By Jemima Pereira (
© November 2000
Codes: J/C, P/T, crew
Rating: G
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Award: Jennica's J/C Christmas Contest, 2000 Most Creative
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Award: Jennica's J/C Christmas Contest, 2000 Best Non-Christmas
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Award: ASC Awards, 2001 Voyager Holiday Story (2nd place)
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Neelix discovers a new holiday.

Lyrics copyright 1983 by Peter Yarrow. Names trademarked by Paramount.

"So what's it going to be this year, Neelix?" Tom asked when he reached the head of the mess line.

"Your breakfast choices this morning are leola pancakes, Delvin fluff pastries, and steamed azna, with a special batch of Fanalian tea to drink."

"Do you have any gagh?" B'Elanna asked.

"I thought you hated gagh," Neelix replied, "but I can whip some up for you if you'd like."

She looked like she was actually considering the offer, but then reached for the pastry instead, saying, "No, thanks. I don't know what came over me." She took a plate of pancakes as well.

Tom went for the azna, saying, "I didn't mean what's for breakfast, Neelix; I meant, what's for Prixin? 'Tis the season already."

Neelix chose a new Alpha Quadrant holiday for his Prixin theme every year. This would be the crew's seventh Prixin together; Tom suspected the morale officer might be running out of winter holiday ideas.

They had skipped Prixin the first year - they were still in too much shock to celebrate the local holidays back then. Kal'Rek Prixin hadn't been a big hit with the Vulcans the next year, but Chinese New Year Prixin went over pretty well the year afterwards. Christmas Prixin had marked a bad year for Neelix - it's always tough to die on a major holiday. Bajoran Festival of Ice Prixin was a blast, but Winter Solstice Prixin in the Fair Haven program was a mixed blessing, at best. Tom figured Chakotay in particular wasn't looking forward to another Prixin.

"I'm thinking about a Maquis Prixin this year," the resourceful Talaxian said.

B'Elanna looked up from the cup of Fanalian tea she'd been pouring. "The Maquis didn't have any holidays, Neelix. We were guerrillas, not party-goers."

Neelix was clearly in the Prixin spirit already; he was not to be discouraged by mere facts. "I'm working on that problem, Lieutenant."

She stalked off to a table, hoping that Neelix's festive spirit wouldn't depress Chakotay too much. Tom tarried in the mess line, however, intending to extract more information from the morale officer. Neelix, however, had similar plans and beat him to the punch.

"B'Elanna is looking especially radiant this morning," he said.

"Yeah," Tom agreed, grinning.

"She sure took a lot of food." The cook's voice fell into a conspiratorial whisper. "You wouldn't happen to have a little Maquis in the oven, would you now?"

"You didn't hear it from me."


Neelix entered Janeway's ready room. "You wanted to see me, Captain?" he said nervously.

She tried to look non-threatening as she invited him to have a seat. "Word has reached me of your plans for a Maquis Prixin."

Neelix brightened immediately. "I'm still working on the arrangements, Captain. I could certainly use your help."

Janeway smiled noncommittally, and steered him back to the point. "The topic of the Maquis is a sensitive one right now, Neelix. They may not appreciate the attention." She knew Chakotay, for one, was still shaken by his own mutiny, though he was doing a good job of hiding it.

Neelix thought for a moment. "Speaking as your Morale Officer, I think we should show the Maquis that they are a valued part of this crew, not just poor cousins who are only appreciated when they behave like proper Starfleets."

Something Chakotay had once said came back to her suddenly: 'You may have forgotten that we're Maquis, but we haven't.' Lately, she'd been trying even harder to forget, but perhaps Neelix was right - maybe burying her head in the sand was not the wisest approach to the situation. "So what are you planning?" she asked.

Her eyes went wide as he explained his idea.

One day in late December the Prixin decorations came out. B'Elanna eyed them suspiciously over her lunch, but saw nothing new - none of the syncretism that marked Neelix's other Prixins was in evidence. Tonight would be the first night of Maquis Prixin and still no one knew what the Maquis part of it was. Or at least, no one was talking. She'd seen Seven, Lessing and Neelix together a few days before, but she couldn't for the life of her extrapolate anything from that.

When she arrived with Tom in tow that evening, there were still no clues in the mess hall - only food and a few candles scattered around. People mingled and munched and looked mystified. Neelix bustled around with trays of food for some time, but eventually handed his last canapes to Seven and sat down near the viewports, looking solemn. This action was unusual enough that it caught the attention of the crowd. Slowly people sat down in the chairs or on the floor. Chakotay and the Captain were near the front, and Tom and B'Elanna were against a side wall. Tom continued to munch, but his wife watched Neelix like a hawk.

"Calm down, B'E - it's just Prixin."

"I want to know what that furry troublemaker is up to."

Whatever Tom was about to say in reply was cut off by the beginning of Neelix's speech. The Talaxian tapped his comm badge to pipe his words to the skeleton crew still on duty during the party.

"This Prixin," he said, "I want to tell you a story about a small band of guerrilla fighters who went up against an empire." After a dramatic pause and a wave of whispers, he began the story.

"It all started when the great powers divided up the lands, and their homes fell into the hands of an oppressive regime. All they ever wanted was to live in peace in their own land, following their ancient traditions. But the empire ravaged and plundered and destroyed them."

Soon everyone was so engrossed in the story that the Borg could have dropped out of transwarp, sliced off a nacelle and left without anyone noticing. B'Elanna leaned forward, digging her talons into Tom's calf. He winced.

"The revolution started with a single man who was willing to stand up for freedom, to fight for justice, rather than live ingloriously in oppression. He called to his side all those who where willing to fight for their own laws and lands, and many joined him. They were vastly outnumbered by the empire's standing army. They were forced to flee into the waste places and strike at the enemy from hiding - in short, to wage a guerrilla war.

"They had many victories, and the enemy became wroth and sent large forces out against their small bands, yet the freedom fighters were not afraid; they fought with great courage and contempt of the danger.

"But the empire had powerful and terrible allies far away who sent in reinforcements, so that a great force was gathered for a final strike against the freedom fighters. And the guerrillas fought desperately, and everyone saw that they were prepared to die rather than lose their liberty."

Neelix paused dramatically. Chakotay had been drawn into the story completely, so that he found himself hoping for victory, though he knew very well that this was the part where all the Maquis died. He held his breath until Neelix spoke again.

"But the rebels surprised the vast army, and so fell were the guerrillas in their desperation, that they struck fear into their enemies and drove the great powers from their lands."

"That's not how it was!" B'Elanna shouted from the side of the room. She tried to get up to rush Neelix, but Tom held her back.

"That is how it was," Neelix said gently, "more than twenty-five hundred years ago, on Earth, in a country called Judea. The guerrillas were called the Maccabees, and this Prixin we are celebrating their holiday, which they called the Festival of Lights."

Light one candle for the Maccabee children,
give thanks that their light didn't die.

Neelix continued his story. "The Maccabees drove off the army, and marched down from the hills where they had lived in hiding for several years, into the capital city, where their temple was. The temple had been polluted by their enemies, the Greeks, and was waste and growing with weeds. But the Maccabees made new gates and a new altar, and resumed their traditional rites in their temple.

"They celebrated the restoration for eight days, with feasting and song. To this day their descendants remember their victory for these eight days, lighting candles to remind everyone what happened so long ago."

"For this Prixin, I've invited some members of the crew to tell stories in honor of the Maccabees, the Maquis, and freedom fighters everywhere. You are all invited back here for the next seven nights to listen to them."

Neelix stood up and went back to fussing with the party food. Janeway looked to Chakotay, curious what his reaction would be, but all she saw was concern about B'Elanna. The half-Klingon was stalking out of the mess hall with Tom at her heels. The crowd parted before her as though she were swinging a bat'leth.

"Tom can handle her," Janeway reassured him.

"You're right," he said. "I should thank Neelix for his efforts."

As the Captain observed their animated conversation, the corner of her mouth turned up. She overheard a snippet of it before turning to mingle with the crew:

"Where did you find that story, Neelix?"

"I was browsing through the ship's database, Commander. It was recorded by an ancient Earth historian named Flavius Josephus. They certainly knew how to tell a good story back then."

Light one candle for the pain they endured
when their right to exist was denied.

"Go without me."

"Neelix is doing all this in your honor, B'E," her husband encouraged her.

"Nobody asked him to do it."

"Chakotay is coming."

"That's his problem." B'Elanna picked up a PADD and started to work on her engineering report.

"You're going to like the story," Tom said, snatching the PADD away from her.

"Liar. Neelix won't even say who's speaking, never mind what the stories will be."

"Since when have you known Neelix to keep a secret?" Tom teased her, seeing he'd finally caught her interest.

"So what's the story going to be?"

"If you come, you'll find out."

"Tell me and I'll think about it," she drawled.

Tom knew he had her. "Celes Tal is going to speak about her parents' experiences in the Bajoran Resistance."

B'Elanna's eyes glazed a bit as she remembered, "Tabor used to tell us stories about the Resistance, back on the Liberty - when things weren't exploding, that is. His brother and grandfather--"

"Come on. We'll be late," Tom interrupted, dragging her out of their quarters.

Chakotay had spoken to Celes before; a Bajoran in Starfleet was still something of a curiosity seven years ago when the Maquis had first come aboard Voyager, and he had been curious. She had been somewhat reticent about her past then, but now, once she'd finished her dramatic rendition of the familiar story of the Occupation and the Resistance, she told her own story.

"Before they left on their last mission, my mother drew me aside and said 'Tal, your father and I have arranged for you and your sisters to go to Betazed.'

"'Where is Betazed?' I asked. 'Is it in the Eastern Province?' I'd always wanted to see the Eastern Province of Bajor."

"'No,' she answered, 'it's a planet in the Federation.' I didn't understand at first. She tried to explain to me that she and my father were going on a very dangerous mission, that they might be caught and if they were, the Cardassians would surely attempt reprisals against their family. I didn't really understand that she had sent us away for our own safety until I was older. I never saw my parents or older brother alive again.

"My sisters and I were adopted by a Betazoid couple. They went back to Bajor when the Emissary came, but I joined Starfleet. I wanted to see the stars. Voyager was only my second posting, and I had to pass a security screening to come aboard. They asked me if I had any Maquis sympathies. The truth was, I'd never thought about it until that moment. I'd always tried not to think much about Bajor and Cardassians. I told them no, but if they'd come back the next day the answer would have been yes.

"I decided to resign once our mission was over, and join the Maquis. It was the least I could do, after all my parents had suffered and striven for under the Occupation. I was furious with myself when I found out what Voyager's mission actually was - I'd almost resigned at DS9, since we were so close to Bajor, but I figured we'd be back there in a few weeks and I hadn't wanted to leave the Captain in the lurch. I could have kicked myself." She grew silent for a moment.

"But I guess it worked out in the end, since the Maquis joined us."

Chakotay's eyes were on Janeway as Celes made her surprising disclosure. He'd known for a long time. When the Maquis had first come aboard, Tal had told him he could count on her to side with the Maquis, if it came to a fight.

Catching his look, Janeway leaned over and whispered to him, "Maybe you should put up a few recruiting posters."

"The Maquis want you," he whispered back, grinning.

She smiled, and the significant portion of the crowd who'd been observing their little tete-a-tete started breathing again. Soon Neelix had them all on their feet for some Bajoran folk dancing.

Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
justice and freedom demand.

On the third night of Maquis Prixin, Neelix introduced the evening's storyteller thus: "You know the Borg say 'Resistance is futile,' but Seven of Nine remembers differently."

Harry could tell when Seven was nervous, but to the rest of the crowd the former drone seemed her usual impassive self as she began to speak.

"Many species attempt to resist the Borg, using various methods. Some possess superior force, though these have been fewer and fewer as the Collective has increased. Some attempt to infect the Borg with viruses. Some practice deception. Some flee before the Borg like feathers on the wind." Harry wondered where she'd picked up that simile. "Many fight to the last using inferior weaponry, hoping for a miracle.

"All these methods have been effective at times or to some extent, but none completely so. Only one humanoid species has resisted the Borg completely: Species 4027, who contributed not a single drone to the Collective. They used only technology that any species worthy of assimilation would have at hand."

That grabbed her audience's attention. Proud of the storytelling skills she had assimilated from Neelix, she plunged into her story confidently.

"The Borg first encountered Species 4027 in Spatial Grid 682. Species 4027, however, seemed to have heard of the Borg before the Borg knew of them. They were prepared.

"They were a mystery even to the other species of the region, who called them the J'nad and knew of them only by hearsay. They were rumored to be humanoid, intelligent and warp-capable. The Borg judged them worthy of assimilation. The J'nad, however, had other ideas. A Borg cube encountered a small ship in Grid 682, which a recently-assimilated drone identified as a rare J'nad trading vessel. The ship fled but the cube pursued and disabled its warp drive.

"The Collective transmitted its standard greeting to the vessel. 'We are the Borg. Existence as you know it is over. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is--' Before they could say 'futile', the J'nad ship had exploded.

"This pattern was repeated with the J'nad for months as the Borg sought their homeworld for assimilation. J'nad ships would self-destruct at the mere approach of a Borg cube. Only one drone ever set foot on one of their ships, when that ship was surprised by a small tactical cube. One of the J'nad saw the drone and lunged for a large red button. The drone had seen these buttons at regular intervals around the ship and the Collective had dismissed them as an irrelevant decoration. When the ship and the drone exploded, the Borg reevaluated the red buttons.

"The Collective meditated long on the actions of the J'nad, finally concluding that the J'nad were attempting to conceal the location of their homeworld by destroying individual units before assimilation. The Borg were not daunted, however. After a few more months of searching the sector, the Borg discovered two ships in orbit around a world which was not suitable for humanoid habitation. The ships exploded immediately, and thus did the Collective know they were J'nad. Two J'nad ships had never been found together before, so detailed scans were made of the planet. They revealed an anomalous energy signature. Ten more cubes were dispatched to the location.

"The Borg began to slice into the planet systematically. They soon removed enough of the bedrock to detect what lay beneath: a network of large subterranean caverns, filled with at least half a million of the J'nad. The Collective continued slicing, in order to remove enough rock that drones could transport through the rest and assimilate the population."

This time it was Tom's fingers digging into B'Elanna's arm. Seven's cool delivery brought the scene alive, forcing him to relive all his nightmares from B'Elanna's time as a drone. He could hear the screams of the assimilated behind the words of the story.

"Suddenly, the planet buckled under the Borg laser drills. Several of the nearer cubes were heavily damaged by flying rock. The Collective scanned the ruined surface of the planet. They detected no life signs. The J'nad had used their power plants to set off several uncontrolled matter-antimatter reactions, destroying themselves and blasting a hole down to the planet's core.

"Although the Borg believed that this was only a colony, not the J'nad homeworld, they ceased their efforts to assimilate the J'nad. The Collective had concluded that the effort was not worth the resources expended, and moved on to more fertile sectors of space.

"Thus did the J'nad resist the Borg. It was many years before the Collective could say 'Resistance is futile' with the same conviction it had before."

Light one candle for the wisdom to know
when the peacemakers' time is at hand.

Chakotay had first noticed the decorations on the second day of Prixin, when he'd gone down to the labs on deck thirteen to discuss crew rotations with the section heads. Now they seemed to have spread at least as far up as deck six, and tonight was only the fourth night. At this rate they'd reach the bridge sometime tomorrow. He decided it was well past time to confront Neelix about the issue. He found the cook cleaning up after the lunch crowd.

"No, I haven't seen them," Neelix answered. "Tom asked me if he could decorate, and as morale officer, I gave him permission. What are they like? I hope he hasn't put up anything that's loud or clashes."

Chakotay smiled at the Talaxian, who was dressed in one of his more festive orange, yellow and purple suits in honor of the holiday. "They're Maquis decorations. B'Elanna must have told him about them."

"Oh?" Neelix clearly expected to hear the whole story.

"Well, the Maquis didn't exactly have the newest, shiniest ships, and we never did much in the way of carpet cleaning or polishing the bulkheads. So when we were bored, we would write on the walls with laser drills or markers - mostly people would doodle the Maquis crest or jot down snippets of Bajoran poetry. Some of the pictures got pretty elaborate, though."

"Hold on a minute, Commander," Neelix said as he ducked into the kitchen.

He came out with a laser knife meant for particularly tough vegetables, and began carving an image into the wall behind the mess line. Chakotay watched, wondering how he'd ended up personally spreading the fad as far as deck two. At this rate, the bridge would be covered in graffiti before he got there. After a few minutes, Neelix stepped away from his work, revealing a line figure of a leola root.

"Very nice, Neelix."

"Happy Prixin, Commander."

The candles had multiplied, and Vorik had begun the tale of Surak of Vulcan, the great reformer who had transformed his warlike proto-Romulan race into today's peaceful Vulcans. Janeway was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the messhall, next to Chakotay, trying to listen attentively and not succeeding in the slightest. She gave up and let her mind wander.

She was preoccupied with the latest datastream from Starfleet. Four months ago, before two datastreams were purloined by the Ferengi, she'd sent an innocent-sounding note to Admiral Paris asking whether Starfleet was proud of her crew's spit and polish and strict adhesion to regulations, despite their great distance from Starfleet Headquarters. Owen had heard her unspoken question: 'Do they think I'm involved with my first officer?'

Now she had his answer - 'Back when we first found out you were alive, Starfleet was certainly concerned that discipline might have gotten a bit lax after three years on your own in the Delta Quadrant. Now that you're in your seventh year of running a tight ship, the Admiralty couldn't be prouder of you.' Which was to say, since she hadn't done it yet, they were willing to bet she'd never do it. Janeway was not surprised. If she had spent the last seven years on Earth, she'd believe the same thing.

When they'd first gotten stranded out here, she'd done plenty of research on deep-space missions - research Starfleet had certainly reproduced. There was a distinct pattern to those old five-year missions - at first, everything would be above-board: exploration and science and business-as-usual. Then, around the second year, crewmembers would become unaccountably attractive to one another. They often paired off. The next couple of years were the truly dangerous ones, from the point of view of the issuers of the Prime Directive - it was when aliens started to look good. Also, the Vulcan crew would invariably hit pon-farr, the Betazoids would spend much more time naked, and the grossest violations of protocol would be excused with unverifiable stories of 'alien spores' and the like.

But by the fifth year, everything would settle back down to normal, and the ship would coast into Utopia Planetia with shining bulkheads and carpets you could eat off of. And that's what Starfleet thought had happened to Voyager. Little did they know Chakotay had never come through on his promise to clean the carpets, and the bulkheads were now covered in Maquis graffiti.

It was an easy mistake to make, thinking that an indefinite journey was analogous to a five-year mission. She had made it herself, once. The essential difference, she'd discovered, was that there was no deadline to Voyager's wanderings, no fifth year when the crew knew they'd soon be back among admirals, family and friends. The relationships and regulations whose importance began to pale in the third year only faded the more as time went on. Even the recent communications with home only reinforced the sense that the admirals were just paper tigers, and the family and friends mere ghosts of the Alpha Quadrant.

And the aliens all looked the same after a while, while the crew... She glanced at Chakotay, who was, as usual, engrossed in the story. The crew became your whole world - a hundred and fifty souls lost in the Delta Quadrant, with no one to depend on but one another. You learned every last expression of their faces; you started raising an eyebrow just like the Vulcan, teasing with your eyes like the terrorist, growling in pleasure like the Klingon, and calculating odds in your head for the helmsman's pools. No, spending seven years never further away from someone than deck fifteen was from deck one didn't quite breed the contempt Starfleet expected. Instead, her first officer had become a vital part of her, like breathing out and breathing in.

"Kathryn?" he prompted, interrupting her thoughts. People were standing up around them. The story was over. "You looked like you were a thousand miles away."

"I was just thinking about the latest datastream." They wandered towards the buffet table to pick up a few bland Vulcan hors d'oeuvre. "I submitted a request for a summary pardon - I wonder how they'll take it."

Light one candle for the strength that we need
to never become our own foe.

B'Elanna advanced on Neelix in the breakfast queue. He looked nervous, but bravely continued spooning out Vidiian oatmeal for his clientele. When she reached the front, she took one of everything and eyed the cook, who was sweating profusely despite the fact that Talaxians don't have sweat glands.

"So, Neelix," she began, enjoying his discomfiture, "tell me something."

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"What's the deal with the candles? There seem to be more of them every day."

Neelix sighed in relief. "It's part of the holiday tradition. You're supposed to light an extra candle every night and put them all in your window, so that passers-by will be reminded of the story of the Maccabees. Tonight we'll be up to five candles."


"B'E, we're going to be late again. What are you doing in there?"

"I'll be out in a minute," she growled from the bedroom.

Tom briefly considered going in - after all, the bat'leth was on the wall out here, so she couldn't do that much damage. Then he realized that would only make it more painful. Instead, he positioned himself to get a good view of the bedroom as she left it. He hoped she was putting the finishing touches on some graffiti, rather than strapping on a ceremonial Klingon dagger that would end up in a particular Talaxian before the night was through.

She strode out of the bedroom to find him lounging against the replicator. "You look lovely tonight, Mrs. Paris," he said, pretending not to notice the faint glow of candlelight in the bedroom.

"Let's get going, Mr. Torres," she answered gruffly, seeing through his pretense.

The EMH was seated in front of the crowd; he began his story as soon as Tom and B'Elanna came through the messhall doors, as though he'd been waiting for them to arrive.

"This is an old Vidiian story Denara Pel told me during her stay aboard Voyager," the Doctor began. "Before they were afflicted with the Phage, the Vidiians could be as warlike as any other Delta Quadrant race. At one point in their pre-warp history, a terrible civil war was ravaging their homeworld. It was worse than brother against brother. Husbands fought against their wives and parents against their own children - all over a fine point of Vidiian honor which I am afraid not even I could fully grasp when Denara told me about it."

"The war had been going on for years when a third faction formed. They fought a guerrilla war against both sides, blowing up munitions dumps, flooding trenches, breaking down siegeworks and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Though their numbers were few, their achievements were substantial, especially as the war dragged on and both sides grew weary and careless.

"One day, a general came to the guerrillas and asked them to ally themselves with his forces, so that together they could defeat the other faction and bring the war to a swift conclusion. Soden, the leader of the guerrillas, considered the general's offer carefully, and told him he would decide about the proposed alliance in a few days. Indeed, the guerrillas' only purpose in fighting had been to bring an end to the conflict, even if they had to blow both sides back into the Stone Age to do it. Soden was sorely tempted to end the war by main force, but then he had a better idea.

"Soden himself went to a high-ranking general of the other faction, and proposed just such an alliance as had been offered him. This general was much less sanguine about a swift victory proceeding from an alliance with the ragtag band of gadflies. Nevertheless, he swore to articles of alliance with Soden on the spot, merely to preserve his own forces from the damaging guerrilla attacks.

"Satisfied, Soden returned to his camp and awaited the return of the first general. When he arrived, Soden made a show of reluctance, but finally took the oath of allegiance with him as well, saying, in the classical form, 'All your allies shall be my allies, and none of us shall lift a weapon against the other as long as we live.'

"And Soden breathed a sigh of relief, then told the general that he must withdraw his forces from the fields immediately, for the other side were also his allies. Anyone who drew a drop of their allies' blood would be shamed forever, according to the Vidiians' ancient ideal of honor.

"At first, the general was shocked at Soden's audacity, but then he smiled and saluted the guerrilla. 'A tactician like you will be wasted in a world without war,' he said, and rushed away with his aides to call off his troops. Soden himself hurried away to his other allies, to inform them of the end of the civil war. And there was peace among the Vidiians for an unusually long time, by Delta Quadrant standards."

Light one candle for those who are suffering
the pain we learned so long ago.

Chakotay walked onto the bridge for the morning duty shift. Tom was already seated at the helm, looking unusually innocent. The Commander glanced around the room suspiciously. Tuvok, perhaps mistaking his intent, informed him that the Captain was in her ready room. He nodded; then he saw it.

Inscribed like a caption beneath the main viewscreen was the ship's motto: "For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, / Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be." The handwriting was particularly graceful, considering it had probably been done with the laser scalpel the EMH had recently reported missing from sickbay.

"Mr. Paris?"

"Yes, Commander?"

"Never mind." He turned towards the ready-room to warn the Captain in private, but stopped short before the doors. Inscribed on them were two matching Starfleet chevrons. She must have seen them before she went in - Tuvok wouldn't have stood there and let someone carve the symbols, would he? He retreated into his own office instead, ignoring the new Maquis crest decorating his door, and worked on post-Prixin crew rosters. Janeway had insisted on a light duty schedule for the eight days of Prixin; afterwards, there would be catching up to do. He soon put down his PADD, though - thirty years would be time enough for the crew to catch up on one week's Starfleet-mandated busywork - and became lost in thoughts of his days as a Maquis.

Bronowski was in the hot seat for the sixth night of storytelling. He spoke about the Maccabees again, and how their small but durable race had been chased around three continents but somehow always managed to return to their little plot of desert.

As he listened to the long and bloody tale, Chakotay looked around the room at his former crew. His cell of Maquis had been some of the most ruthless, desperate people in the Alpha Quadrant; now they were gathered around Bronowski like cub scouts around a campfire. He still remembered how they had cheered that time they'd ripped open a Cardassian hull with phaser fire and the soldiers popped out into the vacuum of space one by one. B'Elanna had counted out loud.

Now she was expecting, if Neelix's sources could be trusted. Though they growled and grimaced their way through space, Tom and B'Elanna were the happiest couple in the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay's wild Maquis had become model Starfleet officers, scientists, artists, holodeck programmers, lovers - in short, normal, average Federation citizens of the 24th century. Even during their recent, externally-induced mutiny, there had been no fire in his Maquis' eyes. They'd been quiet and civil.

"Whether it took them seventy years," Doug concluded his tale, "or two hundred, or two thousand, they never gave up on getting home."

This, the Commander reflected, was for the Starfleet people. However tame his original crew might now be, there was certainly nothing in the Federation to tempt them after the Dominion War and the annihilation of the Maquis. But wait - was that a tear in Dalby's eye? Why was Henley hanging her head?

They did want to go home to the Alpha Quadrant after all, if only for the sake of their Starfleet crewmates - for Harry Kim, who missed his parents, and Celes Tal, who missed her sisters. Chakotay had worried that Neelix's holiday enthusiasm would prove divisive, but instead it revealed just how integrated the crews had become.

Light one candle for all we believe in,
let anger not tear us apart.

Noah Lessing, crewman, sat before the crowd on the seventh night of Maquis Prixin. He looked nervous. Neelix tried to help him out with a longer introduction than usual, but that only prolonged his agony. He was relieved to begin, the end being that much closer.

"I want to tell you how the Equinox's Holodoc lost his ethical subroutines. I know you think we deleted them so he could experiment on the creatures we were using for fuel, but that's not how it was. I'm the only one left who knows what really happened, more or less, but the Doc should be remembered for the man he was before his programming was maimed. So I'll tell you the story."

The rest of the Equinox crew were on the edges of their seats, confirming Noah's assertion that he was the only Equinox survivor who knew the tale.

"After our first year in the Delta Quadrant, discipline began to get a bit lax on board. The Doc made no objection to that, of course - it wasn't his area. He became concerned, however, when Captain Ransom picked up that Tenkaran device - the one that fed seascapes right into your brain. The Doc considered it addictive. He began to keep closer tabs on the entire crew, calling us in for frequent physicals - 'because we were suffering from malnutrition', he said.

"The EMH became very close with our original First Officer, Commander Murdock, who was later killed by the Begnari. I was close to Dorothy Chang, the medic, and she used to eavesdrop...I guess we were already starting to do whatever we had to do to survive, even among ourselves. We were turning into wolves, but Murdock wasn't. Beneath his casual exterior, he was still 'fleet through and through.

"Dorothy said the EMH and XO were making plans to relieve Ransom of his command for violations of the prime directive and mental instability. Somehow the Captain caught on, though, and Murdock never returned from the trade mission to the Begnari. We'd all been in the Delta Quadrant long enough to know that death lay around every corner. I'm sure the Begnari really did kill Murdock...relatively sure, anyway. If our captain turned his head at the wrong moment, well, who could blame him? Murdock would never have gotten away with relieving the Captain without a fight, and more of the crew would have died than just the first officer. We couldn't spare people for a mutiny.

"So the Doctor was on his own again. Burke was firmly in Ransom's camp, and we were running out of senior officers, anyway.

"The EMH had to work alone, from sickbay, but he had one advantage: he was in control of the ship's computer. Perhaps Murdock had left him the access codes, or maybe the ship's security measures weren't enough to keep out a sentient hologram. He'd been running long enough to fit that description. He'd downloaded a complete set of Starfleet regulations into his ethical subroutines during his discussions with Murdock, and now they came back to haunt him. Insubordination, conduct unbecoming, piracy - these were our lighter offenses. It was the violations of the Prime Directive that really disturbed the Doc.

"Dorothy kept a close eye on the EMH, and he, for his part, gave her subtle warnings. He intensified her medical training, as though she would soon be our only medical resource. He chatted with her about our long-forgotten moral obligation to use the auto-destruct rather than violate the Prime Directive. Since she never knew anything officially, she was never caught - she lasted until the creatures got her right before Voyager found us." Lessing choked up for a moment, then went on with his tale.

"Dorothy told me about his plans, afterward. He made himself judge, jury and executioner over us; he decided to give us a year to find a friendly Delta Quadrant race, preferably one that wasn't warp capable. He would 'arrange' for us to join them and then trigger the Equinox's auto-destruct. Not surprisingly, we saw neither hide nor hair of a friendly species for the entire year of our unsuspected probation.

"Doc felt he couldn't let us go on menacing the Delta Quadrant. Though at the time she thought he was being over-scrupulous, Dorothy wanted to get off the ship anyway so she told no one about his plans. He waited patiently for our next stop at an uninhabited M-class planet.

"Once we'd established standard orbit and sent down a third of the crew to forage, the EMH enacted his plan. He flooded the ship with a sedative gas, patched himself into the transporter controls and began beaming the rest of the crew down to the planet. For all Dorothy knew, he may even have initiated the auto-destruct, and without a mobile emitter like your Doc's, he would have gone down with the ship.

"But something went wrong. Somehow, Rudy knew. Maybe he'd installed his own security system, or maybe his little back-of-the-neck dream machine had immunized him against other sedatives. In any event, those of us who had been drugged woke up in sickbay, to a very altered Holodoc.

"Ransom blamed the incident on passing aliens, called back the away team and made tracks for deep space. I guess he wasn't sure whether he'd completely purged the Doc's conscience and he didn't want a hidden backup Doc reenacting his plan to preserve and uphold the Prime Directive. He admitted he'd deleted the Doctor's ethical subroutines, saying the aliens had been manipulating the hologram.

"It wasn't all that believable a cover story, but we'd seen stranger things in our time in the Delta Quadrant. And the Doctor's new lack of ethics came in handy on several occasions - not only when he designed the experiments on the creatures. Burke certainly preferred the new EMH..." Lessing's voice trailed off; then he spoke one last sentence.

"Funny how one of the only members of the Equinox's crew - the flower of Starfleet, Rudy used to call us - who put the Prime Directive before his own life wasn't even alive, technically."

Seven turned to the sole remaining EMH of the Delta Quadrant, who had a holographic tear in his eye, and quietly reassured him that deleting his evil rival had been the most efficient course of action. He appeared to be comforted by her austere Borg words.

Light one candle to bind us together
with peace as the song in our heart.

Neelix sat in the chair as the crowd settled into place. People had their favorite seats now. Janeway had managed to relieve some of the pain of sitting cross-legged on the floor by staking out some prime territory where she could lean against the side wall. She would have preferred a chair, but if Chakotay could take it, so could she. She had also enjoyed keeping a low profile - literally.

Neelix thanked the audience for their enthusiastic participation in Maquis Prixin and promised them one last story - "a whopper." Chakotay was startled when the Captain stood up and left their spot by the wall. His eyes followed her, but his brain didn't register the truth until she had already supplanted Neelix in the hot seat and said, "I'd like to tell a story."

"My story is about a small band of wanderers. They weren't fighting for any great cause - they were just trying to get home. They were from different species and they had different political views. Some of them started out as enemies, some as prisoners, some as refugees..."

Chakotay became lost in her voice, but soon shook himself and began listening again, as she told her audience about all the alien races the intrepid band had helped on their way through the Delta Quadrant, from the Ocampa to the Hirogen to stray telepaths and Borg drones. They had inspired playwrights, almost seen the Omega particle, healed the sick, woken the dead, resisted the Borg, and tried to save a few environments. By the time she was finished, she had even him convinced that the past seven years of fighting and rationing had been an epic adventure that would be retold nightly (and twice on Sundays) for years to come.

"But did they ever make it home?" Tom Paris, resident wag, asked from the back. "Ouch!" he added, as his wife elbowed him in the ribs for his disrespect.

"You know how these stories go," the Captain replied merrily. "It turned out they were home all along." Her face fell; though her story was finished, she was not through speaking.

What is the memory that's valued so highly
that we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
when we cry out, "They've not died in vain!"

"We should pause to remember all those who gave their lives in the line of duty: Lieutenant Commander Cabot, Lieutenant Stadi..." Chakotay closed his eyes as she named all the Starfleet crew who had been killed in the Caretaker's displacement wave - the former chief engineer, the doctor, the nurse, and many ensigns and crewmen whose names he had never known.

His eyes popped open, though, as she went on to name all the Liberty crew who had been killed in the same way. Then she named the fatalities of the Delta Quadrant proper: "Lieutenant Durst, Crewman Bendera, Crewman Darwin, Ensign Bennet, Ensign Hogan..." There were thirty-six all told, above and beyond those killed in transit. She had no PADD or notes to remind her of their names - she knew every one, and she felt guilty about them all, even Jonas and Seska.

Janeway surprised Chakotay again when, at the end of the list, she began another: "Captain Ransom, Commander Murdock, Commander Burke, Lieutenant Yates, Lieutenant Bowler, Ensign Chang, Ensign Regis, Crewman Amantes..." and the rest of the Equinox's crew, excepting the five survivors still with Voyager. She really knew how to work a crowd, he thought - or rather, she knew how to make her crew feel at home in the middle of a hostile quadrant.

We have come this far always believing
that justice will somehow prevail.
This is the burden and this is the promise
and this is why we will not fail!

After a respectful pause, the Captain spoke one last time. "As we get closer to home, it seems we become less and less sure what our reception will be - we have more to lose, and less to gain, by reaching home as the years go on. I know my mission" - she glanced at her First Officer - "didn't work out the way I thought it would. We've all been wondering what to expect in the Alpha Quadrant; perhaps I've wondered more than anyone."

Her voice fell into that deep, husky range - the one that said anyone who crossed her on this was going to end up julienned. "There's only one thing I can tell you about our future: no member of this crew is going to be imprisoned, returned to prison, court martialled, dissected for her implants or decompiled for his medical knowledge." That said, she relinquished the chair and rejoined Chakotay.

Neelix began to bustle and fuss again, and the audience shifted into post-story mode. Tom made his way through the milling crowd towards a particular senior officer.

"This isn't going in your security logs, is it, Tuvok?" he asked.

The Vulcan replied, "If I recorded every unfounded prediction made by a member of this crew, the gelpacks would be full by now."

"A wise policy," Tom commented.

Don't let the light go out,
it's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out,
let it shine through our love and our tears.

The Captain's profile was now too high, so she led Chakotay out of the messhall and down to the shuttlebay. She wanted to go for a joy ride in the Delta Flyer and he wanted to talk. He cleared the shuttle for launch and took her out while she replicated champagne and carried it to the front. When the cork bounced off the ceiling, he slowed the Delta Flyer down and asked her where she wanted to go.

She handed him a glass and poured the synthahol. "Back," she said. "I want to see the ship." He looked out the viewscreen at Voyager, hanging in space like a tiny, fragile Prixin decoration, before engaging the impulse drive.

As they got closer to the ship, he noticed something odd. Many of the viewports - in Engineering, the labs, the crew quarters, all over the ship - were glowing with an unusually soft light. Soon he could make out eight small candles in each glowing window. He smiled and lifted his glass, saying, "To Prixin."

"To Prixin," she replied.

But his smile faded as he turned to her and announced, "I don't want you to give up your future in Starfleet for me."

"You gave up your career in Starfleet for the Maquis. Why shouldn't I?"

He looked up at Voyager contemplatively before answering her question. "For the Maquis, for our crew, the sacrifice would be worthwhile. But it's likely Starfleet will let them go anyway. They'll probably be satisfied with just one scapegoat. If it's just me, I'll go willingly. I don't want you to sacrifice everything for me."

"And what's so special about you that I should make an exception for you?" She punctuated her question with a mischievous smile.

"I'm serious about this, Kathryn," he said, holding her gaze until her smile faded. "You don't know what it's like to sacrifice everything for a principle - to give up not only your past but also your future, to wake up every morning to the vision of what you could have had, if only you had held your hand back from the cause." He paused for a moment to appreciate that vision. "To lose your chance at things you never even dreamed existed...

"I don't want you to be haunted by the thought that no one would have blamed you if you'd just stuck with the majority - because their side had a point and principles as noble as yours. To live with nothing but memories and convictions, while those who stood aside enjoy careers, love, families - and in the end, to see that your sacrifice was in vain."

"Are you sorry you did it?" she asked.

He shook his head. "I would do the same thing again, even knowing how things would turn out, knowing I would live out my life in prison. I don't regret a thing - yet. But if you ended up the same way, then I'd be sorry I was ever born. My freedom is nothing to me; don't sacrifice yourself for something I don't even want."

She blinked back tears - starship captains don't cry. "You're right. I shouldn't sacrifice everything I have for a principle. I couldn't live with myself if I had to wake up every morning with the memory of what I'd given up. These seven years I've always striven to do the right thing, but I can't do it this time.

"In the case of the others, our crew, I might be strong enough to do it, but when it comes to you - a man who has nothing, whose very uniform is not his but a temporary substitute for prison garb, a man who says he doesn't even want to be free - I'm not that strong. You may have given up everything you had for a just cause, but I cannot. I will not carry out my orders. I will not hand you over to the authorities."

As she'd started speaking, he had searched her face for the resignation he had seen there on the rare occasions that he had won an argument with her. Instead he'd seen the far more common determination to carry her point, and he knew he'd lost this round before she'd even finished twisting his words against him. His face grew darker at the irony.

"I'll turn myself in, then," he said in that soft tone that would have been a shout coming from another man.

"That won't stop my court martial," she replied calmly.

"I'll have Tuvok lock me in the brig as soon as we reach the Alpha Quadrant."

"I'll have B'Elanna beam you down to a neutral planet."

"I'll turn myself in anyway. I'll tell them the truth."

"What are you going to tell them - that I set you free because I loved you? I'm sure that would make a big splash with the Board of Inquiry."

She never ceased to amaze him; she'd actually made him angrier by saying she loved him. "I won't let you go to prison for me. I'll stay here in the Delta Quadrant."

She smiled as though she knew it was an idle threat. "Who says I'm going to prison?"

"Will you plead insanity?" he asked wryly.

She offered him her hand. "I was hoping we could go on the lam together."

It was an offer he couldn't refuse. He couldn't help smiling, but managed a serious tone as he said, "You're a heroine in the Alpha Quadrant. What will people think if you run off with a criminal?"

"Neelix can tell them our story. I'm sure he'll do it justice."