Author's note: I am pointing the finger at Layne for this one. We watched "Future's End" together and when the plot kitten bit, she encouraged it to keep chewing!
Legal B.S.: Paramount owns it all, lock, stock and 47s. Leigh Braxton belongs to me, however. So does the personal forcefield. ('Cause I figure by the time the 29th century rolls around, umbrellas will long be considered obsolete. ;)
Spoilers/reference: "Future's End", obviously. Brief mentions of "Scorpion", "Counterpoint" and "Workforce".
Thanks: to Cori-sis, Dreamsavvy and QuantumSilver for betaing...and especially to Sira for burning me that DVD with Future's End so I could see it again after ten years :smooch!:
Past and Future Glimpses
"Captain, I insist you come to sickbay." Voyager's EMH scowled at the woman he was running his tricorder wand over. Aside from the obvious visible plasma burn covering the right side of her face, the tricorder was showing mild oxygen deprivation, nine minute shards imbedded in various places just under the epidermal layer, and trace amounts of seven organically harmful chemicals in her bloodstream-all this due to the exposure to the torpedo she'd recently launched. He decided he was really going to have to speak to her about taking all these unnecessary risks. One too many and they would be minus a captain.
Kathryn Janeway held up a staying hand, ignoring the irate scowl of the hologram by her side. "There'll be plenty of time for that, Doctor." The burn was painful-and soon would become incredibly so, and her chest hurt from the plasma exhaust she'd inhaled in the few moments before being knocked unconscious. But she had to find out if Starling had been stopped-and, if he had, how to get Voyager out of the twentieth century and back to where they belonged. Thankfully, the doors opened to admit them both to the bridge, or else the Doctor might had an opportunity to argue with her further-or worse, try and drag her to sickbay.
"The bridge is yours, Captain." Chakotay did his best to hide the relief in his voice when Kathryn exited the turbolift. Thankfully, she didn't notice his little slip because her gaze was already focused on the viewscreen.
"Is there a chance in hell we can reopen that rift?"
As if her words could command the very fabric of space, Harry Kim spoke up from Ops. "Captain, the rift is opening. There's something coming out." He was hurriedly entering one command after another into his console in order to give her an answer. "It's the timeship!"
"Let's see it." Harry quickly punched in another command, magnifying the ship's image on the viewscreen.
Before she could ask Harry any more questions, Tuvok announced, "We are being hailed."
"On screen," she ordered. Surely Starling hadn't survived... But to her shock, the man seated in the timeship was not Starling! "Captain Braxton!"
The other captain gave her a quizzical look. "Do you know me?"
"Yes, unfortunately," Chakotay replied. He was about to say more, but Kathryn beat him to it.
"You tried to destroy our ship in the twenty-fourth century and, the next time we saw you, you were an old man, homeless, in 1996."
Was that a flicker of recognition in Braxton's eyes? "I never experienced that timeline."
"Then what are you doing here?" Tom Paris was the first to ask.
"In my century, we can scan time-much as you use sensors to scan space. The Temporal Integrity Commission detected your vessel over twentieth-century Earth. I was sent to correct that anomaly." A few faint trills could be heard through the commline. "Prepare to follow me back into the rift. I am returning you to your own time, to your previous coordinates in the Delta Quadrant."
Kathryn's mind was quickly working even as Braxton gave his explanation. Since he could traverse across time and space... "Captain, we've been trying to get home to Earth for the last two years. Can you return us to our century, but keep us here, in the Alpha Quadrant?"
"I'm sorry. Temporal Prime Directive. I'm afraid you're on your own. Braxton out." Braxton disappeared from the viewscreen, his image replaced with that of his ship and the rift.
"The timeship is re-entering the rift," Kim reported.
Kathryn sighed inwardly. It had been a long shot to ask--but, for a split second there, she had hoped... "Mister Paris, follow him in."
Tom turned to enter the necessary commands into the conn. "Aye Captain."
Braxton watched Voyager warp away before resetting the temporal matrix for his own time. He gave Aeon's computer the commands automatically, still shaken by Janeway's words. He had never experienced that timeline she had mentioned, true.
Except in his dreams...
The nightmares had started a couple weeks ago. He'd brushed off the first one, but when they kept occurring, he found it harder to shake the images from his mind. They were always vague, and left him with a sickening sense of dread.
Flashes of white walls, bright lights, the feel of his arms restrained...the sharp prick and burning of his veins from the primitive drugs... The stares and snickers from people surrounding him, struggling to stay warm when cold breezes blew in off the ocean...struggling to survive...
He shook himself, chasing the images away, and forced himself to relax as the rift opened once more in front of Aeon.
Chakotay entered as he was bade to find Kathryn where he expected her to be, staring out the viewport at the stars streaking by. He didn't even have to see the look on her face to know what was on her mind.
"You're doubting yourself again."
"No." When there was no reply, she signed ruefully. "All right...maybe a little."
"A little?" But this time, there was a hint of teasing in his voice as he stepped up to stand by her side.
"Don't push it, Commander." Kathryn turned to give him a small smile, before it faded on the wings of a second sigh. "We were so close-"
"But now wasn't the time for it to happen," he finished.
Silently, she turned away from him to stare out the viewport again. "Sometimes...I'm not even sure if that day will come."
"We'll make it home, Kathryn."
Her eyes met his and, for an instant, Chakotay saw the doubt reflected in the blue depths. He dared to set a hand on her shoulder. "Because I know you'll get us there." The words was quiet, but firm.
Her answer was a brighter, truer smile. He smiled in return. And, not for the first time, Kathryn wondered at the fact that two years ago, she'd never heard of him-whereas now, it would be difficult to imagine the days ahead without him at her side.
"...Voyager has been returned to her previous coordinates in the Delta Quadrant on stardate 50312.5. No damage has been done to the timeline."
Lucas Jameson Braxton
Captain, Timeship Aeon
Braxton read over his report a final time, making sure all necessary information was there. Satisfied, he tapped in the commands to power Aeon down completely. She was already safely tucked into her docking port, but he always made sure everything was complete before he left.
Braxton beamed into the building that housed Starfleet HQ's Temporal Commission offices, nodding to the transporter chief as he stepped off the pad. He received a smile and a "good evening, sir" in return.
His secretary was waiting for him when he reached his office. Pushing back a stubborn wisp of dark blond hair, she quickly rose to her feet upon his entry. "Good evening, Captain."
"Evening, Lieutenant--and at ease."
"Long day, huh?" Lieutenant Charmagne Paris took the padd he handed her with a sympathetic smile.
"When aren't they?" Braxton said wryly. "Any important messages?"
"The usual." Paris handed him a new padd. Braxton skimmed the list and found that most were pertaining to business that could wait until the next day. Normally, he would have spent another two to three hours in his office going over each communiqué, answering them, and/or doing the necessary research. But tonight--he wasn't in the mood to put in overtime. Especially when he saw the next to last message on the list. He smiled when he read its contents.
"Good news, Captain?"
"Oh yes, Lieutenant. Very good news."
It was raining again. Then again, when didn't it rain in San Francisco? Nine generations of Braxtons past had either complained or waxed poetic on the weather in their personal logs left to the family. Braxton shook his head to himself and activated his personal forcefield before stepping out of the transport center and into the deluge outdoors. He was one of the latter-he quite enjoyed the rain and, when he wasn't flying in it, the thunderstorms.
The normal ten-minute walk to his house took fifteen, with a few detours around overly large puddles he didn't want to risk crossing through. He placed his palm to the front door sensor and it unlocked, recognizing his print, opening just enough to let out a rush of warm air. He stepped inside, turning off the forcefield after closing the door behind him and setting the wristband on the hallway table.
The soft call drew him towards its source in the great room, where his wife sat on the sofa nearest the fireplace, wrapped in a thick blanket made of Andorian zorket fleece. The flames gilded her silvery-blond hair, giving it highlights of pale gold. She gave him one of her brilliant smiles and opened her arms--and the blanket--to him. He moved to her side, accepting the invitation for a hug, kiss, and a share of the blanket.
"Did you have a hard day?"
"You could say that."
"Are you going to tell me about it?"
In the early days of their marriage, Braxton had been reluctant to tell her about things, both because it was really against regs to discuss much of his work, and because he feared upsetting her. Working for the Temporal Commission was rarely pretty. But she'd surprised him by being the best kind of listening ear there could be--one seeing things from the outside looking in, but tempered by both common sense and compassion.
So he began to tell her about how routine scans had found Voyager in orbit of 20th century Earth and his brief encounter with Janeway and her crew.
"Janeway asked if I could put them in the Alpha Quadrant instead of their previous coordinates-and, of course, I had to turn her down."
"Of course-Temporal Prime Directive." Leigh gently rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand.
"I wouldn't have done any differently, but God--she looked so shattered, Leigh." Braxton shook his head.
"You wish you could have told her she would get them home." When he turned surprised eyes to her, she smiled gently. "I'm sure anyone would have had that thought cross their minds, even though they would never violate the Directive and act upon it."
"But if she'd known, it might have given her some small comfort..."
"Perhaps--or perhaps not," Leigh said wisely. "She would have come to resent the fact that you did not tell her when--or just forget the Directive entirely and bring them home." She shrugged a little. "Besides, in the end, she knew. And no doubt her descendants are out there in the quadrant somewhere, carrying on her legacy."
Braxton smiled to himself, recalling his history lessons. "As usual, you're right. When did you become such a sage, Leigh?"
Leigh gave him a look of loving exasperation. "When you became a cynical cuss, Luke," she teased. It was one of their private jokes. "We must balance each other out, after all." Then her expression grew serious once more. "Feel better now?"
He gazed into those pale blue eyes, reminded once more of the many reasons he loved her. "I always feel better after talking to you."
Later that night, Braxton lay awake, listening to the rain as he pondered the conversation of earlier. The look in Janeway's eyes was likely to haunt him for a few weeks, but he tried to remind himself that Leigh was right. He knew if it had been the other way around-and he'd been told he'd get his crew home, but not when, he'd come to resent the messenger.
History had proven that, against the difficult odds and unspeakable dangers of the Delta Quadrant, Voyager had indeed made it home. It had taken them a good amount of time--and they lost several crewmembers along the way. But they had also gained many as well. An alliance between Starfleet and Maquis had been forged. Two crews had become one-in many ways.
He recalled how Janeway had stood shoulder to shoulder with her first officer-and how, in time, Chakotay had become far more. From their beginnings as two captains on opposite sides of the law, they had come together and forged a bond that had defied every obstacle thrown into its path. The Borg. The Devore. The Quarra. Equinox and her crew. Through it all, they had remained united and endured each and every challenge hand in hand.
He'd also seen what she'd been like without Chakotay--and the terrible emotional cost it wrought on her. She'd become nearly unrecognizable to those who knew her-and had died embittered and alone. It was a future he wouldn't want to wish on his worst enemy.
And Leigh had been right about one other thing. The legacy of Voyager's crew was still strong today-his own secretary was living proof of that. Charmagne and her three older brothers were descended from both the Paris and Janeway bloodlines, brought about by the marriage of the eldest son of Tom and B'Elanna Paris to a daughter of Janeway and Chakotay. And their children would carry the legacy on to future generations.
Just as he was preparing to carry on his. His hand ghosted over Leigh's belly, caressing the child within. She shifted in her sleep, unconsciously sensing his touch, and one of her hands drifted down to his wrist. He smiled and brushed a kiss over her brow, before closing his eyes. When he finally slept, his dreams remained undisturbed.
And the nightmares of an alternate timeline no longer returned to plague him, for his future lay there in his arms.
story ©Cheile, December 2007. feedback feeds the muse--please let me know what you think :)