The great cataclysm came early in the morning

Title: Pilgrims on the Road

Series: Voy

Date: 12/7/00

Contact: MEGDENTON@prodigy.net

Disclaimer: If they were mine, the Seven/Doctor romance would move along faster. This is the last season folks! Hurry the he** up!

Summary: Well…I suppose if I had a choice, I'd end the series like this. It will be scary when they go home. I had a request for something with Seven. This is my effort. It's mostly a Janeway piece, though.

There's a time for everyone

If they only learn

That the twisting kaleidoscope

Moves us all in turn

There's a rhyme and reason

To the wild outdoors

When the heart of this star-crossed voyager

Beats in time with yours---------

Elton John

Pilgrims on the Road

By starbaby

The great cataclysm came early in the morning. No one foresaw it, nor could they have prevented it. Looking back, the moment remained clear in Kathryn Janeway's recollection, unsullied by the passage of years or the politics of memory. She vowed it would always be so, for in those flying seconds everything changed for Janeway and her faithful crew. They weren't voyagers any longer, for the destination had moved beyond mortal reach. Explorers they came, and explorers they remained, but one can't wander all their life. There's no finer thing than travel, but every boat must find a port and every pilgrim reach a shore.

Part 1: The Bridge

"Mr. Kim, report!"

Kathryn Janeway prowled the bridge, winding among the stations like a lioness defending her lair full of cubs. The crew bent to their work, making themselves as small as possible. Janeway's shoulder squeezes were legendary; meant to comfort and encourage during battle, they actually bordered on painful. Sweat beaded on Tom Paris's brow. He was her favorite target.

"I've never seen anything like it, Captain!" Harry Kim stared at his display in amazement. "It's bigger than anything I've ever seen!"

Janeway marched over to look for herself, paling at what she found. Harry cringed as she latched onto his yellow-clad shoulder, kneading it like a stubborn dough. Her voice snapped out.

"Status, Mr. Tuvok!"

"They are loading weapons, Captain." Tuvok was baby-fresh, as usual, not a sweat bead on him. Tom glanced at the Vulcan in disgust. That man took all the joy out of alien warfare.

"Raise shields!" Janeway ordered.

"Shields are in-" Tuvok's reply was cut off by a massive blast that rocked the bridge and sent a shower of sparks over Chakotay's head. Another shock quickly followed.

"Shields are weakening," Tuvok called helpfully. "Down to 40%."

Janeway climbed to her feet, the fiery auburn of her hair matched by the angry flames leaping in her eyes. She turned to her chair and draped herself artfully across it, as if sitting down to a cocktail on the loggia.

"Target their weapons array and fire," she growled, eyes fixed over Tom's head. Their unnamed enemy had disappeared for the moment, but it's continued presence lit up the Starship's sensors.

Before anyone could act on the Captain's order, Voyager lurched as if shot from a cannon, or kicked from behind. Everyone grabbed for handholds as they hurtled forward at what had to be transwarp speed.

Tom Paris held onto his chair, more afraid than he'd been for a long time. The last time he went this fast, he'd wound up a lizard.

"I can't stop it!" he yelled to no one in particular. The ship shuddered under the tremendous force, leaving great streaks of matter in the atmosphere as it hurtled through space.

B'Elanna's panicked voice crackled up from Engineering, announcing that the warp core had leapt to 130%. Voyager was the best of her line, the greatest in a magnificent fleet, but only God knew if she could survive this again. Twice before, the vessel had survived a wild, catapulting ride across the Quadrants, catapulted once by the Caretaker and once by the departing Kes.

Finally, they began to lose speed, Voyager's hardware groaning in protest. B'Elanna's startled squawking ceased. The crew lay about the bridge, tossed around like Naomi Wildman's ragdolls. Tom stumbled to his feet, clutching his elbow, and went to his readings as everyone began to rise.

He looked at the numbers, then looked again, finally sinking into his seat.

Chakotay's nose was bleeding. "What is it, Tom?"

"We've been thrown 20,0000 light years." Tom said softly, sadly.

The Captain's eyes lit up, with joy this time. She'd been so good to Tom. He didn't want to break her heart. Finally, he swiveled to face his friends, who stood about in various states of disorder.

It had to be done. He spoke plainly, for the good of them all.

"20,000 lightyears in the other direction. We're back where we began."

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Part Two: Sandrine's

Kathryn Janeway took a vigorous swig and set her bottle down with a satisfying crack. She wasn't finished with the drink, but called for another anyway. The holographic bartender eyed her coolly. She sighed and bolted down more beer. Could she control anything in this life...her crew, their fate, the holograms? All three ran amok.

The scene on the bridge returned to her again and again. Tom's words, the silence that followed. Every eye had turned to her, and she was mildly offended at the various looks she'd received. Tom seemed poised to lunge forward and catch her, should she swoon like a horrified Victorian maiden. Harry Kim looked scared, as if she were a Vesuvius ready to explode. Chakotay's face was tired and sad, as if he could feel her heart breaking. Perhaps he could. Tuvok angered her the most. He was a calm water in the tide of emotion flowing over Voyager's bridge. She'd wanted him to get angry, just once, and feel some of what the other's were experiencing, to be part of her crew. He was stuck with them now, goddammit. Kathryn knew she was being irrational, but had any part of this odyssey fit into the realm of the rational?

She hadn't fainted, or cried, or thrown a tricorder. She'd merely left the bridge with her back straight and shoulders squared. She needed time to think, and strategize, and get very, very drunk.

The situation was bleak, to say the least. Without a wormhole or a miracle, none of them would get back to the Alpha Quadrant except the Doctor and Naomi Wildman. Tuvok was long-lived. He might survive to see Vulcan again, but chances were slim that they'd survive Borg space, or B'Ommar space, or any other nefarious B-space. She almost giggled, semi-intoxicated as she was. They were toast. Toast with takka-berry jam.

While she rattled around space, the world was changing. On earth, time flowed on in the absence of Kathryn Janeway. It was vain, but the thought angered and saddened her. She'd begun her career on the front lines of space technology, witness to the advances of a pioneering age. Soon she'd be a relic, prowling around deep space in a beloved, but outdated, Starship. She'd remain caught in the time period like a space-faring Miss Haversham. And then there was her family, her home, her dogs...

A pair of feet appeared in her line of vision, spread wide like an Amazon woman come to Sandrine's. Kathryn burped and raised her eyes to meet Seven's disapproving glare.

"Inebriated, you are of no help to your crew."

Janeway stared at her lazily, trying to focus. Finally, she came up with something to say.

"My dog is probably dead by now." It wasn't eloquent.

Seven looked irritated. "That is unfortunate."

Kathryn gestured to a barstool, and Seven of Nine slipped awkwardly onto the round seat, tottering slightly. The former Borg seemed to be gathering her thoughts. Kathryn jumped into the lull, feeling tingly and talkative.

"B'Elanna called Tom a pig here." Seven looked shocked, so Kathryn forged ahead. "Kes had her second birthday in this very room, then we all got twisted."

Seven tried to regain control of the conversation. "I didn't come to this dour establishment to engage in discourse on dancing or Lieutenant Paris. We should discuss Voyager's situation. Swine is irrelevant."

Janeway chugged the last of her holo-beer and waved at the surly 'tender.

"Hit me, again." He completely ignored her.

"I'm the Cap'n. I wanna drink," she slurred. " Michael Sullivan would gimme a drink. He loves me." Kathryn shook her head sadly. "I shouldn't have deleted his wife. It wasn't nice"

"If you're the Captain, act as such." Seven's voice was surprisingly gentle. "This crew needs you, now more than ever."

"I can't get them home, Seven. It's over. We have to retrace every step, reface every danger. We barely survived some of those encounters. I've damned us all to hell in the Delta Quadrant."

"Not necessarily." Janeway looked up sharply at Seven's words. "Has it occurred to you that without this voyage, most of your senior staff would be incarcerated right now?"

The thought had come up. Tom would be toiling in New Zealand; the Maquis imprisoned for war crimes. The Doctor would likely be in storage, and she herself facing court-martial. Was the alternative much better: Assimilation, death in battle, or existence in this borderland, on the edge of all life. Hot damn, those were choices!

"You are thinking only of yourself." Kathryn glared indignantly at Seven, who remained unruffled. "You made a promise, and are unable to keep it. Your ego and pride are damaged, nothing else. Your crew is alive, healthy, and relatively stable mentally."

Janeway's eyebrows rose. Had Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix 0-1, just made a joke? This day couldn't get any stranger. She thought out her answer while Seven looked around at the bar with revulsion.

"Harry Kim will never see his parents again. Tuvok will never see his wife. Tom and B'Elanna's children will never set foot in the Alpha Quadrant. All their knowledge of earth, in all it's beauty, will come from the holodeck."

Seven's metal eyebrow gleamed in the faint light. "Ensign Kim is a fine officer, as is Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok. They will survive. You underestimate them, thinking of all your crew as children under your care. They are Starfleet, bred to be resilient, born to explore. Ready to die, with courage, if need be." She went on. "The children of Voyager may not walk on earth, or any Federation world, but there are other planets ready to receive their steps."

"You're saying we should find an M-class planet and set up shop." Kathryn said slowly, still recovering from Seven's words.

"Slang terms are crude, but, yes, I'm saying it is an option. It always has been. If you can give up on your ill-made promise, this crew might survive."

Kathryn looked down into her empty glass, swirling the last bit of liquid. It was a tawny amber, like the fields of Indiana, vast expanses of grain that she'd never see again this side of heaven.

Seven spoke again. "My parents made promises, to one another, to me, and to themselves, determined to explore Borg space. Wanderlust and obsession carried them along to their unfortunate fate. Life, precious life, ended as we knew it. Useless dreams lead to a bad end. I believe there is wisdom in knowing when to let go, more wisdom than it takes to plot a course and head back into the fray. Valor has it's place, but heading back would be an act of- the term is rough and abhorrent- hari cari."

Janeway had rarely heard Seven speak of her peripatetic parents and their idealistic quest. Her life had been hard, a series of traumas, really.

She and Seven were so different. She was born to lead; Seven was bred to be a follower. She was mercurial, with a rip-snorting temper; Seven was logical, with a dignity born of great trial. They complimented one another, two strong women the world didn't understand. Perhaps it still wasn't ready for them.

They said little for a long time. Seven was always comfortable with silence, and Kathryn needed time to think, to say her good-byes. There was no choice really. Life was the only option. All the rest was harvest. Love and duty, loss and joy flourished in their season, withering to make way for something new. Always, there was room for something new.

So many dreams and hopes had to be packed away, like old clothes kept for sentimental value. Earth would be an amber-gold memory, a dream once lived, like Mark, and her dogs, and the fields of Indiana. Her earth-life had been good, giving her hope for the future, a future with friends, perhaps with Chakotay.

"You're thinking of relationships." Seven's voice clipped the silence.

Kathryn smiled. The statement was uncharacteristically delicate. Seven, unlike the rest of the crew, didn't speculate over the Captain's love life, or lack there-of. It was Voyager's national pass time.

She turned the question around. "What of you, Seven?"

Kathryn was surprised when Seven's cheeks turned pink. "I attended a ballroom dance with the Doctor last week."

Kathryn couldn't quite picture it. She nearly dropped her glass at Seven's next statement.

"Lieutenant Paris taught me to Tango."

Kathryn opened her mouth to respond, but Seven rushed ahead, pink face mutating to deep red. "He was the logical choice, having knowledge of twentieth century entertainment practices. His wife had full knowledge. I think he feared an altercation."

Oh, to be a fly on the wall. "Was it fun?" Kathryn tried to suppress her amusement at the visual the dancing lesson presented.

Even Seven's ears were red. "The dress was uncomfortable. Lieutenant Torres burned my head with a curling iron. It was painful. The two fought continually. However, learning to dance I felt…I felt…"

Kathryn could see her struggling to come up with a Borg-approved word for the emotion. Finally, she gave in.

"I felt rather…pretty, more human than I ever have. I'd like the opportunity to feel that way again, Captain. Perhaps there is a chance for me." Her blue eyes bored into Kathryn. "We all deserve the chance, including you, Kathryn Janeway. Commander Chakotay is an excellent man. You two have led this crew with distinction."

"Thank you, Seven." Touched, she didn't know what else to say. She looked at Seven with pride and found her tongue. "You're becoming a fine lady."

Seven nodded her thanks. They were quiet, lost in thought.

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Part 3: To the Future

Gradually, the other crewmembers trickled in. Kathryn was desperately hailing the bartender, thinking that the program must be malfunctioning, when Tom Paris tapped her on the shoulder.

"He's programmed to ignore you after two drinks, Captain." He looked sheepish, like a naughty golden retriever. "I figured you'd be here, getting potted."

She was too exhausted to get angry. She didn't really want to get potted anymore, anyway.

Soon, everyone was gathered around the table, with the exception of Tuvok, who was manning the bridge. That old Vulcan was as secure in his solitude as the rest were in company. Now that the crisis had passed, his emotionless strength was a comfort. If the rest crumbled, Tuvok would remain, a constant in her life.

Harry raised his glass. "To my mom and dad."

The Doctor thought a moment . "To good health."

Neelix looked far away. "To Kes."

Tom patted B'Elanna's knee. "To the future."

Chakotay smiled across the table at Kathryn. "To best friends."

Kathryn grinned back. "To my fine crew."

Seven was moved to join, but this custom was unfamiliar to her. "To Captain Janeway's dog."

The others shared puzzled looks, then shrugged. Glasses clinked. Life awaited.

That was how it happened. Kathryn Janeway never again saw the fields of Indiana, but she's remembered there. When the transmissions stopped, the valiant crew was considered lost, given hero's funerals, and dubbed martyrs to the field of space exploration. In story and song, Voyager went out in a blaze of glory, battling 10 types of aliens at once, with Tom Paris toiling at the helm to the very last. Reg Barclay thought perhaps they simply ran out of dilithium. It could have ended that way, but for Seven of Nine, who tangoed on for many years, acting as Kathryn Janeway's sounding board in times of crisis, just as she did that night. Someday, a ship will travel far into the Delta Quadrant, where only one Starfleet vessel has gone before. They'll find the graveyard, and the colonists with familiar surnames. Our Voyagers are long gone, of course, but their children remain, sons and daughters of the Delta Quadrant. It is their home, as earth is yours. They carry on the work begun by their extraordinary parents. They walk the surrounding planets, footsteps received.

FINIS