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"Kel. Wake up." A voice intruded on Kel's peaceful slumber.
"Dad?" Kel asked as he cracked open one eye.
"We're about to leave for work now and I need for you to watch after Angel." Bey said gently.
As Kel came more awake, he noticed that he was being snuggled from both sides by H'Ree and Dohn.
"I'm awake, now." Kel said with a contented smile.
"Have a good day, son. Just call if you need any help making the guys more comfortable." Bey said with a loving glance at the three boys in the bed.
Kel fought to keep his giggles quiet as he said, "I don't think they can get much more comfortable, but I'll call you if we need anything."
"I'll leave it up to you to get these guys settled in." Bey said with a smile, then handed Kel his sister who was sound asleep.
Kel smiled down at the little girl in his arms. He looked up as Bey leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Kel whispered, then watched as Bey left the room.
Kel rested back with his sister in his arms and a warm body snuggled against him on both sides. He was perfectly content to simply drift in the peaceful moment.
* * * * *
"I have retrieved the information on the phenomenon we are facing." Kim said quietly as she approached Paris' workstation.
"What did you find?" Paris asked with immediate interest.
"Something that concerns me greatly." Kim said frankly, allowing her Vulcan facade to slip slightly.
"So it's not an artificial wormhole?" Paris asked cautiously.
"Actually, according to the information we have just translated, it is a peripheral access to a hub of artificial wormholes. Most of them would carry us away from the Alpha quadrant, but there are three that will take us roughly on Voyager's most likely projected course." Kim said seriously.
"That sounds great! So what is it about this that concerns you?" Paris asked curiously, then noticed that Bey had leaned in to hear their conversation.
"I recall an old Earth saying about when things appear to be 'too good to be true'. While this transit hub access appears to be exactly what we need to reach Voyager in a reasonable amount of time, it could also easily be some sort of trap. We don't have the ability to scan past the aperture. A probe wouldn't be able to transmit any information back to us once it entered. The information we retrieved from the wreckage database could easily be a lure to cause someone to do what we're considering. If we decide to enter this wormhole, there is no way to know where, or if, we will emerge." Kim quietly finished.
After a moment, Paris turned to Bey and asked, "Any ideas?"
"No. If we can't find a way to gather more information, then our choices seem to be, do it or don't." Bey said frankly.
"I concur. If we are in agreement, I will present these findings to Janeway." Kim said seriously.
"Yeah. We'll be ready if she wants to call a conference." Paris said with a concerned look at Bey.
Kim accepted the answer, then walked across the bridge to Janeway's station.
* * * * *
Dohn opened his eyes suddenly, then looked around in panic.
"You're safe. Remember? You're on the Amalgam." Kel said quietly.
"Oh. Yes. That's right." Dohn said slowly, then asked, "How did I get here?"
"I don't know. You went to sleep in your own bed. But I don't mind that you're here. It really feels nice." Kel said honestly.
Dohn seemed to think about it for a moment, then reluctantly admitted, "Yes. It is nice."
"I think we should wake up H'Ree so we can all go and have breakfast. It's just about Angel's feeding time and she starts crying when she gets hungry." Kel said honestly.
"Would we have time to... clean? I forget the word. The thing with the water." Dohn said with difficulty.
"Shower." Kel said with a smile. "I know, it's a strange concept. Yes. You can go and shower now while I wake up H'Ree."
"Thank you." Dohn said quietly, then hurried out of the room.
Kel wasn't sure exactly what Dohn was thanking him for, but he didn't think much of it as he woke H'Ree.
* * * * *
"Paris. Can I talk with you?" Janeway asked as she approached.
"Of course, you're the leader." He said with his best 'flyboy' grin.
She smiled slightly, then said, "I'm calling a meeting of the entire crew in the mess hall. Considering where we are, there's no way we can leave the bridge completely unmanned, and since we're playing dead, the person on the bridge won't be able to attend the meeting by video link."
"I understand what you're about to ask, and I'll stay. Bey knows how I feel about things, so if there's a vote, he has mine." Paris said gently.
"Good. Keep a close watch on those Kazon ships. If any of them seem to notice us, don't hesitate to break radio silence. It won't matter at that point." Janeway said frankly.
"We'll have a good hour to react if they start heading this way." Paris assured her.
Janeway gave his shoulder a quick, reassuring squeeze, then returned to her station to compose her message for the crew.
* * * * *
"Good morning, H'Ree. Did you sleep well?" Kel asked gently.
"Yeah. It was really nice." Kel said happily. "I woke up once or twice and it was really great when you were there. That made me happy."
"I'm glad. Having you there made me happy, too." Kel said quietly.
"Where's Dohn? I thought he was here." H'Ree asked thoughtfully.
"He was here. He's in taking a shower, right now." Kel said with a smile.
"A shower? Can I do that, too?" H'Ree asked excitedly.
"Shhh. You'll wake Angel." Kel said quietly, then said, "You can take a shower if you like. You can either go in and ask Dohn if you can take a shower with him, or you can wait until he's finished and take one by yourself. Whatever you like."
"Can't I take a shower with you?" H'Ree asked curiously.
"Yeah. That'll be fine, as long as I can get Dohn to watch Angel while we're in there." Kel said frankly.
"Let's do that." H'Ree said with his excitement seeming to want to bubble over.
"Get up and pick out some clean clothes. We can't run the fresher while the ship is at minimal power." Kel said honestly.
"Is that why it's so quiet?" H'Ree asked curiously.
"Yes. It's nothing to worry about. We're not in any danger or anything. We're just being quiet so we can investigate something and decide what we're going to do next." Kel said frankly.
"Okay." H'Ree said happily, then held up a blue shirt and asked, "Is this okay?"
"I think that'll look great on you." Kel said with a tender smile.
* * * * *
Bey watched as people entered the mess hall by ones and twos. He smiled when he saw Kel walk in with Dohn and H'Ree at his side and Angel on his back in her child carrier.
"What's going on? The text message said that everyone on the ship is supposed to be here." Kel asked quietly.
"That's right. Paris has to stay on the bridge, but everyone else is going to be here." Bey said seriously, then turned to Dohn and H'Ree and said, "You guys look nice. It seems like you really enjoy that shower."
"Yes. It's the most wonderful, decadent thing I've ever felt." Dohn said with a smile.
"I'm glad you enjoy it." Bey said honestly, then looked down to H'Ree and asked, "How are you doing today?"
"I'm hungry." He said frankly.
Bey chuckled, then said, "You can have something to eat right after this meeting. I don't think it will take very long."
Just then, Janeway moved to the front of the room and raised her arms.
"Please, everyone. If you'll give me a moment of your attention, all your questions will be answered." She said in a firm voice that let a little bit of her Klingon growl slip free.
As the crowd quieted, she continued, "First, I'd like to introduce everyone to Dohn and H'Ree. They were some of the Ocampans we rescued during our battle with the Kazons."
Nearly everyone in the gathering followed her gesture to the two Ocampan boys who were standing with Kel.
"Now, the reason for this gathering." Janeway said, drawing everyone's attention back to her. "We've found a conduit. In the simplest terms, it's an artificial wormhole. We've retrieved information from one of the scavenged computers that tells us that this wormhole can take us to a point near where we expect Voyager to be."
Silence fell over the room as everyone digested that statement.
"It's time for us to make a decision. We can play it safe and set our course for the Alpha quadrant, or we can take a chance and take the wormhole, which could easily be a trap." Janeway said frankly.
Murmurs filled the room. Finally, one voice spoke up, "Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith!"
Janeway smiled as she countered, "And sometimes it's important to do what's safe."
Bey was surprised when Kel stepped forward, so that he could address Janeway directly.
In a voice loud enough for all to hear, Kel said, "If we don't take the chance, we will likely spend the rest of our lives trying to reach Voyager. We will eat, sleep, and live that purpose every single day."
Kel looked around to see that everyone was listening, then continued, "And every single day, we will know that we passed up an opportunity to fulfill that purpose."
"That's a good point, Kel." Janeway said as she gave him a smile.
Kel returned the smile, then walked back to stand with his family.
"I was elected to be your leader. That means that I've been given the honor and the responsibility of making decisions like this. But I feel that in this situation, you should be aware of the decision being made and have an opportunity to voice your opinions." Janeway said frankly.
"I have a question." A man's voice said from near the back of the room.
There were a few gasps and the level of tension in the room went up dramatically.
"Who's that?" H'Ree asked curiously, noticing the reactions.
"That's Carey... Janeway's fiancee." Bey said quietly, then added, "He sometimes makes group meetings difficult."
H'Ree nodded and watched to see what was going to happen next.
"I think we all know what your decision is going to be. I mean, that's why we elected you leader. It's not for your 'sparkling personality', it's because we trust you to get us home." Carey said firmly, then added, "So I've only got one question."
"What's that?" Janeway asked hesitantly.
"Since this might be a trap that will kill us all, would you marry me 'before' we enter the wormhole?" Carey asked hopefully.
Janeway smiled, then said, "Sure. Anytime you want."
"Everyone's here. What about now?" Carey asked simply.
"Who should we have officiate?" Janeway asked as she looked around.
"Kim can do it. I'm sure she's got at least one wedding ceremony kicking around in that big Vulcan brain of hers." Carey said frankly.
Janeway looked at Kim with question and received a nod as a response.
"You guys should probably think about what you want to do." Bey said to the boys. "We're still close enough to the Ocampan homeworld that we can take you back there if that's what you want."
Kel looked at Dohn, then at H'Ree before saying, "We've already made that decision. All along it's been a choice between living in safe slavery or risky freedom. If the wormhole leads nowhere, at least I'll know that I went in of my own free will."
Bey looked at Dohn to see if he agreed with Kel's words.
"Yesterday was the first time I ever did anything courageous. I think, today will be the second."
Bey smiled at the words, then looked to see if H'Ree was following what was going on.
"I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff over a deep chasm. The voices of my people are calling to me telling me to step back. But the voice of my mama is telling me to spread my arms and fly." H'Ree said as he looked up at Bey.
Bey smiled and pulled the three boys into a hug.
* * * * *
"We gather in body, in spirit, in heart, in will and in intent." Kim said to the assembly.
"The first step to civilization is the establishment of family units. They redefine us as being greater than our individual selves."
"To that end, we are here to witness the union of Janeway Torres and Carey Winger."
"Let all assembled be aware and spread the word that this union creates a family, the very foundation of our society. Any who would attempt to cause disharmony or to break this union should be reviled and driven out. Because there is no place for such a person among those who value decency and harmony."
"Janeway Torres. Please state your vows to Carey Winger before this gathering so we all may understand the strength of your bond."
After an uncertain glance at Kim, Janeway looked to Carey and said, "Others look past the part of me that is Klingon. You look directly at it, and you're not afraid. You're not intimidated by my strength. My vow to you is that I will remain strong for you and allow you to be strong for me, so we can unite as equals."
"Carey Winger. Please state your vows to Janeway Torres before this gathering so we may all understand the strength of your bond."
"I promise to talk back, to take issue and to fight with you every single day. Because you deserve someone with his own mind and with a backbone. Your strength inspires me, and I'll do everything in my power to be strong enough to inspire you." Carey said frankly.
"So shall it be." Kim said reverently.
Silence fell over the gathering and people started looking around, silently asking each other if it was over.
Bey looked at the boys and noticed that Kel had an arm loosely draped around Dohn's waist and Dohn had an arm around Kel's shoulders.
Suddenly, Kim called out, "Join me in a cheer of celebration for the newly married couple. Janeway Winger-Torres and Carey Winger-Torres!"
Everyone in attendance let loose a lusty cheer for the newly married couple.
After a time, the cheer finally dissolved into laughter.
"I need to get back to the bridge. Are you boys going to be okay?" Bey asked with concern.
"We're fine." Kel assured him as he worked to get the child carrier off his back.
"Call me if you need anything." Bey said as he hugged his way down the line of boys, ending with Kel.
"You know I will." Kel said indulgently.
Bey leaned down and gave Angel a gentle kiss on the forehead.
The boys watched as Bey gave them one last, reluctant look before leaving.
"Every time he has to leave us it seems to be with such unwillingness, that I feel bad that he has to go." Dohn said as he looked at the doorway.
"You should look at his mind. It actually hurts him to leave." Kel said quietly.
"You're not supposed to read others without their permission." Dohn said firmly.
"I don't. Sometimes it just happens without me meaning to, mostly when I'm tired." Kel said as he checked to see how his sister was doing.
"Can we eat?" H'Ree asked hopefully.
Kel looked around and spotted Chell.
"If you'll go tell Chell that we're hungry, I bet that he'll make sure that we get some food." Kel said gently.
H'Ree spotted Chell, then happily ran away.
As Kel took care of his sister, Dohn watched with admiration.
* * * * *
"Bey to Kel." Sounded over the intercom, which startled Kel, since they had been running silent for so long.
Kel walked to the comm station by the door and said, "Kel to Bey."
"Are Dohn and H'Ree with you?" Bey asked quietly.
"Yes. We're still in the mess hall. Did you need for us to do something?" Kel asked with concern at the tone in his dad's voice.
"Right now we're starting up the engines. As soon as we're up to full power, we'll be entering the wormhole." Bey said nervously. "Your father and I would like it very much if you'd bring Angel and the boys up here to the bridge. Whatever is going to happen. We'd like to face it as a family."
"Yeah. We'll be right there." Kel said quietly.
"I love you, Old Man." Bey said gently.
"I love you too, Dad." Kel said tenderly, then shut off the comm.
* * * * *
Kel walked onto the bridge with Angel slung on his back and Dohn and H'Ree following a step behind.
"When are you going to do it?" Kel asked nervously.
"Kim is negotiating with the wormhole gate interface. As soon as she can get it to open, we'll be going through." Paris said frankly.
Kel felt an arm on his shoulder and looked up to see that Dohn was holding him protectively. He cautiously slipped an arm around Dohn's waist to hold him in return.
"The entry code has been accepted. You may proceed when ready." Kim said impassively.
"Can your scans tell you anything about what's on the other side of the wormhole?" Janeway asked cautiously.
"As expected, our equipment registers only a void." Kim said frankly.
Kel felt H'Ree back up against him. He instinctively put his free arm around H'Ree to hug him. As he did, Dohn did the same thing and their hands joined on H'Ree's chest.
"Helm. Take us in." Janeway said firmly.
"Aye, Captain." Paris said professionally, then glanced at Kel, Dohn, H'Ree and Angel before activating the thruster controls to slowly move them forward.
When the nose of the ship entered the yawning chasm in space, a sudden force seemed to seize them and pull them forward.
Within the blink of an eye. They were gone.
Author's note: I just love saying that! I know there are jaws dropping and people saying, "Oh no he didn't!".
This is the end of Book 2: The Return.
Coming soon! Book 3: Rendezvous.
Coming soon? What is soon, in cosmic terms, I mean, is that a week, a month, or another two years? I know I have no room to talk about taking a long time between chapters, so you should realize that this is only a tease. I am so glad to see a new chapter of this story, that I can't help but be a bit flippant.
Seriously, it is wonderful to get a new chapter of this story, and as always in a chapter from MM, we have some very warm and loving moments as well as some anxious ones, it is wonderful to revisit our friends whom we haven't seen in such a long time.
Thank you MultiMapper!
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher