Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc.
NC 17 ***
Behind her crew's back, Kathryn makes a deal with an alien leader to ensure Voyager's safe and speedy passage across his space. As Voyager travels on, following her orders and believing that she will rejoin them soon, she becomes a subject for cruel medical experiments which threaten her very life.

The Passage

by Kat Lady

Part One.

Voyager's Captain sat quietly in her ready room with her elbows on her desk, her head in her hands, as her fingers kneaded her scalp. Her headache throbbed inside her skull and her stomach reacted accordingly, sending her rushing once more to her bathroom where she retched, causing the pain in her head to increase. She knew there was nothing left in her stomach to bring up and she slid to the floor, resting her forehead against the coolness of the toilet bowl.

"All right, I give in." Her words reached no one and she stood shakily and made her way to sickbay, managing to slip into the lift without Chakotay or the rest of the bridge crew seeing her face. Within minutes the Doctor had worked his magic and her migraine vanished, leaving Janeway wondering why she'd delayed as long as she had in seeking treatment. With the medic's stern warning ringing in her ears about self neglect and stress being the main causes of her constant migraine attacks of late, Kathryn left sickbay and returned to the bridge for the last hour of her shift. Once there, Chakotay gave her news which almost undid all the Doctor's good work.

"Captain, sensors indicate a vast area of space ahead of us which, according to Neelix, is claimed by a race known as the Katani. It looks as if it would take us about six months to go around but only two weeks or so to pass through. It all comes down to whether we can negotiate passage through this area with these people." Chakotay stood to attention almost, as Kathryn sighed deeply and took the offered padd from him. She glanced quickly through the data, feeling the faint edges of her headache returning. She drew in a deep breath, forcing herself to try and relax and looked up at her First Officer.

"Any reason to believe these Katani will refuse permission for us to cross their territory?"

Chakotay stayed at attention and the gesture was not lost on Kathryn. "Captain, from what Neelix knows, they appear to be a thriving warp civilization who place great emphasis on acquiring scientific knowledge. They dominate this area of space and basically control all the other races within their territory. These other races lay claim to their own planets but they pay a levy to the Katani government for protection and for the fact that their planet is in Katani space. These Katani appear to be militarily superior to all the others and despite having a small population, they control all around them with an iron fist. Neelix had once heard rumours of the other races rebelling, but apparently it never came to anything."

Kathryn nodded and rubbed at her temples. If Chakotay noticed, he gave no indication. "All right, Commander, I'll look this over." She scanned through the data. "I see Neelix has included a report also." Chakotay nodded. "Right then, how long until we reach the Katani border?"

Chakotay didn't move. "About twelve hours but we'll be within hailing distance in ten." Kathryn nodded and sensing the conversation was at an end, dismissed him. He turned and was gone within seconds.

Kathryn threw the padd down on her desk and sat back. Chakotay's strict adherence to protocol was becoming a major pain for her even though she knew she'd asked for it. She accepted she'd pushed him away one too many times and hurt him badly in the process and that this was just his way of dealing with his pain, by distancing himself from her. Their last dinner together had been four weeks ago now and since that time, when she'd almost read him the rule book on why she thought they couldn't have a relationship, Chakotay had stayed well away from her during their off duty time and was always totally professional when they were on duty. He was less successful though at hiding the hurt he felt or indeed, how he felt. He seemed unaware that the entire crew knew how he felt. Kathryn wished desperately that things could be different, that she had the courage to just take that step and allow him into her life but something always stopped her and she never quite had the guts to dig too deeply into her mind to find the answer to why, afraid at times that common sense might win out over her own self imposed objections.

Kathryn swivelled her chair around and stared out at the stars streaking by the viewport, a part of her wishing she could just step outside and let herself be carried along with them, leaving everything else behind. She sighed deeply and closed her eyes, willing the returning pain in her head away. She knew she badly needed some time relaxing when off duty but with the situation as it was with Chakotay, she now spent all her off duty time alone in her quarters, refusing the invitations to the holodeck she'd received from Tom, B'Elanna and Neelix, most of the senior staff in fact. It dawned on her now that the holodeck just wasn't the same unless she was in Chakotay's company and so she opted to spend her time on her own, despite how lonely she felt. She whispered to the silent room. "I miss you, my friend."

Pushing these thoughts aside before they went too deep and her self-blame for her situation swamped her, she forced her mind back to the matter at hand and picked up the report Chakotay had brought her, focusing on the words in front of her. An hour later, she was starting to see double and knew she badly needed to see the Doctor again as the pain returned full force. With her shift over and despite needing to stay on top of things, she surrendered to her body's demands and returned to sickbay. The Doctor tutted to himself as he gave her another painkiller and ordered her to rest under threat of keeping her in his care, and knowing he'd be true to his word, Kathryn promised to return to her quarters to try and get some sleep.

Kathryn managed to sleep for six hours and awoke feeling a lot better. The fact that she'd slept so well told her that there'd been more than painkiller in the hypo the Doctor had administered to her and she smiled to herself, promising to get even with him. She showered quickly and donned her uniform then returned to her ready room, determined to have all the information she could at hand when they spoke with the Katani.

No hails were received by Voyager until they reached the borders of Katani space and Harry Kim called his captain to the bridge immediately. Kathryn had decided against trying to hail them first, feeling it better that they appear not to know anything about this race or their area of space. The face on the viewscreen as Kathryn entered the bridge was almost humanoid as far as eyes, nose and mouth were concerned but the alien who'd hailed them had skin of an almost bluish colour with pronounced ridges at each side of his nose and across his forehead. Kathryn smiled as soon as she made eye contact with him and remained standing as she addressed him.

"I'm Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager." She waited for this alien to introduce himself.

"Captain Janeway, I am Pakar and my people are the Katani. You have reached the borders of our space. You cannot enter without the proper permits. Strangers are rarely welcomed here. You require a permit." His face retained the same expression yet there was something unreadable in his eyes, which sent a slight shiver down Kathryn's back.

Forcing her face to hide her thoughts, she tried her best diplomatic smile. "We understand. Perhaps you could tell us if it is possible to procure a permit to cross your space. I can assure you our intentions are strictly peaceful. We're just trying to reach our home."

Pakar cut her off. "Captain, your intentions are of no concern to me. Peaceful or hostile makes no difference to us. Peaceful would be better but hostile would be no problem to us either. You are no threat to us."

Kathryn drew a deep breath and risked a glance at Chakotay. He merely kept his face neutral. "Pakar… I'm sorry I don't know your title."

The alien waved a hand. "We have no titles on our world. Pakar is how you refer to me."

Kathryn nodded and continued. "Very well. Pakar, I assure you we simply wish to cross your space to save ourselves the six months we believe it would take us to go around. Our home is far from here and we have a long journey ahead of us. We've been travelling for some years and…"

Pakar shook his head and waved his hand again. "Please, Captain, I don't need the details of your life. What do you propose to trade with for this permit to cross our space? I am my people's leader so all business is conducted through me. Again, what do you propose to trade with?"

Kathryn smiled to herself. Straight down to business suited her just fine. "We don't have much to trade with but what we do have, I can transmit details of to you now." She nodded to Harry Kim to send the required information then watched as Pakar received the data and waited as he studied it.

The minute he looked up at her again, she knew there was nothing of interest to him contained on the list. "Captain, there really is nothing here of interest to us. From what I can see from this and from our scans of your ship, we are far more advanced than your race. You obviously have nothing of interest to us."

Kathryn ground her teeth, determined to keep the smile plastered on her face. This alien's habit of repeating himself was starting to annoy her. She felt Chakotay's presence beside her, wishing she had his gentle patience. "Pakar, there must be something we can trade with. Perhaps we could meet face to face and discuss this. You could visit our ship and…" Once more the hand waved her quiet and she watched as he thought about this, his eyes studying her closely. Once more, she felt a chill run through her under his scrutiny.

"Very well. I will meet with you and discuss this further but I really do not think anything can be achieved. I will come to you in one hour." He nodded curtly and closed the transmission.

Kathryn turned to Chakotay and raised her eyebrows. She saw a softer expression on his face than she'd seen in some weeks and smiled softly at him. "Guess we wait then." He nodded.

Kathryn and Chakotay, along with Tuvok, spent the next two hours in tough negotiations with Pakar once he'd had a brief tour of Voyager. So far the only item they could offer him which was of vague interest to him was the comprehensive star charts they'd compiled during their long journey. No matter what they offered, he either already had or could go one better. Finally, the alien leader stood and requested to speak with Kathryn alone. Tuvok was instantly on the defensive but seeing no alternative, Kathryn nodded for him and Chakotay to leave her with Pakar, knowing how badly they needed this permit. She'd been aware of the alien watching her closely during his time onboard and she was uneasy with it, constantly feeling he had a hidden agenda. The fact that he now wished to speak privately with her only confirmed her suspicions. Once they were alone, Pakar's entire manner changed. He smiled for the first time and sat, gesturing for Kathryn to do the same.

"Let us speak plainly, Captain. I suspect you are someone who prefers straight talking. You want something I have yet so far you have offered me nothing of interest in return. From our earlier conversation as we toured your ship, I understood from you that you are a scientist?"

Kathryn nodded, uncomfortable in the presence of this man. "I am a scientist. That was what I trained at before assuming command."

Pakar smiled and pursed his lips. "Then, Captain, we are cut from the same cloth, you and I. We will understand each other. There is something you have that would give me reason to grant you the permit you require to cross Katani space."

Kathryn sat forward, knowing that whatever he asked would have a high price. "What do we have that would interest you when you've already seen all we have to offer?" Her suspicion sounded in her voice and she saw that he heard it.

"Oh, it's something I've already seen." He smiled at her, arrogance showing behind it. "Like you, I am also a scientist. I am also a medical man. Your race interests me greatly, Captain. I have studied many races and species in my time but yours is completely alien to me, especially coming from an entirely different Quadrant." Kathryn felt the hair at the back of her neck stand on end. "Now perhaps you could trade me a chance to study a member of your species in return for this permit."

Kathryn's eyes widened at what she'd just heard. "Excuse me, Pakar, let me understand you. You want a member of this crew as payment for crossing your space?" She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

Pakar laughed. "Captain, you make it sound like I require a 'specimen' for my laboratory. Please, we are a civilized race. I am merely asking if one of your crew would allow me to study them, observe them really, with perhaps the occasionally test, blood or something, the odd scan, nothing serious."

Kathryn sat back, shaking her head. "You can't honestly expect me to agree with this."

Pakar's face grew serious. "Captain, it would be a small price to pay and besides you would be cutting six months off your journey. Can you really go out there and tell your crew that they must take all that time to pass around our space. It increases every day you know. Six months is an under estimation. I would say it is now nearer to seven months." Kathryn closed her eyes.

"Captain, we have a more advanced transporter system than yours. Give me someone who can stay as our guest for the two weeks it takes you to cross our space and at the end of that time, we will simply beam them back to your ship. All they need do is submit to simple tests. As I said, nothing serious, and let me observe them. They can inform me about your race during their stay. I have found that speaking with someone tells far more than any medical test. I assure you, my intentions are honourable, and this way I also ensure that you pass through our space peacefully." Pakar sat back and gave the woman before him time to digest his words.

Kathryn's mind raced. "Surely our Doctor could just present you with all the information you require. He could provide you with blood samples, even DNA, any data you require?"

Pakar shook his head and smiled. "Captain Janeway, you know as well as I do, that is just data, nothing like the real thing, no interaction involved. I like to get to know about a race, not just the physical side but what makes them tick shall we say. This is my offer to you." He sat back further and watched her.

"How do I…?"

Pakar leaned forward now and smiled at her, the gesture making Kathryn's skin crawl. "How do you know I will keep my word and how do you ask that without offending me?" He laughed for the first time. "Oh Captain, you are quite the diplomat but I am far more clever than you." He sat back once more and smiled to himself. "You really have no choice but to take my word for this. I'm not forcing this on you in any way. You can take my offer and be through our space in two weeks or I can return to my home and you can be on your way, taking all that time to go around our borders. The choice is down to you."

Kathryn forced herself to hold eye contact with this alien, determined he see her strength. "There is no way this crew will agree to your 'terms'. I can tell you here and now that I'd not even ask any of them to do this."

Pakar just leaned back and smiled. "You could always come yourself, Captain. You seem to me to be a very good example of the best your race has to offer."

Kathryn knew his words were not meant as a compliment and didn't take them as such. "They would never agree to that either."

Pakar was losing patience. "You are their captain, are you not? Do you not issue the orders around here? You simply tell them that you have agreed to be my guest until they pass through and that you will join them at the other border. You need make no mention of our agreement."

Kathryn stood now, turning her back on her guest. "I need time to think about this." Kathryn couldn't believe she was even considering this and knew that as she spoke the words, she was letting Pakar know he'd most likely gotten what he wanted. She turned back to him and saw him smile and nod.

He stood slowly. "I can expect to hear from you within the hour then, Captain?" Kathryn merely nodded and looked away.

Needing some time to herself to think things through, Kathryn informed Chakotay that she wanted him to arrange a senior staff meeting in half an hour and didn't want to be disturbed until then. She tried to ignore the worried look she saw on his face and promised him answers to his many questions when they all met. She returned to her quarters and paced the floor, trying to anticipate every angle of what would happen if she took Pakar's offer. In the end, it boiled down to one thing. There was no way she could tell her crew that an additional seven months had been added to their journey and Pakar had seen this. The fact that he seemed to read her so well irked and unnerved her. Kathryn's guilt over stranding the crew in the Delta Quadrant in the first place never left her and so now she rehearsed in her mind what she would tell her senior officers, preparing herself for all their arguments. She knew Tuvok and particularly Chakotay would be the hardest to convince but in the end, believed they would obey her orders.

She briefly tried to think of any other way around this situation, find another solution, but none came to her. Knowing now she had no choice, she turned to leave her quarters for the meeting and stopped at the door a moment. She gazed around the space where she'd lived for the past number of years, remembering happier times when she'd enjoyed dinners here with Chakotay, when they'd laughed together or simply shared comfortable silences. She swallowed the lump which rose in her throat and forced her mind to the matter at hand. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she left her 'home', wondering briefly if she'd ever see it again.

The meeting went exactly as Kathryn had known it would, all of them objecting and with Chakotay and Tuvok joining forces as never before.

"Captain, there's no way you can even consider this."

Kathryn stood and cut Chakotay off. "Commander, I've made my decision. I'm simply an insurance policy for Pakar if you like. I have his assurances that I'll be perfectly safe as his guest. Besides, you're always badgering me to take some time off and now I can." She smiled, hoping her small joke would break the tension in the room but Chakotay was in no mood for it.

"You're telling me you believe that's all he wants? That simply by having you with him, he'll be assured that we pose no threat as we cross their space? Forgive me if I seem just a little suspicious, but if this is so innocent, how come he waited to ask you this when you were alone with him? He already informed us that we were no threat to him. I know you and there's something more going on here."

Kathryn hardened her face. "Commander, we simply came to this decision as we'd exhausted everything else. He prefers doing business one to one. That's their way apparently. All we can offer him are the star charts we have. This is just a way to ensure we stick to our end of the deal. He also has a Council of Ministers he must report to and they'll be more assured with this. Once Voyager has reached the far borders, I shall be beamed back here and we can be on our way."

Kathryn stared hard into his eyes until Tuvok broke the silence. "I must concur with the commander. I cannot allow you to undertake what you are proposing. We have no idea what you would be walking into nor do we know if we can even trust this man."

Kathryn had had enough and was getting edgy. "Enough, both of you." She scanned the other faces at the table and saw that they still agreed with Chakotay and Tuvok. "It's simple. I am the captain and I give the orders. Now I'll stay with Pakar until Voyager has crossed through Katani space and then re-join you. Commander Chakotay, you will be Acting Captain in my absence and Tuvok will act as First Officer. That's the end of this discussion. Dismissed." No one moved. "I said dismissed." The hardness in her voice shook them and slowly they moved, each one staring back at their captain, their disapproval showing clearly. Kathryn turned away quickly but instantly sensed that someone had remained behind. Turning back, she saw Tuvok and Chakotay standing side by side, staring at her.

"Gentlemen, there's nothing further to discuss here. I've made my decision and that's final. Now you'll both follow my direct orders or spend time in the brig." She saw that her words weren't having the desired effect.

"Captain, I must insist that you tell us all of what was discussed between yourself and Pakar." Tuvok met her eyes and Kathryn held his gaze.

"I've already been through this. He's just being careful."

Chakotay wasn't going to be as diplomatic as Tuvok had been. "Bullshit, Kathryn." He ignored the shocked expressions which turned to him. "I know you too well and while Tuvok might be more polite with you, I won't be. You're not telling us the truth here and I'm sorry for how that sounds but I just know there's a lot more going on here than you're telling us."

Kathryn forced herself to keep her temper in check. "You know what, Commander? I don't care what you think. I've made my decision and it's final. Now kindly return to your duties, both of you. I need to contact Pakar and set matters in motion. You're both dismissed and don't think I won't call security here to have you both removed if I need to." Her expression was icy and her eyes dared them to say anything else. Knowing nothing more would be achieved for the moment, they turned and left.

As they reached the door, Chakotay turned back. "I'm not finished with this yet, Kathryn. Don't think for one minute that you've won this." She'd never seen him so serious and she looked away quickly, only looking up again when she heard the door close.

Not wasting any time, Kathryn quickly checked that all her personal business was in order, her Will and transfer of command then contacted the planet and spoke with Pakar in private. His smile, when he appeared on her screen, sent even more chills down her spine.

"Captain, you have a decision for me?"

Kathryn nodded. "I'll come but I want to beam down now. My people are not too happy about this. They know I'm holding back from them and the longer we delay, the more questions they'll ask."

Pakar kept the smile on his face. "Why not let one of them come down with you, inspect the quarters you'll have and see for themselves that you'll be well taken care of." Kathryn considered his proposal a moment and nodded her agreement, drawing a little reassurance from his gesture. She cut the transmission and called Chakotay in.

"Commander, I shall be beaming down to the surface in a short time. Pakar has given his permission for someone to come with me and check things out before Voyager departs." She watched his face closely and kept her own expression serious.

"Very well, Captain. I shall come with you." He was back to being professional with her, hiding behind protocol. He'd had a good teacher for that.

Within fifteen minutes, they'd beamed down to the coordinates Pakar had issued them with and Kathryn followed behind the two men as the Katani leader showed Chakotay around parts of the city and the main Government buildings, hiding nothing from him.

"Commander, I wish I could put your mind at rest. You must understand that my Council simply require an assurance that you will pass through our space peacefully. Not every decision is mine alone to make. I assure you that your captain will be quite safe here. You may contact her on a daily basis and satisfy yourself that she is well." Chakotay silently nodded but his eyes rarely left Kathryn.

Finally, Pakar left them alone and Chakotay turned to her. "I still don't like this. I've always trusted my gut instinct over everything else and it tells me that something is very wrong here. It also tells me that you know more than you're telling me." His eyes searched hers but Kathryn had her emotions well hidden.

"Chakotay…" She hoped using his own name would soften him a little. "Look, I know you don't like or trust this but you have to trust me when I tell you it's all fine. I don't mean to sound hard but at the end of the day, I'm the captain and you must follow my orders. You'll do this if you have any respect for me at all or care for me in any way." She saw the hurt in his eyes.

"You certainly know where to hit, Kathryn, right where it can hurt. All right, I'll obey and respect your orders and do what I'm told but know this and hear it well. Don't ever use my feelings for you like this again. I'm obeying your orders as a First Officer to his Captain. Don't ever bring anything else into it. You know only too well how I feel. Don't dare ever belittle those feelings by thinking you can use them against me or to get me to do what you want. That's just cruel, Kathryn."

She reached out a hand and placed it on his arm. "Chakotay, I'm sorry. Forgive me please. I didn't mean to use how you feel as a weapon. What I am asking you to do is trust my judgement here and to follow my orders as captain. I'll join you all in two weeks and you heard Pakar. You can call me every day to reassure yourself…"

Chakotay cut her off. "And what if we're a week away when something goes wrong? How do we get back to you in time?" Kathryn searched her mind for an answer that would satisfy him but before she thought of anything, Pakar was back.

"Forgive me, Commander. I couldn't help overhearing. Perhaps I can suggest something that will help allay your fears." Chakotay looked towards him and saw a younger looking male with the leader. "This is my first-born son, Alla. If he travelled with you for the two weeks of your journey while your captain stays here, would that reassure you?"

Chakotay glanced from the young man to the older one and saw immediately the resemblance but still wasn't satisfied. "Forgive me, Pakar, but how do I know this young man is indeed your son?"

Pakar didn't look offended as Kathryn had thought he would. He simply smiled and had a ready answer. "Might I suggest we return to your ship for a short time and have your Doctor check our DNA?"

Chakotay thought a moment then nodded. "That would help."

Within an hour, the Doctor was able to confirm that Alla was indeed the son of Pakar, three other Katani males having joined them to provide their DNA for comparison testing. Chakotay spoke quietly with Tuvok and they both agreed their hands were tied. Kathryn was within her rights to order them to go on without her and there was little they could do outside of an all-out mutiny. He'd even suggested that Pakar simply send along a few guards on Voyager to ensure they wouldn't deviate from their course, but Pakar had informed them that his Council insisted on a fair swap, both of them now having an assurance.

In the end, Chakotay beamed down with Kathryn to see her settled, while Alla stayed aboard Voyager. He kept his manner formal as he told her he'd see her in two weeks time and watched as she unpacked some of her clothing. The fact that she'd brought no personal items outside of clothing bothered him. He desperately wanted to get down on his knees and beg her to reconsider but knew it would get him nowhere. As he prepared to beam back to the ship, he let his formality slip and held her eyes for a long moment.

"Kathryn, please take care of yourself." She nodded, not saying anything. She knew how upset and worried he was and prayed she'd see him again. She fought desperately to hide her feelings of fear at what lay ahead and hoped that Pakar would keep his word. Just as he reached to his comm badge, Chakotay stopped and moved to her then whispered quietly to her as he embraced her.

"Kathryn, when I talk with you, if there's anything wrong, refer to me as Commander Chakotay. If everything is fine, then constantly use Chakotay or just Commander. Don't use rank and name together with anyone else either so it won't sound strange. That way at least, I'll know you can get some kind of message to me."

Kathryn hugged him back, using the gesture to hide her face. "Chakotay…" She pulled back with her smile in place. "Look, if it makes you feel better, I'll do that. Now get back to my ship and get her across that space. You're wasting time." He barely managed a smile as he called for his beam out, not taking his eyes off her for a second.

Voyager was now three days away from Katan and Chakotay was calling twice a day to make sure Kathryn was well. He noticed that she looked a little tired but she constantly reassured him that she was fine and never once used the code he'd given her to use if anything was wrong. She told him simply that she was staying up too late at night, catching up on some reading she'd badly missed, as well as attending some 'outings', letting him believe that she was socializing and enjoying herself. Her performance was perfect and he believed her but she saw the hurt on his face from the belief that she might be developing a friendship with Pakar.

As Kathryn cut the communication with Chakotay, the second one that day, she heard Pakar come up behind her. "Excellent performance, my dear. I couldn't have done better myself." Kathryn hung her head, not trying to hide how she felt now that Chakotay couldn't see her. "I'm so happy you got the names right. Can't have you passing secret messages to them, now can I?" Kathryn simply nodded.

Pakar had shocked her within an hour of Voyager's departure by letting her know he'd heard Chakotay's words to her, about using rank and name together if anything was wrong. She instantly realized that her quarters were covered by surveillance equipment, audio and probably visual also. He quickly let her know who was in charge, going into a long speech about his planet's military capabilities and how his ships could easily take out a vessel like Voyager. His threat was made and understood, Kathryn knowing that they were completely at his mercy.

Pakar had left Kathryn alone for the rest of her first day on Katan, offering her only a small meal, but within an hour of her waking the following morning and letting her speak with Chakotay, he'd had her dragged to a laboratory. Here she'd been ordered to strip and suffered a humiliating examination at Pakar's hands, his rough handling bruising her repeatedly. He'd then subjected her to several painful blood and skin tests. He'd also scraped the skin on her legs and arms with several different needles and covered the scratches with a kind of linen covering, telling her he wanted to see her body's reaction to different substances. Within hours, most of the scratches had started itching and many became painful, some even swelling and developing blisters and open sores. He'd also smeared her body with different creams which turned her stomach from their stench.

It was evening before he allowed her something small to eat and drink, having denied her access to anything since the previous evening. Despite her hunger and thirst, Kathryn's stomach barely held down the meagre offering which was placed in her room for her. She felt dizzy and nauseous from the drugs he'd pumped into her body earlier in the day.

This third day had been worse, Kathryn having been 'examined' by Pakar and two other males as they'd used long biopsy needles to extract samples of her internal organs, refusing her any anaesthetic. They'd merely laughed as Kathryn had cried out many times in pain, unable to get away from them when they strapped her to the medical table in the lab. She'd also been scanned continuously and had what seemed to be some kind of imager forced down her throat and others into her ears and nose, so they could look inside her. Despite the straps, the assistants had had to hold her down as Pakar pushed the imager into her mouth and down the back of her throat, causing her to choke and gag repeatedly. She'd little struggle or fight left in her when he moved to the end of the table, pulled her legs into stirrups and forced other imagers up inside her, the instruments pushing painfully up through her as the assistants held her down.

They'd left her alone this evening and all she'd been capable of doing was lying curled up on her bed, fighting the pain and nausea that washed over her. They'd pumped more drugs into her veins and forced her to swallow foul tasting liquids, some of which she'd vomited back up almost immediately. This time, when her small meal had come, Kathryn had been unable to even look at the excuse for food, instead rushing to the small bathroom and attempting to empty her stomach of something that wasn't there. As she'd lain back on the floor, she'd looked at her arms and legs and saw the deep bruising there from all the needles and scratches. Sores and blisters now covered her body and an itchy rash had developed on her back, chest and stomach.

Eventually, she'd been called for her communication with Chakotay and it had taken superhuman strength for her to take the call and put on the act she had. Once the conversation had finished, Pakar had appeared.

He stood behind her now and stroked her hair. He watched her in the mirror, pulling her head up so he could see her face.

"You know, my dear, if you smiled more, you would be quite pleasant to look at."

Kathryn pulled her head away from his hands. "I'm not here to look pleasant for you." He just laughed and grabbed her head again, forcing her to look in the mirror so he could see her expression.

"My dear Captain, you are here for whatever I want you here for. I can have that fine ship of yours blown from the sky at a moment's notice. Don't ever forget that."

Kathryn was shocked at the hardness of his words. "Even with your own son on board?"

His laugh was mocking. "He's just one of many offspring I have. He can easily be replaced." Kathryn stared in horror at him as he continued stroking her hair. Seeming bored now, Pakar just smiled evilly at her and left the room, his voice calling over his shoulder.

"Rest well, Captain. You'll need to be fresh in the morning. I'll have some water sent to you. Make sure you drink it all." He slammed the door behind him, leaving Kathryn alone to give in to her tears. She looked down at her bare feet and the thin robe she wore, all she was allowed. Pakar had taken her clothes, telling her all she'd need was what she wore now and laughing as he added that even that would not be needed most of the time. Kathryn had seen Chakotay look at her when she spoke with him, knowing he'd noticed what she wore, and knowing that he'd get the wrong idea and how much that would hurt him. Finally, she tried to force his face from her mind, needing all her energy just to survive and more importantly to her, to make sure that her crew survived. Nothing else could matter now to her but Voyager's safety and she knew she'd die to ensure that.


Chakotay sat in his office, refusing to use Kathryn's ready room. His gut instinct was taking over and he tried to force it away. Despite his best efforts though, it demanded his attention, almost like an independent voice whispering in his ear all day long and invading his dreams at night. Something about Kathryn and her behaviour bothered the hell out of him yet she still hadn't used their code. It was now the fifth day and although he'd spoken with her the day before and she seemed fine still, he'd been unable to contact the planet this day, an ion storm behind them making communication impossible.

Chakotay fought with himself not to turn around and return to Katan. He tried to convince himself that it was his own jealousy making him feel this way as a result of Kathryn's guarded reference to being out late in the evenings and he tried to push the feelings aside. He hadn't missed the fact that she always seemed to be wearing a light robe when he spoke with her and it hurt to think that maybe she was closer now to Pakar than he knew. A stray thought struck him, wondering what she could be reading, when he knew she'd brought no books or padds with her then he realized that every culture had reading material and she was probably reading that. He knew he was clutching at desperate thoughts and pulled quickly away from them, instead deciding to speak with Alla to try and learn more about these people and their home, hoping something the young man spoke of might help him.

Kathryn had had a painful day physically and emotionally. Today, Pakar had scanned her continuously and had had her lie inside an imager for two hours unmoving. The first painful procedure had been when he'd put drops in her eyes which still stung badly. The worst experiment of the day had been when he'd strapped her down and forced her head into a kind of helmet. Unable to move, Kathryn had screamed out when she felt sharp needles pierce her scalp, embedding themselves into her head, passing through the bone. What had followed had been a terrifying flood of images and emotions as Pakar had stimulated different areas of her brain. The sensory torture had seemed endless to Kathryn, leaving her in an emotional and mental state of collapse by the end of the afternoon. What stayed with her though had been the images of Chakotay and her feelings for him, which had come through and memories of the hurt she'd caused him. Instead of his image giving her comfort, it had brought great sadness and she somehow felt she'd betrayed him by letting that part of her come through into the horror of what she now endured with Pakar and his experiments.

She sighed deeply and turned over on the bed, her mind gradually calming from the earlier horror and her shaking slowly lessening. At least now most of her pain had decreased and her nausea was almost cleared, despite having received more drugs earlier. Her head still throbbed though from where the needles had embedded themselves and she tried to will the pain away. She'd forced herself to eat the meal which had been sent to her, hating the taste of the food but knowing she needed every ounce of nourishment she could get.

She felt herself dozing and vaguely heard the door of her room opening. When she looked up, Pakar was standing looking down at her. She noticed immediately that he was wearing a loose-fitting robe instead of his usual uniform. She sat up quickly and pulled her own robe tighter around her chest. Despite the fact that he'd seen all of her body, striped her of her clothing as well her dignity, she still desperately needed to cling onto what little modesty and self-respect she could. "You said you were finished for the day." She eyed him wearily.

He simply smiled at her and sat on the edge of the bed. "We are finished all the tests for today. Tomorrow we'll continue. For now, I just have some questions for you." Kathryn moved back a little on the bed but he made no move towards her. Instead for the next hour, he sat and asked question after question about humans and the other races he'd seen on Voyager. Kathryn answered as best she could, slowly relaxing. None of his questions were too intrusive and she found herself opening up to him a little more. He changed tack then and asked questions about human emotions and reactions to events in life and she told him honestly about hate and love, grief and joy, all the emotions she knew of. He questioned her about the reactions he'd witnessed earlier in the day when he'd stimulated her brain and she forced her memories of the feelings down and answered him as well as she was able, just relieved that no pain was involved in his latest interest in her. Finally, he just sat quietly and studied his hands. Kathryn waited to see if he would ask anything more and eventually he looked up at her slowly.

"And what of mating practices in your race?" His face was unsmiling but Kathryn instantly knew there was more to the question than he was asking.

"If you're asking about the physical, I believe you've already seen enough." She moved further back on the bed, her voice growing hard. The memories of his studying her naked body rushed back at her, even though he'd had his two assistants with him and had shown no interest outside of a medical one. Pakar simply smiled.

"Oh I've seen all that. Now I'm just wondering how it all works with you although it appears to be similar to us. I wonder if for you it's simply procreation or pleasure also." He met her eyes and laughed at the fear he saw there. "You didn't think I wouldn't want to investigate fully now, did you?"

Kathryn slid off the other side of the bed. "You said you just wanted to study and do your tests and…" He jumped up and she felt her fear grow more and more as the words trailed off in her throat.

"Oh come now, Captain, what kind of scientist would I be if I didn't follow through on my tests and subjects. Please don't make this harder than it has to be. I'll be quick about this. Just lie down and let's get this over with. I need to know about this but you have my word that it's just work to me, merely an experiment. You really don't appeal to me in the slightest." He stood still and watched the fear play over her face. "There's really no avoiding this. Nowhere to go. Why don't you just make this easier on yourself and get it over with. I promise you if you cooperate, this will be a onetime occasion."

Kathryn forced her fear down and tried to draw on anger instead. "You think I can take your word on anything?"

He threw his head back and laughed. "You will just have to, my dear. Now please, stop all this time wasting and just lie down. I'd really prefer not to have to tie you down. It's your choice in the end." He watched her face closely as she digested his words but his patience was wearing thin.

"Oh, have it your way." He called out loudly and two guards entered the room and made for Kathryn. Within seconds they'd grabbed her and secured her to the bed spread-eagled, ripping the robe she wore from her body. As quickly as they'd come in, they left.

Pakar watched her as he slipped the robe from his own body and got onto the bed. He laughed as he watched Kathryn fight her tears. He picked up her torn and discarded robe and shoved part of the fabric into Kathryn's mouth, gagging her. Without a further word, he lay over her and pulled at her breasts, studying her. He then moved down and prodded and probed between her legs, his fingers entering her front and back but nothing on his face showing any sign of arousal. Kathryn fought the hot tears which rolled from her eyes and tried to swallow the humiliation she felt. Suddenly his face was staring into hers and she felt him against her, a second before he pushed into her. The gag in her mouth smothered her scream as pain ripped through her and she struggled against her restraints. Pakar thrust hard and painfully into her a few more times before collapsing on top of her, his breathing heavy in her ear. Within a minute he rolled off and pulled the robe from her mouth, leaving Kathryn gasping for air.

"Interesting to say the least. A different sensation. You're quite a lot smaller than Katani females." He looked down and smiled. "You're bleeding. I'll send someone along to clean you up." Leaving her tied to the bed, he slipped his robe back on and left. Within five minutes, another male entered and without undoing her bonds, quickly treated her and administered a painkiller before cutting her free. Kathryn immediately tried to sit up and moaned in pain, falling back on the bed.

Sensing what she needed, the male handed her a fresh gown. "Pakar said for you to shower and sleep. He needs you in the morning." Without warning he leaned over and pressed another hypo to her neck. "That's a sedative. It'll work in about half an hour. You have time for washing. Then you'll sleep." Without another word, he turned and left.

Kathryn managed to pull her way to the small bathroom and sat in the shower as long as she could, trying to let the hot water sooth away the pain she was in. As the water poured over her, washing away the remains of her blood and his fluid, the smell of him, it hid the tears which poured down her face. Eventually she felt the sedative working and managed to dry herself off before pulling on the new robe and falling to the bed. She was asleep within minutes, her slumber filled with terrifying nightmares. Chakotay's face as well as Tuvok's and her other crewmembers came to her, all laughing at her and telling her she'd asked for all this.

Next morning, despite having been unconscious all night, Kathryn was exhausted. It was to be the last day she'd know for some time.

Chakotay stormed around Voyager, his fears taking over. The ion storm was still in place, making calling Kathryn and the planet impossible still. He was suspicious of the storm now, believing that its presence was just too convenient and had Seven working on enhancing sensors to see if they could verify if the storm was what it seemed.

He entered the messhall and saw Alla sitting in a corner on his own. He studied the young man a moment, thinking back to their conversation of the previous evening. The young alien had been fairly non-committal about details of his home world and had seemed preoccupied for most of their short conversation. As if sensing Chakotay's presence behind him, he stood suddenly and turned around, locking eyes with Voyager's acting captain. He walked towards him slowly and requested a meeting with him in private, asking that Tuvok also be present. Hiding his concern, Chakotay merely nodded and led the way to his office, contacting Tuvok on the way. Once they were all seated, Chakotay and Tuvok sat and listened as Alla spoke.

"I take it you have been unsuccessful in breaking through the 'storm' to contact your captain?" Chakotay merely nodded, not liking the way Alla said the word.

"I didn't think so. I believe you have your suspicions about this, Commander, and I must tell you that you are correct." Chakotay and Tuvok sat forward together. "It is not a real storm, but rather a generated phenomenon made to mimic an ion storm. Your sensors will eventually detect that but there is no way for any signal to penetrate it. It was removed temporarily until you passed through. The rest of the time, it is always there and that's why I needed to come with you."

Alla saw the look of fear and hate cross the face of the large man before him. "Just what the hell is going on?"

Alla held up a hand and spoke. "Please, let me explain everything to you then I'll answer any further questions you have." Chakotay exchanged a look with Tuvok who nodded in return. They both sat back a little and nodded for Alla to continue.

"First off, Pakar is my father. That much was the truth. It was my suggestion that I come with you while your captain stayed behind. My father actually trusts me even though he has little feeling for me, but he believes I think like he does, that I put power above anything else in life. That is his mistake." Alla stood and paced slowly.

"There are many people on my world who believe my father is wrong in his ways, people who desire a life where they can devote themselves to family, to simple and benign pleasures. They are sick of a military way of life. They also, like me, feel a deep disgust at the way the other races in this sector are treated by my father and his Council, although some members of that Council are against him now. My father underestimates the intelligence of these races in his space, simply seeing them as a means to extract revenue. He believes he controls them but he has no idea of how they really are." He stopped a moment and studied the men before him before continuing.

"Several years ago, there was a small attempted revolt which unfortunately came to nothing and was quickly put down. It managed one thing, however, and that was to plant the seeds for a desire to try again, to be better controlled and this time to succeed. It has taken all this time to organize what we now have planned." He saw the deep worry and fear on Chakotay's face, Tuvok showing nothing as usual and he pushed on with his story.

"I apologize for having used you but there was no other way. Your ship coming along when it did was extremely fortunate for us."

Chakotay made fists with his hands. "So glad we could be of service to you but what about our captain?"

Alla sat again. "Please, Commander, I know you are deeply worried about her but I'm sure she will be fine."

Chakotay was about to say more when Tuvok reached out a hand to his arm, stilling him. "Alla, you don't sound very certain of this. Just why did your father really want Captain Janeway to remain behind. I don't believe it was just for 'insurance' as he put it."

Alla shook his head. "No, it never is."

Chakotay pulled his arm away from Tuvok's hand.

"She isn't the first? Is that what you're saying? What did he want from her?" He could feel his emotions getting out of control and tried desperately to control them.

Alla sighed heavily. "I'm afraid she is not the first but hopefully she will be the last. My father, as you may be aware, is a scientist and a doctor, but most of his interests lie in the scientific field. He is fascinated by alien cultures. That is the real reason he wished your captain to remain behind. He wished to study her."

Chakotay jumped up. "Study her? How? What the hell is he doing to her?"

Alla bit down on his lip. "He runs tests and medical experiments. That kind of thing." He couldn't meet the eyes of the two men.

Chakotay grabbed him and swung him around in his chair before Tuvok pulled him back. "What tests? What medical experiments? What's he doing to her?"

Alla drew in a deep breath. "I don't know. I never wanted to see the labs."

Chakotay groaned and pulled away. Images of Kathryn in pain and fear rushed into his mind. "Oh sweet Spirits. Kathryn, you knew." He locked eyes with Tuvok and saw that the Vulcan was thinking the same. "She knew. She knew all along." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Tuvok, turn the ship around now and…"

Alla stood quickly and broke in. "Please listen to me. There is no way you can return like this."

Chakotay made a grab for the young alien. "Why didn't you warn us?"

Alla didn't struggle. "All this, your coming to our world and your captain staying, all of it was arranged before I know of it. There was nothing I could have done. It would have happened anyway. This way, we can put a stop to it."

Chakotay pulled at Alla but Tuvok got in the way. "Commander, let us hear what he has to say."

Chakotay let himself be held back and finally surrendered and sat again. "All right. Say your piece." He felt his hands balled tightly and his nails dig painfully into his palms but he ignored it as Alla composed himself.

The young alien man continued. "I have managed to get in contact with members of the other races in our space and we have been planning this for some time. I managed to get a message to them before we left, hiding under the sensor readings your ship gave. They are ready and so am I."

Tuvok regarded the young man carefully. "Ready for what exactly?"

Alla lowered his gaze a moment then looked back at Tuvok. "This time the revolt will be a success. We are now within full communications range of these people and they are waiting to hear from me. I do need your help though and you also need theirs and mine. It will take you almost a week to return the way you've come and you won't get past the 'storm' anyway without serious damage to your ship. I'm asking for your help and asking you to join us. That way, you can return with us."

Chakotay forced himself to think straight. "You've just said there's no way past the storm."

Alla nodded. "There is no way, not the way we came. However…" He looked at the two men before him in turn. "I have already spoken of the intelligence units of these races. There is a sub space corridor, well-guarded, which they have managed to protect over the years. I have no idea how they managed to find it or create it. My father and his Council are completely unaware of this. It was unable to be used before this because until now it was considered unsafe but now it is quite stable and may be used. Our ships, theirs and yours, could be through to Katan in twelve hours."

Chakotay forced his feelings down and tried to get his mind to work. "What happens when we get through this corridor? Your father is hardly going to just let you walk in and take over."

Alla shook his head. "There will be a fight but not much with so many behind us. My father possesses some ships with warp capability but mostly he has ruled by fear. He always ruled by controlling the races using that fear and also by trying to turn them against each other."

Tuvok nodded. "Divide and conquer."

Alla nodded his understanding. "An apt description." He shook his head. "For many years it worked until some of us saw what he was doing. It has taken us a long time to educate the ordinary person as to what was happening around them. Once that was achieved, they quickly saw the truth and followed us. They have built up fleets of ships and hidden them well. My father in his arrogance and belief that he was in control, never thought to look for anything like that. Look, at the end of all this, you have no choice. I apologize for how that sounds but you need me. I'm the only one who can get you back there in so short a time. When we arrive, I believe together we can quickly put down whatever fight my father puts up, especially with a ship like this behind us. After that, there should be no problem. We are a small population but most of them are on our side. Enough has happened. Now we want to live and live in peace."

Despite wanting to hate this young alien, Chakotay understood him only too well. He asked Alla to leave them a moment and spoke with Tuvok. "What do you think about all this? Do we really have a choice? We have to get back to the captain."

Tuvok nodded and Chakotay saw him actually fight his emotions. "You are the acting captain and I will follow you but even if you didn't want this, I truly believe I would go back anyway. I strongly suggest that you advise the crew of these events and let Alla contact his people. We take it from there."

Chakotay smiled softly, despite the situation. He knew what the crew's reaction would be. "All right. I'll make an announcement. Help Alla contact whoever he needs to." Tuvok nodded and made his way out.

Chakotay stared out at the stars for a moment and fought his tears. "Oh Kathryn, why do you always have to be so damned self-sacrificing? Why can't you ever talk to me?" Only silence answered him.

Within four hours they were on their way to the co-ordinates which Alla's comrades had provided Voyager with. On the viewscreen, Chakotay watched the flotilla of ships, all heading towards what they believed would be their freedom and independence. Chakotay had only one thing on his mind though, and that was Kathryn. His fear was almost corporeal and he found himself constantly looking towards her chair, which he'd refused to use from the first day. He silently whispered prayers to whoever was listening that she was all right.

Forcing his thoughts back to the matter at hand, Chakotay gave out orders to Tom as they approached the entrance to the corridor. He watched as the lead ships entered and listened as they reported back that everything was holding together. Slowly they manoeuvred in along with the other ships and set their course.

When Chakotay was satisfied that they were on a safe course, he handed the bridge over to Tom and sought a meeting with Tuvok and the Doctor. As he waited for them to arrive, he thought back over the past hours.

As soon as contact had been made with Alla'a people and Tuvok had satisfied himself that everything was on the level, Chakotay had made his announcement to the crew. He told them honestly why Kathryn had agreed to stay behind and what was now happening. He also informed them of what he now planned to do. Making the offer Alla'a people had proposed, he offered anyone who wanted it the chance to stay behind on one of the nearby planets until they returned, warning them that the task that lay ahead could be dangerous. Not one crewmember accepted the offer.

He and Tuvok had met with the other members of the Resistance Movement and Chakotay had liked them immediately. Their passion and dedication reminded him of the man he used to be, the one before Kathryn had entered his life and brought him peace. He was glad now they hadn't parted in anger and had managed to speak since. His fear told him now that he might not find what he wished for most when they returned.

The arrival of Tuvok and the Doctor summoned him out of his thoughts and he called for them to enter. As soon as they sat, he voiced his main concerns.

"I'm fairly sure we can overcome whatever fight Pakar puts up. These people certainly seem sure and we also have the element of surprise on our side. That can be a strong weapon." Both men nodded agreement with him.

"My main concern now is the captain. Alla knows little of what his father does, the medical experiments and tests he runs." He paused and drew in a deep breath. "Look Doc, we don't know what we're going to find. She could be fine, hurt a little or be in a bad way. I don't even want to consider anything else. From what Alla has said, he's never heard of anyone dying under this." He stood up quickly and turned away from them, regaining some control. "Doc, I just want you ready for anything." He turned back and saw the Doctor nod solemnly. "Right, let's prepare."

As they turned to leave, Chakotay called Tuvok back. Once they were alone, Chakotay sat behind his desk and motioned for Tuvok to sit again. "Tell me I'm wrong, Tuvok, but I think Kathryn knew about this, at least to some extent. I feel you believe that also."

Tuvok nodded. "I suspected there was indeed something more to the matter than what she informed us of. I tend to believe that Pakar made his proposal, probably only telling her part of his plans when he was alone with her. Knowing the captain, she decided she would take his offer so we could pass through in the shortest time. I know she still feels a lot of guilt over the Caretaker situation. I believe she couldn't bring herself to ask the crew to do this. Her greatest mistake is believing that this crew blame her in some way. She constantly lives with guilt and the belief that she can always go it alone. I believe she is wrong on both counts."

Chakotay leaned over his desk and splayed his hands out flat in front of him. "I just felt all along that she was holding something back. Why can't she ever trust us or talk to us? Why does she always have to take it all on her own shoulders?"

Tuvok interrupted. "It is her way and always has been. She needs someone to take control of her for a change." Chakotay looked up at the Vulcan before him and saw the faint edges of a smile. He knew it was the closest Tuvok had ever come to telling him that he approved of a relationship between his commanding officers.

Chakotay managed a faint smile. "You think I should do that?"

Tuvok stood and looked down at Chakotay. "When we get her back, I would strongly suggest you do that." He turned immediately and left, leaving a bemused but very worried Chakotay in his wake.

Kathryn fought her fatigue and pain as she was escorted to the labs where Pakar awaited her. Her mind was still reeling from the mental trauma which had been inflicted upon it and from her assault of the night before. The two guards left immediately, leaving her alone with the alien scientist.

"Good morning, Captain. I trust you slept well." He was serious, no trace of concern or sarcasm in his voice. Kathryn just stared at him, trying to block out the memories of the night before and his attack on her. She looked around and saw that his assistants were yet to appear and was surprised as they were always with him when she arrived. She turned back to Pakar when she saw him move towards her and she backed off a little.

"Oh, come on now, Captain. Stop playing these games with me. You disappointed me greatly last night. I understood I had your full cooperation."

Kathryn stared hard at him. "I'm here because you left me no choice and blackmailed me and threatened my ship and crew. You told me you wanted to do some blood tests and ask about my people. You said nothing about the experiments and cruelty you have subjected me to since I got here. You certainly said nothing about rape." Saying the word stopped her and she fought her tears.

Pakar just laughed. "Captain, you really are overly dramatic. How you manage to run that ship of yours is beyond me. Last night you failed to cooperate with me fully. Today shall be a different matter. You will obey me or your ship goes down and you know I can do that. Now do we understand each other? All I need do is give the order." He saw the pained acceptance on her face, that she knew he held all the cards and that she was helpless. "Good. Now I know you weren't able to speak with your friends recently and today will be no different but I can tell you, they are safe." He continued laughing.

"Have you any intention of returning me to them?" Kathryn choked on her own voice.

Pakar looked at her with an amused look on his face. "Of course I have. What would I do with you after my work is finished? I'd only have to feed you. That or have someone bury your dead body somewhere." He laughed at the terrified look on the face of the woman before him. "Oh relax, Captain. Don't you recognize humour when your hear it?" He shook his head when Kathryn just stared at him and he grew serious again, bored with the conversation. He waved his hand towards a table.

"Now Captain, before my colleagues arrive, please let us get this right. Let's see if you can cooperate properly this time." Kathryn still stared at him, not understanding him at first. He shook his head. "Captain, please wake up and concentrate. You failed last night and now I give you a chance to get it right. Now lean over the table."

Horror showed on Kathryn's face. "You said…once only…"

Pakar started to show his anger. "Are we going to have a repeat of last night? You failed then, now get it right. You gave me nothing. I had to take it." Kathryn saw the steel in his eyes and something inside her crumbled and her internal barriers crashed down. She found herself walking slowly towards the table and standing against it with her back to him, a feeling of total defeat washing over her. At that moment, as she felt his hands on her and he pushed her down, she just gave in and didn't fight him as she tried to shut her mind off. She tried thinking of places she'd visited, people she'd known, anything to take her out of this room, to stop her being aware of his hands pulling at her robe, prodding and feeling her, kicking her legs apart, the renewed pain of him pushing into her, his weight on her, forcing her down on the hard table and his grunts in her ear as he thrust painfully in and out before collapsing on top of her. She tried to shut it all out but failed.

Pakar pulled her up and pushed her towards a small cubicle. He threw a small white gown at her and a towel. "Get washed up and hurry back. I don't want to delay my work anymore." As she turned to walk away from him, pain shooting up through her, she saw him fix his clothing then write in his journal, making notes on the torture he'd just inflicted on her. Kathryn's body simply went into autopilot and she went to the shower and washed, once more letting the hot water try to sooth her pain. As she leaned against the wall, she looked down at her body, still scarred from his experiments. She studied the bruises which marred her body and the sores and blisters which had erupted on her skin, some open and weeping. She forced down the nausea which lived with her all the time now and tried to force her mind to think only of the feel of the water. Once more she failed. Even her tears deserted her.

Chakotay sat on the bridge and listened to the reports from the other ships as they travelled through the corridor. Everything was holding steady and scans gave no indication that anything would change. Chakotay watched the crew around him, all of them with the same urgent agenda, to get their captain back as quickly as possible. The Doctor reported to him that he was well prepared for anything and Chakotay thanked him. He exchanged many glances with Tuvok, each of them praying in their own way that they wouldn't be too late.

He listened to the reports coming in from all over Voyager as each section ran simulations and drills, preparing for any eventuality. Each report showed they were more than ready. 'You prepared us and trained us well, Kathryn. You just never thought it would be for yourself'. Chakotay shut his thoughts off and concentrated, needing the distance if he was going to be any use now.

When Kathryn emerged from the shower, she saw that Pakar had been joined by his assistants. He was still writing in his journal but looked up when she moved into the room. "You know the drill, Captain. Drop the gown and up on the table." He constantly humiliated her and she heard the assistants snigger. Knowing it was best to obey and also that she'd no choice, Kathryn did as instructed. As she climbed up on the table, she noticed it was different this time, with attachments out to the side and more straps than usual in evidence. There was also what looked like a vice attached to the top of the table, alongside an almost identical helmet type device to the one he'd already used on her. She looked up fearfully as Pakar approached. "Well, lie down. I haven't got all day."

He shook his head and pushed her down when she continued to stare at him. Kathryn started to struggle out of instinct as her fear consumed her but the two assistants held her down as Pakar pressed a hypo to her neck. Within seconds all her struggle was taken from her and she felt her body go limp, unable to move and her eyes closed, despite her efforts to keep them open.

Kathryn felt their hands on her as they moved her into position on the table. She tried lifting or moving her head and opening her eyes but her body wouldn't obey the commands of her mind. She felt her legs being pulled down and then apart before straps tightened at her ankles knees and thighs. She felt another strap pulled tightly across her hips and then her upper and lower chest. She tried to speak, to beg her tormentors not to do this but her mouth refused to work and her pleas stayed in her mind.

Next her arms were pulled out to her sides onto the table's attachments and then upwards a little and more straps were placed around her upper and lower arms and wrists, her hands facing upwards. Soft moans were the only sounds she managed but these were ignored. She struggled again to open her eyes and just managed to make out Pakar's face as he placed her head into the vice, tightening it around her forehead just above her temples. He then pulled the helmet down and the sharp needles pressed into her skull and she tried to cry out as they dug into her scalp although not as deeply as before. Her head was then tilted back slightly and another strap was pulled under her chin, pulling backwards. Kathryn now felt the table being moved and tried to pull against the restraints or cry out, but her body refused to cooperate with her mind.

Kathryn tried desperately to fight the fear that consumed her. She could hear Pakar and his two assistants talking quietly and then the lights dimmed slightly, barely discernable behind her closed eyelids. Without warning Kathryn felt their hands on her body, prodding and probing and she heard them discuss her as if she were simply an experiment, not even there. Another hypo was pressed to her neck and she felt it work immediately. What small movement or sensation she'd had disappeared now and she felt herself paralysed, only her heart and lungs working, but even breathing was somewhat difficult. Some part of her mind knew that strapping her down as they had, had been a way to torture her psychologically, to make her feel even more helpless. They knew she was unable to move with the drugs they'd given her but the straps added an extra element of fear. She felt the needles in her head and knew that even they couldn't stimulate her mind to feel the terrifying emotions she was now suffering, more than the way what was happening to her could.

Over the next hour or so, Kathryn knew nothing but pure agony as Pakar and the others worked over her. She silently screamed as needles and probes were inserted into her body. She felt long needles press painfully into the soles of her feet and into the veins in her ankles and legs. More needles were pressed into her wrists and arms, even the backs of her hands. She felt monitors being attached all over her body and the hands, cold hands always touching and pinching. Another scream sounded in her mind as she became aware of two cold metallic probes entering her below, one into her vagina and one into her anus, some kind of tendrils working their way up into her body from them, attaching themselves to her internal organs. She felt something else attach itself to her feminine lips and clitoris and she became aware that tears were escaping her closed eyes. She knew now that most of what Pakar was doing to her was about his own sadistic pleasures and nothing to do with medical study. He was enjoying the torture he was inflicting on her and the power it gave him.

As the pain washed over her, Kathryn thought she'd lose her mind and still they weren't done with her. Sharp pains ripped through her breasts as something was attached there and then another needle at the base of her throat. Within minutes, two more needles pressed deeply into her ears and two into her temples. Kathryn's screams of agony sounded deafeningly in her own head but escaped only as moans. Suddenly her eyelids were pulled open and they sprayed more drops into her eyes, causing her vision to blur instantly. She was unable to keep her eyes open to even try and blink away the fluid and felt it burning behind her eyelids. She felt cold liquid entering her veins through the numerous tubes she knew had been attached to her and waves of dizziness and nausea washed over her. She became aware of more tubes entering her from below now, being pushed in and suddenly felt a rush of fluid fill her and severe cramps grip her and then she felt her bladder and bowels empty themselves, even though she knew there was little there and despite all her pain, a wave of embarrassment and shame washed over her at the indignity of it all as she vaguely heard Pakar order one of his assistants to clean her up and insert a catheter to avoid any more accidents.

Another hypo pressed to her neck, leaving her unable to breath but within seconds, a tube was being forced down her throat, Kathryn helpless to fight it and then it was breathing for her. Other tubes were pushed into her nose down into her stomach, Pakar's voice telling his assistants that at least she wouldn't starve now.

After some moments of silence, Kathryn again felt hands on her body and then suddenly a blanket of white, hot agony fell over her as she felt something rip down the length of her body. She heard Pakar's voice through the haze of pain, telling his assistants to pull open the wound and she knew they'd cut her open. She was vaguely aware of hands inside her, feeling their way around but her mind had passed the point of awareness, recognizing only her suffering now. As the torment went on, no choice but to endure it, the voice of one of the assistants drifted to her, something about closing the wound and Pakar telling them not to be too fussy.

Time passed as Kathryn's mind drifted closer to insanity and suddenly she was aware that the voices had gone. All she knew was the white, hot agony that washed over and through her and the sickness that filled her. Her only sensations were the liquids entering her body, the cold feel and pain of the probes and needles and the machine breathing for her. She was now totally paralysed, leaving only her mind aware of anything as she felt herself almost detach from her own body. She barely felt its presence now yet the pain was always there. She prayed for death or at least some form of oblivion but it was denied her. Her mind spiralled towards madness as the torture continued.

Chakotay sat up when the voices came from the other ships that they were approaching the end of the corridor. The bridge became a hive of activity and the lights lowered for red alert. Within minutes they burst out into orbit of Katan and in no time, Pakar's ships were headed towards them.

Chakotay knew only the battle then as Voyager and the other ships fought against the enemy before them. He'd no idea how long or short a time it took but suddenly he was aware of cheers ringing out around him, from Voyager's crew and from the other ships. He became aware of Tuvok's voice reporting minimal damage and only minor injuries, no fatalities reported on any of the ships.

Chakotay let out the breath he found he'd been holding. "Report. Is everything secure?" Tuvok informed him it was. "Hail the lead ship. Get me Alla." Kim's fingers flew over his console and within seconds the young alien's voice filled Voyager's bridge.

"Commander Chakotay, thank you. We have victory. I've already sent down landing parties and we've almost taken the Government residence. I'll report back to you or you can join us."

Hearing his rank and name together brought Kathryn's face to his mind. He was already on his way to the turbolift. "I'll join you now. Tom, B'Elanna, Doctor, meet me in transporter room one now. Tuvok, you have the bridge." He was gone before any answer reached his ears.

When they beamed down, the last of the fighting was just over. Chakotay saw Pakar and two others being hauled out of a doorway, along with the Council members who'd remained loyal to him, their hands secured behind their backs. Chakotay made a leap for the alien leader's throat. "Where is she? What have you done to her?" He felt Tom and B'Elanna pulling him off. He saw the fear on the face of the leader and knew the look of a true coward when he saw one. Without his guards around him, the arrogance had long since departed.

Chakotay felt Alla touch his arm. "I know where the labs are."

Pakar looked at his son. "Traitor." He spat at his son but missed.

Alla simply smiled. "Father, at least my soul will have peace in eternity." Without a second look, he walked away, leading the way towards the main building as the cheers and shouts of victory rang out around the city.

The Doctor followed as Alla led Chakotay and the others through long passages before they finally reached two heavy wooden doors. Alla pushed them open easily and entered first. He stopped dead for a moment and Chakotay and the others walked into him before their eyes followed where he was looking. Chakotay cried out at the sight before him. Several medical tables filled the room, each occupied by some poor alien soul attached to monitors and other machines. Chakotay frantically searched the room for any sign of Kathryn, torn between wanting to find her here and not, praying that she was safe somewhere from this evil.

Chakotay saw Alla opening a side door and when the young man turned back to him, he knew immediately that they'd found Kathryn, the pain and horror on the face of the alien telling him what he didn't want to know. In seconds he was across the room, pushing past Alla and then he actually screamed out.

Kathryn lay on the cold metallic medical table, her body covered with wires, tubes and needles, the probes still in place. He thought for a moment that she was already dead until he saw the small rise and fall of her chest but then realized that the air was being pumped into her body. His hands covered his mouth to stop the bile he felt coming up his throat as he took in the crude surgical wound running down the length of her torso and the erupted sores and blisters on her skin along with the massive bruising. He managed to reach out a hand and call her name softly before the Doctor was pushing him back.

"Oh sweet Spirits, oh please no…" He felt B'Elanna holding him but all he saw was Kathryn's naked and abused body. "Cover her. Please…just…" He saw B'Elanna reach for a sheet and drape it across her captain's unmoving form but not before he saw the probes pushed deeply into her body. B'Elanna was back holding him, supporting him and stopping him from falling. His eyes took in the frantic movements of Tom and the Doctor as they scanned her.

"Get them off her. Get them out of her." He hadn't realized he'd spoken until he heard his own voice.

The Doctor stood before him now. "Commander, we'll have to transport her with all this still attached. I can't just pull these things off. It would kill her. I can't even begin to know what these drugs and substances are. They could be killing her or keeping her alive. I can't take any chances. She's…" He tried to soften his words. "Commander, she's been paralysed with some drug. She's unable to breath for herself without all this."

Chakotay groaned and leaned more into B'Elanna. "Oh Spirits, she must have been in agony. Look what they've done to her."

His voice was rising and suddenly the Doctor pulled him back. "Commander, please. Keep your voice down."

Chakotay stared at the medic. "She can't hear me. Thank the Spirits she's unconscious. She'd be in agony. Just get them off her. Look at her."

The Doctor gripped his arm tightly, hating what his next words would do to the man in front of him but needing to say it. "Commander, shut up." Chakotay stared back at him, confused. "Commander, I'm sorry to have to tell you and there's no easy way to say this."

Chakotay felt himself grow weaker. "What? What?" He sagged against B'Elanna.

The Doctor held his eyes. "Commander, she's been paralysed but… I'm sorry but she's still conscious."


Chakotay was only vaguely aware of the transport back to Voyager's sickbay. He became conscious of the Doctor sitting him down at the top of the medical table Kathryn lay on and being told to keep talking to her, reassuring her. He sat for the next hour and stroked her hair, once the Doctor had managed to stop the flow of drugs into her body and remove the vice from her head, horrified to see that there were needles embedded in her skull from the helmet. Chakotay quietly whispered to her as his eyes watched the Doctor and Tom slowly try to remove the other needles and probes. Chakotay had asked if Tuvok could mind meld with Kathryn in order to relieve her pain in any way, but the Doctor was reluctant to try it in case it caused more harm to what he believed would be her already fragile mental state. Instead he urged Chakotay to keep doing as he was.

Giving Kathryn a short break from their efforts, the Doctor and Tom moved away and Chakotay followed them across the room, letting B'Elanna take his place for a moment. "Can't you give her anything for the pain or even sedate her?"

The Doctor shook his head. "There are too many drugs in her system already. Don't you think I'd give her something to ease this if I could?"

Chakotay saw the raw pain on the face of the hologram and nodded. "I'm sorry. I just feel as if I'm going mad. To even think what she must be…"

Tom gripped his arm. "Chakotay, hold it together. She needs you." Chakotay tearfully nodded and returned to take his place beside Kathryn. The Doctor and Tom exchanged pained and knowing looks.

Just as they were about to resume, Tuvok entered sickbay, holding what appeared to be a journal. Chakotay saw immediately that the Vulcan's face showed barely controlled anger and disgust. He let his eyes drop to the book he carried before Tuvok approached him and the Doctor. "We found this. It appears to be comprehensive notes of all his. Everything done to the captain is catalogued." Tuvok said no more and the Doctor nodded and took the journal.

Chakotay felt a surge of rage wash over him, unlike anything he'd ever known. "Where is that bastard now?"

Tuvok drew in a deep breath, fighting for control. "Dead." He said the word with satisfaction in his voice and showed no shame in it. "They have a practice here of… It appears to be a space form of keelhauling. They beamed him into space and dragged him along behind their ship." Chakotay's eyes widened but his hatred for the alien consumed any disgust or pity he might ever have felt. Tuvok stared deeply at his commander. "I evoked the Prime Directive and didn't interfere with them. I believe the others were treated in a similar manner, including the two assistants." Chakotay barely managed a small smile, revenge and the need for it driving it. He watched as Tuvok's eyes were drawn to his Captain before he gently placed a hand on her shoulder. With that, he turned and walked from the room.

Over the next two hours, the Doctor and Tom worked steadily, reading from the notes they had which had been scanned and translated by the computer. Their anger grew with each word. Chakotay forced the scenes from his mind and concentrated on whispering whatever comfort he could to Kathryn. He tried desperately to control his raging emotions, knowing she needed his calm reassurance more than anything. Finally, most of the needles and probes had been removed and the Doctor motioned for Chakotay to come to his office, leaving Tom to comfort their patient.

Once inside his office, the Doctor took a moment to compose himself before speaking to Chakotay. "There are still the probes…" Chakotay knew where he meant. "They are attached to her internal organs. I can't remove them without surgery and there's no way I can inflict that pain on her as she is." Chakotay sank into a chair, his jaw almost breaking as he ground his teeth together. "I'll have to wait a little longer until the drugs are out of her system before I can sedate her for surgery to remove them." He moved around his desk and sat. "I've had to leave the tube down her throat also. She still can't breathe for herself until the paralysis wears off. I can't even give her a painkiller." The Doctor closed his eyes as Chakotay fought the pain that ripped through him.

"She's in agony, isn't she?" Chakotay knew he was torturing himself. The Doctor opened his eyes and merely nodded. "Even her vocal chords are… She can't…" He stood quickly and turned away. "How much longer?" He finally turned back to the Doctor and saw the desperation on the face before him.

"At least another two hours."

Chakotay covered his face with his hands. "She can't take that. There's no way…"

The Doctor stood slowly. "Commander, I don't believe at this stage that… The mind has ways of closing down almost to protect itself. Her body will feel the pain but I believe her mind… I believe she's probably catatonic at this stage. There's no way she could endure…" He stopped and looked sadly at Chakotay.

"You're saying her mind has descended into some sort of…"

The Doctor nodded. "Just keep talking to her. Whatever you can do." Chakotay just nodded and left the office. Tom looked up as he approached and stood up, letting Chakotay take his place. He said nothing, just gripped the shoulder of the larger man, a small smile of reassurance all he was capable of.

Chakotay sat talking and whispering to Kathryn for the next two hours, unaware of what he was saying most of the time. He suddenly looked up and saw the Doctor scanning Kathryn before nodding and pressing a hypo to her neck. "I can take her into surgery now."

They were interrupted by Kathryn suddenly choking, her body tensing. Chakotay jumped back and let the Doctor take his place. "Tom, get in here now. She's trying to breath for herself. Help me get this tube out." Chakotay watched horrified as they struggled to remove the tube as Kathryn continued to fight it, gagging on the obstruction. Within minutes, the tube was removed and Kathryn's body spasmed as she vomited.

"Hurry. Get her on her side and get me some suction before she chokes." Tom worked quickly and Chakotay watched as they cleared her airway and then heard her draw ragged breaths into her body, struggling to get air into her straining lungs. Eventually she seemed to breathe a little easier and Chakotay relaxed a little. She still appeared unconscious but small, heart breaking moans and cries came from her. Chakotay moved to Kathryn immediately, taking up where he'd left off, talking quietly to her as the Doctor and Tom prepared her for surgery.

The Doctor pressed two more hypos to Kathryn's neck and then she was quiet. "That's a strong painkiller and sedative. I need to take her in now. This is a good sign, the paralysis wearing off and breathing for herself."

Chakotay nodded and stood back, pressing a kiss to Kathryn's head first. "It's going to be all right now. I love you, Kathryn." He knew she couldn't hear him but he needed to say the words.

Sometime later, Chakotay became aware of the Doctor standing before him. He looked up with eyes that were red and bloodshot, not needing to speak.

The Doctor smiled slowly. "We got them all out. They were deeply attached to her internal organs. I had to go in through the wound. I also removed… There were other tubes, a catheter and I believe to flush her out or something." He stopped and sat on the edge of his desk and sighed deeply. "The wound from their surgery… Nothing was removed or altered. It looks as if it was just exploratory." He didn't try and hide the anger he felt.

"And she would have been conscious for that, unable to move?" Chakotay let his tears fall and fought to control himself. "Will she be all right? Will…?" His eyes pleaded with the medic.

The Doctor nodded slowly. "Physically she will recover completely. I've removed the scar and her body is clean of all the drugs now. The sores and blisters, the rashes, where he tested, I believe… I've healed those. I'm also taking care of her nutritional needs which were badly neglected and I'm pumping her with fluids to offset the dehydration she suffered and to try and counteract shock. There won't be any side effects from the drugs. I've made sure of that although much longer and…" He hesitated a moment before continuing. "Commander, emotionally I can't say. Everything done was catalogued and…"

Chakotay closed his eyes and nodded as the Doctor told him everything. "The needles which were embedded in her head. They weren't the first. These were simply to… I don't know. Most of it…" Chakotay watched the hologram battle emotions he'd never been programmed with. "Most of this was totally unnecessary. There was nothing medical about it. It was pure torture." He stopped a moment, knowing his commander didn't need any more pain but he had to know. "This was done before, the needles in her scalp. There are many puncture wounds there, apart from the latest. The others I believe penetrated her skull, were used to stimulate her brain and incur reactions, emotions, images. It was crude and ancient." He stopped again. "Commander, I'm sorry. You shouldn't hear this."

Chakotay blinked back tears. "I need to know what she suffered to help her later."

The Doctor nodded his understanding. "This second vice was used merely to hold her head and cause pain. None of it, the straps or needles, none of it necessary. Most of these so-called experiments were about inflicting pain and fear, to feed his sadistic…" The Doctor stopped again to control himself. "He wrote it all down, every small detail, everything he did, like he was observing something not alive and feeling." The Doctor actually punched the door as Chakotay dropped his head and let his tears fall.

Finally, he controlled himself. "Where is it?" Chakotay looked up now and drew in a deep breath and saw the Doctor frown. "The journal." He saw the medic about to object but cut him off. "Doctor, I need to know what I'm dealing with here. When you've done your bit, I take over but I can't work in the dark. Believe me, the last thing I want to know about is what happened but I need to."

The Doctor laid a hand on his arm and nodded his understanding. "I understand, Commander, but who will be there to help you afterwards?" They stared at each other for a few minutes.

Finally, Chakotay stood. "Getting her back is all I need." He stood and waited.

The Doctor handed him the journal. "The translation Tuvok obtained is attached."

Checking on Kathryn first, Chakotay kissed her face gently then left sickbay with the evidence of her torture. He made his way to the holodeck and programmed in a grey room, no furniture or anything that would ever remind him of this time, just grey walls, floor and ceiling. He sat on the floor, his back to one of the walls and opened the pages then began to read, willing himself to shut down until the words had been gone through.

An hour and a half later, Chakotay flung the journal across the faceless room and gave in to his tears. His body was racked with sobs and he howled out his pain to the empty space. Images assaulted his mind of what Kathryn had endured at the hands of Pakar and his assistants and an emotional agony consumed him, manifesting itself as almost physical. He hugged himself and rocked slightly, words tumbling from him.

"Oh Spirits, Kathryn, why did you go? Why didn't you just tell me? How did you survive that?" He sat for some time and then stood, knowing he had to get out of this room and desperately needing to be with Kathryn again. He picked up the journal and stared at it a moment, the words imprinted in his mind, their coldness almost penetrating through the cover into his skin. Pakar had written his notes in such a calculating way, no sense that what he'd been describing had been a living, sentient and feeling women, merely an object to be tested.

"Bastard. I hope it was agony for you at the end. I hope you're burning or rotting somewhere." Without looking back, Chakotay left the holodeck, deleting the program for all time.

Chakotay sat with Kathryn for the rest of the day, just holding her hand and whispering to her. He saw the weight she'd lost in her time away, her face gaunt but her body now free of all visible evidence of what she'd been through. He listened to her even breathing and prayed that somewhere, her mind was at peace in some way. He looked up as the Doctor approached and sat back to let him examine Kathryn.

When he was finished, the Doctor spoke. "She's doing very well. Her breathing is back to normal."

Chakotay nodded and sat back beside the biobed taking Kathryn's hand again. "I take it you took care of… Made sure there wouldn't be…" Chakotay looked up at the Doctor, unwilling to say the words.

The medic nodded, knowing what he was alluding to. "She won't be pregnant. I took care of all that. There was considerable tearing, from that and the probes, but I've healed that." Chakotay swallowed the anger he felt rising again. He looked up when the Doctor made no move to leave. "Commander, we do have one other problem." Chakotay closed his eyes a moment. "I know you read…"

Chakotay opened his eyes and stared at the Doctor. "What else?"

The Doctor hesitated then spoke. "You know he used something in her eyes." Chakotay felt a stab of fear go through him. "The substance… It burned… Her retinas were damaged and I've healed what I can but…"

Chakotay felt his grip on Kathryn's hand tighten and forced his hand to relax a little. "What are you saying?"

The Doctor looked away a moment then met Chakotay's eyes. "I believe her sight… I believe she's blind but I won't know for sure until she wakes. I've flushed her eyes out but… If she is, I can't say if this will be temporary or…"

Chakotay stared at the Doctor a moment longer then dropped his head. "Oh Spirits, how much more." It wasn't a question. He felt the Doctor's hand on his shoulder.

"Commander, it's better we just wait and see. I just wanted you to be prepared. She'll panic when she can't see." Chakotay drew in a ragged breath and nodded then resumed his vigil as the Doctor left.

Sometime later, Tuvok reported to him that all was peaceful on the planet and that they were underway, Alla's people escorting them back through the subspace corridor to save time, even though the fake storm was no longer in existence. Chakotay merely nodded then filled Tuvok in on Kathryn's condition.

"Captain Janeway is a strong woman. We all know that. She also has many friends onboard. I believe she will beat this." Chakotay managed a small smile, praying that the Vulcan would be proved right.

Kathryn remained unconscious for another day while Voyager emerged from the corridor and continued on its way. Chakotay left sickbay only long enough to thank Alla and his fellow freedom fighters. He accepted the escort they offered for the remainder of their journey through their space, knowing Alla needed to know that Kathryn would recover. He allowed the young alien to see their captain for himself and watched the play of emotions cross his face. "She's very beautiful. When I last saw her…" His voice trailed off.

Chakotay moved over beside him. "She is beautiful. Alla, again I thank you for all you've done. Please, I don't ever want you to feel any of this was… Well, you know. He was still your father."

Alla turned quickly, anger on his face. "Commander, that was merely a biological accident. That is not the meaning of the word 'father'. A stranger has shown me more. You, just now, forgiving me, that is more the act of a father than anything I have ever known." Chakotay felt himself choke up and just nodded. "Commander?" Chakotay nodded and cleared his throat.

"Commander, you love her, yes?"

Chakotay didn't deny it for a moment. "Yes, Alla, I love her. I love her with everything that I am."

The alien smiled softly. "I'm glad. She'll be well looked after then. You'll take good care of her and get her back."

Chakotay nodded. "She has us all here, her family. We'll all take care of her. I'll always be here for her." Alla surprised Chakotay by embracing him then he turned and left.

Kathryn regained consciousness the next evening and Chakotay and the Doctor were at her side. They spoke quietly to her but received no reaction from Kathryn. Chakotay watched fearfully as the Doctor waved a hand in front of her eyes but she didn't even blink. "I can't tell, Commander. Just give her time. Her mind needs time to sort through everything that has happened. It will take time for her to accept and deal with this. Her senses are still in shock. Just continue as you have been." Chakotay nodded and took his place again, beside the woman he loved.

Over the next week, as they finally cleared what had been Katani space, Kathryn showed no response to anything around her. Chakotay rarely left her side and when he did, someone else always took his place, constantly talking to Kathryn and touching her gently. When she was awake, she'd simply stare unseeing at the ceiling before her eyes would close again and she'd sleep.

Tom and the Doctor worked tirelessly with Chakotay as they tried to constantly stimulate her senses and get some reaction from the unmoving woman before them. At the end of the second week, their efforts were rewarded with small movements and sounds and within another few days, Kathryn slowly started to re-emerge.

At first, she would simply tighten her hand around Chakotay's when he spoke with her but he worried that she never looked towards him. Finally, he forced the issue and held her face gently as he looked deep into her eyes. Within a few minutes, a few tears escaped her eyes and her hand came up to his face, feeling the contours there. Her eyes appeared unfocused and Chakotay knew in that moment that she couldn't see him. He looked up and saw the Doctor standing beside him, having witnessed everything.

"Kathryn, love, your eyes were damaged a little, but you'll be fine. Just let me be your eyes for a little while." He prayed that she could understand him and pulled her to him as she suddenly sobbed loudly. "All right, love, you'll be all right. I'm here." He held her and rocked her like a baby as suddenly it all came out at the same time and her small body shook with emotion and deep, racking sobs tore through her. Chakotay just held her tightly until she grew calmer but still she didn't speak. Eventually exhaustion won over her and he lowered her limp form back down onto the bed, only the occasional sob coming from her now. "Kathryn, you'll be all right. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. It's all over now and you're back on Voyager." He thought he detected an understanding from her as she slipped off to sleep.

He looked up and saw the face of the Doctor watching him. "You can't promise that, Commander."

Chakotay cut him off. "It's what she needs to hear now, Doc. She can't handle anything else."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow slightly. "Perhaps you're right."

Over the next week, Kathryn slowly took more steps back to Chakotay and the others. She uttered small words but her entire demeanour was meek as he helped wash and feed her, guiding the food gently to her lips, constantly talking to her and letting her know what was happening around her. He did nothing before telling her first in case it frightened her. As he prepared to feed her breakfast one morning, he turned to find her looking right at him and he stopped dead.

"Kathryn?" He put down the tray he carried and moved closer to her. "Kathryn, what is it?" He held his breath and leaned down to her.

Her hand came up to his face as her eyes flickered over his features. "Blurred…fuzzy…"

Chakotay exhaled and called the Doctor, who examined her closely. Finally, he returned to his office where Chakotay waited, a small smile on his face. "Well, this has given me a lot more hope. She can make out light and shade along with basic shapes although the images are blurred. I believe though that given time and rest her sight will return."

Chakotay slumped in his chair, relief washing over him. Thanking the Doctor, he returned to Kathryn to feed her.

As the days passed, Kathryn's sight slowly came back. The Doctor let her return to her quarters and Tuvok took over running the ship while Chakotay continued to tend Kathryn. She rarely spoke but she allowed him to help her with everything. Within a further week, her sight was fully restored and with it, Chakotay saw the ghosts which dwelled within her eyes.

A further week on and with Katani space well behind them, Kathryn was physically back to what she had been. She'd gained back the weight she'd lost and spoke with Chakotay now about day to day things and the running of the ship but never made mention of what she'd been through. He knew she'd accessed the ships logs on all that had happened but again she didn't speak of it to him and for the moment, he was loath to bring the subject up with her until he felt she was ready to handle it.

She grew angry when the Doctor refused her permission to return to duty and Chakotay bore the force of her temper that evening when he called by. "Kathryn, he's just doing his job. You're not ready to return to duty yet and you know it."

She turned angrily on him. "I'm perfectly fit and able to return to duty. I have a clean bill of health."

Chakotay crossed quickly to her. "Kathryn, you're physically fit and able but you know as well as I do that you're not…" She turned away from him quickly but he pulled her back to him. "Kathryn, I'm not going to let you do this. You have to face what happened. You can't hide from it. You always deny…"

She pulled herself from his grasp and tears sprang to her eyes. "I know damn well what happened. I don't need to be reminded." She backed away and stumbled as her legs hit against the coffee table and he jumped forward to catch her. To his shock, she cried out and tried to break away from his hold.

"Kathryn, you're all right. You're safe." Suddenly the dam which had housed her emotions broke and the deluge poured forth. Kathryn collapsed in his arms as she cried and screamed out all her pain and anger, her fear and terror, her small fists pounding off his chest. Chakotay did the only thing he could and held her tightly to him until the storm passed. Half an hour later, he held her trembling form in his arms as she finally opened up to him.

Chakotay continued holding Kathryn to him for the rest of the night as she poured out her feelings and opened up to him in a way she never had before. "The pain. I've never known such pain before but feeling so trapped and helpless, being so afraid for all of you, that was the hardest." He stroked her back and stayed silent.

"At the end, after he'd…" She looked up at him briefly. "You know it all don't you?" He merely nodded and saw her acceptance. He watched as she battled her embarrassment and shame, emotions he knew she should never feel but would. Finally she continued.

"After that, I fought him, the first real struggle I put up and then I couldn't move and everything was inside my head. I couldn't beg them to stop, couldn't see, only feel what they did, their hands and the pain, the humiliation. I had no control, only inside my own head and I tried to fight it there but… I could hear my own screams in my head and then I remember him opening my eyes and then burning when he put the drops in. I saw his face, dead looking. I was nothing to him, even when he…before… I was nothing. He was taking something so previous from me and it was nothing to him."

She broke down again and he held her, rocking her, soothing her. "Just let it all out, Kathryn. He can't ever hurt you again." He continued to rock her until she was ready to go on.

"I remember it all. Before…imagers or something down my throat, everywhere, and I thought I'd choke and I was so ashamed and humiliated all the time. I think he enjoyed that and when…the cramps and I felt my body let go and despite the pain, I felt such shame." She paused to catch her breath. "They just went on and on. The pain. I felt everything and then I couldn't breath and they were pushing something down my throat and I could breathe again and those probes, in me." He gripped her tighter. "When he cut me… Oh God. I could feel something inside almost, moving inside. It was their hands in me and I felt I'd go mad and maybe I did. The pain was still there but I seemed to leave or something, in my mind. Then there was silence but still waves of pain and I felt so alone but then I heard you, your voice, others I knew as if from far away. Not the words, just the voices and I didn't know what was real anymore. After that, there was just the pain and your voice but it's more like a dream but you were there and I felt hope for the first time. I wanted to call you but I couldn't. I heard you though. I knew you were there."

Chakotay rubbed up and down her back. "I'm always there for you."

That caused a fresh wave of tears. "You are, aren't you? You're always there for me."

He stroked her hair. "You know I am."

She wiped angrily at her tears. "And all I do is push you away and treat you as bad as he…"

He pulled her back to him. "Kathryn, don't do this to yourself. Please don't." Kathryn was beyond comfort now as she berated herself, needing to feel some punishment for crimes she'd never committed.

She pulled herself away from him and stood shakily. "No, I do. I hurt you all the time and still you're there. I deserved that pain after the pain I caused you."

Chakotay jumped up, his own anger showing now. "Don't ever let me hear you speak words like that again." She heard the threat in his voice and backed down. "What he did… Kathryn…"

She lowered her head. "I'm sorry. I just still feel so…" She looked up at him. "You know what he did, those needles into my brain? What I felt… It was everything, overwhelming me, every image, every emotion and you were there and I knew how I felt about you and what pain I'd caused you. Look at you, there for me, looking after me and helping me. Who's there for you, Chakotay?" He made a move towards her and she backed off a little. "You're only thinking about what all this has done to me. What's it done to you?" Her eyes pleaded with him. He stared at her and sat back down. He was silent for a long time and felt her sit beside him. Trusting his instinct and giving in to his need, he started speaking.

"I had a very different kind of pain, guilt too. I knew there was something more. I should have tried harder to stop you, shouldn't have left you." He looked deeply into her eyes. "I wasn't there for you, to stop it, protect you from that." She reached out to him and pulled him into her arms. Suddenly he was clinging to her and it was she who comforted him as he cried out all his pain.

When he pulled himself together, he looked at her face and saw suddenly that helping him had helped her, that his needing her as he had, had given her something else to concentrate on. "I'm sorry. I should be helping you."

She wiped her small hand across his face, taking his fallen tears with it. "Oh Chakotay, I'm so sorry for what I put you through." He went to object to her words but she pressed her fingers to his lips. "No, hear me out please. I'm talking about before, when I turned away from you and then when I went behind your back. I knew what he wanted although I didn't know it would ever be like it was. I actually trusted him when he said simple tests and just talk. I think though I knew it could come to this but I couldn't tell them, couldn't ask them to take all that time and I'm sorry, I know I should have talked to you, let you in with everything, with the ship and with me." She drew in a shaky breath. "I know he was to blame for all that happened and you're telling me I wasn't at fault and for that, for what happened, I accept that but Chakotay, I do have to take the blame for what led to it all. I know my own denial of what I felt for you, my shutting you out, thinking I could do it all, my own guilt for stranding us all here, not seeing that you and the crew would have accepted the extra time. For all that, I have to accept the blame. I'm just so sorry." Her eyes were awash with tears as he cupped her face in his hand.

"Kathryn, we'll get through this, I promise you. You can't live in the past though. I know it'll take a long time before we get past this, to get over what happened and let go of the pain and memories but we have to look forward now not back. I'm not saying you can just put it away that easily but self-recriminations of any kind are not a help. We deal with what happened and move past it." She nodded tearfully and pulled him to her. He held her tightly, thinking of all the times he'd thought he'd never even see her again.

She gently pulled back and studied his face. "Chakotay, thank you for being there for me, for all you've done." He just smiled gently, his love showing through. Her next words stunned him. "I love you." He saw her watch his face carefully for his reaction. What she saw was his eyes fill with tears.

"I love you too." He pulled her back to him and kissed the side of her face. They stayed silent then as they held each other, a deep cleansing and healing taking place.

Kathryn returned to full duty a week later. Outwardly she appeared like her old self but there was now an openness about her that all the crew noticed. Chakotay smiled constantly to himself as he watched her go about her duties and delighted in her progress. She still spent her evenings and some nights just talking to him, getting go of everything that had happened and learning to accept the events of her ordeal without painful memories attached to them. The Doctor was finally willing to give her full clearance and Kathryn actually hugged him when he cleared her as she thanked him for all he'd done for her. She made sure Tom, B'Elanna and Tuvok were also thanked for their part in her recovery, as well as the entire crew who'd risked their lives in her rescue.

At the end of her first week back, Chakotay was surprised to receive a message from Kathryn to join him on the holodeck. When his shift ended, he changed out of his uniform quickly and made his way to meet her. When he entered, he found himself in a woodland scene at twilight. He moved forward and saw Kathryn sitting on the ground before a small fire, the smoke rising lazily into the air. He stopped dead in his tracks though when he saw what she held on her lap.

He watched fearfully as she flipped through the pages of Pakar's journal. He warily stepped forward and saw her look up when she heard him. "Kathryn? Kathryn, please, where did you get…? Please say you haven't read…?"

She smiled sadly at him. "I knew it existed. I saw him write in it all the time." She swallowed loudly. "I also knew from the Doctor's report about it and knew you'd read it." He sat down slowly beside her and saw her grip the book tightly in her hands. "I made the Doctor give it to me and yes, I have read it. I sat here all afternoon and read the translations, even looked over his writing. I needed to. It actually helped to read it, to know how detached he was from what he did to me. Easier to hate him maybe, although I want to let that go too." Chakotay watched her face carefully but saw little emotion.

Finally, she turned to look at him. "I asked you here to help me with something. It's something I want us to do together." He frowned slightly and she smiled. "I want to burn this." He nodded slowly. "I want to watch it burn and turn to ashes. Can you understand?" He nodded again and held his hand out for hers. She lifted her small hand into his large one and squeezed gently. "Ready?" He bit his lip and nodded.

Kathryn held the journal up and waited until he placed a hand on the soft cover then together they dropped it on the fire before them. Chakotay pulled Kathryn into his arms, her back to his chest, delighting in the fact that she was so at ease with his touch, as they silently watched the pages which had housed such words of horror, go up in smoke. When there was nothing left, Kathryn turned in his arms.

"It's gone now. I have the safeties off so it's really burned and gone. We can start again now."

Chakotay, not trusting himself to speak, just stroked her cheek and nodded.

They left the holodeck, deleting the program on their way out. As the doors closed behind them and they stepped towards the future, only a faint wisp of smoke lingered for a moment, then vanished into nothingness.