Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Paramount owns Voyager. We all know that. I am only borrowing the characters.
First Officer's Personal log:
I have just awakened from a troubling dream or vision. I am not positive which it was.
As in my vision quests, I was walking in the land of my grandfathers. As I wandered through the beautiful countryside, I saw my animal guide, Wolf. She approached me. She seemed agitated.
She stopped in front of me and whispered to me to sit down. She spoke of other animal guides, giving me insights into problems some of the crew members were having.
I thought she was finished when she searched the surrounding landscape. However, she looked deeply into my eyes.
"Hear me!" she growled. "Captain Janeway is not your life mate. You must not get too close to her. You are in danger. I know you ponder a life with her. It is a very unwise thing to pursue."
She took a deep breath and continued through clenched teeth, "There is another. One you have never considered. I am afraid she is to be your life mate. She will be hard to win. You will think you have lost all. Bring her to me. I hope you will be able to introduce her to her animal guide as you did with Janeway."
"But, who is she? Why not Janeway? How will I care for anyone more than I do Kathryn? I have met everyone of the crew. There is no one who interests me." I told her shaking my head.
"I know what is in your heart for Janeway. I also wanted her for you but I am constrained. The cross walker insists you must seek the other." Wolf's voice was a low guttural sound.
"What do you mean, you are constrained? The cross walker, who is he?"
Wolf looked fearfully beyond me and gasped. "I have told him as you ordered. Leave me alone!"
I turned but saw nothing. "What is it?"
As Wolf turned quickly, she repeated. "You must seek the other." She ran into the deep wood.
"What other? Wolf, I don't understand. Please come back. Help me understand! Who is she? How will I know her?" I stood staring into the darkness where Wolf had gone. She had never left me before without comforting, peaceful words.
As I stood there another voice flowed over me. "I will guide you. Tears in the night are the raindrops just before the sunshine in the morning." I had never heard that voice so clearly before. I think I had heard it when I was very young before I got my animal guide. I vaguely remember a time when the voice kept me from stepping on a snake coiled and ready to strike. I had not thought of the voice for many years.
I heard the words and I was instantly at peace. A second later I was bolt upright in bed.
The peace of that moment is fading. In its place was a nagging sense of loss. I wanted to contact Wolf, but I was sure I would only hear the same thing. I am not sure how I know but I do. Without the guidance of Wolf I can't even go to Kathryn. How am I going to act when I am around her? She will know something is wrong.
Chakotay got out of bed. He replicated a cup of tea. He stood looking into the expanse of space and pondered his options. He had been able to hide his thoughts and emotions almost as if he were a Vulcan. He knew that if this vision were true, he would succeed despite the twist on his heart. He had lived long enough to know that his emotions could change and that they were not always to be trusted or obeyed.
"Very well!" he said out loud. "I will seek her."
Putting the cup down on the table, he said, "Computer, list the names of female crew members, except the captain, B'Elanna, and Seven." He was sure about the captain. He was also sure about the other two although he didn't know exactly why.
"Listing complete" was the response.
Slowly Chakotay looked over the list. Twenty minutes later his wake-up call sounded. So far none of the women meant any more to him than before the dream.
He decided to look at one more entry before taking his sonic shower. The next person was Ensign Annalisa Larson. As he stared at the screen, he heard or felt or sensed the word "yes!" Chakotay felt conflicting emotions, dread and excitement. Annalisa was a pleasant looking young woman. She was an ensign in security. The only thing he could recall about her personally was that she was quiet and reserved. Tuvok had never faulted her work. He saw by her record that she had a commendation for bravery under fire. She saved three other crew members during a conflict with the Kazon even though she was wounded herself. She had graduated the academy three years before joining Voyager.
Chakotay entered the sonic shower with his head almost spinning. A junior officer? How could she be the one? Captain Janeway and he had discussed the Star Fleet rule about fraternization. She was not a stickler on that rule except with regard to herself, but he had not tried to bend it.
"This is ridiculous! Stupid! Impossible! What I am thinking?" He spoke his thoughts out loud against the hum of the shower.
But against the backdrop of his confused, tangled thoughts, he could hear the voice. It drowned out everything else with wordless peace. It was the right thing to do. He was certain. He would seek her out at the first possible moment.
After Chakotay reached the bridge, he wanted to forget his dream and the quest to seek out Ensign Larson. He tried to lose himself in the routine of duty.
Captain Janeway broke in on his revelry. "Commander, are you with us this morning? You have said no more than three words in the last five hours."
"Yes, Captain, I am with you. I didn't sleep very well last night. I'm sorry I am a poor conversationalist today. I hope my job performance hasn't suffered as a result," Chakotay answered.
"Of course not, Chakotay. Would you like to leave early? You have been working hard lately. Maybe you should take some holodeck time."
"No, thank you, Captain, I'll be fine." His voice was strained.
"I must insist, Commander," she persisted. "You look pale and tired. In fact, I want you to report to the doctor and then take the next two days off."
Before he could argue, the captain interrupted with "That is an order, Commander."
"Aye, Captain," he said and left the bridge.
He reported to the doctor and received a clean bill of health. The doctor noted that he was suffering from minor fatigue and suggested that Chakotay rest. Afterward, he wanted to return to the bridge but remembering Kathryn's order, he went to the mess hall.
There was only a small number of the crew in the mess hall at that time of the day. Chakotay ordered the special of the day from Neelix. He didn't usually order a meal like this in the middle of the day, but his stomach told him that he had forgotten to eat anything in the morning. Looking around the room for a place to sit, he saw Ensign Larson eating alone, reading. Before he could stop himself, he stood in front the ensign.
"May I join you, Ensign?" he asked.
"Why, yes, Commander. It would be an honor." She put down her PADD. Her gray eyes were round with surprise and concern. "Is there something you need?"
"At ease, Ensign. I would just like your company for while, unless you don't have the time. I wouldn't want to keep you from your duties." He sat down across the table for her.
"Oh no. I'm not on duty for the next two rotations." She fiddled with her food as she fell silent.
Chakotay studied her without staring for a few minutes as he, too, ate his meal quietly. The ensign was a fair woman of average height. Her blond hair was coiled around her head in a style that reminded him of women in Norse mythology from ancient Earth.
"Ensign Larson, where are you from? Earth, I assume?"
"Most of my family lives St. Paul-Minneapolis. I am of Norwegian blood. My ancestors went to America to obtain land and to find freedom of religion. I am happy to say they were very successful in finding the latter but not the former." She offered this with a smile of pride.
"Land, hey? My ancestors were forced to move to a new planet. Although my father's side of my family came from central America, my mother's family called the old American southwest my home."
"My grandfather, the one who moved to America, in the late 1800s, moved to Arizona. He felt more of a call to be a missionary than a farmer. I remember reading a journal that my grandfather wrote after he came to live in Arizona. He may have met some of your people. He came to love them very much. He tried to bring the Savior's love to them but few listened. He said that they relied so heavily on their "guides" that they always chose a different way. He shed many tears over them in prayer but he wrote at the end of his life that he didn't mind the tears he shed over the people of Arizona. God told him tears in the night are the raindrops just before the sunshine in the morning."
Chakotay dropped his fork upon hearing the words of her grandfather. He felt his hair stand on end, wanting to tell about his dream, knowing it was too soon. He composed himself, picked up his utensil and resumed eating.
"Is something the matter, Sir?" Ensign Larson inquired. She had noticed. "I hope I have not offended you by speaking so freely."
"No, no, I'm fine. Just a little indigestion, I guess. And I'm not offended." He smiled as he changed the focus of the conversation. "I am sometimes amazed that we don't all get more indigestion from Neelix's concoctions."
Annalisa laughed, nodding her head in agreement. "I miss my mother's cooking. Have you ever eaten lutefisk? If you ate it, you would probably think Neelix had cooked it. It is Norse cooking at its best and worst all at once." Her eyes softened with the remembrance.
"I can't say that I have. But maybe you would replicate me some sometime?" The look on his face belied the casualness of the comment.
"I could try and I am not as domestic as my mother was." Annalisa chuckled self-depreciatingly. "My mother was a great cook. She didn't rely on replicators, either."
"Ensign Larson, I have an idea. Would you like to hear it?"
"Yes, but please call me, Annalisa," she said warmly.
"Annalisa, since we both are off duty, why don't we visit the holodeck?" Chakotay had just thought of a way to get to know her better. "Talking about Arizona has made me a bit homesick for my maternal family home. Would you come with me to my part of the desert Southwest?" When she didn't respond, he said, "Or choose one of your holo-programs. You do have some favorites, don't you?"
Annalisa hesitated for a moment before replying. "I do, but I'm not sure you would enjoy the visit. It is hard to explain, but my favorite is not the usual holo-program."
"I didn't know there is a usual program," was his response.
"You see, my favorite is one I wrote based on the journal my ancient grandfather wrote. Our family passed a copy of this journal down to each and every child. I could almost recite the whole thing from memory. My grandfather was such a godly, loving man. I have one old picture of my grandfather in front of the small mission cabin he build in the desert near a spring." She paused to find the right words. "It is very Christian, and my grandfather would talk to you about our Lord, Jesus. He would probably relate to you as a Native American and try to convince you to convert."
Chakotay laughed out loud. Then he sobered. "I mean no offense, Annalisa. I am sure that I can handle hearing the preaching of an old missionary. I would not be upset. I have never been in a holo-program with this format. I would be very interested to see the time period from his perspective."
"If that is the way you feel, I would be happy to share it with you sometime. However, I will have to make some minor adjustments before you do. A few of things are too personal. I would, however, love to see what you have programmed."
He nodded as he got up from the chair. "Would you like to go to the holodeck right now? I think I can get a holodeck now. I haven't used my ration for a long time."
"To be honest, I haven't used mine in a while either," she replied then agreed, "Yes, I would like to."
Chakotay made the arrangements for the holodeck. As they stepped through the door, they entered a hot, rocky landscape. The sky above them was clear and very bright. She caught her breath as she looked around.
Chakotay saw the wonder in her eyes. Annalisa started to walk to the nearest rock formation. She was like a child in a candy store. She was able to find all of the wonders that he knew were there. He had never brought any one here who responded this way.
As she asked many questions about the markings and area, she walked and looked. He could tell that she knew something about the area already. The time passed quickly. He had never enjoyed the holo-program like this.
After more than hour she began to slow. She began to look as if she were searching for something. "Is there a bit of shade where I can sit?" Her face was pale.
He motioned to an out-cropping which could provide some shade. She headed there as fast as she could.
"I am sorry. I need to sit down in the shade for a little bit. I'm not used to the heat and sun as I once was. I used to be able spend hours out here. Is there any water?"
"I always have water with me." He handed her a flask. As she lifted it to her lips, he began to apologize. "I lost track of the time. I usually have stopped in this place long before this. I am so sorry for your discomfort. We can go to sickbay if you are ill. I wouldn't want you be get heat stroke on the holodeck."
He was about to end the program when she touched for his arm and exclaimed, "Oh, no! I'm just a little tired and thirsty. The water is helping already. Please, let's just sit down for while." She sat leaning against a large stone in the shade.
Chakotay was reluctant but when he saw that color was coming back to her face, he sat in the shade with her. He opened his mouth to apologize again.
"No, Commander Chakotay, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here. I have not been in this part of Arizona since before I left for the academy. My family is in the mid-west where Father is a chaplain for the police force in St. Paul-Minneapolis. He left the Arizona area police to move closer to the rest of my siblings. Most of them didn't love this land the way I do. I had plans to retire here."
"Well, you certainly seemed at home here, at least until you were overcome by the heat."
"I have never left for the desert without water before. Please don't tell my grandfather if you do come to my holo-program. I don't like being scolded even by a holographic grandfather," she said sheepishly.
"You have my word, if you promise not to tell my grandfather that I didn't notice your need for water sooner. I understand you reluctance to be scolded by a grandfather. My own grandfather is part of this program. Would you like to meet him? He is not easy for most people to understand, but I think you will like each other."
"Could I really? I would love too!" Annalisa stood up quickly. The action was too sudden. She became light headed and began to sway.
Chakotay caught her before she fell and helped her to the ground again.
"You are not ready for a walk just yet. In fact I think you are not well. The visit will have to wait. Computer, end program!" They were both sitting on the floor of the holo-deck grid. Chakotay helped her to her feet and keeping his arm around her waist, he escorted her to sickbay.
"Ensign Larson is a bit dehydrated." He informed the doctor.
"Lie down over here, Ensign." The doctor pointed to one the biobeds. The commander helped her to the table.
"I will be all right." Embarrassed, she tried to get up.
"You will be all right if you just lie back down, so that I might examine you. Commander, you may leave." The doctor took charge of his patient.
Annalisa did not want Chakotay to leave but she would not say so. She lay back down and submitted to the doctor's examination.
"No, I'll stay until I know how she is," Chakotay spoke to the doctor. He then asked her, "Unless you would prefer that I left?"
She looked at him beseechingly and motioned for him to stay. He stood to the side while the doctor finished ministering to her.
After examining her, the doctor proclaimed that Annalisa was only moderately dehydrated. He gave her a large container of fluid to drink with orders to drink more later. And when she had finished, the doctor told her that she could go back to her quarters if she had an escort. Chakotay agreed to escort her.
"Thank you, sir," she said as they reached her door.
"Please call me Chakotay," he insisted. "At least when we are off duty."
"Chakotay," she repeated as she smiled. "It will be hard to break the habit."
"I understand," he smiled back. "I will leave you now." He turned to go.
"Would you like to come in for a while, Chakotay?" she invited quietly as the door opened to her command.
"I would," he said as he followed her into her living area.
Annalisa invited Chakotay to sit down. She brought them both some water. She said, "Doctor's orders." She sat back in the chair opposite his.
"Are you feeling all right, now?"
"Yes," she sighed as she leaned back in the chair. "I'm embarrassed about the whole thing. I am sorry it happened the way it did."
"Please don't be. Up until you fell ill, I would say the time was one of most enjoyable I have spent with anyone else in that program. Mind you, I don't invite many to join me, but the ones I have invited never appreciated it as much as you seemed to."
"It was so good to be home even if were in the holodeck. You have captured a part I only vaguely remember. My grandfather took me to that place when I was very small. It is only a few miles from where my ancient grandfather first came to Arizona." Her eyes closed with the memory of it.
"Isn't strange that we would find out we were familiar with the same area after traveling so far from it? It became a second home to me while I was at the Academy. My uncle and maternal grandfather still live there. I wonder if our ancient grandfathers ever met."
She spoke wistfully, "I wondered that too, and if we will ever find a way back home for real."
"I must believe we will. I'm sure my sanity would leave if I thought we would never be back." Changing the subject he asked, "Are you ready for a meal? You didn't eat much our last meal, and you have been active."
"Hmm. . . I guess I am hungry. I hadn't really noticed until you mentioned it. But I can just bring something back here. That is what I usually do for my last meal of the day." Annalisa didn't know how take the commander's interest in her.
"I could go to the mess hall for you if you are not up to going - I don't want to impose on you any longer." There seemed to something in his voice that in suggested that he was reluctant to leave.
"You are not imposing. Just let me freshen up. I would like to join you."
Both of the officers were quiet as they proceeded to the mess hall. Upon entering they went straight to the mess line. Annalisa carefully looked over each item. Neelix was always concocting something new and nearly always exotic. She lifted a lid from a large kettle. Inside the kettle was soup. After sniffing the aroma, Annalisa served herself a bowl.
Chakotay spoke up from beside her. "You seem especially brave tonight, Ensign. Not many take such a large portion Neelix's soup at first."
She smiled, "I'm not usually brave. But the soup smells very much like my mother's vegetable soup, and I have learned never to judge a soup by its color." The soup was lavender with various pieces of blue and red vegetables in it.
Chakotay smelled the soup and proceeded to take a bowl himself. He led her to an empty table near the large window.
She sat in the chair he pulled out for her. He sat down opposite her, and out of courtesy he waited for her to begin eating. Instead of eating right away, she bowed her head. After a few moments she picked up spoon, scooped up some soup and took bite.
"Oh, this is quite good! I do believe I taste something like garlic." She began to eat with relish.
Chakotay didn't say or do anything for a moment; his eyes asked a question that he could not bring himself to ask aloud at the moment. He then picked up his spoon to sample the soup. He expression turned to one of delighted surprise.
"It is good! It is very like my grandmother's soup, and I agree it tastes of garlic. I hope he has more of what ever it is. This batch won't last long." He, too, began to eat. The two enjoyed their meal in silence.
Chakotay put his spoon down and said, "I'm going back for seconds. Would you like some more?"
"Just little more, please. And would you compliment Neelix for me? We must reinforce this kind of successful cuisine as much as possible." She handed him her bowl.
When he returned, he said, "Neelix is beaming from the compliment. He tells me that there is more in cold storage, too." He put her bowl in front of her and sat down.
He hesitated before asking, "May I ask why you bowed your head before eating?"
"I was giving thanks." She said this simply but she saw that he was still not understanding her meaning, she added. "I am a believer in Christ Jesus. I was thanking him for his provision and for this special treat."
"The soup is something special, but Neelix is the one to be thanked."
"That is why I wanted to compliment him, but I didn't mean the treat was the soup. I meant your company and the visit to your holo-home."
Something deep inside Chakotay was touched by this simple admission from the young ensign. "I have not met many followers of Jesus. It is such an ancient religion."
"Commander, with all due respect, are not your beliefs ancient as well?" She looked into his eyes without blinking.
Chakotay slowly smiled meeting her gaze, "You are right. Has your family been followers long?"
"The history of our faith goes back as for as Martin Luther in the 1500th century on earth. There were probably believers before that but the records of my family's faith journey begin then. Oh, I am sure that some of my family didn't believe even then, but love for God runs deep in my family." She held her head up as if expecting a negative remark from Chakotay. "I know that since the exploration of deep space, many have considered the Christian faith obsolete, but through the centuries there have been many who have said the same for various other reasons. Jesus said there would be trials of our faith, but through him we would overcome."
Chakotay pondered for a moment before speaking. "My people too have faced trials. The ancient religions have all faced troubles."
"Again with due respect, it isn't quite the same. Mine is not really a religion - I have a living faith. I think of religion as man's way to try to reach God. Christianity is God's way of reaching man. I have put my faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus." She told him calmly yet with strong conviction as she emphasized her statement by putting her hand over her heart.
The commander had never heard anyone talk like this. The Christian religion had always seemed cold and rigid to him. Annalisa was as fervent as any of his people were. She was the one the dream voice had shown him. It confused him because her faith was so different from his. He could only guess that she might be persuaded to join him in his way. Wolf wanted him to help her find her animal guide. He knew instinctively that she would not be pleased to be asked if she wanted a guide. This woman still did not touch his heart, but he felt that he had missed much by failing to get to know her better.
"Maybe you can tell me about your beliefs later." Chakotay stood up. "Would you like to meet my grandfather tonight?"
"Thank you, I would like to wait until another time. I'm a little more fatigued than I thought I was. I think I will go back to quarters now." She also got up from her chair.
"I am sorry. Our holodeck visit must have worn you out ."
"There is no need for regrets. I am glad that you asked. We will just have to do it later."
"Please let me walk with you."
She nodded and went to the door and into the hallway.
As they walked, Chakotay asked, "Annalisa, what about tomorrow? I have been given time off duty. Do you have plans for your time off, or could we find something to do together?"
"I really don't have any specific plans. I usually spend my time off reading. My holo-programs have been making me a little homesick, so I haven't been there for a while until today," she told him quietly.
"Why don't we find a holo-program that is so different that we will both be diverted. How about dinner in Acapulco? Climbing the Alps? Swimming the English Channel?" He smiled at his choices of scenarios.
"Well, Commander, most of your choices require too much energy for my liking, but I have never been to Acapulco before."
The commander grinned, "I was hoping that you were not in the mood for exercise other than a little dancing. Which is why I mentioned the other places."
"Very clever strategy," she teased.
"Well then, I'll see when I can schedule the holo-deck tomorrow. I will let you know the time. Good night, Annalisa."
"Good night, Chakotay."
Chakotay lay in his bed thinking over the past day. Annalisa was so unique in her views. He was intrigued by her quiet faith. He was also surprised that he wanted to spend the next day her. He could hardly believe that he invited her to dinner in Acapulco. Where had the idea come from? He smiled to himself. He had always liked the small café on the quiet beach out there, and with that thought he drifted off to sleep.
In the morning the comm beeped first then she heard, "Ensign Larson, this is Chakotay."
"I have reserved the holodeck for several hours. We will be able to start at 1600 hours, if you agree. Also I would like to go 'summer casual' if you don't mind."
"I think I can find something." She started mentally to sort through what she had with her.
"Oh and this place hasn't changed much in two hundred years."
"I guess that helps narrow it down for me."
"Good, I'll come by for you about 1530."
"I'll be ready, Chakotay."
Chakotay was a little uncomfortable with the attention he was getting from the crew members he passed on his way to Annalisa's door. He was dressed in western jeans and a light blue chambray shirt. He wished he had waited to change.
He arrived at her door promptly at 1530. Annalisa had been sitting waiting for least 20 minutes. She jumped at the sound of the door chime.
"Come in," she called to him.
As Chakotay entered the room, his chest tightened. He was unprepared for her transformation. Annalisa stood before him in a flowing sea green dress. The fabric was iridescent; it looked like the sea. The style was reminiscent of a Grecian gown he had once seen in an ancient illustration. It was sleeveless with a round neck. A gold cord, which was attached at the shoulder, crossed over her chest, wound around her waist a few times and was tied to the side. Her golden hair hung down, flowing over shoulders and nearly to her waist. It was held away from her face with sea green clips. Her face was slightly flushed.
"I hope I chose the right thing to wear." She fingered the material nervously.
"You look wonderful," he said the words slowly with emphasis on each one.
"Thank you," was all she said.
"Shall we go?" He made a sweeping gesture with his hand toward the door.
As the pair walked to the holodeck, they made even more of an impact than Chakotay had alone. He realized that he was glad that she was with him for the evening. He moved a little closer to her, putting his hand lightly on the small of her back. He surprised that he suddenly felt territorial. She was very attractive out of uniform. He even wished he had suggested she wear a coat. He wanted no one else to look at her, especially in the way he had earlier. It was a relief to him when they reached the holodeck. Annalisa was nearly out of breath. She wondered why he walked so fast to get there.
After he had entered the program and initiated it, they walked through the door. It was a moonlit place. A tiny building stood before them. It could have been called a shanty. Multi-colored paint peeled back from its dirty gray walls. From the shanty came a cheery light and even cheerier music. There was a sign above the door which read "La Nina".
Noticing her glance at the sign he said, "It got is name nearly 200 years ago. It was the only business to survive a class-5 hurricane during a weather phenomenon by the same name. No has wanted to change the name since. Thought it was good luck, I guess."
Once they were inside a short, wiry man greeted them. "Chakotay, mi amigo, it is good to see you again. You must introduce me to this beautiful senorita." The man reached for her hand, lifted it to his mouth and kissed it. He looked to be of Mestizo descent. He was dressed in white with a red scarf about his neck. His smile was large and full of holes.
"Fildelfo, it is good to see you too. I would like to introduce you to Annalisa Larson. I hope my table is available." Chakotay was, again, surprised to feel almost jealous of the holographic waiter.
"This way, Senor." Fildelfo led them to a table next to the biggest window.
"Bring us a bottle of wine while we wait for our meal," Chakotay ordered, then asked her, "I took the liberty of ordering dinner. I had Neelix replicate my favorite meal. I hope you don't mind."
"No, I don't mind in the least." She smiled.
The waiter brought the bottle of wine to the table. He poured wine for them both. After the waiter left, Annalisa quietly asked, "Is this holographic?"
"No, I ordered it from Neelix, too. Why? Don't you like this kind? I should have asked you before I ordered it. I'm sorry." He apologized.
"No, it's not the wine. It's just that I don't drink much."
"You don't have to have any. I don't think I'll have much tonight. Your company is intoxicating enough." The words were not what he had intended to say, but he found that they true.
"I'll try not to let your words go to my head either, Commander." She was blushing.
He was going to admonish to her to call him Chakotay when he saw a teasing look in her eyes. He chuckled.
As she lifted her glass, she saw Neelix enter the room. He was carrying a tray of steaming food. He headed straight for their table.
"Ensign Larson. Commander Chakotay, here is your meal just as you ordered. I was tempted to add a few of my own spices but I restrained myself this time."
"Thank you, Neelix, I appreciate your self-control. This looks just the way I like it." Chakotay was relieved. "Thank you for taking the time to do this."
"My pleasure. Ms. Larson is one of my favorite people to cook for, and when you mentioned she was to eat with you, I wanted the meal to be perfect. I will leave you two alone now."
They both expressed their gratitude to the Talaxian as he left.
This time Chakotay waited while Annalisa bowed her head to pray. He used the brief time to study the young woman before him. Even in the dim light of the cantina her hair shimmered with gold lights as if the sun was shining on it. It cascaded over her shoulders, moving to nearly cover her from view. He wanted to stroke it, to feel the strands in his fingers. He could hardly keep from leaning over the table to touch her head as it was bent over her hands. Then she lifted her eyes to his. He was the first glance away.
As they began to eat, Chakotay waited for her reaction the food. She chewed with obvious enjoyment. "This is incredibly delicious. What is it called?" she asked as she took another forkful.
"Three cheese enchilada," Her enjoyment made him happy with his choice. "My mother's own creation."
"I wish I could tell her how wonderful I think it is." Her face showed regret as she saw his face suddenly sober. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean say to something so dumb."
"You didn't say anything dumb. I was just wishing that you could do the same thing. Home sometimes seems closer in these programs, but always out of reach." He picked up his fork and began to eat in silence.
In the next few minutes as they ate, a reflective stillness came over them. Both of them were lost in thoughts of home and family. The quiet was broken when Fildelfo came to the table.
"Amigo, do you have any requests for our musicians? They are eager to play for you." He bowed slightly as he gestured toward the band on the other side of the room.
"They know my taste. Let them choose. We will enjoy anything they play, Fildelfo." Chakotay smiled at the proprietor.
"Very well, Senor, I will have them play something romantic. You will want to dance, no?" Without waiting for an answer, he walked toward the musicians.
"They play tolerably well." He chuckled. "I hope you'll join me on the dance floor later?"
"I'm not sure I know how any more. I haven't danced since the Academy and only twice then. I would probably step on your toes." She tried to make her refusal graciously.
"I have reinforced toes in these boots." The commander grinned at his joke. "Besides if you follow my lead, I'm sure that we'll do fine. I'm a brilliant instructor."
She smiled at his teasing and nodded. "I'm sure that you are. Very well, I will dance but only after I finish every bite of this wonderful meal."
"It's a deal." He resumed eating.
A little later a waiter came to their table with a tray of desserts. Annalisa followed Chakotay's lead in choosing a small dish containing a small pastry.
To the question in her eyes, he said, "it is 'tamales de dulces', a sweet tamale."
"It's good, too. Thank you, Chakotay, for this feast."
"My pleasure." He held her glance for second. "My pleasure." He repeated before he dropped his eyes toward his dessert.
Annalisa felt her face redden again in response to his comment. She was happy when he started to eat the sweet. His simple words were full of meaning. She felt uneasy. She prayed silently as she finished eating that her Lord would guard her heart.
Chakotay pushed his dish away and picked up his wineglass. After drinking its contents and putting down the glass, he stood up offering his hand to Annalisa. "Shall we?"
She took his hand and stood. It was only a few feet to the tiny dance floor. The band began a lovely ballad as they stepped onto the old planking. Chakotay held out his arms to her. She moved closer resting her left hand on his right shoulder. As he put his one hand at her waist, he took her other hand in his and began dancing. She tried to concentrate on the few steps she had learned. She felt awkward and stiff.
"Relax! I'll guide you, Anna." He spoke softly as he pulled her closer to him. No one before except her grandfather had ever shortened her name like that without provoking her anger. However the emotion she was experiencing was far from anger. She could feel a warm envelope of desire surround her. Her whole body strained to be even closer to him. Chakotay brought her hand to his chest and laid his cheek on hers. The dance flowed around them as they barely moved to the music. Chakotay could not refrain from caressing her silken hair.
Annalisa sighed with pleasure and reached her free hand up to the back of his head. She wanted the joy of touching his hair. Through the fog of erotic sensations, she felt Chakotay stiffen slightly before pulling her even closer. He began to plant soft kisses on her cheek and neck. Suddenly she realized how far she had let herself go. Gently, but firmly she pushed away from Chakotay.
He stood with his hands at his sides, fists clenched. "What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Commander. I think I'd better leave." She hung her head and would not look into his eyes.
She started toward the door when he grabbed her arm. "I think we need to talk about what just happened. Let's walk on the beach for a while. Maybe it will clear our heads."
"Okay, for a while." She reluctantly followed Chakotay out the back door of the cantina and across the patio. When they reached the roughly hewn rock steps, he offered his hand to guide her down to the beach. Hesitantly she took his hand. At the bottom of the stairs the beach was white in the moonlight. Instead of releasing her hand Chakotay laced his fingers with hers and began to walk on the sand.
They walked not speaking for a few minutes until they came to a large piece of driftwood. "Let's sit down here." He said waiting for her to be seated before he sat down.
He let go of her hand. He toyed with the right way to start the conversation. He seldom experienced the force of longing he had a few minutes before on the dance floor. Even thinking about it brought back the yearning. He stared ahead of him at the shimmering water. He was sure that she had responded the same way. What made her stop? Was she concerned about fraternization?
"I'm sorry, Anna." His voice was a whisper. "I didn't mean to push you."
"You didn't push." Her voice sounded near tears. "I walked into your arms. I wanted you to continue. I was the one who should have stopped us sooner." Tears began slide down her face. Annalisa put her hands over her face.
"What we experienced was not wrong. I am not ashamed to tell you that you are a very desirable woman, and you needn't worry about protocols." He touched her shoulder. "We can be discreet."
"You don't understand, Chakotay." Her look pleaded with him to listen. "My parents taught me about sanctity of marriage and intimacy. They were both virgins when they got married. They told me of the wonderful gift it was, to be able to give to one another something they had never shared anyone else. I want to share that with only one, the man I marry."
She took a deep breath and continued. "I was close to ruining the precious for a time of pleasure. You aren't a believer. In the Holy Word I am told many times that earthly pleasures are fleeting and to run from this sort of thing. I think we should not be together like this again. I have enjoyed your company. You have been most kind to show me your holo-programs, but I think we would be wise to stop this now."
As Chakotay listened, he suddenly felt ashamed in a way he had never felt before. It was as if he had been caught trying to steal the gift she had been saving. He had never felt any guilt like it before. He was suddenly glad she had stopped them. He had great respect for her. He would make it up to her.
"Anna," He picked her hand from her lap, holding it very lightly. "I promise it will never happen again. Only, please, I want to know you better. I want to be your friend. Besides you still haven't visited my grandfather." He tried to lighten the mood.
Annalisa was subdued and did not respond for several moments. She searched her soul for a reason to say yes, but she was uneasy about her fleshly inclination toward Chakotay. She was obviously naive about male and female relationships. She was fighting a battle; her soul might even be in jeopardy. It seemed that way at least.
"I trust your word, Chakotay." She hesitated.
He heard the unspoken word, "But?" He said it for her.
"But I am not sure about me. I am ashamed of myself. I allowed you to think I was ready to give something when I wasn't. I am so sorry." She pulled her hand away and clasped both her hands together tightly. "We are so different, our beliefs, our backgrounds, our cultures. I would like to be your friend, too. But will we able to be just friends?" She gazed into his eyes, trying to read his answer there first.
"I will be your friend." He emphasized the last word as if it were a vow. "And only a friend if that is your wish. I think I understand your concerns. Let's agree to be friends." He offered his right hand to seal the agreement. She grasped his hand with hers.
"Good!" He stood to his feet and helped her to hers. "Computer, end program." The quaint scene faded and the holo-deck grid appeared in its place.
As they walked down the corridor toward her lodgings, he asked quietly, "Shall we visit my grandfather in the morning?"
"In the morning? No, it is the seventh day. I attend services in the morning on the seventh day."
Her statement puzzled Chakotay. "Seventh day? Services? I don't understand."
"Pardon me. I'm not trying to be obscure. The Holy Word commands believers to remember the Sabbath -seventh day- to keep it holy. As there are no other believers on board, I have established a routine of spending time every seven days in worship and meditation. I have a small space in my quarters dedicated as a chapel." She hoped she had explained enough.
Before he could change his mind, he asked simply, "Do you ever invite anyone to join you?"
"I have," she looked down at the floor, "but no one has accepted the invitation."
"Perhaps you have not invited the right person." He fell short of asking for the invitation.
She looked into his eyes, searching for any mocking. When she saw that he was serious, she spoke softly, "You may join me if you'd like."
He smiled. "I would like, thank you. What time?"
"0930 hours." They had stopped in front of her door. She said, "Thank you for the evening." She extended her hand to him.
"You have given me many things to think about, and I am sure that tomorrow will equally thought provoking." He looked at her small hand as he took it his own. Her touch was soft yet there was strength in it, too. He squeezed her hand gently and released it. "Good night, Anna." He turned and walked away from down the hall.
"God's speed," she said quietly to his retreating back and entered her room.
Annalisa was very nervous as she prepared for the service. She had always hoped for someone to join her but she never thought it would Commander Chakotay. She decided one thing even before she retired for the night. She would not change her routine. Still the decision did not calm her anxiety.
Sleep did not come quickly. After she drifted off to sleep, her dreams were chaotic and unsettling. She could not sleep soundly. After she had been tossing around for a few hours, she got out of her bed. She walked to the other room. Sitting on her sofa with her feet beneath her, she searched the stars for patterns.
"Here I am again, Lord. I am afraid I will fail. I have never had anyone come to service before. I guess I thought someone might accept my invitation some day, but never someone such as Commander Chakotay. Should I change my plans? Show me what to do." She prayed. As she quieted her spirit, she began to be reminded that it was not her work but His.
"Forgive me, Lord. I know I can do nothing without you. Nothing will happen unless you do it. Please send Your Spirit. Help me be your servant." As she continued to humble herself before the Lord, the apprehension lifted. She decided to go ahead with her previous plans.
Checking the time she found that it was 0700 hours. Because she was going to get up at 0730, she began preparations early. She had programmed her grandfather's sermons, so that she could view them on her video display unit. She had been viewing a series of messages on living for Christ. Although it seemed to be a strange one for a visitor, she would trust the Lord's direction.
As was her routine, Annalisa donned a white robe that her mother had made for her. She knew that Annalisa would most likely be the only Christian on board. Thinking the robe would remind her of home and her Lutheran church, she designed it after one that Annalisa had admired in a church history book. The robe flowed straight from the gathered shoulders. The long sleeves came to a point at the back of her hands. The only ornamentation was a simple blue stole that hung around her neck down to her waist. She wore her hair loose, leaving it to hang down her back.
Annalisa spent the time before Chakotay came in prayer. She was concluding her prayer when the door tone sounded.
Chakotay felt uncertain as he entered the room. Indeed he was not expecting to see Annalisa so appareled. He was surprised at his reaction to the simple look of the ensign. He pushed down any emotions except interest in the service. This was no time to think about her that way.
"Good morning, Annalisa." His smile was casual. "I hope I'm not late."
"Good morning, Commander. You are just in time. Please come, sit over here." She pointed toward the chairs she had pulled up in front in the view screen. She sat down next to him.
"I start the time with prayer. I usually sing a few songs. Lastly I view on of the prerecorded sermons of my grandfather's and end with prayer." She paused in her explanation, "I must admit I am nervous about you being here."
"Please don't be. I am not here to find fault. I have no basis for comparison. I have never been in a Christian service. Just go on as usual, Anna." He tried to ease her apprehension.
"Thank you, I will try." She then bowed her head and prayed aloud. "Father, God of the universes, I want to thank you for a friend to share this time with. Thank you, too, for the safety of this ship and crew. Please continue to give Captain Janeway and rest of the senior officers the wisdom needed to meet our needs and to get us safely home. Make our hearts open to your word and today's teaching. In the wonderful name of your son, Jesus, amen."
The ensign tapped the controls and began the program. Pictured before them was a large open auditorium filled with about three hundred people. A group of eight stood on a raised platform in front of the crowd. Music filled the room. The eight began to lead the congregation in singing. The song was not familiar to Chakotay. The words were displayed at the bottom of the picture.
Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand-
The shadow of a mighty Rock
Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
And the burden of the day.
Upon the cross of Jesus
Mine eyes at times can see
The very dying form of One
Who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart with tears
Two wonders I confess-
My sinful self my only shame
My glory all the cross.
Chakotay listened to the clear soprano voice of Ensign Larson as she sang the old song. His emotions began to long for a home in the present wilderness. The look on the young woman's face told him that she believed the words to the song.
As the music faded, he gave his attention back to the view screen. An older man ascended the stairs. He stopped in the middle of the stage. He wore a blue robe trimmed in white and gold. The robe was like the one Annalisa was wearing except it was much more ornate than hers.
As he spoke, the whole hall quieted. "I will begin by reading from the book of Romans.
'If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf be reconciled to God.''
The speaker put down his book and began to teach the people about the importance of being ambassadors for Christ. Chakotay felt at a loss to understand the strength and force of the man's passion. He turned to watch Annalisa's reaction. He found that she was listening intently, forgetting him entirely. As the man spoke of becoming friends with unbelievers, he posed the question, "Have any of you spent time with your unbelieving friends with no motive but to really know them, to find out their pain, their joy, their ambition? Or have you merely thought of them as heathen or potential converts? Christ was a friend to those who needed a friend. He loved before he was loved."
Annalisa's expression became pained. She was anguished over what he said. Tears filled her eyes and slipped down her cheeks. And as the sermon ended, she sat staring forward for several moments.
Quietly she began to pray. "Lord, I am sorry that my motives have not been yours. Forgive me my, sometimes, superior attitude toward others. Show me what you want me to do. In Jesus' name, amen."
Chakotay was uncomfortable not knowing what to do next. He shifted in the chair. Chakotay's movement brought Annalisa out of her reverie. She smiled shyly and dried her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Commander. I don't usually get this emotional. I just realized a lack in myself." She reached to turn off the computer.
"Don't apologize. Your grandfather is a powerful speaker. It was an honor to hear him."
"Thank you for coming, Commander. I hope you feel free to come again sometime."
"I just might do that. Now pardon my ignorance but is your service finished?"
"In that case, I would like to suggest a picnic lunch on the holodeck at my grandfather's cabin."
"I would like that. Would you excuse me for a minute while I change?"
He nodded his agreement. After she left the room, Chakotay surveyed the living space more closely. There were several pictures of what he thought must be her family. One showed her standing next to her grandfather at her Starfleet graduation ceremony. He radiated with pride, standing with his arm around her shoulders. Seeing all the members of her family gave Chakotay a deep sense of loneliness. He had little family left. The thought came to him that her family was all but lost to her, also.
Annalisa returned to the room. She had changed back to her uniform. Her hair was back in tight coils. Her demeanor was calm. Only her eyes showed any sign of tears.
After they entered the mess hall and Chakotay went to retrieve their lunch, Annalisa went over to a table where B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris were sitting.
"Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt your meal, but I have a request of Lieutenant Torres."
Torres was curious, "By all means, ask me."
"Does the invitation still stand, the one to teach me that game you told me about. I'm sorry I can't remember what you called it. I am also sorry that I didn't accept before." Annalisa smiled disarmingly. "I have always disliked new games. I guess I didn't like being at a disadvantage. I don't like to lose." She added honestly.
"Of course! I would love you to teach "E' Dano'. Tom could even help you by being your partner. I won't need one." B'Elanna spoke with confidence.
Tom Paris added, "Maybe you'll lose this time, B'Elanna."
"Let me know when you have time, Lieutenant Torres."
"Please call me, B'Elanna, Ensign."
"Annalisa, my name is Annalisa." She turned to see Chakotay approaching. "See you both later." As she joined him in the middle to the room, she overheard Torres' surprised statement, "I never thought she would want to play anything with me."
As both of them walked toward the holodeck, she pondered Torres' words.
"I heard what B'Elanna said. She is very sensitive about her heritage. I am sure she has misunderstood you," he tried to reassure Annalisa.
"I'm not so sure that I didn't come across to her that way. I don't feel that way but I was intimidated by her." She frowned, then shook her head and whispered, "Lord, forgive me."
Chakotay changed the subject. "I have reprogrammed our entry point so that we will be closer to the cabin. That way you will not have to walk so far in the heat. I want no repeat of yesterday."
They entered the holodeck. The cabin was only about 100 meters away. Annalisa stopped and turned around 360 degrees. Again he could see that she was enthralled. When she had stopped turning, he took hold of her arm and guided toward the small cabin.
When he touched her, she jumped a bit then she gave a short laugh. "I'm almost unable to get enough of this place. It startles me how much I miss it when I come back. Again thank you for letting me come here with you, Chakotay." Her face shined with gratitude.
"Your enjoyment multiplies my own," he responded as they reached the cabin's tiny porch. There was an old chair on the porch. In the chair was a sleeping old man. Chakotay put his hand on the old man's shoulder. The old one looked up at his grandson and smiled his welcome. The old man spoke a greeting in a different tongue. Annalisa was surprised to understand most of it. It must have been from her grandfather's journal.
"Grandfather, this is my friend, Annalisa Larson." Chakotay introduced them. "Annalisa, my grandfather."
Grandfather took Annalisa's hand and peered deeply into her eyes. "You have the eyes of the morning dove."
"My grandfather always called me his little gray dove." Her eyes suddenly filled with tears of remembrance.
Grandfather dropped her hand and turned to Chakotay. Grandfather spoke again in their tongue, warning Chakotay about what could happen to his heart at the hands of this little dove. Chakotay laughed and spoke in English. "Grandfather, we must not insult our guest. She doesn't understand our language. I apologize for our impolite slip into our native tongue."
"I accept your apology, but I do understand some of your language." Her glance was mischievous. She chuckled when Chakotay flushed with astonishment and some embarrassment.
"You are full of surprises, aren't you? I will be much more careful from now on," he said as he turned to the door of the cabin. "Let's go inside out of the heat to eat our lunch. Grandfather, you may continue your nap if you would like."
Grandfather nodded as he returned to his chair and his nap.
Chakotay opened the door for Annalisa and followed her into the room. A small stove stood against the far wall. Every other wall was covered with many Native American artifacts. In the middle of the room a small table and three chairs stood on an exquisitely woven rug. Hanging under one of the windows was a bag made of animal hide.
Chakotay pulled out one of the chairs for her to sit on. She sat down but continued to look at the bag with curiosity.
"That bag is Grandfather's medicine bundle. It is one of the most beautiful you will ever see," he answered her unasked question.
"It is rare," she agreed.
"Are you hungry yet? Neelix's soup should still be hot."
"Let's eat!" She began to open the bundle Neelix had prepared for them. When everything was ready, she bowed her head, praying silently again.
Chakotay was strangely affected as he watched her lips move without sound. At least she is consistent, he thought. I'll bet she is praying for me. He didn't know how he knew that.
They began their meal quietly, both of them uncertain as to what to say. Soon, however, Annalisa began to ask about Chakotay's grandfather. Chakotay answered each question. She was fascinated by story of his grandfather. As they finished the meal, they fell into a companionable silence.
Chakotay was about to suggest they go for short walk when the comm signal sounded. "Senior officers to the bridge."
"Computer, end program." The Arizona desert disappeared. Chakotay turned to Annalisa and said, "I'll have to get back to you later."
"I understand," She motioned for him to go ahead. Annalisa watched the first officer as he left the room. She slowly followed him through the door. Her mind was buzzing with conflicting thoughts. She wanted to pray for him, knowing his need of the Savior. On the other hand, because of her strong attraction to Chakotay, she knew she must pray for her own moral strength to remain steadfast.
"Lord," she prayed silently, "he doesn't believe in You. Move on his heart; draw him to you with your love. I know my heart is becoming more involved than it should. I need your grace to know the next step. Keep me true. Only you can keep me from falling." By the time she reached her rooms, her troubled mind was at peace. God had the control. He would carry her through.
Upon exiting the turbolift, Chakotay noticed the other officers were there ahead of him. "Pardon me, Captain. I hope I'm not late?" He joined the group standing next to the captain.
"No, Chakotay, most of us were already here." She greeted the first officer then spoke to the whole group. "We are nearing a M-class planet. The information from the scans is very impressive. All scans show earth-like atmosphere, lush vegetation, and no life signs other than few smaller animals. There is no sign of the planet being inhabited, no signs of any civilization. I want to send an away team to explore and to bring back anything we might use for food."
The captain turned to Tuvok, "Choose a couple of security officers to accompany the team." Addressing Neelix, she answered his unspoken question. "I want you to set up an area so that we can examine the vegetation when the team sends it back."
"Chakotay, you will lead the mission. Take whomever you wish. Dismissed."
On his way to the turbolift, Chakotay paused at the tactical station and spoke to Tuvok. "I would like to have Ensigns Pak and Larson go with us to the surface."
"Very well," the Vulcan's replied.
Chakotay assembled the away team in the transporter room. Each of the ten members carried the necessary equipment to forage for food, including a large satchel for bringing back whatever they found. The two security officers carried phaser rifles in addition.
The first officer gave the command to energize. The crew materialized seconds later on the planet's surface. Almost in unison the team gasped in awe at the beauty around them. Trees, which hung heavy with fragrant fruit, stood close by in every direction. There were bushes of all different shapes and colors lining vague meandering paths. On these shrubs were a variety of bright berries, seed pods and fruit. The scent of flowers also overwhelmed the senses.
After a few silent moments, Chakotay spoke softly. "It looks like the Garden of Eden."
Members of the team voiced their agreement. Crewman Dempsey said, "I just hope we don't find the serpent." The group laughed, then sobered as Chakotay began to give orders for gathering the harvest.
"I want to split up into two groups so that we can get a better idea of the scope and amount of vegetation here. Mark these coordinates. Meet back here in two hours.
Ensign Pak, you are the security for the first group. Dempsey, O' Donald, Palmer and Dix are with Pak. Survey this immediate area. Pick as many different samples as you can. The rest of you come with me. We will go a couple hundred meters that direction."
Chakotay took the lead and as security Annalisa covered the rear. The group walked quietly, observing the landscape and foliage. Ensign Larson's awareness was heightened. She felt an increasing sense of dread. When Commander Chakotay signaled them to start picking the fruit, Annalisa approached the first officer.
"Commander, something isn't right here," she said in a near whisper.
"My tricorder shows nothing unusual. What have you found, Ensign?"
"I can find no physical signs. I just have sense of foreboding. Maybe it is just too perfect. Permission to go on a little farther."
"Permission granted, Ensign, only don't go farther then another hundred meters. I don't want us spread to thin."
"Aye, Commander!" She went deeper into the beautiful jungle. With every step she became tenser. She felt she was being watched but every scan that she made showed no evidence of any life form. She tried to figure out why she was so nervous. She sent up a prayer for wisdom and discernment. Immediately it dawned on her. The presence she felt was the presence of evil.
"Lord, protect us," she prayed as before her eyes appeared a being bathed in a cold, cheerless light. It reached toward her with something that looked like a weapon, a large hook with fiery barbs attached. She turned and began to run back toward the others. As she came within a few meters of where she had left them, she heard phaser fire.
Surrounding the team was many of the creatures she had just run from. Each of the crew was starring at a different one of the beings with phasers drawn. Annalisa lifted her rifle to cover her crewmates. She fired but the phaser had no effect on the creatures. Suddenly each of the beings somehow launched the fiery barbs towards crewmember closest to it. Each of the weapons hit one of the crew except her. The one that came in her direction stopped as if it had hit a force field. It fizzled at her feet. The rest of the crew was not physically hurt by the darts, but they looked stunned, and each crewmember dropped his produce bag and phaser.
"Commander Chakotay," she called to the first officer. He did not respond. He began to follow the being in front of him as it moved into the dense forest. The rest did the same. She ran to the commander and grabbed his arm, trying to restrain him.
"Leave me alone, Ensign." He shook her hand off and continued to walk after the creature. As the rest of group passed her, she tried to stop them but they pushed her aside too.
"Commander, where are you going?" She ran to catch up with him. "What are you doing?"
"I'm following my animal guide," he told her flatly. Startled by the revelation from Chakotay, she stepped aside. As the rest of the team passed, she felt for her comm badge to call the ship, but it was gone. It must have fallen off when she was running though brush. She rubbed her head, trying to think of what to do.
"Pray," a voice spoke very close to her ear. She turned around trying to see the source of the voice. A tall, young man in white stood next to her.
"Who are you? Who are they?" She demanded to know.
"I am a servant of the Lord sent to protect you. They are followers of the evil one."
"Are you an angel?" She whispered the question.
"I have been called an angel or a ministering spirit. I am your guardian spirit. This is a wicked holding place. It is not a place for mortals. You must pray. You must do battle with these evil ones for your friends or they will die here." He touched her shoulder as she started to tremble.
"Daughter of the King, do not be afraid. Remember; Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. The Lord is the Lord of this universe too. He is your strength. He is your shield. Pray and believe. He has overcome and you will too." His words filled her with some confusion.
In panic she dropped to her knees. As she began to petition her God, she was filled with renewed faith. The longer she prayed the more power came over her. She knew she must do as the guardian said. She must fight for the freedom of her people. Rising from her knees, she hurriedly went after the rest of the team.
They had walked for a while when they were joined by the other part of the away team. They were following after the same kind of beings. Soon they came to a rock wall. There was an opening in the ragged wall. Each creature led the crewmember they had barbed through the opening in turn. Annalisa followed the group into the cave. The area inside was large. And as her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she could see her crewmates walking into smaller openings in the wall of the big cave.
Ensign Larson followed after Commander Chakotay. He walked woodenly toward the back of the smaller cave. The light in the cave came from phosphorescent rocks in the walls. When her eyes were better adjusted, she looked around her quickly. The creature was in a far corner and Chakotay had found a place to sit about three meters from it. The being seemed to be saying something to the commander, but the ensign could not hear what was being communicated. The evil one glanced at her occasionally as Annalisa examined the rest of the cave.
Scattered over the floor of the cave were many artifacts and bones. It seemed many had died in the cave. Annalisa picked up a few of the artifacts and put them in her satchel. She came closer to Chakotay. Leaning down toward him she put her hand on his shoulder. She tried to shake him out of the trance he seemed to be in.
Receiving no response, she spoke into his ear. "Commander Chakotay, we must get back to the ship. We are in danger here."
He shrugged off her hand and angrily snapped, "My animal guide is speaking. I cannot leave."
When the entity then spoke something that sounded like an order. Chakotay nearly screamed at her. "Get out, now."
Astounded by the force of his words, she decided to leave to check the rest of the crew. First she reached over the first officer's shoulder and took his comm badge. The next cave held Ensign Pak. He was seated in the lotus position with an odd smile on his face.
"What do you see, Ensign Pak?" she asked quietly.
"The holy Buddha." The reply was simple.
This cave was also littered with remains, as were all of the rest. Each crewmember was seeing a religious or spiritual being. None could respond more than few words before the creature there became angered. She stood outside the caves in the light of sun. Her body began to tremble. The power and confidence of the time of prayer were leaving. She lifted up her voice in prayer once more. As she did she again heard her guardian say, "Courage, mighty warrior, you are not alone."
The angel stood just behind her left shoulder. "The King will never leave you or forsake you. Remember his Word. It is your greatest weapon in the conflict ahead."
"I needed a reminder, thank you. And thanks be to God!" She pushed her shoulders back. "What do I do next? I am only one."
"There is a legion here to protect you, but you must use the armor of God. The master has given you the plan already. You must believe and follow."
She quieted her spirit to hear the Lord's plan again. Taking a deep breath, she uttered, "If the Lord be for me, who can be against me?" Leaving the cave area, she hurried to the transporter coordinates. She activated Chakotay's comm badge. "Larson to transporter room. One to beam up."
"Ensign, where have you been? Where are the others? We have been trying a reach all of you for some time," the voice of Tuvok questioned.
"Commander, I will answer your questions on board. Also beam up the food bags and phasers that are in this area."
The ensign materialized in the transporter room with a mound of weapons and food surrounding her. The security officer stepped forward, but before he could speak, Annalisa said, "I must talk to the captain."
"She is on her way." Tuvok told her. "She will meet us in the next room."
The two had just seated themselves when the Captain Janeway and Ensign Kim came into the room. Janeway sat next to Annalisa, her face showing much concern. "Where is the rest of the away team?"
"They are in caves on the planet. It is inhabited by spirits, evil spirits."
"Spirits? There is no sign of any life forms but small animals on the planet." Tuvok stated.
"I'm trying to explain. There are many spirits beings on the planet. They are non-corporeal. They are not energy. They are spiritual. They have somehow overpowered the crew. Each one of the crew believes that they are in the presence of a deity or spiritual master. None of them seem able to leave where they sit."
"In addition I have found evidence that many others have died in these caves." She took a breath to steady her and reached for her satchel. "I found these in the caves and there are many other things like them down there."
"Tuvok, we must send a security team help them."
"Pardon my interruption, Captain, but they will all end up the same way. Our weapons are completely useless. Phasers have no effect."
"Did you notice any weakness, any way we can free the crew?" Captain inquired impatiently.
"Yes, Captain, I know their weakness. That is why I am here now. I am wearing the right armor and I have the correct weapons at my disposal." The ensign lowered her eyes. She then raised her glance to meet the captain's. "'The weapons I fight with are not of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.'"
"I don't understand," Janeway shook her head in confusion.
"I must fight them with spiritual weapons. God sent a guardian spirit, angel if you will, to help me. He will not do my fighting, I must. After the crew is free, they will able to be beamed aboard."
"How can you fight an enemy that could captured nine others. I think you have been deceived with the others."
"Please let me do this. I can take one crewman with me. He can monitor my safety without being affected. He can establish a transporter link so that when they are free, you beam them abroad."
"What crewman?" the captain asked.
"The Doctor," Tuvok stated.
"Yes!" Annalisa said. "He is not flesh and blood. The spirits cannot influence him."
"Logical," nodded the Vulcan.
Captain Janeway rose from her seat and began to pace. "It doesn't make any sense. How can I order that kind of rescue?"
"Captain, I have Ensign Larson's tricorder reading from the caves. The only life signs are those of the crewmen. Also there is evidence of the bones the ensign mentioned but no signs of any other life or energy. I would recommend that the Doctor examine her for indication of hallucination."
Annalisa opened her mouth to object but though better of it. "I will go to sickbay immediately, if you wish, Captain."
"Do it," was the reply.
In the sickbay, with the captain and Tuvok waiting to the side, the EMH examined the ensign thoroughly. "I find no evidence of hallucinations. There are signs of stress but no more than to be expected from what she has been through."
"In that case, it seems we have no better choice at the moment. Doctor, we will need you to accompany Ensign Larson to the surface. You will see to the beaming up of the crew once they are released."
Back on the planet in front of the caves, the Doctor and Ensign Larson materialized.
"This way, Doctor." Annalisa entered the opening. She sensed an even stronger presence of evil than before.
She headed for the cave where she left Chakotay but her guardian spirit stopped her. "You must not begin the battle there. The Master has a different plan. Start over there." He pointed to the passageway on the opposite side of cavern.
Here, too, the evil presence was stronger than when she left. It seemed that being had grown in size and power. Chains seemed to be wound around the crewman, Ensign Pak.
Fear began to rise up in her heart when she heard the voice side her say "Fear not, daughter of the Master, not all is as it seems." Her heart rate began to steady as she focused on the words of the guardian.
"Forgive me, Father," she prayed. "I need your grace and power." Before her the evil one began to squirm and shrink.
"You, wicked one of the enemy, let this man free in the name of the Son of the Most High," she commanded with authority.
The beast dropped the end of the chain that he had been holding. And as he did, the chain about Pak fall to the ground. Annalisa ran over to Pak to help him to his feet. Pak steadied himself and looked around him.
"Where is the holy Buddha?" he asked.
"It was not Buddha. It was a lying spirit. You have to get back to the ship."
She turned to the doctor as she pushed the other ensign toward the entrance of the cave. "Contact the ship to beam him up while I go to the next cave."
Ensign Larson paused to seek guidance as to where to go next, while in the back of her mind she was worrying about Chakotay. She entered the next hole in the rock face. The being there was speaking to Crewman Dix. Dix was bound with what looked a length of silk cloth. From a distance it appeared to be soft and fragile, but as Larson came closer she saw that it was strong and rigid. Dix was smiling as she listened to the beast.
Annalisa asked Dix, "What is happening to you?"
"I am learning how to gain the wisdom of the ages. The ascended master is giving me much wisdom." Even as she spoke, Dix was distracted, trying to listen to the disguised demon. She turned back her full attention to the being.
Larson straightened up and spoke to the being directly. "Release her in the name of the true Master, Jesus of Nazareth."
The beast changed its focus to Annalisa. "You are weak. You can be defeated." It pointed to Crewmen Dix and said, "She belongs to me."
Ensign Larson bowed her head for a moment. She needed to know how to go on. She then lifted her head. "I am weak in my own strength but I come in the power of the Lord. Let her go."
The demon released its hold on the bindings and disappeared. The restricting cloth was gone too. Dix looked around her confused and disoriented. "The master, where is he?"
"Come, I'll explain later. The Doctor will help you get back to Voyager." Larson helped the woman to her feet and out of the cave. After handing Dix to the care of the Doctor, Annalisa returned to the cavern.
Cave after cave brought a much similar battle. Ensign Larson began to feel confidence and a little pride. She was winning, she would save her team, and the Lord was on her side. The only cave left was the one in which Chakotay was held captive. She stepped toward that opening when she saw several hideous forms in front of the passageway. She did not hesitate but continued toward them.
One of beings moved forward, "You are presumptuous. We have the man you admire. We know you desire him. You have lusted after him. You are not worthy for this fight. Your motives are self-serving." As he finished his taunts, he grabbed her, throwing her to the ground. She fought back but she was ineffective against the monster. Over and over she was pummeled and battered by the strong creature. She felt herself losing ground when she heard a voice speaking to her spirit. She had forgotten where her strength came from. "My Lord, help me!"
She heard the words, "Use the sword of the spirit!"
The words of the psalmist came to her. She began to speak.
If you make the Most High your dwelling-
Even the Lord, who is your refuge-
Then no harm will befall you,
No disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways,
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
The beast that had been fighting her fell back screaming and disappeared. Her guardian lifted her from the ground. Annalisa looked again at the entrance to the place where Chakotay was. The beings that had stood there before were gone. She breathed a sigh of relief. Her body ached severely but she ignored the pain.
The Doctor reentered the cavern. He came to stand next to her. "Are you all right, Ensign?" He noticed her dirty, disheveled appearance.
"I will be fine, Doctor. Come with me to help Commander Chakotay."
As she entered she could not see the beast that had been there before. Going farther into cave, she saw an old man standing in the back.
"Grandfather, what are doing here?" The man held out his arms to her. She started toward him when she felt a tug on her arm.
"Annalisa, no. Do not be deceived. It is a demon not your grandfather." As the guardian spoke the man changed before her eyes. The spirit cowered back to the wall. Pure hate showed from his dead eyes.
The young woman dropped to her knees weeping. The Doctor stepped toward her.
"Are you injured, Ensign?" He touched her shoulder.
"No, Doctor, but I must pray." Annalisa glanced at the physician through a curtain of tears. The Doctor stepped back, not understanding what was happening.
The ensign prayed fervently for forgiveness and cleansing. "I was almost defeated once more. You have saved me from myself again. Thank you, Father. I was proud of my efforts and forgot who empowered me. I am nothing without you. Please help me free my friend Chakotay." She hung head in remorse. Slowly she felt the burden of guilt and despair lift from her. She stood to her feet, swiped at her eyes with her sleeve and turned toward the being at the wall.
The beast stared at her with great malevolence. He began to taunt her for her failure. "You are so arrogant. But you have no strength. Your friend will die because of you."
"In Jesus' name, shut up! You are a liar and a deceiver. Leave this place now." She faced the being with renewed strength. The spirit flinched but did not leave. Annalisa bowed her head again, asking for guidance.
"My Lord dealt with your master on the cross. You must obey in His victorious name." As she spoke the words, her guardian stepped in front of her with fiery sword drawn. He struck the beast with the sword and the beast was gone.
Annalisa walked to where the first officer was sitting on the ground. No chain or shackles were in view. Chakotay moved his shoulders as if they were stiff. He struggled to his feet as she reached him.
"Are you all right, Commander?" She inquired.
"I think so." He answered rather weakly.
The Doctor joined them with his medical tricorder activated. He surveyed Chakotay with the device before stating, "He will be fine with a little rest." With the Doctor's help she bought Chakotay out of the cave.
"I think we all need to return to Voyager. Larson to Voyager, three to beam up." Annalisa touched her comm badge.
The captain was in the transporter room when they arrived. Her relief was evident. "Chakotay, I'm glad you are back. And Ensign Larson, we are all grateful to you. I would like to see you all in the conference room in an hour. The rest of the away team will be there."
She had taken a sonic shower and changed her uniform before coming to the meeting. She had felt grimy and almost contaminated after the time on the planet. The team was seated around the conference table when Annalisa arrived, even Chakotay. They stood at attention as she entered the room. She felt her face become red, and she wanted to run from the room when the captain took her arm. Janeway led her to a chair next to head of the table.
"Be seated everyone." Janeway smiled. "Ensign Larson is uneasy with this attention, but I am sure I speak for everyone on the ship when I say that we are indebted to you for your insight into this situation. I do not know what might have happened to our crew if you had not been so discerning. Thank you, Annalisa."
The room erupted in applause. Annalisa's eyes filled with tears and her face flamed even hotter. As the clapping ceased all eyes were on her, waiting for her to speak.
She swallowed the lump in her throat. After a few tries she found her voice. "Thank you for your greeting. But please I am not the one to thank. The honor goes to God. He was the one who gave me the ability to do the fighting. I nearly fell for the same devious tactics. God used His Word and my guardian to save me from myself. I am not a heroine. I am merely a weak vessel the Lord used." She sat back in her chair with a soft sigh.
The captain spoke, "Well, Ensign, we are obliged nonetheless. For the record I would like to hear from each of you what happened to you on this planet. Ensign Pak, please give us your report."
Pak was very serious as he began, "I was nearly finished filling my satchel with fruit when I saw something behind some bushes. What I saw at first was hideous and ugly. I saw the thing raise what looked like a weapon. It fired. I returned fire with my phaser. The beam went through the creature." He stopped to take breath.
"The weapon hit me. I was not prepared for what happened nest." He glanced around the room and was met with nods of agreement. "The creature was gone. Before me stood the Holy Buddha. He beckoned for me to come to him. I was filled a wonderful serenity. I followed him."
"A few times I remember Ensign Larson trying to talk to me. I didn't want to talk to her; I wanted to listen to Buddha. Abruptly a battle broke around me. Then the Holy Buddha was gone, and the awful creature was there in his place. Ensign Larson was fighting the thing. She was dressed in something like brilliant armor. I couldn't move it was as if I was bound with chains. When fight was over, the ensign was alone and I could get up. Thank you, Annalisa."
Each of the team had similar tales. Annalisa fidgeted in her chair. She was thinking about the near failure, about her fear and about her pride. Chakotay was the last speak. She couldn't meet his gaze. She looked down at the table.
"When we first landed on the planet, Ensign Larson was uneasy about something. She told that me something wasn't right. I dismissed her concern, letting her go a few meters ahead to investigate to humor her. I wished that I had listened. After a few minutes of picking seed pods from a large shrub, I too saw a being, at first malicious looking. But after I was hit with the "weapon" I saw only my animal guide. It bid me follow. I wanted to do nothing else; I was compelled."
"In the cave Annalisa also tried to get my attention. I remember being very angry with her. I ordered her to leave. Later when she returned, my animal guide began taunting her. I was not sure why. I was not able to understand."
Annalisa lifted her head in surprise and met his eyes. He spoke directly to her. "You fell to your knees. I thought that you were hurt, but when you did, the room filled with bright beings, beautiful but obviously powerful. They surrounded you. I looked back to where my guide had been. There stood the same malevolent, dark creature I had first seen in the forest. It was holding a chain. I tried to back away, but I was shackled with the chain it had in its grasp. You finally stood up. You were instantly attired in armor, the likes of which I have never seen. You were holding a luminous shield. The beast threw volley after volley of its weapons at you. Each one hit the shield and fell sputtering to the ground. The creature's hatred radiated all through the cave. As you spoke, the expression of the being changed to utter terror. One of the bright beings raised his sword to the beast. With one blow the thing was gone, and so were chains that held me. You saved my life. I am in your debt." Annalisa could not bear to see the intensity of his look, so she again dropped her eyes to the table in front of her.
Janeway stood. "I am not sure that we will able to come up with a suitable token of our gratitude, but the senior staff and I are ready to try."
Annalisa emotions were overwhelming. She spoke in a whisper. "Captain?"
"What is it, Ensign?"
"I am unexpectedly weary. I would like permission to go to my quarters."
"I am so sorry, by all means, rest. Someone will escort you." The captain looked around the room.
"Please, no one needs to do that." The ensign stood to her feet. "I will go by myself, by your leave." When Janeway nodded, the young woman walked toward to door. She was almost through the opening when her legs seemed to lose their strength. She grabbed the jamb to stay upright.
Janeway opened her mouth to speak, but Chakotay had already moved to Annalisa's side. With his arm about her waist, he turned back to the captain; "I'll take her to sickbay, Captain." Without waiting for Janeway's response, he helped Annalisa out of the door and strode toward sickbay.
Annalisa tried to resist the arm he held around her, "Please, Commander, I just want to go to my room."
Chakotay stood still, gripping her tighter. "We are going to see the doctor."
She pushed against him for another second, then she began to sway. He caught her before she fell to the floor. He continued toward the sickbay with her in his arms. She was unconscious for only a couple of seconds.
As she regained her senses and opened her eyes, she spoke weakly. "Will you please take me to my quarters? I am so embarrassed. I don't want to go like this when I know I just need rest."
"I would like to oblige you, but we need to know what is wrong." Chakotay said firmly.
Annalisa turned her face toward his shoulder to hide the tears of frustration and fatigue that came to her eyes. Chakotay could feel their warm wetness on his skin through his uniform. "I'm sorry, Anna. Everything will be all right." He spoke softly into her ear.
The doctor met them at the entrance to sickbay. He had been notified of their coming. "Put her down over here, Commander." He began to examine her with the various medical gadgets at his disposal. "You are suffering from severe exhaustion, some bruises and contusions and mild dehydration. I have taken care of the minor injuries. But you must have complete rest for least the next 24 hours. I am going to administer a sedative. You will stay here until I release you." The medic reached for a hypo-spray but Annalisa stopped him.
"I want to rest in my own bed. Please, Commander, I can follow the doctor's instruction there." She pleaded with Chakotay as she tried to rise for the biobed. He gently pushed her shoulders back on the bed.
"Doctor, I could see to it that Ensign Larson gets to her quarters. I could even give her the sedative when we get there. I think we can be accommodating given the reason she so worn out."
"Very well, if you take full responsibility." The Doctor was reluctant but handed the hypo-spray instrument to the commander. "I would suggest you wait for a few minutes before you take her there. She does need to regain a little bit of strength to make it."
After about ten minutes on the bed, the doctor said that she was ready to leave, "Go directly to your quarters, Ensign."
"I will." She agreed as she slowly sat up. As she put her feet on the deck, Chakotay came to her side and took her arm. They walked steadily to the turbolift and then down the corridor to her rooms.
"Anna, why don't you get ready and into bed before I give you the sedative? I'll wait here until you tell me you are done." He motioned toward her bedroom. Annalisa walked lethargically into the other room, and the door closed behind her. Chakotay paced anxiously. He felt guilty that she was suffering because of him. Why had he not listened to her about the danger? Why hadn't his animal guide aided him as Anna's guardian had aided her? Her God was powerful. Chakotay wondered why this God of hers bothered to help them when only she believed in Him.
"I'm ready." He heard her voice muffled by the door between them. The door opened as he reached it. He saw Annalisa lying in the bed, her yellow hair down from its coils. She was holding the blanket up under her chin. His chest tightened again causing him to exhale quickly. She looked so vulnerable, so fragile, so pale and so desirable. He mentally shook himself. He must remember his promise to her to be just her friend.
"I'll give you the hypo-spray and then I'll leave you to rest." Chakotay came to the side of the bed and administered the soporific. He waited for it to work. He could see her features begin to relax.
Her eyelids started to droop when she groggily protested, "But I forgot to pray. Must pray. I can't sleep until . . ." Her speech stopped. She was asleep.
"Your master won't mind. You can pray another time. Sleep well, mighty warrior." He whispered softly. Despite his resolve he did not resist the urge to bend over her and kiss her. Then he left.
Twelve hours later the door tone sounded and she called out "Come in."
Captain Janeway entered the room. Annalisa got up. The captain said, "Please sit down. I only came to see how you are doing. I see that Neelix did bring you a meal." She smiled her approval, particularly with the fact that most of the food had been eaten.
"Yes, Captain Janeway, I am much better, rested. The food Neelix brought was very good. Thank you." The ensign smiled back at the captain. "May I have your permission to go sickbay?" she held up her hand when a look of concern darkened the captain's face. "I merely want get the Doctor's approval to leave my room. He told me twenty-four hours rest. I am feeling great, but I'm not going to go against his orders."
"I have no problem with that. In fact I'll go with you. I have something else to discuss with you, and it will depend partially on his opinion."
During their stroll to the sickbay, the crew members they passed greeted her with a new enthusiasm. Their respect and admiration was evident in the words and gestures of greeting.
In the infirmary the Doctor made a thorough examinations before speaking. "Ensign Larson, you have made good progress since last night. You will be ready for duty tomorrow."
"Doctor, may I leave my room at all today? I don't plan to exert myself, I just would like to go the mess hall for my next meal and maybe a small walk to stretch my legs." She waited for his answer.
"Yes, I suppose under those circumstances you may leave your quarters. But I certainly don't want you to overdo anything. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Doctor. I will do as you say. Thank you." She jumped down from the table with energy.
Janeway and Annalisa left the sickbay smiling.
"Well, Ensign, I am glad that the Doctor shares your opinion of your health. Because of that I want to tell what the senior officers and I are planning for tomorrow evening. Neelix is preparing a buffet reception for you in the mess hall. The away team and many others of the crew want to show their gratitude to you. I also have something in mind."
Annalisa spoke up, "Are you sure that it is necessary? I'm not comfortable with the idea."
"Annalisa, would you want to honor Tuvok or Chakotay or Pak, if they had done what you did?" Janeway looked seriously into Larson's eyes.
"I would, Captain." She let out a soft sigh before she continued. "I would like your consent to speak freely to group who gather. I want to make them grasp what happened on that planet."
"Fine, you have earned that right. I will see you there at 1900 hours tomorrow." The captain turned to go to the bridge.
Larson walked casually back to her quarters. Her strength was definitely restored. She even felt like singing, but satisfied herself with a soft hum. As she rounded the corner closest to her rooms, she spotted Chakotay standing outside her door. He seemed agitated and worried. He had obviously tried her door chime.
"Commander, here I am," she called down the hall. Chakotay turned and his expression changed from worry to confusion to relief.
"What are you doing? The Doctor said that you needed at least 24 hours rest." He looked stern as he asked the question.
"I have just been to see him. He gave me a clean bill of health. As long as I don't over do it, I am allowed out of my quarters today," she explained cheerfully with no hint of the fatigue of the night before.
Chakotay took a deep breath and admitted gently, "I was worried when you didn't answer the door. Are you really feeling better? Are you sure you got enough rest? Have you eaten?" His voice was filled with concern.
"I am fine and well rested. Neelix brought me some food a while ago. It was delicious, by the way. Neelix is on the verge of spoiling me. He must have found a good recipe data file." Her voice sounded strong and alert. She touched the keypad to open her door. "Would you like to come in for a moment? I would like to show you something I found this morning."
The commander nodded and followed her through the door.
"Chakotay, I wanted thank you for your help last night. I'm still a little embarrassed by my weakness, but after I read my Bible this morning I found something in the early history of the Israelites that reminded me of my experience." She picked up a book; it looked old but in good condition. "When I am discouraged and want to feel close to my grandfather, I read his Bible. There are notes he made. I can almost hear his voice just like when I was a little girl, and he would read to me from this Bible."
She held the book gently, caressing the cover before opening it to a place marked by a ribbon. She motioned to Chakotay to sit down as she sat on one of the chairs. She laid the open Bible on her lap as she started to tell the story. "There was a prophet of the Most High named Elijah. The king of Israel was a weak, wicked king named Ahab. His wife was a worshiper of the false god Baal. Elijah was a mighty prophet. It didn't rain for three and a half years upon his word."
"Another time he challenged 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to a contest on Mt. Carmel. He stood before all of the prophets, the king and the people of Israel and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.'"
"He told of his proposal. Each side would prepare a sacrificial bull as an offering but not set fire to it. He said, 'You call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers with fire - he is God.' The people thought that it was a good idea."
"The prophets of Baal and Asherah went first. They prepared the bull, built the pile of wood and began to call out of their god. They called on his name from morning until noon 'Oh, Baal, answer us! There was no response. They danced, they shouted, they slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. They continued their frantic ministrations until the time of the evening sacrifice. But no one answered."
"All the while Elijah taunted them. 'Maybe he is asleep or busy or on vacation.'"
"Finally it was Elijah's turn. He built an altar with twelve stones and dug a trench around it. After placing wood on the altar and the sacrifice on the wood, he ordered 4 large jars of water to be poured on the offering and the wood three times. The water ran down around the altar and into the trench."
"Elijah stepped forward at the time of the evening offering and began to pray. 'O, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me so there people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.'"
Annalisa stopped a moment in her telling to meet Chakotay's eyes. He was listening intently. Stories of the ancients always fascinated him.
She began her narrative again. "Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also the licked up the water in the trench. All the people prostrated themselves, crying out, 'The Lord - he is God! The Lord - he is God!' The people rounded up the false prophets and slaughtered them in the valley."
"Elijah prayed an end to the drought. The Lord answered and then gave Elijah the power to run ahead of the king to Jezreel. There the king told his pagan wife, Jezebel, the news. She pronounced a curse upon Elijah."
"He was so afraid of her he ran for his life into the desert. Mind you, he had started and ended a drought by the power of God. He had defeated 850 false prophets by the power of God, but he was afraid of just one woman."
"He sat in the shade of a bush and prayed that he would die. He was ready to give up. He felt sorry for himself. He felt that he was the only one who followed God. He was so tired from all that had happened he laid down and fell asleep."
"God sent an angel to feed him and give him water as he rested for two days. After his rest he traveled to another place where the Lord made Himself known to Elijah. He let him know that he was not alone. The Lord had reserved 7000 men who had not bowed to Baal."
She closed her Bible and put it on the table. "I don't think of myself as a prophet, but I am God's servant, and I tried to be his instrument down on that planet. I do often feel very alone in my faith. That and the physical exhaustion made me feel really sorry for myself; I didn't want to even talk about it. I surely didn't want recognition." She was humbled by the knowledge of her near abandonment of her Lord. She looked down at her hands in shame.
Breathing deeply, Annalisa spoke once more. "However, my Lord doesn't let go of me, just as he didn't let go of the prophet, Elijah. Yesterday after I callapsed he used 'angels' like yourself and Neelix to minister to me." Chakotay chuckled at the image of Neelix and himself as angels.
"I'm serious," she said. "You and the others helped me so that I could again see that I will never be deserted by Him. Thank you, Chakotay, you have been a friend in need."
"You're welcome, Anna." All at once he could not find the right words to say what he wanted to. He got up from the chair, went to porthole window and gazed into the space beyond. He wanted to understand this faith of hers. The belief of his people had been with him so long, but it did not always help him the way he would like. But he couldn't turn from their ways, could he? Finally he sat down again. "You seem to have found what you need in that book. If the God of the Bible is real, he seems to be with you strongly. I don't know what to think or believe."
"You can ask me anything you would like to know. If I don't know the answer, we can try to find it together. Please don't laugh, but maybe we could have a Bible study together." She was feeling bold as she spoke.
"I'm not laughing," he smiled slightly. "And I might just take you up on the invitation."
"That would be wonderful, Chakotay!" The light of pleasure that came into her eyes was nearly more than he could deal with.
"I want to ask you for a favor first. I am almost certain you will not agree but I have to ask." He leaned forward in the chair.
"What is it?" she questioned solemnly.
"I would like you to come on a vision quest with me. I want you to meet my animal guide. Earlier I would have tried to help you find one for yourself but now I would never do that. I know you have no need of one." He felt chagrined as if he were asking her to betray someone but he went on, "Maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but the reason I am asking is because my animal guide requested it." He didn't look at her while waiting for her to speak.
"Chakotay, I think it would be wrong for me to do what you are asking. But as your friend I will pray about it and see what my 'guide' says." She reached over and touched his arm. "I will be praying for you continually that my God will make himself known to you."
"Well, thank you for not saying no immediately. And I hope your prayers are not wasted on me." He rose and walked to the door. "Goodbye, Annalisa. I will see you later." The door hissed closed after him.
Annalisa went to her small prayer cubicle. She knelt and began to pray. "Father God, I am unsure about what to do now. Chakotay is looking for answers. You are the answer for him. But he wants me to come on this vision quest. What should I do? Please show me." She stayed on her knees praying for the captain and the crew and praying for wisdom for when she spoke the people at the reception tomorrow. Sometime later she arose with her peace renewed.
She touched the PADD in front of her that contained her ancient grandfather's dairy. There was an entry she remembered reading. It might help her right now. Annalisa searched for quite a long time before the passage she wanted appeared on the device. She was right. Her grandfather had gone a vision quest once. He had done so with much trepidation. The word was clear about its condemnation of familiar spirits. He had fasted and prayed before hand. The Indian who had invited him was certain that grandfather would not be able to resist once he met one of animal guides. The native had been wrong, of course. In fact as a result of the quest the native renounced his guide and embraced Christ. There was an old photographic image of the man and her grandfather standing in front of the old man's hut, smiling, obviously happy to be together.
Annalisa put the PADD down. She stared ahead of her, unseeing. It was still unclear what she would do, but she was ready.
On the bridge Chakotay was distracted as he went about his duties. He did his work as usual but his mind was still mulling over what Annalisa and he had talked about. He had been wrong to ask her to go on the vision quest. His conscience plagued him on that account. By the end of his duty shift he planned to take back his invitation and apologize to her. He would do so after the ceremony tomorrow. It seemed that a burden was gone from his shoulders.
That night another dream came to him. It began the same as the other, with him walking in the land of his people. He saw Wolf in the distance. Again she was agitated, pacing back and forth. As he drew closer he could see that she had a chain around her neck. She could only moved in a small circle.
Her appearance was changed since he had last dreamed too. She was no longer sleek and strong; her coat was matted and ragged. She strained at the tether and growled at him. "See what you have done! Why didn't you bring her to me? She would have come because of you. I could have won. I could have been freed." She lifted her head and howled. His flesh crawled at the sound.
"But Wolf, I couldn't ask her to disobey her beliefs. She saved my life." He tried to explain. Then he asked, "Why are you chained this way?"
The animal stared at him with cold hatred. "I have always been chained. You have not seen them. You are chained, too. The cross walker, the woman's master holds the key." Chakotay looked at his arms and there were shackles on them.
"Where did these come from?" He tried to shake them off.
Wolf laughed a cheerless laugh. Then she looked behind her with great loathing. Chakotay looked up and saw a young man coming from behind a rock, in his hand he held the end of the chain.
The commander watched as the young man came closer to him. The man reached his hand out to Chakotay. The hand was scarred at the wrist. He spoke, "This wound was meant for you. I took it in your stead, my son. I want to be your Guide. I have kept this one from harming you." He pointed to Wolf who slunk back from his glance. "But now it is time for you to seek me. I have great and wonderful plans for you. My daughter is praying for you. As you know she is a mighty warrior in prayer."
The voice Chakotay knew; it was the one which had guided when he was young and imparted peace to his heart. Chakotay only needed to look into the man's eyes to see a kind of love radiate from them that he didn't know could exist. He began to understand that chain was of his own making. He was also keenly aware of his own soul in a way he had never been. He saw the many times when in his life, selfishness and willfulness had ruled him and bound him. He had followed a way that had seemed right, but now he could see that it had been a lie. His life had nothing to offer in order to earn this man's love. Now that he faced this perfect man/God, he saw that his lack. He sensed guilt; great, overwhelming guilt. Chakotay fell on his face on the ground. He was afraid to look up now that he knew his own condition and that the Man knew it too.
"Chakotay, your sin was dealt with on my cross. The chain of sin was broken. My love and forgiveness is a gift, one you need only reach out to take."
Chakotay's mind could not comprehend a gift so freely and lovingly given. He felt a hand touch his shoulder. He lifted his head to see the Man again. The love was still in his eyes, greater than before. It was pleading with him to surrender his life. Chakotay held out his fettered hands to the Man. As the Man touched them, the fetters fell off.
Suddenly Chakotay was awake with his hands stretched out in front of him. He rubbed his wrists; they still felt as if they were in irons. What had happened to him? Had Anna's Master really come to him in a dream? He felt again the guilt. He knew now he was a sinful man. He had prided himself in being better than most men. He had followed his own code well enough. But this God/man had shown him differently. What should I do now? His thoughts almost formed a prayer. The answer was simple. Talk to Annalisa.
He would talk to her as soon as he was able. No! He changed his mind. He would wait until after the ceremonies tonight. His wake-up call had not sounded yet but he was suddenly ready to meet the day. The memory of the love he saw in the God/man's eyes gave him hope.
Annalisa was putting the final touches on her preparations for the reception when she heard the door chime. She bid the person to enter. Commander Tuvok was standing outside the door.
"Commander, may I help you?" Surprise registered on her face.
"Actually, Ensign, I am here to escort you to the reception. As your immediate superior officer, it is my honor to do so." He bowed slightly. "It is nearly time to begin. Are you ready?"
She smiled at the Vulcan, "Why, yes, I am."
When they arrived at the mess hall, she was shocked to see so many individuals. As she and Tuvok entered the room, everyone became quiet at first then they all began to clap. Larson stood just inside the door, her face red but with a wide grin spreading across it. At this moment she was not uneasy about the applause. She would be able to give the honor to her Lord soon enough. She felt so much a part of this crew; they had become her family. Thankfulness filled her heart that she had been used to save their lives. Tears stung but she blinked them away.
As the noise died down, the captain moved through the crowd to her. Janeway took her by the arm and led her to a table set at the far end of the room. There were other tables arranged so that all faced that one. As she past closest to the kitchen, wonderful aromas assailed her senses. A large table was all but overflowing with food. Neelix stood beaming behind the table; he loved to provide a feast such as this.
Captain Janeway indicated which seat for Annalisa to use. She was to sit to the captain's left. The captain stood behind her chair and called the group to order. "Crew members of Voyager, as you all know we are gathered to honor one of our own." She put her arm around Annalisa's shoulder. "Ensign Annalisa Larson is our guest of honor." The group applauded again.
Janeway raised her hand to quiet them. "Please be seated." She ordered with a smile. Then looking down at Larson she continued. "We are in your debt. We want to take time to show you who glad we are to have you here. To thank you on behalf of the away team, Commander Chakotay has something to say."
The captain sat down as Chakotay stood. Smiling he surveyed the assembly and finally rested his gaze on Annalisa. "I have no doubt that we would not be here in celebration if Ensign Larson had not been with us on the mission to that planet. She distinguished herself with her insight and bravery. I think, however, that it is the faith she has in her God and his power that made the greatest impact against the beings of that world. Thank you, Ensign Annalisa Larson, for being willing to fight an enemy with weapons none of the rest of us had and for being a willing instrument in the hand of your God. Furthermore, I personally would like to thank your God for his help."
The tears that had threatened before now coursed down Annalisa's cheeks. Her heart nearly burst with joy to hear her Lord acknowledged so publicly by Chakotay. It was the best reward she could have imagined.
The silence was palatable as Chakotay sat down. The captain seemed to struggle with what to say next as she stood. She glanced at the buffet table and Neelix. "I think we should all sample the food our inventive cook has prepared. Neelix, do you have any instructions for us?"
"Yes, Captain, I do. Ensign Larson had mentioned some of her favorite Nordic foods. Well, Ensign, I have replicated lefsa and lutefisk for you. I must say the taste is very similar to Talaxian tog bread and xincuop. Please come to the buffet and enjoy the feast."
"If I may, Captain, I know there is something else that the ensign would enjoy before we begin to eat." The commander stopped both Janeway and Larson from leaving the table. Captain Janeway was curious so she nodded her permission. "Ensign Larson always says 'grace', I think it is called, before she eats. I think we should join her tonight. Will you lead us in prayer?" He turned to see the grateful look on Annalisa's face.
Annalisa bowed her head but lifted her hands in front of her. "Merciful God, I wish to thank you for your gifts of life, friends and this food prepared so carefully by Mr. Neelix. This thanks is given in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen."
She heard soft murmurs of "Amen" around her. It was a beautiful sound, one she had not heard for a long while. The captain motioned for her to lead the way to sideboard.
Neelix was there to insist she fill her plate with a taste of everything. The food looked very appetizing. After reaching the end of the table, she carefully maneuvered back to her place. She settled in her chair and waited for the rest of the people to their food. The captain was the first one back to her seat followed by Chakotay.
"Please, there is no need for you to wait to eat. Let's not stand on ceremony tonight, Annalisa." The captain punctuated her words by picking up her fork and taking a bite. Annalisa began her meal with the lutefisk and lefsa. She was pleasantly surprised to find that it was just like her mother's. Neelix had been watching for her reaction. She beamed at him with appreciation. He was greatly pleased and began to serve the rest with gusto.
Annalisa sat enjoying the food and the responses of the others, as they tasted the Nordic dishes. Chakotay grimaced as he tasted, chewed and swallowed a bite of lutefisk. She tried to stifle a chuckle but was not successful.
"I heard that." He said as he reached for his water glass. After the drink, he continued, "I guess this is proof I have no Scandinavian blood."
"My father was Scandinavian but he still disliked lutefisk. You either like it or you don't." She grinned as she took another bite. Swallowing she said, "I'll take it off your hands if you would like."
"Here you are, Ensign." Chakotay lifted the fish from his plate to hers.
"Thank you, Commander."
Chakotay lowered his voice and leaned toward her, "Anna, I would like to ask you something, but this is not the place. Could I come to your quarters for a few minutes after this?" He seemed to be almost apprehensive.
She was herself a little nervous about him coming but she trusted him. Plus she did want to tell how happy his speech made her "Yes, I would like to talk to you, too." She told him in equally quiet tone of voice.
Everyone was finishing his or her meal, when the captain tapped her water glass and stood to her feet. "It looks as though as it time for the ceremony to began. Unless, Ensign, you are not done with your meal." She gave Annalisa an inquiring glance. The ensign indicated that she was indeed finished.
"The senior staff and I have decided to honor Ensign Annalisa Larson, not only with another commendation but with a field promotion. Ensign, would you please stand?" Janeway smiled at the astonished expression on Annalisa's face.
Tuvok handed the captain a small box. The captain removed a junior lieutenant's pip from the container and attached it to Larson's collar. "Mr. Neelix, it is time for our toast."
The Talaxian began to pour wine for the assembly. When all were served, Captain Janeway raised her glass. "To Lieutenant Annalisa Larson, to her bravery and insight, her example is inspiration to us all. Salute'" The entire group lifted their glasses. There were murmurs of "Here! Here!" before all of them drink the wine. The captain remained standing as the rest were seated.
"Lieutenant Larson has asked for a few minutes to speak to you." She sat down while motioning for Annalisa to stand.
Larson rose to her feet. For a moment she merely surveyed the faces of the crew who were gathered. They were all smiling encouragingly up at her. She was very happy at that minute to be there. "Thank you for all of the kind things you have said. I am glad that I was present on the planet. However I am even more grateful that my Lord and God was there with me. I am nothing without him. It was his power and his weapons that saved all of us on the away team. It was only with his help that kept me from falling victim to their dominion. My Lord is the one we should be honoring right now. I want this lieutenant's pip to remind us all who the victor truly is." There was a reflective silence after she sat down.
As the reception wound down, Larson stood between Janeway and Chakotay talking. Crew members filed by registering their congratulations. Several of them quietly asked if they could join her for her seventh day service. Annalisa enthusiastically agreed; her delight apparent on her face. Words of praise for her bravery meant nothing in comparison to the desire of some to be with her on Seventh Day.
Nearly all the crew had left the room. Lt. Larson was a little tired but buoyant emotionally. Janeway tilted her head toward Annalisa's and said, "I want express again my thanks and congratulations for a job well done. Also I want to say good night." She bowed slightly before she left.
"Good night, Captain, and thank you," Larson replied sincerely.
Since the room was nearly empty, she knew it was time to go. She still wanted to thank Neelix for his part in the festivities. As she moved to where Neelix was clearing a table, Chakotay followed, keeping at a discrete distance because he didn't want to intrude.
"Mr. Neelix, I will always be grateful to you for your efforts tonight. You are an inventive chef. The lutefisk and lefsa were so close to my mother's, I half expected to see her in the kitchen." Annalisa took his hand in both of hers. Neelix looked if he had received a medal.
"You are most welcome, Lieutenant Larson. I will keep the recipes on file for you. If you are ever homesick for them, just let me know." The Talaxian beamed with pleasure.
She thanked him again and turned to leave. Chakotay was near the door, waiting for her. She smiled as she approached him. He allowed her to go before him through the doorway.
"Chakotay, I can't tell how much it meant to me to have you say what you did about my Lord. You are a good friend. And I think you are near to being His friend, too." She touched his forearm.
His face brightened with a smile, but he did not speak. They continued until they came to her door. She touched the keypad and the door swished open. "Join me, please," she said as she went to her sofa and sat down.
After he sat down beside her, he was silent for a time. He was struggling for the right words. "I guess I will start by giving you this." He produced a small drawstring bundle and held it out to her. Annalisa took it and loosened string. She tipped the contents into her hand. She gasped in delight as she discovered a stone attached to chain. The round stone was a flat piece Rybonian blood silver about 4 centimeters in diameter and less than one centimeter thick. One side was flat and smooth. However when she turned it over, she discovered carving on that side of the stone. It was a Chi Rho of deep red. Rybonian blood silver has a distinctive property. It comes from the mine, smooth and dark shiny silver in color, but when it is carved if a heated tool, the carving is blood red in color. Chakotay had saved the rare stone for a long while. Seeing the joy on Annalisa's face made him glad he had taken the time to carve it and give it to her.
"O, thank you, Chakotay! It is exquisite." Her eyes filled with tears. "How did you know to carve this design?" She put the chain around her neck and then held the stone to look at it again.
"I did research into the history of the ancient church. I found out about the symbol, Chi Rho and that was one of earliest monograms for Christ. It's very possible that it used to mark secret worship places for Christians in the Roman catacombs." He admitted simply.
Almost unaware of what she was doing, she hugged him. She did not linger however. She sat against the sofa back to regain her composure. "You said that you had something to tell me," She said expectantly.
He nodded but waited for a few seconds before he spoke. At the same time he turned toward her and said, "I had a dream last night. I would like share it with you because I think you can help me understand it." He proceeded to tell her dream. He left nothing unsaid. He told her about the God/man and his expression of love, the sin chains and the burden of guilt. As he ended the account, his voice was choked; teardrops ran down his face.
"Anna, is His love real? Could I be forgiven? It seems too much to hope and yet I do." He hung his head, hardly noticing tears as they landed on his hands.
"Yes, a thousand times yes! Chakotay, the Master died to remove the guilt and penalty for sin. He wants you to be clean from all this." She laid her hand on his shoulder. "You need only pray and submit yourself to Him. He says whoever comes to Him with a contrite heart will not be cast away."
"But my life has been so full of selfish choices. I left my people. I never really said goodbye. My father might be alive today if I had stayed and been there for the fight with the Cardassians. The both crews, Maquis and Starfleet, might still be whole and home if I had not made the choices I have." He shook his head.
"Chakotay, everyone has sinned. We have all made mistakes that we regret. Jesus paid the price that God's holiness demanded."
"Tell me what to do. I am ready to be His." He wiped at his eyes and sniffed. "I'm a little embarrassed." He gave her a weak smile.
"Just pray after me remembering that words don't matter as much as what your heart means."
He slipped to his knees on the floor beside the sofa and Annalisa did so too. Annalisa closed her eyes began a simple petition pausing to let Chakotay repeat. "Father of the universes, I am a sinner. You have made aware of my sin. Your son died to cleanse me from my wickedness. Forgive me in His name. I renounce my animal guide and ask you to be my guide instead. Help me daily to live in your grace and love. Thank you for answering me. In Jesus' name, amen."
As he echoed the 'amen', peace literally flooded Chakotay's whole being. Tears flowed again but they were joyful tears. His emotions shouted thanksgiving. He wanted to shout, dance and sing. You have forgiven me. His mind was filled a cascade of jubilant thoughts.
Annalisa began to sing a song of praise.
"For God so loved the world
He gave his only Son,
To die on Calvary's tree
From sin to set me free
Some day he coming back
What glory that will be
Wonderful it is to me."
After Annalisa finished song, she rose to her feet. She went to her desk, picked up two PADDs and brought them back to where Chakotay was now seated. "I have always wanted share this with you. This picture is of the grandfather I told you about. The man next to him was named Winter Sun on the River. He had a story similar to yours, only my grandfather went on a vision quest with him. Winter Sun was converted as a result. My grandfather was never uncomfortable that he went on the quest. He always wrote that only God's grace brought good from it. Winter Sun spent his life telling of his Savior's love. I have read this story many times, but now I understand the great joy of being part of a new birth."
Chakotay was moved as he read the account. In the picture he saw the deep affection apparent between the two men. This man, Winter Sun, could have been his ancient grandfather. "Thank you for showing me this. It means a lot to me."
"I have something else for you. My family gave me several before I board Voyager. They wanted me have them to give when I shared my faith. I have felt ashamed that I have never been able to find someone I thought would want one."
She handed the other PADD. It was a Bible. Chakotay gazed at the small screen. The words began "For God so loved the world..."
"Thank you." His voice was low. "I think I will need this." "It is our letter from our heavenly Father." She stated plainly. "You and I are brother and sister now, we are family."
Smiling radiantly Chakotay stood up. "Well, Lieutenant little sister, I better go. We both have duty tomorrow." He offered his hand to help her to her feet. He clutched her hand tightly for a moment. "Please continue to pray for me. The Lord said you are mighty warrior in prayer."
Annalisa squeezed his hand in return and replied, "I will pray for you but you must pray for me. It is a wonderful thing to know that someone else on this ship is praying."
"I will," Chakotay vowed solemnly.
Annalisa, overcome with the gladness of the moment, embraced the commander. Chakotay enclosed her in his arms for brief time. Then dropping his arms, he went to door.
"God's peace," she wished him.
"God's peace, Anna, God's peace," he said.
For the next several days, Chakotay spent nearly every free hour he had pouring over the Bible PADD Annalisa had given him. It seemed to him that he could not get enough of the words of his God, his new Guide. Also it seemed that the Lord was right there with him, wanting to hear from him, wanting to show him his new way. He had questions to be sure. He recorded them so that he could ask Annalisa when he talked to her next.
After his duty shift was over Chakotay decided to contact Annalisa. He had not seen her since that night and a verse was nagging at him. He tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Lieutenant Larson."
She answered, "Yes, Commander?"
"Are you busy right now?"
"I just left my duty post, sir"
"If you haven't eaten, would join me at the mess hall?"
The mess hall was relatively busy, but Neelix didn't let anything stand in the way of serving them. He insisted that they sit down, that he would bring them their food. They both smiled at the attention the self-proclaimed morale officer gave them. Very soon after they were seated, the Talaxian brought their meal.
After Neelix left, Chakotay spoke, "I want join in thanking the Lord. Would you mind if I prayed."
Annalisa was thrilled, "Please do." She bowed her head.
"Father of all the universes, thank you for this food. Thank you for my sister here with me. Be our guest and guide us to do what you want of us. We pray in name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen."
She echoed, "Amen" and raised her head. Her eyes were moist with tears but her face glowed with happiness.
"Seventh day is tomorrow, isn't it?" Chakotay asked as he began to eat. When she nodded, he continued, "I would like come to your service."
"You are welcome to come any and every time. I do want you to know that several crew members have said that they want to attend also. I had invited them at different times and now they want to come. I hope you don't mind."
"Mind? Of course I don't mind. In fact one of the questions I had from reading the Bible was about attending services. The command is simple. We're not to forsake coming together. Isn't that right?"
"Yes, it is." She could tell he was serious. "Do you have many other questions? I will try to answer them if I can. Otherwise we'll have find the answers for together."
"Well, the major question I have is about baptism. Many times in the Word of God baptism is mentioned. 'Repent and be baptized' I have repented therefore I must be baptized. But how does it happen? Who does the baptizing? We don't have a pastor or an elder." He looked earnestly to her for the answers.
"I have never baptized anyone but I have attended baptisms. It is usually done at a worship service. I suppose I could baptize you at one of our services." She thought for a minute for she said, "We could do it tomorrow."
He quietly pondered, resting his chin on his hand. "No, I want it to be more public. I want the crew to know that I have chosen to follow Christ. I will ask permission to use one of the meeting rooms for the service next week. I would like to have room for all the crew members who would like to come. Could I make an announcement tomorrow if Captain Janeway permits?"
"Of course, it's a great idea."
They lingered at the meal discussing passages one or the other had read during the past week. Annalisa thought that she might be dreaming. The fellowship was sweet. Chakotay, too, enjoyed the discussion, but he also enjoyed her company for its own sake. She was so fervent in her love for the Savior. He watched the light dance in her eyes when she talked about His Word. He felt as if he would never tire of hearing her talk about Him.
"I don't want to leave you but I think I should talk to the captain so that we will know how to plan." He rose from the table.
Annalisa stayed at the table for about fifteen minutes. Several people came by the table to greet her. Some repeated their desire to be at the service and asked the time. Neelix came over to see if she needed anything more. Since she was finished, she thanked him.
She was in the corridor on her way to her quarters when Chakotay caught up with her. "Captain Janeway gave her consent. She was a bit surprised by my request." His eyes twinkled at the memory of Janeway's shock. "It probably was the last thing she would have expected to hear. We have the largest meeting room for two hours in the morning a week from tomorrow."
"How wonderful!" She clasped her hands together in the delight.
They came to her door and Chakotay bid her good night.
In the morning Annalisa arose early to pray and to ready her room for the service. She removed the partition around her little chapel. After arranging all of the chairs she could, she turned the video screen so that more would be able to see it. After much prayerful consideration, she chose a program with very basic message of the love of God. She had had a hard time deciding on what to wear, finally choosing to wear she robe and stole. Her hair was again in one braid down her back.
Seeing that she had done all that she could to be ready she sat down to pray. It was a few minutes past 0900 when the door chime sounded. She stood as she said, "Come in."
Chakotay came through the opening door. "I hope you don't mind me coming a little early. I wanted to pray before the others came."
"I am glad you did. I'm a bit nervous about the whole thing. I have only had you come to the service. I'm not sure how to proceed. Do I continue as if no one else was here?" She began to actually pace, something she only did when she was very anxious.
Chakotay came to her side, touched her forearm and softly reminded her, "Anna, you have done what you can. Let the Master do the rest." He smiled encouragingly at her. "We really should pray." He guided her to two chairs in the back of the room.
After they sat down, he began, "Father of heaven, who rules over all and is in all who love and follow your wonderful Son, take away our fears and give Your peace. We don't know who will come and how they will respond but that is in Your hands." He paused, waiting for her to speak.
"Thank you, Father, for this reminder that I am not in charge. Your will be done, in Jesus name. Amen." Her eyes were bright with unshed tears but her smile was wide. "I feel chastised by what you said. But I am glad you said it. Thank you, my friend."
Chakotay opened his mouth but the door chime intoned. Other crew members were waiting to enter. Annalisa had seated them when more arrived. In all there were fourteen in the room by 0930 hours.
Annalisa took a deep breath and came to the front of the group. "Greetings in the name of the Lord and welcome to the service. I am so happy to have you here. I hope you will sense the love of God during our time here. Before we start there is something Commander Chakotay would like to say."
Everyone's attention immediately focused on the first officer as he walked to the front. "Greetings in the name of Lord." The salutation had an unfamiliar sound to his ears but he continued. "I want everyone to know that I have embraced Christ and his way of life. He died for my sins and for yours. I want to invite you and I will invite all of the crew to celebrate with me the end my old life and the beginning of the new. In one week in the wardroom at 0930, I will be baptized into the Christian faith."
Murmurs of surprise came from the group. Chakotay heard the whispers of disbelief as he returned to where he had been sitting.
After Annalisa introduced the music and the message, she sat in the only empty chair, which was next to Chakotay. She quickly squeezed his hand before turning her attention to the service. The assembled group became quiet and thoughtful the rest of the time. After the final song Annalisa went to front and gave a short benediction. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."
The people respectfully stood to their seat. They all seemed deep in thought. Crewman Dempsey approached Annalisa. "Lieutenant Larson, I haven't in church since I was fourteen. I was touched by the service." He turned to Chakotay, "And Commander, I for one will be there next week and if I may later I would like to ask you some questions about your experience with Jesus."
One by one the others stopped to comment on proceedings. After about twenty minutes the room was empty except for Larson and Chakotay. Annalisa wondered to the window in pensive silence. She stared out the window at darkness with filled tiny points of light. Chakotay came up and stood at her side, following her gaze to the Delta Quadrant sky. "How great our God must be!" His voice was filled awe.
Annalisa glanced at him before returning her eyes to the sky. A sigh of "Yes," was her remark. A few more minutes pasted before either of them spoke. Chakotay was the first, "I guess I must go now." Reluctance could be heard in his tone.
Annalisa's tone echoed his, "Yes, I suppose."
She began to walk toward the door. He stopped her with a touch on her shoulder. She turned around to face him. He put his hands lightly on her shoulders, pulling her slowly toward him, her hands still at her sides. His dark eyes peered deeply into her soft gray ones, looking for an answer to his unspoken question. Satisfied with what he saw, he put mouth on hers and gathered her close to his body. Emotions that could hardly be described swirled about them. Annalisa put her arms around his waist in an effort to bring him even closer to her. The kiss deepened, as did the desire for each other. Finally Chakotay lifted his head, while continuing to press her close. Annalisa could hear his heart beat as he pressed her head against his chest. She was as short of breath as if she jogged a 10k track.
"Oh, Anna, I want you so much." He lifted her face to kiss her again. As he did, there was restraint in the kiss. "My gray dove, we must be so very careful." He gently moved her away from himself. "We both belong to the Lord now. We must not bring shame to Him this way. I have to leave. We had better not be alone until I have better control." He started to the door.
She stood where he left her, visibly shaken be the encounter. He turned his head when he reached her door. Pain cut through him sight of her downcast appearance. He wanted throw off the warning of caution in his spirit and give in to his hunger for her. I have hurt her and I have wronged you, Master. Keep me strong enough to leave. The discipline of the Maquis, keeping his emotions under control, seemed to come to his aid. "I'm sorry, Anna. I promised you I would act only as your friend. You did not want more from me and I broke that promise. I hope you will forgive me."
Annalisa couldn't bear to look at Chakotay. She knew that tears were ready to fall. She felt as if she had been stripped of all of her defenses. She didn't want him to know that she wanted him, too. I love him! Oh, Lord what am I going to do! As the revelation hit her, she began to weep. Turning her back to the door, she coldly said, "Good-bye, Commander Chakotay."
"Good-bye, Anna." He felt her denial of forgiveness as if it were a physical blow. He could hardly stand the ache in his heart. He hurried to his quarters hoping he would not meet anyone on the way. He was able to avoid contact with any of the crew. Inside his rooms he stared unseeing for several minutes. An overwhelming sense of aloneness swept upon him. He dropped to his knees. With his arms outstretched he called out to God for his forgiveness. "I have wounded my friend, Anna. She trusted me. I promised her I would be her friend. Now she can't seem forgive me." He covered his face with his hands, moaning with the burden of disgrace. "You will forgive me, won't you? I remember reading that if a person sins and confesses it; you will forgive and cleanse. I need your forgiveness."
He dropped his head, nearly to the floor. But as he stayed that way, he began to sense inexplicable peace. The Master had forgiven him. If the Master could maybe He would help Annalisa to do so. He now had hope. He held on to that hope as he arose from the floor. He sat on a chair, pick up his Bible and began to read.
After Chakotay departed, Annalisa rushed to her bedroom, tears blinding her. Upon reaching her bed, She dropped down face first, using her pillow to muffle the sound of her anguish. She tried to pray but the memory of what happen prevented. How could I have been so weak? He asked for my forgiveness and I wouldn't give it to him. Chakotay must think I am a hypocrite. But I trusted his promise.
She wept and railed at herself in turn until she was exhausted. She fell into a sleep from which she didn't wake for several hours. When she did awaken, she felt achy, muscles stiff from the sleeping position and her face swollen from crying. She had never felt such despondency. Even the distance from home had not caused her to be so heavy of heart.
A thought popped into her mind. The baptism! How can I do it? She tried to push the thought out of her mind. She was the only other Christian on board. It had to be the one.
Annalisa decided to take a sonic shower but the shower did nothing to lift the problem from her shoulders. After she finished dressing back into her uniform, she went to her desk. She tried to read but she kept looking into space remembering. Finally she gave up the attempt to do anything. She let the despair take her where it would.
In the morning her wake up call found her still in the chair. Annalisa forced herself to go to her duty station. She endeavored to do her job. If she concentrated on the work, the pain was dulled. She tried to pray but she could not. For three days she worked as much as she could, taking on extra duty when she could. She didn't have an appetite, so she only drank a little water as the day went along.
At the end of her shift on the next day, her head began to ache. She got to her room and replicated a cup of coffee. She sat down with the cup in her hand and immediately forgot to drink.
Meanwhile in the mess hall Neelix approached Chakotay who was choosing a piece fruit from the bowl. "Commander, I was wondering if you have taken any food to Lieutenant Larson recently."
"No, I have not. Why do you ask?" Chakotay was uncomfortable.
"She has not been to the mess hall for two days. Her replicater rations have only been used once for coffee. I am concerned about her." The Talaxian wrung his hands.
Chakotay was concerned too although he only said, "I'll check on it, Neelix. Thank you for bringing it to my attention."
Chakotay was not sure what he should do. Pray! His spirit rang with the order from his Lord. As he asked the Lord for wisdom, he thought of Captain Janeway. He touched his comm badge "Chakotay to Captain Janeway."
"Go ahead, Commander."
"I need to talk to you right away."
"Meet me in my ready room in five minutes."
Chakotay was in the ready room when Janeway came in. "What is it, Chakotay?"
"I'm worried about Annalisa Larson. Neelix said that she has not come to the mess hall to eat in a couple days and he checked her replicater rations use. She had only replicated a cup of coffee once." There was a dark look of worry on his face.
"Well, since you do not need my permission to check on this, I assume that there is another problem." Janeway looked at her first officer, waiting for his answer.
He chuckled cheerlessly. "There is, yes. Without going into detail, let's just say she and I had words. I do not think she would take kindly to my interference. I want to respect her need for space from me right now. I was wondering if you would talk to her. To see how she is doing."
The captain rubbed her chin as she pondered what he told her. "Find out for me if she has been at her duty post." Chakotay checked to the duty roster, finding that she had been working extra. The captain then said, "I will go to her quarters. It sounds like she might need someone to talk to."
Chakotay nodded to Janeway as she went to the turbo-lift. He hoped he had done the right thing, bringing in Kathryn. He decided to go to his quarters and pray.
Captain Janeway sounded the door chime outside Larson's quarters. When she received no answer, she spoke. "Computer, where is Lt. Larson?" "Lt. Larson is in her quarters." The monotone feminine voice of the computer replied.
The captain touched keypad, since the door was not locked it opened. The room was dark with only the lights from the corridor enabling Janeway to see Annalisa sitting in a chair with a cup in her hands.
"Lights at 50%." The room was suddenly lit. "Annalisa, are you all right."
Annalisa jumped up spilling the now cold coffee on the floor. "I'm sorry, Captain. I didn't know it was you. If you will excuse me for a moment, I will clean this spill." She walked into the other room and came back with a cloth.
Captain Janeway watched the lieutenant wiping the spill, her movements slow and deliberate. Annalisa's face was pale, except for her eyes which red and swollen.
"Please sit down, Captain." Annalisa straightened from the task and pointed toward the sofa. "What brings you here."
"Please sit here with me, Lieutenant." Janeway patted the cushion next to her, a soft concerned look on her face.
Annalisa did so but could meet the captain's gaze.
"Annalisa, Neelix says you haven't eaten in a few days. Are you ill?" She reached out to touch Annalisa's hand.
"No, not physically." Her voice was hollow.
"Will you tell me what is wrong? Does it involve Commander Chakotay? He is the one who told me about you not eating. Neelix told him." Noticing Annalisa stiffen at Chakotay's name, Janeway said, "Chakotay said only that you argued. He was not specific but did say that you would not want him to come. So he asked me to come."
Annalisa leaned her head back against the sofa and sighed, "Thank you. Captain, but I am too embarrassed by the whole thing to talk about it to anyone. I can't seem to figure out what to do." She was fighting tears.
"I think the thing we should do is to get you some food. Janeway to Neelix."
"Please send some food to Lt. Larson's room right away."
"Yes, Captain!" was his eager reply, "It is on the way!"
Turning her attention back to Annalisa, the captain said, "When I am feeling the need for someone to struggle through issues with, I often use my holo-programs. I can talk to de Vinci, Galileo or whomever else I think might help me find my answer. I'm sure you have a program you might use."
"Grandfather! I didn't think of him before." A small bit of hope rose up in her mind.
"Good. You will spend time with your 'grandfather' after you eat something."
As if on cue, the food Neelix sent arrived. The captain stayed with her while she ate. It was an effort to eat but she knew that the captain would brook no argument.
After Annalisa had finish a little over half of the meal, Janeway stood. As she walked to the door, she said, "I'll make sure the holodeck is available. All you have to do is go. That is an order."
A few minutes later Annalisa was standing in front of the holo-program control. She lifted a wordless prayer for help. She entered her codes and activated the program. Walking through the door she entered a small cabin. The similarity to Chakotay's grandfather's home was uncanny. The difference was in the items that decorated the rooms. Her grandfather's room was strewn with books and papers. There were touches that spoke of her grandmother; a doily under the oil lamp on the table next Grandfather's chair, a ruffle on the curtain and a couple of rose patterned tea cups on the shelf in the tiny kitchen.
As she stood in the center of the room her grandfather came in the front door. "Annalisa, my little gray dove. It is good to see you." By the time he had finished the sentence, he had gathered her in his arms. He was a giant bear of a man but no gentler man could be found.
"Oh, grandfather," was all she could say before dissolving into tears. Sobs shook her body for many minutes, all the while her grandfather rocked her gently in his arms. The storm finally subsided. He led her to a chair and pulled his close to hers.
Grandfather Larson took her hand and patted it. "My dove, tell me what is wrong." His old gray eyes held hers with the question.
She sniffed and blew her nose before speaking, "I think I love someone."
"Does he love and walk with Jesus?" was Grandfather's first query.
"Yes, he does."
"That is good. If he is a believer, what is wrong?"
Annalisa fought for the words to explain. She was not used to talking about such things with her grandfather, real or holo-graphic. "I don't know how he feels about me although I do know he desires me. I am ashamed to say he knows I desire him." She dropped her gaze to her hands.
"Have the two of you yielded to the temptation?" her Grandfather was straightforward with his question.
"No, not exactly. We have kissed. He held me. I wanted more as did he." She could feel her cheeks warm.
"But you stopped." It was a statement.
Grandfather Larson smiled at Annalisa. "Temptation is not the sin, my dear. Did he press on or did he respect your wishes?"
"The first time I was one to put a stop to it. He did so immediately. He promised me that we would be friends. He was not a believer than but he was a gentleman. The next time was four days ago after worship service. He is a new believer, but I am sure he is sincere in his commitment. He is going to be baptized next Sunday in front of the crew. I'm still not sure how it happened; suddenly we were in an embrace. I am so ashamed that I had no thoughts of stopping. Chakotay was the one who stopped us. He said that we shouldn't be alone together."
"It sounds to me that he is an honorable man. It takes strength of character to halt in the throes of passion. Believe me only a man can truly understand that fact. Chakotay sounds like a man worthy of my little dove." Again he smiled at her with a twinkle in his eye.
"But Grandfather, he broke his promise to just be a friend. I can't forgive him. I've tried but I just can't." She was crying again.
"Annalisa Marie Larson, I am ashamed of you." His voice scolded just like when she had stolen a piece of candy from a store. She was five years and was visiting he and grandmother that year. "How can you deny forgiveness to anyone, especially to one the Lord has forgiven? He may have broken a promise, but you are wise enough to know that when you are attracted to someone like that you must exercise prudence. You realize that, don't you?"
"Yes, and I am afraid I can't forgive myself either."
"My dear little dove, are you willing to forgive him and yourself? The Lord will even help you to be willing if you ask."
"It is so hard." Her head was bowed. "The Lord seems so distant. My prayers fall to the floor. Grandfather, I want to do what's right. Please help me."
"You must ask the Lord. He will help." He reached out and patted her on head bowed head.
With a quavering voice, she prayed, "Father, forgive me for my stubbornness and for my lack of wisdom. Help me to forgive Chakotay. I am the one who should have known the hazard of us being alone like that. I'm so sorry that I was so unforgiving. Cleanse me from this lack of forgiveness." The coldness of spirit that had been upon her began to lift. She knew the Lord had answered her. "Thank you, dear Lord."
"Grandfather, I can forgive because I have been forgiven. Why couldn't I see that truth until now?" She looked up.
"It is difficult to say what keeps us from obedience sometimes. But the Lord is patient with us. What is important now is that you do what you know you must. The Lord will give you the strength and the words." As he spoke, he stood. "Come, Annalisa, go find your friend." He led her to the cabin door. He hugged her, bid her good-bye and opened the door.
"Little dove, when things are aright again bring this Chakotay to see me."
"Yes, Grandfather." She walked a few feet from the house and said, "Computer, end holo-program." She went to a comm-video unit just outside the holodeck.
"Computer locate Commander Chakotay."
"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters." The computer intoned.
Annalisa touched the keypad and then spoke, "Larson to Commander Chakotay." Her voice was soft and timid.
"I'm here, Anna." His face came on screen. "Are you all right?"
"I am better now. I want to talk to you. Could we talk in the mess hall?"
"I'll be there in five minutes."
"Okay, Larson out." Anxiety raced through her, but she quelched the fear focusing on the task.
Chakotay was waiting at a table near the back of the hall with two cups of steaming tea. He stood as she approached the table. "Good evening, Anna." He spoke very quietly.
As she sat down she said, "Good evening, Commander." She wanted to stay at a distance emotionally so she concentrate on what she needed to do. "I have come to apologize for my lack of forgiveness. Indeed, I am the one who needs your forgiveness. The Lord has shown me how wrong I was."
"I forgive you, Anna. I would be grateful to know that you are no longer angry at me for what happened." He leaned forward over the table his hands gripping one of the cups. "I have spent a lot of time praying about happened. I found references in the Scripture that you had mentioned that night on the beach and more. I was so wrong to put us into that tempting place. Please forgive me." His brow was furrowed with concern.
"Yes, I do forgive you. I take my responsibility for what occurred. You were right. We should not be together like that until we was better control." She was able to look into his eyes again. She picked up the cup and sipped the tea. A smile of appreciation crossed her face. "Thank you for the tea. And thank you for sending the captain to help me. I am grateful for your thoughtfulness in not coming yourself. I didn't want to see or talk to you then." Her voice was apologetic.
"I knew that. It was hard to stay away, but the Lord helped me manage." Chakotay smiled encouragingly. "Where did you go, if I may ask?"
"I went to Grandfather. Even his holo-graphic image is comforting and confronting at the same time. He wouldn't let me wallow in self-pity. He reminded me that the Lord is still in charge. You would think I would not need so many reminders." She heaved a sigh. "He told me to bring you to meet him if things were righted."
"I would like to meet him." Chakotay told her assuredly. "But first we must talk. How are we going proceed from here? I don't trust myself alone with you." He shook his head as if thought was irksome.
"Well, I guess we should sure that we are in the company of others."
Chakotay nodded his agreement with the statement and added, "For the next seventh day service we will be fine because there will be many attending, but I must come late and leave early when the service is in your quarters."
Annalisa took a deep breath, "That is a good plan. If you want to study the scriptures with me, we'll have to come here or another public place."
"That is settled." He seemed satisfied. "Now about the baptism. I don't want to wear my uniform and since I don't have a robe like yours, I thought I'd wear white garment my father used to wear for special events. It was a design handed down through the ancient times of my ancestors. Do you think that would be appropriate?"
"I think so. My own is a design handed down for hundreds of years. It isn't even used on earth very much anymore. It just gives me a connection to my family. Yours will do the same for you, I'm sure."
"I'm glad you understand." He fell into a contemplative silence.
They were quiet for many minutes, deep in thought. As Annalisa began to relax, she yawned. Chakotay laughed, "You haven't slept well later either. I know I haven't. I think it time to call it a day." He stood and bid her good night.
Although she was glad that he didn't ask to accompany her to her room, she felt disappointment. I hope I can get over this infatuation soon. She finished the tea and left for her bed.
For next three days Chakotay and Annalisa met only on two occasions in the mess hall. They worked out details for the baptismal service. Caution and reserve were evident in their attitude toward each other. Even so they both happy to be together again.
At the evening meal before the service, Annalisa was eating alone studying what she wanted to say in the morning. She had several PADDs in front of her. Her empty dishes were to the side on the same table. Her concentration made her unaware of those around her, so that she was startled when a voice said, "Officers should set a better example of neatness than this." It was Tom Paris.
"You are right, Lt. Paris." She laughed and replied. "How are you tonight, Tom?"
He grabbed a chair, turned it around, and sat in it backward. "I'm fine. I just wanted to hear first hand if it is true that Chakotay is going to be baptized tomorrow. I only thought that babies were. It isn't it a little late for him?"
"It is never too late. There are many examples in the Bible and history of adults being baptized." She smiled at the helmsman. She could tell he was teasing her anyway. "Are you going to attend? I'm sure you would find it interesting and enlightening."
"Well, I might just do that." He stood up, "By the way have you seen B'Elanna. I was supposed to meet her for dinner and I am late."
Annalisa was going to reply negatively when she saw Torres enter the mess hall. "She is just coming in," Annalisa indicated.
"Thanks," Paris said as he left to join B'Elanna.
Annalisa rolled her shoulders to release the stiffness of sitting too long. She gathered up the PADDs and rose to leave. She was excitedly anticipating the service in the morning. She felt ready for the occasion, but she wanted to pray about it more. She had almost reached the door when Chakotay entered. He smiled broadly and stopped in front of her. "Lieutenant, you're leaving." His voice was tinged with disappointment.
"Yes, I finished my meal. I was headed for my room to pray about tomorrow's service." She smiled. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Thanks be to God," he declared.
Annalisa entered the meeting room early to set up for the service. She brought two candles, a small brass bowl and a wooden stand. After laying a white cloth over the stand, she placed the candles and the bowl on it. She had embroidered a scallop shell on the cloth. She remembered that the shell was a symbol of baptism in her family's church. She was thankful that her grandmother had taught her stitchery as a child. It had given her pleasure to work on the altar cloth for Chakotay, especially after his gift to her. After lighting the candles and placing water in the bowl, she sat in a chair against the wall to wait and pray.
Chakotay and the captain were the first to arrive. They greeted her as they spied her in the chair. Annalisa rose out of respect. "Good morning, Captain, Commander." She nodded to them in turn. "Commander, do you have any questions before we start?"
"No, I think we have covered it all before. You will give me the signal when to come to the front." It was not a question, just a statement.
"I will," She turned to the captain. "I am so pleased to have you here. It is an honor."
"I wouldn't miss it. It is a special event on our ship, the first of its kind. Although I am not sure it will be the last. I have heard some of the crew discussing your services. It seems that they are impressed. Where should I sit?" Janeway wondered.
"Please sit any place you would like. First come, first choice." Annalisa smiled when the captain when Janeway chose a chair in the front.
More of the crew arrived. The seats began to fill. Harry Kim came in carrying a case. He signaled to Annalisa. She went over to him. He spoke briefly and nodded at what she told him in reply. Harry sat in the place next to where she had been sitting.
The next few minutes found the room filled to capacity with some people standing in the back. Annalisa had to summon her courage as she looked at the crowd. She walked behind the table and faced the group.
"Greetings in the name of the Lord and welcome to this special service. As you all know by now, Commander Chakotay has expressed a desire to follow the Lord's example and command in baptism. It is my privilege to perform this sacrament of the church. It is a holy act, instituted by Christ, in which by visible means, He gives and confirms His invisible grace. The word 'baptism' comes from a word in the ancient Greek language, which means a cleansing by water, immersion, and/or a death."
"The Lord, Jesus tells us in the Gospel Matthew, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with always, to the very end of the age.'"
"Baptism is not merely water, but it is used according to God's command and connected to God's Word. Being baptized means that the person has been brought into union with the Triune God, belongs to Him, and bears His name.
"Commander Chakotay, will you join me?"
All eyes were on the first officer as he moved to Annalisa's side.
"Chakotay, would you explain why you wish to receive sacrament of baptism?" She asked him the question directly as they had planned.
"Yes. It is a command of scripture. It is first a sign that my sins are forgiven. Secondly, I am born again. Thirdly it is means of grace by which God adopts me into his family, the church. Fourthly, God establishes his covenant with me. Lastly, by grace God gives me a way to live.
"What is the meaning of baptism with water?"
"Baptism with water means that we have been identified with Christ by being 'buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
"Good. Would everyone bow your heads as I pray?"
"Father in the heaven, we have gathered to witness the baptism of your servant, Chakotay. Chakotay wants to be identified with you and your church. Help us all understand the grace you give us through this sacrament. Thank you for this grace. Help Chakotay grow in that grace. In Christ's name, amen."
She turned toward Chakotay again. She motioned for him to bend over the bowl. She dipped her hand in the water, touched the water on his forehead three times and pronounced, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Picking up a small towel, she wiped the water from his face. He straightened and turned toward the group, joy beaming from his countenance.
"You may be seated now, Commander. We have a special performance to commemorate this blessed occasion. Ensign Kim is going to play for us on his clarinet. He has chosen Amazing Grace." She walked her chair as Harry walked to front. He placed his instrument to his lips and began to play. The song was an old one, hundreds of years old, but it still held the power to lift Annalisa's spirit. She glanced at Chakotay and saw his rapt expression as he enjoyed the music. She would share the words of the song with him one day.
Following the end of the service the captain came up to them as they stood near the door, saying good-bye to people. "Congratulations Chakotay. I remember a few baptisms when I was in Indiana as a kid in the local Methodist church. It was enlightening to attend one as an adult." She slapped his shoulder companionably.
"Thank you, Kathryn for being here."
"Well, Annalisa, you would make a good chaplain." She smiled as she gave Annalisa a hug. Janeway then excused herself.
Annalisa looked around the room as the captain left them. There were only Crewman Dempsey and Ensign Pak, who were approaching them. She was suddenly a little nervous. How could she excuse herself without seeming to be rude?
The two crew members talked with Chakotay. She was so distracted that she only heard the end of Chakotay's question, "if I join you two in the mess hall?"
Dempsey eagerly agreed, "I've wanted to ask you some questions. Lt. Larson, would you like to join us too?"
"No, thank you. I have others plans." She smiled at the men.
"I will be with you in a moment, gentlemen." Chakotay turned back to Annalisa as the others went through the door. "Anna, thank you for everything today. Our God be with you, my friend." He lightly shook her hand.
"And also with you, Chakotay." Trust was rebuilding in her heart for this man. She watched the first officer leave. Bless him greatly, Lord God!
Later in the day Annalisa entered the mess hall. She was not very hungry, so she hoped Neelix would have a light soup for her to try. Neelix was happy to offer her a choice between two kinds of vegetable broth. After discretely inquiring about the contents and spice, she picked the Dagnalian tuber broth.
She had just sat down with the simple meal when Chakotay entered. Behind him were Tom Paris and B'Elanna. She watched as the couple and Chakotay interacted. Not wanting to stare, she concentrated on eating. The taste reminded her of the cabbage soup her grandmother served. She was enjoying the simple food when Chakotay said, "May we join you?"
She looked up to see the three now standing by her table. She smiled her welcome, "Of course, by all means do."
B'Elanna sat down first. Tom sat next to Torres, leaving only the chair next to Annalisa empty. Chakotay sat in it. Paris casually laid his arm on the back of B'Elanna's chair. He leaned toward her slightly and said, "Is there anything I can get for you, B'Elanna?"
"Coffee if there is any. Or something similar, thank you." Her face softened when she looked at Paris. It was obvious that Torres was in love with the rather brash young pilot.
"How about you, Chakotay?"
"Nothing for me right now, thanks."
While they waited for Tom to return, Chakotay leaned forward and said, "Tom and B'Elanna are planning visit Sandrine's on the holodeck tomorrow night. They wondered if we would like to join them."
Tom had returned by the time that Chakotay had finished talking. Paris spoke. "Yeah, we thought it might fun. A little after dinner show and dancing is always a diversion on this ship."
Tom saw her indecision. "I know a double date is not always the best. But I'm a great dancer, and sometime I like to share my talents unselfishly." His eyes twinkled with mischief.
"What do you think?" she turned to the commander as he asked the question; the unspoken question being Is this the right thing to do? Chakotay smiled as he added calmly, "I agree with Tom. It sounds like fun."
"Okay. I'd like to go with you all. Thank you."
They settled on the time. They talked for a while until Annalisa excused herself. Chakotay followed her to the door. "I thought it would be safe for us with another couple. I hope you don't mind." His voice was low.
"I don't mind," she replied simply.
"Should I call for you?"
"Yes, I'll be ready to about ten minutes before we need to be there. Good night, Chakotay." She walked through the door.
"Good night, Anna," He said, his voice nearly a whisper.
Since she decided not to use replicater rations for a dress, Annalisa didn't have many outfits to chose from. Since she had already worn the sea green dress, she was left with only two others. One was a red sheath, high-necked and sleeveless, floor length with a side pleat falling from the knee. The other was black with a knee length full skirt. The soft capped sleeves were of gossamer with threads of silver woven in an intricate pattern. The silver thread design decorated the thin over-skirt of the dress. A thin line of silver accented the neckline and the waist.
After some thought she decided to wear the black dress. She had silver slippers and a black velvet cape to wear with it. She was ready early. She was always more apt to early when she was nervous. Nervous though she was, she trusted the Lord and Chakotay to keep this evening on safe ground.
She answered the door immediately after Chakotay rang the chime. He was wearing a black tuxedo. Annalisa's heart raced as she looked at the handsome officer. She, however, had no idea of the affect she was having on Chakotay as she walked into the hallway. He suddenly could not breathe. His chest seemed push against the intake of air. She is so lovely! How can I stand firm this evening? Lord, help me! The silent prayer was sincere.
He simply said, "You look beautiful." And before she could say anything in reply, he said, "We should be going."
They arrived at the cafe and she checking her cloak when Tom and B'Elanna came in. Tom gave a low whistle when he saw them. "What a difference a few well-combined pieces of fabric can make. Ms. Larson, you look ravishing tonight, and Chakotay, you look like something out of a James Bond movie, a 20th century classic spy thriller complete with beautiful women and a tuxedoed leading man."
"B'Elanna, let's see with everything is ready at our table." Tom led the half-Klingon woman toward the back of the cafe. B'Elanna was wearing a lovely red dress, which made Annalisa glad of her own choice. The dress seemed to be made of a single length of fabric that wrapped around her body beginning at the shoulder ending in a gathered flare at the back of the knees.
"Shall we follow them?" Chakotay's hand was on her elbow, steering her through the crowd in the direction of the other couple. Chakotay helped her be seated and sat down next to her. Tom and B'Elanna were on the other side of the small table. The tritely French waiter came to take their order. Tom took charge and arranged for the wine. "B'Elanna says only holographic wine for tonight. She says I don't need a hangover in the morning." He put his hand next to his mouth and in a stage whisper, said, "Don't tell her I agree. She might think she can tell me what to do."
Everyone chuckled at his teasing, B'Elanna enjoying the repartee the most. The wine arrived and all were served. They all chatted companionably for several minutes until the floor show began. The female singer sang cabaret songs in throaty vocal style. The entertainment was pleasant enough. Annalisa watched intently for a while, trying to keep her mind off Chakotay.
She had surreptitiously glanced at him once. He was looking in her direction. Annalisa glanced away before he could catch her eye.
The singer finished a set of songs and announced that it was time for dancing. B'Elanna spoke up before anyone else, "Chakotay, how about we Maquis show Starfleet how it's done?" Chakotay smiled his agreement.
As they moved to the dance floor, Tom said, "Let's see what they've got before we go out there."
As Tom watched them dance, Anna observed Paris. His eyes never left Torres.
"You love her very much, don't you?"
A slow grin lit up the conn officer's face. "It's that obvious?"
"Yes, I'm afraid it is." She smiled back.
He sighed, "She says she feels the same way. I hope so anyway because I am crazy about her." He shook his head slightly and stood up, "Time for us to get out there."
Paris guided her to the dance floor. He took her into his arms and began to dance. He was a good dancer with the ability to put her at ease. They twirled and spun around the other couples. She was not self-conscious like when she was dancing with Chakotay. Also Tom was merely an entertaining friend. She laughed at something he said as they passed by Chakotay and Torres.
Chakotay's eyes darkened a bit of jealousy as he watched Tom guide Annalisa around the room.
"It's okay, old man," Torres said with understanding in her voice as the music ended, "she doesn't really see Tom. And if he ever even thought about her that way, I would kill the p'tak."
The band began another song as Tom walked toward Chakotay and B'Elanna with his arm around Annalisa's waist. "I would like this dance with my date if you don't mind, Chakotay." He took B'Elanna's hand and led her to the middle of the floor.
Anna noticed Chakotay's mood had changed. He didn't seem to know she was next to him, so she gently touched his arm. "We don't have to dance if you don't want to, Chakotay." She watched Chakotay's struggling. She didn't understand, so she waited.
"Anna, of course I want to dance." He held her lightly as he maneuvered them on the floor. 'I don't dance as well as Paris however." He was silent for a while. When he spoke, he apologetic. "I'm sorry. That was a stupid thing to say. I'm afraid I was feeling a little jealous of Tom."
Anna giggled, "Of Tom? He is so in love with B'Elanna there isn't room for anyone else." Chakotay smiled sheepishly and relaxed. "Besides, I think of Tom only as a friend," she reassured him.
The two of them danced in comfortable stillness for a while. Annalisa was happy just to be with Chakotay. The tension and anxiety of past times together was gone, replaced by security and confidence. She wanted the dance to last forever. "I enjoyed the floor show. Did you?" She smiled at him,
"I didn't really notice the show. I enjoyed watching you," he admitted as Chakotay pulled her a little closer but only slightly. "I am glad we're here with others. Otherwise we couldn't be dancing." His eyes were dark and serious. Just then the music changed to a faster tempo.
"I'm not familiar with this step." He looked at Tom and B'Elanna who had began to twirl around to the new beat. "They seem to enjoy it. Do you mind if we sit down?" They were standing still on the dance floor.
"I would like to sit." She turned and began to walk toward their table with Chakotay close at her side. He held her chair for her as she sat and then took his seat.
Because the music was loud he leaned close to her to talk. "I must tell you again how beautiful you look. It is not exaggerating to say 'you took my breath away.'"
Annalisa felt heat rise in her face. She didn't know what to say at first. "Thank you for the compliment." Then a sparkle came to her eye, when she said, "I think you should warn a girl before you show up in a tuxedo. You look much too handsome for my own good."
It was Chakotay's turn to be disconcerted. He sat back in his chair and lowered his gaze to the table. After a long thoughtful silence, he leaned toward her again. He looked at her golden hair pulled up in clasps at the sides and cascading down in the back. He reached his hand to touch her hair as it rested on the back of the chair. It felt softly alive in his hand. His chest constricted again.
He opened his mouth to speak, twice before finally saying very quietly; "I know I promised I would be just your friend, but I must tell you. I love you, Anna."
Anna jumped slightly and turned to face him. "What did you say?" She was sure she hadn't heard correctly.
"I said, 'I love you, Anna.'" He spoke louder this time. His eyes sought hers, trying to read her reaction. Tears welled up in her eyes, but her smile was blindingly bright.
"Oh, Chakotay, I love you too."
He placed his hand over hers as it lay on the table. He was about to kiss her when he heard someone clearing his throat, "I hope we're interrupting something."
Chakotay looked up to see Tom Paris grinning down at them. B'Elanna seemed to be enjoying herself too. Chakotay smiled grimly as he spoke, "As a matter of fact, you are, but you won't let that stop you."
Paris laughed as he sat down. "B'Elanna, it's a good thing we're here. Someone needs to play chaperone. 'James Bond' here is too suave for our young Lieutenant friend," Paris continued to playfully taunt the commander as the he and B'Elanna took their seats.
Chakotay eased back in his chair and let a chuckle escape. He knew the tactic of the younger man was to try to a get a rise out of a person. This time, however, Chakotay was so ecstatic over Annalisa's confession that he could even enjoy this trait of Paris' personality. He continued to hold Anna's hand. During the remainder of the evening, Annalisa and Chakotay enjoyed the company of Paris and B'Elanna, although in a slight haze. Tom was the first to make a move to leave. "Thank you for joining us. It's getting late. I need to get my date home. If you will excuse us." Bowing to them both Tom escorted B'Elanna to the door.
"We need to go now, too, I think." Chakotay stood up. "I'll get your cloak."
Annalisa admired her handsome escort as he went to retrieve to her garment. She was still stunned at his declaration of love. Can it be true? He loves me? As Chakotay returned, she stood as he laid her cloak over her shoulders. He pulled her arm through his while he conducted her to the exit.
They proceeded slowly to her quarters. Neither of them said anything until they arrived. "Anna, you made me so happy when you said you loved me?" He held both of her hands in his as they stood outside her door.
She stepped closer to him and simply whispered, "You made me happy, too."
Chakotay leaned down and kissed her. He began to gather her to him when the hiss of the turbo-lift interrupted the kiss. They stood apart while the crewman walked by them.
"I must go. I feel my resolve slipping." His eyes showed the desire that he was controlling.
"You're right. Good night, Chakotay." She turned to enter her room when he stopped her with a touch on her arm.
"Wait, when can I meet your 'grandfather'?"
"As soon as we have enough holodeck time."
"Right! Good night, my own Anna." He planted a kiss on her cheek and left.
It took several days for the arrangements to be made for use of the holodeck. During the wait the two of them spent time learning about one another. Anna told him about her family and life before she joined Starfleet. "I wasn't suppose to come on this mission, but the original crew member was called to his home for an emergency. I was in the right place at the right time, although when we first got stuck here the Delta Quadrant, I didn't think it was the 'right time or place.'"
She picked up the cup of tea and took a sip. "There is an old saying. 'God works in mysterious ways'. It fits our situation, don't you think?"
Chakotay smiled his agreement, then said, "I sometimes can't even imagine what would have happened to me if we had not come to this quadrant. I would probably be dead or at least in prison."
Annalisa shuddered at the thought. "We can thank the Lord for bringing us here."
Chakotay replied. "My life is so different now. I was reading about St. Paul the other night. God chose him and changed him. I can relate to the story. It seems I needed to be knocked down. I thought the choices I made were right. I even thought myself in love before. Because of my blindness, the whole ship and crew were nearly lost." The memory was a bitter one.
"Seska." Annalisa said simply.
"Yes, Seska fooled me. It has been a long, hard climb back to trust."
"But Chakotay, she fooled us all. I didn't see anything to suggest any deceit." She reached out to touch his arm, trying to comfort him.
"Thank you, Anna. Others have told me that, too. I have had to work through it. I am thankful that the Lord is with me now. He is my help." He lifted his cup to his lips and took a large swallow. "I am very grateful for that."
Annalisa patted his arm again, "I am too."
The time finally arrived for them to enter the holodeck. Chakotay met her at door of holodeck as she entering the program. They entered her grandfather's cabin in the same place she had before. Her grandfather was bent over the stove, feeding chunks of wood through the door. As he straightened, he noticed them. Grinning broadly as he came to her with his arms outspread. "My gray dove, how are you?" He leaned to kiss her as he hugged her to him.
"I'm fine, Grandfather. I have brought my friend, Commander Chakotay, to meet you." Annalisa turned toward the first officer.
Grandfather extended his hand to Chakotay. "I am pleased to finally meet you, Commander. Annalisa didn't tell me you are one of 'the people'."
Chakotay looked confused and a trifle discomfited. "I'm not sure what you mean."
Her grandfather pointed to a faded photograph sitting on a single shelf next to his large Bible. "Winter Sun on the River was one of 'the people'. One of my grandfathers hundreds of years ago introduced him the Savior. It has been a while since I met one of your people, but I am honored to do so now." He wrapped the commander in a bear hug.
Grandfather motioned for them to sit down at the table. "Little dove, I take it that things are settled between to the two of you?"
"Yes, Grandfather." She felt suddenly embarrassed. She didn't look at Chakotay, but he took her hand under table and squeezed it.
"Mr. Larson, I have something to ask you," Chakotay spoke up.
"What is it, son?" Annalisa was also curious but she kept quiet.
"I would like to ask you for your blessing to marry your granddaughter."
Annalisa gasped her surprise but her grandfather merely asked, "Do you love her, Chakotay, and her only?"
"Yes sir, I do. She is so very precious to me. Not only did she save my physical life, but also she has shown me the Savior who gave me life eternal. And to my complete amazement she has told me she loves me. Sir, I will do everything I can to be the husband she needs." Chakotay's declaration thrilled Annalisa to her very essence.
"Anna, my dove, I think the Lord has brought a good man into your life. Chakotay, I will be happy to give my blessing." Her grandfather smiled contentedly at them.
She stood up from the table without saying anything and walked out onto the porch. She was sure Chakotay would follow her. She sat on the stoop to wait for him. She heard his footfall behind her and felt him sit beside her.
"Anna, is something wrong?"
She turned to look at him and spoke very softly; "I have not received a proposal from a certain officer, but he asked a blessing of my grandfather. What do you think I should do about that, Commander?"
Relief swept away the frown that had been on his face. He dropped to his knee on the ground in front of her. Taking her hands in his, he said, "Will you marry me, Anna?"
"I will, Chakotay." She leaned and placed her lips on his.
During the next weeks and months, decisions and plans were made. Annalisa requested she be assigned the position of ship's chaplain and even offered to resign as security officer so as to give the chaplancy her full attention. Captain Janeway took time to weigh the issue's pros and cons. Finally it was determined that Annalisa ould be given duties as ship's chaplain and counselor, but she would assist with security if the need should arise.
The wedding was planned to take place on the holodeck. Both she and Chakotay wanted to be married in a church with her grandfather presiding over the religious ceremony. The captain would perform the legal ceremony. The programming of the holo-simulation took weeks in itself.
Annalisa was at a loss for a wedding dress when Chakotay came across an item of clothing among the few things he had brought with him. It had been in with few things belonging to his parents. He had never opened the bundle before.
The garment was made of the same fabric as the one in which he was baptized. It was decorated with white and gray beads. The simple lines of the apparel were what Annalisa had dreamed of for her wedding. The captain loaned her a white scarf to use as a veil.
Annalisa had begun to spend time with B'Elanna, learning E' Dano and getting acquainted with the engineer. Although Annalisa never won the game, B'Elanna proved to be a patient teacher. The two young women grew close. That was the reason she asked B'Elanna to stand up with her
Chakotay had asked Paris be his best man. Tom joked that since he had helped bring the two together, he would be there to make sure Chakotay didn't back out. The two men had also become quite close recently. The enmity, which had begun between them in the Maquis, had disappeared during the last months. Tom had watched the changes in Chakotay. Chakotay had worked to comprehend how the younger man looked at life. They had realized they had more in common than they had ever known. Chakotay and Annalisa spend much time praying for the other couple.
The decision was made that Annalisa's quarters would be used for her office and chapel. The old doors to the rooms were to be replaced with stained glass windowed doors. The windows were designed and constructed by Chakotay as his wedding gift to Annalisa's. They were not made of glass but of clear polymers. He had incorporated many ancient Christian symbols in the ornamentation of the door. He planned to install the doors after the wedding.
They were going to set up their home in Chakotay's quarters. It was larger and closer to the bridge. In the days before the wedding Annalisa packed her things to move after the wedding. Her quarters took on an abandoned look. Containers of personal items were stacked close to the door. Gone were the pictures and knick-knacks. The very barest amount of personal things was left in her bedroom. A few uniforms and her wedding garment hung in the closet.
In addition to his duties and the work on the chapel doors, Chakotay worked at making room for his bride. He did not have many personal items because of the destruction of most of his things with the Maquis ship. He looked forward to seeing their home take shape.
The day after the wedding, they were going to go to the small resort in Acapulco on holodeck for three days. Several of the crew gave their holo-rations to them as wedding gifts. They would use them for the honeymoon.
Anna had spent much time trying to think of a wedding gift for Chakotay. She was still thinking about it when she had dinner with Chakotay one evening. They were talking about his family, his father in particular.
"He was always a little dissociated. It helped him to meet 'the rubber tree people' in Central America. I know he was disappointed with me when I joined Star Fleet. He felt I was turning my back on our people and on him. I didn't feel I fit with our tribe. When he died, I did take his place in the fight. I took the tattoo of the tribe to honor my father. After meeting the race, my people had called the "sky spirits", I was more fully connected with my people. I realized that my people had misunderstood their heritage. Now I have a different view of life, but I am grateful for my background." Chakotay was glad to be able to share his thoughts with Annalisa.
She reached out to touch his arm. "Thank you for trusting me with your history. I have had an easy family life. I never knew the kind of isolation you did. The only thing even close was the ridicule I faced because of my faith."
"We will face all of this together now." Chakotay covered her hand with his. "And speaking of together, I want to ask you a question concerning our future." He paused, obviously unsure of how to phrase the question. Taking a deep breath he spoke, "Do you want to have children? You come from a large family while I had no siblings. I have always wished for a sister and brother."
Annalisa placed her other hand over his, her face softened. "I do want children. I want 'our tribe to increase'. I hope to present you with many sons and daughters."
Chakotay sighed with obviously relief. "I hoped you would agree. Thank you, Anna."
Two days later she called Chakotay. "Chakotay, would you please come to sickbay? I have something I want you to see."
His voice was filled with worry. "Are you all right, Anna?"
"I'm fine. I just have something for you to look at."
"I'll be right there."
Arriving in the medical room, Chakotay saw Annalisa standing next to the Doctor in the office. He walked quickly to join them.
"Doctor, would you excuse us for a moment?" Annalisa asked as Chakotay reached her side.
The doctor nodded and walked into the other room.
"What is it, Anna?" Chakotay's curiosity rose.
"The Doctor and I have worked on something that I want to show you. It is something I want give to you as a wedding gift." As she spoke she turned the view screen on the Doctor's desk, so that Chakotay could see what was pictured. On the screen a current photograph of Annalisa was displayed. There was one difference. The screen likeness of Annalisa sported an identical tattoo to Chakotay's.
Chakotay stared at the computer for several seconds before he spoke. "I don't understand."
"There is a passage in the holy Word which says 'Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God . . . May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death separates you and me.' It expresses exactly how I feel. I want honor you and your people by taking the same tattoo. I want an outward sign of belonging to you. I want it to be my wedding gift to you. I did not go ahead with it because I didn't know if it would offend you. May I, Chakotay?" Annalisa's gaze was intense waiting for his answer.
Chakotay stood looking at the screen then back at Annalisa for many moments. His face showed a great play of emotions. He swallowed numerous times before he found his voice. "You want to do this for me?" He reached out to touch the place on her face where the mark would be placed.
"Yes, I want to." She touched his tattoo. "I want to right now. The Doctor said he would do it any time I would like."
"If you are sure, I would be greatly honored."
"I am very sure, my love." Moving to the office door, she called, "Doctor, if you are ready, we can proceed."
The Doctor instructed her to lie on one of the biobeds. Holding Annalisa's hand, Chakotay stood on the opposite side of the bed from the Doctor. The Doctor placed a dye template on her forehead and temple. After administering a local anesthetic, the Doctor began to use a fine laser to make the tattoo. Chakotay watched in obvious fascination. Emotions played across his face, pride, love and even a little fear. He still was having trouble believing she would do it willingly.
Annalisa watched her betrothed's expressions. She willed him to believe and understand what she was doing. She held his hand tighter as she saw the anxiety on his face. The Doctor finished his work and explained that there might be a slight inflammation in the area for a few days. He left them alone.
Chakotay helped her to sitting position, not taking his eyes from her face all the while. The full recognition of the meaning of her actions had suddenly impacted him. She completely accepted all that he was, not just his being a Christian or an officer. She wanted to be identified with him and his people. His eyes softened with love and humility. "Anna, even more than before, I love you. There has always a place inside of me that would not allow me trust thoroughly. That place has been healed. I can trust you and the Lord in an entirely new way from today on. Thank you." He kissed the hand he had been holding.
The day of wedding Annalisa packed the last of her things, leaving them to be picked up and delivered to Chakotay's room after the wedding. The bed would be removed and her desk was already occupying a corner of the bedroom. Because she had trouble sleeping the night before, she had worked setting up as much of the office as she could. The work had helped in two ways by tiring her physically and by making real the vision she had for the office.
As she finished the last of her preparations, she wandered through the two rooms, checking to see if she had missed anything. Seeing that all was in order, she went back to put on her wedding dress. The apparel was simple in line and form, yet the material and the bead work design was intricate and exquisite. She used a silver clip to attach the scarf to her chignon. The white chiffon flowed over her face, hair and shoulders. Annalisa stood in front of the mirror as she clasped the chain and Rybonian blood silver pendant around her neck. The marking on her forehead was healed. She had become used to seeing it there. The crew had even stopped staring when they saw it. Today she would be taking the final step toward her new life and people. A tear threatened as she thought of her parents. Mom and Dad, I miss you. I wish you could meet my Chakotay. Lord, bless them now. Help them not to worry about me. She refused to dwell on what she could not change. The future was still before her and Chakotay. God had given them today. A smile of anticipation lit her face as she left for the holodeck.
Meanwhile Chakotay was busy with his last-minute arrangements. Because he had only eaten Neelix's cooking in the last two months, he had enough replicator rations to provide their private wedding feast. He had even sought Paris' advise on the wine. He decorated the bedroom with many candles and flowers. The room was still not the home he wanted for them, but Annalisa would be with him when he returned tonight. He was certain he would not even see the room then.
He had changed into his dress uniform. There had been few occasions to wear it, and none that warranted donning it as much as this one. He checked the time as he stood before the mirror. After a quick inspection, he left for the holodeck. Tom met Chakotay as the turbolift door opened at his destination.
Tom slapped him on back good-naturedly and said, "Good thing you got here. I've seen your bride-to-be. If you had chickened out, there would have been a fight to take your place."
"You'll not get a rise out of me today, Paris," Chakotay laughed as he put his arm around Tom's shoulder. "I have come to be married. Nothing will stop me."
The holo-church was decorated with white ribbon bows and hundreds of white orchids. The organ was playing Bach as the people entered and found seats. Tom ushered Chakotay to the front of the church to where Grandfather and Captain Janeway were waiting. After receiving a few final instructions, Chakotay turned in anticipation of Annalisa's entrance. He was vaguely aware that pews were filling. His heart almost ached to see her.
The music changed to a processional. B'Elanna came down the aisle wearing her dress uniform. She took her place opposite Tom who winked at her as she passed.
The moment had come, the old bridal march began and the people stood to honor the bride. Annalisa entered through the back doors. All eyes were on her but she saw only Chakotay. In her hands she carried a large single white orchid. It was a gift from Tuvok, one he had raised.
To Chakotay she seemed to be part of a dream. He wanted to go to her. He watched her take each step. Time had slowed down; he was certain of it. Just as he thought he could not wait any longer, Annalisa was standing in front of him, handing the flower to B'Elanna. She put her hand in his and stepped to his side.
They turned to face the captain and Grandfather. The ceremony they planned was simple. Her grandfather preached a short message on marriage and the covenant. The captain led the two in the exchange of vows. He then prayed a prayer of blessing and then he said, "You may kiss your bride."
Chakotay bent to kiss Annalisa. It seemed as if time slowed again except that this time Chakotay didn't mind. Only the applause and cheers from the crew broke through to them. They laughed as the ovation continued. A recessional song began in exultant tones. Chakotay and Annalisa walked down the aisle of the church and proceeded to the reception hall to the side in the back.
The hall was brightly lit and decorated. Neelix was standing behind the largest table. It held a cake. Neelix had researched wedding cakes. The one he created was unique. There were many thin layers less than an inch thick. The triangular layers were stacked upon each other like a Norwegian wedding cake. Neelix had applied a frosting made with a sweet-spicy Talaxian paq apple paste. The combined flavors were reminiscent of old fashioned gingerbread except the Texture was very light, even lighter than angel food cake. He insisted that the couple cut the cake and sample it immediately. After watching the expressions of enjoyment on their faces, Neelix began calling everyone to have a piece.
It seems the Doctor had also done some studying of Earth weddings. He decided that the couple needed a photographer. The Doctor went about the room with his holo-imager, insisting that people pose. He had the couple stand with the cake and with the others in the wedding party. By the end of the reception, many of the crew wanted to take him off line.
The couple received many pleasant remarks from the crew through the course of the celebration. But it was not the congratulations that pleased them the most. It was crewmen Peter Dempsey's revelation.
He approached them during a lull in the activities. "I would like to tell you both something."
Chakotay and Annalisa listened carefully as Dempsey began; "I have watched the both of you as you go about your lives. Commander, I have especially been interested to see the changes in you in the past months. I have been convinced of my need of a Savior. Last night I prayed and now I am a follower of Christ. Thank you both for your inspiration."
Chakotay grabbed the man's hand and shook it vigorously. "What wonderful news, Peter!"
Annalisa hugged him with tears in her eyes. "Thank you for telling us. We will pray for you as walk with him. It is great to have another member of the family of God."
Promising to see them for the next Seventh Day service, he left.
"He has been asking me a lot of questions but I'm still surprised," Chakotay said shaking his head.
"Now you know how it feels to be part of a re-birth." She put her arm though his. "The Holy Spirit uses willing people."
Just then a "chuh-ching" sounded over the voice of the crowd. Tom Paris was standing on the small raised platform at one end of the room. He raised his voice, "People, we are ready for the first dance. As you know, it is our custom on Earth to dance at weddings. But the first dance always belongs to the bride and groom. I chose the song which, as best man, is my duty. The song is an old 20th century song called I Only Have Eyes for You. So Chakotay and Annalisa, the floor is yours."
The middle of floor cleared as the couple moved toward. Chakotay took her into his arms as the music began. Annalisa felt as if the gravity of the ship had changed. Her feet moved, but she was sure she didn't touch the floor. All she knew was that her husband was holding her as they danced around the room.
Chakotay, as he controlled their movement in the waltz, wanted no more than to be alone with the lovely woman who had just become his wife. He looked into Annalisa's eyes and was shaken by the light of love he saw there. His eyes reflected back to her his deep emotion. He mouthed, "I love you, Anna."
She smiled and whispered, "I love you."
As the music stopped, the couple stood in the center of the room. After afew seconds of quiet, applause and cheers erupted about them. The noise restored them to their senses. They laughed and bowed before moving the edge of room.
"Everyone join the dance, please." Tom announced as he guided B'Elanna to the floor. Many couples joined them in dancing.
After most of the crew had left the reception, Tom came over to Chakotay, whispered something to him, and disappeared through the door. Chakotay leaned close to Annalisa and said, "I think we can leave now." Her face flush with anticipation, she nodded.
In the turbo-lift Chakotay gave the command for the right deck. Turning to her, he gathered her into his arms and started to kiss her. Then he lifted his head long enough to say. "Hold turbolift." Lowering his head again he kissed her deeply and prolonged. Annalisa returned the kiss with no hesitation, only yearning.
The commander straightened and ordered the lift to resume. "This is not a good place. I know a better place." He looked at her with hunger in his gaze.
"I'll follow you anywhere," she replied breathlessly. As she stood enclosed in his arms, the lift doors opened.
Annalisa was surprised to see Paris standing outside their quarters as they arrived. Tom smiled broadly at them and bent at the waist. "I think your accommodations are ready, Commander Chakotay. My best wishes to you both for a long a happy life together. May I kiss the bride?"
Chakotay knew this was another way Tom had of teasing. He merely nodded. Tom grinned as he leaned over to kiss Anna on the cheek. Bidding them a goodnight, he departed. Chakotay opened the door. Inside the room the multitude of candles were ablaze. The glow of the many flames was beautiful as it cast shadows that seemed to dance to a distant song. With the candlelight all around them, Chakotay once more took his wife in his arms. This time there would be no restraint to their passion.
Later in the night Chakotay stirred from his sleep. Without opening his eyes he reached out his hand, but he felt nothing but the empty bed. He was immediately fully alert. Hurriedly wrapping his robe around him, he went into the other room. He saw Annalisa sitting with her feet tucked under her, looking intently out of the window.
"Is there something wrong, Anna?" There was concern in Chakotay's voice.
"Oh, I'm sorry, darling. I hoped you wouldn't wake up. I just had to look at our stars." She smiled at her husband and bid him come sit with her. As he sat down by her side, she moved her feet to the floor. Putting a pillow on her lap, she patted the cushion and moved to one end of the sofa, so that he could lay down with his head on her lap.
After they had settled, she spoke again. "I guess you could say I'm nocturnal at times. Ever since I was old enough to get out of bed by myself, I would get up in the night to look at the stars. They seemed to call to me. My parents would find me sleeping in the solarium. I would fall asleep, trying to count the stars. And as I got older, I learned the names of the constellations."
"The stars here are so different that sometimes I will find a shape and name it. I record the shape and the name, so I have a journal of stars. Not stellar cartography but it is my private chronicle. Tonight I found our wedding constellation. See right up there." She pointed high and to the right. "Five stars up and four across with several others forming a ring around the base. That's the Chakotay wedding cross." She smiled down at Chakotay before bending down to kiss him. "It will be behind us soon, but I have already recorded it." She lifted her head to look again into the expanse of space.
Chakotay stood up and took his wife into his arms. "You are fascinating. Our stars are beautiful, but let's go back to bed. We do have a honeymoon to go on tomorrow." He kissed her again before he walked them to the bedroom.
Something tugged at her slumber, pulling her out of the delicious dream she was having. She could feel fingers pushing her hair back from her face, caressing her forehead and temple. She languidly opened her eyes. Chakotay was lying on his side facing her with his head propped up by one hand. His other hand was starting to touch her mouth gently.
Annalisa reached out her hand to Chakotay's chin. His jaw was rough with a night's growth of whiskers. She traced his face with her index finger.
Turning her hand over Chakotay kissed her palm and said, "Good morning, Wife."
"Good morning, Husband." She pulled herself closer to him. She wanted see how the beard would feel with a kiss. As she raised her head to kiss him, he laid his head back on the pillow pulling her down over his chest. Her hair fell like golden rain all around him. It seemed like his longing for her was burning gold through him. Dear Lord, thank you for leading us to each other. He held Anna tightly to him.
"Am I really here with you? Are you sure I am not dreaming? Did you become my wife? I don't see how I could deserve this." His voice was choked with intense feeling.
Anna lifted her head and looked intently into her husband dark brown eyes. "If this is a dream, may we never wake. But I know we are really here. If we were dreaming, you would not a need a shave and my hair would not be so snarly. Ouch!" She grimaced as he tried to run his fingers through her tresses.
He pulled his hand away quickly, "I'm so sorry, Sweetheart. It's just that your hair is beautiful."
"Thank you. I need to take a brush to it." With those words she began to leave the bed.
Chakotay stopped her, "It's too early to get up."
Annalisa laughed, "Commander, we have a date with the holodeck. I must insist." She pushed at his arms.
Putting both of his hands above his head, he smiled. "Beautiful but bossy. I see you kept some things secret from me."
"My younger brothers and sisters always said I was bossy, but I like to think I have leadership skills," she told him as she entered the bathroom. "I'll be ready in twenty minutes."
Chakotay lay back with his hands behind his head. A sense of well-being and belonging washed over him. He had always thought that a man such as he could never truly belong. He was at peace with God and his heart had a home. He blessed the Lord and his bride. Finally he rose to get ready for the day.