Read Mosaic Online

Authors: Jeri Taylor

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction

Mosaic (41 page)

things . . ."

She looked up at him, eyes troubled. "You're right. And I

certainly heard the message the humanoid left. But I don't

know about accessing a program-that's pretty specific. I

wouldn't know how to start." "Maybe you could focus on the

humanoid projection. It could be more of an interactive

program than it first appeared-you might be able to get him

to reappear. At least it's a beginning."

She nodded, and wentto the panel that seemed to 307

contain the controls. Harry saw her close her eyes and

concentrate, frowning slightly with the effort.

Minutes passed as Harry and Tuvok watched and waited,

accompanied by the sonorous breathing of the sleeping crew.

Occasionally, a flicker of something would seem to cross

Kes' face, and the two men would become alert, watching for

some indication that she was achieving success, but each

time her features relaxed again into her pose of

concentration.

Finally, she opened her eyes and shook her head.

"It's no use. I've tried every technique I know. When I

wasn't trying, I seemed to get all these sensations, but I

can't get them back now."

No sooner had those words left her lips than the

holographic humanoid shimmered back into view, wings

beating gently as before. Startled, Kes turned to him and

refocused her concentration. Harry and Tuvok watched as she

stood silently for a moment, listening, and then the

hologram disappeared once more.

Kes turned to them.

"We have to leave," she said. "I don't exactly understand

what's happening, but apparently the reawakening isn't

supposed to happen now."

"What does that mean?" wondered Harry, but Kes simply

shook her head. "The message isn't exactly forthcoming with

explanations. But we're invited back in the future-whenever

the reawakening does occur."

"No, thanks," said Harry immediately, but at that moment

something else drew their attention.

The door had reappeared in the wall, open and beckoning.

Tuvok moved toward it, phaser drawn, hand held up to warn

the others to stay back.

He approached the door and lifted his wrist beacon, pressed

the control, and saw the beam penetrate the darkness of the

stairwell outside. He saw nothing. He took a few cautious

steps into the 308

stairwell and played the light up the stairs.

Still, nothing. He looked back at the crew.

"Follow me. Keep your weapons at the ready and stay tightly

grouped."

And in this fashion they proceeded back up the stairs,

scanning constantly, mounting step after step, forgetting

how far they had originally descended and marveling that

they seemed to climb upward forever. The air in the

stairwell was pleasantly cool and fresh, a relief after the

stuffy confines of the chamber.

Eventually they reached the level of the corridors, and

Tuvok began leading them according to the path markers

stored in his tricorder, winding this way and that,

retracing the path they had taken while searching for Harry

and Kes.

They'd been walking like that for ten minutes when Tuvok

heard a distant noise. He held his hand for silence, then

ordered., "Shut off your beacons."

Thirty lights snapped out, leaving them once more encased

in the blackest darkness. And like that they waited in

apprehension as a faint but ominous whirring sound drew

closer and closer. Harry felt his breathing deepen and his

hands grow clammy: What was that sound?

Some new and horrible menace to threaten their lives?

It was an awful sensation to stand perfectly still in a

darkness so complete not one glimmer of light penetrated

it, not one feature of the person immediately ahead

visible, and to listen to the approaching sound of an

unknown threat.

He could hear the breathing of the entire team, frozen in

their places, tensing, ready for anything. The sound grew

louder and louder, until he knew whatever it was must be

almost upon them. The next sensation any of them had was of

waves of pulsing air brushing by them, soft flutterings as

something swept past on either side of them, whirring

loudly, but paying no attention whatsoever to the crew

which stood, rooted, in their path.

Streams of beings skimmed around 309 JERI TAYLOR

them, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, an endless

current swarming through the labyrinthine passageways of

this underground sanctuary. The crew stood like that,

immobilized, for the strangest half hour any of them had

ever spent, uncertain as to what exactly was happening,

surmising that they were being skirted like water around a

rock by the Tokath-the same creatures who had attacked when

they emerged from the walls-and wondering if it was only a

matter of time before one or more of the beings decided to

renew the assault and turn this section of the corridor

into bloodsoaked carnage. But the Tokath seemed

uninterested in the humanoids who stood in their habitat.

They continued their headlong rush down the passageway as

the crew demonstrated its remarkable self-discipline by

standing absolutely still, silent and unflinching.

Eventually, the headlong flight came to an end, and the

last of the whirring creatures swam around them. Only then

did Tuvok cautiously turn on his beacon and begin to lead

his team out of the maze, watching in amazement as the

creatures settled themselves into the gelatinous walls like

eggs encased in aspic, then seeing the gelatin begin to

coalesce, and harden, until by the time they reached the

original staging area the walls were as hard and stonelike

as they had formerly appeared. The ramps that led to the

surface were down, and a dim light filtered in, revealing a

carpet of dead Tokath. A quick scan revealed no Kazon life

signs above, and Tuvok led the group, running now, toward

the surface and out of the dank underground which had been

their prison for so many hours.

Neelix turned to Tuvok. "You've done an excellent job, Mr.

Vulcan. And there's a little token of my appreciation

waiting for you on Voyager right now." And

Neelix could almost taste the nocha cake at that moment.

When they emerged, dusk had fallen, signaling an end to

this extraordinary day. The growing darkness muted only

slightly a horrible scene: there were dead Kazon

everywhere, mutilated and eviscerated. Flies and insects

had already begun the inevitable process of gleaning them,

and the dreadful stench of death filled the air. But the

crew barely had time to react before they began, one by

one, to dematerialize.

When Chakotay and Rollins reported simultaneously that

they had detected the crew's life signs on the surface,

Janeway immediately ordered them transported to the ship.

She didn't want to take any more chances, didn't want to

take the time for them to launch the shuttles and ascend to

Voyager; both crew and shuttles could be beamed aboard

easily enough. And when the transporter chief reported that

all hands were safely on board, Janeway felt a moment of

giddy relief. The crisis was over. "Mr. Paris, resume

course for the Alpha Quadrant," she said, and noted that

her voice sounded hollow in her ears. She rose, heading for

the Turbolift to meet the away team in sickbay, when she

noticed everyone on the bridge was staring at her.

Uncertain, she stopped, looking from one crewman to the

other. Chakotay's dark eyes peered at her intently, and for

a brief moment she wondered if she appeared ill. were they

concerned about her? Was she showing the strain and fatigue

this ordeal had produced? But they were thinking something

very different.

Chakotay rose to his feet, lifted his hands and began,

softly and slowly, to clap them.

She found herself puzzled by this action, then looked

toward Tom Paris as he followed the lead, stood, and began

to applaud. Then the entire bridge

crew joined in, honoring her in the age-old fashion,

signaling their respect, admiration, and gratitude for the

captain who had once again brought them all through danger

and into safe harbor. As she realized what they were doing,

her eyes began to sting.

She deserved no applause for simply being what she was. All

she had done was to carve one more pattern in the mosaic of

her identity, that constantly unfolding design which had

been growing, square by square, since she was a baby, and

which was becoming more intricate with each passing year.

The design was not of her own choosing; it was etched by

the circumstances of life, which she could not control, and

by her relationships with others. Her mosaic was multi-hued, many-textured, and infinitely complex. Swirled in its

design were the people she had loved and those she had

disliked, events that traumatized and those that pacified,

experiences that had challenged her limits and those that

had rewarded her unconquerable spirit. The mosaic would

continue to grow, its unfolding an infinite mystery,

blending sorrow and ecstasy, dappling the pathway of her

life with sunlight and shadow until, in the final moment,

the design was complete. With the applause of the bridge

officers still ringing in her ears, Kathryn Janeway went to

welcome back the crew whose lives she had saved.

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