|Fandom:||Star Trek Voyager|
|Warning:||Some readers may find some aspects of the plot to be triggering. Click here for details which some may consider spoilers.|
|Categories:||Ship, Het, Angst|
|Characters:||Janeway (primary), Chakotay, Paris, assorted OCs|
|Summary:||Immediately after Endgame, Janeway isn't exactly made an Admiral for her actions. But what is really going on? Very A/U.|
|Dedication:||To all the arrogant, condescending, incompetent fools in the world; to anyone who directs baby talk at adults; to those who cry discrimination where none exists*; to anyone who twists the system for personal gain; and to a color blind fabric buyer in Indianapolis. (*there's plenty that does exist, of course, I'm not referring to anything real)|
|Credits:||Thank you to Squirrelly, Diana Forester, Dawn, Anne Rose, and Kim for beta help. The original plot bunny came from Anne Rose, although I think she had something quite different in mind. This fic also owes credit to 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias, as it is part of my ongoing effort to explore each of the plot structures within that text. I am also grateful for my research sources, but will not name them.|
|Disclaimer:||Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount Pictures. Infringement intended and enjoyed. You should be paying us, Paramount, because that horribly packaged DVD wouldn't be selling for no $129.95 without a strong fandom.|
Earth. A goal of seven years achieved. Captain Kathryn Janeway now had the freedom to pursue those things that truly mattered. She glanced at Chakotay. He gave her a little smile. Soon, she thought.
She knew that Chakotay had shared a few meals with Seven of Nine. Irrelevant. That didn't qualify as a relationship. She could claim her man, and she doubted Seven would even care very much. Chakotay merely served as a trial run for Seven; a way to process the nature of the deeper emotions she felt for the Doctor without the risk of really facing them.
Word came from Admiral Paris that the Federation had officially granted all of the Maquis a full pardon, as she had expected. Everything kept falling into place. As much as she loved her career, and wouldn't trade her time in the Delta Quadrant for anything, she welcomed the freedom to have a personal life.
"We made it." Chakotay caught her hand, his thumb rubbing her fingers softly, promise in his eyes.
"We did." She smiled back at him and squeezed his hand. A few last exhilarating tasks left in the day, tasks she had to do herself after all these years, and they'd steal away together for that moment of confession they both craved.
"Captain, another communication from Starfleet."
"Patch it through, Ensign."
"It's classified, ma'am. For your eyes only."
"I'll take it in my ready room." She squeezed Chakotay's hand again and couldn't help but grin. "You I'll see later."
"Admiral, certainly this can wait a few days," Janeway protested. "Debriefing we expected, but full psych evaluations? Before they get to see their families?"
"With all due respect, we don't know what you faced out there, Captain. A little caution -- "
"You know exactly what we faced out there. You've received every log -- "
"It's not enough. Your orders are to hold position until every member of your crew has undergone a full evaluation."
She held back a sigh and pressed her thumb against her forehead. "Very well."
"Good, then you'll be first."
Only moments passed before her combadge beeped. She tapped it. "Janeway."
"Another incoming communication, Captain."
She sighed. "Patch it through."
"I have been ordered to begin psych evaluations immediately. I am told you are to be first?"
"That's what I've been told, but -- "
"Prepare for transport."
With no other warning Janeway found herself transported to the other ship. A Starfleet counselor studied her like a lab specimen as she regained her bearings.
The woman tapped a PADD against the arm of her chair. "Tell me about the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn."
She started a bit at the use of her given name. Over the last seven years, only Chakotay had used it, and he certainly never used this tone.
"Can you answer the question, Kathryn?" There it was again, that condescending tone. Like the counselor was speaking to a particularly dim-witted child.
Janeway had endured a number of psych evaluations and counseling sessions in her career. None had made her blood boil like this. Still, after a successful face-off with the Borg Queen, she could handle an incompetent shrink.
"What would you like to know about the Delta Quadrant?"
The counselor employed that infuriating voice again. "What would you like to tell me about the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn?"
That you wouldn't survive fifteen minutes there. Janeway kept her thoughts to herself and used the smile she saved for particularly unreasonable aliens. "We were out there for seven years, facing everything from the Borg to Talaxian cooking, and now we're home. Only not quite, because Starfleet wants us to hang here in space and answer vague questions first. Could we possibly move this along?"
"You sound stressed, Kathryn."
"Two hours ago I sent a version of myself from an alternate future to be assimilated by the Borg. Yes, I'm feeling a little stressed."
"That must have been rather unsettling for you, Kathryn."
"You could say that. You could also say that I might have been entitled to a cup of coffee before being subjected to an interrogation."
"Does this feel like an interrogation, Kathryn?"
"No," she said. "I'd prefer a good old-fashioned interrogation to this. Look, could we possibly do this tomorrow, after everyone's had a chance to rest?"
"I see no reason for you to be so difficult, Kathryn."
"I have no wish to be difficult," she said. "My only wish is for you to be reasonable. My crew has just finished a very demanding few days. I think they deserve a chance to rest before undergoing psych evaluations. I'm sure you're aware that most people find them tedious and grueling."
"This isn't about most people. This is about you, Kathryn."
"It is considered polite to say please, Kathryn."
"Please stop that."
"What would you like me to stop, Kathryn?"
"Stop saying my name that way. Please."
"Would you prefer I called you Captain?"
"Insistence on being called by your rank is not healthy, Kathryn."
"I am not insisting that you call me by rank. I only wish to remind you that we are not on a first name basis. I don't believe I even got your name."
"Memory lapses are a sign of stress, Kathryn."
"It's not that I don't remember your name, it's that I distinctly remember you failing to provide it."
"This isn't about me; this is about you, Kathryn."
Janeway blinked at her. This had to be some sort of psychological test. Perhaps the woman was trying to goad her into attempted murder. She made a mental note to warn B'Elanna.
"Tell me about yourself, Kathryn."
She suppressed a sigh. "Where would you like me to start?"
"Where would you like to start, Kathryn?"
"I was born in Indiana. I like dogs. I really want a cup of coffee."
"That's very interesting, Kathryn." The woman noted something on her PADD. "Why do you think you need this cup of coffee so badly, Kathryn?"
"I didn't say I needed one. I said I wanted one."
"Now there's no need to get hostile, Kathryn."
"That wasn't hostile. Trust me, if I get hostile, you'll notice."
"Was that a threat, Kathryn?"
"No -- "
"Threats are inappropriate, Kathryn. And I will not hesitate to call security."
Do it, Janeway thought. "That won't be necessary. We'll finish this later." She tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Voyager."
She fought to remain calm, a task that had proved easier aboard Borg cubes. "My combadge doesn't seem to be working. Please do me a favor and contact my ship."
"That won't be possible, Kathryn."
"And why is that?"
"My orders are to complete full psych evaluations on each member of your crew. I have not yet finished yours, Kathryn."
"Oh, you've finished." Janeway headed for the door, only to find her way blocked by security. "Stand aside."
Neither of the security guards moved. The counselor stepped up behind her and pressed a hypospray to her neck. She twisted away, but not fast enough, and everything went black.
Chakotay, finished with the loose ends in his office, spent some time with B'Elanna and her new baby, and then returned to the bridge. "Harry, is the captain back yet?"
"No sir," Harry answered. "Dalby and Jenkins just returned. You, Ayala, and Chapman are scheduled for the next session."
"I guess I'll have to wait until afterwards, then." Chakotay hoped his disappointment didn't show, but he could tell from the sympathetic look on Harry's face that it did, all too clearly.
He headed for the transporter room. Two hours of psychological grilling might prove brutal, but he knew that Kathryn would be waiting afterwards. And tonight they wouldn't have a wall of protocol between them.
Janeway awoke to find herself in restraints. She could turn her head, but she found her wrists and ankles buckled firmly to a cot. Her uniform had disappeared, replaced by a medical garment. She tugged at the restraints, testing them. They held.
"Try to relax, Kathryn."
That voice. Her head snapped in its direction. "I demand to know what's going on here."
The counselor reclined in her chair, her legs crossed casually. "I felt it necessary to conduct this interview here, Kathryn."
"This is outrageous. I want to speak to Starfleet immediately."
"It's your own fault, Kathryn."
"As a Starfleet counselor I have a right to place a patient in restraints if I feel that my safety is in jeopardy."
"The only thing in jeopardy is your career. Put me in touch with Starfleet immediately."
"You do not give orders here, Kathryn."
"Maybe not," Janeway said. "But you have to answer for your actions. I'd suggest you let me contact my ship."
"I do not feel that is appropriate, Kathryn."
"Why not? How many other members of my crew have you abducted?"
"Abducted?" The counselor made a note on her PADD. "Why did you choose that word, Kathryn?"
"It seemed accurate. Who else are you holding?"
"Why don't we focus on you, Kathryn?"
"I'm not speaking another word unless it's with either Starfleet or someone from my ship."
"Very well." The counselor stood. "You will be held for further evaluation."
They had crossed seventy thousand light years in seven years. They had beaten the Borg. They had made first contact with more species than any other crew in the last hundred years. Janeway hoped that Starfleet hadn't denied the rest of her crew the simple reward they desired. They deserved better.
She deserved better.
She was supposed to be standing in front of the viewport right now, gazing out at Earth. Chakotay was supposed to be standing behind her, his arms around her, as they savored their new parameters. This was their moment, seven long years in coming, but it had been stolen from them.
Instead, she was alone, more alone than she'd ever felt. Plain gray walls. No viewport. She couldn't even stand. Did her crew know what had happened? Did Chakotay? A sense of vulnerability surrounded her. She seethed at it, angry enough to scorch the sheets. Starfleet had betrayed her.
She couldn't just lay on her back and do nothing. Struggling was futile, she knew that, but she struggled anyhow, wrenching her wrists back and forth in the restraints, unmindful of the painful chafing, even bruising, that she inflicted on herself.
Had they done this to keep her out of the way, so they could prosecute the former Maquis? Were Chakotay, B'Elanna, and the rest in the brig right now? Visions from her worst nightmares flooded her mind.
Starfleet had promised them the heroic welcome they deserved; was it all a lie? Could Admiral Paris drag his own daughter-in-law off to prison the same day she gave birth to his granddaughter? It didn't seem possible.
She prayed that wasn't the case; prayed that any moment Chakotay or Tuvok would walk through the door and unbuckle these restraints. She strained against them. The futility of the exercise only served to fuel her anger, but she couldn't just lay still. She couldn't be that helpless.
She hadn't been helpless when she had allowed herself to be assimilated by the Borg. She hadn't been helpless against the Hirogen, or the Vidiians, or the Kazon. She hadn't even felt helpless in Voyager's sickbay. She trusted Chakotay to run the ship in her absence, and she trusted the Doctor to have her back on her feet quickly.
Now she was alone. Starfleet could do to her crew what countless alien races couldn't; they could keep them from helping each other. She twisted her wrists and pulled, feeling the press of pain against her bones and the sting of raw skin against stiff leather.
The Betazoid counselor had a smile that immediately put Chakotay at ease. "Welcome home, Commander."
Chakotay reached to shake the man's hand. "Thank you, it's good to be back."
"I realize you all must be exhausted, but we've been ordered to begin these evaluations at once. We can skip the parts about your childhood and just deal with the more significant events in the Delta Quadrant."
"As you know, I was the captain of the Liberty, the Maquis ship that Voyager was sent to find . . . "
Chakotay's session with the Starfleet counselor went just like those he had experienced before, only longer. It might have drained him emotionally, but the thought of finally taking Kathryn in his arms and holding her close gave him strength.
He held nothing back. He had nothing to hide, and he knew the futility of trying to hide emotion from a Betazoid. Besides, the details of these sessions were confidential. The man couldn't reveal his feelings for Kathryn or anything else that he chose to share. Only the end result, whether or not the counselor found him psychologically fit to serve in Starfleet, would be included in the report.
So he spoke freely of those things that had bothered him most over the last seven years, like how it had felt to watch Kathryn leave to be voluntarily assimilated, and how the strain of protocol had seemed too cruel at times.
He left with a clean bill of health, and transported back to Voyager.
"What do you mean further evaluation?" Chakotay demanded. The force of his instant dislike for the smug-looking woman on the viewscreen took him by surprise.
"Kathryn failed to cooperate with procedure. She displayed classic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and I consider her a danger to herself and others."
He knew damn well that was a lie. His instincts were correct. This woman was not to be trusted. "Let me speak with her."
"That is not possible, Commander."
In the background he heard Tom Paris calling the Doctor to the bridge.
"At least let us send over our Doctor," Chakotay said. "He is well acquainted with her medical history."
"We have several real doctors on staff," the woman said. "We have no need of your hologram."
Chakotay leaned closer to the viewscreen. "He is the chief medical officer aboard this vessel, and I suggest that you refer to him with the respect he is due."
The woman snorted. "I certainly don't answer to you."
"You will answer to me." The Doctor strode out of the lift. "The captain's medical history is unique, and she is my patient."
"Not anymore. She is now my responsibility."
"If that is so then you can certainly understand the wisdom of discussing her case. There is the possibility that certain medications could have adverse effects due to -- "
"I will not be lectured to by a hologram."
Chakotay interrupted. "At least let her see someone she trusts, if only for a moment. She deserves to know that her crew is safe."
"She has no reason to believe otherwise. I refuse to pander to her delusion."
"Delusion? You're holding her against her will!"
The image disappeared from the viewscreen.
"Good riddance," Chakotay muttered. "Harry, connect me to someone useful."
Janeway mentally replayed her interview with the counselor once again as she tried to identify her mistake. Where had she gone wrong? When she lost her temper about the way the counselor said her name? Or when she failed to twist away from the hypospray? She certainly shouldn't have turned her back on the woman.
She had hand-to-hand combat training and years of field experience, yet she'd let an incompetent shrink get the better of her. Maybe she was slipping.
Or maybe she was just sleep deprived. She hadn't slept in about seventy hours. Maybe, just maybe, that stupid woman could have taken that into account? Anyone would have been short tempered under the circumstances, and it's not like she'd lost control and slapped the vetlh.
She wanted to plead her case to someone. She wanted to contact Voyager. She wanted to do something. Anything. She had also grown painfully aware of just how long she'd been strapped to this cot. She hoped they'd realize that eventually she'd have to use the facilities, and maybe that would provide an opportunity. For what, she wasn't sure, but anything was better than laying here on her back.
She heard a sound and strained her neck, trying to see who had entered the room. "Hello?"
Her voice echoed off of the walls, and to her ears it sounded frail and uncertain, not the voice of a capable Starfleet captain. No one answered and she gave silent thanks that no one had heard her voice waver like that. She resumed tugging at the restraints.
"Don't do that, sweetie; you'll hurt yourself."
Sweetie? No one had even thought of calling her such a thing since she'd turned six. She struggled to move her head enough to find the source of the comment.
A nurse stood directly behind her. "It's time to visit the potty. Do you think you can do that?"
Janeway distracted herself by wondering what B'Elanna might have said to such a question. Once she'd swallowed her flash of anger, she smiled sweetly. "I'd really appreciate that, thank you."
She followed the nurse meekly enough. While she desperately wanted to bolt, she really did need to use the facilities. To her utter horror, the woman didn't leave her alone in the small room.
"May I please have a moment of privacy?" she asked.
"Don't you worry about that, sweetie." The nurse leaned back against the wall and watched her.
She would not allow herself to feel embarrassment over this. She did what she needed to do and ignored the nurse. Starfleet would hear about all of this, soon.
Admiral Paris looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry, Commander, but right now we have little choice but to follow the counselor's advice."
"Captain Janeway is in no way mentally impaired. Surely you realize this?"
"What I personally think doesn't matter. The report states that she is delusional and behaving violently."
"Then the report is wrong," Chakotay said. "It's exaggerated, if not an outright lie."
"I want to believe you, but you care for her. You aren't in a position to be objective."
Tom interrupted. "We all love her. That's not the point. This doesn't require objectivity. This requires common sense."
"I'm sorry. I can assure you that I'll do everything I can to make sure she's reevaluated as soon as you reach Earth. There's nothing else I can do."
Escape seemed a logical goal. Janeway needed to know about the welfare of her crew. If they were all being subjected to such a homecoming she'd take them all back to the Delta Quadrant and never look back.
First, though, she had to gain her own freedom. She walked slowly back to her cot, examining her surroundings as best she could. The small medical ship probably had at least one shuttle. It would be easier to send a message to Voyager than to steal a shuttle, but she had no way of knowing if Voyager was still nearby, and if her crew still had control. That her ship could have completed the final few light years of its journey without her caused her heart to ache.
"Hurry up, sweetie," the nurse said. "We can't take all day now."
She sized up the nurse. The woman was on the portly side. She could probably outrun her. She'd caught a glimpse of a Jefferies tube entrance not far from the bathroom. The last thing she wanted was to end up strapped to that cot again.
Her decision made, Janeway spun around and sprinted down the corridor. The nurse gave chase and called out for help. Janeway reached the Jefferies tube just as a security guard moved to stop her. She launched into a roundhouse kick and the man stumbled backward. She clocked him in the jaw while she had the advantage, then turned her attention to the Jefferies tube.
Just as she scrambled inside, the nurse caught her by the leg. She kicked savagely, freeing herself, and scooted backwards. She heard the nurse calling for a hypospray but she didn't wait around to hear more. She slammed the door and headed for what she could only hope would prove to be the shuttle bay.
Chakotay looked around at the grim faces of the remaining senior staff. The Doctor had managed to convince Starfleet to temporarily waive B'Elanna's psych evaluation, since she'd just given birth, and Tuvok had received permission to speak with a Vulcan counselor the following day, so of the senior staff, only Harry Kim still ran the risk of being interviewed by the woman responsible for detaining Kathryn.
Everyone had received a warning about using caution if they did find themselves speaking with her.
"I think we all know the captain pretty well by now," Chakotay said. "If she has reason to believe that Starfleet is holding some of us as well, she's going to try to escape. We need a way to get a message to her before she makes her situation worse."
"They won't let me see her as her physician," the Doctor said. "But that ship is equipped with holoemitters, isn't it?"
"According to our scans," Harry said. "Perhaps we could smuggle you on board hidden in the carrier wave of a transmission."
Seven nodded. "That is possible."
"Let's do it," Chakotay said.
Janeway didn't know where to find the shuttlebay, but she had a pretty good idea. She'd run into trouble if they guessed her plans, though, and the chance still existed that someone on this ship possessed a shred of competency.
She hurried through the Jefferies tubes, alert for the sounds of pursuit. She found an access panel that she felt looked promising, prepared for hand-to-hand combat, and opened it quickly.
No one jumped forward to confront her. Instead she got a face full of gas and sank into blackness.
The Doctor watched from his hiding place as two men in Starfleet uniforms carried a stretcher into sickbay. The captain lay upon it, unconscious and dressed in a medical gown. The two men strapped her to a cot.
"This one's sure a lot of trouble," one said. "She must have been one of those Maquis that Voyager captured."
"Dunno," said the other. "Just says 'Kathryn' on the chart. Guess the counselor was right about her being dangerous, though."
"Yeah. I heard she knocked Smith unconscious."
"This little thing? Smith must need a refresher course."
The two left, still laughing at Smith's misfortune. The Doctor crept out for a better look at his captain. The restraints had left bruises on her wrists. Leaving those wrists untreated plainly qualified as neglect, and he hoped that the responsible parties would receive appropriate punishment. He forced aside the temptation to treat them himself; he couldn't risk giving himself away before speaking to her.
He downloaded her chart into his program for later study. Nothing indicated to him that the captain actually suffered from any mental ailment. She'd probably just taken offense to something the counselor had said. From what he'd seen of the woman, he was surprised the captain hadn't hit her.
He located a medical tricorder and scanned her. They'd drugged her fairly heavily, and he doubted she'd be awake in the next few hours. He'd have to wait, even if it meant a serious risk of discovery. He couldn't leave without letting her know that her crew supported her.
The air felt spongy and mauve. Janeway knew they expected her somewhere, but she couldn't find her pips and then the door malfunctioned. Stuff kept getting in her way, confusing her, and time skipped along unmindful of her predicament.
She needed to get to the bridge. First she needed to wake up, but the turbolift kept opening in the hydroponics bay. Attaching pips to her collar didn't result in wearing her pips the next moment. The line between reality and illusion blurred, and she realized she was still dreaming. That's what it meant when cause and effect failed to collaborate.
It happened several times over, and she fought to break the cycle. She tried to physically move, to jar her body awake, but it refused to move, frozen. She heard a familiar voice, and struggled to make sense of it. She tried to open her eyes.
"Captain," the Doctor's voice said again. "I'm here to tell you to hang in there. We're working to get this straightened out."
She studied him. Something didn't look right. Her eyes weren't open yet. She tried again. There he stood, not floating at all, beside her bed, again telling her that they'd have her free in no time, and not to worry.
"The crew?" Her voice sounded liquid in her head.
"Everyone's fine," the Doctor said. "You'll see that soon."
She tried to ask when, but he shimmered and disappeared. She had to be awake, that couldn't have been a dream, she needed his words to be real. "Doctor?"
He didn't answer. She was alone.
The Doctor materialized in his own sickbay. "Why did you pull me out of there? I wasn't finished!"
"I had no choice," Seven answered. "You were about to be discovered."
"A small price, I assure you. The captain just now regained consciousness."
Chakotay looked exhausted. "How is she?"
"She is unharmed."
"She'd damn well better be unharmed!" Chakotay snapped, venom in his voice. "What aren't you saying?"
"She was drugged," the Doctor said. "She was just coming out of it."
"They've got her in restraints."
Chakotay swore, something the Doctor had never heard him do. "I need options. Assemble the senior staff."
Janeway tried to convince herself that she had seen the Doctor, that she hadn't hallucinated the whole thing. Either way, she knew to keep it to herself. If that wretched counselor thought she was hearing voices . . .
As if on cue, the woman entered the room. "You caused quite a bit of trouble, Kathryn."
Good. Janeway ignored her. Anything she said in reply would be used against her.
"That sort of behavior will not be tolerated, Kathryn."
Janeway focused on the ceiling. She flinched as the woman touched her.
"No one here wants to hurt you, Kathryn."
Funny that needs pointing out.
"Look what you've done to your wrists, Kathryn." The counselor twisted her arm within the restraints, studying the bruised and raw skin. "Don't expect us to fix those up, Kathryn. I think you need to learn that your actions have consequences, Kathryn."
Janeway allowed herself a brief fantasy that involved the counselor suffering some consequences of her own.
"The nurse will be here soon. I expect you will be good and behave for her this time, Kathryn."
"What do I do, Tom?" Chakotay stared out the viewport in Kathryn's ready room.
"You want to stage a rescue operation." Not a question. A statement.
"Talk me out of it."
"We'd get court martialled," Tom said.
"I know. And that's the last thing Kathryn would want."
"Well, then there's that. Is it enough?"
"We'll hold off," Chakotay said. "For now at least."
"I agree," Tom said. "But if you take the drastic step, I'll be right there with you."
"Thanks Tom. Now, how do we get someone to see reason?"
"I think Tuvok might be the better man to answer that," Tom said. "I'm not feeling very reasonable right now."
"Neither am I." Chakotay turned back to the viewport and studied the Starfleet medical ship off their starboard bow.
The nurse held up the spoon again. "You must eat, sweetie. Just try a bite."
Janeway ignored her. Maybe refusing to be fed would force them to let her use her own hands.
"Whoosh," said the nurse. "Here comes a shuttle. Open up the shuttlebay doors!"
Janeway stared at her. What new form of torture was this? She might have pointed out that she wasn't an infant, but she felt reasonably certain that if she opened her mouth the nurse would jam the spoon down her throat.
The nurse started making train noises. Janeway wondered who would crack first under such treatment: B'Elanna or Seven. The possibility that even now one or both of them could be in such a predicament, or a number of others, kept the thought from cheering her.
Everyone is fine. The Doctor had told her that. If she hadn't hallucinated the whole thing, but she didn't think that she had. His words didn't fit the pattern of her frustrating dreams.
"Come on, sweetie, just try a bite for me." The spoon danced back and forth in front of her lips. "It's yummy."
That she doubted quite seriously. It smelled awful. She longed for Neelix's cooking, or even Chell's. She should be eating with Chakotay right now. Breakfast in bed with Chakotay, that was what she wanted. She promised herself she'd find a way to escape. Her next meal would be with her crew.
Chakotay's throat closed so tight he could barely keep arguing with the bureaucrat on the viewscreen.
"She'll be transferred to a mental hospital in San Francisco this afternoon. Her case will be evaluated as soon as possible."
"That means today, I assume?"
"It's Friday, Commander. That will have to wait until Monday."
"Three days! That's unacceptable."
"There's no choice." The bureaucrat shrugged. "Psychiatrists aren't available on the weekend."
"There are procedures. She will remain under the care of her current doctor for now."
"Let me talk to your supervisor." Chakotay fought for calm. As it turned out, he had plenty of time to calm down, get angry, and calm down all over again. The bureaucrat put him on hold.
"Good news, sweetie," the nurse said. "You're going to Earth today."
The words brought no joy. Janeway's goal, the driving force behind her last seven years, held no meaning now. A hypospray pressed against her neck and she flinched.
"It's okay, sweetie, it's just a little medicine so you don't get upset riding in the shuttle."
"I'm a starship captain," Janeway snapped. "I think I can handle a shuttle ride."
The nurse laughed and patted her on the head. "I'm sure you'll do just fine, sweetie. I'll be right there to make sure."
Janeway's heart sank. So this didn't mean she'd be rid of the foolish nurse. She wondered if she should dare hope that a different counselor would evaluate her, but her suspicions about the reasons for her confinement made her doubt it.
At least on Earth she'd have an easier time formulating an escape plan. Then she could find out what had happened to her crew. The drug began to take effect, making her drowsy and slowing her thoughts.
The nurse wheeled her through the corridors and she tried to trace the path of the Jefferies tube in her mind. She had guessed correctly about the shuttle bay. Maybe if she hadn't she wouldn't have gotten caught as quickly. Next time it would turn out differently.
The shuttle descended on the San Francisco Bay area, and Janeway strained for a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. They denied her even that tiny pleasure. She was strapped firmly to a medical gurney and so heavily drugged that she couldn't manage to focus her eyes. The pillow, so thoughtfully jammed under her neck by the nurse, kept her from turning her head. She barely managed a glimpse of the sky.
For all she knew they weren't even landing in San Francisco. She could be in New Zealand or even on another planet. All she knew was that the sun appeared yellow and the sky looked blue. That ruled out Mars, and she was fairly sure they were in the Sol system. She'd have to operate on the assumption that this was Earth, but be prepared for other possibilities.
It didn't matter anyway. As long as the planet had oxygen, she planned to run the moment an opportunity presented itself.
The nurse wheeled Janeway out into the sun. Her eyes protested the brightness, but she struggled to keep them at least partially open. She needed to see her surroundings. Her hair fell into her eyes, blocking her view. With her hands restrained, she couldn't reach to brush it back into place, and she couldn't move her neck enough to toss her head. She blew at her hair. It slid farther over her eye and tickled her nose.
Oblivious to her difficulties, the nurse prattled on about how much she would like it here. Apparently there were games. Janeway suppressed a shudder. The gurney passed through a doorway and she was inside. She hadn't managed to see if a wall or fence surrounded the building.
"And here's your very own room," the nurse said.
All Janeway could see was the ceiling. It featured a particularly hideous shade of green. She had to doubt the sanity of anyone who would paint a ceiling such a color.
The nurse started to unbuckle the restraints. Janeway lay perfectly still, ignoring her desire to rub her sore wrists and brush her unruly hair from her face. She prayed that the foolish woman would get careless.
"Upsey daisy." The nurse pulled her into a sitting position, her ankles still buckled to the gurney.
Her stiff muscles protested the movement. She wondered if she could successfully outrun the nurse with one ankle still attached to the gurney. She'd just have to hop far enough away to unbuckle it herself.
She watched for the nurse to start on the ankle restraints. It didn't happen.
"Look what we have here, sweetie," said the nurse. "A nice new outfit."
The sight of the long white jacket gave Janeway a sinking feeling. The arms looked far too long for her taste, and those strap-like things weren't a good sign.
She considered her options. Struggling probably wouldn't do much good but to meekly comply with such treatment went against all of her instincts. This wasn't some alien race she needed to humor for the good of her crew; this indignity came from Starfleet.
"I'm not wearing that," Janeway said with as much calm as she could gather.
"Don't worry, sweetie, I'll help you get it on," the nurse said. "Lift up your arms for me."
"Sweetie, you have to lift your arms or I can't -- "
"I think that's rather clear," Janeway said. "I've put up with quite a bit, but it ends now. I want to speak with Admiral Paris immediately."
"Silly girl, admirals have all sorts of important business. They can't be bothered for every little thing."
A realization dawned. "You don't know who I am, do you?"
"Of course I do, sweetie. You're Kathryn." The nurse made an attempt to pinch her cheek.
Janeway evaded the nurse's touch. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of Voyager."
"Now don't go telling tall tales, sweetie, or that nose will grow ten feet." The nurse tapped her nose. "We wouldn't want that, would we?"
"You do realize I'm not six?"
"Enough chatter, sweetie, get those arms up for me."
"As I stated earlier, I have no intention of doing that. I want to speak with someone at Starfleet Command immediately."
"If you keep being such a naughty girl you'll lose privileges."
"I wasn't aware I had any of those."
"You'll see soon enough," the nurse said. "You'll like it here as long as you behave like a good girl. Now up with those arms."
"No." Janeway understood the futility of her protest, but she couldn't make herself surrender on this point.
The nurse seized her elbow and wrenched her arm upwards. Janeway struggled, but ineffectively, since she wasn't quite willing to break the nurse's nose. The straightjacket dropped over her head and the buckles were fastened. She could move a bit, but she didn't have use of her hands.
"Now isn't that more comfortable, sweetie?"
Janeway glared at her.
"You just be a good girl now and I'll fix up your hair nice and pretty."
She sat and had her hair brushed while the woman babbled at her about the benefits of behaving like a good girl. She wondered if the stupid woman had mistaken her for an Irish Setter. Maybe she should give biting her a try.
Free of the ankle restraints and finally alone, Janeway paced around the tiny room. It didn't have windows, and the door lacked a keypad or doorknob of any kind on the inside. The walls were covered with some sort of padding.
She searched for something she could use to free her hands, but the room was devoid of anything even remotely sharp. Even the mirror seemed to be made of some sort of soft plastic that didn't reflect particularly well.
Using her foot, Janeway lifted the toilet lid and studied it. Perhaps if she got her arm under the seat --
"It's time for group, sweetie," the nurse announced.
That didn't sound good. The door stood open, however, and she very much liked the possibilities that might present.
"Hurry along now, sweetie, we don't want to be late."
She balked at the idea of being pressed into a social situation wearing nothing but a medical gown and straightjacket. "Could I perhaps have some pants and shoes?"
"Don't you worry about that, sweetie, we aren't going far."
She sighed. Perhaps she should just be glad that it wasn't an open backed gown. Out of the room meant opportunity, so she didn't push the issue.
The nurse led the way down a brightly lit corridor and into a ridiculously pink lounge. Several other women were already seated, and they stared up at her expectantly.
"Everyone, this is Kathryn."
"Hello, Kathryn," the group answered in a dutiful monotone.
"Now Kathryn," said the nurse. "You just sit here and make friends. The counselor will be here shortly."
Janeway tried not to let her annoyance show on her face as she turned to the others. "Hello, I'm Kathryn Ja -- "
"Shh!" The sound came from behind a wall of light brown hair. One pale blue eye peered from within the hair and darted around the room. "No last names. It's a rule." This last she said as if she expected the Gods themselves to strike her down.
No one else spoke. Janeway judged it wise to follow suit. Any thought of asking one of these woman to help her escape the straightjacket disappeared. If giving her last name was an unspeakable sin, she doubted they'd help her escape.
She studied the layout of the lounge area. No sharp corners at all, no windows in sight, no unguarded doorways. Maybe she'd have to make her own opportunity.
The counselor, the same woman who had tormented her only hours after Voyager arrived in the Alpha Quadrant, strolled into the room. "Is everyone actualizing today?"
Behind the wall of hair, the pale blue eye scurried about seeking a better hiding place. A tall, dark-haired woman bit her lip and shrank into the couch cushions. A blonde woman not more than twenty years old stared intently at her lap, and a heavy-set woman with short curls showed no reaction at all.
"I asked a question," the counselor said. "Kathryn, are you actualizing today?"
Janeway stared at her. "If by that you mean am I living up to my full potential, I'd have to say no. I'd correct that if you'd let me contact Starfleet Command."
"There is no need to be hostile, Kathryn."
"Is that so?" Janeway fixed her glare on the woman. "After seven years of serving the Federation in uncharted territory, I reach home only to be held prisoner for no clear reason. If you've got a better reason for hostility I'd like to hear it."
"You are here for your own good, Kathryn."
"You know damn well that's a lie." Janeway stood.
"Sit down immediately, Kathryn." The counselor shook her finger. "You will not stand up without permission or you will lose privileges."
"And just what are these privileges I've been hearing so much about? Will I be allowed to scratch my own nose if I'm a good girl?"
"You have a bad attitude, Kathryn." The counselor pointed at the chair. "Sit down and stop making such a fuss."
Janeway didn't move. "I'm not following any orders that don't come directly from a Starfleet Admiral."
"Kathryn, sit down now."
The two men by the far door headed for the lounge area. To get to Janeway's position, they had to cross behind her chair. Just as they reached for her, Janeway stepped up onto an end table, sent a pink plastic lamp flying, and sprinted for the doorway.
The corridor led past a number of closed doors and into a mess hall. Janeway spotted a gap between two serving tables and headed for it at a full run. She didn't meet anyone in the kitchen area, but she did find a small knife in the sink.
Swallowing her distaste, she snagged it with her teeth but didn't linger long enough to try it on the straightjacket. First she needed a hiding place. The guards would be upon her in seconds. She caught sight of a pantry, the door standing open just wide enough to offer a glimpse of stacked food containers.
She studied the locking mechanism closely, making sure she wouldn't trap herself, then slipped inside and settled down to work on freeing her hands.
The guards, in the meantime, galloped noisily through the kitchen and out a back door. She could hear them calling to each other outside as they searched for her.
Janeway felt closer to happy than she had since squeezing Chakotay's hand on the bridge a lifetime ago. She struggled within the straightjacket and managed to get one hand free enough to grasp the knife through the thick material. Then it was a simple matter to cut a jagged hole in the jacket, get a hand free, hack at the straps, and finally undo some of the buckles. She wiggled free of the hated thing and stashed it on a shelf.
She scratched her nose, a sacred privilege not to be taken for granted. They would expect her to make a break for the outside, so she needed a different plan. The kitchen staff had to arrive eventually. Perhaps she could find an ally among them.
A methodical search of the pantry produced a cooking apron. Janeway tied it over her medical gown. Her lack of proper clothes made her feel vulnerable. She wanted pants and shoes.
The pantry door opened. "Well what do we have here?" The cook smiled down at her as if he had found a small child, or perhaps a lost woodland creature in a terminally cute holodeck adventure.
"I need your help," Janeway said.
"We'll get you back to your room."
"No," she said. "I'm Captain Janeway of Voyager and I need to get out of here."
He smiled. "Just where would you go?"
"Starfleet Command," she answered. "Will you help me?"
Chakotay parked himself in the waiting room at Starfleet Medical. After all that Kathryn had done for Starfleet, someone would help her now. They had to get her released, or at least let him see her. He needed to see her.
"I'm not leaving without seeing her," he told the yeoman at the desk.
The yeoman behind the main desk made a small show out of contacting a superior officer who would allegedly call back shortly, and then returned to her work. So Chakotay sat and waited.
"I'll help you." The cook held out his hand. "Come with me."
Janeway considered her options. If he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, she had to do the same, and if he wasn't then she'd already lost. She reached for his hand. "Thank you."
He helped her up. She didn't need the help, but she took it anyway and smiled. "I appreciate this. Do you think you could find me some pants?"
"We'll see the nurse about that," he said.
She nearly swore. "I know you have no reason to believe me, but I don't belong here. This is some kind of mistake, and I really need to speak with someone at Starfleet."
He almost looked sympathetic. "In that case I'm sure they'll get it all straightened out on Monday."
She stopped short of asking what day it was now, since that question probably wouldn't strengthen her position. Then any chance to argue evaporated. The nurse, flanked by security guards, approached with a new straightjacket. "Come along now, sweetie. Be a good girl."
"I'm sorry sir," the yeoman said. "This office is closing for the weekend."
"I said I wasn't leaving without seeing my captain."
"We open again on Monday at 0800."
Chakotay didn't move from his seat.
"Please, sir, I need to close up."
"I haven't seen Captain Janeway yet."
"But -- "
"Take me to Captain Janeway. Otherwise, I'm not leaving this chair."
The yeoman disappeared behind the desk. Chakotay assumed she was calling security. It didn't matter. If he couldn't spend the weekend with Kathryn, it made little difference to him if he spent it in the brig.
Janeway lay on her back, her wrists and ankles restrained with stiff leather, and tried to focus her thoughts away from her situation. She remembered the way Chakotay had looked at her, the last time she had seen him. She remembered the love and joy in his eyes. She imagined their first kiss, a fantasy that had given her strength and comfort for years. The real thing had seemed just within her grasp so very recently.
Now he might very well be in a brig somewhere. The thought of Chakotay and the others in such circumstances drained the strength from her. It just wasn't fair. If she hadn't been strapped down, she might have stamped her foot or pounded her fists in impotent rage.
The Doctor had assured her that the others were fine. She again weighed the facts, trying to prove to herself that she hadn't imagined the entire thing. She'd seen him with her own eyes, and even though she had just been waking up, she hadn't dreamed him. Her crew had found a way to project him into the room, because the counselor had denied her visitors. It made perfect sense.
Besides, she had seen the pardons for the Maquis herself. To show her those as part of a deception didn't make sense. Had the Federation decided to press charges against the Maquis, a decision which would serve no purpose after those made during the Dominion War, she didn't have sufficient power to stop them.
By all logic, her crew was fine.
That didn't lessen her desire for escape, but she did realize that a change of tactics was in order. This time it seemed she couldn't punch her way through. Her escape attempts had failed. Her best option, it seemed, was to convince someone she was sane.
She wished she had a clue as to what evidence might suffice. She'd never tried to define sanity before. Getting some sleep would help in that regard. She looked around the room for a clock. She didn't find one.
Her sense of time was distorted. It had to be the same day that she had landed in San Francisco, if that was in fact where she had landed. She didn't know how much time had passed since she'd been detained. Two bouts of drug-induced unconsciousness meant days could have passed.
Sleep had never been one of her greatest skills. She decided to count targs. When the fiftieth imaginary targ scurried across the horridly green ceiling she lost interest.
She recited the periodic table, some Dante, and a number of warp field equations, but skipped the Prime Directive. She wished she had followed a few less of Starfleet's regulations in recent years.
Insomnia required tossing and turning. Denied even that, she gave her restraints a yank. They held.
She imagined the limited minutes available for sleep trickling away as she lay there wide awake. With her recent luck, she would finally meet with another counselor while half in a coma, nod off, and spend the next three years receiving treatment for narcolepsy.
Again, she tried to focus her thoughts on more pleasant things. She wondered if her mother and sister knew what was happening. Gretchen Janeway, as an admiral's widow, should have just enough clout to visit her long lost daughter in a mental ward. She didn't really want her mother to see her here, but she did need to know about her crew.
This wasn't helping. Her mind just raced in circles, fretting about her crew, and didn't let her sleep. Every train of thought led straight back to her concerns, which grew as the night progressed.
She closed her eyes and tried to imagine Chakotay beside her. They were supposed to be together right now, holding each other close, sated by their lovemaking. The fantasy, which for many years had served as a source of comfort, now only frustrated her. How long must they wait? What more must they endure?
"Rise and shine, sleepy head."
Janeway awoke with a jolt. Bright lights stung her eyes. She tried to raise a forearm to shield her eyes, but her arms were still buckled to the cot. She didn't remember nodding off, and she felt as if she hadn't really slept at all.
"Okay, sweetie, time to visit the potty."
Janeway watched as the nurse unbuckled the restraints.
"Now don't get any funny ideas, sweetie. The door is locked." The nurse released the last buckle. "Now hurry along and do your business."
She considered biting the nurse, and felt slightly cheered by the idea.
"I'll be right here if you need any help, sweetie." The nurse started making up the bed.
Janeway fled into the bathroom, grateful not to be followed, and stretched her sore muscles. It felt good to have the freedom to move.
Breakfast made leola root look appetizing. Janeway ate it anyhow, grateful to be allowed to hold the plastic spoon herself. Her skin seemed to vibrate and the lights were far too bright for her red and puffy eyes. Funny how much harder it seemed to function without sleep when she didn't have a starship to run.
She glanced around at the others. A few she recognized from the group she had fled the evening before. Many of them seemed to be watching her. Some sat in wheelchairs, their hands hidden by straightjackets, and were fed by nurses. Others poked listlessly at their meals, or simply stared into space. Janeway shuddered to think that she was now one of this dispirited lot.
The nurses and other staff gathered together at a corner table and laughed over cups of coffee.
She'd barely taken her last bite when the nurse returned to lead her away. She followed meekly, reminding herself that she couldn't afford to make another scene if she wanted to be recognized as sane.
Instead of returning to her room, Janeway was herded into an office. She sat on the couch, as instructed, and waited. She tried not to feel like a dog told to stay.
The counselor entered and sat across from her without speaking. Janeway refused to flinch under the woman's silent stare. "When can I expect to be released?"
"You'll leave here when you are well enough that you won't hurt yourself, Kathryn."
"You had a knife yesterday, Kathryn. We should be very thankful that the cook found you in time."
"That's ridiculous," Janeway said. "I have no intention of harming myself."
"Don't you, Kathryn?" The counselor reached over and lifted Janeway's wrist, showing her the bruises from the restraints. "What are these?"
"Those are from the restraints that you ordered."
"Now Kathryn, you mustn't blame others for your actions." The counselor actually wagged her finger in Janeway's face. "You must learn to take responsibility for your decisions, Kathryn."
"I'm happy to take responsibility for every decision I've ever made," Janeway said. "I've never made any decision that warrants this treatment."
"Denying your problem only makes it worse, Kathryn."
"Perhaps you could tell me what my alleged problem is, then. I'm not really all that clear on that."
"I can't do the work for you, Kathryn."
"You have to want to get better, Kathryn, or I can't help you."
Chakotay stretched, sore from spending the night in a chair. Two security guards had carried his chair out into a corridor so that the yeoman could lock up her office. Both had apologized and welcomed him home. At least someone recognized the injustice of this situation.
Tom Paris approached, holding out a greasy paper bag. "Breakfast."
"You look terrible," Tom said.
"Yeah? I slept in a chair, what's your excuse?"
"New baby." Tom grinned. He looked extremely happy, despite the bags under his eyes. "She's beautiful, but what lungs!"
"She takes after her mother," Chakotay said. "I wish Kathryn could see her."
"Soon," Tom said. "They can't keep this nonsense up for long."
After a counseling session of astounding uselessness, the nurse allowed Janeway to sit in the ridiculously pink lounge. She sat and tried not to feel self-conscious about her bare feet or the ugly medical gown she still wore.
The only other occupant of the lounge was similarly dressed. Janeway recognized her from the evening before. Her dark curly hair was cut short, and she stared blankly at the wall. She didn't seem to notice that she was no longer alone.
"Hello," Janeway said. "I'm Kathryn."
The woman slowly turned her head and looked at her with something that almost resembled interest.
"Don't bother wasting your time with Margie," a passing nurse said. "She doesn't speak."
Janeway ignored the comment. She waited until the nurse was out of earshot, then leaned closer to Margie. "Does anyone here have a clue what they're talking about?"
"I don't know," Margie said softly. "I try not to listen."
Janeway smiled. "That's the smartest thing I've heard in days. May I ask you a question?"
"How many counselors are here?"
"I don't know," Margie said. "I've only seen the one."
Janeway bit her lip to keep from cursing. "How long have you been here?"
"I'm not sure," Margie said. "It feels like I've always been here."
"Drastic measures are starting to sound very tempting," Chakotay said.
"Wait until Monday," Tom said. "My father promised he'd get her reevaluated."
"Agreed." Chakotay sighed. "I just wish I could see her."
"I know what you mean. If it were B'Elanna -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply -- "
"Yes you did, and it's fine. I know you know how I feel about her." Chakotay smiled grimly. "We've waited for years for this weekend, and look what they've done."
"I'm sorry, Chakotay. If ever there were two people who deserved a little happiness . . ."
"We'll get it. We'll get it if I have to personally harass every admiral in the fleet."
A nurse came to collect Margie, who shuffled off to her own counseling session. Janeway sat alone and waited, for what she wasn't sure. Waiting seemed the primary activity in this place.
Eventually, the woman with the long brown hair was brought in and deposited in the lounge. Her one visible eye peered at Janeway from behind the hair.
"Hello," Janeway said. "I'm Kathryn."
"You tried to run away."
"I did," Janeway agreed.
"But if you leave the Borg will get you."
"The Borg are a long way from here," Janeway said. "They aren't a threat to you."
"We lost the war." The blue eye darted more quickly. "They only don't come here because we aren't worth assimilating. They'll come if they run out of parts, though."
"They take our parts."
"They won't take our parts," Janeway said. "I promise."
"But they will!"
Janeway wanted to tell this woman that the Borg Queen was dead, but she wasn't sure it would help. "I've been out there. The Borg aren't a threat."
"But the war, we lost the war. I was there when we lost the war."
"Were you at Wolf 359?" Janeway asked softly.
"I was in the war. The Borg won the war."
"It was a terrible battle, but the Borg didn't win."
"We lost the war. I was there when we lost the war. They take our parts!"
"Now look what you've done, Kathryn." The counselor stepped between them. "You've gotten Emmy all upset. If you can't talk nice you'll get sent to your room, Kathryn."
Her room made the ridiculously pink lounge seem much more inviting. She hated the gloomy green of it. She didn't want to lay down, but the cot was the only piece of furniture in the room. The cot, with its hateful stiff leather straps, seemed to mock her as she paced small circles near the door.
Sent to her room, like a disobedient child. She guessed that they'd left her in the lounge as some sort of a test. The day before she'd been made to wear a straightjacket. It made little sense that today she'd been left alone without one. Someone had been watching her; they were probably watching her now.
She pushed the thought from her mind. If they knew that she knew, they'd call her paranoid.
The door opened. "Sweetie, it's time for lunch. Do you need to use the potty first?"
Sitting in the hall had proven fruitless. Chakotay decided to pursue other avenues. He couldn't wait until Monday. Someone at Starfleet knew where to find Kathryn, and he needed to see her.
He had told Tom that he'd harass every admiral in Starfleet. Since they weren't available on the weekend, he'd just have to settle for whatever aides happened to work on a Saturday. He could harass them.
Lunch was the same as breakfast. Even the food was the same. Literally, Janeway feared. Even so, she ate it. It wouldn't do any good to starve herself.
The young blonde woman Janeway had seen at group sat down across from her. The girl looked around nervously, then leaned forward over her food. "You told Emma that the Borg didn't win the war."
Janeway nodded. "I tried."
"She didn't believe me either."
"I'm Kathryn," Janeway said.
"Glad to meet you, Tabitha," Janeway said. "Do you mind if I ask how long you've been here?"
"Too long." Tabitha looked around. She focused for a moment on the table of laughing nurses. "A couple of months, at least."
"Are we ever allowed to have visitors?"
"I've been told that if I'm good, I'll be allowed visitors, but I've never seen anyone visit."
"How about shoes? Real clothes?"
"I've asked for things. I'm always told they could be used as weapons." Tabitha leaned closer and shot another glance at the staff table. "Don't ask for a hairbrush."
"The counselor will say that you asked for a weapon."
Tabitha sighed. "I hate letting the nurses brush my hair."
"I'm not too wild about it either," Janeway said. "It makes me feel like an Irish Setter."
Tabitha giggled, then glanced at the staff table again. "We'd better eat. They'll separate us."
"We'll talk again," Janeway promised.
"You can at least tell me where this facility is located," Chakotay argued.
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't have that information," . "I'm sure on Monday -- "
"No, that isn't good enough." Chakotay spun the screen around to face him.
Janeway, K. -- Classified.
"Who has clearance to open this file?"
"Admiral Paris, but he's not -- "
"Thank you." Chakotay left the office and called Tom.
"Now sweetie, sitting in the lounge is a special privilege. Do you understand that?"
Janeway blinked at the nurse.
"Will you be a good girl if I let you sit in the lounge?"
"I think I can manage."
"That's the spirit, sweetie!" The nurse grinned at her. "I told you that you'd like it here."
Hours passed uneventfully as Janeway sat in a cloud of ridiculous pink. The sheer boredom would eventually drive her mad. At one point she stood up, and a nurse immediately raced over to ask where she thought she was going.
"Do you need to use the little girls' room? If you can just hold it for five minutes I'll take you. Do you think you can do that?"
"I'm an adult," Janeway said. "I can use the facilities without assistance."
"Now don't get all worked up, I'll call someone right now."
She opened her mouth to say that she was neither worked up nor in need of someone, but froze.
The nurse used a hand-held communicator, the kind that Starfleet had stopped using nearly a century ago. Janeway forgot all about being treated like a child and focused on the possibility of stealing one of the devices.
All of the nurses probably carried the old-fashioned communicators. A century before they had earned legendary status for their versatility when disassembled by clever Starfleet officers under duress.
If this didn't qualify as duress, she didn't know what did.
The idea of knocking one of the nurses unconscious when they followed her into the bathroom tempted her. But no, establishing herself as a danger to the staff would just end with her strapped to a cot. She couldn't disassemble an antique communicator while strapped to a cot.
Her regular nurse, the one she would most enjoy knocking unconscious, appeared. "Need to use the potty, sweetie?"
She followed meekly, her eyes on the nurse's loosely fitting tunic. Did it have pockets? She hid a smile and prepared to create her own opportunity.
"I was just about to call you," Tom said. "Bad news I'm afraid: I just learned that my father left for Bajor this morning."
Chakotay swore in every language he knew.
"Do you kiss the captain with that mouth, Commander?"
"Not yet," Chakotay said. "Get everyone. We're going to find her today."
Janeway tripped and banged her knee. The nurse whirled around and fussed over her as she sat on the floor and clutched her knee with one hand. The other hand slipped unseen into the nurse's unguarded pocket.
"Let me see your knee, sweetie."
Janeway let the nurse pry her hand from her knee. In the meantime, she slid her other hand behind her and stashed her contraband in the waistband of her underwear. She hoped she'd laugh about that later. She made a mental note to include a request for pants when she called for help.
"I think you're okay, sweetie. Let's get you on your feet."
She let the nurse help her while she carefully kept her back towards the wall. Her precarious cargo shifted slightly and she had to fight not to hold her breath. The nurse held her elbow and led her to her room.
With every step, Janeway feared her treasure would tumble to the floor and ruin her plan. She took each step cautiously, covering with a fake limp. She felt the communicator slide lower, which caused her underwear to sag. The air tickled her through the suddenly insubstantial medical gown, but the communicator didn't escape.
"Could I have a glass of water?"
"Certainly, sweetie. Will you be okay while I get it?"
She nodded and ducked into the bathroom, where she quickly pulled out the stolen communicator. She used the almost-sharp edge of the faucet to pry off the back, then she disconnected a few key relays. She didn't want the device tracked down before she had a chance to use it. Finally, she stashed it behind the toilet and scurried back into the main room.
When the nurse returned with her water, she was innocently seated on her cot, rubbing her knee.
The former senior staff of Voyager gathered in Harry Kim's new Starfleet furnished apartment and watched the first officer pace the floor.
"If I weren't a hologram they would let me consult with this counselor," the Doctor said.
"No, then they'd find some other excuse," Chakotay said. "There's something more going on here."
"He's right," Tom said. "It can't be a coincidence that my father was called to Bajor this weekend."
"Right now, we don't know anything for certain," Chakotay said. "I assume you're all willing to help me fix that?"
Janeway looked for Tabitha when the nurse herded her back to the mess hall for another round of mystery goop. She had learned more from the girl than from anyone else she'd met in this place.
She spotted her at a table close to the kitchen, staring with some intensity at her dinner. She started to head that way, but the nurse stopped her. "There's a seat right here, sweetie."
Janeway took the seat across from Margie, who didn't look up from poking listlessly at what the cafeteria meant to pass off as mashed potatoes.
A cafeteria worker presented her with an equally dispiriting tray. She picked up her flimsy plastic fork-like implement and tried to convince herself that this meal didn't suffer in comparison to creamed leola root.
"Eat all of your dinner like a good girl and you'll be allowed dessert." The nurse patted her on the head and left for the staff table.
"Is the dessert worth it?" Janeway asked Margie, more for something to ask than because she really cared.
"Nothing's worth it," Margie answered.
They ate in silence after that. Janeway felt strangely reluctant to ask Margie anything else. Eventually a cafeteria worker appeared, studied her empty tray, and rewarded her with a bright orange gelatinous blob.
Janeway didn't find it much of a treat at all.
After dinner Janeway was again allowed the privilege of savoring the ridiculous pinkness of the lounge. Tabitha sat down near her. "What color gelatin did you get?"
"You got off easy," Tabitha said. "I got red." She shot a look at the departing nurse and lowered her voice. "Well, that pretty much covers today's news."
"Is it always like this?"
"The counselor says that a simple routine minimizes stress."
"The counselor has the brains of a Rigelian slime mold."
Tabitha giggled. "Shh, you'll get punished."
"It can't get worse."
"It can," Tabitha said, her voice low. Her eyes darted towards the doorway, where an unidentified staff member stood making a show of waiting for Margie to catch up.
"Like molasses in January," the woman complained. "Honestly, Margie, we don't have all night."
"Recreation director," Tabitha whispered. "Don't look!"
Margie shambled over to the couch and slumped onto it.
"Now I expect everyone to sit quietly and watch the film," said the recreation director. "Any shenanigans and it's straight to your rooms."
The corner cabinet unlocked to reveal a screen. Janeway strained to see the keypad beneath it. Perhaps this would provide a way to contact the outside world. The recreation director's body blocked her view as the woman fiddled with the controls.
A giant duck waddled across the screen. It then waddled faster, and backward. It stopped, froze for a moment, and then started to sing. "Friends are good, friends are fine, I'm your friend and you'll be mine."
Janeway blinked at the screen in disbelief. A six-year-old wouldn't be entertained by this. She glanced at the others. They seemed resigned to their fate.
She turned back to the screen. The duck cavorted about in a most unducklike fashion, now sporting a large flowered hat. "It's time to learn about the alphabet!"
A bit of commotion erupted at the door, and Janeway turned to see a nurse coaxing Emma into the room. The woman stood with her feet firmly planted a good distance apart, her long hair swinging as she shook her head.
"Now, Emmy." The nurse grabbed her arm and dragged her forward.
Emma slumped backward onto the floor, her hair covering her face.
"You don't get to see the movie if you don't behave."
At that news Emma turned her head towards the nurse, who yelped in pain.
"She bit me!" The nurse clutched her hand, then herded Emma in the opposite direction, which proved a much easier task.
Janeway silently applauded Emma. Given half a chance, she'd bite someone to escape this movie.
"C is for Candy," the duck announced. It waved around a lollipop the size of its head.
"They never taught us that at Starfleet Academy," Tabitha whispered.
The recreation director snapped to attention. "Tabby! We'll have none of your mouth tonight."
Another ruckus materialized at the doorway. Janeway turned and watched as two men wrestled a piece of furniture through the doorway.
The recreation director squealed and jumped up. "Is that the new shelf?"
The men stood the new shelf up beside the old one. Janeway decided they looked identical. While the recreation director supervised, the two men removed the contents of the old shelf.
"Let's get this old thing to the recycler," one said.
"My sister could use a shelf like this," the other said. He turned to the recreation director. "Would you mind if I took this?"
"Of course, take it," the recreation director said. "As long as you haul it away it doesn't matter to me."
The old shelf lurched noisily from the room.
"T is for Tent," the duck explained. It tried to crawl into a small canvas shelter, got stuck, and wagged its hindquarters at the audience, all the while extolling the virtues of the letter T.
Staff bustled in and out of the room to pay homage to the new shelf, completely oblivious to both the singing duck on the screen and the patients sitting before it. Oddly enough, none of them bothered to push the shelf back against the wall.
"Z is for Zebra." The duck began painting its own body with black stripes. It then whinnied and burst into song.
A lifetime later the nurse came to collect Janeway and lead her back to her room. "You need a good night's sleep tonight, sweetie," she said. "You have a very special visitor coming tomorrow."
Her heart leapt into her throat and hammered a maddening discordant rhythm. "Who?"
"We'll just let that be a surprise, okay sweetie?"
"But -- "
"No arguments, hurry up and use the potty."
Janeway rushed to do as instructed. She risked a quick glance at the contraband behind the toilet, relieved to see it still there. She didn't dare touch it now; if Chakotay, or anyone else, had received permission to visit her she couldn't jeopardize her privileges.
Chakotay. She imagined his arms around her. She needed his strength right now. He'd find a way to get her out of here. She knew he would.
And if the Doctor's visit had been a hallucination, and Admiral Paris had lied to her, and Chakotay was now in prison . . . well then Tuvok, or Tom, or her mother could update her, and they could start the necessary planning.
"Hurry up in there, sweetie."
Janeway took her time, flossing her teeth carefully. No toothbrush, no mouthwash, but they supplied dental floss. Not particularly high quality dental floss, she noted. It kept breaking and leaving little hairy bits between her teeth.
She rinsed her mouth, using her hands to cup the water, and then started to wash her face.
The nurse opened the door. "We don't have time to dilly dally, sweetie. It's almost nine o'clock and we can't have you up past your bed time."
Janeway mentally translated that to twenty-one hundred hours and nearly laughed. She hadn't fallen asleep that early since, well, she was pretty sure she never had fallen asleep that early. No wonder she'd had such a hard time of it the night before.
She protested mildly when the nurse started to strap her to the cot.
"It's for your own good, sweetie," the nurse said. "We wouldn't want you to get hurt."
She sighed, recognizing defeat, and let the nurse buckle the straps. Chakotay, or someone, would get her out of here tomorrow. She wouldn't have to endure this again.
Tomorrow night she'd sleep in her own bed, or perhaps even in Chakotay's. She smiled at that, and even the exciting new itch on her nose couldn't spoil the fantasy, at least not right away.
"Rise and shine, sleepy head."
Today she'd have a visitor, hopefully Chakotay. If anyone else came, it meant he couldn't, and she couldn't stand the thought of what that might mean.
She wished she had a hairbrush and some basic cosmetics, or could at least properly brush her teeth, but Chakotay had seen her look far worse. She didn't care; she just needed to see him.
Her dreams, after she had finally nodded off, had been filled with ghostly specters that faded just as she reached for them. None of them had spoken, and she compared the illusions with her visit from the Doctor, now even more sure that that experience had been real.
The dreams frustrated her, with their occupants never quite telling her what she wanted to hear, while the Doctor had told her exactly what she needed to know. Everything about his visit made logical sense, something dreams rarely did.
"Sweetie, you can't be in there all day." The nurse walked in on her again.
She kept washing her face. "It hasn't even been five minutes."
"Now sweetie, I won't have time to make your hair pretty if you don't hurry up."
She dried her face and sat obediently on the cot. "When can I take a shower?"
"No showers until you've seen the doctor," the nurse answered. "It's too dangerous."
"Dangerous?" Janeway asked. "What could possibly be dangerous about a shower?"
"Sweetie, if your blood pressure is too high a shower could cause a stroke."
"My blood pressure is fine." Janeway fought to keep the edge from her voice. She concentrated on the thought of seeing Chakotay and tried to ignore her hair being pulled.
Even Margie's spiritless company over a soggy breakfast couldn't dull Janeway's anticipation. The past week had been a nightmare, but soon she'd be in Chakotay's arms, and protocol had ceased to mean a damn thing.
She barely noticed the ridiculous pink, or even the empty shelf with its contents still piled on the floor. She just watched the door.
Eventually the nurse returned and beamed at her from the doorway. "Ready for your special visitor, sweetie?"
"Yes," she answered.
The nurse stepped aside and a gaudily dressed clown romped into the room.
Janeway's breakfast soured in her stomach even as she tried to keep hope alive long enough for a closer look. Perhaps this was one of her crew in disguise.
"Hey hey hey, who's ready to have some fun?" The clown beeped a little plastic horn in her face.
Janeway slumped backward and stared up at the ceiling. She would not burst into tears in front of a stranger in clown makeup.
"I'd like to return to my room, please," Janeway said the moment the clown left.
"Didn't you like the clown, sweetie?"
Janeway didn't answer. If she had to speak one more word she'd lose it and burst into tears. She couldn't bear to cry in front of this foolish woman.
She held it together for the walk down the hall, and fortunately the nurse had other duties. The door closed and she was alone. She leaned back against the padded wall and swallowed her tears.
There was still the communicator. She headed for the bathroom to retrieve it.
It wasn't there. She searched the bathroom, but she only confirmed what she already knew. Someone had discovered her prize.
Now she couldn't stop the tears. Her whole body shook as she slid to the floor and wrapped her arms around her knees. She buried her face against her legs and sobbed like a child.
She'd lost her ship, her crew, the man she loved . . . she didn't even know if the people she loved still had their freedom. She didn't want to imagine what could keep Chakotay from her, and all of her earlier conclusions about the doctor's visit didn't comfort her at all.
The worst case scenario played in her head. B'Elanna, torn from her newborn baby and thrown in prison. Chakotay, pacing in a cell somewhere, thinking she'd abandoned him. Tom. Ayala. Dalby.
And if Starfleet would do this to her, they might have done the same to everyone. Tuvok already had that Vulcan disease he'd hidden from her. What if they didn't let him see his son? Only another Vulcan could cure his ailment. His fate would be worse than hers.
The Doctor could have disappeared because Starfleet had deactivated him -- if he'd been there at all -- or even decompiled his program. She hoped Reg Barclay would fight for him, but Reg could be in this very building, strapped to a cot in another wing.
She didn't dare consider the possible fates of Seven and Icheb.
She needed that communicator. She stared at the spot where she had left it and cried.
"Sweetie, what's the matter?" The nurse reached for her. "Did something frighten you? Come, now, there's nothing to be scared of."
"Get away from me." Janeway buried her face in her knees. She didn't want anyone to see tears on her face.
The nurse disappeared into the bedroom and called for the counselor. "It doesn't say anything on her chart about a clown phobia."
"Kathryn, the clown is all gone." That condescending voice. "It's safe to come out now."
"I don't care about the stupid clown. Leave me alone."
"Kathryn, there is no need for that snotty attitude." The counselor reached for her and Janeway twisted away.
The counselor turned to the nurse. "You get her."
The nurse crawled across the bathroom floor, speaking baby talk. Janeway watched the hand she kept out of sight. She might be outnumbered and cornered in a tight space, but she wasn't going to submit quietly to a hypospray full of barbiturates.
She tensed, prepared to fight, and waited for an opening. Just as the nurse shifted her weight, Janeway leapt to her feet and made for the door.
The counselor tackled her and sat on her back. Janeway struggled even as the dreaded hypospray emptied into her neck. The drowsiness took effect and her struggles weakened. The two women lifted her onto the cot and strapped her down.
The senior staff divided up the list of mental health facilities in the greater San Francisco area. Chakotay suspected that someone had something to hide. He wanted answers and he would get them.
Only two real mental hospitals were located anywhere near San Francisco. One was a private facility, and the other was a division of Starfleet medical. The rest of the list consisted of small group homes related to the private facility.
Chakotay and the Doctor headed for Starfleet's facility, while the others concocted cover stories and went to check out the private hospital and its satellites.
"I'll feel better when I know where she is," Chakotay said.
"You'll feel better when she's home where she belongs," the Doctor said. "We have to be careful not to make the situation worse."
"I know that."
"I know you do, Chakotay, but you haven't slept properly in days and they aren't likely to be reasonable."
"You think I'll lose my temper?"
"Under these circumstances, I think it could be possible. They have the captain."
Chakotay nodded. "You're probably right. You do the talking."
Janeway felt like her body had turned to rubber. Her hands were very far away and she couldn't reach them. A weight pressed against her heart.
Her life was this now. Alone and strapped to a cot. Starfleet didn't need her; they'd discarded her here, separated forever from the people she loved.
The hideous green of the ceiling mocked her. No blue sky, no field of stars. No sun. No moon. Not even Voyager's soothing grey.
The only happiness she had ever known, and now ever would know, was the moment on the bridge when Chakotay had held her hand. Starfleet had stolen their chance.
She tried to move her rubbery arms, to struggle against the restraints, but her hands were too far away and she couldn't reach them.
She heard a sound like phaser fire and cringed against the hard mattress, distantly afraid, knowing that if someone wanted her dead they'd find her defenseless.
No, not phaser fire at all. Something else, her unsettled imagination perhaps, because as it grew closer it grew quieter as well.
It was the drugs, she knew it was the drugs. How long before the drugs robbed her of her sanity, made her like Emma? How long before she imagined the Borg lurking around every corner?
Tom and Harry climbed the steps of the first group home and searched for the door chime. When they failed to find one, Tom gave up and knocked.
The door swung open but no one emerged to greet them.
Tom stuck his head into the doorway. "Hello?"
Tom stepped inside.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked. "You can't just walk in."
"No one's stopping me, and I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth."
The two men slipped inside.
The house itself was of late twenty-third century architecture, with random bits of decay peeking out here and there, yet all of the furniture seemed brand new.
They headed towards the sound of voices, and found two middle-aged women in exercise clothes playing cards at a dining room table. The real wood surface gleamed with fresh varnish.
Neither woman seemed particularly surprised at their entrance, or even particularly interested.
"Excuse me," Harry said. "Do you work here?"
"We live here," one of them answered. Her eyes returned to her hand of cards.
"Has anyone been brought here recently?"
The other one looked up. "A newbie? Haven't seen one of those in a while. Maybe George'll miss his meds and take a walkabout in the buff. They ship him off we'll have another room. You looking to move in? Wouldn't mind you in the buff."
Tom watched Harry squirm under the woman's gaze and hid a smile.
"No ma'am," Harry said. "I'm looking for my sister."
"Sister? Didn't notice one of those, but why would I? You had a brother I would a noticed him about. That I would have, surely."
Tuvok and Seven, disguised as doctors, breached security at the Golden Gate Villa Wellness Center at thirteen hundred hours.
When they slipped out of the laundry room and headed upstairs, they discovered an overflow of humanity enjoying a Visitor's Day Picnic, complete with a large banner. The front doors stood wide open.
"The captain is not here." Seven looked pointedly at the doors. "If this is the right place, she's escaped by now."
"Your statement does seem logical," Tuvok agreed. "However, we would be wise to search the entire facility while we have the opportunity."
Chakotay didn't like this place. He didn't like how thoroughly the guard at the door checked their identification just to let them stand in this hot little office while an arrogant young woman ignored them. In fact, he didn't much like the fact that a hospital required guards on the doors.
He also didn't like the utter lack of windows. In space, one sacrificed natural light, but it seemed a waste to lock it out while planetside. Even Federation prisons allowed their inmates to see the light of day.
"I can let you have an appointment with the counselor on Thursday afternoon," the secretary said. "Any sooner is simply impossible."
"That is unacceptable," the Doctor said. "Any delay could prove harmful to my patient. I need to speak with her today."
"Thursday afternoon," the secretary said. "And be grateful for that, the counselor is a very busy woman."
"Very well," the Doctor said. "You don't mind if I wait right here in the meantime?"
The secretary looked up from her console. "I said -- "
"Yes, yes, Thursday afternoon. I'll wait right here until then."
"But -- "
"I'm a hologram. I don't require sleep or nourishment, so I might as well wait right here."
Everything glowed with eerie green light. Janeway stared up into the cold empty eyes of a Borg drone, unable to move as it prepared to drill into her eye. She tried to scream but her voice stuck in her throat.
She woke up, soaked with sweat. She hated that dream. When she awoke from it on Voyager she'd get up and take a tour of her ship, running her hands along the familiar grey walls, watching the soothing blue turmoil of the warp core, perhaps even pausing at Chakotay's door to entertain a brief fantasy about taking comfort in his arms.
None of those things were possible here. She couldn't even wipe the sweat from her brow. It stung her eyes. She blinked and tried to decide whether it hurt enough to risk calling out for a nurse.
The terror of the dream faded, leaving her feeling cold and clammy. The damp sheets stuck to her skin and she couldn't shift enough to dislodge them. Her eyes continued to sting.
"Hello," she called into the darkness. "Can anyone hear me?"
She waited, shivering as the perspiration dried on her skin. She desperately wanted a bath, a long soothing bath, or even shower. A nice steamy real-water shower. Or even just a quick sonic shower, or a full five minutes alone with a wash cloth and some soap.
"Hello?" She raised her voice. "I need to use the bathroom."
No one came to her aid. She tugged at the restraints, pressing her wrists against the stiff leather at different angles. She straightened her fingers and folded her thumb inward against her palm, then yanked with all of her strength. White-hot pain flashed up her arm to her shoulder, but the buckle didn't give.
She kept struggling. Maybe the restraint would give. Maybe she'd injure her arm badly enough to require a doctor. Maybe she'd just bruise up her arm, but at least she didn't feel quite as chilled any more.
Chakotay left the Doctor sitting in the waiting room just outside the counselor's office and went to contact the others. At least they had found her, but as the Doctor had predicted, knowing her whereabouts didn't make him feel much better.
Starfleet had ordered everyone to clean out their quarters by the end of the week. Maybe he should go take care of that now. He felt strangely reluctant to leave sight of the ugly building that held Kathryn.
Tomorrow morning he would see her. He promised himself that, and returned to Starfleet to transport up to Voyager. The ship felt empty, like she had lost her soul. Chakotay remembered returning to Voyager with Ensign Kim only to find the whole crew missing, and tried to tell himself this was better. At least he knew where to find everyone.
He packed his own quarters quickly. They didn't contain much. Some clothes, his medicine bundle, a handful of souvenirs from seven years of shore leaves. The sand paintings he had made on New Earth. For a moment he wasn't on the ship at all, but on a planet sixty thousand light years away, gazing across the table at the woman he loved.
Her quarters needed to be packed as well. He wouldn't leave it for someone else. He keyed in his override and the door slid open.
He'd rarely entered her quarters alone. Now he thought of all of their shared dinners and long work sessions in her living room, and mourned that phase of their life. He wished they could pack it up together.
He treated each object as sacred. Many held special meaning for him. Every gift he'd ever given her triggered a memory, as did every piece of her clothing. He left her dresser for last, and felt a little guilty handling her intimate things.
He found two letters in her drawer, one addressed to him, and the other for Tuvok. He didn't even consider reading them, tucking them quickly into a cargo container.
Tomorrow he could arrange for her release, and they could get on with this next stage of their journey together.
Sleep eluded her. Janeway's muscles ached from laying in the same position for so long, and she shivered with cold. The very second she managed to get out of this place Starfleet would hear about the conditions here.
She had to believe in a life outside of these ugly green walls. She'd escape, or discover a competent person on the staff. Then she'd find Chakotay, fight for his release if necessary, and together they'd see to the welfare of their crew.
By the time the night nurse finally came to check on her, her focus had narrowed to include only her desperate need to use the facilities.
She'd never seen this particular nurse, who followed her into the bathroom and leaned against the wall. "Well, get on with it."
"I'd like some privacy," Janeway said.
"And I'd like a handsome husband," the night nurse said. "Hurry up and pee."
Janeway glared at her and considered arguing. Then she imagined a few more hours strapped to that cot without bathroom privileges and pushed aside her embarrassment. When she got out of here she'd get the whole lot of them fired.
Janeway never hated the Borg. Hate always did more damage to its owner than to its subject, and hating an adversary as dangerous as the Borg could have proven a fatal flaw. This counselor, however, flooded her with a poisonous emotion very much like hate.
"Are you actualizing today, Kathryn?"
"You left me strapped to a cot for nearly a day, so what do you think?"
"Why do you think you're so hostile, Kathryn?"
"It could stem from the fact that you're holding me hostage. I've been more than patient. Now I'd like to speak with someone at Starfleet Headquarters."
"You've got a long road of recovery ahead before you can reapply to Starfleet, Kathryn."
Janeway swallowed hard. "Recovery from what, exactly?"
"I've told you before, Kathryn." The counselor wagged her finger accusingly. "I can't do all the work for you."
"I don't want you to do anything for me," Janeway said. "I just want to leave."
"You have to want to get better, Kathryn, or I can't help you."
"I want to do whatever is necessary to leave this place and return to my life."
"You can only move forward now, Kathryn. It is not healthy to long for the past."
"I'm not longing for the past," Janeway said. "I'm excited about my future. I'm home after seven years, and I have opportunities available to me that I didn't have before. I want to leave here and explore those opportunities."
"Baby steps, Kathryn," the counselor said. "First we need to set your goals for today."
"Leaving is my goal for today."
"No, Kathryn," the counselor said. "That is a long term goal. Give me a short term goal."
Janeway fought for calm. "I'd like to take a shower."
"And what do you have to accomplish first, Kathryn?"
"I'm told I have to see a doctor first. If that's the case I'd like to do that today."
"Now we're getting somewhere, Kathryn. When we finish up, I'll have the receptionist schedule an appointment for you."
"It's time for arts and crafts," the recreation director announced after lunch.
Even Margie reacted to that news, sinking deeper into her seat. Janeway cringed as well. This didn't sound good.
"Remember the rules: Anyone caught eating paste will be sent to their rooms at once," the recreation director said. "I don't know why this is such a problem."
Janeway imagined that a mouthful of paste would prove a small price to escape this new torment. Still, it wouldn't support her claim of sanity. She sighed. First they'd told her that the receptionist wouldn't be available to make her doctor's appointment until afternoon, and now this.
The recreation director passed out colored sheets of construction paper which brought back memories of childhood art classes, as well as wads of fluffy white cotton. She set a jar of paste in the center of the table. "No eating."
"I'll try to resist," Janeway muttered, earning herself a stern glare.
"Today we are making snowmen," said the recreation director. "It is very important that you watch me very carefully."
"Vital to the continued welfare of the Federation, I'm sure," Janeway whispered to Margie.
"No talking!" said the recreation director.
Making snowmen involved pasting balls of cotton to construction paper. The paste, however, resisted the process, and the results did not prove even remotely worthy of the effort. The faceless little white shapes stared unhappily back at their creators.
"Very nice!" The recreation director beamed at her. "I think you're ready to give him some eyes." She reached into her pocket and withdrew two little white disks.
Janeway reached for the little plastic eyes.
"Oh no," the recreation director said. "I'll have to help you with these."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Get the paste ready and I'll hold the eyes for you."
A big bite of paste had never been so tempting. She held the paste brush and watched as the recreation director affixed the beady little eyes to the smallest wad of cotton.
"There we go. We'll just hang this up and you'll have something to show off on Visitor's Day."
Janeway snapped her head around. "When is that?"
"I can't say," she said. "The counselor will tell you when you are ready to handle that much excitement."
"I want to see her today," Chakotay said. "I was told on Friday that -- "
"If you file an application with the main office you'll be notified of the visitor's schedule once you've been approved."
"But -- "
"Exceptions are never made," the receptionist said. "If you want to visit a resident, you must fill out an application."
Chakotay took the papers and joined the Doctor, who still sat on the couch in the waiting area. "Learn anything?"
"Nothing particularly useful. They won't let me see her either."
"I've left messages at half the offices in Starfleet, and Tom still hasn't had any luck in contacting his father."
The Doctor looked sympathetic. "She's strong, Chakotay, and while I'm sure she's as angry as a wet cat she's not in any danger."
"I know," Chakotay said. He stared down at the papers in his lap. "She deserves better than this. We'll get her back today if I have to steal a ship and beam her out of here."
Janeway wanted a shower. That meant seeing a doctor to verify that her blood pressure wasn't elevated, something any tricorder could do, but she'd played by the rules. She had asked to see a doctor.
Five hours later she had yet to see one. She glanced around the ridiculous pink lounge, then made a dash for the counselor's office. "You promised I could see the doctor today."
The counselor looked up from her reading. "Kathryn, who let you in here?"
"As a fully capable starship captain I've mastered the use of a doorknob."
"You have a fresh mouth, Kathryn. I won't tolerate it."
"I just want a shower. It's been days."
"Maybe we should address this vanity of yours, Kathryn, but now is not the time."
She figured she had about three minutes before the nurse arrived with a hypospray. The door behind the counselor either led to a closet, or to another office. She decided to take her chances.
"Kathryn!" The counselor jumped up to block her way.
Janeway pushed her aside and opened the door. It led to another office. She tore through it at a run and reached for the next door, only to find it locked. She rattled the door and peered through the small window into the next room.
As hands closed around her she saw something that made her heart thunder in her chest. Chakotay was sitting in the next room, filling out some sort of paperwork. She shouted to him, screaming his name, and she kept screaming it even as the hypospray filled her head with fog.
Chakotay heard a scream, and even muffled by the heavy door of the receptionist's office, he recognized the voice. "Kathryn!"
He leapt to his feet, scattering papers, and grabbed the old fashioned doorknob. Locked. He pounded on the darkly tinted glass window, but it proved too thick to break with his bare hands. He strained to see through the glass and rattled the doorknob again. "Kathryn!"
"Commander, calm down before security hears you."
"That was Kathryn!"
"I know, and you'll do her no good if you get escorted out by security."
"She's been to hell and back and she's never screamed my name like that." Chakotay turned, his fists clenched. "What are they doing to her?"
"Holding her against her will," the Doctor said. "I imagine she had to scream to be heard through that thick door."
"Do you have to be so calm?"
"I'm afraid I do." The Doctor retrieved the scattered pages and handed them to Chakotay. "Finish these, and I'll go see what I can learn."
Janeway fought for consciousness, desperate to keep the drugs from pulling her downward. She'd seen Chakotay. She needed to talk to him. She needed her brain to work so she could talk to Chakotay.
The air thickened, leaning on her shoulders, and the world corkscrewed toward blackness. She fought it, fought to stay awake as the nurses strapped her to the hated cot. Her far away arms thrashed against their bonds.
Her lips would no longer form his name, and her scream had faded to a whisper. She noticed and stopped shouting, but the echo didn't leave her head.
The Doctor set off to find the receptionist. He had seen her turn left when she left the office, so he did the same. He found her with several nurses, laughing over coffee in the facility's mess hall.
"There you are," he said cheerfully. "I was hoping you could pull my patient's chart for me."
"I'm afraid that's not possible," she answered.
"Starfleet regulations give a ship's Chief Medical Officer the rights to review a patient's chart even while that patient is under the care of another physician," the Doctor said. "Now I have an appointment scheduled regarding this patient, and I'd like time to review her charts."
"I don't have time to -- "
He smiled again. "You have time for coffee. Do I have to file an official complaint with Starfleet Medical? I believe I have the appropriate form already loaded into my program matrix."
She set down her coffee and gave an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. I'll have that for you by the end of the day."
Chakotay finished the application. For the first time in his life he was thankful for his father's insistence that he commit his family history to memory. He wouldn't have guessed that knowledge of his grandmother's maiden name could prove so vital.
He fidgeted. Every instinct told him to go find her, hold her, get her out of this poisonous place. The possible consequences of extreme measures kept him from action, but logic would wear thin very soon.
The Doctor should have returned by now. Unless he had managed permission to see Kathryn. He hoped for that; Kathryn needed to see a friendly face.
As if on cue, the Doctor returned. "I've been promised a copy of her chart."
"What good does that do us?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Knowledge is power."
"I hope you can do better than quote Francis Bacon."
"Once I know what's on her chart, I'll find a way to use it."
"You'd better," Chakotay said, his voice low. "Or I'm going to break her out, damn the consequences."
Janeway kept her eyes open and focused on the door. It didn't matter that she wanted to rest her eyes, she knew that she couldn't. She had to watch the door.
At any minute Chakotay would come through that door and unbuckle her restraints. Five minutes from now she could be in his arms. Ten minutes from now she could be back on her ship. Then she could rest her eyes in her own bed.
The door didn't open and her mental calculations reset. Five minutes from now she could be in his arms. Or from now. She watched the door. Chakotay wouldn't let her down. He'd found her. He was here. He'd take her home. Five minutes from now.
The door opened and her heart leaped, only to thud against her sternum and land in a bruised heap. Not Chakotay. Only the nurse, that blasted fool nurse who any minute now would call her --
"Well now, sweetie, ready for your bath?"
She loved baths, so why did that question fill her with enough dread to distract from her aching disappointment? Her eyes flicked to the nurse's hand, and more specifically to the bucket and sponge in that hand.
The nurse unbuckled her restraints. "No monkey business, sweetie. I wouldn't want to give the counselor a bad report."
She climbed off the cot and followed the nurse into the bathroom, each soft slap of her bare feet against the floor increasing her anxiety.
"Off with the gown, sweetie."
Janeway didn't move. "If you give me some privacy I can wash myself."
"Don't make an issue of it, sweetie. You don't have anything I haven't seen."
Janeway stood her ground.
"Sweetie, I thought you said you wanted a bath. You need to take off the gown."
She glared at the nurse. "I will when you leave. I'm an adult and I can wash myself without supervision. And what I said I wanted was a shower."
"You can't have a shower without seeing the doctor, and he isn't available today."
"I can have a sponge bath and not a shower? What in the galaxy is the difference?"
"Take off the gown, sweetie, or I'll have to call the counselor."
Janeway turned her back to the nurse and took off the gown. She crossed her arms over her chest and hoped her face didn't look as red as it felt.
She wanted to argue, but she'd already lost. She slipped off her underwear with as much dignity as she could manage.
The nurse took both garments and left her standing in the bathroom naked. Maybe she could wash unobserved after all. She reached for the sponge.
"Now now, sweetie." The nurse took the sponge from her hand.
"You've got to be kidding," Janeway said. "I can do this myself."
"Maybe next time." The icy, dripping sponge splatted into the small of her back.
Janeway flinched from the sudden cold.
"Stand still and behave." The nurse began to vigorously soap her back.
The nurse scrubbed her so hard it hurt. The soft sponge transformed into an implement of torture in her hands. Janeway's skin stung nearly as much as her pride. A week ago she had commanded a starship. Now she stood getting soaped down like a cow before the county fair.
"Arms up, sweetie," the nurse ordered.
Janeway sighed but didn't argue. She kept her eyes closed, like a child seeking invisibility, and let the nurse thoroughly scrub her raw.
The Doctor had to ask three more times before the receptionist finally brought him the captain's chart. He read it while Chakotay paced nervously only a few feet away.
"She's been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, paranoid delusions, and coulrophobia."
Chakotay whirled at him. "What the hell is coulrophobia?"
"A fear of clowns."
"The whole thing is absurd." The Doctor returned to the chart. "She's tried to escape three times."
"I have to get her out of here. Tell me there's something in that report that will help."
"I believe this will do it." The Doctor smiled for the first time in days. "They've administered pharmaceuticals without the approval of a medical doctor."
Janeway tried to examine herself in the tiny ineffective plastic mirror. Her skin glowed an angry pink, but she didn't see any real damage. The nurse hadn't managed to draw blood.
The clean clothes were a nice luxury, although she still didn't have any pants. The medical gown looked like a sack, but at least it covered all the important parts. She was probably fortunate to have received underwear. She'd asked for a bra, but apparently that could be used as a weapon. She didn't point out that she could probably strangle someone just as well with a pillowcase.
"Okay sweetie, let's get to dinner. You're already late."
She followed without comment and sat where the nurse pointed. Margie didn't look up from poking at the creamed corn. The yellow goo lay there, unresponsive to the poking.
A cafeteria worker dropped a tray down in front of her. Some gravy splattered across the table. She stared at it. The gravy had experienced many things to become part of a meal -- ingredients had been created, mixed, and cooked -- but now it would never get eaten. Now it was just something to wipe up with a sponge.
Tabitha sat down beside Margie and leaned forward. "I heard security talking. Two men are sitting in the counselor's waiting room."
Janeway looked up from her untouched meal. "Still?"
Tabitha glanced at the staff table before nodding. "That's why the guards aren't having coffee. They're guarding."
Janeway picked up her plastic fork-like utensil and tapped it against the table. "Things will change around here. Soon."
Chakotay watched as the Doctor wrote up a detailed formal complaint regarding Kathryn's medications. "Are you sure this will work?"
"No," the Doctor said. "But if they disregard this report they'd better give us a damn good reason."
"I hate to leave." Chakotay took the PADD from the Doctor. "I feel like I'm abandoning her."
"We all know you'd never do that," the Doctor said.
"Never," he said. "You go back to headquarters. I can't leave."
The Doctor stood and put a hand on his shoulder. "If you want to see her today, do this now. You can't do her any good pacing around in here, and eventually they'll throw you out."
"If this doesn't work . . . "
"I know, and I'll be right there beside you."
He walked the short distance back to headquarters and requested a meeting with the head of Starfleet Medical.
"I'm sorry, sir," the yeoman said. "He's left for the day."
"Then get me the highest ranking doctor who hasn't left for the day. This is urgent."
The yeoman turned to the switchboard, and eventually claimed to have summoned a doctor. One even arrived before he completely wore out the grey carpeting in the waiting area.
"What can I do for you, Commander?"
Chakotay handed over the PADD.
The physician read it. "This sounds serious. Who's the counselor in charge of this case?"
Chakotay told him.
"I'm sorry, Commander, but I don't see what I can do."
"Wait a minute," Chakotay protested. "Just a moment ago you said this sounded serious."
The physician glanced around. "I don't have clearance to override her orders."
"Who does?" Chakotay clenched his fists at his side. "Tell me what I need to do."
"Your doctor will need an admiral's thumbprint on this to get in to see her. As for taking on the counselor, I wish you both luck."
"What aren't you saying?"
"Look her up, and make sure to read between the lines." The physician glanced around again. "I've said too much already. Good luck."
"Finish up that creamed corn, sweetie, we've got to get you to group."
Her newly restored spirits remained unaffected by the words. Chakotay was in the building. He hadn't left, so he knew she was here. Admiral Paris hadn't lied at all about the pardons; Chakotay hadn't been hauled off to prison. He was here.
The ridiculous pink failed to burn her retinas as she joined the other four members of the group. Behind her customary wall of light brown hair, Emma peered at her with a solitary pale blue eye. The tall, dark-haired woman that Janeway still hadn't met chewed at her lip. Margie stared at her lap, and Tabitha offered a half-smile in greeting.
"Is everyone actualizing today?" The counselor strolled across the room and took her seat.
Three sets of eyes, and one pale blue one, sought a better view of the pink carpeting. Silence filled the air.
Janeway looked up at the counselor. "I haven't actualized a single time since I met you, and I think you like it that way."
Emma squeaked. Her eye darted towards the doorway, and the rest of her body clearly wished to follow.
The counselor rose from her chair. "How dare you speak to me in that manner, Kathryn."
"How dare you tell Emma that the Borg won the battle of Wolf 359." Janeway stood as well. "What other lies have you told these people?"
"This is not the appropriate time to discuss your delusions, Kathryn, now take your seat."
Janeway turned to the others. "Margie, where were you during Wolf 359?"
Margie looked up slowly and swallowed. She glanced at Emma, then at Janeway. "Deep Space Four."
The counselor stepped between Janeway and Margie. "Kathryn, do not harass Margie like that or I'll have you confined to your room."
Margie turned to Emma. "The Borg lost the war."
"No," Emma said. "The Borg won the war. They took my parts. I was there when the Borg won the war."
Two nurses entered and grabbed Janeway by the arms. She didn't struggle. "Starfleet beat the Borg."
"It's true," Margie said. "We beat the Borg." Then she started to cry.
"They took my parts," Emma said again. "They took my parts. I was there and they took my parts."
The tall woman that Janeway didn't know moved closer to Emma. "I know they did, but they didn't win the war." She stroked Emma's long brown hair back to reveal a scarred and empty eye socket. "The Borg lost the war, that's how you were rescued."
Margie rocked in her seat and cried. Tabitha put an arm around her shoulders. The nurses started to drag Janeway back towards the door. The counselor shouted at them all. "Consider your privileges suspended. There will be no privileges."
"The Borg lost the war," Janeway shouted again from the corridor. "They won't hurt you any more, Emma." She let herself get dragged back to her room and buckled to the cot.
"I was told on Friday that she'd be reevaluated by a new psychiatrist today, that still hasn't happened, and our doctor has expressed some very serious concerns about the medications she's being given."
"I understand your concern, Commander, but there simply aren't any other counselors available right now."
"There's a whole hospital full of psychiatrists not three miles from here, at the Golden Gate Villa Wellness Center."
"That's a private facility."
"I'll pay for the doctor myself, I'll do anything it takes."
"None of those doctors have clearance to speak with a patient of Starfleet Medical. In your captain's state of mind, she could reveal classified information."
"At least let our doctor in to see her," Chakotay said. "He's very concerned about her reaction to certain medications."
"I'll see what I can do," the admiral answered.
"If you'd just give your approval . . . " Chakotay held out the PADD again. "Please sir, just your thumbprint so our doctor can see her."
The admiral took the PADD and scanned it. "This complaint is from an Emergency Medical Hologram?"
"Yes, sir, he's our chief -- "
"I'd suggest you talk to a real doctor about this situation before bringing it to my attention again."
Janeway kept her eyes on the door. Chakotay had secured her release, and any minute now he would come for her. She could almost feel the gentle touch of his fingers already.
The room grew dark enough to obscure the hideous green. Maybe he hadn't managed to secure her release, and he'd have to slip in under cover of darkness to steal her away.
She almost liked that idea. It meant they'd finally have some time alone together. Her eyelids grew heavy as she savored that fantasy. She remembered the promise in his eyes when she'd seen him last, and shivered happily.
Chakotay stood beside her bed and whispered her name. She sat up and wrapped her arms around him. Together they slipped down the corridor and out the kitchen door to freedom.
She awoke with a start. The restraints still held her wrists and ankles. Soon, though, reality would mirror her dream. She wouldn't have to stay here much longer.
Chakotay had played by the rules and Kathryn was still confined within those ugly walls. He beamed up to Voyager, allegedly to clean out his office, and headed for Astrometrics. He imagined that Borg sensors could provide a pretty detailed scan of a mental hospital.
Within minutes he returned to the surface, the thumping of his heart echoing in his head. Why did a mental hospital that used out-of-date communicators and old-fashioned manual doors have level three shielding with irregularly rotating harmonics?
He couldn't just steal a shuttle and beam her out of there. His simple plan B crumbled into dust, and it looked like Kathryn would spend another night as a captive.
Things didn't add up, and the counselor was probably the key. He needed to get into Starfleet's personnel files. He contacted Tom.
"Rise and shine, sleepy head."
Janeway almost groaned. She was already awake, but the restraints kept her from rising and it was certainly out of the question to even attempt to shine.
The nurse unbuckled her wrists and ankles, then followed her into the bathroom.
"A little privacy, please?"
"After yesterday's behavior you aren't to be left alone," the nurse said. "Counselor's orders."
She sighed. So the fabulous privilege here was bathroom privacy, and she'd now lost it completely.
When she finished the nurse held up a straightjacket. "Don't make a fuss or it's straight back to bed. Now arms up, sweetie."
The straightjacket seemed tighter than before. She couldn't grip anything through the fabric this time. She followed the nurse to the cafeteria and took her seat.
Margie nearly made eye contact. "Hi Kathryn."
Despite her situation she smiled. "Good morning."
Margie returned her attention to her egg-like food, stirring it in small, uneven circles around her tray.
"Open wide, sweetie." The nurse held a spoon to her face.
"Kathryn, we really have to work on these behavior problems of yours. I won't have you disrupting this facility."
"Someone needs to do it," Janeway said. "You've lied to Emma about the Borg, poor Margie is too afraid to speak -- "
"Kathryn, it is not your turn to talk."
"As a patient I have rights. One of those rights is to request a new counselor and I'm -- ."
"Kathryn, fun time is over. You will mind the rules."
"I want another counselor. I don't like you and I certainly don't trust you."
"Kathryn, you will listen when I talk to you."
"Witty comeback," Janeway said. "I want to see another counselor. I have nothing else to say to you."
"I can't help you unless you want to get better, Kathryn. You need to make a commitment to your own recovery."
Janeway sat and listened to the counselor spout a series of preachy clichés, not one of which seemed to mean anything in particular. When the hour finally ended, she requested an appointment with the medical doctor.
"He's not available today, Kathryn. You'll have to ask again tomorrow."
Somehow she didn't find that surprising.
Tom looked up from the terminal in his father's home office as Chakotay entered. "The counselor graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2359."
"Not Starfleet Academy?"
"Didn't get in. Applied twice."
"Interesting, but not particularly useful."
"This could be, though. She filed a lawsuit against Starfleet in 2360."
"On what grounds?"
Tom read further. "Discrimination. She claims that Starfleet's hiring policies favored those of Betazed ancestry for counselor's positions, which violates -- "
"I get it. So she won and now they're afraid of her?"
"Apparently not afraid enough. She filed a second lawsuit in 2366 after being passed over for promotion. She received her current assignment as part of the settlement agreement."
Chakotay came over to peer over Tom's shoulder. "So is she just an incompetent bully or does she have a deeper agenda?"
"You mentioned shielding. That's pretty suspicious."
"If she hurts Kathryn -- "
"We'll get her out of there, Chakotay, whatever it takes."
"Let's see what we can find on that building."
"This is it," Tom said. He pointed at the screen. "It's one of the oldest buildings that Starfleet still has in use."
"That explains the doorknobs, but it certainly doesn't explain that shielding."
"I don't see a shield generator on these plans."
"There's a whole floor missing on those blueprints."
Tom twisted in his seat. "What do you mean?"
"There's a whole section missing, right here." Chakotay pointed. "My scans from astrometrics show another level."
"Think that's where we'll find the shield generator?"
"And anything else they don't want us to find." Chakotay glanced at the chronometer. "I've got a doctor to corner at Starfleet Medical."
"I'll keep digging," Tom said. "Good luck."
Denied the relative comfort of the ridiculously pink lounge, Janeway paced small circles in her room. The knowledge that Chakotay was working to secure her release gave her some comfort, but he had obviously encountered difficulties.
Last night she'd woken up disappointed from at least a dozen dreams, so she tried not to watch the door too hopefully. Chakotay would come for her. She just had to practice some patience.
After what seemed like weeks, the nurse arrived to dish out further humiliation so she could use the bathroom before lunch. Then came spoonfuls of creamed corn and Jell-O, complete with train noises, and finally more solitude in the hideous green room.
She slid down the wall to sit on the floor facing the door and waited.
It took Chakotay nearly two hours to track down the head of Starfleet Medical. Once cornered, the man read the Doctor's official complaint and nodded. "These medications shouldn't be prescribed without a medical doctor. I can send someone over to examine her today."
"Thank you." Chakotay's throat tightened around the words. He'd finally made some progress. He headed back to his quarters to get Kathryn a change of clothes, knowing she wasn't overly fond of medical garments. Once she got the chance to speak with a real doctor, she'd be free. Then they could figure out the counselor's big secret together.
Waiting really didn't qualify as something to do. Janeway stared at the door until the very sight of it depressed her. It didn't open. It had been doing that for a while.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. Her neck felt stiff and sore. Chakotay owed her a neck rub for taking so long to rescue her. She briefly imagined the warmth of his hands on her sore muscles.
Soon. She'd seen him. This could not last much longer.
The door opened. She sat up with a start, but the fresh burst of adrenaline quickly soured. The nurse had returned and she'd brought construction paper.
"Look, sweetie, I've brought you a friend so you won't be lonely." The nurse proudly held up the snowman from arts and crafts. "We'll just hang him right here on your door. What do you think of that?"
"I think that my taste in art is considerably more sophisticated."
"Now you can show it to anyone who visits."
"Is someone visiting?"
"I don't know, sweetie, but you'd better be on your very best behavior. Naughty girls don't get visitors. Now do you need to use the potty?"
Chakotay returned to the hospital in high spirits, carrying a change of clothes for Kathryn in a small bag.
The guard stopped him at the door. "Sorry, sir. No visitors allowed today."
"But -- "
"There was an altercation involving several patients and we're on security lockdown until further notice."
"What do you mean? Was anyone injured?"
"We don't have that information, sir. You'll have to contact Starfleet Medical to check on the status of a patient."
Chakotay grabbed the man by his uniform and slammed him into a wall. "If she's injured I'm holding you personally responsible. Now I suggest you let me in."
"And I suggest you let him go immediately."
Chakotay turned and found himself face to face with the counselor.
"Open wide," the nurse said again. She said that before every spoonful. Every dancing, swaying spoonful.
Janeway reconsidered her fantasy about biting the foolish woman. Maybe she'd get sent to bed without dinner if she bit someone. That should at least spare her from the Jell-O.
The nurse clanked the spoon against her teeth. "Oopsie. You've got to open wider than that, sweetie."
"This would be easier if you let me feed myself," she said.
"Now sweetie, don't be like that." The nurse held up another spoonful of creamed something or another and waved it back and forth. "Here comes the shuttle."
After dinner Janeway and the others were herded into the ridiculously pink lounge, where the recreation director sat waiting. "Social contact is a requirement of your treatment programs. Everyone take a seat. And no talking."
"Exactly how is that social?" Janeway asked.
"Don't you think your mouth has caused enough trouble this week?"
"I am an awful lot of trouble," Janeway said. "Maybe you should have me transferred."
"That would be fine with me, but right now you need to sit down and be quiet or I'll call security."
She sighed. The recreation director, while not a particularly bright gem of humanity, wasn't directly responsible for her situation. She took a seat.
The recreation director sat down as well. Everyone watched each other. No one spoke. Janeway wondered just how long social hour would last.
"I want to see Kathryn," Chakotay said. "It's been almost a week and you have no grounds to hold her." He released the security guard and made a move towards the door.
The counselor blocked his path. "Kathryn is not ready for visitors," she said. "She is a very sick woman and she doesn't need anyone distracting from her recovery."
"I'll need more than your opinion to convince me of that," Chakotay said. "And if you've done anything to hurt her . . ."
"Is that a threat?"
"If your career is worth anything to you, I'd suggest you not use Kathryn as your pawn," Chakotay said.
Two more security guards emerged from the building.
"Escort this man off the premises," the counselor said. "I'll be reporting this incident to Starfleet."
"You do that," Chakotay said. "I'll be doing the same."
The recreation director got up and crossed the room to study the new shelf. Its intended contents remained stacked on the floor.
Janeway heard her open an old-fashioned communicator and call the counselor. Then the two women stood watching the shelf, as if they expected it to bolt off.
"I can't believe they still haven't moved it," said the recreation director.
"I put it on a work order yesterday," said the counselor.
"Maybe you should remind them. It can't be left like this."
The counselor nodded. "Three days is an unacceptable length of time. It should have been done by now."
"What is the big deal with this shelf?" Janeway whispered.
Tabitha shrugged. "They get new furniture a lot."
"And there's always a fuss?"
"Always. The counselor got a new desk a few weeks ago, but it didn't fit through the door. It was all anyone talked about for days. Finally they cut the legs off."
"Why didn't they just transport it?"
Tabitha shrugged again. "Maybe they didn't think of that. They haven't thought to move that shelf two feet on their own."
Janeway smothered a laugh.
Chakotay returned to Starfleet Medical and requested another meeting with the head of the department.
"I'm sorry, sir, he's left for the day," the yeoman said. "Would you like to leave a message?"
Janeway watched as the two men arrived to move the shelf two feet. The counselor then instructed them on exactly how to place each item on the shelf.
"Next time I place a work order I expect the task to be done immediately," the counselor said. "We shouldn't have these sorts of delays."
"And yet," Tabitha muttered.
Even Margie almost smiled.
"Can you take down that shield?" Chakotay asked B'Elanna.
"I'm sure I can," she answered. "I'll need a few things, though."
"Just name it," Chakotay said. "I need that shield down now."
"Well I certainly can't do anything from here. Can we get into the building?"
"Your husband is working on the plan right now."
"Do you have a shuttle?"
"I will. I hope I don't regret buying a runabout sight unseen from a Ferengi."
"I don't see how you can't regret that," Tom said from the doorway.
"Have you found a way in?"
"It won't be easy. The front doors are guarded, the fire exits open only from the inside, it doesn't have windows, and the shielding prevents entry from above."
"So we use explosives."
"Chakotay." B'Elanna laid her hand on his arm. "We'd have half of Starfleet on us before we ever got to the shield generator."
"I know. Dammit, I know. I just can't sit here and do nothing."
"We won't," Tom said. "The kitchen door opens into a yard. It's got a chain link fence around it, but I'm betting we can get through that."
"We might not need to bother with the shield generator," Chakotay said. "I might be able to slip in, find Kathryn, and sneak her back out the same way."
"You'll need a tricorder set to scan for her biosignature," B'Elanna said. "I can take care of that."
"Don't forget about the Doc," Tom said. "If you steal the captain they might not let him just stroll out of there."
"They won't have a reason to hold him," Chakotay said. "Since the counselor doesn't acknowledge him as human, she can hardly diagnose him with any psychological condition, and he hasn't violated any laws."
"When are we doing this?" Tom asked.
"I'm doing this," Chakotay answered. "I'm doing this tonight."
The counselor and recreation director finally managed to tear themselves away from the shelf and remember the patients. "If you're all on your best behavior we'll let you see a film tomorrow."
"Heaven help us all," the tall woman muttered.
"Who said that?" The counselor looked sternly at them each in turn. "Tell me who said that."
Emma gave a little squeak. The rest stared up at the counselor in silence.
"Do you have something to say, Emmy?"
"Her name is Emma," Tabitha said. "And don't call me Tabby."
"The film is cancelled," the counselor said. "I think it's time for bed."
The nurse came and led Janeway back to her room.
Janeway stretched, grateful for the momentary freedom from the straightjacket. "What time is it?"
"Now don't go worrying about that, sweetie. Now let's get you all tucked into bed."
She sighed. It couldn't possibly be later than nineteen hundred hours. "I'm not tired. Could I have something to read for a while?"
"Now sweetie, no stalling. The counselor said it's bedtime. Get your fanny over here and don't be so difficult."
With another sigh, she sank onto the cot and let herself be strapped down.
Chakotay crouched in the shadows, watching the mental hospital's kitchen door through an old chain link fence. What he planned to do might cost him his career, but he didn't care. He couldn't leave Kathryn inside those walls for another night.
He looked down at the tricorder in his hand. It showed that Kathryn was still awake, and appeared to be on the first floor. As soon as the final life sign vacated the kitchen, he'd make his move. He shifted, trying to keep his muscles from stiffening.
His eyes dropped to the tricorder again, watching the readings that proved Kathryn's physical well being. At least they hadn't harmed her, physically at least.
Chakotay's heart followed the order.
Minutes dragged along. Imaginary targs, the periodic table, complex fantasies of escape. Nothing brought the temporary relief of sleep.
A dozen times she heard the doorknob turn. The door creaked when it opened, but it never made a sound when it closed. Chakotay appeared, shimmered away, and appeared again.
If her mind insisted on taunting her, couldn't it let her sleep while it did it?
Janeway tried to keep from watching the door, but as the night wore on it grew harder to resist the urge to open her eyes and check, just one more time.
He would come for her.
"He's been stalking one of my patients," the counselor said. "He assaulted one of my employees this afternoon."
"Is this true?" A Starfleet security officer shone a light in Chakotay's face.
"I was checking on my captain," Chakotay said. "They brought her here, but they won't let me see her, or answer any of my questions."
"He had this." The facility's own security guard handed over Chakotay's tricorder.
"It's set to scan for her biosignature," he said. "I needed to see that she was okay. They won't let our doctor see her."
"I told you," the counselor said. "He's obsessive."
"It sounds to me like he's concerned for a friend," the security officer said. "He wasn't inside your facility, and I don't have grounds to hold him."
"But he'll -- "
"I can post two guards outside this fence, if you like, but I can't hold a Starfleet officer without grounds." The security officer turned to Chakotay. "I'd suggest you not loiter near this facility at night."
"Rise and shine, sleepy head!"
Lights burned into Janeway's eyes, destroying her sleep induced illusion that Chakotay had arrived at last. She performed her morning routine under the watchful eye of the nurse and donned the straightjacket without complaint.
Breakfast was bleak but uneventful. She definitely preferred creamed leola root to powdered scrambled eggs. A trip to the counselor's office did not improve her morning.
"Are you actualizing today, Kathryn?"
Janeway didn't bother to reply.
"We have something very important to talk about today, Kathryn." The counselor pulled her chair closer to Janeway's seat. "I want you to know that you are safe here. You can tell me, and he can't do anything to punish you."
"What are you talking about?"
The counselor laid her hand on Janeway's knee. "You don't have to pretend anymore, Kathryn."
"Kathryn, sometimes women need to feel loved so badly that they choose the wrong man. It's okay to admit it."
"The wrong man? What are you talking about?"
"A man who hits you doesn't really love you, Kathryn." The counselor squeezed her knee.
Janeway flinched at the pressure. "No man that I've loved has ever hit me. What are you up to?"
"He won't leave you alone, will he Kathryn? He tells you that you are his. That you will always be his. He says he only hits you because he loves you too much."
"I don't know who 'he' is in your little fairy tale, but nothing like that has ever happened to me."
"You don't have to deny it any more, Kathryn. You're safe now. He'll never bother you again."
She swallowed hard. The counselor must be talking about Chakotay. This must be part of a scheme to keep him away from her. "I don't know what your agenda is, but you will fail."
"You'll feel so much better when you say it, Kathryn. Just say that he's hurt you. That will be the first step in your recovery. Tell me, Kathryn, tell me what you feel when he hits you."
"Your ship's doctor has an appointment with the counselor tomorrow," the physician said. "I've made arrangements to sit in on the meeting. I'm sure we'll get all of your questions answered."
"Can't you do anything sooner?"
"You should be extremely grateful that I've managed to get an appointment to see her at all. The facility is currently on a security lockdown. I couldn't even get inside the building yesterday."
"They said there was some sort of altercation. Was anyone hurt?"
"No injuries were reported." The physician stood to leave. "I'd suggest you get some sleep, Commander. You look like you could use it."
Lunch again failed to meet the culinary heights of a Klingon prison, and the plastic spoon's impersonation of a landing shuttle did nothing to improve it.
"Please," Janeway said. "Stop making that noise."
"Would you rather have the choo-choo train, sweetie?"
"I'd rather hold the spoon myself," Janeway said. "But since that privilege is gone, I'd settle for quiet."
"Now don't be such a grumble bunny," said the nurse. "Grumble bunnies don't get dessert."
"If by dessert you mean Jell-O I'll pass," she said.
The nurse waved a generous glob of mashed potatoes at her. "Open wide! Here comes the choo-choo train."
A flying clod of mashed potatoes splattered across the nurse's face. All heads turned towards Margie.
The nurse wiped slimy clumps off of her face. "Who did that?"
Everyone focused their attention back on their trays.
"The counselor isn't going to be very happy to hear about this," the nurse said.
"Good," Janeway said. "No one else here is happy."
"Naughty girls don't get dessert." The nurse stalked off, assumably to wash her face. Muffled laughter followed her.
Janeway looked at Margie.
The other woman shrugged her shoulders. "They treat us like children."
Chakotay headed back to his apartment and tried to get some rest. After tossing and turning for nearly an hour, he abandoned his attempt at a nap and went in search of his medicine bundle.
When he found it he couldn't settle his mind enough for a vision quest. Instead he kept unpacking boxes, transforming the Starfleet furnished apartment into a home.
The results gave him some comfort, and he managed some sleep for the first time since he'd heard Kathryn scream his name from behind a locked door.
Another long night passed, full of wishful thinking and blocked attempts to toss and turn. Between the counselor's strange accusations and the fact that Chakotay had yet to come to the rescue, Janeway was deeply concerned.
Had Chakotay fallen victim to some scheme the counselor had hatched? She shuddered to think of him in a prison cell somewhere, or worse yet strapped to a cot elsewhere in the building.
Her imagination skittered into increasingly dark corners as the hours passed. Voyager should have stayed in the Delta Quadrant. Instead of saving her crew, she'd doomed them all to the same torment she now endured.
Chakotay arrived at Starfleet Medical at the crack of dawn and parked himself in the waiting room. He wanted to know the very instant they released Kathryn.
He didn't let himself doubt that the review would end with her immediate release. He couldn't. He needed to see her today, and the thought of another delay sent a shudder through him.
"Commander Chakotay. I'm not surprised to find you here."
"Any news?" Chakotay asked.
"I'm meeting with your ship's doctor at noon. If anything changes you'll be the first to know."
"Thank you," Chakotay said.
"Rise and shine, sleepy head."
Janeway groaned. Her muscles ached, her head throbbed, and the very air stung her throat. She stumbled into the bathroom as soon as the nurse unbuckled her restraints and peered at herself in the ineffective plastic mirror.
Dark circles surrounded her bloodshot eyes. She splashed some water on her face, but it failed to help.
"Sweetie, don't dilly dally half the morning away," the nurse said. "You've got to have your breakfast."
"I'm not hungry," she said. It hurt to talk.
"Don't be cranky now," the nurse said. "Cranky girls don't get to sit in the lounge."
"I think I've got a cold," Janeway said. "Could I get something for that?"
"We can't give you medication without a doctor," the nurse said.
"Then may I see a doctor?"
"We'll talk to the counselor about that right after breakfast, okay sweetie?"
The Doctor requested an updated copy of the captain's chart as soon as the receptionist arrived. He doubted she'd give it to him before his appointment, but it never hurt to ask.
He met the doctor from Starfleet Medical shortly before noon and outlined the captain's medical history.
"So she's never suffered any mental lapses in the past?"
"Nothing more serious than a bout of insomnia," the Doctor assured him. "The crew went through some extraordinary circumstances, but the captain always recovered well."
The other doctor nodded. "Then why your concern about these medications?"
"They were prescribed without the authorization of a qualified physician," he said. "That alone -- "
"Sometimes it's necessary, in these circumstances, to bend regulations a bit. Counselors are allowed to give their patients certain medications while awaiting a physical exam."
"The captain was recently exposed to a procedure that suppressed her memory. Giving her psychiatric medications without thought to the possible effects -- "
"Then perhaps her current condition is a result of that procedure?"
"I don't believe that her 'current condition' is anything more than a fabrication on the part of this counselor."
"That's a serious accusation."
"I'm well aware of that," the Doctor said. "But Captain Janeway has been my patient for seven years, and I find this so-called diagnosis highly suspect."
"The shock of returning home after so many years could have triggered a deep emotional response."
"Perhaps so, but I don't believe that warrants incarceration."
To her relief, Janeway was spared a counseling session after breakfast. She asked again if something could be done about her cold.
"The counselor is very busy this morning, sweetie," the nurse said. "I'm sure she'll let us know about the doctor."
"Can't I see the doctor without talking to the counselor?" Janeway asked. "I was waiting for an appointment already."
"Doctors aren't available to come here every day. You need to learn patience."
"How about a lozenge?"
"First you wouldn't eat your breakfast and now you want a candy?"
"Not candy," Janeway said. "A lozenge for my throat."
"You could choke on something like that. Now stop being so difficult."
"Gentlemen," the counselor said stiffly. "Please have a seat."
The two doctors sat down opposite the large oak desk.
"So, we're here to discuss the Janeway case," the counselor said. "A really difficult challenge. What first presented like post traumatic stress disorder really has much deeper roots."
"And how is that?" The doctor from Starfleet Medical held out his hand for a copy of the chart.
"She started experiencing paranoid delusions on the first day of her treatment. She also showed signs of chemical addiction, and more disturbingly she displayed suicidal tendencies immediately upon her arrival here."
"Suicidal tendencies?" The Doctor leaned forward. "That's absurd."
"Our cook had to take a knife away from her. Physical examination will show bruising on her wrists."
"Why isn't this reflected in her chart?"
"Isn't it?" The counselor made a show of scanning her own copy. "Right here," she said.
"Ah," said the Doctor. "One of the escape attempts."
"I doubt her motive was escape. The kitchen door was open, and yet she chose to steal a knife and crawl into a storage closet."
"A valid strategy if she were being pursued."
"Don't buy into her delusions, doctor, she's perfectly safe here. The blind eye you've turned upon her issues over the years has certainly not done her any good."
"I assure you -- "
"What did you think the bruises were from, Doctor? The cuts, the scrapes, the broken bones? A woman in a leadership position, reduced to this by a codependent relationship with an abusive lover; it's a crime."
"I've encountered him myself. He's been here. An obsessive individual. He's aggressive, violent, and extremely possessive. The other night he was lurking outside the fence, and the day before he assaulted one of my employees. You'd let her return to him?"
The doctor from Starfleet Medical spoke up. "This lover, who is he?"
"A Commander Chakotay," said the counselor. "He's a former Maquis, I believe?"
"I assure you the captain has never been abused, most certainly not by Chakotay. They are close friends, not lovers, and he'd never do anything to harm her."
"And yet the sight of a clown reduces her to hysterics? Clown phobia is a classic symptom of abuse, doctor."
"First of all -- "
"She's also a discipline problem. She has to be restrained at all times, to minimize her risk to herself and others."
"I doubt -- "
"Her behavior has worsened, and her frequent mention of the Borg is frightening my other patients. She requires extensive treatment, and due to her knowledge of classified information, this is the only facility equipped to handle her."
Janeway sat on the floor, her head resting against the wall. She could no longer stand the sight of the door, so she had crawled into the corner behind her cot. It was easier to get comfortable there, anyhow.
She swallowed constantly, but failed to bring any relief to her dry throat. She breathed carefully, trying not to cough. Without anything to drink, she'd never gain control of a coughing fit if she let one start. Her eyes burned and her nose itched, but the straightjacket kept her from scratching.
In the midst of a red alert she could endure far worse without medical treatment. But without any purpose at all, this cold tormented her more than a dozen broken ribs.
All she could do was lean against the wall and wait for the nurse.
"You've been denied visitor's privileges," the Starfleet doctor told Chakotay. "There's nothing I can do about that. Another member of your crew can apply, and in the meantime you could have them send a care package. I think it might help her to know she's not alone."
"She has to stay there?" Chakotay asked. "Why can't she come home?"
"The counselor presented a strong case. I can't override her authority without the opinion of a qualified psychiatrist with proper clearance."
"It's been more than a week," Chakotay said. "Admiral Paris promised she'd be reevaluated immediately."
"There have been scheduling problems." The man placed his hand on Chakotay's arm. "Don't give up hope. I'll see what I can do to find an acceptable psychiatrist."
"Please find one today," Chakotay said. "She deserves better than than this."
By dinnertime Janeway had lost control of her cough. She nearly begged for permission to see a doctor.
"Sweetie, it's after five o'clock now. We can't get a doctor until tomorrow."
"It wasn't after five o' clock the first few times I asked."
"Now don't be a grumble bunny. It's time for dinner."
She stalled in the bathroom, stretching her muscles while they were free. It wasn't until the nurse threatened to send her to bed without dinner that she finally stood still for the straightjacket. Not that she wanted to eat, but she was desperately thirsty.
Dinner stung her throat. "Water, please."
"No more water until you've finished your stew."
Janeway turned her head away, avoiding the spoon. "No, that's too salty and it burns my throat."
"My, we are a grumble bunny today. Open up, sweetie."
She closed her mouth and fixed her gaze on her water glass.
The nurse responded with train noises.
Her dreams brought frustration when she slept at all. Chakotay came for her more times than she could count, but he always faded away.
Her cough kept her from sleeping more, and if not for the nagging pain she might have welcomed it. She missed her late night tours of her ship, her comfortable bed, and her collection of books. She never minded insomnia quite as much when she had something to read.
Another coughing spell attacked, and she tried in vain to turn her head against the pillow. The restraints kept her from rolling over or even covering her mouth.
Her body shook with the force of her cough. She tried to swallow them back, but failed, hacking until she nearly lost consciousness. Even that fleeting escape was denied to her.
She wanted a glass of water as much as her next breath, but calling out for a nurse only made her throat sting more. Some hospital. They wouldn't even treat a common cold.
The moment the nurse unbuckled her restraints she raced into the bathroom and leaned down awkwardly to press her mouth to the faucet. The cool water slid down her throat, not quite soothing it.
"For goodness sake, get you face out of there." The nurse grabbed her shoulder. "You're making a mess."
Janeway held onto the faucet and kept drinking, unmindful of the water splattering on the floor or trickling down her face and onto her gown.
Water had greater value than dignity.
The nurse pried her hand off of the faucet. "Use the toilet and let's get ready for breakfast."
Janeway elbowed her in the ribs and kept drinking.
The larger woman wrapped her arms around her and pulled. "Let go of that faucet or I'll call the counselor."
The threat worked. Janeway let go of the faucet.
"What a mess you've made of yourself. Honestly, sweetie, do you have to cause so much trouble?"
"Someone should," Janeway said. "This place is horrible."
"Sweetie, this is the best mental hospital in the Federation. Now stop being such a grumble bunny and get ready for breakfast."
Margie nearly made eye contact as Janeway took her seat in the cafeteria. "Hi Kathryn."
"Good morning," Janeway answered.
"You've got a cold," Margie said.
"Now Margie," the nurse said. "Don't distract Kathryn. She needs to eat her breakfast."
Janeway tried not to choke on the lumps of lukewarm cereal as the nurse shoveled them down her inflamed throat. At least the stuff wasn't salty.
"Water?" she asked hopefully.
"Breakfast first," the nurse said. "You've had quite enough water already this morning."
Janeway started coughing. She twisted her neck, trying to cough against her shoulder.
"That's what happens when we eat too fast, sweetie."
"She wasn't eating too fast," Margie said. "You're the one sticking the spoon down her throat."
"Margie, honestly, what has gotten into you lately?"
"I've finally started to hate this place more than I hate remembering my husband's death."
Janeway turned to Margie, the words tugging at her heart. "I'm so sorry."
Margie swallowed, and Janeway could see the shimmer of tears in her eyes. "It hurts, more than anything, but I think I'd rather hurt than feel nothing."
"This breakfast isn't going to eat itself," said the nurse.
"How dare you?" Janeway aimed a glare at the nurse. "How dare you even suggest that this meal is more important than a human being in pain?"
Several patients shouted in agreement, and Tabitha crossed the room to sit beside Margie. Janeway gave them both a small nod.
"Don't get all worked up -- "
Janeway stood, shoving the chair back into the wall. "Oh no, I think it's about time I got worked up, as you put it. I'm tired of being treated like a child, and I'm not the only one." She swallowed hard. Her speech would lose some of the dramatic flare if she started coughing. "We have rights, and it's about time someone in this place thought about respecting them."
She turned and stalked from the room, and didn't start coughing until she reached her own room. The nurse followed her, making threats about the counselor, but Janeway had moved beyond caring.
The floor again. Janeway didn't actually like the corner behind the cot, but she hated it slightly less than the rest of the room. The speech at breakfast had scorched her already sore throat, and her whole body ached from laying flat on her back all night.
She didn't know what punishment would result from the scene at breakfast, but she didn't care. Margie needed to talk through her grief, and obviously the counselor hadn't offered her any real help.
The top of her open door was just visible from where she sat. She cringed as it opened wider. "Kathryn?"
The voice didn't belong to the counselor, or to anyone else she had met here. The voice was male. "Kathryn, a package came for you. Would you like me to open it for you?"
She looked up at one of the men who had brought the new shelf during movie night. "That would be kind of you, thank you. Who's it from?"
"The card says Tom Paris."
A hidden message from the crew? A way to escape? Her heart thundered so loud she could barely hear herself. "How thoughtful of him."
The maintenance man carefully opened the package and showed her the contents. "You've got a nice new pair of slippers here."
Janeway tried to reach for them, but the straightjacket stopped her.
"Let me help you with that," the man said. "The counselor says you're a troublemaker so I'm guessing that means you're sane." He released the buckles on the straightjacket. "Don't tell on me now."
"I won't," she said. "I promise." She took one of the beautiful slippers in her hands and lightly fingered the decorative rose on the top.
It was pale peach, a peace rose. Chakotay had found a way to send her a message.
The new slippers kept her feet from slapping against the floor as she walked to lunch. She didn't feel quite as naked, either.
The nurse left her alone for a few minutes. Tabitha came over and sat down across from her. "I think Margie feels a little better."
"Good. Did you two get a chance to talk?"
"A little bit. The counselor told her she could take a nap if she wanted. I was surprised that she'd let her break the routine."
"She's probably trying to keep her away from me," Janeway said. "I'm a bad influence."
"Were you really a Maquis like the guards say?"
"No," Janeway said softly. "I wasn't."
"I'm sorry, I -- "
"Don't be. Some of the finest people I know served in the Maquis."
"What were you, before you came here? I mean, if you don't mind telling me."
"I was the captain of Voyager," Janeway said.
"The ship lost in the Delta Quadrant? When did you get home? How did you get home?" Tabitha leaned forward eagerly.
"None of your tall tales, sweetie." The nurse dropped a tray in front of her. "It's time for lunch."
"They're telling me to wait until Monday." Chakotay paced around Tom and B'Elanna's living room. "I told them I did that last Friday and it didn't help."
"I can't imagine how angry the captain must be by now," B'Elanna said. "Seventy thousand light years in seven years time, and this is her reward?"
"We could try some drastic measures," Tom said quietly. "That idea involving explosives, maybe."
"I wish I thought it would work," Chakotay said.
The door chimed and Tom got up to get it. Admiral Paris pushed through the door. "Where is that little granddaughter of mine?"
"Sleeping, finally," Tom said. "I didn't realize you were back."
"Just beamed down," Admiral Paris said. "A wasted trip, too. Any starship in the quadrant could have -- what's wrong?"
"We're having trouble getting Captain Janeway released," Tom said.
"They're still holding Kathryn! What happened at her reevaluation?"
"She hasn't had one yet, sir," Chakotay said.
"That was scheduled for 0800 hours on Monday. What happened?"
"All we know is it didn't happen," Chakotay said. "If there's something you could do I'd be grateful."
"Oh there's something I can do," Admiral Paris said. "Whoever's responsible for this is out of a job."
After lunch the nurse granted Janeway lounge privileges for the first time in days. The couch made up for its pinkness by surpassing the floor in comfort.
"Tell me about Voyager," Tabitha said.
The girl listened intently as Janeway described some of the species they had met, and detailed some of their more narrow escapes.
"It's all so amazing," Tabitha said. "I almost wish I had been on Voyager."
"What did you do, before this?"
"I was the operations officer on the Montgomery."
"If you don't mind the question, how'd you end up here?"
"I had a really close call on an away mission," she said. "I was a little shaky afterwards, and the captain suggested that I speak with the counselor, since her ship was nearby. I still don't know what I said that landed me here."
"I know the feeling," Janeway said. "What happened on your mission?"
"It's classified," Tabitha said. "I'm sure you have clearance, but if they have reason to label me a security risk -- "
"It's okay," Janeway said. "You don't have to -- "
"I reinstate lounge privileges and this is what happens?" The counselor stood glaring at them. "Back to your rooms, now."
Janeway gave up the soft couch and exchanged ridiculous pink for hideous green. She wondered how much the counselor had heard, and was glad she hadn't revealed anything very personal.
The counselor didn't like for her patients to talk with each other. That was clear. Janeway decided to speak with as many of the others as possible, as often as possible. Perhaps if she made herself enough of a nuisance, the counselor would have her transferred to another facility. If not, at least she'd succeed in aggravating the woman. The thought gave her some pleasure.
Besides, the other patients needed someone who cared. Half of them probably didn't even need psychiatric help, let alone to be institutionalized, and the half who needed help wouldn't find it here.
She looked down at her slippers. Chakotay would come for her, and then she could do something about the others.
Dinner seemed like the perfect time to launch her new plan. She greeted Margie, then passed her usual seat and sat down across from Emma.
"Good evening," she said. "Think the cooking has improved since lunch?"
Emma eyed her from behind her wall of hair. "No."
The nurse returned with proof that the food hadn't changed. "Sweetie, I hope you aren't bothering Emmy."
"Emma," Janeway said. "Am I bothering you?"
Emma's eye darted between her and the nurse. "No."
"See? Emma and I were just making small talk."
"Sweetie, it isn't time for chit chat. Now how about some dinner?"
"I'd rather talk to Emma," Janeway said.
"Now don't be so difficult, sweetie." The nurse held up a spoon. "Open wide."
Janeway turned back to Emma. "How are -- "
The nurse jammed the spoon half way down her throat, half choking her. She jumped to her feet, stumbling a bit without her hands to balance the sudden movement. Everyone in the cafeteria turned to watch.
"That was unnecessary," she said. "I'm tired of being treated like a child, or worse."
Applause spread through the room.
"What is going on in here?" the counselor demanded. "Kathryn. I should have known. Your privileges are suspended."
Security escorted her back to her room, but at least she didn't have to eat the Jell-O.
She could see his face, but he didn't speak, and when she reached for him he faded away. An illusion. Just another dream, or hallucination.
Janeway couldn't quite tell if she woke up before or after she'd watched Chakotay fade away. She tried to rub her eyes, but the restraints stopped her. She fought not to notice the scratch in her throat that wanted to trigger a fit of coughing. She thought it might be near morning, but without a clock or a way to see daylight she couldn't tell. Morning would announce itself when the nurse came to take her to breakfast.
She wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, but she didn't have that luxury. The restraints held her immobile, and therefore uncomfortably awake. She sent some imaginary targs skittering across the ceiling, but it didn't help.
"Rise and shine, sleepy head."
When Janeway came out of the bathroom, she noticed a tray of food on a cart near the door. The air thickened around her. Now she'd even lost the privilege of sitting in the mess hall. Her new plan had ended before she'd accomplished much of anything.
The food tasted even worse in the hideous green room. She allowed the nurse to feed her without complaint and waited for the ordeal to end.
Alone again, she curled into her corner and stared at the wall.
The door opened, and although it seemed that hours had passed, her full stomach told her it wasn't yet lunchtime.
Janeway looked up to see who had arrived to torment her now. Chakotay stood before her. She stared at him, studying his face before she spoke and caused him to fade away.
"Please be real," she said.
"Kathryn, what have they done to you?" He dropped to his knees beside her and touched her face.
His fingers felt warm and gentle, sending a tremor through her, and she knew he wasn't another illusion.
"Help me out of this thing."
He fumbled with the buckles on her straightjacket, and she realized his hands were shaking.
The moment she had her arms back she threw them around his neck. "I knew you'd come for me."
"I've been trying all week." He held her tightly. "I'm so sorry it took this long."
"How's the crew?" She could feel the warmth of his body and the play of his muscles against her. He was really here. "Did they get anyone else?"
"No, everyone's fine."
"So she only wanted me." The pieces were starting to make sense. "No other problems with the evaluations?"
"Just a little incident with Henley. She told the counselor that sanity is a myth."
She smiled for the first time. "More wisdom from her grandfather?"
"So it would seem."
"I like that one. It's very true."
"Anyhow, the counselor didn't consider Henley worthy of further evaluation."
"Lucky Henley." She felt Chakotay's arms tighten again. "Please tell me you came to take me home."
"I did." He loosened his grip. "I brought you a change of clothes."
With his help, she climbed to her feet and took the bag he gave her into the bathroom. He'd brought her two choices -- her uniform or casual civilian clothes. She opted for casual, and to her relief discovered that he'd packed undergarments as well. His choice in that department made her smile.
She changed quickly, and when she emerged from the bathroom she found him fingering the leather restraints on the cot. She slipped up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"Was it horrible?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. He'd sense a lie. "But it's over now. We can talk about it later, but there are a few things I'd like to do first."
"Like get a cup of coffee?"
She grinned. "We could start with that."
The Doctor gave her a hypospray for her throat and a hearty bear hug. "It's so good to see you again, Captain."
"Thank you for everything," she told him. "Chakotay said you've been here all week?"
"We didn't want you to be alone," he said. "I'll go tell the others that you're okay. I think Chakotay owes you some coffee."
They found a pleasant outdoor cafe. Chakotay took her hand, his thumb rubbing softly as it had on the bridge.
"The moment we shared is what gave me strength this week," she told him. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"I hope we never have to find out," he said. "I missed you so much it hurt."
"It's over now," she said.
"Your mother and sister should be back the day after tomorrow. They were off world attending an art exhibit and couldn't get transport any sooner."
"She and the baby are both wonderful. We can go see them as soon as you like."
She nodded. "Tomorrow, then. Tonight I'd like some time with you."
"I can't think of anything I'd like more," he said.
They walked through the streets of San Francisco, her arm around his waist, his draped over her shoulders. She could still taste the coffee, real coffee, the first she'd had in seven years. She looked up at Chakotay, who beamed at her, his smile as bright as the sun that felt so good against her skin.
"Chakotay, do me a favor."
"Never call me sweetie."
He stopped and took her hands. "Kathryn, my beloved, keeper of my heart, I love you with all of my soul, but I would never think to call you sweetie."
"That's why I love you." She stretched up to kiss him.
Janeway froze just inside the door of Chakotay's apartment. Her things mingled with his as if they'd shared this home for years.
"Welcome home, Kathryn." He slipped his arms around her waist from behind.
"So we're living together, are we?" She utterly failed to sound anything but happy.
"We could start with that."
She turned in his arms. "I hope we have a bathtub."
He grinned. "We do. Go ahead and give it a try. I'll get dinner started."
Freshly bathed and full of one of the best meals she'd ever eaten, Janeway curled up on the sofa with Chakotay and shared every last detail of her ordeal.
"A clown? That is worse than the Borg."
"We have to do something about that place, Chakotay. I can't leave those other people to that counselor."
"Admiral Paris promised to have her fired."
"He's the one who got me released," she said.
"Would I seem ungracious to ask what took him so long?"
"He got called to Bajor. I suspect there's more to that, but it'll have to wait a few days."
She listened as Chakotay shared everything he knew about the counselor. "It seems she bullied her way into that position, and she's holding as many alleged security risks as she can get into her clutches. She's managed to ensnare at least one admiral."
"So she'd decided to find something wrong with me before we ever met. Should I feel honored?"
"You've got an appointment with another counselor on Monday morning," Chakotay said. "Once you're officially sane we'll look into this further."
She nodded. "We'll get to the bottom of it. Tonight I've got a few other things in mind."
"Is that so?" He chuckled softly and lowered his lips to hers.
Starfleet offered apologies, a promotion, and her choice of assignment. She took a position overseeing the revamp of the mental hospital.
The guards shrank back a bit as she strode through the front door. "Admiral Janeway to see the counselor," she told the receptionist.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but the counselor -- "
She continued through the offices and interrupted the session in progress. She winked at Tabitha, then turned to the counselor.
"What do -- "
"You're fired," Janeway said.
The counselor hit a button on her desk. "Security!"
"Yes," said Janeway. "Go ahead and do that."
"I don't know what strings you pulled to get out of here, but this little stunt proves just how delusional you've become."
Janeway glared at her. "I've faced the Borg Queen. You're nothing but a schoolyard bully." She nodded at the two security guards.
They escorted the counselor out of the building.
Janeway called upon her former senior staff to help with an inspection of the building. They discovered a secret lab, right where Chakotay had predicted, full of stolen technology.
A review of computer logs, once Seven and B'Elanna cracked the encrypted files, showed that many of the items were offered for sale to the highest bidder.
"So she was up to something," Tom said. "The shielding, the high profile patients, it was all just a cover so she could run a black market arms dealership right here under Starfleet's nose."
Tuvok interrogated the staff, but evidence only implicated two culprits: the receptionist and the night duty nurse. The counselor, it seemed, had merely been a convenient pawn.
Janeway had to admit she was disappointed, but her spirits rose when the Doctor told her that the counselor would be tried for a few dozen criminal breaches of medical ethics.
Admiral Paris's wasted trip to Bajor, it turned out, had been orchestrated by an ambitious young Ferengi seeking a discount on medical tricorders. The resulting fine wiped out his profits.
Within a week, more than half of the counselor's former patients had been released. Many, like Tabitha, returned to duty. Margie took an extended vacation with her sister, and Emma received a new eye courtesy of the Doctor.
The tall woman Janeway had never properly met turned out to be Admiral Christine Levin, who had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown while questioning the counselor's refusal to allow Emma to receive visitors.
"I don't understand why this went on for so long," Janeway said.
"Most Starfleet officers would die for the Federation," Admiral Levin said. "It's a little harder to risk ending up locked in here."
Janeway found it hard to argue with that.
"You're just about the only one I haven't fired," Janeway told the maintenance man.
"I appreciate that, ma'am," he said. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Yes," she said. "I was hoping you might have some insight into this?" She spun her monitor around to display the facility's enormous annual furniture budget.
He nodded. "There's a Federation grant that provides certain things to medical facilities. The catch is, if a facility doesn't use up its allotment during the year, they get less the next time around."
"I see." Janeway diverted the furniture budget into a remodeling project. Windows were installed throughout the building.
Under Janeway's leadership the building reformed into an almost pleasant place to stay. Visitors were allowed every weekend, the patients were allowed to take supervised outings, and even the food improved.
"You've done a wonderful thing here, Kathryn." Chakotay slipped an arm around her waist as they strolled through the facility's new garden.
"I'm almost glad the counselor detained me," she said. "This could have gone on for years."
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "This. The Delta Quadrant. Us."
She smiled up at him. "I like that last one the best."
"So do I." He bent his head and kissed her.
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, April 2004.