Series: Star Trek: Voyager
The crew of Voyager track down a rumor that may get them back to the Alpha Quadrant.
Lyrics to "All I Know" by Jimmy Webb, recorded in 1973 by Art Garfunkle. The lyrics and a wav can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/soiosong1/know.html
"We are explorers," Captain Janeway was saying, words she'd said so many times before.
"Explorers?" interrupted the chatty, chubby captain of the V'lori transport ship. "We don't get many of those around here. My cousin's father-in-law did meet some explorers a few seasons back, though - said they'd come in through a wormhole. Poor folks were in quite a tizzy--"
"Did they mention where this wormhole was located?"
"Out towards V'halimid - that's about two hundred lightyears away, at a heading of" - the V'lorian checked his charts - "136 mark 7. Of course I can't vouch for the accuracy of their information. They were trying to elect a new captain - they'd lost theirs - and no one seemed to want the job. Nice enough people, though, or so my cousin's father-in-law said."
"Thank you very much for the information," Janeway said, trying to cut off the alien's chatter.
"Oh, it's no trouble at all, really. I'm always glad to run across new folks to chat with. The V'na-V'homer spaceway is a lonely transport run..."
Janeway rolled her eyes and wished Neelix had stayed with them. He had been so good at keeping the chattier aliens occupied. It took some time to extricate herself from the conversation.
"It's at least three months off our course, if it's out there at all."
"What's three months out of thirty years?"
"It'll be a hundred years if we waste time chasing down every rumor and myth in the Delta Quadrant."
"I have a good feeling about this one."
"I have a bad feeling about it."
"I'm the Captain."
"I'm your First Officer."
But that only meant he was obliged to protest, and doomed to lose the argument. Even Tuvok was against him; the Vulcan produced a complicated statistical analysis of the likelihood that the wormhole existed, was navigable, and ended somewhere closer to home, in the Alpha or Beta Quadrants. The numbers were in Janeway's favor.
Still, he found himself arguing with her, driving a wedge between them not unlike the one he'd hammered home four years before when she'd adopted Seven of Nine. Then he'd had good reasons, but now all he had to go on was a feeling. And nightmares, strange, dark nightmares.
I bruise you
You bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily to let it show
I love you and that's all I know
Harry was having too good a time on Bonin. He and Seven of Nine had been assigned to infiltrate the planet's pre-warp culture in order to trade for food supplies, but he preferred to think of the mission as shore leave alone with Seven on an unspoiled, Arcadian planet. She even seemed to be enjoying herself, despite the wimple and heavy robes of her medieval costume. At least it concealed a multitude of implants.
The former drone had agreed to come along on a few inefficient hikes through the meadowlands, in between their visits to various market fairgrounds and the covert beam-ups of grain and tubers. She found the foliage intriguing, and he found the sunlight on her hair just as interesting. But now there was a problem...
"Seven, get your wimple back on. Someone's coming."
Seven pulled up the heavy head covering as a young man strolled down the next rise towards them.
Harry was shocked, but managed to choke out a reply in a passable imitation of the polite form: "Indeed we are come from the lower continent, brother, but that is no cause to call us aliens."
"I saw your sister don her wimple - no Bonin sister would go bareheaded under the looming sky. But peace, brother, you are in no danger here. We of Bonin are accustomed to visitors from the sky. Why do you conceal yourselves?"
"You mistake us, brother," Harry began his formal reply, but he was cut off by Seven.
"Our laws do not permit us to reveal ourselves to those who do not also travel through the sky," she explained to the Bonin.
"You have strange laws, sister, that forbid you commerce with those who choose not to risk their lives in the icy vastness of the sky."
"Indeed they are strange, brother," Seven agreed. She might have expressed more of her opinion on the Prime Directive had Harry not had his own pressing question.
"And if you chose, brother, could you truly travel the sky?"
"Many aliens have visited us, brother, and offered to teach us the road to the sky, but we have sent them away again. For every wonder they promise, there is a danger. For every double sun, there is a sucking black hole, for every sparkling cloud there is vicious lightning to rip apart the ships that sail the sky. And we hear," the Bonin said more quietly, "that for every glowing tunnel through space, there is a price to be paid in human blood."
"The wormhole," Harry gasped.
"Indeed, brother, you give it an apt name. A hole in space, as full of worms and corruption as the grave. Avoid it if you are able. You and your brothers and sisters are very welcome to settle here on Bonin. The sky," he added, turning to Seven, "is no place for sisters."
"You are very kind, brother," Harry replied, "but I believe my sisters prefer the sky."
"What do you mean, good?"
"They've heard of the wormhole. It's not a myth, after all."
"Then the 'price to be paid in human blood' may not be a myth, either."
"If the wormhole isn't safe, we won't use it. It's as simple as that."
"I have a feeling it's not that simple."
"They're a feudal, agrarian society, Chakotay - what can they possibly know about wormholes?"
"They've met other aliens. They probably know more about this sector of space than we do. We shouldn't take the Bonin's warnings lightly, Kathryn."
"I'll be on my guard."
"I hope so."
"Ah-koo-chee-moya," Chakotay whispered, "I am far from the sacred places of my grandfathers, far from the bones of my people." But his vision quest was full of dark symbols, and his spirit guide led him down a long tunnel to a pile of human bones. He was glad, for a moment, to return to the waking world. Then he started thinking.
Was this any sort of a life? He spent his days trying to get his Captain to eat, to sleep, to relax, and to see reason. In the end, he never won. She always did what she wanted to do. Whatever she valued him for, it wasn't his advice.
Still, he followed her on this endless quest for the home he'd intentionally left behind, the home that had afterwards been destroyed. How long it seemed since his youthful days in Starfleet, when his highest ambition had been to move up in the ranks. Now he'd seen it all. He'd been a captain, albeit not of a Starfleet vessel, and had lost his ship. He'd been happy, for a few short weeks, on a pristine planet.
There, Chakotay realized, was where his life had ended, in a sunny glade on New Earth. That was the last time he had had hope for the future, the last time he had had a future to hope for. Funny how it all ends before you even know it's begun, he thought.
All my plans
Have fallen through
All my plans depend on you
Depend on you to help them grow
I love you and that's all I know
"This could be our last talent show in the Delta Quadrant," Tom teased Harry. "You can't let the Doc have Seven all to himself, not for her last DQ performance. Just play along on your clarinet."
"Even better. Here's the program - Seven will be accompanying you on the piano for a few pieces."
"Since when does Seven play the piano?"
"You've got me." Tom shrugged.
Harry glanced at the program. "I suppose you picked out the obscure twentieth-century pieces."
"The Doc owed me a favor or two."
"Since when do you take payment in songs?"
Tom's expression grew serious for the first time in the conversation. "I don't know, Harry. I guess I'm just getting nostalgic about the old Delta Quadrant already."
Harry looked up, surprised at his friend's tone. "Ok, Tom. I'm in."
"Working late again, Kathryn?"
"There's always another report on the stack. Would you care to lend a hand, Chakotay?"
"I was thinking of something more along the lines of a break. The Doctor's recital starts in a few minutes."
"I think I'll pass this time."
"Tom's billing it as Voyager's Last Talent Night."
"Is that a promise?"
"Come on - B'Elanna is saving us seats."
Tom served as the master of ceremonies for the recital. With Neelix gone, the heavy responsibility of annoying his crewmates had fallen upon him. He was the new, unofficial morale officer. Little as she thought of his taste in entertainment, B'Elanna was proud of him for making the effort.
Everyone else's minds seemed to be back in the Alpha Quadrant already, except for Chakotay's, which was fixated on the perils of the rumored wormhole. She and Tom were the only ones still living in the Delta Quadrant - to B'Elanna, the Delta Quadrant was home. She didn't want to be thrown halfway across the galaxy again, to have to adjust to a new life again. At least, she consoled herself, she'd still have Tom and the baby, whatever else she lost on the way 'home'.
"Is Seven singing or crying?" B'Elanna whispered to her husband halfway through the program.
"You just don't appreciate twentieth-century music, B'E."
"That's the understatement of the year, flyboy."
"The Captain likes it."
B'Elanna stole a glance at Janeway, two seats over. "She looks like she's in as much pain as I am."
"She likes it - take my word for it."
When the singer's gone
Let the song go on...
Tuvok and Paris paced the deck of the Tetrygh Space Station. They saw almost immediately that it was unsuitable for shore leave - too small and unsanitary, with fist fights as the main pastime - but they still hoped to trade for parts.
The greasy Commissar eyed them suspiciously. "Where would you folks be headed, then?"
Tuvok answered, "We are seeking a wormhole--"
The Commissar brightened immediately and interrupted, "Ah! You're on the right track, comrades. In fact, I can give you a heading if you need it." He wiggled his eyebrows, the local version of a question mark.
"We would appreciate any information you could provide. Can you tell us where the wormhole leads?"
"Well...rumor is that it leads anywhere you want it to go, but you shouldn't listen to all those rumors. I met a chap once who'd been through it. He said it took them 50,000 lightyears." The Commissar fiddled with his console until it produced a holographic star chart. "Here," he pointed.
"That's practically Canopus!" Tom exclaimed. "The wrong side of the Romulan Empire, but still..."
Tuvok stared the enthusiastic helmsman into silence. "Thank you very much for the information, Commissar. Would the 'chap' in question still be here on the space station?"
"Oh, no." The Commissar's grin faltered for a second, but he recovered quickly. "Is there anything else I can do to speed you folks on your way?"
"We could use a new field modulator," Tom suggested. "We have plenty of spare isolinear chips and a few power relays we could trade for it."
"I'm sure that can be arranged. In fact, I'll bring you two down to the main storage facility right now. Jibren is always looking for power relays."
Paris and Tuvok followed the Commissar in silence.
"As of the last datastream, the Federation is still allied with the Klingon Empire. We can go around the Romulans. We'll be home before we know it."
"Tuvok thought the Commissar was hiding something."
"I'm sure he has a dozen petty crimes to his name."
"You know what I mean."
"No, I don't know what you mean, unless it's that the Commissar debunked all those wild rumors you've been collecting and now you're clutching at straws."
"Now about the Astrometrics report, Commander..."
Janeway gazed out the viewport of her ready-room. She was tired, more tired that she'd admit, even to herself. She hadn't meant to snap at Chakotay.
Chakotay. Of all the things this interminable quadrant had taken from her - lives, friends, home, fiance - the hardest to bear was losing Chakotay. Maybe that was because he was still there in front of her, a perpetual temptation and a wound that would not heal. If she closed her eyes, she could still see him, with that entirely legitimate concern, even fear, for her in his eyes.
Her instincts were as finely honed as his, after seven years spent balanced on the edge of life and death. She knew very well the wormhole was trouble, but not enough trouble to stop Kathryn Janeway. Just ask the Kazon, the Borg, the Hirogen...
She was so very tired. She was taking that wormhole, whatever the cost. It's going to get Voyager home, she told herself, because this journey needs to end. There's only so much the human spirit can take - assimilation, vivisection, evolution - we need to rest, she thought; I need to rest.
But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast
But they pass too slow
I love you and that's all I know
Voyager was passing through the Hamarrel Protectorate just in time for their science division's conference on comparative anatomy and taxonomy. The EMH finally had a chance to present a few of those papers he'd been writing over the years. The Parises went with him - Tom as an attendee and B'Elanna as a somewhat unwilling exhibit.
B'Elanna spent the last afternoon of the three-day conference resting in their hotel room. While the Doctor was stunning the audience with his final paper, 'Variations in Borg Biology', Tom chatted with a professor from the University of Free Tberre.
"Few sentient beings truly appreciate the synergy between taxonomy and mythology," the Professor was droning on, in a half-whisper. "If only the Hamarrel were willing to direct their considerable resources into new channels, who knows what science might discover?"
"I wish our anthropologist could have been here to meet you, Professor Tgna," Tom whispered back. "He could have told you so much about the cultures we've seen in our travels. Right now he's doing research into the wormhole myths of this sector - fascinating stuff!"
"Oh, yes, I could write a treatise on wormhole myths and humanoid speciation that would revolutionize both fields, if only there were the facilities to publish it in Free Tberre. But we're a small, out-of-the-way nation..."
"What do you think of the Bonin and their 'price to be paid in human blood', Professor?"
"Ah, the Bonin! A fascinating species, taxonomically, but somewhat regressive in their genetic features. Consider the vagueness of the myth; the advanced species of the sector tell far more elaborate stories. Still, it hints at the full-fledged mythos, which is of human sacrifice."
"Human sacrifice?" Tom said aloud, and was shushed by his other neighbors.
"Yes," the Professor whispered, "you find the most elaborate version of the story among the Free Tberreans: Beings of spirit inhabit the mythical wormhole through space; they do not reproduce after their own kind. Rather, they demand a human life in return for--"
"In return for what, Professor?"
"Shhh! My dean is coming!"
Tom couldn't get another word out of the Professor. At the conclusion of his talk, the Doctor called Tom over to help with the question-and-answer session; thus he lost the Professor in the crowd and never heard the rest of the story.
"I suppose you've come with more rumors, Commander."
"There's a definite pattern developing."
"Disappearances, death, and now, human sacrifice..."
"Be serious, Chakotay."
"I am serious."
"No civilization advanced enough to use a wormhole would practice something barbaric like human sacrifice."
"My Maya ancestors were one of the most advanced civilizations of their time. They practiced astronomy, mathematics and...human sacrifice. I'm sure if there had been a wormhole out by Venus, they would have known where it led and whose blood would propitiate it."
"The Delta Quadrant is a strange place, Chakotay, but it's not that strange."
"I wish I could believe that."
"Ensign Kim, you appear to be distracted."
"Sorry, Seven," he replied, looking up from the Astrometrics console he'd been staring at blankly for several minutes. "I've been thinking about the wormhole."
"I, also, have been contemplating the issue of human sacrifice."
"You don't believe those rumors, do you?" Weren't rumors irrelevant?
"I consider all available astrometric information. Malevolent beings have been associated with the Bajoran wormhole."
"The Prophets aren't supposed to be malevolent."
"I was referring to the pah-wraiths. If such beings do inhabit the wormhole we are searching for, and if they desire human sacrifice, I believe I should be the one sacrificed."
"Seven!" Harry gasped.
"Lieutenant Commander Tuvok would say that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few--"
"'Or the one' - I know, Seven, we've all heard that before. But you're not Vulcan."
"Neither am I human, nor Borg. I do not wish to return to the Borg, and my implants prevent me from becoming fully human. Yet I believe I appear sufficiently human to be acceptable as a human sacrifice. I am the logical choice - I have the least to lose."
"The Captain won't allow any of us to be sacrificed, Seven."
"Perhaps not," Seven agreed, seeming more disturbed by Harry's last statement than by the self-sacrifice she had been offering so blithely.
When the singer's gone
Let the song go on
It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn
They say in the darkest night, there's a light beyond
"Captain to the bridge."
Janeway strolled confidently out of the sanctuary of her ready-room. A gorgeous yellow and green planet hung in the center of the viewscreen.
"I'm detecting gravimetric fluctuations, Captain. It may be the wormhole." Harry looked hopeful.
"Send the standard greeting on all frequencies, Ensign."
"They're responding, ma'am."
"Put them through." She stood up, putting her hands on her hips.
"This is Elder Thrin, representing the Council of Karus. How may I help you?"
"This is Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. We have been looking for a wormhole to take us home."
"You've found it, Captain Janeway."
"Elder Thrin, we have heard there is a price for passage through the wormhole," Chakotay added. Janeway glared at him.
"You must understand that the wormhole is our livelihood here on Karus. Our world has few energy resources. I assure you the price in deuterium or trilithium is not high. Please come down to the council chambers so we can discuss it in person."
"If you provide the coordinates, we will meet you there in fifteen minutes."
"Deuterium is a far cry from blood, Chakotay."
"I don't trust Thrin."
"You haven't trusted anyone for the past hundred lightyears."
"No, I haven't."
"Well, since you insisted on coming down here with me, the least you can do is look agreeable. I won't have you scowling at our hosts the way you scowl at me."
"If you weren't trying so hard to get yourself killed, I wouldn't be scowling."
"You're out of line, Commander."
"They're coming back, Captain."
"Elder Prina has a few questions about the quality of your dilithium reserves, Captain."
"We have all that data with us, Elder Thrin. Commander Chakotay would be happy to answer her questions." She stressed the word 'happy', not enough for the Universal Translator to pick up on it, but enough for him to notice.
"Commander Chakotay," Prina began, "let me show you our standard crystalline matrix requirements. There's a computer interface right over here."
He followed her reluctantly to a side wall of the oval council chamber, keeping an eye on Janeway the entire time. She remained beside Thrin, and the Elder made no sudden move to kidnap her. The Commander's constant glances in her direction made it all the more difficult to convert the Starfleet data to a form the Kari could understand.
Chakotay turned his attention to the task for a few moments, but some instinct made him glance up one last time at the Captain. She seemed quite pale, and the radiant smile she had been flashing the Kari - out of annoyance with his own frowns, no doubt - was gone. He could have readily believed that the red-haired woman across the room had never smiled in her entire life, until she glanced over at him. It was too far to read her eyes, but not so far that he couldn't tell her sudden smile was forced.
Spirits! There was no stopping her now. He turned back to Prina, and could have sworn he saw pity in the Elder's amber eyes.
But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast
But they pass too slow
I love you and that's all I know
"Elder Prina acknowledges receipt of the dilithum, Captain," Harry reported solemnly. "We're cleared to enter the wormhole."
"Where does it lead, Ensign?"
"Federation space, ma'am - somewhere near the Hromi cluster."
Janeway grinned. "Tom, Harry, are we ready?"
"We've been ready for seven years, ma'am."
"Captain, may I see you in your ready room?" Chakotay broke the jovial mood.
"Commander, can't it wait until we get home?" She flashed the bridge crew a stunning smile, and Tom and Harry chuckled.
"Very well. Hold our position, Tom. You have the conn, Tuvok."
The ready-room doors swished shut behind them.
"I could have you thrown in the brig, Commander."
"You could have the common decency to say goodbye, Captain."
"It's not easy to say goodbye to a hundred and fifty people."
"I didn't mean them, Kathryn."
"Goodbye, then, Chakotay."
"You don't have to do this. There's not a single member of the crew who's willing to sacrifice you in order to get home."
"There's one, and she's the only one who counts."
"We can find another way home."
"When, Chakotay? In another seven years? In thirty years? We could do it, we might last that long, but I don't want to. It ends here - it ends now. I promised to get this crew home, and that is what I'm going to do - today. Do you want to watch from the brig, or the bridge?"
"I love you, Kathryn."
"I know, Chakotay."
She strode back onto the bridge, with Chakotay in tow.
"Do it, Tom."
She took her seat as the ship plunged into the glowing tunnel. Chakotay sat beside her and took her hand in his. The bridge crew watched their consoles, but the Captain and her first officer watched the viewscreen.
"It's beautiful," Janeway said.
"Like lightning," Chakotay replied.
The swirling, multicolored rush of light seemed to last forever, but finally, she caught a glimpse of starlight ahead of them. Reassured, she turned to look at her first officer one last time.
Suddenly, his hand was empty. A tear crept down his cheek, but he kept his eyes on the growing starfield at the end of the wormhole. The stars seemed to rush towards them, and then they were out.
That's all I know
That's all I know...
"Helm, full stop," Chakotay ordered. "What's our location?"
Paris pulled his eyes from the viewscreen to his console. "Three light years out from Aldebaran, sir. We're closer to Earth than when we left Deep Space Nine--"
In the course of his sentence, Tom had turned to face the Captain. His voice faded to silence as he saw her empty chair. Tuvok and Harry were also staring silently at it.
"Ops, what's the status of the wormhole?" he asked, ignoring Tom's delayed reaction.
"The Captain..." Harry said. He sounded as shocked as he looked.
"Harry, the wormhole?" Chakotay insisted.
"Sorry, sir. This end of the wormhole isn't fixed. It's collapsing."
"How long until it closes?"
"Five minutes, at the most, Commander."
Chakotay turned his attention to his own console, calling up, Harry assumed, the data from Astrometrics.
"Commander, where is the Captain?" Tuvok asked stoically.
Chakotay's eyes and fingers never left his console as he answered, "Spare me the rhetorical questions, Tuvok. For the past three months, every sentient thing we passed in the Delta Quadrant has been telling you where the Captain is."
"She's with the pah-wraiths," Tom volunteered.
"Engineering to the bridge," his wife's voice interrupted. "When's the party?"
"B'Elanna," Harry answered her, "you might want to come up here."
"Kahless! Is Tom all right?"
"I'm fine, B'E. Belay that order. I think you should get to the shuttlebay - right away."
Chakotay looked up at Tom for a moment, surprised, then nodded to him and said, "Tuvok, the ship is yours." Keying one last instruction into his console, he shimmered and disappeared.
"The Commander has initiated a site-to-site transport to the shuttlebay," Tuvok reported. "Ensign Kim, can you halt the launch sequence?"
"He's locked us out of all systems, sir."
B'Elanna arrived at the shuttlebay panting. Poking her head into his shuttle, she asked, "Chakotay, what's going on?" It seemed a bit soon to be on the run from the Federation Judiciary.
He didn't look up from his pre-flight routine as he answered, "Whatever is in the wormhole took the Captain."
"Kahless! There must be a way to get her back."
"I don't think so, B'Elanna."
"Then what do you think you're doing?"
"Going after her." He was ready to launch.
She had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomachs. "We won't be able to get you back, either," she said, backing away so he could close the shuttle doors.
"No, you won't. You won't even have time to try. Goodbye, B'Elanna."
The Alpha Quadrant wasn't worth the price, she thought.
B'Elanna watched from the shuttlebay floor as Chakotay's shuttle disappeared into the small, glowing tunnel that was the collapsing wormhole. After a while she turned around and found Tom standing behind her.
"Shouldn't you be on duty?"
"We're standing down - Starfleet's sending four ships to welcome us." Tom looked out the still-open shuttlebay doors. No sign of the wormhole remained. "What do you think happened to them?"
"Maybe they're in Sto-Vo-Kor. They deserve it, if anyone does." B'Elanna slipped her hand into Tom's. "What do you think?"
"I think the pah-wraiths, or whatever they were, got her, but then she knew what she was getting into. She must've figured it out - nothing ever got by her." Tom paused for a moment, then added, "About him, though, I don't know. What good did he think it would do, B'E? Where did he think he was going?"
"You've got him backwards, Tom. It didn't have to do any good, and he didn't have to know where he was going. He was following her - that's all he knew or cared to know."