A Fine Line

A Star Trek Voyager Story

By Enginerd

In an effort to avoid adding years to Voyager's journey home, Captain Kathryn Janeway trespasses into forbidden territory.  Guided by her sense of duty and her heart on this dangerous journey, she battles Granarians, Seven of Nine, and herself.

Prologue - Captain's Personal Log

"We are in Granarian space, despite their warnings. I couldn't add another 3.4216 years, according to Seven, to our journey and go around this gaseous region. We've encountered five hostile ships so far, but the pockets of norrinic gases have been more trouble than the supposed Granarian warships. Our shields are thankfully unaffected and more than adequate against their frequent attempts at retaliation for our trespassing - my trespassing.

Only three more weeks to go . . . .

If only this gaseous expanse could be inhabited by a friendly species - but, as our usual luck would have it, the Granarians are not. If fact, they are they are not just hostile, they are incredibly rude.

Normally, I don't let comments from . . . opponents get to me. Years of Starfleet training, not to mention many more years of playing poker, have given me an ability to deflect the most irritating comments, in all sorts of situations. But the Granarian's gracious offer of safe passage for my ship in exchange for Ensigns Wildman and Kim, and Seven was one offer I wanted to shove up their Jefferies tubes. I was tempted to wipe those smarmy looks from their faces with a few well-aimed photon torpedoes, but Starfleet frowns upon annihilating a species - no matter how rude.

So because of Starfleet's uncompromising principles, I refrained. Again.

Heh. I make it sound like I've been a good little Captain, obeying all of Starfleet's rules. Of course, I haven't. The logs have many entries that show that I have bent, some say broken, Starfleet regulations a number of times. So far, I've been able to justify my actions. But . . . will I know when my justifications are merely excuses? Did I look hard enough for other choices? Am I wrong to disregard a species' questionable territorial rights if it gets us home sooner?

3.4216 years.

The longer we stay here, the more afraid I am of what I'm becoming - that the line will become unimportant. Even after all this time, the events with the Equinox are still painfully fresh in my mind. It is frightening to know what can happen when that line is crossed. And it's even more frightening to know how dangerously close I have come to losing that last bit of myself that makes me worthy of commanding this vessel and her fine crew.

I'm not the woman I thought I was. I suppose among our many challenges in the Delta quadrant, one of the hardest is learning things about ourselves - things that are not pleasant. But for better or worse, I'm what they've got. And I'm too damn stubborn, as Seven would gladly testify, to consider giving up my ship because of bouts of self-doubt. And too arrogant, as Seven would also gladly testify, to think anyone else could do better.

So I guess that leaves me where I started. Facing each day at a time. . . .

End personal log."

Chapter 1 - The Captain's stroll

After finishing her log, Captain Janeway stood and stretched. She started to take off her uniform jacket as she entered her bedroom, glancing at her bed with a frown. She knew she was unlikely to get sleep for a while - too many thoughts still running through her head. With a weary sigh, she rubbed the back of her tight neck. "Might as well make myself useful," she muttered before leaving her quarters.


All the personnel or department reports in the universe could never provide a Captain a feel for her ship like a good stroll could, she recalled her father lecturing her. Lately, she had been strolling a lot. But she was not one to waste precious time tossing in bed or pacing in her quarters.

As she made her way through the lower levels, she recalled visiting other ships that had neglected lower levels though their bridge and engineering were in tip-top shape. But she knew the condition of the lower levels was a barometer for the rest of the ship. The ship was not healthy if the crew didn't care enough to take care of their spaces and the officers didn't care enough to make them. By the looks of the Voyager's many nooks and crannies, she was a very healthy ship. And that pleased her Captain.

The crew member, whom she first came upon that evening, was not surprised by her presence. Captain Janeway's strolls had over the past few weeks started to migrate into the network of Jefferies tubes running throughout the ship.

"Evenin', Captain," an older crewman said with a respectful nod and returned his gaze to the blinking ship service panel before him.

"Good evening, Chief Engel. What are you fixing now?" The Captain asked curiously as she climbed beside him in the cramped space to spy the panel he was working on.

"You don't want to know, Cap'n."

"The ship service panels," she said with a frown, recalling their last encounter two nights ago when there were a few ship service panels that tripped off line, causing great inconvenience in the 13th deck's crew quarters, where sonic showers and lavatories were malfunctioning for most of the Gamma shift. After the tedious and strenuous chore of breaking down the panels and running a variety of diagnostics with the Chief, Janeway was as surprised as he was when the panels suddenly came back on-line, working perfectly. They never were able to find the cause, though the Captain had learned more about the Mark 256 personal hygiene service panel and associated control conduits than she had thought any Captain would ever need . . . or would ever actually want to.

"Yep. The good news is that it appears to be the same problem. The bad news is. . . ."

"It appears to be the same problem," Janeway muttered getting a nod and sigh. "Need some help?"

"Uh . . . no ma'am. I've finished the diagnostics," he said truthfully but uneasily, having received a threat from LT Torres that if she learns that the Captain has personally worked on fixing any of her broken equipment again, heads were going to roll. While he suspected the Klingon was more bark than bite, he enjoyed life too much to find out.

"And you're just waiting for . . . ?" she asked curiously.

"Them to come back on line," he said. As if the panel seemed to hear him, it tweeped and flashed as it came back to life.

"You know Chief, this is no longer just annoying," she said, glaring at the temperamental panel.

"Yes, ma'am. I'll continue to investigate. Now I have some data to compare," he said with a hopeful shrug.

"Let me know what you find," she said and crawled past him. The Chief cringed as he watched her disappear around a turn in the narrow passage. He knew LT Torres was not going to be happy with the Captain's continued personal interest on what Torres had declared a "minor" problem.


"Captain," a crewman smiled with amusement as Captain Janeway climbed down from a Jefferies tube.

"Petty Officer Harris," she responded with a smile, as she stepped into the passageway and caught her breath. She was breathing a little harder than she would have preferred, reminding her to add more aerobic exercise to her spotty regimen - especially if she was going to keep climbing all around her ship or continue her Velocity winning streak against Seven. Perhaps she could get Seven to jog with her, she considered, concluding their occasional game of velocity just wasn't cutting it.

"Any interesting tidbits from the airponics lab?" Janeway asked, noting the mild surprise on the man's face. They were nowhere near his work area. She genuinely was amazed that her crew would actually be surprised by her knowledge of them - even after all these years.

"Uh . . . no, ma'am. We're working to increase the yield of our crops, but it's unlikely enough to sustain us without Nelix's foraging for foodstuffs . . . unless we are lucky enough to find a mother load of dilithium crystals," he joked.

"I trust that increasing crop yield is given top priority," she said with a stern look.

Harris smiled. "Yes ma'am."

"Good. And don't worry, I'll order the bridge crew to keep their eyes out for that mother load. Have a good night, Petty Officer."

"You too, Captain," Harris said with a smile as she nodded and headed towards the turbo-lift.


"Deck 3," Captain Janeway ordered and exhaled heavily as the turbo-lift doors shut. She knew she should try to get some sleep but she wasn't ready for it - all that climbing invigorated her. Of course, she would probably pay for it later with sore muscles she considered as she stretched and rubbed her neck.

"Belay that," Kathryn suddenly blurted. The turbo-lift tweeped in acknowledgment and stopped. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine," she said.

Perhaps Seven would be up for a philosophical discussion or just a good old-fashioned chat about the imperfection of humanity, Janeway thought with a smirk. The former Borg didn't have to regenerate for another 12 hours and could probably be distracted from the slip-stream project or another holodeck program, Kathryn considered. Perhaps she might even learn why Seven was spending so much of her time in the holodeck these. . . .

"Seven of Nine is on Deck 3," the pleasant female voice responded. The information surprised Kathryn almost as much as the anticipation she felt hearing it. "Deck 3, then," she said with a smile, feeling that anticipation grow the closer she came to her quarters. It seemed that Seven was also in the mood for a chat, Kathryn thought happily.

As expected, Seven of Nine was waiting at the door to the Captain's quarters. She was an incredibly imposing figure, Kathryn thought with fascination. Her height, which was already notable, was even more pronounced with illogically inefficient footwear that caused a most distracting sway when she walked.  In contrast to her inviting form, which was wrapped by a skin-tight suit that caressed her generous curves, Seven held herself erect with her hands clasped firmly behind her rigid back, which many unfairly thought a reflection of simple arrogance. But she was far from simple, Kathryn considered, noting how her golden hair was swept up in an efficient style, allowing a clear view of the Borg remnants that surprisingly complemented her striking beauty - yet reminded those who would dare get close of her underlying lethality.

But Kathryn knew that within the dangerously alluring package, resided an intelligent and sensitive young woman, who sought to understand the frustrating complexities of the human condition which she now bravely faced with tragically little experience. A young woman who desperately desired . . . .

. . . confrontation, Kathryn thought with a sigh of disappointment at the stern look of challenge that was directed at her. Well, an argument would also pass the time, she thought in consolation.

"Having trouble regenerating?" Kathryn asked.

"I will not need to regenerate for another 12.3 hours," Seven answered crisply.

"Really," Kathryn said neutrally.

"However, you are not obtaining the required amount of rest," Seven accused with a cocked ocular implant.

Kathryn frowned. "Is that why you're stalking outside my door? To tell me I need sleep?" Kathryn said with exasperation as she entered her quarters.

"I am not stalking," Seven said as she followed the Captain. "I am merely. . . ."

"Would you care for something to drink?" Janeway interrupted with a strained smile. No one liked being interrupted, especially Seven. But the Captain was not interested in explaining herself and hoped Seven would take the hint.

"I do not req . . . no, thank you," Seven said uneasily, attempting a casual response. The Captain nodded with a small smile and ordered a chamomile tea.

Seven patiently waited, watching the Captain settle comfortably on her couch with her tea and look up at her. "Please, have a seat," she offered, motioning to her couch with a graceful hand.

"I prefer to . . . thank you," Seven said and hesitantly sat, eyeing the Captain, whose pleased smile made the former Borg note how simple facial muscles, when positioned into a smile, could completely transform a person's face, making it not only more aesthetically pleasing but allow the person's . . . life-force to be shared. And perhaps more fascinating was the effect a smile had on the person receiving it, Seven considered, noting how pleased she felt receiving a smile from her Captain . . . .

"So, how are you, Seven?"

Seven blinked, then shared her findings with efficiency. "I have noted an increase in your activity during the periods when you should be at rest. This behavior has become more frequent during the past month, peaking after our initial encounter with the Granarians. . ."

Kathryn looked at her and interrupted flatly. "Doing that well, huh?"

Seven sighed in frustration. The Captain was in a difficult mood again, not wanting to listen to facts. However, this difficulty would not deter Seven from her objective - making the Captain listen, acknowledge her facts were accurate, and agree modification in her behavior was needed. Seven could do no less, the Captain's well-being was of paramount importance.

"Captain, humans require significantly more sleep than you have been getting," Seven said sternly.

"I had no idea you were interested in a career change, Seven," Kathryn said conversationally.

"You have been noticeably tired during your shifts," Seven continued with increased irritation at the Captain's flippant attitude.

"You'll be sorely missed in Astrometrics, but I'm sure the Doctor will be delighted with your help in sickbay," Kathryn said with a smile and sipped her tea.

"Is there something preventing you from getting the required amount of sleep?" Seven asked directly, causing Kathryn to look at her cup a moment as her rubbed at her temple as if staving off a horrible headache. Seven looked at her with concern, wanting to help.

"Right now, I can think of one tall, blond reason," Kathryn muttered wearily.

"Avoiding the subject does not solve your problem," Seven responded with frustration. Kathryn laughed weakly, rubbing the back of her stiff neck.

Not pleased the Captain was not taking her concern seriously, Seven continued with even more determination. "It is logical to conclude that if you insist on continuing without sufficient sleep, your performance and judgment will eventually be impaired - if they haven't already," Seven accused, successfully obtaining the Captain's undivided attention.

Seeing a flash of anger in the Captain's eyes, which could wilt the most seasoned crew member, the former Borg steeled herself. As quickly as the anger flared, it receded, behind a cold and calculating stare. Seven was encouraged, now expecting to engage in a debate - one which she expected to win, for she had the advantage of undisputable facts on her side.

"You know, Seven, I have many . . ." the Captain paused, searching for the right word, then offered with a smile ". . . conundrums, which keep my mind preoccupied when I try to sleep. But perhaps we can put our heads together and solve some of the more troubling ones," Kathryn said invitingly to the former Borg, who eyed her suspiciously.

Having concerns which prevented sleep sounded logical, but the Captain's invitation for her help was too quick and contrary to her posture of avoidance just moments ago. Seven sighed, the Captain's debating tactics were rarely straight-forward, but this was . . . .

"What about that nagging problem with the Mark 256 personal hygiene ship's service panel?"

. . . unusually illogical, Seven thought as her ocular implant rose.

"Or how about the problem where I don't appreciate you monitoring my activity? Or better yet, the problem where you question my judgment?!?" Janeway snapped and bolted up from her seat.

"If you continue to refuse help regarding your health, yes, I do question your judgment," Seven countered defiantly, also standing with a most annoying air of superiority.

"Seven, you are far too young to be my mother," Kathryn said tightly, struggling unsuccessfully to contain her anger as she returned her cup of tea to the recycler.


"You have no right to barge in here and demand answers. You have no right to call into question my judgment because you don't happen to like what I am or am not doing. You have no right to invade my privacy! So stop it!!" Kathryn yelled as she slammed her cup and saucer on the recycler, inadvertently causing both to break. "Damnit!" She hissed, staring at the broken pieces.

"I . . . I am your friend," Seven offered in uneasy defense, startled by the intensity of anger radiating from the Captain.

The declaration of friendship and sudden uncertainty in the normally confident woman quickly cut through the Captain's righteous indignation. Seven was only expressing concern with an unfortunate, innate ability of pressing all her buttons. It wasn't a crime - just inexperience with handling a stubborn, proud Captain.

"Oh, Seven. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that. Please, sit down," Kathryn said as her head dropped, heavy with guilt. Her hand shot up and she pinched the bridge of her nose trying to fend off another headache.

Still uncertain, but relieved the Captain seemed willing to talk now, Seven nodded and sat on the couch.

"I am your friend, am I not, Captain?" Seven asked softly as the Captain joined her on the couch.

"Yes, of course," Kathryn said earnestly, reaching out and covering the young woman's mesh-covered hand without hesitation. "You're a better friend than I, I'm afraid. You are right that I'm not getting much sleep and that's making me a bit . . . cranky. But that's no excuse, I shouldn't have gotten angry with you for trying to help."

"I do not require an apology, Captain," Seven said.

"Maybe not. But you deserve one, Seven. Captain's should never act out of anger - especially if it alienates the few unfortunate souls whom they call friends," Kathryn said wryly.

"I do not consider myself unfortunate to be your friend," Seven countered firmly.

Kathryn smiled at the young woman, who had much to learn about humor. "Thank you, Seven. It means a lot to know that."

"And as your friend . . . ," Seven continued doggedly.

"I'm just having a little trouble sleeping. That's all, Seven," Captain Janeway quickly interjected, then grinned a bit. "Starship Captains tend to have a few things on their minds, you know. Nothing to concern yourself about," Kathryn said with confidence, as she squeezed and released the former Borg's hand.

Seven glanced at her newly freed hand a moment, then pinned the Captain with her piercing blue eyes. "Perhaps the Doctor should confirm there is nothing to be concerned about."

"Seven," Kathryn groaned.

"I have researched insomnia, Captain. It can be a symptom of some serious medical conditions," Seven argued. Kathryn couldn't help but chuckle at her persistence. "I am serious," Seven said with annoyance.

"Oh Seven, do I have to order you to not be concerned?" The Captain said wearily.

"Your order would be ineffective. I would be unable to comply," Seven said honestly, quickly sobering up the older woman. "If you do not wish the Doctor to examine you, I could. I have familiarized myself with Starfleet medical protocols. . . ."

"Seven!" Kathryn interrupted crisply and stood, clearly dismissing the young woman when she announced "I'm going to sleep now."

"Very well," Seven said agreeably and also stood. "I will not pursue this further. . . ."

"Excellent decision," Janeway quickly blurted, relieved this uncomfortable situation would soon be over.

". . . at this time," Seven added with challenge, then gave a respectful nod before she turned and left.

Janeway stared at the door a long moment before sighing and retreating to her bedroom, shaking her head.


LT Torres stood at the warp core control panel and looked at the odd readings again. Before she could change the scale of the sensors to pinpoint the origin of the fluctuation, it disappeared. "Damnit!"

"May I be of assistance?" Seven said, suddenly standing at her side, causing the engineer to jump.

"Kahless, Seven. Don't do that!"

"Be of assistance?" Seven asked dryly, making Torres roll her eyes.

Attempting to ignore the tall blond next to her, the chief engineer eyed her panel. "There it . . . ! Damn, it's gone again," she blurted with irritation.

"What is the cause of the fluctuation?" Seven asked with curiosity, eyeing the console.

"I'm working on it," the Klingon engineering officer snarled.

"Perhaps if you. . . ." Seven offered.

"Is there something you wanted, Seven?" The engineer snapped.

"Why are the members of this crew so adamant against accepting help, even when it is so clearly needed?!?" Seven blurted with great frustration.

"What?" B'Elanna asked, surprised at Seven's emotion.

"I'll leave you to your fluctuations, Lieutenant," Seven said curtly and turned.

"Whoa, hold on. If you want to help, go ahead, knock yourself out."

Seven exhaled heavily then turned to the panel as B'Elanna eyed her curiously.

"The norrinic gases, which have interfered with our external sensor readings, may also be the source of these fluctuations. I am creating a subroutine to monitor the frequency, duration, and amplitude of the fluctuations to help establish if the problem is with the sensors . . . ," Seven explained while the panel tweeted and chirped as she programmed the monitoring routine.

"But monitoring the warp field sensors for fluctuations," B'Elanna interjected, "will only confirm that the sensors are showing a fluctuation, not determine if we have an actual variance."

"Which is why I'm comparing the warp field sensor readings to the Polaron emissions, which trail warp field readings by a time increment proportional to the frequency of the field. Should there be "real" warp variances, the Polaron emissions variations would also appear, but . . . ," Seven explained patiently.

". . . but following by a time proportional to the frequency of the field," B'Elanna finished her thought flatly.


"I should have thought of that," B'Elanna grumbled with irritation.

"Yes, you should have. Why did you not?" Seven asked curiously.

"What?!?" The Klingon asked with annoyance.

"Your intelligence and ingenuity have enabled you to solve far more complex problems in the past. Why has this simple approach eluded you?"

"Uh. . . . I guess I've been tired," the Chief Engineer stumbled, surprised by the unexpected complement.


"None of your damn business," B'Elanna mumbled, averting her eyes from the nosey Borg. "You came here for a reason?" The engineer snapped.

From the familiar discomfort and irritation she previously encountered while collecting data on the Klingon's intimate relationship with LT Tom Paris, Seven concluded LT Torres' current fatigue was also a result of her relationship with Voyager's pilot. However, also recalling how angry B'Elanna had become when asked about her intimate relationship with Ensign Paris and the Captain's stern reprimand, Seven did not press her for confirmation of her conclusion. Provoking one confrontation this evening was enough for Seven.

"I . . . wished to be useful."

"Something's obviously bothering you. Spill it," B'Elanna said. Seven looked down uncomfortably. "Seems you've picked up the crew's bad habit of rejecting help when it is so obviously needed," she added.

Seven sighed. "The . . . I have a friend, who can not sleep," Seven said awkwardly.

"And the Doctor couldn't help?"

"I do not wish to involve him at this time."

"Why not?"

A simple question for which Seven did not really have a good answer. She had incorrectly thought she could solve the problem herself by informing the Captain. A clear error on her part. Perhaps she should get the Doctor to help with the stubborn Captain, Seven considered, even if the Captain would become even more furious with her. But if the Captain's health was at stake, her anger would be well worth the price, Seven considered logically, though her stomach clenched uneasily, recalling how she felt at the Captain's recent angry outburst.

"Warm milk," B'Elanna offered with exasperation, finally interrupting the annoying silence.

"I have researched many remedies and warm milk has been identified as moderately effective in treating the symptom," Seven acknowledged, then added "However, I believe eliminating the cause the most efficient course of action."

"Yeah, well, what's the problem?" B'Elanna said through a yawn.

"I do not know," Seven said with great frustration.

"You've got to define the problem before you can solve it."

"I am aware of that," Seven said testily. "I find my friend is not forthcoming when I questioned her about it."

"Ah, not responsive to your interrogation, huh?" LT Torres smirked, muttering to herself "How surprising."

"I did not interrogate her," Seven said vehemently.

"Uh huh. And just how did you question her?" B'Elanna said with amusement, crossing her arms in front of her chest waiting for the answer.

"I waited for her outside her quarters. When she returned from her evening stroll, I presented her with the data I've collected over the past 21.84 days, which clearly indicates insufficient sleep," Seven relayed efficiently. "During 87.3% of that time, she has not been in her quarters. Further, recently during those rest periods, she has experienced a notable increase in physical activity, her respiration and. . . ."

"You've been monitoring her physical activity?!?" B'Elanna gasped in amazement.

"Yes. Though the interference of the norrinic gas precluded my precise monitoring, I have collected sufficient data to support my conclusion" Seven replied easily, then eyed the Klingon curiously. "How else would I support my conclusion?"

"Kahless! Are you nuts?!?"


"You - spying on the CAPTAIN!?!"

Seven was startled by the engineer's deduction that her friend was the Captain, but quickly recognized that it was not really so surprising. The Captain was her only friend.

"I do not understand why gathering data to help the Captain is considered spying. I do not understand why presenting her with concise and thorough information is not precisely what she needs," Seven responded with irritation.

"Maybe during a battle or when dealing with a problem with her ship! But this is personal, Seven," B'Elanna said, looking around for unwanted ears as she yawned again. "Seven, the Captain has had trouble sleeping before and will no doubt have trouble sleeping again. It's part of the job - especially in the Delta quadrant. Do yourself and the Captain a favor, will you? Butt out of her personal business," B'Elanna said uneasily and left Seven alone at the panel.

Chapter 2 - Good Intentions

After 2.36 hours of a restless sleep, Captain Janeway sat in her command chair, her hands tightly wrapped around her cup of coffee.

Seven became increasingly agitated at the Captain's noticeable exhaustion, frequently glancing at the older woman, who should clearly take time off and get much needed rest. Seven watched from her station as the older woman carefully sipped her coffee as if her life depended on it. At the very minimum, Seven concluded, her consciousness might.

With annoyance, Seven glanced at the various officers of the bridge crew, wondering whether they had noticed the Captain's unhealthy condition. Seven looked at Ensign Harry Kim, the Operations Officer, who obliviously scanned his console. Even if he did notice, she was certain the well-meaning young man lacked the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the difficult and proud woman to tell her she was acting foolishly.

Then there was Ensign Paris. Her gaze traveled to Commander Chakotay, pausing a brief moment, then continued to Commander Tuvok, who was exceptionally observant and would not be intimidated by the Captain she considered. He had looked up from his console as if he heard her thoughts. His brow rose curiously at Seven's glare. He tapped his com badge and quietly asked "Is something wrong, Seven?"

"Have you noticed the Captain's physical condition?"

"I have. She is fatigued."

"And you have done nothing??" Seven asked with irritation, finding it difficult to keep quiet.

"I have not concluded I need to do anything at this time," Tuvok responded, his other brow rose when she glared at him, then looked at the Captain with concern.

The Captain felt she had been there for a couple dozen . . . days. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, then focused on the screen. The stars whizzed past as they traveled through the murky cloud of colorful gas. She spotted another unusual flickering, which quickly perked her up.

"Ensign Kim, any contacts?" She asked, feeling something was amiss.

Seven noted it was the third time that shift the Captain had asked.

The Ops officer responded. "No, Ma'am. There are still no contacts." ENS Paris also found it odd for the Captain to keep asking and glanced back to Harry, who shrugged.

"Mr. Tuvok, could the norrinic gas be causing disruption to our . . . of course it can, never mind," she said, slouching back in her chair with a sigh, still feeling something wasn't right.

Tuvok glanced over to Seven, who's ocular implant rose haughtily, silently questioning his conclusion that he need not do anything to help the Captain. Tuvok sighed. While the Vulcan tactical officer knew Seven's concern had merit, he also knew the Captain well. Fatigue was not new to Kathryn Janeway, who allowed periods of intense worry or guilt to invariably affect her sleep patterns. It was logical that her last difficult decision of crossing this gaseous expanse, violating the wishes of the apparent rulers of this area as well as Starfleet regulations, had bothered the Captain sufficiently to disrupt her sleep. It was also logical to conclude that once through this area, the Captain's sleeping difficulties would cease - until the next troubling decision.

Perhaps he needed to explain the effects the various burdens of Captaincy had on Kathryn Janeway to Seven, who seemed to have an unusually keen awareness of the Captain's moods and physical condition. However, logic would dictate that Seven's keen awareness should have also enabled her to come to the same logical conclusions as he had. Intriguing, he considered.

"It's been quiet. You don't think they've given up?" Commander Chakotay, her first officer, asked as the Captain finished her coffee.

Seven eyed Chakotay, who clearly failed to recognize the tenacity of the Granarians.

"One can hope, Chakotay. But hope is never a tactically sound position - especially in the Delta quadrant," Captain Janeway responded sagely. Obviously, Seven thought. "You have the bridge, Commander. I'll be finishing up some reports in my ready room . . . and getting another cup," Kathryn stated with a wry grin before she left, with a hand rubbing the back of her tight neck.

The Astrometrics officer watched the tired Captain with great frustration.


Captains of the Guard and honorable Statesmen met in the Grand Hall. The pomp and circumstance surrounding major votes made Captain Karryn Ba'Re cringe. It was unnecessary and often a distraction from the issues themselves, she considered. Stepping up to her seat, she looked around the large oval table where all the Granarian military and political decision makers, known collectively as "The Council," sat. Behind each Council member stood a parade of personal servants, tending to each Captain's or politician's whim, except for her. She had no one, making her youth and lack of status among the Council never more evident. However, she never let that small detail stop her from speaking her mind.

As she scanned the room, she couldn't help but focus on the familiar and irritating sight of Captain Taghra, who seemed to take the most pleasure in flaunting his status and most prized servant, a beautiful raven-haired Taak. She was given to him by another Oben, who had owed him a great favor.

Karryn Ba'Re had to take a deep breath to calm her growing anger as they sat. It was almost as if he knew how irritating it was for her to see him publicly grope and fondle his Taak. Yet, sadly, his attitude toward his Taak was not unique, she considered, glancing around the room at similar vulgar displays that made her determined to fight for the rights of Taaks. And that determination grew into challenging any idiotic idea that was justified by the age-old explanation that it was "the way." To her, it was a pathetic excuse used by anyone too lazy or unwilling to think.

As she listened to Taghra's outrageous proposal, the reason for this wasteful spectacle, more calming breaths were needed to not speak out of turn. Not a trivial task for the vocal Captain, whose anger simmered.

"You have all heard Captain Taghra's plan. All in favor, say aye," the eldest Council member, Gallith, spoke.

"Nay," Captain Ba'Re announced boldly, and a bit prematurely as she stood up, looking around at the much older members, who shook their heads with mild irritation. "I object," she said firmly, attempting to reign in her anger.

"The Voyager is trespassing," Gallith said simply. "And Captain Taghra's plan should be more palatable to you than continued direct assaults."

Captain Taghra looked at the young Captain Ba'Re smugly, knowing he had full support of the Council. "It is a matter of honor," Taghra noted arrogantly, reaching for the drink his beautiful Taak, Jerran, had just placed by his hand.

Jerran glanced up to the vocal Captain an uncomfortable, but curious moment, noting her intense gaze, before quietly receding into the background, ready to serve again.

"I fully agree that those who serve should not be punished for their leader's transgressions, which is why I objected to the direct assault to begin with. But that is not the point. We still do not know anything about them or their Captain," Captain Ba'Re argued reasonably. "And we never even tried to," she said, looking at Gallith, hoping to appeal to the old man's sense of fairness. He was wise, but often too ingrained in tradition - as were the rest of the Council members, she considered with frustration.

"We do not share your fascination with other species, Karryn," Captain Taghra said with a smile, well aware his use of her first name during the Council session was an insult.

"Really? Seems to me you were fascinated enough to offer passage for the price of another species' servants," she answered, looking at him with irritation. He frowned. She had an uncanny ability with words. Luckily, her words did not seem to sway the Council this time.

"Captain Ba'Re, a fair price for passage was offered and harshly refused," Gallith noted reasonably, prompting nods of agreement among the Council and a pleased smile from Taghra.

"Fair?!? If you had any knowledge of other species, Elder, you would know that not everyone accepts the trading of people for goods. Not everyone may understand subordination or the Harrik," Captain Ba'Re snapped, causing a murmur around the table. Captain Ba'Re sighed and closed her eyes a moment to collect herself, knowing she had crossed a line with her anger and just lost any leverage she had with the Elder.

She was so young, Captain Taghra thought with amusement. She didn't even have a Taak yet, he considered critically, glancing back at his Taak, who stared at the young captain with a frown. The tall brunette beauty was definitely a valuable asset, he considered, winking at her. His gesture prompted a smile from the Taak, who knew her intimate services would be enjoyed this evening . . . as they usually were after any successful day.

Taghra returned his attention to the short, radical Captain, whose green eyes bore into him with irritation. He smirked, thinking she could use a good Taak to relieve all that tension she carried around. If he thought she might have accepted, he might have offered his Taak for the night as a sign of good will . . . and to rack up a favor.

"Captain Ba'Re, your objection is noted. The Council moves to proceed," Gallith said icily. "If you can not carry out your duty, Captain Ba'Re, say so now."

The public questioning of her loyalty wounded her, as intended. All eyes were upon her, including Taghra's Taak, Jerran.

"I have always and will always do my duty, Elder," she said, apparently satisfying the Council. Gallith rose from his seat.

"Captain Taghra, you have the Council's blessing."

"Thank you, sir," he said firmly, standing up and nodding. Taghra strode confidently away from the table as the room filled with an excited murmur. Captain Ba'Re frowned, watching Taghra and his Taak leave. In spite of her feelings, she straightened her uniform and headed towards her ship . . . to do her duty.


At the end of the uneventful shift, Seven quickly marched off the bridge with great determination. She would not let Tuvok's lack of concern or her own concern about provoking more anger from the Captain dissuade her from getting the unreasonably stubborn woman needed help.

"Seven!" The emergency medical hologram blurted happily, seeing his favorite Voyager member enter Sickbay. He became alarmed by the annoyed look on her face, knowing how irritated she became whenever she required medical attention. By the looks of it, she must be very ill, he considered.

"Are you feeling all right?" he quickly stood from his desk and grabbed his tricorder, flipping it open for a scan.

"I am well, Doctor."

"So you are," he said, confirming for himself, then snapping shut his tricorder. He looked at his favorite ex-Borg and smiled. "So! What brings you into my neck of the woods?" he said happily. "Ready for another lesson in etiquette? I have prepared a new module - Gifts - for all occasions and sentient beings," he rambled enthusiastically, then smirked, "I've included holograms, you never know when the need may arise."

"The Captain requires a thorough physical," Seven said firmly, ignoring his tangent.

"Why would you say that?"

"When was her last physical?"

"Seven, it is inappropriate for a doctor to discuss his patient's medical history with anyone," he said, then smirked. "Unless of course, you think one of those patients is unfit for duty."

"N. . . no," she quickly responded. "Doctor, I am merely concerned with her inability to sleep, which may be a symptom of something serious. You must order her to have a physical, then help her," she said stubbornly.

He smiled indulgently at the ex-Borg. "I don't need to."

"Explain," she said tersely, not at all pleased with his reluctance. Did not this crew care about their Captain!?!

"Seven, not that I should be telling you this but . . . the Captain has already been by to see me," he shared in a hushed tone, surprising the former Borg.

"She has?" Seven's confusion and surprise were evident.

"Yes. And other than an unfortunately active mind during her rest periods, she is in excellent health. But it is a good thing she did come by - a human can not endure sleep deprivation indefinitely. It's an incredibly fascinating area of human physiology, really. The neurological effects from the lack of sleep . . . ," he said, engrossed in the thought.

"Doctor," Seven said impatiently.

"Yes, well, it's nothing to concern yourself with, Seven," he said confidently. "I've prescribed a mild neural blocker which will get her back into a healthy sleep pattern in no time," he said with a chipper attitude.


"Oh, I would expect no more than a few days. . . ."

"No, when did you prescribe the neural blocker?"

"This morning, before her shift. Why?"

Seven did not know whether to be pleased that her visit may have prompted the Captain to finally seek help, or to be suspicious of the frustratingly strategic woman, who may have only visited the Doctor to forestall any more comments about her insomnia.

"I hope it works," Seven said evenly, almost like a threat, the Doctor thought curiously.

"Seven" he called to her retreating form, stopping her. "There's really no reason to be concerned. The Captain is in excellent hands," he said without a trace of humility.

She eyed him and nodded politely before she left.


"Seven, Naomi!" The morale officer, mess cook, and jack-of-all-trades, greeted the two as they entered the mess hall.

"Hi Nelix," Naomi greeted her favorite Talaxian. She immediately held his hand, making him smile.

"Mr. Nelix," Seven responded politely, eyeing his silly chef's hat. "Am I to assume there is something special on the menu today?"

"You are correct! You and Naomi should get in line before all the Talaxian gruel disappears," he said and retreated to the kitchen to serve.

"Talaxian gruel?" Naomi said quietly to Seven with a grimace, looking at the purple blob with yellow spots on a crewman's plate as they passed a table.

"No doubt, Mr. Nelix's special version of the recipe," Seven offered, not recalling such a dish in the databases. "I will be having nutritional supplement number four," Seven announced, also eyeing the purple blob warily.

"I bet the Captain would have the purple blob," Naomi said, bravely accepting a glop of the food on her tray and a smile from Nelix, who winked at her.

"Perhaps," Seven said skeptically.

"I'll get us seats while you get your supplement," Naomi said with a grin.



"Deck 2," the Captain said as she entered the turbo lift, headed for the mess deck. While Mr. Nelix dutifully provided frequent reports on crew morale, Captain Janeway found it prudent to see for herself. And joining the crew for a meal provided her that opportunity in a casual setting. She also knew the value in mingling, for both the crew . . . and herself.

The lift stopped and the doors opened to pick up another passenger. "Chief," she said with a surprised smile.

"Cap'n," Chief Engel said as he entered the lift. "Mess Hall." The turbo lift tweeped and proceeded to their destination.

"Any closer on solving our Mark 256 personal hygiene service panel mystery?" She asked with a smirk.

"Somehow I knew you'd be asking about that. No ma'am," he said with a sigh.

"Well, at least we've been able to avoid a mutiny . . . for now," she said wryly as the doors opened. He smiled and politely motioned for her to proceed ahead with a slight bow.

"Old school, I see," she said approvingly as they walked towards the Mess Hall, passing a few crewmen, who exchanged polite nods and smiles with her, along the way.

"Treating a lady with courtesy is the easy part. Keeping her happy? Well . . . " Chief Engel muttered with a shrug as he and the Captain entered the Mess Hall.

Kathryn laughed heartily. "Well, Chief, you know by now what will make me happy," she said silkily, with an amused grin as they stood in the food line.

"Yes, ma'am," he chuckled. "Can I expect another surprise visit tonight?" Chief Engel asked as he handed the Captain a plate and retrieved one himself.

"Now Chief, I don't like to be too predicable," Janeway chuckled.

"No ma'am."

Kathryn asked eyeing Nelix's latest culinary creation. Purple, blobbish stuff . . . with yellow spots. What the hell was it, she wondered as she inspected the pot closely, unsure if she had just seen the spots move on their own.

"Captain," Nelix greeted her happily. She looked up and nodded with a polite smile for the Talaxian, who smiled broadly as he slopped a big blob onto her plate. Her smile faded at the inadvertent meal selection.

"Enjoy," he said happily. Kathryn smiled weakly and eyed the blob, wondering if she needed to remind the bridge crew that finding that "mother load" of dilithium crystal was truly a high priority.

Nelix looked at the Chief, who quickly shook his head no.

"I'll get some . . . fruit," the Chief said firmly, spotting and grabbing a piece from the closest bowl on the counter.

The Captain leaned into his ear. "Where's your sense of adventure, Chief?" Kathryn whispered with a smirk.

"Live to fight another day, Captain," he replied and smiled at Nelix, who was busy dishing out his purple creation to another crew member.

Kathryn laughed. "Join me?" She asked the Chief.

"My pleasure . . . as long as we don't discuss anything having to do with . . . ," Chief Engel said flatly.

"Promise!" She interrupted with a chuckle. Spotting Seven sitting with Naomi, Kathryn smiled. "Let's sit over there."

Chapter 3 - Small Talk

"So my mom thought I should . . . . What's wrong, Seven?" Naomi asked, seeing an unhappy look appear. "Seven?"

"Yes?" Seven said distractedly. Seven felt great unease as the Captain and the Chief came towards them.

After overhearing the conversation between the Captain and Chief, all the data she had collected previously suddenly supported a new conclusion she had not considered before. Though, for some illogical reason, discovering the Captain was not suffering from a serious medical condition was not as comforting as Seven would have thought.

"Is something wrong?" the girl asked again.

"Nothing to concern yourself with, Naomi Wildman," Seven said dismissively to the child, who frowned. Seven eyed her a moment before her brow rose in understanding. She too hated being dismissed or made to feel like a child, as Captain Janeway did all too frequently.

"Mind if we join you ladies?" Captain Janeway asked.

"Captain!" Naomi said, starting to stand.

"At ease, Miss Wildman."

"Yes, ma'am," the young girl said professionally.

"That's your assistant, isn't it?" Chief Engel asked curiously, causing Naomi to beam.

"Yes. Chief Engel, may I introduce Miss Naomi Wildman, Voyager's first Captain's assistant."

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Wildman," he said formally, holding out his hand with a warm smile. The young girl eagerly and firmly shook his hand.

When he smiled, he did become more aesthetically pleasing, Seven noted. Though it was not as if he was unattractive, by humanoid standards. But with grey hair and wrinkles, along with his unhurried attitude, he did not appear to be a suitable physical match for the energetic auburn-haired woman.

Janeway glanced at Seven with a smile, not wanting to leave her out of the formalities. "I believe you know Seven."

"Seven," the man greeted her with a polite nod.

"Chief," Seven responded neutrally.

His record was solid, but nothing extraordinary, unlike the Captain's, Seven thought critically. He did not hold any advanced degrees, unlike the Captain. He had previously served on six ships with what she would easily classify as unremarkable tours of duty. The Captain must not have scrutinized the man's record, for if she had, it was clear Chief Engel would not have been selected, Seven considered.

"Uh . . . Please sit down, Captain, Chief," Naomi said, noting the two still stood. Kathryn smiled at the young girl who might even be a Starship Captain one day.

Having thoroughly reviewed the crew's records for her own research, Seven had found that after Tuvok, who was already married, Chakotay's record was the most notable among the males. Considering that, along with his current position onboard, which provided status her research had identified as historically important to females, he was the logical choice among the limited offering for a woman seeking to mate.

However, for some unquantifiable reason, Seven concluded that Chakotay was inadequate for someone as dynamic and passionate as Captain Janeway, whose accomplishments and status clearly surpassed all onboard.

"Thank you, Miss Wildman," Chief said politely, holding the chair for the Captain. Seven observed the appreciative smile directed to the older man as she sat.

Though being polite was not an attribute emphasized in the personnel files, Seven knew it was a highly valued trait to the Captain. However, there must be more to him than his manners for the Captain to select him, Seven concluded, recalling her research on human relationships frequently mentioned "chemistry." Her initial enthusiasm and relief that she had found a tangible and measurable science to describe the complex subject quickly waned when she found the "chemistry" mentioned was not the science with which she was intimately familiar.

She had asked her mentor, the Doctor, to explain this annoyingly vague concept. After a tedious lecture on pheromones, which she already fully understood, he finished by telling her she would just have to experience that mysterious and wondrous phenomena for herself to truly understand.

That most unsatisfying response caused her to conclude that he just did not understand himself.

"Chief, do you enjoy literature?" Seven suddenly asked, surprising the older man as he sat.

"I've been known to enjoy a holonovel or two. I like Earth Westerns," he said with a smile.

"I see," Seven said flatly, glancing at the Captain, who smiled warmly at her, pleased the young woman was attempting to engage in the fine art of small talk.

Apparently the Captain shared an appreciation of Earth Western holonovels, Seven thought curiously.

"I haven't tried an Earth Western," Naomi volunteered, then asked. "Have you tried the Flotter program?"

"Don't let the other Chiefs know, because they'll never let me hear the end of it, but I love Flotter," he said conspiratorially to the young girl, who beamed.

He did have a rapport with children, Seven allowed. Her eyes suddenly widened at that disconcerting thought.

"Me too," Naomi agreed readily.

"Do you play velocity, Chief?" Seven asked.

"Tired of me already, Seven?" Kathryn joked as she poked at the purple gruel.

"No, Captain," Seven immediately blurted with concern.

"Well, I'm getting too old to go running around a velocity court, Seven. You'd definitely find the Captain a better partner," Chief Engel offered, causing the former Borg to look at him with annoyance.

"I concur," Seven said firmly, wondering how he could assume she could possibly consider him a worthier partner than the Captain. The Chief and Captain eyed her curiously.

"Seven can beat everyone except Captain Janeway," Naomi supplied helpfully, liking the older man.

"Impressive," Chief Engel said, tipping his head respectfully towards the Captain.

"Yep, the ol' gal is still undefeated. But Seven has certainly made me wonder how long that will last. She's by far my most challenging opponent," Kathryn said, eyeing the ex-Borg. "And I wouldn't have it any other way," she added with a smirk.

Seven looked into the Captain's eyes and promised "and you shall not."

Feeling a surprising and unnerving intimacy pass between them, the Captain smiled uneasily and looked at her tray as she poked at her purple food with a troubled look.

"Second thoughts?" Chief Engel asked with a chuckle.

Captain Janeway eyed him, thankful for the distraction, then bravely took a bite. Then chewed. And chewed again. And again. Then swallowed. "Interesting. Remember, it's the journey. . . . Care for a bite, Chief?" The Captain scooped up some gruel on her fork, offering it to the man with a challenging smile.

"Oh no. No thanks. I've got my fruit," he said and chomped into the familiar and benign food item.

"It looks like Naomi and I are the only culinary adventurers," she said, nodding to her small companion, who smiled proudly. Her eyes traveled to Seven with interest. "That is . . . unless Seven would care for a bite?" Kathryn challenged in an inviting voice, offering her fork of purple stuff to the young woman.

"Seven already had her nutritional drink, Captain," Naomi quickly offered, trying to help out her friend.

"Oh. I see," Kathryn said with satisfaction, eyeing Seven as if she had won a challenge. As she turned with her fork, she was surprised when a mesh-covered hand captured hers.

"I will try a taste, Captain," Seven said, surprising herself. Though, she acknowledged, Captain Janeway did seem to have a unique ability to get her to do things she would not normally think or want to do.

"Well, well, another brave adventurer joins the fold," she said and winked at Naomi, who smiled. Captain Janeway once again offered the younger woman her fork-full of purple gruel with a pleased grin.

However, instead of taking the fork, Seven carefully guided the Captain's hand and fork towards her mouth. With her full lips carefully wrapped around the prongs, she slowly took the glob of food off the utensil, which had to be one of the most sensual acts the Captain had ever seen.

The Captain blinked, her grin nowhere to be found.

Releasing the Captain's hand, Seven chewed. And chewed. Frowning, she chewed again. After swallowing, she cleared her throat.

"You are correct, Captain. It is . . . interesting."

Kathryn nodded weakly, glancing at her fork then the former Borg.

"Eeck." Chief Engel didn't hesitate to offer his opinion and chomped into his fruit.

Seven wished she had obtained a glass of water with her nutritional supplement. Silently, the Captain slid her coffee mug towards the younger woman. Seven shook her head no with a grimace, not wanting to wash down one unpleasant taste with another. Kathryn nodded absently, feeling the need to quench her own incredibly dry mouth.

"It's not so bad, Chief," Naomi offered, taking another small bite, as Kathryn took a large sip of coffee.

"Naomi, if the Borg had discovered this particular offering of Talaxian culture, Talaxians would have been safe from assimilation," Seven countered the young girl's assessment, causing the Captain to laugh, unfortunately while swallowing.

Naomi giggled at the Captain's predicament while the Chief remained uncomfortably quiet.

"Are you all right, Captain?" Seven asked the coughing woman, getting a dismissive wave.

"Well, there goes my command presence," Captain Janeway wheezed ruefully, dabbing her mouth with her napkin.

"You still have a commanding presence, Captain. Even with coffee shooting out your nose," Naomi said with a chuckle.

"I see you haven't finished all of your gruel, Miss Wildman," the Captain countered with a warning glare at the outspoken girl, who giggled more. Goodbye command presence, Kathryn thought with a resigned sigh, glancing to the not-so-innocent instigator, who withheld a grin, though her blue eyes were aglow with amusement.

From the Captain's knowing look, the former Borg could almost hear the Captain say "Touché." Seven felt . . . happiness.

"Chief," Seven asked, her eyes still on the Captain, who rolled her eyes and silently pushed away her mug of coffee, just in case Seven surprised her with any other interesting observations. "Do you enjoy the arts? Painting? Sculpture??"

He thought a moment and shrugged with a snicker. "Well, I've certainly enjoyed going to museums on Risa."

"What did you see on Risa?" Naomi asked curiously, unaware the attractions on the popular Federation resort planet were of the adult variety.

"Never mind," the three adults all blurted, causing Naomi to frown. Adults were really odd.


"Here to help again?" B'Elanna asked dryly, glancing up from the warp core control panel to the ex-Borg as she entered Engineering.

"Though I am certain you could use it, I am here to obtain your assistance."

"You know, Seven, it's usually a good idea to avoid the insults until after you've obtained someone's assistance," B'Elanna responded.

"That would be more efficient," she acknowledged. "Will you help me?"

"Since I've never thought I'd actually hear you ask - sure, why not."

"I would like to know about Chief Engel."

"Chief Engel? Of Gamma Shift?"



"You agreed to help, not question my request," Seven said tersely.

B'Elanna sighed, glancing to the panel to tap in a few adjustments. "You know his evaluations are available to senior staff. . . ."

"I have read them."


"I wish to know more about . . . the person."

"Chief Engel," B'Elanna said flatly, looking at her, still baffled as to why the Chief had gained the Borg's attention.

Seven took a long annoyed breath. "Yes."

"He's a nice guy, reliable, dedicated, loyal," B'Elanna said easily with a shrug.

"You make him sound like a . . . pet," Seven said, distastefully.

"Look, if you don't like my opinion of him, get your own," B'Elanna said with annoyance, shaking her head and returning her attention to the control panel.


Kathryn tossed in her bed with a groan. She was motionless for a brief moment, then tossed again. The harder she tried to sleep, the more elusive it was.

"Damnit!" She growled as she hurled her pillow across the room and whipped the sheets away. She sat up and picked up the empty hypospray on the nightstand with annoyance. The neural blocker was supposed to have settled her active mind and let get her some rest, she thought, also tossing it across the room in frustration.

"UGH!" She blurted, angrily jumping out of bed.

Her mind just wouldn't stop thinking. The caretaker, the Equinox, the situation with the Granarians, then every questionable decision she had ever made, then . . . Seven.

Dear GOD that woman could even make eating purple gruel a sexual experience, the Captain thought with a groan and went to her replicator. "Scotch, neat." Instead of providing the liquid sedative, it tweeped and blurped oddly, leaving her with no drink and more aggravation.

Resting her head and hands against the uncooperative device in defeat, she growled "B'Elanna."

Taking a calming breath, she marched into her ensuite and looked into the mirror, prompting a groan at her tired, disheveled appearance. She splashed some water on her face and kept her hands pressed against her eyes. When she looked at the mirror again, she now faced a tired and wet disheveled reflection.

After running her brush through her hair a few times to become less disheveled, she dared another look into the mirror, finding a passable image. With a sigh she blurted "might as well see what's going on," and returned to her bedroom to change back into her uniform.


Hearing someone approach, B'Elanna sighed. "So? Get your own opinion about him yet, Seven?"

"I'd be surprised if Seven didn't already have an opinion about everyone and everything," Captain Janeway said, startling the engineer.

"Captain?!?" B'Elanna blurted.

"How are you this evening, B'Elanna?" The Captain said with a thin smile that signaled to the engineer something was not working.

"Don't tell me, the Mark 256?"

"Actually, no, not this time. Would you believe my replicator doesn't seem to want to give me that calming drink I wanted to help me get some sleep?" Janeway said evenly, causing the Klingon to cringe. "Do you think you could possibly put that on your "to-do" list?"

"Yes, Ma'am. Right away!"

"Good, good. I'll be touring the decks. You'll be able to get it fixed before I return to my quarters?" She asked with excruciating politeness.

"O . . . of course, Captain."

"Thank you, B'Elanna," Captain Janeway said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"Yes, ma'am," B'Elanna said uncomfortably and watched the Captain leave.

When the doors swooshed shut, the Klingon hissed a curse and grabbed her tool kit, promptly leaving for the Captain's quarters.


Having covered all the decks, her curiosity about the Mark 256 service panel situation finally got to her.

"Hello, Chief," Captain Janeway said as she climbed up next to him in the Jefferies tube.

"Captain, I thought you were trying to be unpredictable," he said with a smirk as he used his tricorder to scan the panel.

"If you predicted I'd be unpredictable and I wasn't, then I actually was," she said with great authority.

"Ah," he said with a chuckle.

"Any progress on our favorite panel?"

Looking at the readings, he eyed her. "There hasn't been anything out of the ordinary tonight, Captain. Well, unless you count the traffic through the Jefferies tubes these days," he joked.

She looked at him curiously. "Traffic?"

"Seven stopped by earlier," he said, closing his scanner and returning it to his diagnostics kit. "Unfortunately, she didn't volunteer any advice on the panels, though that wasn't why she stopped by."

"What did she want?" Captain Janeway asked with surprise.

"I'm not really sure. She was asking about my family," he said uncomfortably.

She was asking a lot about him in the mess hall, Kathryn recalled, thinking it was just her attempt at small talk. Then there was B'Elanna's comment about getting an opinion on a "him" and now this. Was Seven actually interested in Chief Engel, she wondered with growing unease.

"It kind of . . ." he said, then hesitated.

"Kind of . . . what?"

"Gave me the creeps," he said uneasily.

"Really," Captain Janeway said flatly, her eyes narrowing.

"I didn't mean . . . . I know she's not Borg now. But, I lost family to them. It's kind of hard to forget, you know?" He said with a shrug.

Her face softened as she exhaled wearily. "Did you tell her about your family?"

"She asked about them. I told her," he said uneasily. She nodded.

"Good night, Chief," Captain Janeway said softly and retreated from the Jefferies tube.


As Kathryn entered cargo bay two, she was still undecided about whether she should interrupt Seven's regeneration to see if she was all right. But she didn't have to decide. She stopped in her tracks, startled to find Seven's alcove empty.

Tapping her com badge, she asked "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in holodeck 2."

After a thoughtful moment, she headed towards holodeck 2, needing to see Seven.

Chapter 4 - Holodeck 2

"You seem distracted," Chakotay said softly to his beautiful date as they danced to a slow tune in a darkened nightclub. Seven pulled back and eyed him with annoyance.

"Am I not performing this dance adequately?"

"Of course you are, Seven. It's just . . . you don't seem to be enjoying the moment," he said softly.

"You are correct. I am not," Seven said, surprising him. "We do not have . . . chemistry," she declared confidently. Though she still wasn't sure what it was, exactly, she was sure she did not have it with Chakotay.

"We haven't been dating long, Seven," he offered with mild amusement at her bluntness. "Sometimes it takes time to get to know someone to discover that chemistry," Chakotay said with an indulgent smile.

"Do you believe in love at first sight?" She asked pointedly.

"Uh . . . I suppose it could happen."

"Would that event not suggest "chemistry" is an instantaneous phenomenon?"

"You seem to be connecting chemistry with love, which may not be the case. And neither chemistry nor love can be measured or predicted, there are too many variables," he said with amusement at her frown.


"Besides, love at first sight isn't a very good example. Many humans don't experience it - for them, chemistry and love need to evolve over time, as people learn about each other."

"While I would agree love may not occur instantaneously, I am inclined to think "chemistry" between people is of a more immediate nature - and a necessary foundation for love."

"Are you concerned you are not in love with me yet?" Chakotay guessed softly, then offered "You know, love has no time table, Seven."

Seven looked at him and tilted her head thoughtfully. "Commander, our interactions have been -enlightening. However, we do not have the "chemistry" necessary to warrant continuation of this exercise."

"Exercise?? Seven . . . ," he said with mild annoyance.

"Computer, delete Chakotay character," Seven blurted and sighed with relief as the stifling character disappeared. She was grateful she had not extended the exercise beyond the holodeck.

"Computer, activate program Seven, Alpha - Omega."

The holodeck transformed the dark, smoky nightclub into a starry Indiana evening. It was Captain Janeway's home, or at least a reasonable facsimile. Something about the place intrigued her. Though intensely curious about how close her Indiana construct came to the real thing or the Captain's own program, she refrained from accessing the Captain's personal database - somehow knowing it was something she should be invited to see.

Seven looked up into the starry sky with frustration, wondering if the Captain's invitation to visit her home when they arrived at Earth would ever be mentioned again or even worse, retracted. The Chief was obviously uncomfortable around her, which was understandable as some of his family had been assimilated. It would be logical for the Captain to stop spending time with her to avoid an uncomfortable situation with the Chief. She sighed uneasily at the sudden, disturbing feeling of loss.

The holodeck computer tweeped, interrupting her thoughts.

"Computer, who is requesting entrance?"

"Captain Janeway."

Seven's eyes widened. She looked around the Indiana farm uneasily. "Computer, activate program Seven gamma 3."

The computer immediately transformed the Indiana evening into a pristine laboratory, which was clearly visible from the holodeck door that she opened for the Captain.

"Captain," she said firmly. "How may I be of assistance?" Seven's discomfort increased under the look of scrutiny from the Captain.

"You know, Seven, I could lecture you about the unhealthy side effects of skipping your regeneration cycle. But I won't," Kathryn said with a smug smile.

"And I could thank you," Seven responded with a raised ocular implant.

Kathryn chuckled. "Am I interrupting anything?" She asked, curiously glancing inside the impressive laboratory, wondering if some experiment was the reason Seven was regularly spending time in the holodeck.


"I'm not? What are you doing in the lab?"

"I . . . I'm not sure yet," Seven admitted, surprising the Captain. "Would you care to come in?"

Janeway eyed her curiously, then smiled warmly at the invitation and stepped inside the holo-lab.

"Did you know holodecks can also be used for recreation, Seven?" Kathryn asked dryly, picking up and inspecting a spectral scanner.

"I am aware, Captain," Seven answered with a sigh and explained. "Besides our velocity matches, the Doctor has encouraged me to run a variety of programs to explore various forms of recreation which are popular among the crew."

"And a sterile lab is what you came up with? I think you need to recheck your data," Janeway said with amusement, getting a frown from Seven.

"I would welcome any recommendations you have, Captain," she said with mild annoyance.

"How about we go for a walk. Someplace a little less . . . sterile?" Kathryn said, getting an accepting nod from the taller woman.

"Computer, activate Janeway alpha one."

The laboratory was transformed into a green field with a welcoming farm house in the background. The sun hung low during the final hours of the day, peaking through a few puffy cumulus clouds that cast a warm pastel blanket over the sky.

"Indiana," Seven stating with reverence, noting the scenery was much richer than in her program.

"Yes," Janeway responded with surprise at Seven's recognition, then added with a smirk. "I don't always roam the decks and Jefferies tubes at night. Sometimes I come here."

Seven looked at the Captain with a frown. She wanted to tell the Captain that she shouldn't roam anywhere when she should be sleeping, but refrained. She did not want to cut short her time with the Captain because of an argument, uncertain if she would have another opportunity to spend time with the Captain in the future.

"It is very beautiful," she said instead.

Janeway grinned at Seven. "I appreciate the effort not to nag me about sleeping, Seven. I know it is difficult for you."

"It would be less difficult if you did not bait me," Seven replied with frustration.

Kathryn's amusement vanished, knowing she was doing just that. "You're right. I'm sorry," she said sincerely, dropping her eyes guiltily.

"Apology accepted," Seven said softly. "And thank you for admitting I'm right. I know it is difficult for you."

Kathryn's head shot up at the surprising comment. Seeing the playful challenge in Seven's eyes, an amused grin emerged.

"Actually, admitting you're right isn't that hard, Seven. It's the admitting I'm wrong part - that's what I have trouble with," Kathryn blurted, the truthful joke surprising the young woman.

"Isn't there a saying - practice makes perfect?"

"So I hear," Kathryn said with amusement, then motioned towards the path leading to the farm house. "Shall we?"

Seven nodded and walked with the Captain.


"Chief Engel's family was assimilated," Seven said bluntly, shattering the long span of companionable silence as they walked to the welcoming wooden farm house.

"I know," Kathryn said softly as they stepped onto the large porch. "I saw him this evening. He mentioned your visit."

Seven cringed slightly, knowing she should get used to the fact the Captain was going to spend time with Chief Engel - even if she had no idea why the Captain would wish to spend her time with the unsuitable man.

Captain Janeway sat on the porch swing as Seven eyed the swing's structural integrity with skepticism. Kathryn patted the seat beside her, inviting the wary woman to sit.

"He's . . . a nice man," Kathryn offered uncomfortably as Seven finally sat, wondering why Seven would choose him, out of all the crew members.

"And reliable," Seven said flatly.

"Yes, yes. And . . . loyal," Kathryn offered diplomatically, then cringed, thinking she made him sound like a pet. The more she thought about the man's attributes, the less Seven's interest in him made sense. Seven needed someone who would challenge her on all fronts, yet continue to nurture and encourage her growth and development. While unable to find those attributes in the Chief, Kathryn vowed to be supportive of her young friend, who was obviously troubled by her recent interaction with the much older man.

"Loyal," Seven repeated neutrally, knowing loyalty was important to the Captain. Expecting the Captain to inform her it would be uncomfortable to have her around with the Chief, Seven frowned, not feeling well.

"Are you all right?" Kathryn asked, gently placing a hand on Seven's forearm. Seven looked down at the hand of the woman who provoked so many feelings from her.

"I am functioning within . . . ," she said and looked up into the Captain's concerned eyes. Sadness washed over the young woman. "No," Seven admitted in an agonized whisper.

"Oh Seven," Kathryn said with a heavy heart, wanting to throttle the Chief. "If someone can't accept you for the remarkable person you are, they're fools and they certainly don't deserve you," Kathryn said with conviction, though still confused by Seven's interest in the much older Chief. But then, Kathryn readily acknowledged she was no expert when it came to matters of the heart.

Seven looked at her with surprise and hope. "You do not intend to stop our velocity matches or philosophical discussions?"

Kathryn looked at her in confusion. "Why would I do that?"

"Chief Engel's family was assimilated." Seven's gaze dropped to her lap.

The Captain was still very confused, which she attributed to her lack of sleep or perhaps that neural blocker which might have finally started to kick in. However, knowing this recent revelation really bothered Seven, an overwhelming desire to help the young woman made her ignore her confusion and plow ahead.

"You can't be blamed for all things Borg, Seven," Kathryn said passionately. "And if someone thinks you're still the Borg that would assimilate their families," she said, tenderly lifting the beautiful woman's chin up to look into questioning eyes. "I'll set them straight," Kathryn promised firmly.

The gentle touch and heartfelt vow from the Captain washed over her like . . . no other sensation with which she could compare. It affected her nerve endings over every square centimeter of her skin, pooling in startling concentrations in her erogenous zones, even down to her toes. It affected her heart and lungs, causing a notable increase in heart rate and uneasy breath.

"Kathryn! Have you brought someone home for a visit without letting me prepare?!?" The older woman called through the screen door, startling the Captain and former Borg, who was disappointed when Kathryn promptly removed her hand from her face.

Kathryn growled at the interruption. As she took a breath to delete the program's characters, Seven interrupted.

"Captain, please. I wish to meet your mother."

"You're kidding," Captain Janeway said flatly. Seven shook her head, surprising the Captain.

"Where are your manners, Katie! I taught you better than this," Gretchen scolded her as the tall, older woman emerged onto the porch to join them.

Kathryn and Seven stood from the swing, wincing as the screen door slammed loudly behind the elder Janeway.

"Mother, this is Seven of Nine, my Astrometrics officer," Captain Janeway said, indulging her friend.

"Seven. What a lovely and perfect number," Gretchen said warmly, making Kathryn roll her eyes at her mother, which amused the former Borg.

"Seven of Nine, my mother, Gretchen Janeway."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Mrs. Janeway. I've read your paper on the application of quadramentional variables to orthogonal spatial arrays," Seven said surprising both Janeways, each blurting "you did?"

"It was very informative," Seven added, awkwardly holding out her hand, which was ignored as the elder mathematician embraced the unsuspecting blond.

"She's beautiful and smart!" Gretchen announced with approval, stepping back and looking over the tall blond, who was finally able to glance at the Captain with surprise.

"Don't look at me. That's what you get for reading her work," Kathryn joked uncomfortably.

"Mind your tongue young lady. You may be a starship Captain, but I am still your mother and capable of making your life miserable," Gretchen said sternly.

"Yes, Ma'am," Kathryn said, shrugging under Seven's amused gaze.

"I am so happy to meet a friend of Katie's. She never brings anyone home with her," Gretchen complained to the tall blond. "I worry she is doesn't stop to smell the roses often enough." Seven once again eyed the Captain curiously.

"Mother. . . ."

"I shall endeavor to get the Captain to "stop and smell the roses." However, I am unsure how successful I will be. I have yet to convince her to get sufficient sleep," Seven eyed the Captain critically, causing the Captain to sigh.

Gretchen snickered, eyeing Seven's tall form than glancing to Kathryn with a sly smile. "Well, dear, I can certainly understand why she doesn't sleep. . . ."

"Mother," Kathryn interrupted uneasily. "If you don't mind, we would like to have some privacy to talk," she blurted, getting the older woman to glare at her with that familiar stern look the Captain often used. The family resemblance was striking, Seven thought with fascination.

"Uh huh. Well, be sure to bring her by when you have time for your mother, Kathryn. I would like to get to know your Seven of Nine," Gretchen said, looking at the young woman with a warm smile.

"I would enjoy that," Seven said honestly. "Goodbye, Mrs. Janeway."

"Good bye, Seven," she said, then added conspiratorially "Don't let her get too bossy."

"Computer, delete characters," Kathryn blurted said with an irritated sigh. "Uh . . . would you believe she's like that in real life too? Mother did all the programming. It was supposedly a gift, though sometimes I wonder if it's not a punishment," Kathryn muttered self-consciously.

"I enjoyed the visit," Seven countered. "Though I did not intend for your discomfort."

"I . . . I just forgot the characters were active," Captain Janeway sputtered, thankful her nosey mother didn't say anything else that might require an explanation that Kathryn didn't want to have to provide.

Seven eyed her curiously. "You have not brought anyone here?"

Kathryn looked at her uneasily as she leaned against the railing. "You," Kathryn offered with an awkward shrug.

"Not Chief Engel?"

"Why would I . . . ??" Captain Janeway asked, then paused, eyeing her oddly as the normally perceptive Captain finally started to put some of the pieces together. "You think . . . Chief Engel and I . . . are involved?"

"You are not?" Seven asked with a flicker of hope.

Kathryn was amazed she could have been so off in her suspicions about Seven and the Chief. Good God, her lack of sleep really was affecting her reasoning, she thought, knowing Seven and the Chief were nowhere near compatible. What WAS she thinking, Kathryn wondered. For that matter, Kathryn considered, what the hell was Seven thinking??

"And you concluded that from your "data" collection?" The Captain asked, dumbfounded.

Seven shook her head. "No. I would not have considered the possibility until the mess hall today - when I overheard your conversation with Chief Engel," she admitted uncomfortably.

"Oh," she blurted as she recalled the conversation. "Oh, how rich!" Kathryn said as laughter bubbled up.

Seven stared at her, failing to find the humor and wanting a definitive answer. "Where you not discussing things . . . of a personal nature with the Chief?"

"Actually, Seven, we were discussing the Mark 256 panel," Kathryn said with amusement.

"I . . . did not know," Seven said torn between feeling foolish and relieved.

"Obviously," she said dryly. "Chief Engel. Hmm. Not exactly my type . . ."

"I did not think so," Seven said with surprising certainty, feeling elated.

"But a nice man," Kathryn said quickly.

"With questionable taste in literature," Seven countered.

Kathryn had to chuckle. "Earth Western holonovels," Kathryn said, shaking her head with amusement, then quickly sobered and firmly offered "but he's a nice man."

"He is," Seven allowed, her spirits noticeably buoyed.

Kathryn's smile faded as she looked at the young woman. "Seven, your friendship means a great deal to me. It sounded like you expected me to just throw that away because of someone else's discomfort. I wouldn't do that," she said firmly. "I . . . value our time together," Kathryn added softly, knowing she was on a slippery slope, yet needing the woman to understand she was important. "I hope you know that."

Seven looked at the Captain, the words and sentiment filled her with joy. Unable to think of an adequate response, she simply nodded with a full smile.

If anyone still questioned whether this former drone had a beautiful soul had surely never seen her smile, Kathryn thought with appreciation, then cleared her throat. "Well, if you are determined to avoid regenerating, you are welcome to stay and use the program. I can even reactivate a neighbor's cow for you to milk, if you're game," the Captain offered with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"I will regenerate. It is important to get the appropriate amount of rest to function properly - as you know."

Kathryn grinned. "So I'm told. Shall we?" Kathryn motioned to the holodeck exit.

Seven nodded and quietly walked with her friend through Voyager's corridor.

"Have you ever milked a cow?" The Captain asked conversationally, barely withholding an amused grin.

"The Borg do not milk cows," Seven said firmly, not the least bit inclined to try.

"Huh," Captain Janeway said thoughtfully, making Seven sigh, knowing Kathryn, for some reason, was now thinking of a way to convince her she should.

Chapter 5 - Uninvited Guests

Captain Janeway started to feel every hour she had not slept in the past month suddenly catch up with her as she entered her quarters. "Computer, lights 30%," she said and slowly ambled to her replicator. "Scotch, neat," she ordered weakly, causing the replicator to tweep and blurp.

Janeway blinked and looked at the empty replicator with disappointment, B'Elanna had not yet fixed it. Too tired to get angry, she rubbed her temples as she sat on her couch.

Well Seven certainly charmed her mother, Kathryn thought, then chuckled, considering it wasn't difficult when you've read mom's papers. She hoped that one day Seven would actually meet her mother. Though it would be harder to stop her from saying something she shouldn't, Kathryn thought wryly, knowing she wouldn't be able to conveniently tell the computer to delete her mother.

Now, how was she going to convince Seven to milk a cow, she wondered with a grin. Or more importantly, convince Seven she wanted to milk a cow, Kathryn amended with amusement, pondering her next project.

Her grin faded when she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. Glancing around her room, she found nothing. Though tired and her eyes bleary, she was certain she wasn't seeing things. That odd tingle at the nape of her neck warned her something or someone was in the room with her. She became more alert as adrenalin, as well as anger, coursed through her. There was nothing worse than an uninvited guest on your ship, except perhaps an uninvited guest in your quarters.

The ship shook violently as a photon torpedo exploded against Voyager.


"Shields up!! Report!" Chakotay barked as a second round of torpedoes impacted.

"Two Granarian vessels have appeared on our port side," Harry said. "Apparently they have cloaking technology."

"Can you get a lock to return fire?" Chakotay asked Tuvok.

"An approximate location."

"Fire at will." Chakotay said with annoyance, wanting to do some damage.

Tuvok nodded and fired a round of phaser shots. "Phasers missed. Attempting photon torpedoes, maximum spread," Tuvok announced.

Chakotay nodded, hoping that would deter further attacks.

The Voyager shook after taking another hit. "See him?!?" Harry blurted with excitement as the Granarian vessel lost cloaking ability.

"Indeed." Tuvok fired a volley of phasers and torpedoes, which hit their target, sending it up into thousands of white-hot pieces. Voyager shook from the energy wave from the explosion.

"Shields?" Chakotay asked Harry.

"Holding at 95%."

The first officer tapped his com badge. "Chakotay to Janeway, you're missing all the fun," he said sarcastically, wondering where she was. Not hearing a response, he tried again. "Chakotay to Janeway."

"Sir, the remaining vessel is breaking off their attack and retreating," Harry offered with surprise as the Granarian ship jumped to warp.

"Computer, locate Captain Janeway," Chakotay asked.

"Captain Janeway is not onboard," the computer responded.

Tuvok did a quick scan. "There is are two life signs in the Captain's quarters," he said.

"GO," Chakotay barked.


Tuvok stood with two security officers at Captain Janeway's door and requested entry. After a short moment with no response from the Captain, he commanded "Computer, security override, authorization Tuvok PI Epsilon Alpha."

"Authorization confirmed, access granted."

The doors whooshed open and Tuvok slowly entered the Captain's darkened quarters with his phaser drawn, followed by the security detail. "Computer, lights 100%," Tuvok ordered.

The sight of broken personal effects and furniture knocked over was not a good sign.

"Captain Janeway, please respond," Tuvok called in a loud, clear voice, getting no response. He motioned for his detail to spread out.

"Commander," one officer called to him with alarm, finding signs of a bloody struggle. The coffee table had shattered into pieces of blood-soaked glass. Seeing the trail of blood lead to the Captain's bedroom, Tuvok moved into position at the doorway. On the silent count of three, he rushed into the room with his backups to find two bodies on the floor. One was Captain Janeway.

"Computer, emergency beam out to Sickbay. Three to transport," Tuvok said tightly and dematerialized with the Captain and dead Granarian.


Behind a containment force field in sickbay, a Granarian male lay dead.

On the other side of sickbay, Captain Janeway lay unconscious on the surgical table, her critical condition demanded the Doctor's immediate attention.

Tuvok turned to his security detail, who watched the Doctor swiftly take readings and prepare the Captain for surgery.

"Begin a review of the ship's sensors for any indication of how the intruder boarded undetected. I will join you shortly," the Vulcan ordered. The security officers nodded and left with worried expressions on their faces, which matched those of the new arrivals. Tom Paris quickly entered sickbay, with Chakotay and Seven following closely behind.

Ensign Paris, the helmsman and part-time medic quietly took his side by the Doctor. Stepping through the biofilter surrounding the surgical bed, he efficiently prepared for surgery.

"Report," Chakotay softly said to Tuvok, who proceeded as if he were merely reading a menu, not discussing a brutal attack upon the Captain.

"An intruder was found in the Captain's quarters. The method of entry is unknown. There was no indication of transporter or power fluctuations in the vicinity. There was also no indication of phaser activity. There was a struggle, multiple objects were broken, including the glass coffee table and the Captain's Com badge. Captain Janeway sustained four severe stab wounds over the course of the struggle. Her lung, kidney and liver were severely damaged. However, she had managed to fatally wound the Granarian with a shard of glass, piercing his heart. The blood trail indicated the Captain proceeded to her bedroom, where she keeps her weapon. She never retrieved it."

"How could they have come on board without us detecting them?" Chakotay asked, looking at Tuvok accusingly, struggling to keep his anger at bay.

"Security is scanning the Captain's quarters for evidence and reviewing all sensor logs as we speak. Until we determine the method of boarding, we are susceptible to another occurrence. I recommend a yellow alert with personnel carrying small arms, until further notice," Tuvok advised.

Chakotay nodded briskly, his eyes glancing at Tuvok before focusing on Captain Janeway and the flurry of activity around the surgical bed. When he looked at Seven, he could see anger bubbling beneath her cool exterior from her tense jaw and narrow eyes as she intently watched.

"Seven, I'm going to need your help to figure out what the hell happened," Chakotay softly said to Seven, who glanced at him with cold eyes, not inclined to move one millimeter away from her Captain because of the Executive Officer. "You know she'll expect answers when she wakes up," he added. "We don't have any at the moment."

His statements were accurate, Seven considered. They did need to protect the ship and her crew from further boardings, Captain Janeway would want an answer immediately to ensure her crew's safety, and they would more quickly eliminate the threat with her help. However, as illogical as it was, all those considerations seemed to pale in comparison to her need to be near the injured woman. Her stormy emotions were most unnerving, prompting a strong feeling envy for the Vulcans and their ability to control them.

"Understood," she said with reluctance and gazed at the Captain an uneasy moment before she left to solve this . . . conundrum.


Seven stood in Astrometrics staring at the large star chart displayed before her, though not really seeing it. She blinked and looked down at her console, tapping in a lengthy string of data. A simulation of Voyager and the two Granarian ships appeared, their locations through the short battle slowly retraced.

Looking up at the simulation, which slowly repeated the ships' motions and weapons fire, she recalled the last time she was in the holodeck with the Captain, only hours before. In a short period, she had experienced an incredible range of sensations - from feeling sick with sadness at the expected loss of friendship, to a surprisingly strong physical reaction to her gentle touch and words of support, to relief that the Chief was not her chosen mate, to joy, learning that their friendship was truly valued by the older woman. And now the Captain was undergoing surgery because she was attacked in her own quarters. Anger welled up as she thought about her Captain having to fight off the attacker. She should have been there to protect her. If she had, the Captain would not be fighting for her life now, she thought as her fists clenched tightly.

The door to the Astrometrics lab swooshed open and the engineer came in. "Any progress??" B'Elanna asked and stood beside Seven at her console, gazing at the simulation.

"I do not seem to be able to focus on the problem at hand."

B'Elanna nodded. "I heard she took out the Granarian slime with her coffee table. She really liked that table. Just shows that you don't ever want to get on her bad side," the engineer joked with admiration.

"She could die," the former Borg said tightly, not amused.

"She's not going to die, Seven," B'Elanna said dismissively. "But she might kill us if we don't come up with something. I'm going to check on the sensor logs on the weapons fire. They might have done something to their weapons that enabled a transport."

Seven eyed her. "Highly unlikely. The sensors would have detected any power surges of the magnitude needed to penetrate the shields."

"Well then, when you can focus long enough on the problem to come up with a theory of your own, let me know," B'Elanna snapped. "Meanwhile, I'm going to check the logs," she announced and marched out of Astrometrics.

Taking a deep breath, Seven tried to clear her thoughts and focus on the task at hand. With another deep breath, she once again stared at the images of the ships, still not really seeing them. Rare moisture collected in her eyes, causing her to blink. A tear spilled down her cheek as the tendrils of fear gripped her heart. The Borg never thought twice about the death of an individual. If the collective lost one, another would quickly replace them. But Captain Janeway could never be replaced....


When the Doctor was finished with the operation, he glanced at Tom, who sighed with relief as he monitored her vital signs. A tough woman, he thought, considering how she had managed to defend herself with a broken piece of glass. His first encounter with her was a perfect example of the kind of woman she was - a woman who knew how to get the advantage, even if it called for rather unconventional methods. Not every Captain would get a convict released and assigned to her crew, the recruited pilot mused with appreciation. Looking at his Captain now, he couldn't help but notice how fragile she seemed, something he was sure the proud woman would not appreciate anyone noticing.

"Mr. Tuvok, this is the Doctor. The surgery has just finished and I'm about to revive her."

"Understood," Tuvok said, entering Sickbay a few moments later. He approached the surgical bed and looked at the Emergency Medical Hologram with a nod to proceed with the reviving.

The EMH applied a hypospray to Captain Janeway's neck. Within seconds, her eyelids fluttered.


"How's she doing?" Chakotay asked the EMH as he entered sickbay and looked at the Captain. He glanced to Tuvok and B'Elanna curiously.

"She's in stasis now. . . ." the Doctor said uncomfortably, glancing at Tuvok.

"Stasis? Will she live?" Chakotay asked uneasily as Seven of Nine entered the Sickbay.

"The chances are very good," the Doctor pronounced confidently, looking at B'Elanna and Tuvok. "An unknown chemical with viral properties was introduced into her system. I've placed her in stasis so I will have a better chance to determine its affect and antidote."

"Chemical? Is it a poison??" Chakotay asked.

"It doesn't appear to be a poison, but as I have said, I need to study it more."

"Would you be able to modify my nanoprobes to facilitate her recovery?" Seven asked, looking at the pale Captain on the table.

"While she's in status, the nanoprobes would not appreciably speed up her recovery. And I'm not going to take her out of status until I'm satisfied it won't do her harm," he said, glancing at B'Elanna and Tuvok. "However, let me extract a few and see what we can do," the Doctor offered diplomatically.

Seven nodded and the Doctor took a hypo spray and extracted the nanoprobes. "I will assist you."

"Uh Seven, I think the Doctor can handle this. I need your help with a theory I have about the undetected boarding," B'Elanna blurted uneasily.

"Your theory on a weapons modification is flawed as I have already told you," Seven said, not wanting to waste time.

"I have a new theory and it would be more efficient if you helped me instead of the Doctor."

"New theory?" Seven asked torn about staying with the Captain and solving the boarding problem, which she knew was important to the Captain.

"Yes. I have a gut feel about those Mark 256 panels," she said and started to march out, surprising Seven. Turning, she eyed the tall blond. "Well? Would you like an engraved invitation?"

Seven looked back to the Captain with worry, then the doctor. "Seven, I recommend you help LT Torres. I'm fine here," the Doctor said, holding up the hypospray with nanoprobes with a smile.

"We're not making much progress determining how they came onboard, you know the Captain won't be happy about that," Chakotay offered.

Seven sighed. "Very well," she said and left with B'Elanna.

Chakotay looked at the Doctor. "Keep me posted on any changes," he said.

"Will do," the doctor said with a smile as Commander Chakotay left.

"I guess I should go too, since there's nothing left for me to do," Tom said, warily eyeing the patient in the bed.

"Mr. Paris," the Doctor said as the man started to leave. Tom turned tiredly. "Thank you," the EMH said simply, getting a surprised look from the medic.

"No problem, Doc. Just hope we don't have to do something like that again any time soon," he said with a smirk.

"With our Captain, one never knows," the doctor muttered, getting a snort from Tom, who shook his head and left.

The Doctor looked at Tuvok. "Now, we wait and see," Tuvok said and left the Doctor alone.

"Well I'm not going anywhere," he muttered with irritation.


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