The Totem by Nova
Nova may be contacted at theowlet@hotmail.com

PART 4

ship's time oh-five-twenty-six

Captain Kathryn Janeway wanted to leave the bridge to step into her ready room for a much needed cup of coffee and some peace, but she resisted the urge. Chakotay had not issued a deadline for his demands. She wondered if things were becoming disorganized in engineering. She hoped so, although she did not want anyone else to get hurt. Maybe the men would have a rebellion within a rebellion.

Nothing had happened in the last thirty minutes. Things had settled down in the sickbay, all the injured who had made it there had been treated. Torres was working on bypassing enough circuits so they would be able to use the site-to-site transporter. Janeway looked over at her and considered asking her for a progress report, then didn't. The engineer was in a foul mood.

I wonder if she's worried about Tom? At least he's safe in sickbay. And then there's the man she killed in self-defence. She sighed deeply. Her reaction to the totem was very different from mine. She's become antagonistic, confrontational, more like the reaction the men have had. And look at her working away! I don't think I've ever seen her so determined. I'd help, but she won't let me near her console.

The turbolift door swished open and Seven of Nine walked onto the bridge. Holding a padd she stood in front of Janeway's seat. "Captain, I believe I may be of some assistance in restoring the site-to-site transporters."

Positive and negative emotions warred within Janeway. Good that they might be getting somewhere, and bad when she heard the disgusted "hurrphh" from Torres.

"Well," the Captain stood up slowly and together they approached the engineering post. "I'm sure Lieutenant Torres would love to hear what you think." The engineer didn't have a chance to answer before Seven started.

"I believe if we rerouted the power from unused systems on the decks we control and bypassed the main transporter sequencing grids in engineering we might be able to activate a limited beam."

Torres looked up very slowly. "Gee, but I'll be damned if that isn't exactly what I'm already doing."

Seven appeared to take no notice of her acerbic tone. "Then you must do so more efficiently."

Oh no, here we go.

In two quick steps Torres was out from behind the control panel and in front of Seven. "You know, if I hear you say efficiently one more time I'll show you a very efficient use for my fists."

"Your adversarial attitude toward me is unproductive and tiresome," the ex-Borg started before Janeway could step between them. "Although were it not for your superior ability and your desire to achieve your goals, we might be unable to operate this ship at all."

Torres pulled back perplexed. "Did you just say something nice to me?"

I believe she did and she's been saying nice things since last night in my quarters. Since she looked at the totem, Seven is her same efficient self but now she seems willing to express her feelings when it comes to people and how she reacts to them. I like this change in her. Maybe we should get her her own pet owl.

"Perhaps I did, though I am uncomfortable with the use of compliments."

"Well, get used to it. I'm sure it will grow on you." Switching back to the business at hand, Torres looked at Janeway. "Captain, if Seven and I go to transporter room one we should be able to get something working very soon."

Janeway rocked back on her heels. "Good. How long?"

Torres looked at Seven of Nine and the tall woman only raised her eyebrow indicating Torres should answer.

"A half an hour."

"Excellent. Get to it."

They left the bridge and Janeway went to the tactical post and Tuvok. "Are you able to lock on to any of the individuals in engineering?"

"I cannot be specific enough to beam anyone out, let alone the hostages."

Janeway expected that. "How about hydroponics? Can you lock onto the creature?"

"Is that advisable given the attachment Chakotay and the men have shown for it?"

"As our only tactic, no it's probably not." She smiled as she thought of something. "That's why we're going to have a two-pronged attack." She began to outline her plan when the ensign at Ops interrupted.

"Captain there's a ship dropping out of warp off the port bow."

"On screen." Janeway strode to the center of the command area.

"They're hailing us."

The starfield dissolved to the stern looking face of a humanoid alien. He had a prominent jaw and forehead, close dark hair and sharp liquid eyes. His uniform sparkled with medals and adornments. Tuvok recognized him right away.

"Captain, he is of the same species as the crew of the dead ship we encountered." Janeway didn't have time to reply.

"You have something that belongs to us and I demand you return it."

"Or what?" She really didn't have time for this.

The alien leaned forward, menacing the video image. "You took the totem from our disabled ship. It is not your place to interfere. You will return it."

"You seem to have no idea what you are dealing with. The creature was responsible for the deaths on your other ship and now you just want us to hand it over so the same thing can happen to you? I don't think so." She gave a dismissive wave of her hand.

"You will return it. I will not be denied." The image disappeared.

"They are powering up weapons."

"Shields up." Janeway resettled herself in her command seat, gripping the arms tightly. "Ensign Bedard, tell me about their ship."

"It's only half the size of the one we encountered before. Alloy hull, limited shielding, low level phaser capability. Sensors indicate a crew of five."

"And he wants to take us on?" The viewscreen crackled with the first blast of phaser fire as the little ship made a close pass.

"What is our shield status, Mr. Tuvok?"

"I am reading power fluctuations. Main shields are at fifty percent and aft shields at forty percent."

"Well I guess he picked us on a good day. Do we have phasers?"

"Limited. I should be able to fire several bursts though."

"Good, that's all we'll need." Janeway steepled her fingers. "Target his engines, Tuvok. Fire on my signal."

"Locked on. He's coming around for another pass."

"Fire."

But the tiny ship was too close. The phaser hit spun it around and it lurched against Voyager's shields, its hull buckling. The bigger ship was jarred by the impact. The forward viewer picked up the image of the heavily damaged vessel as it tumbled away like a discarded toy. "Damn him!" Janeway cursed. "What's his status?"

Tuvok answered. "They are losing hull integrity. The ship is coming apart."

"Bridge to Torres." The Captain stood in one quick movement. "I need power to the main transporters now!"

"I'll give you what I can." Came the reply over the comm system.

"Bedard, lock onto the crew. Beam them directly to sickbay. Tuvok, alert the Doctor."

The young Ops ensign was too busy to acknowledge. Janeway turned back to the view screen watching as the ship tumbled and disintegrated. After a long moment, what was left exploded in a brilliant flash. "Well?"

"I got two of them, Captain. They're in sickbay."

Janeway strode to the turbolift. "That's where I'll be."

sickbay

One was dead, badly burned and almost unrecognizable. The other was dying. The Doctor passed the probe of his tricorder over the body, reciting a litany of injuries as Janeway watched. He turned and gave his head a slight shake.

"Take it back." A soft voice said from the biobed. Janeway moved closer, looking down into the bruised and bleeding face.

"You have to take it back. The males ..." the alien's eyes shifted from the Captain to the Doctor. "They don't understand its power over them."

"It doesn't affect you, your females, either?"

"No. Not like the men." The female alien tried to smile. "They don't realize it's not for them." She was reaching inside a pocket and when she came up with a small disk, she pressed it into Janeway's hand. "Please take it back. Back where it belongs." An alarm on the biobed started to sound and Janeway moved out of the Doctor's way.

She was gazing at the disk in her palm when the alien died.

bridge

The Captain was determined when she walked off the turbolift and onto the bridge. "Janeway to Torres. Do you have site-to-site transporters yet?"

"Another ten minutes."

"Good. Return to the bridge when you're ready."

"Aye, Captain."

Janeway approached Tuvok and touched his arm. "Time to put our plan in motion, old friend." Tuvok nodded and took a tiny phaser from under his console.

"Let's hope Paris and Kim don't wonder too much about why I suddenly want to join the rebellion." He slipped the little weapon up his sleeve.

"Or why you know the override commands for the forcefields." She smiled slightly. "I saw them in sickbay; they're just itching to get back to engineering. I don't think they can stand to be separated from the creature. The Doctor has his hands full of cranky injured crewmen down there."

The security chief left the bridge and Janeway took his post to begin scanning the alien's disk.

Precisely nine minutes later the turbolift deposited Lieutenant Torres and Seven of Nine on the bridge. "We're ready, Captain." Torres went to the engineering controls and Seven stood beside Janeway closely watching her hands on the console.

Janeway felt herself draw in a slow breath at the woman's proximity.

I haven't thought about her for a while,

she tried to look out of the corner of her eye without giving herself away. Even with what we've been through, or not been through, she's so enigmatic, so unknowable. What goes on in her head at times like this when she's not busy using mind and hands? Theoretical math computations? Sexual fantasies? Now there's a thought!

She caught herself before she chuckled out loud. It's too damn easy to wish her to be all human again; to wish her to be everything I want her to be. And that would be so wrong. I don't want her to give up who she is to be with me. I want her for what she is. And what is that? Impossibly young, a stranger to her own feelings, and without an idea what it is to love and be loved? But it's all those things about her that compel me so! Oh, how I wish she could just know, really know, how I feel. Your loving her will change her, Kathryn, do you want that?

"Captain, you are distracted ... again."

This time she looked at her fully. "Yes, Seven I am." She wanted to explain, to finish what was started when they woke up in each other's arms, but this was neither the time nor the place. Biting down on her lip, she left it at that.

A tone sounded from the panel: Tuvok's signal from engineering. She could not access live images, but she had a heat schematic to observe and there was a burst of colour as phaser fire erupted.

"Security teams, go ahead," she ordered, then activated the transporter to beam the little owl out of hydroponics and into her ready room.

Although Tuvok and security were outnumbered, they had far more firepower. The fight was over mercifully quick.

The injured were taken to sickbay and the unharmed, but creature-affected, were confined to their quarters. This incident would not be behind them until the totem was off the ship. At least she hoped it would be behind them; there was no way of knowing until they reached the coordinates the dying alien had given her.

Janeway ordered the helmsman to plot the new course, and the ship got underway at impulse speed. Torres and Seven went to engineering to begin repairs with the hope of getting warp drive back on-line shortly.

ready room

The totem was perched on the viewscreen of her desk computer terminal. It swivelled its head to watch her as she retrieved a cup of coffee from the replicator and slowly walked around her desk to sit down.

"You and I meet again little one. Alone this time." The owl bobbed its head. Janeway placed her mug aside and stared into its eyes. "I'm taking you home. I hope that meets with your approval." The owl just blinked.

Again she was soaring through the dark forest. Soft wing-beats easily propelled her on drafts of wind moving like water around her. Everything was crystal in its clarity. Her eyes and ears sharp and unobstructed. She cast her wings back and talons forward to alight in a tree. From there she gave a haunting call and heard it answered. She swivelled her head to track the sound, and with a soft rustle of wings, flew off to join her mate.

Janeway came slowly back to reality blinking in what seemed to be the very bright light of her office. The owl was staring at her steadily, but as she watched, it resettled its wings, closed its eyes and became very still. The captain no longer felt as drained as when she had first entered the room. She was still fatigued but now she saw clearly the tasks needing to be done. Activating the desk computer, she began her reports.

later, ready room

Stretching luxuriously she tested her sleep softened muscles. The boat was drifting gently at anchor and sun leaked through the porthole shades. She extended an arm out beside her but she was alone in the tousled bed. A smile played across her lips when she thought back to how the sheets had been mussed the night before.

So eager now to explore every sensation, it's all I can do to keep up with her.

Not that I mind...

Janeway slipped off the bed and pulled on shorts and a T-shirt. Barefoot, she padded from the cabin up onto the deck following the sound of music.

The bay was a startling blue capped with little white topped waves that chased each other ashore toward the long sandy beach. Several more boats were anchored between hers and the land, their flags barely stirring in the still air. The sun was bright in a sky streaked with high thin clouds.

She made her way forward past the source of the music as one song ended and another started. It was one of their favourite collections and they played it often. It occurred to her then that most of the songs seemed to have lyrics about loneliness and isolation, though neither of them felt that way now.

Annika was standing in the bow, her bare back held straight, blond hair falling astray past her shoulders.

Legs spread for balance, she raised a sextant to her eye and aimed out beyond the sheltering bay to the vastness of the ocean beyond.

Without speaking Kathryn slipped in close behind her stroking her fingertips along the muscled thighs and under her cotton shorts. "Good morning, love," she purred, burying her face in her lover's hair. "I missed you in bed." Then she ran her hands over Annika's hips and over her smooth sun-warmed back.

"Good morning, Kathryn." She turned her head far enough for a short kiss. "You were sleeping so soundly I did not want to disturb you. Besides, you need your sleep."

Kathryn squeezed her tightly around the waist. "Is that so?"

"It is," she answered seriously, then laughed.

"I love to hear you laugh." Kathryn released her grip on the taller woman and stood beside her. "In fact, I just plain love you." Arms crossed on her chest, her eyes were playful. "Have I told you that, Annika?"

"You have." Again the mock serious voice. "In fact, last night you shouted it rather loudly. I expect all the other boaters now know as well."

Kathryn laughed and took one of her lover's hands. Very slowly she kissed each finger separately. "Come on, let's go below and have some breakfast."

Annika placed the instrument gently aside. "Good, I'm hungry. You will make me bacon and eggs again?"

Taking her hand Kathryn began to lead her aft. "Who said anything about food?"

"You are dreaming again."

"Wha....?" Janeway groaned and tried to open her eyes. Slowly the face of the ex-Borg came into focus above her and for a moment she thought she was still in the dream, but this was a starship, not a yacht.

Too bad! Oh, too bad.

"You were dreaming again?" When she repeated it, it was in the form of a question. Janeway sat up from the couch in her ready room and ran a hand through her hair.

"Yes I was dreaming," she answered, looking past Seven to her desk where the owl was still perched. It was looking at them. "What a lovely dream too."

"I was there." Statement of fact, not a question.

Janeway could not help but grin. "Yes, you were there. We were on a boat, on earth."

"A boat? On an ocean? I had a very similar dream not long ago."

They both looked at the creature on her desk. It ruffled its wings.

"It seems the totem has the power to affect our dreams." Janeway walked to the replicator and ordered coffee. "It must be what caused our lucid dreaming the other night. The dream we shared."

Not that I want that to be true.

She took one mug and handed Seven of Nine the other. Seven regarded the beverage doubtfully.

"It's a good stimulant, try it." With that encouragement she took a sip. "Now," Janeway shifted back to business. "How long was I asleep, and what is our status?"

"You have been asleep for three hours and thirty five minutes, since shortly after we went to warp. All systems are functioning adequately. Torres is still making minor repairs."

"Good." the Captain gulped coffee. "So we should arrive at the coordinates in about an hour and a half?" Seven inclined her head. Janeway tapped the mug against her bottom lip; she was hungry. "I'm going to go to my quarters to shower and change my uniform. Why don't you meet me in the messhall in a half an hour for some sustenance? I never did feed you the other night like I promised."

Seven thought for a moment and Janeway was sure she would turn her down. "Social interaction," she began slowly, "still is not as important to me as it is to you. But I am adapting to these customs. And I enjoy your company."

Janeway felt the corners of her mouth curve into a smile. "Computer, restrict access to the ready room to myself only."

"Access restriction confirmed."

Maybe Neelix will have bacon and eggs.

later, bridge

Voyager

approached the moon sized planetoid at impulse speed and prepared to go into orbit. Captain Janeway was watching the detailed readings coming in from the science station. It was an "M" class world, almost pristine in its forested wilderness. Temperate and unpolluted, the surface was almost all land, broken only by fresh water lakes.

"It seems to be a technological society," Tuvok was saying. "Though without apparent space travel ability. There are only three major inhabited centres."

Janeway left the science station and returned to the command area. "Communications, Tuvok? Can we hail them?"

"I believe so."

Since Ensign Bedard had been relieved, she addressed her next command to the new officer at Ops. "Open broad band hailing frequencies."

"Hailing frequencies open, Captain."

Janeway squared her shoulders and placed her hands solidly on her hips. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the starship Voyager. We have something that needs to be returned to you. Are you receiving this transmission?" She watched the clouds swirl in the planet's atmosphere while she waited and found herself hoping there would not be a need to negotiate with a sect or tribe within the society on the planet.

"They're responding. On visual."

The coloured pixels swam and dissolved themselves into a face. Expressive green eyes, fine features and suntanned skin, oddly Janeway was not surprised that it was a female.

"Captain, welcome. You have the Totem of Elanzia?"

Big name for a little owl.

"Yes. I wish to return it to you. It has induced adverse effects on my crew. Especially the men."

The beautiful alien woman pursed her lips. "The totem is not to be seen by men. It is for women." She seemed disturbed by this thought. "She was taken from the forest and we did not know by whom. How did you come to be graced by her?"

"We didn't steal it." Janeway was quick to qualify. "We discovered it on another ship. Please, can you tell us what can be done for the men?"

"As soon as the totem is off your ship and back in her forest, your men will recover. They may have little memory of the psychosis the totem caused on their weaker psyches."

Janeway could almost sense Tuvok behind her raise an inquisitive brow. She crossed her arms on her chest.

"We have a matter transporter device, if you give us a set of coordinates we can send the totem back immediately."

"Captain," the alien began after a pause. "The totem's effect on uninitiated woman can often be profound. We extend to you the offer of healing if you wish to accept our hospitality."

Healing?

"Any women you wish to accompany you are most welcome."

"Receiving coordinates," Ops said unobtrusively.

"I will consider your offer," the Captain said as diplomatically as possible. "Thank you for the gracious welcome."

The transmission ended and Janeway started toward her ready room. "Tuvok, you have the bridge, I'll be in my ready room."

"Aye, Captain."

later, surface of the planet

Janeway, Torres, Seven of Nine and Ensign Brooks materialized in a courtyard. The Captain had the little owl perched on her wrist. When the transport was complete, it gave her a short hiss. She smiled at it. "Don't like having your atoms scattered?" It bobbed its head in reply.

"Welcome to our village, Captain Janeway. " The woman who had responded to Voyager's hail strode forward flanked by several others. They all wore similar belted gowns in shades of brown and dark green. As a group, they reminded Janeway of statuesque amazons. Though their skin tones varied in shade and their features differed, they seemed very alike in most respects. "I am Council Administrator Gey'lerr."

One of the other women gave a soft call and the totem launched itself off Janeway's arm to fly to her. She could not help feeling a sense of loss. Gey'lerr was perceptive enough to see it in her face. She inclined her head sympathetically to the Captain.

"Come. We have refreshments for you and your sisters. We will help you understand the powers of the totem."

later

They were seated on the floor around a low table laden with many delicious foods. Seven sat to Janeway's right and she was very aware of how their knees were touching. Kathryn wanted to reach out and hold the younger woman's hand as she saw some of the alien women doing, but she resisted the strong urge.

"My feeling when it looked at me wasn't positive," Torres was saying. "I felt like tearing things and people apart."

"The totem is a symbol of women's energy and it will amplify an individual's most prominent qualities." One of the host women answered. "Perhaps to you these qualities are somewhat confused. The totem may see in you an ability to strive and overcome, not just fight and dominate."

Janeway watched her think for a moment then added. "Think of how hard you were working, B'Elanna, how focussed you were."

"That might be true," she looked at the Captain. "And what did it mean to you?"

She answered only after a long pause. "I saw in myself my confidence and the trust others have in me." She chose her words carefully. "And I was able to see with unusual clarity my duty, and maybe even what I most desired to achieve."

"Then you dreamed with the totem?" another woman asked.

"Yes, I did. Twice, I believe." She couldn't help glancing at Seven, but the ex-Borg did not add to the conversation.

The exchange was not lost on Gey'lerr. "Shared dreams are especially powerful. They make clear to dreamers what they most desire of each other."

Janeway felt heat rush to her cheeks and again she looked at Seven whose brows were furrowed and gaze turned introspective.

Could this be what we want of each other?

"You must understand," Gey'lerr began to elaborate. "Though the dream is shared, the perspective of the dreamers is individual. The motivations behind the action belong solely to yourself. So what is to you, might not be to her."

Janeway felt very exposed and was glad when the conversation shifted away from her. She turned to look at Seven of Nine and the young woman held her gaze, her face open and receptive. "You and I need to talk some more, Annika." Still silent, Seven nodded.

Torres was relating her experience with Crewman Jeremy in the hydroponics lab and beyond her, Ensign Brooks was still deeply in conversation with one of their hosts as she had been almost since they sat down.

This must be the healing she spoke of. I feel helpless to do anything for Brooks except try to comfort her, and Torres needs to come to grips with the violence she let seize her. And then there is Seven and myself. I dreamed my need to express my desire for her. What did she dream when she responded and returned that desire?

Janeway refilled her wine glass from the decanter. It was sweet and fruity and she was enjoying it very much. Seven had a glass in front of her though she had drunk very little.

Torres had finished speaking and there was silence for a long moment. Gey'lerr ended it by standing and spreading her arms.

"It is time for the ceremony."

Continue to Part 5 (the conclusion)

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