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The crew find themselves chasing shadows while they attempt to hunt down a renegade. What they discover at the end of the trail leaves Voyager and its allies second guessing everything they know.
25th June 2015
6th, 8th, 13th, 15th, 21st, 27th, 29th - 31st July 2015
2nd - 11th August 2015
The Enterprise drifted to port, narrowly avoiding a blast of energy. It grazed the edge of its shields. More came at once. The starship took an almost vertical dive to avoid it. The range of the beams fizzled out as Voyager glided by on its side. It returned the favour to whatever was firing with a couple of phaser shots of its own.
Each hit connected with a large red ship, leading two smaller ones. It seemed to slow it down, prompting the two little ones to overtake it and give chase. They began to fire small bursts of energy.
The bigger one continued firing from a launcher hidden on the bottom. A beam struck that particular point from beneath it. The launcher went up in flames, while the rest of the ship's power began to falter. The Enterprise casually flew up towards and passed it, then turned to join the battle between Voyager and the two remaining ships.
"The lead ship has been disabled," Lena reported.
"Four dimensions, baby," Tom joked.
Naomi glanced backwards briefly, "five dimensions."
Tom groaned as the ship trembled again. "While we're on the subject, flying on our side isn't that impressive in space."
"The Enterprise was upside down, silly," Naomi laughed.
Everyone else looked at Tom expectantly, he knew what that meant, he was thinking it too. "Computer relocate helm control to the Captain's station," he said it quietly. Naomi continued to tap on the helm, none of the wiser. "When I said we needed a new pilot... How long?"
At the Opps station Faye quickly turned around to check the console behind her. "They should be in communications range in two minutes."
"Shields are at seventy percent," Lena said, but she stalled for some reason. Tom looked on in worry. "I'm not going to jinx it."
"Faye, as soon as they are, relay the co-ordinates I'm sending you. They mustn't exit warp. Tell me when you're done. We need to make a hasty retreat," Tom said.
"Why? They're chumps," Naomi questioned.
Tom sighed and decided to ignore her. "In the mean time, tell the Enterprise."
Lena winced a little at her station, then glanced up at the viewscreen. On it the two ships had decided to focus on the Enterprise, which was now flying straight ahead of them. The amount of fire they were sending their way was non stop, ruthless. A few phaser barrages and torpedoes from Voyager's side did nothing to put them off.
"It seems their reputation will be hard to shake off," Tom mused as he noticed it too.
"No," Danny said from her station at the left of the bridge. "I've never seen these guys before. They're not Softmicron either or they'd be hitting us."
Lena tapped a few more commands, seconds later the viewscreen showed a few more hits to the aliens. Fortunately the Enterprise was replaced by a brief flash of light, then it was gone.
"Now," Faye said.
Tom nodded, "matching Enterprise's speed, warp eight. Engaged."
The alien ships were soon gone from their sight as well. The screen just showed the stars streaking by.
"The Katane and Prometh are right behind us," Faye reported.
Tom sighed in relief, then sat back in his chair. "We'll update them later. Damage report for both ships."
"Minimal damage here; the shields took most of it. Enterprise suffered a few power overloads where the shields were starting to weaken," Lena said. "Any longer and they would have been sitting ducks."
Tom saw Naomi glancing around curiously in the corner of his eye, while he focused on Tactical. He decided to ignore that too. "She did all right considering we're still running repairs and the crew being so tiny. Maybe we should..." He was interrupted by pedantic beeping from the Opps station.
"It's getting a bit noisy. Tira's ship is calling both of us, Katane's trying to get through to us," Faye said.
"We'll leave Tira to Harry. Open a channel to the Katane," Tom ordered. He quickly sat straight in his chair.
The current leader of the Katane, Ersa, appeared on the view screen with a concerned frown on his face. "Another one, Commander Paris?"
Tom sighed and nodded. "Yeah. Two ambushes in three days. It's not easy being beautiful." He meant Voyager and Enterprise, but with the way a few people were looking at him, they assumed he was talking about himself. He quickly cleared his throat to hide his embarrassment. At least Ersa seemed a little amused by it, judging by his eyes. "Maybe next time you choose a place to meet."
Ersa gave him a polite smile, however he still appeared to be worried. "I don't think that'll be necessary, thankfully. I believe we have a lead, but you're not going to like it."
The star shone brightly in the clear blue sky. A gentle breeze would appear to push a few dead leaves from the trees, and to the ground. The streets were bustling with all sorts of different people; walking to and from shops, standing and chatting, children ran around in the leaves covering the paths. It was another normal, mundane day.
A roar overhead seemed to cast a brief shadow over them. People looked up, just catching a glimpse of a small silver ship fly above the rooftops. The ground then trembled, followed by a loud bang in the distance. Most of the crowds stopped to look around, hopefully to see what had happened. A few seemed to, as screams started leaking from different parts of the city.
Soon everyone was looking in that direction. Fear and confusion had frozen them on the spot. They watched helplessly as the tall building fortified in the nearby mountains burned in an intense fire. More ships flew overhead in the opposite direction to the previous ship, these ones headed for the building.
The citizens watched helplessly, most silently as the building started to fall to the ground. Even though it was so far away, people ran away from it. The ones who ran missed the strangest part of all. The crippled building faded away. All that was left was the cloud of smoke from the blaze. People wondered if the building was still there, obscured by it. It was wishful thinking, the fire hadn't reached high enough to do that.
Still, the people waited with baited breath, expecting the sound of the city's power to fade away to silence. Apart from the sound of the ships flying back overhead, nothing changed.
It was if the building never existed.
Harry shakily sat down in one of the chairs, not realising it not only wasn't the Captain's chair but another chair's arm rest. He kept his eyes straight ahead towards the viewscreen, Tira stared back at him from it.
"Really? Are you positive?" he asked.
Tira nodded with a pained expression on her face. "I'm sorry Harry. I wish I had better news to tell you. I even considered telling Mr Paris first, so we could discuss how to break the news."
"It was all for nothing. So senseless," Harry stuttered. "Just pure evil, I couldn't expect anything less."
"What do you want me to do, Harry?" Tira asked softly.
Harry covered his face with his right hand, mainly to hide the tears threatening to fall. "A lost cause. What is there left to do than to get rid of it?"
Chakotay had been holding it back long enough, he just managed to stifle a snort. The sharp exhale of air was loud enough for Harry to hear. "We are still talking about your clarinet right? I hope so."
Harry's head darted to one side, only then noticing he was not in or rather on the right chair. "Have you no heart?"
"That's what we all used to ask whenever you played it," Chakotay said.
"That's a no," Harry said on the brink of tears.
Tira smiled sympathetically. "I would have tried to repair it but I obviously haven't seen one before. Perhaps it is salvageable."
"From a cupboard falling on top of it? Sure," Craig sniggered from Tactical.
"It's fine. I'll replicate a new one. It was only eleven years old and kept me sane all these years, it's fine," Harry muttered while glaring back at him. He heard Chakotay laughing quietly as well and so he focused his stare at him. "It would just be nice if my crew would be a little supportive at a time like this."
Chakotay's good mood fizzled away into quiet anger. That didn't last very long. "I hope you're joking. A smashed clarinet is worse than what's happened the last few months? Your ship being destroyed. People dying from magic aneurysms. A species nearing extinction just so another species could use their planet as a battery. A possessed crewmember that likes to rape little girls. Evil warlocks, children kidnap..."
Harry quickly got up so he could reclaim the seat he usually sat in, all the while blushing furiously. "Don't put words in my mouth! It's because everything is so awful that we need the normal, little things to distract us from this horror. But oh yeah, I'm obviously just an overgrown child crying over a broken toy."
"Finally. I've been waiting for this day," Chakotay said out of relief.
At the very least Harry's outburst had convinced Craig, he even looked a little guilty. "So... the people who attacked you, they thought you were someone else?"
Tira was grateful for the distraction. "Yes. Everywhere we went the people were afraid of us. Nobody would tell us anything. Most of the time we were ordered out of their space."
"So, no one has seen it. We split up and still we can find no trace. Impossible," Chakotay said.
Harry scoffed, "really? It sounds like that's exactly what we've done." Chakotay looked at him strangely. "Think about it. With everything that you've mentioned, you didn't worry that this was coming? It was only a matter of time."
Craig's shoulders fell as he turned his attention to his station. He wanted to say something, but he didn't know what. Someone would. He waited but no one did.
"Are you sure about this, Jess? Talk about opening old wounds," Jodie said in a worried tone.
Jessie paced in front of her while her sister spoke. The silence afterwards slowed her down to a stop. "What choice do I have? I have to know."
Jodie sighed, she looked over to the baby sleeping beside her in a cot, while her hand rested on her own rather big pregnant belly. "Even if it destroys you?"
Jessie's blood ran cold at those words, she slowly turned her head towards her sister. "What? What do you mean?"
"You wouldn't be going if you didn't believe it had something to do with what happened to James," Jodie said carefully.
Jessie shook her head defiantly, a little fire was back in her eyes. "How can you say that? Nathan is still our brother. He wasn't responsible for what his other self did."
Jodie looked down to hide the guilt growing on her face. "You don't know that. I don't know that. Nobody does." A scoff from her younger sister made her look up despite what expression she had. "You only have the word of two watchers who have both screwed you and James over, multiple times. If I were you I'd take what they say as the opposite."
"So, Nathan isn't possessed by a demon? He either is one and or did it all himself?" Jessie said, disgust tainting her voice.
"We know he's not a demon, Jess, unless we are both half one," Jodie said quietly. "Remember, when you first found Nathan, the Doctor did a DNA comparison and he didn't notice. You wouldn't believe him until that was done."
"What about his mother? The demon came from her, not ours, and look what happened to her," Jessie asked angrily.
Jodie stared at her sympathetically. "Maybe it's easier to believe the fantastical version, Jess. His mother was locked up because she was nuts, that's all. He's probably not much better. We both thought he was a bit eccentric..."
"No, no, no," Jessie stammered while she approached her. "Don't go there."
"It's hard not to. What he did to you, unless I see proof that doesn't come out of the mouth of Wesley, I can't forgive him so easily. If it were the other way around, would you?" Jodie said.
Jessie turned her head towards the door. "I never said I forgave him. I didn't say I wasn't scared of seeing him again either. I mean, I don't know which Nathan will be there."
"Jess..." Jodie tried to interrupt.
"But I need to know, I need answers. I can't run away from it," Jessie said. She then headed for the door without looking back.
"Isn't that what James did?" Jodie asked quietly, regretting it immediately when her sister froze just in front of the door. "I... I'm sorry, I shouldn't..."
"Watch her," Jessie said flatly as she stepped outside. The door closed behind her.
Jodie let out a sigh while she turned her attention to the baby in the crib.
Everywhere they looked the colours were vibrant, flashy. The streets were coated with character, every other building was painted a different colour to the next, bright decorations plastered all over windows and doors. It was somewhere they expected to be teaming with life. Only it was deathly quiet, still. The few people walking in the streets were a stark contrast to the shops and restaurants they passed by. If they weren't keeping their heads down, people were looking around rapidly with fear in their eyes. There didn't seem to be anywhere for them to go, each shop had their doors firmly closed. The only lights in the street flickered randomly from a long narrow beam following the edge of the rooftops.
Rain had recently fallen, quickly and relentlessly as the paths were more like shallow streams of water flowing into the gutters. It wasn't the sudden rain storm that had cleared the streets though, it just made it look far worse than it was. Men and women dressed in all black uniforms, armed with long and short range weapons occasionally marched through the streets. Everytime the civilians would freeze on the spot and wait for them to pass.
Just in case the away team kept close to one of the larger groups, and copied their behaviour. The soldiers passed by without even a passing glance.
They waited for the nervous group to continue their journey. When they did they made their way towards a sheltered shop entrance.
"Well this planet's creepy, I'll give you that," Lena said. A drop of water escaped from the edge of the ceiling above, hitting her in between the eyes. She muttered something quietly as she lifted the hood of her jacket over her head, in case it happened again.
Ersa looked around with a worried expression. "It's gotten worse since we were here. I wonder what happened."
Harry stared at him intently. "Didn't you say these people were peaceful?"
"I did, and that's what concerns me," Ersa answered with a nod. The tension in his face eased as he spotted somebody walking toward them. "Ah, here."
Harry and Craig followed his glance to see them as well. The alien kept their head down and with their dark, baggy clothes Harry wasn't sure if they were a man or a woman. He wondered how Ersa managed to recognise them at all.
"We haven't got long," a female voice warned the team. "The next wave will be due in ten danens."
"They've tightened their patrols. That's not a good sign," Ersa said. He gestured to the rest of the team, "these are..."
"Voyager, I know," the woman said as she lifted her head slightly. She hesitantly looked to her right. "You should leave while you still can. You won't find what you're looking for here."
Harry gave Ersa a sideways glance just as he flinched at her urgent tone. "We were informed otherwise," Harry said to her. "He claimed you had information. Anything will do."
"If the military catches off worlders here then they'll be quickly executed," the woman said. "You're too late."
Lena quickly stepped closer to the alien woman, a panicked expression formed on her face. She appeared to be startled by her sudden move. "What does that mean exactly? What did you see?"
"Lena," Craig said softly, hoping to calm her down.
The sound of footsteps and many of them in the far distance made the woman freeze with fear. The rest of the team grew worried as it got louder. Harry noticed a few of the locals rushing to the edges of the street, some even hid. Just as he was turning his attention back to his team, movement above caught his eye.
He wasn't the only one who noticed it. Lena was looking upwards as well. Some of the buildings had very narrow balconies, all of which shut off from the inside. The movement seemed to be coming from a few of them, only now they were looking up at them directly it suddenly became still again.
The woman looked over her shoulder to see another batch of soldiers marching their way. She turned to the awayteam desperately, "don't move, don't even look at them. They won't hesitate."
The team did as she instructed, just as they did the last time. Only this time they didn't have the cover of a few locals next to them.
Lena again noticed movement just above her, this time it was subtle. She doubted the soldiers walking up to them had seen it. She was just wondering what was going on when the sound of phaser type weapons rang out from above. The soldiers reacted immediately, all of them aimed their weapons upward.
"Ohno," the woman stuttered, shaking her head.
Some of the soldiers rushed for cover as the phaser barrages rained down from so many locations in the street. After some shots there were some chilling screams, but none of them came from the soldiers on the ground.
A few soldiers were stalled by their chosen place of cover already being taken by locals who'd hid at the sight of them. They remained so until they were roughly pulled out of the way.
The sight of one solider tossing a young man to the ground, then aiming his weapon at him made Lena lurch forward to stop him. Everyone else in the team, including the woman quickly either grabbed her or put their arms out in her way.
"Don't. They'll kill all of us," Harry whispered to her.
Lena stared at him angrily, but she knew he was right. The amount of soldiers still unscathed would easily get a shot in before she could even do a thing. Still, the sight of the innocent civilian getting shot for no reason made her squirm.
The shots from above had dwindled to very little. It seemed like there was only one left. It then stopped, but not from a shot from the soldiers They still had their weapons trained up, scanning the balconies for this last straggler. One of them made a few gestures in different directions which made them all lower their weapons and then split up into small groups.
The woman sighed once they were all gone. Ersa seemed too shell shocked to be relieved, while the awayteam still felt like they were in the thick of it.
Lena hurried over to the young man shot for daring to hide, she knelt down next to him to check on him. Harry noted the civilians nearby were too afraid to even look at him let alone do the same. It chilled him to the bone.
"You're... this was a peaceful planet, it thrived on visitors, trade. It had no enemies. How has this happened?" Ersa stuttered.
The woman turned to him. "I wish I had an answer, I truly do."
Harry focused on her, while Craig kept a close eye on Lena. His shoulders fell as she covered her face and the man remained deathly still on the ground.
"Change of leadership, I'd wager," Harry commented.
"No. The Emperor has ruled over us for thirty years," the woman said. She looked briefly at the men of the group. "What you just saw here has been festering for months. First the trade routes were abolished. They blamed it on strikes, poor trade crews, things as silly as star charts being wrong. Then the checkpoint around our system was established so no aliens could enter, and any escaping ones would be captured. The soldiers on every street corner. The people are angry. All they needed was a trigger, they got one."
Craig was already suffering from a sinking feeling, her last sentence made him drop like a stone. "You said it was too late after mentioning the alien executions. Ersa told us that you had a visitor to your planet, that's why we came here."
"I saw them open fire on him, I wasn't the only one. That was the final trigger," she answered. "I don't know what happened to the visitor, but the message was clear. This is no longer our world anymore. We have to fight to get it back."
Lena slowly walked back over to them, her face had stiffened, almost frozen in anger from before. "They tried to execute their only tourist. The locals decided that was enough."
The woman looked at her sadly. "Only we're not fighters. This rebellion, it won't last. I'm sorry. If the visitor is what you're looking for, you'll find they've long gone or have been executed. The odds aren't in his favour."
"Unless they found the same loophole through the checkpoint that we did," Harry said. Ersa glanced at him and nodded. Harry felt dread building, but he decided to hold it at bay with some optimism. "This is sounding less like our dangerous fugitive, and more like an innocent tourist as Lena put it, getting caught in a bad situation."
Lena scowled in his direction. "What the hell are you talking about? We're not looking for either of those things, and even if we were, you're just gonna shrug this off and go on your merry way?"
"Of course not," Harry said defensively. "If there's anything we can do, we will."
"No, you must leave while you haven't been seen," the woman said. "An unprovoked attack on an alien started this rebellion, anymore could turn it into a war."
"But..." Craig stuttered.
"No, she's right," Ersa said reluctantly.
Harry nodded, "it was okay if our actions merely affected us. I'm not comfortable doing something that'll pose further risk to the citizens here." He focused on the innocent man shot down in the street. "Doesn't mean I don't hate this."
Lena had been staring at him as well, until she noticed the woman looking at her in the corner of her eye. She turned her head back, confirming that it wasn't just her imagination. "What?"
"I'm sorry, I hope I'm wrong," the woman said meekly.
Lena just stared back at her while her heart started to thump harder and faster. It settled a little when Craig placed a hand gently on her shoulder. She gave him an appreciative smile.
A device in Ersa's pocket chirped to get his attention, he discreetly pulled it out and brought it to his face. A woman's voice whispered from it, "Commander, we've been spotted."
"We need to find an inconspicuous place for transport. Keep the shields up for now Yana," Ersa said.
The woman gestured for the team to follow her, then she hurried off. They quickly followed.
Meanwhile tensions were a little frayed on the Katane bridge. The usual stars on the viewscreen were mostly obscured by the dark side of the planet. However what wasn't obscured were two tiny moving objects slowly getting bigger.
Yana sat in the edge of the centre chair, clutching the arm rests tightly. "How long until they're in weapons range?"
"Two minutes," was the answer.
Yana breathed in deeply to calm herself down, then forced herself to sit back in the chair. A few of the bridge crew watched her. "Plenty of time," she said in a confident tone. She still felt worried, but it was enough to settle the crew's nerves.
The dots on the screen had an easily distinguished shape now. They could even make out the windows in the hull.
"Thirty seconds," the same officer warned her.
As if on cue another station beeped, getting everyone's attention. "We're ready. Transport."
"Lower the shields," Yana quickly ordered. The nods from two of her crew gave her the next cue. "Shields up. Set a course for the fleet, brief warp one jump."
"Yes sir," two voices rang out.
The Katane turned around fully just as the alien ships were almost on top of them. They fired a few shots just as the ship jumped to warp.
A few seconds later they dropped out of it, just in front of a waiting Voyager. The Enterprise and Tira's ship, Prometh, hovered nearby.
Each one maneuvered around to face the same direction, when further ships dropped out of warp nearby and immediately began firing on the fleet.
Tom groaned into his hand as the ship shook. "Great, things never go smoothly, do they?" He quickly tapped commands into the helm.
"For a so called passive race, they sure hit hard," B'Elanna remarked from Tactical. "Shields at 60%."
"Lets not annoy them further then," Tom said as he was about to hit the engage panel.
"The Katane's shields are down," Faye quickly said, making Tom's finger hesitate. "The aliens are focusing fire on their engines."
Tom sighed, "fire a few warning shots." He tapped on a different panel, "Voyager to Enterprise. You and Prometh retreat, we'll cover you."
Just as he was saying that the Enterprise flew into view on the viewscreen, all the while firing shots somewhere they couldn't see.
"Sorry Tom, shot gun," Chakotay's voice said over the intercom. "Go."
Tom groaned into his hand, "shot gun doesn't mean you fired first. Oh who cares, get a tractor beam on the Katane, let me know when you've done it."
While the Enterprise fired a few shots at the attacking ships, the Katane did its best to maneuver around them. Voyager joined in the attack as it approached the battle.
The Prometh seemed to hesitate for a while before leaping into warp without them.
Two of Enterprise's regular torpedoes slammed into one of the ships, disabling its shields. It quickly retreated. Voyager took that opportunity to lock on a tractor beam to the Katane. Its warp drives lifted and shot off with them trailing behind.
Enterprise received a couple more hits as it turned back around to follow everyone.
"The ship's following," Triah reported.
Chakotay paced the Enterprise bridge with a disgruntled expression on his face. After hearing that he smirked. "Persistent little pacifists aren't they?"
"That last hit knocked out our rear shields. If they catch up..." the Tactical officer reported, wiping the smirk from the Commander's face immediately.
"I'm starting to think this ship needs to fly around with a crutch," Chakotay grumbled.
Triah pulled a confused face, "that makes no sense."
"Yeah, Voyager's older," Bryan commented.
Chakotay rolled his eyes, "forget it. It would just be nice to have time to properly repair this ship, instead of having to do botch jobs. Hail Voyager. We may have to ask them to slow down so they can cover our weak spot."
"Oh, come crawling back to little old Voyager ey?" Tom's voice teased.
"They're tractoring the Katane, it's probably not the best idea," Triah said.
"Fine, forget it. Did we get any quantum torpedoes made during our last repair job?" Chakotay asked.
The Tactical officer quickly tapped a few things. "Yes sir. Two."
"Fine, we'll only get one shot at this. When the ship closes in on us, aim one at their engines," Chakotay ordered.
"Uh, may I remind you that we were the intruders and they're only defending their planet," Tom's voice said warily.
"We're fleeing and we're vulnerable, we have to defend ourselves. Really, we're having this morality discussion?" Chakotay said irritably.
"I'm the fleet commander," Tom's voice said.
"They're in range," Tactical reported.
Despite his anger, Chakotay seemed hesitant to give the order. He shook his head, "fire a photon."
"Yes sir," Tactical said, she sounded relieved.
Everyone waited for the ship to tremble or worse. It felt like hours had passed since Chakotay gave the order.
"Direct hit to their engines," the Tactical officer said. "They're retreating."
Chakotay let out a sigh of relief. Everyone heard Tom do the same. "We need all the quantums we can get," he quickly covered when he noticed everyone looking at him.
Chakotay shook his head while heading for the first officer's chair. He hesitated again before finally deciding to sit in it.
"The Katane will be out of action until we repair the engines and shields. We should find somewhere quiet to repair," B'Elanna said.
Tom collapsed into the back of the helm chair. "Well we've officially run out of leads, so it's as good a time as any. We should swap our awayteam for an engineering team." B'Elanna smiled at him to hint that she should be on it. He didn't even need to see it to know. "Have fun."
Danny hurried over to take B'Elanna's place as she stepped into the turbolift. "So, the Katane has joined the shoot on sight club. Maybe we should find a new recruit," she said.
Tom didn't take her seriously, but he was too tired to smile. "Yeah. I think our sneaking around days are over."
"Shame, I liked them better than the shooting at Game Sphere towers ones," Danny commented.
Tom was about to respond with the first thing that popped into his head, when other thoughts rushed at him. He swung his chair around so it was facing her direction. "That's too bad," he finally said.
"What?" Danny said with a worried face, and she wasn't the only one. Everyone had the same expression.
"I think we need to go on a trip," Tom said, worrying Danny further. "Down memory lane."
Danny stared at him, blinking furiously. She then laughed, "oh Tom, you're so... I don't get it."
Tom smiled at her which just made her all the more worried.
It took her a few minutes to steel herself before she could take that first step. The step that would open the door in front of her, in more ways than one. There was no going back after this. Jessie tried to put on a brave, even stern face as she walked further inside.
Two Security officers turned to her, each of them showing dismay on their faces. They quickly glanced at one another, before one of them hurried over. "I'm sorry, we can't just let anybody in here. You need permission."
Jessie kept her gaze fixed on him. A sense of dread lingered on her left. She felt like if she even looked in that direction, that she would be in grave danger. It made her a little sick to the stomach but she tried not to show it.
"I have permission," she finally said, gesturing her hand forward. In it, a small PADD. The man took it to have a look. He didn't look so sure about it, he gave her a nod anyway.
"We're not leaving though. Not after the last few times."
"I figured," Jessie said plainly.
The Security officer walked back to where he came, resulting in an awkward silence hanging over the room. Jessie remained fixed in the same spot, still very wary about looking in another direction. The silence wasn't helping. She imagined being stared at maliciously, but at the same time she feared that the silence was because the person she came to see wasn't responding to anyone or anything.
Another few minutes flew by as she muscled up some courage, fake or otherwise, to finally turn towards the occupied cell. It was obvious immediately that one of her expectations were spot on. The occupant sat in the corner, with his knees bunched up, arms wrapped around them. His skin pale and clammy. Eyes a thousand light years away.
No answer, just as she expected. He knew she was there though, the subtle head movement gave him away. If he hadn't been frozen in one position before, she probably wouldn't have seen it.
"Nathan please. I know, and I need your help," Jessie said.
His eyes moved, seemingly to focus on her. He had to be listening.
"James came by here a few weeks ago, didn't he?" Jessie questioned. There was no response this time. "I need to know what happened. Something did." His eyes changed back to the way they were before, it made her feel a little desperate. "Nathan please, I know the real you. You're..."
She got a bitter scoff as a response first, it brought him back into the living world for the time being, but Jessie didn't feel any relief from it. Every movement he made radiated self hatred and anger. "You know nothing," he eventually spat out.
"I do. You're not to blame for these crimes. It is," Jessie tried to say softly to calm him down.
It didn't have that effect at all, it just made him all the more angry. "It is me. There is no distinction."
Jessie shook her head lightly. "How long have you known, Nath? I hope it's not something you've lived with all these years."
"Not long enough," he said.
Jessie carefully approached the forcefield, she stopped when she was merely a foot away. "You were going to tell me. It took over to stop you, didn't it? You both conflict, so there's definitely a distinction."
"There's no it!" Nathan snapped. He turned his head away from her as far as he could. "He's in my DNA, he is me. You're better off forgetting I exist."
"I can't. I need to know what happened here, with you and James. I also want to help you. If we can separate..." Jessie said.
"You don't want to separate us. There's only one way and you won't like it," Nathan muttered.
He was right, Jessie didn't like it at all. "How do you know there isn't another way? We didn't know it existed until a few weeks ago."
Nathan stared down at the floor, his head started to dip down from the weight of his guilt. "He should have killed me."
The anger that he must have been feeling had drifted over to Jessie. She tried to subdue it for now. "Don't you think James has enough deaths hanging over his head? He can barely live with it as it is. Killing you, his sister's best friend, his own best friend's brother. One way or another we're family. There's no coming back from that."
She got a bitter and hateful laugh from her older brother. It was disgusting to hear it. "You don't know. If it were the other way around; he raping and killing you, I wouldn't hesitate. We barely know each other and I would. It would just be physically harder to do it, that's all."
Jessie knew she wouldn't be able to keep the anger back for long. "You would hesitate. You're a good guy..." As she expected he laughed again at that comment. "If you weren't, you wouldn't be acting like this. You wouldn't care."
"I see you've practiced that speech a few too many times," Nathan said.
"You have no idea," Jessie muttered. "Neither of you are innocent, but you're not evil, not even close. You can prove it. You still care, that much is obvious."
She got another chuckle from him. It felt a little less bitter than the other ones. "What do you think happened here? Hmm?" His tone of voice had changed as well. All of the pain was gone, she was immediately on her guard. "I'm still alive, so why do you think he came here at all?"
"Don't play games with me. What did you do?" Jessie asked sternly.
He looked at her, his eyes widened. "Reasonable question. Better yet, why not ask James himself?"
Jessie moved her hands behind her back, just so he wouldn't see her clenching them into fists. "What did you do?"
"I'm curious. How did you figure it all out? I doubt Jay told you. You already knew something in our last conversation," Nathan asked, his voice colder than normal.
Her eyes started to roll, they lingered above while her forehead pushed down to form a frown. "Wow, you really are useless, aren't you?" She couldn't see it, but his stare locked onto her intensely. "You must be very bored of your pointless existence, to think that not answering a simple question compares to the real evil out there." She allowed herself to look directly at him, meeting his gaze. "You're the demon equivalent of the cold. No point, just some mild inconvenience and then you move on. Not easily killed, but who gives a crap?"
"For something that is only a mild inconvenience, I sure did a lot of lasting damage to a Chosen," he said with a smirk forming on his face.
Jessie wasn't fazed at all. "All you've done is guaranteed your death. You'll spend the rest of your existence in a place just like this. Maybe if you hadn't tried to be something you're not, you know a demon, then we'd still not know the truth. Maybe stick to what you're good at from now on; stay in the background and do sod all but exist."
He smirked at her, but his eyes proved that he was far from amused with her. He was angry. "And what of poor Nathan? You're content to let him rot in jail for all of his days, just to get back at me?"
"It won't come to that," Jessie said.
"You seem awfully sure that we're separate entities that can be split up. We're not. Right now I'm as much Nathan Andrews as he is. To kill me, you have to kill him," Nathan said, his tone mocking her. "Between you and me, there is a way it can be done without killing him."
Jessie knew he was only going to toy with her in some way, so she turned to leave without saying anything more.
"You do seem to have excellent luck in making and killing little brats. This problem fixes itself," he sneered.
Her blood ran cold, it even made her shudder. Her fists tightened so they were starting to go white. "You're... you're disgusting."
He laughed at her reaction. "Everyone wins. You get a chance to kill me without hurting Nathan. He is free. If my new host doesn't die from still birth or stabbing injuries, I'll get to spend the next twenty or so years watching my new uncle slash step dad fall to little tiny bits. I guess, mutations would be a worry. It'd be worth it, just to see the look on his face."
Jessie swung around with fire burning in her eyes, "that's what this is all about isn't it?"
"Well yeah, you said it yourself. All I do is move on and exist," Nathan said cheekily.
"No, not that," Jessie said. "It's why you picked Debbie. It's why your second victim was a girl of a similar age, and a refugee that he had rescued. It was why you really attacked me. All of this, just to destroy a Slayer."
Nathan smirked at her knowingly. "It's far more effective than beating him to death, isn't it? Since you're here, I'm right aren't I?"
Jessie gave him a smirk back, but hers was very much forced. "No, you just couldn't."
"No," Nathan sighed wistfully. "His father couldn't, what hope did I have? The brat thrives off pain and misery, or at the very least deflects it. It's probably why everyone he ever knew suffered the most, and paid with their lives." He smiled at Jessie's fading fake smirk. "How many times has it been for you, sis?"
"How many times did you slip up here? Your impatience over your previous host, Nathan's mother, left us the first clue that lead me to you. Your attempt to force yourself into James' family by attacking Debbie; not only did you leave DNA evidence behind, you killed her. Then you waited decades for Nathan to have a child on his own. He didn't and you left behind evidence again," Jessie said. Nathan merely rolled his eyes, his mood was still very much amused. "You didn't go through with it. You ran instead. Why?"
"Maybe she wasn't my type," was his cold answer.
Jessie didn't buy it though. "Nathan fought back, didn't he, and it's not the first time I'm betting. Or maybe you're just not that eager to live your boring existence any longer."
"So how is James?" Nathan asked with a smirk. "I'm sure you're here asking me what I did to him, cos he's perfectly happy and fine."
Jessie refused to answer him, at least vocally. Instead she settled for one of her more deadly glares. It only made him laugh though, making her even angrier.
"I think I can guess," Nathan sneered at her. "What else does he do when things don't go his way? It takes over so easily, and he gives into it like the weak little brat he's always been."
"Hmm. Nathan was quite distressed before you arrived. You also took over while he was sleeping," Jessie said as cooly as possible. "It seems a bit rich that you accuse James of being weak, when you can't seem to take over until your host body can't really fight back."
"You know nothing," Nathan said, also cooly, but Jessie could tell he was covering up anger.
Jessie shrugged casually, "even then Nathan took over to stop you. Pathetic really." She waited for him to try to respond, only so she could interrupt him. "The only reason you'll never move onto a new host is because of your pointless attempt to hurt James. No one else's fault but your own. Nathan will never allow you to move on now that he knows about you. I hope your little game was worth it."
The angry look on his face satisfied her enough so she could turn her back on him and walk away. It didn't solve anything but it made her feel better, which was better than nothing. The door opened and she was about to step through them when she heard a chilling laugh come from him. Determined not to show him that she noticed, she didn't stop, she kept walking until the doors closed behind her.
"It was," he said once she was gone.
Every seat was taken and for once nobody was forced to stand. Tom was usually the one gypped when this happened, so he was relieved to be able to lean back in the head chair. He couldn't relax but it eased him slightly.
"I really hope you didn't call this meeting because you're bored, or something. That's what the Holodecks are for," Harry said.
Tom gave his best friend a raised eyebrow briefly. "I'd never do that. We haven't had a silly meeting in ages."
"So, never," Chakotay muttered.
Tom chose to ignore him. "I called this meeting because it occurred to me, we haven't really had a chance to sit down and talk."
"Isn't that..." Chakotay said.
"All we do, I knew you'd walk into that one," Tom butted in. To his surprise Chakotay was more amused than angry. "Thanks to Danny I thought that maybe we're going at this all wrong. We're forgetting the big picture and that might help us."
Danny laughed nervously, "uh, I don't think I want credit for this."
"We know that you, you and you..." Tom said while pointing at her, then Ian and finally Triah. "Used the Enterprise to not only attack the tower networks, but keep track of them as you did."
Harry joined in with the nervousness. "Just because we have four ships, doesn't mean we're capable of pulling off an all out offensive on the sphere. Especially now."
Lena shifted in her seat uncomfortably, Craig noticed it in the corner of his eye.
"No, that's not..." Tom said irritably. "No. All we know about the tower heists was learned from the Enterprise's data and logs, not from the people themselves."
"That's not true. We talked about this a lot when we were trapped in that facility," Ian pointed out.
"We talked about how you were captured, both times," Tom said, making Ian immediately frown. "All we know is that Sandi took command, even that's just a guess, and the mission began."
Triah glanced at Danny and Ian awkwardly, they both looked a little wary as well. The rest of the room looking at them didn't help either.
"How will that help us now?" Craig asked. When he did Lena settled down just to look directly at him. "The only reason you'd ask is so you can do the exact same thing."
Tom shook his head as he leaned on the desk in front of him. "Think about it. We have no lead, nowhere to go. We may find the answer in currently occupied planets." He looked at his friend beside him, expecting him to be on his side, only he looked shocked with his jaw threatening to drop. He was surprised to see Chakotay on Harry's other side nodding instead.
"It's something I haven't considered. It could be worth investigating," he said.
Harry swung his head around to stare at him. "You can't be serious?"
Chakotay gave him a bemused stare, "and why not? I've tried to figure it out myself and come up blank. At least this theory holds a little weight." He focused his stare on Tom, "just a little mind."
Danny bit her bottom lip nervously, her head shook. "I dunno. It's possible but it's also really dangerous, on both sides."
"Yeah, even if it were, every single one of those planets will remember us," Ian said. "If we do this, the Enterprise will have to stay behind. At this point Voyager may even have to."
"It can't hurt to share information, can it?" Tom said with some determination in his voice. Either nobody had that answer or they didn't want to vocalise it. It settled the topic for Tom regardless. "You had two successful heists, so we can exclude them." With that in mind he climbed to his feet to make his way over to the wall computer. A few taps brought in a distorted star chart with a few red dots marked on it. His finger pointed at one. "This one is the closest to our current location."
"I hate memory lane," Danny commented as the chart zoomed in on an image of a golden planet.
"According to your data, this planet had two tower networks, one still under construction. Only solo towers, no little ones surrounding them," Tom said. "It was one of the earlier planets where you sent in people, and..."
"Yes, we remember. Right?" Ian interrupted begrudgingly. Danny nodded, Triah merely winced slightly. "I don't see how it's necessary to go over this one."
Chakotay frowned in his direction. "Clearly it is necessary or you wouldn't hesitate."
Danny closed her eyes tightly, briefly sighing. "There's not much to say. We went in, it went wrong and we were chased out of orbit. Can we move on?"
"Okay, but why did it go wrong? What were their ships and weaponry like, what..." Tom questioned.
"We were fresh off our first successful mission," Triah said reluctantly. "I still think we were a little cocky. That's why it went wrong. Don't you dare laugh Danny."
Danny again bit her lip but for different reasons. The memories of the mission helped her stave off the temptation to laugh. "No probs."
Ian raised his eyebrow in her direction. "It was the last time we sent in teams. With good reason." Everyone who were not a member of the Enterprise crew at the time stared at him curiously. "It was also the first and last time we encountered the experiments. We..." he hesitated.
"We lost half of the crew in that attack," Triah said for him. She shuddered at the memory. "Sandi was the only one who survived."
"Oh," Tom mumbled, he felt terrible for pushing this. He started to stutter an apology.
"It wasn't because we were over confident," Ian said in Triah's direction. "We learned from our previous attacks like this. Rachel had the spell to hide us, the Enterprise attacked from orbit to distract them. Tani came up with the internal distraction of hacking their systems, so she did that. Each team were spread out and had different ways in and out. It was just bad luck that we had picked the tower that had been there a while, building an army."
"Tani," Lena whispered to herself.
"I... I didn't even know that many people were on the Enterprise in the first place," Chakotay said, his tone apologetic.
"I didn't even know Tani was a crewmember. Though now that I think about it, she was on one of the ships during the Game Cube crashes, so it's possible," Harry said. He noticed Lena look forlorn at the mention of her, he thought it was best to change the subject. "I think we can safely rule that planet out, as it probably has three complete ones now."
Danny made a few hesitant noises. "Um, maybe not. We never did figure out the pattern, but some worlds had different amount of towers. One world just had one and it wasn't new, awaiting a buddy."
Ian nodded. "Sandi theorised it was due to the technology the species had at hand. One species could probably build a more effective tower, while another would need multiple to drain the same amount of power."
"Seems a good a theory as any," Harry said.
"Maybe, but all planets are different types and sizes. That one tower planet Danny mentioned wasn't that big," Triah said.
Danny briefly glanced at her, "could be a mix of both. Probably."
Craig pulled a face that looked like he was in pain. "Wait, does this mean that there could be a planet out there with five, eight, maybe twenty of these things on it?"
His question made the room deathly silent and a little uncomfortable. Harry accidentally swallowed the wrong way and started to cough, making it even more awkward.
"If Sandi was right then it probably means the towers are made out of sticks, so no worries," the Doctor said to hopefully lighten the mood.
Tom chuckled nervously, "hmm yeah, lets go with that. It's better than a gigantic Jupiter sized planet with hundreds of towers. Nightmare fuel."
Harry lightened up a bit, despite his difficulty breathing. "Actually, it..." his throat tickled again, so he tried to clear it. "Makes sense. The Shurouvans had those mini towers. They were more sneaky and resourceful than advanced so it kinda fits. How many did Erayas have?"
"We detected two," Danny replied.
Harry seemed a little relieved, "the Krralef seem like they're at a similar level, we already know of two towers, so..."
"Great, you can deliver the good news to Tira," Chakotay said bitterly, killing off Harry's better mood instantly.
"Soo to change the subject back. This planet's probably not a good one to go to," Tom said. He went to tap on the screen again.
"Wait!" Lena blurted out, startling him. "How advanced were these people?"
"Advanced enough to force us out of orbit, why?" Danny asked.
Lena stared at the image of the planet. "I'd try to take it down. It's dangerous to leave it alone."
"This was months ago and the tower was already there a while. The planet was dying. If it isn't gone already, it will be soon," Ian said, hoping that would put her off.
It didn't though, Lena just stared at him blankly. "So, there could be people still alive there, like Erayas." Everyone stared at her instead. "I thought the point was to figure out a realistic place to look. Back then I would've, it wouldn't have mattered to me then if it was dangerous," her voice lowered to a whisper as the stares got to her. She ended up staring at the desk, hoping to avoid it.
"There are... um, more favourable suicide spots, I'm sure," Tom said uncomfortably. He tapped on the computer so it would focus on another planet. "Okay, this was before your second success story. The log said they weren't that hostile but the tower itself had good defences. Anything else you want to add?"
The trio tried to remember this one. Ian's face brightened when he did, "oh yeah. We considered beaming a team down cos the people actually welcomed us. The only ones who did in fact."
Danny gasped, "oh them, yeah that was weird. Maybe the Softmicron didn't care about manning any of their ships. They did though have a planetary defense shield that quantums wouldn't be able to get through."
"Why would a team be any better? I doubt they'd be as welcoming if you tried to walk in," the Doctor asked.
"If they could beam through the shield at all," Tom said.
"As I said, they invited us down, so they'd lower the shield briefly. The tower itself you could probably walk in. It was probably a trap now that I think about it," Ian said.
Lena rolled her eyes, "you think?"
Tom stared thoughtfully at the planet on the screen. "Just one tower?"
Danny nodded, "just one."
Harry watched Tom with a worried look, he knew what was coming next. Most of the room did. "Tom, if Sandi's theory was right the solo tower means an advanced race. Not a good idea," Harry tried to change his mind.
"They're also either very passive or are willing to chance inviting a Chosen into a trap party," Tom said with a sly smile. "If their defense is a shield, and nothing else, it's a perfect place to start our hunt."
"Our previous journey was to a passive planet," Chakotay reminded him.
Tom shrugged his warning off as he approached the table again. "Remember, we're not there to destroy towers. First we've got a mystery to solve. We'll head for it once repairs are complete. Dismissed."
A lot of the room weren't that happy, but they were convinced at least. They all started to file out. Harry was one of the few that wasn't, he stayed behind hoping that Tom would get the hint and do the same. In the end only he, Tom and Lena were left behind.
"We're jumping to conclusions a bit here, Tom," he said.
"No, no jumping, just walking," Tom said with a confident smile.
Harry didn't feel the same way. "We've done this before, we know how it goes. At least I thought you knew. We're not going to find it there, nor will we find its trail. In fact I'm worried that by doing this, we'll end up losing the real one. The longer we waste time, the less likely it'll be that we catch up."
"Okay Harry, say I'm wrong. Where do you think we should go?" Tom asked patiently.
"I think we were on the right course before, planets we'd already been to, planets nearby," Harry replied.
"But we didn't find anything there. There was no reason to go to all of these worlds. I honestly can't think of another reason for this situation, can you?" Tom said.
Harry frowned, "really? You can't? We're not talking about someone who's thinking rationally. We're thinking about some lunatic who..." He then noticed Lena was still in the room as well, and she was watching them with a Janeway glare on her face. He started to stutter nervously.
She didn't say a word, she didn't have to. Harry was still a gibbering wreck when Lena walked out of the room. Tom cringed as he looked at his friend. He hesitated a little as he tried to think of the right words. They were both uncomfortably silent in the mean time.
When he figured it out the ship had other ideas as it shook a few times, making him wobble slightly.
"Again?" Harry sighed.
The pair darted for the exit.
Tom tried to cling on to whatever he could as he returned to the bridge. The Tactical console was his destination, one heavier tremble made him stumble back. Instead he stayed where he ended up and just looked over.
"Can we get a warning next time?"
Harry meanwhile stumbled over to the centre of the bridge. "Four ships didn't see this coming?"
Lena didn't take either comment lightly. "Well I'm sorry. I was too busy in those few seconds looking for an irrational lunatic. Want to hear my results so far?"
Tom quickly turned away to avoid the death glare, or at least eye contact with it. "Who, what's attacking us?"
"A small alien cruiser was passing by at warp. They more or less slammed on their brakes and headed straight for us," Faye answered
"They're still coming around, just out of range. It's not putting them off firing though. We're just getting the aftershocks and the closer they get, the bigger they are," Lena said just as the ship started trembling again, making her irritable. "See."
Tom hurried over to the helm, he stopped midway and sighed in relief when he realised that a brunette woman was there instead of Naomi. "Is it just us or..."
"No but it's not clear who they're aiming for exactly. We're in a tight formation," Faye replied.
"Lets keep it that way, the Katane's helpless," Tom said.
"I assume you've already tried hailing them," Harry said as he focused on the viewscreen. All he could see on it was black, at first. A few blue torpedo sized lights flew ahead. The floor rumbled lightly a second later. He decided to go towards the command chairs and use the computer there. "Put them on screen."
The view quickly changed but the differences was subtle. Anyone looking could just make out the tail end of Voyager on the lower part of the screen. A few more blue lights flew towards the screen this time, bringing up the shields to briefly block the view. The ship shuddered not just from them, something blurred overhead and everybody felt it.
"They're on top of us. They're definitely aiming for Voyager. They get a clear shot on the others but they hold their fire, and it's always..." Lena said but she was interrupted by more continuos rumbling. She grunted a little. "Good news is the shields are holding for now. 92% still."
"Try hailing them again," Harry said panicked, while he hurried over to Opps. Tom gave him a bemused look, which he caught in the corner of his eye. "Does it make any difference what ship I'm on? You don't take me seriously on the E anyway."
"We should inform the rest of the fleet, we may need..." Tom said.
Harry quickly looked up at him once he got to Opps. "No, wait. It'll be another misunderstanding. Hang on."
"Nobody else has listened so far," Tom reminded him just as the viewscreen changed again. He frowned as it now displayed an alien ship flying overhead. "That ship. Where have I seen it?"
Danny's face fell when she saw it as well. "Yeah, I have seen these guys before as well."
Harry wasn't as surprised as either of them. He looked forlorn as Tom turned towards him, he also spotted Danny at the Science station with her similar expression. "I'm not going to forget these aliens in a hurry. They're from the planet Ruva. They have attacked us before."
"That narrows it down," Lena commented.
"It was the Leda's final battle," Harry finished solemnly.
Danny slowly looked over her shoulder to stare at him. "I suppose you could say it was the Enterprise's too, before we were captured."
Tom felt goosebumps building on his arms. He tried to shake it off. It helped clear his head and lightened him up slightly. "Neither was because of them. Daniel destroyed the Leda, Enterprise was attacked by different ships. Isn't that what you said?"
Danny nodded, "yeah, it's just a funky coincidence." She turned her head towards him and shrugged. "I guess."
"They're little more than an annoyance anyway. Shields have only dropped by another 1%," Lena said.
Tom shrugged it off. "They were then as well." He regretted it when Harry grimaced. "To us anyway. Enterprise was damaged back then, the Leda wasn't battle ready. Not a problem this time. If they don't answer, just broadcast a message to them. They'll eventually get bored and..."
Faye pulled a confused face, Harry quickly mirrored it when he looked at the same spot. "Each time a hit connects, we receive a very brief signal from them. Almost like they're tapping the wrong button," she said.
Harry kept an eye on the station until another tremor, he smiled afterwards. "It's definitely no accident. Each signal is different. I'll keep an eye on it, Faye you watch everything else as normal." Faye nodded.
The ship trembled a few more times. The only other noise was the consoles being tapped. Harry watched the readings on one panel intently. The messages they were getting did seem like white noise, as if it were accidental. The second one he noticed the frequency of the signal spiked, yet the attack felt the same as the others.
It happened again, this time the frequency dropped to a completely different number. Every single one said nothing, but there was definite intent behind them. He was convinced. He made a mental note to get the logs from this attack later, all while memorising what was still incoming.
Only Danny caught the similar blur to before on the viewscreen. The tremors stopped afterwards.
"They've gone to warp, they're gone," the girl at the helm said.
"Okay, I speak for everyone when I say; what the f..." Lena said.
Harry excitedly interrupted. "It's code. They were sending us a message." Everyone looked at him warily and a little suspiciously. "I guess they didn't want anyone to know about it."
"Including us it seems," Tom sighed a little out of relief. "Something tells me that as long as Voyager's hanging around, these repairs are going to take a tad longer. Stand down from Red Alert for now. Hopefully we have time to figure something out before we're attacked again."
Chakotay stepped out of the turbolift and began to make his way down the corridor. He nodded a hello at a passing crewman going the other way. Even though he was the only person around, the Commander could hear hurried footsteps keeping up with him, not fading away. As soon as he stopped he heard a little gasp, then the footsteps hurrying away again.
Slowly he turned around to see what was going on. All he saw was the crewmember that passed him turn right at the turbolift, all the while giving something behind him a funny look. He muttered something and disappeared out of his sight.
Chakotay rolled his eyes before continuing, slower than he normally walked. Just as he expected the footsteps approached again. This time he swung around quickly to catch the person in the act. Only he saw and heard a nearby door open and close. He sighed. "Oh, must be my imagination," he said loudly on purpose. Knowing that was probably not enough, he decided to stamp his feet on the spot. Each time he did he made it lighter.
The door opened again. Somebody wearing a bright red outfit hurried out of it. Chakotay quickly stepped sideways out of the way so she'd run right by him, then waited for her to notice. She was half way down the corridor when she did.
"Huh? As if he could out run me," she huffed, stamping one of her heels into the ground. The floor complained, Chakotay immediately thought she had cracked it. When she turned back to face him she gasped in surprise at the sight of him.
"I don't care if we're near the end of the series, we're not doing the C/7 thing okay?" Chakotay said in an amused tone of voice.
Annika rolled her eyes over dramatically and made a little huff noise at the same time. "As if I'd go out with a nasty man like you."
Chakotay tried not to laugh, it caught in his throat. "That explains the infatuation with Damien I suppose."
"Jealousy doesn't suit you," Annika said seriously. Chakotay wasn't used to her acting like that anymore, it just made him smirk a little. "He's twice the super villain you are."
Chakotay dared to approach her, all the while trying to avoid looking at her latest catsuit. It was merely one colour, despite its brightness it was low key for her. Surely there was more to it than it appeared and he didn't want to find out. "Why are you following me around if I don't interest you? Make it quick. I have far more important things to worry about."
Annika's eyes flickered curiously, they then narrowed suspiciously at him. "Oh, like what?"
"Very important things. Far too crucial for me to waste my time babysitting you." Annika's eye narrowing was making them twitch uncomfortably. "This mission could fail if I don't find that perfect spot to scratch my nose discreetly. I don't want the lower ranks to see something like that."
To his annoyance she just laughed at him. "Oh I know that feeling. This new catsuit keeps riding up my bum."
Chakotay regretted that immediately. To add insult to injury his brain forced him to imagine her trying to fix this problem. His whole body shuddered several times uncontrollably. He figured even he didn't deserve this. Eager to change the subject he tried to ask her again why she was following him, but the constant shudders made any words he managed to utter ended up longer and shaky.
"Wow, that's some itch," Annika said sincerely. At least she wasn't concerned, her voice made it sound like she was mocking him.
That was enough to settle his reaction. "Last chance, why are you stalking me?"
"I don't stalk, I observe," Annika said, a little offended by his question. "I dunno why you're complaining. You didn't seem bothered yesterday."
Chakotay opened his mouth to argue, only he realised what she later said. "Wait, this isn't the first time?"
"Duh," Annika groaned.
He only mouthed a but while she fidgeted slightly, then her arm went around her back. "But you were so obv... wait, I was in my quarters yesterday," Chakotay grumbled.
Annika let out a little giggle, then her arm returned to her side. "Better." Chakotay found himself grimacing yet again. "You mumble in your sleep."
"All right, I've had it. You're a vampire and you should have been slayed long ago. I know someone who will love to vent the recent drama out on you," Chakotay snapped.
"Oooh, I thought I had wedgie troubles. You got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about. Hmm?" Annika teased him.
"I honestly don't know why we keep you around. You've done nothing but cause problems, you've even betrayed us on multiple occasions," Chakotay said. He shook his head as he began to walk away from her. "At this point, I'd keep Damien over you and that's saying something, at least he's useful. Enjoy your final days."
Annika watched him until he was about half way down the corridor. "I know, that's why you're so eager for me to die."
Chakotay stopped to sigh loudly. He didn't give her the satisfaction of looking at her. "Know what? It's clearly not how to dress without making people want to poke their eyes out."
"You and my Damy. I know what you've been up to, and what you're going to do," Annika said.
"What?" Chakotay muttered with disinterest. Even still he found himself turning back around to look at her after all. "Everyone already knows what Damien and I did, do try to keep up."
"Not all of it. You came to Voyager for a reason, the both of you. I'm onto you smexy men, you don't fool me," Annika purred at him.
Chakotay shuddered yet again. "I'm going to have to burn my quarters," he mumbled while walking away.
Voyager lead the way towards a planet covered in numerous shades of blue. The Prometh followed closely behind them. Other vessels dotted around the area, each one made a point to change their current course to avoid them.
On the Bridge, Tom watched the planet get larger on the viewscreen. The lighter shades of blue were starting to look more like continents covered in ice to him. It made him feel cold just looking at it and he usually didn't mind the snow. It wasn't only the idea of seeing the ice from orbit that made him feel that way. It seemed pretty ominous to him that a m-class world looked like this in both hemispheres and on every landmass that they could see. Their star was much closer to them than Earth was to theirs, which made even less sense.
Since the rest of the Bridge had been eerily silence, he figured they noticed the same exact problem.
"There's... no clouds," he heard Jessie say.
Tom barely nodded. He had to hear someone stutter the words oh god before he realised the significance. Then he could see it too. But then he grew distracted by who said it. He looked around towards the turbolift to see her standing next to Tactical. "What are you...?"
"She's right. I've never seen anything like it," Faye said while focusing on Opps. "Surface temperatures vary from minus ten to minus twenty five degrees Celsius. The atmosphere is .02% thinner than it was in the Enterprise's scans..."
Tom gestured his hand to hint for her to stop. He was thankful she understood. "This could be normal, lets not panic. Scan for vessels."
"You're in luck, there's plenty of them. They're giving us a wide berth," Faye reported. She knew that wasn't what Tom wanted to hear, but felt it was important anyway. Then something in her scans confused her. "Um, ok, that's weird."
Everyone looked in her direction. Tom decided to not only do that but hurry over to her. "What is it?"
"I can't find any evidence of a tower," Faye answered. "Or this defence shield."
Danny turned her attention back to Tactical, only to find Jessie looking at it as well. "Missing the big guns Jess?"
"I'm missing a lot of things," Jessie mumbled just as the station beeped at them.
"Three ships are approaching from the other side of the planet," Danny quickly reported. "They're coming straight for us."
"I wonder if they're still friendly," Tom said as if he doubted it. "On screen."
The image of the planet changed slightly. Now they could only see the edge of it, mostly covered by the lack of direct star light. Three large ships slowly loomed towards them. Tom swallowed a lump in his throat, but it barely settled his nerves. He managed to feel even worse.
"I can't see what their weapons are like, or even if they have them. Their shields are blocking everything," Danny said.
"Hail them," Tom said in a croaky voice. He tried to clear it before the viewscreen changed again. He waited but the only change was the ships getting closer. "Faye?"
Faye briefly turned her head his way, she shook it slightly. Finally her station gave her a positive beep. "They're hailing us. Audio only."
Tom breathed in deeply and out again. "This is Lieutenant Commander Paris of the..."
"Silver vessel, you've done enough damage to us already. We demand you leave."
His voice startled Tom, it threw him right off. "The er... starship Voyager. What?" He quickly tried to gather his thoughts together again to reply. "No, this is our first time here." He stared towards Danny with an annoyed stare, only to find her as baffled as him.
She shrugged. "We didn't do anything," she whispered.
"Your vessel matches the description of the culprit. Why else are you here?"
"We're looking... we heard you were in trouble," Tom stuttered. "I assure you we're not the ones that attacked you. What happened here?"
"Our power station was destroyed. Witnesses saw a ship of similar colour escape through our defense network before it failed. If it were not you, I assume you're here to finish the job."
Danny looked at Jessie with a confused look on her face, she seemed too busy staring at the Tactical station to notice. "Wait a minute. That defence shield of yours was impenetrable. I get that it couldn't stay online once the tower was gone but..." she said.
"Danny no," Tom whispered desperately.
It was too late though, the voice on the comm was suspicious. "So you have been here before."
"On a different ship, long ago. Nobody else here did," Danny quickly explained. "No ship of ours could get through that shield of yours, unless you invited them in. You must know it wasn't us."
"We've heard about you. Whispers, stories from visitors and travellers returning home," the voice said harshly. Though it was trembling slightly. They were afraid and didn't want to show it. "A ship made of silver arrives and disaster soon follows."
"I'm so glad we left the Enterprise behind," Tom whispered to Faye so quietly even she had trouble hearing it.
"A small ship, designed for infiltration. I assume one of you is the mothership, although we suspected that Anerprise vessel was up to no good as well."
Danny laughed quietly and nervously, she spotted Jessie staring at her with a grimace. Tom meanwhile was getting back into his old habit of sweating his entire body weight.
"You've gotten the wrong idea here. We're a peaceful fleet, our mission is exploration and..." he stuttered.
"So, now that this power station has gone, has your cold weather improved, gotten worse, the same?" Jessie interrupted
Tom looked at her, horrified at the blunt question. "Jessie, shh."
"What? I understand the initial response to a ship firing on a tower, power station whatever, being a one of fear and or anger. But still feeling like that about it once its gone confuses the hell out of me," Jessie protested.
Danny was about to counter what she said, then nodded like she agreed. "Yeah, that's a good point."
"How dare you try to blame us!" the voice snapped. Tom cringed while his forehead poured sweat over the rest of his face, like a waterfall. "With no power we could no longer support our defense network. The damage from that is the cause of the extreme weather conditions, which we are recovering from."
"Your planet is covered in snow, yet there's no cloud cover that could have done that. This sort of thing doesn't happen overnight or during a shield failure," Jessie said. A few people looked at her, surprised she thought of it. "What?"
Tom groaned inwardly. "Of course. I'm so stupid. The towers never provided Shurouva any power, they suffered blackouts didn't they? How then were they able to sustain a planet wide forcefield?"
Danny pulled a face in his direction that made him feel even more stupid. "There was a shield. We detected it, while the tower was there."
Faye looked at her station as various noises from it tried to get her attention. "Speaking of which..."
"You've failed," the alien voice said just as the planet on the screen briefly was covered by a shimmering green. "Fortunately our old power generator was not targeted during the attack. We only needed a few minutes more to protect ourselves. Now leave."
Tom tried to dry his forehead with his hand. "You only talked to us to distract us? There was no need. We are not here to invade. Surely our actions prove this. We have nothing to do with this other silver ship." A thought popped into his head that he had to vocalise, "wait, when this mystery ship fired at your power station, was this old generator no longer being used? Your new power station was doing all the work at the time?"
There was an unusually long pause between his question and the response. He was sure he heard quiet discussion in the background. "If you're trying to trick us into thinking we are to blame, it will not work. We know the true facts and we will warn further planets of your deceit. A large ship arrived as a scout. Your infiltrator then waited until the new station was able to sustain our defence shield on its own, then you broke in and destroyed it. No, attacking it from the outside would be too obvious. Internally and at the right time, it would look like an accident."
"Maybe we should go," Danny whispered while cringing.
Tom nodded as he quietly made his way back towards the helm. The alien continued to talk while he did this.
"Then once your victims are defenseless and blaming themselves, your fleet moves in for the kill. You'll find we are more than capable of driving you out of our system. You have one cycle to do it yourselves."
"How long is a cycle?" Tom asked as one of the ships on the screen fired a red torpedo. It exploded directly in front of the ship, close enough to trigger the shields. Even though it barely touched them, Voyager trembled viciously. "Stat..."
"Shields are down," Danny stuttered before he could finish asking.
Tom ran the rest of the way to the helm. He didn't bother sitting down, he leaned over the chair to enter in a new course. "Tell Tira, though I doubt it'll be necessary."
"That was merely a warning shot. Half a cycle remaining."
"We're going... even if this is a misunderstanding," Tom stammered just as the view of the ships and the planet quickly started to veer to the left. It wasn't long before everyone felt the jump to warp. Tom then collapsed onto the chair without even looking at it, he narrowly avoided missing it and falling on the floor. "The Prometh?"
"I think they got the message when the torpedo hit," Faye said.
Tom meekly nodded, "good. We'll rendezvous with the Enterprise and Katane in a few minutes. This isn't good."
"I think we've just found out why we're not welcome anywhere," Danny said. "So much for it being only déjà vu, huh?"
"Unless you guys have been stealing the Enterprise while we're asleep, it's not the same thing," Jessie commented while giving her a scowl.
"No, but the being mistaken for villains sure is," Danny said with a wry smile.
Tom found himself staring at the stars streaming by on the viewscreen. The dread that built up during that entire conversation had left him feeling hollow. Then he realised it hadn't started then, it had been building up for weeks. Every planet or system they visited had a story to tell, and no matter how different they were they all centered around the same thing. While he mulled over it Voyager dropped back out of warp, the sight of the Enterprise greeted them as they did.
"I don't get any of this. When we visited, was the shield just there because the old non-Soft station still powered it? If so, wouldn't they notice if the new power station wasn't?" Danny said.
Jessie shrugged half-heartedly. "He did say that they were attacked when it went fully online. Maybe they didn't get a chance to."
"Yeah but this other ship must have gotten through the shield to do it," Faye said. "All I can think of is that it went down briefly while they transferred it over, and the ship slipped in."
Tom overheard the last half of the conversation and he found himself turning the chair back around to watch them. He wondered about that too, but then his head started asking other questions, confusing him further.
"You'd think they would have high security during something like that," Danny said. "It couldn't be a far more advanced ship, they wouldn't have suspected us then."
"So that leaves two possibilities. The shield was already down or they turned it off," Jessie mumbled. Danny frowned at her, she didn't look too sure about either of those. "The Softmicron do still prefer to trick its victims, create illusions to make them think things are fine. The shield could have been fake, so already down. Turned off suggests that like other planets, there are people there that suspect the truth."
Danny felt guilty for even thinking it, but she had to say it as no one seemed to consider the other option. "Or someone who knows what they're doing disabled the shield so they could get in." Jessie stared at her with her eyes widening, Danny tried her best to ignore it.
"We need to find out what this ship is," Tom interrupted calmly. Everyone looked at him quizzically. "We're not going to get anywhere until we can exclude it as a possibility. For now, lets make sure we can all survive another fight."
Lieutenant Commander Paris' Log, Stardate 58962.4: It's the sixteenth day since we started our investigation, and I'm already starting to miss the nothing we had been finding for fifteen. A ship, only described as small and silver, is terrorising the area for no clear reason just yet. As it's our only lead we will pursue it once the battle damage has been repaired. Hopefully it left us some tracks behind. If it's a ship that is aware of the tower networks, we must find them and try to share information. If it isn't, we must stop it at all costs.
"Way to be overdramatic Tommy," a male voice sniggered at him.
Tom leapt out of his skin, which made him spill his half cup of coffee all over him and the desk. Luckily it was lukewarm. Once he recovered he glared at the door to the Ready Room as hard as he could. Naturally the intruder just smirked at him.
"Damien, there's a door chime. Use it," he snapped.
"Why?" Damien asked in a genuine questionable tone. That went away when he chuckled lightly. "I got what I wanted."
Tom groaned while his hand tried to wipe down the wet patches on his uniform. All it did was spread it further. "Besides from trying to summon the vengeful ghost of Janeway, what do you want?"
"I'm ready to test my new cloaking field," Damien said. For some reason he looked a little grumpy, Tom just frowned at him. "Not that there's any need for it as I made it, but you idiots like wasting time."
"Oh," Tom said as his whole body slumped a little. "I don't know if we'll be able to do that just yet."
"Oh don't worry your tiny brain about it Paris, I'll run the test," Damien said in a patronising manner.
Tom rolled his eyes, "no, that's not happening." Damien responded to that as he expected, with an angry scowl. "I know it's been a while since you've done anything evil, which is suspicious in itself, but we're not going to trust a device you've made and let you lose with it."
"Oh, trust issues? That's your problem, not mine," Damien laughed at him.
"Still, I call the shots. I'll ask B'Elanna to do a test on the Holodeck. Anything more than that will have to wait," Tom said.
Damien folded his arms tightly, "why? You've been pestering me about this for over a month. It's not my fault the bimbo attention seeker smashed my first model."
Tom sighed. He reluctantly pulled himself out of the chair, all the while putting his now empty cup onto the desk. Damien watched him carefully as he walked towards him. "The Flyer was going to be the test subject."
"So?" Damien scoffed and shrugged his shoulders. "You're not still treating it like it's your little brat, are you?"
"No. It's just not... available right now," Tom said. Damien frowned as he walked by him on route to the coffee table. "That's all."
Damien stared at him knowingly, with a tiny smirk on his lips. "So another conspiracy in the making? More secrets. I'm liking this already."
Tom slowly looked over his shoulder while his back was still on him. Once he saw the look on Damien's face he turned his body around too. "Not at all. Although you've just talked yourself out of me telling you the real reason."
"Oh, if it's not interesting, I couldn't care less," Damien said while gesturing his hands and shrugging.
Tom smiled bitterly. "Oh that's not the issue. At all. You'd probably like it. That's why you're not going to find out."
"I will though, being much smart..." Damien started to gloat.
"Dismissed," Tom said sharply.
Damien smirked, his right eyebrow raised slightly. "Of course, Sir. Whatever you say." He turned to leave.
Once he was gone Tom turned back to face the window. He watched the distant stars, his eyes began to glaze over as he did.
"Stolen?" the Doctor was shocked. He felt his program ripple for a second which didn't help either. The person who must have done it stood in front of him, and had only just stopped tapping at the main console when it happened. Her facial expression said sorry without her having to open her mouth.
"No, it got up and left on its own," B'Elanna said with a smile. The Doctor gave her a look of bemusement. "Of course it was stolen."
"Well you never know these days. I couldn't handle seven years of Tom giving me my baby cuddles," the Doctor said chirpily until he remembered who he was talking to. He laughed nervously. "Is it related to what happened to me?"
B'Elanna briefly made eye contact with him. He noticed her uneasiness when she did. Her head turned back to face the console while she cleared her throat. "It's possible."
"Possible? I thought you knew what happened," the Doctor said.
B'Elanna smiled warmly but it was still directed towards the station. "I do." The Doctor stared at her intently. "Looks like somebody entered new sub routines into your matrix, but they're long gone now. Not to worry."
"Oh, all the more reason to be worried. Why would anyone do this? What was their intention? Will they do it again?" the Doctor started to panic.
"They can't do it again. I've made sure of it," B'Elanna said as she faced him again. The worried look on his face started to make her feel a little guilty. "I've tripled the Security and best of all I've made it so only you have access to the write version of your program. Anyone else will only find the read only. That won't appear obvious to them either."
"They made me break my oath. They used me. I'd be able to start accepting it if I knew why. I don't understand," the Doctor said.
B'Elanna breathed in deeply before quickly sighing. "The culprit altered the oath in your database, very subtlety might I add. They also made slight edits to your memory files. I've undone the damage, it was just finding it that was the hard part. I think whoever did this must have thought that you'd discover something that they wanted to hide. To cause a distraction instead, point fingers elsewhere."
"If it was undone, why do I remember everything I did?" the Doctor asked. "I've caused so much pain and suffering."
B'Elanna looked on sympathetically. "If I erased your memory of it, then I'd be another person treating you like a machine, a thing to suit my agenda. I'm not going to do that."
The Doctor finally smiled, even just a little, he was grateful but he still had a pained look in his eyes. "You're right. I need to approach this like everyone else does, not pretend it never happened. I have to fix what I've done. The trouble is, I don't know how."
"I think you're being too hard on yourself. I'm sure if you explained to Jessie why you said what you did, she'll understand that you weren't you that day," B'Elanna smiled.
"That day?" the Doctor stuttered, he blinked nervously. "Are you sure you fixed everything?"
"Yes, why?" B'Elanna said, now curious and a little worried.
The Doctor didn't look convinced with her answer. He tilted his head slightly to peep at the console, which B'Elanna mirrored back to him, her eyebrows raised. "Please check again."
"Doc, stop. Your program's security was breached when James stopped you from being able to walk through the forcefield. The files that were edited..." B'Elanna said a little more forcefully.
"It couldn't have been then," the Doctor said, slightly dazed.
"They probably were trying to get in themselves and took advantage of it," B'Elanna said. The Doctor shook his head, mouthing the word no a few times. "Why couldn't it have been then?"
The Doctor sighed deeply. "I broke the worst oath of them all; do no harm. I thought you knew."
"Doctor. I have no idea what you're talking about," B'Elanna said. "As I said, I made a point not to touch your memories."
"James threw up a forcefield to stop me from approaching. You're saying my files were edited then, but that's impossible," the Doctor said. "I remember doing it and it wasn't then. It was much sooner than that."
"Are you talking about the DNA evidence that was distorted? That was crucial in solving the case. I doubt your discovery was manipulated by whoever hacked into your program, or that wouldn't have happened," B'Elanna tried to reason with him.
The Doctor was now staring down at the console she was using. His eyes scanned everything there, looking for any kind of clue that she missed. A disgruntled noise from her made him look back up and face her.
"You removed Nathan from the suspects list, I know. Craig told me. It made no difference. The DNA on his file was fully Human anyway. It wouldn't have implicated him. Try to calm down," B'Elanna said patiently.
The Doctor stared directly at her fearfully. "You really don't know. I... did more than alter evidence and point fingers. I re-activated it," he whispered the last few words.
B'Elanna flinched at the whispered words. She leaned in a little closer and lowered her own voice. "Re-activated what?"
"He was injured badly, disoriented. It was the perfect opportunity," the Doctor said, piquing her curiosity further. "He wouldn't notice anything until something triggered a bad memory. I didn't foresee what his newly formed telepathy would do." He shuddered in revulsion. "I didn't care."
B'Elanna felt her eyes widen more than usual, she felt her skin prickling. "The chip?" A timid and very small nod from the hologram confirmed everything. She found herself checking the computer to double check her work.
"Do you ever think about what we'll do when this is all over?"
Lena was mid sip when she was asked that. She quickly swallowed her drink instead of savouring it, then placed it beside her. The confused look on her face made her daughter smile at her. "Where did that come from?"
Kiara shrugged. Even though her plate was half full, she put her fork down beside the unused knife. "It's a distraction. Otherwise I'm thinking about my friend lying in a coma, or why she's there, or the terrifying thought of there being dozens, maybe hundreds of towers that we have to destroy to get out."
"I doubt it's the only way," Lena said first to re-assure her. "Do you mean when we escape the sphere?"
"Yeah," Kiara said with a nod. "The place you lived in with Sandi will have a new owner. I dunno if mum's family would take us in. Maybe you want a place of your own. I dunno."
Lena hadn't thought about it. She was too distracted by the other things Kiara mentioned, as well as the most recent problem. "I've always lived in space, well with the exception of those few months. I never really got used to being woken up by sunlight and birds chirping, but I doubt I'll want to stay on one of these ships forever."
"I can imagine. It must be nice not having to worry that one day your home could be destroyed by some trigger happy aliens," Kiara said.
"Oh I dunno, you just get vampires trashing your place instead," Lena said with a smile. It didn't last very long. She wasn't safe wherever she decided to live, that was something she had to learn to live with. Kiara though was a different story. The worried look on her face made her realise that her own was showing what she was thinking. She tried to smile again. "We can discuss it when the time comes. Okay?"
"I dunno about you, but I don't know the first thing about getting a house thingy or looking after it," Kiara said with a sly smile forming. "I also doubt that I'd be able to stay on a starship if I wanted to."
It was obvious to Lena what she was hinting at, she narrowed her eyes to pretend to be mad at her. Kiara wasn't falling for it, she smiled innocently just like she would have when she did something wrong as a kid.
"Well if that's what you want," Lena said sadly. Kiara frowned at her tone. "I'll talk to dad. I'm sure he won't mind though."
Kiara's mouth dropped open, "huh!?" She started to stammer, "I wasn't talking about Chakotay. I don't trust him, I don't like him anymore. I can't believe you..." Lena's resolve faded away, all that was left was a small smile. "You tricked me."
"It's your fault for thinking I'd be so cruel... lately," Lena said awkwardly as she remembered how she behaved years ago. She cleared her throat as if it would chase that away. "Look, we'll stick together, if that's what you want that is. That's why where we end up living will be picked by both of us. Okay?"
Kiara smiled gratefully. "You're the mum, you're not supposed to let the kid have a say."
"Meh," Lena said with a nonchalant expression, her shoulders raised. "As long as it isn't a morgue, I'm not fussed."
"Are you sure about this?" Kiara quickly asked without thinking about it.
Lena reached for her drink again while giving her the trademark Janeway bemused look. "I was joking about making you live with my dad. I never considered it."
"That's not why I'm asking. I just thought that you might not want to live with me," Kiara said.
"You got that from everything I said? You're..." Lena said while sniggering. "I'm starting to think this self doubt crap runs in the family."
"Well no, I just... you said if that's what I want, with no mention that it was what you wanted," Kiara stuttered as he cheeks turned red.
Lena shook her head while still laughing to herself. "Don't be silly. I'll need someone to wash the dishes and stuff," she teased.
Kiara looked confused, "wash them?"
"You know, chores. We'll get bored if we're not on a ship, and fast," Lena said. Kiara pulled a face which made her laugh again. "Relax, I don't even know how to cook so there will be no dishes to clean, not when there's replicators. I may make you put the washing outside though."
"You put your plates outside?" Kiara said in a slightly amused tone.
"Oh this'll be fun," Lena smirked at her.
Kiara smirked as well and shook her head. "I'm already regretting it. Seriously, at least it won't ever be dull living with you."
Lena's smile faded away. "Yeah. That's my only issue with this. I'm a walking target and you shouldn't have to feel unsafe in your own home."
"I thought that was normal," Kiara said lightly, hoping that it would stop worrying her.
"Only if your parents are Slayers," Lena sighed, proving it didn't work. She stared glumly at the table.
Kiara felt a little guilty for accidentally steering the conversation that way. A change of subject again was needed. After barely a minute she hadn't come up with anything and it was starting to feel a little awkward. She had to say something. "Maybe it's not what you think, and he'll come back soon."
Lena smiled weakly at her. "No matter what I think, it's bad. There's no good here."
"Where's your imagination? For all you know there was this big thing right, that he had to deal with and couldn't risk telling anyone. You know, in case it makes things worse," Kiara improvised. Lena's stare was unchanged so she decided to carry on. "Or, he's been possessed and he'll come back when he's not. Or we'll find him and fix it."
"I hope so," Lena said. "If not, it isn't going to be easy."
The staff in the lower level all seemed to be focused on their stations, they didn't notice somebody walk in. He smirked darkly at the lack of response. Then he headed for the ladder near the warp core so he could climb up.
He was too busy cackling away to notice that the second level wasn't as empty as he thought. When he did notice he groaned in disgust. "You? How will I ever get anything done with you morons constantly watching me?"
Chakotay smiled. "I think this is a sin that I can live with."
Damien folded his arms tightly and stubbornly remained on the spot. "Are we chickening out? You started all of this, I assume you expect me to clean up your mess."
"Now that you mention it, my quarters is a tad untidy," Chakotay said.
"Ugh," Damien rolled her eyes. "Leave the jokes to the professionals. Actually, while we're on the subject, leave the evil to me too. Now get lost." He headed for the main console parallel to the core. Chakotay had purposely stood there to block him.
"You have no right to complain. You've been gossiping to your girlfriend," Chakotay whispered to him once he arrived. Damien pulled a disgusted face. "She confronted me, she knows. How else would she find out?"
Damien scoffed in his face, "oh please? Like you've been acting completely innocent and keeping out of sight. Someone was going to find out eventually, you're just lucky it was Barbie Cullen that figured it out."
"If you tell anyone about our plans..." Chakotay hissed. Somebody gasped nearby, it echoed as if it was coming from a confined space. The pair didn't seem to notice it, or care. "I'll make sure you never do anything again."
"Without me you'll never be able to pull it off. That's why I'm still alive, right?" Damien teased him.
Chakotay narrowed his eyes while staring directly into his. The villain's sparkled, he was enjoying this a little too much.
"I knew it. My god," a voice whispered, which also echoed. There was a bang shortly afterwards, "owie!" Then the telltale sound of somebody crawling against metal followed.
Damien chuckled once that faded away, "that was fun."
Chakotay had to smile as well, "yeah. It'll keep Annika occupied for the time being."
"So Barbs thinks you're up to something huh?" Damien snickered at him. "I was wondering why it was so quiet. I really was hoping that she died."
"Yes, but I'm just thankful she's not stealing my underwear, or sniffing my discarded food," Chakotay said.
Damien shuddered horribly, "thankfully that first one hasn't happened. I even considered reading those books to find out how her vampire kind die."
Chakotay actually looked embarrassed, "I got that the wrong way round. Sorry." Damien's eyes widened which made Chakotay laugh a little. "Seriously, you don't want to go to Astrometrics. I've seen things no man should see."
"Do you fancy reading a few books to pass the time?" Damien asked.
"Hell no," Chakotay said quickly. "This stalking thing is still a problem though."
"I'll pay you. The only way to kill her I read so far I do not want to resort to," Damien actually pleaded with him.
Chakotay brushed his fear aside for now, "relax, will you? I'm not talking about your stalking, I'm talking about me."
"Oh, of course," Damien groaned.
"I'm curious though," Chakotay said.
Damien scowled at him through gritted teeth. "Oh sure, when it's your problem you want it dealt with immediately."
"It's still our problem though," Chakotay said. "You like to talk, a lot. Brag about your deeds. You haven't tried to put her off by talking about... you know?"
"Well bragging about it is much better than badly trying to avoid saying something directly, just for the purpose of prolonging the reveal. I mean seriously," Damien groaned. He rolled his eyes, "you know."
"Anybody could be listening. I'd prefer if you didn't share these things with anyone," Chakotay said sternly.
Damien couldn't help but laugh at him. "Oh, and why not? It's not like you have a reputation left to protect. You're in the dog house already Chucks."
"If they knew, they'd only worry. This crew have enough to deal with as it is. It's not like anything can be done about it now," Chakotay said. Damien narrowed his already suspicious eyes toward him. "I think you know what I'm referring to."
"I built that stupid cloak, I helped recover that kidnapper ship. I've done enough," Damien grunted. Chakotay stared at him blankly, which made Damien think he misunderstood. He laughed as that was impossible. "You know, until I ran into you, I thought the reason why we can't start the tests was cos you pinched the Flyer. It's just your style."
Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Hilarious, but no. I'm talking about your other work. If Annika finds out about it..."
"If she's stalking you instead of me, what's the big deal? Enjoy," Damien sniggered as he turned to walk away. Chakotay grabbed his arm tightly to stop him. He just snatched his arm back and faced him again, his sneering face made Chakotay wonder why he did it. "Who cares if the glitter ball finds out? Nobody likes her, nobody cares what she says unless it's oh my god, I'm dying painfully."
"You've said it yourself. She is a vampire and she did try to use it to destroy us. The flaky bimbo persona is just an act, to throw us off our guard," Chakotay whispered. "You should know. The first chance she got she joined you to get back at us. Why else do you think she follows you around all the time?"
"My evil charisma and intelligence can be a curse sometimes," Damien replied with a tiny hint of regret in his voice. It just made him sound more patronising than usual.
Chakotay felt a little sick, though that could have been just the subject of Annika doing that. "Annika is not on our side. She pretends to be until it suits her, then it's yoghurt pot sniffing and makeshift beds made out of dirty clothes. Annoying, frightening, but harmless. It's quite clever actually."
Damien repressed a few gags as his head tried to imagine what Chakotay said. He tried to laugh it off until he noticed Chakotay's expression hadn't changed.
"Seriously, Astrometrics, don't go there," Chakotay said.
"You're sick enough to make something like that up," Damien tried to tell himself out loud.
"No, but I'm sick enough now after seeing her rolling around in a pile of rabbit toys while making noises. I'll be in therapy for the rest of my life," Chakotay muttered. Damien's eyes went wide yet again. "She either expected me, you or anyone for that matter to walk in. The door wasn't locked. She's got an act to keep up so no one will suspect her when she gets her next opportunity. I'd rather not let her know of one."
"Different in style, but it reminds me of someone else. Care to venture a guess?" Damien said with the sparkle back in his eye.
"I doubt it's you, you've been a neutered and de-clawed kitten for years now," Chakotay answered nonchalantly.
Damien let out an angry grunt, the spark in his eyes turned into anger. "Why should I care if Annika wants to get her revenge on this crew? I don't even like you people. I'm only here and do things as it serves my interests."
"You're only here because you have no choice. It's us or taking your chances in a Game Sphere ran by people who despise you more than us," Chakotay smirked.
"Voyager's no good to me if it's trapped in this bad collage of the galaxy. Don't kid yourselves," Damien tried to snigger. It was forced though, Chakotay's words continued to hit various nerves. "You've got much worse things to worry about than an ex drone turned My Little Pony with a stalker fetish. If your people aren't trying to kill each other, they're running off on suicide missions, setting up bombs to finish off their annoying step sons, having their fiftieth breakdown, stealing shuttles..."
Chakotay's face fell and it froze in a tight grimace. "You're overexaggerating, as usual," he managed to mutter through it.
Damien felt a little better now that he had returned the favour. A devilish smile appeared on his face. "It's any wonder you fools have gotten as far as you have. It's all drama, drama around here. I'm glad I joined just in time to witness it. The shapeshifters don't have to do a damn thing, you people are your own worst enemies. You make some progress and somebody does the switcheroo on Ylara and Lena. You make some more progress and the Enterprise is stolen. Oh we learned something, lets get distracted by warlocks and some system that doesn't matter. Ohno poor little girl trips up in her quarters. Don't even get me started on this wild freak chase nonsense."
"You're right," Chakotay interrupted. To Damien's surprise he said it with not only a straight face, but with no humour in his voice giving him away. "We are getting in our own way. Or at least, someone keeps nudging us in that direction."
"I'd take credit for it if it wasn't so boring," Damien said.
Chakotay ignored him. "When force doesn't work, destroy us from within. Of course. They must know where we are or they..."
Damien yawned loudly to make a point, cutting him off as well. "I wonder who around here fits the classic double agent reqs. Unusual behaviour, keeping secrets, negotiating with villains discreetly, driving away loved ones. Hmm, toughie!" Chakotay stared at him with anger building up inside. Damien acted as if he just figured it out. "Oh, it couldn't be the guy trying to point fingers elsewhere. I need to think on this."
"Don't strain yourself," Chakotay muttered as he walked away.
He had been so engrossed in his work, Harry hadn't noticed Ian rush onto the Bridge and stop next beside him. His sudden voice brought him out of it. "The repairs to the shields are done."
Harry didn't look that impressed. The data he had collected seemed far more interesting to him. "You had to come here to tell me that?"
Ian matched his facial expression, before putting on a softer and patronising voice, "no but I was missing you so badly." He cleared his throat to get it back to normal. "I was told to give you a direct report when the ship was ready to go."
"Go, go where?" Harry asked no one in particular.
"To the next planet with towers, weren't you listening?" Ian answered.
"It's a waste of time, I'm telling you," Harry said. He found himself staring at the data on the computer screen again. Ian briefly turned his head towards it. It was just a bunch of random numbers to him so it didn't keep his interest. "All we're doing is ruining our reputation further. The answer, it's here."
Ian looked a little conflicted, not that anyone could see that as they were all occupied. "Months of mostly failing to destroy Game Sphere towers, yeah I could have told you that. You lost me on this though."
Harry's index finger pointed to one of the numbers, then a one beside it. "I've been looking at this all wrong. It's not supposed to say anything."
"Huh?" Ian mumbled. "You just said the answer is there."
"It is," Harry brightened up. He quickly worked on the panel beneath the data. The numbers that he was looking at were entered there.
The computer responded, "searching."
"I was convinced it was a message, a numerical code that translated into one word. Like when we found you," Harry explained very quickly, Ian had trouble keeping up. "What else would numbers mean?"
"Um, somebody stuck on a Maths puzzle?" Ian said meekly.
Harry briefly stared at him like he was an idiot. "How are you an engineer?"
"How did you get command of the Enterprise?" Ian countered with a raised eyebrow.
Harry brushed it off by merely looking back at the computer. It had finished its search and was displaying one result. "I knew it. They're co-ordinates. They've got to be. This can't be a coincidence."
Ian turned to have a look as well, his interest piqued. "I hope it's useful, we've got enough places to visit as it is."
One tap brought up a star chart on the bigger screen, replacing the one with the numbers. One part of it was highlighted with a flashing orange. Harry's good mood dissolved instantly. Ian didn't even have time to notice it, by the time he looked at Harry, he was having trouble keeping his emotions in check, his lips trembled.
"What?" Ian asked. He had no idea why he reacted the way he did. The highlighted area just looked like empty space to him.
"That's... it's nothing," Harry answered as bluntly as he could manage. His fingers quickly fell onto the computer. All of the data disappeared. "There's nothing there. Not anymore."
As he walked away Ian did his best to retrieve the information. Once he did he stared at it for any clue as to what happened. The highlighted area was definitely just empty space, however a few objects nearby caught his attention. A system with one m-class was the closest. What worried him though was the thing that he knew was a bit further away from this area. To him, this certainly wasn't nothing.
"Harry," he called. Harry stood in the command centre meekly, he could barely be bothered to make eye contact with him. "You may have been onto something here. A Ruvan ship leaves a cryptic message with numbers in, which can be changed into co-ordinates nearby their home world. A home world that we tried to liberate. They know exactly who we are unlike some of the other ships that attacked us, but they still send us it."
"Enough!" Harry snapped at him. The rest of the Bridge looked at him in surprise. "They attacked you on the Enterprise, they then attacked us, chasing us both out of their territory. They didn't want our help then."
"So why now? That anomaly is nearby, that planet where we were dumped in pods is also close by. They gave us that message discreetly for a reason," Ian said.
"We're not going there and that's final. I won't lose another ship, understood!" Harry shouted.
Ian felt his eyebrow raise slightly and twitch. He gave him a bemused smile. "Context would solve a lot of problems on this fleet. So would a half decent Captain for the flagship." He waited for that to sink in before leaving.
Instead Harry avoided looking at him as he walked over to the other side of the Bridge. Ian watched him step into the same turbolift he was going to use.
"Awkward," Bryan commented wryly. "You're right though. I've been here this whole time and I still have no idea what's happening."
TO BE CONTINUED
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