For Elizabeth: Part Two


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.


Physics. Logic. Gravity. Psychology. At its most basic level, that was the sum of the game. How much friction would the ball encounter as it rolled across the green felt? How much force would be needed to knock another of the heavy balls into the pocket without the cue ball following? In what direction must the shot be made so as to set up the next? What was the opponent thinking? How would she set up her next shot? And, how clever was she at taking the ones left open if you missed?

She leaned over the table, auburn tresses falling over her shoulder. She quickly pushed back the hair and calculated the angle of the table (even though it was supposed to be perfectly level, everyone knew that the corner closest to the bar was slightly lower) in addition to the force needed to set up her next shot.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her opponent nervously tapping her foot. Nervous, she should be, she thought to herself with a small smile gracing her lips. She could take the whole game right now, if she chose. But, she wouldnít. Not this time. Allowing the cue ball to ricochet off the side of the table without hitting anything, she straightened. "Your turn."

The other girl quickly moved into position and, without giving heed to the laws of physics, made her shot. "Yes!" She exclaimed. "Would you look at that!"

"You only sunk one," Elizabeth replied leaning against a wall and raising an eyebrow at her best friend.

"But, I can get this one over here," MíRana Paris raved, her part-Klingon brown twitching with excitement. "And then, Iíll only have two left. Iíll beat you yet, Elizabeth Kim! For once, Iíll beat you!"

"Maybe," Beth replied mysteriously. "Maybe not."

"Maybe nothing," MíRana laughed after sinking her green ball.

"Maybe I should leave now," Beth feigned a yawn and moved to put her cue stick in the rack again. "Itís getting late."

"Fraidy cat!" "MíRana taunted, wanting to finish the pool game. This was the closest she had ever come to beating Beth and she wasnít about to allow the other girl to forfeit. Maybe it was because MíRana had been practicing with Voyagerís former pool champ- her own father. Or, maybe it was because Beth had seemed more distracted ever since the discovery of her true parentage three weeks ago. Whatever the reason, MíRana was winning and she wanted to finish the game.

"I can take you any day, Paris," Beth declared reclaiming her cue and lifting her chin with confidence. "And, Iíll prove it."

Both girls held their breath as MíRana stepped up to take another shot. But, Beth knew sheíd never make it. With the lack of care given to which direction she would shoot, she knew MíRana was playing several levels beneath the skill she was capable of, so she was slightly surprised when the shot was a success. When it was followed by another equally careless shot that achieved the desired goal, Beth frowned intensely.

"Wait a minute," Beth muttered. There were four balls, plus the cue, still on the table. Two were hers, one was MíRanaís and one was the eight ball. The way things were going, she may actually lose!

MíRana leaned over the table and took aim for the next shot. She would never admit it, but her hands were shaking slightly as she pulled back the cue stick and smartly hit the ball. A sharp crack resounded in the darkened bar followed by the decisive thud of the last striped ball. Mere seconds later, she had sunk the eight ball.

"Congratulations, MíRana," Beth said with eyebrows raised in surprise.

"Thereís a first for everything. And youíve had a lot on your mind," MíRana reminded her. "Your game was bound to be a little off."

"Iím never off when it comes to pool."

"Bethie," MíRana sighed, reverting back to her baby-name for her best friend, "Your father isnít exactly his normal self either. For that matter, hardly any senior officer is. You need to give yourself time to get used to the idea of having the captain for a father."

"I donít want to talk about this," Beth swiftly closed the subject as she set the cue stick down again. "IÖIíve got to go."

MíRana watched, not shocked that Beth had cut their conversation short, as the other girl left the holodeck with a thundercloud growing over her head.

Beth leaned against the walls of the turbolift and concentrated on wiping the thin sheen of sweat from her face. Why was this becoming the Ďnormalí reaction every time the subject came up? When someone mentioned the captain as her father, she grew incredibly agitated. She knew he was her father. Why did everyone have to keep reminding her?

Quickly, she covered the territory from the turbolift back to the quarters she shared with the only parents she had ever known until three weeks ago. Her mom would be on duty, she knew, and her dad had mentioned something this morning about resurrecting an old holoprogram with Tom Paris, and Beth was glad their quarters would be empty. Letting herself into the darkened rooms, she didnít bother with the lights, but stumble to her bedroom and sank onto her bed.

"Whatís happening to me, Flotter?" she asked with a sigh, picking up the worn stuffed toy. The faded blue material with dulling eyes didnít answer her, of course, but talking to her childhood friends had always given her a sense of comfort. Reaching a hand out, she found Flotterís friend, Treevis, on the edge of her bed. Naomi Wildman had shown Elizabeth the programs when she was about six years old. She then proceeded to pester anyone willing to listen to her for more than five minutes to go with her on the adventures for the next five years. Most of the time, Beth went with MíRana. Sometimes, their dads went with them. Once in a very great while, Bethís mom, Seven, would take her. But, she hadnít been near the old databases in almost six years.

With another sigh, Beth tossed Flotter and Treevis aside in favor of her computer terminal. There was a message, she saw. From Captain Chakotay inquiring as to why she had missed their morning breakfast- again. Marking it as unread, Beth tried to push her biological father to the back of her mind as she called up the data on the plant she had discovered three weeks prior.

If they could have found a way to replicate it, Beth was almost certain it would sustain vital parts of engineering. Hopefully, the plant could be used to create matter and minerals to produce energy. But, replicating it would take energy. As soon as Beth had realized her blunder, she had set about a way to grow the plant on Voyager.

It would be difficult, she had quickly discovered. The aeroponic garden was an optimized environment for growing plants, but this particular one had thrived on the side of a cliff being tormented by thunderstorms and hail- and Beth was pretty certain Captain Chakotay wouldnít allow her to recreate those conditions in the aeroponic garden.

Touching a finger to the tiny seedling in the small pot beside her computer, Beth wrinkled her nose. The soil was bone dry-- again. She had watered it only that morning and already it had taken in the sweet liquid. After replenishing the water, she brought out an old-fashioned ruler Samantha Wildman had given her and measured it. Four centimeters, exactly, she saw with satisfaction. It had been three point nine six centimeters when sheíd left early that morning.

"Beth?"

Straightening up, Beth silently eyed her dad as he entered her room decked out in the strangest costume she had ever seen him in. A blue shirt, nothing like she had ever laid eyes on, buttoned up the front and had a collar that appeared to fold down. His pants, definitely not the standard Starfleet issue, were khaki colored and cinched at the waist with a black belt.

"What are you doing back so early? I thought MíRana had coerced you into a game of pool." Harry stepped inside and ruffled his daughterís hair causing her to pull back stiffly. "Hey, whatís the matter?"

Beth shrugged and shook her head. "Nothing," she answered in a distant voice.

"Did you and MíRana have a fight?"

"No," Beth glared at the computer terminal as she remembered the last time he had asked her that. At that time, she had just returned from a game of velocity with MíRana (or, to be more accurate, she had returned from a trip to sickbay after the game of velocity). "Why is it that every time I come back early, you think we had a fight? Canít something other than MíRana be bothering me?"

Harry watched the back of his daughterís head carefully. She had changed. Since the discovery about her birth and the circumstances surrounding her upbringing, she had become more withdrawn. Once, the quarters had been filled with laughter during off hours when the whole family was together, but slowly the laughter had died away. Almost overnight, Harry realized, Beth had taken from running to meet her parents to pester them for news of the daysí events to secluding herself in her room. They had been prepared for a change in her demeanor, but not this drastic and not for this amount of time. "Beth," he finally said softly, laying a hand on her shoulder, "Youíve always talked to me in the past. Talk to me now."

She pulled away from him sharply. "I told you, nothingís wrong. I just want to get this work done."

"Youíve been working an awful lot, lately," Harry admonished gently, "Didnít I ask you to take some time off last week?"

"Yes," she snapped. "But-"

"But nothing. I donít like to see you buried up to your elbows in databases eighteen hours a day. Itís not healthy."

"Itís just for a little bit-"

"Elizabeth-"

"I just want to get this done," Beth repeated, trying to keep the anger in her heart from filtering into her voice and actions. "Itís my project and I want to be the one to see it through."

"Promise me youíll take some free time," Harry said, dropping to sit on the edge of her bed.

"Not right now, Dad," she argued. "Iíve just got-"

"Do you want me to make it an order?" Harry asked, his tone of voice warning that he wouldnít hesitate to do it. "Youíve been working yourself entirely too hard, Elizabeth, and I donít want to see this."

Bethís face fell as she remembered their conversation only a few days ago. "Fine," she whispered, accepting the fact that as her foster dad, he was still the one she had to obey. "Iíll spend part of tomorrow doing something other than work." It wasnít spoken, but she knew he expected her and MíRana to go to the holodeck or something like that. But, if Beth got her way, she would curl up with Jane Eyre. She was almost done with itÖ.

"Good girl," Harry dropped a kiss on the top of her head as he moved toward the door. "Iím on my way to meet Uncle Tom."

"For what?" Beth asked, too curious about his costume to remember the smoldering flame of anger haunting her.

"An old holodeck game we used to play," Harry laughed at his daughterís face. "Captain Proton," he delivered dramatically.

Bethís eyebrows came together in confusion, "Captain who?"

"Nevermind." He chuckled. "Iíll see you and mom later tonight."

~ * =/\= ~

 

Chakotay glared at the screen in front of him wishing it would answer the question he had just voiced. "Why?" He repeated, staring at the data in the different fields.

Beth had missed all of the four breakfasts they had scheduled for this week and two from last week. Each and every message he sent her had been read and then marked as unread. Thanks to some handy tagging tips learned in his Maquis days, Chakotay had been able to determine exactly when she had read each note.

"Why?" he asked again.

She was reading them, so why didnít she reply? For that matter, why didnít she come to breakfast as scheduled? After their first real father/daughter talk in which Beth had told him she would like to get to know him, they had agreed to set aside an hour at breakfast to talk to each other. And, at first, she had arrived at each meeting prompt. Then, she started to show up late. Finally, not at all.

Chakotay rarely saw his daughter anymore unless it was on the bridge or in passing. The few times heíd tried to talk to her, she always had somewhere she had to be- at least, thatís what she coolly informed him of.

It was times like this that he missed Kathryn the most. Of course he always missed her, but the pain was even more prominent when Chakotay was faced with a situation he knew she would have answers for. It was at those times he was left to struggle with not only the situation at hand, but his late wifeís memory. Tugging open the small drawer, the captain rummaged through data padds and trinkets from yesteryear as his hand sought out the object he knew would be hiding.

Curling his fingers around the thin, gold strip, Chakotay withdrew the chip and held it up to the light. "Youíd want her to know, wouldnít you Kathryn?" he said softly. The serial numbers were still readable, but he didnít need to look at them to know what they said. MC7450-LK. The same as they had always been. Seventeen years ago and today, it didnít make a difference to the chip. Just like the data it held. Unaffected by time or distance, it would always be the same. But, Chakotay had never seen it.

It wasnít because he hadnít made the time. On the contrary, actually. Several times Chakotay had planned to view the old chip, but he had never taken it from the room where she had left it.

And, it wasnít because he was scared of what he would discover. He already knew what was on it. At least, he had a pretty good idea because its match was buried in the desk as well.

It was because the chip didnít belong to him. And maybe now it was finally time to give it to its rightful owner.

"Kim to Chakotay, weíve got a class-M planet on sensors."

"Iíll be right there," Chakotay said shoving the chips back into the drawer. Later. He would return it later.

~ * =/\= * ~

 

Seven of Nine glanced around sickbay as she entered and then opened her mouth to call for the doctor.

"Seven!" he exclaimed, cutting her off and rushing to welcome her. "I hear youíve been busy! And look! A real uniform, like mine no less."

"Yes," she replied, slightly taken aback by his enthusiastic greeting.

"Good. Iím glad that youíve progressed so nicely," he smiled at his dear friend. Since the time the Doctor had been reactivated by Beth, he had retaken his sickbay, but not had time in the past three weeks to make his rounds and reacquaint himself with old friends. Why, he had his hands full with just trying to recall the names and faces of the injured patients coming in to sickbay! "What can I do for you today?"

"Mr. Neelix scheduled my annual physical for today," Seven explained. "Am I to assume that you have taken over his duties?"

"Only what was rightfully mine before the Commander- excuse me, Captain- attempted to delete me," the Doctor gestured for her to climb on a biobed as he flipped open his medical tricorder. "I discovered that I have you thank for rescuing my program." Holding her gaze over the top of the tricorder, he regarded her solemnly. "Thank you."

"Thanks is unnecessary," Seven replied. "I felt as though I had lost both my mother and my best friend that day. Captain Janeway had guided me and even attempted to shape my beliefs in the image of her own. She failed," Seven said with a wry smile, "But I did come to view her as a maternal figure. And you," she hesitated only for a moment, "I considered you a dear friendóperhaps more than a friend. I had developed feelings for you that surpassed mere friendship."

"Seven, you never told me that," the Doctor said, flustered.

"I was unsure how to proceed," She explained. "And, after my dating disaster with Lieutenant Chapman, I felt it best to leave the matter unmentioned."

"I was your mentor and teacher, but I caredóand still do careófor you a great deal more-"

"Doctor, you should not say that." As his features twisted in confusion, she hurried to continue. "The captain left me her daughter. With no former instruction on raising a child, I ordered Ensign Kim to marry me and assume the patriarchal figure for Beth. In the time that has passed, I have developed feelings for Harry that transcend any emotions I have felt before. I never knew it was possible to love anyone as much as I do both Harry and Beth and Iím thankful for the opportunity to experience it."

The Doctor watched her for a moment and then resumed his scans. "Tell me," he said clearing his throat and changing the subject, "I havenít had a free moment since my holoemitter was reactivated. Has Voyager changed that much?"

"Many children have been born," Seven provided, easily switching topics. "And, we have lost several crewmembers as well."

"Oh?" he briefly glanced up from his tricorder with an annoyed face. "Details, Seven, details. You must remember that Iím a medical genius who has been cooped in his bottle for nearly twenty years!"

"Genie," Seven corrected gently.

"Genie, genius, makes no difference to me," he leveled her with the famous ĎDoctorís glareí, "Now?"

Seven raised her Borg eyepiece slightly. Where to start, she wondered. "You have no doubt reviewed the databases and are familiar with the newest crewmembers who have been born on Voyager. In addition to them, one more Delta Quadrant native, Roget, has joined the crew. He was approximately two Terran years when his mother sought passage to a colony thirteen light years from her home. Captain Chakotay granted her passage, but she died enroute during a skirmish on the edge of the Takarian sector. Roget was taken to the colony, but we arrived only to discover that everything in the system had been decimated by a nebula expansion."

"What of the boyís original family?"

"He had none," Seven continued. "His mother had been seeking a new life away from her home planet. Being that he had lived with us for several months at that point, the Takarian government thought it best for the child to remain with us. Ensign Wilner, who had been caring for the boy, readily agreed and has kept the child since."

"And where is the boy now?"

"He is the same age as Beth and working as an engineering officer."

"InterestingÖ" the Doctor muttered as he moved to download his tricorder information into the shipís database. "Your Borg enhancements appear to be functioning within normal standards and Iím pleased with the rate in which your human organs have taken over your body. One of these days," the Doctor began as he returned to her side and held the silver scanner over her left eye "We may be able to remove that eye piece."

"I prefer to leave it intact," Seven informed him carefully. "It is a part of me and a reminder of who I was, but no longer am."

Brown eyes looked away from the tool in his hand and into clear blue ones as he tried to read her. "I see," he said slowly, finally stepping back. "In that case, that will be all for now. Iíll call you if I need to run anymore scans."

"Thank you, Doctor."

The Doctor moved back to his console and began to return to the work he had been doing, but a lingering memory called itself to the front of his subroutines. "Seven, do you still sing?"

"Occasionally."

"Would it be acceptable for me to ask you to join me on holodeck two at eighteen hundred hours? I seem to be minus a partner for our duets. And, Neelix has informed me that there will be another talent show in the near future."

"I am scheduled for duty at eighteen hundred hours," Seven replied. "However, I will join you at fifteen thirty if it is agreeable to you."

The Doctor blinked, momentarily stunned. "Thatís fine. I look forward to it."

"As do I, Doctor."

Returning his attention to the console in front of him, the Doctor couldnít resist a glance in the direction of the doors Seven had just exited, "I canít believe it; sheís learned manners."

~ * =/\= * ~

Beth tugged on the neck of the gray shirt under her uniform jacket as she tapped her foot anxiously on the turbolift floor. The high neck always seemed to choke her, but none more than when she was about to be late for duty.

It was her own fault, she knew. She had been the one responsible for burying her nose in the very databases her dad was trying to get her out of- without setting the chrono to remind her to report for duty. Lieutenant Paris wouldnít be happy.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the doors slid apart and Beth fairly sprung from the Ďlift as she hastily made her way to the helm station.

"Ensign."

Beth froze halfway to her console and turned to face Captain Chakotay who sat in the command ring. "Iím sorry, sir."

"You know that tardiness to duty shifts will not be tolerated, correct?"

"Yes," Beth lifted her eyes to meet the glare of her father. Would he actually dress her down on in the middle of the bridge, she wondered as her stomach tightened.

"Report to sickbay tomorrow evening and tell the doctor youíre to sterilize every instrument before returning to your quarters until your next duty shift."

Beth almost opened her mouth to protest, but quickly snapped it shut. Giving Chakotay a quick nod, she made her way to where Tom was still stationed.

"Jaysen or MíRana?" Tom asked, a twinkle in his sky-blue eyes. He knew that MíRana had scheduled the holodeck time for herself and Beth, but he also knew that Jaysen Dalby was interested in the captainís daughter.

"Neither," Beth whispered back as she slid into the seat at the conn. "I was doing some research."

"On that plant, I suppose?" Tom patted the top of her head affectionately. "Iíll have to excuse you then. This time."

"Thanks, Uncle Tom. And, Iím sorry Iím late."

"Donít worry about it," Tom replied as Harry called something to the captain. "Just remember we have some piloting lessons scheduled this week. I expect you to be on time."

"Iíll remember," Beth replied, taking inventory of the helm sensors. "A new planet?"

"Came up on sensors about an hour ago. Oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, several mountain ranges and fjords- perfect for some flying lessons- and traces of dilithium in the crust. Weíve set a course and should be there in a couple of hours."

"Inhabited?"

"By a warp-capable civilization."

"Standard mission?"

"So far, you could write a text by it."

"Maybe someone will," she replied, touching the console to bring up a new frame of data. "Looks interesting."

Tom shrugged, uninterested, "As exciting as every other class-M planet, I suppose. Iíll leave it to your capable hands."

Beth murmured goodbye as she concentrated on the sensors in front of her. The last thing she wanted to do was glance over her shoulder to find her fatherís eyes resting on her from the command center. So, she instead concentrated on the readings coming from the planet. That was actually Harry Kimís job, but for the moment she watched the tiny OPs display at her own station.

"Wilner, take the helm," Beth jumped as the captain laid a hand on her shoulder. "Beth, a word with you in my ready room, please."

Slowly, Beth relinquished her post to Andrea Wilner and followed her father mutely. The tightening in her stomach had turned into a knot before she reached the doors to the captainís private domain and as the doors slid shut, dread clamored up her throat. She knew what she had done to their morning breakfasts was rude and uncalled for. But what about him? What about his own actions seventeen years ago?

"Is there anything youíd like to say?" Chakotay asked softly, leaning against his desk.

By not rounding it and sitting his body language spoke that he was asking her as a father, not as a captain. Beth didnít like that at all. She wouldnít have wanted Harry Kim as a dad if she had been given a choice as a baby, but now that the deed was done, she didnít want another father.

"No," she replied coldly.

Chakotay visibly winced at her icy tone. Eyeing her silently for a moment, he shook his head in slight frustration he struggled to keep his voice from wavering, "Beth, a couple weeks ago you told me you wanted to get to know me. I told you I was willing." Taking a deep breath, he watched her reaction as he continued. "I have to tell you that being with you is hard for me. You remind me so much of your mother that itís actually painful for me to look at you. Sometimes," he said as his voice grew wistful, "Iíll see you at the end of a corridor or from across the messhall and for a split second, I think youíre Kathryn. Every time, I have to remind myself that youíre not her and every time, it hurts just as bad as the day she died."

He was still trying to gauge her reaction, she decided as she crossed her arms over her chest and waited, head cocked to the side, for him to continue. She refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing that it pained her to think she was hurting him.

"Iím not opposed to trying this again. Your mother would have wanted me to know you. I want to know you," Chakotay finally continued after a long silence. "I know it wonít make up for the past seventeen years, but I want to try. Can we both agree to that?"

Beth frowned at him as her blue eyes met his open brown ones. Should she agree to it, she wondered. Was there even a point anymore? Her father had given her away mere minutes after her birth. He had never shown any interest in her until she had discovered the truth. The truth about her biological parents wasnít something that she was told as she grew older; instead, it had been concealed from her in the darkest of recesses on Voyager. If she and MíRana hadnít been poking around the cargobay that day and if Roget hadnít stumbled on the doctorís holoemitter, Beth suspected she may never have learned the secret that had been hidden.

Why should she bother trying to get to know someone who dropped her like a sack of leola root? Should she forgive him for his past transgressions against her and try to start over with the risk of being hurt again lingering at the back of her mind? There would always be that doubt, Beth knew-- she would always wonder if the captain was attempting to salvage his relationship with her because he wanted to or because it was what his wife would have wanted. Beth didnít want to be subject to those emotions, she knew. Burying the anger deep inside her heart, she raised a defiant chin and prayed her voice wouldnít wobble the way her stomach was.

"No."

"No?"

"No," she repeated her voice slightly stronger. "Iíve had several weeks to think about this and Iíve decided that I donít want another father."

"Another- Beth, Iím not trying to take Harryís place. I realize heís been your dad since you were a baby and youíll always look to him. But, canít we try to mend the relationship that should exist between us?"

Shaking her head, she backed towards the door. "I donít want to know you. I donít want to be on the same ship as you. And I certainly donít want you for a father."

Chakotayís face was etched with the pain of rejection as he silently pleaded with his daughter to not turn him away as her mother had so many times before. She didnít know he was remembering that, of course, but he was. Kathryn had stolen his heart and then walked away numerous times before they began to form a relationship. And, Chakotay sometimes thought that was part of what had led to the drastic change in his demeanor after her death. But now, their daughter was going to push him away just as her mother did so many times.

Beth watched him for a moment, her own heart wishing she could run forward and trust this man. But, the plain fact was that she couldnít trust him as a father. Better leave it alone, she reminded herself turning on her heel in the direction of the door. She was better off without having him complicate her home life.

"Youíre making a mistake by doing this," Chakotay whispered hoarsely in a last-ditch effort. "It may be years down the road before you wish you could have known your mother and myself, but the time will come. And the opportunity will have slipped away."

Pausing just before the point where the sensors would detect her presence, she glanced over her shoulder at the man leaning against his desk. "I didnít make the mistake- you did. Seventeen years ago."

~ * =/\= * ~

The metal surface of the tiny craft gleamed in the brilliant light that reflected its surface. Suspended in midair, it was a perfect replica of the Ares IV command module that had been discovered so many years ago.

MíRanaís fingertips gently brushed the smooth edge of the object as it swung from the string that suspended it above her desk. She had spent many nights up late reading about the mission- the mission her father had helped salvage. The old Mars missions had forged a special relationship with her dad, she knew. When MíRana had begun taking an interest in them, Tom Paris was always there with another piece of the database or a picture for her to study. It had become a competition of sorts, in the past few years. Who could find something in the old databanks that the other didnít know existed or had forgotten about.

MíRana sighed deeply as she withdrew her hand and let her eyes drift to the image of Mars framed above her desk. She had always treasured the friendship and father/daughter relationship sheíd had with her father and it pained her to realize that Beth would probably never have that. If today had been any indication of her feelings towards her father, MíRana remembered, Beth was burying more emotions of animosity in her heart than she cared to acknowledge.

"MíRana!"

The part Klingon girl jumped as her comm badge came to life where sheíd laid it on her desk. Tapping it quickly, she answered the hail from her best friend.

"Transporter room one in ten minutes," Beth continued, her voice still giving away her excitement. "Weíve found a small planet and the captain has ordered us to secure supplies."

"Us?" MíRana frowned. Usually senior officers took care of first contact situations or at least someone who was over the age of thirty-five-- certainly not two of the youngest members of the acting crew list.

"Heís already talked to them and Tuvok has beamed down to the government- something about technology, but," Beth amended, knowing what MíRanaís unspoken question would be. "Weíre supposed to pick up a load of supplies from one of the towns."

That sounded more like it, MíRana thought to herself, already reaching for her uniform jacket. "Iíll be there in three minutes."

 

True to her word, MíRana skid into the door of transporter room one exactly two minutes and fifty-nine seconds later. Beth glanced up quickly from the console to toss a smile in her direction, then she returned her attention to the transporter coordinates Jaysen Dalby was in the process of informing her of.

"If we transport down here," Jaysen told her softly as he stepped closer to make room for Roget and MíRana, "weíll-"

"Have to walk an extra mile," Carrie, the officer on duty, finished.

Beth raised her eyebrows at the young man who had been demanding her attention several afternoons and a half-dozen dinner hours since theyíd returned from their last away mission.

His lips curved up into a secret smile at her, "Exactly. Iíd like to get some sightseeing in if we have to go down there."

Beth visibly hesitated to give her permission. She was in command of this mission, they all knew, and it would be her call unless a superior officer chose to intervene. Glancing over the surface of the terrain again, she finally nodded. "Okay, youíll get your one mile detour. But, if weíre going to have several kilos worth of supplies, weíll have to transport back."

"Deal," Jaysen firmly grasped her hand to seal the bargain.

Readjusting the Starfleet phaser holstered to her hip, Beth joined her friends on the transporter padd and waited for a moment to calm the butterflies in her stomach. "Energize."

 

As the tingling sensation of the transporter beam left her body and the cool winds of Trenara IV swept around her, Beth instinctively placed a hand on her phaser. Beside and behind her, the rest of her team was doing the same as they found themselves confronted by four mammoth sized beasts that must have weighed several hundred kilos apiece.

Beth quickly drew her weapon and aimed it at the animals, daring them to move closer to her. Large brown eyes of the animal closest to her followed her every movement and then a lazy jaw continued to chew its meal. Shaggy brown fur fell over the forehead of the beast closest to Jaysen as it bent down to retrieve a mouthful of the grass it had been grazing on. Then, it lifted its head and noisily smacked on the plant.

With a nervous laugh, Beth holstered her phaser and motioned for the rest of her team to follow suit. "You had to put us down in the middle of a field of cows, didnít you Jaysen?"

Jaysen grimaced as he lifted a foot with disgust, "At least youíre not taking home a reminder," he commented wryly.

"Letís get going," MíRana had already hopped the crudely constructed fence and was waiting impatiently for Beth, Jaysen, and Roget. "Whatís the plan?" she asked trying to choose a direction to walk. Down seemed the best bet, she decided quickly. The village they were to meet their contact in had been at the base of the mountain.

"Thereís a small establishment in the center of the town weíre supposed to pick up the food supplies from," Beth informed them as she took Jaysenís offered hand and scrambled over a fallen log blocking their path. "The captainís orders were pretty basic. Get in, get the food, get out."

"Sounds simple enough," MíRana grunted as she kicked a small pebble.

Beth pushed a branch out of her way as she drew in a deep breath. Jaysen had been right in choosing this detour, she decided. The surrounding mountains Tom had declared perfect for practice flights were breathtaking; the air, cool and crisp, had a slight smell of rain on it; and the grass they were still wading through was wet from dew left over during the night.

"Itís gorgeous," Roget offered taking a moment to stop and admire the beauty of their surroundings. "I wish Voyager could have this fresh air instead of the recycled stuff."

"That recycled stuff was developed after years of experiments and failures," MíRana declared. "Humans used to have to carry mucll air supply with them for each mission. And Klingons diluted their air with large quantities of nitrogen for the first few explorations. Imagine how cramped a fourteen meter vessel carrying a dozen Klingons would be. Iíll take recycled air any day."

Beth turned to cast a warning glance at MíRana. She didnít want to have to listen to a lecture today anymore than Roget would want to receive it. MíRana shrugged and rolled her eyes with a grin causing Bethís heart to lift. There would be no lect-

"Oh!" Arms flailing, Beth felt her feet slide out from under her.

"Careful," Jaysen warned, his arms catching her. "Weíre almost to the bottom, but you should watch where youíre going."

Beth scowled at him, but the twinkle in her eyes assured Jaysen that she was thankful he had been there.

Slowly, but surely, as they made their way down the mountain, the air grew warmer and dryer as the twin suns climbed higher in the sky. Underfoot, the land was flattening out and in the distance a town was coming into view.

"That was more than a mile, Jaysen," Beth poked him gently in the ribs as the town grew larger before them.

"Maybe," he replied with a devilish grin. "But, you donít sound like youíre complaining."

"It wasÖ.nice."

"You thought it was better than Ďniceí," he whispered so only she could hear. Catching her hand in his he added, "I saw the look on your face. You canít worm your way out of that one."

Beth opened her mouth to make a retort, but she couldnít stop the smile from spreading across her face at the sight of his twinkling eyes. "Fine," she smarted back. "You win this round."

Jaysen accepted the Ďwiní graciously and ducked his head under a branch in his way.

The quartet silently made their way into the town as they each took in the sounds and sights of a small town which, for all appearances, had never seen a paved street, much less a star ship brimming with life forms alien to their own culture.

To Bethís right, a group of rag-tag children on a sidewalk giggled and pointed at her own group, but she calmly ignored them. In all of her years of training with Tuvok, one of the facts he had stressed was that different cultures may view her as odd and even threatening. Thankfully, those children had chosen the former instead of the latter.

"There," Jaysen nodded in the direction of a two story wooden building with scrawling woodwork on the outside. "That must be it."

"Looks suspiciously like a saloon to me," MíRana muttered in Beth direction.

Beth fully agreed with MíRana; however, women and children were leaving and entering the Ďsalooní with carts of groceries. "Letís check it out."

As the four young people entered the questionable establishment, their fears were instantly laid to rest. The interior was deserted now and dimly lit, but decorated with grocery items instead of questionable drinks and smoke.

Beth stopped just inside the door to allow her eyes to adjust to the darker setting. Taking the opportunity to glance around, she smiled faintly as she saw two men struggling with a barrel of goods in the back room. That was probably part of the bundle the captain had secured for Voyager, she guessed. Moving in the direction of the long counter that served as an old-fashioned check out, she gently tapped a device intended to catch the ownerís attention.

The wooden bell made a knocking sound that rang out through the shop and a man promptly poked his head out of the back room.

"Iíll be with you in a minute," he called to them in a friendly voice. Just as quickly as he appeared, his head disappeared into the back room again.

"Iím going to look at some of these other things," Jaysen said, motioning in the direction of the fresh vegetables and fishes.

"Just donít go far," she warned, but quickly cut off her conversation as the man emerged from the back.

"You must be from Voyager," he said. "Itís all back here just waiting for your transport. Anything else I can help you with?"

"I donít think so," Beth smiled at him and then turned to MíRana and Roget. "Go with him and get them to Voyager. Iíll get Jaysen."

"Donít wander far," the man warned her. "I have several customers who prefer to do their shopping in solitude. They can become rather feisty when bothered."

"Thanks," Beth said making a mental note to keep her distance.

MíRana and Roget followed the proprietor and Beth began to scan the store for a sign as to where Jaysen may have disappeared to. A sly smile slipped over her visage as she spied his brown head peeking over a shelf at something in front of him. Sneaking around the shelf with full intentions of scaring him, she jumped slightly when he turned to her and motioned for her to join him, but stay quiet.

Gesturing quickly, he indicated that there was a conversation on the other side of the shelf he was interested in. All warnings flying from her mind, Beth leaned closer to listen.

"Tomorrow, then," the voice of an older man said. "Iíll transmit the exact location of their warp core and Iíll see if we can download their shield frequency."

"Tomorrow will be too late," another voice spoke up. "She needs them before sundown. Get them to my terminal by this evening or you only get half of what was promised."

"Thatís going to be hard," the first voice said hesitantly. "Their computer is one of a more sophisticated design-"

"Which is why we want it," the second broke in. "Iíll expect those shield frequencies. And as always, a pleasure doing business with you."

Footsteps clicked on the floorboards indicating that the voices were moving in their direction, but it was a split second too late for Beth and Jaysen.

"Eavesdroppers!" the second voice roared as he snatched Beth by the collar.

"Get your hands off her!" Jaysen tried to swing at the man who now held Beth securely, but was quickly caught by the owner of the first voice.

"Baraubs!" the man who held Beth shouted in the direction of the back room "Weíve got us a couple of snitches out here. Any place you know of we couldÖdetain them?"

Beth gulped as Baraubs quickly stepped from the room and eyed them with disdain. "I warned you," he snapped at them. To the men that held him, "I have a few places for themÖand their friends."

Meeting Jaysenís eyes briefly, Beth drew her lips into a firm line and narrowed her eyes as she communicated that she would attempt to free herself the same time he tried to escape his captor. Hopefully, with both of them struggling at the same time, they would have the element of surprise on their side.

Adrenaline rushed through her veins as her muscles tensed and then lashed out with surprising strength for someone her size. The man who held her gasped in pain as her arm flailed against his belly, but he quickly pinned her arms back to her sides again.

"Donít try anything with me," he hissed next to her ear. "I donít take kindly to strangers and I really donít take kindly to alien girls who get in my way."

Next to her, Jaysenís attempt at breaking away had also been futile. Now, he sported a red handprint on the side of his face. Bethís heart sunk as a scuffle from the back room was heard and a strangled cry escaped MíRanaís lips.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Itís been two hours," Tom reminded Chakotay. "They should have checked in by now."

"Iím well aware of the time, Tom," the captain ocksered from his seat. "Harry, open a channel to Baraubs."

"Captain Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager!" Barbaus grinned easily from the small shop he owned. "What can I do for you?"

"I wanted to check on our team," Chakotay replied, standing to face the other gentleman. "Our sensors indicate that they made it to your shop, but have yet to check in with us."

"Perhaps they did some shopping," the other man replied, a twinkle in his eye. "I do remember them, of course. I believe the one with a funny brow and the Tarkarian transported your barrels of food supplies directly to your ship. Then, the four left. I think the girl with the red uniform said something about one of the stores, but I canít remember which."

"Thanks, Barbaus," Chakotay said outwardly keeping the appearance of being calm and in control of his boiling emotions.

"Let me know if thereís anything else I can do for you," he said giving Chakotay a slight wave of his four fingered hand.

Chakotay nodded briefly as Harry cut the channel.

"Shopping?" Tom asked with disbelief. "Beth and MíRana got side tracked and went shopping?"

"If that were the case," Tuvok intervened from his place in the first officerís chair. "We would not have failed at our attempts to raise them on the comm."

"The day Beth willingly goes into a store for something other than supplies," Harry added thinking of his daughter with a slight aversion to shopping, "Will be the day I give up my post."

~ * =/\= * ~

Bethís mind woke almost immediately, but she had the good sense to not move her body as she tried to place her location. Pretty certain that they were no longer in the shop, she guessed them to be on a watercraft of some type by the gentle rocking and swaying of the floor.

Her mind still groggy from the drugs she had been forced to inhale along with the other three members of her crew, Beth stiffened when she felt a movement beside her. Drawing in a sharp breath, she felt a wave or relief wash over her as Jaysenís cologne filled her nose.

"Beth?" he asked softly, trying to peer at her through the near darkness that enveloped them.

"Yeah, itís me," She murmured. Only then, as she tried to move her hands in his direction to clasp his did she realize her wrists were bound behind her back.

"Your hands tied?" he asked, guessing the obvious. "Can you sit up?"

"I think so," she muttered. Dragging herself into a sitting position, Beth backed up to where Jaysen was pulling himself into a sitting position.

"Lean against me," he instructed softly grasping her hands in his warm ones. Giving them a comforting squeeze, he concentrated his efforts on the leather cord that bound her wrists.

"Where are MíRana and Roget?" Beth asked in a hushed voice as she winced as he tried to untie the cords.

"Iím here," a grunt several meters away alerted Beth to the presence of her best friend.

"And Roget?" she asked, hoping to have her small team all in one place.

"Still unconscious, but if Iím right, his elbow is in my back."

"Can you wake him?"
"Iím poking him, but heís not moving."

Fear leapt in Bethís throat, but Jaysenís hands caught hers again in a firm grasp.

"Donít worry," he cautioned her. "Not yet anyway. I was awake for nearly an hour before you stirred. They must have given us different doses."

She nodded in response. Even though he couldnít see her in the dark she knew he would feel the motion as she moved her back. "How are the knots coming?

"Nearly done," he lied and went back to tugging at the leather with what little bit of nails he had.

"Any ideas where we are?" MíRanaís voice echoed through the dark sending a shiver up her own spine.

"My guess would be on some sort of boat," Jaysen answered, listening carefully as MíRana scooted closer to Beth and himself. "Stay with Roget," he ordered. "As long as we can hear you and know youíre with him weíve got all members accounted for."

"Aye, aye." MíRana tried to laugh in a futile effort to lighten the mood.

Silence descended over the group like a heavy blanket as Jaysen concentrated on freeing Bethís wrists and Beth force her mind to devise a plan to free her team while still giving Voyager time to escape.

They were in some sort of hold, she figured. Above their heads, occasional thumps and thuds could be heard through the decks. Around them, the ship creaked and groaned and even whimpered at times. Straining her ears, Beth tried to get a better idea of what the whimpering could be, but she could see nothing past her own noseómuch less discern the sounds of a sailing ship she was unfamiliar with.

"What do they want with us?" she murmured aloud. "Weíre of no value to them."

"Except that we might foil their plans," Jaysen reminded her of the conversation overheard that had led to their capture. "Someone is planning to attack Voyager and we know about it. They know weíd warn our ship and that might destroy their attempts."

"And do you have an idea of how to escape?" Beth smarted back.

"Not yet," Jaysen grunted as he tugged on one particular cord. "I think we should wait and assess our situation though. Donít jump into the middle of anything."

"My hands are tied behind my back," MíRana reminded them good-naturedly. "If you were directing that comment at me, you can rest assured Iíll rethink my options before running into a fight."

In the distance heavy footsteps fell on the wooden planks. As the noise drew closer, keys rattled outside their cell. Beth wrenched away from Jaysenís hands working on her own wrists and rolled to the left on the hard floor just before the door swung open.

The large silhouette of a burly man filled the doorway as a lighting device swung crazily from the rafters in what appeared to be a hall outside the room the four crewmembers of Voyager were being held in. He seemed to take a quick inventory of them before throwing a bale of a grass-like substance into the room.

"Sleep on that!" he ordered them gruffly. "Iíll be back with food later."

"Who are you?" Beth demanded, lifting her face from the ground where she had rolled in her haste. "Why have you taken us?"

"I donít answer to no kids." He snapped, hand on the door. "And I donít answer to no woman, neither."

Beth jumped as the door was slammed shut and then felt her heart sink as keys jingled outside indicating they were being locked in again.

"What now?" a male voice spoke up causing MíRana to jump.

"Good. Youíre awake," Beth sighed in relief as she scooted in Jaysenís direction. "Have you been awake this whole time, Roget?"

"Just when I heard the door open," he answered. "MíRana? Will you give me a hand with these ropes?"

"Sure," MíRana could be heard scrambling across the floor and Beth couldnít resist a smile. Of the two people most likely to not get along on this mission, she would have tagged her best friend and the young man infatuated with herself.

"AlmostÖ." Jaysen muttered, still clawing at Bethís own cords. "I thinkÖ..noÖ.not quiteÖ.waitÖ..there!"

Beth felt a wave of relief wash over her as the cords slipped over her hands and to the floor. Rubbing her wrists gently where the leather had cut into them, she winced. It hurt. Bad. No use crying over it, she figured. "Thanks, Jaysen," she murmured softly, still rubbing her wrists.

"Help me?" he implored in a pitiful tone.

"Oh," she gasped, ashamed for not having already begun to work on his bindings. Kneeling at his back, she flexed her arms a couple of times reveling in the feeling of simply being able to move them again.

"Whatís the plan?" Roget asked. "And, whoís crying?"

"I donít think weíre alone on this deck," Jaysen supplied. "When the door opened, I saw another across the hall just like this one."

"Weíre being transported, like cargo," MíRana growled angrily.

"The question is," Beth broke in gently, hoping to soothe the moment, "What are we going to?"

"I think you know the answer to that."

All four jumped as the door swung open to their cell again. As the guard surveyed Roget and MíRana who sat back to back, Beth dropped to a sitting position and pushed her hands behind her back again. Thankfully, he hadnít seemed to notice that she had been facing Jaysenís back only seconds ago and the grass-like substance blocked him from being able to have a clear view of her hands.

Jaysenís hands clasped her own as the guard turned his fierce eyes on them. "You want to know where youíre going?" he demanded.

"Yes," Beth bravely lifted her chin in his direction. "I would like to know." Secretly, her fingers were working to free Jaysenís hands. The leather was coming loose, she felt with some satisfaction. If she could only make it slack enough for him to slip over a hand.

"Youíre on a transport ship," he growled, leaning against the door frame. "Iíve got orders to keep an eye on you and all of the other slaves that will be sold tonight at the market. But," his eyes glittered evilly. "I can be persuaded to forget you ever existed. For a price."

"We can get you any amount of money you want," Beth offered thinking of the replicators on board Voyager. "Just please, help us out of here." Her voice didnít waver at all. Which was a lucky thing because only a second before Jaysenís hands had slipped free of the leather cords.

"Child! No one can give get the amount of money required to free you four!" he shouted

"No! Really we can," Beth pleaded. "Our ship-"

"Foolish woman!" he growled. "Youíll bring quite a hefty price at the market," he eyed her hungrily. "However, I may be tempted to buy part of you for myself."

Bethís stomach turned over at the thought of eating a person, but she quickly banished the idea as far from her mind as possible. Touching Jaysenís hands briefly, she suddenly jumped up and flew at their captor with both fists pounding at his gut.

Jaysen was only a few steps behind her as she kicked his shins hard. The man grunted at the blows and shouted several words that could only be understood as the colorful language of these people as footsteps thundered down the stairs. Beth felt a sharp pain shoot up her arm as she was ripped away from the other man and thrown to the floor. Jaysen, rage boiling in him at seeing Beth treated in that manner lunged at the second man but was also pushed to the floor.

A heavy booted heel came down on Bethís toes. "Donít you ever try that again," the guard warned her. Then, with a swift kick at her shins, he turned on his heel and slammed the door shut behind him and his friend.

Beth drew in a deep breath as if she was preparing to charge the door, but sank to the floor in defeat as her wounded knees and toes screamed at her. Comforted by the feel of Jaysenís arms stealing around her small frame, Beth leaned against him and drew in a shaky breath as they prepared to face whatever demons lay before them.

~ * =/\= * ~

The pencil lead connected with the paper and left a bold swipe across the old-fashioned medium. Another line joined the first at a 90 degree angle, followed quickly by another. And, another.

Chakotay gripped the writing utensil in his hand as he sketched another box over the first. That done, he did it again. And, again. The paper, more than three-quarters full of boxes already, appeared to be the only thing in Chakotayís universe at the moment. Brows lowered as if he was angry at the pencil or paper or possibly both. In actuality, that assumption was furthest from the truth.

Chakotayís mind was several hundred kilometers away from that paper as his thoughts shifted between what could have prevented Beth and her crew from checking in with Voyager and Seven and BíElannaís efforts to find them.

Given that his talents were obviously not in engineering, Chakotay had found himself quickly exiled from deck 11 as BíElanna and Harry discussed various ideas for pinpointing the location of the four teens among the vast populations of the planet. In Astrometrics, Seven had tolerated his presence for approximately ten minutes before resorting back to her manners of old when she bluntly asked him to leave the room.

Slightly stunned, but accepting the fact that she was trying to find her missing daughter, Chakotay had retreated to his ready room where he contacted Barbaus once again. The small-town clerk had even less to say this time and Chakotay had been more than a little surprised when the transmission had been cut short with a curt good-bye.

Suspicion was laced through his mind as he mulled over the short conversation. Another line was sketched heavily on the paper. What had caused Barbaus to refuse any aid? They had, after all, paid their debt in advanceóand even tipped him generously. As his eyes lost focus for a moment, Chakotay was reminded of just how long it had been since he had awoken that morning.

Snap!

Chakotayís shoulders tensed briefly as he pressed too hard against the pencil and broke it in two. If curved, smooth lines represented a serene temper, he knew the boxes drawn boldly across the paper reflected the inner turmoil he felt over the disappearance of his daughter and her crew mates.

Only fourteen hours ago, father had faced daughter in this very room and she had calmly informed him that she wished him to be no part of her life. Perhaps, he thought torn between bitterness and distress, she would get her way.

Suppressing a yawn, the over-tired captain struggled to his feet. His crew was the best, but even they needed a break to sleep. A captain was no different, he knew, but after his wifeís death he had finally understood her desire to remain close to the bridge during a time of trouble. He was no use to them in his current condition, Chakotay realized. Stuffing the paper into a drawer, he made his way for the bridge to inform the crew that he was turning in for a few hours.

Chakotay stumbled through the doors of his quarters and sank into the captainís sofa. Kathrynís sofa. Now, it was still the captainís sofa, but it was also his. He hated the rank that had gone with Kathrynís death, but had come to accept that it was his. Tossing a pillow to the floor, he again thanked Starfleet for the durable furnishing that had lasted so long. The pillows had been there before Kathryn had, as had most of the items littering the crewsí quarters.

Drawing in a deep breath, Chakotay allowed tears to swim before his eyes for the first time since Beth had disappeared. He knew everyone was doing their best to find the small band that consisted of the away team, but the stress of negotiations- even though they had gone well- combined with losing contact with his away team and being over-tired was tolling on him

Dragging himself off the sofa, Chakotay went to his room and knelt beside the lowest dresser drawer. Tugging it open, he felt among the socks and nightgowns of Kathrynís he hadnít been able to part with. His fingers brushed against a soft bundle of skin. Pulling the leather pouch from its hiding place, Chakotay settled himself in the middle of the bed before opening the tiny collection.

Years ago, back on New Earth, he had come to the conclusion that he and Kathryn would marry and a baby would probably follow. Tuvokís rescue had put a halt to those dreams, but not before Chakotay had started a medicine bundle for the child he had hoped to father.

When Kathryn had told him of the coming baby, Chakotay had remembered the soft leather pouch with a star emblazoned on it tucked away in his sock drawer. On the day of Bethís birth, he had added the first item to the bundle.

Now, he swallowed hard as he lifted it to the light. The only item ever to make it to the medicine bundle, he thought angrily. He should have kept up with it. He should have at least shown it to Beth as she grew older. He had had the opportunity that night after the pool tournament, but he hadnít taken advantage of it.

Dragging in a deep breath and stretching out on his back, Chakotay didnít bother to brush away the tears of regret as they pushed their way from his eyes. He sometimes thought he could still feel Kathryn in this room. More than likely, it stemmed from that he had refused to throw any of her things away. A few items had been packed away in the closet or cleared away over the years, but Chakotay had left their quarters decorated just as she had them.

Sometimes, it wasnít hard to imagine that she might come back. He knew that wasnít good for himself, but in those first few years, it had helped to ease the pain.

 

"What are you doing?"

Chakotayís eyes slid open and then squinted at the figure framed in his doorway. "Go away, Torres." He ordered, even though she had changed her name to Paris almost four years ago.

"I wonít," she retorted, stepping fully inside the living area of the captainís quarters. "Itís been a year, Chakotay. You need to get out of here once in awhile."

Chakotay didnít answer, but swirled the contents of his mug. BíElannaís forehead relax in relief as she peeked into his cup.

"Coffee? I didnít think you were one to drink coffee."

"Letís just say Iíve needed something to keep me awake on the bridge," he muttered.

"And this room?" BíElanna asked pointedly. "Is there a reason youíve left it decorated like this?"

"Iím a captain, not an interior designer. I wouldnít know where to begin," he feigned interest.

"Iíd be glad-"

"No." Chakotayís hand nearly squeezed the mug in two. "The room stays as it is."

"And your ready room?" BíElanna retorted. "Are you going to leave that as Janeway left it also? Chakotay, how many male captains do you know of that have a tea service set up in their ready room?"

Refusing to answer, he took a long and deliberate sip of the dark, bitter liquid. By the time he had removed the cup from his lips, a disgusted BíElanna had turned and marched out of the door in huff. He had won.

 

Choking back a sob, Chakotay opened his hand and glanced down at the comm badge still held there. "Would you be angry with me, Kay?" he asked softly.

~ * =/\= * ~

Cajule hadnít expected to attend the slave auction. In fact, on most days, she avoided it all together. But, as she wandered about the market place of this large city, she found herself standing on the edge of the crowd.

Funny, she thought to herself, for eight years, she had been a slave to the Awaxiels, but she didnít do something more to free these people who were being sold into slavery now. Well, she tried to justify her actions, they werenít actually being sold into slavery. Most of the time, they were being sold into dinner. As in, the main entrťe.

Cajule and her husband, Rujan, had both been raised in the hills and found the custom of eating ones enemies revolting. But, apparently not all of their culture was in agreement with her, she thought to herself as a young woman was pushed forward on the platform.

Cajule felt her heart stop in her abdomen for a moment as she peered at the woman a good one hundred meters away. She could barely make out her features, but she felt sure enough about her suspicions to reach into her robes and touch the bag of shekals in her care. It was a good portion of her life savings and she had a feeling part of it was about to be spent.

Pushing forward, Cajule decided she was going to get a better view of this woman before she placed any money on her. The money was supposed to be used to buy land; that was the reason Cajule was near the auction to begin with. It had taken years to save and she certainly didnít want to waste it.

At that moment, the auctioneer held up the girlís arm and called out something about what a good meal just her arm would make. Apparently, the girl understood what he was saying because her face grew pale and a thin sheet of sweat covered her features as she cast a fearful look in the direction of those who appeared to be her comrades.

Cajule felt her heart sink. Four of them. She only had eight hundred shekals with her. Plenty enough for the first payment of the property she had been intending to buy, but would it be enough for what others viewed as a yearsí worth of meals?

"Do I hear twelve shekals for this girlís arm?" the auctioneer asked. "Weíll be glad to cut it off for you here!"

Cajule watched as the young woman on the stand tried to struggle and pull away, but another guard stepped forward to contain her. On the platform behind the girl, her three friends alternated between ranting and shaking for fear of their own limbs and lives.

"Eight hundred shekals!" Cajule heard herself shout. Silence descended over the mob that had gathered. "Eight hundred shekals," she repeated, a sheen of sweat breaking over her forehead. "For all four of them."

"Sold!" the auctioneer crowed.

Cajule quickly made her way to the platform and withdrew her money bag. Throwing the treasure on the make-shift stage, she reached up to offer the girl a hand down. "Come with me," she ordered. Then moving her eyes to the rest of the group she added, "All of you." For a moment, the girl looked as if she would refuse. Then, drawing in a deep breath and pushing back her auburn hair, she stepped down. Cautiously, the others followed her. Obviously, she was their leader, Cajule decided. And, rightly so.

"Donít try to run away from me," Cajule softly warned the quartet of friends as she led them to the small cart she had brought into town. For once, she was thankful that the slaves were always auctioned off tied to one another. It made it harder to escape, she knew, and if one of these four tried to escape they may never see their ship again.

"Weíll not comply."

Cajule glanced sharply over her shoulder. "You will." She stated. "If you ever want to get home again, you will do exactly as I tell you. And for now, that involves acting the part of the good little slave."

"You canít get us home," the auburn haired girl smarted back. "Iíve never even seen home."

"Youíre trying to get back," Cajule answered. "And, I will get you back to your ship."

"Why did you buy us if you donít intend to use us?" the boy closest to the girl with blue eyes asked.

"Letís say I owed her mother a favor," Cajule replied mysteriously.

"My mother?" Beth frowned suspiciously at the woman as she clamored aboard the wagon.

"Your mother," Cajule began as she pulled the wagon carrying the four slaves she had just purchased in the back, "Was Kathryn Janeway. True?"

"Yes," Beth answered slowly. "But, you couldnít have known her. She died a long time ago."

Cajule glanced at Beth sharply. "Iím sorry to hear that. She was a dear friend of mine and even helped me escape my own slave sentence."

"Impossible," MíRana grunted as the wagon jostled her against Beth and Jaysen.

"Sheís right," Roget piped up. "If you had known Bethís mother, you would have had to be several thousand light years away from this planet. And, since weíve been traveling toward it, you couldnít have passed us."

"But, I did," Cajule smiled at Roget as she took her eyes from the road. "A wormhole connects this system with the Dankaro system."

"Dankaro?" Beth demanded to know, eyes narrowing skeptically.

"Twin stars approximately fifteen thousand light years from our position."

"Too bad we didnít know about that fifteen years ago," MíRana muttered leaning against the side of the wagon. "If they even exist."

"And you say you met my mother and then traveled through this wormhole to here?"

Cajule glanced sharply over her shoulder at the blue-gray eyes sparkling with anger. "Yes."

~ * =/\= * ~

"Microfractures are beginning to form on the hull!" Chakotay shouted from where he was stationed at the helm of the small shuttle. The tiny meteorites that pounded the glass and created a deafening thunder on the hull raised adrenaline to feed his fear for their lives.

"Iím on it!" Kathryn replied forcefully as she braced herself for another early contraction before ripping the panel off the wall. The tiny, class-2 shuttle was not made for ease of working on the systems, he remembered- much less for a woman eight and a half months pregnant.

"Can you get to it?" he teased her, trying to remain optimistic despite their surroundings.

"Youíre treading on thin ice, Commander!" Kathryn retorted with a grin.

"Donít I always?" At the time, he hadnít realized the severity of the situation. To him, the biggest concern was that the shuttleís hull would buckle. But, she had known. She knew that their baby daughter may not make it through this alive if life support was compromised much more. Or, if she was forced to give birth right there. The contractions had started just a few minutes after Kathryn realized that Voyager was too far away to rescue them from the small meteor shower they had encountered. Now, as the small chips of rock further badgered the shuttle, her contractions had increased although she did her best to hide it from him. The Doctor had warned them of this, he remembered as she struggled to reach for a microphaser on the floor. But, Kathryn had been stubborn, as usual, and insisted that they both go on this mission.

"I canít stabilize them," she muttered not bothering to answer his question as she braced herself against the wall to stop sliding as the shuttleís floor pitched.

"Get out of the way," Chakotay grasped Kathryn by the hips and hauled her out of the small space that was designated as Engineering.

"Chakotay-"

"You can hardly reach the panels," he called over his shoulder. "Go watch the comm signals. See if Voyager has a lock on us yet."

"They havenít," she replied through clenched teeth, her body doubled over in pain.

"Go lie down-" Chakotayís order was cut short as the panel in front of him spit sparks and erupted into a ball of smoke and flames. Rolling to safety, Kathryn was instantly beside him, her own pain forgotten.

"Chakotay? Chakotay!?"

"Iím okay," he coughed as he tried to get a breath that wasnít mainly consisting of ozone and smoke. "Iím not leaving you." The shuttle rolled again as the exterior was pounded by ice and rock. It sounded louder this time, he thought to himself as Kathryn fell against his chest. Wrapping his arms around her to prevent further injuries, they both slammed against the side of the shuttle

"Computer! Disengage gravity!"

"Chakotay!"

"I donít want us beaten do death by our own walls," he argued as the floor rotated to become their ceiling.

"VoyÖger to shuttÖ We haveÖíwer to transÖ.rtÖone person. Too muchÖ.ference forÖat one time."

"Tuvok!" Kathryn tried to paddle her way toward the front of the shuttle, but ended up rolling in a fetal position as another contraction hit.

"OnÖ.ansporter pad." Tuvokís voice filtered through.

"Too much interference from the storms," Chakotay deduced as he grabbed Kathrynís arm and gently pushed her towards the pad. "Come on, youíre first."

"No," she gasped, tears stinging her eyes. "Youíre hurt."

"And youíre in labor!" he exclaimed. More calmly, he pulled her to himself in a tight hug. "Iíll be fine, Kay. Just get over there and take care of our daughter."

"I love you, Chakotay." She whispered.

"I love you, too." Quickly, Chakotay pressed his mouth over hers and then released her to the energy beams that would take her back to Voyager. At the last moment, Kathryn opened her eyes, pleading with him to be careful, as she stretched a hand to him. Unbidden, Chakotayís own hand rose to touch her fingertips, but before contact was made, she dissolved in the transporter beam.

Just then, the shuttle rocked again sending Chakotay pitching in the opposite direction of the transporter pad.

"Computer, reinitiate gravity," he ordered preparing himself for the drop to the floor. Stumbling to his feet, Chakotay glanced in the direction of the comm panel. "Do you have her yet?" he demanded after punching in a sequence of buttons to open the hailing channels.

"Not -et," Harryís garbled voice came through. "TheÖ.ferance isÖÖbreaking upÖpattern."

Watching Voyager through the front window of the shuttle, Chakotay braced himself as more asteroids pounded the hull and gases poured around him.

"WeíveÖher." Relief washed over Chakotay as the message was relayed after what seemed an eternity. "Commíder. Please stÖby."

Moving into the transporter pad, Chakotay knew it would only be a matter of seconds before he too would be engulfed in the beam that would take him home. Sure enough, the shuttlecraft dissolved around him to be replaced by Voyagerís transporter room.

"Kathryn?" he asked quickly of the ensign stationed there.

"We transported her directly to sickbay."

Stumbling through the doors, Chakotay hurried as quickly as he could, not even thinking that a site to site transport would have been faster. "Kathryn, hold on. Iím coming, Kay, just stay with me."

Repeating her name over and over as he ran down the corridors, he wondered if he would ever make it. The stench of the ozone and smoke from the shuttle still clung to his uniform and flooded his nostrils. Eyes watering, Chakotay continued to run down the unending corridors. Turning sharply to dodge down another hall, he could have sworn he saw a figure with long brown hair just leaving the corridor.

"Kathryn!"

From somewhere distant, the laughter of his captain floated to Chakotayís ears.

"Kathryn!" he shouted again, frantically. "Please, stop. Where are you?" Finally, he reached the tunnel the vision had turned down. Looking into it, he couldnít see anything throughn or dark. Glancing first in the direction he had come and then again in the direction he had been running, he started to duck into the other corridor, but quickly stumbled back out.

At the end of the corridor, she turned to him. Long brown hair blew around her face as her slim figured faced him. With a joyous laugh, she slipped away and moved in the opposite direction.

"Kay!" he shouted, charging after her. "Kathryn, please wait!" But, she didnít. She continued to jog away from him. Each time he rounded a corner it was just in time to see her duck into another corridor.

Feeling as if his lungs would burst, Chakotay stopped only for a second to slump against a wall. Then, he ran. He could hear her laughter. Smell her perfume and the scent of her shampoo. She had just been there, he knew. But, he couldnít catch her.

As he rounded another bend, Chakotay saw her at a dead end. She stood still, blue eyes wide and smiling as she enticed him to come closer.

"Kathryn!" he shouted, feet pounding on the deck as he ran towards her. Arms outstretched, he knew that in just a moment he would be able to crush her in his embrace as he begged her to never leave him again. He was only ten meters from her now, in a few steps she would be in his arms again as she should be. Five. He would never leave her side again, he decided. Not for meals, not for bridge duty, not for anything. Three. Closing the distance, he barely registered the fact that she appeared to vanish just before his arms had closed around her.

 

"Kathryn!" With a start, Chakotay sat up in bed gasping for breath. His heart was hammering as if heíd just run a marathon and he could swear that the smell of ozone and smoke had penetrated his quarters. Reaching a shaking hand over to the pillow beside him, he half-expected to feel the long tresses of his wifeís hair in his hands.

But, he didnít.

He still clutched the silver and gold insignia in the palm of his hand, Chakotay saw as he slowly released it. The scratches from that day were still evident on the smooth, polished surface. The tip of the triangle was bent at an awkward angle as if it had been melted from the intense heat on the shuttle.

Slumping against the headboard, he felt the tears stinging his eyes again. The pain in his heart was as sharp as the day of the shuttle accident- the day of Bethís birth.

"Chakotay? Are you there?"

That was what had woken him, Chakotay realized with a start. Reaching over to tap his own comm badge, he answered BíElannaís hail.

"A small ship is decloaking-"

"Iíll be right there," he interrupted.

Dropping Kathrynís communicator back onto the soft leather, Chakotay bound the sides together and tucked the one treasure he had for Beth back into the sock drawer. He would give it to her when she returned.

 

"Sir, weíre being hailed."

As Chakotay stepped out of the turbolift, he glanced over at the young ensign who had taken Harryís place at OPs. Albert? Andrew? Anthony?

"Put it onscreen, Austin." Tom ordered from his place in the captainís chair.

"Voyager?"

"Iím Lieutenant Tom Paris of the USS Voyager," he introduced himself.

"Your captain?"

"Iím Captain Chakotay," Chakotay said stepping into the command ring. Inconspicuously, Tom made his way to the helm.

"Captain," she said softly as her gray eyes wandered across his features. "I am Cajule."

Chakotay wanted to cut off the signal, he had more important things to be doingólike searching for his daughter, but he refrained himself from being rude. "Can I help you with something?"

"No, but I believe I have something of yours," Cajule turned away from the small screen and beckoned for someone to come forward.

Chakotay was visibly jolted as Beth appeared on the screen. She appeared to be healthy he observed quickly, "What do you want for them?"

Cajuleís eyebrows rose nearly to her hairline. "I donít want to sell them!" she exclaimed, horrified. "Iím trying to return them to you, but your shields are raised."

"Lower our shields," Chakotay ordered without glancing back at the officers.

Mere seconds later, Beth and her crew appeared in the middle of the bridge. Their uniforms were dirty and torn and their faces had several scratches from the wooden floor they had lain on, but the injuries were nothing a hot bath, fresh uniform and quick trip to the doctor wouldnít fix. Neither Tom nor Harry could refrain from running forward to hug the grimy crew.

Chakotay returned his attention to the viewscreen and the woman on the other ship. "Thank you for returning them, Cajule," he said quietly. "Is there some way we can repay you for your trouble?"

"Sheís Kathrynís daughter," Cajule answered soflty. "Itís the least I can do."

Chakotayís eyes narrowed as he took a step back, "I beg your pardon?"

"Kathryn helped me." Cajule replied. "And, I wish to extend my deepest condolences at the news of her death."

"Thank you," Chakotay replied as civilized as possible. "Screen off, Albyn,"

Austin refrained from rolling his eyes, but did flip the view screen off.

"We must leave," Beth spoke up from where she clutched MíRanaís arm and was wrapped in Harryís embrace, reminding Chakotay that a ragged collection of his crewmembers were still standing in the middle of his bridge.

"We overheard two men plotting to break into Voyagerís computers and learn the frequency of our shields," Jaysen added. "They want to attack Voyager tonight."

Chakotay silently regarded the group consisting of Voyagerís youngest officers. "Tom, do we have all of the food, supplies, and data we intended to collect and have all of our people returned to the ship?"

"Yes sir- on all accounts."

"Then, lay in a course for the Alpha Quadrant. Warp six."

~ * =/\= * ~

"Welcome to sickbay!" A bubbly Dr. Neelix greeted the tired away team as they straggled through the doors. "Lay down on the biobeds and weíll be done in no time at all."

Beth chose the biobed closest to the surgical station and did as ordered. Finally able to relax without the fear of waking up to a slave auction, Beth felt herself begin to drift off with only the soft bleeps of the biobed surrounding her. No longer was she in sickbay and no longer was her crew around her. She was safe to dream.

All too quickly, Dr. Neelix was poking and prodding her. "Are you awake, Ensign?" he asked loudly.

Flinching, Beth squinted up at him. "Yes, I suppose I am." Dragging herself into a sitting position she took a quick inventory of the empty biobeds. "My crew?"

"Checked out fine," Neelix answered. "I sent them back to their quarters."

"And the doctor?"

"Singing practice. With your mother. Such lovely voices they have," Neelix snapped the tricorder shut and moved to take in the readings the biobed was spilling out.

"My mother sings?"

"You didnít know that?" Neelix looked up with surprise. "She and the doctor used to sing duets together quite frequently. I myself attempted to have her give me a lesson or two, but she didnít have the extra time. So, Iíve continued my rehearsals in the shower."

"I didnít know she sang," Beth admitted with some reluctance.

Neelix frowned, baffled as to why Seven would have hidden her talent for seventeen years. "The captain also sings."

 

Neelixís ears pricked up at the sound of sickbayís doors hissing open. He had only been on duty as Voyagerís doctor-in-training for three weeks and already he had treated more injuries than he thought possible. Standing to welcome this newcomer, the rotund Talaxian stopped just inside the door of the doctorís office.

Captain Chakotay was leaning over the small cradle that Elizabeth was sleeping peacefully in. Seven, as she did everyday, had left Elizabeth to Neelixís care only an hour ago. And now, Neelix was pleasantly surprised, the babyís father was lifting her out of the plastic baby bed and cuddling her close to his chest.

"So," Neelix heard Chakotay whisper. "Youíre the little bundle that cost my Kathryn her life." Neelix bristled and was about to step in when he heard the captain take a shaky breath. "I canít keep you, Beth. Itíd be too hard. I hope that one day youíll understand."

The baby began to squirm in Chakotayís arms and upon opening her dark blue eyes and finding a stranger holding her, she opened her mouth to let the whole world know she was disturbed.

"Shhh," Chakotay crooned. Leaning forward, Neelix tried to hear the words of the song Chakotay was now singing softly to the babe, but he couldnít make out any more than individual syllables in a foreign tongue. Whatever it was, Elizabethís tears subsided to mere whimpers within seconds as she watched her father.

The captain continued to sing the song as the baby drifted back to sleep. Gently, he laid her back in her bed and carefully covered her with the thin, pink blanket. Still close to her, he finished the last verse and then dropped a kiss on the top of the sleeping babyís dark head.

When he straightened up, Chakotay caught a glimpse of Neelix nearly twisting an ankle in an effort to hide.

"I hope that youíll keep what you just witnessed confidential," Chakotold aid as he walked towards the doctorís office.

"Of course, sir," Neelix answered in a rush. "Whenever you want to visit her, feel free to stop by."

"Just this once," Chakotay turned to the leave sickbay, but stopped when Neelix called him.

"AhÖif Ióuh, I may ask," Neelix stuttered, "W-What did you say to her that quieted her so quickly?"

"An old Indian lullaby," Chakotay replied. "I had taught it to Kathryn and she sang it to Beth while she was pregnant."

 

Beth stared at Neelix incredulously. "The captain came to see me as a baby?"

Neelix nodded. "Yes, he sure did. Now, young lady, you need to return to your quarters and get cleaned up!"

~ * =/\= * ~

Beth groaned and re-keyed the word into the report sheíd been working on for two grueling hours.

"I ran into MíRana on the way back," Sevenís voice floated through the living quarters as she returned from giving BíElanna her weekly advice for improving the warp coreís efficiency. After all the years the two best engineers on Voyager had spent gaining wisdom from the other, raising their children side by side, and fighting off whatever alien wanted their ship this week, the stubborn issue of who knew what was best for Voyagerís efficiency often reared its ugly head. They were just better at hiding it after years of practice. "She mentioned something about a holodeck get together sheís organizing tonight. Why donít you go."

"Maybe," Beth snapped.

"Whatís wrong?"

"Nothing," Beth replied shortly, agitated with herself and everything around her.

"It doesnít sound like Ďnothingí," Seven commented, entering the small bedroom that had once been used as a kitchen. After gutting the electrical and plumbing from the room and doing some serious remodeling to the walls and cabinets, Harry had created a room that had been Bethís for her whole life.

"Iím almost done," Beth amended, hoping to satisfy her mother as she wiped a grimy hand across her brow.

"Why havenít you showered?" Sevenís hand stroked Bethís dusty hair and came to rest on her shoulder. "Or changed?"

"I want to get this done first."

"Sounds like you need to get cleaned up first," the maternal side of Seven spoke up. "Get a shower. Youíll feel better and be in a better state of mind to finish this. Then, youíll be free tonight. And, I happen to know that your dad wants you to spend some time with your friends."

Her mom was right, Beth knew. She shouldnít have sat down to write this report without getting cleaned up and resting, but she had wanted to get it done right away. Yet, her body refused to move. She didnít even glance up to meet her momís blue eyes that were resting on her.

"Youíre still mad," Seven surmised from Bethís tense stature. "Iím not going to soften this like your dad does. We love you, Beth. And if I had to raise you again, I would not tell you that the captain is your father."

"Why not?" The soft whisper was so filled with pain and anger that Seven visibly flinched.

"He was upset about your motherís death," Seven reminded her. "For us to add the burden of a daughter to commanding a crew he didnít want to captain would be unforgivable."

"You claim you love me, yet you lied to me," Beth softly said as she collected a fresh uniform from her closet. "That is unforgivable."

Seven dropped onto the bed as Beth left the room. Her daughter had a right to be angry, she knew, but Captain Janeway had always been a wise woman who was able to see both sides of a story. Usually. Seven instinctively thought that since Beth looked so much like her mother and even acted like her much of the time, she would automatically react the same as Kathryn Janeway would in this situation. She had been horribly wrong.

Instead of Captain Janewayís cool manners and lengthy inquisitions, Seven found herself and Harry faced with a teenager whose emotions ran between sullen bitterness to angry rage.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Enter," Tuvok didnít glanced up as Ensign Kim stepped into the room. Forcing his eyes to remain on the console in front of him with next weekís crew schedule displayed, he subtly watched Beth.

Her face didnít give away her emotions, he observed with satisfaction. Neither did her body language imply excitement, impatience, or fear. Secretly, he was proud that one of his students had become a fine example of the officer he wished to instill in all of the younger cadets; however, he would never have told her that.

Finally, he turned from the console and folded his hands on the desk. "Ensign?"

"My report," Beth explained holding out the data padd for him to accept.

"The captain wishes for you to give it to him personally," Tuvok informed her. "Dismissed."

Beth wanted to open her mouth and argue that he could deliver it with the next set and the captain would still receive it on time, but Tuvok had already returned his attention to the computer console before him.

"Was there something else?"

"IÖ, no sir." With a grimace on her face, Beth backed out of the first officerís office. For a moment, she considered trying to coerce Roget or MíRana into taking the report for her, but she knew that wouldnít be right. As Beth stepped into the turbolift, she forced herself to not sigh in disgust or make a face as she called for the bridge.

Chakotay looked up immediately as Beth entered the ready room; emotions she couldnít identify flickered over his face before he quickly schooled his features. "Yes?"

"My report," Beth replied lying it on the desk before him. "You wished for me to deliver it personally."

"Oh, yes." Chakotay lifted it and skimmed the first paragraph before dropping it back onto his desk. "Sit." Slowly, Beth took one of the chairs across from his, the massive desk between them. "Tell me what happened," Chakotay requested in a kinder voice.

"Itís in the report," Beth answered. "I spent a lot of time making sure I had it exactly right."

"I can read the report or any of the other crew membersí reports, but I want to know what it was like for you."

Bethís faced contorted in confusion. "We reported to the grocery store, were captured, and taken by boat to be sold at an auction. Cajule bought us and then returned us to Voyager. What more do you want?"

Chakotay thought better of reprimanding her for the words she chose to address him with. She was not speaking to him as she would a captain, he realized. But, instead as she would to a parent she was very angry with. "Were you scared?"

"I was the senior officer; I didnít show fear."

"The question wasnít about whether or not you showed that you were frightened," Chakotay reiterated. "It was: were you afraid?"

"Does being scared make me less of an officer?" Beth inquired shortly.

Alarm at Bethís tone slammed through Chakotayís body. "Not at all," he replied splaying both hands flat on the desk. "In fact, in many cases it can make you a better officer. If you hadnít been terrified at the prospect of being kidnapped, I would be worried about you and would then question your capability to lead a successful away team."

"Oh."

"Doctor to Chakotay. Iíve found something you may want to see."

Chakotay frowned at the interruption, but reluctantly tapped his comm badge. "Can it wait?"

"I suppose so," the doctor muttered. "Itís waited this long."

Closing the connection, Chakotay focused on the daughter still in front of him.

"What did you learn about this Cajule?" he asked, satisfied that she had been frightened and knew that he considered it a worthy trait in an officer. "Whatís this about her knowing your mother?"

Beth shrugged. "She took us to her ship with her husband. We were given some food while she worked on encrypting a subspace channel to Voyager without arising the suspicion of her people and then we were brought back here. The little bit she did tell me leads me to believe that my mother must have rescued her from some sort of prison camp a long time ago."

"I already looked up her name, but sheís not in our records," Chakotay muttered under his breath. "Iíd probably have to spend hours digging through old logs to find any mention of a prison camp. If this meeting even existed."

Beth said nothing, but watched her father carefully.

"Dismissed," Chakotay finally said when he realized his daughter was waiting for him to say something.

Grateful, Beth jumped up and nearly ran for the turbolift.

~ * =/\= * ~

"About time you got here," MíRana leaned casually on the cue propped upright and watched as Beth entered the old Sandrines holodeck program. "Jaysenís been gloating all evening."

"Well, I canít help that," Beth defended innocently as Jaysen wound his way through the tables in her direction.

"And Iíd prefer you didnít try," he added, dropping an arm around her waist. "Want something to drink? MíRanaís been bragging about getting the bar up and running."

"Alcohol?" Beth frowned in MíRanaís direction.

"Nothing worse than water," MíRana informed her. "My dad had all sorts of securities surrounding the barís subroutines. I guess he didnít want to chance us getting into the real stuff." She laughed. "Sheíll serve you water or fruit juice right now. If Iíd had a few more hours, I may have been able to get some synthehol."

"Better without it," Beth told her, reaching for the glass of ice water Sandrine had set before her. "The stuff tastes awful."

"How about some games?"

Beth followed the sound of the voice across the room and did her best not to groan out loud. Julie Dalby, Jaysenís sister, was standing in the center of a growing group of the young cadets and most of them were nodding in agreement. Jaysen caught her hand and started to lead her in the direction of the group, but Beth held back for a moment.

"You need to seem like just another one of us," Jaysen whispered. "Even if youíre the brightest student, daughter of the captain, and next in line as a senior bridge officer, youíll need these cadets when it comes down to it."

"I knowÖ" Beth relinquished her drink and surveyed the group. There were less than a dozen youngsters, but knowing that many of them were jealous of her and MíRana because of the status of their parents wasnít much comfort. Combined with the fact that Beth had excelled in every subject taught at the small academy, many of her classmates had viewed her as competition.

"How aboutÖ.truth or dare?" Julie asked, already sitting at one of the tables that had been pushed together.

Beth was tempted to roll her eyes. Truth or dare had been around for eons and she found the entire game quite silly. What was the point of trying to coerce someone into telling their deepest secrets if they didnít wish to? And the dares? From what she had heard, most of the dares ranged from the silly to the embarrassing. But, what could she do? The others were readily agreeing and pulling up chairs to the half dozen or so tables clustered in the dark interior of the old Earth bar.

"Iíll go first," Julie volunteered, her gaze wandering slowly around the group as she chose her victim.

Beth held her breath. She didnít want to be chosen and she didnít want to play. She wanted to be anywhere but here and she couldnít get out of it without looking like a spoilsport. Casually, Julieís eyes fell on each member of the group. As she turned to the next person, the one who had been under scrutinization let out a sigh of relief. Finally, she found her victim and a slow smile slid across her lips.

"Beth, truth or dare?"

A breath caught in her throat as she found the rest of the group watching her. Some, with pity, others awaiting her answer. It had been staged, she realized almost instantly. Not everyone had been part of it, but several had. And, she decided judging from the faces of Jaysen and MíRana, her close friends hadnít been part of it.

"Iíll take truth," Beth decided. The last thing she wanted was for Julie to invent a dare so humiliating that half of Voyager would be talking about it.

The grin that lurked in Julieís eyes caused Bethís stomach to do flip flops, but she refused to show her nervousness as she met the other girlís gaze with her own icy one.

"What are your exact feelings for my brother?"

Beth felt Jaysen flinch beside her. Their feelings were their own business, she firmly believed. To be honest, she didnít know exactly what she felt concerning Jaysen Dalby. So, how could she be expected to tell a group of nosy teenagers?

"Well?"

"I havenít reached a decision," Beth replied evenly.

"Not a good enough answer," Julieís eyes glittered. "Do you want to take the dare?"

Beth thought she heard Jaysen mutter a plea for her to do so, but she wasnít certain. "What is it?" she asked of Julie.

The other giousappeared to think about it, but nearly everyone at the table had come to the conclusion that she had planned this the whole time. "You have to sneak into the captainís quarters and change something enough that weíll know you were there."

"Julie! She could get into a lot of trouble for breaking into quarters," Jaysen burst out at his sister.

Julie shrugged. "If sheís careful, theyíll never know who did it. Besides," this time her gaze shifted to Beth, "Heís your father, right?"

As the table erupted into a debate on whether or not the dare was legitimate or not, Beth swiftly reached her conclusion.

"Iíll do it," she said softly as she rose from the chair.

"Youíll do it?" Julie echoed. She hadnít really expected Beth to agree to it. Her original intentions had been to make Beth appear too upright to do anything fun.

"Iíll need MíRanaís guidance for part of it," Beth decided, a plan already forming in her mind. "But, Iíve got an idea."

"Weíre not all going with her," Michael, one of Jaysenís best friends spoke up. "How will we know if she actually does go through with it?"

"If youíre on the bridge tomorrow morning," Beth said with a secret smile of her own, "Youíll know."

~ * =/\= * ~

Chakotay frowned as he passed MíRana Paris in the corridor. She was nervous, he thought to himself. Something wasnít quite as it should be. The door to his quarters slid open and, for a brief instant, Chakotay was transported back to when Kathryn had been alive. The terminal at his desk wasnít dark as it usually was when he returned from a duty shift. Instead, it was alive and blinking as it had been when his wife had been up late working. He must have left it on this morning, he surmised, flipping it off.

Meandering to the replicator, he tugged off the confining uniform jacket and ordered a mu Har herbal tea, hoping to soothe his nerves. Then, he settled on the sofa with the last report of the day- his daughterís.

But, his thoughts werenít focused on her report. Instead, they kept wandering in the direction of the glass snow-dome sitting on a shelf not far from himÖ

Kathryn Janeway let out a delighted gasp as Chakotayís arm slipped around her waist from behind. "Chakotay, not here," she admonished him softly.

"Then where? Weíre alone," he murmured against his wifeís ear as he bent to kiss her temple.

"Weíre three feet from the bridge," she retorted, but turned to face him instead of attempting to escape his embrace.

"Three feet and a closed door," he whispered devilishly. She started to laugh, but was quickly silenced by his kiss.

"Happy birthday," he finally said in way of breaking off the kiss.

"You remembered."

He feigned a hurt face, "Of course I remembered. You thought Iíd actually forget my wifeís birthday? Maybe I shouldnít give you thisÖ"

Kathryn glared at him playfully as she caught the hand that didnít have itself wrapped around her. "Just what do we have here?"

"Should I give it to you, I wonder?"

"I think so," she declared already with the small package in her grasp. Carefully, she peeled back the paper and peeked inside the box. "Chakotay!"

Now, she had pulled fully away from him and was setting the box on her desk so she could pull the glass dome out of it.

Inside, a tiny replica of her parentís home in Indiana rest snugly between the old oak trees she remembered climbing as a child. The pond in her back yard glistened as if just frozen over, but it wasnít covered in snowÖyet. Turning the dome over, Kathryn watched mesmerized as the snow began to fall over the serene setting.

"Itís beautiful, Chakotay," she whispered, tears gathering in hthereyes. Gently setting the dome back on her desk, she flung her arms around his neck and clung to her first officer, best friend, and husband. "Thank you."

 

Chakotay turned the dome over in his large hands and watched as the Ďsnowí fell around the two trees and cozy home as some of it covered the frozen pond. She had loved it, not just because he had made it for her or because it reminded her of home, but because Chakotay had been sensitive to the fact that she was often homesick for her own family on Earth.

Rising from the sofa, the captain returned the glass-dome to its place on the shelf and made his way toward the bedroom. The door to his room hadnít shut before her heard footsteps in his living area and the outer door of his quarters slide open.

"Hello?" Silence greeted his ears. "Computer, was someone other than myself in my quarters?"

"Affirmative."

"Who?"

"Ensign Elizabeth Kim."

~ * =/\= * ~

Jaysen and Beth both faced the door of the turbolift as it swiftly took them back to deck three. After Beth and MíRana had finally returned from their adventure, the game had broken up and most of the young officers became involved in a pool tournament. MíRana, after hours of practice had finally emerged as the champion.

Neither Jaysen nor Beth had played, but instead sat at a table out of the way and watched the others as they discussed several topics at length.

"Have you decided what to do about your father?"

Bethís mouth tightened into an angry grimace as he brought up the subject she had tried without success to skirt around all evening. "I donít want anything to do with him," she replied curtly.

"Like it or not, he is your father," he reminded her, hesitantly reaching to claim her hand. "And, if you donít accept that fact until itís too late, youíll regret it."

nseeBeth looked down at their hands joined together. He had begun to show affection toward her in a group setting- such as an arm around her waist- or in an effort to comfort her, but not for the sake of just being near her when they were alone. It wasÖ.different, she decided. And, she liked the feel of his large hand engulfing her smaller one.

"You sound like him."

"I think we had this conversation three weeks ago," Jaysen said with a forced laugh. "Why the change of heart?"

"Iíve had time to think things out," she answered, watching the lights in the turbolift walls as they blinked steadily. "He gave me away, Jaysen. I donít know if Iíll ever really be able to forgive him for that."

Jaysen tilted her chin up and forced her to meet his eyes, "You knew that three weeks ago. What has changed since then?"

Beth was silent for a moment as she mulled over the question. What had changed? Nothing, she told herself firmly. He had given her away and she had just recently come to terms with what that meant. But, in her heart she knew that wasnít so. At least, not completely.

"I already have a mother and father," Beth replied shortly as the doors slid open. Stepping out of the turbolift, she relaxed her hold on Jaysenís hand to give him the option of remaining. "I donít need another."

"I think youíre afraid of losing him too," Jaysen said softly following her and then tugged on her hand. "Beth, stop."

"If the captain was killed tomorrow, it couldnít be soon enough," Beth hissed at him quietly. Jaysen regarded her silently with concerned eyes. Leaning down, he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Think about whether or not you really mean that," he instructed before leaving her to stand alone in the corridor.

With a sigh, Beth entered her quarters and readied for bed. Sliding beneath the sheets she tugged an extra blanket over her and reached for Flotter.

"Whyíd I let them talk me into it, Flotter?" she asked the stuffed toy, already an idea for fixing what she had done to her fatherís replicators forming in her mind. But, there wasnít a way to undo everything. She knew that she would have to face the consequences of her actions, but she didnít relish the punishment that was to follow.

ĎThink about whether or not you really mean that,í Jaysenís words of only a few minutes ago floated through her mind. Did she really wish he would die? He was her father, after all. No arguing or wishing could ever change that fact. And she was distancing herself from him because he had given her way, right?

Rolling to her side, Beth snuggled into the blankets and gazed at the stars just beyond her window. She was afraid, she admitted to herself. She was afraid of losing the close-knit family she had been raised in. Chakotay, although he had no intentions of doing so, threatened that family with his desire to know his daughter.

Beth hadnít been able to put into words the exact feelings she had towards Chakotay, but now everything seemed to become as clear as the night sky as she recognized her own fears. When she had suggested that she would like to get to know Chakotay, she hadnít realized that it would mean certain sacrifices to her own family. Not sacrifices in the sense of her losing her family, she quickly amended, but in the sense that if she had breakfast with Chakotay, she couldnít be with her Dad.

Would her parents be hurt if she chose to eat with the captain, she wondered? Or vice versa? Having never been forced to contend with more than one set of parents, she didnít know how to proceed in this situation. So, she opted for the easiest way out- she avoided it.

And now, she felt immense guilt for tampering with the captainís computers. She wanted to know the man and who her mother had been, but she was afraid of losing her own family in the process. However, that wasnít reason enough to warrant the surprise he would find tomorrow morning.

She would take the punishment, she decided. Hopefully, it would alleviate the guilt that rested on her shoulders now.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Status?"

Beth jumped even though the captain hadnít spoken to her. It was almost 0700 and he had just arrived on the bridge. She couldnít see her dad, but she could hear the amusement in Harryís voice as the report from last night was read to Chakotay. "Nice socks," he added.

"Usually, I wear black," Chakotay replied. "Not white. But, all of my black seem to have disappeared. In addition to my shoes. And, when I replicated new boots, this is what I got."

Beth refused to glance back at the object she knew he held in his hands, but the snickers around the bridge told her that the fuzzy pink socks with white bunnies had made their appearance.

"Lieutenant, my ready room please," Chakotay ordered as he made his way to his haven with Harry following in his wake.

When the doors to the ready room had finally slid shut, Beth chanced a glance at Julie who had secured a shift at the science console earlier that morning. Her gaze was already on Beth and, although the other girl was doing her best to hold back her laughter, she glared unmercifully at Beth. On the other hand, Joshua, who was seated at tactical, shot her a huge grin and two thumbs up.

"Elizabeth."

Beth bit her lip as she turned to face her dad who had just emerged from the captainís hiding place next to the action. "Dad, I-"

"Iíll let the captain take care of it," Harry said gesturing for her to enter the ready room.

Guiltily, Beth stepped away from the helm and moved slowly to the ready room. She would take whatever punishment he gave her, she had decided. There would be no arguments and possibly, she would be able to get rid of the guilt that hung over her head.

"Anything you want to tell me?" Chakotay asked after the doors had slid shut.

Beth studied a single thread of carpet on the floor, but refused to answer or even look at the captain.

"Elizabeth, you wanted me to know who did it," Chakotay accused. "I know youíre smart enough to hide your trail if you so choose, but you didnít even take off your comm badge. Why not?"

"Iíll accept whatever punishment you deem necessary," Beth replied evenly.

Chakotay tossed the pink socks on his desk and studied his white-socked feet. "You think Iím just going to issue out a punishment without knowing the reason for your behavior?" he inquired.

Again, she refused to answer him. He would do it, she knew. He would give her the task of helping the doctor or cleaning something on Voyager and then she could feel as though a burden had been lifted from her chest.

"What do you think I should do?" he tried again.

"Punish me. Assign me to help the doctor, make dinner, clean the plasma manifolds."

Chakotay regarded her silently, "Would that solve the problem?"

"I broke the rules," Beth answered. "I entered another officerís quarters without permission. For that, you have the right to throw me in the brig."

"Funny," Chakotay pushed aside a stack of data padds and sat on the desk. "If your mother had lived, the quarters you entered would have been your own."

"She didnít and theyíre not. Discipline me in whatever way you deem appropriate and Iíll return to my shift."

"No."

"No?" she repeated weakly.

"Thatís right," Chakotay repeated. "No. I will not punish you. You did it for a reason and Iíll have to accept that youíre not going to tell me. But, this time, Iíll go easy on you. Dismissed."

Chakotay watched as Bethís features ran from puzzled and confused to an almost depressed look before she gradually left his ready room and he wanted to laugh. He had discussed it briefly with Harry and was certain they had devised the best method of punishment for Beth- none. If he was any judge at reading her face, and after living with Kathryn he considered himself one, Beth felt an incredible weight of embarrassment and guilt over what had happened and not being punished was worse than a week of swabbing the deck.

~ * =/\= * ~

As soon as her duty shift was over, Beth escaped the bridge and made her way to the mess hall where she was scheduled to meet with Jaysen.

"Hey Beth!"

Turning quickly, Beth found Michael waving to her from across the messhall.

"Good job this morning!"

"Yeah, not bad," Albyn added.

She nodded briefly in acknowledgment as she felt her insides knot even tighter. Claiming a tray of Neelixís latest recipe she sat down at a table near the back by herself.

Bridge duty had been a near nightmare, she remembered poking the grayish-blue substance that resembled a vegetable of some sort. Nothing out of the ordinary had occurred- with the exception of that morning. But, that was enough to offset her entire day.

Overcome with guilt, every little move seemed to result in one mistake or another. Beth had steered the ship off-course several times and was surprised she hadnít been thrown off the bridge due to lack of concentration. Most of the time, she managed to correct the course before anyone could notice, but there were still the half dozen or so times Chakotay had inquired gently as to why she had changed direction.

Inquired. He never reprimanded, Beth recalled, nor did he demand. Each time he quietly asked if there was a reason for the change. Her stomach knotted once again in remorse as she thought again of her invasion of his sanctuary. How he could calm the storm she knew must be raging against her and lurking behind his eyes was beyond her comprehension. She didnít deserve it.

As she speared a chunk of the meat beside the grayish-blue vegetables, Bethís ears picked up the sound of BíElanna Paris dropping her own tray on a nearby table.

"Not good," BíElanna told someone in answer to a question Beth hadnít heard. "I spent the first three hours of the day reconfiguring the captainís computer. He managed to change the replicator so it would deliver socks when he asked for shoes," she spat out.

"Youíre kidding," Tom Parisís voice held a note of laughter to it.

"No, Iím not," BíElannaís fork clinked against the tray as it was laid down. "Do you know how hard it is to re-write that system? I donít think Chakotay even knows how to do it. And why would he want to change his replicator system? I think heís covering for someone."

"Who would want to replace his shoes with socks?"

"Not just socks," Beth imagined BíElannaís face had a tight grimace painted across it. "Pink socks with white bunnies on them." The fork would now be pointed at Tom, Beth knew, as his wife delivered, "And I canít imagine anyone ever wanting to play a joke on Chakotay."

"Guilty," Tom admitted. "But, I canít take the credit for this one. Though, I wish I could."

"Well, whoever did it cost me three hours." The couple looked up, startled, as Beth rushed past them.

"Wonder what that was about," BíElanna muttered, her eyes following the young officer.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Sickbay to the captain."

Chakotayís hand froze where it had just finished pulling a drawer out of his desk. "Chakotay here, Doctor."

"Sir, Iíve found something that you should look at."

"Does it require my immediate attention? Iím in the middle of something."

The doctor sighed loudly over the comm. "Well, itís not a medical emergency. And if it was, no one would be concerned over that either. Itís just like this crew-"

"Thanks, Doctor."

Chakotayís hand brushed against the data chips as he laid a padd in his desk drawer. Lifting them out, he audibly sighed. Beth deserved to know what her mother had said, he decided. Taking a deep breath, he tapped his comm badge and prepared for Beth to answer.

When she did not immediately respond, he asked again "Ensign Kim? Computer, locate Ensign Elizabeth Kim."

"Elizabeth Kim is in her quarters."

Frowning, he closed the comm link. She couldnít be asleep-- not this early. "Chakotay to MíRana Paris."

"Paris here," MíRanaís surprised voice filled the ready room.

"Sorry to disturb you, MíRana," Chakotay said still gazing down at the chips held in his hand. "I was wondering if you knew where Beth was."

"I havenít seen her since this afternoon."

"Thanks." Maybe Jaysen Dalby knew, he decided. His daughter and Kenneth Dalbyís son had been seen more and more frequently with one another of late.

"She was supposed to meet me for dinner," Jaysen answered the captain when questioned. "But, she never showed up."

"Thanks, Jaysen," he said forcing his voice to remain calm. He was annoyed that he couldnít immediately contact his daughter, but accepted the fact that she may have simply left her comm badge in her quarters so as not to be disturbed. It would not be the first time an officer had done that, he remembered with a laugh.

 

 

With a devilish grin, Chakotay laid the comm badge on his dresser and moved towards the doors of his quarters. If asked, the computer would report that he had been in his quarters the entire evening.

Silently, the first officer made his way through the corridors of Voyager and to the aeroponics garden where he knew he would find an empty room. Empty, save for the plants, that is. And, hidden behind a large trellis which held vines laden tomatoes, the object of his mission grew.

Pulling a knife from his boot, Chakotay carefully cut six of the fullest red roses he had spent the past year cultivating- one for each year he had known her. Under normal circumstances, he wouldnít be caught growing flowers. But this time he had made an exception.

It was May 20th. Her birthday. And he knew Kathryn loved roses.

With the half-dozen long-stem roses cradled tenderly in his arms, Chakotay quickly made his way back to his quarters. The crystal vase had cost him two weeks of replicator rations, but he knew as he arranged the flowers that she would love it.

After checking Janewayís location and finding her in her ready room, Chakotay slipped next door to her quarters and over rid the lock. Stepping into the darkened rooms the light scent of perfume and lavender shampoo filled his nostrils.

After giving his eyes a second to adjust to the darkened surroundings, he picked the small table in what served as her Ďdining roomí to set the roses on. She would see them the instant she came through the door, he knew. And, just to make sure, he called for the light above the table to be lit at half illumination.

Back in his quarters, Chakotay repinned the comm badge to his gray shirt after discarding the jacket. Everything had gone exactly according to plan.

 

Chakotay awoke with a start to the insistent sound of his comm badge beeping at him.

"What?!" he demanded slapping it and then wincing as the corner poked his hand.

"Sorry to disturb you, Commander," Janewayís voice filled his ears, laughing at him as she realized she had caught him napping. "I wanted to ask you whether or not you had been in my quarters this evening."

"Check the logs, Kathryn," Chakotay grumbled, trying to hide his smile.

"Logs mean nothing when youíve got an ex-Maquis for a first officer," she retorted, but he could hear the grin in her voice.

"Good night, Kathryn," he said forcefully.

She laughed again, but closed the comm link.

The next morning, Chakotay reported for duty as usual, slightly surprised to find the captain already on the bridge. With a smart gesture of her hand, she indicated he was to follow her.

Once they were safely hidden behind closed doors, she pointed at the half-dozen roses in the crystal vase that now rested on her desk.

"You wouldnít by any chance be responsible for those, would you now, Commander?" she asked with a slight grin tugging on the corner of her mouth.

"Me?" his eyes widened in innocence, but Kathryn didnít miss the twinkle in them. "Absolutely not, Captain. I came to give you BíElannaís report on Sevenís latest idea." To prove his point, he held out the engineering report he had fallen asleep reviewing last night.

Taking it, her blue-gray eyes skimmed over the information quickly. "Tell BíElanna to get right on it," she ordered. Then, reaching out to catch his arm as he turned, she added in a softer voice, "Thanks for the roses, Chakotay. I love them."

 

It wasnít the first time an officer had been sneaking around and felt the need to disguise his or her location, but Chakotay would have felt better knowing where his daughter was.

However, when Seven and Harry contacted Chakotay three hours later inquiring as to whether or not he knew anything concerning the whereabouts of Beth, he became alarmed.

~ * =/\= * ~

Beth drew in a deep breath as she clutched her Flotter doll closer to her chest. They had been huddled together, alone in the dark with only arete sparingly spaced out lights to illuminate the jefferies tubes, for over four hours. But, she was alone. And thatís what counted.

After realizing the amount of trouble caused by her little stunt, Beth had retreated to her childhood hiding place in the bowels of the ship. She was located just under the computer core in a heavily shielded area. There was a three-meter stretch of jefferies tube located there that was one of the few places internal sensors couldnít scan reliably.

Once Beth and MíRana had made that discovery some ten years ago, it became their favorite place to hide from the other children (and their parents when they were afraid of getting in trouble). Combined with the fact that it was only accessible through a series of jefferies tubes, it made an ideal hiding place.

In recent years, the childhood hideout had given way to become a thinking place when Beth felt down about something. MíRana retreated to the aeroponics garden, but Beth always found herself led back to the hideout.

The sound of someone moving in her direction caused Beth to tense and clutch Flotter even tighter.

"Beth! Are you back here?"

A sigh of relief escaped Bethís lips as MíRanaís voice floated around the corner.

"What are you trying to do? Run away again?" MíRana huffed as she rounded a corner and faced Beth fully. "I thought you were past that."

Beth rolled her eyes at her best friend. The last time she had run away had been when Tuvok, at the time her instructor and not superior officer, had informed her that the time to leave the classroom had come. She had feared that all learning was to be halted and she would simply serve as an officer on board Voyager.

Not understanding that she couldnít be further from the truth, the twelve year old had crawled into her hiding place only to be discovered several hours later by the only other person on board who knew what this place meant. And now, MíRana faced her again.

"He didnít punish me, Goldie."

"So? Iíd be glad," MíRana slumped against the wall of the jeffries tube. "If thatís your excuse, Iím going to haul you out by your ears. It took me twenty minutes to get away from the captain and your parents-- who, I might add, are in an uproar over your disappearance."

"Sorry I wasnít more accommodating."

"Beth, whatís the real reason?"

Tears pricked the back of Bethís eyes as she stared at her best friend who had sacrificed her knees to come after her. Was there even a real reason, she wondered. Or, was she just being foolish.

At the sight of Bethís eyes watering, MíRana scooted close enough to slide an arm around the other girlís shoulders. "Bethie, whatís wrong?"

Beth drew in a shuddering breath and concentrated on the front of Flotterís vest. It wasnít quite as shiny as it had been ten years ago, but it was well loved.

"Beth?"

"He didnít punish me," she repeated, tears already cried evident in her voice. "And then, when I messed up on the bridge, he was kind to me."

"You feel bad because you made a fool of him and he didnít retaliate at all?"

The other girl didnít answer, but nodded and dropped her head to her knees allowing her hair to cover her face. "I wish he had at least snapped at me," she finally said in a muffled voice. "Then, I wouldnít feel like such a hideous monster."

"You feel guilty because you canít find a reason to justify your actions," MíRana said after a long pause.

"Thank you, Dr. Paris."

"Sorry," MíRana ducked her head in embarrassment. "Beth, I think he did punish you."

Her head rose from her knees as she studied her friend doubtfully. "What are you talking about?"

"Everyone knows what a conscious you have," MíRana pointmoreut. "Remember when we sneaked into sickbay with Naomi and Roget?"

"We wanted to find a cure for that plant virus," Beth smiled in remembrance.

"We ended up using the last of his medical supplies and when he reported a thief in sickbay-"

"I told him it was us," Beth finished. "But MíRana, we were ten years old. We didnít do anything worse than use some supplies without permission. This time, I entered the captainís quarters without permission and altered his computer."

"But, heís punishing you with your own guilt," MíRana reminded her. "He must have known-"

Beth muttered something under her breath as her shoulders slumped in defeat.

"What"

"My dad," Beth repeated. "He went in the readyroom just before I did."

"Okay, so your dad told the captain how to handle you," MíRana sighed. "Either way, their punishment worked."

"And what do you suggest I do?" Beth demanded to know.

"Apologize."

~ * =/\= * ~

Tuvok turned slightly as the doors to the turbolift slid apart. Elizabeth emerged, clutching a worn, blue stuffed toy. With her chin held high, she marched to the entrance of the captainís readyroom and boldly pressed the door chime.

Seconds later, she found herself facing the captain who sat behind his massive desk and somberly regarded her.

"Where have you been?" he asked in a low voice rounding the desk. "You had your parents and I worried sick."

"My parents know I sometimes like to be alone to think," she replied carefully. "And as for you," she shrugged. "You donít know me."

Chakotay didnít say anything, but returned to his chair and eyed the stuffed animal curiously. "Sit," he ordered so forcefully that Beth didnít dare disobey.

"I came to apologize, sir."

Chakotayís hand hovered in the drawer he had been rummaging through. "What?" he asked, astounded. He and Harry had discussed and agreed that punishing Beth by not punishing her at all would be the best course of action, but he had hardly expected her to come forward and apologize.

"Iím sorry," she said louder this time. "For entering your quarters, tampering with your replicator, and creating several extra hours of work for Lt. Paris."

Folding his hands on his desk, he gazed at her as his daughter instead of an officer. "What did you learn, Elizabeth?"

"Not to assume that no punishment is no punishment?"

"What about following what the crowd would have you do?" Chakotay chuckled as surprise flitted over Bethís visage. "Iím not as dense as you think I am, Beth. I do listen carefully to what goes on around my ship. And, after I found MíRana lurking around my quarters, I made some discreet inquisitions. Julie was wrong to dare you. But, you were wrong to succumb to the wishes of the majority."

"Understood," Beth shifted uncomfortably in her chair and clutched Flotterís body tighter in her hands. She had come to her father with the intentions of setting right the wrong she had doneónot to be lectured.

"Beth-"

"No," she rose from the chair and took a step back. "Donít lecture me like youíre my father. Because youíre not. And, I didnít come in here to give you that right; I only came to apologize."

Chakotay silently regarded her for several seconds as he weighed his options. He could attempt to force the issue, but the bright blue-gray eyed child had already proven once that she would not allow him to take a place in her life as anything but a superior officer. Or, he could ignore her. But, the thought of having his baby girl continue to grow into the spitting image of her mother without knowing Cars. n Janeway was even more appalling.

"What about your mother?" he finally asked in a soft voice. "Would you refuse to know her?"

"She died a long time ago," Beth brushed a lock of auburn hair from her face as she answered him without an ounce of hostility in her voice.

Chakotay briefly returned to the drawer he had been searching through minutes before. Beth watched, curious, as his hand closed around an object.

"Your mother and I made these," he said, his eyes on the tightly clenched fist. "We hoped that they would never need to be used, but recognized the fact that we live in a dangerous world." Raising ebony eyes to his daughter, he didnít bother to hide the tears gathering in them. "Itís time you met your mother. Everything she wanted you to know is in this program. If she did hers like mine, you should be able to ask her hologram questions. And, hopefully, get some answers youíve probably been afraid to ask me."

~ * =/\= * ~

Hands shaking, it took Beth three tries to get the chip into the computer console outside holodeck two. Tapping a few buttons, she instructed the computer to run the program on the chip.

"Enter when ready," the computerís female voice cheerfully chirped.

Taking a deep breath and clenching the still-shaking hands, Beth raised her chin and prepared to face whatever lay beyond those doors. With butterflies beating in her stomach, she stepped into the holodeck.

Instantly, she stiffened. The walls, floor, and ceiling had transformed to an old workshop Beth had only viewed once, before Captain Chakotay had chased MíRana and herself out of the holodeck with a shout to never return. In the center, bent over a lump of clay and humming a vaguely familiar tune was a figure so close in resemblance to her that Beth knew this was her mother.

Kathryn Janewayís hologram turned to face the only occupant of the holodeck and smiled. "Hello, Shannon."

With those two words, Beth felt as thought a knife had been pushed through her stomach and the butterflies escaped leaving only a hollow and empty feeling. They were a cruel reminder to the lies the crew of Voyager had been telling her for the past seventeen years. But, she remembered, this woman had nothing to do with what her crew had done.

"Hello, Mother," she greeted her as she moved forward into the Da Vinci program. Touching the soft sculpture of a dog briefly, she ran a finger along the top of its nose.

"My dog," Kathryn said, still sitting where she had first appeared as she wiped her hands on a damp rag. "Molly was pregnant when I left the Alpha Quadrant. But, you wouldnít have come here to ask about my dog. You came because Iím not here to answer your questions in person."

"Yes," Beth said softly, turning her full attention to the woman in the Starfleet uniform. She was older than the picture her father had in his office, but she had expected that. Lines, not evident in the picture were clearly etched into Janewayís face from her last years on Voyager. Beth studied the blue-gray eyes so much like her own and the auburn colored hair with a touch of faded red carefully as she weighed the order in which she wanted to ask her questions. "Why did he give me away?" she finally asked.

"Please restate the question," Kathryn automatically responded, reminding Beth that this was a hologram and not actually her mother.

"Why would my father not raise me himself?" Beth fervently hoped that Kathryn Janeway would have prepared something to answer that question and not leave her to wonder.

After several seconds of processing, Kathrynís face fell. "Your father didnít raise you," she said softly. "I will assume that Seven of Nine raised you as her daughter per my request." Kathryn moved toward an old bench and sat down motioning for Beth to join her. Beth quickly did so and was surprised when the hologramís warm hand rested comfortingly on her arm.

"Your father and I discussed at great length who was to rear you in the event of our deaths. We decided Seven was the best choice. Actually," she grinned wryly, "I decided and managed to convince him. If he had died and I had lived, I would have had an extremely hard time going on without him." Kathryn took a deep breath and paused, almost as if the hologram was trying to gather her thoughts, Beth mused. "I suppressed all attraction I felt towards your father for nearly six years because I was afraid of losing my best friend, but what I discovered was that he and I were meant to love each other. After we married, I began to fear that if I lost him, I wouldnít be able to continue as captain of this crew. Those fears were never discussed between us, but if Seven reared you and your father is still alive, I can only tell you that he must have felt the same as I did."

"Shannon, you must try to understand what he would have gone through. For six years we were each otherís best friend. As the senior most officers of this ship, we were set apart from the rest of the crew. It was only with him that I felt permitted to be just ĎKathryní and not Ďthe captainí."

"No doubt youíll feel some anger towards him and quite possibly Seven. You must overcome that anger," Kathrynís blue-gray eyes burned into Bethís own. "If you donít, youíll miss the opportunity to know your father. My own father died when I was a young woman. There have been many, many times that I wished I could hear his voice or see him again. Your grandfather was a wise man, Shannon. And so is your father."

"He loves you," Kathryn continued. "I donít know how heís reacted to you, but I do know he loves you." At Bethís doubtful look, a frown crossed Kathrynís features. "Shanno forf you take nothing else from this program, know that your father and I love you very much. If I was alive, I would want to know you. And, if heís given you this program, I know heís ready to know you too."

Beth took a deep breath and leaned back on the bench as she struggled to come to grips with the facts her mother was laying before her- had known she would need and dutifully prepared.

"I am not the programmer Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim are," the hologram said watching Beth. "But, I have done my best preparing this simulation for whatever questions you need to ask."

"What was my father likeÖ.before?" Beth wondered aloud. It was a question she had only visited once in her mind, but not she found it at the front. "I canít imagine anyone wanting to marry the cold man he is now; I donít even want to know him. What made you fall in love with him?"

Kathrynís eyes became distant and Beth knew that for this instant, she was watching her motherís face as she had recorded this bit.

"When the caretaker brought us to the Delta Quadrant we had no choice but to work together if we ever wanted to see our people again," Janeway began. "The first time I saw him in his Starfleet file, I didnít register how handsome he really was. The second time, howeverÖ. "

 

Kathryn raised her chin slightly at this man who dared to insult an officer on the bridge of her own vessel as he peered down at her with coal black eyes. She was vaguely aware of their officers watching, including a Tom Paris whom she was defending against this Maquis, but she was more acutely aware of Chakotayís face hovering mere inches above hers.

His shoulders, covered by the dark tunic custom of the Maquis were barely moving in rhythm to his breathing, but she could feel the slight air movement on her own face. Beneath her own uniform, her heart was hammering. Could he see how nervous she actually was? She had been sent to capture and return this criminal, not to face off with him! A tiny smudge of dirt tinted the skin under his chin- a sure sign that he had been working with his crew on his ship only minutes before which Janeway found to be a quality of a captain sure of himself. But, was he too sure of himself, she wondered.

His obsidian eyes moved quickly over her face as if attempting to determine what kind of a captain she was by simply watching her. As they locked with her blue eyes she held his gaze firmly for several seconds. Finally, he conceded and stepped down.

 

"I was scared to death that he would attempt to seize my ship," Kathryn admitted to Beth with a slight smile. "But, after the first few rocky weeks, and our first arguments of crew assignments, I knew I had found a friend for life."

"Did you ever wish you had married him earlier?" Beth found herself asking easily.

"Accessing personal logs," the hologramís face went blank for several seconds and then she turn back to Beth. "In answer to your question, Captain Janeway noted in forty-eight separate instances that she wished to marry Commander Chakotay before the event took place on December 2 of 2378. Thirty-six of them indicate that they were not presently involved. The remaining logs infer that they were in the courting stage."

"Thanks," Beth said awkwardly rising from the bench.

"Shannon," Kathrynís hologram called her attention back to the mother she had been instead of the hologram that now stood before her. "Per our earlier conversation. From your responses I have determined that you do not know the person your father is." Kathryn took a step forward and laid a hand on Bethís shoulder. "Get to know your father," she begged. "Not just for him or for me, but for yourself."

"Iím afraid," Beth whispered.

Kathrynís brows knit together in confusion. "Afraid?"

"That my family will change," Beth explained.

"Of course it will," Kathryn smiled sadly. "Chakotay will become a part of your family. But, I donít believe he will ever try to replace Seven. And, if she married, I donít think heíll try to replace the father youíve grown up with."

Beth sadly smiled at the hologram standing before her. "Thank you, Mother," she whispered. "Computer, terminate program." Abruptly the workshop disappeared and was replaced by the yellow and black hologrid.

"Thank you," Beth softly said again. "But, I canít."

~ * =/\= * ~

"Where have you been?"

MíRana let out a sharp gasp as she entered her darkened room and found a figure leaning against her pillows. "Beth!" In a more calm voice she called for lights and then joined her best friend on the bed. "What are you doing here?"

"I was bored sitting in my own quarters?" When MíRana frowned at her, Beth pulled her knees up to her chin. "I didnít want to talk to my parents," she admitted softly.

"Any particular reason?"

"I met my mother today," At MíRanaís confused look, Beth hurried on, "Captain Janeway. Her hologram. She created a holoprogram before she died for me."

"Whatíd she have to say?" MíRana asked casually as she tugged off her gold-shouldered jacket and tossed it over a chair.

"She wanted me to know my father," Beth muttered, pulling a pillow onto her knees so she could press her chin in it.

MíRana dropped back onto the bed, "I still fail to see why youíre refusing to."

Beth was silent for a moment. Finally, she repeated what she had told her mother, "Iím afraid."

"Of what?" MíRana stared at her incredulously. "He wonít bite, you know."

an at;Iím afraidÖof hurting my own parents." MíRana raised a doubtful eyebrow at Beth, so she rushed on. "If I begin spending time with the captain, that takes time from my own family."

"Jealousy?" MíRana deduced. "Youíre afraid your parents will be bitten by the green eyed monster?"

"By what?"

"Nevermind," MíRana laughed gently. "Something my dad taught me."

"Thatís just it," Beth sighed, dropping her chin back into the pillow. "You had a father while you were growing up to teach you funny little things like that."

"So did you," MíRana reminded her. "How many times have you tried to teach me a musical scale?"

"Iím not any good at it," Beth protested. "Besides, thatís not the point. The point is that now they want me to have two fathersóone of who refused to acknowledge me until a few weeks ago. Iím not sure Iím ready to deal with that."

MíRana frowned at Beth, "And them?" she demanded.

"What about them?"

"Doesnít Chakotay deserve the opportunity to have you as a daughter?" she asked, cocking an eyebrow at Beth. "Why will you accept the fact that Captain Janeway is your mother- youíll even visit her on the holodeck- but you wonít have dinner with the captain?"

Beth stared at MíRana, stunned. "I thought you would understand," she said tossing the pillow aside and standing. "I guess I was wrong."

MíRana wanted to kick herself as Beth quickly left the room. On an impulse, she followed, hoping to stop the other girl from leaving, but just as the words to call her back left her lips, the doors to the Paris quarters slid shut.

"What happened?" Tom asked, looking up from where he was working on his latest holoprogram.

"I opened my big mouth," MíRana sighed. Tom only raised his eyebrows knowingly. MíRana knew she had a tendency to be blunt at times, but she always tried to be sensitive when Beth needed her. This time, she had failed miserably and was in need of help.

"Can I talk to you, Dad?"

~ * =/\= * ~

Jaysen watched as Beth listlessly poked at her dinner tray and hid behind the auburn hair falling over her shoulders. "Not hungry?"

With a disgusted sigh, Beth pushed the tray away from her and dropped the fork on it. "Not tonight."

Jaysen said nothing, but took a bite of his own casserole. Chewing slowly, he studied Bethís arms crossed over her chest and tried to get a glimpse of her downcast face staring intently at the table. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Beth lied. "Iíve just got a lot on my mind."

"Like?" he pressed.

"Nothing," she insisted. Glancing up, she was started at the amount of tenderness she saw in his eyes. "Itís nothing," she said in a softer tone. "Really."

"Whatever it is, itís not bothering you like nothing would," he said knowingly.

Beth smiled, embarrassed. "Thanks, Jaysen. But, it is something I need to work through on my own."

Jaysen slowly nodded, accepting that she wasnít going to tell him. "Just remember that if you need a friend, Iím always here," he said reaching across the table to claim her hand. "Now, what do you say to a holodeck program? To get your mind off whatever it is you canít tell me?"

"Oh no!" Beth gasped, snatching her hand out of Jaysenís as she leapt to her feet. "Iím supposed to report to sickbay!"

"What?"

"For being late to my duty shift. The captain assigned me to help the doctor sterilizing his instruments," Beth explained in a hurry. Hastily, she tried to gather her tray in her arms, but Jaysenís hands stopped her.

"Go, Beth. Iíll take care of this."

Without thinking, Beth leaned over and dropped a kiss on his cheek, "Thanks Jaysen. Youíre an angel."

If clearing the dishes away every night would get him a kiss on the cheek, Jaysen swore heíd do it until the day they died.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Sorry Iím late, Doctor," Beth exclaimed bursting through the doors of sickbay. Grasping the biobed nearest the door, she struggled to regain her breath. "Lieutenant Jarvin was working on the turbolift; I ran here all the way from the messhall." As she stopped babbling and lifted her head, she was startled to see her mom standing at a console beside the doctor.

"I assume youíre here for your punishment?" the doctor asked of Beth. At her nod, he continued. "Very well. You may start sterilizing that tray over there." To Seven, "Weíll work on the second verse next time," the doctor told her with a smile.

"As you wish, Doctor. Though, I believe we will be sufficiently prepared for the talent show after our next rehearsal." Seven turned her attention from the medical officer to her daughter. "Will you be coming home soon?"

Beth said nothing, but cast a questioning glance at the Doctor.

"In an hour or so," he said. "I have a few tests Iíd like to run on Beth after she finishes the sterilization. Nothing crucial," he continued in a rush as Sevenís Borg implant rose over her eye in fear. "Just a few standard tests."

"Iíll see you when you get home," Seven told Beth as she laid a hand on her shoulder. "Your dad and I want to talk to you."

Bethís heart sank at her momís words, but she nodded in agreement. As Seven exited sickbay and the doctor left her to her task at hand, Bethís mind began to wander. What would her next away mission consist of, she wondered. After the way she had snapped at the captain, would he eveElizve her another mission? At first, she had pursued the command track because everyone felt she would excel at it more than the science. But, later she had come to realize that she actually enjoyed itóeven more than piloting.

Her heart skipped a beat with excitement as she remembered the lesson Lieutenant Paris had scheduled for tomorrow morning. No sitting behind a dusty console, for heróshe would be crammed into a shuttle simulation on the holodeck!

Finally, Beth ran the sterilization laser over the last instrument on the tray. It was hard to believe that the Doctor actually used that many hypospray heads in one week, but the job was at long last completed.

"Doctor," she called softly into the darkened office. "Iím done."

The Doctorís face, illuminated by the soft glow of his computer console, snapped up to look at her. "Very good," he said standing quickly. "If youíll lie down on the biobed, this will only take a minute."

Beth, slightly confused but guessing that something from her last visit with Dr. Neelix had been abnormal, complied quickly. The Doctor followed and, after making several adjustments to his tricorder, ran the silver cylinder the length of her body a dozen times. Tapping a change into his instrument, he repeated the process.

"Thank you, Beth," he said, snapping the tricorder shut before she could catch a glimpse of what he had been scanning for.

"Is everything all right?" she asked concerned for her own health as well as that of her crew mates.

"You couldnít be more fit," he declared with a slight smile. "I only wanted to confirm something Mr. Neelixís scans showed."

"What?"

"Nothing you need to worry about," he assured her. "I just needed to make sure our cook/morale officer actually does know how to run a medical tricorder. Until I was deactivated, he had been in sickbay only a handful of timesóand never in the medical capacity. Itís necessary that I verify the quality of scans he is giving me."

"Oh," Beth said in a small voice. Dr. Neelix was the one responsible for saving her best friend Ė and half the shipófrom a viral agent that had attacked nearly eleven years ago. Many times, she had taken her broken bones from the holodeck to him and trusted the friendly Delta Quadrant native to knit them back together. But, she told this hologram nothing of her past experiences. "Can I go now?" she asked in a tiny voice.

The Doctor glanced over his shoulder from where he was feeding the tricorder readings into his computer as if heíd forgotten she was there. "Sure, youíre free to go."

~ * =/\= * ~

Seven looked up from where she was sitting comfortably in Harryís arms as the doors to their quarters slid apart. Beth dragged herself in, eyes downcast and shoulders slumping.

"Take a seat, Beth," her dad ordered.

"DadÖ." Beth hesitated to make her request, but as her face contorted with a yawn she decided to continue. "Can we put this off until tomorrow? Iím tired and Lt. Paris expects me in the holodeck first thing."

Harry felt his heart turn over as he recognized the signs that told him Bethís day had been very long and she should have been in bed an hour ago. "Go," he finally said softly, untangling himself from the woman he loved. "Get a good night sleep. But, I want to talk with you tomorrow night. No later."

Beth accepted the small hug without a struggle and then, surprisingly, kissed her momís cheek before disappearing into her room.

"I was beginning to wonder if sheíd ever let me hug her again," Harry admitted as he rejoined Seven on the sofa.

"I donít know whatís happened," his wife said snuggling closer, "But sheís changed. Again."

"Since she Ďran awayí," Harry agreed, pressing his chin to the top of Sevenís blond head. "I wonder if we have MíRana to thank for it."

"Maybe," Seven was silent for a long moment. "Does it bother you?"

"What?"

"Youíre the only dad sheís ever known," Seven said shifting in his arms. "Does it bother you that he wants to be able to have a father/daughter relationship with Beth?"

Harry sighed deeply, "A little. But, Iíve always known the day would come so Iíve had time to prepare."

"Iíve never given it much thought," Seven admitted. "If Captain Janeway suddenly appeared wanting to establish herself as Bethís mother, I donít know what Iíd do. I canít imagine how you can prepare yourself for this."

"I take it one day at a time," Harry said leaning back slightly. "And besides, Iíve got one thing Chakotay doesnít have."

"Hmm?"

"A beautiful and loving wife to help me through this," The smile that stretched across Sevenís face reached into her eyes and Harry couldnít resist returning it. "I remember when I would have given nearly anything just to have you smile at me like that."

Smile. Smile. Smile.

Harryís shoulders slumped in defeat when Seven laid the roses back down on the table and carried one year old Beth into the nursery. With an inaudible sigh, he emerged from his hiding place and dropped onto the sofa.

"Ow!" with a shout that should have been reserved for the holodeck instead of his quarters where a baby was trying to sleep, his hand reached under himself to retrieve the babyís teething ring that had been hidden in the cushions.

"Lieutenant?"

"What Seven?" he asked in an irritated voice. The teething ring had been hard and cold. No doubt Beth had been chewing on it within the past hour. And now, his pants sported a wet ring on the side from where heíd sat on it.

"Please remove the flowers from the main room. I donít wish to have plants that may carry harmful germs around the baby."

Harryís heart sank even further. Try and surprise his wife and what does he get? A lecture. Rising from the sofa, he snatched up the flowers and with more force than necessary threw them in the recycle canister. Silently, he went into his room and flopped onto the bed as tears kept at bay for more than a year threatened to spill onto his cheeks.

This was how it had been since the day of the wedding. Seven spent the duration of her time in astrometrics or engineering and he on the bridgeóthe baby was cared for by Dr. Neelix or Samantha Wildman. If either Seven or Harry was off-duty, Beth remained with them. Rarely were Seven and Harry alone for more than ten minutes. And, she had somehow avoided that with the exception of only a half dozen times since they had been married.

And the worst part? In all the years he had known her, he had seen her smile exactly four times. Twice when she was attempting to engage in frivolous conversation in the messhall, once at Beth, and once at Tom. Tom Paris! She had smiled more often at his best friend than she did her own husband.

Harry was the first to admit it: he was jealous. Seven hadnít changed at all since they had married and he was bending over backwards to make this marriage work. But, she simply ignored him.

"Lieutenant?"

Harry stiffened now as he heard her voice at his bedroom door. That was another thing, he thought to himself. She was still calling him by rank after a year of sharing quarters. He had asked her repeatedly to call him ĎHarryí, but she always went back to his rank. He considered it a miracle she wasnít still referring to Beth as ĎTwoí.

"You are angry."

Harry shook his head, unwilling to even look at her. "I donít expect you to change overnight, Seven," he said in a whispered voice. "But, I do wishÖ"

Seven turned to look over her shoulder at the roses in the recycle canister. Only the stems were peeking out, but she suddenly recalled the Doctor telling her the meaning behind giving flowers to another person.

"I apologize," she said, hesitantly stepping into the room. "For asking you to dispose of the flowers."

"Itís not the flowers," he said as he sat up. His eyes were red as if heíd been crying, she observed. "Itís the fact that youíre not even trying. For all you care, Iím just a live in baby-sitter to take care of Beth when Iím off-duty."

"This is wrong," Seven concluded, still standing with her back straight. "We should not be married. I will speak to the captain about dissolving our marriage."

"No. No!" Harry jumped up from his bed and came to stand before her. Taking a deep breath, he continued in a quieter voice. "I care for you, Seven. And, I donít want to see you try to raise Beth alone. I only wish that you would make an attempt to know me as well."

Seven said nothing for a moment as she weighed his words. Finally, she nodded, "As you wish."

 

"It was a start," Seven chuckled, her hair falling about her shoulders as she dropped her face in embarrassment.

Harryís hand cupped her chin and pulled her face until she met his eyes. "A good start," he declared with a soft kiss.

~ * =/\= * ~

"Oh no. Oh no. Oh no," Beth stumbled over her own feet as she hurriedly made her way from her quarters to the holodecks. She was late. But, this time it wasnít for a duty shift in sickbay; it was for the piloting lessons she had so looked forward to.

"Ensign."

Biting back a cry of irritation, Beth turned in the direction of her fatherís voice.

"Late?" Chakotay asked, a small smile gracing his features. When she nodded once, he continued at a much faster pace. "Iíll not keep you long. I only wanted to see if you would join me for dinner tonight." Breaking the gaze he held with Beth he took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "Thereís something I want to give youósomething you should have had."

"I canít," Beth said quickly, ignoring how fast Chakotayís face fell. "And right now-"

"Youíre late," he finished for her. "Very well. Go."

Without looking back, Beth sped in the direction of the turbolift. "Deck six," she ordered briskly. One hand tugged nervously on her uniform front as the opposite foot tapped out a steady beat. When the doors slid apart, she nearly flew from the Ďlift with her hair trailing behind her.

Tom Paris looked up, fairly amused, as Beth skid to a halt in front of him. Her mouth opened, as if she wanted to say something, but as it worked no sound came forth.

"Forget it, Beth," he chuckled already requesting the computer to open the holodeck doors. Once inside the shuttle, Tom took the co-pilotís seat, leaving the pilotís chair for Beth. She easily slid into it and ran a hand over the console.

"Letís take you through some easy warm ups," he began already making the required selections of the computer from the co-pilotís seat. When Voyager had realized the need would come to train young pilots, Tom had insisted that he be allowed to write the simulations. And, one of the first things he did was modify the shuttleís interior enough to have a program station at his elbow. After all, if he was forced to speak changes in the program to the computer, the youngster at the helm would know about the Ďsurprisesí before they every occurred.

"Easy now," he warned as Beth Ďtook offí from Voyagerís shuttle bay. For all appearances, she had narrowly missed clipping the edge of the shuttleís starboard nacelle.

"Sorry," Beth amended, rotating the shuttle a few degrees to compensate for her less than stellar launch.

"Elizabeth!" Tomís shout was not uncalled for, though it did more to startle his student than to warn her. Beth let out a shriek of her own as the shuttle dipped to avoid a small piece of an asteroid and instead skid the bottom of it along Voyager.

"Shields have failed. Plasma coil has been ruptured. Switching to back up systems now." The computerís friendly voice calming informed them as smoke and steam billowed out of the back of the shuttle.

Beth bit her lip hard as she chanced a glance at her teacher. It didnít look good, she knew. Now, the shuttle finally had her full attention. Before, she would admit it, her mind had been preoccupied with the words she had exchanged with her father.

"Computer! Freeze program!" Tom roared spinning his chair so quickly to face her that she feared he might keep spinning in circles. Instantly, the smoke and steam appeared to freeze before their eyes. But, that was the only thing that froze. "Are you trying to kill us?! Elizabeth, you have performed dozens of launchesóduring your first flightóthat were better than that! What happened?!"

Beth visibly flinched at his tone of voice and Tom was instantly sorry heíd shouted. "Iím sorry," he said in a more calmed manner, rubbing a hand over his face. "But, what happened back there? Youíve flown that exact pattern dozens of times; you could probably do it without the viewscreen."

"I could," Beth declared lifting a quivering chin. "But," once confident of the exact answer she would deliver, Tom watched as her shoulders slumped and she let out the breath she had taken in. "I got distracted," she said in a whisper.

"Distracted?" Leaning forward, Tom pushed a lock of Bethís hair from her face. "By what?"

Hesitating, Beth debated for a moment whether or not she should tell her best friendís father about her own father.

"Does it have to do with your father?" Tom asked gently, his blue eyes seeming to read Bethís very soul. Her mouth opened to ask how, but Tom cut her off. "MíRana told me."

"Oh." The voice was devoid of any passion whatsoever, which disturbed Tom greatly. Elizabeth had always been a girl with a fire in her eyes and a goal just in sight. She lived each and every day trying to make something of herself and to hear the lack of excitement in her voice unnerved Tom more than Chakotayís self-destruct of the ship would.

"Uncle Tom, why did MíRana tell you?" Beth finally asked.

Why indeed, Tom had wondered more than once. At the time, his daughter had appeared to simply want to get off her chest what she had been holding in. He told Beth that and was rewarded with a scowl as she slumped further down into her seat.

"You want to tell me about it? Or, should I just go on what MíRanaís told me?" he finished. When Beth refused to say anything, or even meet his eyes, he continued. "Youíre afraid," he said very softly. "And, in your place, I donít think thereís one of us who wouldnít be." Even though he kept his eyes trained on the glowing blue nacelle suspended just Ďoutsideí their shuttle, he didnít miss Bethís eyes coming to rest on him. "If I discovered I had another father, Iíd be scared to death. But Beth, my dad and I didnít get along at all." Tom gave a short laugh as he looked down at his hands. "He considered me nothing more than a nuisanceóor so I thought. It wasnít until after weíd been in the Delta Quadrant for nearly six years that I heard his voice again." Glancing sideways, he seemed to remember that his young crew mate hadnít been alive at that time. "We had just been contacted by someone named Barclay. Iíll never forget that name. Anyway, my dad happened to be there. And, he said he was proud of me." Tomís voice caught in his throat as his gaze finally returned to his daughter. "What Iím trying to tell you Beth, is that if you donít get to know Chakotay, you may regret it. I wish I had known my dad better before we were thrown to the other side of the universe."

Beth opened her mouth, but Tom swiftly cut her off.

"Youíre afraid heíll create problems in your family, right?" Tom let out a brief laugh and leaned back in his seat. "Beth, your dad has been preparing for this moment your whole life. Trust me. I was there that first year when he spent half of his time in Sandrines because Seven wouldnít speak to him. Of course, MíRana was still a baby at the time and screaming her head off every night so I was glad for the excuse to get away myself. He told me a lot about you. And I saw that even then, he was preparing himself for the day that Chakotay would acknowledge to you that heís your father."

Beth looked down at her hands, ashamed to meet his eyes. "They were planning this whole time-"

"For you to be able to accept both of them as fathers?" Tom finished for her. "I donít think it was anything planned, per se. But, I do think they were both preparing for it to eventually occur. Chakotay couldnít keep the Doc hidden in the cargo bay forever." His eyes twinkled with the last line.

Beth said nothing for a moment, but silently regarded the console as tears stung at her eyes. One salty tear finally pushed its way past the barrier she was trying so hard to keep up and splashed onto the black and purple buttons before her.

Gently, Tomís arm stole around Bethís still frame as she cried silently. "I want to be able to know him and my mother," she whispered. "But-"

"Then do it." Tom ordered, giving the child heíd considered a niece for all her life a tight hug. "Beth, the only thing that should hold you back=/\=your own feelings about facing what has been told to you. Harry and Seven are prepared for this. So is Chakotay. Iím sure he realizes what youíre feeling, but Iím willing to bet that heíll still try to break through the walls youíve built up."

"What do I do?"

"First, we finish this lesson and see if I can teach you the Hamekek maneuver- my own personal achievement. Then, you go and talk to your father." Tom released Beth as she eased herself out of his arms. "And, I do mean right after this lesson."

~ * =/\= * ~

The palms of Bethís hands were sweaty and her heart beat madly as she rode the turbolift to the bridge. Only days before, it couldnít go fast enough to get to deck one. Now, the ride was over all too soon and Beth found herself standing beside the security console. Nodding briefly at Tuvok who was sitting in the captainís chair, she moved toward the readyroom doors.

Instantly, they hissed apart and Beth found herself eye to chin with the captain. Swallowing with great difficulty, she raised her eyes to meet his, "Can I have a minute of your timeÖsir?"

Confusion swept over Chakotayís features briefly, but he immediately stepped back to allow Beth into his ready room. Silently, father and daughter regarded one another. Who would speak first, Chakotay wondered. Did she have something specific on her mind pertaining to the ship or was she here as his daughter?

"I came to apologize, sir." A smirk flitted over Bethís face as she remembered the last time she had faced her father. "Again. But, this time for brushing you off in the corridor."

His daughter, Chakotay guessed. Her blue-gray eyes that had once shot sparks of anger at him were soft and almost looked like her motherís when she was asking for forgiveness. "Thank you for the apology, ensign," Chakotay didnít dare hope, as Bethís toe dug into his carpet, that she might say more. Her face was looking down at the toe of her boot, but clearly she more on her mind than making amends. "Beth? Anything else?"

"Am I too late to have dinner with you tonight?" she said in a rush and then bit her lip.

Slowly, Chakotayís mouth spread into a wide grin. "Never," he declared fiercely. "As a matter of fact, I was on my way out just now. Care to join me in the messhall?"

A small smile tugged at the corner of Bethís mouth as she followed her father to the turbolift.

"Deck three," he ordered.

"The messhall-"

"Is on deck two. I know my own ship," Chakotay said easily. "But, thereís something I should have given you a long time ago. And, if your stomach can hold out ten more minutes, I think now is as good of time as any."

"Seven to Kim."

Beth tapped her comm badge quickly and acknowledged her mother, "Go ahead."

"Is everything all right?" Concern for her daughter was laced through Sevenís voice as she questioned Beth.

"Yes, why?"

"Youíre usually on time for dinner. And after nine hours on the bridge, your dad is hungry."

Chakotay felt his insides sink. He already knew the end result of this conversation. She would apologize (again) to him and retreat to a small family dinner.

"If itís okay with you," Beth began slowly, "Iíd like to have dinner with my father tonight."

There was silence on the other end of the comm as Harry and Seven exchanged surprised glances. "Fine. Thatís fine," Harryís said through the comm link. Beth wasnít sure, but she thought she detected a smile in his voice.

"Thanks Harry," Chakotay told the other man. Both knew that he was thanking the other for more than a dinner with his daughter. Just then, the doors of the turbolift slid open.

Consciously, Beth followed her father instis quarters.

"You wonít get put on report," he teased with a smile as he disappeared into his room leaving Beth in the main room.

She glanced around, curious. The only other time sheíd been there had been during her little stunt with the computers and that hadnít given her much opportunity to look around. Meandering over to a shallow table of sorts that was set up in front of the long window, Beth studied the objects displayed.

A snow globe, she saw with some excitement. Her dad had given her one with Voyager inside for her tenth birthday, but this one had a house surrounded by trees in it.

In the very center was a picture. Picking it up, she carefully studied the older woman surrounded by her family. Who was the woman, she wondered. Beth thought she faintly resembled her mother, but she wasnít sure.

"Thatís a picture of Shannon OíDonnel and her family. One of your ancestors," Chakotay said softly from the doorway of his bedroom. Beth turned, a faraway look in her eyes.

"Shannon?"

"You were to be named for her," Chakotay confirmed her suspicions as he came closer. Finally, he held out to her the object in his hands.

Beth took the soft leather pouch and smiled in awe. "Itís so soft," she admired.

"I made it," he admitted. "Itís a medicine bundle. My ancestors- Our ancestors used them when they went on a vision quest to meet their spirit guides. In it, things that have a special meaning are placed to aid us on our journey. Wait," he cautioned as Beth opened her mouth to speak. "I donít expect you to want to go on a vision quest. Iím only giving this to you because of what Iíve already put in it."

Slowly, Beth unbound the leather and spread it out before herself. The star emblazoned on it immediately caught her attention and her mouth formed a small Ďohí. There, in the center of the star, was an old comm badgeóscratched and twisted as if melted by heat Ė but nothing more than an old comm badge.

"It was your motherís," Chakotay answered the unspoken question in her eyes. "Itís damaged because we were in a shuttle accident," he said taking a deep breath.

Beth ran her index finger over the scratches on the surface. "Thank you," she finally said realizing she was holding the only object she owned of her motherís. Taking a step forward, she wrapped her arms around a startled captain. "Thank you, Father."

~ * =/\= * ~

Eyes flew open and heart hammered in the darkness of the night. She had been dreaming of the shuttle accident on the holodeck. It wasnít real, she reminded herself. But, a very real shuttle accident had changed her life forever.

Over her bed, stars streaked through the night sky illuminating her room enough to see the bent and twisted comm badge that still lay on her night stand.

With a sleep-drugged hand, Beth reached over to pick up the object. Dropping it once on the floor and then again on the bed, she finally grasped it tightly in her hands as she eyed it closely.

Each comm badge was given a unique set of letters and numbers which visually identified it. Inside, a variance in the frequency allowed the computer to determine whose comm badge was whose. But on this one, the numbers that should have been on the back were rubbed clean away. Gone. Vanished. Probably from the heat of the shuttle, Beth guessed. Anything that had melted and twisted a piece of metal this badly could certainly melt a few etchings off of it.

~ * =/\= * ~

Several doors down the hallway, Chakotay sat with a mug of herbal tea as he admired the stars zipping past his view port. The dinner had gone well, he thought. He and Beth had talked of trivial topics, but the conversation had been a steady stream, for which he was thankful. After their first few breakfasts which had been in nearly or complete silence, Chakotay had feared he and his daughter would have nothing to talk of, save the weather in the holodeck. But, heíd been proven wrong.

His next fear was that this wouldnít last. Next week, his instincts warned him, she might turn against him once again and theyíd be back to sector 1. But, something in his heart told him otherwise. They had time on their side this time. Beth had accused him and then accepted the lie he, Seven, and Harry had worked so hard to hide from her all these years. And, despite his insistence that she never know who her father was, he was glad she had finally begun to accept him as her father.

"Youíd be proud of her, Kathryn," Chakotay said to no one. The picture of his wife that he adored was in his room, beside the bed. After BíElannaís attempt so many years ago to get Chakotay out of his quarters (or to at least redecorate them) he had moved the large, smiling picture of Kathryn from the main room.

"Sheís definitely your daughter," he laughed. "But, I think she has a little of me in her too."


Epilogue

Far away, several thousand light years behind Voyager, a former prisoner in a worn uniform huddled over the helm station of a tiny vessel nicknamed Freedom.

Two days ago, information about an Intrepid vessel had been collected from a people known as the Lujerons. With a hunch that these people were not to be trusted, the sole occupant of the Freedom had feared the Lujerons would attempt to seize her stolen vessel Thankfully, those fears had been unfounded as the only crewmember of the ship joined the Lujerons in discussing methods for obtaining command over the ship known as Voyager. Valuable information about the starship trying to reach the Alpha Quadrant had been gained. Theorized flight plans as well as tactical information had been given in exchange for several kilos of mineral deposits from another planet three light years away.

Now, setting the ship to autopilot, the pilot/captain/engineer/tactical officer moved to the lower deck of her ship. It wasnít much, she knew, and it was nothing compared to the splendor of Voyager. But, slaves running from the prison camps of the Awaxiels couldnít be choosy. So, she had taken what was available and barely escaped with her life.

There were only two decks comprising the ship capable of sustaining four people for indefinitely long voyages. The command center and Ďdining roomí were on the upper deck with the captainís quarters and the crew quarters were below.

The quarters the lonely officer had chosen were beside engineering and only a few steps away from the ladder to the command center. If the autopilotís klaxons were to pierce the night with news of an attack, engineering would have navigational control and tactical access rerouted almost immediately. With that assurance, the former prisoner laid down on the narrow bunk and closed her blue-gray eyes as she drifted into a deep slumber.



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