Fragments, Conclusion


By Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM

If Paris had entertained any romantic thoughts about how he and Chakotay would spend these last hours, they were dashed. Voyager had been left unrepaired in many ways, since she was traveling on her final trip.
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But if she was to fight, a lot needed to be done, and now! Every hand was needed.
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Paris was drafted as he expected, to help prepare Sickbay for triage; he would be expected to spend the upcoming battle in there. Chakotay was putting only select crewmen on the bridge for the battle. The Doctor lectured him on it without asking.
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“After all, Voyager must withstand the Cartilian attack for fifteen minutes without aid while the other Voyager comes through. That means casualties. These crewmen must expect to be badly wounded or die in the process. I am selecting people with a strong resiliency factor, people who can suddenly find themselves with memories of their own death and be able to overcome or suppress it successfully.”
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“What about me?” Paris said. “I’m being stuck here with you.”
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“You qualify, but you have no alternate, as you well remember.” the Doctor said. “If you die in the attack, you are permanently dead.”
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“Oh.” Paris said, partially mollified. “I forgot that, for the moment.”
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“As I said, a resiliency to unpleasant thoughts.” the Doctor said. “Forgetting or suppressing bad memories can be a blessing under the right circumstances.”
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“So what about Chakotay?” Paris asked. “Where will he be?”
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“On the bridge, of course.” the Doctor said. “Even were he not Captain, his resiliency is high thanks to his disciplined mind and....”
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“No way!” Paris said. “You got to tell him he can’t be spared.” He couldn’t give his reasons to the Doctor. If Chakotay died, that would be it. He wouldn’t be able to look that other Chakotay in the face, knowing that his Chakotay had died. It would be...it would be starting all over again. Chakotay had only been vulnerable to him because of the loss of the Captain and B’Elanna, one of his best friends. He and Kim had been lost, too, and Chakotay had faced a future without everyone he’d ever grown to care about in the Delta Quadrant. Left with only the frigid Tuvok, the equally cold Seven of Nine, and the mechanically cold Doctor.
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And then he’d been rescued. No wonder Chakotay had seen him with new eyes, a friendly, familiar face among all the strangers and coldness and the weight of new responsibility.
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Would a Chakotay surrounded by his friends and with the memory of his betrayal of the Maquis see him that way? No!
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No, he wouldn’t, couldn’t permit it! He left to go find Chakotay.
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“Ah, Ensign.” Seven of Nine saw him in the corridors. “I require all available hands to assist me with the deflector array.”
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“Why?” Paris stalled.
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“I am arranging a powerful, multi-phasic beam-pulse to be broadcast through it. Anything within the cone of destruction will be obliterated. It is one of the necessary responses to a Cartilian attack.”
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“A multi-phasic beam-pulse? Won’t that burn out the array entirely?”
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“Of course. And take out our one functional warp nacelle as well.” Seven of Nine said. “That is why the attack will not be expected. I said I could make Voyager battleworthy only by treating it as expendable. I predict this attack will buy us four point seven minutes. Come with me, now.” she turned and started to walk away.
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“I have to find the Captain.” Paris said.
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“Very well. Report to me when you are done with him. That is an order, Ensign.” she said and walked on, her heels making a staccato rhythm on the deck plates, like the clicks of a metronome.
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“Aye, aye, Ma’am.” Paris said drily and took off. Mental note, he thought, be sure not to cross paths with her again for the next twenty-four hours!
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He looked at his chronometer. No, only twenty-two to go. Shit!
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Chakotay was on the bridge. What surprised him was who he saw on the secondary comm screen reinstalled to replace the forward primary screen. Only a fifth the size, he could still see--“Captain Janeway?”
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“The other Voyager has established contact with us.” Chakotay explained. “They put a trace on you on your last visit with you.”
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The other Chakotay stepped over to stand next to Janeway. “Hello, Tom.” that Chakotay said.
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“Hello.” Paris said guardedly to that other Chakotay, the one with no love for him. Then he turned to his own. “I don’t want to interrupt any planning, but I came to insist that you not be on the bridge during the attack.”
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“What? Why not, Tom?” Chakotay asked him.
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Paris turned to the pair on the screen. “Do all of you understand what we’re asking of you. To...to combine with us, become part us and part yourselves?”
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“We understand.” Janeway said. “I’ve discussed it with my crew. Captain Chakotay has told me that you will have to expect heavy casualties.”
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“Have you thought about what that is going to mean?”
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“We may have to incorporate memories of our own death into ourselves. I’m prepared for that.”
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“Well.” Paris said desperately, knowing he sounded strident, out of control. “Are you also prepared for this?” And he reached over, grabbed Chakotay before he could protest or react, and kissed him, hard!
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Chakotay was flustered, pulled away. Paris let him do so and then turned back to them, assuming a slightly crouched posture, fists balled. “During my stay here, I’ve formed a relationship I am not willing to risk. That means not risking Chakotay.”
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The look on that Chakotay’s face told him everything.
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“Can you see it, Chakotay?” Paris said. “He doesn’t feel anything you do. Nothing. You have to go there, be part of him.”
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“Tom...Tom.” Chakotay said and put a hand on Paris’ shoulder, the far shoulder, almost an embrace. “I am Captain of this ship. That means I have to be here. I don’t plan to die in the attack, I promise you that.”
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“But you don’t know!” Paris said. “You saw the hole they put in our ship. They can do it again. We may all be dead before they can make it through to us.”
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“And then I would be the one to lose you.” Chakotay said. “That’s why you have to be in Sickbay, where you’ll be safe. Every other member of this crew has the insurance of being doubled, the chance to survive even death in this battle. I can spare the two of you to give you that much of a chance as well.”
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“I couldn’t bear it.” Paris said, knowing he was babbling, knowing he was being foolish, knowing he was presenting as a spoiled and fretful child. “Not when I just found you, just learned this about you. I can’t!”
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“Tom?” the other Chakotay said.
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Paris turned eyes dimmed with incipient tears.
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“Tom, you can trust me.” the other Chakotay said. “I won’t refuse the memories, I promise you that. Thank you for telling me now, so I will know for certain. I can’t promise you how I’ll feel, but when this is over, we will talk. I promise.”
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Paris turned back to his own Chakotay. “Just don’t die on me. Promise me you won’t die!”
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“I won’t die.” Chakotay said softly.
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Paris looked at him, knowing nothing he could say would get Chakotay off the bridge. “All right, I’ll stay in Sickbay during the attack. And about that promise you just made?”
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“Yes.”
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Paris leaned up and kissed him again, and this time Chakotay didn’t resist. But Paris left it at a quick peck and said in the merest whisper, “Liar!”
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And he turned and walked out again. Time to find Seven of Nine after all.
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He wished so much for the opportunity to be alone with Chakotay once again. Just once. But if Voyager was to survive this attack long enough, all hands were needed non-stop. As one work-sore ensign put it succinctly with the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the Grave will be sleeping enough.”
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That would be literally true for all of them. Stimulants were handed out indiscriminately, only to Paris were they refused and he sent into forced-sleep via a Sickbay somnolator attached to his frontal lobe, for a few hours when he could be spared.
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Still, as he watched Seven of Nine’s machinations, he began to garner hope. She had a means of diminishing the attacks they had suffered by strengthening the shields’ phase in certain frequencies. There was the deflector array, which in one blast could carve a massive hole in the Cartilian lines nearly a light-year deep. There were the photon torpedoes, which had been so carefully preserved against need, but which would be fired first and entirely upon the first good opportunity. All in all, Seven of Nine calculated that they could maintain themselves against any known Cartilian attack for nearly eighteen minutes, ample time for the other Voyager to get through. More, now that this Voyager was in contact, they only needed eleven minutes to make it through, as they could build up speed prior to the actual destruction of the array module, and slide into range just as the array exploded.
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Still, the clock moved with scary speed as they labored. At two hours minus, Paris received a summons to the bridge.
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He went up to see a Cartilian face on the screen. “Are you the one who has been drifting in temporal space?”
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“Yes, I am.” Paris said. “Do you have a cure for me?”
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“No. A warning. We are aware of the communication between your former timeline and this one.”
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“Oh.” Paris said. “Well, I told them I wasn’t going back, if that’s any help.”
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“Why is the other Voyager coming into proximity to yours outside of the array?”
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“I don’t know.” Paris said. “Are they?”
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“Yes.” the Cartilian said.
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“Is that why you called us?”
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“No.” Chakotay said. “They have found a drive cell missing from one of their ships.”
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“What’s that got to do with us?” Paris said blandly.
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“We know that Doctor Shudan gave it to you. Where is it?”
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“We’re installing it to replace our warp drive.” Paris said. “It is our intent to get well away from Cartilian space rather than the world you selected for us.”
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“That is not acceptable.” the Cartilian said. “You will return it to us at once.”
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“We’ll have to remove it from our drive.” Paris said. “I was just there helping Seven of Nine install it. But we didn’t know it was stolen, though we suspected it. We’ll give it back to you in, say, four hours time? We’ll have a job getting it out of the warp drive’s left-handed frannistan where we installed it.”
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“That other Voyager will be in close proximity to you in one hundred minute’s time.” the Cartilian said sharply. “You will have it back to us in ninety-five minutes, or we will open fire.”
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“You’d attack a damaged and unarmed ship?” Chakotay said.
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“Do not underestimate Cartilian technology.” the Cartilian said. “Within our own space, we are omnipotent.”
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“Very well.” Chakotay said. “We’ll have it back to you in ninety-five minutes, as you requested.”
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The Cartilian ended transmission without comment and Chakotay said, “We’ll have to hold out for another five minutes.” he sighed.
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“Seven of Nine says we can do it.” Paris said. “But I wish I had talked him into that four hour wait.”
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“Cartilian ships are closing in on us.” the ensign at Tactical reported. “Evasive manuever indicated?”
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“None.” Chakotay said. “We are slow-moving and helpless. Stay on course all the way down to the wire.”
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“Acknowledged.”
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“Tom, you’d better get to Sickbay right now.” Chakotay said.
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But in his eyes, Paris saw that he no longer expected to live.
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“Remember your promise.” he said. “I’m holding you to it. No matter how badly you’re wounded, you stay alive, got it?”
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“I promise.”
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Paris shook his head. “You never could tell a lie worth a damn. Should have let me do all the talking to the Cartilians. I would have convinced them that we were using the drive cell as a popcorn popper.”
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Chakotay smiled. “I’m sure you would.”
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Paris left to find Kim.
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Kim was busy in the one room Paris hated to find him in. The room where he had found Kim’s body so long before, time and again. The secondary bridge. Kim and other ensigns were fixing it so that they could transfer control down here and continue to operate the surprise weapons Seven of Nine had fixed up.
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“Hey, Tom!” Kim said, looking up.
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“Hey, Harry.” Paris said. “I got some free time. Need some help?”
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“You should go to Sickbay.”
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“I’ll go.” Paris said. “I...just wanted to talk to you.”
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“Well, okay, but I have to work.”
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“Harry?”
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“Yeah, Tom.”
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“You know I’ve had a good, long look at the future, right?”
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“Yes.” Kim was suddenly unsure.
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“Well, guess where I saw your body the last time I looked?”
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“Here?” Kim’s voice was small.
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“Hanging out of that open vent, right up there.”
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“Oh.” Kim said. “Well, okay, I see what you mean. Still, I have the alternate on the other Voyager. You don’t. You have to get as safe as you can.”
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“Yeah.” Paris didn’t point out the flaw in this Paris-preservation plan they had. He just left, went to Sickbay, bided his time while listening to the boringly-inane chatter of the Doctor.
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“Attention, all hands.” came the signal after a time. “This is Chakotay. As you know, we are about to be attacked by the Cartilians. We don’t even have the usual comfort of knowing an alternate universe is around to survive after us should we die. You all remember how badly they hurt us this last time through. But thanks to Ensign Paris, we do have a chance to escape this unalterable destiny. The alternate Voyager will come through as quickly as they can. All we have to do is endure until they enter this space-time. When that happens, we all will get a second chance. They’ll enter, and then leave again right away. That’s all they need to do, but in doing so, we all go with them. It’s not necessary to make it to the escape pods, not necessary even to stay alive, all we need to do is hold out. Remember that, all of you, even if you’re badly wounded. Hold out.” And Chakotay signed off.
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And Paris was out the door of Sickbay. He couldn’t wait here, he just couldn’t!
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Chakotay hadn’t thought it through. If this universe was unalterable, then the dead Paris was his only option. It meant his death no matter what they did, as surely as a marble rolls down a trough in the exact center to the end, his fate was pre-ordained. He would not, could not, survive.
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But Chakotay could. And if that Chakotay had a chance, any chance, it was with him on the bridge, ready to protect him!
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If that meant knocking Chakotay out and throwing him down the Jeffries tube, so be it.
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Only one of them could survive. He had never seen Chakotay’s body in that dismal future waiting for him. So that meant he could have gotten away.
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Damn it, he had to!
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The first shock wave of attack came as he was on the turbolift. The turbolift stopped, jolted, then subsidiary power came back on. He made it to the Bridge and Chakotay turned, saw him, “Damn it, Tom, get back to Sickbay.”
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“I can’t.” Paris explained. “I’d explain, but there’s no time. I have to be here.”
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“Captain, Cartilian ships approaching from Seventy-Four, Mark Nine.”
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“Bring us about.” Chakotay said. “Prepare the deflector array.”
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Another jolt.
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“Portside shield down to forty-two percent.”
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“Reposition ship to protect us as best you can.” Chakotay ordered.
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Paris looked to see the ships ahead, five of them, closing in.
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“Fire deflector array weapon!” Chakotay ordered.
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And Paris watched the massive beam, whose raw power caused the entire ship to shudder, caused an explosion to reverbrate through their ship which he knew was the starboard nacelle being jettisoned and exploding. But the array fired a wide swath of destruction, four of the five ships died in that blast. The final one came in close.
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“Fire photon torpedos.”
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They were spent lavishly, five of them, to get that single ship. But they made it.
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“Other Cartilian ships are not in range yet.” Tactical reported. “We’re safe for approximately three minutes.”
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“Show me the Cartilian defensive array.” Chakotay said. “Anything coming through?”
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“On screen.”
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“And there were ships coming through that array, but none of them were the other Voyager. Paris recognized Vidian ships, a Borg cube, and many, many others he had never seen before.
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“Where did they come from?” He wondered aloud.
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“From every timeline that is attacking the Cartilian array.” Chakotay said with some satisfaction. “When they get closer, attack the Cartilians, even if you can’t hit them. Let everyone know we’re friendly.”
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“Aye, aye, sir. Cartilian ships closing. Captain, they’re firing on their own array!”
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Paris watched, goggled, as ripples of space emanated from the Cartilian ships. As they did, the other ships...disappeared. No, they were still there, but further back. The ships were being driven back through the gap in the array by temporal displacement, being shoved back in time by brute force!
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“We didn’t know they could do that.” Chakotay said. “This is bad.”
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“What do we do now?”
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“Hold on and hope the other Voyager can make it.” Chakotay said. “They’ll be through here in...four more minutes.”
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“The Cartilians are coming around again!” Kim reported. “They're locking onto us with transporters!”
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“Abandon the bridge!” Chakotay ordered. “All hands to the inner decks! Stand by to repel boarders!”
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Paris looked at the forward section of the bridge, the smaller viewscreen, the plates bolted into place to cover what had been a gaping hole. A familiar-shaped gaping hole!
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“Shit! This is my future!” he said.
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“Tom, come on!” Chakotay begged him from the Jeffries tube.
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“On my way!” Tom raced after him, but falling debris kept him from that tube.
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There were two, thank God! He got onto the ladder and skimmed-slid down it to the next level below. A corridor, covered in some debris, but still holding air.
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An explosion and male scream from an area nearby. Paris ran to offer assistance and there.
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There was Kim, hanging from the ceiling, one hand off at the wrist, blood pouring out of the severed arm. A very familiar scene.
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“Oh, no! Not this one!” Paris said. He turned and went back into the corridor. Find Chakotay, fast!
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But another explosion and all light vanished, and there was only the sound of rushing air around him...and darkness as he fell. Air flew from his lungs with a force that he could not resist. Vacuum causes forces of fifteen pounds per square inch internally. Enough to destroy your lungs and explode your body if it happens quickly. He was dying!
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Darkness, the wrong kind of darkness! And it was getting colder, so cold!
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He was dead.
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No, he was awake. Sat up and looked at... “Dr. Shudan?”
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“Our technology has advanced enough to give us this chance.” Dr. Shudan said.
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“How...how long was I dead that time?” he asked. He didn’t question he’d been dead, he felt sluggish, exhausted, barely functioning. He’d been dead, damn it!
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“Nearly two hundred years.” Dr. Shudan said. “We preserved your ship as a memorial here in space.”
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“Oh.” Paris said. “Well, you won. Why did you bring me back to life? Is this the real me?”
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“Yes.” Dr. Shudan reassured him. “You are yourself. We have learned the art of resurrection of the dead. When they resurrected me, I insisted on coming to see you. To rescue you.”
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“You’re...you’re going to bring Voyager back to life?”
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“Oh, no!” Dr. Shudan said. “We’re have reset the timelines. All of them. We’re going back to a time before Voyager or any other species ever encountered our space, before we ever met an enemy of any kind. By doing so and revamping our defensive array, we can make infallible at last. No more deaths of any kind, however small.
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“That’s some comfort.” Paris said. “I guess.” His memories were refusing to connect properly. Something important he had to remember. What was it? Somebody... “Chakotay! What about Chakotay?”
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“He’ll be fine, of course.” Dr. Shudan said. “None of you will ever die from the Cartilian array encounter. Only you had to be specially revived, due to this damnable temporal instability of yours. It’s your unique genetic makeup. All we can do is send you back manually, and leave that one particular time-line alone until we restore you. You were the only casualty in that attack. But we’ll send you back and extend the temporal anomaly to encompass your ship while you warn your ship away. Tell them to avoid the array and you’ll be fine, all of you.”
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Paris wanted to object, but couldn’t think of how! How do you complain about someone reviving you from the dead?
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“Uh, thank you, I guess.” He settled for saying.
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“My pleasure entirely. After your ship’s encounter and when you are sufficiently far enough away, we will trigger the universal rift and drop out of this space-time entirely. We’ll finally be thoroughly safe.
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“Let me see if I understand.” Paris said. “Nobody on Voyager ever dies? Just my ship even gets attacked, and even that won’t happen if I can warn them away in time? Not even an alternate being formed to not listen to me?”
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“That’s it.” Dr. Shudan said. “Your ship is the only one that will ever even see our array. And when you’re gone, we’re gone, forever. The eternal war will be over at last, and we can live in peace.”
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“Okay, then, send me back and I’ll keep Voyager away if I have to pull a phaser on the Captain to do it.” Paris said.
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“No sooner said than done.” Dr. Shudan said and lifted a very tiny device in his hand, and pointed it at Paris, and Paris felt the familiar dimming.
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Waited until his world cleared again and he was looking at stars.
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A viewscreen ahead of them. Stars and...a lot of shining discs in orderly arrangement.
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The Cartilian array! He looked at his console, they were traveling towards the array!
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Time? He punched the key to see the date. He was in the past, before the Cartilian array's attack.
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Stop the ship! Reverse thrusters! His hands were playing over the console.
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“Mr. Paris, what are you doing?” Captain Janeway said.
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“We've got to get out of here!” he said. “The array's about to attack us!”
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“Sensors show no energy build-up.”
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“Check the tachyon emissions!” Paris said. The Cartilians use temporal physics the way the Federation uses warp technology. Engines in reverse at full thrust.” The array was diminishing. “Thank God I was in time!”
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“Ensign Paris, explain yourself.” Captain Janeway said.
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“The Cartilian array was about to attack. I must have stopped us just before we got in range. Captain, I just saved our ship and your life.”
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“What?”
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“The attack would have killed you and B'Elanna and Harry. And me! I've changed the past!” He felt elated. Why then did he feel so woozy? The deckplates rose up and smacked him in the face.
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“Reverse thrusters.” Janeway ordered. “On full. Turn us about, get us out of here. Ensign Kim, turn the shields up to full power.”
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“Aye, aye.”
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Paris rose and shook his head.
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“Mr. Paris, are you all right?” Chakotay asked.
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“I just felt dizzy for a while.” Paris said, and staggered again
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Chakotay’s arms took him. “Steady.” he said, a concerned tone slipping into his voice. “You’d better go to Sickbay.”
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“Yeah.” Paris said. A happy thought occurred to him. “Would you escort me down there? I still feel a little faint.”
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“Captain?” Chakotay asked.
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“Granted.” Janeway said.
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Chakotay’s arms steadied him all the way into the turbolift. Inside, Paris looked at Chakotay and said, “You know, Chakotay, you look really good in this light.”
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“What was that?” Chakotay was puzzled.
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“I said you’re really a handsome man.”
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“Uh, thank you.” Chakotay gave a timid smile.
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Paris settled back, resting his head against Chakotay’s arm. “It feels real nice, your arm around me.” he said. “Only next time, don’t make me faint before you put it there again, okay?”
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“Let’s get you to Sickbay.” Chakotay said. “I think you’re still faint.”
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“No, I’m thinking very clearly indeed.” Paris said as they walked into Sickbay. “For the first time in my life.”
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Chakotay left him there, looking back, puzzled. Paris let him go, just smiled.
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Another week, maybe two, there would be a poker game. Just for fun, no stakes. He’d cheat and Chakotay would catch him. And there would be that run through the corridors and their first kiss. Before that, though, flirtation aplenty, until even the rather dense Chakotay realized he was putting the moves on him. And taste the idea, and find he liked it.
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He’d wondered about that other future, the one where he and Chakotay were together and loving it. Now it was time to start living it!

THE END

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