War Room, Kazon-Degra Outpost
Selkarris, Delta Quadrant
Maje Nekahr was alone in the war room. All his focus was on the large monitor that dominated one wall, on which was displayed their latest scans of the Ocampa system. Somehow the men he’d had at the mining colony had been removed from the surface of the fifth planet and set adrift in their own ships, over two light-years away from system. Exactly how was a mystery to all of them—the only one who’d seen anything unusual was an immature Jal, who’d spoken of an elder Ocampa woman.
He didn’t place much faith in the delirious ramblings of a lowly Jal, as the Ocampa had no technology that would account for what had happened to his men. Added to that mystery was the fact that a station had appeared in orbit not long after his Sect had been removed. It was similar—though significantly smaller—to the one that had protected the Ocampa up until six years ago. The events around its destruction were a matter of some debate, as the stories had been told and retold over the years, most involving a powerful warship from the other side of the galaxy—a ship he had heard about through other Sects though had never encountered personally.
No one knew the capabilities of the old station, so the new one was as big a mystery. Now it sat quietly in orbit, watching over the planet and no one was willing to go near it. His own scouts hadn’t ventured any closer than the edge of the system.
He now had to plan how they would enter the system, overpower the station and retake the planet—before another Sect moved in to claim it as their own. The problem was he didn’t know exactly how he would manage it. So he had called all the senior members of his Sect to Selkarris, the Degra’s most fortified base which was six light-years away from Ocampa. He had only been on the dust-covered world once, just after they had taken it from the Kazon-Ebrax. Though their latest acquisition would bring them wealth and power in the sector, it was a miserable place, one he was more than happy to leave to another to oversee, whilst he focused on extending the Degra’s territory and influence.
They had discussed all they knew of the system and the old station, but none of them had been able to come up with a means of attack that ensured their victory—other than a full-scale assault using every ship they had. Nekahr didn’t want to commit his entire Sect to a single battle, but it was looking more and more like he would need to. He couldn’t allow the planet to remain unclaimed for long and if, by some miracle, the Ocampa were behind what had happened to his men, he had to teach them a lesson.
Great Plaza, Ocampa City
Ocampa V, Delta Quadrant
Kes and Tanis stood in the middle of the Great Plaza. Her heart ached as she looked around at what had once been her home, a place that had been light and open and airy, was now cold and tired. The brilliant white of the plazas and walkways had dulled to light grey, the crystal clear glass looked smoky, and the once bright artificial sunlight was dim and flickered. The city felt alien to the young girl inside her, the girl who had grown up in the city for months before she had been drawn to seek out more.
“This was not what I had expected,” Tanis stated, his voice almost swallowed up in the oppressive silence.
“Much has changed,” she admitted.
“This place used to be breathtaking.” Slowly she moved over to the railing and looked up at the rocky ceiling. “When I was young, whenever my parents took me here, I would lean out as far as I could and just take it all in.”
She glanced down at the railing, raised her hand to grip the cool, smooth metal, but stopped before her skin made contact. Something within her couldn’t quite fathom why she wanted to put herself at risk in such a manner—no matter what urge she felt from her inner child.
It took her a few moments to realise someone was beside her. She looked from the rail up to Tanis, who was looking into the valley the city descended into, where lush, colourful gardens encircled the shimmering lake. The lake was little more than a pond now, whilst the gardens had long since withered—but when faced with using the water for the survival of plants or people, the Ocampa had chosen the latter over the former.
The logical decision.
The voice the echoed in her mind was not her own, but Tuvok’s—the man who had been her mentor and friend, who had helped her quiet her mind and hone her growing abilities. Many had seen him as cold and distant, but when alone with him, their minds touching in such an intense and intimate manner, she had come to know who he was at his core, what had driven him and had come to value his instruction and friendship.
“So with no Caretaker to look after them, your people fell apart,” Tanis stated.
Kes felt a surge of anger through her body and she narrowed her eyes as she glowered at him. “And I suppose you’ve been just fine since I blocked Susperia!”
He took a step back from the venom in her voice, his eyes looking over her lined face. She could sense the shock she had caused him, a spike of irritation and an underlying hint of fear. For a second she felt a pang of guilt, but it lasted barely a heartbeat.
Before either of them could say another word, a telepathic voice called out to them.
*Who are you? What are you doing out here?*
It took Tanis a few moments to look away from her, his emotions shifting. It was only when he looked at the newcomer did she turn away from the balcony. The Ocampa who approached was male, probably around six or seven, not a youngster but still very able bodied and fit. His hair was dark and his eyes blue, taller than most, he was dressed simply in browns and tans.
As soon as he looked at her he came to a halt. His eyes traced every contour and line of her face. She noticed them moisten as he scrutinised her.
“Kes,” he said softly.
Tanis looked between them but stayed quiet.
“Yes,” she replied. Her stomach tightened, her heart beat faster but she couldn’t understand why.
“By the gods, it is you,” the man exclaimed and rushed towards her. He took hold of her shoulders and looked down on her, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I thought we’d never see you again!” In an instant, his arms were wrapped around her, his body pressed tightly against hers, as her arms hung limply by her sides.
His embrace was tight but she wouldn’t have called it painful. She could feel his hands shaking as he looked at her, crying unabashedly as a wide smile spread across his face. His emotions were strong, almost overwhelming so. Kes could sense them and there was a spark in the back of mind, as though some part of her wanted to give into them and hug him as he did her.
After a long moment he released her, but kept his hands on her shoulders. His eyes never left hers. There was such intensity behind them she was left a little perplexed.
“Daggin,” she said simply.
“Kes, where have you been?”
She tilted her head to the side slightly. “It would take too long to explain.”
“I’ve got plenty of time.”
For a brief moment she considered humouring his request, but now was not the time. “What happened here, Daggin? What are you doing here in the City?”
His brow furled slightly as he looked at her, his eyes searching over her face. “The day you left, the Caretaker also vanished. Everything he had done for the City stopped, they were left with so little. The Colony couldn’t just stand back and do nothing. We brought the food and did what we could to help the others look out for themselves. It’s been hard, especially with all the energy cuts and saving measures—we can barely make the lights bright enough to grow anything.”
“Why didn’t you go to the surface?” Tanis asked.
It was only then did Daggin look at the other male on the plaza. His expression was one of confusion and uncertainty. “If we went to the surface we would be at the mercy of the Kazon. Besides, there is nothing on the surface. The ground is so parched that is has been left sterile, nothing would grow there. How could you not know that? Who are you?”
“I am Tanis.”
“I don’t know you. Where did you come from?
“He leads a colony of Ocampa,” Kes interjected. “They were taken from here generations ago. They have technology and knowledge that you don’t, so I brought them here to help.”
“You?” Daggin looked back at her, bewildered. “What do you mean?”
“My abilities have grown. They allowed me to transport their station into orbit and remove the Kazon from the surface.”
His hands dropped from her shoulders and he took a step back, fear crept into his eyes. “How...?”
“My time away altered me. I am much more than I was.”
Daggin shook his head. “You’ve changed so much,” he said, his voice soft. “You’re no longer that sweet girl I knew all those years ago—you’re eyes are empty. All the joy and love that was the Kes I knew isn’t there anymore.”
Her chest constricted at his words. Their impact was more profound than she’d ever have guessed. She sensed his loss and sadness, the grief that gripped him as though he had just lost someone. His memories of her were strong; hours spent together talking and laughing, toiling in the gardens, sharing their early lives together. She had forgotten it all, the simple joy of watching a plant she’d cultivated from a seedling taking hold and flourish, having someone so close to her to share all the little things.
He is right to grieve,
she told herself. The girl he knew is no longer. The life that was hers, the future she was to have, they are no longer. All that light and life, the innocence and awe, all the things that brought her to the surface and then to the stars is gone. That life was a good one, with so much potential.
Her eyes sought out Daggin’s, seeing inside him all that she had forgotten, the girl she was before Voyager
, before Species 8472, before she lost herself. A faint smile tugged at the corners of her lips, the expression felt foreign to her. Using his memories and emotions, she discovered more that she had forgotten and brought all of them together. The psychic energy filled her up, reawakening long numb nerves, warming her up from the inside out.
The energy grew until she had to close her own eyes it was so brilliant. She may no longer be that girl, couldn’t undo what had been done, but for all she had been she could give life.
Around her, the Great Plaza dissolved from her consciousness, Daggin and Tanis’ calls to her faded to silence, and felt the warmth inside her radiated outwards and grow. Her smile only widened.
Apartment 125, Residential Block G-8
Ocampa V, Delta Quadrant
She awoke with a start. Sitting up she looked around the simple room, her mind was foggy and she found it hard to concentrate. Her head was filled with stray thoughts, feelings and memories that she couldn’t quite focus on, like a dream slipping away. Among the faces she saw, some stirred an emotional attachment but others faded into little more than rudimentary shapes and colours. Part of her wanted to cling onto them, to hold onto them and try to remember names, but less than a minute after she had awoken her mind was blank.
Slowly she looked around the room, her brow creased and tight as she took in the bare room. Other than the simple furniture there was nothing else inside the room, no pictures, plants, nothing to identify who lived in there—it could well have been an empty domicile.
There should be plants in here,
a voice told her.
She didn’t know where the voice came from or why it was so adamant about the need for flora, but she knew it to be true. The room needed life and colour and aroma—it always had before.
“Before?” she asked the empty room. She had never been in the room before...had she?
Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she gingerly stood up, feeling a little unsteady on her feet. Slowly she moved from the sleeping quarters into the living room, her light nightgown fluttering. The carpet under her bare feet was soft, the temperature was warm but not stuffy, and the surfaces were spotless. The entire place felt as though no one had been there in quite some time.
In the living room, there was the furniture but no finish touches. The plain white walls, floor and furnishings were all clean and well looked after, but told her nothing about who lived there—whether it was herself or someone else. She couldn’t explain how but the place felt familiar, despite its lack of life or colour that she knew was needed. If this was where she lived then surely it would be decorated to suit her, if it was someone else’s home then how did she get in and what was she doing there?
Movement to her left caught her eye and she quickly looked to see a petite woman standing in the room, hair golden and cut short to show off her pointed, ridged ears, with big blue eyes. It took her a moment to realise it was a mirror and that she was looking at herself. She studied the reflection intensely, straight nose, small mouth, gentle curve of her jaw down to her chin, and the eyes, which seemed older than the rest of her. For the briefest of moments, the face she looked at hadn’t been the one she’d expected to see, but as quickly as the thought came to her it vanished, leaving behind just a single remnant.
“Linnis,” she said aloud, seeing a slight curl of her lips at the recognition of her name.