Those words were the equivalent of a bucket of cold water being thrown over her. The red alert siren sounded at the same moment and chill she would never admit to raced down the length of B’Elanna’s spine while she looked over Nicoletti’s board.
"Carey, boost the containment field. I don’t have to tell you what happens if the matter/antimatter reaction gets out of balance."
"Let me guess," the redhead quipped playfully, "a gigantic boom?"
Obviously the chief engineer wasn’t in the mood and suddenly neither was he. "It won’t stabilize."
Torres grabbed a laser cutter and dove toward the reaction chamber as fast as her bulk would allow. There wasn’t time to cut the flow of antimatter into the chamber by tapping buttons at a console. She had to cut the feed by hand. In seconds she had melted the power conduit closed, but that did little to dissipate the amount of energy that had already built up. There was nowhere to shunt that kind of power that wouldn’t blow out systems all over the ship.
"This is exactly why I hate running these calibrations," B’Elanna groused while she worked to bleed off power from the containment chamber. "One little thing goes wrong and the whole ship explodes."
"Lieutenant, it’s not working! The chamber will rupture in nineteen seconds!"
Nicoletti sounded just short of panicked. At least they had contained the intermix ratio and the ship wouldn’t blow up. Now it would just be all of engineering and deck ten. Suddenly B’Elanna had an idea that made her blood run cold, but she knew there was no other choice.
"Route all power feeds to Voyager’s non-essential systems."
"That’ll blow out power conduits all over the ship."
"It’s either that or us, now do it!"
Nicoletti held her gaze for two seconds before she nodded and began routing systems that would dissipate the deadly energy. B’Elanna closed her eyes briefly knowing it would work and at least they hadn’t needed to eject the warp core. Surely Captain Janeway would take that into account at the court martial. Janeway!
Suddenly the chief engineer remembered that Captain Janeway was in a turbolift headed to engineering.
Nicoletti frowned. "It’s too late."
A massive internal explosion rocked Voyager and B’Elanna was thrown back against the containment pod. A series of smaller explosions could be felt and the scent of ozone permeated the air while all around power feeds arced and shorted.
The red alert klaxon seemed louder than ever and Torres could barely hear Chakotay’s shout over the comm. system demanding to know what the hell was going on. Then everything went quiet and dark as the main power relays aboard Voyager failed.
As suddenly as it began it was over.
The first indication of trouble came when the red alert klaxon went off. In the confined space of the turbolift the unexpected alarm threatened to puncture Janeway’s eardrums. She instinctively pressed her fingers against her ears to block out the noise, but quickly lowered her hands and opened a communications signal with the onboard computer.
"Janeway to the bridge, status?"
There was no response to her hail, or if there was it couldn’t be heard. "Computer, redirect turbolift to the bridge."
The computer’s sensors were more finely tuned than human hearing and the lift system responded at once, to Janeway’s relief. If there was a problem with the ship her place was on the bridge and engineering could wait. The turbolift rose steadily for what felt like twenty seconds. From experience Kathryn knew she was nearing deck one. Suddenly an explosion rocked Voyager and Janeway was thrown to the deck. She could feel other explosions that made the ship vibrate like crystal under the impact of a tuning fork and the turbolift came to a complete stop. For an instant nothing else happened, then suddenly the stabilizers released their hold against the walls of the shaft and the lift began to fall.
"Computer, halt turbolift!"
This time there was no response and to her horror the lights abruptly went out. Now she was falling in the dark and the sensation was unnerving. An image of the lift sitting demolished at the bottom of the shaft flashed through her mind. Kathryn’s mouth went dry and she shouted again for the lift to halt.
Again there was no response from the computer, but now she heard the emergency stabilizers creak and groan as they engaged. A scream of tortured metal assaulted her ears and she could almost imagine the duranium peeling back from inside the shaft. The friction caused by stopping the freefall quickly heated up the interior of the lift, but at least it was slowing down. Grudgingly, reluctantly, the turbolift came to a precarious halt. The inside of the conveyance was tilted to one side and Kathryn felt the lift slip a few more centimeters before it stopped completely.
Captain Janeway sat up slowly, holding her breath as she waited to see what would happen. The lift remained where it was and she let out a relieved breath while she checked herself for injuries. She was a little shaky from the adrenaline rush but there were no cuts or broken bones. Her backside felt a little sore from landing on it, but that appeared to be the extent of it.
"Janeway to Chakotay, status report."
There was no answer to her hail and she realized internal communications were down. That wasn’t really a surprise considering the number of explosions she’d felt and the fact that she was sitting in the dark. Janeway reached up and tapped her combadge. It was a short-range communicator but should be sufficient for inside the ship.
"Janeway to Chakotay. What’s going on up there?"
"Captain! Are you all right?"
"I’m fine. I’m just stuck in the turbolift. What the hell happened?"
"There was an overload in engineering that shorted out Voyager’s non-critical systems. From the data Harry picked up on his monitor it looks like it was deliberate."
"I don’t know yet. With the computer non-operational I don’t even know what systems we have or if environmental controls are functioning properly. Do you want me to send a crew to get you out of the turbolift?"
Her first response was to say ‘Hell yes, I want you to get me out of here!’, but she held her tongue. Although she was sitting in the dark she was unharmed. Any such rescue team would have to search for her the old-fashioned way without the computer and it would take time to get her out. Voyager was the priority.
"I’m all right for now. Get repair crews on the main computer and send someone to engineering to find out what happened. They’ll have to use the Jeffries tubes. Focus on shields and environmental controls once the computer is up. Without shields a micro-meteoroid could penetrate the hull."
"Understood. I’ll keep you informed and as soon as we secure the ship I’ll send someone to get you out of there."
Seven of Nine was running sector scans in Astrometrics. The sensors had been enhanced by point three zero percent. She was rather pleased with the results of her efforts and had serious doubts that Voyager would ever be surprised by another trap like the Quarren had perpetrated. Now the only thing troubling her was that she hadn’t heard anything further from Captain Janeway or Lieutenant Torres since her refusal to assist with the power calibrations.
I should have assisted.
Voyager had been heavily damaged by repeated encounters with the Quarren patrol ships while the balance of the crew had been on the planet. All major systems had been compromised and engineering specifically targeted by the enemy’s fusion cannons. Commander Chakotay, Ensign Kim and the EMH had made repairs on the fly and so far everything held together, but humans and the programs that they created were fallible. There would always be micro-fractures in critical components that could cause catastrophic results. It was the reason the recalibrations were so important…and so dangerous.
I should have assisted.
The red alert siren went off and Seven scowled at the piercing sound. Instinctively she knew the alarm was connected with the tests being performed in engineering. Protocol deemed that everyone report to their duty stations during a red alert, but she didn’t care. There would be only seconds to prevent disaster if an overload of any kind occurred in the heart of the ship. She turned and strode toward the exit, but before she could reach the doors she was thrown off her feet by a concussive blast. The lights went out and showed no signs of coming back on, yet the alarm continued its annoying wail. Throughout the following more minor blasts Seven had only one concern.
"Computer, what is Captain Janeway’s location?"
"Captain Janeway is in turbolift two alpha…"
The last word carried a deep baritone and it sounded like the computer was on a heavy dose of sedatives. Without question it was the last she would hear from the main computer for some time.
Seven tapped her combadge and said, "Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway."
"I’m here, Seven."
"Are you injured?" She couldn’t keep the concern out of her voice.
"No, just stuck here for a while it seems. Apparently there was an accident in engineering and they routed a power build up throughout the ship to keep from blowing it apart."
Seven was not pleased to hear that and intended to have a talk with Lieutenant Torres about incompetence at the earliest convenience.
"What are your orders?"
"Help get the main computer back up and then make sure all critical systems are functioning. As soon as transporters are up you can get me out of here."
"Understood, Seven of Nine out."
She wanted to continue the conversation, wanted to tell the captain that getting her out of the lift was the most important issue as far as she was concerned, but she couldn’t. If she had agreed to help in engineering to begin with it was likely none of this would have occurred. Now she could only do as the captain ordered and try to make up for her previous indiscretion.
She climbed to her feet and walked over to the exit, unsurprised when the doors refused to open. The emergency lighting kicked in and a dull glow around the baseboards gave slight relief to the tomblike darkness. It was enough to help her locate the manual door release without enhancing her Borg optical sensors and in moments she stood in the corridor. She was relieved when the alarm klaxon shut off a few moments later. Either the power failure was worse than she thought or the annoying alarm had been shut off at the bridge controls.
Jeffries tube 37-A was located at the end of the corridor on deck eight. Seven entered the small vertical tube and spotted the maintenance hatch that allowed access to the turbolift shaft, the very one in which Janeway was currently trapped. Without hesitation she opened the hatch and looked up and down the inside of the shaft. The turbo chute was a mass of twisted and smoking electrical conduits and scorched duranium sheathing. Small fires still burned and eagerly consumed the oxygen Seven had admitted by opening the portal. Above her, she could barely see the bottom of the lift where she knew the captain was, but she could not reasonably hope to reach her.
The lift was only one deck up, but there wasn’t another maintenance ingress until she reached deck five. Something told her the condition of the shaft wouldn’t be any clearer coming from above and if she tried she would only be electrocuted for her efforts. Rescuing the captain was out of the question for the moment, which left her now with two options. She could either use the Jeffries tube to climb to the bridge and assist with getting main systems back online, or she could travel to engineering to assist Lieutenant Torres in any way possible.
Climbing upward seven decks to reach the bridge did not appeal to her. The journey down to engineering would only encompass two decks and would be much easier, but that option was even less enticing. Seven didn’t believe she would be able to work with the half-Klingon, or for that matter even look at her, without terminating her. Whatever had occurred to threaten the ship in general and Captain Janeway in particular was no doubt the engineer’s fault. She didn’t want to put Kathryn in the position of having to discipline her after the crisis had passed.
Janeway watched as Seven seemed to brace herself before she spoke. "Good evening, Captain."
A little too formal, Kathryn thought. That would never do at all. "We’re off duty and on a date, Seven. Why don’t you call me Kathryn?"
Seven blinked and Kathryn saw she had surprised her. Good. If things went her way there would be a few more surprises in store that would lead to just the ending she was hoping for.
Janeway smiled and pulled out a chair at the little table. "Would you like to sit down?"
For a brief moment Seven looked uncomfortable at the prospect, but then she nodded and gracefully took her seat. Kathryn took the chair across from her and a moment later a waiter appeared.
"I’ve already taken the liberty of ordering some wine," Kathryn said as the waiter popped the cork. He poured out a small measure that Janeway sampled before nodding her acceptance.
"Would you care to order now, Senora?" the waiter asked after he’d finished pouring their wine.
Seven picked up a menu that was lying on the table and a panicked looked flashed through her eyes before she admitted, "I am unfamiliar with this type of cuisine."
Kathryn reached across the small space and took Seven’s left hand between both of her own. The Borg mesh felt smooth and soft and for an instant she forgot what she had meant to say. "Then why don’t you let me decide for both of us?"
"I would be grateful…Kathryn."
Janeway smiled at her date before she ordered an antipasto salad, a gnocchi dish and freshly baked garlic bread. After the waiter left there was a small silence while Seven looked around at the café and out the window toward the canal.
"I do not recognize this setting."
"It’s from Earth; Venice, Italy. Do you like it?"
"Very much. It is very beautiful."
Feeling far too pleased with herself Kathryn suggested, "Why don’t you try the wine?"
Seven mimicked the way Kathryn held her glass, holding it by the stem, before she took a small sip. A smile curved the generous lips and Janeway felt her stomach flip over in visceral response.
"It is wonderful!"
"I’m glad you like it, but be careful. It’s the real thing, not synthahol so it has a higher alcohol content than you’re used to."
Seven took her words to heart and sipped carefully from the glass. A moment later the waiter delivered their food and Kathryn found herself answering questions about the cuisine, the gnocchi in particular.
"What does gnocchi gnudi mean?"
"Literally? It means ‘naked gnocchi’. These dumplings are made with ricotta cheese and spinach dressed in pesto sauce. Try it and let me know what you think."
Seven took a small bite before she admitted she found it extremely palatable. The gnocchi was much more preferable to the lobster Lieutenant Chapman had ordered.
The reference to the only other date Seven had ever gone on didn’t upset Janeway’s mood at all. She had it on good authority that the evening had been a complete disaster and had never been repeated.
"There is a great deal of flour content in this nutritional supplement. Is it pasta?"
"No, although I’m sure they’re related. I believe gnocchi is thought to be much older than pasta. It’s been recorded as far back as cookbooks of the 13th century."
Dinner progressed smoothly and Seven relaxed as they talked. Kathryn was reminded of being on Quarra, when they were only two women without responsibility and there were moments she wondered what would have happened if Chakotay had not come along. Would she have become involved with Seven? Would they have moved in together, created a life together? When Seven smiled at something she said Kathryn would feel her heart catch. Once she actually laughed and the musical sound almost brought tears to Janeway’s eyes.
After they finished their main course Kathryn ordered a tiramisu and black coffee for herself. She knew how much Seven disliked her favorite beverage and requested something she thought the young woman might enjoy, torta gianduia and a glass of milk.
Seven had no idea what Janeway had asked for and was delighted when she was presented with a slice of hazelnut chocolate cake.
After dinner Kathryn suggested a walk along the quai and Seven eagerly agreed. They made their way along the sea wall to a picturesque cove Janeway had taken the liberty of programming into the setting where she could be assured of some privacy. The moon was high overhead and waves lapped gently at the sand. Kathryn took off her shoes and rolled up her cuffs to keep them from getting wet and grinned when Seven also removed her sandals.
The night seemed magical and Kathryn didn’t think she could have asked for a more romantic setting. When Seven looked at her she saw her desire mirrored back and she held out her hand. Seven took it and they began to walk quietly along the beach. With every step they took Kathryn’s heart beat harder and she knew what she wanted more than anything. Instead, she forced herself to be patient and allowed only their shoulders to touch as they walked. She didn’t want to do anything to scare Seven and decided to take things as slowly as possible.
A few minutes later they neared a large boulder that had dropped from the cliff side at some time in the past. It was large enough to create a windbreak and Kathryn leaned against it as Seven looked out toward the ocean.
"This has all been so wonderful, Kathryn. Thank you."
Her words sounded like an ending and Kathryn was suddenly nervous again. "I hope that doesn’t mean you want to call it a night."
Seven turned and looked at her and suddenly they were standing so close together Janeway could feel warm breath ghost across her cheeks. "No, not yet. I simply wished to express my gratitude."
Kathryn couldn’t speak. The dinner, the setting and being alone with Seven had woven a spell she couldn’t hope to resist. There was only one thing her fevered mind could focus on and she found she couldn’t look away from Seven’s lips. Slowly, almost as if in a dream, Kathryn stood up on her toes. She gave the other woman time to pull away if it wasn’t what she wanted, but Seven didn’t retreat.
Halfway there she seemed to realize what was about to happen and her lips parted in a breathless gasp.
The sound was purely erotic and Kathryn swallowed it in her mouth. Her lips touched Seven’s and danced away, a brief contact but a promise of more. Eyes opened and each saw their passion reflected before they kissed again. Kathryn’s arms wound around Seven’s shoulders and she felt strong arms embrace her. Their lips moved slowly, tasting and exploring, learning what the other wanted without a word being spoken.
The kiss went on endlessly as hands began to wander, caressing the length of a back or the softness of a cheek. Kathryn felt Seven begin to tremble and a thrill went through her at the thought that the beautiful woman could want her so much. Then, suddenly, she was being pushed away and the magical spell was shattered.
"No, we cannot do this." Seven’s voice was ragged with need, but her softly spoken words were clear.
"It’s all right." Kathryn was shaking with restrained passion and cursing herself for going to fast. "I didn’t mean for things to get so carried away."
She reached out to touch Seven but the other woman pulled away. "No, Captain, please. This isn’t right."
"How can you say that?" Kathryn was shocked by what Seven had said and she was also hurt by how she had pulled away. On top of that she was sexually frustrated and at her own lack of self-control. It was a volatile mix. "I’ll admit that maybe we were going a little fast, but don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy that kiss as much as I did."
Seven flinched at the directness of the statement. "Yes, I did enjoy kissing you, but it will not happen again. You are the captain."
"So that means I’m not allowed to be a woman, too? I’m not allowed to be with someone simply because of my rank?"
"That is not what I mean. You deserve to be with someone…better."
Seven’s eyes dropped to the sand and she turned her back while her words hit Kathryn like a fist in the stomach. All of the anger fled in an instant.
"What? You think you’re not good enough for me?"
Seven didn’t answer and Kathryn walked up behind her. She wanted to reach out, to take Seven in her arms and assure her nothing could be further from the truth but she kept her hands at her sides.
"You are the only one I could ever be with," she whispered, the waves on the beach punctuating her words. "Even when I didn’t know who I was I saw you above all others. Your strength, your beauty. I love you."
Kathryn hadn’t meant to say those last three words, but found she couldn’t deny them. It had been there all along and explained so many things. Why else would she have risked the ship so many times to bring Seven home; first from the Borg, then from Ransom, then from the Think Tank. How could she have been so blind?
Seven finally turned to look at her and the sadness in her eyes made Kathryn’s heart break. "I…I am sorry but this cannot be. You must be more than your emotions and make decisions for the good of this vessel. Regardless of your feelings you should be with someone the crew will accept."
"I don’t want anyone else. I want you." Kathryn barely noticed as her voice cracked and tears threatened. A mesh-covered hand came up to cup her cheek and she leaned into the warmth.
"What we want is unimportant, Kathryn. Only the ship matters; only Voyager. In time you will see the truth in my words and you will be grateful that you listened."
Kathryn felt stunned, unable to respond as Seven kissed her gently on the cheek and turned to walk away. When she finally found her voice again she was alone in the moonlight.
The two days following the date with Captain Janeway were the most difficult Seven had ever experienced. She continued to perform her duties in Astrometrics but studiously avoided all contact with the woman who had come to mean everything to her. To make matters worse, Kathryn had attempted to contact her through personal communiqués on twelve separate occasions and sought her out in person four times. Seven refused to answer any of the computer messages and was deliberately too busy to speak about personal matters when Kathryn came in person. She could see the hurt in Kathryn’s stormy gray eyes each time but was resolved to do the right thing, for both of their sakes.
Although she had pretended to be too busy to talk, Seven couldn’t help the thoughts that ran through her mind. She remembered the kiss they had shared, in fact couldn’t think about anything else. When she closed her eyes she could recall each second as it played out; how Kathryn had stood on tip-toe to be nearer, the moist heat issuing from parted lips just before they closed over hers. Each time she thought about it she experienced a pleasantly unique sensation in her abdomen and each time she sought to desperately push the thoughts away.
Kathryn had said she loved her and Seven had felt the truth of that in their kisses, but she hadn’t been able to admit she felt the same. To have done so would have given Kathryn false hope for something that could never be. The crew would never accept her as the captain’s mate and she couldn’t bring herself to do anything to make Kathryn’s command more difficult.
The doors to the cargo bay opened and Seven almost sighed in relief when she identified her visitor as Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres.
"Hey, Seven. Are you busy?"
Lieutenant Torres had never been reluctant to make her disdain of the former drone clear and their professional relationship was antagonistic at best. For that reason Seven wasted no time in letting the other woman know she did not welcome company.
"It is late. I am preparing to regenerate."
"Yeah, that’s great," B’Elanna said, completely unfazed. "The thing is that engineering needs to run a full calibration of the power systems on Voyager in the morning and the captain asked me to get you to help."
From the way she spoke it was clear the half-Klingon had not wanted to follow that particular order.
"Why do you need my assistance? You have made it very clear that my presence is not welcome in engineering."
"Trust me, if I had my way I wouldn’t be asking. Unfortunately Ensign Vorik picked up some alien parasite on Quarra and he’s not feeling well. I need someone who can monitor output controls in case anything goes wrong."
Seven considered the request for one point two seconds. "No."
"The captain ordered you to help."
"No. She ordered you to request my assistance. I refuse. You have other personnel that are capable of monitoring the power feeds. Astrometrics has other more pressing issues."
"Oh really? And exactly what are these other issues?"
"I am attempting to recalibrate the sensors and improve their sensitivity to avoid anymore traps. Power feeds can be monitored by anyone."
"Great," B’Elanna said, crossing her arms over her huge midsection. Seven absently wondered if being pregnant caused the lieutenant difficulty in performing her duties. "I’ll be sure and tell the captain you said so."
Her tone told Seven the half-Klingon was pleased by her response, which only served to confuse the former drone. "Why, Lieutenant?"
B’Elanna shrugged and offered her a toothy grin. "I don’t want you down there either. This way I can always tell Janeway I did as she asked but you refused. As far as I’m concerned it’s a win-win situation for me."
Seven refused to comment as the other woman left. It wasn’t like her to refuse a request from the captain, but B’Elanna’s attitude had been more than she could take right now. Seven entered the sequence to start the regeneration cycle and entered her alcove. Just before her eyes closed she pictured Kathryn’s lips touching hers once again.
The power system calibration testing was going by the book and B’Elanna couldn’t have been more pleased. Susan Nicoletti was monitoring the power feeds and in another twenty minutes all of this would be history. Captain Janeway was on her way down from the bridge to be on hand for the final calibration results and best of all the Borg had stayed out of her hair.
She frowned a little when she thought of the look on Janeway’s face when she told her Seven had refused to help. B’Elanna had expected anger or frustration. Instead the captain’s face had turned white and she looked like someone stole her puppy.
Maybe that’s it. I always thought Seven was the captain’s favorite. What if she’s just a pet project? Torres could deal with that. If Seven was just a project then eventually the captain’s interest would wane, then things would be back where they belonged. There was a time when she had hoped for more with Janeway, a lot more. She looked down at her rotund stomach and realized that ship had sailed. She was married to Tom now and expecting his child, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t fantasize a little.
"Uh, Lieutenant? There’s a fluctuation in the magnetic containment field."
This tale is a remake of the Star Trek Voyager episode, Workforce. The idea was originally submitted some time ago as part of a challenge on the Janeway/Seven Faction Forum. This story poses the idea that Janeway did not become involved with Jaffen, they were only good friends. Instead the captain became involved with Seven of Nine before Chakotay showed up to spoil the honeymoon.
The Quarren took us from our escape pods after Voyager was hit by a radioactive mine. At the time we thought they were benevolent, a rare quality in the delta quadrant. I had ordered the crew to abandon ship and set a course in the escape pods for the nearest m-class planet until it was safe for us to return. All command functions were transferred to the Emergency Command Hologram. Thank God for the doctor. Without him there is no telling how the story would have ended.
They found us almost as soon as the last pod had been jettisoned from Voyager. Most of us were already so sick from radiation poisoning we would not have survived had they not come along and treated us…our benefactors…our saviors.
Working at the power plant was like a dream. I had no responsibilities other than to monitor the reactor coils at Quarra’s primary power plant. It was a great job and one I was happy to land during a labor shortage. I even had a nice little romance heating up with a fellow worker named Jaffen. All of that changed when I stopped and actually looked at the efficiency monitor. Annika Hansen was stunning. Her slightly superior air fascinated me and when she walked I was convinced that her feet did not touch the ground.
My feelings for her gave me the strength to decline Jaffen’s offer to move in. I knew he didn’t really want to combine resources so we could reduce expenses. He wanted much more than I had to offer…at least to him.
A man named Amol Kotay showed up and tried to tell me that all of us had been abducted from a starship named Voyager. The very idea was preposterous, but he turned out to be right. Just before our group separated in an effort to bring down the Quarren conspirators I dredged up the nerve to ask Annika to dinner. No matter if we won or lost I wanted something pleasant to look forward to. When she looked at me with those bright blue eyes and smiled her acceptance I knew I had made the right decision not to become involved with Jaffen.
Well, we won. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I am once again Captain Kathryn Janeway, leader of the Federation Starship Voyager. Jaffen has just said goodbye and I feel as though I’ve bid farewell to an old and dear friend. Chakotay and the rest of the crew are at their stations ready for me to give the word to set a course for home.
The Quarren deception was deeply insidious, altering our memories to add us to their workforce, but while their actions were evil they had an unexpected side effect. Having our memories erased allowed us to reconnect with people we had begun to take for granted. We’ve been given the gift of opened eyes. I see now that I cannot function as a separate entity from my crew, apart and alone. In order to truly belong I have to be one of them.
The dinner date with Annika Hansen is still there, lingering over my head.
Will Seven of Nine expect me to honor my invitation? I know that I want to and I know that I have to try.
I consider my options as I ride the turbolift to the bridge. When Harry calls out "Captain on the bridge," it surprises me and I look at him in momentary confusion. Most of my memories have been returned, but fog lingers at the edges of my consciousness. The doctor tells me the mist will lift, but I hope not too quickly. There are new truths that have been revealed to me and I don’t wish to forget them.
I sit in my chair and feel the commander watching me, waiting for a signal. I don’t let him down.
"It may not have been real Chakotay, bit it felt like home. If you hadn’t come after me I never would have known I had another life."
"Are you sorry I showed up?"
I think quickly of all that has gone on the past few weeks; being free of responsibility and having a new life. I almost answer yes, until I remember bright blue eyes smiling down at me and I feel my lips curl in response before I answer him.
"Not for a second."
Seven of Nine worked quietly at her terminal. Voyager was streaking out of the Quarren sector at warp six and as far as she was concerned that wasn’t fast enough. It was bad enough that the alien species had so easily overcome her resistance, but to show such weakness in front of Captain Janeway was unacceptable. She should have recognized the captain and the others. She should have been more like Commander Tuvok. Had it not been for the strength of his Vulcan mind they might all still be leading alternate lives on the planet. Even Commander Chakotay had been willing to do whatever it took to bring them home while she had been strutting around as an ‘efficiency monitor’ for the power plant. Seven of Nine had never been so ashamed in her life.
The doors to Astrometrics opened and she identified her visitor without turning to look. It was the last person she wanted to see and she could not summon the strength to do the woman the courtesy of facing her. Instead, Seven stared at the huge overhead display and continued to input impossibly long strings of code while she spoke.
"Captain Janeway, how may I assist you?"
She felt the other woman flinch at the coldly worded question. Now I am compounding my error, Seven thought. I am punishing the captain when the failure was my own. Feeling shamed by her actions Seven took a deep breath and finally looked at the other woman.
"My apologies, Captain." She had hoped Janeway would accept her apology without comment, but it wasn’t meant to be.
"You want to talk about what’s bothering you?"
"I…it is nothing."
For a moment she had been tempted to open up, but her embarrassment prevented her. Captain Janeway could never understand how she felt. The captain was always the epitome of self-control and integrity. Even though she had been brainwashed along with the others the captain had shown real fortitude by pursuing the truth. Seven did not believe she could claim the same.
"It’s about what happened on Quarra, isn’t it?"
Seven winced in surprise and looked into the elegant features. For a split second she remembered those slate blue eyes looking at her with romantic interest. Now she saw only sympathy and was further mortified.
"As I said, it is nothing."
"Let me guess." The captain trailed her fingers lightly over the console as she moved around to stand in front of Seven. When she began to speak again her voice was soft but it strengthened in conviction as she went on.
"You feel like you should have seen through what the Quarren did. You think you should have been able to stop Doctor Kaden."
"They should not have been able to alter my memory engrams at all." Seven’s angry words were almost shouted. Her chest heaved with each agitated breath.
"But you were," Kathryn said gently. "We all were."
"It is more than that." Seven stopped running data through the computer and focused solely on the conversation. "I began to enjoy my life on the planet. Even after Commander Tuvok mind-melded with me and showed me the truth I did not want to believe. I dismissed what I saw and endangered the crew. I endangered you."
There was a brief silence and Seven thought she had made Janeway see.
"Look, Seven, I know you’d like to take all the blame but I can’t let you do that. The Quarren are to blame from beginning to end. They laid the radiogenic mine Voyager hit. It was a deliberate trap set to acquire workers."
"Nevertheless, if Commander Tuvok had not resisted we might still be there."
"That’s pure speculation. Frankly I’m surprised. I never thought you were the type to wallow in self-pity."
"I am not being self-indulgent…"
"Yes you are," the captain interrupted. "Well, guess what? You’re not perfect, none of us are. We were all deceived and I seem to recall things a little differently than you. I remember someone breaking into classified files after Tuvok created his little disturbance. I remember someone allowing herself to be used as bait to save us all. I was the one who didn’t want to see it. Chakotay came to me, he told me everything and I turned him over to the authorities. I was the one to dismiss what was right in front of me because I enjoyed the illusion too much."
"It was not your fault! The Quarren…"
"…did the same thing to all of us," Janeway finished. "You had the courage to look beyond the fraud, to dig for the facts. I’m very proud of you for that and I won’t let you go on blaming yourself. If you can’t let go of the guilt for your own sake, then let it go for mine."
Seven swallowed her instinctive protest and finally said, "Very well, I will try."
"Good." Kathryn smiled and a twinkle replaced the compassion in her eyes. "I have one more favor to ask. I’d like you to keep your promise to me."
"Promise, Captain? I do not recall a promise."
"No? You made one to me on Quarra and whether we knew who we were or not I expect you to be a woman of your word."
"All right. I will keep any promise I have made."
"Great! I’ll see you at nineteen hundred in the holodeck." Janeway started walking toward the exit.
"I don’t understand."
The captain turned around and continued walking backward. "Wear something comfortable; no uniforms."
Janeway grinned and relented. Just before she walked out she said, "Dinner, Seven. You promised to have dinner with me. Don’t be late."
Kathryn walked out of Astrometrics with a smug smile on her face, which she quickly altered into her usual command mask when she spotted a crewman walking toward her. Although she was feeling pleased that Seven hadn’t refused the dinner invitation she realized she really hadn’t given her the chance.
"Captain," the ensign said respectfully as he passed.
"How are you, Ensign Adams?"
"Uh, fine ma’am." The young man looked startled that the captain of the ship had actually spoken to him and Kathryn frowned internally. Did she actually give the impression that her people couldn’t interact with her? "Uh, how are you, Captain Janeway?"
"Not bad," she answered in a friendly tone and headed toward the turbolift with a lot on her mind.
The ensign’s response to her just reinforced what she had been thinking before. It wasn’t enough to lead the crew of Voyager. She needed to be a part of it. That was going to be harder than she had first supposed, Kathryn realized. She firmly believed in Starfleet principles and had no intention of being the kind of captain the crew called by her first name. Captain Rudy Ransom popped to mind and Kathryn remembered what a disaster the encounter with the Equinox had been. In the end the first officer had mutinied and Ransom had been left with no alternative but to destroy the ship.
There was a lot about that encounter that Kathryn didn’t want to dwell on, but one thing she did believe was that the break down in discipline aboard that ship had been responsible for all of their troubles. She wasn’t about to make the same mistake.
But how could she go about balancing both sides of the equation? How could she pursue a relationship with Seven without losing the respect of her crew? There would always be those who thought she shouldn’t be involved with anyone and it would only take a few dissenters to cause trouble aboard Voyager.
One step at a time, Katie, she thought to herself. One step at a time. Who’s to say Seven even wants to be involved with you as something other than a friend or mentor? Well, if she doesn’t I guess I’ll just have to convince her.
One thing she had never been was a quitter and now that she had decided to pursue Seven, failure was not an option. She would just have to be her most charming and show Seven how things could be between them. The turbolift stopped at deck three and Kathryn stepped off with a new bounce in her step.
I can’t believe I’m actually going to try and woo a Borg! She chuckled as the doors parted and she entered her quarters. She had a lot to do before nineteen hundred hours.
With five minutes to spare Kathryn stood back and surveyed her handiwork. The holodeck setting was that of a quaint little bistro in Italy. She had been sent to Venice as a young cadet for special training in covert operations and run into the café quite by accident. As a point of fact, she had been lost trying to navigate the city on her own the first night in Italy. While lost in the heart of the city she had stumbled upon the place that was frequented more by locals than tourists and fallen in love with it immediately.
Now she had recreated that bistro here. The sights and smells were so authentic that when she closed her eyes she could almost convince herself it was real. Outside the large bay windows was a view of the canal. Ebony gondolas with colorful cushions were steered lazily down the waterways. Lovers sat in the front of the boats and held each other as they looked happily around the magnificent city.
Night was just beginning to settle in and lights winked on around a nearby piazza. A fire crackled in the stone fireplace along the rear wall, completing the romantic atmosphere. Although she had added a few other patrons to lend an air of authenticity to the program she wanted the focus of this evening to be on her and Seven. She had reserved a single small table in the front corner of the café along the windows that would give them a clear view of the canals and neighboring squares while also giving them a bit of privacy. A bottle of white wine sat chilling in a bucket beside the table and all she needed now was for Seven of Nine to arrive and the wooing to begin.
With nothing left to do but wait for her date to arrive Kathryn was suddenly nervous and she began to worry about her appearance.
She had settled on a pair of cream-colored slacks and a burgundy top that she hoped would bring out the highlights in her hair. Pearl earrings and flat shoes completed her outfit. The simplicity of her apparel had been deliberate. She knew how little experience Seven had in social situations and didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by overdressing. Now she worried that she was under dressed, but the parting of the holodeck doors told her it was far too late to change.
She turned and her breath froze in her lungs when she saw how ravishing Seven was in a midnight blue shift. The dress highlighted the blue of her eyes and her blonde hair was brushed out to fall gently around her shoulders. Curiosity and appreciation shown in Seven’s eyes as she looked around the bistro before they finally came to rest on Kathryn.
With those thoughts in mind Seven took a deep breath and started up the Jeffries tube toward deck one. The climb was difficult in three inch heels, but she persevered until she was just below deck three. Something here seemed wrong and she paused to look around. Finally, when she could not determine anything out of the ordinary she preceded with her climb. Seven opened the access onto the bridge with little difficulty and climbed out. The first thing she heard was Commander Chakotay.
"Why aren’t you at your post?"
He had a small cut above his forehead and seemed in an unusually foul mood, even for him. The bridge looked relatively intact and she took a moment to look around, deliberately prolonging her answer and irritating the first officer even more. Finally she responded as she walked toward the aft science station.
"There is little to do in Astrometrics while Voyager is without power. You require my assistance here."
For the next hour Seven worked with Harry Kim on getting the computer functional. It was slow going as they rerouted circuits and patched data relays. Bio-neural gel-packs had to be replaced and teams were dispatched to attend those so Seven and Harry could concentrate on their main objective. Through-out the entire procedure she worried for Captain Janeway. Kathryn had said she wasn’t injured, but it would be like her to make such a claim so her crew would concentrate on the ship.
It was only natural that she began to think about all that had occurred since that fateful date on the holodeck and she started to wonder at her own actions. They had been precipitated because she was feeling sorry for herself, just as the captain had said.
Now she wondered if her decision on the holographic beach had been the correct one. She had told Kathryn she wasn’t good enough for her and the Janeway had disagreed. Perhaps the captain had known best after all. No one else could protect Kathryn the way Seven could and if she hadn’t been resisting her feelings so strongly they would not be in the situation they were in now.
Seven would have happily followed Janeway’s request and assisted in engineering. The disaster would not have occurred and Kathryn would not be sitting trapped inside a turbolift. She should have followed her heart and told Kathryn the truth, that she loved her as well.
Suddenly her console lit up and Harry cried out, "You’ve done it! The main computer is coming back online."
The Jeffries tube hatch opened and B’Elanna Torres climbed out. "Engineering is locked down and there’s nothing more to do there until we get the other systems up and running."
Her words were intended to stop Commander Chakotay’s objections before he could voice them but he had other questions. "What happened down there?"
Torres took up her position at the bridge engineering station, studiously avoiding the poisonous looks Seven was sending her way. "Feedback in the matter/antimatter injection port. We couldn’t get the flow shut off in time and I had to cut the feeds manually."
Her husband, Tom Paris, was shooting furious looks over his shoulder toward his pregnant wife and finally B’Elanna couldn’t stand it anymore. "What?"
"You’re seven months pregnant and you just climbed ten decks to get to the bridge? What are you thinking?"
B’Elanna rolled her eyes before she responded impatiently. "I’m a Klingon, and I may be pregnant but I’m not an invalid. Right now there are more important things to worry about."
He opened his mouth to protest further but the engineer cut him off before he could start. "Now is not the time, Tom. We’ll talk about it later."
Obviously unhappy but thinking better of continuing the discussion, Paris turned back to his navigational controls.
Seven of Nine was not so easily deterred. She continued to look at the Klingon, weighing her options. In her mind the engineer still had much to answer for and a cryptic explanation of the matter/antimatter injection port wasn’t nearly good enough.
It was more than B’Elanna’s frayed nerves could stand. She turned and met Seven’s challenging gaze. "You have something to say to me, Borg?"
"Yes. You are incompetent."
"You are incompetent," Seven repeated as though the engineer had not heard her clearly. "Your people are incompetent as well. It is your fault Voyager has been damaged and that the captain is trapped inside the turbolift."
"And where were you while all of that was going on?" B’Elanna shot back. "If we’re all so incompetent why did you refuse to help out when the captain asked you to? It looks to me like you’re just as much to blame."
"That’s enough!" Chakotay bellowed. "We can play the blame game later. Harry is the computer fully operational?"
"The shields are still up and it looks like I can get the lights back on. The warp drive is fused, but impulse is available. Environmental controls are sporadic at best, especially on the decks below engineering."
"The turbolifts?" Seven asked, voicing the question that was on all their minds.
Harry checked his console and shook his head. "Lifts one alpha and beta are intermittent at best. Lifts two alpha and beta are offline."
Seven felt as though she’d been struck in the abdomen.
"The captain is in lift two alpha," Chakotay said.
All heads turned to Lieutenant Torres, but it was Seven who asked, "How do you know?"
"Chakotay spoke with her after the accident and she wasn’t injured and from what I can tell the environmental system only went out in there…sixteen minutes ago. Accounting for one hundred and sixty-eight cubic feet of space plus any air trapped in the shaft she should have at least two hours of air. That should be plenty of time to get her out."
Seven swallowed against a suddenly dry throat and said, "The shaft was filled with burning circuits and shorted conduits. Any oxygen outside the turbolift has already been consumed. She has only the air inside the car."
Chakotay immediately tapped his combadge and hailed the captain.
"Janeway here. What’s our status?"
"The main computer and the shields are up. We’re working on the rest of the systems. How are you doing?"
"I’m fine, but the air seems a little thin in here. How does it look for getting me out of the turbolift?"
Chakotay glanced at Harry, but the operations officer merely shook his head. "The transporters aren’t functional and it looks like the environmental controls have gone out inside the turbolift. We’re going to have to figure out another way to get you out of there."
There was a brief, startled pause before the captain responded dryly, "Well, better make it fast. I don’t think I can hold my breath for very long."
"Understood, Captain. I’ll advise you as soon as we come up with something."
Seven of Nine was already moving toward an equipment storage locker before the commander broke the com-link. Already she had allowed her insecurities to endanger the ship and the woman she loved. Apparently in her quest to become more human she had become more fallible, but that would cease now. There would be no more indecision that led to dangerous consequences.
"I am going to retrieve the captain."
That was all the explanation she would give the man, but her intent became clear as Seven donned and EVA suit. Normally the bulky suits were intended for space walks, but Seven realized they would serve her purposes here just as well.
"I can’t let you do that. It’s too dangerous and with Captain Janeway trapped in the turbolift it’s my decision."
Seven ignored him.
"Take that suit off, Seven. That’s an order."
Seven finished closing the suit and grasped the helmet in both hands. She looked at the commander to find his face flushed in anger and didn’t know if he was angry for being disobeyed or because he hadn’t thought of it. Either way, it was unimportant.
She acted as though he had never spoken, which only served to infuriate him more. "I suggest you continue working on the transporters in the event that I am unsuccessful."
Seven decided she didn’t need the helmet and handed it to a flustered Ensign Kim as Chakotay sputtered ineffectually. Once the hatch was opened oxygen would flood the compartment so only the suit would be necessary to protect her body. B’Elanna had to turn away from the scene, but from the way her shoulders shook Seven thought she might be laughing.
Seven climbed quickly down to deck five and the maintenance hatch for the turbolift. At first the strong scent of burning conduits caused her to cough. Fortunately the original fires had burned out quickly and when fresh oxygen flooded the compartment nothing else sparked. With the introduction of life-giving air Seven could have turned around and proceeded to work on the transporters but the thought never occurred to her. It was time to get Kathryn out of the turbolift and nothing else would do.
Inside the turbolift Captain Janeway hadn’t been idle. She had already tried to escape through the hatch on top of the car, but it was apparently blocked by some fallen debris. Her head began to throb and she raised a hand to discover dry, crusted blood. Apparently she hadn’t escaped completely unscathed, but she didn’t remember bumping her head.
The air was becoming thin and she sat down on the floor to relax and try to conserve oxygen. Thoughts of Annika Hansen swirled through her head, mixed with thoughts of who she knew the young woman to actually be. Her memories of Voyager had been foggy although returning swiftly, but with the lack of fresh air and the bump on the head things were beginning to merge together.
She remembered how her heart went out to the frightened young woman when the worker Tuvok assaulted her, but she also remembered how afraid Seven had been when she was first separated from the Collective. On the heels of her warm and romantic thoughts about the young woman she also remembered that Seven had rejected her love. At first she felt saddened and dejected by the thought but then something occurred to her. Seven had never said she didn’t return Kathryn’s feelings. She had said Janeway deserved better and that the crew would never accept her… that was all.
Hope sprang reborn in her heart and she determined that as soon as she was out of this lift and the current crisis was over things were going to change. A thump on top of the turbolift caught her attention and Kathryn stood up swaying slightly from the abrupt change in blood pressure.
The escape hatch opened with a protesting groan and a blonde head popped into view. Blue eyes met hers and for an instant Kathryn was again transported to the recent past. This time the setting was the holographic beach where they had shared their first and only date. Instead of the challenge of winning Seven’s heart Kathryn was forcibly reminded that without giving something in return such a victory was hollow. Unless she relinquished a part of herself it was just an empty win. Forever after that moment would be the one Janeway remembered as when she truly fell head over heels, completely in love with Seven of Nine.
Seven didn’t miss the look of absolute adoration on Kathryn’s face as she dropped lightly into the lift, but there were more immediate concerns on her mind. Along with the expression she had also noted dried blood on Janeway’s temple. The woman was not so uninjured after all.
Before she had time to inquire as to Kathryn’s health, the other woman spoke. "I owe you an apology."
Janeway softly laid a palm against Seven’s cheek and said, "It’s Kathryn, remember?"
Seven turned her face slightly away. "You said I should call you Kathryn when we were not on duty. We are currently on duty."
"You’re right. I did say that, but this is more important at the moment. No one else is here unless you have an open com-link I don’t know about?"
Seven shook her head.
"Then there’s something I have to say. I’ve tried for days now, but you wouldn’t see me, wouldn’t talk with me. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for pressuring you."
"Kathryn, now is not the time for this."
"I don’t see why not. I’m no longer in danger of suffocating. You’re here and I’m here. If we climb out now I might not have the chance to say this, after all you’ve been awfully unavailable lately. Will you at least hear me out?"
Seven was long past needing to be convinced or trying to let Janeway down easily. She had known long before the Quarren experience that she loved the brave and daring captain. Finding out the other woman returned her feelings had been a dream come true. If she hadn’t been convinced she was unworthy of Kathryn’s love she would have happily accepted her courtship on the holographic beach. With a simple nod she acquiesced to Kathryn’s request.
"I meant it when I said I love you and nothing would make me happier than for you to return my feelings. You are the only person for me in any universe and I don’t care if the whole damn crew mutinies. Who I choose to love is not their business. The only person that matters is you."
Kathryn took a deep breath and did something completely unheard of for a Starfleet captain. She relinquished all control and put her heart into the hands of the woman she trusted above all others. "The choice is yours, Seven. As much as I want this I can’t force you to feel the same. Just know that I am here waiting for you."
Janeway’s face was set in firm resolve, her eyes fixed upon the deck. It was easy enough to say the words, but she couldn’t bring herself to look into eyes full of pity. Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise to feel soft fingers under her chin, forcing her face upward. Seven was already too close to see clearly and all Kathryn could feel was the warmth of a breath before full lips closed over her own.
When she pulled away several moments later Seven said, "There is no longer a need to convince me of anything. You were correct in the holodeck."
"Yes. I am the only one suited to be your companion."
"Oh really?" Janeway’s puckish sense of humor kicked in. "And why is that exactly?"
"Because no one else is better suited to rescue you from the situations in which you constantly find yourself."
"Did you just say I’m accident prone?"
"You speak far too much."
Seven ended the discussion by claiming the good captain’s lips in another searing kiss.
Kathryn Janeway’s personal log, supplemental:
The Quarren unknowingly helped me find true happiness along what has already been a journey of a lifetime and if we do spend the rest of our days aboard Voyager I know that in a way I will always be grateful to them. I will be grateful because the rest of my days…and nights… will be spent in the arms of Seven of Nine.