Dani struggled in vain to pull her arms free from the chains that bound her to the chair, but only succeeded in deepening the cuts the chains had created in her skin. She finally realized the futility of it and gave up.
A large metal door across the room opened. Dani watched it expectantly. Finally, someone walked into the room. It was a woman. As she drew nearer, realized that the woman was a Cardassian!
‘In this area?’ Dani thought. ‘What is she doing here?’ A million questions like this raced through Dani’s mind.
The woman stepped up to Dani.
“Well, well, well…” she said, walking in a slow circle around Dani. “What have we here?” She stopped at Dani’s left. Dani refused to look at her. She was angry, confused, and, most of all, scared to death. What did the Kazon and this Cardassian want? Did they want her specifically? Maybe they’d wanted the whole team and only gotten her because the transport had failed.
“What’s your name?” the Cardassian asked. When Dani didn’t answer, the woman walked around to the front of Dani and stooped so that the two were eye level to each other.
The woman looked into Dani’s eyes. There was something familiar about them, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint it. “I said what’s your name?” the woman repeated, more forcefully. Dani did nothing but glare at the woman in front of her.
The woman stood and looked down at Dani. She had seen that glare somewhere before. Someone else had looked at her like that in the past. That glare…and then she realized it – that was the icy cold stare of Captain Kathryn Janeway!
The woman leaned down to get a better look at her captive, just to be sure. She looked into her eyes once again. ‘No,’ the woman thought, ‘it isn’t Janeway.’ She studied the girl a little longer. ‘But they’re definitely related,’ she decided. She started to sort this out logically. This person was too young to be a sister. Even if she were, what was she doing here, in the Delta quadrant? No. That was a big ‘if’.
The woman looked at the person in the chair again and saw something she hadn’t noticed before. There was something around the girl’s neck. A small necklace. She picked it up off the young woman’s neck with her finger and examined it. She immediately recognized the miniature symbol that hung on the small chain. “Chakotay…” slipped from her lips.
Dani looked up at the Cardassian woman. How did she know her father? The woman looked from the necklace to Dani. She knew she’d hit home when she’d uttered Chakotay’s name. And suddenly she saw it. That look of angry surprise that Chakotay, her former lover, had so mastered. That glare she’d gotten from the Starfleet captain so many times before. This was the daughter of Janeway and Chakotay.
The woman stood up straight. It was time to visit some old “friends.”
“Captain, I’m picking up a Kazon warship,” Tom reported. He’d returned to his position at helm. He and the rest of the bridge crew had watched Kathryn practically go out of her mind trying to figure out a way to get her daughter back. But she didn’t have the slightest idea where to even start. They hadn’t picked up anything remotely Kazon – until now, that is. Chakotay had remained calm on the outside, however one look in his dark eyes revealed that he was feeling everything Kathryn was feeling – anger, frustration, hopelessness, fear. However, at the report of a Kazon ship nearby, the tiniest glimmer of hope had appeared in his eyes.
Kathryn looked at Tom. “Where?” she asked, referring to the warship.
“A few kilometers off our port bow,” Tom replied.
Kathryn stood. “Onscreen,” she said. The unattractive design of a Kazon warship appeared on the screen. “Mr. Kim?”
“I’m on it, Captain,” Harry said. “Scanning for Dani’s signal.” After a few very tense moments, Harry finally spoke. “I’ve located her!” Kathryn turned to the young ops officer “…She’s conscious, and there’s someone with her.”
“Kazon,” Kathryn assumed.
Harry shook his head. “No, Captain.” He looked up from the sensor readings. “Cardassian.”
Chakotay stood and looked at Kathryn, then at Harry. “Cardassian?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Female.” Chakotay looked at Kathryn again. They were both thinking the same thing, but…no, it couldn’t be. What would she be doing in the Delta quadrant? And with the Kazon, at that?
“Captain, we’re being hailed!”
“On screen,” Kathryn commanded. The view screen flickered, and a familiar face filled the screen. Kathryn and Chakotay looked at each other. They hadn’t wanted to believe it, but here she was staring them and the rest of the bridge crew in the face.
“Seska…” Tom said, hardly believing his eyes.
“Yes, Tom,” Seska said smoothly. “It’s me. Long time, no see, eh?” Seska looked from the pilot to the Captain. “Well, well, well…hello, Captain…” She looked at the first officer. “…Chakotay…” She looked at Kathryn once again. “It seems we’ve arrived at a very interesting situation.”
“I want my crew member back,” Kathryn said pointedly.
“Oh, come now, Captain,” Seska said coyly. “Let’s not beat around the bush. We both know she’s not really a member of your crew.” Seska saw Kathryn give a nervous glance to Chakotay. “She’s your daughter.”
Kathryn’s first instinct was to deny it, but she decided against it. Instead, she asked, “What makes you think that?”
“Well, you do have to admit that it is rather obvious. She looks just like you…” Seska looked at Chakotay. “…and her father.”
Chakotay stepped up and stood beside Kathryn. “If you lay one finger on her-”
“She is quite beautiful,” Seska interrupted. “You did a good job. She hasn’t said a word.”
“If you hurt her, Seska, I promise you won’t live long enough to even realize the mistake you’ve made,” Chakotay threatened.
“Commander,” Kathryn said sternly.
“Yes, Commander,” Seska mocked. “You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.”
Kathryn looked at Seska’s face on the view screen.
“What do you want, Seska?” Kathryn asked. “Name your price.”
“My asking price is too great,” Seska said.
“You have my daughter,” Kathryn said. “No price is too great. Just tell me what I have to do to get her back.”
Seska’s gaze fell on Chakotay. Everyone knew what – or rather, who – she wanted.
“If I don’t have what I want in exactly one hour, I’ll kill her.”
Kathryn looked at Chakotay, whose eyes remained fixed on the image displayed on the screen.
“I’ll be there,” Chakotay said.
“Good. I’m glad we see eye-to-eye.” The view screen flickered and Seska’s image disappeared.
“Commander, my ready-room – now,” Kathryn ordered. However, it wasn’t in her usual command tone that she gave the order. It was more…fragile.
“Yes, Captain,” Chakotay said, walking past Kathryn in the direction of her ready-room. Kathryn turned and followed Chakotay’s path. She stopped at the tactical station.
“Tuvok, you have the bridge,” she said without looking up.
“Aye, Captain,” Tuvok replied.
Kathryn hesitated before walking into her ready-room. As soon as the doors slid shut behind her, her demeanor deteriorated from the tough captain to the worried mother. She and Chakotay looked at each other. She walked over to her desk and leaned against it. She bowed her head and brought one hand to her forehead.
“They’ve got her,” Kathryn said. She sighed. “They’ve got her.”
Chakotay walked over to Kathryn. “But we’re going to get her back, Kathryn,” he said.
Kathryn looked up at Chakotay. “How do we know Seska won’t kill her once you get over there?”
“Because I won’t let her,” Chakotay said confidently.
Kathryn looked away. “This is all my fault,” she said. “I never should’ve let her go on that away mission.”
“Kathryn, she couldn’t stay locked in our quarters forever.”
“I know. I just…” Her eyes were filming over with tears that she was desperately trying to hold back. She wasn’t a woman who cried easily, but what kind of a mother would she be if she couldn’t even allow herself to cry for her own daughter? The tears flowed over, and she didn’t even make a move to wipe them away. She stood and few steps towards the middle of the room.
“…I just wanted to…” She couldn’t find the words. Chakotay walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. She went nearly limp in his arms.
“Well, it looks as if you could be getting out of here pretty soon.” Seska walked into the room in which Dani was being held. The girl looked up at her. “I thought that might get your attention.” Seska stooped in front of Dani. They looked at each other, and Seska continued.
“It seems your father will be joining us. If everything goes well, you’ll be on your way home.”
Dani spoke for the first time since she’d been in Seska’s captivity. “And if everything doesn’t go well?”
Seska didn’t reply. She just smiled. But it wasn’t a friendly or comforting smile. It did everything but comfort Dani. In fact, it frightened her.
Dani’s eyes fell on the figure who had appeared in the doorway beyond Seska. Seska didn’t have to turn around to know that it was a messenger. She stood. Her package hd arrived. She turned and walked toward the door and the messenger.
Chakotay stood in a corridor on the Kazon vessel. Before he had even completely materialized, he was surrounded by armed guards. Immediately, one of the guards reached out and snatched his comm badge off his chest. The guard stepped back and looked at it curiously. Chakotay looked past the guards and saw a familiar figure walking towards him. As the figure neared, Chakotay realized that it was Seska. The guards parted, creating a path for her.
“Chakotay,” Seska said. “So glad you could join us.”
“Where’s Dani?” Chakotay asked strait-forwardly.
“So, that’s her name?” Seska asked. “Dani? She wouldn’t tell me.” She took a step closer to Chakotay. “You and Janeway taught her well.”
“We didn’t teach her anything she didn’t need to know,” Chakotay said.
“True,” Seska agreed. She took a step closer to Chakotay and tried to stroke his face. He moved before she could touch him. She withdrew her hand. “I see you’ve let your hair grow out-”
“-Let’s skip the small talk, Seska,” Chakotay interrupted. “You said you’d let her go when I got here, and I’m here.”
“Not so fast,” Seska said. “What’s the rush?”
“I just want my daughter out of here.” Seska took a few steps back from Chakotay. He eyed her suspiciously. “You haven’t hurt her, have you?”
Seska looked sincerely hurt. “Of course not. What kind of person do you think I am?”
“One who threatened to kill my daughter.”
“If you’ll follow me,” Seska said in a sickeningly polite tone. Chakotay followed Seska past the Kazon. He walked a few paces behind her, while the Kazon guards walked directly behind him. One of the guards’ guns poked lightly into his back with each step.
Chakotay followed Seska into a room. The guards followed. Chakotay’s eyes instantly fell on the figure bound to the chair in the middle of the room.
“Dani!” He tried to run to her, but two of the guards restrained him with their guns. Dani looked at him.
“Dad!” she said.
Chakotay looked at Seska, his anger flaring.
“You tied her up?!” he exclaimed. “She’s not a criminal.”
“But she is a prisoner,” Seska argued. “You’re telling me you wouldn’t restrain your prisoner? Come now, Chakotay; you know I know you better than that.”
Chakotay looked at Dani again. “You have me. Now let her go.”
“You know, I’m not sure if I should,” Seska said. Chakotay looked at her. His eyes remained fixed on her as she walked towards Dani. Seska turned to face Chakotay once again. “What do you think, Culluh?”
Chakotay noticed that Seska was looking past him at someone else. He turned to see a rather large Kazon warrior standing behind him. The guard backed off, allowing the new-comer passage.
‘This is the First Maje, the leader,’ Chakotay thought. He could tell by the silent authority he had over all the others.
Culluh stepped around Chakotay, into the open space in front of Dani and Seska.
“I think she could prove to be a very valuable prisoner, the daughter of a Federation captain,” the Kazon leader said. He walked up to Dani. “We could accomplish many things with this one.”
“Over my dead body,” Chakotay growled. The crewmen held him in place.
“We could carry out that request with very little effort, I assure you, Chakotay, but I was so sure you’d want to go a different route,” Seska said.
“She’s very attractive, Federation,” Culluh said to Chakotay. He bent down to Dani. “Tell me – do you dance?”
Looking him directly in the eye, Dani spit in Culluh’s face. The Kazon immediately retaliated by slapping Dani across the face. She closed her eyes. She was stunned more than hurt. No one had ever done that to her before. She refused to cry, to give Culluh the satisfaction. Instead, she looked back up at the Maje. She looked him dead in the eye and didn’t even falter.
Chakotay had to be restrained by three guards. When he realized his attempts to get to his daughter were futile, he looked at Seska.
“Seska, stop this!” he half-pleaded, half-ordered. “This is between me and you. Leave her out of this! Send her back to Voyager. Please.”
“It’s not my call to make,” Seska said, shrugging.
“Bring him to me,” Culluh ordered, still looking down at Dani. The guards obediently walked Chakotay over to Culluh. Two guards held him, while one tied his hands behind his back. They forced him down on his knees.
“You’re going to do this to me in front of my own child?” Chakotay asked. “Can’t you leave me with even a little dignity?” He was answered by a hard blow to the face, which he was sure left a bruise almost instantly. He was also sure that it wasn’t the last he was to receive. There were more to come.
“I guess that’s a no,” Chakotay said. He promptly received another blow to the face. This one more or less landed on his jaw.
“Tell me Voyager’s command codes,” Culluh ordered.
“No,” Chakotay refused. Culluh punched him again, splitting his lower lip.
“I want Voyager’s command codes,” Culluh repeated.
Culluh hit Chakotay again, this time, bruising his eye. “The codes!”
“I’d die before I handed them over to you,” Chakotay said. Culluh backhanded Chakotay, sending him across the floor.
“I’d reconsider if I were you,” Culluh suggested threateningly. He kicked Chakotay once in the stomach. Chakotay rolled onto his back. “Untie them,” Culluh ordered, walking to the door. The crewmen proceeded to untie Dani. One of them picked Chakotay up, threw him onto his stomach, and untied his wrists. They then left.
Dani fell to her father’s side. Seska bent down to Chakotay. “Please, Chakotay,” she pleaded with mock concern, “don’t make this harder on yourself. Tell us the command codes. If not for yourself, then for your daughter.” Seska touched Dani’s face. Dani immediately moved out of her grasp. Seska stood.
“I’ll give you a little time to think it over,” she said before leaving the room.
Dani looked down at Chakotay. “Dad?”
“I’m fine,” Chakotay said. He started to sit up. “A few bruises and scrapes. Ah!”
“Easy,” Dani said, helping Chakotay to a sitting position. Chakotay leaned against the wall and closed his swollen eyes.
“A broken rib,” he said, wincing in pain. “Or five.”
“I’ll be fine,” Chakotay said. He opened his eyes and looked at Dani. A nasty bruise was starting to form on her face where Culluh had hit her. “What about you?”
Dani instinctively touched the area right under her eye. “Me? I’m fine.”
“Does it hurt much?”
“Smarts a little. It probably looks worse than it actually is.” Dani moved and sat against the wall beside Chakotay. She felt like resting her head on his shoulder, but she was afraid it might be injured. “Well, what do we do now?”
“We wait,” Chakotay said. “Your mother’s probably already realized that you should’ve been back a long time ago. At least that’s the way it would’ve worked out in our plan.”
“What about you?”
“We hadn’t gotten that far in the plan, yet.”
Kathryn paced around the bridge. Neither Seska nor Chakotay had contacted her in almost an hour.
“This is taking too long,” Kathryn observed. “We should’ve heard something by now.” She stopped pacing and turned to Harry. “Harry do we have anything, yet?”
“No, Captain. I’m not picking up Dani any more, and I’ve lost the Commander’s comm badge signal, too.”
Kathryn tapped her own comm badge. “Janeway to engineering. B’Elanna?”
“Torres here, Captain,” B’Elanna said.
“B’Elanna, have you found out anything new?” Kathryn asked.
“Yes, Captain,” B’Elanna said. “We’ve confirmed that there is, in fact, a dampening field that’s blocking Chakotay’s and Dani’s signals. We’re working on a way to cut through and locate them now.”
“Good. Keep working. I don’t know how much time we have.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
“Keep me posted. Janeway out.” Kathryn tapped her comm badge again, ending the transmission. She resumed her pacing.
Dani opened her eyes at the sound of the doors sliding open. It was the loud sound of two metal objects sliding past each other. She looked in the direction of the door and saw Culluh, Seska, and four Kazon crewmen enter the room. The four crewmen pulled Dani and Chakotay to their feet. Culluh stepped up to the battered Chakotay.
“Are you prepared to tell me what I want to hear, Federation?” Culluh asked.
“I told you,” Chakotay began, “I’d rather die than give them to you.”
“Believe me, that’s a very tempting offer, however, if you were dead, I still wouldn’t have what I wanted,” Culluh observed. He looked from Chakotay to Dani.
“She doesn’t know them,” Chakotay said before Culluh could go on.
“No,” Culluh agreed, “but I wasn’t going to ask her.” He held out his hand. Seska placed a rifle in it. Culluh pointed the rifle at Dani’s head.
“Torres to Bridge!” B’Elanna exclaimed.
“Bridge here,” Kathryn responded. “What is it, Lt.?”
“Captain, we’ve located Chakotay and Dani!” B’Elanna reported.
“Can you get a lock?” the Captain’s voice asked.
B’Elanna worked speedily at her console in engineering. “I’ve almost got them.” Her fingers skipped over the sleek controls. If she didn’t work fast…damn! “Captain, I’ve lost them!”
“Get them back, Lt.!” Kathryn said desperately.
“I’m trying,” B’Elanna replied.
The Kazon leader looked at Chakotay. “Physical torture didn’t work, so we have to take a different path. This rifle is set to kill. Tell me the codes, or I’ll fire.”
Dani and Chakotay looked at each other.
“Don’t do it,” Dani said to Chakotay. “Don’t.”
“Aww, isn’t that sweet?” Seska said.
“The codes,” Culluh demanded.
Chakotay went over everything in his mind. If he didn’t tell Culluh the codes, Dani – his only daughter, his pride and joy, his flesh and blood – would die; but if he did, everyone onboard Voyager would surely perish. How was he supposed to choose? Voyager or his own daughter?
“Tough call, Chakotay?” Seska asked. “You know, if you’d just given us the codes when we first asked for them, you wouldn’t be in this situation right now…so what’s it going to be, Chakotay?”
“The codes,” Culluh demanded once more.
“B’Elanna,” Kathryn said, “What’s our status?”
“I’ve got them!” B’Elanna exclaimed.
“Get them out of there!”
Chakotay had made his decision. He looked Culluh directly in the eye and said, “No.”
“Have it your way,” Seska said.
Dani looked at the rifle. She didn’t think about dying, even though she knew her short life was about to come to an end. She thought about her life. She thought about the summers she and her parents had spent in Indiana when she was a little girl. She thought about the first time she’d ever tasted coffee or caramel brownies. She thought about the day her parents had brought Molly, her dog, home. She thought about her mother, her father. All these thoughts passed through her mind in a matter of seconds.
At the moment Dani expected to feel a rifle blast rip through her body, she saw the familiar blue light of Voyager’s transporter stream.
“B’Elanna, do you have them?” Kathryn asked anxiously.
After a few moments delay, B’Elanna responded with, “I’ve got them.”
“Transport them to sickbay immediately. Mr. Paris, get us out of here. Warp 5.” Kathryn started for the turbolift. “Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge.”
When Kathryn walked into sickbay, Dani and Chakotay were on biobeds. The Doctor was using the osteoregenerator on Chakotay. Kathryn was overjoyed to see that both were conscious.
“Dani!” Kathryn said.
“Mom!” Dani jumped off the biobed and ran into her mother’s waiting arms. Kathryn looked Dani over, stroking her hair, touching her to make sure she was really there.
“Are you alright?” Kathryn asked. She placed her hand on Dani’s chin and turned her head so that she could study the dark bruise under her eye.
“I’m fine,” Dani said. “Dad’s the one whose really hurt.” She turned and looked at Chakotay. So did Kathryn.
“Chakotay…” Kathryn said. She walked over to the biobed on which he was sitting. Dani followed.
“I’m fine,” Chakotay said. “It’s just a few broken ribs. Some cuts and bruises.”
“You’re very lucky you only sustained one kick,” the Doctor said. “Anymore would have damaged some of your internal organs.” The Doctor waved a dermal regenerator over the bruises on Chakotay’s face. “It looks like we picked you up at just the right time.”
“Actually, I wasn’t the one in danger when we transported,” Chakotay admitted. Kathryn looked at Dani.
“There was a phaser rifle pointed right at my head,” Dani said. ” A few seconds later, and there wouldn’t have been anything to transport.”
Kathryn embraced Dani again. This time, Chakotay joined in.
Dani looked up at her parents. “You know,” she started, “I have a question.”
“Okay,” Kathryn said. “What is it?”
“It’s about home,” Dani elaborated.
“Go ahead,” Chakotay urged.
Dani looked at her mother and then her father, and then she asked, “Are we there, yet?”