Written: Sept - Dec 2005
Symmetry (n.) Exact correspondence of form on opposite sides of a dividing line
Codes: J/7 (Alternative Universe)
Timeline: This story is set at a time equivalent to near the end of Season Seven in the canon universe.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount (sort of), this is just a bit of fun. A warning – this story features all female action, so look away now if that’s not your thing.
Thanks: To MercyCroft and Jay for beta reading duties
Alternative Universe Synopsis:
In this alternative universe Kes ascended to a higher state two weeks earlier than in the canon universe, at a time equivalent to just before the start of season four. At this time she bestowed her “gift” of safe passage past Borg space to Voyager. Though this meant the crew never had to encounter the Borg or Species 8472, it also meant they never met or freed Seven of Nine from the Collective. Fast-forward nearly four years to near the end of season seven…
Seven of Nine sat down at a table in the seedy bar, picked up the drink before her and took a deep breath. She paused for a second once it reached her lips, already able to smell it’s acrid stench. Gathering herself she tipped it down her throat, baulking at the harsh taste. The sound of laughter filtered through to her as she realised she had scrunched her eyes shut in disgust. Opening them she shot a withering look at her companion who was chortling to himself.
“That is their mildest drink, and still you can’t hack it,” noted Tarin with a shake of the head.
“It is…offensive,” Seven replied, looking disdainfully down at her glass. It was nearly a year since she’d been severed from the Borg Collective and still she had trouble with simple things like eating and drinking.
She placed it back down, glancing around to view the clientele of the bar that evening. Amongst them she could see a few of her co-workers from the power plant on the station. She could identify them not because she knew them well, but because they still wore the same work overalls as she did. The rest of the bar was filled with the usual mix of the disaffected and the depressed. She’d only been on the space station for a month or so and that was more than enough for her to conclude that it was not somewhere she wished to spend too much more. That left her with two problems – how did she get off the station and where would she go.
The first of those was more easily solved, whereas she had no idea about the second. She was sure she could find one of the many ships that passed through willing to take her on as a crewmember. One of the few advantages of being an ex-Borg drone was the vast knowledge she held in her brain and she would make a more than competent engineer or any other position that someone needed filling. Of course she didn’t make her skills too openly obvious, not unless she wanted one of the many people who held a grudge against the Borg to deduce her identity and carry out their own brand of retribution. She’d learnt from painful experience what could happen when people became aware of her background. That was what had led her to Outpost 47 in the first place, after she’d been hounded off the last space station.
Fortunately no one knew her here yet, and that’s how she liked to keep it. Her only confidant was Tarin, who sat with her now. He was one of her colleagues and his bubbly personality had been hard to say no to when he’d started asking questions to while away the mundane hours at work.
Seven was carrying out one last sweep of the room when her eyes suddenly met something of interest. She actually gasped as she saw the figure at the door, instantly recognising that they were another human – the first one she had seen outside the Collective in over twenty-one years. She immediately wanted to know more about the woman, watching as she crossed to the bustling bar. Seven turned her analytical eye on the compact form, striding with intent to its target. The woman was shorter than Seven herself, maybe by a few inches, but as Seven had already noted she held herself with a confidence that belied her size. Her hair was a dark red colour, auburn Seven believed was the correct description. Seven watched the play of the dull lights over it. She’d always liked red. Mentally shaking herself, Seven wondered where that illogical thought had come from.
Seven just managed to catch a glance at the woman’s face as she passed close by, committing the features to her eidetic memory for later study. The thing that had caught her attention on first look was the woman’s eyes. They were a pale blue-grey, but it wasn’t necessarily their colour that had engaged Seven’s interest – it was the look in them. They were eyes that had a tale to tell, ones that held sadness and despair, but also great power and hope. How Seven knew all this from just a brief glimpse, she didn’t know, but at the same time she was certain she was right.
As the woman reached the bar, Seven could see that the jostling crowd actually parted to grant her access. Obviously this woman was someone to be reckoned with; the lowlifes that frequented the bar didn’t normally show respect to anyone. Seven knew this from her hours spent just watching and studying their behaviour. She found the squalor of the bar repugnant, and she only came there to watch the myriad aliens and try to learn how to fit in better from her observations. It had not been easy for her adjusting to life outside the Collective and she often found that people would take offence at her manner when she hadn’t intended it. On more than one occasion Tarin had been required to step in and prevent a fight breaking out between Seven and the latest unsuspecting recipient of her conversational techniques. On a few other occasions he hadn’t been quick enough.
Fortunately, given her underlying Borg implants, Seven could more than handle herself when such encounters did descend into outright brawling, though she didn’t like having to resort to violence. She’d seen enough of that after twenty years with the Collective. Her opponents were often surprised when the seemingly slender woman bested them since Seven retained no outward sign of being a former drone bar the small metallic implant above her left eye, the starburst on her neck, just below her jaw line, and the mesh that covered her left hand. She considered that was fortunate, since she could usually pass off each of those as something other than of Borg origin.
She had to give the Patat-Damar credit – they had certainly done an impressive job when they’d rescued her. She even had a full head of blonde hair again now, though she secretly wished to have it even longer, thinking it highly annoying that humans had to wait months for it to grow. At least it was long enough to tie back now, having finally passed through the stage when all it seemed to do was get in her eyes. She’d been tempted to go back to having it short many a time during that phase.
Focussing on the other woman again, Seven could see that her hair was cut into a bob, the lines falling neatly about the smooth contours of her face, framing her high cheekbones. The woman was turning away from the bar, drink in hand, when Seven caught a brief flash of metal from under the short jacket she wore. Seven’s mechanical eye was able to zoom in and identify the phaser that she carried in a holster at her hip – a wise precaution in such an establishment. Seven did wonder if it was deliberate that the jacket didn’t quite obscure the weapon. The rest of the woman’s clothes matched the weather beaten appearance of the jacket – a faded red shirt, open at the neck, leading down to a pair of dusty black trousers and finally black boots. Her appearance led Seven to suspect she had been in a fair few scrapes of her own as was typical for most people who found themselves in this far flung corner of the galaxy. What Seven couldn’t quite work out was why the woman was there. Despite the clothes she seemed somehow out of place, almost like she was better than somewhere like the crumbling space station.
Seven had found that most people had a story behind what had brought them to Outpost 47, usually involving some misfortune or other. She keenly wanted to know what this woman’s story was. She was sitting now, alone in the corner, sipping at her drink, lost in her own thoughts.
“Who’s that?” Seven asked Tarin, trying to inconspicuously point.
Tarin followed her finger, his silver eyes peering through the gloom. They widened when he saw who she was indicating. “That’s our famous Starfleet captain, Kathryn Janeway,” he replied, “I haven’t seen her in here in a while. I suppose it was only a matter of time since The Paladin returned yesterday, minus one crew member I hear,” he added morbidly.
Seven knew of Starfleet. She knew of most things, thanks to the Borg. She accessed the appropriate information, recalling how Starfleet were a branch of the Federation, a collection of worlds joined by a common treaty. As far as she knew Starfleet were responsible for maintaining law and order within the Federation – no doubt they’d have a field day with somewhere like the space station, if it was ever sucked into their territory.
“She does not look much like a Starfleet captain,” noted Seven, “Unless they have changed their uniforms.”
“Oh, she’s not one anymore,” he explained, turning back to her, “The Paladin’s not a Starfleet ship, it’s a small smuggling ship like a good number of the others docked here, though she is the captain of it. She got kicked out of Starfleet for something or other. Now she’s out here, bumming around with the rest of us losers.”
Seven prickled at the assessment of the Captain as ‘loser’ thinking she didn’t like it much. “Why was she ‘kicked out’?” she asked, using Tarin’s colloquial term.
“No one knows the full story,” he noted mysteriously, “And she certainly doesn’t talk about it. She doesn’t really talk much to anyone but her crew.”
“Then why does she come here?”
“Who knows, maybe she likes the atmosphere? Anyway I did hear through the general scuttlebutt that she got her Federation ship, Voyager, lost in the Delta Quadrant for a good few years. When she finally did get back the bigwigs on Earth weren’t too happy with her.”
“Earth?” repeated Seven. It was not a name she heard often.
“Yes, you know, that small blue-green planet that you lot come from.”
Seven did know it, or at least of it. She knew it was where humans originated from, though she had never been there herself. She had never really had the desire to either, until now. Suddenly seeing this other human had sparked her interest in finding out more about where she came from. She wanted to learn more about being human in general and Tarin certainly wasn’t going to help her with that.
Seven got up from the table, starting for the far corner.
“Hey, where are you going?” Tarin cried after her.
“I wish to learn more about humanity,” Seven informed him matter-of-factly before continuing through the crowds to the Captain’s table.
Once she got there Seven stood before the table, straight and stiff as she always did, hands clasped behind her back. When this didn’t seem to garner any sort of response from the redhead before her she resorted to making a tiny cough at the back of her throat. The Captain’s head slowly swivelled round and up, her eyes fixing on Seven in a look that said the young woman better have a very good reason for disturbing her.
Seven didn’t respond immediately, experiencing a strange sensation and having to stop and assess it for a moment to deduce what it was. She realised that she was suddenly uncertain of her course, not something she was used to. The intensity of the look in the other woman’s eyes was disarming, shaking even Seven’s Borg bravado.
“My name is S…Annika Hansen. I am human like you.” Seven informed her, thinking it best to use her human name for the time being.
“Well bully for you!” noted the Captain sarcastically. “Was there something you wanted Miss S…Annika Hansen?”
The Captain’s eyes never wavered from Seven’s, pinning her in place where she stood. Seven may have been the one standing, but it was obvious who held the power in the conversation, even after only a few short exchanges. Seven opened her mouth mutely, wondering why no words were forthcoming. Maybe she was having trouble with her cortical node, she considered. It had been nearly two months since she’d last had the opportunity to have it checked.
“I want to join your crew,” Seven finally managed.
Instantly the Captain let out a barking laugh, slapping her hand nosily down on the table as she did. Some golden liquid jumped out of the glass before her and trickled across the worn surface. Seven looked nervously around the bar, seeing a number of dark eyes turning towards the sound of the disturbance.
“You want to join my crew?” repeated the Captain, still chuckling to herself. “I have to hand it to you, you’ve got some guts coming over here, but I’m afraid we don’t need any new crew members.”
It seemed the Captain considered the conversation was over, and was already turning back to her drink when Seven spoke up again.
“That is not entirely correct. I understand that one of your crewmen was killed on your last run.”
The Captain’s eyes were on her again in a flash, any hint of merriment gone from the stormy depths as they narrowed menacingly.
“And you want to replace him do you?” asked the Captain, her voice low and dangerous, matching her expression.
“Yes,” answered Seven simply.
Social behaviour wasn’t so alien to her for her not to know that the Captain’s question was more than likely a threat rather than an invite, but similarly Seven had learnt that it was best to stick to her own forthright manner in such situations. The Captain did actually appear to be considering Seven’s request for the barest of moments, her eyes silently appraising the young woman before her. Seven strained not to fidget under the scrutiny, keeping her hands tight behind her back.
Eventually the Captain shook her head. “I said we don’t need any new crew members,” she said dismissively, “And I meant it.”
The Captain shot up, sending her battered metal chair flying. “Am I not making myself clear?” she asked jutting out her chin as she stood so close that Seven could smell the faint waft of alcohol on her breath. “We don’t need any new crewmen. Especially not some stranger I just met in a bar. For all I know you could be a Federation spy of some kind, come to check up on the erstwhile Captain. You have to admit you’re pretty far off the beaten track for a human.”
Seven was faced with a dilemma. She desperately wanted to join the Captain’s crew, with a passion that surprised her. There was another unfamiliar emotion associated with that desire – excitement, anticipation? Seven couldn’t be sure, still being so unaccustomed to the amazing range of feeling she could experience since leaving the Collective. However, at the same time, she really didn’t want to have to tell the Captain the truth. She’d discovered early on that ex-borg generally weren’t welcome anywhere in the universe, even remote outposts like this one that attracted the dregs of society.
“I…grew up in the Delta Quadrant,” Seven replied. It wasn’t completely untrue after all.
“Really?” noted the Captain, her interest apparently piqued. Her face had noticeably softened into a look of wistful remembrance before suddenly the harsh mask was slammed back down again. “Or is that what they told you to say to try and get me interested?”
“No, it is the truth.”
Seven could sense the conversation was teetering on a knife-edge. She also had the distinct impression that it could quite possibly be the most important discussion she’d ever had in her life - whatever happened in the next few moments would shape her very future.
“Oi! I’m speaking to you!”
The introduction of a third person to the conversation was not one of the options Seven had anticipated and she looked to the side to see one of the other patrons of the bar standing next to them waving the Captain’s discarded chair.
“Is this yours?” he demanded. He was of a species Seven was not familiar with, having not seen one of his kind in the bar before. His entire face and most likely his body was covered in short, sandy coloured hair, a pair of yellow eyes looking sternly at them from amongst the fur.
“Yes,” answered the Captain unrepentantly, “Thank you for returning it.” She took the chair off him and placed it down, sitting back at the table.
“Hey, I’m still speaking to you!” The enraged alien reached down and grabbed the Captain by the collar of her jacket, hauling her back to her feet. Seven balled her fists in readiness, should a fight break out.
The Captain calmly looked down at the fist that held her clothes. “Let go of my jacket,” she instructed slowly in a low voice.
“Are you going to make me? A puny little thing like you?”
The alien was laughing nastily to one of his companions behind him when the Captain stamped down hard on his foot, driving her wedge heel into his non-booted limb. The alien howled in pain, immediately releasing his grip on her. One of the other hairy aliens made a swing for the Captain, but Seven was faster, stopping him in his tracks with a swift punch to the face using her Borg hand. The Captain shot her a brief look of thanks before the bar descended into chaos as everyone leapt at the chance for a brawl.
Seven had plenty of experience of such things, even from her short time away from the Collective and she ably dodged all the fists and projectiles aimed in her direction. As she scrapped, Seven made sure she always kept one eye on the Captain, not wanting to lose her in the melee. The Captain looked like she was similarly used to such occurrences, defending herself with aplomb, which was even more impressive given the fact that she was smaller than most of the other combatants. She actually used her size to her advantage, able to duck and dodge where others couldn’t go. Seven watched her snatching up a bottle off one of the few tables left unturned and bringing it crashing down on another assailant. However, Seven could also see the Captain was unaware of the alien bearing down fast on her from behind.
Seven utilised all her borg strength to shove a huge reptilian alien out of her way so she could get to the Captain first, running across the bar in the other woman’s direction.
“Captain!” she called out in warning, seeing the alien swinging a chair directly at the redhead.
Fortunately the Captain heard her, falling to her knees to avoid the object, which whistled harmlessly past her head. That gave Seven time to get there, hefting the alien up off his feet and hurling him against a nearby wall. He crashed into it, slumping down onto the floor in unconsciousness. The Captain watched all this before turning her eyes up to Seven in a look of evident surprise.
“Thanks,” she noted.
“You are welcome,” replied Seven with a nod of the head.
“Maybe we should get out of here,” suggested the Captain, clambering to her feet and dusting herself down.
“A wise decision,” agreed Seven, already heading for the door before anyone else attempted to attack them.
Once outside in the quiet of the corridor, the Captain turned to Seven, looking her up and down thoughtfully. “That was some impressive fighting back there, you must be stronger than you look.”
“I…work out,” Seven answered after a seconds pause to create an excuse for her enhanced strength. “Can I ask why you did not use your phaser when that alien accosted you?”
The Captain gave her a sly grin. “Now where would be the fun in that?”
Seven didn’t think there would be any, though likewise she couldn’t see how the alternative brawl was fun either. It appeared the Captain thought differently though.
The Captain was still studying her, assessing the young woman. “So you still want to be on my crew do you?”
“All right, I’ll see you tomorrow at 18:00, docking station 23.”
Seven walked along the dim corridors of the station, carrying the holdall that contained all her worldly possessions. The bag was small since she owned pretty much nothing, apart from the clothes on her back. The grey t-shirt, sleeveless jacket, sturdy black trousers with a multitude of pockets and heavy-duty work boots were the only set she had apart from her work overalls, which she had brought along too. Apart from them the only other item of any size in her bag was her portable regeneration unit.
It had been a parting gift from the Patat-Damar when she had left their planet. It enabled her to perform the regeneration she required at least every forty-eight hours or so without the need for a Borg alcove. The Patat-Damar had realised she would need something convenient and easily carried, so it worked slightly differently from a regular alcove, being attached via a special interface to the tubules of her left hand. The scientists on the planet had hoped that one day she would not need to regenerate at all, and that she would be able to sleep naturally like other humans. She had tried sleeping on a few occasions, but found it difficult to accomplish and usually resorted back to her unit instead when she became frustrated with lying there with her eyes open wondering exactly how one achieved a state of sleep.
Seven stopped in her tracks, turning to see Tarin dashing up the corridor after her.
“What’s going on? Where are you going?” he asked when he caught up with her.
“I am leaving with The Paladin,” she informed him.
“And were you going to say goodbye?”
Seven looked at him quizzically. “Goodbye?”
“Yes - farewell, so long, see ya. It is customary when you leave a friend.”
“A…friend?” Seven repeated, pausing over the unfamiliar word. She had never had a friend before.
“Yes, a friend,” he confirmed, smiling at her, revealing the sharp points of his teeth. “I suppose you didn’t have many of those in the Collective. A friend is someone you like spending time with, someone you can confide in, someone who’s there to support you when you need it.”
“And I am those things to you?”
“Yes, of course you are!”
“I believe you are the same to me. You are my friend,” she stated. “I am sorry that I was leaving without saying ‘goodbye’, that was not a very friendly thing to do.”
“No it wasn’t,” he agreed, “But you know what, the other things that friends do is forgive each other, so why don’t you just give me a hug and we’ll forget about it.”
“Oh for pity’s sake!” he cried in exasperation.
Without another word he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him, almost crushing the life out of her in his bear like grasp. Seven was shocked for a moment, before her arms naturally rose to embrace him too. When Tarin pulled back Seven thought she could detect a hint of moisture in his eyes, staring curiously at it.
“Now go,” he said, wiping it away, “Before I start blubbing in a highly undignified manner.”
Seven picked up the holdall that she had dropped during the hug. “Goodbye, Tarin,” she said, “Thank you for being my friend.”
“Goodbye Seven,” he said in return, “And good luck. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
Seven nodded and turned to continue on her way, wondering at the strange aching sensation in her chest. It was like she was leaving something behind, something she didn’t want to leave but had to. Focusing on the future instead she made her way to the docking port where The Paladin was berthed. There was no one around and she had a moment’s doubt as to whether she had come at the right time. Stepping over to the viewport she saw the small ship out in space at the end of the docking tunnel.
Seven could see that it had obviously been a Starfleet ship at some point in the past – there was the distinct dual nacelle design common to most of their vessels. However, the ship’s registration number and designation were not visible - the area on the hull where they should have been blackened and burnt. Seven wondered if that was deliberate or a battle scar. The ship carried a number of those, along with haphazard repairs. In general it looked like the ship had seen better days. She scanned her knowledge of Starfleet ships, eventually identifying it as a Medway class vessel.
Ships of its type had been involved in battles with the Borg in the past, and from that Seven knew that they were the smallest of Starfleet’s full starships, intended to be able to be crewed by a minimum number of people. They were fast, highly manoeuvrable and well-armed. It occurred to Seven that it was slightly odd that an ex-Starfleet Captain was in possession of a Starfleet ship. She didn’t imagine that Starfleet were in the habit of giving their vessels away.
“Admiring the old girl are you?”
Seven swung to face the Captain who had somehow crept up on her. From speaking to other space-farers she knew that many of them liked to refer to their ships as if they were a person. It seemed Captain Janeway was one of them, and that her particular ship was of the female gender.
“She is…” Seven stopped herself, searching for something diplomatic to say, rather than continuing with her normal bluntness. The captain waited, standing with her arms crossed, studying Seven intently. As with the day before Seven found it hard not to shift uncomfortably under the watchful gaze. “…impressive,” Seven finally added as an adjective.
Janeway laughed, uncrossing her arms. “It’s all right, you don’t have to lie to ingratiate yourself with the Captain. She’s a rustbucket, but she’s my rustbucket.”
Seven wasn’t sure what a ‘rustbucket’ was, but presumed the term was not complimentary.
“Is that all your stuff?” asked Janeway, indicating Seven’s bag. “Like to travel light do you?”
“Yes,” replied Seven, “These are my only belongings.”
Janeway regarded her curiously for a moment, like something had piqued and interest and she was contemplating pressing for more details. Whatever it was she wanted to ask she didn’t pursue it, extending her arm in the direction of the hatch instead. “Shall we?”
Seven nodded and followed the Captain over. In a way she was glad that the Captain wasn’t asking too many questions. For one she found it hard to lie convincingly and for another she was troubled by the thought of having to deceive the other woman, which she would no doubt be called upon to do. Though they had only just met Seven found herself intrigued by the Captain in a way she couldn’t really define. What she did know was that, having discovered what they were, she wanted to be friends with the Captain, and she didn’t think that friends were supposed to lie to one another. The only moral guidance she had to go on was what she’d received had been from the Patat-Damar. They were an intellectual, logical people who valued honesty and truth. Seven had fitted in quite well, though at the same time had always been different, and not just because of her appearance.
The Captain tapped in the entry code and the large doors slid open to grant them admittance to the access tunnel.
“I suppose I ought to explain some of the rules of the ship and what I expect of you,” commented Janeway as they walked. “Actually there’s only really one rule that’s important and that is that I’m the Captain and what I say goes. If I give you an order I expect you to follow it, if I give you something to do I expect you to do it. Do you understand?”
“Good. Other than that as long as you do your job and respect the other crewmembers we should get along just fine. So what sort of experience do you have of starships?”
“I have an extensive knowledge of them and their systems, though no practical experience,” Seven replied, careful of how much she revealed straight away.
“Oh great,” noted Janeway, “Read about them have you, and thought you might to have a little adventure?”
“Something like that,” agreed Seven, thinking it was easier to go along with the Captain’s assumption rather than correct it by informing her she had assimilated the knowledge via the Borg.
“I guess we’ll just have to see how you get on then,” remarked Janeway.
“You will not regret bringing me on board,” Seven stated, sensing that Janeway was possibly starting to doubt her decision, “I am a hard worker and will perform whatever tasks you ask of me.”
Janeway made a small smile, stopping as they reached the end of the tunnel. “You certainly don’t lack confidence, I have to give you that,” she noted, “If your work matches up to that then hopefully I won’t regret it.”
The doors before them slid open and Seven stepped through and onto The Paladin, immediately able to detect the faint hum of the warp engine reverberating through the deckplates below her feet. Janeway led her through the ship and Seven stayed close since the level they had come in on was lit with only emergency lighting.
“I’m afraid the turbolift’s out of commission at the moment,” Janeway informed Seven, “So it’s a short climb up to the upper levels, but luckily this ship only has five decks”
Janeway nimbly clambered up the ladder ahead of Seven, leading her out onto a more brightly lit level. However, the greater illumination only served to highlight the dilapidated state of the ship. Debris littered the corridors and damaged panels and equipment had been left un-repaired. Seven wondered how many crewmembers there were if the ship was allowed to remain in the obvious state of disrepair.
As if reading Seven’s mind, Janeway interrupted her assessment of the ship. “I’ll introduce you to the crew and then give you a quick tour of the rest of the ship.”
As they continued on Janeway turned to her again. “I’ve been wondering, the metal on your face and hand, what is it?”
Seven had expected that question would crop up sooner rather than later. Fortunately she had prepared and rehearsed her answer, in an attempt to make it sound authentic. “I have a rare medical condition affecting my heart and blood circulation that requires regulation. The devices on my face and hand provide that.” It wasn’t too far a diversion from the truth, since the implants did provide a regulation of sorts, just of her Borg systems rather than her human ones.
Janeway nodded, seemingly accepting the answer. “I suppose I’ll have to take your word for it, since we don’t have a doctor at the moment. This ‘condition’ won’t be a problem will it?”
“No, it will not affect my work, as long as I keep the devices in good working order.”
“Make sure you do then,” Janeway said.
Seven thought she had perceived a faint hint of concern in the Captain’s voice, though considered that Janeway could just be worried about how it might affect her performance rather than anything more personal.
“Here we are then, the messhall,” Janeway informed her.
They entered an open plan room, which had a number of tables and chairs dotted around the main area and a small galley off to one side. In the centre of the room sat two people who both swung round and then stood to meet their entry. The first of them was another human, a male. He was slightly shorter than Seven and possessed a round face in the middle of which sat a pair of dark but welcoming eyes. His hair was equally dark, cut into a short spiky style. He smiled as he saw them approaching.
The other person couldn’t have been more of a contrast. She was female, but not human, or at least not fully. Seven believed she was most likely half Klingon if the forehead ridges were anything to go by. Where the man seemed pleased to see them, she had a scowl on her face, regarding Seven suspiciously. They both wore battered clothes similar to the captain, though the woman was by far the grubbiest of the three. Her face and arms were smudged with grease and grime as if she’d recently been working on something. Glancing at the table where they had been sitting, Seven could see there was some engineering equipment arrayed across it.
“Harry, B’Elanna, I’d like you to meet our new crewmember, Annika Hansen,” the Captain said by means of introduction.
“Actually, Captain,” Seven quickly interrupted, “I prefer to go by my nickname – Seven.”
“Seven?” repeated Janeway doubtfully.
“You want to be known by a number?” added the dark-haired woman called B’Elanna.
“Yes,” replied Seven.
“Well, pleased to meet you, Seven,” said the man, extending his hand, “As the captain said, I’m Harry, Harry Kim.”
After receiving an almost imperceptible look from the Captain, the other woman grudgingly offered her hand too. “B’Elanna Torres,” she said, her voice carrying barely concealed hostility. Seven knew that Klingons were renowned for being antagonistic, and Torres was living proof of that. As an added hint of just how surly they could be, Seven could feel the other woman attempting to crush her hand as she shook it. Fortunately her Borg enhanced skeletal structure meant the Klingon’s attempt was futile, and Torres looked perturbed when Seven gave no outward sign of discomfort.
Finally Torres dropped her hand and Seven glanced around the rest of the room. “Where are the rest of the crew?”
B’Elanna laughed out loud. “We’re it, baby!”
Seven found it hard to contain her surprise, also wondering why the woman was comparing her to an infant. “The three of you, you are the only crew?”
It was Janeway who answered the question. “Yes, we had five to begin with but…well, things happen. The ship is designed to be run by a minimal crew, though three is pushing it slightly.”
“You have four now,” Seven reminded her.
“Yes, we do,” agreed Janeway, “Anyway, we should get on and look at the rest of the ship. How are the repairs to the plasma conduit regulators going by the way, B’Elanna?”
“Oh, just great. As you can see they’re a complete mess,” she remarked, indicating the disassembled components on the table, “I’m at a bit of a dead end to tell you the truth, which is why I brought them up here. I thought a change of scenery might provide inspiration.”
“Here’s hoping, I don’t fancy going to warp without them,” Janeway said seriously, “Come on then, Seven.”
Seven, however, wasn’t listening, scanning the equipment before her intently.
“Seven?” repeated the Captain.
Seven finally swung to the Captain. “Would you like me to take a look at the regulators?”
“You know about Starfleet warp plasma regulators do you?” asked Torres incredulously, jabbing her hands on her hips in a defiant stance.
“I have seem something similar,” replied Seven evenly, ignoring the challenge in the tone and looking to the Captain for permission to proceed.
“Knock yourself out,” said Janeway, gesturing to the table.
“Captain!” cried an offended Torres.
“There’s no harm in letting her have a look is there?” said Janeway reasonably, “You can keep a close watch if you want, in case she’s doing something she shouldn’t.”
Torres reluctantly stepped away from where she was blocking Seven’s access to the table, continuing to eye the young woman with suspicion as she picked up one of the components and turned it over in her hands a couple of times. The others weren’t to know, but Seven was actually scanning it with her enhanced left eye, immediately able to see what the problem was.
“There is a micro-fracture in the main assembly manifold,” she stated.
“What?” cried Torres, “How in Kahless name could you know that?” She snatched the component back off Seven and picked up an engineering tricorder. As she ran it back and forth across the metal Seven could see her eyes widening in surprise. “She’s right,” she eventually said, looking up at the Captain in amazement.
Seven caught the barest of smiles, playing across the Captain’s lips as if something had amused her about the situation. Seven was unsure what that was and was disappointed to see the smile was gone again just as quickly. It had been different to the ones the Captain had flashed about with abandon so far. This one had contained genuine warmth.
“Better get it fixed then,” the Captain instructed Torres.
Once they were back out in the corridor on the way to survey the rest of the ship, the Captain’s curiosity appeared to get the better of her.
“How did you detect that flaw in the manifold?” she asked, keeping her eyes trained forwards as they walked.
Seven hesitated over what to say. “I did not,” she lied, “I merely deduced it was the most likely cause of the malfunction.”
“That’s some pretty good deduction then,” noted the Captain, “Especially if B’Elanna hadn’t come to the same conclusion already.”
The tone of the Captain’s voice led Seven to suspect that the Captain wasn’t convinced by her explanation, but she didn’t press any further. Maybe she was just happy the item would be repaired, however the reason for its failure its was discovered.
Janeway led Seven through the rest of the ship, which was in a similar state to that which she had seen so far. Considering there were only three crewmembers she supposed it was a miracle that the ship was functioning at all. The three of them probably had to work day and night to keep it running given the line of work they were in. Seven had seen enough cargo vessels and smuggling ships docked at the station to know that the occupation was a hazardous one in this particular region of space.
Finally they came to the crew quarters. They were on the same deck as the messhall one below the main bridge, but they had been down to the lower decks before arriving at the door they now stood before.
“And these are your quarters,” Janeway said, keying in a code on the door.
The room was divided into two sections, both of them fairly small, but larger than Seven’s quarters back on the station. The first area she presumed was what would be designated as the living area, with a couple of relaxed chairs and a low table arranged over by the window. There was also a desk built into one of the walls with a computer terminal on it. In the wall next to the desk was a replicator. Seven had never seen one before apart from in her Borg related memories and she was curious to test it now, wondering what she might attempt to replicate.
The second room contained a bed and a small ante-room with washing facilities and a sonic shower. Seven marvelled at the size of the bed – it was much larger than what she was used to on the station where she’d utilised a bunk bed. Of course she rarely used it for sleeping purposes and it was a shame the same would be true of the one before her when it looked so inviting. All in all she considered that the quarters were plain but functional and more than adequate for her. They were also clean, which was more than could be said for anything back on the grimy station.
The Captain was beside her as Seven continued to survey the bedroom, looking out the viewport above the bedhead at her former home. “If you don’t like them then there about ten other empty ones to choose from,” mentioned the Captain, “Though they’re all identical.”
“These ones are acceptable,” Seven stated
“A couple of points to note,” Janeway continued, “I’m afraid the replicators in the individual quarters don’t work – we don’t have enough power to keep those going. Luckily the ones in the messhall are working. For now at least.” She added with a rueful shake of the head.
Seven caught the odd gesture. “Captain?”
“I was just thinking how ironic it is,” explained Janeway, “In a lot of ways we’re worse off now than we ever were on Voyager, stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Though I guess our situation is similar – it’s not like we can pop by the nearest Starfleet station for repairs.”
“You would not be welcome?”
Janeway laughed out loud, though there was little merriment in the hollow sound. “I think I can safely say we would not,” she agreed, “Not after we…appropriated one of their ships.”
“You stole this ship from Starfleet?”
“Yes we did,” answered Janeway abruptly. “Anyway, as I was saying we have to be careful in terms of power and resource usage. So if you need to take a sonic shower or anything else like that that’s going to be a drain on power you need to clear it with me or B’Elanna first.”
“Understood.” Seven didn’t need to make use of a shower very often anyway since her nanoprobes regulated many of her bodily functions and secretions such as sweat.
Seven couldn’t fail to notice how Janeway had quickly shifted topics away from the past. Seven was keen to know more about this Voyager and its time in the Delta Quadrant. Her Borg acquired knowledge did not include anything on the ship, leading her to assume it had never encountered the Collective. Seven was also curious about the Captain herself – how had she gone from Starfleet captain to the margins of society? It seemed that whatever the reason was, it did not provide happy memories for the Captain since she hadn’t lingered on the subject more than was necessary. If anything she sensed the Captain regretted letting slip the modicum of information that she had. Seven supposed she would have to wait until a more suitable time to bring it up again, or discover the information herself somehow.
“What you do have in your quarters is access to the ship’s database,” continued the Captain, “So familiarising yourself with the ship and its systems would be a good start to your time with us. Sorry this has been a bit of a whiz-bang tour but I need to go and sort out our cargo for our latest trip. I’ll give you some more specific tasks when I get back and we’re ready for the off.”
Janeway was on the way to the door when something occurred to Seven. “The database, is it restricted to just this ship and its systems?”
“No, we have a copy of the Federation database too, that Harry insisted on bringing along.”
Seven found it hard to contain her excitement, surprised by the degree of it. “May I access it?”
Janeway regarded her curiously, the blue-grey eyes fixed on Seven’s face in that already familiar look of silent examination. “Looking for something in particular?”
“I would like to know more about the Federation,” explained Seven honestly, “And Earth.”
“I don’t know why,” remarked Janeway, bitterness edging her tone, “It’s really nothing special.”
Seven was nonplussed by the comment. “But it is your home…”
“Was my home,” corrected the Captain quickly, “There’s nothing there for me now.”
Seven could tell this was another touchy subject, but pressed on anyway, thinking she would never learn anything if she didn’t at least probe to some extent. She couldn’t understand how someone who had a proper home, somewhere they belonged, could be so disdainful of it. “You do not miss it?”
It appeared Janeway was not going to be forthcoming in responding to Seven’s queries. Seven also suspected that the other woman was not being entirely truthful in the answers she was giving. From her short experience, Seven had gathered that what people said and what they thought were often two different things. She was not accustomed to it herself, finding it hard to carry off such deception with ease. She had surprised herself with how she had managed it so far with regards to anything Borg related, though even then she’d had to stick reasonably close to the truth.
“Anyway,” said Janeway to break the uncomfortable silence, “If you do want to access it, feel free. You can from any of the terminals like the one on the desk.”
“Thank you, Captain,” said Seven attempting to give the other woman a smile to show she was genuinely grateful. She wasn’t very practiced in the art and the odd look Janeway gave her in return made her think her latest attempt had been a less than stellar success.
Once the Captain was gone, Seven immediately crossed to the desk, bringing up the Federation database. However, her initial searches for the information she was looking for proved fruitless and as she dug deeper she discovered that her first findings regarding it were confirmed – it appeared someone had deleted all reference to Voyager and its crew, including the Captain.
Seven could only assume it was Janeway herself who had removed the records, making her wonder why. Was she trying to hide something from others or was there something she was trying to forget herself? Seven considered that she could try and retrieve the records, since they would have most likely left some trace in the system. However, that would require her to breach security protocols and lockouts and could possibly be detected. In the end she decided against it, not wanting to get her new life onboard The Paladin off to an ignominious start. Hopefully in time she would be able to discern more about the other ship and its crew from the Captain or the others. Most importantly she hoped that she would learn more about the Captain herself.
Kathryn Janeway gazed out of the viewport in her ready room, studying the vista of the decaying space station visible to her. It was a far cry from the Federation that was for sure. Some times she would sit late at night wondering what had brought her to this, being little more than a glorified delivery person on the edge of the galaxy. How had a once proud Starfleet captain sunk so low?
Of course she knew the answers, but she didn’t like to deliberate on them too long, because with those recollections came pain, sorrow and hurt that she’d rather forget. However, even with her avoidance she seemed incapable of doing that. It was like she was stuck in the past, constrained by the weight of the guilt and recriminations that lay there.
Sighing to herself she crossed to the replicator. “Coffee, Black.”
She knew it was an extravagance, but she needed something to keep her going that day. It was lucky they actually had replicators for the time being, so she wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. Keeping the ship running was a constant battle and had been for the last year since they’d left Earth and cut themselves off from Starfleet. Sooner or later the replicators would be down again and then it would be back to rations or one of…
Janeway had to stop herself.
She had been about to finish with ‘Neelix’s concoctions’. Only of course they wouldn’t be sampling any of Neelix’s food ever again.
Janeway walked back over to the small window in the ready room, staring out at the hull of the space station, trying to put desolate thoughts of the past behind her and look forward to their latest supply trip instead. They were almost ready to set off on their latest run, but Janeway found herself viewing that with more trepidation than she was accustomed to, at the same time knowing exactly why that was.
She’d sworn to herself that she wasn’t going to pick up any more waifs and strays on her new ship, not like she had done on Voyager. Keep the crew small, she’d told herself, that way there was less chance of losing them. Then again, she’d never expected to meet any other humans this far out on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant, and certainly not one as pushy as Seven.
Janeway considered the conundrum of the young woman. Not only was there the incongruity of finding her out in the middle of nowhere, a lone human amongst a host of aliens, but then there was her whole personality. Janeway didn’t think she’d ever met anyone quite so forthright. Her degree of confidence was verging on the arrogant. And yet at the same time Janeway sensed something else behind it, an almost child-like innocence hidden beneath the icy exterior. There’d been a glimpse of it when Janeway had mentioned the Federation database. Seven had looked like a child with a new toy at Christmas, and Janeway found herself strangely pleased to be the one giving it to her.
There was a chirrup at the door that broke Janeway out of her thoughts of the peculiar young woman.
“Come,” she called out, sitting behind the desk. This ready room was a lot smaller than her one back on Voyager. It barely had room for the desk and the small couch that sat by the window.
The doors opened to reveal her chief engineer, B’Elanna Torres. Janeway had to mentally catch herself and remind herself to stop thinking of the other woman like that. B’Elanna wasn’t her chief engineer; she was her only engineer.
“B’Elanna,” acknowledged Janeway as the younger woman crossed to the seat in front of the desk, “Is everything set for departure?”
“The ship’s as good as I’m going to get it for now,” B’Elanna confirmed, “Which just leaves one problem.”
Janeway raised her eyebrows, waiting for further elaboration, though she thought she knew where B’Elanna was heading.
“Why have we got a new crewmember?” asked B’Elanna, confirming Janeway’s assumption.
“We were one person short,” Janeway informed her.
“We could have coped,” reasoned B’Elanna, “And I’m sure I’m going to get the Doctor back online soon. It’s not like you were rushing to get someone else when we he went offline in the first place. I know it was hard losing Neelix too, but I don’t think it’s a good idea picking up some stranger to replace him.”
“Are you questioning my decision?” Janeway asked with a touch of reproach in her tone. She hadn’t liked the reminder of the recent death of their Talaxian friend.
“Not exactly,” B’Elanna replied, “Just wanting to express some doubts about the wisdom of bringing a stranger on board. And aren’t you just the little bit suspicious? I mean a human, all the way out here - it’s pretty fishy.”
“We’re out here,” reasoned Janeway. The fact was that she did share B’Elanna’s doubts, but she decided to play devil’s advocate in this instance.
“And we know why that is don’t we. So what is she doing out here? Who is she hiding from?”
“Good questions,” agreed Janeway, “Maybe you should ask her?”
“Why haven’t you asked her?” cried B’Elanna in exasperation. “This isn’t like you, Captain, taking on someone on pure faith like this.”
“Isn’t it? Or maybe this is exactly like me, or at least the old me.”
“Oh, I see, this is some way to try and remind yourself of the old days is it?”
Janeway fixed B’Elanna with a stern look that immediately silenced the other woman. “The fact of the matter is Seven is human,” she outlined skirting round the previous comments, “She’s one of us.”
“Are you sure about that?” demanded B’Elanna. “I mean what are those metallic things on her face and hand? I’ve never seen any humans with anything like that before.”
It was at times like this that Janeway regretted the fact that on this ship she held no proper sway over the crew - B’Elanna would never have been quite so challenging back on Voyager, or at least not quite so openly so. Most of the time Harry and B’Elanna still acted as they would have done back on that ship. They deferred all decision making to her and respected her in exactly the same way as the old days most of the time. They still even called her Captain, even though none of them held a rank any more and she had told them to call her Kathryn on numerous occasions. Harry had looked aghast at the mere suggestion of it and she thought B’Elanna continued to use her former rank out of habit more than anything else. She supposed even on a cargo ship someone had to be in charge and that task had naturally fallen to her. There had been no debate about it, that’s just the way things had happened. No one had actually asked her if that’s what she wanted.
Getting back to the conversation she answered B’Elanna’s question about Seven. “She said they were for some medical condition, to regulate it.”
“And you believed that?”
Janeway sighed. “I’m willing to accept it for now, until proved otherwise. Aren’t you being rather judgemental here? She’s only just come on board. It’s not like she’s done anything to warrant this kind of suspicion or are you smarting because she was able to fix the plasma regulator when you couldn’t?”
“No,” said B’Elanna defensively, though her body language said something else.
Janeway leant forward on the desk, deciding to be magnanimous, despite the fact that B’Elanna’s attitude was causing the faint stirrings of a headache. “Ok, I’ll let you in on something,” she began slowly, “I am slightly suspicious of her, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for now. We’ll keep a close eye on her, and if she does step out of line, then we can ditch her, all right?”
She supposed she should have been more disturbed by the callousness in her own words, but she didn’t always have time for social and moral niceties these days.
“All right,” agreed B’Elanna grudgingly.
As the younger woman departed the room, Janeway suspected that B’Elanna was starting to question the wisdom of coming along with Janeway when they had left Earth. She couldn’t blame the young woman; she had her hands full keeping the ship running with only Harry and Janeway herself for help. It was a long way from having a whole department of engineers at her beck and call.
And she certainly couldn’t blame B’Elanna when she herself continued to harbour misgivings about what she was doing out in the arse end of the galaxy. It had taken a lot of convincing to get her to leave Earth, mainly on the part of Harry. She’d been quite happy in her pit of despair until he came along.
As her thoughts turned back to Earth, Janeway naturally found herself in front of the replicator again, the familiar demon at the back of her mind telling her she needed something a little stronger than coffee. She tried to ignore it, but it was persistent, persuasive.
“Whiskey, neat,” she instructed the machine, immediately hating herself for succumbing.
She stared at the taunting glass before snatching it up and downing it in one swift gulp. The real alcohol caused a faint, satisfying burning on its way down. Having ordered another she wandered back over to the desk and pulled open the drawer, thinking she may as well compound her pain while she was at it. She took out the photo frame as she had dozens of times before and placed it on the desk before her.
“Where did it all go wrong?” she asked the pictures before her, focussing in on the second of them. “Why did you leave me?” she pleaded of the person in it. As always they had no answer for her.
Suddenly the door to Janeway’s ready room swished open without any chime to request admittance as a precursor. Janeway had to quickly sweep the frame back into the drawer. She glanced up to see Seven striding in and she hoped the young woman hadn’t spotted the pictures. Seven came to a halt in front of the desk, but remained standing, her hands behind her back.
“It’s considered polite to knock before entering,” Janeway commented sarcastically.
Seven looked back at the doors before returning her gaze to Janeway. “That would be impractical since they open automatically as someone approaches.”
Janeway eyed her suspiciously, unsure if Seven was being facetious or not. “You know what I mean – ring the chime next time.”
“If you wish.”
Janeway considered that Seven’s honest, yet abrupt answers really were quite disconcerting. They gave whomever she was talking to no room for manoeuvre in the conversation. There was no preamble or disassembling like there was in a normal discussion, time that gave you the chance to formulate your next response. Janeway could see she would have her hands full keeping one step ahead, but was sure she was up to the task.
“I’m glad you came by, actually,” Janeway said, “I wanted to talk more about our mission and your job on it.”
“That is why I came also.”
“Great, then we’re on the same wavelength,” noted Janeway lightly.
Seven’s expression remained impassive despite Janeway’s attempts at breaking the ice. It was like talking to a brick wall in terms of reaction she considered.
“Why don’t you sit down?” offered Janeway.
“I prefer to stand,” replied Seven.
“And I prefer not to get a crick in my neck,” shot back Janeway, “So, please, sit down.”
Seven lowered herself uncomfortably into the seat. Janeway watched her the whole way, noting how the young woman sat stiffly even when she was down, her back ramrod straight. Janeway tapped a couple of commands into her computer, swinging the monitor round so Seven could also see the star chart she had called up.
“We’ve got a couple of deliveries to make, and one final pickup to bring back here to the station. Have you ever been to any of these planets?” she asked indicating the three dots.
“I have not.”
“Never mind, I’ll probably be making all the trades so there won’t be any need for you to leave the ship unless you have a particular desire to explore any of the planets.”
“It does not bother me where we are going, I only wish to leave this station with you.”
Janeway got the strangest sensation that when Seven said ‘you’, she meant Janeway personally rather than the ship and crew as a whole. “I gather you don’t much like it here?” Janeway asked, mentally shaking herself back to her senses.
“You gather correctly. Though that is not my primary reason for leaving. I wish to be with my own kind.”
Janeway studied the young woman before her, the piercing blue eyes of Seven meeting her own unflinchingly. “You make it sound like you’ve never seen another human being before,” remarked Janeway.
Janeway was surprised when no answer was forthcoming, and even more shocked when the hitherto confident and assertive Seven broke eye contact to glance nervously to the side.
“How long exactly were you in the Delta Quadrant?” asked Janeway.
Janeway was stunned, sure that much was obvious on her face. “But that means you must have left when you were…five, six?”
“Six,” confirmed Seven, “My parents were scientists, they wanted to…explore.”
“That’s some exploring,” Janeway commented in admiration, at the same time making a mental note to check up on the facts Seven was giving her, “So they took you round the Delta Quadrant for twenty years did they?”
Janeway could see the nervousness in Seven’s demeanour again, realising that for all her plain speaking, Seven really wasn’t very good at covering things up. Sensing she didn’t even need to press, Janeway merely waited for further elaboration.
“I…lost them not long after we arrived there,” Seven added after a couple of moments under Janeway’s stare.
Janeway detected the first hint of emotion in Seven’s voice when she tripped over the word ‘lost’. “I’m sorry, that must have been awful,” she offered inanely, “Losing them so far from home, being all alone. How did you survive?”
“I had to adapt, quickly.”
It was starting to dawn on Janeway why Seven seemed so odd – she’d hardly had any human contact before now. “So where did you grow up then?” she asked, wondering what species Seven had been amongst to leave her so socially underdeveloped.
“I lived on the planet of the Patat-Damar,” explained Seven.
Janeway had never heard of them. “And what were they like?”
“They were an intellectual race, interested in science and order, so I learnt many useful subjects while there.”
“Such as plasma regulator maintenance?”
“Yes,” replied Seven.
Something about that didn’t ring true, but Janeway left it for now. “Apart from their intellectual capabilities what were they like as people – were they kind, welcoming, loving. I presume they must have been to some extent if they took you in.”
“I suppose so,” agreed Seven, the small device above her left eyebrow quirking upwards as she considered it, “I do not really know. If they were those things they did not show them openly.”
The more Seven talked the more Janeway sensed that her first impressions of the young woman had been somewhat misguided. Though at first Seven came across as blunt, combative and maybe a touch unfeeling, Janeway sensed that was more to do with the fact that she didn’t know how to interact with people, rather than how she actually felt underneath. She basically said what was on her mind without any of the normal social considerations. In a way it was refreshingly honest, but it could take some getting used to.
“They sound positively Vulcan,” noted Janeway in regards to the people Seven had grown up with.
“I believe that is a reasonably accurate comparison,” agreed Seven
Janeway seized on the comment. “You’ve heard of Vulcans then? All the way out in the Delta Quadrant?”
Seven paused momentarily, obviously caught out. “I read about them in your database,” she answered eventually.
“What a coincidence,” Janeway remarked, “That you happened to have read about them already and that you remembered it.”
“I am a fast reader and I have a very good memory.”
Janeway could tell Seven was hiding something, especially since her answers had become even more clipped than before. There was obviously more to her tale of growing up with these Patat-Damar people than she was letting on, if it was true at all of course. Janeway decided to leave that aspect of it for now, since Seven had become so reticent and concentrate on something else that had bothered her about the story.
“So how the hell did you manage to get all the way to the Delta Quadrant and then all the way back again, all in the space of twenty years?”
“How did you get there and back?”
Janeway hadn’t expected her question to be turned back on her so swiftly. The fact that she was unprepared left her unable to stop the dark look from crossing her features as she recalled her time there and what she had done to get them home in the end. “You heard about that did you?” she asked edgily.
“There was talk on the station,” confirmed Seven.
“Oh, I bet there was,” scoffed Janeway, “Bad new always travels fast, even to the very edges of the galaxy.”
“What happened to Voyager?”
Janeway stared at her. There it was again – Seven’s unrelenting directness. Most other people would have been warned off by Janeway’s obvious bitterness. “It’s a long story, not one I want to recount now,” Janeway stated.
“Sorry, I did not mean to bring up painful memories.”
Janeway glanced at the young woman, surprised at the comment and the degree of empathy it had shown. Seven showed no visible sign of concern though, her expression as placid as ever, her pale blue eyes regarding Janeway intently.
“Forget about it,” said Janeway dismissively, “We all have a past we want to forget - I can’t imagine you ended up at Outpost 47 out of choice. I get the sense that there’s something you’re not telling me about this Delta Quadrant business but frankly I don’t care what you might have done in the past, just as long as you do a good job for me now.”
“I will do whatever you ask of me.”
“Just what a Captain likes to hear,” noted Janeway. “In that case, I may as well give you this, she added handing a PADD to Seven. It’s what B’Elanna colourfully refers to as her ‘shit list’.”
Seven’s eyes were scanning the PADD, scrolling through the numerous entries. “An interesting turn of phrase.”
“Basically it’s all the little things she’d like to do but hasn’t got around to due to lack of time,” explained Janeway. “We’ll see how you get on with that before we move you onto anything else more challenging. It should keep you occupied for a good few weeks…or months!”
“I will attend to them immediately,” stated Seven, rising from her chair and heading straight for the door. Janeway thought she was going to sweep directly out without waiting to be dismissed, before the young woman suddenly turned on the threshold as if she had forgotten something. “Thank you, Captain.”
Then Seven was out the door onto the bridge leaving Janeway to mull over the encounter. It was too early for her to form an accurate impression of the young woman, who seemed to be far more complex than Janeway had originally assumed. Janeway had gotten so used to fending off the multitude of different people all wanting to join the infamous Captain’s crew during their time out in deep space, that she hadn’t wanted to give Seven the time of day to begin with. She wasn’t sure what exactly all those people were expecting – glory hunters out for some sort of high adventure or perhaps just money she supposed. Or maybe they fancied getting a look at, or maybe even stealing some, Starfleet technology. She didn’t think Seven was like that. It appeared her expectations were few, beyond wanting to spend time with other humans.
From what Janeway had gathered so far it sounded as if the young woman’s past held its fair share of tragedy and Janeway couldn’t help but be saddened by that. To be orphaned at such a young age was terrible. Janeway rubbed roughly at her face, running her hand wearily through her hair as she realised where her thoughts were heading. This was all she needed – to start caring and worrying about those under her command again. Not that Seven was under her command as such, but Janeway still felt that familiar responsibility for those on her ship stirring within her.
She’d done her best to banish such feelings over the previous year - to become harder and more detached. She’d had a fair amount of success too, garnering a fearsome reputation in the sector, built on a combination of fear and respect. However, what with Seven’s appearance and Neelix’s recent death it was getting harder to deny that deep down that sense of duty and loyalty that had always driven her on in the past was never far away. She guessed she would just have to keep an eye on that as well as the new addition to their crew.
When Seven received Janeway’s hail informing her they were ready to depart the space station she secured what she had been working on in the Jeffries tube, and headed up to the bridge to watch the departure. As she came out onto the bridge from the access ladder she saw that all the front stations were now occupied, whereas on her earlier tour they had been empty. Janeway sat in the command chair in the centre of the room, and before her sat Harry and B’Elanna at the two seats for the main bridge console. As Janeway had earlier informed Seven, from there the two of them were responsible for navigation, tactical, engineering and operations. In the event it was required all controls could be routed via a single console. There were a couple of free stations at the rear of the bridge and Seven made her way to one of these, remaining standing.
Janeway obviously sensed the movement and swivelled slightly in her chair to regard the young woman. Seven offered her a small nod of acknowledgement before she turned to the front again.
“All right, now we’re all here, take us out Harry, nice and easy does it.”
“Aye, Captain,” replied the young man.
Seven could see Janeway relaxing back into her chair as the docking clamps released, her eyes keenly on the fore view screen. Janeway looked at ease in the chair, like she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Seven envied her that feeling, hoping she too may discover something similar one day. The ship eased away from the station at minimal speed before swinging towards open space.
“Set course for Agnadi,” Janeway instructed, giving Harry the opportunity to perform the task before following it up. “Warp six, engage!”
The ship leapt into the reaches of open space, the telltale streaks of light showing that they had gone to warp speed. Seven supposed she should feel some sort of pang of remorse or regret about leaving her temporary home, but all she felt was what she had now defined as a sense of excited anticipation for what lay ahead.
Seeking to make a good impression with her new crewmates, Seven busied herself with work over the next few of days, working her way through the list the Captain had given her. Fortunately most of the tasks were well within her capabilities to perform and where they weren’t a quick consultation of the database revealed the answers to her. She didn’t really see much of the others while she spent her time down Jeffries tubes or behind access panels, sharing the odd nod of acknowledgement if one of them happened past. A starship was a big place when there were only four of you though, even one as small as The Paladin. Seven was so consumed with her work that she neglected to join the others for meals those evenings, though the Captain had pointed out to her that it was common for them to share an evening meal together. Seven was somewhat reluctant, though, given her difficulties with food and hoped that her absence hadn’t been considered as a snub of some kind. She resolved that she would make the effort that evening – she was meant to be learning about humanity after all and she wouldn’t do much of that spending all her time with tricorders and plasma conduits.
She was working on one of those conduits now, jammed into a Jeffries tube, hunched over it. She pulled out her tricorder from one of the many pockets in her trousers, wearing the same clothes as she had come aboard the ship in. She considered them to be practical and efficient. Just as she was scanning the faulty conduit the doors next to her slid open.
“Kahless!” cried Torres, almost falling off the access ladder in surprise when she saw Seven sitting there. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I am fixing the plasma conduit.”
Torres’ eyes narrowed perceptibly. “Ok, correction,” she said, “What the hell are you doing here so goddam early?”
“Is this not a suitable time for plasma conduit maintenance?” asked Seven nonchalantly.
“Well, no…I mean yes…”
“And if not what are you doing here?”
“That’s beside the point!” snapped Torres testily, “Don’t you ever sleep?”
Seven didn’t think answering truthfully at that point was prudent. “I merely like to get on with the tasks assigned to me whenever I have the opportunity.”
“In that case you must have practically finished them all since you never seem to be out of engineering,” noted Torres, “Let’s have a look at that list shall we?”
Torres snatched up the ‘shit list’ from where it sat on the deck next to Seven, starting to scroll through it. Seven supposed she was trying to catch her out, but as the multitude of tasks flashed by Torres’ eyes got wider and wider. “Holy cow!” she exclaimed eventually, “I can’t believe it, you have, you’ve fixed the whole blasted lot.”
“The Captain gave me a task and I wished to complete it,” stated Seven.
“I don’t think she meant for you to finish it in three days flat!” cried Torres, shaking her head.
“She will be disappointed that I have finished quickly?” asked Seven, disconcerted that she may have made an error.
“Hell no,” replied Torres handing the list back to Seven, “I’m sure she’ll be ecstatic.”
Seven felt a strong sense of satisfaction on discovering the Captain would be pleased.
“I suppose that means I better find something else for you to do…”
The something else that Torres found for her to do was attempt to fix the single shuttlecraft the ship possessed. Seven could understand why Torres had left the vehicle as it was – it was damaged almost beyond repair. But Seven was never one to shirk a task or a challenge so she set about it with her customary gusto. However, she made sure that come the evening she made her way to the messhall to join the others. Only when she got there she found that there was only a single occupant of the room. She tried to hide her disappointment, especially when Harry turned and offered her a warm smile.
“Where are the others?” asked Seven, sitting down opposite him.
“The Captain’s been and gone, said she had something to do,” Harry outlined, “B’Elanna’s still working I expect.”
Seven silently cursed herself for not arriving sooner, making a mental note of the time so she could correct the aberration the following day.
“So what can I get you?” asked Harry, getting to his feet and heading to the kitchen area, “We have replicators at the moment, so it’s whatever you like.”
Seven’s knowledge of food was almost as extensive as her knowledge of humans in general - practically non-existent. While she continued to regenerate on a regular basis she didn’t need to consume food or drink beyond the barest amounts. “Perhaps you could recommend something?” suggested Seven.
“Right,” noted Harry, “I suppose you don’t get much federation food out in the Delta Quadrant, though if you want you can program in some recipes you do know.”
As he went over to the replicator Seven realised the Captain must have discussed her with Harry and no doubt B’Elanna too, since she had never mentioned her Delta Quadrant past to Harry herself. She was faintly disconcerted that they might have been talking about her, wondering exactly what the Captain had said. She supposed it was only natural for them to have some misgivings about an unknown new crewmember. Harry certainly gave no outward sign of being perturbed by her presence; he had been nothing but friendly, unlike the openly hostile Torres.
He was heading back to the table now, carrying a plate. “I thought I’d stick to something simple to begin with,” he said setting it down before her, “See how you get on.”
Seven picked up the fork he had also set down, prodding uncertainly at the food. “What is it?” she asked.
“It’s pasta,” he replied, “It can come in lots of different shapes, but this one is called penne. It’s in a tomato and basil sauce.”
Seven skewered one of the cylindrical food items, eyeing it suspiciously before putting it in her mouth. After chewing very deliberately she finally swallowed it.
“So, what do you think?” asked Harry who had been watching expectantly.
“It is acceptable,” agreed Seven, surmising that the pasta was sufficiently bland for her unseasoned palate.
Harry grinned at her response. Seven went to spear another piece when suddenly the whole ship jolted, sending her dinner sliding off the table to crash on the metal deck.
“All hands to the bridge!” came the Captain’s voice over the comm system instantly.
Harry and Seven sprinted for the ladder to the upper deck, having to be careful not to fall when a second blast rocked the ship. The Captain was alone on the bridge when they arrived, sitting in one of the front chairs, piloting the ship and trying to avoid the phaser blasts Seven could see arcing past them out of the front viewscreen. Harry joined Janeway at the second forward position, Seven heading for the station she had assumed when they’d left Outpost 47 four days previously.
“Do we know who they are, or what they want?” Harry asked the Captain as he worked frantically at his console.
“No on both accounts,” replied Janeway, “I’ve tried hailing but there’s no response.”
The sound of someone else coming up the ladder was followed by Torres appearing on the bridge and she quickly swapped seats with the Captain, just as one of the attacking ships soared past them, now visible ahead of them.
“Species 593,” noted Seven absently, recognising the ship design.
The Captain was almost at her chair and she looked over to Seven, regarding her strangely. “What did you say?”
Seven hadn’t realised she had spoken out loud until that point. “I said they are the Batani, their ships have been to the station before.”
Janeway kept her eyes doubtfully on Seven for a moment before turning and sitting in her command chair. “Continue with the evasive manoeuvres, Harry,” she instructed, “So I can get a proper scan of their ships.”
“You should aim a photon torpedo at their rear deflector array,” Seven said immediately.
Janeway’s eyes were on her again in a flash, looking at her incredulously. “I beg your pardon?”
“That is I have heard it is a weak point on their ships,” clarified Seven, supposing she needed to give some sort of excuse for her knowledge.
“Really? Read it in a database somewhere did you?” asked Janeway pointedly.
Another phaser blast cannoned into the ship, relieving Seven of the need to answer.
“Shields are down to 36%!” noted Torres.
“All right, let’s go with the rear deflector array,” Janeway instructed the other woman, “Fire!”
Seven watched the torpedo speeding towards its target, and impacting on the hull of the other vessel. However, where she expected to see the explosion causing a chain reaction and disabling their engines it merely caused minor damage.
Seven could only stare out the screen in surprise. “I do not understand.”
Torres swung round to offer her a disdainful look. “That’s what you get for listening to the new girl,” she noted with a sideways look to the Captain whose eyes were also fixed on Seven.
“That should have disabled them…” Seven tried to explain, but the Captain’s hand went up to stop her.
“Save it!” she ordered.
“Do I have to repeat myself?” snapped the Captain, glaring at Seven.
The look was withering and Seven shook her head as a further blast almost catapulted the Captain out of her chair.
“22%!” shouted Torres.
“All right,” said Janeway, sitting back up straight and smoothing out her disarrayed hair, “Let’s do things my way.”
Fortunately for everyone on board the Captain’s way involved some intricate manoeuvring between the pursuing vessels, leading them to disable one another with some wayward firing. That left The Paladin to make good its escape. Once it appeared they were out of harm’s way, Janeway rose from her chair.
“I’ll be in my ready room,” she informed the crew, heading up the steps in Seven’s direction.
The young woman tried to catch her eye, seeking to talk to her and try and explain her error, but Janeway resolutely ignored her, breezing straight past and into her office. Janeway’s disappointment was palpable, as was Seven’s sense of failure. Deciding she would rather not relive that now she too left the bridge for her quarters.
After the events of the evening before on the bridge had played through her mind a few times, Seven resolved to come and talk to the Captain after all. It disconcerted her to leave things as they were, without at least trying to offer an explanation for her mistake. Seven wasn’t used to making them so it would be a novel experience for her, like so many others. It was just after midday when Seven entered the Captain’s ready room, only realising when she was halfway through the door that she was meant to press the chime beforehand. Fortunately it appeared that the Captain wasn’t present and Seven went the rest of the way in.
The room was small with just the desk, chairs and sofa for furniture. Unusually there was no other decoration - no mementos or personal items. Not that Seven had such things in her quarters either, but she had observed that most other people did. Even in the grubbiest, dankest places she had stayed, of which there had been a fair few, people liked to try and add a personal touch to their living space. The only indication that anyone even owned this office was the jacket slung over the back of the chair, the same one Seven had seen Janeway wearing the night they had met in the bar.
Suddenly she recalled the picture Janeway had tried to hide last time Seven had been in her office. Even Seven’s enhanced vision hadn’t been enough to get a good look at it before it was swept back into the drawer. Thinking nothing of it, Seven pulled open the drawer and removed the picture frame. There were two images in the simple silver frame. In the first the Captain wore the uniform of Starfleet, or at least their old uniform with the coloured tops to the otherwise black uniforms. The Captain’s uniform bore a red band across the top of it, and she looked relaxed and happy in the picture, surrounded by a group of seven other people, all also wearing uniforms apart from one alien who wore a distinctly colourful outfit. The other picture was of a single person, one of the people from the group picture.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Seven glanced up to see Janeway in the doorway, her brow creased in a look of incredulity.
“I am looking at your pictures,” Seven stated as if that much was obvious.
“I can see that!” snapped Janeway angrily, starting towards Seven.
Seven was honestly confused. “Then why did you ask?”
“Don’t get smart with me!” cried Janeway, snatching the pictures from Seven’s hand as she reached her.
“Should I not be looking at them?”
“Should you not be looking at them? Should you not be looking at them?” repeated Janeway her level of fury increasing. “I cannot believe you sometimes! Do you think if I wanted people looking at them I’d keep them in a drawer?” she demanded. “They’re private photos! Do you not have any respect for privacy?”
“I am unaccustomed to the need for it,” Seven replied, starting to realise she had made some terrible error of judgement.
“Jesus Christ! Will you listen to yourself?” shouted Janeway, causing Seven to flinch back when she imposed herself in her personal space. “You know sometimes I wonder if you really are human at all,” she added fixing Seven with the deadliest of stares. “Do you have any feelings under that robotic exterior?”
“I do have feelings,” replied Seven. She knew she did because at that moment she was feeling a deep hurt that Janeway thought of her in the way she had described.
“Really?” scoffed Janeway, taking a step back and starting to wave her hands angrily in the air, “Well you could have fooled me! And what was that thing about species designations on the bridge? You sounded like a computer rather than a human being.”
Seven’s despondency was increasing with every harsh word that Janeway heaped on her. She wanted to be more human, more like Janeway, though at that point in time she wasn’t sure if that was a desirable goal or not.
“Get out!” instructed Janeway suddenly.
“I said…get…out!” shouted the Captain.
Hanging her head in shame, Seven turned and left the room.
Janeway flopped down into her chair as she watched the departing Seven, before turning to the picture that was still in her hand.
“What are you looking at?” she asked of it. “Don’t give me that look – she shouldn’t have been in here!”
Janeway slammed the frame down on the desk and went directly to the replicator where she ordered a large whiskey. As its welcome warmness slid down her throat she tried to forget about the accusing stare from the picture and also of the pained look she had unmistakably caught in Seven’s eyes before she had left.
After her disastrous encounter with Janeway, Seven spent the next week religiously avoiding the other woman, busying herself with repairs and other work that Torres found for her to do. Not that it was particularly hard to avoid the Captain since the other woman seemed to spend a lot of her time on her own in either her quarters or ready room. Seven knew this because she periodically checked the Captain’s location on the internal sensors. Seven maintained the only reason she did this was to make sure she didn’t accidentally bump into the Captain and cause an awkward scene.
Seven wondered if she should do the same for Torres, since whenever she came across the Klingon they invariably ended up exchanging heated words. Seven just didn’t understand Torres’s determined refusal to acknowledge that most of Seven’s proposals for repairs and upgrades were efficient. Instead she forced Seven to stick to her tightly drawn up schedule, though Seven did still manage to deviate from this on occasion, when the engineer wasn’t around.
Given her relationship with the two women on board, or more precisely her lack of it, Seven was beginning to wonder if coming aboard the Paladin had been such a good idea. The only bright spot was Harry, who seemed to be going out of his way to compensate for the other two, being almost overly friendly and helpful. Deep down, though, Seven knew she had made the right decision. She may have got off to a bad start, but she was still there. They could have simply ditched her by now if they really didn’t want her aboard.
As she made her way back to her quarters for the evening, Seven couldn’t help her mind drifting back to the argument with Janeway. After it, Seven had sifted through a number of texts on the subject of the human need for privacy and could now understand to some extent how the captain might have been offended at Seven’s invasion of hers. However, Seven didn’t think her actions warranted quite the extreme reaction they had received – it had been an honest mistake. It still rankled with Seven that Janeway would dare to imply that she was inhuman, especially when it was Janeway exhibiting the more inhuman traits. If anything it was the captain who came across as hard and unfeeling.
The attack by the Batani had only been the first of a series of run-ins with various other pirate ships looking to steal their cargo. Each time Janeway acted with a similar recklessness as she had to elude the Batani. It was almost as if she wasn’t bothered whether they made it out alive or not. Such wild abandon could be liberating, but it could also be highly dangerous. Sooner or later her luck would run out and then they’d all be in trouble. Seven had to wonder if Janeway had always been as she was now, but somehow she couldn’t picture Starfleet being too keen on a captain that seemed to care so little for their own life or those of their crew. Seven considered that maybe that had something to do with why Janeway was no longer in Starfleet.
It was all very confusing to Seven - she wanted to learn more about humanity but how could she do that from someone so imperfect as the Captain? And yet at the same time, it was those very imperfections that Seven found so fascinating. One minute Janeway could be the in control, confident, swaggering Captain, the next the short-tempered, brawling Captain and then there was the less often seen softer side.
Seven hadn’t seen this much, but there were times when she’d looked at the Captain, mainly when the other woman didn’t realise anyone was observing her, when Seven could see a look of infinite sadness on the Captain’s face. All in all she was a mass of contradictions that made Seven wonder which one was the real Captain, or was she all of them in one way or another?
Seven finally reached her door, tapping in the access code and heading into her small quarters. She removed her utility vest and dumped it down on the chair, sitting down on her bed and reaching under it to remove her portable regeneration unit. Extending a couple of wires from the back of it, she removed an access panel in the corner of the room and attached the unit directly into the ship’s power supply. This was the bit she hated, the bit where she plugged herself in for six hours of oblivion in a stark reminder of the Borg Collective. It might not have been an alcove, but it was still uncomfortably close. Positioning the unit next to her she extended her left hand and shot her snaking tubules into the access ports, feeling the instant tugging at the back of her mind as the energy locked onto her cortical node and sent her into a mesmerising trance.
It was the sound of the door chime that broke her out of that trance earlier than she should have been. As Seven withdrew her tubules the unit beeped at her to signal the incomplete regeneration, but she quickly killed the warning tone and shoved the unit back under the bed. It was just in time, as suddenly the door to her quarters swung open. Seven was up off the bed quickly, heading out to the main room to cut her visitor off.
“B’Elanna Torres,” identified Seven, “Why have you accessed my quarters without permission?”
“If you’d answer your chime, maybe I wouldn’t have to! I rang about 10 times!”
Seven surmised that was most likely an exaggeration, but didn’t point that out, since Torres looked her usual irate self. “Was there something you wanted?” asked Seven instead, presuming Torres must have a specific reason, since it was unlikely to be a social call.
“I detected an unusual power spike from these quarters,” explained Torres, her eyes scanning the room as she spoke.
Seven internally berated herself. She had thought she had disguised her usage of the ship’s energy well enough, but obviously not enough to fool the dogged engineer. Seven supposed she would just have to do a more thorough job of concealing it next time.
“Are you running something in here?” queried Torres, returning her eyes to Seven.
“No,” replied Seven. She could just about carry the untruth off if she maintained that it wasn’t strictly a lie – she wasn’t actually running anything at that specific moment in time after all.
“Mind if I take a look around?”
“Tough,” replied Torres, attempting to brush past the taller woman.
Seven quickly blocked her path. “I said I do not wish you to look around my quarters.”
Torres glared up at her. “What are you hiding?”
Seven avoided that question by recalling something she had read after the unfortunate photo incident in the Captain’s ready room. “Are personal quarters not private?”
“Not when you’re compromising the ship’s systems with whatever it is you’re doing,” insisted Torres, “Now get out of my way.”
“I will not comply.”
Torres clenched her teeth in anger before suddenly making a grab for Seven in an attempt to push her out of the way. No doubt she expected her Klingon strength to easily shift the seemingly slight Seven. When Seven caught Torres hand and instead shoved her back towards the door the look of consternation on the Klingon’s face was marked. Not one to be put off, Torres launched herself at Seven again, Seven sidestepping the lunge this time and catching holding of the engineer’s collar. She unceremoniously hauled her to the door and threw her out into the corridor.
Unfortunately, Torres flight almost landed her directly on someone else’s feet, the Captain just pulling up in time to avoid being knocked over by the sprawling Klingon.
“B’Elanna?” The Captain’s eyebrows creased on her forehead as she stared down at her engineer.
Seven thought Janeway looked tired, like she had probably been on her way to bed. Her hair was dishevelled as if she had been running her fingers through it repeatedly and she carried her jacket slung haphazardly over her shoulder.
Meanwhile, it was as if B’Elanna hadn’t registered the Captain’s presence at all. She was focussed on only one thing – Seven. Leaping to her feet she sprang back across the hall at the young woman who was momentarily distracted studying the Captain. Torres’s sturdy form crashed into Seven, driving her forcefully into the door frame. Seven recovered quickly, shoving the enraged Torres from her before she could inflict any more damage. When B’Elanna tried to relaunch herself at Seven the Captain finally stepped in between them.
B’Elanna shot Seven a bristling glare from the opposite side of the Captain, Seven returning it in kind.
“Would someone like to tell me what that was about?” asked the Captain, glancing between the two of them.
B’Elanna was quick to make her accusations, pointing a finger at Seven. “She’s running something in there, something’s that’s draining power and she wouldn’t let me see it.”
Janeway swung to Seven, raising her eyebrows expectantly. “Is this true, Seven?”
Seven felt exceedingly uncomfortable under the gaze, knowing she would have to lie. “No, B’Elanna must have been mistaken. I was merely sleeping.”
“In your clothes?” cried Torres incredulously.
“I was…tired,” attempted Seven.
“Then why didn’t you want me to look around?”
Seven was beginning to see how hard lying was. As soon as you told one, you were required to follow it with more to cover it up. “I did not like your invasion of my privacy.”
Now it was Janeway’s turn to scoff. “Learnt something about that in the past week have we?”
Seven felt the same pangs of shame she had felt when Janeway had caught her with the photographs in the Ready Room. “I am not running anything off the ship’s power,” she stated, knowing she would have to obscure the regeneration unit’s signature without fail in the future, unless she wanted her lie to be exposed.
“Fine,” said Janeway with a roll of the eyes and a dismissive wave, as if she couldn’t be bothered with the trivial conversation anymore.
“Captain!” cried Torres.
“It’s late B’Elanna,” said Janeway, the exasperation obvious in her voice, “If you really want to, go back to engineering and check your readings again, but don’t bother me with this again tonight, I’m going to bed.”
“More like going to get a drink.”
B’Elanna had said it under her breath, but Seven’s enhanced hearing had caught it and from the way the Captain had come to a sudden stop, Seven was pretty sure she had too.
Slowly Janeway turned around, her eyes a stormy grey as they pierced into the squirming Torres. “It’s a long walk home from deep space,” she said in a low deathly voice.
Torres gulped nervously. “Sorry, Captain.”
Janeway didn’t say anything further, maintaining her stare for a few more uncomfortable seconds before turning and stalking off down the corridor.
A couple of days later, the Paladin arrived at its first scheduled stop. As Seven had previously informed the Captain, she’d never been to Agnadi before, and had no burning desire to visit it now. While the Captain and Harry beamed down to the surface to oversee the delivery and pick up the cargo they were trading in return, Seven remained on the ship, continuing to busy herself with work. She was making good progress on getting the Shuttle working, that being the project she tended to work on after hours when she had finished Torres’ allotted tasks for the day. She hoped to be able to surprise the Captain at some point by revealing that she had completed repairs to it. From observing the ship’s hierarchy she knew that to be accepted she needed to win over the Captain, hoping the fixed shuttle would go some way towards that. She certainly needed to improve her standing after the photo incident and the minor fight with Torres.
Seven was in the cargo bay on deck four, retrieving some phase inverters, when the doors slid open and the sound of voices drew her attention. It was the Captain, escorting what Seven could only assume was her trade contact. He was only a couple of inches taller than the Captain, but a good few inches wider. Seven had to wonder if the rotundness of the alien was natural to the native species of the planet. Otherwise he was fairly human looking, apart from the fact that he had a whole series of nostrils up the side of his nose, rather than the pair at the bottom. The Captain looked relaxed for once, happily chatting to the alien and occasionally giving him a friendly pat on the arm. It took them a moment to spot Seven was also present.
“Seven,” acknowledged the Captain, noticing the young woman amongst the containers.
Seven supposed the greeting was better than nothing.
“Captain,” she replied in equally even tones.
The alien on the other hand broke into a spontaneous smile. “You have a new crewmember,” he gushed enthusiastically heading towards Seven, “You never mentioned that, Kathryn.”
Seven found the sound of the Captain’s first name curious and somehow out of place - she never normally heard it employed on the ship. For a moment she wondered if that signalled that the alien was a personal friend, until she noticed The Captain herself looking slightly uncomfortable.
“Didn’t I?” said Janeway, eventually returning his smile, “Well, anyway, this is Seven. Seven this is Yaxpot.”
Seven merely stared at him as he approached, unsure what the customary greeting might be on Agnadi. Yaxpot showed no hesitation, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing her in a tight hug. Seven did her best not to recoil at the rather overpowering odour wafting up from the alien. Finally he released her, now bending over to peer into the container Seven had open.
“What are you working on?” he asked, sticking his hands in, without waiting for permission, “Oo, phase invertors, very nice.”
“I require those,” stated Seven, snatching them back off the pushy alien.
Yaxpot turned to the next container whipping off the lid. “ How about in here then?” he asked, delving inside and starting to rifle through it, disturbing Seven’s carefully organised engineering supplies.
Seven pushed him out of the way, quickly slamming the lid back on it. “There is nothing that concerns you,” she stated. She hadn’t really intended it, but somehow the ‘you’ had come out sounding like Yaxpot was something she might find stuck to the bottom of her boot.
Janeway was quick to step in, perhaps sensing the tension in the room. “Come on, Yax,” she said, “Let’s go look at your actual supplies shall we?” She put a friendly arm around his shoulders, and turned him from Seven, taking the chance to shoot Seven an brief reproachful look over her shoulder.
They disappeared out of the room, Seven unsure what exactly she had done to warrant the look. Dismissing the incident, she turned back to what she was doing. It was some thirty minutes later when the doors to the cargo bay re-opened. Seven didn’t need to look up to know who her visitor was - she had already become accustomed to utilising her enhanced senses and recognising the Captain by her scent alone.
“Seven, can I have a word?” the other woman said as she approached, her boots echoing off the bare floor.
Seven stood up, turning to face the woman. “Yes, Captain?” From the look in Janeway’s eye Seven could tell that she had done something wrong – again.
“I think you know what I’m going to talk to you about,” noted Janeway, folding her arms across her red shirt. The action caused the material to ruffle up slightly about the collar, which was open, revealing a tantalising hint of collarbone.
“My conduct with Yaxpot?” deduced Seven, stopping her detailed study of the shirt to reply.
Janeway merely nodded, the ends of her hair bobbing up and down slightly as she did.
“I did not like him,” stated Seven, “He was offensive and annoying.”
Seven was surprised to see that her blunt words seemed to have amused Janeway in some way. The Captain was holding her lips tightly shut for a moment in an attempt to stop the smile creeping across them. An attempt that proved futile in the end. The relief Seven felt on seeing the smile was measurable – she didn’t like disappointing the Captain.
“Seven,” said Janeway after taking a moment to compose herself, “Even if you thought he was a pompous ass, you just have to bite your tongue in situations like that.”
Seven was beginning to realise something. “You thought he was a ‘pompous ass’?”
Seven was stunned for a second time when Janeway broke into a laugh. “Yes, I did,” she confirmed.
“Then why were you so nice to him?”
“It’s called acting, Seven,” Janeway tried to explain, “I could have told him he was an obnoxious pig, but that wouldn’t have got me very far in our negotiations would it? Sometimes we have to do and say things we don’t necessarily mean to get what we want or to save someone’s feelings.”
“You mean deceive them?”
“Not exactly deception,” countered Janeway, “Just a slight fudging of the truth.”
The Captain’s words resonated with Seven, the young woman knowing she was actually doing something similar with her own secret.
“So it’s all right to withhold the truth sometimes?” asked Seven, seeking an indirect validation of her own actions.
“Who were these people you grew up with again – a bunch of saints?” queried Janeway, honestly bemused, “They never lied to one another?”
Seven merely shrugged, realising as she did that she was doing exactly what they were talking about right then and there. She surmised that this was most likely an occasion when the truth wasn’t warranted, though, since she could hardly tell the Captain that there was no need for lying in the Collective when you had access to everyone’s thoughts anyway.
“Anyway,” continued Janeway, “In certain circumstances, yes, it is acceptable to withhold the truth. You just have to use your best judgement.”
“I think I understand,” Seven noted.
“Good,” said Janeway, “So next time – be nice to the pompous ass, ok?”
Seven nodded, watching the Captain to the door as she took her leave. At last it seemed she had done something right, even if that something was insulting one of their fellow traders.
Two days out of Agnadi on the way to their next stop-off, the Captain summoned the rest of the crew to the bridge. She didn’t give any indication what the reason was until they had all arrived and had taken up their default stations.
“I was doing some routine scans, and picked up something interesting just off our course at grid 121.35,” she informed the three of them, “I wanted to get your input as to what it might be.”
Seven immediately turned her attention to the sensors in front of her, scanning the location Janeway had given. As soon as she got the first readings back the sick anxious feeling in the pit of her stomach started. She stared at her screen knowing exactly what the readings meant, but not wanting to acknowledge it.
While she stood silently, Harry was also running sensor sweeps from another station. “There’s certainly some high energy readings,” he noted, “I don’t recognise the signature though. It appears to be a ship of some kind, badly damaged from what I can tell. No signs of life. Seven, do you recognise the signature at all?”
The question completely bypassed the shocked woman.
Janeway had now noticed her distraction. “Seven?” she repeated, getting up from her command chair and coming to the front of Seven’s station, leaning her hands on the edge of it.
Seven’s eyes slowly tracked up to the expectant red-head, though she still couldn’t find her voice.
“What is it, Seven?” asked Janeway, looking genuinely concerned.
“The energy signature, it is Borg.”
“Shit!” exclaimed Harry.
“We should get out of here, now!” added B’Elanna.
Janeway meanwhile stood stock still, studying Seven’s face for a moment. Seven did her best to remain calm, knowing that to show anything more untoward than what she already inadvertently had would bring certain suspicion on her.
“Captain, we need to get out if here,” repeated B’Elanna more urgently.
“Hang on, B’Elanna,” said Janeway, though her pale blue eyes were still on Seven. The young woman really wished the Captain would stop staring or she might be forced to blurt out her secret just to get out from under the imposing gaze. Finally Janeway turned away, Seven just about holding back a sigh of relief.
“Harry, you said there were no signs of life, right?”
“Er, yes,” agreed the young man uncertainly.
“And the ship is badly damaged?”
“Then I say we go in and have a look.”
Seven was quick to jump into the conversation. “I do not think that is prudent.”
Janeway’s eyes swung inexorably towards her. “Did I ask for your opinion?” she asked icily.
“No, but it would be unwise to underestimate the Borg…”
“They’re all dead, Seven, I hardly think they’re going to pose much of a threat,” Janeway interrupted. “Imagine the valuable equipment we might be able to salvage from a Borg ship. It’s not like you normally come across them here in the Alpha Quadrant, even this far out. That means anything we do find will have an added rarity value.”
“I wonder what they are doing here?” pondered Harry.
“Who knows, who cares?” said Janeway dismissively.
Seven couldn’t believe the Captain’s blind, cocky arrogance. To actually want to board a Borg vessel was foolishness in the extreme, even if it appeared to be dormant. She had wondered when the Captain’s recklessness might land them in trouble and it appeared this might be the time.
“Captain,” she tried once more, “Even when there are no signs of life, the vessel may prove a threat.”
“Oh really? And how comes you know so much about the Borg anyway?”
Seven had to pause for a second, trying to think of something to say to cover up the truth. “I have encountered them before, in the Delta Quadrant.”
Once again Janeway’s intense blue eyes were upon her, Seven feeling like they were boring right through her to the Borg within. She was certain her lies were exposed under the scrutiny, but if that was the case Janeway gave no indication.
“If you don’t want to come on the Borg ship, that’s fine, you can stay here,” said the Captain, “But we are going to investigate. Our living is made on trade and salvage, and I’m not looking this sort of gift horse in the mouth.”
“This is not a discussion!” snapped Janeway to cut her off, “I’ve made my decision. B’Elanna, lay in a course.”
The Klingon hesitated for the barest of moments before turning to her console and altering the ship’s heading.
The first thing to hit Seven as they beamed aboard was the lights. They flashed a garish green, somehow managing to create a feeling of cold dread in the pit of her stomach that flickered in time with the pulsations. Though she had never been on this particular sphere, the instant sense of déjà vu was unnerving. Glancing at her companions, she wondered if they felt a similar foreboding. Neither the Captain nor Torres displayed any outward sign of being unsettled, though of course they had no history with the Borg like Seven did.
When Seven had first been severed from the Collective nearly a year ago, she had actually been desperate to get back to it. She didn’t like being a lone individual after so long being soothed by the many voices. The Patat-Damar had been required to put up with a few screaming fits in those early days, but took it calmly as they took most other things. Seven suspected it was their impassivity, the fact that they weren’t actually forcing anything on her that allowed her to come to her own conclusions that maybe, just maybe, individuality was a worthwhile goal. That conclusion had come under pressure once she had left the planet and faced the reality of the general attitude of most people to the Borg. A few times she had considered going back, but now she was here on a sphere she knew for certain that could never happen.
“Are you all right, Seven?”
Seven started as Janeway put a querying hand on her shoulder.
“You looked like you were miles away. There’s still time to beam back to the ship if you’d rather?”
Seven shook her head. “I am fine.”
“If you say so,” said Janeway doubtfully.
Seven knew she could do as Janeway suggested – beam back, run away from her fears. Not only would that be cowardly, but it would also leave the Captain and Torres on their own. Despite the Captain’s bravado, Seven knew the other woman didn’t really understand the seriousness of the threat even dormant borg drones could pose. Or maybe she did and just didn’t care.
They set off, moving between the empty alcoves that Seven felt were pressing in on her, like at any minute the inanimate objects were going to come alive and pounce on her, hauling her back into the arms of the Collective. Shaking off her unease and forcing herself on, Seven’s senses detected something unfamiliar on the sphere. There was a smell. Normally a borg ship would smell of little beyond clean sterility, but here there was an overpowering stench of decay. When they came to the end of the current corridor she could immediately see why.
At first glance, Seven wasn’t certain how many of them there were, but one thing was for sure, all the drones were dead. They lay haphazardly scattered along the floor, their eyes vacant, staring into nothingness. Seven had to quickly swallow back the bile that threatened to escape her throat. It was an exceedingly uncommon response to anything for her, that fact highlighting to her just how disconcerted she was.
It appeared Torres had no such qualms, bending down to start prodding at the nearest drone. “Now this is how I like the Borg, nice and dead.”
“B’Elanna,” said Janeway with a hint of reproach.
“What?” said the other woman unapologetically, “They’re just things, mindless automaton.”
“They were once people!” snapped Seven.
Both of the other women looked to her in surprise, Seven immediately realising her outburst had been far too emotional. She hadn’t been able to stop herself, Torres disparaging remarks hitting far too close to home.
“What’s got your goat?” asked Torres.
“I just think we should treat their remains with some respect.”
“Yeah, right! Not when there’s all sorts of goodies embedded in them,” said Torres, taking her pack off and producing a cutting device.
Seven grabbed her wrist before Torres could bring it to bear on the drone’s arm. “Perhaps we should concentrate on the ship itself?” she suggested reasonably. “Unless you’re a Borg drone or you want to become one, these remains will be of little use to you.”
Seven could see from the way Torres squirmed at her words that she had been right in how she had pitched her argument.
“All right,” agreed Torres, shaking off Seven’s hand, “No need to get all heavy.”
While Torres disappeared off to inspect the ship’s systems, Seven sensed the Captain’s eyes on her before she even swung round to see them. The green light periodically flashed across Janeway’s face, illuminating her bone structure in sharp relief. The look she gave Seven was part quizzical and part suspicious. However, if she thought Seven’s behaviour was odd, she didn’t say anything, eventually shouldering her own pack and following Torres down the corridor.
Janeway swept into her ready room, peeling off her jacket and slinging it over the back of her chair. She immediately went to the replicator and ordered a whiskey, needing its calming effects after three hours crawling round a Borg sphere. Though she hadn’t let on to any of the others, the Borg ship had unsettled her more than she thought it would. She’d never been on one before and had just assumed it would be like boarding any other vessel – something they’d done plenty of times in the past year or so.
However, there was something eerie about the Borg ship. Maybe it was all the dead drones lying around without a mark on them. It was simply as if they had been switched off, falling where they stood as they were disconnected from the hive mind. Janeway knew a bit about the Borg, having taken the requisite Starfleet courses on them, but nothing quite prepared you for the harsh reality of exactly what the Collective was all about. That was basically kidnapping people of other species, stripping away their individuality and turning them into mindless drones who could be turned off with a flick of a switch.
Janeway took a fortifying gulp of her drink, supposing that any discomfort she might have felt had at least been reasonably worthwhile. B’Elanna had been highly excited by some of the finds on the ship, and they now had a cargo bay full of various bits of Borg technology. Janeway wasn’t entirely sure she liked having the equipment on board, having an irrational thought that maybe it might somehow come alive and take over. The only thing she could console herself with was that she hadn’t been the only one disturbed by the Borg ship.
If Janeway had been unnerved by the sphere, then Seven had been practically jumping out of her skin. From what Janeway had seen so far, that was most unlike her, Seven normally maintaining a cool, unflappable exterior. Not to mention her extreme reaction when Torres had been about to desecrate the dead drone. It was almost as if Torres had been about to chop up a close friend or family member. Janeway would never have had Seven pegged for the compassionate sort, but perhaps she was more human than she let on after all. Maybe there was a lot more going on under that icy exterior than was immediately obvious.
Janeway wasn’t entirely sure why she was so bothered by the enigma that was Seven. She considered that it could just be her natural inquisitiveness that made her want to solve the puzzle. It wasn’t as if she’d had much to engage her mind in the months since they’d left Earth, so perhaps the arrival of the young woman had sparked fresh life into that aspect of her personality.
Unable to resist delving a little deeper and possibly finding some of the pieces to the jigsaw, Janeway had summoned Seven to her ready room. The helm was on auto-pilot, taking them on a fast track away from the cube, just in case there were any other scavengers around, so she thought it was reasonably safe to engage the young woman in conversation.
As if on cue, the chime to her office sounded and Janeway called out to grant Seven entrance. As was normal Seven stood in front of the Captain’s desk, rather than taking the waiting seat. Janeway noted that the cool exterior was back in place for the time being, the young woman’s head held high, hands clasped firmly behind her back. Janeway had identified the pose as Seven’s confident ‘don’t mess with me’ one, though Janeway couldn’t help thinking that the way Seven was jutting out her more than ample bosom at the same time kind of detracted from it. She wondered if Seven was even aware she was doing it. At the same time she wondered why on Earth she herself had noticed and was now staring at the offending body parts.
Forcing her eyes up, she met Seven’s pale blue ones. “I just wanted to have a chat about what happened on the sphere.”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” said Janeway quickly. If anything Seven had been invaluable on the mission, seeming to have more knowledge than either Janeway or B’Elanna about what was worth salvaging. “I just wanted to check you were all right.”
Seven looked perplexed by the Captain’s show of concern. Janeway herself was slightly bemused by it. It was quite some time since she’d called a crewmember in to have a purely personal discussion of their well-being. In fact she couldn’t recall the last time offhand. Had it been back in the Delta Quadrant? Maybe with B’Elanna when…
Janeway quickly cut her own thoughts off. She didn’t need to be troubled by those now. She could reminisce later to her hearts content, with just her memories and a few glasses of whiskey for company.
“I am fine,” said Seven, bringing Janeway back to the present.
“Only you looked a bit…perturbed,” noted Janeway. Seven shifted nervously on her feet to prove Janeway’s point but did not reply. “Is this anything to do with those previous encounters with the Borg you mentioned?”
Seven continued to look uneasy, finally nodding her head. “I am not fond of the Borg.”
Janeway made a small laugh. “Who is?” she said, getting up from the desk and coming round to Seven’s side of it. She perched herself on the front, gazing up to the taller woman. “Is there anyone that finds the prospect of becoming a mindless drone appealing?” she remarked, her skin crawling at the mere thought of it. “I’m just thankful we never encountered them when we were stranded in the Delta Quadrant, I’m not sure Voyager could have survived against the might of the Collective.”
“I am sure you would have found a way.”
Janeway’s brow creased at Seven’s comment. Had the young woman just complimented her? It was slightly obtuse, especially when delivered so flatly, but Janeway got the distinct impression that had been the comment’s intent.
“So what happened with you and the Borg?” asked Janeway, not wanting to offer thanks if she’d been mistaken, “Did you actually come across some of their ships? Did they come to the Patat-Damar’s planet?”
“No,” replied Seven, “It was after that, in between there and Outpost 47.”
“In the Delta Quadrant or here in the Alpha Quadrant?” Her own question reminded Janeway that she had never pressed to find out exactly how Seven had managed to get all the way from one to the other in such a short space of time. She hadn’t been that bothered in knowing before, but found herself curious now.
“In the Delta Quadrant,” answered Seven.
If Janeway wanted to know more, she was certainly going to have her work cut out. Seven wasn’t offering anything beyond the bare facts, and minimal ones at that. Again, Janeway got the sense that Seven was hiding something. She tried her trick of merely staring expectantly, waiting for Seven to elaborate. Unfortunately Seven seemed to be up to the task of resisting the look. Janeway had to hand it to her - few people could.
Janeway was wondering how she might break down the other woman’s defences when suddenly there was a loud boom and the ship lurched dramatically to the side. Janeway found herself catapulted off her desk, only being saved from crashing into the wall by Seven’s swiftly outstretched hand. The young woman quickly removed it from Janeway’s arm once the Captain was steady on her feet.
“Thanks,” acknowledged Janeway before dashing from the room onto the bridge, Seven following quickly behind.
As they entered the bridge another blast buffeted the ship, Janeway grabbing for the handrail as she staggered down the steps to the navigational and tactical stations. She took one of the seats while Seven automatically took the one next to her.
“There are three ships on a pursuit course,” Seven reported quickly as Janeway deactivated the auto-pilot and set the ship into some evasive manoeuvres.
Janeway let out a curse under her breath. Seven assumed it must be a perennial risk of their occupation, other traders and pirates looking to relieve them of their cargo or just spoiling for a fight. There was no one to stop such raiders when you lived beyond any kind of organised control like the Federation offered. Instead you had to rely on your own wits, something that it appeared Janeway fortunately had in plentiful supply.
She had already opened a communications link to one of the pursuing vessels. “This is Captain Janeway of the Fe…” Janeway caught herself, Seven guessing that the next word was going to be ‘Federation’. “…of the Paladin,” finished Janeway, omitting any prefix.
“This is Krox of the Nagani,” came back an angry guttural voice, “Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded!”
“And why would I want to do that exactly?” asked Janeway to the disembodied voice. Seven thought she sounded a bit too cheery for someone that was being shot at.
“Because if you don’t we’ll blast you to pieces.”
“I don’t think you will,” pointed out Janeway, “Why attack us if we don’t have something you want?”
“Lower your shields!”
Janeway didn’t sound the least bit apologetic as she abruptly cut the comm link, having apparently heard enough. Harry and B’Elanna had now made it to the bridge, taking up positions behind them as the phaser fire continued to rock the ship.
“What do you think they want?” Seven asked the Captain.
“Who knows,” replied Janeway with one eye on the front viewscreen as she pitched the ship again, “They could just be speculators, or maybe they want the Borg technology we just picked up.”
“You could be right, Captain,” came Harry’s voice from the back of the bridge, “I’ve just detected two unauthorised transports onto the ship – one in engineering and one to the cargo bay.”
“Damn!” exclaimed the Captain, “How did they penetrate our shields?”
“I don’t know Captain.”
“Never mind,” said Janeway, suddenly leaping up from her seat. “Harry, you and B’Elanna go to deck three, Seven, you’re with me.”
Seven tried to hide her surprise at being the one asked to accompany the Captain. Maybe the Captain wanted to keep Seven with her so she could keep an eye on her. Perhaps she just didn’t trust her alone in an attack situation.
“Will the Nagani not beam onto the bridge in our absence?” queried Seven as they made for the access ladder at the back of the bridge.
“We made a few special modifications beyond the regular ship’s specs,” Janeway replied, “The bridge has a special security field round it.”
Before Seven could ask any more, Janeway latched onto the side rails of the ladder with her hands and confounded Seven by eschewing the rungs to place her feet either side of them too. Seven was still wondering how Janeway was going to climb down that way when she suddenly slid from view, heading downwards at speed. Seven raised a single eyebrow as she peered into the darkness, impressed by the speed and efficiency of the descent. She followed suit, shooting downwards until she came to a thumping halt at deck four.
Janeway was already off down the corridor, drawing the phaser from the holster on her hip. Seven suddenly realised she had no weapon of any kind herself, wondering if the fact that she had not been given one while on board had been a deliberate oversight on the Captain’s part. There was no time to query her on it now as the Captain pulled up by the doors to the cargo bay, pressing her back to the bulkhead, ready to leap through the door.
Seven barely had time to position herself on the opposite side before the Captain was activating the door and jumping out, phaser held high. Seven ducked under the return fire, quickly sizing up their opponents and seeing there were three of them. The Captain had already floored one, and Seven sped towards the one nearest to her, clattering into the alien before he could get off a shot at her. With the sound of continued phaser fire ringing out behind her, Seven wrestled the alien to the ground, attempting a Vulcan nerve pinch that thankfully worked.
She stood up, spun round and was promptly hit full blast in the chest. Seven tumbled backwards, dazed for a moment but able to see the Captain stunning the last of the raiders. She was quickly over to Seven, who was by now sitting up checking herself.
“Are you all right?”
Seven was amazed by the degree of concern in the Captain’s voice, the tone matched by the frantic way her eyes were scanning Seven. Seven had never seen anything like it before from the normally confident Captain.
“Yes, I am undamaged,” replied Seven having determined that her thick over-vest had absorbed the brunt of the blast.
“That’s good, since we don’t have the Doctor around at the moment,” said Janeway, quickly recovering her composure after her momentary lapse.
Seven was going to ask where exactly the doctor had disappeared to, when the ship lurched again as another torpedo cannoned into the hull. Janeway braced herself on the floor before making her way over to the main console in the cargo bay.
“Time to say goodbye to our guests,” she noted as the three aliens disappeared in the transporter sparkle.
“Did you beam them into space?”
Janeway actually looked aghast at the suggestion. “No, back to their ship.”
“Is that not inefficient? They will be able to continue attacking us.”
“It might be ‘inefficient’, but that’s the way I do things.”
Seven didn’t press, but considered that perhaps the Captain still held onto more of her Starfleet principles than she cared to admit. The discussion over, Janeway ran straight out the door and to the ladder to head back up to the bridge to fend off the remainder of the attack. When they got there B’Elanna and Harry had already returned, desperately trying to counter the pursuing ships.
“Report!” yelled Janeway as she quickly took up her customary position in the command chair.
“We’ve lost warp engines, shields are down to 10% and phasers are offline,” was Harry’s quick response
“Basically we’re up shit creek,” added B’Elanna helpfully.
Janeway didn’t dignify the comment with a response, instead activating the console in her chair and studying it intently.
“Any suggestions would be good about now!” cried Harry from the forward navigational station as another explosion went off to the side of the bridge sending a shower of sparks in his direction.
“Change our heading to mark 4.5,” came back Janeway’s calm reply.
Seven immediately saw the Captain’s intention, since she had also been making a quick sweep of the sensors. “Captain, I do not recommend…”
“Not now, Seven. Do it, Mr Kim!”
The vibrations through the ship’s hull started almost immediately as it plunged into the nearby gas cloud. Seven tightly gripped the edge of her console, having to fight to stay on her feet. Ahead of her Janeway bobbed up and down in her seat as she was shaken from side to side, grasping the sides of her chair until her knuckles were visibly white.
The ship was rattling alarmingly as they ploughed on, panels popping off the bulkheads all around them, explosions shooting up from ruptured conduits.
“Are they following us, Harry?” shouted the Captain over the deafening noise.
“There’s only one of them still on our tail!”
“Maintain our course then!”
Seven had to wonder if Janeway would just keep them going until the ship disintegrated around them. She had no real wish to sacrifice her life to satisfy the Captain’s battle of wills with the aliens.
“Harry?” queried Janeway once more.
“They’re turning back, Captain!”
“Good. Now punch us through to the other side!”
Seven couldn’t believe her ears. The Captain’s course of action was hazardous in the extreme. There was no way the ship was going to survive the remainder of the trip through the cloud, no matter how short. Yet no one else seemed to be raising a dissenting voice, trusting the Captain’s judgement. Seven supposed it was too late for her to do anything else either.
They all stared at the front view screen as the cloud buffeted the ship, waiting for any sign they had made it. Eventually the dark vista of open space became visible through the green haze. Then finally there was quiet, the only sounds in the sudden calm the faint bleeping of a number of alarms indicating damage at various locations round the ship. A pall of smoke hung over the bridge as the Captain rose grimly from her chair.
“I’ll be in my ready room,” she informed them, “Assessing the state of the ship, or what’s left of it.”
As it turned out the state of the ship was not good. Nearly a week after the pirate attack, they still had minimal systems, limping through space towards their next stop-off which they would reach in about five years time unless they got the warp engines working again. That seemed unlikely, given the fact that they had lost all their deuterium to hull breaches. Most of those had finally been fixed, but portions of the ship were still uninhabitable due to the lack of power and life support. At present that was only maintained on deck one and parts of deck two. Those parts didn’t extend to the living quarters – the crew instead all occupying the cramped conditions of the messhall.
This proved particularly problematical for Seven in terms of regeneration. She’d been able to retrieve her portable unit while on a repair mission wearing an environmental suit, but finding opportunities to actually use it had been much harder. She’d had to make do with snatches of regeneration whenever she could find a secluded spot in the habitable areas, but hadn’t managed more than a couple of hours of undisturbed regeneration all week. That had left her extremely tired, and she knew she had to find some way around the problem soon before her Borg systems actually started failing.
She wasn’t the only one that was showing signs of tiredness and stress either. The whole crew seemed on edge, their close living quarters not helping matters. The state of the ship seemed to have had the biggest impact on one person in particular – the Captain.
Seven had thought she had finally been making some progress in developing some sort of friendly relationship with the other woman. She had been pleasantly surprised when the Captain had been perceptive enough to ask after her when they had gotten back from the Borg sphere. Unfortunately the raiders had chosen that moment to attack and since then the Captain’s behaviour had gone back to its erratic norm.
The Captain seemed to have taken the damage to the ship personally and spent all her time either fixing it or shut away in her ready room. She was barely speaking to Seven, or any of the rest of the crew for that matter. When she did it was hard to predict what she was going to be like. One minute she was up, the next down, the next ripping someone’s head off for a minor indiscretion.
All in all it was all very confusing to Seven. Of course their situation was regrettable, but it was as if Janeway thought it was her own fault. The only good thing about their current living arrangements was that it had forced Seven to interact with the other two crewmembers on a more regular basis. Every evening they would sit in the messhall, dissecting the days repairs before moving onto more personal discussion. However, both Harry and B’Elanna seemed a bit reticent to discuss certain topics – most notably Voyager. That only made Seven more curious to learn what had happened aboard the ship.
Apart from chatting, Harry would periodically produce a pack of ‘cards’ and attempt to teach Seven a new game. He was dealing out a fresh hand of a game called ‘gin’ that evening, as B’Elanna sat watching them, chewing on the remnants of a ration bar. From the look on her face, it was as unpalatable as most of them. Seven hadn’t thought it fit to point out that she actually liked the blandness of the bars.
“So,” began Harry conversationally as he picked up his cards, “Was there anyone special back in the Delta Quadrant?”
B’Elanna let out a snorting laugh. “I wondered how long it would take you!”
“What?” asked Harry, “It’s just a question.”
“Special?” queried Seven, unsure what the terminology meant.
“You know, boyfriend, husband?”
“No.” replied Seven simply.
“I wouldn’t have told him that if I were you,” noted Torres.
Seven didn’t really understand their jokey banter, but was willing to go along with it. It was obvious they were referring in some way to interpersonal relationships and quite possibly sex, but since Seven had no experience of either she couldn’t be certain. “Why?” she asked Torres, wondering why she shouldn’t have told Harry the truth.
“Harry was infamous for falling for all the wrong women back on Voyager,” B’Elanna explained.
Seven thought there was a slight insult in the remark somewhere – was she ‘wrong’ in some way? However, she wasn’t really concerned with that, more interested in the fact that B’Elanna had actually mentioned the taboo subject.
“What happened to the rest of the crew of Voyager?” Seven asked seizing upon the opening.
Harry and B’Elanna both stared at her incredulously, seemingly stunned by her bluntness.
“I presume there must have been some,” noted Seven, “At least judging from the pictures in the Captain’s desk.”
Seven brought the image to the fore of her mind, recounting its details perfectly. “There are two images in a frame. In the first the Captain is sitting on a low seat holding up a wine glass. Around her from left to right are a bald-headed man in a blue-topped uniform, a furry-haired alien, Harry, a tall, dark-haired man with a tattoo over his left eye, B’Elanna, a faired-haired younger man in a red uniform and finally a dark-skinned Vulcan in a yellow uniform. The other picture is of the dark-skinned Vulcan only.”
Seven had keenly watched both Harry and B’Elanna’s reactions to her description of the images as she spoke. They had both looked pained with their lips tightly drawn in a mask of sorrow, and both had flinched just that bit more when she had described the fair-haired man in the red-topped uniform. The two of them were exchanging glances now while Seven waited patiently for one of them to elaborate. It was Harry who finally turned back to her, speaking hesitantly, like he didn’t really want to be the one to explain.
“The first picture is of the senior staff on Voyager,” he began, “The people you didn’t recognise were the Doctor, Neelix, Chakotay, Tom Paris and Tuvok.”
“What happened to them? Did they not wish to come with the Captain?”
Harry swallowed nervously, obviously finding it difficult to deal with or explain the past. Seven wondered whether she should leave it be, but she wanted to know as much as she could, especially given the Captain’s extreme reaction to finding her with the pictures.
“As far as I know Chakotay’s back on Earth, the Doc’s…unavailable, and…” Harry had to stop and gather himself, “Neelix, Tom and Tuvok are dead.”
Seven saw how B’Elanna’s eyes fell downwards as soon as Harry’s words were out. She remained staring mournfully at the surface of the table. Obviously one of the men had meant a great deal to her. From their closeness in the picture, Seven suspected it was the one Harry had identified as Tom Paris.
“How did it happen?” asked Seven, surprising herself with the degree of compassion evident in her tone.
Harry regarded her for a moment before shrugging and giving her a brief summary of the history of Voyager - how they had gotten stranded in the Delta Quadrant with a long journey home ahead of them; how the crews of the Starfleet and Maquis vessels had banded together under the Captain’s command; the various trials and tribulations along the way. Eventually he got on to the pertinent topic of how the crewmen in question had died.
“It was during our sixth year stranded in the Delta Quadrant,” he noted, “Tom and Tuvok were on a routine survey mission in a shuttle when they were attacked and captured by an organisation who ran a kind of ‘sport’ that, unbeknownst to most of those watching it, actually used forced competitors. Tsunkatse was its name, a sort of duel between two contestants. Unfortunately this duel was sometimes to the death.”
Harry paused to lick his lips and take a drink from the glass before him.
“From what we know,” he continued, “Commander Tuvok was injured in the initial shuttle attack so Tom was forced to fight in order to keep them both alive.”
“He did not succeed?” surmised Seven.
“No, he was killed in his second fight, against an Hirogen.”
Species 562, Seven knew of them – a formidable hunting species. “And Tuvok?”
Harry’s details had become short and clipped now, like he could barely manage a sentence with more than a few words. “With Tom gone, they made him take to the arena. He was in no condition to fight. The Hirogen made quick work of him too.”
“Where was Voyager during all of this?” asked Seven, though what she really wanted to know was where the Captain was.
“We were too far away,” he said, ruefully shaking his head, “As was the Captain in the Delta Flyer,” he added, answering Seven’s silent question for her. “By the time we discovered what had happened and got back there it was too late. The crew was devastated. We’d lost people before but never anyone quite so vital. The Captain took it particularly hard.”
“She wasn’t the only one.” The quiet comment was the first time B’Elanna had spoken during the whole explanation.
“I know, I’m sorry B’Elanna,” said Harry, putting a comforting hand on her arm, “I didn’t mean anything, I just wanted to get on to what happened next.”
“What happened next?” she cried beseechingly her eyes suddenly shooting up to look at him, “What happened next was we got home! Nearly six years out there and they only had to survive another couple of months and they would have been ok!”
“Though you don’t know if we’d ever have got home if it wasn’t for their deaths,” Harry commented.
“How dare you!” shouted Torres angrily, somewhere between tears and fury, “Are you saying it was worth it then?”
“No, of course not,” he stated emphatically, “Sorry that was poorly put. What I meant is that the Captain changed after that. She’d always flown quite close to the edge even before that, taking a few risks here and there, pushing her Starfleet principles to the limit, bending the Prime Directive.” He turned to Seven, “You know what that is right?” he checked. She merely nodded that she did. The Borg had assimilated plenty of Starfleet vessels to gain the knowledge.
“But she never stepped over the line,” continued Harry, “Always staying just the right side. And then with their deaths, it was like something snapped.”
“I’m not saying she was insane or anything,” he mentioned, fixing Seven with his dark eyes to impart the importance of the point, “Just more driven than ever to get her crew and ship home. It wasn’t long before those ideals she’d lived by and clung onto for so long started to take a back seat to that overriding desire. You see Tuvok had always been her counsel, her right-hand. Without him around to put his logical Vulcan point of view there was no one to challenge some of her more erratic decisions. Chakotay tried. He was meant to be the first officer, after all, but I think the Captain had long since given up listening to him even before Tuvok’s death. In the end the Captain sanctioned stealing some technology in order to get us home. I think she knew it was wrong, but by that point all she wanted was to get back to Earth and she didn’t care how.”
“Only of course it didn’t stop there. Once we got back there were the consequences of our actions to deal with, in particular those of the Captain. We all backed her up of course…well, nearly all of us, but I think they were gunning for her from the outset, looking to make an example of her as someone who’d betrayed their Starfleet principles. When Chakotay got up in that hearing room at Starfleet Headquarters and proceeded to stab her in the back you could see each stark word was like an actual wound, a fresh twist of the knife. What with his testimony and her own admissions she didn’t stand a chance. She was court-martialled and sent to the penal colony in Australia.”
“I…we…couldn’t believe what had happened. Chakotay was meant to be her friend but he was the one that hammered the final nail in the coffin of her Starfleet career. I went to see her at the colony and she was a shadow of her former self, disillusioned, disheartened. It was like she’d lost everything – her career, her friends, her very self. In that moment I knew we had to get her out of there. So B’Elanna, the Doc, Neelix and I hatched a plan to break her out. I didn’t want to stay in an organisation that could do that to someone like Captain Janeway, discard her so easily when she’s one of the noblest, most decent people I’ve ever met. B’Elanna didn’t have anything to stay on Earth for either and it wasn’t as if it was Neelix’s home. As for Doc, well Starfleet wanted to take his emitter away for their own use and decompile his program, saying that he was out of date.”
This was the third time Seven had heard this ‘Doctor’ mentioned. She had assumed he was just another member of the crew, but it sounded as if he was some sort of computer program, though one they treated as a real person.
“So the four of us rescued her from the colony and left Earth,” continued Harry, “Stealing this ship. It’s not a patch on Voyager, but it gets us around. That was nearly a year ago now and we’ve been out here, avoiding Starfleet ever since, making a living from transporting various cargo around.”
Seven was starting to understand, or at least be able to account for, some of the Captain’s more unusual and unpredictable behaviour. From Harry’s retelling it sounded like she had lost a lot, including maybe herself, while out in the Delta Quadrant. It also sounded like Starfleet had been less than sympathetic on her return, perhaps even compounding the problems and taking what little she might have had left. Now she was trying to rebuild her life in some way. The parallels were disturbingly similar, and with a simple substitution of ‘Starfleet’ with ‘Borg’ he could almost have been talking about Seven herself. Though at the same time, Seven had to consider that the Captain must have originally had some sense of self before she ever joined Starfleet, whereas Seven had only vague recollections of being human, and those from a very basic child’s point of view. Conversely Seven had no idea how long Janeway had been in Starfleet, maybe it had become as ingrained in her as the Borg were in Seven.
“And how was the Captain, after you left Earth?” queried Seven, wondering if the Captain also felt similar feelings of guilt, remorse and regret for her actions as Seven did.
Harry looked at her oddly for a moment before answering, perhaps thinking the question was verging on the too personal. However, he answered it anyway. Maybe it did him good to talk about it. “She was depressed,” he admitted, “For a long time. She hadn’t even really wanted to come. I think in some typical martyr type way she thought she deserved to be punished. We practically had to drag her away from prison. But over time she started to show some signs of improvement.”
“If you can call it that,” noted B’Elanna
Harry shot her a look as if to say she shouldn’t be making such comments in front of Seven.
“What?” said Torres unapologetically. “I wouldn’t exactly call going from spending all your time locked up in your cabin talking to no one to gung-ho pirate an improvement. And now we seem to be back at the first of those anyway.”
“Give her time, maybe she’ll face it one day.”
Out of the two of them Harry seemed to have some sort of almost blind faith in the Captain, like he could never believe she might make a mistake or do something wrong. Torres appeared more pragmatic, perhaps even a touch cynical. Seven merely watched their interaction with interest, still thinking over what Harry had told her.
“She better get over it soon,” remarked Torres, “Before she gets us all killed. We’ve already lost Neelix out here.”
“You can’t blame the Captain for that, it was an accident,” insisted Harry.
“Maybe, maybe not. It’s not as if she’s learnt from it – we could have been fried in that gas cloud.”
“But we weren’t were we?”
Seven regretted that she had to concur with Torres’s observations. She considered that maybe she could approach the Captain to talk to her about what she had learnt, though how she would broach such a delicate subject she wasn’t sure. She’d already seen enough from her short time on board to know that the Captain valued privacy. If Seven started talking to her about the past it would be obvious that Harry or B’Elanna had told her about Voyager when it seemed the Captain didn’t want her to know. Seven had to wonder why that was. Was the Captain ashamed in some way, or did she just not trust Seven?
Surmising she would have to ponder the subject some more before deciding on a course of action, she returned to the other point in the conversation that had caught her attention.
“You mentioned another crewmember that came with you, a ‘Doctor’?”
“That’s right,” said Harry, “The Doctor was the emergency medical hologram back on Voyager. Only because the ‘real’ doctor was killed as soon as we got stranded in the Delta Quadrant we had to have him active pretty much the whole time. Luckily we managed to appropriate a mobile holographic emitter for him, which allowed him to go anywhere a regular flesh and blood person might without the need for holographic projectors. Unfortunately it’s broken at the moment and since it’s from the 29th century – don’t ask – we haven’t been able to fix it. He’s been offline for a couple of months now.”
“Can I see it?”
Torres looked at her doubtfully. “You’re going to tell us you’re an expert in 29th Century technology as well now are you?”
“No, but I may be able to detect something you have missed.”
B’Elanna narrowed her eyes as she was reminded of the previous time they had sat round a table in the messhall and Seven had fixed something the engineer couldn’t. However, it appeared that practicality got the better of pride as Torres plonked her toolbox down on the tabletop and produced a small, flat, triangular device.
Seven accepted it, taking out some of her own tools so she could delicately prise open the casing. Seven was studying it so intently she didn’t register the opening of the messhall doors, nor the approaching woman until she was standing right by the table.
“What’s going on here?” asked the Captain, “Is that the doctor’s emitter?”
Seven glanced up, seeing that the Captain looked particularly dishevelled, as if she had been crawling around in some filthy Jeffries tube. The sleeves on her shirt were rolled up to just above the elbow, her exposed forearms streaked with dirt and grease. Quite a bit of that had also been transferred to the Captain’s face, though Seven found the smudges across the normally perfect skin oddly fascinating.
“And more to the point,” continued the Captain, taking advantage of Seven’s momentary distraction, “Why are you taking it apart?”
“Because it is broken,” stated Seven, on more assured ground, “And I am attempting to fix it.”
“Or you could be making it worse!” cried Janeway, “We don’t need anything else going wrong at the moment.”
“This is already ‘wrong’ though,” noted Seven, uncertain of the Captain’s point.
“Just put it down,” instructed the Captain tetchily.
“I think I nearly have it.”
“Seven, I said…”
“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”
Their discussion was abruptly halted by the sudden appearance of a middle-aged, balding man. He was sitting on the table in front of Seven, looking rather bemused as to how he had come to be in that position. His eyes swung confusedly from the Captain, to Harry to B’Elanna before finally coming to rest on Seven.
“Who are you?”
“I am Seven.”
“What is that, a name or a description?” he asked in some consternation, his brow wrinkling. “And why am I sitting on a table with my feet in your lap?” he added indignantly.
Seven realised for the first time that the doctor’s feet were indeed wedged between her thighs. She shifted them apart and he quickly removed them, looking slightly embarrassed as he hopped off the table. At least Seven would have classed it as embarrassment, finding that odd considering he was a hologram.
“I have just fixed your emitter. This is where you appeared.” she informed him.
The Doctor looked to his left arm where the small device was now attached to the outside of his jacket. “I guess I should thank you then.”
“You are welcome.”
“Been picking up new crewmembers have you?” asked the Doctor, turning to the Captain. Seven thought his tone was almost as blunt as her own, wondering if she too sounded quite so disrespectful. “How long was I offline exactly?”
Strangely, the Captain seemed unperturbed by his attitude, actually looking faintly amused at his abruptness. “Two months and three days,” she replied, “And it’s good to have you back,” she added.
“I wish I could take the credit, but it seems you have your mystery new crewmember to thank for that.”
“It does, doesn’t it?”
Seven couldn’t help the sense of pride that welled up in her as Janeway looked softly down to where Seven sat. Had she finally gained some measure of approval?
It wasn’t long before Seven started to regret re-activating the doctor. Not only did the man never seem to stop talking, but over the next few days he kept bothering her to have a physical so he could add notes on her to the medical database. However, Seven knew that any sort of medical scan would immediately reveal her Borg nature.
Fortunately the sickbay was one of the areas on deck two without power, but it would only be a matter of time before it was restored and she would no longer have an excuse to avoid the examination. They had already restored limited power to the crew quarters, meaning they at last had some privacy. Yet Seven still couldn’t risk regenerating for more than a few hours at a time, in case her draining of the limited power was detected.
Knowing that not only did the ship need it, but also that so did she, Seven had concentrated all her spare time on searching for power sources. Finally, two weeks after the initial pirate attack, Seven located a planet only marginally off course that seemed a likely source of deuterium. There were a few potential problems, but she was buoyed enough to want to share her discovery with the Captain immediately.
After Seven’s repair of the doctor, the Captain appeared to be somewhat reinvigorated, throwing herself into repairs on the ship with gusto, and also spending more time with the rest of the crew. However, Seven sensed that there was still a part of her that wasn’t completely there, even when she was sitting with them at the table in the messhall listening to their banter. There was always something extra that was withdrawn and hidden. At least Seven had a vague understanding of why that was now, and what the Captain was most likely thinking about when that faraway melancholy look came across her face.
Hoping that more good news would further raise the Captain’s spirits, Seven came to her door that evening, ringing the chime on the control panel outside. There was no answer. Seven tried again, but still there was no answer. Seven puzzled for a moment – she had checked before she came that the Captain was in her quarters, so why was she not answering? Seven tried two, three, four more times but still there was no reply. She was starting to get a strange agitated sensation in her stomach, unsure what it might signify, only knowing she had a strong urge to verify the Captain was all right beyond the locked door. Unable to stand not knowing why the Captain refused to answer, Seven accessed the door controls and overrode the lock using some Borg algorithms.
The lights were dimmed in the quarters, but Seven’s part-artificial eyes quickly adjusted. The interior was exactly the same layout as Seven’s own quarters, the decoration also identical in that there was none. There was no sign of the Captain in the main area so Seven moved through to the bedroom, stopping in the doorway when she instantly saw that the bed was occupied.
She wasn’t sure how long she just stood there watching. She watched the rhythmic rise and fall of the Captain’s chest beneath her plain grey t-shirt as she slumbered. She watched the faint parting of her lips as each breath whispered past them, a slight bloom of moisture upon them. She watched the light from the stars outside playing across the Captain’s cheekbones. At no point did she feel that she shouldn’t be watching.
Eventually she moved tentatively closer. Somehow she knew that Janeway would be furious should she wake, yet Seven was undeterred, for once ignoring her logic that was telling her she should leave now she had ascertained that the Captain was alive and well. This didn’t seem the time for logic at all. Instead this was the perfect time to explore those strange human emotions swirling inside her, emotions that seemed to bubble up particularly when she was in the Captain’s presence. Like the one that was putting the oddest thought into her head at that moment - that she should reach out and push back that stray strand of auburn hair tumbling loosely across the Captain’s cheek. It was almost like it was taunting her – ‘look, I’m out of place, tuck me away.’
Seven found her fingers instinctively rising as she inched closer. What harm would it do? She would brush the hair out of the way and then she would leave.
Seven’s boot clonked into something on the floor. She instantly froze as the chinking sound echoed round the room, sounding like a blaring alarm in Seven’s mind. Yet the Captain didn’t wake, Seven slowly exhaling as she realised how close she had come to being caught in a rather compromising position. She wasn’t sure how she might have explained why her fingers were on the Captain’s face, not entirely sure what had possessed her to contemplate touching the other woman in the first place.
Glancing down at what had caused the noise, Seven reached down and picked up a bottle. Turning it over she read the label that declared it was ‘whiskey’. Having spent enough time in the bar at Outpost 47, Seven knew that was an alcoholic drink, the smell from the bottle as she brought it to her nose telling her it was the real thing and not synthehol. Suddenly having an inkling as to why the Captain hadn’t woken at the loud noise, Seven leant closer to the snoozing woman. One sniff was enough to confirm her suspicion – the Captain was drunk.
Seven had noted that Janeway did seem to consume alcohol on a fairly regular basis - many times when called to the Captain’s office there would be a tumbler sitting on the desk. However this was the first time Seven had seen her impaired because of it. Or maybe this was a regular occurrence, pondered Seven, once the Captain got behind the safety of the doors to her quarters. It didn’t seem like a particularly healthy or sensible thing to do - to drink until you passed out - though she had seen it before in the bar. On those occasions she had studied the hapless aliens with detached interest, but now she found herself disturbed at seeing Janeway in that state.
Thinking this was most likely not the best time to bring her sensor readings to the Captain’s attention, Seven turned for the door, pausing momentarily on the way to cast a last look over her shoulder before she departed.
Janeway sat in her command chair, the grey material of her high-necked t-shirt feeling oddly tight around her neck. She wasn’t sure why she was so nervous, it was a day the same as any other out in the Delta Quadrant. She reached up to ease the t-shirt away from her skin, her fingers brushing past the four pips on her collar and accidentally knocking one off.
“Damn!” she cursed reaching down to pick it off the carpet.
Only before her fingers could close over the small object, the ship suddenly lurched pitching her out of her seat. She rolled over but was quickly up on her feet as the lights dimmed to signal the red alert. She noted that she had lost another of her pips somewhere along the way as she turned to the back of the bridge.
“Commander Tuvok, report!”
“We are under attack, three ships!” replied the Vulcan.
“Return fire,” she ordered before swinging to the front of the bridge, “Mr Paris, evasive manoeuvres!”
“Captain, we are being boarded, decks 3, 4 and…1”
Janeway swung round in time to see an Hirogen appearing next to Tuvok, knife in hand. He took one swing at the surprised Vulcan, neatly severing an artery in his neck so that green blood splashed spectacularly up the flashing display by his side.
Janeway was up the steps in a flash, tackling the Hirogen herself but he threw her off and to the floor, walking past her onto the lower level as if she was insignificant. Seeing the Captain in trouble, Tom rose from his chair but the Hirogen was too quick. Tom made a gurgling cry as the knife plunged into his stomach before he collapsed to the carpeted floor, close enough for Janeway to see the vacant stare in his eyes.
Now the Hirogen finally did seem interested in her, reaching down to grab her round the neck, dislodging another pip as he hauled her to her feet. Desperately Janeway looked around the bridge for help. The only other person there was Chakotay who hadn’t moved a muscle from his seat.
“Chakotay! Your phaser!”
The Commander’s head slowly and deliberately turned to her, his dark eyes staring at her with a blank look.
“Chakotay! Help me!”
Still the Commander didn’t move, sitting impassively where he was as the Hirogen’s grip tightened. Janeway struggled futilely in his grasp. Then the pain hit; intense burning pain in her stomach. Janeway screamed out as the knife drove deep in her flesh. She cried out again as the Hirogen withdrew it, releasing his hold to allow her to slump to the floor. She just saw her final pip rolling away across the floor in Chakotay’s direction before the darkness came…
Janeway bolted upright in bed, gasping and panting. She clutched first at her stomach and then at her neck, finding both intact. She allowed herself a long sigh of relief putting her head in her hands as she tried to calm her breathing and forget the nightmare that was a variation on all too common themes. When she felt composed enough, at least to get up, she staggered out into the lounge area, her head pounding as usual.
“Lights!” she demanded. “30% illumination!” she quickly added as they blinded her sore eyes.
The light highlighted the contents of the room to her, in particular two items she had left on the desk earlier – her photo frame and a bottle of whiskey. Her eyes flicked from one to the other, the call of the bottle making her lick her lips in anticipation. Her hand was already upon it before she’d even realised.
“No!” she shouted to the room realising what she had done, “I will not drink you!”
She snatched up the bottle, hurling it at the bulkhead where it smashed against the hard surface, spraying the contents all over the wall in a shower of glass. Janeway sank to the floor, allowing a tiny, self-pitying sob to issue from her lips as she just sat there waiting for the dawn to come.
Seven checked the readings on the shuttle controls one more time just to be sure, but they gave the same output as they had the previous six times – they were all set for launch. She knew her attentiveness to detail was more than was required, but she wanted to prove that the Captain’s faith in her wasn’t misplaced.
Seven had brought her findings to the Captain the day after she had stumbled upon her drunk in her quarters. During their conversation, Seven couldn’t help scrutinising the other woman to see if she showed any after effects of her over-indulgence, but if the Captain felt anything untoward she did a good job of covering it up. She wasn’t quite so good at covering up her surprise and pleasure at hearing of Seven’s deuterium find, and Seven wouldn’t have wanted her to either. Seeing the light in the Captain’s eyes made all the painstaking sensor study more than worthwhile.
It was the Captain speaking to her again now, taking up the second seat at the front of the shuttle.
“Yes, all systems are functioning within expected parameters.”
“I still can’t believe you managed to fix the shuttle,” noted Janeway, running her fingers appreciatively over the controls. “Finding deuterium deposits, fixing the shuttle single-handed – you’ll be running the ship before I know it.”
“I would never take your place,” stated Seven earnestly, worried that Janeway seriously thought that was the reason she had done it.
“It was a joke, Seven,” noted Janeway with amusement, “And for the record I wouldn’t let you take my place.”
Seven made a small nod of acknowledgement before turning back to the controls, thinking it safest to stick to those while they awaited the final member of their party. Seven knew she really needed to learn to read humour better, but it was just so hard sometimes, especially when delivered in the form of irony.
They didn’t have to wait long as B’Elanna clambered aboard with her equipment, cursing the confined quarters as she tried to stash it all somewhere. Out of the corner of her eye Seven could see the smile twitching at Janeway’s lips as Torres huffed and puffed behind them.
Once Torres had finally taken her seat in the aft of the ship, the shuttle launched without problem from the shuttle bay of the Paladin. As they approached the planet, Seven could see the lilac haze of the atmosphere. Though she supposed the hue was aesthetically pleasing, she knew it was also full of tetrion particles that made beaming through it impossible. That was why they were now in the process of taking down the shuttle to extract the necessary deuterium from the deposits she had detected. Harry and the Doctor remained on the ship, which was fine by her, since the Doctor was still after her to attend a medical examination. The request had become even more pressing now that they had managed to restore partial power to the sickbay. Seven had so far managed to make the excuse that she was too busy making final repairs to the shuttle, but knew that she couldn’t avoid the doctor forever.
Seven would also have preferred if Torres had remained on the ship, but the Captain had been insistent that she accompany them despite Seven’s protestations that she knew how to carry out the extraction process herself. Seven couldn’t quite understand the Klingon’s hostile attitude towards her. When Torres discovered it was Seven who had found a potential power source she had merely scowled, Seven earning a similar response when she revealed how the shuttle was nearly repaired. It was almost as if the engineer didn’t want her to successfully fix things. Seven didn’t know why Torres would actually want her to fail when her repairs and findings were in the best interests of the ship. Still the Captain seemed satisfied enough and that was most important as far as Seven was concerned. If Torres didn’t like it then that was her prerogative.
An insistent beeping noise brought Seven back to the present as they entered the atmosphere.
“What is it?” queried Janeway.
Seven studied her controls for a moment. “It is one of the warp control capacitors, it’s showing an unexpected surge in energy throughput.” Seven’s brow creased; she had checked the capacitors as many times as everything else.
“Can you contain it?”
“I am attempting to re-route energy flow now…”
Suddenly there was a faint boom from the back of the shuttle, the craft rocking with it. The shuttle began to vibrate alarmingly before veering to the side.
“I’ve lost pitch control!” cried Janeway who was at the navigational controls.
Seven desperately tried to stop the cascading failures from the blown capacitor, but even her Borg speed wasn’t enough to correct them all. Janeway looked frantically at her as she shook in her seat, no doubt seeing her futile actions.
“Strap yourselves in!” cried the Captain, “We’re going down!”
Seven pulled the seat straps over her body and fastened them just in time as the shuttle lurched violently again, another explosion also sounding out from the rear somewhere. Janeway was fighting hard with the controls, trying to keep them on some sort of even course for the ground that was looming up fast. Seven could see the green grass zooming up towards them before the shuttle crashed into the earth, sending up a cloud of mud and turf as it gouged through it. More panels and controls blew as they skidded along, the vibrations juddering through Seven bones.
Finally they came to a halt, Seven hearing the long sigh that Janeway made as the last few sparks faded away to leave silence.
“Not my best landing but at least we’re in one piece,” noted the Captain sardonically, unfastening her straps. “B’Elanna, I want a full damage report,” she added over her shoulder, the engineer nodding and heading out the back of the shuttle.
Seven was going to join her when the Captain’s hand shot out, stalling her. “I thought you said the shuttle was fixed?”
“It was,” replied Seven, “The capacitor should not have failed.”
“But it did, and now we’re stuck here. Remind me to verify it next time you claim to have repaired something.”
Seven made to say something to defend herself, but Janeway was in again quickly.
“I don’t want to hear any excuses,” she stated, “Just help B’Elanna with repairs, I’ll be outside verifying the whereabouts of the deuterium.”
And with that Janeway was off out of the shuttle, grabbing her pack on the way. Seven watched her in annoyance, though part of that feeling was directed at herself. Wanting to find out how she could have overlooked something so obvious she made straight for the capacitors, unhooking the panel that housed them. A pall of smoke flew out in her face, Seven wafting it away so she could inspect the damage. She pulled out the obviously broken one, her eyes widening in surprise as she studied it.
“Find anything interesting?”
Seven swung round to B’Elanna. “This has been deliberately tampered with.”
“Really?” noted B’Elanna, taking it off Seven to look.
Seven noticed that Torres didn’t look particularly surprised by her revelation and slowly something dawned on her. “You tampered with it in order to make it fail. Why?”
“Because I wanted to show the Captain that you’re perhaps not quite as perfect as she thinks!”
“But now we are stranded here!” stated Seven in some exasperation, “That is counter productive.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t count on quite such a bumpy landing,” admitted Torres with a shrug, “It’s not that bad - we’ll fix the shuttle, it might take a couple of days, but no harm done in the end.”
Two days? Without regenerating? thought Seven in alarm. “Unacceptable.”
Seven strode from the shuttle, seeking out the Captain. As she stepped out into the sunlight she could immediately see the long trail of destruction the shuttle had left in its wake. She also noted that the hull had been breached in a couple of places. Given the damage, Torres’ two day estimate could prove to be optimistic.
The planet’s surface was eerily quiet, just the sound of the breeze stirring through the long grass breaking the silence. Janeway hadn’t gone far, though she had failed to notice the young woman following her from the shuttle. She sat with her back to Seven, her bag and equipment discarded by her side. Seven wondered what she was doing as she merely seemed to be staring up at the sky. Seven glanced up too, but couldn’t see anything of interest so returned her eyes downwards. Every once in a while a stronger gust of wind would brush through the Captain’s auburn hair, lifting it away from her face and causing her to blink. For a moment Seven completely forgot what she had come outside for as she watched the infinite different ways the strands moved. Finally she shook herself out of her perusal, heading over to the Captain’s side.
“Captain, I have discovered that B’Elanna deliberately sabotaged the shuttle,” stated Seven without preamble.
Janeway shot up. “What? Don’t be ridiculous, why on earth would she do that?”
“Because she wanted me to fail.”
Janeway pursed her lips, sucking in a slow breath. “Ah, I see,” she remarked, “You’re trying to shift the blame for your mistake onto someone else.”
“No, I am stating what happened.”
“Seven, just admit it, you fouled up.”
“I did not,” insisted Seven becoming agitated now, “Why will you not believe me?”
“Because I don’t know you!” exclaimed the Captain, her own tone rising in the face of Seven’s annoyance. “Whereas I’ve known B’Elanna for seven years,” she pointed out, “You’re seriously expecting me to take your word for it that she caused us to crash on purpose as some sort of spiteful payback on you?”
“Yes, when it is the truth.”
“Well I don’t,” declared the Captain, “Now just drop it and get on with repairs.”
“I will not comply!” Seven turned on her heel and started walking away from the shuttle.
Seven ignored the Captain’s call, continuing to walk away with her back to her.
“Seven, get back here now!”
Seven wasn’t entirely sure where she was going. There was nowhere to go. Instead she just kept striding away from the shuttle, having this irrational urge to put some distance between herself and the Captain. As she walked she tried to determine where the urge came from, pinpointing that there were two predominant emotions in her mind – anger and hurt.
She was angry with the Captain for siding with B’Elanna and hurt that she had not even made the effort to listen to Seven’s explanation of events. As that thought crossed her mind, Seven had to admit that she hadn’t exactly put her case well. She should have shown the Captain the evidence. Why hadn’t she shown her the damaged capacitor? That would have been the logical and sensible thing to do. Yet for some reason those normally predominant qualities often seemed to desert Seven when called upon to interact with the Captain.
Seven stopped where she was, confused as to her own thought processes. The shuttle was now out of sight over the hills, Seven alone in the vast emptiness of the grassy plain. She suddenly recalled the image of the Captain earlier – sitting on the ground and contemplating the sky while lost in thought. Seven decided that she might try the same thing since she had nothing better to do, plonking herself down and gazing up at the lilac sky to see if that might hold some answers. A faint breeze wafted across the plain, picking lightly at her hair, tickling a few blond strands across her face. Seven tried ineffectually to secure them back in the ponytail at the back of her head, eventually giving up.
As before the sky yielded no miraculous answers, though Seven did notice that it was starting to shade to a deeper lilac, almost purple colour, Seven guessing that signalled the onset of dusk. She wondered what she should do – should she wait where she was or head back to the shuttle? There was no obvious reason for remaining at her present location. If she looked at it logically it would be much more prudent to return to the relative safety of the ship before nightfall. The environment did not appear hostile so far, but there was no need to take unnecessary risks. Usually she would be able to survive such conditions if they did arise, but her lack of regeneration meant she was weaker than normal. That state would only get worse the longer they remained on the surface since she had not brought her portable unit with her. Seven silently berated the oversight, though realised using it might have proved problematical anyway. She would just have to try and conserve what energy she did have left and hope they got the shuttle fixed before her Borg systems started failing.
Despite all her rational thoughts, there was still a small part of her mind telling her to stay where she was, to let the others wonder what had happened to her. Would they be worried? More to the point would the Captain be worried? She hoped so.
As a compromise to satisfy her conflicting wishes, Seven sat on the grass for another thirty minutes, by which time the temperature had fallen by 3.2 degrees and a slight dew was starting to form on the fine stalks, the legs of her thick trousers beginning to dampen. Seven stood up, deciding she had waited an appropriate amount of time.
Walking back to the shuttle she found that she had actually covered a lot more ground on the way out than she had at first assumed. She must have been walking faster than she had realised in her agitated state. The light was fading fast by the time she came over the final hill above the shuttle’s position. However, it was still light enough for her to be able to see the large animal rearing up before the smaller figures of the Captain and Torres.
The creature was covered in hair and looked something akin to a bear from Earth. Seven saw the telltale blue phaser flash bright in the gloom as Torres attempted to shoot the creature. That only seemed to enrage it further, though, the animal lashing out in her direction and knocking her right off her feet.
Seven was already off and running down the slope as it turned its head to the Captain who was dancing around actually trying to attract its attention and draw it away from the downed Torres. Seven completely forgot about her need to conserve energy in her desperation to get there before the animal had a chance to do to the Captain what it had already done to Torres. The Captain managed to duck under one swipe, trying her own phaser which had a similar lack of effect. She wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid the second paw that slammed into her hand, sending the phaser flying.
Seven urged her body on faster, now sprinting across the grass as fast as she could. Her lungs were bursting with the effort but she didn’t let up for one second. The bear-animal was rising up for another strike when she cannoned into it, using her momentum and greater-than-average body mass to knock it to the ground. It let out a roar of indignation as she landed on top of its back, trying to get a hold around its neck. The animal rolled over, squashing Seven beneath its large frame, but still she held grimly on. Then it was up on its feet, shaking its body while its giant paws tried to grab at the annoying passenger on its back. Seven felt the rake of its claws across her spine, shredding the material of her utility vest and t-shirt, but ignored the pain as she gained the purchase she was seeking.
With one swift yank from her Borg hand she twisted the animal’s neck so sharply that there was a sickening crunch from its broken neck. It dropped to the ground instantly, Seven tumbling down with it. Seeing that it was indeed dead she staggered to her feet, feeling suddenly dizzy and knowing that her Borg systems were having trouble coping with the damage to her body given her already weakened state.
She swung unsteadily round to see the Captain and Torres looking on in amazement, both of their mouths slightly open with no words forthcoming. Seven took a faltering step towards them, the pounding in her head growing with every second. She tried to take another one and suddenly she was falling, an anxious shout of ‘Seven’ the last thing she heard before her face thumped onto the grass.
Seven was no longer on the grass when she came round, instead finding herself lying back in the shuttle. She was on the floor with something draped across her, she presumed to keep her warm. It had a familiar smell to it and as Seven focussed a bit more she could see that it was the Captain’s jacket as she had surmised. For some odd reason she found herself sniffing more intently at the material now she had ascertained what it was. It carried not only the scent of the other woman but also a weather-beaten leathery one that filled Seven’s nostrils. When she heard the sound of someone approaching she quickly lowered it from her nose.
The Captain’s head ducked through the entrance, a tiny half-smile flashing briefly across her face when she saw Seven was awake.
“How are you?”
“I am functioning,” stated Seven, attempting to sit up. At least that was her intention. Her body seemed less than willing to comply only struggling up into a half-sitting position so the jacket flopped off her.
“Easy, you took quite a knock from that thing,” the Captain noted, crouching down by Seven’s side. “I’m afraid we lost what little medical supplies we had when we crashed. We don’t even have a medical tricorder.”
Seven heard that with some relief. One scan with such a device would reveal her secret straight away.
“So I had to go back to basics,” continued Janeway, “Which was patching you up as best I could with some makeshift bandages. Fortunately the gashes didn’t seem to be too deep, and the bleeding stopped a lot quicker than I would have thought.”
Seven supposed her nanoprobes were still functioning to some extent if that were the case, though repairing the damage would have depleted her resources even further.
“Are you sure you’re feeling ok,” pressed the Captain, “Only you did pass out rather suddenly?”
Seven was bemused by the Captain’s apparent concern. Only a few hours earlier she had been castigating Seven for her sloppy work and now she was being more compassionate than Seven had ever seen her. Her eyes seemed to have taken on an extra soft quality as they intently regarded Seven. It was all just another example of the Captain’s erratic behaviour that Seven found increasingly hard to predict. She wondered if everyone else had the same problem.
Still, she had to concede that the current incarnation of the Captain was certainly more pleasing, so she supposed she shouldn’t be unduly worried. There was something else that was worrying her though.
“What is the ambient temperature in the shuttle?”
Janeway looked confused at the question. “I don’t know,” she said with a shrug, “About twenty degrees?”
Seven had suspected as much. The fact that the Captain had her shirtsleeves rolled up suggested it was much warmer than her senses had been telling her.
“Are you cold?” queried Janeway.
“No,” lied Seven, not willing to admit her weakness.
“Then why are you asking about the temperature and shivering as you do?”
Seven noted with alarm that she hadn’t even realised she was.
“It’s probably the shock,” deduced Janeway. She shifted closer to Seven, the young woman too surprised by her sudden proximity to move. “Here…” said Janeway.
Seven had no idea what the Captain meant by the single word until she suddenly wrapped her arms around Seven’s shoulders and pulled her into a tight embrace. Seven had hugged before, though not often, but this was nothing like any of those hugs. She had to wonder if it was because her systems were already failing that her heart was beating so fast. However, her senses didn’t seem to be having any trouble processing the event, apart from the fact that many of them felt as if they were being overloaded. She could smell that familiar sweet scent of the Captain much closer than ever before, and so much more intoxicating and potent with the nearness. But that was nothing when compared with the feel of the warm body pressed up against her, soft, welcoming.
“How is that?”
Seven couldn’t even begin to answer, waiting until Janeway finally released her to make any kind of comment. “Better,” she managed in a gross understatement of the effect the simple embrace had achieved.
It was then that Seven noticed that the Captain’s hands were also shaking, though it was just her hands and nothing else. “Are you cold too?”
“What?” asked Janeway before seeing where Seven was looking. “Oh, no, that’s nothing.”
“Your hands are shaking,” stated Seven, though she was pretty sure the Captain knew that already.
“I said it’s nothing!”
From the Captain’s tone, Seven could tell it was far from nothing, but also that the Captain certainly didn’t want to discuss it.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap,” Janeway quickly added, rubbing at her forehead. “But we should be concentrating on you,” she added, reaching out to touch Seven’s own forehead with deliberately steadied fingers. Seven flinched slightly at the unexpected contact. “You’re very clammy,” noted the Captain, brow furrowing in concern, “I’m no doctor, but I’m sure those gashes shouldn’t have caused this much of an adverse reaction, unless there was some sort of poison on those claws.”
Seven nodded as the Captain spoke, knowing she needed to say something by means of explanation. She had been working on the lie for a while, and it looked like now was the time to utilise it. “I may have another explanation.”
“Do you recall how I told you that the devices on my hand and face helped to regulate my circulation disorder?”
“I also require medication to keep it functioning,” remarked Seven evenly.
“What?” cried Janeway, “Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“I was…afraid you might not want me on your crew,” Seven revealed, which was true, though not for the reasons she was giving, “Because I am not able to function at optimal efficiency without medication.”
“That’s just crazy!” said the Captain in consternation, “What is this medication? Where do you get it from?”
“I synthesise it using energy from the ship.” All of this was close enough to the truth to at least be plausibly delivered.
“Energy from the ship?” repeated the Captain as something occurred to her, “That was what you were doing that time in your quarters when B’Elanna came round?”
“So what have you been doing these last couple of weeks, when energy has been low?”
Janeway was fast to catch on it seemed.
“I have not been able to produce as much as I need,” answered Seven.
“Which means?” prompted the Captain.
“I have become…” Seven sought an appropriate equivalent term, “…sick.”
“So this sudden weakness, the chills, it’s nothing to do with the fight with the creature?”
“Not directly, no,” confirmed Seven, “I was trying to conserve my energy until we got back to the ship, hoping that with the deuterium I would be able to synthesise some fresh medication. However, I could not allow you to face the animal alone. Unfortunately with that energy expenditure my circulation is now failing.”
“Failing? As in…?”
“I am dying.”
Janeway’s eyes widened in shock, Seven unsure whether it was the news or the blunt way it had been delivered. “No, you can’t be,” said Janeway shaking her head in disbelief.
“Unfortunately it is true,” insisted Seven, “Unless we get back to the ship within approximately twenty-four hours my systems will completely shutdown.”
“Christ, you make it sound like some computer that’s being switched off!” cried Janeway, “We’re talking about your life, Seven!”
“I am well aware…”
The sudden pain shooting through her cortical node was extreme, knocking the breath and words from Seven’s mouth.
Seven blinked a couple of times, unable to do much else.
The Captain’s firm yet gentle hands were on her arms again, the matching concern evident in the Captain’s eyes. When her vision started dimming Seven could have cursed her Borg systems out loud. Why did she have to pass out now?
Seven’s eyes struggled open, the effort almost more than she could manage. She knew it was bad, that she probably didn’t have long before complete system shutdown.
“Seven? Can you hear me?”
Seven recognised the husky voice though it seemed to be coming from a long way away. Seven barely managed to turn her head enough to see the Captain hovering over her, auburn hair flopping about her face.
“Yes.” Her own voice was little more than a whisper. “How long have I been unconscious?”
“Nearly twenty hours,” answered Janeway, “We’ve repaired the shuttle and are just about to try and take off, just hold on a little longer.”
Seven merely nodded her head, that in itself difficult enough.
“You’ll make it. That’s an order”
The sincere words were the last thing she heard before the blackness swept over her again.
It was bright, with harsh white lights shining in Seven’s eyes. She blinked a couple of times, wondering if she had in fact died.
Suddenly a head shot into view - a slightly wrinkled, balding, inquisitive head.
“Ah good,” said the Doctor, “You’re awake.”
Seven slowly sat up, guided by the hologram. She noted that she was wearing some sort of blue medical gown, the lower half of her legs bare as they dangled over the edge of the bed. “I am back on the ship,” she noted seeing they were alone in the sickbay.
“Indeed you are,” agreed the doctor, “The newly powered up ship with fully functioning sickbay.”
“I am alive,” stated Seven, as if she couldn’t quite believe it.
“Well, it was touch and go,” said the doctor, picking up some of his instruments to start scanning her, “But you were all right once I stimulated the regeneration of your nanoprobes.”
Seven’s eyes shot to him in shock. He had said it so matter-of-factly she couldn’t be sure he had said it at all.
“You’re lucky I’m so good at adapting to the needs required of me,” he continued smugly, “Since you’re the first Borg I’ve had to work on.”
It seemed she had heard correctly the first time. “Have you told the Captain?” she asked with some urgency.
“Told her what? That you’re all right? Not yet, you only just woke up…”
“No, that I am Borg.”
“Ah, that,” said the doctor, pausing in his study, “No I haven’t, though I have to say it was quite a turn up for the books.”
“And are you going to?” pressed Seven.
“I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but we doctors have this little thing called doctor/patient confidentiality,” pointed out the doctor, “I wouldn’t tell anyone about your personal medical history unless maybe it was a threat to the ship. It’s not a threat is it?”
“No, I am not a threat. I am no longer Borg.”
“Well, I hardly thought you were,” he commented, picking up with his scanning again as he spoke, “As far as I know most of them don’t get beyond ‘resistance is futile, you will be assimilated’ in conversation. Not that you get that far beyond that sometimes, but you are much more attractive than the average drone.”
Seven found the doctor’s jokey, dismissive attitude about her borg nature refreshing, but wasn’t sure if that would extend to the other crewmembers. The doctor was a hologram, after all, programmed to be compassionate and caring, whereas the others were flesh and blood people with all the prejudices and pre-conceptions that most of them carried around even if they didn’t realise it. She’d already seen the resentful animosity Torres held in respect of the Borg, why should any of the others be different?
“Maybe you should tell them anyway?” noted the Doctor, “It’s not the sort of thing you’re going to be able to keep secret forever.”
Seven realised he had a point, but she had reached the stage where she had too much to lose if it went wrong. When she had first come on board she wanted to know more about humanity. The taste she’d had so far had only whetted her appetite further.
“I can not do that,” she replied, “They might throw me off the ship.” What she really meant was that she was worried the Captain would throw her off the ship. Whether Harry or B’Elanna would want to was inconsequential to her. Seven had never been that bothered what anyone’s opinion of her was before, having confidence enough in her own abilities, yet she had the strongest desire to gain the Captain’s approval. Once she had then maybe she would be able to reveal her true nature.
“For being a former Borg?” said the Doctor doubtfully, “I think you might be underestimating them.”
Seven hoped that was true, but wasn’t willing to risk it yet. “In my experience no one wants a Borg around, not even an ex-Borg.”
If the doctor had anything further to say on the subject he didn’t get the chance as the doors to the sickbay swung open and the Captain swept in, smiling immediately on seeing the upright Seven.
“You’re up,” she said, continuing over to the side of the biobed, “How are you feeling?”
What Seven was feeling was as confusing as it always was when the Captain was around. Her heart was beating erratically again, the increased speed having started as soon as the smile had crossed the Captain’s face. In fact that was incorrect, it had started as soon as she had walked in the room, it had just gotten more frenetic on seeing the smile. Seven didn’t think any of that information was suitable in a reply. “I am functioning.”
The Captain laughed. “You’d say that if a bear ripped off half your back! Oh wait you did do!”
It appeared the Captain was in a good mood that day, perhaps because the ship was powered once again and they were no doubt on their way to their second scheduled rendezvous. Seven liked it when the Captain was in this mood, only hoping it would last this time.
The Captain turned to the bald hologram. “So how is she really, doctor?”
Seven glanced anxiously at him, waiting to see if he would keep his word.
“As Seven succinctly put it, she’s ‘functioning’,” he confirmed, “She needs to rest up for a couple of days, but otherwise there should be no lasting effects from her bout of animal wrestling.”
“And we can make sure she always has enough of this medication she requires in the future?”
Seven was frantically trying to catch the doctor’s eye to prevent him exposing her earlier lies. Fortunately he seemed to twig that there was something he was unaware of as yet.
“Ah, yes,” he quickly added, “Now I’ve had the chance to examine her properly we should be able to keep that all under control.”
“Good,” nodded the Captain, turning her eyes back to Seven. “I hope you’ve learnt a lesson here – that you shouldn’t keep vital things like that from us. We’re not going to think any the less of you because you have some condition that needs regular treatment.”
Seven averted her eyes, not able to maintain the direct link when she knew that she was still hiding much more important information.
Janeway’s next words almost caused Seven’s heart to stop beating altogether. “Could I have a moment alone with her, doctor?”
Seven’s mind raced - what did the Captain want to talk about? Was she going to tell Seven she already knew her secret, that she’d somehow found out back on the planet?
“Seven, could you look up at me, please.”
Reluctantly Seven tracked her eyes upwards to meet the pale blue ones watching her intently from her bedside. Again Seven found herself close to blurting out her secret there and then. It was hard maintaining the charade when faced with the persuasive silence of those eyes.
“It’s all right to admit weakness,” began Janeway, “God knows we all have them,” she added ruefully before getting back to the subject. “I know you see yourself as some kind of super woman but you don’t have to be that all the time. Don’t think I don’t know of all those extra hours you put in on the ship. And it’s not that I’m not grateful, far from it, I’m very grateful, but you don’t have to be perfect. It’s all right to make mistakes, that’s how we learn to do things better the next time. We just have to be big enough to recognise we’ve made them.”
“You are referring to the capacitor.”
“Yes, I am.”
Seven bit back her immediate response. She could continue to argue her case, but what would be the point? It would be easier and seemingly earn her more respect in the Captain’s eyes to admit to a mistake she hadn’t made. It offended her sense of pride, but that was a small price to pay. “You are correct, I made an error in the calibration, I shall be more attentive next time.”
“Good, that’s all I ask,” said Janeway dipping her head in acknowledgement. “Now that’s out of the way, I ought to say thank you.”
The shift in tone caught Seven unawares. “Thank you?”
“For saving me and B’Elanna from that animal. That was pretty impressive what you did to it with your bare hands - slightly scary, but impressive. Dare I ask where you learnt something like that?”
“Did you not see some of the clientele in the bar at Outpost 47?”
The smile was slow to spread across the Captain’s face, as if she couldn’t quite believe Seven had made a joke. When it finally did, turning into a grin, Seven was pleased with her attempt at humour.
“They were quite rough,” agreed Janeway. “Oh, before I forget I replicated these for you – I tried to match the originals as best I could.”
Janeway reached over to one of the nearby trolleys and fished out a new set of clothes that looked identical to the ones the animal had shredded.
“The replicators are working too?” queried Seven as she accepted them from the Captain.
Janeway actually looked momentarily abashed. “Not entirely,” she admitted, “I deemed it a worthwhile use of resources though – we could hardly have you wandering around naked after all!”
The vague nervous edge to Janeway’s corresponding laugh perplexed Seven, but she didn’t comment. “Thank you,” she said instead, starting to take off her gown.
Janeway quickly held up her hands. “Maybe you should do that in private! I’ll leave you to it.”
Seven didn’t think she had ever seen the Captain make a hastier exit, watching in some confusion before she returned to un-dressing.
Harry groaned, the doctor rolled his eyes, B’Elanna threw her cards on the table and Seven just watched the grin on the Captain’s face as she revealed her winning hand.
“You have the luck of the devil!” moaned B’Elanna.
“Just don’t tell him, or he might want it back,” noted Janeway.
Seven watched the Captain’s hands sweeping up the chips from the messhall table, the elegant fingers sorting and stacking them into piles. She found the whole process infinitely fascinating, almost mesmerised by the dextrous way the digits moved.
Seven jumped, turning to Harry at her side. “Sorry?”
“It’s your deal.”
Seven accepted the cards from Harry beginning to shuffle them and hoping he hadn’t seen what had distracted her. Lapses like that seemed to be happening more and more since the deuterium planet. They had left that some four days ago, but still Seven found herself pre-occupied with thoughts of it, and more precisely with thoughts of how it had felt to be held by the Captain. Every time she recalled it a strange warm sensation would build inside her, a sensation that would increase exponentially if the Captain was actually present at the time.
“Are we going to have to wait all night?” commented B’Elanna sarcastically, “I’m sure they’re shuffled enough now.”
Seven mentally shook herself, realising it had happened again. Trying to concentrate on the game, she started dealing the deck. Once she had finished everyone picked up their cards, studying them intently. Everyone apart from Seven, that was, who was far more interested in studying the Captain, watching the tiny frown that crossed her face before she schooled her features into a more implacable expression. Suddenly the Captain’s eyes came up, catching Seven’s scrutiny for the barest of moments before Seven could avert her eyes to her own hand. She didn’t dare look up, her eyes boring into the five pieces of card.
Seven considered that maybe she should talk to the doctor about her problem, since he was her new confidant. Seven had filled the doctor in on the rest of the details of her past, surmising that he could be trusted to keep it secret. It would be useful to have him on side, should she need any treatment in regards of her implants. However, whether he would be equally useful in treating problems of the mind was another matter. At least Seven assumed that’s what it was, this odd obsession with the minutiae of the Captain’s actions and appearance.
The bidding of the game had started, each player taking it in turns as the bids increased. From her initial miniscule reaction, Seven suspected the Captain was doing what was known as ‘bluffing’ as she continued to up the stakes. So Seven stayed in the game, despite her own comparatively weak hand. Grasping the game had proved difficult for Seven at first, but now she realised one was basically required to lie and not show it, she was more successful.
Eventually it was just the two of them left in the game, the other three having folded. The Captain picked up her glass, taking a slow contemplative sip of her golden drink. “I’ll see your fifty and raise you one hundred,” she eventually said, throwing the necessary chips into the pile in the centre.
Seven didn’t allow her expression to flicker as she studied the Captain’s face intently. Had she been incorrect in her initial assumption? Did the Captain really have a good hand after all? Seven had been so certain, yet the Captain’s continued bidding gave her pause for thought.
Janeway raised both her eyebrows as the silence stretched on. “Well?”
“I see your one hundred and raise you five hundred,” stated Seven.
Janeway’s lips twitched ever so slightly at the large bet, Seven noting the gasp that had come from Harry’s mouth next to her.
“Like to play hard ball do you?” commented Janeway with an edge of amusement. “All right, I’ll call your five hundred, let’s see what you’ve got.”
Seven placed her cards face up on the table.
Harry was first to comment, his voice rising in incredulity. “Three of a kind? You bet all that on three of a kind? Are you crazy?”
Seven merely looked to the Captain who was regarding her evenly. Suddenly she broke into a laugh, putting her own cards down. “She might be crazy, but she also won, I only have two pair.”
Harry looked on in stupefaction as Seven collected the chips. “How the hell did you know she was bluffing?”
“It was a calculated gamble,” replied Seven nonchalantly.
Meanwhile Janeway was getting up, draining the last of her drink. “I think that’s all for me tonight, see you all in the morning,” she said heading for the door, before pausing. “And well, played, Seven.”
Seven dipped her head. “Thank you, Captain.”
After she had gone, Harry and the doctor got up to clear up, leaving Seven at the table with Torres. There had been a slight thawing in their relationship since Seven had rescued the engineer and the Captain from the creature on the planet. At least they could now be in a room without coming to blows. Torres had even offered to admit it was her who had sabotaged the shuttle, but since Seven had already accepted the blame for that she had informed her it wasn’t necessary. Now Torres was in the slightly uncomfortable position, at least for her, of feeling that she owed Seven a favour. Since Torres was the only one present, Seven supposed she may as well direct her question at the other woman.
“B’Elanna, may I ask you something?”
“Go ahead,” replied Torres, taking a swig from her drink.
“Does the captain always consume that many alcoholic beverages?”
B’Elanna’s drink quickly shot straight back out of her mouth, going all over the table in a fine spray.
Seven puzzled at the reaction. “Is there something wrong with observing the degree of the Captain’s alcohol consumption?”
B’Elanna had to clear her throat before answering. “No, no problem observing it, I just wouldn’t say anything to her about it if I were you.”
“Just take it from me, Seven, people who have a problem like that don’t like other people drawing attention to it.”
“It is a problem?”
“Gah!” exclaimed Torres in exasperation at Seven’s persistence, “Look, forget I said anything…”
However, Seven was far from forgetting it. “You are right, of course, it is a problem. It is not healthy since alcohol affects judgement, can damage the….”
“Seven!” interjected Torres quickly. “I don’t need a lecture of the dangers of alcohol, and nor does the Captain. I’m sure she is well aware of them.”
“I do not understand. Why does she continue to consume so much then?”
“Why does anyone turn to drink?” answered Torres cryptically.
“I do not know, I do not drink. That is why I am asking you.”
Torres sighed, perhaps starting to regret staying at the table. “It can be for all sorts of reasons - to forget, to dull the pain, to avoid something you’d rather not confront.”
Seven seized on B’Elanna’s words, disturbed by the implication. “The Captain is in pain?”
Torres bit her lip. “I’ve already said too much,” she said, “We shouldn’t be talking about her like this. She’ll deal with it when she’s good and ready.”
Seven was unsure that was the correct course of action. Surely if someone was in pain they should be helped? However, she had to concede that B’Elanna knew much about this than she did, and also knew the Captain far better.
Torres meanwhile was utilising Seven’s silence in an attempt at escape. “Now if that’s all, I think I might go to bed too,” she remarked.
“Actually there was something else I wanted to ask you about.” Seven had been thinking about this ever since Harry had explained the Captain’s photograph to her, her interest in it rekindled after recent events.
Torres paused halfway out of her seat, assessing whether she should stay. Finally she sat back down. “I know I’m going to regret this, but go on then.”
“Tom Paris,” stated Seven matter of factly, “Did you love him?”
“I beg your pardon?” said B’Elanna indignantly. “You may have saved my life back on that planet but I don’t think I’m quite ready to become best buddies, and I certainly don’t discuss such things with anyone.”
“I did not mean any offence,” Seven tried to explain, “I was just curious about love.”
Torres put her head in her hands shaking it ruefully. “Why oh why didn’t I just go to bed?” she mumbled. However, Seven suspected Torres was secretly enjoying the conversation, that thought re-affirmed when the engineer looked up with a curious look in her eyes. “Are you asking my advice on something in particular, or is this just a general conversation?”
“Just a general conversation,” replied Seven, “I wanted to know more about interpersonal relationships including the use of copulation in them.”
“For Kahless sake, Seven!” exclaimed B’Elanna. “You make it sound like you’re reading out of a textbook. I knew you led a closeted life out in the Delta Quadrant, but where were you exactly – a black hole?”
“No, I just never had the opportunity to meet different people.”
That wasn’t strictly true of course, she’d ‘met’ thousands of people. Unfortunately all of them had been assimilated by the Borg along with her and no longer retained any sort of memories the Borg considered extraneous to functioning within the hive mind. That included pretty much anything pertaining to love and relationships. She knew the bare facts of reproduction but that was about as far as her knowledge extended. What facts she did know held no emotional resonance whatsoever.
Torres was still observing Seven, her own mind obviously working through what to say. Seven could see the faint dawning of something in the engineer’s eyes. “You’ve never done it before have you?” asked Torres eventually.
“No, I have not,” replied Seven without hesitation.
“I would rather not.”
“That wasn’t an invite!” Torres quickly added, “That was an expression of utter amazement. How can you not have had sex. You must have had people flinging themselves at you.”
Seven considered that Torres wasn’t completely off the mark with her supposition. Even in the short time she had been free of the Collective she had been propositioned by a variety of aliens. The first couple of times she had not fully understood what they had wanted of her, and it had been quite difficult extricating herself from the resulting situation without causing offence. There had been part of her that was tempted to go along with them, to see what it was like yet another part of her told her it was wrong in some way. She wasn’t sure if that was just because of the modicum of morals she’d learnt from the Patat-Damar or something deeper within herself. Whatever it was it hadn’t felt right and she’d turned down all her potential suitors so far.
Seven decided to omit any of those incidents for simplicity’s sake. “You forget I was on an alien planet, there were no other humans,” she said to try and excuse her lack of experience.
“You don’t have to have sex with someone of your own species you know, hell you don’t even have to have sex with someone of the opposite gender, whatever floats your boat.”
Seven already knew it was possible to have same sex couplings though she had never really understood how it worked biologically. It appeared she had the perfect opportunity to quiz B’Elanna on the subject. “But how would you procreate with someone of the same gender? And what does that have to do with water-based vehicles?”
Torres frowned at her. “Now you’re yanking my chain aren’t you?”
“Do you have one?”
“No!” cried Torres, “Kahless! You have a lot to learn. I think you need to make the distinction between love, sex and procreation.”
“They are different?”
B’Elanna rolled her eyes again, something she seemed to be doing a lot in this conversation. “Of course they’re different! Procreation is having sex in order to produce offspring, but you can have sex just for the fun of it. And sometimes you have sex because you love someone.”
“So what is love?”
B’Elanna just stared at her for a moment, like she was from a whole other universe. “You know how to ask the easy questions don’t you? Are you sure these people you lived with weren’t Vulcans, because it sounds like they had no idea about emotions at all!”
“They were not Vulcans, but they did not talk much about such things.”
“Right…well…love,” pondered Torres, “It’s hard to put something so powerful into words,” she said as if still stalling, “And love can be so many different things to so many different people.”
Seven merely nodded, waiting for the strangely tongue-tied Klingon to continue.
“I guess when you’re in love with someone you just have this sense, deep down in your heart, that somehow that person is the one for you,” continued Torres, getting a faraway look in her eyes as she no doubt drew on her own past feelings, “That you couldn’t be without them, and just as long as you do have them then nothing else really matters. When you look into their eyes, it’s like there’s something in there that’s just for you, that touches you in a way no one else can. Just a single look, or a smile or a kind word can mean the world when delivered by them. And when you’re in love that person is all that matters to you, you would do anything for them in order to make them happy.”
Seven nodded again, not really having anything further to add.
“But it’s not all just about how you feel about them,” added Torres, “But also how they make you feel about yourself. When you’re in love then they make you feel good about yourself, like you can accomplish anything with them by your side. And if you are apart you miss them with a pain that can be almost physical, like part of you is missing too.” She finally paused, looking back at Seven. “Does this make any sense to you?”
Seven paused only briefly. “I…believe it does.”
Torres had spotted the hesitation though. “You’ve felt like this for someone?”
“I am unsure,” replied Seven honestly.
“Really,” noted Torres with interest, “Well, I suppose it’s a start!”
Seven was surprised by the reaction. “It is good if I feel this way about someone?” It did not seem good to be so unsure of and confused by what you felt.
“Of course it’s good!” said Torres, confounding her, “Love is such a rare and wonderful thing, you should embrace it whenever you have the chance.”
Seven found her mind already wandering to thoughts of embraces even before Torres got up and made her excuses.
Janeway slid her fingers around the rim of her glass, contemplating the stars outside her ready room window as they whizzed by in a blur of warp. It was good to see the obvious sign of speed having been becalmed for so long. Hopefully they would make it to Branta Prime by the end of the week. They were a bit behind schedule, since they should really have made it there in five weeks out of Outpost 47 rather than six, but the Captain was sure she could smooth things over with Martan when they got there. Fortunately she had a fair amount of influence where he was concerned and she wasn’t too proud to use it.
However, she knew they could have been much later if Seven hadn’t found the deuterium, the young woman proving her worth yet again once they were on the planet. Janeway was starting to get the impression that Seven was loyal and reliable in the extreme – that she would do anything that was asked of her and more. She had come to their rescue on the planet without hesitation, despite the risk to herself.
Janeway had tried not to think about those events too much since, because with such thoughts came the remembrance of how concerned she had been when Seven had got hurt. She was troubled by such feelings, having sworn to herself time and time again that she wouldn’t let herself get attached to her crew as before. Yet here she was making the same mistakes again. For some reason she couldn’t seem to help herself where Seven was concerned.
Despite her best efforts to bury any such emotional concerns, the images from the shuttle still kept creeping back into her mind, and with them her feelings of anxiety. The level of that had only grown as Seven’s condition deteriorated, though she had tried her best not to show it, remaining the strong, in command captain. When they had finally got back to the ship and she had verified Seven was going to be all right, she had headed straight to her quarters and the sanctuary of her bottle of whiskey. She’d certainly needed a good few drinks that night to calm her nerves.
Two days on the planet without a drink had been torture - no wonder she had gotten irritable with both Seven and B’Elanna. Even worse, Seven had spotted her withdrawal shakes while incapacitated in the shuttle. If Seven had realised what it signified then she certainly hadn’t said anything to Janeway. The Captain suspected Harry and B’Elanna both knew about her drinking, it had been hard to miss after all over the previous year, yet she felt faintly disturbed at the thought that Seven might also know how dependent on it she had become.
She didn’t like the way she needed it, in fact she hated it, but she couldn’t give it up. It was the only thing keeping her going. Without it she had to think too much about the past and that was something she definitely didn’t want to do.
She just had to hope Seven hadn’t put two and two together. Despite some of her allusions otherwise and the vast knowledge she seemed to posses, Janeway got the sense that Seven wasn’t actually that worldly wise. The life she had led on the Patat-Damar planet sounded very rigidly ordered from what little Janeway had gleaned so far. It was as if Seven had this strange air of almost innocence about her, though even as she thought it Janeway didn’t think that was quite the right word to describe it. Someone who was innocent didn’t go around breaking the necks of animals after all. It was more that she had a capability to see certain things with fresh eyes, as if seeing or experiencing them for the first time, even the most mundane every day things.
The entrance of B’Elanna saved Janeway from having to analyse her thoughts and feelings any further, the engineer handing her a padd containing a repair report. Janeway quickly scanned the main points as B’Elanna hovered.
“I see Seven’s still on her one woman mission to repair the entire ship in two months flat,” noted Janeway, glancing back up.
“At this rate she just might do it,” remarked Torres.
“You sound almost impressed,” Janeway said, placing the report down to read in more detail later, “Am I to take it you two are getting on better?”
“Maybe a little,” allowed Torres, taking the seat next to Janeway on the couch, “But I still don’t trust her. This story of hers about the planet of kindly Vulcan-like beings - do you really buy that?”
“Why, don’t you?”
B’Elanna shook her head. “I don’t know there’s just something that doesn’t ring true. For one I don’t care how technically advanced these people were, she knows way too much for someone who’s spent most of their life on one planet. And there are times when I think she’s actually holding back, like she knows the answer but doesn’t want to admit it.”
Janeway nodded – she had gotten a similar impression at times. “I know what you mean. I think Seven knows a lot more than she’s letting on.”
“At least in some areas.”
Janeway looked to B’Elanna, wondering at the cryptic comment.
B’Elanna’s dark eyes met the questioning look. “You have to admit when it comes to socialising it’s almost like she never met anyone before she left this mysterious planet.”
“She can be rather direct and literal,” agreed Janeway.
“That’s a diplomatic way of putting it!” scoffed B’Elanna.
Janeway thought B’Elanna had a point, though she had noticed that even in the space of a few weeks Seven’s stand-offish attitude seemed to have softened, almost as if she was feeding off the interaction with the rest of the crew and adapting and learning to fit in better.
“Oh, and get this, this is weird too!” cried B’Elanna suddenly.
B’Elanna leant in slightly closer, Janeway getting the impression this wasn’t going to be anything about engineering. “Well, we were having an interesting discussion about love and sex earlier…”
Janeway quickly held up a hand. “B’Elanna! I’m not sure this is something you should be telling me, not if Seven has confided in you.”
“That’s the thing though – there’s nothing to tell!”
Janeway’s brow furrowed, interested despite herself. “I don’t understand.”
“She’s never been with anyone,” explained B’Elanna, “Like ever!”
“She told you that?” asked Janeway doubtfully, having trouble picturing Seven discussing something quite so personal. Though she supposed that if Seven’s attitude to such things was similar to the blunt way she talked about everything else, then the discussion could indeed have been a frank one.
“Yes!” insisted Torres, “She’s a virgin!”
“Last time I checked that wasn’t a crime,” said Janeway. Seven might have been comfortable happily discussing this with B’Elanna, but the Captain herself was far from at ease.
“It is when you’re that gorgeous,” continued Torres.
“Oh come on!” cried B’Elanna with an incredulous glance at Janeway, “Don’t say you haven’t noticed, because I know you’d be lying. You can’t tell me someone like her wouldn’t have had hundreds of propositions.”
“Maybe she’s just choosy, I don’t know!” proposed Janeway, now desperately looking for a way to get off the subject. “I really don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be discussing Seven in this way.”
“You’re not even the slightest bit interested?”
“As long as Seven gets her work done, I really don’t need to know about her personal history,” insisted Janeway in the perfect diplomatic response.
In reality she was interested, but she couldn’t admit that to B’Elanna – it was far too undignified. However, she was just as shocked as B’Elanna seemed to be. Not that she had really given Seven’s past sexual experience much thought, at least not until now, but she would have assumed that anyone that beautiful and of that age would have had at least a few partners. Perhaps Seven was more innocent than Janeway had thought.
Seven stepped up onto the transporter pad of the Paladin, ready to beam down to Branta Prime with the Captain and Harry. Unlike their first stop-off, Seven had been much keener to join the party this time, having the strangest urge to follow the Captain on any occasions she might leave the ship given what had happened on the deuterium planet. Not that they were likely to find any wild animals in the capital city, but Seven didn’t want to leave anything to chance. And wild animals weren’t the only danger after all. As if to emphasise this she could see that both the Captain and Harry carried weapons, Janeway’s just visible under the bottom of her jacket as usual. Seven herself was unarmed, though as the others had witnessed that didn’t necessarily make her any less deadly.
Janeway looked eager to get on with their trade as she shifted from boot to boot on the transporter dais.
"Worried that Martan’s going to try and dock us for being late?” queried Harry, glancing to the Captain. “I’m sure you two can sort something out,” he added with a quick wink.
Janeway rolled her eyes at the comment, before Harry jovially continued.
“And if not Seven could always challenge him to a game of poker!”
The Captain made a small laugh, flicking Seven a quick amused look. “Indeed, she’s our secret weapon!”
The Seven felt oddly warmed at being included as part of the banter, even if she wasn’t actively participating. The blue sparkles before Seven’s eyes indicated Janeway had remotely activated the transporter, the three of them reappearing on the planet’s surface. Seven could immediately feel the difference of the atmosphere as they materialised - the barely perceptible breeze that brushed over her skin in the outside air, the warm touch of the rays of the sun. They were standing on a street in front of a large non-descript building, set amongst a row of similar buildings. It could have been a city on any other numerous planets.
As Janeway walked ahead of them to the door, Seven moved closer to Harry. “What did you mean when you made that comment about the Captain and this ‘Martan’”
“Nothing,” replied Harry dismissively, “Sometimes the Captain has to smooth the wheels of trade that’s all.”
Seven recalled the first trade of the trip with Yaxpot and how Janeway had played to his ego, despite the fact that she couldn’t stand the man. “I think I understand,” she noted.
The Captain had stopped to ring for admittance, Seven quickly moving up to flank her while warily assessing their surroundings for signs of danger. There was no one else on the street that afternoon though, the only sound the far off drone of activity from the rest of the metropolis. The door to the building swung open, an alien eyeing them suspiciously.
He was about six feet tall and possessed a sturdy build. His face was fairly human looking, the only obvious signs of a difference in species being the ridges that ran up the sides of his face from his jaw to where they disappeared into his thick black hair. His hands moved defensively to his hips, making an obvious display of the phaser-pistol strapped to his belt. If Seven had possessed a weapon she would have been gripping it tighter at that moment. Instead she balled her fists in readiness.
To confound her, Janeway suddenly broke into a grin, thrusting out a hand of greeting. “Good to see you, Martan.”
The alien’s face transformed in an instant, a warm welcoming smile on display as he took the smaller hand. “A pleasure as always, Kathy.”
Seven’s brow furrowed – did the Captain let all these aliens address her so informally? Even worse, this one had the temerity to shorten a perfectly good name.
The Captain didn’t seem bothered though, allowing Martan to usher her inside as the other two followed on. The building was a warehouse, piled high with containers of varying shapes and sizes. If Martan wondered who Seven was he showed no outward sign, being far too pre-occupied with the Captain who appeared fascinated by him in return.
Seven realised Harry had said that Janeway had to be friendly, but she had never seen her acting so…so…Seven didn’t really know how to describe the way she was behaving as negotiations continued. Janeway was fawning over Martan as if she couldn’t keep away from him, like every word he said was of the utmost importance and no one else in the room mattered. Added to that was the way she kept touching him – a small rub of the arm here, a gentle pat there. Seven had witnessed Janeway’s tactile nature before, but never to this extent. Whatever it was the Captain was doing, Seven herself felt oddly uncomfortable watching it.
To try and avoid the troubling sensation she concentrated on overseeing the beam down of their cargo, keeping her back to the Captain and the alien. However, every once in a while she would hear the Captain’s laughter floating over, Martan’s corresponding lower chuckles mixing with it.
In the end Seven was glad to get back to the ship, though they didn’t depart the system immediately. Instead the whole crew received an invite to dine with Martan and some of his colleagues that evening. Seven was mildly surprised when the Captain accepted on behalf of them all, considering the other woman had always been keen to get on with their journey before. Attending an unnecessary formal function seemed to be taking the need to maintain amicable relationship with their contacts a bit too far, especially since they had already successfully made their trade despite their tardiness in arriving at the planet.
Supposing she should show willing, come 1900 hours Seven made her way to the transporter room, finding Harry and B’Elanna already waiting. As she entered the room Seven instantly noticed that there was something different about the other two, realising it was the clothing they wore. Seven hadn’t realised it was a requirement of the occasion to wear something out of the ordinary, still wearing her customary work t-shirt and trousers.
She supposed it was too late to go and change now, making a mental note to look up the etiquette surrounding dinners for the next time she was called upon to attend one. While they waited for the Captain they chatted about the day, Seven unable to resist quizzing the others on the Captain’s earlier behaviour. She discovered from B’Elanna that there was a descriptive word for it – flirting. Apparently it was a way to get men to do what you wanted if you were a woman, by making them think they may receive some kind of sexual favour in return for giving you what you desired. B’Elanna had to quickly add that most flirting never led to any such outcome, that much of it was just harmless banter between the sexes.
Fortunately for Torres, the Captain came in at that point, relieving her of the need to try and explain it further. Seven quickly forgot about the conversation anyway as she caught sight of the redhead in the doorway. She suddenly found that her respiration had become erratic, almost ceasing altogether. The Captain wasn’t slow to notice the corresponding flush that came over her due to lack of oxygen.
“Seven, are you all right?”
Seven had to take a couple of calming breaths before she answered. “Yes, I am functioning adequately,” she said, though that was far from the truth. Not only was her breathing refusing to perform correctly, but now her temperature was also increasing. Both seemed to be correlated with her staring at the Captain in the low-cut white shirt she wore. The neckline revealed the slope of the Captain’s chest, Seven’s eyes naturally following it down to where she could see the barest hint of more rounded flesh.
Seven’s eyes shot up to the Captain’s.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yes,” she replied simply, finding her mouth strangely reticent to produce anything more coherent.
Janeway gave her a final curious glance before stepping onto the transporter pad and activating the control to beam them all down to the planet’s surface. This time they appeared in an obviously residential area, much greener and low rise than the one they had been to earlier. It was dark now, the streets lit by a combination of three bright moons and the glow of the street lamps.
Martan was waiting at the door of the nearest house to greet them, a huge smile spreading across his face when he saw the approaching group. Seven could see that the smile was mainly directed at the Captain, but was completely unprepared for when he stepped towards Janeway, wrapped his arms around her and proceeded to kiss her resoundingly.
Seven stared at the pair of them, her emotions so erratic that she couldn’t pinpoint just one amongst the raging storm brewing inside her. Part of her wanted to leap over and tear them apart, furious that Martan dared to grab the Captain like that. However, it seemed that the Captain wasn’t complaining, in fact making some noises that Seven thought indicated pleasure. When Janeway finally did break the contact Seven realised she had been holding her breath the whole time, her jaw clamped so tightly shut that it was now aching.
“Martan, you old rogue,” said Janeway with a laugh, pushing him playfully on the chest.
“What?” he said unapologetically, “I’ve been waiting all day to do that.”
Seven was still finding it hard to breathe, unable to take in the fact that it seemed there was far more to the relationship between Janeway and Martan then had at first been apparent. Seven had put Janeway’s earlier behaviour down to the need to be pleasant to her trade contact, but now it seemed the truth was much worse. Her overtly sexual behaviour and ‘flirting’ had been deliberate - her and this alien were…Seven hardly dare think the words…partners, lovers?
The sick sensation curdling Seven’s stomach at the thought of it was entirely unpleasant, and she suddenly had the strongest desire to be anywhere else than at the upcoming dinner. That feeling only got worse as the evening progressed. Where witnessing Janeway’s behaviour during the afternoon had been uncomfortable, seeing it up close and even more exaggerated now was excruciating.
Seven tried to concentrate on her food, or the alien opposite or the window – anything to avoid having to look along the table and see Janeway and Martan laughing and joking together. Yet something about them kept drawing Seven’s eyes, as if she couldn’t help but watch the hideous tableau unfold before her.
Janeway started picking up bits of food off her own plate and feeding them to the alien while smiling seductively. When Martan’s fingers slid along the Captain’s shoulder, before tracking ever lower, Seven could bear it no more. She shot to her feet, mumbling something about not feeling well before she dashed from the room and beamed directly back to the ship.
Once in the sanctuary of the Paladin’s familiar corridors, Seven stalked along, her mind still spiralling through what she had seen. How could Janeway let Martan touch her like that? Allow him to slide his fingers down that beautiful shirt, and underneath to caress her skin? It repulsed her to even think of it. He didn’t deserve to touch the Captain like that - he was unworthy of her!
The anger was racing through Seven now, unstoppable and all consuming. She lashed out wildly, smashing her Borg hand straight through some exposed and un-repaired piping. Seeing the destruction and feeling the corresponding adrenaline surge she drove her fist into the bulkhead, satisfied to see the impressive dent she generated. She picked up a piece of the broken piping, whacking it repeatedly against the panels in an attempt to relieve her frustration. The banging of the metal resounded noisily around the corridor and it took her a couple of moments to realise that there was a voice trying to speak over it.
Seven abruptly stopped, swinging round to see Harry behind her.
“Bloody hell, Seven, what’s gotten in to you?”
“Nothing,” replied Seven defiantly.
“Well obviously something has, I’ve never seen you like this before, so…emotional.”
“I am not emotional,” stated Seven, though the tremor in her voice indicated otherwise.
“Really?” remarked Harry, arching his eyebrows, “Because you always set upon the pipes like this don’t you?”
Seven bowed her head, Harry seizing the opportunity to move closer. “Did something happen on the planet?”
Seven kept her eyes on the floor, not wanting to admit the source of her anger.
“Did one of those arseholes try it on with you?” queried Harry. “Don’t worry about them, they’re mostly harmless. All mouth and no trousers.”
“No one ‘tried it on with me’,” Seven informed him, not knowing what it meant, but convinced it was not the cause of her leaving, “I just no longer wished to be there. It was not enjoyable.”
“The captain certainly seemed to be enjoying herself.”
A fresh wave of anger shot through Seven, her fist tightening around the pipe in her hand. Suddenly there was a loud snapping noise as it broke clean in two.
“Seven!” exclaimed Harry, “Are you all right?”
He tried to take Seven’s hand to look at it, but Seven snatched it away out of sight. “I am fine.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” demanded Harry.
Seven didn’t answer. She didn’t know the answer.
However, Harry suddenly seemed to come to some conclusion of his own. “Oh my god…oh my god…” was all he said.
Seven couldn’t help looking up, hearing the amazement in his voice. “What?”
“Now it all makes sense!” he exclaimed, “You’re jealous!”
“Ok, let’s look at this logically,” posited Harry, “How did you feel when you saw Martan close to the Captain?”
Seven thought for a moment, though recalling the memories was not pleasant. “It was…painful…” she began slowly, focussing instead on what she had felt like doing, “I wanted to pick Martan up and crush his windpipe slowly so that he suffered as the oxygen was starved from his brain. I wanted to watch as his eyes bulged until he dropped lifelessly from my hand.”
Harry’s eyes widened, the young man reflexively taking a step backwards. “Wow, that was a little more descriptive than I was expecting, but I would say it confirms it – you were jealous.”
“I do not think I like this jealousy.”
“No, it’s not the most pleasant of emotions,” agreed Harry, “But I think we’ve kind of side-stepped the main issue here – you like the Captain.”
“Of course I like the Captain; she has many admirable qualities.”
Harry slowly shook his head. “No, I mean you really like her.”
Seven looked at him in confusion – hadn’t that been what she’d just said?
Seeing her bewilderment, Harry sighed. “All right we’ll take things slow again. How do you feel when you see the Captain? Just day to day feelings, like when you bump into her round the ship or see her on the bridge?”
Seven replayed a few such moments in her mind, analysing her own reactions more than she had at the time. “My respiration increases,” she stated, noting a purely physical response first before trying to assess other aspects, “I find it hard to think or speak intelligently,” she recalled, “Whenever the Captain praises my work I feel a sense of pride much greater than if anyone else compliments me. Conversely if I receive criticism I feel much more dejected than is necessary.” Seven was on a roll now, remembering and pinpointing all sorts of things she hadn’t stopped to think about before. “When I am not in her presence, I wish to be. I think about her all the time, wondering what she is doing, where she is and thinking of when I might next see her. When I am in her presence I concentrate on her more than anyone else who may be there, even when they are speaking or commanding attention. I find myself distracted with watching her, noting all the expressions of her face, watching how they change with the slightest movement of her eyes or her lips. I can spend long moments simply watching the light playing across her auburn hair or listening to the soft, husky timbre of her voice…”
Suddenly Seven stopped her recitation.
“What is it?” asked Harry, bemused by the sudden pause.
Seven merely stared at him, unsure whether she should voice her conclusion out loud.
“Seven?” he pressed.
Seven still had to pause before she could finally get the words out.
“I am in love with the Captain.”
Harry smiled. “I would say you are,” he agreed with a nod.
Seven was reeling now, not a sensation she was familiar with. She had wanted to explore her humanity but she had never intended to go quite this far. It had just…happened. “But, I cannot be,” she said out loud, looking to Harry for an explanation.
“I have never been in love before, maybe I am just confused.”
Seven tried to convince herself that was what it was – that she was so unused to emotions that she had mixed up friendship and love. A friendship she could handle - Tarin had been her friend after all, even if she hadn’t realised it at the time. But love? From what little she knew of love, she knew that it was the most bewildering and unpredictable of human emotions. She wasn’t sure she could handle that yet.
While Seven was trying to backtrack on her own conclusion, Harry seemed to have readily accepted it, as if he had suspected something already. “You should tell her,” he remarked.
“I cannot do that, she already has a mate,” reasoned Seven.
“What Martan?” said Harry incredulously, “She doesn’t love him - hell, I’m not even sure she likes him! He’s just a random shag.”
“Yeah, sex,” clarified Harry, Seven unable to stop the small internal wince as an image of what that meant flashed into her mind. “He’s someone that’s been convenient,” added Harry, “The Captain’s a passionate woman, she needs some way to release her…frustrations and its not like we have holodecks with handy bartenders anymore.”
“Never mind, that’s a story for another time,” he commented, “Anyway, don’t worry about him, worry about you.”
Seven was doing that enough without Harry having to remind her. “I cannot tell her, it would be inappropriate,” she tried, not knowing how she would go about revealing such a thing even if she did want to, which she didn’t.
“Why for god’s sake?”
Seven paused for a moment, not wanting to admit that one reason was that she was scared. She never normally got scared of anything – not many things had the capability to evoke the emotion after the Borg. But she was scared right now at the prospect of declaring such feelings only to have them rejected.
“We are friends,” she said by means of explanation, omitting the part about being scared, “I do not wish to spoil that friendship by declaring feelings that will not be returned, it will make the Captain uncomfortable.”
“You never know, she might return them.”
Seven stared at him – she had not considered that option. “Has she given you any indication that she does?”
“Well, no…” admitted Harry slowly.
Seven had thought as much, though even the barest hint that the Captain might feel something had been enough to start an odd tingling sensation in her stomach. She had to remind herself exactly where the Captain was at that moment in time – back down on the planet enjoying Martan’s company. If Harry had returned to the Paladin too, then the dinner had most likely finished, Seven not wanting to think any further about what that meant.
“I’m going to my quarters,” she informed Harry, not waiting for anything more from him in response.
However, once she got there, they were not the haven she was expecting. Instead, left with just her own thoughts, she couldn’t stop them turning back to the surface and what might be happening. Seven paced back and forth across the deck plates in her small quarters, practically wearing them out in her agitation. Every once in a while she would stop and thump something – the bed, the wall, her own head. Eventually she could stand it no more and swept from the room, heading for the transporter.
She beamed directly to Martan’s door, wasting no time banging angrily on it. Seven clenched and unclenched her fists as she waited for him to appear, the alien having the audacity to keep her waiting. She didn’t like this jealousy any more now than when Harry had explained it to her earlier. If anything it grew worse over time, building inside her until it seemed to consume her. She needed some way to get it out of her mind, some way to relieve the massive tension that pressed against her temple and twisted her insides.
When Martan eventually did pull open the door he leant dozily against the frame, looking like he had just got out of bed. Quite possibly he had, one he had been sharing with someone else. That thought was the final straw for Seven. Without a word she stepped forward and grabbed the stunned alien round the throat with her Borg hand, pushing him back into the house until his back impacted on the far wall.
“Where is she?” she said in tones so low and deadly they rumbled through her own stomach.
“What? Who?” choked back Martan.
Martan stared back at her, his eyes bulging slightly from the lack of air. “Captain…?” he said in confusion before realisation dawned, “…she’s not here.”
Seven relaxed her hold slightly, glancing round the room. “Not here?” she repeated absently.
Martan seized on her momentary distraction, flicking her hand away and following it up with a swift punch to the stomach. Seven doubled over more in shock than pain, staggering backwards. When he tried to strike her again she had recovered enough to catch his hand, utilising his own momentum to throw him across the room. Seeing him tumbling over the floor she felt strangely satisfied as the tension relaxed within her somewhat. Maybe this was a way to get rid of jealousy she deduced. Seeking to press home her advantage and ease more of her frustration she charged towards him.
Martan was quickly on his feet and as Seven came barrelling across the room he dodged her attack, sending her sprawling out the door into the street. He pounced out the door straight after her, tackling her back to the dirt as she tried to get up. The pair of the rolled over and over, starting to attract quite a crowd as they reined punches in on one another.
The doors to Janeway’s quarters swung open, the Captain tiredly walking in and flopping onto the sofa. She flicked off the uncomfortable shoes, massaging her sore feet. That was it, she swore, no more wearing silly shoes just to impress men -especially not when she didn’t actually want to impress them. After dinner Martan had invited her back to his house as was the norm on these occasions and she had gone along out of habit. However, as soon as they got through the door and he had started pawing at her, she knew it was wrong and had swiftly backed off.
Martan had wanted to continue things in their usual fashion but Janeway found herself strangely reluctant. She could tell Martan didn’t appreciate her rapidly excusing herself and coming back to the ship. No doubt he thought it was all part of the bartering process that she would offer herself to him, and that she had wounded not only his male ego, but also his trader’s pride.
She’d had plenty of meaningless sex while out in deep space since they’d left Earth, a fair bit of it with the genial alien. But that’s all it was – completely and utterly meaningless. That had suited Janeway at the time – she didn’t want to get close to anyone, didn’t want any proper emotions or attachments. Only now, all of a sudden, she found herself hankering for those things when she never thought she would again. She wasn’t sure where these desires had suddenly arisen from after so long lying dormant, but wherever it was she knew she wouldn’t find what she wanted with someone like Martan. The Captain didn’t know whom exactly she would find them with.
Seeking to ease her troubled thoughts she made her familiar order from the replicator, sitting back down on the sofa with the whiskey and a random report off the stack on her desk. This one was from Seven, detailing the latest repairs she had been making to the ship. The woman really was quite amazing, considered Janeway as she sipped her drink, practically a one-woman engineering department. As she thought of her, Janeway wondered why Seven had left the dinner so early. She had looked uncomfortable the whole time, like she couldn’t wait to get away. Janeway knew Seven found social occasions difficult at times, but wasn’t sure that was the entire story in this case. Whatever the reason, the odd little disappointment that had settled over Janeway after the young woman had departed had only hastened her own departure later.
Before Janeway could contemplate that in too much detail her comm badge chirruped.
Janeway sighed, answering the hail. “Yes, what is it?”
Sorry to bother you, Captain, came Harry’s apologetic voice, “But we’ve got a bit of trouble down on the planet.”
Janeway stalked through the corridors of the jail, her headache building with each echoing step from the guard in front of her. When he stopped at a door she had to take a moment to pinch the bridge of her nose before he opened it, steeling herself for the confrontation ahead.
When she had heard that Seven and Martan had been arrested for brawling in the street, she had been sorely tempted to leave both her wayward crewmember and the alien where they were, at least for the night. However, that would only delay their departure longer and she urgently wanted to get back on course and away from the planet. Having heard of the fight, B’Elanna had briefly suggested that they could just leave Seven there, but her words quickly died on her lips when Janeway had shot her one of her best steely glares.
So the Captain had come back down to the planet, put on her best diplomatic front and negotiated their release, with the strict promise that she would vouch for their good conduct. She hoped it wasn’t a promise she would regret making.
Out of the first cell came Seven. Her hair was awry, blond strands sticking out in all directions, and her face was caked in a mixture of blood and dirt, Janeway unsure quite how much was the young woman’s own. When Martan emerged from the next cell, Janeway deduced that most of it actually belonged to him. Both Seven and Martan avoided making eye contact with her as she paced in front of them.
“Is anyone going to tell me what this was all about?” she asked, hiding her anger behind an even tone. “Seven?” The young woman kept her eyes trained downwards so Janeway tried the man. “Martan?”
“It was nothing,” offered the alien, “A minor disagreement that got out of hand.”
Janeway knew bullshit when she heard it, turning back to the reticent young woman. “Is that true, Seven?”
Seven’s eyes finally came up, their blue depths staring silently back at Janeway for a moment. She cast a quick sideways look at Martan before returning her eyes to Janeway. “Yes, minor and insignificant.”
The way Seven had looked down her nose at the alien made Janeway think the adjectives weren’t necessarily describing the disagreement. Janeway had no idea what had caused the antagonism between the pair of them and at that point in time she didn’t care. She just wanted to get off the planet and back on their way.
“Fine,” she said eventually, “In that case we’ll be going.”
She turned on her heel, assuming that Seven would fall in behind her. What Martan would do, she didn’t really care. She’d already resolved not to come back to the planet, or at least not to trade with Martan, even before she’d discovered that he’d been fighting with Seven. That fact only served to confirm her low opinion of the man. Seven wisely remained silent as they left the prison, able to beam back up to the ship once outside.
As soon as they reappeared in the transporter room Seven was off and walking towards her quarters, but Janeway wasn’t going to let her leave it at that. She had the strongest desire to know what the fight had been about. That urge was much stronger than her anger surrounding the fact that it had actually happened. So Janeway hurried after her, catching up as Seven entered her small room. Janeway followed her straight in without waiting to be granted entry, Seven looking more shocked than angry that Janeway had done so.
“Now we’re alone, perhaps you might enlighten me to the cause of the fight?” Janeway said, cutting off any objection to her presence by reminding Seven of her misdemeanour.
Seven stared back, but didn’t answer.
“What were you doing back on the planet anyway?” Janeway pressed, “I thought you had gone back to the ship?”
Still Seven didn’t speak, an unreadable expression on her face.
“For god’s sake Seven, say something!” cried Janeway. “You’ve just been caught brawling for no reason and dragged me back to the planet late at night to bail your sorry ass out of prison. I think I have a right to an explanation!”
“You are angry with me.”
Janeway blinked, caught off-guard by the remark. She had expected either a blunt statement of the truth, an angry retort or some type of excuse. What she had not expected was a disconsolate Seven. “Yes I’m angry,” she replied, though Seven’s tone had quickly taken the last edge off that, “But more than that I’m disappointed.”
“I am sorry, Captain, it was not my intention to cause you trouble or distress.”
Janeway continued to be confused. “Then what was your intention?”
Seven didn’t respond immediately, her eyes sweeping across Janeway’s face, as if looking for the answer there. Janeway held the gaze, though it was surprisingly hard under the intense appraisal of the blue eyes. She got the impression Seven was weighing up whether to tell her the truth or continue with her evasion.
“It does not matter,” said Seven eventually, her eyes dropping, “The reason has passed.”
Janeway’s disappointment only grew on discovering Seven had chosen to steer clear of the truth. “Fine, whatever,” she said dismissively, trying to hide it, “I’m not going to keep banging my head on a brick wall. Just as long as this isn’t going to be happening again, because next time I might just let you rot in prison.”
Janeway was surprised with the degree of alarm in Seven’s voice. She had only meant it as a jokey threat to try and cover up her own disappointment, but it appeared that the fact Janeway might make good on it caused no small degree of concern for the young woman. If anything Janeway would have classified Seven’s reaction as genuine fear of being abandoned.
“No, I wouldn’t,” she said seeking to reassure Seven though she didn’t know why given the young woman’s behaviour, “Starfleet captains never leave members of their crew behind.”
Seven regarded her curiously after she had spoken, Janeway wondering at the look. “What?” queried the Captain.
“You referred to yourself as a ‘Starfleet Captain’,” Seven pointed out, “I have never heard you do that before.”
“Did I?” said Janeway as nonchalantly as she could, knowing full well that she had and that it was something she hadn’t done in a long time. It seemed it was an evening for resurfacing thoughts and emotions. “Must have been a slip of the tongue.”
Two days later and Seven was still replaying the conversation with Janeway over and over in her mind, still none the wiser as to why the Captain had pursued her to discuss the fight further when Seven had assumed the discussion was over. When she had turned and found the Captain right there in her quarters she could barely breathe, let alone speak. The knowledge of her newly discovered emotions were still fresh and raw in her mind, and having the Captain there only serving to cement what she had tried to dismiss – that she was in love with her.
Of course, her silence had only enraged the Captain further, though that anger seemed to disappear remarkably quickly soon after. The Captain had claimed she was disappointed more than anything, though that made little sense to Seven – why would her actions disappoint the Captain unless the Captain cared about what she did? That possibility had sparked Seven’s hopes yet again, hopes she had to quickly clamp down on when she saw the puzzled expression on Janeway’s face at her perusal.
Instead she had kept her counsel as to the cause of the fight, though as time passed it became increasingly hard to hide her burgeoning feelings. In fact every time she saw the Captain now she was acutely aware of her reactions, worried that they would give her away. Seven considered that perhaps she should take Harry’s advice and say something before she betrayed herself anyway. She was already keeping one difficult secret as it was.
Seeking to hide from both the Captain and her own feelings, Seven was working down in engineering, closeted in one of the Jeffries tubes. When she heard a male and female voice, she assumed they hadn’t realised she was within earshot, starting to crawl for the exit when she paused to listen for a moment.
“I wonder what that was all about back on Branta Prime?” came the voice of Torres, “Seven fighting in the street, I would never have thought she had it in her.”
“I don’t know,” replied Harry, “It was out of character.”
“Hang on,” said a suspicious Torres, “You know something.”
“I don’t,” replied Harry quickly.
“Did she say something to you?”
“You always were terrible at lying, Harry. What did she tell you?”
Harry’s voice now had a begging edge to it. “Please, B’Elanna, it was in confidence.”
Seven wondered if now was a good time to declare herself, before Harry was forced into telling B’Elanna anything. However, then they would know she had been eavesdropping all along. She was also interested to hear the other woman’s opinion, thinking it unlikely Torres would directly tell the Captain anything.
“All right,” said Torres, “I’ll just speculate until you blush and give the answer away shall I? Let’s see, what would make Seven go for him…?” There was a pause in which Seven assumed B’Elanna was thinking. “He made some disparaging remarks about her engineering skills?”
There was no corresponding answer from Harry, Seven supposing he was trying to deflect her by remaining quiet.
“Nope, no blushing yet,” noted Torres, “He must have done something to offend her…Ah ha! He did!”
Seven presumed that meant Harry had given some inadvertent non-verbal clue that Torres was getting closer to the truth.
“B’Elanna please…” beseeched Harry.
Torres ignored his plea though. “Ok, so what did he do? I can’t remember even seeing them talking,” she said thoughtfully, “He was far too involved with the Captain the whole night….”
Seven could only assume Harry had blushed at that moment, because Torres let out a sudden exclamation. “Shit! It’s something to do with the Captain?”
Harry didn’t reply, but Torres carried on anyway. “I don’t understand,” she said, “Why would the Captain and Martan flirting it up a storm offend Seven…unless…unless…Fuck! She was jealous?”
Still Harry stayed silent, but Torres was on a roll now. “Holy shit! She was jealous! Seven fancies the Captain! Now it all makes sense.”
Finally Harry spoke. “Sorry?”
“She was asking me all these questions about Tom, and love and sex,” explained Torres, Seven thinking she should be more careful what she discussed with the engineer in the future as she heard her glibly recounting their discussion, “I thought she was just generally curious but now…fuck me, she was asking because she likes the Captain?”
“There’s no need to sound quite so incredulous,” commented Harry.
“But it’s so preposterous!”
“Because…because…” stammered Torres, “…because it just is! I hope you told her to forget about it.”
“Not exactly,” said Harry slowly, “I told her she should speak to the Captain, let her know how she feels.”
“Harry, you moron!” cried B’Elanna, “Why did you tell her that?”
“Because she should tell the truth and not have to hide her feelings?”
“Kahless!” exclaimed Torres, Seven thinking she detected the faint slap of hand on forehead, “No wonder you always had such an abysmal record with women – far too much being honest! Do you seriously think the Captain is going to return those feelings? She’s a red-blooded heterosexual woman, she’s not going to want the attentions of some woman, especially not a stuck-up cold fish like Seven.”
Seven felt a strange burning in her cheeks at B’Elanna’s comments, a mixture of anger and shame brewing inside her.
“I think that’s a little harsh,” remarked Harry in her defence, “If you got to know Seven you’d see the person beneath that hard exterior.”
“If you like her so much, why don’t you date her, instead of foisting her on the Captain?”
“Because it’s not me she likes,” Harry reminded her.
Torres was not willing to see his point though. “Look, next time you ‘talk’ to her, try and persuade her not to say anything, all right? She’ll only embarrass herself and the Captain.”
“Perhaps we should just let her make up her own mind how she wants to proceed?”
Seven had already heard more than enough to reach those conclusions. B’Elanna was right – it was preposterous. To think that someone as sophisticated and intelligent as the Captain would be in the slightest bit interested in someone as socially and romantically inept as Seven was ridiculous. In fact, declaring her unreciprocated feelings would only prove once again how little she knew of humanity by making a fool of herself and embarrassing the Captain. The proper thing to do would be to keep her feelings to herself and not bother the Captain with something so unimportant.
Two more days of avoiding the Captain as much as possible followed, Seven aiding Torres in finally bringing the turbolifts back online to keep herself busy. When that was finished they moved onto leaks in the plasma conduit system, Torres instructing Seven to go to the cargo bay to see what she could dig up from the supplies they had picked up on their travels. As soon as she entered the large room, there was one section of those supplies that caught Seven’s eye. Piled up in the far corner, untouched from the day they had brought them back, were the remains of the Borg sphere.
Seven felt oddly reluctant to go close, the dark twisted metal maintaining its ominous presence even away from the sphere. Mentally shaking herself, she walked over, wondering where the feelings of anxiety were coming from.
She’d always viewed her past with an air of detached resignation, accepting that she couldn’t change it and that it was part of who she was. In some ways she was actually glad for what the Borg had given her. It had made her feel confident and superior to know she held all that vast knowledge that no one else outside the Collective could possibly imagine or hope to possess. Of course she felt a degree of guilt or remorse whenever she came across someone who had been affected by the Borg, someone who’d lost a loved one or seen their home destroyed, but none of those things had been her doing, or at least not consciously.
However, at this moment a completely different feeling was building inside her as she gazed upon the broken equipment while thinking about all that had happened recently. She knelt down and picked up one of the data nodes, it’s surface blackened where it had overloaded. The metal was cold in her hand, a similar chill settling over her heart. The emotion was unpleasant and powerful. She had seen it in the eyes of others before when they found out what she was, and Seven knew it immediately for what it was – hate.
She hated the Borg. She hated them for stealing her childhood, she hated them for taking away her parents, she hated them for what they had done to her body and her mind, but most of all she hated them for robbing her of her chance of knowing love.
After all how could anyone love her? She wasn’t a real human being. Yes, she could feel, yes, she had her own mind and her own thoughts, but she had no mastery over any of them. She lacked the skill or experience to act or behave properly, that inadequacy only magnified when she compared herself to someone like the Captain. What use was the knowledge of countless worlds when you couldn’t even make a connection with a single person? She was flawed and damaged - as broken as the node in her hand.
“Looking for inspiration?”
Seven actually jumped. She had been so caught up in her thoughts she hadn’t heard the sound of the Captain coming in, nor picked up on the other telltale signs that normally alerted her to the other woman’s presence.
“Are you all right?” asked the Captain in concern, obviously noticing the startled reaction.
Seven took her time placing the node back with the other debris, using the action to try and gather her composure. “I am fine,” she finally replied, standing up to face the Captain. “I was just examining the debris to see if there was anything I could use in the plasma conduit repairs.”
Janeway eyed her doubtfully, Seven certain her troubled thoughts and feelings were still plain to see. Seven felt incredibly exposed under the scrutiny, seeking some way to deflect it. “Were you looking for something in particular?” she asked the Captain.
“No, I was going to have a look through our haul, since I’ve not really had the chance since we acquired it.” Janeway knelt down, staring to sift through some of the objects. “Have you found anything of use so far?”
Seven crouched back down beside her, watching the Captain’s hands passing over the Borg technology. Would she be so casually discussing this if she knew that some of that same technology lay imbedded in Seven’s body?
Seven’s eyes shot to the Captain, realising she had been absently staring once again. “Not yet,” she replied, “This is the first time I have examined what we recovered.” In fact she had been deliberately avoiding coming anywhere near the debris over the past few weeks, wanting to forget about that part of her past. Yet it seemed she couldn’t forget it as easily as she might have hoped.
Janeway was still rummaging, her eyes lighting up at she reached for something. “Hmm, this looks interesting.”
Seven’s hand reflexively shot out and grabbed the Captain’s before her fingers closed over the armature. Through the mesh of her own hand she could feel the warm flesh, the extra-sensory preceptors in her fingers feeding back a whole host of stimuli to her brain. The effect was disconcerting, but not unpleasant. As she tried to process the sensations she didn’t realise she had been holding on far too long until the Captain’s face slowly swung to her, a quizzical look evident in the blue eyes that were so close.
“It may still have active injection tubules,” Seven managed to say, trying desperately to ignore the faint brush of the Captain’s breath over her face. For once there was no hidden hint of alcohol on it, though it was only eleven in the morning. She let go of the Captain’s hand, instantly feeling like she had lost touch with something she couldn’t put her finger on.
“How do you know so much about this?” queried the Captain, thankfully making nothing of Seven’s bizarre actions.
“As I said before I have some experience of the Borg.”
“Yes, though you never said much more,” noted the Captain. She was still close to Seven, her shoulder actually rubbing up against Seven’s own as if that was entirely normal. “You don’t seem to talk about your past much in general.”
Seven swallowed nervously, knowing they were getting onto dangerous ground. “There is not much to tell,” she said evasively.
“Some interesting things must have happened to you on this Patat-Damar planet between the ages of six and…,” the Captain paused to think, “How old are you now?”
Seven deliberated over what to actually say. In elapsed years she was twenty-eight, but the effects of the Borg maturation chamber actually put her physically in the region of her early thirties. Whereas emotionally…sometimes she thought that in that regard she was still a child. She decided to stick with the first answer, just in case Janeway somehow had access to records from the Tendara Colony where she had been born and could find out her birth date. “I am twenty-eight.”
“There you go - twenty-two years on a planet can’t have elapsed without something of note occurring.”
“Twenty-one,” corrected Seven, “Since I left nearly a year ago.” Even that was another lie - most of that time had really been spent in the Collective. Seven was starting to have trouble keeping track of what she had told the Captain as opposed to what was the truth. “But my time there was mostly uneventful,” she added. Seven knew she had to get off the subject quickly. Not only was it getting hard to keep the public version of events consistent, but also she didn’t like having to lie to the Captain.
“What did you like doing?”
Seven blinked, puzzled at the line of questioning. It seemed rather…personal. “I liked to study,” she replied, thinking that a fairly safe answer.
“And in your spare time?”
The concept was alien to Seven. There had been no spare time with the Borg. She tried to recall some of the activities that were popular amongst the Patat-Damar. “I like music,” she answered.
It wasn’t an outright lie. During her short time on the planet she had developed an interest in the art form under the encouragement of the Patat-Damar assigned to oversee her acclimatisation. He had suggested she pursue other interests, besides her voracious appetite for knowledge and science. Since he himself was a keen musician she had followed him in this, finding that she developed her own appreciation of the interesting mathematical structures and patterns that were inherent in it. She had almost forgotten about it since the harsh realities of life since then had left little room for such diversions.
Janeway seemed genuinely interested. “Really? Listening or playing?”
“Listening mainly,” answered Seven, “Since I have no access to any instruments at present.”
“Hmm, perhaps we could do something about that.”
Seven quirked an eyebrow, wondering what she meant. “Captain?”
“Perhaps we could find you something when we get to Salensiana,” the Captain suggested.
Seven had to recover her senses quickly when the Captain proffered her a warm smile to go with the offer. “Thank you, Captain,” she said, searching for a suitable platitude, “That is kind of you,” she added, “And unexpected.”
“After my behaviour on Branta Prime…” Seven didn’t know why she had mentioned it, especially when the Captain seemed to be being so nice to her. She really should learn to filter some of her words more quickly, but it was hard when her mind was preoccupied with other things such as how the Captain’s hair was a slightly different shade of red under the cargo bay lights compared to those of the rest of the ship.
“Ah, yes, that,” recalled Janeway, “Well, I think it’s best we try and forget about that – some things are best left in the past.”
Seven suspected that the Captain wasn’t merely talking about her own behaviour.
“You’ve said you’re sorry,” continued Janeway, “And I trust you when you say it won’t happen again.”
Seven was staggered. The Captain trusted her? When had that happened? Not that it mattered particularly, not when Seven felt an uplifting warmness building within her, making her forget all her earlier anger at the Borg. Perhaps it was possible for her to fit in after all if she had somehow earned the Captain’s trust.
Making a mockery of that, a dark cloud suddenly appeared on the horizon of her mind, reminding her that the Captain’s trust was misplaced – at least while Seven was still lying to her. Seven knew she should say something, but her mouth was reluctant to form the words. Once she told the Captain she was Borg there would be no going back, and Seven didn’t know if she was prepared for the consequences.
While Seven’s inner battle continued, it seemed the Captain hadn’t finished with what she had to say. “I think we can overlook one misdemeanour,” she added, “Since your work rate and the quality of that work has been stunning. The ship’s never run better and of course there was the small matter of you saving my and B’Elanna’s lives back on the planet with the deuterium. All in all I have to say I’m pleased that you joined the crew.”
The warm glow was back in Seven’s stomach again, making it even harder for her to admit the truth. She didn’t want this feeling to go away, not yet.
The Captain was almost rambling by now, perhaps feeling the need to fill in the silence left by Seven. It wasn’t intentional on the young woman’s part – she was too stunned and pleased to offer up any sensible comment.
“And it’s been…nice…” said Janeway, uncharacteristically faltering over the last word, “Having someone new around,” she added.
“Thank you,” said Seven, supposing she ought to at least say something.
“Right, well, I best be getting back to the bridge,” said Janeway, suddenly standing, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
It took a good few seconds for Seven’s mind to register that the Captain was referring to the Borg debris, by which time the other woman had left the room. It occurred to Seven that the Captain hadn’t actually retrieved anything from the equipment herself, in fact leaving in a bizarre flustered hurry completely unlike her. Seven considered that maybe she wasn’t the only flawed one after all - perhaps it was just part of being human.
When the Paladin reached it’s final destination of Salensiana three days later, Seven reluctantly agreed to stay on board as the others completed the initial negotiations. The native race to the planet, the Trabeen, were notoriously wary of strangers and the Captain had thought it prudent not to risk any mishaps, especially given what had happened on Branta Prime. Seven had to wonder if the Captain had another secret companion on this planet as on that one. The young woman had taken some heart from Janeway’s reassurance that Seven staying behind was just a precaution and that she did trust her – apparently it was the aliens she was unsure of.
So Seven was left to kick her heels, unable to stop her mind wandering to thoughts of what might be happening down on the surface, feeling the now recognisable prickle of jealousy mixed with a faint anxiety. The latter was caused by one of the conditions of beam down - that the group not bring any weapons with them. That meant they were pretty much defenceless, reliant on Seven to beam them out in a hurry if anything went wrong. However, the planet’s tight security grid made even that difficult, and Seven had to utilise some of her best Borg algorithms to keep up with the shifting frequencies as she dutifully kept watch of the party’s biosigns from one of the bridge stations. At least she was safe in doing so, since none of the others were around to witness it.
Fortunately there were no problems, and it was with no small relief that Seven eventually beamed the other crewmembers back to the ship once they had exited the confines of the security grid.
Seven had expected that they would be plotting a course back to Outpost 47 at that point, to deliver the return cargo, but was confounded when the Captain belayed any such orders. Apparently they had been invited to another dining event, one it would be a terrible snub to pass up. Even Janeway looked reluctant about attending, but said they all needed to go to make a good impression for any future trades.
Since they had a few hours before they were required, Seven went back to her quarters, making sure to catch some regeneration. It was something she now always did before leaving the ship in case of any unforeseen circumstances. She was just tucking her regeneration unit away when the door chime sounded and the Doctor breezed in. Seven could see he had been altering his program again, his clothes changed from his normal work outfit. Whatever the intention for his visit, it was quickly diverted as his eyes came upon her.
“Are you going like that?”
Seven looked down at her clothes. “Is there something wrong with my attire?”
“Not if you’re going to be doing some plasma conduit maintenance,” he allowed, “But we’re going to dinner, Seven, you could at least make a small effort.”
“I am unsure what would be suitable,” Seven admitted, “And I do not own any other clothes.”
“No problem,” said the Doctor cheerily, “We’ll just replicate something.” He was already accessing the controls of her replicator without waiting for permission.
“But we are not permitted to use the replicators in our quarters,” Seven reminded him.
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” he said, turning to give her a sly wink, “Let’s just have a look through the database, see if there’s anything you fancy?”
A series of clothing flashed by on the screen at the Doctor’s command before he stopped on something. “How about this?”
Seven tipped her head from side to side sizing the garment up in puzzlement. “How exactly is that held up?”
“By a combination of tightness and your…er…womanly curves,” he explained, “You certainly have plenty of those after all,” he added looking directly at her chest.
Seven’s eyes narrowed as she regarded him sternly. “I do not think I would be comfortable in such a garment.”
The doctor made a small scoffing noise as he rolled his eyes. “You’re far too sensible! All right, perhaps we shouldn’t go for quite such a drastic departure. How about we stick with the shirt and trousers combination, just spruce it up a little?”
“Spruce it up?” repeated a confused Seven.
The doctor grinned at her. “Trust me, I’m a doctor!”
Janeway leant heavily against the wall, wondering if she would fall down if she let go. She thought it best not to try it, sitting down on her Ready Room couch instead, cradling her drink to her like a drowning person clutching at a punctured life jacket. Even its qualities didn’t seem to be able to save her from herself now.
It had happened so insidiously, that was the problem, and before she knew it she had been swamped by all sorts of emotions she had desperately been trying to ignore for nearly a year. In fact she had pushed those sorts of feelings aside for a long time before that too. All the time they were in the Delta Quadrant there had always been just that little part of her that remained detached, that she kept to herself. Of course she had cared for her crew, been friends with many of them, but she’d never let it overstep that invisible line into something more. She’d always maintained that was because she was the Captain and her duty to the ship and crew as a whole prevented it. But it was more than that. That was just a convenient excuse to stop her having to even think about getting involved with someone. Looking back at her life she supposed that it had been going on even before Voyager. Though she had been engaged to Mark, she had never really let him get close enough to threaten her control. She just couldn’t bring herself to give someone else that power over her.
Yet now, despite everything that had occurred over the past two years, it seemed to be happening anyway. Of all the people to cause it, she would never have imagined that it would be someone like Seven. She wasn’t sure when it had started, but it was clear that the young woman had an amazing ability to distract and disconcert her unlike anyone she had ever met.
Their discussion over the Borg debris in the Cargo Bay had forcefully driven that point home to the Captain. She hadn’t expected to see Seven there and had tried to remain nonchalant, but then her mouth seemed to run away of its own accord, asking all sorts of odd personal questions without the permission of her brain. Perhaps her mind had been affected by Seven’s close proximity? Janeway had bent down to examine the debris in the hope of focussing on that, but when Seven had joined her she had suddenly found herself subconsciously gravitating towards the other woman until they were actually touching. It was then she had known she needed to make a hasty exit, which she had done in a hideously embarrassing fashion.
She had been glad when they got to Salensiana and Seven had been forced to stay on board. Janeway wasn’t convinced she could have made the trade properly with the added distraction of Seven’s presence.
There was a tiny thought niggling away at the back of her mind asking her why exactly she was so steadfastly trying to brush these feelings aside and hide them. Why shouldn’t she explore them? She no longer had her excuse about being a Starfleet Captain after all. Yet she was still a Captain. She was still responsible for those on board and out in this dangerous area of space there was always something lying in wait to ambush them. She couldn’t allow her concentration and focus to slip.
That was the official line she was resolutely maintaining, ignoring the other more glaring reason of her being scared to allow emotion into her life. She already needed the drink to keep the dark feelings at bay, how much worse would it be with something else added to the mix?
Janeway gulped down the last of her whiskey, steeling herself for the evening ahead before she exited her Ready Room and made her way to the transporters. She managed to maintain her cool composure for all of two minutes once there. It disappeared fast when Seven entered the room. Janeway could only stare stupidly as the young woman crossed to join the rest of the party.
Seven’s clothes weren’t particularly showy or ostentatious, yet she looked simply breathtaking. Her pale blue shirt rippled as she moved, flowing over the contours of her body. Not that Janeway was unaware Seven had such curves – the tight t-shirt she normally wore didn’t leave much to the imagination – but the fact that the shirt she now wore was looser was somehow more enticing. It only gave teasing hints at what lay below. The same was true of the neckline which was open, revealing the smooth slope of Seven’s pale skin, but not open quite far enough to be too revealing – no matter how much Janeway stared.
“Captain, are you all right?” asked Harry, the first to notice her distraction.
The Captain ignored him, her eyes still fixed on Seven, taking in the tailored trousers she wore on her bottom half. “Seven, you look…different,” she said in wonder. She suddenly felt rather shabby in her own clothes.
Seven glanced down at herself, as if unsure of what she was wearing. “My clothes are not acceptable?”
“No, no, not at all!” Janeway quickly said, “It’s just I’ve never seen you in anything other than that t-shirt and trousers. “It’s a surprise seeing you in something else,” she tried to explain, “But a pleasant one,” she quickly added knowing her mouth was trying its independence trick again.
She held it firmly shut to prevent it coming out with any more inane comments, activating the transporter to take them down to the surface.
They appeared on a dusty plain, the sun scorching hot on the top of Seven’s blonde head. A dry wind swept across the barren landscape, picking up the surface layer of sand and whipping it against them. Seven had to squint to see that the Captain had come prepared, having produced a pair of dark sunglasses to protect her eyes. There were no buildings as far as Seven could see, and for a moment she thought they had got the co-ordinates of their transport wrong. Then suddenly a hatch opened up in the ground in front of them, a single figure rising into view on a moving platform.
They were dark skinned, their head possessing no hair of any kind, while their ears were tiny in comparison to a human’s. As the person approached, Seven could see that their eyes possessed a special natural film, no doubt to protect from the harsh surface conditions.
The alien directed them aboard the platform, which carried them down below the surface, the hatch doors banging shut behind them and cutting off the howling wind. Seven patted her clothes to remove the excess sand as the Captain leaned over, folding up her glasses as she did.
“They always make us beam down outside – they want to make us pass through their security grid,” she said, “Sorry, I should have warned you. Is your shirt all right?”
“I believe it is,” Seven replied after a final check, noticing that the Captain seemed particularly interested with how she brushed the last remnants of sand off it.
“Good,” noted Janeway, a small smile curving her lips, “It’s beautiful, by the way.”
The sudden heat in Seven’s head was dizzying. She had only worn the new clothes at the doctor’s insistence with the hope of fitting in; she had never expected to get such a favourable reaction from the Captain. As the heat in her head died down, it seemed to sink into the rest of her body, filling her with a pleasant warmth. She found herself smiling back at the Captain, for once the action seeming entirely natural. “Thank you,” she replied, “You look beautiful too.”
Seven realised immediately she had made a slight unintentional error in her comment. She had meant to compliment the Captain on her attire too, yet somehow her mouth had conspired to say something else. She supposed it was too late to take it back, especially as it was entirely accurate anyway. The Captain did look beautiful, but then she always did to Seven.
The Captain was still smiling captivatingly at her as the platform reached the bottom of the shaft. It took a moment for Seven to see the approaching troops, but as soon as she did she somehow knew her charade was finally over.
Janeway’s brow creased as a group of guards blocked their entrance to the main concourse. They stood in a row, their dark uniforms an imposing barrier, their guns raised high and trained on Janeway’s party.
“What’s going on?” she demanded of the men, not appreciating being threatened, especially not when she didn’t have her trusty phaser pistol with her.
“You have brought something very dangerous to our planet,” said one, stepping from the precise line, “We cannot allow that.”
“What are you talking about dangerous?” said Janeway, thinking the man was insane, “We haven’t brought anything with us.”
“So you deny it even when it is standing right next to you?” he said gesturing to her right.
Janeway made a quick glance before turning back to the troops, wanting to keep her eyes on them in case any had an itchy trigger finger. “You mean Seven?” she asked doubtfully, since that was the only thing in the direction he had indicated. “Seven’s not dangerous.” Janeway considered that wasn’t strictly true, especially not if you were a bear-like creature, but she didn’t think the young woman’s presence warranted quite this sort of reception.
“She is Borg.”
“What?” exclaimed Janeway, letting out an incredulous laugh for good measure. “Don’t be ridiculous!” Janeway looked to the young woman for confirmation of how preposterous the claims were. “Seven?”
However, Seven was standing stock still, staring at the aliens in front of them in a look of silent horror. The expression quickly deflated Janeway’s confidence, a cold anxiety bubbling up in her stomach instead. “Seven?” she repeated much less certainly this time.
Seven’s eyes swung with such agonising slowness to the Captain that she thought she was going to pass out as she held her breath while waiting. It seemed like whole worlds could be born, live and die in the time it took them to reach her own. Yet when they did finally latch onto her, Janeway wished she had looked away. She could see the unformed apology behind Seven’s blue eyes, her heart beating rapidly out of control now. Janeway wanted to reach out, stop Seven saying anything to lend credence to the Trabeen’s words, but it was too late, she was already speaking. “I am sorry, Captain.”
Janeway let out a strangled gasp, her throat suddenly tight, a feeling that was rapidly spreading across her whole chest. The pain was like nothing she had ever felt.
“No…no,” she said falteringly, unable and unwanting to comprehend the magnitude of the revelation, “You can’t be,” she added in continued denial.
“We have many scanning devices for our own security,” explained the Trabeen soldier while Janeway remained staring mutely at Seven, searching her face in a forlorn hope that at any minute Seven was going to tell her it was all some hideous mistake, or a joke, or anything but this. “They detected your drone’s presence,” he added. “You are free to go, but she must remain here for detention and judgement.”
Janeway barely heard him, her numbness centred on the woman in front of her. “Seven?” she begged, “Please, tell me it’s not true.”
Seven hesitated. “I…” she began, looking pleadingly at the Captain before her eyes dropped in resignation, “…cannot.”
Janeway stormed over to the replicator in the messhall, immediately ordering a whiskey and knocking it back. She was already on her third by the time Harry, B’Elanna and the doctor caught up with her speedy exit from the transporter room. She was looking out the window as they entered, her comments directed at no one in particular.
“This has to be a mistake,” she said, shaking her head and taking another swig of whiskey, “Seven, Borg? It’s ridiculous!”
The others were biding their time, perhaps sensing it was best not to interrupt the obviously agitated Captain as the glass went to her lips.
Suddenly she swung round purposefully, slamming her glass down on the nearest table. “I’m going to get onto the Trabeen authorities right now in fact…” she stated, starting for the door.
Janeway ignored the attempt to stall her. “…tell them exactly what I think of them arresting members of my crew without justification…”
Janeway stopped at the louder interjection, staring at the doctor who had made it. He looked nervously at his feet for a moment before meeting her eye.
“Seven is Borg,” he stated, “Or rather was Borg.”
Janeway had to repeat the statement to process it properly. “Seven is Borg?”
“Was Borg, yes.”
“You knew about this?” she asked the doctor, trying to feel her way into a conversation that had knocked the wind from her sails. In fact she had felt this way since the Trabeen had confronted them on the planet and she was desperately searching for some safe ground in the storm.
“Yes. I am her doctor after all, it would be hard to miss once you get under the surface.”
Janeway didn’t like the mental image that conjured. “What’s under the surface then?”
“I don’t think I should be discussing a patient’s personal medical history,” noted the doctor uncharacteristically reticent for him.
“Sod that!” exclaimed Janeway, her anxiety bubbling over with the loosening power of drink, “I have a Borg on my ship! I need to know what we’re dealing with.”
“You make it sound like she’s some sort of threat,” remarked the doctor evenly.
“Isn’t she?” asked Janeway, not knowing if she thought it was true or not. She didn’t know much right at that moment. It seemed everything she had previously thought about Seven had been wrong, so how could she trust her judgement now?
“All right, I’ll give you the basic facts,” allowed the doctor. “Seven was disconnected from the Borg collective approximately one year ago. However, because her Borg systems were so highly integrated with her human ones, she retains a number of implants which are necessary to her survival, regulating certain of her body’s functions. Amongst these are the more obvious ones like the mesh on her hand, or the implant above her eye, which masks the fact that her left eye is artificial by the way, to those not quite so obvious such as the cortical node in her brain which controls pretty much all her other implants. Her bloodstream also contains active nanoprobes which are used by those remaining borg systems.”
“Hang on, nanoprobes?” interjected B’Elanna suddenly, “Does she also have those little things for injecting them?”
“You mean tubules,” deduced the doctor, “Yes, she does.”
“Kahless!” cried Torres, making a horrified face.
“All this means that Seven is a lot stronger and more durable than your average human being,” continued the doctor, “Though in order to maintain her Borg systems, she needs to regenerate every 48 hours or so. If she doesn’t then her Borg systems would start failing, leading eventually to death.”
The information filtered into Janeway’s brain, though not much of it sunk in. However, the last point struck a chord of remembrance. “That time of the planet with the deuterium?” she recalled out loud.
The doctor nodded at the unformed question. “Yes, that’s when I first discovered her unique physiology.”
Janeway replayed those events in her mind now – Seven fading fast in the shuttle, slipping in and out of consciousness. That hadn’t been because of any ‘medical condition’ as Seven had told her - it was because she had implants, and nanoprobes and Borg systems in her body and those systems had been failing. Seven was Borg and Seven had lied to her. Janeway was dazed, having to quickly down another drink.
She kept shaking her head as she paced back and forth across the room. “No, this isn’t right,” she muttered more to herself than anything, “How can Seven be Borg? She seems so…human.”
“But she’s not is she!” cried B’Elanna, seemingly having grasped the situation a lot faster than Janeway, or at least having jumped to her conclusions faster. “She’s one of them. You know - resistance is futile; you will be assimilated! Let’s just get out of here, leave the Trabeen to deal with her. Good riddance I say!”
Janeway stopped, training a pair of narrowed eyes on B’Elanna. Here at last she was on familiar territory. “She’s a member of this crew,” she intoned in pure command tones, “And we don’t leave anyone behind.”
“You can’t be serious!” exclaimed Torres, “She’s been lying to us all this time. Maybe she was just waiting for the right moment to assimilate all of us too.”
“Now you’re being melodramatic,” Janeway replied, “Do you think if she really wanted to do that she wouldn’t have already? And have you forgotten all the times she’s come through for us?” She was trying to convince herself as much as the other woman. “I’m going down to the planet to speak to her,” she suddenly said.
“This isn’t a debate,” Janeway stated abruptly, “Wait here for me.”
Janeway sat nervously at the table in the bare room, a million and one thoughts rushing through her mind at warp speed. She tried to pull them into some sort of order so she could work out what she wanted to say, but they were far too chaotic and fragmented. The urge to come down to the planet and been so powerful that she couldn’t resist, yet now she was there she had no idea what she was doing. Then the door opened and she knew she was totally unprepared.
Seven was literally hauled into the room, flanked by two guards sporting phasers and other weapons Janeway didn’t recognise. However, Janeway wasn’t particularly concerned with them, focussing directly on the young woman between them. Janeway’s stomach was doing strange cartwheels as she watched them bringing Seven towards her, her blue eyes boring into Janeway with their usual startling intensity. Neither of them spoke as the guards forced Seven down into the seat opposite Janeway, the Captain noticing that Seven had a number of cuts and bruises to her face that hadn’t been there before – obviously the Trabeen didn’t like the Borg.
As the guards took their leave Janeway found herself studying Seven’s face with what she now knew about the young woman at the forefront of her mind. She wondered what lay underneath that normally smooth skin, what was coursing through her veins? She didn’t look any different, yet she was. The effect of the knowledge was disconcerting and Janeway found herself involuntarily staring at Seven’s left eye looking for evidence that it wasn’t real.
It was Seven who finally broke the pained silence. “I did not expect to see you.”
“I came pretty close to leaving you here let me tell you,” Janeway replied, forcing herself to stop staring. She reached for a few of her troubled thoughts. “But I couldn’t leave with outstanding questions,” she said, those questions piling instantly to the front of her mind. “Why did you do it? Why did you lie to me, to all of us? Who are you really?”
“I am still the same person you know,” stated Seven keeping her eyes on Janeway the whole time. The Captain wondered whether it was the Borg in her that gave her that steely resolve. “I am no different to the person I was this morning. I am still Seven.”
“Seven…,” Janeway repeated absently, turning the name over as if it would yield answers. Suddenly something struck her, though not what she was looking for. “Oh my god,” she cried, “I’ve just realised. Seven…that’s not a nickname is it? It’s some sort of Borg designation.”
For the first time Seven looked away in what Janeway would have classed as shame. Did the Borg experience such emotions?
“You are correct,” replied Seven in an even tone. “My full designation is…was…Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. But I am no longer Borg.”
“Then why do you still use your Borg name?”
Seven paused at that, taking her time to consider her answer. Janeway watched the emotions flitting across Seven’s face with interest the whole time – if she was Borg then she was certainly an unusual one.
“Perhaps I should start at the beginning?” suggested Seven, “With the truth this time.”
Janeway just about stopped the scoffing laugh from escaping her lips, offering up a nod instead to indicate Seven should continue.
“It was true what I told you about my parents being scientists and explorers. There was one thing in particular that they were interested in and that was the Borg. They spent over a year tracking them, following cubes around before…before their luck ran out. They followed a cube into a transwarp conduit, pulling our ship into the Delta Quadrant along with it, but the Borg detected us and assessed us as a threat.”
Janeway had determined that she wasn’t going to comment, that she wasn’t going to make any allowances – she just wanted the facts so she could make a decision how to proceed. So even when Seven paused she determinedly kept her mouth shut though she was aching to butt in.
“They boarded our ship,” continued Seven eventually in tones surprisingly devoid of emotion, or perhaps not surprisingly supposed Janeway. “They assimilated me and my parents. I was six years old.”
Janeway gasped, internally berating herself for the reaction that broke her resolution. However, it was hard not to be horrified by the story. Assimilated as a child, torn away from your parents by the Borg? She couldn’t even begin to imagine the terror a child would experience at such event.
“I spent the next twenty years as part of the Collective before the Patat-Damar freed me,” Seven carried on in a monotone as if reciting from a book, “The cube I was on was damaged and crash-landed on their planet at the edge of the Alpha Quadrant. Luckily for me they were a kindly race, having no prejudice against the Borg like the Trabeen. They removed those of my implants that they could, my body rejecting many of them anyway once my link to the Collective was severed. At first I wanted to rejoin the Collective as quickly as possible. After so long with the Borg I didn’t know what it meant to be an individual, one person alone with my own thoughts. Over time I began to appreciate those qualities though. After a few months on the planet I wanted to explore them further, leaving the Patat-Damar to find out who I was, where I belonged. I wandered around from place to place, learning the hard way about what it meant to be an ex-Borg. And then I met you, the first human I had seen in nearly twenty-two years.”
Janeway couldn’t help the sudden swell of emotion on hearing the words. She wasn’t sure what it was she felt. Pride? Pleasure? Satisfaction? All she knew was that it felt good to hear that after twenty-two years without human contact Seven had chosen her to engage with. The Captain tried to ignore the fact that it was mere coincidence that Seven had come across her before anyone else, also choosing to gloss over the frosty reception she had given Seven that day in the bar. Realising she was getting side-tracked, Janeway got back to where they had started.
“That still doesn’t tell me why you don’t use your real name,” she pointed out.
“Annika Hansen…” said Seven, deliberating over the name for a moment, “…she was that child, that innocent girl of six but she no longer exists.” The young woman appeared to be displaying sorrow for the first time.
Was she remembering that girl? wondered Janeway, Did she wish she could have that life to lead again? Janeway quickly clamped down on any such compassionate thoughts - she had to remember why they were there.
“It didn’t seem right to use that name now,” continued Seven. “That’s not who I am now. I am Seven.”
Janeway wasn’t sure if the name was a proud statement or a curse. “What’s it like being part of the Collective?” she asked despite herself, thinking the question had little relevance apart from helping her understand Seven better, “How does it feel?”
Seven considered it briefly. “It does not feel like anything,” she answered, “You have no feelings while part of the Collective. There is no individual thought or emotion.”
“You have individual thoughts and emotions now?” clarified Janeway.
“Of course,” agreed Seven, “Though I do still retain the knowledge of the Collective in my brain to some extent.”
“No wonder you seemed to know so much,” noted Janeway with vague admiration, “But you don’t actually remember being in the Collective?”
“I can remember what I did, I just had no control over it at the time.”
“But you have control now,” Janeway posited, “Finally getting some idea of where she was going with this line of questioning, “Full control of your thoughts, and words and actions?”
Seven simply nodded – perhaps she too sensed what was coming.
“No one was making you lie to us, deceive us?” asked Janeway
“No they were not.”
Janeway shook her head at the confirmation that it had all been Seven’s doing, that she had deliberately chosen this course of action. A cold chill swept over her at the realisation. “You could have told me all this before,” she pointed out, “Yet you chose not to until your secret was uncovered. I took you aboard my ship because I thought I sensed…something. A kindred spirit maybe, someone who needed help. I know we had a few rocky times in the beginning but I trusted you and you betrayed that.”
“I did not set out to deceive you,” Seven tried to explain, “But it was hard to tell you the truth.”
“So it was easier to lie was it?”
“No, I believe that was even harder in the end.”
Janeway rolled her eyes doubtfully. “Oh really, because it seems like you made a pretty good job of it.” From where she was sitting it all seemed like some cold calculated plan on Seven’s part to trick them into letting her aboard while concealing her true nature. She ignored the sensible part of her brain that was telling her that there was little advantage to Seven in such actions.
“I did not mean to hurt you…”
Janeway bristled at the remark, knowing it was far too close for comfort, because the galling thing was that Seven had hurt her. She had been foolish enough to let down her carefully constructed defences and this is what had happened – more pain and anguish. Hadn’t she learnt anything from Voyager?
Angry at herself Janeway shot up from her seat, the legs of the chair grating across the metal floor. Seven remained where she was as Janeway started pacing across the room in agitation – where was a replicator when you needed one? All the whiskey she’d had prior to coming down to the planet didn’t seem like anywhere near enough – she could still feel after all.
When she came back to the table her hurt and frustration over the present situation had mingled with all those familiar old feelings surrounding Voyager and the alcohol in her bloodstream, creating a dangerous, volatile brew. She slammed her hands down on the table, glaring at Seven who had the good sense to stay in her seat.
“You don’t know how hard it was,” cried Janeway, “Putting my faith in someone again, trusting them, and this is how you repay that? What do you have to say to that, eh?” she spat furiously.
Seven didn’t answer, the lack of reaction only serving to infuriate Janeway further. She stepped round the table, actually grabbing hold of the front of Seven’s shirt and jamming her face right in front of the other woman. “No smart Borg comeback?” she seethed, “No cutting retort? No blunt put down?”
“Have you been drinking?”
Janeway blinked at the side step in conversation, letting go of Seven and straightening up. “Have I been drinking? What sort of a question is that?”
“You have,” deduced Seven.
“So what if I have?” exclaimed Janeway, “Jesus Christ, what are you, my conscience? We’re supposed to be talking about you!”
“There is no point talking to you when you have been drinking,” stated Seven.
Janeway’s temper was on a fast track to boiling over now. If she didn’t get out of the room fast she was liable to do something she might regret. “I can’t believe this – a lesson in morals from the Borg!” she commented with disdain, “I don’t need this,” she added stomping towards the exit. “Goodbye, Seven, it was nice knowing you.”
Janeway had automatically stopped before she’d even thought about it. Her heart was hammering fast in her chest now as she stood with her back to Seven. A couple more steps and she would be out the door and never have to face the young woman again. Alternatively she could turn round and face her demons. She wasn’t sure which choice was more terrifying.
Janeway exhaled slowly, her shoulders slumping in resignation. She had been running away too long and she was tired of it. She swung back round to face the plaintive blue eyes.
“I am sorry,” said Seven, finally getting up from her chair and attempting to cross to Janeway. A sharp jolt of alarm that shot through Janeway when she saw that Seven was limping badly. What had the Trabeen been doing to her?
Seven stood unsteadily before her, Janeway able to see a faint sheen of sweat on her forehead at the effort. “You are right this is about me,” said Seven, “And I do not want you to go before I have had the chance to thank you.”
“Thank me?” asked Janeway stupidly, “For what?”
“For giving me somewhere where I felt like I belonged,” explained Seven, “Even if it was only for a short time. I never fitted in anywhere until I met you, never felt like I belonged until I met you. I’m sorry that I deceived you, but it was not out of malice. I was scared to tell you the truth. Terrified of what might happen if you found out - that you would push me away like everyone else.”
Janeway’s brow creased as she tried to understand what Seven was telling her. It didn’t help when the alcoholic fog was settling over her brain. “You were terrified? That doesn’t sound very Borg like.”
“I am not Borg, not any more,” insisted Seven, “If you believe nothing else then believe that. I am as human as you are. I feel fear and pain the same as you do.”
The words cut through Janeway, exposing her own fragile emotions. It was true - she did feel fear and pain right at that moment. Yet it was nothing to do with the past, it was to do with the thought of losing Seven here and now.
Janeway barely heard the sound of the door as the revelation hit her, but she couldn’t fail to hear the sound of the guard’s voice.
“That’s it, times up!”
“Wait, I haven’t finished,” tried Janeway as he clumped towards her, followed by two more burly looking Trabeen.
“Yes, you have,” he replied succinctly, roughly grabbing her arm to force her from the room.
Seven moved quicker than anyone else. She had backhanded the guard holding Janeway before the others even moved. However, even she wasn’t fast enough to dodge the weapon that discharged a jolt of electricity direct to her back. Janeway could see the energy arcing through Seven’s body, the last remnants swirling round the implant above her left eye before it faded away. Seven slumped to the floor, Janeway prevented from going to her by the guard who had originally held her fixing a large hand around her arm once more.
“The prisoner needs to go for her judgement, followed by her sentence,” he informed Janeway, bodily dragging her away as she tried to crane and see what the other two were doing to Seven.
“Surely she’ll only get a sentence if the judgement goes against her?” Janeway asked the guard.
The alien laughed nastily. “You don’t know Trabeen law very well do you?”
A crash course in so-called Trabeen justice told Janeway all she needed to know, which was far more than she wanted to. Basically they had been nearly wiped out by a random Borg attack some hundred years previously and any reappearance of that species was dealt with harshly. There would be no diplomatic bargaining, no last minute reprieves - the sentence of death was final.
The despair sweeping through Janeway as she gazed out of her Ready Room window at the planet below was all encompassing. She’d never felt like this before – so sick, so lost. Not even when Tuvok and Tom had died. And Seven wasn’t even dead yet. At least Janeway prayed she wasn’t, or else the abyss was all that was waiting for her.
She’d been so determined when she was down on the planet, she had even managed to persuade herself that she just wanted to see Seven so she could confirm to her own satisfaction that she was indeed Borg and that they could leave her behind without regret. How stupid that idea seemed now.
All their brief talk had confirmed was that Janeway could never leave Seven behind anywhere. Janeway had only known the young woman for a few weeks and yet she knew that with a certainty that astounded her. Even in that short time Seven had become such an integral part of her life she wasn’t sure what would happen if it was gone. Perhaps she had somehow subconsciously known of that potential from the start, or why else would she have agreed to allow Seven to join the crew when she had been so set against any new crewmembers?
Maybe she had also recognised something of herself in Seven that intrigued her – someone who was also haunted by a past she couldn’t change. However, whereas Seven seemed to want to try and forget about that and move on, Janeway couldn’t let hers go. Her memories were there like a constant festering wound, eating away at her, chipping away at the last of her sanity and humanity. Soon there would be nothing left and in a way she wouldn’t regret it. At least then the pain might stop.
She shook her head - this wasn’t about her and her sad excuse for a life. If only she could learn from Seven’s example. She had seen and no doubt done many horrific things, but still she fought on. In a way she could see why Seven had never told them about her past if the reaction of the Trabeen was anything to go by. They saw Seven as little more than a machine, still part of the Collective and therefore to blame for all they had done. But Seven was right, she was a human being, no matter her past.
Janeway rubbed at her face as she wondered how she could ever have thought differently. It was obvious to anyone who took the time to look that Seven was no more Borg than the rest of them. In some ways her past made her all the more human – she had seen the lowest depths and didn’t want to see them again. Instead she craved warmth, humanity, compassion.
And now the Trabeen wanted to take that opportunity away from her, blame her for things that were beyond her control to satisfy their own lust for revenge. It sparked a fury within the Captain that she could almost taste. Seven had been powerless to stop what she did as a Borg. On the other hand, Janeway was not powerless to stop what was happening now.
Looking out on the dark vista once more her course suddenly became clear – she had to rescue Seven.
It seemed so obvious now she had expressed it, like there had never been any other options, never any question that this would be what she would do.
Having made the decision Janeway was surprised with the sense of overwhelming purpose that gripped her. She felt a sense of determination much more powerful than anything she had felt since returning to Earth. This goal also had a similar single-minded clarity to it as her desire to get Voyager home, and as with that there was also a combination of the greater good and her own personal desires mixed together and driving her on.
Getting down to the surface had been the easiest part. Janeway had beamed down to the dusty planet well away from any of the access ports to the underground city or the random patrols that skirted over the sands. Getting past the security grid had been harder, and finding a weapon had been the most difficult part of all. She knew of people in the city, the sort of person that didn’t ask too many questions when you turned up requesting a phaser pistol. However, even those acquaintances were aware of Seven’s scheduled termination and seemed reluctant to help - it appeared that Seven was big news amongst the Trabeen. Janeway had noted how none of them ever referred to her by name; it was always ‘the borg’ or ‘the drone’ or other less repeatable terms. More than once Janeway had to hold herself back as someone launched into a diatribe on the evilness of the Borg and Seven in particular. Finally she found someone willing to trade for the weapon, the price extortionate but of no consequence to Janeway.
She felt for the reassuring hilt under her long cloak now as she made her way through the crowds that thronged the streets. Most of them were heading in the same direction as her – going to the amphitheatre where the execution was to be held. Janeway made sure she kept her hood well up over her head as she walked along between the aliens, since her auburn hair would be a dead giveaway amongst the bald Trabeen. Despite the odds, her sense of purpose was still strong, overriding any more sensible thoughts that she was walking right into the lion’s den. The plan she was following had been hastily arranged since time was short, Janeway noting and ignoring the amazed looks the rest of the crew had given her when she informed them of it. She supposed they thought she had gone mad, and perhaps she had finally lost the last tentative grip on her sanity.
The first obstacle was getting into the arena without being noticed as a non-native. Seeing the guards at the entrance, Janeway ducked her head, shuffling along inconspicuously next to a large Trabeen, trying to make it look like she was his companion. It seemed to work since she was not pulled aside, and once safely inside she scooted off on her own to find a suitable vantage spot.
The circular arena was packed to the rafters, Janeway guessing there must have been thousands of Trabeen there to witness the gruesome event. The seating area ringed the centre stage, rising at a steep and dizzying angle. Janeway pushed her way through the bustling crowd, trying to find a seat close, but not too close to the front. She wasn’t having much luck until she spotted two of the aliens arguing over a single seat. Some troops swiftly appeared and escorted them both away, leaving Janeway to sit down in the vacant space.
It wasn’t long before a hush descended over the expectant throng, Janeway ‘s eyes drifting to the centre of the arena with those of everyone around her. The figures below seemed small as they appeared – one Trabeen all in black, followed by two more dragging the final person.
Janeway barely managed to control the urge to leap up straight away and rush to Seven’s aid, knowing that it would be futile before she got the signal from Harry that he had deactivated the forcefield that ringed the centre of the arena. However hard it might be, she had to sit there and watch. Janeway was dimly aware of the pain in her thighs from where her fingers were tightly gripping her own legs.
The two guards hauled Seven into the centre of the stage, forcing her up onto the table that sat there and securing her arms and legs to it. The fact that she offered up no resistance made Janeway think that either the young woman had given up hope of rescue or that the aliens had been beating her again. The two soldiers stepped back, allowing what Janeway presumed was the executioner to step forward and address the crowd, his voice amplified round the seating.
“This thing is a Borg drone,” he stated, indicating Seven, “And as such will be treated as a Borg drone. It will be dismantled for destruction.”
Janeway glanced round her in horror as the cheers went up from the rest of the crowd. She had to stand from her seat with them so she could still see the table in the centre of the room where Seven was bound.
“I am not Borg! I am a human being!”
Seven’s cry was heart wrenching but fell on deaf ears as far as the Trabeen were concerned. Janeway was another matter, and the pain and anguish in Seven’s voice drilled right down to her core, making her sick to her stomach. The Trabeen executioner picked up an instrument from the table by Seven, bringing it close to the implant above her left eye.
“My name is Seven…Annika Hansen!” cried Seven plaintively, Janeway knowing she must be desperate to use her real name, “I am not Borg!”
The Trabeen executioner ignored her pleas, using his tool to loosen the implant and remove it, placing it down on a tray as if it were something disgusting that was dirtying his hands.
“Harry,” Janeway whispered into her communicator, keeping her head down low under her hood, “I need that shield down now!”
“I’m working on it, Captain.”
“Well work on it quicker!”
“Please do not do this!”
Janeway’s eyes shot up at Seven’s beseeching words. The executioner now had a different device. This one had a sharp point on the end and he was motioning it towards Seven’s left eye.
“See how it begs for its life as if it is a sentient individual,” noted the alien out loud to the crowd, “But it is not, it is a cold, heartless automaton.”
As the tip of his tool glinted in the lights, Janeway could see with sickening clarity what the executioner was about to do. “Harry!” she pleaded desperately.
“Just a couple more seconds…”
Janeway knew Seven didn’t have a couple of more seconds. She immediately leapt up from her seat, barging her way past the other shocked onlookers as she drew her phaser in a vain attempt to prevent the inevitable. The crowd gasped as she charged through them, her identity revealed when her hood fell away.
“Stop!” she cried as she reached the front, her weapon raised. Out of the corner of her eye she could see that security guards were already working their way towards her from the sides of the auditorium, having overcome any initial surprise.
Both Seven and the executioner turned towards Janeway at her call. Seven’s eyes were fixed on her, silently begging her to do something, while the executioner’s lips curved into a nasty grin.
“Come to save you drone, Captain?” he asked, “Well you’re too late.”
And with that he plunged the spearing device straight into Seven’s left eyeball. The young woman’s tortured scream rang out loud round the amphitheatre, as did Janeway’s corresponding cry of despair.
Janeway fired her phaser hopelessly into the forcefield that separated her from Seven only for the blast to dissipate harmlessly. It was pointless she knew, but it was all she could do as she watched on impotently.
Seven’s grief-stricken cries continued as the executioner pulled his tool away, wrenching her mechanical eye from its socket. It was obvious that though it was not real, the nerve endings were very much attached to Seven’s central nervous system as her body spasmed in pain. If Janeway could have torn down the forcefield with her bare hands she would have done.
“I’ve got it Captain!”
Hearing Harry’s triumphant hail, Janeway didn’t wait a second longer. She vaulted over the ledge and down into the central area, firing her phaser as soon as she hit the ground to take out the executioner. Snatching up the device that still had Seven’s eye attached, Janeway quickly slapped a communicator on the young woman’s chest.
“Two to beam up, now!”
The sparkles of the transporter came not a moment too soon as the security guards started firing at Janeway’s position. The sight of the walls of the transporter room on The Paladin were more than welcome when they materialised.
“Doctor, get down here to the transporter room,” ordered Janeway, “B’Elanna, get us out of here!”
Having given her swift orders over the comm, Janeway knelt down at Seven’s side. The young woman was still conscious where she lay curled up on the transporter pad, moaning quietly as she clutched her empty left eye-socket, a thin trickle of blood evident through her fingers.
“It’s all right, Seven, we’re back on The Paladin,” said Janeway reaching out to stroke the other woman’s arm in a pathetic attempt at comforting her, “You’re safe now.”
Janeway wasn’t sure Seven had even heard her feeble reassurances. The sound of the doors drew her eyes up to see the Doctor hurrying in and she was about to get up to give him room when suddenly Seven’s hand clamped over her own, making her start.
“Captain? Is that you?” Seven’s head swivelled up, the young woman trying to focus with her one good eye.
“Yes, Seven, I’m here,” Janeway confirmed, rubbing Seven’s hand with her free one.
“Do not leave me.” Seven’s voice was surprisingly strong, and Janeway took some comfort from that.
“I’m not leaving,” Janeway told her with absolute certainty, “Not ever.”
The Paladin made a hasty retreat from Trabeen space after that, the Captain knowing they would never be welcome there again. It was a pity because they had been a good source of trade, but not for a second did she regret her actions. The doctor had managed to repair the damage the aliens had inflicted upon Seven, the Captain visiting her on several occasions in sickbay to check on her progress. With each visit it became increasingly hard to ignore what Seven stirred within her, in the end the Captain having to acknowledge that somehow over the weeks since they’d met she’d developed feelings for the other woman.
Janeway let out a laugh to herself, the noise sounding half-crazed in the small Ready Room where she stood. Deep down she knew it was much worse than that. She could deny it all she wanted, but it was obvious that she was in love with Seven.
Janeway hovered by the replicator, the weight of temptation crushing her will. Just a small one, she told herself, to calm the nerves. As the liquid slid easily down she knew this was precisely why she would never tell Seven about her feelings. She was emotionally crippled and in no fit state to be unburdening her pathetic despair on someone else. If Janeway loved Seven at all then there was no way she could do that to her. Especially not after all Seven had been through in her life. The last thing she was needed was all Janeway’s regrets and recriminations to deal with too. The recollection of those made Janeway ponder if it was really love she was feeling, or some sort of futile attempt to latch onto any form of hope.
After all how could she really love someone else when she hated herself so much?
The chime of the door prevented any more self-pitying, Janeway disposing of her glass and crossing back to her desk before she granted entry. Seven stepped through the door, Janeway’s emotions crashing hard and fast against the mental walls she had hastily thrown up.
“Seven, how are you doing?” she asked, her voice the model of cool professionalism. As with the occasions when she had visited her in sickbay, Janeway found it hard not to stare at Seven’s left eye. Not that there was anything untoward about it – it looked exactly like the right one now the doctor had fixed and replaced it. It really was remarkable.
Janeway resisted the urge to smile wryly at the terminology that Seven employed, knowing it usually hid something else. “Yes, but how are you feeling?” she persisted, “Did you speak to the doctor at all about what happened?”
“He wished to talk,” stated Seven, still standing before the desk, “But I did not want to talk to him.”
“Seven,” said Janeway, the name a mild chastisement, “You’ve been through a stressful ordeal…”
“I am well aware of that,” Seven cut in quickly, “But I do not believe the doctor is the best person to talk to.”
“I would rather talk to you.”
Janeway could feel the heat rising to her face as Seven’s intense stare pinned her to her chair. “Me? I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” she attempted, “I’m not a trained counsellor.”
“Nor is the doctor,” reasoned Seven, “And he is not even human.”
“Still he is better qualified…”
“Why did you come back for me?”
The question so out of the blue stopped Janeway dead in her tracks. “Pardon?”
“I asked why you came back for me?” repeated Seven, “I thought I had betrayed your trust?”
Janeway took a slow breath, rising from her chair to move round the desk. It didn’t seem right to have the barrier between them when the conversation had taken a more personal turn. The Captain ignored the parts of her mind screaming at her that she was only placing herself in temptation’s way with her proximity to Seven. The sexual thoughts flitting through her mind were utterly inappropriate but persistent nonetheless.
“You did betray my trust,” she agreed, “But that didn’t mean I was just going to leave you to the Trabeen. The third rule of captaincy is to never ever leave a member of your crew behind.” It was true that was one of her fabled rules, after the ones about keeping your shirt tucked in and going down with the ship, however, it was far from true that it had been the main driving force behind her actions.
Seven digested the reply for a moment, the implant above her left eye rising minutely as she did. “Is that the only reason you came for me then?” she said eventually, “That I was a member of your crew?”
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at?” replied Janeway, starting to get worried that Seven was somehow reading her mind.
Seven eyes dropped. “It does not matter.”
“All right then,” said Janeway, thankful to move away from the subject, “I’m sure the doctor will be happy to listen to whatever you have to say about what happened on the planet.”
“But I already said I did not wish to speak with him…”
“You want to speak to me, I know,” Janeway interrupted, “But I’m telling you to speak to him,” she added, her voice taking on a slightly more harsher edge than she intended.
“No,” stated Seven, surprising Janeway with the force of the rebuttal. Her blue eyes were on the Captain again, an obstinate look in them. “I want you to help me, I want you to teach me about humanity.”
“Seven, just…stop!” cried Janeway, feeling the conversation slipping away from her control. Her mouth was dry, the replicator in the corner alluring as always and reminding her just why this was all wrong. “Can’t you see I can’t help you? I can’t teach you about humanity. Not when I can’t help myself, not when I’ve lost my own! I’m a washed up ex-Starfleet captain with no idea what I’m doing with my life and nothing to live for. What could I possibly teach you about humanity?”
The single word hung in the air. Time moved on but neither woman spoke nor looked away. Their gaze was held in a moment of perpetual hope.
“You have not lost your humanity,” said Seven eventually, “The fact that you think that proves otherwise. If you had no humanity you would not be concerned by your perceived weakness. I came with you on this journey to experience the full range of human emotion. If I had wanted perfection I could have gone back to the Borg. I saw what you did for me on the planet. You can pretend it was just a case of a Captain recovering their crewmember, but a Captain does not cry out the way you did, put themselves in harm’s way like you did unless they care.”
“Ok, maybe I do care,” allowed Janeway, “I care about everyone on the ship. Happy now? That still doesn’t mean I can help you. My life’s a mess, I’m in no position to be giving advice or sorting out someone else’s.”
“You are wrong,” insisted Seven, “That makes you ideal. You have experienced the same sorts of feelings that trouble me – despair, guilt, remorse, regret. You need to learn from them as much as I do.”
Janeway didn’t like Seven’s all too painfully accurate assessment of her. “And how do you know so much about me all of a sudden?”
“I am not blind or stupid,” stated Seven with conviction, “I know about your drinking and I know about Voyager.”
Janeway felt the air rush from her lungs like someone had punched her in the stomach. Seven knew? She knew about everything? Janeway’s shame was all encompassing, just about swamping her guilt in its sweep through her. She covered all that up by fixing the young woman with a defensive stern look.
“Harry told me,” Seven stated unrepentantly, “He told me about what happened to Tom and Tuvok, he told me how you got home and he told me what happened after that.”
“Really,” said Janeway the pain of those memories close to the surface now, “So you know exactly why I can’t teach you about humanity then. I sacrificed everything including mine to get that ship home, but still it wasn’t enough, not to protect those I loved. I have nothing left to give.”
Seven was still unshakeable. “I think you do.”
“Seven, please,” begged the Captain, running her hand through her hair in frustration, “Just leave it!” Janeway pushed herself away from the desk, moving to the window where she sat down on the couch, placing her head in her hands. Suddenly she felt tired. She had started the conversation with determination and intent, but now it seemed that Seven knew all her dirty secrets she had little will left for the fight.
The shift in the fabric of the couch as someone sat down next to her startled her out of her reverie. Janeway looked to Seven, wondering what she was doing, why she was being so persistent.
Seven’s eyes regarded her unwaveringly, her voice much softer than her normal clipped tones when she finally spoke. “When I was on the planet after you had left I thought I had no hope,” Seven began, “And I started to think about all the things I have never done,” she added, pausing for the briefest moment to gulp some air, “But there was one thing that I could not stop thinking about, something that I had never learnt about, and wished that I had.”
“Oh?” was all Janeway could manage. She had no idea where Seven was going with the conversation now, the Captain just grateful they were no longer talking about Voyager.
“I realised that I was about to die never having kissed anyone.”
“That was what you were thinking about when faced with death?” asked Janeway, desperately fighting her spiralling emotions on hearing Seven’s words. Her heart was beating ten to the dozen to keep the blood racing round her veins at breakneck speed.
“Not just that,” allowed Seven, “But it occurred to me that I should not waste any chance, should I get one in the future.”
Janeway’s mouth was achingly dry. “Oh…well…” she began, having to clear her throat to continue, “…I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities now...”
“I do not want plenty of opportunities,” stated Seven, quickly cutting her off, “I already know who I want to kiss.”
“You do?” Janeway’s words were barely more than a squeaking whisper.
“I want to kiss you.”
Janeway was unable to complete her sentence as Seven suddenly closed the distance between them and pressed her lips gently to the Captain’s. Janeway was at first too shocked to move and then too stunned by the rush of arousal shooting through her. Seven didn’t move her lips or open her mouth, just melded them to Janeway’s in a simple touch. Yet it was the most erotic thing Janeway had ever experienced. When Seven pulled back, wide-eyed with wonder, Janeway couldn’t help letting out a small moan from deep within.
“Was that acceptable?”
For one of the few times in her life Captain Kathryn Janeway was speechless.
“It was not acceptable,” deduced Seven, taking Janeway’s silence for something other than it was.
“No,” Janeway said quickly, finding her voice, “It was acceptable. More than acceptable.”
Seven’s eyes were on her, searching her face eagerly for confirmation. “It was?”
“Yes,” replied Janeway, allowing a small smile to creep onto her face, “Though you are allowed to open your mouth,” she added with a touch of amusement.
Seven quirked the implant above her left eye, a gesture Janeway suddenly realised she found unbelievably cute. She supposed she had thought that all along, but had just pushed such ideas to the back of her mind.
“I am not sure I understand,” Seven admitted.
“Maybe I should show you,” offered Janeway, unable to resist the momentum of the moment despite all her misgivings.
Janeway couldn’t help smiling again at the to the point way Seven put everything. Controlling her trembling fingers she placed a single hand on Seven’s cheek, guiding her forwards, Janeway’s eyes drifting shut a second before her lips contacted Seven’s once more. The jolt of pure arousal was just as intense as the first time.
Janeway slid her tongue over Seven’s moist lips, teasing them slowly apart. There was another moan in the otherwise silent room, it being a moment before Janeway realised it was Seven who had made it. The sound was so unlike anything she had ever heard from Seven before. Janeway desperately wanted to hear more such noises.
Janeway gently probed inside Seven’s hot mouth, the young woman’s own tongue tangling with her own and then Janeway stopped analysing the moment and yielded to it.
The kiss was amazing, blissful and a hundred other things far too wonderful to put into mere words. Their lips were melded together in a moment of pure ecstasy, joined in a union that seemed unbreakable. It was almost like Seven was part of her. Her nose was filled with Seven’s scent, her mouth was filled with Seven’s taste.
And then it hit her like a cold slap in the face - if she could taste Seven then…
Janeway suddenly pulled back, acutely aware what Seven would be able to sense on her own lips – alcohol. “I can’t do this, it’s wrong!” she cried, leaping to her feet.
“Why? Do you not want to?” Seven’s voice was perplexed as Janeway paced away from her.
“Yes, yes I want to but I’m…” Janeway didn’t know how to express all her fears, not wanting to think about them because then she would have to drag them up and face them. Instead she continued to stride back and forth struggling with her conflicting emotions.
Seven was up off the couch, stopping Janeway with a gentle hand on the arm. “What is it?” she asked, her eyes focussed intently on the smaller woman.
How could Janeway resist such a look? How could she deny Seven the truth? Janeway swallowed nervously, and then the words were tumbling out. “I’m scared,” she confessed, “Scared that I’ll fail you like I failed everyone else – my crew, my family, Starfleet. Scared that if I let you in then you’ll discover what really lies underneath the surface of my life – pain, anguish, heartache. And most of all scared that I’ll only end up hurting you like I hurt everyone else.”
“You forget that I am quite capable of looking after myself,” Seven pointed out, “Of making decisions for myself. I know I am not the most…experienced when it comes to emotional matters, but that does not mean I cannot understand what I feel. I want to be with you, Captain. I do not care what you have done in the past, it is all part of what makes you who you are now. I love you and everything you are.”
For the second time that day Janeway was rendered speechless. She knew she should respond to Seven’s statement, but her fear was still too close.
“And as for Voyager and her crew,” continued Seven, unfazed by the lack of reply, “You did not fail them. You got them home. Not many people could have managed that when faced with being stranded in an unknown region of space.”
“But at what cost?” cried Janeway, breaking free from Seven’s grasp to move back towards the safety of her desk, “I didn’t get them all home did I?” she yanked open the drawer, pulling out the photos Seven had seen before from inside. “Tom, Tuvok,” she said, waving the pictures in Seven’s direction, “They didn’t make it back.”
“Their deaths were not your fault.”
“Yes they were!” stated Janeway emphatically. “I sent them on that mission. I was the one who made the decision. Just like I made the decision to strand everyone in the Delta Quadrant in the first place. I was the Captain; it was my responsibility.”
Janeway sunk into her chair, looking sorrowfully at the pictures in her hands. Tuvok’s dark eyes stared back at her. What would he be telling her now? Sensing Seven’s presence still before her, she realised she didn’t necessarily need the long departed Vulcan to help her assess what to do - she had someone else equally as forthright in the room.
“Captain, you are not infallible,” Seven remarked, standing in front of the desk now, “I believe whatever decisions you made were based on your best judgement at the time. Maybe they were not always right, maybe they were, what counts is that you were the one willing to make them and then stand by your convictions.”
Janeway’s eyes shot up. “Convictions? Ha!” she exclaimed. “Tell that to Tom and Tuvok!”
Seven was unperturbed by Janeway’s volatile behaviour, perhaps sensing it was not really directed at her. “You can keep blaming yourself over the past forever if you like,” she said, “But it will not do either you or them any good. You have been punished enough, it is time to move on.”
“That’s just it, I wasn’t punished was I?” Janeway pointed out, “I ran away from prison like a coward!”
“You are not a coward.”
“Yes I am – I ran away from that and now I’m running away from you.”
“Only if I let you, which I will not,” stated Seven, “You cannot escape from me that easily. I will keep trying to make you see reason. I will keep doing this until you see sense or I expire, whichever comes first.”
Janeway stared at her. From anyone else she would have thought it an idle threat, but she knew Seven meant it. “You really are determined aren’t you?”
“Yes I am,” agreed Seven. “I am reminded of something a very wise, intelligent and may I add extremely beautiful woman once told me – ‘It’s all right to make mistakes, that’s how we learn to do things better the next time. We just have to be big enough to recognise we’ve made them.’”
Janeway recognised her own words. “You remembered that verbatim?”
“I have an eidetic memory.”
“You remember every word of every conversation you’ve ever had?” asked Janeway incredulously, thinking she had better be careful what she said around the young woman in the future.
“No, I only commit the important ones to memory,” Seven replied.
“And which of our conversations does that include?”
“All of them.”
Janeway could only stare back dumbly as the implication of that sunk in - Seven valued her words and their interaction highly enough to remember every detail. It made the Captain feel enormously privileged.
Seven lowered herself into the chair opposite Janeway, still looking as uncomfortable about it as the first time she had done it only a few weeks previously. Janeway considered it odd that it had only been such a short space of time, because somehow it seemed so much longer. So long, in fact, that she found it hard to recall what her life had been like before Seven came into it.
“That day in the bar, do you know why I came over?” Seven said, taking them back to their first meeting.
“You wanted to learn more about humanity?” offered Janeway.
“That is what I told myself at the time,” agreed Seven, “But now I realise that was not the main reason at all. The real reason was not that I wanted to learn more about humanity in general, I wanted to learn more about one human in particular – you.”
Janeway still found it hard to believe that Seven felt this way about her, not when she was so undeserving of such feelings. “I don’t know why,” she remarked, “I think you could have picked a better role model.”
“I do not want a ‘better role model’,” responded Seven with absolute directness again. “I want you, and I want to show you that your life is not as meaningless as perhaps you think it is. Because whatever happens you will always have something, you will always have me. I will never leave you, not while there is breath in my body. I have known a million thoughts, touched the vast knowledge of a thousand different worlds, but all of that pales into insignificance compared to the overwhelming desire to touch the life of a single individual, to be with you. You are vital to my existence, more than the Borg ever were, more than anything in my life.”
Janeway swallowed back the large lump that was forming in her throat, the tears so close to spilling from her eyes. How she had ever inspired such adoration and devotion she would never know, but she knew deep in her heart that Seven meant every word of what she had said. Even more astounding to her was to realise that she felt the same.
She took a few deep breaths, trying to summon forth the right words, to express just what it was she was feeling in a way befitting Seven’s heartfelt confession. To give herself more time she crossed back to the couch, Seven dutifully following on.
“When I was out in the Delta Quadrant,” began Janeway once they were both seated a discreet distance apart, “I was so determined to get Voyager home that I didn’t allow myself any sort of real personal life, and I certainly didn’t allow myself to get romantically involved with anyone on my crew. I was the Captain and it wasn’t befitting…or at least that’s what I told myself at the time. I think partly it was convenient for me too, but whatever the reasons the ship was my life.”
“Only now I realise that wasn’t really a proper life. To deny myself the chance of love, of simple human contact was to allow myself only half a life. Yet I’ve been doing it ever since too, and at the moment that half I have is filled with bitter regrets. But I see another half, one that I want so badly but barely dare hope I can have.”
Janeway took a few more deep breaths, before she fixed her eyes on Seven again.
“When I was back on Earth I thought I had lost everything, that nothing could ever fill the void in my life again, scared what would happen if I did and lost it again. I put up all sorts of defensive barriers to stop myself getting too close to anyone, throwing myself into my new life as daring trader. But that didn’t hide the fact that I was still empty inside, running on a kind of auto-pilot not unlike this ship right now.”
“And then something changed,” said Janeway, finally getting to the crux of the her speech, “Then I met you. To tell you the truth, at first I thought you were incredibly arrogant and annoying. I wasn’t even sure what I was thinking of letting you come aboard. But I suppose that was just it – I wasn’t really thinking, I was going with my instincts and they were telling me that it was right. Just as they’re telling me that this is right now. Just as they’re telling me that I should let you know how I feel. Just as they’re telling me that I should entrust you with my heart.”
Janeway’s mouth was dry again, but for once a drink was the last thing she wanted to quench her thirst. She shuffled closer to Seven, so close that their thighs were touching, Janeway lightly placing her hand on the young woman’s knee. She thought she could detect a faint tremble through the cloth of the trousers. She watched her own fingers stroking absently over it for a moment before she raised her eyes to Seven again, finding that the blue eyes regarding her expectantly.
Janeway swallowed one final time, knowing what she was about to say and that she meant it for perhaps the first time in her life. “I love you,” she said surely and simply. “I may have lost everything in the past, but now I can see that I’ve gained so much more. Even when I was a Starfleet captain I never had love, never had someone that I knew with an utter certainty that I was meant to be with. I may have had the ship and the glittering career, but at what cost to my personal life, to my humanity? When they were taken away I was lost, but now I can see another way. I want to take that way, with you, if you will have me.”
Seven just stared back and all of Janeway’s fear surged up, almost burying her alive as no words were forthcoming from the young woman’s lips. Then there was a smile. A smile that brought such a wave of relief that Janeway had to hold back the huge sigh that threatened.
“Of course I will ‘have you’” replied Seven, Janeway thinking she obviously didn’t realise the other connotation of those words. That meaning didn’t pass the Captain by though, sending further bursts of arousal through her. “I can think of nowhere I would rather be than by your side,” continued Seven, “You do not have to be a Starfleet Captain to make a difference, and you will always be my Captain no matter what.”
The Captain smiled, the warmest, most heartfelt smile Seven had ever seen from her. She could hardly believe what had happened in the last twelve point two minutes, but they would be indelibly etched on her mind forever. When she looked back in the future she would remember every single word and every single inflexion placed on those words by the Captain’s wonderfully husky voice. And she would remember how the Captain was moving towards her now, blue eyes seductively soft.
Despite her extensive and varied vocabulary from a thousand different species, she found it hard to even begin to describe the wonderful feel of the Captain’s lips on her own. If she had known kissing could be like this she would never have waited so long to experience it. Yet at the same time she was glad she had waited, waited to share this moment with the Captain.
The Captain’s lips slowly slid away, blue-grey orbs regarding her from half-lidded eyes. “Would you like to come back to my quarters?”
“I would.” Seven had never been so sure of an answer in her life.
“Computer, site-to-site transport, two to beam to my quarters,” instructed the Captain into thin air, “Energise.”
Seven was surprised as they disappeared from the Ready Room, thinking the transport an extravagant use of resources. Why she was thinking about such mundane things at such a time only perplexed her further. Once they had materialised in the dark, Janeway swiftly activated the lights, before displaying some of her own equally bizarre behaviour. All of a sudden she appeared nervous, hovering by the replicator, searching for something to say.
“Would you like something to drink?” she offered awkwardly.
“I would not.”
Seven felt oddly touched that even someone as confident and self-assured as the Captain could be nervous at a moment like this. It made Seven feel so much better about the butterflies in her own stomach, about the uncertainty wracking her previously unflappable convictions. Seizing all her courage, she stepped towards the Captain who didn’t move, seemingly pinned to the spot.
Seven had read about such moments in a hundred different texts, but none of that prepared her for the reality of being in the Captain’s quarters, both of them knowing what was to come, but both so tentative and unsure about how to get there. Supposing it started with a first step, Seven slipped her arms around the frozen Captain’s waist and pulled her smaller body close. Then she dipped her head, softly kissing expectant lips. She could feel the Captain relaxing in her arms, her own ones sliding round Seven’s back.
The Captain let out a low moan and then suddenly the kiss was becoming more fevered, more intense. Neither of them were thinking about nerves or inhibitions now as they staggered back against the wall, barely able to stand upright. Seven’s back was pushed tightly against it as the Captain pressed against her, Seven able to feel the warm bosom squashing against her, the thigh slipping between her legs…
As Seven’s head went back, the Captain’s lips were on her neck in a flash, nipping and sucking and licking a tantalising trail up it. When the Captain’s tongue reached her ear, Seven thought she was actually going to fall down her legs had become so weak. Perhaps sensing this, the Captain eased her away from the wall, pushing her back towards the bedroom instead.
The Captain was pulling frantically at Seven’s shirt, trying to get it off over her head as they stumbled back towards the bed. Eager to feel those hands on her body, Seven whipped it off herself just before she crashed down onto the covers, the Captain following swiftly on top of her. The Captain seemed more than willing to fulfil Seven’s wishes, her fingers sliding up Seven’s sides while all the time she continued to hungrily devour her mouth. Then her fingers were slipping between where their hot bodies were pushed together, squeezing at the flesh of Seven’s breast.
Seven cried out again, biting her lip as she did to try and hold it back.
The Captain grinned at her reaction. “It’s all right, make as much noise as you want,” she suggested.
Seven didn’t really have an answer for that. For one she was too entranced by the wanton look in the Captain’s eyes and for another she couldn’t comprehend how much louder she might get if the Captain just touching her breast caused such a loud outburst. She got some indication when the Captain deftly removed Seven’s bra and replaced her fingers with her mouth.
It all seemed to be happening so fast, a hundred different erotic sensations overloading her as the Captain’s tongue circled her nipple. Seven felt the powerful urge to touch the Captain in return, explore and caress every single inch of her body. Suddenly she sat up, the Captain letting out a surprised yelp as she was catapulted backwards onto the far side of the bed.
The Captain was still fully clothed, which was highly inefficient in Seven’s opinion. Sizing up the quickest way to remedy that she swiftly ripped open the front of the Captain’s shirt, the buttons pinging off onto the walls and deck plates. The Captain’s bra met a similar fate and then Seven had to pause. She had to pause at the sight of the Captain’s body displayed so openly and invitingly to her. When she started feeling faint she realised she had stopped breathing.
She tried to take a breath, achieving a kind of strangled gulp. When she saw the Captain looking curiously at her she realised she had probably been staring far too long and should do something – trust her instincts like the Captain said she trusted hers. That seemed easy enough since Seven’s instincts at that moment were quite obvious and basic.
As her fingers touched the Captain’s breasts, Seven closed her eyes, feeling the soft flesh beneath them, sensing the tingling spreading up her own arms and down into her stomach. It was also reaching other lower places she was much less familiar with. She spent several minutes, squeezing and playing and teasing, marvelling at each small sound that issued from the Captain’s lips in response. By now she knew she needed more, so much more.
Seven opened her eyes and started tugging at the belt holding up the Captain’s trousers. The object was not forthcoming in releasing its hold and she could see the amused look on the Captain’s face.
“Shall I help you?”
“Only if you get yours off too though,” noted the Captain with such a feral look that Seven had yanked her trousers off and thrown them on the floor before she’d almost finished the sentence.
Janeway merely raised her eyebrows at Seven’s eagerness, swiftly removing her own pair and undergarments too. Both of them stood staring at each other for the briefest of moments before they were back in a fevered embrace, hands and lips roaming everywhere.
Part of Seven wanted to take her time, savour this moment, yet that was overridden by the heat coursing through her. That had reached her head now, wiping out conscious thought so that she was lost to the tangle of writhing limbs. The Captain’s hand was tracking down over her abdomen, the other woman unable to control her pent up desire either.
When the fingers brushed through her pubic hair, Seven gasped, when they slid lower she moaned softly and when they slipped inside her she cried out with complete abandon. She could feel the Captain inside her, and it was more than she could ever have imagined. All those textbooks, all that database research, all that biological knowledge from the Borg – none of that could hope to hint at the amazing sensation of feeling those digits sliding in and out through the moisture that was pouring from her body.
Seven grasped at the Captain’s sweaty back, needing to grip onto something as the pulsations built. One slipped up to tangle in the Captain’s hair, pulling her down so their hot lips were together again too. Seven had to break off every once in a while to let out a fresh cry as the Captain continued to torment her with deliberate slowness.
All of a sudden the Captain brushed her thumb over another spot entirely and Seven reflexively arched up at the bolt of arousal it sent through her. The Captain was teasing that too now, circling it with her thumb while her fingers still delved deep inside Seven. Seven didn’t think she could take much more – surely her cortical node was going to explode in a moment? Her breathing was ragged and shallow as she tipped her head back on the bed, fingers digging into the Captain’s shoulder. There was a small grunt from the Captain, but Seven was too far gone to acknowledge it at that point. And then she was gone completely.
The final brush of the Captain’s thumb pushed her over the edge and spiralling off on a wave of all-enveloping ecstasy.
Who needed the Borg and perfection when you could have this? This was real humanity – something that on the surface was awkward and clumsy and messy, but underneath could be so profound and wonderful. Any last remaining thoughts that Seven might ever have wanted to go back to the Borg were well and truly eradicated by this moment of real perfection.
The Borg and all their knowledge had nothing on this simple human connection, of two people together joined without thought. As Seven slowly drifted down from her high she knew with absolute certainty that though there may be billions of other individual humans, there would never be another for her.
Janeway rested her head lightly of the smooth flesh of Seven’s chest, listening to the rapidly beating heart beneath. She imagined that hers would be doing similar things at that moment. She didn’t say anything, just content to lay there in the comforting embrace.
If she’d had any prior reservations about making love to a woman, they had quickly disappeared when her lust and desire took over. She hadn’t really needed to think at all – it was like she instinctively knew what to do. Naturally she had some inkling of where to touch and what would feel good from her own experiences, but this was something else altogether. To feel Seven’s body respond under her caresses, to hear the noises tumbling from her lips had been a wonder to behold. She felt a bond with Seven unlike anything she had ever felt before.
She hoped Seven felt the same, convinced she did as soon as the thought entered her mind. Somehow she just knew it was true, like it was a universally accepted fact beyond question. Thinking of the young woman beneath her, something else suddenly occurred to Janeway.
Janeway levered herself up slightly so she could study Seven’s face. Her eyes were closed, deep breaths issuing from between her lips. Eventually Seven must have sensed the perusal, her eyelids sliding up to reveal the brilliant blue eyes that trained immediately on the captain.
“What is it?” asked Seven, seemingly realising that Janeway had an unformed question in her mind.
Janeway wasn’t quite sure how to broach the subject, uncharacteristically stumbling over her words. How she could be expected to express rational thought after what had just happened was beyond her anyway. “B’Elanna told me…” she attempted, taking a slow breath in between sentences, “Well, she told me that you had never…you know…”
Seven merely stared back, slightly quirking the implant above her left eye. The gesture made Janeway think Seven knew damn well what she was getting at, but was having fun making her sweat.
Eventually the young woman took pity. “It is curious how you find it difficult to discuss this topic when we are lying naked in bed,” she pointed out.
Janeway laughed. “It is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it,” she conceded. “All right, what I wanted to say was that B’Elanna told me you had never had sex before and I realised I probably should have been a bit more considerate, checked that you were ready before I…”
Seven cut her off with a well-placed finger on the lips. “You do not need to worry,” she stated, “I have never been more ready for anything in my life. The real question is, are you ready?”
Janeway blinked in confusion. “Sorry?”
Suddenly in one swift movement Janeway was on her back, Seven on top of her and staring down at her with a look of such wanton desire that Janeway thought she might orgasm on the spot.
Then Seven was bending lower, her lips brushing teasingly close to Janeway’s own before they slid round to the side of her head, a tongue darting out and flicking with taunting lightness across her ear. Janeway gasped at the contact, unable to hold back the response to the barest of touches.
Seven’s breath was hot across her skin and as Seven slid her tongue on down Janeway’s neck, she gasped again, amazed at the sensitivity of her own flesh. When Seven started expertly teasing a nipple between her teeth with that tongue Janeway let out a much louder cry.
In brief snatches of conscious thought, Janeway considered she needn’t have worried that Seven wouldn’t know what to do. Whether it was something instinctual on her part too, or whether she knew such things from the Borg, Seven certainly didn’t need any kind of instruction. Her fingers trailed languidly across the captain’s body without any need of pointers as to where to put them. Seven seemed more than capable of finding all the right places on her own, each intimate touch and caress bringing forth further cries of pleasure.
Janeway had to concede that Seven could actually be slapping her legs with a cold fish at that point and she would probably have found it incredibly erotic. Her whole body was crying out to be touched, fairly humming with the pent up frustrations of a lifetime. In this moment she realised how inconsequential all her previous relationships and encounters had been when compared to her current absolute belief and trust in a love shared. She could finally let herself go, abandon herself to the touch of a lover.
Seven was taking her time now, like she wanted to study every minute detail of the experience, and it was all Janeway could do not to scream at her to grant her release from the aching throbbing that filled her every pore. Yet she knew the slowness only added to the building anticipation, fuelling her already out of control lust.
“Oh god, Seven,” Janeway finally managed in a ragged gasping cry when she could stand it no longer, “Please…”
She didn’t need to explain any further what it was she was asking. Seven’s head tracked down across her abdomen, tendrils of blonde hair tickling the skin. Then there were fingers and tongue all intermingled in a conflagration of erotic bliss. Janeway had no idea what Seven was doing, only knowing that it felt unbelievably good. She had to wonder how much longer she could bear the torment of holding back the inevitable.
The answer to that was not long. With a final scream of utter release, Janeway tipped back her head and felt the orgasm burst through her. Her whole body trembled with the after glow as she collapsed back down against the covers, unable to even begin to think of let alone speak about the sense of release mingled with relief and contentment she felt. As Seven came up to hold her close, for the first time in a long time Janeway fell into a restful sleep.
Janeway sat on the couch in her quarters eyeing the object on the table in front of her. Her breathing came in slow, deliberate breaths as the light from the stars played across it, her hands trembling with the tempting call of the enticing golden liquid. With forced determination she held them clutched together in her lap.
It was taunting her, just like it did every morning. Yet this morning was very different to all those other ones over the previous year where she had sat in the same position, losing the battle of wills. This morning she was not alone. This morning she had Seven.
For some reason Seven believed in her, had managed to see through all of her self-loathing to something worthwhile. She even had Janeway believing that maybe her principles, her compassion, her confidence, her willpower were still there. They might have been buried under mountains of guilt and regret, but deep down somewhere inside they were fighting to get out. Seven had seen that, so who was she to disappoint the young woman? This could be her one shot at some form of redemption and she wasn’t going to pass it up.
The faint vibrations of the ship reverberated through the liquid in the glass, sending tiny circular ripples across its surface while Janeway watched the whole time. She knew that she had to want this for herself too. It was no good using Seven as some sort of emotional crutch in place of the drink – that would only destroy her as surely as continuing to wallow in alcoholism. It was down to Janeway herself. She had to do it; she had to beat it, for her own pride and self-respect.
She repeatedly told herself that she could do it – she was a Starfleet captain after all. Maybe not in name anymore but where it counted. They might have taken away her uniform, her pips, her ship but she was still that captain in her heart and her mind and her soul. She’d faced bigger foes, won bigger battles - she could win this one.
It wouldn’t be easy; she was pragmatic enough to know that. Even now the temptation to take just a tiny sip was almost more than she could bear. She might even fall off the wagon from time to time, but knowing that she had someone to help her pick up the pieces if that happened was everything.
It would just have to be one step at a time, the first one of which was to get up now and leave the drink where it was. She forced herself up from the couch, taking one last look at the glass before she went back into the bedroom where Seven lay sleeping.