Mates and Manipulations
Rating - PG
By Elorie Alton
Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway walked across her living room toward the windows that looked out over San Francisco Bay. Her mood was as colorless as the beige and taupe apartment she lived in. She sipped from a battered, beat up mug and seemed lost in thought, as the media access viewer droned on.
She was barely listening to the commentator on the video screen. He had been reviewing Voyager's return to Earth ten years ago. She called for the computer to end the display and stood looking out the windows. She stared out over San Francisco Bay, watching the sun that had now sank below the horizon leaving only its beautiful reflected light in the sky. She was, for the moment, caught up in the fiery reds and warm purples of the coming dusk, allowing the sight to warm her mood. She remembered just how much Chakotay had loved this time of day. The thought brought her no relief; it only served to remind her that he was gone now too.
So few remained.
She thought back to the funeral, how she had hidden her grief, and how its depths had surprised her. So much confused her then, his last words especially. They had reminded her of Seven's last words, spoken over twenty years ago: the words that had caused Chakotay so much grief.
It was at that funeral Kathryn met Guinan, and everything that she believed in, turned inside out.
Guinan was El-Aurian, The Listeners; a race so long lived that she had existed before mankind had even attempted to leave Earth. One of their unique abilities allowed them to sense the balance of the universe. That uniqueness attracted the Borg, eager to add the El-Aurian distinctiveness and abilities to their own. Only after the process was completed did the Borg discover that assimilation destroyed the unique El-Aurian abilities.
Guinan could sense disturbances in normal linear space-time. She had sensed the current disturbance for many years, but it was only when she returned to San Francisco after a long absence that she discovered the focus of the damage. She had maneuvered her way into the funeral, hoping to get an introduction to Admiral Janeway, and maybe to set in motion a correction. This was not the first time that she had noticed temporal damage. Once before, she had been aware of such damage, and she had had enough influence to initiate a correction to the timeline.
Guinan was Kathryn's friend now, trusted as all her old friends were. She had earned that trust.
Kathryn ended her reflection, and began to prepare for her reunion dinner. She dreaded the coming evening; with each year the Voyager family shrank bit by bit.
A few hours later Kathryn's apartment was filled with what remained of her old crew. Like any reunion, there was laughter, talking, and reminiscing, but this reunion also had an air of sadness about it as those lost were remembered.
One of the few members of her former crew still in Starfleet was Captain Harry Kim. Kathryn had often felt that his reason for remaining in Starfleet was the same as hers; it was the only place left. Not only had Harry's parents died before the crew's return home, his love, Libby had died as well. He had never gotten over her death at the hands of her lover.
Kathryn saw Harry across the room talking to Serena, Naomi Wildman's little girl. He was still handsome with gray sprinkled through his hair.
He rose up and hugged his former captain as she handed him a drink. "Here you are, Captain."
"Thank you, Admiral."
"I haven't seen her since she was a baby," he said, accepting the glass and gesturing at Serena.
"It's amazing how fast you've all grown," she teased. Side by side they crossed the room her hand on his shoulder.
The sadness that passed through her eyes told him everything he needed to know. "Not well."
"I thought maybe I'd go see him tomorrow."
"That would be nice."
"I'm sorry I missed the funeral," he continued. "I should've been here," his bitterness and the feeling that he had always missed the important times coming through in his voice.
They stopped and Kathryn turned to him. "You were on a mission. Everyone understood. It's so good to see you, Harry."
It seemed that they always drew together at these reunions to feel at home, and every time it seemed that someone else was missing and home moved farther away. For twenty-three years they had fought to come home, only to find their friends and family either dead, changed or forgotten. Their only remaining family -- this family -- was dying too.
Kathryn's torment was that she had gotten them back too late. After her meeting with Guinan she had realized just how late they had gotten back. As much as she dreaded this reunion it had reinforced her drive. Her mission was not yet over.
Kathryn stood to one side in the large room speaking to B'Elanna.
"The High Council had a lot of questions," B'Elanna spoke softly to Kathryn to avoid being overheard. She raised her glass and sipped her wine.
"What did you tell them?"
"The truth, with a Klingon twist. I told them my beloved former captain, who had saved my life many times in glorious battle, would be honored to submit Korath's House for consideration," a small smile crossed the half Klingon's mouth.
"Do you think that it'll work," the Admiral questioned.
"I'm just the Federation Liaison, but I'd like to think I have some influence. You still haven't told me why you're trying to help Korath."
"He's an old friend," Kathryn replied unable to explain to one of her oldest friends just what that friend could not know.
"Would this 'old friend' have anything to do with the mission that you sent my daughter on?"
"Sorry, B'Elanna, but you know I can't talk about that."
"Couldn't you at least have delayed it until after the reunion? She really wanted to be here."
"She'll be home soon, I promise," Kathryn answered.
Their conversation was interrupted by Commander Reginald Barclay as he asked for their attention.
Standing at the rail of the raised entry level he called out, tapping a spoon on his crystal glass. "May I have everyone's attention please?" They all gathered in front of him. "Ten years ago tonight, this crew returned home from one of the longest away missions in Starfleet history. Twenty-three years together made you a family, one I am proud to be adopted by. So let us raise our glasses – To the journey."
In unison each person raised his or her glass and replied, "To the journey."
Then Admiral Janeway again raised her glass, "And to those of us who aren't here to celebrate it with us."
Admiral Janeway sat in her chair on the dais listening to Barclay, her teaching partner, introduce the cadets to a course on the Borg. Kathryn shivered at the holographic drone that Barclay projected. This was the enemy who she would ultimately battle to return the timeline to some semblance of normalcy. She knew, more than any of the students in the small lecture hall, that there was nothing more frightening than the Borg.
Class had just started when she was called away for a message.
Kathryn walked back to her office. She sat down, maneuvered the transparent view screen around, touched the controls and Miral Paris appeared.
"I'm sorry to pull you out of class Admiral," Ensign Paris began.
"Did you see it?"
"Yes, ma'am," the young woman answered.
Kathryn asked another question, "And?"
"It works." Miral paused.
"Korath has agreed to the exchange." Kathryn felt the tension leave her body and she slumped slightly down into her chair.
"But?" Kathryn questioned again, sensing the hesitation in Miral's voice.
"He is insisting on handing it over to you personally."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Good work, Ensign Paris."
Kathryn ended the transmission, and sighed in relief. She leaned back in her chair rubbing her finger and thumb together. The reunion was over. Miral had reported in. Korath was primed. Her private shuttle was refitted and ready to fire up. The key pieces were in place. She knew what had to be done, and had retired all her doubts long ago. Just a few loose ends to tie up and she was ready.
Kathryn entered the darkened room, conscious of the papers scattered around and the figure kneeling in the floor, silver pen in hand, scrawling lines that seemed to make sense only to the writer. The only illumination was the candles scattered around the room.
"Hello Tuvok," her voice gently caressed him.
"The light!" was her only answer.
"Oh, I'm sorry," She allowed the door to close, returning the room to shadows. The only illumination was from the softly flickering candles. She crossed to the dark figure on the floor and kneeled down beside him.
"I know you," Tuvok looked up at her and spoke out from his confusion.
"That's right, I'm your friend, Kathryn Janeway. Remember."
"You are an imposter!" he answered.
"No Tuvok, it's me," again her words were spoken gently. Her affection apparent.
"Admiral Janeway visits on Sunday. Today is Thursday. Logic dictates that you are not who you claim to be." He returned to his task on the floor.
"How are you?" She asked, changing the flow of the conversation.
"I am close to completing my work," he gestured at the scattered papers.
"I'm glad to hear it."
"It is difficult with so many interruptions."
"I'm sorry. Would you like me to leave?"
"You may stay," he answered as he continued scrawling on the paper, his dark eyes never meeting hers.
"Tuvok," she softly began. "There's something I need to tell you." She paused again, her voice breaking. "It's very important." She leaned down to him. "I'm going away, I may not see you again." She swallowed a quite sob and Tuvok looked up at her. "Commander Barclay and the Doctor will continue to visit you. They will bring you everything you need."
"The Doctor comes on Wednesday. Commander Barclay's visits are erratic," he returned to his writings on the floor.
Kathryn stood up, dropped her hand to caress him, and leaned over to kiss her oldest friend on the top of his head. She knew that this was only his shell, his essence had gone long before. She turned to leave, and placing a picture of the Voyager senior staff on his dresser she turned, "Good-bye Tuvok," and quietly left his room, as the pen continued scraping the paper.
In the hallway she closed her eyes blinking back the tears that threatened to form. One down and three to go.
It was easy enough to call the Doctor to her apartment with some minor complaint. He had scanned her and pronounced her healthy, and had even told her that the experimental suppressants he had been administering to her for the past few years continued to block any of her thoughts that might be broadcast from her neural transceiver link. She had possessed this link since she had been assimilated by the Borg in an effort to help the drones of Unimatrix Zero. It was suspected that by manipulating those few who possessed the neural links, the Borg had somehow altered the timeline. Just how and to what end Kathryn did not yet know, but it was strange that of those few, almost all were now dead, and the window of opportunity was rapidly dwindling.
Kathryn and the Doctor made small talk for a few minutes. They teased gently as she packed her bags as he sat on the sofa watching her. Then, she revealed her real purpose.
Feigning curiosity, she spoke, "I've been meaning to ask you if you are familiar with the drug called 'chronexaline'?"
"We have been testing it at Starfleet medical," the real reason for her call dawning on him. "We're trying to determine if it can protect biomatter from tachyon radiation."
"It's very promising. Why do you ask?"
"I need two thousand milligrams by tomorrow afternoon," Kathryn answered bluntly.
"Why?" he questioned. Her answer should not have surprised him, but it did.
"That's classified. Will you get it for me?"
He sighed, "Of course Admiral. You'll have it by 0900." He knew that she had been troubled by something for the past few years. He even knew parts of the puzzle. She was asking for his trust now, and for the moment he would give it to her.
Kathryn smiled at him and said, "Thank you."
The Borg information was running faster than the eye could see, as Reg Barclay and Admiral Janeway downloading information from their central computer.
"Download complete," the computer intoned.
"This should be everything you need," he said as he handed the PADD to her.
"Waiting for you at the Oakland Shipyard." Barclay paused for a moment then continued. "I wish you would let me come with you." He was the only one who knew all of her secrets and all of her plans.
"Sorry Reg, but this is my mission. Besides, if you leave, there won't be anyone to teach those eager young cadets about the Borg."
"Oh," Reg sighed his agreement.
She turned serious. "You may be the only one left standing between them and the assimilation of the entire galaxy. Besides I need you to keep an eye on B'Elanna. She is the only one left with the implant. If they decide to retaliate…" her voice fell off.
"You know I will," he answered as he handed her an insulated flask. "Oh, I made you some fresh tea for the trip. Not that replicated stuff."
"Thank you for everything. I wouldn't have been able to do this without you."
"Don't remind me," he smiled at her as she patted his shoulder.
She had one last stop before she began her journey.
"Any final words of advice for your old captain? Wait – don't tell me. I'm being impulsive. I haven't considered all the consequences. It's too risky." The wind was chilly as it blew her coat back and forth.
Kathryn kneeled down to sweep away the debris covering his name, Chakotay, carved into the small metal plaque, and as she did the memories returned. She let them sweep over her as she indulged herself.
He had died with her by his side, best friends to the end. He had been having small strokes that no one could explain. Strokes were not supposed to be fatal, but all the medical expertise available could not help him. She sat at his bedside as the last stroke took him. He turned to look at her and his eyes seemed to clear. Tears begin to gather in the corners of his eyes, he drew a deep breath and spoke his final words.
"Oh Kathryn, I'm so sorry… I love you." Then he was gone.
Kathryn, numb with the loss, confused by his final words and the emotion accompanying them, began to arrange his funeral.
It was at the reception after the internment of Chakotay's remains that Kathryn was approached by Guinan and Jean-Luc Picard, with a request to meet later at Picard's home in Labarre, France.
Picard had become a recluse after an encounter with a Borg Cube entering Federation Space from the Beta Quadrant. He had shot first and asked questions later, destroying the cube only to find that it was controlled by freed Borg from Unimatrix Zero. The drones had asked for Voyager, been misunderstood and now Axum and the others were dead. Picard blamed himself, resigned his commission, and returned to his family vineyards to live alone. He never left Earth again.
That meeting changed her life and Kathryn begin her new mission, as Guinan spoke to her about the El-Aurians and their abilities. She listened to Guinan's story with Picard's assurances of the reliability of the information.
"For the last twenty-five years I have suspected that the time-line was damaged. I had been unable to focus on the exact moment of corruption until I recently came to visit Picard. I realized that the destruction of the Borg Cube from the Beta Quadrant was part of the focus, but there was more. The final pieces fell into place when I learned of Admiral Chakotay's death."
Guinan continued, "All I can really tell you is that someone on that Cube died that shouldn't have and a child that should have been born never was, and it all could have been prevented if Voyager had returned before that Cube entered this quadrant."
Kathryn came away from that meeting with renewed energy, only to be shocked by the death of Picard two days later and the death of Icheb a day after that.
The Doctor came to her office.
"Before I begin let me give you this," he pressed a hypospray to her neck, administering medication.
"Why this," she questioned?
"Admiral, there is some indication that your leftover Borg neural link could malfunction and cause injury. This should protect you. I noticed an anomaly when I performed the autopsy on Admiral Chakotay. There was a correlation in certain areas of his brain with anomalies that I found after Seven of Nine's death. Icheb and I began to investigate," the doctor slowed then plowed forward. "Icheb died yesterday with the same symptoms and the same anomalies."
"NO," Kathryn spoke, the intake of her breath indicating that she was completely stunned by the news.
"It gets worse, three days ago Jean-Luc Picard also died with the same symptoms.
"Before his death, Icheb and I narrowed the problem down to the Borg neural links each of you possess. I couldn't afford to tell you until I found a way to protect you from your own neural link."
"We have detected activity in your neural link that we have not detected in B'Elanna. We think that something in her Klingon physiology is protecting her. She will, of course, be monitored."
Pieces were all Kathryn had, and they did not yet fit together. Those that did, however, pointed to one enemy, the Borg; and one solution, the early return of Voyager.
Another memory nagged at her, an echo of Chakotay's death.
Annika Hansen lay dying of a head injury with stroke like symptoms, an injury that should not have killed her. Her husband held her in his arms as their child died within her. The Captain stood on the other side of the biobed.
She didn't seem to see them. Her eyes cleared, just as Chakotay's would before his death twenty years later. Then Annika's last words came confusing both of them just as Chakotay's last words would confuse Kathryn. Both confessions confused Kathryn to this day.
"Axum, I am so sorry… I love you."
Kathryn looked up at her friend in shock. He laid his wife's body down, and he turned away stoically. There were no tears, never any tears. He was never again the same man.
"Thanks for the input, but I've got to do what I think is right. I know it hasn't been easy living all these years without her, Chakotay…but when I'm through, things might be better for all of us. Trust me."
Admiral Janeway delayed a while longer looking at his name, unknowingly caressing it with her hand, as her loneliness washed over her. She thought of Guinan and the child that should have been born, and vowed to save Chakotay and Seven and their unborn child. She would fix this. She would fix everything.
Admiral Janeway's vision cleared as she materialized in a cavern lit by torches. She smiled as Miral Paris entered with two Klingons.
"Welcome to the House of Korath, Admiral," Miral stepped forward to greet the older woman.
"I love what he's done to the place," Janeway said with amusement.
"Guv'ha gor! Nu'Tug mal!" the Klingon to Miral's left growled.
The young woman quickly turned to him and answered using her Klingon voice. "P'Tahk! Gaht bek'cha tuq mal gun'mok!" The two Klingons backed down.
"What was that about?" The fact that Miral had used the term "p'tahk" did not go unnoticed by Kathryn.
"He said your demeanor was disrespectful."
"I hope you told him I didn't mean to be rude."
"I told him if he didn't show you more respect, I'd break his arm."
The admiral managed a small laugh. "You are your mother's daughter."
If anything, Miral's small frame seemed a little taller, "Korath's waiting. We should go in."
As Miral started to lead the way Kathryn stopped her with a hand on the younger woman's arm, "Sorry, but this is where we part ways."
"You're dismissed, Ensign."
"Admiral, I really think that-"
"I can take care of myself."
Miral turned to face Kathryn, "With all due respect, I've been working on this for six months!"
"And you've done an exemplary job. But it's over. Understand?"
Miral wanted to go with Kathryn, but her lifetime of training came forward. She straightened her back; she had obeyed this woman literally all of her life. Now would be no different.
"I happen to know your parents are anxious to spend some time with you. Take a few days' leave. Go and see them."
Miral Paris nodded to the Admiral in deference and gestured her down the correct corridor.
Admiral Janeway walked into the Klingon's laboratory, her escort trailing behind.
Korath was working on some kind of hand weapon, making adjustments with a small tool. He finally looked at her bringing up the weapon he was working on.
"A Cardassian disruptor. I've modified it to emit a nadion pulse."
"Impressive," Janeway answered. "But that's not what I've come for."
Kathryn's impatience grew as he ignored her still tinkering with the weapon on his worktable.
Korath finally looked up at her, "No, you've come for something far more dangerous."
"Where is it," she demanded, as she moved toward him.
"I went to a great deal of trouble to get you your seat on the High Council." She advanced closer invading his space. "Now give me what you promised," her irritation showing in the growling of her voice.
Korath motioned at a view screen that displayed her shuttle.
"I've scanned your shuttle. It appears you've made some interesting modifications. Your shield generator is of particular interest."
"It's not for sale."
Korath smiled thinking that he had her, "Then what you want isn't available either." He turned his back to her.
"We had an agreement."
He gestured to the two guards. "Show the Admiral out."
She walked out of Korath's laboratory as if she owned the entire galaxy. She returned to her shuttle to retrieve something, and then requested to speak with him again.
"I've reconsidered your offer." She said as she reentered the room.
"I thought you might," Korath grinned at her.
"I'll give you the shield emitter, but not until I've inspected the device you're offering. To make sure it's genuine."
Korath's face darkened with anger, "You question my honor." He advanced on her, attempting to intimidate Kathryn by sheer physical size, an act that had never succeeded on any Starfleet admiral in this universe. Or on Kathryn Janeway.
She answered calmly, "If you were honorable, you wouldn't have changed the terms of our agreement." She now advanced on him, with more success than he had had. "Show it to me or I'm leaving." The growl of her voice clearly indicated her anger at the situation.
A wall in the room shimmered out of existence, revealing a storage locker containing the temporal deflector.
Janeway stepped up to the device and scanned it with her tricorder. Korath looked on, holding the disruptor.
"This will do fine." With that statement she quickly slapped a transporter tag on the device and hit the predetermined code on her tricorder. As she and the temporal deflector transported out she heard Korath yelling to stop her. She also saw him raise his disruptor and fire, but he was too late.
"Computer, deploy armor." Kathryn was already giving orders. "Lay in a course for these coordinates."
The transport was barely complete, and the admiral wanted to be away as quickly as possible. She was laying in the course when the Klingon's defense arrived and opened fire.
Korath, his face contorted with anger, appeared on her monitor.
"What do you want," she asked.
"You'll pay for your deceit, ghuy' cha! The House of Korath won't rest until you've been drowned in your own blood."
"I'd love to stay and chat but I'm on a tight schedule."
Kathryn cut the transmission and issued an order. "Computer, warp six," and with that she was gone.
"Approaching designated coordinates," the computer announced.
Then almost before she could give the computer the directions, it continued, "Warning: vessel approaching vector one-two-mark six."
Just as Janeway had the ship retract its armor, she was hailed and a familiar face appeared on her view screen.
"Harry…and people are always saying space is so big."
"Lower your shields, Admiral," Captain Kim ordered, "and stand by for transport. I'm taking you into custody."
"You have no grounds to take me into custody, Captain."
"Reg told the Doctor everything, and the Doctor told me. Now please, Admiral, stand down."
"On one condition—you let me explain why I'm doing this."
"You have no idea what the consequences would be." Harry paced all around his ready room while Kathryn sat and quietly watched him.
"I know what the consequences are if we do nothing." Kathryn said. "So do you. I have a chance to change all that!"
"If Starfleet Command knew what you were trying to do…" he stopped himself, walked from behind his desk and sat on the edge facing her.
"You haven't told them?"
"The Doctor and I decided to keep things in the family."
"What about your crew," she asked.
"I told them I needed to take you back to Starfleet Medical because you'd contracted a rare disease."
"I hope it isn't terminal," she grinned.
"No, but it has been known to affect judgment."
"I know what I'm doing, Harry."
"Do you? Can you say with absolute certainty that it'll work? Because if you can't…even if it weren't a violation of every rule in the book, it would still be far too risky."
She remained silent, just smiling at him.
"Oh, I'm…remembering a young ensign who wanted to fly into a Borg-infested nebula, just to explore the remote possibility that we might find a way home."
"If I remember correctly," he returned pointedly, "you stopped me."
"We didn't know then what we know now."
"Our technology might have advanced, but…"
"I'm not talking about technology. I'm talking about people, people who weren't as lucky as you and me. If you can call us lucky. Look at your life, Harry. What about Libby? Don't tell me that it hasn't occurred to you that if we had gotten home sooner she would have been with you, not that monster that killed her."
"That's a low blow, Admiral," the pain evident in his eyes. When Pathfinder first contacted them in the Delta Quadrant, Harry had learned to his surprise that Libby was waiting for him. Harry was thrilled at first. Then the years begin to take their toll and he faced the futility of a long-range relationship where the only contact they had was three minutes every other month. When one of her friends pressed her to start a relationship, Harry had encouraged her only to learn about his violent temper too late. Her new friend had beaten her to death.
"You said that you and the Doctor wanted to keep things in the family. But our family's not complete anymore, is it? I'm asking you to trust my judgement, Harry, one last time."
Together they beamed back to the Admiral's shuttle and begin to install the temporal deflector. Quickly working together they made the final installations.
"If Starfleet Command finds out I had anything to do with this, they'll demote me back to ensign," Harry was consentrating on the interior modifications now.
"You worry too much, Harry. It's turning you gray." She used the gentle teasing tone that said family.
"Propulsion's online, plasma flow's stable," he stood up from the console and crossed to another console. He punched in some commands, the leaned over the view screen.
"This device of Korath's, it produces too much tachyo-kinetic energy. It could burn itself out by the time you get where you're going," he looked over at her, kneeling at still another console. "You wouldn't be able to get back."
"I always assumed it was a one-way trip."
Putting his concerns aside, Harry sighed getting to his feet. "You're sure I can't talk you out of this?" then answered his own question. "Right…stupid question."
She looked up at him, her hand to his face. She put her arms around him as he gathered her into his chest and closed his eyes. They became what they really were, family. Both knowing that the other and those few souls back on Earth were truly all the family they had left. Kathryn held the closest thing to a son she ever had. Harry hugged the closest thing to a mother that remained to him.
Funny, he thought, this is probably not the first time he had faced this moment. He knew that once before he had helped someone change time. His former future self had left them a message. He and Chakotay had prevented everyone on Voyager from dying in an accident when they had tried to use slipstream technology. Strange to think about a lifetime he had lived but not remembered now here he was again, giving himself and his friends a second – no, a third -- chance. Well, what was that old saying? "The third time's the charm."
For the first time in many years he thought of Libby without pain. He remembered her with joy, and hope.
Captain Harry Kim stepped back from his old Captain tapped his combage and announced. "Kim to the Rhode Island. One to beam back."
Admiral Janeway watched the Rhode Island jump to warp and disappear. She drew a long breath and began, "Computer activate the chrono-deflector."
Just as the sick green beam of the chrono-deflector pulsed out two Klingon ships approached with their phasers firing.
"Deploy armor!" she shouted at the computer.
"Unable to comply. Ablative generator is off-line."
"Evasive pattern beta-six," she shouted again as the shuttle began to rock. "Open a channel to the Rhode Island!"
Harry Kim appeared immediately, and as soon as she saw him she said, "Harry, I'm under attack. How fast can you get back here?"
Janeway begin the battle to buy time. Just when she was about to lose, the Rhode Island dropped out of warp and engaged the Klingon vessels, phasers blazing.
Electricity was sparking around her as the small ship rocked.
"Stand by for transport, Admiral," Harry ordered.
"You know where I'm going, Harry, and it's not to your ship."
"Your structural integrity is failing."
"Just get these Klingons off my tail."
Harry did as requested. The Rhode Island dived on the Klingons, phasers firing and pulled the attention of the Klingons away from the small shuttle, allowing Kathryn to concentrate on what she wanted to do.
"Computer, activate the tachyon pulse and direct it to these spatial and temporal coordinates."
The wide-angle pulse again burst out from the deflector atop her shuttle, ripping a gaping wound across space.
She aimed the shuttle into that bright green hole, as fast as impulse speed would take her. Into the bright unknown she went. Moments passed before she could again see the stars, only now they were not the stars of the Alpha Quadrant, but that of the Delta, and there above and a little to one side was Voyager.
Even as she felt the exhilaration of achievement another feeling washed over her. Kathryn's mind cleared and suddenly she understood just what Chakotay said as he looked up at her, just what he had meant. "Oh Chakotay," she breathed "I'm so sorry… I love you."
She pushed the crowding thoughts away. There was too much to do; she would think about this later. With the strength of long practice she put her command persona in place to do what needed to be done.
She hailed Voyager.
The Admiral took in the scene on her view screen. Everyone was younger and her heart leaped to see Chakotay. She steadied herself and spoke.
"Recalibrate your deflectors to emit an anti-tachyon pulse. You have to seal that rift."
Captain Janeway's voice bit back. "It's usually considered polite to introduce yourself before you start giving orders."
The Admiral's communit picked up Tuvok's warning, "Captain, a Klingon vessel is coming through."
"Close the rift!" the Admiral shouted then lowering her voice, "In case you didn't notice, I outrank you, Captain. Now do it."
She could hear the reports, as various stations conveyed their readings. Mostly Tuvok's reports and then her younger self's orders.
The Admiral watched as the deflector beam poured into the rift and finally closed the ugly tear.
"I did what you asked…now tell me what the hell is going on," the younger Janeway spat out.
"I've come to bring Voyager home."
The command team was waiting for her as she beamed in. She paused a moment on the transporter deck. She saw herself, her beloved Chakotay, and Tuvok, his eyes comfortingly sane.
As the Admiral stepped away from the transporter Captain Janeway moved forward.
Admiral Janeway turned to her, "It's good to be back."
It felt like being at home here on Voyager. The only problem was her younger self here with her in the ready room; it made everything slightly off kilter. It didn't help that her brain was trying to process and reintegrate all the previously blocked off information. What she really needed was a long soak in a quiet bathtub.
The Captain and the Admiral entered the ready room together.
The Admiral took a deep breath, "Fresh coffee…"
"Would you like a cup?" the Captain asked as she poured some for herself.
"No. I gave it up years ago. I only drink tea now." She stepped up to the sofa and looked out the view ports.
The Admiral continued, "I told the curator at the museum that if he wanted to make the ready room more authentic, he should always keep a steaming pot of coffee on the desk."
"Voyager's in a museum?" The Captain sat on the edge of her desk sipping from her mug.
"Voyager is a museum. On the grounds of the Presidio." The Admiral gestured at the view ports, "On a clear morning, you can see Alcatraz from here."
"You made it back to Earth…" the Captain wanted to know so much and was afraid to know anything at the same time.
The Admiral nodded turning back from the view port. She moved over to the Captain, "Unfortunately, our favorite cup took a bit of a beating along the way. It was damaged during a battle with the Fen Domar." She took the mug from the Captain and breathed in the aroma of the steaming coffee.
"Who?" Then the Captain caught herself.
"You'll run into them in a few years."
The Captain held up her hand, "You know what? I shouldn't be listening to details about the future."
"Ah, the almighty Temporal Prime Directive." The Admiral's contempt was evident; she took pride in the fact that she could so convincingly fake at least part of it. "Take my advice. It's less of a headache if you just ignore it."
"You've obviously decided to ignore it, or you wouldn't be here."
The Admiral answered looking the Captain in the eyes. "A lot has happened to me, since I was you. I will give you something else to think about. If I am so wrong, where is the Temporal Integrity Commission to stop me?"
"Well, I'm still me and this is still my ship. So no more talk about what's going to happen until I decide otherwise. Understood?"
"All right," the Admiral handed the mug back to the Captain and returned to the sofa. "Let's talk about the past. Three days ago you detected elevated neutrino emissions in a nebula in grid nine-eight- six. You thought it might be a way home. You were right. I've come to tell you to take Voyager back to that nebula."
"It was crawling with Borg!"
"I've brought technology that will get us past them."
The Admiral could almost see the doubting thoughts swirling around in the Captain's head. She continued, "I don't blame you for being skeptical. But if you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?"
"For the sake of argument, let's say I believe everything you're telling me. This future you come from sounds pretty good. Voyager's home, I'm an admiral, there are ways to defend against the Borg, my ready room even gets preserved for posterity."
The Admiral continued with the Captain's thoughts, "so why would you want to tamper with such a rosy time line? To answer that, I'd have to tell you more than you want to know." She turned around facing the Captain. "But suffice it to say, if you don't do what I'm suggesting, it's going to take you another sixteen years to get this ship home. And there are going to be casualties along the way."
The Admiral paused then continued, 'I know exactly what you're thinking."
"You've also become a telepath?"
"I used to be you, remember?" The Admiral sat down on the sofa, her arms extended across the back. "You're asking yourself, 'is she really who she says she is or is this some sort of deception', for all you know, I could be a member of Species 8472 in disguise. Have your people examine my shuttle," the Admiral once again reading the Captain's mind. "Tell them to take a close look at the weapons systems and the armor technology. In the meantime, the doctor can confirm my identity."
The Doctor and the Captain looked at the sickbay view screen, observing the Admiral's brain scans.
"My scans of the admiral's cerebral cortex turned up something interesting." The Doctor reported, his voice lowered. He punched a control and the picture changed. It zoomed in and focused upon a distinct nonbiological implant.
"What is it," the Captain asked quietly.
"I'm not sure. I've never seen this kind of implant before."
The Doctor changed the view again, bringing the implant's image closer. "The microcircuitry has a Starfleet signature," he reported.
"Of course it does," Admiral Janeway spoke up from her seat on the biobed. She reclined back on one arm.
They both turned to her, the Doctor asking, "Admiral?"
The older woman looked at the Doctor. "You invented it. Twelve years ago, from my perspective."
"I'm sorry, Admiral," he said, "I didn't realize."
"What, that I was eavesdropping? I may be old but my hearing is still excellent, thanks to your exemplary care over the years."
"So," the Doctor walked over to the Admiral his curiosity prompted farther questions. This implant I'm going to invent—what does it do?"
"It's a synaptic transceiver that allows me to pilot a vessel equipped with a neural interface."
"Fascinating," he looked back at the Captain. "Tell me, what other extraordinary breakthroughs am I going to make?"
"Doctor," the Captain scolded.
"Sorry Captain. But you can't blame a hologram for being curious."
"Just finish your report."
"Yes ma'am." He called up another display on the monitor. "My scans indicate that the two of you are genetically identical. The admiral is you, approximately twenty-six years from now."
At that moment Seven walked in, a PADD in her hand.
The Admiral's expression softened, "Hello Seven," she murmured as she got down from the biobed.
Seven paused for a moment. Something in the Admiral's soft gaze disturbed her. She gathered herself, looked at the captain and gave her report, "The technology aboard the Admiral's ship is impressive. Much of it appears to have been designed to defend against the Borg." She handed the PADD containing the details to Captain Janeway.
"Could we install these systems on Voyager?" the Captain asked.
"The stealth technology is incompatible. But I believe we can adapt the armor and weapons," was Seven's reply.
The Admiral turned to her younger self, "Well, Captain?"
Captain Janeway turned to Seven, "Do it."
The day had ended before the Admiral got her wish. She had met with various members of the crew, briefing them on the technology she had brought with her. It was one of the longest days she had ever lived through.
She sat in a tub of hot water, a glass of white wine to her right, letting the hot water relax the stiffness in her joints. She closed her eyes, trying to make sense of those moments just after she cleared the temporal rift. Apparently her trip back through time had caused her Borg neural link to slip out of temporal sync, freeing her from their influence.
Kathryn knew now that she loved Chakotay. A love that had its beginning during the quarantine on New Earth, and she had forgotten it as apparently he had forgotten his love for her, and as Seven had forgotten her love for Axum. It must have been the neural links. It was the one common factor. The Borg had somehow used the links to make them forget a part of themselves. She was chilled and sickened by the knowledge. Her anger threatened, but she did not have time for it. She had more pieces to the puzzle and it was time to try to fit them together.
She lay back, staring at the ceiling and took a sip of her wine. She thought back to the last conversation she had with her Doctor. He had had grave concerns about the Borg links. The links that she, Picard, Seven, Chakotay, Tuvok, Icheb and B'Elanna had possessed.
"I am reasonably sure that both Icheb's death and the death of Picard were triggered by their questioning of their own actions. I remember Icheb saying 'If these can monitor us, can they not be used to control us?' Admiral, he died less than a day later.
"Picard was questioning also, that is why he wanted to meet with you. Somewhere he began to suspect his own actions."
She silently agreed with him, remembering Chakotay's last few days. He had become quiet and introspective.
"What about Tuvok?" Kathryn questioned the Doctor.
"I am beginning to suspect that the Borg, through the neural link, triggered his disease. He was highly intelligent, and his understanding of the workings of the mind would have made him capable of uncovering their manipulation."
The Doctor was on the right track. Chakotay had been unusually quiet in the days before his death, as if something was bothering him as if he had unanswered questions, and the pattern fit with Seven's demise.
Seven had severe mood swings resulting from her pregnancy. She seemed to have questioned everything. Did Chakotay love her, did she love Chakotay? She even questioned her own desire for the son she carried. Did she and Chakotay both begin to sense the manipulations, and then question it? Was that really why they were dead?
Now with her new insight, she knew the Doctor was right. The Borg did more than just monitor them through the links; they could apparently influence their very thoughts. Her experience when her own neural link was broken was proof enough. If the Borg could make her forget her love for Chakotay, they could make her do almost anything.
The Admiral realized that she would have to be very careful here. There could be no hint of the actual extent of the Collective's hand in all of this, and no hint of anything that could cause speculation. Questions by the holders of the neural links could only result in their deaths.
Her thoughts from earlier echoed in her mind: there's nothing more frightening than the Borg. The full knowledge of the Borg's violations convinced her even more of that fact.
The water had cooled so the Admiral finished her bath. She dressed in her nightclothes, made preparations for tomorrow and went to bed. She knew that sleep would be difficult.
The Admiral had been awakened from a troubled sleep by a request to go to sickbay. Seven of Nine had been found unconscious at the foot of her regeneration chamber.
"Her cortical node was exposed to a low-energy EM surge." The Doctor explained as he scanned her with his tricorder. "It could've been much worse."
"It was the Borg Queen. She wanted to make sure I would be able to deliver a message. She said she would assimilate Voyager if we attempted to re-enter the nebula," Seven looked at the Captain standing next to the Doctor.
"Why is it so important to her?" The explanation didn't make sense to the Captain.
"It doesn't matter." The Admiral waved her hand trying to redirect the conversation away from the motives of the Borg. "She's not going to be able to make good on her threat."
"I wish I shared your confidence."
"You would if you had as much experience with the Queen as I've had."
The Captain shook her head and sighed, "It was one thing to attempt this when we thought it was a secret. But if the Borg are monitoring us—"
The Admiral straighten up from the biobed she was leaning on and quickly cut the Captain off, again trying to control the conversation. She didn't want even a conjecture of Borg monitoring or influence. "I'm not saying the Borg aren't dangerous, but from my perspective, they're thirty years behind the times."
"We shouldn't push our luck," the Captain responded.
"Luck's not going to have anything to do with it." The Admiral moved toward the Captain. "I know you don't want to hear too much about the future, but lets just say that I ran into the Borg a few more times before I made it home. If I hadn't developed technology and tactics that could defeat them, I wouldn't be standing here today."
The Captain slowly agreed, "We'll maintain course for the nebula. But we'll stay at red alert. And I want continued scans for Borg activity."
The call to the bridge came from Tom Paris.
"Helm to Captain Janeway."
The Admiral had to restrain herself from answering.
"Janeway. What is it?" the Captain responded.
"We're coming within short-range sensors of the nebula, Captain."
"Batten and secure the ship. All hands to battle stations. prepare to engage the Borg. I'll be right there, Tom."
Together the two women proceeded to the bridge.
The viewscreen showed the yellow mists of the nebula as the two women entered the bridge.
The Captain took the command chair and the Admiral stood quietly near the helm.
"Bridge to Engineering."
B'Elanna's voice came back via the comm system, "Go ahead."
The Captain drew a breath, "Deploy armor," she ordered.
"Yes ma'am," was B'Elanna's reply.
The plates of armor emitted a drumming sound as it sped around the hull, protecting the ship from what lay ahead.
"All right Mr. Paris. Enter the nebula."
The Borg were on to them immediately and attacked Voyager was attacked with stunning blows.
"Armor integrity at ninety-seven percent," Tuvok reported over the noise of the battle.
"Tuvok?" the Captain questioned as two more cubes joined the first one.
"Integrity holding at ninety percent."
Dark green scanning beams moved over Voyager. The Admiral checked a console, "They're looking for ways to adapt."
Almost immediately the cubes fired again, together.
An alarm went off on Tuvok's console as Voyager rolled. "Port armor integrity down to fifty percent! Forty percent."
"Mr. Paris, attack pattern alpha-one! Target the lead cube and fire transphasic torpedoes."
The torpedoes flew away from Voyager, colliding with the first Borg cube. The resulting explosion rocked the nebula and, to all but the Admiral's surprise, moved the remaining two cubes backward.
Surprise barely covered what the Captain was feeling, but she kept her head. "Target the second cube."
Again the nebula lit up with an unimaginable explosion.
"Distance to the center?" Chakotay asked as he entered information at his console.
"Less than one hundred thousand kilometers," Seven answered from her station behind the Command team.
Suddenly Voyager cleared the nebula's opaque yellow vapors, and for the first time had a clear view of what had been hidden.
Before them hung a gargantuan structure, spreading out like an insane spider web from its orbit around a blue star. Its size dwarfed the Borg cubes that hung around it. Conduit spun out in an amazing pattern, each one ending in an aperture.
"What the hell is it?" the Captain ask.
"Mr. Paris alter course to enter the aperture at coordinates three-four-six by four-two." The Admiral issued her first orders.
"Belay that!" The Captain turned to the Admiral her voice taking on a threatening tone. "I asked you a question! What is it?"
"The road home." The Admiral looked back at her younger self.
"It is more than that. It is a transwarp hub." Seven broke into the confrontation.
The Captain turned. "You told me once there were only six of them in the galaxy—"
"That is correct."
The Captain got up from her seat and walked over to the Admiral. "You knew this was here, but you didn't tell me! Why?"
"I'll answer all your questions once we're back in the Alpha Quadrant," she said as she faced the Captain.
"Take us out of the nebula!" The younger Janeway ordered.
"Captain?" Paris looked at both of the Janeways.
"You heard me," continued the younger one.
"I gave you an order Lieutenant," the Admiral's tones matched her younger counterpart. "Proceed to aperture—"
"This is my bridge, Admiral, and I'll have you removed if necessary." She turned again to Tom and hissed, "Take us out!"
"Aye, Captain," and the helmsman moved quickly to obey.
The meeting in the Astrometrics lab was tense. The screen was filled with the blue star and the transwarp hub covering almost a third of it. The Admiral stood back, her arms crossed over her chest, anger radiating from her.
The blue star blazed from the view screen and the web-like structure of the transwarp hub was dark against the star's brightness.
The Captain blazed defiance back to the older woman. This was her ship after all.
Seven begin the debriefing. "This hub connects with thousands of transwarp conduits with endpoints in all four quadrants. It allows the Collective to deploy vessels almost anywhere in the galaxy within minutes."
Tuvok added, "Of all the Borg's tactical advantages, this could be the most significant."
"It's no wonder the Queen didn't want us in that that nebula," Chakotay noted.
"So how do we destroy it?" said the Captain, still clearly in charge.
Seven changed the illustration on the screen. "The structure is supported by a series of interspatial manifolds. If we could disable enough of them, theoretically, the hub would collapse."
The Admiral flinched. "This is a waste of time. The shielding for those manifolds is regulated from the central nexus, by the Queen herself. You might be able to damage one of them, maybe two, but by the time you move on to the third, she'd adapt."
"There may be a way to bring them down simultaneously," the Captain suggested.
The Admiral asked, "From where? Inside the hub?" Then she answered her own questions, "Voyager would be crushed like a bug."
Chakotay stepped between the two women. "What about taking the conduit back to the Alpha Quadrant, and then destroying the structure from the other side."
"This hub is here," the Admiral glared back at all of them as she walked up to the screen. "There's nothing in the Alpha Quadrant but exit apertures. While we are standing around dreaming up fantasy tactical scenarios, the Queen is studying her scans of our armor and weapons. And she's probably got the entire collective working on a way to counter them. Take the ship back to that nebula and go home before it's too late!"
The Captain took the Admiral's arm. To her senior staff she ordered, "Find a way to destroy that hub." Then quietly to her other self she added, "Let's take a walk."
"I want to know why you didn't tell me about this." The Captain finally spoke as she and the Admiral walked side by side through Voyager's corridors, her voice low as she struggled to control her anger.
"Because I remember how stubborn and self-righteous I used to be and I figured you might try to do something stupid."
"We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Borg. It could save millions of lives!"
"I didn't spend the last ten years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier so you could throw it all away on some intergalactic goodwill mission." The Admiral had to fight with herself to keep from adding, "and the last three knowing that the only way to save so many is by getting us home earlier."
"Maybe we should go back to sickbay," the Captain rasped.
"Why? So you can have me sedated?"
"So I can have the Doctor reconfirm our identity. I refuse to believe I'll ever become as cynical as you." She stopped and faced her older self.
"Am I the only one experiencing déjà vu here?" The older woman asked.
"What are you talking about."
"Seven years ago, you had a chance to use the Caretaker's Array to get Voyager home. But instead, you destroyed it."
The Captain stood back a step. "I did what I knew was right."
"You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew. You can't make the same mistake again."
"You got Voyager home, that means I will too. If it takes a few more years, then that's…"
The Admiral, fully aware of the fine line she walked, went for the jugular.
"Seven of Nine is going to die."
"Three years from now. She'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager, and die in the arms of her husband."
There was a hardness of truth about the Admiral. She spoke again, "He'll never be the same after Seven's death. And neither will you."
The Admiral looked into the other woman's eyes, trying to see some emotion, some understanding of the Captain's true loss. It wasn't there. The Captain could not remember what she herself had not remembered only a short time ago. She was sickened once again at the revelation of how they all had been violated.
"If I know what's going to happen I can avoid it," the Captain attempted.
"Seven's not the only one. Between this day and the day I got Voyager home, I lost twenty-two crewmembers. And then, of course, there's Tuvok."
"What about him?" The Captain snapped.
"You're forgetting the Temporal Prime Directive, Captain."
"To hell with it!"
"Fine, Tuvok has a degenerative neurological condition that he hasn't told you about."
Again the Captain appeared to have been punched in the stomach.
"There's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant." The Admiral continued. "If he doesn't get it in time, even if you alter Voyager's route, limit your contact with alien species, you're going to lose people. But I'm offering you a chance to get them all home safe and sound—today! Are you really going to walk away from that?"
The senior staff held their planning meeting in the Briefing Room, analyzing every last possibility.
The Admiral had been lobbying the crew; she had been pretty sure of the failure of this tactic. She also knew that the Captain was aware of that failure. What the Captain did not know was that it was meant to fail. She stood, watching the crew and biding her time.
"Once inside we'd fire a spread of transphasic torpedoes," Tuvok continued with his report.
Seven added, "They would be programmed to detonate simultaneously."
"If the torpedoes penetrate the shielding, the conduits should begin to collapse in a cascade reaction," Tuvok continued with his report. "In order to avoid the shock wave we'd have ten seconds to exit the hub."
The Captain began, "A long time ago I made a decision that stranded this crew in the Delta quadrant. I don't regret that decision. But I didn't know all of you then, and Voyager was just a starship. It's more than that now. It's become our home. I know I could order you to carry out this plan, and none of you would hesitate for a second. But I'm not going to do that. You know the crewmen who work under you, and you know what your own hearts are telling you. So we're not going to attempt this unless everyone in this room agrees. No one will think less of you if you don't."
Harry Kim was the first to speak, "Captain?"
"Go ahead Harry."
"I think it's safe to say that no one on this crew has been more obsessed with getting home than I have." He sat his coffee cup on the table and walked around the room. "But when I think about everything we've been through together, maybe it's not the destination that matters… maybe it's the journey," he paused for a moment. "And if that journey takes a little longer so we can all do something we believe in, I can't think of any place I'd rather be, or any people I'd rather be with."
Tom Paris held up his coffee cup. "To the journey."
And one by one the others followed his lead raising their cups, as Chakotay added, "Hear, Hear."
"To the journey." They were together.
The Admiral allowed herself a moment of pride. She knew this crew and what they would do for their captain. She was almost there.
The Admiral entered the mess hall. The Captain sat near the window, looking at the passing stars and drinking a cup of coffee. The Admiral walked to the replicator and placed her order.
The Captain turned, "I thought you gave that up."
"I've decided to revive a few of my old habits." The Admiral walked to the viewport.
"Oh? What else, besides the coffee?"
Admiral Janeway relaxed. She gave the younger woman a smile, knowing that her goal was reached, and she told her last lie. "Oh well…I used to be much more idealistic. I took a lot of risks. I've been so determined to get this crew home, for so many years. That I think I forgot how much they loved being together, how loyal they were to you." She turned back to the Captain. "It's taken me a few days to realize it. This is your ship, your crew. Not mine. I was wrong to lie to you, to think I could talk you out of something you'd set your mind to."
"You were only trying to do what you thought was right for all of us."
"Well you've changed my mind about that." The Admiral moved to sit in the chair facing the Captain. "And I'd like to help you carry out your mission. Maybe together we can increase our odds."
The Admiral's statement had caught the Captain by surprise. Then the Captain spoke the words that the older woman was waiting for: "Maybe we can do more than that. There's got to be a way to have our cake and eat it too."
The Admiral baited her one last time. "We can't destroy the hub and get Voyager home."
The Captain leaned forward, "Are you absolutely sure about that?"
"There might be a way. I considered it once…but it seemed too risky."
The Captain smiled, "That was before you decided to revive your old habits."
The Admiral smiled back at the younger woman, held up her cup to smell the aroma of her coffee and said, "I don't know why I ever gave this up." She was home free.
The atmosphere of Voyager was tense with anticipation; everyone was deadly serious about the next meeting with the Borg. Admiral Janeway stepped into the sickbay, the quietest spot on the whole vessel. She still had one loose end left to tie up.
She entered the Doctor's office as the two men seated at the desk looked up at her.
The Doctor spoke first, "Why did you ask to see Mr. Kim and I?"
"First of all, I need to ask you to keep everything I tell you in the strictest confidence. I can assure you that lives are at stake here. I know some of the things I have to say will on the surface seem absurd, but please bear with me because I have the proof." She laid a PADD on the desk.
The Admiral began to tell her story as the two men listened in almost stunned silence. Occasionally one or the other would ask a question, and the Admiral would answer, often referring to some data on the PADD. When she was through the men slumped down in their chairs, the weight of the world on both men's shoulders.
"This PADD contains the formula for a neural suppressant that will block the link from self-destructing. I have used it since Chakotay's death. But it will not give them back what the Borg have blocked off."
"I would suggest that the links be removed. But how? Even if I had the procedure, how do I know that the surgery wouldn't set off the destruction?"
The admiral patted the Doctor's hand. "The procedure is on the PADD with the formula. My Doctor worked on it night and day for almost three years. He thought he was doing it for me, but I wanted it for us all. He was convinced that the formula would protect me through the removal. He never got the chance to try it.
"I think that when we destroy the hub tomorrow your Captain and the others will be freed from the blocks, at least in the short term. All of my intelligence reports show that the links transmit from this hub. If that is so, then it would be safe to give them this information and remove the links."
"How would I know?" The Doctor questioned.
"Oh, I think you'll know," the Admiral reassured him. "My own reaction was pretty dramatic; it was a good thing I was alone. I can tell you this; the Borg shut off a significant part of my life. It was gone and I didn't even remember forgetting it."
Harry looked down at his hands and, in almost a whisper, said, "She doesn't smile at him anymore."
"What?" the Admiral looked at him.
Harry gave a sad smile and shrugged his shoulders slightly. "The Captain. She doesn't smile at Chakotay. I mean, she does but I haven't seen that special smile in a while and the look he returns to her is gone too," he looked directly at the Admiral. "They've forgotten what they mean to each other, haven't they?"
She gave a small nod of affirmation as unshed tears filled her eyes.
"Admiral, I understand why you would trust the Doctor with this information. His special encryption codes would keep this information safe, but why me?"
"Harry, you are correct. The Doctor has to know this, but as a safeguard someone else needs to know also -- someone unaffected by Borg technology. I have always been able to count on you Harry. So why not you? I know you wouldn't let me down now."
Harry and the Admiral stood up; the Doctor still sat toying with the PADD. She turned around looking out into the sickbay. "If we don't make it to the Alpha Quadrant tomorrow, you at least have enough information to save them," she said to the doctor.
"I guess we're through here, I really need to get some sleep." Harry moved toward the door. He paused and added, "Good night, Admiral."
She still faced out into the sickbay. "Harry, promise me one thing," she turned back. "No matter if you get to the Alpha Quadrant tomorrow or sixteen years from now, don't give up on Libby. She hasn't given up on you."
He paused then nodded and quietly left the room. The Admiral again turned around.
"Was there anything else, Admiral?"
"Yes. I am going to use my synaptic transceiver and my shuttle's neural interface to transmit back to your system. You should receive at least an audio transmission of my confrontation with the Queen. Make sure the transmission is encoded so that only you can open it. Maybe there will be some kind of clue. We still don't know -- why?"
She turned to go and the Doctor inquired. "You're not coming back, are you?"
Admiral Janeway sighed, then gave him the same answer she had given to Captain Kim a few days before. "This was always meant to be a one-way trip."
"You really care that much." It was not a question but rather a statement of fact.
She faced him again, "You are all the closest thing to children I ever had. How could I not care that much?"
Then she too, left the Doctor's office, to seek out her bed and the sleep that would not come.
The Admiral sat at the helm of her shuttlecraft staring down at the hypospray in her hand. Her preflight check was complete, she was ready to go. Only this one last thing left to do.
A voice broke into her thoughts, "What is that?" She looked up to see the Captain looking down at her.
"It is a neurolytic pathogen, plan B, just in case they discover my hiding place. It causes a disruption of the Collective's neural links by causing breakdowns in the interfaces between their mechanical and biological parts. It should buy you a little more time."
"You don't mean to come back, do you?"
The Admiral took a deep breath and decided the last words with her younger self could finally be the truth. She looked into her counterpart's eyes and saw her own determination reflected back, "I always knew that this would be a one-way trip."
She started toward her neck with the hypospray, "It's about time. I'm not getting any younger, you know."
The younger woman took the hypo, checked the adjustment, and then injected the admiral. "You're sure you want to do this?"
"No, but Voyager isn't big enough for the both of us," the older woman smiled up at the Captain.
The Admiral watched as the Captain straightened her back, pulling herself to her full height. She watched herself become bigger than life, ready to go back to the bridge, to take charge as she was meant to, and was proud.
"Good luck, Admiral."
"You too. Captain…I'm glad I got to know you again."
Captain Kathryn Janeway exiting the shuttle, and walked through the bay doors. She never looked back.
The Admiral breathed a sigh of relief, launched the shuttle, and instantly went to warp on a heading for the Borg nebula and the transwarp hub. She activated the stealth cloak, entered a conduit and piloted her shuttle to the Central Nexus -- the last leg of her journey.
"I don't know how you do it," Admiral Janeway said as she looked up at the Borg Queen.
The Queen's eyes snapped open at the sound of Kathryn Janeway's voice in the Central Nexus.
"All those voices talking at once. You must get terrible headaches."
The Queen frowned and tilted her head toward the Admiral.
The Admiral continued, "If you're calling drones to assimilate me, don't bother."
"I don't need drones to assimilate you." She pulled up her hand, the tubules extending and plunged them into the Admiral's neck.
Kathryn didn't flinch even though the tubules pierced her throat. She explained, "I'm not actually here. 'Your Majesty.' I am in your mind."
The Queen retracted the tubules. "How?"
"I'm using a synaptic interface. If I were you, I wouldn't waste my time trying to trace the signal. For the moment, it's beyond your abilities." The Admiral fought to buy as much time as she could. Fortunately, deception was one of the strongest weapons against the Borg; when all minds were one, deception had no purpose.
The Queen shot back a dark look, "What do you want?" as she circled around the Admiral.
"To make a deal. Captain Janeway thinks I'm here to help her destroy your transwarp network." Here she reached her final hurdle. No one knew just how closely the Borg victims were monitored or how closely they were controlled. The Admiral prayed for the safety of all.
"That's beyond your abilities." The Queen walked away.
The Admiral was careful not to show her relief. "I know that. And I tried to explain to that my naïve younger self, but she wouldn't listen. She's determined to bring down that hub."
"She will fail."
"Yes. But she has weapons that I brought from the future. I believe you're familiar with them."
"Transphasic torpedoes. We will adapt."
"Eventually, but not before Voyager does a great deal of damage. I'm willing to tell you how to adapt to those weapons now."
"In exchange for what?"
"Send a cube to tractor Voyager and drag them back to the Alpha Quadrant." That was one request the Admiral knew the Queen could not grant.
"You're asking me to believe that the incorruptible Kathryn Janeway would betray her own crew."
"Not betray them, save them from themselves. I brought technology to help Voyager get home, but the captain's arrogant, self-righteous… and her officers are so blinded by loyalty that they're prepared to sacrifice their lives just to deal a crippling blow to the Borg."
The Queen raised her chin, "But you'd never try to harm us."
"I've become a pragmatist in my old age. All I want is to get that crew back to their families."
"You wish to insure the well-being of your 'collective.' I can appreciate that. I'll help you. But it'll cost more than you're offering."
"What else do you want?" There was nothing like bargaining to buy time; she had done it often enough.
"Your vessel and its database."
There was nothing to be gained there but the Queen didn't know that. "I told you…I'll show you how to adapt their torpedoes."
"If I let you assimilate technology from the future, there's no telling how events would be altered."
"You're willing to alter the future by getting Voyager home now."
"Yes, but there's a difference."
"Do what all good "pragmatists' do, Admiral, compromise."
"All right, I'll give you the shuttle." The Admiral turned to the Queen, "After the ship arrives safely in the Alpha Quadrant." She knew that the Queen could not grant that request either.
"You've already lied to your younger self. How do I know you're not lying to me?"
"I guess you'll just have to trust me." All that the Borg could do was trust one's words. Nevertheless, she knew her time was running out.
"That won't be necessary. You've underestimated me, Admiral. While we've been talking, my drones have triangulated on your signal."
"Computer, deactivate interface! Deploy armor!" and her consciousness was back in her shuttle. She knew that the real game began here.
The Admiral pushed the one button to reactivate the link to Voyager and waited for the transport that would take her back to the Queen, in person this time.
She didn't have long to wait. The Borg Queen took the bait.
The Admiral rematerialized in front of the Borg Queen.
"Very clever hiding right on my doorstep. Were you planning to attack us from inside the Unicomplex?" Then the truth dawned on her. "You are not planning to change the future, you were going to restore it. Do you really believe that I would allow that to happen? I have worked too hard; I will not even allow my enemy to be born. The Collective will remain."
The Admiral, aware of the Queen's need to gloat, decided to buy a little more time and -- just maybe -- get some answers. She now knew that in the game between the Borg and the rest of the galaxy, the Borg were losing. She could only hope to force the endgame scenario right here, right now.
"I have not been completely quiet to the Captain. She knows about Seven's and Chakotay's unborn child and Seven's death. She will be able to stop you." The Admiral had the Queen in a trap that the Queen wasn't even aware of.
"Seven was always a favorite of mine. I did not assimilate Voyager because she cared about its people. But I have always known that if we were not careful she would betray us.
"You think that insignificant piece of flesh conceived by that traitor drone and your first officer concerns me. I would have much more to fear from any child that you and he would create together, so I keep you two apart. It was only added satisfaction that we used Seven to do so. No, the real enemy is the daughter that should have been conceived by Seven of Nine and Five of Twelve. I will have him killed when he enters the Alpha Quadrant, and her shortly thereafter. The Collective will continue."
Finally the last piece of the puzzle shifted into position. The Admiral indulged herself in a moment of relief with the realization that Chakotay and she could be together. She remembered him ravaged by illness, his hair completely gray and his love for her shining from his eyes. He was the other half of her soul.
"Not feeling talkative? That's all right." The Queen brought up her arm; her tubules jumped out and bit into the admiral's neck. The Admiral fell back in agony, slumping to the floor, as Borg technology began to move within her.
"You and I don't need words to understand each other," the Queen said.
Admiral Janeway felt the voices begin, whispering in the back of her mind as she hung on to her humanity as long as possible.
Her mind expanded and she saw Voyager enter the nebula's clear center. She smiled inwardly as the tiny starship with an unwavering purpose plunged into one of the glowing apertures. With a flash of light it disappeared. Then she could hear the voice of the Collective.
VOYAGER HAS ENTERED APERTURE EIGHT TWO THREE
ACCESS: TRANSWARP CORRIDOR ZERO NINE
Now she could only wait as the Queen looked on in triumph; a triumph that only Kathryn knew would be short-lived. She would be forcing checkmate shortly.
REDIRECT VESSELS TO INTERCEPT AT THE SUBJUNCTION NINE
ZERO NINE TRANSWARP
The voices in the Admiral's head suddenly became confusing, reacting to a high pitched whine. This time the Queen stumbled with pain.
The Queen looked down at the woman on the floor, her panic evident.
Janeway looked up and with a tiny smile, "Must be…something…you assimilated…" Checkmate.
"What have you done?"
"I thought we didn't…need words to…understand each other."
Consoles started to explode around them, shooting sparks everywhere.
The Queen jerked with pain, "You've infected us! A neurolytic pathogen!"
The Admiral smiled again, "Just enough to bring chaos to order. Your conduit's shielding is destabilizing…look…let's watch together, Your Majesty…Voyager is firing its transphasic torpedoes…they're ripping through the interspatial manifold…"
Together they watched the transphasic torpedoes tear through the Borg hardware, destroying everything in their path. Fire shot through the hub and it began to collapse in on itself.
"Voyager will be destroyed."
"They're ahead of the shock waves. They'll survive…Captain Janeway and I made sure of that…it's you who underestimated us." She pulled herself up.
The Queen's body jerked again; her shoulder sparked and began to fall away. Like the fox caught in a trap that chewed his own leg off, she pulled the offending appendage from her shoulder, tossing it across the floor. She didn't react, just tilted her head and looked at a sphere that appeared on the floating view screen.
"Sphere six three four, they can still hear my thoughts." Her eyes closed as she focused on her telepathic command. "I may have assimilated your pathogen but I also assimilated your armor technology."
She fell again as her right leg fell away from her body. With one last show of strength she pulled herself up to stand next to Admiral Janeway. Then she looked back at the Admiral as the complex around them blew itself into pieces, and the Queen in concert begin to fall apart and again she fell to the floor.
"Captain Janeway is about to die," she threatened. "If she has no future…you'll never exist…and nothing you've done here today will happen."
Admiral Janeway accepted the statement stoically; she knew that her younger self's death was always a possibility. But she decided to trust herself.
As she felt herself let go Admiral Kathryn Janeway indulged in a few last thoughts. She saw love shining forth from dark eyes and one last time heard his whispered words of love. This time she could return them and whispered her love back to the other half of her soul.
In Voyager's sickbay the Doctor and B'Elanna Torres Paris struggled to bring forth new life. He had noted the Admiral's link as it switched off, but was relieved as it switched back on.
Now again he felt it close and knew she was gone.
The transwarp hub spread out before them.
"Take us in," the Captain ordered.
"Aye Captain," Tom returned and they entered an aperture.
Seven looked up from her console, "The Admiral succeeded, Captain. The conduit shielding is destabilizing."
The Captain gave the order, "Now Mr. Tuvok." The aft torpedo bay opened and spewed forth destruction.
"Aft armor is down to six percent," Tuvok called as a Borg sphere bore down upon them with its aperture opening.
Kim's report came next, "Hull breaches on decks six through twelve!"
Paris, the strain showing, call out, "I can't stay ahead of them, Captain?"
"The armor is failing."
Chakotay called out to Seven as he crossed to the former drone's station, "Where's the nearest aperture?"
"Approximately thirty seconds ahead — but it leads back to the Delta Quadrant!"
"Mr. Paris, prepare to adjust your heading!" She fed him the coordinates from her console.
Again the Captain called out. "Mr. Paris, what's our position?"
And Tom answered. "Right where we expected to be."
"The transwarp network has been obliterated," Seven reported.
"We'll celebrate later."
They were now inside the sphere speeding toward an opening and home.
Captain Kathryn Janeway watched the torpedoes jump away from Voyager, speeding toward the sphere's outer hull and connecting with it, as they burst out of the transwarp conduit and Voyager burst out of the Borg sphere.
Suddenly she felt her mind clear and knew that a piece of her life had returned. Her eyes sought out his and saw that she was not alone in her revelation. Chakotay stepped away from his place by Seven, his eyes locked with Kathryn's, and calmly joined her in front of the command chairs. The Captain and the Commander returned looking at the view screen in time to see the sphere disintegrate around them, and flying through the debris toward the Starfleet armada that waited.
Seven, too, had experienced a revelation. Axum's face appeared before her and she suddenly remembered their promise to find each other. "Why have I forgotten that?"
Then the cheering on the bridge commenced, as the Captain breathed, "We did it."
Harry Kim called out for attention, "We're being hailed."
Admiral Owen Paris's face appeared on the main screen with a few other high-ranking officers, and the Captain could see Reginald Barclay to one side.
"Sorry to surprise you… next time we'll call ahead."
"Welcome back," Admiral Paris's voice was full of emotion.
"It's good to be here."
"How did you— "
"It'll all be in my report, sir."
"I'll look forward to it!"
Then the transmission ended and the Captain spoke quietly to herself. "Thanks for your help, Admiral Janeway."
"Sickbay to Lieutenant Paris."
Emotion rippled across the bridge as they heard the Doctor's voice, and in the background, the wail of an infant.
"There's someone here who'd like to say hello."
Tom turned in his chair to look at the Captain.
"You'd better get down here, Tom."
Then she added "Mr. Chakotay, take the helm," as she looked up at him, love shining out from her eyes.
"Aye, Captain!" as the first officer sat down in the vacated chair.
Seven quietly contemplated the scene around her. She was trying to sort through the confusion that had assaulted her. One thing was clear though; she had deeply hurt her friend and she found that she needed to speak to him and make things right.
"Lieutenant Paris, I will accompany you," and headed for the turbo lift.
The Captain sat back in her seat finally relaxing.
Chakotay turned, "Course, Captain?"
"Set a course for home," Kathryn gave him her special smile.
Seven of Nine entered sickbay behind Tom Paris, catching the attention of the Doctor, she motioned him to meet her in his office. She entered and he quickly followed here.
"Is there something wrong, Seven."
"Something has happened. I'm not sure," she hesitated. "This is confusing, but one thing is clear to me. I have caused you pain and I must apologize to you." She continued, "The other day, when I was talking to you about the removal of the failsafe device in my cortical node." She paused a moment. "You made an offer and I am afraid that I was abrupt with my answer. I caused you pain and I do not know why."
"Seven, I don't want you to worry about this. Our friendship can stand a few rough spots. I probably understand your questions better than anyone does right now. In fact, there are probably a few more people on this ship asking questions too. I may be in a position to help all of you.
"Go back to your station. I am sure the Captain will call a meeting in a few minutes and I'll see that you'll get some answers. Trust me."
Seven sighed, smiled back at the Doctor and left sickbay.
The Doctor touched his combadge. "Doctor to Ensign Kim."
"Admiral Janeway was right and the time is now."
Harry Kim looked down at the helm. Chakotay was gazing up at the main screen. Kathryn was beside him her left arm across his back, her left hand on his shoulder. "Yes," he acknowledged. "I know exactly what you mean."
The meeting was called immediately after they entered Earth's orbit.
Captain Janeway entered the briefing room with Admiral Paris, and Chakotay followed with Reg Barclay. Harry fiddled with the monitor so Tom and B'Elanna could take part from sickbay.
As everyone begin to take their seats, the Doctor entered with Icheb. "Captain, Admiral Janeway has left one last message. Since this also concerns Icheb, I took the liberty of asking him to be here."
"Well Doctor," she nodded, "Would you like to start?"
As the Doctor placed the chip in the console, he though just how much this information would change the lives in this room. He had reviewed it just before this meeting and he knew that the last part containing the audio transmission of the Admiral's confrontation with the Borg Queen would be hard for them to hear. But they needed to hear it; they needed to understand. He had already made the arrangements for the removal of their neural links.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway appeared on the screen. With her back ramrod straight and every white hair in place, she began: "It should come as no surprise that I have not been entirely truthful with all of you." She smiled, "But if you are viewing this then the time for truth has come…"
Chakotay reached out for Kathryn's hand. She took it, holding on tight as the story of just how much they had been violated was told. They also realized just how much the Admiral had cared for them and just how much they were loved.
Admiral Janeway had not only brought her children home; she had given them back their lives.
Seven of Nine – now going by her human name Annika Hansen -- stood at the tactical station on the bridge of the Enterprise-E. She had waited for this moment for months. They were the welcoming committee for a group of former Borg drones led by Axum.
They knew from the last message left by the older Admiral Janeway that before this meeting had been a confrontation and the freed drones had lost. This time they would be met with friendship and peace; she would meet Axum with love.
She looked across the bridge at her three companions: her former captain, her former first officer, and her old friend the EMH.
Kathryn Janeway caught Annika's eye and smiled an encouraging smile at her. Admiral Janeway and Captain Chakotay had recently married and had chosen to go with her to meet Axum and the others, to give their support. She realized that she did love them as the surrogate parents they had become. They gave her support, they gave her strength, and in a few months they would give her a little surrogate brother.
She felt the Doctor give her hand a little squeeze, a strangely comforting gesture. He was here not only to support her but also to use his medical expertise to help in the removal of the freed drones' Borg implants. Both he and Doctor Beverly Crusher were the Federation experts in the procedure.
The Doctor and Annika had had several long talks about his feeling for her. They both learned that he had projected his feelings for Danara Pel to her, just as the Borg Queen had used Annika's repressed love for Axum to involve her with Chakotay. She had vowed to herself to find a way for the Doctor and his love to be reunited.
Voyagerand her crew had been home only for a short time when the subspace message had come: some of the former drones from Unimatrix Zero had taken over a cube in the confusion caused by the destruction of the Queen. Annika had discovered that Axum was alive and he was coming to her.
With the prospect of an entire Borg cube with all its technology intact, the Federation quickly began to plan the meeting. Starfleet's flagship, the Enterprise, had been called in. Experts in the removal of Borg implants from humanoid bodies had been assigned to the mission, and those that had some experience in the process had volunteered to accompany them.
Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, Icheb, B'Elanna Torres, Tuvok, and even Captain Picard had all been touched by the Borg. They would now use that experience to help Axum and the others.
The Enterprise waited at the coordinates for the rendezvous. On the screen a single Borg cube could be seen, coming to meet them.
"Captain, we are being hailed."
Annika barely heard the words of welcome from Captain Picard, she could only see Axum on the view screen and she knew the Axum could only see her. Annika Hansen had come home.