Kathryn Janeway leaned towards Chakotay, who was studying a PADD, and whispered, "I'm going to regret saying this, but I'm bored."
Chakotay shook his head in amusement and smiled, lowering his PADD and then looked her in the eyes. "You ARE going to regret saying that, mark my words."
She turned her head to the view screen and stared into the star filled space in front of them. "It's just all or nothing in this Quadrant isn't it? A few weeks ago..."
"Don't mention that!" Chakotay cut her off. "I was actually glad for this peaceful piece of space."
"Yes, but there is peaceful and then there is plain boring," as she rolled her eyes.
"You can always catch up on paperwork?" he suggested.
"Believe it or not, but I actually got through it already."
Chakotay whistled in disbelief. "Okay, I guess you have a point. It's boring."
"Captain, something is appearing off our port bow," Harry announced, making her practically jump from the excitement.
"On screen!" she ordered.
A golden sphere filled the screen, its shiny rays almost resembling Earth's sun. The bridge crew had to avert their eyes from the harsh light that shone. Harry adjusted the view screen which made it possible to look at the phenomenon again.
"What is that?" Chakotay broke the silence.
Janeway turned to Harry, "Any ideas, Mr. Kim?"
"Sensors just detect the sphere, but I'm not able to scan inside. It has some kind of energy barrier that just reflects our x-rays. I have nothing." he said, disappointment clearly in his voice.
"Send out a subspace transmission, any possible frequency. Maybe we can trigger a response. Tuvok, any weapons signatures?"
"Negative Captain. I have no additional information on this phenomenon."
She leaned towards Chakotay again, "What do you think?"
"I have no idea. Without further scans or information... this can be anything."
"You're right. Any suggestions?" Chakotay just shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe B'Elanna can enhance or adjust the sensors so that we can keep trying to figure out what this is. Briefing in the conference room in half an hour," she decided and stood up. "I'll be in my Ready Room. Maybe we have something on record about this or something similar. You have the bridge."
"Aye Captain," Chakotay responded and turned to the center console to do some research of his own.
"So you think it is possible?" Janeway asked B'Elanna.
"I think so, yes. If I enhance the deflector, maybe we can send out specific tachyon beams which can detect life forms inside the sphere. It'll take me some time to find the right frequency, but I'm fairly confident that it'll work." B'Elanna explained to the senior staff.
"How long do you think you'll need?"
"The enhancement, probably an hour. Finding the right frequency..."
"Let's get to work then. I'm eager to find out what we're dealing with. It may disappear as fast as it appeared. Dismissed." Janeway said and stood as her crew filed out of the room.
"I have a strange feeling about this sphere, Kathryn." Chakotay said as he stood and came to stand beside her, watching out the view port at the bright glowing ball.
"I know, I have it too, but you have to admit, it's pretty intriguing don't you think?" Her eyes gleamed with giddy excitement, the scientist in her having a field day.
"I don't know..."
Janeway looked up at him, but he didn't meet her eyes. She saw something in his features that threw her a little. It seemed like he was genuinely apprehensive, even a little scared of what they would find out about the sphere.
She attempted to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder -- she went through his shoulder... "What is..." she started.
At that moment, Chakotay turned to her and pure shock was written all over his face. "KATHRYN!"
Her eyes were on fire, the same light as the sphere almost blinding him as he tried to look at her. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her, trying to get her out of this state, but it didn't work.
"Chakotay to Sickbay! Medical emergency!"
"Medical emergency? Chakotay, there's nothing wrong with me." Janeway tried to tell him, but was cut off abruptly by an excruciating pain in her head which made her double over and fall down on her knees.
Janeway slowly opened her eyes, taking in her surroundings and let out the breath she was holding when she recognized the familiar sight of her conference room. Then it hit her... why was she on the floor in her conference room, alone...
She jumped up as fast as she could and had to steady herself on her knees as a wave of dizziness threatened to sweep her off her feet again. The thumping pain in her head brought back flashes of what had happened to her." ‘Chakotay...' "Janeway to Chakotay," she tried the comm. line, but it didn't recognize her command. "Computer, locate Commander Chakotay," she ordered again, but again, the computer didn't comply to her order.
She threw her hands up in frustration and headed for the door, stopping dead in her tracks when it didn't open at her approach. ‘I've been through this before.' she thought. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and took two big steps, only to find herself on the other side of the door when she opened her eyes again. A creepy feeling washed over her... ‘Not again.'
"She appears to be in some kind of comatose state. Her vital signs are good, but she hardly has any brain activity. There is one constant pulse, but my guess is that it's coming from whatever is inside her." The Doctor tried to explain, but he too was at a loss.
"You guess," Chakotay muttered under his breath.
"Kim to Commander Chakotay."
"Go ahead, Mr.Kim."
"Although Lieutenant Torres hasn't found the right frequency yet, preliminary scans show that the sphere definitely is some kind of living form in itself. There is a constant pulse, much like a heartbeat so to say..."
"Can you send me the data on that pulse, Mr. Kim," The Doctor interrupted the young man.
"Of course Doctor, you should get them... now"
The Doctor started working on his console, comparing Harry's and his own data on the pulse from the sphere and that from the Captain. "Just as I expected. They match," he said to no one in particular, but got everyone's attention.
"What does that mean?" Chakotay asked worried.
"That the Captain and the sphere are... connected." Harry put two and two together.
"Indeed, Mr.Kim." the EMH concurred.
Suddenly some alarms started ringing on the biobed. The EMH immediately started scanning Janeway.
"Commander, the sphere is moving away from us." Harry informed and waited for further orders.
"The Captain's life signs are decreasing. I think it's because the sphere is moving away. It's clear that they are more than just connected. The sphere has the Captain, we only have her body. I suggest we follow that sphere wherever it goes, or we'll lose her!" The Doctor practically ordered Chakotay.
"You heard the Doctor, Mr. Kim, do NOT lose that sphere!" Chakotay ordered.
"Aye Commander." Kim closed the comm. line.
"Keep me informed on the Captain!" Chakotay said and rushed to the bridge.
Janeway slowly opened her eyes and took in her surroundings. Everywhere there was light, but no sound. Carefully she sat up and noticed she wasn't wearing her uniform, but a long white, long-sleeved gown. She looked at her hands, they were almost translucent. She touched her face, her arms, she experienced nothing out of the ordinary. Her loose hair fell over her shoulder.
‘Where am I?' she wondered. ‘What happened?"
Slowly she rose to her feet. The ground felt like cotton wool, it was so soft under her bare feet.
"Kathryn..." A whisper, sounding almost familiar. She turned at the sound, but there was no one there. Then she saw it.
Through the thin layer of light, she saw Voyager. A sickening feeling washed over her when she realized she wasn't on board her ship. She had to be in the sphere. But why?
Now she recognized the voice. Like a zooming in effect, she could suddenly see inside Voyager. She could see the doors to Sickbay.
"Please, wake up."
The doors opened and she could see herself lying on the bio-bed, Chakotay hovering over her and then she was right beside him.
A weird feeling went through her as she looked at the clearly visible broken man beside her. He looked so tired.
Chakotay reached up and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, lingering on her a little longer than necessary. She could feel that, although he wasn't actually touching her, but the Kathryn lying in front of her.
‘What is going on? How long has this been going on already?' she wondered. Where was she going to get answers, how was she supposed to get back, out of this sphere? Panic washed over her. She was alone in that sphere, nothing or no-one to communicate with. No way to let Voyager know that she was still there, somewhere. She felt her pulse rise.
Chakotay frowned and looked up at the console by the bio-bed. She looked at it too and saw ‘her pulse' quicken, like she was experiencing. They were still connected.
When Chakotay stood up and stopped touching her, the pulse steadied again. She reacted to touch! She had to find a way to ‘communicate' when someone was touching her.
"Commander, you should get some sleep," Kes came from behind her.
"If anything changes..."
"You'll be the first to know, I promise," she reassured him.
Kes! Maybe she could try communicating with her. Like before. She knew Kes could sense things, so she was the best option.
"Kes, can you hear me?" Kathryn tried, but there was no reaction from the Ocampan. "Can you sense me being here?" She tried again and reached her hand out to ‘touch' her shoulder. Kes' eyes fluttered close. ‘Yes!' she thought.
"Captain, please, come back to us. Commander Chakotay is suffering. I don't know how long he can take this anymore. It has been three weeks." Kes placed her hand on the Captains still form on the biobed.
Kathryn expected to ‘feel' that, just like she had ‘felt' Chakotay's hand, but she didn't.
Three more days had passed without any change nor improvement in the Captains comatose state. The sphere hadn't moved, it hadn't done anything. It was just out there, taunting Chakotay. He was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He had hardly eaten or slept the past few weeks.
He was walking down the corridor to the messhall when B'Elanna caught up with him.
"Chakotay." She shook him out of his dazed state. "How are you holding up?"
Chakotay closed his eyes and slightly shook his head. He knew he could be upfront with B'Elanna.
They walked through the doors of the messhall and sat down at a table.
"It has been three weeks and I still haven't found anything that could help us. I'm sorry." She apologized.
"I'm at a loss too, even with all the sensors we have available."
Neelix walked over to the table with plates in his hands and set them down before the two officers. "Compliments of the chef." He tried to lighten the mood, but immediately understood that he wasn't going to succeed this time. He turned serious instead. "How's the Captain?" he asked.
"Still the same, Neelix," Chakotay answered him. "It's like she's just sleeping."
"Reminds me of ancient Earth fairytales -- Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, where the princess was sleeping and got woken up by the prince."
"How is that the same as the Captain's situation?" B'Elanna shot at him angrily. Chakotay placed is hand on her arm, trying to calm her.
"It's not, but it just reminded me of those stories," Neelix said, a little shaken by B'Elanna's reaction. "Uh, enjoy your meal." He hastily made his retreat.
Chakotay got lost in thought for a moment. "Maybe he's right." He said to himself.
"Are you serious?"
"No, listen, a few days ago, when I went to see how she was doing, I touched her face and that ‘pulse' she's generating, like the one from the sphere, it quickened. Maybe she responds to touch. My touch." B'Elanna frowned, like she didn't understand what he was saying.
"I have to..." Chakotay didn't finish his sentence and was out the door before B'Elanna realized what was going on.
Chakotay ran into sickbay, practically running Kes over, to Kathryn's bed. The doctor had just completed some tests regarding her health. He injected a hypospray with nutritions and fluids, to keep her body as healthy as he could.
"Commander." He acknowledged him.
"Sleeping Beauty," Chakotay muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me?" the Doctor asked.
"Look," Chakotay just said and placed the palm of his hand against Kathryn's cheek. Immediately the pulse quickened. "She responds to touch."
"When I treated her this morning, this didn't happen." Kes came to stand next to him. For proof, she took the captain's hand, but nothing happened, just like she said.
Chakotay took Kathryn's hand from Kes and the pulse quickened again.
"She responds to YOUR touch." The Doctor confirmed.
Chakotay took both of Kathryn's hands and bent down close to her ear. "Kathryn, I know you're in there. I need you to wake up!" The pulse kept at a steady pace, he needed to do more. He rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes. A tear escaped from the corner of his eye and fell onto her closed eyelid. It twitched and the pulse quickened even more.
"I don't know what you are doing, but you're doing something." The Doctor said, "This is more of a reaction than I have had during treatment."
"Wake up, Kathryn," Chakotay whispered again. Then he gathered all his courage and placed his lips on hers, like the prince in a fairytale...
Kathryn was lying down and looking up, still trying to figure out how she was going to try and make contact with anyone on Voyager. Kes had been no success. She hadn't even gotten through to Tuvok.
Suddenly she felt very faint. Her head started spinning and her skin felt tingly. She raised her hand and saw it shimmer. Then her other hand too and she experienced a weird sensation in her belly. ‘What's going on?' She tried to sit up, but she didn't have the strength.
Her forehead started to tingle. She felt scared and looked around for any sign of... of what? She saw Voyager and she concentrated as hard as she could. A glimpse of what was happening in sickbay. The Doctor, Kes and Chakotay hovering over her. Then suddenly she was blinded, her eyes tingling like her hands and forehead. She couldn't breathe anymore, she couldn't move. The last thing she felt was a tear running down her face. Then everything went black.
She sensed warmth against her cheek and then she felt something on her lips. Slowly she tried to open her eyes, but the light was too bright. Something wet fell in her eye and she blinked rapidly to get rid of the sting. She raised her hand and came into contact with... she had to open her eyes and see. Chakotay.
As soon as her hand touched his face, he pulled back and looked at her with red-rimmed and wet eyes. He covered her hand with his and studied her face for a moment. "Chakotay?" Her voice was hoarse and it hurt her throat to speak. Then the biggest smile of relief greeted her and he surprised her by planting his lips on her again.
Being so glad that she was back, she didn't even want him to stop and she kissed him back. He gathered her up into his arms and hugged her like he was afraid he could lose her again if he let go.
When they broke for much needed air, the only thing she could say was, "hi."
The Doctor had begun scanning her as soon as she had opened her eyes and was smiling. He put away his tricorder and took Kes by the arm, guiding her away from them to give them some privacy.
"Kim to Chakotay." Came Harry's voice over the comm.. "The sphere is dissipating."
"That's okay Harry, we've got her back," Chakotay informed him and a sigh of relief was heard over the comm.
Chakotay slowly laid her down on the bed again. He wiped his face dry and suddenly realized where they were. He turned to see where the Doctor was and he gave Chakotay a nod, reassuring him that everything was fine. He finally let out the breath he was holding.
Kathryn cleared her throat. "How long..." she started.
"A little over three weeks."
"Everything okay with..."
"Voyager?" he cut her off again. "Voyager is fine, so is the crew. They'll be relieved to hear that you're okay now."
Kathryn shook her head and closed her eyes. "I meant you, Chakotay." She smiled warmheartedly.
"Me? I'm fine."
Chakotay was taken aback. Then he smiled sheepishly and tugged on his ear. "I'm fine now."
"I could see you. All of you, inside Voyager. If I concentrated hard enough, I could be in a room... I saw how you watched over me here in sickbay. I know how hard B'Elanna, Harry and Tuvok have worked on a way to get me back. I've seen..." she paused, contemplating on how to say what she was about to say. "I've seen you cry over me."
"I thought I'd lost you, Kathryn." Chakotay was being honest. "The thought..."
Kathryn silenced him by placing her hand over his mouth. She wrapped her hand behind his neck and pulled him closer. Their eyes locked and she whispered, "That's not going to happen." She assured him by pulling him closer and kissing him again.
"My Sleeping Beauty." He whispered into her mouth.