By: Jennica Williams
DISCLAIMER: I am not using Star Trek for profit. Paramount owns the characters, the ships, the uniforms, the biogel packs, even Neelix's food, I'm just here playing around with the ideas running through my head. No copyright infringement is intended.
Dedication: Thanks goes to everyone who beta-read this and gave me support, but especially to the ones who ripped my story apart and then begged for more. You know who you are. Thank you!
She dropped down on her knees and took aim. Closing one eye and squeezing the trigger, a bright stream of energy shot out of the phaser, effectively changing the disk’s color from red to blue. Her opponent, slightly smaller in stature, but just as strong and possibly more determined, rolled to the left and came up on one knee. The disk changed color again and began to hurl in her direction. She jumped to her feet pushing a lock of reddish-brown hair back from her sweaty face as she fired again.
A grunt from her opponent signaled that the other was becoming worn.
“Never!” came the growl as the disk changed color again. “You just wish I was!”
Actually, I do. She thought to herself as she prepared for the next aim. The disk whizzed past her head and she ducked just at the last minute. Popping back up, she squeezed the trigger.
“That was pure luck!” the other howled charging after the disk.
“No kidding.” Taking a step back, she felt herself falling to the floor. Landing on her shoulder and wincing at the pain, she rolled over just in time to see the disk shoot past.
“Ha! I win!”
Pulling the phaser from out from beneath her, Elizabeth blindly shot into the air just before the disk charged into the wall. It changed color and quickly sped in the direction of her best friend.
Not prepared for it, M’Rana wasn’t even given a chance to shoot before it clanged into the wall.
“Point, Kim. Round three winner, Kim.” The computer announced as the disk shimmered out of existence.
“Not fair!” M’Rana shouted in mock anger.
Elizabeth only laughed at her friend as she struggled to sit up. “Give me a hand, Goldie.”
“Goldie”, nick-named so because of the gold-shouldered uniform she usually wore, made her way over to the light-skinned human.
“You okay, Beth?” M’Rana’s part-Klingon brow wrinkled in concern.
“I’ll be fine.” Beth gasped pulling herself into a sitting position. Lifting one hand to push back the sweaty reddish-brown hair from her face, she managed a smile. “See? I’m fine.”
“Do it with your other hand.” M’Rana challenged.
Beth frowned and tried to lift her arm. Clenching her teeth, she cringed as the pain shot through her arm. “I…can’t.”
“Sometimes, I wonder who’s the Klingon.” M’Rana muttered helping her friend up. “Computer, end program.”
As the two stumbled out of the holodeck, the velocity playing field abruptly disappeared.
“You’re home early.” Harry Kim greeted his daughter as she slipped inside the quarters they shared with her mother, Annika Kim. Or, Seven, as many still called her.
“Did you fight with M’Rana?” Seven inquired from the sofa where she and Harry had been reviewing data padds for the latest mission the captain would be sending them on.
“No. Dislocated shoulder.” As her father’s mouth open to reprimand her, Beth lifted her arm and rotated it in circles. “It’s fine, Dad. Mr. Neelix healed it again.”
“What was it? Hang gliding again?” Harry had been shocked and horrified when Beth told him M’Rana had found the old program of her mother’s. Both girls had tried the program, with the safeties on. But even safeties didn’t prevent them from breaking several bones when they fell to the floor of the holodeck.
“Safe enough.” Seven decided leaning back into the sofa. “I used to play…”
“Why don’t you anymore?” Beth tossed her sweaty towel onto the floor as she dropped into a chair opposite her parents.
“Honey, if you don’t mind. Mom and I are trying to organize these reports for the captain.” Harry motioned for Beth to run along now.
“An away mission?” She leaned forward eagerly and snagged a padd from the table. “Please, Dad?”
“You shouldn’t have said anything.” Seven admonished her husband with a small smile. “She won’t leave us alone for the next week.”
“You’re right.” Beth slid off the chair and kneeled beside the table where half a dozen padds were laid out. “What’s it this time? Geological studies? Trading? Gathering food staples?”
Bright gray-blue eyes peered up at her parents as the question they had known was coming was delivered. “Can I go? Please?”
Seven and Harry exchanged a glance. They had talked about it several times, Elizabeth was nearly seventeen and had shown an interest in becoming a crew member for many years. Already, she was serving as a second-shift pilot and first-shift scientist with the rank of ensign. She had been begging for two years to accompany someone to a planet.
“Please?” Hope surged through Beth’s body when they didn’t immediately turn her down.
“You may ask the captain.” Harry finally said.
A squeal emitted from Beth as she leapt to her feet. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!” she shouted already half way to the door.
“Elizabeth Kathryn Kim!”
She skid to a halt at her mother’s raised voice. Turning slowly with a look of trepidation on her face, she waited for them to say she couldn’t go.
“Get a shower first.”
With a giddy laugh, Beth changed course and skipped to her bedroom.
Elizabeth tapped her foot anxiously as the turbolift made its way to the bridge. She shouldn’t be nervous, she knew. She piloted the ship a couple times a week, so she was used to the bridge. In fact, she was scheduled to sit in the pilots’ seat tonight. But, never before had she been on her way to ask permission to go on an away mission.
Something about the captain made her uneasy. She didn’t like to admit it to anyone, not even herself, but she was frightened of him. He had always seemed to like children, just not her. The one memory that had been burned in her mind was when she and M’Rana had found an old-Earth inventor’s workshop. He had found them talking with the maestro and had exploded into a rage. Shouting for the girls to never, ever run this program again, he had scared the two ten year olds into running from the holodeck in tears. Neither ventured near the holodecks for six weeks.
She was no longer ten; she was almost seventeen and needed to get over her fear of him. Smoothing the braid she had put her hair in, she tugged once on the front of her red-shouldered uniform before stepping out of the ‘lift.
Tuvok acknowledged her with a short nod, then turned back to his station. The ensign at OPs didn’t look in her direction as she made her way to the right and down the stairs before ringing the door chime of the captain’s ready room.
The doors slid apart and Elizabeth hesitantly stepped across the threshold.
The gray-haired man didn’t look up as she stepped closer to his desk. His tattoo wrinkled in concern at whatever was written on the data padd, but he refused to look up.
Elizabeth vowed not to fidget. Clasping her hands behind her back, she raised her chin slightly. He made several adjustments to the data padd and then turned back to the computer. The screen flashed and she could see the yellow, blue, and white colors reflected in his obsidian eyes. Still, he refused to acknowledge her.
Chakotay looked up with a glare. “Didn’t you learn proper protocol in the Academy?” he asked, referring to the small school Voyager’s crew had set up and Tuvok maintained.
Chakotay continued with his work for a few more minutes. Elizabeth took that time to observe her surroundings; she had never been in the ready room and was curious about this haven that the captain was rumored to spend much of his time in. A Terran telephone that must have been nearly 600 years old rested on the ledge to her right. Beside that was an old tea service. Instantly, Elizabeth wondered what kind of man the captain was. She hadn’t ever set foot on another Starfleet vessel, but she was willing to bet her entire set of test tubes and beakers that most male captains didn’t have a tea service set up in their ready room.
“What did you want?”
Snapping her head around, Elizabeth took the few remaining steps up to the desk and clasped her hands in front of her. “I want to be part of the away mission.”
Chakotay leaned back in his chair and folded his hands. “Why?”
“I have so much to offer.”
“For a diplomatic mission?” Chakotay scoffed. “Ensign, you’re hardly qualified.”
“I’m both a scientist and a pilot.” Elizabeth insisted. “I’ve never been given the opportunity to be a diplomat. If the chance arose, I’m sure I could handle that as well.”
“But, is it wise to risk it?”
“Is it wise not to?”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “Looking out for the future of this ship, sir. We still have 34 years before we reach the Alpha Quadrant. No offense intended, sir, but the chance that the original crew will still physically be able to serve on an away mission is not high.”
“Stubborn. Just like your mother. Is it wise for me to take such a junior officer on an important mission?”
“My mother is not stubborn.” Elizabeth’s azure eyes flashed. “She states her opinions and complies with the majority.”
“A temper?” Chakotay frowned. “That is not an asset to an away mission.”
Elizabeth looked down at the floor. Chakotay thought he had scared her into giving up, but when she lifted her eyes again, he was floored by the burning intensity.
“Captain. I keep my temper in check.” She stated in a low voice. “I have never had an uncontrolled outburst.”
“And you believe this display will convince me to allow you on an away mission?” Chakotay asked.
Squeezing the fingers of her opposite hand, Elizabeth met his eyes confused. “I have come to ask permission to be a greater asset to this community. Yet, you have set me up for failure. Why?”
Something in Chakotay’s heart constricted at the child’s evident pain. “You must learn to not allow another person’s words divert you from your intent.”
Elizabeth nodded once and looked back down at her hands. Lifting her chin slightly, she met Chakotay’s eyes with force. “Can I go?”
He wanted to burst out laughing, but held himself in check. “You have much to learn, Ensign.”
A flash of disappointment crossed Elizabeth’s features before she could stop it. Dejectedly, she turned to leave the room.
“Report to transporter room 1 at 1400.”
Her head snapped up in surprise. “Captain?”
“I’m assigning you to the second group collecting data about the local flora.” Chakotay said, already making a note on the data padd. “Don’t be late.”
“Aye, sir.” Elizabeth flashed a smile in his direction. “And, thank you!”
Chakotay watched as she bounded out of his ready room. “Dismissed.” He told the closed door with a shake of his head.
Pulling up a picture on the computer, he traced the outline of the woman’s face. “I wish you could see your ship now, Kathryn.”
Beth burst into her best friend’s room in a flurry of wild blue eyes. Flipping the brown braid over her shoulder, she pounced on the bed where M’Rana was stretched out half asleep.
“Wake up!” she exclaimed. “You’re never going to believe this.”
“What?” M’Rana peered at the girl in annoyance. “This isn’t some game, is it?”
“No silly.” Beth leaned closer and in a conspiring whisper told the other, “When I got home, mom and dad were talking about the next away mission. Today.”
“Sooooo…. they gave me permission to ask the captain if I can go.”
M’Rana was wide awake now. “Did you?” She demanded sitting up straight. At Beth’s smirk she gasped. “You did! What’d he say?”
“Be in transporter room one at 1400 hours.”
“He said yes!?”
“Shh!” Beth clamped her hand over M’Rana’s mouth as her best friend let out a squeal. “Yes. He said yes.”
“You’re so lucky,” M’Rana insisted, pulling Beth’s hand away. “I’d give anything to go on a mission.”
Both girls jumped at the sound of M’Rana’s mother in the doorway. B’Elanna Paris eyed her daughter carefully before striding over and dropping a data padd on her bed.
“The captain has requested you join the away team as well. Transporter room one. 1400 hours. Don’t be late.”
M’Rana picked up the data padd in awe. Cradling it gently in her hands, wide brown eyes stared up at her mother.
“Me?” the squeak that emitted caused Beth to laugh.
“You and I are going on an away mission, M’Rana! Together!”
“Me?” M’Rana’s eyes scanned the data padd furiously. “We’re collecting data about food, Beth. Not the most exciting, but it’s a start.”
B’Elanna backed out of the doorway and into her husband’s embrace. “Why now, Tom?” she asked allowing her arms to slip around him. “It’s too soon for them. They’re not old enough.”
“B’Ela, when were their age, we were nearly on our way to the Academy. I’d already been on dozens of missions with my father and I don’t doubt that you-“
“I had my share of excitement also,” B’Elanna muttered remembering the school yard fights which led to her isolation. The isolation was what had encouraged to her explorer nature and taken her investigating all over her own planet. “But, that was home. In this strange place….I fear for their safety.”
“Chakotay knows what he’s doing. He wouldn’t let them go if he didn’t think it safe. And you know as well as I do that he feels he can’t single one kid out any more than the other. If he chooses two or more, it’s less obvious that Beth asked to be a part of it.”
Beth stepped into the transporter room right at 1400. A Starfleet issue pack was strapped to her back and an air of excitement surrounded her. M’Rana followed with Jaysen Dalby and his sister Julie on her heels.
“Good. You’re on time.” Seven greeted her daughter. “I have been assigned to this group as well.”
“And me too.” Eyes turned as Neelix bounded into the transporter room. His once golden hair was streaked with light blond due to aging and his spots had faded with time; however, his energy levels only seemed to pick up.
“You?” Beth couldn’t bite back the remark as she wondered why the doctor of Voyager was needed. Were they anticipating that someone would be hurt?
Neelix visibly bristled. “Is there something wrong with that, young lady? I’ll have you to know that I served as Voyager’s cook for ten years. I’ve been on my share of away missions to gather food data.”
“I’m sorry.” Beth apologized, embarrassed.
“No need to be.” Neelix grinned and gave her a one-armed hug. “We should be on our way soon.”
Jaysen eyed Beth carefully. He’d never cared for the girl much, mostly because she had managed to beat him in almost every class they’d ever had together- which was all of them. The only exception was engineering. Beth, for all appearances, couldn’t tell the difference between a warp manifold and isolinear coprocessor. He knew that privately, many of his friends were jealous of Beth’s aptitude in the sciences, but couldn’t bring themselves to act on their contempt and exclude her.
There was something about her, perhaps the sparkle that never seemed to leave her or the innocence that indicated she truly was unaware of how others treated her, that made everyone think twice before pushing her away. Only two people that Jaysen knew of actually considered her a close friend - M’Rana and Roget. Of course, everyone knew Roget was infatuated with Beth. He had been since the time that they were little children in grade school.
“Are we ready?” M’Rana asked loudly.
“Yes.” Seven, the leader of the group, took her place on the transporter pad and waited for the others to join her. Looking around one last time, she nodded to Naomi Wildman. “Energize.”
Beth drew in a deep breath and held it. She had transported exactly three times before and each time it made her feel as though she wouldn’t be able to eat for a week. This time, she expected it to be no different. Closing her eyes tightly, she felt her molecules dissolve into little more than a stream of energy. Before she was aware of it, her body had rematerialized and she standing on a grassy slope overlooking a shallow valley. Exhaling the breath, she heard the snap of tricorders opening.
“We will spilt up in order to cover more ground.” Seven began, ignoring her own tricorder. “Neelix, Beth, Jaysen, and Julie, go down to the lower streams. M’Rana and I will climb the rest of this mountain.”
Beth was tempted to ask if she could stay with her mom, but it was obvious what was happening. Seven wanted to cover ground quickly. M’Rana and her quarter-Klingon strength were efficient. Beth, Jaysen, and Julie were fully human and slower. Neelix, an aging, robust Talaxian was the slowest of all.
“We have been allotted four hours in which to gather the necessary data.” Seven continued, already moving with M’Rana towards the mountains. “Tomorrow, more teams will transfer down to gather the plants. Let us be quick about this in order that the labs may begin analyzing as soon as possible.”
A few moments later, the four were left alone to begin their work as the quicker of the six scurried up the mountain.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us today.” Jaysen declared, turning in the direction of the stream.
Julie rolled her eyes at her brother. “Let’s just get it over with.”
Brother glared at sister. “This mission may be an interruption to your playing in the science labs, but to me it’s a chance I won’t get again. I’m going to be captain one day and this may be the break I need for them to notice me.”
“It could be a break for you, all right.” Julie leaned closer.
“Is that a threat?” Jaysen stared at her in shock.
“Could be. If we’re not out of here in three hours.”
“Look, kid. I’m not going to put up with your-“
“Stop!” Beth stepped between the siblings as they began to raise fists. “I don’t know what kind of morning you had and I don’t care. At this moment, we’re Starfleet officers and will treat each other accordingly. Quit acting like spoiled children and start acting like adults - or go back to the ship.”
Jaysen and Julie dropped their fists and stepped apart sheepishly. Neither volunteered information about why they were fighting so much lately. The dreams Julie had about leaving the ship were hers to dream. She would not follow in her brother’s footsteps all the way back to the Alpha Quadrant, but there was no reason for Beth or Neelix to know that.
“Sorry.” Julie grunted, picking up the knapsack from where she had dropped it. “It looks like there are lots of edible fruits about one hundred meters in that direction.” Lifting a hand, she pointed at a cluster of trees just over the next hill.
“Let’s go!” Beth exclaimed, eager to start their data collection.
Neelix watched for a moment as the three children scampered off; he would catch up with them later.
Beth chose that moment to turn back. “Hurry, Mr. Neelix!” she called with a wave.
“I’m coming,” he huffed wondering what gave the human children the extra strength.
“C’mon, Beth. He’ll catch up later,” Julie started to take a few steps forward, eager to get back to the ship.
“Have a heart, Julie.” Beth admonished her softly. “He’s getting older and needs help.”
“Sorry, I forgot I was talking to Saint Elizabeth the First.” Julie rolled her eyes.
Elizabeth turned and watched Neelix for a moment. Without a glance back, she jogged back to the older man. Slipping her arm through his, she met Julie’s eyes with a steady glare.
“Thank you, Elizabeth Kathryn…” Neelix gave her hand a gentle pat. “You’re a kind girl.”
The storm seemed to come from nowhere. One minute, M’Rana and Seven were scanning a boulder that appeared to be emitting some sort of energy, the next thing they knew sheets of rain were splashing down over them. A crack of thunder over-head warned them of the lightning close at hand.
Seven snapped her tricorder shut and tried to hold it close to her body, but even that bit of protection couldn’t stop the rain from seeping into the machine. Her blue shouldered uniform was already soaking up the rain water and becoming heavy on her body. Tapping her comm badge, she felt a slight surge of electricity. “Our badges have shorted out.”
M’Rana, who was just behind Seven, wiped at her cartilaginous brow and tried to push her drenched hair back. One good thing about her horrible brow, she had learned at an early age, was that water didn’t immediately flow into her eyes. Instead, it followed the contour of her forehead and ran down the tip of her nose and temples.
“Quickly!” Seven ducked around a tree and sloshed through the mud.
“There’s no place to go!” M’Rana shouted above the gusts of wind.
Seven ignored the teen’s observation and stumbled off the path intnot e woods. The dense floor of the forest made it hard going, but Seven managed to get off the path about ten meters before she stopped to look back. M’Rana, right on her heels, crashed into the older woman toppling both to the ground.
“Isn’t there some old rule about not being near trees during lightning storms??” the girl asked huddling close to the ground.
“I’d prefer to take our chances in here.” Seven replied evenly as she prepared a small place in the underbrush for her soaked tricorder. “Perhaps, we can salvage some of the information.”
M’Rana handed her the other tricorder and fit them snugly into hole lined with moss and leaves and covered with even larger leaves.
Neelix heard the rumble and saw the skies turning darker. “We have to go back!” he shouted as the wind picked up speed and carried his voice in the opposite direction.
Julie, who had opted to stay with Neelix on the upper ridge of a canyon nodded in agreement. “Get Beth!” she shouted to her brother.
Jaysen, only five feet below them watch Elizabeth who was another five meters below him. “Beth!”
She ignored him. Or, maybe she wasn’t ignoring him, he reasoned. With the wind picking up speed and whipping through the tunnels of the canyon, she very likely couldn’t hear him.
Picking up stone the size of a golf ball, Jaysen neared the edge. If he could just get it close enough to get her attention, but not startle her….
Elizabeth tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as it came free of the braid. The plant she was intensely scanning was of immense interest to her. It appeared to contain several elements that could be used in sickbay and engineering. Though it wouldn’t be of any use to the mess hall, other areas would have much needed elements. Satisfied with the readings, she snapped her tricorder shut and looked up. Dark thunder clouds churned angrily in the sky overhead as lightning danced between them. A gust of air swept over her creating goose bumps on her arms. Wishing she hadn’t discarded the uniform jacket earlier that afternoon during the intense heat, she clutched her arms and rubbed her hands over them.
They should be getting back, she realized. Captain Chakotay would not want a team stranded on the planet at a time like this. Turning back to look up at the rest of her team, which she knew to be above her. She was horrified to see Jaysen choose that moment to toss a rock over the edge in her direction.
Stumbling backwards, a small pile of stones caught her foot, effectively causing her to fall. The tricorder bounced out of her hands as it skidded across the rocky ledge and, to her dismay, right over the side of the cliff.
Jaysen’s eyes widened as he realized what could have happened. Beth lay only a foot from the edge, immobile.
“Beth!!!” Julie’s high, shriek carried over the storm and caused the girl to look up in alarm.
She shouted something to them and gestured to the side where the tricorder had fallen.
Jaysen was shaking his head wildly and pointing to the sky. His meaning was clear; they were to go back.
Elizabeth shook her head and shouted back. They couldn’t make out the words, but she motioned for them to go back. She would be along as soon as she picked up the tricorder.
Jaysen felt the hairs on his arms stand up as lightning charged the air around him. Without looking back at Elizabeth, he charged up the path to Julie and Neelix, where the ship could read their comm signals and transport.
“Come on!” he shouted already contacting the ship. “She’s a fool to stay!”
Beth watched as the three dematerialized, Neelix his mouth open still shouting to her. Turning back to the edge of the precipice where the tricorder had fallen over, she began a slow decent to the lower ledge.
The skies chose to release their torrents of rain at that moment. Soaked to the skin almost right away, Elizabeth carefully began to work her way down. It was only about three and a half meters straight down, but with the mud forming, it felt longer.
Her teeth were chattering when she finally made it, but that didn’t matter. She had the tricorder. Grasping it firmly in her hands, she looked up the steep incline. If only the transporters were able to get through the minerals in the canyon!
“It’s not going to happen, Kim.” She muttered to herself through clenched teeth. Securing the database with the precious information about the plants into the waistband of her pants, she started the journey back up.
Slipping and sliding, up two meters sliding back down one. Up three meters, skinning her knees as she fell back another. The whole way up seemed to be a test of strength. Shear determination surged through her body as lightning continued to strike all around her. The heavy rain pelted her skin and then she felt something else.
Hail!? Beth looked around frantically. Sure enough, small pellets of ice were popping all over the ground around her. She took a moment and gazed at them in awe, having never seen hail in her life. The ice seemed to be jumping off the ground as it fell. It was then that she realized the dime-sized hail pieces were beating her own body. Struggling even harder, Elizabeth pulled herself over the last bit of the cliff and tapped her comm badge.
Within seconds, she materialized in the transporter room and found herself staring into the glowering eyes of Captain Chakotay.
"You had better have a very sound explanation for this stunt, Ensign."
Beth noticed that the two officers on duty, Naomi Wildman and Megan Delaney, both scuttled out of the room quickly. She was in for it.
Meeting the senior most officer's eyes, she stepped off the transporter padd and lifted a chin smeared with mud. "I do, sir." She produced the tricorder and snapped it open. "I've-"
"I don't care!" Chakotay growled. "Just what did you expect to accomplish by risking your life? How many times has Tuvok told your class that the lives of our crew members come before any information we can gleam or any technology?! Don't you ever listen?"
"Of course I listen!" she exclaimed, built up energy from confronting the storm exploded through her veins.
"Don't take that tone of voice with me, young lady!" Chakotay paced around the small room for a moment and then turned back to the teenager - one of the youngest members of Voyager's active crew compliment. "I've stood by while you've grown up. I know your temperament; I know your skills in leadership. I also know you've got more curiosity in you than what a dozen other officers have together and you feel you need to explore-"
"But, I'm a scientist! I'm supposed to explore! If someone didn't, this whole ship would die!"
"Don't give me that excuse." Chakotay's voice grew deathly quiet. "I knew a scientist once. She was as strong willed and inquisitive as you are, but she was also a strong leader. She had to be." Dark eyes grew distant and for a moment, Beth wondered if the captain was still aware that she was there.
His eyes seemed to snap back as he took a deep breath. "If I ever hear of you risking your life to gather valuable information for an assignment, you won't return to the surface of a planet until we reach Earth; is that clear?"
Beth's brow creased in confusion. "How did you know I have valuable information? I didn't even get a chance to tell Jaysen or Julie or Neelix. They thought I was scanning something to eat."
Chakotay held out his hand for the tricorder. "Call it intuition."
"Oh." She relinquished her hold on the mechanical device. "Is my mom back?"
Chakotay stiffened slightly, but quickly moved away from her and towards a console. "Seven and M'Rana were retrieved ten minutes before we could get a lock on you."
He was silent for the time it took to get the tricorder's power cell working again and download the data into the computer. "Good job, Ensign."
"So, I'm off the hook? Can I go now?"
wil quite. Three days confined to your quarters." Chakotay decided absentmindedly, still scanning the information.
"But, I'll miss-"
"That's the price you're going to pay." He told her sternly. "Maybe next time, you'll remember to come back at the slightest sign of trouble."
Kahless!, he sounds like my father, Beth thought to herself as she stormed out of the transporter room.
Ignoring the door signal, Beth continued to stare at the computer in her room.
"Mom!" No one answered her. With a start, she remembered that her mom and dad were on duty until 2100. Pushing away from the desk, she made her way into the main room of the quarters just as the door chimed again.
M'Rana, still in uniform, slipped inside and glanced around. "Are you alone, Beth?" she asked in a hushed whisper, her eyes shining with excitement.
"Yeah. What's on the padd?" Beth moved forward to take the padd from her friend, curious for any information from the 'outside world'. Being stuck in her quarters for the past two days had not been a picnic.
"Forget the padd. That was in case your parents were home. Look at this!" M'Rana whipped a small, electronic device out from under the padd.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure." M'Rana said, as both girls moved to Beth's room. "I found it tucked away in a corner of cargo bay one. Personally, I don't think anyone realizes it was there."
Blue-gray eyes widened. "You stole it?"
"Of course not!" M'Rana's ridges moved in annoyance. "I borrowed it….. without anyone's knowledge."
"If Commander Tuvok catches you…"
"Don't remind me." M'Rana moaned. "Although, I fear my father more." She turned the small device over in her hand. "I'm hoping that between us, we can get it working."
"I'm a scientist, not an engineer!" Beth declared peeking over her friend’s shoulder. "Whatever it is, just don't get me in trou-"
"Quick! Hide it!" M'Rana tossed the object at Beth as Seven's voice floated through the quarters.
"In here, Mom!" Beth called.
"There you are, M'Rana." Seven cocked her eyebrow at her daughter. "Beth, what did your dad and I say?"
"No friends over." A voice mumbled.
"That's right. I'm sorry, M'Rana. She'll be able to see you again after tomorrow. And, your mother is looking for you."
"Thanks, Aunt Seven." M'Rana jumped up. With data padd in hand, she cast a worried look at Beth. Giving a quick shake of her head, the other girl indicated that it would be best to leave the strange object with her. M'Rana quickly turned and left the Kims' quarters.
"What was that about?" Seven asked taking a seat on Beth's bed.
"Nothing, Mom." Beth lifted her eyes to her taller mother. "Why can't M'Rana stay? It's not like I'm not being punished. Captain Chakotay reprimanded me like he was my father and then grounded me!"
"It's because we love you, Beth. And we want to keep you safe." Seven reached out a hand and ran it through her daughter's hair. "If it takes a grounding to make you realize that you must be careful, we'll ground you. If other privileges need to be taken away, we'll do that. Whatever we do, it's because we love you."
"I know you love me."
"Good. Now, why don’t you give me whatever that is you’re hiding under your pillow.”
“Under my pillow?” Beth repeated weakly, fearing she was about to lose a month of holodeck time.
“Now, Elizabeth Kathryn.”
Slowly, Beth pulled the tiny object forward and dropped it into her mother’s hand with a heavy heart.
“Where did you get this?” Seven demanded closing a fist around it.
“M’Rana found it.” Beth dared to lift her eyes to Seven’s angry blue ones.
“Beth, this is not a toy. I don’t want to hear of you and M’Rana sneaking around and taking things that aren’t yours.”
“What is it, Mom?”
Seven pursed her lips together tightly. Seventeen years ago, she had made a promise. Was it time to go back on that promise? “It’s from the twenty-ninth century, Beth. And that’s all you need to know.”
“Nothing.” Beth repeated M’Rana as the two ate a late night dinner in the messhall three days later.
“Not even a hint?”
“She wouldn’t tell me anything about it, okay?” Beth glared at the desert on her tray in disgust. “Want my Jell-O?”
“Sure!” M’Rana’s spoon quickly slid the jiggling desert over to her own tray. “I still don’t see how you can’t like it.”
“It’s slimy.” Beth declared, reaching for a data padd. “Look at this. I was right about that plant. Your mom’s already implementing it into different parts of engineering.”
“Was it worth three days of confinement to your quarters?” M’Rana smarted back.
“That was really great of you to notice it and think of a use other than food.” A voice said from behind her.
Beth twisted in her seat to look up at the tall male. “Hello, Roget. Have a seat?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” He flashed a grin at Beth and offered M’Rana a small smile.
“I did the first bit of work,” Beth continued taking a bite of her carrots. “But, it’s of no use if we can’t replicate it.”
“Uh-oh.” M’Rana looked up long enough to roll her eyes before resuming the task of chasing orange Jell-O around her plate. “Sounds like we’re not going to be seeing you around for the next few weeks.”
“Me? Whatever gave you that idea?” Beth’s cheeks flushed slightly as her eyes lowered to the padd.
“Need some help in the labs?”
Beth lifted her eyes to meet Roget’s emerald green ones. “That’s sweet of you, but no thanks.”
“She works better alone.” M’Rana interjected.
Roget wondered at the look that passed between the two best friends, but quickly pushed it from his mind. “Well, if you need me…”
“I’ll be sure to call.” Beth finished his sentence and the carrots at the same time. “Right now, I’m headed down to the labs. I hate to walk out on you like this, Roget. You understand?”
“Of course, Beth.”
“I’ll walk down there with you.” M’Rana collected her tray hurriedly so as not to be left with the other boy.
“Why do you put up with him?” M’Rana asked with a shudder as the two girls started a brisk pace through the corridors. “And just so you know, the labs are in the other direction.”
“Who said I did?” Beth smarted back. “And, I know that. But, cargobay two is in this direction.”
M’Rana stopped suddenly and grabbed her friends arm, effectively forcing her to stop. “Just what are you doing, Beth?”
Gray-blue eyes glittered with mischief. “My mom’s hiding something, M’Rana. I want to know what.”
“What gives you that idea?” the half-Klingon laughed. Not speaking another word, Beth turned and continued her fast pace. “Elizabeth Kim! Come back here!” M’Rana’s feet pounded on the deck as she chased her friend. “Is warp ten absolutely necessary?”
“M’Rana,” Beth pulled her friend into the turbolift and tapped her foot on the floor. “Cargobay 2.” As the turbolift started moving, she turned and finished her train of thought. “M’Rana, I did some snooping last night.”
“You?” M’Rana gasped, feigning shock.
“I knew we had a sneak on board! You’re responsible for the missing chicken leg I was planning on having for breakfast, right?”
Beth laughed. “Actually, I think I saw Neelix eating that. Anyway, my mom’s not one to keep information restricted from me. Ever. She’s always said it helps me to keep informed. But, the other day, she told me that….that ….thing is from the twenty-ninth century. But, that’s all I needed to know, she told me.”
“Yeah. My thoughts exactly. What’s a piece of technology from five hundred years in the future doing lying around our cargobay? I took a peek in their room to see if I could find it again, but didn’t.”
“So, what did you find out? There must be some reason we’re going down there.”
“I found a computer log. Apparently, after my mom was separated from the Borg, she lived in cargobay 2 for nearly fifteen years.”
“Fifteen years! Would you like to drop any more antimatter torpedoes? Or am I safe?”
“You’re safe now.” Beth laughed. “I think. Besides, I have a feeling that if we search that cargobay, we’ll find the device again.”
“You don’t live somewhere for fifteen years without learning all the secret hiding places. I’m going to find out what that thing is. And, what information it holds.”
“Ever notice how much she looks like Janeway?”
“If the captain hears you say her name, you’ll be cleaning the hulls for a week.”
“He’s not going to find out, Megan.” Beth and M’Rana exchanged a glance. Who was Janeway? Crouching against the wall, they stayed quiet as the voices continued. “Don’t you think she looks like the captain?”
“She can’t exactly help it, Jen. What was that?”
“Just us coming in.” Beth said loudly striding forward as though she had just walked in the door.
“Need something, Ensign?” Megan Delaney asked without glancing up.
Beth looked around the cargobay. Crates stood in the open and a computer console faced a wall that looked as though it had been constructed rather hastily. “M’Rana was looking for a spare harmonic resonance chamber.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of slip stream technology?” Beth asked incredulously.
“Honey, we were on the slip stream flight before you were ever born.” Jenny spoke up. “But, are you girls concerning yourselves with it?”
The twins exchanged identical looks between them. “Uh huh. Run along.” Megan finally said.
“Go. Before we tell your parents.”
Both girls quickly ducked out of the cargobay.
“I’m going back later. Tonight. Late.” Beth declared in a hushed whisper as the two entered the turbolift.
"Mind if I tag along?" M'Rana asked as the doors slid open to deck 11.
Beth thought for a moment wondering if it was better to have one or two people involved. Catching sight of two lieutenants walking towards them, she quickly turned back to M'Rana. "pegh."
“I’m going to be rather late tonight.” Seven reminded Beth as she prepared to leave for the evening shift.
Seven fastened her communicator to her blue-shouldered uniform as she peeked in on her daughter. “Dad’s going to be late too.”
“You can replicate pizza and have M’Rana come over if you want.”
“M’Rana and the captain are planning a mutiny and want you to help.”
“What are you reading that’s got your attention so caught?!” Seven laughed coming to sit on the blue bedspread.
Beth glanced up from the data padd she was curled up with. “Jane Eyre!”
“Old England or something like that?”
“Yes! It’s about this governess-“
“I don’t need the story, Elizabeth.” Seven bent over and pressed a kiss against the top of her daughter’s brown hair. “Have a good night.”
“I will, Mom.” Beth snuggled further down in her bed and pulled the quilt closer to her chin. The instant the door had closed tightly behind her mother, Beth leapt from the bed and was hastily grabbing at her uniform. “M’Rana!” she barked into her communicator. “My mom almost walked in while you were jabbering!”
“Sorry!” The quarter-Klingon exclaimed from her own quarters. “Are you ready?”
“Let’s wait five minutes for duty shifts to change.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in five.”
“Lieutenant, what does ‘pegh’ mean?”
B’Elanna turned from where she was manually checking over the accelerometer relays. “What, Chapman?”
“pegh. It is Klingon, right?”
“Yeah. It’s a secret. Like a conspiracy. Where’d you hear it?”
“Elizabeth Kim said it to your daughter.”
“Oh,” B’Elanna turned back to her tools and the relays. “It’s probably nothing. Those two have had their own secret languages since they were babies.”
Beth took a deep breath and peeked her head around a corner.
“Do you see anyone?” M’Rana asked, still watching the other direction.
“No one.” Beth scurried forward and quickly hit the door panel beside cargobay 2. The doors slid apart with a loud, mechanical popping noise and both girls dove inside.
Tripping over Beth’s foot, M’Rana sent herself and best friend crashing to the ground. As she gasped for breath, the young crew members hastily looked around the cargobay.
“Computer, lights.” Elizabeth called, quickly getting back to her feet.
“Where do you think it is?” M’Rana asked moving to the console.
“Behind this wall.” Elizabeth stood with both hands on her hips as she glared at the wall. “I’ll bet my entire set of test tubes and beakers that there’s a little gem hiding back there.”
“That wall?” M’Rana eyed it with doubt. “Why?”
Beth ran a hand over the smooth paneling. “It’s different from the rest of the room.” She offered. “Look at the sheets.”
“They look just like those over there.” M’Rana declared gesturing across to the other side of the room.
“Exactly. And those are part of the outer hull. M’Rana, whatever this wall was constructed with is meant to be spare parts for outer walls - not part of the ship’s interior."
“So, we’ve found where our little toy is hiding. What are we waiting for?” M’Rana began to roll up her sleeves in anticipation.
“We can’t just knock it down!” Beth laughed. “That’s a sure hint someone was here.”
“Then, what do you suggest?”
“I…I don’t know.” Beth bit her lip as she moved towards the wall and started tapping on it.
“Did you hear that?” M’Rana turned quickly and looked towards the darkened side of the cargobay.
“Hear what?” Beth asked absentmindedly.
M’Rana’s ears struggled to pick up the noise again. “I guess it was nothing. Why do you think there’s something back there?”
“Because It looks like it’s just sheets of metal thrown together at the last minute.” She took a step back and stared at it for a minute. “M’Rana, how good are you at taking things apart and rebuilding them?”
Twenty minutes later, M’Rana and Beth grunted and groaned as they pulled the heavy sheet of metal out of it’s place. Dozens of screws lay on the floor and several pieces engineering equipment were scattered around the bay.
“You’re paranoid, Paris. Okay, set it down. Set it down.” The piece of the wall was propped against another wall as both turned back to inspect their progress.
“Oh my word….” Beth choked on the dust that had been disturbed despite the ship’s air filtering systems.
“What is it?” M’Rana asked in bewilderment as she stared at the circular mass of tangled wires and flat, shiny, consoles.
“I have no idea.” Beth moved forward to inspect the….thing. Not sure what to call it, ‘thing’ would have to suffice. It was cylindrical in shape and plenty tall enough for Beth to step inside. Above her head was a dull, gray circle that was attached to the back panel of the cylinder. Placing her foot on the stairs, M’Rana jumped forward.
“What are you doing!”
“I just want a better look at it.” Beth said, shaking her friend’s arm off. “I think this is some sort of Borg thing.”
“Your mother was the Borg, Beth. Not you! Get out of that thing.”
There was a place for her shoulder blades to lean into, Beth saw - if she had been about two inches taller. Suppressing a grin, she turned back to M’Rana, eyes wide. “M’Ran-!” Leaning back into the panel, her eyes slid shut and she slumped against the panel.
A voice from the back of the cargobay shouted her name just as the cylinder around her sprung to life.
A wild shriek emitted from Beth as she leapt from the machine and turned to stare in horror at it.
“Turn it off. Turn it off. Turn it off!” the voice continued to whimper.
“Shut up, Roget!” M’Rana snapped.
“Look at it! It’s beautiful.” Beth moved forward, a hand extended to the cylinder emitting a green glow. The flat disk above her head that had been lifeless and gray now shone green as pulses of energy danced across it.
“How do we turn it off?” M’Rana asked, ignoring Roget who was standing only a few feet from them.
“I don’t want to turn it off.” Beth declared moving back into the alcove. “I want to know what it is.”
“It is a Borg regeneration chamber.”
The three teens froze at the sound of Seven’s voice as she moved forward. Tapping several commands into the side of the chamber, it promptly shut down.
“Mom.” Beth’s voice cracked as she faced her mother’s angry glare.
“We’ll discuss this when your dad gets home. All three of you, get back to your quarters now. Your parents will be hearing about this.”
M’Rana felt her face flush hotly as she scampered past her Aunt Seven. Her mother was going to be livid when she found out about this one. There went at least three weeks of holodeck time.
Roget hung his head as he followed Beth. He wished he could be confident like her. Maybe then, she would notice him.
Beth’s gray-blue eyes met those of her mother’s clear azure ones. She was tempted to say something - anything - on her defense. But, she kept her mouth shut. Dad would only use it against her once they were home.
“Can I trust the three of you to go directly back to your quarters or do I need to send a security guard to escort you?”
“Watch your tone of voice, young lady.”
The three teens sullenly stepped into the turbolift together. “Deck two.” Beth ordered as she slumped against the wall.
“Deck five.” Roget added.
“Hey! What’s that?” M’Rana’s hand shot out and pulled Roget’s left hand from behind his back.
“It’s…nothing.” He stammered trying to pull the hand free again. “I found it at the back of the cargobay.”
“We were looking for that.” Beto iold him, meeting his eyes. Turning the sweetest face she could muster on him she asked, “Could I have it?”
Roget felt his knees go weak. This tiny device was probably all that was needed for him to win the Academy’s science prize. Dare he let it go? “Sure, it’s yours.” He found himself saying.
“Great! Thank you, Roget!” Beth’s fingers claimed the prize as she fled down the hall toward her quarters.
Barely stopping to tug off her uniform jacket, Beth and M’Rana went straight to Beth’s room and plopped on her bed. “Okay, how do we get this thing working?” Not quite the size of her palm and less than two centimeters thick, Beth was instantly curious as to what it could be. Turning it over, she found tiny indentations on it. So tiny,…yes, they were holding it shut! “I think something’s holding it shut.”
“Let me see it.” M’Rana peered closely at it. “Do you have a tool kit?”
Reaching for the tool kit her dad had replicated for her at the age of three when he'd still hoped she may go into engineering, Beth watched as M’Rana began to poke at the thing. Surprised turned into wonder as the back popped off and the circuits were revealed.
“This looks a like pretty basic wiring system. You say it’s from the twenty-ninth century?”
“That’s what my mom said.”
“Okay.” M’Rana’s brow furrowed slightly as her ridges moved. “I think I’ve found an ‘on/off’ switch. Lemme try….no, I guess-“
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
Beth nearly fell off her bed as she stared in astonishment at the blue-shouldered man before her. "You're…. You're…"
"A hologram." The bald man supplied. "May I please have my holoemitter? And, who are you? I don't recognize either of you from my databanks." He peered closer at Beth. "Kathryn Janeway?! No, you’re younger. Am I in the past?”
Beth swallowed hard as she handed the 'holoemitter' back to him. "Who's Kathryn Janeway? I'm Beth. Who…what…are you?"
"I'm a hologram." He restated pinning the device to his sleeve. "And if I'm not in the past, when am I? And who are you?"
Beth and M’Rana exchanged worried looks.
“You can answer me, or you can answer the captain when she asks.”
“She?” M’Rana laughed nervously. “Captain Chakotay is not a ‘she’.”
The man’s face suddenly contorted as if remembering something painful. “I stand corrected. Captain Janeway is not the captain.” He looked towards Beth. “You’re….?”
“Elizabeth.” She supplied.
At Beth’s answer, he reached out and placed both hands on her arms. “I know life has been hard for you, Elizabeth. But just remember how much your father loved your mother.”
“I know my dad loves my mom.” Beth took a step back and away from the man’s hands. “He tells her all the time.”
“What?!” the man looked around bewildered. “I saw her die with my own two eyes. She can’t be alive. It’s impossible!”
“My mom never died.” Beth shook her head in confusion. “Seven Kim is as alive as can be.”
“Seven? My Seven?”
“Harry Kim’s Seven.” M’Rana quickly corrected him.
“Ensign Kim married Seven of Nine?” he scoffed. “This is getting more and more ridiculous. She wouldn’t even consider him for her first date! She asked Lieutenant Chapman and he ended up in sickbay.”
“You said my mother is dead….” Beth started in a small voice. “Who are you? And why would you say that?”
“I’m Voyager’s EMH. Emergency Medical Hologram. My last record was on stardate 63253.02. Your birthday.” Turning to M’Rana he shook his head. “Am I to assume that you are B’Elanna and Tom’s child?”
M’Rana wrinkled her brow. “Good assumption. What gave it away?”
“I see B’Elanna’s passed along the pride she takes in being part Klingon,” he smarted back. “Now, I believe I need to speak with Elizabeth. Alone.”
M’Rana frowned at the EMH. “Just what-“ “Please, M’Rana…” Elizabeth pleaded. She wasn’t sure what was happening. And she wasn’t sure she wanted her best friend there at that particular moment. With a short nod, M’Rana left the room.
The doctor’s gaze settled on Beth’s confused visage. “I delivered you.”
Beth collapsed on her bed. “What do you mean? Who is this Janeway? Megan and Jenny said something today about a Janeway, is that the same person? How can you know I’m her daughter?”
“You’re the spitting image of her, that’s how I know.” The doctor said gently as he moved to sit beside the young girl.
“If she’s my mother, who’s my father?”
“Let me start…somewhere near the beginning…"
An hour later, a very hurt and angry Elizabeth Kim-Janeway paced around her room. "What right did he have to do that to me! He's treated me with hatred ever since I can remember!" She spun to face the doctor. "I'm not responsible for her death!"
"You need to go talk to him." The doctor told her as he removed the holoemitter from his arm. Holding it out to her, he continued, "You know where to find me if you need me."
Elizabeth took the object and looked at it for a moment. "Computer, end EMH."
“Elizabeth Kathryn? Where are you?” Seven poked her head into her daughter’s room. She found her sitting on the end of the bed, hands folded, knees pressed together, and her mouth drawn in a thin line. “Your dad will be home in an hour. We’ll talk then.” She started to move to the main room, but stopped at Beth’s voice.
“Don’t lie to me.”
Seven turned sharply. “What are you implying?”
“My father’s not coming here.” Beth raised her eyes to meet Seven’s.
A shudder ran down Seven’s frame. She looks so much like her mother, she thought to herself. “And why have you reached this conclusion?”
“I spoke to an old friend of yours today.” Beth still didn’t move. “He told me about when you were un-assimilated and how hard it was for you. He told me about when you were kidnapped by the Borg again.” She stood and looked up to her mother with defiance shining in her eyes. “Maybe you remember him?” she asked innocently holding the holoemitter under Seven’s nose.
Seven reached for the object, but Beth closed a fist around it. “You were told not to play with that, Beth.”
“Well,” Beth replied in a low voice, anger growing, “It looks like I did.”
Tuvok glanced up sharply as someone exited the turbolift with a direct purpose in her stride. Elizabeth Kim ignored her father on her left and Tuvok on her right as she walked determinedly to the ready room. Both men moved to intercept, but as they caught sight of the object clutched in her hand, they moved back. Chakotay would have to deal with this one on his own.
Captain Chakotay pressed his thumb against a report, the eighth one that hour. When the door chimed, he was relieved for the chance to take a break from the reading. "Come."
Elizabeth appeared in the doorway, her face impassive.
“What’s my name?”
Chakotay’s brows furrowed together in confusion. “Elizabeth K. Kim.”
"Is it? I ran into an old friend of yours." Elizabeth tossed the holoemitter on Chakotay's desk where it skid to a halt just before touching his now-pale hands. "I want some answers."
“Have you spoken to your mother?”
“No, she’s dead.” Elizabeth said matter-of-factly. “I find it slightly difficult to talk to dead people.”
Chakotay felt a stab of pain shoot through his heart at the nonchalant tone of voice. “Did you talk with Seven?”
“I walked out on her.” Beth was silent for a long moment. “You told me to not let anyone sway me from my original intent. Are you my father?”
Chakotay leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. He closed his eyes for a moment as tears threatened to escape. This child, his child, was so much like her mother it was painful for him to watch her. And now, he was going to be forced to tell her the truth. After seventeen years, it was time. “Yes, Elizabeth. I’m your father.”
“Who’s my mother?”
“Captain Kathryn Janeway.”
“Yes, I know that. The hologram told me.” Elizabeth glanced over to the tea service. “But, who was she? What was she like? Why have I never heard of her?” Her cool gaze turned back to Chakotay. “How did she die?”
“You spoke with the doctor, so may I presume that you know the answer to the majority of those questions?”
“No. It’s a hologram, not a real person.” Elizabeth’s eyes flashed suddenly. “I want to know from you. If you’re actually my father, I deserve that much.”
“First, it would do you good to remember that this hologram was a vital part of our crew for fifteen years. From this point on, you will refer to him as ‘the doctor’, not as a hologram.” Chakotay suddenly chuckled. “And don’t deactivate him without his permission. He gets a little angry when that happens.”
Elizabeth gave her father an incredulous look as she folded her arms across her chest.
“He did tell you how she died, correct?”
“In childbirth.” Elizabeth turned and paced in front of the desk as she wrung her hands. Turning back to Chakotay, she held her hands out in confusion. “But, what I don’t understand is how could she die? I mean, even fifteen years ago people didn’t die giving birth!”
“Complications.” Chakotay stated simply, a knot forming in his stomach at the familiar mannerisms he was watching for the first time in seventeen years.
“What kind of complications are we talking about here? A phaser wound to the head?” Elizabeth shook her head in confusion. “Women don’t just die giving birth. There’s always a reason.”
Chakotay winced at her flippant choice of words. “Elizabeth, please remember that you are speaking of your mother. My wife. I still grieve for her.”
She was silent for a moment as the full impact of his words hit her. His wife. Her mother. He was her father, not Harry Kim. “I apologize, Captain. I….I didn’t know her.” Beth managed to choke out. Drawing in a deep breath, she raised smoldering blue-gray eyes to his. “Why did you force Seven to take me?”
“I didn’t force-“
“Don’t give me that!” she exclaimed. “I may be your daughter, but in case you’ve forgotten, I wasn’t born yesterday!”
“Don’t raise your voice to me, young lady.”
“What right do you have to tell me what to do?” Beth snapped back. “You may be the senior officer of this ship, but right now I’m not here as a crew member. According to Star Fleet regulations, you have no jurisdiction in this case.”
Father and daughter glared hotly at one another for the span of several seconds. Suddenly, Chakotay turned away from her. “Get out.”
“Of course. I should have expected it.” Elizabeth said in annoyance. “You’ll avoid me just like you’ve been doing for my whole life.”
“Why?” Elizabeth persisted. “Why do you avoid me?”
“Wahkita!” Chakotay took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. “You really have no idea?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t ask.”
Chakotay strode back to his desk and opened the single drawer he had installed for Kathryn. “Take a good look, Ensign.”
Elizabeth hesitantly took a step forward to look at the item he had thrown on the desk. It was a holophoto of a couple. Picking it up, Elizabeth felt her face go pale - it was her! Or rather, what she would look like in the future. Judging the woman and Chakotay to be in their forties, Elizabeth guessed the picture to be about thirty years old.
“My mother?” she asked weakly.
“It was taken on a small planet where she and I were quarantined.”
“How old is it?”
“Twenty nine years, two months, eleven days. She and I called the planet New Earth.”
The name held no significance for Beth, but her first question was still disturbing her. “Why did you give me away? Why didn’t you keep me?”
Chakotay sighed heavily and looked at the girl - a younger version of his wife. “If you hadn’t been born, Kathryn would still be alive today.”
“It’s my fault she’s dead?”
“Not directly.” He muttered.
“You blame me!” Elizabeth gaped at him in shock. “You actually blame me for her death. I was nothing but a baby! If anyone, you should blame her and yourself! I certainly didn’t ask to be born!”
“No, but she was determined that you would be.” Chakotay turned to her suddenly. “You’re just a child. You don’t understand.”
“Try me!” Elizabeth threw the picture back on the desk. “I don’t appreciate you demeaning my intelligence, Captain!”
“I died with her that day in sickbay.” Chakotay growled in a low voice. “Do you honestly believe I was in any condition to take care of a baby? Because if you do, you’re more dense than I first anticipated.”
“I can find out what she was like from other crew members who knew her. Just answer one question for me.” Elizabeth said, her tone obvious she would not accept anything less. “What did she want to name me? Was I always Elizabeth Kathryn?”
Chakotay laughed to himself as he looked at his hands. Finally he met her gaze as he remembered that day. “No….”
“What do you think of the name Shannon?”
Chakotay looked up at his wife as she strode into their quarters after her duty shift. “It’s fine. Didn’t you have an ancestor by that name or something?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Kathryn dropped onto the couch and pulled her boots off before tucking her feet under her and snuggling up to her husband of five years.
Chakotay put down the data padd in order to accept the kiss and then pulled back to look at her. “Is everything okay, Kathryn? You’re usually not so affectionate right after a shift.”
“Nothing funny on sensors? Engineering’s okay?”
“Engineering’s fine.” She murmured against his shoulder. “There is something a little different on my medical record, though.”
Instantly alarmed, Chakotay pushed her away enough to look down into her clear blue-gray eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“I had my annual medical exam today.”
“And?” he pressed.
“Would you like a descendant named Shannon?”
Chakotay’s features froze in shock as his body tensed. “You’re pregnant?” A wide smile broke out across Kathryn’s face as she watched her husband’s reaction. “A baby?” She nodded, a grin stretching across her own face as he wrapped his arms around her tightly. “I can’t believe this. A baby…at our age?!”
“Believe it.” She grumbled into his shoulder. “In about eight months you won’t remember what it felt like to sleep a whole night through.”
“And you’re loving every minute of it.” He laughed. “Do you know the sex?”
“Girl.” She replied instantly, a guilty look passing over her features. “I couldn’t stop myself from asking the doctor.”
“A girl…our girl.” He laughed nervously. “I’m still in shock, I think.”
“Good. It’s easier to get you to agree on a name like that.” She teased pulling away and settling on the couch. “I’ve been thinking of Shannon Janeway.”
“What about her Indian name?” Chakotay retorted.
Kathryn gave a slight lift of her eyebrows. “This child is going to have more names than anyone on board.”
“And you wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“What about a middle name?”
Kathryn froze, fork in midair, as Chakotay entered their living room. Continuing with the bite of strawberries and whipped cream, she chewed thoughtfully for a moment. “I have no idea.”
“Shannon Kathryn?” he offered, stealing a strawberry from the dish.
“Absolutely not.” Kathryn declared pretending defend her fruit with the fork. “I swore I’d never name my child after myself of my husband. Too confusing. Give that strawberry back!”
“Even for a middle name?” The strawberry disappeared into his mouth.
“It doesn’t go nicely with Shannon.” She pouted watching him chew her breakfast.
“Let’s hope she doesn’t have her mother’s stubborn nature.”
“Considering your determined nature, it’s likely she will.” Kathryn retorted.
“I did marry you.”
“And it only took you ten years.”
“I think I’ve proven my point.”
“Wahkita.” [Pronounced: Wah-kee-tah]
“Wahkita.” Chakotay repeated. “I couldn’t sleep last night-“
“So I noticed. I think you kept moving around all night.”
“Hey.” She stood up and gave him a tight hug. “I knew you had insomnia before I married you. It came with the man.”
“How did you know that?” A puzzled looked crossed his visage as he stared down at her.
“Starfleet walls are not that thick, Commander.” A face buried itself under his chin. “And in case you hadn’t noticed, our bedrooms were backed up against one another.”
“Oh, I noticed. Why do you think I kept trying to get you to drink less coffee?”
A laughed escaped Kathryn before she could stop it. Still with her arms wrapped around her best friend and husband she asked, “Wahkita?”
“Oh yeah.” He looked to the window for a moment as though remembering someone. “My grandmother. She died when I was just a boy, but before that….we had the most precious relationship. She was always there with a hug or word of comfort. Never once did she raise her voice or scold me. She just loved me.” His eyes returned to the present and to his wife. “I’d like our daughter to have her Indian name. Wahkita.”
“I like it. Shannon Wahkita Janeway.”
Chakotay shook his head. “No. It must stand alone. Wahkita.”
She didn’t say anything for a moment, but leaned into her husband’s embrace and enjoyed the warm feeling of his arms around her. Hard as it was to believe, she had resisted his love for nearly ten years before succumbing to the desires of her heart.
They had been dating as an official couple for only a short time before B’Elanna and Tom’s wedding. At the reception, they had been standing near a window in the messhall watching Tom and B’Elanna cut the cake and attempt to feed each other.
“She’s going to have it all over his face.” Kathryn had laughed, taking a small sip of the punch.
“Not if he beats her to it.” Chakotay had slipped an arm around her and watched as Tom wiped frosting on his bride’s nose. The whole messhall roared with laughter as B’Elanna’s eyes glittered against her husband. It was during this time that Chakotay had suddenly turned to Kathryn and spoke the words that sent her head spinning. “Looks like fun. Maybe we should get married.”
“Is that a proposal?” Chakotay’s head had snapped back from watching the bride and groom. “Because if so, I accept.”
Later, when they were alone on the holodeck, he proposed again. This time a ring was in his pocket waiting for her to say yes.
“Shannon Elizabeth Janeway.”
“I like it.” Chakotay answered. “What is Elizabeth from?”
“Nothing in particular. Just a name I’ve always liked.”
“I like it.” He repeated.
“Wahkita?” Elizabeth repeated from where she had perched on the rail beside the captain’s desk.
“After your great-grandmother.” Chakotay reminded her.
“So, I should be Shannon Elizabeth? Not Elizabeth Kathryn.”
“Seven had her reasons for changing it. But,” he continued before she could ask. “You’ll have to ask her about that.”
“I think….I will.” She slid off the rail and started to make her way to the doors of the readyroom. “Thank you, Captain.”
“You don’t have to call me captain.” Chakotay stopped her. “I know I have no right to ask you to call me father, but you can call me Chakotay.”
Blue-gray eyes that reminded him of her mother met brown. “No, I can’t… Captain.”
Beth slipped out of the door and felt a half dozen pair of eyes land on her. She could feel her father’s - no, not her father - her foster father’s eyes burning into her with unspoken questions. Meeting the brown, almond-shaped eyes of the one she had called daddy, she calmly walked up the stairs to his station. “Thank you for not preventing me from learning the truth.”
Harry barely could make outbout words she said. Pulling her into his embrace, he felt the tears prick at his soul. Beth wasn’t just his little girl anymore. She was going to want to be shared with the captain, he knew. Harry just wasn’t sure her mother and he were ready for that. “I love you, Beth.”
“I love you too, Dad.” She pulled out of his arms and wiped at the tears in her eyes. “I’m going home. Mom’s waiting.”
He nodded, pushing the lump in his throat back to his stomach, and watched their little girl get on the turbolift.
“Mom’s waiting.” Beth repeated to herself softly once the turbolift had started moving. “And she has the answers to my questions.”
Chakotay turned back to his desk where the picture of himself and Kathryn was still resting. Picking it up, he carefully placed it in the drawer. Another object, glinting in the starlight, caught his attention. Lifting it into the palm of his hand, he turned it over.
“Computer, activate EMH.”
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.” The doctor turned in a small circle and found himself staring at a much older version of the Chakotay he had once known. “Oh, it’s you, Commander.”
“Good to see you, doctor.”
“Are you?” the doctor gave a short laugh. “If my subroutines recall correctly, you attempted to delete me about seventeen years ago.”
“Apparently, I wasn’t thorough enough.”
“No, you weren’t. I’ve found Seven’s ‘fingerprints’ all over my databases indicating she is the one to whom I owe my existence.”
“I apologize, Doctor.” Chakotay shook his head. “As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, I’ve had a visit from my daughter.”
“Ahh..the first meeting. How’d it go?”
“She hates me.”
“That’s no surprise.” The Doctor muttered.
“Just what do you mean by that?”
“My, my Elizabeth wasn’t elaborating when she described your temperament.” The blue-shouldered hologram made his way to the window.
“She said you were testy.” The Doctor turned away from the window with a force that would have sent any humanoid reeling. “That she had been afraid of you right from the start.”
“She’s afraid of me?” Chakotay asked, flabbergasted. “The kid that was shouting at me a few minutes ago is scared of me?”
“If you can recall, how did Captain Janeway react when she was frightened?”
“She….she never showed her fear.”
“She did.” The doctor raised his eyebrows. “I’m surprised you missed it. I didn’t; although, I am a superior analysis of the emotions of people. Captain Janeway would never show her fear directly. She covered it up with determination to achieve whatever it was she was after. Like when Seven was abducted by the Borg.”
“She never showed that she was afraid of beaming over to the ship…” Chakotay remembered.
“She just did it. She used the fear as a source of energy to achieve her mission.” The Doctor continued.
“And Elizabeth was doing the same thing?”
“Correct. They’re more alike than you first imagined - and not just in appearance.”
“This is not my day.” Chakotay muttered before turning back to the doctor. “Well, what now?” He demanded.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “I suggest you try to reach your daughter and make amends with her. As for myself, it’s time I renounce Mr. Neelix’s claim on my sickbay.”
“Mom?” Beth stepped into the dimly lit quarters and stopped for a moment to allow her eyes to adjust. The only light was that which streamed through the windows above the couch where Seven sat huddled.
At first, Beth didn’t recognize the reason her mother’s voice sounded scratchy and raw; she had, in fact, only seen her mother cry once before. And that had been because she had been led to believe that Harry had been killed in a shuttle accident. Moving forward, Beth saw the tears glistening on her cheeks as the hand raised to wipe them away.
She shouldn’t be angry, Beth knew, but she was. What right did the Captain have to give her away? And why had the woman she believed to be her mother for seventeen years hidden the truth from her despite the fact that she always had taught Beth to be honest and strive to discover the answers to her questions?!
“He gave me away.” Beth said in a low voice bordering on a hostile threat as she moved forward and stood before Seven. “And you never told me.”
“Come sit by me.”
“I want answers.” Beth didn’t move to Seven’s side, but took a seat in the chair opposite her. “Why didn’t you ever tell me? Why didn’t he ever tell me?!”
“Don’t raise your voice, Elizabeth-“
“And that’s another thing! Why didn’t you leave my name as Shannon?!” Beth jumped up suddenly and started pacing. “First I think I’m Elizabeth, then I’m Shannon. Now, I find out I’m also Wahkita. How many more names do I have!?”
“Sit.” Seven’s voice calmly rose over her daughter’s as she gave the order. Beth, more accustomed to obeying her parents than not, instantly collapsed in the chair. “I was not going to tell you about your birth until you were older; however, you have apparently deemed this a more appropriate time.”
Seven of Nine strode into sickbay with both hands behind the back of her blue-shouldered uniform. Her attention was immediately drawn to the captain who lay gasping for breath on the surgical biobed in the corner and the wailing child she held in her arms, but it had been the doctor who had called - not the captain. Moving her focus to the hologram she spoke, “Doctor, you summoned me?”
“Yes. Yes.” The Doctor returned quickly to Janeway’s side. “Captain, Seven is here.”
“Doctor, get the holo-imager.” Kathryn’s voice came out in a gasp of a whisper.
“Captain, this is hardly the time. There may be something I can do-“
“There’s nothing, Doctor; we both know I’m dying.” Kathryn insisted, despite her ghost-like complexion. “I want for my baby to have a picture of us together.”
The doctor hesitated for only a moment. Giving Seven a glance of sorrow, he went into his office and returned a short minute later with the device.
“Seven, help me sit up.”
Raising one thin eyebrow, Seven did as she was bid, but kept several feet between herself and the infant.
“Good. Now Doctor.” Kathryn held the infant as tightly as she could in order to prevent herself from dropping her. “Shush now, my little Shannon.” She crooned softly to the crying infant. “Let’s take this picture so you can remember me.”
The moment he pulled the camera away from his eye, Kathryn let herself slump back onto the bed. Stepping forward quickly, Seven caught the infant and Kathryn in her arms. Gently, she laid the captain down on the bed and started to hand the child back to her mother.
“No.” Kathryn shook her head slightly as she struggled to breathe. “Where’s Chakotay?”
“He has not yet been retrieved from the shuttle.” Seven replied unsure what to do with the child. Holding it at an awkward angle from her body, she did her best to not touch it and still support it.
Kathryn swallowed hard, tears stinging her eyes. He may not make it. She heard it in Seven’s voice even though it was never said. “Do you remember the conversation we had a few months back?”
How could Seven forget? It had been one of the most disturbing discussions she had ever been engaged in. But all she said was, “I remember.”
“Take her, Seven.” Kathryn struggled harder for her next breath. She could feel the end drawing nearer, but desperately tried to hold on - for Chakotay. “Take her until her father returns. Make sure they both know how much I love them.”
“Captain, if I understand correctly, you wish for me to become the child’s guardian in place of you should anything happen to the commander, correct?”
“Right.” Tears streamed down Kathryn’s cheeks as she gazed lovingly at her baby. “If he doesn’t survive…don’t let her know about me. Not until she’s older.”
“I am unfamiliar how to go about raising a child,” Seven’s face contorted with confusion. “Surely Lieutenant Torres-Paris would be a better choice.”
“No.” Kathryn shook her head as hard as she could manage. “Annika, I have always viewed you as a daughter.” She smiled slightly through the pain that was now racking her body. “I know I never told you that, but I can’t think of a better person to raise my child than the one whom I saw as my own. Please, take her.”
“Hold her close to you, Seven.” Kathryn took a long look at Shannon who was now being clumsily cradled in Seven’s arms before she closed her eyes. “Love her, just as I have loved my two girls.”
The biobed’s shrill whine began then to add to the cacophony of Shannon’s cries. Seven took a deep breath, uncertain of the emotions welling up inside of her as she had only experienced something akin to this once before. She had waited until she was alone before allowing the tears to flow for the one she had considered her son. Turning to the Doctor, Seven tried to push the memory of the 29th century Borg from her mind.
“Is there anything-“
“Nothing.” The Doctor said as he lifted the silver sheet to cover her body. “I couldn’t do anything five minutes ago. There was too much blood loss from the explosion which only compounded the birthing problems.”
At that moment, the doors of sickbay burst open to admit an anxious Chakotay. “Where is she?!” he demanded before his eyes focused on the figure lying on the bed. “Kathryn…” the name came out sounding more like the strangled cry of a wild animal than that of a man. He rushed forward to the bed and crumpled over her still form as sobs racked his body.
Seven took a few steps backwards to allow him the moment of privacy as she wiped at the damp rivers coursing down her cheeks. Wishing the child would be quiet and stop screaming, she decided it was time to try something different. “Hush. Child.” She ordered.
“She won’t respond to vocal commands until she’s older.” The Doctor admonished Seven with a slight twist of his mouth.
“Not really. You must calm her using other methods, such as the soothing tone of voice the captain tried for the picture.”
“You were taking pictures?!” Chakotay’s angry voice filled sickbay as he whirled to face the Doctor. “My wife was dying and you were taking pictures?!”
“At her insistence.” The Doctor argued. “There was nothing I could do and she wanted a picture of herself and your daughter.”
“My daughter?” The now senior-most officer of the ship turned his gaze to the shrieking bundle in Seven’s arms.
The former Borg took a few steps forward and held the child out to her father.
“I want nothing to do with it!” he shouted causing Shannon to scream even louder. “You, Doctor, had no right to stop working on a treatment for my wife!”
“Now just one moment, Commander!” the doctor’s voice raised in agitation as he took a few menacing steps forward. “I only did what-“
“Computer! Delete EMH! Authorization Chakotay-beta-216!”
“Termination of Emergency Medical Hologram is not recommended at-“
The sterile environment of sickbay, suddenly grew quiet as the Doctor shimmered out of existence taking his words with him. Only Shannon’s cry was left echoing over the walls.
Giving the child a disgusted glare, Chakotay turned to leave the medical facility.
“Commander.” Seven’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
“What Seven?” he asked, anger and anguish both laced through his voice.
“What should I do with…Shannon?”
“That’s up to you. But, I don’t want to ever hear that name again.” Chakotay turned back and stared hard at the former Borg, carefully making sure his eyes didn’t rest on the shrieking child. “I trust Captain Janeway spoke to you about arrangements for its care pending our death?”
“Then select a husband and carry them out.”
“Well, that tells me a lot about how I got my name.” Elizabeth scoffed from her chair.
“Elizabeth, I have tolerated your insolence today because you have been shocked.” Beth cringed at the warning note Seven’s voice held. “In the future, I expect you to treat your father, me, and Captain Chakotay with respect.”
Beth kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet underneath her. “How did you know-“
“Your demeanor as you entered our quarters gave more clarity to your encounter with the captain than anything you could have said.”
“Oh.” Beth had the sense to look slightly embarrassed. If her mother could tell, her father could. And the entire bridge crew probably heard her shouts at the captain. Shouts that had brought her little closer to learning the origins of her name. Not understanding why it was so important to her, Beth felt fury raise in her throat at the man who claimed to be her father. How could he allow her to go through that demonstration and not tell her?! Lifting her face to the starlight that bathed the still dark quarters, Beth spoke. “What about my name?”
Seven took a deep breath. “I was just getting to that.”
Seven stood alone in a corner of cargo bay 2, the child whimpering in her arms as she contemplated what to do. It had been three weeks since the death of Captain Janeway - three weeks Seven wished she could forget. Commander Chakotay had reluctantly accepted the promotion and then had promptly retreated to the ready room any opportunity he could. Commander Tuvok, now Voyager’s first officer, had taken command of the intrepid class ship and was doing his best to hold the small crew together during this difficult time - no easy task.
It seemed that every crew member had chosen to deal with the announcement of the captain’s death in his or her own way. Daily, Seven had to remind herself that death was part of the equation of life. It had to be factored in or the galaxy in which they lived would have achieved a state of over population thousands of years ago.
Caring for the child had only made difficult matters even more strenuous. Each day, Seven terminated her regeneration cycle at 0530 hours in favor of readying the child for her daily time with Mr. Neelix who had taken on the tasks of running sickbay. Or, as some people called him, the Nanny. At his insistence, she picked the child up from sickbay at 1800 hours and proceeded to ‘bond with her’ for the rest of the evening. Things could not have gone worse this evening.
After a particular arduous day in engineering, Seven had retrieved the three week old infant from sickbay only to discover that Neelix had run several tests and had determined the cause of her continuous crying - colic. After a thorough explanation that left Seven wondering if she would ever get a full night of rest without her regeneration being interrupted, the two had left sickbay in favor of the mess hall and dinner.
However, the meal was cut short by Lt. Torres-Paris who demanded that Seven come back down to engineering and explain exactly what had been done to the power relays running to and from the plasma manifolds and why. She had done nothing wrong, Seven knew (and B’Elanna agreed), but it was a task to pack up dinner and the child to take down to engineering for the simple explanation.
Safe at last in their cargo bay, Seven had planned on putting the baby to bed early and accomplishing the reading she should have done during her shift. That had lasted about ten minutes. Then, the child was awake and demanding attention. Holding the child close and patting her back as Neelix had instructed her, Seven moved around her cargo bay and the area set up as a nursery and sang softly to the child. Singing had been suggested by Lieutenant Kim. Surprising, it had worked the first night. Usually, it calmed the child down until Seven thought about laying her back down in the bassinet. Then, she was crying again. Several nights, Seven had fallen asleep singing beside her regeneration chamber with the baby still in her lap. Tonight, she decided with determination, would not be one. Tonight, she would find a solution for this problem.
She could go to Lieutenant Torres-Paris and command her to take the child - but Kathryn Janeway had entrusted it to her care, would it be right to do so? On the other hand, was she able to give adequate care to the child? Seven wondered at the Captain’s soundness of judgment to name herself the caregiver of the child in the case of her death. She was, after all, a former Borg drone with no knowledge of how to raise a child. The seven-months pregnant chief engineer would have been a more suitable candidate.
Her chin quivered as she turned her face downward to the squirming, pink infant who still cried in her arms. A single tear slid past her defenses as she realized just how alone this child was. With no one in this universe, she was completely helpless and for some strange reason, had taken a liking to Seven. And yes, Seven admitted, she had grown to…not resent….the child. Both of them were alone in the world. Neither completely fit with the rest of society. Perhaps, Captain Janeway had seen that would happen and had in fact chosen Seven because of it.
“I will take care of you, Two.” Seven said simply in way of the first promise. “I will….love…you as your mother loved us.”
The doors to the cargo bay slid open and light streamed in from the corridor. “Seven, B’Elanna asked me to bring you another report.” Harry Kim stopped just inside the doors to Seven’s domain and winced at the volume. Making his way over to the distraught looking woman he couldn’t help but take pity on her. “Seven, you look as though-“
“My ocular implants are malfunctioning.” Seven stated calmly. Panic swelled in her chest as he moved forward to take the child. “No, Commander Chakotay refuses to take her. Captain Janeway gave her to me. To relinquish my claim on her would be to dishonor her mother’s memory. Two, be quiet.”
“You’re calling her Two?” Harry asked in bewilderment. Holding out his arms he offered his assistance. “Seven, let me calm her down.” He couldn’t cry here. Not with Seven like this. Captain Janeway had meant the world to the crew of Voyager, but he refused to cry here. If he couldn’t do anything else, he would attempt to quiet her daughter. “I’m not going to take her from you; I just want to make her stop crying.”
An uncertain look still in her eyes, Seven handed the child to Harry who instantly cuddled the baby close. “We need to talk about a name. Do you know what the captain wished to call her?”
“Captain Janeway informed me several months ago that it was to be Shannon Elizabeth Janeway; however, the Commander has given a clear indication that she should not be called Shannon.”
“How about Elizabeth Kathryn?” Harry offered. “Partly named by her mother and partly for her mother.”
Seven took a deep breath and raised an eyebrow. “It does have a pleasing rhythm to it.”
“Elizabeth Kathryn.” Harry chuckled at the tiny girl in his arms who had finally quieted down. “You’re quite the center of attention on the ship. How do you like it?”
“The child’s vocal skills will not be fully responsive for several years.”
Harry laughed, careful to keep his voice soft near the baby. “You’re right, Seven. But, it’s still a good idea to talk to her. That’s how she’ll learn our language.”
“May I inquire to something of a non-professional nature, Lt. Kim?”
“Of course,” Harry, still distracted with the baby leaned against the work station in front of Seven’s chamber.
“I have read several articles concerning the matter of child rearing; however, most include two parent families. How does one go about raising a child in a single adult situation.”
Harry’s eyes shot up to meet Seven’s. “I can’t really tell you how to raise her…”
“What is the outcome I am attempting to accomplish?”
Harry thought for a long moment as Elizabeth wriggled against him. “I suppose to instill the traditions and values of our society. And, to ultimately prepare her to be a mother.”
“How do I accomplish that?”
“The ark wasn’t built in a day,” Harry laughed. At Seven’s bewildered look, he explained, “It’ll take several years to raise her. Kids don’t grow up as quickly as One did. Nor do human children age as rapidly as Naomi Wildman. And, while most children are born to two parents, it is possible to raise a child alone.”
“Biologically, two parents are required for a child to be created. Would two parents also be the preferred method of raising a child?” Seven asked bluntly, any sign that her ocular implant had ‘malfunctioned’ was gone.
Harry looked down at the baby for a moment. Dark fuzz covered the top of her head and clear blue eyes stared back up at him. “I think so.” He finally said. “Yes, I believe so.”
“Then, I must select a father from among the available candidates on Voyager.”
“How about Lieutenant Chapman?” Harry was rewarded with a cool glare from Seven’s bright blue eyes.
“I assume you are trying to make a ‘joke’, Ensign?”
“Seven,” Harry rolled his eyes as he joined her at the console. “I was promoted eight years ago.”
She didn’t answer, but continued to review the crew roster. “My last attempt at dating was-“
“Unsuccessful.” She declared, wishing the rumor mills hadn’t been quite so active at that period in Voyager’s history. “Due to the fact that Lt. Chapman and I moved in different circles on the ship. My expertise in Borg technology and astrophysics has led me to become a valuable asset to this community and also a resource to senior staff meetings. Lt. Chapman performs his duties efficiently, but lacks the knowledge that would make him of invaluable importance.”
“In other words, you need someone who’s not uncomfortable with the senior staff.”
“And he must be available, so we can rule Tom out.”
“You could have ‘ruled Tom out’ before we started.”
Harry chuckled as he moved Elizabeth to his shoulder and rubbed her back. “Let’s see, that leaves Tuvok, Neelix, and the Doctor.”
“The Doctor’s subroutines were deleted three weeks ago.”
“What?!” Elizabeth jumped at Harry’s shout. Instantly, he regretted it as her shrill cries erupted near his ear. Cradling her in his arms again, he began to walk around the small nursery area. “What do you mean he’s been deleted?”
“Commander Chakotay terminated his program upon learning of the death of the captain.”
“Can you get it back?”
“I believe it is still stored in the memory buffer of the holo-emitter.”
“Don’t lose it.” Harry warned. “Hopefully we’ll be able to activate him again.”
“I would advise against doing so in the near future.”
“How about Vorik?”
“What about Vorik?”
Both officers turned as Tom sauntered into the room. “How’s the baby?”
“Elizabeth Kathryn.” Harry beamed proudly as Tom ran a finger over her soft, fuzzy head.
“Elizabeth Kathryn…good name.” Tom elbowed Harry slightly and managed to get in a place for himself to lean against the work station. “The commander…captain…needs you to run a few diagnostics sometime tonight on sensors. Preferably late when there’s not much going on.”
“And you came all the way down here to tell me?”
Tom shrugged. “I needed the exercise?”
“You wanted to avoid any bridge time with him around.” Harry declared with a roll of his eyes.
“I don’t see you up there.” Tom retorted. “What are you doing down here anyway?”
“B’Elanna asked me to bring Seven a report.” Harry offered.
“I have enlisted Lieutenant Kim’s assistance in locating a father for Elizabeth.”
“And you think Vorik would be a good father?” Tom turned back to Harry with an incredulous look.
Harry shrugged. “Maybe not the best.”
“What about you, Harry?”
“Me?” he sputtered. He hadn’t been intending to mention his own name until later-after he’d run through a list of completely improbable matches for Seven. When Seven had been brought on board, Harry had instantly been enamored with her - him and every other male on the ship. However, as the years drew out (and Seven lost the skin-tight outfit in favor of a real uniform), Harry continued to still have feelings for her deep within his heart. He may have dated several other women, but he couldn’t bear the thought of her being wed to anyone else.
“Sure.” Tom grinned, thinking he was doing his friend a favor. “Beth already likes you. Isn’t it best to keep her with who she’s familiar with?”
Seven watched as the two friends argued about it. Turning to Lt. Kim, she raised her chin to him.
“Lieutenant Kim, you will marry me and assume the responsibility of Elizabeth’s patriarchal parent.”
A giggle escaped Beth’s mouth before she could over it up. After an hour of Seven telling her about the day she had been born, the initial anger had melted away and been replaced with a dull anger at anyone over the age of 17. “Did you really say that?”
Beth turned to see her father standing in the doorway.
“And aren’t you up a little late, young lady?”
“Daaaaddd..” Beth’s brow furrowed as she whined. “I’m seventeen years old. Aren’t I a little old-“
“You don’t sound it.” Harry chuckled. “Bed. Now.”
“You are scheduled to be in astrometrics at 0600, Elizabeth.” Seven reminded her.
With a pout on her lips, Elizabeth stalked to her room. A few minutes later, she slid beneath the cool sheets and pulled the blanket up to her chin. It was late. She knew it, but so many things had happened today that she didn’t think sleep would ever come.
Who could actually expect her to sleep when she had just discovered that her parents were, in fact, not her parents? No wonder she couldn’t seem to excel at engineering like her dad did. Her biological father, she had heard, knew absolutely nothing about engine specs and really didn’t care for them.
Come to think of it, he didn’t seem to care for much other than his late wife. Of course, she reasoned, she hadn’t known him before her death. And, she wasn’t sure she would have wanted to. He had been cold to her all her life. Cold, hateful, and determined to see her fail, she thought to herself. Captain Chakotay seemed to care nothing for her and that was quite fine with Beth. He may be her father, but he had never shown her one ounce of love like Harry Kim had. All through her life, whether it was a skinned knee on the holodeck in her early years or a ‘micro-plosion’ in the small science lab he had designed for her during her teenage years, Harry had been there helping, scolding, cautioning, and loving.
Seven had been there too, of course. But Beth had learned at an early age that if she wanted a hug, it was more likely to come from her father. Her mother gave hugs, at best, sporadically when she was little, but as Beth grew, Seven appeared to become more comfortable with her daughter’s ‘touchy-feely’ nature, as Harry described it. Now, it wasn’t all together unusual for Seven to initiate a hug.
Tossing to her other side, Beth brought a hand up and punched her pillow once. Hard. No good. She was still as awake as the moment she had walked through that door.
Once again, her thoughts turned to the senior most officer of Voyager. Was it possible for her to ever forgive him for the way he had treated her? No, she thought to herself. He’s not been a father, but that wasn’t the worst part. He had lied to her. Her whole family that she loved and treasured had lied to her. If the events had happened just as Seven had described them, then everyone on board had lied to her all her life - with the exception of the Doctor.
In sick bay, Neelix held the hypospray to Ensign Naomi Wildman’s neck. “Twenty cc’s of benzolprovalean, I think will do the trick.” He said as it hissed softly.
Naomi clutched her stomach tighter and moaned. “Next time Uncle Tom asks me if I want to practice piloting on the holodeck - remind me to say no.”
The Talaxian, dressed in a blue-shouldered uniform chuckled at her. “You say that every time, my Naomi, dear. And every time, I tell you to stop by sickbay before you go to the holodeck. I can give you something to counteract the effects before you ever set foot in there.”
“I usually don’t think of it before,” she admitted with a wrinkle to the four tiny horns on her brow. “It’s not until after I crash the shuttle or wind up in…I think they’re called the Badlands….then, I remember.”
In the back of his mind, Neelix heard the doors to sickbay hiss open. “Well, see if you can’t remember next time.” He said, knowing someone else would be needing his service.
“I’ll see if I can.” Naomi slid off the bed feeling much better already. Raising her eyes to the door, she found herself staring into the dark eyes of someone she hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years. “Doctor?”
Neelix turned quickly, his gold eyes widening at the site of Voyager’s EMH walking around….at him being activated! Opening his mouth, he closed it when no words came out. Trying another time, he closed it again.
“I see you’ve made yourself quite at home, Mr. Neelix.”
“Ahh…I - that is…It was needed.” Neelix stammered. “Voyager needed a doctor and…and I was able to fill in.”
“I see.” Turning his gaze back to the young woman, he noticed for the first time the dominant horns on her forehead. “Naomi?”
She nodded slightly, then more vigorously. Taking a step forward, she gave her former mentor and teacher an awkward hug.
“All grown up.” He said, half in amazement that so much time had passed. Noticing her gold shoulders he asked, “Are you in security?”
“Engineering.” She stated quickly. “Actually, mostly in the transporter room and late night bridge duty. I’m still working for command.”
“I see.” Somehow, he had hoped his young student would have aspired for a medical career.
“And right now, I’ve got bridge duty.” She gave the Doctor another quick hug and excused herself.
EMH and former chef faced each other uncomfortably as the doors hissed shut.
“I’ll be taking over now.” The Doctor finally said, moving back to his office.
“Uh..okay.” Neelix followed helplessly, unsure whether his future held hyposprays or cooking pots. “There are a few things I’ll need to clear out, Doctor. I’ve been running some experiments on Mr. Kim and Seven’s implants. Trying to see if it would be beneficial to have the crew fitted with them - that sort of thing. You may be interested in the research…”
“Mr. Kim’s implants? Are you speaking of Borg implants?” the Doctor’s face contorted into a look of horror. “Have parts of the crew been assimilated?”
Neelix looked up from the data padds in slight surprise. “Oh. I guess you didn’t know about that. After they were married, Seven convinced him to have a neural transceiver placed in the base of his neck so he could regenerate. With Beth having colic, the two of them were averaging four hours of sleep a night, so the regeneration sequence was a much more efficient option.”
“And, they still regenerate?”
“Oh, no! All three moved into Mr. Kim’s quarters after Beth’s colic bout.”
“I see…” The Doctor looked up from the console where Neelix had recorded the events of earlier that morning. He only recognized a handful of names, though the surnames were familiar. Children of the crew, he thought to himself. Apparently, he would have many new people to meet. “Perhaps, Mr. Neelix, you would like to remain in sickbay as an assistant?”
Neelix’s face fairly lit up. “I’d love to, Doctor. And, I promise. No more sing-alongs.”
A peace offering, the Doctor thought as he remembered the time Neelix and several other officers had attempted to sleep in sickbay. For now, they would force themselves to get along. “And I will attempt to refrain from playing my operas.”
He sniffed. Murmuring something in his sleep, he was vaguely aware of his wife’s hair tickling the tip of his nose. A hand came up and brushed the stray locks away as he turned his face to the wall. Brown eyes blinked open and then squinted in the bright starlight that streamed through the port in their room. Moving his eyes back to the sleeping figure of his wife, Harry admired the soft light creating a glow on Seven’s golden hair.
Closing his eyes against the illumination, he burrowed back under the covers and tried return to his dreams. It was still the middle of the night; he shouldn’t be up yet. However, sleep refused to return. Knowing that Seven had been through a trying period in the previous twenty four hours, Harry gingerly left the bed and moved into the sitting room.
“The time is 0435 hours.”
Still more than an hour before they had to even think about getting up. But, there wasn’t much of a chance to get back to sleep. He could go to the bridge and check up on the gamma shift. But, if he did that, it would nullify all his attempts to have the junior officers taking more bridge duty. If they thought the senior officers didn’t trust them to sit on the bridge at night, why would they bother trying to advance?
Ordering a cup of coffee from the replicator, Harry prepared to sit down and review the padds from the night before, but stopped upon seeing the soft, blue light emitting from Beth’s room.
She must have left her console on, he thought taking a few steps to peek inside.
Beth’s head snapped up. “Dad!” she gasped. Quickly, she touched the screen in front of her and closed several files. “Good morning?”
“What are you doing up this early?”
Beth shut the terminal down completely. He was not going to be happy with her, she knew, but her curiosity had gotten the best of her last night. “I couldn’t sleep last night. So, I started to do some research.” She answered with a helpless shrug.
“You haven’t been to bed yet?” Harry’s brows lowered in anger. “Elizabeth, I-“
“I know, Dad. But, this stuff I’ve been reading over. It’s so interesting!”
“What?” Harry instantly became alarmed. “Have you been reading about Captain Janeway?”
“My mother?” Beth shook her head vigorously. “No. I’ve been going over the information Captain Chakotay has released about sector 591 alpha 296, grid 8.” Keying up her terminal again, Beth jabbed a finger at the screen. “Look Dad, an asteroid field more than four hundred thousand kilometers thick! I’ve never seen one that big. And think of what the size of those rocks must be. Why, some of them could be the size of small planets! Who knows what we’ll find. For all we know, those rocks are rotating each other and have their own gravity. Dad, some of them may even hold remnants of life! Provided it’s not been frozen into a solid block of ice, of course.”
“You seem excited about this…”
“You’re not?” Beth gaped at her father in surprise. “We could be sitting on a gold mine. Who knows what kind of mineral deposits are over there! Aunt B’Elanna could very well find something that can refuel us and get us to the Alpha Quadrant faster. Though personally, I’m hoping to find pieces of a crashed ship or some other thing that indicates that life exists in this area.”
“First scientist, then explorer.” Harry muttered. “Just like your mother.”
“Excuse me?” Beth’s blue-gray eyes shifted from the terminal’s screen to her dad. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t worry about it.” He said, sitting on the edge of her bed. “Beth, Neelix and I were talking the other day. He mentioned how you took charge during the last away mission. Something about breaking up a sibling argument?”
“They were delaying us.” She replied absentmindedly as she surveyed the sensor logs. Something seemed to be a little off. Nothing she could put a finger on…but something.
“He said you stopped their arguing and took control of the mission, right down to refusing to go back, but sending them to heship.”
Beth looked up, alarmed. “I thought we’d been through this, Dad.”
“I’m not here to reprimand you about your choices on the surface. The captain took care of that nicely for me.” Harry shifted, slightly uncomfortable. “What I want to know, Beth, is have you thought about pursuing command?”
“Of course.” She replied maximizing a scan to full potential. “Command of a science team is exactly what I want.”
“No, Elizabeth.” Harry reached over and flicked off the screen. “Listen to me. I’m talking about the command track. Red shoulders permanently, maybe four pips. Follow me?”
“Me on command track?” Beth stared at her dad in confusion. “Why would I do that?”
“You’ve got the skills for it. I had been hoping you would choose something in engineering or OPs, but let’s face it. You-“
“Wouldn’t know the warp core if I fell into it?” Beth supplied with a grin. “I’m not quite that bad off, but not far from it.”
Harry laughed at his girl. “Think on it, Beth. Someone once told me that her dad said that the command track is only for the best of the best. Beth, you’re one of the best and you should be there.”
A thin eyebrow rose.
“Just think about it.”
Chakotay stumbled out of the shower and into his room where a clean uniform had been tossed on his bed. Donning on the shirt and pants, he left the jacket lying on his bed before moving to the mirror over his sink. Streaks of gray now ran through the raven colored strands; the wrinkles on his face more prominent than they had been seventeen years ago.
“I definitely got the short end of the bargain, Kathryn.” He grumbled good-naturedly at the picture smiling from the night stand. “I’m getting old and gray, while you’ll always be remembered as young and beautiful.” The picture continued smiling and remained silent. Sometimes, Chakotay would lay awake at night and just stare at her picture. In the early years after her death, he had even come fork at night and told the object everything that had happened during the day. It had made him feel closer to her. Somehow, it seemed to ease the pain. But, not much.
Daily, he was reminded of her through the crew. They were careful to not mention her name, of course, but many of Kathryn’s protocols and scientific data had been kept alive. Every time they encountered species 8472 (a total of twice since her death), Chakotay had been forced to rely on her methods for dealing with them. The peace treaty still stood, thanks to her presence in his mind, and he was determined that it would always stand.
As the years passed and children grew, his daughter had made her presence known to him. Not intentionally, of course, he had purposefully hidden himself away from the children and most of the crew. But, it was impossible for Chakotay to ignore the grinning bundle of energy that reminded him so much of his own wife. Anger had grown at this child who had cost Kathryn her life. Chakotay wanted to scream that this girl should be dead and her mother should be alive. But, no matter how many tears were spilled, it did not change the fact that he had lost the most precious woman in his life. And so, he had watched their child from afar, entering her life only on the rarest of occasions - and most of those only serving to heighten the discomfort between them.
Tugging on the jacket and reaching for the four pips lying on the dresser where his Maquis bar would have laid, Chakotay exited the quarters and made his way to the messhall.
Yesterday had been emotionally draining for him. It probably had been for Elizabeth too, he reasoned with himself. She was much less prepared for the news than he had been, after all. Even though he had told her the little bit about her mother, Chakotay still felt an awkward knot in his stomach at the thought of Elizabeth knowing who her real parents were.
Entering the messhall for breakfast, Chakotay saw the other door slide open across the room. Blue-gray eyes met brown as Elizabeth’s head lifted from her conversation with M’Rana. Without a gland back, Chakotay quickly left the room.
The red-hot anger that had been present seventeen years ago had smoldered into glowing embers in his heart. Not quite as obvious, but just as dangerous. He would avoid all connections with her, if possible, because somewhere, deep in his heart, Chakotay loved his daughter fiercely. And he would do nothing to harm her.
“Hey! Where are you going?!” M’Rana grabbed Beth’s arm as the human girl backed out of the messhall.
“Anywhere but here.” Beth snapped pulling free of her friend’s grasp. Stalking down the hall, she didn’t give M’Rana any choice but to follow or be left standing in the entrance to the messhall.
“Just why did you do that?” M’Rana demanded catching up.
“No reason.” The answer barely escaped the mouth set in a tight line.
“Not good enough. If I’m missing my breakfast, I want to know why.”
“You don’t have to.” Beth sighed, impatiently. “Go back and eat. I’m going to the labs.”
M’Rana stopped in mid-stride and stared after her friend. “You’re impossible, Elizabeth!” She called to the retreating back after several seconds. Turning around, she went back to the messhall. If Beth wanted to act like a child, so be it.
“You’re here early.”
Beth glanced up from the petri dish where several fragments of rock lay. “I was anxious to get a head start.” She told Jaysen with a frown as he entered science lab 2.
“Oh. Is Julie around?” He asked leaning against the console wishing he didn’t have to be there. Beth ignored him as she bent back over the dish and used a small knife to slice a piece of the rock off.
“Move.” She pushed her way towards the microscope he was blocking.
“Isn’t she usually here at this time?” He asked trying to keep the irritation from creeping into his voice.
“Am I your sister’s keeper?” on Kh demanded, slightly annoyed that he would interrupt her work.
Jaysen stared at her for a moment. Of course, she would show off her knowledge of Biblical events. Showing off was in her nature - had always been. “So, have you seen her?”
“Haven’t seen her.” Beth put her eyes up to the microscope and shook her head. “This shouldn’t be.” She muttered, wishing Jaysen would leave. They had never been good friends. To be more accurate, they barely got along.
“Don’t you know who’s here and when?” Jaysen asked impatiently.
Beth glanced up from her work with a scowl. “Of course I know when she’s supposed to be here. 0700. And it’s barely 0600. She’ll be here in an hour.”
Jaysen gave a sarcastic roll of his eyes. “You’re always so nice to be around.”
Gray eyes turned to him with a glare. “Look. I’m working. Something you would know nothing about.”
“What’s that to mean!”
“All those science projects we were assigned to work on?” Beth laughed cruelly with a smart grin. “Who was it again that did most of the research?”
“That was years ago.”
“All of two! If that.”
“Well, what are you doing now? Staring at a piece of rock that’s been analyzed and re-analyzed?”
“Something is not right about those asteroids and I want to know what.”
“What do you mean?” Jaysen curiously peered at the lump of rock in the dish. Engineering was his field, not science, but he had a strange fascination with science. Besides, for all the bickering Beth and he had endured over their life, they did work well together as a team. “That come from one of the away teams?”
“About an hour ago. I spent last night doing some preliminary studies on the scans our sensors picked up.” She hesitated, not sure if she wanted to tell him her suspicions. Finally, her scientific side won. Perhaps, despite his lack of scientific understanding, he could give her some insight as to the problem. "There are small bits of organic material here.”
“So? That could mean anything. Someone else may have stopped here. Or maybe the asteroids are part of a planet that was destroyed.”
“You don’t understand.” She insisted, annoyed that he could be so ignorant. “Remember that plant I found last week?”
“On the away mission that got us trapped in a storm?” his eyes sparkled with mischief in hopes of gaining the opportunity a dozen of his friends would envy - teasing this science brat. After seventeen years of living in her shadow in the classroom, most of their class hated Beth - and did their best to hide it. He hated her too. But for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her - at least, not too bad.
“Same molecular structure. Same unique RNA trace.” Beth was so engrossed in her discovery that she ignored the bait. “Which means-“
“Same plant.” Jaysen murmured catching on.
Beth looked up in surprise. “I guess you did pay attention…some of the time. Not just same plant. But, same planet.”
“I thought it was pretty well established that these asteroids are traveling from the opposite direction. Towards other planet.” Jaysen ignored the attack on his less than stellar attention span in the classroom and figured now was as good of time as any to show Beth that she wasn’t the only ensign on Voyager who was intelligent.
“They are.” Beth agreed chewing on her lower lip. “That’s what doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, could someone have picked up the plant and it was spread across this region of the galaxy?” Jaysen tried not to notice how cute Beth looked when she was puzzled over a question. He wasn’t quite sure how he managed to hate her and find her cute at the same time, but somehow he did it.
“Could have, but not likely.” Beth said, an idea forming in her mind. “The people in this area don’t use these elements in their engines. Remember-“
“You don’t have to remind me,” Jaysen snapped. “I spent six hours solid looking for a way to disable them without destroying them,” he said in referenceand the skirmish Voyager had been lured into several weeks ago.
“Exactly. We know they don’t eat this stuff - it’s poisonous to the majority of humanoids. If they weren’t using it for food, medical, or engineering - why would it be moved?”
“Useful to another race?” He offered.
Beth shook her head in doubt. “Not unless they’re from several sectors away and even then, it’s doubtful. What we’ve got here is a plant that’s completely useless to them, extremely valuable to us - provided we can use it in engineering-- and spread all over these asteroids. The question is: why?”
“Well, you’re the one who got perfect marks in every class. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” The sarcasm dripping from his voice caused Beth to look up, startled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
With an exasperated sigh, Jaysen looked away. “Like you don’t know.”
Jaysen’s brown eyes locked with Beth’s as he stared at her incredulously. “Are you actually so naive that you have no idea?” When she didn’t answer, he laughed. “You are! Well, Ms. Kim,” he began leaning toward her. “Allow me to enlighten you as to the real feelings of our classmates about you. They. Hate. You.”
Beth’s face contorted in confusion. “They hate me?” she whispered, unbelieving. What right did Jaysen have to say this?? Could he possibly be right?! True, M’Rana was her closest friend and outside of M’Rana and Roget, she didn’t have close friends. But, hate??
“It’s no wonder.” Jaysen snapped. “You always did your best to be at the top of the class. And, you certainly were never quiet about it. You’ve been given advantage after advantage in moving to the top. Like that away mission. I happen to know for a fact that the captain wasn’t planning on allowing you to go until you asked. That’s all you have to do! Ask! And the captain will give you exactly what you want!”
“Maybe, it’s because he realizes that I have potential!” Beth declared in a low voice, her anger gul 1ng.
“Yeah right,” he scoffed. “Maybe he’s just playing favorites.”
“Maybe, he has a reason to.” Beth ventured. “Now, get out. I’ve got work to do.”
“I’m sure the Little Princess will figure it out.” Jaysen declared, an odd glint in his eye.
Beth’s eyes narrowed. He was laughing at her! “I plan to do exactly that, Ensign.”
“Come.” Chakotay looked up from his work as Harry Kim entered his readyroom. “Yes?” Only slightly annoyed by the interruption of the analysis of the asteroid’s elements, he laid the data padd aside and touched the viewscreen of his console to flip it off.
“I wanted to talk to you about Beth.” At his old friend’s nod to continue, Harry drew in a deep breath and meandered over to the view port. “Chakotay, Seven and I have been talking about it. Tom and I too. We think Beth would make a great command officer.”
“I have no doubts that she would.” Chakotay stood and made his way over to the replicator. “You want something?” he asked after ordering a coffee.
Harry nodded quickly. “Coffee’s fine. If you agree, then why isn’t she serving more bridge time? Why haven’t you sent her on another away mission?”
Chakotay took a slow sip of the dark, bitter liquid. “I’m convinced that she would make an excellent bridge officer - even captain, in time of course. However, she has shown no interest in pursuing that track, other than the short stunt with the away mission, which I suspect was more out of curiosity than anything else.
“And Harry, my main concern right now is that she has isn’t inquiring to the position. If I started to give her away missions - even let her lead them - it would be seen as my playing favorites. This ship is a close family, but there’s still that competitive edge - especially among the younger generation.”
“And the quicker rise to command may make the other kids resent her.” Harry finished.
“She would have to work just as hard as you and I did,” Chakotay reminded him. “But, the other kids would see she’s being given more opportunities.”
“And if she asked for it?”
“I’d give it to her,” the captain answered immediately.
“You’re certain?” Seven glanced over her daughter’s calculations for a third time even though she knew there was no need to. The evidence was clear, even if the verdict was not.
“Mom, it’s not a hard scan.” Beth caught her lower lip in her teeth again and studied the data. She had been hoping that her mother could bring some insight to the puzzle or find the one part she knew she was missing, but so far, Seven had only turned up what Beth already knew.
“I want to go over there.”
The statement only slightly surprised Seven. “And once you get there, what are you going to do?”
“Scan.” It was quite simple in Beth’s mind. She had pieces of the puzzle, she just needed the last clue to see the big picture. “If I could take a small team over….it may only take us a few minutes to gather the information I need. Then, we could be back here and I can start analyzing it again.”
“Thinking of command?” Seven’s eyes twinkled.
Beth glanced up from the sliver of rock still lying at the bottom of the pan. “Dad mentioned that to me this morning. And, I have to admit I’ve thought of it quite a bit. I guess knowing that both of my parents decided to pursue that track and succeeded makes me feel like I may have a bit of an edge.”
“You certainly have the advantage,” Seven agreed. “It’s what you do with it.”
Beth’s brow furrowed slightly as she pondered the situation at hand. If she didn’t speak to the captain until they reached the Alpha Quadrant, that would be too soon for her. But, here was an opportunity she wasn’t sure she wanted to pass up.
She had been taught from a young age to strive to achieve the most she could - command was exactly that. Maybe….maybe getting a taste of it would help her decide if she would be more satisfied with a career on the bridge as opposed to spending the rest of her life in a science lab working for someone else. Either way, it would allow her to solve the mystery at hand.
Raising her eyes to meet her mother’s, she gave a slight tilt to her head. “I’m going to talk with the captain about that mission.”
Chakotay barely looked up as the doors to the turbolift slid open. It was nearly time for shift changes and he figured an over anxious officer was ready to go on duty. Keying up the console between his and Tuvok’s chairs, he pulled up their current location on the small screen. There were sliding further into the asteroid belt, which he wasn’t too concerned about. Eventually, they would have to fly through it, he knew. The only other alternative was to spend a good six months trying to circumnavigate it.
“Captain, a word with you?”
Chakotay glanced up at Beth who stared down at him. It appeared to him, that in the few hours since she had discovered the truth of her relationship to him, Beth had become a stronger opposition. No, he reminded himself, she’s afraid of me and is reacting just as her mother would.
“Of course. My ready room.”
Tom did his best to hide his amusement as Beth stalked to the ready room leaving Chakotay to follow. Exactly who was in control, he wondered.
Beth stopped in the center of the ready room and faced the captain with her hands behind her back. As soon as the door shut behind him she opened her mouth to make her request. “I want to lead an away team to the asteroid to conduct some scans.” Involuntarily, she held her breath. Had she crossed the line? Was that too harsh of a way to speak to a commanding officer - even if he had lied to her?
“Why?” Chakotay rounded his desk feeling the need to make her realize who was in command.
Beth hesitated for only a moment. “I’m not entirely certain of what, sir, but there is something more to those asteroids than what our current scans are showing.”
“Give me an idea of what you suspect, Ensign, and I’ll consider allowing you to go.”
A data padd suddenly appeared from behind her back and landed with a sharp crack on his desk.
“What’s this?” Chakotay asked catching it as the object nearly slid off. Flipping it on, he recognized that it was part of a scan from the science labs.
“There are traces of organic material on the asteroids.” Beth began, wishing she didn’t have to go through this again. Quickly, she recounted her suspicions about the plant from another part of space containing the same RNA pattern of the other planet. Each planet had a unique base pattern, she reminded the captain. That plant could only be from one place.
“And you want to see if the asteroid is hiding something?” Chakotay leaned back in his chair with a tolerant look crossing his face.
“I believe it’s more than a coincidence.” Beth stated firmly, feeling the need to defend herself against this apathetic excuse for a captain. “And, I intend to discover the answer.”
Chakotay folded his hands on his desk as he stared up at her, a slight hint of a smile crossed his face. “You have my permission. Assemble the away team of your choice and lead the mission.”
Beth could hardly keep herself from breaking into a smile. “I will. Thank you, Captain.” “Elizabeth,” the stern tone of Chakotay’s voice made her stop before the door slid open. “I don’t need to remind you that the surface of an asteroid is not a safe place. No unnecessary risks. Is that understood?”
“You’re leading an away mission?!” M’Rana dropped the data padd on the engineering console and scooted closer to Beth. “He’s actually letting you!”
“Yes.” Beth whispered back, excitedly. “I want for you to be part of the team. We’ll need someone from engineering in case anything goes wrong with the shuttle. Will you do it?”
“Of course!” M’Rana shook her head in amazement and then cast a look around the room. Several younger of the young officers were watching the pair with interest. “Come on.” M’Rana said tugging on Beth’s sleeve. “I need to talk to you about something.”
“Good.” Beth followed without hesitation. “I wanted to ask you something too.”
M’Rana stopped once they were in the corridor and away from the prying eyes of curios crew mates. “I thought you should know….Remember that hologram doctor?”
Beth nodded, watching her friend carefully. M’Rana seemed reluctant to share what she knew, but loyalty to her friend demanded that she did.
“Ever since he showed up….people have been saying that you’re the Captain’s daughter.” M’Rana hurried on as a look of bewilderment crossed Beth’s face. “I know they’re just rumors and have no truth to them, Beth. I just thought you should know.”
“They’re saying I’m his daughter?” Beth repeated softly, trying to determine exactly who was responsible for that leak.
“Yeah.” M’Rana laughed nervously. “Pretty far-fetched, huh?”
Beth averted her eyes and bit her lip.
M’Rana’s disbelieving voice caused Beth to look up. “Actually, there’s more truth to that than not.” She confessed.
“Exactly, what do you mean?”
Both girls nodded at the two lieutenants who passed by them and then Beth drew in a deep breath. “My mother was the captain and she died when I was born and Chakotay is my biological father who gave me to Seven and she forced Harry to marry her.” She said in a rush.
M’Rana’s jaw slacked as she stared. Her best friend was the captain’s daughter?? Wait, there had been another captain? M’Rana wouldn’t have been more shocked if Beth had announced she was planning on moving to that asteroid and setting up a residency there.
“Close your jaw.” Beth finally, uncertain as to how her friend was reacting.
M’Rana snapped her jaw shut. “How long have you known?” she demanded.
“Less than twelve hours.”
“Can I ask you a question now?” Beth leaned against the wall and slid down so she could sit on the floor.”
“Shoot.” M’Rana joined her, still in shock.
“I spoke with Jaysen in the science labs this morning.” She began, doubtful of how to proceed. “He and I got in an argument-“
“Big surprise there.” M’Rana gave a roll of her eyes as she got over the shock. “You two have been fighting since you were babies in grade school. Have you ever gotten along?”
Beth thought for a moment. “No. Not that I can remember. At least, not like friends. Anyway, we got mad with each other…and he told me that most of the kids in our class hate me. Is that true?”
M’Rana closed her eyes. “Beth, why do you want to torture yourself? You’ve never cared what people think before; why start now?”
“Because I have to choose an away team and I don’t want to bring along people who will refuse to acknowledge that I’m in charge of the mission.” M’Rana rubbed her brow as she had seen her dad do when he had a headache. “I’m still waiting.”
The quarter-Klingon finally lifted her eyes to the gray-blue ones of the human before her. “Some of them do.” She admitted. “But, hate is too strong of a word. Dislike, maybe. But jealousy is probably more accurate.”
“Why?” Beth whispered, trying to fathom what she had done.
“The academy work,” M’Rana said simply. “You always excelled in the most impossible of classes and ruined every chance of an altered grading scaled.”
“Good point.” Beth laughed, her face flushing in embarrassment at her grades being brought up. She was proud of them, but would have gladly given them up to have more friends. “So, who should we bring on this trip?”
“Definitely not Julie.” M’Rana declared. “I don’t like her.”
M’Rana’s eyes suddenly began to dance wickedly.
“M’Rana!” B’Elanna Torres-Paris’ face suddenly appeared over them. “Get back in here!”
“Yes ma’am!” she called scrambling to her feet. Turning back to Beth quickly, she whispered. “How about Jaysen?”
If I ignore him, maybe he’ll go away, Beth thought to herself picking up her pace.
It would only be considered rude to ignore him at that point, she reasoned. Turning quickly, she glared at her opponent.
“Can’t you stop for a moment!” Jaysen exclaimed catching up with her. When she only raised a guarded eyebrow, he winced. She was going to make a hard job impossible. “Look, I wanted to apologize for this morning. I..It was early. I must not have been awake. I wouldn’t purposely try to hurt you under normal circumstances.”
Beth stared long and hard at him for a moment. “Apology accepted.” She said turning on her heels.
“Wait.” Jaysen reached out and snagged her arm to halt her departure. When she looked down at his hand resting on her arm and then back up at him with icy blue eyes, he dropped it. “I want to be part of your away team.”
“Sorry, no room.” Beth replied shortly.
“Come on. There’s always room for another engineer or pilot.”
“You fly?” Beth asked incredulously.
“Sure, what guy on Voyager doesn’t?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Beth declared smugly. “I’m piloting, M’Rana is my engineer. Roget is the other science expert, and Naomi Wildman is the other engineer. We’re all set.”
“And the other pilot?”
“We don’t need two pilots.” Beth exhaled in annoyance. “And, if worse came to worse, Naomi can fly.”
“Okay, I’ll be honest.” Jaysen grumbled. “I’m just as curious as you are about that plant and I want to be there. Can’t you use an extra body to hold a tricorder?”
Holding his gaze for a long minute, Beth finally sighed in defeat. “The shuttle is only meant to hold four people. It’s going to be crowded.”
“Thanks!” He nearly beamed at her. “You won’t regret this.”
“I sure hope not.” She muttered turning away. “Be in shuttlebay one in twenty minutes.”
“I’ll be there. Hey,” Jaysen waited until she turned again. “While I’ve got you saying yes, will you sign up for the pool tournament tonight? Lt. Paris has resurrected his old Sandrines program just for the event.”
“I don’t think you’ll want me in your competition.”
“Doesn’t matter how awful you are at the sport.” Jaysen insisted.
“I’m not that bad.” She protested.
“So you’ll be there?”
“Don’t press your luck.”
“He was flirting with you!” M’Rana insisted after hearing conversation Beth had been engaged in only minutes before with Jaysen.
“Was not.” Beth countered running a tricorder over the deuterium tank.
“Was too and you know it. Do you think he’s cute?”
“M’Rana!” Beth’s tricorder snapped shut suddenly as she glared at her best friend. “Jaysen and I have been fighting since we were kids in grade school. I think that’s how you put it. There’s no way he could flirt with me.”
“That’s what they all say.” M’Rana muttered under her breath. As silence descended over the interior of the shuttle, she looked up. Meeting her best friend’s eyes, both girls burst out laughing. “He wasn’t!” Beth insisted, sinking to the floor of the shuttle as her body shook with laughter.
“Give me a break, Elizabeth!” M’Rana collapsed beside the science console. “My own parents hated each other for years before they finally admitted that they were in love!”
“Oh, so now we’re in love?!” Beth howled. Composing herself long enough to jab a finger in her friend’s direction she declared, “You, M’Rana Paris, have got way too big of an imagination!”
“I do not!” M’Rana protested clutching her sides. “I’m just not completely blind like-“
“Everything okay in here?”
Beth choked on a lung full of air as Jaysen’s head popped inside.
“Fine.” M’Rana managed to gasp out, tears already forming in her eyes.
“Get a grip, Goldie.” Beth finally calmed herself down and turned to Jaysen with tears in her own eyes.
“Care to repeat the joke?” he asked, bewildered at the site of the two girls lying on the deck of the shuttle laughing until they cried.
“No!” Beth chuckled. “Grab a tricorder and run over the impulse engines. I want every inch of this shuttle inspected before we launch.”
“He’s flirting.” M’Rana mouthed as Jaysen turned around.
Suppressing the urge to burst out laughing again, Beth resorted to throwing a data padd in her best friend’s direction.
M’Rana ducked just in the nick of time before the padd hit the wall behind her and then turned a glare at the source of the problem. Beth smiled innocently at Jaysen when he whipped around.
“Welcome to the looney bin.” He greeted Roget as the other boy climbed aboard.
“Did I miss something?” Roget asked looking between the three.
“I think we both did,” Jaysen replied watching the two girls. Two sets of shoulders rose in quick shrugs as they exchanged another grin.
Naomi Wildman quickened her pace through the corridors of Voyager. She was nearly two minutes late for the shuttle launch Elizabeth Kim had scheduled and didn’t want to face the wrath of the young girl.
But, could it be true? Her mother had just said it was. And Samantha had heard it straight from the EMH. Shannon Janeway knew of her true parents. No, not Shannon, she reminded herself. Elizabeth. Beth. She must not slip and call her Shannon.
Even now, seventeen years later, Naomi still though of Captain Janeway’s baby with the name given to her prior to her birth. After the Captain had announced she was pregnant, twelve year old Naomi had watched her carefully curious as to what this would mean. Mentally, the half Kteran was approximately twenty-two. However, the child-like curiosity had remained and she had spent the first three months of the captain’s wait observing.
“About time, Wildman!” M’Rana shouted from where her head was poking from outside the shuttle.
“I know, I’m sorry.” Naomi apologized clambering aboard with the teenagers. She was now twenty eight, but sometimes felt much older. Her body had stopped its rapid growth nearly eighteen years ago, thank goodness!, and how she was finally resembling a human her age more than a Kteran. Except for those four tiny horns on her forehead.
“Kim to the Bridge.” Elizabeth settled into the pilot’s seat after making sure everyone was strapped in.
“We’re ready to proceed, Captain.”
“Stand by.” On the bridge, Chakotay rechecked the shuttle’s stats. He wanted to be absolutely sure everything was okay. “Okay, Andes, you’re clear.”
Andes, named by M’Rana for the mountains back on Earth, slid quietly out of the shuttlebay and towards the vast expanse of space. Dodging around the nacelle’s of Voyager, Beth carefully guided the small craft over the outer hull and almost seemed to glide off the nose before whipping around towards the asteroid field.
“Nice take off.” Roget called from where he was strapped into his harness.
“Thanks.” Beth called back, already eyeing her target. A rather large hunk of rock and ice spun lazily against the backdrop of stars and other debris. Steering the shuttle towards it, she gritted her teeth as the craft bumped along the rocky surface. The landing was slightly rough, but what could one expect with the challenge of landing on a rock the size of Earth’s moon and jagged rocks no matter which way she turned. Spotting a somewhat clear place on the surface, she put down there. “We’re down.”
“You’re kidding?” M’Rana unstrapped herself and crawled to the cockpit. “That was the shortest ride in the history of Voyager, I think.”
“Something like that.” Beth agreed already moving towards the back. “Okay, let’s get this over as quick as possible. Suit up, scan, take samples, and get back.”
M’Rana pulled her spacesuit on and then reached for the helmet. Jamming it down over her head, she clicked it in place and then snapped the air hose into it. Using the buddy system, Beth and M’Rana checked over each other’s suits and then Beth checked everyone else’s. When the five were deemed ready, they opened the shuttle and jumped down to the rocky surface.
“Be careful.” Beth warned through the intercom system inside the head pieces. “One wrong move and you could find yourself floating back to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“Sounds like fun.” Jaysen smarted as he flipped open his tricorder.
M’Rana pulled her own tricorder out and knelt beside a piece of rock jutting out of the ground. Beth had programmed each instrument to recognize and catalogue any trace of the plant or another organic substance, so all they really had to do was hold the object.
Roget knelt beside M’Rana. “Find anything?” he asked her, being careful to make no sudden movements.
“Not yet.” She grumbled, wishing he’d leave.
“Oh.” He turned away slightly and started using a piece of the asteroid to chip at another stone. “You entering the pool tournament tonight, Jaysen?”
“Of course,” came the cocky answer. M’Rana couldn’t see either Jaysen or Naomi, but she didn’t worry. As long as they were in communication, they’d be fine. Besides, the surface of this rock curved and dipped at such sudden intervals, it was possible for someone to be standing upright not twenty feet away and look like they were leaning.
“Sounds like you plan on winning.” Naomi broke in.
“Definitely.” Jaysen declared. M’Rana caught site of a fist being thrust into the air as if in victory. He was only about fifteen yards to her right and in an indentation on the surface.
Beth forced herself to not grind her teeth. She should have known better to bring Jaysen! He’d turn this whole mission into a gab session about his upcoming victory if given the chance. “Guys, I’m not sure if you remember why we’re here or not, but we’re looking for certain molecular traces to track down that plant.”
“Of course, Beth. How could we forget?” Jaysen’s patronizing tone sent Beth’s adrenaline sky rocketing.
How could he act like this was just some joke?! It was important - to her. She had thought it was to him too. “Hey, Jaysen.” A smile slipped across her face as an idea came to mind. “I think I will enter your pool contest tonight.”
“Are you any good?”
“Fair. I think I can hold my own.” She answered trying to cover up M’Rana’s sudden coughing attack.
“We’ll see how good.” Jaysen declared poking his head over the side of the canyon in hopes of catching site of a scowl on Beth’s face. She wasn’t facing him though, so all he could see was the side of her suit as her head was turned in the direction of something hidden behind a steep, rising mound of rock.
Why did he do this to himself, he wondered briefly. Honestly, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be on the away mission today because of Beth or because he was interested in the plant. A little of both, he figured. Maybe. But, he hated her…right? He always had. Drawing in a deep breath, he forced himself to exhale slowly for fear of fogging up the visor.
“You okay, Jaysen?” Naomi’s voice came across the comm system.
“Fine.” He answered. “Beth? Everything all right over there?”
“Look at this.” Beth tried to force her hands to stop shaking in her gloves, but it was nearly impossible. “I’m no engineer, but I’d say those are high energy phaser burns on the side of that asteroid over there.”
Jaysen scaled the side of the valley and crawled over to her quickly. “Where?”
“There.” Her gaze was fixed on another asteroid less than two hundred meters away. “I want a closer look.”
“Think it’s important?”
“I’m betting this mission on it.” Beth declared. “Back to the shuttle. We’re going over there.”
“Here, I’ll jump over.” Jaysen offered bending down as if to prepare for a giant leap. Startled when a hand came down hard on his shoulder, he toppled off balance and bounced on the ground at Beth’s feet.
“Don’t even joke like that.” She warned.
Once everyone was back in the shuttle and had pulled off their helmets, Beth attempted to scan the asteroid from their position.
“Not good enough readings.” She grumbled. “We’re going to have to actually get out over there to scan it. We might as well take samples at the same time.” Running a hand over the communications panel, she opened a link to Voyager.
“What’s your status, Andes?” Chakotay’s voice drifted through the shuttle.
“I’d like to take a look at the asteroid at 128 mark 46.” Beth told him. “I have a suspicion we’ll find the answer there. We didn’t get so much as an organic molecule here.”
“Okay. Permission granted. Don’t take too long.”
“Understood.” Beth grimaced. “Andes out.”
“Whenever you’re ready.” M’Rana grinned from where she had taken Naomi’s place in the cockpit as co-pilot. “I’ll see what scans I can get from orbit.”
Bracing themselves for a less than gentle take off, the small crew clung to their harnesses as Beth lifted them off the surface of the piece of space rock.
Bearing hard to port, she nearly missed a large chunk of debris.
“I’d like to keep my breakfast down!” Jaysen shouted from his place at the back of the shuttle.
Beth didn’t answer, but dodged another rock. The navigation was a challenge in itself. They were one tiny speck in the huge asteroid field. One dot that would be crushed like a tin can at the wrong flick of a wrist. Setting her jaw into a firm line, she concentrated on skirting the major pieces of debris and allowing the shields to deflect anything less than a few inches in diameter. “We’re almost there…” she murmured more to herself than her team. Just a little bit further and they’d have it.
Concentrating on the port side of the shuttle, she nearly hit a chuck of ice and sand almost three feet in diameter. Jerking hard to starboard, M’Rana let out a shriek as their shields lit up in a sparkle of blues and yellows.
Slowing to less than 1/8th impulse, Beth took more care with the next pocket. Two large boulders rose before her with barely enough room to squeeze through, she guessed. As large as they were, up and down were out of the question for now. Tilting the shuttle to the right ninety-degrees, Beth easily slid it through the pass. Righting themselves once again, she saw to her horror that they were coming up too fast on their destination. And worse, a sharp beam was jutting out of the surface right in their path.
“Elizabeth!!” M’Rana’s voice held a note of panic in it. The rod that had not been on sensors five seconds ago was suddenly there and screaming that it was going to hit them.
“Brace for impact!” Beth shouted back trying to pull the nose of the shuttle up. She knew it was hopeless. The rock had come too suddenly at their shuttle. Biting her lip, she grappled with the console and tried to fight the shuttle back onto a new track.
“We’re going to crash!” Roget shouted, fear rushing through his veins.
“We are not going to crash!” Beth snapped back as the rock snagged the bottom of the shuttle.
Feeling her heart fly into her throat, Beth knew that something had been ripped on the bottom. It probably looked like it had been shredded. On her console, the readings were going wild as the shuttle began a rapid descent to the surface. Fighting the adrenaline and fear raising in her blood, Beth didn’t take her eyes from her console. “Suit up!” She shouted over the straining engines. “We’re going down!”
Seven’s head jerked in the direction of the astrometric’s console to her right. Feeling fear swell in her throat, she tapped her comm badge quickly. “Captain, we’ve got a problem.”
“Can it wait, Seven?” Chakotay’s voice came through tightly. “We just lost contact with the shuttle.”
“I’m afraid not, sir.” She replied quickly, already calculating distance and ETA. “A Lujeron ship has just decloaked two hundred kilometers off our port bow.”
“That’s practically on top of us!” Tom muttered in exclamation as he and Chakotay both turned to Harry.
Pulling up several charts, Harry finally nodded to the rest of the crew. “I’m afraid so.”
“Shields.” Tuvok ordered from the first officer’s chair.
“What didn’t you detect them?” Chakotay demanded of Harry and Lieutenant Brackwell, who was on duty at tactical/security.
“Their shields.” Harry reminded the crew. “They cloak with an obscure frequency which our sensors are not programmed to scan on a regular basis.”
“We haven’t detected their warp signature in over two weeks.” Brackwell added. “We thought Voyager had passed through their space.”
“Well, apparently we didn’t.” Chakotay stated, moving back to his chair. “Did we ever find a way to disable them?”
“No.” Seven answered from astrometrics. “However, I believe a concentrated beam of radiation aimed directly at their bridge will disorient their equipment enough for us to have a tactical advantage-for a short time.”
“What about the shuttle?” Harry asked, not sure if Chakotay would actually leave them to fend for themselves.
Kathryn, what would you do? Chakotay asked himself softly. But, he knew the answer. Their first duty was not their daughter - it was their ship. If the whole ship were destroyed, there would be nothing for Elizabeth. “Shields up and prepare the radiation burst.” Chakotay repeated. “If they so much as look at that shuttle the wrong way, I want every torpedo we have launched at them.”
“Suit up!” Elizabeth yelled again over the strain of the engines as she fought to remain in her chair. Behind her, the other four members of her crew silently scrambled to get their envirosuits secured and oxygen tanks working.
“Get your helmet on!” Jaysen suddenly appeared at Beth’s elbow with the head-piece in tow. His own face was hidden behind the shiny bubble that would protect him from the harsh surface of the asteroid.
“After we land.” She bit out, in ing a slight course adjustment. “Ten seconds to impact!”
“Now.” The helmet came over her head, momentarily blinding her.
“Don’t try to play the heroine.” He snapped the visor shut and clicked the bubble into the neck of the suit she hadn’t discarded after their last excursion. It only took a flick of the oxygen tanks and Beth felt the cool metallic taste of O2 fill her mouth.
“Brace yoursel-“ Beth’s words were torn from her mouth as the shuttle’s engines rose in a shrieking pitch. Clutching Jaysen’s arm with one hand and gripping the console with the other, Beth hung on for dear life as the shuttle hit the asteroid with an impact that threw her from the seat. She landed on the deck and felt herself slam into a wall and against the floor as the shuttle bounced along. Finally, it skid to a halt. An eerie silence descended over the compartment with the only sound being gases hissing from various panels.
“Open a hailing frequency.”
“Captain, after our most previous engagement with the Lujerons, it is highly illogical to assume that you will be able to establish diplomatic relations with these people.”
“Tuvok, can it.”
“A most curious choice of words.” The Vulcan first officer quirked an eyebrow from his chair in the command center and wished for not the first time that he was the tactical officer again - not the first officer. However, wishing never did one any good. He would endeavor to serve this ship the best he could from his current post.
“Not responding.” Harry reported.
“They’re powering weapons.” McKenna Brackwell added, her voice holding a note of anxiety. “However we are not the target.”
“The shuttle…” Chakotay murmured, folding his arms against his chest as he stood and glared at the other ship on the view screen.
“I’m picking up an uncontrolled energy burst at 128 mark 46.” Tom announced. Spinning in his chair, he faced Chakotay with a wild look in his eyes. “It’s the shuttle.”
“They’ve crashed?” A hot sweat broke out over his forehead as a wave of dizziness passed over Chakotay’s body. He had mentally prepared himself for the day that Beth may be sent on a mission that would get her killed, but he hadn’t thought it would be her first.
“Life support is off-line.” Harry choked out.
Harry! Chakotay spun to look at his friend. The one who had raised his daughter. Pain and grief were etched into his worried brow, but so was a decidedness to see this thing to the end.
“Scan for survivors.” Chakotay ordered. On the screen he watched as the other ship’s powered their phasers. A shot of bright green energy sudden fired through the empty space in the direction of the asteroids. The chunk of ice and rock nearest the shuttle’s destination flared and burst apart.
Clarity suddenly dawned over Chakotay, making his blood run cold. “It’s a trap.”
A moan. Beth struggled to keep conscious. Only then did she realize the moan was coming from within her.
Alert and blissfully unaware of the bumps and bruises she had acquired during the crash, Beth sat up and glanced over her crew quickly.
“Help.” It was more of a gasp this time, as it filtered statically through her ear piece.
“Jaysen?” His feet were barely visible through the mist as the impulse engines and other components spewed water vapor into the now airless shuttle.
“My tanks.” He wheezed. “Broken.”
Fear clutched at Beth’s heart as she scrambled over to where he lay. Sure enough, the oxygen tank strapped to his back was spurting its contents into the shuttle instead of into the suit. Twisting, Beth reached for the emergency oxygen panel on her own tank so she could share her air with him.
“No.” Jaysen shook his head and reached a weak hand up to stop her. “We don’t know how long…we’ll have to wait this out.” He told her. “Better for you to save that air in case you need it.”
“You’re hardly coherent and certainly not in any condition to argue.” Beth retorted. “Besides, I’m the commanding officer of this crew.” With that, she unlinked the air hose from his tank and jammed it into hers. A smack on the lighted panels of their wrists and the cool metallic taste of air filled Jaysen’s helmet again.
“Is he okay?” M’Rana’s voice cut through the silence of the shuttle.
From behind her own bubble-visor, Beth saw relief flood over Jaysen’s face as he took slow gulps of air. “Thank you,” he mouthed to her. She didn’t need to read his lips - his brown eyes told her plainly how thankful he was.
“Good.” M’Rana declared. “Because we’re not.”
“What do you mean?” Beth turned from where she was sitting beside Jaysen. She would have crawled back to her best friend, but Jaysen was still lying down on the floor and she wasn’t going to ask him to move.
“Just before everything shut down, I got a look at a long range scan.” M’Rana tapped furiously at the console in the co-pilot’s chair, but it refused to do anything more than sputter several times. “I could swear I saw a Lujeron ship decloaking right by Voyager.”
“Are you sure?” Beth grabbed Jaysen by the arm and dragged him along with her as he protested the whole way.
“Ow! Stop it. Cut it out, Elizabeth!” Wrenching free, Jaysen pulled himself up to a sitting position and scowled.
“Darn thing!” M’Rana exclaimed giving the console a swift kick. Lights flickered again and this time stayed lit. With an astonished look on their faces, Beth and M’Rana bent over it quickly.
“It was all a trap.” Beth said with sudden realization. “The plant was…”
“Planted?” Roget offered.
Beth and M’Rana both rolled their eyes. “Yes, Roget. It was planted here as a lure to get the shuttle away from Voyager.”
“Why the shuttle?” Jaysen asked. “Seems kind of silly to get a single shuttle away from the main ship and then go after the target that has more weapons.”
“They’re not after the shuttle, they want the ship.”
“They’re betting that your father will value the crew members on this mission and keep shields down.” Naomi said in agreement with Beth. Too late, she realized her slip.
Beth stared half in shock at Naomi, but luckily only Roget seemed to notice. He opened his mouth, a question on the tip of his tongue, but snapped it shut as Jaysen interrupted him.
“They didn’t count on the captain placing more value on the ship than the shuttle.” Jaysen said taking Beth’s place in front of the only working console.
“Yes.” Beth answered Naomi firmly. “It’s the duty of all captains to look out for their crew before an individual member of their crew.”
“Umm, if that’s the case,” Roget began hesitantly, “Maybe we should get out of here? If Voyager isn’t going to be able to defend us, we’re sitting ducks in this shuttle.”
“Where would you like to go?” M’Rana didn’t mean for it to come out as a snap, but it did.
“There are some….caves, I suppose is the closest description of what they are…about fifty meters from here.” Jaysen offered, still leaning over the console.
“And the communications equipment?”
“We’ll take what we can.” Beth replied already gathering up several tricorders. “Let’s go, people.”
Stumbling across the rocky terrain, Beth clutched the tricorders in one hand and Jaysen’s arm in the other. If one of them was to fall, the other would keep going and almost certainly rip the tube connecting Jaysen to the oxygen tank.
One by one (or clinging to another’s arm), each member jumped into the abyss that held a small opening in the wall of it. Naomi and M’Rana were the first to go inside - each snapped on her wrist lamp as she did.
“Looks fine here,” Naomi called back to the other as Roget and Jaysen followed.
Suddenly, a flash of purple lit the space above them. Beth stopped before she could enter the cave and looked up. Behind an asteroid she could see part of Voyager’s hull as the shields lit up with a spark.
“Come on!” Jaysen grabbed her arm and half dragged Beth inside. Tripping over her own feet, Beth felt herself falling forward. She landed gently in the dust and bounced once before coming to a rest on the floor.
Everyone else gingerly sat down as well, knowing they could be in for a wait. The walls around them began to glow softly as wrist beacons flashed on to join the already pulsing red and green lights each suit proudly sported.
“How long do you think we’ll be here?” M’Rana asked as she shone her beacon on the walls and ceiling of the caves.
Beth shrugged and then realized they probably wouldn’t see her reaction through the bulky material of her suit. “Hopefully not long. I think Voyager will-”
“We’ve got five hours at most.” Roget interrupted.
“What do you mean?” Naomi sat up a little straighter from where she had slumped against the rocky surface of one wall.
“Our suits only had six hours worth of air in them.” Roget sighed. “I checked them over with Lt. Torres-Paris. She said we’d take care of filling them up later; we wouldn’t need six hours today.”
“Two and a half hours.” Jaysen choked out looking towards Beth. “You’ve shortened your chances of being rescued by half.”
“I knew it before I hooked you up.” Beth replied softly.
“You knew you only had two and a half hours of air left if you shared, but you did it anyway?” Roget demanded.
Beth was silent for several seconds. “I’m the commanding officer of this mission. It was my duty.”
Jaysen leaned back to think on that for a moment. Glancing to his right, he could barely see Beth’s face through the bubble of her visor. She wasn’t looking at any of them, but reaching for a tricorder. She had saved his life, he thought to himself. How could he hate her after this? If anything, he felt incredibly guilty for every thing he had said both about her and to her face.
“Hey,” Roget suddenly sat up straight and looked towards Naomi. “You said the Lujerons were counting on Beth’s dad to value the this crew and keep the shields down, right?”
“I..maybe.” Naomi’s voice came across hesitant as she exchanged a look with Beth.
“Harry Kim has nothing to do with shields.” Roget pointed out.
“It….was a slip.” Naomi assured him.
“Uh-uh.” Roget shook his head with a frown. “You don’t mess up something like that.”
“She didn’t.” Beth said with a heavy sigh, not taking her eyes from the tricorder.
Roget waited for Beth to continue, but she didn’t. “Explain?” he finally asked.
Taking a deep breath, she looked up and met his eyes. “The captain is my father.”
“Yeah, right!” Jaysen scoffed. Gone were any feelings of guilt. “Is this your latest attempt to appear superior to the rest of us?”
“It’s not an attempt.” Naomi said quietly. “I was there.”
“Oh… so, the captain’s your father.” Jaysen gave both of them a disbelieving look. “I suppose he and Annika were married before? Or, let me guess. They were having an affair.”
Beth snapped the tricorder shut hard. “My mother died when I was born and my father gave me to Seven.” She spat out. “Seven married Harry Kim several weeks after my birth.”
“What? Your dad couldn’t stand you even then?”
“Commander Chakotay was in no shape to take care of a baby!” Naomi burst out suddenly. “You weren’t there, Jaysen. Roget. You have no idea what it was like to lose the captain.”
“My mother was Captain Kathryn Janeway.”
“The original captain of Voyager.” Beth supplied.
“There’s no way she could have been your mother.” Roget rebutted. “She died when the ship was first brought to the Delta Quadrant.”
“That’s what they teach you.” Naomi sighed. “But remember, I was born after Voyager came to the Delta Quadrant. I knew Captain Janeway. And, I remember the day of her funeral.”
Naomi Wildman wiped furiously at the tears on her cheeks. Captain Janeway had never cried; and, she wanted to be just like the captain.
“It’s okay to cry.” A low voice said beside her. Naomi looked away as her mother wrapped an arm around the daughter. “I think everyone here will be crying today - well, almost everyone.”
“Everyone has cried for her.” Neelix assured Samantha from the other side of Naomi. “Mr. Vulcan was in the messhall two nights ago crying.”
“He was emotional in front of you?” Naomi asked in amazement. She had known Lt. Commander Tuvok for all of her thirteen years and not once had he smiled, much less cried!
“Oh no.” Neelix shook his head. “He didn’t realize I was in here.”
“If I may have your attention please,” Commander Tuvok raised his chin as he addressed the entire crew of Voyager that was assembled in the messhall. The ship was orbiting a planet and the computer was manning the different stations. If anything went wrong, those gathered in the messhall would be alerted instantly. In the meant time…
“We are gathered to mourn the passing of Captain Kathryn M. Janeway.” Tuvok began without the slightest hint of emotion. He would have to give the entire eulogy in such a fashion, or he feared he would not be able to do it. “She was a valiant captain who’s paramount goal was to return this crew to the Alpha Quadrant and their families.” Tuvok took a deep breath. “Captain Janeway will not be continuing on this mission with us; however, the objective of our journey has not changed. Our primary aim is to seek out new life, as is the Starfleet tradition. And second, we will return to the Alpha Quadrant and report the life we discover during our journey. Anything less, would disappoint the late captain.”
Tuvok hesitated, as if uncertain whether or not to continue. “I would like to take a moment to add a personal note at this time.” He paused for a long moment. “The surrounding circumstances had placed myself and the captain in a small cave on a volcanic planet as a territorial predator waited outside the cave to devour us. She had deemed it necessary to crawl down a precipice in order to better view a collection of what she termed ‘saurian eggs’, otherwise known as ‘flying dinosaurs’, and the mother of the eggs had attempted to attack us. Captain Janeway showed no concern about our situation, but instead found it to be humorous.
“I informed her at that time that I could never hope to understand a human female as complex as herself. And, over the years, I was proven correct. I had no hope of grasping why she did the things she did. However, several times I was given the opportunity to participate in a mind meld with her. During those experiences, I learned that though she did not always have an apparent reason for her actions, she always followed through with what she thought would be best for the crew. I feel that she would have wanted me to convey to you, her crew, that she cared deeply for each and every member.”
“She gave me a chance my own father wouldn’t give me.” Tom said after a long silence. “She always gave everyone a chance - except when it came to a pool game.” There was sad laughter around the room as everyone remembered Tom’s Sandrine program. “She’s left us with this little treasure.”
Seven shifted uncomfortably as many eyes turned to the quiet bundle in her arms.
“It’s up to us to make sure that the captain’s daughter knows her mother.”
“No.” Chakotay didn’t lift his eyes from the floor, but spoke in a deathly low voice. “I don’t want anyone to speak of Kathryn. Ever.”
“But sir, she-“
“She was my wife!” Chakotay glared at the young ensign who dared challenge him. In a softer voice he added, “She was my life.”
Naomi took a deep breath, wishing she could wipe at the tears coursing down her cheeks, but inside the envirosuit, it was impossible.
“Why didn’t he want her memory to be kept alive?” Beth asked in a hoarse whisper. Water was blurring her vision, but she couldn’t cry. Not here. Not now.
“It hurt too much.” Naomi answered softly. “The day we released her body to the stars, he ordered everyone out of the shuttle bay so he could be alone with her one last time. Luckily, the senior staff stayed on the second level in the glass control tower. The doors opened and her cylinder was released. At the last minute, Chakotay ran towards the force field with the full intent on throwing himself from the ship. Seven called for his site to site transport just after he cleared the airlock. He spent three days in sickbay for that stunt, but it reiterated how desperate he was and forced the crew to comply with his wishes.”
“Umm, I hate to interrupt….” Jaysen began hesitantly from where he was sitting just slightly behind Beth, “But we have a problem.”
“What?” Beth turned so she could see his brown eyes.
“Your tank has about five minutes of air left.”
“What do you mean it’s a trap?” Harry echoed Chakotay’s earlier words with as a knot began to form in his stomach.
“They don’t want the shuttle,” Chakotay explained, already formulating a plan in the back of his mind. “But, they know we do.”
“And we can’t rescue the shuttle without lowering shields,” Tom finished.
“But, we’re not going to rescue the shuttle.” Chakotay said in a low voice. “I want phasers on full. Target their weapons. Fire when ready.”
“Firing.” McKenna announced unnecessarily. Voyager’s decks vibrated as the phaser beams lashed out across the void of space at the Lujeron vessel.
“Their targeting sensors have been rendered useless.” Tuvok reported from his place in the first officer’s chair.
Chakotay gripped the rail as Voyager shook under the return fire. “Their weapons aren’t off-line.” He growled.
“Targeting again, sir.” McKenna desperately gripped her console and tried to lock onto their phaser banks. Voyager’s own targeting systems had suffered heavy damage, but complaining wouldn’t help. Figuring that was the best lock she was going to get, she crobeen her fingers and fired.
Harry bit his tongue as the decks rolled and pitched under his feet. Gripping his console, he felt himself being thrown backwards as the panels erupted in a series of sparks.
“Damage report!” Chakotay shouted from where he had been thrown into the captain’s seat.
“Hull breach on decks nine and ten!” Harry answered back. “Force fields are containing it.”
Chakotay turned to tactical. McKenna was no where to be seen. Leaping from his chair and over the rail that ran along the back of the command center, he found her lying unconscious beside her console. Ignoring her lifeless body for the moment, Chakotay reached over to the panels and prepared the systems for several of their precious torpedoes. As soon as the ‘green light’ came on, he launched them. The Lujeron shields lit up and sparkled as the torpedoes passed through and impacted the hull of the ship. Chakotay turned his eyes from the site of the other ship exploding on the view screen. They were only another set of deaths he was responsible for.
Kneeling beside McKenna, he quickly felt for a pulse. Thankfully, he was able to detect a faint one. “Emergency transport to sickbay.” He snapped into the comm system.
“Sir, transporters are down.” Harry told him.
Chakotay looked around for a moment. “Fine. You!” He pointed at the ensign beside the engineering console. “Take her to sickbay.”
Opening his mouth to protest, Ensign Jarvin thought better of it and reached down to pick up McKenna. Praying that he wasn’t compounding her injuries, he started for the turbolift.
“The away team?”
Harry shook his head sadly. “We can’t transport them back.”
“Send a shuttle for them?”
“Decks nine and ten sustained hull breaches.” Harry reminded the captain. “Emergency systems shut down all non-essential items - including shuttle ramps.”
“Who designed this bucket of bolts?!” Chakotay exclaimed in frustration.
“Starfleet.” Tom grunted, casting a look around the bridge. Starfleet would be horrified if they could see their ship now, he thought. A Maquis captain was leading the ship, an ex-con sat at the helm. At the engineering console, another Maquis had taken over for Jarvin. Tactical, once held by McKenna Brackwell, another Maquis officer, was empty. Several decks below them, engineering was suffering the wrath of the Maquis engineer. And the science station was being manned by Julie Dalby, the daughter of Kenneth Dalby - a former Maquis - and Jenny Delaney - a former Starfleet officer. (Julie appeared to be quite shaken up by Harry’s news - and she had every right to be, Tom remembered. Her brother Jaysen was part of the away team.) In fact, the only Starfleet officers on the bridge were Harry Kim and Tuvok.
“Hail the away team.”
Beth jumped as her comm system beeped in her ear. “Kim here.” She spoke after tapping her wrist panel.
“Voyager has sustained heavy damage.” Chakotay’s voice filled the head pieces of each crew member. “We’re not able to transport or send a shuttle down. Are you in any danger right now?”
Beth hesitated and looked to Jaysen. She could read the fear and anguish in his eyes, but what could she do? “None. We’re not in danger. Our shuttle was heavily damaged and life support is off-line; however we were able to escape. We’re in envirosuits and are in a cave about fifty meters south of the shuttle.”
“I’ve got their position.” Harry’s voice filtered in from the background. “Seven five mark one two seven.”
“She flies like you, Captain.” Tom’s voice created a smattering of laughter around the bridge.
“Stay where you are.” Chakotay ordered, ignoring his helm officer’s comment. “We’ll get you out of there as soon as we can.”
“Understood. Kim out.”
“We’re not okay.” Jaysen glared at their leader.
“Don’t you think I know that?” she retorted. “It won’t make any difference in getting us out right now. They can’t.”
“Three minutes of air left.” Jaysen said softly, leaning back against the wall of the cave. With an inward sigh, he pulled on Beth’s suit so she would lean against the wall beside him. The cord connecting him to her air supply was only so long and his repositioning had put a strain on it.
The oxygen indicator light flashed red on Beth’s wrist. She turned her face from it, not wanting to be forced to stare at her death and found herself looking straight into Jaysen’s eyes. ‘I’m sorry.’ She mouthed to him, not wanting the rest of the crew to hear the tears that were still gathered in her eyes. Jaysen merely shook his head as if to say ‘It’s okay.’
“We still have three tanks with two and a half hours left.” Naomi suddenly said.
“No.” Beth shook her head firmly as she turned back to the group. “We don’t know how long it will be before Voyager can reach us. I won’t let you reduce the chance of your survival.”
“Me neither.” Jaysen felt for Beth’s hand beside him and awkwardly clutched it through their bulky suits.
“I don’t think you understand.” M’Rana stood and moved towards her best friend. “We’re not asking your permission.”
“M’Rana, stop.” Beth’s voice held an authoritative tone that forced M’Rana to halt her advance. “I’m the commanding officer here and I am ordering you, Naomi, and Roget to do everything in your power to get back to the ship. You each have two an a half hours left. If you share with us, you’ll have just over an hour. That may not be enough time for them to repair the transporters.”
“Understood.” Roget said, sliding away from the group. “Don’t worry, that’s one order I don’t mind following.”
M’Rana and Naomi exchanged a glance. “You’ve had some medical experience.” M’Rana began. “Would you say she’s suffering from a lack of oxygen yet?”
“Oh, most defiantly.” Naomi agreed. “And, Starfleet regulations do state that if the commanding officer is impaired, authority goes to the second - which I believe is me.”
“And your orders are?”
“Hey!” Beth backed away from the two advancing women and found herself pushing into Jaysen’s shoulder. “I’m not suffering from a lack of oxygen. I’ve still got a minute left.”
“Refusing assistance?” M’Rana raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t do this.” Beth begged, trying to silently plead with her best friend. “Don’t try to take away my command.”
“Then, don’t refuse to let me help you.” M’Rana replied softly.
Knowing she was defeated, Beth hung her head as Naomi and M’Rana came forward to share their air supply. Beth’s eyes stared unseeing as M’Rana’s wrist panel flashed 2.46 hrs. on the oxygen panel and then suddenly dipped down to 1.29 hrs.
“I’ve got transporters back online.” Harry announced an hour later.
“Get them out of there.” Chakotay ordered, already making his way to the turbolift.
Beth suddenly felt a tingling sensation in her stomach. Looking around, she saw the world fade into a blue sparkle. A moment later, she found herself standing on Voyager’s transporter pad and for the second time that month, she was staring at the captain. Quickly, she dropped Jaysen’s hand and tugged off the plastic bubble that had protected her. Taking a deep breath of the recycled air on the ship, she closed her eyes for several seconds.
“You all performed as true officers would.” Chakotay stated. “I’ll be entering that into your official logs. Dismissed.”
Beth dropped her head and turned to follow M’Rana out of the room.
“Elizabeth, I want to speak with you.”
She stopped in her tracks and let out a dejected breath. M’Rana gave her a sad grimace as she passed and Jaysen touched her arm briefly in way of comfort.
Chakotay waited until the door had closed and he was alone with his daughter before he spoke. “You lied to me.”
“There was nothing you could do.”
“Turn around and look at me.”
Beth raised her chin l. efiance and met the glare of her commanding officer.
“I’ll say it again. You lied.” Chakotay’s brows lowered in anger. “I want to know why.”
“You couldn’t do anything.” Beth repeated. “I didn’t want you to worry anymore than necessary.”
“That’s beside the point.” Chakotay snapped. “I’m disappointed in you, Elizabeth. I asked you a question while you were down there and I expected an honest answer.”
“They knew the severity of the situation!” Beth exclaimed. “We took our own steps-“
Beth drew in a deep breath in anger, but shut her mouth.
“I’m not going to punish you.” Chakotay finally said. “But, I do want you to realize that other measures could have been taken. We could have sent a probe to the surface with another air supply shackled to it or launched an escape pod set to crash there.”
For several seconds, Chakotay gazed at his daughter wondering if this was going to be his lot in life. Would he be forever the commanding officer to discipline Elizabeth?
First, his love had been forced to break through the walls Kathryn had built up around herself. Now, parental love would have to break through the shell around his daughter. Was he up to the task again?
“M’Rana told me you’re going to cream a few officers in pool tonight.”
Beth glanced up from the data padd she held in her hand. Shrugging, she turned back to the story of Jane Eyre. “This would make a good holonovel.”
“Beth.” Harry entered the room and sat on the bed beside the young girl. “Why aren’t you going to your contest?”
Distraught blue-gray eyes looked up at her father. “I can’t, Dad. I nearly killed them!” She slammed the padd down on the soft surface of her blankets and balled her fists up as tears threatened to spill again. “My first time leading an away mission and I crash a shuttle almost killing my crew!”
“Hey,” Harry gently pulled Beth into his arms and gave her a tight hug. “My first away mission wasn’t exactly an astounding success. I brought a smart-bomb back on Voyager that set itself to blow up the whole ship.”
Beth sniffed back her tears and chuckled against her dad’s shoulder. “Dad..”
“No!” Harry grinned and lifted her chin up. “I really did. And you know what? While B’Elanna and I were trapped in sickbay with the bomb, she told me about her first time commanding a mission. Bethie, she got her team trapped in a cave for three days. They actually had to dig themselves out.”
“Really, Dad?” Beth pulled back and wiped at her tears.
“Really.” He assured her. “Now, don’t let today discourage you. Go and have fun tonight. I’ve a feeling there are several pool players who are going to be sorry tonight.”
Beth bit her lip and then let her face break out into a grin. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Oh good! You made it!” M’Rana gave Beth a welcome hug the instant she stepped into the Sandrines program running on the holodeck. “And just in time too. Julie’s your first opponent.”
“Hello, Beth.” Julie smiled a sickening sweet smile at her. “I’ve never seen you in Sandrines before. Ever played pool before or should I go over the rules for you?”
“I think I can figure it out.” Beth returned, accepting a cue stick from Tom Paris.
“Fine. Your break.”
Beth bit her lip and looked for M’Rana. The quarter Klingon shook her head furiously. ‘Not now.’ She mouthed furiously.
Nodding, Beth rounded the table and set the white cue ball up for the shot. A sharp crack resounded through Sandrines as the cue stick made contact. Thunk. Thunk.
“Looks like I’m solids.” Beth mused as she wandered around the table.
“So it would seem.” Julie evenly replied.
Snap! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Beth lifted her eyes to Julie’s. Cold green glared back at blue-gray. “Simple physics.”
Moving to the other side of the table, Beth took in the layout. Two balls and the bl dozeight were all that remained for her. If she hit the solid yellow, it would ricochet and possibly hit the eight. She didn’t want that because the black pool ball was set up perfectly about a foot away from the pocket. Choosing the solid red instead, Beth carefully judged the layout of the table, the slope of the felt, and calculated the resistance the white cue ball would obtain before it stopped.
Snap! Thunk. The red ball slid easily into the pocket. Beth held her breath as the white cue ball rolled exactly where she had intended - about six inches from the yellow. Snap! Thunk. Only the eight ball remained and it was a sure shot.
“That pocket.” Beth declared, using her cue to point. Snap! Thunk.
Applause quickly erupted around her.
“Good going, Kim!” Someone shouted.
Meeting the eyes of her opponent, Beth smiled sweetly. “I’m sorry, Julie. Did you want a turn?”
Slamming down her pool cue, Julie stomped out of Sandrines.
“Sore loser.” M’Rana muttered. Then, perking up, she glanced towards Jaysen. “Who’s next on the list?”
“My dad and Tom Paris.”
Beth wandered away from the group and found a small table. They would call her back when it was her turn again, she figured. Accepting a glass of water from one of the waiters, she sat down and turned her attention to the street outside the bar.
“Good game, honey.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Beth accepted the congratulations as Seven pulled out the seat opposite her.
“Still interested in command?”
Beth shrugged as she took a gulp of the water. “Maybe.” She sighed deeply. “I feel like I failed today even though Dad says I didn’t.”
“You did fine.” Seven encouraged. “Your father and I won’t try to force you into changing from science, but we do believe you’d be better there than anywhere else on the ship. The ability to lead is not a learned trait. It’s inherited. And, you’ve certainly got the lineage to do it.”
Beth nodded slowly. “I’ll think about it.”
They sat in silence for several minutes and watched as Tom and Kenneth Dalby continued their game.
“Can I ask you a question?” Beth suddenly spoke.
Seven returned her attention to the girl she had raised. “Of course.”
“Why didn’t you and Dad have any kids?”
Seven closed her eyes for a moment. She had been preparing for that question for years, but having it out in the open didn’t make it easier. “We wanted to.” She began, opting for the simplest route. “But, that right was taken from me when I was assimilated by the Borg.”
“I think Captain Janeway knew.” Seven continued. “I never discussed it with her, but she could have easily looked at my medical profile during the thirteen years that I knew her. Sometimes, I think she chose me to raise you because she knew I would never have children of my own.”
“I’m glad she did. I wouldn’t want another mom.”
“Beth! Your turn again!” Looking up, Beth saw Jaysen waving a cue stick in the air towards her.
“Good luck, Beth.” Seven said as her daughter stood.
Accepting the cue stick M’Rana handed to her she almost missed the whispered comment, but not quite.
“Go easy on him.” M’Rana ducked away just in time to miss the glare Beth shot at her.
“My break.” Jaysen said confidently as he leaned over the table. Crack! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Thin eyebrows raised as Jaysen made the shot. “Nice.”
Jaysen knew he was going to have to stay on his toes and not give her an opportunity to take the table if he was going to have a chance at the game. Leaning over for the striped green ball, he quickly decided where he wanted the cue ball to end. Snap! Thunk.
Taking a deep breath, Jaysen exchanged a glance with Beth before moving to the other side of the table.
“Come on, Jaysen.” Roget encouraged from the side. “You can do it. You can beat her.”
Ignoring the boy he considered a pest, Jaysen eyed the table carefully and then set up for his shot. Crack! He wanted to hit himself instantly knowing that the shot was a dud. Thunk.
“Thanks.” Beth laughed gently taking her place as one of her balls fell into the pocket.
“Anytime.” He grumbled stepping back.
Snap! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
“They’re even now..” Tom observed from where he was leaning against the bar with Chakotay.
“You wouldn’t happen to know where she learned how to play pool, would you Lieutenant?” Chakotay asked taking a sip of his synthol.
“Certainly not from me.” Tom declared as Beth pocketed two more. “Think she could have inherited it?”
“Her command ability…yes.” Chakotay shook his head as the girl set up her next shot. “Her pool playing ability, I somehow doubt.” Snap! Silence. “Did she-“
“Miss it on purpose?” Tom finished for the captain. “Yes, I’d say she did.”
“I wonder why..” Chakotay raised an eyebrow as he observed M’Rana’s nod toward Beth.
Jaysen, mildly surprised, moved in to take his turn.
“She hasn’t missed a shot all night,” Tom murmured more to himself than to Chakotay. “Captain, sir,” he began formally in jest. “I believer your daughter may have her first crush.”
“What?” Chakotay jerked around to stare at his friend. “That’s impossible. She’s-“
“Seventeen years old? Think, old man. How many girls had you dated by that age?”
Snap! Thunk. Jaysen’s cheeky grin fairly lit up Sandrines as he made the shot. Leaning over for his next shot, he bit his lip in concentration. Good, good, he thought to himself. The eight ball was just where he wanted it. If he could only make these next two shots. Snap! Silence.
Beth confidently strode to the table and aimed. She had been formulating her next move and knew exactly what to do. Crack! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. She graced Jaysen with a quick smile before moving to where the eight ball was. “That pocket,” she said using the cue stick to gesture. Snap! Thunk.
Jaysen grinned at her as Sandrines erupted in applause. “Good game.” He congratulated, grasping her hand firmly. “Now, you’ve got to beat Voyager’s reigning champ. Tom Paris.” Letting her hand go, he watched as Tom took the last sip of his drink and made his way over to the table.
M’Rana quickly set up the pool table and then stepped back.
“You can break,” Tom offered, not moving forward.
“Thanks.” Taking her place beside the table, Beth looked toward M’Rana. One slow nod and a cocky grin was all she needed. Moving several feet to her right, Beth prepared for the shot.
“She’s not even aiming at the center.” Harry whispered to Tom. “Remind you of anyone we knew?”
Snap! Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk…….. Thunk.
Silence descended over Sandrines as everyone stared at the table. Tom finally lifted his eyes and met the laughing blue-gray ones of his captain’s daughter.
“Your mother did that to me!” he exclaimed, still half shocked. With a snort of disbelief at what had just occurred, he raised his eyebrows. “Congratulations. It appears I’ve just lost my title…for the second time to a Janeway.”
Beth blushed as the room slowly began to applaud her. Stepping backwards, she hastily thrust the cue stick at Jaysen and then slipped towards the windows to the side.
A moment later, Tom joined her. “I’m sorry if my comment disturbed you. You, kind of shocked me.”
“No, it - I’m fine with it.” Beth said. “I guess I’m just a little confused with things.”
“It must be hard for you.” Tom said, not looking at her. “It was hard when we lost your mom. Especially on your dad.”
“I don’t want to talk about him.” Beth said quickly. “But, ….tell me what you meant on the bridge.”
“Hmm? What did I say?”
Beth bit her lip as she tried to remember the exact phrase. “Something about my flying like the captain.”
“Oh.” Tom chuckled. “I’m not sure I should tell you that one.”
Heaving a sigh, Tom faced the girl with a twinkle in his eye. “There’s a reason we make your dad sit in the captain’s chair.”
“What?” Beth asked, still not understanding.
“Let’s just say he didn’t earn the name Crash Chakotay for nothing.”
“Crash Chakotay?” Beth squelched a giggle and then suddenly frowned. “And I fly like him?”
“That’s not exactly what I-“
“Because you taught me to fly.” Beth continued.
Tom stopped talking for a moment and then laughed. “You got me there, Beth.” Noticing someone out of the corner of his eye, he gave Beth a quick hug. “You did great today, hon. Keep up the great work.”
“Thanks, Uncle Tom.” Beth watched as he disappeared from the quickly emptying Sandrines.
Chakotay waited until the last person had left and then made his presence known. “Tom’s right. You played well tonight.”
Beth took in a deep breath and faced the older man before her. “What’s it matter?”
“I wanted to congratulate you on your pool game.” Chakotay said in a low voice. “Your mother would have been proud.”
I can play pool, so what. Is that all I’m good for? Beth wanted to voice her questions, but she held her tongue.
“I’d like to see you in my ready room.” Chakotay continued. “Ten minutes.”
“I’m off duty.” Beth snapped out. “I’ve got until 0700 before I go back on duty and I won’t report to the bridge until then.”
“Elizabeth, there are a few things I wanted to talk with you about-“
“You are not my parent.” Beth growled. “You can’t just reprimand me at any time.” She was treading on dangerous soil, she knew. But, she didn’t care.
“Fine.” Chakotay’s off-handed acceptance scared Beth more than his yelling would have. “Be in my ready room at 0700.” Without another word, he spun on his heel and exited the holodeck.
“You’ve got some nerve…”
Beth spun towards the source of the voice and found herself staring into the awed eyes of Jaysen.
“If I spoke to my dad like that-“
“It’s not like he’s my father.” Beth retorted slumping down into a chair. “I didn’t even know who he was until a few days ago.”
“Is that why you treat him like you do?” Jaysen’s voice was a soft comfort as he took the seat opposite Beth.
“He lied to me.” Beth sighed. “My whole life, he’s lied to me.”
“For you, Beth!” Jaysen shook his head in slight confusion. “Don’t you understand what he was trying to give you?”
“Forgive me for being dense.”
“He was in no condition to take care of you right after you mother’s death.” Jaysen’s hand reached out to grasp Beth’s in hopes that he could make her understand. “He wanted you to have a normal life and saw the opportunity with Seven and Harry.”
Beth looked down at her hand still clasped in Jaysen’s.
“Sorry.” He muttered, dropping it.
“It’s okay.” Beth shrugged. “I…”
“You could have died today, Elizabeth.” Jaysen said suddenly, changing topics.
“I wanted to apologize to you for that.” Beth said slowly, looking away.
“Apologize? For what?”
“You almost died out there and it would have been my fault.” Beth fought against the tears that were welling up inside of her. “I shouldn’t have been flying. You should have. Or, Naomi. Not me.”
“Hey, you shouldn’t be apologizing. I should be thanking you. It was you who saved my life after the shuttle crashed. No one else was conscious enough to realize that my oxygen supply was gone. As for the crash, it wasn’t your fault. You did much better than Naomi could have. And, probably better than me.” As Beth’s eyes spilled over, he looked at her curiously. “This isn’t just about the crash is it? There’s something more and you’re hiding it.”
Beth shook her head and drew in a large gulp of air. “My mother was strong; she would never have cried like this.” She sniffed. “I have no idea why I am.”
“You’re not your mother.” Jaysen reached over hesitantly and squeezed her arm again. “Now, you need to sort out whatever that is you’re hiding.” A light bulb suddenly went on in his head. “Are you trying to be like Captain Janeway?”
“No.” Beth shook her head instantly. “It’s….nothing.”
“My father hates me.”
“Harry? Hate you? Or the captain?”
“Captain.” Beth sighed as she drew her knees up on the chair.
“He can’t hate you.” Jaysen argued.
“He’s disappointed in me.”
“Yeah right!” Jaysen frowned. “You did a wonderful job today on the mission and he should be proud of you. Where’d you ever get an idea like this?”
“He said it.”
“Sure you’re not taking it out of context?”
Beth only glared at him.
“Okay, Beth. Here’s the deal.” Jaysen pretended to twirl the ends of an imaginary beard like the old professors and psychologists in the movies had. “I think,” he began with a funny accent. “That you need to speak with your father.”
“You’re obviously trying to win his approval!” Jaysen smarted back.
“That’s not the point!”
“The point is, you almost died today.” Jaysen reminded her. “You were ready and willing to.”
“So were you!”
“I’m not at odds with my parents. You would have died never knowing who he truly is.” Jaysen jumped up suddenly and started pacing. “Do you think you could stand it if he died and you never were given the chance to know him?”
“Same situation with my mother.” Beth retaliated. “I’ll never know her.”
“Do you wish you could have?”
The words struck Beth at full force. She was silent for several seconds as the words ran through her mind. Know her mother? Do you wish you could have? Wish you could have?
“Yes.” She finally whispered. “Yes, I wish I had known her.”
“Then talk to your father.” Jaysen implored. “You may live to regret it if you don’t.”
Beth stood slowly and looked towards the door. “I…”
“Say you’ll do it.”
Beth glared at Jaysen again. “I’ll do it in my own time.”
“Soon.” She assured him.
“Good.” His eyes fairly danced at her promise. “Now, where did you learn to play pool like that?!”
“Beginner’s luck?” she offered tucking a strand of reddish-brown hair behind an ear.
“Beginner’s luck my foot.” Jaysen retorted. “I demand a rematch.”
“You’re on.” Beth grinned back. “Tomorrow night?”
“Why not right now?”
“Because.” Beth looked towards the door again. “Someone convinced me to talk with my father.”
Jaysen couldn’t stop the smile stretching across his face. “Good.”
Beth took a deep breath and started for the door. On a whim, she turned back to Jaysen and flung her arms around his neck. “Thanks.”
“For what?” he asked, slightly surprised at the sudden hug.
“For being here when I needed someone to talk to?” Beth shrugged, pulling back to look up at him. “And giving me a kick in the seat of my pants when I needed it.”
“Hey, someone’s got to do it.” Brown eyes suddenly twinkled. “After you talk with your dad, you want to meet me in the messhall for a late dinner?”
Feeling the color heightening in her cheeks, Beth stepped out of his arms. “Sure.”
Hesitantly, Beth stepped across the threshold into the readyroom and stood at attention before the captain.
“I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” Chakotay growled coldly.
“I came to apologize.” Beth said softly, part of her defense falling away as she remembered Jaysen’s words. ‘Do you think you could stand it if he died and you never were given the chance to know him?’
Dark eyes gazed at the girl for a long moment. She seemed sincere enough, Chakotay thought to himself. “Why the sudden change of heart?”
Elizabeth’s face twisted into a wry grimace. “I got some sense knocked into me.”
“Whoever it was, remind me to thank them.” Chakotay said, laying aside the padd he’d been holding.
“You wanted to speak with me?” Beth held her breath anticipating another reproach for her behavior during the mission.
“Yes.” Chakotay flicked the computer screen off and leaned back slightly in his chair. “Have you given the command track anymore thought?”
Blue-gray eyes blinked rapidly. “I thought I had lost the opportunity after today’s mission.” Beth said in a rush.
“You made a poor decision when you lied, Elizabeth, but everyone makes decisions they live to regret.” Chakotay cocked his head at her. “The fact is that you performed well today and I think you’d make an excellent bridge officer.”
“And, I thought you were disappointed in me..” Beth murmured to herself.
“Disappointed in you?!” Chakotay shook his head quickly. “Never! I couldn’t be more proud of you. You were always at the top of your class and excelled in the science track so quickly I sometimes wondered if you were actually..”
“If you were actually my daughter.” Chakotay finished softly. “Your mother chose the science track before command, but I was so horrible at science it seems impossible that any of my children could excel in it.”
Beth shifted uncomfortably as the silence drew out between them. “I’d like to go into command.” She finally said. “It’s what my parents want, but it’s what I want too.”
“I’ll have Tuvok schedule you for more bridge time. Perhaps even some nights in the big chair.” The corners of Chakotay’s mouth turned up in a small smile. “That’s how Harry Kim started out.”
“Thanks.” Beth held her breath for a moment. “Is that all?”
“No.” Chakotay wondered for a moment at how to phrase the next question. Then, he decided to just plunge into it. “What is the nature of your relationship with Jaysen Dalby?”
“What!?” Beth stared in shock at the blunt question.
“Do I need to rephrase the question?”
“No. No.” Beth glared at him incredulously. “You really don’t have any right to ask that.”
“As your senior officer, perhaps not.” Chakotay rounded his desk and sat on the front of it. “As your father, even if you refuse to accept the fact, I feel that I do have the right.”
“We’re friends.” She began, her voice wavering. “I sort of saved his life when the shuttle crashed, so I think he may feel in debt to me. He was the one who convinced me to apologize to you.”
“And how do you feel towards him?”
“I’d..I’d rather not talk about this.” Beth declared, still questioning of her own feelings when it came to Jaysen. There was something there, of that she was sure. But what, she was not certain. “Actually, I’m supposed to meet him in the messhall for a late dinner.”
“Then, you’d better get going.”
“Yes, sir.” Beth started towards the door, but turned and looked back. Chakotay gave her an encouraging smile and nodded for her to go to Jaysen. “Thanks for the chance at command.” She began self-consciously. “And, if it’s not too much trouble…I’d like to….to get to know you.”
The captain felt his insides melt as his daughter’s defenses fell away. Her blue-gray eyes reflected the child-like innocence and a vulnerability that had once shone in her mother’s eyes. So similar to her mother, he thought. Yet, so different also. Feeling tears prick behind his eyes, Chakotay nodded. “I would too.”
Impulsively, Beth took a few steps forward and gave him an awkward hug. “Thanks…Father.”
Chakotay finally felt as though the first step had been made between him and his daughter as she slipped out of the ready room. It would be a long road before they could know and love one another as most fathers and daughters did, he knew, but this was a beginning. The tears that had been stinging the back of his eyes broke through and cascaded down his cheeks as he made his way back to his desk. Joyful tears. He was at last assured that the relationship he’d robbed Elizabeth and himself of could and would be restored.
Tugging open the drawer to his right, Chakotay reached behind several engineering and science reports to the holoimage he had stored there seventeen years ago. Kathryn Janeway’s smiling face reflected in his tearful eyes as he stared down at her. It was the same image he had beside his bed - the same one he had talked to during those first unbearable days.
It was time, he knew.
“I should have done this a long time ago, Kathryn.” Chakotay said softly, staring at the blue-gray eyes he had looked into not five minutes ago. “I should have told you about our daughter. Not for you, obviously, but for me. So I can learn to accept that we’re her parents. So, we’ll never forget that you’re part of our family.” He took a deep breath and ran his fingers over the smooth glass as he contemplated how to cast off the burden that had been weighing on his heart for seventeen years. Why had he hidden the truth from his daughter for so long? Was it the right thing to do?
Yes, Kathryn would agree, he decided. She was, after all, the one who instructed Seven to raise Beth as her own in the event that she and Chakotay died. But, how could Chakotay accept the fact that he had not died and had still hidden from his role.
Why? Why had he done it? “I only have one answer.” He told the image in a hushed tone. “I did it because I love you. Because I love her. Through her entire life, I’ve done whatever I could for our daughter in order that she would have a normal and happy life.” He shook his head with realization that every action he had made since Kathryn had died, had been unconsciously aimed at giving Elizabeth the kind of life he felt she deserved. “I did everything for Elizabeth.”
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