MISSION IMPOSSIBLE won First Place in Alicia's Voyager Central Fatal Finale Contest.
Disclaimer:Star Trek: VoyagerT© is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Is it possible to lose everything on the eve of winning it all?
"Come in, Commander. Please take a seat."
Commander Chakotay walked towards the couch in the captain's Ready Room in quiet obedience. He watched as she ordered two coffees at the replicator and turned toward him. There was something wrong here. He knew her well enough to recognize that her body language was screaming tension, and -- something more.
"Thanks," he said quietly as he took the offered mug from her. He watched her slowly sit down. Look at her desk. Look out the viewport. Look at her coffee. Slowly sigh. He took a sip and waited, patience was a virtue; at least he hoped so. She looked at him, her eyes dull with pain.
"Commander, I have something to discuss with you. This is at the highest security level; you may not speak of it with anyone. Do you understand?"
"Of course, Captain."
"Good," she said, looking over his shoulder. Then he watched as she seemed to pass a barrier and assume a new, determined Starfleet persona. There was probably no one else in the world that could have seen the crossover. She looked him in the eye.
"Commander." A pause and then much softer, "Chakotay. Starfleet has requested that I explain a situation to you and request your help with its solution. They understand that you are technically not Starfleet and under no obligation, but they..we..are hoping you will consider the request and agree to help."
He stared at her until she looked away, and then said, "The first thing you can do is explain that "not technically Starfleet" remark. I thought that was behind us almost seven years ago, Kathryn. Or should I say 'Captain?' " She ignored the question.
"They're allowing you every opportunity to say no, Chakotay. It's not an..easy..mission."
"But if I do say no, the Maquis on board Voyager will be considered in a different light when we dock at Deep Space Nine in two weeks. That is the point of that remark, isn't it, Captain?" He'd made his choice.
"No, I don't think so, Chakotay. But they do want to respect the subtle difference in your position on board Voyager and allow you to freely make a decision without undue pressure."
He crossed his arms and kept staring. "Unlike the decisions I've been making for the past seven years."
She made a gesture of frustration and stood to watch the stars glide by. "I'm not doing a very good job of this, am I, Chakotay?"
He continued to stare at her until finally, with a sigh, he leant forward and took her hand. A gentle pull brought her back to the couch, this time sitting much closer to him. He put his arm along the back of the couch behind her, and spoke frankly.
"Kathryn, stop with the official Starfleet crap. You're out of the habit and it's driving me crazy. There's a job to do and they want me. What is it?"
"It's an official IM -- Impossible Mission, Chakotay. They..we..want to exploit your experience and knowledge of terrorism. There's a renegade Cardassian unit somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant and they need both it and its outpost neutralized. Completely."
He raised his eyebrow. "Has the popular vernacular changed in seven years, or does 'neutralization' mean the same now as it did then?"
"I see. And I will be doing this on my own?"
"No. There is another person on board that I will be talking with if your answer it yes."
"Knowing who that is might affect my decision, Kathryn. I want to know."
"I can't tell you yet."
"Well, you'd better break another rule because I want to know. Now."
She sighed. "I must really be losing my touch." She closed her eyes. "It's B'Elanna, Chakotay."
His whole body stiffened with her answer and he absolutely gaped at her. "B'Elanna?! Are you serious?! She's a nursing mother for chrissakes!"
"She's a wonder at what needs to be done. Her excellence has not gone unnoticed."
"Then you can have my answer now. I say no -- and in no uncertain terms. I will not co-operate with animals who just want me to obliterate an inconvenient pack of vermin for them." He pushed away from her and started for the door.
"Who do you want?"
He froze in shock and then was back at the couch before her eyes were fully open, grabbing her upper arm and pulling her up until she was firmly pressed against him. "Negotiating, Kathryn? You're trying to negotiate with me now?"
She gasped. "Who do you want, Chakotay? Name your price."
His eyes narrowed and bored into hers. "Don't tempt me, Kathryn, you might not want to deliver."
He watched her face dissolve into astonishment, her mouth shaping a soundless "oh!" And then suddenly her body went limp and he quickly used his other hand to steady her. His fury was abated, but not his frustration, and he turned away from her and let out an "arrggghhhhh!" with his fists stretched high over his head. Then the arms bent down over his head.
"Starfleet, bloody Starfleet. Spirits, I'd almost forgotten," he whispered. He turned to see Kathryn supporting herself on the railing that separated the leisure area from her work area. She was breathing deeply. His arms dropped to his sides and he went to a familiar cupboard, pulling out a bottle and two glasses. He poured.
"Sit," he ordered and handed her a glass as she sank to the couch. "Drink it." They both swallowed in tandem. He sat beside her.
"Okay, let's start over. It appears that the joyride has ended and we're back home again with chores to do. So, I have to ask you a question and I want a straight answer, Kathryn. No waffling, no towing the party line, no bullshit. Is my old crew in danger?"
"Danger, Chakotay? No!"
"Not good enough, Kathryn. You know what I mean and I deserve a straight answer. If there is any reason for you to think they will be treated differently from the original Starfleet crew, I need to know now."
"You know damned well why. I'm serious here, Kathryn. From one captain to another, do I have to look out for the welfare of my crew? One word answer and I want it now."
"No," she said softly. "As one captain to another, I give you my word of honour, Chakotay. In me they will have you."
He looked into her beautiful blue eyes, the ones that had been haunting his dreams for almost seven years, and then slowly nodded. "That's good enough for me. Now, let's get down to work, and I'm telling you now that I'm taking more than one person.."
Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris, Seven of Nine, Ayela, Jarvin, and the EMH were gathered in Chakotay's quarters. The captain and commander had explained the mission and they were now getting used to the idea.
"It's going to feel good to be Maquis again and get us another piece of Cardassia, Commander!" Jarvin was literally rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "It's been too long!"
"I'll say!" exclaimed Ayela. "I'd almost forgotten what it felt like, it's been so long." He caught the captain's eyes and continued hurriedly, "not that I haven't enjoyed being on Voyager."
She gave him a little smile. "At ease, lieutenant, I understand. We're all a little excited now that Voyager is almost home and our lives are taking another major turn. But I need to know that you fully understand the statistical probability that you will not be returning from this mission. You are finally reaching your home world, Seven, with the possibility of finally living the life you were born for. You have children, Mr Ayala, and you haven't seen them for seven years. Mr Jarvin, you are involved in a committed relationship here on board ship. And," her voice almost faltered, "Mr Paris, you have your family here on Voyager. Please, all of you, don't be afraid of saying no. Remember, Starfleet will disavow any knowledge of you if anything goes wrong."
They all looked at their captain's strained face and then over at Chakotay's. The commander's face was completely unreadable, just as Ayala and Jarvin remembered it in the Maquis. And then it hit them all, they weren't the only ones in a position to lose the most important parts of their lives. Tom's betting pools took on a new and painful twist as they realized the command team's sacrifice.
"I have no doubts about joining this mission, Captain," said Seven flatly. "I believe that with my participation the probability of our deaths is greatly exaggerated. And I have no wish to die now."
Ayala said quietly, "I'm in too, Captain Janeway. Serving on Voyager has meant more to me than I could ever have imagined with a Starfleet vessel, and I'm proud to say I served under your command. But," and he looked at Chakotay who returned his gaze silently, "I will gladly rejoin my Maquis unit under Commander Chakotay. It's time to finish the job we were doing when the Caretaker took us away."
Jarvin nodded his head, "Me, too, Captain, I've never liked loose ends. Starfleet isn't as dense as I've always thought they were -- they knew where to find the right man to get the job done. And we'll be back, don't you worry."
Janeway smiled weakly. "I'm holding you to that, Mr Jarvin, I really am. Don't make me come out there and bust you down to WPM scrubber." She slowly turned to Lt. Paris. "Tom, you don't have to make up your mind here and now, but we have to know before the end of Gamma shift. I'm sorry, but you can't discuss this with B'Elanna, you understand that?"
"Captain, with all due respect, B'Elanna is both Starfleet and Maquis. She won't talk and I want her to know."
"No, Tom, I'm sorry. If she knew, you could be putting her and everyone in this room at risk, and you don't want that. What we've discussed here does not leave this room." She looked around at everyone. "That's an order, everyone."
They all nodded and looked at the floor.
"I want to hear you say 'aye' to the captain," Chakotay's hard voice broke into their thoughts. They jumped and a series of 'ayes' were heard. "That's better. And I remind you that this is a Starfleet mission and I'd appreciate your remembering that. The Maquis does not exist any more - does anyone have a problem with that?"
Heads shook in the negative all around. "Good. Now, we'll hold off on some of the minor details of our entry into the Alpha Quadrant until we know if Tom is onboard, but let's work out how we'll die." Only he heard the tiny gasp from the captain, who was sitting next to him.
"Is this where I come in, Captain?" asked the EMH.
"Yes, Doctor. The plan is for our team to be on an away mission to take a closer look at the anomaly before Voyager goes through it. The Delta Flyer will suffer a catastrophe and all hands will be lost. We need you to identify the 'bodies' and pronounce them dead. Once they no longer exist, it will be a matter of Voyager shielding their entry through the wormhole and covering their escape to their new location."
"I can do that, Captain and, naturally I will never reveal the truth."
"I'm not worried about any indiscreet remarks from you, Doctor. I will personally be re-programming you so that you truly believe them to be dead."
"Captain! I object! I know how to hold my tongue; after all, I am a doctor. Why should I be violated in this way?"
"Doctor, I am not going to discuss this with you. Deal with it." His face looked shocked at her curtness, but he kept quiet.
"What about the bodies, Captain? With Voyager this close to home it is logical to assume that their families will expect us to bring them back to Earth."
"Those are the kind of things we're here to discuss, Mr Tuvok. The floor is open everyone, let's work this out."
"How about an explosion? Nothing left to bring home."
"We need the Delta Flyer in peak condition. It would take too long to overhaul."
"How about a hull breach?"
"No damage to the bodies."
"That's better. Make it an alien radiation where we discover we have to vapourize them for the safety of the crew."
"Okay, radiation it is, now how?"
It went on for an hour but by the end of that time the basics of the plan were in place. The catastrophe would occur on the way to the wormhole and Voyager would retrieve the Flyer with all hands lost. The doctor would follow standard procedure in pronouncing everyone dead and then discover that the bodies would have to be vapourized to stop an alien contamination of Voyager. The Delta Flyer would be decontaminated but remain off limits to Voyager's crew until it was determined whether or not they would have to dump her. Fake message buoys would be prepared to warn others of the little ship's possible toxicity. A vacant double-sized cabin would be used by the team until their direct transport onto the Flyer. Tuvok would see to the technical sides of masking life signs, erasing replicator and transporter records, and faking a warning buoy for the abandoned Flyer. And when Voyager entered the wormhole in her last step towards home, the fully equipped and fully manned Delta Flyer would be going with her, hidden in the echo of a hologram projection of space with Tuvok blocking all sensors.
The doctor, Seven, Ayala, Jarvin, and Paris left, with Tom promising an answer for the captain and commander within two hours. Janeway felt the greatest compassion for Tom, happily married, father to baby daughter Miral, within weeks of home and yet, fiercely loyal to his command team and Voyager. It would not be easy being him for the next two hours.
Chakotay put three glasses and a bottle of brandy on a tray and brought it to the coffee table. Kathryn nodded her confirmation for a shot on her way to his bathroom to freshen up while the two men sat down.
They were silent for a while, lost in their own thoughts, until Tuvok leaned forward and addressed Chakotay.
"Commander, I do not understand the logic in your excluding me from your mission. I believe I would be a valuable asset with this endeavour."
"You are in my plans, Tuvok. I'm giving you my most important assignment -- you're the only one I trust not to fail with it."
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "What is this assignment, Commander?"
Chakotay didn't answer him immediately. He stared through the Vulcan watching an invisible scene and then finally refocused to look directly into Tuvok's eyes. "Take care of her, Tuvok. Don't leave her; I don't want to think that she's ever alone."
"Of course, Commander, we have been friends for years. I will always be there for her."
"No, not like that, Tuvok. When she's planetside, I want you there. When she's in space, I want you to be her first officer. I want you to be me, making sure every day that she's all right."
Tuvok was silent for a few minutes and then began slowly, "I believe my family would enjoy an extended stay on Earth. Now that my sons are growing older, they are leaving to make their own homes. Our daughter, Asil, has never been to Earth to my knowledge and it is time that she has." He hesitated and then continued quietly. "I accept my assignment, Commander. You can put your trust in me." He stood up slowly and Chakotay stood to face him. Tuvok drew himself up and raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Commander."
"Thank you, Tuvok." Chakotay hesitated and then held out his hand. Tuvok slowly lowered his and clasped it.
"I hope to have the privilege of serving with you again, Commander, and I look forward to your safe and fast return. And you can trust me with Kathryn, I will not fail you."
And then he was gone, taking Chakotay's heart's dream with him.
Kathryn and Chakotay sat together sipping brandy. The tension in the room was palpable, but few words were exchanged. When the captain's communicator suddenly came to life they both jumped. It was Tom advising them of his decision to join the mission. When everything was all said and done he had decided that his family deserved a safe and secure future on Earth and he would do whatever had to be done to ensure that legacy. He just prayed to God that B'Elanna would be strong enough to endure his death until the truth was revealed, and the sooner that happened the better.
When he had signed off Kathryn let out an enormous sigh and leaned her head back to rest on the back of the couch.
"Tired?" asked Chakotay.
"Yes, tired, drained and, I think, a little bit tipsy. I can't remember a day when I had both whiskey and brandy before my supper."
"It's all been the real stuff, too. And don't forget, you'll be drinking champagne tonight at the Farewell DQ party - we'd better make sure you eat a good meal soon."
"There is no "we" in this equation, Chakotay," she smiled. "The captain will tend to herself at her very own replicator, as long as she can find her quarters."
He chuckled. "They're right next door, Kathryn - let me walk you there." He got up and held a hand out for her and she let him keep it as they left for her quarters. In the corridor he spoke softly.
"Do you know what's been going through my mind since our meeting this morning, Kathryn?"
She looked at him in curiosity. "No. What have you been thinking about, Chakotay?"
They reached the door to her quarters and she leaned against the wall waiting for his answer.
He looked down at her with a sad smile. "Parameters, Kathryn, I've been thinking about seven years of living with your damned parameters. About your worries for ship, crew, and getting home. About you thinking that if we allowed our feelings for each other to be acknowledged, then the crew would revolt. Or, that you might not be able to send me on a dangerous mission -- and my worries that I wouldn't be able to let you go on one. What do you think of those parameters now, when we're almost home and the mission has arrived?"
"I don't know, Chakotay," she whispered. "I know I've been so confused and unhappy ever since I spoke with Admiral Paris, but I had no way of knowing this would happen just when we finally got close to home. I still don't know how I would have reacted to any of those concerns when we were still decades away from home. And, if I acted in a completely Starfleet manner this morning, please remember that we're back with them now."
Chakotay sighed and then dropped her hand. "Okay Kathryn. If that's how you want it to be I suppose I'll just have to accept it." He looked over her shoulder. "So, about tonight, is 1900 hours a good time for me to pick you up? Remember, no uniforms."
"1900 hours is fine, Chakotay, I'll be ready."
He pressed the code to open her doors and watched her astonished face as he did it.
"I've always known it, Kathryn. I was just hoping that one day you'd ask me in yourself, with no thoughts of reports, duty rosters, or working meals. That one day it wouldn't matter whether I buzzed first. I'll see you at 1900 hours."
Kathryn stood in the darkness of her quarters, staring out at the anomaly off her ship's bow. She'd been standing there for a long time; arms crossed in front of her and face expressionless. An onlooker might think she was looking at it and pondering the next few days but, in reality, her mind was weaving through the memories she cherished from the past seven years on Voyager. And then, without any conscious effort, Kathryn's mind took her into the alternate universe that had accompanied her for most of those seven years. She entered because he was in there waiting for her and because soon it would be all she had.
The sound of her door chime broke her reverie. Kathryn blinked.
"Computer," she asked quietly, "who is outside the captain's quarters?"
"Commander Chakotay," replied the simulated voice.
Without moving she said softly, "Enter."
The doors swooshed and she heard quiet footsteps until finally she felt him as she had countless times before. He was close behind her and to her left, assuming his position of support. They stood silently for several minutes, each looking at the anomaly which had appeared suddenly a few days ago and which was to change the course of Voyager's history. Finally, Chakotay stirred.
"I was sent on a mission to bring you back to the Holodeck. I'm assuming, however, that what you're wearing is telling me that my mission will fail."
She was wearing a floor length negligee. What with the spaghetti straps, no back, and the slit up almost to her hip, he felt he was making a safe assumption. What he didn't understand was why she had allowed him entry when she was dressed for bed and how she expected him to react -- because he was certainly reacting. He tried to see a reflection of the front of the gown in the viewport, but the lights in the room were too low. Damn.
"Not tonight, Chakotay. I was there and gave the toast and the speech. I drank my champagne and had a piece of cake. Let them celebrate now without having to behave properly in front of the captain. They need that and they certainly deserve it." She paused and then shifted over enough so that she could bend her head until it touched his shoulder. He moved closer to give her more support, but his arm still remained hanging by his side. Now he could easily look down over her shoulder, which did not help with his composure, and he was careful to keep a delicate distance further down.
"That's the wormhole, Chakotay. The wormhole that's going to take us back to the Alpha Quadrant. I've been watching it for over an hour now and all I can think of is, do I really want to go home?"
The shock registered in Chakotay's brain like a lightening bolt. "What's wrong, Kathryn?"
"Nothing, really. It's just that standing here I was starting to realize that any satisfaction I feel is only based on me finally keeping my promise to the crew. I promised I'd get them home and it looks like I'm going to succeed - to the rest of the world, anyway. What I'm beginning to realize is that there's nothing better for me personally in the Alpha Quadrant than what I had in the Delta Quadrant."
"Kathryn, there are your friends and family, there's the publicity and accolades that you'll receive and which you deserve, and there's probably even a promotion for you in there somewhere. You're going to be the most famous person Earth has seen for quite some time and you'd better get used to the idea."
She was silent for quite a few moments, and then answered quietly, "But I won't have you."
He was silent as he realized what her statement suggested. Still looking into the viewport for any chance at all of seeing her face's reflection, he tried to gather his thoughts. Unfortunately, his thoughts seemed to have been reduced to only one, and that particular thought had been tormenting him for years. He took a mental breath.
"Do you want me in your life, Kathryn?" he asked softly.
"Think carefully, here, Kathryn. How do you want me in your life?"
"I want you in my life, Chakotay. I want you in my face about my eating and sleeping habits, I want you in my ear yelling at me that I'm the most stubborn woman you've ever known, I want you on my ass when you think I'm goldbricking, I want you.." Her voice petered out.
"Yes, Kathryn, tell me." He ran his finger, nail side down, from her left shoulder to her right and delighted in her shiver. He felt himself growing harder and bit his lower lip to keep his mouth off of her.
She looked down and her voice was so low that he could hardly hear her. "I want you in my bed and I want you inside of me. I've wanted that for so long that I finally accepted that I'd have to space myself to get it out of my brain."
Chakotay swallowed hard and put his mouth down to whisper in her ear. "Spirits, Kathryn, you don't know what you do to me hearing you say that. There have been so many times I was out of my mind with wanting you and thinking you didn't care." He moved over a half step so that he was directly behind her, softly holding her hips and pushing himself against her. She would not be able to mistake his feelings for her.
She turned and lifted her face to his. "I love you Chakotay."
He smiled down at her. "I love you, too, Kathryn."
"And now, when I finally feel free to tell you this, I'm losing you."
"You'll never lose me, Kathryn. You're a part of me and have been for so long; even before I met you, you were here," he placed his hand over his heart. Then he moved his hand up and started to thread his fingers in her hair. "And we have a few nights, Kathryn, let me show you how much I love you."
She shut her eyes, but not before a tear slid out between the lids. "There is no tomorrow for me.." she whispered. "Chakotay, please love me so that I never forget the touch of your hands and the taste of your mouth. Love me enough to last the rest of my life alone without you.."
His mouth reached hers at the same time as one of his arms braced her back and the other wrapped under her knees. He lifted her off her feet and carried her to the bedroom.
On to PART TWO
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