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Jessie glanced to her left a few seconds too late to see Harry pass. "This place is strange but it's still very human-like. If Chakotay thinks these are aliens pretending to be us, they're very good at it."
As soon as she finished her sentence loud jeering from the dancefloor got both of their attention. They noticed all but one of the patrons there were looking at the corner of the room where a tall computer stood with speakers on both sides. The music stopped abruptly and Emma was fiddling around with it, but with her back to the pair so they didn't realise it was her.
"Still, the shielded building is a little suspicious. It didn't look important enough for the special treatment," James said once it quietened down enough for him to be heard.
"It could be a government building," Jessie said. James thought about it and nodded slightly. "It's probably that tower thing that made this city so invisible at first."
"Yeah maybe," James agreed.
Two men approached their table, one of which looked a little too drunk and had to grasp his friend's shoulder for support. They sneered in the table's basic direction, while the drunk one slurred, "why hello gorgeous. Couldn't help but notice you shining like a star in this dump."
Jessie looked disgusted, "remind me why I suggested we go into a pub to talk."
James smiled briefly, "Harry has a drink problem."
"Ah yeah," Jessie smirked before looking up at the two men, "not interested. Bye."
The drunk laughed obnoxiously, then plonked himself down on James' side of the table. "Good thing I didn't mean you then, sweetie." Not satisfied with that he slid a little closer, smiling dreamily at his neighbour with his chin resting in his hand.
"Yeah sorry dude. Blond pretty boys are his type," the other man said while sitting down beside Jessie much to her disgust. He smiled smarmily at her, "me though. I like them hot, foxy, feminine."
"Ugh," Jessie groaned as she moved away from her admirer. "Try that somewhere else with an idiot with no gag reflex, or standards. On second thoughts, no one deserves that."
The drunk pretended his arm slipped, hurtling his body in James' direction, landing briefly on his shoulder. "Oh, what strong arms, do you work out?" he purred. James slid away until he was mostly hanging off the edge of the seat, which made the drunk tumble down. It only made him laugh, "oh you're so mean."
"That's it," James said as he stood. "We should go, Jess."
Meanwhile the other guy tried to discreetly move his hand to grope Jessie's leg. The look she gave him for it would've scared off anyone sane who wanted to live, instead he kept going. His hand barely brushed it when he found an elbow slammed into his ribs.
"Definitely," she hissed. As soon as she stood the two men also hurriedly got up and walked around the chairs to block their escape.
"Oh, but we were enjoying your company," the sober one said and he winked at Jessie.
The drunk faked a pathetic pout, "yeah, you're not going anywhere."
Many were watching this unfold, including the people blocking Harry's exit. He decided to see what was so interesting, immediately regretting it. "Ohno." He hurried back through the crowds.
"Just get out of the way, I'm not in the mood for you," James said.
"We only want to get to know you better," the drunk smiled coyly.
"Tough, we don't want to get to know you," Jessie said and she opted to walk around them. The other guy quickly took a hold of her arm and he pulled her back. The drunk thought this was hilarious.
Harry reached them from James and the drunk's side, just as James stepped forward. Harry inadvertently bumped into him, which stopped him for the moment. "Can't take you guys anywhere, can we? Trouble follows you, it seems," Harry tried to say pleasantly.
"We're not being any trouble, are we pet?" the guy who grasped Jessie's arm said.
She pulled her arm from him staring viciously at him, "don't call me that!"
Harry winced not once but twice as the man tried again to touch her arm. "Listen, let the lady go. You're only going to get into trouble."
Both men laughed at him like teenage boys would. "Really, what kind of trouble?" the arm grabber sneered.
"I'll show you if you want," James coldly said.
Harry quickly stepped in between them, then he turned his back on James to address the harasser. "Hey hey, there's no problem here. We've got to go back to work and so we're going to walk away." He eyed Jessie, "right now."
"Sure," she mouthed.
Then she turned to leave the same way she tried to earlier. The man took the chance to reach out and pinch her on the behind. James noticed it and grabbed his wrist before it reached his target. That got Jessie's attention, she whirled around to once more face them.
"You'd better show her some respect, or I'll force this down your throat," James snapped.
Harry cringed while the drunk laughed dirtily. "Oh he's saucy. Can I keep him?"
His friend wasn't amused, but neither was James. The former tried to pull his arm back unsuccessfully, angering him further. "It's only a bit of fun kid. Keep your school boy threats where they belong." He pulled again. This time James let him go and so he stumbled back from the recoil.
"Great, the end," Harry stuttered, hinting over his left shoulder at James to leave. "Please," he begged.
Jessie decided to back away this time. Her doing so, nor James and Harry being there didn't deter the man. He attempted to follow her, sneering. "Come on, just one snog. You'll enjoy it more from a real man."
James walked around Harry and to in front of the crude man. "Not you, boy," he laughed, "Artie though wouldn't mind." His drunk friend seductively waved.
"Look, the lady clearly isn't interested. Let it go, both of you," Harry stuttered. "James go, that's an order."
"Sure," James said and yet didn't budge.
"What's your problem mate? You claimed her already, how is she?" the man asked crudely. "It's my turn, don't you think?"
Jessie's jaw dropped. "What did you say? You piece of dog crap on my new shoes, I'll fu..."
"Oh god," Harry stammered at that. Then he noticed James' face had hardened. When Harry tried to pull him away with him he got nowhere. "Please, ignore him."
"Right," James grunted. He looked as if he were going to leave, stepping back a touch. But then the right arm swung, his fist slammed into the creep's face. He fell to the ground hard, blood pouring from his nose. "Now I'll go." This time he did turn to leave, only to bump into a grimacing Jessie.
"I wanted to do that," she said.
James briefly glanced back at the man nursing his face, while his friend knelt down beside him. "Still could."
Harry though groaned as if he only shoved him slightly. "Why must you... can't we go anywhere without you picking a fight?""
James looked at him suspiciously, "that was you last time."
"Uh right, let's go," Harry stuttered, pushing his hands in front of him as a hint. Only then he noticed the pub had frozen, all watching them. Worst still what looked like security officers were squeezing their way through the crowds to reach them.
Strange phasers that looked more like deadly blades attached to a trigger were brandished at them and the two men. "Hold it," one barked. They were soon surrounded. "You're not very good at being inconspicuous, are you?"
Harry tried to look calm. "I'm sorry. My friends can be a bit, rough when they've had a few." He turned to Jessie, "I thought you were supposed to stop him."
"It was self defence," Jessie argued, then pointed at the men on the ground. "He attacked me."
"Oh and why was that?" another security officer asked, narrowing their eyes suspiciously. "Did they figure you out, huh? You're under arrest."
"Wait, what for?" Harry asked. "Like she said it was self defence. Ask anyone."
"We're not interested in that," the first officer snapped. "Suspicious skulking around, spying and scanning buildings, carrying archaic technology. I suppose we could add the violence to the list."
"What? None of that is true," Jessie said.
"Take it up with the Judge. You know the penalty for espionage, Federation scum," the first officer snarled.
"Espionage?" Harry stuttered. "We're not... You've got the wrong idea."
The second security officer gestured to his people with a nod. They paired up all while keeping their guns trained on each of the team members and the two men. Tricorders and a phaser were snatched with no issue other than a scowl from James.
"Hmm, did you think this junk..." the first security officer sneered while retrieving a tricorder from one of his people, "would be too primitive to be noticed? Clever, but not enough. Where did you get them?"
Two more officers approached dragging Emma with them. "We found another one Captain. I caught her tampering with the jukebox."
"No I'm Liger, and I was trying to find a good song. Flush your ears asshole!" Emma spat at the one who spoke.
"Right? Another one from the stone age. At least you're consistent," the first officer chuckled. "Take them to the penitentiary. You can discuss this with the Judge."
Kathryn stood near the window in the Conference Room, staring at the planet below as if it were a crewmember she was scolding. What was left of her senior staff waited and worried.
"Tell me something," she said after a long five minutes, "how is it that no matter what the mission, where it is, we still manage to balls it up? We've only been here an hour."
"Some good luck, I suppose, well apart from Harry's case," Tom's voice said.
Kathryn's stare hardened despite him not being in the room, and it being directed at the planet. Everyone assumed he'd still be able to feel it.
"No smart alacky remarks, Mr Paris. I'm not in the mood for them," she growled. The planet finally got a breather as she turned around and leaned on the back of her chair. "Chakotay, there better be a damn good explanation as to how more than half of your team were arrested."
Outside the building James had scanned earlier, Tom shuddered and looked up at the sky. Chakotay only saw his reaction in the corner of his eye.
"Rumours circulating the market place was that they were all accused of being Federation spies," he replied while shaking his head.
"Federation spies? I knew it, it's a trick," Kathryn's voice groaned.
Chakotay nodded knowingly, "the technology here is far more advanced than anything we have. My theory is that it isn't a Human planet, but with the arrests that theory's out the window."
Tom turned to him with a mixture of confusion and judgement on his face. "Hang on. That only proves we were right. The Ligers are very secretive with their tech when it comes to us. Of course they'd hide from us again."
Chakotay sighed impatiently, "Emma is a Liger, which I'm sure she can prove." He looked towards the building, currently guarded by two men with sophisticated looking phaser rifles. "They escorted our people into one of the shielded structures we came down to investigate. That can't be a coincidence."
"Maybe we should have done more research before sending an away team," Craig muttered. Kathryn leaned on the table in front of him and she fixed her most lethal death glare on him.
"If I want your input, I will ask you for it, understood!" Kathryn yelled.
"Yes... ma'am," Craig stuttered. Everyone cringed, except Kathryn who instead darkened her stare. "Captain."
"So the people down there are Human with similar Human structures, but they're neither Human nor Liger?" Tuvok questioned.
"I don't think we should rule out Liger. Emma could say she was one but so could we; we know enough about their technology to convince them, and they still are technically Human," Kathryn said.
"But what about their very Starfleet looking ships?" the Doctor questioned.
Kathryn scoffed, "it wouldn't be the first time someone was able to disguise one of their ships as one of ours. As Paris said, they tend to hide from us, what better way?"
"Oh I dunno, not luring us to their planet thinking we've found our people and a way home," B'Elanna said, risking the wrath of Kathryn.
Fortunately Kathryn wasn't mad, she looked thoughtful. "You're right. And why arrest our people and not confront us. Surely they must know we're here in that case."
The comm beeped. "Janeway to the Bridge, please."
Kathryn wasn't surprised, "and there it is. Dismissed."
Everyone hurried out through the same door to get to the Bridge. Craig took over Opps, while B'Elanna manned Jessie's station. The senior staff let the unknown crewmember at the helm remain at her post for the time being.
"What is it?" Kathryn asked a Lieutenant returning to the back stations from Tactical. She froze, fearful for no reason Kathryn could understand.
The blonde female crewmember at the helm responded, "a couple ships are approaching, they're scanning us."
Kathryn stared into the back of her head, puzzled. "Hmm. Since they're closer, can we get a better look at them?"
Craig shook his head, "no, nothing's getting through their shields. I can put them on screen though."
Kathryn nodded, so he made the command to change the viewscreen. Flying directly toward the bow of Voyager; two massive silver vessels with the signature Starfleet saucer section design. Neither of them had the usual warp drives, instead the stern of each ship looked bare with only a strobing blue light on both sides, one of which looked like Voyager's stern if its warp nacelles had fallen off during a warp flight. As it approached it looked more like Voyager ten times the size with its nacelles replaced with phaser cannons pointed at them.
"They've erm, sent us a message, one way only," Craig stuttered.
"Fine, lets hear it."
"Federation ship, leave orbit or we'll be forced to destroy you. Your spies have been captured so I'd suggest you'd better leave this system before we kill them."
"Captain, I'd suggest against an armed confrontation," Tuvok warned. Kathryn walked over, eyeing him curiously. "I cannot predict what their weapon and shield capabilities are, but I surmise if they are able to deflect our sensors, it would be wise to err on the side of caution."
Kathryn sighed. She tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Johnstone. Lilly, I need your input up here, now."
As soon as they were brought into the mystery building the team were separated, each into windowless rooms with the door locked. Harry was strong-armed out first. Then pulled into a dark room furnished with only a table and two chairs. The guards forced him to sit in front of an imposing security officer he'd been told was only known as the Judge, carrying what appeared to be a PADD in his hand.
"Look, you've got the wrong idea. This is a huge misunderstanding," Harry said.
The Judge turned the PADD around to show him it. Harry's face drained at the image of Voyager lurking behind the moon.
"I don't suppose you can explain what this is," the Judge said.
Harry struggled to answer. "I'm not sure I understand. What do you think it is?"
The Judge stared intensely at him. "Wise guy, huh. Fine, stop me if I get a detail wrong. This is another one of the Federation's foolish plans to get us off this planet. They bring out one of their ancient junk ships from the museum, dress it up, and put it into orbit around our planet. They want us to think it's harmless but it's really a ticking time bomb, which could go off with one torpedo fire."
"What?" Harry stuttered.
"Is that not true? Which part?" the Judge said.
Harry hesitantly shook his head, "all of it so far."
"Inside is an old warp core, very fragile. One strike from us would detonate it," the Judge said.
"No, no, we're not your enemy. We only came here to look for supplies, we didn't know you were here until we entered the system," Harry said.
Harry assumed from the Judge's expression that he wasn't convinced. "Where did you get that ship? What are you intending to do with it? Will it breach if we go near it, is it rigged to explode? Our scientists believe that a warp core detonation could destabilise the moon's orbit, that could cause flooding across each continent. Tell us, if that is your plan, the Federation sinks to a new low."
"Why would the Federation want you off this planet?" Harry asked.
"I was hoping one of you could tell me. We have been able to elude you for decades," the Judge said.
Harry started to stammer, "we're not who you think we are. We are from your past, probably hundreds of years ago. If you look up the USS Voyager you'll know at least that it went missing in the Bad..."
The Judge's face tensed. "I see you're going to keep up this charade. Very well, I'll just have to get my answers from your teammates, by any means necessary."
Harry's arms were grabbed by the guards. "Wait," he panicked, "don't waste your time. This is clearly a huge misunderstanding and I know why, they don't. You'll only get more of the same."
The Judge hinted to the guards to let him go, they did. "So you claim you're not Starfleet?"
"I am, but my team aren't. One is a passenger, she's a Liger refugee we picked up," Harry said, hoping he would bite. He didn't change his expression, nothing happened. "The others are ex Marquis..."
"I don't think so," the Judge grunted disapprovingly. Harry frowned, confused once more. "We have a record of all our operatives, current or deserters. If they betrayed us, we'd know who they are. They'd be high on our records."
"Wait, what?" Harry stammered, "you're Marquis?"
Judge smirked, gesturing the guards to take him. "I'm done humouring you. Take him into the detention centre, then bring me the next one."
"No, I'm their superior," Harry stuttered as he was dragged out.
Soon it was Jessie's turn to be hauled out of her cell and sat at the table. The rough push onto the chair made her stomach turn, she tried to will it still all while her face paled.
"So, are you supposed to be the Marquis or the Liger dinosaur?" the Judge asked.
Her nausea was briefly masked by anger, "what, are you calling me old?"
The Judge chuckled, "so Liger then."
"That's it," Jessie hissed, the guards kept a hold of her shoulders to keep her down. That motion unsettled her stomach again. "Ugh fine, I was a Marquis years ago. I dunno why or how you'd know that though."
"That's interesting, we have no record of you. How long ago did you betray us?" the Judge snarled.
Jessie stared at him blankly. "Eh, the Marquis are still around? I heard they were wiped out."
"I'm sure that's what you'd like to happen, but not even close," the Judge said to her confusion. "You know the real reason we arrested you right, what the penalty is?"
"No. Two perverts started a fight, we ended it," Jessie said.
"Picking a fight with two known troublemakers wasn't a good cover, I agree," the Judge said. He shook his head, disappointed. "I suppose you'll deny having any involvement with this trap sitting in orbit," he gestured to the PADD. "All of you were on it, our scans confirm that. What is it's purpose?"
"Purpose? Look, I have no idea what's going on here. We were only trying to find out how other Humans got here, but clearly that was a bad idea cos you're paranoid nutters," Jessie said.
"Paranoid? We're not dragging 400 year old rust buckets out of retirement and hiding them next to our enemies moons," the Judge snarled.
Jessie looked on in shock, "400 years? Oh... right, so the future. Marquis, what are we rebelling against now?"
Judge groaned very impatiently, "take her to the detention centre. Bring in the other girl first, she's drunk, she may be more forthcoming."
The Judge was soon regretting that choice. He stared straight ahead of him looking bored with his chin resting within his palm.
"Oh, Harry's cute isn't he? Got a cute little butt, pinchable," Emma slurred. She gasped as if she realised something, "oh, do you have one of those giant fan things. You can toss someone in there, turn it on and go vrooom, all gone. It'd be so much fun."
While she daydreamed about that, the Judge tried to get a word in. "What does any of that have to do with all your secrecy in the pub?"
"Wasn't that secretly, I just told them I was 316 years old and they gave me the pint," Emma said, looking at him as if he were stupid. "Dunno if you're sitting on a stick stuck up your bum, but you really gotta stop being so suspicious."
"I don't believe you," the Judge tried to interrupt her.
"Do I look like I give a shi..." Emma laughed, then burped.
"Guard, make sure you sedate her before taking her to the detention centre," the Judge sighed.
Guard 1 looked worried, "er, we're all out."
"Out? We haven't used any today. How can we be out?" Judge snapped.
"We had to, the last prisoner. He broke out and..." guard 1 answered.
"What? You used the daily allotted sedative on one prisoner?" Judge said.
Emma giggled, eyes lighting up, "oh did it hurt?"
"Not exactly sir," guard 1 said, flinching.
The Judge followed the guard outside, while the other kept an eye on Emma. Not far down the corridor he noticed several other security officers lying or sitting, scattered all over with medical personnel tending to them. Further down James sat, slouched against the wall, drifting in and out of consciousness, with one of the future rifles still lying in his loose grip.
"They must've opened the door to bring him to you for interrogation," guard 1 said.
The Judge groaned impatiently. "You bunch of incompetents. Dump him straight into the detention centre while he's still out."
"But, there's no one left to interrogate," guard 1 reminded him.
"That's okay. Voyager will mount a rescue, if they don't we still have the two other spies in the city. Find them," the Judge smiled.
Lilly looked at the viewscreen in disbelief, then at the impatient waiting Captain. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"Are they your ships?" Kathryn growled.
"No," Lilly scoffed. "They're dull grey, none of my ships would go out like that."
"I didn't realise Jessie was in charge of ship design," Craig commented.
Kathryn narrowed her eyes, he was none of the wiser since her back was on him. Lilly though found it amusing, "why would you think they're Liger ships? They're clearly yours."
"Yes clearly. They've threatened us and arrested four of people. Clearly they're ours," Kathryn snapped.
Lilly rolled her eyes, "well maybe you should have started with that." Kathryn ground her teeth, steam rose. "Wait, you thought they were Liger because of that? You do remember why we hid from you people right?" Lilly said with a lot of offense.
"Yes I realise that, but there's no explanation. They're far more advanced, human lifesigns and shield two buildings from scanners, one of which our people are in. Also we didn't even see them until we were on their doorstep. That's the Ligers MO isn't it?"
"Oh," Lilly said, concerned. "Well maybe..." She shook her head, "no. Our only remaining ship travelled to your dimension, to your time so our technology would be pretty much even now. There's no way they colonised a planet in a few months, and built new ships too."
"Then you know what that leaves us with Captain," Tuvok said.
Kathryn's eyes darted from side to side, "no."
Tuvok's brow raised, "yes you do, you just don't want to accept it."
"No," Kathryn said a little more forcefully. "I don't care if they're aliens posing as us, unless you're implying it's 8472. I'm not doing that one!"
B'Elanna smirked in her direction, "well Chakotay is on one of the teams." Kathryn stared at her with a twitching eyebrow. That only made her laugh. "It's pretty clear what happened. Voyager hit something on the way here, and then this planet's suddenly colonised by advanced humans. We've jumped into the future."
The time travel headache quickly throbbed into existence, making Kathryn wince and crave coffee. "No."
"You just like saying that," Craig commented.
Kathryn scowled at him, "no..." Everyone smirked. "Then why contact and threaten us, why arrest our people? If they're future humans, why aren't they following the temporal prime directive? If it's true, then they would have brought our people back to us and if they could, send us back. If not, then warn us away without the death threats."
"Hmm, you say that they shield some of their buildings. I assume you meant like we did with the tower?" Lilly mused aloud. Kathryn's staring at her she took as a yes. "Then I might be able to help with that."
"But you said it's not Liger, how do you know it'll work the same way?" Craig asked.
"That's why I said might. The principle should be the same," Lilly replied.
Craig's console beeped, he looked down at it, instantly panicking. "Captain. Someone's transporting to the surface near the building."
"Who?" Kathryn asked.
"Uh Seven, I mean Annika," Craig replied while frowning.
Kathryn groaned loudly and rolled her eyes halfway then back. "Of course. Hail her." Craig did as he was told and gave her a nod. "Janeway to Seven of Nine, what the hell are you up to?"
"I have the perfect rescue plan. Leave it to me."
"Mind sharing it with us?" Kathryn hissed.
"Shhh, I'm approaching the side entrance. They mustn't see me."
The turbolift doors opened, Morgan hurried out. "Mum, I used up all my rations and Kiara stole my last sandwich."
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"That woman's trying to sneak inside. She must be a Marquis."
Kathryn struggled not to laugh, she did so by biting her bottom lip. Morgan wasn't sure what happened and was looking around all confused.
"Oh you rotten girl..." Annika's voice groaned. They heard hurried footsteps, then a scuffle. "No, no. I took a wrong turn. Hey watch where you're putting that."
"Eeew, its plastic."
"Stop resisting ma'am, you're... what's this?" There was a little more scuffling, some grunts and Annika huffing. "What's this?"
"Er..." Annika said, then it went silent. "My makeup? It's a, um new brand of lipstick." More silence, until she started to whine. "I'd show you but I'm already wearing it, see. Ohno I wouldn't..." A man screamed, Annika giggled. "Couldn't you buy me a nutritional supplement first...? Ohno, that's not good." Another man screamed not as painfully as the last one.
"She's a Borg. The Federation are using Borg viruses again. Get her." Bangs mixed in with the scuffle sounds.
The comm cut off, disappointing everyone but a confused Lilly. "Maybe you should beam her back before they take her in," she suggested.
Kathryn's humour faded from her face leaving only an emotionless mask. Her eyes though drilled into the girl. Kathryn groaned and looked at Tuvok. "Temporal prime directive, it applies. Can't do anything."
"Not entirely. If we're correct, they're the ones responsible for maintaining their temporal timeline. They're interfering with their own past by arresting our people. Our rescue shouldn't interfere in our own," Tuvok said.
"Oh of course! Craig, can you?" Kathryn irritably asked.
Craig looked confused, "they're not taking her in. They're dragging her to the middle of the square in front of it. Oh... her commbadge signal's gone, I'm not sure which one's her."
"That's too bad," Kathryn said. Lilly stared at her strangely, Kathryn stared blankly back. "Is there anyway we can watch?"
"Why, so you can see which one is her and save her?" Lilly questioned suspiciously.
"Who do you think I am!" Kathryn roared in her face.
"Ookay, I'm sure there will be security cameras around an area like this. Try that..." Lilly said.
Kathryn was already in her seat tapping at the side computer. The viewscreen showed the town square. People were gathering around a raised platform with a metal beam at its centre. Security were dragging Annika to it, the crowd jeered at her. They began to tie her to the post.
The helmsgirl giggled, "oh after this, see if there are any CCTV cameras near a bedroom window or something."
"Oh, that's Danny. I thought I recognised that voice..." Kathryn said, shrugging that off so she could sit comfortably and watch.
"Captain we should be able to get a lock on her now," Tuvok said as the guards backed away from Annika.
"Hmm, I don't fancy beaming that thing into my ship. Could ruin it," Kathryn said.
"Are you talking about the pole?" Lilly asked.
Kathryn smiled, "sure."
"This woman has been found guilty of bio terrorism!" a guard announced to the crowd. Everyone booed as other security people piled wood around Annika's feet. "For this she shall be sentenced to death. Doing this we send a message to the barbaric Federation; we will not be intimidated. The New Marquis have arisen and we will have our freedom!"
He was met with deafening cheers. Annika tried to say something, she repeated it until they settled down. "Don't you think burning me alive is barbaric? I'm not even Federation, I'm unique."
"Oh relax, it's just for show. Gotta keep up the morale," guard 1 whispered to her. He noticed a few guards rushing off, leaving one behind who walked up to him. They whispered as well into his ear. "Okay, maybe we should pretend to postpone it till evening until we replace the wood. Just be careful not to set it off."
The crowd and Voyager were murmuring curiously, not sure what was going on. The guard faced the audience to address them. The other guard hurriedly tried to leave but tripped over one of the bits of wood, sparking a small fire which rapidly spread around Annika. He ran off panicked.
"Oh for... Everyone leave quickly, somebody tossed this woman's "lipstick" into the kindling. We don't want people turning into Borgs," the guard groaned.
Everyone ran for cover. The guard did as well, leaving Annika trying to put out the fire by frantically blowing on it. Then she looked up as if she just heard him, "wait, my hypospray. Ohno. The nanoprobe serum will react violently to fla..."
Most of the Bridge cringed at a loud bang, flames took over the entire screen before it turned to static.
Morgan winced, "well, that was..."
"Disappointing. That... we er, couldn't save her in time," Kathryn said. Everyone looked at her. "Bring Chakotay and Tom back, it's too dangerous to be there. We need a way to beam through that shield. Lilly."
"Sure," Lilly said uneasily.
Two guards escorted Emma through corridors lined with mostly empty cells. The ones occupied weren't being restrained by anything, nor were they locked in by bars or a forcefield. They did though look nervously at the armed guards walking by.
They stepped into one of the occupied ones and pushed her inside. Annoyed she span around to confront them only to get the sharp weapons pointed at her. It didn't have to touch her to give her an electric static shock that left her with a crippling headache. They walked off afterwards.
"Oh thank god, a sane roommate," Jessie sighed in relief.
Emma looked at her. Her headache was still there, but she still widened her eyes quite a bit and giggled. "Oh help me go after them and grab those weapons. I'm gonna stick it up their asshole and watch them explode."
Jessie stared blankly, then she looked at the other person in the cell. A human woman sitting on one of the beds, twirling her sloppy mashed potato into a rabbit with a grin on her face. "Never mind, it's just me," Jessie said.
"Huh? I'm sane," Emma said in an innocent voice. "How come we can leave whenever we want in this jail? There's no lock or anything."
Jessie scoffed, "I've been in a place like this before. It's free reign, so they hope they can cull the numbers if the prisoners kill each other." She winced as Emma widened her eyes further, "that's not a suggestion."
A group of five women walked by the cell. One looked inside, snickered and told the others to double back to the door.
"Oh look, it's the new ones," she sneered.
"What did you do then?" another, tall with long straggly red hair asked and not sympathetically.
"I was drunk, and they thought that she was a spy," Emma replied.
"Oh, thanks a lot," Jessie muttered.
"A spy, that is interesting," the red haired woman said. The others laughed.
"She isn't though. She's a marccy, aren't ya Jess?" Emma said.
"Marquis and yeah so what?" Jessie muttered.
Two of the girls who hadn't said anything yet approached Emma. "You could do us a big favour," the pretty brunette with an innocent face whispered.
"Why, I don't know you," Emma said as she walked over to Jessie's side.
"Oh, it's a favour for you as well. Your roommate, we all hate her. You could off her for us," the brunette sneered maliciously. It looked very strange coming from an angelic face.
Jessie looked a little worried as Emma smiled at that. "I'll be right back," she laughed and ran off. Despite that the women at the door let her go, all while smirking.
"So what about this one then? The spy," the first woman said.
"I doubt she'd be any use. She looks like a goody two shoes who's probably married with kids," the red head sneered.
Jessie rolled her eyes. "Ohno, I can't join the too edgy for girl scouts club? I guess I'll have to find someone else to paint my nails blood red and write blood thirsty vampire falls for an idiot fanfiction with."
The brunette looked a little shocked, but laughed it off mockingly. "Oh, this one think she's witty." The other women sniggered amongst themselves. The brunette approached looking Jessie straight in the eye to try and unnerve her. "What should we do with her?"
"Well mashed potatoes here thought she was clever too. What ain't broke," a short haired blonde said in a matter of fact tone. "Spy's friend can use her for initiation in a few weeks time."
Both the women's expressions faded away as Jessie didn't even react, she looked almost bored. She pretended to look shocked at that, "oh I'm sorry, were the threats over? I forgot to not worry."
All of the women gathered around her, boxing her into the cell. Still she didn't look too bothered about it. The brunette and blonde tried to lunge forward to grab her arms, Jessie pushed the brunette away but had no time to stop the blonde grasping her arm and pushing her into the wall.
Other prisoners began to gather around the doorway, eager to watch the fight.
Laughing, two other women closed in to deliver blows while the blonde attempted to hold her still. One was kicked in the knee and so backed off, but she was replaced by the final two, one of which punched her in the belly.
While the pain took her breath away, the hit itself flipped the temper switch. Jessie swung up the arm that was being held so her hand would smash into the woman's face, then she stamped on the woman who hit her last on the side of her leg so hard she screeched and fell to the floor.
Despite this the rest of the women continued attempting to deliver punches and kicks, Jessie more than repaid them and it didn't take more than a few minutes for her to be the only one left standing. Two of the women hurried out of the cell, one with a swollen eye and the other with a busted lip. Two others had similar injuries, but were determined to pay her back for them. The one with the leg stamped on was too busy crying on the ground.
Jessie wasn't that much better off. Her own lip was cut and bleeding, her face felt like it was on fire with how many times they struck her there. The knuckles on her right hand were sore and bleeding. What bothered her the most was the throbbing pain below her stomach, she feared the worst and instinctively clutched it with her left arm.
Outside Emma hurried back. "This dumb place doesn't have a kitchen so..." then she spotted the crowds blocking her way, then some of the injured women trying to get through them. "What happened?"
"Your bitch of a friend, this isn't over," the brunette snarled.
"Who?" Emma laughed, "oh her, Jess something. I thought she was a kill joy softie. Way to go."
She was scowled at for that as they pushed by her. Emma shrugged it off and tried to get through the gaps they left, but they were quickly closed up seconds after they were through. "Aaaw."
Meanwhile only a few corridors down two male prisoners were standing over James, still unconscious from earlier on one of the cell beds. "Why would he have anything, he just got in?" one asked.
The other scoffed, "dude, the moron tried to shoot his way out, that's why he's like this."
Harry overheard as he passed by, he carefully hid around the wide door frame and peered in.
"So? They'd take the gun off him," the first man said.
"Your loss man," the second man sniggered. He walked forward and reached to check his jacket. Unfortunately for him that was when James woke up.
Harry widened his eyes and backed away in time for the same man to stumble backwards through the door and fall back first into the opposite cell. The other guy ran out in a hurry, purposefully shoving Harry out of his way as he did.
"What I wouldn't give for Shooty right now," Harry muttered. He was about to walk into the cell when James stepped out instead looking more than a little annoyed, if a bit groggy too.
"So is it just you?" he asked.
Harry scowled, "oh hi, you're okay, I'm fine too." James shook his head and walked off without him. Harry reluctantly followed. "Hey, this is a jail. We shouldn't split up."
The sound of jeering and other shouting ahead got both of their attention. Harry looked worried. "Do you hear that?" James asked.
"Yeah we should go the opposite..." Harry said. He growled as his teammate continued in the same direction anyway. He ran after him after some grumbling.
They didn't have to go far to see where the noise was coming from. The crowds outside Jessie and Emma's cell were getting rowdier; cheering and booing. One more of the women pushed her way out through the crowds to run off holding her bleeding nose.
"It's just a typical prison fight. Can we..." Harry called out from behind James.
James' face tensed at the sound of a familiar voice. He didn't stop and instead tried to get through them. Harry hesitated as the crowd began to disperse. He cautiously approached, while James pushed his way to the cell.
Jessie limped up to the door, grasping the wall with her left while her sore right clutched her stomach. "Jess, oh god..." James stammered as he offered an arm to give her some support. Her sore bleeding hand shakily took a hold of his arm.
"It's okay, I handled it," Jessie said, still with some anger in her voice.
They walked out slowly into the much quieter corridor. Jessie didn't feel up to going any further, and chose to lean her left side against one of the walls in between cells. James took the opportunity to look back over his shoulder into her cell, where the woman still sobbed over her leg.
"So I see," James couldn't help but smile proudly.
As he turned his head back he heard Jessie gasp. He only got a split second glimpse of her shocked and pained face before she tumbled forward towards the ground. James quickly caught her mid fall with both arms, one around her back. That hand he immediately noticed was hot and soaking wet.
Carefully he lowered her down to lie on the ground, with her head and shoulders propped up by the other arm, while the other shakily moved around to keep a still and firm press against her back.
Harry and Emma gathered around, as were a few other stragglers. Harry noticed Jessie's eyes were closed, her head limped to one side. "Ohno," he stuttered.
"No, no, no..." James started to panic, Harry assumed he noticed the same. "Somebody get some help, she...!" Cruel laughter from his left interrupted him.
James slowly looked around to see who was doing it. Only a few feet away stood the drunk from the bar, delivering a wink in his direction, holding a bloodied shiv the size of a phaser. He tossed it in front of him so it would land halfway between him and Jessie.
"Competition's out of the way. What do you say sweet cheeks?" he said coyly with a smile.
Lilly groaned so loud from frustration her fringe vibrated in the breeze. "No, it's not a cloak. It's a signal disrupter. It uses their shield against them and..."
Tom grinned and winked at her, "say no more. Let's rock 'n' roll." He dashed for the helm.
Kathryn stared daggers into his back. "Wait!" she barked while he was rubbing his back as if it were literal. "Will it work on their ships too? As soon as we head back into orbit they're going to confront us."
"No, it's a Tolg adapt to differing frequencies situation. It'll be a waste of time. Besides why would you fly back the same way you came? Space is huge, fly another way around," Lilly scoffed.
Tom sniggered obnoxiously. Kathryn frowned at him, "I dunno why you're laughing. You're the moron who thinks evasive maneuvers means fly in a straight line."
Chakotay cleared his throat. "Okay so to sum up; we sneak to the planet, raise our rotating shields, fly down into the city and..."
"Uh, I'm detecting that dust cloud that we passed on the way here. We're in the middle of it," Craig nervously said.
Tom sighed, disappointed. "I guess we'll never know."
"Again, what..." Kathryn stuttered.
Chakotay's eyes widened in shock, "look," he pointed at the viewscreen. The image of the planet and the two ships waiting for them in the distance blurred and twisted. When Kathryn turned to look the ships vanished leaving only the planet.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I... I'm not sure," Craig replied.
"Scan the planet," Chakotay ordered.
Craig shook his head, "nothing."
Kathryn blew a few fuses, "nothing, what do you mean there's nothing?"
"I mean, there are no lifesigns, no structures. Only plant life, it's like a jungle down there," Craig said.
"But what about our people?" Kathryn wondered.
Swear poured down poor Craig's face, he tried desperately to keep it out of his eyes. "I... I don't know. There's no one there."
Tuvok thought to rescue him before he was throttled. "Captain, five transporter signals were detected in Sickbay at the same time the anomaly occurred We have three extra lifesigns."
"What?" Tom frowned, "five signals but only three people? What's going on down there?"
Kathryn turned to Chakotay, "get down there. I want some answers."
For once he didn't argue, he was in full agreement. "Yes Captain," he hurried for the turbolift.
The Doctor pushed the tray with most of his tools over to the primary biobed, occasionally glancing over frantically to another occupied bed. "Mr Kim, can you see to my other patient, shouldn't be hard for you."
Harry looked around confused as he only saw B'Elanna standing around, while the Doctor tried to move James aside. He moved to the other side of the bed after his arm was touched. "Give me some space here," the Doctor barked anyway.
"What other patient?" Harry asked just as he clasped eyes on the biobed the Doctor was probably talking about. Emma was already there about to poke a stab wound. "Oh no, don't...!" he stuttered as he ran over.
The Doctor hurriedly began to scan his patient, worry lines took over his forehead. "Help me get her on her side, for god's sake keep her chin up so when I revive her she doesn't choke to death!" he ordered without looking at who it was directed at.
James instinctively reached to do what he was told but hesitated a second when he touched her. The Doctor looked up annoyed but noticed James' face turning pale and shaking, as well as blood on his hands and front. His own face softened, "it's okay, one thing at a time. Just turn her over and I'll treat this wound. Nice and gentle."
Harry glanced over nervously from the other biobed as James and the Doctor lifted Jessie's body up to place her on her side. The Doctor immediately grabbed a regenerator while James' shaking and bloodied hand went to his face.
In the corner of his eye he saw movement, his hand reached over to slap Emma's hand away from the body there. "Oh come on, he's already popped it," she complained.
Harry flinched as he laid eyes on the man's body in front of him. "I'm sorry Doc. He's dead too. What should I...?"
The Doctor's head darted up in shock, "he, who?" He was about to run over when James grabbed his arm to stop him.
"Wait you can't, Jessie needs you first," he stuttered.
"I can't prioritise one over the other," the Doctor said during an attempt to shake his hand off. He couldn't, "I have to see if I can save him too. If it were the other way around..."
James' entire frame tensed. The Doctor assumed he understood, but instead he only stared at him blankly. "Don't bother," he said coldly, "he's not worth it."
B'Elanna walked over to the other biobed, eyeing the body lying there. "Where did he even come from?" she asked, hoping Harry or Emma would answer. She noticed a couple of stab wounds and looked up at Emma. She looked offended at that. "What happened, who is he?"
"I didn't do anything, god!" Emma groaned and stomped off.
Harry laughed nervously, "yeah um, no, I was shocked too. He's from the prison, he..." He gestured his head to one side as if he were using it to point in Jessie's direction, "did that."
"Oh," B'Elanna's face fell and drained. "Maybe you guys should report to the Captain or something. I gotta finish up here." Harry looked puzzled. "I was here for a post pregnancy check up when all hell broke loose," she whispered.
Harry lightly nodded. He began to leave until he noticed Emma had gone into the Doctor's office to peer at Jessie's biobed through the glass. He sighed and went after her.
B'Elanna though found that funny, "it's never dull."
The Doctor meanwhile seemed to have finished his treatment and so lay Jessie on her back again. The over the bed scanner activated, he scanned with a regular tricorder while he was waiting. "This is troubling. Oh dear," he double checked the scanner, "we have a problem."
"What?" James asked.
"The weapon penetrated the womb, there's internal bleeding. If we revive her now before repairing the damage, the foetus will die. However I'm concerned that our chances of reviving her are slim if put it off, every minute counts," the Doctor replied.
Any remaining colour in James' face was ancient history. He was once again shaking, "what, but... You can't..."
B'Elanna overheard the exchange and decided to walk over.
James shook his head in frustration at himself. "No, you can't decide this for her. She hasn't decided yet. She doesn't know," he stuttered, voice cracking.
"James," B'Elanna said with some sympathy, she stepped closer. "Look, that's not what he's saying. He's telling you that the baby might die if we save Jessie, but both probably will if we don't. He's not forcing any decision on you or her."
The Doctor looked across guiltily at the pair. "I'm afraid that's not correct, I am. There is another option."
James glanced at him with a tiny fleck of hope in his eyes. "What is it?"
"It's experimental, no guarantee," the Doctor warned. No one said or did anything as protest. "I prepare an artificial environment for the foetus, like a stasis unit, and transport the cells there. Then I should be able to revive Jessie. Afterwards it's a matter of finding a surrogate."
"Are you kidding?" B'Elanna scoffed, "that sounds like it would take a lot longer to do than treating her injury."
"That is a delicate operation, timely. This however was something I've been developing just in case once the crew started having children. A failsafe for something like this, but I didn't foresee a pregnancy this early, there's still a risk. It may not work but it gives the foetus an actual chance instead of nothing. Either way you choose, I need to start in five minutes," the Doctor said.
B'Elanna looked across at James staring down at the floor, his shaking fists clenched. The Doctor took the opportunity to sneak over to the other biobed to check on the other patient.
"I can't... Jessie should be the one to choose, it's her..." she heard James mumble.
"I know, but she can't. You know her well enough to decide, and you're the father aren't you?" B'Elanna whispered softly.
James shook his head, shakily sighing. "I don't... I don't know. If I choose to bring her back now, the baby dies and she decided she wanted to keep it, she'd never forgive me. I wouldn't." B'Elanna nodded, understanding. "But what if she still doesn't want it, and I choose this risky op to save them both, for nothing?"
"Not nothing," B'Elanna said with a warm smile. "It's like you say, the first treatment takes away her choice. The second one gives her the chance to make it later."
James' gaze drifted over to where Jessie lay still. His eyes glistened as he tried to hold back tears, the lump in his throat was threatening to choke him. "Yeah, you're right. Still, Doc mentioned a surrogate. If Jessie chose not to keep it, what then?"
"Worry about that later. One step at a time," B'Elanna said.
The Doctor walked back over looking glum. "The man was stabbed in the heart, it's destroyed. Horrific, who could do something like that?"
James cleared his throat but kept his gaze in the direction of the bed. "The second one," he said, getting the Doctor's attention. "We should do that one."
"Very well. I'll get to work immediately," the Doctor said.
The doors to Sickbay opened for Chakotay. He looked around as he walked in. He spotted James then Harry and Emma in the office. He walked over to them first. "Harry, I hope you have an explanation for what happened here. We have three lifesigns, five were transported aboard by persons unknown. I understand four but..."
Harry stared at him with wide, very nervous eyes, unnerving Chakotay a little. "It wasn't us. It was a Federation beam, I assumed it was you," he said.
Chakotay's brow lowered, "Harry, what's the matter with you?"
Harry shuffled over, his head darting frantically to the left to keep an eye on Sickbay itself. He lowered his voice, "we should call Security, very discreetly."
Emma pouted, "hey what? I didn't actually push that girl in a wood chipper. There wasn't any in the prison."
Chakotay and Harry slowly turned to stare at her in horror, she giggled cutely and wandered away towards the desk.
"Yeah um, do I get witness protection?" Harry said, then eyed Emma cautiously, "and Emma protection. From."
"Why?" Chakotay asked once he thought it was safe to.
Harry struggled to keep his eyes off the girl until Chakotay clicked his fingers in his face. "Oh, yeah. You want to know why we have two dead, right?"
"Yes, I see Jessie must've been one," Chakotay said carefully. "Are you worried about someone flipping out about it, or is it..." He gestured towards Emma with his chin.
"No, no. He stabbed her, in the back. This guy who was hassling them in the bar before we were arrested. So fast, I didn't have time to even warn her," Harry stuttered a lot.
"Yeah tell him it wasn't me," Emma called from the desk.
Chakotay sighed, "I never... Harry said he."
"Right. Tell that to B'Elanna," Emma said, shrugging casually as she sat down in the Doctor's seat.
"Okay so, that explains Jessie which I already knew, kind of," Chakotay said. Harry glanced back to Sickbay. He saw that it was safe and so pointed at the other biobed. Chakotay followed his finger, it took him a second to understand. "So that's the killer. Whoever transported knew that one of our team was dead, but couldn't figure out which of the dead it was. I suppose that makes sense."
"Yeah but," Harry stammered.
"Just tell him," James said plainly from the door. Harry resulting gasp at his presence sounded more like a loud hiccup. Emma laughed at it. James shook his head, "I don't really care."
Chakotay's full attention was on him. He carefully took a step forward. "You?"
Emma's eyes lit up, she hurried forward to his side. "Oooh ooh, let me tell it."
Only a few feet away stood the drunk from the bar, delivering a wink in his direction, holding a bloodied shiv the size of a phaser. He tossed it in front of him so it would land halfway between him and Jessie.
"Competition's out of the way. What do you say sweet cheeks?" he said coyly with a smile.
James' hand crept over to pick up the shiv as he stood. The laughter continued until his throat was grabbed, turning into a garbled mess. The shiv was then plunged over and over into his chest and...
"Okay that's enough," Chakotay desperately interrupted.
Still Emma carried on, gesturing everything she was saying with her hands. "It was like woosh, blood everywhere. So funny and he was like aargh!"
Chakotay looked towards Harry who acted like he had seen a ghost. "What really happened, Harry?" he asked. Emma pouted again.
James picked up the shiv, stood up and grabbed the guy by the throat. He stabbed him twice with the shiv.
"That's... that's it?" Chakotay stuttered.
Emma blew a raspberry, "mine was so much better."
"I hate to agree. Don't give up your day job," Chakotay said.
"Yours was terrifying," Harry commented, still with his eyes wide.
Chakotay shook his head as he turned his attention back to James. "Are either of these stories true?" He only got a nod as his answer. "You know what this means, don't you?"
"I'll go to the brig myself once I know Jessie is okay," James answered.
"No, that's not how it works and you know it," Chakotay snapped. "Do you still have the weapon?"
James exhaled tiredly. He reached into the empty phaser holster on his waist to pull out the shiv. Harry and Chakotay tensed expectantly, only for him to put it on the closest surface to him and walk off.
"Wait," Chakotay blurted out. He dashed out after him, expecting him to have left. James only returned to hovering around Jessie's biobed, out of the Doctor's way. Chakotay sighed and tapped his commbadge, "Security. I need an armed team in Sickbay."
"That's not necessary," James said.
Chakotay awkwardly laughed, "you're joking? Of course it is. You don't call the shots here. You murdered a man."
The Doctor glanced over in shock. He tried to shake it off to get back on with his work.
"I just mean I won't resist. After I know, I'll go," James said.
On the closest biobed B'Elanna sat uneasily, she cleared her throat to make her presence known to the Commander. "I'll ask the Doctor to call the brig when it's over."
"B'Elanna," Chakotay warned her.
"Once he's there, what's the harm?" B'Elanna said, staring firmly at him.
"You're defending him?" Chakotay said, not really surprised but disappointed.
B'Elanna lightly shook her head, "I understand."
A Security team of four arrived and waited by the door for orders. Chakotay looked over his shoulder at them. "Please escort Mr Taylor to the brig."
"Aye sir," the team leader said, stepping forward.
The team followed him over to where James stood. He stared at them without budging, prompting them all to reach for their phasers. He let out a tired groan, "fine." He walked with them towards the door.
Once he was gone Chakotay let out a worried sigh, "The Captain's not going to be happy about this."
"Captain," Tuvok said. As he expected he was growled at. "A ship is approaching from our stern. They're hailing us."
"On screen," Kathryn ordered.
The changed view did nothing to help her mood, although it did ease her headache slightly. "Oh. Captain Sheepdog."
The woman on the screen twitched, her crew laughed quietly. "Shepard."
"Sure," Kathryn groaned. "Captain Jackie Shepard of the Aroma, I remember fine."
"Erona," the whole bridge corrected her.
Tom smiled, "I don't think I have to ask what brings our time traveling guardians here."
"You mean guardian angels," Will said smugly.
"No, I really don't," Tom said, "and I was being sarcastic too."
Jacqueline elbowed her annoying first officer off screen. "We detected a paradox within five seconds after we returned from our last visit..."
"Of course," Kathryn grunted.
"Yes," Jacqueline said with similar bitterness. "So we hopped back, only to find you weren't there. It took my crew of highly trained morons five hours to figure out that not only did we swap places with you, but that was what caused the paradox we detected."
Tom laughed, "why break a habit of a lifetime, or in your case career."
"Hey," an Erona crewmember objected. One peered into view, "that's not entirely true. It was meant to..." Jacqueline shushed him.
"So, since this is your error, I assume you're here to fix your mess. I have somebody on board who is very likely from your time, dead. And knowing us, probably shouldn't be because we weren't supposed to be there," Kathryn said.
Chakotay cleared his throat as he entered the Bridge. She glared, "I was getting to that, you prissy piece of sh...!"
"He attacked a member of our crew. Jessie, she's critical so..." Chakotay interrupted anyway.
Jacqueline looked more than a little shifty, she side stepped off screen. Will stumbled in her place, he was as shocked as everyone on Voyager. "I'm tired of being the face of these screw ups, you tell them!" they heard Jacqueline grumble, "I'm on break."
"Uh," Will stammered, melting under Kathryn's gaze. "John, what was it again?"
The man who spoke up earlier groaned, "as I was trying to explain before the Captain told me to be quiet. The paradox wasn't caused by us swapping times with you. It was caused by not doing it. Doing so fixed it."
Kathryn's head throbbed, "what does that even mean?"
"It was supposed to happen, duh," Will smirked. He saw her face and ran off screen again, leaving John on his own.
"It means that there's nothing to fix..." John answered carefully, "but er, how did you end up with one of our people? How did that happen?"
Vicky appeared on the bridge, grinning excitedly, "oh oh, is James there?"
John groaned, and he wasn't the only one. "We were only meant to transport four."
"Yeah well, Will said to aim for a corpse and I found two so..." Vicky said.
"Tell us where he is, and we'll beam him to our ship," John said, almost whimpering. Vicky looked hopeful. "No! The dead one. We'll return his body to his family."
"The morgue I assume," Kathryn said, twitching slightly. "So let me get this straight. We were supposed to provoke tensions between Starfleet and this New Marquis, kidnap one of your dead prisoners, and return home with a dying crewmember?"
"Well... sorta," John stuttered nervously.
"Sorta?" Kathryn hissed.
John glanced briefly to one side, "we got him, thanks Voyager. Gotta go." The viewscreen turned off in time to see the Erona turn around and head for a portal.
"That doesn't make any sense," Kathryn grumbled.
"Maybe they really don't like the dude who died," Tom said, carefully weighing his words for once. Kathryn glared at him anyway for it so he finished his thought, "or maybe Jessie was the future dictator of the galaxy and her dying will avoid that?"
"Really?" Kathryn snapped.
Tom winced, "no, I'm joking. If one of our own enslaved the universe, it'd be you."
"I wouldn't take their word for it. The Erona crew are pretty incompetent, you remember the last time it was our interference that resolved the paradox they caused. The only thing they said that was probably right was the mistake they made," Chakotay said.
"True, but that doesn't help us with Jessie does it?" Kathryn said.
"I'm sure the Doctor has a handle on it. In the meantime, can I talk to you and Tuvok, alone?" Chakotay questioned. Kathryn had a mix of curious and annoyed on her face, it made her look a little bewildered. Tuvok also looked across, eyebrow raising. "It's about the murdered con."
"Murdered?" Tuvok said, a touch alarmed.
Kathryn's eyes drifted over to him, also surprised. "Another prisoner, or are we just making sure our bases are covered?"
Chakotay hesitated to answer with everyone listening in. "Follow me," he repeated with no room to argue. He made his way to the turbolift. "I'll explain on the way."
"All right. Paris," Kathryn said then groaned. Tom was more than offended by that. "Craig, er... No. Fine, Tom you babysit the bridge. Try not to break it." She wandered after Chakotay, Tuvok followed her.
"No respect, I tell ya," Tom huffed.
Kathryn marched inside, making the poor guards nearly wet themselves. She barely had to point, they were already running out of the door. Tuvok and Chakotay had to dodge them to get in.
James sat on the bed with his feet up on it, hands resting on his raised knees. He turned his head to look at his visitors.
Kathryn's face hardened at the sight. "On your feet, Ensign," she barked. Even Tuvok flinched.
To his and Chakotay's relief, James for once didn't argue. He put his feet down and stood up to face her.
"Do you have any idea what you've done, the mess you've made? And I don't want your sarcasm or attitude," Kathryn snapped.
"Yes. I don't deny it," James replied calmly, with a straight face.
Tuvok thought to chime in before the situation got any uglier. "Voyager slipped through a temporal anomaly. The planet we visited was only populated because we were 400 years into our future. The man you killed..."
James' blank demeanour twitched for a moment. Anger was in his eyes. "That man murdered an innocent woman from the past. In cold blood, for no reason."
Kathryn raised her voice to a sharp scolding, "but you had a reason. Is that your point, your only defence?"
"I wouldn't call it a defence," James answered. "It is my reason though, yes."
"You understand a crime this serious requires a serious punishment. You will need to be tried first, of course..." Tuvok said.
"No need, I did it," James interrupted him. "And I'd do it again."
Kathryn's anger nearly bubbled over the surface. She gestured to Tuvok and Chakotay to leave. Chakotay didn't look happy about it, "Captain?"
"I'll be fine," Kathryn quietly said. Chakotay and Tuvok exchanged similar worried glances before stepping back out, leaving Kathryn to study her prisoner in awkward silence.
After a few minutes of that she spoke in a softer tone, "I understand why you did it. But I can't go easy on you. You understand?"
"Of course," James said as if he agreed.
Kathryn's sigh sounded disappointed. "You really make this difficult. You want to be punished, don't you?"
"No," James answered to her surprise, "but I didn't want to keep this to myself."
"Is that because Harry and Emma saw you do it?" Kathryn asked.
"Not really. I would've still told someone," James said with no hesitation.
"Why? Normally killers deny, they hide it," Kathryn said, a little confused and starting to doubt what he was saying.
James' expression once again cracked, this time his features softened. "Because I don't regret it."
Kathryn's suspicions rose further. "That doesn't make sense. You can not regret it and still choose to lie about it to avoid punishment. You're not covering for anyone, are you?"
"You'd think I'd cover for Harry relapsing from his phaser bloodlust, or Emma? Or are you suggesting Jessie killed him when she was already dead?" James said with clear sarcasm, his face was back to blank though.
"That's it. You think Jessie won't make it, so it doesn't matter now," Kathryn said. James didn't answer vocally. Doing that though did give her, her answer. "It's not your fault."
"You weren't there," James blurted out angrily.
Kathryn nodded knowingly. "You're right, but I don't need to have been there to know it wasn't because of you. I know you, if you could've stopped her murder, you would."
"Clearly you don't know me," James muttered bitterly.
His remark took Kathryn aback for a second. She shook it off. "I do. I'm aware of how much you care about her. You put her life over your own, I've seen it many times. Still, it shouldn't mean you give up because she's gone."
"She was, is pregnant," James said with his voice cracking.
Kathryn recoiled a bit from the shock of it. She started to stammer, "I see. She is... Is it yours?"
James glanced to his right, avoiding eye contact. "We, she hadn't decided yet. I had to take her choice away. I could lose them both if I chose wrong."
Kathryn's shoulders slumped, her right eye burned and glistened. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," James quietly said. He turned around to sit back down. "I mess everything up. Do what you got to."
"We can't keep him in the brig until we get home, or worse, when he dies," Chakotay said, glancing up at Tuvok standing beside his chair.
"Nor can we house arrest him like Mr Suder. The situation is very different," he pointed out. "Taylor also has proved capable enough to escape such confines."
Chakotay sighed and sat back to de-tense his shoulders, it didn't work. "Well those are our only options, realistically anyway. We can't avoid punishing him." He looked across at Kathryn on the other side of the desk, looking lost in thought. "Captain?"
"There is the option of building a second brig for him. Then we'd have the primary one for emergencies," Tuvok suggested.
"Maybe but," Chakotay said, grimacing, "the thing we've got to consider too is if he's a threat to the crew." Both of Tuvok's eyes raised quizzically. "I'm not saying we should let him go with a don't do it again, but like you said, he isn't Suder. He killed at random, for a mundane reason. James did it out of grief, and unless someone on this ship kills her again he won't re-offend.
"We talked about this last time regarding Suder too; we only have a few people on this ship, and we can't afford to lose anyone."
"How would you suggest we punish him then, Commander?" Tuvok questioned. "No matter the reason for it, he took a man's life and broke the temporal prime directive doing so."
"To be fair, he wasn't the only one. The prisoner murdered Jessie first, a woman from 400 years ago in his perspective. Even just one person could have a massive effect on that many years of history, who knows what damage he'd cause to his present if Jessie doesn't survive," Chakotay said.
Kathryn's eyes drifted in his direction and back again.
Tuvok nodded, "indeed. However the Erona stated that..."
Chakotay scoffed and struggled not to smirk. "I would take anything they said with a pinch of salt. If they say Jessie was supposed to go into the future, get stabbed and nearly or actually die, then I'm going to believe the opposite. They screwed up and don't want to admit it, or bother fixing it."
Kathryn sighed loudly, getting both Commanders' attention. "He wants us to lock him up for this, so he can't mess up again. That's why he admitted it," she said while still not looking directly at them. "He should be punished for this, and how we do he has to hate it. Otherwise we're locking him up for nothing."
Tuvok looked a little impressed. "Fascinating. Your logic is sound."
Chakotay smiled in her general direction, "so what do you suggest?"
Kathryn smiled back a little mischievously.
James stared in disbelief at the command trio standing in front of him as his forcefield was lowered. "Is this a joke?"
"No. Keeping you imprisoned here or in your quarters is not suitable punishment for you," Tuvok answered.
"I... then what?" James stuttered.
"You'll be put on a probation. A community service if you'd prefer, alongside your current job," Kathryn explained.
"By that she means your previous offer of babysitting the Engineering staff while B'Elanna's not able to keep tabs on them, has been rescinded," Chakotay added on.
"Oh," James sounded a little relieved at that part.
"Hold your horses. If you're going back to Security after a crime like this, you need to be evaluated. Which is perfect because from what I hear you missed your annual one this year," Chakotay said, resisting a smile. Any relief James felt had ran away by that point, he frowned instead. "With some modifications since you will be taking it alone this time."
Kathryn was less discreet, her smile turned into a smirk. "Six months you'll go to your normal shift and be paid for that, then spend the following shift on your probation, unpaid, in other departments. The first month; the Doctor needs help since Tom is only on paternity leave when his Sickbay shifts are due, or I'm about to slap him."
"Sickbay?" James laughed mostly out of disbelief but with some concern.
"Think of that as repaying a favour," Kathryn said, her smirk turning into a nicer smile.
James looked at her as relief threatened to overwhelm him, he tried to hold it back. "You mean?"
"Yes, she's fine. Everything went well," Kathryn replied. She waited for him to react; he smiled and sighed in relief, then covered his face with his hand. "So there's no point keeping you in here, is there?"
"That part doesn't make sense. He didn't kill Jessie," Chakotay said with a confused frown.
"Like I said, brig time was what he wanted," Kathryn whispered to him.
"Indeed. So do you understand your punishment, Mr Taylor?" Tuvok questioned.
"Yeah," James replied reluctantly and nodded. The command trio turned to leave. "Actually," James said, making Kathryn stall first. The others did so at the door. "Stuart. I'd rather be called that."
Chakotay looked puzzled, "the other half of your surname that was your step dad's. Why now?"
"Janeway knows," James replied.
Kathryn widened her eyes and glanced around, "uh, I do?" James raised both eyebrows, hinting at something. She got it and nodded at the other two men to leave. They were more confused than before but did as they were told. Once gone she turned back towards James, "the baby. That's why?"
James nodded. "Yeah. I thought that if I ever had any kids, I wouldn't want them to have the Taylor name. The name, the family dies with me. It's less confusing if I don't use it either. If she decides not to keep it, at least it's done already. Of course that's if she even wants the kid to use my surname, that's a little..."
"Reasonable," Kathryn chuckled, "Jessie always complains when we call her Rex. So I can't see her saying no to that."
James smiled weakly, "yeah but still, I didn't want to assume."
"Consider it done. I still need to officially change Bimbo of Crazy's name for her death certificate," Kathryn said.
"Her death...?" James frowned, eyebrow raised. "But I just saw her twenty minutes ago. She came in to say I told them so, calling me a murdering monster and... some other stuff. I haven't a clue, I tuned out in the middle of the first sentence."
Kathryn's jaw dropped. She tried to compose herself to speak, "the explosion. She..." Her face hardened into stone, "excuse me." She stomped off to James' bemusement.
The Doctor beamed proudly towards two side by side biobeds. The occupants sitting on them noticed and looked a little creeped out. He shuffled away to do some paper work in his office when James walked in.
"Ah perfect timing. I need you to organise everything," the Doctor said, pointing at the desk full of PADDs.
James glanced briefly at them, winced and looked back. "In a minute Doc. I heard everything went okay."
"Of course it did with a brilliant physician like me performing the surgery," the Doctor said smugly.
"Thanks Doc, really," James said sincerely.
The Doctor beamed with pride again, "no need. It is my job. The PADDs go in date order, if they're the same date, then alphabetical or numerical." He walked off into the office and into the lab next to it.
James shook his head and continued to walk towards the two biobeds. Jessie spotted him and her face brightened up. She attempted to get off the biobed despite the nagging pain in her back trying to stop her.
"You're okay?" she said, relieved.
"That was what I was going to say," James sighed.
"I heard what happened after I... you know," Jessie said, trailing off into a mumble. B'Elanna looked on a little awkwardly. James meanwhile glanced down at his feet for a moment then up again. Jessie caught it and smiled, "I'm fine. We're fine."
"I'd better escape while I still can," B'Elanna said, getting up as well. She headed over to the door.
"Wait," Jessie called out to stop her. "What are you going to tell him?"
James frowned and looked over his shoulder towards B'Elanna, she glanced between them looking worried.
"Nothing. Not yet. Don't worry about it now," B'Elanna tried to smile reassuringly. She continued walking towards the door.
Jessie flinched before James turned his attention back toward her. He noticed her pressing her lips together tightly and tensing her shoulders. "What's that about?" he asked.
"B'Elanna she..." Jessie started to answer. "Um, the Doctor told you, he must have. Right?"
"Nothing involving B'Elanna, or another him no," James said warily.
Jessie groaned impatiently. "Of course not," she muttered. "B'Elanna offered to be the surrogate."
James blinked rapidly, "uh I'm sorry what?"
Jessie nodded, "yeah. Please tell me you at least knew about needing one?"
"Well yeah I knew that part but I didn't realise it would be done right away, otherwise that artificial environment thing the Doc was blabbing about would be..." James said quickly. He sighed, hoping that would slow him down or make him calm. It didn't. "B'Elanna? She's just had a baby, and then there's Tom..." His face drained as realisation hit him, "that's the him you asked about."
"Yup," Jessie meekly said with her eyes widening fearfully. "I can't ask her to... if I or rather we decide not to have the baby, I can't ask her to go through with that, you know?" James closed his eyes, sighed and looked back down towards the floor. "Yeah. And I can't ask her to carry it to term either. It feels almost like I'm using her. Both decisions, she has to be the one to endure it."
"Oh god," James muttered, looking back up at her, his eyes full of guilt.
"I can't say it's my body anymore. It's hers, and Tom's her husband, he can't not know," Jessie whispered. "What are we going to do?"
The two silently worried over that. Jessie stepped forward so she could hug him.
"I'm sorry, I..." James whispered. Jessie tried to shake her head against his shoulder. He got the message. Finally he held her back.
The Doctor stepped out of the office to complain about his paperwork still not being done. He noticed them, smiled sadly and turned back the way he came.
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