|No More Lies
I can't believe the Captain just said that! I know, originally, I was expecting her to take the stand she has, leaving her former officers behind after taking what she wants from their planet, but still, it's a hell of a shock to hear her words and see the reactions of the men they concern. How could she do it? She didn't even say 'hello' or ask them how they were before she set out her plans!
When we first materialised on this world and found our way to where the four men had built their homes, I was optimistic that the Captain would be lenient. She seemed very impressed by the amount of work they'd undertaken to create such a wonderful living environment, and I thought perhaps she would remember just how much they had all contributed to our life on Voyager. I was obviously wrong.
Although, thinking about it now, maybe I should've guessed what she'd do from the way she 'greeted' Greg and Gerron.
It was about an hour ago that we arrived on the planet's surface, close to where the men had originally been beamed down along with their supplies. I'd never been here before - B'Elanna had been the one to accompany the men at the time - and although our Chief Engineer had described it to me in great detail, I was stunned and amazed by how beautiful and peaceful the place was.
We were in a small, grass-covered clearing surrounded by trees that seemed to sing as the breeze moved through their delicate branches and shook the tiny silver leaves that covered them. Captivated, the Captain and I stood there listening for many minutes before we thought about activating our tricorders.
Once we began our scans, though, it didn't take us very long to locate the men's settlement. Two life signs registered there, and we detected two others to the west of them, a fair distance away. I was overjoyed. The men were alive.
I'd had countless sleepless nights as we'd approached this planet; nightmares that the men had all perished. Now that I knew my fears were groundless, my main concern was what condition we'd find them in. After all, 'alive' doesn't necessarily equal 'well'.
We followed the tricorder readings, wending our way through the trees and out into another clearing, the faint smell of wood smoke reaching us just before we stepped out from behind the bushes that lined the edge of the copse. The sight that greeted us was amazing.
Two well-constructed wooden cabins stood facing each other across an open area paved with large flat stones, while wispy smoke drifted up from the fire that burned in the centre of the terrace. It was obviously a communal area, a place where the men most likely gathered to talk and eat after a long day of toil. I could just imagine the four of them sitting there, laughing and sharing stories and perhaps reminiscing about their lives on Voyager. I wonder if they miss it? This place seems so idyllic that I wouldn't be surprised if they preferred their new home instead.
Greg and Gerron were so occupied with their tasks that they were oblivious to the scrutiny of the Captain and myself. The men were busy in the garden that stretched from the terrace down to the sparkling water of the river, their progress followed eagerly by a half-dozen small chicken-like birds that scurried after them, picking at the insects and grubs that the men uncovered as they pulled weeds from between rows of leafy plants similar to cabbages. We stood watching for a moment or two before the Captain signalled to me that we should make our presence known.
As we stepped forward, Greg groaned and stretched, moving his hand to his back as he stood upright. Gerron went to him immediately, standing in front of Ayala as he gave him a gentle kiss, and then he reached around to rub his lover's aching muscles.
Janeway froze, a look of absolute distaste written across her face. And that's when I should have known that she'd never consider allowing the men back aboard Voyager.
Giving me a quick sidelong glance, the Captain started to move again, almost reluctantly. I followed as she made her way towards the two men, who now stood, chatting, their voices laced with the love they so obviously shared. They looked up, startled, as our Starfleet-issue shoes scraped across the smooth, hard stones of the terrace, announcing our presence, and their astonishment and disbelief was written very clearly on their shocked faces.
Greg was the first to speak, his words tumbling out of his mouth as he tried to ascertain just how we'd come to be there. Janeway was quite abrupt with him, saying that she'd explain everything once Chakotay and Tom were present; she didn't want to have to repeat herself, she said. She didn't seem to care that they were now no longer her officers, and hadn't been for a long while; she still treated them as though they were junior members of her crew.
Gerron ignored Janeway's rudeness, though, and offered to make us drinks, but the Captain declined and said she'd prefer to look around. Both Gerron and Greg seemed reluctant to let her out of their sight, and kept a close eye on us as we wandered to where two storage sheds stood side by side, stretching across the end of the terrace and almost linking the cabins. The doors to both of them were open, and I peered inside. Various tools, some that I recognised as having personally replicated for them over a year ago, lay on a bench at the end of the first one, and it held large stacks of wood, cut up in readiness for use as fuel. In the second, crates of vegetables were neatly arranged, freshly gathered and waiting to be preserved for when food would be harder to find. Everything seemed to be very well organised, and I could see the grudging respect for that fact etched on Janeway's face.
From where we now stood, another structure was just visible close to the water's edge. We ambled down to it, and Gerron explained that it was used to house their boat. He also told us that that was where Chakotay and Tom were: out on the river. I checked my tricorder again, aiming it upstream, and found that the life signs it registered were moving closer to us. With a great deal of barely-controlled excitement, I trained my gaze on the tree-lined bend in the river a few hundred yards away and waited for my best friend and his lover to come into view.
It must have been about half an hour later that we got our first glimpse of them, their small craft drifting lazily into sight while its occupants sat looking quite preoccupied with each other. I couldn't believe the difference in their appearance since the last time I'd seen them. Even from that distance, their longer hair was obvious as it fell over their bare shoulders; neither man was wearing a shirt. I stared, marvelling at how well they looked, and gradually becoming aware of their startled expressions as their boat moved closer.
My exhilaration at seeing them warred with nervousness as I watched them bring the craft to the bank and step out. The Captain moved to stand next to me as Chakotay and Tom linked hands and walked towards us, and I found myself wondering how I would ever get to speak to them without Janeway around.
You see, B'Elanna has given me a mission to carry out: a message to pass on. A message that she says Chakotay will understand, even though its meaning is beyond my own comprehension. She wouldn't explain it to me, just insisted I pass it on, word for word.
I'm hoping now that I'll have chance to deliver it soon.
Chakotay has just finished speaking. With the agreement of the others, he's given Janeway the permission she required to gather whatever she needs from their world. I knew he would. I knew they all would. For all of them, and for Chakotay in particular, the welfare of Voyager's crew takes precedence over their feelings about the way they've been treated. They would never have denied their former crewmates the chance to continue their journey homewards.
The Captain has just risen from the table and is making her way towards the door. I follow, as I'm supposed to, but take my time, lingering just long enough to take hold of Chakotay's arm and pull him to one side before he can follow Janeway outside. She doesn't notice as I lean close to him and say the words that brings an instant look of surprise to his face: the message that B'Elanna wanted me to deliver.
"There's an east wind coming."
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