eyed grin as well and she turned completely onto her side so she could face him.
“Are you still asleep?” she asked quietly.
“Only if you are.”
Kathryn slipped a hand out from beneath the covers and touched his tattoo, following it over his ear and running her fingers through his hair. He opened his eyes and watched her. “Are you going to do that every morning?”
“Do I do this every morning?” she asked playfully, her fingers still running through his hair.
“Mm-hmm, you have so far,” he said sleepily.
“For years, I thought about doing it a lot. Now that there’s nothing to stop me from actually doing it…” She grinned and traced the pattern again.
He trapped her hand with his own and kissed the back of it. “It’s a great way to start the day.”
“It is,” she admitted, “especially when I’m in no real hurry to face the rest of the day.”
He frowned. “I thought you liked Picard.”
“I do,” she said easily. “It’s not him; it’s the rest of this mission I don’t like.”
He propped himself up on one elbow so he could see her better. “Since when don’t you like spreading good will towards new Starfleet prospects?”
“Good will?” She flopped onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. “It’s a brownnosing farce.”
He almost managed not to laugh and only a choked sound escaped his throat, earning him a raised eyebrow. “It’s only a few days.”
“It’s ridiculous and not something we should have to do.”
He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “You know why you have to do it.”
“Because it came directly from the President of the Federation’s office,” she grumbled.
“Mmm-hmmm, and you know why you have to be nice to the president,” he said, nibbling on her ear lobe.
She turned her head so he’d have better access. “Because she’s the only one that knows about us.”
“And?” he prompted.
“And because she kept that bit of information to herself throughout the entire review process.” She pushed him over and swung herself on top of him. “When she said I’d owe her a favor, I just thought she’d want me to come to her kid’s birthday party or something.”
He laughed. “That’s not exactly the kind of political favor someone in her position needs.”
She leaned down and kissed him, her hair curtaining his face. “Maybe she should learn not to barge into rooms unannounced.”
“She’s the president of the free universe, Kathryn. I’m pretty sure she could barge into this room unannounced if she wanted to.”
Kathryn lifted her head and looked around the sunlit bedroom with private patio access straight to the beach. She was really going to hate leaving this place. “I don’t think the president comes to Casperia Prime.”
“Everyone comes to Casperia Prime.” He grabbed her by the hips and flipped her so she was underneath him again. “Including the Enterprise which will be arriving in just under three hours to pick you up. What do you say we stop worrying about the president and the Federation and the general state of affairs for the universe and make the most of our last three hours?”
She grinned up at him and hooked a leg around his hips. “What did you have in mind?”
“Welcome aboard, Admiral,” Picard said, offering to take her travel bag as she stepped down from the Enterprise’s transporter.
“Thanks for picking me up,” she replied with a quirk of a smile.
“My crew was all too happy to make the trip. They’re very appreciative that you chose to depart from Casperia Prime.”
She shrugged. “Someone may as well have some fun while we’re away.” She followed him into the corridor. “Will we be departing immediately?”
“The shuttle pilot is finishing his final checks as we speak.”
“Eight hour trip at warp six, two days of meetings followed by two days of sightseeing, finished off with a night of dancing and festivities.” She gave him a side-eye. “I’m tired already.”
“Don’t forget the eight hour return trip,” he reminded helpfully. “I have to admit that with all the communiqués I’ve received from Chief Marcek, I feel very informed regarding the Stuuryen culture but-”
“Too informed,” Janeway grumbled, cutting him off. “If I receive one more message from Marcek, I will officially submit him as a stalker.”
Picard swallowed his grin at the admiral’s criticism. “The man is thorough, I’ll admit, but I’m sure that’s why the president enjoys having him as her chief aide.”
Kathryn sighed and completed Picard’s earlier thought. “But you wonder why we’re going on this mission.”
“The thought has crossed my mind, Admiral,” he admitted.
She shook her head. “My best guess is that this falls under presidential prerogative. The planet Stuuryen is her personal project to get admitted to the Federation.”
“Well then,” he said cheerily, “I live to serve the Federation.”
They entered the shuttle bay. “As do we all, Captain. As do we all.”
Picard entered the dining area of the shuttle to see the admiral sitting at the table, reading a PADD. “More communiqués?”
“Yes, but he’s changed subjects.” She shut the PADD down and leaned back in her chair. “I guess if he’s harassing me about a new subject I can’t report him for stalking.”
“Can I get you anything?” he asked, gesturing towards the replicator.
“Coffee, black. Please.”
He ordered a drink for each of them. “Are those the instructions for the awards ceremony?”
“Yes, which is apparently just as detailed as any first contact situation I’ve ever encountered. Thank you,” she said, accepting the coffee. “You’re being honored at it as well, aren’t you?”
He straightened his tunic as he sat. “Yes. The events that happened on the Ba’ku homeworld have finally become public knowledge. Starfleet as well as the Federation want to draw attention away from the more regrettable actions taken by a few officers.”
“And what better way to do that then to highlight the actions taken by Starfleet that were favorable?” she offered. “Namely yours.”
“Something like that,” he admitted.
“I haven’t been able to read up on all the events of recent history,” she said. “Would you tell me about it?”
An hour later as Picard was explaining the Son’a relationship to the Ba’ku, they felt a shudder run through the shuttle. Picard immediately hit his comm. badge. “Ensign, is there a problem?”
The answer they received was the shuttle bucking hard enough to toss both officers to the deck. Picard grasped the edge of the table. “Ensign, report!”
Janeway pulled herself up to the science console and tried to access the external sensors. She slammed one fist against it as she held on for dear life with her other hand. “Nothing is working!”
Picard reached the door leading to the pilot’s area when the shuttle bucked again and threw them both sideways. Janeway landed on her shoulder, an immediate burn of pain erupting in the joint as it took the brunt of her impact. Sparks erupted from paneling above her head and she flinched away from them, unable to lift her arm to shield herself. It didn’t matter much as the shuttle twisted again, sending her head over heels back across the deck. Her head struck the aft bulkhead and the lights seemed to dim in the shuttle as she passed out.
The dim lights were a pleasant surprise. Usually when she woke up in a sickbay the lights were ungodly bright. And she had to be in a sickbay. At least, she truly hoped, for once, that she was in one. She had that horrible sedative-wearing-off headache that she immediately associated to time spent with the Doctor and her mouth felt as if it was full of sawdust. If she wasn’t in a sickbay, she was in serious trouble.
She blinked a few times to try and focus on the unfamiliar ceiling. It was unremarkable. If she wanted answers, she was going to have to commit to more movement – not a thrilling idea. Trying to produce some sort of moisture in her mouth, she rolled her head to the side and saw an opaque divider spanning from floor to ceiling. It was mildly encouraging that she seemed to be in some sort of semi-private area but not helpful in determining where specifically. She tried looking to the other side.
Chakotay was sleeping in a chair next to the bed.
Relief flooded through her and it no longer mattered where she was exactly. She was so tired, but as long as Chakotay was there with her, she knew it would be all right. He’d wake up and explain everything to her. Probably chastise her for making him wait on her in a hospital chair again.
“Hey,” he said quietly, “are you awake?”
He’d surprised her by opening his eyes. She didn’t think she’d taken her eyes off him or made any noise. He moved closer to the bed and took hold of her hand. “Kathryn?”
“Hi,” she managed, trying again to moisten her lips.
A relieved chuckle escaped him. “Hi.”
He leaned away from her for a moment but came back with a small cup of water in his hand that had a straw poking out of it. “Try to take a small sip of this.”
She did and it was better than the first sip of coffee in the morning. She closed her eyes and smiled happily as she swallowed the cool liquid. “Thank you.”
He brought their joined hands to his lips and kissed the back of hers. “I love you.”
“Oh.” She felt her eyes widen a bit at his overt declaration. “Did I die again?”
“Did you-?” he shook his head. “No, you didn’t die.”
“Oh good,” she said, her words slurring slightly. “In that case, I love you, too.”
“How do you feel?” He asked, gently moving her hair away from her face.
She loved the way his fingers felt as they tucked her hair behind her ear. “Tired.”
“No.” She let her head rest against his hand, closing her eyes. “What happened?”
He kissed her forehead. “Go back to sleep, Kathryn.”
She thought she mumbled “okay”, but she couldn’t be sure.
When she awoke again, she was in a different room. It was much brighter than she cared for it to be. And even for someone who was coming out of what she assumed was anesthesia, she could tell it was larger. Much larger. It was easily larger than the size of her officer’s quarters when she’d been an ensign.
“Hey there,” Chakotay said, rising from a chair near the windows. “Welcome back.”
He immediately offered her a sip of water from the nearby nightstand and she accepted it gratefully before asking, “Where are we?”
“Starfleet Medical,” he said, putting the cup back. He lowered his voice, “The Presidential Suite.”
Her eyes widened as she glanced around again at their surroundings. “How long was I out?”
“Well, nine total,” he said, grimacing. “We think.”
“You think?” She started to push herself up and he offered her the bed controls to help her sit up. “What happened?”
The chime sounded for the door and it opened before either of them said anything. A slender woman wearing medical blue entered and nodded at Chakotay before giving her complete attention to her patient. “Good morning, Admiral. My name is Doctor Beverly Crusher.” She tapped in a command on the controls at the foot of the bed. “The bio monitors alerted me that you were awake. How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine,” she said dismissively barely acknowledging the doctor’s presence. “I just need to know what the hell happened.”
Kathryn was glaring at Chakotay, but caught Crusher’s wince out of the corner of her eye. Chakotay was having none of it and crossed his arms over his chest. He pointedly looked from Kathryn to Doctor Crusher. Janeway silently promised retribution before taking a deep breath and giving the doctor her attention. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I did not mean to snap at you like that. I’m just a bit…concerned.”
“Perfectly understandable, Admiral,” Crusher said easily. “We’ll get you sorted out as quickly as possible. But first, are you in any pain?”
Janeway considered the question then shrugged. “No, I don’t seem to be.”
“Good,” Crusher said. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
She thought about it. She’d been on a shuttle. She’d been talking to Captain – “Picard!”
Chakotay put his hand on her shoulder. “Captain Picard is fine,” he said, understanding and reassuring her immediately. “He was discharged from medical observation two days ago.”
“Officially anyway,” Crusher added, “but I’ve been keeping my eye on him.” At Kathryn’s look, she explained, “I’m the Chief Medical Officer for the Enterprise. Since your care started there and the Enterprise is not currently assigned a mission, I’ve kept my status as your attending physician.”
“She used to be the head of Starfleet Medical,” Chakotay added.
“I know who she is, Chakotay,” Kathryn interrupted him. “Captain Picard speaks highly of all of his senior staff, but in her case, her career speaks for itself.” She smiled at Beverly. “Even our Doctor must have found you satisfactory or I can’t imagine you would’ve been able to keep him out of here.”
“I’ve been sending him daily updates and usually more than once a day,” she admitted. “As for Captain Picard, he’s been more concerned about you than anything else.” She paused, her smile fading away. “Do you remember anything else?”
Janeway shook her head. “We were on a shuttle going to Stuuryen. Something went wrong, inertial dampners failed, the pilot wasn’t responding.” She frowned, trying to think. “We were tumbling; I remember hitting my shoulder. I saw Captain Picard land beside me…”
Chakotay and Crusher exchanged a look when she trailed off. He asked, “Anything else?”
She tried to think back but she had to shake her head. “No, that’s it. That’s all I can remember.” She looked up at them. “What happened?”
“The best we’ve been able to determine is that your shuttle encountered unexpected spatial turbulence and crashed on one of the many moons in the Horvian Cluster. You and Captain Picard both had serious injuries that had become life threatening by the time we found you.”
“The Stuuryens reported to Starfleet when you didn’t arrive and the Enterprise immediately began a search, but the moon was one of many uninhabited areas in the Cluster,” Crusher explained. “It took us three days to find your crash site.”
“We were missing for three days,” Kathryn breathed, knowing full well how difficult that would have been for the crew.
“There were gravimetric forces involved that obscured sensor readings,” Crusher added. “Believe me, our chief engineer is conducting a level one diagnostic on the Enterprise’s systems to determine if there’s a problem. There are many people unhappy about how long it took to find you.”
Chakotay nodded. “When we found you, you and Captain Picard were both trapped in the wreckage, pinned beneath the shuttle’s debris; life support was barely functioning.”
She stretched her hand out to him and he took it, grasping her fingers.
“The oxygen levels in the remains of the shuttle were well below standard, and based on what little memory both you and Jean-Luc have, you were likely unconscious the entire time.”
Missing memory was not something she usually found comforting, but the idea of having been awake but unable to move for three days sent Kathryn’s heart racing. “What about the pilot?”
Crusher shook her head. “I’m afraid he died on impact.”
“Damn it,” Kathryn cursed under her breath, shifting her gaze to look out the window instead. “It was supposed to be a simple mission.”
“There’s no such thing,” Chakotay said quietly.
Kathryn rubbed her forehead with her free hand. “Well, what’s my condition? How much longer do I have to stay here, Doctor?”
The corner of Beverly’s mouth crooked upwards and she raised an eyebrow at Chakotay. He shrugged. “I tried to warn you.”
Janeway pulled her hand free of his in mock outrage. “What did you tell her?”
“Nothing your EMH hadn’t already mentioned in your file,” Crusher answered smoothly. “You broke a few ribs, Admiral, and sprained your right wrist. You suffered a separated shoulder and a severe concussion. Everything you’d expect from being tumbled around inside a shuttle with no inertial dampeners.”
Kathryn massaged her right wrist, feeling the stiffness of regenerated tissues. “None of those injuries explain why I’ve been here for so long.”
“When the Enterprise found you, you were trapped under debris,” Crusher explained. “When that debris landed on you, it crushed the left side of your pelvis.”
“We were incredibly lucky you didn’t bleed to death before we found you,” Chakotay said.
“We had you stabilized on the Enterprise, but we conducted a complete reconstruction of the affected area once we reached Earth.” She dropped her hands into the pockets of her blue jacket. “You’ll have to attend a few physical therapy sessions to test your balance and motor skills, but as long as you agree to take it easy, I see no reason you can’t go home tonight.” Crusher glanced at Chaktoay. “Provided, of course, that someone will be staying with you in case you need assistance.”
Kathryn glanced sideways at Chakotay. He grinned down at her. “Your mother went home about an hour ago to make sure the house was ready for your arrival.”
“Oh,” she tried not to sound disappointed as she looked back at Crusher. “There you go, Doctor. I’ll be well looked after.”
Crusher swallowed a smile of her own. “Unless you have any other questions, Admiral?”
“Just one,” Janeway said. “Why am I in the Presidential Suite?”
Janeway took a few ginger steps and sank into the overstuffed recliner in her mother’s den. There was definite soreness in several muscle groups and the short trip from the hospital had exhausted her. She pushed herself deeper into the cushions of the chair and exhaled.
“All right?” Chakotay asked, standing beside the chair, their bags still slung over his shoulder.
She nodded. “Just tired.”
“Sit there and rest. I’ll go put our things in your room and then help your mother finish up dinner.”
“Chakotay?” She opened one eye. “Why are we at my mother’s?”
“Because you are still being unreasonably silly about your relationship,” Gretchen said, bustling in from the direction of the kitchen. “What was he supposed to say? He was taking you back to his place?”
Kathryn eyed the steaming mug her mother set down on the coffee table beside her. “Is that coffee for me?”
“No, it’s warm milk,” Gretchen said with a glare at her daughter, “and don’t make that face. It will help you relax.”
Kathryn leaned away from it while still scrunching up her face in disgust. “It’ll help me be sick.”
Gretchen took a seat on the couch. “Did I mention it has chocolate in it?”
Chakotay snorted. “So, it’s hot chocolate?”
Gretchen nodded, sipping at her own mug.
Kathryn reached for the mug. “Why can I have this but not coffee?”
“Significantly less caffeine,” Gretchen said, ignoring the glare she received. “Now, do you want to tell me why you are still hiding your relationship with this man?”
“We aren’t hiding,” Kathryn hedged. “We just aren’t flaunting it until after his promotion.”
“It’s kind of an open secret,” Chakotay said, shifting the bag to his other shoulder. “We don’t deny it when people ask, but we don’t offer the information either.”
Gretchen frowned. “But I’ve seen countless interviews with you and the press asking if the two of you are dating. You always deny it.”
“Watch them again,” Kathryn suggested over the rim of her mug.
“Kathryn is an artist at the evasive answer,” Chakotay said, grinning. “She denies the false rumors, evades the direct questions, and redirects the interviewer to other topics.”
Kathryn cradled the mug in her lap. “Which leads me back to my question of why we are here and not in our home? Surely, the medical staff noticed you staying in my room the entire time.”
“They noticed but they didn’t question it.” He shrugged. “You have me listed as your person to notify in case of emergency.”
Understanding finally dawned on her. “I never changed it from our days on Voyager when the Doctor was being such a stickler for rules and protocol.”
“Yes,” Gretchen sniffed angrily, “and they referred all questions concerning your medical treatment to him as a result. It was as if I’d never birthed you at all.”
“Not that I’m complaining,” Gretchen continued, undeterred. “I’m glad you found someone you could trust so unconditionally that you deferred the next-of-kin title to him despite not being married to him yet. I’m just glad he had the good sense to contact me. If it had been up to you, I’m sure I would’ve eventually gotten a note letting me know you’d needed another band-aid from medical.”
“I was unconscious!” Kathryn argued, sitting up in the chair, no longer relaxed. “And I was in the Delta Quadrant when I changed that information.”
“Well, you aren’t in the Delta Quadrant anymore,” Gretchen sniffed. “And unless you intend to marry this man…oh.” She looked around. “He’s run off.”
Kathryn glimpsed Chakotay’s back as he hurried up the stairs towards the bedrooms. She looked at her mother and they both burst out laughing.
Chakotay knew before he opened his eyes that he was alone. He wasn’t sure what time it was but it felt too early for Kathryn to be up and yet, he opened his eyes and confirmed that her side of the bed was empty. He sat up and yawned, stretching out the kinks in his back as he checked the time. The alarm wasn’t set to go off for another two hours.
Shuffling out of the bedroom, he followed the scent of coffee and found Kathryn curled up on the couch in the den, reading a PADD. She looked up and glancing towards the chronometer on the wall frowned when she saw him. “What are you doing up so early?”
Chakotay paused at the hypocritical question, and then shook his head before dropping onto the cushions near her feet. “What are you reading?”
“Oh, just some incoming mission reports,” she said, lowering the PADD. “Trying to get caught up.”
Pulling her feet into his lap, he said, “Guess the vacation is officially over.”
Kathryn watched him lay his head back against the cushions. “All good things…”
“Mmmm.” He rolled his head sideways so that he could look at her. “How’d you sleep?”
She shrugged. “Fine.”
Chakotay lifted his head so he could frown at her properly.
“Kathryn,” he said, exasperated, “you were tossing and turning all night.”
“I was?” she asked. He nodded. “I don’t remember. I just woke up before the alarm and thought I’d get some work done before my morning torture session.”
“Physical therapy again?”
“Technically, but it’s mostly just mandated exercises at this point.”
He yawned. “Since when do you wake up before the alarm?”
“I used to never even need an alarm,” Kathryn admitted. “As long as I wasn’t exhausted, I’d always wake up before it went off. But on Voyager…”
“You were always exhausted,” he finished for her. He thought about it for a minute, laying his head back against the cushions. “You never woke up before the alarm during our vacation.”
“Well, I was usually a different kind of exhausted then.” Even in the low light of the room, she could see his dimples appear as he grinned. “Why don’t you go back to bed? You could still get another hour of sleep before you have to get up.”
“Nah,” he said, sleepily, “I’m already awake now.”
“Mmm-hmm.” She settled back against the arm of the couch, her feet still in his lap. She sipped her coffee and watched as his breathing evened out. His hands grew heavy, resting on her ankles, and after another minute his head settled completely against the cushions. Picking up her PADD, she resumed reading. All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to start the day.
It had been three days since she last had a decent start to her morning. One night with poor sleep, whether she’d known it or not, was one thing. Three nights in a row had simply become exhausting. Her head was pounding and she knew she’d already had too much caffeine today. That sick feeling in the pit of her stomach told her as much, but she sipped from the still warm mug regardless. It was the only way she was going to get through the stack of reports covering her desk.
And God help Chakotay if he suggested the caffeine was probably contributing to her not sleeping well. She doubted he would. The man had better preservation instincts than that. Much like the rest of her staff, all of whom had made themselves extremely scarce during the afternoon. Her poor assistant had been left to fare on his own against her bad mood. When she’d stormed out an hour earlier to dump PADDs off for him to deliver, she’d thought the poor man had been about to faint he’d gone so pale. He’d managed to squeeze five “yes ma’am’s” into a two minute conversation. If she hadn’t been so irritated at life in general, she would’ve been amused.
Rubbing a hand across the back of her neck, she tried to pinpoint the source of her displeasure. She’d finished all of her physical therapy sessions, she didn’t have any lingering aches or pains, all of her department’s projects were proceeding apace, and even Voyager’s refit was moving along on schedule. No one was stressing about any of her work and she wasn’t frantically rushing to meet any deadlines. Voyager’s former crew had all checked in with an overwhelming eighty percent recommitting to her future voyages. Her mother and sister were doing well, happy, healthy, and hardy as ever. And she was sleeping, or not sleeping as the case seemed to be, next to the love of her life every night.
So what was she so angry about?
Her comm. console pinged with an incoming priority message. If the console had been human, it would have melted under her glare. Instead, the indicator flashed with the harsh orange staccato she’d come to despise. Chief Presidential Aide Marcek had sent her another message. Granted, the orange priority indicator could be any one of a number of high ranking officials wishing to speak with her, but it wasn’t. It was him. She knew it without having to even open the message.
She took a deep breath and tried to center herself to a place of calm before reading the communiqué. When the console pinged again, her calm was shattered and she mashed the control with her thumb to open the message. Marcek’s face appeared on the screen and without a word of greeting he began reciting the rules of etiquette for speaking with the president and any of her dignitary guests.
Kathryn felt her eyelid twitch and she ground her teeth together. At the five minute mark, she’d gone completely deaf to the man’s officious voice. The message was still playing but she thumbed it off and with a remarkable show of restraint managed to not throw a PADD across the room. She tossed it onto the coffee table instead and began to pace, shaking out her hands, and trying to roll the stress out of her neck and shoulders.
The comm. console pinged with an incoming call. Her hand twitched at her side, itching for a phaser. “Computer,” she said through gritted teeth. “Activate call. Audio only.”
Kathryn paused, frowning towards the console. She hadn’t been expecting a woman to call. She’d been expecting Marcek. “Go ahead.”
“I’m calling from Chief Presidential Aide Marcek’s office. It is requested that you finish viewing the message you were sent and acknowledge receipt and understanding of the etiquette expected of you,” the woman’s voice continued, simultaneously freezing Kathryn to the spot while making her blood boil. “If you are unable to access the message for confirmation, you are hereby requested to appear at Chief Marcek’s office at -”
“Tell him I’ll be right there!” Kathryn said, cutting off anything further the woman had to say. “Computer disconnect.” She grabbed her uniform jacket from the back of the chair, threw it on, and checked her appearance in the mirror. “It’s past time I had a nice personal chat with Chief Presidential Aide Marcek.”
Chakotay looked up from the vegetables he was dicing as Kathryn glided into the kitchen. He raised his eyebrows when she lifted his glass of wine and took a deep drink from it. “You look relaxed.”
She moved around behind him, one hand still holding the wine glass as her other snaked over his shoulders. “I am.”
He turned around, watching her as she moved further into the kitchen. “That’s a pleasant surprise. You looked like you were ready to spit nails when I talked to you earlier.”
Kathryn topped off the glass’s contents from the open bottle and then leaned back against the counter, cradling the glass in front of her. “I had a very productive afternoon.”
“Oh?” He wiped his hands off on a towel and crossed his arms over his chest. “What did you do?”
She grinned over the wine glass like the cat that had caught the canary. “I went over to Chief Marcek’s office and read him the riot act.”
Chakotay’s mouth dropped open. “You didn’t.”
“Oh, I most certainly did.” She took another sip of wine. “I told him in no uncertain terms that since I have managed to conduct over fifty first contacts across the entire span of the Delta Quadrant, I am quite capable of shaking the President’s hand and receiving an award from her without embarrassing the entirety of Starfleet or endangering the security of the Federation.”
Chakotay burst out laughing. “And?” he asked when he was able. “What else did you say?”
“You think I had more to say?” she asked, grinning more broadly.
He nodded, closing the distance between them, grinning himself as he plucked the wine glass from her hand. “I know you had more to say.”
She shrugged. “I may have mentioned that if he didn’t leave me alone that he could take the President’s medal and shove it where-”
Chakotay kissed her, cutting off what he was sure would’ve been something Tom Paris would’ve paid good latinum to hear. After a moment, he leaned back from her, brushing a strand of hair away from her face. “I’m surprised I didn’t receive a call telling me to come pick you up from security.”
She draped her arms over his shoulders. “Actually, for a Vulcan, he took my emotional outburst quite well.”
“Uh huh,” he said, dropping his hands to her hips so they were swaying slightly together. “What did he have to say?”
“He invited me into his office so we could talk a bit more privately. I think his staff was quite taken aback at my sudden appearance in their midst,” she admitted.
Chakotay laughed again and shook his head. “I bet they were. So then what happened?”
“He and I talked.”
Chakotay waited for a minute. “And?”
She dropped her hands down from his shoulders, frowning slightly. “And we…settled things.”
“We are both adults, Chakotay,” she said. “I can even manage on occasion to act like an officer.”
“On occasion,” he repeated, earning a smack on his arm. “So, he isn’t going to keep pestering you with communiqués?”
“Well,” she pulled back, reaching for the wine glass on the counter, “apparently, he still has to send me some messages, keep me focused on the task.” She sipped the drink. “But he won’t send as many.”
He plucked the wine glass from her hand. “And that’s enough for you?”
“It’s a start, at least.” Kathryn tried snagging the glass back from him. “Are you stealing my wine?”
“You stole it from me.” He laughed as he moved back to his vegetables. “Get your own. You know where the glasses are.”
“Mertek,” she muttered, opening the cabinet.
“Traitor? It’s my glass.” He picked up his cutting knife. “And since when do you speak Bajoran?”
“I don’t,” she said, upending the wine bottle and barely filling the bottom of her glass.
“But you just called me-”
“Just because I know a word or two doesn’t mean I know the language, Chakotay,” she said, walking past him and out of the kitchen. “I’m going to change out of this uniform. Be back down in a few.”
“Take your time,” he called after her. “Dinner won’t be ready for a half hour.”
He heard her soft laughter in response and shook his head. She was so relaxed that maybe he’d actually be able to get some decent sleep tonight. The way she’d been tossing and turning lately had kept them both awake for more hours than they’d like. He reached for an onion and finally noticed what she’d been laughing about as she’d left. The only remaining glass of wine on the counter was almost empty.
The faint blue lights of the transporter dissipated and Chakotay nodded his greeting at the ensign manning the controls.
“Welcome aboard, Commander,” she said, locking down the console. “If you’ll come with me, Doctor Crusher is expecting you.”
The corridors were deserted as they moved between decks, and it still caught Chakotay off guard on occasion to remember that they were home and the availability of ships, crewmen, and supplies bordered on being overabundant. Ships could run on skeleton crews inbetween missions not because they had to but because there was no reason not to. Given the Enterprise’s current inaction, he considered himself fortunate that Doctor Crusher was working at all.
The ensign escorted him as far as the doors and he walked into the spacious sickbay. His eyes strayed to the center biobed where he’d first seen Kathryn after they’d located her and Picard on the moon. The Enterprise’s medical team had been swarming around her unconscious and battered body while Counselor Troi had gently but firmly guided him out of their way.
He heard footsteps and looked up to see Beverly Crusher approaching. She gave him a warm smile. “Commander, it’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you for seeing me, Doctor,” he said, turning his back to the bed, “and please, you can still call me Chakotay.”
“Chakotay,” she said, inclining her head slightly. They had carried on more than one conversation at Starfleet Medical as they’d waited for Kathryn to recover. His knowledge of Janeway’s medical history had been sadly impressive. His devotion to her had made Beverly like him all the more. She indicated her office. “Shall we sit down?”
“I’m surprised you aren’t planetside,” he commented, following her.
“I had a few experiments running that I wanted to finish up before transporting down,” she admitted. “Would you care for some tea?”
“Thank you.” He accepted the warm beverage and took a seat opposite her with her desk between them, trying the tea once he was seated. “This is a lovely blend.”
“Thank you, it was one of my Nana’s recipes,” she said, clearing a few PADDs off to one side of her desk. “How is Admiral Janeway doing?”
He took another sip of tea, giving himself an extra moment before answering. “She completed her physical therapy appointments a week ago. She was definitely glad to be done with those.”
“Most people are,” Beverly agreed easily. “But that doesn’t really answer the question.”
“She’s all right.” Chakotay leaned forward, placing the cup on the desk, “I was wondering though if you’ve noticed any…odd behavior with Captain Picard?”
It wasn’t what she’d been expecting, and it was her turn to hesitate. “What do you mean by odd?”
“Has he done anything out of the ordinary? Maybe said something that you thought was strange?” he asked. “Has he been different at all?”
“You mean since the accident?”She clarified.
“Has Admiral Janeway been different since the accident?”
Chakotay leaned back in his seat away from her. “No. Not really.”
Crusher propped one elbow on top of her desk. “But you have some concerns.”
He tried staring her down but gave up quickly with a frustrated sigh. “It’s probably nothing.”
“But I have some concerns,” he admitted.
She nodded. “Okay, like what?”
He exhaled heavily. “When they were beamed up from the crash site, was there anything suspicious about their injuries?”
“Suspicious?” He’d managed to surprise her again. “Nothing I noted at the time,” she said then frowned, “but there was one thing. It wasn’t suspicious just odd, really.”
“What?” he asked, straightening in his chair.
“The crush injury to the admiral’s pelvic area,” she said. “It was a fresh break compared to their other injuries, only a few hours old, but given the state of the shuttle’s wreckage it wasn’t completely surprising. It’s likely structural damage occurred during the crash and the bulkhead finally collapsed under the stress.” She shrugged. “She was incredibly fortunate.”
“Why do you say that?”
“An injury like that is life threatening. If it had occurred at the time of the crash, the admiral would probably not have survived the three days until we found them.”
“And you’re sure they were unconscious the entire time?”
“You believe they weren’t?”
“I’m not...there’s been a few moments…” he hesitated again, clearly frustrated. “She has…unguarded moments when I’ve noticed…incongruous behavior.”
“Incongruous behavior?” she repeated, and then ducked her head until she got her smile under control. She was still grinning when she looked up at him but it was much softer. “Chakotay, may I be blunt?”
He appeared reluctant but nodded.
She leaned forward on her desk. “This conversation will be a lot easier if you and I both admit that we are sleeping with our captains.”
For the briefest of moments, he looked like a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Then the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes tightened and a flush crept into his cheeks as he ducked his head, hiding his impossible dimples from her sight. He tugged on his earlobe as the first chuckle escaped his chest and he finally looked up. “Actually, she’s an admiral.”
Beverly laughed, grateful he wasn’t going to try and deny it. It had been obvious to every member of the hospital staff, but doctors and nurses were very accustomed to pretending they didn’t see all the very personal moments of their patients’ lives. It also simply wasn’t something one asked an admiral.
“Is it that obvious?” he asked.
She shrugged, not willing to be the one to shatter his delusion. She moved the conversation back to the subject at hand. “So these unguarded moments of the admiral’s?”
The amusement quickly drained from his expression. He sighed, “She’s having nightmares, and more than once she’s said Picard’s name.”
“That’s not entirely unexpected. They survived a traumatic event. Even if she doesn’t remember her time in the wreckage, she could have been in and out consciousness,” she reasoned.
“And this is her subconscious’ way of dealing with it?” He nodded. “I tried telling myself that, but there’s been urgency in her voice when she says his name. It’s almost like she’s afraid for him.”
“Maybe she was in a position that she could see him, but couldn’t reach him.” Beverly frowned. “Has she said anything else?”
Chakotay shook his head. “Not that I’ve been able to understand.”
“Hmmm.” She pulled up Janeway’s medical record, skimming through it. “Has there been anything else?”
He looked distinctly uncomfortable. “She hasn’t been sleeping well so she’s been a bit…short-tempered lately.”
“Trouble in paradise?” she asked, giving him a half smile to assure him she was teasing.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “Her entire staff at Headquarters is avoiding her. One minute she’s fine and the next she’s biting someone’s head off.”
“That sounds more like mood swings then simple frustration. And this isn’t usual for her?”
“No. When Kathryn gets stressed out and lives on a diet of caffeine and no sleep, she gets testy and stays that way until she crashes. There are no ups and downs,” he explained. “Besides, there’s nothing going on right now that would have her stressed out.”
“That you know of,” Beverly suggested.
He nodded in acknowledgment of her point. “So, anyway, that’s why I wanted to ask about Captain Picard. See if you or your staff has noticed anything out of the ordinary with him.”
Beverly wrapped her hands around her own mug of tea, noticing that all the warmth had already drained away. “Well, I can’t really say. I haven’t seen him in almost two weeks.” She held up a hand at Chakotay’s look of concern. “He’s fine. He’s just taking vacation down at his family’s vineyard in France. I’m supposed to join him in a few days.”
“I don’t suppose you could be convinced to join him a few days earlier?”
“I might,” Beverly admitted, smiling briefly. “In the meantime, keep an eye on Admiral Janeway, and if anything gets worse, contact me. This may just be her system working through a traumatic event and she needs time.”
“I hope it is,” he said, getting to his feet. “Give Captain Picard my regards.”
Beverly stood as well walking with him out of her office. “I would, but I think we should probably keep this between us for now. Captains and admirals don’t like being coddled.”
Janeway awoke to the taste of blood in her mouth. She swallowed thickly, her stomach lurching as the coppery taste slid down her throat. Her face felt swollen, as if she’d taken a hard hit to the jaw, but the first pain she felt was her shoulder, a throbbing pulse that echoed its beat inside her skull. Something was tingling, itching on her forehead and she wanted to wipe it away.
She couldn’t lift her hand. She blinked open her eyes and found herself staring up at a ceiling of jagged rock. She blinked again, trying to focus but the rock didn’t change. Lifting her head, she could see why she couldn’t move her hand – it was restrained. Both hands were as well as her feet when she tried to move her legs. A wide band ran across the tops of her legs and there was another over her ribs that bit into sore muscle as she tried to pull free. The pain in her shoulder twisted and spiked, eliciting a cry of pain from her.
“By all means, Admiral, continue struggling,” a voice from her right said. “You’ll only cause yourself more pain.”
She turned to see who was taunting her. “Jean-Luc?”
Picard wasn’t the one taunting her. He was strapped down to a table in similar fashion. She could see a metallic band with lights encircling his forehead. A dark figure she couldn’t quite make out stood on his far side.
“Who are you?” she growled, ignoring the hitch in her dry throat. “What do you want?”
She thought she heard a chuckle as the figure bent over Picard. She heard the hiss of an injection and saw the muscles in Picard’s neck strain as he arched against his restraints.
“What the hell are you doing? Leave him alone!” she yelled as Picard jerked again. “Picard!”
The dark figure moved up to the head of the table, his shadowy hands manipulating the band covering Picard’s head. A series of lights moved along the band from right to left and Picard relaxed against his restraints. The figure bent down close to Picard’s ear and began speaking too softly for Janeway to hear.
“Jean-Luc, don’t listen to him!” she tried.
The low chuckle sounded again and the figure straightened away from Picard, making another adjustment to the headband, slowing the lights. Then it turned its attention towards Janeway. Her breath caught in her throat as it moved closer. There was nothing but a shadow descending towards her, blotting out all of the light.
Behind the darkness, Picard began to scream.
She lashed out; forgetting the pain in her shoulder, ignoring the restraints that held her down, she threw herself backwards. The restraints slipped and she fell from the table; the darkness followed her down. She began throwing punches and kicking her feet loose. Pain shot through her knuckles as she made contact but she barely felt it. All she felt was triumphant when she heard the grunt of pain she caused. Then all the air was crushed from her lungs as she was smothered by a heavy mass pinning her down. She growled in frustration as her arms were pinned down despite her muscles burning with her effort to break free.
She froze; she knew that voice. She’d only ever heard it yell her name like that once before but she knew it all the same. She opened her eyes to find Chakotay looming over her, his face inches away from hers, his hair tousled from sleep, and his lip cracked and bleeding. She blinked, feeling his weight pinning her down, his strong hands encircling her wrists. They were both breathing heavily, staring at each other.
“Kathryn?” he asked, and she felt his grip on her arms loosen.
She gave him a quick nod and felt him release her arms completely as he sat up, still straddling her but taking his weight on his knees. She looked around, seeing only the side of the bed and the darkened walls of their bedroom, a spilled glass of water on the carpet beside her that had toppled from her nightstand. She swallowed, “Chakotay, why are we on the floor?”
He laughed nervously, running a hand through his hair as he moved off of her completely. He leaned back against the side of the bed and took a deep breath. Her heart was still pounding in her chest as she pushed up to her elbows. “Chakotay?”
“You were having a nightmare, Kathryn.”
“Another one?” she asked, finally sitting all the way up. She tried to remember, but it was all fading away so fast. All she could remember was being scared.
He was watching her. “You don’t remember, do you?”
She shook her head, bringing her knees up to her chest. She could feel the effects of adrenalin bleeding off, leaving her shaky and spent. “I just...” she tucked her hair back behind her ear and realized her hand was hurting. She looked at it in the dim light of the bedroom, flexing it, and she could see a smear on one of her knuckles. She remembered his lip bleeding.
She jerked her head up, peering at him across the small space between them. “Did I hit you?”
He ran a thumb over the split skin, wiping away a bead of blood. “There’s nothing wrong with your right hook.” He didn’t move as she leaned in, examining the damage. “Do you know who you were swinging for?”
Kathryn frowned, sitting back on her heels. “No.” She closed her eyes, trying to visualize, something, anything that had set her heart racing, but there was nothing. “I’m so sorry, Chakotay.”
He sighed. “Kathryn, I know you don’t want to hear this-” He caught her by the wrist as she pushed up to her feet, clearly intending to leave. “This isn’t normal. You need to go to Medical.”
She didn’t immediately pull away from him, but she didn’t sit back down either. “I’ll be all right, Chakotay.”
He got to his feet, keeping her hand in his. “Please,” he pleaded, “think about it.”
“Just let me get through this weekend,” she said. “I’ve got rehearsals for the president’s ceremony on Friday and then the event on Saturday. After that, things will slow down.” She stepped in closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Maybe then we can take a few days off and just relax. After that, if I’m still having nightmares, I promise I’ll go to Medical.”
He kissed the top of her head before resting his chin on it. “It’s three o’clock in the morning. Today is Friday.” He heard her groan into his chest and chuckled. “Think you can get back to sleep?”
She nodded and they turned as one back towards the bed. Lying once again under the covers, she fell asleep almost instantly. But he stayed awake, staring up at the ceiling, listening to her soft breathing at his side. If she wouldn’t go to Medical, then he would.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Beverly said, welcoming Chakotay into her sickbay. She indicated the biobed. “Take a seat.”
She’d met him in the transporter room and immediately insisted Chakotay let her treat his swollen lip. “Believe me, Doctor. I’ve had worse.”
“I’m sure you have, but there’s no reason to suffer through it when there’s perfectly good medical equipment here to treat you with.” She scanned him with the tricorder. “Next time you’re in the middle of a red alert and you want to go without treatment, be my guest.”
He sat still and let her use the regenerator, healing the split lip and reducing the swelling. He moved his jaw around and stretched his face muscles as soon as she was done earning himself a look of amusement. “Thank you, Doctor.”
“Hmm. Do I dare ask how you came by this injury?” she asked, storing the equipment back on its proper shelves.
“You said to contact you if things got worse.” He gestured to his face. “I think this qualifies.”
“Admiral Janeway hit you?”
“To be fair, I don’t think I was her intended target,” he said, sliding off the bed onto his feet. “She was having a pretty bad nightmare.”
Understanding dawned in the doctor’s eyes. “I see. Do you know who she was swinging for?”
He shook his head. “She says she doesn’t remember anything from the dreams.”
She gestured for him to follow her into her office. She secured the space and settled behind her desk before speaking. “Jean-Luc isn’t sleeping well either.” She held up a hand to forestall his interruption. “He isn’t swinging for the fences like the admiral apparently is, but he didn’t sleep for more than a couple of hours each night I was with him.”
“Did you notice anything odd with him?” Chakotay asked.
“Yes. He was muttering in his sleep,” she said. “At first, I couldn’t understand him at all and thought it was just nonsense, but then he kept repeating a single phrase. I still don’t know what it means or even what language it is.”
“What did he say?”
“Pok Temp Far Botany.”
Chakotay felt his eye twitch and his gut clenched in cold fear and memory. It was not a phrase he had ever wanted to hear again. He still had nightmare visions of Kathryn dead on the floor of her ready room, a phaser blast burned through her chest.
“Chakotay?” Crusher asked. “What is it? What’s the matter?”
He swallowed thickly. “Pagh’tem’far, B’tanay.”
A chill ran down her back at his chilling intonation. “You know what it means.”
He nodded. “It’s a time of awakening. The mind awakens and focuses on its task.”
“Whatever task has been assigned.” He got to his feet, running a hand over his chin as he worked through the possibilities. The ramifications and possibilities of Teero resurrecting himself in the Alpha Quadrant made a cold sweat break out on the back of his neck. He glanced at Crusher, knowing he needed to try and explain. “On Voyager, we had an incident involving mind control and the phrase “Pagh’tem’far, B’tanay”. Under the direction of this control, the former Maquis members of the crew staged a mutiny. Kathryn almost lost her life in the process.”
“A Bajoran vedek and Maquis fanatic by the name of Teero Anaydis had captured Voyager’s chief of security several years earlier and performed mind control experiments on him. Teero programmed Tuvok to respond to the command pagh’tem’far, b’tanay. Years later, in the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok received a message from Teero and began carrying out Teero’s instructions.”
“And his instructions were to take over Voyager?” Crusher asked.
“At that point, we were the only real source of Maquis left in the universe. We were a prime resource for a fanatic like Teero,” Chakotay said. “Had he succeeded, he would’ve been in control and directing the actions of a fully functional Starfleet vessel.”
“To what end?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know, but it wouldn’t have been anything good. He could’ve used us to make enemies against the Federation across the entire Delta Quadrant.”
“And upon your return, you would’ve been unknowingly welcomed home with open arms,” Crusher added.
“We could’ve flown Voyager straight into Starfleet Headquarters before anyone ever suspected a thing.”
Crusher sat back in her chair. “We’re making a very large assumption here. I mean, we have nothing to connect the somewhat aberrant behavior of two Starfleet officers to mind control by some heretofore unheard of vedek.”
“You’re right,” he agreed grudgingly. “But all the pieces fit. They were missing for three days in a section of space not known to be dense to sensors. Neither of them remembers their time on the planet. Kathryn has displayed signs of post traumatic stress. Captain Picard has said the exact phrase Teero used before.”
“That’s all circumstantial. We need proof,” she insisted. “Were there any medical anomalies? Something we could identify currently in Admiral Janeway or Jean-Luc?”
“Nothing showed up on scans. The programming was initiated on individuals through a forceful mind meld. It was intrusive enough that it sent people into comas for twenty to thirty hours.” he explained. “Our doctor was completely puzzled by not only the reason for the comas but also the miraculous recovery. It wasn’t until afterwards that we knew mind melds had been involved.” He looked up. “You could review the medical histories and know better than I would if there’s anything similar though.”
She nodded, making a mental note to herself. “How did your people recover? How did you defeat the mind control?”
“Tuvok was able to break free of it somehow. He then had to perform a secondary mind meld on anyone affected,” he explained. “Tuvok was programmed by Teero by some other method, but he was able to force that programming onto everyone else through the mind melds. Luckily, he was also able to remove it.”
“I suggest you contact him. We may need his help.” She started pulling up records on her computer. “In the meantime, if we work on the assumption that Teero is behind this, we need to figure out why.”
“That’s easy,” Chakotay said darkly. “Kathryn and Captain Picard will both have direct access tomorrow to one of the people Teero would hold most accountable for the destruction of the Maquis.”
Crusher felt the blood drain from her face. “The President of the Federation.”
Kathryn Janeway and Jean-Luc Picard didn’t speak to anyone as they exited the ballroom and walked down the corridor. More than one passing person recognized them, slowed to speak to them, but received only a brusque head nod in response. The two highly decorated Starfleet officers clearly had somewhere to be and did not have time to speak to anyone. It was understandable, given the evening’s program of events.
“The kitchen is just ahead on the right,” Picard said, indicating the service entrance with a nod of his head. “The firing mechanism for the device is in the main supply closet.”
“Will you have any problems retrieving it?” she asked.
“No,” he replied curtly.
“Fine. The emergency maintenance kiosk is another hundred meters down the corridor. I’ll retrieve the energy converters from it and meet you in five minutes at the backstage door on the lower level.” She glanced behind them, surveying the few people still mingling in the corridor. “We’ll proceed to the green room backstage together to wait.”
“Agreed,” he said. “Once the device components are assembled, we’ll only have a ninety second window before it’s detected by security scans. We’ll only have one shot at this.”
“We’ll be patient,” she said. “We must complete this mission.”
Picard nodded and headed towards the kitchen door. A server carrying a tray stumbled in an effort to hold the door open for the famous captain. Janeway continued down the corridor, thankful that as the evening’s events began there were fewer people in the hallway. She reached a slightly recessed portion of the wall barely noticeable unless one was looking for it. “Computer, show maintenance console.”
The holographic projection disguising the unsightly console shimmered out of existence. For the benefit of anyone watching, Janeway entered two random commands into the interface before kneeling and removing the front panel of the console. Just inside the natural void sat the two expected energy converters she needed to assemble a deadly weapon. She reached for them and then hesitated, an unexpected wave of nausea sweeping over her. She withdrew her hand and stared at the two seemingly innocuous devices.
“Resist your doubts.”
Janeway braced her hand against the console and looked down the empty corridor. She briefly closed her eyes and took a calming breath. Picard would be waiting for her. She needed to retrieve the converters.
“Complete your mission.”
She reached in and grabbed the converters. She quickly replaced the panel and slipped the energy components into the pocket at her hip. “Computer, resume holographic display.”
The wall resumed its normal façade. She straightened her formal tunic and headed back up the corridor. The audio from the main ballroom was being piped through the corridors and she heard the emcee begin the president’s introduction. If they stayed on schedule, and she was sure they would, she, Picard, and two others would be brought on stage in thirty minutes. As they waited on stage left, Picard would slip her the firing mechanism. She’d have the approximately thirty seconds of Picard’s introduction to assemble the device and set it to overload. That would be twenty seconds more than she needed, but assembling it without the stage manager or any of the president’s protective detail noticing her would be the key. Picard had assured her that he’d make his entrance memorable, insuring that all attention would be on him. She was afraid to ask what he planned to do.
She was within three meters of the backstage door when she heard her name being called. She was torn between disappearing backstage and not wanting to appear suspicious by ignoring him. She slowed and fixed a smile on her face as she turned to face him, prepared to offer a plausible excuse.
Chakotay jogged to a stop at her side, his hand gripping her upper arm, guiding her around to face him. He grinned. “Hey, you disappeared on me back there. Where’d you go?”
“Just a few last minute details to take care of,” she tried.
He nodded, not taking his hand off her arm. “Well, I just wanted to wish you luck before you went back stage.”
“Thank you,” she said, hearing the stage door open behind her. “I’m sure everything will go-”
A bright ball of pain blossomed at the base of her neck, spreading quickly down into her chest and racing up her neck. She felt her jaw drop open in shock as her knees buckled, collapsing her into Chakotay’s waiting arms. A fire inside her raged; it seemed to know that she was not going to complete her mission.
Janeway woke up lying on an uncomfortable bunk, staring at unfamiliar ceiling. Pushing up to her elbows, she quickly realized she was in a brig. The invisible forcefield ringed by easily distinguishable lights was both comforting and distressing. It was clearly a Starfleet brig, but she had no idea why she was there. She sat up slowly, grimacing as sore muscles in her neck and shoulder throbbed.
She saw the ensign manning the security desk notice her movement and hit his comm. badge. Instinctively, she looked down and saw that her own was missing. Moving to her feet, she rubbed at the sore spot on her shoulder and approached the force field. “Ensign, what am I doing here?”
He looked rather alarmed that she had addressed him. “Someone will be with you in a minute, Admiral.”
She rolled her eyes at his non-answer and considered berating him but thought better of it. Until she knew more about her circumstances, she was in no position to give anyone a dressing down about proper protocol. She tried to recall what she could have done. The last thing she remembered clearly was arriving at the presidential ceremony and walking with Chakotay through the throng of reporters and dignitaries. She shifted her hand upwards, working at the back of her neck, trying to think of anything else but she couldn’t. Glad handing dignitaries and shaking hands was the last thing she recalled. Surely, she hadn’t done anything there to land her in the brig.
The doors to the main area of the brig hissed open and she returned to the force field in time to see Chakotay, Tuvok, and Doctor Crusher enter. Tuvok dismissed the ensign from his post as Chakotay and Crusher approached her cell looking appropriately uncomfortable. She dropped her hand to her side. “I can’t wait to hear this explanation.”
The two officers briefly glanced at each other before Chakotay took an uneasy step closer to the force field. “Kathryn?”
It didn’t bode well that he didn’t seem to expect her to know her own name. “Yes,” she drawled. “What is going on?”
“You were involved in an incident earlier this evening, Admiral. We were forced to subdue you,” Tuvok said, standing at the doctor’s side. “What is the last thing that you remember?”
“An incident?” Janeway planted her hand on her hip and flinched at the pain in her shoulder. She looked again at Tuvok, noticing the phaser he had holstered on his hip. “Did you nerve pinch me?”
“It was necessary to subdue you covertly,” Tuvok explained. “We did not want to alert your…counterparts.”
“My counterparts?” she repeated. She saw Chakotay grimace and shake his head minutely. He clearly wasn’t happy with how this was going but then neither was she. “Someone needs to tell me right now what the hell is going on.”
“You and Captain Picard tried to assassinate the President of the Federation,” Chakotay offered quietly. “We were able to stop you, but we haven’t been able to pinpoint how many others were involved.”
She felt her lips part and knew her jaw had literally dropped open at the absurdity of his explanation. A huff of air escaped her as she shook her head in denial. Chakotay held her gaze, the truth and seriousness of the situation reflected in his dark eyes. Janeway looked away from him, examining her other two accusers. Neither looked comfortable but they clearly believed what they were telling her.
“This is insane,” she finally managed.
“You were under the effects of mind control,” Doctor Crusher offered, contributing to the crazy narrative. “You and Captain Picard were captured and programmed during the three days you were missing after your shuttle crashed.”
Janeway turned away from them, pacing to the back of her cell and back, trying to absorb everything they were telling her into something useful. She worried her chin as she tried again to recall the evening’s events, anything to go along with what they were saying happened. She shook her head. “I don’t…the last thing I remember is shaking hands with the dignitaries.”
Crusher nodded. “That’s the last thing Captain Picard remembers as well.”
“We believe a phrase was spoken to you during those interactions that triggered your behavior this evening,” Tuvok added.
“What phrase?” she asked warily.
Chakotay held her eye as he spoke. “Pagh’tem’far, B’tanay”.
Kathryn reeled backwards as if she’d been struck. She shook her head. “No.”
Chakotay nodded. “We believe Teero is behind this.”
As though summoned by the sound of his name, Teero Anaydis appeared behind the three officers.
“Resist your doubts.”
She felt the device being fitted across her forehead. The connections itched as low level energy arced against her temples. She tried to shake it off.
The first needle descended from the device and began to sink through her skin and into bone. Janeway dropped to her knees barely hearing Chakotay yell for Tuvok to drop the force field. She opened her eyes and saw Teero standing beside Crusher.
“Focus on your mission.”
A searing light burned into existence above her right eye as a second needle began to drill down into her skull. She felt hands grip her arms and managed to glimpse Crusher kneeling before her, a tricorder in her hand.
“Primal energy charges your blood.”
A second light over her left eye blotted out her vision completely. Fire blossomed in her chest and began to spread outwards, burning trails of lava along her veins. There were other voices yelling, vying for her attention, but she couldn’t understand them.
“Return to the darkness, Kathryn.”
It was happening all too often for her tastes. Waking up in strange places, more often than not feeling as if she’d spent too many hours playing velocity. The sunlight filtering into her hospital room was weak golden rays that she associated with late afternoon, and she had to wonder how long she’d been here this time.
“Welcome back, Admiral,” a distinguished male voice said.
She turned to see none other than Jean-Luc Picard sitting beside her bed. She eyed him warily, wondering why he was there and not Chakotay or any other member of her crew or family for that matter.
He smiled and gestured towards the door. “Commander Chakotay just left to get something to eat. Your mother, I believe, was quite insistent.”
That was certainly plausible. But still. “Why are you here?”
Hearing the rasp in her voice, he offered her a small glass of water. “Given the sensitive nature regarding our recent situation, very few people know the real reason you and I were admitted to medical. Our recent indiscretion has been given the very highest classification. In the event that you were to say something in your sleep, it was best if I or someone likewise apprised of the situation were the only ones to hear it.”
It all came flooding back. Shaking hands and greeting dignitaries, pocketing the energy converters from a concealed panel, walking with Picard down a corridor, Chakotay stopping her before she could escape, waking up in the brig. She closed her eyes against the onslaught, finally recalling a crucial detail. “It was Marcek, wasn’t it? He was the one that triggered us.”
“I’m afraid so. It would seem that he’d been under Teero’s control for quite some time,” Picard explained. “Because of Marcek, Teero knew about our mission; he pulled the shuttle down with a tractor beam and used a cloaking device to cover the wreckage. We were at his disposal until he was ready for us to be found.”
She rubbed her forehead. “But why make it so difficult? If Teero controlled Marcek, why not just have him kill the president?”
“Having the two of us complete the task removes three high profile targets instead of just one. Even if you and I weren’t killed in the attempt, we would be imprisoned,” he suggested. “I believe that if Marcek hadn’t turned himself in he would’ve been the backup plan.”
“Marcek turned himself in?”
“Yes, apparently Teero’s control over him had been slipping ever since you visited Marcek’s office,” Picard explained. “After he completed his mission of activating us, he was able to enter a meditative state and free himself from control completely.”
Kathryn shook her head. “All this time?”
“Every message we received from Marcek had embedded messages from Teero in them keeping our minds primed to his commands.” He refilled the small water glass for her and handed it back. “The day you went to Marcek’s office and confronted him, he performed a mind meld on you to calm your mind and re-entrench the commands you’d been given. Apparently, the meld disrupted Teero’s control over him.”
“Not enough,” she muttered.
“No, not enough.” He picked up a small box from her bedside and angled it so she could see a medal nestled against black cloth inside it. “It was reported that we had to leave the awards ceremony early due to ingesting bad shellfish earlier in the day.”
She chuckled and ran a finger over the twisted gold braid. “Guess that explains why I’m not in the presidential suite this time.”
“I believe any guilt the president may have felt regarding our situation has now been alleviated.” At her nod, he set the medal back on the nightstand. “I wouldn’t expect either of us to receive any more accolades from her office.”
“And will you and I have adjoining cells at Auckland?” she asked, not entirely joking.
“If we had succeeded we might, but with Marcek’s testimony and help, security is turning its full scope of investigation towards capturing and prosecuting Teero.”
They both considered that and kept their thoughts to themselves on whether or not security would be successful. Kathryn looked down at the hospital blanket bunched at her waist. She frowned. “How long have I been here?”
She glared at him. “Why am I still in bed and you aren’t?”
He started to answer but was interrupted when the door to the room slid open. “Ah, Doctor Crusher, perfect timing.” He glanced between the two women and cleared his throat. “Admiral, I’m sure the doctor can answer any questions you may have. If you’ll excuse me, I’m sure I can find some reports somewhere that need reading.”
“A tactical withdrawal, Captain?”
“Sometimes the better part of valor, Admiral.”
“Hmm, dismissed. Oh, and Captain, the next time someone wants us to take an away mission together-”
“I’ll respectfully decline, Admiral.” He inclined his head and ducked through the door.
“Coward,” she muttered, earning a grin from Crusher. “Doctor, why does he always get released before me?”
“Your secondary reaction to the Bajoran trigger phrase was much more severe than his. With Captain Picard we were able to revert him to the programmed persona, perform a mind meld, and essentially erase the programming,” Crusher explained. “Your mind, however, went into a sort of self-destruct mode. Your whole body was shutting down. If Commander Tuvok hadn’t been there, we may have lost you. He was able to meld with you and stop the cascade.”
“Teero wanted me dead,” Janeway stated simply.
“We think so.” Crusher nodded. “The impression Commander Tuvok received was that Teero held you accountable for his earlier failure to take over Voyager.” She paused. “We can’t prove it, but it’s possible he caused the crush injury to your pelvis. He had to have placed you and Jean-Luc back into the shuttle. He arranged the debris to pin you inside the wreckage. He could have done it in a way that caused the most damage to you that he could.”
“He wanted to hurt me,” Janeway concluded for the doctor. “He succeeded.”
The door to her room opened again and Chakotay entered, carrying a small bouquet of roses which he held up for her inspection before leaning over and kissing her head. She caressed the side of his face and accepted the flowers before glancing over at Crusher. “There’s really no point in trying to hide anything from you is there?”
“Your secret is safe with me, Admiral,” Beverly said. “Besides, all the gossip news sites are reporting that you and Jean-Luc had a secret rendezvous liaison and that’s what led to you both being mysteriously absent from the awards ceremony.”
“And I was seen leaving with Doctor Crusher,” Chakotay added. “So I’m sure she and I are commiserating together.”
Janeway looked from one to the other. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“I’m afraid not,” Beverly said, smiling. “However, on a good note, all of your scans look normal. We’ll keep you around for a few more hours of observation, but I think we can get you out of here by tonight.” She winked at Chakotay. “Assuming, of course, that your jilted lover here will take you home and stay with you for the next forty-eight hours.”
“I’ll watch out for her,” he said easily, leaving no doubt. “As long as she’ll let me.”
Beverly nodded and pocketed her tricorder. “Good. And the next time I see the two of you, I’d like for it to be at dinner instead of in here again, okay?”
“That would be a nice change,” Chakotay said, trading places with the doctor as she moved to leave.
“Thank you for everything, Doctor,” Janeway added as Crusher nodded and left. She gave Chakotay a watery smile and played with the soft petals of the roses. “I tried to kill the president of the Federation, Chakotay.”
He sat down on the side of her bed. “Technically, you were going to try. We stopped you before you could actually make the attempt.” He gently pulled her hand away from the flowers before she could destroy them. “On the bright side, I don’t think you have to worry about attending her kid’s birthday party anytime soon.”
“I doubt I’ll be allowed in the same building as her for the next fifty years.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
“No.” She almost smiled but the ghost of it faded quickly. “I’m sorry, Chakotay.”
“For what?” When she didn’t look up at him, he took her hand in his and gave it a light squeeze. “Tell me, Kathryn.”
“I always thought…felt that you could have done more to fight off Teero’s influence. That given the situation, I would have.” She shook her head. “I didn’t, and I owe you an apology for ever thinking that you could have done something different.”
He kissed the back of her hand. “There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought the same thing. I don’t fault you for thinking it, too.”
“It’s different to actually experience it.”
“Yes, it is,” he admitted. “At least we have each other to talk about it with now. There can’t be too many other couples out there with comparative shared life experiences.”
“I really hope there aren’t.” She looked to the door when it chimed for someone requesting entrance. “Come in.”
Jean-Luc Picard reappeared unexpectedly in the doorway. “Apologies for the intrusion, Admiral. I accidentally left a book on your chair.”
Kathryn waved him in and caught Chakotay’s eye. He grinned.
“Captain Picard, do you and Doctor Crusher have any plans for dinner tonight?”
Author’s notes: The story’s title comes from The Manchurian Candidate. Queen of diamonds was the protagonist’s trigger. Thanks to QS for always being willing to beta! Thanks to Audabee for giving my words a home!