Mitus approached the shuttle just as his Prince Future descended the ramp, dabbing at his mouth with a square of linen.  He held the cloth up for Mitus to see the blood stains on it.  “I haven’t had a bloody lip since the last time you and I sparred.”

Mitus’s eyebrows went up in surprise.  Clearly the woman had surprised the Prince Future in order to land a strike like that.  He was normally quite capable of defending himself. “She landed a fist on you?”

“The back of her head,” Sevrn said, throwing the square to the ground.  “Do you have news?”

“It’s over, sir.” Mitus bowed, looking up when they heard a crash from inside the shuttle.

Sevrn looked questioningly at the younger man and pointed in towards the ship.  “If it was over, she would no longer be acting this way. She’d know if her mate was dead.”

Mitus cleared his throat. “Shurgar showed mercy.”


“He chose not to kill the offworlder.  He even tried to end the fight without causing severe damage, but the commander…he would not let up.”

“Well, of course, he wouldn’t!” Sevrn yelled, exasperated. “They’re bonded! A thousand times over they’re bonded!  Blight the bloody Eighth Kingdom and their Sons. We could have avoided all of this!”

Mitus kept his eyes lowered, remaining silent.

An anguished cry of pain echoed from inside the shuttle, and Sevrn rubbed furiously at his temple, trying to calm himself.  “Apologies.”

Mitus inclined his head. 

“Where is the man now?  How did you manage to restrain him?”

“He is not dead by Shurgar’s hand.  However, he is near death.  For a moment, the offworlder almost won.  The fight had gone to ground and the commander had his hands on Shurgar’s throat.  Little Rawsed tackled the offworlder.” 

Sevrn was shocked.  “Rawsed is barely of age.  He couldn’t have truly harmed the offworlder.”

Mitus winced. “Tackled is perhaps too strong a word.  He provided a distraction long enough for Shurgar to grasp a rock and extinguish the commander’s fight. He remains unconscious.”

Sevrn ran a hand through his hair.  “And now Shurgar will have an alliance with the Third Kingdom. That will be interesting.”

The younger man nodded again and looked at the ever-lightening sky.  “Fourth Horizon approaches.”

“I will send two shuttles to retrieve the lot of you.  Normally, you would make your own way back, but time grows late.  Bring the commander back with you and we will hope our medical staff can restore life to him.  Insure that all of you are in your proper places for the midday sun and the Time of Anointing.”

“I shall relay your instructions to Shurgar.” Mitus bowed low.

Sevrn shook his head at the reminder.  “It should have been you, Mitus.  Point well taken.  See that he gets it done.”

He strode back into the shuttle, giving terse directions for the pilot to take off.  Looking in to the secured area where he’d left Kathryn, he felt his frustration grow once again.  She was almost catatonic, staring back at him from the furthest corner where she huddled, her knees pulled up against her chest.  “Gods forgive me.”


Tuvok had never thought of himself as an informal kind of officer.  However, the formality of holding a briefing of the senior staff in the briefing room simply for the sake of formality seemed illogical.  It was more expedient to do as they were now and simply update each other while on the bridge and still able to operate their stations.  Only the doctor and Lieutenant Torres were not in their actual departments, but even that was inconsequential as the EMH had no patients and Seven of Nine was continuing work in Engineering.

“Until we get that tractor beam shut off,” Tom said, turning around in his chair to address them, “we’re just spinning our wheels.  Even when we get them back, we won’t be going very far.”

Harry appreciated that Tom said “when” and not “if”. 

“If we don’t get the commander back on board soon, it won’t matter to him anyway,” the doctor said darkly.  “His vital signs are continuing to decrease.”

“And the captain?” Tuvok asked.

“No change since the spike in her levels four hours ago.  All of her readings are elevated, but they are at least consistently so.”

“Seven thinks she’s found a way to break through their shielding long enough to attempt a transport. It’ll take her about an hour to finish the modifications,” Torres reported. Then clarified, “It sounds sketchy at best, but it’s the most promising solution we have at the moment.  Their phasing is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“And your attempts at disengaging the tractor?”

The half-Klingon actually smiled at that.  “Right on schedule.  The energy backup that we’ve been building into their grid will be ready to blow in twenty minutes.  As soon as we hit the switch, they won’t know what hit them.”

Tuvok turned to Harry.  “Communications?”

“No change,” Harry reported with a shake of his head.  “We can track their comm. badges but no messages are getting through. The continuous hail to the surface is going unanswered except by automation.  An important planetary function is taking place-”

“And all ambassadors are currently busy fulfilling official duties related to the function,” B’Elanna, Tom and the EMH finished with him.

“We will coordinate all efforts to coincide with Seven’s transport attempt.  Mister Kim, maintain the tracking lock on the command team.  Mister Paris, be prepared to break orbit against enemy actions.  Doctor-”

“Sickbay is ready and waiting,” he assured everyone.

“I’ll alert you as soon as we have something,” B’Elanna promised. 

“Very well,” Tuvok nodded, ignoring for the moment the breach of protocol at interrupting him.  “Upon retrieval of the captain and commander, we will depart this area of space at maximum warp.  I believe the captain will agree that we’ve spent enough time here.”

Tom swiveled back around to his view of the green and white planet.  “Amen to that.”


In past ceremonies, when circumstances had proceeded normally, the offworlders had always been present at the anointing and passing of rule ceremony.  This season, however, given that one offworlder was near death and the other had shaken off her catatonic state only to become quite manic, it was determined by the Supreme Ruler that their presence at the dais would not be required.

Sevrn had tried to achieve agreement that the captain and commander could be returned to their ship, but Mreee had insisted that that process would be too disruptive. As soon as the ceremonies instituting all the new rulers into their kingdoms as well as anointing the new Prince Future and delivering the change of rule over to Svern were completed, then the offworlders could depart.  It was tradition, after all, for them to be exiled at the conclusion of the ceremony – not before. 

Sevrn read the medical data banks regarding the commander as best he could and hoped that Chakotay had that much time.  He had no idea whether or not Voyager could perform any better medicine than the royal medical staff, but at the very least, it would be better to die amongst one’s own people. Switching the view away from medical, he checked on Kathryn as well.  Security had confined her to a cell that she paced relentlessly. No one had been able to approach her to administer a sedative, but at least she was now in a space where she couldn’t hurt anyone or herself.

Sevrn was concerned about what would happen to her when Chakotay expired. According to the prime medical master, an Erowid who had seen more than twenty Supreme Rulers, he’d never witnessed a bond like the one shared by the humans.  He speculated that perhaps their alien biologies had been more affected by the liquid sands than anticipated. Sevrn had departed before he’d struck the man in frustration.  Watching Kathryn, he swore that once he became Supreme Ruler, he would change things.  Tradition and ritual did not justify what they had done to these people…what he had done. Soon, he thought.  Very soon.


The ceremonies began as scheduled.  Selected audience was allowed inside, while most citizens watched transmissions either at their homes or in community areas.  The Kingdoms’ Sons all filed in, many sporting injuries that if chosen as Prince Future would be written into legend. Some glanced about their surroundings as if in a daze only to be subtly anchored by a gentle nudge from an escort or fellow brother.  The kings and queens from the ten kingdoms and their successors had all entered, taking their seats in the front rows.  Ambassador Mreee, followed by Prince Future Sevrn, made their way to the dais, and all eyes turned to the entrance to view the final entry of the Supreme Ruler and his queen. 

Sevrn glanced to the side of the stage and saw the security detail assigned to the ceremony whispering furiously amongst themselves.  He frowned, turning his attention back to the ceremony.  The Supreme Ruler and Queen were half-way down the aisle when the entire castle shook slightly from the force of a distant explosion.  Everyone in the crowd began murmuring, wondering what could have caused such a disturbance, and the Supreme Ruler’s entrance was forgotten.  Sevrn received a severe glare from the Supreme Ruler when he bowed quickly to acknowledge him and then ran off the stage to speak with the security detail.

“…disappeared in a blue transport light.”

“Security forces launching now.  Control has switched to secondary location.”

“What is going on?” Sevrn hissed to the Soldier of the Guard, mindful of the Supreme Ruler speaking to the gathered audience, assuring them that everything was under control.

“Please, please, take your seats.  Just a minor disturbance.  Nothing to worry about.”

Having issued orders to all of his people, the Soldier of the Guard answered the Prince Future. “The offworlders have disappeared, sir, and their ship attempted to break free of the confining beam, causing a minor explosion at station one.  Station two was able to reconfirm hold before they could make a run for it, and I have fighters launching to subdue them from taking further action.  We’ll pulse them if we have to, sir.”

Sevrn glanced up at the stage to see that Mreee had begun the retelling of the historical records, explaining how the kingdoms had all come to be.  It was tradition even though every child on Erowid already knew the story.  Sevrn also saw the Supreme Ruler glaring at him, clearly wanting him to retake his position on the stage. 

“Why pulse Voyager, Soldier?” he asked.  “If all they’re trying to do is leave, then why not let them?  We’re going to demand they depart before nightfall anyway.”

The soldier looked at him with surprise.  “Supreme Ruler’s order, sir.  Best you get on stage before you’re late for your own ceremony.  Leave the offworlders to us.”


“We’re loose!” Tom cried, his nimble fingers racing across the helm controls.

“Shields are dropped.  Energizing,” Harry reported from his station as the concussive sounds struck the hull.

“Receiving enemy fire.”

“Evasive maneuvers,” Tuvok instructed calmly. “Mister Ayala, return fire.”

“We’ve got them!” Harry cheered.  “Seven and B’Elanna transported the captain and commander directly to sickbay.”

“Shields to maximum.”  The ship bucked beneath their feet.  “Helm, report.”

“Looks like they’ve got another one of those tractor beams,” Tom yelled.  “It’s coming from a different angle, but it’s locked onto us and reading as the same power drain like before.”

“Reverse thrusters, full power.”

A shudder ran through the ship as Tom engaged the thrusters and then had to grab hold of his console as the ship tilted to port.  “Inertial dampeners are failing!”

“Two ships approaching, charging unknown weapons,” Ayala reported from the security station.

“We’re being hailed. Audio only.”

“USS Voyager, drop your shields and stand down all weapons. Return officers Janeway and Chakotay to our custody until the completion of our ceremony.”

“This is Commander Tuvok.  Release our vessel from-”

“Drop your shields and stand down all weapons. Return-”

Harry cut off the transmission at Tuvok’s signal. 

“Enemy ships are firing.”

The two ships fired, a single white beam striking the shields, creating a blinding white explosion that blossomed outward along the shields until it filled the entire viewscreen. 

Tom raised an arm in front of his face to block the glare and tried changing the direction of the thrusters.  The helm didn’t respond.  He leaned closer, squinting at it, only to find his console had gone completely dark.  “I’ve lost helm control.”

“We’re losing all power! Engineering, weapons, life support...everything.”  Harry looked up from his console.  “We’re dead in the water.”   

As suddenly as it had started, the beam shut off, leaving the bridge in darkness.



B’Elanna blinked in the sudden inky, black darkness of sickbay.  She couldn’t believe how dark it was.  Even the emergency lights weren’t coming on and that was never supposed to happen. Except when it did, which it already had that year. Which made this two times too many.

Janeway writhed underneath her, getting halfway turned over before B’Elanna had a chance to react.  A knee pounded into B’Elanna’s back, knocking her forwards and off balance. Hands dug into the shoulders of her jacket, pulling her even further forward, and a twist of hips and body weight had her completely pulled off her captain so that they were both scrambling in the dark to get a better position on the other.  Weight slammed into B’Elanna’s midsection, knocking her backwards, her head cracking against the biobed.  When she reached out with her hand, trying to blindly grab the captain, she got nothing but air.  She hit her comm. badge and received only static. 

“Captain?” Pulling herself up using the biobed, she listened to the silence in the room. She couldn’t even hear Chakotay’s labored breathing anymore.  “Chakotay?”

With several flickers, the lights finally came back on. At the sight that greeted her, B'Elanna wished she had remained in the dark.


“And with the blessing of the kingdoms, I conclude my time as Supreme Ruler of Erowid and give the power of rule over to Prince Future Sevrn, now to be known as Supreme Ruler Sevrn of Erowid.”

Sevrn accepted the half-staff the Supreme Ruler commonly held at ceremonial events.  “I accept my duties and will honor my people.” He waited for the former ruler to bow first and then he reciprocated.

Ambassador Mreee stepped forward to anoint the next Prince Future.


A few audible gasps went up in the crowd as Sevrn held his place, blocking Mreee from continuing the ceremony.  He pointed towards the side exit of the stairs.  “Soldier of the Guard.  Cease your attack on the offworlder ship Voyager immediately.”

“What are you doing?” Mreee hissed.

The Soldier of the Guard hesitated, looking both to Mreee and to Sevrn.

Sevrn was furious.  “Am I the Supreme Ruler of Erowid or am I not?  Obey my commands. Release Voyager. Now.”

Mreee sputtered with indignation, but the Soldier was convinced.  “Aye, sir. Right away, sir.”

Sevrn turned to Mreee.  “You may leave now.  Your services are no longer required.”

“Wha-?  But I’ve served the past seven Supreme Rulers!”

“And you have earned your rest. Depart now, or I shall have you escorted out.”

There was no recourse.  Mreee knew it and with a last glance of futility at the former ruler, he stumbled his way down the steps of the stage.  Sevrn turned back to the shocked audience.  “Mitus, Son of the Fourth Kingdom, come forth.”

Shakily and looking as much curious as confused, Mitus joined Sevrn on the stage and bowed.  “I appear at your command, Supreme Ruler.”

“I offer you the role of Ambassador of Erowid.  Do you accept?”

Mitus blinked.  “I don’t know the duties, sir.”

Sevrn smiled and extended his arm.  “Neither do I, but if you accept, we can figure them out together.”

“I would be honored,” he replied, grasping his Supreme Ruler’s forearm.

“Unfortunately, your duties must begin immediately. I will anoint Shurgar as Prince Future, but I need you to go and communicate with Voyager.  Ensure that we have stopped firing on them and then offer them any assistance they will accept.”  He glanced at their audience.  “I will be along as soon as possible.”

Mitus paled slightly but nodded.  “Consider it done.”

Sevrn handed him the half-staff.  “If anyone fails to cooperate with you, feel free to beat them with this.”

The younger man smiled.  “You’re going to make my first job too easy, sir.”

“I can only hope it will be your most difficult.”

Mitus nodded in understanding, bowed slightly and hurried off the stage.  Sevrn faced his audience.  “Now then, I believe the Sons of the kingdoms have chosen from amongst their ranks our next Prince Future.”


“Emergency power coming back online.”

“For once, I’m glad we were being held in a tractor beam,” Tom quipped, barely able to see across the bridge as the main lighting flickered.  “If not, that would have been a nasty little fall to the planet’s surface.”

“Sensors?”  Tuvok asked, his serene Vulcan calm cutting across the edgy bridge crew.

“Recalibrating,” Harry answered, his voice trailing off slightly.

“Scans show sixteen assault shuttles surrounding our position,” Ayala reported, with a note of aggression not usually heard from tactical.

With a burst of static, the viewscreen reengaged, showing four ships holding position, fanned out directly in front of them. Tom whistled. “Anyone want to wager a guess as to why they aren’t still attacking us?”

“We’re being hailed.”

“On screen.”

A considerably younger Erowid male than anyone had previously spoken to appeared on screen.  Tom grimaced at the purplish bruise spanning half his face. 

“Greetings, Voyager.  My name is Mi…Ambassador Mitus.  I speak to you on behalf of Supreme Ruler Sevrn.”

“I am Lieutenant Commander Tuvok.  We were under the impression that the Sevrn was the Prince Future.”

“We’ve had a change of government,” Mitus answered and saw the dubious expressions shared between a few of the bridge crew.  “I assure you, it was all legal and conducted according to our laws.”

Tuvok raised an eyebrow.  “Then you have not held your post for long?”

Mitus laughed nervously and shook his head.  “No, not at all.”

“I see.”  Tuvok waited for the Erowid to continue, then prompted him, “You hailed us, Ambassador.”

A flush crept into the younger man’s face, but he recovered quickly. “Supreme Ruler Sevrn offers his condolences for how you have been treated thus far, and offers you any assistance you may require.”

“Assistance?” Tuvok repeated.

Tom didn’t think the Vulcan’s eyebrow could go any higher, but he was even more delighted when his console lit up with an assortment of beeps and whirs. “I’ve got helm control, propulsion, engines are back online.”

“Release us from your tractor beam,” Tuvok instructed the ambassador.  “Then we will consider your offer of further assistance.”

For a second, Mitus looked confused. “Oh!” He spoke to someone off screen. “Discontinue confinement beam.” He returned his attention to Tuvok.  “Better?”

“Torres to bridge.  If we aren’t flying anywhere at the moment, I could really use Tom’s help down here.”

“In Engineering?” Tom frowned.  “I thought you were going to be in sickbay to help with the transport.”

“I am in sickbay.  If I was in Engineering and needed help, I’d be calling Harry – not you!” she snapped. “Now get down here, the doctor is still offline, and I’ve got two comatose patients down here that I have no idea how to treat.”

“Mister Paris,” Tuvok said, not even needing to finish before Tom was out of his chair, moving towards the turbolift.  He returned his attention to the viewscreen where the young Erowid Ambassador was still waiting.

Mitus didn’t wait for him to speak.  “I was going to inquire about the health of the commander and Kathryn.” He hesitated. “Do you have the capability to save him?”

“If your offer of assistance is true,” Tuvok replied stiffly, “you can send us data on how the captain and commander were injured.  Aside from that, I believe that, for now, we are finished speaking, Ambassador.”


“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”

B’Elanna let out a sigh of relief.  “Finally!”

The doctor scrutinized her face. “Your nose is still broken, Lieutenant.” He paused in that minute way that indicated he was reviewing new data being uploaded to his matrix.  “Why have I been offline for four hours and seven minutes?  I was in the middle of an emergency procedure with the commander.”

He immediately stalked away from her, heading towards the main area of sickbay.

She followed him. “It’s actually been six hours and twenty-two minutes.  I haven’t had a chance yet to recalibrate the ship’s chronometer…or my nose.”

“What about the commander? And the captain?”

She didn’t have a chance to answer before he pulled up short at the sight of the command team. Chakotay was lying on the biobed in the surgical bay where the doctor had last seen him, but the captain was also lying in the surgical bay.  On an elevated, portable stretcher alongside the commander. 

“It looks weird, and we have to keep taking manual readings of her vitals,” Tom explained, appearing next to the EMH, “but, it keeps them happy.”

“Happy?” Incensed at the flippant description, he snatched the tricorder from Tom’s hands, striding towards his patients. “The captain was conscious when she was beamed aboard. I told you to restrain her, Lieutenant Torres. Not render her comatose.”

“I didn’t do this to her,” B’Elanna protested angrily.  “She got away from me when the lights went out, tried to give me a concussion, and then went and draped herself over him.”

“She did give you a concussion,” Tom muttered.  “I got down here from the bridge as soon as I could, but the captain was already unconscious. As soon as we moved her away from him, both of their vitals started dropping. As long as we kept them near each other, Chakotay’s condition improved.  So…”

The Doctor circled the biobeds, scanning the two officers. Their proximity to each other seemed far from a logical reason for their improved health, but he couldn’t deny the information he was receiving from his scans.  Yes, she was unconscious, but all of her previously elevated levels had regulated, putting her within acceptable parameters.  As for the commander, the intracranial swelling and pressure that had been at fatal levels were now almost nonexistent.  “And you’ve given them no other treatments?”

“General antibiotics. Healed some contusions and cuts on both of them.  Ran a dermal regenerator over a light chemical burn on the captain’s face.  Used the osteo-regenerator on Chakotay’s skull fracture,” Tom reported, handing him a medical PADD, “but that’s about it.”

The EMH nodded, assimilating the information.  Looking at his patients more closely, he lifted the captain’s hand slightly, peering at a bracelet around her wrist made of dark crimson stones.  He noticed the commander was also wearing one.  “And where did these come from? I don’t recognize them as anything from the commander’s religious background.”

“Those came from the planet,” Tom said, not quite sure how the hologram would appreciate the use of unconventional medicine in his sickbay. “The newly-appointed Supreme Ruler returned their uniforms as a sort of peace offering to Tuvok and included the two bracelets. He suggested that since the captain and commander’s bodies were still acclimated to the planet’s surface, the stones would promote healing.”

“A peace offering? Didn’t they fire on us first?”

Tom and B’Elanna both nodded.

“I see I have a lot of catching up to do,” the hologram muttered.

“The stones didn’t register as dangerous on the tricorder, and they haven’t had any negative reactions to them,” Tom explained.  “I figured they couldn’t hurt.”

The doctor gently placed his captain’s hand back down on the bed, resting it against the commander’s, where he’d found it.  He took another scan of the two officers and closed the tricorder.  “Well done, Mister Paris.  Since we apparently have a moment to spare, let’s see if we can’t keep Miss Torres here long enough to heal her nose.”

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