CUP – Chapter 14

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By mizvoy

Part 14: Arrival

2381 (two weeks after Part 1)

Deep Space 3

“Let me help you,” Chakotay said when the woman ahead of him sagged against the railing of the stairwell that lead from the docking ring to the immigration offices. He took one of her bags from her, slung it across his back, and then hooked her free arm through his.

“Thank you.” The overburdened woman shifted the small child on her hip and started up the next flight of stairs while leaning heavily on Chakotay’s arm. “My baby probably kept you awake for the entire flight from Sanctus V. I expected you to do your best to get away from us, not offer to give me a hand.”

Chakotay gave her a charming smile. “I was the oldest of six kids, so a fussy baby makes me feel right at home.”

“You’re too kind.”

He’d travelled tourist class on a dilapidated personnel ship that serviced the fringes of Federation space, sleeping for two nights running in a reclining seat that was just slightly more comfortable than the floor or a hook on the wall. The woman and her child had occupied the two seats across the aisle from him and had been the source of constant noise and disruption. Chakotay suspected that the baby was teething and was just as uncomfortable in the reclining seat as he was. No doubt they all would have been happier in one of the private cabins, but the fare was too expensive for the average traveler.

When no one took the seat beside him, Chakotay had spread out a bit and had done some reading, but, even so, he was relieved to get out of the cramped seat and stretch his muscles. Almost two years of outdoor labor had left him unused to long periods of inactivity.

They were about halfway through their climb when he noticed that Nazza, the young mother, was out of breath and struggling to continue. He pulled her aside on one of the landings to take a breather as other weary travelers passed them by.

“Why did we have to dock so far from Customs?” she wondered. “There are many empty docking spaces that are closer.”

“I imagine it has to do with the ancient ship we were on. The docking clamps have to match, and ours were out-dated. They probably keep a distant dock or two for ships like ours because they come along so infrequently.”

“I thought it might be that the Federation didn’t want our old bucket to be visible from the populated areas.” Her eyes flashed with resentment.

“The Federation really isn’t like that,” he assured her. “If anything, the residents would probably enjoy looking at our old ‘bucket.’ It’s practically an antique.”

She gave him a close look as they resumed their journey.

“You know about the Federation?”

“I grew up here.” He offered no more information, and Nazza knew better than to ask.

“This is my first trip.”

“My only advice is to keep an open mind. Don’t believe what you’ve heard unless your own experience confirms it.”

“Will they have water for us at Customs?”

“Water?” He smiled down at her in sympathy. “Sure. They’ll also have a comfort station with snacks, a washroom, and even a spare diaper, if you run short.”

“That will be a relief.”

He nodded. “You’ll find that the Federation is populated by good and bad people, just like anywhere else.”

When they finally reached the Reception Level, Chakotay helped Nazza get some food and water before settling her and the baby into chairs.

“I checked the schedule,” he told her, “and you’ll be processed through in a few minutes. Have a good visit.”

“Thanks for your help, Mr. Caldera,” she told him. “I hope your trip is a good one, too.”


He checked the time of his appointment and took a seat, taking advantage of the wait to look closely at his surroundings. It had been just under two years since he’d been in Federation space, but it seemed like much longer, perhaps because he’d only been here for one year out of the last twelve, counting his time in the Maquis and on Voyager. He was curious about how much, or how little, things had changed in the meantime.

The room was tastefully and efficiently designed to handle a large number of incoming visitors as quickly as possible while maintaining a high level of security. The people providing refreshments were armed with radios and panic buttons, and he spied no less than fifteen cameras scanning the room. He imagined there were that many more in less conspicuous locations, imbedded into the design of the paintings or the carvings that decorated the doorways.

He shook off the paranoia of being observed and focused, instead, on the passengers who were waiting with him—mostly human, but with an interesting variety of aliens mixed in. After months of seclusion, he was relieved to be among people again, more relieved than he’d expected to be. He wondered if he should rethink his living arrangements and make regular visits into civilization.

Even though the Dominion War had been over for years, Chakotay could still sense an undercurrent of suspicion in the behavior of the customs officials who were calling the passengers forward for inspection. Some individuals went through the gauntlet with relative ease, while others had every item of their baggage scanned and physically searched.

He tried to find a pattern in the searches. Was every third person, fifth person? Were there certain categories of aliens, certain groupings of individual? The only pattern he saw was that one particular human clerk was especially strict, searching the belongings of nearly every person he interviewed. While he probably thought of himself as “thorough” in his work, Chakotay detected a little bit of glee in the man’s eyes and an enjoyment of the power he wielded, especially if the immigrants seemed afraid of him.

To Chakotay’s relief, Nazza’s number was called by a jolly clerk who appeared to genuinely enjoy meeting new people. Nazza and her infant sailed through customs without a problem; she turned to wave goodbye to him as she left the room to catch her next transport.

Chakotay wasn’t so lucky, for when his time came, he drew the power-hungry agent. He walked deliberately toward the counter, determined to use his best diplomatic skills to defuse any possible conflict and speed up the process. Only later would he remember Neelix’s famous caveat about successful social intercourse, “The gears have to mesh or the machine comes to a grinding halt.”

“Your documents.” The agent held his hand without looking Chakotay in the eye, ripping the isolinear chip out of his hand and studying it as if it might show some aberration on its surface. It was the latest style chip, provided to him in the packet from Starfleet, and the agent was obviously taken aback by it. Sliding it into his reader, he said, “Ramon Caldera?”


“Planet of citizenship?”

“Sanctus V,” Chakotay replied.

“Really?” The man glanced briefly at Chakotay, taking in his salt-and-pepper hair, deeply-weathered face, and worn clothing with an air of surprise and a hint of distrust-here was an alien who had up-to-date technology, yet claimed to from a remote, even backward planet. He returned to his view screen. “I don’t see these isolinear chips very often. Where did you get it?”

“I received it from a friend.” He studied the man’s name tag—Bret Azzendoor and wondered if his attitude had come from being teased as a child.

“I see.” The clerk paused to think, giving Chakotay another up-and-down look. “What is the purpose of your visit and your destination?”

“I’m traveling to Earth to visit friends.”

“And the duration of your visit?”

“I’m not sure. A month, maybe two.”

“I thought Sanctunarians refused to have dealings with the Federation.”

Chaktoay frowned. The truth was that Sanctus’ population was made up of Federation refugees, or malcontents, depending on your point of view, and most would never consider returning to the Federation for any reason whatsoever. Not only had they rejected the Federation, they willingly exchanged their Federation citizenship for that of their new home planet. Some were considered traitors.

“I try not to stereotype people,” he said with a shrug. “There are some Sactusians who would return if they had a good reason.”

“You gave up your Federation citizenship?”

“I couldn’t settle on Sanctus V without doing so.”

“Hmmm.” The clerk returned to the screen and looked at every page in detail while Chakotay became conscious of the long line of people waiting behind him. Finally, the clerk pulled the chip out of the reader. “Do you have a sponsor for this trip?”

“Yes, I do.” He pulled out a second chip, this one bearing the distinct Starfleet stamp.

Azzendoor slipped it into his reader and clicked his tongue. “Wow. Sponsored by Starfleet’s chief of research? With clearance for distinguished visitor’s quarters?” He glanced up at the taller man and studied him again. “You must have been somebody.”

“I am somebody.” In spite of himself, Chakotay’s temper flared; he barely repressed the urge to reach across the counter and throttle the arrogant punk.

The clerk narrowed his eyes. “Where is your baggage?”

Chakotay slipped his backpack off of his shoulders and set it on the counter between them without a word.

“Just the one bag, then.” At Chakotay’s nod, he unfastened the top and began to sift through the contents. “Please empty your pockets into the tray on your right.”

Chakotay complied, trying not to let the man know how angry he was becoming. No other passenger had been asked to empty his or her pockets in the entire hour he’d watched, and he had the distinct impression that he was getting “special” treatment that might qualify as harassment.

Then he noticed the vacant, seldom used “fluids check” station at the back of the room, a screening used extensively to search for changelings during the Dominion War. While Chakotay had nothing to hide, his DNA was on record, and he didn’t look forward to explaining why he was traveling under an alias. He’d have to keep that particular scan from taking place.

“Are you harassing me because I gave up my Federation citizenship?” he demanded, raising his voice as he emptied his pockets. “I have done nothing wrong and demand that you summon your supervisor.”

“Mr. Caldera, please,” the clerk replied, glancing around to see if anyone had heard. “I’m just doing my job here.”

“Bullshit. I’ve been watching the way you treat people, and you like wielding power over them, don’t you?” Chakotay shoved the tray toward him so that it fell off to the floor with a clatter. “It gives you a thrill to make us open our bags so you can sift through our underwear, right? Or sort through our pockets looking for the stray alien coin for your collection?”

“You’ve got your nerve!” the clerk yelled, turning the bag over and dumping its contents on the counter and letting most of it fall to the floor. He reached into his pocket as he sneered, “In just a minute, I’ll have you cooling your heels in the holding cell, no matter who your sponsor is!”

“By planting this in my bags?” He moved quickly, reaching across and grabbing the clerk’s hand just as he pulled it out of his pocket, and just as the supervisor arrived.

“Is there a problem here?” the supervisor asked, giving the clerk a warning look.

Chakotay nodded, his voice calm. “This man was about to ‘find’ whatever it is he has in his hand in my belongings.”

“Let’s see it, Bret,” the supervisor ordered. “Open your hand.”

“He’s a traitor, damn it! He deserves whatever he gets!” The clerk jerked his arm away from Chakotay, backing away and shouting at all of the clerks who stared at him from their stations up and down the counter. “You’re soft. You’re blind to the dangers these people represent! He can’t be trusted. None of these people can! They’re going to attack us, you’ll see.”

Two security officers appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the clerk by the arms. After a short tussle, Bret relented and placed a contraband listening device in his supervisor’s hand.

“Take him to the break room and call the director,” the supervisor ordered. Everyone in the room watched, open mouthed, as the clerk was dragged, kicking and screaming toward the turbo lift. The room was strangely quiet once he was gone.

The supervisor turned to Chakotay and gestured at the belongings that were strewn all over the inspection area. “I’m very sorry for this.”

“It’s all right,” Chakotay answered. He picked up his bag and began to stuff his belongings back into it. “Is he still fighting the war?”

“Yeah, he is. His twin brother was killed by a changeling who then used his identity to infiltrate his security unit.” He leaned down to help repack his bag. “We thought he was feeling better, but he obviously still has issues. I’m going to have to review his recent ‘findings,’ as well. He may have implicated others falsely.”

“It’s hard to get over something like that,” Chakotay sympathized. “I hope he gets the help he needs.”

“I’ll see that he does.” They finished picking up the spilled contents and then regarded each other across the counter. “Did you want to press charges?”

“Nah. I don’t want to cause him any more trouble.”

“Very well.” The supervisor went through his information quickly and welcomed him back to the Federation.

“I’m glad to be back,” Chakotay admitted. “Can you tell me how to get to the hostel?”

“Hostel? You know that your paperwork allows you to use the Starfleet DVQ.”

“I know.” He took the PADD back from the man and lifted his bag over his shoulder. “I prefer the hostel.”

“Level Eight. You’ll see directions once you enter the starbase proper.”

“Thanks for your help.”

“Mr. Caldera, I apologize for what happened here on behalf of Customs and the Federation.”

“Apology accepted.”

“Have a good visit,” the man said, looking past him at the waiting passengers. “Who’s next?”

Chakotay sighed and walked through the gateway to the welcome center, where he picked up the latest transport schedules, downloaded the most recent Fednews report, and ordered the first cup of coffee he’d had in five years.

It tasted better than he remembered.

Earth (a few hours later)

Kathryn Janeway had been tossing and turning in bed for an hour when she heard the faint, but distinct chirp of an incoming official message coming from her study down the hall. She crawled out of bed, pulled on a robe, and walked to her desk on autopilot, activating the screen without a thought. Maybe a few minutes’ diversion would help her relax and fall asleep.

“Kathryn!” Starfleet’s diplomatic liaison, Admiral Lucerne, grinned at her. “You’re awake at this hour?”

She grinned and smoothed her hair self-consciously, although there was no need to impress him. Frank Lucerne had been a classmate at the academy and a frequent escort since Voyager had returned three years earlier. “You know how hard it is to break old habits.”

“Insomnia again? Sorry to hear that. I was just going to leave you a message and let you know that Chakotay is on his way. I honestly didn’t think he’d come.”

Her pulse quickened and she sat down in her desk chair with a plop. “When?”

“He entered Federation space tonight at Deep Space 3. I’m sending you the surveillance tape of his confrontation with the border guard.”

“Confrontation? He caused trouble?”

“It was more the guard’s fault than his.”

She nodded. Life was different on the borderlands where the friction between the “haves” of the Federation and the “have nots” of the border region often boiled down to a personal dislike. “Is he all right?”

“I’ll let you judge for yourself.” Lucerne sat back and crossed his arms, giving her a close look. “I was amazed at his skill in such confrontations.”

She shrugged. “I routinely sent him off on scavenging missions when we were stranded in the Delta Quadrant. You wouldn’t believe how many first contacts he’s made over the years. In time, you develop a sort of sixth sense about people.”

“I believe it.” He paused, obviously worried about his next comment. “He looks pretty rough, Kathryn. His clothes are worn, and his hair shaggy. He looks like someone who’s been living in the wilds and has wandered back into civilization. I’m afraid he won’t make a very good impression at the dedication. Are you sure you want him there?”

“Seven was his wife, Frank, and his assets served as the seed money when we proposed the new cybernetic research wing.” She smiled, though, at the thought of Chakotay as a wild man. “But, I’ll do what I can to make him look respectable once I see him.”

“He stayed at the hostel, by the way, even though he had been authorized to use the Distinguished Visitor’s Quarters.”

She groaned. “I can’t say that I’m surprised.”

“And he’s made reservations on a public transport with the civilians instead of accessing Starfleet ships, as you predicted.”

“Just so we keep track of him.”

“You don’t think he’ll contact you now that he’s on his way?”

She frowned and shook her head. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he disappeared from sight, Frank.”

“Kathryn, there are two security people on his tail.”

“Sorry if I have my doubts. He’s a Maquis, you know.”

“I’m thinking you overestimate him.”

“I’m thinking you underestimate him.” She laughed and thanked him for sending her the recording. Once they signed off, she stared at the Federation star field and hoped that everything transpired as she’d planned.

She had received confirmation of the Hanchet delivery, but this was a sure sign that Chakotay had read the packet. His arrival at the border meant that he might be coming to the ceremony, but only time would tell. He was a “contrary,” as she recalled, someone who followed his own rhythm and direction.

However, the thought of seeing him again made her hands clammy and her heart race. Too excited to sleep, she downloaded the recording into a larger PADD and found a comfortable seat, foregoing coffee because of the late hour.

The reception area on Deep Space 3 was filled with security cameras, so it had been a simple task for one of the security officers to follow Chakotay at all times. At first, he had been a familiar form amidst a crowd of people, but then a camera zoomed in on his face.

Janeway caught her breath, surprised that the sight of him created such a deep reaction. He was, as always, controlled and comfortable in the tension-filled room and more than capable of dealing with the insolent border clerk. The sound was spotty, but she could see his entire interaction with the clerk, smiling when he caught the man about to plant contraband in his bags. After watching the confrontation a couple of times, she focused on the grainy close-up of his face.

He was two years older, of course, as was she, and the evidence of his lifestyle was clearly visible. His hair had turned grey and was pulled back and bound at the nape of his neck in the style of his people. His face was deeply lined, leathery from exposure, and tanned to a dark bronze. His clothes were weathered and worn, but they were obviously clean and comfortable.

He looked like a man who lived and labored in the sun and wind, but the eyes were the same warm brown and the lips were still full and sensuous. He was delicious, and she longed to see him in person.

He had been right. They should have been honest with Seven of Nine and with themselves. If they had admitted the truth, then they never would have been separated. She wanted to tell him that he had been right, that they had, indeed, committed a sin of omission.

But more than that, she wanted to touch him, to trace the lines of his tattoo, to smell the clean scent of his skin.

She loved him. She still loved him, after all these years.

God forgive her.