An original novel set in the universe of Star Trek: Voyager—and the sequel to Protectors and Acts of Contrition!
Admiral Kathryn Janeway faces a tribunal determined to execute her for supposed crimes committed during Voyager’s maiden trek through the Delta Quadrant. Captain Chakotay knows that the Kinara, several species now allied against the Full Circle fleet, are not all they appear to be. The Confederacy of the Worlds of the First Quadrant—a pact he cannot trust—is his only hope for unraveling the Kinara’s true agenda and rescuing Admiral Janeway. Meanwhile, Seven and Tom Paris are forced to betray the trust of their superiors in a desperate bid to reveal the lengths to which a fellow officer has gone in the name of protecting the Federation from the legendary Caeliar.
Captain Chakotay had asked Captain Regina Farkas, of the Vesta, and Commander Glenn, of the Galen, to join him as he brought his acting first officer, Lieutenant Harry Kim, and Commander B’Elanna Torres into the small circle he intended to utilize in managing the current crisis. Lieutenant Kenth Lasren, his Betazoid ops officer, Counselor Hugh Cambridge, and Admiral Janeway’s personal aide, Decan, were also present. Both were already well aware of how complicated their mission had become in the last few hours.
Torres and Kim appeared stunned and sickened by their captain’s revelations. The shock had already passed for everyone else and been replaced by mingled trepidation and determination.
Commander Torres was the first to speak. “I just want to make sure I’ve got this straight.”
“Please,” Chakotay said.
“The Kinara are about to put Admiral Janeway on trial for crimes she supposedly committed during Voyager’s maiden trek in the Delta Quadrant. Once that trial ends—”
“Presumably with the admiral’s execution,” Counselor Cambridge interjected.
“Almost certainly,” Captain Farkas corrected him.
“Once that trial ends,” Torres repeated, refusing to acknowledge or accept their pessimism, “the Kinara intend to open negotiations with the Confederacy for passage through their local network of subspace corridors for the purpose of acquiring some unknown resources that lie beyond Confederacy space but can only be readily accessed by utilizing their corridors.”
“Which we cannot allow to happen,” Captain Farkas noted.
“Because we now know that whatever the Kinara’s objectives might once have been, in the last few months they have come under the influence of at least four of the original eight Neyser essences,” Torres continued.
“Individuals believed to be so dangerous that their own people intentionally disembodied them and kept them incarcerated for thousands of years,” Cambridge reminded her.
“And who have used their first taste of freedom to convince or coerce some of the most powerful Delta Quadrant species already predisposed to mistrust the Federation, including the Turei, the Vaadwaur, the Devore, and the Voth, to ally themselves against us,” Kim added.
“Is our potential alliance with the Confederacy off the table?” Torres asked.
“Admiral Janeway indicated prior to her departure that she did not believe the Federation and the Confederacy could ever form an alliance,” Farkas replied.
“And that was without hearing my report on Voyager’s joint mission with the Twelfth Lamont, the results of which, in my opinion, would make any such alliance unconscionable,” Chakotay noted.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Torres argued.
“Excuse me?” Chakotay said.
“Vesta isn’t in bad shape, but Voyager lost her main deflector in the last battle and is, conservatively, days away from being completely repaired. Galen is no match for the Kinara’s firepower. That gives us one starship against the Kinara’s ten, including that Voth monstrosity that almost destroyed us. We’re going to need help rescuing Admiral Janeway and the Confederacy is our only option right now.”
“After what Inspector Kashyk—or whoever he really is—said, I’m not sure how inclined the Confederacy will be to offer assistance,” Farkas suggested.
“There is no question that the first consul, Lant Dreeg, arranged for the admiral’s capture in order to force us to offer the Market Consortium the technology they requested—technology with which we cannot responsibly part at the moment—in return for aiding us in recovering our admiral,” Cambridge asserted.
“Be that as it may,” Chakotay said, “General Mattings has indicated that he intends to assist us, and nothing I’ve heard has convinced me that Presider Cin entirely approved of her first consul’s actions.”
“We need to find out where the Confederacy stands right now,” Farkas said.
“Among other things,” Chakotay agreed.
“Meanwhile, the Doctor has suffered some catastrophic damage?” Torres asked.
“Barclay has transferred his program back to the Galen and is working on it as we speak,” Chakotay reported. “The Doctor made some alarming discoveries about the catomic plague before I had to deactivate him. He asked that we try to get that data back to Seven as soon as possible.”
“If not sooner,” Cambridge insisted.
“Demeter has yet to report in?” Farkas asked.
“Demeter should have returned to Confederacy space more than twelve hours ago. If she’s not back soon, someone is going to have to go after her,” Chakotay replied.
Farkas nodded. After a few moments of tense silence she said, “This is a mess, but our first priority is rescuing the admiral.”
“She has no desire to be rescued, and indeed left explicit orders that we should do nothing to risk the current cease-fire,” Decan said, speaking for the first time since the briefing had begun.
“That’s absurd,” Torres said. “They’re going to kill her. We can’t just sit here and let them do it.”
“We must not allow our fear for her safety to force us to act precipitously,” Decan insisted. “There is no question that Admiral Janeway intends for us to keep the lines of communication open between ourselves and Presider Cin. She sacrificed herself, in part, to ensure that the Kinara did not succeed in allying themselves with the Confederacy and turning them against us. But she also intends to discover ‘Meegan’s’ true intentions toward this region of space.”
“That’s going to be a little hard to do while she’s fighting for her life,” Cambridge said.
“Not necessarily,” Decan said.
“I realize that Admiral Janeway is accustomed to multitasking, Lieutenant, but that’s a tall order,” Cambridge observed.
“In addition to requesting a personal security detachment, the admiral’s only other nonnegotiable demand prior to her surrender was that the Kinara transmit her trial in real time to the fleet and the Confederacy,” Decan said placidly. “I suggest that our first duty is ensuring that all parties assembled here enjoy unrestricted access to the upcoming trial.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Lieutenant Lasren asked. “The trial is set to take place aboard the Manticle. They are the ones who will control any transmissions. They can shut it down whenever they like.”
“No, they can’t,” Torres corrected him.
“Once they open the transmission,” Kim continued for her, “we can capture the frequency and send our own control virus through their carrier wave. Our open channel will replace theirs and stay open as long as we want.”
“Or until they shut down their entire communications array and perform a hard reset,” Torres noted.
Chakotay stared at Decan’s implacable face. Although Voyager’s captain had known Kathryn longer and much better than her aide, Decan had been by her side constantly throughout her negotiations with the Confederacy. His observation struck Chakotay as significant, and he was frustrated that he could not yet make the connection it seemed Decan already had. “Why did Admiral Janeway insist on this?” Chakotay finally asked.
“It is my belief that the admiral intends to resolve this situation long before her trial can conclude,” Decan said.
For the first time since Kathryn’s capture, a faint spark of hope lit Chakotay’s eyes as the significance of Kathryn’s nonnegotiable demand suddenly became clear to him. That spark faded just as quickly as the many possible flaws in her plan began to take horrific shape in his mind’s eye. Setting them aside, he smiled grimly, saying, “That’s how she intends to beat them.”
Admiral Kathryn Janeway should have spent the last several hours reviewing her memories of Voyager’s first encounters with the Turei, the Vaadwaur, the Devore, and the Voth.
Instead, she could not stop thinking about a kiss.
When Decan had told her of his telepathic sense that Devore Inspector Kashyk was literally of “two minds,” internally divided between ancient rage and a desire to see Kathryn safe, the final piece of the puzzle she had tried to solve for weeks—ever since she had learned of the alliance between the Devore, the Vaadwaur, and the Turei, and the actions of the Voth against her fleet’s communications relays—had finally locked into place.
Lieutenant Barclay had been obsessed for months with locating their rogue hologram, “Meegan.” Janeway had added this concern to her lengthy to-do list upon assuming command of the Full Circle Fleet, and it had rested in the back of her mind until it was forced out of the shadows by Decan’s revelation. The only plausible explanation for the recent alliance between these four familiar, hostile, and xenophobic species was some powerful outside influence, and an ancient species with access to all of Voyager’s databases that could possess high-level individuals at will was an incredibly likely candidate.
Janeway had asked Lieutenant Lasren to accompany her to the Manticle, and his subtle nod before he departed had confirmed what the kiss with which she had greeted Inspector Kashyk had already told her.
She had kissed him once before. It had been a spontaneous gesture, born of the closeness that had developed between them over several days and nights when they had seemed to share a common goal and purpose. But it had also been a test. Hers might not have been the most experienced lips in the galaxy, but they had assured her of Kashyk’s genuine response. The heat and desire in that kiss had been unmistakable.
His heart, of course, had never been hers.
The truth of the second kiss had been more painful than the first. The moment their lips had touched in the Manticle’s shuttlebay, Janeway had felt Kashyk’s desire once again, but this time there had been urgency, desperation to it. The sensation had vanished too soon as his lips had hardened and rough hands had pushed her away.
Decan had been right. Kashyk was still there, but he was no longer controlling his mind or body.
Her thoughts unwillingly returned to what little she remembered of her time as a Borg Queen. Some small shred of Kathryn Janeway had existed, secured in a cell within a mind that was no longer hers. From that cell she had witnessed atrocities. She had felt the Queen’s ecstasy. She had fought desperately to regain control, but it had been impossible.
Despite the fact that Kashyk had been her enemy, she wondered if that was now his reality. If it was, he did not deserve it. No sentient being did.
That the entity that now possessed Kashyk clearly wanted her dead was neither surprising nor relevant. Janeway could not hate Kashyk. She couldn’t even fear him. All she could do was pity him.
The door to her “quarters” slid open and a Devore security officer flanked by two armed guards entered holding a set of heavy silver manacles. Lieutenants Psilakis and Cheng, her personal security team, rose and moved to stand between her and the Devore officer.
“You will remain here,” he advised them.
“No. That was not our understanding,” Psilakis said firmly.
“It’s all right, Lieutenant,” Janeway said, placing a hand on his arm and gently pressing him back. She then lifted her eyes to meet the Devore officer and extended her hands to him, her palms upward.
Her life might be over within a matter of hours. But until it was, a number of battles remained that must be won.
“There was no good answer, Presider,” Captain Chakotay insisted. “We settled for the least bad one, which was often the case during our first journey through this quadrant.”
Most of Chakotay’s interactions with the peoples of the Confederacy had been with Leodts like General Mattings: dark-skinned humanoids with black eyes, flattened noses, and mouths composed of a ring of sharp protruding teeth. Presider Isorla Cin was Djinari. The golden, diamond-shaped scales that covered her scalp did not seem to allow for a variety of facial expressions that might betray subtle reactions to his words. The long, thin tendrils that extended from the base of her neck were more fluid. They tensed and relaxed conspicuously, but Chakotay had yet to assign meaning to their movements.
Cin had sat placidly behind an ornate, gilt desk in her receiving room aboard the Shudka and listened patiently while Chakotay had provided some much-needed context to the charges “Devore Inspector Kashyk” had made against Admiral Janeway and the Federation before the battle that had cost the Confederacy thirty-five of their ships and the Full Circle Fleet their admiral. The captain had not yet advised Cin that he believed Kashyk, and several of the other Kinara leaders, to be possessed by Neyser essences. The truth of Voyager’s first contact with the Voth, the Turei, the Vaadwaur, and the Devore Imperium should have been more than enough to convince Cin whose side she should take.
The presider had seemed relieved by Chakotay’s recounting of Voyager’s encounters with the Delta Quadrant powers. She clearly wanted to believe that Admiral Janeway had been on the right side of these conflicts. She had cooled visibly, however, when Chakotay began to recount their introduction to the Devore, rising from her desk and pacing the room fitfully.
“But you knew the Devore could not countenance the presence of telepaths in their territory,” Cin argued. “As your crew included telepathic species even before you encountered the Brenari refugees, surely you would have been better served by simply charting a course around their space.”
“We understood, as the Devore did not, that the telepaths who were part of our crew posed no threat to them,” Chakotay insisted. “I agree that assisting the Brenari might be construed as crossing the line, but we were not aiding individuals who had come to make war on the Devore. Had their ship not been damaged, they would never have found themselves in Devore space. They were civilians, some of them young children. Their only goal was to get safely out of the Devore’s territory as soon as possible. We shared that goal. Voyager possessed technology we believed would allow us to protect the Brenari the same way we were already protecting our telepathic crewmen. It seemed unconscionable to refuse to aid them.”
Cin shook her head. Clearly frustrated, she said, “Often when I spoke with Admiral Janeway in the last several weeks, I was struck by your Federation’s seeming contradictions. You possess powerful advanced technology, but do not use that technology to conquer new territory. You hold your member worlds to basic shared standards but allow them to engage in species and cultural-specific practices that are completely alien to those of your Federation’s founding members. You embrace diversity as one of your highest values even when that diversity leads to conflict between your member worlds. How have you not learned in more than two hundred years of existence how complicated your predilection for acceptance and tolerance makes your lives, or how much security would be gained by limiting either your exploratory efforts or the freedoms you permit your member worlds?” she demanded. “Your willingness to seek out the potential good in every species you encounter seems to constantly embroil you in avoidable conflicts.”
Chakotay considered her words carefully before responding. “They do,” he finally agreed. “But there is no way to add to our understanding of the universe, of the very nature of existence, and accept the limits you suggest. It is not necessary that every species we encounter share our views. We would likely have grown bored with exploration long ago if they did. It is our differences that make our efforts worthwhile. Our determination is to honor the views of others, even when we do not embrace them. Defending ourselves and those unable to defend themselves from simple misunderstandings is not an idealistic fantasy. We have seen firsthand how different civilizations can evolve from deep-seated hatred to mutual acceptance and understanding. The Djinari and Leodt are a prime example of such an evolution. To adhere to a rigid and antiquated set of standards is to limit not only the potential progress of others, but our own possible development as well.”
“Pardon the interruption, Presider Cin,” a voice came over the Shudka’s comm system. “General Mattings is reporting in as requested.”
“Put him through,” Cin ordered, raising a hand to pause Chakotay’s remarks. “General Mattings, are your advance preparations complete?”
“All has been done according to your orders, Presider,” Mattings reported. His voice was low and rough. It sounded to Chakotay as if the general was exhausted but refusing to admit it. The last time they’d spoken, Mattings had clearly been injured. But he had sworn to protect Chakotay’s people as his own. The captain had no reason to believe the general was not living up to that promise.
“Very good, General,” Cin said. As soon as the words had left her lips, the doors to her suite opened and her Leodt first consul, Lant Dreeg, entered quickly and moved to stand directly in Cin’s line of sight.
“Forgive me, Presider, but I have received the CIF’s latest report, and I cannot allow you to risk destroying the accord that was purchased with so much Confederacy blood less than one day ago. The Kinara have what they want. They are prepared to continue negotiating with us in good faith. You must not allow any personal concerns you might have for Admiral Janeway to cloud your judgment at this critical juncture.”
The presider squared her shoulders. Her tendrils stiffened behind her and remained taut as she said, “General Mattings, have you assumed command of the Third Calvert?”
“Stand by,” Cin ordered. Locking her bright green eyes on the black stones set below Dreeg’s brow ridge, she said, “I appreciate your concerns, First Consul. As always, I will bear them in mind before I reach my final decision regarding the Kinara. For the moment, I do not require anything further of you.”
“Presider,” Dreeg said.
“Lant,” Cin said sharply, taking him aback. “Before my mission to open negotiations with the Kinara had begun, you worked behind my back to secure an agreement favorable to the Market Consortium but on terms you knew would be unacceptable to your presider. You did so because you did not trust me to act in our people’s best interests. You betrayed me. You betrayed Admiral Janeway. You have grossly overstepped your authority. That ends now. Your counsel is noted. Leave my presence and do not presume to access it again until I request that you do so.”
“The people of the Confederacy—” Dreeg began.
“Elected me to lead them,” Cin finished. “And I will continue to do so until another is chosen to take my place.”
Undeterred, Dreeg said, “You realize, of course, that the Consortium may call for a vote of no-confidence at our discretion.”
“I do,” Cin acknowledged. “You might best use the rest of the current cease-fire to return safely to the First World and begin collecting the necessary votes. In the meantime, I will do what I can to mitigate the damage you have caused.”
Dreeg nodded warily and departed. As Chakotay watched him go, a newfound respect for Presider Cin took root. He had wondered up until now what might have caused Kathryn to risk so much on the Confederacy’s behalf. Finally, he was beginning to understand.
“Presider,” he said softly, “is it your intention to order the CIF to rescue Admiral Janeway, or merely to end the Kinara’s hold on this region of space?”
“That determination has yet to be made,” she replied. “The Kinara indicated that they wish to place the admiral on trial for her past transgressions against them, and she willingly agreed to participate in that trial.”
“Only because she feared that her refusal would result in the loss of every CIF vessel in the area,” Chakotay noted. “Do you honestly believe they intend to give her a fair hearing?”
“That remains to be seen,” Cin said.
“Presider Cin, we are receiving a transmission from the Manticle,” the communication officer’s voice reported.
“Put it through to my suite,” Cin ordered.
Chakotay turned to face the large viewscreen that sat opposite the presider’s desk. It took every ounce of self-control he possessed to remain where he stood rather than returning to Voyager. Or better yet, arm myself with two phaser rifles and transport directly to the Manticle.
This was the only location from which he could take the Confederacy’s temperature moment by moment. Once the trial began, their responses would be critical. His experiences with General Mattings had destroyed any confidence he’d once felt in his ability to predict Confederacy choices. He hoped that Kathryn had been wiser in her assessment of the presider.
Her life depended on it.
The doors to engineering were open as Lieutenant Harry Kim approached them, weaving through the constant flow of foot traffic with some difficulty. Officers and crewmen double-timed their way in and out, their hands heavy with freshly replicated replacement parts and tools. No one spoke in conversational tones. Orders, requests, and reports were shouted over the constant din and commotion. Despite the sense of chaos, their focus was singular: get Voyager moving again as soon as possible.
Fleet Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres stood in the eye of the storm, her face and uniform covered with grime, her hands flying over the main console stationed just beneath the combined warp/slipstream core that was the heart of Voyager. The ship’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Nancy Conlon, stood on the catwalk that circled the room’s second level just outside the doors of her private office, deep in conversation with two of her subordinates who had the good sense to simply nod quickly as she tersely issued their orders.
Kim caught Conlon’s eyes as he headed toward the central console without distracting her from her current duties. A smile so faint he might have imagined it crossed her lips. Kim felt his own face soften a bit and nodded in response without missing a step.
On any other day, the speed, precision, concentration, and devotion Kim saw before him would have buoyed his confidence in his ship.
Today, they merely reinforced the fragility of Voyager’s current predicament and reminded him how close they had just come to annihilation.
“B’Elanna,” he said softly, certain she was already aware of his presence.
“What is it, Harry?” she demanded without lifting her eyes from her console.
“It’s time,” he replied.
She turned sharply to face him.
“The Manticle just established an open channel. They’re going to start in a few minutes.”
“Have we sent our transmission?” Torres asked.
Kim nodded. “Vesta is handling it. Their comm systems are fully operational.”
Torres’s face hardened. Kim wondered why she wasn’t already moving to join him in the briefing room. What other possible response was there?
We are currently hanging dead in space surrounded by hostile alien vessels. Until I can get our shields restored, we are too vulnerable for me to leave my post, Kim could hear her protest.
Instead, she said softly, “I can’t watch it, Harry.”
Her words set his stomach churning. Kim squared his shoulders. “You heard Chakotay. The admiral’s going to be fine.”
“Maybe,” Torres agreed. “But if she isn’t . . .” Her words trailed off.
“Hey,” Kim said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“My first duty is to the fleet, to this ship,” Torres said. “I’m needed here.”
“Okay,” Kim said. His feet were noticeably heavier as they carried him back to deck one.
Counselor Cambridge was the only senior officer waiting in the briefing room when Kim arrived. He had not taken any of the available chairs, but stood with his back resting against the bulkhead, his arms crossed over his chest, and his eyes glued to the large viewscreen embedded in the wall.
Five individuals were seated on a raised platform behind a long table. Kim recognized three of them, the Voth Minister Odala, Devore Inspector Kashyk, and the Skeen commander, Rigger Meeml. The others were Turei and Vaadwaur officers who looked familiar, but Kim could not place them.
Cambridge’s back stiffened as Admiral Janeway was led into the room. Kim’s stomach soured again as Cambridge said softly, “I tried to tell her.”
Kirsten Beyer is the New York Times bestselling author of many Star Trek: Voyager novels, including A Pocket Full of Lies, Acts of Contrition, Protectors, The Eternal Tide, Children of the Storm, Unworthy, Full Circle, and String Theory: Fusion. She is also an actor for theater, movies, television, and commercials. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.
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