Kathryn arrived home later than she had expected. An afternoon shopping had stretched into, dinner and dinner turned a little long with some long overdue 'girl talk'. It was just past 19:00 hours and Katie would probably be asleep already. Kathryn hated to miss Katie's bedtime but it was very rare that she had any time to herself these days. Sharing some shopping and gossip with B'Elanna and Sam was a welcome relief from the normal stresses of her day.
Entering the darkened quiet of their quarters, Kathryn searched the darkness for signs of either her husband or their daughter. She found Chakotay first, stretched out on the couch sound asleep. She kissed his peaceful face then went to say good night to Katie.
Katie's room was dark, illuminated only by the sliver of dim light from the partially opened door and the twinkle of stars through the view port. Kathryn tiptoed toward the bed, bending close to kiss her baby good night.
"Lights 100%." She was shocked not to find Katie in her bed. "Katie, where are you?" She called out into the silent room. "Honey, its mommy. Don't hide from me." She quickly looked around the room, checking the closet and under the bed. "Computer, locate Katie Janeway."
"KATIE JANEWAY IS NOT ON BOARD VOYAGER."
"Computer verify that last response." Confused Kathryn left Katie's room to wake Chakotay; maybe he had left her with someone on the planet-- but why?
"RESPONSE VERIFIED: KATIE JANEWAY IS NOT ON BOARD VOYAGER."
"Chakotay. Chakotay, wake up." Kathryn shook him. She knew he would have and answer for her, but she couldn't fight the panic growing deep within her. "Chakotay!" She shook harder until his eyes fluttered open.
"Hi, must have fallen..." He sat up and ran his hand across his face.
"Chakotay, where is Katie?!"
"Where - is - Katie?" She concern deepened with his confusion.
"Isn't she with you?" His eyes were wide with near panic. "Kathryn, she said she was going with you."
"She said??!!" Kathryn stared at him in horror. "Chakotay, she's 18 months old. She says about three words. What the hell are you talking about?"
"She said -- Spirits, Kathryn!" He jumped off the couch "Computer,....."
"I did that." They stared at one another while they fought to conquer their fear and regain rational thought.
"Janeway to Katie Janeway." It was a long shot but maybe she would get a response from Katie’s comm. badge. "Captain Janeway to Katie Janeway." Kathryn repeated her plea while Chakotay contacted the bridge to see if they could locate Katie’s badge on the surface.
"Hello?" A female voice came through the link.
"Hello." Kathryn grabbed Chakotay for support. "Who are you?"
"I am sorry. I am known as Leigha. To whom am I speaking?"
"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. Why do you have my daughter’s comm. badge?"
"Your daughter? I am sorry, Captain, but I found this device on the floor under the table. I didn't even notice it until you started to speak."
"Are you on the planet?"
"Yes, Captain I own this small eating establishment and I was just closing up for the night when I heard you."
"Katie isn't with you?"
"There is no one here but me. I am sorry, Captain."
“Have you seen a small girl, dark curly hair, big blue eyes? She was wearing a blue dress..”
“Earlier today, there was a child as you describe. She was here with a tall dark man, markings on his face and a red haired woman; many others came and went with them.”
“Yes, her father and I had lunch with her today. It must have been at your establishment.”
“I am sorry but I have not seen her since.”
“Thank you for your help. My husband has contacted the authorities. If you think of anything else please let them know.”
“I will do that, Captain.”
“Thank you. Janeway out.”
Kathryn used all her willpower to remain calm. Chakotay was speaking to the governor from the living area terminal. The door chimed and she answered it finding B’Elanna and Tom anxiously waiting there.
“Chak, called us. Any news?” B’Elanna rushed in to hug her.
“Chakotay is talking to the governor now. Katie’s comm. badge was left in the restaurant. I just spoke with the owner and she knows nothing.”
“How did this happen?” Tom shook his head, unable to comprehend the situation.
“Tom.” B’Elanna grabbed his arm and dragged him into the room.
“We each thought the other had her.” Kathryn followed them quietly answering as calmly as she could.
“It’s my fault.” Chakotay finished his transmission and joined them. “She told me she was going with Mama and I never thought to question it. It was stupid, but..”
“Chakotay, don’t.” Kathryn wrapped her arms around his waist. “Neither of us double checked and blaming ourselves won’t help.” She rested her head on his chest.
“She’s right.” B’Elanna paced the room. “So where are we and where do we go from here?”
“The governor has issued a bulletin notifying all proper authorities. We are running continuous scans but there are 147 million people on that planet and they are all very close to human it will be hard to pick her out. Tuvok has organized search teams and they are already on the surface.”
“Are you going down there?” Tom passed around the various warm beverages he had replicated for them.
“The governor thinks it would be best if we remain here, at least for the time being, and he assures me they are a gentle people and no one would hurt a child.” Chakotay led Kathryn to a seat on the couch.
“He’s probably afraid to have hysterical parents on his hands.” Kathryn sipped her coffee.
“You’re far from hysterical.” B’Elanna offered.
“It wouldn’t take much.” Kathryn swallowed trying to force back the tears. “She’s just a baby and she has been out there alone for eight hours now.”
Chakotay put his arm around her and she let herself sink into him.
“Tuvok to Janeway”
“Captain, we are being hailed from the surface and they are requesting to speak directly to you.”
“Ransom?” Chakotay whispered to her.
“I don’t know.” She took a deep breath. “Tuvok I want that signal traced and the message recorded. Put it through to my quarters.”
They stood together and moved to the console. Kathryn took the seat in front of it, Chakotay stood behind her and Tom and B’Elanna stood on the other side of the desk. Kathryn turned on the screen.
“I’m Captain Janeway and you are?” She forced herself to remain calm as she studied the smiling face of the young man in uniform on the screen.
“I’m Lieutenant Ebrisens of planetary security. I am looking for Captamama of the good ship Vger. Would that be you?”
“You’ve met my daughter?” Kathryn could barely talk.
“Yes, ma’am, she is right here with me and she is fine. Actually, we spent most of the day together.” He turned and signaled some one they couldn’t see. “Please bring our guest here.”
Katie appeared behind the Lieutenant, her face lighting up when she saw her parents on the screen.
“Mama, Da.” She reached out to touch their images.
“Katie..” It was all Kathryn could manage before she broke down.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Chakotay managed to say his own eyes fixed on Katie.
“We are sorry it took so long. She’s not very talkative. When I asked her to tell me her mother’s name she kept saying Captamama, and when we asked where she lived she said Vger. She doesn’t say much else and it didn’t make any sense to us until the bulletin came out.”
“Lieutenant, I’m Tom Paris.” Tom stepped into view past the mute parents who were staring at their daughter. “If you will give us your location, we will be glad to retrieve our little adventurer.”
“I will transmit the coordinates now, Mr. Paris.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. We will see you shortly.
“Chak.” Tom stepped back tapping Chakotay “Tell her you will be right there to get her and let’s go.”
“Katie, honey, Mama and I are coming to get you.” He put his hand on Kathryn’s shoulder.
“Katie, we have to turn off the monitor now.” Kathryn touched Katie’s image. “We will be there in a few minutes. Be a good girl.”
They brought Katie home and tucked her safely into her own bed. Grateful but exhausted parents retired to their own room making an attempt at rest after the stressful evening. Kathryn’s head rested on his chest and she must have drifted off to sleep at some point because she woke up to find herself alone. It wasn’t hard to figure out where Chakotay was.
Kathryn tiptoed into Katie’s room, watching them silently for a few minutes. The big man and the tiny girl were curled together in the little bed. His neck would be stiff in the morning from sleeping in such a position, but she didn’t think he would mind. She wiped away a tear as she pulled the blanket over them and closed the door on her way out.
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