Borrowed Lives, Chapter 3


SCHRODINGER'S CAT

*

By Tommyhawk1@aol.com

*
Chakotay spent the afternoon almost happily studying the crew roster sheets. It wasn't that different from the crew roster of the other Voyager, though many of the Maquis members weren't listed; Chell for instance. Seska had never made it to this Voyager, either, nor had Lon Suter. THAT was a relief!
*
There came a buzz and he answered, "Chakotay here."
*
The screen lit and Chakotay slowly rose to his feet. "Captain." he said carefully. But which one?
*
"I'm told we won't have communications for very long." Captain Janeway said. "But I think I'm entitled to an explanation."
*
Chakotay still couldn't be sure. It just didn't FEEL like the Captain Janeway he had known for years. "Are you the Captain Janeway of the other Voyager?"
*
"Yes." That disconcerted her. "Can't you tell?"
*
"No." There was the same subtle change in her as in this universe's Janeway. He must be viewing her now through the eyes of sexual indifference. "I'm sorry, Captain. This wasn't an easy choice for me." Chakotay said. "Did this Captain Janeway fill you in on what happened?"
*
"Yes, but I still want to hear your decision from you. My crew is now missing its second-in-command. I can't let such a loss pass without some reason other than personal caprice."
*
"Captain, the question for me is which universe I belong in." Chakotay said. "My memories are from your universe, my emotions are from this one. My body is more than half from this universe. It was a judgment call."
*
"One you made very quickly." Janeway pointed out. "You've been gone less than twenty-four hours. May I have your reasons?"
*
"Captain, in this universe I am married and have a two-year-old child. They need me."
*
"I need you, too." Janeway said.
*
"One ship must do without me. I can't see how your ship deserves priority in that."
*
"How much of your body from our universe was transmitted?"
*
"Thirty-five percent, I'm told."
*
"We have fifty-six percent of your physical signal here in our own transporter banks." Janeway informed him.
*
That staggered him. That wrenching feeling he had experienced during transport; it had been more than just sensation! "What about the mental engrams?" Chakotay asked. "What about the ME inside the signal. Did you retrieve any of it?"
*
"No." Janeway admitted. "We broke off the signal when we realized that there was an alternate universe involved and another transport. We had hoped that we could reassemble you with cooperation from the other universe."
*
"What about my mind?" Chakotay asked.
*
"We could set the transporter in for duplication of the engrams." Janeway said. "There would be some risk involved, yes."
*
"So you'd want to tear this body apart with the idea of reassembling me in two different places?" Chakotay said, disbelieving. "Different bodies, but the same mind?"
*
"Don't you think this other Chakotay deserves to be reassembled?"
*
"They lost his mental engrams in the transport. You know how unstable residual mental engrams are after transport resolution. Nothing was left that didn't get put inside me." Chakotay said. "He's dead, or halfway dead. You'd be stuck with two of this hybrid me. I'd be back in your universe, but I'd carry this mind with me."
*
"I'm willing to get you back on that basis." Janeway said. "It's better than losing you entirely. Your Captain Janeway said it was entirely up to you."
*
"I'll think it over."
*
"Please hurry." Janeway said. "We're chasing the ion storm and your universe's Janeway has altered course to sustain the contact. The ion storm is weakening. Either we conclude the beam-out by tomorrow morning at the latest or you'll be stuck in that universe forever."
*
"That was the choice I made." Chakotay pointed out.
*
"Think about it." Janeway said. "Give me that much. If you have any loyalties left to this Voyager, you'll accept the transport. Our signal is losing strength. We'll contact you tomorrow morning at 0600, ready to make the transport, as will your Voyager. Please have your decision made by then."
*
"I'll let you know then." Chakotay said. "Chakotay out."
*
Chakotay stared at the blank screen. Mathematics played in his head. If the transporter exchange was successful, he'd be alive in both universes, both with this one mind (copied like a regular computer program; they'd have to override some major ethical sub-routines in the transporter's programming to accomplish that!), but with his own separate bodies. Ninety percent of his two bodies were retained, both inside himself and in the two transporter buffers. It'd be simple enough to feed in and fill in the missing parts of his physical body; that wasn't the question. Transporters routinely had to "supplement" signals as much as five to six percent; it was one of the philosophical quandaries of transport. A part of you got lost every time you transported. But they'd overcome that by making it the body that was lost; the mind was kept intact and safe. Except for his one case, the exception that proved the rule.
*
It wasn't fair! Asking him to be ripped apart again! It wasn't fair to him!
*
He agonized and then asked the computer to locate his husband. Paris wasn't on the bridge, but in one of the holodecks. That was odd. He rechecked the crew roster, yes, Paris was supposed to be on duty.
*
Enough studying for today! It'd be days and weeks before he caught up on the differences of this universe. And why burden this mind if he accepted the transport with such data, anyway? Like a permanent Schrodinger's Cat, he would exist in two universes at once. His body would and would not exist.
*
One thing was certain, this body would die in the transport. His mind would be saved, but not this body, not the one that longed to hold Tom Paris.
*
His feet carried them of their own accord to the holodeck. It was unlocked, and he signaled for admittance, wondering what this universe's Tom Paris used for a relaxation program.
*
A world of bare rock, and no atmosphere, the stars shone bright and steady in the sky. Only in a holodeck program could you stand on such a world unprotected. And this was the world chosen by Tom Paris. For relaxation? Never! It felt--desolate here. Lonely. Sad.
*
"Hello." he said quietly to the seated figure.
*
Paris turned his eyes to him. "Hello."
*
"Mind some company?"
*
"Okay, but not for long." Paris turned away again.
*
This felt wrong. Chakotay walked over and sat by him, but the slightest touching of their two bodies such a seating caused also caused Paris to scoot away from him.
*
"Tom, what is it? Talk to me."
*
"My husband is dead." Paris said. "That's enough reason to be sad, isn't it?" Those words, all his words, were coming out like stone. "It just sunk into me, when we parted at the turbolift. My husband's dead. You look like him, you act like him, you feel like him, but you're not him. We can't bring him back."
*
"A part of him is inside me." Chakotay said. "A big part of him."
*
"I know." Paris said. "And that's what hurts me about looking at you. That's why I don't want to look at you right now. Why couldn't it have been the other way around? Why did he have to lose out in the transport instead of you?"
*
"Tom, I swear, if I could go back and change things, I would." Chakotay said. "He didn't ask for this to happen and neither did I, but at least it was my universe that was trying to kill me. If it hadn't been for that, he would have beamed up with no problem at all."
*
"I know." Tom said. "That's what I'm having trouble with."
*
"Tom, I know that I'm not the man you married." Chakotay said. "Anything you and I can share, it'll have to be brand-new. I know that. I'm willing to give you all the time you need, even though right now I want to hold you more than anything. The part of him that loves you didn't die. I can't explain it to you any better than that. Just the memories are different. If your Chakotay had been struck with amnesia, would you have stopped loving him?"
*
"No." Paris admitted.
*
"Then that's the way to handle this." Chakotay said. "I'm your Chakotay, but with amnesia, and a bunch of wrong memories stuck in their place. I'm not dead. I don't remember you, but I'm not dead."
*
"You're not dead." Paris said, looking at him now.
*
"I'm here."
*
"You're here." Paris said, his voice somnolent.
*
"And while I don't remember everything, I remember that I love you." Chakotay said. "I love you very much."
*
Paris' arms were around him and the tears flowing. Chakotay held him, long after the tears had stopped, the body had stopped shaking, and a simple comfort took its place.
*
"They had almost contacted the other Voyager when I left." Paris said after a time. "Have they done it yet?"
*
"Yes." Chakotay said.
*
"What did you tell them?"
*
"That there was no way I was leaving you." Chakotay said. "But they've come up with a way where I don't have to."
*
"How?" Paris wanted to know.
*
Chakotay explained and Paris listened with disbelieving eyes. "They expect you to do that?"
*
"Yes." Chakotay said. "Though they're leaving it up to me."
*
"They want to rip you apart and stick you back together again?"
*
"Yes." Chakotay said. "The Chakotay who stays here would be totally yours again, the body, anyway. My mind would be the same as it is now."
*

Paris sat and shook his head. "People shouldn't have to make choices like this."
*
"I know." Chakotay said. "But we have to. But it should be our decision, yours and mine."
*
"The Tom Paris in your universe." Paris said. "What's he like?"
*
Chakotay thought about him, trying to sort out the emotions he felt for this Tom Paris and the ones that were from his memories only. "I think he's a young man who's had a very difficult life, and made some bad mistakes as a result of it. Coming to the Delta Quadrant was the best thing that could have happened to him."
*
"Does he have someone like you over there?" Paris asked.
*
"I don't know." Chakotay said. "He's dating some of the women aboard the ship, and he has his friends. I think he's the happiest right now he's ever been."
*
"You could help him." Paris said. "He needs you."
*
"He doesn't want anything to do with me." Chakotay said. "The Tom Paris in my universe would only be repulsed by what we're doing right now."
*
"Being held and comforted by you?"
*
"He doesn't want any comforting from me."
*
"But he needs it."
*
"Okay, he needs it." Chakotay gave up.
*
"Could you love that Tom Paris? If he let you?"
*
"I don't know. I hadn't thought about it. I never felt that way towards him."
*
"How do you feel about him now?"
*
Chakotay thought about it. "Now--I'd like to get to know him better, yes. I'd have to try, to see if there was any way we could work something out. Maybe just friends. Probably just friends."
*
"You're going to do it, aren't you?" Paris asked him.
*
"I guess I am." Chakotay said. "They need me. And I am a Starfleet officer." Another part of the other Chakotay surfacing in that feeling, he had never been Maquis. "But I don't want to leave you."
*
"You won't be leaving me."
*
"Yes, and no." Chakotay said. "The part of me that ends up there will have to live without you."
*
"But with the other Tom Paris."
*
Chakotay laughed. "I thought, back when I thought your Chakotay was in the other universe, how my Tom Paris would react to me trying to kiss him. He'd jump like he was bitten by a Klingon raptor bug."
*
"So you can go back and find out." Paris teased.
*
"All right." Chakotay said. "On one condition."
*
"What's that?"
*
"Give me one night with you." Chakotay said. "If I'm going to be leaving you forever, give me at least one memory of that."
*
"All right."
*
Chakotay got up and told them to contact the other Voyager. Tell them to plan on beaming him home.
*
0600 came far too soon. Chakotay wouldn't let go of Paris, holding him tightly even as they signaled the other Voyager. The other Janeway's eyes widened at the sight, but Chakotay didn't care. He just wished the viewscreen had shown him the other Tom Paris. He kissed Paris slowly, then stepped onto the transporter plate. Felt quickly for the scrap of paper he carried inside it.
*
"Remember that if the transport on this side fails, you are to beam me back here." he reminded them. "If one universe has to do without a Chakotay, it'll be the other one. Promise me that."
*
"Agreed." Janeway said. "Turning control over to Transporter Room Two."
*
The signal this time was even worse than before. Chakotay felt his body being torn to shreds and if he'd had functioning nerve endings during the transport, he would have screamed in pain until driven to madness. Then the feeling of being mixed into a morass that swirled and churned until it found its balance. Then the tingle of the transporter and he looked around.
*
No Tom Paris. Just Captain Janeway and the Transporter Room ensign.
*
"I'm on the other Voyager." he sighed. The fact there was another him still standing over there didn't help a bit.
*
"Welcome back." Janeway said.
*
Chakotay ignored her. He felt for the slip of paper in his pocket and took it out, crumpled it, disposed of it without reading it. It wasn't meant for him, it was for the other Chakotay, and besides, he knew what it said, he had written it himself.
*

**********************
* "Give him a kiss for me." *
**********************

*
He hoped the other Chakotay was doing that right now.
*
"Both transport reconstructions functioned perfectly." Janeway told him. "You're now twins, Commander."
*
"Yeah." Chakotay said. "But I wish it was him here instead of me."
*
A faint shaking of the ship. "Get us out of this ion storm." Janeway ordered.
*
"Aye, aye, Captain." came the familiar voice. That was going to be especially hard to take right now.
*
"Let's go to the bridge." Chakotay sighed. "Might as well get it over with."
*
Paris turned around as Chakotay stepped up onto the bridge. His forehead, missing the tattoo, looked naked and unfinished. Chakotay managed a neutral expression and nod. "Lieutenant."
*
"Commander." Paris returned.
*
"What's our status?"
*
"On new course, destination, the Alpha Quadrant."
*
"Steady as she goes." Chakotay said and took his seat.
*
"Aye, aye, sir." Paris said.
*
It would be rough, but he could handle it. After all, he did have one memorable night to cling to.
*
He was competent in his duties the rest of that day, but no more. Conversations failed to interest him, and towards afternoon, the bridge got very quiet indeed. It was a relief when it was over and he could go to his quarters and be alone. He needed that, right now.
*
A message was waiting for him. "On screen." he said.
*
It was Lieutenant Hamilton. "Commander." he said. "I'm calling as a representative of Voyager's Lambda Club. Given the...change in your circumstances, we thought we should remind you of our presence, and to let you know that you are welcome at any of our club events you should choose to attend. Tonight at 2000, we're hosting our weekly mixer party in Holodeck Two, and have special hopes you will feel up to attending it. We hope to turn it into a welcoming party for you. Please indicate by 1800 hours whether or not you'll be attending, so we can plan accordingly. If you do attend, remember that uniforms are discouraged. Our policy is that rank doesn't count inside our meetings. Thank you, sir, and hope to see you there. Hamilton out."
*
The Lambda Club. He'd forgotten it existed. Voyager's gay and Lesbian crewmen had established their branch of the Starfleet-sanctioned club soon after arriving in the Delta Quadrant. As Hamilton had reminded him, rules about socializing between ranks was held in complete abeyance. It permitted the twenty-eight members of Voyager who were Lesbian or gay to have a place where they were the norm.
*
He wondered if the other Voyager had a Bio Club? Probably. Should have sent them some songs and stories from his own universe. And gotten some from the other universe for the Lambdas! He wondered what wealth of information he had left behind.
*
That other Chakotay had been the lucky one. All he had left was his oath and his loyalty to sustain him. And the renewed life of a hermit. Unless....
*
Chakotay reached for his commlink and commed Lieutenant Hamilton. "This is Chakotay." he said to the face. "I'll be happy to attend tonight, and thank you for the invitation."
*
"Great!" Hamilton said. "I'll tell the other members. We hope to make it a night to remember."
*
"Thank you." Chakotay signed off as gracefully as he could. It was better than nothing. He may not find a Tom Paris there, but he'd see who was there. Maybe he could find some happiness in this universe after all.
*
The Lambda Club meeting was in full swing when he got there a few minutes after 2000. He had debated about his dress, decided on a simple white shirt and black pants, fully closed and modest. He wasn't getting any younger, after all, and certainly wasn't ready to start "prowling" just yet. Not until the memory of Paris' body in his arms had faded a bit, and the memory of the kisses of last night.... Enough of that!
*
"Welcome to our newest member, Chakotay." Hamilton announced, raising a glass. "He's living proof that you don't have to be born this way, after all!"
*
Laughter greeted the remark, and Chakotay managed a smile.
*
"We're all going to want to hear all about that other Voyager, but we'll wait until you feel like talking about it." Hamilton said, quieter after the toast was done. "Hope you weren't thrown out by the toast. It is part of our traditions. Lets you know you're welcome here."
*
"I'm all right." Chakotay said. "I just have to get used to the new me, in the old place."
*
"We have an idea about that, if you're interested." Hamilton said. "One of our members wants to be your mentor in the days ahead, talk you through the changes you're dealing with, basically be a friend to you, maybe more. Interested?"
*
"Maybe." Chakotay looked around. "Which one?"
*
"He's a bit late." Hamilton said. "Wants to make an appearance for you."
*
"All right."
*
Hamilton's comm badge meeped and Hamilton said, "That's the cue. If I may blindfold you, to make it more of a surprise for you?"
*
Chakotay sighed. "Another tradition?"
*
"No, but he asked. Wants to get the best possible impact out of his appearance. Wants to surprise you, actually, you know him very well."
*
"Is he cute?" Chakotay smiled faintly.
*
"Very." Hamilton assured him. "Now, if you don't mind?"
*
"Go ahead." Chakotay sighed. The black cloth was lowered into place.
*
"All right." Hamilton said. The holodeck door opened to dead silence. Chakotay could hear the footsteps as they approached him. Then silence.
*
"When can I take off the blindfold?" he asked.
*
"Soon as you feel like." the voice said.
*
Chakotay ripped off the blindfold and stared at the familiar face.
*
"Surprised?" Paris grinned at him.
*
"Very." Chakotay managed. "I thought you were....uh." He was about to make a major social gaffe and couldn't figure out how to get out of it.
*
"The word you should be fishing for is bisexual." Paris grinned again. "When I heard you were coming tonight, I insisted on attending. For a change, that is."
*
"You might as well." Chakotay said, smiling. It felt like his face would rip open from that smile, but he didn't care. "You've already been through every woman on this ship, near as I can tell."
*
"Then it's time for me to start on the men, don't you think?" Paris stepped up to him. Close, very close.
*
"Might as well start at the top." Chakotay agreed. "If you and me don't work out, you can always drop back to Harry."
*
"Been there, done that." Paris said. Then, with a louder voice, "Hey! Doesn't this place have any dance music?" A loud, raucous beat started up obligingly. "Care for a dance?" he asked, gyrating to the beat.
*
"Computer, change music." Chakotay ordered. "Dance music, something slow and romantic." A languid tune began, and Chakotay took Paris in his arms. "I do now." he said.
*
"Why, Chakotay." Paris said enticingly. "How very...commanding of you."
*
"It's in my nature." Chakotay said in return. "I have a lot to catch up on now I'm back on the ship. First is to properly thank you for saving my life long ago. I owe you a debt of gratitude and it was wrong of me to withhold that from you."
*
"You've done a little life-saving yourself since then, you may remember." Paris said. "You paid back that debt long ago."
*
"Then how about a little interest on that debt, tonight?" Chakotay offered, a warmth building in the pit of his stomach.
*
"I'm interested, all right." Paris said.
*
Chakotay put his chin on Paris' shoulder, feeling Paris' ear pressed against his cheek, and sighed.
*
This may not be such a bad universe, after all!
*

THE END