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Take a Number

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Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath, and then took a step forward. The doors leading into the Department of Temporal Vessels opened. Steeling herself for what was to come, Janeway took a cautious step – and then another – across the gray tiled floor. It had been a decade since her last visit here and it was clear Starfleet hadn’t bothered to redecorate; the pale-yellow walls were still decorated with fading holovids that clearly had been produced in 2372. A rack of PADDs containing different forms was at the far end of the large room. Above her, the large rectangular light banks vibrated at a variety of frequencies, giving off hues that ranged from blinding white to a very pale blue.

“Take a number,” an unsmiling Andorian woman told Janeway.

“I have an appointment,” Janeway said, smiling. She held out a small device that showed that she indeed had an appointment and that it would be in exactly 47 seconds.

“Please register your appointment, take a number, and have a seat,” the Andorian woman intoned. She jerked her finger towards a row of kiosks directly behind her. “Next!”

Janeway took the hint. Her gaze drifted towards the rows and rows of seats to her right; it appeared to be the perfect gathering of Federation species. And more to the point, regardless of which planet they hailed from, none of them looked comfortable or happy in the black plastic seats they were spending the afternoon on.

Janeway registered her appointment on the kiosks and took the slip of paper that spit out. It was an archaic thing, this number on a paper, but as a Traditionalist, Janeway did appreciate it. She kept the paper with her other documentation and then went to find a seat. Normally her Starfleet uniform with the bar of the admiralty on the collar granted her special privileges but as she picked her way down the long rows, it was clear that no one cared who she was. Hardly a soul looked up as she reached the end of one row of fifty seats and then she turned down the next.

In the background, a mechanical voice droned, “Number 19853747, report to booth number 12. Number 19853747, report to booth number 12.”

Finally, Janeway found a seat between a Bolian and a Cardassian. The Bolian was reading a PADD and laughing jovially, while the Cardassian sat, arms crossed against his chest, scowling.

“Excuse me,” Janeway said politely. The Bolian grinned wide and toothily at her, but the Cardassian’s reptilian features didn’t register. “Have you been waiting long?”

“Three hours,” the Bolian said. He shook his blue head ruefully. “That’ll teach me to make temporal excursions…”

Janeway nodded in sympathy. After all, until she’d encountered temporal anomalies in the Delta Quadrant, she’d never even heard of the Department of Temporal Vessels. But after several encounters with Braxton, she now would have to renew her license every decade; without a license, any further temporal excursions would be illegal, and she could be fined.

“Number 2403524, report to booth number 4, number 2403524, report to booth number 4.”

Janeway blinked and got to her feet. “I hope you don’t have to wait too much longer,” she told the Bolian. The Cardassian’s scowl just got deeper.

Janeway walked briskly towards the booths at the back of the room. Big placards with black numbers on them were dangling over each booth and Janeway quickly located her assigned booth. There was a black plastic chair in front of the booth. She sat down.

“Name please?” the man in front of her whirled around to face her and Janeway found herself staring into the deep obsidian black eyes of her former first officer.

“Chakotay?” she asked.

“Kathryn?”

Janeway put her documents on the counter separating them. “You didn’t—How?” She hadn’t seen Chakotay in quite a while that was true; she’d been on a deep space mission for several years and as things went, they had lost touch. When she’d returned to San Francisco, she hadn’t bothered to contact him, assuming that he’d remained on Bajor working on a key archaeological dig. “How long have you been on Earth?”

“A couple of years,” he said. “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too.” Janeway cleared her throat. “So, when did you start working here?” It seemed like a politer question than the one she really wanted to ask.

“It’s been a year or so,” Chakotay said. “I came here to renew my registration and it turned out I couldn’t as in addition to my multiple temporal incursions, I apparently had too many shuttle accidents.” He frowned. “So, I went through the appeals process, and while that was going on, I developed an intimate knowledge of how the department runs. I realized I could help people so,” he shrugged as he took Janeway’s documents in hand, “once I won my appeal, I decided to stay.” He quickly looked at her documents. “I see you brought your birth certificate, but I also need other documentation showing Federation citizenship. Did you bring your personal identification number or your passport?”

“Right here,” Janeway said. She opened her passport to the picture page; it showed her from nearly twenty years before, her face more rounded than it was now, and her hair pulled back severely from her face in a top knot. She sincerely hoped she could get a new picture at this appointment. She handed the document to Chakotay who spent a long moment looking at the picture.

“Feels like yesterday,” he said quietly. “I still remember the moment you asked me to be your first officer.” He scanned the passport into the system. “Please provide your current mailing address.”

Janeway did so. “So where in San Francisco are you living?”

“Actually, I’m living in Ohio.” Chakotay swiftly input the address into the appropriate box on the form in front of him. “City life isn’t for me and there’s a great boxing gym in Cincinnati.”

“Ohio, that’s quite the change from Bajor,” Janeway said.

“Yes, but I had done everything I had to do on Bajor and I needed a change. For now, I’m happy. The days are long, but I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives. Without a license for temporal excursions, life can be very difficult. I need to test your vision now.” Chakotay turned a small machine in her direction and Janeway pressed her forehead against the padded headrest. “Please read line five.”

“O U R L U V I S 4 E V A,” Janeway read out-loud. “How did I do?”

“Great. It does not appear you need corrective lenses,” Chakotay said with a broad smile. His fingers brushed against Janeway’s just lightly. She felt the barest hint of electricity. “All right, do you want to be an organ donor?”

“Yes, of course,” Janeway said, impatiently. Why was Chakotay asking her questions he already knew the answers to? “When does your shift end?”

“I clock out at 1700 hours,” Chakotay said. “I heard through the grapevine that you were on a deep space mission. I hope it was successful.”

“Very much so. We charted thirty-eight planets and seven moons in three years.” Janeway couldn’t help but smile. “Not to mention all the data we collected on spatial phenomena.”

“You never missed an opportunity to investigate a nebula,” Chakotay said. He nodded towards the small holo-camera on his desk. “Time for your picture.” Janeway positioned herself appropriately in front of the camera. The camera flashed once and Chakotay checked the picture. “Your eyes were closed. Let’s do it again.” Janeway complied and was gratified when Chakotay said the picture would pass; she noticed him tucking the non-compliant picture into a drawer. “We are almost done here. How tall are you?”

“Five foot five inches,” Janeway answered. She leaned forward, gazing at Chakotay intently. “Do you have plans for tonight? It’d be nice to catch up over dinner. I know a great place down in Carmel.”

“Please sign here, acknowledging that you are aware of the risks and side-effects of time travel,” Chakotay said, pushing a PADD towards her. “And here also please.” He inspected her signature and then nodded. “Dinner sounds nice.”

“So that’s a yes?”

His lips turned up at the corners, giving her a chance to see those dimples again. Her heart skipped a beat. Don’t be ridiculous, Kathryn, she scolded herself, but if she was going to be honest, she wanted to be a little bit ridiculous.  Maybe a lot ridiculous.

“It’s a yes,” he said. He pushed a piece of paper towards her. “This is your temporary license. Your permanent license will be mailed to the address on record in the next two to three weeks. Keep this with you at all times, in case you make a temporal excursion.”

“I understand,” Janeway said. The last thing she wanted to do was venture into another time period. The only thing worse than time travel was a trip into the mirror universe and yet, she hadn’t had the honor. She sincerely hoped it stayed that way. She’d heard rumors that once one left the Prime Universe, it was necessary to register with MUDI – the Mirror Universe Department of Investigations. “So, you have my address…”

“Actually, it would be illegal for me to take your address from your documents. Here at the Department of Temporal Vessels, we pride ourselves on making sure your information is safe from prying eyes. I assure you that I have no knowledge of your address,” he told her. “All of your personal information has been destroyed.”

“I guess I’ll write it down for you then.” Once again Janeway was glad for her Traditionalist upbringing as Chakotay handed her a pen and a yellow Post-It note. She wrote her address down. “Nineteen hundred hours?”

Chakotay smiled. “I look forward to it.” And then he turned back to his computer. Janeway clutched at her temporary registration as she walked out of the building, just as the soulless voice on the overhead speaker said, “Number 49089284 to booth 4, Number 49089284.”

~ the end