The ensign strode quietly towards the stasis tube, wondering at the woman that lay beneath it. She had been the pinnacle of hope for so many, the savior of countless more. This woman’s name had reached across endless galaxies, yet no one could hear her now. Fire had burned in this individual’s veins, and it was this fire that had caused the captain to sacrifice herself for her crew. It was this same crew that lovingly tucked their captain into her resting place aboard the ship that she had loved so well. She would continue with them along their journey, and would feel the sun of her beloved Earth on her face before she was buried. Perhaps it was this motivation to fulfill their captain’s last wish that had allowed the Voyager crew to arrive home so quickly…for only two weeks after her death, Janeway’s crew found a way home. It was bittersweet, and even though they had finally reached home, many would weep. The fresh young ensign was oblivious to many of these facts, knowing Kathryn through reputation alone. Kathryn, the auburn haired figure whose mere will alone had forced all obstacles aside, and whose love and compassion and held so many close. Kathryn…
Running her fingers lightly along the control panel, Janeway walked past the Operations station. This. This was what she had given up life for…this wondrous piece of machinery and the countless lives surrounding it. Glancing up she stole a quick glance at her First Officer, and then back to the reflective surface of the panel. Perhaps this is my own personal hell, she thought. For all the things I’ve done, the numerous lives I’ve destroyed by getting my ship stranded in this god-forsaken-place. Janeway could feel the tears stinging the back of her eyes. She felt no self-pity, her heart bled for those of her crew that had gone before her and those that she had just left behind. The list was too numerous for her soul to comprehend…all their faces merging into one guilt-infested mass. Turning, she came face to face with the young man who stood tall behind the instrument that she was absent-mindedly stroking. Her gaze roamed over his youthful features, she had loved him almost as a son. Janeway had nurtured him, fought for him, and even held him as he had sobbed. When he, Lt. Harry Kim, had first arrived on her ship, he was fresh out of the academy. Young, inexperienced, and even a bit scared; she had molded him into the wonderful man she knew he would prove to be.
A flash of movement caught her attention, and Janeway’s view rested on the tall blond standing almost at parade attention a few feet away. Janeway’s heart clutched in her chest, what would the young woman standing before her do now? Janeway had saved her, had taught her to be human again, and had loved her more then any mother…woman could. Her childhood taken from her, Seven of Nine had turned to Janeway to teach her all the intricacies of once more being ‘human’. What would this young woman do now? Who would she turn to, and ask for guidance? Even now, the captain could see the haunting, lost shadow that darkened Seven’s eyes. The captain turned away suddenly, the turmoil of emotions becoming too much for the officer.
Leaning against the railing that separated the upper deck of the bridge from the lower, Janeway finally brought her eyes up to face the small, compact woman that stood quietly beside the navigational controls. There standing calmly over the shoulder of Ensign Tom Paris stood Captain Kathryn Janeway, and this would prove to be her last day standing on her beloved bridge.
"…unacceptable. I don’t care how much time we have to pour into this we are going to find a way out of this anomaly." Fixing each in the conference room with her most confident command gaze, Voyager’s captain let each and every one there know that they were going to pull through this. They always had before, and this would be no different. "Now, I want options, and I also want to know what we’ve already tried and why it didn’t work. Seven?" With that, the tall, statuesque blond stood and walked quietly over to the display panel mounted on the conference wall immediately to her captain’s right. Fixing the captain with an intense expression, to note the attentiveness in the woman’s features, Seven began.
"The anomaly appears to be a Class-8 spatial vortex. Upon further investigation, however, it appears that there are a series of cracks and fissures that surround the inner walls of the vortex itself." Hands quickly dancing over the panel display, Seven continued her briefing on the odd funnel-like entity that loomed over Voyager. Standing quietly beside Seven stood another Captain Janeway, an invisible witness to all that would transpire. She had relived this day many times before, and no matter what she did differently, or who she tried to touch in some small way; the day merely replayed itself. With each repeat of this particular day, the dead Janeway could feel a piece of her silently fall away into nothingness. Her soul was slowly following her body’s lead. The once overwhelming woman, who had caused whole races to rise up and take notice, was now meekly staring at the floor…refusing to look at any of her crew. She had seen enough; another round of heartache was all this would prove to be.
And so, the day passed as it had so many times before. After several failed attempts to free themselves, their warp engines near critical from the strain that was being forced upon them from the anomaly, the Captain would finally find a way to pull free… they would allow the ship to be pulled within the funnel. Once there, however, they would fire a series of torpedoes to greatly enlarge the numerous cracks and fissures that littered the energy walls surrounding the ship. The crew had anticipated the energy discharges that would accompany such a tactic, and so had boosted the shields accordingly.
Standing quietly on the bridge, Captain Janeway (and the mere shadow of her former self) waited patiently for her Chief Engineer to give her the go ahead. Several minutes passed before Torres reported the ship’s readiness. Everything was in order, and with a slight nod to her navigational officer, Janeway signaled the go-ahead. The view-screen displayed the intricate cross works that served as the funnel walls in which they were trapped. The spatial turbulence was a little rough, but this crew had experienced much worse.
Suddenly a forceful energy pocket hit Voyager, sending almost the entire bridge staff down to the meet the carpet. Captain Janeway was the only one who seemed to have kept a relative upright position throughout the ordeal. Quickly glancing around at her officers, she noticed that the helmsman wasn’t in his seat; as a matter of fact, the blood smeared across the console and the still lump beside it told the Captain quite a bit. Limping over to the fallen man, Janeway noted that his chest still rose and fell, indicating respiration, although he was taking rather shallow breaths. Gently moving Paris off to the side, the Captain took his seat. Impatiently wiping the red liquid off the console, Janeway accessed the ship’s status. She was in working order, but the ship had yet to leave the anomaly.
Hands flying over the tough-pad with practiced ease, the Captain finished what they had intended to accomplish. Reaching their destination rather quickly, the small woman fired the Borg enhanced torpedoes especially designed for this particular mission. The fissure was hit dead-on; allowing Janeway a second of self-pride…her customary smirk graced her features for mere seconds, causing a lop-sided grin. The last thing the auburn haired woman noticed before the navigational panel before her exploded, sending shards of glass, metal shads, and hard plastic into her cranium; was that they had made it…and they were free.
Sickbay was in chaos, odd considering there was only one patient. Almost the entire command staff was crammed into the Holographic Doctor’s office, nervously awaiting news concerning their fallen captain. They were all in varying degrees of tension and concern, Ensign Kim being the most animated regarding these feelings. His pacing and jerking movements drawing attention away from the captain and to his sturdy frame, much to everyone’s annoyance. Commander Chakotay’s outside demeanor revealing nothing, yet his eyes had definitely taken on a much darker hue. Tuvok was just as forthcoming with his emotions as well, giving strength to those who gazed at his unshakeable form. Paris and Torres sat quietly on the immaculate desk that dominated the little room, somewhat dazed expressions filling their features. Mirroring the Chief of Security’s emotionless mask, Seven of Nine stood directly to the Commander’s left…hands clasped behind her back in her customary stance. Out of all those present, her feelings were the most in turmoil; her soul lay dying in that biobed, and Seven was forced to stand by and watch.
Several hours passed before the Captain did. Gently grasping the sheet that lay bundled just below her neck, the Doctor pulled the white fabric over Kathryn Janeway’s still face. The officers who had gathered around their wounded leader now silently left the Sickbay, all in a state of disbelief. Some went to their quarters to mourn in their own way, while others took solace in the presence of one another. The stark figure that had quietly watched all of these things transpire numerous times before; silently walked the ship’s corridors drinking in her crew’s shock and grief. She had never intruded upon this time of mourning, never once entered the quarters of one of her crew to witness their reaction; her morals would never allow it. Finally her feet brought her to the one place she desperately did not want to be, smack dab in front of Cargo Bay 2. During all the times that she had relived this day, she had never once allowed herself to visit Seven; a part of her knew that she was too afraid to see what might lay beneath that cold, icy exterior.
Yet here she was ready to see her greatest accomplishment, the woman whom she had saved and whose soul she had helped to fasten together with the bits and pieces that had once comprised it. A part of her was too frightened to take a peek at the woman who had become so intertwined with Janeway’s life and feelings.
Stepping slowly through the doors that sealed off the Cargo Bay from the rest of the hall, Janeway scanned the room in search of her Borg. There. There, curled up on the dais directly underneath her alcove, sat a sobbing Seven of Nine. The tall, slim frame shook with each tiny whimper and sob that engulfed her. Kathryn’s heart dropped into the pit of her stomach, her emotions reeling from the scene. Here was the one person whom she expected to be the least affected, outwardly, sobbing like an infant. Her chest constricted in agony, and Janeway sped across the bay towards the fallen woman.
Wrapping her arms around the blond, hoping some small comfort would transfuse itself into the quivering form from her own whispery silhouette, Kathryn hugged Seven close. Sensing something amiss, Seven stiffened immediately. Reaching out with her hands, she gently examined the air around her. Janeway sprang to her feet; startled that Seven would suddenly feel her presence…considering that no one else had felt her before.
A quite whisper, one that was filled with astonishment and hope.
Janeway dropped to her knees once more, leaning in closer to Seven. Raising a shaky hand to caress a pale cheek, Janeway faintly traced the curve of the blonde’s jaw line.
"I’m here, Seven." Kathryn’s breath caught in her tear-choked throat. "I always have been…my love."
Seven felt the feather-light touch, heard the emotion-stained words that accompanied it, and latched onto them with her whole being. Closing her eyes against the emotion that she was so unaccustomed, Seven could almost picture the stately form of her captain kneeling there beside her. Searching the air once more for Kathryn, her hands made contact. The rough fabric of a Starfleet-issued tunic met her questing fingertips and as her touch traveled north, they met the smooth feel of skin. Taking a ragged breath, Seven wrapped her slim arms around the older woman’s neck pulling her closer.
"I…I, thought that you had…left me… stay with me…please…I…"
"Shhhh, I never left. I could never leave."
Resting her head in the crook of Kathryn’s shoulder, the young woman’s muffled voice cracked in response.
Before her wounded heart had time to drink in the healing words, the beginnings of a new day were spreading out around them. As the blue, filtering light filled the Cargo Bay; Janeway silently cursed the hell that she had been so cruelly thrust…
Looking up from the dull gray floor that she was kneeling upon, Janeway’s eyes raked over the eerily still figure that stood connected to the wall. The blonde that had been hugging the captain so closely to her sobbing body only seconds before, now rested quietly in the surrounding Borg technology. An aching pain enveloped the huddled figure at Seven’s feet, along with a feeling of intense hatred and rage. It was this newfound hatred for whatever being had damned her that spurred Captain Janeway into action. Raising herself up on shaky legs, Kathryn’s soul solidified with determination. Her voice came in a harsh whisper.
"No more…not today, not ever…"
The command staff was once more gathered in the relatively small space that served as the conference room, having the same conversation that had taken place countless times before. Kathryn had tried speaking to Seven all morning without success, and with each passing hour her anger slowly became an all-consuming despair. Her death was only a few hours away, and the beginnings a new day were quickly approaching.
A desolate phantom stood quietly behind Seven of Nine as Voyager’s bridge crew waited for the go-ahead from Lt. Cmdr. Torres. Kathryn had tried, and failed, to contact the beautiful blonde standing only a few feet away. She had now resigned herself to hell, realizing that this was a scenario of her own making. If she had been stronger, smarter, and more resourceful they would have been home years ago…a mindset that Kathryn was beginning to accept. In life she never would have allowed herself to delve into such self-loathing…but that had been a life that Janeway had lead, not this woman who paraded around in her form. This was a shell, a shell that tried desperately to gain a piece of the woman it had once been….
Finally allowing the hot, sorrow-filled tears to stream down her bleak features Kathryn stepped forward stiffly, closing off the gap between her and Seven. Reaching up, Kathryn trailed trembling fingers along the rigid back that faced her. Closing her eyes against the rush of fluid that was now blanketing her command tunic, the older woman brought her down head to rest on Seven’s right shoulder blade. Sliding her elegant, sculpted hands down slender arms, Kathryn wrapped her arms around the trim waist below her bowed head. She had wanted to do this for so long, to merely hold Seven…the woman-child she adored.
Rolling her shoulders slightly, Seven tried to ease the tension that had suddenly gathered there. Glancing about the bridge, she quickly scanned the faces of the surrounding officers. Fear marred none of these composures, which was solely due to the woman that stood regally in the middle of the command deck. Captain Janeway seemed to radiate confidence and command, which was soaked up by the neighboring officers around her. Here eyes tracing the curvature of spine and hip, Seven allowed the faintest of emotions to slip through her cold exterior. Love suffused the young woman, and emotion that sent pools of warmth and desire coursing through her trim frame.
The warmth began to cool as the emotion warped itself into something else entirely; fear. Startled at the sudden change, Seven focused her attention inward in hopes of finding the source. Images flooded her mind, mostly of Kathryn. Kathryn sitting at the navigational console, of a bloody and dying Kathryn, a Kathryn that wept while kneeling at her feet…the jarring sensation that almost threw Seven onto the Bridge carpeting broke her from her dream-like state. Straightening her stooping figure that lay across the console in front of her, the Borg took in the scene around her. Her eyes centered at the small woman that was now manning the navigational controls. Ice-cold fear gripped Seven, catapulted her over the low railing that separated her from the Captain.
Charging towards the red head, Seven had only enough time to see the satisfied smirk occupying the classic features turn into a look of astonishment. Gathering the smaller woman up into her arms, the young woman felt icicles of pain sliver down her back as the panel beside them exploded…
"How did you know Seven?"
Blue-gray eyes searched the youthful face that dominated their field of vision, looking for answers that the owner couldn’t supply.
"I am…uncertain. Images of the accident, and the following events filled my mind prior to its actual occurrence. I do not know where these images came from Captain, I simply acting on them…"
Shaking her head slightly, Janeway stood in disbelief. Confused eyes raked over the long, trim form that occupied the biobed in front of her as Janeway’s mind fought to understand. Sighing in frustration, the officer once more addressed Seven.
"Whatever it was, it’s not important right now. Right now, you need to rest. I want you to report to the Cargo Bay and regenerate for a full 16 hours."
"Captain," the Doctor quietly interrupted. "You require rest as well. Contrary to popular belief, you are not made of solid duranium."
"I know Doctor, I know…"
The stars streak by as the forceful Captain once more gazed out into their beauty. So much had happened, and so much was still so uncertain. This captain would never feel the isolation and self-disgust her counterpart had; and a part of her would be eternally grateful, the part that Janeway would never meet or see. Gently removing the four gold pips that were proudly attached to her uniform collar, Kathryn Janeway turned and walked towards the bedroom. The faint sound of her jingling pips jumping around in her palm could be heard by the lone figure leaning quietly against the opposite wall. Dark blue-gray eyes followed the departing woman before finally closing. A pale blue light suddenly filled the room, centering on the small woman standing so still. Raising a tentative hand to her face, the captain caught the single, solitary tear that marred her pale features. The sad, lonely smile that occupied her face was suddenly extinguished as the light engulfed her.
A drone, standing within the clutches of her Borg alcove, is unceremoniously jolted from rest. Eyes raking over the empty cargo bay walls, the young woman silently wonders what had awakened her so rudely. A sudden pang of loss fills her bosom, causing her one human eye to tear. A single, solitary drop of moisture escapes, splashing onto the duranium plating beneath her feet.