Part 25

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Samantha Wildman stared at the pale, drawn, messy woman. Thin, too. And rather rank. In need of a sonic shower. But she didn't have time. Samantha stepped away from the mirror to retrieve her hairbrush, the least she could do. Not that it would be that bad to be seen walking through the corridor looking completely like she'd only recently risen from the dead. It would be better than actually ending up dead. She ran the brush quickly through her hair-knotted and unclean. She didn't want to attempt to pin it up in the dim light, and Naomi, light sleeper that she was, would be up immediately if her mother increased the light intensity.

Chakotay hadn't responded to the transmission that she'd sent, which could mean one of two things. He'd received it, appreciated it, but kept silent to keep the exchange inconspicuous. That was the good choice. Or, he'd received it, already had the information, and decided her usefulness was fading.

That was the bad choice.

Samantha pulled the brush through her hair again, with nearly enough force to rip a clump of the tangles out by the roots.

Her scalp stung and her eyes watered, from the pain, she pretended.

She clipped the phaser to her belt, not that it was the greatest thing to take when she was going to be begging for her life from Chakotay, but she'd look pretty conspicuous being the only Star Fleet crewmember without one. She noticed the unsteadiness of her hands when she brought it away from the belt. She was nervous. Ken Dalby had indoctrinated her to many ways of dealing with Chakotay, but she'd never had to do it by herself. She did now.

Naomi should stay sound asleep, and if she didn't, then she'd probably run to Neelix and wake him up. She'd be fine. Samantha had to keep it that way.

One last yank with the brush and Samantha Wildman was out the door.

Harry Kim was glad to see Chakotay leave the Bridge, if only for a while. Command was handed over to the Lieutenant at Tactical. Chakotay disappeared into the Captain's ready room. For some reason, the sight of him entering it made Harry uncomfortable. A little part of him screamed that Chakotay didn't belong there, that that was the Captain's. It was irrational, he knew that Chakotay had a meeting with Samantha Wildman scheduled, and that it didn't have anything to with what the Maquis were planning. But he still didn't like it.

Samantha Wildman stepped out of the turbo lift, on to the Bridge. She smiled slightly at Harry, but he couldn't find the strength to smile back, knowing she was quite close to Dalby. He wondered if she'd known about the plot to kill Tom. He quickly stopped that train of thought; raging paranoia was not going to help anything. And Samantha was not that type of person.

He watched her walk towards the ready room, noticing she looked like she'd been up all night. Her hair was a mess, and the woman wasn't that clean, in general. She chimed the door and entered a moment later

Samantha heard Chakotay call for her to enter. She took a deep breath, let it out, and walked inside. Chakotay was behind the Captain's desk, and Samantha had a flash of discontent, thinking he looked far too comfortable there. It was gone quickly; one thing she'd gotten quite good at was ignoring what Star Fleet Academy had trained her to think, and now only remnants of it remained. She got closer, trying to read his body language for any implication of his mood.

"Commander Chakotay," she addressed him, trying to pull her tired body to attention. It didn't quite work.

"Ensign Wildman," he replied, waving her to sit down.

She sat down, resisting the urge to collapse against the chair. She'd rehearsed what she was going to say, but under the hard gaze of Chakotay, she didn't know if she could remember it all.

"You received my request for shore leave tomorrow?" she began.

"Yes, I did. Yours was the first one I received," he replied, perfectly neutral. He didn't say whether it was granted or denied.

Samantha gave up on trying to sit straight and slouched down against the chair.

"Commander, tomorrow has been a long time coming."

He nodded.

"We've been on this ship a long time."

He nodded again, still irritatingly non-committal.

"I didn't get on this ship planning on spending my life here. I didn't plan on being pregnant. I didn't plan on having a child seventy thousand light years from home. I didn't plan on finding someone who could be in my life as a spouse, when my own is so far way. I didn't plan on any of it."

She eyed him, getting no response. She tried to continue with the script, but her real feelings got in the way.

"I didn't come out here some insane Maquis hunter. I've always tried to respect you and your people. I've felt more than respect for some of them. But, this is one rocky boat, sir."

He seemed amused by that metaphor, at least. She couldn't return to the ass-kissing script she'd had planned.

"I don't want to be on it when it capsizes. I don't think Naomi deserves to drown on it. All I want for her is a stable ship where everyone doesn't hate everyone else, and I want her to be safe on it. I can't guarantee her a safe journey home, but I'd like to give her a survivable substitute one for the time being."

Chakotay watched the woman in front of him; she was truly a sight. This was probably one of the most heart-breaking situations to find yourself in; begging for your life and your child's life, and admitting that someone else controls your fate. She looked like she hadn't slept in a day, the stress evident on her lovely face. Naomi was lucky to have such a caring and sacrificing woman as a mother.

"No," he said.

Samantha Wildman nearly deflated, it looked like. Her shoulders sank down inches, and she was slouching as it was. Her eyes got wide and wet. Her jaw worked, trying to speak.

"You can't guarantee her a safe journey home, and I can't guarantee either of you a safe home if you stay on board tomorrow," he finished.

Samantha's heart started beating again, but it took a while for her mind to register it.

"Shore leave request granted." He picked up a PADD off the desk. "Here are preliminary scans of the planet, go see the Doctor for a routine physical for going planet side."

He held out the PADD and she reached for it, still clearly overwhelmed with relief.

"We'll be in orbit of the planet in about three hours. Dismissed."

Samantha rose, turning to leave. At the door, she stopped and turned back.

"When is it no longer going to be safe on Voyager?"

"It's already unsafe. It's going to get dangerous after the first people are beamed down, and then it's going to get worse."

"Okay," she paused. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet, I haven't decided whether you come back or not."

"Thank you," she repeated, and walked out on to the Bridge. She met Harry's eyes again, and managed another smile. This time, his smiled back. She walked across the Bridge and stepped into the turbo lift.

Naomi Wildman snapped awake when someone scooped her out of the hollow she'd made in the blankets. Hardly able to see who was carrying her, she shrieked in terror.

"Sshhh, Naomi!" her mother ordered.

Naomi reached out and shoved the blanket she was still wrapped in off her eyes. By the time she got if off, they were in the corridor outside sick bay. Naomi didn't feel sick. And her mother didn't sound like she was sick. She was carried through the door, and her mother activated the EMH. Her mother set her down on one of the bio-beds and moved off to talk to the Doctor. Naomi struggled to wake up fully, blinking in the bright light. In the corner, she saw another occupied bio-bed. It was Tom. Naomi tried to scoot off the bio-bed. She couldn't see him that well, but he didn't look like he'd fallen, unless it was a very bad fall. The Doc prevented her from climbing off of it, and hoisted her back on to the bio-bed. He pulled a privacy curtain around the bio-bed.

"Hello, Miss. Naomi."

He began to scan her, holding her in place with one hand. She tried to peer past the curtain, over at Tom.

Tom was vaguely aware of conversation around him. He opened one eye, careful to keep still and not provoke either sedation or restraints from the Doc. There were two more patients in sick bay, one behind a privacy curtain. The other was a woman only half behind a privacy curtain. The sleep in his eyes prevented him from identifying her, but he could see that she was disrobing.

Hmm, he hadn't seen a naked woman in a while. Not a real one, anyway.

With what he considered a great deal of self-restraint, he closed his eye. He was drifting off again when he heard the Doctor speak.

"When are you going on shore leave?"

"About three hours. On Alpha 634."

Tom froze, waking again. Alpha 634. The end of the line, Chakotay called it. They weren't supposed to get there for another day or two. What had happened to speed up the mutiny? He didn't know, and he couldn't exactly ask. Tom felt his body tense up with worry.

The last thing he wanted was to be incapacitated in sick bay when the Maquis went nuts.

They'd make sure he was permanently incapacitated.

Part 26 | Index page