Admiral Kathryn Janeway approached the pool table, her jaw set, her eyes bright. Captain Chakotay thought Joan of Arc might have worn that same look of passionate determination, gripping a lance instead of a cue stick. Janeway surveyed the table, called her shot, lined it up, and to the surprise of neither of her watching friends, sank the ball.
The three of them were in the real, bona fide Sandrine's in Marseilles. Lieutenant Commander Tom Paris had made the introductions a few months ago and told Sandrine about how popular the replicated bistro was on Voyager's holodeck. Sandrine had been enormously pleased to think that her "simple, petit bistro offered so much comfort to lost travelers." The elegant blond proprietor had kissed everyone on the cheek -- the men on each cheek, a bit too lingeringly -- and offered complimentary champagne and caviar all around.
Tonight, six months after Voyager's return home, only Janeway, Chakotay, and Dr. Jarem Kaz were enjoying the dim lighting and cozy atmosphere of the bistro. Janeway sipped a glass of fine French wine between shots, Kaz had indulged in Antarean brandy, and Chakotay held a glass of cold mineral water with lime.
"Got a big day tomorrow," he said as he ordered, "and besides, I have to stay sharp if I have any hope of winning against Admiral Shark here."
In the end, though, Chakotay realized that his decision to stick to water didn't help much. Janeway continued to dominate the game.
"Maybe we should change the rules," Kaz said to Chakotay as Janeway sank her fourth ball.
Janeway looked up in mock horror. "Gentlemen, I'm surprised at you. You should know by now that I never, ever change or bend rules."
The two men exchanged amused glances. Chakotay had been Janeway's first officer for seven years and knew nearly everything there was to know about the woman who had brought her crew home against impossible odds. Janeway kept to the spirit of the law, but not always the letter. She took risks and followed her gut instincts and her heart's advice as well as the logic of her brain.
Sometimes those risks didn't pay off. Sometimes they exacted a dreadful toll. But most of the time, Kathryn Janeway won.
Just as she was doing now.
Kaz had known Janeway and Chakotay for only a few months, but the three of them had become fast friends in that time. The Trill doctor had risked everything to help them stop a deadly threat to Earth shortly after the Voyager crew had returned home. During that crisis, Kaz had trusted Janeway as Chakotay had learned to trust her, with much less reason. And with that trust, he had earned two friends for life.
There were other reasons why Chakotay found himself gravitating to the doctor. The Trill's previous host, Gradak, had been a Maquis, something he and Chakotay had in common. Gradak Kaz had died shortly after the devastating sneak attack on Tevlik's moon base -- the very site out of which Chakotay himself had operated during the war. As Chakotay had once told Janeway, if his ship hadn't been spirited away to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, he would probably have died on Tevlik's moon along with several thousand other Maquis and their entire families.
Even more significantly, both Gradak and Chakotay had personally known the traitor Arak Katal, the Bajoran who had betrayed the Maquis to the Cardassians and was directly responsible for the massacre.
Chakotay liked Jarem for himself, never having known Gradak. But the knowledge that part of his new friend understood what it meant to be Maquis made Chakotay even more inclined to befriend the Trill.
As much as he personally liked Kaz, he respected him even more. The Trill had been Chakotay's first choice to replace the Doctor on board Voyager. Kaz had readily agreed, and Chakotay was looking forward to working with him.
"Oh, come on," sputtered Kaz as Janeway prepared to sink yet another ball.
The outburst was perfectly timed. Janeway laughed and her shot went wild. Still laughing, she yielded to Chakotay.
"I pass it to you, my old friend," she said, and he knew she referred to more than the table.
Tomorrow would mark his first official day as captain of the U.S.S. Voyager. The ship would be relaunched, with its new captain, new crew, and new missions. It was a bittersweet moment for Chakotay.
"Six, right-hand side pocket," he said, and lined up the shot.
Janeway had always told him the truth, and she'd been frank about how hard it had been for her to persuade some in Starfleet Command to award Chakotay the position of captain. He'd found out later just how hard she'd argued.
"You should have seen her, Chakotay," Admiral Kenneth Montgomery, former foe and now friend, said to him one night not too long ago. "I'll be frank -- it ought to have been impossible. You were a Maquis, and the only proof they had that you could be trusted was her word and Voyager's logs. But Janeway wasn't going to leave the room until she'd gotten you that captaincy. I've never seen anyone argue so passionately for something in my entire life. By the time she was done, I think everyone was prepared to offer you the presidency of the Federation."
Chakotay found out later that others, too, had come before Starfleet Command to speak to his accomplishments -- Montgomery among them. He'd blushed to hear how highly thought of he was among both relative strangers and his former crewmates. Chakotay knew he'd been given a rare opportunity, and he was determined that his friends -- especially Kathryn -- would never regret their decision to support him.
He'd also been allowed to assemble what he considered to be a "dream crew," the finest from Voyager and some of the best the Federation could offer in the Alpha Quadrant.
In addition to Kaz, he'd been able to get Harry Kim to agree to take over security, Lyssa Campbell, Voyager's former transporter officer, to step into Harry's old position at ops, and the unwittingly entertaining and intelligent Vorik as chief engineer. Two amazing women as pilot and science officer and a Huanni counselor -- every captain's first choice for that important, delicate, and sometimes difficult job -- rounded out the senior staff.
"You're sure you don't want to work as a team, Kaz?" Chakotay asked as he lined up his second shot. "It might take both of us to beat her."
"No, I'll wait and play the admiral -- I mean, whoever wins this game," said Kaz.
"Yeah, yeah, wait until you're on my ship, my friend," said Chakotay. He missed the next shot, and Kaz looked at him meaningfully.
Chakotay drank some of his water and looked around. Sighing, he said, "This is almost a perfect evening. I only wish Tom were here."
Janeway, chalking her cue, gave him a sympathetic glance. She knew he was referring to more than just the evening's entertainment.
"We tried," she said.
"I know," he replied. "Two black sheep was just too much for Starfleet to swallow."
"For right now," Janeway said. "Thirteen, corner pocket. And besides, he's still on parental leave on Boreth, with B'Elanna and Miral." Before she shot, she regarded Chakotay intently. "Don't worry, Chakotay. I've got my eye on Tom. I'm not going to let Starfleet forget about him. He's too valuable an officer."
Chakotay had wanted Tom Paris as his first officer. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- their clashes in earlier years, Paris was someone he had learned to trust completely. It had seemed so right, so logical a choice, that even now the memory of Janeway gently telling him that his request had been denied stung.
"They're willing to gamble on you, and they're willing to gamble on Tom," Janeway had said. "Just not both of you on the same ship."
"We were on the same ship for seven years," Chakotay had said angrily. "We did a pretty good job then."
It was at that point Janeway had revealed to him how hard she had fought to get him Voyager's captaincy...and had revealed the compromise she'd been forced to make.
"But it's adding insult to injury," said Kaz, referring to that compromise. Clearly his mind was running along the same path as Chakotay's. "I mean, not only did they refuse to let Tom back on Voyager as your first officer, but they foisted Priggy on you."
Once again, Janeway's shot went wild as she choked with laughter. "Kaz, I'm beginning to think this is deliberate," she remonstrated. Sobering, she said, "It's a good thing none of us is on duty right now or I'd have to reprimand you for that comment. Andrew Ellis is a sterling Starfleet officer. He's highly decorated and long overdue for a first officer position. You're lucky to have him, Chakotay, and I know he's very much looking forward to serving with you."
"Everything you said is completely true," Chakotay agreed. "And so is the nickname." He stepped into position and made his shot.
"He's not a prig," said Janeway, sounding unconvinced herself. "He's just...a touch conservative." She paused. "And by-the-book."
"And far too stuffy for a thirty-year-old," said Kaz.
Janeway glanced from one man to the other. "Somehow I think you and Chakotay will loosen him up a bit."
"It's not Ellis himself I mind," said Chakotay, amending immediately, "Okay, at least not much. I just feel like Starfleet wants him to be my nanny."
"Who knows," mused Kaz. "Maybe beneath that starched uniform beats the wild heart of an untamed rebel."
Chakotay came dangerously close to snorting his water. "Damn it, Kaz," he sputtered. All three of them were laughing now.
"All right," Janeway said, mirth still bubbling in her voice. "No more comments about Commander Ellis. He's got the credentials and you're to give him a fair shot, both of you. Agreed?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Chakotay obligingly, knowing the term annoyed her.
She glared at him. "Changing the subject," she said, "I want to make sure you know that after the initial resistance, I've been hearing a lot of enthusiasm about your taking over Voyager. In fact, you were specifically requested for this mission."
Chakotay was so surprised by this comment that he missed the shot. He was sure that unlike Kaz, who made every wry comment with deliberate calculation, Janeway hadn't timed her statement purposely to throw his game off.
"Really?" he said. "Considering the nature of the mission, that surprises me."
"It shouldn't," Janeway said. "It's just one of those little ironies that make life so interesting. The odds that your first mission would take you back to areas of space that you fought to liberate as a Maquis might seem steep until you consider that nearly everything right now is revolving around recovering from the war."
"The war we missed," said Chakotay. "I'm tired about hearing how lucky we were."
Janeway had just two more balls to sink before she won the game. She examined the table as she spoke.
"The fact that you're involved in this right now indicates that everyone is ready to move into the healing phase," she said.
"Not everyone," said Kaz. "I have to tell you, as someone who was here when the war was going on, that the last thing anyone expected was to have some of the worlds we fought to protect turn on us afterward."
Janeway made her shot. Only one ball was left on the table.
"I wouldn't say they turned on us," she said mildly. "The war was dreadful. We lost so many people. Some planets are inclined to blame Federation policy instead of the Dominion for those losses. It's to be expected." She sank the final ball with a great deal of force. "But it's not correct."
"The Federation has always been about reaching out to others, helping them," said Kaz. "Being involved, being compassionate. Just because sometimes some worlds or species take advantage of that doesn't mean the policy doesn't work. In the history of the Federation, that policy has worked much, much more often than it's failed."
"I couldn't agree more," said Janeway, racking the balls for the next game. She handed her cue to Kaz. "Of course, every Federation planet has the right to withdraw from the Federation if it so chooses. But it's important that that choice be made for the right reasons, or everyone suffers."
"The galaxy is smaller than ever these days," said Chakotay. "We've expanded into two more quadrants in just the last few years. No one can afford to go it alone."
Chakotay knew that this theme of unity had become Janeway's passion over the last few months. While she still enjoyed teaching the fresh faces at the Academy with Tuvok, it wasn't enough to keep her sharp mind occupied. As a captain, she might have been able to scratch the itch by taking her ship out to where the action was. As an admiral, she didn't have that opportunity.
But she had something else, Chakotay had learned: access to information, and power to directly influence policy. The thing that had kept Voyager together under remarkable circumstances for seven full years was the crew's devotion to Federation ideals, even -- perhaps especially -- on the part of the Maquis among them. To come home to a shattered quadrant recovering from war, and to see the Federation starting to splinter because of it, had been particularly painful to Janeway, and she had volunteered to take under her wing any and all missions that kept the still-wounded Federation together.
Kaz broke, and they were all quiet for a moment as they watched the balls roll to various positions on the table.
"Two, side pocket," Kaz said.
An unpleasant thought occurred to Chakotay. "Did Starfleet Command assign me this mission as a test? To remind me of my place?"
As soon as he spoke the words, he realized how childish they sounded. But Janeway didn't appear surprised.
"That had occurred to me too," she said. "I think it's a by-product of the cynicism we experienced when we first returned. But no, Chakotay, I don't think that's truly the case. You're taking passengers to repopulate Loran II. The fact that this planet has a similar history to Dorvan V was definitely taken into consideration, certainly. How could it not be? I don't think anyone wanted to rub your nose in anything. On the contrary, the comment I've heard is that you were the best man for the job because you had empathy for the colonists, a sort of empathy no one else possessed. They, too, were handed over to the Cardassians; they, too, had to make the painful choice between evacuation and staying. In a mission all about healing and recovery, that sort of a connection is a big thing."
She smiled gently at him. A muffled oath from Kaz made them glance at the table. The Trill glumly handed Janeway the cue.
"Next time," he grumbled, "we play poker."
Copyright © 200 by Paramount Pictures
Star Trek: Voyager: Spirit Walk #1: Old Wounds
of HOMECOMING and THE FARTHER SHORE!
Captain Chakotay is ready to prove himself as the new commanding officer of the Starship Voyager -- but skeptics back at Starfleet Command are watching him closely for any sign that he will revert to his renegade Maquis ways. His first mission as captain, to transport a group of displaced colonists back to their home planet of Loran II, seems easy enough: make sure the planet is safe for colonization, unload the settlers, and head back to Earth. He even has an extra reason to enjoy the trip -- his sister, Sekaya, has joined the mission as a spiritual advisor to the gentle, peace-loving colonists.
But when the crew arrives at Loran II, they discover a mysterious storm, an ominously deserted settlement -- and a hidden threat from Chakotay's past that could destroy them all. Will Chakotay's first mission as captain of Voyager also be his last?
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