A Fine Line

A Star Trek Voyager Story

By Enginerd

Chapter 6 - The Mark 256 Personal Hygiene Ship's Service Panel

"Shouldn't we go to Engineering?" Seven asked as B'Elanna opened the hatch to a Jefferies tube.

"We've got what we need here," she said, holding up a tricorder. "Former Borgs first," B'Elanna said with a smirk, motioning for Seven to go first.

Seven stared at her a moment, then sighed and proceeded to climb into the Jefferies tube. Glancing behind, Seven noted the engineer was fatigued and had a pained grimace on her face. "Are you all right?"

"I . . . I'm just tired," B'Elanna offered uneasily. "And a bit sore," she added before she could sensor herself.

Seven eyed her with disapproval, believing LT Torres should exercise more restraint with Mr. Paris. "Are you planning to share your theory?" Seven asked impatiently as they arrived at the panel.

"The ship's systems are what I'm interested in. Did you know the power for the Mark 256 panels for the thirteenth deck, the replicators on the second deck, and the hull temperature sensors happen to trace back to the same power conduit?"

"Yes. The design is inefficient," Seven said with disapproval. "And there is no documentation on the purpose behind such a design."

B'Elanna smiled. "Whether we like it or not, Starfleet designers and engineers rarely give the same scrutiny to secondary and tertiary systems as they do to propulsion, life support, or transporter systems," she said then looked at her tricorder reading. "But I believe our Granarian friends have given our secondary systems more scrutiny than I would have liked . . . look."

Seven looked at the tricorder screen then the service panel. "There was a distinct degradation of power in the conduit, 2.3%," she said with interest.

B'Elanna nodded. "I'm sure the Granarians used it to get onboard. By tapping into the external hull temperature sensor, they somehow used the common power conduit as a carrier for a transporter signal. Ship's sensors wouldn't know to look at the power conduit for a transporter signal."

"And the norrinic gases have caused many disruptions, masking the power fluctuations," Seven said, fascinated at the conclusion.


"Impressive," Seven allowed.

"The Granarian's have better technology than we assumed from our scans . . . ," B'Elanna said with irritation.

"No, I was referring to your deduction."

"A day late and a dollar short, Seven," she said with a sigh. "The crew is still at risk. We need to figure out how they managed to re-materialize without alerting our sensors and get back our tactical advantage," B'Elanna said. "I would have never guessed they could have slipped through our defenses like this," she said with irritation, shaking her head.

"You are not the only one who failed to recognize their threat," Seven offered.

"Well, you'd expect the Captain of a starship, who is supposed to be seasoned in these sorts of things, to anticipate the threat, wouldn't you?" B'Elanna said with a heavy sigh, sparking an unmistakable anger in Seven's eyes.

"I was referring to myself, Tuvok, Chakotay, and yes the Captain," Seven said with annoyance. "The failure to recognize the threat resides in us all. You can not blame the Captain."

"Like hell I can't," B'Elanna responded with irritation.

"While the Captain is a highly capable individual, she cannot know everything, which is why she has a crew which she must rely on - like NOW," Seven said crisply, causing a sigh from the engineer.

"Look Seven," she said calmly and tried to explain, "the Captain will tell you herself - the responsibility for what happens on a ship ultimately lies with the Captain. It always has and it always will," B'Elanna said and added. "And if a Captain does not accept that ultimate responsibility, she has no business being Captain."

Seven eyed the engineer with great frustration, knowing Captain Janeway would agree with B'Elanna's assessment. However, she was not willing to so easily accept the argument of a single point of blame.

B'Elanna saw the former Borg's irritated look suddenly fade into concern. "The medical replicator can also be traced back to the same conduit," Seven said with alarm. "I must return to Sickbay immediately!"

"Seven, we need to figure out how they re-materialized," B'Elanna said uneasily.

"Were you not listening?!? The Captain could still be in danger!" Seven snapped and started to climb down the ladder.

"Seven . . ." B'Elanna exhaled with irritation, knowing she couldn't exactly tell the former-Borg not to worry, and followed her exodus from the Jefferies tube.


As the doctor, reviewed a Padd in his office, the replicator in Sickbay tweeped and blurped. A beam of light shot from the console to the ground, where a tall female, adorned in a variety of weapons, from ancient blades to modern blasters, materialized. Her clothing was as dark as her mood. Looking around, she spotted the surprisingly frail victor over her Oben laying on the bed in the back of the room.

Her hands trembled and she cursed Captain Taghra's name for beginning the conveyance. He prevented what she had wanted most, to serve him until her death. Pulling out her elaborately filigreed dagger, she sighed, hoping to complete what had been started by her Oben. As demanded by custom and honor, she approached the injured victor, silently chanting the words of the Harrik.


As Seven and B'Elanna climbed down from the Jefferies tube, all hell broke lose.

"Intruder alert, intruder alert," the computer announced neutrally as red lights flashed on the corridor walls and the crew scurried to their assigned station. "Security detail to Sickbay," Commander Tuvok's voice suddenly announced, causing Seven to stop like she had run into a wall.

"I have failed her again," Seven gasped with a sick feeling of fear and started for Sickbay.

"Seven!" B'Elanna firmly grabbing her arm and stopping her, not intimidated by the angered look she earned from the blond. "You have done no such thing! I . . . ," she said firmly, interrupted by a familiar voice that boomed in the corridor behind them, gaining the two women's attention.

"Let go of her!" The ship's engineer demanded, firmly holding a phaser on her double, whose hand was still clamped around the former-Borg's forearm.

The sight of two B'Elanna's stunned the tall blond, who looked between the two.

"Perfect," the double muttered, rolling her eyes and letting go. "B'Elanna, it's all right, I . . ." the double said tiredly, reaching for something on her arm, causing the startled engineer to fire.

As the double collapsed, Seven instinctively grabbed and eased the unconscious woman to the floor.

"Stand back from her, Seven," B'Elanna warned as she approached, holding her weapon on the unconscious double.

Seven did as instructed, considering it prudent not to provoke an armed Klingon.

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway," came over the fallen woman's com badge.

"Captain??" Seven gasped and searched her arm, quickly finding the holographic emitter. The former Borg glanced at B'Elanna before turning it off, revealing that the woman at her knees was Kathryn Janeway.



In a bright flash, Seven materialized in sickbay with Captain Janeway in her arms.

"What happened?!?" The EMH rushed over to the two as Seven carefully deposited her Captain on a biobed.

"LT Torres was . . . I believe the term is "trigger happy," Seven said tightly as a winded engineer burst through the door. Tuvok's pointed brow rose.

"You shot the Captain?? Do realize how many hours we just spent operating on her?!?" The EMH huffed as he opened his tricorder for a scan. "Hmmm," he said with a little relief there was no additional damage.

"I didn't mean . . . H . . . How was I supposed to know that a double of mine . . . I happen to see during an intruder alert . . . was the Captain!" She snapped, still winded, then winced when she eyed Tuvok, who sighed. He stood next to two other security officers, who were keeping a close eye on the intruder, who was trapped within a force field surrounding the surgical bed containing the holo-image of the Captain.

The Granarian, prostrating at the side of the surgical bed in deference to the victor, grew confused when she watched the unconscious woman just brought in by the tall blond. Her eyes darted between the twin Captains.

"This whole . . . double plan was to catch her?" B'Elanna said, still winded from running through the ship to Sickbay. The engineer eyed the surprisingly attractive assassin curiously as she calmly and cautiously stood, her eyes focused on the Captain and Seven. The Klingon noted the dark-haired Granarian appeared formidable but weak. Perhaps from the Captain's retaliation, B'Elanna thought with pride.

"Indeed," Tuvok said, tilting his head slightly, watching the prisoner curiously as she gently touched the holographic image's shoulder and quickly retracted her hand with a startled gasp when she found it wasn't solid.

"How many more do we expect?" Seven asked, her eyes never leaving the Captain. How could she not have known it was her, Seven wondered with frustration. All of the indications were there, her manner of speech, her guilt over things she could not have predicted . . . if she had only listened, she would have known and prevented this.

"Unknown. However, from the information the Captain provided, we believe this Granarian is the remaining member of the assassination team that injured her," Tuvok offered.

Finished his examination and unable to delay the inevitable, the Doctor sighed and placed a hypospray at the Captain's neck and injected a stimulant, quickly waking his most difficult patient. Like most of the crew, the Captain was a much better patient when unconscious.

"Oh God," Kathryn croaked, her hand shooting up to her head. B'Elanna cringed - from both the moan and Seven's cold glare directed at her.

"I told you it wasn't a good idea to leave Sickbay," the Doctor scolded. "But did you listen??" he said, thankful the stun from the phaser had not caused any complications to her recently healed wounds.

"Did we get him?" the Captain asked, ignoring him as she glanced over at the surgical area and tried to blink away the blurry effects of the phaser.

"Her," Tuvok corrected. "And yes, our trap was successful, Captain," Tuvok offered, glancing to the Granarian, who stared at the Captain, agitated.

"Captain, please lie down," the Doctor said with frustration as the stubborn Captain sat up with a grimace. "We've captured the Granarian and you need your rest."

"Is my fatigue life threatening?" Janeway asked, eyeing the unsuccessful assassin curiously. The captive's intense focus on her made her feel uncomfortable, but she'd be damned if she'd show it. She was comforted by the fact that there was a force field around their guest, a few security guards, and a former Borg, who was thankfully on her side.

"It will take longer for a full recovery if you don't rest," he argued.

"Noted," she said curtly, making it clear she was not intending to rest just yet.

"Why do I bother?" he muttered to himself, shaking his head as he put away his instruments. Seven sighed, also not pleased the Captain did not comply with the Doctor's recommendations.

The captive looked back at the holo-image, then at the Captain. With a determined step towards the Captain, she prompted the guards to reflexively point their phasers towards the woman. However, the force field did its job, zapping her as she collided into the invisible boundary.

The Captain stiffened in alarm at the surprising advance towards her. She almost jumped again when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Quickly looking at the owner of that hand, she found a confident blue gaze accompanied by a reassuring squeeze of her shoulder. Upon that silent promise of protection, Captain Janeway visibly relaxed and returned her gaze to the prisoner.

Seven's pleased smile was short-lived when the Granarian reached out hesitantly, touching the force field, which provided her with a minor zap. A look of worry filled the captured woman's face. With an uneasy sigh, the Granarian stepped back then charged the force field, and held her body against it, pleading "Oben, please. . . ." before she collapsed unconscious.

Kathryn grimaced and watched with Seven as the Doctor enter the force field and tend to the Granarian.

"Well, she's not afraid of pain," B'Elanna said with a wince.

"Curious," Tuvok said.

The Doctor scanned the unconscious Granarian. "Curious, is the word all right," the Doctor said, reading his tricorder. He inactivated the force field and glared at the guards. "Don't just stand there, get her up on the bed," The EMH barked at the guards, who promptly did as ordered. Tuvok took the opportunity to divest the prisoner of her weapons.

Trying to gain some control of this situation, Kathryn eyed her engineer.

"B'Elanna," Kathryn said, still rubbing her temple.

B'Elanna's eyes widened and head snapped towards the Captain, almost having forgot she had just shot her. "Look Captain, I'm really sorry. I didn't know it was you and we were in the middle of an intruder alert and when you reached for the holo-emitter, I was sure you were grabbing for a weapon and I just . . . ," she blurted quickly.

"B'Elanna - stop! I need you to eliminate our vulnerability to uninvited guests."

"Oh. Right. I think I know how they did it," B'Elanna responded with relief. "The Mark 256 panels have the same main power conduit as the replicators and hull temperature sensors. I think they could have used the power conduit as a carrier for a transporter signal."

Seven and the Captain looked at each other, then B'Elanna with surprise. "What?? So I haven't worked out all the details on how they rematerialize but it's the only explanation I could come up with," B'Elanna said defensively.

Kathryn sighed wearily. "Good thinking, B'Elanna. We need to come up with a defense as soon as possible. I suspect our guest won't be forthcoming with their secrets when she regains consciousness."

"Yes ma'am," B'Elanna said, relieved the Captain wasn't going to throw her in the brig - or worse. As she started to leave, the Captain called to her. "Lieutenant?"

"I'm hoping your solution is as quick as your trigger finger," Captain Janeway eyed her.

"Yes ma'am," B'Elanna exhaled heavily, thinking the brig might not be that bad.

As B'Elanna left, Captain Janeway said to Seven "You should help her."

Seven looked at Captain Janeway with irritation. "We were worried," she said slowly and pointedly.

Kathryn wanted to apologize for not letting her friend in on the plan, but Captain Janeway said firmly "Seven, please, go help B'Elanna."

"We are worried," Seven added, looking between the Granarian and the Captain.

"We can't rest until we close that door to unwanted guests. I'll be fine," Janeway said confidently.

Seven eyed her a moment, then exhaled heavily. With a reluctant nod, Seven did as requested.

As she watched the blond leave, something told the Captain that she had not heard the last of this from the stubborn woman. And oddly enough, the thought pleased her.

Turning her attention to the Doctor and his newest patient, Kathryn sighed, considering she was long overdue for a vacation.

Chapter 7 - Solving a Puzzle

The two women stood at separate panels in Seven's holodeck laboratory, running various simulations. Their goal was to figure out how the Granarians could transport and rematerialize without setting off the sensors.

"Kahless," B'Elanna cursed softly as yet another simulation failed to work. "Are you having any better luck with determining the energy source needed for rematerialization?"

"No," Seven said neutrally, continuing with her work, not looking up.

"Wonderful," B'Elanna said and entered in different parameters. "So, Seven - you really didn't know it was her, huh?" The Klingon smirked.

"No," Seven said tightly, still not looking up as she entered the parameters for her next simulation.

"I would have thought you, of all people, would be the hardest to fool."

"My Borg implants did not detect the holographic projection because I was not looking for it," Seven explained evenly.

"No, I mean her personality. You are probably the closest to her."

"Apparently not close enough to be told of the plan," Seven said crisply.

"You can't possibly be mad at her about that?" B'Elanna said with surprise. Seven looked up at her a moment, then silently returned her cold gaze to the panel with a sigh and tapped in new parameters.

"Seven, if you are going to be a friend to a Starfleet Captain, you're going to have to understand her ship and crew comes first. She can't inform her friends of all her decisions and she can't be worried about those decisions upsetting them."

Seven understood all that. However, that knowledge didn't sooth the irritation she felt for being left out. She sighed and continued to input her data.

"And people wonder why so many Captains are alone," B'Elanna muttered, shaking her head, gaining Seven's undivided attention.


"Captains don't usually have the same success in their personal lives as they do in their careers. If you think it is hard to be her friend, just imagine how hard it would be to be her spouse."

The thought of being the Captain's mate was not new to Seven. She had given that possibility a great deal of thought when she started to evaluate the limited mating choices among the crew. The Captain had logically been first on her list. Kathryn Janeway was by far the most impressive crew member, their interests were the most compatible, and she felt an unmistakable, and recently, uncomfortably strong physical attraction towards her. There were only two negatives to the paring she could identify. The first was the inefficiency of a same-sex couple in procreation, which was mildly disappointing, but medically surmountable. However, the second was not. Seven had concluded her closest friend had no interest in her in that capacity.

"Not many people would tolerate being second to a starship. . . ." B'Elanna continued.

From statistically significant empirical data, Seven had determined that the much-more experienced Captain was incredibly focused and formidable when going after what she wanted.

". . . or her crew," B'Elanna added with a shrug, entering more data.

Having never received any overtures from the Captain to change the nature of their friendship, it was logical to conclude that an intimate relationship with her was not what the Captain wanted. Even though the conclusion logical, Seven couldn't help but wonder why.

"Do you think I would be an inadequate mate?" Seven probed softly, wondering if that would be true for any person she might choose.

"I'm not saying that. It's just . . . never mind," B'Elanna said with a heavy sigh, wondering how she always seemed to end up in uncomfortable conversations with Seven.

"It's just . . . what?"

"Seven, I'm sure when you find someone that you really. . . like, you'll make a great . . . mate," B'Elanna said uncomfortably.

"Just not to Captain Janeway," she exhaled with disappointment, suspecting she would never want to be with anyone - except for the one who didn't want her.

B'Elanna almost laughed. "Seven, now there's an image I didn't want."


"Seven!" B'Elanna growled with annoyance.

"The idea of us as a couple is . . . offensive?" Was it offensive to Captain Janeway, Seven wondered.

"Oh GOD," B'Elanna moaned. How the hell did they end up talking about this? For Kahless' sake, she was an engineer, not a counselor!

"Is it because I am Borg?" She asked, knowing it would bother some but believed not the Captain. Kathryn Janeway had always been her greatest champion. She concluded the lack of interest was simply a lack of interest in her, not a repulsion of her Borg past or current implants. However, that fact did nothing to sooth Seven's fragile ego.

"NO!" B'Elanna barked defensively.

"Is it because I am the same gender?" She asked, having extensively read that there were gender preferences for intimate partners, with approximately 62% of the human population found to prefer the opposite sex. It was yet another factor in the frustrating subject of "chemistry," Seven concluded.

"Look, Seven, I don't even know why you would want to waste your time discussing a hypothetical situation with the Captain."

"You are right. The Captain does not desire an intimate relationship with me," Seven acknowledged.

B'Elanna took a deep breath and shook her head. "It really doesn't matter whether she desires it or not, Seven. She's not going to let it happen." Before the surprised former Borg could ask, B'Elanna added. "She's the Captain," B'Elanna said with authority, as if that explained it all.

Confused, Seven waited for B'Elanna to elaborate, but instead the engineer quietly entered data at her console.

"I do not understand," Seven finally said with irritation. "You had just stated other Captains have had relationships and even marriages. Why would Captain Janeway be any different?"

"Captain Janeway doesn't have a lot of options in the Delta quadrant and she doesn't seem to be the love ‘em and leave ‘em type."

"Which would leave the members of her crew as candidates," Seven countered logically.

B'Elanna chuckled and shook her head. "Look, she's not about to risk any perceptions of a loss of impartiality by allowing herself to get involved with a member of her crew."

"Kes was not a member of her crew," Seven countered, knowing Kes shared a close friendship with the Captain.

"Ha!" The engineer scoffed. "That would be like robbing the cradle," B'Elanna said, causing Seven's optical implant to rise curiously.

"She felt a maternal bond with Kes?"

"Well, she was young," B'Elanna offered. "Besides, Kes was involved with Nelix. And I'll have to hurt you if you mention the Nelix as a choice," B'Elanna said with a cringe.

"That would be a most illogical paring," Seven said with distaste.

"What do you know, we agree on something!" B'Elanna said with a chuckle, entering more variables in the computer model, considering the topic closed.

After a moment, Seven stubbornly spoke again. "Denying herself what the rest of her crew may enjoy is also illogical."

"Kahless, are you trying to torture me?"

"No. If I were, physical pain would be involved," Seven said, making B'Elanna roll her eyes. "You said she would not let it happen. So even if she did desire someone in that capacity, she would not act on that desire . . . because of a sense of duty?" Seven asked in a disapproving tone.

"Hey, I didn't say I agreed with that," B'Elanna said, then eyed the former Borg curiously. "So what's with the third degree about the Captain's romantic options? Don't tell me you are interested in the Captain?" She joked with a chuckle.

Seven looked at the engineer uncomfortably, then quickly dropped her eyes to the control panel.

B'Elanna's eyes widened. "Oh boy."


Janeway eyed their dark-haired captive, who was now regaining consciousness in Sickbay. She had to admit, even with the guards, she felt more comfortable with the captive being behind the force field around the bed.

"The force field is still in place," Tuvok informed the prisoner. "In case you attempt to attack the Captain again." Kathryn eyed the woman as she tried to focus on her.

"I would never . . . attack . . . my Oben," she said weakly, blinking as she faded in and out of consciousness.

"Oben?" Kathryn said curiously, eyeing Tuvok who was just as confused as she was.

"She has the same substance in her system as you do Captain," the Doctor said curiously as he reviewed the Captain's medical data from the Padd and Granarian's medical panel.

"What does that mean?" Kathryn asked with concern.

"She's producing it with a gland that humans don't have. The male Granarian did not appear to have that gland either. At the moment, I can't find a reason for it or what effects the substance has on a Granarian or Human. It seems to be inert in your system."

The prisoner looked at the Captain, who felt her eyes on her and gazed down. "Oben . . . must complete . . . blood bond," the prisoner whispered, then fell unconscious. Kathryn looked worriedly at the Doctor.

"Can't you keep her awake long enough to explain what the hell she meant?!?" Kathryn snapped with concern.

"I'm sorry, Captain. She is weak and I do not want to risk stimulants to wake her until I better understand her physiology."

Kathryn sighed in resignation. "I apologize Doctor, the past few days have me a bit . . . grumpy."

"The past few days?" The Doctor questioned sarcastically, unable to help himself.

"Careful Doctor, or I'll reprogram your bedside manner," she said, getting a frown from the EMH. "Tell me when she awakens," the Captain stated then started to leave.

"Captain! You really shouldn't be leaving sickbay until we determine this "blood bond" does to your physiology."

"Can you not just monitor my vitals so I can at least sleep in my own bed?" Janeway asked with some of her annoyance slipping through. The Doctor frowned.

"I would prefer you here, where I can better monitor you. However, I suppose I should be grateful you are at least making an effort to rest," the EMH responded.

Janeway smiled politely. "Thank you, Doctor."


"Do you think it wise to return to your quarters?" Tuvok asked as they exited the turbo lift on Deck 3.

"Tuvok, if I feel unwell, I will see the Doctor," she said as she entered her quarters. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the rug where her coffee table used to be. At least they cleaned up the blood, she thought with a sigh. She looked up at her friend. "Until then, I am going to sleep in my own bed," she said firmly. She was not about to be driven away from her own quarters, even if she wasn't exactly thrilled about being alone in them at the moment.

Tuvok nodded, agreeing not to further pursue the topic concluding the Captain would not be persuaded.

Retrieving a cup of chamomile tea from the replicator, she inhaled the contents before sipping and faced her security chief. "So you've found nothing on either Granarian to clue us in on the technology used to bypass our security sensors?"

"Unfortunately, no."

"This all seems . . . off. If I were going for revenge, I would not just try to kill the Captain. I'd try to take her ship and crew from under her nose - that would be real revenge," Janeway sighed and sat back on her couch, eyeing her Vulcan friend. "They had a way of boarding, they could have tried to secure engineering and tactical control . . . why did they elect to waste the opportunity? Surely, Voyager must be worth something to those who buy and sell people?"

"You almost sound . . . insulted," Tuvok noted with interest.

She snorted. "It just doesn't make sense."

"Perhaps not to us. However, in their culture, this act could be purely a matter of honor," Tuvok offered. "With your death as the goal."

"Great," Kathryn said wearily. "I suppose I should be happy no one else got hurt."

Tuvok eyed her and hesitantly offered. "Perhaps not physically."

Janeway didn't like the sound of that. "Would you care to elaborate, Mr. Tuvok?" She firmly asked, suddenly on guard as her eyes narrowed. His pointed brow rose and he nodded with a sigh.

"Captain, I am normally reluctant to get involved in personal matters between crew members. However, in this case . . . ," he paused, searching for a delicate way to address this topic.

Kathryn chuckled, guessing his concern. "You don't have to worry, Tuvok" she said with amusement.

"I don't?" He asked curiously.

"I'm not planning on throwing her in the brig."

Tuvok stared at her.

"Well, unless she tries to shoot me again," Kathryn joked.

"No, Captain, I was not referring to B'Elanna," he responded, surprising her. "I am concerned that you are not fully aware. . . ."

The door chime to the Captain's quarters tweeped. Kathryn eyed Tuvok with a frown. "You're not off the hook, Mister. We'll talk later," she warned, causing a nod from the security chief. "Enter."

Seven and B'Elanna approached the Captain, who didn't like the look on their faces. "Tell me you have good news," Kathryn said, almost pleading.

"We are now monitoring the power conduits and hull sensors. We'll know the next time they attempt to board," the engineer offered.

"But no ability to prevent it?"

"We still need to figure out how they did it to prevent it," the engineer noted.

Kathryn sighed, not liking to rely only on sensors to warn them. She wanted their ability to board her ship stopped entirely.

"We have placed the temperature sensors on random monitoring which may prevent their use as entry points. However, as LT Torres has pointed out, we still must determine how they did it to ensure effective countermeasures. We will continue to work on a solution," Seven said, making Kathryn nod.

"Very well. Dismissed," Kathryn said softly, not exactly thrilled with the still unresolved vulnerability. But if anyone could figure it out, B'Elanna and Seven could, she considered.

B'Elanna started to leave but noticed Seven was still standing in place, halting her exit.

Kathryn looked at the tall woman curiously. "Was there something else?"

"Yes, Captain. While the vulnerability exists, your safety will be at risk."

"One of the many reasons I'm hoping you and Quick Draw here, find a solution to that problem quickly," Kathryn smirked.

B'Elanna frowned.

"Understood. However, in the mean time, I believe we can significantly mitigate that risk, if not eliminate it entirely if I guard you," Seven said confidently.

The startled Captain looked at her and blinked. B'Elanna looked at Tuvok, who glanced back at the surprised engineer with a raised brow.

"Uh . . . thank you for the offer, Seven. But your time will be better spent solving the boarding problem," Captain Janeway countered.

"I can do both. I will use your computer to analyze the results of the simulations here," Seven said.

Believing this could not possibly work, Kathryn forced a smile. "Seven, I appreciate the sentiment, but it won't be necessary to baby-sit me," she said with an uneasy chuckle.

"Captain, I believe Seven's idea has merit," Tuvok spoke up, surprising everyone.

Seven's ocular implant rose as she glanced at the security chief and nodded, thankful for his assistance. Looking back at the Captain, she anticipated more arguments, knowing the complex and proud woman would be reluctant to agree to her offer.

Kathryn glared at the security chief. She didn't like being ganged up on.

"Tuvok, do you really think it's necessary?" Kathryn said wearily. "We have the sensors calibrated to warn us now, and the temperature sensors are on a random monitoring pattern which should block their attempts."

"True. However, as both Seven and LT Torres pointed out, we have not concretely determined the method of their boarding or a method to prevent it. Should they be able to board, we do not know how much time they will have before we can respond. We also know that you are their prime target. Seven's suggestion is logical - as well as prudent."

Damn! "I don't suppose you have an opinion on this too, B'Elanna," Janeway asked wearily, trying to buy time and think of an argument.

"No ma'am," B'Elanna quickly blurted, earning an annoyed glare from Seven. "Uh . . . though you might feel more comfortable knowing Seven's watching your back," she offered with a shrug.
Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. Comfortable was not in the cards tonight or any night the Astrometrics officer was camping out in her quarters, she concluded. But there was no graceful way to argue against that logic or concern. And God help her, a part of her didn't want to, the independent Captain considered with frustration. "All right," Janeway sighed.

Seven smiled slightly.


"Is something bothering you, LT?" Tuvok asked the preoccupied engineer as they entered the turbo lift.

"Seven is going to get herself hurt," LT Torres said softly, glancing back at the Captain's quarters.

"If you are referring to Seven's "affection" for the Captain and the Captain's unwillingness to acknowledge her own affection for Seven, that is entirely possible," Tuvok said thoughtfully, surprising the engineer with his insight. "Deck 11," he said.

"Wait a minute - you think she really has feelings for Seven?!?"


"Beyond Captain and crewman - beyond "just friends" ?" B'Elanna asked for clarification.


"Oh boy."

Chapter 8 - Roommates

Kathryn eyed Seven, who sat at her desk, reviewing the data from the simulations accomplished earlier in the day. She grew annoyed at her unease at the situation. She was a Starfleet Officer, trained to handle all sorts of situations! Surely she could handle this invasion of her personal space . . . by the one person able to cause her the most discomfort on the entire ship, Kathryn thought with a frown, knowing this arrangement was going to make for a few . . . very long . . . nights.

"So! Are you hungry?" The Captain suddenly blurted, nearly startling the blond.

Seven looked up from the console to the Captain, who was standing by the replicator. She had not actually thought about any meals for a long time. "I am overdue for a nutritional supplement," Seven acknowledged.

"Skipping regeneration and now meals? Seven, it sounds like you are picking up all my bad habits," Kathryn scolded gently.

"Not all. It is highly unlikely I would be climbing through Jefferies tubes disguised as B'Elanna immediately after a significant operation," Seven said tightly, returning her gaze to the console.

Kathryn was taken aback by Seven's comment, then grew angry. Her ready response about being the Captain and not having to explain her actions was withheld as she studied the upset woman, who did a poor job of hiding her emotions. Surely Seven could appreciate the tactical efficiency of her plan, Kathryn thought. But then, Katie, you would have been annoyed too if the shoe was on the other foot, she acknowledged reluctantly.

"Seven, I. . . ." Kathryn started. What could she say? "My actions were as the Captain, not as your friend . . . obviously," Kathryn said with a tired sigh.

Seven looked up at the older woman. "I must apologize, Captain," Seven said uncomfortably. "I have no right to be upset about your plan. And it was efficient and successful," Seven allowed.

"You don't need to apologize for your feelings, Seven. They are what they are," Kathryn countered easily. "But you do need to know, that while I'll never want to hurt them - I can't promise I won't. I can only promise that I'll try not to."

"Acceptable," Seven said softly, causing a small, pleased smile from the Captain, that slowly disappeared under the sobering look of complete trust she received.

"So! Do you have a favorite nutritional supplement?" Kathryn asked with a forced smile, suddenly feeling the heavy burden of that trust.

"I should have #3 for this meal," she said, curiously watching the Captain, who was acting . . . off. It was understandable, Seven considered. The Captain had been through a tremendous amount of mental and physical stress lately and was clearly exhausted.

"Okay. One nutritional supplement #3 coming right up," Kathryn said with enthusiasm and retrieved the unappetizing supplement with a slight grimace, along with a cup of soup for herself.

"Thank you, Captain," Seven said as the Captain set the liquid supplement in front of her.

"Kathryn," Janeway countered, pulling up a chair to sit across from the former Borg at the small computer console. "Might as well drop the title if you're going to be my roommate," she said and sipped her mug of soup.

Seven nodded and sipped her supplement. After a few silent moments of consuming their dinner, Seven eyed the Captain curiously. "What did you learn in your interview of the prisoner?"

"Not much, I'm afraid," Kathryn said with a shrug and took a sip. "She faded in and out of consciousness when we got her awake. She must have really been weakened by her confrontation with the force field."

"Or you."

Kathryn snorted. "From the Doctor's examination, she had no part in the struggle. And for the record, I have no idea why I'm still here. With the two of them and the advantage of surprise? It just doesn't add up," she shook her head and sipped her soup.

"You underestimate your resourcefulness, Captain," Seven said.

"And I think you overestimate it, Seven," Kathryn said. "A part of me would like to think I could have inflicted damage even when injured," she admitted, surprising Seven. "But I think the reason I am still here is very likely due to our guest in sickbay."

"Do not trust her, Captain," Seven blurted instinctively, then felt uncomfortable at her outburst. "I . . . I would merely recommend caution when dealing with her," she quickly amended.

Janeway smiled warmly. "I will be careful, Seven. But I am hoping she can help us answer a few of those nagging "why's" . . . assuming she's willing to talk to us," Kathryn added with a grimace as she got up to return her mug to the recycler.

"I am confident you will persuade her to talk, Captain," Seven said, watching the Captain grab a novel from her bookshelf.

"Kathryn. And why is that, Seven?" Kathryn asked with a grin and walked to the couch.

"It is not in your nature to give up once you have set your mind to something."

"No, I don't suppose it is," Kathryn said with a proud smirk as she sat. She eyed Seven. "Very much like a former Borg I know."

"Indeed," Seven acknowledged, raising her ocular implant and looking into the older woman's eyes a long moment. Kathryn found herself gazing back, unable not to.

"Perhaps I am picking up your habits," Seven offered with mild amusement, causing the older woman to drop her gaze.

"You make me wish I were a better role model," Kathryn joked sadly.

"You are a superb role model, Cap. . . . Kathryn," Seven countered, prompting a soft chuckle. "However, you are not my mother," Seven said, receiving a surprised look. "Do you have maternal feelings towards me, Kathryn?" She asked, again surprising the older woman, who took a few moments to respond.

"I . . . where did that come from, Seven?" Kathryn said uneasily.

"You presume to comment on my habits as a mother would. You also frequently treat me as if I were a child," she said, causing Kathryn to frown. "Am I to conclude you have maternal feelings towards me?" Seven asked directly.

"I ah . . . ," Kathryn said, trying to figure out how to answer that. "Well . . . no more than for the rest of the crew," she answered, not exactly the decisive answer Seven was hoping for. "But I do feel a great deal of responsibility for you, perhaps more than for anyone in this ship. Everyone else had a choice to join Voyager, even the Maquis. I severed you from the only life you knew - against your will," she stated bluntly.

"A decision for which I am grateful," Seven countered, then added "now," prompting a small, pleased smile from Kathryn.

"You've come such a long way, but you still have much to learn," Kathryn said causing a perturbed look which caused Kathryn to quickly add. "As do I." Seven eyed her curiously as Kathryn explained. "I suppose I tease you at times when I shouldn't. I'm not always . . . efficient in communicating with you," Kathryn said awkwardly.

"At times, I feel that you treat me as a child. I am not a child, Kathryn," Seven said firmly, getting a smirk from Kathryn.

"Oh, I know," Kathryn offered with amusement, appreciatively glancing over a most adult looking woman in her dark blue, form fitting, outfit.

The Captain suddenly froze at her careless response. "Are you a lecher or Starfleet Captain, you idiot," Kathryn harshly thought with a cringe, wishing for a diversion. It wasn't often when the Captain of a Starship wished for a red alert.

"I apologize if I treat you in any manner other than a respected and valued member of my crew," Kathryn said automatically. Daring to look into the young woman's eyes, Kathryn's ridged demeanor melted when she saw Seven's curious gaze. "Please know that you are, Seven," Kathryn added softly, wanting her to understand.

"Technically, I am not," Seven said with a raised ocular implant.

"What?? Seven, you are . . . ," Kathryn blurted with concern.

"I am not a member of your crew."

Kathryn looked at Seven with confusion. "Uh . . . but you are a member of my crew," she countered.

"I am not a Starfleet member."

"No, but you live onboard my ship, you work onboard my ship, you . . ." Kathryn asked, confusion still clouding her face. "Do you have a problem being a member of my crew??" Captain Janeway guessed with growing frustration.

"I would prefer to be your friend," Seven said.

"You are," Kathryn sighed, feeling lost. Maybe this all would make sense if she got some sleep, she considered wearily.

"So, I am able to be part of this crew and still be your friend?" Seven asked.

"Of course," Kathryn responded adamantly, then quickly asked with concern, "Is someone telling you, you can't be friends with me and be a member of my crew??"

"I understand that Captains do not have many close friends because of concerns of favoritism and impartiality."

"Seven, Captains don't have many friends because they are hard to deal with," Kathryn explained dryly.

"That thought had crossed my mind."

"Is someone saying that I am showing you favoritism?" Kathryn quickly guessed with a slight cringe, knowing there were times her actions were less than objective when it came to Seven.

"No. I am, however, concerned you may wish to terminate our relationship because of potential conflicts you may face as Captain," Seven said.

"Oh," Kathryn didn't know whether to be relieved or injured at the comment. "Your friendship is not something I would give up easily, Seven. I thought I told you that before," she said with mild irritation.

Seven nodded. "You have, Captain."

"Kathryn," she corrected absently.

"Kathryn," Seven repeated, a slight smile gracing her lips. "I am pleased you find value and have confidence in our friendship. Human relationships are difficult enough without the dynamics of rank. However, I am fully aware that the dynamics of rank must be considered. I do not wish our friendship to ever cause you problems with your Captaincy. But I too would be reluctant to give up something so valuable just because of the possibility of problems."

"I should have discussed this with you before. . . . ," Kathryn said guiltily.

"Once again, you assume too much responsibility, Kathryn. It is resolved. I understand you will not terminate our friendship just because of possible perceptions of the crew or the potential of problems to your command."

"Seven, it's not just about me. You could have problems with the crew if they thought. . . ."

"I am not concerned about what people think of me," Seven interrupted indignantly.

A small smile emerged on Kathryn's lips. "I recognize that, Seven. However, your interactions with the rest of the crew would be far less . . . efficient . . . if they thought you received special treatment."

"But the crew already knows I receive special treatment," Seven said with confusion, causing Kathryn to look at her with alarm. "You spend your personal time with me. Few crew members, even those on your senior staff, are given that gift," Seven explained.

Kathryn sighed, touched by the younger woman's sentiment. "And here I thought I was the one receiving the gift," she said softly.

"Perhaps that is why we are friends," Seven said, tilting her head thoughtfully.

Kathryn looked at the beautiful young woman a silent moment, then blinked. "Well, it seems we have a mutual admiration society," Kathryn joked, clearing her throat. "Any luck with the simulations?" She asked as she reclined on her couch with her novel.

"Not yet," Seven answered, her brows knitting together in annoyance. Kathryn habitually avoided both personal discussions and her much-needed sleep. "Should you not be going to sleep now?" Seven asked.

"I like to read first."

Seven eyed her friend, who should be maximizing her rest during her sleep period. However, knowing any attempt to convince the stubborn woman of that fact would be met with great resistance and likely prolong the time before she attempted sleep, Seven shook her head with a sigh and returned her attention to the simulation results.

After some time had passed, Seven noted there was a small rumbling noise replacing the sound of pages turning. Looking up from the computer, she was surprised to see the book resting on Kathryn's chest with her eyes shut. Seven's face softened with a small smile.


"NO!" Kathryn bolted up from the couch in a panic, her hands strangling the blanket.

"Captain! What is wrong?" Seven was immediately at her side.

"Seven?" She said in confusion, looking around her quarters uneasily then curiously down at the light blanket on her.

"You are safe, Kathryn," Seven said.

"Ughhh," Kathryn groaned and rubbed her eyes, making room for her friend on the couch. "Bad dream," she muttered then asked with surprise "I actually fell asleep?"

"You were asleep for 3.2 hours," Seven said, sitting down, surprising Kathryn. "It is surprising your sleep had not been interrupted earlier. It is a common by-product of a traumatic experience."

"I actually slept for 3.2 hours in a row. I guess I should get attacked more often," Kathryn said dryly, running her hand through her hair.

Seven was not amused. "I would strongly recommend warm milk instead."

"Seven," Kathryn said with a sigh that her humor was lost on the former Borg. "I. . . I think I'll go to bed."

"Good night, Captain," Seven said and stiffly returned to the computer console.

Kathryn couldn't retreat with Seven so irritated with her.

"Seven," she said, standing up and gaining the former Borg's attention. "Thank you for the blanket," she said, then added "And being my friend."

Seven's gaze softened. "Being your friend is well worth the difficulty, Kathryn," she said, surprising the Captain, who grinned slightly and retreated to her bedroom.


Kathryn sat on her bed and plopped back, staring up at her ceiling with a heavy sigh. Was she being a hypocrite about their friendship? Was she ignoring the very real concern about her objectivity with her "friend" because she was so desperate for Seven's friendship? Was she crossing that damned line??

No, damn it! Kathryn frowned at her paranoid thoughts. She knew no one was complaining about their friendship or accusing her of inappropriate behavior. And she hadn't let their friendship get in the way of her job. Much. Sure she had gone against logic, common sense, and crossed a few restricted borders to go after Seven a few times. But someone had to go save a valuable crew member.

And that someone would always be her, she concluded, sitting up and running her hand through her hair. She honestly didn't know if she would have risked as much for another crew member. Guilt filled her as she got up from her bed and headed towards her ensuite.

Splashing some water over her face, she stared sadly at the reflection. "How did you get yourself into a situation like this, Katie?" After drying off her face, she changed into her night clothes and returned to her bed.

She stared at her bed, once again knowing she wasn't going to be able to sleep right away. As was done practically every night she fought her too-active mind, she plumped and arranged her pillows so she could sit and read. Once settled comfortably, she grabbed the Padd on top of the stack on her nightstand and began a thorough review of the report.

Submitting her comments with a tap of her finger, she heard Seven's voice over her Com badge on the night stand.

"Seven to Kathryn."

Kathryn sighed. A discussion with Seven was not going to help her get to sleep. "Yes, Seven?"

"You should be sleeping."

Kathryn rolled her eyes. "How do you know you didn't just wake me?" Kathryn challenged.

"Your console registered your comments on the engineering report five point three seconds ago."


"Humans often find the monotonous task of counting, such as sheep, or listening to music, like a lullaby, helpful in falling asleep."

"Are you offering to sing for me?" Kathryn said with amusement as she returned the Padd to the night stand and reclined into a more comfortable position.

"I will sing if you wish me to."

The offer surprised Kathryn, who smiled and rolled on her side, propping her head on her hand. "My mother used to sing to me," she recalled fondly, then smirked. "So am I to conclude you have maternal feelings for me, Seven?" Kathryn asked, eyeing her badge with anticipation for the usual repartee with the young woman.

"Kathryn, what I feel for you is not maternal." Seven said simply, wiping the smile off the Captain's face.

The next thing Kathryn heard was a soft, beautiful voice singing a familiar song, which she could only presume Seven deemed an efficient, albeit unique, lullaby.

"Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, you take one down and pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall. . . ."

A belly laugh replaced the feeling unease and Kathryn settled back on her bed with a big smile on her face as she listened to her friend's delightful song.

Chapter 9 - Blood Bonds

Kathryn woke with a deep ache within her body. A fine sheen of sweat covered her as she trembled uncontrollably.

Determined not to have another beam-out to Sickbay, she slowly got out of bed and with great effort, went to her ensuite. She looked at the shower with defeat, knowing that would take too much effort. With a labored breath, the Captain dressed herself, fighting against her muscles which seemed to rebel at every movement.

As the Captain left her bedroom, Seven's eyes looked up from the console with a small smile of greeting. "There is no need to get up, Kathryn. You have the day off," she reminded the older woman. Seeing the Captain so stiff and guarded, she was immediately concerned. "What is wrong?"

"I'm . . . I need to go to Sickbay," Kathryn said tightly.

Seven was immediately at her side. "Computer. . . ."

"No!" Kathryn hissed. "I will walk there," she said stubbornly.

"That is inefficient," Seven protested.

"That is what I want," Kathryn countered stiffly and walked out her door. Seven frowned with disapproval but followed the proud, illogical woman.


"I do not understand why you must insist on . . . ," Seven said with frustration, seeing how difficult this walk was for the Captain.

"Enough, Seven!" Kathryn growled, wiping some sweat off her brow as the turbo lift doors opened.

As they left the turbo lift, the Captain was greeted by two crewmen.

Kathryn's visible discomfort disappeared as she stood taller and faced the crewmen, Seven noticed curiously. It was as if she suddenly found a source of energy.

"Captain! How are you doing?" A Petty Officer smiled at her, relieved to see her CO out and about.

"A bit stiff but still kicking, Petty Officer Yates," Captain Janeway said a slight grimace, then smiled.

"We knew you'd be OK, ma'am," Yates said with a warm smile for her CO, who overcame the odds again, this time against a cowardly assassination attempt.

"But, you had us all a bit worried there, Captain," the other crewman admitted. Seven eyed the Captain, continuing to watch the exchange with great interest.

"I had myself a bit worried there too, Crewman Roberts," Captain Janeway noted, getting a chuckle from the man. "We're not out of the woods yet with the Granarians. But I have a feeling we will be - soon," she said in a confident tone to the two, getting nods from her crewmen. "If you'll excuse me, I have a "guest" to check in on."

"Aye, Captain. Go get ‘em, ma'am," Crewman Roberts said with a grin and the two entered the turbo lift with buoyed spirits, Seven noted with fascination. With the speed of gossip, Seven suspected most of the crew would know of this little exchange before the end of the shift, offering a similar morale boost to the crew. And a high morale translated into higher efficiency, she considered.

When the doors slid shut and she was sure no one else was around, Kathryn let out a pained breath and grabbed Seven's arm.


"A moment . . . please," she said with difficulty.

Seven nodded. "Not much further," Seven said softly, getting a nod from the Captain as they resumed their slow stroll to Sickbay, though this time Kathryn allowed herself to accept Seven's help without comment.

"Thank you for not pushing the site-to-site," Kathryn said, looking uneasily at Sickbay entrance only few meters away, which seemed like kilometers.

"I believe I understand your determination about this," Seven offered, glancing back at the turbo lift.

"Good," Kathryn said softly.


"Captain? What's wrong?" The Doctor said, seeing the Captain Janeway leaning heavily on Seven as they entered sickbay.

"We do not know," Seven answered briskly.

"Get her to a biobed!" He said as he grabbed his tricorder. Seven lifted up the Captain in a swift motion and deposited her on the bed.

"Now who's treating whom like a child?" Janeway said with a thin smile, which was responded to with a raised ocular implant.

"There are non maternal interpretations for carrying a person to bed, Captain," Seven offered, getting a startled look. "Of course, helping an incapacitated friend would be the most logical."

Kathryn nodded uncomfortably. "I'll be all right, Seven," she said.

The Doctor tapped the medical panel then scanned the Captain quickly. "The foreign substance is no longer dormant. It seems to be attaching to your nerves," he said with fascination.

"Foreign substance??" Seven questioned, looking at the Doctor, who focused on his patient. Janeway rolled her eyes, knowing Seven wasn't going to be happy about this small omission from their conversations.

"When did you first start to feel discomfort?" he asked.

"When I got . . . up. About fifteen or . . . twenty minutes ago," she said with difficulty. "But it seems much longer," she added flatly.

He frowned and administered a hypospray.

"What foreign substance?" Seven asked again with frustration.

"Was that actually supposed to help with the pain?" Kathryn said with irritation as he went to return the hypospray to the tray.


"Well it doesn't," she growled.

The Doctor looked confounded, glancing between the hypo and his patient.

"Doctor, what foreign substance?!?" Seven said firmly, stepping in front of him.

He sighed, not wanting to fight with the former Borg. "The Captain had received some sort of injection from the Granarians during her . . . skirmish. And before you ask, I've never seen anything like it before."

"May I?" Seven said without waiting for a response and started accessing the Captain's medical data. If the situation wasn't so serious, the Doctor might have objected to an invasion of the Captain's private information.

"This Granarian has a gland which produces this substance," she noted curiously, also accessing the prisoner's medical data.

"Yes. I've been unable to determine it's function. And my Granarian patient hasn't been able to stay conscious long enough to explain. . . ." he said with a heavy sigh, looking at the colorful data screen that revealed nothing to him.

"Seven!!" The Doctor called out after the blond had already inactivated the force field. "What do you think are you doing!" He asked even though he already knew as she stood next to the bio-bed, injecting a hypo spray into the prisoner.

"Getting answers, Doctor," Seven said, as the patient's eyes fluttered open slowly.

"You can't just tamper with my patient!" he barked and walked towards them. "Seven! You could hurt her."


"Seven! Listen to the Doctor," Kathryn commanded, having managed to get up and drag herself to the Doctor's side. Seven was about to object, but the Captain forestalled it. "That's an order, Seven."

Seven looked at her with a helplessness that the Doctor fully appreciated.

"Oben," the Granarian said, looking at Kathryn. "We must . . . complete the Harrik," the prisoner patient called out weakly. Seven's eyes narrowed as she eyed the prisoner distrustfully.

"What is the Harrik?" The former Borg interrogated her.

"Blood bonding between Oben and Taak. We must . . . complete the bonding," she said haltingly, talking draining her into unconsciousness.

"Captain!" The Doctor called out, grabbing Janeway as she started to fall.

Seven and the Doctor moved an unconscious Janeway back to the biobed. "Her vital signs are weakening," he called out as an alarm sounded from the other side of the sickbay, echoing Janeway's bed monitor.

"We're losing both of them," the Doctor announced anxiously, looking into upset blue eyes.


Captain Janeway's eyes struggled to open as her head pounded, reminding her she was still alive but making her wonder if that really was such a good thing. "Ugh," she moaned.

"Kathryn? How are you feeling?" Seven said softly as the older woman regained consciousness. The Doctor looked at Seven with surprise at her ease of familiarity, not just in her words but her touch. His curious gaze at the Captain's forearm, which Seven was gently squeezing, was redirected to the now talking prisoner, who was wide awake and in good health.

"Oben!" The Granarian said sitting up, smiling even though she was still imprisoned behind the force field.

Seven directed an annoyed glare at the prisoner, who seemed perfectly fine, while her Captain was still fighting the effects of the treatment.

The Doctor stepped next to the Granarian's biobed curiously, monitoring her condition.

"Seven," Kathryn said as she blinked and focused on the young woman's face. "What happened?"

"Your nervous system was being attacked by the foreign substance in your system. The Doctor countered the effects."

Kathryn took a deep breath, feeling much better. "How?"

When Seven failed to respond immediately and looked troubled, the concerned patient glanced at the Doctor. "What did you do??" Janeway asked again, more firmly.

"Well," he said, glancing between the now vibrant Granarian, then back at the Captain, who sat up and directed a focused gaze towards the Doctor that he could almost swear was disrupting his holo-matrix. "You could say, I gave you the hair of the dog," he said, joking uneasily as he stepped through the force field.

Janeway stared at him a moment as she digested what that meant. "I see," Captain Janeway said neutrally and swung her legs over the bed. As she got up, she sent a warning glare at Seven to preclude any objections.

"You completed this blood bond," Captain Janeway concluded, glaring at the Doctor.

"Captain, you were dying and I had no time to pursue alternatives. I had to take a chance with what was available to me," the Doctor explained, convinced his actions were appropriate, even if he didn't fully understand them.

The Captain walked slowly towards the prisoner, who looked at her with a smile, before kneeling in deference to her. "Oben," she said softly.

"You used her blood," she said flatly, eyeing the kneeling Granarian with a frown. Janeway didn't know which she found less appealing, being attacked or this submissive display.


Turning to the Doctor, Kathryn asked "I don't suppose you happen to know what side effects to expect with this blood bond?" She asked conversationally as she rubbed the back of her neck, feeling oddly drawn to the prisoner.

"Not yet, Captain."

"I see," Captain Janeway said again, looking at the ground as she quietly thought a long, uncomfortable moment.

"Captain?" Seven finally asked with concern, drawing the older woman's gaze a moment before she tapped her com badge and looked at the Granarian.

"Tuvok and Chakotay, please report to Sickbay," Janeway said.

"We're on our way, Captain," Chakotay responded.

"Captain, how do you feel?" Seven asked the older woman, who appeared in excellent health.

"Concerned," Janeway answered gravely.


"Captain?" Chakotay questioned as he entered sickbay, following Tuvok, who curiously noted the prisoner appeared in excellent health and was kneeling behind the force field.

"We have a little situation here, gentlemen," Janeway said uncomfortably, glancing at the Granarian and rolling her eyes.

"When don't we?" Chakotay joked.

Kathryn couldn't help but nod in sad agreement. "I've been . . . blood bonded with this Granarian and we don't know what that means exactly."

"Blood bonded? How could that have happened?" Chakotay asked the Doctor with concern, looking over at the Granarian behind the force field.

"I didn't have many options in the matter, Commander," the Doctor said with irritation.

"The Captain was dying," Seven added.

"As was the Granarian," the Doctor added, causing Chakotay to glance between the now healthy looking Captain and Granarian. It apparently worked, he considered.

"During the attack, a blood bonding process was started but not completed. A substance was transferred and had been benign in the Captain until this morning, when it started to attack her nervous system."

"What triggered the response to occur this morning?" Tuvok asked.

"I don't know," the Doctor said with exasperation.

"And their blood is compatible?" Tuvok asked curiously.

"Yes. The Granarian Taak has an adaptable blood chemistry, essentially making them equivalent to an O-negative donor for humans," the Doctor enthusiastically explained.

"Fascinating," Tuvok said, getting a nod from the equally impressed Doctor.

"Isn't it? In fact. . . ."

"Doctor, how do you know this blood bond is not going to hurt the Captain??" Chakotay asked with concern.

"Not doing something was certainly hurting her," the Doctor snapped back.

"Finishing what was started was the logical choice," Seven added, eyeing the Commander with annoyance.

The Captain quietly listened to the conversation, which reinforced her own concerns.

"But . . ." Chakotay said, interrupted by the Captain who held up a hand.

"Gentlemen, Seven," Captain Janeway said, feeling like a school teacher at the moment. "We are where we are. Instead of wasting energy on the decisions already made, we need to focus on our next steps."

"Agreed," Tuvok offered as the others nodded.

"Until we figure out what the side effects of this blood bond are, I will need to step down," Janeway said firmly, though with difficulty.

Everyone stood in stunned silence, except Tuvok. "A wise decision, Captain."

"Kathryn, isn't that a little drastic?" Chakotay said. "You look fine, better than fine," he said. And she did. The bonding had provided her with a vibrance he hadn't seen is a long time.

"Commander," she responded crisply, not appreciating the familiarity he took. "I have already underestimated the Granarians once and they were able to board without anyone knowing. Who knows if this . . . blood bonding," she said the words with distaste, "was their real objective in their attack. Until I can be assured there are no Granarian influences on my actions, I must take the precaution. I will not let them gain control over this ship and crew - especially through me!" She snapped.

"Yes, Captain," Chakotay said with a heavy exhale, properly scolded.

"Computer, transfer command protocols to Commander Chakotay, authorization Janeway 7 Alpha Omega 9," Janeway announced crisply. Tuvok's pointed brow rose.

Seven watched the transfer of command with a tremendous sense of sadness, knowing this was one of the most difficult things for the proud woman to do. She glanced at the Doctor, who frowned at the Captain's decision, an unintended result of their actions, though he agreed the precaution was warranted.

"Command protocols transferred," the computer replied pleasant neutrality, making the enormous action even more sobering.

"Well, Chakotay, you have a ship to run and I have some answers to find," she said as Chakotay looked at her uneasily and nodded before leaving Sickbay.

"Doctor, is the prisoner healthy enough for questioning?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, Captain. Like you, she seems to be in perfect health now."

"Mr. Tuvok, I would like to start getting some answers," Janeway said, glancing down at the still kneeling prisoner.

"As would I, Captain."


Janeway nodded to Tuvok and the force field was de-energized, which Seven considered objecting to but concluded it would be ineffective. Captain Janeway was not in the mood to be dissuaded.

"Your knees must be sore by now," Kathryn said to the dark-haired woman, who looked up with surprise.

"Do you wish me to stand, Oben?"

"Yes, please," Janeway said and watched the Granarian stand to her full height. A little taller than Seven, she noted. The Granarian was an impressive woman - her physique was a muscular one, though not too bulky. And she was very attractive, Kathryn noted as she looked over her pleasing form, feeling a startling surge of arousal. Clearing her throat, she stepped back, hoping that startling feeling would lessen with distance.

Mistaking the move as concern about another attack, Seven stepped closer to the prisoner.

"I would like to discuss many things with you," Janeway said, casually taking a few more steps away from the prisoner, placing the biobed between them. Seven eyed her curiously.

"As you wish, Oben," she said and nodded with respect, making Janeway roll her eyes.

"First, I would like to know why you keep calling me Oben," Janeway said with exasperation.

"I am your Taak. I am to serve you now," she said.

Janeway glanced with concern to Tuvok, whose brow rose. After an uncomfortable moment, Janeway asked. "What is your name?"

"Jerran," she answered.

"Are Taaks and Obens always blood bonded?"


"Why the blood bond?" Tuvok asked.

"It is the way it has always been," Jerran said with confusion at the question.

"What does it do?" Janeway asked.

"It links the Taak with their Oben. If the Taak attempts to flee or harm their Oben, the bond will prevent them."

"How? What would happen if you tried to leave . . . me?" Janeway asked, uncomfortable with any thoughts of slavery and especially the thought that she now had one.

"Oben, I know my duty. I would not flee," Jerran said firmly.

Janeway sighed then plastered on a smile. "Of course, but what would happen to a Taak if they tried to leave their Oben?"

"The Taak would experience pain, like we had both suffered when the blood bond was incomplete. A Taak would be incapacitated - there is no escape."

"And what if you harmed me?" Janeway asked curiously. Seven knew the answer to that question, her eyes narrowing at Jerran.

"Oben . . . ," Jerran quickly rejected the idea.

"I know, I know. You understand your duty," Janeway quickly responded with a small smile. "But what if a Taak harmed an Oben," she asked.

"If an Oben dies, the Taak would soon follow, unless a conveyance to another Oben occurred."

Janeway wondered if her previous Oben did this to protect his Taak, having little choice and precious little time.

"Captain, we have no way of knowing whether this information if factual," Seven finally said with frustration, concerned Kathryn was believing this woman.

"I am not lying," the Taak said with annoyance.

"Seven, I certainly hope you are not proposing an experiment to test the validity of her statements," Janeway said dryly, looking at the tall blond.

"No Captain, I . . . ," Seven said with frustration.

"Thank you, Seven. I understand your concern," Captain Janeway interrupted with hard eyes that Seven had learned meant the conversation was over.

Seven sighed heavily and remained quiet.

"So your previous Oben started the conveyance with me?"

"Yes. But he died before it could be completed."

"Why? He tried to kill me and I could have also died."

Jerran looked at her new Oben curiously, wondering why she didn't understand. "He knew he would die. To not attempt a conveyance would have been dishonorable."

"Because it would have meant your life if he didn't try?" Janeway guessed.

"An Oben protects his Taak, as a Taak protects her Oben."

Janeway looked at what was now her "Taak" thoughtfully for a moment, then asked. "Even if it meant giving you to his enemy?"

"I was ready to die with my Oben before. I am ready to die now, if that is what my Oben wishes," Jerran said boldly to her potential executioner.

Kathryn shook her head sadly, unable to understand her willingness to die for such a meaningless reason - subservience. "Where there's life, there's hope, Jerran," Kathryn offered, getting a surprised look. "I don't wish to harm you, and I didn't wish to cause this . . . conflict with your people," she exhaled wearily.

"But you had trespassed upon Granarian territory and insulted the Granarian Guard," Jerran said.

Kathryn looked at her sadly, knowing it the Granarian's mind that was exactly what she had done. How does one explain wanting to go home so badly, you'd do things that were questionable or perhaps ill-advised?

"With your technology, why not take the ship?" Tuvok asked during the pause in conversation.

"Granarian's are not pirates. And the crew follows orders. It is not right to punish those who follow," she said, almost insulted at the accusation.

"How . . . noble," Kathryn said, searching for the word.

"It is the way," Jerran said with frustration, as if obvious.

"I see," Kathryn said, rubbing her temples.

Seven had learned that there were many possible meanings to the Captain's phrase "I see." At this moment, she figured it was not as the words implied.

"Allow me to ease your discomfort. I am skilled in the art of physical release," Jerran offered with a confident gaze over the smaller woman's body, causing the Captain to suddenly look at her uncomfortably, then move a few steps away.

Tuvok's brow rose.

Seven glared at the Granarian, whose offer and attention on the Captain disturbed her as did the Captain's physical response to it.

"No, thank you, I'm fine," Janeway said tightly. "Well, actually . . ." she suddenly said, getting a hopeful smile from her Taak. "It would greatly ease my discomfort if you explained to Seven and Tuvok how you got onboard my ship," she said, causing the Taak to frown with disappointment. "Tuvok, Seven, would you please keep questioning Jerran, while I talk with the Doctor a moment?" Kathryn asked with unusually stiff politeness.

"Of course, Captain," Tuvok said as Seven nodded.

"Your office, now," Janeway barked at the Doctor and marched to his office with the confused hologram glancing at Seven and the Vulcan. "NOW, Doctor," the Captain yelled from his office impatiently, prompting the Doctor to finally follow.


"Is something wrong?" Doctor asked the pacing woman, who stopped to eye him with great annoyance as he entered his office.

"I've just discovered at least one side effect of this bond, Doctor," she snapped, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"What sort of side effect?" He said with interest, picking up his tricorder, and started to scan her.

"Physical arousal," she hissed in a hushed tone, causing the Doctor to look up from his tricorder.

". . . which is consistent with my readings," he said with relief that it wasn't more serious.

"Good God! I feel like I'm entering Pon Farr around her," she said with exasperation. "And I'm not sure she isn't doing that deliberately!" Janeway growled in a mix of anger and near hysteria, the Doctor noted as she started to pace again.

"Well, the Granarian is an attractive and willing woman, Captain," he acknowledged conversationally, looking through the glass partition to the Granarian with appreciation. She was tall, dark, and a very handsome specimen of the Granarian species. Even that "deadly" aspect to her was likely to be appealing to a surprisingly large percentage of the crew, he considered, returning his attention to one he included in that percentage.

Janeway stopped pacing and turned a very cold glare onto the hologram. If he didn't have a direct link to the Sickbay's environmental controls, he would have sworn the temperature in the room had just dropped a few degrees.

"Yes, well. Not to worry, Captain. I'm sure your sensitivity is only your body getting used to this bond. And we should have no trouble eliminating the side effects."

"What do you suggest?" Kathryn asked hopefully.

"Uh . . . well, I'll need to study both of your physical responses to. . . ."

"You know, it would save us both a lot of time if you just admit you don't have a clue," she said flatly.

He ignored the insult and continued. "For now, I can give you something which will deaden the sensation," the Doctor countered with an attempt at delicacy.

"Do it," Kathryn said firmly. "And Doctor, I expect you to be working on a way to eliminate this bond, not just the side effects. Is that understood?" She said evenly.


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