It all comes down to this
Released 3 Jan 2003
Chakotay settled back into his place as he handed the Captain her cup of coffee and looked out at the visual effect of the slipstream on the viewscreen. "Doesn’t all this running back and forth, to and from the Delta Quadrant " He let his words trail off as he looked at her and knew that she knew exactly what was going through his mind.
Sipping the hot liquid, Janeway shook her head. "It might seem that it somehow lessens what we accomplished the first time, Chakotay But it doesn’t. I’m beginning to think we gained more than we lost." She smiled slightly. "But I’d prefer it if our next trip to the Delta Quadrant was purely for pleasure."
"Nearing the rendezvous coordinates, Captain." Harry looked back at her expectantly.
Janeway nodded as she set aside her cup then stood, straightening her uniform. "I’d better look my best," she joked, "The Generals weren’t very happy when we decided to taxi Mr. Barclay home."
"It was your call, Captain." Chakotay smiled. "Implying that you trusted Kashyk to hold the line while we were gone was brilliant, though."
"Who said I didn’t trust him?" Janeway said without removing her eyes from the view screen. There was a dead silence from behind her and she turned to smile at Chakotay who seemed too stunned to move. "I trusted him to do exactly what his pride would demand. When I said that I trusted him, I implied it was because he and his crew wouldn’t be intimidated by Rotor. Just doing that meant Kashyk’s pride kept him there; he wouldn’t be shown a coward in front of the others. It kept anyone else who might have had thoughts of leaving where they were so they could prove that they weren’t cowards either." Her eyes lit up as she winked at Chakotay. "The best part of it was that he knew exactly what I was doing when I did it and he couldn’t do a thing about it."
Chakotay shook his head slightly, and then settled back in his seat. "Prepare to bring us out of slipstream, Harry."
"Aye, Sir." Kim’s fingers flew over the panel in front of him, competently readying systems all over Voyager. Tom’s gaze fixed on the screen in front of him, his fingers poised over the panel in a show of readiness to take over the helm from the automated control of the slipstream drive. "Coming out now."
Before them lay one group of vessels from the Delta Quadrant Alliance, the vast array of varied technology that displayed the best and the worst of the races who had banded together to save their homes. There was a slight moment as Janeway’s stance changed, becoming only the charismatic Captain once more. "Hail them, Mr. Kim."
Kim looked back at Janeway once more, making eye contact, "On screen, Captain." As he turned back his eyes widened, unable to completely comprehend what he saw before him.
The bridge lights of the Devore vessel were dimmed and orange, as though still in battle status. There was an ominous stillness, then Kashyk, Voyager‘s old nemesis moved forward slowly, with an almost mechanical pulse to his movement. A glint of light from one cheek exposed the spider star implant that had sprouted there, but what evidenced his condition more was the cold, emptiness of his eyes. Colder still than the immoral, devious gaze that Janeway now found herself longing for.
"Resistance is futile, Kathryn," Kashyk’s voice intoned. "All stories will end." There was a sudden lurch as the first volley of fire from the Devore vessel hit Voyager‘s hull armor. Janeway’s abandoned coffee cup toppled from its perch to shatter on the deck plating, its dark contents spilling against the metal.
Janeway stumbled from the impact but managed to stay upright as the bridge flew into a flurry of action. "Red alert. Shields up. Evasive maneuvers." She settled back into her place, her eyes unreadable. "Take that off screen."
"Slipstream drive offline. Hull breach on deck ten." Tuvok’s voice intoned from behind her. "Five injured." A slight pause then, "One dead."
Chakotay watched as Janeway’s fist clenched and unclenched, her only visible reaction to the news and his heart lurched. The rage and sorrow coming from the Captain was an almost palpable presence on the bridge. "Tuvok, target their engines and weapons." Janeway’s voice was clipped. The message in her order clear, as few casualties as possible.
Darts of light, indications of the other allies maneuvering for the best position just before the ship shuddered and lurched, crackles of energy breaking over the hull. The ship rocked from the impacts as volleys of fire broke from Voyager‘s phasers, careening at various targets. The klaxon and multitude of voices coming in from all channels blended into a sort of white noise that echoed in Janeway’s ears, allowing her to only hear the accusatory loop of thought that ran through her mind as her training guided her as if on autopilot. One of the attacking Kazon vessels exploded into a blazing sunburst as another volley of phaser fire hit its hull. The bridge crew flinched away from the brightness, except for Janeway whose expressionless face was illuminated in the dimness of the battle lighting.
"Shields at eighty-four percent, Captain, and holding," Tuvok intoned.
Their view screen flickered, and then sparked to life, Rotor’s face twisted in a malevolent grin appearing unbidden. "Come, come now, Kathryn. I was so glad you could join our little party Why did you have to go and make such a mess?"
The ship rocked again, but Janeway lurched to her feet, moving forward her eyes locked with Rotor’s. "Get that off my screen, Mr. Kim."
"Trying Captain, he’s commandeered a wideband communications channel and he’s flooding it with his signal." The Lieutenant’s hands moved over his panel, trying sequence after sequence to block the new face of the Borg from Voyager‘s view screen.
"How do you like my new friends? They were your friends, but I decided they and their ships would be much more helpful this way. Of course, everything everyone is expendable." The screen switched back to a view of the fleet. A bright flash overwhelmed the screen once more, as one of the Vidiian vessels exploded into a multicolored starburst of energy, before Rotor reappeared. "You didn’t really think that your little fleet destroying those cubes actually made a difference did you? After all, it all has to end sometime Now or then doesn’t make that much of a difference."
Suddenly the screen went dead then flickered back to a view and Harry turned back towards Janeway, a slight smile on his lips. "Oz and I managed to lock him out of our communications channels, Captain." His smile faded as the Captain’s expression didn’t change.
There was no slight quirk to her lips as she nodded, "Good work, Mr. Kim. Mr. Oz." Her gaze settled on Tom’s back. "Get us out of here, Mr. Paris, before we have uninvited guests aboard."
"Course, Captain?" Tom was uncharacteristically all business, taking his cue from Janeway.
Janeway frowned, as all the permutations ran through her mind at once. "It’s served us well in the past The Northwest Passage, Mr. Paris."
Fingers danced over the helm panel as Paris pushed Voyager‘s maneuverability to its limits. Diving and dancing along a straight-line path. Tuvok’s steady call of damage and shield read outs echoing over the din, as the Vulcan’s firing patterns, disabled as many of their former allies as possible. "Transwarp ready on your mark, Captain." Harry looked to Tom, who grinned slightly in response.
"Hang onto your seats, people." The whine of the inertial dampeners straining overtook all other noise on the bridge, as Voyager flipped downward ninety degrees, and presented with a fire free zone, shot off into the darkness. The transwarp conduit snapped shut behind them, leaving the Borg-possessed vessels to regroup with one of the slipstream capable vessels before continuing their pursuit.
"Seven." The Doctor looked toward the entrance of Sickbay where the former Drone was standing rigidly, watching the hologram uneasily. "I’m glad to see you finally are reporting in for your post away mission physical. You could have seen Dr. Dayton while I was off duty." His brow arched slightly, "Your emulation of the Captain doesn’t have to include her bad habits about medical appointments, you know." The teasing fell flat, the Doctor still unsettled from his experience with Rotor and Seven unusually unresponsive.
"A physical is not necessary," Seven moved forward suddenly, her movements tense and mechanical. "I was not damaged in the altercation with Rotor." She boosted herself onto a biobed without being asked, but her attitude remained distant.
The Doctor sighed, "I understand your reluctance, Seven. Lieutenant Torres went through my program with a fine tooth comb over a hundred times before she declared me fit for duty again." The Doctor stopped and shivered slightly, knowing how his staff had looked at him, as though they expected him to revert to the pseudo-Borg form that Rotor had forced on him. The incident had left him shaken, doubting himself, feeling vulnerable to attack and less than human. He couldn’t have known that those were the very feelings any being who’d been co-opted by the Collective were left with after the experience. "You weren’t called here because we’re concerned that Rotor may have affected you. It’s standard procedure to "
"I understand what the protocols are, Doctor," Seven almost snapped as she spoke. The Doctor looked away as he picked up a scanner from the instrument table, trying to shake off the uneasy feeling that Seven’s uncharacteristic attitude was rousing in him. Rotor had held him captive for hours before he had managed to subvert his programming, whereas Seven had been free the entire time. The EMH pushed it out of his mind. Rotor had tried to take over Seven’s mind before and had failed; there was no real indication that she’d been affected this time either. He knew he was striking at shadows, seeing threats where none existed, but he couldn’t completely push out of his mind the horror of being used by Rotor as he had been.
Turning back towards Seven, he started running the scanner over her torso, noting readings as he went. "Then let’s get this over with shall we No need to keep you from your duties."
Seven shifted uncomfortably. When she and the Captain had gone on the away mission, she hadn’t considered the regulation physical afterwards. Discovering that the unnamed fear that she had been harboring since the turning point in the Sernaix war was Rotor had done little to counter it. The reaction she suffered after Harry’s latest near death encounter was enough to reinforce her need for the bond she was endeavoring to create between them, yet she knew she was wrong in doing so without Harry’s knowledge or consent. It was unlikely that she had been successful yet, even with the intervention of her own nanoprobes and resolved to discontinue her efforts.
As she watched the Doctor carefully scanning her, the expression on his face hiding the pain she knew must be there, she regretted her harsh words. At times she still found it difficult to be considerate of even her closest friends, especially when she was so caught in her own still unfamiliar emotions. Still her voice was stiff as she spoke, "I apologize for being rude, Schmullus. I know how difficult it is to be used as a puppet by Rotor. I should be more considerate."
The Doctor looked up at her, a soft smile forming on his lips. "Yes, well, I know this entire situation can’t be easy for you, Seven. Trouble seems to follow Harry wherever he goes and " A shrill beep from the instrument in the Doctor’s hand caused his brow to furrow slightly as he studied the readings, then recalibrated the instrument and scanned again. Everything that had occupied his mind was pushed away as his programming analyzed the readings. First shock, then happiness for his friend registered in his expression before he looked up at Seven with a wide smile on his face. "Seven, I had no idea that you and "
The smile faded as he took in the look of shock and guilt that clouded Seven’s eyes. "Oh, Seven, what have you done?"
"Northwest passage in ten seconds, Captain." Tom started his preparations to drop from transwarp.
Chakotay had been watching Janeway with concern since they had left the battle. He could see the guilt eating away at her even in the blank expression she kept fixated on the view screen. It didn’t matter to her that Rotor would have gone after the allies eventually anyway, it didn’t matter that she had no way of knowing what Rotor would do next, it didn’t matter that every member of the Alliance knew the risks when they had come forward. Even the fact that the Alliance could have very well held the line without her intervention didn’t register in Kathryn’s mind. All that mattered to her was the fact that she had goaded Kashyk into staying, that she had played his pride against him. A game that Kashyk and Kathryn played without thought, established from the beginning of their association, familiar in its pattern, completely necessary when dealing with the Devore leader, and to Kathryn proof of her responsibility for the assimilation of their allies.
Taking her to the ready room would have been his choice under any other circumstances, but with Rotor closing in and heading into a dangerous area of space with no idea if their enemy had managed to subvert any of their more powerful allies there was no way he could justify taking her off the bridge. All he could do was watch and hope that this wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. That Captain Kathryn Janeway would survive this, like she has survived every other catastrophe they had endured over the last near decade.
That was of course assuming any of them survived at all.
Janeway seemed to rouse from her introspective state at Paris’s voice, standing and moving to the center of the bridge. "Red alert." She turned and looked up at Tuvok, "Raise the shields." Unspoken were the doubts that plagued them all, could Rotor have begun to assimilate Species 8472? Were they walking into a death trap?
The transwarp effect cleared from the view screen as Voyager emerged from the conduit and sensors announced several targeting locks with their shrill beeps. "Multiple contacts, Captain: Species 8472, Sernaix, Ayrethans, even a few Vidiian, Kazon, Krenim and Devore vessels." Harry reported as all eyes focused on the vessels that seemed to be advancing from all directions on them.
"Open communications, Mr. Kim." Janeway took a deep breath. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the U.S.S. Voyager "
Suddenly the viewscreen flickered to life and a relieved looking Boothby appeared on the screen. "Sorry about the warm welcome, Katie, but we couldn’t be sure of what to expect. That Borg thing has even managed to assimilate a few of our ships and since he isn’t bothering to construct those damned cubes anymore, we couldn’t be certain you were who you seemed to be."
Janeway noticed that none of the ships were standing down weapons even though their advance had stopped. "It’s good to see you too, Boothby. I don’t suppose you brought me that rose you promised me."
"As a matter of fact I didn’t." The older man shook his head and grinned, "I probably shouldn’t accept that as proof positive that he hasn’t gotten you, but I will anyway."
The tension was broken for the moment as the bridge crew smiled slightly at the mannerisms of the alien, so perfect to the original Boothby they all remembered from the Academy. It returned as the Captain switched back to the business at hand, "Do you know what happened with the rest of the fleet?"
"Wasn’t there, but a Captain Lem from the Vidiians made it out, along with those Devore, Krenim and Kazon vessels. They can probably give you a better picture of what’s happening as they’ve actually seen it. The rest of us just started to have ships disappear not long before you were due to come back from the Alpha Quadrant. Seems that Rotor fella’s stepped up his plan of attack, Katie."
Janeway nodded then looked back at Chakotay, before she turned to face Boothby again, "How many vessels have you lost contact with?"
"Only two or three of our own, but if he’s figured out some way of assimilating us, I know I don’t have to tell you what that means, Katie." Janeway nodded and closed her eyes. If Rotor had managed to assimilate Species 8472 she couldn’t imagine what they could do to stop them. "The Sernaix have been hit the hardest. They’ve lost fifteen of their vessels and since they’d already taken heavy losses with the war."
There was a part of Janeway that found it hard to be sympathetic with the warlike race, especially since they were all in a similar position due to the war with them in the first place. However no one deserved what she knew Rotor would subject them to. "Rotor may not fully understand it but he’s already perfected assimilating the Sernaix and their technology, so I’m not surprised."
"The Ayrethans haven’t lost any ships yet," Boothby sighed slightly, "but as powerful as they are, they don’t have that many ships and they can’t be everywhere at once."
For a moment silence reigned on the bridge then Janeway looked up at Boothby. "I’d like to convene a war council on Voyager in an hour. I know it could be leaving ourselves open to attack, but we need to have a plan if we’re going to survive this at all."
The familiar looking alien pursed his lips then nodded. "Agreed. I’ll let the other Captains know."
Being summoned to Sickbay was the last thing Chakotay had needed to be interrupted with as he and the Captain had been preparing for the war council, going over data from the last battles and formulating the strategy that they felt would give them the best hope of defeating the menace that was once again threatening the universe. Even though it was against his better judgment, something in the Doctor’s voice as he requested Chakotay’s assistance with a personnel matter, spurred him to respond. He didn’t like it. The last thing Kathryn needed in his opinion was another opportunity to stew in her own juices, but she had already dismissed him before he could give it much thought.
So his temper was already considerably shortened as he stepped into the medical bay and noticed the tension that seemed to fill the air. Seven was perched on a biobed, a pensive expression on her face as turned and acknowledged him. "Commander."
"I thought there was a personnel issue that needed to be dealt with." A scowl formed on his face and Seven almost seemed to flinch back from his tone of voice.
The Doctor came out at the sound of his voice. "There is Commander It has to do with Seven of Nine." As the Doctor looked at Seven he seemed almost disheartened. "I think this would be better handled if we discussed it privately in my office."
Chakotay nodded and watched as Seven slipped off the biobed and followed the Doctor. Still uncertain why his presence was needed Chakotay followed them both, then fixed them with a harsh glare. "Alright, is someone going to let me in on the problem."
For a moment the Doctor remained silent, trying to work out the best way of broaching the subject before he settled on the direct approach. He took a deep breath and settled down behind his desk. "It’s standard procedure to inform the Command staff when one of the female crewmembers is found to be pregnant."
Leaning into the desk, Chakotay fixed the Doctor with a deadly glare, a little of the former Maquis showing in his gaze. "Procedure not withstanding, if you haven’t noticed we’re in the middle of fighting a war with a madman who wants to end everything. I trust there’s a good reason for not just submitting a report."
Somehow the fact that the crewman in question was Seven didn’t fully register in Chakotay’s consciousness past his ire until her soft voice echoed in the silence of the office. "It is a problem, Commander, because I didn’t," she paused and took a breath before meeting Chakotay’s gaze, "Harry and I did not plan this."
Chakotay took a step back as his eyes read the truth in the former drone’s eyes, not quite believing what he was seeing. His anger was supplanted by his shock. "Accidents don’t happen in this day and age, Seven."
"No, they do not." She paused and looked away, unable to meet his gaze any further. "I planned this, Harry did not." Seven looked up again, her eyes pleading with him to hear her out. To act as her confessor. Chakotay closed his own eyes. Memories of Seska’s betrayal flooded his mind, the pain she had caused, and he had to force himself to the present. As he looked down at Seven, Chakotay reminded himself that this was his friend, at one time his lover and a person he’d promised to help. He took the seat across from Seven and nodded slightly, waiting to hear her out.
"I knew what I was doing was wrong, Chakotay." The regret showed plainly in her features, "Each time Harry risks himself, the dread I feel grows larger. I asked Harry to marry me, but he felt that doing so because of my fear of losing him would be wrong."
The older man found himself agreeing silently with the Lieutenant but he could see the pain and fear just behind the regret in Seven’s eyes and found himself sympathizing with her. It wasn’t difficult after all. He felt the same fear whenever Kathryn risked herself rather than another member of her crew, even before they were involved. More times than he could count, his emotions had nearly driven him to some drastic action and only years of Starfleet training and experience had stopped him. He could easily imagine how overwhelming those same emotions would be to a person as inexperienced in dealing with them as Seven was.
"At Miral’s birthday party, I realized the bond that she created between her parents. As long as she exists, Lieutenant Paris and Lieutenant Torres will be held together in a way. I knew I wished to have that bond with Harry and it seemed unlikely that he would agree after he had refused my marriage proposal." Seven watched him closely and seemed to be waiting for him to respond.
A soft sigh escaped Chakotay as he considered her carefully, "Seven I can understand wanting that but it’s not something you can just take from someone." She nodded sadly as Chakotay searched for the right words to say. He was almost too close to the situation. What Seska had done to him was so different and yet so similar to Seven’s actions. Seven’s actions were motivated by love, but then Seska would have claimed the same thing, by Seska’s own twisted understanding of the emotion. Bringing himself back to the present, Chakotay focused on Seven once more. "What you did was wrong, but there’s nothing to be done about it now. I’m not the one who can forgive you for this Seven. You need to tell Harry." He saw the fear in her eyes and stood and took her hand reassuringly. "Harry loves you, Seven and you love Harry. Never doubt that. He’s going to be angry and hurt but he will forgive you." Chakotay paused, feeling secure in speaking for both of himself and Kathryn in this case, "No matter what happens, Kathryn and I will be there for you."
Seven stood slowly without releasing Chakotay’s hand. "Thank you, Chakotay." Her voice trailed off as though she was reluctant to ask Chakotay for anything further.
"Go ahead, Seven, I meant what I just said." Chakotay smiled slightly.
Seven squeezed Chakotay’s hand slightly then released it. "Would you be there with me when I speak to Harry? I could use the " Seven swallowed, then continued, " moral support."
Chakotay nodded towards the Doctor in silent thanks for his summons, and settled his hand in the small of the former drone’s back. "We’ll work something out."
The Vidiian Captain paced in front of the assembled leaders. "It was not long after we received your message that you were returning to the Delta Quadrant, Captain." He regarded Janeway suspiciously. "We had multiple transwarp conduits open all around our vessels. He seemed to target the most powerful vessels first. Vessels that incidentally held most of the Alliances leaders." He paused and leaned forward over the table. "From the communications we received, the vessels were boarded by transporters through their shields, assimilated before they could resist or killed without mercy."
The Sernaix Adihm regarded the Captain with obvious disdain. "You, obviously survived by superior tactics."
"At least I am not a mindless killing machine." The Vidiian met the Sernaix’s disdain with equal venom, "If you wish to be out front as the Borg rampages across this sector, by all means do so, then at least we’ll be rid of one menace."
The Ayrethan reached out and settled a steadying hand on his Sernaix counterpart. "Power can be a weakness when not wielded correctly." The riddle of his speech and his calm manner only infuriated the tempers of the others around the table.
"Again, the telepaths," The Devore Captain Davshem spat out the word as he leveled an infuriated glare at the Ayrethan, "only appear when convenient to them and never in time to save our people."
This lead to another furious round of accusations around the table, until Kathryn stood and leaned forward, her eyes blazing. The slow movement, purposeful movement and almost deadly grace seemed to attract the attention of the bickering aliens. Her voice was deceptively calm and even as she spoke, "Enough."
There was a ripple of silence as Boothby stood slowly, staring down the others in attendance. "You heard the lady and I agree with her Enough of this stupidity." The respect for 8472’s presence and his support of the Starfleet Captain quelled the objections of the other captains. "Alright Katie, you have more experience with this Rotor fellow than any of the rest of us. You tell us how to survive."
Janeway fell silent and moved around the table, looking at each of her allies before stopping behind Boothby. "Rotor is completely imbalanced. He wants to destroy the universe, but he has a few scores to settle in the mean time."
"You always did know how to make friends, Katie." Boothby turned to face her with a bemused grin on his face. "So he’s coming after you then is he."
The Captain nodded then looked out the viewport. "Mr. Rotor has taken some of my attempts to stop him rather personally it seems."
A new wave of protests rippled through the allies in attendance, all of them centered on the mistaken idea that it was Janeway Rotor was really after. "Then it seems clear what we all have to do to survive, go home and protect our own worlds and leave Janeway to her fate." The Krenim stood as he spoke and narrowed his eyes at the Starfleet Captain. "It seems quite obvious that we’re being drawn into a personal confrontation now."
"You can delude yourself if you want to," Boothby scoffed as he swiveled in his chair. "The fact of the matter remains, when he’s done with Katie, he’s going to come after you, your homeworld and everything else you hold dear, but because you didn’t help her, we won’t be there to help you."
A slight smile played at Janeway’s lips as 8472 declared once and for all what side they would be standing with, both the Sernaix and the Ayrethan nodding in agreement. Then slowly the other more mercenary races came on side as well. "Alright, if we’ve all agreed. In our last encounter with Rotor, one of my crewmen found a weakness. A weakness that we’ll need the Sernaix to help us utilize."
"Our goddess has said that whatever assistance you need, we are to offer. It will be glorious." The Adihm bared his teeth in pleasure as he thought of the destruction that was to come.
Janeway nodded. "He’s assimilated vast amounts of your technology into his cube. Technology he barely understands and can’t properly control."
The Sernaix male snarled in distaste. "Matters for Cadre. My warriors need battles to sing of, not unimportant details for the females." It became clear why Rotor didn’t understand how any of what he’d claimed worked. Rotor had only assimilated warriors and the warriors didn’t understand the technology, they only used it.
"We’ll need a member of the former Management Cadre." Janeway locked eyes with the Sernaix. Years of deference to a female leader worked in Janeway’s favor as the Adihm nodded in response. "All right then "
Suddenly the lights in the conference room changed and the klaxon sounded, split seconds before Chakotay’s voice piped through to her communicator. "Captain, we have multiple transwarp conduits opening."
The entire group moved out to Voyager‘s bridge en masse, the aliens assembling on the top level of the bridge as the view screen showed the conduits opening, spilling out ship after ship, cubes and vessels of their own kind alike. Janeway tapped her commbadge, "Transporter rooms one and two, start beaming our guests back to their ships." She turned her attention on the aliens. "We’ll regroup if we can Unless Rotor’s cube is amongst these, we’d just be wasting resources to engage them here."
Janeway and the other’s watched as two by two, each of their allies were engulfed in the blue light of the transporter. Boothby focused on her, "Katie, this is our home. We have to try to hold them here." Janeway nodded sadly, she knew it would be the same for herself if this had been Sector zero-zero-one. "Good luck. The universe is in good hands, I think." Then the blue light engulfed him and Janeway marched down the ramp.
"Let’s give everyone as much time to get the hell out of here as we can." The Captain growled as she settled down beside Chakotay, their ship advancing to meet the enemy head on. "Tuvok, fire at will. Stop as many of the attacking ships as you can. We can’t afford to loose any more to Rotor."
There was a sort of silence for a moment as if acknowledging what they had to do, then a volley of fire from a Devore warship shook the ship. "Shields at ninety four percent, returning fire " Tuvok’s voice pierced the silence. They watched as the Devore exploded into fragments under fire.
Harry’s brow furrowed, "It shouldn’t be that easy."
"Rotor made it that easy, Mr. Kim." Janeway sat a little straighter, her understanding of his tactics almost too perfect. "Every shot we fire on them will destroy one of our former allies vessels."
No one spoke. Instead they worked in unison, clearing a path through the Borg possessed ships. Leaving as many as they could standing, but determined to ensure as many of their remaining allies could escape unscathed as possible. The communications channels suddenly lit up with incoming messages from their allies, signaling a new phase of the battle had begun.
Suddenly the remaining Sernaix vessels turned together and focused on the escaping Ayrethans. Their ships dancing in a deadly weaving pattern, starbursts of power exploding on all sides as the two former enemies, now pitted against each other once more came together in a frightening clash.
The swarm of Kazon vessels spun and advanced on the Vidiians, their inferior weapons creating a dazzling lightshow on the Vidiian shields before they were blown from space by the unforgiving weapons of their former allies. The Vidiian vessels cut a swath through their ranks, before jumping to warp.
The Borg cubes however had a different target. They lumbered forward, their assimilated Sernaix beam weapons cutting into the hulls of 8472’s vessels. Explosions of light and color littered the space around them, making it almost impossible to make out which way the tide of battle was turning.
"Captain, incoming transmission from Species 8472." Harry called out as he routed the message into the queue.
Janeway took a deep breath, bracing herself for the worst. "On screen."
"Get out of here, Katie. It’s over and you still have work to do." Boothby scowled at her. "Now go on, stop Rotor. You know what you have to do." He paused and smiled. "I’m sorry we never did meet in ‘person’. Good bye."
The transmission cut off leaving only the view of the battle before them once more, just as one of the new Borg cutting beams rended through the flesh of the largest 8472 vessel. Blinding light filled the viewscreen as it was ripped apart, fragments of debris hurtling outward, but Janeway never took her eyes from the screen.
"Get us out of here, Mr. Paris." Janeway hissed, never even hearing the helmsman’s acknowledgement as she barked the rest of her orders. For the second time Voyager was forced from a place of relative safety, as she engaged her transwarp drive heading to where Janeway planned to make her last stand—The badlands.
Kathryn was still numb as she keyed in her code to transmit her report to Starfleet Command. A seemingly endless day that refused to allow her any room to breath, which still wasn’t over. Before she could even regain her footing in regards to their battle plan, Chakotay had filled her in on the latest revelation about Seven of Nine.
Standing slowly, she made her way to the replicator and requested a cup of coffee. Her eyes drifted to the transwarp corridor outside her viewport, and she allowed herself to be drawn in by the scintillating colors barely noticing when the cup appeared in the slot. She lifted the cup to her mouth, not even tasting the hot liquid inside.
A baby. Seven. Her Seven was having a baby. Her eyes caught her reflection in the viewport and she stopped to consider it. There was more gray in her hair now than there had been when they had first returned. Not that it was any wonder with everything they were going through. Even to her own eyes, her face looked drawn and pale and she felt an irrational twinge of guilt as knew instinctively how much Chakotay would be worrying.
It never seemed to stop. That was nothing new to her. What was new was how much she wished it would. For the first time in her career, everything just seemed too much. She settled down on the couch and leaned her head back, just pushing everything aside for a few minutes. It had only been a few days ago that she’d led Seven on a hazardous quest for Rotor’s cortical node, literally guns blazing, experiencing a sort of maniacal glee as she blew away decks to get at the Borg. When she admitted it to herself, she knew that she’d enjoyed it. The adrenaline rush, the action.
As with so many other things though, it was only fun until someone got hurt. The assimilation of their allies, personified by Kashyk, had shaken her more than she wanted to admit. She shuddered at the thought, but he had always been a dark mirror for her, the game they played a way to prove to one another how different yet similar they were. The blank expression on his face, if possible more emotionless than a normal drone, transferred itself onto an even more familiar face in her mind’s eye and she shivered with the effort to drive it out.
The sudden absence of other thoughts drew the original subject back to mind. Seven. Pregnant. The words just didn’t seem to fit together.
What was worse was how those words were coming together. It should have been a joyous occasion. Instead Kathryn couldn’t help feeling that somehow she had failed her. It was ironic in a way, the very fears that had prompted Kathryn to push Chakotay away for so long, were now the fears that prompted her protégé to desperately search for some way to hold some part of Harry to her. Seemingly opposite yet equally desperate actions with possibly very similar consequences.
She had nearly lost Chakotay to her own actions, she could only hope that Seven wouldn’t be faced with the same or worse for her mistake. The chime on the door pulled her from her thoughts, as she set aside her cup and called for entrance.
The woman in question was backlit by the light in the corridor, but seemed reluctant to come in. Janeway held out her hand as a gesture of welcome. "Come on in, Seven. Harry and Chakotay will be here in a few minutes."
"Thank you for " As Seven spoke, Kathryn could barely recognize her voice. It was hesitant and soft, nothing like the brash Borg she had rescued, or even the young woman who had started to emerge. It was plainly obvious that Seven was recriminating herself for her actions more than anyone else ever could.
Needing no further prompting, Kathryn moved across the room and pulled the taller woman into her embrace. "You don’t need to thank me, Seven. We all make mistakes." The older woman looked up at Seven and gently cradled her face in her hands, running her thumb along Seven’s cheek bone. "We’re family. I will always be there for you."
A single tear ran down Seven’s cheek, and Kathryn brushed it away with the back of her hand. "Chakotay said much the same thing, but he included himself." As she looked into Seven’s eyes, any doubts she had about the necessity of this talk on the eve of their final conflict with Rotor were washed away. Tomorrow, when they stood on the brink, Kathryn wanted each of them to face it with a clear heart. Hopefully this meeting would bring Seven some comfort no matter what the outcome.
Kathryn drew Seven back to the couch, then stood and requested a glass of cold water for her. "Well, don’t tell him, but he was right." She quipped and Seven smiled slightly. She settled down beside Seven and pressed the glass in her hand. "A baby, Seven." She shook her head slightly as she looked at the other woman. "I can’t believe that you’re pregnant." She smiled as she imagined the tiny baby, with dark eyes and hair, cradled in her mother’s embrace. Kathryn reached up and pushed Seven’s blonde locks back behind one ear, drawing her fingers through the silken tresses. "You’ve come so far Changed so much."
Turning away from Seven, she lifted her coffee cup once more and took a sip, drawing herself out of the introspective thoughts that threatened to claim her, knowing she needed to be there for the younger woman at this moment. "It’s probably not very fair of me to push for godmother with this little one is it? Especially since B’Elanna and Tom made me Miral’s godmother already." She kept her voice light as she spoke, a wide smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes.
"Actually, I had thought of you more as a grandmother to my child." Seven admitted quietly, then sipped her water almost afraid of Kathryn’s reaction.
Kathryn looked towards her protégé suddenly, a sudden swell of emotion flooding her senses, and she set down her cup. This time a tear escaped from her eye as she drew Seven close. "You don’t know how much that means to me, Seven." They held each other for a moment, one taking comfort from the other before Kathryn pulled back and looked into Seven’s eyes, a slight smile coming to her lips. "For the sake of my vanity though can we keep it to Auntie Kathryn. I don’t think I feel quite old enough yet to be someone’s Grandma."
A slight smile came to Seven’s lips, tempted to point out that through biology and mathematics, Kathryn was quite old enough to be someone’s Grandma, but something in the other woman’s eyes told her the joke would fall flat. "I think the baby is very lucky to have an Auntie Kathryn."
A noise in the corridor announced the arrival of the men. Kathryn could feel the tension as, Seven’s body tightened like a string in a guitar. She reached out and gently took the other woman’s hand, squeezing it slightly.
For Seven, time flew and slowed down to a crawl at the same time, a very disconcerting experience for someone who had spent her life with the exacting precision of the Borg. It was almost as though she was disconnected from her body as she watched Harry enter the room, settling into a chair, his expression anxious as he reached out for her hand. "Is there something wrong?"
Kathryn slowly drew her hand up to Seven’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. "You two should talk alone." She met Seven’s gaze. "We won’t be far, just in the other room, if you need us." She let go of Seven and patted Harry’s shoulder encouragingly before she and Chakotay made themselves conspicuously absent.
"They’re scaring me, Seven." Harry joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere. "I shouldn’t be scared right?"
Seven shook her head. "No, but I am." She felt Harry squeeze her hand gently much the same as Captain Janeway had, but while she knew that the Captain’s affection was unconditional, she feared that that might not be the case with Harry. "I have made a mistake. A mistake I believe may damage our relationship."
The Lieutenant stiffened slightly but kept his grasp on Seven’s hand. "Anything you tell me, Seven, I will try to understand. I can’t promise I won’t be hurt but I will try to understand it."
"I know I " She stopped for a moment, clearing her mind and composing herself before continuing. "You know I wish to form a permanent bond with you. A family unit like the one Lt. Torres and Lt. Paris share." Harry nodded not quite knowing where this was going. "At Miral’s birthday party, I realized there was a much more permanent way of attaining that goal without marriage. The more I analyzed it and compared it to the outcome I wanted to achieve, I realized that having your child would provide a bond that even death, yours or mine, would not be able to sever."
Harry’s eyes narrowed slightly as he listened to her words, in his mind he already knew what she was confessing to, but it was as though his heart was trying to prevent him from hearing it.
"I used my nanoprobes to neutralize my contraceptive implant and to aid my fertility cycle." Seven looked into Harry’s eyes and saw the anger starting to form, but she knew she had to carry on and tell him the rest, even though what she saw frightened her. "I only did it once and intended to discontinue but "
"It was too late, wasn’t it Seven?" Harry’s voice was deceptively quiet as he spoke. At her nod, he took a deep breath. "Logically, I know you didn’t do this to hurt me. I know you did it because you’re frightened of losing me." It was obvious in his tone that he was fighting to keep it even. "But emotionally, it doesn’t change the fact that I am as angry as hell at you. Love can’t exist without respect, Seven and all of this just seems like blatant disrespect of my feelings in the matter."
Harry released her hand as he stood, pacing the Captain’s cabin like a caged tiger. "I thought we had dealt with the respect issue a long time ago, Seven."
Seven could feel the tears starting to roll down her face, despite her efforts at controlling her emotions, the best she was able to manage was to keep her voice even as she spoke. "I had not considered it in that light. I was not as thorough in my analysis as I should have been. When it seemed that it would provide me with the results I desired, I failed to continue my consideration."
"If that’s supposed to make me feel better about this, Seven, it doesn’t." Harry had stopped in the center of the room, watching her intently. "A baby isn’t a solution to anything. A baby should have been a decision we made together when we were certain of where we were going in our lives." He shook his head. "A baby is something I did do want with you, but not now when the universe is trying to come down around our heads."
The former drone’s eyes widened with his admission but as she started to rise, Harry held out his hand palm first. "No, Seven I need to think. To work this out for myself." He moved towards the door. "I just need some time."
A slight nod was all the acknowledgement Seven gave as the door hissed open, releasing Harry from the room. Within moments of the door closing both Janeway and Chakotay reappeared, taking in Seven’s tear streaked face and the fact that Harry had left the room. With heavy hearts, they fell to the only task left to them. To comfort Seven.
As the new day dawned on Voyager, the space surrounding her was deceptively quiet as the ship stood at all stop surrounded by the first of the Starfleet vessels regrouping on their coordinates, just outside of the Badlands. Other than Voyager and her specialized armor, only the smallest and most maneuverable of Starfleet vessels could penetrate the heavy plasma storms of the area safely. While it limited her own fleet, it was also unlikely that most of her former ally’s vessels that Rotor had already assimilated would be able to maneuver in the constant turbulence.
In the end, she had no doubt that this would ultimately be between Voyager and Rotor’s fleet.
Janeway stood on the observation deck watching as yet another Intrepid class vessel slowly moved into position on their starboard flank. She was as motionless as her ship as she considered the response she had received this morning to her initial report on their last encounter with Rotor.
The words echoed in her ears like a dull roar though all around her was silence. ‘ You will implement any and all means of using this apparent weakness to the fleet’s advantage. This is of primary importance. All resources are considered expendable in this endeavor.’ An involuntary shiver ran down her spine. While she understood their reasoning, knew that she agreed with them, the coldness to the order gave her chills. Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt the presence of another in the observation deck.
"A tisket, a tasket, we have Rotor in the basket." Oz appeared behind her and stepped up to look out the viewport.
Janeway smiled slightly at the holograms antics, feeling some of the chill lift with his humor. "Report, Oz"
"I was exaggerating." Oz admitted as he watched the Intrepid class join the formation. "What we have is enough of a chance to defeat him to make it worth risking it."
The Captain turned and smiled at the Sernaix hologram. "It’s a bad sign. I must be getting used to you, Oz. I guessed that you were exaggerating and at this point any chance, no matter how slim is worth the risk."
"In that case," Oz focused on Janeway, "The Sernaix technology has become integrated with all levels of operations on the ship. With a delicate touch, whomever we send in there could use the Sernaix technology to tap into and subvert the neural net that connects him to the other Borg. The only problem is technically, if he knew how to access it and truly use it, that same technology would give him full access to the Realm."
Janeway frowned. "Which means if whomever we send is assimilated, we’re opening up Kes and the rest of your people to Rotor on a completely new level."
"I didn’t say it was fool proof, Captain." The hologram settled on the bench in front of her. "It also means you have very limited choices as to whom to send."
"You mean no choice," Janeway took a deep breath and focused on the Sernaix again. "I only have access to one person who has any ability to manipulate your systems on the level you are talking about Oz. You."
"Actually, Captain, you have two." Oz stood and turned to face the window. "Harry could do it. With his abilities and a little tutelage from yours truly, he’d probably have more of a chance than I would."
Janeway could feel an icy sheet grip her heart as she realized what had to be done. She closed her eyes and leaned against the viewport. "Then I still have no choice, Oz." Her voice was deathly calm as she straightened once again. "I can’t afford to have any of Voyager‘s systems down, if we’re to stand the best chance of surviving this. In a choice between sending you or sending Harry and keeping Voyager‘s slipstream and Sernaix cannons operational " She knew her only reasons to send Oz were personal and that couldn’t play into this. Once more her Captain’s instincts came to the fore. She paused then tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Kim."
"Kim here, Captain." Harry’s disembodied voice filtered through the observation lounge.
"Oz and I need to speak to you in the Ready Room in fifteen minutes." To Janeway her voice sounded weak, trembling but if Harry took any notice of it, it didn’t show in his voice.
"Aye, Captain. On my way."
Janeway dropped her hand and watched as a Defiant class vessel moved into position with Voyager. Shaking herself, she stepped back from the viewport. "Fifteen minutes, Mr. Oz." She moved purposefully back towards the door, making a great show of the consummate Starfleet Captain.
"If you don’t mind, Captain." Oz doubted these humans would ever stop surprising him as he spoke. A wave of respect and sympathy for Janeway filling him like nothing before. "I will walk with you there."
As Janeway looked around the table at the familiar faces it held, there was a clench in her heart. No matter how this turned out today, nothing would ever be the same again.
"Alright people," Janeway braced herself against the table as she stood. "Starfleet’s perimeter sensor net has detected a mass of ships including Borg cubes. We also started to lose contact with some of our furthest outposts not long after that, so I think it’s safe to assume that Mr. Rotor has indeed followed us to the Alpha Quadrant."
Chakotay met her gaze, "The question is will he come to us, or are we going to have to go to him."
"Primary indications are his ETA into the Badlands is within three hours." Janeway shifted her focus to the viewport outside. "Two hours ago, Mr. Ozymandius delivered his report on a possible weakness in Rotor’s cube and his recommendation for how to best exploit that weakness." A quick glance towards Harry, with something indefinable in her eyes, then she was all business once more. "Oz, Mr. Kim and myself have spent the last two hours in conference coming up with a plan with the greatest chance of success."
The room was silent as a tactical screen came to life on the wall behind them drawing everyone’s attention to it but Janeway’s. Instead, she was fixated on Chakotay, whose expression had hardened slightly as he had realized the level of planning that had gone on without his knowledge. Clenching her fist, she felt a wave of anger directed towards him, but now wasn’t the time for this. Either for him or her. "Go ahead, Harry."
"His weakness is that he has fully integrated the Sernaix systems into his vessel without truly understanding how they work " Janeway tuned out the explanation she already knew and focused instead on the people in the room with her. She could see B’Elanna focused intently on the tactical display, her mind analyzing everything it took in. As she gazed at Tom, she could practically see the course corrections and computations that would be required to maneuver through the plasma storms running through his head. Tuvok was expressionless as always, though she imagined that he was running tactical scenarios through his mind, analyzing the best deployment of Hazard Teams in case of a Borg incursion.
Chakotay, she could read like a book, he was angry that he hadn’t been a part of the planning for this mission. Like so many other times he had been left out, as their fate was decided and all that was left for him was to hear out the plan. As much as she regretted doing it to him, she had no other choice and no other explanation than the one he had given to B’Elanna so many years ago. She was the Captain.
Janeway almost couldn’t bring herself to look at Seven but as she did, their eyes met. She knew. Seven knew as well as Janeway did, what was to come. Her flawless Borg logic would have been analyzing the data as Harry explained it to them all, and she would have drawn the same conclusion as Janeway had. Seven nodded slightly in acknowledgement to the Captain. Not only did she know, she understood.
" Oz has shown me how to interface with the Sernaix systems. Once I’ve done that, I’ll use it to shut down the Borg transmission that Rotor uses to take over the other drones."
"What if Rotor has changed how those systems work since the Queen’s defeat, Captain?" B’Elanna jumped on the largest flaw in their plan first. "He could be walking into a death trap."
Janeway nodded slightly, "I know. It’s a risk. One that we have no choice about taking." She paused. "It’s also why Harry is the best choice for this scenario. He has had enough exposure to the Borg systems that even in that instance there is a chance that he’d be able to bring down the network anyway."
"He’s going to need a pilot for the Flyer, Captain." Tom spoke up, seeming almost eager to join Harry, "If he’s going to survive the plasma storms to make it to Rotor’s cube, a damned good one."
The Captain shook her head, "Those plasma storms are exactly why I need you here, Tom, but you’re right he is going to need a pilot for the Flyer."
"Me," Chakotay’s voice echoed through the room. Janeway’s head snapped up to look at him. "I’m your only choice, Captain. I’ve been on Rotor’s cube before. Maquis tactics served me well then and we have no reason to believe they won’t now. More importantly, I know the Badlands," He arched an eyebrow at Tom, " and contrary to popular belief, I’m the second best pilot aboard this ship."
There had to be something, anything to contradict what he was saying. Kathryn knew there had to be. If they had to face death, she wanted Chakotay by her side. The Captain inside her however had already considered his words, analyzed the scenario, and agreed with his conclusion. "You’re right. You are the best choice." She acquiesced without a fight, her eyes pleading with him to forgive her.
A soft smile came to his lips that told her he already had.
Chakotay eased the Flyer class shuttle into a pocket of clear space, surrounded on all sides by plasma storms. A dangerous though perfect hiding place for the small ship: the interference from the turbulent storms would hide them effectively from Rotor’s sensors. As Harry watched Chakotay skillfully maneuver the ship into the pocket, he had to admit that even Tom would have been impressed with the precision of it.
"Now we wait," Chakotay said, programming the sensors to alert them if the plasma storms surrounding them began to encroach on their hiding space.
The Lieutenant turned his attention to inspecting their gear and smiled as he picked up one of the compression phaser rifles, tossing it to his commanding officer who caught it instinctively. "The Captain asked me to make sure you used that one. Apparently it will bring you some luck."
Chakotay chuckled as he slid his hand down the barrel of the weapon affectionately. "Actually, she only did it as insurance that I’ll come back, Harry. If I don’t bring her rifle back to her, she’ll hunt me down where ever I end up and as much as I " He paused then continued, it might not have been strictly appropriate but they were on a mission where death was probably more likely than success. " love Kathryn, I don’t much like the thought of her angry and hunting me down."
"All due respect to the Captain, Sir." Harry grinned in answer. "I don’t really blame you."
A bright plasma flare on their port side drew both the officers’ attention for a moment, then Chakotay turned to the sensors, ensuring that everything was still working at peak efficiency. "This must bring back memories for you, Commander."
A brief nod was the only response Harry got for a few moments, then Chakotay looked up again, gazing out the windows into the brightly lit space around them. "It does Most of them aren’t very good."
Harry nodded solemnly, then turned his attention back to his equipment, double- and triple-checking it before turning back to Chakotay. "Can I ask you something personal, Chakotay?"
"Depends on what it is, Harry." Chakotay looked up at the Lieutenant, and guessed from his expression what was plaguing his mind. "Go ahead."
Disassembling his rifle kept his body occupied enough that he didn’t pace like a caged tiger. "How did you deal with finding out you were going to have a child that you didn’t have any choice in making?"
"Honestly," Chakotay breathed out, "I wanted to throttle Seska with my bare hands. I wanted children I didn’t want them with her."
"I guess I have it a little easier than you did," Harry started on the task of reassembling his rifle. "I love Seven. I even want them with her." He paused. "I just didn’t want them now and I didn’t want them because she’s frightened of losing me."
Chakotay nodded. "Harry You know, you and Kathryn are a lot alike in a lot of ways." He smiled slightly as he remembered telling Seven the same exact thing not so long ago. "Kathryn has wanted children since before we got lost in the Delta Quadrant. It’s always been ‘I want them, but not now, later.’" Chakotay laid his rifle across his lap. "What happens if ‘later’ never comes?"
As Harry looked up at him, Chakotay could practically see the thoughts running through his mind, so he forged ahead. "Don’t get me wrong, Kathryn had perfect reasons for not having children. Especially out in the Delta Quadrant, but the fact of the matter is you could come up with perfect reasons not to forever. Eventually you have to come up with a perfect reason why it is the right time." Chakotay smiled, "Or you get lucky and someone takes the decision out of your hands."
Harry scowled, "I’m having a hard time seeing myself as lucky, Commander."
A soft chuckle escaped Chakotay’s lips, "Oh no? Which would you rather: the woman you love is pregnant with your child because she loves you so much she can’t stand to lose you? Or a woman you dated who happens to be a spy for the race that destroyed your homeworld steals your genetic code and impregnates herself to use the child as a way to manipulate you?"
Another flare of light caught their attention. "Alright, in comparison, I am lucky, but it’s not that simple."
"Of course it’s not." Chakotay admitted and checked his sensors once again. "Unless you decide it is."
Harry gave him a curious look so he continued, "Children are a blessing, Harry, no matter how they arrive. I didn’t want to accept it at first either, but I did." He looked out into the swirling gases of the plasma storms that surrounded them. "And when he turned out not to be my child I grieved."
The depth of the confession surprised Harry as he watched his commanding officer. If Chakotay could accept a child from Seska and grieve when it turned out not to be his, then how hard could it be for him to accept having a child with the woman he loved?
Suddenly the proximity alert sounded and Harry set aside his reconstructed rifle. His hands flew over the consoles as he brought the cause on screen: the lumbering, giant Borg cubes, cutting a swath through the tumultuous gases of the storms that surrounded them, on a direct course toward Voyager.
Chakotay powered up the main thrusters once again; the ship danced through the currents and eddies, positioning itself for its main approach when the battle began.
The motes of orange fire played over Rotor’s cube and the two others he led as it bore down on Voyager and the rest of the fleet. "Red alert." Janeway leaned forward in her command chair. "Seven, keep our shield frequency rotating. I need you to be quicker than Rotor is." Janeway’s fingers danced over her own console, sending out messages to the fleet. "Tuvok, make him think we’re giving it everything we’ve got, but ration it, we can’t afford to be taken out until Lt. Kim and the Commander do what they have to do." Janeway stood up and moved toward the viewscreen. "Alright people, let’s take this bastard down."
"Aye, Captain." Tom grinned as he pulled Voyager into a tight barrel roll, leading the charge of the fleet as he pushed the ship’s maneuverability to its maximum.
The smaller Fleet vessels, mainly fighter shuttles, Defiant and Saber class vessels, followed the charge, slipping between the cubes, using their swiftness to evade the heavy cutting and tractor beams the Borg employed. Volleys of fire impacted against the irregular surface of the cubes, the Defiant class vessels finally testing their mettle against the very enemy they were designed to engage. They dodged and darted through their fiery surroundings, peppering the cubes with their phaser cannon before diving beneath them, only to appear again on the other side of plasma streams.
As the smaller vessels moved in close to the enemy, the Intrepid class vessels and other larger ships remained further back, raining barrage after barrage of quantum and photon torpedoes on the enemy. Keeping their shield frequencies in rotation, they moved on the fringes of the main incursion, providing fire support to the other ships.
If Captain Janeway disapproved of the fact that Voyager‘s Chief Helmsman and Tactical officer seemed to have different ideas about what a vessel as large as theirs could accomplish in close quarters, she made no mention of it to them. Under Tom’s skilled piloting, the sleek vessel dodged and moved with as much grace as any of the smaller vessels. Voyager rocked as one of the Borg cubes placed a well aimed shot that Paris couldn’t quite avoid. "Shields at eighty five percent. Compensating." Tuvok advised as he targeted Voyager‘s Kep gun at the offending cube. "Targeting Borg vessel on aft side. Firing."
Evasive maneuvers are irrelevant to Borg, especially Rotor’s new variety of Borg. The blue beam slammed against the surface of the cube, starting a chain of explosions that tunneled their way into the core of the vessel and shook it apart at the seams. The smaller vessels rode the shockwaves away from their target, then circled in to focus on their next victim.
Janeway looked up at Tuvok, a sly grin on her face. "Didn’t I tell you to ration it, Tuvok?"
"Indeed. Perhaps more precise orders would be advantageous in the future." Tuvok arched an eyebrow at the Captain, leaving her shaking her head with mirth.
The transporter beam coalesced inside Rotor’s cube, depositing the away team in what they hoped would be an advantageous position. Chakotay hefted his phaser rifle and nodded to Harry, who did the same then consulted his tricorder. "My readings show that the nearest exposed section of Sernaix technology is about 200 meters portside."
Chakotay nodded and gestured with his rifle. "After you, Lieutenant. At this point I’m just your muscle."
Harry chuckled and set out down the passageway at a steady jog, confident that Chakotay was not far behind by the sound of his footsteps on the metal deck. He skidded to a stop in front of a green pulsing forceshield. "Damn it to hell." Harry consulted his tricorder again.
"What’s the bad news, Harry?" Chakotay stopped behind him and looked over his shoulder at the readings on the tricorder.
"It’ll take us five minutes at least to get to any other section of Sernaix systems That’s if we don’t run into anymore shields along the way. Maybe I can hotwire the thing," Harry growled in frustration.
The lieutenant was so focused on the shield in front of him that he didn’t seem to notice the look on Chakotay’s face. "Harry, did you read the Captain’s report about the last time she was on this cube?" Harry turned and gave Chakotay a confused look. "It must be something about the gun. Get under cover and be ready to move."
Harry’s eyes widened as Chakotay pointed the rifle at the emitters for the shielding rather than the shield itself then pulled the trigger. An explosion rocked the ship from the inside, as the wall melted away and the shield disappeared with an electrical snap. "Go, Harry." Chakotay ordered.
Jumping up from his hiding place, Harry pelted toward the black shimmering wall before him. "What the hell kind of phaser rifle is that thing?"
Chakotay grinned as he fell in and covered Harry from behind. "One that the Captain has had B’Elanna modifying on and off over the last decade, completely non-regulation. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t carrying around one of the Delta Flyer’s phaser mounts by now."
Harry tossed his equipment into a pile on the floor and crouched beside the glimmering material of the wall. "And you actually set that thing in your lap." He shook his head. "I thought you said you wanted kids."
Chakotay couldn’t help laughing as he turned his back on his friend and let him get on with what they had to do. Even with the near disaster of the force shield, something didn’t feel right. It was too easy. His eyes kept scanning the perimeter; it was too late to second guess it now. They were here and come hell or high water, they would finish it.
The wall felt odd beneath Harry’s hands, like pressing your hands into a mountain stream, cold and tingling. He breathed deep then closed his eyes, and pushed his mind into the machine. He could feel his abilities reach out instinctually into the systems, sending elementary commands, opening pathways to him, and just beyond that was the Borg neural net. Seeing the goal before him almost spurred him to jump ahead and try to claim the prize before he was ready, but he held himself back, following Oz’s instructions to the letter. He felt his control of the systems around him solidify; all he had to do was think and they would react. He reached out toward the neural net with his mind and felt something like a steel door slam down, blocking him from its systems.
"Harry, Harry, Harry " Rotor’s voice mimicked Tom’s as it flooded his ears, "You didn’t actually think I’d let you two aboard my vessel so easily, now did you?"
Harry’s eyes snapped open and took in the scene around him. Chakotay was unconscious between two drones, the only indication that he hadn’t been assimilated yet. Two more drones awaited him, one on either side, blocking his access to his own rifle. "Come, come now Harry Do be a good boy and come up to the bridge nicely so we can have a little chit chat with your Captain." Rotor’s voice echoed through the cube.
The bridge crew watched as the second of Rotor’s cubes exploded under the combined fire of the Fleet. They had little time to mourn the passing of the three vessels – the Darius, an Intrepid– class, and the Darmok and Beliel, both Saber-class – that had been lost in the fight. Instead Paris pulled them into another complex series of turns and twists as the remaining cube’s weapons fire exploded around them.
"Shields at sixty percent and falling." Tuvok noted.
Seven’s voice broke above the fray. "If shield strength drops below fifty five percent, rotating shield modulations will not have any effect against the Borg boarding us."
"Noted, Seven," Janeway called as she listened to the inertial dampers’ whine under the strain of Tom’s maneuvers.
An audible crackle prefaced the viewscreen’s sudden change of scene. "And here I thought you’d decided to become friends with me, Kathryn. Bringing along all these friends of yours so I could meet them."
"Get him off my screen." Janeway hissed.
Rotor shook his head, "Now, now, you may not want to do that. Otherwise you’ll never get to say goodbye to your mate." He stepped back so that she could see Chakotay slumped between two drones. "That is who this tattooed fellow is, isn’t he? That’s what your friend—Kashyk was it?—thought."
The Captain moved back to her chair, settling down as she took in the scene before her, in silent disbelief. A blast rocked the ship once again and Tuvok’s voice cut through her shock. "Shields at fifty seven percent."
I’m sorry, Chakotay. I love you. Janeway allowed herself the thought before summoning all her will. "Get him off my screen."
"This other one, he’s the lovely Seven’s mate, is " Rotor continued to gloat, then was cut off mid-sentence by Seven.
"As you requested, Captain." The tone of Seven’s voice harkened back to her first days off the Cube.
Janeway looked up at Seven and saw the same bitter determination she herself felt. "He’s still not going to win if I can help it." She clenched her fists: it was now or never. "Janeway to Engineering."
"Engineering here, Captain." B’Elanna’s voice echoed through the bridge. Taking a deep breath, Janeway committed herself to her next action. "Do you know how Young started that overload in the Sernaix systems?"
"Of course, Captain, but " B’Elanna seemed shocked by the Captain’s question.
Janeway felt all eyes focused on her as she spoke, "How long?"
"I’ll have to override the protections we put on there after the last time "
"You have two minutes, Lieutenant. Better us and the fleet around us than the entire universe, wouldn’t you say?" Though the question was posed to B’Elanna, it was meant for the entire bridge crew. A mood of silent acceptance fell over the bridge as they considered Janeway’s words and one by one found that they agreed with them.
"Well, well, well Seems that your Captain isn’t as worried about you as I thought she’d be." Rotor turned and settled his twisted smile on the two humans. "It doesn’t matter really, I just thought she’d enjoy seeing what I was going to do to her mate."
The Borg made his way towards Chakotay as Harry struggled against his captors, searching for any way to stop what was about to happen. Then a slight echo in his mind, a quiet whisper, an awareness that he couldn’t quite pinpoint brought a sudden realization. He was still connected to the Sernaix systems.
Instinct left by the Caretaker and awakened by his interfacing so fully with the Sernaix technology told him what he would have to do and the price he would pay for it. He hesitated for a moment, but the sight of Rotor tilting the Commander’s head up, his assimilation tubules poised to strike spurred him into action, and he made his decision without another thought.
No wrong could ever be completely addressed, but if a wrong had been committed when Harry had assisted Kes in taking Miral’s powers, then restitution for it was paid in full now. Harry’s body fell limp between the two drones, spasming as it went into cardiac arrest. Rotor turned away from his intended target suddenly as a low hum built in the Cube, a hum he had no control over. A ripple of yellow gold light, pulsed through the blackness of the Sernaix systems as suddenly they all came to life, fully functional for the first time since their integration into the cube.
It was all so simple to him now. Harry’s mind and powers had been set free as it had stepped from the limiting containment of his physical body, into the vastness of the Realm. There was no joy in the knowledge he had gained from his transition, as he thought of the child he would never know, the friends he would never see, the love he would never have again. There was only one thing left to do.
"If you intend on ending the universe any time soon, Rotor, you’re going to have to come in and get me." Harry’s voice echoed in the Borg madman’s ears.
An inhuman snarl escaped Rotor’s lips as he looked around his command center. "Where?"
"The Sernaix systems of course I’m already working on these algorithms you used to lock me out of the neural net the first time. You won’t be so lucky the next." Harry’s voice was infuriatingly calm as it echoed in Rotor’s mind.
Rotor reached out with his mind, looking for the voice that tormented him and found it just beyond his reach, within the That was the key. That was what Ozymandias had been keeping from him. No matter, now that he knew it was child’s play and the impudent human that dared to challenge him would be no more. He pressed his mind further, up and into the Sernaix systems, then suddenly he was no longer on his cube, but in a vast emptiness that surrounded him on all sides.
There was a brief flash of light and the human stood opposite him. "I thought I’d make this easier for you to comprehend. Give you a glimpse of the goal that you will never achieve."
"I should be grateful to you for showing me how to access these systems properly." Rotor’s voice was deceptively civil. "So I’ll make your end quick and relatively painless, now." Crackles of energy leapt from the former drone surrounding the human’s form. Enough energy to encompass a thousand drones at once.
The human raised an eyebrow. "Best you can do?" Rotor’s eyes widened in rage as he unleashed another torrent of energy down on his opponent. Ten times stronger than the first. His expression changed to fear as the human reached out and captured the energy, forming it into a ball of light he held in his hand.
"I’m going to show you more compassion than you deserve, Rotor and make this as quick as you were trying to make it for me." Harry’s body broke apart into a shower of light that floated down and encased the drone’s Realm form.
A scream that was never heard issued from Rotor’s lips as the energy of Harry’s mind subsumed his and the would be destroyer of the universe faded peacefully from existence.
"Now your story has ended." Harry’s soft voice echoed through the now dead core of the Cube.
"Alright Captain Oz and I are ready to start the overload on your mark." B’Elanna’s voice echoed across the bridge.
"Shields at forty-seven percent and falling."
Janeway closed her eyes for a moment then turned to face forward, her body stiffening . "Here we go—Do "
Her words were cut off by the Operations officer, "Captain, the Cube has gone completely dead. No power signatures whatsoever." His hands moved over his console trying to pinpoint any further readings. "I can’t get anything further, thanks to the plasma storms."
The Captain settled back in her chair, looking at the viewscreen in front of her, at the Cube floating in the blackness, the shock of their victory not allowing her to consider the ramifications yet. Leaving her only able to process two thoughts—they were alive and Rotor was gone. "Stand down to Yellow Alert." Her voice seemed almost as if it were on automatic pilot. "Inform the rest of the fleet and Starfleet Command. We’ve won."
"Captain," Tom’s voice rang out cutting through the palpable tension on the bridge, "I’m picking up the Pinta on my sensors " He could feel the stares of the two women against his back as his fingers moved over the console, then he shook his head and slammed his fist down against the unresponsive panel. "That’s all I can get " He turned to meet his Captain’s gaze, "Between the plasma storms and the damage."
Kathryn nodded to him, then stood straightening her uniform, "Try to open communications." Her voice betrayed no emotion as she watched the small craft making it’s way towards their shuttle bay. The officer at Operations, as palpable a reminder as the empty chair beside her of the lives she had had to gamble with, sprang to life. His fingers running over his console, trying to raise their comrades returning from hell. The buzzing alert that indicated no response filled their ears, and she could feel Seven’s gaze drilling into her back from her place above her before the ominous silence filled their ears once more.
It was broken again by the textbook response of the Operations officer, "No response, Captain."
"Time to dock, Mr. Paris?" Janeway focused on the familiar once more. Reminders at this point only threatened to tear down her carefully constructed walls.
Tom looked back at her once more, "Two minutes, Captain." Janeway nodded in response. Two minutes that separated Seven and herself from heaven and hell. She moved up the ramp towards the turbolift.
"Tuvok, you have the bridge, co-ordinate with the other Starfleet vessels in the area for rescue efforts." For months, her protégé had warned them, a sense of foreboding that had pushed her into actions that Kathryn would never have expected from the former Borg. Now it was time to witness the culmination of the events that had led them to this point and only one person had an equal right to see it through. "Seven, you’re with me."
Seven could feel her emotions tearing through her. Inside of her was a dreadful certainty that her worst fears had come to pass. Logically, Seven’s mind told her that she had no factual basis for such an assumption and for the first time since starting her relationship with Harry, she truly regretted the surgery that had allowed her to feel all aspects of her emotional heritage.
None of this was displayed to the bridge crew. Seven’s emotions were masked as solidly as those of her mentor. A slight nod and the staccato tap of her shoes against the deck were the only response the Captain received as Seven moved to join her in the lift.
The silence remained all the way to the shuttle bay. Neither woman willing to speak lest she find the weakness in the other’s shield that would crumble both their facades. Too caught in their own fears and thoughts to comfort the other. The crew they passed seemed to sense the atmosphere that surrounded the pair and held their breath. The duo arrived in time to see the great doors open and the shimmer of the forceshield ripple around the returning vessel. It settled gently to the deck and the tension rather than easing seemed to rise, becoming palpable in the bay.
The shuttle hatch rose slowly, almost too slowly, and both women began to move forward before it was entirely open, needing the closure that would come from within. A silhouette appeared at the aperture, backlit from within, making his identity difficult to make out. Slowly the figure moved forward, coming out from the interior of the shuttle.
Janeway felt her command mask crack slightly, a single tear escaping from her eye only fixated on the solid form of Chakotay moving steadily towards her and not completely registering the dreadful cargo he was carrying. Seven fell out of step with Janeway at the sight, dropping to her knees as her worst fears were realized. It was Harry cradled in Chakotay’s arms, unnaturally limp. The world seemed to fall away from the former drone then and she was mostly unaware of the keening wail that ripped from her throat. The wail which seemed to bring Janeway out of her momentary reverie.
"Medical emergency beam out from Shuttlebay One," She moved back kneeling beside Seven but keeping her eyes locked with Chakotay’s. "Lock onto the Commander and my signal." Her last words were drowned out by the whine of a transporter beam catching them in it’s grasp.
The Doctor moved swiftly around the biobed, as he and Robbie Dayton worked frantically on Harry. Trying to evoke some semblance of life from his body. The cortical stimulator whirred as he pressed another hypospray to the young lieutenant’s neck, while Dayton once again activated a pulse to his cardio-pulmonary system. The room was filled with activity, a bedlam with a sea of stillness at it’s heart, as Janeway held Seven against her, Chakotay beside both of them, watching as the medical team worked on. It was that sight and the knowledge of the child that Seven carried that spurred the Doctor to continue, though somewhere in his programming it registered as hopeless. He’d be decompiled before he condemned Seven and Harry Kim’s child to be raised without benefit of his father.
As he worked the monitors remained stubbornly flat, the silent monotone hum only interrupted when they forced some part of Harry Kim’s body to respond. A strong hand settled on the Doctor’s shoulder, restraining him from repeating a cortical pulse. He turned suddenly, his stance enraged and was faced by the sympathetic face of Dr. Dayton. "Call it."
"But I " The Doctor started, looking toward Seven who stood watching in anguish.
"Call it " Dayton’s voice was calm, reasonable and insistent.
The Doctor remained stiff for a moment then he braced himself against the biobed. "Computer log, Harry Kim’s official time of death—Stardate 56816.1 at 17:47 hours." He closed his eyes as he heard Seven’s plaintive cry once more and shuddered as he shared her grief with her.
Voyager slowly approached the behemoth corpse of Rotor’s cube. It hung in space silent and dead, the drones on this vessel killed instantly, too close to the epicenter of the mental shockwave, as Harry had triumphed over Rotor, yet the others, further away, were freed from their hellish collective. Theories as to why they had died were already being postulated in the halls of Starfleet Command, but for those aboard Voyager it was enough that the lives aboard that cube had been extinguished including one of their own.
Unbeknownst to them, one life still existed on the cube, a life kept alive by the Sernaix technology assimilated, a life that reached out through the darkness and found a conduit to Voyager through the Sernaix technology and the shipmind, Oz.
Janeway stood on the observation deck once more. Seven was resting in Sickbay, the Doctor monitoring her, making certain that between the uncertainty of this pregnancy due to her Borg implants combined with the stress of Harry’s death and the past few months didn’t steal from her the last part of her lover left to her. Kathryn shivered slightly. She had watched the entire cycle of Harry’s Starfleet career unfold in front of her, she had been his first and last Captain. Closing her eyes, she could ‘see’ the memories of her friend replay in her mind’s eye.
The first time, she laid eyes on him, barely past being a cadet. ‘At ease Ensign before you strain something.’ A slight smile crossed her lips at the memory of the terribly stiff, starry-eyed boy that had stood in front of her. A boy who had become a man that had given his life to save a universe.
His heartfelt invitation to an isolated Starship Captain to come and join her crew in the holodeck. The second time Harry had caught her attention. His warm heart reaching out to anyone who he thought would benefit from it.
Tuvok’s description of Harry’s demand that they contact the Vidiians for a cure and return to the planet that they’d been forced to leave their Captain and Commander on. His loyalty and devotion to them touched her heart despite the bittersweet quality that her and Chakotay’s stay there had taken on in later years.
Their loss of him once before, only to be replaced by a near double from a universe split from their own reality. For her the memories of the former Harry Kim were inseparable from this Harry Kim. A trick of the mind that she scolded herself for. Had they treated this Harry Kim with his due or had they somehow shortchanged him by their assumptions of his identicalness to their own Harry? Had they grieved for their own Harry as much as they should have, or had they merely accepted that they were one in the same, allowing one to pass without notice as the new Harry had taken his place. Discomforted more, she pushed those thoughts from her mind and let the next memory take it’s place.
The attack of 8472 that had left Harry near death, fighting the infection that the aliens had inflicted upon him while Voyager fought it’s way through the heart of a war. An alliance with the devil that had nearly cost them all their lives, but that had brought another special individual into their midst. A tear ran down her face as she thought of Seven now, how Harry and Seven had come together in these last few short months, now robbed of their future together. Leaving her with the burden and joy of raising Harry’s son without him. Guilt welled up inside of her. It had been her duty and Harry had been the right choice for the mission, the only choice, but it didn’t take away the sense that she alone was responsible for his death. Not Rotor, not Starfleet Command, but Kathryn Janeway.
A soft voice echoed in her mind, pushing away some of her pain, "But when I think about everything we’ve been through together, maybe it’s not the destination that matters, maybe it’s the journey. And if that journey takes a little longer so that we can all do something we believe in, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be, or any people I’d rather be with." She couldn’t help but smile. This more than any other memory served to show her how much Harry had changed over time, yet had kept the core of goodness that was Harry Kim. Harry had been a consummate Starfleet Officer, he had taken the risks and paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. She took a deep breath and slowly turned away from the viewport.
Today, the price seemed too high and she wasn’t certain that she could pay it anymore.
The bridge was deathly silent as they waited for the Captain’s return to the Bridge. They stood silent vigil, amid the plasma storms over the husk of the Borg vessel, to ensure that no other powers tried to lay claim to it before the Starfleet Corps of Engineers and the salvage vessels could arrive. "Viewscreen off," Chakotay ordered shortly. Guarding the carrion from vultures for their own vultures didn’t sit well with him when he felt more like pointing every weapon Voyager had at it and blowing it out of existence.
The turbolift doors opened and disgorged the Captain, who took stock of the bridge crew and the unfamiliar face at Ops before moving down the ramp to take her place beside Chakotay, careful not to break the silence that surrounded them. Chakotay’s hand moved over the console, relaying a new assignment for a repair crew to another area of the ship, the movement catching her eye and drawing her attention to it. Before he could move it away, she pressed her own small hand over his own, as if wanting reassurance of her own good fortune amidst the tragedy of the day.
Without looking towards her, his hand turned so that his palm was against hers then knit his fingers through her own. Silent support and reassurance that they had done what they had had to do.
There was a beep from the operations console that drew Janeway’s attention to him once more, causing a stabbing pain deep inside but she sublimated it once more beneath her Captain’s mask. "What is it Ensign Jennings?"
"Unknown activity in the Sernaix systems, Captain." The Ensign turned towards her. "It seems centralized in the main drive unit but all systems from the cloak to the weapons are registering some form of activity."
The Captain’s eyes widened in alarm as she looked towards Chakotay. Could Rotor have found some way to survive the demise of his demonic existence through the assimilated Sernaix technology? She stood up and moved to the center of the bridge. "All hands, yellow alert. Find out what the hell is going on " The klaxon sounded and all stations seemed to spring into action, casting off the cloak of grief for the moment. Janeway looked up towards the ceiling as was her habit when addressing Oz away from his holographic form. "Oz Mr. Ozymandius " She looked sharply at Chakotay as he nodded. "Engineering, we believe we may have an intruder in the Sernaix systems, Oz is not responding, lock it down as much as you can and get him back."
B’Elanna’s voice echoed over the comm. system, "I’m on it, Captain."
Janeway moved up the ramp, making her way back to the turbolift. "Chakotay, you have the bridge, I’ll be in main engineering."
There was a rush of activity around the black cylinder that was the Sernaix drive as Janeway entered Main Engineering. Though B’Elanna and her people understood more about the Sernaix systems than anyone but Oz, Harry or another Sernaix did, that still wasn’t saying much. The Captain moved into the fray, seeking out her Chief Engineer. "Any idea what’s going on, Lieutenant?"
"None, Captain " B’Elanna scowled, "I need Seven I know she’s not up to it, but the faster I implement these modified Borg algorithms, the quicker they seem to come down." The half klingon’s stress and fear was evident in her tone.
Janeway nodded acknowledging the need even though she didn’t want to subject Seven and her unborn child to more stress. She tapped the communicator, "Janeway to the Doctor." She waited for a moment but it yielded no result. Janeway looked towards B’Elanna, her suspicions of Rotor’s involvement strengthening as the Doctor didn’t respond. "Janeway to Sickbay, respond."
There was a short pause, then the Doctor’s subdued voice filled the air around them. "You can stand down from yellow alert, Captain But you’d better get up here."
Janeway nodded to B’Elanna and made her way out of Engineering as quickly as she had come.
The Doctor stood in stunned silence as Harry Kim stood silently over Seven, stroking the still unconscious woman’s hair affectionately. If the Doctor had a heart it would have been thundering in his chest, as he had transferred the body to the morgue himself less than an hour ago. Slowly Harry turned and smiled at the Doctor. "I don’t have much time, Doc. Can you wake her up for me?"
"You’re " The Doctor picked up his tricorder and moved to scan the resurrected officer.
Harry grinned slightly and shook his head at the Doctor, "A hologram doc Oz loaned me his matrix for a little while." His expression became grim. "I can’t stay though, the amount of power I am pushing through Oz and Voyager‘s systems will cause irrepairable damage very soon."
There were too many questions that needed to be answered but the sense of urgency Harry communicated despite his jovial attitude spurred the Doctor into action. Loading a hypo with stimulant he moved to Seven’s side and injected her, then stepped back to give them as much privacy as Sickbay would allow.
Slowly, Seven felt consciousness returning, a familiar voice calling her back. As she opened her eyes, if her implants hadn’t affirmed that she was in fact conscious then she would have suspected she was dreaming. "Harry?"
Harry nodded in confirmation, gently embracing Seven, stroking her hair with nimble fingers. "I needed to see you."
"Your life functions had ceased. I do not understand how you are here." Seven pulled back and fixed a puzzled look at him.
The hiss of the sickbay doors announced the arrival of the Captain, who upon taking in the scene before her, braced herself against the doorframe her legs nearly going out from under her in shock. "Harry?"
"It’s me, Captain." Harry nodded to Janeway but seemed reluctant to move away from Seven. Janeway nodded slightly, giving him leave to remain with the former drone while he addressed her. "I’m certain the Commander has already filed his report, so you’ll excuse me if I focus on what he couldn’t know. When our initial plan failed I was forced to improvise. Knowing that the Sernaix systems were his weakness, I used the abilities I acquired from the Caretaker to exploit those systems against him."
Janeway listened intently, her eyes narrowed as she considered his words. "Lieutenant, are you aware that Commander Chakotay recovered your body?"
"Of course, Captain." He set a reassuring hand on Seven’s back once more but continued with his explanation, keeping his voice and his expression completely professional. "My body couldn’t take the strain of what I had to accomplish with the powers. To accomplish the mission, I needed to be inside the Sernaix systems."
Janeway nodded, not needing any further explanation. "We’ll set up a mobile emitter for "
"I appreciate the thought, Captain but I can’t. Oz helped me to get here from Rotor’s cube I can only exist in the Sernaix systems and as long as I am here, he’s basically in stasis, Captain." Harry shook his head. "Never mind the stress I’m putting on Voyager‘s systems."
The Captain’s expression fell as she accepted Harry’s wisdom. "Then where?"
"The Realm, Captain. With the amount of power the Caretaker imbued me with I can transfer myself there at anytime from Voyager‘s Sernaix systems." Harry paused. "I couldn’t just go without letting you all know " His eyes met Seven’s, "Without talking to Seven."
The scene in front of her was almost too painful to watch, her head dropped imperceptibly. "I understand." Slowly her posture straightened, coming to attention for her fallen friend, acknowledging the sacrifice he had made for them all. Her steady blue eyes met his gaze. "We’ll miss you, Harry." Then without another word, she left Sickbay, giving them the privacy they deserved.
The Doctor started to move out of Sickbay, but Harry turned, smiling sadly as he focused on his friend. "No, Schmullus Could you stay? There is something I need from you." The hologram nodded slightly, his confusion showing in his eyes, but stayed well back, so as not to intrude on their final moments.
"You are going." Seven said simply, running her hands along his familiar form, almost able to forget that he was a hologram.
Harry cupped her face as if memorizing her features, "I have to." Seven looked away as though unwilling to acknowledge that simple face but Harry tipped her face back to look at him. "I’m glad you’re carrying our baby, Seven." Her eyes widened. "While we were on the Pinta, Chakotay and I talked. I realized that it didn’t matter when or how our baby was conceived, I wanted it, just as much as you did." He paused, stroking her cheek with his thumb, "As much as love is about respect, it’s also about forgiveness and I don’t want any doubt in your mind, especially now, that I do love you."
Seven crumpled against Harry’s seemingly solid form, holding herself tightly to him as he began to speak again. "It’s because I love you, Seven, that I don’t want you to stop living Loving. There’s someone out there who could make you happy "
"No," Seven pulled back and looked into Harry’s eyes. Despite her tears, Seven’s voice was clear and her expression determined. "I will not. As long as you are in the Realm, you are alive. Not your physical body but the part of you I truly love. Eventually I will come to you."
"Seven, I don’t want " Harry started only to have his words stilled by a finger over his lips.
"I will come to you," Seven repeated. It was obvious that her mind was made up.
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably, still uncertain why Harry had asked him to stay. Harry’s attention shifted to him after a moment, "Schmullus, I have a favor to ask."
"Anything," Schmullus replied simply. Somehow he knew what Harry would ask next and despite the cost to himself, he’d already resolved to do whatever was necessary to complete the request.
"Watch over her And my child." He smiled, "I know my parents will be there for her, Captain Janeway, Chakotay But it would be a relief for me to know you would be there for them."
Schmullus stood a little straighter, then nodded gently. "You didn’t have to ask."
There was a rumble from somewhere deep in the ship and it shook slightly. Harry’s brow furrowed. "I need to go now I’m causing systems overloads all over the ship." Their eyes met with a desperation they both felt and he pulled her into a passionate kiss, tongue probing, tasting, touching, memorizing every nuance of each other’s body. As the kiss broke, Seven clung to his hand, silently pleading. The ship shuddered once more and she released him, finally acknowledging the truth she didn’t want to hear.
"I will come to you, Harry." She re-iterated her promise once more.
With a sad smile, the hologram faded from existence and the ship fell silent once again.
"It’s time," Kathryn looked into the mirror as they packed away their belongings into cases.
Chakotay’s brow furrowed, "What time, Kathryn?"
"Time to stop," Kathryn turned and looked into Chakotay’s eyes. "I need to do something Anything else."
Chakotay chuckled, "You’ve been around Oz and the Ayrethans too long Kathryn, you’re speaking in riddles." At her serious expression, his face followed suit and he drew her to the couch. "I’m listening."
"I watched Harry’s entire career, Chakotay, start to finish. He lived his entire adult life in front of my eyes, like one of Tom’s old movies." She paused, trying to find the right way to explain it to him, knowing that it sounded like a reaction to a close friend’s death. "It’s not just Harry’s death either, there’s more to it. His death just brings it all into focus." She settled back against the cushions, her body weary. "I don’t want to be a Captain any more, Chakotay. I’ve been in space too long " At his look of disbelief, she smiled, "It doesn’t mean I won’t go back occasionally, I just don’t want to live out here anymore."
"You know, you shouldn’t make these decisions now, while everything is so fresh " Chakotay took her hand and held it, squeezing it softly as he considered her words and their ramifications.
Kathryn shook her head, "No, Chakotay, its precisely why I should make these decisions now. You know me, give me enough time and I’ll convince myself to go back out there because it’s my duty." She reached up and stroked his face gently. "I need to make this decision now, while I’m still shaken up enough to be thinking about me."
That stopped whatever argument Chakotay had been about to muster, leaving him to listen to her in silent amazement. "I want to be able to take Amelia for a walk in the park and not have it be holographic. I want to go shoot pool in the real Sandrine’s. I want to take you to the Bloomington County Fair and ride the rides with you. I want to teach. I want to do research. I want to help design a ship." She paused and looked deeply into his eyes. "I want to have a family, before I’m too old to go through the whole painful process myself. I want to have memories of something other than barking orders and defeating the enemy to look back on when I’m an old woman."
She stood and looked out her viewport one final time, crossing her arms in front of her. "I want to prove to myself that Kathryn Janeway is more than just a Starship Captain."
Chakotay moved behind her looping his arms around her waist. "Kathryn Janeway has never just been anything in her entire life " He bent down and kissed her hair softly. " and I’ve learned when Kathryn Janeway wants something, heaven help anyone who tries to stop her. So the only question is how do you break the news to Starfleet Command?"
"I didn’t say I was quitting, Chakotay." Kathryn turned in his arms and smiled up at him. "I’m going to give them exactly what they wanted."
Admiral Ross looked up from his desk, then stood up to greet his visitor. "Captain Janeway, it’s good to see you."
"Likewise Admiral," She took his hand and shook it warmly. He gestured for her to take a seat then moved to the replicator. "Coffee?"
Kathryn smiled and shook her head, "Chamomile tea, please " At Ross’s surprised expression she added, "I promised Chakotay that I would cut back." A small smile graced her lips, "At least I don’t have to quit completely."
"Somehow I don’t think he’d be too successful in extracting that promise," Ross commented as he handed her the cup.
Sipping her tea slowly, she arched an eyebrow at her host, "You’d be surprised."
Ross chuckled lightly as he settled back into his seat. "So what brings you here today?"
Janeway settled her cup on his desk and leaned forward, "I saw the plans for the Voyager Memorial. If it’s at all possible, I’d like to take up the lead on that project."
Their eyes met and Ross nodded slowly, "That’s a ‘brass’ level project and you know it, Kathryn." He turned away for a moment, considering her request. "The amount of exposure that project has to the media means that every ‘i’ has to be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. Besides, you and that crew of yours is due for another leave after what you accomplished."
Janeway rose, never taking her eyes off of Ross. "I can guarantee you none of my original crew are going to be far away from San Francisco until the day that memorial goes up, Admiral. I’ll take my leave after the project is completed whether I head it or not." She paused letting him mull that over before she continued, "Besides, I wouldn’t ask for a ‘brass’ level project if I wasn’t willing to be brass."
Ross swiveled in his chair and looked up at Janeway, searching her face for a moment before she spoke, "I hope it’s not too late to reconsider that promotion offer, Admiral."
Schmullus moved about the sickbay, grumbling to himself as he did. From what Kathryn could make out, no one ever left anything where he expected it to be. After a moment he was running the scanner over her, consulting the readouts that appeared on his tricorder.
"You need to cut down on your caffeine intake." He glared up at her as she sat up from her prone position on the biobed.
Kathryn nodded slightly, as she adjusted her new uniform, straightening the line of gold that ran down her torso. "I already promised Chakotay."
"More rest and less stress " The Doctor moved onto his next complaint without breaking stride.
She hopped down off the biobed and settled her hands on her hips. "I know Doctor. Chakotay and I are going on leave the instant we’re done here today."
"Not just for now, Admiral." Schmullus met her gaze. "You and I both know the rigors of Command even here at Starfleet. You’ve served them long enough. Do your duty, but go home at night. As your Doctor, I am concerned about your health As your friend, I am concerned about you."
She smiled crookedly, then pulled the Doctor into a tight hug. "I promise, Schmullus."
"Alright then," the Doctor turned and started to prepare a hypo spray.
Janeway’s eyes widened slightly, "Then I can "
The Doctor sighed, "You are a woman in perfect health for the age of fifty, Admiral, in spite of those concerns. As long as you follow my recommendations, I see no reason why you can’t." With an efficient movement of long practice, he injected Janeway with the spray and shook his head slightly in amusement.
Kathryn took a deep breath as she felt some of the tension she’d been carrying fall away. The Doctor set aside the instrument and looked around the sickbay, sentimentally. "She was a good ship and she got us home."
"I preferred my office here," The Doctor looked longingly at his old chair, "It was more comfortable than the one on the A."
"I know " Kathryn answered simply. "Why do you think I wanted to do this here? This Voyager was ours in a way the new Voyager would never be. She was our home A part of our family. The ceremony today gave me a reason to shut down the museum for a few hours. So we could have her back for a little while."
The two friends fell silent for a moment, then Janeway moved to the door. "We have a memorial to attend, Doctor and people who are waiting on us."
Taking one more look around the Doctor slowly moved out of the room, leaving only Janeway to take a last look.
"Computer, lights." The lights flickered out, leaving her voice and her footsteps echoing in the darkness.
A warm breeze came up from the bay, the bright sunlight glinting off of the hull of their original ship, as the members of Voyager‘s original crew and the crew of the new ship alike, filed onto the Presidio grounds, taking their places at the front of the speaker’s platform. They watched in silent amazement as people, Starfleet officers and private citizens alike walked the long stretch of parkland, swelling their ranks exponentially.
The Admiralty took their seats on one side of the platform, shaking their heads in wonder at the sea of forms that were filling the Presidio grounds, both in uniform and out. A certain amount of shame filled their ranks as they looked out into the crowd. They knew now, and admitted freely that this is what should have happened at Voyager‘s homecoming, but their inability to recognize the heroes in their midst had ever sullied that memory. Now they could only offer restitution in the form of capitulation to Janeway’s requests.
A low murmur of conversation filled the air, as Voyager‘s senior staff, each in full dress uniform, slowly mounted the platform moving towards the seats intended for them. The murmur grew slightly louder as the Doctor moved up the stairs and took his place beside Seven, laying a gentle arm around her shoulders as he spoke softly to her to comfort her.
All noise stopped as Janeway started her ascent up the stair, save the sound of her own footsteps against the metal. As she reached the top, Tom Paris, rose from his seat, his clear baritone echoing out from over the crowd. "Admiral on deck." As one the Senior staff came to full attention. Then led by Admiral Paris, the Admiralty slowly stood to full attention, each of their gazes, snapped forward in a show of respect for the woman who had so recently consented to enrich their number with her courage and accomplishments.
Meeting the gaze of each of her staff and smiling sadly first, then nodding in acknowledgement to the Admiralty before she moved to the podium. Janeway stood in silent shock at first at the sea of humanity that spread before her, then as one they moved, officer and civilian alike, coming to perfect attention.
Janeway took a deep breath to steady her emotions, then brought herself to attention before them as she had for Harry. Her eyes roved the crowd making eye contact with as many people as she could before she moved to at ease and began to speak.
"Seeing you all here, in front of me, reminds me why Starfleet exists. We exist for you. It is everyone at home, everyone we care about, that drives us to discover what is out there, to contact new races, to forge new alliances and to make this universe a better place." She paused for a moment, turning her gaze on her friends that sat behind her.
"When we were coming home the first time, it was the people at home that pushed me on to continue. The knowledge that there were lives that were affected by my crew’s loss, drove each and everyone of us, even those of us who had no family left here, to get home."
"It was all of you who gave us the hope and the courage to carry on, to finish what we started through every part of this journey. It was you who gave us our determination to defeat the Sernaix. It was you who inspired our allies to give their lives so yours could continue."
Janeway looked out at the sea of faces in front of her, a smile gracing her lips. "If we are heroes, then so are each and every one of you, because without you we wouldn’t have accomplished what we did."
"Since we are all heroes, the Voyager Memorial is for all of us, but we will honor specially, those heroes who have fallen. Given everything so the rest of us could continue." As her final words left her mouth, the blue shroud was pulled away from the golden marble obelisk, that towered majestically over the crowd, its surface carefully etched with the name of every person lost from the crew throughout Voyager‘s history, including the name of Harry Kim.
"The Borg war was the last of the great wars the United Federation of Planets ever faced. I never knew of another like it in my time. Sure there were scrambles here and there, but nothing that would ever pose a threat for the most part, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta quadrants found peace for the first time in history, everyone building towards a better future. Knowing what could happen, if another war happened."
"Icheb graduated with honors from the Academy in a little over two years. I suppose with all the experience he gained on Voyager, they could teach him little other than diplomacy there, I can still remember the day on Ayreth when he questioned the Ayrethan’s means of achieving the ultimate utopia . That took a lot of explaining to Janeway on my part. He didn’t bond with T’Kara when they first got out of the Academy, but they met up again a few years down the road. Last I heard they were serving together on the U.S.S. Tamaranth."
"That move is illogical." Icheb stated as he examined the 3D chess board. He would never admit it to his 10-year old son, but the little tyke was winning. Thankfully, T’Kara had already planned to meet him in the mess hall earlier today, it was only a matter of time before she showed up and the game would end before they had time to really finish.
At least he hoped.
"The game is simple logic. I am sure of my move." Kais replied in typical Vulcan tone. With each and every day that passed, Icheb could see T’Kara’s lovely spirit manifesting in their son. To his amusement, Icheb could see a bit of himself in their son as well. "Unless you fear defeat, father."
"I do not." Icheb lied. He studied the board carefully before making his move. He watched Kais’ eyes study his move carefully as he moved quickly to make his own move.
With a swish, the door to the mess hall opened and T’Kara stepped in, moving gracefully towards their table. Icheb breathed a small sigh of relief. "Kais, it is time to end the game. Your mother has arrived."
"You are unfair father, you wish to end the game because you fear defeat." Kais spoke as his mother took a seat beside him, opposite of Icheb.
"Your father does not fear defeat." T’Kara added. "What your father fears is humility." Icheb swore she nearly grinned as she looked at him, amusement in her eyes. No one knew her as well as he did, and he knew when she was amused.
"Humility? An emotion? I do not understand." Kais questioned as he looked from parent to parent for enlightenment.
Icheb pushed the 3D chessboard aside, glad T’Kara had arrived. "What your mother means is that you shouldn’t be concerned with such matters at your age."
"It is also something you will come to understand – in time."
"Neelix and his family are prospering out in the Delta Quadrant. He led the Talaxians who came to the medical aid of all the poor bastards Rotor had assimilated in his rampage. Not long after that he was the leader of their settlement. He even did a stint as the Talaxian Ambassador to the Federation. The Voyagers, as we came to call ourselves, got quite a few good parties out of that, but eventually he realized his home was out there on New Talax."
"Neelix this is a very prestigious event. Starfleet chose our planet to welcome the Cylians into the Federation. You should be at the capital overseeing the delegations, not here – cooking!" Dexa stood in the kitchen of one of their most pristine restaurants on New Talax.
"I’m making sure the food is as good as they say it will be." Neelix replied as he went along tasting the different dishes. "Hmm, I think this needs a little Leola Root – chef!" Neelix called as a younger man stepped up to the dish, and he and Neelix began discussing the problem together. The younger Talaxian wasn’t convinced however Neelix was absolutely sure it needed just a hint of Leola Root. Dexa would warn the waiters to remove the particular dish later in the night.
"Am I interrupting?" A familiar voice asked from the door of the kitchen. Both Dexa and Neelix turned to see the familiar blue face of his old friend.
"Chell!" Neelix exclaimed as he made his way towards the Bolian, embracing him in a big hug. "What brings you here?"
"I’m part of the delegation the Federation sent. I’m here to represent my homeworld." Chell said proudly as he tugged on the collar of his ambassadorial uniform.
"Well, well, another misguided soul turned cook, turned ambassador. Next thing you know you’ll be president of your home planet." Neelix joked as he hooked his old friend around the neck and escorted him out of the kitchen. "We have a lot of catching up to do."
"We certainly do."
Dexa smiled at the two men and turned her attention back to the chef, who stood silently, wondering weather or not he should change the dish. "Get rid of that particular dish before he notices it again. Leave him alone and Leola Root will be in everything."
"Thank you ma’am." The young chef replied as he quickly removed the dish from the assortment.
Dexa smiled to herself. Another crisis eliminated.
"Naomi, ended up as beautiful as her mother and a skilled diplomat. Known for her ability with even the most difficult of races. It wasn’t any wonder where she picked up that ability from. Of course the fact that occasionally a certain omnipotent godson of our Captain appears and takes her out for lunch occasionally, certainly doesn’t hurt her reputation any either."
The Vidiian looked at the Krenim ambassador. It was apparent to everyone in the room that this conflict wasn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, especially this late in the evening. Naomi sighed and tugged on her shirt and sighed. What would she give to be on the Risian beach with an umbrella
She quickly felt the temperature rise and something appear in her hand. She looked down only to find a fruit drink in her hands. Looking up, the umbrella. Her temper began to flare for a moment, but then she calmed. Chances are she didn’t have to worry about the discussions at this point.
"You thought right." A soft, but masculine voice said as she felt two arms encircle her naked waist, it was then she noticed she was only clad in a bikini. "Don’t worry about it, the beach is pretty deserted. I made sure of it."
"And the meeting with the Krenim and Vidiians?"
"Simple time loop. I think Ambassador Krell will get very tired of proclaiming ‘We are not a galactic garbage dumpster!’." Naomi giggled at the thought as she turned to gaze into the eyes of the one true love of her life.
"I missed you." She spoke quietly as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.
"We all have our duties." He then leaned in to kiss her gently on the lips. "Remember I miss you too. And I love you." He kissed her again.
"Quentin sometimes I wonder what I would do without you." Naomi said as she pressed her lips against his. The kiss was slow and seductive, nothing like the first kiss they shared. After a few moments he pulled away and came around to join her on her beach towel.
"Oh I don’t know, I say you would have done pretty well for yourself anyway. I could take you for a tour of the alternate timeline if you like?"
"No, no more timelines. Time in general gives me a headache." She replied as Quentin gave her a quizzical look. "What?"
He shook off the thoughts of comparing Naomi to his Godmother. "Nothing, just a coincidence."
"Miral’s all grown up now – she’s just done celebrating her thirty fifth birthday. I swore she’d be a pilot. B’Elanna swore she’d be an Engineer. Ambassador to the Federation from the Klingon Empire – Janeway once told me that’s what she’ll become. She outsmarted us all though A doctor. I shoulda never let B’Elanna make that hologram her godfather."
"B’Elanna’s doing fine – I think she finally found a place where she belonged here on Utopia Planitia. At 70, she still can’t get her head out of the warp core – or whatever they’re calling it these days."
"Mom, you’re going on 71, don’t you think its time you start watching your health a little more closely?" Miral questioned as she chased her mother around the engine room of the newly commissioned U.S.S. Cobain with medical tricorder in hand.
"I’m in perfect health for an almost 71 year old Klingon woman. Most woman my age would be envious." B’Elanna ignored her daughter and kept working. Miral kept chasing. If there was one thing common in her family, stubbornness was it.
"You know dad wants to spend more time with you. He wishes you were home more often." Miral admitted.
"He told you that?" B’Elanna asked.
"Yeah. He says there are still some nights when you don’t come home. He worries about you at times."
B’Elanna ceased working and turned to her eldest daughter. "Miral, he’s a transport away. He can come and see me any time. In fact, he commissioned this ship. Tom can come on anytime he wants." Then she paused for a moment. "You’re making all this up aren’t you Miral?"
She looked guilty. "I would just like to see you relax a bit mom. Sometimes I think you push yourself too hard—it worries me." Miral admitted, her voice a bit saddened. B’Elanna sighed, a small smile on her weathered face.
"Maybe I should take a rest—but not until this ship is launched. Is that a deal?"
Miral smiled brightly. "Deal."
"Now," B’Elanna said as she turned again to face the slipstream core. "Leave me to this, or it’ll take longer than you want."
"Ok mom, I get the point." Miral said, laughing as she left engineering. No sooner as she was gone, the door opened again to reveal Tom Paris, dressed in full Admiral’s uniform.
B’Elanna stopped in her tracks. She was tricked. "You put her up to this didn’t you? You wouldn’t have it said that you ordered me to finish up, so you used our daughter to do it."
"We’re getting too old for this B’E, I can’t fool you anymore." He walked up and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "I have dinner planned for us tonight. Paris, France."
"French cuisine eh? What did you do this time, Paris?" B’Elanna asked, sensing there was more than met the eye.
"Remember the Bat’Leth you bought for Jordin? Well he had a friend over—and they were messing around with it." Tom began to tell the story.
"Just tell me they’re not seriously injured like last time."
Tom took a deep breath. "A sprained ankle, a few small cuts and a concussion."
B’Elanna shook her head, however she couldn’t hide her smile. "No wonder you sent Miral first. I think for this you better think Italian."
"Kathryn Janeway, god bless her soul, left Starfleet a few years after becoming Admiral and settled down with Chakotay in Arizona. Chakotay always said he wanted to teach anthropology and that’s exactly what he did. Kathryn became a speaker mostly, doing sessions at the academy for the new cadets. I don’t think any captain will ever match the hours she’s spent in battle. She could write the book on most of the enemy races of the past.
Kathryn made history again by being the first Admiral to serve while pregnant. They had a daughter, of course. Perfect mixture of both of them, temperament and looks wise. Though if you talk to Chakotay she gets her beauty and her brains from her mother. Of course if you asked Kathryn the same thing she’d tell you the exact opposite."
"So dad let me get this straight," Her eyes wandered his workshop and finally settling on the skeletal framed structure in front of her. The reasons behind even why he was building this escaped her, so at this point she would settle for why here. "You’re building a boat."
Chakotay seemed undisturbed by her questions as he worked away at the stern. "Yes."
Chakotay looked up for a moment. "Your mom always wanted a boat."
Being Kathryn Janeway’s daughter, she was not easily fooled. "But you already got her a boat, the sailboat’s at Lake George." She pointed out, to her it was blatantly obvious.
"I know—I thought she would like another one." He kept working. Slowly, she squeezed her small frame in between the frame of the boat in order to get closer to him and what he was doing. Chakotay smiled to himself, she had her mother’s curiosity.
"But she loves the one she has now, and besides " Her small voice trailed off slowly as a smile crept on her face. Chakotay stopped working and began to laugh with her as he watched her become very amused but by whatever was on her mind.
"What is it?" He asked.
"Dad you get sea-sick!" She giggled uncontrollably at the notion. "And lake-sick, and river-sick, and any kind of real water sick!" She nearly fell to the floor laughing.
Chakotay grinned at his daughter’s sense of humor. "Did you come out here to make fun of me?" He asked her as he reached out to tickle her.
She managed a "Yeah" in-between all the giggling. She quickly maneuvered herself through the framing of the boat and bolted out of the workshop, leaving Chakotay standing there with a goofy grin on his face.
Well, he had to admit to himself, for a twelve year old she did have a point.
"Seven of Nine never entirely got over Harry Kim. Knowing he was out there somewhere, waiting His son was the light in her life, the spitting image of his father. Last I heard, she was a professor at the Academy, teaching Astrometrics. Strange how you always end up back where you began.
I miss Harry We could have gone out there. Seen him, spoken to him, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I think that may be why none of the Voyagers but Schmullus have been out to the Delta Quadrant in thirty-two years. I think Harry knew that somehow, though sometimes I wonder if he feels like we abandoned him. When I see young James though, I see Harry in his eyes and I find a certain peace."
"The Doctor, Schmullus, made the biggest sacrifice of us all. I don’t think he ever forgave himself for not being able to save Harry. He stayed with Seven. Only ever the best of friends, though the rumors made them out to be more. He loved loves Danara, yet he wouldn’t leave Seven’s side."
Schmullus appeared on the back porch as Seven gazed from their backyard out to the setting sun on the horizon. He watched quietly, knowing her mind was elsewhere.
"Doctor," She acknowledged turning slightly to look at him for a moment before returning her attention to the horizon. He smiled to himself, she was the only one left who still occasionally called him by his ‘original name’. For that he was glad.
"Penny for your thoughts?" He asked, sitting beside her.
"I just want to see the sun set one more time." She replied quietly as Schmullus draped his arm around her shoulder in silent comfort. "I never imagined the aesthetic value of anything such as a sunset would come to have so much—meaning to my life."
"It doesn’t surprise me." He said quietly.
"It does not?"
"No." With that they sat quietly, watching the slow-setting sun of early summer. They had come a long way over the years, but even the doctor knew it would be soon now, it would be soon that she left.
"I want to leave to go to him. Tonight." She spoke quietly, but sternly. Her mind was definitely made up.
Schmullus shook his head. "You still have time left Seven, there’s no reason for you to -."
"I want to." She turned to face him, a tear falling down her face. Schmullus then understood everything. She had to go.
Schmullus took a deep breath and squeezed her tightly against him. "Alright." As the word left his lips he could almost feel the era pass. "I happen to have a little pull with a certain starship Captain—I’ll see what I can do."
"She’s dying and no doctor in the Federation can stop it." Schmullus fixed his gaze on the dark haired young woman on the viewscreen before him. As she frowned the Doctor could almost see her mind puzzling over the possibilities. Unwilling to give up.
"I don’t doubt you, Schmullus. It’s just " She steepled her fingers and sighed, "It’s not my nature to give up without a fight."
The Doctor smiled sadly, "It’s not really my nature either but sometimes " He paused seeming to be caught in an old unpleasant memory. " you have to recognize your limitations. Her implants are failing. Seven has lived over thirty nine years away from the Collective. Without the constant maintenance that life on a cube would provide, they’ve just worn out."
She blinked back her tears, struggling to keep her Captain’s mask in place then nodded, finally accepting that one of her oldest friends and mentors was actually dying. "What do you need, Doctor?"
"I need a ship and I hoped " The Doctor smiled at the young woman.
She pursed her lips then nodded slightly knowing exactly what trip had to be made and knowing her ship was the one ship that had to make the trip. "You get everyone together, Doctor and I’ll get clearance from Starfleet."
Lieutenant Valerie Roton watched as her Captain, normally one of the most cool and decisive Starship Captain’s in the fleet paced the deck of Transporter Room One. She supposed that the Captain had every reason to be nervous. It was a historic occasion, the first time in over thirty years that the original senior staff of Voyager-A would be back aboard her, not to mention their first trip back to the Delta Quadrant in that time. Every crew member from crewman to the Captain, herself, had been involved in the ‘spit and polish’ movement over the course of the day to make the ship shine as she had the day she came out of space dock.
"We’ve received word from Starfleet Command, they’ve arrived at the transporter station." The transporter officer felt her stomach knot. She’d had to finagle and give up prime shifts for two months just to be the officer on duty for today.
The Lieutenant watched, somewhat bemused that her commanding officer seemed almost as nervous as she was, as her Captain stopped mid step and swiveled on her heel, straightening her dress uniform before she nodded to her officer. "Let’s not keep them waiting, Lieutenant."
"Aye, Captain." Roton keyed in the sequence carefully then slowly drew her fingers up the panel. The transporter responded with a soft blue glow, and the soft tinkling sound that slowly coalesced into two stately figures. Soft silver hair framed both faces, that were worn and marked with years of service. Their fingers were knit together as they appeared but the woman broke away and stepped forward, her cold blue gaze leveled at her old ship’s new Captain.
Valerie’s eyes widened as she took in the sight before her and she snapped to attention, this was worth every gamma shift she would have to pull. There was no not recognizing the legendary Admiral Kathryn Janeway (Ret.) and Commander Chakotay (Ret.), so the first words out of her Captain’s mouth froze her in her tracks.
"You’re late," The Captain met the retired Admiral’s glare with one of her own.
Admiral Janeway’s eyebrow arched gracefully as she considered the officer in front of her. "What’s the threshold of the H-2 molecule?"
Roton had to struggle to keep her mouth shut as she watched the exchange play out in front of her. Chakotay caught her bewildered expression and winked before he turned his attention back on his life partner and the Captain.
"14.7 electron volts," The Captain tossed out as though she’d been expecting this grilling all along.
"Third brightest star in Orion?" Janeway couldn’t seem to keep her mouth from quirking up into a familiar grin.
The Captain wrinkled her nose as though somewhat annoyed with the Admiral’s inexact question. "Viewed from where?"
"Earth," the Admiral pursed her lips as she waited for her answer.
The Captain almost yawned. "Gamma Orionis—or Bellatrix, if you prefer the original Arabic name."
Admiral Janeway’s face lit with delight as she stepped down the ramp and enfolded her daughter in her embrace. "Now that’s my girl."
"How are you doing, Maggie?" Chakotay stepped down from the transporter pad and took up hugging his daughter where Kathryn had left off.
"Not bad, better now that you’re here." She straightened her uniform and her smile faded slightly. "Seven wants to get underway as soon as she possibly can."
Kathryn’s face clouded slightly and she nodded. "She’s waited a long time for today." Her mouth quirked slightly, "Although I don’t think this is quite what I had in mind for my next trip into the Delta Quadrant."
"We never did make that pleasure trip, did we?" Chakotay knit his fingers between Kathryn’s again.
Lieutenant Roton was busy running the shut down sequences, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, feeling almost like an intruder at a private moment between family. So she felt rather than saw the trio approach her.
"Admiral Professor This is my Chief Operations Officer, Lt. Valerie Roton. I’m not quite certain what she did to get herself assigned to transporter room one when her place is on the bridge, but I’m certain she’s paying for it " Captain Margaret Janeway arched her brow, giving the chief a mock glare, then smiled brightly, the dimples she inherited from her father showing plainly on her face.
Chakotay was the first to offer his hand. "Nice to meet you, Lieutenant. So is my daughter as much of a hard ass as her mother was?"
Roton struggled to keep the blush off her face as she took his hand in hers. "I wouldn’t know, Sir."
Kathryn rolled her eyes and snorted lightly in Chakotay’s direction. "I was never a hard ass, I let you get away with far too much."
Both father and daughter looked at Janeway in disbelief as she ignored them and carried on as normal. "I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant."
Valerie was struggling to keep the smile off her face once again as she shook the elder Janeway’s hand. "It’s an honor," she paused as she recalled the tales she’d been told about her Captain’s mother, "Admiral."
A wide grin graced Kathryn’s lips, "Smart girl, but I’ve retired so Kathryn will do."
Chakotay shook his head slightly, then settled his hand in Kathryn’s back once again. "Don’t be fooled, Lieutenant. She’s just biding her time until she sees an opening to get that center seat again." He teased mercilessly.
"Even if she has to put her only daughter out of a job to do it." Maggie winked at her father and joined in on the attack.
Kathryn shook her head and glared at both of them, but both had obviously built up an immunity to the infamous ‘death glare’ over the years as they continued right on without so much as blinking. "Well you know your mother—she’s not happy unless she’s in charge."
A merry twinkle shone in Maggie’s eyes. "Whether it’s Starfleet or Aunt Phoebe’s house in Indiana."
An exasperated sigh escaped Kathryn’s lips. "You will excuse my family and I, Lieutenant." Kathryn slid her arm through Maggie’s as she maneuvered them out the door. Leaving Lieutenant Roton to lock down the transporter pad as she chuckled to herself.
She’d been curious about the Captain’s famous parents for a long time and it felt good to have that curiosity satisfied. It seemed that family was family, whether your parents were living legends or not.
"May I remind you, that it was Chakotay’s idea to bring the animal to the event." Tuvok stated. His wife T’Pel sat beside him, admiring her husband. For people twice Kathryn’s age, she noted that they looked half as old as the rest of the people sitting at the table. It had been nearly four years since she had last talked to her old friend and it was good to see them again.
"Amelia wasn’t that bad Tuvok I mean she was well trained back at the house with Kathryn and I. Maybe it was the strange environment that confused her." Chakotay tried to explain without busting out laughing. Tom, however couldn’t control his laughter any longer and ended up nearly spitting half of his drink back into the glass.
"Face it Tuvok, you were really attractive at the time maybe it’s the ears." Tom pondered the thought, grin on his face as he looked to his side to meet his wife’s gaze before busting out laughing again.
Tuvok merely lifted an eyebrow, which gave everyone around the table a chance to share into the laughing. Kathryn noted that even Seven bore a small smile at one point.
"I wouldn’t worry about it, Tuvok. I could go on for hours telling you stories about the comical and odd things that happened to dad around the house. He’s just trying to poke fun where he can get it." Maggie snickered, stealing a glance at her father from across the table. Chakotay’s smile fell flat as a collective ‘ohh’ grew from around the table. The young woman packed power and her father knew it.
"Maggie, you wouldn’t embarrass your father like that would you?" Tom asked light-heartily, hoping to dig some information out of the young woman.
"I don’t know, Miral, what do you think?" Maggie asked her CMO.
Tom’s grin fell as his daughter met his gaze with a evil grin. "Personally I think Admiral Paris over there loves to dig up information on others just so his own personal follies don’t look as bad."
"There’s the understatement of the year." B’Elanna quipped quietly, awarding her a gentle elbow to her side from her husband.
"It appears that I have little to be concerned about in comparison to my comrades then." Tuvok stated, a sense of victory in his voice. Vulcan logic and repression of emotions saved him such embarrassment from his own children.
"With Admiral Paris alone, Mr. Tuvok, it’s safe to say that you will be victor for all eternity." Schmullus joked, as Tom sank into his chair, giving in to defeat. One more laugh was shared, this time on Tom’s behalf, before the room fell silent.
Joking and reminiscing would do them some good, and the laughing certainly lightened the mood, however everyone knew, in the back of their minds, the real reason they were there: they were about to lose another one of their friends. Before this point, it was the subject everyone was trying to avoid. As time grew closer however, Kathryn noticed, their faces turned more solemn. All except the face of Seven, whose face bore a look of bittersweet-ness.
Silently, Kathryn raised her glass in a toast. "To absent friends."
The former crew followed suit, "To absent friends."
Everyone was talking silently between one another as Tom approached Seven, who was standing, staring out into space. "How are you doing?"
"There have been better days." Seven replied as she turned to face him. Her aging face showing the progression of her symptoms. She turned back to face the window as Tom struggled for something to say. It had been hard on all of them to lose Harry so long ago. To Tom, it felt as if he was reliving those moments all over again.
"I’m sure Harry will be glad to see you." Tom said, trying to add a little bounce to his voice.
"Yes." She responded.
"Well, that’s good."
Silence fell between the two for a moment before she turned to him. "I need a favor of you."
Tom read the seriousness in her voice, it had to be important. "Anything."
She struggled for a moment, capturing her thoughts. "James has been on assignment over four months. He knows of my plans however " Her voice began to fail her as she turned back to the window. Tom reached out, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I want you to tell him."
Tom was shocked, but truly honored by this. "You have a deal."
"No, it’s more than that." She spoke again, her voice re-gaining a strength he hadn’t seen her speak in a long while. "You were Harry’s best friend." She tried to explain, however she need say no more, Tom knew what she meant.
"Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it, I promise." He spoke softly as he bought her into an embrace. Tom would never admit it to anyone, but he had a soft spot for Seven ever since Janeway had rescued her from the Borg. There was something about her personality and nature that reminded him of himself.
He would most definitely miss her.
"Your mother is the same as always," Oz observed as he watched Maggie looking out into the slipstream effect beyond the viewport. "You know she actually asked me if you still had ‘Betsy’ in the private armory in here."
"No, she’s worse. Some kind of cross between empty nest syndrome and retirement boredom. I know the pestering me to get a husband and have grandchildren will start any time " Maggie rolled her eyes and picked up her cup of tea from the side table, " and you know I think I rue the day that I named the damned rifle that."
"Admiral Paris and his obsession with the twentieth century," Oz supplied in a helpful tone.
Maggie’s brow furrowed as she looked at the Sernaix, puzzled, "Hmmmm?"
"Blame him " Oz smirked slightly, "Everyone else does."
Maggie shook her head and turned back to the viewport, "Did she talk to you about Voyager?"
"The talk about decommissioning her Yes." Oz watched as Maggie ran her finger along the gold design on her teacup.
Maggie turned and moved abruptly towards her desk, then perched on the edge of it. "She doesn’t understand it, Oz. She can’t understand why I’m satisfied taxi-ing diplomats and visiting heads of state to the corner of every quadrant."
"Have you tried explaining it to her?" Oz settled on the couch and looked up at the younger Janeway.
"Yes No Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve tried, but I’m never certain she hears." Maggie sighed. "Maybe it’s because I don’t know why. I just know I don’t have any urge to be out on the Kwamish Border Skirmishes or investigating quantum pulsars in the Gamma Quadrant. I don’t have the urge to poke my nose into every stellar phenomenon just to figure out how it works. It’s enough for me that it does."
Oz smiled slightly, "Your mother always did claim to be a four pip scientist."
A rueful grin caught Maggie’s lips, "I may be Captain Janeway, but I’m not my mother."
"You are very like your father in many respects," Oz stood slowly and moved in front of Maggie, settling both hands on her shoulders, "but don’t make the mistake of discounting any portion of your mother being in you. I see it every time your curiosity pushes you into another diplomatic conference and you negotiate it to a peaceful settlement. The respect and loyalty you command from your crew." He paused, tilting her chin up to look into her eyes. "You may not be your mother, but you are your mother’s daughter."
Maggie shook her head slightly, a crooked grin on her lips, and settled back on her desk looking up at the Sernaix. Her expression clouded again after a moment "You could go, you know. The Realm I’m certain you’d be welcome. It would settle one of the reasons why Starfleet is holding back on scrapping Voyager."
For a moment, Oz was tempted. He’d lived away from his own kind for quite some time now and Sernaix weren’t the most social creatures in the universe, even with Kes leading them. One look at his friend’s face and his decision was made, "I don’t think I’m done learning from your kind yet, Captain. I think I’ll stay a while longer yet."
Maggie couldn’t keep the smile off her face as she lowered herself to the deck and wrapped her arms around the Sernaix in front of her. "Thanks, Oz."
Her communicator beeped and she tapped it lightly. "You asked to be notified just before we reached Sernaix space, Captain."
"Let the others know." Maggie looked towards Oz, her expression clouding again. "On my way." She gestured towards the exit. "Showtime."
The bridge was unnaturally quiet as Maggie exited her ready room at the same time as her mother, who had worn her uniform one last time, and Seven disembarked from the turbolift, the last of the distinguished guests to arrive. Maggie took a deep breath and smiled at her mother as she spoke. "Computer, transfer command of U.S.S. Voyager-A and all command codes to Admiral Kathryn Janeway. Reinstate her commission as active, effective Stardate 92383.9."
"Acknowledged." The computer’s voice
Kathryn’s eyes widened in shock, as she looked around at the knowing smiles on the faces of her friends in attendance then back to her daughter who gestured towards the center seat. "I believe your crew is awaiting your orders, Admiral."
Slowly Janeway drew herself up, the old command presence, which had never entirely gone away, slipping around her like an old friend. Maggie’s executive officer stood aside as she moved down to the command deck, running her hand over the chair reverently before she settled down into it’s familiar embrace. "Lt. Roton, prepare to bring us out of slipstream."
"Aye, Admiral," Valerie acknowledged the order with a grin, her fingers dancing over the panels with care.
Suddenly the stars on the viewscreen appeared normal and the familiar sphere of Ayreth stood before them. There was a shimmer of light between helm and ops, then the smiling form of Kes coalesced between them. "It’s good to see you all again, no matter what the circumstances."
Admiral Janeway stood and drew Kes into her arms, "You like showing up when I least expect it don’t you?"
Kes’s musical laugh filled the bridge, "Come now, Admiral." She reached up and rubbed Janeway’s rank bar. "You haven’t changed that much, you must have known that I wouldn’t be able to miss an opportunity to see my friends again."
"Known, no Hoped Yes." Janeway pulled back from Kes’s embrace and watched sadly as Seven descended the ramp for a final time.
Kes’s gaze was drawn to the Sernaix hologram that stood beside Maggie, "Harry would like it if he could borrow your matrix one more time, Ozymandius. This time it won’t overload the circuitry, I promise."
The hologram smiled brightly and moved down the ramp as well, "Of course, anything for an old friend." He came to a stop not far from Seven, and for a moment his form seemed to crackle with energy then as it faded Harry Kim, the way they all remembered him, was standing before them all.
"You are still so beautiful." He moved towards Seven, reaching up to touch her hair. His expression one of open adoration.
Seven’s eyes were bright as her age worn hand reached up to caress his cheek, playfully affecting her old pattern of speech. "Your statement is appreciated but inaccurate."
"No, it’s not." Harry looked into her eyes, and she could see the truth reflecting in his.
Everyone on the bridge was filled with a silent wonder as Harry turned his attention on them. "It’s good to see you, Captain " His eyes lit on the rank bar on her collar, a wide grin crossing his face. "I should say Admiral."
A soft chuckle drew his gaze upward to the unfamiliar yet familiar face of a young woman in a Captain’s uniform. "No, wonder they promoted you. It’d be too much to have two Captain Janeway’s roaming the Quadrants." He nodded to her in acknowledgement, "Pleased to meet you "
"Captain Margaret Kimberly Janeway, but you can call me Maggie—my whole family does." Maggie smiled brightly at her parent’s old friend that he answered with a grin of his own before his gaze moved on.
His eyes lit on his two best friends and his eyes widened, "Maquis, what is Starfleet coming too—They promoted your husband to Admiral?"
B’Elanna laughed outloud, a tear rolling down her cheek as she spoke, "Don’t ask me, Starfleet. I just married him, I didn’t promote him." She pulled Tom closer to her, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"Somehow I doubt promoting you, kept you out of trouble, Tom Just changed the scale." Harry grinned at his old friend.
Tom smiled past his own tears, "Harry, Harry, Harry You know me better than that."
His eyes widened as they fell on Miral in her medical blues. "A doctor?" Harry shook his head slightly remembering the vision he had of her in sickbay and laughed outloud. "Well you always did have to do things your own way. I missed you, Miral."
"I missed you too, Uncle Harry." Miral said softly, then moved to stand closer to her parents.
A soft smile found Harry’s lips as he noticed Chakotay had made his way down the ramp and was just behind Admiral Janeway, offering her the same quiet support he always had. There were no words, instead he nodded gently, acknowledging the man’s presence. Chakotay smiled softly and nodded back.
His gaze moved upwards again and he nodded to Tuvok and his wife, respectfully. He raised his hand, spreading his fingers in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper."
Tuvok responded in kind, raising his hand. "Indeed, Lieutenant. Peace and long life."
The Doctor stood quietly, sadness and a sort of peace filling him as he watched the reunion. He breathed deeply and looked around at his friends. He wouldn’t be seeing them again either, he expected. When they left to go home to the Alpha Quadrant, he would be leaving to go home as well. Memories of emerald green eyes and bright grins played in his mind leaving his heart singing. Soon the waiting would be over and he could devote his life to his other family completely.
Seven smiled slightly as she took in the far away look on Schmullus’s face. For both of them the waiting was over.
"Schmullus, what I owe you I can never repay." Harry followed Seven’s gaze and looked up at the Doctor with heart-felt gratitude.
"You will Harry," The Doctor smiled, "because you’ll make her happy."
Harry looked through the crowd again and his expression clouded slightly. "Our "
"Son," Seven responded, "James He knew my plan, but I didn’t want him to worry. He’s on assignment and I didn’t want to take him from that."
Harry nodded, a little disappointed that he wouldn’t get to meet his son, but knew that soon Seven would share all those memories with him where they could live them as though they were happening once again.
Admiral Janeway moved forward, "Harry " Her voice faltered slightly.
Moving forward, Harry took her hands, squeezing them in his own. "I was a Starfleet Officer, Admiral. I knew the risks and I did what I had to do for all of us. For our children, even the ones who weren’t with us yet." Their eyes met in understanding, "It wasn’t your fault." Janeway nodded, her eyes bright with a thousand different emotions, and stepped back into Chakotay’s waiting arms.
Finally Harry turned again to Seven. "Are you ready?"
"I was ready thirty five years ago " Seven said softly, "but I had a part of you in James, so I stayed as long as I could bare."
Harry smiled and took her hands. Seven remained silent, keeping her gaze on Harry, she had said her goodbyes last night, now it was time to move on. A warmth seemed to engulf her, and she slowly expanded with it. His eyes were as warm as they had been thirty-five years ago, and in them she found that the intervening years disappeared until she was as young as he. Then Voyager fell away and there was nothing but she and Harry.
And she felt his hand squeeze hers.
To those left behind a bright light had slowly engulfed the bridge, then had contracted back until it winked out like a spark, leaving only Oz and their grieving hearts behind.
Schmullus felt a rush as he moved through the crowds of the transport terminal. He was home, finally, permanently home. There was a certain amount of tension in him. He and Danara had kept their promises to one another. He had visited occasionally but the knowledge that he would again have to return to Earth, had stopped him from taking their relationship any further than what it had been.
On occasion he had even tried to release Danara, encouraging her to move on, but she had smiled and shaken her head. Steadfastly refusing to give up on him. Her faith that he would keep his promise to her unshakable.
Now as he made his way through the milling crowds of Vidiians, he couldn’t help but wonder if the intervening years had seriously damaged what was between them. His introspective thoughts almost made him miss the excited cry of ‘Schmullus’ from the depths of the crowd. His head came up as he registered her voice and caught a glimpse of her beautiful emerald eyes as she peered through the mass of bodies before her.
He pushed his way forward, forging ahead until they could see each other clearly. The years, kinder to Vidiians, hadn’t changed her much at all. Perhaps a little gray in the length of dark hair down her back, but the soft, kind face, her beautiful forehead, and most of all those eyes he had dreamed of so often in the past were the same. They stopped stalk still, taking each other in, uncertain how to act now that their fondest wish had come to pass.
The détente was broken by Vallia, her lithe teenage body rushing forward at the sight of the EMH. "Father" Her joyful voice rang out through the terminal, and returned Schmullus to motion, moving forward to be enfolded in the embrace of his family.
"And me, I think I’m the biggest shock of all. I was always expected to follow in my father’s footsteps. That didn’t seem the case for a long time, and yet here I am, Admiral Tom Paris."
The airlock opened to reveal the older space station before Tom Paris. He stepped over the bulkhead and made his way down the grayish corridor to the turbolift. "Promenade" He called out as the lift began to move. His thoughts wandered back to about forty-five years ago, the first time he had ever sat foot on Deep Space Nine.
It was the rendezvous point for all officers to join the original starship Voyager before they set out to chase the Maquis down in the Badlands. It was here first met Harry Kim.
"Full circle." He whispered to himself as the turbolift came to a stop and opened up to the promenade. The place was nearly deserted, due to the fact the station was being decommissioned soon. There was only a handful of civilians and support staff left on the station who were responsible for the shutdown. It was here he would find what he was looking for.
As he walked down the quiet promenade, he could he the faint sound of a voice that was eerily familiar. "These are precious gems straight from the Gamma Quadrant. Very valuable however I would be willing to part with them for a very good price."
"Still giving out advice Quark?" Paris asked teasingly as he rested up against the doorframe to the bar. A few moments passed before Quark realized he was talking with one member of the famous Voyager crew.
"Admiral Tom Paris. One of the Federation’s living legends. Nice to meet you." The elder Ferengi came up to him to shake his hand. Tom smiled gracefully and shook the man’s hand.
"We’ve met before however, but I doubt you’d remember." Tom explained as Quark nodded with a blank expression on his face. It must have been a long time ago.
Tom glanced over the Ferengi’s shoulder to the young man standing at the bar. "Well I’ll be damned." He whispered.
Quark turned back to glance at his customer. "You looking for him?"
"Yeah actually." Tom replied as he walked past the shorter Ferengi up to the young human. "James it’s been a while."
James Kim turned to face the elder Admiral. "What brings you here sir?" Tom regarded the young man and the innocence in his eyes. Just like Harry when they first met. Tom was never that innocent.
"I realize, James, that I never had a chance to tell you about your father." Tom spoke up, as James eyes lightened in curiosity. He was so much like his father, dressed in the regular yellow uniform of engineering and operations.
James’ expression then changed to confusion and then—fear. "What happened?" Before the young man had time to overreact Tom reached out and placed a hand around his shoulders, knowing he needed some support right now. He was well aware of his mother’s plans, he just wasn’t sure of when.
"Why don’t we discuss it James, everything, over dinner."
"Dinner?" James then looked up with a weird expression on his face. How could one think of dinner at a time like this?
"Yes James dinner You have anything in mind?" Tom asked.
"Well no, but I "
"Well I do some tomato soup, plain old tomato soup. Come on, it’ll do you a world of good." Tom suggested as they walked out of Quark’s together, just like he and Harry would have done back in the day.