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Magnetic Cohesion 1.1

27.038 words
after 5x17 - the disease

Janeway grinned at the ridiculous image on the main viewscreen.  “You’d better put on your mag-lock boots, Tom.  You don’t want to bump your head against those primitive knobs on the control panel and accidentally ignite the dark energy.”

“Thanks Captain, but – nah.”  Tom’s eye twinkled as he gripped the edge of the Delta Flyer’s piloting console.  “I’ve loved floating in zero-g like this since I was a kid.  Plus, it’s a great weight-loss program.  I’ll manage.  Oh!  And Harry – don’t forget to let me know how Neelix’s bananas Foster turns out.”

From the center of the bridge, Janeway twisted her neck toward the ops station to see Harry grimace and shake his head, as though he couldn’t imagine a fate any worse.

A monotone voice piped up from the transmission.  “Ensign Paris, please take care to keep your feet out of my face.”

Janeway made eye contact with Chakotay next to her and they chuckled as Tom’s head hit the viewscreen with the force of Tuvok’s deflection.  After giving Tom a moment to reorient himself, Janeway said, “We’ll see you in four days.  Seven; Tuvok; Tom – good luck.”  The away team would be studying the dark energy from outside, but Janeway was happier to stay onboard Voyager, as it would collect one-of-a-kind data as soon as it entered.  This type of phenomenon was so rare that Starfleet hadn’t had a chance to observe it from inside yet.

“It’s gonna be a long four days with these chatterboxes,” Tom muttered under his breath.  “See you, Voyager.  Paris out.”

Janeway harbored no sympathy for Tom; he might have little faith in himself, but she knew he would find a way to enjoy the company.  He always did.

“Ensign,” she said to Hargrove, “Set a course into the dark energy, warp six, and engage.  Commander, you have the bridge – I’ll be in my ready room.”

As she started plodding toward the door with heavy magnetic steps, Chakotay rocked forward.  “Actually, I was hoping I might join you.”

She nodded and set Harry in charge, then had to breathe a laugh at the two of them.  “The agile Captain and her fit First Officer, barely able to walk three meters.”  
Their proximity to the dark energy had fried the artificial grav plating earlier that morning.

“I know, I feel like we’re trudging through a snow storm,” Chakotay replied as they approached the door.  “But it sure beats floating into viewscreens and replicators.”

“Does it?  Maybe Tom has the right idea.  If anti-grav floating weren’t so uncontrollable, I think I’d abandon the boots.  I was one of the few who wound up enjoying that particular segment of training at the Academy.  I like the sensation of flying.”

“Let me guess,” he said.  “You’re only wearing the boots because as Captain you feel you should set an example for the crew in following Starfleet protocol.”  The door shut behind them.  “Come 2200 hours, you’ll be zooming around your quarters laughing.”

Still tromping, she grinned and threw back, “You make me sound like a witch without a broomstick!”

She could hear the smile in his voice as she approached her replicator.  “When I say zooming around laughing,” he reiterated, “I mean with joy.  No offense, but evil laughter isn’t one of your strong points.”

“Then I’m glad you never met Queen Arachnia.”  Grabbing onto the side of the replicator for support, she came to a stop, ready to order her coffee.

Her hand suddenly erupted with pain – she gasped and pulled back, but she couldn’t dislodge her fingers from the replicator.  It crackled with electro-static noise and flashed brilliantly.

Her eyes squeezed shut and she breathed erratically; she had caught a glimpse of a palm without fingers, and she couldn’t accept the possibility that she had lost them.  Fighting a rising panic, she continued frantically trying to free herself while the excruciating burning sensation escalated.  Centimeter by centimeter, her wrist disappeared, then her forearm.

Someone – Chakotay – urgently wrapped his arms around her waist.  She noticed briefly that his entire body molded to hers, and the embrace strengthened her.  Pulling as hard as she could, Chakotay joined her efforts and pressed his leg against the wall beneath the replicator to force them backwards.

The pain peaked – all the joints in her arm popped out of place as they finally wrestled her away.  She bit back a scream, but couldn’t stop a whimper.  Their momentum threw them backward across the room until Chakotay managed to tap his boots onto the floor.  Before her boots kicked in, he quickly spun her around to face him as she gritted her teeth to fend off a sensation of dizziness.  He raised her arm without touching the injured part and cradled her torso sideways against his chest.  “Chakotay to the Doctor – medical emergency.  Prepare to beam the Captain and I directly to sickbay.”  She leaned against him shamelessly.  The lack of gravity didn’t seem to matter; she found she required the support anyway.  She couldn’t bring herself to peek at her injured arm.

It took all her willpower to summon words to her lips, and even then, all that came out was a throaty, “Scantheship!”  Spots swam through her field of vision.

“Ready to transport, Commander.”


For a moment, the pain was blissfully gone and she was surrounded by light.  But sickbay materialized around her, and her arm again exploded.  She pressed her tongue between her teeth and tightened the fingers on her other hand into the fabric of Chakotay’s uniform.  Before he or the Doctor could speak, for a second time she grated out the words, “Scan the ship!”

When the two of them converged on her, rather than following her order, she wished she could lash out.  If this was happening to other members of the crew while she was being treated, Chakotay was going to have hell to pay.

“Captain!” said the Doctor.  “I’ve never seen anything like this!”  He scanned her hand rapidly, then searched through the air behind him for one of several floating devices.  “What happened?”

Chakotay covered her undamaged hand with his, clutching it against his chest where she had latched onto him.  His arm still encircled her waist.  “She grabbed the edge of her replicator, there was a flash of light, and suddenly her fingers weren’t there.  Her whole arm got sucked in.”  As he spoke, the Doctor grabbed the instrument he had been searching for – a hypospray – and Janeway instinctively exposed her neck.  “It took both of us pulling with all our strength to wrench her free.  Her arm was only in there for thirty or forty seconds.”

The pain receded once the terakine had taken effect.  She relaxed enough to uncurl from Chakotay, but when she gently tried to sit up straight on the biobed, he grasped her firmly to him.  A familiar feeling stole over her body: a rush of endorphins, a jolt of nerves, and increased circulation.  Nevertheless, she became vaguely suspicious.  Why was he holding her so protectively?

The Doctor nabbed another item from the air and waved it over her.  “It’s as though your arm has been drawn into a vacuum.  Not only does your skin show signs of frostbite,” and indeed, when Janeway gathered her courage and looked, she saw that the skin covering her unnaturally elongated fingers was black, “But it’s been exposed to an enormous pressure change.  The arm also appears to have aged fifty times faster than the rest of your body, which would explain the rapid onset of frostbite.”

“Commander,” she said, trying again to shake him off.  This time Chakotay loosened his grip, but when she straightened, his arm remained around her shoulders.  “If you don’t scan the ship right now, I’m shoving your hand into my replicator.”  She squared her shoulders, raised her chin, and set her jaw, looking directly into his eyes.

Without removing his arm, and while the Doctor continued his ministrations, Chakotay tapped his combadge.  “Chakotay to Ensign Kim – Captain Janeway has just suffered a –”

“Minor,” Janeway threw in, holding Chakotay’s eyes.

“Minor injury in her ready room.  I want you to scan the ship for anomalies and send a team in to investigate her replicator.  Make sure nobody touches it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How are you feeling?” Chakotay asked her.  He leaned in closely, as though the Doctor weren’t there.

The juxtaposition made her uncomfortable.  Chakotay’s behavior seemed more intimate than was customary, and with the Doctor hovering over her Janeway couldn’t reprimand Chakotay for it.  She wished the Doctor weren’t so observant.  It would only be a matter of time before he said something.

“I’m fine,” she replied, and shrugged pointedly.  Chakotay took the hint and finally removed his arm, sighing in obvious disappointment.  Her shoulders felt cold under her uniform when he took his heat away.

The Doctor’s eyes traveled along with Chakotay’s arm, then darted up to his face with dawning comprehension.  Delaying the inevitable, Janeway added, “Please hurry, Doctor, I’d like to return to the bridge and figure out what’s going on.  Is there any concrete evidence of where my arm went?”

With a wry glance from Chakotay to her, the Doctor answered, “Somewhere very cold and very devoid of atmosphere.  The way your joints have all been dislocated also suggests something was tugging you in – a simple vacuum couldn’t have done this kind of damage.”  He passed a dermal regenerator over her skin.

“Sounds like a rift between dimensions opened up in your coffee maker,” Chakotay said.

“It might be the dark energy,” she responded, shaking her head a little.  “Scientists have speculated that it could be so abrasive it punctures space-time, like when the knee on a pair of pants wears through.  It’s an unsubstantiated theory, until now, I suppose.”

“Oh, good,” said the Doctor, taking her hand carefully between his own.  “And I suppose we won’t be leaving anytime soon?  Captain, you may want to grab onto something – or someone,” he emphasized with a glimpse toward Chakotay, “This is going to hurt, even with the hypospray I gave you.”

Before she could take hold of anything or tell the Doctor to watch his mouth, he began re-setting her elbow and all the joints in her hand.  Her body tensed; she felt Chakotay’s hand slide over her free one, so she allowed her fingers to tighten around his.  She closed her eyes and swallowed.

Thankfully, it ended quickly.  She exhaled deeply and let go of Chakotay.

“Good as new,” said the Doctor.  She shook the hand out with relief.  “Try to use your left hand more often today when tapping panels and reaching for objects.  This one needs a rest.  Perhaps Commander Chakotay could give you a –”

“Thank you, Doctor,” she cut in, worried that he had intended to suggest a massage.  Or worse.  She let her boots snap onto the floor.  “But the Commander and I need to report to the bridge immediately.”

She took the biggest strides she could muster in such clumsy boots and Chakotay kept pace at her side, yet even so the Doctor trailed after them rapidly.  His program simulated gravity without the need for mag-lock boots.  “Commander Chakotay, please try to help the Captain relax.”  Just before she and Chakotay cleared the door, she heard the Doctor toss out the words, “The turbo lift can be a fun and convenient place for a –”

Despite the Doctor’s affinity for prying into Janeway’s personal life, she knew he did it out of concern for her own well-being.  She fully expected a lecture later on today about how much a relationship would alleviate her perpetually critical stress levels.  However, it comforted Janeway to know the Doctor would never spread the word about how he had seen Chakotay treating her.  If Chakotay had acted that way in front of, say, Tom Paris, who would leak the information to the entire ship with only the best of intentions, Janeway would have been far more concerned.  As it was, she could only shake her head and smile.

She tapped her combadge.  “Janeway to Kim.  Anything to report?”

“Yes, Captain.  Thanks to knowledge of your incident we’ve been able to prevent others so far, but there does appear to be a problem with trans-dimensional rifts throughout the ship.  They aren’t affecting any major ship systems.”

“Yet,” she responded.  “Continue monitoring them.”


Now that they were in an empty corridor, she didn’t feel quite so uneasy.  Censuring Chakotay for his conduct seemed an inadequate way to thank him for potentially saving her life.  She decided to let his behavior slide for now, but if it happened again he wouldn’t get off so easily.

“I suppose I can skip the coffee; I’m officially awake.”  Their pace slowed as they made for the turbo lift.  She peered up at him.  “Thank you, Chakotay,” she said, letting her side bump against his.  “If it weren’t for your help I might have been pulled into that pocket completely.”

“All in a day’s work,” he replied with a grin, bumping her softly back.  “Let’s just say I’m glad you’re still in our dimension.”

She smiled at him and, allowing her feelings of gratitude to guide her, placed her healed hand on his shoulder while they plodded down the hallway.  She tossed her hair a little to clear it from floating in front of her eyes and she made a mental note to try putting it up when she returned to her quarters later on.  “Not even 0900 and already you’ve saved the Captain’s life.  Now.  What can I do for you?”


“Well, you came into my ready room with me for a reason.  I assume there was something you wanted to tell me about.”

He nodded.  “That’s right – in all the hullabaloo I had forgotten.  There were a couple of things.”  He made a familiar amused expression.  “Harry continues to feel a bit lovesick.  Tal is definitely on his mind, though he refuses to say so.  What he did tell me is that he believes B’Elanna will do better without Tom than vice versa, but I think the opposite.  It may only be four days apart, but she’s really come to depend on Tom.”

“I’m sure both of them will manage perfectly well.  Is there some reason to be concerned?”

“No,” he said, “I just find it interesting.”  Her hand slid off Chakotay as he stepped aside so she could enter the turbo lift.  He followed her in.

“Deck one.  How unusual,” she retorted.  Again, her hair floated into her face, but before she could shake it away, Chakotay’s hand rose and tucked it behind her ear.

She snapped her chin up and met his eyes.  Her pulse quickened; he swallowed and lowered his hand.  Perhaps she should call attention to his conduct now.  He hadn’t been acting this way yesterday, she was quite certain.  She’d been fighting this battle between protocol and desire for years, and she didn’t need Chakotay to suddenly start making it any harder than it already was.

“Oops,” he said sheepishly, joining his hands behind his back and correctly interpreting her expression.  “Guess I’m feeling a bit overprotective.”

His tone was too endearing.  This man could get away with murder.

Maybe his conduct wasn’t worth mentioning.  After all, how could she set parameters on their friendship?  She had allowed him to become far closer to her than the rest of the crew, and he knew it.  She’d certainly entered his personal space more times than she could count, and allowed him to do the same to her.  What difference did a stroke to her hair make in terms of boundaries that were already arbitrary?

“At ease,” she said softly with a conciliatory wave of her hand, fully aware that she was rationalizing.  She put the thought out of her head and responded to his question, doing her best to use her normal light-hearted tone.  “Now, where were we…?”  She pointed upward upon remembering.  “Oh, yes.  B’Elanna and Tom.  It seems unusual that the Tattooed Terror would be concerned with the details of an onboard romance.”

He gave her a dry look at her use of his boxing title.  “On the contrary.  I may not say so often, but I’ve been a hopeless romantic for at least as long as I’ve been on Voyager.  Don’t tell me you hadn’t noticed.”

He must have been referencing New Earth.  He did that from time to time, but it was always subtle enough that she could pretend to misunderstand.  “Alright,” she answered, sidestepping the subject.  “You’ve had a few romances in the Delta Quadrant, I’ll give you that.”  She leaned her head to the side, scrutinizing him just as he was her.

“True.  But not with anyone who has stuck around for the whole trip...”  His mouth appeared ready to form another word.

As the blood rushed to her cheeks and her brows crawled upward, she became certain he was about to say it.  But he simply closed his lips and smiled, again innocent as could be, while the missing word hung in the air between them.

She found herself staring at his mouth.  She tilted her head forward and peered up to his eyes.  Something about the way his focus traveled from her eyes down to her lips, then back up again, made her feel so gratifyingly feminine.  “Chakotay...”

She inhaled sharply as her inner Captain put the kibosh on the encouragement she had nearly continued offering him.  “Was there anything else you wished to speak with me about?”

He sighed slowly, causing part of her hair to ripple.  She caught a whiff of cinnamon.  Then, “Just something Harry noticed about the pocket of dark energy we’re entering.  Its rate of expansion may be accelerating.”

The door slid open and their quiet moment ended.  “So by the time we make it to the other side, it might be pushing us faster than our engine output would predict?”  The two of them exited together and tromped toward their chairs.

“I suppose so,” he said.  “Due to the time you had set for departure, we were unable to collect complete readings.”

“Keep an eye on it.  Does the away team know about this?”

“Yes, Harry let them know before they left.  They’ll be monitoring the expansion, but it shouldn’t cause them any problems.”

She nodded.  “Very well.”

As they took their seats and she asked for a detailed status report, she could feel Chakotay’s eyes on her.  Next time, she promised herself.  Next time she would reprimand him for acting that way.


1.2 | 1.3 | 2.1 | 2.2 | epilogue