STAR TREK: VOYAGER
An Original J/7 Voyager Story
2008 by Patricia L. Givens
Disclaimer #1:This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. I have borrowed them for the purpose of creating this scenario and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.
Disclaimer #2:All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them! ) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.
Disclaimer #3:This story does depict a romantic relationship between two women and it will probably be graphic because, well let's face it, I'm a member of the rabid lesbian horde and I like that kind of thing. If this bothers you then please either delete it as fast as you can or admit that you kind of think your best friend is a hottie. If you are under 18 then you probably know some really good new positions, drop me an email would ya? If this is illegal where you live then you've got bigger things to worry about than whether or not someone finds this on your computer. (Like the Earth's crust shifting and that pesky ice age coming on…)
Who To Blame:This one is all the fault of KathieGOTaGun for coming up with such a cool idea that I had to steal it and run away with it (And I will love it and pet it and call it George!) I also need to thank Ky for putting on the little skirt and picking up the pompoms when I needed it. (Taking a moment of silence to giggle at that image.) Thanks also to Andrea and Anne for continuing to beta read even as I continue to butcher the English language. Big thanks to ZoeAmory for being my partner in crime on this one, even before we knew what it was we were conspiring to do. (Really, your walls do deserve to suffer!) The Vid and the PhotoManip are divine as usual!
A Tip O' The Nib to XV (Why does everyone keep calling her fifteen?) and her Lovely Lady Wife Jane!
This one is dedicated to KathieGOTaGun… cuz the revelation was hers.
This story is set in the time period roughly following Imperfection. There is some disagreement as to the actual year of Janeway's birth. For the sake of my own sanity I just picked the one that seemed to make the most sense.
This is very much a Seven of Nine vehicle, with most of the other characters playing very small parts. Oh and Tom will always be an ensign in my heart…suits his playful nature.
No motorcycles were damaged during the writing of this story, but I would be the first to volunteer to be skinned just to make the leather for that seat.
To all that makes us unique!
"Birth does not lead to greatness; but the cultivation of virtues by a person leads her to greatness"
Chapter One: And It Was Such A Pleasant Morning…
Captain Kathryn Janeway glanced up at the woman sitting across from her in the mess hall, her lips pursing in curiosity when she realized that Seven was being strangely quiet this morning. Even more so than usual. "Something on your mind?" The blonde raised her head and she felt her heart catch painfully at the gentle confusion conveyed in the bright blue eyes.
"Captain," The blonde's brow furrowed as she carefully chose her words. "I am experiencing difficulty with the enormity of the events which have transpired over the last six months. I find myself… returning to the same thoughts repeatedly, regardless of my attempts to categorize them and move on with my existence."
Janeway picked up her coffee mug and took a long drink, her eyes never leaving Seven's face as she thought about how to respond. On one hand, she cared a great deal for the young woman, more in fact than she was comfortable with, and wanted to help her in any way that she could. But on the other hand, there were certain aspects of Seven's most recent experiences that she simply did not want to know about.
For the sake of her own heart.
Sighing, she shrugged slightly. "You've been through a lot, Seven." Her gaze slid down to rest on the table. "You discovered that you had a relationship with someone, and just as you decided to embrace it, it was ripped away from you. That isn't something anyone would get over easily." She raised her eyes again to find the ex-drone looking at her quizzically.
"I was not referring to Axum, Captain."
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. "You weren't?"
"No." Seven cocked her head slightly to one side. "My time in Unimatrix Zero, while… pleasant… was too brief for me to reconnect with Axum on anything more than a basic level. While it is true that I do remember some of what I felt for him, there was simply no time to examine it thoroughly. As such, the emotional resonance of the memories is incomplete."
"You don't… miss him?"
The Borg considered the question carefully. "I do. But I find that the sense of loss where his memory is concerned is more for that which might have been, not for what was."
"I see." The Captain wrapped her fingers around her coffee mug to keep from running them through her hair. So Seven isn't heartbroken over Axum, so what? It doesn't change anything. "So what were you referring to?"
Seven shifted uncomfortably. "The situations which occurred in relation to my cortical node failing. I find the lengths to which Icheb and… others… were willing to go to save my life…perplexing."
"How so?" Janeway sat back in her chair, more relaxed now that she would not have to discuss Seven's feelings for Axum. "You mean a great deal to Icheb and to this crew." And to me. She finished silently.
"The fact that he was willing to risk his life for mine, while unacceptable, was commendable. The concept of giving your life for those you care for is one I have learned quite well from the time I have spent with you. I am honored by his sacrifice."
"So what's the perplexing part?"
Seven looked into her eyes. "Your reaction."
"Yes. While I am well aware that you have often risked your own safety to ensure the safety of this crew, my safety in particular, I have never before heard of a circumstance where you were willing to do another harm to achieve that goal."
"I don't know what you mean."
"When it was apparent that the salvaged cortical node would not suffice, you remarked that you would find another, from a living drone if need be. That is contrary to everything you have ever taught me. I wish to know why you would be willing to go against your own principles."
Janeway felt her stomach drop. "Who told you that?"
"The Doctor." She saw the dark look that passed over the Captain's features and hurried to explain. "When I had given up, he took it upon himself to try and demonstrate reasons why I should not. He seemed to feel that this uncharacteristic remark was telling on your part. But of what, he would not elucidate. Please explain."
The older woman felt her mind begin to race as she tried to figure out a way to diffuse the situation without sharing more information than she was ready to.
"Chakotay to Captain Janeway!"
She held up her hand to stop the conversation, trying to hide the relief she felt. "Go ahead, Chakotay."
"Captain, we've received a distress signal from a vessel approximately a light year from our present position. I've already changed our heading to intercept, but I think you're going to want to come up here."
"Why? What's going on?"
"The signal is Federation, Captain. And there's a hail piggy-backed on top of it… addressed to you and Seven."
Her eyebrows crawled up her forehead. "On our way."
Janeway strode onto the bridge with Seven right behind her. "Report!" She barked as she slid into her command chair.
"We've cleaned up the signal, Captain." Harry's hands flew over his console. "I can connect when ready."
The view screen lit up with a flickering image and Janeway felt her cheek twitch. Oh, for the love of…
"Captain Janeway!" The handsome young officer nodded at her. "Long time no see."
"Not long enough, Lieutenant Ducane." She looked past him to the familiar bridge of the Timeship Relativity. "In fact, I had hoped our association would be a one time thing. No offense."
"None taken." He smiled. "In truth, I would have preferred the same. It is Captain Ducane now, however. Thanks to you."
Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. "There are two things an Officer of a time ship can say to me to make me nervous. Thank you is one of them."
He laughed tightly. "We need to talk."
"And that would be the other." She stood. "I suppose time is of the essence."
She nodded ruefully. "We're en route to you as we speak. If you change your heading we should be able to meet-"
"I'm afraid that isn't possible." He cut her off. "You're going to need to come to us. Maximum warp. I will explain everything when you arrive. And this time, I'll need to speak to your entire senior staff, so I am issuing you clearance to bring them up to speed."
Seven's eyebrow rose as she glanced at the Captain but she said nothing.
"Understood. Maximum warp should put us there in a little over three hours. Janeway out." She turned to find Tuvok and Chakotay both eyeing her curiously. "I need the senior staff in the conference room immediately."
When they were all assembled she looked across the table at Seven and nodded. "You're where this whole thing started so why don't you begin?"
"Yes, Captain." She nodded. "On stardate 52861.2 I was contacted by the Timeship Relativity which was then under the command of one Captain Braxton-"
"Braxton?" Tom sat forward, turning towards Janeway in shock. "The same Braxton-"
The Captain held up her hand to forestall any further questions, earning a curious glance from the ex-Borg. "Hold your questions until the end."
Seven quelled her curiosity and continued. "Captain Braxton recruited me to help him locate a saboteur who was attempting to destroy Voyager by placing a disruptor on board designed to fracture space-time and cause temporal distortions that would demolecularize the hull and tear the ship apart. I proceeded to travel back and forth through time in my attempts to locate first the weapon and then the insurgent. When it became apparent that I was beginning to suffer from sensory aphasia I persuaded the crew of the Relativity to enlist Captain Janeway to assist in our endeavors. With her help we were able to ascertain that the criminal was none other than Braxton's future self, who blamed her for his being stranded in the 20th century, as well as for the temporal psychosis from which he was suffering. Lieutenant Ducane took both the present and past versions of Braxton into custody for reintegration with his future self, at which point he was to be held accountable for his actions. As the Captain and I had only traveled to the past, Ducane did not deem it necessary to resequence our memories. We were, however, placed under strict orders to share the experience with no one. Until now."
"So Braxton ended up blaming you for being stuck on earth for thirty years?" Chakotay shook his head. "Even though it was his actions that set the whole chain of events into motion in the first place?"
"Apparently he conveniently forgot the definition of a Causality Loop." Janeway retrieved a cup of coffee from the replicator, hoping that it would help the pounding behind her eyes.
"So what does all of this have to do with Voyager now?" Tuvok asked. "It would seem that situation has been resolved. Why would Captain Ducane need our aid at this time?"
She sighed. "I wish I knew. But it looks like we're going to have to wait to find out what's going on until we rendezvous with Relativity. In the meantime, I want complete diagnostics run on all essential ship systems, from the warp core to the replicators. Whatever it is, I want to be prepared for it. Dismissed."
The senior officers filed out one by one until only the Captain and Seven were left sitting at the table. She glanced at the Borg curiously. "Yes?"
"Captain, I believe I am lacking information in regards to your past dealings with Braxton. I feel it would be prudent if you were to 'fill me in'."
"Of course." She nodded. "I actually had my first run in with Braxton the year before you joined us. At that time he was captain of the Timeship Aeon. He sought to destroy us in an attempt to prevent a disaster that would result in the complete eradication of Earth's solar system in the 29th century. The Time Corps had found wreckage from Voyager's secondary hull in the debris after the explosion and assumed that we were somehow involved. He refused to explain anything further and I felt that his refusal to be more forthcoming prevented me from accepting his conclusion that our destruction would somehow prevent the event from occurring. Our ships engaged and his was damaged during the fight, resulting in both of our vessels being thrown back in time, his to 1967 and Voyager to 1997. It was there that we came across Braxton again. He was living on the streets as his ship had been stolen by a man named Starling. Starling ran a computer company called Chronowerks and was cannibalizing the Aeon's technology to further the advancement of his own company. He was determined to use the ship to jump to the 29th century to acquire even more technology. It was that jump that was to cause the paradox that would destroy Earth."
Seven nodded thoughtfully. "I assume that since we are all still here you succeeded in your attempt to stop him."
"Yes." She sighed. "At the time I thought that would put an end to our interaction with the Time Corps. Obviously I was wrong."
"What do you surmise is the reason for our current interaction?"
Janeway exhaled sharply. "I don't know, Seven. But whatever it is, I somehow doubt I'm going to like it."
"We are within visual range, Captain."
"Thank you, Mr. Kim." She faced forward. "On screen."
"Oh my god." Tom breathed quietly as the rest of the bridge crew took in the image on the main view screen with varying degrees of shock.
The Relativity hung in space before them. It was listing slightly to one side and venting plasma from a gaping hole in its underbelly. As they watched a small explosion ripped through the port nacelle, causing the ship to shudder until a force field shimmered into place. Hanging by a thin tendril of conduit from its underside was a long thin silver tube.
"Is that the warp core?" B'Elanna whispered.
Seven tapped her console. "Their propulsion, shields and weapons are offline. Life support is at minimal."
"Open a channel." The image shifted to that of Captain Ducane. He was standing before the tactical console.
"Captain Janeway." He nodded. "You made good time. Thank you."
Janeway stood. "I would suggest we save the small talk for later, Captain. Our sensors show your life support is about to fail. We need to begin an immediate evacuation of your personnel."
"Agreed. I have my crew standing by for transport in the cargo bay, except for a small security squad overseeing a prisoner in the Brig. If you could facilitate his transport directly to a holding cell, I would feel much more comfortable about it."
Janeway glanced at Tuvok. "Do it, and meet his squad there." She turned back to Ducane. "How large a crew complement are we talking about here?"
"Not large; sixteen crewmembers including myself."
"I think we can find room for you. Prepare for transport. Janeway out." She walked up behind Seven and glanced at her computer screen, trying to ignore the faint vibration that went through her due to the other woman's proximity. "Harry, meet our guests in Transporter room one. Turn the crew over to Neelix and bring Captain Ducane to the bridge. I think it's time we found out what the hell is going on."
The senior staff watched quietly as Captain Ducane and his second, a quiet woman named Crey, settled themselves into conference room chairs. They whispered quietly to each other for a moment and then Ducane faced Janeway, laying a PADD on the table between them.
"Well," He smiled tightly. "Is it safe to assume your staff is aware of the events that have brought us to this point?"
"Yes." The Captain leaned forward in her chair. "Now it's your turn. Why is Relativity here in the Delta Quadrant and what the hell happened to her?"
He sighed. "The information I am about to share with you is classified and will remain on a need to know basis as far as most of your crew is concerned." He waited for her to nod in agreement before continuing. "There was an incident on Aldana Prime that led to us being sent here to find you."
"It's a small artificial moon that was placed in orbit around Earth in the early 29th Century." He looked at her pointedly. "It is utilized as a maximum security medical facility for Starfleet personnel."
Janeway felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. "Starfleet personnel?"
"Time Corps Officers to be more specific; those suffering from the advanced stages of-"
"Temporal psychosis." She groaned. "Braxton."
He nodded. "Starfleet was unaware that Braxton had managed to acquire access to the medical database. He used it to ferret out information on Time Corps officers who were most susceptible to paranoid propaganda. Within weeks he was able to form a small group of supporters that were sympathetic to his views."
"Braxton and his followers maintain that all of the time fractures that led to their conditions can be traced back to one definable source."
She held up her hand. "Let me guess! Voyager?"
Ducane cleared his throat. "Not exactly. They believe that Voyager is merely a pawn in a much larger temporal conspiracy known as… The Janeway Factor."
She stood up, not knowing whether to laugh or scream. "The…I'm sorry…the what?"
"The Janeway Factor." He repeated. "They believe that if your influence was to be eradicated, then their conditions would no longer exist. They also maintain that you pose an enormous threat to the timeline as a whole; one that must be removed… immediately. They managed to escape from the facility a week ago; from there they took control of two small timeships and fled."
The Captain slumped back into her chair as the air left her lungs.
"So they're out here, somewhere, just waiting to ambush us?" Harry asked.
Ducane stared at Janeway. "No, they are not."
"But you just said…"
He reached for the PADD in front of him and tapped in his security code before handing it to her. "We intercepted this transmission two days ago. It outlines an intricately detailed plan to jump to this timeframe, to this quadrant, where they would find Voyager and destroy her."
"I don't understand, are they or are they not here in the Delta Quadrant?" Janeway's frustration finally cut through her patience.
"No. It was a ruse. The prisoner in your brig, his name is Duc Tao. He was sent here in one of the time ships to draw us to this location. When we engaged his ship, he rammed us at full speed, resulting in the condition the Relativity is currently in."
"I don't understand." Harry looked from one Captain to the other. "Why would he ram your ship?"
"To remove them from the equation." Janeway said quietly.
"Yes." Ducane nodded. "With propulsion and long range communications down, we have no way of reporting our current condition or the fact that Braxton and his men are still at large. The only advantage we've had in all of this is that the kamikaze pilot chosen was far more advanced in his psychosis than Braxton realized. He missed his mark when he rammed us, and he was incredibly easy to break once he was in our brig."
"So you know where Braxton is?"
Janeway took in the look on Ducane's face and swallowed hard. "Tell me."
"Sometime in the next two days they will be utilizing the second timeship to facilitate a jump to Earth; Bloomington, Indiana, to be exact. Using the traditional earth calendar, we estimate their arrival on or around May 19th, 2336."
Janeway paled so quickly that Seven half stood to go to her. She was silent for several long moments and when she finally spoke her voice was so low that the entire senior staff had to lean forward to hear her.
"Oh dear god… Mama…"
Chapter Two: The Chicken or The Egg?
"So what you are saying," Janeway spit out each word. "Is that while we are sitting here there is a psychopath hell bent on killing my mother just to keep me from being born?"
Ducane blinked. "Yes."
She bit down on her cheek, trying to keep her temper, as well as the panic climbing up the back of her throat, under control. She glanced up and caught Seven's gaze from the other end of the table. The blonde's eyes were so filled with compassion that for a moment Janeway felt confused. She had never seen the ex-Borg look at anyone that way before.
Drawing strength from the connection, Janeway pulled in a deep breath. "There has to be something we can do."
"I believe there is." Ducane tapped the PADD controls again, bringing up a schematic of the Relativity. "All timeships are constructed with two separate engine rooms; one to house the primary propulsion systems and one for the temporal drive, each at opposite ends of the ship. The Time Corps found out early on what would happen if both engines blew at once. Those early catastrophes led to our current ship design. Tao either forgot that part of his briefing or ignored it, because he only managed to take out our traditional warp core."
"And this is relevant how?" Seven finally spoke up from the other end of the table.
"I believe we can retrofit Voyager with technology from the Relativity."
"Wait a minute!" B'Elanna reached over and took the PADD. "I'm all for doing whatever it takes but we're talking about merging 24th and 29th century technology here. It can't be that simple."
"Actually, it is. The temporal drive and shield emitters are self contained units tied into ship systems through external conduits. A good pilot with a steady aim could cut them loose without any problem. Then we use Voyager's tractor beam to pull them into position and weld them directly to your secondary hull. Voyager is not that much larger than the Relativity; I believe we could utilize the drive to open a temporal rift and send this entire ship back to 2336."
"And the hard wiring?"
"Well, that might be a little trickier. Luckily you have someone on your crew that could blend the two technologies together fairly quickly."
Seven raised her chin as every head at the table swiveled in her direction. "You wish for me to assimilate both technologies and merge them into one."
"To put it plainly, yes."
The Borg stared at Ducane for several seconds, feeling slightly offended by his offhand attitude, as though it would be the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. Then her gaze shifted to the Captain and she felt a fierce protectiveness fill her chest.
"Can you do it, Seven?" Janeway asked quietly.
"Yes." She said without hesitation. "But you should be aware, Captain, that the removal of the merged technology will be far more difficult than its installation."
Janeway graced her with a soft smile of gratitude before standing. "We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do and very little time to get it done. Tom, you're with Ducane, get the flyer and get the equipment cut off the Relativity. B'Elanna, you're with Crey. Get whatever information you can from their database and upgrade ours accordingly. Tuvok, get two security teams together, one to look after our friend in the Brig and the other…well… for whatever comes next. Seven… You're with me."
Eight and a half hours later Janeway stood on Voyager's outer hull in an environmental suit as she watched Seven bend over the large chunk of technology that had been plasma welded to the skin of her ship. The job had been done quickly, and was ugly as hell, but she knew that it would hold. That was all that mattered.
All that remained to be done was the final merging of the energy and information conduits which would bring power to the temporal drive and shield emitters and allow them both to be controlled from the bridge. She held her breath as the younger woman closed the air seal around her left wrist and pulled the glove free, handing it to her to hold.
Without hesitating, Seven plunged her tubules into the end of the conduit hanging from the new drive. For a moment, nothing happened, and then faint green tendrils extended from the ragged opening, stretching until they connected with the open power array beneath them and then contracting to pull the two together. When the gap finally sealed itself, Seven leaned her head to one side and Janeway could almost hear the calculations running through her mind. After a moment she smiled slightly and disengaged. "It is complete, Captain."
Janeway nodded. "Bring us in, Chakotay." They rematerialized in transporter room two where they removed their helmets and suits. She reached out to place her hand on the Borg's arm in appreciation only to jump back slightly when Seven flinched. "What's wrong?"
"I apologize, Captain." The blonde looked away. "It is my hand. It is artificial, and cannot be damaged by the cold, but that does not mean I cannot feel it. It is…aching…at the moment."
"Seven!" The older woman reached out again and took the freezing appendage between her own hands, rubbing it briskly. "Why didn't you say something?"
"The discomfort is irrelevant. I could not have completed the repairs without removing the outer garment. The pain will pass." She swallowed as she realized the pain had already passed and had been replaced by an intense tingling where the Captain's skin came in contact with her own. Her lips parted slightly as her respiration increased.
Janeway felt the warmth rush back into Seven's fingers and smiled up at her. "Better?"
"Y… yes. Thank you." The younger woman felt momentarily caught in the intense gray-blue gaze then she pulled her hand away and clasped them both behind her back.
The Captain swallowed. For a moment… Shaking her head she pulled her thoughts back to what was pertinent. "We need to get to the bridge."
When they arrived, Ducane was sitting in the First Officer's chair, doing a run up on the temporal drive.
"What's the verdict?" Janeway threw Chakotay a conciliatory look and slid into her own chair.
"It looks good." He smiled. "In fact, it looks just about perfect. Good work. I recommend we jump immediately. Once we arrive we can scan for the other timeship's temporal signature. That way we'll know just how much time we have to work out our plan of attack."
"Voyager is slightly larger than Relativity, Captain." He frowned. "I recommend inertial dampeners be raised to maximum and that you inform the entire crew that things might get a bit bumpy for a few minutes."
She touched the control panel situated between them. "This is Captain Janeway to all members of the crew. We are about to test an experimental drive. It is recommended that you cease all nonessential activity and proceed to a safe area until further notice. Janeway out." She looked over at Seven, studying the blondes classic beauty for a moment before turning to Ducane. "Let's do it."
Ducane nodded. "Raise shields. Prepare to open temporal rift on my mark. Time Frame: Stardate 13375.0 – Alpha Quadrant. Astral Target: Earth – Dark side of the moon."
"Target acquired." Seven responded.
He smiled at Janeway. "Your ship."
With a reckless grin, she sat back in her chair and grabbed onto the armrests. "Engage!"
A deep hum began to reverberate throughout Voyager as a purple beam of light shot out from her hull and began to tear a small rift in the open space before them. As they watched, the rift began to widen, the edges becoming smoother as space-time was folded before their eyes.
An ominous creaking sound began and grew louder as the seconds passed, causing Janeway to look at Ducane in concern.
"Hull stress is reaching maximum." He replied nonchalantly. "It's normal. Bring Temporal Shielding online." A flash of light shone from the view screen and then settled into a golden blanket over the entire ship. The creaking lessened immediately. "Good." He nodded. "All systems are functioning optimally. Ten seconds to threshold."
The rift was now the length of Voyager and was beginning to glow a sullen purple-black color as the gap in the middle widened.
"Prepare for Time Jump… NOW!"
Seven slapped her palm onto her console and squared her stance, trying to steady herself as the ship slid sideways towards the aperture.
"Voyager's shape is disrupting the temporal field!" He grabbed his own armrests as the ship began to shudder. "Hang on! This is going to be rough!"
The ship lurched painfully as it was caught in the edge of the rift and pulled forward. The inertial dampeners did their best, but the crew was still tossed about as their speed increased.
"Passing the threshold! Five seconds until emergence!" Ducane shouted.
There was a loud crack and the view screen went dark as Janeway flew forward, landing heavily on the floor where she remained until the last of the vibrations passed.
"Are we alive?" She sighed.
"Yes." Seven picked herself up from the deck and moved to her console. "The jump was a success."
The monitor flickered for a moment and then steadied as the image of a small, dark planetoid filled it. Janeway looked beyond its edge and felt her breath stop.
There, half hidden, shining in all of its blue and green splendor, was Earth.
"Stardate?" She whispered.
"13375.32." Ducane smiled. "Only a .32 variance. Not bad for merging 24th and 29th century technology."
"I'd have to agree." Janeway slid back into her chair. "What about the other timeship?"
Seven scanned the time matrix. "No indication of their presence. It appears that we have arrived ahead of schedule. According to my calculations it is 08:53 AM on May the 17th, 2336."
"We have minor hull breaches on decks eight and twelve. Force fields are already in place. Slight fluctuations in the power grid but no essential systems have been compromised."
She straightened her jacket. "Get work crews to those areas immediately. All senior officers to the conference room. It's time to figure out a game plan."
All members of the senior staff were assembled and waiting patiently when Ducane and Crey entered the conference room. The timeship Captain was carrying a small cargo container which he placed on the table before taking his seat.
"All right," He began to pull several items from the box. "As I see it we have a few technical issues we're going to have to deal with straight away, not the least of which will be the difficulties we're going to face based on where your parents have chosen to live."
"The Traditionalist Farming Community?" Janeway raised one eyebrow.
"Yes. At this point in time there is a strong technology dampener over the entire area. Only rudimentary conveyances and certain machinery are exempt from its affects. As such, Voyager will not be able to scan the areas immediately surrounding the Janeway farm. Her sensors will be limited to trying to pick up the timeships temporal signature as it enters this atmosphere. In addition, our handheld devices will be useless."
"You're telling me 29th century technology is no match for a 24th century tech dampener?" The Captain rolled her eyes. "You've got to be kidding."
"Unfortunately I'm not. We were not expecting to be visiting this time period or this region so the devices we had on hand before Relativity's replicator system failed are not constructed properly for the task. As such, we will have to rely heavily on the technology that helped us once before." He threw a meaningful look towards the end of the table.
Seven felt anger well up inside her as she returned his look with one of cool disdain. She had just opened her mouth to speak when someone beat her to it.
"Seven of Nine is NOT a piece of technology, Captain Ducane." Janeway's voice was quiet, but the tone left no doubt as to the level of her displeasure. "She is an individual, a valued member of this crew… and a good friend. I would suggest that you remember that... or has your promotion led you to follow in more than just Braxton's footsteps?"
Ducane flushed bright red. "I apologize, Seven." He laid his hands on the table. "I sometimes forget that not all of the things we say or do will be erased from time, and even if they are, that's no excuse for rudeness." He waited until the blonde nodded. "What I should have said was, we will be relying on you to help us find Braxton and his men. Your implants are self contained, part of your internal structure and as such will not be compromised by the dampener. Your ocular implant is already capable of picking up irregularities in space-time. With a few minor adjustments, I believe we will be able to enhance it to the point where you will also be able to see the slight temporal imbalance that surrounds all individuals who are out of time-phase."
Seven leaned her head to one side. "The chroniton flux of .003."
"Exactly. Through your implant it should appear as a faint blur. If you will allow me…?" He held up a thin metal instrument.
Seven glanced at the Captain before nodding briefly.
Ducane stood and moved to her side where he took her gently by the chin and angled her left eye towards him. Carefully, he slid the point of the slender implement into a small opening in the corner of her implant. She flinched and closed her eyes, swallowing against the invasive feeling of the procedure. A moment later, the pressure was gone and she opened her eyes.
The timeship Captain's tall form was outlined in a small series of waves that seemed to emanate outwards from his body. She glanced around the table and saw that everyone present was exhibiting the same visual distortion.
"Seven?" Janeway raised her eyebrow questioningly.
"The adjustment has been successful."
"Good. While our hand scanners will work within the city proper, your ability to simply 'see' the flux will make your scanning ability much more valuable." Ducane reached across the table and picked up another device which he placed in her palm. It was small, and circular, its diameter slightly less than that of a commbadge and had the same backing as medical devices meant to be worn against the skin.
"What is this?" She asked.
"It's a cloaking device. When you helped us last time, we were able to occlude your implants with our external dampening fields. We won't have that luxury this time. The device has been keyed to the specific harmonics of your Borg technology. Once activated, it will shield them from view to as close as 3 centimeters. This is only a visual cloak however, so you will have to be careful who and what you touch with your left hand."
Seven tapped the controls and then held the device in her right hand while holding up her left to watch as the Borg mesh disappeared from view. "Acceptable. Where is it meant to be worn?"
"On the back of your neck. May I?"
Seven raised one eyebrow but nodded.
Ducane took the small disk and pressed it against the skin just below her hairline. She felt the device lock into place and turned her head from side to side, testing its comfort.
"One last thing."
Seven jumped slightly when she felt his fingers slide into her hair, releasing it from the pins that held it neatly against her head. She glanced across the table and saw the Captain's eyes fastened on her, watching as Ducane fluffed her hair slightly with his fingertips, ignoring the snort of humor that came from somewhere in Tom's direction.
"There." He returned to his seat.
Janeway took in a deep breath, unable to tear her gaze away from the woman sitting across from her. With her hair down, Seven looked very young; very young and very vulnerable. She swallowed against the dryness in her throat as her fingers began to fidget against her thigh. The rush of energy and heat was familiar, but it had never been this strong, nor had it ever come at such an inappropriate time before. When Seven reached behind her neck and turned off the cloaking device, she was shocked by her bodies reaction as the implants shimmered back into view. It was as though the Borg technology actually fed the desire she was feeling.
What the hell is going on with me? She tore her eyes away and cleared her throat. Whatever it was, she did not have time for it right now. Later… she promised herself. Glancing back down the table, she caught Seven staring at her with a mixture of emotions in her eyes that she could not identify.
"Because of the dampener, our communication with Voyager will have to be at scheduled intervals when we are actually within the city limits of Bloomington. While we are on the planet and out of range, we will be relying on the crew here to run constant scans for Braxton's arrival. I doubt you will be able to take him out before he gets planet side, but we have to take every possible opportunity we can. When his ship does appear, we will need you to beam Crey down to the planet immediately with the information; she will be remaining with you until then. As for the away team, it will consist of Tuvok, five of his selected security personnel, Harry Kim, Tom Paris, and of course, Seven of Nine." He cleared his throat nervously. "I will be leading them."
Janeway shook her head slightly, as though she had misheard, her eyes narrowing as they focused on him. "I beg your pardon?"
The timeship Captain folded his hands in front of him on the table and looked at her squarely. "Captain Janeway, please believe me when I say that I hold you in the utmost regard and that I am aware that this is your ship and your command. But the bottom line is incontrovertible. You cannot set foot on Earth. The potential damage to the timeline could be catastrophic."
She felt the pressure behind her eyes start to build and fought the urge to place her fingers against the pressure point on the bridge of her nose. "So you expect me to just sit here and do nothing?"
"Not at all. You will be invaluable for the information you can offer us regarding your family during this time. In addition, Seven will be in contact with you as often as possible, to keep you informed of our progress and to retrieve any other data you have been able to collect."
Janeway took a deep breath and settled back into her chair. He was right, but she didn't have to like it.
"What can you tell us about the circumstances of this period? Why would Braxton pick this date instead of an earlier time?"
She thought for a moment and then it struck her. "Of course… my father. He was called away on a top secret mission right before I was born. Braxton must be aware of that. My mother would be alone at the farm."
"A perfect opportunity to carry out his mission." He pulled out a PADD and tapped in some information. "I believe that we need to move immediately. I doubt Braxton or his people would hesitate to put their plans into motion the moment they entered this time frame. We will have Voyager beam us to downtown Bloomington where I will make contact with the Time Corps operative we have stationed at Starfleet Headquarters. He will make sure we have current Starfleet uniforms and credentials before we head out to the Janeway farm. We will be presenting ourselves as members of Starfleet security, sent by headquarters to safeguard your mother from a suspected Cardassian assassination attempt."
"You already have an operative here?"
Ducane looked at her, his expression unreadable. "We have made it a point to situate Time Corps personnel at high levels in Starfleet Operations during all pertinent events in Federation evolution."
Janeway smiled sarcastically. "And my birth qualifies as such an event?"
The corner of his mouth twitched. "That information is classified."
"We will not have access to replicators while on the planet. I suggest you all create attire appropriate to the period and locale. We will meet in transporter room two in one hour. Any questions?"
When no one responded Janeway nodded. "Dismissed."
The senior staff filed out one by one, followed by Ducane and Crey, leaving only her and Seven still seated at the table. When they were gone, Seven rose and moved to stand beside her.
"Captain, I am unfamiliar with the dress of this period. Could you assist me with my preparations?"
They walked in silence to Cargo Bay Two where Janeway busied herself at the replicator. Seven watched her silently, taking each piece of clothing the Captain handed her and placing it into a Starfleet issue duffel bag. There were three pairs of jeans, several different styles of shirts and two black sweaters, as well as a set of black slacks, boots and a thigh length black coat. When she reached for the last of it, she felt the Captain's hand close over her own.
"Seven…" She began.
"Do not worry, Captain." She remained perfectly still, very aware that the older woman was standing well within her personal space. "I will not allow harm to come to either you or your mother."
Janeway smiled tremulously. "I know you'll do your best, Seven. But I want you to promise me that you'll be careful too. Braxton's men may not know you, but he does. And you tend to be rather… memorable."
The last word was said in such a gentle tone that the Borg's eyebrows rose. Without allowing herself to stop and think, she linked her fingers within the Captain's and pulled her forward. As she wrapped her arms around the redhead, she felt the much smaller frame tense slightly and then begin to shake.
It felt incredible.
After a moment, Janeway slid her arms around Seven's waist and laid her head on her shoulder, trying desperately to regulate her ragged breathing. Finally, she gave up and allowed the tears she was holding back to slide down her cheeks. "He's going after my mother, Seven. I can deal with anything he might try to do to me… but my mother… and there's nothing I can do to help."
Seven brought her hand up and awkwardly stroked the soft auburn hair. "I understand." She whispered, feeling her spine stiffen with resolve. "He will not succeed. Kathryn," Her heart beat faster as the name fell from her lips and she pulled back slightly to look into stormy gray eyes. "I will not allow it. I could not… bear your loss either."
The Captain looked into the bright blue eyes, astounded to find them glistening with unshed tears. Without thinking, she brought her hand up to cup the Borg's smooth, pale cheek before tracing the edge of her ocular implant. Her index finger followed its shape to trail down the side of her face, along the proud jaw line and up under her chin. She paused there for a moment, touching the cleft in her chin before allowing her fingertips to slide across the fullness of her bottom lip.
They stood that way for several seconds, their faces barely a breath apart. Then Janeway closed her eyes. She leaned forward, her heart beating so wildly that she thought her chest might explode. She could feel the younger woman's breath against her lips, could taste the scent of her on her tongue. Desire and longing filling her as her arm tightened around the tall lanky form…
"Ducane to Seven of Nine."
The Captain jumped back quickly, her eyes wide as she stared at Seven.
The blonde was breathing heavily, her eyes were closed and she had a look of immense frustration on her face. With a quick movement, she slapped her commbadge. "Go ahead."
"It's time to go."
Seven opened her eyes slowly. They remained clouded and unfocused for a moment and then cleared as she stared at the woman standing across from her. She opened her mouth to speak but Janeway held up a hand to stop her.
"Not now." She said quietly. "This isn't the time or the place for this. You have to go and I have to let you. So go."
Seven nodded, sliding the duffel bag onto her shoulder as she walked away. When she reached the doors, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. "We will continue this when I return."
Then she was gone.
Janeway leaned heavily against the bulkhead behind her, her head dropping back until she was staring at the ceiling.
What the hell have I done?
Chapter Three – Gentlemen, Start Your Engines…
Seven blinked her eyes rapidly as they adjusted to the bright afternoon light in Bloomington, Indiana. The small group had chosen to materialize in what should have been an empty back alley. Instead, they found themselves surrounded by many people and brightly decorated booths.
"There appears to be an inordinately large number of individuals present for our current location." Seven remarked, taking in the strange apparel of the people that walked around them. One woman actually stopped and returned her gaze with an appreciative smile. She was tall, with a slender build and was covered from her neck to her feet in form fitting black leather. The blonde nodded at her politely before turning away.
"I would have to agree." Ducane commented, watching as a man in a long grey coat and matching Spitfire cap hurried by, adjusting the goggles around his neck as he went. "What the hell?"
They followed him out of the alley and onto the main boulevard where they were treated to the spectacle of an even larger crowd and endless rows of unusual looking vehicles that lined both sides of the median.
A flapping sound caught Seven's attention and she tipped her head back to look at the banner that had been stretched across the street above them. "Welcome to the 300th Annual Global Antique Vehicle Rally." She read it out loud and then looked at Ducane pointedly. "I believe my mission has just become much more difficult." She watched as he pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and wondered if it were a stress reduction technique taught to all Starfleet Captains. "What is our present course of action?"
Ducane pulled a small data unit from his pocket. "This changes nothing. Scanning for Braxton's men will be more difficult now but the chroniton flux will still give them away. And I have no doubt about how thorough you can be." He tapped his code into the PADD and read the contents. "Our operative has left a package of uniforms and credentials at the transport station. Until Braxton shows our priority is to get security in place out at the Janeway farm. Let's get our gear and go and introduce ourselves." He slipped the PADD back into his pocket with a deep sigh. "If Gretchen Janeway is anything like her daughter, we're going to have a fight on our hands."
"Mrs. Janeway, if you would just let me explain the gravity of the situation-" Ducane began for the third time.
"The name is Gretchen." The vibrant young woman smiled charmingly. "Try the muffins, they're quite good."
Seven watched the interaction with amusement, amazed at how many of Kathryn's mannerism were apparent in her mother. The guileless charm, the knowing smile with just a hint of mischievousness in it, and the genuine courtesy were all qualities she had come to know and respect in her Captain.
Not to mention the edge of solid steel that threaded through every statement she made.
All together Gretchen Janeway created an impressive image, one that Seven was having a hard time taking her eyes off of. She was unable to resist the impulse to study the woman's classic features, finding the number of genetic markers the two women shared amazing. They had the same thick, healthy hair, though Gretchen's was a shade or two lighter, the same grey-blue eyes, the same cheekbones and lips. And when she smiled…
They had arrived at the farm an hour earlier, decked out in full Starfleet Advanced Security Squad attire, to be greeted at the door by an extremely pregnant and completely obstinate Gretchen Janeway.
She had listened to Ducane's rehearsed speech about her being assigned a security detail due to Edward Janeway's absence and the subsequent discovery of a Cardassian plot to either capture or kill her for all of ten minutes before waving her hand in dismissal and offering them a cookie.
Since then she had managed to get the away team to accept sandwiches and tea, without backing down from her original statement that she could 'take care of herself.'
"Yes, I am sure they are." The timeship Captain shook his head at the offered plate of treats. "But at the moment hunger isn't my concern. Your safety is."
"Captain Ducane," Gretchen sighed. "I have been a Starfleet wife through several periods of political discord and I have never once felt the need for outside security here at the farm. In any event, I am far from alone here. I have Jon, the stable hand who lives in the loft above the barn and Salla, my midwife, who has moved in until the baby is born. I am quite safe I assure you."
"Mrs. Janeway… Gretchen," Seven stepped forward, her hands linked behind her back. "We are not impugning your ability to care for yourself or your unborn child. In point of fact, I can honestly say that my interaction with women as capable as yourself has been limited to a single other individual. However, our presence here is more for the benefit of your husband's peace of mind, than that of Starfleet. As I am sure you are aware, he is currently on a mission of some importance to the Federation. It is only reasonable for him to expect that Starfleet do their best to protect his wife and child while he is away."
Gretchen stared at her for several long moments before a huge smile broke out across her face. "What's your name?"
Seven hesitated for a moment. "Annika Hansen"
"So, Annika, this uhm… single other individual… did she teach you your negotiation skills?"
The Borg cocked her head to one side. "Yes."
"Then you've done her proud." She stood and placed a hand warmly on Seven's arm, her eyebrow raising curiously when the blonde appeared quite startled by the gesture. "I'll make you a deal. You can stay; I'll even try to behave, if you tell me all about this woman."
Seven blinked, glancing at Ducane to see his face darken. "Her identity is… classified." She equivocated. "However, I see no harm in sharing the general details of her life with you, so long as you do not request further specifics." Gretchen's eyes narrowed, causing the blonde to swallow nervously.
"Agreed." She finally nodded. "For now. But I do have one more stipulation."
Ducane sighed heavily. "Which is?"
Gretchen waved her finger at him. "I live on this farm because I choose to; if I wanted to live on a Starfleet base that is where I would be. I don't want my daughter to be born surrounded by military uniforms. Take them off. I don't care what you wear, go naked if you want to, but take them off." She looked Seven up and down. "And you should thank me. You look more uncomfortable than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs."
Seven felt the corners of her mouth curve into an involuntary smile. Gretchen was right. Whoever designed Starfleet uniforms, their skill must have improved greatly in the years before Voyager's launch.
Seven folded the sleeves of the button down shirt she was wearing up to her elbows, adjusting the waistband of the unfamiliar jeans as she descended from her room on the second floor of the farmhouse.
Despite Ducane's obvious seniority in rank, Gretchen insisted that Seven, as the only female on the squad, be granted the use of her vacant guestroom. The other members of the away team were given cots and blankets and set up in the barn next to an old woodstove that would keep them warm at night.
To his credit, the timeship Captain had not complained. In fact, when she stepped into the dark confines of the barn, he threw her a rueful grin. "Good work, Seven. Looks like you've had a lot of experience with handling Janeway women."
The blonde stared at him curiously. The tone of his voice was jocular, what could be taken as friendly bantering, but there was something slightly off about it and by the laughter that emanated from around the woodstove she could only assume that his double entendre had been intentional. "I have spent a great deal of time with Captain Janeway. She is an admirable individual and a good friend."
He smile broadened. "Of course."
She sighed in frustration and changed the subject. "When do we make contact with Voyager?"
"Tomorrow." He unfolded a blanket and laid it over his cot. "You and I will head into town while the rest of the security squad remains here. In the meantime, since you have the room inside the house, it will be up to you to watch over Gretchen throughout the night. I don't foresee any problems until we receive word that Braxton has landed but I don't want to take any chances. Will you have any problems with the lack of sleep?"
"I completed a lengthy regeneration cycle prior to your first contact with Voyager. I will not need to return to the ship for another until after the Captain is born. I do not need to sleep."
"Good." He nodded. "But I do, especially after that dinner she fed us. I wonder if your Captain can cook like that."
Seven thought back to the two meals she had shared with Kathryn in her quarters. "No, she cannot."
"Ahh." He gave her another odd little smile. "Well, goodnight Seven."
"Goodnight, Captain Ducane."
Seven made her way back to the farmhouse where she locked the doors and made a complete security sweep before heading upstairs. When she reached the top of the landing she stopped short, startled to hear her human name.
"Can you come in here?"
The blonde moved to the partially closed door of the master bedroom and slowly pushed it open. "Is there something you require?"
Gretchen was lying in bed, two pillows propped under her back and another under her knees as she rubbed her belly in slow circular motions. "Actually, I was hoping for a little company." She flushed. "Taking care of myself is easy, but Salla prefers to spend her nights meditating and Jon…well… he's a young, unattached man. He has better things to do than chat with an old married woman."
Seven moved into the room and sat awkwardly in the armchair positioned next to the bed. "You are not old. You are younger than I am." She tried not to think about all of the ways that statement was incorrect.
Gretchen sighed. "Maybe, but trust me when I say that there is nothing like getting pregnant to slap on the years." She struggled to sit up accepting the hand Seven offered her as an anchor. "Just wait, you'll see."
"I find that doubtful."
The pregnant woman looked at her curiously. "You don't want children?"
The Borg was silent for a few moments. "I do not believe my desire to have offspring is relevant. The particular circumstances of my current existence negate the probability of such an event occurring. As such, I see no reason to dwell on the subject."
"Don't think for a minute that I didn't notice that wasn't exactly an answer." Gretchen pursed her lips thoughtfully but changed the subject. "So then tell me about this 'incredible woman' of yours instead."
"What do you wish to know?'
"How did you two meet?"
She was hit suddenly by an unexpected barrage of memories; both from the end of her time with the Borg and the years she had spent on Voyager. Swallowing, she pushed them to the back of her mind. "She is my commanding officer. When I am not assigned to Captain Ducane, I serve in Astrometrics aboard her ship."
"Oh." Gretchen frowned slightly as though that wasn't the answer she had been expecting. "So… Starfleet put you two together?"
"Come on, Annika. The way you two met couldn't possibly be top secret!"
"It is not, it is simply difficult to explain. It would suffice to say that she removed me from an untenable situation. She saved my life."
"What's she like?"
Seven looked down at her hands, unaware of the small smile that curled the corners of her mouth. "She is stubborn… and willful. She will make a decision and never waver from its path or hide from its repercussions. She is intelligent, compassionate and fiercely loyal to those she considers to be her people." She shook her head gently. "She is an enigma. She insists on holding herself to standards that would be difficult in the best of situations and, while she allows for mistakes from the people around her, she never accepts them from herself. I have often wondered what events transpired in her life to create such a remarkable individual." She looked up and caught Gretchen smiling at her softly. "Something amuses you?"
The pregnant woman laughed. "No. It's just that… This sounds a lot like a conversation I've had before. Only I was the one describing Edward. She sounds lovely, Annika. She sounds like someone you care for a great deal."
Seven didn't answer and after a moment, Gretchen leaned back and closed her eyes. Quietly, she stood and went to the window, her left eye scanning for any foreign heat signatures before turning her attention back to the woman stretched out on the bed behind her. Gretchen looked worn out, tired and drawn, and as she watched, a look of pain briefly clouded her features.
Concerned, she moved closer to the bed. "Are you functioning at acceptable levels, Gretchen?"
The younger woman cracked one eye open and laughed. "Is that your way of asking if I'm all right?" She patted her stomach. "I'm okay; just really, really tired of being pregnant."
The Borg nodded in commiseration. "It does seem an inefficient means of procreation."
Gretchen barked in laughter. "One you don't seem all that familiar with."
"I admit that this is the first opportunity I have had to closely witness a human in the process of gestation. It seems… illogical…" That a personality so large as the Captain's could ever be contained in such a small space, she finished the thought to herself.
"Well, logic doesn't really have a whole lot to do with it. It's mostly instinct… and love."
Gretchen smiled again and Seven felt her heart catch.
"Yes, love. You can't imagine how…complete carrying a child within you can make you feel. It's as though you're carrying all the happiness you will ever need in life right inside of you." She held out her hand. "Come here."
Seven blinked and looked at the younger woman in confusion.
Gretchen reached out and grabbed her left hand, dragging her closer to the side of the bed. Frowning slightly, she looked at the hand in her grip for a moment before straightening Seven's fingers and laying her palm flat against her belly. The Borg tried to pull away but the younger woman held her firmly in place.
"I… I feel nothing."
"Just wait." Sensing that the blonde was no longer going to bolt, she released her. "She's as stubborn as she is strong."
Seven's left eyebrow quirked up as she looked at the mother-to-be, only to have the right one crawl up her forehead to join it when she felt a series of small flutters against her palm. The fluttering became stronger and increased in frequency as she stood completely still, fascinated by the sensation and confused by the rapid beating of her own heart. The unborn infant's final, angry kick was strong enough to send light tendrils of shock up into her wrist and her lips curved into a smile of amusement as she whispered, "I was incorrect. That is most definitely Kathryn."
"Kathryn?" Gretchen looked at her thoughtfully, moved by the emotion that had crept into the blonde's voice. "Why did you call her that?"
Seven flushed. "I… I apologize. I did not mean to presume-"
Gretchen waved her hand as she shook her head, mesmerizing the Borg with the familiar gesture. "That isn't what I meant, Annika." She patted the hand that still remained on her belly. "If I'm comfortable with you touching my child I think it's safe to say you aren't presuming anything. I was just surprised to hear you say that name. It was one of the last two choices that Edward and I discussed, but in the end, we decided on Phoebe."
The Borg's eyes widened. Captain Phoebe Janeway? A word that Naomi was fond of using popped briefly into her head.
Realizing her thoughts might be reflected on her features, she glanced at Gretchen in apology, but the younger woman was no longer paying any attention to her. She was stroking her belly softly, her head cocked to one side, a small smile on her lips as she whispered the name 'Kathryn' to herself.
"You should rest." Seven reluctantly drew her hand away, immediately missing the warmth it had been resting against. "Good night."
Gretchen smiled up at her, the look on her face so familiar that the Borg felt her chest contract painfully. "Goodnight, Annika." Her eyes sparkled merrily. "Sweet dreams."
Seven looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, fighting the urge to pin her hair up in its customary bun. She was not used to the platinum tresses flowing freely around her face but she knew it was necessary to hide the small device at the back of her neck. As she drew a brush through the silken mass, she allowed her thoughts to drift to Kathryn, whom she would be contacting when they headed into town.
The image began with a pair of smoky, gray-blue eyes that seemed able to see right through her, followed by the high, regal cheekbones, the delicate eyebrows, and the thick auburn hair. When her memories added the deep red lips, her hand stilled, stopping with the brush halfway through her hair.
She thought back to the moment they had shared in Cargo Bay Two right before the away team had beamed down to the planet. How she had stared at those lips, wondering what they would feel like, how they would taste…
A slight vibration brought her back to reality and she realized with no small amount of shock that her hands were trembling. She set the brush down and clasped them together, trying in vain to cease their erratic movements.
"What is happening to me?" She whispered.
She closed her eyes and imagined what would have happened if they had not been interrupted, if their lips had been allowed to meet, and felt a warmth that began in her stomach start to spread down her abdomen where it grew exponentially as it settled almost painfully between her legs before traveling down her thighs.
Taking in a sharp, ragged breath she opened unfocused eyes to stare at herself again. Her lips parted as she braced her hands against the top of the counter, a surge of what she could only categorize as desire sweeping through her.
With no small amount of surprise she realized that the feeling was not altogether new. It was something that had been present within her for sometime, only so deeply buried she had never taken the time to examine it before.
"I desire her." She said the words out loud and flushed as the warmth flared white hot within her. How long? How long had she been unconsciously avoiding the thoughts that now ran unchecked through her mind?
She shook her head slightly, re-centering herself as she brought her focus back to the job at hand. Now was not the time.
Straightening her shirt, she stiffened her spine as she took one last look at her appearance before nodding slightly in satisfaction and heading downstairs.
She followed the sounds of voices to the large kitchen at the back of the house, smiling at Gretchen who stood next to the stove, flipping small flat cakes over on a heated griddle.
"Well, good morning sleepy head." The lazy smile the pregnant woman threw at her made her respond in kind. "Did you sleep well?"
The Borg inclined her head, feeling slightly guilty about lying but knowing that it was necessary. "Yes, I did. Thank you."
In truth she had spent the night standing next to her bedroom window, watching for any unusual signs of activity as her mind replayed the scene from Cargo Bay Two over and over… She shook the thoughts from her head to find Gretchen watching her with a small smile.
"I lost you for a minute there." The pregnant woman bumped her lightly with an elbow. "And wherever you went, it looked awfully pleasant."
Seven flushed and dropped her gaze to the floor, missing the knowing smile that graced Gretchen's lips.
"Well, how about some breakfast?"
"I do not require nutritional supplements at this time."
Gretchen blinked. "Everyone requires strawberry chocolate upside down pancakes, Annika." She slid a stack onto a plate along with a mound of hash browns and pushed her towards the table where Harry and Tom were munching away happily on their own breakfasts. "There's coffee on the table, as well as juice and syrup. Do not expect to leave that chair until your plate is empty."
Seven sat down between the two crewmen, glancing at the trail of syrup on Harry's face before picking up her fork. She sat quietly staring at the food until Tom tapped her on the arm.
"Don't worry, Seven." He whispered. "This is nothing like Neelix's breakfasts. It's really incredible." He grabbed the syrup and covered Seven's pancakes with it. "Try them."
The Borg cut a small piece from the stack and brought it to her lips. A sweet, enticing aroma invaded her senses as she slipped the pancakes into her mouth. For a moment, she merely held it on her tongue, then her eyes widened as the taste intensified and she began to chew.
Tom was right. It was incredible!
When Gretchen joined them with her own plate a few minutes later, she laughed out loud to see that Seven's was already empty. "Well, that was quick. Did you want some more?"
Seven blushed slightly. "No… thank you. But it was most enjoyable."
Tuvok entered the kitchen through the back door, greeting the people at the table before turning to the blonde. "It is time to head into town." He looked over Seven's choice of attire, blue jeans and a grey t-shirt, and nodded in approval.
"Who will be staying with Gretchen?"
"Tom and Harry will be remaining here at the farm, along with three members of the security detail."
Seven stood and glanced at the pregnant woman. She knew she would be safe with Tom and Harry but she was reluctant to leave her side. She had made the Captain a promise…
"I'll be fine, Annika." Gretchen smiled at her warmly, as though reading her mind. "You go do what you need to do. I've got some chores that need doing around here anyway, and I'm sure I can find some strenuous activity to keep these two boys busy."
"Very well." She placed her dish in the sink and, after a single backwards glance, followed Tuvok out the door.
Bloomington was even more crowded than it had been the day before and Seven found herself having to sidestep to avoid the crowds that thronged around the group. Frustrated, she turned to Ducane, having to raise her voice to be heard over the crowd. "Where are we to make contact?"
"My contact has arranged a room for us at the hotel up the street. It will be quiet there."
The lobby of the hotel was bustling with activity but the room they finally entered was indeed quiet and well kept. Seven felt herself relaxing as they assembled around the table in its center while Ducane set up his view screen. A moment later, it lit up and she found herself staring at Captain Janeway, the Doctor and Lieutenant Crey. The Captain looked directly at her and the Borg felt her pulse increase at the warmth emanating from the gray-blues eyes.
"Captain," Ducane settled back into his chair. "Has there been any sign of the other timeship?"
"None." Janeway shook her head. "However, we have managed to gather some rather disturbing information from our friend in the brig." She glanced at Crey.
The quiet woman addressed her Captain directly. "Apparently Braxton has had an operative in Bloomington for the last two weeks. They must have jumped him in singularly, because we are still not picking up any traces of the ship."
"An operative?" Ducane swore under his breath. "If Braxton has had someone here for that length of time then they probably have a safe house set up somewhere within the city limits; somewhere for them to hole up while they make their final preparations for the attack." He ran his hand through his hair. "This complicates matters somewhat. It means they are going to be much more organized than we originally anticipated."
"Yes," Janeway nodded. "But the Doctor has utilized the last twenty four hours to come up with a little something that should help you subdue them once you find them." She tapped her console and a small crate appeared on the table before the away team.
Seven cracked it open to find five small devices that looked like breathing masks, each of them outfitted with a silver cylinder and a black button on one side. She picked one of the devices up and looked at it curiously.
"It's a nerve toxin." The Doctor held another of the devices up to his own face. "Place the mask over the nose and mouth and press the button to deliver the gas directly into their lungs. This will incapacitate them immediately. They will remain unconscious until they are beamed back to Voyager and the antidote is administered. Administering the drug through the lungs will allow us to control the rate of absorption and cut down on any potentially permanent side affects. Additionally, these devices rely much less on technology. They have a simple oxygen delivery system that will work even while being affected by the tech dampener. That means they can be used at the farm if need be."
The Borg's face darkened. "It is your preference that these men are taken alive."
"Of course it is, Seven." Janeway looked at her pointedly. "These men are sick; they're suffering from temporal psychosis. They are not completely responsible for their actions."
"These individuals are attempting to kill not only you, Captain, but your mother as well. I do not feel that we should risk their possible escape by merely trying to incapacitate them."
The redhead stared at her for a moment. "Would you all excuse us for a moment? I'd like to speak to Seven privately."
Ducane and Tuvok nodded slowly. They rose, along with the other members of the security squad, each of them picking up one of the devices before they headed for the door. "We'll be taking up positions throughout the city, Seven. I am going to visit the local realty agencies to see if I can get any information on houses rented recently. Contact me via your communicator when you're ready to join us." He looked at his second through the vid screen. "Good work, Crey. Keep pressing Tao for any other information. We'll be in contact."
When only the two of them remained, Janeway spoke to her gently. "Seven, I know that this whole situation is upsetting for you, but we have had this discussion before. As Starfleet officers we only utilize the amount of force necessary to meet our objectives."
"I do not believe these men would agree with you."
"That doesn't matter. At one time these people were loyal Federation operatives. Their minds have been clouded by their illness and they deserve the opportunity to receive whatever help we can offer them."
Seven frowned but nodded. "As you wish, Captain."
They were silent for several long moments before Janeway asked softly, "How is she?"
The blonde raised one eyebrow. "She is… large. It would seem that you were quite a substantial fetus."
The Captain laughed. "How is she feeling?"
"She is tired, both physically and mentally, but a charming and strong individual nonetheless." She looked down at her left hand, the one that had been placed against Gretchen's belly. "You were remarkably active as an unborn infant."
"Mother used to tell me I kicked her within an inch of her sanity." She sipped from her coffee mug. "What's she like, Seven?"
The Borg looked her in the eyes. "Exactly like you; to the point where I am finding it difficult to be dishonest with her. I do not feel it would threaten our mission were she to know the truth."
"Perhaps not. But it certainly wouldn't simplify matters either. Tell me, what do you think of the time you've spent with her?"
"I have found speaking with her quite enjoyable, if a little disconcerting. She has a habit of asking questions that provide her with answers I was unaware I had given. Something I have grown accustomed to over the last few years."
"Really? Like what?"
Seven sighed. "She asked me if I desired children of my own."
The Captain froze with the coffee mug halfway to her mouth. "What did you say?"
"I informed her that my present situation did not lend itself to hypothesizing about the possibility of such events." She felt her hands begin to tremble and laid them flat against the table. "However, since her inquiry, I have found myself… intrigued by the prospect."
"I see." The redhead responded carefully.
"And what of you, Captain? Have you ever considered having offspring?"
The Captain smiled a little sadly. "Once upon a time." She set her mug down and fiddled nervously with her commbadge. "That seems a million years away right now."
"Why? It seems illogical to deny yourself such possibilities when our journey home could take such an immense amount of time."
"Perhaps. But there's an important part of that equation missing, isn't there? A partner?"
The Borg picked up the face mask and turned it over, idly studying the technology. "And if there was not?" She heard a soft intake of breath and looked up. "If that part of the equation were not missing… what impact would that have on your assessment?"
Janeway's eyes met hers, the connection almost physical in its intensity. "I guess…" She swallowed. "I guess I would have to wait and see."
Seven nodded slowly. "Understood."
"Well," The Captain cleared her throat. "You shouldn't keep Tuvok and Ducane waiting."
"Yes, Captain. I will contact you again tomorrow."
"I look forward to it."
Janeway sat for several long minutes after the conversation had ended, staring at the darkened vid screen as she tried to bring her chaotic emotions under control.
No matter how hard her mind tried to rationalize the conversation they had just had, her heart kept insisting that the beautiful blonde had made her an offer of some sort.
The only real question was, what would her answer be?
Chapter Four – Down On The Farm
Seven closed the front door heavily behind her, regretting it instantly when it slammed loudly in the quiet of the farmhouse.
"Annika?" Gretchen stepped into view from the kitchen. "Is everything all right?"
"Yes, Gretchen. I apologize for my forcefulness; it has been a frustrating day."
"No sign of those wily Cardassians I take it?"
Seven leaned her head to one side, catching the sarcastic tone immediately. "Unfortunately, no."
"Well, they do tend to blend in with their surroundings, don't they?" The pregnant woman threw her a wink and headed back into the kitchen.
The Borg followed quietly. It was apparent that the Captain's mother was in no way fooled by the rather vague details of their mission. As such, she found herself caught between not wanting to continue the ruse and not being able to say anything to the contrary.
Disgruntled, she watched as the pregnant woman puttered happily about her kitchen, pulling vegetables from various bins as she stirred the pots boiling merrily on the stove. "May I be of assistance?"
Gretchen eyed her keenly. "You cook much?"
Seven flushed. "No, but I have felt the desire to learn as of late."
"All right, let's start you off slowly." After watching the Borg wash her hands, she filled them with a small bag of potatoes, several onions, two bunches of carrots and three stalks of celery. When Seven didn't move, she bumped her with her hip, pushing her towards a small rolling table that was topped by a thick chopping block. When Seven had deposited her bounty, she handed her a sharp knife from a drawer near the stove. "We're having pot roast tonight. It's my mother's secret recipe so you should feel honored that I'm allowing you to assist." She smiled brightly.
"I do." Seven returned the smile. "How would you like these ingredients prepared?"
"Dice the onions, cut the potatoes into cubes, the carrots into coins and the celery into small pieces."
Seven did as she was told, watching out of the corner of her eye as Gretchen placed some shortening and several pounds of meat into a heavy kettle, turning it until it was browned on all sides. When that was done, the smaller woman added in two tins of pre-diced tomatoes, complete with the liquid. Two cups of water followed, along with a dash of salt and pepper.
"Now for the secret ingredient." The pregnant woman smiled and looked around the kitchen covertly, as though a spy might jump out at any moment.
Intrigued, Seven stepped closer, her eyes going wide as she watched Gretchen pull a canister from the refrigeration unit behind her. She poured a cup of black liquid from it and dumped it into the pot, earning a snort of laughter from the normally stoic blonde. "Coffee!" Seven's lips curved into a full smile. "That explains much."
"Does it?" Gretchen raised one eyebrow and smiled faintly but said nothing. She raised the heat under the kettle until the liquid was boiling merrily and placed a lid on top of it, reducing the heat to allow it to simmer. "Now we wait."
"For how long?"
"It needs to simmer for an hour and a half, plenty of time for you to tell me all about your frustrating day." She filled two glasses with iced tea and led Seven to the swing on the porch. They sat quietly for several minutes, enjoying the warmth of the early summer evening, before the younger woman looked at her expectantly. "So… what went wrong?"
"We are having difficulty locating the… insurgents." Seven glanced away, unable to look her in the eyes. "It is most frustrating."
"I can imagine." She sipped her drink. "And how is your 'very special woman'?"
Seven blinked, startled. "She is well. How did you know…"
"That you contacted her?" She shrugged. "I would have."
They passed the rest of the time with Seven listening intently as Gretchen related amusing tales of her experiences as a Starfleet wife. She started with how she and Edward had met and fallen in love and by the time she had related the tale of her unexpected pregnancy, the timer in the kitchen was going off.
When Gretchen removed the lid from the pan, the aroma that filled the kitchen actually caused Seven's mouth to water slightly, an altogether new experience for the Borg.
"Now, add the carrots and the onion." She watched Seven slide the vegetables into the pot and then recovered it. "We'll let that simmer for fifteen minutes while we set the table. There's enough for everyone but your non-comm's will have to eat in the kitchen…or the barn. Edward and I haven't gotten around to finding a larger dining room table yet." When they had finished their task, she told the blond to add the potatoes and re-cover the kettle, leaving her in charge of watching the roast while she went to take a bath. "When all of the vegetables are tender, you'll find a bowl of green peas in the fridge. Toss that in and set the heat to warm. By the time I get back, dinner will be ready!"
Seven watched her go, unable to decipher the somewhat wistful feeling in her chest. She had always thought the concept of romance to be over stated, a particularly human need to enhance a situation by adding superfluous elements. But after listening to Gretchen speak of her love for her husband, and watching the small secretive smile and somewhat dazed expression on her face, she began to think that perhaps she was in error. She lifted the lid and stirred the liquid in the kettle idly as she thought of Kathryn, startled to recognize that she had begun to use the Captain's first name when referring to her in her mind.
She thought back to all of the time they had spent alone together over the last two years; the philosophical conversations, the Velocity matches, the missions that hadn't gone exactly to plan and ended up with them stuck together on one impossible situation after another. She found she could also recall quite vividly every gentle look, soft touch and kind word she had ever received from Kathryn.
Somewhere along the way her existence had become a long stream of memories most notably defined by the time she had spent with the Captain. The other moments seemed… irrelevant.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Seven jumped slightly, surprised to find Gretchen standing behind her, leaning up against the counter with a small, unreadable smile on her face, her hair still damp from her bath. "I beg your pardon?"
The smaller woman laughed. "You were a million miles away again." She stepped forward and took the lid off the pot, using a large spoon to lift some of the liquid to her lips. Her eyes closed in appreciation. "Almost perfect. But apparently your musings were more important than my peas." She laughed out loud at the expression on Seven's face. "Don't worry. Pot roast is a forgiving meal." She grabbed the bowl herself and dumped them in. "Why don't you go tell Captain Ducane and the rest of our little army to get cleaned up? Dinner will be ready in five minutes."
All of the officers came running at the prospect of another fantastic meal made by Gretchen, only to be stunned by the news that Seven had helped in its preparation. She bore their good natured teasing with consummate grace as they all assembled around the table.
Dinner was a rousing success and Seven ate quietly, watching Tom and Harry wolf down their food with gusto, as she was filled with strong sense of family that it took her a moment to identify.
Beneath that, however, was an intense longing for the one person that felt most noticeably absent. She suddenly understood Kathryn's driving desire to return her crew to the Alpha Quadrant and resolved that she would do anything in her power to help with that endeavor, if only to share a meal such as this one with both the Captain and her mother.
Seven followed the rest of the away team back to the barn after dinner, listening with mild amusement as Harry and Tom continued the bickering that had began when Gretchen unceremoniously tossed them a towel and told them they were the clean up crew. The two had looked so lost the pregnant woman had nearly doubled over in laughter. After a particularly entertaining lecture from her about the laziness created by technology, the two Ensigns stood side by side at the wide farm style sink, Harry washing while Tom dried, both of them sniping at each other about who had the worst end of it.
A part of her was deeply tempted to snap a holo-image at the time, one she could share with the Captain when she returned to Voyager. That thought, so completely contrary to her basic nature, made her feel unusually warm inside and caused a small smile to curl the edges of her mouth.
The blonde looked over to see Tom staring at her, a look on his face that was a cross between confusion and amusement. "Yes, Mr. Paris?"
"Are you all right?" He grinned. "It looked like you might actually break out in a grin there for a minute. Are you feeling lightheaded?"
She stiffened slightly as one eyebrow rose. "I am functioning adequately, Ensign. Thank you for your concern."
Tom laughed. "Come on, Seven." He shut the barn door behind them, blocking out the cool breeze and the sound of thunder in the distance. "You seem awfully preoccupied. You hardly said a word during dinner; you just sat there with this odd look on your face, like you had just realized something, especially whenever you looked at the Captain's mother. What's going on?"
She took in a deep breath. "I assure you, Mr. Paris, that there is nothing to tell. My mind is solely occupied with the mission at hand."
The helmsman looked at her thoughtfully, his face softening. "Seven…" He lowered his voice and glanced around making sure no one was within earshot. "I know you and I… well, we're not exactly close, but I do consider you a friend. And I know how much the Captain means to you." He paused for a moment and then shook his head before continuing. "Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that you aren't alone. Harry, Tuvok and I… we would do anything for her too."
Seven swallowed, unsure what to say, then her eyebrows furrowed. "Where is the Commander? I knew he would not be here for dinner but I was unaware his absence would be lengthy."
"He's staying in town." Captain Ducane joined them, holding his hands up to warm them in front of the woodstove. "We decided it would be prudent to leave a presence in town at all times. I offered but he insisted that he would benefit from some quiet meditation in the hotel room this evening. I do believe that one night of our 'communal sleeping arrangements' was more than enough for him." He eyed Seven curiously. "That was some meal you helped make."
"Thank you." She nodded slightly and changed the subject, willing to accept a certain measure of teasing from her crewmates, but not from him. "Will we be meeting Commander Tuvok in town in the morning? Or is he following up different avenues of investigation?"
"The Commander is going to be following up on some leads on recently rented houses. You and I and the rest of the security team will be stationed at specific points around downtown Bloomington. Paris and Kim will be staying here with Gretchen again."
Tom sighed. "She'll probably have us weeding the garden this time."
"It looks like rain is on the way." Ducane smiled. "Maybe you'll luck out. As it is we should all turn in, it's going to be an early morning. No time for pancakes tomorrow, not so long as we don't know exactly when Braxton and his men are supposed to show."
"Very well." Seven nodded and headed for the door.
"Stay alert." The Captain called after her. "We only know they arrive on the 19th. It could happen anytime after midnight."
The farm house was quiet and dark when she stepped inside. Checking all the doors and windows, Seven made her way up the staircase, pausing outside of Gretchen's door to listen momentarily to the younger woman's even breathing as she slept, before heading to her own room. As she closed the door behind her, there was a flash of lightening from outside and she made it to the window in time to see the skies open up with a steady patter of rain. Thunder crashed loudly in the distance as she watched the water, fascinated by the rivulets it created against the window pane.
She wondered what the Captain was doing, remembering the conversations they had had about the rain in Indiana, how it had always filled the fiery redhead with what she called a 'sweet melancholy'.
It was a feeling she herself had become very accustomed to over the past two days.
Turning, she walked over to the bed and sat down on its edge, idly wondering if this room would end up being the one Kathryn would spend her childhood years in, or if it was to be the room Salla, the midwife, currently occupied.
She allowed her mind to wander as she leaned back against the headboard and drew her legs up onto the mattress, thinking about how the years the Captain would spend in this house would help to shape her into the person she was to become. Closing her eyes, she pictured a young Kathryn Janeway lying in that very bed, dreaming about the stars and all the adventure they would hold for her.
When she opened her eyes again, she was startled to discover that several hours had passed since she had lain down. Her pulse quickening, she bolted upright.
Impossible! I do not sleep!
Vague images played at the edge of her consciousness and she grabbed at them, trying to hold them together as they fractured, leaving her with only the feeling that they had all been of the Captain.
She cocked her head to one side, listening to the silence. Something was different.
Stepping outside her room, she stopped briefly outside of the other guestroom, listen to Salla's light snoring through the door. Glancing down the hall, she noticed that Gretchen's door was slightly ajar. Pushing it open, her heartbeat doubled when she saw the bed was empty. She moved to the bathroom and found it empty as well.
Feeling a slight panic begin to creep into her spine, she hurried down the stairs and into the kitchen where her abrupt appearance caused a startled squeak of alarm from the small form sitting at the counter.
"Annika!" Gretchen set the wine glass she was holding down as her hands shook, spilling some of the liquid onto her skin. "You scared me!"
"I apologize." The Borg flushed slightly. "You were not in your room. I was concerned."
The younger woman gestured to a stool across from her, watching as the blonde slid onto it. "I couldn't sleep."
Seven glanced at the glass, her brow furrowing at the deep red color of the wine it contained. "I was under the impression that alcohol could have adverse effects on an unborn fetus."
It was Gretchen's turn to flush. "According to the doctor, there is little danger at this stage in the pregnancy. He seemed to feel that a small glass now and then could be beneficial when I can't sleep."
"Something troubles you?"
"I guess this just isn't how I pictured things happening. Edward and I agreed that he would be with me for the last few weeks of the pregnancy; that he would be here for the birth of his daughter." She sighed. "I'm a Starfleet wife, I know what he does is important and he doesn't always get a choice in the assignments he receives. I also know if there had been any possible way… he would be here right now. But that doesn't help me feel any less alone."
Seven hesitated for a moment and then reached out, placing her hand gently on top of Gretchen's. "You are not alone."
Gretchen looked at her for a moment and then smiled as small tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "I don't know what it is about you, Annika, but I feel like we… connect somehow. It helps that you're here. I'm lucky you were assigned to this detail."
Seven shifted, trying to hide her discomfort. She found herself intensely disliking her inability to share the truth with this enigmatic woman. She cleared her throat, consoling herself with the fact that Kathryn considered the subterfuge necessary as well. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Not unless you feel like keeping me company. The room is just so empty."
"I will comply."
Gretchen raised one eyebrow. "Are you serious?"
"Of course." The Borg cocked her head to one side. "You need your rest. If having my presence in your room would be comforting to you, then I have no objections."
"Oh." Her small smile was beautiful. "Well, then… Let's give it a shot."
Seven followed her up the stairs and watched as she climbed into the large bed, wrapping the blankets around herself tightly. When she was situated, the blonde moved over to lean against the window sill. "Sleep well, Gretchen."
The pregnant woman sat up. "You don't intend to stand there in the corner all night?"
"It is an excellent vantage point for watching the drive that leads up to the house."
"But, when I tire, I will sit in the armchair next to the bed." She added quickly.
"That couldn't possibly be a comfortable way to sleep!"
"Comfort is irrelevant."
"Not to me." She pulled back the blankets on the other side of the bed. "I don't kick. Get in."
Seven stared at her, her eyes wide.
Gretchen laughed loudly, holding her sides as tears of mirth slid down her face. "You're very lovely Annika, but my tastes run more to hairy chests. You're quite safe." One eyebrow rose wickedly. "Besides, it would give you something to tease your woman about."
The Borg thought about that for a moment, picturing the expression on Kathryn's face should she ever tell her that she had slept with her mother. A small snort of laughter escaped from her lips, startling her.
"Well, you do have a sense of humor!" The pregnant woman smiled at her. "You should laugh more often. It suits you. Now get into bed."
Seven sat down gingerly, allowing herself to compromise by stretching out on top of the covers.
Shrugging, Gretchen snuggled herself against the blonde's right side, sighing when Seven placed an arm hesitantly around her shoulders.
"Thank you." She smiled. Within moments, she was sound asleep.
Seven stared down at her, once again amazed by the familiarity of her features. When she felt a small series of flutters impact her hip where it rested against Gretchen's stomach, her heart swelled almost painfully. She reached over with her left hand and placed her palm against the distended belly, her eyes closing as she whispered, "Goodnight, Kathryn."
The Borg's eyes flew open, her arm involuntarily tightening around the form by her side. Glancing down, she saw that Gretchen's eyes were still closed, her breathing even as she slumbered peacefully. She turned her attention to the doorway and found Tom looking at her thoughtfully, a small smile on his lips. "What is the current time?"
"It's 05:00." The Ensign held up the small pack he was holding in his hands. "It's time to go. Is she all right?"
"I believe so. She could not sleep last night. She stated that the room felt too empty so I attempted to alleviate that situation."
"Well, it looks like you did the trick." He watched as the tall blonde untangled herself carefully and rose from the bed. "That was really nice of you, Seven."
"Courtesy is irrelevant." Seven took the pack, quickly looking away to hide the slight flush in her cheeks. "Gretchen needs her rest. I merely did what was required."
Tom nodded, deciding it would be better not to mention the hand he had seen lovingly held against the pregnant woman's stomach. "Captain Ducane is waiting downstairs."
She moved past him. "Understood. Allow me five minutes to dress and I will join you."
As they shut the door behind them, Gretchen opened her eyes, turning to look at the closed door. Her gut instincts told her that she could trust Annika; that the tall, cool blonde somehow had as much resting on her well being as she herself did. Why she felt that way, she didn't know. Especially since every day brought her more questions than answers about her mysterious new friend.
Chapter Five – Right On Time
True to her word, Seven joined the away team on the front drive five minutes later. Captain Ducane took in the black pants, boots and jacket with a raised eyebrow. "Black usually makes people stand out less." He joked.
"Would you prefer that I changed my apparel?" Seven asked coolly.
"No, no time. When we get into town I want you to go to the hotel and make contact with Voyager. The rest of us will join up with Tuvok. I'll station the security squad at specific vantage points around the downtown area while he and I check out the houses he gathered intel on last night. If there is no movement, we will all meet up at the same alley where we beamed in at noon."
She spent the ride into town staring out the side window of the hover craft, studying the farms they passed with keen interest. The area was lush and green, the sky gray and heavy with rain clouds that periodically opened up to shower them with a light smattering of rain. At one point, the clouds parted briefly and she was treated to the spectacle of a multi-hued rainbow stretching across the road in front of them. She watched until it gradually faded from view, storing the memory of it to share with Kathryn when she spoke to her.
When they pulled up in front of the hotel, she jumped out of the conveyance quickly, nodding goodbye to the rest of the team as she made her way inside. The hotel room was empty, freshly made up by the hotel staff, and smelled faintly of the oil that Tuvok burned in his meditation lamp
Going to the table, she flipped open the small comm. unit and hailed Voyager, unable to suppress the sharp intake of breath that occurred when the Captain's face filled the screen. She was seated at her ready room desk, alone.
"Seven." Janeway smiled.
"Captain." She swallowed and settled into a chair. "Has there been any sign of the timeship?"
"Not yet." The red head leaned her head to one side. "How are you faring without regenerating? You look a little tired."
"I am operating at acceptable levels." She looked down at the table. "I… fell asleep last night."
The Captain's eyebrows rose. "Did you? That must have been an unusual experience."
"It was." She quickly changed the subject, not wanting to discuss the images that had haunted her during her short period of slumber. "I believe your mother is beginning to feel your impending birth."
"What do you mean?"
"She is restless, having trouble sleeping. She misses your father greatly."
The Captain bit her bottom lip, a wistful look gracing her features. "I imagine she would. From what I understand they had agreed he would do whatever he had to do to be there for the birth, but Starfleet apparently had other ideas. Is she bitter?"
"Not at all." Seven smiled slightly. "Your mother is an incredibly understanding woman. She knows that the work he is doing is important. I believe she is merely experiencing feelings of loneliness."
"Ahh. I wish…"
"I wish there was something I could do to help."
"There is not." Seven said softly. "But I am doing what I am able."
"I… I stayed with her last night." The blonde looked down at her hands, staring at the left one for a few moments, remembering the feel of the soft kicks that had so mesmerized her. When she looked up again, her eyes were bright. "She slept."
The Captain studied her closely, a tender smile gracing her lips. "Seven…" She pursed her lips, taking a deep breath. "I want you to know that- "
There was a loud explosion and Seven stood up quickly, her heart racing as she watched the Captain being thrown forward. Then the screen went black.
"Kathryn!" She grabbed the comm unit and tried to reestablish the link without success. Slamming it down on the table, she slapped the commbadge hidden beneath her jacket. "Seven of Nine to Captain Ducane!"
"Captain, I have lost contact with Voyager! They are under attack!"
Ducane was silent for a moment. "They're here. That means that room is no longer safe. Get to the alley where we beamed in. We'll meet you there."
"But Captain, we have to aid Voyager-"
"Seven, I understand your concern! But if we don't do what we came here to do, there won't be a Voyager here to protect! Now get to the beam in coordinates! That's an order!"
Seven bristled, her voice like ice. "Yes, Captain!"
Grabbing up the pack that held her phaser and the toxin, she ran for the door.
The street outside was chaotic; the noise loud in Seven's ears as she used her enhanced hearing to try to pick up traces of any relevant conversations. The crowds swelled around her as she pushed her way through, all of the people stopping every few feet to admire another of the antique vehicles on display, making the going slow and raising her frustration level. It took her nearly an hour to reach the back alley where they had arrived and she had just started to duck into it when a movement from up the street caught her attention.
A man wearing a tan overcoat stepped out from a small convenience store. His arms were filled with several bags of groceries and he glanced around nervously before heading to a small hover-craft parked at the curb. As he moved, the air around him seemed alive, moving outwards from his body in steadily decreasing waves.
The chroniton flux of .003.
Reversing her direction, she slid up against the wall, using the crowd between them as a shield as she inched closer. Before she could reach him however, he slid into his vehicle and began to pull away.
Seven looked around quickly, her eyes falling on a series of two wheeled vehicles that lined the street ahead of her. Sliding the pack over her shoulder, she threw her leg over the one closest to her, balancing it easily with her enhanced strength as she looked at the controls in confusion.
Glancing up, she saw the man's craft moving further up the street. With a growl of frustration she slammed her left hand against the gas tank, sending her assimilation tubules through the metal as though it were paper.
Almost immediately, small gunmetal gray tendrils began to spread over the outside of the motorcycle. Where they intersected, the metal began to glow a deep sullen green.
The Borg interfaced with the vehicle easily, smiling when the engine roared into life beneath her. She disconnected her tubules and grabbed onto the handlebars as the bike sped away from the curb at a breakneck pace. From somewhere behind her she heard shouting.
"Hey! Where you going with my hog?"
Shaking her head she focused on the hover-craft that had just turned the corner ahead of her. She gunned the motor and slid around behind it, leaning instinctively when she felt the bike become top heavy.
When she was behind him once again, she slowed down, keeping a respectable distance between them as she followed him through the winding city streets.
Forty five minutes later she slowed to a stop, watching as the man pulled up to a non-descript house and carried his parcels inside. She pushed the bike behind a fence that separated it from the house and crouched down, watching quietly.
"Ducane to Seven of Nine!"
She touched her commbadge, whispering, "Here."
"Where are you? We've been trying to hail you for almost an hour!"
Seven glanced at the bike that sat glowing quietly beside her. It must have interfered with the signal. "I have located the safe house. I am outside of it now. I followed one of the insurgents to this location when I spotted him outside of the alley."
"Why didn't you contact us?"
"He was in a hovercraft. I could not risk losing sight of him."
She heard Ducane mutter something under his breath. "What is your location? We can meet you there…"
"No time." She hissed. "Seven out." She cut the comm signal, cutting off his protests. Reaching into the pack, she withdrew the phaser and, after a moments thought as to where to conceal it, slid it inside her jacket where it rested between her breasts. The toxin mask she slid inside her pocket. Hesitating only briefly, she reached up and pinned her hair tightly against her head, pulling the jacket collar up higher to hide the disk at the base of her neck. She wasn't sure it was completely hidden, but it would have to do. Long hair would give someone much too good of a hand hold.
Moving silently, she crept up to the house, rising slightly to look inside one of the windows. There were two people in the living room. The man she had seen in town and a woman. They were arguing heatedly at the bottom of the stairs. The man wanted to wait for Braxton, the woman thought it foolish to waste the time, saying that they should 'take the bitch out now.'.
With anger rising up inside of her like a tidal wave she stepped in front of the door. Plastering a much practiced smile on her face she looked directly towards the peephole and knocked firmly.
The door was pulled open quickly and she smiled at the surprised look on his face before she kicked away the phaser that was in his hand, followed that with another kick to his midsection and then a quick sweeping backhand with her Borg enhanced left to his temple, knocking him unconscious.
The woman stared at her in disbelief for a moment and then tried to run up the stairs. Seven jumped to the side of the balustrade, grabbing her by the back of the neck and flipping her back to the living room floor. She straddled her quickly and brought the mask down over her nose and mouth, administering the toxin with a vague feeling of satisfaction as she watched her body go limp. Then she stepped over to the man and did the same.
Just as she stood, a sound from above her drew her attention and she looked up to see a third man leap at her from the landing. He was dressed only in a towel. She flung him over her shoulder, kicking him hard between the legs when he landed on his knees. The man fell back, groaning loudly.
Pulling the phaser from her jacket, Seven straddled his waist and pressed it into his chest. "Where is Braxton?"
He didn't answer.
"All right, we will try it again." She brought the phaser up under his chin. "Where is Braxton?"
To her surprise, he smiled.
"You won't kill me." He sneered at her. "You're Starfleet. You won't kill me."
Seven felt her thumb slide over the phaser controls, caressing the firing mechanism for a moment before she inhaled and sat back. "You are incorrect. I would kill you. I am not Starfleet." She placed the mask against his face. "You are merely fortunate that I am loyal to one who is." She ground her teeth together as she pressed the button, listening with satisfaction as the gas hissed its way into his lungs. When he was limp, she stood and tucked the phaser back between her breasts, looking down at him thoughtfully. With a small smirk, she reached down and grabbed the towel, yanking it off of him and throwing it over her shoulder.
Seven glanced around the room, listening carefully, but her Borg enhanced senses told her there was no one else in the house.
Breathing deeply to calm herself, she tapped her commbadge as she walked out the front door. "Seven of Nine to Captain Ducane."
"Ducane here!" His voice sounded almost desperate.
"I have subdued three members of Braxton's team. I am relaying the coordinates to you for their retrieval."
"No. He is not here."
"Understood." He paused. "Seven, you've taken away his safe house. That leaves him only one other avenue…"
The blonde's eyes widened. "Gretchen…"
She ran back to the bike and climbed on. "I am returning to the Janeway farm. Seven out."
She gunned the motor and whipped the bike around, leaving a trail of thick, black rubber on the road behind her.
The Indiana weather decided not to take pity on her, the skies opening up in a torrent of rain that made the bike hard to handle at the speeds she was driving, but she refused to slow down. The only thing she could think of was Kathryn and the image of her slowly fading from view as she was erased from time. Panicking, she pushed the bike even harder, reaching a velocity that would not have been possible without the Borg enhancements.
When she finally skidded to a halt outside of the front porch, the door flew open to emit Tom and Harry, both of whom had their phasers drawn and their mouths set in grim lines of determination. The pulled up short when they saw her, Tom's jaw dropping as he watched her step off the faintly glowing motorcycle.
The Borg ran towards them. "Gretchen, is she…"
"She's fine." He put a hand on her shoulder to slow her. "She's taking a nap. What the hell is going on?"
"They are here." She pushed past him into the house, stopping to listen carefully inside the entryway. But Tom was correct. There was nothing out of the ordinary. "I managed to subdue three of them. Captain Ducane is currently retrieving them from their safe house. But Braxton was not there."
"So he must be headed here." Tom finished for her. He glanced back outside for a moment, his eyes casting one last greedy look at the bike before he shut the door. "Promise me you'll tell me all about that later."
She raised an eyebrow at him but said nothing.
"Look, you're soaked. Harry and I are here and Gretchen is fine. Go upstairs and get cleaned up. We'll take up positions at the front and back of the house. When the rest of the squad gets here we'll have them fan out across the farm. He won't get through. Not if there is anything we can do about it."
Seven nodded slowly. She unbuttoned the front of her jacket, grabbing the phaser as it slid from its perch. Harry's eyes bugged out somewhat but neither of the men said anything as she climbed the stairs quickly, heading immediately for Gretchen's room, unpinning her hair as she went.
The pregnant woman smiled at her briefly as she entered, only to frown when she took in her current state. "Annika! You look like a half drowned cat! What the hell happened?"
The blonde shook her head. "It is too much to explain. I am cold and I must change. Suffice to say that we have captured most of the insurgents."
"Most…" Gretchen looked at her pointedly. "But not all?"
Seven shook her head. "No. There is one remaining. Ensign Kim and Ensign Paris are guarding both entrances to the house. Once I have changed my attire I will remain with you until this situation ends."
"Well," The younger woman smiled tightly. "I certainly won't decline your company." She looked around nervously. "But you need to do more than change. Get out of those wet things and take a hot shower. I am sure the boys can keep me safe that long."
The Borg opened her mouth to protest and then closed it abruptly when she saw the glare that was leveled at her. A small thrill of recognition sped through her limbs as she smiled softly. "I will comply."
Thirty minutes later, Seven stepped out of the bathroom feeling like a new person. She was wearing a warm black sweater and black jeans that hugged her curves tightly, keeping out the chill that had seemed to take up permanent residence in her bones.
She heard footsteps pounding up the stairs and turned, her fists brought up in a fighting stance only to find herself face to face with Captain Ducane.
"Whoa!" He held his hands up in surrender. "It's just me."
She nodded and relaxed somewhat. "Did you retrieve Braxton's men?"
"Yes," He nodded. "And we were able to regain communication with Voyager and beam them back to the ship."
"The Captain?" Seven said anxiously.
"She's fine." Ducane smiled. "A little bruised but I'm sure the Doctor has already remedied that."
"Braxton fired on her the moment he entered the atmosphere; took out Voyager's communications and propulsion before they could get a shot off. They managed to disable the time ship but Braxton and his men had already beamed to the surface. We were lucky you saw their mole when you did or things could be much worse."
"I fail to see how. I did not capture him."
He placed a hand on her shoulder, not unkindly. "We could be faced with four instead of just one."
She nodded slowly.
"I have the men stationed all around the farm. Tuvok is watching the front of the house, I'm going to cover the back."
"I will stay with Gretchen." She said firmly.
"I thought you might say that." He nodded. "All right. We'll be downstairs if you need us. Stay alert."
She raised one eyebrow. "Of course."
Gretchen was napping when she entered the room. Not wanting to disturb her, she went quietly to the window and stood next to it, staring out at the rain soaked landscape.
It was several hours later and the sky had been dark for quite a while when she heard the pregnant woman move behind her. She turned, smiling as Gretchen sat up and rubbed her eyes.
"What time is it?"
"It is late. Almost midnight."
Gretchen nodded and then frowned, her hands going to her belly as her face blanched in pain.
Seven was at her side in an instant. "What is wrong?"
"I don't know!" She doubled over, tears running down her face as the sheets became flooded with moisture. Her eyes went wide. "My water just broke."
The Borg's eyebrows crawled up her forehead. "What should I do?"
Seven bolted into the hallway, pounding on the midwife's door heavily until the woman appeared, her eyes full of sleep. "It is time!"
Salla blinked at her in confusion, and then her eyes cleared. "Right. Ok. Don't panic."
"I do not panic." Seven gritted her teeth.
"Yeah, whatever you say." She headed towards Gretchen's room. "There's a large bag at the foot of my bed. Be a love and grab it please."
The blonde did as she was told, stepping back into the master bedroom in time to see Salla bend Gretchen's knees and push her legs back. She held the bag out from limp fingertips.
The midwife hummed quietly to herself as she opened the satchel and pulled out a clean sheet which she draped over Gretchen from the waist down, as well as a bowl, a bottle of clear liquid, several metal instruments and a metronome. She laid the various implements in a row on the bed and filled the bowl from the bottle, setting it on the floor before placing the metronome on the nightstand. "Gretchen?" She gently brushed her hand across the pregnant woman's sweaty forehead. "I want you to listen to the metronome. Use it to regulate your breathing. If you don't, you'll hyperventilate and that won't be good for the baby."
Gretchen nodded and bit her lower lip, closing her eyes against the pain.
Seven swallowed and backed away. As she neared the window a large flash of lightening filled it, followed by the hollow sound of thunder. For a moment, she thought she heard something else, but it was lost in noise from outside.
She spent the next twenty minutes alternating her attention between the woman on the bed and the darkness outside the glass, caught between wanting to help Gretchen and not being willing to leave her post. A particularly pain filled gasp filled the room, drawing her attention away from the window a moment, and when she looked back, her eyes widened at the sight of a large flash of fire heading directly for her.
The impact was huge; it blew out the window, showering the room in glass, and flung her against the far wall, where her head connected solidly. Everything went gray for a few moments. She heard the sounds of struggle from downstairs and tried to move but her body would not obey her. She had barely managed to climb to her knees when the door to the bedroom flew open and Braxton lunged inside.
His face was contorted with madness, his eyes wild, holding no recognition as they swept over her. He turned his back on her and raised his phaser, aiming it at Gretchen.
The pregnant woman cried out and wrapped her arms protectively around her stomach.
"That won't save her." He laughed. "What I do, I do for the good of all." He fired just as Seven launched herself from the floor. She impacted him squarely in the back, sending the phaser flying from his hand, but not in time.
She watched in horror as the red beam licked out across the room to slam into Gretchen's side. It should have been a killing strike, but her blow threw his aim off just enough. Instead, it glanced against her midsection, ripping a red gash into her flesh as they crashed to the floor.
A rage like nothing she had ever felt before swept through Seven, filling her limbs with a cold energy that begged to be used. Wrapping her hands around Braxton's throat, she squeezed tightly, her lips pulled back in a snarl as his eyes bugged out from his head."
The voice came to her as though through a haze, but it had a clear, commanding quality to it that she found hard to ignore.
"Seven, please… look at me."
She raised her head to see Gretchen staring at her compassionately.
"I don't pretend to know what's going on." The young woman said quietly as she gasped through the pain. "But I'm begging you, please do not let a dead man be the first thing my daughter sees."
Slowly, Seven loosened her grip. As the man beneath her took several large gasps of air, she felt the rage slip away completely and fell back to lean against the wall, dropping her head into her hands.
"Thank you." Gretchen whispered.
The door to the bedroom flew open, this time to allow Tuvok to stagger in. His face was bloody and one of his arms hung from his shoulder at an odd angle, but he was alive. Captain Ducane rushed in after him, holding his side where a large piece of metal was sticking out, coated with blood. He knelt down and placed the toxin mask over Braxton's nose before grabbing him by the front of his shirt and dragging him over to the other side of the room.
Seven stared at the man for several long minutes, remembering the feel of his life ebbing away beneath her fingertips. Then a cry of pain from the bed pulled her attention back to where it belonged. "What is happening?'
Salla shook her head. "The child is coming too quickly. Neither of them is prepared." She picked up a long knife and reached under the sheet, using it to cut Gretchen open. The small woman screamed and fell back heavily against the bed.
"Can't you give her something for the pain?" Ducane asked, his voice full of panic.
"Not at this point." Salla dropped the bloody knife and soaked a hand towel in the bowl next to the bed, cleaning the incision with the antiseptic. "The danger to them would be too great. The damage from the phaser has weakened them both."
Tom rushed into the room, followed by Harry, both of them covered with small blisters on their faces and hands. "I've contacted the Doctor in town, he's on his way." The helmsman took one look at all of the blood and paled.
"We cannot wait." She leaned close to the pregnant woman. "Push! I know it does not feel right, but you must push, now!"
Gretchen raised her shoulders up off the bed and contracted her abdominal muscles, cries of pain erupting from her throat as she did so.
"More!" Salla reached beneath the sheet.
She did it again, and then again.
"Almost there, Gretchen. I have the head. One more big push. Come on, I know you can do it."
Gretchen opened her mouth and the longest string of profanities Seven had ever heard rushed from her lips, but she pushed, to the point where her skin went pale and her entire body shook.
"I have her."
Seven watched in awe as a small, bloody mass was pulled from beneath the sheet.
The midwife held the child gently, her lips set in a grim line. "She isn't breathing."
"What?" Captain Ducane cuffed Braxton to a chair for good measure and stepped closer. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know." Salla rubbed Kathryn gently trying to stimulate the blood flow through her veins. "The phaser blast must have been too strong. It could have sent her system into shock." Tears began to slide down her cheeks.
They both turned to look at Seven who was staring at the too-still child with an unreadable expression on her face. "Place the infant on the bed."
Salla looked at Gretchen who nodded for her to do as she was told.
Reaching behind her ear, Seven turned off the small cloaking device, allowing her implants to shimmer into view. She grabbed a knife from the midwife's bag and used the point to make an adjustment to the Borg technology covering the back of her left hand. When she was done she moved next to the bed and placed the tips of her first and second fingers against Kathryn's unmoving chest as she closed her eyes.
The sound of an electronic pulse filled the room briefly and then faded away, only to be repeated and then repeated again. The pulse activated one final time before the room went deathly quiet.
Seven held her breath as she waited for what felt like an eternity.
Then the most beautiful sound she had ever heard filled her ears.
It was the sound of a very angry Kathryn Janeway screaming for her mother.
The blonde felt an unusual tightness in her throat and swallowed against it. She stepped away quickly as Salla moved forward to pick up the wriggling child and place her in her mother's arms.
Gretchen stared in wonder at her little girl, her eyes filling with tears of joy even as the pain from her wound tore through her side. She looked over at Seven for a moment, as though she were trying to decide something, and then held out her hand, shaking it slightly until the Borg stepped forward and clasped it within her own. "Thank you." She whispered. "Whoever you are… We both thank you." Her lips thinned as her side cramped painfully. The doctor entered the room and went immediately to her, pulling the sheet away from the hole in her flesh. "Can you take her?"
Seven's eyes widened and she stepped back, shaking her head.
"Please." Gretchen smiled and held the infant up.
With a small nod Seven took the baby and gently cradled her in her arms, her hands shaking slightly as she looked into stormy blue eyes that somehow seemed to know her. The small body in her arms wiggled and a little fist curled around a loose lock of blonde hair. She watched in wonder as the hair was dragged into the small toothless mouth and felt her breath catch painfully as the delicate creature closed her lips around it.
In fascination, she traced the smaller version of the proud brow and nose she knew so well with the tip of her finger, realizing that the ache in her chest could only be defined as 'love'. It was something she had spent a great deal of time researching but had never truly believed she would ever feel herself, yet here she was, holding what she would have once considered to be a small, inconsequential being, with her heart so full of emotion that she could not stop the tears that coursed down her face. "Captain…?" She whispered.
Tom placed a hand gently on her shoulder and squeezed. "Not yet, Seven. Not yet."
Gretchen studied the blonde, a small smile on her face as the pain medications the doctor had administered dragged her down into much needed sleep. "I think she likes you…"
Chapter Six – Not Goodbye
Gretchen Janeway stretched slowly as she woke, her hand immediately going to the sore spot on her side. It was still tender from the night before, but the doctor had done his work well; the wound was gone, leaving behind only freshly regenerated skin and an ache he said would pass in a week or so. Her hand trailed across her flattened belly and started upright, glancing about the room in panic until she saw the bassinet set up next to the bed. From within it she heard the sounds of her daughter fussing as she played with the long fingers that were being dangled from above her.
Gretchen glanced up at the tall blonde, taking in the look of quiet adoration on the young woman's face as she studied the infant's tiny form. "I remember, you know."
Seven blinked, her forehead furrowing in confusion.
Gretchen smiled as she lifted the child and then laid back with her tucked against her chest. "I remember your real face." She glanced at Seven's left hand. "And the way your fingers felt on my stomach."
The Borg looked down, flushing slightly, one finger idly tracing over the implant hidden above her left eye.
"It doesn't matter, Annika… Or Seven, is it?" Gretchen caught her hand as she dropped it and squeezed her fingers. "You'll always have the face of an angel to me. You saved my life." She looked down at the child snoring softly on her breast. "You saved Kathryn's life. That means she belongs to you, too." She gave Seven a long look and then sighed. "I heard you call her Captain. I know there's a lot more going on here than I'm ever going to be told, but I get the feeling that Kathryn already belonged to you, before you even set foot in this house. And if that is true, then I know I won't ever have to worry about her, not so long as you're around. Thank you."
The Borg blushed to the roots of her hair, blinking her eyes quickly to fight back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks for the third time that day. When Gretchen pulled on her hand, she bent down and accepted the gentle kiss against her cheek.
"It is time for us to go." Seven said softly.
"I figured. I'd ask you where you're going but 'where' doesn't seem to really fit now does it?"
The blonde did not respond.
Gretchen laughed. "I'm not going to ask if I'll ever see you again either, because something tells me that I will." She squeezed the Borg's hand one last time.
Seven swallowed against the dryness in her throat as she tried to find her voice. "Goodbye, Gretchen." She turned to leave, only to have the younger woman's voice stop her just inside the door.
"That very special woman of yours?"
Seven turned slowly to look her directly in the eyes.
"Tell her I love her."
The Borg nodded quietly before slipping out the door.
Captain Ducane and Paris were waiting for her outside, the rest of the team having gone ahead to transport Braxton back to the ship. Tom smiled at her as she walked up. "Everything all right?"
Seven cocked her head to one side. "Yes, of course."
"So you're ready to go?" Ducane asked.
"Any thoughts on what we should do with that?"
Her eyes followed the direction he pointed in until they came to rest on the motorcycle parked sideways across from them. Even though the motor was shut down, the bike still glowed in the gray early morning light.
She raised one eyebrow. "Leaving it would be out of the question."
Ducane rolled his eyes. "Obviously. I suppose we're going to need to take it with us. It wouldn't do to leave Borg technology floating around a traditionalist farming community." He scratched his head. "Can't say I have the faintest idea how to ride it."
"I will take the vehicle back to the beam in location." As she walked over to the motorcycle, Tom ran up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. "Uhm…Seven?"
"Yes, Ensign Paris, what do you require?"
"Oh, c'mon Seven! Please? How many chances am I going to get at something like this?"
She thought back to the comfort he had tried to offer her and sighed. "Very well." She straddled the bike, waiting semi-patiently as he climbed on behind her. He started to wrap his arms around her waist but one pointed look over her shoulder convinced him to grab onto the back of the seat instead.
"You know, this was a mint condition 2123 Harley Davidson V-Rod." He shook his head in mock horror. "What the hell did you do to it anyway?"
Seven brought the bike to life, the engine purring loudly in the quiet. "You could say that it would now be more aptly termed a B-Rod, Mr. Paris."
Without warning, she gunned the motor and the bike took off like a shot, effectively cutting off anything else he might have said.
Captain Kathryn Janeway stood in transporter room two with the Doctor, her hands clenched so tightly together that her knuckles were white. She had been in this position before, under much worse circumstances, waiting for away teams to return that had come under fire or suffered casualties. This time, every one was coming back safe and sound.
So why do I feel my world is about to come crashing down?
She felt a spark of something wild and electric travel down her spine as the transporters activated and the first sparkles of light appeared. When they faded away, she found herself staring into bright blue eyes with very dark circles around them.
"Seven?" She stepped forward in alarm as the Borg swayed slightly, one hand reaching out to steady the tall blonde as they other went to the wide bruise that covered one of her temples. "What happened?"
"The damage is not severe, Captain." She felt herself begin to shake as the older woman ran cool fingers over her forehead. She stepped down from the dais. "I struck my head during Braxton's attack. The local physician was not concerned."
"Then why do you look like your about to fall down?"
"I believe I am 'tired'."
"That would be an understatement." The Doctor frowned, looking over the readouts from the tri-corder he had been scanning her with. "You haven't regenerated in over three days, not to mention the fact that your body is showing signs of extreme stress and exertion. What did you do to yourself down there?"
Captain Ducane stepped forward and cleared his throat. "What she had to." He squeezed Seven's arm gently. "Thank you."
The Borg nodded.
Janeway watched as the Doctor quickly examined the rest of the team, sighing in relief when he turned to her and nodded, indicating they were all going to be fine.
"I guess now is as good a time as any for the debriefing." Ducane said from where he had been waiting.
"I agree." Seven replied.
"Captain, I really must protest." The Doctor frowned. "The rest of the away team may be fine but Seven needs to regenerate immediately. Otherwise she risks permanent damage to her implants and cortical node."
Janeway held up her hand. "I agree, Doctor. Captain Ducane, why don't you take the away team to the conference room? Have Chakotay call the senior staff together. I'll meet you there shortly." When they had gone, she turned to Seven and led her from the room.
"Captain?" The blonde looked at her quizzically as they headed for the turbo-lift.
"You don't think I am going to trust you to tuck yourself in, do you?" She smiled, her eyes bright as she helped support the exhausted young woman. "We can handle your debriefing after you've had eight hours in your alcove."
When they reached Cargo Bay Two, Janeway helped her into her alcove. As she reached for the controls, Seven stopped her by placing a hand against her cheek. Looking into her eyes, she spoke quietly. "There is… much that I wish to say; many things that we must discuss." She swallowed. "But you are correct, I must regenerate. Would you meet me in Holodeck One, in exactly ten hours?"
Janeway blinked, curious what the extra two hours were for but not wanting to press the younger woman. "I'll be there." She smiled. "Sweet dreams."
Seven's lips quirked slightly. "I believe they will be."
Kathryn Janeway stood outside of Holodeck One, her hand fidgeting nervously with the collar of the crème silk blouse she was wearing. She glanced down at the neatly pressed grey slacks and black sandals she had on and felt slightly foolish. Seven hadn't said anything about casual attire.
Well, damn. Too late to do anything about it now.
Straightening her shoulders, she stepped into the holodeck, her jaw dropping as all of the air left her lungs. Turning in a circle, she felt tears stinging her eyes as she took in the sight of her mother's kitchen, so familiar and yet not quite how she remembered it. She ran her hands along the countertops and then stared out the open back door to the yard and the fields beyond as she swallowed the sweet pain that filled her throat.
It was raining.
A soft voice from behind her drew attention away. "Captain?"
She turned and saw Seven standing in the doorway that would have led to the dining room. The Borg was dressed in black jeans and a tight black short sleeved sweater. "Seven?" She breathed. "How did you do this?"
The blonde moved slowly towards her. "I am familiar with every inch of this house. I walked its interior dozens of times in the three days I spent with your mother." She looked around. "It is stored in my eidetic memory."
"It's incredible." She smiled tremulously for a moment, and then her attention was caught by the incredible aroma that filled the room. Walking over to the stove, she lifted the lid off the pot that was bubbling merrily on the burner. Her eyes closed and a look of rapture filled her features as she breathed in deeply. "Oh, Seven! My grandmother's pot roast?"
"Yes. Gretchen taught me how to prepare it."
Sighing, she grabbed a spoon from the counter nearby and scooped out some of the broth. As it reached her lips, she groaned, her eyes fluttering shut as the taste took her back in time. "This was my favorite meal, you know." She replaced the lid. "Thank you for doing this."
Seven stepped closer and laid her palm against the Captain's cheek. "For so many reasons I could not possibly begin to list them all." She looked away, hiding the slight blush that crept into her cheeks. "Come, the meal is ready. We will talk after we eat."
Janeway allowed herself to be led into the dining room, her eyes taking everything in greedily as Seven pulled out a chair for her. When she was seated, the blonde went back into the kitchen and returned with two plates filled with the roast, as well as freshly baked rolls and a bottle of wine.
They ate in comfortable silence, their eyes meeting several times throughout the meal, speaking volumes without ever uttering a word.
When they finished, they took their empty plates and set them in the sink before heading out to stand on the porch, where Janeway found the cool, rain soaked air a balm on her somewhat frazzled nerves. Several times throughout the meal she had felt Seven's eyes on her as an almost physical caress. Her body's reaction was immediate and powerful, sending arcs of electricity from her abdomen out to the tips of her fingers and toes. And now that the meal was over…
Now they would discuss whatever it was that had started between them over the course of the past week. She found the idea elating, and more than a little terrifying.
The silence stretched between them for several long minutes until Seven stepped into her personal space, placing a cool metal tipped finger under her chin to turn her face so that she could stare into her eyes.
"There are things that I must say," The blonde's voice was soft; almost a whisper and they stood so closely together that Janeway could feel her breath as it passed over her cheek. "It is difficult to know where to begin." She dropped her hand and stepped away, leaning against the railing as she looked out towards the barn and the Captain found herself fascinated by the small drops of water that fell on her upturned face. "When I asked you about your resolve to save my life after my cortical node failed, I admit I had reasons that I did not reveal to you. I have found my mind occupied with thoughts of you for quite some time; thoughts that I have been unable to categorize or understand. I had begun to think that I was malfunctioning in some way; that it was inappropriate to spend so much time dwelling on your existence, to find myself needing to be in your presence so often and to such an extent."
The Captain held her breath, caught by the naked emotion she heard in the ex-drone's voice.
Seven looked down at her hands, her fingers curving as though around a memory. "Then I held you… naked in my arms..." She stepped closer and placed her palm against Kathryn's cheek. "...and in those 12.36 minutes I came to realize... that is where you have always belonged..." She leaned down slowly, until their lips were barely a breath apart. "In those 12.36 minutes, I finally understood what love truly is."
The Captain didn't blink, she didn't swallow, she barely breathed as the full red lips descended on hers. They were exquisite, soft and sweet, gently curious as they opened to deepen the kiss and she moaned when she felt the tip of Seven's tongue slide across her own. Her hands slid over the Borg's hips, locking together in the small of her back to pull the tall lanky frame more tightly against her.
Seven felt her body arch into the contact, the skin beneath her clothing on fire where the Captain's hips and breasts pressed into her. Her hands slid up, a sigh escaping from her lips as her fingers tangled in the soft auburn hair. She felt the Captain's lips press harder, becoming almost bruising in their need. "Kathryn…"
Janeway pulled back, her eyes wide, her breath coming in short gasps. "Say it again…"
Seven raised one eyebrow.
"You named me." She smiled. "I want to hear you say it again… The way that you said it to my mother."
The younger woman smiled gently. So she knew… "Kathryn… Kathryn…" She whispered over and over, following each utterance with a feather soft kiss. "Kathryn…"
Janeway melted into her, devouring her lips possessively, her heart rate doubling when she felt Seven's hands slide up under her shirt to press tightly against her back. They roamed wildly across the heated expanse of skin, sending shock waves of sensation to other, more sensitive areas of her body. When one hand slid around her side to brush up against her breast, she tore her mouth away, gasping for air. "Seven!"
The Borg looked her directly in the eyes. "I desire you… now!"
The last word was almost a command and Janeway felt her legs weaken. As they slid to their knees, her fingers crawled inside Seven's sweater to trail lightly across the bands of metal that crossed over her midsection. The sharp intake of breath that caress earned her made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Growling, she grabbed the edges of the sweater and pulled it up over the blondes head, tangling it around her wrists, using it to hold them immobile. "So…" She breathed heavily into Seven's mouth, her teeth biting down on the blonde's pouting lower lip. "You think you can give the Captain orders?"
Seven smiled. It was not one of the small smiles Kathryn had almost become used to seeing over the past year; it was not the broad smile she knew the ex-drone practiced in the solitude of Cargo Bay Two, nor was it even the shy smile that she had recently developed whenever the two of them stood a little too close to each other. This smile was altogether different.
It was deep and slow, and it caused one side of her mouth to quirk up slightly to match the eyebrow she raised at the same time. It was a look of heat and fire, of passion and desire, of things wanted and needed and promised all at the same time.
And it took Kathryn's breath away completely.
Before she could even think of a way to respond, Seven flexed her arms, tearing the sweater in two down the middle. She circled Kathryn's waist with one strong arm, while she pulled the cushion off the porch swing with the other, tossing it to the floor before she flipped them around, pressing Kathryn down on top of it with the weight of her body. "Yes," She whispered. "I believe I can."
Kathryn realized with shock that the whimpering she heard was coming from her. Her body shook as Seven captured her lips in yet another searing kiss while her hands pulled apart the front of the Captain's blouse.
When the bare skin of their breasts finally met, the Borg threw her head back, her eyes rolling up before they closed in appreciation; beneath her, Kathryn moaned, her hands going to the pins in Seven's hair to free it from its confinement. She watched, her heart penetrated by the sheer beauty of the image above her, as the white gold locks fell freely around her pale shoulders.
When she had regained her breath, she reached between their bodies unfastening the jeans the blonde wore to push them down the long, smoothly muscled legs.
Seven watched Kathryn's face intently, her heart pounding heavily as she saw the love and desire she herself felt mirrored in the gray-blue eyes that had haunted her sleep. With trembling hands, she pulled the cloth from Kathryn's hips, her fingers lightly grazing across the sensitive skin of her thighs as she stripped it from her.
Nude, they came together slowly, their bodies meeting inch by inch, aligning their hips and torsos as their thighs intertwined. When their bodies were fully connected, neither of them moved for several minutes, enthralled by the current that ran between them wherever their skin met, their eyes locked together in a gaze that threatened to immolate them both.
Then Kathryn wrapped her fingers around the back of Seven's neck, dragging her down roughly to taste her lips again. The blonde responded eagerly, one hand sliding down the smaller woman's side to cup her buttock, using it to pull her hips up, causing both their thighs to connect solidly with the tender flesh between their legs.
Ragged breaths passed between them at the contact and Kathryn's nails dug into Seven's back, leaving dark red trails as they scratched over her flesh.
With a low moan, the blonde pulled her lips away to trail them down an elegant throat, stopping here and there to nip her teeth against the firm flesh of Kathryn's neck.
The older woman writhed beneath her, whispering "Seven…" as she pulled her hands up and cupped the fullness of the Borg's breasts, her fingers closing firmly on the swollen tips.
Seven cried out, arching her back as her body was filled with chaotic ecstasy. Her hips began to move of their own accord, grinding roughly against the thigh pressed sweetly between them.
Driven past the point of reason, Kathryn ran her hand down Seven's belly to tangle in the coarse hair at the juncture of her legs. Greedy fingers slid easily through the warm wetness, finding the bundle of nerves at the top of her cleft and stroking it lightly with her fingertips.
Seven shuddered as a surge of feeling so intense it momentarily dimmed her vision swept through her. All of her research had not prepared her for the incredibly intense pleasure she received from just the lightest touch of Kathryn's fingers. She moved her hips faster; pushing harder until she felt two fingers slide inside of her while the Captain's thumb touched her from the outside.
The feel of those fingers thrusting deeply into her drove all thought from her mind and she dropped her head to Kathryn's breast, closing her teeth over one nipple while her fingers caressed the other. They found a perfect rhythm together as the older woman flexed her fingertips, finding a smooth spot deep inside that made the Borg whimper whenever she touched it and, when Seven pushed her knee more firmly against her, her own cries echoed out across the rain splashed fields.
"Seven! Yes…YES!" Her free hand slid across the blonde's sweat slicked back for a moment until her nails dug in sharply.
"Kathryn!" Seven whispered her voice harsh, the words bitten off from between tightly clenched teeth. "I love you."
They came together, both of them crashing over the edge of orgasm within seconds, their bodies wound tightly around one another as they lay shaking, light drops of rain landing on them softly, only to evaporate against the heat of their skin.
They remained that way for several long minutes, doing nothing but whispering soothing sounds and unintelligible words. Then Kathryn pulled her fingers free, running them wetly across Seven's lips before taking her head between both her hands to stare deeply into her eyes.
"I love you." She whispered fiercely, closing the distance between them to kiss her hard, the taste enough to set her heart to pounding again.
When they parted, the blonde looked at her thoughtfully as she ran her tongue across her lips. "I am curious…"
The blue eyes went dark with newfound desire. "What you taste like."
Without hesitating, Seven slid down the slight frame, kissing her way over firmly toned muscles until she could nuzzle in the dark red hair covering her lover's sex. For a moment, she merely inhaled deeply then she parted her folds with her nose and closed her lips over the firm ridge of flesh, her tongue lapping against it softly as she drank in the moisture.
"Seven!" Kathryn hissed, her hand going to the back of the blonde's head. "Oh god yes!"
Encouraged by the Captain's words and the rapidly increasing thrusts of her hips, Seven licked faster, sucking firmly as she grazed the tender flesh with the tips of her teeth.
Kathryn raised her legs and settled them on the younger woman's shoulders as the pleasure suffused her entire body. "Seven…?"
"Yes, Kathryn?" The Borg whispered.
"Go inside... please… go inside." She felt the lips against her smile briefly and then groaned as she was filled by Seven's long, slender fingers. The younger woman had learned her lessons well, and she matched her thrusts and the movements of her tongue with the motion of the Captain's hips, quickly driving her past the point of pleasure, pushing her over to a realm of euphoria that robbed her of her breath and left her delirious. Her body arched up violently, every muscles stretched to it's limit as she hung for one exquisite moment on a precipice of sheer ecstasy, then she collapsed, her hands pulling gently on Seven's arms until she climbed up to wrap them around her.
There was so much she wanted to ask, so many things she needed to say, but the thoughts faded away as the blonde laid her head on her chest, her breath evening out until the Captain was sure she had fallen asleep. Closing her eyes, she joined her.
She heard her name as though from far away and shook her head, refusing to be drawn from the warm wonderful place where she currently resided.
This time the name was followed by the most delicious touch. It trailed across her cheek and down her neck, where it was replaced by lips that sucked strongly against her flesh, raising tiny pinpoints of pain that finally dragged her back to consciousness. "That's going to leave a mark." A lazy smile graced her lips as her eyes opened to focus on Seven's smiling face. Damn, I could get used to this.
"How long have I been asleep?"
"Several hours." The Borg smiled and wrapped her arms around her, pulling her into a tight embrace.
Kathryn looked around, noticing that the Holodeck had gotten creative while they slept, opening up the cloud cover to allow the sunshine to stream in; creating a multi-hued arc of color over the cornfields at the edge of the farm. "How lovely."
"Thank you." Seven nuzzled her neck, sending shivers down her spine. "I witnessed such a phenomenon while I was on Earth. I remembered thinking at the time how much I would have liked to share it with you."
"It's been a lot of years since I've seen a rainbow, Seven. Thank you." She kissed the blonde gently, pleased by the almost immediate spark of desire that flashed in bright blue eyes and equally confused by the look of regret that immediately followed it. "What's wrong?"
"It is unfortunate, but we have already surpassed our allotted time on the Holodeck. I do not believe Tom Paris would be appreciative if we made him wait any longer for his scheduled usage."
Kathryn chuckled. "That's one of the reasons it's good to be the Captain." She brushed the hair away from Seven's face. "You get to bend the rules every now and again. Besides, I'm pretty sure he's too busy in Cargo Bay one to even be thinking about coming to the Holodeck."
Seven looked at her curiously.
"Captain Ducane let him keep the… Harley? I think that's what he called it."
"I believe it is known as a 'hog'." She supplied helpfully.
"Well, whatever it's called, he said since it came from the past and not the future, and since you are the only one who would ever be able to dismantle it should the need arise, that it could remain here on Voyager." She laughed. "I think Tom may have wet himself."
"Indeed. What about Voyager's new temporal drive, as well as the transfer of the prisoners and the Time Corps personnel?"
"Captain Ducane has scheduled a jump to the future for tomorrow afternoon. The entire crew, except for the senior staff, will be confined to quarters until after the alterations are complete and we are returned to the Delta Quadrant." She looked at Seven thoughtfully. "It seems like you had quite an adventure down there; you're going to have to tell me all about it."
Seven smiled. "It would appear that some of it you are already aware of."
She shrugged, resisting the temptation to rub her temple. "I'm trying not to think too hard about all of the new memories that have popped into my head; memories of stories told to me by my mother. I know if I do I'll just end up with one hell of a headache."
That smile reappeared on Seven's face. "Are you aware that physical exertion releases endorphins that can alleviate both stress and headaches?"
Kathryn laughed. "Something tells me that is a remedy I will be very fond of utilizing in the future."
This could not have been written without the help of both KathieGOTaGun, who came up with the wonderful image of Seven holding baby Kathryn, which was the basis for the whole story in the first place, and ZoeAmory, who created the wonderful video "Past Tense" in tandem with the story being penned. Her masterful video cuts and ability to find scenes that fit exactly what I was looking for brought a whole new level of realism to the story. You both have incredible talent! Thank you for sharing it with me! (Oh and for those of you that are shaking your heads and going "Uh uh! No way!": southernfood./od/potroastrecipes/r/bl30120e.htm. BITE ME! ROTFLMAO!)