By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: A Natural Law rewrite where Seven stayed on Voyager and Kathryn went with Chakotay to the conference.
The shuttle dipped down through the planet’s atmosphere, and the fluffy clouds peeled back to show the lush green jungle below.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Chakotay asked.
“The sensors would have given us the same picture.” Kathryn tapped a finger on her console.
“Just admiring the view.” He smiled at her.
“The conference begins in less than an hour.” She bit her lip to keep from smiling back at him.
“There’s always time for warp field dynamics.” Kathryn was teasing, and he knew it. She was as starved for the sight of something other than gray bulkheads as he was. He smiled at her again. “But you don’t see natural beauty like this every day.”
Bringing the shuttle lower, Chakotay angled it to give them the best view of the pristine wilderness rolling under them. The ship lurched suddenly, tossing Kathryn out of her seat, and energy crackled along their shields.
“What was that?” Chakotay grabbed at his console for support. The shuttle was responding sluggishly, as if it were caught in something.
“Some kind of energy barrier – directly below us.” Kathryn had already pulled herself back up from the deck and started scanning the planet. “It spans thousands of square kilometers.”
“Why didn’t our sensors detect it?” The shuttle rocked again as they grazed the barrier.
“I’m not sure.” She ran a quick analysis. “There’s an unusual tetrion signature – nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
There was a loud crackle and pop of energy, and the shuttle shook in response.
“There’s a power surge – ” Kathryn warned.
Struggling with the controls, Chakotay spared a glance at one of the displays. “Shields at full.”
Sparks flew from panels, and smoke wafted through the cabin. The small ship bounced along the invisible barrier, skipping wildly and making control impossible.
“It’s creating some kind of feedback!” The console flashed and she jerked her hands back before sparks flew from it. There was a sudden ear ringing silence. “We’ve lost impulse engines.”
“Go to warp.” It was a risky move inside a planet’s gravity well, but they were running out of options.
Behind them there was a loud, explosive smack of sound, and then the computer calmly gave them the bad news. “The warp core is off line.”
“Warp engines don’t just shut down when you scrape an energy barrier!” Chakotay tapped at the useless flight console, grinding his teeth in frustration.
“It’s affecting all of our systems.”
“We’ll have to beam to the surface.” He gave up on the controls.
“Not through the barrier.” Kathryn reminded him. “Wait a second – transfer auxiliary power to the weapons.”
“What are you trying to do?” Even as he asked, he was transferring the power she needed.
“If I can realign the phasers to the correct frequency – I might be able to open a rift – “
“Big enough to get a shuttle through, I hope.”
“Warning, structural failure in ten seconds...
Kathryn’s fingers moved frantically across the damaged console. “Come on…”
Chakotay grabbed two of the emergency kits as the computer continued its emotionless countdown. “Kathryn!”
“Got it!” Stabbing her finger down on the phaser controls, Kathryn jumped up and ran to where Chakotay was waiting to beam out.
Just as she took his outstretched hand, the shuttle lurched and bucked. For a moment the ship seemed to pause, then there was an ominous creaking and it dropped like a stone, pitching them against the bulkhead. Chakotay’s cry of pain was swallowed by the transporter.
“Warning – “
They materialized on the planet’s surface, a bright flash and explosion heralding the end of their shuttle. Kathryn immediately turned to Chakotay. “Are you all right?”
“It’s nothing.” He took a step and grimaced at a sharp pain. Looking down at his leg, he saw that his uniform pants were sliced open below his knee and already soaked with blood.
“Looks serious to me.” Sliding an arm around his waist, she helped him limp to a nearby fallen tree and eased him down to sit on it.
“I don’t think it’s that serious.” Truthfully, the wound burned and stung, but he didn’t want to worry her.
“Then you won’t mind me looking.” Digging through one of the bags, Kathryn frowned. She grabbed the other one and dug through it as well, tossing items out onto the ground as she searched. “There’s no medkit.”
“In either bag?” Kathryn had a ‘heads will roll’ look on her face. “I didn’t check them before we left. We were just going down to the surface – “
“Save it.” She tore open his pants leg and eyed the wound critically. “Yes, you should have checked, but there’s supposed to be med kits in each one.” Adjusting the tricorder, she scanned the gash in his leg. “You’ve got a hairline fracture.”
“We have bigger problems. I’ll be fine.”
“Here.” Handing him her tricorder, Kathryn pulled a clean uniform shirt out one of the bags and began to tear it into strips. “You scan for debris while I take care of this.”
Taking the tricorder, Chakotay scanned as wide an area as he could. “The barrier’s closed again.”
“I figured as much. We were lucky to squeeze through.”
He hissed in a breath as she poured water over the wound. “You should save that. We don’t know if the water here is safe.”
“That’s a chance we’ll have to take.” Carefully wrapping the clean cloths around his leg, she smiled in satisfaction. “And they said I was a lousy Girl Scout.”
“The shuttle broke up over several square kilometers.”
“Any of it functional?” Voyager hadn’t made it this far by leaving behind anything that still worked.
“Some of it is. I’m getting a strong signal from that direction.” He pointed into the jungle. “Not too far.”
Kathryn stood up and helped Chakotay to his feet. “We might be able to be able to boost the emergency beacon and get a signal to Voyager.”
“Through the barrier?” He took a cautious step.
“Maybe.” She watched him limp in a circle around her, trying to gauge the limits of his mobility. “It’s worth a shot. Unless you’d like to go ahead and start working on another bathtub.”
“Don’t tempt me.” He grinned. “Well, at least if we’re stranded, you couldn’t ask for a nicer place.”
“Depends on if there’s coffee.” Slipping her arm around his waist again, Kathryn grabbed the bags with her other hand. “Lead on, Mac Duff.”
They walked slowly, following a faint trail through the trees. Led by the tricorder’s signal, they found a piece or two of wreckage, burned out and useless.
“Looks like we’re not the only ones here.” Chakotay showed her his tricorder. Several life signs registered on the small display.
“Indigenous wildlife?” She chuckled. “Maybe monkeys?”
“Bigger than monkeys.” He smiled at her joke. “Humanoid.”
“Ledosian?” Maybe their stay here would be a short one. Kathryn tugged at her collar. It was hot and sticky; someplace civilized with a bathtub would be nice.
“No, but they share the same genetic traits. Whoever they are, they may be able to help us.”
“Unless they put up the barrier to keep people out.”
“For once, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m not getting any energy readings that would indicate weapons of – “ His leg buckled as he took his next step.
“Chakotay!” Kathryn dropped the bags and helped him steady himself. “You rest, I’ll go investigate.”
“It’s better if we stick together.” He shook his head. “At least until we know for certain they’re not hostile.”
“Let’s move more slowly.” Picking the bags up once again, she settled the straps comfortably over her shoulder and across her chest. Chakotay laid his arm along her shoulders as she put her arm back around his waist. Carefully, they followed the tricorder’s signal farther into the jungle.
Slowed by Chakotay’s injury, it took them over an hour to reach the area the life signs were coming from. Standing back in the trees at the edge of a small clearing, Kathryn and Chakotay watched a small group of aliens. They were dressed in what appeared to be animal skins as they gathered food from plants.
“I’m guessing they’re prewarp.” Chakotay murmured.
“So much for them helping us.” Kathryn noted the primitive weapons the natives carried. Wooden spears with stone tips, and stone knives.
“No, I don’t suppose they can.” There was a distant tone in his voice. “But they are fascinating, aren’t they? I never expected to run into people like this on such a technologically advanced planet.”
“They look peaceful enough.” She patted Chakotay’s back. “Though, I’m sure your people did too.”
“I’m sure yours did as well.” Used to Kathryn’s gentle teasing, he grinned and tugged on the ends of her hair. “Better not let them see this – it may end up on a scalp pole.”
“Too bad this isn’t an anthropological mission instead of a crash landing.” She said wistfully.
“We should keep searching for debris from the shuttle.” He turned, forgetting for a moment his injured leg.
“Chakotay!” He fell before she could catch him. “Are you all right?”
“Just – peachy – “ The words were forced out past clenched teeth. “Give me – a minute – to rest – “
Readjusting the tricorder to get a medical reading, Kathryn scanned his leg. “Damn! You’re developing an infection.”
“You should – have saved the water.” The pain was receding somewhat, and he panted from the effort of holding it in.
“Don’t be silly.” She opened one of the bags, taking out the water bottle and a few of the strips of material that she had saved earlier. Pulling off the dirty, bloody bandages, she washed and redressed his wound.
Stuffing the used cloth into a small compartment in the bag, Kathryn sat back on her heels and watched Chakotay sip at the tepid water. “You need to rest.”
“It’ll be dark soon and we need to find shelter.” He handed the bottle to her.
“There are still a few hours. I want to go get this piece of the shuttle and see if we can get a beacon going.” She took a drink of the water, grimacing at the warm, flat taste. “It’s not too far. You stay here and I’ll go get it.”
He didn’t like the idea of separating, not in the least, but his leg was throbbing and there was no way he could go any further without rest. “Maybe you’re right.”
“Maybe?” An auburn eyebrow arched up. “Who’s the captain around here?”
Holding up his hands in surrender, he let her help him to a shady spot to rest. It was off the trail so that anyone coming along it wouldn’t see him. Kathryn stashed the two bags of supplies under a pile of fallen limbs not far from his side.
“I’ll be back in a few hours.” She crouched by his side and handed him a phaser. “Rest.”
“I will.” He caught her hand as she stood up. “Kathryn, be careful.”
“I will.” She gave his hand a squeeze before starting off in the direction of the promising signal.
The heat made him drowsy, and Chakotay let his head rest against the tree trunk behind him. Closing the cap on the water bottle, he laid it at his side, within easy reach.
It worried him that Kathryn was going off alone. Yes, she was a Starfleet captain, and yes, she was in far better shape than he was right now. But she was still a woman and his natural instinct was to protect her and keep her safe.
A smile curved his lips as he remembered the time Kathryn had faced down a Kazon warrior with only a phaser and a bad attitude. Countless others had only gotten a taste of the bad attitude.
Chakotay jerked awake suddenly. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep but pain and fatigue had dragged him down. Blinking, he was startled to see a hand reaching for him.
Batting it away, he scrambled to his feet. His leg reminded him of his injury with white hot knives of punishment. Gasping, he grabbed onto a tree branch to keep himself from falling. Three of the natives watched him curiously.
One of them picked up the water bottle and examined it, tapping it and peering through the clear plastic in fascination.
“Please, I need that.” Chakotay held out his hand slowly. “It’s water.”
All three of the natives looked at him. The one with the water bottle held it closer to his chest. Another one, who appeared to be the oldest, frowned. Reluctantly, the first native handed the bottle back to Chakotay.
“Thank you.” The water was precious. So far, he and Kathryn hadn’t found a source of water to scan to see if it was safe to drink. It was possible that their entire water supply was in the bottles that had been in the emergency kits. He kept his eyes carefully away from the place where she had hidden the bags. The phaser Kathryn had left him was hidden by his jacket – he only hoped they didn’t search him.
The natives were still staring at him. “I’m Chakotay.” He repeated his name again, slowly, and tapped his chest. “What is your name?”
They didn’t answer. The older one pointed at the gash on Chakotay’s leg. One of the other two immediately went to Chakotay and slipped an arm around his back.
“I’m fine right here.” He tried to pull away, but his leg wouldn’t support him. As the native pulled him away from the tree, Chakotay was forced to clutch at the man’s shoulder to keep from falling. “No, I’ll just rest here.”
Another of the natives lifted Chakotay’s other arm over his shoulder. Ignoring his protests, they began walking him down the trail, the older native leading the way.
Kathryn felt a moment of panic. This was where she had left Chakotay. She had stored the coordinates in the tricorder to be sure she could find her way back to him quickly in case of an emergency.
The bags were exactly where she’d left them, still camouflaged by the fallen branches, completely undisturbed. But Chakotay was gone. “Calm down, Kathryn. He probably just stepped behind a tree.” And got eaten by some giant alien big monster!
Beating the panic back into its box, she took a deep breath to center herself. She couldn’t risk calling him over his combadge. If the natives had found Chakotay, who knew what they might do if his combadge started talking.
Changing the settings on the tricorder, Kathryn scanned for Chakotay. Turning a slow circle, she bit her lip as nothing appeared on the display. When the blip appeared, she almost cried out in relief. He was alive. Thank you, God!
Quickly, she moved down the path toward the signal as dusk gave way to full night.
Crouching outside the crude encampment at the base of the large hill, Kathryn folded up the tricorder and put it away. There were perhaps thirty life signs, Chakotay’s among them.
The natives appeared harmless enough. Several were grouped around a large fire, while others moved in and out of various caves. Chakotay was nowhere in sight.
There were no guards posted, and only a few crude weapons were propped against some of the cave openings. Well, when in doubt – confuse your enemies. Standing up, Kathryn strode boldly into the circle of light cast by the fire.
The natives jumped to their feet, startled by her sudden appearance, but seemingly unafraid. They watched curiously as she walked up to them.
“I would like to see my friend.” Kathryn held her hands up to show she was unarmed. “He was hurt. He needs my help.”
The natives stared at her without answering.
“He has a uniform like this.” She smoothed her hand down over her uniform jacket. There was still no response. Kathryn lifted a hand to her forehead. “He has markings on his face.”
One of the natives, who appeared older than most of the others, stepped forward and held out a hand, palm up.
Placing her hand palm down over his, Kathryn smiled, being careful not to show her teeth. In a primitive culture such as this, bared teeth could be considered a threat.
Lowering his hand, the man motioned to the closest cave mouth.
“Thank you.” Kathryn nodded her head and walked toward the cave, slowly, just in case she had misunderstood. No one tried to stop her, simply watching her curiously as she went past them and into the cave.
Inside, Chakotay was lying on the ground near a large communal fire. Several natives were gathered around him. Kathryn paused, giving them time to adjust to her presence.
Chakotay looked up and smiled at her as she walked over and knelt down by his side. The dimples made her heart skip the usual beat. “I thought the idea was to avoid the natives.”
“The natives had other plans.” He shrugged. “They found me – there wasn’t much I could do.”
“How’s your leg?” Kathryn leaned past the woman who was tying strips of material around Chakotay’s leg to lash it to a crude splint, and checked to be sure it wasn’t too tight.
“It feels better. They put a dressing of some sort on it.” When she looked up, startled, he patted her shoulder. “They made it from some of the plants we scanned earlier so I let them put it on. You might want to note that there’s a narcotic effect, by the way.”
Relieved, she sat back on her heels and watched as the natives lifted Chakotay and carried him to a stone shelf carved from the cave wall. They laid him down, and one of the women brought a blanket to cover him with.
Sitting next to him, Kathryn waited until the natives moved away before she took out her tricorder and covertly scanned his leg. “It’s harmless – actually has some sort of healing properties.”
“We should see about taking some back with us.” He gave her a drowsy smile. Whatever healing properties the paste had, it killed the pain.
“I found a piece of the communications array.” She hurriedly put the tricorder away as a young girl approached. “Hello, my name is Kathryn. What is your name?”
The girl didn’t answer, smiling and reaching out to stroke Kathryn’s sleeve.
“They don’t speak.” Chakotay told her.
“So I noticed.” Kathryn caught the girl’s hand as she reached for the combadge pinned to her uniform jacket. “No.”
The girl pouted briefly, then smiled again. She dug in a pouch at her side and took out a black stone. She pulled it apart, then let it click back together. Then she offered them to Kathryn.
“Magnets?” She took them and clicked them together a time or two before handing them back.
The girl didn’t take the stones, instead pointing at Kathryn’s combadge.
“No, I can’t.” Smiling to soften her words, Kathryn put her hand over the combadge and held the stones out to the girl. “I can’t give it to you.”
After a moment, the girl took the stones and put them back into her pouch. Then she turned and went to the other side of the cave and sat down by a couple who Kathryn assumed were her parents.
“We’re going to have to find more of the shuttle.” She leaned back against the stone shelf Chakotay was laying on. “Something to boost the emergency beacon’s signal.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to create a signal that will get through the barrier?” Chakotay rose up on one elbow to look at her. “We weren’t able to detect the barrier until it was too late.”
“Voyager will be looking for us. Her scanners are far more sophisticated than the shuttle’s.” As always, Chakotay was playing devil’s advocate, helping them to work on both sides of the problem. “If we can create a signal – even if it doesn’t get through – if it’s strong enough, then Voyager will be able to locate us.”
“We are on the Ledosian home planet.” He added. “It’s possible someone saw us come down.”
“Exactly.” She nodded in agreement. “I’m sure we made a bit of light and noise. Plus Tuvok knows we were headed here – well, not here exactly – but here to the planet, and that’ll narrow the search.”
“So we’re as good as home. Consider this a shore leave.” He lay back down, feeling tired and weak. “Relax and take it easy.”
“Take it easy, hell.” She laughed. “I’m going to figure out how to get the Ledosians to replace the shuttle. Who the hell puts up a barrier like that with no warning buoys?”
The natives looked up at her curiously and Kathryn felt self-conscious. Lowering her voice, she turned to Chakotay. “Do you think we should keep our own talking to a minimum?”
“I don’t think so. If they can make sounds or talk, they would have done so by now.”
“They are past the normal evolutionary level where speech has been refined.” She mused. “I wonder why they don’t talk.”
“It’s possible that they don’t have tongues or – “ Chakotay yawned. “The necessary organs for speech.”
“Go to sleep.” Kathryn pulled off her combadge and put it on her shirt before taking her jacket off and folding it up. “Lift your head up.”
Obediently, he lifted his head up so Kathryn could put the makeshift pillow under his head. “What about you?”
“I’ll be fine.” She pulled the blanket up to his chest, patting his shoulder as she did so. “Won’t be the first time I’ve slept on a dirt floor.”
One of the native women walked across the cave, carrying a large bowl and a piece of flat bread, which she held out to Kathryn.
“Thank you.” She smiled and took the food from the woman. Setting it beside her on the ground, she turned to the side and after the woman walked away, scanned it as discreetly as possible. “Looks good. Chakotay, are you hungry?”
There was no answer, and she looked up to see that his eyes were closed. “I’ll save you some, just in case.”
The flat bread was light and crispy, almost like a cracker, and Kathryn broke off a piece and used it to scoop the stew into her mouth. The food was good, and the smile she gave her hosts was one of genuine enjoyment.
We’ll have to find out what’s in this and get the recipe to Neelix. Kathryn grinned. And keep the leola root out of it.
Saving a portion of the stew and bread, she watched as the fire in the center of the cave was carefully banked and the natives began settling in various places within the cave.
Guess it’s time to turn in. Chakotay was sleeping tranquilly, and she laid the back of her hand on his forehead to check for a fever. Not that she didn’t trust the tricorder, but there was something comforting in the simple act. “Good night, Chakotay.”
Curling up on the ground next to the stone shelf he was laying on, Kathryn tried to make herself comfortable enough to sleep.
The chill woke her from a fitful sleep. Small rocks were digging into her back and her body ached. Face it, Kathryn, you’re getting too old for this.
Standing, she brushed the dirt off her uniform. Chakotay was sleeping peacefully, and no doubt warmly, under the coarse blanket.
Oh well… She pulled the blanket back and lay down beside him. Tugging it up over her shoulder, she put her back to Chakotay’s side and sighed contentedly.
“You didn’t have to sleep on the floor.” He said softly. “It’s not like we haven’t been in this situation before.”
“I know, but I was afraid I’d bump your leg.” She yawned. “I’ll try not to move.”
“At least our accommodations are better than the time Seska abandoned us.”
“And we won’t have to listen to Neelix snore.” A soft laugh escaped her.
“It’s a good thing we weren’t there very long. He might have ended up sleeping outside.”
“And lured in every monster for miles.” She reached back and poked him in the stomach. “And you don’t need to do impressions.”
“I’m not.” He protested.
“You’re not even close. You’re grunting and he – “ Kathryn stopped, realizing that the sound wasn’t coming from Chakotay. She lifted her head and looked around. Nearby there was movement under the blankets, and hoarse grunting. Lots of it.
“Dear Lord.” She closed her eyes.
“I think we’ve established that they can make sounds.”
“How can you joke – “ Her face was hot. She had seen a lot of things in her life. People having sex just a few feet away wasn’t one of them.
“You’re not supposed to watch.”
“I’m not!” She hissed. Rolling over, Kathryn pressed her forehead against his shoulder. He was shaking with silent laughter.
“You’re supposed to ignore them.” Growing up in a more primitive environment, Chakotay had been on campouts and slept in communal lodges where a couple engaging in sex was simply a part of life and accepted. “It’s rude to listen.”
“Tell that to my ears. They don’t have an off switch.”
Lifting his arm out from between them, he wrapped it around her shoulders, cupping his hand over her ear.
The sound muffled by his big hand, Kathryn finally drifted off to sleep.
“There isn’t a beacon in the emergency kits.” Kathryn set the bags down next to Chakotay.
“In either one of them?” His eyebrows shot up. “I can understand the med kits not being replaced – but the emergency beacons – they’re rarely used.”
“There’s no excuse for anything to be missing.” Sitting down in the dirt next to him, she accepted the gourd he handed her that held a fruit juice of some sort. “Thank you! How can it be so hot during the day and so chilly at night?”
“I’d forgotten what a softy you are.” He hadn’t noticed the chill. Waking up with Kathryn curled up to his side, her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest, had warmed him up considerably.
“A softy?” One auburn eyebrow arched up. “You’ll think ‘softy’ when I get a hold of the person responsible for restocking the shuttles.”
“Well… technically.” Chakotay pretended to think it over. “That would be you.”
“Me?” She almost choked on a mouthful of juice.
“You are the captain.” He grinned at her. “Everything is your responsibility.”
“Oh you!” She smacked his shoulder affectionately. “I walked right into that one.”
“Speaking of walking, find anything interesting on your morning walk?”
“Very.” Kathryn had left the native encampment shortly after a breakfast of flatbread and something that resembled oatmeal. To Chakotay’s disappointment, there had been nothing to sweeten it with. “I found a few more small pieces that we may be able to construct a beacon with.”
Unzipping the bag, Chakotay peered inside at the pieces. “Looks promising.” He noticed the young girl from the previous night creeping close, and he zipped it closed again.
“I’ve located what I think is the shuttle’s deflector.” Kathryn smiled at the girl. “The good news is I think it’s intact.”
“And the bad news?”
“It’s about sixty kilometers from here.”
“I’ve been able to communicate with one of the natives.” Chakotay pointed to the crude map drawn in the dirt beside him. “Here’s the river and the mountain.”
“The deflector would be about… here.” She placed a pebble on the map. “And not through the friendliest terrain. I wonder if I could get them to help us find it?”
“They’re friendly enough – but do you want them to see the deflector?”
“There’s no helping it, Chakotay.” Kathryn shrugged. “We scattered wreckage over who knows how many kilometers – they’ll be finding pieces for years.”
“Once Voyager is here, we can beam out the debris.” He chuckled. “I wonder if a thousand years from now we’ll be a myth?”
“The sky people?” Striking a regal pose, she gestured grandly. “I can be the queen.”
“Why not? I’ve got the dress for it. You can be the king.” Her cheeks flushed as she realized how that sounded. “I – a – what happened to your rank bar?”
“I traded it.” The quick change of subject didn’t surprise him. Kathryn danced away anytime she thought she was too close to the line. “I got this fine nut in return.” He pulled the nut from his jacket pocket and handed it to her.
“I think you got taken.” A smile crooked up the corner of her mouth. “I better be careful or you’ll trade Voyager away.”
“Only if they offer me some really pretty beads.” When she tried to hand the nut back to him, he shook his head. “Put it in one of the bags. It’s silly… but I’d like to keep it.”
“It’s not silly.” Smiling, she put the nut in one of the inner pouches in one of the bags.
Several of the natives looked at each other and smiled. The Elder paused, then set aside his work on the wooden staff he was carving. Standing, he caught his mate’s eye and smiled at her, sending warm loving thoughts her way as he walked to where FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn sat.
Chakotay looked up and lifted his hand in greeting as the native man he’d come to think of as the leader approached.
The man returned the greeting as he sat down across from Chakotay and Kathryn. He looked at the place she had marked on the map, touching it with his fingers.
“We need to go there.” Kathryn walked her fingers across the dirt map to the pebble.
The Elder nodded. He mimicked her action and also walked his fingers across the map.
“Yes.” Chakotay nodded.
The Elder looked thoughtful for several moments. Then he nodded and tapped the pebble. Cupping a hand next to his left ear, he moved it in a sweeping motion across his face, stopping next to his other ear.
“I don’t understand.” Chakotay frowned and held his hands up and out. That was one gesture he had picked up quickly.
The other man pointed overhead at the sun. Then he repeated the motion.
“The sun – the sun moving – tomorrow?” Kathryn said excitedly as she mimicked the sweeping gesture across her face. “The sun has to move?”
Happy that FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn understood, the Elder repeated the gesture for light passes. He touched their strange packs, pointed to himself, and to a group of young manlings nearby. Then he used their funny gesture of walks fingers on the dirt mapping.
“Yes.” Chakotay nodded and smiled, also repeating the gestures. “Tomorrow you will take us there.”
The Elder patted FriendChakotay’s shoulder, glad that he learned quickly despite his strange ways.
“This is how they say ‘thank you’.” Chakotay told Kathryn as he made the gesture.
She quickly repeated it. “Thank you.”
Getting to his feet, the Elder left to help prepare for the journey. He smiled at his mate; perhaps they could help FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn with their problem on the way.
The rest of the day passed with the natives preparing for the journey. To Kathryn’s surprise, it seemed as if half of them were planning to come along.
Chakotay shrugged. It was likely that they would combine the journey with food gathering or perhaps they would move to another encampment. They appeared to be hunter-gatherers rather than farmers, so such trips would be a part of their lifestyle.
Either way, it was a wonderful opportunity to gather information on them. She set the tricorders up to scan several different natives while he hid a PADD in the folds of his jacket where it lay draped across his lap.
As far as they could tell, there was no medical reason for the natives not to speak. They had vocal chords and a tongue, so speech was possible. And yet they were silent. Only the occasional grunt of exertion or cry of pain, as when one of the women burned her fingers while cooking. Even the children were quiet as they played.
“They don’t gesture.”
“Hmm?” Chakotay had almost nodded off. Kathryn lay beside him, the tricorder and a PADD hidden from sight between their bodies.
“They’ve taught us – what? A dozen or so hand gestures?” She looked over her shoulder at where two of the young men were banking the fire for the night. “And yet – they don’t use them.”
Lifting his head, he looked across the cave. Everyone was preparing to sleep, straightening blankets and furs out on the cave floor and the various stone shelves that jutted out from the walls. There was no sound and no gestures of any kind. “So… how are they communicating?”
“Habit? Certain rituals at certain times?” She chewed her lip as she looked over the bio scans. “Learned responses from one generation to the next?”
“Possibly. I wonder – “ He shifted to look at the bio scan. “I wonder if they’re telepathic?”
“That would explain things. A natural ability like the Betazoids? Though they do have a spoken language.”
“Didn’t they develop one after their contact with other species?”
“I’m not certain…” She frowned at her tricorder. “This thing is too limited to tell me enough about their possible mental development. I need Voyager’s medical database.”
“You’ll have to wait until we get back.” Chakotay laid back down. “Why don’t you get some sleep? If I understand correctly, we’re leaving right after dawn.”
“And no coffee for a jumpstart.” She tucked the tricorder and PADD into one of the bags and zipped it shut. “I’d kill for a cup – even that toxic stuff Neelix tries to pass off as coffee.”
Kathryn had intended to put her back to Chakotay’s side, but directly across from them, a young and very amorous couple decided on a repeat of last night’s performance.
Embarrassed and slightly aroused, she rolled over and laid her head on Chakotay’s shoulder. He slid his arm around her and cupped his hand over her ear as he had the night before.
Tonight, he was more awake and aware of Kathryn’s presence than he had been the previous night. Her hair brushed his chin and one small hand was moving in circles on his chest.
The moans and grunts weren’t helping the situation. His cock hardened, and he wished he could shift to a more comfortable position. Face it, old man, you wish you could get into that comfortable position on top of Kathryn.
It was a long time before Chakotay was able to drift off to sleep.
Kathryn jerked awake suddenly. A loud crash echoed through the cave. Sitting up, she reached for the phaser tucked under Chakotay’s makeshift pillow.
Outside, lightning flashed and a loud rumble followed. A few of the natives that were sleeping near the cave opening got up and pulled their blankets and furs farther inside.
Stray gusts of wind found their way into the cave, making Kathryn shiver. “I’m glad I decided to wait instead of going it alone.”
“I am, too.” Chakotay pulled their blanket up to cover her shoulders. “Go back to sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.”
“Good night, Chakotay.” She snuggled back against his side, seeking his warmth, and drifted back to sleep, feeling safe and secure.
“Commander.” Harry looked up from the console as Tuvok entered Astrometrics. “The captain hasn’t checked in.”
“Have you tried hailing her, Ensign?” Tuvok walked over to where Harry and Seven were working.
“Yes, sir. No response. I’ve contacted the conference coordinator – he said that the captain and Commander Chakotay never arrived.”
Tuvok ignored the fear that tried to interfere with his peaceful center. “Have you found any sign of the shuttle on sensors?”
“We located a hull signature over the southern subcontinent.” Harry frowned at the readings. “But it’s only a wing.”
“Nothing else? No life signs?” The fear nibbled at his calm.
“No.” With a few efficient taps on the console, Seven brought up an image of the debris.
One wing and nacelle appeared to Tuvok to be resting on the curve of the planet. “It seems to be in a low orbit. However – “
“It is not in orbit.” Seven interrupted him. “The debris is resting on an energy barrier.”
“We think the shuttle may have collided with it.” Harry said softly.
The fear took a large chunk of his calm in its teeth and Tuvok wrestled it back. “The shuttle’s sensors would have detected such a barrier.”
“It doesn’t show up on standard scans.” Harry told him. “We were able to detect it because Voyager’s sensors have Borg enhancements.”
“Then why was the barrier not detected when Voyager entered orbit?” Tuvok turned away from the fear feeding image.
“We didn’t scan the planet.” His face reddened as the Vulcan arched an eyebrow in question, and Harry hurried to explain. “We had already made contact with the Ledosians, and the captain decided it wasn’t necessary.”
“There is the possibility that the rest of the shuttle passed through the barrier.” The logic was a barricade against the fear.
“A small possibility.” Seven said coolly. “The shuttle was not equipped with enhanced sensors and would not have detected it until impact.”
Tuvok resisted the illogical urge to snap her neck. “A possibility we must explore no matter how small.”
“We’ve been trying to scan the surface.” Harry interrupted what looked to be a long staring contest between Tuvok and Seven. “Unfortunately, the barrier is deflecting all our scans. There’s no way to know if they made it through.”
“Hail the Ledosian ambassador.” Tuvok ordered.
“Coffee – coffee – why is there no coffee?” Kathryn tossed the rations back into the bag. “Coffee should be standard in all emergency kits.”
“I’ll bring that up at the next staff meeting.” Chakotay joked. “There was some in the supply cabinet on the shuttle.”
“I knew I forgot to grab something on the way out.” She watched him testing out the crutch the leader had given him.
“Probably grabbing your makeup.” His leg felt better – weak, but better.
“Makeup? Chakotay!” Laughing, she stood up and hefted the bags over her shoulder. “I’m not the one slicking back my hair.”
“I’m not the one who changes my hairstyle every other week.” Grinning, he hobbled just out of reach as she raised a hand playfully.
“Oh… my…” Kathryn’s eyes widened as she stared past him.
“What is it?” Turning, he gasped as he spotted a group of the young men. They had drawn markings on their foreheads similar to his tattoo.
“So much for not contaminating the natives.”
The Ledosian ambassador leaned back in his chair. “We’d have warned your captain, but the flight plan didn’t go anywhere near that area.”
“Apparently the shuttle altered course.” Tuvok told him.
“And collided with the barrier.” The ambassador nodded. “I’m sorry.”
“It is possible that they found a way through the barrier.” His fear had been forced into a small mental chamber and would not be allowed back out. “I am curious as to why this barrier exists.”
“It shields the territory of an indigenous society – the Ventu.”
“The area is habitable?” The possibility of the area being contaminated or unlivable disappeared from his list of logical concerns. “If you will lower the barrier, we can scan for the captain and commander’s life signs.”
“I’m afraid… we can’t do that.” The ambassador said reluctantly. When Tuvok didn’t answer, only continued to stare directly into his eyes, he continued. “The barrier was erected by aliens hundreds of years ago. They haven’t been back. The technology is still a mystery to us.”
“These aliens – they built the barrier to protect the Ventu.”
The ambassador shifted nervously in his chair. “Our ancestors fought theirs, polluted their habitat. I’m afraid we weren’t very enlightened back then.”
“Every society has such periods.” Tuvok acknowledged his own people’s violent past for a fraction of a second. “Would your people object if we tried to lower the barrier to scan for our people?”
“I told you, it’s not possible.” Even as he said it, there was surge of hope. These people had technologies he’d never seen before. Maybe they could get the damn barrier down.
“Can you give us any information about the barrier’s power source?” Tuvok asked. Logically, he knew the probability of the ambassador having useful information was low; however, all avenues of information had to be followed.
“Unfortunately, no. The generator is on the inside. There’s no way to access it.” His hopes faded, and the ambassador sighed. “Even if your people did survive, I’m afraid there’s no way to get them out.”
“We shall see.” One dark eyebrow arched up.
The group moved slowly through the jungle, slowed not only by Chakotay’s limping gait, but also by the children and elderly that traveled with them. The pace was kept to that of the slowest member of the tribe.
Kathryn didn’t complain. Voyager was in orbit somewhere above them, and it was only a matter of time before Tuvok found a way through the barrier and beamed them up.
In the meantime, both she and Chakotay were enjoying their time with the natives. She was recording and cataloging as much about them as she could.
Chakotay was happy ‘as a duck in a puddle’ as her grandmother used to say. He was building up a good command of the natives’ hand gestures and was communicating remarkably well.
He had been self-conscious at first when several of the young men had drawn markings on their faces to mimic his tattoo. There was no way to convey to them that it wasn’t something all men had, and he had done his best to ignore it. It seemed to be a passing fancy, however, and the young men had later washed the markings off.
Kathryn smiled as she watched him talking to the leader of the group. From what Chakotay had told her about his father, no doubt Kolopak would have gotten a kick out of it. Knowing that his people were visited by aliens, and were in turn visiting a primitive culture, would probably make him smile. Hmm… are the dimples hereditary?
Chakotay looked up and smiled at her before going back to his discussion with the other man. He had stripped down to his white undershirt, his Starfleet jacket and turtleneck proving too much for the steamy jungle.
His skin gleamed golden in sharp contrast to the white material. Kathryn allowed herself the rare indulgence of staring at him. Her eyes moved slowly down his broad shoulders to the muscled back. Trim waist and lean hips received the same loving treatment, and she couldn’t hold back the urge to lick her lips as she imagined running her hands over his nicely rounded ass.
Turning away before Chakotay caught her looking, she found herself the focus of a group of native women. They smiled and one winked before they scurried past her and down the trail.
“Oh my God…” Her face turned white hot. They had seen her drooling over Chakotay like a high school girl. Wait… they can’t tell him… whew!
Chakotay’s leg was aching, and he was grateful when the leader called a halt for the day. He hobbled over to a fallen log and sat down, his leg stretched out before him.
“Tired?” Kathryn knelt at his feet and pulled back the torn pant leg to examine the cut on his leg.
“Some. I’d blame my leg, but I haven’t walked this much in ages.” He looked down at her and his eyes widened. He’d known that Kathryn had long since stripped off her heavy Starfleet jacket and turtleneck, but at some point, she’d also abandoned her bra. Now her gray tank top gaped open, and he had a clear view of her breasts.
Unaware of the show she was putting on, Kathryn concentrated on cleaning the wound and applying clean bandages. “It’s looking good, don’t you think?”
“Uh huh…” Swallowing convulsively, he watched Kathryn’s breasts jiggle and sway as she worked. “Looks… beautiful…”
“Are you okay?”
“What?” He jerked his gaze up to her eyes.
“Are you okay?” She stretched up to lay a hand on his forehead. “You’re flushed.”
“I’m hot – the heat – “ He stammered.
“Reminds me of my Starfleet survival training.” Sitting next to him on the log, Kathryn accepted a gourd of fruit juice from the little girl who had adopted them. They had dubbed her Alice after the curious little girl in Lewis Carroll’s book. “Thank you, Alice.”
Alice smiled and then ran to where her friends were playing.
“Hey, where’s mine?” Chakotay called after her.
“I’ll share, there’s more here than I need.” Kathryn took a sip before handing the gourd to him. “This is good – “
“But it’s not coffee.” Chuckling, he took a drink of the juice. “At least you didn’t pass your coffee habit on to them.”
“Introducing coffee isn’t breaking the Prime Directive – everyone should have coffee.” He handed the gourd back and she took another drink. “Um – look.”
Looking in the direction Kathryn was pointing, Chakotay saw that the native women were constructing shelters out of tree limbs that some of the men had pulled down. “Lean-tos.”
“If they can make those, why are they still living in caves?”
“The jungle isn’t the best place to build houses. My Mayan ancestors built with stone. Wood rots quickly in this heat and humidity.” He told her. “They fought a constant battle with the jungle, chopping and burning it back. And in the end it won.”
“They’re not up to the stone building level.” She mused. “What about lodges, like in the American east?”
“Probably their next step. Longhouses or wickiups possibly.”
“The real question is why are they so far behind the Ledosians? How is it possible to have two totally different levels of civilization on the same planet?” She watched as a group of young men entered their new camp with game they’d killed. “Logically, the more advanced race would absorb or overrun the other race.”
“Maybe that’s why the Ledosians put the barrier up.” What Kathryn was saying was only too true. His own people hadn’t been that far below the Europeans on the evolutionary chart, and yet they’d been labeled savages and ruthlessly murdered for the land they lived on. “Or… what if someone else put the barrier up?”
Chakotay turned to look at her. “To protect them from their neighbors?”
“The Ledosians didn’t strike me as an altruistic society.” Kathryn snorted. “Considering the negotiations to get through their space.”
“It may be that when we get out – “ Chakotay looked again at where some of the women were cleaning the game. “We need to be sure no one gets in.”
The jungle night was cooler in the makeshift shelters than it had been in the cave, and Kathryn was glad for Chakotay’s body heat. She had tried to ask about an extra blanket, but none of the native women seemed to understand her. It occurred to her that each had brought only what they needed and no more.
In the middle of the night, Kathryn was awakened by an enthusiastic young couple making love only a few feet away.
Chakotay’s arm around her shoulders tightened as she burrowed her face into his neck. His other hand came up to cover her ear, his thumb stroking her cheek.
Irrational, thankful tears burned behind her closed eyelids. Chakotay was a good friend, the best she had ever had, and no one would ever be able to surpass his thoughtfulness and consideration. Wordlessly, she patted his chest and pressed a quick kiss to the underside of his jaw.
The kiss burned his skin, and Chakotay fought down the urge to tip Kathryn’s face up and kiss her. There was a weakening in her wall of protocol, either from the enforced closeness or the generally relaxed atmosphere, and soon he would press his advantage. But not now.
He brushed a kiss across the soft auburn hair before closing his eyes and willing himself to sleep.
When Chakotay woke, he found Kathryn had shifted until she lay half on top of him. One leg was thrown across his hip and her thigh rested between his, pressing against his cock, which was rock hard and demanding action.
She stirred in her sleep, her hand sliding over his belly to rest on his hip and her lips moving against his throat.
Carefully, gently, he slid his hand down from her shoulder to her back and pulled her closer to him. Kathryn sighed softly, and he smiled as he heard his name escape.
Stroking his hand up and down her back, Chakotay dropped a kiss on top of her head. Her usual rose scent had been washed away in a jungle stream, leaving only clean fresh woman scent behind.
This was a good feeling, right and true. Waking with Kathryn’s soft body against his was the way things were meant to be. With his other hand, he covered hers where her fingers were twisted into the material of his shirt, holding on as if he would vanish while she slept.
When the natives began stirring, stoking the fire to make the morning flatbread and cereal, Kathryn began to wake. She was warm and comfortable, and she resisted being pulled from sleep as long as she could.
Slowly, stretching like a cat, she yawned and rubbed her hand across the broad male chest she was resting on. Big and broad, just like she liked it. “Mmm… nice…”
“Good morning to you, too.”
The chest rumbled under her ear, and Kathryn jumped. Pushing away, she sat up. “Chakotay.”
“You were expecting someone else?” The black velvet eyes twinkled.
“No – yes – no – “ She rubbed her hands over her face. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Sitting up, Chakotay brushed a hand over her hair. “I’m not.”
She should pull away or push his hand down, stop him. But Kathryn couldn’t bring herself to. Instead, she reached up to brush his hair back from his forehead. “Good morning.”
“Good morning, Kathryn.” He slid his hand down over her hair to cup her face. Slowly, he leaned closer, asking for the kiss but not demanding.
The soft, full lips brushed hers and Kathryn sighed and closed her eyes. Wanting more, she tilted her head and leaned into the kiss.
The Elder grunted as his mate dug a sharp elbow into his side. Frowning, he sent a chastising thought her way. He did follow her direction, however, and sent their third youngling to interrupt FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn’s strange courting. He was the Elder, but he was also a manling and less versed in the ways of courting.
A small hand on her shoulder made Kathryn jump. Opening her eyes, she saw that Alice had brought breakfast for her and Chakotay. The girl had a mischievous smile on her face that made Kathryn’s face flush.
Taking the bowl of cereal and flatbread, Chakotay thanked the little girl before she ran back to help her mother pack up their belongings. “Looks like we’re on half rations.”
“They only gave us one portion last night, too.” A thought struck her. “Do you think we’re draining their supplies? Chakotay, we haven’t contributed anything since we joined them.”
“There’s plenty to eat here.” He broke the flatbread and handed her half of it. “Did you notice the bowl is bigger?”
“Bigger?” She eyed the crudely carved bowl. “Is it?”
“I think…” He hesitated. The kiss was promising – his lips were still tingling – but he wasn’t sure how Kathryn would react to what he was going to say. “I think that they think we’re… married.”
“That we – why would – “ She stuttered.
“We’ve been sleeping together – “ Chakotay hastened to add to that when her mouth dropped open. “Sharing a blanket or bedrobes is – with my people – well – “
“Oh.” It hadn’t occurred to her that sleeping with Chakotay was tantamount to declaring them married. “It’s – it’s okay – kind of funny actually.”
“Funny?” He frowned.
“Technically, that would mean we’ve been married since that night we spent on the planet Seska dumped us on.” A smile crooked the corner of her mouth. “You owe me some back anniversary presents, mister.”
“I guess I do.” Chakotay laughed at the idea. “But – where does Tuvok fit in?”
“Tuvok?” It took a moment to realize what he was getting at. “He was sleeping on the other side – dear Lord! I have two husbands?”
“Looks that way.” Grinning, he took a bite of cereal, wishing again for sugar or honey.
“What’ll we tell T’Pel?” She reached up to pat his cheek. “Better yet – what’ll we tell my mother?”
“I’ll leave that to you. My job is merely to be the charming son-in-law.”
The recovered pieces of the shuttle were neatly laid out on a table. B'Elanna chewed her lip as she ran her tricorder over a piece of the hull. “The burn pattern suggests a tetrion flux.”
“It is similar to that used by Species 312.” Seven reported.
“The Borg put up the barrier?” She looked up from her readings.
“No. It is possible that the barrier was put in place by Species 312 prior to their assimilation.” The former drone didn’t look up from her work.
“Seven, can you use the information assimilated by the Borg to lower the barrier?” Tuvok pushed the hope that threatened to unsettle his calm center back into its mental cage.
“I believe so.” She looked up. “It is possible to use the ship’s phasers and match the frequency of the barrier.”
“I think that’s what the captain and Chakotay may have done.” B'Elanna took another quick scan of the hull fragment. “Some of this damage to the wing was caused by feedback from the shuttle’s phasers.”
“Then we can safely assume that the captain did try such a technique to penetrate the barrier prior to impact.” Tuvok had to forcefully restrain the hope as it tried to push its cell door open. “Seven, scan the barrier and determine the frequency.”
“There is a risk involved.” B'Elanna warned. “It looks like the feedback from the barrier is what destroyed the shuttle. If we’re not careful – the same thing could happen to Voyager.”
“Then we must endeavor to be careful.” Tuvok said calmly.
“Chakotay, what you said earlier, about your people…”
He nodded and waited for her to finish her question. Kathryn had been quiet all morning. Occasionally she had responded when he pointed out a brightly colored flower or an animal hiding in the undergrowth, but for the most part, she had walked alongside of him in silence.
“Sleeping together is enough to marry a couple?”
“Not just – having sex with someone doesn’t mean you’re married to them anymore than it does in your culture.” Chakotay kept his voice calm and even, not daring to hope where this conversation might lead. “If a couple chooses to share the same bed, bedrobes, or blankets – depending on their lifestyle – then it’s acknowledged that they’re married.”
“Isn’t that still just… sex?”
“A man moving into a woman’s house or lodge isn’t something done lightly.” He shook his head. “A man might visit a woman’s bed for sex if she’s willing, but leave before morning. Or they would meet somewhere that would be considered neutral ground.”
“I see.” They walked on a bit farther. Kathryn was turning it over and over in her mind. “So here, with these people, sharing a blanket like we have – they believe we’re married?”
“Yes. This situation – “ Realizing he was about to give protocol an escape route, Chakotay changed what he had been going to say about it meaning nothing. “Sleeping together and sharing our food has made them see us as a married couple – as mates.”
“Mates?” The crooked smile curved her lips as she looked up at him. “Sounds rather primitive. But I think I like it.”
“I do, too.” Casually, he caught Kathryn’s hand with his. She squeezed his fingers.
“What if – what if the couple change their minds?”
“Then he would move out – or she would set his things outside.” He smiled, thinking that “set” covered a broad range of things. Tossing, throwing, and flinging among them. “It depends on who ends the marriage.”
“And children?” She asked softly.
“Oh, I’m all for them.” A chuckle escaped him at her expression. “A man is still father to his children and responsible for providing for them – that doesn’t change.”
“They stay with the mother?” Considering the nasty divorces some of her friends had been through, Chakotay’s people sounded far more civilized about the matter.
“Generally. It takes extreme circumstances for the children to live with their father. And then only if the tribal council decides it’s best. It’s very rare – I don’t remember ever hearing of such a case.”
“You wouldn’t take your children from their mother, would you.” It wasn’t really a question, Kathryn knew Chakotay too well.
“No. She would have to be a terribly unfit mother.” He had a sudden image of Seska and the child she had tried to claim was his. “My wife would never be a bad mother.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a lot of faith in this woman – how do you know?”
“I’ve seen her mother every stray we’ve run across.” Chakotay lifted her hand to his lips. “Including contrary fools.”
“You’re not a fool.” Kathryn winked at him. “Contrary? Definitely. But no fool.”
Their joined hands swung between them as they walked along the trail.
The Elder caught the satisfied thought from his mate. FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn were thinking of younglings and that was a good sign. It was plain to all that FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn desired to be mates. And yet they denied themselves. Sometimes a difficult mating needed only a push along the trail.
He sent his eldest youngling to walk for a time with FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn so that they could see her new youngling. Birthed during the days of no falling water, he was at the age that made all not-manlings wish for one of them. FriendKathryn would be no different.
Unlike the age where younglings were a trial. The Elder sternly sent his third youngling to walk with his mate, ignoring her protests. She spent too much time with FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn, and they were in a delicate stretch on the trail of their courting.
His mate took his hand and lifted it to her mouth as she had seen FriendChakotay do. Their courting rituals were strange, but not unpleasant. Perhaps later they would try the touching of mouths. She smiled.
“Coordinates locked in, sir.” Harry looked up from the Ops console. “We’re ready to fire on your order.”
“Fire phasers.” Tuvok watched impassively as Voyager’s phasers sliced through space to strike the barrier. There was no visible effect. “Status, Mr. Kim?”
“The barrier is holding.” Harry frowned at his readings. “Phasers are starting to overload.”
“Divert power to the shields.” Tuvok ordered. Voyager shook and rattled angrily.
“The shields are amplifying the feedback.” B'Elanna warned him. “The barrier’s interfering with every system we activate.”
It was logical to shut down the phasers. The safety of the crew and ship was more important than the chance of finding two individuals. Tuvok delayed two point three two seconds before making that logical choice. “Cease fire.”
There was silence on the bridge. Tuvok studied the possibilities. “We may be able to reconfigure a photon torpedo to detonate at the appropriate frequency.”
“What about feedback?” Harry asked.
“A torpedo shouldn’t create any.” B'Elanna looked thoughtful. “Theoretically.”
“Lieutenant Torres, set up a simulation.” Tuvok ordered. “If there is feedback, it would be constrained to a certain distance. Find that distance.”
“There is a flaw in your logic.” Seven said critically.
“Explain.” Once again Tuvok noted that there was a need to clamp down on irritation.
“If the torpedo is able to open the barrier, it will only be for a few seconds. There will not be enough time to scan for the captain and commander – if they survived.”
“Then perhaps you should turn your efforts to another solution that will allow us enough time to locate them?”
If Seven heard the censure in his voice, she ignored it, merely nodding before striding off the bridge for Astrometrics.
Chakotay suspected the natives were up to something. He remembered seeing his own mother and her friends matchmaking for young men and women they thought should be together. He’d narrowly escaped the clutches of such plans a few times himself. Kathryn, however, seemed blissfully unaware that they were being maneuvered.
Young couples, obviously newly married and in love, walked with them. Mothers paraded by for Kathryn to hold and admire their babies. And it was paying off; Kathryn was more relaxed than he’d seen her in years, since their last days on New Earth. She held his hand as they walked down the trail, letting go only to hold one of the chubby babies offered to her.
They stopped for a midday meal beside a gentle stream. Alice brought them a large pink and green fruit, neatly sliced into chunks. The fruit was sweet and sticky, and soon everyone was wading into the stream to wash their hands and faces. The children stripped and splashed and played naked in the shallows while some of the younger adults waded farther out to swim in the cool waters.
Kathryn, ever ready to indulge in a bath, pulled her boots and socks off. She hesitated for a moment before pulling her pants off and laying them aside. Her cheeks were pink but she held her head up as she waded out into the stream. With a sigh, she settled down until she was sitting neck deep in the cool water.
She waved at Chakotay to join her. As much as he wanted to, he didn’t have underwear on beneath his uniform pants. He did have a hard on that wouldn’t quit, however.
Waving back to her, he leaned against a tree and closed his eyes, enjoying the cool shade. The jungle was hot and steamy by day, and he was reminded of his trip to the jungles of Central America with his father.
“It’s all a circle, Chakotay.”
Blinking, he turned his head to see his father sitting beside him.
“This life, this jungle.” Kolopak gestured. “No matter how far you travel, you always arrive at the beginning.”
“No matter where you go, there you are?” Chakotay joked.
“Exactly.” Chuckling, Kolopak pointed at Kathryn sitting out in the stream. “This woman, your Kathryn, you and she started something back on that delightful little planet – what was it called? New something?”
“New – “
Water splashed on his face and Chakotay opened his eyes.
“Earth to Chakotay.” Kathryn trailed a wet finger over his cheek. “We’re about ready to move on. Were you having a good dream?”
“I talked to my father.”
The smile on his face made her smile as well. “Tell me about it?”
“He told me life is a circle.” He tugged on her hand until she sat down beside him. “And I think… I think he was trying to tell me that sometimes we’re given a second chance.”
“Well, your father was a wise man, I wouldn’t want to contradict him.” She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the dark lines on his forehead.
When she sat back, Chakotay’s eyes widened. Her shirt was still wet and clung to her like a second skin. A very well rounded second skin.
A flush crept across her face, but Kathryn didn’t cover herself. Picking up her uniform pants, she sighed at the thought of putting them back on. “Wish I’d packed lighter.”
“Wait.” He unzipped one of their bags and searched through it for the small utility knife that was in the survival kit. Opening it, he sliced through the pants legs, just above the knee. “Try that.”
“Ah, that’ll be cooler.” She pulled on her new Starfleet style shorts. “Much better.”
Shortening his own pants, Chakotay gathered the material and put it into the bag along with the knife. “We’ll be more comfortable now. Just don’t laugh at me for wearing boots and shorts.”
Laughing, she pulled on her own boots and socks. “I’ll never laugh at you, even when you’re old and wear black socks with sandals.”
The thought of being old with Kathryn started an ache in his heart. Reaching for her, he laid his cheek against hers.
Kathryn stroked a hand over the soft raven hair. “Chakotay, I – “ She jumped as water dripped on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw Alice standing next to her.
The little girl pointed to where the others were gathering up their supplies.
“Time to get moving.” Kathryn stood up and helped Chakotay to his feet.
“How close are we to the deflector?” Slipping his crutch back under his arm, he hobbled cautiously along the stream bank.
“At this pace, we should be there tomorrow afternoon." Setting the straps across her shoulders so the bags rested comfortably, Kathryn followed him back to the trail. She watched him carefully, ready to catch him if he stumbled. “There’s a few smaller items not far ahead.”
“Anything useful?” So far they had only found the one small piece that was still functioning, and it was useless without something that would broadcast the signal it generated.
“No live signals, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful.” She caught his free hand in hers as they walked along. “It may be coffee.”
“You and your – “ Chakotay stopped as Alice ran up to them. She held a shiny piece of metal in her hands.
“Where did you get that?” Kathryn took it from her and examined it. “This is a piece of the shuttle’s hull.”
Alice pointed up the trail.
“Can you take one of these?” Kathryn pulled the lighter bag off of her shoulder.
“Of course.” Chakotay helped her adjust the strap so that it rested across his chest and shoulder. “Go.”
“I’ll be right back.” Squeezing his hand quickly, she followed Alice up the trail at a run.
The young men scouting ahead of the main group had found several pieces of the shuttle. Kathryn ran up to them and was dismayed to see that they were picking up and examining some of the debris. Gently, she took a fused power relay from one of them.
The Elder felt FriendKathryn’s worry. He didn’t understand why she did not like their touching of the shiny things, but her fear was almost a live thing. FriendKathryn was not a hoarder. She was afraid that they would be hurt somehow.
He ordered the scouts to put down the strange things and continue down the path. They would settle at the next resting spot and camp for this light sleeps. An early break would be good. FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn would want to gather these things, and the next resting spot was pleasant.
Kathryn sighed in relief as the men put down the pieces they had been holding. The leader made a gesture, pointing to the approaching main group and then pointing in the direction the scouts had gone. She nodded her understanding that they would continue on.
Alice reluctantly followed him down the path, glancing over her shoulder and wishing she could stay with FriendKathryn.
As discreetly as possible, Kathryn took her tricorder out of her bag and scanned the debris field. Following the signals, she found another tricorder, and a few packages of rations – no coffee unfortunately.
Her eyes lit up as she spotted a small grey bag. Snatching up the med kit, she searched through it. The bag was scorched and torn but the contents were mostly intact. Hugging the precious kit to her chest, she ran back down the trail to find Chakotay.
He was hobbling along as quickly as he could, glad that Alice had come back to carry the bag for him, having obviously escaped from her father once again.
Looking up, he saw Kathryn running toward him, her face flushed and her eyes bright with tears. “Kathryn – what’s wrong? What is it?”
“Look!” She showed him the med kit. “You’re okay now.”
“I’m – “ He staggered back as she threw her arms around him.
“I was so scared you’d get an infection and – “ She squeezed him tightly. “You’ll be fine now – just fine.”
It hadn’t occurred to him that Kathryn was that worried about his injury. It was healing well, and she had seemed unconcerned. Wrapping his arms around her, he returned her hug and kissed her cheek. “Everything will be all right, beloved.”
“How are we going to explain your sudden improvement?”
“I’ll limp.” Chakotay watched Kathryn work on his leg. She had given him an antibiotic and vitamins before cleaning and closing the gash with the dermal regenerator.
“Chakotay, I’m serious.” She glanced up at him. “These people are peaceful and good – but they’re primitive. I’d rather not get burned at the stake, thank you anyway.”
“Kathryn, at this level, they’re more inclined to see magic as something good, not evil.” He refrained from telling Kathryn that her more civilized ancestors were the ones who had tended to point and yell witch. “And I still have the fractured bone, so limping won’t be a problem.”
“True.” The osteo-regenerator hadn’t been in the med kit, and the hairline fracture in his leg had to be left to heal on its own. “I’m going to leave the top layers alone – that way it’ll still look like you’re injured but healing.”
“Good idea. I’m sure they know that we can do things they can’t, but it’s better to not do too much.” A lock of auburn hair fell across her face and Chakotay brushed it back.
“We’d better get back.” Standing, she offered her hand and helped him up. “You practice limping while I pack up the salvagables.”
His leg was still tender, and Chakotay found he didn’t have to fake a limp. “I’ll have to see about turning my crutch into a walking stick.”
“Now who’s a softy?” As he walked past her, Kathryn snuck an admiring glance at the nicely muscled legs. “Luckily, not too soft.”
“I believe we can use Voyager’s deflector to emit a signal at the proper frequency.” Seven tapped at her console and the display changed according. “Thus lowering the barrier.”
“Will we be able to restore it?” Tuvok asked. “The Ledosian government may want to continue to protect the Ventu.”
“I believe so. When we shut down the signal, the barrier will reactivate.”
“You know, I’m not so sure the Ledosians will want the barrier back up.” B'Elanna glanced toward Harry. “They had displays in the museum we went to showing how they would use this area if they could.”
“Indeed?” Tuvok looked at Harry who nodded in agreement.
“It seems that at one time, there was a profitable mining operation there.” Harry added. “Until the ‘alien interference’ as they call it.”
“The Prime Directive and Starfleet regulations will dictate our course of action after we retrieve the captain and Commander Chakotay.” Tuvok mentally added Captain Janeway’s recommendations to that list. “For now, our efforts must focus on lowering the barrier and scanning for them.”
“We have to modify the deflector. That will take a few hours.” Looking over Seven’s information, B'Elanna did a quick mental estimate. “Ten, maybe ten and a half hours.”
“That is more time than required for the modifications.” Seven arched an eyebrow. “If you require assistance – “
“I do not require assistance.” B'Elanna bit out. “We’ve taken advantage of the down time to do maintenance. There are systems torn down that have to be put back together. And we have to make certain that we don’t lose the deflector when we do this – there’s no way to replace it.”
“I was merely trying to ensure Commander Chakotay’s safe return as quickly as possible.” Seven paused and then quickly amended her statement. “And Captain Janeway’s return as well.”
“I do, too, Seven.” B'Elanna wondered about the softening of the former drone’s expression. “It’ll be done as quickly as we can do it.”
Tuvok waited for a moment, and when there were no more comments on the situation, he signaled an end to the meeting. “Lieutenant Torres, inform me when the modifications are complete. Dismissed.”
When the briefing room was empty, Tuvok turned to the view port. Voyager was matching the planet’s rotation, keeping the shielded area directly below her bow. It was an irrational, illogical thought, but he knew that Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay were alive and well. Voyager would not be leaving until he found a way through the barrier and brought them home.
Their newly shortened pants made the night air a little cooler, and Kathryn snuggled closer to Chakotay under their blanket. One big hand was rubbing up and down her back and she patted his chest in response.
This was a good feeling, right and true. Sleeping with Chakotay’s warm body against hers was the way things were meant to be and she wondered how she would be able to sleep without him when they went back to Voyager. If they went back.
“Hmm?” Chakotay had been trying to doze, trying desperately to ignore the way his body was reacting to Kathryn’s. “Can’t sleep?”
“Just wondering something.” She slid her hand across his chest, enjoying the firm muscles under her fingers. “Do you think Voyager is still up there?”
“I don’t think Tuvok will give up on us too quickly.” It was the first time they’d spoken about the possibility of rescue. Unlike when they had been left behind on New Earth, Kathryn didn’t seem as driven to get back to Voyager.
“They may think we’re dead.”
It was hard to play his usual role. He wanted to agree with her, tell her they were stranded forever, and propose they spend the rest of their life making fat babies. “They may. I’m sure they’ll be in touch with the Ledosians, and they may be able to lower the shield to get us or come in after us.”
“It’s been three days, Chakotay. Almost four.” Sighing, she rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. “Wouldn’t they have lowered the barrier by now?”
“Kathryn – “ What was he supposed to say? “I don’t know. I really don’t know what Tuvok will do. I know he’ll search for us, but I don’t know for how long. If they found any debris and they find the barrier, they may think that we’re dead and move on.”
“We might end up stuck on a primitive planet after all.” She patted his chest again. “Would that be so bad?”
“It would be wonderful.” He pulled her tighter against his side and brushed a kiss across her temple.
Kathryn woke suddenly. Chakotay lay tense beside her, the muscles of his stomach taut under her hand. From somewhere behind them came the sounds of one of the native couples making love.
After three nights, she should be used to it; instead, she was even more aware of the sounds and movements. Rolling closer to Chakotay, she pressed her face against his throat.
I cannot do this one more night. He had been awake, savoring the feel of Kathryn against his side, when the couple began touching and then grunting as they indulged themselves. His cock was so hard it ached. Lowering his head, he kissed Kathryn’s temple, then nuzzled along her cheek to her ear.
Shivering, she shifted closer and turned her face toward his. Their lips met and they both gasped at the fire that ignited between them. What should have been an awkward first kiss was instead a meeting of lips and tongues as if they had kissed a thousand times before.
Chasing her tongue with his own, Chakotay slid his hands up along Kathryn’s sides until he was able to cup her breasts. She arched into him, pressing the hard nipples into his palms.
Skin, she needed to feel his skin! The golden skin had always fascinated her and she wanted to feel it under her fingertips. Tugging at his shirt, Kathryn slid her hands underneath in search of skin. “Umm… velvet…” She murmured happily.
Chuckling against her lips, Chakotay followed her example and pushed his hands under her shirt. Cupping her bare breasts, he gently rolled and pinched her nipples until she moaned into his mouth. “Better than velvet.”
A throbbing ache poured from his fingers, filling her until she couldn’t breathe. Pulling one big hand down, she clamped her thighs tight around it, but it wasn’t enough.
She pushed away, and Chakotay groaned in disappointment. For a moment, when Kathryn had shoved his hand between her legs, he thought their time was here, but she wasn’t ready. Too bad his cock was. Cupping himself, he squeezed, trying to ease the ache. “Kathryn – Kathryn, come here.”
“Wait.” Her voice was soft and close.
Wait? Spirits, I’m tired of waiting! Biting his tongue, he rubbed himself again. He hadn’t gotten this far by not being patient. Maybe I can go jack – Kathryn snuggled next to him again.
Or not? Sighing in frustration, Chakotay laid his hand on her waist. He jerked his hand back as he realized he had touched bare skin. Sliding his hand back down, he realized Kathryn had taken her pants off. “Spirits…” And her panties.
“Chakotay, no more waiting.” Teasing his lips with her tongue, she worked at the fastenings of his pants. Slipping her tongue into his mouth as she wrapped her fingers around his cock, Kathryn moved atop him.
This wasn’t quite how he had imagined it, but he wasn’t going to pass it up. Sucking at Kathryn’s tongue, trying to catch it as it thrust in and out of his mouth, Chakotay pushed her shirt up, wanting the feel of her skin on his.
It had been months since she’d last been with a man, and only a hologram at that, and Kathryn couldn’t wait to hold Chakotay inside of her. His cock was thick and hot, and she rubbed the swollen head along herself, coating him with her moisture. Pressing the head against her, she grunted in disappointment as it slipped past the aching opening.
After Kathryn made a few more attempts to take him inside of her, Chakotay patted her hip. “You’re going to have to sit up.”
She lifted up to look him in the eye. She didn’t want the others to know what they were doing. “They’ll see.” She whispered.
“They won’t look.” He assured her. “It would be rude.”
Trying once more to push his cock inside of her, Kathryn nearly screamed as it slipped past. Slowly, she sat up, trying to keep the blanket draped over them. Chakotay watched her face as she took him inside of herself. Gasping at the heat and wetness, he smiled at the matching gasp from her as she pushed down until she had all of the thick shaft within her.
Lying back down on his chest, Kathryn kissed him hard as she began to rock up and back. This wasn’t the moonlight and roses she’d always imagined, but it was damned good.
“Kathryn – spirits – “ Chakotay kissed her palm as she put her hand over his mouth. Chuckling, he nipped at her fingers. For her sake, he’d try to keep quiet.
Biting her lip to hold in her moans, she rocked faster and harder. She was on fire inside, and it grew hotter and stronger with every stroke. Forcing herself down onto him as far as she could, Kathryn rode him harder, hotter, until she had to bury her face in his throat and choke on her scream.
Kathryn panted and whimpered against him as her inner walls clutched and spasmed around his cock. Holding her in his arms, Chakotay rolled them over until he was on top of her. Covering her lips with his own, he captured her cries as he began pumping deep and hard.
Pain shot up his injured leg, but he ignored it. He was buried deep within Kathryn’s body, joining them together at last, and he wasn’t stopping until he filled her with his seed.
Kathryn pulled her legs up, wrapping them around his hips and rising to meet the powerful thrusts. Chakotay was grunting into her mouth and breathing in her moans as he drove himself into her.
The fire gave over to massive rippling explosions, and she clutched him to her to catch her when she fell. Chakotay’s body stiffened and bowed into hers, a harsh cry escaping him.
“Oh my God… oh, Chakotay…” Tears burned her eyes as Kathryn felt the hot rush inside of her. “I love you – “
“Kathryn – I love you – “ Rising up, he kissed her between gasps for air. “I’m heavy – I’m too heavy – “
“Yes, you are.” Smiling she cradled his head on her shoulder. “Much too heavy.”
“I’ll move – give me – a minute – “ Wobbly arms refused to push him up. “Strength – give me – “
“Rest.” Kissing his cheek, she whispered. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Always.” His breath was coming easier, and his heart wasn’t trying to pound a hole in his chest now.
“Promise not to tell anyone?”
“Of course.” A ripple of regret hit him hard. He already knew what she was going to say. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“I don’t care if they ever come back.”
Chakotay’s eyes popped open. This wasn’t what he expected to hear. Rolling over, he pulled her up onto his chest again. “You’d be happy here with me?”
“The question is, would you be happy here with me?” Kathryn kissed him softly. “Remember – there’s no coffee.” She kissed him again when he smiled and flashed those dimples at her.
The Elder turned to look at his mate. Her eyes were as wide as his own must be. It was beyond impoliteness to watch another’s mating, but they had been unable to look away. He was glad that FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn had finally mated – but in such a strange way!
His mate was returning his hot thoughts. She wanted to try the not-manling on top of the manling mating. Who knew it was possible to mate if not on all fours?
“The modifications are complete.”
“Have you tested them?” Tuvok was already rising from his bed and pulling a clean uniform from the dresser.
“That’s what we’re getting ready to do.” B'Elanna’s voice was weary.
“Lieutenant, have you slept since yesterday?”
“No, we needed – “
“Lieutenant, you will shower, sleep for the next four hours, and then eat something nourishing to regain your strength.” He paused for the expected burst of emotion.
“Sleep!” She didn’t disappoint him. “You expect me to sleep? Our – “
“I will run the simulations.” He informed her. “Provided they are successful – we will proceed in four point five hours. Tuvok out.”
Dressing as efficiently as always, Tuvok left his quarters and took the turbo lift to deck six. Tom Paris was in Holodeck 1, slouching at the helm on the holographic bridge. The Ledosian planet was on the view screen.
“Lieutenant Paris.” He walked to the Ops console. “Shouldn’t you be in your quarters?”
“B'Elanna said I should ‘keep an eye on things’. You know how it is.” Tom smirked. “Doesn’t your wife boss you around?”
“Of course not, that wouldn’t be logical.”
“Mr. Paris, since you are here, bring Voyager to heading 1.443.”
“And here I thought this was better than my nightmares of piloting forever between blinking orange markers.” The other man quipped as he brought Voyager to the proper heading.
“Do I take that to mean you are not enjoying your – driving school as you call it?” the Vulcan studied the modifications to the deflector before he began the simulation.
“Only in the strictest, mind numbingly boring sense of the word.” The words ‘adequate pilot’ were still bouncing around in his head.
“Perhaps next time, you will obey the speed limit.”
Tom shot a look over his shoulder. Was everyone on Voyager going to get a joke in at his expense?
“Powering deflector.” Tuvok watched the readout. “There is no effect. The signal appears to degrade before reaching the barrier.”
“We may need to get in closer.” With a gentle touch, Tom guided Voyager in closer to the planet. “Anything?”
“Still no effect.”
“Well then, let’s get – “ The ship shivered. “Not any closer than that. Give it a try now.”
“The shield is weakening – “ There was a rattle throughout the bridge. “The signal is generating feedback.”
“That’s not all it’s generating.” Grimacing, he fought the controls as Voyager shook like a toy in some oversized child’s hands. “We’re being pulled in.”
“Impact with barrier in fifty four seconds.” Smoke and sparks shot from several consoles. “End simulation and reset.” Tuvok ordered.
The smoke vanished and the bridge was still once again. “We need to boost the signal somehow.” Getting up from the helm, Tom came over to Ops. “Keep us outside the danger zone and still get a strong enough signal to the barrier.”
“We will have to modify the deflector further.”
“Not necessarily…” Tom grinned. “Ever hear of a – ah, never mind. Old Earth slang term you won’t understand anyway, and you’ll just give me that eyebrow in the hair look. Just give me some elbow room.”
Stepping back, Tuvok folded his arms across his chest as Tom began working. He did not arch his eyebrow into his hair.
At midday, they stopped at a stream where a breathtaking trio of waterfalls fell from hundreds of meters above. A multitude of smaller waterfalls helped fill a large lake that drained into the stream.
The native women went downstream to wash their clothing and blankets while the men went to hunt game. The leader had told them in gestures that this was a good place for hunting and they would stay for a few days.
Kathryn watched the children play and splash in the water under the watchful eyes of their mothers. She should be frothing at the mouth over their failed attempt at using the deflector to create a signal to contact Voyager. Instead she watched as Alice and a group of children her age submerged a net full of fruit, laughing at their antics as they tried to hold it under and weight it down with rocks so that the cool water would chill the fruit.
The magnetic field the wreckage was lying on had fried the relays, going up in a puff of smoke before their eyes. She’d briefly considered asking the natives to drag it away from the magnetic field, but the shuttle’s nose weighed over five hundred kilos if it weighed an ounce, and she didn’t like the idea of turning them into work mules.
Even if the deflector was moved away from the magnetic interference, she had no idea of how to get a signal through the barrier and no way to do it if she did. The majority of the equipment was now scrap metal, and the tricorder wasn’t listing any other active signals within its limited range.
The failure hurt her pride to no end, but Kathryn didn’t feel the same drive to find a way to get back to Voyager as she had all those years ago on New Earth. A peace had come over her as the circuits melted and took the decision out of her hands. Voyager would find them or she wouldn’t.
Walking upstream, she smiled as she found the source of her new peace. Chakotay was standing waist deep under one of the smaller waterfalls. The rocks formed a natural alcove so that he had a measure of privacy from the other bathers.
Water beaded the broad shoulders, sluicing down the golden skin and into the stream. Kathryn licked her lips as he stepped out from under the water and shook it from his hair, making the muscles of his back ripple.
“What?” He liked the hungry look in Kathryn’s eyes.
“Nothing. Just thinking that you fit right in here.” She followed the drops of water from where they pooled at his collarbone down the sweet path to his belly. “Primitive… untamed… pagan…”
“You’ve been reading B'Elanna’s romances, haven’t you?” When she smiled, he laughed. “So, which one is this?”
Tugging off her boots and socks, Kathryn winked at him. “Guess.” Her shirt followed the boots to the ground.
“Ah, let me see…” He tugged at his ear as if thinking it over, the black velvet eyes devouring her as she continued to strip. “Is this the one where the captive woman gets ravished by the savage native?”
“Yes.” Wading out into the cool water, she wrapped her arms around Chakotay’s neck and rubbed her breasts against his chest. His cool wet skin made her nipples harden and ache. “A savage warrior.”
“Forgot the warrior part.” He hissed in pleasure as her soft belly pressed against his suddenly hard cock. How had he survived all these years around her without dying from blue balls? “Forgive me?”
“Always.” She kissed him, her tongue sliding over the sensuous lips.
“Are you sure that’s the one?” Lifting her up in his arms, he carried her towards the splashing waterfall. “Maybe it’s the one about the Starfleet captain and the Maquis rebel.”
“Even better – but again – “ Locking her legs around his hips, Kathryn licked the drops of water from the exotic tattooed lines. “It’s warrior.”
“You like the warrior? You remember him?” The silly legend had alternately embarrassed him and comforted him since he’d told it to her.
“I always remembered the warrior.” Her voice was soft and husky as his hands slid down her back to cup her buttocks. “I loved the warrior – still love him.”
“Let’s see if I’ve got the plot down.” Grinning, Chakotay pressed her against the rock wall below the waterfall. Cool water drizzled and dripped down over them to pool between their bodies. “Is this the part where I torture and rape you to get your command codes?”
“Oh… that’s the right part.” There was a sparkle of mischief in the smoky blue eyes. “Though I may be a bit of a pushover.”
“I doubt that.” Chakotay pushed himself slowly inside of her, grinning at the soft gasp that escaped her lips. “I bet it’ll take hours to break you.”
“Then you better get started.” Kathryn pulled his mouth to hers.
Several natives watched from the foliage beside the stream. It was impolite, and they would receive a stern message from the Elder, but this new way of mating that FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn were doing was too exciting to look away from. Who knew?
The barrier dissolved. “Yeah, baby! That’s my girl!” Tom patted the console lovingly.
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “May I remind you, Mr. Paris, that this was only a simulation?”
“Relax, Tuvok, it’ll work. Don’t worry, or you’ll sprain your eyebrow.” He stood up from the helm. “Let’s get B'Elanna and go do this for real.”
“Lieutenant Torres has another forty five minutes to sleep.” Tuvok ended the simulation, leaving them standing in the empty holodeck. “And you have five minutes before your instructor arrives for your final exam.”
“Five minutes? Are you sure? Stupid question, never mind!” Tom bolted for the door. He couldn’t help thinking that Captain Janeway wouldn’t have made him go through this ridiculous pilot training the Ledosians insisted on.
Tuvok followed at a more sedate pace. He would arrive on the bridge with precisely enough time to input Lieutenant Paris’ changes before Lieutenant Torres arrived. Waiting for the turbo lift, he considered the options once the barrier was down.
Any shuttle debris would have to be beamed up in order not to contaminate the Ventu. If they were still primitive, as the Ledosian ambassador had implied, care would have to be taken to not violate the Prime Directive.
Stepping out of the turbo lift and onto the bridge, he wasn’t surprised to see the Chief Engineer. “Lieutenant Torres, have you made the additional modifications?”
“I have indeed.” She shook her head. “Leave it to Tom to figure out something like this.”
“Mr. Kim, when we neutralize the shield, scan for the captain and Commander Chakotay.” He stepped down to the command level but didn’t sit. “Lieutenant Ayala, scan for shuttle debris and beam it aboard immediately.”
Both men acknowledged the orders. Tuvok nodded to B'Elanna. “Now, Lieutenant.”
Voyager’s deflector shimmered with energy, gathering it and throwing it at the planet below.
The barrier resisted for a moment before it began to fall.
“You know the nice thing about primitive planets?” Kathryn leaned back against Chakotay’s chest. “There’s always plenty of clean water.”
“Are you sure you’re not part fish?” Wrapping his arms around her, he settled back against the edge of the pool they were sitting in. “Will I find gills?”
“No, but feel free to look.” Laying her head back on his shoulder, she smiled up at him. “I love you, Chakotay. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to admit it.”
You can’t believe it? “I’m just glad that you have.” He rested his cheek against hers. “I’ve loved you for so long, Kathryn. I was almost ready to give up, thinking you’d never come to me.”
“Thank God you didn’t.” Tangling her fingers in the soft raven hair, Kathryn pulled his lips to hers. Their tongues slid lazily around and over each other, until they were forced to part for air. “Mmm… we’ll have to add this place to the holodeck.”
“Kathryn – “ He didn’t want to spoil their newfound closeness, but he had to tell her everything he felt. “Kathryn, I won’t go back.”
“Not go back?” Her heart spasmed and she turned to stare at him. “Not go back to Voyager?”
“I meant go back to being just your friend.” He would rather stay forever in this primitive place than go back to standing at her side as if he were only her friend and nothing more.
“Oh – you scared the – “ She splashed water in his face. “Don’t scare me like that!”
“I’m serious, Kathryn.”
“I meant what I said. I love you.” She plopped back against his chest. “I’m not sure what we’ll do when or if Voyager finds us. But I can’t go back to pretending I don’t love you – that you’re my friend and nothing more.”
Pleased that her words echoed his own thoughts, Chakotay hugged her tightly to him and kissed her cheek. “We’ll work it out, beloved. Together we’ll manage.”
There was splashing from downstream and Alice came into view. All of the reddish clay had washed out of her hair, and it hung down loose around her shoulders. She waved at them and gestured that the others were eating.
Kathryn and Chakotay climbed out of the pool and helped each other dress.
“I’ve got two combadge signals – two life signs!” Harry grinned as a cheer went up from the bridge crew. A more subdued cheer than if the captain had been on the bridge instead of Tuvok, but it was obvious that they were as happy as he was to find the captain and Commander Chakotay.
“We’re beaming up debris from the surface.” Ayala whistled softly. “A lot of it is in very small pieces.”
Tuvok allowed a moment’s satisfaction to join his calm center. “Voyager to Captain – “
“Commander, wait!” Harry shouted from Ops. “They’re surrounded by fifteen life signs.”
“Natives?” The Vulcan frowned. “Are the captain and Commander Chakotay in any danger?”
"No, sir, they don’t appear to be in any distress.” The combadges were sending a steady stream of medical information to Voyager. “They’re in good shape.”
“Ensign Kim, Lieutenant Ayala, come with me.” He turned toward the turbo lift. “Lieutenant Torres, you have the conn.”
B'Elanna eyed the big chair as the three men left. She didn’t want the conn. Frowning at the big chair, she stayed at the Engineering console. It was a small bridge, and it wasn’t like they couldn’t find her if they needed her.
Kathryn was smiling at the faces Alice was making as her mother carefully combed the red clay into her hair. It was obvious that the little girl didn’t care for the process, glaring at the dirt between her feet as the bone comb dragged the paste through her hair.
A flash of gold and black caught her eye, and she looked up to see Tuvok standing just beyond the edge of the encampment. Behind him, Harry was grinning and bouncing up and down on his toes.
“Chakotay.” He turned from his conversation with the leader. “It’s time to go.”
“What?” He smiled and set aside the fruit he had been sipping juice from. “You will turn into a fish if we – where are they?“
The look on her face must have given her away. “At the edge of the trees, twelve o’clock.”
Getting up, Chakotay brushed the dirt off of his legs and picked up their bags and his walking stick. “We have to leave now.” He made the gesture for ‘travels ahead’.
The Elder stood up. He understood; FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn did not belong here and he had known it was only a matter of a few light passes before they would go back to the sky. He repeated the gesture and called the others in so they could say good journey to their friends.
Alice threw her arms around Kathryn, and her body shook with silent sobs. Kathryn knelt and hugged her, heedless of the red clay smearing her clothes. “You’ve been a good friend, Alice. I’ll always remember you.” She kissed the red stained cheek.
Alice’s mother caught Kathryn’s arm as she and Chakotay turned to leave the encampment. She held out a hide package to her.
Taking it, Kathryn opened it to find a blanket. It was soft, a light cream color with a bluish pattern running through it. “Oh, I couldn’t.” It was obvious that this had taken days – if not weeks – to make. “It’s too precious.”
Smiling, the woman took her mate’s hand and pulled it to her heart. The Elder returned the gesture, placing her hand over his heart.
“Kathryn, I think it’s a marriage gift.” Chakotay took the blanket and wrapped it up in the hide again before tucking it into the bag he carried. “Thank you.”
“Thank you.” Kathryn made the gesture, then impulsively hugged the woman. “Thank you all so much.”
The Elder extended his hand to FriendChakotay, gripping his wrist in a gesture of brotherhood. It was frustrating that FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn couldn’t speak. It would be much easier to thank them for their visit.
His mate sent a gentle reminder to him that not all were as advanced as they. FriendChakotay and FriendKathryn, for all that they had good magic, couldn’t help being backward.
Tuvok raised his eyebrows as the captain and commander walked into the trees where he waited with the others. “Your uniforms appear to have suffered substantial damage. Are you injured?”
“Chakotay’s leg needs attention.” Kathryn straightened her spine and forced down her tears. “Let’s get out of here.”
In Sickbay, the EMH fussed over Chakotay’s leg. “The pulp from whatever plant they used has healed a good deal of the fracture as well as keeping out infection.”
“I was still grateful to find the med kit.” Kathryn fastened her uniform jacket, having taken advantage of the sonic shower in Sickbay to clean up.
“I’m impressed.” The Doctor confessed.
“They’re impressive people.” Chakotay told him. “I just hope we haven’t traumatized them.”
“I don’t think they will be; we did everything we could to keep contamination to a minimum.” Kathryn patted Chakotay’s shoulder. “I’ve got to get to the bridge, will you be okay?”
“I’ll be up in a minute.” He smiled at her, but inside he was worried that the captain had again taken Kathryn hostage.
Her uniform felt stiff and uncomfortable as she walked to the turbo lift. In the corridor, crew members smiled and nodded to her, letting her know that they were glad she was back. Am I glad I’m back? Realistically, Kathryn knew that she couldn’t stay with the Ventu. She and Chakotay belonged to this world, and they couldn’t go back.
On the bridge, the Ledosian ambassador was on the view screen. “You restored the barrier!”
“We did not restore the barrier. We stopped the signal our deflector was transmitting and the barrier restored itself.” Tuvok said impassively.
“And you’ve refused to tell us how to lower it ourselves.” The man frowned at him. “You have no right to limit our access to our own territory.”
“We’re not trying to.” Kathryn stepped smoothly into the conversation. “But we have a strict non-interference policy. We’re simply not allowed to leave our technology in the hands of other cultures. It often has damaging consequences.” An image of Joe Carey’s body flashed through her mind before she banished him to late night musings.
“I don’t think you realize how important it is. It’s not only the resources that interest us. The Ventu are our evolutionary ancestors – our living history!”
“We’d be happy to share the information we gathered with you.” Kathryn held her hands up helplessly. “I understand this is disappointing to you, but I’m afraid I have no choice.”
“In the spirit of cooperation, I hope you’ll reconsider.” His tone was light but there was a hint of a threat in his words.
“I wish that I could.” Kathryn glanced over her shoulder as the turbo lift opened behind her. Chakotay stepped to her side. “However, my orders are quite clear in this type of situation. We’ll be leaving as soon as we recall our crew. Thank your people for allowing us to visit your beautiful world.”
The ambassador smiled slightly and cut the link.
“Problems?” Chakotay waited for Kathryn to sit before sitting in his own command chair.
“They want us to reopen the barrier. Or tell them how to do it.”
“Neither of which we’re going to do.” He knew that look in her eye. The Prime Directive wasn’t the reason she wasn’t giving the Ledosians the information.
“The first thing I heard was ‘resources’ and that was all I needed to hear.” She shook her head. “And if they’re wanting to study the natives – I’ll eat leola casserole for a week.”
“I’m sure they’d want to protect them. Help them – for their own good.” A mental image of the natives being herded off their land and forced to join the 24th century came to him.
“Chakotay.” Kathryn leaned over and patted his hand. “We’re not going to – “ Voyager shook and a booming sound rolled through the ship. The bridge lights flickered. “What the hell was that?”
“Shields!” Chakotay ordered.
“There is a Ledosian vessel on an intercept course.” Tuvok reported. “They are charging weapons again.”
“Get a weapons lock and hail them!” Kathryn shot to her feet, just in time for another blast of energy to rock Voyager. Chakotay caught her arm as she stumbled, and she gave him a grim smile.
“They’re hailing us!” Harry said in surprise.
“Captain Janeway.” The ambassador smiled at her as he appeared on the screen.
“What’s going on?” She asked, not in the mood for small talk.
“Our government has decided that you should reconsider giving us the information on how to lower the barrier.”
“And that justifies an unprovoked attack?” Of course it did, because they both knew his pretty words meant that Voyager would give over the information or else.
“We’ve only targeted your impulse engines to avoid harming your crew.” The man smiled again. “I hope you appreciate our restraint.”
“I don’t find weapons fire of any kind restrained.” Kathryn glared at him. “It only reinforces my opinion that the barrier is necessary to protect the native people.”
“If you want to avoid further conflict, I suggest you give us the information.” He tapped a control and the signal cut off.
“Is everyone back on board?” She turned to Tuvok.
“I began recalling the crew in anticipation of the Ledosians reacting in just such a manner.” Tuvok’s voice was the same as always, but Kathryn could hear the contempt in it. “There are, however, six crewmembers still on the surface.”
“Is Tom still out there in the Flyer?” The Doctor had gleefully filled them in on Tom’s transgression and punishment when she and Chakotay were in Sickbay.
Harry grinned. “Yes, ma’am, he is.”
“Hail him, Harry.” She sat back down in her chair and grinned. Shoot at my ship, will you?
Tom was going out of his mind. Even when he’d been a boy and first learning to fly, with his hard-nosed perfectionist father breathing down his neck, he’d had more fun than this. And that was saying something.
Kleg watched critically as the ship was guided between the markers. “Excellent, Mr. Paris. Now come about – slowly.”
Keeping the smile plastered on his face and the frustration simmering on the back burner, Tom put the Flyer into a careful, Academy perfect turn.
“Janeway to Paris. Respond.”
There was a note in her voice, the way ‘respond’ sounded, that said ‘I’m in an ass kicking mood’. He opened his mouth to answer but Kleg leaned over him.
“Captain, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t interrupt my student during his examination.”
“I’m sorry, but something’s come up.”
“Glad to have you back, Captain.” Tom loved that ‘butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth’ tone. Kleg had no clue that she would have loved to have him on a spit.
“Tom, I’m sending you some encrypted orders.”
Really? How interesting. And Tom is it? Not Mr. Paris? “Yes, ma’am!” He turned away from the instructor and looked at the orders scrolling across the small display. Hmmm… my, we are pissed, aren’t we?
“This is highly irregular!”
Not for Voyager. Okay, so what do we have here? Pick up… disable if possible… oh good I get to shoot them! Beam off instructor… wonder if she means onto the ship or just out in space? Meet up with Voyager… what, no xxoo at the end? Tom grinned and leaned back in his seat. Your every wish is my command, Madame Captain.
Wrapping his fingers around the controls, he sent the Delta Flyer into a gut wrenching, backbone snapping, balls to the wall, swerve-dip-flip-roll over maneuver he loved.
“You’re going much too fast!” Kleg was grateful for inertial dampers.
“Yes, sir.” He said pleasantly. “I’m in a bit of hurry.”
Kleg’s eyes widened as he saw they were diving straight down into the atmosphere over the capital city. “If you have any desire to pass this test, you’ll reduce your speed immediately!”
“I wish I could do that, sir. I really do.” In some alternate timeline where I’m a fucking moron.
Dipping down over the city, Tom keyed in the command to beam up the six members of the crew still on the surface. They appeared behind him, quickly manning the empty consoles. The others immediately sat down; they were only too familiar with Tom’s piloting style.
“Check out our orders. Doyle, inform Voyager that you’re all safe.” Tom pulled up out of the dive and shot back up through the atmosphere. “Baker, give me a location on that ship.”
“Yes, sir.” Lieutenant Baker scanned for the Ledosian cruiser that was bullying Voyager. “Got her. Ugly pug of a ship.”
“Auxiliary power to the weapons.” He ordered.
“Ready when you are, Tom.”
“What is going on?” Kleg demanded.
“We’re just going to drop you off.” Tom flashed a smile at him.
“I am sorry to inform you, Mr. Paris, but you have failed this examination!” Kleg’s face was red, and he was practically spitting. “You will no longer be allowed to operate a vessel within Ledosian space!”
There were a few snickers from the back and Tom allowed himself the smirk he’d hidden for days. “Something tells me that’s not going to be a problem.”
The Ledosians were supremely confident that they were going to get what they wanted. Voyager hadn’t made an aggressive move since they had been fired upon. The Ledosian captain read that as the alien captain, who was only a woman, being frightened into cooperating. He was considering where he would put his newest medal when his ship shook and almost tossed him from his chair. “What was that?”
“Another vessel, sir!” One of his crew shouted. “A shuttle!”
“A shuttle?” The captain snorted. “Destroy it.”
Another slap of phaser fire rocked the ship. The weapons officer ground his teeth in frustration. “It’s too small! Too fast!”
Outside, Tom danced the Delta Flyer around the other ship like a little boy darting around a fat woman to steal her box of candy. Before they could lock onto him, he was gone, leaving a river of phaser fire. “How’s my piloting now?”
Kleg didn’t answer, hanging onto the seat for dear life as the belly of the cruiser filled the main view port.
Voyager turned on the Ledosian cruiser, slapping the other ship broadside with a full phaser volley. Tom chuckled. He could just imagine Captain Janeway delivering a slap across the face or maybe a good right hook. Voyager was much like her captain, graceful and dainty, and with very sharp teeth.
“The Ledosians shields are down.” Ensign Doyle reported.
“Send our guest home.” Tom waved at Kleg. “Just mail that grade to the Alpha Quadrant, would you?”
“This is by far – “ The instructor disappeared.
“I think I deserve an A, what do you guys think?” He looked over his shoulder at his crewmates. They laughed and nodded, a couple of them giving him the thumbs up.
Voyager vanished in a flash of rainbow light, and Tom sent the Flyer after her. Wouldn’t do to let momma get too far ahead.
“Tuvok, if you’d mind the store a while longer? I left some things in Sickbay that I need to retrieve before the Doctor decides they’re recyclable.” Kathryn stood up. “Chakotay?”
Getting up, he followed her into the turbo lift. She stuck to business on the way, talking about the information they’d gathered and how best to go through it. He nodded and answered automatically. Inside, his heart was slowly breaking. Despite what she’d said on the planet, Kathryn had stepped swiftly behind the unbreakable shield of protocol.
“Ah, Captain, Commander.” The Doctor looked up as they came into Sickbay. “A visit so soon, dare I hope this is a trend and I won’t have to send out security when it’s time for your physicals?”
“Just picking up some things we left behind.” Kathryn looked around the room.
“On my desk.” He went into his office and came back with the bags. “They need to be disinfected. Or possibly burned.”
Unzipping one of the bags, Kathryn lifted out the hide package and the blanket. “Bite your tongue.”
Chakotay took the PADDs from the other bag. “You may want to look these over, Doctor. We weren’t able to get a sample of the plant the natives used, but I scanned the plant and the dressing both.”
“I may be able to produce it synthetically.” The EMH scanned through some of the information. “Hmm… very interesting.” The Doctor wandered off into his office again.
Chakotay turned to Kathryn, intending to ask exactly what she was going to do, when the Sickbay doors opened and Seven stalked in.
“You were injured?” She looked him over.
“I was, but I’m fine now, Seven.” He told her.
“I was concerned.”
“Thanks for your concern, Seven.” Kathryn arched an eyebrow. “We’re both fine.”
“I was concerned for you as well.” The former drone said.
But more concerned over your holo template? “Of course you were, Seven.” The program Seven had created had been deleted, but it had been a wake up call for Kathryn. “Chakotay, I think this will look lovely on my bed, don’t you?”
“It – well – yes – “ He stared at the blanket as she held it up.
“I’m going to go put it in my quarters.” Kathryn started for the door and then paused and turned. “Chakotay, do you think Voyager counts as a village?”
“Well yes, Voyager’s our home here in the Delta Quadrant, so I think that’s accurate.” The question threw him, coming out of nowhere.
“So, would a crewman’s quarters be their house?” Carefully, Kathryn folded the blanket and held it against her chest.
Seven was confused by the conversation. She looked from one to the other. “Voyager is a ship – quarters are merely a room.”
“Are they? I don’t know…” Kathryn pursed her lips thoughtfully. “My quarters are mine alone, off limits to the rest of the crew. Wouldn’t they be my home? My… lodge?”
“Your lodge?” A frown marred Seven’s face.
“Chakotay, what do you think?” Walking to the doors, Kathryn paused just outside the range of the sensors. “If a man moved into my quarters it would be the same as moving into my house, don’t you think?”
“I think so, yes.” His heart began pounding as he realized where she was leading. “An individual’s quarters would be considered their house.”
“I think the bed would be the best place then.” Another step and the doors swished open. “Are you coming, Chakotay?”
“Of course.” He grabbed the bags with their mementos from the bio bed. “We could put it on the sofa.”
“No, I want to cuddle up under it every night.” She smiled at him, catching Seven’s eye over his shoulder. “I think it’ll keep us warm, don’t you?”
“Kathryn, I can guarantee you will never have to worry about being cold at night.” He held out his and to her, squeezing her fingers when she laid her hand in his.
“l didn’t think I would be.” Leading him out of Sickbay, she smiled at the look on Seven’s face. Teach you to play with my warrior.
After the doors snapped shut, she looked up at Chakotay. “That was a bit heavy handed of me, wasn’t it?”
“Just a bit.” He grinned at her. “But I liked it.”
“Good, just remember I’m a jealous and possessive woman, and we’ll get along fine.” She squeezed his hand lovingly. “Now, when you move in, what do we do with your quarters?”
“Fill them with babies.” He said matter-of-factly. Kathryn’s rich laughter blended with his as they headed for the turbo lift and their new life.