MAJOR SPOILERS FOR PETER DAVID'S "BEFORE DISHONOR"
MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH! (the Captain)
She's dead, Jim.
"need a box of kleenex" so says KimKimmy
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR PETER DAVID'S "BEFORE DISHONOR"
MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH! (the Captain)
She's dead, Jim.
"need a box of kleenex" so says KimKimmy
Title: After Life
Author: Captain Katie
Rating: NC-17 for homosexual content, violence and language
Pairing: J/7, Very mild J/C
Spoilers: MAJOR SPOILERS for Peter David’s “Before Dishonor”, a response to it really though you should be aware that everything is up for grabs
Summary: A remarkable woman’s life is remembered by those who knew her and thus loved her
Disclaimer: Paramount owns anything relating to Star Trek, and the writers, especially Peter David, and actors/actresses own some of the words
WARNING: Major character death: Admiral Janeway dies at the end of “Before Dishonor”, so really it’s not my fault.
Feedback: Yes please!!! Katie_x@hotmail.com
Gretchen Janeway jolted awake in her bed with the scream of her beloved daughter’s name still on her lips. Shaky, finely boned hands pushed wavy silver tendrils of hair away from her sweat dampened skin as she regained some semblance of composure. Her cobalt colored eyes swept over the same bedroom she had slept in for the last thirty-five years and aside from the fall breeze that pushed her curtains with gentleness she could discern nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that should have woken her from her deep sleep. And then, like a tidal wave, her dream, her nightmare, came back to her and she bit back a sob.
“Kathryn.” Gretchen held one hand close to her neck, as her throat began to close with unshed tears. The nightmare had seemed so real. Her adored daughter, who had just been returned to her two years ago by the grace of whatever power in the universe existed, was horribly displayed in her nightmare. Instead of the stalwart Admiral her daughter had become, Kathryn was a bloodied carcass in a pool of tar.
Gretchen felt her stomach becoming sick and the bed that had been so inviting earlier in the evening now became a discomforting place. She rose gracefully from it and pulled on a light blue robe. Even when it was secured tightly around her petite form, Gretchen shivered from a cold that could not be taken away by any tangible means. The image of the dream frightened her in a way that nothing in her life ever had. And for that, she had the very strong urge to contact her daughter, to ensure that she was all right.
She could immediately picture how Kathryn would smile indulgently and tell her that she had everything under control, she always did and not to worry. But even if Gretchen wanted to, and oh did she want to, she couldn’t contact Kathryn, because her daughter was off on one of her missions. She wasn’t told what exactly it entailed but she knew Kathryn probably wouldn’t be readily reached by anyone outside of Starfleet command. The life of an Admiral. She had forgotten how secretive it all was. The last time there had been an Admiral Janeway, it had been twenty-two years ago and it had been her husband, Edward. If she could tell Edward of her worry now he would give her the same indulgent smile that his daughter, who was so much like him, would give.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, our little Goldenbird is made of sterner stuff than most.” Edward’s pride for his daughter would have shone brightly then and she would have been comforted by it. But now, alone at three thirty in the morning she felt no comfort, cold or otherwise.
However, there was one other Janeway she could call.
“Mom, do you have any idea what time it is?” Her other daughter Phoebe, born four years later than her Kathryn, glared back from the view screen as unruly strands of dark red hair were being tied into a ponytail.
“I know exactly what time it is. That’s not why I’m calling you.” The husky tones were ones few people attempted to contradict. The added steeliness to Gretchen’s eyes didn’t hurt. “Have you spoken to your sister recently?”
“Katie? I haven’t talked to her for weeks. She’s been busy with missions I guess. Why?” Phoebe could tell that her mother was worried, deathly so. “Mom, the Borg threat is gone. Earth is once again safe from the evil clutches of the Collective.”
Only five hours ago, it had been officially announced by Federation channels that the possible Borg threat to Earth, a threat that had wiped out Pluto and a fleet of thirty-seven starships not to mention the lives of those Starfleet officers, had been neutralized. And now the good people of Earth were going about their business as usual and the threat that the Borg had posed, aside from those who had actually lost family members in the Slaughter of Sector 108, would be talked about on news feeds and gossiped about like the latest fashion trend. Phoebe had to shake her head as she thought of how desensitized people were these days to the tragedies that surrounded them.
“When you spoke with her last did she mention where she was going or what her mission was?” Gretchen wanted to reach in and shake her daughter who sounded so flippant about the Borg. “She wasn’t going to Sector 108 was she?”
“I don’t know. She doesn’t really tell me much about her assignments. But I don’t think they would have sent her out to the frontlines. She was probably in that bunker at Starfleet.” Phoebe shrugged. Her sister’s new position as Admiral would seem somewhat exciting to someone who didn’t know how much bureaucracy was involved. And how much secrecy. Kathryn had never talked all that much about her Captaincy, but now she spoke even less about her Admiralty. “Are you all right, Mom, you seem kind of…” Finely boned, elegant hands waved in the air as if to catch the right adjective.
“I—I had a nightmare. About your sister.” Gretchen watched as Phoebe’s blue eyes widened at this. There was no indulgent smile playing on this daughter’s lips.
“What sort of nightmare?” Phoebe didn’t necessarily believe in being able to predict the future. But she did believe in familiar connections. And she had heard of instances where someone will have a feeling that something bad had happened to a loved one and then they would call that person and find out they were in a shuttle accident or something.
“Your sister was—”
Something had startled her mother, distracted her from her words and perhaps even her thoughts as Gretchen’s mouth opened wordlessly, her dark eyes were wide as they looked no longer at Phoebe but out the window she knew was to the side of the view screen. Her mother stood abruptly, knocking over the chair without care. Her voice was low, anxious.
“No, Alynna, she deserves to know everything.”
Admiral Alynna Nechayev, a small statured woman with narrow Slavic features and light blonde hair who all but made up for her diminutive size with an almost overwhelming command presence and no nonsense attitude looked unconvinced at the burly man who reminded her more of a silly grandpa than a great Admiral of Starfleet. She graced him with a patient look.
“Owen, how the hell do you suppose we tell a woman that her daughter was not only killed in the line of duty, but that she was assimilated, made the Borg Queen, and was more or less responsible for the deaths of hundreds? That her daughter posed the greatest threat Earth has ever faced.” Nechayev’s voice maintained its evenness despite the emotions warring within. She had liked Kate Janeway; she had liked her a lot. And seeing her, seeing what the Borg had done to her had shaken Alynna more than anything else in her life ever had aside from perhaps the death of her husband at the Battle of Wolf 359. Picard should have killed the whole damned Collective when he had the chance, was the resounding sentiment in her mind.
“That… thing wasn’t Kathryn. It was a monster who possessed her body, not her.” Owen Paris had known Kathryn Janeway since she was an eager and brilliant student at the Academy. She had surprised and impressed him then with her intelligence, her strength, her palpable energy and she soon became like another daughter to him. And now she was gone and it pained him intolerably to think of what he had lost, what the world, the Quadrant, the entire galaxy had lost. How terribly ironic that her death would come here in the Alpha Quadrant while she had persevered in the Delta, a part of him wished Voyager had never reached home. Perhaps she would still be alive now if they hadn’t.
“I know it wasn’t Kate, but at the same time it was. As the Borg Queen she was something we could never have anticipated, never have prepared ourselves for.” Nechayev was no fool. Every defense line would have fallen and then Earth too would have been overrun by the Borg. Assisted, albeit unwillingly, by a woman who had developed many of their contemporary planetary defense protocols. “You and I both know that if it wasn’t for the time given us by that damned Doomsday Machine, Earth would have gone the way of Pluto.”
Coldness spread through Nechayev as she remembered the last image of Kathryn Janeway she would ever have. Nothing had been recognizable except for the facial features that were so cold and heartless, with a mixture of pure and unadulterated superiority that they might as well have belonged to someone else. There was nothing left of the woman Nechayev had known as a young and ever eager Captain and then as the seasoned, mature, competent woman who had come back from the Delta Quadrant against all odds, tiny ship and wayward crew in tow, and most recently the youngest, and perhaps brightest, Admiral to come out of Starfleet in a very, very long time.
Surrender. You have no choice. Certainly you must know that. That husky voice Janeway could employ to get a person to do just about anything, that Alynna had always thought if only to herself quite captivating, had contained a strange metallic quality to it and a sadistic one when the Borg Queen had spoken to the Admirals in the Bunker. A place the Borg Queen should not have been aware of, but of course she had all the knowledge Kathryn Janeway possessed. She had known many secrets.
After the priority one message had been transmitted to The Bunker underneath Starfleet Headquarters from Picard, Alynna Nechayev had notified Owen Paris immediately. Despite all she knew Paris had gone through in his illustrious career: torture at the hands of Cardassians, lost battles in the war, the incarceration and then supposed loss of his son… Nechayev had been easily able to see that nothing in his life had adequately prepared him for what she had been forced by circumstances to tell him.
“Kathryn Janeway is dead.” Alynna had not been about to mince words with the man. He deserved her calm, her control, even if internally she felt none of it.
Admiral Paris had stood then; light blue eyes had narrowed in disbelief, shock, anger. “What do you mean?”
“Owen, I’ve sent the classified report to you. But you deserve to hear it from me. Kathryn Janeway boarded the supposedly dead Borg Cube to further study its components when she was assimilated, transformed… into the Borg Queen.” Nechayev had known that image of Kathryn as the Borg Queen would stay with her for a long, long time despite her wish to the contrary. She had almost shivered, but had managed to contain herself.
“My god!” He had sat then, probably without any conscious decision on his part, with his mouth agape.
God had nothing to do with it, she had thought before she had continued on. “Picard and the Enterprise along with Seven of Nine and Ambassador Spock managed to hold off the Borg attack from decimating Earth. But just barely. They obtained the Doomsday Machine.”
“The Planet Killer.” It had been an exhalation of breath that neither required nor wanted a response. It had merely been an acknowledgement of how bad their situation had truly been. Admiral Owen Paris had cursed himself then. He had been on Qo’nos when the attack had begun and was in lockdown with the rest of the diplomats and Starfleet brass. Not exactly honorable, but the Klingons were nowhere near prepared enough to take on the Borg. Nor was Earth apparently.
“It bought us some time, but ultimately it wasn’t successful, the cube… assimilated it and gained untold power from its consumption. Earth, Owen, was about to fall. We had no more lines of defense. Except one. The invasive program Geordi La Forge created. Seven of Nine was used as the carrier, but Kate knew about the virus and protected the cube from it.” Again, Nechayev cursed Picard for not having had taken a stronger stance against the Borg when he had been given the perfect chance to do so. Genocide be damned.
“Alynna.” His tone of voice had reminded Nechayev that this man had been a force to be reckoned with in his day. His eyes narrowed more at her reference to Janeway as having anything to do with Queen, but the facts were what they were and so he let her name be the only warning that she had best tread lightly.
“She prevailed though.” Utmost pride had permeated Nechayev’s tone then.
“Seven found a way to deploy it?” He hadn’t really needed to ask, since Earth was still standing and the Borg cube was not.
“No, Kathryn Janeway, in her last moments saved us all. She managed to break through the Borg Queen’s control and shut down the firewall protecting the Cube and the virus was released.” The pride and gratitude that had filled Alynna was pushed aside as she looked compassionately at the man who had lost a woman not unlike a daughter to him. “The cube imploded, there was nothing left. I’m sorry, Owen.”
His only response had been an order to go to Indiana. So, now here they were, almost oh four hundred, descending slowly above a cornfield.
“Landing struts deployed.”
Nechayev ignored the Lieutenant’s voice as she nodded with some encouragement to the man who had seemed to age ten years over the course of a few hours. He moved more gingerly and the presence that the man held so strongly faded with each step. In her decades with Starfleet she had had the dubious responsibility of telling many family members of their loved ones’ death. She, herself, had gotten the same news from some unremembered Starfleet officer. But nothing could have adequately prepared her for the woman who greeted them as the shuttle door opened.
“Blin.” The Russian explanative had been soft and low, but it still made Paris pause for a moment. He put a reassuring hand on the petite woman’s shoulder. A comfort he rarely employed and she rarely accepted. But this was a rare moment.
“Gretchen.” Paris voice had been soft and tentative, but it still seemed to fill the night sky.
The woman who stood on the porch of a well-worn farmhouse looked to be in her late sixties perhaps early seventies, she was quite lovely with silver hair that fell in thick waves about her robe clad shoulders and dark piercing blue eyes. There could be no doubt in Nechayev’s mind or anyone else’s for that matter that this woman was the mother of one of the greatest Starfleet officers of all time. Kathryn Janeway had shared her mother’s compact form, high cheekbones, and elegantly boned hands. What Nechayev hadn’t been prepared for the most was the similar indomitable strength this woman radiated, a bearing that wasn’t necessarily commanding but had a steely authority to it nonetheless. Nechayev had always assumed Kate had been her father’s daughter, but now she had to reassess that assumption as the woman stood with her hands on her slim hips and a defiant lift to her chin as if she was daring them to give her bad news. Nechayev regretted having to take the woman up on her dare.
“Owen, what the hell are you thinking? You know a shuttle of that magnitude isn’t permitted on the Agricultural Farm.” The tones were huskier with sleep, but it was clearly another aspect of the eldest Janeway that had been transmitted to her daughter.
“I’m sorry, Gretchen.” Owen led the path up the stairs before he gestured toward the petite, stern looking Admiral who stood somewhat uncertainly next to him. “Alynna Nechayev, Gretchen Janeway.”
“Mrs. Janeway.” There was a brief handshake that didn’t take Gretchen’s eyes off of the man next to Nechayev.
Gretchen recalled with a cold feeling that spread swiftly that the last time Owen Paris had stepped foot on her property it was to tell her Voyager had vanished and if no news was forthcoming would be declared officially lost. Her nightmare flooded her thoughts and she almost gave into her knees buckling beneath her, but she held on to the railing and maintained equilibrium as she gave both Admirals an apprehensive and almost accusing look.
“What are you two doing here?” The voice went down incredibly low and seemed to drop the temperature on the porch drastically.
“It’s… about Kathryn. At twenty-two thirty-one hundred hours, the thought to be dead Borg Cube imploded. Kathryn was on it, she was studying it. We—we’ve lost her. I’m so sorry, Gretchen.” The arms that were meant to wrap around the small shivering woman for comfort were quickly batted away as a roar of unimaginable pain exploded from Gretchen’s throat and shattered the night silence.
Nechayev knew she had never heard such a thing in her life and she hoped she never would again. Gretchen Janeway managed to maintain her footing even as she swayed precariously, hands clutched at her stomach and throat as if she was experiencing physical wounds, which Alynna thought sadly, she probably was. Her own stomach clutched as she watched the distress mix with anger so immense it made Alynna take a step back.
“Tell me this, how the hell my daughter was killed on a Borg cube that all the damned brilliant minds in Starfleet said was dead.” Gretchen’s petite frame shook with the intensity of her pain, her disgust, and her all consuming grief. She knew her heart had been irreparably broken this day. And she wouldn’t rest until whoever was culpable would feel her grief that no mother should ever have to feel. Even if these two Admirals weren’t to blame, they were here and that was good enough.
News of the Borg attack had been kept to a minimum. The public at large knew very little aside from orders to go to the nearest fortified shelters and then later that the Borg cube that had been looming menacingly above Earth had been destroyed. Cheers of triumph had filled the night sky. Gretchen now felt an incredible sickness that those who had cheered had also cheered the destruction of her adored daughter.
“By all accounts, it was, Mrs. Janeway.” Nechayev flinched at the look those eyes had as they quickly shifted to her. “We don’t know exactly how it reactivated, whether or not it was Kate’s presence or if it had merely been playing possum. But you should know your daughter’s sacrifice saved the world.”
It wasn’t the words Gretchen Janeway wanted to hear. She felt no comfort or even pride from that fact. She had lost something so precious to her, something she had just gotten back after seven long years of withdrawal, and now, her daughter, her beloved Kathryn was gone, forever.
The punch hadn’t been expected, nor was the cold wood of the porch floor that came up and greeted Admiral Alynna Nechayev’s back as she landed with a whoosh of surprised and pained air. It took her a moment to realize that Gretchen Janeway had landed quite an impressive left hook to her now stinging cheek. The redness that flowed indicated that the ring on Gretchen Janeway’s left hand had torn the tissue; Nechayev pressed her hand to the wound as she raised herself into a seated position and watched as Owen’s previously aborted attempt to lend comfort with strong arms was finally accepted by the woman who had seemed to collapse under her own weight.
Gretchen Janeway’s back shook forcefully from the intensity of her sobs as she clutched desperately to Owen Paris while still trying to get away from him with disempowered fists to his chest. Kathryn’s name, denials of the facts, and pleads to the gods were all intermingled with the anguished cries.
For a split second, Nechayev thought Kate Janeway had once again done the impossible and come back from the dead as she heard the husky voice. But it was too light to be the Admiral’s. And when she took in the woman that was now running toward them at a dead sprint from a parked hovercraft none of them had heard make its approach she felt an unbelievable level of disappointment. This woman was not Kathryn Janeway. Death was a place even the iconic Captain of Voyager couldn’t come back from. Kathryn Janeway was gone forever and for the first time since the whole dreadful ordeal had begun, Alynna felt tears well in her brown eyes at the inconceivable loss.
All thoughts of pleasantries and decorum left swiftly as Phoebe Janeway bounded up the stairs and pushed Owen Paris out of the way and almost to the floor next to Nechayev as she grasped her mother’s shaking shoulders.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Phoebe felt icy stabs of fear move about her torso. She had never seen her mother like this. Even when daddy had died her mother had been strong and sure, Kathryn had already fallen apart and it was Gretchen who had maintained composure for the sake of her eldest daughter. Phoebe’s blood turned to ice as she whispered her sister’s name. “Katie.”
“Phoebe, oh god, she’s gone! She’s gone!” One hand that was speckled red clasped at her mouth agape with horror as the other hand clutched desperately at Phoebe’s tunic. The silken material was crunched and ruined under the strong fingers and if it had been any other time Phoebe would have teased her mother. But now was not the time for teases.
If a heart could stop beating, just stand motionless in one’s chest, if it were possible for it to be too scared to pump blood anymore it would have in Phoebe at her mother’s words. A buzzing of blood pumping into her ears and the buckling of her knees that had both supported her mother’s weight and her own was unacknowledged even as they dropped to the floor of their porch, arms grasped around one another.
Phoebe was the first to emerge from the mingled cries of mother and daughter. She helped her still sobbing mother to her unsteady feet with hands trembling but strong. One hand grasped her mother’s even as she turned to point a finger from the other one at the two Admirals who had the audacity to still be standing there with, to her, false expressions of sympathy. Something Starfleet taught their higher brass and she hated them for it. And she hated them for what they took away from her and her mother.
“Leave.” It was an order with a seemingly deadly consequence if disobeyed.
Nechayev could tell Paris was wounded, that he wanted to say something, anything. He too was grieving and Alynna knew that he wanted someone besides her to share it with. But the look in the blue eyes of Phoebe Janeway was so steely in its determination that the words died on his lips. He nodded his head resolutely before he followed Nechayev’s descent down the porch steps.
“Wait!” Tear streaked, but decisive, Gretchen removed herself from her daughter’s grasp. “Come inside.”
Phoebe’s vehement protests stilled as her mother gave her a look of such authority that all she could do was give one last condemning glare to the Admirals before leading the way inside.
It wasn’t until they entered the kitchen through the foyer and dining room that the still air was broken with words. Gretchen had wiped the tears away and now she was looking pointedly at the all too silent Admirals who looked out of place in her old fashioned home. She disregarded thoughts to their comfort and her own as her voice cut through them with its tone of command. “You two will tell me everything.”
The activation of the coffee maker filled the pregnant pause. And as soon as the aroma of coffee filled the air another voice interrupted the Admirals’ replies.
“No, turn it off, please, turn the goddamned thing OFF!” Before her mother could do anything but look regretful, Phoebe had crossed the small room and tore the machine from the countertop and threw it against the dark tiles of the kitchen floor. The glass and metal of the machine either shattered or bent from the force of the blow and the dark liquid spread quickly across the floor. Phoebe shook her head as if she had just emerged from a dream and realized what she had done.
“Leave it, Phoebe, it’s not important. Take the Admirals into the living room. I’ll be in shortly.” Gretchen’s voice had calmed and was filled with compassion for her youngest daughter whose pain she could feel intermingling with her own. But just as she had when Edward had died, she would be strong and sure for her daughter’s sake.
Phoebe nodded and moved swiftly and gracefully out of the kitchen, not waiting to see if the Admirals followed her or not. They did so obediently and found themselves in a room that seemed to be permeated by memories, by ghosts. An old fashioned wood burning fireplace took prominence against one wall as well-worn couches and thickly cushioned chairs made a semicircle around it and a low glass coffee table. Paris and Nechayev attempted to avert their eyes from the mantel of the fireplace that contained many pictures of the Janeway family.
Phoebe didn’t speak or look at either of them as she seated herself onto the dark brown leather couch that sat underneath bay windows. The night darkness was just beginning to lighten, as unbelievable as it would seem the world moved on.
Alynna Nechayev looked up suddenly as a slim, gray piece of technology entered her line of vision. It took her a moment to realize what it was. “Thanks.”
A nod was the only response Nechayev received before she brought the old fashioned dermal regenerator to her own cheek. The heat it caused on her healing wound was almost more uncomfortable than the dull ache and she wondered if the other woman had intended that. Nechayev did know that she was grateful an apology hadn’t been issued since they both would have known it wasn’t sincere.
Gretchen lowered her suddenly exhausted body into the unfelt comfort of the couch. Two pairs of eyes trained pointedly at their guests. “Let’s start at the beginning shall we? Why was Kathryn on that cube?”
“She made the orders herself. She deemed the risk minimal and the knowledge contained on the cube too valuable not to obtain. But instead of utilizing a starship that was available to her, she requisitioned a small science vessel, the Einstein, and a few of the resident Borg experts Starfleet had to offer and left for the cube two days ago.” Now that the air was calm, Paris voice took on a tone that felt automatic, as if he was merely giving a lecture as some prestigious university. “The following morning, Annika Hansen met with Admiral Edward Jellico and told him that she feared for Kathryn’s safety. Jellico contacted the Einstein, which unbeknownst to him had already been assimilated. He was reassured by who he thought was Admiral Janeway.”
“Who was it?” Phoebe’s brow creased in confusion. Perhaps someone had merely posed as Kathryn and she was actually hidden away somewhere, still alive.
“She—” Paris looked from one woman to the other not knowing exactly how to say what he insisted to Alynna that they tell them. “The Borg Queen.”
Realization dawned on Gretchen’s stricken expression a moment or two before her youngest daughter’s.
“No.” The word from both was the same desperate denial.
Paris knew the communication records that had been transmitted from the Borg cube into the Bunker resided in the report Nechayev had given him, but he hadn’t had the courage to look at it yet. He wasn’t quite sure he’d be able to handle it. He was quite certain the women before him couldn’t see it at this time or perhaps ever. It’s not how Kathryn Janeway should ever be thought of.
“We don’t know how they did it, but the Borg transformed her, made her their new queen.” Nechayev looked as sympathetically as she knew how at the two Janeway women, the older one’s shoulder grasped by a slim hand of the younger, and tried to soften her voice as she related the facts. This wasn’t a debriefing after all, but the telling of events of how their loved one had died. “What we do know is that after the decimation of Pluto and the destruction of the armada sent by Starfleet command, the Borg cube intended to come here and their Queen was prepared to spare the Earth if we gave them Seven of Nine and Captain Picard. Against orders the Enterprise-E along with Seven and Ambassador Spock retrieved the Doomsday Machine from Epsilon Sigma V. It seemed to be working until the cube somehow transported behind it and absorbed it into itself. Seven, who had interfaced with the Doomsday Machine, connected to the hive mind and somehow found—aided in Kathryn’s personality to overcome that of the Queen’s, which allowed for the computer virus Seven was given to end the Borg threat.”
“And killing my daughter in the process.” It wasn’t a question, it was an accusation. Starfleet had taken a lot from her over the years: her husband, her daughter’s first real love, Kathryn for seven long painful years, and now Kathryn again, this time… forever. A part of her knew the Admiral’s words were true, Kathryn would do nothing less than give up her life if it meant saving another’s and her sacrifice had indeed saved billions. But at this time she could not think of the needs of the many, but only of those few who loved Kathryn immensely, those who would grieve the incredible loss, again… forever.
Gretchen Janeway stood then, her dignity palpable in her stance as she raised her chain and looked squarely into the eyes of the Admirals. “I need to make some calls. Arrangements need to be made.”
The silver haired matriarch walked steadily out of the room without a look back, merely expecting the two Admirals to leave as she had subtly hinted at. Nechayev had the idle thought that this woman would have made one hell of Starship Captain. She rose with Paris and headed for the kitchen before a throaty alto voice stopped them.
Phoebe Janeway didn’t have the bearing Kathryn had possessed with ease and Gretchen could project when she wished to but there was enough steeliness in her blue eyes that rooted the Admirals to the spot. “You two should go now. And… don’t come back here.”
Nods were the two Admirals only response as the red head followed her mother’s path without another single word or look. The sunlight streamed through the open curtains and the sound of birds had finally been noticed as the world continued turning as if it hadn’t been on the verge of destruction only hours ago. And undoubtedly would have fallen if not for the sacrifice of one lone woman.
Thank you, Seven.
“Kathryn!” Seven of Nine jerked awake at the sound of her beloved former Captain’s voice inside her head. It took her a moment to realize where she was: Sickbay, the Enterprise-E. In that moment of realization her mind was flooded with the knowledge that Kathryn Janeway was gone, dead, they had lost her to the Collective. Seven had wanted to join her and that was what had led her to be in Sickbay.
“Seven?” The voice was feminine and kind, light and compassionate, and not the voice Seven longed to hear once again. Her delusion that she had hallucinated the events that had transpired was expelled at the sight of the red headed woman who loomed over her.
“Doctor Crusher, what has happened?” Seven tried to sit upright but the restraint that rose from the biobed kept her unable to do so. A look of hesitation preceded the disengagement of the arched piece of technology. A warm, gentle hand to her shoulder indicated that the doctor still wanted Seven to remain where she was.
“You attacked a Mr.—Vargo on his cargo ship and proceeded to try to rip off your hand implant. It was a good thing he had a phaser handy or otherwise you might have killed him or yourself. We transported you to Sickbay about thirty minutes ago.” Beverly Crusher smiled softly as if to add a bit of humor to a rather tragic set of circumstances.
Seven didn’t care about Grim Vargo or her hand, which was certainly healed thanks to Doctor Crusher; she had only one thought in her mind. “Kathryn?”
“I know, Seven, I’m truly sorry. She was a remarkable woman.” Beverly Crusher had certainly not been best friends with Admiral Janeway, but she had met her a handful of times and found the woman to be nothing short of amazing. She had an intelligence that shone in her eyes tempered with a wry sense of humor, confident in bearing but warm and engaging as well, and she had a charm and a disarmingly bright smile that captured anyone within range. Beverly knew personally how affected Jean-Luc was at the death of this woman. She could not imagine what this young woman was going through, though the self-inflicted wound would indicate it was somewhere close to hell.
Thank you, Seven.
“I have failed her.” Seven looked at her mesh metal encased hand as if for the first time and felt revulsion for her Borg side that she had never felt before. It was this aspect that had taken away Kathryn and she hated it now. A gentle, but this time firm hand covered the mesh as if protecting it from assault.
Not for the first time since this whole ordeal had begun, Beverly sincerely wished Deanna was onboard. T’Lana was relieved of duty for the time being and even if the Vulcan counselor hadn’t been, Beverly would be damned before she’d let that traitorous bitch anywhere near her Sickbay and more specifically this grieving woman.
“I’m so sorry, Seven.” Cursed by the inadequacy of language, Beverly Crusher did all she knew how to do to lend comfort. Slim arms encircled the young woman and held her close and warm to her chest.
Strong hands disengaged from the embrace and clear, icy eyes met Beverly’s green ones and she didn’t think she had ever seen anything more heartbreaking in her life.
“I must speak with Captain Picard.” Seven allowed her grasp to soften on the woman before her as she pulled herself into a seated position. The hands fell away from the doctor’s arms as the red headed woman nodded her agreement as she tapped her comm. badge.
“Crusher to Picard, please report to Sickbay.” The temptation to embrace Seven didn’t decrease but Beverly knew the other woman didn’t particularly welcome it. She couldn’t help but put a comforting hand on a shoulder, which flinched underneath her touch. She decided perhaps touching was becoming more about her own comfort than Seven’s and Beverly dropped her hand altogether.
“On my way, Picard out.”
Seven brought her long slim legs to hang off the end of the bed before she dropped onto her feet. The sheet dropped from her naked form as she stood with her hands behind her back as she awaited Captain Picard’s arrival with as much calm and composure she could manage.
“I—I’ll go get you some clothes.” Not waiting for a response, Beverly instructed the replicator to fashion a Starfleet uniform and quickly handed the mass of fabric to the tall pale woman who was all creamy flesh and silver metal.
Seven, humans are merely modest, I don’t really know why or when it began, but it’s… customary to be clothed. So, please, just humor me. All right?
Tears started to prick at Seven’s right eye and a muscle twitched in her jaw as Kathryn’s voice filled her with a sorrow she had never thought possible. She was certain if the Doctor had not successfully removed the failsafe device in her cortical array she would not exist now.
As efficient as ever, the uniform was in perfect place long before the swish of the Sickbay doors signaled Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s entrance. He moved with a sturdy grace natural to the dignified man as he approached Seven of Nine and his Chief Medical Officer.
“Captain Picard, I have my report.” The even voice would give away nothing of the inner turmoil the woman was experiencing.
The words of comfort stopped on Picard’s lips as he watched a small muscle jerk sporadically in Seven’s jaw and moisture captured in her one human eye and he understood her actions perfectly.
“Understood, Seven.” Picard looked over to his CMO and without a word needing to be said between the two she nodded her head in assent. “If you’d follow me.”
A minute nod preceded her obedience as she followed him into Doctor Crusher’s office. The door sealed with a hiss behind them. Seven stood in her characteristic fashion, posture straight and tense, arms behind her back clasped together by her hands. Her icy blue gaze followed his descent into the plush chair.
“Please have a seat.” Picard gestured to one of two chairs in front of the doctor’s desk as he activated a PADD to take down Seven’s report.
“I prefer to stand.” Seven’s eyes didn’t flicker at all to the comfort of the chairs as she continued her rigid stance.
It wasn’t so much the woman’s height or pose that gave her a somewhat intimidating manner, it was her eyes. The way they looked down on him with such laser precision that an attempt to dissemble wasn’t even an option. Not one to be intimidated for very long, Picard cleared his throat before he began.
“I thought you’d like to know Mr. Vargo isn’t pressing assault charges against you and we’ve sent him on his way.” Picard thought it had been astounding and fortunate beyond measure that the independent cargo Captain was in the vicinity and had rescued Seven from the vacuum of space. Though the blow to the head wasn’t exactly the thanks he had deserved, Picard was relieved and bemused that the man had taken the attack with such nonchalance.
“It wouldn’t be the first time a beautiful woman has knocked me upside the head.” Grim Vargo had shrugged then.
Baffling, Picard thought.
Even more baffling had been the cargo Captain’s next move. “Here’s all the data strips on what my ship recorded. Thought you should have ‘em.”
Picard had activated the video feeds after the cargo vessel had jumped to warp and had been even more astounded that the tiny vessel had captured the visual of the Borg attack against the Starfleet Armada and the destruction of Pluto not to mention the Doomsday Machine’s ultimately futile attempts against the cube. Such displays would have brought in quite a profit and Picard had to wonder who this man was who had handed over such merchandise.
A good man, Picard had supposed.
Seven didn’t even blink at that piece of information; highly irrelevant is how she probably thought of it. Picard watched her carefully as he began on a different track.
“Could you tell me what happened when you were taken into the cube?” Picard saw a flinch, but it barely moved the implacable expression seemingly frozen on her narrow features.
“My connection had been severed to the Doomsday Machine when it was absorbed by the cube. I was taken into the hive mind, the Queen was there and successfully blocked my attempt to deploy the virus. I tried to reach out to Kathryn Janeway, to assist her in overtaking the Borg Queen’s possession of her.” Seven’s eyes flickered away, as if in shame. Her voice had grown quiet, pained at her failure. The muscles in her throat convulsed to hold back the heat of tears that welled there.
“But you were successful, you deployed the virus.” Picard had the facts in his hand. The Borg cube had imploded, the threat was gone.
“I. Failed.” Seven’s voice had lost its evenness its impassivity. Now it sounded broken, angry, and ashamed. “I was losing myself; I could not set myself free much less Kathryn from the hold of the Collective. In the end, she saved herself and us. Seeing my failure spurred her to new strength. Her personality, her free will, her individuality emerged just enough to puncture a hole into the firewall that had held the Borg protected. She then… pushed me out of the Collective mind, setting me free before the virus could take full effect.”
“Seven, I realize that this has been… difficult, but on behalf of the Federation I must commend you on your bravery. Your sacrifice. If not for you Earth would have certainly been destroyed.” Picard ended the recording as he stood to, he didn’t know, perhaps shake hands with the woman.
“My sacrifice.” Seven’s eyes narrowed into an accusing glare. “I sacrificed nothing. Kathryn Janeway saw to that when she forcefully ejected my mind from the Collective’s. I am alive. She is not. I did not sacrifice, Captain.”
“I know it’s painful to lose someone close to you.” Picard’s voice softened even as the iciness in the small office increased with each passing moment those blue eyes bored into his own. “I won’t claim to have known Admiral Janeway well. But I think I knew her enough to say that she would have been proud of you, Seven. Grateful. She might not have been able to prevail over the Borg without your presence.”
“That is what would be referred to as ‘cold comfort’.” Seven raised her chin defiantly as her posture impossibly became more stiff and imposing. “I am finished with my report, Captain.”
“Yes, of course.” Before his dismissal, Captain Picard had one more issue that whether he wanted to or not had to be addressed. “After the Admiral’s family is notified it will become a matter of public record, I thought you would like to notify the Voyager crew…”
Something flashed in those blue eyes, it wasn’t anger or shame, it looked like urgency and concern. “Do not allow Kathryn Janeway’s death to become ‘public record’ until the Voyager crew has been notified. We were her family, for seven years.”
“I’ll make it so.” Picard knew a comforting smile wouldn’t be welcomed so instead with a curt nod he dismissed her from the office.
After her brisk departure Picard immediately sent the report to Nechayev who had spent the last half an hour demanding answers as to what had just transpired. His report was dry, to the point, unemotional despite the fact that he knew Nechayev and Janeway had been friendly colleagues. Admiral Nechayev would not want anything less.
“Jean-Luc?” Beverly Crusher came around her own desk and perched on the end of it near her Captain, friend, and most recently, lover. She rested a gentle hand on his and was grateful to have their fingers quickly entwined.
Picard shook his head as though he was attempting to figure out a rather frustrating puzzle. His brow creased as he held Beverly’s hand in both of his. “Even when all the possibilities seemed hopeless, I truly believed we could rescue her. That we would get her back. Even when Pluto was destroyed, the Starfleet Armada, I thought ‘Admiral Janeway is still in there somewhere, she’s retrievable’ but Seven was right. Kathryn Janeway was lost to us… long before the Enterprise was even aware the Borg cube was a threat.”
“Yes… she was.” Beverly had seen what the Queen was up close. She had, after all, almost been strangled to death by the monstrosity that was as grotesque as it was feminine. She knew the Borg Queen required only a third of the organic material of the incoming incarnate, Kathryn Janeway’s body would have been deemed… irrelevant. Doctor Crusher had not consciously thought of that fact until this very moment and years of medical training and seeing the worst of injuries inflicted upon people kept her revulsion in the pit of her stomach.
“Despite our failure to save her, Beverly, she saved us.” Picard looked upon the woman he had loved for more years than he cared to admit to and felt strengthened by her presence. Also more than he would admit to. “The Borg Queen put up a firewall, it prevented the Endgame virus from taking its course. Seven found Kathryn Janeway’s mind within the Collective, assisted her in overriding the Queen’s control, and she won. The Admiral not only destroyed the Borg threat but she saved Seven’s life as well. She was… a remarkable woman.”
Despite any ill-feelings that might have grown between the Admiral and Jean Luc after he had disobeyed direct orders, Beverly knew Jean-Luc had thought quite highly of Janeway. The astounding Captain who had brought Voyager home when the small ship had been stranded seventy thousand light years away from Earth. And then she became an Admiral, who had been thought of as a miracle worker among the fleet a genius in both the sciences and diplomacy, a force to be reckoned with and who brought an infusion of fresh ideas and innovative thinking the brass had been missing desperately.
Beverly wondered then about Kathryn Janeway. Who was the woman? Who had she left behind? Family? A lover? Definitely the Admiral’s former crew of the Voyager would have to be notified soon. Then she thought of the young woman who had all but rushed out of Sickbay only moments ago. She wondered about Seven and the Admiral. And again she wished Deanna was onboard, she’d know what to do.
Thank you, Seven.
Those three simple words were torment and ecstasy to the woman who walked briskly, rigidly down the hallway of a spaceship she desperately desired to depart from. After she had disregarded several worried looks from passing crewmembers, Seven finally and gratefully made it to her guest quarters.
Before the doors slid shut behind her, Seven had fallen against the wall. Her weight was too much for her to hold up any longer as her knees buckled and she slumped to the floor. Her slim arms wrapped around her pulled up knees as her head bowed. Her breathing came in short, uneven gasps and salty water streamed freely from her right eye to fall on her clasped hands.
Sometimes, in order to feel alive, one has to take chances with one’s safety.
Seven had thought Janeway wrong then and she still believed her to be now. If not for the desire to “feel alive” Kathryn would still exist.
And that fact, that inescapable reality of the ceasing of Kathryn Janeway’s existence was what brought Seven of Nine, former Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One, to weep for the very first time in her six years of existence after Captain Janeway had forced individuality upon her, had given her life, had restored her humanity by displaying her own.
Seven wept not only for herself, but for the others that had mattered so much to Kathryn Janeway and who in turn perhaps mattered more to them. Seven knew she needed to contact Chakotay, Harry, Tom, B’Elanna, the Doctor, Tuvok, Neelix and a hundred and thirty-six other individuals who had been Voyager’s crew for seven years. But she could not bring herself up from her supine position, not yet.
Thank you, Seven.
Those words, those three simple words. They crippled Seven with their power. Their meaning. Both hidden and overt. She would not. Could not tell anyone everything those words had meant and continued to mean to Seven of Nine, former Borg drone, now a grieving woman who had to tell her family that they had lost their cornerstone, their strength, their center. The crew of Voyager, after they had transverse an unknown Quadrant and had prevailed over impossible odds and deadly enemies, had arrived home only to have lost their Captain.
Seven didn’t know how long she had been seated against the wall of her guest quarters onboard the Enterprise-E, nor did she particularly care. She had disregarded her internal chronometer as irrelevant hours ago. She did wonder what had aroused her from her contemplation of the woman who had been Seven’s unwavering guide to humanity.
She realized with little reaction that it had been the chime of the door and continued to be a distraction from her thoughts. Annoyed by the interruption but cognizant that this individual was not going to leave her in peace, Seven stood gracefully from the floor. She thought she cared little about aesthetics, but she found herself wiping away tears that had dried to her cheeks and smoothing down the wrinkles that had formed in the fabric of her uniform.
“Computer, who is at the door?” Seven listened for the soft feminine voice to reply as she pulled her hair back into its austere bun which completed her regaining of composure.
“Enter.” Seven stood at attention, though she crossed her arms over her chest as she regarded the man who had commanded a ship called Enterprise for over twenty years. She had thought him a capable Captain and a man of presence, but he lacked the fiery passion and the barely contained energy her former Captain had possessed and found him somewhat wanting. Seven could imagine the self-effacing half-grin her former Captain would possess at such a comparison and she could feel the pain in her chest increase.
“Seven, I wanted to inform you that Admirals Nechayev and Paris contacted me a few moments ago. They’ve just departed from Indiana and are on route here.” Picard wondered what the woman had done for the last six hours as the Enterprise maintained its orbit over Earth. The lights to the quarters hadn’t been activated and the state of the rumpled uniform, something so uncharacteristic of the young woman, would clearly indicate that whatever it had been it was… no business of his. He cleared his throat thinking a response would be forthcoming.
Gretchen Janeway. Phoebe. Seven could picture both women perfectly in her mind. She had first met the pair at the more family oriented and casual homecoming party that had preceded the more formal and uncomfortable Starfleet sponsored one. It would not have been necessary of the Captain then to have introduced them to Seven, the similarities between the three women would have been indication enough that they shared a familial biological makeup. She remembered how their voices had also indicated that they shared more traits than just similarities in appearance.
“Mom, Phoebe, I’d like you to meet Seven, she was my Astrometrics officer and is a close friend.” The Captain had smiled her unique and bright smile then as she gestured to Seven, who had attempted with all her power to remain composed in front of her Captain’s mother and sister.
If the two women had been uncomfortable with Seven’s Borg history they hadn’t shown it in the least as both took turns shaking her hand until the oldest of the Janeway women embraced Seven heartily before she released her to the youngest one’s warm embrace. Seven had felt something that she hadn’t felt from many others… acceptance. And what had Seven given them in return…
“Understood.” Seven wondered idly why Captain Picard was not leaving. What was there more to say? Then she remembered. Voyager. “I must contact the U.S.S. Titan and Voyager. Deep Space Nine. The Jupiter Station. Starfleet Academy. I do not know where many of the former Voyager crewmembers now reside.”
“I’ll take care of that, Seven.” Picard felt a pain of sympathy as he looked upon the woman whose composure was unwavering, but he could see the streaks of tears that had tracked across her cheeks. Upon their first meeting, he had thought her brusque, bordering on rude, impatient, arrogant and cold. But now he could see past the aloof posturing. Here was a woman who had six years of experience as an individual and whose mentor had just died. This was a woman with a heart broken. “If you’d like to come to the conference room, we’ll send out communiqués there.”
Picard almost offered to send out the communiqués himself, but he didn’t think he had the right. The people onboard Voyager had put aside extreme differences, the line between Starfleet and Maquis had to be dissolved so that they could survive, but not only that they had become a community onboard that vessel, a family, he couldn’t be the one to tell them… they had lost one of their own.
“What’s our ETA?” Captain William T. Riker’s crystal blue eyes watched the field of stars streak by via the large view screen which indicated their vessel, the Titan, was moving at warp speed. Warp eight point two to be exact. The subspace message that had simply read: The Borg are coming! The Borg are coming! had brought their exploration of the Gum Nebula to a quick end. Contact with Starfleet Command had been impossible and all Riker had to rely on was his own instinct that this was not a joke.
They should have destroyed that damned cube when they had had the chance, his thoughts were decidedly testy though an edge of fear was present as well.
“Thirteen hours seven minutes twenty-two seconds.” The calm, impassive voice of his Tactical Officer didn’t help his anxiousness over the situation. He wanted to be there. On the frontlines.
What also worried Riker was that his communiqués to the Admiral haven’t yet been returned. He had attempted to contact Janeway the moment the alert rang out from an unknown vessel with an impressive communications array. It had carried to the Beta Quadrant and thus to the Titan. It was uncharacteristic of the Admiral not to return his contact and then the fact that the Starfleet Brass were probably locked away if indeed the Borg were heading towards Earth hadn’t helped to quell his anxiety that Earth was simply no longer there. Though thoughts such as those were not ones he entertained, especially not on the bridge of his ship.
“Wish they’d make these ships a little faster, huh, Captain.” Commander Christine Vale’s voice held enough shakiness that Riker knew the smile on his first officer’s lips was forced at best.
“You know I heard that if they did we’d all be big lizards right now.” Riker knew the tension on the Bridge was thick, the ship just couldn’t go any faster, and he being the person that he was needed to cut through it. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Tuvok?”
If a Vulcan could flinch with embarrassment, Riker imagined that his Tactical Officer would be doing it. Instead, a raised angled eyebrow was his only sign of perhaps discomfort. Riker had to give it to Voyager and her Captain; they had one hell of a crazy ride.
“Indeed.” Tuvok could detect what his Captain was attempting and was not averse to such action, though he thought Captain Riker could use a bit more discretion especially when it involved the mating of a Starship Captain and a helmsman despite their forms.
“That’s all you’re giving us? ‘Indeed’.” Deanna smiled brightly at the Vulcan, who to her understanding, had a wicked albeit dry sense of humor. She suspected that he would need it being close friends with the intensely passionate, emotionally charged woman that was Kathryn Janeway. She knew from talks with Will that the Admiral had a rather prickly sense of humor.
“Yeah, come on, Commander, you’ve got to have tons of Voyager adventure stories.” Now Vale’s voice was its usual lightness as she twisted in her chair to watch, well no emotions play on the man’s features, but she thought she could see an eyebrow rise.
“In our second year in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager encountered several large space dwelling organisms in the midst of reproducing. The ship was pulled into the gravitational field these entities had created. After several unsuccessful attempts to break out of the field mainly due to not wanting to harm the creatures, Voyager became sexually appealing to a rather large specimen and only our imitation of a submissive posturing allowed Voyager to escape unharmed.” Tuvok hadn’t looked up from his console at any point of the succinct story, especially the end, so he missed the wide eyes and the mouths agape.
“You’re pulling our leg, Commander!” Deanna chuckled as she shook her head in disbelief.
“I do not… ‘pull legs’, Counselor.” Tuvok did raise his eyes then and sincerity was the only thing that emanated from them. “It is in the ship’s logs.”
Seven years worth of ship’s logs, especially logs kept so diligently was a lot to read, so Riker had admittedly skimmed over some of the less… exciting episodes. He still wondered how big these Hirogen really were.
Riker cleared his throat as he shifted slightly in his chair. “Well, now that we all have that mental image, I suggest we…”
Riker’s suggestion was not to be heard today for there was a subspace transmission from the Enterprise-E. The roar of cheers from everyone, except Tuvok who merely became less tense looking, followed the announcement that the Enterprise-E was presently orbiting Earth and that the Borg cube had been destroyed once and for all. The threat neutralized. Riker had to wonder if that would play favorably for Picard in his possible court martial trial. Another thing he had wanted to talk to the Admiral about despite the inappropriateness to do so. Another line, farther down stopped Riker cold.
Urgent Communiqué: Regarding Admiral Kathryn Janeway for Captain Riker, Commander Tuvok, and Commander Troi.
“Commander Tuvok,” his voice was even, Riker knew it was but he could feel his wife’s dark eyes look worriedly at his now standing form. “Counselor, you’re with me. Vale you have the Conn. Continue present heading.”
Riker had led the way not to his ready room but the conference room, where he turned to regard the two commanders who had entered after him. “There’s another communiqué from the Enterprise. It’s regarding Admiral Janeway. Just for the three of us.”
There was something quick, almost too brief for Deanna to pick up with her empathic abilities but she knew what it had been. Tuvok was suddenly deeply concerned. And so was Will. And if truth be told, so was she. If it wasn’t something serious it would have been on the subspace telegram.
Riker punched in the appropriate code for the two way communiqué and waited as the large view screen that adorned the far wall from the doorway shifted from the Starfleet symbol to the image of two of the most self-contained individuals he had ever met looking a little worse for wear. The small hairs on the back of his neck began to rise as he carelessly seated himself in the nearest chair. He could feel Deanna’s comforting presence right beside him and he caught Tuvok taking a seat across the table.
“What’s happened?” Riker wasn’t one for preliminaries and he could tell social pleasantries were the least of these two individuals’ concerns. He knew Captain Picard well enough to know that this was not news to be taken lightly. Seven, for her part, only looked at Tuvok with an unidentifiable expression on her narrow features.
“This is all classified by Starfleet command under the orders of Admirals Nechayev, Jellico, and Paris, but they had deemed it permissible for the once senior staff of the Voyager to be aware of what has happened to their former Captain.” Picard seemed to deflate after the necessary disclaimer had been told as he allowed for Seven to speak for them both.
“The Borg cube thought to be inactive was being studied by a group of scientists led by Admiral Janeway. She was… assimilated.” Seven ignored the gasps of surprise, of horror, she maintained her gaze with the Commander whose jaw muscle had twitched at the words. She suspected he already knew what she was going to say next. “She, the Collective transformed her into their new queen. I was given the Endgame virus and also utilized the Doomsday Machine in an attempt to destroy the cube.” Again she ignored the gasps from the two emotional beings in the room. “The Doomsday Machine proved unsuccessful and was absorbed into the cube, assimilated, as was I. My… consciousness sought out that of the Admiral’s. She… I would not have been successful in deploying the virus if not for her. She overcame the Borg Queen’s control and the virus was absorbed. The cube imploded. Admiral Janeway was… irretrievable.”
“My god.” Will was the first to speak. His voice hushed, reverent as he tried to understand what he had just been told. The unconquerable Kathryn Janeway was… gone. Dead. This didn’t seem possible. It didn’t seem even conceivable that this woman was no longer with them. He suddenly saw the fatigued expressions and wondered how many people they had called and how many more were left, he stood then. “I… thank you for the information. And I am truly sorry. She was… an extraordinary woman. We’ll be to Earth in thirteen hours, I think we’d like to rendezvous with the Enterprise then.”
“Of course, Captain.” Picard didn’t let the smile that usually played on his lips when he referred to his former number one as his present title come forth. He merely nodded. “We’re in station keeping for the time being. Enterprise out.”
“Commander? Tuvok?” Deanna looked to the Vulcan who maintained his seat and his forward gaze. A muscle in his jaw was the only indication that he had just been told his oldest friend had been killed. “I’m so very sorry, Tuvok.”
Tuvok stood then; his movements were jerkier than they had ever seen. And when he turned to acknowledge them his expression was stony though a flash of something resembling anger darkened his eyes. “Permission to go to my quarters, Captain, T’Pel should be made aware of what has happened.”
“Of course. Dismissed.” Riker waited until the doors had slid shut before he fell back into his chair.
Deanna sat in the chair she had just recently vacated and turned her husband towards her. Moisture had already gathered, but was held captive in his pale blue eyes. And she could feel the tears fall from her own eyes at the incredible pain they had both just witnessed from a man who was supposedly without emotion.
T’Pel had sensed a turbulent storm within her husband long before he entered their living quarters. Most beings thought of Vulcans as emotionless, this was not precisely the case. The history of the Vulcan culture would indicate a society fraught with powerful emotions; their Pon Farr was a case in point. But over the centuries they as a people had learned to suppress to a point where they really didn’t have “feelings” so to speak, though the loss of a loved one was felt and T’Pel knew that was what caused the pain that raged within Tuvok.
“Kathryn Janeway is dead.” The words had been spoken plainly, without inflection, and if an emotional being had been present they would have thought the words had been spoken coldly. T’Pel knew this was not the case. The crease in her husband’s brow and the clenching of his jaw muscles indicated to her that his emotions were kept at bay only because he was an experienced practitioner of the Vulcan ways.
Kathryn Janeway, a woman T’Pel had known for more than twenty years, had been a close family friend perhaps her husband’s closest. It had been an oddity for T’Pel to take to such an emotional being so readily. But there had been no doubt that she had the moment she had been introduced to the human woman during the christening of the U.S.S. Billings. T’Pel had found herself intrigued. Even more interesting was that she knew her husband had shared her intrigue despite his admonishments regarding proper tactical protocols or lack thereof. An impassioned woman Captain Janeway had definitely been, but there had been a control there as well, as if the woman debated which of her emotions she was to allow release and then permitted it on her own terms to do so. Calculated without being disingenuous. Impressive and curious.
“She will be missed.” The words from T’Pel were no more than the facts, plainly stated, and as heartfelt as their control would allow. “Asil should be contacted.”
Their youngest child and only daughter, Asil was what humans referred to as a goddaughter to Kathryn Janeway who had been present for many of Asil’s accomplishments including her kohlinahr.
“Indeed.” Tuvok moved to the workstation and rested his hands on top of the desk for a few moments, control regained as he set up the communiqué protocols necessary to contact his daughter who was presently stationed on Deep Space Nine. He felt his wife’s presence next to him as she too prepared to tell their daughter of the passing of Kathryn Janeway. Relaxed breaths and the beeping of acceptance were the only sounds in the sparse living quarters.
The impassive visage of their daughter clad in a Starfleet uniform filled the void of the screen. “Father. Mother. What has happened?”
Tuvok contained his unease as he addressed the woman before him. “The Borg cube that imploded above Earth contained Admiral Janeway.”
No gasp of surprise, shock, dismay was allowed to pass between Asil’s lips, though her posture tensed, her chin tilted up and the angled eyebrows characteristic of their people rose. “I… see.”
“Her memorial service will no doubt take place soon.” Tuvok watched with pride as his youngest maintained her impassive expression. “If you are able?”
“I will be able.” Ensign Asil took her duties as a security officer onboard the space station quite seriously, but she also knew what her duty was to her family. “Admiral Janeway was an impressive individual, she will be missed.”
“Indeed.” With a nod the screen went to the “end transmission” screen, which Tuvok looked at for long moments before he tapped the console to record a log he had wanted never to have to enter.
“Commander Tuvok, Personal log, Stardate 57478.2, Due to an implosion and defeat of a Borg cube in Sector Zero Zero one, I must regretfully note that we have lost Kathryn Janeway. Though I am Vulcan I am not immune to the effect of that loss. I would like the record to show that I have lost a valued friend, one whom I can never replace.”
“Upon consideration, my best judgment on this matter is that court-martial proceedings not be pursued at this time, but instead that Captain Picard…”—there was a long pause where her expression turned from a contemplative impassivity to a slow grin that emanated warmth and a bit of mischief so characteristic of the woman displayed on the flat screen—“… instead suggest that a commendation for original thinking be entered into his file. You are, of course, free to ignore this recommendation and proceed as you see fit. Janeway out.”
The image of the auburn haired woman vanished from the screen as an exhalation of breath expelled from the man that she had just pardoned, her last official instruction and the last visual entry she would ever make. Days before, when he had been informed by Admiral Jellico that Admiral Janeway had “given him a free pass” for disobeying the latter’s official order, for the Enterprise-E to not engage the Borg until Seven of Nine could assist them against the cube, he had been surprised but too engaged with Admiral Jellico’s insistence that Seven be brought back to Earth to fully appreciate what Janeway had done. He had known her well enough to sense that she was not a person to forgive and forget easily. Known to hold a grudge was something Picard had heard about the woman and considering that Worf had been intimidated at the prospect of speaking to the Admiral, Picard had the very real sense that to be on this particular Admiral’s bad side was an unfortunate place to be.
But it would seem that the Admiral had had a change of heart and had shown him, what many would say especially at Command, extreme leniency. Admiral Janeway’s last recommendation would not go ignored and with that Picard still had the Enterprise, his command, and the pardon of his crew. He felt humbled, and infinitely grateful.
“Admiral Janeway’s commendation has been noted in your official record as well as her pardon.” Nechayev’s ice cold gaze bore into Picard’s. The two had not always seen eye to eye and it was indicative in the way the Admiral seemed to disagree with what she herself had enabled. “If it had been up to me you’d have trouble getting a garbage scow. I expect you to take Kate’s leniency as a second chance. I suggest you not waste it.”
“I will endeavor not to, Admiral.” The forgotten tea was now cold and it took some effort for him to swallow the liquid.
In the hour that Admirals Paris and Nechayev had been onboard Picard had been forced to endure the rather pointed looks of the latter’s and the questioning of why the Endgame virus had been employed at this time instead of when a preemptive strike against the Borg would have meant the survival of many officers, including Kathryn Janeway’s. The accusation had made Picard bristle and it took him quite a few moments to regain his calm.
“Captain Picard, I see Annika Hansen has requested a shuttle?” Admiral Paris’ narrowed blue eyes fixed upon Picard.
“She has and I approved the requisition.” Picard was aware that Admiral Paris and Kathryn Janeway had shared a long history with one another. Their relationship had begun at the academy when Paris acted as advisor to the young cadet and then later when Janeway was a science officer on the Al-Batani during the Arias Expedition where the two had been captured by the Cardassians. Picard had no desire to think about what the pair had endured in the hands of a Gul since he knew firsthand what lengths the Cardassians would go to for information. He also knew Paris had been the head of Project: Voyager and he suspected Admiral Paris’ unceasing attempts to get Voyager home had not been solely due to the fact that his son had been onboard. He wondered at the man’s composure at having lost a woman whom Picard suspected had been like a daughter to the Admiral.
“The Voyager is at Utopia Planitia, Seven wished to tell the crew in person…” Picard said no more, the Admiral before him nodded in understanding. A large portion of the present crew of Voyager had been onboard when Admiral Janeway had captained the ship through the Delta Quadrant.
“You’ve also requested that news of Admiral Janeway’s death not be acknowledged publicly until every single member of the Voyager’s past crew has been notified. It is a request I will permit. Have you located the crew?” The last time Paris had seen the Delta Quadrant Voyager crew together in one place had been over a year ago at the one year anniversary of the ship’s trumphant return. He regretted that the event that would bring the gallant crew together again was so unfortunate.
“The Titan and her crew have been notified.” Picard could still see the disbelief that had been on his former crewmembers’ faces and regretted that Riker would be required to shoulder the responsibility of telling his crew of the Admiral’s death. “Once I get confirmation from Seven I will send out communiqués to Deep Space Nine, to the McKinley Station, various starships, and several colonies throughout the sector.”
The Voyager’s previous crew was nothing if not widespread throughout the quadrant. The then Captain Janeway had created quite capable officers, from the reformed Maquis to crewmembers who had just graduated from the academy. Every one of them were now valuable assets to Starfleet who had lost many people to the war.
“Understood. Captain?” Alynna Nechayev’s tone was even, but there was a hint of something underneath, a warning perhaps. “Seven of Nine is under your purview. Her reaction to the Admiral’s death has raised some questions regarding security.”
Picard instantly regretted the inclusion in his report of Seven’s assault on Captain Grim Vargo. He knew the young woman hadn’t been cognizant of her actions, overcome by grief. The heat of anger and defensiveness for the young woman began to rise strongly within the usually stoic Captain. “Seven isn’t a danger to anyone. She’s a woman who has just lost a close personal friend. Her strongest link to her humanity. I’d say she is reacting well within her rights. As a human being in pain.”
“That may well be the case, but if she becomes a danger to those around her again I expect you to contain her, is that understood?” Despite Kate’s repeated entreaties to Nechayev to see Seven as an ally and not as a drone, Alynna still had a hard time buying it. “She has enough Borg in her to pose a threat.”
“And enough humanity not to.” Picard tired of Nechayev’s paranoia. Though he understood it. He had been responsible as Locutus for the death of the Admiral’s husband at Wolf 359 and he suspected that the Admiral had not yet forgiven him for that.
“So you say. Just keep an eye on her. That’s an order.” Nechayev brought the PADD and data strips that had been retrieved from the Captain whom Seven had assaulted in front of her to accentuate her next point. “And remind her that the events surrounding Admiral Janeway’s death are classified. The general public will know that she died in the Borg attack against Earth. Nothing more.”
“Understood, Admiral.” Picard regarded the two and wondered somewhat of their motives until it suddenly came to him. “No one wants her remembered as the monstrosity she had been forced against her will to become.”
“Captain Picard, until Seven entered the Collective mind and found Kathryn Janeway’s… essence, was there any way for Kate to have broken through before that connection had been made?” It was an unwavering question but one that took effort for Nechayev to speak aloud.
Picard didn’t hesitate with his answer. “No. It would have been impossible. The Admiral was a remarkably strong willed individual but even she would not have been able to override the Queen’s control. She would have been made to watch the destruction of her world with no more action capable to her than a mental scream of protest. And I imagine the Queen would have merely ignored it or relished in it. But no, Admiral, Kathryn Janeway was lost to us the moment she was assimilated and only Seven’s mental strength and connection to the woman allowed for her to overcome what she had been transformed into and cause the Borg Queen’s defeat.”
Not exactly comforted by the words, but nodding in acceptance nonetheless Nechayev looked evenly at Captain Picard for a few more moments before she exited the ready room. She had needed to hear those words, because the Borg Queen had been frighteningly reminiscent of her friend that she had wondered if they could have reached her… somehow. Then she remembered someone had, the accursed Borg drone. Seven.
Captain Chakotay regarded the man before him with what he hoped were unemotional eyes that Tuvok would be proud of. The Trill doctor for his part looked nervous; his light blue eyes were locked onto the slips of smooth paper in his hands.
A clattering of multicolored outdated isolinear chips preceded the doctor’s proclamation of raising the already pricey bet. A smile attempted to play on his lips but he maintained his practiced look of unease.
“I think we’re being hustled, Captain.” Tom Paris looked at his own cards and his expression of unease was real. He didn’t have a thing. Though he suspected the others knew this fact his pride wouldn’t allow him to be forced out of the game just yet. He threw in the appropriate number of chips.
Deep dimples creased the Captain’s cheeks as he nodded his head in agreement. He knew all too well that his Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Jarem Kaz, was an accomplished poker player. Having had two previous lifetimes with the game had given the man all the experience he needed to best the most seasoned of Voyager’s crew. Including its previous Captain, who had lost to the doctor with a soft “damn” to accompany her reluctant acceptance of defeat when Voyager had returned from their mission to Loran II almost two years ago. He could still picture her look of irritation when Jarem had swept the mound of isolinear chips into his arms with a low chuckle, Chakotay’s smile deepened even more.
“I’m out.” Lieutenant Harry Kim sighed heavily as he placed his cards on the table. Poker, he decided, just was not his game. He was never a very good liar. Surprisingly enough the man seated next to him was.
Lieutenant Vorik, Voyager’s Chief Engineer, had such a look of impassivity that he could bluff his way past the most unfortunate hand one could be dealt with ease. As he was doing at the moment. More chips were thrown onto the ever accumulating pile.
“This is absolutely the worst game ever!” Lyssa Campbell threw her cards on table with frustration as she settled against her seat, arms crossed. “I suggest Parrises squares but ‘no, why don’t we play poker, a game of wits’. A game of crappy luck is more like it.”
Voyager’s Ops Officer was without a doubt the single worst poker player Chakotay had ever had the opportunity to play with. The snorts of disgust and laughs of delight were all genuine. Apparently bluffing was a concept foreign to the young woman.
“It’s a game of subterfuge, of maintaining calm, controlling oneself. Every person on the road to command should be an accomplished player. Keeps you sharp. Helps you to contain your emotions. Or at least keep them from showing.” Sometimes Chakotay wondered if he sounded as tutorial as he thought. But he wanted each and every one of them to become the best officers they could be and if he sounded like a school teacher while doing it, so be it.
“Really.” A warm chuckle accompanied the rather skeptical tone as Jarem Kaz regarded his Captain with humor showing strongly in his ever friendly blue eyes. “I seem to recall a certain Admiral who wasn’t too good at hiding her disappointment… and disbelief at losing to a mere commander.”
“What can I say? Admiral Janeway doesn’t like to lose.” Chakotay added his own warm chuckle as he thought of the woman in question. He was aware that some people who didn’t know her the way he did thought of Admiral Janeway as somewhat strident, aloof, but he knew her like no other. She was emotionally charged and one thing that got her going like nothing else was to lose. “She does it so rarely that I’m sure she was caught completely off guard. You have the unique distinction of finding a game that she doesn’t always win at.”
“Lucky me.” Jarem wasn’t quite sure if such a distinction was particularly good since he knew first hand that the Admiral would challenge him to a game that she was sure to win. Pool. Velocity. Tennis. And the list went on. Though he had to admit he found her lack of modesty when winning endearing. Charming even. Though those were thoughts he kept to himself. As he saw the naked love that shone in Chakotay’s dark eyes upon merely thinking about the Admiral, Jarem knew why he did.
Chakotay was anxious to get the overhaul completed on his ship so that he could take it back to Earth. Now that the Borg threat had been eliminated he had deemed it time for the Voyager crew to have a much needed rest period. He himself was looking forward to spending time with a few close friends. One in particular. Again the image of a half-grin warmed Chakotay. He wondered if perhaps the Admiral would be up for a moonlit sail on Lake George.
“Bridge to the Captain.” Lieutenant Ayala’s deep voice stopped any of the little conversations that had been going on in the Mess Hall and Chakotay’s silent musings over appropriate wine for a late night sail.
“Chakotay here, go ahead.”
“Sir, I have a request from Seven of Nine to be beamed aboard. She has also requested to speak with the senior staff.”
“Seven?” Chakotay hadn’t seen the woman for over a year, not since the one year anniversary and he wondered why she had come to Voyager without a subspace communiqué to alert them of her arrival. “Of course, Lieutenant, welcome her onboard.”
Seven had, for about three weeks, been a woman Chakotay had attempted to form a romantic relationship with, but it had ultimately proved unsuccessful. Upon their arrival on Earth, Seven had broken off the relationship. He had been hurt then, but he understood, and if truth be told a bit relieved. She was not the person he saw in his future.
With the card game already forgotten, Chakotay led most of the members of his senior staff out of the sliding doors of the Mess Hall.
“I wonder what’s up.” Tom wondered if it had something to do with the Borg again. He wished that the damned Collective would finally be done away with once and for all. No other race he had ever come across caused more havoc and death than they and he hated them for it.
“Must be important. Seven isn’t really one to just drop by for a chat.” An unsettling in his stomach was the start of worry that blossomed in Harry Kim. Whatever made Seven come to Voyager didn’t bode well.
The turbolift doors opened onto the bridge where Seven of Nine was already present. Her customary pose hinted at nothing. Nor did her expressionless appearance.
“I must speak with the senior staff at once.” Seven didn’t wait for the greetings that had been stopped by her brusque tone as she led the way swiftly to the conference room.
“Nice to see you too, Seven.” Tom’s voice was soft and sarcastic as he too followed the woman that had all but made orders to them all.
The silver starship caught in metal pylons loomed high above Seven’s small shuttlecraft and she attempted to not allow the sight of Kathryn Janeway’s beloved vessel to adversely affect her emotional calm, as precarious as it was. She powered down the impulse engines and pressed the appropriate controls to hail the vessel that had been her home for four of the most important years of her life. Mostly due to the woman who had Captained it diligently and effectively for seven arduous years.
“Seven of Nine to Voyager.” How many times has she said those words and received a warm, throaty response.
“Lieutenant Ayala here, what can I do for you, Seven?”
“I request to be beamed to the bridge. I must speak to Voyager’s senior staff immediately.”
“Hold position. I need to contact the Captain.”
“Understood.” Seven let a soft exhalation of breath to expel from her lips. She loathed waiting. Especially in this instance.
“Voyager to Seven.”
“Proceed.” Seven had forgotten how inefficient Starfleet protocol was.
“Standby for transport.”
The shimmering of the transporter beam comforted her. Finally, the familiar vision of the Voyager Bridge appeared before her. The tall, dark haired man in command red who she knew as an extremely quiet man greeted her with a nod of his head. She heard the turbolift doors slide open and the present senior staff of the U.S.S. Voyager exited. She could tell by their curious looks that they were ill-prepared for what she had to say.
“I must speak with the senior staff at once.”
Once the staff had all seated themselves they turned their undivided attention to the woman who had called this meeting of sorts.
Seven looked upon the people who awaited her words. She knew what she had to say but hesitated in her wording. Bluntness was not what this situation required. Compassion and honesty, emotions that she had always attempted to control and conceal, she would give it all to these people. They deserved no less.
“I am… uncertain how to proceed. I dedicated the time it took to arrive here from the Enterprise-E to compile my thoughts, to order my words, but it would seem a… an unsuccessful endeavor.” Seven’s voice grew quiet, uneven. It startled those around her to see her human eye expel tears. Never had they ever seen the woman this emotional, enough to cry in the presence of others which they had never known her to do. This was the exact moment they grew concerned, in fact a good many of them were terrified.
“What is it, Seven?” Chakotay’s voice held comfort, encouragement, even as a coldness gripped his heart, painfully.
“As you are all aware Earth almost fell at the power of the Borg cube that had been deemed inoperative after it reactivated and targeted Earth. What you do not know is why it reactivated and how. Four days ago, Admiral Janeway and a group of scientists boarded the thought to be dead cube in order to study it. The fate of the scientists is still not known, but what we do know is that once they were onboard the cube activated and… assimilated Admiral Janeway.” Seven’s voice cracked then. The glistening tears on her cheek were left unnoticed by her as she tried to regain her voice as sounds of horrified shock filled the room.
“My god.” It sounded like a prayer and perhaps it had been. Chakotay’s hands gripped the arms of his chair as the coldness that had started in his chest spread quickly throughout his body leaving him paralyzed with fear.
“But… the Admiral’s okay right? I mean, the Borg are gone. Earth’s safe. She’s fine, right, Seven?” Harry Kim’s voice would brook for no argument, his caramel colored boyish features reddened as he stood abruptly from the table. The hand of his best friend that restrained his movements was disregarded as he struggled out of the grasp.
“Harry.” Tom’s voice brought his friend’s attention to him and what Harry saw made him retake his seat. Tom Paris’ bright blue eyes shimmered with tears that were barely kept contained as he shook his head uncertainly.
“Seven, please, continue.” Jarem Kaz held one of Lyssa Campbell’s hands with an almost painfully strong grip as he nodded in encouragement.
“The Admiral was… transformed. The Borg needed their queen and so they made one.” Now Seven’s voice shook not only from despair but from rage, fury shot through her thin form as she thought of what violations the Borg had inflicted upon a woman who had been so dear to her. “The Borg Queen had a primary demand, she wanted for Locutus and me to rejoin the Collective. Utilizing her desire a plan was devised, I was injected by a virus created to destroy the Borg. Once I was assimilated into the Collective I was to deploy the virus. But I failed. The Queen created a firewall against the virus. I tried to find a way past it but it was ineffective. I could not break down the firewall. But Kathryn Janeway could. And did. She overcame the Borg Queen’s control and allowed the virus to penetrate the Collective.”
A mixture of pride and impossible sadness shone in Seven’s eyes as she prepared herself for the words that needed to be said, but that she did not want to be the one to speak them. To tell this group of people of the loss that they would all have to acknowledge as fact.
Thank you, Seven.
“At twenty-two thirty-one hours, the Borg cube imploded. We have… lost Kathryn Janeway.” Seven cast her eyes to the floor as she had no more words to say nor would the tightness in her throat allow her to.
“NO!” The angry, booming sound of Chakotay’s voice broke through the silent disbelief that had filled the room. “No! You’ve got to be wrong! There has to be a mistake! She can’t die! She’s Kathryn Janeway, damn it! She can’t be dead!”
“I am sorry.” And Seven was. The man before her who was forever calm, contained now shook with fury as he pointed his finger accusingly at her.
“You’re sorry?!” Chakotay tossed the chair away from him as he stalked angrily toward the woman. “Why, Seven?! Why didn’t you save her?! Was she suddenly irrelevant?!”
He spat the words out, disgust laced within as he looked at her optical implant. Never before had he ever wanted to hurt anyone in his life how he wanted to hurt the woman before him. He pictured ripping that piece of technology from the woman’s face and crushing it beneath his foot. He disregarded the voices of his crew which protested his words and behavior.
“She was not irrelevant. I could not retrieve her. Her physical body had been destroyed long before her consciousness.” Seven had not wanted to release that bit of knowledge but she wasn’t thinking clearly at the moment. She had become quite incensed at the accusation that she had allowed Kathryn Janeway to die. Seven knew she would have given her life readily if it would have saved the Admiral.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Lyssa Campbell hadn’t meant the question to be released but she had no power over her own words. She was beginning to feel sick to her stomach.
The question was not answered because the woman who had the query posed to her was now laid out on the deck; blood flowed from a large cut to her bottom lip. She had welcomed the pain from the blow as it would take her mind off the impossible pain that was not produced by a physical stimulus. The proceeding blows, however she did prevent.
“Chakotay, stop!” Jarem Kaz used all the strength he had to keep the man from pummeling the fallen woman. He was grateful that Vorik had also deemed it logical to assist in the restraint. “Stop! Damn it, you’ve got to stop!”
“Why, Seven, why?!” Chakotay felt himself being restrained by his CMO and his Chief Engineer, but he didn’t care as he fought against their strength. He needed an answer. Something to explain why, how this could happen. Why the universe had been so cruel as to take this woman away from them, from him. “Why didn’t you save her?”
“I… did not have the ability to do so.” Seven brushed blood off onto the back of her hand as she pushed herself into a seated position against the conference room wall. “If there had been a way, I would have succeeded. The Borg Queen was too powerful for me to overcome. She was too powerful for the Admiral to overcome for more than a few seconds. Admiral Janeway used that time to save us, by sacrificing herself. I could do nothing to prevent it even if she would have allowed for me to do so. And I—even though a part of me did want that to be a possibility, she had made her decision. I could do nothing.”
“God.” It came out as a strangled cry as Chakotay collapsed into the hold of his crewmates. He didn’t even notice as they led him to his chair. His hands went to his face as the anger he had felt so hotly was engulfed by anguish, an overwhelming sorrow, and the knowledge that his heart would never be the same, that he would never be the same.
“Seven?” After gaining the ability to move again, Tom Paris helped Seven from the carpeted floor. The tears he had tried so desperately to contain now flowed unchecked down his face as he looked at the deep cut in her lip. “Are you okay?”
“No.” Seven wiped the blood from her hand onto her pant leg without much care. “I do not believe I am.”
“Come on, let’s get you to a chair.” Tom grasped the woman close to him as he made his way to the conference room table. The seat he had just vacated was quickly filled by a shaking Seven of Nine.
“Is it true, Seven, is she… is she really… dead?” Harry had used all of his will power not to breakdown, to allow the bile to rise higher into his throat, his voice had been soft, utterly lost.
“Yes.” Seven avoided Chakotay’s pointed glare as she addressed Harry. “I am sorry, Harry.”
“But maybe the Borg transported her or protected her from the explosion somehow.” Harry’s voice was more shrill and desperate sounding than he would have liked but he needed to pose the possibility that the Admiral wasn’t dead. Because it just seemed such an impossibility for it to be otherwise. “She could still be alive! Trapped by the Borg. We could—”
“Harry!” Tom had seen his friend like this only once before, during their sixth year in the Delta Quadrant they had been part of an away team that had been given the memories of soldiers unintentionally involved in a massacre. Harry had had the same frantic jerky movements and dazed expression in his eyes then as he did now. And that worried Tom more than he cared to think about or deal with. He had enough on his mind as is.
Harry Kim looked at his best friend as if horribly betrayed. “Don’t you want to help the Admiral? She could still be out there! We have to do something!”
Harry looked with pleading eyes at the assembled. Their attentions were on themselves, their own sorrow, even when his voice rose higher as he slammed his fist against the table. “DAMN IT, LISTEN TO ME!”
The anger, the frustration, the despair grew within Harry until he felt an almost overwhelming urge to break something or to punch someone.
“Go ahead, Harry, I’ll give you a free one.” Tom held his friend’s quaking shoulders with strong hands. “But the next swing you take, I’m hitting back.”
Tom followed his friend to the deck as Harry’s legs buckled under the strain of his pain and enormous sense of loss.
“She’s gone, Harry. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.” Tom’s softly spoken mantra was not only for Harry but for himself as well.
The passing on of the Admiral’s death had been the regrettable responsibility of Seven but the acceptance of her being gone would come only from themselves. How long that would take would be up to each of them.
“Damn.” Tom’s oath was the one worded sudden remembrance that he had to tell… “B’Elanna.”
“I’m sorry, Seven.”
Doctor Jarem Kaz brought the dermal regenerator offline before he placed it on a nearby tray. His kind blue eyes never wavered from the woman seated dejectedly before him.
“Your apology is illogical, Doctor, you were not the one who struck me.” Seven unconsciously put her fingers to the spot that had just been healed. The wound would have been closed quickly by her nanoprobes, but she had deferred to the CMO’s wishes that she follow him to sickbay. She had suspected it was to separate her and Captain Chakotay so she had agreed readily. The pointed looks of rage and disgust that Chakotay had directed towards her had not assisted her in her own emotional control.
“I’m still sorry and the Captain would be too if he was in any other state of mind.” He brought a chair in front of the biobed and seated himself with a heavy sigh. “And I’m also sorry… about Admiral Janeway. I… liked her a lot, admired her, I don’t believe in all my years of living I’ve met her equal. She was truly amazing.”
Something flashed across Seven’s gaze then as if she was attempting to discern something hidden in his words. Her icy blue eyes narrowed as she looked upon the Trill. “Were you in love with her, Doctor?”
“What?” Jarem’s brow creased, he was so surprised by the question he honestly had nothing more intelligent to say.
“Were you in love with Kathryn Janeway?” Seven’s voice was suspicious as if his affirmative answer would be all the reason she would need to enact some sort of severe punishment.
“Seven, I—why are you even asking me this?” Jarem Kaz knew he was stalling. He also knew that there had been a time not so long ago when he had found the Admiral absolutely captivating. He thought perhaps that would not be what this young woman would want to hear.
“You are attempting to divert my attention to an irrelevant question before you answer mine.”
Seven stood then and Jarem Kaz could think only one thing. Oh, hell, she’s going to knock my head off.
“As I said, she was an amazing person, Seven, and I’ll be honest with you if situations had been different I might have tried to pursue at least a real date with her, but it was what it was. So no, I respected her, cared for her as a friend, but I wasn’t in love with her.” Jarem had tried to bring his own rising temper down. Emotions were running extremely high, too high. And their counselor, Astall, just had to take her shore leave early. But because he had felt his own ire rise it gave him all the motivation to ask a question he knew he shouldn’t have asked. It was inappropriate, mean spirited, and below him. But he did it anyway. “What about you, Seven? Were you in love with her?”
Jarem Kaz was not prepared for the screeching sound of the crushing of titanium under Seven’s hand as the biobed, fortunately for him, took the brunt of the woman’s objection to the question.
“This irrelevant discourse is over.” And with those haughty and clipped words Seven of Nine walked efficiently out of Sickbay leaving the doctor to shake his head in sadness and empathy.
“You weren’t supposed to die. You were going to outlive us all. A part of me thought you were immortal, maybe a part of me just wished it. Because losing you—knowing that you’re gone, it wasn’t something I ever wanted to think about. But here I am, seated in the ready room that I still imagine sometimes to be yours as if I’m just filling in while you are out charming alien dignitaries or saving wayward crewmembers.
“We’ve always looked to you to lead us, to lend us your unconquerable strength, your warmth and compassion, your humor… perhaps that was selfish of us. Perhaps we took you for granted because you were always there. Unselfishly, unwavering, lending support, wisdom, and even a deftly placed blow.
“And now you’re gone. We’ve lost you to the Borg. The unbeatable Borg versus the indomitable Kathryn Janeway. Well, you beat them, Kathryn. Perhaps that’s what makes the only sense in all of this. We’ve come up against many adversaries: the Hirogen, the Vidiian, Species 8472, the Q, the Nacene, and of course the Borg and none could ultimately defeat you. You could only truly be conquered by the one person with enough power to do so, Kathryn Janeway. You died how you lived, your way.
“I, you would be disappointed in me, in my reaction. I know you would. Hell, I’m disappointed in myself. I—I shouldn’t have allowed my anger, my despair, to overpower my sense of right and wrong, of duty. Seven didn’t stop me, I know she could have, and it makes me even more disgusted with myself for allowing myself to strike her, to strike out at the person who had the terrible task of telling her… family that you had died. I should seek her out. Apologize. But I just can’t bring myself to do it just yet.
“A part of me is with Harry. That maybe you are still out there. Trapped in your own personal hell within the Borg Queen and as selfish as it is, I carry hope that you are. Because if you are we’ll save you. We’re your crew and a crew does not abandon… their Captain. But I know you aren’t and I know you wouldn’t want to be alive in that way. You sacrificed yourself for Earth, for us. You wouldn’t have hesitated in the least. As I know I would have given my life to preserve yours. But it’s all so… futile now, isn’t it.
“I—I want so desperately, more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life, for you to walk through those doors and tell me it had all been another one of your Janeway maneuvers. That it was unfortunate that you had to worry us all, but that you’re fine and that your plan was a success. That you’re alive and safe. But I know that’s not going to happen. Because as much as I wanted it to be true, you weren’t immortal, Kathryn.
“I’ve set a course for Earth. The crew that loved you deserves to pay their respects even though I know you would have a blush to your cheeks and a small humble but bright smile at the display of love that will be shown. They loved you, Kathryn. And I—I will always love you. I know you could never return my feelings while we were still trying to get this ship back to the Alpha Quadrant. And then I became Captain and you were my Admiral and I… I was scared to tell you that I was still in love with you.
“When we agreed to push our budding relationship aside when we were returned to Voyager after New Earth I couldn’t just stop loving you. I’m sure you knew. Or maybe you didn’t. I don’t know. I wasted so much time not knowing, not asking. I was a coward and I know you’d forgive me for that, but I’m not sure if I can ever forgive myself for not telling you all you should have heard. That you were loved, deeply, passionately. That you were the bravest, strongest, most compassionate and intelligent person I have ever met. That you were charming and beautiful, your smile filled those lucky enough to see it with such warmth, that your eyes captivated, that your voice was like nothing else, powerful when need be or comforting. That I fell in love with you the instant I saw you in that tiny view screen onboard the Val Jean and fell in love with you more with each day of knowing you. I should have told you all this. But maybe you can hear me now. I will love you forever, Kathryn.
“End personal log.”
Captain Chakotay rested against his chair as he let out an expulsion of breath close to a sob. The tears had all but dried up and now he allowed a small bittersweet smile to form as he activated a holoimage framed in polished wood.
“Maybe if you’d stop taking pictures you could help me out here.” The voice was cheerful, teasing, and a bit exasperated. The picture had been taken only days before Voyager had returned to New Earth for them. She had been dressed in a cobalt colored dress of a simple cut and smooth light weight material and he had thought her amazingly lovely in it. The color had highlighted her eyes and he had been lost in them the entire day they had attempted to put a patio onto their habitat.
“You’re doing just fine.” The joy in his voice was evident.
He had said then that he had wanted the whole construction to be well documented. She hadn’t seemed overly suspicious of the flimsy reason. In truth he paid little attention to the rather dilapidated structure and all of it on how her hair drifted in the breeze, the moving of the muscles of her arms as she worked, and the way her dress flowed about her trim, feminine body. The holoimage froze at the point where she had one hand on her slim waist while the other had rested thoughtfully on her strong chin as she seemed to be attempting to will the structure to maintain cohesion.
“Kathryn.” He whispered her name on a soft breath as he set the flat piece of metal atop the desk in front of him. “What am I supposed to do now? How am I supposed to do any of this without you? You weren’t supposed to leave us.”
He looked around the room that had been her domain for seven years and unbidden images of her formed. Images of him with her.
“Am I the only one who’s so intent on getting home?” Her voice had been so unsure, soft, almost pleading. It had been so unlike her, but then one does not meet an idol who was supposed to be dead for four hundred years every day. And they couldn’t have anticipated a colony of humans on a planet in the middle of the Delta Quadrant either. “Is it just me? Am I leading the crew on a forlorn mission with no real hope for success?”
He had tried to convey his trust, his confidence in her, his allegiance with his dark eyes and calm voice. “You’re not alone.”
“Four years ago I didn’t even know your name, now I can’t imagine a day without you.” The warmth in his chest had been overwhelming then and it was all he could do to stand still as she rested a small, delicate hand on his chest and peered up at him with the softest of expressions. An expression of gratitude, of friendship, of deep affection.
“My life is far from uneventful here in the Delta Quadrant. It’s not like I would have had a chance to pursue a relationship even if I had realized I was alone.” He had looked at her then debating whether she was saying something to elicit a reaction from him or merely speaking idly.
“You’re hardly alone, and to my way of thinking, there’s plenty of time.” He had wanted to tell her then how much he loved her, desired her, but he couldn’t. He had been too afraid and she had seemed so fragile.
“I won’t do this without my First Officer.” Her eyes had the blaze within them that told him despite her words she would go ahead with the plan, she could do no less when it meant saving those in need.
“The way I see it, risking the safety of Voyager is a small price to pay. If we help these people, this could be the turning point in our battle against the Borg.” He had kept his voice neutral, he hadn’t wanted to show indecision or worry. She had seemed agitated enough.
“I’m glad we agree, because I almost talked myself out of it.” The mischievous half-grin had lightened some of the tension in the room as it always did.
He had smiled, a teasing tone entered into his own response. “Somehow I don’t think you were ever in danger of doing that.”
Countless memories continued to flood his thoughts with images of her. Despite thinking he could shed no more tears, Chakotay wept at the past he cherished and the future he had wished for but would never be.
Lieutenant Harry Kim attempted to keep his attention on the energy distribution flows shown on the Operations Station displays but he found that his dark gaze would often stray to the command chair or to the ready room where he had first met Captain Janeway, it seemed a lifetime ago now when he had been a newly promoted Ensign on his first mission. He remembered how he had tried to prepare himself the best he could regarding the mission to the Badlands and the woman who commanded the USS Voyager. He had been incredibly impressed by her scientific achievements and intrigued that she had come up through the sciences and not command, but nothing had prepared him for actually meeting the woman.
She had presented a complex mixture of command and warmth, control and barely restrained energy, professionalism and a wry sense of humor, an almost overwhelming presence contained in a petite, compact form. Harry had to smile as he heard her distinctive voice in his head.
Mister Kim, at ease before you sprain something.
She had caught him off guard and if it had been possible he had become even more rigid at the order. The blush that had come to his cheeks when her blue eyes had seemed to scan him had embarrassed him, when he had stumbled over words he had felt the blush grow, but she had seemed not to notice any of it as she informed him to address her as “Captain”. And so she had been for seven years.
Harry Kim had always wanted to excel at everything he did whether it had been music or Parrises squares and especially as a Starfleet officer, but as he had begun to understand what that meant she had always been there to encourage him, to teach him, to enable him to be the sort officer that he wanted so desperately to be.
I just want you to know you've been one of the bright spots of this whole mission. You've exceeded any expectations I might have had of you.
Too often he had felt inept, one step behind, or unable to process what he had experienced whether it be when he had died in order to escape the Vhnori’s Next Emanation or when he had inadvertently miscalculated the slipstream telemetry, which might have caused Voyager’s destruction if it hadn’t been for a future Harry Kim who had sent corrections to Seven.
Mister Kim, we’re Starfleet officers weird is part of the job.
And even when he knew he had disappointed her, defied her orders when he been overcome by his infatuation with Derran Tal, the Varro rebel leader, she had been there for him, not to approve of his behavior but to state her understanding of it.
The truth is, Harry, I think about you differently than the rest of the crew. Which isn't to suggest that I don't care deeply about each of them. You came to me fresh out of the Academy, wide-eyed with excitement about your first deep space assignment. From that first day, I've always felt more protective of you than the others.
He had been sitting dejectedly on the biobed when she had said these words to him, kindly, softly and he had appreciated them but he hadn’t wanted her to feel that she needed to protect him. Five years was a long time and he had hoped that he had changed in that time, had become more capable, even perhaps had become a respected and valuable officer despite the fact that he had felt he was no longer the perfect officer.
Maybe not, but you're a better man.
And as Harry looked around the Bridge he felt truly for the first time in his life that he was worthy of her respect and confidence. He was the Chief Tactical Officer, third in line for command, onboard the vessel he had started his career on and he felt proud of that and he knew that he wouldn’t be the man he was today if not for his first Captain. She had allowed him to learn, to gain confidence, to become that great Starfleet officer he had dreamed of becoming when he was a child. And even though he knew he was no longer the straight-laced Harry Kim that had never missed a single class in his entire academic career or the thought to be perfect officer who would follow orders without question, since he had been a more than willing participant in assisting Admiral Janeway in removing Seven, Icheb, and the Doctor from imprisonment, he knew that he had become that better man.
Harry wiped away the tears that had almost dropped from his eyes, he wasn’t about to breakdown in front of his crew. Instead he refocused his attention on the equations he had inputted into the terminal even as Jarem Kaz passed by him with no acknowledgment as the doctor went directly to the ready room where their Captain had sequestered himself for the last several hours. Harry would have noticed the delayed admittance of the doctor if he hadn’t been so focused on the outcome of his equations. The tachyo-kinetic energy output was very promising.
Jarem Kaz prided himself on being a patient, understanding man, so it was with some surprise that he found himself quite impatiently awaiting entry into Captain Chakotay’s ready room. He had debated for several long moments whether to address how the Captain had reacted upon hearing the tragic news of Admiral Janeway’s death, namely the man’s physical assault on Seven, or to allow the emotional man some time so he could address it himself. But it had been several hours since the incident, Voyager was almost ready for departure procedures and Chakotay had been hidden away in his ready room since Jarem had taken Seven to Sickbay.
The Doctor wondered if he would perhaps not be allowed in when the doors slid open with a low hiss. The sparse ready room looked as it always did and Jarem was glad that no destruction had occurred. His gaze went to his commanding officer who was seated at the centrally positioned desk, holophotos and PADDs were scattered on top. As Jarem approached hesitantly he had no doubts as to who was featured in those photos.
“Doctor, what did you need?” Chakotay’s voice was soft, worn and he didn’t look up from the PADD he was currently reading. His dark face was ruddy, but that was the only evidence that strong emotions had played out upon it.
Jarem seated himself with a sigh not waiting for permission as his light blue eyes moved over the various photos that displayed Kathryn Janeway in various forms and incarnations. In some, she was the ever commanding Captain dressed in the old style uniform of the early seventies and the others, the more captivating ones, were her in civilian attire, dresses, and casual pant suits. He caught his Captain’s dark eyes as they both looked up from the photos.
“I need you to be the Captain.” Jarem tried to modulate his voice so it didn’t sound accusing but he wasn’t certain he succeeded. The look on Chakotay’s voice would agree with his uncertainty.
“You’re out of line, Jarem.” Chakotay’s voice lacked the strength to be defensive, it sounded tired and he looked near exhaustion. Emotionally and physically drained, Chakotay rested against the back of his chair as he tried to muster some strength to defend himself against his CMO.
“That might be true, but I’m right.” Jarem leaned forward as he drew the Captain’s attention away from the photos with a hand atop of them. “Harry is devastated and looking for away to time travel I might add, Tom has locked himself away in his quarters, Seven’s hiding out in the astrometrics lab, Lyssa, Vorik, and some of the others are holding a prayer service in the mess, and the Captain… well he’s hidden himself away in his ready room when what his crew needs is their commanding officer at this time of mourning. To be strong, steady, to see them through this.”
Jarem could see that he had lost Chakotay to the photos once again. And as it did when he had been blindsided by Seven in Sickbay, his temper became short and words he knew he shouldn’t say came to the fore. “Admiral Janeway would be ashamed if she could see you now.”
That gained the Captain’s attention as his head shot up and dark, narrowed eyes locked onto Jarem with dangerous intent. The heat rose visibly on Chakotay’s dusky features and again Jarem thought the same exact thing he had when he had been with Seven. Oh, hell, he’s going to knock my head off.
Too far in to leave now, Jarem persevered, he was going to get through to Chakotay somehow. “What, Captain, are you going to hit me, like you hit Seven?”
The Captain seemed to deflate due to an unseen force as the anger left him and shame filled his dark features. He returned his lumbering form to his chair as he pushed his hand through his silver speckled close cropped hair.
“What would you have me do, Jarem?” The voice was honestly questioning, Chakotay wanted an answer because he was at a loss.
“This crew needs their Captain, Chakotay. Most of the crew onboard was with the Admiral in the Delta Quadrant, you surely know better than I how they feel about her.” Jarem knew from just talking with the various ex-Delta Quadrant crewmembers over the years that respect, admiration, and deep seated loyalty were in abundance. And the Doctor knew that for others it had run deeper than that for the woman who had gotten her ship, her crew, home. “They need you to be present for them.”
“I’ve spent the last… I don’t know how many hours sitting here, thinking about the hundreds, thousands, of times I’ve seen her in this room, sitting right here where I am, or seated underneath the windows, or pacing around the room figuring how to get us through the latest crisis and I can’t help but to think, I just keep thinking, how am I going to do this? How am I supposed to do any of this without her?” Chakotay’s moist eyes drifted to a photo of the two of them at Neelix’s first annual celebration of Prixin. She had been dressed in a simply designed plum colored dress that had held her small form attractively and he could see in his own face looking up at him that he had been utterly enthralled with that dress and the way her long thick chestnut colored hair had been allowed free reign and had drifted softly around her delicate shoulders.
“You will, because I know that’s what she would want you to do.” Jarem leaned forward and placed a gentle hand on a broad shoulder of his Captain. “And I… I am so very sorry, Chakotay. I can’t imagine how much pain you are in. But I know about fifty people onboard right now who are also in pain and they need you.”
Chakotay looked evenly at Jarem Kaz before he tapped his comm. badge. “All hands, this is the Captain, we will hold a service for Admiral Janeway in one hour in the Mess Hall. I believe it would be fitting to do so on the ship she loved so much and the crew that had meant so much to her. Chakotay out.”
“I know I’m not Astall.” Jarem Kaz could picture the Huanni counselor, how her pale purple ears would have drooped in sympathy and sadness for her Captain and crewmates. Jarem held his hands before him offering himself up. “But I want you to know if you want to talk, I’m here.”
As Jarem stood to leave since he had assumed the silence had been an indication Chakotay had no intention of talking to him, the Captain’s soft voice stopped him and rooted him in his seat with the words that were so sadly expelled.
“I love her.” Chakotay shook with the renewed anguish he felt. He had thought he had it managed until his CMO walked in and made him confront his regret again. “God how I loved her.”
“I know.” And Jarem did. It had been apparent immediately when the three of them had met at Sandrine’s. What Jarem didn’t know was if it had been apparent to the Admiral.
“I suppose you did.” Chakotay wasn’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of him being so easily read, but then he had never really hid his feelings for Kathryn Janeway that well.
“Did she?” Jarem hadn’t meant to ask the question, but he did want to know the answer and he thought perhaps it would help his Captain to lay it all out there.
“Yes.” Chakotay sighed as he wiped his eyes with his large, tanned hands. “At the end of our second year in the Delta Quadrant, she and I were infected by a virus and had to remain on a planet that prevented the symptoms of the virus to manifest. We were on New Earth for almost four months. I had thought myself in love with her long before then, almost immediately upon meeting her actually, but nothing could have prepared me for spending four month alone with her. I—I didn’t know how much I could feel for another until then. One night I told her a… an ancient legend, a way for me to tell her how much I loved her, I had never seen her cry before that moment and it was… the most beautiful thing I have ever seen because she had smiled as well. But then Voyager came back for us. With the cure. And we were the Captain and her loyal first officer again. She told me no, kindly and sweetly, but firmly. And I had tried to understand, did understand, she was so focused on keeping us safe and getting us home, she didn’t feel like she could have anything else in her life besides her mission and her responsibility.”
“And then when you got back you became a Captain and she became your Admiral.” Jarem shook his head sadly at the lost opportunities. Over the last two years of knowing both Captain Chakotay and Admiral Janeway, the doctor had seen how the quiet, reserved man would almost glow with warmth for the woman, how broad his smile was and how Chakotay would look at her with such a look of adoration that Jarem had almost felt like he was interrupting something private, intimate. She, however, had never been as readable. Of course, there was warmth that emanated from the woman, that was almost a constant when she had been with people she trusted, mainly her former senior staff. But Jarem had to admit, he wasn’t sure how the Admiral would have responded if Chakotay had confessed his feelings to her.
“And I became a coward.” Chakotay had worried so much that she would have rejected him again that he hadn’t been brave enough to tell her what he still felt for her. Had always felt for her. “I wish I had told her, I wish she had known how much she was loved. Not just by me. Hundreds of people that span the quadrants, they loved her too. We owe her so much.”
Jarem Kaz and Chakotay sat in silent contemplation for long moments both thinking of the woman who had an almost uncanny ability to captivate a person, to garner their loyalty and trust, to encourage their confidence and self-assurance, and to gain their admiration and love without any conscious trying on her part. That was just who Kathryn Janeway was.
“I think… a part of her did know. She struck me as a pretty perceptive person.” Jarem grasped his commanding officer’s forearm. “Maybe not to the extent that some felt, but I have no doubt that she loved her crew immensely.”
“Thank you, Jarem.” Chakotay rose from his chair before he grasped the hand of his CMO. “It was… good to tell someone, everything. But now the crew needs its Captain. And he needs to apologize to someone first.”
The steady blue eyes were locked onto Seven’s as she felt a muscle twitch in her jaw underneath the starburst implant as she tried to determine the sincerity in those husky tones and the fact that she wanted so desperately to trust her Captain, her mentor, her friend as she had before, unquestionably. The softly spoken words stirred something within Seven, a warmth spread throughout her chest and she felt a small amount of salty moisture gather at the corner of her one human eye. She almost smiled as she found a discrepancy in her Captain’s remembrance.
“It was Stardate 52842, oh six hundred hours in the Mess Hall. We had just finished breakfast.” Seven’s voice caught a bit, she remembered the event in question perfectly. It had been two mornings after she had been rescued by the Captain after Seven had rejoined the Collective in order to ensure Voyager’s safety. Seven hadn’t been able to fully understand how the Captain had so easily forgiven her and the betrayal, but Captain Janeway had and their relationship had returned to what it had been except that Seven had felt a decided need to express her feelings even if her words turned out to be inadequate. Her voice had been soft, but the Captain had heard her heartfelt words and Seven had detected moisture in her Captain’s eyes as she nodded in acceptance at the words of gratitude.
Seven could detect the same soft look on her Captain’s elegant features now and the same trapped, but present moisture in the blue eyes. “My mistake. Stardate today. Janeway beams aboard the Delta Flyer. She reminds Seven of the bond that has grown between them. Seven lowers the force field and she decides to come home. All I'm asking is that you trust me again.”
And in that moment, despite the paranoid scenarios that played through her mind, Seven did trust again because she had never known this woman to ever be anything less than honest with her. She lowered the force field and watched almost tensely as her Captain closed the distance between them and lowered her small frame into a kneeling position very close to Seven. Seven had never wanted to embrace a person as she had wanted to then, but having felt extremely inept at the physical action she instead tried to convey with her light blue eyes the emotions that welled within. And she knew her Captain understood, because she understood so much about Seven and always had, and as she requested a beam out she had smiled, a gentle grateful smile and Seven had felt safe and loved.
Seven did not turn around to acknowledge the other person who had been responsible for the creation of the impressive Astrometrics lab she had been occupying for the past several hours. Ever since her discomforting discussion with Jarem Kaz.
“Seven?” Harry waited for her to turn around, but when she didn’t he debated whether to just leave or to try to comfort her and perhaps find some for himself in the process. “What are you doing?”
“I am remembering.” Her voice had been soft, but sure. “I find this space conducive to the activity.”
“I—I can’t be on the Bridge right now.” Harry was ashamed of his own unease, but when Seven finally did face him there was a look of understanding on her features. Feeling more comfortable now that he had admitted this he continued. “Or the Mess Hall. I feel like, like I can hear her voice, it’s like… a holoprogram is running in my head. I can see us. Talking. She would always encourage me to trust in myself, even when I didn’t really know what I was doing, felt like I was two steps behind, she would say something or smile and I felt like I could do it. I, I wanted her to be proud of me.”
“Do you have reason to doubt that she was, Lieutenant?” Seven almost admitted her same desire and perhaps if he was reassured she would be too.
“I don’t know… no, I don’t think so.” Harry shook his head as if trying to come up with the correct answer. Finally when he did, he smiled. “I felt that she was.”
“When my cortical node shut down I too had fears that I had… disappointed her. I thought that she would not accept my death because I was incomplete. I have always looked to her as my guide to humanity, my example. I have needed her constant assistance to develop my individuality. I thought I had failed, failed her. She told me I had not, that she was unable to accept my death because she did not want to lose… a friend.” Seven could envision their conversation perfectly in her mind. The Captain’s eyes had held tears and her voice had been gentle, shaky but resolute when she had addressed Seven’s fears.
You haven't failed, Seven. You've exceeded my expectations. You've become an individual, an extraordinary individual. If I'm having trouble accepting your condition it's only because I don't want to lose a friend.
“God, Seven, what’re we going to do without her?” Harry was visibly shaken from the vulnerability Seven had just displayed and how it matched his own.
“We will carry on,” Seven’s chin tilted up in certainty. “That is what she would want us to do.”
Tom Paris stared blankly at the now black screen of his desktop monitor that had contained the image of his wife only moments ago. To say that B’Elanna Torres hadn’t taken the news of Kathryn Janeway’s death well would be the understatement of the century. His ears continued to ring in response to the bellow of rage and anguish that had escaped powerfully from his half-Klingon wife. He had been glad that their daughter and her godfather were taking a tour of the lava flows instead of at the hololab. He would then have had to fear for permanent hearing damage to his child. Not that he could blame B’Elanna for her reaction. It had taken him some time to walk dazed to his quarters and collapse on the floor in front of his couch. And then to get himself to a point where he could muster the strength to place the horrible call.
I've entered into the ship's log on this date that I'm granting a field commission of lieutenant to Thomas Eugene Paris. Congratulations. You've earned this, Tom.
Tom looked at his palm and thought he could almost feel the soft, warm weight of her delicately boned hand in his again. He remembered how she had smiled at him then. It was a small pull to her lips that grew until it was the brightest smile he had ever received and he, Tom Paris, rogue, had been completely and utterly humbled by it. He hadn’t known then what it had fully meant; it had been her putting her trust, her faith in him because she had truly believed him to be a capable officer, a convict that could be completely redeemed. Even if he had doubts, she didn’t because that was who she was. How many chances had she given him? Two, three…
When he had been demoted to Ensign after the whole Monean incident and she had looked at him with such a look of disappointment it had torn him apart to bear witness to it, but he had disobeyed her orders for virtuous reasons, ones he had hoped she could respect if not agree with. But even with the thirty days of imprisonment, he had never worried that she would turn her back on him. He had just known he would have to work that much harder to convince her that her trust in him hadn’t been misplaced. And when he had come to his bridge shift and seen the small wooden box on his chair he had felt successful and the feeling of her gently replacing the small black pip had filled him with the same pride and humility it had when she had first given him the field commission in her ready room all those years ago.
What would she be doing now? Tom let out a long suffering sigh filled with self-contempt. Not moping around her quarters. She would be bringing everyone together. Cheering them up with her smiles and her wry sense of humor.
With renewed strength and a sense of purpose, Tom rose from the chair to cross the room to the replicator. “Locke’s Single Malt.”
“What is it?”
“Just take it all right?” Tom thrust the small glass filled with amber colored liquid into his friend’s hesitant hand.
Tom wondered if his former Captain would have reprimanded them severely for drinking while they were still technically on duty, despite the fact that operations were stalled for the next half an hour by the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yard’s personnel. Or perhaps, he thought with a bright grin, she would have pulled up a chair and downed the drink without a second thought. That’s what had always intrigued him about her. She was refined, elegant, and almost regal but then she would surprise him by being a pool shark, or getting tipsy at one of Neelix’s numerous parties, or by knocking an unfortunate alien on his ass when he had made an off color comment and proceeded to try to initiate a more physical first contact with her.
Seated with Tom at the table in the holographically created Sandrine’s were Captain Janeway’s senior staff, or at least the ones that still served on board Voyager. The only addition was their CMO, Jarem Kaz who, like Barclay, had become an honorary member of the family.
Tom passed the bottle to his present Captain. Chakotay had spent most of the morning in his ready room. Doing what, Tom didn’t feel the need to speculate. It had been obvious for several years how much Chakotay loved Kathryn Janeway, was in love with her. He couldn’t imagine the hell Chakotay was going through.
Chakotay poured himself a drink before he handed it to Seven, whom he had apologized to directly after leaving his ready room. She had merely told him that “no permanent damage had been done” but he had known that had been her way to offer forgiveness.
“Alcohol impairs my neural processers.” Seven looked uneasily at the bottle before she passed it on to Jarem Kaz.
“That’s the point, Seven.” He took the bottle and filled his glass and Seven’s.
Chakotay stood then and the others quickly followed suit. He held up the small glass with a bittersweet grin. “To the finest woman I’ve ever known. Not to mention the bravest, most compassionate, strongest and definitely the most stubborn. To Kathryn Janeway.”
“To Kathryn Janeway!” Her former crew exalted her name in unison and without hesitation on anyone’s part the Irish whiskey left their glasses in a flourish of movement.
Tom patted his friend’s back as Harry coughed powerfully from the burning that had transverse his throat and now rested hotly in his stomach.
Kids these days, Tom thought with a grin.
“I think she would have liked this.” All eyes were on Chakotay as he spoke with a mixture of sorrow and approval. “I don’t think she would have wanted us to be sitting around mourning. She’d want to be celebrated. Well, no that’s not right, she would have felt uneasy, humbled, but, she’d want us… not to grieve for her.”
“Yeah, that’s about right.” Tom could picture the kind blue eyes of Kathryn Janeway and could almost hear her husky voice filled with a bit of humor and humility. Buck up now, moping about won’t do anyone any good. Remember the good times. They’re what’s important now.
“Do you remember our last day at the Markonian outpost?” Tom’s smile grew enormously bright as a few heads nodded and smiles formed. Jarem Kaz, for his part just basked in the lightness after the dark. Tom turned his bright eyes towards Jarem as he explained the set up. “Harry and I got into… a bit of a misunderstanding with some of the locals on this huge space station.”
“I believe the correct term is ‘street brawl’.” Those who didn’t know Seven well would have thought her comment flat, but they could detect the humor behind her even words.
“Yeah, well, anyway, it got sort of out of hand—” Tom pressed forward as he remembered the reprimand that Harry and he had received. Again her voice echoed in his mind. Well, did you win? Good.
“We were arrested.” Harry sounded sheepish as Jarem Kaz let out a surprised laugh. Who would have thought, straight-laced Harry Kim, arrested? Then the doctor turned his attention back to their First Officer and knew exactly the reasons behind Harry’s arrest.
“Beside the point. So, Harry, me, and the Captain, we all went down to the bar where the owner was insisting on reimbursement for what amounted to a bunch of broken glasses.” Tom shrugged, seemingly unrepentant of the damage he had been responsible for.
“Three tables and a few bar stools.” Harry’s voice was again the leveling agent.
“Yeah, anyway, she came down to, you know, make reparations for us I guess.” Tom’s voice was getting more jubilant as he pulled nearer to the punch line. “Well this Morphinian bar owner, all green scales and fishy smell, had a, well proposition for how she could… er—pay him. His attempt at first contact though was met with a mean punch that laid the guy out flat.”
“She punched him!” The disbelief was clear in Jarem’s voice, though he had let out another bark of surprised laughter.
“Knocked him clear on his ass.” Tom recalled how he had watched with wonder as the big lizard had landed hard on the barroom floor before he or Harry could “protect” their Captain’s virtue. The look that had been on his Captain’s face then had been so smug and self-assured that he was sure if the police had been around they would have thought twice about arresting her. “Hey, you can’t blame her, that guy’s tail was overly friendly, you know.”
“Kathryn Janeway involved in a bar brawl, I have to say I’m not as shocked as I think I should be.” Yes, Jarem could see the fiery woman making her disinterest clear with a knock to the head.
“Normally, I do not believe that she would use violence as a primary means to end a disagreement.” Seven had to admit she approved of the efficient discouragement the strike would have provided. “However, I believe she stated that ‘the guy had it coming’.”
Seven had been curious as to the altercation and she recalled how Captain Janeway had mumbled something about the Morphinian being as bad as that “damned plant”. Seven still didn’t understand what that had meant.
“No doubt he did.” Jarem nodded in hearty agreement.
“You should have seen the look on Harry’s face though!” Tom clapped a hand against the back of the man in question. “I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.”
“I just didn’t expect it that’s all!” Harry’s voice became high-pitched as he indeed recalled his flabbergasted reaction to seeing his Captain, his role model, and if truth be told, his mother figure knocking a guy out who outweighed her by about two hundred pounds and was about seven feet tall. “I don’t think you reacted any better.”
“Whatever. You know when I asked her about it all she said was ‘Mr. Paris’.” Tom’s voice got decidedly lower and more commanding invoking the same tones as Kathryn Janeway. “‘Sometimes even my diplomacy runs out’.”
The impression had been reminiscent enough of the woman if not entirely accurate that warm chuckles had followed it.
“I remember the first time I looked at her as this… amazing human being rather than the larger than life Captain.” Harry’s voice grew soft and pensive, a smile played on his lips. “We were on an away mission and found all these bushes of over-ripe fruit. After eating Leola root stew for the last week I gorged myself on them. I must have eaten half a kilo. I was embarrassed by the way my hands and mouth were all purple, but then the Captain, the Captain came and she sat down next to me, and I had to smile because her mouth and hands were all stained too. Then she put her arm around my shoulder and she said… she said 'Ensign, these are the times we have to remember'. She’s, she was… I’m sorry.”
The tears had come unexpectedly to Harry’s eyes but he felt comforted not embarrassed by the reassuring hand on his shoulder. He could see similar moisture in Tom’s eyes.
“I wish I had known her better.” Jarem Kaz had felt out of place when Tom and Harry had approached him after the service in the Mess Hall about sending the Admiral off in true Irish style until they had convinced him with a few simple words, you’re part of the family whether you like it or not, Doc. “I know the journey through the Delta Quadrant was unbelievably difficult, but a part of me wished I had been there. It was a remarkable thing you people did, what she did.”
Jarem thought he had seen a hint of who the Admiral had been as a Captain when the two of them had met up at a little coffee shop in Santa Barbara and conspired to help save the world as they knew it. It now seemed like forever ago. He had seen the fiery determination he had heard second hand about first when she had confronted him in his sickbay. And then when he had contacted her to initiate their plan. Even with her shoulder length auburn hair disarrayed from sleep and a silky pink robe visible she might as well have been garbed in her Admiral’s uniform for all the power she had projected through that small monitor. He knew then that she would have done anything, and did do some pretty audacious things, in order to save the crew that had become her family. Like a mother hen tending her chicks. Or a wolf mother.
Chakotay, who had remained silent during the story telling now added his gentle tones. “I wonder if she knew how much she impacted all of us. How she saved many of us. We were taken into the Delta Quadrant against our will but I can’t imagine what would have happened to us if we hadn’t been. A lot of us would probably be either dead or in prison. We owe her our lives. I don’t know if she ever knew. I don’t know if anyone ever told her how our lives were better for knowing her. How those seven years made us who we are because of the journey and the unifying mission to get home. How we trusted her completely, followed her unquestionably because we knew she never stopped believing we’d get home. That she’d find a way. And… she completed her mission.”
The small glass cylinders were once again filled with amber liquid and they stood to honor their former Captain once more.
“Here’s to Captain Janeway.” Chakotay’s voice was sure and strong as he held his glass up.
“To Captain Janeway!” The chorus was loud as they gave adulation to the name.
“Lieutenant Ayala to the Captain.”
Chakotay cleared the melancholy away as he answered with a sure, even tone. “Go ahead.”
“We’ve been cleared for departure.”
The somberness in the room mixed with the remembrance of one woman as Chakotay spoke words that meant more than just an order.
“Set a course, for home.”
Lieutenant Commander B’Elanna Torres was not happy.
“If you had listened to me the first time, we wouldn’t have wasted the last two hours on a security system that wouldn’t protect it from a targ!” B’Elanna’s face flushed with frustration as her voice grew lower and more dangerous with each passing word.
“I’m a doctor, not a security officer, LC, so it’s not really my fault now is it?” Doctor Lewis Zimmerman rolled his eyes to the ceiling as annoyance marred his already craggy features. “You’re the so called expert on the autonomous self-sustaining mobile holo-emitter, so fix it!”
“Mobile emitter! Is it so hard to just say mobile emitter? And stop calling me ‘LC’!” B’Elanna’s roar of frustration filled Doctor Zimmerman’s office, which was set in the heart of the Jupiter Station.
Six days ago when Admiral Janeway had signed off on B’Elanna’s request to recruit the modern father of holotechnology to assist her in reinforcing security measures on the prototype of the newly commissioned emitter for permanent use she had said to Janeway, “I’ve dealt with the Doctor for seven years I think I can handle this guy”.
The look on the Admiral’s face then had given B’Elanna a moment’s pause, there had been a look of godly knowing. But B’Elanna had shaken it off, self-assured as she was. Now it took all of her patience not to knock Doctor Zimmerman over the head with a hyperspanner.
“I can say it just fine, I am a genius after all, LC. My point is that your term is imprecise.” Zimmerman crunched down hard on his breadstick, a few crumbs escaped from his lips as he stalked around his lab, plate in hand. “When your Admiral Jane asked me to take time out of my busy schedule to help you out with this project that is obviously so far above your ridged head, I had hoped you’d be a bit more capable than this.”
A growl emitted from the woman that would have intimidated the sturdiest of people, this man however either didn’t notice the warning or didn’t care.
“If you’d allocate more energy to the structural integrity grid like I had suggested then we wouldn’t be having trouble with the shield array now.” More crunching followed this proclamation and thus he missed the look of murderous intent shot his way.
The less than flattering and very loudly spoken Klingon expletive however did draw his attention.
“You kiss your baby with that mouth?” Zimmerman had to admit he liked this woman, she was so easily provoked.
The baby in question, Miral Torres-Paris, was presently with her godfather, which Zimmerman had to admit surprised him in a most pleasant way. He felt proud of this particular Mark One EMH of his in a way that was unusual for him. The only other person he felt this way towards was… “Haley? Haley!”
The sandy haired elfin featured woman entered calmly at the almost hysterical summons. “Yes, Doctor?”
Haley’s voice had a melodic quality to it that had reminded B’Elanna of Kes when she had first been introduced to Doctor Zimmerman’s assistant. What had surprised B’Elanna to learn after two days at the Jupiter Station was that Haley was a hologram, she had thought that to be the reason why any seemingly sentient being could stand being in the presence of the acerbic doctor for any extended period of time, but she had been told that aside from maintenance Haley’s program had been left unchanged since her inception. Her daughter’s godfather aside, B’Elanna thought Haley a particularly impressive feat of holotechnology. Not that she’d tell this petaQ that.
“Get Reginald up here, at least he knows something about holography!” Zimmerman let the forgotten plate of salad clatter atop a workstation as he once again stalked about his lab. “People think since you can manage a warp core you can do anything.”
“Mr. Barclay is at Starfleet Academy.” Haley’s voice betrayed no inflections aside from infinite patience.
“What?! When did this happen?” Zimmerman threw his hands up as he displayed the epitome of exasperation. “Why am I the last to be told about everything?”
“He informed you when he left ten days ago.” Haley recalled the moment perfectly. Reginald Barclay had told the two of them with a beaming smile that he had been asked to take over for Admiral Janeway as the instructor for Interquadrant Communications. Doctor Zimmerman had been so engrossed in the new holospy program that he had merely grunted with irritation in response.
“Well, I guess I’m stuck with you then.” The look he gave B’Elanna was not unlike a look a person would give a not so interesting bug that they had just squashed beneath the sole of their shoe.
“I’m jumping for joy too.” B’Elanna sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Doctor, we’re receiving a hail through the Utopia Planitia communications array.” Hayley’s hazel eyes looked up to the ceiling as if she was remembering something rather than relaying what the Jupiter Station’s computer was informing her of. “It’s for you, Commander Torres.”
“Of course it is. Who bothers talking to me these days? I’m just one of the most brilliant minds of the last millennia, but who would want to talk to me?” Zimmerman waved a hand towards the outer room, the lobby of sorts. “Please make it quick, we’ve got a lot of work to do without you delaying us with maudlin displays of affection.”
B’Elanna had to forcefully keep her mouth shut as she stormed out of the lab into the relatively comfortableness of the outer room. She plopped down heavily and with a long suffering sigh onto one of the desk chairs before she activated the monitor.
Her husband’s handsome and eternally boyish face was framed within the small view screen and even though he had a gentle smile to his lips the vision he made caused B’Elanna to lose her breath as her heart sped up and the blood coursed more quickly through her veins as if preparing her for a fight.
“Hey, beautiful.” Tom’s voice was flat, lost sounding and she could easily see that he had to struggle to maintain his composure. “How’re my two favorite ladies doing?”
“We’re fine. Miral’s with the Doctor.” Not one to mince words, that was the extent of B’Elanna’s need for pleasantries. “What’s going on?”
“It’s all gone wrong, B’Elanna. All wrong.” Her husband’s brow creased as he looked almost pleadingly at her through the small screen. There weren’t tears, but the redness in his eyes clearly indicated that recently there had been a momentous amount.
“Tom?” As opposed to humans, B’Elanna’s chest became overly hot, constrictive, not out of fear necessarily but more of defensive response, readying the person to go on the offense quickly. “Please. Tell me what happened.”
“The Borg, B’Elanna, the damned Borg! They—” He looked away as he wiped his eyes with his shaky hands. Tom’s eyes burned from the tears that had already been shed and now they ached from the strain. “Oh, god, they killed her. She’s dead, B’Elanna, the Admiral—Janeway is gone!”
“But that’s—that’s not possible.” B’Elanna’s face flushed hotly from the adrenaline that shot like quicksilver through her veins. “She’s Janeway! She can’t die!”
“B’Elanna, I’m sorry. God, I’m so sorry.” Tom had never felt more useless than he did at this moment. He wanted to be there. To hold and comfort her or even take a few Klingon infused blows. But all he could do was sit in his damned chair and watch as his wife’s world fell apart around her. “B’Elanna?”
A great, deep and full-bodied, rough with pain, enraged, deafening bellow emitted from B’Elanna Torres then and the message, though impulsive and unintentional, was clear. Be warned, Sto-vo-kor, a mighty warrior is on her way.
“All right, my little warrior.” The hologram smiled brightly which caused deeper creases to form on his already lined face as he coaxed the little girl towards the transporter room.
The Doctor relished the feel of the warm, tiny hand in his and the little sounds of wonderment that emitted from his goddaughter as they walked along the promenade beneath the transparent aluminum dome that protected carbon based life forms from the hydrogen rich gases of Jupiter’s air. He also found comfort that the little girl would not pick up on the more… robust language her mother used when extremely annoyed with Doctor Lewis Zimmerman, a brilliant man but a bit rusty on the social delicacies, which after almost a week with the man B’Elanna tended to have less patience with.
“I want to stay longer! Please.” The little girl with forehead ridges that announced her Klingon heritage looked up at her godfather with big dark brown eyes filled with a determined glint. She was a little over two years old, precocious for her age, and wanted nothing more in life than to explore the multiple worlds around her.
“It’s time for your dinner.” The Doctor tried to resist, but the small pout and furrowed brow were making it extremely difficult. He used all the will-power he could summon to make his voice sound more commanding. “It’s important for growing little girls to get enough nutrition.”
“I’m not little!” The scowl was back as little arms crossed over her barrel shaped chest clad in shades of navy blue and forest green.
“Of course not. My mistake, for you are a mighty warrior.” The Doctor smiled again, reassuringly.
In fact, Miral was small for her age, seemingly thin boned and tiny in stature but he knew that the seemingly diminutive form concealed above human strength. He had thought to worry about such a thing for when Miral developed, but aside from having little temper tantrums common for all children she was well-behaved and kind.
“And mighty warriors must eat, to keep up their strength to do battle and gain honor.” The Doctor had found it a bit odd at first that Miral had taken to the idea of Klingon valor, but then he figured it was good for her to not reject her Klingon heritage as her mother once had.
“Banana pancakes?” Again, those dark brown eyes captured the Doctor in their persuasive hold.
“I suppose.” It took quite a bit of effort on his part to refuse the little girl anything, so he usually just conceded to her wishes. “Spoiling her rotten” was what he had been accused by Miral’s mother of doing, but he had to smirk at that since B’Elanna also had difficulties saying no to her little girl. “I’ll even have the replicator shape them into little bat’leths for you. How’s that sound?”
“With strawberry syrup?” Again Miral got a nod of acceptance to her request.
The Doctor recalled how he had told Admiral Janeway about Miral’s enjoyment of eating the batter made bat’leths with “blood” on them. The Admiral had looked so aghast at this that he had wished for his holographic camera to capture the amusing expression. But like so many before her, Kathryn Janeway had succumbed to the little girl’s wishes and had confessed later to the Doctor that she had found it “strange, a bit grotesque, but adorable”. Despite the rank of Admiral, those who knew Janeway well were quite aware that she gladly took orders from her goddaughter. With sparkling blue eyes and a wide bright grin. And in turn, Miral adored her godmother.
He thought idly that perhaps B’Elanna would be willing to let him take Miral to San Francisco for a visit with the Admiral since the Borg had been taken care of. The threat to Earth might have happened only ten hours ago, but the Doctor knew the capacity for people to remember the tragedy, the epic event, and then move quickly past it to focus on their own lives. It was how humans continued on, he supposed.
The Doctor kept Miral close as they entered the transporter room, she had a tendency to want to explore and push buttons if left unattended. The transporter chief smiled brightly and greeted the Doctor respectfully and then Miral with a high pitched lightness to his tone that made the Doctor shake his head. Why adults spoke to children this way was beyond him.
“Say goodbye to the Chief, Miral, and be sure to thank him.” The Doctor had already told the man their destination and after Miral waved happily they disappeared in a sparkling of blue energy until they found themselves back on Jupiter Station where they were greeted by Haley, with… tears in her eyes, and a rather severe looking Doctor Zimmerman.
The lines between the Doctor’s eyebrows creased deeply in sudden worry. Something had obviously happened to make the ever composed Haley cry and for the always flippant Doctor Zimmerman to look so grim.
“Doctor, I’ll take Miral. It’s time for your dinner isn’t it, sweetie?” Haley held her arms out before her as she bent down to be eye level with the girl who had suddenly become shy. But finally she did step forward into the arms of the hologram.
“Can I still have battle lit pancakes?” Miral’s small arms surrounded Haley’s neck and it would have perhaps been uncomfortable had the hologram been required to breath.
“Of course.” Haley smiled, albeit sadly, at the Doctor before she headed to the mess hall.
“Doctor, please, come with me.” Zimmerman didn’t wait for a response as he led the Doctor out of the room to the hall that led to his office.
“What’s this about?” The Doctor had such a feeling of dread that he thought perhaps he would overload his systems if the feeling increased any more. But he didn’t overload when his concern soared as he took in the comfortable outer room to the holoprograming lab. It was in shambles. The ruins of Haley’s glass and steel desk littered the gray carpet and he couldn’t even imagine what had contorted the titanium stools and dinner table into such oddly twisted shapes.
“You should probably sit down.” It took Zimmerman a moment to realize that were no longer any places to sit. “Computer, two desk chairs.”
Before they were even fully detailed, Zimmerman seated himself heavily in one as he waited for the Doctor to do the same. “I don’t feel like I should be the one to tell you this, but Commander Torres has been… incapacitated. Taking my furniture along with her.”
“B’Elanna did this?!” The Doctor scanned the room once more and could now see the markings on metal that looked to be indentations made by fingers.
“She was… upset.” Zimmerman couldn’t really think of a better term as he was uncomfortable with such emotional displays from beings. And never would he have expected the scene that awaited him when he had rushed into the outer room to see what that accursed yelling was all about and the crashing of glass. B’Elanna Torres had torn apart the room. He would have had a snide comment and a complaint or two but the way she had been slumped against the wall with her knees drawn up against her chest had stopped him. And then she had looked up and her face had been reddened from both tears and the heat that he could feel emanating for her when he had bent down to help her to her feet.
“Commander?” He had been careful to avoid becoming like his dining room table as he had let go of his grasp on her arms.
Then she had told him what had happened and as if in a daze she had informed him that she would be going to Earth as soon as the next transport was ready. He had asked her about the Doctor then, but she hadn’t heard his question and walked unsteadily out of the room.
“What do you know about the Borg attack?” Zimmerman watched the mirror image of himself look distraught and wondered if he had the same expression on his face.
“Just what was on the comm. channels. They’re not back are they?!” The Doctor had almost stood then, abruptly, but Zimmerman had stopped him with a hand and a shake of his head.
“No, they’re gone. The cube was destroyed. What you don’t know, it would seem, was who was on that cube when it blew… when it… imploded.” The words were leaving him. He had been more than happy that the cube had been obliterated. But he hadn’t known then what he did now. And now that celebration seemed bittersweet since he had to tell his “son” that he had just lost his “mother”.
The Doctor sunk deeper in his chair as he felt without a doubt that he was extremely ill-prepared for what was to come.
“Your Admiral Janeway…”
The Doctor only heard those three words before his program suddenly and completely decompiled.
Lieutenant Commander B’Elanna Torres and the Emergency Medical Hologram Mark One known simply as the Doctor were seated onboard a Jupiter Station transport shuttle on route to Earth. Neither beings felt compelled to break the silence that had formed between them, so they sat silently in reflective contemplation oblivious to the other passengers onboard. Their thoughts mirrored as they remembered the woman who had been their Captain, their friend, their guide, and their biggest champion.
I know that we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but despite our differences you helped me become a good officer and I’d like to think you’re proud of me for it.
The gentle, sincere voice in B’Elanna’s mind of the woman who had left them far too early caused a heat to rise in the half-Klingon from both rage at the injustice of it and from the incomprehensible sadness that had been her constant companion since she had learned of the loss of their commanding officer from her husband only an hour or two before.
She had lost track of time as she had been busy packing her daughter’s necessities and her own and bringing the Doctor’s program back online after it had decompiled into his mobile emitter. Luckily he had also been linked to the quite sophisticated hologrid of the Jupiter Station’s holoprogramming lab and it hadn’t been too difficult to get him back. Though she remembered that he hadn’t been necessarily comforted by his escape from oblivion.
B’Elanna had never seen the Doctor look more devastated and if anyone had any question as to the legitimacy of his sentience they only had to look at him then and there would have been no more doubt. Tears had filled his dark eyes when he had crushed B’Elanna to him as he had spoken words of sympathy and of pain into her ear as she had done the same.
What had surprised her then was how somber Doctor Zimmerman had been, no snide comments had passed through his lips, only words that had held empathy that she had not expected he had been capable of emitted from the man as they had said their goodbyes. And then Haley had given them warm hugs meant to comfort as she too apologized for what fate had given them.
Now, B’Elanna kissed the small ridges on her daughter’s forehead as her child sleepily snuggled deeper into her neck. The little girl had been aware early on that her mother and godfather were sad about something, but neither had the strength to tell the little girl that her beloved godmother was gone. They hardly had the strength to tell themselves that reality.
“Attention Jupiter Station shuttle passengers, we will be landing at the San Francisco transport station in five minutes. Please have your luggage collected within those minutes. Thank you. And welcome to Earth. I hope you have a pleasant stay.”
B’Elanna gathered her daughter’s belongings in the arm that wasn’t presently filled with a slumbering Miral and she tapped the Doctor lightly on his foot with her own shoe to gain his attention.
The Doctor’s dark eyes had something akin to confusion in them and then cleared as he realized why he had been taken out of his musings when he saw that the passengers had all risen out of their seats as they awaited departure from the shuttle. He had been replaying the words that his Captain had spoken on his behalf that had first assured him fully that she indeed thought of him as an equal member of her crew. It had been ironically after he had painted a less than flattering picture of his crewmates and his experiences onboard Voyager despite the fact that he had only meant to use his crewmates’ physical parameters as a starting off point.
Our definition of what constitutes a person has continued to evolve. Now we’re asking that you expand that definition once more, to include our Doctor. When I met him seven years ago, I would never have believed that an EMH could become a valued member of my crew, and my friend. The Doctor is a person as real as any flesh and blood I have ever known. If you believe the testimony you’ve heard here, it’s only fair to conclude that he has the same rights as any of us.
“B’Elanna?” The Doctor’s hand rested lightly on the dark brown curls of his goddaughter’s as he looked sadly upon her. He had wanted to take a trip to San Francisco with the little girl, but this hadn’t been what he had in mind. He turned his eyes to the woman he had addressed for the first time since they boarded the shuttle to Earth. “What’re we going to do without her?”
“I wish I knew, Doctor.” B’Elanna followed the flow of exiting people as she hugged her daughter close to her. “Could you imagine if she saw us now… wallowing in self-pity? If she could see how lost we are without her I wonder if she’d be disappointed in us.”
“B’Elanna?” The Doctor’s voice sounded hurt and confused.
“I, I’m sorry, Doctor. I’m just so—so angry. And there’s really no one I can take it out on, except you I guess. Lucky you, huh?” B’Elanna tried to smile but it looked more like a grimace.
“She wouldn’t be disappointed in us.” The Doctor hadn’t heard the apology as he thought about how the Captain, the Admiral, would think of them in this moment of tragic lost. “She would understand, she would be comforting, sympathetic. But never disappointed.”
“How can you be so sure?” B’Elanna most definitely was not.
The destruction she had brought upon the small office at the Jupiter Station had been her initial reaction. She doubted very much that Janeway would have approved of that. B’Elanna hadn’t even approved of her actions later when she had come to her senses. Though her apology had been given it had not been taken. Instead Doctor Zimmerman had simply said that Haley had wanted to redecorate anyway.
“Because I know Kathryn Janeway well enough to be sure, and so do you.” The Doctor looked pointedly at the Lieutenant Commander. “What do you truly believe she would feel if she could see us now, Commander?”
B’Elanna stopped short of answering the Doctor’s question as she spotted familiar faces, somber as they were, awaiting their arrival at one of the hover car rental alcoves. The lot of them were dressed in the gray and black uniforms of Starfleet officers: a Captain, a commander, a lieutenant commander, and a lieutenant stood together as a united front.
B’Elanna then turned to the hologram that wore the same number of pips as she. It had been a commission that the Admiral who had bestowed it upon the EMH over a year ago had stated in her husky tones “long overdue” as she had smiled proudly, brightly, dark blue eyes had shimmered as her delicate and sure hands had fastened the pips to the collar of an absolutely bursting at the seams hologram. B’Elanna knew exactly how that same Admiral would feel now if she looked upon the group of Starfleet officers who had served her with unwavering loyalty and devotion for over seven years.
“Proud, Doctor. She would be proud.”
Over the next few hours, hundreds of individuals received both personal and official notification of the death of Admiral Kathryn Janeway.
On Earth, in San Francisco, a gray haired man fell heavily into the arms of the woman who was to be his mother-in-law and is allowed to weep for the childhood friend he had always loved.
At Starfleet Academy, a well respected expert on artificial interspatial flexures used to transmit communications interquadrantly was intercepted after his class by his adopted family to be told of the passing of their matriarch and even in his grief he felt comforted by the others around him like he had never felt before.
On the USS Archer, a mother and her daughter are contacted by the latter’s best friend. They detected immediately this was not a happy call. And long after the screen turned to black, the two women shook with grief and cried out at the injustice of the universe for having taken such a person from it.
At the Daystrom Institute of Technology, a young Starfleet Academy student was interrupted in his work study program by his mentor and constant guide to humanity and was told somberly that her guide, her mentor, her friend had been taken from them by a force only the two of them could fully understand.
On Orion I, a student of cosmology dropped a PADD containing his life’s pursuit disproving a theory of multiple big bangs forgotten at his feet as he read of the news that the woman who had been his biggest defender against formal charges regarding the death of a dark matter entity was no more.
At the McKinley Station, two friends were called away from their work on redesigning escape pods to be more efficient and comfortable to receive notice that the woman who had instilled confidence and trust in themselves and each other on a supposedly routine away mission all those years ago had died as only she could, heroically.
And thirty thousand light years away in a different quadrant of the galaxy, a man was seated with his wife and adopted son as he was told the news of a woman’s death through the impersonal means of a recording. His reaction had been one of disbelief at first, that this couldn’t possibly be true, but he knew that the young woman who had the unfortunate task of informing him of such tragedy would not say such a thing unless absolutely certain. His son comforted him with a hearty, prolonged hug and his wife, whose belly was full with child, mingled her tears with his. She had not known the woman who had died well, but she was eternally grateful to her because of the safety she had helped secure and the wonderful man she had allowed her to have in her life forever.
Years later, they would tell their child, named not a Talaxian name but a human name, stories about the woman for whom she had been named. The child would learn that there had been a brave, wise, compassionate woman who had sailed through the dangerous quadrant with a small ship and a mismatched crew and because she was strong and true she had brought her crew home. And though the child’s father had never spoken the name to the woman directly, it would remain a name of great honor and respect for generations to come.
“On November 27th, 2380, Admiral Kathryn Janeway of Starfleet Command, acting chairperson to Starfleet Intelligence, and the renowned and commemorated former Captain of the USS Voyager, who on May 23rd, 2378 brought her ship and crew home against impossible odds from the Delta Quadrant, has died at the age of forty-five while defending the Earth from the Borg attack that ended in the implosion of the Borg cube. She was survived by her mother, Gretchen Janeway, and her sister, Phoebe Janeway. The memorial service will be held on December 1st at 1 P.M. Pacific coast Earth time at the presidio in San Francisco.”
The people around the quadrant who watched in stillness at the news feed regarding the famous former Captain of the lost ship Voyager were now shown a clip of the woman in question at the first press conference held after her ship had returned home.
She had an undeniably powerful presence that held one mesmerized by her energy, her strength, her intelligent blue eyes, her bright smile, and her throaty voice that bespoke a woman of great authority and greater warmth. She had rested a small, delicate hand on her upper chest as her emotions rose with each word she had spoken as she exalted her crew with words of how brave, how compassionate, how strong they had been in the face of such adversity.
She had spoken of the community, the family that had emerged from years of being together, the bonds that were now unbreakable, and the incredible journey they had gone on together. How the steadfast crew had served her well and how she had hoped that she had been able to serve them with the same determination and distinction.
She had been many things in those moments: proud, emotional, grateful, gracious, and above all she had been captivating to behold. She had become, perhaps reluctantly, a celebrity overnight and now, despite being gone, would remain in the hearts, the minds, the imagination of many, many individuals, their children, their grandchildren, and so on because she had been…
“… the people’s Admiral.”
The Delta Flyer III hovered above the spacious grounds of the Janeway homestead as the passengers within looked upon the childhood home of their late and great former Captain. Though no one aboard the craft had ever actually seen the farm for themselves they had heard numerous stories about it that had lent it a simple, yet magical air most likely due to how their Captain’s voice had always lightened to a softness rarely displayed and how they had been able to detect only the tiniest amount of moisture gathered in her blue eyes when she had spoken about the place she had called home for seventeen years.
Captain Chakotay gazed out of the transparent aluminum window with moist, dark eyes as he thought about the woman who had been a child here, he knew a happy one. Over the course of their relationship, she had told him a number of stories of how much she had loved her home in Indiana: the open space, the smell of the fertile soil and how she had adored running through the cornfields with her dog laughing heartily all the while. He wondered with a sad smile how many memories this place held of the woman he had loved intently for so many years.
“Tom,” Chakotay’s voice was gentle, a bit rough with emotion, but strong. “Set us down.”
The Delta Flyer III settled gently and with ease onto the expansive lawn several meters from the well-worn farmhouse.
“Um, I don’t think we’re allowed to land here.” Harry knew very little about agricultural farms such as this one, but what he did know was that technology such as the shuttle they were currently on was certainly not allowed within the boundaries of this traditionalist community.
Tom Paris disengaged the artificial gravity plating beneath his latest creation before he looked at his friend seated next to him and shrugged in the seemingly innocent, nonchalant, and cocky way that only he was truly capable of. “Mrs. Janeway said if anyone gave us any trouble we should tell the guy to either shut up or to take it up with her.”
The assumed response from objectors to their landing here would then be to let it slide since Gretchen Janeway was definitely a force to be reckoned with. Tom had to smile at the thought of the silver haired woman.
Aside from Jarem Kaz who hadn’t yet had the privilege, they had all initially met their Captain’s mother at the first welcome home party after Voyager had arrived quite unexpectedly on Earth’s doorstep. It had first astonished and then amused them to find that their commanding officer’s mother had given many traits to her oldest daughter. They had shared the same voice inflections, mannerisms such as talking with their hands and putting those same delicately boned hands onto their hips, and the same charismatic yet commanding presence. And thus they had been captivated by the woman who had given birth and raised their stalwart Captain who had seemed to grow younger by the second in the presence of her mother and younger sister. Exasperated “mother’s” and “Phoebe’s” had followed each charming but perhaps embarrassing story about the Kathryn Janeway the two women had known as they had spoken excitedly to the enthralled crew. Tom suddenly grew grim as he thought no light-hearted stories would be told this late evening, this was after all not a welcome home party.
Harry Kim also pictured the woman in question, Gretchen Janeway, and how upon first seeing her at their homecoming it had been readily apparent that she was the mother of his Captain. He tried not to think about how the similarities between the two women would affect him now. His own comfort was not what was important. Honoring the Captain, the Admiral, that was their purpose.
“Addy Janey’s home?” Miral hugged her mother’s neck as she snuggled close. Her ridged brow pressed against her mother’s cheek as she curiously peered out the window.
“That’s right. This is where your godmother grew up.” B’Elanna placed soft kisses on her daughter’s forehead as she tried to keep her voice strong and sure.
Having had to tell Miral that her adored godmother had been killed in glorious battle had been the hardest thing B’Elanna had ever had to do in her life. And though the little girl hadn’t known what that had meant entirely, she had enough knowledge gained from her parents’ expressions and tears that she had also cried. Once Miral had calmed down to the point that only sniffling had remained she had been told that she would not be able to see her “Addy Janey” again, that she was in Sto-Vo-Kor because that was where great warriors went, and that she had loved Miral very much. Miral had nodded her understanding then, but had vehemently informed her parents that she had wished to see her godmother just once more, to say goodbye and to tell her that she loved her too. After this proclamation more tears had been shed and Miral had found herself in a tight hug between both her parents. Then they had told her then that they too wished for the same thing, but to not to worry, they had promised Miral that her Addy Janey knew how much her little warrior had loved her. And that had satisfied the little girl.
“Have you ever been here, Seven?” The Doctor looked nervously out the window as he wondered what the locals would think of him. He then looked at the woman seated next to him and reconsidered his nervousness as he wondered what the locals would think of her since her technological advancement was more readily apparent.
“No.” Seven’s one word, clipped response was her attempt to hide the disappointment and regret she felt that she had never been to the childhood home of Kathryn Janeway.
When we get to Earth I'll take you there.
It had been one of the few times that Seven could recall that Captain Janeway had not lived up to her words. Seven was fully aware that Admiral Janeway’s time had been devoted to assisting the Federation to strengthen after the Dominion War, to handle conflicts between the many civilizations within the Federation purview, not to mention the Admiral’s own hands on approach to everything from vessel refits and diplomatic ceremonies. If it hadn’t been for the Admiral’s intervention and the assistance of Harry Kim and Jarem Kaz, Seven and Icheb would have perished due to regeneration deprivation while the two of them had been incarcerated when a Borg virus had infected many on Earth. And if it hadn’t been for the Voyager crew that virus and the corrupt Admiral who had wanted to be the Borg Queen would have surely been victorious. These were the events that had occupied Admiral Janeway’s time. Seven had known this, but that hadn’t stopped her from wanting to see Bloomington, Indiana for herself, and she had wanted to be with Kathryn Janeway when she had. Seven had thought that if she could see where her former Captain had grown, she would have a better understanding of who that child had matured into. Seven contemplated the idea that perhaps she still would have that chance.
“Neither have I. It looks pleasant enough.” The Doctor tried to smile reassuringly to Seven perhaps more for his benefit than hers since she looked as impassive as ever, though he suspected she was just as apprehensive as he.
They were about to converge on the home of a woman who had just lost her daughter and another who had lost her sister. There was simply no way to prepare for such an encounter. Especially since heavy feelings of guilt had grown in each of them as they had made their journey from California to Indiana. Many had felt that they should have been there with the woman who had brought them home safely, to defend her, to fight alongside her, and to die with her. Now all they could do was grieve for her and to remember the woman they had all loved.
“Indeed.” Seven looked around the cabin and noted how no one had stood from their seats yet, unease written on everyone’s expression. Only Jarem Kaz looked particularly confused regarding everyone’s hesitation that had led to his own.
The silence in the cabin that had transfixed all those in it was suddenly and quite noisily interrupted by a hand banging repeatedly on metal.
“Uh, guys?” Harry watched the white haired woman on the view screen as she continued to strike the hull of their vessel before he turned in his seat to regard his shipmates with nervousness in his eyes. “We should probably disembark now.”
“Hey, Harry, how about you be the one to tell her to either shut up or talk to Mrs. Janeway, huh?” Tom had emerged from the pilot’s seat and patted Harry on the shoulder in encouragement.
Harry Kim blanched at the very thought of him telling an elderly lady to shut up. “Uh, I’m sure she’s just… curious about us, that’s all.”
Tom and Harry were the last to depart from the ship through its aft section onto the grassy lawn upon which they encountered what the others who had gone before them had. A sturdy looking woman, stout with age, with a halo of snowy white hair brushed away from her broad, strong features wrinkled deeply from time. She was garbed in almost garish colors of red and green and orange and purple, but somehow pulled off the draped ensemble with ease, though perhaps not elegantly, but definitely confidently as if she didn’t particular care what the people lined up in front of the landed vessel thought of her. Piercing gray eyes took in the group clad in Starfleet dress uniforms of white tunics and black pants with skepticism. She pursed lips that seemed to indicate she had just eaten something decidedly distasteful made the group think that perhaps they should care what this woman thought of them. And then with an inelegant snort she addressed them.
“Ugh, you all look like you’re heading to one of those stuffy Federation dinner parties… and you’re the caterers.” Her voice held just the faintest hint of an accent; one in which they had heard much stronger versions of in Tom Paris’ “Fair Haven” program.
After they had looked at one another uncomfortably, since her observation had been a somewhat accurate description of their new dress whites, the snowy haired woman did something that made them all take notice… she smirked, a lop-sided grin that each and every one of them recognized as the prototype of a grin they had seen far too often or perhaps not enough. It was a grin of humor, mischievousness, and utter arrogance. This was certainly a Janeway.
“Ma’am, I’m Captain Chakotay and I—” The proffered hand was waved away as the woman shook her head and held up her hands in order to forestall any more words, a multitude of golden bangles clanked noisily together at her wrists.
“Now, now, don’t you all go around ‘ma’aming’ me, I won’t stand for it. Makes me feel old. I’m Martha Janeway, but just call me Marti.” Another crooked grin. “And I won’t stand for those pesky ranks here either, understood?”
The woman’s words had been said with a light, teasing tone but something about her made them take her orders to heart. And then she had surprised them again by moving more quickly than they ever expected her to be able to at her age and immense build as she gathered a rather flabbergasted Chakotay into a tightly held hug.
“Oh, my dear boy, a terrible, terrible loss for us all, our little Kathryn… gone. But at least you’re all here. Her friends, yes? Good, good. We’ll celebrate our little Katie-bug tonight in true Janeway fashion.” Tears had fallen from her eyes as she continued the hug. And then just as abruptly as it had begun she pulled out of the embrace to wipe away her tears and to laugh a short little bark at herself. “Look at me going on and on. Well, come inside, it’s getting chilly out here, no? This Indiana weather. People wonder why I moved. Can’t stand it. Give me hot, sunny days all year round. Remember to secure your ship. You can never be too careful these days. That’s what I say. I wish it weren’t true, but we live in different times now. Back when I was your age you used to be able to leave your ship anywhere you pleased without any worry some… robber would run off with it. Now,” she patted her left hip. “I don’t go anywhere without my phaser.”
The older woman had gotten almost halfway to the house before she noticed she had been walking alone. She turned impatiently around and motioned with both her hands, somewhat frantically, to the group of people who looked to her like a bunch of fish out of water with their mouths agape and eyes wide. What was their problem, she wondered to herself.
“What’s your problem? Come on now, pick up the pace.” She nodded in satisfaction as finally the lot were taken out of their trances and walked steadily to her stationary location. When they had finally reached her she took up the lead again in quick, lumbering strides. “We have much, much to do. First things first though, take those god awful uniforms off, they hurt my eyes, you see. But nothing black, dreadfully dull and morbid that color. Our little Katie-bug was anything but dull, you know. She was so vibrant and full of life. When she’d come visit me it would take all my energy to make sure she wasn’t falling out of trees or whatnot. Don’t forget to wipe your feet I don’t want you tracking mud all over the place, understand.”
The porch steps creaked soundly under the weight of the corpulent woman who led the way to the front door before she turned quickly around to freeze them with narrowed gray eyes. “Now I know all you youngsters are used to replicated food, but that’s just not allowed here, so mind your manners, all right. My sister-in-law prides herself in making all of her food from scratch. I don’t understand it myself, seems a rather slow way to go about feeding yourself, but it’s not really my place to say anything. And I hope you all have strong stomachs because I brought many, many treats along with me. Well, what are you waiting for? Come in, come in. We don’t have all day for you to be gawking like catfish, do we?”
“Why do I feel like we’ve just gone through a level eight ion storm?” Tom had whispered the words to his wife who held their daughter in her strong arms, but his words had been overheard and the white haired woman looked pointedly at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Now, young man, just because I’m old doesn’t mean I don’t have fine hearing, you see.” The white haired woman snorted as she took in the blonde haired man’s blush. “The cute ones always think they can get away with anything.”
A few coughs and suppressed laughs accompanied the deeper reddening of the Commander’s face as he tried desperately to apologize, for what he really didn’t know.
The white haired woman suddenly barked out a loud laugh and waved off his apology. She held the front door open as she motioned with a hand towards the opening. “Come on now, in you go. Don’t forget about those dirty shoes.”
Obediently upon entering, they all wiped their feet diligently on the rug that read “Welcome”. A bombardment of delicious smells assailed their senses as they moved from the foyer down a long hallway until they reached a large study where the white haired woman instructed them to settle their things and to “get out of those god-awful straight-jackets” before they were to enter the kitchen where the two other Janeway women were presently. With no time to change out of their uniforms entirely before they were to meet their former Captain’s mother and sister, they had opted to remove their uniform jackets and pulled on easy to get to tunics from their suitcases over their gray undershirts in hopes that would appease this rather bombastic woman. It didn’t really seem to, but she didn’t appear to be displeased with them either. They were satisfied with that.
They followed like little chicks behind a great mother hen as the old woman led them back down the long hallway, through the dining room and to the double doors of the kitchen which she pushed in with little effort. She walked into the kitchen with flourish and a proclamation that “Katie-bug’s crew finally made it”, but the rest stood frozen just inside as they came face to face with the two women who reminded them close to painfully of the woman they had loved, the Admiral they had lost, and the Captain they would forever miss.
Seven had never before encountered an individual with the type of speech pattern as the woman who had referred to herself by the designation of “Marti”. The order of the words seemed chaotic and only efficient in the speed that they left the woman’s mouth. And yet Seven had managed to follow what the woman had been saying with ease. The woman seemed a paradox to Seven. Marti could move swiftly though it was with uneasy lumbering movements, her voice was light in tone, but loud in volume and laced with the low tones of sympathy and sadness, and most intriguing was that she made Seven feel nervous while still feeling comforted. Marti was a curiosity. So as Seven removed her uniform jacket in preparation for the dark blue tunic she had so recently taken out of her suitcase she observed the woman as covertly as she could, which must not have been enough for Marti looked at her pointedly before she approached an apprehensive Seven.
“My dear girl,” Marti looked upon Seven with curious, sympathetic gray eyes as she rested a soft, wrinkled hand on Seven’s wrist which was laced with metal. “Have you been in some sort of accident?”
The voice had been quiet enough, but Seven detected a few eyes on her including the worried ones of the Doctor. Nervousness shot through her thin frame, but Seven hid it, buried it deep, so she stood tall with her chin tipped up as she spoke in clear, even tones. “No, I was not in an accident. Kathryn Janeway rescued me from the Borg six years ago.”
For a moment the gregarious old woman seemed speechless, but that was not meant to be. She let out an astonished laugh before she hugged Seven to her plump body. “Of course, of course, you’re Seven of Nine! My little Katie told me a bit about you. She said you were a wonderful person. Smart, brave, honorable. She didn’t, however, mention what a looker you are.”
Seven could feel her chest warm by the words that her former Captain had spoken to the white haired woman. Though her metallic encased eyebrow did rise at the last statement. “What is… ‘a looker’?”
“Oh, my Katie was right, you are wonderful.” Marti handed Seven the dark blue tunic before she winked at her. “If I was sixty years younger, you’d be in trouble.”
“I would be?” Seven pulled the thick tunic over her gray undershirt as she watched the woman walk away to approach Miral and her parents.
The Doctor had watched the exchange with large dark eyes, and only when the white haired woman departed did he make his approach. He had heard and could see Seven’s confusion as to what had just transpired and he was charmed by it. “She meant that you’re a very attractive woman, Seven, and that if she was your age she’d try to have a romantic relationship with you.”
“Indeed.” Seven rarely if ever blushed, but the warmth in her cheeks indicated that this was one of those rare times.
“All right, now that you’re all at least half-way presentable, follow me.” The white haired, rotund woman hadn’t waited to see if anyone had followed as she seemed to just assume that they would as she walked sturdily down the long hallway, through a dining room that was casual and well-used, and then to two thin wooden doors that the woman pressed her hands against to allow entry.
“Katie-bug’s crew finally made it.” The woman was barely within the kitchen before her proclamation had ringed out and the people behind her seemed instantly paralyzed by the women within.
Something akin to fear washed over Seven in a cold wave as she watched the two women as they almost simultaneously shifted their attentions away from food preparation to look upon the assembled crew.
At the gray marble topped island in the middle of the large old fashioned kitchen, Phoebe had dropped her small knife next to the half diced up carrots on the cutting board before she wiped her hands on a nearby towel and stood from the kitchen stool. The willowy frame of the dark red haired woman seemed tense beneath the simple, loose fitting dark green dress she wore; her blues eyes were alight with something that bespoke danger, a warning.
A few feet away from her youngest daughter, Gretchen Janeway settled the recently baked bread onto a cooling rack before she too wiped her hands clean utilizing her floral printed apron which she soon pulled off to let settle on top of a nearby counter. The petite silver haired woman brought her thin arms around herself as if cold, unlike her daughter, the dark blue eyes of a woman known by many for her warmth were dull and she looked exhausted and though still an elegant and lovely woman, she looked all of her seventy-one years.
Seven could sense through the elevated heart rates that an acute anxiousness settled over the Starfleet officers as the two women looked evenly at them for what seemed like a very long moment. And finally the tense silence was broken as Gretchen Janeway’s lips curved into a small sad smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “I know that we would have all liked to have seen each other under much better circumstances, but that apparently wasn’t meant to be. I’m glad that you could come. It… feels right that you should be here. Kathryn’s family.”
Gretchen Janeway wasn’t the energetic woman Seven remembered, but the older woman still had the same graciousness, the same warmth, and air of ageless wisdom and Seven felt comforted by it. And by the warm embrace that Seven was treated to by Mrs. Janeway before she offered the same welcome to the other Starfleet officers who in turn whispered their earnest condolences into her shiny silver hair as she nodded her head and gripped them a bit stronger.
If Gretchen Janeway felt put out by the stranger known as Jarem Kaz she didn’t indicate it as she too embraced the man with her thin, but strong arms. There was a definite shimmering of barely contained tears in the kind blue eyes of the Trill doctor as he looked upon the woman who had raised the extraordinary woman they had all gathered at the aged farmhouse to remember. He had been momentarily caught off guard when the petite woman had hugged him to her, but he had recovered quickly and reveled in the comfort he had found so easily in the arms of this woman. Even in the midst of the incredible pain this woman was no doubt feeling, she offered great solace to them.
Phoebe, unlike her mother, exuded an almost palpable energy, the younger sister of their former Captain had possessed the same when some had met her previously, but this time that energy wasn’t friendly or bubbly, this time the energy bespoke anger, contained but perhaps just barely. The woman’s bright blue eyes were narrowed as she glared at the collection of Starfleet officers whom she had felt had little place here, even though she knew rationally that her sister had considered them family. So it was with little surprise that she did not offer her arms for comfort, but instead crossed them over her chest and stood tensely next to the island.
Martha Janeway, who had poured herself a rather large amount of an amber colored liquid after she had entered the kitchen, could easily detect the tension that radiated off of her niece and so with one last finishing drink she took the dark red haired woman’s arm into her hand and led her out of the room with a simple and light order. “Come now, Phoebes, let’s get the living room ready, all right?”
Seven watched with purposefully concealed concern as the large, white haired woman hastily led Phoebe Janeway out of the kitchen with a swing of double wooden doors left in their wake. There had been something in Phoebe’s blue eyes when they had rested upon her that had filled Seven with a feeling of shame and guilt. She wondered if Phoebe knew what the ex-drone’s part had been in the destruction of Kathryn Janeway. And Seven felt an almost debilitating fear that the red haired woman knew full well. The hand that touched her shoulder startled Seven and a quiet, but noticeable sound of surprise emitted from her lips.
“Seven?” The Doctor’s brow creased in worry as he let his arm drop to his side. If the Doctor didn’t know the woman better he would have thought she was frightened of some unseen horror, he had never known her to be scared or insecure so he wondered at her distraction. “Are you all right?”
Too absorbed with thoughts of the Endgame virus, Seven hadn’t noticed as individuals had left the fragrant kitchen, each had been loaded with food items to be carried into the expansive living room. She could discern that the Doctor was worried about her, but she did not feel deserving of such sentiments. How was she to tell the Doctor that the virus was still contained within her? The virus that had destroyed the Borg cube, that had killed Kathryn Janeway.
“We should join the others.” Seven did what she had become quite accomplished at doing; she buried her emotions and brought an impassive mask to her narrow features.
Thank you, Seven.
Seven’s gait had almost faltered when the voice of her former Captain had sounded in her mind. Those words had echoed frequently the last several hours. She feared that it would be a constant phenomenon, to have to hear the last three words that the beloved woman would ever utter. Seven also feared that it wouldn’t be.
“Come now, Phoebes, let’s get the living room ready, all right?”
Phoebe felt her aunt’s insistence in the hand that grasped her arm, and as she had when she was a child she obeyed the woman’s wishes. Although her almost forced exit had not deterred her from shooting one last pointed look mixed with betrayal, disgust, and fury at the gathered Starfleet officers and one blonde haired woman in particular.
Phoebe Janeway had been utterly fascinated by the former Borg woman her older sister had introduced her mother and her to at the homecoming celebration. A striking woman with golden hair and icy blue eyes, narrow but attractive features with full lips that rarely showed the woman’s emotions, but a formfitting suit that left little to the imagination had been presented to Phoebe that day. The visible metallic implants that adorned the woman’s face and hand displayed what the woman had gone through and Phoebe had felt an overwhelming sense of sympathy.
The letters she had received from her older sister had depicted this… Seven of Nine as supremely intelligent, selfless, strong-willed, caring, and with a burgeoning sense of humor that at times seemed misplaced but always enjoyable. Phoebe had detected a hint of something in her sister’s voice when she had spoken of Seven that went beyond the overt tones of pride, admiration, and friendly affection. There had been an extreme lightness, a wistfulness that bespoke a woman who held the woman she spoke of as quite important and dear to her, someone she loved immensely. Phoebe had wondered at that and had even went as far as to needle her sister about it but her needling had been rebuffed quickly and severely by a rather long-winded and stern lecture about appropriateness, moral integrity, and an unrelenting denouncement of Phoebe’s maturity level. Being quite accustomed to her sister’s prim and proper ways, Phoebe had not been too put out but she had stopped her teasing.
What Phoebe hadn’t expected upon meeting the Seven of Nine was how the almost Vulcan like woman lost her impassive expression that almost seemed plastered on when she had stood next to her Captain and had been introduced to Phoebe and Gretchen. Phoebe was a master at detecting the nuances of emotions displayed on faces and through body language and what she had seen in Seven at that moment had told her much about the young woman and about her sister.
Seven had stood slightly behind her Captain in what Phoebe had considered a protective stance. Who or what Seven had thought her Captain had needed to be guarded against Phoebe hadn’t a clue. But there it was, as if Seven had been the sole protector of her charge, the Captain. Then the shifting of alert blue eyes had ended abruptly when her older sister had laid a hand on Seven’s upper arm and those icy eyes had warmed perceptibly as she looked upon the Captain with what Phoebe later decided was deeply held devotion. Phoebe had seen similar expressions upon many of the others, who had been a part of Voyager’s crew, but this look had definitely made Phoebe take note and with little surprise her mother had also picked up on it. During their transport back to the Janeway farm, the two women had spoken quite seriously about what they had both seen, but neither had been able to draw any irrefutable conclusions.
Seven’s affectionate expression had contained nothing as base as lust or longing when she had looked upon her Captain. It had been an expression riddled with complexity and beautiful in its simplicity. Seven of Nine loved her Captain, unconditionally. It seemed such an absolute as to be fact. A woman who had lost her humanity at only six years of age only to be thrust back into it eighteen years later had, over the course of four years, found it again in the woman who had given it back to her mercilessly. And that four year journey, Phoebe had been fully aware of, had not always gone smoothly.
Phoebe had been driven to tears by some of the tales of the heated disagreements between Seven and the Captain through her sister’s correspondence. Phoebe knew full well how stubborn her sister could be and if this Seven person had managed to break through that inflexibility, good for her. That was always what Phoebe had always thought would be good for her older sister, someone who could challenge her. Not many were capable of the feat, but this Seven of Nine had seemed more than accomplished at the task.
The look of acute nervousness that had settled upon Seven’s features when she had been introduced to the two Janeway women also relayed significant information to Phoebe. Seven hadn’t seemed entirely nervous or even interested when she had been greeted by many of he other crewmember’s families, but when she had been presented with Phoebe and Gretchen that had clearly changed. It hadn’t been a demonstrative display, but it had been obvious to Phoebe and she had tried to be less energetic or what her sister had referred to as “obnoxious”. Although that had not stopped her from the warm hug she had given Seven after Gretchen Janeway had allowed Seven release from her own.
But now in her childhood home as she absently and noisily placed a basket of clanking silverware on a long wooden table clothed in white cotton, Phoebe felt no inclination or desire to hug Seven of Nine. In fact it had taken a considerable and drawn out lecture, a few warnings, and finally a plea on behalf of what Kathryn would have wanted from her barely contained mother to convince Phoebe that a physical altercation with Seven would not only be unwise, unhelpful, and uncouth but would also have disappointed Kathryn immensely. Phoebe had ultimately relented to her mother’s wishes and had promised to rein in her anger as best she could. Phoebe’s fury at the woman who she had thought loved her sister so greatly, so purely, and yet had not saved her, in fact had been the implement in which her sister had been killed, was settled at the pit of her stomach in a hot and heavy mass. No, Phoebe’s cheeks flushed with her rising temper, she had no desire to hug that… that Borg.
The fragrant smells of pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, steamed assorted vegetables, fresh baked bread, vegetable biryani, and a number of other aromatic food items suffused the air of the wood enfolded living room of the Janeway homestead as a steady stream of long distance and extended relatives, neighbors, childhood friends and teachers of Kathryn Janeway tried to bestow their greatest sympathies to all present, especially onto Gretchen and Phoebe.
The silver haired matriarch received the solemn compassionate words with soft words of gratitude and even softer smiles of appreciation. Gretchen knew that those who came to her home this evening were there to pay their respects to the woman they had all known at one time or another, one form or another, and she did appreciate the sentiments but a part of her was annoyed to have to offer words of comfort to these visitors.
Gretchen would always nod in agreement at every accolade said to her regarding Kathryn. If truth be told it was getting a bit redundant and disingenuous to hear these people talk of her daughter as if they had even known her for the past decade, perhaps even more time than that. Gretchen shook off the uncharitable thoughts and chalked it up to fatigue. She was aware that she was exhausted, physically and emotionally, but people needed this time, Phoebe needed this time, to come to terms with the death of Kathryn before the funeral and more importantly, before the memorial service in San Francisco that was sure to be filled to the brim by the highest of Starfleet brass speaking words that seemed so well rehearsed to be completely and utterly inane.
“Here, dear, you look like you might need this.”
Gretchen’s attention was taken away from the woman who had been Kathryn’s tennis coach all those years ago to Martha Janeway, her late husband’s rather gregarious, sometimes obnoxious, older sister and she smiled. The first true smile she had presented in the last hour or so. Martha placed a small glass tumbler filled with a strong smelling gold colored liquid in her hand and she accepted it hesitantly. In the last hour, in true Irish tradition, many toasts were made in Kathryn’s name and Gretchen wasn’t entirely sure that a strong drink was what she really needed. Martha obviously thought otherwise.
The two Janeway women had not always been in agreement about a great many things; child-rearing and marriage just among the many subjects, but Gretchen knew how Martha had so greatly adored her daughters and Kathryn especially. Phoebe had never had the patience or calm for Martha Janeway’s usually lengthy tales about the great and honorable ancestry of the Janeway name, but Kathryn had always sat in rapt attention when her aunt had relayed story after story. Kathryn had always been especially and deeply enthralled with any story that contained the illustrious Shannon O’Donnell Janeway and the Millennium Gate.
Gretchen thought about the hesitant way her oldest daughter had carefully and regretfully informed her aunt that Shannon O’Donnell had not in fact been the enterprising woman Martha had thought she had been. To Kathryn’s great shock, her Aunt Martha had simply smiled and told her niece that stories shouldn’t be overburdened by facts.
When she had been informed of the death of Kathryn, Martha had taken the first transport from Cuba to Indiana almost before the communication between her and Gretchen had been disconnected. And now, for the last several hours, Martha had been a source of strength and comfort for Gretchen and she was thankful for that. Despite her rather taciturn nature, Martha had a steady strength that Gretchen held onto for support. And, most importantly, Martha kept reminding her of how Kathryn wouldn’t want grief and sorrow in her honor, but love, remembrance, and humor. And family.
Family… which brought Gretchen to the consideration of the small group of Starfleet officers who she knew without looking stood awkwardly around as people who they could not know asked how they had known Kathryn. “We were part of her crew” would be the resounding answer. Gretchen knew full well that they were more than that. Seven years together had created a bond between the senior officers onboard Voyager that was unbreakable, even in death.
Kathryn hadn’t spoken much about herself during those seven years, but she had regaled Gretchen and Phoebe with numerous stories about her crew; some were quite harrowing, others hilarious, and all were said with a great deal of emotion. It was through those stories that the two women had been able to acquaint themselves with this new Kathryn, one they recognized, but still didn’t fully know. Seven long years always being the Captain had changed Kathryn. She had become more relaxed within her own commanding presence and unrelenting energy, but had also seemed constantly alert as if an unforeseen danger was always looming on the horizon, a woman who had hardened somewhat but at the same time had allowed her subordinates closer to her heart than any other.
When Gretchen had first seen her eldest daughter disembark and enter the throng of families, she had barely recognized the self-contained and authoritative woman who had walked towards her and Phoebe, but then Kathryn had smiled, Gretchen had almost forgotten how bright that smile could be, how warm and loving, and then they had embraced one another and the tears were unsuccessfully kept at bay. And Gretchen knew she had finally been given her daughter back. That had been over two years ago, she was given only two years before her daughter was stolen from her again. Only this time, she would never get her back. And Gretchen felt sick at that reality.
“Gretchen, it isn’t proper to let an old woman to drink alone.”
Martha’s teasing voice brought Gretchen out of her thoughts before she brought the glass to her lips and imbibed a small amount of the cool liquid that heated her throat on the way to her stomach. The coldness that had been a formed and heavy mass thawed when the drink settled and Gretchen leaned in to the ample warmth of her sister-in-law. Gretchen held onto one of Martha’s hands with her own and moved them towards the kitchen, away from the people gathered.
“You just say the word and I’ll hustle people out.” Martha’s voice was serious and entreating and Gretchen had to smile at the tone.
“No, no, we’re not the only ones who… who loved Kathryn, they need this time as well.” As the words escaped her quietly, Gretchen knew that she too needed this time. She had made herself be the strong one, the one to support her daughter, Kathryn’s crew, everyone… but perhaps that wasn’t what she needed to be now. And as she felt the arms of her sister-in-law enfold her petite form, Gretchen allowed the tears of anguish and loss to fall once again.
Seven could not think of a time in her life when she had felt more uneasy in a crowd than she did at this very moment. Many eyes had fallen on her in the last seventy-four minutes; curious mostly and some fearful, but the stares had all been averted quickly to the mother of Kathryn Janeway and Seven had been left mostly alone with her former crewmates.
The small group of Starfleet officers had sequestered themselves in a corner away from the food and near the fireplace. The eyes of the officers flitted sporadically towards the numerous photographs situated on top of the mantle for they had already examined the pictures studiously when they had first entered. But they still could not help when their gaze was drawn to the photos of their former commanding officer in her many guises and years of age.
A number of the pictures had elicited warm smiles, a few softly released chuckles, but mostly eyes that misted over with emotion. A few especially caught their attentions. One in particular displayed a rather plump image of their former Captain as a girl of about six with wavy flame red hair that fell about the well-worn leather jacket that contained a pair of gold wings pinned to the front. The child smiled so happily, so carelessly, her liberally freckled cheeks rounded fully with the grin. It was a grin that they thought they were fully aware of but they had never seen it so unburdened in all their time with their Captain and their hearts caught at the sight.
The other photograph which fascinated them had been taken much more recently. The newly appointed Admiral had been out of uniform when the picture had been taken, clad in a V-necked black sweater with her shoulder length auburn hair curled around her bare collarbones and a contemplative expression had made her look thoughtful, relaxed, and beautiful. The pale pallor of years in space had been replaced by a sun touched complexion and the freckles that had been numerous in childhood had reemerged more subtly but just as endearingly.
“It’s not fair.” Tom’s voice was soft, gentler than was characteristic of the sometimes brash and frivolous man. “She got us all home and now… now she’s gone.”
B’Elanna held her slumbering daughter in one arm and her husband in the other as she nodded her head. She felt tears caused by a mixture of sorrow and anger form in her dark eyes. “I just wish the damned Collective would finally be gone for good.”
“As do I.” Seven’s voice was hard and sincere, but she knew better than anyone how resilient the Borg were and she had her doubts that the Collective had been completely destroyed despite the great decimation caused by one determined woman.
Kathryn Janeway had bested the Borg against Species 8472, taken Seven of Nine from her Queen, stolen technology from a sphere, instigated a resistance movement within the Collective via her involvement with Unimatrix Zero, destroyed one of only six transwarp hubs, stopped an assimilation virus from sweeping Earth, and finally destroyed the most powerful vessel the Borg had ever devised. That much devastation, even the Borg couldn’t recover from anytime soon.
“We should have been there.” Harry’s tone was low and held regret and admonishment. “Voyager should have been there. Maybe we could have helped.” .
The truth that if the Voyager crew had been there with their former Captain, they would have most likely been assimilated as the Einstein crew had been did not detract from the certainty in Harry Kim’s voice. Somehow, they would have made it through, he had reasoned, they had been in worst spots than battling one lone Borg cube.
“I don’t get it. She didn’t even tell any of us she was planning on going to that damned cube. It wouldn’t have been a problem; she wouldn’t have even needed to ask.” Tom took his slumbering daughter from his wife’s arms as he welcomed the comfort of the small form. “We would have offered Voyager. Hell, she had the authority to requisition even the Enterprise.”
Tom shared his best friend’s belief that if Voyager and her crew had been there, perhaps the Admiral wouldn’t have been lost to them. With her trusted ship and steadfast crew, Admiral Janeway would have, as she had done so many times in the past, triumphed over the seemingly unbeatable opponent.
“It was something she had to do alone.” Chakotay’s voice was as sure as Harry’s for he knew Kathryn Janeway and why she had gone to the cube with only a small vessel and an even smaller crew.
Kathryn had to face her demons. She had helped the Borg defeat Species 8472 in a war that would have led to the demise of the Collective, but at the time, she had thought it would have led to the destruction of the rest of the galaxy as well. She had made a deal with the devil and despite Chakotay knowing she would never openly admit to such vulnerability, it had affected her immensely. Assisting the resistance from Unimatrix Zero and destroying the hub had not only been her way of dealing blows against the Borg but also to repent for her assistance in their survival.
Most understood Chakotay’s words, but it did not ease the feelings of guilt and the thoughts of “what ifs”. Her crew should have been there, to save her or to die with her in defense against the Borg. Instead they had all been nestled safely in their respective places and only saw from afar the great threat that had been upon them, while their former Captain had been turned into a perverse and hideous parody of herself. Her body, her mind, perhaps her very soul had been twisted and mutilated, locked away and suffocated under the thoughts of billions, stripped and disfigured. She had been turned into the devil incarnate and the horrid being that had emerged had reveled in it. Only one of them had seen what Kathryn Janeway had been transformed into, but Seven had not spoken to any of them with much detail about what she had seen. Truthfully, they weren’t fully prepared to ask and they had figured she wasn’t prepared to tell.
The last true conversation Seven had participated in with Admiral Janeway filled her thoughts with the weighted and simple truth that Seven might have been capable of preventing the events that had led to Janeway’s death.
They had been in the Admiral’s office at Starfleet Command; Seven had completed her thorough analysis of the cube and had deemed it inert, dead, and as harmless as anything having to do with the Borg could ever be. Though Seven had no data to support her trepidation, when the Admiral had told her she intended to board the cube to further study it the former Borg drone had been disturbed by the prospect of her former Captain boarding even an inactive cube.
“You may want to consider waiting for a time, just to be certain.” Seven’s hands were clasped tightly together against her back as she held her chin up in an almost confrontational fashion, her voice had bordered on entreating.
Admiral Janeway leaned against the back of her chair as she appraised Seven with her piercing blue-gray gaze. Her voice was sincerely curious as she replied. “How long a time?”
Janeway watched Seven consider her question, she could almost see the thought processes like churning wheels behind the icy blue eyes of her former Astrometrics officer turned advisor and professor for Starfleet.
And when Seven replied it was with the utmost certainty, very close to commanding. “Ten years would be sufficient.”
Janeway smirked, laughter barely restrained, as she nodded her head, amused, but also deeply touched at the protective stance Seven was obviously displaying. The Admiral’s tone was lightly sardonic as she made her reply. “Are you suggesting that for the next ten years I shouldn’t hesitate to send officers, scientists, and such to inspect the cube to their heart’s content, but I personally should give it as much distance as possible?”
Seven either didn’t pick up on the tone or chose not to as her response was quick and serious. “That sounds to me like the ideal strategy.”
Again she was touched by the show of concern, Janeway’s expression softened, but her voice held the steeliness of her authority as she questioned the young woman and wondered about her motives. “And what sort of message would that send?”
As she thought about the question posed to her, Seven’s head tilted to one side while she maintained her eye contact with the seated woman before her. A woman she loved deeply, fully, guardedly. But as the truth came to her mind she spoke them earnestly as she was not accustomed to lying, especially to the Admiral. “I was not concerned about messages, merely about attending to your safety, to keeping you alive.”
Admiral Janeway’s eyes were more blue than gray as she smiled at the honesty in Seven’s voice, but her eyes also held resolve. And once Kathryn Janeway’s mind was set, nothing could deter it. Not even the concern of a woman she cared for immensely. She had to go to the cube. She had to see the Collective vanquished once and for all.
“Sometimes in order to feel alive, one has to take chances with one’s safety.” As the words escaped between her lips, Janeway wondered at them and knew they were the truth.
When was the last time she felt truly alive back here in Alpha Quadrant? Probably almost two years ago when the Borg virus had swept Earth and she and her former crew had defied Starfleet Command in order to save Seven, Icheb, and the Doctor and really Earth itself. As hard as it had been in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway missed the constant energizing quality traveling through the unknown always filled her with. How ironic that as a Captain of one of the smallest ships in the Fleet in an unexplored and often times dangerous quadrant she had felt more in control of her own destiny than as a high ranking Admiral in the heart of Starfleet and the Federation. She had been the Captain, the lone authority with the responsibility of more than a hundred people on her shoulders for so long that she had forgotten what it was like to just be Kathryn Janeway. She had feared that she simply could not just be Kathryn, so she had immersed herself in her Admiralty and it had proven over the course of two years to be immensely… unsatisfying. But Janeway knew what was making her so restless, she missed being at the helm of a starship, doing what she had set out to do from the very beginning of her studies at the Academy. To explore, to discover, to seek out. The added sense of danger the unexplored offered her was also lost to her as she went through the sometimes interesting but usually tedious tasks of being an Admiral. She needed to feel that danger again, even if it was more imaginary than anything else since the cube was about as dangerous as a piece of space rock.
Seven apparently didn’t agree because her icy blue eyes narrowed as her voice became that tone Janeway had heard many times before. The tone that seemed to say “Captain, you are being unwise in your decision making.” It was the tone that made Janeway even more determined to have it her way. The voice held something else that Janeway couldn’t readily identify but it seemed an odd mixture of regret and resignation. “No. One really does not.”
Seven was brought out of her remembrance by Chakotay’s somber voice. “It was something she had to do alone.”
“She was not alone.” Seven’s voice rose as it filled with self-castigation, remorse, and disgust. “I was there.”
Seven felt the tears spring to her right eye and she rushed away from her former crewmates before she moved swiftly through the crowd as she heard voices call her name in concern.
How could they understand that it was Seven who could have stopped the Admiral from going to the cube by stating that it was unsafe despite the data to the contrary, or that she could have asked to accompany the Admiral onto the cube and probably would have been allowed due to her expertise and familiarity, that she could have been with the Admiral even after assimilation and been with her forever. How could they understand the loneliness that she had discovered within her Admiral when they had met on the mental plane of the Hive mind, how she had felt within herself the anguish and strength that allowed the Admiral to overcome her imprisonment within the Borg Queen, how Seven had been with her former Captain when she had died as she uttered three simple words filled with more complex emotions than Seven could easily identify. But she knew what one of the feelings was and it had filled Seven with an overwhelming sense of despair and joy and endless regret.
Thank you, Seven.
And with those three words, Seven had known, and did know, her Captain, her Admiral, her friend, her counsel, her mentor, her constant guide and inspiration to regaining her humanity had also been… her great love.
“Don’t you think one of us should go after her?” The Doctor’s holographic arm had been clasped tightly by B’Elanna’s who forestalled his movement as she shook her head.
“If she wanted to talk to us, she wouldn’t have run off like that.” B’Elanna and Seven were not the best of friends, but the half-Klingon was perceptive enough to know that what Seven needed now was not the Doctor or anyone else trying to either cheer her up or sympathize with her.
B’Elanna knew what it was like to lose someone close to her, but even more so, to be the cause of that loss. Nearly two years ago, her mother, Miral, had died in her arms from a knife wound that B’Elanna herself had inflicted in order to maintain Miral’s honor and to stop the suffering that her mother hadn’t wanted to endure in front of her daughter. There were times when B’Elanna could still feel the warm sickening dampness of her mother’s blood on her hands. She figured Seven, having to be the carrier for the virus that had destroyed the cube and its Queen, felt similarly.
“I think B’Elanna’s right, Doctor.” Jarem Kaz’s kind blue eyes looked off to where Seven had just departed. He suspected he knew the underlying meaning to Seven’s words, but knew he wouldn’t and shouldn’t be the one to voice them. “She needs some space.”
Chakotay could feel a flush of anger warm his body as he wondered about all this concern for Seven and more importantly Seven’s rather uncharacteristically demonstrative display. He felt as if he was missing a large piece of the puzzle, he had a semblance of an idea of what that piece could entail and with that another wave of anger mixed with jealousy filled his large frame. He had lost the woman he loved, but it was Seven who was being treated almost as if she were now a widow. If there had been any sort of vocal complaint from Chakotay it was forestalled by the entrance of one man whom he had heard of, seen brief images of, and had been furiously jealous of for several long years.
Martha had reluctantly allowed her sister-in-law freedom from her embrace as more people entered the home to extend their sympathies to the woman who had just lost her daughter. She watched with concerned gray eyes as Gretchen stood tall and gracious, though with an almost visible weight that pressed down upon her slim shoulders. Martha Janeway didn’t understand the point of a wake; they were uncomfortable and solemn at best. So she decided to do what was traditional for her people during such a ceremony, she pushed her large frame into the kitchen to get herself another drink. The one she had just poured herself a few minutes ago was now in the hands of her sister-in-law.
The sorry vision that greeted her as she entered raised her hackles; Phoebe Janeway sat despondently at the small breakfast nook with a bottle of Martha’s most prized whiskey, mostly empty, in her slim hands as she dozed against the wall.
“Phoebe Elsa Janeway, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Martha pushed her lumbering form quickly towards her young niece, her voice filled with disapproval as she pulled the nearly empty bottle from the limp grasp of Phoebe Janeway. “That was my special bottle! And you didn’t even take the time to enjoy it.”
Phoebe gurgled out an indecipherable response as her heavy eyelids fluttered, but she remained slumped against the wall.
After Martha carefully poured the rest of the contents of the bottle into her glass, she brought a hypospray out from one of her deep and concealed pockets. With a soft hiss, the mixture of detoxifying serum and a strong stimulant brought Phoebe into consciousness abruptly and with a pounding headache that her aunt had apparently not deemed it necessary to relieve.
“Oh, god, my head…” Phoebe’s mass of red curls fell in thick waves down her back, over her shoulders, and across the sides of her face as she bent over the table with her head held in her hands. She was in the midst of deciding whether to throw up here in the kitchen or outside when the strong unmistakable smell of coffee hit her squarely in the face as the mug was placed on top of the table. She released her hold on her pounding head as she grasped the mug and brought the steaming bitter liquid to her lips.
As she nursed her tumbler filled with aged whiskey, Martha seated herself across from her niece on the wooden bench. Her gray eyes narrowed as she watched Phoebe take tentative sips of the strong coffee. “Do you want to tell me why you’ve been hiding away in here for the last hour? Your mother has been having to deal with all those godforsaken people on her own you know. I’m sure they all mean well but what do they expect from her, I just don’t know. I’ve never liked these wakes, if you ask me they’re stuffy and uncomfortable. But you’re not making it any easier for your mother.”
“What do you expect from me?” Phoebe groaned as the coffee settled uneasily in her stomach, her blue eyes didn’t look up from her hands for she could already well imagine the expression on her aunt’s face.
“I don’t expect anything from you, Phoebes.” Martha put the pad of her index finger underneath the other woman’s chin and raised it so that blue eyes would finally meet her own steady gaze of sympathy mixed evenly with firmness. “I know you’re in pain. That you’re hurting and angry and feeling the loss deeply, but you’re not the only one who lost Kathryn.”
“Those people didn’t lose Kathryn.” Phoebe pushed away from the table fiercely as she stood and towered over her aunt. Her eyes blazed with a renewed anger that the copious amounts of alcohol had dulled for a little while until her aunt had decided to intervene. “They never had her. They were just her crew. I’m her sister. Her family. Not them!”
Martha watched as the heat of Phoebe’s anger colored her high cheekbones and the pale lightly freckled skin of her neck and upper chest and finally began to understand this woman’s fury. In a lighter voice unaccustomed to the woman she voiced her certainty. “You’re jealous for no reason, Phoebe. They didn’t replace you or your mother or hell even me. They merely joined the ranks of Kathryn’s family.”
“I. Am not. Jealous.” Even as she stated the words stridently as her fury filled her with heat, she knew that the words were simply not true. She was jealous, she had been extremely jealous.
After having been apart for seven years, Phoebe had barely recognized the woman her sister had become. The easy confidence and authoritative presence, the darkly laced and scathing sense of humor, the cynical perception of those around her, the voice that had lowered over the years to give it a hard and unrelenting timbre, and the unease in which Kathryn had interacted with her family had replaced the woman who she had hugged good-bye at Voyager’s launch ceremony. This unknown entity that her sister had become carried herself with self-assurance which bordered closely to arrogance and a superior air as if Kathryn Janeway knew something important that no else could. Her sister had always seemed to seek the approval of those around her whether it be from an instructor, an admiral, and especially their own father but when she had returned gone were her concerns of what others thought of her, her accomplishments and achievements even her mistakes and rule breaking had all been summed up and dismissed with four simple words that spoke volumes… I was the Captain. And with those words a heaviness almost visible had seemed to lay on her sister’s shoulders. Gone were the easy smiles and unrestrained laughter, every emotional response seemed a forethought, as if Kathryn would decide which emotion she would display and to what extent before it was allowed to show on her expression or her tone.
Even two years after Kathryn’s return, Phoebe had still felt estranged from her sister. They had rarely spoken to each other in the last few years and had seen each other even less. Her mother would always tell her in that understanding, soft voice of hers that Kathryn would need time to reacquaint herself with her home, her planet, what the Federation had become after almost being destroyed in the Dominion War. But it didn’t seem that Kathryn took much time at all after she came back. She had always been either at Starfleet Command or off on a mission and had seemingly worked nonstop after being promoted to Admiral. Kathryn had always had an unrelenting energy but after her travels through the Delta Quadrant that energy had turned into something well contained, molded into an air of unrelenting command, and something that seemed almost dangerous as if someone could easily get burned by standing too close to her.
When Phoebe had questioned her sister regarding her unceasing missions Kathryn had merely looked at her patiently and stated that the Federation needed all the assistance it could to rebuild and that she had a responsibility as a Starfleet officer. The belief that that sense of responsibility was something that Phoebe could never understand wasn’t spoken, but the meaning had seemed clear in her sister’s patiently condescending words.
Kathryn had always been the responsible one, the person who had direction in life, a set purpose, lofty goals, and the ambition and abilities to attain them all. Phoebe, on the other hand, had always been the free-spirit, unburdened by things such a rules and protocol, of such structural constraints and linear path through life. Kathryn had not always been understanding of their differences but she had never made Phoebe feel like a failure or a person she simply had no time for… until her sister had returned home. More often than not, Phoebe had felt like another responsibility loaded onto her sister that would only take precedence after the Federation was returned to its former strength and glory. Her sister had just not had the time to be entangled with the carefree life of Phoebe.
So, after seven long years of hoping and praying that her sister would return to them, when she finally did she seemed even farther away in the same space than she had in all of those years away in a distant part of another quadrant. And at this very moment Phoebe Janeway seated across from her aged aunt she realized the truth. She had lost her sister over nine years ago; it was only now that she realized that fact and also the knowledge that it was permanent.
(to be continued)