Four Years Later
Tom moved as quickly as he dared, J'li in tow and wary of Adam's latest pet which was still snaking somewhere across the floor with a whispered sigh. Not that he could have heard it over J'li's protests. He swung the kicking two-year-old up into his arms as the front door swung open.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Tom."
"Captain? What are you doing all the way out here?"
Her former pilot looked healthy, his fair skin lightly tanned, a relaxed smile on his face has he held his dark-haired daughter. The child studied her seriously with B'Elanna's ebon eyes as Tom's pale blue ones stared vacantly over her head.
"I needed to talk to you."
Tom's forehead furrowed slightly. The comm system was working, why had she? "Please, come in. Just watch out for the . . ." There was a startled cry from the captain as the artificial snake zapped a small charge at her ankle " . . .snake."
At his shoulder, J'li began to giggle. Tom sighed. "I'm sorry, Captain, could you get that for me? Adam left it on and it's way too fast for me."
He knew what the captain's face must look like - faced with a disheveled former officer, a giggling child and a mad e-snake - no doubt it was fastened with that same gaze she'd used years ago on a cook and junior grade lieutenant dripping sauce and hair pasta. "It likes to lurk under the furniture."
Fortunately, there was not too much of that in the bright, open living quarters. There was a tiny hiss that Kathryn couldn't localize. She sidestepped phobically.
"That way," said Tom pointing to a low, comfortably cushioned bench.
"Glad your hearing is better than mine." She bent down to look beneath the frame and spied a tail sliding toward the open doorway. In one short grab she produced it, swinging by its tail-tip and hissing irritably. Tom reached out for it causing J'li's eyes to grow even wider. “No, I think I'll hold on to it. Where's the off switch?"
"On the stomach, I think."
The body vibrated against her fingers then went still. She placed the limp beast in Tom's waiting hand. "Now we can talk."
"Sure . . ." Tom lowered J'li to the floor. "Go take a nap, sweetie."
"On the bear?"
"Yeah, you can sleep on the bear."
The toddler ran to a pile of white synthfur before the fireplace and curled contentedly with a cyber-ring. Tom seemed to follow the child's steps, then satisfied with the silence, tilted his face toward the captain. "Can I get you something?"
"Chakotay," said Kathryn pointedly.
There was the sound of receding steps and the whisper of the cushions as the Captain sank on the larger couch. "You know how to contact him."
Tom followed, his hands out, seeking her position. She took his fingers, sweeping him around where she sat. "If I did, I would be in violation of Section 10483."
"I'm not here to entrap you. There's been an accident. It's Harry . . ."
Tom frowned. "Harry's supposed to be in Geneva giving some sort of speech on prototype shuttle design."
"That's what he was instructed to say. The prototype Harry was actually working on was a Daemon-class. A cloaked mid-range attack vessel. He took it out for a test and he hasn't come back."
"Took it out where?" asked Tom suspiciously.
"Toward Dannae Nor."
Tom ran a hand through his gold hair. "Why?" he asked flatly.
"To test its capabilities . . ."
"You're hunting Maquis."
"We thought it would be a good first test."
This time, Tom remained silent.
"We lost contact yesterday. No warning. No buoy signal."
"And no rescue craft? Is that it Captain? No official recognition of a new cloaked ship?"
"There will be a rescue attempt. That's why I'm here. I need someone to tell this story that the Maquis will believe." That Chakotay would believe. "You or B'Elanna."
"Does my father know you're here?"
"No. He may suspect, but he was careful not to ask." Janeway reached across the cushions, taking Tom's hand into her own. "This is not a trick. I want to get that prototype and Harry both back in one piece. If that's not possible I'll be forced to destroy the ship, but either way, if Harry's alive I'll get him."
Tom nodded, but he slipped his hand from hers. In those days of hope and despair in the Delta Quadrant there had been a certain understanding between them. A common ground between the Admiral's protege and the Admiral's wayward son. She didn't know if she could find that again, here with the man who sat stiffly beside her. Tom seemed fragile sometimes, beneath the brashness, and perhaps she'd come to him once too often with some new demand.
The loft was quiet. J'li breathed regularly, curled in the fake bearskin. Janeway sat just as silent, waiting for him to speak. Harry. Damn it. Why did you have to go and do something so stupid? "I'll need to talk to B'Elanna. And we'll need some guarantees."
"If they're within my power, you'll have them. Otherwise, I may have to speak to your father."
"No. That's the first guarantee. My father will not know about this."
"When do you plan on leaving?"
Kathryn stowed her light bag in the shuttle's forward compartment and took an empty seat on the port side where the shuttle's windows turned to the interior bay doors. Across the aisle the opposite window framed the yawning mouth of the shuttle bay, its rotation moving it toward a lunar view, but she gave it no more than a glance as she settled in the seat, waiting to see if B'Elanna would come.
She didn't wait long. Tom and B'Elanna entered the shuttle bay in silence, but from the look of Tom's reddened cheeks, that was a recent development. B'Elanna scowled at the bay in general, then at the waiting shuttle, drawing Tom out of the way of an anti-grav loader, keeping a tight grip on his arm despite the sparkling sensored tunic. Tom tugged at its collar uncomfortably. The couple disappeared around the small ship's bow, then threw their shadows across the shuttle's floor, Tom's voice carrying through the open door.
"You know I'm right."
"What's right got to do with any of this?" B'Elanna retorted, viewing her husband with rising irritation. "How many people do we risk chasing our own side?"
After so long, Tom had finally begun to sort out the subtleties of B'Elanna's speech. Where at first he'd just heard anger, he now heard fear and guilt. Even love. He'd also learned not to try to talk B'Elanna out of one of her moods. Delving into the question would only prolong both their discomfort, as well as risk a Klingon-style lecture in the middle of the quiet and orderly shuttle bay.
"God protects fools and Admiral's sons," Tom replied flippantly, grinning with a fierceness they both pretended wasn't forced.
B'Elanna sighed in return, her breath releasing harshly. She'd argued incessantly last night in an enraged whisper, or what she'd thought had been a whisper until Adam appeared sleepily at the door and had to be consoled. When Tom returned she pointed out that was another reason she should go. As a parent it was Tom who had the most skill, joking the children into complacency while she raved and got nowhere. It hadn't been enough. She'd worked too hard, fought too long for her position at the Academy to abandon it now. And neither trusted Starfleet enough to risk her career, the family's even marginal standing. "Let he who is in disgrace remain in disgrace," Tom had quoted last night with more seriousness than she'd ever seen him.
Now he looked more impatient than anything. To be off, to be rid of the discomforting tunic, to avoid a scene . . . probably all three. B'Elanna loosened her grip on his arm. "Don't do anything I would do . . ." she said in concession.
B'Elanna fought the fierce protectiveness that threatened to rise, knowing Tom would believe she doubted him, when it was more that she doubted her own strength than his abilities. "Just get Harry and get back to me in one piece, Flyboy."
Tom crushed her to him, ignoring the complaints of the sensor net. On the shuttle floor, the two shadows merged into one. "You better believe it," he whispered.
"We're losing atmosphere."
The shuttle bucked against the upper ionosphere in a predictable jolt that Tom knew should be countered by changing the entry angle, which might or might not have been was the ship was now doing, he couldn't tell. The anoxia was making him lightheaded. Must be a serious leak. He gripped the cushioned arms of the shuttle seat and hoped the young pilot knew enough to keep them from tumbling.
Another wave of turbulence caused cursing from the cockpit and Tom felt the force of their downward arc increase.
"Do we still have attitude control?" he croaked. More than an atmosphere drain. There must be a leak of one of the noxious gases.
"No." The pilot's voice was less hoarse. The cabin undoubtedly filling up behind them.
"I think there's a leak back here."
Aware of the growing tightness in his lungs, Tom fumbled for the lap restraint control and managed to release the field. The shuttle rocked again just as he started to rise and he tumbled ungracefully toward the sound of the Captain's recitation of their falling altitude.
"We're going to crash." Kathryn released her own seat's restraints and reached to pull him into the empty nav seat. The last thing he was aware of was the captain's hands pulling the restraints around him.
Reviews - 0] Chapter or Story | Table of Contents | - Text Size +