Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Paramount.  I own nothing and make no profit from this—so TPTB should just leave me alone and let me have my fun.

    WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE.


 Second place winner in best of J/C

Rated PG
 

She stood alone there among the markers and carved stones; strange how little some things changed over the centuries.  Humans still buried their dead and marked their remains with stones, the last 24 centuries with all its technological advances had little effect on this basic human need to honor the memories of past lives.  It had been a long time since she stood here last, she hadn’t come this time to honor the memory of his life, but to seek forgiveness for her own life.  Maybe forgiveness was not exactly what she sought, understanding might be a better word, but could he have ever understood her –what would he call it? Betrayal?  Yes, he might see it as betrayal.

~~~^^^~~~

The klaxons were blaring, the ship had gone to red alert and the Captain, along with the senior staff struggled to reach the bridge—or what was left of it.  This was the fifth attack in just under ten hours and there wasn’t much left of the once proud Starship.  The first attack had taken out the warp core, badly damaged the shields and left them with three hull breaches, sealing which required more energy than they had to spare.  The Captain ordered the two affected decks evacuated and allowed them to decompress.  They had barely stabilized before the second strike, which shut down transporters, lifts, navigation, impulse power and all but wiped out their escape pods.  By the end of the third attack, environmental controls were off line, two more decks had decompressed and the casualties overflowed sickbay.  The forth attack took what was left of their weapons and severely threatened life support.  Voyager hung dead in space.

“Report.”  She shouted as she climbed from the jeffries tube.  A long list of system failures ringing in her ears, as she made her way across the bridge.  “Tuvok, shields?”  It wasn’t an order, but a question—or maybe a prayer.

“Shields at 60% and holding, Captain.”  The calm steady Vulcan voice betrayed none of reality of their situation.

“Captain, they are coming about.”  Harry stoically reported, from his battered station.  “Powering weapons.”

“Harry, reroute all power—life support, everything we’ve got –to the shields.”  With nothing to fight back with and no power to run, it was all they had left.  “Brace for impact.”  She sat in her command chair, took one last glance at the shambles of her bridge, the once state of the art starship that now was little more than smoldering titanium and the crew that had fought so valiantly to save her, saying a silent goodbye.

Wires sparked, consoles exploded, the ship heaved and groaned under the assault, with life support off line there was not even a filtration system to counteract the smoke that filled the bridge.  The ship rolled and many of the crew were tossed, choking, from their stations.  The Captain closed her eyes against the tearing smoke and the last thing she remembered before the ship bucked throwing her from her chair, was his hand reaching across the console to cover hers.

~~~^^^~~~

She could hear sounds, some muffled some louder, but she couldn’t understand them.  The glare of bright lights caused her to slam her eyes shut as soon as she opened them, she wasn’t sure where she was, at this moment she wasn’t certain who she was, but she was struck by the sudden realization that she was alive.  She thought it was an odd sensation to be amazed by your own existence, but she didn’t expect to be alive and she couldn’t understand why.  She tried to focus on the sounds around her, just where was here?  She wasn’t sure and she still couldn’t hear or see anything familiar, her head hurt and her eyes burned whenever she tried to open them, so she lay still and let the darkness take her back.

~~~^^^~~~

The Captain wasn’t the only one who hadn’t counted on being alive and many of the crew on the lower decks didn’t survive that last attack.  Yesterday Voyager carried a crew of one hundred forty-seven, today fifty-seven of those were dead, another thirty or forty injured, about half of those seriously and thirty one were still unaccounted for.  Seven decks had totally decompressed, shields were down, navigation was off line and they had no propulsion whatsoever.  Transporters, lifts, replicators and environmental controls were all non-operational, all remaining power had been routed to the inertial dampers, life support, and sickbay with only minimal lighting through out the ship.  The comm. system was down and sensors both external and internal were off line.  They had no way of knowing if the enemy was still out there or when they would be struck again.  The tremendous force of the last blast had propelled the ship backwards an unknown distance so, that without sensors, they didn’t even know where they were.

Everywhere there were wounded and startled crewmen, some trying to force themselves to function, some just sat shaking their heads in disbelief.  The most serious injuries were in sickbay and the surrounding corridors, the others, the walking wounded, patched themselves, and their friends, up as best they could and tried to move on.  The senior staff was no exception.  With the Captain unconscious in sickbay, Chakotay assumed command, limping through the ship, his badly broken arm in a makeshift sling.  He and the Captain were the most seriously injured of the bridge crew, the others having only superficial wounds, but Seven had been lost when her astrometrics console exploded and B’Elanna was coordinating and effecting repairs with badly smashed fingers, plasma burns and a host of smaller injuries  to numerous to count.  The Doctor had his hands full, Tom and Samantha were working with him, helping where they could, Harry was busy just trying to keep the doctor, himself, on line and Neelix was still unaccounted for.

~~~^^^~~~

It was darker when she opened her eyes again, the sounds were softer and her head didn’t hurt quite as much anymore.  She heard voices, not far away and strained to recognize them.  Her mind was clearing and she remembered they had been under attack.  She struggled to sit up, grunting audibly as she did.

“Kathryn.”

“Captain.”

The voices showed concern as the two men rushed toward her.  The names registered and the pieces began to fall into place.  She remembered now who she was, they were still speaking but her mind was trying to make sense of a jumble of scattered facts, she wasn’t listening.

“Kathryn.”  He reached out a hand to steady her, watching her as she studied him.  “Kathryn, take it easy.”

“Captain, how are you feeling?”  The Doctors concern drew her attention.  “You took quite a hit up there.  Just be still while I scan you.”  As he took his readings, she sat quietly taking in all the wounded surrounding her, the visible damage to the ship and the condition of her first officer.  “Good, you look fine Captain, though I would like you to rest.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Yes, I know you are the Captain.”

“Yes, Doctor, I am, may I go?”  Unconsciously, her hand reached to rub the ache in her head.  She noted they were in no hurry, the immediate danger must be past.

“In a few minutes, let me get you something for that headache.”  The doctor stepped back, nodding to Chakotay.  “The Commander here can fill you in on what has happened, while you wait.  He left them, stopping at several biobeds on his way across the room.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better than you, by the looks of things.”  She looked him over, taking note of the bumps and bruises and nodding toward the sling.

“There were more pressing matters.”  He gave her a dimpled grin.  “Doc. will get to me when he has time.”

“As long as no one in here is dying..” She looked at the now peaceful sickbay, with its mostly sleeping patients.  “And no one appears to be--- he will have the time now.”

“Kathryn I don’t…”

“You can brief me on the ships status as he works.”  She tilted her head to allow the doctor to administer the hypospray.  “Doctor, that will be alright with you?”

“Yes, yes of course Captain, as long as you promise to remain seated while he briefs you----that will be just fine.”  He indicated that Chakotay should sit next to the Captain on the biobed. “If you would Commander.  Sorry Captain, we are a little short of space.”

“Of course, Doctor.”  She rolled her eyes as she moved aside to allow him room.  “Join me Chakotay, please.”

“Why, Captain, I’m not sure what to make of such an invitation.”

“I suggest you make the best of it, Commander; it may be the only offer you get.”

“If you insist, Captain.”  He wiggled a little closer to where she sat.

“Ahh, hemm.”  Clearing his throat with an exaggerated noise, the Doctor reminded them of his presence.  “If you would stay still, Commander.”  He removed the makeshift sling and began scanning.  ”Humm, not too bad, I’ll need an osteoregenerator, I’ll…”  He looked up ready to explain the nature of the break and that he would be right back with the regenerator, but they were so intent on smiling at each other, they didn’t appear to even notice him.  “Yes, well, nice to see someone is happy in this mess..”  He looked around and shook his head.  “I’ll be right back, not that you will miss me.”

“Err what doc?  Did you say…?”  Chakotay look around.  “Where did he go?”

“Osteoregenerator.”  Kathryn smiled.  “You really should pay attention, Commander.”

“Oh, I was.”  He gave her a wide dimpled grin.

“To me, Commander.”  The doctor returned and began the regeneration.  “You were supposed to pay attention to me.”

“Yes, and you are supposed to be briefing me on the ships stasis.”

“Yes.”  His smile disappeared.  “Well, you know about most of the system failures?”  He waited for her nod before continuing.  “That last attack put almost everything out.  We have life support, inertia dampers, artificial gravity on most decks and minimal lighting—most of the power is centered in sickbay.  In total we have seven decks blown out completely.”  He saw her grimace involuntarily, they both knew sudden decompression left no time for evacuation.  “We have fifty-seven fatalities, forty or so wounded, mostly walking a few severe and thirty-one still unaccounted for including Neelix.  Most of the bridge crew is in good shape, engineering suffered heavy losses, B’Elanna is among the walking and trying to get us up and running.”  He covered her hands with his free one, watched as she braced herself for what she understood, by his actions, would be worse news.  “We lost astrometrics, Seven is among the fatalities.”

“I see.”  Taking a deep breath, she looked away for a moment then turned back, captain’s mask now firmly in place.  “And the other ship?”

“Nothing, We have no sensors, but if it is still out there they would have attacked by now.”

“Our location?”

“No idea.  We feel certain we traveled a considerable distance with the force of that last blast, but we have no way of knowing.”

“Yes.”  She nodded.  “Doctor are you finished here?  We need to see what we can do to help.”

“Yes, Captain.  The Commander is fine, but I would rather you stayed here for a while.”

“Understood doctor, but I have a ship ---such as it is –to tend to and you have patients who need your attention.”

“I must object to your leaving, Captain.”

“Objection noted, Doctor.”  She slid off the biobed.  “Commander, let’s have a look, shall we?”

Together they left sick bay and climbed through the darkened ship to main engineering.  B’Elanna rebuffed all suggestion that she should seek medical attention, instead working long into the night.  Once main power had been restored and shields were back on line, the Captain ordered her to report to sickbay and not return to duty until she had gotten some sleep. Taking a bit of her own advice, the Captain handed out assignments for the next shift and returned to her own quarters.

Although exhausted, she was unable to sleep and longed for a nice hot bath or at least a sonic shower; neither was functional.  Replicators were still off line so even coffee was out of the question.  She wandered around in the semi darkness until she found herself staring out the view port, pondering the stars.  Strange, she thought, how even hanging here dead in space, the stars were beautiful, strangely alluring and vaguely familiar.  That was an odd feeling—familiar stars---she was so accustom to new stars every day of their journey.  Suddenly, she hit her commbadge, when it didn’t work she exited her quarters and headed next door.

“Chakotay.”  She called ringing the chime.  “Are you in there?”

“Kathryn?”  The door slid back.  “What’s wrong?  I thought you were sleeping.”

“Couldn’t –come here.”  She took his hand and dragged him across his quarters to the view port.  “Look.”

“OK, Kathryn, at what?”

“The stars—look—really look at them.”  She watched him anxiously  “What do you see?  Tell me what you see.”

“Stars—I see stars.”  He laughed, but looking at her serious expression he tried again.  “OK I see stars—is there something special I should see?”

“Look.”  She pointed and directed him toward a cluster of stars.  “Take a good look at that.”

“It’s a cluster of stars.”  He shook his head and tried again.  “Looks like—no … “

“What, Chakotay tell me what it looks like.”  She was excited and impatient as a child.

“It looks like a crown –Ariadne’s Crown.”  He turned to face her.  “Is that it?  Do you think that is the Corona Borealis?”

“Yes, Chakotay that exactly what I think.”  She grabbed his hand, pulling him toward the door.  “Come on.”

“Where?”  He had to laugh, in the mist of all this destruction she was suddenly giddy as a little girl.

“Astrometrics, we need to …”  Suddenly, she stopped and grew somber.  “I forgot.”  She let go of his hand and moved back to the view port.  “I was excited about the stars and I ---forgot..”

“Kathryn.”  He moved behind her pulling her back against his chest.  “It’s alright.  You are still alive, it's OK to go on living and is OK to grieve, she was your friend.”

“Yes, but we don’t have the luxury of grieving, not yet.  We still have half a crew to get home and most of a ship to do it with.”

“That we do and if you’re right, most of our work may already be done.”

“True, but with out sensors or astrometrics---- the view screen.”  She turned to him excitement flashing in her eyes.  “Chakotay, does the view screen work?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s find out.”  She took his hand and led him toward the door.  “We can use it to show us a magnification of the cluster and maybe others.”
 

They climbed to deck one, making their way slowly across the deserted shambles of the bridge.  It took her over an hour of rerouting power, replacing relays and generally hot wiring the thing, but when she was finished, the screen lit up.  They focused first on the Corona Borealis, sharpening and magnifying until she was convinced what she saw was real.  They spent hours viewing and reviewing every particle of light they could find, carefully identifying each new one until they were both satisfied that what they saw was real.  They were home, they had no idea how, but this was the alpha quadrant and by crude calculation they were only a few weeks away from earth.

“I think we don’t say anything until we are certain.”  She was sitting on the deck staring out at the stars.  “Come sit.”  She brushed debris off the deck next to her.

“Someone may realize---just the way you did.”  He sat next to her on the cluttered deck.

“Maybe, but I don’t think they will—not so quickly, they have so much to deal with.”  She smiled.  “We could be home, Chakotay.  I was beginning to think I would never say that.”

“You never gave up---that’s how we survived all these years.”

“No, not really, but it wasn’t looking good.”  She laughed.  “Now what we have to do is get communications on line.  Help could be just around the corner as they say.”

“We should enlist B’Elanna and Harry.”

“Yes, I think we need to bring in the entire senior staff.  When we confirm this, I’ll make a ship wide announcement.”  She stood up and offered him a hand.  “Come on Commander, let’s wake up the staff.”

“OK.”  He entered the jefferies tube after her.  “But you get to wake up Tuvok.”

“I’ll take Tuvok, if you take B’Elanna.”  She laughed

“Deal.”

They continued to laugh as they climbed down to deck three, to collect the senior staff.  Tuvok was a little startled to find the Captain in his bedroom, but covered his reaction a lot better than B’Elanna did when Chakotay woke her.  She was still mumbling klingon obscenities, when she and Tom entered the Captain’s quarters.  It didn’t take long to settle them down once the Captain told them of her findings.

It took three hours and all the ingenuity B’Elanna could muster, but the communication system was back on line.  They had tested the internal communications, then proceeded to the bridge to try their first sub space transmission.  It took three hails but finally they received a response.  Their first contact with a  federation vessel in the alpha quadrant came, fittingly enough, in the form of Captain Rezucha Siegel of the Starship Deliverance.  The Deliverance was able to verify their identity and rendezvous with Voyager,  within four hours.

After the a ship wide announcement and a small celebration both crews set about making repairs to enable Voyager to return to Earth under her own power.  Over the next weeks, the work progressed and the subspace transmissions increased.  The ship was restored, all systems were functioning, some better than others, but she was in good shape.  The crew on the other hand had suffered irreparable damage in some cases.  In the final count, they had lost fifty- seven immediately, never accounted for twenty-seven of the missing and two of the seriously wounded had died.  What remained of the crew, sixty-one worn and battered individuals, had been physically restored to health, their emotional status varied greatly and only time would help them heal.  Homecoming was not what they expected and even the anticipation of seeing long lost loved ones couldn’t dampen the pain of their losses.  Starfleet, however, claimed to have big plans for the triumphant return of the Voyager crew and informed the Captain they were sending a large fleet to escort them home.

Rezucha and Kathryn had become friends in the weeks they had worked together, and the two Captains were in the Ready room, reviewing the final repairs, over a cup of coffee when the transmission arrived.

“Kim to Janeway”

“Go ahead, Harry

“Captain, I am receiving a level ten transmission.”

“Patch it through to the ready room.”

“Aye, Captain”

“Level ten?”  Kathryn looked to Rezucha  “What do you suppose that’s about?”

“I don’t understand, we worked out all the details.”  She rose from the couch and recycled her cup.  “But is it intended for your eyes only, I leave you alone.”

“No, Rezucha, wait please.”  Kathryn turned to her terminal.  “There is no audio, just let me read this---have a seat.”  Rezucha nodded and Kathryn returned to the screen.  She read the short message then read it again before looking up.  “The Enterprise, the Yamato, the Venture, the Galaxy and the Odyssey”

“What?”  Rezucha’s surprise was evident in her voice.

“The Enterprise, the Yamato, the Venture, the Galaxy and the Odyssey.”  Kathryn looked up to see her companions startled expression.  “That’s our escort.”

“Escort?  Five Sovereign and galaxy class ships as escort?”  Requcha knew this wasn’t right and wavered between her loyalty to fleet and the welfare of her new friend.  “Kathryn this isn’t a war zone, there is no reason to –unless…”

“Unless what?”  She stood and came around the desk, holding up her hand to silence Rezucha.  “NO, Rezucha---Captain, don’t say anything that might jeopardize your career.”

“Kathryn, It’s just…”

“It’s OK.  You never heard this, you and I never had this discussion.  Understood?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good, now why don’t you see to your ship and let me see to mine.”

“Yes, I have some matters to attend to.”  She rose and started toward the door.  “Kathryn, good luck.”  She said just before exiting the ready room.”

Kathryn had five days to ponder this strange twist before the escort was due to arrive, but her decision  didn’t take that long.  A second transmission was patched to her ready room, this one from Admiral Paris.  It was a short welcome home message, but sounded stilted and not at all what she expected from her former mentor and friend.  It took her several hours to realize it and two more to decode the encryption, but when she did the message was clear.

“Janeway to Chakotay”

“Chakotay here, Captain.”

“Commander, can I speak with you in my ready room?”

“On my way--- Chakotay out.”

She replicated coffee for herself and tea for the Commander and waited on the couch.  He wasn’t long.

“Come in, Chakotay.”  She answered the chime and knew from his expression, that he sensed a big problem as soon as he saw her.  She almost laughed—he knew her too well.

“Kathryn, what’s wrong?”  He spoke as soon as the door closed behind him.  “Did something happen?”

“Come sit, Chakotay.”  She waved him down beside her.  “Yes something has happened and I need your honest opinion.”

“Well that you know you will get; even when you don’t want it.”  The both laughed at the truth in that statement.

“OK, First of all, our escort will be here in five days..”  He nodded and she continued.  “They are sending The Enterprise, the Yamato, the Venture, the Galaxy and the Odyssey.”  She saw his eyes widen, he understood the meaning of five such powerful ship just as quickly as she did.

“Have they told you anything else?”

“So you think this means trouble too?”

“Of course it means trouble.”  He ran his fingers through he hair.  “Kathryn, we are one little intrepid ship, not even at out best, with only half a crew--- a crew that certainly has seen better days –and they send that kind of power to escort us through peaceful space?!”

“I know, I feel the same way.”  She took his hand.  “There’s more.”

“The Maquis?”

“Yes that’s part of it.  I received an encrypted message from a trusted friend, he outlined some of Fleets plans.”

“Kathryn, I know you have always had great faith in Fleet, but its not the same for me.  I always believed I would be imprisoned upon our return.”

“Yes, they have those plans for you—make an example of you. They plan on imprisoning all the remaining former maquis and celebrating the remaining starfleet crew—with one exception.”

“You?”

“Yes, the are talking court-marshal---Oh, he doesn’t believe they will do it—just use it as leverage to get me to retire quietly.  Not to interfere in the treatment of the maquis or make a public fuss.  They think I have been out here too long on my own and I won’t fit into their structure anymore.”  She laughed.  “And hell, maybe they are right.”  She got up to replicate more coffee.  “They have a deal for you too.”

“I expected as much.”

“Life in prison in exchange for the pardon of the remainder of your crew.”

“I see.”  He watched her slowly walk back and place their cup on the low table.  “And will you take their deal, Kathryn.”

“No---You?”

“I don’t see much choice and I really didn’t expect anything different.”

“I did.”  They sat quietly for a few minutes each studying the other, as they considered their limited options.  “Chakotay, I’m not going back.”

“What?!  We are back.  We have five war ship warping in our direction…..”

“I’m aware of that, but I’m not going back---it’s not home anymore.”  She stood and crossed to the view port.  “I intend to offer the choice to the crew.  Anyone who wants to go home can transfer to the Deliverance—or if no one wants to stay I will take the delta flyer—but I’m not going back.”

“Kathryn, have you thought about this?  You’d be a wanted criminal, never able to return to earth, see your family…”

“Of course I’ve thought about this.  I love my mother and my sister and I have longed to see them for these long seven years, but..”  She turned to face him.  “My family is here.  Are you with me, Chakotay?”  She held out her hand to him and he grasped it in both of his

“Always, Kathryn.”  He pulled her to him, holding her close.  “Where ever you go, I will always be by your side.  I promised you that seven years ago and I will always keep that promise or die trying.”

They talked first to the senior staff, all of them, including Tuvok, were instantly agreeable.  They formulated a plan to enhance the shields, and bring on line the cloaking device Seven had devised years earlier.  By diverting most of their energy to this devise they could travel at warp speed undetected, hopefully until they were well out of federation space.  They would need to find a planet, out side the jurisdiction of the Federation, on which to settle. Voyager would be making one last run and they all knew she couldn’t continue much beyond that.

The crew assembled in the holodeck,  and silently listened to the Captain’s explanation and plan.  Each crewman was offered the opportunity to return to earth aboard the Deliverance or to take their chances with Voyager and each in turn chose to stay aboard.  The crew set about checking and rechecking and preparing Voyager for the race of her life.  Supplies were ‘acquired’ from the Deliverance, spare parts and energy cells, emergency and medical supplies and anything the crew though would go relatively unnoticed and might be useful in their new lives.

Two days later, in what the computer determined was the middle of the night, with the cloak ready and Voyager in the best shape she was gonna achieve, they quietly slipped away, leaving the Deliverance alone to wait for the escort.  It was several hours before the crew of the Deliverance realized they were alone and awoke their Captain.

Captain Siegel, made her way to the bridge; perhaps a little slower than she normally did.  She had officially been kept in the dark, by both Starfleet and Captain Janeway, even though she was sure she knew what had happened. She scanned for Voyager and made a half hearted attempt to search the area, but she had no orders to hold Voyager or her crew, so there was no urgency in reporting them missing. After several more hours she contacted fleet and reported the disappearance of Voyager.

The Deliverance was ordered to hold her position until the escort arrived, which took another three days.  Together they searched the area for signs of the missing ship.  They found nothing.  The search continued for almost a month, but Captain Janeway and crew had done their work well.  The Cloak protected them from long range sensors and B’Elanna’s masking of the warp signature allowed them to make a clean break without leaving a trail.

~~~^^^~~~

After a sometime harrowing six months alone and on the run, Voyager found a sparsely inhabited M class, the inhabitants called Melriysks, well outside the jurisdiction of the Federation.  The civilization, though small, was fairly well advanced technologically and more than happy to welcome the small band of new comers.  Voyager was put to rest, many of her components used to create a new life for her former crew.  It was a good life, the crew blended and worked well with the existing culture and the new community thrived.

Over the next ten years the crew of Voyager built a good life on Meltriysks, they inter married raised families and worked hard.  Kathryn, Chakotay and Tuvok had worked closely with the governing officials in the first years, to ensure a smooth integration of the crew into Meltriysk society.  Two years after their arrival, the entire crew were granted full citizenship, they were finally home.

It was a good life, very different from what they had known, but a good life.  Kathryn and Chakotay eventually settled in a small home well out side the city.  It was quiet and peaceful out there and the transport station was only a short pleasant walk, so they could be in the city quickly if needed.  Kathryn had recently left her position with the government and now occasionally taught at the university, where Chakotay held a full time position, but a good deal of their time, they spent quietly together in there small house.

It was on such quiet morning, they were enjoying a late breakfast when the door chimed.  Kathryn answered, surprised to find her friend, and recently elected Prime minister, standing on her porch.

“Bystrik, Hello. What brings you out here?”  She stepped back to allow him to enter.

“Good morning, Kathryn, I hope I am not intruding.”  He stepped past her.

“Not at all, come in and have coffee with us.”  She led him into the kitchen where the three quickly settled around the table.  “So, Bystrik, I have the feeling this is not just a social visit.”

“No, it is not.  I need to discuss something with you.”  He looked carefully from one to the other.  “We have been conducting some what secret negotiations with --- the Federation..”  His voice trailed off as he waited for their reactions.

“I see.”  Kathryn reached for Chakotay’s hand.  “And you have made progress?”

“Yes.  We have been offered an alliance with them.”  He sipped his coffee before continuing.  “As leaders—I know unofficial leaders -- of your sector of the community, I wanted to discuss this with you before if becomes public.”

“We appreciate that, Bystrik.”  Chakotay studied their friend.  “ I assume our presence here has had an effect on the negotiations.”

“Yes, but not what you might think.  The Federation has much to offer us, but we have existed nicely without them and are most willing to continue.”

“Have the negotiations concluded? Will we be joining the federation?”  Kathryn didn’t believe such a move would be made entirely in secret but she needed to be sure.

“Yes, they are complete—I believe, but no action will be taken until we have a consensus of the people.  An open vote will be take within the next few months.”

“I see and you would like our help?”

“Yes, I believe this is a positive move for Melriysks and would in the long term be beneficial to all our people.”

“And you are afraid the my former crew would object to the treaty.”

“I have my doubts, I do not know all of them as well as you do.  I do not know if they harbor ill feeling toward the Federation or not.   I need you to help me with this.”

“The question here is- does the Federation hold ill feeling toward us.”  Kathryn refilled their cups as she spoke.  “We are, to the best of my knowledge, wanted criminals in Federation territory.”

“The issue has been addressed..”  He had to smile at their surprise.  “You didn’t have such little faith in your new home world as to think we would endanger you in anyway—especially after the many important contribution you and your former crew have made to our society?”

“We are but a small segment of the whole—you have many more to consider than us.”

“At first I was cautious, I tried to secure promises without reveling your whereabouts.  I insisted that all citizens, natural and naturalized be treated equally, and requested blanket immunity for any past deed of any citizen of Melriysks.”

“It didn’t work?”

“Well it did, but it turned out not to be necessary.”  He smiled and laughed for the first time since he sat down.  “I met a friend of yours.”

“Oh I wasn’t aware I had any friends in the Federation.”  Kathryn smiled back.

“Well apparently you do and many more than you could imagine.  Admiral Paris told me…”

“You met Owen—god how is he?”

“He is well and sends his regards, but he also told me they have know of your whereabouts for the past six years and that many of your friends have been working behind the scenes in your behalf.”  He watched them as they smiled at one another.  “Under this agreement, full pardons will be granted to the entire crew of Voyager and you will be free to return to Earth or any other federation planet of your choice.”

“Ohmygod, Chakotay we could go home.  My mother, sister I wonder ---god this is wonderful.”  She had tears in her eyes when she looked back at Bystrik.  “Thank you.”

“You are very welcome, Kathryn. I will miss you.”

“Miss me?  I won't be gone that long –a  few months no more.”

“I thought you would return home, to Earth, to your family.”

“Bystrik, I am so grateful for the opportunity to see my mother and sister and visit Earth, but this is home.  This is where I want to live.”

“Then I am doubly happy to have help in this matter and I assume I can count on your assistance with this?”

“We will be happy to help.”

 ~~~^^^~~~

It was almost another year before the treaty was finalized and the Voyagers were officially pardoned and free to travel in federation space.  A few moved their families to other planets, but most, like Kathryn and Chakotay, stayed on Melriysks—there adopted homeworld.  Everyone however made visits almost before the ink was dry on the treaty.

Kathryn spent time with her mother and sister, introducing Chakotay and meeting all her nieces and nephews.  They had almost eighteen years to catch up on and spent many long hours talking, often well into the wee hours of the morning.  There were so many gatherings, they spent a very busy and mostly sleepless month before preparing to return to Melriysks.  It was a sad good-bye and this was her last stop before transporting to San Francisco and returning home.

“He understands, Kathryn.”  He stepped up behind her, quietly enfolding her in his arms

“Do you really think so?”  She leaned into him with a sigh.

“Yes, He would be very proud of his little golden bird.  She was a true Starfleet Captain and she brought her crew home, she sacrificed for them.  She loved and protected them and they stood with her, loyal through it all. Yes, he must be very proud.”  He held her quietly, feeling the silent tears drip onto his arms, then she turned and smiled.

“Thank you, Let’s go home.”  She smiled and took his hand, turning once more toward the decorative stone.  “Good bye, Daddy.”

The End
 

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