Note** Past incidents of Janeway’s life were based on Jeri Taylor’s book ‘Mosaic’.
Fighting the Darkness
S. Y. Thompson
Hot brown liquid shot painfully out of her nose to spray the front of her companion before Kathryn Janeway could raise a hand to belatedly cover her face. Seven of Nine seemed to barely register the coffee that spread across the front of her plum colored bio-suit as she turned her head to see what had the captain so amused.
They had been sitting at their favorite table in the mess hall attempting to eat Neelix’s latest concoction. The burgundy mound hadn’t seemed quite dead as it wriggled insistently on the plate. Tom Paris had opted for blowing a few replicator rations instead which led to the scene that had Janeway and the rest of the crew present laughing until they were holding their sides in pain.
The young man had requested his dinner but instead of it materializing sedately on a plate, the replicator had spewed it all over him. Covered in mashed potatoes, corn, meatloaf, and with gravy dripping off his chin he could only stand and stare at the malevolent technology with his arms raised in indignation.
The first to recover and come to the pilot’s aid with a towel, although still chuckling, Neelix had managed to ask, "Tom, are you all right?"
Suddenly realizing that he had quite an audience that was having a good laugh at his expense, he replied sharply, "Yeah…just great." Grabbing the towel he roughly wiped at his face before asking, "What’s wrong with this thing?"
With Neelix promising to have the replicator looked at, most of the crew had gone back to their dinners, the incident all but forgotten. Seven had turned to look at Janeway questioningly, and Kathryn quickly readied herself for the endless barrage of questions that would undoubtedly ensue.
"Captain, I fail to understand why having Mr. Paris’ dinner deposited in his face has elicited such a humorous response."
Kathryn thought she had her mirth under control but Seven’s words recreated the event in her mind, and she snorted again before she could contain herself. Confusion reigned in Seven’s gaze, and Kathryn managed to gain control of her emotions. "Sorry," she had said raising a hand, but her eyes still sparkled suspiciously.
"How can you find this amusing?" Seven pressed curiously. Human emotions were certainly confusing at the best of times.
Searching for the words to explain, Kathryn could only say, "To be honest, I think it’s the sheer unexpectedness of what happened. It’s reminiscent of an ancient form of Earth humor called slapstick." When that statement failed to generate comprehension in her companion’s eyes, she tried again. "Seven, people laugh at that kind of thing because they can see it happening to them. It’s a way of depersonalizing the experience."
After visibly processing the information for a second or two, the former drone finally replied, "I see."
To the captain, it was clear that Seven did not see, and stymied she took a deep breath. "I guess sometimes humor just can’t be explained," Kathryn said sadly. "You either get it or you don’t."
Finally hearing something that she could agree with, Seven nodded and replied, "Indeed."
Finishing her meager dinner, the blonde had rested her fork on her plate and pinned blue-gray eyes with her own intense gaze. "I have now consumed my nutritional supplement, and must proceed to the cargo bay."
"What’s your hurry?" Kathryn asked afraid that she had somehow offended her young friend.
Seven pointedly looked down at her suit before meeting the other woman’s curious expression. "I must change," she said with a glint in her eyes. "I am…damp."
An image of coffee spraying through her nose rose again in Kathryn’s mind and a blush covered her cheeks as her companion rose to her feet and gracefully left the mess hall.
Was it her imagination, or had Seven been teasing her?
"Maybe she understands humor better than she lets on," Kathryn had mused aloud.
With a strange combination of embarrassment and pleasure at Seven’s unexpected show of humor, she had finished her solitary meal. Leaving the mess hall a short time later, Kathryn wondered momentarily if anyone had figured out what was wrong with the replicator. The thought did cross her mind that the crew had just enjoyed a leisurely shore leave on a small moon with a species known as the Impara a few weeks before, and spirits were still high. It was possible that someone was just playing a practical joke on the young man. There was no doubt in her mind that he had played enough of them on a few unsuspecting crewman to warrant someone trying to get their own back at him.
That had been ninety-six hours ago, and the incident that had begun so humorously had generated very serious consequences. Systems on board Voyager had begun shutting down, and/or malfunctioning steadily ever since. The crew scrambled madly to figure out what was affecting their systems so devastatingly, but to no avail. Finally, that moment arrived that every Starfleet Captain dreaded; that moment when the order to abandon ship had to be given.
Environmental controls had begun to fail, and with no way to halt the degradation an indoor nebula had begun to form on the lower decks. With no way to stop it, it would eventually spread throughout the rest of the ship. Tuvok had suggested leaving a skeleton crew in environmental suits to continue their efforts, but Janeway had vetoed him without second thought. She had retreated into her ready room to grapple with her demons and come to a decision that made her feel as though her soul was being torn from her body.
"Captain’s log," she said hollowly, staring at the simulated wood grain of her desk, "Stardate 51265.4. Power surges in the warp core destroyed the power grid this morning. Thankfully, there were no casualties, but the replicator system was badly damaged leaving the crew with only the emergency rations. As a result the situation has gotten a little worse. Environmental controls continue to fail. Nine decks have been rendered uninhabitable. Quarters are close, nerves are frayed, and I’m not sure what’s more difficult to maintain, crew morale, or Voyager’s systems. With that in mind, I’ve come to the only decision I can in good conscious make. I will order the crew to abandon ship."
Taking a deep shuddering breath, the courageous woman ended the long entry, and resolutely standing. Squaring her shoulders, she prepared to walk onto the bridge and give the order.
Voyager had passed an idyllic M-class planet a few days before, and she would not endanger her crew when she didn’t even know if there was a solution to the ship’s dilemma. In escape pods it would take the crew approximately a week to reach the planet. The captain had decreed that she would stay on board and continue in the repair effort. No amount of argument would sway her from her decision.
Kathryn knew she was once again attempting to over-compensate for stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant in the first place, but she refused to dwell on the matter. Standing in the glow of emergency lighting on the bridge without her jacket, shirtsleeves rolled up, and hands resting rakishly on her hips, Janeway tilted her head and steeled herself to say the words.
"Attention all hands, this is the Captain. More than half of our systems have failed, and we’ve lost nine decks. Life support is nearly gone. Voyager can no longer sustain its crew. You will proceed to the escape pods, and evacuate this vessel," she ordered in a gravelly voice. "Lay in a course for heading 116 mark 3. With any luck, Voyager will be repaired in a few days, and will rendezvous with you then when we will continue our journey home. I expect to find you all well, and with some interesting stories to tell."
Almost in disbelief the bridge crew filed through the turbolift doors. Harry and Tom seemed to hesitate slightly before moving to the rear of the command center, but Kathryn noticed that Chakotay didn’t pause for a moment. Perhaps he was looking forward to taking command of the crew, no matter from where.
"Tuvok, I know what you’re going to say," Janeway informed the stoic Vulcan. She could feel him standing steadfastly at his station without the need to turn around. "I’ve made up my mind, so don’t waste time."
"Logic would dictate that you require a second in command should you become incapacitated," he argued calmly with his hands folded behind his back.
That did make her turn around, and she cast a grateful smile his way. "Perhaps," she allowed. "But logic would also dictate that if we’re unsuccessful in repairing Voyager then we’d both be dead. The crew, however, still needs a tactical officer, especially on an unknown planet. I’m trusting you to keep them safe."
For a moment it looked as though he was going to argue, but then he simply turned away leaving Seven of Nine as the only other person on the bridge besides the captain. The young blonde walked over to stand directly in front of her superior officer. She had that stubborn set to her face that Kathryn had become extremely familiar with when the young woman had first come on board Voyager. The look, along with accompanying frown, said she was not going to follow ‘illogical’ protocol, and Kathryn prepared herself for an argument that she had to win. To her immense surprise and relief, Seven merely cocked her head and nodded once.
"Captain," she said in a voice that implied respect for the decision, even if she didn’t necessarily understand it. Ice-blue eyes gazed intently into the captain’s own, and Kathryn began to feel uncomfortable at the probing stare. For an instant, she felt as though Seven was looking into her soul, and something electric flashed between them.
Oh my God, she’s going to kiss me, Kathryn thought in complete panic.
Then Seven turned and left the bridge, leaving her captain slightly light-headed from the panic that had gripped her. Kathryn chastised herself for letting her fantasies get out of hand. A few moments later sensors indicated that all but one escape pod had left Voyager’s hull.
Kathryn knew the last pod had been left for her own use should repairs prove to be beyond her abilities, but she also knew that she wouldn’t use it. No matter what the outcome.
Kathryn had been stuck in the relay room on deck fifteen for the last nine hours. She had taken refuge along the perimeter of a nebula, hoping that the gas from the anomaly would mask the ship from any would be scavengers while she tried to make repairs. But every time she repaired a series of relays, ten more would fail. She was beginning to wonder if it was possible to repair the damage at all. To make matters worse, she was no closer to finding out what caused the degradations in the systems in the first place.
A familiar feeling began washing over the slender woman…failure. As she sat alone in the quiet of the ship, the token representation of the humanity that had lived on the vessel for years, her heart began growing cold. It seemed like her life had been a series of such occurrences. One major obstacle after another that had left a mark on her soul, showing her that she was hopelessly fighting against a defeat that would come to pass no matter how valiantly she struggled against it.
The first such incident had happened when she was a mere child, and continued at devastatingly regular intervals until they had culminated in what she considered the worst decision of her life. Forgetting for a moment that she was trying to accomplish a task, Kathryn let the spanner dangle in her hand.
Remembering the first incident in an endless string, she wondered what she had been thinking; walking home after a lost tennis match in a driving thunderstorm. She had bragged before the match that she would win easily. When she had lost, her pride had been so wounded that she had felt she didn’t deserve to ride home with the others.
Condemning herself to walk the ten kilometers in the turbulent weather, she had become disoriented and lost. Exhausted, she had felt the need to lie down and never move again. Her father had found her.
"Stupid," she muttered, berating herself again even after more than twenty years after the fact. She still felt the sting of failure and wounded pride from losing that game. If she hadn’t taken her opponent for granted, she would have won. She should have won. But instead of learning from her mistake, she had continued to make the same one over and over again.
Shaking her head, Kathryn picked up the spanner and began splicing relays back together, fighting the depression that was urging her to give up. She had given in to that depression many times over the years, and it had rendered her powerless, wanting only to lie down and sleep, and for the rest of the world to go away. She refused to give in to the dark comfort of that embrace now. Her crew needed her to accomplish her goal. They were counting on her.
"Computer, status of internal relay network?" she prompted a short time later, and was pleased when she was informed that they were operating at optimal efficiency.
Standing in satisfaction she placed her hands on her hips and stretched, feeling the pop of overtired joints. In need of caffeine, Kathryn decided she had earned a break. It was now late into what should have been gamma shift and she hadn’t eaten in hours. Still not hungry, she requested a cup of coffee from the replicator.
"Unable to comply," the computer responded. "Replicator systems are still off-line."
"That’s just great," Kathryn grumbled. "I wonder if Neelix left anything out in the kitchen."
Leaving the bowels of the ship, she tried o take the turbolift to deck five, but discovered that those systems had failed while she’d been busy. Leaving her with no choice, but to make the ten deck climb to the mess hall or forget about getting anything to refresh herself. Heaving a disgruntled sigh, she decided that coffee would have to wait. Getting back to work, she asked the computer to perform another internal diagnostic.
Just as she made her request, all of the lights went out. A second later the dim glow of emergency lighting came on, lining the bulkheads. "Oh, this just keeps getting better and better," she groused as the computer attempted to report.
"Waarninngg…a series oof gelll packs has faaillled on deck twelllve sec..ction twwwooo."
Shaking her head, Kathryn muttered, "The computer sounds like it could use a stimulant."
Oh well, she thought, at least I’ll be two decks closer to the mess hall. With that she began the climb up the jeffries tube to deck twelve. If she could get the gel packs in that section replaced, maybe she could get the computer back on line to find out was happening.
During the climb, her mind began wandering and she found herself thinking about the first man she had been engaged to, Cheb Packer.
A nostalgic smile crossed her face as she thought about those first days of romance. He had seemed so chivalrous, holding doors for her and holding her coat. Of course Kathryn had been less than appreciative at the time. In fact, she had taken it as an affront to her self-sufficiency letting him know in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t stand for it. A chuckle escaped her throat as she remembered the look of shock and outrage on his rugged face.
Suddenly the grin left her face as other memories of her time with the young man surfaced. Toward the end, things had been anything but light and carefree. Especially after his application to Starfleet had been rejected.
The couple had been planning a cave diving trip to Mars for more than a year. Not wanting to dwell on the bad news, and with the hope that she could get his mind off it, Kathryn had insisted that they keep their plans. Cheb had acted churlish the whole trip, finding fault with everything she said and did. Finally, Kathryn had come to understand that he blamed her for his rejection from Starfleet. On the last day of their trip, he lost his temper and flatly accused her of exactly that. Of course Kathryn had argued, but he had the maddening ability to turn things around, to twist everything she said until she began doubting herself. By the time the argument was over, she had begun to feel that everything was her fault. Shortly after that, they had broken up.
Was that when it started, Kathryn wondered as she tightened another gel-pack into place, the need to overcompensate for her mistakes? How many times since getting lost in the Delta Quadrant had she thrown her own body over a crewman to protect them when they were under attack? How many times had she been seriously injured doing so? If a junior crewman in quantum mechanics was having a rough week, she wanted to know about it and try to assist them in some way.
Maybe it was just her pride getting in the way again, she thought. God knew she had enough of that! Finishing with the gel series, Kathryn turned her head up and asked for a diagnostic. Mentally crossing her fingers, she listened as the computer beeped accommodatingly before replying.
"All systems operating at peak efficiency."
"Yes!" Janeway said enthusiastically, but that triumph was short-lived when a warning alarm suddenly went off.
"Computer, what is it now?"
"Environmental systems have been compromised."
Wanting to scream in frustration, Kathryn ground her teeth before saying, "Clarify."
"Nebula gas is leaking into the ventilation systems on decks nine through fifteen."
"Computer, seal off those decks," she ordered resignedly, knowing her next series of tasks had just been dictated for the next few hours. What she wouldn’t do for a cup of coffee!
Wearing a portable breathing apparatus, Janeway worked out of a maintenance kit down on deck nine. Trying to tighten the hyperdyne relays, the spanner slipped and she grazed her knuckles against the unforgiving metal.
"Damn!" she cursed into the breathing mask. "I should have kept Seven of Nine with me. She could have fixed this in a second." Kathryn slid down the wall and sat on the hard deck to examine her hand. Just a scrape, she decided and dragged her hand through her sweat matted locks. Why was this so hard? Every time she fixed something, something else went wrong. It was almost like someone was doing this to her, sabotaging system after system just to see how far they could push her. It wouldn’t be the first time some alien had fooled her.
Her posting to the starship Icarus as a young Ensign fresh out of the academy had been her first experience with aliens that excelled in the art of manipulation.
Not having had the time to repair the replicators, Janeway was running on her own severely depleted systems, and took a well-earned break. Leaning against the bulkhead, she thought of how the Cardassians how shot down their shuttle. At first the aliens had seemed accommodating, offering to heal her injuries and reunite her with her commanding officer, Admiral Paris. Until they decided they didn’t like her answers to their questions, that is. Then they’d shoved her into a tiny metal box and tortured the admiral. It had only been through the heroic efforts of her colleagues that they had been rescued.
She had completely taken in by Gul Camet as he treated her injuries, she thought in disgust. How could she be so naïve, she wondered? Her father had been fighting the Cardassians for years before that, she had certainly heard enough about them over that time. Yet when she actually met them for herself, she had been deceived. Maybe she just refused to believe that anyone could be that evil. "Yeah, that’s great thinking for someone destined to be the captain of a starship," she said sarcastically. "Justin would never have been fooled by them."
A bittersweet smile twisted her lips as Kathryn thought about the leader of that rescue attempt. Justin Tighe had been someone she hadn’t liked very much when she first met him. Shortly after he had led the rescue, she realized that she had been fighting the inevitable and became involved with the moody young man.
Kathryn pushed herself to her feet and got back to work. She hadn’t been able to halt the nebula gas from creeping through the ship, and at this rate she would be in a fully contained environmental suit in a matter of hours. Rising to her full height, Janeway swayed for a moment as a wave of dizziness passed over her. She had to get something to eat! Regretting the wasted time, but knowing there was no other choice she dropped her tools and began the climb to deck five.
Phoebe hadn’t liked Justin, Kathryn remembered during the long climb. She grinned at the idea that her sister hadn’t liked the man simply because he didn’t like dogs. Looking back on things now, Kathryn could admit that she should never have become engaged to him. She had loved him, but those feelings were more physical than anything. It hadn’t been the all-encompassing love that her mother had for her father, and ultimately it would never have been enough for her. But that didn’t mean that he had deserved to die.
Slamming shut the door on painful memories she eased through the hatch between decks six and seven, and gratefully removed the breathing mask. Drawing fresh air into starving lungs, Kathryn felt some of the fog lift in her head and finished the climb wondering if Seven liked dogs. Then she wondered if Seven even knew what a dog was. Then she wondered why she was comparing Seven to Justin.
In the mess hall Kathryn found some left over leola-root casserole in the refrigerator and a spoon. Eating straight out of the bowl, she found the bitter meal more appetizing than she ever had before. As she ate, memories of her second fiancé resurfaced. Almost against her will she relived that fateful crash on Tau Ceti Prime. She had lost Justin and her father both on that day. Staring blankly at the wall, she could almost see the wintry-white world. The entire sphere was shrouded in snow and ice, and for a while she had lain in the billowy softness after being thrown from the prototype craft. Her concussion and the pain from her broken bones had shrouded her in such a fog that for the longest time she didn’t realize that the iceberg she was staring at was actually the remains of the ship.
Eventually, it had occurred to her that something was moving inside the iceberg. That was when the connection had been made, and she realized that they were slowly submerging.
Leola-root forgotten, face tight with anguish, Kathryn relieved the suffocating fear that she had felt so long ago. Instead of adrenaline flooding her body, remorse and guilt coursed through her veins. She had failed them. With enough energy to transport one person on the transporter panel that she had found intact, she had been unable to choose and lost them both. Over and over, she had tried to boost power to pull them both out, but in the end the ship had gone under.
Her feelings of failure for all the traumas in her life had lain dormant in her memory, buried deeply so she could continue to function came back to overwhelm her. Blackness rose up to shroud her in its embrace. Whenever she was overwhelmed with what she felt was another faulty decision where a crewman died, she buried herself in a sea of misery and guilt. Again, it ate away at her soul and encouraged her to withdraw into herself. That familiar darkness had protected her, allowed her to raise walls that would keep everyone out so they couldn’t hurt her any longer. She allowed it to anesthetize the ache for old regrets now, wallowed in it until she felt numb inside and could force herself to move again.
Her ship needed her, her crew needed her, and even if she couldn’t afford to let them too close, she still had a promise to fulfill; to get them home. She couldn’t do that sitting on her butt in the mess hall on a deserted starship.
Time passed slowly on the small craft. Kathryn had been trying for almost two weeks to get her ship repaired, but was almost at the point of admitting that it was a losing battle. Her first posting as captain, and she not only managed to get her crew lost in an unexplored quadrant, but lost the ship as well!
Janeway had to admit that she was also starting to feel the isolation. Sometimes she would hear unexplained noises and be convinced that someone else was on the ship. Other times she would see a movement out of the corner of her eye only to turn her head and find no one there, and once she could have sworn that she heard Seven’s melodious voice. She knew that radiation was leaking in now along with the nebula gases that had begun encroaching days ago, and blamed that for the auditory and visual hallucinations.
Not seeing the need to go stark raving mad, Kathryn had pulled on a full protective environmental suit before continuing with her efforts. She would work until she just couldn’t keep her eyes open for another second before succumbing to exhaustion and catching short naps on the couch in her ready room. When she wasn’t actively working, her mind insisted on worrying for her wayward crew or reminding herself of all her previous failures in life. Finally her body could resist no longer, and she sank into her couch to fall into a deep sleep. For the first time in years, she slept deeply without dreaming for more than nine hours.
When Kathryn finally awakened, she felt more clear-headed than she could remember in what felt like forever. She also felt like she was seeing things clearly for the first time. Rising to her feet, Kathryn changed into the last of the environmental suits before making her way to engineering. She had used up the air in the others, and knew she was living on borrowed time. Instead of feeling depressed, and readying herself for self-sacrifice, Kathryn felt a bounce in her step. Why should the captain go down with the ship? She still had an escape pod, if it came to that. As much as it would hurt, she could set Voyager on self-destruct and make her way back to her crew in the final pod.
Embarrassed, Kathryn realized she had never given her crew enough credit. A sudden epiphany occurred to her that had always referred to them as a family, but she had never really felt that she was a part of it. Now she knew that she was. All of the old hurts she had been punishing herself with suddenly seemed ridiculous.
Her reaction to the lost tennis match had been childish. Cheb Packer had used her to boost his own ego, and was so good at manipulation that she hadn’t realized it. And more importantly, everything that went wrong in the universe wasn’t her fault. Standing at the main power distribution console it suddenly occurred to her just how arrogant it was to assume she had that much power.
Bad things happened to good people. That was just the way it was. Even Seven of Nine with her lack of experience in all things human would have understood that. It had taken Kathryn Janeway being alone in the middle of a nebula, thousands of light years from anyone to finally grasp that.
On the heels of that revelation came another. Getting the crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant had some surprisingly beneficial side effects. The Ocampa had been saved from annihilation by the Kazon, and they had explored a section of the galaxy that few in the Alpha Quadrant had ever seen. Voyager also boasted a data bank full of information that would keep Starfleet busy for decades. The crew of Voyager had become a real community, and most importantly, a human being had been rescued from the hive mind of the Borg collective.
Thoughts of Seven flooded her mind and Kathryn realized how much time she had wasted not taking a chance in telling the younger woman of her feelings. She had rationalized her decision by saying it was against protocol, or that the crew wouldn’t understand. The truth was it had been her fear of rejection that had kept her silent.
Finishing repairs on the deflector array, Kathryn slowly sat on the hard deck plating. A quick glance at her suit controls confirmed what she had suspected, there were only a few hours of air left. But if she was going to die alone out here, there was something she still had to do.
Raising her face unconsciously to address the computer, Kathryn began in a voice scratchy from days of disuse. "Computer, begin recording personal communiqué from Captain Kathryn Janeway to Seven of Nine."
She stopped and started several times, changing words here and there until she was finally satisfied. It was the most passionate, heartfelt letter she had ever written. Listening to the computer play back the words at her command, she thought that she should have been embarrassed…but she wasn’t.
"Seven, I wish I could be with you now, to look into your eyes and finally say what’s been in my heart for so long. The truth is that you’ve come to mean so much more to me than a friend. I love you, Seven. Not as a mother, or a mentor, but as a woman who wants to be with another in every way. You fill my thoughts from the time I wake in the morning until I go to bed at night. You’re in my dreams when I sleep.
"So many times I’ve wanted to tell you, wanted to kiss you, and hold you close to me. When things were hard, it was the thought of you that kept me going. I would imagine being in your arms, with my head resting against your chest, listening to your heartbeat. You would stroke my hair, and tell me things would be all right. With that comforting image in my mind, I could believe it, and it gave me strength.
I don’t know why I waited so long to tell you. Now, with light years of space between us, my reasoning seems flawed. I guess ultimately, it was my fear that kept me silent. Fear that you weren’t ready for this or that you wouldn’t be able to return my feelings. I guess none of that really matters now.
"I’m proud of you, Seven, and a part of me will always be with you. Please take care of yourself, my love. You really are an extraordinary young woman and I am very happy that my last thoughts will be of you.
All my love, your Kathryn."
Listening to the last of the recorded message, she felt tears well in her eyes. "Computer, encode transmission and download for delivery to Seven of Nine."
There was no need to set a delay on the communications transfer. Seven was a long way away, and Kathryn knew she would be dead before the signal was transferred from the ship to the Starfleet receivers built into the escape pods. She was confident that the young woman would receive her letter, and somehow she felt relieved that Seven would finally know how she felt.
Later she sat in her ready room still in the environmental suit. When she had been confined to the suit entirely, she had been able to take in nutrition through the feeding tubes, and packaged supplements. Now, there was no need. More air was what she needed, but she was down to thirty percent, and had reduced the oxygen flow until her head was swimming. She didn’t know what she was trying to accomplish by the reducing the flow, a few more minutes of life? Why? She couldn’t repair the ship, and was becoming too weak to walk to the escape pod.
"Warning," the computer suddenly spoke. "Intruder alert,"
Forcing her tired eyes open, Kathryn mumbled, "Where?"
"Deck one, section ten alpha."
Section ten alpha was a little known area of the saucer section where an isolated command station was located should the tactical need arise. To her knowledge, it had never been used or accessed. Struggling weakly to rise from the cushions, Janeway forced herself to investigate. As weak as she was, she still couldn’t allow Federation technology to fall into anyone’s hands.
Listening to the hollow thunk of the weighted boots, she finally stood outside the heavy doors of the command station, and keyed in the access code to unseal the room. After a careful check her suspicions were confirmed, there was no one there. Just another system malfunctioning. Sitting weakly in a chair, Kathryn allowed her eyes to close and drew what she knew were the last breaths of life. She would have to set the self-destruct soon, while she still had the strength.
In a minute, she thought. I’ll just rest first.
The air was getting thin, and she was nodding off. A shuffling noise intruded on the darkness encroaching on the corners of her mind, and she forced her eyes open. Again, she knew she was seeing things, but this time she welcomed the illusion.
Seven of Nine was directly in front of her peering at her face through the lens of another environmental suit. Her brain took a second to acknowledge that the woman looked incredible, the white of the suit complimenting her alabaster complexion and golden mane.
Kathryn raised a hand toward the apparition, thankful that she would see this face one last time. "I should have kissed you, and asked you to marry me," she whispered thickly before her hand dropped weakly back into her lap.
The illusion smiled radiantly like the real Seven had never done and responded, "I would have said yes."
Then the image moved, and disengaged the end of a hose from her suit before attaching it to an access port in Janeway’s. Air hissed, and a moment later Kathryn’s head began to clear as fresh air cycled into her own suit.
"Seven?" she asked in confusion, beginning to realize that she wasn’t seeing things.
"It is I."
"I could not leave you," Seven replied simply. "After depositing the crew present in my escape pod on the planet, I recalibrated the pod’s systems to return me to Voyager."
Glancing away nervously, the young woman continued with a faint blush coloring her cheeks. "I received your letter, Captain. I wish you to know that I love you as well."
Amazed, and touched beyond words Kathryn could only smile. Taking Seven’s gloved hand in her own she said, "Then at least we can spend the rest of the time we have left together."
"I would agree," Seven began, "but I believe that I know why Voyager’s systems have degraded."
Shaking her head Kathryn asked, "What? But how? I’ve been trying everything I could think of for weeks."
"Yes, but am I mistaken in thinking that you have been attempting to repair the degradations?"
"So?" Kathryn asked, not following. "Isn’t that what I should have been doing?"
Smiling a little at the obvious frustration in the older woman’s voice Seven responded calmly. "No. Repairing the systems is inefficient. We must repair the cause that began the degradations. I believe that the dilithium crystals we obtained from the Impara sector were contaminated. Analyzing the readings of the warp core after arriving back on the ship, I have determined that they contained a pathogen that infected the warp plasma. The plasma emits theta wave radiation that would have been undetectable to conventional scans. First we must purge the plasma. Then we may affect repairs."
Stunned at the sheer intelligence of the beautiful woman kneeling before her, Kathryn could only say, "I’m right behind you." And she really was since their suits were still connected.
The two women worked hard to purge the plasma that had leaked radiation into the bio-neural gel-packs. Those packs had been inter-connected into all systems, which is why the malfunctions had spread throughout the ship so quickly.
"Now what?" Kathryn asked as they finished the last of the repairs.
"We must initiate a neurostatic pulse throughout the ship to nullify any remaining contagion," Seven replied matter-of-factly. "It will be quite painful and will render us unconscious."
Raising an eyebrow sardonically, Kathryn said, "Well if it doesn’t work, it won’t matter. We’ll die anyway. We might as well get comfortable."
She led Seven back to her ready room, and both women sat close together on the sofa holding hands. Seven initiated the shock pulse, and for a split-second, Kathryn thought her head would explode. Mercifully, she lost consciousness after only a few seconds. When she came to an indeterminable amount of time later, someone was removing her helmet.
Gulping fresh air, Kathryn opened her eyes and immediately closed them again at the heavenly feel of full, soft lips claiming her own. Reveling in the sensation that she thought she would never feel, Kathryn wound her arms around the long neck and deepened the kiss. Pulling away slightly, she drew Seven’s bottom lip into her mouth to suck avidly. Seven’s moan of arousal caused a rush of blood and heat to center between Kathryn’s legs.
Releasing her a few delicious moments later Seven reported, "All systems are fully functional, Captain." She was still pressed lightly onto the other woman, and Janeway felt slightly frustrated that she wouldn’t just lie down on her fully, and make love to her like there was no tomorrow.
"Kathryn," Janeway corrected the other woman, stroking her face lovingly.
"Kathryn," Seven repeated smiling. For a moment, Kathryn was convinced she was going to say something, but she turned her face away looking uncomfortable.
Grasping the cleft chin gently, she urged the blonde to meet her gaze. "What?" she asked gently.
"Did you mean it? That you should have asked me to marry you?"
Feeling playful Kathryn turned the question back around. "Did you mean it? That you would have said yes?"
Taking a deep breath, Seven answered, "I meant it. I love you, Kathryn."
"And you are my heart," Kathryn assured the young woman before drawing her down for another fire-igniting kiss. Finally, reluctantly, she pulled away. "Now let’s go get our crew."
Happily the two entered the bridge, an atypical ear-splitting grin covering Seven’s face when she heard Janeway mumble, "I can’t wait to see Chakotay’s face when I tell him I’m getting married."
Laying in a course for the M-class planet, Janeway felt the weight of the universe life off her shoulders. Looking over at the beautiful woman that was still wearing a bulky suit, sans helmet, she vowed not to wallow in self-pity anymore. Life was too short and too wonderful for any more of that. There would still be bumps and bruises along the way she knew, but with Seven of Nine as her partner nothing was insurmountable.
Kathryn Janeway had faced the darkness that had been eating at her soul for years, and she had beaten it. It felt wonderful to finally make it into the light.