The Dream Quest
Written by Alexandra Siegel (SirenaUrbana11)
Star Trek: Voyager © Paramount Network Television and CBS Television Distribution
"Dark Sky Island" originally performed by Enya, Lyrics by Roma Ryan © Aiglé Music, Warner Music, and Reprise Records
Featuring: Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, B'Elanna Torres, Tom Paris, Neelix, The Doctor, Tuvok, Seven of Nine, Harry Kim, Samantha Wildman, Naomi Wildman
Setting: USS VOYAGER, Naomi's Dream
Continuity: Season 5; some time after "Infinite Regress"
Part 2 of 4
Kathryn paced around the ready room, each step feeling heavier than normal. She hated feeling helpless, especially at a time like this. She racked her brain for any possible way to help Naomi in what was now a fight for her life against the Coda, but was unable to come up with a solution. And every second that passed was a second that could've been spent in Sickbay, working on a possible solution. An hour had passed, and time was short.
As she continued to pace around the room, the door chimed.
"Come in," she answered.
Chakotay walked in, PADD in hand. "Here are the reports on ship-wide maintenance that you asked for."
"Thank you," Kathryn replied, taking the PADD before setting it on her desk, "I'll look at it later."
Chakotay stepped closer to her. "You've been in here by yourself for about an hour and no one's heard from you."
"Has it been an hour already?" Kathryn gasped, her tone hardening as her frustration spilled out, “Damn it, I shouldn't be standing here doing nothing! The Doctor should know by now that I hate waiting on the sidelines feeling useless! I wanted to stay in sickbay by her side, but no, he kicks me out like I’m someone who stays long after visiting hours are over! One of these days, I’m going to—“ She stopped once she saw the shocked expression on Chakotay’s face.
"Are you alright?" Chakotay asked.
Kathryn looked at him and sighed. She felt there was no point in trying to hide her emotions from him this time. “Honestly, no I’m not.”
“Is it about Naomi?” Chakotay was concerned.
Kathryn sat on the sofa and motioned for Chakotay to join her.
“Naomi’s brain has been invaded by the Coda,” she answered, struggling to hold back her tears.
“What?!” Chakotay was devastated. “How is this possible?”
“The Doctor hasn’t been able to figure that out,” Kathryn answered, “but unless something is done in the next eleven hours, we’ll lose Naomi.”
“Samantha must be devastated,” Chakotay said, with fear evident in his tone.
“She is,” Kathryn nodded, “Neelix too.”
The way Chakotay was looking at her when he asked pierced through Kathryn’s defenses. "Ever since Naomi was born, she's been a part of this crew," Kathryn explained, "I can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel very close to her. I may not have spent a lot of time with her aside from special events, but I watched over her from afar. As she was growing up and I was informed of her development by Samantha and Neelix, I felt a strong urge to take her under my wing and guide her on this journey. When Samantha informed me of Naomi's intention to become Captain's Assistant, that urge grew stronger. Then she had those nightmares, and right before she can talk to me about them, the Coda invades her cerebral cortex and is trying to kill her! Why did this have to happen to Naomi? Why?"
She felt a tear on the verge of falling down her cheek. She tried to fight it, but it was no use. Chakotay could see this, and wrapped his arms around her. Unable to resist anymore, she broke down and quietly sobbed into his chest. He held her close to him for a long time, neither of them saying a word. Once he had sensed that she was calmer, Chakotay gently pushed her back so they could make eye contact.
"I'm sorry," Kathryn was slightly embarrassed, "I know I shouldn't be crying, especially at a time like this."
“You love Naomi like she's your own daughter. There's nothing wrong with that,” he reassured her.
“I have to be a sort of mother figure to every member of this crew,” Kathryn said, “They need me to lead them and tell them what to do in a given situation. And whenever something happens to them, the guilt I feel is overwhelming and I keep wondering what I could’ve done differently for them.” She wiped a falling tear from the corner of her eye. “But you’re right. Naomi is like a daughter to me. Probably the closest thing to a daughter I have, or will probably ever have.”
“Are you sure about that?” Chakotay asked. "I know that being a captain means having to make some personal sacrifices to uphold protocol, but whatever may not be possible at this moment may be possible in a few years’ time.”
"I wish it was that simple," Kathryn said with a sad tone.
"But then," Chakotay replied softly, "nothing really is that simple."
Kathryn nodded before going back to the subject at hand. "From what Neelix has told me, Naomi has told you about her nightmares, hasn't she?"
"Yes. I was going to offer her the opportunity to explain her nightmares to me through a dream quest, but I was called away for bridge duty, and I never got around to it."
Kathryn's ears perked up. "Did you just say you wanted her to go on a dream quest?"
"So it's possible to reach her through her dreams?"
"When done right, yes it is."
Kathryn's eyes glimmered and her face broke into a wide smile. "Chakotay, that might just work! A dream quest may be answer."
Chakotay stood up. "I'll get my medicine bundle and meet you in Sickbay."
Kathryn transferred command of VOYAGER to Tuvok and made it to Sickbay as fast as she could. When she arrived, she found Chakotay there with the Doctor, Tom, Neelix, and Samantha.
"Chakotay just told me of your idea," the Doctor informed her as she approached the surgical biobed where Naomi still lay. "As unscientific it may seem, I think it's worth a shot."
"Will it save my baby girl?" Samantha asked worriedly.
"I can't make any promises," Chakotay answered, "The direction in where dream quests go varies with each individual and the inner strength they have in their heart. But if all goes well, it should bring her back."
"And with an alien life form invading her cerebral cortex, it'll be very risky for Naomi," the Doctor warned, "And if it decides to invade the dreamer as well, their life might also be put at risk. But since there aren't any other options to consider, this may be the only way."
"Now who's going to be the one to find Naomi in her dreams?" Neelix asked.
"I will," Kathryn quickly answered. The others looked at her with shock on their faces.
"Captain, it's too dangerous," the Doctor protested. "If something happens to you, we'll lose you along with Naomi."
"Let me do it," Samantha pleaded. "I'm her mother and I should be the one to take the chance."
But Kathryn stood firm. "I'm aware of the risk, but I'm the central figure of her nightmares, so I need to be the one to help her conquer her fears."
"Captain, are you sure you want to do this?" Tom asked.
"Positive," she answered. "I made a promise to her that I'd be there for her whenever she needed me. I’ve only been there for her from afar and it’s time to really show her that I meant what I said.“ She moved towards Chakotay, who was still showing signs of uncertainty.
"Chakotay," Kathryn whipered fiercely. “Let me go in.”
"Is that an order?" He whispered back.
"Yes," she answered, her eyes blazing with determination.
Chakotay felt conflicted. He wanted to help his captain and his best friend in any way he could, but he didn't want to risk losing her.
"Please, Chakotay. Help me save Naomi.”
Chakotay took a moment to process what he was hearing before he turned to the Doctor. "The captain has given a direct order. She wants to be the one to find Naomi's consciousness, and we need to help her."
The Doctor breathed a heavy sigh. "Alright. I'd like to continually monitor both of your vital signs to increase your chances of success, and be able to treat you if complications arise."
"Once you're in the dream world, I can watch over you both and give small indications with the help of my spirit guide, but I won't be able to help you directly," Chakotay warned. "You'll have to find your way to Naomi yourself."
"It's too bad we can't really move the beds closer to each other or make the surgical bed bigger to accommodate two patients in close proximity," Tom muttered.
"That's alright," Chakotay waved his hand reassuringly. "The akoonah can allow a person to enter someone else's dream from a distance up to 100 yards."
Kathryn walked towards the biobed closest to the surgical bay. "Will this do?"
Chakotay nodded. "Perfect."
Kathryn then remembered something. "Oh, could you give me a minute?" She walked over to the controls near the entrance and keyed in a command to the ship's computer.
"What are you doing?" Neelix asked.
"I'm locking onto something from my quarters," Kathryn answered. Once the command was entered she gave her voice command.
"Computer, lock onto the mapped coordinates and initiate a site-to-site transport directly to Sickbay."
The computer chimed. *Coordinates locked.*
Instantly, a large charm materialized onto the biobed Chakotay was standing next to.
"What's this?" Chakotay asked, examining the charm -- a golden star shape with a circular compact opening in the center, adorned by a diagonal wave line in midnight blue and tiny white sparkles.
Samantha gasped. "Is that what I think it is?”
"Naomi gave this to me on my birthday last month," Kathryn answered, taking the charm and opening the compact. A tiny white light shone from the center as a soft melody emanated from it.
Chakotay recognized the tune. "That's ‘Dark Sky Island,’ isn't it?"
"Naomi knew that this was one of my favorite songs," Kathryn replied with a soft smile. "I keep this on my bedside table and listen to it for a few minutes whenever I have trouble sleeping or I'm feeling sad."
“You were so happy to receive such a nice gift from her after I helped her replicate it,” Neelix added. “I brought that up earlier today and she didn’t remember. How could she forget something as special as that?”
“The Coda must be inhibiting that memory somehow,” Kathryn said. “This time, the Coda is more aggressive.”
“Speaking of the Coda,” the Doctor chimed in, “Naomi’s vital signs are slowly deteriorating. If we don’t do something in the next ten hours, she’ll die.”
“Then we haven’t got a moment to lose,” Kathryn strapped the chain of the music box onto her belt loop before letting Tom and Samantha help her onto the biobed. Chakotay arranged his stone from the river and black bird's wing on the small tray table next to him.
“Captain,” Samantha said as Kathryn adjusted her position, “I just want to say that…whatever happens, thank you so much for caring enough to save my little girl. I’ll always be grateful.”
Kathryn held Samantha’s hand. “Naomi means as much to me as she does to you all. I’ll do everything I can to get her back. I promise.”
The Doctor put a cortical stimulator on Naomi’s forehead next to her Ktarian horns before preparing a hypospray with a sedative to use on Kathryn so she could sleep.
"Whenever you're ready, Captain," the Doctor informed aa he walked over to her, hypospray and cortical stimulator in hand.
Kathryn nodded. "I'm ready." Chakotay held out the akoonah and she placed her hand on the sensor pad, activating it.
"You be careful out there and good luck," the Doctor said as he injected the hypospray into her neck. The sedative worked quickly and Kathryn was asleep almost immediately.
Chakotay began his incantation. "Akoo-chee-moya. We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of our people. But perhaps there is one powerful being that will embrace this woman and give her the answers she seeks." He paused momentarily, placing his hand over her arm. "My friend wishes to embark on a quest of dreams. To cross the barrier separating one dream from another. To free the little girl from the terrors in her mind before they consume her."
Kathryn opened her eyes. Looking around, she saw what appeared to be empty space surrounded by dark clouds and flashes of violet light. The sounds of moans and screams sent a cold shiver down her spine. Given that this was a dream world, anything could happen beyond logic or comprehension.
"What is this place?" She asked herself, before suddenly remembering that she had to find Naomi.
“Naomi?” She called out. “Naomi? Where are you?”
The moans intensified, but Naomi did not answer.
Although she really had no idea where to go or what else to look for, Kathryn started walking forward. There was no point in just standing where she was.
“Naomi? Naomi? I want to help you. Tell me where you are. Naomi? Answer me. Naomi!” Kathryn called out as she walked through the eerie haze. Naomi still did not answer.
Kathryn then noticed what appeared to be a forest. Running towards the entrance, she saw that the trees were shaped in unnatural angles, resembling the leafless trees in haunted forests from ghost stories. To her, this was essentially Forever Forest under an evil spell. She didn't know if this was where she needed to go, but she felt a pulse of an instinct coursing through her mind.
"I think I need to go this way," Kathryn thought aloud, "But why am I even certain of that?" She then remembered what Chakotay had told her. "Of course! He can't tell me exactly what to do or where to go, but he might be giving hints by somehow reaching my instincts. Is this what he meant by 'small indications?' I guess only I can ultimately decide whether or not to follow those instincts." She then looked towards the forest, looking for a set path. "And right now, those instincts are telling me to go through that forest. Will Naomi be on the other side? There's only one way to find out."
Kathryn started off by taking slow, cautious steps through the forest, following the path in front of her. The large cluster of trees and plants made it impossible to see where the path was leading, so she would have to figure it out while moving. Given how large the forest was and the short amount of time she had to find Naomi, she couldn't afford to lose her way and wind up wandering endlessly.
The path was treacherous, with Kathryn running into a tangle of vines, stepping on moss puddles, and nearly bumping into tree branches. The wolf howls echoing in the distance gave her chills. There wasn't much light, other than the bioluminescent moss and plants that were growing and the periodical light flash from the outside. With no tricorder or map, she had to create a trail using a long bioluminescent vine she found in case she needed to go backwards. An old-fashioned folk tale method, but it seemed to work. At least she wouldn't get lost so easily.
After what seemed like an eternity of walking, Kathryn reached a divided path.
"Uh-oh," she muttered, "Now where do I go?" Both paths looked alike from where she was standing. She rubbed her forehead as she thought for a minute. Suddenly, her instincts returned, and she felt a strong urge to take the path on her right. The wolf echoes were louder and more concentrated on the left side, and with no phaser, she couldn't risk a wolf attack. Again, she wasn't sure this was the right choice, but there were no other options to explore.
Clenching onto the vine, Kathryn walked down the path, her instincts pushing her forward every step of the way. This had to be it. The wolf howls were further away and the path was clearer.
After a few more minutes, she could see the exit. A small wave of relief washed over her as she dropped the vine and ran towards it. But as it turned out, her relief was short lived.
She was stopped by a sudden emergence of black vines. When they had stopped moving, they had formed a tunnel leading towards the exit. Kathryn slowly approached the vine tunnel.
"Oh, no!" She cried out. The vines were covered in thorns, and they were very sharp! Frustrated at this setback, Kathryn sighed heavily as she ran both of her hands through her auburn hair, all the way down to the ends reaching the back of her neck. She'd just traded one problem for another!
Up ahead, she could see another black vine extending itself up a small hill towards a dim light source. Kathryn was curious over what she would find over that hill, but in order to find out, she needed to get out of the forest. She couldn't find any other openings, so she concluded that there was only one way out of the forest; she had to go through the vine tunnel!
Kathryn swallowed hard. “If I can get through these vines, I can get out of here and keep looking for Naomi. But, oh, this is going to hurt!”
Kathryn managed to find a pointed stone on the ground and sharpened the edges by rubbing it against the bark of one of the trees. Taking a deep breath, she climbed over the vines rooted in the ground and forced her way through. She had to cut every vine in front of her with the stone while keeping her hands and fingers clear of the thorns. As much as she tried, she wasn't able to completely avoid getting pricked or scratched by the thorns. Some of the thorns broke off the vine after getting caught in her uniform. She winced as the stray thorns dug deeper into her skin with every move, causing blood to drip down her arms and legs.
Although it was only about five minutes, it seemed like an hour at the very least. At last, the exit was within reach. Kathryn couldn’t wait to get out of the tangle of vines. She was just about to cut the last vine in front of her when the vines suddenly began to move again. To her dismay, not only were the vines closing the exit, they were closing in on her! If she didn’t get out of there now, she was going to be crushed. Kathryn realized what she needed to do.
“It’s do or die.” Kathryn braced herself, grabbing her nose with one hand and tightly closing her eyes. “I’m going to regret this.” With one mighty spring in her step, Kathryn lunged forward through the vines and broke through to the other side. She landed on the ground with a thud, the vines sealing the passage behind her.
“Damn, that hurts!” She yelled out. As she rose to a sitting position, she examined herself. She was covered in thorns and was bleeding, but thankfully, none of them were piercing her heart or any of her arteries. And there was a branch of the vine that broke off and got tangled in her hair. She carefully pulled out every last thorn, some deeper than others, hissing in pain as she did. Finally, she worked the entangled vine out of her hair, tossing it over her shoulder. “From now on, I’m not entering a live forest without some weed killer,” she groaned. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do anything about the wounds, but to her, that was the least of her worries.
Smoothing out her hair and uniform, Kathryn rose to her feet and watched as another black vine made its way up the hill. She decided to follow it and see if it was indeed heading towards that light source. The eerie shrieks and moans intensified, making her shudder. She had never felt this nervous during an away mission. She had been trained to stay calm when under pressure or in an unexpected situation, but this was more than she, or even Starfleet, had bargained for.
Walking for two miles, she found what appeared to be a large spherical enclosure with a strange liquid bubbling inside, similar to a Borg maturation chamber. The sphere was held by the same black vines over and under it that seemed to glow a faint purple, like they were sustaining it. Somebody was inside it, but Kathryn was too far away to see who it was clearly. Holding her breath, she approached the sphere. Soon, she was close enough to see the face. As soon as she did, she stopped cold in her tracks.
To be continued…