29 The Track That Fills With Snow
Book II: Burn Factor
The snow fell silently on the mountain.
The crisp winter air burned his lungs in the endless climb.
Chakotay brushed away snow from a rock and pulled himself a little further up the steep cliff face. In the distance, he thought he heard the cry of a hawk. He thought of his father, and reminded himself there were no longer birds on Bajor.
The plateau opened up before him. With a final push his aged muscles dragged his body forward, where he fell in the snow and allowed his lungs to labor in peace. He breathed into his hands, numbed from exhaustion and cold.
In the glint of the Bajoran sun, he thought he caught a motion in the sky. Perhaps it was Crow, playing a trick on an old man. He squinted. Perhaps it was simply failing vision.
Or perhaps - it is Hawk. Revealing himself for another purpose.
Chakotay hauled himself upright and peered over the edge of the plateau. Below, the others scrabbled their way up the slope, carrying their lives on their backs. Refugees of his crew, and those souls they had collected over a two decade journey. A tribe lost in time and space.
Thirty-seven of them followed him up yet another mountain.
He'd never seen his friends again. After its decimation in the Second Cardassian War, and with no further defense by the Federation, followed by the destruction of Deep Space Nine, Bajor had gathered what she could of the old Federation guard, the Maquis, and a small mercenary army, and defended herself against an onslaught of minor aggressions.
Soon after, came the Fall of the Federation.
The invaders came.
, his antiquated defiant-class ship, had been shot down in the Nausicaa-Breen Offensive, Bajor's last stand as an independent world. He had managed to guide her to a crash landing in the mountainous wilderness of Bajor's northern continent. Here, with the help of the planet's magnetic polar flux, and the wilderness survival teachings of his father, and Starfleet, his band continued to evade capture. They lived in the ancient ways of another culture once left to die, yet which had survived, and continued to live on, across light years and millennia and worlds.
But he was old. His long braids gray and brittle. Soon it would be time for a new leader. And with Chakotay, would die the memory of all that had come before.
He scanned the plateau for traces. He found none. Yet his instincts told him to be watchful. Or maybe it was Hawk. He rose and waved them forward.
The tribe had fought for survival against an endless string of conquering forces. Invaders, who passed through and claimed the land as their own. Cardassians. Klingons. Romulans. Breen. Nausicaans. And new alien races from the Delta Quadrant, constantly trafficking Bajor and stripping her of all she had. Bajor had been trodden into unrecognizability.
It had all started...with the War. He couldn't remember all the details. He was never sure about how it all started. So many different stories, that the Fall of the Federation had become lost in the obscurity of time, a tragic waste whose lesson would be lost forever.
They finish their climb, and stand overlooking a vast valley of tall, ancient evergreens. Chakotay tells the tribe to make camp. He sets to scout the area as they put up their shelters.
In the trees, he hears Hawk.
No. Not Hawk. It is a man, crying.
He finds a Nausicaan trapped under a fallen tree. He had probably been tracking them in preparation for an attack. To use the tribe as slaves, in the Nausicaan mining worlds. Chakotay had thought he'd heard a shuttle several nights ago, descending unevenly, too rapidly. The others had convinced him he had imagined it.
The Nausicaan lays trapped under the tree, trapped on lawless Bajor. He is covered in filth and probably starving. He sees Chakotay, and growls in hatred.
Chakotay approaches him. In silence, they watch each other. The Nausicaan struggles in futility. His disruptor rifle, thrown out of reach.
Chakotay ignores the gun and removes the tree instead, as the Nausicaan studies his tribal markings and handcrafted accoutrements.
“You survive out here,” the invader said.
Chakotay said nothing. He unwound a pouch of Apidae
propolis he had gathered in summer, sprinkled it into the open leg wound as a tincture, and unraveled a binding from his pack.
“We make slaves of you.”
“It is you who is the slave. To everything you fight against, and fear.”
“You are weak.”
“I know my weakness. I know my strength. Do you?”
“You are my enemy. I want to eradicate you Federations from existence. You all deserve nothing but death.”
“Since you're able to stand in judgment of an entire civilization, perhaps you can help me to stand in judgment of a single individual. What should I do with you?”
He slavered. “You should kill me, before I kill you.”
Chakotay rose and went to the disruptor rifle, laying in a drift. He picked it up, activated it, and shoved the nozzle into the Nausicaan's throat. The Nausicaan roared and his tusks twitched.
Chakotay stilled. He allowed the stillness of the mountain to permeate his being.
The gun did not waver.
Day turned to night.
Defiance turned to anger. And anger, to frustration. And frustration - to fear. And fear, in time, to stillness.
Everything he holds as true is denied. Now, he faces his enemy. The enemy is revealed. Lying bare in the snow.
The Bajoran moons rose high in the quadrant, when the Nausicaan broke the stillness: “Bra'kaj,” he said to himself, lowly.
“Your child,” replied Chakotay.
A look of sadness penetrated the Nausicaan's mien. He started to shiver.
Chakotay lowered the disruptor and stood. “You will see your child again.” He offered his arm. “Come. We have food.”
The Nausicaan took his arm.
After filling his belly and studying the faces in the firelight, the Nausicaan grabs a gun.
He shoots Chakotay in the heart.
The tribe is silent. Unmoving. The invader, confused, laughs.
He is caught in surprise when Chakotay grabs his collar, and forces the Nausicaan to look in his eyes as his life drains from him. The Nausicaan silences, tries to withdraw.
With his last breath, Chakotay places the akoonah in his killer's hand. The last thing Chakotay sees is his enemy activating the visionquest device – a first step on his own long and difficult journey to self-realization.
Hawk calls out to him.
Chakotay dies in the snow, smiling, and free.