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It was the quietest celebration anyone on board Voyager had ever known. The massive table was laid with everything imaginable to eat and Neelix had lavishly decorated the mess hall with brightly colored streamers wafting from the ceiling. He had labored to make the occasion as festive as possible and had prepared drinks mildly alcoholic in content to relax everyone. Still, it wasn't working. The recent Equinox incident and its outcome had left everyone with a bitter taste in their mouths, from the newest crewmembers rescued from the Equinox all the way up to the Captain and First Officer. Those two, the mother and father of Voyager as it were, tried hard to set a good example but their cold, strained demeanor was almost palpable.

Neelix sidled up to Seven, who was holding plain water in a cup. After her experience with alcohol at the celebration for the quantum slipstream drive, she was taking no chances. Then, too, she was disturbed by her recent near-fatal encounter with the altered EMH. Although she held no grudge against him and he had apologized profusely, the experience had left her shaken.

'I might as well have prepared for a funeral,' Neelix hissed. 'Some morale officer I turned out to be.'

'It is not your fault, Neelix. While I still do not understand the concept of these festive occasions, I can understand why everyone is so somber at this one.' She turned to look at him. 'Give them time. You tried.'

He nodded and took another sip of his own drink, sadly scanning the room filled with people hardly speaking and barely nibbling at the great banquet he had prepared. Captain Janeway, he noticed, seemed to be on her way out. She hadn't had a thing to eat or drink. After a half-hour of polite banter, trying to put a good face on a bad situation, she was apparently just giving up.

'I'll be on the bridge, Commander,' Neelix heard her say to her First Officer. Her voice was cold, clipped; her face grim. A short time later, the Commander followed in her wake, stalking out without a word to anyone. The party meandered on for another half hour, then one by one everyone left, even Seven. Her glass of water sat on the kitchen counter, only half empty.

Some morale officer I turned out to be, Neelix thought, sadly.

~ ~ ~

Harry cut his eyes up as the Captain entered the bridge. He barely waited for her stern command for his report before he spit it out, complete and up to the minute. The way she had been acting lately, he wanted no excuse for a dressing down, and in the past few days there had been many. Nothing seemed to suit her any more. The Captain who in the past had come up to his station with a warm smile and an encouraging pat on the shoulder had virtually vanished; replaced by this stern, cold strange.

He thought back to his own confrontation with her about his personal life, and of the time she busted Tom down to Ensign for breaking the Prime Directive. The strain was beginning to show, he guessed. As for this most recent incident, Harry personally thought the Captain had been wrong, so wrong in her actions that the Commander nearly staged a mutiny. Chakotay had come so close to that line, yet he had not crossed it. Why was that, Harry wondered. He wasn't so sure that he wouldn't have crossed it himself. After all, she'd threatened a crewmember's life and had chased after Captain Ransom like a terrier after a rabbit, instead of seeking a way to protect Voyager from those…things…beings. His reverie was broken by the stern tones of Captain Janeway.

'Ensign, are you with us?'

'Yes, Ma'am,' he said smartly.

'Then pay attention to your station. I'll be in my ready room.'

Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

~ ~ ~

The turbolift doors parted and Chakotay appeared, taking in the bridge with one glance. Tom was at the helm and Harry at Ops. Tuvok was not due to appear at Tactical for another hour; the space they were in was unremarkable, a vast empty field of stars without threat. Now was as good a time as any.

'Where's the Captain?'

'She's in her ready room, Commander,' said Harry

Chakotay started for the door.

'Um, Sir? I think she prefers to be alone.'

'Tend to your station, Ensign.'

'Yes, Sir.'

Tom ventured a glance back at Harry. Stay out of it, his look said.

~ ~ ~

The door chimed thrice before she signaled entry. There she was, at her monitor, sipping yet another cup of coffee. Funny how she never tired of it. At any point in her life since he had known her, she was always ready for a cup; sick, happy, sad or angry. And she was angry now. The flatness of her face; the lines around her eyes, the thin line of her mouth, the set of her shoulders all telegraphed that she was seething, and it was likely that he was still the focus of her anger.


'Commander. What can I do for you?'

'I thought we could…talk.'

'About what?

'About recent events – and how they seemed to have created bad feelings for everyone.'

'And just how would talking about these recent events help the situation?'

'You should know the answer to that. You've always been willing to discuss matters at hand, even if sometimes we didn't agree.'

She rose with her coffee and stalked over to the wide windows as if to escape his presence.

'What's wrong with you, Kathryn?'

His only answer was stone cold silence. She continued to stare out into the starfield, calmly sipping her coffee as if he hadn't spoken – or wasn't there.

'Kathryn, answer me.'

Her only response was to set the coffee cup down and fold her arms. Then she turned to look at him.

'You're dismissed, Commander.'

Anger flared within him. 'The hell I am. I'm going to stay here until you decide to talk to me!' He paused, willing away his anger. It wouldn't do any good to lose his temper now. Anger was an emotion that was of no use here and now. I'm becoming Tuvok, he thought wryly. 'You know, Kathryn, I don't think I like you any more,' he continued. 'I don't like what you've become.'

'Oh? Well, the feeling is mutual,' she said almost viciously, dragging out the syllables of the last word.

Chakotay kept his tone matter-of-fact, still determined not to lose his temper. 'Then we're agreed. We're not getting along. It's been this way since we came in contact with the Equinox and found out what Captain Ransom was up to. We're not working as a team and it's disrupting the entire ship.'

'What do you suggest we do about it? Do you have any written recommendations for the situation?'

He had never liked sarcasm and it sounded crass, coming from her. 'No I don't - but something has to give. This ship can't survive its senior officers at each other's throats all the time, and I know how it got to be this way. I can also recognize and state the problem. It's you, Captain.'

She was in his face before he knew it, stretching her five-foot frame as tall as she could, every muscle tensed. 'I told you to leave my ready room.'

'Not until I tell you this: you were wrong in your dealings with the Equinox. Wrong all the way down the line. I think you know it and I think it's eating you up inside. Why are you so afraid of making mistakes? Why do you feel you have to be a tower of strength; right all the time? You're afraid to appear vulnerable, or weak in any way, and yet you're carrying such a load on your back that you're cracking now from the weight of it!'

He stared at her, and the longer he stared the truth of what he had said, the more her face crumbled, bit by bit, until her chin was quivering. She clenched her jaw in an effort not to cry. She had never actually broken down in front of any crewmember, let alone her First Officer, and damned if she was going to do it now.

He spoke in a gentler tone, his face set in lines that were sympathetic and almost fatherly. 'Kathryn. I want you to step down as Captain.'


'Temporarily,’ he amended.For as long as you need. Let me take the ship and make Tuvok temporary First Officer. I'll explain to the crew in a way that they will understand and they won't think less of you. You need a rest.'

'Chakotay, I can't just switch my command off and on like that. If I do that how will I ever get it back? The crew will never see me the same way again! How can I maintain discipline after this?'

'I don't see that you have any choice. Ransom had choices; you don't. Remember, you told me I had the opportunity to stage my own mutiny, like Max did against Ransom? I didn't cross that line then, but I'm crossing it now: out of concern and respect for you. You needn't worry about your command. I'll give it back to you, intact, when it's time.'

An expression of relief flickered over her face, and almost before she knew it, she had dropped her eyes in defeat. He had won. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea. Perhaps she should have listened to him before, then all this might not have come to pass. She would accept the situation for now, for she was bone-tired. Nearly six years of battling and surviving and outwitting and procuring had indeed taken its toll, and she was tired.

'Do you want me to make the announcement, or shall I?'

'I will, Chakotay. Let me at least do that. All right?'

He nodded.

She crossed to her monitor and sat down. She activated the shipwide comm system. Taking a deep breath, she began to speak.

~ ~ ~

By request, a sequel:

~ ~ ~

He was kind to stop by her quarters before his duty shift each day, and she appreciated the gesture of concern. However, it made her feel inadequate...unnecessary. She had the odd feeling that Voyager was on its way home and she was simply a tourist who had booked passage. The ticket had been expensive; everything she had. Chakotay proved an able Captain, and Voyager floated through peaceful space without incident.

While I have the ship all hell breaks loose. He takes it for a short while and it's a calm sea. There's no justice. She shook her head in exasperation.

'Coffee, black,' she said to her replicator.

That beverage has been deleted from the online menu, the computer replied.

'By whose order?'

The online holographic EMH has replaced that item with warm milk containing a dash of nutmeg. Alternatives available are non-stimulating teas, fruit juices and wine.

'Goddamn it!' she whispered.

Please restate command.

'I said Goddamn it! You and the Doctor and the new Captain are all determined to erase every aspect of my life!!' Kathryn’s chest heaved in frustration. Just as she was about to grasp any object within reach and fling it across the room, her door chimed.

She glanced down at her attire. Barely suitable for anyone's visit, a long lounge robe and slippers, but she felt too tired to change. She ran tense fingers through her hair, attempted to still her angrily hammering heart, and swiped at the one tear that had found its way to her cheek.


'Am I interrupting?'

'I was about to order refreshments.' She cast a wry glance back at the replicator and continued, 'I'd offer you something but my choices seem to be rather limited at the moment...'

Slightly embarrassed, Chakotay hesitated a moment before replying, 'The Doctor felt that something less stimulating than your usual fare might allow you more rest.'

She paced back and forth in front of him. 'How much more rest could I get, Chakotay? I've been doing nothing but resting. I'm tired of resting!'

'It's not just your rest we're concerned about, Kathryn. It's your state of mind.'

In the weeks following her removal as Captain, Kathryn Janeway had been under the care of the Doctor, who had been programmed, if only to a degree, with psychological therapy. However, mere weeks of treatment could not very well contend with years of strain. Very little had been achieved and they both knew it. For a while medication had been utilized to help Kathryn relax and sleep, but she seemed to fight it with many doses of strong coffee; hence the change of replicator choices.

'So I guess you and the Doctor have decreed to keep me removed from my duties because you both think I'm still incompetent, then, is that it?'

'You're not incompetent, Kathryn,' he soothed.

'That makes me feel so much better,' she said facetiously. 'So then what's the diagnosis? Everyone seems to be up on what's wrong with the Captain but me. Except I'm not the Captain any more, am I? Now it's Captain Chakotay of the Starship Voyager. Is it hard for you to say those words to the aliens we encounter?'

'We haven't encountered any aliens - not since you became ill.'

She stopped her pacing and faced him directly.

'You haven't answered my question.'

'Look, I prefer that you spoke with the Doctor about this.'

'I'm asking you.'

He took a deep breath and let it out. 'All right. Kathryn, are you familiar with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome?'

The blank, questioning look on her face relayed her answer.

'It's the result of severe stress,' Chakotay continued. 'Back on Earth hundreds of years ago soldiers, young ones especially, began exhibiting symptoms very similar to yours. They’d been exposed to war at its worst: unnecessary, political wars that achieved nothing. Morale was nonexistent due to the people who criticized and jeered their efforts. It all took a tremendous toll.'

She began pacing again, impatiently.

'This disorder took years to recognize, but eventually became treatable. When we came into the transwarp era and such wars ceased, evidence of the illness vanished, along with a lot of other health problems that had been erased with new medical technologies. The Doctor thinks you may be suffering from this disorder.'

'I don't believe it.'

Chakotay's tone grew sternly persuasive. 'Kathryn, you've been handling a situation in which no Starfleet Captain - excepting Ransom - has ever found himself. You see what it did to Ransom, but he took the easy way out. You've taken the more difficult path and it's cost you.'

'But Chakotay,' she argued, 'I couldn't have taken the easy path. Even if I had known this was coming, I had to do it all by the book. I couldn't let go of my principles. I had to do it the right way.'

'Until the stress inhibited your judgment and you couldn't clearly see the right way,' he amended gently.

Kathryn had no answer to that. She stopped her pacing altogether and sat heavily on the window seat. She leaned forward, gripping the edge of the cushion seat and Chakotay grew alarmed, thinking perhaps she was going to be sick.

'I'll call the Doctor, Kathryn…'

'No…no. Please don't call him. He makes me nervous. I'm not sick, I'm…'

Without seeking her permission, he sat close beside her and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. Her whole body was quivering. He rose and stepped to the replicator, issuing commands she couldn't hear, and returned with an elegant goblet filled with dark, rich fluid. He placed it on the glass-topped table and sat beside her again.

'Aren't you supposed to be on the bridge?' she asked querulously.

'I'm not on duty for another three hours, and Tuvok is an able substitute.' He handed her the goblet and commanded her to drink.

She did so, and while she sipped, he began talking to her, spinning tales of his childhood, telling her things he had never spoken of even to B'Elanna. Tales of secret places in the forests, of building the small hogan to hide secret treasures that one day collapsed in a heap on top of him, of swimming naked in the river – all peaceful, comforting, distracting stories that soon brought a smile to her tired features.

She attempted to reciprocate with stories of her own youth, but as usual the memories of rivalry with her sister and the strained relationship with her father and his subsequent loss colored the moment and she grew silent.

He had been gently caressing her back. How his hand got there in the first place she never quite knew, but the touch of his strong fingers was relaxing. The wine was warm within her and she grew sleepy. The fingers massaged the tense muscles of her upper back and neck, and she leaned gratefully into his arms. He took the goblet from her hand and set it on the table, and placed his free hand against her head, entwining his fingers in her hair. His breath was hot on her skin, and through the window of her distress she thought she felt him kiss her. Then she felt nothing.

Chakotay carefully rose, supporting Kathryn's sleeping form, and lay her back on the cushion. After arranging a light cover over her, he lowered her lights and left.

~ ~ ~

A baritone voice rose and fell in accompaniment to a recorded Italian opera but choked off as Chakotay burst into Sickbay. He began without preamble. 'Doctor, something has to be done. Let's face it, neither you nor I are qualified to treat the Captain. She's not getting any better.'

If the Doctor had not been a computer-generated hologram he might have had difficulty focusing. As it was, he stopped singing, stopped what he was doing and was addressing the problem as soon as the words were out of Chakotay's mouth.

'Agreed. Unfortunately, Voyager doesn't carry a counselor, and my programming is limited. Do you have any suggestions?'

'I'm going to initiate a long-range scan. There has to be someone out there who can help us. Help her.'

'So...unfamiliar as you are with this part of space, you're going to track down a planet, inhabited and with peaceful intentions toward us, possessing transwarp technology so we don't scramble their brains with our abilities, with advanced medical and psychological knowledge, familiar with humanoid brains and ask them to treat our Captain.'

'That's right.'

The Doctor cocked his eyebrow. 'If I were a betting program, Commander, I would tell you that your chances of finding such a planet are virtually nil.'

'You underestimate me, Doctor,' said Chakotay evenly. He spun on his heel and left.

~ ~ ~

'I would say your plan has merit, Captain, but virtually no chance of succeeding,' Tuvok said, in what he thought to be the closing arguments in the debate on methods to find proper medical help for Captain Janeway. 'The Vulcan mind is indeed powerful, yet limited in this instance. I maintain that a mind-meld would be our best course of action.'

'I don't want you to mind-meld with the Captain. Don't you remember what happened with Suder? You helped him, yes, but at cost to yourself. I don't want to risk your being affected with that level of stress. You're too important to this crew, and if Janeway suffers a relapse, I'd have no First Officer.'

'For centuries, Vulcans have coped with emotions more powerful than you can imagine, and we've learned to subdue them.'

'Stress of this magnitude isn't an emotion, Tuvok, it's an illness. I won't risk it. That's not an option.'

'Very well. However, as I indicated, my abilities in this instance are limited. Long range scans reveal only basic information. If we had Kes, we might be able to implement your plan with greater success. Furthermore, initiating a search such as you suggest may delay our journey.'

'The Captain's need supersedes any delay.'

'Captain Chakotay, may I speak freely?'

Chakotay nodded.

'Are you certain you are looking at this situation objectively?'

'Yes. Why?'

'You seem to be driven to helping Captain Janeway at a cost to this ship. Are your personal feelings involved?'

Chakotay was taken aback. Never in the years on board the Liberty or here on Voyager had anyone, much less Tuvok, mentioned anything about his carefully hidden feelings for the Captain.

'If my personal feelings enter into it, Tuvok, it's no concern of yours. The debate's over. As Acting Captain, those are my orders.'

'As you wish.'

'Initiate long-range sensors immediately. Divert power from any unused source you deem fit. And see if you can sense anything with that Vulcan mind of yours.'

'Aye, sir.'

~ ~ ~

With the lights of his quarters dimmed, Chakotay sat on the floor in the traditional manner. He spread his hands over the opened medicine bundle and closed his eyes for a moment. The rush of synthetic peyote coursed through his veins the moment he laid a hand on the akoonah, and he lifted the carved stone to one hand, enclosing it with the other.

'Akoochemoya,' he intoned. 'Far from the land of my ancestors…far from the bones of my people. I come seeking wisdom and guidance. I come pleading for help. The one who is my friend is in great need. Help me, Father. Speak to me.'

Chakotay had only one more hour before his presence on the bridge was required. He spent the time deep in his prayer-trance, beseeching Kolopak's aid. At last the spirit world opened to him and he was once again deep within the forest of his boyhood. Kolopak was there, seated in the hogan before the flickering fire, patiently waiting. Chakotay seated himself. Father and son smiled warmly at each other, happy in yet another spiritual reunion. Then Kolopak spoke.

I know what is in your heart, my son.

'Then help me, Father, help me find someone, somewhere, who can help this woman.'

This woman, Kolopak repeated. He continued to look deep into Chakotay's heart and found her there, small and slim, stern and forbidding, her hair twisted tight and high. Her back was bowed with the weight of many troubles; her face lined with worry and grief. Hiding behind her was another, dimmer version of her, smiling warmly, dressed in soft fabric, seated at a table and clasping hands with his son.

Kolopak nodded in understanding.

This woman means a great deal to you.


So much so that you would risk everything to help her.

Tuvok's words coming from Kolopak's mouth astonished Chakotay for a moment, then he stubbornly reiterated: 'Yes, Father!'

She would not understand this, nor would the people of the uniform she wears understand this, but it is because of this love you have for her that I will help you. Look for a system with a yellow dwarf star and five planets. The third planet will have two moons…

As Kolopak continued his instructions, Chakotay listened intently, thanking the spirits that his father knew and understood. When Kolopak finished speaking, his eyes beheld his son with great warmth and affection, and they clasped forearms in the traditional way. Then Kolopak's countenance faded from view.

'Thank you, Father,' Chakotay whispered.

'Anything?' Chakotay immediately queried upon his return to the bridge. Tuvok had apparently decided to cooperate fully, for he was diligently performing scans, sending the data to Seven of Nine in Astrometrics for mapping.

'Nothing yet, Captain.' He cocked his head at Chakotay before continuing, 'I have not had the opportunity to perform meditation. Do you wish me to do so now?'

'No. I have a better idea. Enter these coordinates to Astrometrics.'

Tuvok frowned but complied. Presently Seven reported, 'I have the system configuration onscreen, Lieutenant. What should I do with this information?

'I believe Captain Chakotay would like to see the data…' he replied.

'If everything works out like I think it will,' said Chakotay, 'I'll send you a message over the comm to proceed.' Ignoring Tuvok's mystified look, Chakotay replied to Seven, 'On my way!'

Seven was gazing at the small system mapped onscreen in Astrometrics when Chakotay hurried in. 'May I ask why we are interested in this insignificant group of planets, Commander?'

'We're only interested in one, Seven…the third one. See it, there, with the two moons?'


'Scan it for me.'

'Precisely what are you looking for, Captain?'

'Class, for one thing. I need an M-Class atmosphere, humanoid inhabitation, warp capability. Try to find evidence of a highly evolved society, one that might have universities and hospitals.'

Seven tapped commands then reported. 'There is evidence of all of your requirements in that society. May I ask…?' She looked questioningly at him, but he only tapped his comm badge and ordered Tuvok to initiate Warp 6 to the coordinates.

'Thanks, Seven,' Chakotay called back over his shoulder as he ran back to the bridge.

~ ~ ~

Voyager was set upon before she drew close enough for a hail by hundreds of tiny ships, each only large enough to hold a single being. They were hurled into space from the planet in the distance, swarming about Voyager like a swarm of disturbed bees. Each one sent volley after volley of some type of phaser fire that quickly damaged the shields. The attack was so sudden, so unpredictable that for a moment no one on the bridge knew what to do.

Chakotay rallied quickly, ordered red alert and diverted power to the failing shields. Despite the aggressive attack, he sent a polite first contact hail. There was no reply. The shields continued to sustain damage, and bridge systems began failing. Even Chakotay's plea for medical help went unheeded. Determined, Chakotay ordered evasive maneuvers, still reluctant to fire. It was no use. Voyager reversed its course, retreating, but the ships followed it, still firing.

The bridge seemed to be taking the worst of it. The shields directly above failed, allowing phaser fire to lance through, shorting out several systems. Tuvok's station was hit, spraying sparks and shocking the Vulcan, who collapsed behind his station. Chakotay had him taken to Sickbay, then turned furious eyes on the viewscreen, which showed yet more of the attackers pouring from the planet. He was reluctant to open fire on these people; he had so desperately wanted their help. It soon became apparent that firing was his only recourse. Even as he began forming the word to give the command, another beam sliced through and knocked him back. His last conscious thought was, Father, what happened? then he, too, went down, hitting the deckplates heavily as phaser fire continued to cut through the bridge.

Tom temporarily assumed command. 'Harry!' he ordered. 'Get the Captain!'

~ ~ ~

Janeway awoke from her nap, curled up on the couch with a crumpled throw at her feet. Groggy and disoriented, she thought she felt the room shake. Then she felt it again. She sat up, listening. Muffled explosions, running feet in the corridor and shaking – it was the ship shaking, not just her room. All of these signaled something wrong.

'Computer, lights!'

She scrambled up and ran to her bedroom where she dashed water on her sleep-swollen face. Her comm badge lay on her dresser; she grabbed it and issued her first official message in weeks: 'Bridge! What’s happening?!'

~ ~ ~

On the bridge, the smoky haze caused by the burning equipment made it difficult for Tom to see, but as he heard the turbolift doors opening, he called out, 'Harry, where's Captain Janeway?'

'She's here,' barked Janeway. Harry resumed his station and set exhaust to draw out the smoke. When the air cleared, Janeway surveyed the battered bridge. Tom looked back at her in amazement; her uniform was crisp and fresh; her face grim and determined. And angry. Sharp as a tack and healthily, righteously angry. Oh, yes, he knew that look.

'Status!' she demanded.

'They attacked without warning, Captain! Chakotay tried peaceful negotiations…then we retreated, but they just keep coming after us!'

'Did he try firing back?' she asked grimly.

'No, Ma'am – we were…'

'I know what you were trying to do, Mr. Paris, and I appreciate it. However, I don't suffer bullies. Arm two photon torpedoes, wide-spread. Judging from the size of those ships, that should take out quite a few of them.'

Tom followed orders, and through the viewscreen they watched as dozens of the small ships were eradicated. The attack broke off, replaced by a hail from the planet.

'Now I think we have their attention.' Janeway responded and beheld her first view of her opponent on the viewscreen. Human-like, with bulging forehead and stern countenance, the alien addressed her in cold, measured tones.

'Why have you fired on us?!'

'I could ask you the same question,' she said, clipping each word in fury. 'It's customary in any situation to open a dialog before you start firing. My First Officer came to you for help.'

'We give help to no one!'

'You've certainly made that clear. And I'm glad to inform you that we no longer need nor want your help. If you will call off your attack and allow us to leave, I can assure you, you will never hear from us again.'


'Already done,’ she spat in cold, measured tones. She closed the channel and Tom followed her commands to take Voyager away at Warp 7.

'Damage report!'

'Shields are restored, repair crews are on their way. Minor injuries with the exception of Tuvok and the Cap -- … I mean the Commander, but they're listed in satisfactory condition. Tuvok had electrical burns and Chakotay was hit with phaser fire,' Harry reported.

Satisfied that everything was back to normal, Janeway dropped into her chair. 'We never even learned their name…nor they ours…'

Yielding to his curiosity, Tom turned to her and asked, 'Captain, how did you know what we were trying to do?'

She came over and put a friendly hand on his shoulder. 'I was already on my way to the bridge when Harry met me, Tom. He told me. With no senior officer on the bridge, I decided it was time to stop thinking only of myself and assume my responsibilities.'

Janeway returned to her chair and sat down with authority, gripping the chair's armrests as if to reclaim as her own. She spoke aloud to the two young officers with her on the bridge, as much as to herself:

'Maybe this is all I needed – just to get back into action.'

~ ~ ~

Captain Janeway’s condition swiftly improved in the days following. Chakotay and Tuvok swiftly recovered and resumed their original positions. The Captain felt no need for blame to be laid nor discipline to be meted. It was enough that she had her ship intact, her position reinstated and her nerve restored. Things were back to normal.

~ ~ ~

Troubled, Chakotay again entered the spirit world to seek Kolopak, to seek answers to the questions he could ask no one else.

'Father…when I asked for your help before…I didn’t expect it to turn out this say. Did you know about these beings? Did you know we would come under attack when you sent me to this planet?'

Kolopak smiled. Yes, my son, I suspected the events which you experienced would unfold. I knew these people were highly insular. I knew the help you sought might not be forthcoming.

'Why would you send us into danger?'

I had faith in your ability and those aboard your ship that you would prevail. I also had faith in the ability of the woman who means so much to you.

'I don't understand, Father. Why was all this necessary?'

Because, my son, I wanted to show you that your Captain is a strong woman with a will of iron – if you take that iron from her she will wither and die as the corn dries on the stalk when the rains stop. It's true she became ill from the strain – a great deal of it…but, Chakotay, deep down, this woman is an oak tree. This is what makes her special. Were she a vine instead of an oak, she could not have accomplished all that she has. The attraction you feel toward her would not be as strong.

Kolopak paused to allow Chakotay to consider his words. You are her strong right arm, Chakotay. But you cannot carry her. She must walk for herself.

The End

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