Here I Stand

Chapter 9

She'd let her guard down.

In the split-second it took her to assess the intruder – armed, well under two meters, maybe 75 kilos – Kathryn acknowledged that she should never have allowed herself to be in this position. Starfleet Security had insisted on keeping an armed guard near her for the first couple of months after their return to the Alpha Quadrant. "We've received threats," they told her, but when pressed, no one seemed able to enumerate those threats, or name their source. She fought back, and eventually the guard was dismissed.

Surveillance equipment and a tech team to install it appeared on her doorstep the next day.

This time, she went directly to Owen Paris.

She gave him an earful about the need to balance security with privacy, railed against the constant scrutiny she'd been under since Voyager's return, and refused to be watched like a criminal in her own home. Just for good measure, she'd thrown in a handful of the more colorful curses she'd learned in the Delta Quadrant.

Owen had relented, but only if she promised to keep a working phaser on hand at all times. Since its installation there, that working phaser had never left the middle drawer of her bedside table.

That's where it was now. Upstairs, out of reach, while she was standing unprotected in her dark living room with a deadly-looking weapon aimed at her head. If she managed to get out of this alive and uninjured, Owen and Chakotay would probably take turns berating her for being so cavalier about her own safety.

After she berated herself for letting her guard down, of course, and allowing herself to become so…distracted.

It was the only way to describe the way she'd felt since she'd seen Chakotay at the wedding. Distracted. She could divert Richard and Councilman Deegan and John Tenson and all the other men she'd dated lately into a quiet place in her mind where they didn't bother her when she didn't want them to. Truthfully, she'd kept Mark in that quiet place for most of their relationship. But Chakotay… Chakotay wouldn't be diverted anywhere. He'd been at the forefront of her thoughts for a week, a distraction she was not at all certain she could afford.

She knew she'd been right to hold Chakotay off for all these years. If she'd let herself become so preoccupied while they were still on Voyager, they never would have gotten home. As it was, in her distracted state she'd failed to protect herself from a simple home invasion.

There was a small – extremely small – chance it was a random act and had nothing to do with her at all. She doubted it…but the ruse was worth a try. "Take whatever you want," she said in a small, shaky voice. "Don't hurt me."

The intruder guffawed.

Kathryn straightened and raised her chin. "Fine," she ground out. "Who are you and what do you want from me?"

"You, of course." He took a step into the pool of light from the streetlamp. "Just you, Kathryn Janeway."

She finally got a good look at him…and felt the color drain from her face. "Suder," she breathed. Most of her deceased crew's relatives had accepted her condolences with the understanding that she'd done everything she could to keep their loved ones alive during their journey through the Delta Quadrant. A few had not. This man, Lon Suder's brother, had rebuffed her attempts to reach out to him, countering instead with accusations and demands. "Brant Suder," she said.

He laughed again, an eerie, dangerous sound in the half-light. "That's right."

Over the summer, Brant had tried to contact her office twice, requesting an audience to discuss the circumstances of his brother's death, her personal complicity in it, and his demands for compensation. She'd replied with her regrets and referred both requests to the Judge Advocate General's office, just as she had similar requests from Mike Jonas's father, Lyndsay Ballard's family, and Rudy Ransom's estate.

"Killing me won't bring Lon back," she said.

He nodded once. "True. And as much as it might make me feel better, it won't solve my problem."

"What problem?"

"With Chakotay, of course." He took another step toward her, brandishing the weapon in his right hand. "My brother should never have been in the Maquis. He needed help. But Chakotay dragged him into service so he could use him. Abducted him, and then got him lost with you."

She raised her chin. "Lon saved the ship. He died a hero."

"But he's still dead," Brant snapped. "And he shouldn't be." He waved the weapon at her. "I mean to return the favor. Show Chakotay what it feels like when someone he loves disappears without a trace."

So. She was to be taken alive and used as bait. Now that she knew he had no intention of killing her with it, the weapon in his hand seemed a lot less menacing.

Kathryn gritted her teeth…and attacked.

Suder had a good 15 centimeters and 20 kilos on her, but she had Starfleet training and the element of surprise on her side. She twisted ninety degrees to her right so that her body was perpendicular to his and struck out with her left hand in the same motion, knocking Suder's weapon arm in toward his own midsection. Before he had time to react, she grabbed the hand holding the weapon and bent his wrist in further, so that the phaser was actually pointed at him instead of her.

Basic weapon defense. It was all coming back to her in a flash. Tuvok would be so proud.

Suder cursed and grabbed at her with his left hand, but with his right wrist bent at a painful angle and the weapon digging into his own gut, he couldn't turn far enough to get a grip on anything but the back of her sweater. Kathryn twisted his weapon arm up and out until she felt his elbow and wrist pop with the strain.

The next steps of the maneuver flew through her mind in a rush. Step through, hook the knee, takedown, elbow to the throat, disarm, call for help.

The step-through was easy enough. She was quick and small and didn't require a lot of room to work. With his weapon hand still bent and twisted, she turned toward him stepped over his left foot with her right and hooked her leg around his for the takedown. He overbalanced and began to fall backwards, just as he was supposed to.

But in the darkness, she'd miscalculated his distance to the wall.

Instead of crashing to the floor, Suder slammed backwards into the wall. A pair of holos clattered to the floor at his feet.

Alarmed now, Kathryn kept her hold on his arm and quickly turned until her back was to his chest with the weapon still pointed away from her, but she was off-balance and he had all the leverage. He yanked his arm up and away from her.

Before she could get her feet under her again he'd closed both arms around her and pulled her close to his body, pinning her arms next to her sides. She struggled to wriggle down and out of his grasp, but his hold was too strong. The butt of the weapon dug into her ribcage and she groaned.

Then, before she knew what was happening, he'd bent her forward from the waist and pressed his cheek to hers in an almost caress. She recoiled.

Suder hummed in her ear. "Terror is intoxicating," he whispered. "Isn't it?"

Confused, she stiffened in his foul embrace. What did he mean to do to her before he used her as bait? What would enrage Chakotay the most? Her mouth went dry.

He laughed. "I'm not going to hurt you, Kathryn," he purred. He turned the weapon so the barrel was pressed against her chest. "But I'm not very familiar with this weapon. I think it's set to stun, but it did make a very impressive hole in your Lieutenant Kim."

Kathryn stopped struggling.

Suder pulled the weapon slightly away from her. "Maybe I should test the weapon on the girl," he said.

"What girl?" Kathryn whispered.

He pressed his forehead to the back of her neck. "Chakotay's…daughter. Niece. Whoever she is." Kathryn went rigid in his grasp, horrified. He'd hurt Harry…and he had Kayma.

Suder sighed against her skin. "That's it," murmured. "Let yourself feel the rage…"

Kathryn breathed as deeply as she could while trapped in his arms, forcing her emotions to quiet. She suspected that, like his brother, Brant had a disorder that had compromised his normal Betazed telepathy. Unlike Lon, however, he could sense emotions while in close contact with someone. A touch-empath. While he had his hands on her, she had to reign in her feelings as much as possible. "What have you done with Kayma?" she asked calmly.

"She's outside waiting for us, Kathryn," Suder said, and pressed his cheek to hers again. She forced herself to not react. "I like her," he purred. His lips brushed her ear and she flinched at the contact. "Her terror is even more intoxicating than yours."

Sick dread descended on Kathryn. Without training to fall back on, or likely any experience to compare to this one, Kayma must be terrified. Kathryn had no doubt that Suder would kill the girl if pushed to it. If Kathryn could get to her, she had a better chance of surviving this ordeal. "All right," she said. "I'm the one you want. Leave the girl here and I'll go with you willingly," she offered first, not expecting it to work.

"Now that she's seen me? I don't think so." He laughed his low, dangerous laugh. "Maybe I'll make him choose which one of you to save." She gasped. "How do you think he'll live with that choice? If he chooses you, do you think he'll ever be able to love you? And if he chooses her, will he ever be the same?"

Kathryn saw red. It was not a choice anyone should ever have to make. Enraged, she jerked and fought against his grasp. His only response was to hold her tighter. Suder's chest rumbled behind her. He turned them both around and shoved her away from him, slamming her face-first into the wall. Kathryn saw stars and felt blood trickle from her nose. "I'll take you both," Suder growled in her ear.

With his body he pinned her to the wall. He slipped a strip of cloth around her mouth and tied it roughly at the back of her head, gagging her. Then he grabbed a handful of her hair and pointed her at the two fallen holos. "Pick them up," he ordered, the business end of the phaser jammed between her shoulder blades.

She retrieved the holos and rehung them. She reversed them on purpose, hoping that whoever came to find them would notice the images' changed positions. Of course, that presumed their rescuer was familiar enough with her belongings to know when something was out of place. She doubted Richard ever paid that much attention, but he wasn't the only person who'd been in her house recently.

Suder took another look around the room, no doubt searching for signs of his intrusion. Kathryn followed his gaze; there were none. He'd never gotten beyond the dim entryway.

Satisfied, he pushed her back against the wall and bound her hands in front of her with another strip of rough cloth. Even in the dimness, Kathryn recognized the pattern. The cloth was cut from one of Chakotay's coats, the one Harry had been wearing when he left Big Sur with Kayma. Suder grabbed a jacket from the hook by her door – not the one with her comm on it, unfortunately – and draped it over her hands to hide the binding. Then he pushed her out the front door and down the front steps to where her own Starfleet groundcar waited. Suder opened the door and shoved Kathryn into the car next to the figure slumped in the back seat. As he slid into the driver's seat, fat raindrops began to fall on the front window.

Wide-eyed and terrified, Kayma fell bodily on Kathryn, pressing her face into the curve of Kathryn's neck, moving closer, seeking comfort. Kathryn turned far enough to hide behind the girl. From there it was an easy maneuver to lift her bound hands, hook a finger under the gag and pull it down to her chin. While she waited for Suder to start the car, she wiped the blood away from her nose. Then she pressed her face to Kayma's ear.

"Make noise," she whispered. Kayma started suddenly, but obeyed. She began to sob in earnest; Kathryn wasn't entirely certain it was an act. She trusted the sound of the girl's fake sobs, the hum of the car's engine and the rain falling on the roof to cover her voice.

"I need to get as much information as possible, as fast as possible." She touched her foot to Kayma's. "One for yes, two for no. Understand?"

Kayma slid her bound feet across the floor of the car to Kathryn's. Tap.

"Good." She pulled Kayma's head slightly away from her and peered through the darkness at her tear-stained, scraped face. "Are you hurt anywhere I can't see?"

Tap. The girl wriggled her hands behind her back.

Kathryn glanced down and saw that the metal cuffs had torn into her wrists, leaving behind thin, oozing lacerations. She glanced at her own makeshift bonds. Clearly, Suder had only prepared for one hostage, a bit of information she might be able to use later.

She pulled Kayma close to her again. "Can you feel your hands and feet?"

Tap.

The cuffs weren't cutting off her circulation, at least. "There must be a remote device for those. Does he keep it on his person?"

Tap.

"Did you have a comm when you left the house?"

Kayma sniffled. Tap tap.

Kathryn took a deep breath. "Was Harry hurt?"

TAP.

"Was he alive?"

Tap…tap tap. This time, the sob was definitely real.

Kathryn stilled. "You don't know but it looked bad."

Tap.

"Did he have his comm?"

Kayma hesitated, then: Tap.

Kathryn nodded. Harry hadn't been wearing a coat when they arrived at Chakotay's house, and she remembered seeing his comm on his shirt while they were sitting at dinner. Even if he was hurt and unable to respond, if he still had the comm he could be found.

"Do you think I was the intended target?"

Tap.

Kathryn closed her eyes and buried her face in Kayma's thick hair for a small, stolen moment. Harry and Kayma were both blameless in whatever game Suder was playing, innocent bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Probably the only thing that had kept Kayma alive and relatively uninjured so far was her relationship to Chakotay.

"Does Suder have a comm?"

Kayma's head snapped up and she gasped. Kathryn quickly pulled her back down, hoping Suder hadn't noticed the sudden movement or heard the sound over the pounding of the rain. He didn't flinch. Thank goodness for subpar Starfleet soundproofing. "Yes, I know this man. Did Harry recognize him, too?"

Tap. Good. Very good. Harry would be able to identify the man…if he was still alive. Kathryn shoved that distraction into the far corner of her mind. Kayma was her priority now.

"Has he spoken with anyone else?"

Tap.

So Suder wasn't working alone. She'd already surmised as much; given the amount of time she spent alone in her townhouse and how thoroughly she'd let her guard down, Suder could probably have taken her whenever he wanted to. The fact that he'd chosen this particular night, when the abduction required far more time and effort than a simple home invasion would have, told her that the operation had probably been timed to coincide with a rendezvous. Given that he'd driven at least partway to Big Sur in an effort to find her and had had to divert back to San Francisco, he was probably already running behind schedule – another bit of information that might prove useful, especially if Suder got careless in his haste.

Kathryn racked her brain for clues as to who might be helping him, and why. Most of Chakotay's Maquis comrades were dead or scattered, so Kathryn doubted it was anything to do with him, other than his connection to Lon Suder. It was possible that Suder was a patsy, his desire for vengeance being put to use by someone with an even wider, more nefarious purpose. The occupation of Betazed had left a power vacuum in its wake, but as far as she knew there were no terrorist cells working off the planet. On the other hand, there seemed to always be someone out there who thought a high-ranking hostage would be a wonderful bargaining chip…even though it rarely worked.

"Do you know where he's taking us?"

Tap tap.

Kathryn let out a slow breath and reviewed the situation. They were to be used as bait for Chakotay but probably delivered to someone else, someone who might be after her instead of her former First Officer, or possibly both of them. Suder might or might not be privy to that part of the plan. They had no comm and no weapon, and no idea where Suder was taking them. Kayma, hands and feet bound with cuffs that required a remote or key to unlock, was practically immobile. Suder's weapon was like nothing Kathryn had ever seen before, and if Kayma's assessment was accurate, very dangerous.

All in all, she'd been in far worse predicaments.

Kathryn started to pull the gag back into place when she noticed Kayma shuddering against her. The poor girl didn't realize that, as always, Kathryn had an ace in the hole.

She pulled Kayma close to her, wishing she could take the girl in her arms without attracting Suder's attention. "You know Chakotay will be worried when you don't come home," she said, and in spite of everything, Kayma snorted. TAP.

"He'll probably try to contact Harry, and then Tom and B'Elanna," Kathryn continued. "They'll trace Harry's comm and find him. Then they'll pull in Owen Paris. And Tuvok." And Mike Ayala and Seven and Sam Wildman. Sue Nicoletti and Philicia and Hoke and Noah Lessing and Vorik and every other member Voyager's crew who happens to be anywhere on the planet—or in the entire damn system. "They'll be able to track this car back to my house. When he gets there, Chakotay will realize I've been taken, too."

Kayma began to relax against her. "He'll come for us," Kathryn said with conviction. "Until then, we have to stay focused and alert so we can help him when he gets to us. Can you do that, sweetheart?" Kayma drew a shaky breath. Tap.

Kathryn gave her one last squeeze, the closest thing to a hug she could manage in this small space and with her hands bound. "Chakotay will find us. He won't let anything happen to us if he can help it." Kathryn pulled the gag back into place and tried to move away, but Kayma's head stayed on her shoulder. So Kathryn wriggled around to let the girl lean on her for comfort, and stared out the window into the rainy darkness. They drove out of her neighborhood, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and headed north out of the city.

The rain continued to pound on the car. Half an hour passed. An hour. Kayma's breathing evened and slowed as she fell into an exhausted sleep. Kathryn searched the night for familiar landmarks, but she'd spent too little time in the area surrounding the city. Most of her life took place within a tiny triangle inscribed by her townhouse, her office, and her favorite café – and Sunday trips to Bloomington, Indiana, more than 3,600 kilometers away. Maybe Chakotay had the right idea with his insistence on driving everywhere instead of transporting. At least he got to know the terrain.

She knew in her bones that everything she'd told Kayma was true. Yes, Chakotay was a distraction. A welcome distraction, a kind, caring and loyal distraction who was fiercely protective of the people he loved. As soon as he figured out what had happened, Chakotay would come for them.

And he would rain down holy hell on whoever was responsible for this.

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