Captain's personal log, stardate 2785.9.
Hell. I hate this log. Back in the old days I never used it at all. If I needed to talk, I went to a counselor, or a friend, or wrote to Mark, and avoided the whole diary question altogether. I don't like the things anyway, and knowing that all that "personal" material was going to end up on file in the Star Fleet Intelligence archives somewhere didn't exactly thrill me.
Nowadays the only people I can see opening this file and listening to it are the children my crew may have, and their children: only Wildman's born so far, most not even conceived. I imagine them sometimes: grown, wearing faces that echo the ones I see every day, walking through the ship as I do. I can imagine them opening this file, and trying to find out by listening to it how it is that their world came to be just so. Guess they'll just have to live with the fact that I'm at least as confused as them.
It's him again. Chakotay.
He's started a story telling circle.
Well, no. It started itself, and dragged him in. But there's no real question that it is his.
He told me about it right away. He's good that way; better than I ever expected. Better than I would have expected even a straight-line officer to be. When there's even a little shift in the dynamic of the ship he shows up at my desk, or materializes at my shoulder on the bridge, and the next thing I know he's handing me some bit of information that...changes things. A good officer, better than I had any right to have hoped for.
Why does that shake me? It shouldn't. It should be a relief, under the circumstances. It isn't every day you take on an enemy as your partner. To find out he's the best first officer I've ever had should be a relief.
It is. But it's also...I don't know...
Things were simpler when this all began. I remember sitting at my desk, in my ready room, Tuvok on alert, like a good hunting dog on a fall morning. We were reviewing the Intelligence Reports, the personal files on the "enemies of the Peace". I suspect it stings Chakotay, to look at those reports now and see just how much we knew. The strength of his ship, the names and faces and records of his crew. The truth is, Tuvok was going in because we did know so much about them...we could tailor a cover story perfectly, fitting it to the specific needs of that one little group. And once in Tuvok could learn what we didn't know. The locations of bases, the overall plans of the Maquis. "The big picture". But the small picture...we had those details well in hand, thank you very much.
We gave particular attention to Chakotay, that day. He was the key. We went over everything. Psych profiles, biographical history. His resignation from the Fleet at the death of his father. It made for interesting reading, even the less intimate stuff. His Academy records: good, but uneven, with odd quirks and idiosyncrasies. His service records, similar. The final report from the Captain of the Exeter, placed in Chakotay's files at the time of his resignation, was painful to read. Old Kuto Falin had been grooming him, waiting for the day that his first officer, a Commander T'Alti, took her first command. Then Chakotay was to move into her spot, and Kuto had been expecting great things. The regret and the anger were biting, and directed as much at Star Fleet, and at Federation policy as at Chakotay himself.
As a Maquis he came into his own. That, of course, was what made him worth the hunt. He developed too many ties, become the focal point of too much information. He'd welded a rummage sale crew into a skilled attack force, and like many other former Fleet officers was helping the Maquis pull their other ships together, turn them into a true unit, instead of the independent clusters they had started as. Not yet as deep in Maquis command as some of the other Fleet renegades, but that made him a better target. Prominent enough to be useful, obscure enough not to be too well protected.
"Well, Tuvok...do you think you can manage it?"
One of those human things: asking the question that doesn't need an answer. When you've been in Star Fleet for a while you get used to...transposing...from one culture or race to another. If Tuvok had been a Klingon he'd have been grinning hard enough to give a tiger an inferiority complex. If he'd been a Ferengi, he'd have been rubbing his hands and doing that little shuffling jig they all seem to do when they see a hot prospect ahead. As it is he's Vulcan, and a Star Fleet officer, and Tuvok; and if his eyes were a bit brighter than usual, and his stance a bit more...anticipatory...he wouldn't have liked having it called to his attention.
"Undoubtedly, Captain. Given the information at our disposal, I estimate my chances of success at better than 84.783%. Granted that Mr. Chakotay displays a certain ... unpredictable randomness in his actions. None the less, I see no reason to be concerned. The final outcome is nearly assured."
I grinned. I've known Tuvok a long time. The certainty might be there...but it was that elusive 15.217% that had brought the look of anticipation to his face.
"A worthy foe, Tuvok? You haven't had a good hunt in a long time."
"Captain, you are mistaken in my motives. There is no "hunt". Only a job to be done. Criminals exist, and divisive elements; and I, in my capacity as a Star Fleet officer, attempt to bring them under control for the well being of the Federation as a whole. But I take no pleasure in the pursuit, only satisfaction in a job well done."
I've known Tuvok a very long time. Long enough to know he lies like an angel: not often, but when he does he never flickers an eye lash. And like most Vulcans, he lies as much to himself as to anyone else, to protect that silence he tries to cultivate at his center. It's one of those things I think they need and fear humans for. We challenge their perceptions, and knock at the foundations of their assumptions about themselves. I believe they'd find us downright unbearable, if we didn't have enough compassion not to let our nosiness and challenge-lust go too far too often. That day I let it ride. There'd be another day to stir up the hornets in that hive. I dismissed him, with a little promise to myself that I'd pull his leg a bit the next time I saw him. My Great Aunt Fannie's girdle there's no "hunt"...the man lives to hunt. Half the trouble I've had with Tuvok out here has to do with that. It's hard for him to accept his prey as his equals, and as full partners.
There was no problem at first. We got back several worthwhile reports from him, slipped out through override links in the computer systems of every space station they passed through. Things were going well, and I was hoping that soon we'd have enough information to call it a day, and pull Tuvok back in. After that it would be up to intelligence to get as much use as they could out of the information, before gathering up Chakotay and his crew. I don't enjoy it when my people are out on their own, particularly when they're as close to me as Tuvok is. It's necessary, and I deal with it. But I'm damned if I like it. It would be good to bring him back in. I had even planned to embarrass him a bit by dragging him out to a little Punjabi restaurant I know on Deep Space 9. It was something that would remind him of T'Pel; something he'd love, not that he'd ever admit it. I thought of it as a little teaser to sweeten him up for her.
And then the ship disappeared, dropped out of all report, somewhere in the badlands; and I spent the next weeks sifting through those Intelligence Reports with a dilithium lattice filter, looking for some shred of a clue as to what had happened. The old information; the new bits that Tuvok had passed on. It's amazing how your sense of control and certainty can crash. Before the disappearance I had felt as though the information we had on that little group and on the general practices of the Maquis was ample...maybe even over-generous. There wasn't much sense of mystery, and I had felt disappointed for Tuvok that the hunt had been so lackluster. Now I looked at the files again with a new uncertainty.
It's been hard times in the Federation lately. The Cardassian Treaty was...unfortunate. One of those compromises politicians love, and the rest of us struggle with. So much about Cardassian culture is unacceptable by our standards. Violent, cruel; and that seems to bring out the same elements in us.
I kept thinking of the tales of Cardassian torture chambers, the containment camps of Bajor, the manipulations of the Obsidian order. All of that violence is rumored to be reflected in the Maquis in new and frightening ways, as though they have no choice but to mirror it back; to attempt to return it in kind. I still don't know how much of the rumor is true, and how much just an extension of the fear and resentment that the whole issue raises in the rest of the Federation. But true or not I went over those records a hundred times, looking for some hint as to where the ship had gone; but looking even more closely for hints of what Tuvok would be facing if he had been discovered. The idea of him in the hands of angry Maquis terrified me.
Worst of all was the visit to tell T'Pel. Not that she hadn't been informed already, but there is a bond between Tuvok and me that carries over to T'Pel and the children, and it would have been wrong to have avoided that visit. I went over the evening before I left Vulcan for Earth, to meet with Intelligence and pick up Tom Paris. The sun hadn't set yet, but the air had already begun to cool off, and the shadows were long. The youngest child ran in the cool red court yard in the shade of early evening, herded gently and patiently by Tuvok's oldest daughter, as I spoke to their mother. I'm still shaken by look on her face as I promised to bring him back. That's one of the hardest things about dealing with Vulcans. Whatever lies they tell themselves, they won't accept the ones you tell them. Not for comfort, not for hope. Her eyes said she was waiting. Hoping. But not believing. I knew that she had already started to gather the incense for the Ceremony of Endings. I knew she was waiting in the night for the moment when she would feel her marriage bond with Tuvok snap, like a guy line giving way, and know that he was gone. Nothing I could say would remove the tension from her eyes. I hoped action would do better than words. If there was no hope, if he was dead by the time I reached him...I had some very unethical thoughts right about then. Most of them inspired by Cardassian torture chambers and rumors of Maquis cruelty.
And so to earth, to pick up Tom Paris. And then to Deep Space 9. Then to the badlands, and then....
That first conversation by subspace radio was quite an event. Unique.
My bridge was still God's own wreck from the sleigh-ride that had brought us there, and my brain was feeling about as bad. So much had happened. That blazing trip through, the deaths, the sudden transport to the array. The old mom and the Banjo man. Seeing the faces of the Maquis: still as they lay in that morgue of a med area. Tuvok's face more still than even his own control could make it.
Then waking on Voyager; Tom announcing Harry Kim's absence.
And the only possible ally I had for seventy light years was the man I had tracked into the badlands, and into nowhere.
It was a hell of a situation, and a hell of a choice. For both of us. I remember calling him by his Fleet rank, and then wondering if I shouldn't have granted him his captaincy, even if it was Maquis. I still don't know why I didn't; whether I needed to exert some kind of authority, or whether I was trying to call up old habits and training, or just the fact that right then I needed him to be the Fleet officer he had been, not Maquis, and my enemy. Those first moments of contact that's what he was, though. Suspicious. Angry. More than a little scared, caught at the back of beyond between me and the array. I wasn't at all sure he'd consider a truce, much less make alliance.
Well. It worked. I can't even take any credit for it. It would be nice to see myself as the mastermind who brought the whole thing together, but I can't afford the self-flattery. The whole damned thing would never have worked if it weren't for him. Somehow he jumped past the anger, and the suspicion and the betrayals, past the outrageousness of the situation and found a way to give me what I needed in spite of it all. And he carried the rest of them along with him.
It was strange seeing that corroded, beat up, reconditioned excuse for an assault ship ride shotgun beside Voyager. It felt as though there was...I don't know. I do know it helped to look into the view screen and see her gliding ahead of us, or tracking along side. She wasn't much of a thing to lean on; a ratty heap of a former freighter, with reconditioned everything and an arsenal out of a salvage yard. But damned if I didn't feel good as she paced us. I've never had the nerve to ask him what it cost him to ram her to hell the way he did. "Crazy Horse". The silly ass called her "Crazy Horse". She was his first command...
It was a strange time. A strange alliance. It worked then. It works now. You know what they say: don't fix it if it ain't broke.
But God, it's been rocky. I could have shot him for the laughter in his eyes when I made the offer to meld crews...and commands. The sonofabitch has the most cross-grained, scraggy sense of humor. It keeps cutting through everything I think I know, and rattling my sense of dignity. But I love it, too. I know the bridge crew thinks we're crazy...sometimes things happen, like Neelix on another idiotic morale mission, and the next thing you know we're half dying from the strain of not laughing ourselves senseless.
Why is it that the things that make him the best officer I've ever worked with are the very things that throw me off balance? He does it every time. I look at a familiar pattern, something I think I understand. He inserts himself into it, and Whoops! Hey presto! Familiarity goes out the airlock, and everything starts to look quirky. As though just by existing he was an agent provocateur for chaos.
He's started a story telling circle.
There I go again, landing the responsibility on his shoulders. But it's true, and I might as well say it, since he's taken that responsibility himself. It might have started on its own, but without him it wouldn't have been the same.
He told me about it. I think he'd done one or two of them before he showed up in my ready room to let me know, but only to be sure that it was going to be a regular thing. I knew something was up just by the way he moved. He has an amazing range of expression just in his body language. This time he was drawn in, just a bit cautious, as though he wasn't quite sure what kind of response he was going to get. That happens sometimes; I can see him trying to figure if something is going to turn into a round of regulation nit-picks or not. As it was I could've hugged him when he told me. They needed something like this, and it wasn't the sort of thing I could have simply legislated into existence.
After that it became a constant, and the results have carried over from the circle into everyday life. It's a good thing I already had a sense of the kind of power and status that role would give him, or I wouldn't have been ready for the change.
When things are busy on the bridge there isn't much difference. But once things slow down, and the chatter begins, the pattern changes. The jokes begin to slip out, and little references get passed from Tom to Harry to Chakotay...even Sam Wildman, who's a quiet little thing, gets in on it; and even in uniform, with the lights high and no stick in his hand, Chakotay's the center of it.
The references to stories have turned into a kind of shared short hand, and the only thing that allows me to follow some of the conversations at all is that he makes an extra effort to give me quick annotations and summaries. Even with that, there are a lot of times I feel left behind. I comfort myself with the pleasure of seeing the crew come together, and with regular doses of The Litany of Command Isolation. "Thou shalt hold thy Power to the Degree thou dost remain Separate." That one used to be a joke, back at the Academy. Those of us with dreams would put on our most pompous, high-professorial faces, and intone it like it was the text for the day, then fall down in giggling lumps, never really believing we'd be so cut off if we came to command. It's only after you've served for a while, and moved up far enough to have had to lead some, that you begin to see how hard it is to balance personal relationship against the need to command obedience.
I like it better when the circle stories show up in the ready room; just the two of us at the end of a day of grunt-level paperwork; or at the beginning of the day, as we review the work ahead of us, and slog down coffee. We get the necessary stuff out of the way, then the conversation begins to wander a bit, and pretty soon he's telling me about the latest round.
It's fun to watch. Relaxing, funny. He's really a dreadful ham. One night he was telling me about Harry. The boy had driven B'Elanna near crazy the night before by telling a shaggy dog of exquisite duration, chock full of sly sexual word play, all the while keeping his face pure and innocent as the snow; with B'Elanna catching every joke, but never sure Harry had any idea what he was saying. Chakotay was spinning the whole thing out for me: first Harry, then B'Elanna, then telling about his own little additions, the moments when he'd managed to throw her off the scent to help Harry string it out. He was playing it for all it was worth and having a grand time watching me fall apart over it.
"So B'Elanna's beginning to twig...she's got this look in her eye like she used to get when the warp drive began to give that funny whine it'd get before everything went to hell and the power dropped off-line...I used to think she believed she could intimidate it into cooperating with her. And just as she's about to blow, Wildman, of all people, cuts in like butter wouldn't melt with a very straight-faced question about the length of the supporting member, and Harry nods, and I nod and allow as how that's a very good question; and B'Elanna's looking from one of us to the other, baffled as a baby. Then Harry explains with perfect propriety that the length makes no difference in that particular application, that it's a matter of diameter and nature of the force applied, and I remind him that angle of intersection has to be taken into account, and torque, and Harry's nodding intensely, and commenting that you have to consider the effect of slow rotation on a highly lubricated surface, and finally B'Elanna can't stand it one more minute, and grabs up two coffee cups from the next table, and empties them over both our heads. Then she takes the extra time to pour sugar on me, and tells me I'm a rotten influence. At which point Harry caps it all by looking up at her with the most pitiful, innocent expression I've seen him manage yet, and with coffee dripping off of his nose says "But B'Ela-a-a-anna...I don't understa-a-a-nd...What did I say?" So B'Elanna just stands there, trying to decide if she has the balls to try to give him her interpretation of the whole thing or not, with him looking as naive as a two year old. I still don't think she's sure she's been had."
By then I was howling, with my ribs so sore I thought I'd die. He was having a ball, stretching it out as much as Harry had, eyes dancing, everything about him poured into it. All I could do was snigger and gasp.
"Oh, God, I wish I'd been there. It sounds perfect!"
"Why don't you come next time?"
I shook my head.
"No. Don't want to wreck it."
He looked at me. I'll tell you, not two whole years into this trip yet, and I already hate that look. It's the one he gets when he thinks I'm making a major mistake, but it's in an area he doesn't think I'll let him comment on. A bit exasperated, a bit amused, but mostly...withdrawn. It's the other side of the Command thing. Sometimes you pull away from your people; sometimes they pull away from you. When they do it to protect their own privacy it's bad enough. When they do it because they know you'll never let them in, it's terrible.
"I don't see the problem. You come, you sit down. What's to wreck?"
He was skimming close on that one. Sometimes you can say a lot more by playing dumb than you can by bulling in, and I knew damned well that he knew what the problem was.
"No. It's one of those times command gets in the way. As long as I'm not there, there's no problem. Once I am...well from that point on the Captain's on the bridge...whether she wants to be or not."
He shot me a sneaky, sly look, and a grin.
"In that case maybe I'd better stay away too. Wouldn't want to throw a monkey wrench into the crew's off duty time."
I gave him the best "don't push it" expression I had.
"You may be First Officer, Chakotay, but there are still things that you can get away with that I can't. Besides, you were invited. You already had a reputation as a story teller. For me to show up … even out of uniform ... would be something else again."
He let it ride, for which I was heartily grateful. The temptation was bad enough as it was, and I was half ready to say yes that evening.