Disclaimer:  Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I don’t.  Only borrowing                 
                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC 17.  Kids go play elsewhere.  Contains adult material.

Summary:     With Kathryn missing and then presumed dead while on shore leave,
                      Voyager and her crew are forced to go on without her.  When they
                       rescue a young telepath, she brings them horrifying news but hope too.

This is based on August’s story ‘Shoreleave’.  I hate sad endings.  They keep me awake at night.  Sorry August – great story and wonderful writing but I just had to sprinkle a little fairy dust – eventually.




In the weeks and months following their departure from Intara, life aboard Voyager was changed.  Neelix was at a loss as regards morale and found he didn’t care.  There was no longer any banter on the bridge, meal times were silent affairs and the holodecks went unused.  Chakotay was functioning only, refusing contact with others and after his shifts, retired to his quarters, not appearing until his next. Even Tuvok was disturbed. 

Chakotay tried many times to contact Kathryn’s spirit on a vision quest but always failed and eventually gave up.  No laughter was heard on the ship and smiles were as rare.  Kathryn Janeway had taken with her the souls of every crewmember and the ship itself.

Chakotay sat on the bridge, his mind somewhere else.  He sat in his own chair, refusing to ever sit in Kathryn’s.  Tuvok rarely used the First Officer’s chair, preferring to remain at Tactical.  Chakotay’s thoughts were interrupted by Tuvok telling his that they were picked up a distress call. 

Within a half hour, they arrived at the source of the call and came across a small ship with one life sign.  Chakotay ordered an immediate beam out and within minutes of that, the small craft exploded.

Voyager’s new Captain, who refused the title, made his way to sickbay where he was met with the Doctor working over a small woman who seemed relatively unharmed.  He told her what had happened to her ship and watched as her face paled when she realized how close she had come to being killed.

Chakotay sat across from her as she explained her situation.  She told him she was Denar, the eldest daughter of the Ruler of Briall, a planet nearby and that she studied science and had been on an exploration of a nebula close by, when her engines had developed problems.  She assured Chakotay that he and this crew would be handsomely rewarded for returning her to her home.  Chakotay assured her that they would do this anyway and all they would ask for would be a chance to trade for supplies, nothing more.

After the Doctor declared Denar fit to leave sickbay, Chakotay and B’Elanna accompanied her to guest quarters.  Their guest was a small woman of humanoid appearance with golden hair highlighted with an almost greenish tinge.  Her face was small and pretty with a slight ridge over her eyebrows and another under her chin.   B’Elanna noticed that this girl would need clothes and hesitated to suggest to Chakotay that she appeared the same size as Kathryn but the look in his eyes told her that she already reminded him of the woman they had all lost.  As delicately as she could, she raised the subject.

“Denar will need clothes…”

Chakotay had indeed already noticed the almost identical body shape of the alien before him and nodded slowly.  “I know B’El, and I guess it’s time.  She would want use made of…I’ll get something” and he was gone.

Chakotay returned with some of Kathryn’s clothes, having chosen a dress and wrap she had seldom worn.  Anything else would have been too painful for him.  He knew she used the wrap when alone in her quarters reading, but it wasn’t in his own memory.  He handed the garments to Denar.

Denar reached for them and as she took hold of the wrap, she stopped dead.  She appeared to almost enter a trance and quickly dropped the items on the floor, backing into a corner quickly, tears pouring down her face.  “How could you do this…these things…with all that suffering…”  She was almost hysterical at this stage and Chakotay and B’Elanna were shocked at her reaction.  “What did you do to her…where…how…”  The young girl fell to her knees and B’Elanna approached her slowly.

“Denar, what is it?  These clothes belonged to our Captain.  I’m sorry if we upset you.  Look…she died…well some months ago but…I know she’d want someone to have use…”

Denar’s next words slammed into Chakotay.  “These…she’s not dead…her pain, her suffering…  Where is she?  Where is she?  What kind of people are you to let it happen…?  What have you done to her?”

B’Elanna was equally shocked and did her best to explain to Denar what had happened over the last three months and about Kathryn’s disappearance and their futile search for her.  The entire time, Chakotay just stood and listened.  Finally he spoke.  “Denar”  His voice was breaking.  “Denar, are you a telepath or…”

“My people have always been able to see beyond what shows itself.  We understand what cannot be seen.”  She young girl was still very upset.

Chakotay walked towards her.  “Denar please understand.  What we say is true.  We lost someone we loved very much and everything made us believe she was dead.  Now you’re saying…I don’t know…Oh  Kathryn”  He fell to his knees and was aware of B’Elanna holding him.

When they had all calmed and were thinking straight, Chakotay alerted Tuvok and they brought Denar to Kathryn’s quarters.  They watched the emotions fight for room on her thin face as she walked around, touching items which had gone untouched since Kathryn’s fingers had last been on them.  Finally, she sat and looked to the three of them.  Her voice was filled with pain.

“I know she’s alive.  I can’t prove that to you but I know with everything that is in me that I speak the truth.  She’s in pain.  I’m sorry…maybe I shouldn’t…”

Chakotay spoke for them all.  “I know this will be terrible and painful for us to hear but if it means, in any way, that we can get to her, find her…please…”  The young girl nodded her head and continued.

“Please understand that I see images and they don’t always make sense.  I can only tell what I see and feel.”  She looked to them and they nodded, indicating that she continue.  Denar held onto Kathryn’s wrap and concentrated.  “I see darkness, always dark…so much pain and suffering…terrible confusion…alone and…”  She looked towards Chakotay and saw his tears and he nodded to her to go on.

“There was…tricked in some way…she was alone…hungry…so much pain…I can’t…then…I see others but they are also in the dark…only there’s no escape…the others have pain also but they don’t bring the pain…nothing but pain…agony…burning inside…more darkness…a long time I think…something then…fast movement and …it’s all mixed up…running…trees…some place else…also dark but…it feels…safer…many others there…I think later…a good time later…strangers come…somewhere else…a struggle…men…many men…pain and fear…alone again…something was taken from her…I don’t know…she wanted to give it to  someone else but she couldn’t fight…I can’t see clearly…so much suffering and always dark…more struggle …in pain…”  Denar slumped back apparently exhausted but continued, knowing how important this was to these people.

“Some kind of comfort…she has something…something special to her…a link…it holds her…there’s so much confusion…her mind…there’s something wrong…her arm and leg…she’s inside herself…hiding there…I’m sorry…”  Denar was too exhausted now and lay back on the sofa.
“You must go back…”  As she said this, Chakotay was already giving Tuvok orders to turn the ship and return to Intara, then he stumbled out of the room.

Word spread quickly among the crew and suddenly they had a purpose, a goal.  Everyone worked double shifts, pushed themselves to the limit.  Only one thing mattered now.  Getting to their Captain before it was too late.  They vowed not to fail this time.

Kathryn began to slowly realize that the number of men coming was growing smaller and she came to understand that her owner was not happy with the way she just lay there most of the time.  He came to understand quickly that pain was the only way through to her and constantly took delight in inflicting as much as he could on her.  When he came for her himself, he always seemed to be trying new ways to cause her pain and humiliate her into some reaction. 

On this occasion, he stormed into the room, slamming the door behind him. Kathryn was instantly terrified as he made a grab for her, throwing her against the wall.  He dragged her over to the table and threw her face down over it.  She felt him pull her dress up from behind and fumble to release himself.  Instantly he was inside her, pounding in and out of her but she refused to give him what he wanted.  Suddenly she felt him pull out of her and then he was pressing against her anus, thrusting painfully inside her.  Kathryn tried to scream out and fight him off and she heard him laugh.  This was what he wanted and he reached over her, pinching the soft flesh of her inner arms, trying to cause the most pain he could to her. He came quickly, delighting in her pain, his laughter and grunts ringing in her ears.

When he pulled out of her, Kathryn fell to the floor in agony but her ordeal was not over.  She felt herself dragged up by her hair and then pulled out of the room.  He hauled her down a hallway and towards a window of sorts where she could see another woman with her ‘client’.  He made Kathryn watch for a long time, showing her what was expected of her, then dragged her back to her room where he used her again to his own satisfaction and then beat her, leaving her in a heap on the floor.

This continued but Kathryn was not responding to what was expected of her.  The men came less often and despite several visits from her owner, always now involving his new brand of punishment, Kathryn only proceeded to withdraw into herself further.  The doctor was with her two or three times a day now but she just lay there and let him treat her.  She actually began to notice a semblance of pity with him towards her.

When two or more days had passed and no men had visited, Kathryn waited for what was to come and it came quickly.  She felt herself bounced off the walls and furniture and then thrown across the table.  This time he was more brutal than usual and Kathryn hoarsely screamed in agony as he rammed himself into her repeatedly, tearing at her flesh.  When he was finished, she was dragged into the hallway and flung into the wall.  He continued screaming abuse at her and then she felt herself dragged to the top of a flight of stairs, before he threw her down them.  Kathryn landed in a crumpled heap at the bottom, pain racking her body.  In seconds he was on her again, dragging her down another passageway and then outside.

He slammed her into another wall, where she smashed her face on the hard surface, feeling her nose and mouth pour blood.  Suddenly she was aware that it was bright sunlight outside and she tried to scream as the brightness tore into her eyes, trying her best to shield herself from the unforgiving light.  She felt herself lifted and thrown into another surface and then felt herself moving.  She realized quickly that she was on a cart of some kind and knew with certainty that he was taking her somewhere to kill her and found that she welcomed it.

The cart rounded a corner and Kathryn rolled with it, the light once again cutting into her eyes.  She felt a sharp pain to her ribs and realized that her body had rolled over onto her stone, which was hidden in her dress.  A surge of energy and fight came to her and with it the face which always stayed with her.  Shielding her eyes as best she could, she tried to see where she was and barely made out a narrow street.  Without thinking, she rolled herself off the back of the cart and threw herself to the ground, rolling to her feet as best she could.  She ducked into the alley and dragged herself down it, hearing the roars of the monster behind her.  Pure survival instinct took over and she struggled on, feeling her way around another corner, the shouts from behind gaining on her.

Suddenly hands reached out and grabbed her, one of them pressing tightly over her mouth and she found herself pulled into a doorway.  She struggled as best she could and she felt a body press her onto the ground, lying on top of her to prevent her escape.  She heard the shouts continue and then feet pounding past where she lay and quickly understood that the one holding her was not her owner and she stopped her struggles.

After some time, the hand on her mouth eased and the body rolled off her.  Kathryn slowly opened her eyes and found that she was in semi darkness, much to the relief of her eyes.  The face before her was female and she instantly recognized it as a woman who had been in the cave with her.  Kathryn’s tears of relief came immediately and the two women hugged tightly, drawing comfort from each other.

Kathryn learned quickly that there were others using this run down shack and a new life quickly developed.  The others treated her injuries the best way they could but some went untreated.  Many lived in this way, sleeping by day and trawling the streets by night, scavenging what food they could from the market area and from other people’s throwaways.  Each night, Kathryn and her friends crept through the dark alleys in search of something to fill their bellies.  She wondered if life had always been like this for her but knew in some corner of her mind that it had not been.  The face of the man in her mind, gentle and kind, spoke to her of a better life once, where love and kindness had dwelt.  Now life was about survival as Kathryn and the others searched under boxes and in gutters for scraps and at the back of rooming places, where meals were served for others.  Water was available from the fountains and they often used makeshift buckets to carry some back to their shelter for drinking and washing.  Kathryn always tried her best to keep clean and noticed that the others did the same.  They lived worse than animals but they had pride.  They also knew being clean meant staying a little healthier.

Kathryn’s injuries continued to plague her and the others helped as best they could, supplying her with the painkilling leaves.   She knew that their stories were similar to her own, especially the women.  They huddled together when sleeping for warmth and Kathryn was amazed to notice that some had even formed couples.  Their group was close and depended on one another, sharing what they had and just being there for each other.  Many times during their sleep time, Kathryn would lie awake, caressing her stone and holding to the image of the man’s face who gave her so much comfort. She constantly wondered about who she really was and what had been before.  She still stared at the sky at night and felt almost a calling to it.

Over time, Kathryn noticed that her strength was fading and knew the others would look after her, but she didn’t want that.  She knew it was hard enough for them to take care of themselves and she didn’t want to end her life here.  She longed to return to the cave she vaguely remembered and knew she wanted to die there, out of the city and in the fresh, clean air, a place where she had felt safe.  More and more now there seemed to be police or soldiers on the streets at night and it frightened her.  They always seemed to be chasing someone and Kathryn was terrified of being returned to her owner.

She managed to convey this to the others and they understood, although they were sad about it.  The woman who had pulled her to safety that day from her owner, Manna, managed to draw a crude map for Kathryn to follow and led her to the edge of the city that night.  Kathryn had made a tearful goodbye with the others but only Manna came with her to see her off.  The two women hugged tightly and said a silent farewell and then Kathryn set off.  She knew it would take her some time and prayed for the strength to take her home.

Denar had insisted on returning with Voyager to search for Kathryn.  Having contacted her father and arranged for ships to meet with Voyager to restock them, she received Chakotay’s permission to stay with them.  She felt she could still help and wanted to see this through, feeling it was some way to re-pay these people for saving her life.

The crew grew used to seeing the young Briallan woman wander the corridors, always clutching Kathryn’s wrap.  As they continued towards Intara, Denar once again told Chakotay of what she sensed.

“I’m sensing less pain…there was more but…it’s lessened…different now…hungry…still dark…there’s more…comfort…but still struggle…I can’t decipher this well…I’m sorry…she’s…weaker…something fading…still confused…”  Chakotay stayed silent and let her continue.

“Always dark…never any light…there was a fight…a struggle…pain…so much but not so much now…I feel the weakness…I think she’s alone now…dark still but alone…a journey of some kind…has to get somewhere…to feel safe…”  She was crying now and looked to Chakotay.

“I’m sorry…I feel her weakening so much…letting go…but I still feel the link…a circle…I’m sorry”  She was exhausted by the efforts again.

In almost record time, Voyager once again entered orbit of a planet none of them had ever wanted to see again.  Chakotay prepared himself for a confrontation with the Officials he had dealt with before and who had in all but words, ordered them to leave.

The face that answered their hails was a stranger to him.  Chakotay had barely started to explain why they had returned when the Official interrupted him.

“Please Captain, I understand more than you know.  Please, meet with me and I’ll explain everything.  You have nothing to fear.  Circumstances have changed on this world.  Please, I’ll explain when you arrive.”  The link was cut and coordinates received by Kim, which he passed to the Transporter Room.

Chakotay was stunned but still wary.  He beamed down with Tuvok and a strong security detail.  If the Official was insulted in any way, he didn’t show it.  In fact, he seemed to expect it.  He ushered them into an office and offered refreshments which were declined.  When they were all seated, the Official began his story while the Voyager’s officers and crew sat stunned.

“My apologies for waiting until you were here to explain all this.  It will become clear as I speak.”  They nodded for him to continue.  “You are not the first to return here and I’m sorry to say you won’t be the last.  You explained briefly that someone of your crew disappeared here, yes?”  Chakotay answered him.

“Our Captain.  We believed she had…either been killed or…she had been…troubled…   We searched but…”

“Sir please.  I can tell you your own story.  She disappeared and the Government helped in the search.  They were very helpful but no trace of your Captain was ever found.  They stated that some areas of the planet could not be scanned due to mining operations and the like.  All ships were contacted and no passenger had been taken on board any of them.  Eventually, after some time it was ‘suggested’ that you leave.  Despite extensive searches by both yourselves and the Government, she was not found and not one person had ever seen her.  Am I correct?”

They sat stunned.  Tuvok was the first to break the silence.  “I believe you have spoken these words before.”  The Official nodded.

“Sadly of late, too many times.  Your Captain was not the first.  Please, let me explain.  The Government in power when you were here has been overthrown in recent weeks.  We, the former Resistance, are still finding our feet.  Unfortunately, it will take a long time to re-build what was before and to undo what was done by those…  Pardon me, Gentlemen.  What we had was a corrupt Dictatorship which abused its people.  Eventually after many months, almost a year in the planning, we took over.  Those who murdered and maimed now inhabit the prison cells where they once committed those crimes against their helpless victims.  All supporters and those who benefited from that regime keep them company.  Sir, if your Captain is still alive, I’m sorry to speak in that way, but if she is, we’ll find her.”  He looked sadly at Chakotay and the others.  Tuvok spoke now.

“May be have your permission to scan the surface for human life signs and conduct a search?”

“Of course.  Please, whatever you need, just ask.  I assure you, this Government is open and honest.  Unfortunately, very few records exist from before.  Also, some former prisoners still hide away in caves which are hidden by scans.  That part was true.  There are some areas which cannot be scanned due to deposits in the stone.  Unfortunately the prison was one such area.  What I can do is speak with my colleagues and former Resistance friends.  If she was in the prison, someone might know.  She would have stood out and been remembered.  Do you have an image of her?  I could show it around.”  Chakotay assured the Official he would send this immediately and thanked the man profusely for his honesty and help.

“Please come and go as you wish.  We only want to undo as much of the evil that was done as possible but there is so much.  People are still on the streets, homeless and hungry.  We can’t feed and house them quickly enough.  A lot of them are still very frightened and finding them and reaching them is a problem.  I’ll make this a priority though, and I’ll speak with the others immediately.”

When Chakotay returned to Voyager, he was emotionally drained.  Denar met with him, still clutching Kathryn’s wrap.  She seemed upset.  “Commander please.  You must hurry.  She’s growing weaker.  I feel she’s…it’s still dark but this feels…deep…I can’t explain…deep and…down…”  She stopped for a minute then looked up, sudden clarity in her eyes.  “Under the ground.”  Chakotay looked panicked.

“No…she’s alive…I know…I feel her…where she is…hidden…there are others…under ground…she holds something…the link…it’s round…something on it…circle…I’m sorry.”  Chakotay remembered the Official mentioning caves.

Within two hours, the Official hailed Chakotay and Tuvok and asked them to return to the surface.  He told him there was someone who would meet with them but was suspicious.  The Official explained that they would meet in a public place and that he would accompany them.  This was the only way his contact would agree to the meeting. 

They met in a café of sorts and the young woman who was already seated appeared very nervous.  Once the Official assured her that all was well and told her about the situation, she visibly relaxed.  She named herself as Reea and told them that she worked with the street people and victims of the old Government.  She spit the last words then controlled herself and started speaking.

She told them about life in the prison, sparing them no details.  She told of the torture and abuse, the medical experiments, the screams and helplessness of the inmates there.  Chakotay found himself clutching the table in front of him in rage, thinking of his Kathryn going through that.  The young woman saw his reaction and this increased her trust in him.  She called to someone behind her and another young woman joined them.  Reea introduced the young girl as Lall.  Chakotay showed Lall the image he had brought with him of Kathryn and she studied it for a while then whispered to Reea.

“Lall says this is Kar, although she looked very different…her injuries...  She was in the prison.  She was badly injured from beatings and torture.  Drugs had been used on her.”  Chakotay tried to control himself and his emotions.  He knew he had to keep control if he was to find Kathryn.

Lall continued to whisper to Reea, too nervous to speak directly to the others.  Chakotay noticed she held onto Reea’s hand the entire time.

“There was an escape.  Our Resistance attacked the prison and got our…their people out.  They also risked their lives to take the others with them.  Lall says Kar was one of them.  She says she was taken to a hide of theirs, a cave.”  Reea listened again as Lall spoke.  “Kar was badly hurt, you understand.  Lall tended her for many days.  Eventually she began to recover and then helped in return.  She stayed with them for some time.”  Chakotay nodded and spoke softly.

“Reea, I’m sorry but are you sure ‘Kar’ is Kath…our Captain.”  Reea spoke quietly with Lall and nodded at her.  “She’s sure.  They named her Kar because it fit.  Kar means ‘sky’ in her language.  She was always looking at the sky and the stars it seems.”  Chakotay barely controlled himself.

“Does Lall know where she is now?”

After a lot more whispering, Reea nodded and turned to Chakotay.  She seemed to hesitate but he silently pleaded with her, his eyes asking for him.  She nodded again and cleared her throat.

“Sometimes soldiers, more like hunting parties, came to the forests looking for…women.  They caught Lall one night and Kar ran to her rescue.  She apparently could have gotten to safety but instead came to help Lall.  They were both taken.”  She stopped at this and swallowed. 

Chakotay was agitated by now.  “Taken where?”  Reea hesitated and then continued.

“The women taken like this were…taken to…visiting places…places where men…Government and Officials…could visit…”  She didn’t continue and Chakotay groaned and turned away.  After several minutes he controlled himself.  Reea continued.

“Lall is unsure what happened to Kar after that.  She knows they were there for some time but that the owner was not happy with Kar.  She knows he beat her and…   She’s unsure but she heard that the owner beat her badly the last time and took her away.  Lall was rescued when the Resistance stormed the house a week or so later.”  

Chakotay remembered Denar’s words  “something was taken from her…she wanted to give it to someone else”  He let his head fall into his hands.

“Are you saying she believes the Captain was killed by this ‘owner’?”  It was the first time Tuvok had spoken.  Reea spoke again with Lall and listened to her reply.

“Lall is not sure but she heard stories of Kar on the streets, perhaps she escaped.  She says she knows another woman who lived the streets and might know.  We could go there.”  Chakotay nodded and pushed himself away from the table.  He needed air.

Chakotay stood outside and gulped in the air, trying to control his raging emotions.  Images of Kathryn and what she had endured tore at him and he felt his tears come.  He squeezed his eyes closed.  Suddenly he felt a hand on his arm and opened his eyes to see Tuvok.  “Commander?”

“Tuvok.  Sorry…it’s just…”

“I understand.  We should return and try and find this other woman.”  The Vulcan was barely managing to keep control of himself.  Chakotay saw this and nodded then took another lungful of air to calm himself and returned inside.  He apologised to the women and the Official but could see they understood.

“Sir, Lall has also told me that Kar had injuries that didn’t heal.  Her arm and leg.  They were broken but they were unable to do much.  You must understand how it was for them…”  Denar’s words echoed to Chakotay again.  “something wrong…her arm and leg…”

Chakotay and Tuvok thanked Lall and as they left Chakotay asked Reea if the young woman would be all right.  Reea assured them that Lall had the help she needed now and would be fine in time.

After walking through back streets for perhaps half an hour, they arrived at a small shack like dwelling and waited while Reea made contact with the woman they were looking for and then she called them in.  The young woman appeared terrified and told a similar story to Lall.  She remembered Kar or Kathryn and told them she had been on the streets with them but that she had been closer to another woman named Manna.  She then told them that Manna still lived on the streets, too afraid to be helped yet.  They thanked her and when they were outside, Reea told them that in order to find Manna, they would have to wait until night, when these women came out.  She explained about how they hid in the dark and warned them that Kathryn might also have the same problems.  They thanked her and arranged to return in two hours time.

Back on the ship, Chakotay sought out the Doctor and told him what he knew so far of Kathryn’s condition.  He wanted the Doctor ready for anything.

That night, he and Tuvok searched the back streets for Manna and what they saw shocked them to the core.  They kept their distance from the shadows which crawled there, afraid of frightening them further and let Reea approach them.  They seemed to know and trust her.  While she spoke with someone, Chakotay watched some of them scavenging in the gutter for what rotten fruit they could find and his heart broke to think of Kathryn living like this.  He looked at the pitiful creatures who had been men and women once and he prayed they would be again.

Reea returned with a timid young woman and introduced her as Manna.  She eventually looked at Chakotay and seemed to gasp.  Reea immediately asked her what was wrong and reassured her that these people were safe.  Manna pointed to Chakotay and whispered to Reea.

“She knows your sign.”  Chakotay didn’t understand and Reea asked for more from Manna.

“She says the sign on your face travelled with Kar on her stone.”  She went on, as Manna filled her in, about Kathryn’s stone and Chakotay finally began to understand what Denar meant by the link.  His tears came full force now and this time he didn’t hide them.  He understood from Manna that Kathryn’s mind was affected in some way, her memories damaged but that she had kept this stone with her, her only link to what she had been and it broke his heart.

Manna told them all she knew and about Kathryn’s trek home to die.  Chakotay was falling apart with what he was learning and as soon as they received the location of the cave from Manna, he and Tuvok beamed back to the ship to arrange transport to the place he prayed he would finally find Kathryn.  He prayed also that they would not be too late.

Kathryn travelled by night and hid away to sleep by day, finding any shelter she could.  She drank from what streams she could find and ate berries and fruits whenever she could find them.  She grew weaker and her pain increased.  She managed to find come of the leaves she had come to know so well, but they helped little any more.

After perhaps a week, Kathryn reached ‘home’ and fell into the arms of the men and women who ran to her.  She watched their eyes as they took in her appearance and silent understanding passed between them.  Kathryn had come home to die and they all knew it.  They gently carried her into the cave and lay her down on soft bedding.  Kathryn felt herself let go after the tremendous strain of the last week and knew that here with these people she would be safe and cared for.

Over the next few days, she gained a little strength back but she knew there would be no miracle recovery.  Her brief gain was only a prelude to her weakening once again and as the next day passed, Kathryn faded.  Someone was always with her, comforting and tending to her in the only ways they knew.  Throughout all this, Kathryn held tightly to her stone.

Chakotay and a team took a shuttle and the Official and Reea went with them.  Transporting directly to the site was out of the question, whatever it was in the rocks that prevented their scans, making beaming down impossible.  Chakotay got Tom to pilot and brought along B’Elanna and the Doctor.  Within minutes they were on their way.

They landed a little bit away from the cave, afraid of frightening the inhabitants of this place.  Chakotay gave Reea and the Official a few minutes to approach first and explain, then he followed with B’Elanna and the Doctor.  He watched the faces of the people as he approached and he saw their fear and mistrust.  Reea constantly reassured them.  Finally an old man came up to them and told them that Kar was in the cave but that she was close to her returning.  Chakotay didn’t need a translation.

As he entered the cave he was shocked by what he saw and how these people fended for themselves and lived.  The old man pointed to the corner and Chakotay held his breath as he caught a glimpse of red hair.  Kathryn lay with her back to them and an older woman was tending her, gently sponging her face.  Chakotay approached slowly and saw the woman look up in fear until the old man nodded to her.  She stepped back and let Chakotay take her place.

Chakotay knelt down and looked at Kathryn for the first time in months and his tears almost blinded him.  Her face was marked with scars from old cuts and beatings and her breathing was ragged.  She appeared to be almost skin and bone only, her face gaunt and her eyes sunken back in their sockets.  He lifted his hand to her face, pushing her hair back and was shocked by the heat coming from her skin.  He called gently to her and her eyes fluttered open.  She met his eyes with a glazed look from her fever and for an instant there was recognition before her eyes closed again.  Chakotay felt her hand move and looked down, taking her hand in his.  He kept calling her name and then Kathryn moved her other hand to his and gently dropped her stone into his open palm.  Chakotay sobbed out loud as Kathryn’s hands both fell limply back to the ground.

Chakotay gave way immediately as the doctor came over and held his breath again as the medic examined her.  He quickly ordered them back to the shuttle and Chakotay stepped forward and lifted her into his arms.  She weighed almost nothing and this only added to his heartache.  He gently carried her to the waiting shuttle, B’elanna following behind and the Doctor ahead of them.  Kathryn’s friends parted to let them through and each of them reached out a hesitant hand to touch her as they passed.  Chakotay was aware of his tears and had no intention of hiding them.

As they boarded the shuttle, he heard Tom’s gasp of horror and the Doctor’s order to get them back as quickly as possible.  Chakotay lay Kathryn down gently and let the Doctor go to work.  He shouted to the Official and Reea that he would send someone back for them and they nodded their understanding.  Kathryn was all that mattered now.

The trip took too long to him but in actual fact was perhaps ten minutes, ten minutes in which Kathryn’s heart stopped and they got it going again.

Time lost meaning for Chakotay as the Doctor fought to save Kathryn.  Every crewmember held their breath and prayed over the next few hours.  Tom worked with the Doctor, following orders like a robot while B’Elanna and Denar sat with Chakotay, trying their best to be there for him, needing comfort just as much themselves.

Some time later, the Doctor finally appeared in the doorway and motioned for the others to leave, then sat facing Chakotay.  His face was solemn.

“She’s alive but there’s little fight in her.  She has massive injuries, some of which appear to have been crudely healed at some time.  I’ve broken and reset her leg and arm.  There was also a problem with broken ribs which healed badly but I’ve repaired them.”  The Doctor watched Chakotay closely.  “Her kidneys were badly damaged but should heal.  She has been beaten many times…  There was a drug in her system, stayed there somehow, which damaged her mind and I’ve managed to flush it out but only time will tell if any brain damage remains…  Also her hearing was damaged and her vocal chords.  There is damage to her throat, something was inserted there.  She will also have problems with her eyes and will be photosensitive for some time.  I’ll keep the lights down.”  The Doctor stood.  “There were other…injuries…internal…also healed now…”  Chakotay stood also.

“Doctor…I know about…  Look please, just tell me…will she be all right, I mean physically…”  He looked to the medic to save his soul.

“Commander… yes…in time I believe…  She will live.  She’s badly malnourished but that is easily taken care of.  However as I say… her mind…her memory of all this…will live on…   She’ll need care…”

“Her family are here for her.  She’ll get all the care and love she needs…please can I sit with her…?”  The Doctor nodded.

“Please…talk to her.  She may hear you.  It could help her fight.”  The EMH looked down at his desk and when he looked up, Chakotay was gone, already at Kathryn’s side.