Stopgap Measures



Disclaimer: Well, honestly. Would anyone believe I came up with ALL this on my own?



Chapter One



The endless party of last year. The Federation had desperately needed something to celebrate about, it seemed. For a moment they forgot about the myriad troubles that had plagued them for the near-decade that Voyager had been lost. Cardassians and the Dominion War, the Borg . . . perhaps that was the most celebrated achievement. The implosion of the Borg Collective and its subsequent limping retreat back into the far depths of space.

The temporal paradoxes gave her headaches to think about. The effects could have been erased, could have continued. Now that she was home -home earlier compared to some things- did the Admiral, such as she was, still exist? It seemed at least the pathogen had survived. Was that older version of herself still with them, then?

Kathryn shook her head, dispelling some of her musings. She glanced at her coffee mug. The beverage was cold. She still gloried in real coffee . . . she had practically lived off of it ever since hitting terra firma, much to the dismay of some. To her own dismay the ever insistent archivists at Starfleet Communications and Academy alike had sent up another kilometre-high pile of padds for her perusal. Copies of her official logs. She still stood firm on opening her personal logs. They could muck through all that when she was dead, no sooner.

"Clarify!" the hasty missives demanded, indicating various things in the logs. They had the most trouble with the later log entries, since she had included many unclear points. Aboard the ship, everything was understood as a matter of course. Voyager wasn't termed a family without reason. Every family has its nuances.

Its secrets.

Voyager was no different, and in some cases she didn't want to clarify for the persnickety historians, librarians et al . . . but if she didn't, they'd speculate, and historical accounts would go out the window like they always did, into fantasy. It pained her to think of those years as "history" to be written about, analysed, rehashed, taught . . . God, taught. She was a subject in Starfleet history already, and she'd only been back a year.

And in a year, Starfleet had taken Voyager out of duty and turned it into a museum as the Admiral had described. For a while, she'd wondered if they were even going to let them take their personal effects of the ship . . . but she had to admit that the ready room looked pretty bare now.

That little plan had been enacted but the ever-busy Admiral Paris, who was nearly as aggravating as the archivists when it came to her logs. His no-longer-so-errant son had taken his chances when they landed and was now most officially AWOL . . . along with his wife and their year-old daughter. She knew exactly where he was and why he was hiding. Admiral Paris would grill him to death over his apparent miraculous reform if she ever let on. Miraculous? Wasn't seven years quite enough time, honestly? Why couldn't they leave it all alone? Like anyone wanted to talk about half the things that went on . . .

Poor Seven had been practically interned at Starfleet Medical for her first three months on Earth until they all raised enough of a racket about it to get the overeager scientists to lay off. The Doctor had proved quite resourceful and useful in that capacity. He had been had his most abrasive the whole time, wrangling at the Starfleet doctors with endless holographic energy. Kathryn had been on damage control . . . trying to keep Chakotay from falling apart.

She squinted her eyes shut. Even "home" was fraught with problems. Thankfully she could finally get down to work again, now that most of the furor had died down. Even if so far she was still stuck on desk duty. Captains at desks, what a ludicrous thing. That was why she had turned down her promotion. She was not going to be stuck here for the rest of her career. She needed to be back in space, preferably in a new ship with as much of her crew as she could wheedle into coming along with her.

She smiled slightly, picking up a padd from the desk and reading it. She immediately put it back down. One week after New Earth. Would they not leave that alone? She didn't want to "clarify" every little thing for their benefit.

She was feeling contrary. Too many years of being the first in command, the only censorious Starfleet voice within thousands of light-years. As Tom had once observed "the Undisputed Queen of the Delta Quadrant Fleet." Of course that was pure nonsense in itself, but the initial thought applied. Of course, Chakotay had had his two cents put in at regular intervals, usually when she wasn't looking.

The door to her small office swished open, and she looked up reflexively. Old habits died very hard, and she half expected to see Chakotay enter, perhaps Tuvok had the Vulcan decided she needed a little logic drummed into her. But this was not her ready room, and the person who entered was hardly Chakotay. Instead it was one Lieutenant -Junior Grade- Erin Lange, a pretty woman of about twenty-five whose brilliant green eyes were perhaps larger than even Seven's. She served as her secretary, and had the uncannily familiar notion that "Captain Kathryn" as she called her superior fondly, was in need of some very serious looking-after. If their looks and ages weren't so in contrast, she might have likened the young Lieutenant to one overprotective Commander in her acquaintance.

"Erin!" Kathryn said, smiling widely for the other woman's benefit. Then she took a good long look at her. The younger woman's face was quite downcast, and she had a small padd in her hand. She stopped in front of the desk hand held the note out.

"A VO message from Commander Chakotay," she said quietly, turning to leave.

Bad news. Bad news! Erin never left unless she knew it wasn't something she should be around for. Chakotay's note . . . what would . . . ?

God in heaven . . . the baby. . . .

She shot out of her chair and out of the office, running full tilt down the long hall.

***



The Doctor stood against the wall watching his former Captain pacing up and down like a caged animal, muttering imprecations under her breath about the very gall of the Starfleet doctors to keep them hanging to dry out in the waiting area.

He shared many of her sentiments. He was a doctor! And as fit a one as any of the others in that small room. They were probably using his procedures, though stopping at intervals and wasting precious time to ooh and ahh over Borg physiological components. Hadn't they scanned and poked and prodded her enough already? His opinion of Starfleet Medical had been severely brought down in recent times.

Even after all this time it was still not beyond him to feel a twist of artificial jealousy at the fact that Chakotay was allowed into the impromptu surgical area. But he didn't have to be in there to know what had happened. He had been there the first time, after all, and had berated Chakotay soundly about not consulting with at least some description of doctor before . . .

Who cared about that? What mattered right now was that those inept doctors in there didn't try their fancied-up version of a D&C and kill her in the process. Chakotay knew better than to let them do that.

Oh, he'd warned her! Begged her to give it up for her own good! But no, Seven of Nine was intent on children. At first it had seemed to go rather well, until certain systems in her body took exception to a "foreign" life sign in her body. Damn the Borg anyhow! Damn them for doing such a complete job on her that even the much vaunted new Mach 7 Emergency Medical Holograms -for all their bells and whistles- could not figure out a way to fully disengage everything. He had done the best he could . . . even wrecking the motor functions of her right hand in the process . . . and yet she still trusted him to free her of the Borg. It was impossible, but she refused to realize that.

He ground his holographic teeth. Fallacy! Total fallacy! She had nearly bled to death the first time, wasn't it enough? Her immune system was pitifully underdeveloped. She had been raised from a young age in the sterile environment of a ship, assimilated -and the Borg didn't catch bugs- and then freed . . . to live on another sterile ship. And that ship was sterile because he had insisted it be that way. The Borg, for all their perfection, had never deigned to learn how to reinforce Human immune responses. Her first months on Earth had been one influenza attack after another, and she was a pale shadow of what she had once been.

It almost made his databanks twist in grief. Damn adaptive programming as well.

She never sang anymore.

There was the sound of running feet and an abrupt skidding sound as Harry Kim -now Lieutenant Kim- almost slid past the door in his haste. He grasped at the doorframe and steadied himself, looking with desperate eyes at the pacing Captain.

"Is she all right? When did they get here?" he demanded.

The Captain was not feeling responsive, and kept pacing.

"Four hours," the Doctor replied quietly. "And we haven't heard a thing."

"Not a damned thing," the Captain added in a dark tone. It was exact tone of voice that had made many an alien reconsider the probability of his continued good health, and wonder if his appendages were really that firmly attached. In all honestly, Kathryn Janeway could exude more implied violence in one sentence than an entire platoon of armed Klingon warriors, when she was angry. She would put the fear of God into those doctors when they emerged.

He was unaccountably proud of his Captain for that.

Harry passed a hand through his dark hair. "Four hours," he breathed. "Is the-?"

The Doctor shook his head, belaying the question. "The infant did not survive. Even with the treatments, her body rejected it as totally as the first. I doubt she'll be able to even attempt another pregnancy."

In a rare moment, Harry swore, eyes aggrieved as he looked from the Captain to the Doctor. "Oh . . . poor Seven. Poor Chakotay! Where is he?"

"In there," the Captain said, gesturing to the doors across the hall.

"She's right there?"

"Unfortunately," the Doctor murmured, eyes wandering to the austere gray doors. Standard Starfleet decor, but more desolate than they had ever seemed before.

Harry fairly collapsed into a chair, rubbing his hands over his face as if trying to dispel what he knew. What Voyager crew members knew of Seven's troubles had been collectively holding their breath for a long while now. Did she know how much these people loved her? How much he did? This would be an unprecedented blow to young Naomi Wildman, who had remained in close contact with Seven. It would be a blow to everyone. It was.

"Why aren't you in there, Doctor?" Harry asked.

"They won't let me."

The young man's grieving features contorted into anger. "That's idiocy! You know more about treating her than any of them could even hope to! Arrogant-"

The Captain belayed him with a sharp gesture, eyes turned to the doorway. There stood Chakotay, looking at the three of them with almost soulless eyes. The Doctor heard the Captain let out a sob as her angry resolve visibly shattered.

The dread of his news hung in the air tangibly.



To be continued

***