Summary: A group of aliens have stolen the main computer. Now, with a barely functional ship, Janeway leads a desperate attempt to retrieve it, but the away team crash lands on an alien planet. Now its up to Seven and an unexpected ally, not only to help them survive, but help them find a way back to Voyager. Completed 12-15-01
Lynx… You know the secrets So very well, The Dreamtime and the magic, But you'll never tell. May I learn to hold my tongue, Observe like the Sphinx, Powerful, yet silent.
Lizard…Will you dream with me? Travel across the stars? Beyond the place of time and space, there live visions from afar.
"Direct hit," Tom Paris shouted unnecessarily as the shuttle heaved violently and sparks exploded from various conduits.
Khepri assault ships charged in seemingly random patterns around the Delta Flyer, firing continuously on the heavily damaged craft.
Working furiously at the aft tactical station amid the smoke and falling debris, Seven of Nine discovered something alarming.
"Captain, I am detecting a metaphasic nebula one thousand light years to starboard. I believe the Khepri are attempting to force us in that direction."
Captain Kathryn Janeway might have been a physically diminutive woman, but was a serious force to be reckoned with when provoked. Right now, her dander was up and she didn't like these incessant games of cat and mouse with these Delta Quadrant bullies.
Initially, the quiet and unassuming aliens had come to Voyager with the offer of stabilizing a nearby wormhole that supposedly led all the way back to the Alpha Quadrant. What they had done was steal Voyagers main computer processor, and why? Because their people had abused resources on their own planet and were slowly starving to death.
Kathryn could understand desperation, but there had been no attempt by the Khepri to barter for supplies, or even ask for help, just flat out theft. And one thing Kathryn Janeway couldn't abide was a thief, even ones that bore a striking resemblance to fairies, complete in every detail down to the cute little antennae on their foreheads.
She just couldn't figure out why they would take the computer. What possible purpose could it serve? They couldn't eat it!
With her ship operating on secondary systems and minimal life-support, she had quickly assembled an away team consisting of herself, Seven of Nine, Tom Paris and two security guards in the hope of quickly retrieving their property. But if the Khepri succeeded in forcing them into the nebula that would never happen.
The Delta Flyer was venting warp plasma from a multitude of places. The plasma would interact with the gas clouds, resulting in an impressive explosion, and rendering herself and crew a mere memory.
Another volley of alien fire solidified Janeway's resolve. Prevented from surging to her feet in righteous outrage by the shoulder straps of her seat, the captain ordered, "Mr. Paris, hard about. It looks like were going to have to fight."
Ensign Forbes looked at his commanding officer in utter disbelief. The gold-shouldered security officer knew they were outnumbered six to one, and with the damage the Flyer had sustained, there was no way they would survive.
"Captain, you cant be serious," Paris croaked, giving voice to what everyone was thinking including Kathryn herself.
Punching in commands to load the forward torpedo bays, Janeway only spared the outspoken young man a shake of her head. "Sorry, Tom. No choice,"
The venting plasma would react with the nebulas core, creating an almost instantaneous core breech. The only option was to see if they could fight their way past the Khepri.
The tense silence was broken by Sevens voice, raised over the groan of straining metal as the hull attempted to hold itself together.
"I am reading a small M-class moon fifteen hundred kilometers inside the nebula."
Imminently grateful for the former drones efficiency and for giving them another option, Janeway seized on the new information. They might not be able to fly through the nebula, but with a planet that close inside the perimeter, they just might have a chance to land and make repairs. Plus, the nebula just might deter the Khepri from following.
"Tom, set a course. Fifty kilometers before we penetrate the perimeter of the nebula, cut the warp engines and take us in on thrusters only. We just might make it."
"Aye, Captain," he said gratefully, quickly punching navigational information into his console.
The Khepri, seeming to think their ploy working, allowed the crippled shuttle to limp toward the spatial phenomena. They would allow the gas clouds to destroy their opponents for them.
A parting shot from one of the Khepri vessels caught the Delta Flyer directly in the rear, causing the tiny ship to pitch into a forward roll just as they were entering the dust clouds. Inertial dampers held for a few moments, preventing the crew from being splattered like bugs on the ceiling, before giving out with a pitiful whine.
"Seven," the desperate captain began through clenched teeth, "launch a distress buoy!"
Janeway was starting to become extremely nauseated from the pitching and yawing of the small ship, and she was guessing from the green tint of Henderson and Forbes faces that they weren't fairing any better. If this unsettling motion didn't stop soon, she was afraid she was going to toss her lunch all over the forward compartment of the shuttle.
"Tom, do something!" she ordered tersely, gritting her teeth.
The helmsman ducked when part of his console abruptly exploded.
"Sorry, Captain. The nebula is causing more damage. All of the primary systems are shutting down."
A fire erupted at the rear of the shuttle; Forbes and Henderson rushed to put it out. The bucking of the craft didn't help and the two men were hard-pressed to stay on their feet, grabbing wildly for handholds while they fought the small blaze.
Acrid smoke filled the cabin, making vision difficult and suffocation a definite threat. The shuttle began shuddering as though it was trying to tear itself apart, and Janeway knew they had entered the thermosphere of the moon. If they didn't land soon, this unexpected haven would become their tomb.
"Employ emergency landing procedures!" Janeway shouted, smoke filling her lungs causing her to cough the words.
Clouds slid by the transparent windows as the shuttle shot toward the ground, then the deep green of a thick forest was rushing at them at an impressive speed. Paris slightly miscalculated the angle of trajectory, and a massive tree trunk neatly sheared off the port nacelle. The ship began spinning like a top as it continued its descent.
"Atmospheric stabilizers off-line," Tom shouted, like no one could see that for themselves.
Kathryn knew they were going down. There was no hope for it. Briefly her glance met that of her Borg Astrometrics officer and something flashed between them. Janeway realized there was so much she had helped the younger woman with on her course to re-embrace her humanity, but there was so much she still hadn't told her. If they didn't make it through the landing, there was one more thing she absolutely had to tell her.
Something tore loose from the aft compartment, and struck Kathryn, interrupting the most important words she would have ever said to the young woman.
The last thing she remembered before a piece of flying debris impacted with her cranium was the form of one of her security guards flying through the air toward the pilot.
Seven of Nine watched in horror as Ensign Forbes tumbled helplessly through the shuttle, unable to anchor himself to anything. When he bounced off the co-pilots chair, he grabbed desperately for the passenger restraints that were hanging unused from the top of the seat. Just as Seven thought he had them, the shuttle heaved up onto one side and they were torn from his grasp. Forbes fell backwards into Paris, and his elbow struck the release for the pilots own restraints, leaving them both at the mercy of inertia. Paris face abruptly impacted with his touch-screen while Forbes unplanned flight path pitched him against the transparent aluminum of the forward porthole. The already damaged computer interface couldn't take the additional stress and gave up with a series of explosions.
Knowing that both men were undoubtedly injured, but being unable to assist, the former drone began to interface her console with the shuttles main computer. Precious seconds were spent trying to tie in the two consoles until, with the ground rushing toward them, Seven finally gave up and breathlessly watched the scene unfold.
The Delta Flyer landed with a bounce and began skidding down an incline. Seven was briefly grateful that they hadn't landed on flat ground, or the shuttle would have simply disintegrated. As soon as they hit the ground, the spinning stopped, and the ship settled into a rocking slide.
The jungle slid by them at an alarming rate, but when they tore by the final stand of trees, her eyes went wide at the sight of a huge boulder standing directly in their path. With an atypical sense of dread and helplessness, she closed her eyes and attempted to brace herself for the impact.
When the Delta Flyer hit the rock-face, the front of the shuttle caved in to wrap around the granite. Seven of Nine was tossed uncontrollably to her left, her head connecting with the bulkhead with a loud, wet thud.
The restraints holding an already unconscious Janeway tore loose from the chair padding, and the helpless woman was tossed forward through the truncated space inside the shuttle. She bounced off Toms immobile form and came to rest on the buckled deck plating.
For a few moments nothing moved. Only the hissing and popping of overloaded circuits broke the deathly silence inside the craft.
Seven gradually became aware of a warm, wet stickiness sliding down her neck, pooling in the collar of her bio-suit. It took only moments to get her limbs working, but it seemed like hours. Sluggishly she released the safety catch on her harness, freeing her from the chair. Her first thoughts were for Captain Janeway. The last thing she remembered seeing before she was knocked unconscious was the beloved form of her commanding officer coming loose from her restraints.
Groaning, Seven attempted to stand and was forced to push past a pile of still smoking debris. Janeway lay unmoving on the torn deck and the younger woman felt as though she had been struck in the abdomen at the sight of the unmoving form. She walked on shaky legs toward the smaller woman, knelt down, and gently turned her over. Seven was horrified at the pallor of the classic features and with fear beating in her heart, felt for a pulse in the thin neck. She gasped with relief at the steady, but weak flutter under her fingertips.
While checking Janeway's life-signs, Seven heard Henderson groaning in the rear of the cockpit. She was vaguely amazed that he was still alive considering he had been standing at the time of the impact. He must have found something more solid to hold on to than Forbes had.
The thought of the unlucky security guard reminded the blonde of the other two members of the crew. Rising gingerly to her feet, Seven stumbled the few paces needed to reach the front of the now abbreviated shuttle. Unfortunately, there was nothing the young woman could do to help either of the two men.
Forbes body had been torn in two from the force of the impact with the granite wall. Even after all she had seen in the Borg Collective, Seven had difficulty looking at his torn and bloody remains, and moved to help Paris.
The helmsman was still bent over the touch-screen, in a seemingly restful pose. One look at his face, however, and Seven knew he was beyond help. His face was a series of burns and puckered flesh, minute details obscured by the force of the blast that had taken his life in an instant. His legs had been crushed back into the unforgiving fixture of his chair by the damaged front of the shuttle, and were shorn off at the knees.
The young woman was unprepared for the emotions that exploded in her chest at the sight of his broken body. Tom Paris may have been an immature, inconsiderate fellow at times, but he had been the first person other than Janeway to befriend Seven on Voyager two years ago. Her eyes welled with unexpected tears, and she turned away unable to bear the sight.
Her eyes fell again on Janeway. The captain was her main priority, now. She had to focus on her. Henderson chose that moment to groan again, and Seven went to check on him.
The lieutenant was just opening his eyes and attempting to sit when she reached his side.
"Lieutenant, are you all right?" she asked in an emotionless voice.
Falling back on Borg mannerisms helped shore up her emotional defenses when she was upset, and it was something she did without even realizing.
Henderson coughed for a moment, and then struggled to sit up. A hiss of pain stopped him and he grasped his right thigh quickly with both hands.
"I think my leg is broken," he moaned.
"The captain is also injured," she informed him. "You must assist me, as I cannot carry you both. This vessel is unstable and we must secure other sanctuary until Voyager is able to rescue us."
"Youv'e got to be kidding," Henderson said angrily. "We need the resources of this shuttle, we cant leave it. Besides, I cant walk. There's no way I can assist you."
Fixing the man with a deadly glare, she replied, "You are correct. We do need the resources of this shuttle, but we do not need the shuttle itself. We will take what we need with us. As for your incapacity, you will crawl, find something to assist you, or stay here. I do not care which. What I do care about is the captain."
"I always knew there was something unnatural about you two," the man mumbled incautiously under his breath.
Suddenly he found a Borg-enhanced left hand gripping his windpipe, threatening to end his grousing permanently.
"You will not make disparaging remarks against Captain Janeway," she grated. "I do not care what you say about me, but she deserves your respect. Is that clear?"
Wheezing, he nodded quickly, grateful when she finally released him and he drew a breath. He hadn't really meant the comment, he was just tense and the Borg had made him angry.
Already having wasted too much time on the security officer, Seven retrieved a medical kit and knelt to examine Captain Janeway. What she found frightened her. She knew the captain needed surgery, and that her only hope was to get her back to Voyager. Seven didn't know when that might be, so all she could do now was try and make the woman comfortable.
"Seven, please," Henderson began in a gentle, reasoning voice, "listen to me. This shuttle, even in the condition its in, is better shelter than anything we could find or construct is. When Voyager does find us, they'll be better able to pinpoint the wreckage than our bio-signs. Not to mention…"
His voice trailed off, showing his reluctance to bring up his next point.
"Yes?" the young woman prompted, beginning to run a dermal regenerator over the captains lacerations.
Taking a deep breath to fortify his courage and hoping that the former drone wouldn't choke the life out of him, he said, "Well, just from looking at the captain, I don't really think it would be wise to move her. You could make her condition worse."
Staring at the small, battered form, Seven was forced to see his logic. Her scans had revealed a punctured kidney, and two crushed vertebrae in Janeway's spine. Moving her could result in severing the spinal cord, and rendering the captain paralyzed.
Drawing her fingertips gently down the pale cheek, Seven conceded. "Very well,"
The gesture was not lost on the brunette security guard, and he was surprised at the gentleness the young woman displayed. It didn't exactly fit the persona the crew was used to seeing.
Clearing his throat softly to get her attention, he said, "There's one other thing."
Seven followed his gaze to the bodies of Paris and Forbes.
"You have to dispose of the bodies."
The young blonde was aghast at the thought, but knew he was right. The bodies would eventually lure predators to their location, and they were in too weak a condition to fight.
"I will see to it," she assured him.
Seven knelt down next to Captain Janeway. This was the first opportunity the young woman had to rest in hours. She had buried her fallen comrades five hundred meters from the crash site, helped Henderson heal his wounds with the bone knitter and dermal regenerator, and although he would be sore and weak for some time, at least he could assist her in their plight now.
She took a moment to look at the grisly object she had brought back with her and a delicate shudder wracked her frame. Henderson had pointed out that her high-heeled boots would be a disadvantage on the planet and suggested she remove one of the deceased crewmen's footwear. She had balked at first when the security guard pointed out that survival was the first order of business. When that didn't work, he told her that the captain would want her to.
In the end, she had removed Forbes boots, but couldn't bring herself to don them. She would later, if she had to.
Henderson had stayed with the captain during Sevens absence, leaving when she returned for a call of nature and to scout the immediate area. Looking around, the former drone saw he had lit a fire at the edge of the shuttle. He had placed it in such a way that the smoke didn't blow into the cabin, but would be a deterrent against predators, and hopefully provide some warmth.
Seven had covered the captain with a blanket from the emergency pack before she left. It had slipped down around the smaller woman's chest in her absence, and Seven pulled it back up, tucking it in around her shoulders.
"You must wake up now, Kathryn," she whispered worriedly.
The captain had yet to regain consciousness, and the young woman feared for her greatly. She didn't understand all the new emotions that seeing the captain injured generated in her, but she did know that Captain Janeway was the most important individual in her life.
She could not bear to think what would happen if the feisty woman did not survive.
Wringing out a damp cloth, Seven used it to gently pat the perspiring face, pausing in astonishment when auburn eyelids began to flutter.
"Seven," Kathryn whispered weakly.
She had been dreaming, and thought she heard Seven calling her name. That couldn't be right, could it? Something cold and damp touched her skin, causing gooseflesh to break out in sympathy on her arms.
Kathryn forced her eyes open and groaned at the pain that knifed through her head. Memories came back in an instant causing her to groan again, for a different reason. Blinking, she looked up at Sevens haggard appearance, and then quickly looked around the damaged interior of the shuttle.
"Where is everyone?" she demanded. "What's our status?"
"I'm sorry, Captain," the young woman began gently, "Lieutenants Paris and Forbes did not survive the landing. Henderson was injured, but has repaired the damage. He is now exploring our immediate area."
Kathryn's eyes closed in grief. "Oh, God," she moaned, thinking of the loss of her crewmen. She would find it extremely difficult to break the news to B'Elanna Torres, Toms fiance', and how could she possibly tell his father once they returned to Earth?
And now they would never get the computer back. How could Voyager survive without it?
All that was assuming, they could get off this planet.
"What about the shuttle?"
If her voice was deeper than normal, Seven chose not to comment on it. "This vessel is irreparably damaged. It is of use to us now only for the supplies it contains, and the shelter it provides." Seeing the quickly masked look of defeat in the captains eyes, Seven sought to reassure her.
"We will survive, and Voyager will find us." She said strongly. "I was able to launch the distress beacon."
"That's assuming the Khepri didn't destroy it," Kathryn shot back before she could prevent it. "Well, I guess there's no use worrying about it now."
At Sevens brief not of agreement, Kathryn said, "Now that I'm conscious, I suppose I should get up and help you."
She tried to sit up, and a surge of pain shot through her body. Gasping, she lay back down, assisted by a worried young woman.
"Captain, you must not move! You have been seriously injured."
Through gritted teeth, Kathryn asked, "How injured?"
Seven briefly listed her injuries, concluding with, "You also had two fractured vertebrae, but I have repaired them with the bone knitter."
Kathryn realized that indeed she would not be going anywhere. In fact, if Voyager didn't show up soon, she would never leave this planet alive. Her companions gentle query broke into her thoughts, forcing Kathryn back to the present.
"Captain, on the shuttle … you were going to tell me something. Just before you were knocked unconscious,"
For a moment, Janeway couldn't remember what Seven was talking about, and then it came back to her. Oh well, she thought, no time like the present. And it really is time I told her how I feel about her.
Looking deeply into ice-blue eyes in an attempt to convey her sincerity, Kathryn said, "I wanted to tell you, how very proud of you I am, Seven. Youv'e become such a remarkable individual in such a short amount of time, and I am proud to have you as a friend."
Seven glanced away in discomfort. She was not used to praise, and although it pleased her greatly to hear this, she could find disagreement with the comments.
"Captain, I fear that is not strictly true. I argue with you on far too many occasions. I create chaos for you and cause you anxiety when you are already in turmoil. I am not a good friend for you."
Kathryn grinned at Seven and had to acknowledge the younger woman did have a point. She definitely kept her on her toes! But those incidents were fewer and not as volatile as they had been at first. Seven was coming along nicely.
"That's true, Seven, but some captains like people who challenge them. I like that you will tell me honestly what you think. Very often you provide valuable opportunities with your unique way of thinking that I might not have thought of on my own. And there's one thing you never do anymore. You never question me in front of the crew."
"No," Seven agreed, glancing away in sudden anger. "I will leave that to Commander Chakotay."
Kathryn was a bit surprised with the amount of venom in the young blondes tone, and that she would mention the Commander in such a way.
"Is there a problem with the Commander?" she asked quietly. She needed Seven to confide in her, and didn't want to appear harsh.
Meeting Janeway's gaze with a fiery look, Seven said, "He frequently undermines your authority by questioning you in front of the crew."
"Seven, it's the first officers job to show the captain alternatives," Janeway said, cutting her off in the need to defend the man.
"Yes," Seven agreed, "but he could do so privately. By countermanding your orders in front of the crew, he strives to give the impression that you are weak. I believe he wants the crew to consider him the true leader of Voyager and that you are only a figurehead."
"Now Seven, that's just not true," Janeway interjected heatedly. "I admit, that his timing could use some work, but that doesn't mean he's after my job. There's more to it than that, what else is bothering you?"
Seven looked away briefly before admitting in a smaller voice. "I do not like him, and he does not like or trust me."
Well that's it in a nutshell, Janeway thought. Thinking back over the years since Seven had joined the crew, Kathryn couldn't remember how many times Chakotay had questioned her judgment when she had put the former drone in charge of something.
Seven was right; he didn't trust her. He had never wanted her on the ship, and took every opportunity to voice his opinion. Kathryn had thought he only said such things to her, but if Seven knew about it, then that obviously wasn't the case. And if that was true, it didn't say much for Chakotay.
"Still, he is your friend," Seven said tightly.
"I would like to think he is," Kathryn admitted, but now she was beginning to wonder.
Sevens admission had started the captain thinking. Chakotay had questioned her authority many times. Even when she had given a direct order, there had been times when he had gone behind her back and made his own decisions. She had scrambled after those occasions to get things back on track.
The times when that had happened were too numerous to count; the encounter with the Borg that had left them with a severed drone, the fight with Ransom and the Equinox, when the crew had traveled through the nebula in stasis leaving only Seven and the Doctor to run the ship. The list was endless.
A sudden movement near the shuttle drew Janeway's attention. Henderson was returning from his recon of the area. Janeway was disturbed to see he was sweaty and slightly shaky.
"Henderson, are you all right?" she asked.
Hearing his captains voice caused a sudden grin to cover the ensign's face.
"I am now, Captain. Glad to see you're back with us,"
Henderson felt there was no situation that Captain Janeway couldn't get out of. With her back on the job, things would be just fine.
"You are weak," Seven interjected. "You have not yet recovered sufficiently from your injuries."
"I'm all right," the security officer insisted. "I'm just a little sore."
"Were you able to secure provisions?" Seven queried as the young man settled into one of the remaining chairs.
Shaking his head in regret, Henderson reported that there were no edible foodstuffs near the wreckage. He had gotten too tired walking around on his recently injured leg, and been forced to return to the shuttle.
"Well, I guess its the emergency rations for us," Janeway said lightly, thinking things could certainly be worse.
"They are offensive," Seven pointed out. "Now that Ensign Henderson has returned, I will search for more palatable alternatives."
"Seven, the rations are perfectly nutritious," Janeway began, but was cut off by an impatient Borg.
"Yes, they are, but as you yourself have told me, taste is relevant."
Kathryn grinned slightly when she knew the younger woman was teasing her a little. And from the expression on Henderson's face, she knew he couldn't tell the difference. He just thought Seven was arguing with the captain.
"All right," Kathryn conceded glancing outside the shuttle. "It looks like its still fairly early on this planet. We do need food, and it would be a good idea to make sure were alone in our neck of the woods. Take a tricorder and make sure were safe here, why don't you?"
Dipping her head briefly, the young woman responded, "I will comply."
Gathering a tricorder and a pack to store provisions, Seven prepared to leave the shuttle. But before she could do so, Henderson handed her a phaser.
"Just in case," he said.
Seven took the weapon gratefully. She would not have thought of it. Fixing Henderson with an intent look, she said, "You will protect her."
Henderson had to fight the shiver that wanted to crawl down his spine at her tone. The warning was clear, and although the man had always taken his duties seriously, never more so than at this moment.
Seven checked the tricorder and started off in a direction that looked promising for natural food supplies. A grove of fruit bearing trees and several bushes capable of producing berries were indicated on the readout, but were some distance from the shuttle.
Her thoughts were chaotic as she gingerly stepped over a fallen log. She knew she should have worn the boots, but hadn't been able to bring herself to put them on. She had never thought of herself as squeamish before, but that appeared to be a newly acquired trait on her path back to humanity. Still, she had to admit that it was difficult to travel over the rough terrain in the footwear the Doctor had designed. Replicating something more appropriate once they were back on Voyager had just become something of a priority.
That thought led her to the captain's plight. The captain required the services of the EMH or she would not survive. Surprised at the pain that blossomed in her chest at that thought, Seven stopped in her tracks trying to analyze the overwhelming emotions.
This is grief, she realized. It was different in intensity than what she had felt at Paris demise. This was all encompassing; leaving her with the knowledge that she would not wish to continue functioning if the captain died.
"She is everything to me," Seven mumbled, not realizing she was speaking aloud. "The alpha and the omega,"
The emotionally inexperienced young woman didn't understand the full implications of this realization. All she knew was this feeling caused exhilaration to surge within her, a feeling that she was on the edge of a wondrous revelation.
Seven was so lost in thought that it came as a surprise when she stepped into a sudden clearing. It was a perfect picture of a late autumn day. The sun was sitting low in the sky, alien birds sang in the trees overhead, while the wind blew gently through the leaves.
Different fruits abounded on the overburdened trees, and Seven began taking readings to ensure the food was compatible with human physiology. A short time later the pack was full, and the young woman was ready to start back to the crash site. They had food, water in the emergency supplies, and shelter. Maybe things were looking up after all.
The former Borg hadn't realized how late it had become. With the fading daylight, shadows were beginning to close around her, but she had the tricorder to help point the way since part of the return trip would be in partial darkness. Seven pushed her arms through the straps and centered the pack on her back. Feeling better than she had since the whole affair began, she turned around and froze.
Multiple pairs of fierce yellow eyes stared out at Seven from the shadows. The last of the fading light reflected off the glowing amber orbs, sending a fear-induced rush of adrenaline through her veins. Three massive shaggy beasts leapt out of the bushes, and rushed the terrified woman. Growling and snapping, the wolf-like creatures gleefully went after their intended prey.
The phaser was useless against such an assault; they would have been on her before she even had a chance to draw the weapon. Having no choice, Seven ran. She had taken only a few powerful strides when the inevitable happened. One of her heels sank deeply into the soft loam, pitching the young woman heavily to the ground. Seven felt the small hairs on the back of her neck prickle in warning, and she flipped over quickly. She would not surrender to fate easily, and prepared to battle the hoard to her last breath.
Suddenly, a huge tawny blur shot out from the forest behind Seven. With an angry yowl the beast passed the frightened young woman and leapt to meet the pack. In disbelief Seven watched the drama unfold. Her ocular implant gave her excellent night vision, and she could see every detail.
I am hallucinating, she thought. She had done so before, while traveling through a nebula with only the Doctor for company and the rest of the crew in stasis. It was the only answer since it was extremely unlikely that a wild beast would come to her rescue.
The beast was a large feline with a striped tawny hide and long wickedly curved claws. It fought the pack in a lightening blur of teeth and talons, effectively decimating their numbers. Spinning so quickly that Sevens enhanced vision could hardly keep up, the cat easily ripped out the throat of a wolf that attempted to circle behind her.
The remaining wolf decided that the scrawny hairless one wasn't worth the trouble, and scrambled for the safety of the woods.
Wondering if the beast would now attack her, Seven lay quietly on the ground, waiting for the next move. The cat, which held an uncanny resemblance to a terran lynx, calmly walked over and stopped a few feet from the blonde. To Sevens amazement the feline sniffed at her for a moment, then sat down and began cleaning a massive paw.
"Are you not going to eat me?" Seven asked, unsure if she was expecting a response or not.
"Is that not why you fought the pack? To claim your prey?"
Green eyes fixed on her and a wuffling sound came from the animal. Seven could have sworn the creature was laughing at her. Appearing to finally tire of sitting around, the animal stood and walked over to the woman. She stopped only a few inches away, and stared deeply into fixated blue eyes.
Seven felt like her head was swimming, images formed in her mind of things primeval. She felt like she was on the hunt with the great beast, rending her prey and tearing the life giving flesh from the bones. She felt the thrill of running through the open sky with the rain pouring down, but most of all, she felt the nobility contained within this creature.
It wasn't anything she could explain, and certainly nothing she was going to share with anyone, but she knew without question that this animal was nothing she should fear. This animal was her protector.
"Sahkmet," Seven murmured in wonder, "that is your designation. It means the keeper of secrets."
Seven could only wonder what secrets were being kept, and how they might affect her.
A loud rumbling ensued and she realized the creature was purring. Sahkmet ambled over and butted her head against Sevens upper chest. When the young woman remained sitting, the motion was repeated. Finally, the blonde realized the animal was trying to tell her to get up. When she was finally standing, the jungle cat began walking away.
Seven was so enraptured with the animal that she didn't see the tiny lizard slip over the taloned paw. The slippery little creature slid into the woods and watched the tableau from a safe distance. Sahkmet walked a few paces away, then turned and stared at the dumbfounded woman.
"You want me to follow," Seven guessed aloud.
Another wuffle was her response. The former drone assumed that was an affirmation, and followed cautiously behind the beast. She was relieved when it appeared the animal was headed in the direction of the camp. Seven followed at a distance, and eventually spied the telltale fire marking the location of her companions.
Amazed, she turned to stare at her rescuer only to find that the animal had vanished. Perhaps she had imagined the whole incident after all. One thing was sure of, she could tell no one. If something was wrong with her cortical processor, she would know soon enough, and the worst that had come from this incident was being led back to their campsite safely.
The quiet conversation inside the shuttle ceased as soon as the silent drone entered. Janeway was aghast at the young woman's appearance. Her hair had come loose from the usually austere bun, and hung raggedly around her face. A tear in the shoulder of the blue-gray bio-suit exposed an implanted shoulder, and dirt was smudged liberally over the pale features.
"Seven, are you all right? What happened?" Kathryn asked, as Henderson rushed to take the pack from the young woman.
"A pack of wild canines attacked me. I managed to escape."
Kathryn was concerned by Sevens tone, she sounded like the incident had happened to someone else and was of no emotional concern to her. Of course, with Seven it was hard to tell, maybe she had ceased worrying about the encounter when it was over, but Kathryn had no such ability. It terrified to her to think of such a thing, and not for the first time she felt helpless in this situation.
Seven seemed completely unaffected as she announced she was going to clean up before consuming nutritional supplements and headed for the rear of the shuttle. There was no power for replicators or showers, but she could at least have a sponge bath to remove most of the dirt, and fix her hair. Not quite as unaffected as the captain might think, Seven was lost in thought about the animal. Why would a malfunction take this form, and what could it mean for her?
She found the boots she had left beside the captain earlier in the cargo hold, and realized Henderson must have moved them so Janeway wouldn't have to look at them. Seven was disturbed that she had left them lying around. Of course seeing the boots would be a reminder of the deaths of their crewmates, and would be painful for the captain. Unfortunately, there was no help for it now. After the encounter in the woods, Seven would be taking no more chances.
When she emerged from the head a few minutes later, Henderson was dividing up portions of the fruits, nuts, and berries that Seven had collected. He glanced down briefly at her feet noticing the change in footwear, but made no comment. If Captain Janeway noticed the change, she too said nothing, and the blonde assumed he had briefed the captain on the subject earlier.
Seven squatted beside the captain and helped her into a sitting position.
"How are you feeling, Captain?" the young woman asked worriedly.
She had noticed the sheen of sweat over her commanding officers upper lip, and she seemed to have grown paler.
"I'm fine, Seven. Don't fuss," Janeway answered crankily.
"You would say the same thing if you'd just had your leg torn off by a Tarkalean beast." Henderson chuckled.
Seven took the plate that the young man handed across and passed it to her captain. Janeway simply grunted in response, and weakly took the offered food. Unenthusiastically, she managed to eat a handful of nuts and berries. Even at Seven's insistence, she couldn't force another bite.
Once they had finished eating, Seven collected the utensils and plates and walked into the aft compartment of the shuttle.
"I'm worried about her." Henderson spoke from behind the young woman.
Seven started slightly, so lost in her own worries that she hadn't heard him approach.
"I too am concerned," Seven admitted, looking up. "If Voyager does not arrive soon, she will not survive."
One thing this experience was doing, Henderson realized, was showing him a different side of Seven of Nine. On the ship, the young woman projected an icy cold demeanor that prevented most individuals from getting too close to her. He was starting to realize that things weren't exactly what they seemed where she was concerned. Her trembling voice and worry darkened eyes showed a woman with a tender heart. Perhaps that was the reason for the facade; maybe it was a defense mechanism to protect her from being hurt.
"What can I do to help?" he asked softly.
"I am not sure there is anything we can do. We must keep her comfortable, and ensure she obtains adequate nutrition, and rest."
"Ill help you keep an eye on her," he offered graciously.
The two finished cleaning up, and went back to the front. Janeway had a pained expression on her face, and Seven rushed over and squatted next to the older woman.
"Captain, are you in pain? What is wrong?"
Kathryn cleared her throat a little in embarrassment, and glanced at the deck.
"Um, no, Seven. I'm not in pain, well not really."
Seven was confused, watching the normally commanding woman cast a glance at the dark-haired security officer.
"Oh!" Henderson said in sudden comprehension. "Um, Ill just be in the back. In fact, wow, its gotten so late. I think Ill just bunk out in the cargo hold. Just let me grab a mattress,"
The young man pulled down one of the fold down cots in the rear, and the tritanium casing holding the material fell to the deck. The hinges had been severely damaged in the crash, but the mattresses were in tact.
"Night," he muttered quickly and vanished into the rear without looking back.
Even more confused when the young man beat a hasty retreat, she turned to stare at Janeway.
"Uh, Seven, do you think you could assist me? I need to use the bathroom," Kathryn said wryly.
"Of course," She responded. "Captain, why are humans so embarrassed about a normal biological function?"
"What can I say, Seven? Some things are meant to be private, and I'm not used to announcing the fact that I need to pee. And I am certainly not used to requiring help,"
Seven located a container for Janeway to use. With the punctured kidney, and the internal bleeding, she couldn't be up walking around although she pitched a mighty fit when Seven brought back the pail. As stubborn as her commanding officer was, the former drone was more so when it came to this issue, and Janeway finally gave up. That didn't mean she couldn't complain… loudly.
When Janeway was finished, Seven helped her to a chair. Pulling a few mattresses from the damaged bunks in the rear, she managed to make a fairly comfortable double bed for their use. Then she spread a few blankets over the top. They would be warm, and protected from the cold deck. Finally finished, she helped the woman lie down and settle in. Janeway was surprised a moment later when Seven sat down next to her and removed her boots.
"What are you doing, Seven?"
Caught off guard at the note of fear in the husky voice, she turned to Kathryn and stated calmly, "I am preparing to regenerate."
"Captain, I fail to see why the location of my regeneration should generate concern. You are injured, and should be closely monitored during the night should you require assistance. If I lie close to you, I will be available to assist you immediately. Additionally, the space inside this craft is insufficient for me to utilize another location."
Faced with that calm explanation, Kathryn could hardly argue without sounding ridiculous. Easing onto her side gently, she decided to concentrate on sleeping although was sure that was never going to happen with six feet of luscious blonde Borg lying next to her.
Luscious? Trying not to wonder where that thought had come from, Kathryn tried to concentrate on evening out her breathing and relaxing into slumber. Due to her weakness from the injury, it wasn't long before she was sleeping peacefully.
Seven lay quietly for some time watching Janeway sleep. The lines of strain had softened with slumber, and the young woman lovingly traced the features with her eyes. Kathryn sighed deeply and curled against Sevens side instinctively seeking warmth, snuggling her face against the leonine neck.
Seven forgot to breathe for a moment, focused on the press of soft skin against her own. A warm tingling sensation buzzed in her lower abdomen. Relaxing and taking a deep breath, she finally allowed Janeway's scent to guide her into an exhausted sleep.
A few hours later, Seven's eyelids began moving rapidly in REM sleep. In her dreams, she followed the wiry cat, Sahkmet, deeply into the jungle. The creature was searching for something, and it was imperative that she find it. Nearing a small trickling stream, the beast knelt at a small bush. She took a portion of the plant into her mouth and ripped it off. Turning quickly, Sahkmet bounded into the brush; Seven was hard pressed to follow her.
They neared a clearing, and the former drone was surprised to see a tiny lizard lying next to a burnt out fire. The lizard was obviously injured, unmoving with green blood oozing from the corner of the slitted mouth. Seven assumed the lynx would eat the helpless creature, and was amazed when she crawled up carefully next to the smaller being, and laid the herb beside it. Sahkmet nudged the lizard, trying to get her to ingest the plant, but her companion balked. The lynx persisted and eventually the lizard consumed a small portion of the plant.
Abruptly the scene shifted and the lizard was no longer bleeding.
Seven came awake abruptly, feeling like there was something she needed to do. A snorting sound near the damaged hatchway caught her attention. Glancing over quickly, she spied the lynx staring in at her.
Without hesitation, the younger woman gently pulled away from Janeway, pulled on her boots and followed the animal into the woods. This beast had shown no animosity toward her, but had sought to aid her. She could barely see the tufted ears of the cat to follow her into the darkness, but they went only a few hundred meters from the shuttle. The cat walked up to a softly gurgling stream and sat down, fixing deep amber eyes on the lanky young woman.
"What is it you wish me to see?" she asked the quiet beast.
In reply, Sahkmet turned to stare at a nearby bush. Following the cats direction, Seven spied a bush exactly like the one in her dream.
When she continued standing still, the lynx tore off a piece of the bush in her mouth and laid it at Sevens feet.
"This is medicinal," Seven said, remembering the dream. "You wish me to have Captain Janeway ingest it."
When the only response was for the cat to vanish in the mist, Seven assumed she had guessed correctly. As soon as she got back to the shuttle, she scanned the plant life with a tricorder to ensure it was compatible with human physiology. She was unsurprised to discover that the plant contained natural coagulating properties.
Pulling a small pan from their emergency supplies, Seven added water and the herb. Placing the concoction over the fire Henderson had rekindled earlier, she made the herb into a bitter tea. Although eating the plant in its raw form would have been more effective, the young woman doubted she could get Janeway to do so. The tea would have to do.
"Seven?" came a husky voice from inside the craft. "What are you doing?"
Quickly pouring the brew into a mug, Seven went inside and sat next to the captain. "I did not mean to awaken you."
"I got cold," Kathryn admitted, rubbing her hands on her upper arms trying to warm up.
Seven helped Janeway into a sitting position, trying not to injure her anymore than she had to. Janeway seemed to be growing weaker with every passing moment, leaning weakly against the younger woman for support. She couldn't even sit up by herself anymore, and the blonde was desperate to get her captain to drink the brew.
"What's this?" Kathryn asked as the mug was pressed into her hand.
"Medicine. Although it is bitter, you must consume all of it."
Kathryn stared into the mug for a moment then raised it to her nose, sniffing delicately.
"Uh, you want me to drink this? I can't even stand the smell!"
Raising a hand, Seven gently touched the dry cheek. "Please, Captain, drink it. It will help you feel better."
Bracing herself with a deep breath, Kathryn raised the mug and downed the offensive brew as quickly as possible. Her face twisted into a bitter expression, and a shudder of disgust racked her frame.
"Uh, that was awful."
A small smile caressed Seven's lips, and she raised a hand to brush over Janeway's forehead, feeling for elevated temperature. The touch was meant innocently, but Kathryn couldn't help the catch in her breath. She was accustomed to touching her crewmembers; an encouraging pat on the back here, a quick touch on the elbow there. But she was not used to anyone touching her, and she couldn't help the sudden tingling in her fingertips at this most innocent of contact.
The tingling had always been an indication of her attraction for someone, and it startled Kathryn to be feeling it now.
"Must be my condition," she mused aloud. Or it could be those soft breasts pressing against my neck, she mused.
At her friend's confused look, she just answered, "I'm tired,"
Reluctantly releasing Janeway from her arms, Seven convinced her to lie back down and pulled the covers up to her chin.
"What?" Seven asked, leaning over the woman after tucking her in.
"You are smiling. Is something amusing?"
Chuckling at being caught, Kathryn answered, "I was just thinking how nice it is to be taken care of for once."
"You are enjoying this attention?"
"Oh, yes," Kathryn affirmed staring up into Seven's deep blue eyes. "Everyone likes to feel nurtured when they're not feeling well. I'm no exception, but I will admit I'm not used to it."
Laying down and pulling Janeway into her arms, Seven said softly, "Then I will continue to do so for as long as you will let me."
Kathryn wasn't quite sure how to respond to the thinly veiled promise, so said nothing. Wondering if Seven was offering something for the future, or just referring to the current situation Kathryn fell into a contented sleep resting on the young woman's full bosom.
The next morning, Seven awakened slowly and found herself gazing deeply into the blue-gray pools of Kathryn's eyes.
The older woman was raised on one elbow and staring down at her.
"How did you know?"
"I feel better," Kathryn admitted. "I just wondered how you knew about that herb."
Not ready to disclose her secret, Seven temporized by sitting up and moving slightly away from Janeway.
"I…I believe it was a dream," she finally responded. "Some distant memory perhaps from my time with the Borg."
Seven reached for a tricorder to scan the captain, while the other woman continued speaking to her.
"Well, however you did it, it seems to have worked."
A few seconds later, the young woman had the results. "The kidney has not been repaired, but the bleeding has slowed considerably. The herb seems to have mended some of the laceration of the organ."
To her chagrin, Seven's words ended tremulously, and she looked away in embarrassment. She could not remember ever being so relieved, and tears welled uncontrollably in her eyes.
"Seven? What's wrong?"
Urging the woman to meet her gaze with a fingertip beneath the dimpled chin, Kathryn was concerned to see tears in her eyes.
"I was worried," Seven admitted. "Worried that you would not survive until Voyager could rescue us,"
With the outpouring of emotion, Seven finally knew what precipice of understanding she had been teetering on. She was in love with Kathryn Janeway.
"I think that's the sweetest thing anyone has said to me in a long while," Kathryn said bashfully.
A sudden banging sound from the cargo bay interrupted the two. Henderson was still half asleep and walked into some rubble on his way into the room effectively breaking the mood. Yawning mightily, and stretching, he missed the interaction of his companions and belted out a hearty, "Good morning,"
"You're feeling chipper," Janeway observed with a grin.
"Sure am," he responded. "My leg feels stronger, so I think I'm going to take a little walk. Get some fresh air."
"Be careful," Janeway warned. "I don't want you running into Seven's pack out there. By the way, Seven, what do you think about re-building our com-system? Do you think you'll be able to use any of this wreckage?"
"What about using the batteries from the compression phaser rifles?" Henderson suggested.
Weighing the possibilities, Seven said, "I believe that would be viable, assuming the wiring itself is in sufficient repair."
"Well, lets get on it," Kathryn said enthusiastically.
"First you must eat," Seven schooled.
Henderson chuckled at the former drones motherly tones. Who would have thought it?
"Ill eat when I get back," He said jovially, and headed for the doorway.
Suddenly, Janeway's combadge sputtered to life. The static was heavy, distorting the transmission, but there was no mistaking Commander Chakotay's voice. Voyager had found their distress beacon and followed their plasma trail to the planet.
"Well, kids," Kathryn said with a sparkle in her eyes, "Looks like there's been a change of plans."
Kathryn waited impatiently for the doctor to heal her injuries. The rest of the away team had been checked, and other than needing rest were fit for duty. Seven of Nine hovered nearby while the Doctor performed his duties, and when he had finally left to brief Commander Chakotay, she approached to speak to the captain.
"Seven, I appreciate your concern, but I am perfectly capable of seeing the Doctor on my own."
"That was not my purpose in waiting with you, Captain."
Surprised, Kathryn asked, "Oh, so what's on your mind?"
Deciding what to say, Seven glanced briefly at the deck. "I wish to be present when you inform Lieutenant Torres of Mr. Paris demise."
Pain impacted with Kathryn's heart at the mention of the young couple. This was going to be extremely hard on B'Elanna, and was not something she was looking forward to telling the volatile young woman. But as much as she appreciated Sevens offer, it wasn't consistent with the former Borg's past behavior.
"Why, Seven? Its no secret that the two of you have never really gotten along. Why now?"
"It is true that before this incident, I would not have concerned myself with such an unpleasant detail," she admitted. "But, only I know all of the details of his death, and I have recently come to understand how important that knowledge would be to one who loved him."
The drone was thinking of how she would feel if it were Kathryn that had died. She would have wanted to know everything, but since she didn't know the captains feelings toward her, she couldn't admit that.
"Additionally, he was one of the first on Voyager to be congenial toward me. I considered him a friend."
Kathryn weighed the sincere woman's words for a moment. She was glad that Seven had progressed toward humanity enough to understand the underlying emotions, but as much as she wanted to, she couldn't take her up on the offer.
"I appreciate the offer, Seven, but I'm afraid this is one of the unpleasant duties that comes with being captain. Ill have to break the news to B'Elanna myself, but I will let her know that she can talk to you about what happened."
"If you are going to inform the Lieutenant, you should give her this." Seven pressed a flat disc into Kathryn's hand just as the doors to sickbay hissed open.
Commander Chakotay swaggered into the room feeling pleased with himself. Kathryn knew the man had managed to reacquire their computer, but she didn't have the details yet and was looking forward to an update.
Seven dipped her head briefly in greeting, then quickly left for the cargo bay to regenerate. She had a feeling Janeway wouldn't approve of his methods for getting the processor back, even though she didn't know what he had done; it was just a feeling.
"Kathryn," he greeted happily, "How are you feeling?"
"Good, Chakotay. The Doctor has repaired my injuries with his usual skill, although he insists that I take the next twenty-four hours to rest," she added with a grin.
"Are you really going to listen to him?" he asked in surprise.
With a wry look, Kathryn admitted, "He pulled rank on me."
Chakotay chuckled appreciatively, knowing only the chief medical officer could pull rank on the captain.
"Well," Kathryn prompted. "Tell me how you got the Khepri to give up the computer."
He hadn't expected her to jump the gun so quickly, and was a little unprepared for his response. Finally, he just had to blurt out the truth.
"I offered them a trade."
The small hairs on the back of her neck stood up at his tone, and her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Yes," she drawled. "And what was that?"
Mentally reassuring himself that he had done the right thing as acting captain, Chakotay said bluntly, "I offered them food replicator technology in exchange for the main computer."
"Chakotay," she said warningly, pushing off the bio-bed.
Holding up a hand he interrupted her, "I know what you're going to say, but I had to do what I thought was best for this crew in your absence."
"And you thought giving away Starfleet technology was the way to do that?" she asked in outrage. "What about the Prime Directive? Did you even consider that for a moment?"
"Of course, but considering the alternatives, I didn't really have a choice," he argued.
Staring at him in amazement, Janeway asked, "No choice? Do you remember what happened to the Kazon when Seska gave them replicator technology? All of the members of that ship but one ended up melted into the bulkheads!"
"You gave holodeck technology to the Hirogen," he pointed out. "How is that any different?"
"Chakotay," she began in as patient a tone as possible, "the Prime Directive says that we will not share technology with a less advanced species. The Hirogen had the same level of technology. They just hadn't invented holo-emitters. The Khepri barely have warp capability. There is no comparison, but I believe you knew that already."
Chakotay glanced away in irritation, because he knew she was right. He had taken the fastest, easiest route to getting the computer back, and he had twisted command decisions his captain had made in the past to justify doing so.
"Understand this, Chakotay," she said in a tone that could peel paint from the hull, "if we were back in the Alpha Quadrant, I would institute a court martial for this, and you would no longer be executive officer on this ship. But here, I don't have that luxury."
Kathryn turned her back on the man, thinking furiously. If she demoted him and replaced him as her first officer, she risked driving a wedge between the Starfleet and Maquis officers on the ship. But she couldn't let this infraction go unpunished.
He certainly made things difficult on her at times. His method may have been a lot easier than hers. She would have fought the Khepri until they had no choice to return the computer. She would have felt justified by holding to her Starfleet ideals, but would the crew have understood that? Maybe Seven was right, and he was trying to make her look incompetent. In any case, the trust she used to have for the man had suffered seriously. It would be a long time before he could get any measure of that trust back.
"Once I return to duty tomorrow, consider yourself confined to quarters for the next two weeks," she said finally.
"But, Captain," he began.
"Stop right there," she said spinning around. "You will speak when spoken to, Commander. Not only will you be confined to quarters, but a formal reprimand will be entered into your permanent record. Is that understood?"
Deeply disappointed, she walked up to within a few feet of him. The anger on his face was barely contained, and she could tell he was gritting his teeth to keep from speaking.
"Chakotay, sometimes the ends do not justify the means," she tried in a calmer tone. "Can you understand that?"
He took several deep breaths before asking tersely, "Permission to leave, Captain."
Shaking her head slightly, realizing he truly did not understand why she was upset, she said softly, "Dismissed."
Feeling her face burn with anger at his latest betrayal, Kathryn strode out of sickbay headed for her quarters. Was there no one on this ship she could trust implicitly, she wondered? Unbidden the image of a sweet, pale face with ice-blue eyes came to mind. I guess maybe there is, she realized.
Absently requesting the lift take her to deck three, Kathryn realized that she had a connection to the tall cool blonde that she had never had with anyone else. Even the three men she had been engaged to, she had kept at arms length. She had her barriers, and she defined them clearly. Seven pushed through those walls with no compunction, but she did so gently. So gently that Kathryn hadn't even realized what she had done.
If things had been different, who knows, they might have been able to have something together. But the Borg had ensured that would never happen when they had assimilated the young woman. Kathryn wasn't sure if Seven could ever have those types of feelings for anyone. She had as much as told Kathryn that love was irrelevant when they were discussing Ensign Kim's fascination with an alien woman.
Entering her quarters, she realized she was still holding the disc Seven had handed her, and glanced down to see what it was. Instantly, she was reminded that there were more pressing concerns at the moment, and it was best to get all of the unpleasant business out of the way now. After the discussion with Chakotay, how much worse could it be?
Raising her face unconsciously toward the ceiling, she said, "Janeway to Lieutenant Torres."
"Torres here, Captain," was the almost immediate reply.
"B'Elanna, could you come to my quarters?" she asked softly. "There's something we need to discuss."
Kathryn Janeway discovered exactly how much worse things could b when she broke the news to B'Elanna. The young woman had gone deathly pale, and staggered forward a step muttering, "Tom," in a broken tone.
Kathryn had tried to get the engineer to sit when she had come into the room, but somehow B'Elanna had known the news was bad and refused.
"I'm so sorry, B'Elanna," Kathryn whispered with tears in her eyes. "If you want to know how it happened, you should talk to Seven."
"Seven?" The younger woman asked in confusion.
"I was unconscious at the time," Janeway admitted. "Seven took care of everything. She also said I should give you this."
Holding out her hand Kathryn passed the disc to the stoic brunette. It was a picture of Tom and B'Elanna that had been taken on the day he proposed to her. They were both still wearing the uniforms from the shuttle race, Tom had his arm around her and they both wore happy grins.
"Apparently Tom had it in his pocket. Seven found it when she…"
"When she buried him," B'Elanna finished brokenly.
Kathryn could only nod and watch as the Klingon hybrid turned with a broken sob, headed for the door.
"B'Elanna," Kathryn stopped her just before she could activate the automatic doors.
"I want you to take the next few days off," she told the young woman's back. "Vorik and Carey can cover for you."
Silently, B'Elanna left the captains quarters headed to her own. Although she had been quiet and dignified at this unexpectedly tragic news, she knew that would not last. She would not be able to contain the Klingon howls of pain much longer, and needed to get to her quarters quickly.
Seven of Nine had gone to Astrometrics when she left sickbay instead of the cargo bay. She felt the need to check on the ships progress since reintegrating the computer core, and wanted to begin projections for the next star system they would pass through. It became apparent very quickly that she would not be able to concentrate on her task. She did not know if Lieutenant Torres would contact her, but somehow doubted it. The grief would be too strong in the young woman to deal with at this time.
Finally realizing her efforts to work were futile, she decided to regenerate instead. She had just programmed the cycle into the computer and was stepping up onto the dais when Captain Janeway hailed her.
"Seven, I hope I'm not disturbing you," the older woman began.
"You are not," Seven admitted.
"Well then, how do you feel about a philosophical discussion?" Janeway queried.
"I am on my way, Captain."
Kathryn felt an irresistible urge to see Seven. She was greatly distressed by everything that had transpired in the last few days and needed to see a friendly face, but she wasn't sure she was ready to discuss ships business. Seven had proved over and over again that she was a friend that could be trusted. Maybe it was time Kathryn started treating her that way, instead of holding her at arms length and treating her as just another member of the crew.
She realized one way to do that was to drop the rank between them. With anyone else, Kathryn might have to worry about them taking advantage of such a privilege while on duty, but she knew that such an idea would never occur to her young friend. She knew that her attraction to the blonde might be another driving factor in wanting a more intimate friendship, but after everything she had been through, she refused to dwell on that.
Her door chime sounded, indicating the object of her thoughts had arrived.
"Come in," she invited as she was obtaining a whiskey and soda from the replicator.
Seven stopped a few paces inside the door, arms behind her back in her customary stance.
"You wished to have a philosophical discussion, Captain?" she inquired politely.
Taking a sip of her drink first, the older woman finally said, "Seven, when were alone, would you mind calling me Kathryn?"
Kathryn was unaccountably pleased at the small smile that graced the young woman's full lips.
"Kathryn," Seven said softly.
Walking across the room, Kathryn said, "Come on, sit down with me. I find myself in need of company."
Seven sat gingerly on the sofa closely beside the other woman. The lines of worry and strain on the classic features had not been lost on her. Turning to address her companion, she said, "You have spoken with Lieutenant Torres?"
Nodding quietly, Kathryn took another sip of her drink before sitting it on the glass coffee table.
"That is not all that is bothering you," Seven guessed astutely.
Startled, Kathryn looked up and asked, "When did you get to know me so well?"
"Kathryn," the blonde said liking the way the word felt rolling off her tongue, "Anyone who bothers to look can tell when you are upset."
"Maybe," Kathryn agreed dryly.
Seven sat considering for a moment, then was sure she knew what upsetting her friend.
"Commander Chakotay has done something."
How had they gotten onto this topic, Kathryn wondered. She hadn't invited Seven here to talk shop, but there was no one else she could confide in that would understand. Tuvok was her friend, but he wouldn't understand the emotional context of the problem.
"He gave replicator technology to the Khepri to get the computer back." She finally said.
Surging to her feet, Seven said, "He has undermined your authority, again. Unacceptable!"
Somehow Sevens anger made Kathryn feel a little better about being so disappointed with the burly man. I guess misery loves company, she thought derisively.
"You cannot allow him to continue behaving in this manner," the young Borg continued.
Reaching up, Kathryn caught the young woman's fully human hand and tugged gently, pulling her back down next to her on the sofa.
"He knows I'm not happy with him." Kathryn said. "Once I return to duty, he will be confined to quarters for the next two weeks."
"He should be blown out an airlock!" Seven stated with conviction.
Kathryn was shocked at the sentiment. "Seven of Nine, you will do no such thing."
When the blonde finally had her anger under control, she said, "Very well, Kathryn. But this does not improve my opinion of him."
"Nor mine," Kathryn admitted with a chuckle. "By the way, can I get you something to drink?"
Seven surprised her again by requesting a small glass of champagne. "I like the bubbles," she admitted in explanation when Kathryn went to get her drink from the replicator.
"Lets talk about something else," Kathryn suggested, handing the woman her drink and sitting down.
"Very well. What do you wish to discuss?"
"On the planet, you seemed different," Kathryn began. Was that her imagination or had Sevens eyes widened briefly in alarm? "Its nothing I can put my finger on, but you seemed preoccupied."
"Later, you said you had a dream about that medicinal planet, but when we were back on Voyager you told the Doctor that the Borg had no memory of traveling through this sector of space."
Seven took a large draught of her champagne, and Kathryn was sure she was onto something.
"Give," she demanded chuckling, "How could you dream about something you had no subconscious knowledge of?"
The young woman was effectively backed against the wall. When they had returned to the ship, the Doctor had examined all of them and found nothing wrong with Seven's cortical node or ocular implant. That left only two possibilities for the lynx. It was either a stress-induced hallucination, or it had been real. The former Borg had difficulties admitting to either possibility. But she had to answer the captain, and sought a way to explain that Janeway would understand.
"Do you remember the pack that attacked me?" she began. At Janeway's quiet nod, she continued, "I told you that I managed to escape. What I did not tell you was that I was rescued."
"Rescued? By whom?"
"It was not a person. It was an animal... a lynx. It attacked the pack and drove them from me. It then guided me back to the shuttle in the darkness."
Kathryn was astonished at what Seven had experienced and that she hadn't felt she could confide in her. But the young woman hadn't answered the original question.
"Is this creature tied in to your finding the medicine, somehow?" she prompted gently.
"Yes. I dreamed that the lynx searched the forest for the herb. When she located the plant, she took it to an ailing amphibian; a lizard."
"A lizard," Kathryn breathed, realization dawning.
Since it didn't seem as though she intended to interrupt, Seven continued her tale."The lizard was injured, but after it ingested the herb, it no longer bled."
Kathryn was quiet for a moment, but finally asked, "Seven do you know what an animal guide is?"
"Is that not a part of Commander Chakotay's beliefs? That animals choose and guide members of their tribe?" the young woman queried, not following Kathryn's train of thought.
"Yes, the animal guide is a powerful totem, and each possesses special abilities that are also unique to the person they guide."
"What has that to do with me?"
"Seven, I've never told anyone this, in fact I've been told that to do so would offend the guide, but I think this is a special circumstance. My animal guide is a lizard."
Working through Janeway's logic, Seven could understand what she was thinking. But Kathryn was forgetting one thing.
"Captain, I do not believe in animal guides, and even if I did, I do not have one."
"How do you know?" Kathryn asked logically. "Seven, underneath the Borg technology, you're still a human being. How else can you explain a terran lynx and lizard on a planet in the Delta Quadrant?"
"I cannot," the young woman admitted.
Walking to the replicator to obtain a fresh drink, Kathryn offered, "I'll speak to Commander Chakotay about it in the morning and let you know what I find out."
Seven watched the other woman walking over to the replicator and was suddenly overwhelmed by her emotions. She needed to tell Kathryn how she felt, even if her feelings couldn't be returned. Standing, she said, "Kathryn, there is something else I wish to discuss with you."
"Yes?" Janeway said, turning away from the replicator and staring at her guest.
Looking away shyly, Seven suggested, "Perhaps it would be better if we sat."
Since Seven never wanted to sit, Kathryn was suddenly worried, but she walked over and sat next to the nervous woman.
Not being one to beat around the bush, Seven turned toward the smaller woman and looked deeply into her eyes. "Kathryn, I believe that I am in love with you."
Kathryn almost dropped her drink. She had expected anything but that and with shaky hands, placed the glass on the table.
Remembering her thoughts of earlier in the day, she felt a little giddy at the opportunity that presented itself, but knew she had to do the right thing.
"Seven, its very common to develop an emotional attachment because of a shared traumatic event, but don't let that mislead you into thinking that its love. You and I share a unique bond." She said gently, grasping Seven's hands. "We care about one another, and are comfortable speaking our minds to each other. Were friends, and we've just gone through something that would naturally throw two people together. But that doesn't mean its love," she finished regretfully.
"Is that all you feel for me, friendship?"
Sevens voice sounded devastated, and Kathryn was at a loss for a response.
"We're not discussing me," she argued huskily. "We're discussing your feelings."
"I know what my feelings are," Seven argued. "I have felt this way for you for quite some time, although I did not realize what it meant."
"And you do now," Kathryn asked sharply.
Seven lifted a hand to gently touch Kathryn's face, to stroke the soft cheek and flutter gently across the furrowed brow. Kathryn was so mesmerized by the soft touch that she didn't pull away. Her eyes welled with tears at the sweetness of the caress.
Speaking softly so as not to frighten the other woman, Seven said, "I may be new to emotions, but that does not mean I do not understand them. Kathryn, please."
Janeway had never been able to say no to the young woman when she said please, and now was no exception. Closing her eyes, she tried to fight her baser instincts, curb the desire that was tearing through her blood like a wild fire.
When she opened her eyes again, it was to see Seven's aquiline features descending. Full lips closed over hers, and she couldn't deny the desperation of her own heart. Twining her arms around the long neck, Kathryn deepened the kiss. Pulling away only when she was breathless, she said wryly, "You realize I shouldn't allow this."
"But you will?"
The hopeful tone caused Kathryn to chuckle, "There are so many reasons why I shouldn't, but right now I can't think of a single one."
Sevens lips caught hers again, and Kathryn forgot what they were talking about. Lost in the sensation of lips, slippery soft tongues and teeth, all she could concentrate on was how very wonderful it felt to be in these arms.
Eventually pulling away, Kathryn rested her forehead against Sevens dimpled chin. She knew she had to end this before things got out of control, and she didn't want to rush the younger woman into something she might regret later.
"You should go," she suggested gently. "I need to rest and you should regenerate, but I'll walk you to the door."
Standing, Kathryn kept her arm around the frightfully narrow waist as they walked over to the door. Seven turned and gently brushed her lips a final time.
"Please, Kathryn, do not change your mind," she entreated.
"I wont," Kathryn assured her. "I don't think even I can deny what's happening between us. What's been happening since the first time I saw you on a Borg cube."
She carried the radiant smile Seven bestowed on her with those words in her heart, and her sleep that night was the most peaceful that Kathryn could remember since arriving in the Delta Quadrant.
Seven of Nine had been summoned to the captains ready room, and was unaccountably nervous. She had been working in Astrometrics all day until it was late in the shift. She hadn't seen Kathryn all day, and was concerned that the other woman might have changed her mind about entering into a relationship when she was hailed over her combadge and asked to report to the captain.
Crossing the command center, she was unsurprised to see Harry Kim in command, since she knew Commander Chakotay had been confined to quarters. The young man met her gaze and nodded once in a friendly manner.
Seven rang the chime requesting admittance into the captains private sanctuary and was immediately granted entrance. But upon entering, she was surprised that the captain was not at her desk.
"Up here, Seven."
Janeway was on the upper level pouring a cup of coffee from a white ceramic decanter.
"I thought you might like to join me for a break. I poured you a cup of tea," she added sincerely.
Suddenly Seven wondered if Janeway was trying to break the news to her gently. Quietly she sat next to the smaller woman, waiting for the inevitable.
"Is something wrong?" Kathryn asked. "You're so quiet."
Gathering her courage, Seven admitted her fears, "I am concerned that you are about to terminate our relationship."
Kathryn sat down her cup and grasped the younger woman's hands. "Oh, Seven, I told you last night that I wouldn't do that."
"But why did you wish me to join you? You have never invited me to share a break before."
Gazing deeply into twin pools of azure, Kathryn said, "Because that's what you do when you want to be with someone."
Kathryn had been thinking about the other woman's admission all day, and realized that she returned her feelings. She still wasn't sure to what extent but intended to find out.
"It took me a while to realize it," she admitted, "But your face is the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning. I care about you very deeply. I'm not sure where this is going, but I am willing to explore a relationship with you. All I ask is that you be patient with me."
"I will comply, my Kathryn," the former Borg said in a quiet, happy voice.
The two shared an intense look that Kathryn felt she could float in forever, before finally pulling her eyes away. If she didn't change the subject, she would be undressing the other woman right here in her ready room!
Picking up her coffee cup more for a distraction than anything else, she said, "I spoke with Chakotay this morning."
"About…my dream?" Seven asked nervously, allowing the shift in topic.
The truth was, Seven was eagerly looking forward to some kind of explanation for the strange occurrences on the planet.
"About the lynx, yes. It turns out that the lynx is a very powerful animal guide. So powerful, in fact, that it rarely claims an individual.
Chakotay seemed very impressed that he chose you."
"Not he," Seven interrupted.
"The lynx was not male," she explained. "Her name is Sahkmet."
Kathryn took a sip of her coffee, contemplating what she had learned.
"The lynx is thought to be the keeper of secrets," Janeway continued. "It fits, you know."
"I do not follow," the blonde admitted.
"Because you're so quiet." Kathryn explained. "You see things no one else does, and you never speak of those things…you just seem to know."
Sitting down her mug, she said, "It also explains why you and Chakotay don't get along."
"I fail to see why my animal guide would prevent us from interacting without animosity," Seven said haughtily.
Kathryn laughed at the other woman's putout tone before replying. "I cant tell you what Chakotay's animal guide is, frankly, I don't know. But from what he's told me, his totem is the symbol of the teacher, one who finds pathways for others. You two are exact opposites."
"The teacher and the keeper of secrets," Seven said quietly. "We cancel each other out."
"Exactly," Kathryn affirmed staring intently at her beloved. "But Seven please keep in mind that just as some knowledge can be dangerous in the wrong hands, some secrets can kill You may be unrivaled in keeping things to yourself, but don't let that mean that you cant talk to me about anything."
"I will not," Seven assured her solemnly.
After spending a few more quiet moments in each others company, Kathryn said, "Well, I should probably get back to work, but would you join me for dinner tonight? My quarters at, say 1900 hours?"
In a quiet happy voice, Seven said, "I believe I would enjoy that."
Standing they stared into each others eyes for a moment before Seven broke the silence.
"I would like very much to kiss you."
"I would be disappointed if you didn't," Kathryn admitted.
She was sure she would never tire of the feel of Seven's golden mane slipping through her fingers. Burying them in the golden mass, she pulled the younger woman closely to her and took possession of the full lips. Long fingered hands began exploring the smaller woman's back, sliding down to her waist to pull her forcefully against Seven's taller curvaceous body.
She gasped when the hands slid lower and cupped her buttocks, pulling her against Seven's hips. Kathryn finally pulled away, resting her cheek against the other woman's chest, and drawing deep breaths to calm herself.
"You better go while I can still let you."
Seven held Kathryn in her arms, brushing tender kisses across the top of her head. "We will explore these sensations further this evening?" she asked hopefully.
"Count on it," Kathryn groaned pulling away.
Taking Seven's hand, she led her to the door. Somehow, Seven still seemed a little insecure that Janeway would end the relationship before it got started, Kathryn realized and sought to reassure her.
"Darling, please don't worry. I am not going to change my mind about us."
Bestowing a gentle kiss in parting, Seven finally felt that this was truly the beginning of something wonderful. She also thought she understood the hidden message of the lynx, where it had been leading her.
It had led her to the treasure that was Kathryn's heart.
TBC In the next story