Gezegend – Chapter 5
Chakotay was not a happy man. He had retrieved three-fourths of his away team at the cost of a shuttle that would be out of commission for at least a week while it underwent repairs, and he had been warned by the military leaders on both sides of the Broden insurrection not to approach the surface again or face an all-out attack.
“I need to talk to someone who isn’t involved in waging the war,” he decided, glancing around the conference table at the grim faces of the senior staff. “Someone who understands that we are innocent victims here.”
“Someone who knew us before all hell broke loose,” Tom agreed. “What was the name of that guy the captain talked to about visiting the planet?”
“Minister Tdren,” Harry offered. “He’s the one who was in charge of our meeting with the prime minister.”
“Was he there when you beamed down?” Chakotay asked.
“No, sir, we were met by a military escort. Tdren was with the prime minister.” Harry picked up his tricorder. “I still have his contact information.”
“Let’s hope he lived through the explosions.” Chakotay nodded and stood up. “Try to hail him. If you get him, patch him through to the ready room. That will be all.” He left without a word to anyone, anxious to be alone before his worry and frustration bubbled over into irrational shouting and an adolescent temper tantrum. He desperately needed some time alone to think about their problem without bearing the scrutiny of the senior staff.
Kathryn had been seriously ill when Kim had left her. Fortunately, he’d brought the small projectile with him, and the EMH had analyzed the poison as one that would be deadly to humans only in significantly larger doses than what the weapon would have delivered. While she was probably alive, she was, without doubt, unconscious, perhaps in a coma, which meant that Chakotay could not count on her to do anything to help him find her. She might have been taken to a hospital or clinic by a friendly Broden and expired there in the battle or in some sort of misguided effort to treat her. He really didn’t want to contemplate the odds against her survival.
He was pacing on the upper level of the ready room when Harry contacted him with the news that Minister Tdren had survived the battle and was available to talk to him.
“Patch him through,” he told the ensign as he strode down to Kathryn’s desk to take the call. The Broden minister looked exhausted and had a sloppy looking bandage wrapped around his head and over one eye. “My name is Commander Chakotay. I’m Captain Janeway’s second in command.”
“Commander, I’m terribly sorry that your crew members were caught in this holy war. The insurrection has brought about a series of responses that must be followed in order to assure the proper outcome. The rebels are determined to empty the capital city and help us discover the will of the gods.”
“Holy war?” Chakotay felt an icy fist close around his heart. “That’s unfortunate for you, Minister, and unlucky for us. So far, we’ve been able to recover three of the four members of our crew who beamed down to your planet, but we have been unable to find our captain.”
“Captain Janeway is still missing? Do you know where she was when she was last seen?”
“She was hiding in the basement of a building about four blocks from the plaza.”
“That area was hotly contested and changed hands several times today. I’ll see what I can find out,” Tdren replied, “but that area is still caught up in the struggle. I can’t promise that I’ll find her.”
“Whatever you can do, Minister, will be greatly appreciated.” He paused a moment. “I should mention that she was injured.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I might just start by checking clinics and first aid stations, in that case. Were her injuries life threatening?”
“She was unconscious.”
“All right. Give me an hour or so and I’ll report back.”
Chakotay stared at the blank screen for a long time after the minister broke the connection. He knew it was a long shot for Tdren to find her. Once again, he contemplated using a well-aimed phaser burst to take out the field dampener, but he knew that doing so would entangle Voyager in the battle from both sides. Voyager wouldn’t survive an attack of that ferocity.
He finally decided to return to the bridge.
“Harry, have we tried scanning for human life signs?” he asked as he took his seat.
“It would be inconclusive from this distance, sir,” the ensign replied, “even if the dampening field wasn’t at full force again.”
“When the minister contacts us again, I’ll request that we be allowed to enter a low orbit and scan for a human life sign. In the meantime,” he glanced around, “those of you who have been on the surface need to get some rest. Take four hours off.”
“But, Commander,” Kim started to protest.
“No buts, Ensign. It’s an order.” He shifted to face the Vulcan. “How about you, Tuvok?”
“I will take advantage of this lull in activity to rest as well, Commander. However, please awaken me when and if the minister contacts us about the captain.”
Time seemed to stand still. Chakotay sat on the bridge until he felt compelled to get up and move around, deciding to walk the decks as Kathryn often did when she was worried. He started on deck fifteen, the bottom of the ship, and worked his way to engineering on deck 11 after about an hour.
“I heard you were out wandering around,” B’Elanna said when she saw him walk into her domain. “Have we heard anything yet?”
“Not yet.” He leaned against the engineering console she was working on and heaved a sigh. “I’m tired and losing patience.”
“What was it you used to tell me? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you? Don’t do something to make this diplomat decide not to help us.”
“Not to worry.”
“You’re exhausted. You haven’t slept in over twenty-four hours.” She put a hand on his shoulder and gripped it hard. “Why not try to relax, get something to eat, put your feet up. You’ll be the first one to know when the minster calls with information.”
“Has it been that long?” He stifled a yawn. “Might as well, I guess.”
He felt more tired with every step he took toward his quarters, yet once he was there, he found it impossible to sleep. He replicated a sandwich and hot tea and sat down where he could eat and watch the planet at the same time.
“Where are you, Kathryn?” he muttered. A few minutes later, in spite of his anxiety, Chakotay drifted off to sleep, only to be awakened less than an hour later. The minister had some news.
“Route it to my quarters,” he ordered as he got up from his sofa and made his way to his desk. The minister’s face appeared, but he didn’t look very happy. “Did you find out anything about our captain’s whereabouts, Minister?”
“I have good news and bad news, Commander. Your captain is alive and in the care of our finest physicians in a safe location. That’s the good news.”
Chakotay repressed the urge to shout for joy. “And the bad news?”
“The bad news is,” Tdren began, his face sad, “that Captain Janeway is gezegend.”
“Gezegend. One of the blessed messengers.”
“Just a moment.” Chakotay muted the link and asked the computer to access the Broden database for the term.
*Gezegend is a term that means that she is blessed as a messenger to the gods.”
Repressing a groan, Chakotay reopened the communications link. “As I understand the term, this term gezegend has a religious meaning?”
“Exactly,” Tdren replied. “This rebellion seems to be a cleansing, Commander, a religious war that returns us to the base values held by every Broden on the planet. The rebels may be instruments of our gods’ will in our society.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with Captain Janeway.”
“Let me start again.” Tdren composed himself, unconsciously reaching up to touch the bandage over his eye. “The theology is complex, but I will attempt to simplify it for you. The opening moments of any battle are fraught with special significance to my people because the first strike includes the use of the blessed blood of the gods.”
“You mean poison.” Chakotay felt as if a lead ball had just filled his stomach.
“It is the only time our people tolerate a biological element to warfare. The blessed blood lets us know which of the first casualties will be ushered into the presence of the gods so that they can bless whichever side they favor.”
Chakotay nodded, trying to hide his panic. “And these are the gezegend, or messengers to the gods.”
“And Captain Janeway is one of them.”
“She is. Her injury was caused by the first explosion in the religious uprising.”
“As a sacred sacrifice, she will be cared for by our priests who will help her through the upward spiral.”
“Sacred sacrifice?” he whispered.
“Her life is in the gods’ hands.”
“In other words, she will not be given an antidote.”
“Absolutely not, Commander. In fact, there is no antidote to this drug. She is one of the most blessed of our saints. The wound cannot be treated, and she is given the elixir of Meorphr to make her journey a peaceful one.”
“Give me a minute.” Chakotay stood up from his desk and walked away where he could react without Tdren seeing his anguish. He was more afraid than ever that Kathryn was lost, that the Broden would never relinquish her, and his despair nearly overwhelmed him. He took some deep breaths and managed to keep from reacting emotionally before he returned to the console. “What you’re telling me is that my captain is doomed and that your priests are helping her die.”
“Commander, you make this sound brutal. Theirs is an act of compassion. There is no escape when one is chosen as a gezegend. It is an honorable, desirable responsibility. The gods have had a hand in who will be their messenger.”
He wanted to shout that it was random chance, bad luck, sheer accident that his captain, an alien who had been on their planet mere minutes, had been hit by a piece of shrapnel dipped in poison, but there was no reasoning with religious beliefs, nothing to be gained from belittling them. He sighed and rubbed his face. “Our doctor might be able to devise an antidote, if you will let him examine her.”
“Sir, have you heard a word I’ve said?” Tdren drew his robes around himself with indignation. “She is a messenger to the gods. She has been chosen to advise them regarding the outcome of this ongoing battle. The future of our planet rests in her hands. A great honor has been bestowed on her, and she will be immortalized by our people for her sacrifice.”
“Perhaps if I could talk to one of the priests?”
“That is all for today, Commander,” Tdren replied. “Rejoice in the fact that her death serves a noble purpose.”
The screen turned dark before Chakotay could reply.
The conference room was silent after Chakotay finished explaining to the senior staff what had happened to their captain.
“We have to do something,” Harry Kim cried out. “We can’t just let her die.”
“We’re going to do something,” Chakotay replied, giving Harry a reassuring look.
“Let’s just take out the dampener and scan for her,” Harry continued.
“Impossible,” Tuvok replied with a shake of his head. “Voyager might be able to survive an attack by up to a dozen Broden ships, but we would be faced with all of their military might, from both sides.”
“He’s right,” Chakotay agreed. “We have to work the system if we want to save her life. Doctor, have you had a chance to review the data that Tuvok and Mike brought with them? And the projectile that Kim removed from the captain’s leg?”
“I have.” The EMH looked proud of himself, as always. “Mr. Tuvok and Mr. Ayala wisely picked up a medical scanning device from a damaged emergency vehicle as they were escaping from the battle, and Seven managed to download a great deal of medical information for my use.”
“The device was quite simple to access,” the former drone snapped.
“Too bad the Borg never assimilated any of the Broden,” Tom quipped, “or we could have solved this problem immediately.”
“The Broden have no technology of interest to the Borg,” Seven explained with a sniff of disdain.
“So, what did you find out?” Chakotay interrupted. “Is there anything that we can do to help the captain?”
“I began by analyzing the projectile that carried the poison, but I was not sure how to counteract it. The lethal human dose is much higher than what she received and that the ‘window’ for the antidote might be much longer than that of the Broden. However, Mr. Tuvok’s medical database informed me that they have never synthesized an antidote to the poison. I don’t understand why, exactly.”
“It has religious significance,” Chakotay reminded him. “They believe the poison is provided to them by their gods so that the gezegend can be selected in the first outbreak of hostilities.”
“Even so, I have made great strides toward an antidote,” the doctor said, “and should have it available within the hour.”
“That’s half of the problem,” said the commander. “What about this elixir that assists her in the ‘upward spiral’?”
The EMH frowned. “More like a downward spiral, Commander. I found the formula for the elixir in the medical database. It’s used for patients who have no hope of survival. It is incredibly addictive and is irreversible unless an antidote is administered within the first few hours.”
Chakotay was stunned at the news. “What are you saying? She’s addicted to this pain killer?”
“Again, there is no recorded way to help a patient recover from the addiction, but I have begun to look into it. I’m hoping that human physiology is different enough to make the recovery possible,” the EMH replied. “I’m hours away from having a solution. Maybe days.”
Harry’s face twisted with guilt. “We can still go get her and bring her back to the ship. We can administer the poison’s antidote and put her in stasis until we can help her break the addiction.”
“To take the captain without having a solution to the elixir is risky,” the doctor disagreed. “Stasis is not totally effective when dealing with such powerful drugs. This elixir makes morphine look like candy by comparison.”
“This is my fault,” Harry groaned, cradling his head in his arms. “If I had just stayed with her.”
“There’s no way to know whether your presence would have made any difference,” Chakotay disagreed. “Once the Broden realized that she is gezegend, they would have taken her to their priests, and, in any event, I would have done exactly what you did. We all would have.” He looked around the table. “Tuvok and I have an idea that might give us access to the captain.”
“We have studied the cultural database that Tdren provided us earlier,” Tuvok added. “A religious war will respond better to a religious problem than to military force.”
Chakotay nodded. “We’ve filed a petition with the priests, requesting access to the captain so that we can perform death rituals that are part of our beliefs.”
“Death rituals?” Tom asked.
“Having an alien as gezegend is a new development for them. The fact that the captain is serving as their messenger doesn’t negate her own beliefs,” Chakotay explained.
“But, what death ritual?” B’Elanna demanded.
“We’re still working on that. In the meantime, they are considering the request and may or may not allow it.”
“Maybe we will be able to beam her out, once we know where she is!” Harry exclaimed.
“I wouldn’t count on that, Harry,” the commander sighed. “But, if we can go to her, we might be able to administer the antidote, at the very least, and also address the addiction, if we know enough by then to help her.”
The EMH nodded, although he looked doubtful. “I’ll work on it without ceasing.”
“Very well. We wait to hear from the priests.” Chakotay stood up. “That’s all for now.”
Everyone filed out of the room but Harry Kim, who remained in his seat, his face hidden in his arms. Chakotay took the seat beside him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“I know you blame yourself for this, Harry, but it isn’t your fault. We can’t do a damned thing about the past. Right now, she’s alive, and what we have to focus on is finding a way to help her.”
“She was so sick, Commander, so delirious before she passed out. She kept telling me to call you, even though she knew our commbadges didn’t work. She repeated over and over again that you would know what to do. And then,” he took a deep breath and glanced up at the first officer. “I think she imagined that she was dying. She said you would be a good captain. And she said,” he swallowed back tears, “she said to tell you that her last thoughts were of you. She made me promise to tell you that, Chakotay. It was the last thing she said to me.”
Chakotay nodded, so deeply affected that he was unable to speak. He stood up and walked to the window where he could hide the tears shimmering in his eyes from the young ensign. He fought the despair and hopelessness that threatened to overwhelm him and at long last cleared his throat.
“Thank you for telling me that, Harry. It means a lot.”
Two hours later, Chakotay burst into Sickbay. “Doctor? I’ve gotten permission to see the captain.”
“That’s good news, Commander,” the EMH replied as he emerged from the lab brandishing a hypospray. “I’ve just finished synthesizing a human antidote to the poison, and I have determined that we can, indeed, place her in stasis, if necessary, while I continue to search for a solution to the addiction. You can take this with you and administer it to her.”
“I can’t take any kind of modern technology with me.” He took the hypospray into his hands. “They won’t allow medical equipment into the facility, and I can’t give any sort of drug to her. The priests won’t allow it.”
The doctor visibly wilted. “Then all is lost.”
“Not so fast. Is there another way the antidote can be administered? Does it have to be given by a hypospray?”
“Well, let me think.” The doctor sat down at his desk. “I suppose it could be absorbed through bodily fluids or through the air.”
“So, it could be rubbed on her skin? Or dripped into her mouth?”
“Yes, if done in sufficient amounts.”
“It wouldn’t have a negative effect on the person who transfers it?”
“No, the antidote attacks only the poison.”
“Then I know what to do.” Chakotay began to describe his plan, and, as the doctor listened, he began to smile and nod in agreement.
“I think this could work, Commander,” he said at last. “Give me about twenty minutes to prepare what you need.”
“All right. But what about the addiction?”
“I’m still working on that. I believe that she will have sufficient blood level of the pain killer to last several hours before a crisis would occur.”
“So we would have several hours before she faces withdrawal reactions.” Chakotay nodded, his mind already imagining what he would do to help her. “We’ll just have to deal with it when it happens.”
“I’ll continue to work on this while you’re gone, of course.”
Chakotay nodded. “I’ll tell Tdren that I’ll beam down in about thirty minutes.”