The Farther Shore | Chapter 22 of 35

Author: Christie Golden | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1879 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 13

LIBBY GNAWED on her thumbnail.

It was a bad habit, and one she thought she’d kicked years ago. It made her fingers look stubby and interfered with playing the lal shak. But right now, as she stared at her computer screen, she couldn’t help it.

Why wasn’t Harry responding?

It had been a huge gamble to send the message to Voyager. What if Harry wasn’t there? Or even if he was there, what if he hadn’t been able to gain access to his old station, Ops? What if all this fell into the wrong hands? It was possible Covington had a plant at Project Full Circle, although it damned sure wasn’t the one she had wanted Libby to think was the traitor. Maybe this person or persons unknown had gotten the message.

She hadn’t eaten in what felt like forever. She hadn’t fed her various animals either, and Rowena was letting [156] her know it. She rose and got them something to eat just so they’d shut up.

Come on Harry, she thought. This time you can actually reply to me.

 

Harry kept venturing back and forth from Ops to the science station, trying to look officious and very busy so that Leo Crais would quit bugging him. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it didn’t. Apparently Crais didn’t like his solitary bridge shift and was anxious to talk to somebody, anybody. Harry let him hold forth with the occasional “Uh huh” so that Crais would think he had an audience.

Out of the corner of his eye, while Crais stood blocking him and chatting away, Harry saw the small light come on over at Ops. He was clear across the bridge at the science station. He mentally swore vigorously, even as he kept his eyes on Crais and started nodding. How to get past this guy and over to the incoming message without Crais noticing?

He thought quickly. “Damn,” he said, in his best tone of annoyance, “is that thing malfunctioning again? I thought I’d just fixed that. Excuse me,” and he went back over to Ops, grumbling loudly.

Crais went to the captain’s chair and sat down. It galled Harry to see anyone other than Janeway there, but he swallowed his annoyance and began downloading the message to a padd. He didn’t have the chance to read it yet. With any luck, that chance would come soon.

“Hey, Harry,” said Crais, “open a channel to Starfleet for. me.”

[157] “What?” To Harry, his voice sounded like a yelp. He hoped it didn’t sound that way to Crais.

“You heard me, you’re over at Ops, go ahead and open it. Please,” he added, as if he just remembered that they were of equal rank. “Got to do the morning check-in. You know the drill.”

“Sure,” said Kim easily, though he was sweating profusely. His fingers flew deftly over the controls and for a moment, he was suddenly back as the rightful operator of this station, on board a ship he had grown to love.

He cleared his throat. This would be tricky, opening the channel at just the right time so that Crais could have whatever conversation he was going to have while still giving Kim enough time to duck out of sight. Crais had recognized him; it was likely that someone else would, too.

Here goes ...

He pressed a padd and the instant before a face materialized on the screen, he dropped down behind Ops. Even as he did so, another thought struck him. It was all well and good for Crais to have to check in with someone, but what if this Starfleet official wanted to talk to anyone else on the ship? He suddenly realized that he shouldn’t have opened the channel for Crais. But then again ...

“Good morning, Commander Vance,” said Crais in a formal voice. Kim didn’t recognize the name.

“Good morning, Lieutenant.” This Vance fellow sounded bored. “Status report?”

“All continues to go well, Commander. Do you need to speak to anyone else aboard?”

Harry closed his eyes. No, no, please no ...

“Not necessary. My best to Watson.”

[158] “Yes, sir. Crais out.”

The screen went dark. “That Vance is a nice—hey, what are you doing hiding down there?”

Blushing, Harry stood up. “Just working on a particularly difficult coupling. Leo, can you do me a favor?”

“Sure, what?”

Harry gestured toward the screen. “It’s been kind of hard readjusting since I got back. I don’t want to sound stuck-up or anything, but we’ve all been kinda—well—noticed a lot. I’d just as soon not have to talk to anyone that I don’t need to. Would you mind giving me time to get out of viewing range if you have to talk to anyone else?”

Crais’s pleasant, open face showed sympathy. “You know, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Sure. There’s no need for anyone to know you’re here.”

Harry returned the smile, and for the first time since he stepped onto the bridge, it was genuine.

 

Icheb dreamed.

He was back on the grounds of the Academy again, walking from class on a warm afternoon in the company of his friends. Sam and Tim were having a lively discussion about the French Revolution, with Andre, the actual Frenchman, chiming in occasionally. Icheb’s arm was around Eshe, and they walked comfortably together. Her own arm snaked around his back.

It felt so good, to be with her. It was unlike any sensation he had hitherto experienced. When their lips touched, his whole body felt tense and tingly. He had read much of human literature and found that an inordinate amount of it had to do with something called [159] “falling in love.” He wondered if that was what he and Eshe were experiencing now.

Her grip around his waist tightened. He smiled a little. She wanted them to be close, as did he. Then her arm tightened even more.

Icheb found it difficult to breathe. Surprised, he looked down at Eshe. Her face, normally the rich color of coffee, was now an ashy shade of gray. One brown eye regarded him with no emotion. The other had been removed, replaced with a red light. The grip around his waist was like iron. He struggled, crying out to his friends to help, but there was no reply. Icheb looked about wildly and saw that they, too, had become Borg.

The fight unraveled in slow motion. As he had before, Andre shoved Icheb, then Sam struck him. Icheb tumbled to the ground, but kept trying to fight. Except this time, his enemies—his friends—also had the physical advantage. They bore down on him, and then Icheb felt searing pain as something sliced his arm off.

 

Tuvok heard Icheb moan softly, and saw the youth’s eyes darting back and forth under his tightly closed lids. Seven, too, was in a deep REM state. From Icheb’s sound and the expression on both faces, he imagined their dreams were far from pleasant. But he did not interrupt the regeneration cycle. Dreams were harmless, and they desperately needed the healing this intensive rest would provide.

Tuvok fully expected that, successful or not, the military career of everyone involved in this desperate mission would be over by the time all was said and done. He did not know that he regretted it. He was content to [160] continue to teach at the Academy. He enjoyed passing knowledge on to young minds, and Tuvok prized service. But if he were stripped of his rank and sent back to Vulcan, he would not be displeased.

His concern was more for his friends. Their careers had been practically guaranteed, until the advent of the Borg virus had turned heroes into villains in the eyes of Starfleet. And yet, logic dictated that the crew of Voyager, particularly the Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Icheb, should have been the first brought into the circle of those trying to end the Borg threat.

Starfleet had not behaved logically. Therefore, Tuvok felt that other alternatives needed to be explored. Although he knew that many of his comrades had expected him to be resistant to Janeway’s plan, he had approved of it from the first.

He stood at his post, hands loosely at his side. From where he had positioned himself, he could at once keep an eye on the regenerating Borg in case something went wrong, and an eye on the door. He could and would stand here for hours. He would only leave if Janeway summoned him, when the Borg had finished their regeneration, or if there were an emergency disturbance.

The door hissed open.

The third option, then.

The young man with the pale skin and fair hair had taken three steps inside before he saw the green glow. His jaw dropped open as he stared at the still figures of Seven of Nine and Icheb. One hand went up, holding a phaser, the other moved to his comm badge.

Before he could touch it, Tuvok had slipped up behind him. He squeezed the precise nerve and the [161] intruder dropped like a stone. Tuvok caught him as he fell, then dragged the limp body out of immediate sight of the door. While much of the cargo had been emptied from the cargo bay, Tuvok was able to find sufficient materials to bind and gag the guard. He relieved the fallen man of his phaser, strode back to his former position, and calmly took up his protective stance once again.

 

All Chakotay could think about was Black Jaguar. He could almost feel her behind him, her stride smooth and silent. Once he couldn’t resist it and even glanced quickly behind him, half-expecting to see her inky, feline form. He knew that the playful big cat lolling on the sun-warmed rock was gone. If Black Jaguar was indeed here, she would be the predator—quiet, quick, deadly, focused. As he, Chakotay, needed to be.

Regrets flooded his mind, simple sun-moments not embraced. He thought of words he hadn’t said, gestures he hadn’t made, risks he hadn’t taken. Now it might be too late. Soon, his world, as he had known it, might be very much changed.

The words he had told the mighty Spirit-cat came back to him: Black Jaguar is the totem of great power, of courage, of ferocity. Of fighting great battles in just causes. Of dealing out death to those who deserve it, and not flinching from the task. Black Jaguar strikes without warning and kills swiftly and fairly. When Black Jaguar appears, one is about to ...

And she had finished: One is about to embark on a journey that will test one’s mettle, wits, courage, and faith in the dark places. It is a trial of the highest sort, [162] and if one fails, then Black Jaguar will exact Her punishment. And if one succeeds, great good will come about, for the journeyer and the world.

If they could do it—if they could stop the Borg viras dead in its tracks—then Chakotay could see how it would bring about great good, for the journeyer and the world. It was a great battle, fought in a just cause.

He simply never thought he’d have to carry out that battle by skulking about Voyager, his prey fellow Starfleet officers. But here he was, striding beside his former captain, doing exactly that.

Janeway gazed at her tricorder, then nodded silently to her companion. He slipped away from her, darting for a nearby Jefferies tube, and climbed up just far enough so he wouldn’t be seen. Janeway waited. Chakotay listened intently. He could hear footfalls now, muffled slightly by the carpeting. They passed him, and Chakotay climbed down and stuck his head out gingerly.

Janeway was just around the corner. She strode forward vigorously, her eyes on the tricorder, and collided with the security guard. She faked a stumble and fall.

“Oh!” she cried as the “wind was knocked out of her.” Even as he waited for the moment, Chakotay admired her. She was good.

“Admiral Janeway!” exclaimed the young man, clearly mortified by running into a Starfleet legend. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you—here, please let me help you up.”

Janeway laughed, managing to strike exactly the right note of slight embarrassment, and extended her hand. , The young man’s back was to Chakotay. He swung [163] down behind the guard, clasped his hands, and brought them down hard on the back of the guard’s head.

It was a good blow, but not good enough. The guard stumbled but didn’t fall. He reached for his phaser, off balance but still conscious, and whirled to face Chakotay.

The roundhouse kick that knocked the guard to the floor surprised Chakotay. He knew Janeway kept in good physical shape and that, like any Starfleet officer, she was trained in hand-to-hand combat. But she didn’t often employ those methods to bring down her adversaries.

He didn’t let the opportunity go to waste. He dropped onto the guard and landed a clean punch to the young man’s jaw. At once, the guard went limp. Chakotay checked for his pulse. Strong and steady. Perfect. His fondness for boxing had come in handy yet again.

Chakotay turned to look admiringly at his former captain. “That was good,” he said. “Very good.”

She grinned at him. “I’m just glad it worked. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken out anyone but a fake Klingon on the holodeck. Let’s get his phaser and comm badge and stash him somewhere.”

As Chakotay shouldered the limp security guard in the position traditionally called the fireman’s carry, the full meaning of her quip registered and he stared at her.

“You train against Klingons?”

 

Vassily Andropov had never been so exhausted or in so much pain in his life.

The holograms that served as “masters” did nothing to ease the pain of the lash wounds. He was not offered so much as a token salve or bandage. He felt them trying to heal on their own, crusting over only to break [164] open again as he exerted himself building this stupid, senseless, fictitious “monument.” Sweat crept into the wounds and stung. Instead of the sharp pain of injury, there was now a throbbing, aching sensation that was starting to spread. Gangrene, probably.

Nothing a dermal generator wouldn’t fix, he had told Allyson. And Robinson had replied that she hadn’t seen any lying around in the sand. He hadn’t seen her since the confrontation between Akolo Tare and the hologram, and hoped both of them were all right. Allyson had not left his side.

The food was meager—some kind of bread that was gritty and stale, and warm, equally gritty and stale water. The holograms worked them all day. Allyson was clearly trying to be brave, and equally clearly was scared to death. At one point, on their all-too-brief breaks, Andropov caught her wiping away tears.

“Hey,” he said, gently, “it’s going to be all right.”

She looked up at him with those enormous green eyes. They shimmered with tears.

“I don’t think so,” she said in a soft, thick voice. “I don’t think so at all.”

Andropov was not the most socially graceful of men, but he tried again. “Listen, Baines wants us alive to prove his point. He won’t hurt anyone.”

Her eyes flickered to the crusted blood on his face, but she said nothing.

“Okay, maybe ‘hurt’ isn’t the right word,” he amended. “But I don’t think we need fear for our lives.”

“Maybe not our lives,” she said. “But other things.” There was. an uncomfortable pause. He knew what she meant. She drew a shuddering breath. Her face was [165] lighter where the tears had washed away sand and sweat. “I was an artist.”

“You still are,” he said, anxious to reassure her.

She laughed, a short, harsh bark that had little humor in it, and held up her hands. Despite himself, he winced. The nails were broken. The palms were scraped and bleeding. She tried to bend her fingers; they were swollen like thick sausages. Allyson looked up at him, her broken heart in her face, and he felt himself melt.

The kid was young enough to be his daughter, and despite her attractiveness, he felt more paternal than amorous toward her. What was Baines thinking? Abducting a youngster like this, an artist, someone fragile and imaginative and creative. She’d break if they kept this up.

Impulsively he handed her his waterskin. “Drink this,” he said.

“No,” she protested. “You’ll need it. They’re working you hard, and you’re injured.”

“I’m in Starfleet, remember? I’ve survived tougher things than this,” he lied. The closest he’d gotten to anything resembling this ordeal was once when he’d gotten lost overnight on a hiking trip after stubbornly refusing to bring any navigation tools. In the summer, in the Rocky Mountains, with a sleeping bag and plenty of food and water. “Please. I’ll feel better if I know you’re getting something resembling enough water.”

She licked her full lips. They were already burned and cracking. “If you’re sure ...”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Allyson smiled, sweetly, gratefully. She took the waterskin and drank every last drop. “I’m sorry!” she said as she realized what she had done. “I shouldn’t have ...”

[166] “Don’t worry. They’ll give us water again in a few hours.” At least I hope so.

She was still looking at him, smiling a little. “You remind me of my uncle Alexander.”

“Was he strong, brilliant, and incredibly handsome?”

Allyson laughed aloud at that. “He was the nicest man I ever knew. I never knew my Dad, so he was ... he was more like my Dad than anything else. He was the one who encouraged me to try painting. He saw something in me that no one else did.”

A trumpet blew. Allyson flinched visibly, and the fear settled on her features like snow on a flower.

“They just want us to get back to work,” he said. “That part of the monument is in shadow. Maybe we can go over there. It won’t be as hot.”

He headed toward the shadow of the great pyramid, hoping he was right. Allyson followed him like a shadow herself, occasionally reaching to touch him so they would not lose one another as they made their way through the throng of organic slaves. Her touch was light, like a butterfly.

She herself was like a butterfly, bright and fragile. Vassily resolved at that moment that no harm would come to the child. He’d protect her—with his life if necessary. And for the hundredth time since his abduction, anger boiled inside him toward Oliver Baines.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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