The 3rd in the Galaxies series.
Captain Kathryn Janeway of the brave little ship Nemo basked in the sunshine of an ancient and unpopulated planet. That her ship was actually the saucer section of a once mighty experimental vessel or that the unpopulated planet they were on was located in the delta quadrant didn’t affect her mood at all. It was enough that her crew could enjoy shore leave on a lush, sun-filled planet that posed no threat. The only signs of life on the alien planet were birds and other wildlife, nothing sentient other than her crew.
Janeway squatted at the edge of a bluff and gazed down at the herd of herbivores that grazed in the canyon far below. Vaguely cow-like, the beasts reminded her of farm country in her home state Indiana back on Earth. The sense of nostalgia was a welcome one from the constant stress of running a ship and crew and trying to get her people back home to the alpha quadrant.
That stress was also mitigated by the fact that the members of Starfleet’s Theoretical Propulsion Group who had been responsible for the ship’s initial design were currently onboard. They had been successful in installing slipstream engines on the Nemo that could move the dauntless vessel in significant jumps toward sector 001 and reduced what would have been a seventy-year journey into a three-month jaunt.
Another thing that helped Janeway considerably in a personal capacity was one of the members of the TPG in particular. It still amazed her at times that she was involved in a romantic relationship with Seven of Nine. After all those years dancing around each other onboard Voyager and lost in the middle of this same quadrant Seven of Nine was her partner.
Partners? Definitely, considering that they lived together and that Seven wouldn’t have anything but an equal relationship. But the word implied so much more that Kathryn was hesitant to use it. What if this was enough for Seven, living together with no plans to solidify anything in the future? Kathryn didn’t like that idea and hoped that eventually Seven would want something more binding.
A woman squealed from a short distance away and Kathryn looked over her shoulder toward the source of the noise. She grinned when she saw Janice Furler, a young woman from communications, duck under the assault of a water balloon. Like most of the crew Furler had changed out of her uniform and wore a tank top, shorts and sandals. Harry Kim flirted shamelessly with the woman while a portion of the crew ran around soaking each other with the ancient entertainment devices.
The crew looked happy and healthy from where she squatted and in the distance Kathryn could see Tuvok propped against the hull of the Nemo. Even he looked slightly less bored than he normally did. He still wore his uniform and after being so accustomed to the uniforms her crew wore the entire time while lost in the delta quadrant, it still caused a jolt to see the newer design.
Unfortunately not all of the crew was healthy which was the reason for the unscheduled shore leave to begin with. Four other crewmen had begun to complain about the strange affliction that Janeway herself suffered from since they began this trek throughout the previously unexplored region of the delta quadrant.
The symptoms were extreme exhaustion relieved usually when adrenaline coursed briefly through their veins. As had happened with the captain the holographic doctor ran every conceivable test, but could find nothing to explain the ailment. Since the doctor couldn’t find a solution Captain Janeway felt compelled to try a treatment of her own. The simple fact was that humanoids didn’t do so well when confined to a starship in space.
In the early years of space exploration astronauts had suffered from bone loss due to the reduced gravity of an artificial environment. NASA had reduced that problem by providing exercise equipment aboard the ancient space shuttles, but things had changed greatly since then. Now space faring vessels utilized inertial dampers and shields, things that would protect the crew from the hazards of being away from a natural environment.
But people still needed the natural gravity and climate that only a planet could provide. For that reason Janeway hoped that all any of them needed was some time planet side to get all of their systems functioning normally again. She refused to remember that people had been aboard ships longer than her crew and not suffered any side effects and so far it seemed her idea had merit. Even Janeway felt a lot better since the Nemo had set down except for a little lingering tiredness that had more to do with a lack of sleep than a physical malady.
Not far away Seven of Nine, Leah Brahms and Tarinia, a changeling they had recently taken on board, watched the crew play from a safe distance. Although clearly amused the trio apparently decided they didn’t want to get involved. Kathryn grinned affectionately and could almost hear Seven say that such an activity was a wasteful expenditure of time, or something along those lines.
She took the time to discreetly map Seven’s physical features with her eyes. The cornflower blue of her eyes made Kathryn shiver and she traced lower over feminine curves that she knew were deceptively powerful because of the Borg implants Seven still maintained. Kathryn’s heart sped up a little as she started to anticipate how later she would slowly remove the modified Starfleet uniform that looked entirely too good on the younger woman.
At one time Seven had worn a one-piece suit that hugged her body like a second skin. The dermaplastic suit had been designed by the ship’s emergency medical hologram and helped maintain the cybernetic implants that couldn’t be removed from Seven’s body. She had grown past that necessity and now preferred the black slacks and blue turtleneck worn with the Starfleet uniforms. Although not as revealing as the unitards had been Kathryn thought Seven was amazingly even sexier in the modified uniform.
Seven abruptly looked over at her and their eyes met. A darkening of her expression told Kathryn that their thoughts were skirting the same issue and she wondered if Seven’s implants could register her sudden desire even from this distance. Eyes locked, Kathryn started to stand.
She suddenly remembered exactly how close to the edge of the cliff she had squatted when her uniform boots slid in the shale. The crewmembers with the water balloons had played closer to the captain’s position and Janice Furler wasn’t watching where she was going. At the same time the captain slipped Furler accidentally bumped into Janeway.
With her eyes still on Seven, Kathryn watched the knowledge of her danger register at the same time that her own eyes flew open wider. Kathryn’s muscles tensed as she struggled to resist the pull of gravity, but the Starfleet issue footwear had little tread. Time seemed to stretch as Kathryn’s feet went over the edge. She heard the ‘oof’ of expelled air as Janice landed heavily on the ground.
An insane thought that she was about to have her brains dashed out on the canyon floor hundreds of feet below shot through her mind at the same instant she heard Seven’s startled, "Kathryn!"
Then she was falling, arms flailing.
Kathryn’s vision narrowed down to the point of impact far below where she expected to land only a few seconds later when abruptly her momentum was interrupted. Her left arm was nearly wrenched out of the socket, but at least she had stopped.
There was a vice-like grip around her wrist and Kathryn saw that her Vulcan nurse, Sakonna, had stopped her from a fall to certain death. Being Vulcan, Sakonna was much stronger than the average human but Kathryn couldn’t help be impressed by exactly how much stronger the woman was.
Soft, sable eyes held hers and Kathryn could have sworn there was a look of reassurance in the Vulcan’s eyes if it weren’t so completely out of the species’ character to show any emotion. Then the nurse calmly pulled the captain back up onto the ledge, but carefully maintained her grip.
"I have you, Captain."
Instinctively Kathryn clutched the Vulcan’s shoulder with her free hand until she was sat on her feet.
"Captain! Are you all right?" B’Elanna Torres shouted worriedly.
Seven and B’Elanna had run toward her as soon as Kathryn started to fall and now only stood a few feet away. Most of the crew present had stunned looks on their faces, but Kathryn’s eyes were on Seven. The young woman looked much paler than usual and her expression was very tight. Kathryn knew she would have to answer for scaring her partner later and suddenly she wondered if this shore leave had been such a good idea after all. If people thought Janeway’s lectures could peel paint they had never experienced one of Seven’s calm, logical and completely scathing reprimands.
Finally she looked away from Seven to see most of her senior staff surrounding her with varying expressions of concern. Of the bunch only Sakonna had been close enough to rescue the captain. Harry Kim looked like he might faint and Kathryn thought he felt responsible since he had been chasing Janice when she collided with the captain. Tuvok had a definitely unpleased look on his face, but so far refrained from comment. No doubt she would hear from him later, too.
At that moment she was very glad that the more restrained Vulcan was now her first officer. Chakotay would have wasted no time in chastising her in front of the entire crew.
"Captain," Seven said as she grabbed Janeway by the arm and pulled her farther from the ledge, "What happened?"
Furler still lay on the ground with a stricken look on her face and Janeway looked down at the communications officer while she answered. "I’m fine, Seven. It was just a minor accident."
"Minor? You could have been killed!"
Furler flinched and Janeway felt compelled to make light of the situation for the young woman’s sake. "Well, I wasn’t. Thanks to Lieutenant Sakonna, I’m perfectly fine. Accidents happen, Seven. No one is to blame. I should have been more aware of how close to the edge I was. Let’s leave it at that."
Either Seen finally realized what the captain was doing or she decided not to challenge her further in front of the others. Whatever the reason, Kathryn was happy when Seven clamped her lips shut and dropped the matter.
The former Borg turned toward the Vulcan and said, "It is most fortunate that you were nearby."
Sakonna dipped her head at the comment, but addressed Janeway when she responded. "I am pleased that I could assist you, Captain."
"That’s an understatement," Tom Paris said, but the Vulcan had already walked away.
Janeway stared at the retreating form and thought how lucky she was to have the crew she did. If Sakonna hadn’t been there Kathryn would be a bloody smear at the bottom of the canyon. She looked down into Furler’s soaked, sweaty features and said, "Well, I don’t know about you, Lieutenant, but I could use some lemonade."
Tuvok walked over to intercept Sakonna as did A’zal, Nemo’s current security chief, and Janeway realized they were about to get the full details from the nurse’s point of view. She couldn’t really blame them since Commander Tuvok was her first officer and A’zal in charge of all ship’s security, but it still looked a little strange to have three Vulcans conversing at the same time. There just weren’t that many Vulcans on board to begin with.
Furler smiled up at the captain and the group slowly began to break up until Janeway was alone with Seven of Nine.
"Are you truly all right, Kathryn?"
Okay, so I guess we’re going to do this now. At least Seven wasn’t making a scene in front of the crew. There had been a time when the former drone wouldn’t have thought twice about reaming the captain in front of whoever was around if she didn’t like how something went down. And, come to think of it, Kathryn couldn’t really blame her for being worried now. If Seven had almost fallen off a ledge…
All of the blood seemed to vacate Janeway’s head just from the thought and she felt a strong hand suddenly steady her.
"Yes, darling. I’m sure I’m all right," Kathryn said softly. She didn’t want the rest of the crew to overhear her talking to another crewman like this, but in this case she needed to reassure the woman she loved. "It was stupid of me to be so close to the ledge."
"It was," Seven agreed.
Kathryn started to get angry, but realized Seven was merely stating a fact. She wasn’t trying to be nasty and had been genuinely frightened, but no more than Janeway had been!
"How about if I promise to be more careful? Will you forgive me then?"
Seven considered prolonging their disagreement, but finally decided against it. The only reason she wanted to continue to be at odds with Kathryn was because of how badly she had been frightened. As welcome as some human emotions were like passion and desire, fear was not.
The thought of desire caused her to remember what had happened just before the captain’s unfortunate slip and she blushed guiltily as she looked away.
"Seven? What is it?"
Reluctantly Seven turned back to Kathryn and said, "It is my fault you were almost killed."
"What? How do you get that?"
"Just before you fell I distracted you. I felt your desire and deliberately provoked it by looking into your eyes. If you hadn’t felt my response you would have been paying attention to how close you were to danger."
Kathryn grinned at Seven and raised an eyebrow. "My love, as much as you want to let me off the hook I just can’t allow it. I was distracted by my feelings for you, but there was a lot more that happened just before I fell. You might as well blame Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Furler for their horseplay or the crew being on shore leave at just this moment. No one is to blame and sometimes things just happen."
"Yes, I see what you mean," Seven said seriously, "but you cannot alleviate my guilt with logic, Kathryn. If anything had happened to you…"
Kathryn reached out to grasp Seven’s arm. In that moment she didn’t care who saw and it didn’t really matter since the whole crew knew they were living together anyway. The fact that their relationship had changed was clear to anyone who wanted to see by the quiet intensity of their shared looks or how their voices would soften when they addressed each other.
"Now stop right there. All of our lives are dangerous and we knew that when we put on the uniform. Any one of us could be killed by anything from an overloading conduit to falling out of bed in the morning. I wasn’t hurt and I refuse to let you take the blame for my own distractions. Do you understand me?"
There was no room for argument in Janeway’s tone and Seven looked down into the stormy blue eyes with unveiled love. She stared into Kathryn’s eyes for so long that the captain started to get a little embarrassed. The others weren’t that far away and as much as she loved Seven she wasn’t about to do anything unprofessional in front of them.
"I understand, Kathryn. And thank you."
"Thank you? For what?"
"For desiring me so much that you almost stepped over a two hundred meter drop."
Seven quirked a metal eyebrow and it took Kathryn a second to realize she was being teased.
"Yes, well," Kathryn smiled, happy to let humor defuse the situation. "Just don’t let it happen again."
"I will not."
Kathryn hooked her arm through Seven’s and pulled the other woman with her toward the Nemo. "Didn’t someone say something about lemonade?"
"Report!" Captain Janeway ordered as she walked into sickbay. She tried not to show the surprise she felt to find the medical bay empty with the exception of the holographic doctor who now chose to be called Joe Martin.
"Ah, Captain. I was just about to contact you."
Doctor Martin had been previously integrated into Voyager’s ship systems on Janeway’s previous mission into the Bad Lands. Voyager had been assigned to track down a Maquis cell of resistance fighters when they were pulled into the delta quadrant by an entity known as the Caretaker.
Janeway had lost a lot of good people on that fateful day, including her Chief Medical Officer. The emergency medical hologram was activated and had been running ever since. After only a few years of constant use the doctor had gained a kind of sentience and become one of Janeway’s most trusted advisors. He still maintained a bit of the acerbic wit he had demonstrated during those first few months, but he had softened a little over the years and there was no other doctor Janeway would have felt comfortable treating her crew on this mission. She also considered him a friend.
"Uh huh. What have you found?"
Martin sighed, a completely unnecessary thing to do since he didn’t breath. "I have no clue what is wrong with the crew, Captain. All of my tests come back normal, just as they did with you. However, I have found a curious coincidence."
"Oh?" Now Janeway was curious and leaned one hip against a biobed while she waited for the EMH to continue.
Martin reached over Janeway’s shoulder and activated a computer console. He pulled up a set of flight plans and the captain was suddenly looking at the helm logs.
"Each of the bouts of chronic exhaustion reported by the crew follow immediately after Nemo made a slipstream jump."
Janeway started at that information and looked closer at the computer readouts. "Are you telling me the jumps are responsible fore the crew’s condition?"
"I don’t know. There’s certainly no physical evidence that the slipstream caused the crewmembers’ conditions. All I can tell you is what I’ve noticed and it could very well be just a coincidence."
"But it might not," Janeway finished. "We haven’t found anything else that would explain this affliction."
This was something the captain would have to discuss with the TPG members very soon since it could eventually affect the entire crew if the engines were the source of the malady. First she had more immediate concerns.
"Have the crewmen in question recovered? Is that why they’re not here?"
Martin actually looked uncomfortable for a moment and cleared his throat. "Since there wasn’t really anything I could do for them except recommend rest, I’ve released them to their quarters."
It took a second for Janeway to realize he was embarrassed that he hadn’t found a solution to the problem. When it finally dawned on her, she reached out to touch him on the forearm.
"It’s not your fault, Doctor. If it is the engines causing this then there is nothing you can do. The tests don’t show anything and I know I speak for the rest of the crew when I say you have our complete confidence."
"Thank you, Captain. I appreciate that. I only hope that whatever the cause of this condition is it doesn’t become life threatening."
"Is that a possibility?"
Janeway was horrified at the prospect of losing people to something like this. Fighting Hirogen, Borg or any one of the other delta quadrant threats was one thing. Losing people to something like exhaustion was something else and she didn’t know if she could continue to justify the use of the slipstream engines if it proved that was a possibility.
"If the crew’s condition worsens, then yes. The humanoid body can only resist fatigue for so long. Eventually it begins to shut down and demand time to recuperate. If whatever is causing the affliction doesn’t abate then the body can’t heal."
"So it could be a simple case of space sickness or it could be a very real threat to my crew."
"One thing I can tell you with confidence, Captain, is that this is not space sickness."
Janeway didn’t like the sound of that at all. One way or the other they had to find out what was causing this and until that happened she couldn’t justify the use of the modified engines. Her top priority had just been dictated and it looked like shore leave was over for the TPG members.
"Very good, Doctor. If you find anything else please let me know."
Seven ignored the urge to sigh knowing that her friend was merely concerned about her. Since Kathryn had almost plummeted to her death over the ledge of a very high cliff Seven had insisted shore leave was no longer necessary and it was time to get back to work. Even if the doctor had no idea what was wrong with Kathryn or the others, Seven thought they could be no worse off than if they were to be examined back in the alpha quadrant. Perhaps the doctor’s program hadn’t been updated to include all of the latest Starfleet Medical had to offer.
The Federation had learned a lot in the recent Dominion War and although Voyager’s crew hadn’t been involved in those events they could still take advantage of the knowledge gained during that time.
Kathryn said no one was to blame for her accident, but Seven still didn’t think that was accurate. It was entirely possible that if her body wasn’t so tired Kathryn might have been able to catch herself before she went over the edge. Since the doctor couldn’t seem to find out what was ailing the captain Seven had no choice but to see that someone examined her who could.
"I am operating at peak efficiency."
B’Elanna Torres smirked. Seven only talked that way when she was very upset or frightened. In this case B’Elanna thought it was fear causing her friend to act this way now. "It’s pretty scary watching your girlfriend almost fall off a cliff, huh?"
She wasn’t trying to be cavalier, but the Klingon in Torres couldn’t help stringing the Borg along a little. "It sure wouldn’t be a very honorable way to go."
Seven lifted her eyes from the console where she was working and slowly looked over at Lieutenant Torres. Her eyes narrowed as she wondered if that was some kind of insult. What she saw looking back at her were slightly pointy teeth and a mischievous grin. Insult or jest, Seven wanted to make it very clear what she thought about that comment.
"Regardless whether Kathryn’s death falling from a cliff was honorable or not she has proven herself countless times over. And if Klingon Sto’vo’kor is real Kathryn would be welcomed no matter the form of her eventual demise."
"Huh? How do you figure?" At least Seven didn’t look so devastated now and B’Elanna had no intention of letting it go just yet. "She’s not even Klingon!"
"Nevertheless? That’s your argument?"
When Seven didn’t rise to the bait B’Elanna turned her back and squatted down to make some adjustments to the warp matrix. Then she said something sure to get Seven into the argument. "I think you’re slipping, Borg. That’s not very efficient of you."
Seven felt a surge of anger flood her system. One thing she simply couldn’t tolerate even after all this time separated by the Borg Collective were accusations of being less than perfect, at anything! She looked around first to make sure they were isolated from the others currently working in engineering before she responded.
"Very well. If Sto’vo’kor existed all honorable warriors would be allowed to go there, if they chose. Kathryn has proven many times that she is honorable. Even after the Kazon attacked countless times while aboard Voyager Kathryn never attempted to destroy them.
Instead, she defeated them when necessary and left them to their own devices when Voyager left their region of space."
Seven ignored her. "When Voyager encountered species 8472 in human guise as they participated in a Starfleet recreation Kathryn entered into diplomatic relations with them and forged a cessation in hostilities. Had I been in charge I would have fired nanoprobe-enhanced warheads at their recreation and destroyed them all."
"So, she’s smart. That’s not the same as being honorable."
"On countless occasions Captain Janeway chose the diplomatic route to obtaining peace with a hostile delta quadrant species when others would have to chosen to initiate a more violent approach. Even on this mission she has shown nothing but compassion and bravery when dealing with indigenous life forms."
"Does that include our new changeling?" B’Elanna just couldn’t resist egging her on a little more.
"It does. She could have left Tarinia floating in space or immediately deposited her on the nearest inhabited world. Instead she is taking Tarinia with us until we can return her to her home world. Also…"
"Yes?" B’Elanna asked, curious in spite of the sudden chilling look in Seven’s blue eyes.
"If you say that Kathryn is dishonorable I will jettison you out of the nearest available airlock."
"Okay, okay!" B’Elanna held her hands up in surrender while she laughed. It wasn’t that the threat was funny, it wasn’t. But B’Elanna would never show weakness even if Seven was perfectly capable of carrying out her threat. "Janeway is honorable. Happy?"
Slowly Seven relented and allowed the tension to drain from her body.
"At least you don’t look so serious anymore."
"That was deliberate?" Seven asked in surprise.
"Sure. What better way to get you out of a funk than tease you about Janeway?"
Seven was touched by the gesture and looked down at her board to input more information. "Thank you, B’Elanna. You are a good friend, although disparaging Kathryn may not be the safest way to get me out of a ‘funk’.
"Yeah, I’m just starting to figure that out."
B’Elanna grunted as she braced both feet against a support column and tugged. The fused isolinear rods refused to budge and she said, "Give me a hand, will you?"
The rods had been fused into place when the engines overloaded during the last jump and burned into the warp core assembly.
Everything was currently being replaced with the design Torres had come up with after the last jump, but they were still a long way from being finished. The chief engineer had come up with the idea to use the same material in the engine specs as Nemo used for its ablative hull armor. Although component parts would still overload at least the engineering team wouldn’t have to replace everything else that was damaged by the unavoidable explosions, shorts and overloads when the engines were used.
Seven squatted down next to the engineer and lent her Borg-enhanced strength to the task. The rods snapped loose and duranium alloy screeched in protest, but at least the useless components were out of the way.
"And what of you, B’Elanna? Are you still angry with Lieutenant Paris?"
For a short time after their last stop at an alien planet B’Elanna was extremely angry with the helmsman. The two were married and had a daughter back on Earth, but B’Elanna felt Tom was being unfairly antagonistic with her when they got stranded in the delta quadrant again. There was the added dynamic that the engineer admitted a continuing attraction for one of the other members of Nemo’s crew, Karri Jameson.
Torres and Jameson had enjoyed the beginning stages of a relationship while aboard Voyager until the chief engineer became involved with Tom Paris. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Seven learned B’Elanna was only with Tom as the result of an accident.
One of the Vulcans onboard Voyager, Lieutenant Vorik, had initiated a mating bond with Torres that resulted in throwing all of her Klingon hormones out of whack. Out of control with animal lust, Torres had bitten Tom Paris and tasted his blood. After that she had no choice but to mate with the man and terminate the budding relationship with Jameson. Now, years later Torres had admitted to Seven that she loved him, but wasn’t necessarily in love with him.
"Nah, not anymore. Neither one of us are as upset as when we first got stranded out here. Having the slipstream engines has helped a lot and we both know it’ll only be a few more months until we’re back with Miral."
Seven handed a replacement rod to the engineer and watched her fit the end of it into the assembly housing. "And what of Karri Jameson?"
"Sheesh, Seven! You really don’t have any sense of propriety, do you? That’s personal!"
"Ah," Seven said wisely. "But it is acceptable for you to ask me questions of a sexual nature in regards to my relationship with Captain Janeway."
Torres grumbled momentarily before she said, "All right, you’ve got me there. Just don’t you dare tell Janeway about some of those questions."
Seven silently waited for the engineer to tighten down the relays with a hyper spanner. She knew better than to admit to any such questioning to Janeway, but Torres didn’t need to know that.
"Jameson. Right. Well, I admit it doesn’t help that Janeway put her right down the hall on the same deck when she shifted crew quarters around, but I think we’re both making the best of it. We are professionals, after all, and it wouldn’t be fair to Tom. I just try to keep my distance from her in social situations and keep it strictly business when we’re on the job."
"Do you still love her?"
Torres looked up in shock at the unexpected question. She had never told Seven or anyone else that she loved Karri. All she ever admitted to was an attraction, but the soft look of compassion in Seven’s eyes told her that she hadn’t needed to actually say it.
"Don’t you ever tell that to anyone. All it would do is confuse Karri and hurt Tom. Neither one of them deserves it."
"Do you deserve to be in a loveless marriage?" Seven asked honestly confused. "I know that even if I had married Chakotay, once I learned of Kathryn’s feelings for me nothing would have kept me from her. His feelings would have become irrelevant."
"But you didn’t love Chakotay. I love Tom, just not in the way I should. His feelings are important to me and so are my daughter’s. I won’t take Miral’s father away from her for my own selfish desires."
"So in this case, your own feelings are irrelevant?"
"Maybe," B’Elanna allowed softly. She looked up abruptly and frowned.
"Something’s wrong. The pitch of the warp engines just changed. It sounds like the power output dropped."
Seven stood up and tapped a few buttons on the engineering console. "You are correct. Power to the warp engines has fluctuated by a .0032 variance."
"Great, the flow regulators are acting up again. Jameson!" Torres shouted across engineering, "see if you can get the plasma injectors cleared. They’re getting clogged again."
"Right, Lieutenant. I’m on it," Karri responded and Seven noticed that the other woman seemed to be trying to keep things on a professional footing as well.
"All senior officers and members of the Theoretical Propulsion Group report to the war room." Janeway’s voice came through their combadges.
Seven and B’Elanna quietly left the engineering department, each lost in their own thoughts.
By the time they reached the conference room all of the other senior officers were already there. Since Seven and B’Elanna had been working near the auxiliary warp core on deck six they had been about as far away from the war room as possible and still be on the same ship. As far as Seven was concerned that was fine since Janeway was already seated at the head of the table and it gave her the opportunity to study the older woman’s aristocratic features. Then Kathryn looked up and instead of her partner she was looking into the eyes of the captain.
Kathryn was concerned about something, deeply.
Commander Tuvok sat on one side of Janeway while Lieutenant Commander A’zal sat on the other. A’zal was Tuvok’s daughter and Nemo’s chief of security. Next to A’zal sat Tom Paris, then Doctor Brahms and the EMH. Seven took the chair at the foot of the table directly opposite the captain and B’Elanna sat next to her. Harry Kim took the remaining seat next to Tuvok.
"All right, people. Let’s get started. As you may know a few of Nemo’s crew seem to be suffering from a physical malady that we have yet to get a handle on."
Janeway deliberately didn’t look at Doctor Martin since she didn’t want him to feel like she blamed him in any way. "The doctor has been analyzing all possible answers and has come up with some startling new evidence. Doctor?"
The EMH leaned forward with a frown between his eyes and spoke up solemnly. "My tests haven’t revealed any kind of disease or infection. What I have discovered is that each of the bouts of extreme exhaustion, with the captain and other crewmembers, occurred just after a slipstream jump occurred."
"What?" B’Elanna blurted out. "Are you trying to say you think our propulsion is causing this? That’s impossible."
"Captain, I concur," Commander Tuvok spoke up. Although he wasn’t a member of the Theoretical Propulsion Group he was a formidable scientist in his own right.
Janeway held up her hands to regain order and looked down the table at the group leader. ‘Doctor Brahms, quantum slipstream is a highly experimental propulsion. I appreciate that Starfleet wouldn’t install those engines on a vessel without conducting massive testing. However, one of the reasons Nautilus was sent on a shakedown cruise was to work out any bugs in the engines. Then there is the fact that those same engines were never designed for a vessel this small. Is there any way the quantum slipstream could have a long term effect on humanoids?"
Leah’s expressive brown eyes narrowed thoughtfully and Janeway was reminded why she had grudgingly come to respect this woman. The scientist never spoke before she thought about the answer carefully and could be trusted to give a response untainted by emotional baggage.
"Captain, I honestly don’t see how. As you know quantum stresses form a bubble around the ship that protect it from normal space/time. It’s one of the ways that prevents a temporal incursion in the vessel by traveling at faster than light speeds. What it doesn’t do is affect the people around it. Any radiation given off is held in a containment field, just like with a normal warp drive."
Janeway did know something about warp engines and from what she had learned about quantum slipstream realized that it worked off the same general idea. Three of her most trusted advisors were at the table telling her there was no way the engines could be responsible. Seven of Nine sat quietly at the end of the table and although she didn’t contribute to the conversation Kathryn could tell by her expression that she agreed with them. Unfortunately she didn’t have the luxury of taking a chance. The timing behind the jumps and the affliction was just too coincidental.
"Captain," Tom Paris began pensively, "are you going to order us not to use the slipstream engines?"
"I’m sorry, Tom. Until we know for sure we just can’t use the modified engines. I realize it doesn’t sound very serious. Exhaustion? How can that be a big deal? The rational thought is we just keep going and we’ll have time to rest in the alpha quadrant."
"What’s wrong with that?"
Seven looked at Harry Kim when he asked the question and noticed how strained his expression was. In a lot of ways he hadn’t changed since being stranded in the delta quadrant on Voyager. He had been more than eager then to try any and all means to get home to his family then and it looked like nothing had changed.
Couldn’t he see the dark circles that still resided under Janeway’s eyes? Was he blind to the slump in the captain’s small shoulders even after a full night of sleep? Seven tried not to show her concern since Janeway didn’t like to feel coddled, but she was very worried about her partner. If Kathryn thought there was anything about the engines that could be causing this malady Seven would be the first one to disable them without thought to how they were going to get back to the alpha quadrant.
"What is wrong with that, Lieutenant, is that humanoids cannot survive for an indefinite period once their bodies reach total exhaustion," Seven answered.
"She’s right," the doctor intervened. "Humanoids require a specific amount of regenerative sleep. For example, if an individual is unable to maintain REM sleep psychological manifestations can occur, resulting in loss of concentration initially or insanity over an extended period of time."
Janeway thought somehow they had lost track of the situation. The doctor was making things sound a whole lot worse than they actually wore and she spoke up to reduce the tension in the room. "Of course, we’re nowhere near that stage right now. At the moment all we have are a couple of crewmembers that are feeling very tired. However, we’re scheduled to keep up these jumps for three months or until we return to the alpha quadrant. I’d rather not pass the finish line and pay for that with the health of my crew."
She looked around and noticed the stricken expressions. Of those present only Seven met her gaze with clear and shining eyes. There was no hesitation on her lovely face and Kathryn knew Seven could have cared less about getting home a little faster as long as they were together. No matter what happened Seven’s love and belief in her would always be there. Only Seven could give Kathryn the support she needed without saying a word.
"My decision is made. Keep working on the slipstream engines and get them back in working order. We’ll have them standing by when and if we determine they’re not a threat. Until then we’ll travel at conventional warp toward the alpha quadrant. Doctor Brahms, take all data you have available and confer with the doctor. Find out if the engines have anything to do with this."
"Conventional warp? Captain, you do know it’ll take about a hundred years to get home at those speeds?"
"I’m aware of that, Lieutenant Torres. You have your orders. Dismissed."
Everyone got up and filed out of the room except for Seven of Nine. Janeway didn’t say anything until the door closed and they were alone.
"Is there something you wanted to add?"
Seven quietly stood and walked around the table to where Janeway was still seated. The captain watched her approach curiously until Seven perched on the edge of the conference room table.
It wasn’t like the young woman to ‘perch’ anywhere, especially when the concept of sitting in general was something she still hadn’t embraced completely. The fact that she had done so now told Kathryn this discussion was to be more of a personal nature than business related.
"Seven," she started only to stop a moment later when Seven cupped her cheek gently with her mesh-encased left hand.
Kathryn looked up into Seven’s eyes and was surprised to see passion reflected back at her. All arguments about impropriety flew out the window when Seven leaned down and captured her lips in a soft kiss. After a startled moment Kathryn parted her lips and invited a deeper taste from her partner. Seven kissed her until Janeway was breathless before she finally, reluctantly, pulled away.
Janeway was surprised to find that she felt a lot better after that kiss, more relaxed. "How do you always know exactly what I need before I even know it myself?"
"I love you," Seven said simply.
Kathryn grinned. "And I love you, with all my heart. Now get back to work before someone walks in on us necking in the conference room."
"Look it up," Kathryn teased gently.
Seven nodded and started to leave for engineering when Janeway stopped her with a word.
"Seven? You’re duty shift is over in two hours. Please don’t be late."
"Why? Do you have something special planned, Kathryn?"
"Not really. I just find that I like coming home to you."
"I will return to our quarters as soon as my duty shift is complete."
Kathryn smiled and watched the leggy blonde exit the war room. It really was strange, she thought. For so many years she couldn’t stand the idea of losing her independence by sharing quarters with someone, but now she couldn’t wait to go home and find Seven waiting there. She really was becoming too domesticated.
Captain Janeway wearily entered the door to her quarters on deck three. Alpha shift actually ended a few hours ago, but since an accident had Seven still working with the other TPG members in engineering Kathryn decided to finish up some departmental reports. The accident was minor, just a power conduit overloading, but it kept Janeway’s partner busy in spite of her promise to return to their quarters as soon as her shift was over. Kathryn decided to finish up some departmental reports rather than to knock off duty without Seven. The reports made for boring work and certainly weren’t anything that needed to be completed today, but Kathryn had never shirked her responsibilities and she wasn’t about to start now.
She tried not to admit, even to herself, that her quarters just felt so empty when Seven wasn’t there. In her office it wasn’t as obvious but in their private quarters there were reminders of the other woman’s presence even in the short of amount of time they had lived together. One such reminder stared Kathryn in the face every time she walked through the door. It was the bow Sven was outfitted with on a recent away mission that the young woman was reluctant to recycle after their successful return.
Kathryn stood in the middle of the living quarters with her hands on her hips and looked fondly up at the weapon mounted on the bulkhead. The bow was ornately crafted of solid gold. The material it was forged from made the bow extremely heavy and only Seven with her Borg-enhanced strength could comfortably wield it. Kathryn thought just the fact that Seven kept the weapon was another sign of her becoming a little more human. There was a time not long ago when Seven would have thought it more efficient to recycle the object into the pattern buffers.
Kathryn wondered if Seven ever stood staring at the object as she did now and remembered their adventure on the planetoid with the Egyptian-like society. Kathryn had to admit it was one of her guilty pleasures to look at the bow and remember how incredible Seven had looked when she carried it.
Dressed in a white tunic that came to just above her knees, golden belt cinched around an impossibly tiny waist and gold sandals Seven looked remarkably like an avenging angel. All she was missing were the wings. It was really too bad Nemo didn’t have any holodecks. Kathryn wouldn’t mind recreating that scene without hostile aliens or savage booby traps, but Nemo was a lean ship and holodecks were a luxury.
Suddenly Kathryn snorted and turned toward the bedroom intent only on a shower. What did she need with fantasies anyway when she had the real thing in her arms every night?
Kathryn bent over to retrieve fresh undergarments from her dressing table. On board any other ship it wouldn’t be necessary to save clothing and anything replicated would be recycled until once again requested from the replicators. Unfortunately Nemo wasn’t any other ship. It was really only the saucer section of a much larger vessel and they simply couldn’t waste ship’s energy. It took a lot less energy to run a garment through a replicator for cleaning than to break it down to its basic components and recreate it again later. As a result Kathryn now had an ‘underwear drawer’ complete with bras, panties and socks. She chuckled a little as she pulled the drawer open thinking her mother would approve.
The Janeway’s were Traditionalists and until Kathryn was old enough to attend Starfleet Academy she had lived at home.
Traditionalists never recycled clothes and maintained closets and drawers full of garments they wore and subsequently cleaned the old fashioned way.
As soon as she pulled the drawer open Kathryn froze with a scowl on her face.
Everything in the drawer was in a messy tangle and Kathryn was sure it hadn’t been that way this morning. Although she could be accused of leaving the odd coffee cup lying around Kathryn preferred a more fastidious approach to her clothing and kept everything neatly folded and stacked. This jumbled heap wasn’t anything she would ever be guilty of. She just couldn’t understand what Seven would have been looking for or why she would leave Kathryn’s clothes in such a state.
Kathryn sighed and took a moment to reorganize things. In the process she found the object she had been carefully hiding for just the right occasion to give to Seven at the bottom of the pile. Either the former Borg hadn’t found the object or hadn’t thought it anything of significance.
Just as well, Kathryn smirked, and retrieved the garments necessary for her shower. She took a pair of jeans and a dark blue shirt from another drawer before she turned toward the bathroom.
When she came out of the bathroom a short time later Seven was already in the kitchen area and apparently had just started to chop vegetables. Seven turned as soon as Kathryn entered the room and the two shared a private smile reserved for lovers.
Kathryn slowly walked toward Seven until she was invading her personal space, but Seven didn’t seem to mind and laid the chopping knife on the cutting board. Her long arms came up to wrap around Kathryn’s waist as Seven hugged her close.
Janeway’s eyes closed as she inhaled the heady scent of Seven’s hair and skin. Along with the smell of her lover Kathryn detected other not so pleasant odors such as conduit sealant and lubricant. Still, Kathryn couldn’t control the surge of desire that coursed through her veins and realized how long it had been since she stood on a ledge thinking of nothing but devouring her younger lover.
"Kathryn, are you all right?"
Kathryn didn’t answer as her body responded instead. Her nipples hardened and she raised her face toward Seven. The other woman understood without words and closed the distance between them by capturing Kathryn’s lips in a searing kiss. Lips parted and Kathryn slid her tongue eagerly inside Seven’s mouth, desperate for the taste of her. She made a small sound in her throat, a groan of sorts, and reached up to slide her fingers into Seven’s long, thick hair. In seconds the efficient Borg hairstyle was undone and Kathryn was combing through the locks. After long minutes reacquainting herself with Seven’s lips Kathryn pulled a short distance away.
"Darling, are you very hungry right now?" she asked in a throaty voice.
"What did you have in mind?"
Kathryn thought Seven knew exactly what she had in mind and noticed how shaky the Borg’s normally sure voice was.
"Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a shower and then you stretched out on our bed?"
"I think that could be arranged."
Kathryn looked up into Seven’s face and even through the desire reflected there she noticed the look of stress that the other woman usually concealed very carefully. Seven had been very worried for Kathryn lately and Janeway was fully aware of that even though Seven did her best to hide it. Rather than draw attention to that worry now, Kathryn intended to show Seven exactly how exhausted she wasn’t at the moment.
Hand in hand, Kathryn led Seven into their bedroom and settled onto the queen-sized bed while Seven walked into the bathroom. Just sitting next to the dressing table while she waited for Seven to shower Kathryn remembered what she had discovered earlier and called out to where the other woman could hear her.
"Seven, what were you looking for in my underwear drawer?" she asked, more curious than concerned.
With just one word Seven was able to convey that not only did she not know why Kathryn would think she had done such a thing, but that she had absolutely no desire to look through Janeway’s skivvies.
"Nothing, darling. I must have been more of a slob when I got dressed this morning than I remember."
Seven didn’t answer, but the sudden sonic burst from the shower was enough to make Kathryn cringe. The sound was made bearable by imagining a nude Seven of Nine and what they were about to do. Kathryn felt moisture flood her nether regions and decided to be ready when Seven got out of the shower. She undressed quickly, flinging her clothes onto a corner chair, and got under the covers. She was already breathing a little faster in anticipation.
Seconds later a clean and ready Seven of Nine stalked out of the bathroom. Her blue eyes seemed to hold an inner fire and Kathryn greedily took in the curves of the strong female body. Seven’s abdominal implanted glinted mutely in the lowered lighting and she raised one gunmetal brow in a silent question.
"You seem very eager, Kathryn."
"You bet I do," Kathryn growled seductively and held out her hand. "Now if you’re through with the small talk?"
Seven smiled and climbed into the bed next to her lover. "I believe that we will continue to communicate, but I suspect it will not be very coherent."
"Here’s to incoherent." Kathryn twined her arms around Seven’s neck and her lips immediately sought Seven's in an urgent kiss that became a deep caress of their tongues.
Seven's mouth was hot, wet and sweet against her own and Kathryn told her so in that way lovers have of talking without words, calling out to one another. Their breathing became heavy with excitement until Kathryn had to break away for fresh gulps of air.
Only for an instant since Kathryn's lips hungered for the taste of Seven's chin and then for the tender flesh of her throat. She urged Seven onto her back and in the next moment Kathryn began a slow descent of kisses, trailing down the valley of Seven's breastbone and then onto the flat plain and skin-warmed metal of her abdomen.
"That you and certain members of the crew simply don’t know when to stop working."
"You said this condition could be life threatening. Are you telling me you’ve changed your mind?"
The doctor shook his head, and if he weren’t photonic Janeway could have sworn he blushed in embarrassment. "I really thought the engines could be responsible, but after what I’ve learned I just don’t see how that’s possible. There’s just no evidence to support it, and medical scans don’t reveal anything. Short of actually dismantling the engines with the TPG we’ve ruled out any correlation between the two."
Janeway had already expected this, and asked, "What do you suggest for those affected?"
"I suspect that with the proper amount of rest all of the crew will be back to their charming selves in no time. Perhaps it is merely a previously unknown form of space sickness after all."
"I understand," Janeway smiled. "Thank you for your diligence, Doctor."
The EMH nodded and stood up, recognizing a dismissal when he heard one. Janeway didn’t really even notice his exit, and felt excited that they could finally make some progress. Warp speed used to feel so fast, especially warp eight or warp nine, but for the last few days Kathryn felt like they had been crawling along. Now they could use the slipstream engines, once they had been rebuilt, and make some real progress toward home.
Quickly she reached up and tapped her combadges to open a communications channel. "Janeway to Doctor Brahms."
"Brahms, here, Captain."
"Doctor, how long until you’ll have the engines rebuilt for the next jump?"
There was a startled pause on the other end, and Janeway grinned as she imagined the expression on the compact woman’s face. All of them had loved ones at home, and had been bitterly disappointed at the prospect of not using the modified engines. Janeway knew from a comment by her partner that Doctor Brahms was currently involved in a relationship with Commander Jordi LeForge, former chief engineer of Starfleet’s flagship the Enterprise.
"They should be finished in the next thirty-six hours, Captain, but we won’t be able to bring them online for at least forty-eight."
"Understood. Have them ready on time, Doctor. I don’t want to miss that three month rendezvous with Starfleet."
Janeway cut the channel and leaned back in her chair with a self-satisfied smirk. The news would be all over the ship in less time than it had actually taken to have the conversation with the scientist.
Down in engineering Seven of Nine was otherwise occupied with the more mundane task of helping clean out the plasma manifold. It was a dirty chore, and one the more senior engineers insisted on taking turns with. It just wasn’t fair to dump the dirty jobs on junior crewmen, although Seven noted with some irony that the task was sometimes used as a form of punishment.
Doctor Brahms and B’Elanna Torres, head of the TPG and chief engineer, were currently involved in a heated discussion over the viability of a radical new design. Torres had proven time and again that she had an innate ability to instinctively grasp a scientific situation, to create a solution out of thin air from sheer inspiration alone, rather than from accessing data and extrapolating conclusions based on it. It was one such theory that she was attempting to explain to Doctor Brahms at the moment.
When Seven met the small-framed scientist, and propulsion expert she had been less than impressed. Leah Brahms’ brown hair lacked the fire of Janeway’s bright locks, and she wasn’t in nearly as good physical condition, but it hadn’t taken long for Seven to realize that by human standards Leah Brahms was a genius. No doubt she would grasp Torres’ ideas immediately and the two would begin to feed off each other.
With Doctor Brahms announcement that the slipstream engines had been ruled out as the cause of the mysterious illness, a new excitement had infused the crew.
Seven turned back to the plasma manifold while others in engineering went about their regular duties. A few minutes later her attention was taken away from her mundane task when Crewman Tristan Adams interrupted the conversation between Doctor Brahms and Lieutenant Torres.
"Lieutenant? I just noticed a fluctuation in the inertial damper relays. They were only a few seconds from an overload, but I managed to correct it," the Human said.
Torres took the padd he offered and looked over the readings. From the expression on her face Seven knew the overload would have been catastrophic.
"Good job, Adams. If we had lost those dampers at this speed the crew would have looked like chunky salsa! The beta shift should be here in fifteen minutes. Make sure you brief them, and have them run diagnostics on the rest of the core assembly."
Seven stood up and swiped at the smudge on her cheek unaware that she only made the smear worse. B’Elanna’s comment reminded her that it was nearing the end of the alpha shift, and she wanted to be in her quarters before Janeway arrived. Since Seven would have to regenerate tonight she wanted to spend as much time with her lover beforehand as possible.
"Crewman, I shall leave this task in your hands."
"Uh, sure, Seven. Hey, we’re almost finished anyway. See you tomorrow."
Seven nodded and turned toward the door. She was surprised to find herself warmed by this crew’s attitude toward her. Where once she had been regarded with fear and contempt, here she was accepted as just another member of the crew. Perhaps it was the recent war that helped others in Starfleet to realize she had been a victim of the Borg, and was no threat to them. Regardless, she was grateful.
What she didn’t know was that it wasn’t the war that was responsible for how the crew viewed her now, but her relationship with the captain. Janeway was respected as a compassionate and brilliant leader, and if she was involved with Seven of Nine then that was enough. Of course there were a few that didn’t necessarily agree, but they were in the minority.
Seven quickly took the lift to deck three, and took a sonic shower. When she emerged dressed in a pair of jeans and a white button-down shirt, Janeway still hadn’t arrived and Seven smiled as she replicated a bottle of wine, filled an ice bucket, and acquired two glasses. An uncharacteristic smile gently curved her lips, and she thought that just because she needed to regenerate tonight that didn’t mean she couldn’t romance Kathryn before hand.
Seven of Nine didn’t have a need for romance personally, but she discovered through living with Kathryn that the other woman had a secretly sentimental nature. It was something Seven was starting to develop an appreciation for.
Ten minutes later Seven had the bottle of wine chilling on the coffee table, lights lowered to one-quarter illumination and lit candles scattered throughout the otherwise Spartan living quarters. Kathryn had yet to arrive and Seven started to wonder if she should have arranged this with the other woman in advance. The captain was notorious for working double shifts without warning, or without need, and it was very possible that she wouldn’t even show up.
Her eye was caught by the glint of firelight off the wall, and Seven turned. Unknowingly, she stood exactly where Janeway had a few days before, looking up at the golden bow. Seven couldn’t have said why she kept the weapon, but it evoked warm emotions inside her whenever she gazed upon it. When Seven carried the bow on the other planet it somehow made her feel that she was more. For some reason it made her feel strong, no that wasn’t the right word. It made her feel invincible.
Seven didn’t hear the door open behind her, or realize that she was no longer alone until strong arms wrapped around her waist. Kathryn rested her chin on Seven’s shoulder and Seven happily leaned back into the embrace.
"It’s beautiful, isn’t it?"
Kathryn smiled at the slightly reverent tone in Seven’s voice when she realized she had the answer to her question. "Do you miss it?"
"I…am unsure how to answer that question. I miss how I felt when I carried the bow."
"How did you feel?"
"Strong, desirable. I felt like I could do anything, but I especially appreciated how carrying the weapon made me even more protective of you," Seven answered in a softly reverent voice.
"Protective?" Janeway hadn’t expected that answer. "What do you mean?"
"When I was Borg there was purpose. Every drone received instructions from the hive and was assigned a task. When that task was complete they were assigned another. Then I was separated from the Collective, and suddenly there was chaos. Even though I tried to fit in with Voyager, very often I felt that I lacked a purpose."
An admission like that had cost Seven and Kathryn felt tears sting the backs of her eyes, but she didn’t interrupt. She wanted to give Seven the time she needed to express what she felt.
"Then I began to love you, and suddenly I had a reason to begin to embrace humanity. When I carried the bow that reason to embrace humanity solidified into a purpose."
Seven turned and slipped her arms around Kathryn. Slender arms came up to twine about her neck, and Seven looked into bright blue eyes. "When I carried the bow I realized that my purpose is to care for you, to protect you and be with you for the rest of my life. When I look at the weapon now, I am reminded of that. It is why I wanted to mount it on the wall."
"Oh, Seven," Kathryn said with tears shimmering in her eyes. "Have I told you how very much I love you?"
Without waiting for an answer Kathryn tugged Seven toward her and pressed their lips gently together. Seven eagerly deepened the caress, and Kathryn felt long fingers begin to slide over her torso in the prelude to things to come. Kathryn had noticed the wine and candles when she walked into the room, but she didn’t think now was the time to interrupt Seven to ask what she had in mind when that really was plainly obvious.
Seven grasped the hem of the captain’s tunic, and Kathryn raised her arms to help in the garments removal when the ship abruptly jolted.
Kathryn and Seven barely remained standing while the ship dropped out of warp, but Kathryn had already tugged her tunic back down and slapped her combadge.
"Janeway to the bridge. Report!"
"There was some kind of accident on deck five," Commander Tuvok reported. Lieutenant Maltz, the Klingon assigned to tactical during the beta shift, should have responded, but it seemed that her first officer was still on the bridge when the accident occurred. For once she was happy for his tendency to work even longer shifts than she did. "There was a hull breach in section thirty-five beta, phaser assembly. Emergency forcefield is holding, Captain."
"Ensign Rosenfield sustained multiple contusions…Crewman Price was killed in the breach. Ensign Rosenfield is being transported to sickbay."
The brig and weapons systems were located on deck five, and there weren’t normally many crewmen there unless there was a prisoner in the brig. But security kept an office on that deck, and both victims were security personnel.
Janeway took a deep breath, and tried not to think that Price was only the first loss on Nemo. Instead she decided he would be the last. In that instant she was ready to use the slipstream engines as much and as repetitively as possible to get her crew home.
"Noted. Get a repair team down there to seal that breach. Janeway to A’zal."
"A’zal here, Captain," the Vulcan answered immediately. The captain was pleased to hear it and could almost picture the young woman already on her way to the bridge to find out what happened.
"Commander, we’ve had a hull breach on deck five. I want to know why that hull breached, and I expect a report in one hour."
Janeway cut the signal before the security chief could respond and turned to Seven. The other woman’s gaze was compassionate, but she didn’t reach out. She was aware that Janeway was in full command mode and wouldn’t appreciate the gesture, something Kathryn was immeasurably grateful for.
"Seven, find a way to keep those engines from overloading when we use them. I can’t just accept there’s nothing we can do to prevent it, not anymore. Find a way. Help me get this crew home."
The desolation in Janeway’s suddenly dark gray eyes was clear. Seven knew how the death of a crewman was a personal affront to Kathryn, as thought whatever happened was entirely her fault. Seven didn’t know how to convince her otherwise, but she did know how to support Janeway. "I will, Captain. I will."
Janeway nodded, and there was a slight lessening in the tension in her shoulders. "I’ll be in sickbay. I need to talk to Ensign Rosenfield."
Toward the middle of beta shift the next day Captain Janeway sat impatiently in her ready room. She had slept fitfully in twenty-minute stretches on her sofa, but honestly hadn’t been in the frame of mind to return to her cabin after last night’s events. It just didn’t seem right to take advantage of downtime when a member of her crew had been killed until they could find out what caused the accident and ensure it never happened again.
Ensign Rosenfield told Janeway there had been nothing to give any warning that the hull was about to breach, and later Commander A’zal attributed the explosion to faulty anodyne relays in the phaser housing couplings. The computer was integrated into every system and would normally automatically correct any malfunction. When the computer was unable to make corrections, it would send an automated warning to whichever station was responsible for the system in question. Unfortunately, even the computer couldn’t have detected this problem until the relays finally reached critical.
Kathryn became convinced that all of these malfunctions were related, and at first she had poured over everything that had happened the past few days. The deeper she dug, the more she couldn’t find anything to link the incidents together. Everything just seemed to be a random sequence of bad luck. Finally, to avoid thinking about having to plan a memorial for Crewman Price, she started going over departmental reports looking for anything out of the ordinary. There was Lieutenant Paris’ navigational report that mentioned he had to make course corrections eight times in the last three days, but diagnostics on the navigational array, and helm controls came up empty.
Janeway sighed and sat the padd down before she picked up the engineering report. The TPG were making good progress, and the slipstream engines would be ready sometime tomorrow. At first it seemed like everything was status quo in the engineering department until Kathryn noticed something that made her sit up a little straighter. She read how Crewman Adams discovered a fluctuation in the inertial dampers that would have resulted in the entire ship and crew being torn apart if they had gone off-line while the vessel was at warp. It was only blind luck that the malfunction had been noticed before they had to deal with the fallout.
What the hell was going on? From the first minute the Nautilus had left DS9 one thing after another had befallen them. Had Starfleet built a lemon? Only the experimental slipstream engines functioned as they were intended, and every other critical system seemed to have serious problems. Only the TPG seemed to have any idea what they were doing when they built this ship.
Even now the TPG members, lead by Doctor Brahms, were into their second shift on deck six. Kathryn had asked Seven to help her find a way to keep the slipstream engines from exploding and her partner had immediately set to work to fulfill that request. Seven, Brahms, Torres, and anyone else with a level three or better engineering rating had volunteered to see that request made a reality. Even Commander Tuvok was down in the engine room, although Kathryn doubted B’Elanna would appreciate the extremely logical Vulcan looking over her shoulder.
Janeway stood up, and sighed again. She pinched the bridge of her nose, and walked over to the replicator for her second pot of coffee for the day. Her eyes felt gritty, but anything more than a catnap was out of the question since Kathryn knew she would only be haunted by images of Crewman Price. She took the pot of coffee, and her lucky cup over to the coffee table on the upper level.
She sat sideways and looked out the view port where stars streaked by, rainbow hued from the warp velocity. It struck her again how large her office was, but it had been designed as part of a much larger vessel with roomier quarters and office space. When Nemo first struck out on their own it was her intention to split the office in two to share with her first officer. Then they got the slipstream engines to work on the smaller vessel, and splitting the workspace ceased to be a priority.
"Kathryn," Seven said gently. "I need you up here. Hold me."
"Of course, my love. Anything," Kathryn replied, repositioning herself over her partner.
"Oh, Seven, I love you so much." She kissed Seven's right cheek before she traced the starburst implant with the tip of her tongue. When she reached Seven's ear she brushed her lips against the lobe and whispered to her passionately. "Just tell me what you want."
They clutched at each other then, Seven burying her face in Kathryn's neck. Kathryn perceived the hesitation and then guessed what Seven needed, what would give her pleasure. She didn’t know why Seven was so unsure about voicing what she wanted when it came to romantic expression, but found it charmingly innocent nonetheless.
They kissed again and then Kathryn trailed her lips to the warm, sweetly scented mounds of Seven's chest. She kissed around one of the plump nipples, which puckered instantly in anticipation, and then took it into her mouth, sucking with a fervent yet languid rhythm. And when she felt Seven tighten her embrace and gasp with pleasure she smiled contentedly against the warm flesh, emitting a short, throaty moan of her own. Seven absolutely loved it when Kathryn touched her breasts, the masses being extremely sensitive.
It was at moments like this that nothing else mattered except the love and trust that they nurtured between them.
She clamped her mouth down firmly over one of Seven's plump nipples and then pulled up fervently, sucking it in several times to inflame the other woman. Then she quickly trailed her lips down to where Seven needed the most attention.
The blonde of Seven's sex was drenched and sticky in her passion and Kathryn realized how extremely aroused her partner was. She pulled the lips of Seven's sex apart and buried her face in the sweet smelling crease before nuzzling the sensitive knot of flesh gently. Then she began to lap provocatively at the engorged tissues, feeling Seven wiggle and moan around her.
Kathryn released the sides of Seven's mound and brought her hands up again to her bosom to pinch the nipples, twisting and tweaking in the exceptionally tight grip that she knew Seven enjoyed.
The young woman writhed and moaned her satisfaction, grasping harshly onto the covers on which she lay before she raised her hands to grasp Kathryn’s shoulders. Seven slid her hands onto Kathryn’s head, stroking the auburn hair even as she gently pulled Kathryn closer, subtly encouraging a deeper contact.
The captain responded to the communicative caress with a deep penetration of her tongue, which made Seven moan with delight. Then Kathryn swiped her tongue the full length of Seven's sex, even over the tiny opening in the rear.
Kathryn smiled to herself and then indulged in an act she'd never consider doing with anyone but Seven. She licked avidly around the small hole and held onto Seven’s thighs as the other woman bucked from the intensity. Then she squeezed the tip of her tongue in as far as possible, penetrating Seven and licking deep inside her.
She flicked the tip of her tongue excitedly over the sensitive nub at the top, stuffed its entire length indelicately into the large opening in the middle and then grazed it over the tinier hole in back. And all the while she was lapping relentlessly at Seven's sex, she continued tweaking the plump nipples until the young woman could no longer bear the delicious intensity of stimulating pinches.
The trembling of Seven's thighs announced her assent. Then, with an uncharacteristically loud cry of joy she climaxed in a series of spasms that shook her like a leaf in a gale. When it was all over Seven collapsed with exhaustion.
For a few moments Kathryn allowed Seven to gather her shattered psyche back together, but before Kathryn had more than a second to consider her own contained desire Seven suddenly flipped her over onto her back. Her intense blue gaze caught the captain’s and Kathryn shuddered at the promise those eyes held. Seven slowly began to kiss down the length of Kathryn’s neck to the sharp angle of bone at her shoulders. She dipped lower and mapped every exposed centimeter of flesh with her mouth and tongue while she moved unerringly toward the center of Kathryn’s fire.
Kathryn raised her thighs, parting her legs as Seven settled between them and languidly stroked the captain's sex with her tongue, looking up at her all the while. The scene titillated Kathryn even more, forcing her to swallow against a suddenly dry throat.
Seven kissed the bundle of nerves and Kathryn inhaled again and spread her legs farther apart, granting Seven more access. The young woman fastened her mouth hungrily onto the captain and plunged her tongue inside.
"Huh....Oh!" Kathryn cried breathlessly at the unexpected invasion. "Mmm, oh. Oh, Seven!" she called.
Kathryn began to pant in a tempo that matched the sudden spasms that seized her. The flutters began to concentrate themselves in the nub at the top of her sex. It felt hard and distended, no doubt engorged as a result of Seven's single-minded attention.
Seven's tongue was relentless, the speed and vigor of its movements growing along with Kathryn's building excitement.
"Oh, oh, darling!" Kathryn cried again. "Like that! Oh! Don't stop!"
Seven pushed her hands underneath Kathryn and seized the two fleshy globes of her hips, holding the captain tightly to her face as her mouth fastened on more fervently.
Kathryn was on the edge of the precipice, anxious to plunge into bliss, but she needed something more.
"Go inside, Seven! Please," she begged. "Now!"
Seven brought her right hand up and immediately pressed two fingers into her lover. She curled them within and began to rub the tender inner flesh in a quick, circular motion that matched the way her tongue was avidly stroking the hooded bundle on the outside.
"Oh God!" Kathryn cried.
Her voice caught as her entire body tensed and arched. She seemed frozen in that position except for the tremors that periodically quaked her rigid form. After a long, breathless interlude she collapsed onto the bed moaning. A moment later her hand absently tangled in Seven's hair, urging the young woman's head away from the suddenly too-sensitive knot of flesh.
Seven complied, allowing herself to be guided upwards until she was face to face with Kathryn and draping herself warmly over the older woman's small frame.
The captain welcomed the weight, hugging Seven to her with almost painful intensity as she struggled to catch her breath.
"I love you," she exhaled. "So much."
Seven nuzzled the auburn hair with her wet nose and mouth, returning the embrace with equal ardor as her own need reasserted itself. She straddled the captain's right thigh and pressed herself onto it.
Kathryn responded instantly, lifting her leg and pulling the blonde's pelvis tightly against it. After a moment their hips began to dance in a grinding rhythm. Her hands grasped Seven’s hips helping to increase the friction as both struggled for shared release. Kathryn was surprised by the intensity of a second orgasm that came so soon after the first, but was aware that Seven had also climaxed at the same time.
Seven collapsed against her a moment later and Kathryn held her close as their hearts slowed from the fevered pitch to a more normal cadence. Seven was a lot heavier than Kathryn and she could only handle the full weight of her Borg lover for a few minutes, but Seven moved before Kathryn could start to feel trapped. Then Kathryn was snuggling against the lanky form of her partner with a contented sigh.
"Kathryn? Did you wish for me to make dinner now?"
"Hmm, in a few minutes, honey," Kathryn answered with her eyes closed. "Right now I just want to hold you."
Seconds later Seven realized Kathryn had fallen asleep when she heard a reverberating snore.
Captain Janeway sat in her command chair on the battle bridge of the Nemo and stared through the view screen out at the vastness of space. To the bridge crew she appeared calm, relaxed and ever vigilant. It was a posture Kathryn had adopted with years of previous experience in command of an Intrepid-Class ship and one she fell into with ease now.
Beside her Commander Tuvok sat quietly tapping buttons on his console as he worked out duty shifts and crew rotations. To those around them Janeway and Tuvok comprised a well-tuned machine forged by years of friendship, trust and familiarity.
They couldn’t possibly know that while her posture was relaxed Janeway’s mind was in chaos as she ran through everything that had happened since the accident that left her stranded once again in a distant quadrant of the galaxy.
While it was true that the crew’s physical malady had started before they jumped to this particular part of the quadrant, the timing seemed a little convenient. It wouldn’t be the first time a hostile species used subterfuge to gain her trust and she couldn’t help the nagging feeling that she was being used.
Just exactly when was it they had discovered Tarinia floating in space? Was it right after the first jump with the modified slipstream engines?
Tarinia had told a story of escaping from the Vadwaar after a lengthy prison stay fraught with emotional and physical abuse.
Supposedly her people were innocent bystanders in a war of neighboring peoples and used their morphogenic abilities only to infiltrate and gather information. The only problem was that Janeway didn’t know if she believed it. How could anyone reside next to warring planets for years and not become involved?
She knew through her own experiences fighting the Cardassians that it defied logic. Starfleet had stayed neutral for as long as possible before being drawn into the Cardassian War, but after five years they were forced to chose a side when their own colonies were threatened.
Assuming there even was a war! Janeway sighed quietly pushing the bone-deep weariness that had become commonplace aside through sheer willpower. They had only Tarinia’s word that such a war was being waged and their own experiences with the warlike species made it easy enough to swallow the story. What if there was another explanation?
Someone must have noticed Nautilus’ battle with marauding aliens after their sudden arrival in this quadrant. How far of a stretch would it be for a more advanced culture to be curious about their purposes for being there? How much farther of a stretch would it be to assume those curious people would have hostile intent?
The results of that battle could have been witnessed and a scout sent to investigate what became of the saucer section. When it was learned that the tiny vessel was headed toward the alpha quadrant the scout could have been dispatched to await their arrival. All anyone needed to do was monitor their communications to know that the Federation crew wouldn’t leave someone floating in space to their own devices.
Janeway knew her theories were far fetched, but one thing that couldn’t be ignored was Tarinia’s presence. They did find her floating in space. She was alone and said all she wanted was to go home, but there was no solid evidence that she was actually telling the truth. There was also the fact that Tarinia had come on board right after Janeway started showing symptoms that now threatened her crew, yet she was unaffected. Others of the crew were getting sick, yet an alien whose immune system should have been compromised after a lengthy and torturous confinement remained healthy.
At first Kathryn thought they must have picked up a bug on that little planetoid, but they were light years away from it now and the doctor’s tests showed nothing. Now there was a possibility that it was the modified engines causing the problem, but instinctively Janeway knew the TPG and the doctor wouldn’t find any evidence to support that. No, there was something else at work here, an outside influence they had yet to pin down. Whatever the final answer was Janeway had a feeling there was an individual agenda at work here.
The captain couldn’t voice her suspicions aloud yet, but she vowed to keep an eye on their shape-shifting guest.
"Captain, sensors show that our heading has changed by three degrees to port," Lieutenant Harry Kim reported routinely from his station.
Again? That was the fourth time in two days. Three degrees wasn’t much, but over the long haul would take Nemo significantly off course.
"Tom, check your board."
"He’s right, Captain," the helmsman answered a second later. "I don’t understand it."
The frustration was evident even though Lieutenant Paris tried to keep it out of his voice. Janeway assumed that after so many years working with the young man she just had a knack for reading him, and his frustration probably wasn’t as evident to the rest of the crew.
"Trimming course three degrees to starboard," Paris said.
"Perhaps you should perform a diagnostic on your station as well, Lieutenant Paris," Commander Tuvok suggested.
"Good idea," Janeway added. "Let’s try to pin down the problem."
Janeway grinned crookedly at her second in command who merely lifted a sardonic brow in return. So far it had been a quiet day on the bridge, but Janeway could feel the underlying tension since she had given the order not to use the slipstream engines. It was expected and she knew at the moment the entity that was the crew was going through a type of grieving process. There were some in the crew that were new to deep space exploration and it was those less experienced that thought they would never see their loved ones again.
Counterpoint to their lack of experience was the more seasoned members that had once been a part of Voyager’s crew. Janeway was confident that they would help the others see that there was hope. If that Intrepid-class vessel could make it home 70,000 light years in seven years with only conventional propulsion Nemo could certainly do it.
It was up to the captain and the others to keep positive, to never waiver and show by their example that anything was possible.
Calm, confident, and completely in control Kathryn Janeway sat back in her command chair and crossed her ankles. Her eyes on the view screen, she allowed her mind to wander to thoughts of Seven and exquisitely scattered silver inlayed with sweet nubile flesh.
She wished she could be in engineering at that moment, watching as the other woman worked. Seven’s hands were long-fingered and extremely dexterous. Too bad there wasn’t an Astrometrics department for the other woman onboard this ship. Often Janeway would wander to Astrometrics just to watch the other woman work, it was like a silent symphony of motion meant for her eyes only.
A few minutes later the turbolift opened and she turned her head to see the doctor walk onto the bridge. He was here to report his findings on the slipstream engines, and Janeway nodded toward him.
"Commander, you have the bridge."
It had been three days since she had ordered him to go over every bit of data with the TPG concerning the engines to find out if there was any way they could be making the crew sick. Even though it had been a long three days while she waited on the outcome of the investigation, and they had been traveling at warp seven the whole time Janeway felt she already knew what he would say.
"Captain," the man greeted as he walked into her office.
A casual glance confirmed that the EMH wore his mobile emitter, and Janeway wondered if he was concerned the holo-emitters that had been installed throughout the ship would suddenly go offline.
"Doctor, have a seat. What have you found?"
The physician sat down in front of the captain’s desk and handed her a padd, but he started to speak before she even looked at the handheld device.
"After conferring with Doctor Brahms and the rest of the Theoretical Propulsion Group I don’t see how it could be the engines causing the crew’s symptoms. Since nothing shows up on any scans I’m left with my original hypothesis."
Kathryn raised her cup, and realized the coffee had grown cold while she sat lost in thought. She put it down wondering how Seven and the others were progressing, and suddenly felt guilty. Working the crew into the ground wouldn’t bring Price back and they needed their rest. Nemo couldn’t afford for anyone else to come down with the mysterious ailment, or make a critical error on the engines because of exhaustion.
"Janeway to Doctor Brahms," she said after opening a comm channel. "Progress?"
"Brahms here. They’re coming along, Captain. Not sure if we’ll be able to keep them from exploding, but we’re working on some new theories."
Janeway could hear the weariness in the other woman’s voice, and felt another twinge of her conscience. "That’s enough for now, Doctor. Button up whatever you’re doing, and tell your team to get some sleep. We’ll pick it back up in the morning."
"Thanks, Captain. Does that go for you as well?"
Civilians! They could get away with things the rest of the crew would never dream of trying! However in this case Janeway didn’t really mind. Maybe a few hours of sleep would help clear her mind. "Yes, Doctor. I think for once I’ll follow my own advice."
"Understood, Captain. Brahms out."
Janeway recycled the mostly untouched pot of coffee, and left the confines of her ready room. She nodded to Lieutenant Maltz as she walked across the bridge, and took the turbo lift to deck three. Too tired to do more than take off her rumpled uniform, Kathryn crawled onto her bed with the thought that Seven would be there soon, and fell instantly asleep.
It seemed like she had only been asleep for a few minute when the ship dropped out of warp unexpectedly for the second time in two days. Janeway barked her elbow on the floor when she was tossed out of bed, and she cursed as she pushed to her knees.
"Report!" she ordered groggily, pushing the hair out of her face. She noticed Seven still hadn’t returned from engineering so she couldn’t have been asleep for long.
Maltz responded quickly. "There was an explosion in engineering. Warp engines off-line. Sickbay reports three crewman suffered minor injuries."
Damn! "Understood. Hold station keeping here, and get a repair team down there. Have them go over every inch of the ship and find out if there are any more ‘accidents’ waiting to happen."
Janeway quickly recycled a fresh uniform, and was out the door on her way to sickbay. She checked with the ship’s chronometer and discovered she had only been asleep for about fifteen minutes. Seven and the others must not have had time to finish their tasks before the explosion.
Lieutenant Paris met Janeway outside the doors to sickbay. The helmsman looked like he’d been awakened just as rudely as the captain, but unlike her he still wore pajamas. At least he showed the grace to throw on a robe before he raced for the medical bay.
"Are they all right?" he asked worriedly.
"I’m sure they’re fine, Tom. Sickbay reported minor injuries."
They walked in to a sight Janeway hadn’t expected from the report she received. There was a lot of blood on the floor, and Kathryn suddenly tasted fear as she looked around for Seven. The leggy blonde was standing near a biobed where Lieutenant Torres sat, but she appeared unharmed. B’Elanna, on the other hand, cradled her left arm and it was obvious the appendage was broken. She sported a multitude of small cuts and a swollen lower lip.
Janeway looked around, and saw the EMH working on Doctor Brahms behind a forcefield. Not far away another crewman sat on a biobed, but he didn’t appear very wounded. So where did all this blood come from?
"Seven?" she asked, walking over toward her partner. "What happened?"
Correctly interpreting her question Seven answered, "Doctor Brahms suffered a head injury. The wound was moderate, but bled in large quantities. The doctor is treating her injuries first since they are the most severe."
Kathryn nodded, and took a deep breath before she addressed the chief engineer. "Lieutenant, report."
"It’s my own damned fault, Captain. I forgot to reinforce the ablative plating on the engine casing. When we ran a test sequence it blew out some circuits, but it’s nothing major. It only throws our jump back about an hour."
Janeway felt almost dizzy with relief. At least this was a simple error, probably caused by fatigue, and not another malfunction! It was also a prime example why she could not afford to drive her people into the ground to get the engines on-line.
Tom stepped up to B’Elanna and slipped an arm around her in silent support before he said, "That’s a relief. I was starting to think this ship was haunted."
"Lieutenant?" Seven asked in confusion.
‘You know, by ghosts or something. It seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed all the malfunctions. At the least this ship has gremlins."
"You have to expect the unexpected when you’re testing an experimental vessel, Tom," B’Elanna admonished him. "It’s just one of those things."
"I concur," Seven said. "This vessel has experienced an unprecedented number of malfunctions, but each of them have a reasonable explanation. I do not believe supernatural beings to be that explanation."
Janeway was silent while she listened to the exchange, unnerved by the idea that her thoughts had so closely mirrored by her less than completely intellectual helmsman. It was just a run of bad luck, and Seven was right. All of the system errors had an explanation.
"Well, as far as I’m concerned, this last event has nothing to do with the others. It does tell me that you all need to get some sleep. That’s an order," Janeway said when Seven looked like she might object. "I appreciate that all of you have worked very hard, too hard.
We can’t afford any more accidents before we make that jump tomorrow, and I don’t want to see anyone else getting sick. Tom, get started on planning that post jump party."
Lieutenant Sakonna walked over and interrupted the conversation by running a bone knitter over B’Elanna’s arm.
"How’s Doctor Brahms?" Torres asked.
"She’ll be fine. The doctor is finishing up with her now. You were most fortunate, Lieutenant," The Vulcan said calmly. "Any one of you could have been killed in the incident."
"Yeah, well. I’ve got a pretty hard head, and it’ll take more than an overload to keep me from getting those engines on line."
Reassured that her crew was all right and in capable hands, Janeway wished them all a pleasant evening and left sickbay with Seven beside her.
Seven quietly followed the captain back to their quarters. She was becoming a lot better at reading her partner’s expressions, even more since they’d begun living together, and was concerned about Kathryn’s mental state. After the accident yesterday when Crewman Price was killed Kathryn returned to duty while Seven regenerated. After the regeneration cycle ended Seven went back to work on the quantum slipstream engines in an effort to fulfill her promise to the captain. Their respective duties since then kept them from connecting on a personal level, and Seven was surprised by how badly she needed that connection now.
"Kathryn?" she said softly after the doors closed behind them, disconcerted to actually hear a small quaver in her own voice.
Apparently Janeway was just as surprised since she turned quickly to Seven with a concerned look on her face. For a second she stared at Seven intently before she said, "Oh, darling. I’m so sorry." Then she stepped up and slipped her arms around Seven’s waist.
Seven instantly felt better and held Kathryn close against her. For a moment they simply held each other, and Seven savored the feel of Kathryn in her arms, the steady beat of her heart.
"Sometimes I’m so intent on what I need to have done as the captain that I can’t see there are other priorities. Forgive me?"
Warmed by Kathryn’s effort to reassure her Seven replied, "There is nothing to forgive. I understand that you are the captain, and this ship and crew come first. Their safety is paramount."
Kathryn drew back enough to smile up at Seven. She reached up and placed a hand against her cheek before she said, "Most of the time that’s true, and I’m glad you understand. But this isn’t one of those times. Right now the ship and crew are fine, and I need to be here for you. I’m afraid I’ve been alone for so long that sometimes I forget what it means to be in a relationship."
"I do not wish to be a burden to you, Kathryn." Seven realized she was frowning when Janeway slid her hand away from her cheek to smooth her fingers over Seven’s brow.
"You could never be a burden to me. If anything you give me strength. Just knowing you’re here, and that you support me no matter what means everything to me."
"I will always support you, Kathryn."
"I know that, love, but sometimes I need to support you, too."
"I do feel uneasy," Seven admitted, "but I am uncertain why I feel this way."
Kathryn took her by the hand and led Seven to the sofa. After they sat down she said, "A lot’s been happening lately, dangerous and unpredictable things. I’ve been in captain mode for so many days on end that it must be a little confusing for you. This is your first relationship, after all."
Janeway looked down at their joined hands, one human and one Borg-enhanced with fine mesh, and she felt like an idiot. Of course Seven would be confused and probably even feeling a little neglected. How much effort would it have required for Janeway to reach out to her in that time and try to let her know that even if she had to be on duty it didn’t mean she needed Seven any less?
"Darling, no matter what happens I want you to know that I adore you."
"I know this, Kathryn. I love you as well." Seven thought she had somehow lost track of the conversation. She had wanted to reconnect with Kathryn, not add to her burden.
Suddenly Kathryn looked up and smiled before she moved over to straddle Seven’s lap. Seven put her hands on Kathryn’s slender hips intrigued to see what her lover would do next.
"My point is that you don’t always have to be the strong one. It’s okay for you to need me to be there for you sometimes."
"I always need you, Kathryn." Seven deliberately emphasized the word before she reached up to capture Janeway’s mouth, kissing her deeply. Kathryn responded to the love and passion Seven felt for her before she pulled away with a grin.
"You have a dirty mind, which I love by the way."
"If I do, you are entirely responsible."
It was a familiar game they played, but Kathryn happily carried on the old thread. "Oh no, I may have shown you the way, but I think you just have a naturally dirty mind," Janeway teased.
"Do you object?"
Janeway leaned forward, suddenly weary, and rested her head on Seven’s strong shoulder. "Normally, not at all."
"You are tired. You didn’t sleep last night."
Kathryn knew Seven was worried for her welfare, but she refused to try and reassure her with a lie. Seven deserved better than that.
"No. I didn’t sleep."
Silence reigned momentarily as Seven took the time just to hold Kathryn, and allow her to rest. Then she said quietly, "You could not have prevented the accident, Kathryn. It is not your fault."
"I’m the captain. It’s always my fault."
Hearing the sorrow in the weary voice was almost more than Seven could bear. She felt tears threaten at the corners of her eyes and quietly regained her composure as she placed a tender kiss on Kathryn’s temple.
"Were you able to find a way to keep the engines from burning out when we use them?" Janeway finally asked.
"I believe so. In truth B’Elanna was already working on a theory for exactly that before you made your request."
"And?" Janeway asked trying to keep the excitement and hope out of her voice.
"B’Elanna believes that by reinforcing all conduits, relays and power grids any overloads will be minimized. Additionally by recalibrating the plasma flow regulators to build gradually to jump speed it will prevent any such overloads to begin with."
"I get it," Kathryn said. "Build up the power slowly but steadily instead of hitting the engines with everything all at once. Give the system time to adapt to the power increase."
"Yes." Seven watched Janeway’s face carefully as she mulled over the information, but soon was more intently focused on her haggard appearance. Her eyes were smoke gray and bloodshot while the dark circles under her eyes seemed more deeply etched. Abruptly Seven decided that was enough conversation for the night, and Kathryn needed to rest.
Janeway still sat straddle Seven’s lap so it was a small matter to wrap her arms around Kathryn’s backside and stand in one smooth motion. Janeway yelped in surprise and wrapped her arms and legs around Seven as the young woman walked across their quarters.
"Darling? What are you doing?"
Seven ignored the humorous and slightly lecherous tone, and answered by setting Janeway carefully on her feet beside their bed.
"You must sleep, Kathryn. Please do not fight me on this."
The bed was still a jumbled heap from where Kathryn had been thrown out of it earlier, and Seven eyed the tangled mass on the floor.
"Believe it or not that’s what I was doing before I was summoned to sickbay."
Relieved that Kathryn was being cooperative, Seven straightened the covers while Janeway changed into a peach colored nightgown, and got into bed.
Seven leaned down and kissed Janeway’s lips softly. "I will return after I shower."
"I’ll be waiting for you," Kathryn promised.
But Kathryn was already asleep when Seven returned from her shower. Seven climbed in beside her partner naked, as was her preferred attire when sleeping with Kathryn, and pulled the covers up over both of them. She leaned over to place a kiss on Kathryn’s forehead before she lay back against the mattress. Kathryn turned over and rested her head on Seven’s chest at the same time she threw a possessive leg across the other woman’s thighs. Seven merely wrapped her left arm around Kathryn and pulled her close, pleased that she wasn’t claustrophobic since Kathryn always slept practically on top of her.
Seven awakened slowly with the sensation of fingertips roaming over her sides, and by the moist heat of a mouth that feasted softly, but insistently on her breasts. She lay quietly suspended between sleep and wakefulness, reluctant to wake fully. The captain must have sensed she was awake, easing up to kiss Seven passionately. Seven parted her lips and Kathryn invaded her mouth with loving intensity.
They hadn’t made love last night, Kathryn indeed falling asleep before Seven emerged from her shower, and Seven responded to the kiss with a sound that was both pleasure and desire.
"What time is it?" Seven asked when Kathryn drew away slightly.
"0630 hours. Good morning."
"Indeed it is if you insist on waking me in this way." Seven wound her arms around Kathryn’s neck and pulled the woman back to her.
Kathryn kissed her again and slid a hand down between their bodies to flex her fingers in the heat and moisture she found. Seven moaned appreciatively and parted her legs a little more. A slender finger slipped easily inside and Seven gasped at the penetration. Her hips began to undulate as Kathryn slowly took her time to ease back and forth.
Completely relaxed the sensations felt incredible as Kathryn stroked her internally, exploring deeply, but tenderly. Pleasure surged through Seven, and she felt Kathryn begin to kiss her way down over Seven’s belly until her breath stirred the blonde curls at the juncture of her legs.
"Kaathryynnn…" Seven groaned twining her fingers in thick auburn locks. "Use your mouth."
Kathryn took her time covering the hard little erection of flesh. Seven cried out when she flicked her tongue back and forth softly, the contact so light that it almost wasn’t there. Slowly Kathryn increased the pressure and slid farther into Seven with her finger, stroking and flexing. The dual sensations quickly caused preorgasmic tremors to surge through Seven. She fought the impending climax, tried to hold it off to prolong the pleasure, but it was impossible to resist. She had no choice but to surrender to the helpless spasms that tore through her and left her shaken.
When Seven finally couldn’t respond beyond an occasional shudder Kathryn released her and slowly climbed back up her lean form. She lay on top of Seven and looked down at her with a smug look on her face.
"Kathryn," Seven said simply, and it was enough that they both understood that she was completely overwhelmed.
Janeway smiled and leaned down to kiss her gently. "I love you, my darling. Now, as much as I’d like to spend the day in bed with you, we have to get moving."
"You are in a very good mood, Kathryn," Seven observed curiously. "Has something happened?"
Janeway shrugged lightly. "Not really. I just woke up this morning, and realized how very lucky I am."
"Yes. I have you," Janeway kissed the tip of her nose playfully and said, "and we’re going to make a slipstream jump today. By the end of our duty shifts we’ll have covered another twenty-thousand light years toward home."
"Perhaps more,’ Seven said, wrapping her arms around the slender form, and silently wishing they could spend the day together like this. "B’Elanna hypothesizes we shall be able to stay in the slipstream corridor longer by building the power increase slowly. She believes the engines will function longer before they become too damaged to maintain the transwarp speeds."
"Well, there you go." Kathryn's eyes shone happily. "I knew this was going to be a perfect day."
Seven looked at her carefully, and decided there was more her partner hadn’t told her. "It is not merely the slipstream jump that has you excited. What else has occurred?"
Kathryn chuckled delightedly and said, "I just can’t get anything past you anymore, can I?"
"I am learning to read your expressions."
"I’ll have to watch that in the future, but you’re right. There is something else."
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Hmm, okay. I’ve decided to have a senior staff meeting at the beginning of shift to let them know of a change in policy."
"It’s not really anything major, but I’ve decided to keep Crewman Price’s body in stasis until we return to the alpha quadrant."
Starfleet policy when there was a death aboard ship was to jettison the body into deep space while the captain performed a memorial service for the individual if there was no opportunity to return that person to their family. During their time with Voyager, Captain Janeway had adhered strictly to that policy. The fact that she chose to go against it now suggested she was confident they would return to Federation space very soon.
"His family will be pleased to be able to attend his memorial service. This is a very compassionate decision, Kathryn."
"Thank you, darling. I knew you’d understand. I still want to have a service for him, but I think we can do that without sending a pod into space."
"Perhaps you could incorporate the memorial with the post jump celebration, Kathryn."
Kathryn looked down at Seven with suspiciously shiny eyes. She rested chin on a fist on Seven’s chest and said, "You’re becoming such a softy. I like that idea. Instead of mourning him, we can celebrate his life and the sacrifice he made."
At that moment the computer announced, "The time is 0700 hours."
Kathryn sighed, and said, "I guess that means I’d better get moving. I need to put the meeting in the senior officer’s padds so they won’t miss it."
As a matter of course, crewmen checked their individual computers for orders of the day prior to reporting for duty. It kept the ship functioning optimally while ensuring the lack of confusion if things changed during the course of a shift.
Kathryn stretched and offered a hand to Seven. "Want to shower together?"
Seven stood and pulled Kathryn into her arms. "I would love to, but it is inadvisable if the objective is to actually report to duty on time."
"You have a point. Why don’t I go first?"
Seven was perfectly aware that Janeway enjoyed watching her walk around their quarters nude in the mornings, and that claiming the shower first was merely her way of indulging that opportunity. Seven had no taboos about nudity, certainly had no objections to Kathryn watching her. She also understood that Janeway would deny everything if Seven were to actually verbalize her suspicions.
Seven kissed Janeway quickly, a mere brushing of lips, before she released her. While Kathryn took a hydro shower Seven replicated a cup of coffee for Kathryn and a cup of weak tea for herself. After Kathryn finished her shower Seven took a quick sonic version and dressed for her shift. She was finished with her ablutions before her tea was completely cold.
Before they walked out the door toward the bridge Janeway stopped Seven with a touch on the arm.
Seven bent over and kissed her gently. "Have a good shift, my Kathryn."
Janeway smiled at the new designation, and whispered back, "You too, my love."
Seven followed Janeway to deck two for the senior meeting. It didn’t take long for the captain to make her announcement and everyone seemed happy with that decision. It never set well with anyone to just send their comrades into deep space, never knowing what happened to their remains. They were quite happy to make the memorial part of the post jump ceremony.
After the meeting Seven took the turbolift to deck six. The engines were almost ready for the jump although they still needed to repair the minor damage from the previous night’s overload.
Five hours later Doctor Brahms sent Seven of Nine to the bridge to monitor readouts from the slipstream engines. Seven would report engine function as well as any fluctuations while Nemo made the ten-minute jump. Brahms and B’Elanna would control command inputs in engineering, and be on hand to correct any minor problems as they developed.
Seven walked onto the battle bridge and smiled ever so slightly when Janeway turned to see who had entered the bridge. The captain didn’t speak, but her eyes warmed when she saw her partner walk up to the aft engineering station. Doctor Martin was already there, and Seven wondered at his presence. Perhaps there was nothing to do in sickbay and he merely wanted to watch. He sat next to the captain at an auxiliary post, and stared into the view screen with a self-important air.
Like a well-oiled machine Janeway raised her head slightly and spoke. "All hands, this is the captain. Man your stations, seal all outer bulkheads, and prepare to engage slipstream engines in two minutes."
The captain looked over at Tuvok, and nodded slightly before she addressed the helm. "Mister Paris, set coordinates to two-thirty-six by zeta four nine and prepare to engage transwarp on my mark."
"Aye, Captain. Coordinates laid in."
Seven wondered if Janeway was mentally crossing her fingers, and just as quickly wondered where the thought had come from. No doubt she was spending too much time with Lieutenant Torres.
"One minute to slipstream," Commander Tuvok reported calmly a few seconds later.
Janeway took a deep breath and looked over her shoulder at Seven again. Seven could see the excitement in the other woman’s eyes and was happy to share this with her. Janeway turned back to the front and Seven turned her attention to the engineering station.
Information on the slipstream matrix scrolled across her board and Seven began tapping buttons as she analyzed her readings.
"Power increasing to slipstream engines," she reported calmly. "Engines at seventy-five percent capacity…eighty-seven…eighty-nine…ninety-two."
"Stand by, Tom," Janeway ordered.
"Ninety-eight percent capacity."
Seven felt the power gather beneath the soles of her Starfleet boots and consciously shifted her weight onto the balls of her feet. Even with inertial dampers the sudden shift in velocity could throw her off balance if she wasn’t ready.
"Engines at full capacity, now," Seven responded.
"Engage slipstream now, Mister Paris."
Nemo seemed to rear back before it shot forward at unimaginable speeds. Seven felt the small vessel shimmy slightly as it was buffeted in the slipstream corridor, and was impressed. In previous jumps the shimmy had been more like a wild animal intensely trying to throw off its restraints. This comparatively smooth ride would ensure a longer journey in the corridor and conversely allow more distance traveled just as Lieutenant Torres had suspected.
Seven monitored her board intently as minutes dragged by without incident. The ten-minute window of slipstream operation came and went, and all was still functioning sufficiently. Seven actually started to wonder if they would be able to make it back to sector 001 in this jump when red lights suddenly began to pop up in front of her.
At the sixteen minute mark Seven reported, "Hull temperature nearing critical, quantum stresses on the slipstream engines are building toward overload. Overload estimated in seventy-three seconds."
"Confirmed," Commander Tuvok reported as he checked his board. "Recommend termination of slipstream."
Seven noticed the temperature on the outer hull was going to be more of an issue and said, "Outer hull will breach in forty seconds if we don’t drop out of slipstream."
Nemo bucked unexpectedly, and Lieutenant Kim was thrown harshly across his station. From where she stood Seven could hear the air expel out of him by the force of the blow. She ignored him and checked her board.
"One of the plasma relays has overloaded."
From here it would only get exponentially worse. If Nemo kept going the hull would breach, and emergency forcefields would only hold for a few seconds before quantum stresses ripped them apart. That was if the warp core didn’t overload first.
"Tom, throttle back," Janeway ordered calmly.
"Reducing speed," the helmsman reported.
Slowly they eased out of transwarp speeds until the ship finally coasted to a stop.
"Hull temperature returning to normal," Tuvok reported.
The crew seemed to collectively hold their breath while Janeway stood and took in the view in front of her. Two huge binary stars occupied a path almost directly in front of them, and a purple/green planet slowly orbited a white sun.
"Position?" Janeway asked with awe in her voice. Voyager hadn’t explored this particular region of the delta quadrant and Kathryn thought the view was absolutely breathtaking.
Harry Kim gulped and checked his station before he reported. "Captain, if these readings are right we’ve traveled twenty-two point six thousand light years. Only another twenty years to the alpha quadrant!"
Janeway turned slowly around the bridge and took in all the wide smiles reflected back at her. Another jump like that and they would be home! The ship had actually managed to stay in the corridor an extra six minutes and shorn considerable time off their journey home.
"All hands, this is the captain." Janeway had to clear her throat before she could continue. "Our position is twenty-three thousand light years from Federation space. Well done."
Seven shared a private smile with the captain, and wished they were in private so she could hold Kathryn in her arms. The bridge crew shouted, and cheered, and Seven thought she could surely feel the celebrations on other decks of the tiny saucer shaped vessel. There would be true reason to celebrate as soon as Paris had the post jump party planned, and for once it was a social gathering that Seven was looking forward to.
After the cheers died down a little the captain said, "I think on that note I deserve a cup of coffee. Tuvok you have the bridge for the moment."
"Understood, captain. You have had far less of your customary beverage than usual today."
"I couldn’t agree more, but I don’t want to miss much of this new system. Even Voyager didn’t get to explore this sector of space, and I don’t want to miss out. I’ll be right back."
Since the Federation in general and Starfleet in particular was made up of explorers Seven wasn’t surprised that Kathryn wanted to see as much of what was in front of them as possible. As soon as she retrieved her coffee Janeway would be back on the bridge. In the mean time Seven began analyzing the data on her station. The slipstream engines had still overloaded and she knew Kathryn would be disappointed, but they had traveled so much farther than before. Somehow Seven thought it would mitigate her disappointment.
Until the engineering team had time to assess the damage it would be impossible to predict repair times. Regardless, Seven was confident their next jump would see them in the alpha quadrant.
The doors to the ready room opened and Seven watched her partner from the corner of her eye as the captain settled into her command chair. Kathryn held a cup of coffee, and had a smile on her face, but Seven was suddenly unconcerned about the status of the engines. She could tell right away that something was wrong with the captain.
Janeway looked…odd. Even as she watched Kathryn paled, and sat the coffee cup on the ledge next to her chair. Seven didn’t imagine the slight tremor in the fine boned hand, or the clatter of the ceramic as it touched the table. In the next instant Kathryn inhaled and tried to stand. Her eyes went wide with alarm, and she turned to look at Seven.
"Captain!" the Borg shouted and leaped down the small flight of steps to the command center just as Janeway collapsed. Seven barely had time to reach her before Kathryn hit the deck.
Doctor Martin, who was just leaving the bridge, turned and sprinted back to the captain. He pulled a medical tricorder from his waist and quickly scanned the captain. Then he reached up to touch the com badge on his left breast.
"Doctor to sickbay. Medical emergency. The captain has collapsed on the bridge. Seven of Nine is bringing her to sickbay."
He nodded once, and Seven easily lifted Janeway into her arms. He followed closely behind as Seven headed for the medical bay.
Since the Dominion War Section 31 had become a lot more active, although just as secretive as ever. Apparently Starfleet could condone the actions of the clandestine military organization as long as there was a convenient enemy somewhere close. Then the tendency was to excuse their sometimes underhanded methods for the good of the whole. Of course most Starfleet and Federation officers didn’t know they even existed. That honor was reserved for only a few of the elite, the ones who understood that sometimes it was necessary to do whatever it took to protect the Federation from their enemies. The operatives of Section 31 understood that sometimes those enemies were within as well as without.
But members of Section 31 weren’t just assassins. On occasion the operatives were called on to acquire technology that would ensure the Federation always had the advantage.
Someone high up in command of Section 31 decided an operative should be placed on the Nautilus for the trip into the delta quadrant. They wanted an operative who could help them get their hands on the experimental slipstream drive. Of course that would mean Starfleet couldn’t be allowed to keep the propulsion for distribution to the fleet at large, and she understood why she had been ordered to sabotage the Nautilus’ engines. It was just too bad that the fractured dilithium crystals Sakonna had smuggled onboard had malfunctioned so far from the alpha quadrant.
Now she was stuck out here along with the rest of the crew without even the benefit of the full starship surrounding them. Sakonna’s secondary mission was to acquire any other technology useful for defeating Federation enemies, and she was authorized to do so by any means necessary.
Since she had failed in her first objective, to make it seem as though the engines were faulty before they actually left the safety of the alpha quadrant, she felt compelled to complete the second. There was no way she could go back empty handed or her superiors might decided she had outlived her usefulness.
Sakonna wasn’t really a Federation citizen but a Vulcan family had raised her after her own family had been slaughtered by invading Cardassians, and she sympathized with her adopted compatriots. She was born Romulan, but Section 31 didn’t hold her heritage against her, and even considered her an unexpected boon. It was well known that Romulans would never back down from a mission even if it should cost them their lives. Her medical file had been forged before being transmitted to the Nautilus, and Captain Thomas just green enough as a commanding officer not to notice anything unusual.
When they first became stranded in the delta quadrant Sakonna thought Janeway might actually turn out to be an asset, and she planned to approach the Admiral to recruit her into Section 31. Then Janeway stepped down, took a field demotion to captain, and of all things involved herself with that Borg! A subversive, and the Federation’s worst enemy!
Even if Janeway had destroyed the Borg hub leading from the delta quadrant to Earth’s doorstep the Borg had transwarp propulsion and didn’t need the corridors. They would come in their ships, and the quantum slipstream would be instrumental in the coming war.
Too bad Janeway was out of the question. Delving into the captain’s personal logs convinced Sakonna that Janeway’s feelings for Seven would lead to the Federation’s destruction. But she couldn’t just eliminate Janeway, not openly, and not here. There was too much of a chance she would be caught. She had no back up, and no way out so she had to use her vaunted Romulan intellect.
Instead Sakonna had released small amounts of a bio-toxin that would slowly degrade the immune system. She timed the release of the toxin after the slipstream jumps so Janeway would think they were related and not use the engines. Sakonna still wanted to get home, but being in the delta quadrant had offered an unexpected opportunity to find technology from species the alpha quadrant had never heard of. If only the Nemo hadn’t been separated from Nautilus she wouldn’t be forced to do this the hard way. The delta quadrant had so much untapped potential and the changeling, Tarinia, was a small example of that.
Tarinia wasn’t like Odo, the changeling in charge of security on Deep Space Nine, and actually had a humanoid form. If Section 31 could only analyze the creature’s cellular make-up they might have a defense against the Borg. Imagine! An inoculation synthesized from the changeling’s DNA that would allow someone to transform on a molecular level! Operatives could waltz onto a Borg cube or a bio-ship piloted by species 8472 and destroy them from within without the threat of being detected.
From what she’d learned reading Janeway’s personal logs the captain wouldn’t willingly go along with Sakonna’s plan, and simply asking her was out of the question. There was no longer a reason to stay stranded in the delta quadrant as long as they could bring the changeling back to Earth with them.
Sakonna had devised and was in the process of carrying out a plan that would help her ensure her objective. She had made the experimental propulsion drive seem too unpredictable to use so that the project would be scraped by Starfleet Command once they arrived home, and Section 31 could adopt it for themselves. That hadn’t been difficult since the entire command staff on board Nemo thought for a brief time that the engines were responsible for the crew’s malaise. The second part of the plan was trickier, and even now Sakonna didn’t think she could pull it off with Janeway in command of the ship. She had to find a way to keep Tarinia in Starfleet’s custody so she could help the Federation with a defense against invading aliens, even if it was against the changeling’s will.
Janeway wouldn’t condone such drastic measures even if it meant getting home a little quicker. As a returning hero, field demotion notwithstanding, Janeway was and would be in the way.
The captain intended to drop the changeling off on her home world on their way back to sector 0-0-1, and Sakonna doubted that an appeal to her patriotism would be convincing. Janeway had to be eliminated.
Sakonna was convinced that with Janeway out of the picture she could make Commander Tuvok, who would be captain then, listen to reason. Until then she had to be especially careful. Janeway couldn’t be the only one sick or it would be suspicious so she had dosed a few other crewmen. The toxin had been specifically developed for Section 31 operatives and was undetectable by conventional medical scans.
Sakonna took a few other steps to delay progress such as overloading a power conduit here, or clogging the plasma flow regulators to the warp core there. She even had to admit to a certain perverse pleasure by altering their course so that buffoon Tom Paris continually had to make helm corrections, but these things were minor. She had almost slipped up and been caught by the captain when she was searching the woman’s quarters. If Janeway hadn’t been so intent on taking a shower Sakonna wouldn’t have had the time she needed to escape undetected.
She still wasn’t sure what she had expected to find, but Sakonna was convinced there must be another Starfleet operative onboard, one who worked for Security. Even though most of her plans seemed to be going off without a hitch other things weren’t working out so well. Small booby traps that she laid to cause inconvenient explosions without crippling the vessel never went off, and she had to find out who was working at odds with her. If anyone would know who was working for Security it ought to be Janeway, but what had Sakonna expected, to find that information in Janeway’s underwear drawer? She still wondered why there was a diamond ring stashed in a pair of panties at the bottom.
Now that her selfish desire to return home had resurfaced, and Janeway had all the reassurance she needed from the dimwitted doctor the propulsion engines had been used.
Sakonna knew down to the second when the jump was to occur, it was all the crew could talk about. The doctor was on the bridge acting like he had an actual reason to be present for the slipstream jump, and with no one in sickbay she was free to act. Sakonna accessed the environmental systems and crawled down a ventilation shaft over the top of the ready room to release a lethal dose of her toxin. With everyone busy at their posts no one missed the nurse being in sickbay, and she waited until Janeway made a triumphant entrance into her office immediately after the scheduled jump. Sakonna hadn’t expected Janeway to merely request a cup of coffee from the replicator before she went back onto the bridge, and was disappointed she wouldn’t be able to watch.
She had hoped Janeway would be dead before anyone found her, but collapsing on the bridge made the incident less suspicious than if it occurred while the captain was alone. Unfortunately it also severely cut into her time frame, and Sakonna had to beat a hasty retreat as soon as she saw Janeway head for the door.
It was imperative to make a few others sick as she hurried her way overhead toward the turbolift so as to throw anyone off who might suspect a personal attack against the captain, and then get to the medical bay. The toxin was colorless, odorless, and broke down almost immediately after being released, which gave her little time before it began to work.
The timing was a little tricky, but Sakonna thought ahead and rerouted communications for sickbay to her combadge. When the call came that Janeway was being taken to sickbay Sakonna calmly intercepted the call, and made it to sickbay scant seconds ahead of the emergency medical team.
Now Janeway would die, and Tuvok would be in charge. He wouldn’t waste valuable time dropping an insignificant alien off, but would find the fastest and most efficient way home.
"I’m sorry, Seven, but I can’t allow any visitors right now. She needs her rest. They all do."
The EMH’s expression was transparent to the friend that had known him for more than seven years. The doctor was worried. Gone were his normal blustery, self-important testaments to medical superiority. He had no idea what was wrong with Captain Janeway or the others, and no clue how to begin treating their condition. All tests were in the normal range and the only symptoms were exhaustion and night sweats. Even though the doctor checked out Janeway three days ago it had taken a collapse in full view of the bridge crew before he would finally admit there was something really wrong with her.
Two other crewmen collapsed at their posts within minutes of the captain, but they didn’t concern Seven as much as Kathryn did.
As she faced down the doctor Seven was tempted to toss him across the medical bay. He should have known the captain wouldn’t come to him unless something was seriously wrong. Instead he brushed Janeway aside and told her she was working too hard.
"Stand aside or I shall de-compile your program."
Doctor Martin visibly flinched as though her threat affected him physically. Seven found that fascinating since he was basically nothing more than a collection of photons contained inside a forcefield. Still, that didn’t stop her from staring down at him in a threatening manner until he finally, wordlessly stepped aside.
In a sick bay there was no real privacy, but in deference to Janeway’s rank the medical personnel had made an effort. Her biobed was pushed all the way into the far corner of the room, and the lights had been lowered. No doorways were close to Kathryn’s location and even with Borg enhanced vision Seven could hardly see her.
Crewman Leyton and Ensign Michael Harris occupied two of the other beds, but they were on the opposite side of the room. Both were sleeping quietly and Seven frowned as she thought about what the three had in common. Leyton was a Bolian, but Kathryn and Martin were both Humans. The only common factor anyone could think of was the planetoid they had been on when Nemo first arrived in the delta quadrant.
Leyton and Martin had been on the original way team while Janeway led the rescue team. No one else showed any symptoms, but the bulk of both teams had been Klingon or Vulcan with considerably stronger immune symptoms.
Kathryn’s sleepy voice drew Seven toward her in the gloom. She tried to keep a reassuring look on her face as she leaned over the biobed and gently took Kathryn’s hand between her own. Seven smiled down at her partner and gently asked, "How are you feeling?"
The dark circles under Kathryn’s eyes were so deep now that they looked painted on. Her cheeks were gaunt and she appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight in the few hours since she had been brought to sickbay.
"I’m fine," Kathryn assured her. She tried to smile, but the expression was weak at best. Instead she clung to Seven’s hand as hard as she could, and willed herself to feel better.
Seven pushed sweaty tendrils of hair back from Kathryn’s face and cupped her cheek. She let the blatant lie go knowing that Kathryn would be more concerned for Seven’s feelings than for her own health. She leaned across the biobed and kissed Kathryn on the forehead before she looked into her stormy blue-gray eyes.
"You will be fine. The doctor will find out what is wrong with you soon."
Now she was lying and they both knew it. They also knew Seven felt guilty that with her vaunted Borg intellect she also didn’t know how to help. Seven felt that with the collective memories of millions of individuals that the Borg had assimilated she should possess the knowledge of not only what was wrong with her crewmates, but how to cure them as well.
The doctor had allowed Seven a few moments to speak with the captain, but now he interrupted them with his usual tact.
"If you’re through harassing my patient now, do you think you could let her rest?"
Kathryn suppressed a shudder at the cold expression that settled on Seven’s face before she turned to face the doctor. A lot of people thought that Seven was emotionless, and couldn’t discern the nuance of her expression but Kathryn could see it. What she saw now was someone about to become extremely dangerous to the doctor’s matrix.
"It’s all right, Doctor. Please let her stay."
Perhaps it was the fact that the captain had actually said ‘please’, or merely that if the patient wanted to be bothered then that was up to her. Whatever the reason, the doctor merely snorted in irritation and walked away.
Lieutenant Sakonna stepped up quietly and Seven tensed again. She relaxed a moment later when the Vulcan pushed a chair over for her to sit down. Kathryn was fortunate the Vulcan nurse was on duty when she collapsed, and had immediately started fluids to keep the captain hydrated. The woman was calmly composed like the doctor, but unlike the photonic physician seemed better equipped to deal with human turmoil.
Seven nodded her thanks and sat down without letting go of Kathryn’s hand. She had no intention of leaving Kathryn’s side until someone found a cure for what was wrong with her partner. B’Elanna and Doctor Brahms could work on the engines without her for now.
The mood on the ship was somber. The crew walked around like someone had died, and even though no one had they were under the impression that it was only a matter of time. The fact that the person they were most worried about was their very own Captain Kathryn Janeway made things even worse. As a collective unit, the crew wondered how the woman that had braved the delta quadrant and tackled every thug along the way could have fallen prey to something so innocuous exhaustion. She was Janeway, venerated hero of Starfleet. This just couldn’t happen!
Tom Paris sat quietly in the converted storage room and sipped at his ale with little interest. When Janeway and then the other two crewmen had fallen ill the senior staff decided to convert the storage area into a waiting room. It felt more like a morgue, but at least he wasn’t alone. Tarinia and B’Elanna sat across from him on a small sofa.
With such a small crew the senior staff had taken to relieving security and spending time with the changeling. Tom and Tarinia got along especially well, and the young woman was finally starting to relax around the crew. It had taken time for her to learn that they weren’t out to hurt her, and had only her best interests at heart. But Janeway still wasn’t entirely convinced and had yet to completely relax the safeguards around her. The incident on the bridge where Tarinia had needlessly killed the Vadwaar invader hadn’t helped her cause, but that didn’t mean that the others on board weren’t willing to give Tarinia the benefit of the doubt. After being tortured for months by the Vadwaar they weren’t sure they wouldn’t have done the same thing.
"Has the doctor figured out what’s wrong with them yet?" Tarinia asked curiously.
B’Elanna shook her head. "His tests don’t show anything. They all have a fever and sweats, their white counts indicate an infection of some kind, but he can’t find an underlying cause."
"I just can’t believe it’s Janeway," Tom said.
"I know what you mean. I didn’t think anything could ever get Janeway down."
Tarinia frowned and stood to walk over to the replicator. She still wasn’t used to all of this opulence after living in a cave for a year and then being a prisoner of the Vadwaar for another eight months. She spent a few minutes trying to get a drink from the device before it grudgingly relented and gave her an orange juice. She knew Janeway meant everything to these people, and she also knew that she wasn’t one of the captain’s favorite people. For her own part Tarinia found Captain Janeway fascinating.
The woman was small in stature, but the command aura around her was unmistakable. When Kathryn Janeway walked into a room you knew it, even if your back was to the door. Tarinia wanted to get to know the other woman better, but the only way to do that was to win her way back into her good graces. She couldn’t do that if Janeway was dead.
Something tugged at the back of her brain and she tried to concentrate a little harder. The thought slipped away and Tarinia shrugged as she turned away from the replicator with her drink.
"So Tarinia, do you want to help me plan the post jump party after the captain and the others get better?"
Tom was trying to be optimistic and she took pity on him. The strange humanoid was brash, and at times a little too cocky for her tastes, but she sensed he had good intentions and was obviously very worried about his friends.
"I’ve never actually helped plan a party before. It should be an education."
"I’ll take that as a yes."
Torres ignored their comments and stared wordlessly into the corner. Everyone else seemed to be trying to keep occupied and look on the bright side, but Torres apparently preferred to brood quietly. In her short time on the ship Tarinia had heard comments about the volatile Klingon nature and wondered if that was her problem.
"What are you thinking about?"
B’Elanna looked up blankly and then focused on the conversation with effort. "Hmm? Oh, I was just thinking how strange it is that the doctor isn’t getting any readings on his instruments. There’s a fever but no antibodies, and there’s an elevated white count but no evidence of an infection. The patients are all exhausted, but that’s normal considering the fever."
Tarinia suddenly sat up straighter and forgot about her orange juice. The thought that tugged at her brain before surged to the front like a flashing sign. "I know what’s wrong with them."
"What?" Tom asked.
"You do?" B’Elanna asked.
Tarinia stood up quickly and said, "We must go to sickbay."
"Tell us what you know," Tom said. He and B’Elanna both stood up and waited for Tarinia to answer.
"There’s no time. If I’m right Janeway has little time. Take me to sickbay."
Seven sat on a chair next to where Kathryn lay helplessly on a biobed. At the moment the larger than life captain seemed small and frail as she dozed fitfully. Seven never knew it was possible to feel so twisted up inside, miserable and powerless to do anything to help. She sat and looked down at her partner, gently stroking her fevered brow and whispering words of encouragement and love, and hoping somehow it was the right thing to do since she could do absolutely nothing else.
The doors to sickbay swished open behind her, and she ignored it until she heard Tarinia call out loudly.
"Doctor! Doctor Martin!"
The EMH and Lieutenant Sakonna were in his office discussing viable options for treatment when the changeling entered. She sounded so excited that Seven turned curiously and saw Lieutenant’s Paris and Torres accompanied her.
"What is it?" he asked coming out of the office with the nurse behind him.
"She started babbling something about knowing what’s wrong with the captain," Tom interjected.
Seven inhaled sharply and stood up, although she still held Janeway’s hand. Excitement flooded through her, and she listened to the conversation across the medical bay. She started to ask a question but the doctor beat her to it, apparently both of them skeptical of the changeling’s information.
"What do you mean? Have you seen this before?"
"Yes," Tarinia answered quickly. "I’m not sure if it’s the same thing, but there is a virus on Celstus Three that causes the victim’s body to slowly shutdown until they simply die."
The Starfleet officers shared a disbelieving look and the doctor’s shoulders slumped. He shook his head sadly and said, "I’m grateful that you want to help, Tarinia, but we’ve never been to Celstus Three. I don’t see how the captain or the others could have been exposed."
"Celstus Three is approximately six thousand light years from where you found me, in the opposite direction of course. I’ve only heard stories about it and that’s why it took so long for me to connect the two, but surely there would be others that would travel from that planet deeper into the delta quadrant. Isn’t it possible that someone who was infected could have spread the disease to whatever planet you did visit?"
"That’s an awful lot of speculation," Torres offered, "but we don’t have anything else."
"Yeah, isn’t it worth checking out?" Tom asked.
Doctor Martin seemed to consider the idea briefly before he said, "As you’ve just pointed out, we don’t have anything else. Tarinia, what else can you tell me about the disease?"
"Only that it doesn’t show up on regular scans. The virus attaches itself to the nerve clusters of the spinal column, and sends out something to cause the system to shut down. I’m sorry; I’m not a doctor so I don’t know the right words to use. And like I said, I’ve only heard stories, but they do sound like what we have here."
"I have heard of this disease," Seven interjected from across the room. "The Borg assimilated this information from species 33263, but it is not an actual virus. It is a biological weapon."
Lieutenant Sakonna seemed to pale for a moment then said, "Biological warfare? That is highly unlikely since we have not encountered any advanced species since Nemo was separated from the Nautilus."
"Hold on," Martin said to stop the rapid exchange, and addressed the changeling. "Tarinia, I think they’re right. From what you’ve told us the virus would have to be contagious, and the captain and the others simply aren’t. As for biological contaminants, Seven and Sakonna are right when they say we haven’t seen any planet side combat. Still, we were on a planet deep in the delta quadrant for some time. If a skirmish had taken place there in the past where the virus was used, it’s at least conceivable that some of the away party stumbled on it. I think we should try to eliminate the possibility. Seven, you know more about this than anyone. What should I look for?"
"You must run a multi-spectral scan of their spinal columns and cerebral cortex. The toxin attaches itself to the myelin sheaths of the nerve clusters and is dispersed in small amounts over a period of time. The slow release of the toxin causes the internal organs to shutdown slowly until death is inevitable."
"Let’s get busy running those scans," Doctor Martin walked quickly toward the captain. Seven let go of Janeway’s hand reluctantly as he and the nurse wheeled the captain into the surgical bay. "First we need to find out if that’s what we’re dealing with. If it is, Seven, I hope you know of a cure."
"Good. Now if you don’t mind, we need a little privacy."
Doctor Martin erected an opaque sterile field around the operating theater, and Seven walked over to the trio near the door.
"Thank you," she told Tarinia sincerely.
"I just hope that’s the answer. It very well might not be."
"Still, I am grateful."
Lieutenant Paris cleared his throat, and said, "Well, we need to get back to work. Come on, Tarinia, we’ll drop you off with security."
Seven and B’Elanna shared a look before the Klingon said gently, "She’ll be all right, Seven."
After they left Seven turned back toward the surgical bay and linked her hands behind her back. She would be here as long as it took. Please, let her be all right.
For those who want an idea what Karri Jameson looks like, at least in my mind!
Karri Jameson exited her quarters on deck three. Although it was well into beta shift she was still in uniform and covered with injector lubricant. After a quick break for dinner she was on her way back to deck six. Most of the crew were still on duty, even those who worked the gamma shift and Karri thought it was likely everyone was just trying to stay busy. No one wanted to think about Captain Janeway and the others fighting for their lives in sickbay.
Tired and not really aware of anything but the diagnostic she needed to run on the magnetic constrictors, she bumped into the bulkhead slightly and dropped her padd.
"It’s all right. I’ve got it."
Karri watched B’Elanna squat down and retrieve the errant padd. The engineer must have just come out of her own quarters, and Karri didn’t hear her coming down the corridor. Karri inhaled deeply at the sight of the strong female body handing her the data padd. She saw B’Elanna every day, but every day Karri tried very hard not to look and simply concentrate on her work. Today she was too tired to look away, and even with the strained situation on the ship she couldn’t help but drink in the sight of the beautiful features.
Warm, flawless, caramel skin and deep sable eyes combined with brow ridges that were a work of art made her heart thump painfully in her chest. Karri could lose herself in those eyes! B’Elanna didn’t like the reminder of her Klingon heritage, but Karri thought the ridges were perfect. They weren’t all hard and lumpy like most Klingons, but flowed smoothly across her forehead, a gentle symphony of bone and flesh that suited the sensitive woman hidden carefully inside.
While Karri was lost in silent appraisal B’Elanna was just as speechless. She noticed how tired and pale Karri looked, and was worried she was getting sick like the others. Of course Karri was working doubles like everyone else and that could easily account for her condition. B’Elanna was aware that her worry for the other woman went beyond what she would feel for just another crewman, and she was reminded of her conversation with Seven.
B’Elanna did love Karri, and everything inside her struggled against the idea of a loveless marriage. She could see the emotions swirling unguarded in Karri’s eyes and fought the response in her own body. Her honor demanded that she fight her attraction. If Tom was a negligent father or unfaithful she might have a reason to seek her own happiness, but he adored Miral, and the only thing he did besides spend time with his daughter was work on old hot rods when there was a holodeck available. Not that Tom was around a lot lately on Nemo even without a holodeck. It seemed he was always on the bridge or spending time with Harry Kim. Maybe being with his wife was too painful a reminder of his daughter.
"Uh, thanks," Karri finally stammered.
"Sure." B’Elanna was surprised to hear how husky her own voice was.
Karri thought she could hide the desire in her eyes, but B’Elanna saw it and wanted nothing more than to take the other woman in her arms, hold her close and never let go. The urge was so strong B’Elanna felt her chest ache with need; her fingers itch to stroke Karri’s cheek. B’Elanna’s nostrils flared as she inhaled the scent of the other woman, and she suddenly found it easier to look at Karri’s right earlobe than directly into her eyes.
"Ho…how’s the captain?"
Grateful for the change in subject B’Elanna said, "About the same. All of their systems are shutting down, but Captain Janeway seems worse off than the others."
"The rumors said Tarinia knew what was wrong with them," Karri said, honestly concerned. From what she’d overheard Karri had been holding out hope that the doctor could devise a treatment.
"She thought she did, but it didn’t pan out. I’m afraid it doesn’t look like there’s anything anyone can do."
Karri felt tears sting the backs of her eyes, and attributed it to exhaustion as she raked a hand through her hair. She let out her breath slowly and asked, "How’s Seven?"
"How do you think?" B’Elanna asked harshly. The stricken look on Karri’s face made her immediately regret her outburst, and she bit off an oath. "I’m sorry, Karri. I’m just a little out of sorts."
"No, it’s not. Janeway and the others are dying, and no one has a clue how to help them. Seven hasn’t left her side, and when Janeway finally…goes, I’m afraid we’ll lose her, too."
Instinctively Karri reached out and touched B’Elanna. Something electric passed between them and suddenly B’Elanna was in her arms. She felt B’Elanna shake and tightened her hold around the other woman. Karri closed her eyes and tried to remember that she was comforting the Klingon, but all she could think was that she finally had B’Elanna in her arms again.
After only a moment B’Elanna pulled away. Karri could see a faint blush staining her cheeks, but B’Elanna refused to look at her.
"I have to get back to work."
B’Elanna turned away and stalked quickly toward the turbolift while Karri watched. Seeing B’Elanna leave tore Karri’s heart apart now just as much as it had six years ago on Voyager.
Silently she watched B’Elanna climb into the lift, request sickbay as her destination and disappear from view. She wondered if B’Elanna had any idea how much Karri loved her, or what she had suffered since the engineer became involved with Lieutenant Paris.
Karri couldn’t blame Paris, he was lucky that B’Elanna chose him, but did either of them know what she had gone through since then?
B’Elanna had never even given her a reason. She just came to Karri’s quarters one night and announced that they were through.
B’Elanna said she loved Tom Paris, and that she wanted to be with him. It was a tough time for Karri after that. She tried to respect B’Elanna’s wishes and keep her distance. All the while she watched as the mismatched couple fought against each other and came back together, holding out hope that it wouldn’t work and B’Elanna would come back to her. But then they married and B’Elanna became pregnant.
Karri buried herself in work after that, and when Voyager triumphantly returned to the alpha quadrant she took on the most dangerous assignments she could for the next six months. Someone in Starfleet noticed her single-minded determination and approached her about a job. For the last three years, while on Earth, Karri underwent advanced tactical training. It was well documented and listed in her file. What wasn’t in her file was the specialized training she took on right after that.
Not surprising, Admiral Janeway had invited her onto Nautilus since Janeway hand picked the majority of the crew and it was no secret she chose members of her former crew that were available. Starfleet Security took advantage of that and assigned Jameson her additional mission.
Heaving a sigh Karri started toward the lift and considered how weary she was. It was more than the double shifts. It was her extra curricular activities that kept her so worn out. Having a secret identity on a ship the size of Nemo was hard work, and Karri knew she needed to get some rest or she would start to slip up.
Regardless of the reasons she had become a Starfleet undercover operative Karri needed to turn her thoughts away from B’Elanna and concentrate on her work.
Karri smirked as the lift traveled to deck six, thinking about how Admiral Alyana Necheyev herself had approached her and briefed her of a possible Section 31 threat aboard the Nautilus. They didn’t know who the operative was, only that possible sabotage of the experimental vessel was in the works. Starfleet’s assessment had been correct. So far Karri was responsible for defusing seventeen separate booby traps since the Nautilus left DS9, in every system on the ship from sonic showers to the deflector array. Yet she was still no closer to identifying the saboteur.
She was convinced that the fractured dilithium crystals that caused them to be stranded in the delta quadrant weren’t an accident, although she suspected the agent didn’t plan the resulting explosion. More likely, it was a miscalculation on the part of the operative, and they had something else in mind by fitting Nautilus with the faulty crystals. After all, who would try to be stranded in the delta quadrant? What she just couldn’t figure out was why? Why try to disable the engines in the first place?
The doors to engineering parted and Karri quietly logged onto her workstation. She performed her job by rote, lost in the details of her experiences on Nemo and what she had learned so far. In her experience Section 31 was made up of a bunch of cowards operating in secret that were not above murder, sabotage, kidnapping, or anything else so long as it furthered their own interests.
It was true Jameson was also operating in secret, but only because she couldn’t afford to blow her cover. As soon as she found any proof who the operative was she would go to Commanders A’zal and Tuvok.
Karri sighed as she grabbed a tool kit and climbed under a plasma relay. This was why she was so tired. After double shifts in engineering she spent her free time crawling through the bowels of the ship; through Jeffries tubes and conduits scanning every system for more signs of subversion rather than get her allotted four hours of sleep. One night she had even wiggled along in the half-meter space under the floor grates of the deck one Jeffries tube.
Inevitably her thoughts wandered back around to the chief engineer. It was true her mission was important and she was alone in carrying it out, but at the same time she blamed B’Elanna for her worn out condition. Karri preferred to stay busy working rather than obsess over the exotic Klingon hybrid. It wasn’t logical and she knew she was being unfair, but blamed the resentment more on hurt feelings than because she actually believed it was B’Elanna’s fault.
Karri stared into the guts of the magnetic constrictors and thought about their prior relationship. She thought of dinners shared, and romantic walks along the holographic beach, but mostly she remembered the gentle side of the feisty former Maquis rebel. To the outside world B’Elanna showed a brilliant, but volatile and overly aggressive nature. Karri had briefly enjoyed the chance to know the sensitive and slightly romantic nature of the real woman beneath the façade.
Karri closed her eyes, and her stomach flip-flopped at the remembered sensation of a loving kiss and the strength of B’Elanna’s arms as she held Karri close and tenderly assaulted her senses. No, they never made love or even said they loved each other, but it was there. Even now, in the corridor a few minutes ago, it was still there. Ruefully Karri acknowledged that was what made things so damned frustrating now, and why she worked such long hours to keep her mind off the other woman. B’Elanna belonged with her, not the unappreciative Tom Paris.
She almost snarled thinking about his extra curricular activities aboard Nemo. She wondered if B’Elanna knew exactly what he was up to when not on duty or in their quarters. She probably thought Paris was with Kim, but Karri knew better. The second time she saw him on deck four without his combadge she asked the computer for his location and was told he was in Lieutenant Kim’s quarters. Since Paris had just slipped into Tamun Elbrun’s cabin she highly doubted the computer’s information. You’d think a Betazoid would have more sense.
That was three weeks ago and Karri knew the affair was still going strong, but she refused to get involved. B’Elanna would find out eventually. Karri wouldn’t add to her wounded pride by admitting she knew about Paris’ infidelity before the Klingon. Karri also felt the need to guard her own heart. When the break up finally did come there was no reason to think B’Elanna would decide she was suddenly free to be with Karri. It was far more likely she would retreat into herself until all that was left was the engineer.
It was probably for the best anyway, Karri thought. B’Elanna had a child, his child. Karri wasn’t sure how she would handle things if they did get together and then finally made it home. She didn’t have much experience with kids and absolutely none in raising them. Miral would probably hate her. But a part of her couldn’t help but think she would give anything to try.
Karri looked up into the concerned gaze of Leah Brahms. She had the feeling the scientist had said her name a few times before she heard her. Disturbed that she had allowed herself to become so distracted Karri took a deep breath and stood up.
"Sorry, Doctor. What can I do for you?"
Doctor Brahms handed Karri a padd and said, "Would you mind taking these specs to Lieutenant Torres? She’s working on the deflector today."
Karri took the padd, but knew B’Elanna was in sickbay right now. She’d heard her order the lift to deck two when they parted company earlier. She was no doubt checking in with her friend and finding out how the captain was doing.
Karri took the lift to the medical bay and nearly bumped into B’Elanna as she walked through the doors. B’Elanna lurched backward to keep from running into her, and threw her a curious glance.
"Doctor Brahms wanted me to give you these."
Wordlessly Torres took the padd and looked it over before she began to key in a sequence of equations. While she did that Karri mapped the engineer’s serious features. Then she reminded herself that it was wishful thinking and looked away. In the corner Seven sat very close to Janeway and stroked her face tenderly. The love and concern on Seven’s normally cool features was almost more than Karri could bear and she looked away, unwilling to intrude on their private moment.
Nurse Sakonna was in the office by the computer. At first glance Karri thought she was keying information into the captain’s medical file until she realized the lieutenant wasn’t even looking at the computer. She was looking at Captain Janeway with a very un-Vulcan scowl on her face. It wasn’t just an angry expression, but one of unmitigated hatred. An instant later the look was gone, but Karri hadn’t imagined it.
Eyes narrowed thoughtfully, Karri considered all of the deliberate traps and disasters that had occurred on board and started to wonder if the operative she sought hadn’t been right in front of her all along. No one would suspect a Vulcan nurse of being a Section 31 operative. Could there possibly be a better cover? At this point it was only a hunch, but Sakonna was someone on whom Karri would be keeping a very close eye.
"Here you go," B’Elanna said, and handed the padd back to Karri.
Their fingers brushed when she took the padd, and Karri heard the slight hiss of the engineer’s indrawn breath. Their eyes met briefly, and Karri felt the connection again. B’Elanna looked away uncomfortably before she looked back up at her. Jameson didn’t rush the moment, but slowly took the offered data. Looking deeply into B’Elanna’s eyes she said only, "Thanks," but the word felt like a caress.
She saw B’Elanna’s eyes darken, but the engineer finally took a deep breath and walked out of sickbay.
The doors closed behind Torres and Karri took one more lingering look at Lieutenant Sakonna before she returned to her duties on deck six.
"Doctor, what is the captain’s condition?"
Seven heard Commander Tuvok enter the medical bay, but was uninterested in his activities. She watched Kathryn’s silent features for any sign of improvement while she idly listened to the conversation behind her. She knew the answer to the question having asked it herself twenty times in the last hour, but listened anyway. Pieces of her heart felt like they were being carved away when the EMH answered.
"Her condition continues to deteriorate," Doctor Martin said softly. "I’m afraid there’s nothing more I can do except keep her and the others comfortable."
Seven tuned the men out and looked down at Kathryn. She thought of how she would feel when Kathryn eventually surrendered to the mysterious ailment that ravaged her body, and knew she would follow in the next instant. There was no other alternative. Kathryn Janeway was the only person Seven could ever love, and life without her would be meaningless. Even before Janeway severed her from the collective Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One had been impressed with the small, dynamic Human female who reminded her so much of Locutus. As a Borg drone Seven shared the Collective’s contempt for individuality since the Borg considered themselves the ideal state of being. They had unity of purpose and will; yet Captain Janeway impressed the entire Collective enough to activate Seven as an intermediary. Then that frail, imperfect being broke her link to the hive mind and even through the fear, anger and sudden overwhelming loneliness Seven’s fascination remained. It was the first authentic human emotion Seven could remember feeling in her entire life.
As she grew to embrace her humanity the feeling of awe turned to gratitude that such an individual would bother with a worthless drone, and gradually, grudgingly, gave way to a deep and abiding love.
Every day on Voyager the feeling grew stronger. Since being together with Kathryn on Nemo Seven’s love grew so intense she was surprised she could bear it. It was hard to fathom that one body could contain such emotion.
She watched the classic features for any small sign of improvement, but there was none. Janeway’s respirations and heartbeat remained constant if slowed and the shadows on her cheeks were so dark they appeared painted on. She realized Commander Tuvok hadn’t left sickbay, but he was no longer speaking to the doctor. He was in command of Nemo now, although Seven couldn’t have cared less beyond the point where she knew it would matter to Kathryn.
She felt his presence when he moved to stand behind her, but her attention remained fixed on Janeway’s face.
Seven was tempted to stay where she was but her respect and friendship for Tuvok dictated a greater response to his presence.
Resisting the urge to sigh, Seven stood to face the first officer. As usual, his expression gave no hint to his inner thoughts.
Seven blinked in surprise. "Commander?"
Tuvok lifted one eyebrow. "Is that expression incorrect?"
"No. I merely didn’t expect an inquiry on my emotional state of being."
"I apologize if my question seems illogical, however I have learned during my time as first officer that a certain sensitivity toward the crew is desirable."
"I am functioning acceptably." Seven knew she sounded cold, but couldn’t help it. Since Kathryn had collapsed Seven felt like she was moving around in a fog.
Tuvok nodded and accepted the obvious falsehood. "The doctor has informed me of the captain’s condition. I regret the necessity of asking you to leave her side, but the ship requires your expertise."
"Doctor Brahms has requested your assistance in engineering."
"They can repair the engines without me."
"Apparently not." The signs of an angry Borg obviously didn’t faze Tuvok. "Seven, the captain would want you to continue to assist this crew. The doctor will notify you as soon as he has anything more. In the meantime, work will keep your thoughts occupied."
If he had offered anything else Seven would have resisted, but pointing out what Kathryn would want was her undoing.
"I will report to engineering shortly," she finally acceded.
Tuvok dipped his head and quietly walked out of sickbay. Seven looked at Kathryn one last time before she reluctantly turned toward the exit. That was when an idea struck her so suddenly that she actually swayed. Normally Seven would have thought of it sooner, but she had been preoccupied with Kathryn’s condition. She was also exhausted since she hadn’t slept in two days or regenerated in three. She was just pleased she had thought of it now.
Excited, Seven walked quickly into the doctor’s office. Doctor Martin was entering data into the ship’s medical files, and didn’t seem to hear her approach. He actually started slightly when Seven spoke up behind him.
"Excuse me? What about them?" he asked, turning to face her.
"Nanoprobes can be extracted from my bloodstream and programmed to attack the cause of the illness."
"Like when we used them on Ensign Kim when Species 8472 was consuming his body on a cellular level," the EMH said, catching on quickly.
"But how will the nanoprobes know what to target? We don’t even know what’s causing this condition."
"It does not matter. The nanoprobes will target any foreign body, whether natural or synthetic."
The doctor considered the option for all of two seconds. It wasn’t like they were very successful with anything else they had tried, and if they didn’t act quickly the captain and other crewmen would eventually die.
"Let’s do it."
Seven didn’t consider that she was ignoring a direct order from Tuvok as she followed the doctor into the science lab and extracted the nanoprobes from her own bloodstream with a hypospray.
"I’m familiar enough from my previous work with your nanoprobes that I should be able to program them effectively. Still, this is going to take considerable time. Why don’t you report to engineering as Commander Tuvok suggested, and I’ll call you as soon as I’ve got it."
"You may need my assistance," Seven pointed out, almost defiantly.
"No offense, Seven, but your emotional state is exactly why I don’t need your assistance." Before she could protest he held up a hand for forestall her. "You’re too close to this, and I promise you that I will do everything in my power to cure all of them. Go to engineering," he finished gently. "I’ll call you."
"Very well," she finally relented. "You will call me immediately when you have the nanoprobes prepared. I wish to be here for the procedure."
As soon as Seven walked into engineering B’Elanna went over to talk to her. Seven was grateful for her friend’s support, feeling better than she had in hours.
"How’s the captain?"
"Her condition is unchanged, but the doctor is designing a new treatment regimen that involves the use of my Borg nanoprobes."
The women didn’t seem to realize they had an audience. Karri conducted her work quietly and efficiently, but listened in on the conversation. She was worried about the captain, too. Lieutenant Torres sounded startled when Seven mentioned nanoprobes and Karri couldn’t blame her. Who wanted to have microscopic assimilation machines running around in their bloodstream? B’Elanna kept talking and Karri slowly started to catch on.
"Didn’t the doc use your nanoprobes before on Neelix?"
"Yes. Approximately five years ago Neelix was killed by an energy discharge. The nanoprobes successfully reanimated him."
"But Seven, we know what caused him to die, and the nanoprobes were able to repair the necratized tissue. Are you telling me Doctor Martin figured out what’s wrong with Janeway and the others, and the nanoprobes are the only way to repair the damage?"
"No. The doctor has not been able to find an underlying cause for their condition, but it does not matter. The nanoprobes can be programmed to seek out any anomalies and eradicate the threat."
B’Elanna stared at Seven and finally said, "Seven, I realize you want to do anything to help Janeway, but how do you think she’s going to feel once she recovers and finds out she has Borg nanoprobes swimming around in her system?"
Thank you, took the words right out of my mouth, Karri thought suppressing a shudder of revulsion.
Seven blinked. "The nanoprobes will denaturate once they have performed their programmed function. After that the body will expel them naturally. However, even if they weren’t I would do the same."
"How can you say that? Janeway would resent it if she got stuck with those things inside her. Don’t you care about that?"
"Yes, but I would rather suffer Kathryn’s animosity as long as I knew she would live. I love her, B’Elanna. I cannot lose her."
"Well, I can’t argue with that," B’Elanna said softly. "Besides, that’s not anything we have to worry about. The nanoprobes will go dormant and all of them will be fine. Now at the risk of changing the subject, I need you to look at something. I’m having trouble with the computer computations. No matter what I do the computer simply can’t map the fluctuations in the slipstream corridor fast enough to keep us in it more than ten minutes. Maybe you can come up with something."
Karri felt like a jerk.
She knew Seven would never do anything to harm Janeway. Being stuck on another ship in this same quadrant for years with the former drone gave her the ability to see the hints of strain on Seven’s face that some of the newer members of the crew couldn’t. She saw the tightening around Seven’s eyes; eyes the color of ashes instead of the clear blue they normally were, and Seven’s jaw was clenched so hard she could crack walnuts. She also knew for a fact that Janeway adored Seven. From the beginning there was something in Seven only the captain could see. It was obvious in her gaze even when Janeway thought she was being professional and in control. Even with their obviously special relationship it was hard for Karri to imagine Seven returning such an intense emotion as all consuming love…until now.
What a hypocrite, Karri thought bitterly. And I never even tried to go out of my way to be a friend.
Sakonna readied herself with some bio-mental exercises that would allow her to enhance her performance. The exercises were ingrained in her since the beginning of her training as a Section 31 operative, and they were something she performed now as a matter of course. Her next move would be a dangerous one, but a few moments alone and she would be able to complete the next phase of her mission.
The Romulan frowned thinking somehow her information on the bio-neural toxin was faulty. The dose administered to Janeway should have killed her in hours, but it hadn’t. Although her bio-signs continued to meander down she still managed to hang on. Now the doctor, with help from the Borg, had devised a new treatment plan involving nanoprobes. Sakonna shuddered in revulsion at the very idea of having microscopic machines injected into the bloodstream, but couldn’t deny the probable effectiveness from the information the doctor had shown her. Now she was left with no alternative but to arrange another ‘accident’ before the doctor could pull off the amazing rescue. Right now the EMH was in the science lab adjacent to the medical bay fine-tuning the programming for the nanoprobes.
At this point Lieutenant Sakonna was finished trying to sabotage the engines since even she wanted to get home eventually, but she needed an explosion that would rip upward from directly below sickbay and put Janeway out of her misery. If the blast obliterated the doctor’s program at the same time Sakonna would consider it a bonus. She’d had to put on an impassive Vulcan façade every time he started the self-important, arrogant boasting, and she was sick of it.
It was the middle of gamma shift as Sakonna calmly slid through the ventilation shaft above deck three. The space was narrow and hot, and she had to move slowly to avoid banging any body parts against the tritanium tube. If a crewman happened to be moving to or from their quarters they might overhear the noise, and investigate.
The tri-cobalt device was set to a minimum one-megaton yield, and formed into a cone shape to direct the blast upward. Any more than that and she risked compromising hull integrity or even destroying the ship. Finally the tricorder in her pocket gave off a barely audible beep. It was the preset signal to let her know she had arrived at the optimal location to set the explosive. Sakonna took a second to wipe the sweat from her face and catch her breath before she set the charge.
It was set to blow right before the nurse needed to report for the alpha shift rotation. Sakonna would receive only minor injuries from the resulting blast, but it would be enough to clear her as a suspect as a full-scale investigation would no doubt be launched. Since she didn’t expect the doctor to finish his project with the nanoprobes before then Janeway should be right in the line of fire.
"Another long day," B’Elanna said casually.
Karri’s response, though monosyllabic, was friendly enough. She was just too tired to carry on a decent conversation. It was just her luck to be on the same turbolift with the woman of her dreams but too exhausted to even try for charmingly witty. Unfortunately it seemed B’Elanna was just testy enough to take offense.
"Computer, half turbolift."
Karri frowned and looked at the annoyed engineer.
"Look, Karri, I don’t know what’s going on, but I really don’t need attitude from you. I get enough of that from Tom lately."
Karri started to reply, but B’Elanna didn’t give her the chance.
"I realize that we have a history, but all these mixed signals are driving me crazy. One minute I feel like the air around us is going to incinerate from the looks you give me, and the next you’re giving me the cold shoulder!"
Well, isn’t this interesting? B’Elanna didn’t say she minded the looks, only that they were making her crazy. And Karri wasn’t giving her the cold shoulder she was just tired. Did that mean B’Elanna was overly sensitive toward her, and confused about her own feelings?
Confused was definitely a good sign.
"Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?"
Torres was working up quite a head of steam and Karri suddenly realized she was trying to force her into a declaration. Karri wasn’t about to make that mistake. If she did B’Elanna would either accept or refuse her in no uncertain terms. She didn’t think B’Elanna was ready to accept and Karri decided leaving her off balance at this point wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, she wouldn’t let B’Elanna force her to express her feelings unless or until she was sure B’Elanna would welcome them.
The turbolift doors opened on deck three, and neither moved for a moment.
"Okay," Karri said simply. She tried very hard not to smile when the brown eyes darkened in bafflement. "Good night, B’Elanna."
Karri left B’Elanna sputtering in the turbolift and walked down the corridor to her quarters. She left a trail of grimy, sweaty clothes all the way from the door to the bathroom. Karri was thankful that when crew quarters got shifted around she had ended up in Janeway’s old quarters. Only the captain and V.I.P. cabins had bathtubs and the hot water on her tight shoulders would feel heavenly. Now she would be clean and after that she was going to sleep.
"Good news!" Doctor Martin declared excitedly when Seven walked into sickbay.
"You were able to devise a treatment with the nanoprobes." On the surface Seven was as calm as ever, but her heart thumped painfully with the surge of hope and relief that left her dizzy.
"The programming was quite intricate really since there wasn’t a specific target for them to assimilate. In the end, I settled on a delicate balance of…"
"Doctor! When can the antidote be administered?"
"Right away," he said as though it should be obvious. "I see no reason to wait since prolonging the treatment would only allow their condition to deteriorate further."
Seven hadn’t regenerated in fifty-three hours and managed only a few hours sleep between watching over Kathryn and working in engineering, but suddenly felt wide awake. "I will assist you."
Seven accompanied the doctor over to Janeway’s side. In just the short amount of time she’d been working in engineering Kathryn seemed to have deteriorated further. She was very pale now and Seven worried that they might already be too late. She took a calming breath, and stood between Janeway and a medical tray the EMH had already prepared. Although Seven sincerely hoped there would be no need for the cortical stimulator or various stimulants she was pleased the doctor was ready for any possible complications. She reached down and grasped Kathryn’s hand between her own.
Doctor Martin stood up by Janeway’s head and spared a glance toward Seven. "Ready?"
At her brief nod he pressed the hypospray against Kathryn’s neck and injected the modified nanoprobes. For a moment there was no reaction. Kathryn’s vitals remained low, and her breathing was so light as to be almost undetectable. Then her skin abruptly took on a grayish hue, and the veins beneath began to bulge slightly. The procedure was similar to assimilation and if anyone were to witness the process without the knowledge of the doctor’s ultimate goal they would no doubt think that was what was happening. Just as quickly the veins receded and Kathryn began to take on a more healthy color.
"Life signs are getting stronger," the doctor reported neutrally.
Seven glanced up to see his eyes fixed on the medical readouts. No doubt he was waiting for any negative reaction to the medical procedure, but there wouldn’t be any. Borg nanoprobes were efficient, like the rest of the Collective. They would either perform the assigned task or they would not.
A slight squeeze pulled her attention back to the woman lying so ill on the biobed.
"Kathryn?" Seven asked softly.
The slight pressure on the palm of her hand was repeated, and then Kathryn’s eyes fluttered open. More gray than blue at the moment and filled with confusion about what was happening around her, Seven thought they were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
"Kathryn," Seven said softly, her voice unsteady with barely repressed tears, and leaned over to cup Janeway’s face tenderly. "I thought I had lost you."
"Humph," the doctor snorted. "Told you it would work."
Completely ignored and forgotten Doctor Martin walked away to treat Ensign Harris and Crewman Leyton.
Kathryn blinked heavily through the residual exhaustion and worked to gather enough moisture in her mouth to speak. "How long?"
"Two days, but you will be fine now."
"The crew? The ship?"
"Shh, Kathryn. I will tell you everything. Please relax. The ship is undamaged and the jump was successful. Ensign Harris and Crewman Leyton fell ill shortly after you collapsed. The doctor is treating them now, but it was you we almost lost. The doctor was able to synthesize a treatment for your condition."
Janeway nodded, and then regretted it instantly when pain feathered through her temples. "I’m sorry I frightened you," she whispered with difficulty, disturbed by the pain in her partner’s eyes.
Seven started to speak and then bit back her initial response. Instead she leaned over the bed and brushed her lips across Janeway’s, unconcerned with the others in the medical bay. "I love you, Kathryn and you will be fine. That is all that matters now."
The doctor interrupted the moment with his usual tact and started peering into her eyes with a medical instrument. Then he picked up a medical tricorder and passed it over her body several times before he finally said, "Well, it looks you’re on the road to a complete recovery."
Seven was absolutely baffled. She knew the nanoprobes had cured the captain, but how could the doctor make such a prediction after taking a few scans when her ailment had never shown up on instruments to begin with? His propensity to make statements of fact based on no proof whatsoever often convinced her that the doctor had progressed farther on the road to humanity than she. That particular habit was something Seven hoped she never adopted. Instead of pointing that out she tried only to be reassured by his prognosis. Kathryn was cured, and in the end that was all that mattered.
"Good," Janeway said thickly. "When can I be released?"
"Captain, you can’t be serious! You have been deathly ill for two days. I can’t just release you. What if you had a relapse?"
"Seven will take care of me."
"Sorry, Captain, but it’s not going to happen." The EMH was surprised after all these years that the captain still thought he would fall for that one. "If you’re a very good girl maybe I’ll let you go home tomorrow. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to inform Commander Tuvok."
Before he could make his escape Janeway reached up and grabbed his arm in a surprisingly strong grip for one who had been so sick. "The others… how are they?"
Martin sighed and gently rested his hand over the captain’s. "They’ll make a complete recovery, Captain. I’ve already treated them and they’re sleeping comfortably."
Finally she let him go. "Thank you."
The EMH nodded and looked at Seven. "Don’t tire her out." He walked into his office and tapped his combadge to speak with someone. No doubt he was informing Commander Tuvok of the captain’s condition.
Seven turned back toward Kathryn and said, "He is right. You must rest, but I will remain here with you while you sleep."
Touched by the love and concern in Seven’s eyes, Kathryn gently touched the dark stains on her cheeks. "When was the last time you regenerated?"
Seven flushed slightly and looked away before she admitted, "Fifty-three hours ago."
Kathryn tried to look irritated, but only succeeded in looking more exhausted. "Darling, you have to take care of yourself."
"Soon," Seven promised. She wanted Kathryn to concentrate on getting well, and knew she couldn’t do that if she was worried about Seven’s health. In some ways their relationship was symbiotic and Seven understood her own well-being was just as important to Kathryn as Kathryn’s was to her. "Let me stay until you fall asleep."
Kathryn smiled and said, "I wouldn’t have it any other way."
Janeway’s eyes wearily slipped shut and she drifted into sleep.
After her bath Karri dressed in a pair of red plaid boxer shorts and a tank top before she climbed into bed. Her roommate was out, assigned to Gamma shift, and Karri was happy for that since Yuta Marouk was Katarian. Although pleasant enough and sporting the cutest little horns on her forehead, Yuta had extremely poor night vision. She insisted on sleeping with the lights on and Karri could barely sleep with the lights from the stars shining in through the viewport.
She sat wearily on the edge of the bed with thoughts of the Klingon chief engineer dancing in her head. Karri wanted to do nothing more than fall asleep and dream pleasant dreams about the feisty woman, but there was one more thing she had to do before she could even think about sleep.
"Computer, locate Lieutenant Sakonna."
"What do you suggest?" she asked softly.
"Obviously we have to take her into custody."
"You sound reluctant, Captain." Karri observed curiously. The woman was responsible for them being stranded in the delta quadrant, and had attempted to kill Janeway and other members of the crew. How could the captain not want to apprehend her?
"You forget how far we are from the alpha quadrant, Jameson. I’m not eager to keep someone locked in the brig for the next twenty or thirty years no matter what they’ve done."
"Captain, there is no choice." Commander A’zal pointed out. "She cannot be allowed to move around Nemo at her leisure."
"I know, Commander." Janeway heaved a sigh before she began to issue orders. "Have your people ready to take brig assignments at the start of alpha shift. Right now Sakonna doesn’t know we’re on to her so we have the element of surprise. Keep her monitored for the duration of the night and just before start of alpha shift Tuvok, A’zal and a security team will take Lieutenant Sakonna into custody on deck three. Escort her directly to the brig."
"I will join them," Seven said strongly.
Janeway looked like she wanted to overrule her, but seemed to realize Seven had made as many concessions as she was capable of tonight. She nodded once and continued. "I don’t want anyone else hurt. Take her into custody as quietly as you can. Karri, are you sure Lieutenant Sakonna was acting alone?"
"Yes, Captain. One hundred percent."
"Good. After Sakonna is secured in the brig A’zal and Jameson will go through her quarters and see if you can find any evidence of this toxin."
"Yes, Captain," Karri said.
"Understood," A’zal acknowledged.
"Captain," Doctor Martin spoke reluctantly, "you can’t stay in sickbay after this. If she somehow eludes security you must be in a secure location."
"I concur," Tuvok said. "Ensign Harris and Crewman Leyton must also be relocated to their quarters."
"Of course. Tuvok, if you could see to that?"
Tuvok left the CMO’s office followed closely by the doctor. A’zal and Jameson already had their marching orders and Seven assumed the captain was ready to proceed to her quarters. She helped Janeway to stand, but was a little surprised when the captain abruptly turned back to Lieutenant Jameson.
"Oh, and Karri? You and I will have a very long talk about this. Soon."
Jameson paled and looked ready to sink through the floor. Seven felt sympathy for the woman having been on the receiving end of Janeway’s lectures, but in this instance couldn’t defend Karri’s actions. If she had come to them from the start the captain might have been able to help identify the saboteur before things became so dire. Still, if Jameson hadn’t found the explosive beneath sickbay’s deck plating Kathryn would have died and Seven felt grateful to the lieutenant. Maybe she would talk to Kathryn and try to mitigate her wrath on Karri’s behalf.
Seven nodded once toward Jameson and then helped Janeway out of the doctor’s office. It wasn’t far to their quarters, but they couldn’t risk being seen by Sakonna as they walked to their cabin. For that reason, Seven was pleased when Janeway employed captain’s privilege to request a site-to-site transport.
Janeway limped heavily over to the sofa and sat down with Seven’s assistance. Her sigh of relief was audible despite her best efforts to hide how weary she truly was. She supposed it was to be expected since she had been so ill and could only be thankful that the doctor had devised a treatment despite his apparent ignorance concerning the true cause of the malady.
"Seven," she asked suddenly curious. "Jameson mentioned the toxin when she briefed us in the doctor’s office, but if he didn’t know about it beforehand how did he treat us?"
Despite her assurances to Lieutenant Torres, Seven was still unsure how Kathryn was going to react to that information. She prepared herself for the worst and replied calmly, "He was able to program my nanoprobes to overcome any foreign bodies in your system."
"Oh." Whatever Kathryn had expected it wasn’t that. Seven looked like she was ready to flinch under a blow and at first Kathryn was confused why she would react like that. Then she figured it out and tried not to smile. Though Janeway shared the rest of the galaxy’s aversion to the Borg, she had never worried that Seven would hurt her. Even when Seven was newly separated from the Collective Janeway trusted her with an instinct that she just couldn’t explain to anyone.
"Thank you for always finding a way to take care of me." She saw that she had startled Seven and reached over to take her hand.
"What? You thought I was worried you’d try to assimilate me?"
"B’Elanna suggested you would be upset to have Borg nanoprobes in your system."
"I assume they’ll pass harmlessly out of my system in a few days?"
"Then what’s to worry about? I’m just glad you thought of something before it was too late for me or the rest of the crew."
Seven looked away momentarily and let out a shaky breath. "You have surprised me, Kathryn."
"Why? Because I trust you?" Janeway snuggled back against cushions and against Seven’s side. Seven put her arm around Janeway’s shoulders and pulled her closer.
"Darling, you shouldn’t listen to how other people tell you I’ll react. I love you and I know you would never hurt me."
"Thank you, Kathryn," Seven said, nuzzling the top of Janeway’s head. She was gratified when Kathryn raised her face for a kiss. It had been far too long since she felt Janeway’s lips under hers and Seven gently savored the taste before Kathryn pulled away and snuggled against her chest.
"So, what do you think of all this? I can’t believe Jameson is an undercover security officer! She’s a good engineer, but I always thought she was too…timid for something like this."
"Perhaps that is exactly why Starfleet Security chose her. There is no question that she was effective."
"Can’t argue with that." Kathryn chuckled good-naturedly. "I guess I should take it easy on her when we have that talk, huh?"
"She did save your life," Seven pointed out, relieved that Kathryn had come to that conclusion on her own. "However, I will not be reassured until Lieutenant Sakonna has been taken into custody. Why did you wait until morning, Kathryn? Would it not have been more prudent to take her into custody now?"
"Maybe. But she doesn’t know we’re on to her and the fact is that Nemo isn’t exactly equipped to be a penal colony. A’zal’s security teams are stretched thin just for normal duties and she needs time to work out shift rotations if we’re going to have a full time prisoner. Don’t worry, love, Tuvok and A’zal are keeping a close eye on her."
Janeway stifled a huge yawn, and blinked tiredly.
"You must rest now, Kathryn."
"I can think of something else I’d rather do," Kathryn said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. Even exhausted Seven thought she looked stunning and would happily have taken her up on the suggestion if she thought the woman could handle it.
She resisted the urge to smile when Kathryn stifled another yawn. "Perhaps another time. Now you need to sleep."
Seven stood and offered her hand. Kathryn looked up at her for an instant and then said, "You’re probably right. Alpha shift is only a couple of hours away and I have a feeling it’s going to be busy."
"Commander A’zal is capable of taking Lieutenant Sakonna into custody and in any event I shall be present to assist her. Commander Tuvok is capable of commanding Nemo until you recover."
Janeway took Seven’s hand and stood up. She grinned and asked, "Why do I get the feeling you’re not going to let me get involved in that?"
"Because I am not. You are required to rest."
"I really scared you, didn’t I?"
Seven’s arms slid around her and pulled Kathryn close. She could actually feel the trembling in her partner’s body, and realized how truly frightened Seven had been.
"You did. Please, Kathryn. Rest and allow your body to heal."
"All right. I will. I know you need to regenerate, but will you lie beside me until I fall asleep?"
The embrace tightened momentarily before Seven said, "I would enjoy that."
It didn’t take long for Janeway to dress in her own nightclothes while Seven pulled down the covers. Since Seven planned to regenerate she didn’t bother to undress and only pulled off her shoes before she lay down next to Janeway. The captain rolled over and pressed closely against Seven, and Seven eagerly took her into her arms. She felt the captain begin to shake and wondered if Janeway had finally realized that she had almost perished.
"What is wrong?" She asked pressing a kiss into Janeway’s temple.
It was said in an odd sort of tone as though Kathryn was being very careful. "Please tell me Kathryn. Are we not partners?"
"Of course, but sometimes as captain there are things I just can’t tell you."
For some reason Seven didn’t think Kathryn was being completely honest. "This has nothing to do with your command. I feel that. This is a personal issue, and you cannot use your rank to justify remaining silent. If something is bothering you, Kathryn, I need to know."
Kathryn surrendered with a silently released breath. "I was just so scared, darling. I remember thinking that I was dying, and that I wasn’t going to be able to tell you that I loved you before it happened. I tried so hard to fight it, but I didn’t have the strength. All I knew was this irresistible force was pulling me down and that I just wanted to let go. I’m so sorry."
She buried her face against Seven’s chest and started to weep quiet, dignified tears. Seven finally allowed her own tears of worry and relief to flow while she held Kathryn close. "But you did not surrender," she said gruffly. "I knew you would not give up. You never have."
Kathryn laughed a little through her grief and said, "Only because I knew you wouldn’t. I knew you’d find a way to save me."
Seven pressed a gentle kiss against Kathryn’s dry lips. "I will never let you go, Kathryn. I love you. Now sleep."
It only took moments for Janeway to fall into a deep, healing slumber. Seven stayed beside her for over an hour just listening to the quiet respirations, and being deeply grateful that Kathryn was still alive. After a while Seven got up and stepped over to the regeneration unit. She and B’Elanna had designed these quarters specifically for the Borg’s use while the ship was still in the design phase. They knew part of the propulsion team would be required to accompany the initial flight and prepared accordingly. With an unobstructed view of Janeway on the bed, Seven decided the placement was efficient. She set the regeneration cycle for four hours so she wouldn’t be late meeting Commander A’zal, and then allowed one more lingering glance toward Kathryn before the cycle engaged.
"No, Kathryn. You cannot be present when Lieutenant Sakonna is taken into custody."
"Dammit, Seven, I’m the captain. Don’t tell me what I can’t do!"
Seven allowed the profanity knowing Kathryn wasn’t really using it against her. She was just frustrated at not being allowed to be present, but this time it was Seven’s turn to remain firm. If Seven were any other crewman they wouldn’t be having this conversation and Janeway would do whatever she wanted. But she wasn’t just any other crewman, and although most of the time Seven considered it inappropriate, this time she would use her influence to keep the captain out of harm’s way.
"This is not about you being captain. It is simply not appropriate."
Kathryn looked at the former Borg obviously stunned by the remark and said, "Give me one good reason it’s inappropriate."
"I shall give you three. One, this is a security matter and falls under Commander A’zal’s authority. If you were present for the incarceration you would be implying that you lack faith in her abilities. I do not believe you wish to do that."
Kathryn didn’t respond but had to admit to herself that she didn’t want to send that message.
"Two, you are still very weak from your recent ordeal and should not place yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. As captain you have a responsibility to the crew to remain safe and in command of the ship."
Kathryn could have argued that surely Seven, Tuvok, A’zal, Jameson and an entire security team could keep the captain safe. She could even have argued Seven was being presumptuous telling her what captain’s responsibilities were. Instead she reined in her annoyance enough to realize she did feel like she’d been fired out a torpedo tube and no doubt she would have to be in the thick of things when the arrest was made. She had never been to stand back while others did all the work.
"And your third reason?"
Seven abruptly dropped her stiff posture and stepped closer to Janeway. Here in their quarters there was no reason to pretend any further that this was strictly a professional disagreement. "I could not bear it if you were injured further. Please, Kathryn. It would break my heart."
The strength behind the rush of emotion surprised Kathryn and she had to blink back the moisture in her eyes. Honestly! Seven didn’t fight unfair sometimes. How could she possibly resist that?
"What would you suggest I do in the mean time?" she asked gruffly.
Seven didn’t smile or gloat like some would that she had won her way. Instead she closed her eyes in relief that Kathryn would be safe. "Perhaps you could be on the bridge?"
"Well, after Sakonna is arrested I guess someone will have to let Lieutenant Commander Scott know that she’s just been bumped to alpha shift."
Although Raylene Scott outranked Sakonna she was currently assigned to beta shift because she preferred it. Since gamma shift was so quiet there usually wasn’t a nurse on duty. Now it didn’t matter what Scott preferred since there wasn’t another nurse on board.
Seven smiled in that special way that made her eyes glow, and leaned down to kiss Kathryn very gently. When she pulled back she said simply, "Thank you."
"You’re welcome. Now go on before you’re late for the briefing."
Twenty minutes later the team stood outside Sakonna’s quarters on deck three. A’zal rang the admittance chime and a few moments later it slid open to reveal Lieutenant Commander Scott.
The blonde looked curiously at the senior officers and then at the armed security team standing behind them. She raised one eyebrow and asked, "Was it something I said?"
"Lieutenant Sakonna is in her quarters."
Karri snorted. She climbed out of bed and crossed the room to activate her private computer terminal to pull up Nemo’s schematics. "Computer, display all Vulcan life-signs."
Four distinctive red blips popped up on the display, and Karri frowned. There were two dots in the location where Karri knew Commander Tuvok’s quarters were. That made sense since he shared quarters with his daughter, A’zal. There was another dot in the engineering department and would be a man named P’tah. One final dot showed up on deck four. It was the middle of Gamma shift, and Sakonna’s quarters were on deck three. Undoubtedly the final blip designated Crewman Leber, a transporter operator.
Maybe the computer had malfunctioned and didn’t show the other Vulcans on board. Karri crosschecked the crew manifest, and discovered there were only a total of five Vulcans listed. So why didn’t Lieutenant Sakonna show up?
Asking for the woman’s whereabouts again wouldn’t do any good. No doubt she would get the same reply. But what if… "Computer, locate Lieutenant Sakonna’s life signs."
The four red dots faded out, and a single blip popped up in an altogether different location. But why didn’t it show up before? Was it just a glitch? Had Sakonna’s bio-signs been altered somehow? It didn’t make sense, but Karri didn’t think it was a computer glitch. A nagging suspicion began to tug at her and Karri said, "Computer, identify Lieutenant Sakonna’s life signs."
"Life signs are Romulan."
Romulan? Karri stood up straight, and barely resisted the urge to shout for Commanders A’zal, Tuvok and the entire Q Continuum if she thought they could help. She only stopped herself by the thinnest of margins. She couldn’t call for reinforcements until she had something more than a genetic scan. Just because Romulans weren’t exactly friendly with the Federation, didn’t mean Sakonna was the one she was looking for. Although her instincts were screaming that she was.
"Computer, state the location of Lieutenant Sakonna’s bio-signs."
"The ventilation shaft above deck three, section twenty-three beta."
What the…? Okay, that was a little more proof. What valid reason would a nurse have for skulking around in a ventilation shaft during the middle of Gamma shift? Karri didn’t know what Sakonna was doing, but the booby traps she had already disabled during this mission were deadly and she had to find out. It looked like sleep was out of the question, again.
Karri got dressed in a fresh uniform and waited until the computer display indicated Sakonna had left the ventilation shaft. She grabbed a tricorder and headed for a Jeffries tube junction down the corridor. In moments she was inside the ventilation shaft and crawling toward the source of a strange energy signature.
How the hell did she get through here, Karri groused? Sakonna was a tall, willowy woman while Karri was barely 5’ 2" and one hundred five pounds, and it was almost too tight a fit for her. Apparently whatever Sakonna was doing it was very important to her.
Finally she saw a green glow reflected off the bulkhead. Whatever it was, it was just around the corner. Karri grunted and slithered the rest of the way through the tube. The curve was tight, but she got through it and made it to a small circular device magnetized to the tritanium floor. Karri pulled out the tricorder, but she already knew what she would find. It was an explosive device set to blow a charge up through the deck plating and directly into sickbay.
Captain Janeway! Suddenly a lot of things dropped into place. Lieutenant Sakonna was trying to kill Janeway. That was the only explanation for planting the device directly below the medical bay, especially when she took into account the mysterious illness.
Chances were it wasn’t an illness at all. Karri knew from her training and subsequent missions that Section 31 operatives often employed biological toxins to assassinate targets without leaving a detectable residue.
She had known all along there was such an agent on board, and hadn’t even considered a toxin. What was wrong with her? If Janeway died Karri may as well have dosed the captain herself!
Hands shaking, Karri carefully deactivated the timer on the explosive. At least now she had all the proof she needed. By stopping the explosive before it went off she had Sakonna’s DNA all over it, or at least she hoped she did. None of the other traps Karri had disabled bore any traces of the saboteur, but this time Karri could actually place the nurse at the scene. Even if there was no discernable DNA Karri had proof Sakonna was not who she claimed to be.
Karri leaned against the bulkhead and tapped her combadge. "Lieutenant Jameson to Commander A’zal."
Janeway had been sleeping for only a few minutes and Seven finally decided it was time to regenerate. She would set the alcove for a six-hour cycle and be back before Kathryn awoke. Perhaps if she timed it right Kathryn wouldn’t feel she had been left alone for a nanosecond. Convinced it was the prudent course of action Seven stood and turned toward the exit. She was startled a moment later when Commanders Tuvok and A’zal, accompanied by Lieutenant Jameson strode purposefully into sickbay. By standard Starfleet time it was the middle of Gamma shift, and the incongruity of three Alpha shift officers walking into sickbay with such determined expressions confounded her for a moment.
"Seven," Tuvok greeted simply as the three approached her. He looked down at the captain momentarily before meeting her eyes again. "We must speak to the captain."
"She is resting. What have you discovered?"
"I regret the necessity. However, Lieutenant Jameson has just brought an urgent security matter to our attention, and it directly involves the captain."
"Now hold on just a minute," Doctor Martin interrupted. He kept his voice down to avoid waking the captain, but it was obvious he wasn’t pleased. "Can’t this wait until in the morning?"
"If it could wait, Doctor, I would not be here."
"Thank you for that bit of Vulcan wisdom. Very well, but at the very least wait in my office for a moment. Just because you have to speak to the captain doesn’t mean my other patients need to be disturbed."
Seven stayed with Doctor Martin while the other three moved into his office. She waited with thinly veiled impatience while he awakened Kathryn.
"Captain," Martin said softly while he gently shook her shoulder.
Janeway’s eyes blinked open and she looked at him in confusion for a moment. "Doctor? What’s the matter?"
"I hate to wake you, but Commander Tuvok insists that he needs to speak to you right now."
Janeway sat up with difficulty and Seven was instantly at her side. She slipped an arm around Kathryn’s shoulder and helped her up.
The Starfleet issue blanket slid away, leaving Kathryn clad only in a blue medical gown.
"This had better be extremely important," Seven said angrily. Kathryn had been more than ill, she had literally been fighting for her life, and Seven didn’t appreciate her recuperation being disturbed.
"I’m sure it is, Seven," Kathryn reassured her. "You know Tuvok would take care of anything he could on his own and brief me later."
No doubt that was true. Tuvok was more than capable of running the ship in the captain’s absence, but Seven was still extremely annoyed as she helped the captain into the CMO’s office. The doctor joined them, but was content to stand silently in the corner to hear what was happening. The fact that he was permitted in the room told Seven that whatever Tuvok had to say concerned the physician as well. When Kathryn was comfortably settled into the doctor’s chair Seven turned to address the first officer and repeated her earlier question.
"What have you discovered?"
Tuvok directed his response to the captain. "Lieutenant Jameson has uncovered evidence of a saboteur aboard Nemo."
"This could not have waited until morning?"
"Hold on, Seven," Janeway said quieting the outraged Borg with a touch on the arm. "I’ll admit I would want to know about this, Tuvok, but why are you bringing it to me in the middle of the night? What haven’t you told me?"
He turned toward A’zal and wordlessly the security chief handed him an oddly shaped device. Tuvok held it toward the captain and said, "Lieutenant Jameson discovered and disarmed this explosive device set to detonate directly beneath sickbay."
The captain had started to take the object without thinking until Tuvok’s words registered. She rocked back and said "What?"
Janeway’s head was reeling, and the slight pressure at her temples suddenly became a raging headache. "Jameson discovered?"
"I think it would be best to let the Lieutenant explain."
"Explain quickly," Seven advised tightly. All she wanted was to know who set the device and how quickly she could get her hands on them. Seven had to force herself to be patient for Kathryn’s sake as Janeway would no doubt want all of the details the lieutenant could offer before she responded.
Karri stepped forward and stood a little straighter in front of the captain. She took a deep breath and said, "I work for Starfleet Security."
Kathryn swayed slightly and Seven rested a steadying hand on her shoulder. Instead of an outburst Janeway said frostily, "Go on, Lieutenant, and don’t skip the good parts."
"When you approached me to join Nautilus’ crew Starfleet Security took advantage of the invitation. We had evidence that Section 31 already had an operative lined up to be added to the manifest, but we didn’t know who it was or why."
"Wait a minute," Janeway held up a hand. "I’ve heard of Section 31, but they’re supposed to be a myth. Something you tell little Starfleet cadets to keep them in line."
"Trust me, Captain. They’re no myth. Since I’ve been on board Nemo I’ve disarmed seventeen separate booby traps that would have severely disabled if not destroyed the ship."
"And before that? Does this agent have any bearing on what happened to the Nautilus?"
Janeway said the word agent like it was a particularly dirty word and Seven was in full agreement. When she found out who this agent was she would terminate them. Immediately.
"I believe so," Karri said. "The fractured dilithium crystals were no accident, but I think the operative was trying to disable the engines while we were still in the alpha quadrant. They miscalculated. I was briefed before we left DS9 that Section 31 might be trying to get hold of the experimental slipstream engines for their own use. The only way to do that was to make it look like the engines didn’t work or were too dangerous to keep online."
"And instead of coming to me at the beginning you kept all this to yourself and decided to play cowboy. What I want to know is if you felt comfortable acting on your own all this time why come to us now? You could have disabled the explosive like you did the other booby traps and no one would have known."
"I didn’t keep this information from you because I wanted to, Captain," Karri said with true regret. "Starfleet Special Order 66715 grants Starfleet Internal Affairs authority to neutralize security threats to the Federation…"
"…By whatever means necessary. Don’t quote the regulations to me, Lieutenant." Janeway reined in her ire and said, "Continue."
"After all of the unfortunate accidents I had to be sure who was responsible. Then you and the others started getting sick…"
Tuvok interrupted to ask, "You believe the illness was not naturally occurring?"
Karri shook her head. "In the advanced tactical training I took they taught us that Section 31 often employees a bio-chemical toxin that is undetectable in any conventional medical scan. Unfortunately, I forgot about that until I discovered the explosive set right under sickbay’s floor. That’s when I realized that the spy had decided to eliminate the captain, and it hit me that the illness wasn’t really an illness at all."
"The captain was a target?"
Seven looked like she was ready to unleash some Borg justice on whoever was responsible and Karri couldn’t really blame her. All she could do now was be as honest as possible and leave the decisions up to the captain.
"Yes. She must have somehow determined the captain was a threat, and decided to eliminate her. That’s why she planted the explosive under the floor. It was set to detonate upward, directly under the captain’s biobed. All traces of the suspect would have been obliterated."
"She?" Janeway asked. "You know who it is. That’s why you’ve come to us now."
Karri nodded. "That’s why I couldn’t come to you before. I had to have proof and I couldn’t risk blowing my cover."
"Lieutenant," Janeway said in her best command voice, "who is the operative?"
For a moment there was dead silence in the room. Then the EMH blurted out, "You can’t be serious! Nurse Sakonna is one of the most ethical people I’ve ever known. If you remember she saved the captain’s life not long ago."
Seven remembered how the captain had almost fallen off a cliff a few weeks ago. If the Vulcan hadn’t been present Janeway would be dead now. Was that all part of the act to ingratiate herself until she could be responsible for their demise?
"You don’t have to believe me," Karri said. "Scan the device. Exactly four people have touched it; myself, Commander Tuvok, A’zal and the saboteur."
Doctor Martin looked at Jameson skeptically, but walked over to the explosive with a tricorder. He scanned the device for a moment and then looked at Karri with bewilderment in his photonic eyes. "But, these readings are…"
"Romulan," Karri supplied.
Janeway paled and looked like she was about to fall over from the shock. Karri felt like hell to keep the hits coming, especially after the captain had been through so much, but she needed to know all of the facts now. They still had to take Sakonna into custody and Karri was going to need their help to do it.
"Yeah, I was surprised, too. Tonight I asked the computer to identify all Vulcan life signs aboard the ship and only four showed up. It made me curious so I started digging a little more."
"Why Vulcan life signs, Lieutenant?" A’zal asked.
"Just a hunch. Until yesterday I had no idea who could be responsible for all this, but then I brought some specs to Lieutenant Torres who happened to be in sickbay checking on the captain. While I waited I noticed how Sakonna was looking at the captain, and it seemed a little unusual to see a Vulcan with so much…emotion on their face. It wasn’t much, but I’ve followed less of a lead through this whole thing. In this case I’m glad she made me curious."
"As am I," Seven interjected. She abruptly turned on her heel and started to leave.
"Seven, where are you going?" Kathryn asked.
Seven never slowed and said tersely over her shoulder, "To terminate Lieutenant Sakonna."
"Stop right there."
The captain’s tone brooked no refusal and Seven stopped, rooted in place. She desperately wanted to resist that order and terminate the person responsible for Kathryn’s suffering, but she couldn’t. As much as Seven hated to admit it, if she did that she would damage their relationship in a fundamental way. Terminating Sakonna seemed to be the logical choice, but she knew Kathryn would never forgive her. It was that last thought that forced her to turn back to her partner.
"We need to speak with Lieutenant Sakonna," Tuvok said politely.
"She’s not here. She left for the mess hall about five minutes ago."
"I thought you said you checked her location before we came down here," Karri demanded from Commander A’zal. If the Romulan had figured out they were on to her this was going to be a screw up of epic proportions.
Instead of arguing that she had checked Sakonna’s location A’zal said, "Computer, what is Lieutenant Sakonna’s location?"
"Lieutenant Sakonna is in her quarters."
"Right. In other words her combadge is in her quarters. Good thing we had a backup plan." Without waiting for permission Karri said, "Computer, scan for Romulan life-signs and report location."
"Romulan?" Nurse Scott asked.
"No Romulan life signs have been detected."
"What’s going on here?" Raylene suddenly demanded.
Seven had been watching all of this with barely concealed impatience. This arrest was supposed to have been discreet, but they could hardly stand in the corridor debating the issue since they would surely draw a crowd.
"Perhaps we should step inside to explain."
A’zal nodded and the entire arrest team stepped into Sakonna’s quarters. Raylene had no choice but to back out of the way. She still wanted an answer, and even with Tuvok and A’zal staring her in the face refused to back down.
"All right, you’re inside. Now does someone want to tell me what’s going on? These are my quarters and I have the right to know. Why are you looking for a Romulan and what has that got to do with Sakonna?"
"Commander Tuvok, perhaps you should explain the situation to Nurse Scott since she will no doubt be required on the bridge to discuss new assignments with Captain Janeway. I will tap into the ship’s computer and attempt to locate Lieutenant Sakonna."
"If she’s still on the ship," Karri pointed out.
Seven looked at her and explained patiently, "If she had attempted to launch an escape pod or disembark with a shuttle we would already have known."
"Very well," Tuvok said. He directed Scott over to the sitting area and began to explain the situation to her.
Aside from the look of shock on Raylene’s face, Seven didn’t pay any more attention to her and began tapping into the computer interface.
"She has directed the computer to ignore her life signs, but I believe I can override her commands."
"Why would she do that?" Karri asked.
"Perhaps as a precaution," A’zal suggested. "If her attempt to kill the captain was discovered, as it has been, she would already be prepared for an escape. If she had been successful she could disable the program later and no one would suspect anything."
"I have her," Seven said. "Deck six, section twelve beta."
"Well, at least she won’t have far to get to the brig." Karri groused.
A’zal reached up to tap her combadge. "A’zal to Tarinia. Deck six, section twelve beta. Converge."
There was no verbal response, but A’zal received a double-tap of Tarinia’s combadge as recognition of the order.
A’zal nodded toward her security team and they swarmed toward the door. Seven and Karri were close behind followed by Lieutenant Tuvok.
"We shall take different routes," A’zal directed. "Seven and Lieutenant Jameson enter the section from the starboard Jeffries tube. Commander Tuvok and I will take the port side."
The turbolift took them to deck six, but was far enough away from Sakonna’s location that she wouldn’t hear them arrive. Half of the security team followed A’zal, while the other half went with Seven and Karri. There was no time for light-hearted conversation and Seven hurried toward the Jeffries tube that would hopefully take her around behind Sakonna from the starboard side. Seven quickly tapped in the sequence to open the hatch when they heard a loud scuffle from around the corner.
Seven looked quickly at Karri, and they both abandoned the stealth part of the operation. As a group they bolted around the corner to find Tarinia hanging on to Sakonna’s back with her arms wrapped around the Romulan’s shoulder. Sakonna held a type three phaser and was struggling to get a shot at the changeling. But Tarinia had lived the better part of the last three years perfecting the art of war, and refused to allow Sakonna the advantage.
"Drop it!" Karri said.
Sakonna looked up in surprise at the full security team that was suddenly bearing down on her, and abruptly stopped fighting.
"So, you’re the Starfleet operative. Fine, just get her off of me."
Face to face with the person responsible for Janeway’s condition, Seven’s self control suddenly snapped. Tarinia only had a second to dodge out of the way before Seven had her Borg hand around Sakonna’s neck and slammed her back against the bulkhead.
"I will terminate you for what you have done," Seven said as she pushed her face into Sakonna’s, the Romulan lifted completely off the deck plating.
Seven tightened her hold. She could feel the small bones in the Romulan’s neck and her pulse as it pounded desperately. Sakonna tried to kick her way free, but Seven refused to budge.
"Seven, let her go," Tuvok commanded with his phaser leveled toward her.
She refused to budge and tightened her grip farther until Sakonna’s face was turning purple and she was making odd little gasping sounds.
Karri put her hand gently on Seven’s arm. "Let her go, Seven. The captain wouldn’t want you to do this."
Seven looked down at Karri thinking it was unfair to use Kathryn as her argument since the captain was the reason she was terminating Sakonna to begin with. The unwavering sincerity in Karri’s green eyes, the way they never glanced toward the prisoner, but kept vigil with Seven’s own finally convinced her. Seven looked back at Sakonna and instead of seeing a threat saw only a pathetic creature that deserved whatever justice the captain decided to administer. Sakonna was no longer worthy of her consideration.
Seven released her hold abruptly and let Sakonna drop to the ground. Security was on her in an instant and dragged her up by the scruff of her neck. Before they dragged her unresisting to the brig Karri had one final question.
"Why, Sakonna? Why did you try to kill the captain and the others?"
Sakonna shrugged. "The others didn’t matter, but Janeway was in the way. She never would have let us have her."
"Her? What are you talking about? Let you have who?"
Sakonna glanced toward Tarinia and Karri realized the engines had become less of a priority for Section 31 than the changeling. "You wanted to experiment on her?"
"The Federation could use her abilities to blend in with the enemy and destroy them from within. We could have destroyed the Borg!" Sakonna spat, eyeing Seven with contempt.
"Take her to the brig," A’zal commanded. "Ensure security is posted inside as well as outside the doors."
Janeway sat in quietly in her ready room. She was looking over Raylene Scott’s record after having spoken to the woman about the move to alpha shift and exactly why that was required. The captain hadn’t known Lieutenant Commander Scott before being assigned to Nautilus and subsequently wasn’t one of the crewmembers chosen by Janeway. As a result of Sakonna’s perfidy double-checking Scott’s record for inconsistencies felt almost like a compulsion. Janeway had been impressed talking with Scott by the woman’s quick wit and candid way of speaking. Raylene didn’t appear to be intimidated by the captain, yet radiated an obvious though unspoken respect for her. Janeway had the feeling it was more respect for her as a person than a crewman’s normal regard for a superior officer. Now, after having gone through her record Janeway could see Scott was fiercely loyal to her crewmates and was even more impressed by her courage.
Raylene Scott had been a young lieutenant junior grade assigned to the U.S.S. Rutledge under Captain Benjamin Maxwell when it responded to the massacre of Sitlik III in 2359. The Cardassians believed the colony to be a staging ground for an assault on Cardassian space. A strike force was dispatched to destroy the installation, but when no such military base was found the Cardassians turned on the civilian population. The Rutledge was the first to respond to the colony’s distress calls and Scott was deployed with the initial landing party. She fought alongside Miles O’Brien, the acknowledged hero of Sitlik III, when he led the way in wiping out an entire Cardassian regiment in heavy fighting. Scott was instrumental in saving the lives of the remaining colonists. She was decorated for her actions and subsequently field promoted to Senior Lieutenant by Captain Maxwell.
Kathryn sat back and took a deep breath. It seemed everyone on her ship had hidden talents and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. In many ways that could be either a blessing or a curse. There was still the matter of Lieutenant Jameson. Did she let Karri continue on in engineering or switch her over to security? No doubt A’zal would be thrilled to have more qualified security personnel on her staff, not that she would show it, but Karri was also a talented engineer. The fact was Nemo was short on personnel everywhere since being separated from the main body of the ship. She would just have to use Jameson wherever she was needed depending on the situation and if Karri didn’t like that was just too bad.
She hadn’t made an official log entry since right before her collapse and took the time to make one now that updated Starfleet on the entire incident with the Section 31 operative, the toxin that was used on the crew and the possible reasons for Sakonna’s actions. It was a lengthy process made even longer by Janeway’s distractions over her crew, but it was finally finished and she sat back to think.
The log entry had been encoded for transmission at the end of shift and now all there was to do was wonder how so many people had made it onboard her ship without her knowing. Was she really slipping that badly?
Janeway was still a little irked over the whole deception. Karri Jameson? An undercover operative for Starfleet Internal Security? It boggled the mind. Karri was just so soft spoken and unassuming that it didn’t make sense. Kathryn knew she was competent enough in an altercation considering all the hostile species they’d encountered on Voyager, but she never would have considered this.
Kathryn walked over to the viewport and watched the stars streak by.
She must be good. The course load for specialized intelligence training is very hard and half of each class washes out. I wonder who recommended her?
A superior officer had to recommend her and Kathryn didn’t think it had been Tuvok. He would have told her.
Janeway’s legs felt a little rubbery from standing and she decided to return to the bridge. She could chew over all this just as easily from her command chair,\ and rest at the same time. At least Sakonna was safely ensconced in the brig. Now all they had to worry about was what to do with her for the next twenty years or at least until they made the final jump toward Earth.
Sakonna went along quietly with the security team. She could already feel the bruise forming on her throat, but carefully contained her anger. She may have been raised Vulcan, but her blood was Romulan and the way of the warrior was in her cellular makeup. She was never without a back up plan and in this case thought that plan would go along way toward getting revenge against the Borg for manhandling her.
About an hour after being put into the brig Crewman Lord brought a food tray into the brig. Sakonna recognized her as being the guard on duty outside the doors and realized both of her guards were now in the room with her. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she watched the two security personnel interact.
"Hey," Alisa said. "Matz just dropped this off for the prisoner."
"Too good for her if you ask me. It should be just bread and water."
Crewman Thelev had made it very clear in the last hour that he didn’t tolerate anyone that tried to harm his captain or the crew very well. If the decision were up to him he would have jettisoned Sakonna out the nearest airlock as soon as she was apprehended.
"Yeah, well. Not my decision."
Thelev grumbled, but followed Lord over to the cell and disabled the forcefield. The Andorian carefully kept a hand phaser trained on the prisoner during the exchange, but Sakonna wasn’t stupid enough to try anything. She sedately accepted the tray and sat back to enjoy a traditional breakfast while the two security personnel talked about nothing in particular.
Alisa leaned over the console on her elbows and asked, "So, did you get mail during the last transmission?"
"Yeah, my cousin said she’s expecting a baby. Isn’t that great? I can’t wait to see them."
"I know what you mean. I just can’t believe we got stuck out here like Voyager did."
"At least it won’t be for seven years like what happened to them," Thelev pointed out. "If the propulsion team gets those engines fixed we should be home after the next jump."
"That’s a big if. From what Adams told me every time they use the engines they damage the ship even more. The computer can’t make the calculations fast enough during the transition through the slipstream corridor so we keep shearing off more of our hull."
Adams was in engineering so Alisa believed him when he said if that continued they might not be able to use the engines at all.
"So we might have to use conventional warp to finish getting back to the alpha quadrant?"
"Yeah," Alisa said dryly. "That would only take a couple of decades."
"I am finished," Sakonna said interrupting the conversation.
She had taken the knife from the food tray and hid it in the fold of her tunic. It was only a butter knife, but it was still lethal enough if she got the chance to use it. Thelev looked upset by Lord’s news and his eyes were on the floor of the brig. He didn’t even draw his phaser when he deactivated the forcefield for Alisa to retrieve the tray. Somehow Sakonna knew this was the only chance she would get.
Alisa was reaching for the tray when Sakonna suddenly pitched it toward her and stood up. Instinctually Crewman Lord flinched back while Sakonna threw the knife at Thelev. The blade flipped end over end as it flew toward the Andorian, but Thelev had already ducked the projectile.
Sakonna quickly swung her leg toward Alisa’s face in a roundhouse kick that slammed the security officer against the bulkhead. Just the sound of the impact was enough for Sakonna to know she was out cold.
Thelev reacted quickly, trying to call for backup. He only had time to tap his combadge before Sakonna rendered him unconscious with a Vulcan nerve pinch.
Sakonna reached down and relieved Thelev of his phaser and combadge. Then she took Lord’s combadge and pitched them both across the room before she dragged the security officers into the cell. She activated the forcefield before she headed for the shuttle bay. At least it was on the same deck, but she would have to be careful since the security office was also on deck six.
"Computer, site to site transport. One to transport directly to the shuttle bay."
The computer didn’t care who gave the orders as long as it was a valid crewmember that gave it. The fact that she was transported an instant later confirmed that Janeway had underestimated her and her security codes hadn’t been disabled. Unfortunately, she still needed a command authorization to steal a shuttle.
Sakonna wanted the Stingray since the prototype shuttle was much sleeker and faster than a regular class three shuttle, but knew that was out of the question. The Stingray would only respond to the captain’s authorization and even her clandestine command codes from Section 31 wouldn’t work. She had to settle for the Conseil.
"Security to Captain Janeway. Lieutenant Sakonna has escaped. I need medical assistance…" came the weak voice over the com system.
Kathryn inhaled deeply when the report from the security officer suddenly stopped. She didn’t surge to her feet as she normally would, but only because she was still very weak and at this moment dizzy with dismay. With as much command confidence as she could muster Janeway called, "Red Alert. Security teams track down Lieutenant Sakonna and apprehend her. Doctor, medical emergency in the brig."
Commander A’zal had already left the bridge before Janeway began speaking. Janeway terminated the open com link and turned toward her first officer. "Where is she, Tuvok?"
"Still on deck six. She is in the shuttle bay."
Quickly the captain said, "Computer, seal all shuttle bay doors and lock down all shuttlecraft. Command authorization Janeway pi one one zero red."
"She has initiated a site to site transport, Captain," Tuvok reported. "The Conseil is powering engines."
"She used a Starfleet command sequence to override the lockout," Harry Kim said, scanning the readings on his console.
"Are the bay doors still secure?"
"Yes, Captain," Tuvok said. "For the moment."
The forward view screen suddenly flickered and came to life. Lieutenant Sakonna’s expression was so filled with rage it was difficult for Janeway to reconcile the image with the officer who saved her life on a cliff a few weeks ago.
"Lieutenant, stand down."
"I can’t do that, Captain, and I think you know why."
Janeway tried to rein in the sarcasm in what was already a tense situation, but she couldn’t help saying, "Yes, I suppose Section 31 would take a dim view on one of their operatives failing to complete their mission."
When the dark eyes narrowed Janeway added, "But Starfleet could protect you."
"You know better than that," Sakonna bit off scathingly. "Section 31 is Starfleet. How do you think I got the command codes to countermand your orders?"
"So why did you call me up?" Janeway asked, hoping to buy her security teams time to close in on the shuttle bay. "Hoping for one more chance to chit-chat?"
"Hardly. I just wanted to say that Admiral Paris sends his best."
Looking the captain in the eye to assess the impact of her verbal bombshell, Sakonna’s glee was almost palpable. Janeway felt like she’d been slapped, hard. It couldn’t be! Not Owen Paris. He had been Janeway’s friend and mentor from the beginning, had in fact started her on the path to command. There was no way he could be involved with Section 31.
"It’s amazing how easy it is to see the light after you’ve been tortured by Cardassians," Sakonna added. Then she said something that took away any lingering doubt. "Computer, open launch bay doors. Authorization Paris blue tango alpha."
The computer sedately accepted the command and the bay doors began to open even as the shuttle bay started to decompress.
Janeway tapped her combadges and said urgently, "A’zal, pull your teams back. The shuttle bay is decompressing."
Later Kathryn would think anyone else would have been content to depart unhindered, but Sakonna took one last opportunity to rub salt in the wound.
"Don’t bother trying to come after me, Captain. You’ll be much too busy trying to keep your ship in one piece. Computer, initiate program Sakonna theta nine."
What the hell was that, Kathryn wondered?
Smoothly, the Conseil exited the bay doors.
"Tractor beam!" Janeway ordered.
"She’s disabled it," Kim reported.
"Captain!" Tom Paris shouted. From the panic in his voice Janeway knew they were about to find out what Sakonna theta nine was. "I’m reading a build up in the slipstream matrix."
"Engineering, shut down those engines!"
The engines had been repaired over the last week, but none of the outer shielding had been replaced. Additionally, the hull hadn’t been repaired from the stresses incurred during the previous jump. It was unlikely Nemo would last more than a few minutes before the quantum stress tore the ship apart.
"Working on it, Captain!" Torres shouted over the com link. "She’s disabled the computer interface somehow."
Without computer control to map the slipstream corridor they wouldn’t even have a few minutes!
"Nearing critical engine capacity," Paris reported. "Sixty-three percent…seventy…seventy-eight..."
"B’Elanna, now would be a good time!"
Kathryn gripped the arms of her chair and shouted, "All hands, prepare for slipstream velocity, seal outer bulkheads and prepare for wide scale breaches!"
In engineering Seven and B’Elanna worked furiously to get inside the engines they had just finished reconstructing. Shutting down the slipstream propulsion by removing power couplings while in mid-flight wasn’t exactly proper protocol, but it was that or be torn apart in the slipstream corridor. Even if inertial dampers held out with the sudden decrease in velocity Nemo would be badly damaged.
Seven refused to think about anything but getting to the power couplings. By her estimation they would be ninety-three point six seconds too late.
"Hand me that hyper spanner," Torres shouted over the noise of straining engines.
Seven slid the tool across the deck with her right hand without looking away from the bolts she was trying to loosen. Around her she could hear running feet, the screech of strained alloy and Doctor Brahms shouting commands. Abruptly the noise was silenced as Nemo seemed to gather in on itself. Seven and B’Elanna had only a moment to share a horrified glance before the tiny vessel shot off at slipstream velocity.
"Get that panel off!" Torres shouted.
Seven dropped the torque wrench and opted for the more direct approach. She grasped the edge of the panel with her Borg-enhanced left hand and wrenched back as hard as possible. Although she could barely get enough of the panel in her fingertips to hold it, it was enough. The panel came away with a scream of metal Seven felt more than heard, and they were finally able to access the interior. A quick glance was enough to tell her that simply pulling the circuitry would do little good. A radical dislocation of the power couplings was all that would work at this point.
Aware that she was much more human than she had been at one time, Seven was still confident the exo-plating on the Borg limb could withstand what she was about to do. She reached in before B’Elanna could stop her and yanked the power coupling from its mooring.
Nemo bucked like a wild animal and Seven was thankful she was already lying down when she slid rapidly across engineering. Others were not so lucky.
"What was that?" Janeway demanded, holding on tightly to her chair.
Paris responded before anyone else. If he was astonished at his father’s betrayal he didn’t let it affect his performance. "They did it! We’re dropping out of slipstream!"
The captain almost heaved a sigh of relief until Tuvok had to make her day worse by saying, "Thirty-seven EPS conduits have overloaded, hull breaches on four decks. Emergency force fields are holding."
Then Harry Kim had to get in on the fun. "I’ve lost long range sensors. The deflector array’s been damaged. Main power is off line."
With the deflector damaged any stray debris would punch through their shields like a hot knife through butter.
"Tom, throttle back."
"I can’t, Captain. Impulse engines are locked and thrusters aren’t responding."
"Engineering, get those impulse engines off line! We need emergency thrusters!"
Around her Seven could hear the moans of the wounded. The air was thick with the acrid stench of scorched circuitry and her head rang from impacting solidly with the bulkhead. But she heard the captain’s command and struggled to her knees. The deck tilted precariously beneath her as Seven crawled toward the ship’s engines and her stomach insisted it should be on the outside of her body.
Seven struggled against the nausea and crawled past the chief engineer where she was just beginning to stir. Dizzy and slightly disoriented, Seven shook her head to clear it of the little dots dancing before her eyes. She didn’t know what was happening on the bridge, but from Janeway’s voice they were still in imminent danger. Strangely, Seven felt a curious peace drift over her as she scooped up the hyper spanner Torres had been using in her slightly scorched left hand and continued to move toward the plasma injector. She idly wondered if she was experiencing a concussion, but ceased to wonder as a random memory came into her mind. It wasn’t her own memory, but that of a Starfleet officer she had assimilated years ago. Was her cortical node going off line? Would she begin to hear the other voices as she had on a previous occasion?
Seven pushed the irrelevant questions aside and focused on her destination even as she listened to the voice inside her head.
"In engineering school they teach you that plasma injectors are very delicate things."
No doubt, Seven thought, since plasma would immediately vaporize any organic tissue it came in contact with.
"But sometimes you have to do things the hard way. You have to do what is necessary to save your crew."
That was what Seven would do now. More importantly she would save the captain. Her own fate, her own life, wasn’t too high a price if she could do that. If nothing else over the last seven years she had learned that it mattered how you died.
Seven crawled onto the outer support ring just above the plasma injector containment pod. Since plasma was the fuel for the impulse engines they would fail if she could interrupt the flow. The fastest, surest way to do that was to break open the plasma pod. A vent was built into the deck in case of a leak and would prevent the plasma from harming anyone else, but Seven would have no such protection. Thankful only that her modified Starfleet uniform gave her easier movement than her previous unitard and high heels, Seven hung from the support ring and gripped the tool in her left hand. She drew back and briefly closed her eyes when she heard the captain’s final hail.
"All hands, brace for impact!"
The resolute command in the beloved voice gave Seven the strength for what she needed to do. Blue-gray eyes and a crooked grin flashed through her mind before she opened her eyes. Full ruby lips parted in a soft smile and she whispered, "Kathryn."
Then Seven swung the heavy tool into the containment pod, shattering it instantly.
"Seven!" B’Elanna screamed from behind, but she didn’t hear.
Seven’s mouth opened in a silent scream as molten plasma jetted from the containment pod. Her left arm, shoulder and the left side of her body exploded in white-hot agony. An instant later darkness seized her and mercifully pulled her away.
"Captain, I’m reading an M-class planet five million light years ahead."
Engineering hadn’t responded to her hails and they were still coming in at full impulse. Unfortunately Nemo was going down and the only choice was to disintegrate in space or try to make an emergency, albeit dicey, landing on the planet. Maybe engineering could get those engines off line before they got to the planet. It might at least buy them some time.
"Set a course, Tom. Keep trying to get those engines down and the emergency thrusters working."
Come on, come on, she thought. I know you can do it.
On the viewer Kathryn could see the planet come into range. It was a lush and vibrant planet, but the beauty was lost on her as it loomed closer all too quickly. It looked like they were going in full bore and there was no way Nemo could survive a crash landing at this speed. Janeway briefly regretted she hadn’t had time to log that her crew had acted with valor and distinction. She also regretted never getting up the nerve to present Seven with the diamond ring she had replicated after their second date. Even that early in the relationship Kathryn knew she wanted to marry the amazing young woman and it was only her fear that kept her from asking Seven to be her wife. Now she would never get the chance.
When Kathryn could see trees rushing for Nemo’s underbelly she gasped in fear but kept that fear in check when she shouted, "All hands brace for impact!"
"Impulse engines are down!" Tom suddenly shouted in astonishment. "Employing reverse thrusters!"
"Everyone, hang on!"
Bless you, Seven.
Trees were shorn off and Nemo was still going much too fast when it hit the ground. The ship bounced hard and Janeway knew the deflector array had disintegrated on impact. At the same time she was thrown out of her command chair and launched across the bridge. She raised both arms to cover her head and curled her body into a tight ball. Her left shoulder smashed into the forward bulkhead and she felt the sickening crunch of shattered bone.
Nemo careened across uneven ground for what felt like an eternity before it finally came to a grudging halt. Gradually, Janeway became aware of the coughs and groans amidst the pops and sizzles of shorted conduits and overloaded stations. She tried to sit up and bit off the scream of pain that lanced through her from her ruined shoulder.
Captain Janeway pushed aside the pain and gazed around at the bridge crew. Most of those stationed behind a console seemed to have faired better with something to hang on to. Paris had a gash on his forehead, but he blinked the blood out of his eyes and tried to focus on his board. Kim, Tuvok and a few others were beginning to stir, but there were others Kathryn feared would never move again.
Through sheer effort of will she pulled her command mantle firmly into place and croaked, "Report", to anyone who could.
Tuvok plopped less than gracefully into his chair. He coughed from the smoke and checked his console. Amidst all the chaos it was astonishing that his console still worked when so many of them around the bridge sputtered uselessly. "All systems are off line, emergency life support and fire suppression systems are also off line. The deflector grid has been destroyed. Sickbay is being inundated with wounded and there have been two fatalities. As yet there is not an exact count of the wounded and the doctor has yet to release the identities of the deceased."
Janeway took a deep breath and forced her mind to focus beyond her physical and mental pain. Right now she had to be the captain, as much as she wanted to mourn the senseless deaths of her crewmen. She cleared her throat and said, "Get the outer hatches open so we can vent some of this smoke before we asphyxiate. I want a deck-by-deck assessment of what we have to work with as well as a team on the planet looking for food and shelter. We may be here awhile and…"
An unexpected hail through her combadge stopped Kathryn in mid-command.
"Doctor to Captain Janeway."
The tone of his voice told Kathryn that she did not want to hear what he had to say. It was only after he repeated the hail and with the eyes of her remaining bridge crew on her that Janeway responded.
Carefully she let go of her injured shoulder and touched her combadge. "Go ahead, Doctor."
"Captain. I think you’d better get down here. You might want to hurry."
Did his voice just crack?
All the blood suddenly vacated her head and Kathryn swayed dizzily. Oh, no, not that! Please, God, anything but that. Not my Seven.
Lips tight, visibly pale and shaking Janeway headed for the bridge doors. They refused to open and with her damaged shoulder Kathryn had to wait while Kim manually opened them. Then she was rushing toward sickbay, hoping against hope that Seven was merely wounded, badly wounded even, so long as she was still alive.
Kathryn climbed over the injured as she squeezed into the medical bay. It looked like the majority of her crew was here with varying degrees of injury. She could see the EMH and Lieutenant Scott performing triage, assessing who could wait, who was in dire need of surgery and who was beyond help. As she watched Nurse Scott pulled a sheet over someone’s face and quietly moved on to the next patient.
Was that a blonde head under that sheet?
The EMH looked up with a sympathetic glance and then returned to his duties. Kathryn swayed, but a strong hand steadied her under the right elbow. She looked over to see her battered half-Klingon engineer. Blood dripped steadily from a cut over one eye, but B’Elanna didn’t seem to notice.
"You’d have been so proud of her," B’Elanna said thickly with tears shining in her eyes that she refused to shed. The ‘her’ B’Elanna spoke of went unsaid and Kathryn knew she was talking about Seven.
"She broke open the plasma injector pad with her bare hands. It was the only way."
Kathryn felt the tears well up and overflow, but she didn’t attempt to stop them. "Is she…?"
"No," B’Elanna surprised her by saying. "Not yet. The doctor thinks she’s holding on…for you."
Kathryn nodded, fighting the sobs that wanted to tear free and knowing this was the last chance she would have to speak to Seven of Nine…Annika, the woman who was her heart and soul.
"Where is she?" Kathryn asked, trying to keep her voice steady and failing all the while.
B’Elanna took her hand and Kathryn didn’t mind. She held on tightly while the other woman led her like a child into the corner of the medical bay. At first glance Seven looked fine, but Kathryn could only see her right side. When they got closer B’Elanna released her and urged Janeway forward alone.
Her first full glimpse of Seven caused Kathryn to gasp. A sheet was modestly draped over the young woman up to her chest, but her left arm was exposed… or what was left of it. Only the Borg alloy remained where Seven’s arm had been. The left side of her face had been burned away and all of the beautiful blonde hair on that side was gone. If it weren’t for the Borg metal underneath Seven would have vaporized. The young woman whimpered softly and Kathryn realized she was conscious.
"I tried to give her a sedative, but her nanoprobes rejected it. I guess they’re in overdrive right now trying to repair the damage."
Somehow the doctor had come up beside her without being noticed. Kathryn nodded and tried to regain her composure. If this was going to be her last conversation with her love, Kathryn would try to be as brave as she could, for Annika.
Eyes only for Seven, Kathryn stepped up to the biobed and gently took her right hand. Seven opened her right eye and focused with difficulty. The left eye, Seven’s Borg eye, remained dark and useless. Kathryn fought the sharp stab of grief and focused on her lover’s human eye.
She knelt down and gently kissed Seven’s forehead. "Hey," she said softly.
Seven swallowed thickly and frowned before she tried to speak. "You’re hurt."
A sob escaped Kathryn before she could prevent it and tears made it past her defenses.
"I’m fine," she whispered. "You saved us, you saved me. Now you have to be strong. I need you to get better."
"Kathryn…" Seven said so faintly Janeway had to lean down to hear. "I love you. I have always loved you. Never forget…"
"No," Kathryn said brokenly, resting her hand on Seven’s Borg shoulder and the metal alloy. "Don’t talk like that. You’re going to be fine. Do you hear me?"
For a moment Seven didn’t answer and Kathryn was terrified that she had slipped away. Then Seven struggled to open her eye and asked weakly, "Is that an order?"
"No, my love. It’s my heartfelt, urgent prayer. Please, don’t leave me, Annika."
Seven swallowed and whispered, "Tell B’Elanna she has been a good friend."
"No, Annika. Don’t give up."
Janeway was beyond caring who saw her grief. All she could see was the woman she loved dying right before her. She would have offered to trade her own life in that moment if it meant Seven would live.
"Shh, Kathryn," Seven attempted to comfort her through her own agony. "I will wait for you."
Seven’s eye slipped closed and her head slowly dipped to the side. Kathryn felt the very air still around her and said, "Annika? Annika! No, oh no!"
She put her head on Seven’s chest and wept bitter tears, hardly noticing when someone stepped up beside her and started to scan Seven. A second later she realized someone was speaking to her when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Captain, she’s still alive."
Janeway looked at Raylene Scott in disbelief, terrified that she had just imagined what the nurse said. "She’s not…?"
"No. She’s just lost consciousness. I won’t lie to you, Captain. She’s in very critical condition. We don’t think she can survive her injuries. To be honest she shouldn’t be alive now, but she is."
"It’s enough," Kathryn stated gruffly.
"Captain, you’re injured. Let me help you."
"Help my crew first. I can wait," she said looking down at Seven’s precious, battered features.
"We’ve already treated the worst of the injuries. The doctor is operating on Baytart and the rest can wait. Please, Captain. The crew needs you."
That did the trick. Kathryn looked up at the nurse slowly and nodded. She allowed Raylene to mend the broken bones, but only as she stood there by Seven’s side. Then she would have to become captain again and put her heart aside while she cared for the crew, but with sudden resolve Kathryn vowed never again. When Nemo made it home she would be happy with a desk job if it meant never having to put anyone or anything ahead of Seven, if only she would be all right.
This glimpse of hell was enough to convince her that no career or starship was as important as the young woman lying so helplessly on the biobed. She had to be all right because Kathryn knew that if Seven died so would she, at least her heart would.
Three days later Seven was still hanging on and had started to improve through the tireless efforts of her nanoprobes. The EMH began to hold out hope that she would make a complete recovery.
When Kathryn wasn’t on the bridge or helping the crew make repairs to the Nemo or assisting with the search for supplies she spent every moment with Seven in the medical bay. In her weakened condition she didn’t spend much time awake in sickbay, but sleeping in a chair beside her lover. Kathryn knew Seven would have been appalled that she wasn’t taking better care of herself, but she couldn’t help it. Kathryn was irrationally convinced something would happen to Seven if she left when she wasn’t actually on duty.
Following Starfleet protocols Kathryn spent a few minutes in her office everyday to send a communications packet to Headquarters to keep them informed. It was the only time they expended surplus energy that Nemo simply didn’t have. On the fourth day following Sakonna’s escape Kathryn realized that they had done everything they could to make conditions livable until the Nemo was repaired or Starfleet sent someone after them with working slipstream engines.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 57038.5. Supplemental, encoded for transmission to Starfleet Command. Captain Kathryn Janeway recording:
Nemo is still without power, both the warp and slipstream engines have been destroyed and only six replicators are functional.
Lieutenant Torres and Doctor Brahms are skeptical that the engines can be rebuilt. Energy reserves are low, but the crew remains determined. We have found a verdant planet with an abundance of natural resources and it’s fortunate since we may be here for a long time if we are unable to repair the ship.
For the record, Tarinia was invaluable in apprehending Lieutenant Sakonna by blending into the bulkhead and taking her from behind. The Section 31 operative did eventually escape and since our sensors were damaged in the crash we have no idea of Sakonna’s heading after she took the Conseil. Security discovered the bio toxin she used on the crew in her quarters and the doctor was able to synthesize an antidote in the event of future need.
Ensign Harris and Crewman Leyton made a complete recovery, as have I. Two crewmen were killed when Nemo crashed, Tristan Adams from engineering and Alisa Lord from security. The doctor was able to heal all other injuries sustained by the crew…except for one.
Only Seven of Nine has yet to recover fully from her injuries. With our energy reserves so low we are unable to power her alcove and she is required to recuperate in a more traditional manner. Seven of Nine deliberately risked her life to ensure the safety of this ship and crew. If she had not ruptured the plasma containment pod and exposed herself to the flow there is absolutely no question Nemo would have been destroyed. I am hereby awarding her the Starfleet Medal of Valor.
Kathryn’s voice cracked and she had to take a moment to regain her composure. She could only hope Seven would survive to enjoy the ceremony Starfleet would have to pin on the medal once they returned to Earth. Seven seemed to be getting stronger and the doctor had repaired her damaged epidermis, but her nanoprobes had been overextended. Without the alcove it was only a matter of time before Seven’s Borg components would begin to break down. He couldn’t even being to repair her Borg eye, a design he had in fact created when she was originally severed from the Collective, until they were sure she would live.
As for Lieutenant Jameson, Janeway was at a loss what to do with her. She couldn’t believe Karri had been acting for Starfleet Security right under her nose all along and she hadn’t suspected a thing. In many ways she felt just as betrayed by the engineer as she had by Sakonna. At least Karri had been acting in Nemo’s best interests, but it was still a sore spot. All Kathryn could do was try to keep her eyes open in the future and utilize her personnel to the best of their abilities. With the loss of four crewmembers so far on this journey, she needed all the people she could get. She didn’t believe Nemo could be operated with fewer than forty.
Reaching for control, Kathryn concluded her log entry.
Lieutenant Sakonna said she obtained her command codes from Admiral Paris, yet I remain skeptical. As a Section 31 operative she could have obtained those codes through other means, however as a Starfleet officer I am duty bound to discover the truth. So far from the Federation that task may prove difficult if not impossible.
Search teams have found abundant food and water. Shelter is plentiful in the form of caves in the nearby foothills should we be required to abandon ship altogether. Right now the crew needs me to be larger than life and that is what I shall be for them. I owe them nothing less.