Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: Some of these folks belong to Paramount. They’re just interacting with my folks
It feels good to lay on solid ground again, even better to feel the Zendari sun warming me.
I will say one thing; this planet is certainly efficient. Today's transfer of trade goods finished in record time, and Kathryn wasn't due back for another hour. So, I decided to sneak a little extra shore leave with my boys. First officer's prerogative, I suppose.
My boys ... well, mine and Kathryn's. Six years now since Paka was born, and sometimes I still can't get over the wonder of it. I was absolutely goofy with joy when the doctor placed the squalling bundle on Kathryn's chest. Used to find excuses to get off the bridge so I could stop by quarters and look at him, hold him for just a moment.
By the time we'd conceived Thomas, I considered myself an old hand.. But the gods had quashed my cockiness. Things had gone horribly wrong. One minute, Kathryn was negotiating trade, then next, she was in emergency surgery. All I remember is his tiny, limp body appearing in the incubator. He didn't even cry.
I try not to think about that too much, or what came afterwards. The important thing is that both our boys are whole ... and right now, downright noisy.
But that's one reason we're on this deserted section of Zendari. Sometimes, a boy needs a place to run and shout. This range land certainly fit the bill.
There was another reason, too. The Zendari are enthusiastic traders, but they dislike the idea of visitors roaming their planet. The crew's shore leave was restricted to the tourist areas. Kathryn and I were allowed into the city, but only with an escort. I was a bit surprised when the trade delegation's leader gave us permission to beam down here. Maybe he wasn't paying attention.
Not that there's anything suspicious here. The boys seem OK near that small outcropping of rocks; Thomas stacking the smaller ones while Paka climbed a boulder. I'd closed my eyes for just a moment when Paka started screaming.
"Papa! Papa! Come quick!"
Gods! What had happened? I get to the rock in time to grab Thomas, who was trying to climb over.
Paka looks OK. He's pointed to something resting under another large rock. "All right Paka, stay right there. I'll have a look."
I feel silly creeping up on this thing. Looks like some sort of animal.
Gods! Not animal ... an infant.
A humanoid ... female. Tiny, probably a newborn. She's been out here a while. She's struggling to breathe ... she's mewing, weaker than a new kitten.
Paka distracts me. "What's a baby doing here, Papa?"
"I don't know, son." Actually I do, and the thought makes me sick.
Well, so much for quiet shore leave. I wrap the baby in my jacket, then haul Thomas over the rock to join us.
"Chakotay to Voyager."
"Go ahead, Commander."
"Four to beam up ... directly to sickbay."
I keep smacking the side of this damn turbolift, frustrated that it won't go faster. I'd just returned, just stepped off the transporter pad when I heard Chakotay's call. I didn't even check in with Tuvok, just double-timed it to sickbay.
Perhaps not very captainly, but during the last six years I've finally made peace with the idea that occasionally, family comes first. But just what was Chakotay doing down there?
Finally. Sickbay. The doors open, and I can see the doctor and Kalban working over someone on the biobed. Chakotay's standing at the end of the bed, holding Thomas, and thank the gods, Paka's heading for me at full speed.
"Mama! We found a baby!"
"Shh! Quietly, please," I grab him, partly from relief, partly to slow him down. "You found a what?"
"A baby. Someone lost a baby. Papa took us down to the planet, and I found her."
"Good for you," I say, not quite sure what to make of this.
Chakotay's looking sheepish, and I almost say something when the doors swoosh open to admit M'baath, the boys' nanny.
"Mr. Tuvok informed me," she said. "The children?"
"They're fine. Seems they found a lost baby."
"She was under a big rock!" Paka explained.
"Indeed! Well, maybe we should go back to quarters and you tell me about this baby." M'baath said kindly. Paka was about to argue, but M'baath had a firm hold on his hand. Chakotay hands Thomas to her, and I manage to kiss both boys before she hustles them out of sickbay.
"Commander?" Time to play Captain again.
"I had a free hour to spend with the boys ... and yes, I did get permission. This," he nodded toward the biobed "Someone left her to die, Kathryn."
I barely contain a gasp when I get my first look at this tiny, emaciated creature. Yet, as haggard as she looks, she's still a beautiful child. Dark hair, light carmel skin - just like my own babies. Out of reflex, I suppose, I stroke her little hand, and I'm rewarded with a suprisingly strong fist that curls around my finger.
"A good sign," Kalban says. He and the doctor look pleased with themselves.
"I think we've pulled off another miracle here." the doctor said. " She's severely dehydrated, and an infection had set in, but with fluids and medication, she'll be just fine."
"She's about two days old, and she probably was outside most of that time," Kalban added. "It's good that you found her."
I keep looking at this tiny face. Something's not right.. "You know, she doesn't look Zendari. The nose ridges aren't as pronounced and her facial structure is rounder. She looks Bajoran. "
The doctor looked slightly abashed, and began fiddling with a tricorder. "She is Zendari," he begins, then stops.. He looks at the tricorder again, then looks at us, obviously in shock. "And according to this, she also carries human DNA."
I'm walking our Zendari guests to sickbay, trying to explain why I had asked them to visit the ship. We'd spent the last week dealing with Signar, the First Minister and Paulo, his sub-minister of trade, and I'd found them to be gracious hosts, despite this planet's rather parochial atmosphere.
"The commander took a bit of shore leave on the planet," I begin. " He took our sons down to an uninhabited area to ... uh ... blow off some energy."
Signar smiled indulgently. "Well, I have children ... and grandchildren, so I certainly understand. I assume they had permission."
I nod. "Of course, but, they did find someone you should be aware of," I tell them as the sickbay doors swoosh open. The doctor and Chakotay are hovering over the biobed, and I see that Chakotay is holding a baby bottle.
"They found this child abandoned in the range land." I finish.
Both men looked at each other, then peered into the biobed. Paulo's face mirrored a combination of compassion and sadness. But Signar ....
Signar looked at that baby as if it were something distasteful.
Chakotay and I look at each other. I'm shocked. Two minutes ago this man was talking about his grandchildren.
"Captain," Signar said, all formality. "I will send a representative to collect this problem so you won't be bothered."
"Just a moment," the doctor said. "This problem is my patient. And she is not strong enough to leave."
My gut tells me this baby's life is at stake, so I jump in. "The doctor is right. The child is quite weak. We'd be happy to provide treatment until our trade is complete."
Signar is about to say no, when Paulo deferentially pulls him aside. I can only catch snatches. "They didn't know ... no harm if they ..."
Signar turns back to us, his face softer. "I realize, Captain, that you are not aware of our customs. Of course, the child may stay here. Paulo will explain, but I must take my leave." With that, he walks toward the door, and I nod for the security officer to escort him. Somehow, I don't feel like talking to him.
Paulo sighs and leans against the biobed, avoiding our eyes for the moment.
"I'm not sure how to explain this," he begins, then takes a breath. "For 500 years, the Zendari religion and government has been one. And the Zendari religion teaches that only a true Zendari can enter the Sacred Place at the end of life. Therefore, only true Zendari can have full citizenship.
"This child is of mixed species. She is only part Zendari, therefore..."
"She is not a citizen," Chakotay finishes, his face darkening.
"So what happens to this child?" the doctor asks.
"She will be taken to the colony on our fourth moon, where she will live her life with others like her. She won't be mistreated."
"But she won't be allowed to live on her homeworld, with her family," I say quietly. "I take it that's why she was abandoned."
He nodded. "This is considered a shameful thing. Which is why visitors like yourself are kept from most of our people."
"But it happens," I point out. "So are all such children abandoned, or just taken away?" My voice was rising a bit ... while I had to abide by the Prime Directive, this was one of those times I sure didn't like it.
"It does happen. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by force." He smiled thinly. "What happens probably depends on the child's appearance. If he looks enough like a Zendari, the family keeps quiet, and the child passes. Although, sometimes, the truth comes out in a second or third generation. If, like this child, the mixture is obvious, well, yes, most of them are abandoned."
"I take it then, that this is not a popular tradition," Chakotay says. I hear the sarcasm, and I shoot him a warning look.
Paulo stands up and looks Chakotay in the eye. "I suppose you don't understand ... I will tell you privately that many people quietly question this. But as I said, the government and our religion are one. And open dissent is not tolerated."
There's not much left to say, so I walk Paulo back to the transporter room. "Tell me, " I ask as we walk. "Do you question."
"I do," he responds softly. "It troubles me. But I have a family to protect, Captain. You can understand that?"
I nodded. That was the only thing I really could understand for now.
"Well, Chakotay, I guess I shouldn't be surprised," B'Elanna said bitterly. "Intolerance is nothing new. I remember how I was treated for being half Klingon ... or half human."
We're in sickbay, both of us leaning over the incubator, while I fill B in on last night's events. I can understand her bitterness; she still carries the emotional scars of being taunted for her heritage.
"I can't help but think about Tommy; what he may have to face," she continued.
I slip my hand over hers. I know what she had to put aside to agree to a baby with Tom. "He'll know he's loved," I assure her.
She gently strokes the little head. "Think we could keep her?"
"The thought has crossed my mind, thought I don't know," I admit.
"Someone here might want to adopt her. Hell, if no one else wants her, Tom and I certainly would take her." she looks up at me. "Though from the amount of time you're spending here, Old Man, I'm beginning to think you'd like to have a daughter."
I have to admit, Chakotay's suggestion that we ask to keep the baby rocked me a bit. Not the part about keeping her aboard ship. She would be as welcome as any child born to the crew.
No. It was the suggestion that we adopt her.
I know he's fallen in love with the little one. I recognize the look; it's the same one he gave our sons when they were babies. And bless him, while he's never said so, I know he would like a daughter. And I'm sorry I never could give him one.
No. It's me. I'm not sure that I can stretch myself - my time, my love to accommodate a third child.
As it is, I don't spend enough time with my boys. Chakotay tells me I'm wrong, that they see more of us than we did of our own fathers. That may be true, but there are still too many days where all they get of me is a quick kiss in the morning and some snatches of comm badge communication throughout the day.
Sometimes, I think it was easier when they were babies. We could just pick them up and take them to the ready room or on inspection tours. When Paka was tiny, I used to read reports to him until he fell asleep. Chakotay was aghast, but I figured the little guy just needed to hear my voice; he didn't have to understand warp core alignment.
Somehow, though, Tom Paris got wind of my bedtime reading, and began submitting reports written in rhyme. I got even with him, though - did a dramatic reading of his shuttle design report during talent night.
I key in Minister Paulo's office number. We need to get this little one aboard first, then I can address my concerns.
I thought Signar was going to explode when I told him of the captain's proposal to keep the child. His face was as purple as his robes.
"No, Paulo. I want that child off that ship."
"Minister, what is the harm? The child is partly human, as is the captain and many of her crew. Perhaps their gods would accept her. Besides, she'd eventually be in the Alpha Quadrant, wherever that is. No one would know."
Signar was turning purple again. "It does matter. Everyone in that Alpha Quadrant would know of our people's shame. I won't have it."
His tirade is stopped by the arrival of my wife, Helann, who also happens to be Signar's distant cousin. I see the mask drop on his face.
"Helann, it is good to see you," he demurred. "And how is your father, my cousin Jaxar?"
"He is well, as is the rest of our family," she said sweetly, all the time shooting me questioning looks. "And how is your daughter, Callah? I have not seen her this season."
For a moment, Signar seemed to be turning purple again, but he quickly recovered. "She ... is at our mountain home. I will send your regards."
We took leave, and she held my arm a bit too tightly as we walked outside. "Paulo," she hissed. "I could hear him screaming down the hallway. What is going on?"
I just shook my head. Something was wrong. "I'm not sure. Something has upset him terribly."
She pursed her lips. "Perhaps it is Callah, then. His reaction to my question was not a good one."
"And what do you hear?" I tease. My wife is a voracious gossip, but frankly, in my position, I find is useful.
"My idiot sister," she whispered, "says Callah is with child. But why would he hide her?"
"Perhaps the father is not suitable," I venture
She swats my arm. "Paulo, you know that an unsuitable father ... or fathers is no impediment."
I do know. Helann's "idiot sister" Mallah had too much to drink at the annual festival last year and "celebrated" with a group of young military officers. The result was her son, Jonax. Poor Jaxar was livid, but we Zendari love babies - at least Zendari babies - so Jonax is accepted as part of his family.
But Helann's gossip - and Signar's behavior - are starting to implant some rather disturbing ideas in my mind.
It's been a while since I've sat in this chair and fed a baby. More than two years, in fact. The doctor said this little one could leave sickbay for a while, so I decided to give her a change of scenery. Or at least a respite from the doctor.
She's sucking greedily on the bottle, making funny little squeaking sounds. I laugh; Paka sounded the same way.
I enjoyed nursing my boys; it was the one time I was left alone. No one wanted to catch the captain in such an intimate act. But the peacefulness I felt then has settled on me like an old friend; I realize how much I've missed this.
I look at her closely. She's becoming a gorgeous baby, and I'm sad to think of what awaits her. Perhaps this colony is a good place; but something tells me its not. And anyway, how good is life as an outcast?
She finishes the bottle, and I expect her to fall asleep, but she surprises me. She just looks at me with those dark eyes. She's very alert, and maybe I'm imagining it, but I see some of her spirit here.
"You know, I tell her, " I'm beginning to see why Chakotay has fallen in love with you." We just sit there for a while, quietly watching each other, each taking measure of the other. And much as I'd like to resist her, she's beginning to wrap herself around my heart.
She starts fussing now, and I lift her to my shoulder. It helps, but not enough. I try to remember ... what worked with my babies? Ah...
"Hey little one, want to dance?" I scoop her up a bit higher and start to move in a gentle swaying rhythm. She starts to quiet down, so I step up the rhythm, and before I realize it, I'm waltzing her around the room, chuckling like a fool.
"Like this?" I whisper, and I swear I can see a very faint smile tugging at her mouth.
Finally, out of breath, I sit down on the couch and look at her; she's finally asleep. I should get her back, but not yet. Not just yet. I lean my head back ...
Wait a minute. I'm asleep. I must be, because this isn't Voyager. I'm in a woods, under a tree. And my animal guide is here. And so are several other animals.
"You know us," my lizard said. She was right, I do. These are my children's spirit guides. Before each of the boys was born, Chakotay took me on a vision quest so I could meet them. I see the bear that guides Paka; and Thomas' eagle. I also see the gray wolf, Chakotay's guide, although he has never acknowledged this to me. And near the bear is that damn monkey; the B'ayl that attached itself to Paka. At least it's not roaming my ship.
The animals are circling something, and as I step closer, I see that it is another wolf. A brown one, almost too tiny to survive.
"The circle must be complete," the salamander says. I start to question, but then they all disappeared, and I awoke with a start, grabbing the baby by instinct.
"Hey, you dozed off." It's Chakotay, back from engineering.
"Guess I did." The salamander's words are still with me, and I'm not sure how I could see it without a vision quest. But as I look at the baby, things are becoming clear. Very clear.
"You need to get her back to sickbay?" Chakotay asks. I hear him, but just vaguely. "Kathryn?"
I shook my head. "Sorry. I was just thinking."
I turn to look at him. "About how nice it would be to have a daughter."
I will never forget the look of delight on his face ...
I'm walking around the rocks where Chakotay and Paka found the baby, and I'm still trying to understand why Minister Paulo asked me to come here.
He looks at me, and I can see the worry in his dark eyes. "Please. It's Paulo. If I'm going to stick my neck out, I'd like to have one friend."
"All right, Paulo. Please call me Kathryn, though. I hear 'Captain' enough as it is."
He seems amused by that, but then he sighs, and I can see the worry in his eyes again. "To be honest, I'm not sure what I hope to find here. But I'm afraid that if I find it, I may need to seek asylum on your ship. Have any use for a politician?"
"I'd find one, " I joke. "But what's going on?"
"Signar's reaction to this is puzzling," he said quietly. "I suspect the baby may be connected to someone prominent. Perhaps someone who could prevent him from ascending to High Priest."
"Could it be Signar's child?"
He shakes his head. "I doubt that. He would not be that careless."
He pointed toward the mountain. "Many officials have cabins in the mountain," he said, "Let's head there."
As we drove in his transport craft, he's silent, lost in thought. Then he looks at me. "You and the commander intend to take the baby, don't you."
"We do," I admit, and he smiles sadly.
"There's not much hope ... unless I can find something to use that would persuade Signar."
I hush him as the tricorder beeps. "Life sign."
He's puzzled. "We're still too far from the cabins, but let's take a look."
We leave the vehicle and head into the woods. Actually, I don't need the tricorder now ... we're following a heartrending sound ... a keening of sorts. As we walk into the clearing, I see a miserable figure hunched over what looks to be a fresh grave. I'm about to withdraw, when the figure looks up at us.
I can see three things. It's a young man. He is a mixed Zendari. And he is terrified.
He springs to his feet and flees. Without thinking, Paulo and I sprint after him. Crazy, for who knows what we'll run into. But he may be an answer.
He's yelling something as we burst into the clearing. I see a home ... actually no more than a hovel. And a Zenardi woman holding a formidable gun.
We skid to a halt, holding our hands up in surrender. "We mean no harm," Paulo begins.
She looks Paulo up and down disdainfully, taking in his red robes and religious symbol. "You're from the government. You've come for my boy."
"No," I begin, but she just glares at me. "We mean no harm," Paulo says.
She keeps staring at me, though, and I see her face soften, as if she is recalling some old memory. "You're human?" she asks hesitantly.
"Yes," Paulo says, and I nod in agreement. She inches closer to me, and gently, reaches out to stroke my cheek.
"You have fiery hair. Just like my Ken' ath." She turns to the young man, who is now standing in the doorway holding a gun of his own. "She is human ... like your father." If he understood, though, he wasn't letting on.
"I do not want your son," Paulo said gently. "Please tell me what happened." The woman hesitates for a moment, unsure. I can see the lines in her face. She draws a breath, and lowers her gun.
"It was more than twenty seasons ago. I worked in the tourist area. Ken'ath was a trader. He was beautiful, and I loved him. He had to leave, though, and I could not tell him we had a child."
She looked Paulo in the eye. "I wasn't going to send him to that wretched colony," she said, defiantly. "He looked Zenardi enough, so I hid him. I worked for the officials as a maid."
"I understand," Paulo said. "But whose grave is that? Who is he grieving for?"
She looked at her son. "I told him to leave her alone. She was trouble. But he had to lay with her, give her a child. Her father found out."
"He killed her," the young man said, flatly. "I heard her scream. I tried to help, but he hit me. When I came to, he was carrying her to a grave."
"Did you see the baby?" Paulo asked.
The young man was crying again. "He took it away with him. Probably killed it, too. I don't even know what it was."
If my guess was right, this answered my question about why the baby carried human DNA. But the answer was breaking my heart. Twenty years of hiding in poverty, a father murdering his daughter, and for what? For loving the wrong person?
"Who was the..." Paulo began, only to be interrupted by my comm badge.
"Chakotay to Janeway."
Lousy timing, dear. "Janeway here."
"Captain, there are three Zendari warships here, and they're demanding we turn over the baby."
Damn! "Prepare to beam me up."
The woman and her son had melted into the woods. "You need to go," Paulo said. "I'll stay here."
Kathryn strides onto the bridge, as angry as I've ever seen her. "The First Minister is hailing you," I say, and she nods.
She practically explodes as Signar's image fills the screen. "Minister! This is an outrage! How can you send...."
He cuts her off. "Our trading has concluded Captain. I want the child." His voice is cold, remote.
I can almost see the wheels turning in her head. She tries diplomacy. "The child would be welcome on my homeworld. You said yourself she was a problem, perhaps ..."
Before our eyes, Signar turns into a monster, his face distorted with rage. "No!" he roars. "I will not have this shame spread over the galaxy! If you don't cooperate, I will have my ships fire on you!"
This man is mad. He has to be.
"They are charging weapons," Tuvok informs us. "Shields up!" Kathryn replies.
"Sorry, Captain," Harry Kim tells her. "Their force fields are interfering with our shields."
"Damn!' she hisses under her breath. "Signar... I know."
He glares at her and breaks the connection. "Transporter beam in sickbay," Harry exclaims.
Then we hear the doctor's voice. "Captain, the child has been beamed out of sickbay!"
Kathryn usually keeps a good command mask, but now the disgust and anger are there for the whole bridge staff to see. "I'm sorry, doctor," she says through clenched teeth, then cuts off his reply.
We are being hailed again. This time it's the captain of one of the warships. His face is stoic, but his eyes betray his bewilderment. "Captain, we've been ordered to escort your ship out of Zendari space," he says deferentially. "Do you still have crew on the surface?"
We look at Tuvok, who shakes his head, no. "We do not, Captain," she tells him.
He nods. "I'm sending you the intended course. I would appreciate it if you delayed hyperspeed until you left our territory. Safe journey."
Kathryn nods, and the connection blanks out. "Do, it Tom. Full impulse," she says through clenched teeth, then heads for the ready room. "Tuvok, you have the bridge."
I give her a moment, then follow her. She's standing in front of the viewport, and in the reflection, I can see the tears streaming down her cheeks. She turns to me then, and we hold each other.
"Some captain," she finally says. "Can't even protect a child."
"I think you protected 12 children," I reply. "That madman would have had us killed."
She shook her head. "I'm sorry."
I lift her face to mine. " You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm just sorry I got us into this ... all this over a baby. It makes no sense."
"I think there's more to this than we know," she said.
I look at her. "I assume you're talking about your trip to the planet?"
She nodded, and began to tell me a story about a young woman who met a human trader ...
After Kathryn left, I headed back to my vehicle and grabbed a shovel, then headed back for the grave. Digging up the dead is not my style, but I had to know.
The grave wasn't deep; it had obviously been dug in a hurry. My shovel quickly hit something solid. As my stomach recoils, I brush away the dirt.
I see cloth. Rich purple brocade. Like Signar's robes.
I can't help it. I turn away and retch. Gods! Callah ... such a beautiful young woman. To meet such an ugly end. Perhaps she is with her mother in the Sacred Place ... that is if her father had the decency to say the prayers that would ensure her journey.
I owe her this much. I replace the dirt on the grave, then I kneel next to it and try to say the words. It's hard to speak through the tears, though. Finally, I finish, and I sit against a tree and wait.
He'll be back.
It wasn't long. I can hear him crashing through the woods, so I step behind the trees. He stumbles into the clearing, carrying a bundle, which he drops on the grave. I know what he's dropped, and I wince. He fumbles in his robes and pulls out a small gun in shaking hands. I can hear him muttering as he weaves, trying to get a bead on the bundle.
"Stop it, Signar," I yell from behind the tree. I startle him, and he shoots, the blast rising into the trees.
"What in the gods are you doing here, Paulo?" he yells back, obviously shocked.
I step out from behind the tree, but not too far. He still has the gun. "Isn't it bad enough that you killed Callah? You have to kill her child?"
His face was ashen. "Who told you?"
"The baby's father. He said you killed her."
"Lying half-breed," he sneered. "I would have seen Callah lie with half the military before him."
I hear the insult, but let it pass. "Was your honor worth killing her?"
"I didn't kill her," he roared. "She died in childbirth."
"You didn't get a doctor?" I ask. Surely, he didn't let her die.
"So everyone would know my daughter carried a half-breed? I couldn't. I'd never make High Priest."
His words were making me sick. I knew he was ambitious, but this?
"Signar, please, let me take the baby. No one need know."
"No one will know, Paulo. There will be no reminders. And you'll never have the chance to tell anyone."
I lunge for him as he raises the gun. We roll around, but I can't get the advantage. He stands over me, gun in hand.
"All right," I spit. "Kill the baby. Kill me. Be High Priest. You won't fool our gods. We both know that those who kill will never make the Sacred Place. And what kind of High Priest will you be, knowing that?"
He looked shocked. Perhaps he had forgotten the religious foundation of our government. Then again, he wouldn't be the first.
"Do you want to see Callah again? Do you want to see her mother? Don't do this."
He points the gun at me. "I'm sorry, Paulo. It's too late..."
I hear the shot, and I wait for the impact. I can't even remember how to pray, I'm so frightened.
Funny ... I don't feel anything.
I hear the thud, and I see Signar on the ground, a gaping wound in his back. Standing over him is the woman from the woods. The baby's grandmother.
"Are you all right?" she asks. There's no emotion on her face.
I get up, gingerly. "Yes, thank you."
She nods and looks at the bundle. "I heard you talking. Is that my son's child?"
I nod, and she walks over to it, cautiously opens the blanket and peeks inside. I see a half smile on her face then. "She's a beautiful child," I tell her. "If you want to take her, you have the right."
She turns to me, her face a mask again. "I can't care for her. We'll be moving on. It's better that my son thinks she is dead." Her eyes narrow. "Are you taking her to that colony?"
"I promise you, I will not," I tell her. "I know where she will be welcome."
Can't say I have any enthusiasm for my job today. I look over at Chakotay, and he looks as tired as I feel. Then again, we didn't sleep much last night.
I keep thinking about that little girl, and where she is now. Was there something else I could have done?
Harry's voice breaks me out of my thoughts. "Captain, a Zenardi ship is following us ... we're being hailed."
Great. Now what? Has Signar decided to come after us anyway? "On screen," I say, my irritation showing.
Paulo's face fills the viewscreen. "Kathryn, I heard about what happened. Are you all right?"
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Chakotay's eyebrow arch at the use of my name. Paulo sees it too, and grins mischievously. "No disrespect, Commander," he says.
Normally, I'd play with Chakotay a bit over this, but I remember Paulo's remark about needing asylum and I'm suddenly afraid for him. "We're fine. Are you in need of our help?"
"No, I'm all right. But I have something for you, if I could come aboard."
When we get to the transporter room, he's there, holding a small bundle. My heart leaps. Can it be?
He's grinning at us as he holds it out. "I've brought you your daughter, Kathryn. That is, if you still want her."
"Absolutely," Chakotay answers for me, and I scoop the baby into my arms. Chakotay breaks every bit of protocol as he wraps an arm around my waist. We both peek at the little face. At least she doesn't look any worse for her adventures.
"All right, Paulo, explain," I tell him with mock severity.
"I'll trade the information for a meal," he says. "It's been a long night."
Chakotay decides to take the little one to sickbay, so it's just Paulo and me in the mess hall.
"All right, give." I say. "How did you do this."
He looks at me, and I see sadness in his eyes. "Officially, I am on my way to our colony on the third planet. I have the sad duty to tell Signar's son that his sister and niece have died in childbirth and his father, in his grief, has followed them to the Sacred Place."
"Signar's daughter?" I can barely comprehend this.
He nodded. "You were half right, Kathryn. It was Signar's child ... his grandchild. That was his daughter's grave."
He told me then what transpired in the woods. How Signar really died. While I think he probably left out a few details, I heard enough to get the picture.
"That was an unselfish thing her grandmother did," I finally say.
"Well, it was. But she was right. What kind of life would she have in hiding? "
Something's bothering me. "But a good many people saw this baby taken away from us. How are you going to explain her disappearing?"
He smiled at me. "I usually have a few favors out ... we politicians do, you know. Officially, the child was taken to the colony. And unfortunately, she did not survive."
He began digging in a small bag. "I have some things for you," he said, handing me several packets. "These," he said, pointing to the largest packet, "are a birth record and adoption papers, in case there's any question. I took the liberty of forging Signar's name and seal. I figured that was the least he could do."
He tapped another packet. "This, is a personal favor. I know you will teach the baby about being human. But I would like her to know she is Zendari, too. This is a history of my people; an explanation of our religion and our celebrations."
His hand found mine, and right now, I'm glad we're the only ones in the mess hall. "I realize that the story of her birth is a sad one, and I'll leave it to you on what to tell her. But I just want her to know that there is good in both parts of her heritage."
I squeeze his hand. "I will tell her that a very brave man risked a great deal for her, so she could have a good life. And we'll always be grateful"
He laughs. "Well, I doubt that I will go home and start a revolution. But if I ever get to be High Priest, who knows?"
Paulo declines my offer to take him to sickbay. So I walk him to the transporter room. "I'm sorry we won't meet again, Kathryn. But I wish you a safe journey home." To my surprise, he kisses my cheek, and to mine, I kiss him back.
"By the way, is there a feminine version of your name?" I ask as he steps onto the pad.
"Well, it's Paulio," he begins, then comprehension dawns. "Kathryn, don't you dare..." and his words float off as the transporter beam catches him.
I head into sickbay to see my new daughter. "She's fine, Captain, " Kalban said. Both he and the doctor are beaming.
"I assume this is another little Janeway, but does she have a first name?" the doctor asked.
I look at Chakotay. "Any ideas?" It only seems fair. After all, I named the boys.
"Actually, yes. I was thinking of Tala."
I consider it. "That's lovely. What's the significance?"
"None family-wise. In my language, it means 'wolf.'"
I look at him in shock. How did he know? He hasn't contacted his guide ... or has he?
"Well, that's fine. I'd like to use Paulio as her middle name ... to honor Pau ... the minister."
He's arching that eyebrow at me again. "All right." He turns to the doctor. "There you have it. Tala Paulio Janeway."
"Excellent. I'll make the announcement," the doctor began, but I cut him off.
"Give us an hour. I'd like to introduce her to her brothers first." I say, scooping up my baby. "Then, doctor, you can tell everyone that we have a new member of the family."