Star Trek Voyager: Lower Decks

Author's Note: I just wrote over 8000 words on Tuvok's thoughts, and now I think I'll go lie down for a bit. Thanks to Cassatt, Shayenne, Cassatt's SO Johnny, and my hubby for beta reading. © September 19, 2001.

Tying The Threads

Chapter Five: Tuvok Reminisces

by Ann Rose

After seven years, Earth appeared on the view screen, but I was unable to share in the sentiment of much of the crew. Not because of any Vulcan scruples about emotional displays, but because it was Earth. One's adoptive home may always hold a place in the heart and mind, but it is not home.

I did watch with satisfaction the responses of the crew. Their joy at our return was appropriate and I am certain it was gratifying to the Captain. All her years of hard work and sacrifice were finally at an end. I am pleased that her ordeal has had such a positive resolution.

Over the years it has been difficult for me to stand by and watch one of my oldest friends endure such frequent personal turmoil. If she were Vulcan, it would be a simple matter to place events in their proper perspective. However, I have noticed that humans must ‘work through' their emotions instead. I have also observed that more often than not, they become mired in an event and are unable to move forward.

This concern was confirmed when I met Admiral Janeway. Her life stopped progressing at some point. The Admiral was not the same woman I had served with for so many years. And yet, she still had the strength and vision to seize her destiny before it was too late. Her bold, even reckless, plan to change her past has saved us all.

I admit, I was having some difficulty mastering my feeling of apprehension at the prospect of a slow and undignified death, waiting for my mind to deteriorate to the point where I would no longer be aware of myself or my situation, and then finally for all thoughts to end.

Admiral Janeway related to me my future; or rather, she told me of the last time she visited me. I should have been immune to such an obvious emotional ploy, and while I did not allow it to affect my judgment, or my advice to Captain Janeway, it would be untrue to say that it did not increase my concern. I wish to believe my lack of control on this topic was due to the neurological deterioration that had already occurred. Perhaps I have acquired a desire to rationalize situations from such long and close association with humans.

My departure from Voyager was rushed, and left little time for farewells. I was separated from the crew on our arrival and placed on a medical shuttle for Vulcan, along with an escort. I learned later that Admiral Paris had been made aware of my condition, and had arranged for my immediate transport on medical grounds. Four additional months without treatment would not have harmed me significantly, but I was pleased to be spared the drawn out hearings on Earth and to be reunited with my family immediately.

I did attempt to speak with Commander Chakotay and the Captain, but I found both of them curiously distracted. I have come to know their moods and habits well during the past seven years, and I do not believe it was the sudden return to Earth that occupied their minds. Given the facts I am aware of, the most logical conclusion is that the Captain has become aware of Commander Chakotay's unfortunate attachment to Seven of Nine. At the same time, I believe Commander Chakotay is beginning to realize their basic incompatibility.

It is unfortunate and ironic that after the Captain's seven years of selfless devotion to duty and protocol, Commander Chakotay would chose a time just before our sudden return to the Alpha Quadrant to begin a relationship with someone other than the Captain. His choice is illogical and I believe it is driven by his emotional reaction to the Captain's liaison on Quarra.

I have a deep respect for Seven of Nine, and she has been an apt pupil, but she is not an appropriate mate for the Commander. Their personalities, attitudes and interests are too dissimilar to make a harmonious bond. I believe that once they leave the artificial environment of the ship this will become apparent to both of them. I only hope this realization will not come too late for all concerned.

In an ancient human religious text their creator states that it is not good for a human to be alone, and for this reason the sexes were created. I believe this is a deep truth about the human condition - one that Captain Janeway has ignored to her own self-detriment.

Just as a Vulcan cannot abandon logic, a human cannot abandon emotion. It is illogical and unwise to ignore these facts. I plan to make a point of speaking to her about this at my next opportunity.

As I reflect on the Captain's dilemma, it contrasts in my mind with my own very agreeable situation with my mate, T'Pel. I eagerly await our reunion. I am concerned that my compromised mental state may prove embarrassing to us both, but I trust that our long association and deep affection will make the situation tolerable for both of us until I can undergo the fal-tor-voh.

T'Pel has been made aware of my condition already, and she will have begun to arrange for the healing ceremony to be conducted as soon after my arrival on Vulcan as possible. She is a logical, able and efficient individual. I am proud to have her as my mate.

The arrival on Vulcan was arranged discretely. A formal welcome was delayed until after the fal-tor-voh. I arrived in a shuttle with my escort – a collection of security, medical and administrative personnel. When we came into communications range of Vulcan, I was, at last, able to speak with T'Pel.

We exchanged the traditional greeting of a bonded pair. The simplicity of the words conceals the depth of feeling in this ceremony. As with many other of our rituals, layers of ceremony obscure the emotions we strive always to contain. "Parted from me, yet never parted - never and always, touching and touched."

I have exchanged this greeting many times with my wife, but never have the words spoken to me as they did on that day. It was a wise person who first instituted the ritual of reunion and established that it should be a private matter only between husband and wife. I believe even if I were perfectly healthy, I might still have reacted as I did at seeing her.

When I transported down to the appointed location, and saw her standing there, waiting for me, I felt such a flood of emotion that I could not move at first. I was ashamed to have her see me like this. Even after all our years together, there are some things even a mate should not have to endure.

She walked to me and held out her hand. I saw the questions in her face, as she watched me struggle with my emotions at seeing her. I will always treasure her words at that moment. "Tuvok, my husband, forgive me, but I find I am pleased more than I can say that you cannot contain your joy at our reunion. I too am overwhelmed with joy to see you, alive, and soon to be well and whole."

She held up her hand to me, so that I could caress her fingers. I feared I might weep at the beauty of the moment. She knew what I could not say, and leading me to a nearby bench, we sat and I listened to her tell me of our family. Our sons Sek, Varith and Elieth and our daughter Asil are all well. Sek's child T'Meni is healthy and active. I could not wish for more.

Then T'Pel asked me for the thing I had feared, although logically I knew it was an irrational fear brought on by the disease. Still, I could not master my fear. "Tuvok, my husband, can we not share our thoughts? I know your concern on this matter, but would it not be better to share your thoughts with me now, before the fal-tor-voh when you must meld with the healer? Allow me to share your burden. I can also help to prepare you for the procedure so that your mind will be strong." I knew her logic was sound while mine was flawed. I nodded and prepared.

She placed her hands on my face and looked into my eyes. I forced myself to return her gaze and to master my fear. "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts," her voice came to me quietly in my mind. After a moment, a renewed calm filled me. For the first time in 14 months my mind was my own again. I thanked T'Pel for restoring me, if only for a short time. She was correct. It would make the fal-tor-voh much easier.

Then we wandered through our memories of the time since we last saw each other. The true nature of my mission with the Maquis, then the shock of learning we were trapped a lifetime away from home. I saw T'Pel's despair when she learned we were given up for lost, and then the joy we each felt when the first communication was established with the Alpha Quadrant.

I saw the birth of my granddaughter, and the accomplishments of my sons and daughter at school. I was proud of the way T'Pel guided the family and of the choices she made for our children during my absence. They could not have been in better care.

Finally, we reached the time of the Pon Farr. T'Pel was intrigued by my choice for resolving it. I found I was relieved that she was not offended by my choice, and was even pleased that I noted the difference between the hologram's ears and hers. She had undergone the meditative path for her own resolution, but as I was already experiencing some loss of mental control, I was unable to succeed with my attempts.

When we severed the meld, it was as if the last seven years of separation had not occurred at all. I know that other species pity us because they think we do not feel life and fail to experience it fully. I pity them instead, because they will never know the peace that logic brings or the full sharing of two minds.

"My husband," T'Pel said. "I can summon the healer immediately, while you are feeling stronger."

"Yes, please do. I wish to be well, and to see our family as soon as possible."

T'Pel activated her communicator and a moment later the healer materialized. He approached me and took T'Pel's seat on the bench. I pulled back, even as I realized it was an emotional reaction, but could not stop myself.

"Tuvok," the healer said, "I have performed the fal-tor-voh on many patients. Your reaction is the customary one – fear you wish to control, and shame at not controlling it. But we will heal the wound in your mind, and you will be whole again."

Reaching out, he took my face in his hands. "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts," his voice echoed in my mind. There was no peace in this meld. In fact, the control I had left me, as his mind sought out the damaged areas and began to knit them back together. But then, with each passing moment, I felt stronger and more of my control returned. It was agony waiting for the procedure to be completed. At last it was done, and the meld was severed.

I spent the next day recovering from the fal-tor-voh at my home. T'Pel had arranged for all visitors to be kept away until I was myself again. It is good to be home again where a simple communication can accomplish what would require dozens of security officers on Earth.

On the following day I was able to meet with my family, and to hold my granddaughter. She is almost 3 years old, and understands the basics of logic and reasoning. She even played a game of Kal-Toh with me. The game resembled the Earth game ‘Pick-Up-Sticks' more than Kal-Toh, much to her parents chagrin, but my time among humans has taught me a tolerance for such things that I did not realize I had.

Against the wishes of the security personal assigned to me, Starfleet Medical allowed me a week to recover and spend time with my family. An unnecessary concession, but I did not see any reason to argue with them. Their apparent deference could be useful, depending on the course they pursue with the Voyager crew.

On the eighth day after our return, I met with the Starfleet representatives to confirm my logs and reports, and to answer their questions. I found the choice of the officer assigned to work with me fascinating. Commander Sanoc was an able and efficient officer. He was accompanied by two human aides, but he conducted the briefing himself.

The use of a Vulcan did alleviate most of my concern about Starfleet's motives in these debriefings. The questions were efficient and logical. I had little concern that they concealed another agenda.

Also, I was pleased to have limited interaction with Commander Sanoc's aides. They were among the worst sort of Starfleet officers. While I did not take personal offense at their disrespectful comments about my home world, their unfavorable comparisons of Vulcan to Riisa, and their declaration that only the devil himself could live in such a climate, showed an unfortunate lack of professional decorum. I noted as much in my official report and to their superior. I fear for the future of the Federation if there are many such officers currently in service.

The first day was unremarkable. He questioned me about the factual details of my logs. There were numerous references to my reports on the former Maquis personnel, their performance and ongoing development. I remember particularly the questions about my security concerns regarding the former Maquis.

I detailed my evolving posture on those crewmen. At first I devoted much of my time to ensuring that no mutiny or other security risk developed. These precautions proved useful when Seska's true identity was discovered and when the second spy was uncovered. However, it became clear after only a short time that most of the Commander's old crew were genuine in their intent to be productive and useful members of the Voyager crew.

I related the incident when I conducted a basic training course for four of the former Maquis. I highlighted Commander Chakotay's assistance in this endeavor. While his style of motivation was unorthodox, it was clearly effective and very efficient. After his confrontation with the four trainees, I found them increasingly willing and able students.

I noted that this surprised the aides. They asked if I thought it unusual, that Commander Chakotay would side with Captain Janeway against his crew. I corrected them. We were one crew, and Commander Chakotay was doing, as he always did, what was best for that one crew.

The second day focused more on the Captain's command decisions. We went over the major decisions of the past seven years. I supported the Captain because I believe her decisions were logical and sound in most cases. In other cases, I put my trust in her instincts.

I have learned that humans are capable of making intuitive leaps that Vulcans cannot. A combination of a Vulcan and a human is a formidable team. This has also influenced my choice of postings after my leave is over.

The third day of debriefings was shorter and focused on technology from the Borg and Species 8472, followed by clarification of questions Commander Sanoc had received from Earth. In the end, they departed from Vulcan and returned to Starfleet Headquarters to process their information.

Even before the debriefings had ended, I had received three offers from Starfleet and another offer from an organization that seemed to be outside of the Federation structure. I have been considering my options carefully, and consulting with T'Pel.

I do not crave the position or power that comes with advancing in Starfleet. Once before, I walked away from them and their ambitions. I find that our family has all that it needs, except for access to me. In spite of T'Pel's excellent care of the children, I can see in them the effects of this lack of contact. I do not wish to invite that a second time.

I have resolved to decline the two Captaincies they have offered, along with the vague ‘research' position with the other organization. Instead I will accept the teaching post at the Academy.

I feel the Federation has great need of moral guidance at this point. I have only had a short while to acquaint myself with the developments of the last seven years, but what I find deeply concerns me. The disregard for individual rights and liberties in the aftermath of the Borg, Cardassian, and Dominion wars are indefensible. The state has put itself above the law in too many cases to easily catalog. As I read the report I find abuse after abuse of core Federation principles. I believe it is time again for Vulcan to step forward as the moral compass of the Federation and lead it back to its fundamental ideals.

However, if Captain Janeway is offered, and accepts, a new ship, I will offer to serve with her again. But as I know the Captain well, I expect she will choose a posting in the sciences or engineering - a post that will keep her closer to Earth and her family.

It was odd, but while I was spending my extended leave on Vulcan, I found my thoughts often drifted back to the Voyager crew. I received regular updates on their debriefings, although the official information was vague. I also received many communications from individuals, but curiously, none from the Captain or Commander Chakotay. Many wished me a speedy recovery, as is their custom. I made the appropriate and correct reply, and in doing so I found I had become the "pen-pal" of many of the crewmembers.

Humanoids are endlessly fascinating. Common courtesy can be transformed into the deepest friendship in their minds. This is especially true in times of stress and crisis. Many of the crew were uncertain about their futures. They did not know what lay ahead, what they might be allowed to do, and how they would decide on a path, once these things were known. I saw myself being pulled into an informal roll of counselor for some.

I was comfortable to continue this roll with those whom I had mentored on Voyager – B'Elanna, and Gerron among them, but I encouraged others to seek out actual Federation counselors.

One other crewmember I have remained in contact with is Mr. Neelix. We were able to establish regular communication a month after our return. He is exuberant, as ever, and I find his new position, as de facto head of the Talaxian colony has not dampened his spirits. On the contrary, his role as leader and savior of the colony seems to be precisely the destiny his life has been leading up to.

Neelix's time on Voyager as Cook, Morale Officer and Ambassador has prepared him to give the colony the leadership it needs. I must admit, I would not have anticipated this outcome when I first encountered Mr. Neelix. He seemed to be a simple trader with ambitions far beyond his abilities. As time went on, he developed many skills that will prove useful in his new life.

We often discussed the progress of the colony. The miners were a chronic threat, but no longer an acute crisis for the Talaxians. The shields Neelix had installed ensured that the miners could only wait for them to leave their home if they wished to attack them. Like with so many other conflicts, the miners had become emotionally fixated on this one source of ore, and expended far more resources than were warranted before they finally realized the futility and moved on to more profitable targets.

Neelix was very proud of the colony's progress, and updated me regularly. He also confided in me about the growing affection between himself and Dexa. Their relationship was progressing and one day he asked me if I thought he should propose to her. I fail to see why he would consult a Vulcan on a clearly emotional issue, but Mr. Neelix never seemed to grasp the essential concept of what it is to be Vulcan.

I gave him the benefit of my logic and my analysis of their situation. Dexa was an acceptable female. She was stable, as shown by her continued care of her son, Brax. She shared Neelix's sense of adventure and exploration, as she demonstrated in her enthusiastic support of plans to protect the colony from the miners. Neelix and Brax were bonding and there was no question that he would accept Neelix as his father. I have noted that the child's feelings are often the deciding factor for their parent.

This, being in his favor, along with his continued descriptions of their time spent together caused me to believe it would be a successful union. I told Neelix as much.

He asked me again if he should propose. I was at a loss as to how to respond. He was insistent, wanting assurances that I could not provide. Would she "really" accept him? Was I certain?

At last I explained to him, that as with any other theoretical undertaking, there comes a point where the theory must be proved or disproved by actual trial. He must go to her and ask her if he is ever to know the truth.

He seemed appeased by this, and vowed that he would speak to her very soon. However, I had the impression that it might be some time before he attempted it.

As the end of my leave approached, T'Pel and I began to make preparations for our relocation to Earth. T'Pel attended all the housing and moving arrangements, including selecting schools for the children. Our older sons would remain on Vulcan to complete their training, but the younger and our daughter, would accompany us to Earth.

T'Pel's efficiency in this allowed me the time I required to complete my preparations. It did not take long for me to compile the selection of texts and lesson plans for the classes I would teach at the Academy, as I had thought many times about what I would do, if I were ever given the opportunity. The security and tactics classes were part of the standard Academy offerings. However, the advanced classes on ethics in combat, ethics in conflict situations, and moral dilemmas of command were new to the curriculum and required far more research.

I drew on the Federation Charter and the writings of Spock and Sarek for the foundation of my classes. I also included logs from some of the great captains in Starfleet history. I think T'Pel was surprised when she read my plans and saw whom I had chosen to include.

It was only logical to include Kirk because he faced a far higher proportion of new and unscripted scenarios than modern captains. The majority of his missions included first contact with new species. War with both the Klingon and Romulan empires was an ever-present danger. Many of his decisions in the midst of conflict formed the regulations and standards modern Starfleet adheres to. He lived in a time of less moral ambiguity, and the years since have given ample time to evaluate and judge his actions.

Picard was another example I used. History has not made final judgments on his actions, but he has shown great moral courage in many difficult situations that put him at odds with Starfleet Command and the Federation itself. His actions in the conspiracy of the parasites showed great ingenuity and intelligence. Even though most of the admiralty and key command personnel were infected, he was able to determine the nature of the plot, mainly due to his keen understanding of the principles of the Federation.

When he was captured by the Borg and the Cardassians, it was his own strength of character, which was tested. In the incident surrounding the Klingon Imperial succession, he used his diplomatic skills and knowledge of Klingon culture to guide the proceedings, while unmasking the Romulan and Duras plots.

Perhaps two of his most direct conflicts with the Federation came over the cloaking-transporter device and the incident with the Ba'ku homeworld. In both, he was forced to decide whether or not to defy the direct orders of a superior officer. In both cases, he knew his orders violated not only the letter of the law, but they struck at the soul of the Federation and all it stood for.

It is my hope that Captain Picard will be near Earth towards the end of the year so that he can speak in person about his decisions. His dilemmas are still fresh in the minds of many and will serve to bring these lessons to life for many of the cadets who have no field experience.

The cadets must wrestle with these issues and decide for themselves what decisions they will make, before they are thrust into conflict. If they do, the probability that they will make the correct decision is increased significantly. Indeed, it is my hope that many others will also be influenced by these classes and the cadets who take them. Without arrogance or presumption, I intend no less than to launch a revolution in the Federation. If necessary, I will devote all my remaining years to this undertaking.

A representative from Starfleet worked with T'Pel to select our new home. She gave the specifications to Mr. Morthen and he researched appropriate selections. Each of the 6 selections fulfilled our basic requirements. T'Pel needs a garden area. We each need a study where we can meditate and read or pursue our own interests. The house must be within short transport range of the Academy, but far enough away to be quiet and peaceful.

T'Pel went ahead of us to Earth to finalize the house arrangements and begin moving in our belongings. I remained behind to finalize my course materials. 2 weeks before the start of classes I arrived on Earth along with Elieth, Asil, Sek, his wife and our granddaughter T'Meni. Sek and his family stayed with us for a month while we settled in and I began teaching.

I had a full schedule of events to attend, as soon as I arrived on Earth. There were orientation meetings for new faculty, and other events designed to allow us to meet and ‘mix with' the other instructors and their families. I found that most of my time, during the weeks before the start of classes, was occupied with these activities and finalizing our move. It was not until later that I had the opportunity to contact members of Voyager's crew.

On Earth, I continued my regular communication with Neelix. He was particularly exuberant on one occasion, even for him. I had some difficulty understanding him at first, as he was not speaking coherently. It seemed he had finally asked Dexa to marry him and she had agreed.

It was Dexa who eventually explained this to me, when she joined him on the link, since he was still too overcome to speak clearly. Dexa's son Brax also seemed quite caught up in the event. He has developed a deep affection for Neelix and I believe they will have a harmonious, if not quiet, home life.

Neelix was most insistent that I convey his news to the rest of the crew, and I assured him that I would. It seems he had lost contact with them during the debriefings and was eager to have news of them as well. I informed him that I had also received only vague and infrequent news from them. Now that I was on Earth, I intended to make contact with them and learn what their status was. Before he could make his next request, I assured him that I would pass on any relevant news as soon as I had any.

He seemed appeased and went on to relay the plans and details for the wedding. It was to be held in a month, and he hoped the crew could attend via the communications link. I again agreed that I would do what I could to arrange it.

We continued to speak for a while longer, as was our custom. Neelix questioned me about all my family members and their activities. I did my best to satisfy his curiosity.

I remember clearly the day soon after, when the Captain and Commander came to visit...

T'Pel called me from my study, to alert me that our visitors had arrived. I stopped recording my logs and joined her to greet our guests.

After the initial greeting, and customary offering and accepting of refreshments, they sat and discussed the latest news about Voyager. It was notable that the Captain and Commander chose only the most impersonal of topics. When they were all briefed on the news the conversation paused. The silence lasted until T'Pel spoke.

"My husband, their behavior is illogical. Do they suppose we cannot see the truth?"

"I have learned that with humans, sometimes it is best to let them arrive at their destination in their own time. I am certain Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay will end their pretense when they feel more at ease." Tuvok responded.

Janeway nearly dropped her coffee cup, and jerked her head towards Chakotay. He was stunned as well, but recovered more quickly. A smile spread across his face and in a moment he began to laugh. "You can fool the rest of the crew, Kathryn, but you'll never put one over on a Vulcan." He set his cup down, and looked at T'Pel. "So, what gave us away? Assuming, of course, for the moment that there is something to give away."

"My husband shared his mind with me upon his return. Even to the casual observer, your behavior over the years on Voyager suggested a very close working relationship. Closer than could be explained by mere command structure, and yet there was a tension. That tension has now disappeared. Logically, one can conclude that there has been an alteration in your relationship. It was not difficult to deduce what that change was." She said calmly.

There was a long moment while Tuvok and T'Pel regarded the couple. Janeway and Chakotay looked at T'Pel and then Tuvok, and finally at each other. Chakotay began to chuckle again as a blush crept up Kathryn's cheeks. "Give it up love, there's no fooling a Vulcan, and we're facing two of them."

He leaned over and put his arm around her. She sighed and leaned in against him. Looking up at Tuvok she said, "Well Tuvok, do you think your old friend has lost her mind, falling in love with the man she was sent to arrest?" In spite of the joke she made, the tension beneath her joke was clear.

Tuvok looked at his former captain and friend and said, "It was only logical. I am merely surprised that it took you so long to see it. It is unlike you, Captain, to be so blind to the truth in front of you. I will admit, there were times when I feared you would never see it."

Kathryn relaxed and Chakotay hugged her tighter. He looked at her lovingly. "I'd have to agree with you, Tuvok. There were a lot of times when I didn't think she'd figure it out either. Fortunately, I'm a sucker for lost causes – especially my own." He said.

Kathryn swatted at him playfully, and Tuvok raised an eyebrow. The human proverb, "Be careful what you wish for," came to mind, but he brushed the thought aside. This was one of his oldest friends and a man he had grown to respect. Certainly he could endure their display of emotions after waiting so many years for them to realize the truth between them.

"So you really approve, Tuvok?" Kathryn asked again. In spite of herself, and their command structure, Tuvok had taken on the role of a father to her and his opinion of Chakotay did matter to her.

"I believe you are asking if I approve of the Commander? I would have approved of such a relationship, even on Voyager, since we were operating under the protocols of a deep space mission and not a routine short-term mission." Tuvok replied.

"Hmmm," Kathryn mused, "I hadn't considered that."

"Indeed. Nevertheless, I must admit that my first impressions of the Commander were not positive. I was assigned to infiltrate his ship and to bring him to justice. The very nature of my orders cast him as an outlaw and a rebel.

"However, as I observed him daily, working with the crew of the Liberty, I formed a more sympathetic opinion of him. He was truly a man of honor. After hearing first hand of the Cardassian atrocities against his family and others in the crew, I began to form a new opinion of the Maquis cause." Chakotay raised an eyebrow at that revelation.

"My orders were still quite clear, and I had no intention of disobeying them. But I had resolved that on my return I would do all in my power to cause the Federation to re-evaluate their position on the Cardassian treaty and the Maquis. This became a moot point when we were pulled into the Delta Quadrant.

"I was further intrigued to see how an alleged hardened criminal and terrorist was able to adapt himself to the role of First Officer with such ease. I watched for a time to see if there was some treachery behind this, but I saw no evidence of this. He was, as he appeared, a loyal and dedicated officer, with the interests of the ship and crew before his own.

"If there was any doubt left, it was removed on your return from New Earth and the subsequent incident with Seska. Clearly the Commander put the ships needs above his own. It was not difficult to see what had transpired between you on the planet, and how he struggled to abide by your wishes, Captain, after your return. I believe this is why he felt such a strong need to prove himself worthy when Seska returned just after that.

"In the years that followed, I never had cause to question your loyalty or devotion, to either the ship or its captain. So, yes, I approve completely of your choice. As I said before, it was the only logical thing you could have done."

Kathryn let out a breath and her face began to relax. "Thank you Tuvok. There are moments when I wondered if I'm crazy, and other moments where I think I'm just now becoming sane." She hugged Chakotay again.

T'Pel rose, as if to leave the room, but Kathryn stopped her. "You mentioned your garden earlier. I'd love to see it."

"If you would like." She said as she led the way. T'Pel showed them around the garden and described the various plants and trees. Kathryn and Chakotay followed her, hand in hand, relaxed and relieved that a last hurdle had been overcome.

I was finally reunited with the crew at the wedding ceremony for Neelix and Dexa. It was held on the Talaxian colony, and we observed the ceremony and festivities via the new communication link. However, the great distance did not spare us from the Talaxian exuberance.

Lt. Paris oversaw the arrangements and therefore he bears most of the responsibility for the events of that day. His insufficient protestations that, "At least they didn't have a Betazoid ceremony," did not seem to appease any of the guests.

It seems that the Alpha quadrant was not fully prepared for the auditory and visual over stimulation generated by a Talaxian celebration. It is odd how one culture will find vivid orange, purple and lime green soothing while another will react in quite the opposite manner. However, I remain convinced that the number of resulting sickbay visits were highly exaggerated.

Mr. Chell was in charge of the menu for the reception following the ceremony. He did a credible job translating various Talaxian and Delta Quadrant recipes for use with Alpha Quadrant ingredients.

Neelix expressed particular gratitude about the inclusion of many Leola Root dishes. It was fortunate that Mr. Neelix was on the other end of an inter-quadrant communications link. If he should ever visit the Alpha Quadrant and sample any of Mr. Chell and Lt. Paris's Leola Root recipes, I think he will hardly recognize the main ingredient. Perhaps it is well that he is unaware of the omission.

The festivities soon turned to drinking and dancing following the dinner. Many of the Starfleet dignitaries departed after the meal, leaving the crew of Voyager to enjoy the reunion in relative privacy. If they had not, I suspect the Captain and Commander Chakotay would not have put on the dance exhibition that followed. T'Pel and I had some difficulty remaining on the sidelines during the dancing. Many of the crew seemed far less inhibited than on board Voyager. Perhaps it was the alcohol, or the end of the tension of the hearings, or just being home again. I doubt, as some claimed later, that it was any mind altering affect stemming from the music and decor.

This past year was very full. Our return, the hearings for the crew, teaching at the Academy, Neelix's marriage, the Captain's and Commander's growing relationship, and the Doctor's trial were but a few of the events.

As I look back on the trial to decide the Doctor's status, I find I still have what humans might call mixed emotions. More precisely, I have yet to reconcile my thoughts and come to my own conclusion on the matter. I was called to testify, but I was spared having to speak either for, or against him. Instead I pointed out the weakness of the definition of sentience. Did my testimony serve justice? I do not know. Only time will tell.

I did assist the Doctor by helping in the efforts to contact Mr. Neelix. He has been increasingly difficult to reach since his duties frequently take him away from the Talaxian colony. After waiting several days, I succeeded in speaking with him and it was not difficult to persuade him to use his influence as Ambassador to assist the Doctor. Mr, Neelix spoke passionately, at length, and some said eloquently, in support of the Doctor's rights as a sentient being.

I was...relieved to not be required to explore my full misgivings in a public forum. I do not see the logic in declaring a subset of subroutines sentient, while the larger whole is not. In fact, I do not believe that complexity of programming, and ability to mimic human reactions is a test of sentience. Further, any precedent once set, has far reaching consequences. The court did not arrive at a test for future cases, and no doubt that will have to be established over a long series of similar trials. But in reality, the decisions will be based on nothing more than human sentiment.

There is no proof that a hologram, no matter how advanced or complicated, possesses a katra. Without that, can a being be considered sentient?

However, does the fact that I cannot meld with the Doctor's mind mean that he has no soul, or does it only prove that his "mind" is incompatible with the Vulcan mind?

Again, as I reflect on these things, I find I am relieved that I was a relative bystander in his trial. The Federation will have many years to ponder the repercussions of their decision in the Doctor's case. And I will watch those developments with interest.

I look back with satisfaction on my protégés from Voyager. The extended time on Voyager allowed me to forge bonds and friendships with the crew, which are not usually possible on shorter missions with their constant crew rotations.

B'Elanna was a great challenge. Her temper and inner conflict made her difficult to teach. I am used to training Vulcans, or Academy cadets. In the first case, the student brings many years of training and discipline to the exercise. With cadets, they are sometimes high spirited and unruly, but they have a drive to succeed and better themselves which can be harnessed and directed.

With B'Elanna, the fact that she was ordered to work with me made the first lessons difficult. As humans say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink." This was the way with B'Elanna in the beginning. She fought and struggled against everything. I remember her fidgeting as she tried to meditate. When she finally became comfortable with the exercises, she fell asleep. Strangely that was a beginning. She had finally stopped fighting the process and relaxed.

After that day, the lessons became easier. I also saw a difference in her interaction with others in the crew. More important, she began to see the benefit of those changes. Her team was more efficient under her calmer leadership. I also know she did not fail to notice that her occasional outbursts had a much greater effect now that her usual behavior was less volatile. I would have sought to curb this tendency if it had not been for the fact that the Captain employs the same tactic.

I am not Miral's godfather, but I feel close to her since I believe I am partially responsible for her creation. I do not believe her parents could have formed their relationship had B'Elanna not grown as a person and developed her mental and self-discipline. It is profoundly satisfying to be able to see the effect you have had in a life.

I recently learned that Mr. Gerron would be accompanying Icheb to the Academy at the start of next term. I was pleased to sponsor Mr. Gerron, although it is an outcome I could not have predicted when he first came aboard Voyager. He had such an immature and uncontrolled mind when he arrived, with many unresolved conflicts and much anger. I felt some responsibility for him, since the turning point in his development as a member of the crew was during the Academy style-training classes I conducted for some of the former Maquis crew.

At that time, I was concerned that he might not be able to get beyond his earlier experiences and become a useful crewman. As is often the case, it was a crisis that caused his change in perspective. Following the incident in the cargo bay, Mr. Gerron began to take his role on Voyager seriously, and began to truly apply himself to his work and his studies.

In the years since, he has been a regular if not constant visitor. We have had many philosophical discussions and I believe it helped him to resolve the issues from his youth as a refugee. He began to look on himself as a self-sufficient person, and no longer a victim of the Cardassians and others. No one can stand on their own when they are controlled by fear or anger. This fact has caused me to occasionally marvel that other species have managed to develop into advanced civilizations, with all their emotions to hinder them. Those individuals who are successful manage to harness the energy of their emotions to drive them on. I believe Mr. Gerron is one of these, and I wish him every success in his new life.

Kes is my only real regret. While she was able to develop herself and her mental powers, I cannot account for her later relapse. All our research and the evidence of the Ocampan colony on Sisperia's array, suggest that when the Ocampans develop their mental abilities, it lengthens their lives. Kes developed far beyond any of the others, to a state of non-corporeal existence. Yet she aged dramatically and suffered from dementia. I cannot account for this aberration. Perhaps on her travels through the universe, she encountered a force or intelligence that injured her and caused her to revert back to the undeveloped Ocampan state.

I do take some comfort in the fact that when she came to us, we were able to remind her of the ideas and hope she had had when she was with us. I believe she was reconciled to her life in the end.

This week then I spoke to Mr. Neelix, he informed me that he would be joining the Voyager museum dedication via the communications link. This had been quite successful in allowing much of the Voyager crew to attend his wedding, and would be useful again at Voyager's ceremony.

He also hinted, again, that should the Captain and Commander Chakotay decide to marry, he wanted to be assured of a ‘front row seat', as he put it, for their ceremony.

I informed him that the Captain and Commander had made no such plans as yet. Neelix raised his eyebrow and was oddly silent. I allowed that I too believed things to be moving in that direction, and promised to inform him if anything concrete developed.

Today the Voyager museum will be dedicated. For perhaps the last time, I will wear my old yellow and black uniform. As I put it on, I note how familiar, yet strange, it feels. I find I have become accustomed to the grey and black uniform I wear at the Academy.

I understand the nostalgia of the crew and their wish to wear these uniforms one last time, as Voyager makes its last flight. The symbolism is fitting and proper. We do not honor the inanimate object, the ship we lived on, but the spirit of the crew that survived the journey home. We also honor those who died wearing this uniform. Perhaps it is not logical, but it is fitting, and I will do it proudly.

After I finished dressing, I met T'Pel in her garden and we prepared to transport to the festivities. We also carried with us gifts for Miral's birthday. The date of our return home has many meanings for our crew.

T'Pel and I have selected two gifts for her. One is a Vulcan child's toy. It is shaped like a pyramid with interlocking parts that form a simple puzzle. The base of the pyramid is violet and the rows change hue ending with red at the top. It is similar to the black and white puzzle we gave her as an infant.

The other gift is a small stuffed Selat. It is only logical to give the child a toy she will choose to play with, as well as one that will teach her. Human children respond to strong color contrasts at this age, and also to soft, comforting objects. Also, I must admit, it will please me to give something Tom Paris will not expect.

Taking T'Pel's arm, we walked out of our home, towards the transport site, and one last flight on Voyager.

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