Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Trek & Dickens owns 'A Christmas Carol', but this ghost is all mine.
Summary: Kathryn is visited by an inept but enthusiastic ghost, who decides to do her a good turn.
He was a spindly man of slightly above average height. His nose was slim and beaked, and his bristly eyebrows looked as though they might leap off of his forehead at the slightest provocation. Despite these features he was an average looking man. As average, that is, as a shimmering see-through man can be.
It was one a.m. when Kathryn first saw him. At first she wasn't even sure she was seeing him - it was so late at night and she'd drunk so much coffee that evening. Perhaps he was just an hallucination, the kind her mind invented to keep itself amused when she'd mistreated it. Or so she told herself as the iridescent man materialized in the middle of her quarters. She stared at the apparition, nonplussed, as he folded his arms smugly across his chest.
The specter opened his cavernous mouth to speak but nothing emerged. With a mildly annoyed look, he cleared his throat and tried again.
"Damn", he muttered, in an unmistakably English accent.
Two seconds later he disappeared with a queer popping sound. Kathryn shook her head sharply and leaned over to snatch up her empty coffee mug. She sniffed quickly. Nope. No alcohol in there. She hadn't thought so.
Her first impulse was to call Security, but prudence prevailed. They had enough trouble detaining criminals already aboard, she dreaded to think how they'd handle a mysteriously intermittent visitor. Her second impulse was to call Chakotay. She discounted that too. Her first officer had been acting quite peculiarly lately. She didn't know how he would react to her strange summons in the middle of the night. Perhaps it was just the coffee. Or perhaps it was Q. She shook her head again at the thought, and sighed dismissively.
The second time she saw him it was six past one. Attributing the vision to tiredness, she'd headed into her bedroom and had just finished tugging her favourite silky nightgown over her head when the apparition reappeared. This time he stood in the doorway.
"Ye gods, you scared me", she muttered, smoothing down her hair.
At that the apparition beamed.
"Hurrah!" he said cheerfully, "I was rather trying to. Bit of a balls up the first time round though."
Kathryn blinked at the figure, noting that as well as being translucent and English, he was also clad in a mustard coloured Starfleet uniform.
"Who are you?" she demanded, hands on hips. "And what are you doing on my ship?" She peered closer at his neck, noting the number of uniform pips. "Lieutenant... ?"
"Conlan", the quaint looking man replied automatically in his clipped and proper accent, then straightened himself.
"I mean I'm the ghost of Lieutenant Conlan. I was killed aboard Voyager while it was being constructed. I'm here to..." - he trailed off slightly, like an actor forgetting his lines, before he rallied - "err... to wreak havoc on the fragile psyches of your crew, I think. Yes that's right," he finished, with a feeble attempt at gusto.
Kathryn eyed the reed thin ghost carefully, weighing up her next words. He didn't look particularly frightening at all, opacity aside. In fact the scrawny figure seemed somewhat apprehensive himself. There had been no reports of paranormal phenomena aboard the ship recently. There were no unexplained mysteries of any kind at the moment, apart from the usual - the bizarre popularity of Neelix's Norsican Stew, for one. If this ghost had been trying to cause mischief he hadn't done a very good job of it. (Unless of course he was responsible for the stew, in which case he should be thanked, not chastised.) As she glared at him, the apparition started to fidget nervously.
"Don't take this the wrong way", Kathryn said eventually, "but if you've been haunting this ship since your death, why haven't any of us seen you before?"
The ghost looked genuinely surprised by the question. "I don't know", he responded. "I've been around. Maybe there's some problem with your Continuity Device."
Kathryn peered at him curiously. "Our what?"
"Your Continuity Device. The instrument that monitors goings-on aboard Starfleet ships and tries to insure you aren't plagued by problems with Plot Contradictions and Sudden Character Incongruity."
Kathryn shook her head helplessly. "I've never heard of those things."
"No?" the ghost shrugged. "Haven't you noticed anyone behaving oddly at all?"
Kathryn snorted at that. "Of course. My first officer for one. The other day he came into my ready room and said..." She broke off, blushing furiously. "Never mind."
The ghost raised one colossal eyebrow. "Maybe it's broken. Strange behaviour could be an early symptom."
"How were you killed?" Kathryn asked suddenly, none too subtly trying to change the subject.
A faint glow appeared on the apparition's face, making him appear even less alarming. "I'd rather not say", he muttered. He glanced around the room, as if considering how to proceed.
"Well", he said lamely.
"Well?" Kathryn echoed blankly. "Well what?"
The spirit's bottom lip began to quiver.
"I don't know," he confessed, his earlier bombast now completely spent. "I thought that bursting in on you late at night might scare you. I hadn't really thought about what to do once I got here."
Kathryn shrugged. "I don't know either. I'm hard to scare. Seven years in the Delta Quadrant, you know. Even the Borg don't bug me nowadays."
The ghost actually looked as though he might cry.
"Maybe you could check the ship's database", she suggested helpfully. "I'm sure there are some ghost stories in there. You could pick up a few tips about how to terrify people."
The ghost perked up a little. "I suppose I could do that."
Kathryn held a hand over her face to stifle a yawn. "Sorry", she said. "It's been a long day."
The ghost thought for a moment. "Why don't you have nap while I'm off reading?" he suggested.
Kathryn eyed him carefully. The ghost didn't seem to be too malevolent, so why not let him carry on? As if confirming her appraisal, the spirit vanished at once with an inane grin. She alerted Security to his presence, just to be on the safe side, then clambered into bed.
As she dozed off she wondered tiredly if there were any other ghosts of dead crewmembers running amok around the ship. The thought of Seska poking her spectral fingers into the warp core caused a shiver to scamper up her spine. The harder she tried to think about it, the less she seemed able to concentrate on the faces of those they had lost.
"Maybe there weren't any others", she concluded with a sigh. "In the morning I can check the Continuity Whatsit". And with that thought she fell into a deep and untroubled sleep.
"It all sounds very peculiar", Chakotay observed.
Kathryn nodded her agreement. "It was quite surreal. But then, when are things aboard Voyager *not* odd?" she asked rhetorically. The question seemed to stir something within her, an elusive memory of some previous conversation, but her mind couldn't quite grasp it. She sighed instead, and gulped down the last of her drink.
"Do you think he's dangerous?" Chakotay asked.
She snorted derisively. "I don't think so. I've seen scarier holo-novels during children's matinee hour. Besides, I looked him up on the computer database and the record says he did die aboard Voyager, so he was telling the truth there. And," she went on, waggling her fingers for emphasis, "he died because he tripped and fell into the warp core. He was vaporized." She stifled a giggle with some effort. "That does hint that he's hardly public enemy number one."
Chakotay edged further along the couch towards her. "Kathryn", he said, his eyes gleaming whimsically, "do you think I'm dangerous?"
She stared at him, startled by the question. "What on earth makes you ask that?"
Chakotay sniffed and sipped at his tea. "I don't know", he mumbled. "I just get this feeling every now and then that I've been..." he fished for the right word while Kathryn eyed him curiously. "Domesticated", he concluded.
"Oh Chakotay", Kathryn said, shaking her head fondly. "You're not a dog."
Chakotay blinked at her. "I never said I was."
She patted his knee absent mindedly. "Besides," she went on, "even though you had your colourful past, it's not as though *you're* turning up in my bedroom in the wee hours of the night while I'm wearing only my silky peach coloured nightgown."
"Umm", Chakotay said.
"I'll just wait and see what happens tonight, that's all", Kathryn concluded.
Her thoughts were so bent in this direction that she failed to notice the decidedly erotic gleam in her first officer's eyes.
"Tonight", he echoed, laying plans of his own.
"Ahoy!" the ghost bellowed, as he coalesced in front of Janeway's couch that evening.
She glanced up from the padd she was reading with a small smile.
"Hello", she said. "Nice costume."
The ghost looked down at his torso, admiring the artfully torn clothing, mottled blood stains and adroitly wound chains.
"I thought so", he agreed. "I can clink now." To demonstrate, he picked up two ends of the chains between his slim fingers and rattled them exuberantly.
Kathryn smiled politely. "Good research?" she asked.
"Oh yes", Conlan's shade replied. "I've had a ball. But I've decided to change tactics."
"Well", the ghost said, sinking with a clatter next to her on the sofa, "you may have noticed that I'm not so much chop with all this haunting business."
"Mmm", Kathryn said noncommittally.
"And one of the most popular Earth stories in your database wasn't about a horrifying ghost at all. It was about a good ghost."
"Casper?" she guessed.
"Who?" he frowned.
"Actually they're good ghosts, plural", the specter went on, warming to his subject. "Have you ever read 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens?"
"Of course", said Kathryn, who wasn't entirely sure that she had but didn't want to admit it. "It's a classic."
"Quite. Anyway, I've decided to emulate the four ghosts from that tale instead."
"I see." Kathryn wondered if she could ask how without betraying her ignorance.
"Now", said the ghost, leaping off the couch, "first of all you're supposed to be frightened of me when I appear."
"But aren't you supposed to be a good ghost?"
"I am indeed. But you don't know that. You're startled enough to see me, never mind the itty bitty details. We won't follow the book exactly, just the theme of it." As Kathryn began to sigh in relief, he produced a padd and thrust it into her hand. "Here. I simply adore this bit, so we'll start with that."
Kathryn began skimming through the text on the padd.
"No no, read it aloud", the ghost insisted.
She glanced up at him, noting the enthusiastic set to his features, and decided to play along. If nothing else, she could test the limits of his powers.
"Alright", she agreed, then cleared her throat. "Mercy!" she read, "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me? Why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?"
The shade beamed. "Oh that's good."
"Now me." He tried to look stern. "It is required of every man, that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death."
His voice boomed as he spoke, and Kathryn winced, remembering that Voyager's walls were quite thin. What would Chakotay think if he could hear this little soliloquy?
"I cannot tell you all I would", he read on, holding up a bony hand, "A very little more is permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere." The ghost shook his head sadly. "My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house" (here he beat his chest melodramatically) "mark me!" (more beating) "in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!"
Kathryn began to clap, but the ghost protested.
"I'm not done yet."
"Couldn't we hurry it on a little?" she said. "I have things to do."
"Oh". For a moment the ghost looked crestfallen, then he beamed.
"We'll leave the script then. On to stage one," he said enigmatically. With a broad wink he disappeared.
Kathryn sighed, rubbing her eyes tiredly. "Why do I get the feeling this is going to be a long night?" she asked the empty air.
Hardly five minutes passed before the ghost reappeared. He still wore his grubby clothes and chains but had added an elaborately tied burgundy cravat and a velvet top hat to his costume.
"Should I ask..." Kathryn began, gesturing at the accessories.
"It's ye oldie worldy", the ghost explained cheerfully. "I'm the Ghost of Voyager Past."
"I see. And you're here to... "
"Take you to visit the past. Just like in the book."
"Uh huh". That clinched it, she definitely had not read it. She frowned in annoyance, and made a mental note not to pretend to be familiar with any of the classics in the future.
The ghost rubbed his fingers down his beaked nose and held out his hand.
"Come on then", he said impatiently. "History awaits."
She'd forgotten how lovely Sandrine's looked on a busy night, when the crew's laughter echoed through the room. Any protocol about interfering with the past didn't apply here, the ghost informed her, as they materialized in the middle of the pool table.
"They can't see us because we're not really here", he explained. Tom Paris' next shot sent the white ball whizzing through Kathryn's left boot, a feat that convinced her more than his words.
Conlan's shade leapt down off the table with an agility that belied his gangliness, then reached out a hand to help Kathryn clamber down.
"What am I supposed to do here?"
"You're not supposed to do anything. Just look around and remember."
"Remember what?" she was about to ask, but the words died on her lips as her eyes fell on...
"Kes", she breathed.
The young Ocampan woman was sitting at a table with Harry Kim. She was talking to him earnestly, gesticulating all the while. He leaned towards her as she spoke, listening carefully and smiling.
As Kathryn drifted slowly towards their table, her eyes swept over the rest of the room. On the other side of the pool table, B'Elanna and Tom were engaged in a heated argument.
"You're such a pig", she heard, over the murmur of voices.
She smiled involuntarily. Good old B'Elanna. Behind her, the shade - who was settled on the edge of the table - was waving his arms in the air, trying to attract her attention.
"Look over there", he called out, pointing at the bar. "Someone you know?"
Kathryn followed his line of sight and saw herself perched on a stool, a half drunk glass of beer in front of her. Next to her sat her first officer, who was watching her intently as she drew circles on the condensation. They were both talking softly, obviously lost in their discussion. She frowned, trying to recall the occasion.
"I don't remember this", she said to herself.
"You wouldn't". She jumped, as the shade had suddenly materialized at her elbow.
"What do you mean, I wouldn't? I was obviously here."
"You used to spend much more time with the crew back then." The ghost shrugged casually, although he was watching her face closely. "They all blurred together, no doubt. Why should this night have been any more special?"
Kathryn felt irritated by something in his tone. "If you're suggesting I didn't appreciate these times..."
The ghost held his hands up. "I'm not suggesting anything."
He disappeared again, then appeared meters away, sitting on the bar with his legs dangling next to the command officers.
Kathryn felt herself drawn towards them. She glanced at her younger self. Two years into their journey, she estimated, judging by the way her hair was still piled atop her head. She winced, remembering all those damn pins. She moved closer still, curious about the content of their obviously intense conversation.
"I thought", Chakotay was saying, "we should get some suggestions from the crew first. Let them decide which sports they'd like included. We can always trim the list down if there are too many."
"I agree", her younger self concurred. "There might be lack of interest for other reasons too. No one wanting to punch the first officer, for example."
Chakotay looked her up and down. "I guess I could always teach you to box."
Her younger self rolled her eyes. "Too many people wanting to punch the Captain then, in that case."
Kathryn blinked in surprise as they chuckled. Sports? They were talking about the first Voyager sports carnival. She remembered it now. It had been Tom's idea - to organize a ship wide competition, and to try and encourage as many of the crew as possible to take part. She herself had demurred from competing in any of the individual events, but had partnered Chakotay in the velocity competition. They'd won too, in the end.
"We're talking about sport", she said to the shade.
"I know", he grinned, swinging his lanky legs in amusement.
"You brought me here to listen to me talk about sport?"
"Are you sure?"
"Am I sure what?" she glared at him.
The ghost's face suddenly turned serious. "Are you listening properly?" he asked, his eyes intent. "Can you hear everything that's being said?"
Kathryn watched her younger self chuckle at a joke and let her hand rest for a moment on top of Chakotay's. She saw the way the creases around his eyes deepened as he laughed with her. She saw how oblivious they both seemed to the bustle around them. She saw the way her first officer continued to watch her when she wasn't looking. She saw how she did exactly the same.
"I think I've seen enough", she said suddenly, feeling her stomach start to churn.
Conlan's shade eyed her in apparent amusement for a moment longer.
"Alright," he said.
"I mean," she went on, "it isn't as if I actually did anything wrong here. Or later on for that matter. I have nothing to feel guilty about."
"No," he agreed. "Technically not."
She shot him a nasty look. "It's not as though I tripped and fell into the warp core, or anything."
The ghost looked taken aback. "Who told you that?"
"I looked it up."
"Oh." He chewed his lip, abashed.
"Can we go now?"
The next thing Kathryn saw was the wall of her quarters. She was standing alone next to her couch. She sank down blindly into it, grabbing for a cushion and wrapping her arms tightly around it.
"This could all just be a bad dream", she muttered to herself. As she sank back against the familiar cold material she knew it was anything but. The chastising memories of a young woman's kind face and her first officer's warm smile told her otherwise.
Kathryn barely had time to sulk properly before the ghost reappeared. He had abandoned his previous costume in favour of his old engineering uniform. For decoration's sake he had kept the cravat, now tied in a floppy bow at his neck.
"The chains were getting a bit heavy", he admitted, by way of explanation.
With a bitter taste still in her mouth, Kathryn could feel her tolerance for the ghost's presence gradually ebbing away.
"Another trip?" she asked, with barely disguised lack of enthusiasm.
"Now I'm the Ghost of Voyager Present," he explained.
"Weren't you already?"
"Well... yes... but that's what it's called in the book."
"I see", she said again.
The ghost held out a bony finger. "And no more cracks about falling into warp cores."
"My my," she said, feeling a little better, "aren't we sensitive."
"You would too if you'd been fried in warp plasma", he said.
"Probably", she admitted. "Where are we going this time?"
A wide grin split across the shade's face. "Easy peasy", he said. "Next door."
Kathryn opened her mouth to argue, to no avail. Before she could utter a sound her room dematerialized and Chakotay's appeared. Both she and the ghost were standing in his living quarters. Chakotay himself slouched in one of his armchairs, playing absent mindedly with a padd.
"Don't worry", the ghost said. "He can't hear us either."
"What am I doing here?"
The ghost grinned impudently. "Are you trying to tell me you've never wanted to know exactly what was happening on the other side of the wall when you're not there?"
"No", she lied. "I mean, yes, I am telling you that."
Kathryn tried to avoid looking at Chakotay and glared at the specter instead.
"Why are you so interested in what goes on between me and my first officer? It's hardly gripping stuff, is it?"
It was the ghost's turn to look surprised. He flapped his mouth soundlessly for a moment, then sank onto the couch next to the oblivious Chakotay, who was now typing a few corrections into the padd.
"I told you," he said eventually, "that I've been rattling around this ship since my death. I've seen everything that goes on here."
"And?" Kathryn prompted.
"And everything that hasn't gone on. You two," he gesticulated at the Commander then back at her, "have produced the most scrumptious saga. Though at times", he admitted, "I did want to interfere just to bellow at you to get on with things."
"What things?" she asked, deliberately obtuse.
"Want to know what he's doing now?"
"I can see what he's doing now. He's reading."
"I don't know. A novel or something."
Conlan's ghost shook his head. "Wrong. It's a letter."
"To who?" she asked, curious despite herself.
"To you of course."
"Indeed it is."
"Why? I'm next door. Why not just come knock on my door and talk to me?"
The ghost rolled his eyes. "You just don't get it, do you?"
The ghost sighed. "Maybe you should come over and read it."
"Maybe it's private."
"It's addressed to you, woman!"
"Then I'll read it later when he sends it."
"No you won't", the ghost spluttered in exasperation. "Honestly, Kathryn Janeway... I'm supposed to show you these things - that's how they do it in the Dickensian world - not just tell you."
Kathryn pulled a face. "So forget Dickens for a moment. Tell me."
"Because he won't send it, that's why. The damned fool."
"Then why is he writing it?"
"Because that's what he does every now and then", the shade said, looking ready to explode. "He sits down and composes letters to you which say all the things he wants to say but can't, or won't, for whatever pent-up repressed reason is fashionable that week."
"Oh". Kathryn was lost for words. Now she did look over at Chakotay, who was rereading his letter. She let her eyes roam over his face, and saw the depth of emotion etched there, still, after all these years.
I haven't been listening properly, she thought, not lately.
"Well", said the shade impatiently.
He jerked towards the padd with his head. "Aren't you going to come over here and read it?"
Kathryn sat down slowly on an opposite chair. "No," she said. "I don't think so."
"I don't want to."
"I find that hard to believe."
"Alright", she said, "because he doesn't want me to."
"How do you know that?"
"Because otherwise he'd send them."
Conlan's ghost made a pained face. "Not necessarily. Maybe he", he said, poking Chakotay's upper arm with a bony finger, "thinks you don't want to receive it."
Kathryn fell silent, thinking. "There is that, I suppose," she admitted.
The ghost peered over at the padd, then back at her. "I could read it to you," he offered.
"It's really quite good."
"I'm sure it is."
The shade sighed. "I remember why this has been so frustrating now. You and your stubbornness."
She raised an eyebrow at the ghost. "Do you think it's that simple?"
"No," he allowed, "but you do make it more complicated." He swore to himself softly. "You and the damn Continuity Device. Or lack thereof."
She looked at him in confusion, having completely forgotten that part of last night's conversation.
"Never mind", he muttered. "Let's just say you don't finish everything that you start on this ship. And it's a damn shame."
Kathryn continued to watch Chakotay for a few more minutes, her thoughts meandering through well worn pathways.
"Why are you here?" she asked suddenly.
"I'm the Ghost of Voyager Present," he said.
"But you didn't decide to ape Dickens until I told you to go and read some ghost stories."
The shade shrugged. "Then I suppose I'm here because I'm just not terrifying enough to be off haunting properly. I think we did establish that last night after my less than spectacular effort."
Kathryn peered at him closely. "Then why did you decide to come and scare me last night? You said you've been on the ship for years."
"I have. I just haven't appeared to you before."
"Then why now?"
The ghost shifted uncomfortably.
"Do you know", he said, "that when you first fall into a warp core you feel your skin go all tingly. Then there's nothing. No pain at all."
Kathryn narrowed her eyes. "You're changing the subject."
"We should get going I suppose, if you won't read the letter."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"We still have to visit the future." He waggled his ample eyebrows. "Wait until you see the costume I've got planned".
"What happens at the end of the story?" she asked, forgetting she'd pretended to know. "In 'A Christmas Carol'?"
The ghost shrugged. "Scrooge changes his ways. The things he sees in the past, present and future change his ideas about how he should live his life. Even though he's an old man, it isn't too late. He changes."
"Why do you care if I change?" she asked pointedly.
"I'm a humanitarian," the ghost said lamely.
Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Oh please."
"Alright, I'm a romantic then."
Kathryn glared at him.
"I'm an engineer", he said. "I like to fix things." A sudden thought seemed to strike him then, and his eyes gleamed with delight.
"Can we go back now?"
"Don't you want to go and see the future?" he asked hopefully.
"Not particularly", she said.
"Oh." The ghost sighed. "Well, I did my best."
Chakotay's quarters vanished and Kathryn found herself back in her own rooms. This time she looked around her for the ghost.
"You didn't answer my question", she accused the empty room. Not surprisingly, it didn't reply.
She lasted five minutes. All of five minutes. And even that felt quite restrained. She sat fidgeting on the couch for the first two, wondering how much of what had happened earlier had been real. Had she fallen asleep? Was she still asleep now? She didn't think so, but pinched herself just in case. It hurt.
Then she paced around the room for a good two minutes. Was the ghost really who he said he was? Was he Q, having a joke at her expense? Or some other alien life form? But why?
After four minutes she moved her pacing out into the corridor, telling herself she was just stretching her legs. By the five minute mark she was standing in front of his door. And there it was, taped to the outside of the door. A small, folded up handwritten note, with "KJ" scrawled on the front.
Was this from Conlan? If so, why? Wasn't it a leap of faith on his part that she would go there straight away, before any one else noticed the note? She shook her head. Not really, she supposed, given what he had just shown her.
She pulled it off without reflecting further and pried open the folds. Scribbled in terrible handwriting was the following message:
NO PLACE FOR ROMANTICS ON THIS CRUISE, EH? DON'T WORRY, I'M MOVING ON. I'VE LEFT YOU A PRESENT. WANT TO GUESS? NO? I'VE FIXED YOUR CONTINUITY DEVICE. NO EXCUSE NOW NOT TO FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED. HAVE FUN!
Kathryn laughed, although she wasn't completely sure what the message meant. She guessed she would find out sooner or later. Then she reached out with firm fingers and pressed the chime on Chakotay's door.
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