Table of Contents


CH 1 - Second Thoughts

CH 2 - The Real Thing

CH 3 - Philosophical Discussions

CH 4 - Vulcan

CH 5 - Communications

CH 6 - Homebound

CH 7 - Falling Star

CH 8 - Safe Haven

CH 9 - Autumn





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Other J/7 Stories by Enginerd


Personal Log – Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01
Stardate 54974.

I finally have unregulated access to a computer.  The Vulcans do not appear as concerned about what I could accomplish with their technology as the Starfleet personnel on Earth.  Perhaps that is because this Vulcan console is currently limited to Alpha Quadrant news and information and personal productivity programs.  However, I could redirect this ship’s navigational, weapons, and engine control to my cabin with a modification to the main data coupling in the Jeffries tube 14.65 meters from my door.  While an interesting distraction, I am certain my Vulcan hosts would not appreciate that unauthorized modification. 

The Vulcan crew has been courteous, contrary to my treatment by Starfleet Command.  I had informed Captain Janeway, several times, of an adverse response to my presence in the Alpha Quadrant. Yet she had always dismissed it, offering ready words of assurance and support.  I will admit her words gave me hope that I could live as I had on Voyager, as a free individual contributing to the greater good.  Even with that hope, I was not surprised my concerns had ultimately been proven valid.  I was, however, surprised that Captain Janeway had not dismissed the possibility and in fact arranged for my Vulcan asylum several months before Voyager actually arrived in the Alpha Quadrant; several months before we were aware of the transwarp hub.

I should not have been surprised.  Captain Janeway has always been a superior strategist and tactician.

The cabin I have been assigned is small but more than adequate, larger than any personal space I had been assigned on Voyager.  Though I do acknowledge I had never thought to ask the Captain about personal space.  Cargo Bay 2 had been adequate to contain my alcove and personal console.  However, since entering into a relationship with Commander Chakotay, I have learned the value of privacy.

Tuvok and his wife are also on this ship heading to Vulcan.  I was intrigued by their reunion, which did not seem as if seven years had passed since they had parted.  Though I did observe a fleeting moment of emotion in their eyes.  It was far more subtle than any of the reactions I had observed when humans saw their loved ones after so long, but no less valid.

I too have family, though I would not call them loved ones.  I barely recall my Aunt Irene and her husband.  Although I did not see the need to meet with them immediately upon our arrival at Earth, the Captain said that while I may not remember them, she was certain they couldn’t forget me.  She encouraged me to meet them.  I was surprised when the Captain was there to introduce us.  I had expected she would have left to spend more time with her family, as Chakotay had, or been needed in Starfleet meetings.  The discomfort I felt at the thought of meeting my family vanished once I understood she would be at my side.  It was a pleasant meeting.  I actually enjoyed it more than I expected; they were not afraid of me.  And they were very impressed with Captain Janeway, as they should be.

It did not take long before the interviews, or interrogations, as Tom Paris had called them, started.  The formal inquiry began ninety-seven hours and twenty-four minutes after Voyager’s arrival in the Alpha quadrant.  One moment the crew is treated as heroes, the next, essentially criminals.  It is most disturbing to have the people I know and respect have their integrity and competence questioned by people who could not possibly comprehend what Voyager and her crew had been through together.

When I was able to communicate with Chakotay, I found questioning him about the specifics of his interviews and what he expected the outcome to be frustratingly unproductive.  Normally a man of calm and little emotion in most situations, I had never seen him so disturbed.  He is not as communicative about this situation as I would have hoped.  He would only say that Admiral Nechayev had an “axe to grind” and resort to small talk about his recent familial interactions.  As he was not comfortable listening to my account of my Starfleet Medical examination, I too resorted to inconsequential small talk.

From the unimpressive knowledge displayed by the two Starfleet physicians assigned to me, I better understand why the conduct of an exam by Starfleet Medical was needed; B’Elanna and the Doctor’s extensive records on my implants were likely too complex for their understanding.  However, their medical examination was rudimentary and I am certain they have not obtained the enlightenment Starfleet desires. 

Because of Captain Janeway, I was not alone for another uncomfortable experience.  I would have preferred her presence during the examination but she was also undergoing extensive meetings and interviews on behalf of her Maquis crew.  She has been occupied with Starfleet and their tedious questioning, but has managed to send me messages at least twice a day.  I suspect that will likely stop, now that I am headed to Vulcan and regular communications could be used to track my location.  While logical to cease contact for the immediate future, I will . . . miss it.

After my examination concluded, she immediately contacted me and asked how I was.  I was pleased to report that the Doctor’s questioning of the Starfleet doctors’ every step managed to make them more nervous than I did.  From her amusement, I believe that was her real intent and not for their edification as she had told Starfleet.

Captain Janeway has always been a superior strategist and tactician. 

I am relieved the Doctor has been formally granted the rights and privileges of a fully sentient being; the first clear victory for Captain Janeway and her efforts to fight for the rights of her unique crew.  The Starfleet Medical and Science communities have been receptive to his impressive medical knowledge and contributions, in spite of his abrasive bedside manner and interrogation of the doctors examining me.  Captain Janeway confidently told me that I too would be welcomed by Starfleet.

Considering the Captain has arranged this clandestine trip to get me away from their direct influence, I am skeptical.  Considering what Captain Janeway is going through with Starfleet on behalf of her crew, I am not sure I desire their welcome.

I am pleased that the welcome I had most desired, I received. 

I did not expect Chakotay’s family would welcome me, or our relationship, and they did not.  But, considering their biases, they were impressively polite.  I was relieved when Chakotay suggested he visit with his family alone. 

My Aunt Irene had been clearly nervous, worried that I would be uncomfortable.  Her initial overtures to make me comfortable were counterproductive.  However, the Captain’s soothing presence helped settle my Aunt’s nerves and I found her to be a warm, intelligent, and witty woman.  When the Captain told me she could see the family resemblance, I was pleased.  I hope to get the opportunity to know my Aunt better.

The Janeways were . . . fascinating.  As the Captain had promised, she showed me their Indiana farm.  It was as beautiful as the holodeck program, although the holodeck failed to fully represent all of the smells. 

The Captain’s mother and sister made me feel welcome.  There was no aversion to my connection with the Borg or my implants; in fact, Phoebe Janeway stated I had impressive bone structure and asked if I would pose for a nude painting.  The Captain did not appear pleased at the thought, which seemed to amuse Phoebe.  I am not sure I will ever understand familial interactions, as there was much that was silently communicated between the three Janeways that I did not understand.  It was as if they were part of their own collective of three. 

I did acknowledge that my implants would not be aesthetically pleasing, but the Captain disagreed and told her sister that I would be a beautiful subject and that my portrait would be a wonderful gift for Chakotay.  I am uncertain why the Captain kept including a mention of Chakotay in her discussions with her family, as if their memory was somehow defective.  However, from my brief interactions with them, I am certain Gretchen and Phoebe’s memories are fully functional as they had several interesting stories to tell me about the Captain.

I am not sure how I feel about posing for a nude picture, though I am confident Phoebe Janeway would make my implants look less . . . offensive.           

It is intriguing how many characteristics are the same among the three Janeway women.  All have a palpable inner strength that is admirable.  All have similar features, smiles, and senses of humor.  And none of them seem to realize their habit of punctuating what they are saying with a gesture or gentle touch.  Yet with all their similarities, each has a distinctive personality.  Phoebe is much more outgoing and carefree than the Captain; given the absence of responsibility for others, it is not surprising.  Phoebe also enjoys pointing out the Captain’s flaws; she explained to me it was to keep the Captain’s ego from getting too big.  I must admit it was amusing at first but quickly grew . . . unacceptable.  Perhaps it was inappropriate to offer to help Phoebe fully understand Captain Janeway’s burdens in the Delta Quadrant and determine whether her poor opinion of her sister was still applicable, but it did prompt an apology.  I am still uncertain whether the Captain was more surprised I had threatened to assimilate her sister or that she received an apology from her.  I had planned to apologize to the Captain for my behavior, but her small smile and change of topic made me conclude it was not the error I had feared.  I was also relieved neither Phoebe, nor Gretchen Janeway, seemed upset with me about the incident during the remainder of my stay.

The Captain’s mother, Gretchen Janeway, is an impressive woman, which is logical.  She is an accomplished mathematician and is technologically competent, yet is a Traditionalist, oddly shunning technology, like the replicator.  I must admit I have never had meals more satisfying than those cooked by Gretchen Janeway.  She had recruited all of us to help in the food preparations.  While far more time-consuming than the replicator, the preparations were surprisingly enjoyable and provided a sense of community and belonging that I had never experienced before.  I have enjoyed working alongside Captain Janeway on Voyager and this was no exception.  And I was able to observe the Captain around her family, in an environment where she had no immediate command burdens or life-threatening situations; Phoebe managed to remain civil towards her sister for the remainder of my visit.  I had not anticipated I would experience such pleasure in seeing the Captain smile and hearing her laugh. 

When Gretchen prepared chocolate batter for the dessert, she slapped the Captain’s hand away from the bowl, but not before she had secured a sample on her finger.  From their amused looks, I concluded it had not been the first time.  I found myself . . . fascinated by the Captain’s enjoyment of the batter on her finger . . . and questioned why anyone would want to sample uncooked batter; the uncooked eggs would pose a health risk.  The Captain smiled and with Gretchen’s permission, offered a small sample.  Phoebe told Kathryn she shouldn’t dirty a spoon, though the Captain ignored her and did.  After sampling the batter and later, the hot brownie, I considered the taste of the baked dessert better.  Phoebe said that the forbidden nature of the batter makes it taste so much better and asked the Captain if that was not the case.  The comment appeared to annoy the Captain, like several Phoebe made.  However, I was uncertain as to why.  Though the Janeways tended to communicate almost as much silently as with words.

In my communications with the Captain, I always ask about her family, looking forward to hearing about them from her point of view.  When I learned her mother and Phoebe were going to Paris for Phoebe’s exhibition, the Captain encouraged me to go, saying Gretchen and Phoebe would love my company.  I explained I was restricted to my quarters, except for trips to Starfleet Medical and the Daystrom Institute campuses and then I was required to have an armed escort.  Considering that even those in her crew who had never been associated with the Maquis until Voyager had been interrogated with suspicion, I had concluded restrictions and assignment of an armed escort to a former Borg Drone logical, although ineffective, as I could easily incapacitate them.  Given my better than expected reception, I was not concerned with my circumstances and had not thought to relay them to the Captain.

However, Captain Janeway was clearly not pleased.  I have rarely seen her so angry.  She informed me that Starfleet had told her my travel was limited to Earth like the rest of the crew until their debriefings were concluded.  She was very distressed about my house arrest and troubled that she had not thought to ask.  Her apologies were unnecessary; I am well aware she has been busy dealing with all the issues involving all of her crew.  Captain Janeway has a tendency to accept blame that is not hers; it is a most annoying trait.

She came to my quarters that evening.  I had not realized how much comfort someone’s physical presence could provide or how much I desired it until she came, four days after we had returned to San Francisco from Indiana.  She pulled out a small device and confirmed that we were being monitored.  I expected as much but deemed it irrelevant.  However, it was not irrelevant to Captain Janeway, who scrambled the signal before she made a personal request of me. 

I was surprised she had asked me to leave Earth.  I do not think I have ever felt so . . . damaged.  The Captain quickly explained her concerns about my staying and her plans.  The warmth from her hand holding mine did more to settle my fears than her words.  

I acquiesced to Captain Janeway’s wishes for me to travel to Vulcan.  Logically, I know she does not need to be distracted with worry about what other plans for me Starfleet might implement without her knowledge as she defends the Maquis crew.  However, the more I revisit our last conversation, the more I am certain I have made a mistake in complying with her request. 

I wish I could take comfort in her passionate advocacy for my freedom; she has vowed to fight for me with “everything she has.”  Based on her past record, she would fight to the point of her own detriment.

Any injury to her is unacceptable.

End log.

Chapter 1 – Second Thoughts


Seven stood and went to her door with purpose, determined to seek transport back to Earth.  The Captain’s plan, while bold and intriguing, exposed the Captain to too much risk with her superiors - because of her.  That was unacceptable.  With a heavy exhale, she opened the door, annoyed with her irritating failure in logic when responding to the Captain and a personal request . . . .

Seven stopped with surprise, seeing Tuvok looking at her with a raised brow as his hand hovered over the unused door chime.

“Tuvok.  Explain,” she said tersely. 

He appreciated her efficiency in communication.  “A Ferengi shuttle is arriving in approximately 43 minutes,” Tuvok announced from the doorway.

Her optical implant rose inquiringly.  “Was it expected?”

“No.  However, they have the appropriate hailing signal to indicate they are . . . friendly.”


The docking was efficient, Seven noted, watching the Vulcan crewmember with interest.  She felt surprising anticipation at the unexpected arrival.  Tuvok explained it was a Ferengi personnel transport of one but that the manifest was not available, which was not unexpected; Ferengi rarely offer pertinent information for free.

“How are you certain that Starfleet is not involved?” Seven asked softly.
Tuvok’s brow rose.  “In their hail, they stated the ship’s next stop was Risa, then a direct trip to Klingon.  He offered a handsome discount for anyone interested.”

“Explain,” she said, feeling her frustration grow.  She hated not being aware of what was going on around her.

“It was a message to indicate who had arranged the transport to our vessel,” he said, staring ahead at the docking, and added “she is being thorough and cautious.”

Seven looked back at the bulkhead and access door that was being opened by the Vulcan crewman.  Her feelings of irritation for not being aware of what Captain Janeway was planning conflicted with overwhelming anticipation.  Surely she would be unable to join her, Seven thought logically, knowing it was irrational to hope her logic was flawed.

A Ferengi crewmember came out first with a big smile and a big bag of trinkets.  He headed to the first Vulcan crewmember in his path to pursue business opportunities.  The Vulcan crewmember patiently listened to the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for various purchases.  Seven was thankful there were several other people between the Ferengi and her.
Seven took in a surprised gasp, recognizing the passenger following behind the Ferengi.

“Seven!” the older woman eagerly called out with a smile, coming up to her and giving her a big hug.

Seven stiffened at the sudden contact but found herself gladly returning the hug.

Pulling back suddenly, Seven asked worriedly “Is the Captain . . . ?”

“Fine, Seven,” Gretchen interjected warmly.  “A bit agitated with all this Starfleet nonsense, but she is well,” Gretchen noted as she pulled back from the taller woman.

Seven let out a relieved breath.

“Tuvok, it is good to see you again,” the older woman said with a warm smile as she linked arms with Seven, who curiously glanced down at the captured appendage. 

Tuvok nodded and shared a look with Seven, who concluded he was not aware of any plans for Gretchen Janeway to join them.  “Her presence is logical,” he simply offered, prompting a smirk from a familiar, but older face.  “If you’ll excuse me,” he said politely and left them.

“How are you, dear?”  The older woman asked pointedly, looking the tall woman over.

“I am functioning within acceptable parameters, Gretchen Janeway,” she said, surprise still in her eyes.  “Why are you here?’

Gretchen chuckled at her bluntness.  “What?  Aren’t you happy to see me?” the older woman said dryly.

A worried look crossed Seven’s face.  “I did not mean…,” Seven blurted quickly.

“Relax, Seven.  I’m just teasing.  I find your directness . . . refreshing,” Gretchen said, patting Seven’s arm.  She sighed, adding somberly “Especially these days.”

“Explain,” Seven said, not understanding.

“Perhaps over a cup of tea?  You did get acceptable quarters, I hope?” Gretchen asked.

Seven looked at her curiously, but nodded in response.


“How are you feeling?” Gretchen Janeway said gently, sitting down on the couch and letting out a long sigh.

There were many ways to answer, but she went for the most expedient.  “Confused,” Seven said, holding out a cup of tea, which the older woman gratefully took. 

“Thank you,” she said.  After a cautious sip, she smiled.  “Pretty good . . . for replicator food,” Gretchen said with a smirk, amused by the slightly perturbed look on Seven’s face. 

“Why are you here?”  Seven asked with frustration.

“I am here because Kathryn did not want you to be alone.  And she’s right.  You shouldn’t be,” Gretchen explained simply with a smile.

“I am not alone,” Seven responded with confusion, sitting next to the older woman on the small sofa.  “Tuvok and his wife are available should I require company.”

“Seven, they are good friends but they are not family.  And at a time like this, you should be with family,” Gretchen offered sincerely, getting a confused look from the former drone.  “Whether you like it or not, Seven, you’re part of my family now.  And family provides unconditional love and support.”

Seven looked at the older woman, who had shown her nothing but kindness.  If not for the Janeways, she might never have known what it felt like being part of a family.  “Who . . . who is providing unconditional love and support for Captain Janeway?”  Seven asked weakly, almost too moved to speak. 

Gretchen grinned and chuckled softly as she offered “Phoebe.”

Seven frowned.  “I must return to Earth immediately.”

Gretchen laughed heartily.  “Oh Seven.  As much as Phoebe loves to taunt her older sister, she loves her.  And she will always be there for her - as much as Kathryn may not appreciate it.  Though, you threatening to assimilate my youngest did manage to quiet her,” she said with an amused chuckle.

“For a finite period,” Seven amended pointedly.

“None of Kathryn’s friends had ever confronted Phoebe like that,” Gretchen offered conversationally and took a sip of tea.

“None of the Captain’s friends have been able to assimilate her,” Seven countered bluntly.

“True.  But Phoebe likes to test people, to test their mettle.  She never did care for Mark, or even Justin, God rest his soul,” she said, noting the curious look in Seven’s eyes.  “Or her other . . . friends,” Gretchen uncomfortably added with a small smile, lifting the teacup to her lips again.

Seven’s optical implant rose.  “They just listened to Phoebe’s insults without saying anything?”  She asked, appalled by the idea.

“Hmmm,” Gretchen responded with an absent nod, taking a small sip.  “So I understand the Vulcan Institute is making some progress on slip stream technology.”

Seven nodded absently, still frowning at the idea that none of Captain Janeway’s fiancées or closest friends would confront Phoebe’s unacceptable behavior on her behalf.

“Seven?” Gretchen said after a quiet moment, gaining Seven’s attention.

“Yes?” she answered.  Seeing the expectant look, Seven quickly recalled the last comment and responded.  “There are some intriguing models they are working on.”

“The variable transdimentional matrix coefficient is amazingly frustrating,” Gretchen said wearily, shaking her head.

Seven looked at her with interest.  “Indeed.  The phase shift exponential was the first way I considered to . . . ,” Seven said, then paused as the older woman yawned.

“Oh dear,” Gretchen said with embarrassment.  “It’s not the company nor the topic, Seven.  Trust me, we’ll continue this conversation.  But I really need to take a nap.  Traveling at my age is a bit more taxing than I’d like to admit,” she said with a frown.  “Especially when travelling with the Ferengi.  I had to pretend to be nearly deaf and misunderstand the price several times before they left me alone,” she groused, shaking her head.

“I . . . see,” Seven said, pondering that experience a moment.  “I will have Tuvok help secure you a room.”

“No need.  I’m next door,” Gretchen said, getting up slowly, her tiredness evident. 

“She arranged a stateroom for you as well?” Seven asked with surprise.

Gretchen smiled with a bit of pride.  “She takes after her father in tactical implementation.” 

Seven once again found herself being hugged, which was becoming less and less of a foreign experience. 

“Aren’t you overdue for your regeneration?”  Gretchen accused with a raised eyebrow.

“I am able to delay regeneration for several days if I am not involved in intense physical activity, which I am not,” Seven countered a bit defensively.

“Dear, one should never miss an opportunity to regenerate or ingest nutritional supplements.  There is simply no logical reason not to be at your optimum, is there?” Gretchen scolded gently.

“I . . . will comply,” Seven said reluctantly.

Gretchen chuckled at Seven’s exasperated expression.  “Where do you think Kathryn gets her persistent nature?”

“That is one question I no longer need to ask,” Seven said dryly.

Gretchen smiled with amusement.  “Have a good regeneration, dear.”

“Sleep well, Gretchen Janeway,” Seven said as the older woman exited her stateroom.

Chapter 2 – The Real Thing


As Seven set up her portable regeneration unit on her bed, a tweep came from her console.  She curiously eyed it, wondering if Gretchen Janeway needed something.  When she pressed the screen, allowing the communications link, her optical implant rose curiously.  It was an encrypted communication.  After trying several Borg algorithms, Seven sighed with irritation just before the last algorithm unlocked the code.  The static screen finally turned into a crisp picture of a familiar grinning face.

“Captain!” Seven said with a small smile.

“Took you long enough,” Janeway said with smirk.

Seven eyed her with mild annoyance.  “I apologize if the 42.12 seconds of delay caused you any inconvenience.”

“Quite all right, Seven,” Kathryn said magnanimously.  “I’ve just been anxious to contact you and see how you are,” the Captain said with a warm smile.

Seven’s eyes lit up at the comment and the effort to communicate.  Her pleasure was dampened by reality.

“Is this communication wise?”

“Well, if it took you 42.12 seconds to unscramble this communication, it will be a few weeks before anyone else will manage.  Plenty of time to wrap all this up,” Kathryn said with a smile and great confidence.

Seven was pleased by the Captain’s comment, even though logic would dictate that it was still more prudent to be in communications silence, in spite of the Captain’s confidence.  However, she was too pleased to hear from Captain Janeway to appreciate that logic at the moment.

“So how are you?” Kathryn asked and sipped from her ever-present coffee mug.

“I am well, Captain,” she said, getting a nod and smile.  “As is your mother.  Her arrival was unexpected,” Seven noted neutrally.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Kathryn said with a slight wince.  “I just thought…you shouldn’t be alone,” she said uncomfortably.

“She informed me of your reasoning.  I . . . did not appreciate what I had been missing until she came,” Seven said sincerely then added dryly “It was very thoughtful of you to loan me your mother, Captain.”

Kathryn chuckled softly, then eyed her.  “I’d rather loan you my sister, but I couldn’t do that to you.”

“Your mother told me she was staying with you.  Is the arrangement unsatisfactory?” she asked curiously.

Kathryn’s eyes rolled.  “I wish I had learned the Vulcan neck pinch.  I’d get some peace and quiet.”

“I did offer to assimilate her for you,” Seven reminded her, her eyes alight with amusement.

Kathryn laughed.  “Then you would be subjected to all her thoughts, and trust me - no one deserves that,” she noted wryly.

“I trust you,” Seven said solemnly, surprising Kathryn with the sudden seriousness.

“I recall a time when that wasn’t so,” Kathryn said thoughtfully, causing Seven to also recall when she had arrived at Voyager.  “I hope . . . to always be worthy of your trust, Seven,” Kathryn added with quiet conviction.

Seven was surprised by how those words and the Captain’s gaze made her feel.  She felt . . . relevant and . . . happy.

“I have some good news,” Kathryn suddenly offered with a smile, interrupting the unexpectedly earnest moment.
Curiously disappointed, Seven tilted her head and looked at Kathryn expectantly.

Kathryn grinned with satisfaction.  “The junior members of the Maquis crew received full pardons today.  Chakotay and B’Elanna’s final hearing is tomorrow.  I’m expecting an equally favorable outcome.  Then we’ll be done with the Maquis hearings.”

“That is good news.  I too am confident of your success with Chakotay and B’Elanna,” she said.

“Not my success, we have excellent counsel and of course, compelling facts on our side,” Kathryn said firmly, dismissing her contribution to the hearings’ outcome.  “And Admirals Paris and Stockdale have helped a great deal.”

Seven looked at the woman with mild frustration, knowing that if she argued it was not the legal team nor the Admirals that was paramount to their success, it would be futile. 

“I know the past two days have been very hectic for you.  If you’re wondering why Chakotay hasn’t communicated with you since you left, he still thinks you’re on Earth, like everyone else,” Kathryn said with a wince.  “I haven’t had the chance to tell him what’s happening yet.  I was planning on pulling him aside when I see him next, outside the hearing tomorrow.”

“I have not wondered.  Chakotay’s lack of communication has been consistent since Voyager entered the Alpha Quadrant,” Seven stated.

“Wh…?  He hasn’t talked with you?”  Kathryn asked hesitantly, unable to believe that.

“Not during his visit with his family and only twice after the hearings started.”

Kathryn glanced down a moment to school her thoughts and emotions.  “I see,” she finally said with forced nonchalance.  “Well . . . I’m sure once everything clears up, he’ll reach you,” Kathryn said tightly, forcing what she hoped was a reassuring smile.

“He is having difficulty with his family,” Seven noted simply.  “I did not expect that I would be welcome.”

“They just don’t know you, Seven,” Kathryn responded with conviction.  “If they care for Chakotay’s happiness, they will make an effort to get to know you.  It will take time…and the pressure from Starfleet with these hearings isn’t helping any.  Give them time.  They’ll all be impressed with you – just like all the Janeways,” Kathryn said warmly.

“Thank you,” she said softly as Kathryn nodded, then sipped her coffee.  “But I do not think any of Chakotay’s family members will be asking me to pose nude for them.”  

Kathryn coughed on her coffee. 

Seven’s optical implant rose with interest.  Her response was as intriguing as when Phoebe had first suggested it.

“All right, perhaps not like all the Janeways,” she wheezed and cleared her throat.


“Seven, good morning!” Gretchen happily greeted the tall blond at her doorway, giving her a hug, which she only barely hesitated in returning.  “Please, come in.  We can have breakfast together,” she said, linking her arm through Seven’s and guiding her into the stateroom.

“That is the purpose of my visit.”

“Would you like some coffee?” Gretchen asked automatically, then stopped Seven’s response with her hand.  “Sorry,” she said with a wince.  “I know you don’t like coffee.  Would you like a nutritional supplement or fruit juice, dear?” 

“Apple juice, please.”

“Have a seat.  When we get back to Earth, I will make you some fresh apple juice.  Until then, please don’t hold me responsible for the taste,” Gretchen said wryly as she punched in the code for two glasses of apple juice.  When it materialized, she removed the drinks and tapped a few more buttons and two cinnamon buns appeared.

“I do not understand your aversion to replicator food,” Seven said as she sat on the couch and Gretchen placed the food on a small tray.  “The taste is an adequate representation and nutritionally equivalent.”

Gretchen smiled and joined her on the couch, placing the tray on the coffee table and handing over a glass of juice.  “Ah Seven.  Life is too short for just an “adequate representation” of anything, including food.  Cheers,” she said and sipped the juice and made a face of disappointment, then poked at her cinnamon bun before picking it up and taking a tentative nibble. 
“You seek . . . perfection,” Seven concluded, intimately familiar with that goal.  She slightly tilted her head as she looked at the older woman, who smiled warmly at her.

“It’s really not about perfection, although my brownies come pretty darn close, if I do say so myself,” she said with a chuckle. 

“I would concur,” Seven offered, never having had a more delicious dessert.  And thanks to the Captain, she had also gained an appreciation for the uncooked batter as well.

“Thank you, dear,” she said.  “I think what I look for in food is what I look for in life - the real thing.  To me, replicator food always seems to have an important ingredient missing, even though the ingredients and amounts may be exactly the same.  I can still tell the difference.  I wish I could better explain.”

“As do I,” Seven frowned, not understanding.  Gretchen chuckled.

“You, dear, are certainly the real thing,” she said with a smile.  “So very refreshing,” she said, reaching out and patting her knee.

Seven looked at her knee, then the older woman thoughtfully.  “Most people do not appreciate my bluntness.”

“Of course not, especially when people hear the truth that they don’t want to hear,” she offered sagely, then chuckled again.  “I’m sure you kept Kathryn on her toes.”


“I’m guessing you did not hesitate to tell her what you thought,” Gretchen said with amusement, imagining how frustrated that would have made her daughter.

“I . . . questioned many of her decisions,” Seven offered frankly, then looked down thoughtfully.  “She had a great responsibility.  I did not make things easy for her.”

“Oh, Seven, since when did Kathryn ever do anything the easy way?” Gretchen chuckled, looking at Seven who frowned slightly, not understanding.  “You gave her what she needed - a sounding board.”

“She had Chakotay and Tuvok,” Seven said. 

“Did she ever change her decisions after talking with you?”

“Not often.”

“But she did,” Gretchen pressed.


Gretchen smiled.  “A leader should have a confidant.  Someone who plays devil’s advocate.”

“As I have said, Tuvok and Chakotay provided her with counsel.”

“But you were the only one with no deference to Starfleet rules and regulations, which must have made very little sense in the Delta Quadrant at times.”

“I did have difficulty understanding their reason and value at times,” Seven acknowledged.

“And did you find answers when you questioned her?”

“She explained her logic, experience, or philosophy that drove her decisions.  Even so, I did not always agree with her conclusions.”

“I can imagine,” Gretchen said with a small smile, her gaze dropping as she recalled her own stubborn encounters.  “My husband, Edward, was very stubborn.  He had certain convictions and was inflexible about them, which was at times very annoying,” she offered bluntly, obtaining a surprised look.  “Kathryn can be just as set in her ways.  But if it was important enough, or hurting him, I’d figure out a way to get him to . . . bend,” she said with a sly smile.  “It just takes . . . persistence.”

Seven’s gaze dropped as she looked at her juice thoughtfully. 

“What’s wrong dear?”

“Captain Janeway communicated with me prior to my regeneration cycle.”

“I’m glad,” Gretchen said honestly, pleased her daughter had still managed to communicate with the young woman.

“As am I,” Seven said then frowned. “However, logically, it was not prudent.  And while I am grateful for her efforts to seek my freedom, the more I consider the situation, the more I realize the probability of a positive outcome for her is . . . infinitesimal.  In aiding me, she will be declared, at the very least, insubordinate, and at the worse, traitorous,” Seven said worriedly, looking into familiar hazel eyes.  “Did you know the punishment for treason has not changed for several hundred years in Starfleet’s history?” she asked gravely.  Seven shook her head and grew angry with herself.  “I should never have agreed to her request to leave for Vulcan.  I am not worth that risk . . . ,”

“Stop that.  Right now, Seven,” Gretchen commanded, sounding very much like the Captain, Seven noted uncomfortably.

“If this were Phoebe we were talking about, I’d be plenty worried.  That girl jumps in with both feet without looking – a bull in a china shop.  But this is Kathryn.  Our Kathryn.  She does not arbitrarily jump into a situation without a plan,” she said with conviction and adding with a smirk “or . . . seven.”  Gretchen grabbed Seven’s meshed hand without hesitation.  “She wanted you away from Earth for tactical reasons.  Have faith that she has thought this through, thoroughly.”

Seven looked at the older woman, thinking over her arguments.

“And Seven?  You are, most definitely, worth the risk,” Gretchen said pointedly, squeezing her hand.


Seven returned to her quarters, having spent an interesting day with Gretchen Janeway, who gave her much to consider.  She had agreed returning to Earth now would disrupt what Kathryn had planned, though neither knew exactly what that was.  While the concept of faith was not foreign to Seven, the practice of it was.  But if she had faith in anyone, it was Kathryn Janeway. 

Our Kathryn….

As she sat down at her sterile console to record her personal log, another tweep sounded.  With a slight, hopeful smile, she accepted the transmission, finding the encryption surprisingly rudimentary.  Her smile faded. 


Seeing what he thought was distress on her face, he quickly said “don’t worry, everything is ok, Seven.”  With a grin, he said, “It’s really good to see you.”

“Is Captain Janeway all right?” Seven asked with concern, surprising him.

“I’m fine, Seven, thanks for asking,” Chakotay said with mild irritation.

“The fact you are contacting me would indicate you are fine.  However, the fact the Captain has not contacted me at the expected interval is . . . disconcerting.”

Chakotay sighed.  “She’s fine, Seven.  Had another run in with Admiral Nechayev at the hearing today, but that’s par for the course.  Nothing she can’t handle.”

“Explain,” Seven said firmly, not liking the sound of this “run in.”

“Well,” Chakotay said with amusement.  “Admiral Nechayev practically accused the Captain of kidnapping the Doctor because he could not be contacted,” Chakotay said wryly.

“That is absurd,” she blurted.

“Well, absurd is half of the things Nechayev has been accusing all of us of.  The other half is . . . ,” he said, pausing to consider.  He eyed her with a smirk and asked,  “What’s worse than absurd?”

Seven frowned.  How could someone so illogical be a Starfleet Admiral, she wondered.

“Captain Janeway told her she thought the Doctor was on leave,” he relayed with amusement.  “Nechayev couldn’t believe a hologram would actually go on leave.  Then the Captain questioned why he would be any different than any other sentient being in Starfleet.  She knew it was a sore spot with Nechayev,” he said with a satisfied grin, prompting a confused look.  “Nechayev was the lone vote against the Doctor’s Sentient Being status,” he explained.

“It does not seem wise for Captain Janeway to provoke Admiral Nechayev,” Seven said with growing concern.

“Perhaps not, but it does make the day go faster,” Chakotay chuckled, then cringed at Seven’s frown.  “Seven, trust her.  She’s in her element.  She actually told the board she’d personally reprimand the Doctor on failure to follow the proper protocol for going on leave, once he got back.  Of course, she added that he had never actually gone on leave before . . . in Sentient Being status.”

A small smile emerged on her face.  “That would have been . . . interesting to observe.”

“The Doctor is very convincing as you,” he noted uncomfortably, scratching the back of his neck.  “I didn’t know until Kathryn told me.”

“It is not surprising, as we have had little contact with each other since Voyager’s return,” she noted without censure; it was just fact.

Chakotay winced guiltily.

“I should have known he wasn’t . . . you,” he said awkwardly.  “Though if I had kissed him, I’m sure I’d have known,” Chakotay added with a wry grin.

“I am sure the Doctor is relieved you had not.”

Chakotay chuckled, thankful she had found humor in his inability to tell her from her imposter.  “My family is going to have a celebration - B’Elanna and I have finally been cleared.  I’m finally free to concentrate on the future,” he offered with a smile.

“There was no logical reason for any other outcome.”

“Thank you.”

“I trust B’Elanna had some . . . colorful words about the experience.”

“You know, she’s just relieved, as I am.  I wish you were here to celebrate with me,” he said.  “I never expected you would be going to Vulcan.”

“Neither had I.  However, Captain Janeway believes it is for the best for now.  She was not pleased to learn I was restricted to my quarters unless I had an armed escort for Starfleet authorized meetings.”

Chakotay looked at her uncomfortably, surprised by that restriction.

“Fortunately, the Vulcans are more welcoming of a former drone than Starfleet command,” Seven said, prompting Chakotay’s eyes to drop briefly in guilt.  “I look forward to engaging their Advanced Propulsion department at the Vulcan Science Institute.”

“Just up your alley,” he said, smiling weakly.


“But don’t enjoy yourself too much,” he said with attempted humor.  “I’m sure the Captain will resolve everything and you’ll be coming home soon,” he said with a warm smile.  “Then we can celebrate, together.  How does that sound?” 

“I look forward to returning to Earth.  There is much I wish to see and do,” she offered. 

Chakotay’s smile broadened.  “And I have a few ideas of what we can do together.”

“Gretchen Janeway informed me that autumn in Indiana is a sight to behold.  Even better than the holographic representation of autumn I have experienced on Voyager,” Seven noted, causing his smile to fade as he wondered why they were now talking about the Captain’s mother and Indiana.

“I haven’t had the pleasure of talking with Mrs. Janeway.”

“She is quite impressive,” she said with a small, pleased smile.  “I had an interesting discussion with her about Professor Gotland’s theories of quadramentional variables and their application to slip stream mechanics.  She is quite insightful about engineering, which seems incongruous with her Traditionalist background.”

“I . . . see.”


Gretchen looked at the small screen on which her youngest daughter was frowning.  “No I will not tell Kathryn that.  You need to trust her in these matters,” she said tiredly.

“I feel like a prisoner!” Phoebe whined.

“Are any of the guards rude?”

“Noooo.  Two of them actually asked me out on a date . . . ,” she offered with a small smile, then remembered she was annoyed.  “And that’s not to the point!” Phoebe complained, making Gretchen bite her lip.  “That’s not funny.  They are Starfleet!!”

“Phoebe, I know you don’t appreciate anyone who is in Starfleet but maybe…” Gretchen said reasonably.

“Mom!  And I don’t have anything against someone in Starfleet, but can you actually see me . . . ,” she started and saw her mother was far too amused.  “Are you going to tell Kathryn to stop assigning me guards or not??” She asked flatly.

“No dear.  Things are still too volatile to forgo sensible precautions.  And your sister needs you to help, not combat her every step,” Gretchen scolded, then sighed. “Perhaps it was a bad idea,” she said tiredly, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“That’s what I’ve been saying!”

“No.  I mean you staying with her.  But I’m pretty sure she’d still insist on a guard for you in Indiana, until things settle down….” Gretchen said thoughtfully.
“I’m not going back to Indiana until things are settled,” Phoebe interjected firmly.  “I’m the only one left who knows she needs to eat and rest and can usually get her to.  I’m not leaving her to battle these wolves alone,” she said with conviction.

“She doesn’t need to battle you too, dear,” Gretchen said with a tired sigh.

Phoebe frowned.  “I knooooow.  But she’s so pig headed.  And she still won’t admit how wrong it is to let Commander Monotonous…,” Phoebe complained but was promptly interrupted.

“Phoebe,” Gretchen sharply said, causing her daughter to take a breath to protest.  “NO.  I mean it, young lady.  You are not helping.  She needs to focus on the hearings, not your droning on about that.”


“Your continued harping on about your sister is not welcome.  Stop it.  We have not been with Kathryn or gone through what she has for the past seven years.  We can’t possibly know enough to criticize her personal decisions….” 

“Are you’re kidding me??  I don’t have to be trailing behind Kathryn for seven years to know when she is making a huge mistake with Seven....”


Gretchen snapped, as did another, off screen.

“Crap,” Phoebe said, looking over her shoulder with a wince.  “Well, Kathryn’s back,” she said to her mother with a fake smile.  “Kathryn!  Why don’t you say hi to mom?”  She said melodically, getting up from the console, shaking her head.

Gretchen saw the waists of her children fill the viewscreen as a few mumbled words were exchanged. 

“You’re getting dinner!  Whether you are hungry or not!” Phoebe shouted, moving away as her eldest daughter sat down.

“Fine,” Kathryn blurted wearily, rolling her eyes.

Gretchen looked at her tired daughter, who took Phoebe’s seat.  “How are you, Kathryn?”

“I would have thought Phoebe had filled you in on how I am, at least in her opinion,” she said with a frown.  “I don’t suppose you’ve been hiding the fact that she’s adopted, have you?”  Kathryn said, looking at her mother expectantly.

Gretchen chuckled.  “No dear.  She’s not too thrilled about the guards.”

Kathryn smirked.  “I know.  I really don’t want to take any chances with anyone close to me.  I’m not exactly Starfleet’s favorite officer at the moment, regardless of the media hype.”

“Starfleet?  Or a certain faction?”

“There’s no distinction,” Kathryn said but softly added “yet.”

Gretchen could see her daughter was tired.  “Are you all right?” Gretchen said gently.

“I will be,” Kathryn said with confidence.  “Seven’s hearings are starting tomorrow.  I’m really glad she is not here to endure that spectacle.  Nechayev is really looking forward to it.  She’s out for blood,” Kathryn said with a frown and disapproving shake of her head.

“We’re worried about you,” Gretchen said softly, getting a neutral look.

“Things are . . . progressing,” Kathryn said vaguely.

“And after Seven’s hearing?” Gretchen asked, already guessing.

“I’m last in the Nechayev circus, of course,” Kathryn said, chuckling with little humor.  “She promised me she’d have my pips one day – and that was before getting lost in the Delta Quadrant,” she said with a lopsided smile and shrug.

“You have always been far more then just your pips, dear.”

“Thank you,” Kathryn said softly and smiled at her mother, who always seemed to have a gift with words.  “You know, if that’s the worst thing that happens to me . . . I think . . . I could live with that,” she offered with acceptance, surprising her mother.

“I’m sure that won’t happen.  But should Starfleet take those pips for surviving and bringing your crew home after seven years out there alone, then they are no longer worth having,” Gretchen said with quiet conviction.

Kathryn looked at her mother a thoughtful moment.  “That was almost as good as one of your hugs,” she said.  “Thanks, mom.”

“You could hug your sister, or apparently one of those friendly guards you’ve assigned her,” Gretchen suggested dryly, causing Kathryn to chuckle.

“I think she actually likes one of them, but won’t admit it,” Kathryn offered with a smirk.

“Denial seems to run in the family,” Gretchen ventured, closely eyeing her daughter, whose amusement quickly faded.

“I’ve told Chakotay about Seven’s trip.  He’s communicating with her now,” Kathryn said neutrally, her previous mirth completely gone.

Gretchen exhaled heavily and nodded, understanding there were times to leave things alone. 

“I would have thought he’d be on the first transport to Vulcan now that he’s cleared,” Kathryn said with a puzzled frown. 

Gretchen continued to hold her tongue as she watched the storm of emotions cross her daughter’s face. 

“I want to thank you, Mom.  For staying with her,” Kathryn said, looking at her with such gratitude, Gretchen’s heart clenched. 

“I’m glad you asked.  She’s an exceptional young woman, Kathryn . . . even if she does believe she can program a replicator to create food as good as mine,” Gretchen offered with a displeased grimace.

Kathryn laughed.  “If anyone can do it, it’d be Seven.”

“I’m sorry dear, your transmission must be breaking up.  I don’t think I accurately heard your last,” Gretchen said dryly.

“Good night, mom.  I love you,” she said with a warm smile.

“Good night, dear.  I love you too.”

Chapter 3 – Philosophical Discussions


Gretchen shifted under the covers and grumbled as a persistent chime filled her dreams.  Her eyes blinked opened when she realized the sound was annoyingly real.  With a yawn, she got out of bed and donned her robe as she shuffled to the door, feeling much older than her seventy-three years.

“Come,” she said in a croak, causing the door to open.  She blinked, not really surprised to find Seven at her door.   What surprised her was the time.  Though,  Gretchen recalled Kathryn’s communications from the Delta Quadrant, which mentioned the young woman’s affinity for philosophical discussions, regardless of the time.  The older woman hoped she could keep up with her.

“I am sorry to have disturbed you,” Seven said worriedly, seeing the older woman disheveled and yawning.  “I will come back after your sleep period,” Seven said uncomfortably and started to retreat.

“Hold it right there, young lady,” Gretchen said sternly, causing Seven to stop and look at her uncertainly.  “If you think I’ll be able to sleep, wondering what prompted you to come to my door at this hour, you are sadly mistaken.  Come in,” she said and found Seven hesitating, knowing she had not considered the older woman’s sleep.

“It will be more efficient for you to just talk to me now,” Gretchen said, smiling when Seven sighed and entered her stateroom. “Have a seat.  Would you like some tea?”

Seven looked at her uneasily as she sat on the small couch. 

“I’m getting myself a cup, dear.  One more won’t be any trouble.”

“You should have herbal tea, caffeine inhibits sleep,” Seven said.

“Is chamomile suitable?” Gretchen asked with mild amusement. 

“That is an appropriate choice.  I will have the same, please.”

Gretchen smiled as she punched the replicator buttons.  “So, did you have a nightmare?” she ventured gently.

“Nightmare?  I do not normally dream while regenerating.”

“Really?” she said with interest.  “That would be a blessing,” she offered, returning to the couch with two cups.

“Explain,” Seven said, receiving her tea.

“Well, without dreaming, there would be no nightmares, which would be a good thing,” Gretchen said, sitting down.  “Unfortunately, it is common to have nightmares when there is great uncertainty in your life.  One of the worst kind is when you are worried about those you care about – especially when they are going through difficult times,” Gretchen offered, placing a warm hand over Seven’s mesh.  “When Voyager was lost, mine were . . . horrible.”

Seven nodded.  “I have had nightmares.”

“Of the Borg?” Gretchen asked gently.

“Yes.  Of the Captain and the crew getting assimilated . . . because of me,” Seven said, her eyes dropping guiltily.

“One thing I know for sure, Seven, is that you would never harm Kathryn . . . or the crew,” Gretchen said with soft conviction.

“My presence continues to bring her danger.  The Queen had attempted to retrieve me, more than once.  And the Captain responded by risking herself and the ship to get me back.  And now she is once again risking herself for me by sending me to Vulcan,” Seven said with disapproval.

“A professional risk is a bit different than a physical one, Seven,” Gretchen offered.

“There should be no risk,” Seven countered stubbornly.

“Seven?” Gretchen said softly.  “Do you not have anyone you care about that you would risk yourself for?”

Seven looked at the older woman with an immediate answer “Yes.”

“Chakotay is a lucky man,” Gretchen offered with a thin smile and sipped her tea as she observed Seven’s surprise.

Seven took a breath to respond, but instead exhaled wordlessly and frowned, looking down thoughtfully for a moment.  “And would the inverse corollary be true – that if someone is not willing to risk themselves, they do not truly care for you?”

Gretchen eyed her curiously.  “Perhaps.  But perhaps they care, but lack courage.”


“People are not logical,” Gretchen started, getting a clearly unimpressed look from Seven.  Gretchen chuckled softly at her reaction but dutifully plowed ahead with her answer.  “One person may fear snakes, for example.  That fear may be so debilitating that in the presence of snakes, they may not act as they normally would or would want to.”

“I know of no one with ophidiophobia,” Seven said flatly, eyeing Gretchen, who rolled her eyes. 

“All right, what about a fear of another’s opinions?”

“Opinions of others are irrelevant,” Seven said with blunt superiority.

“Is my opinion irrelevant to you, Seven?” Gretchen asked innocently with a slight smile of challenge.

Seven looked at her with mild surprise then frowned.  “No.  However, I do not believe I would act contrary to my beliefs should we disagree.”

“Not everyone is as confident in their beliefs.  Some accept counsel and change them.  Others may think it isn’t worth going against what is expected of them, by those whose opinions they value.  There can be significant difficulties when another’s beliefs are dismissed.”

“Such as familial relationships becoming uncomfortable,” Seven offered.

“That’s one frequent example.”

Seven nodded.

“If the Captain dismisses Starfleet’s final opinion regarding my status, there will be difficulties for her.  She will help me stay away from them to assure my protection even though it will injure her,” Seven said with disapproval.

“Seven?  I want you to know that I would be extremely disappointed in Kathryn if she chose her career over another’s safety,” Gretchen spoke plainly.

Seven looked at her curiously as she considered her words.  After a long, silent moment she asked, “Do you think her actions on my behalf are a result of her desire to avoid your disappointment?”

Gretchen’s hearty laughter surprised Seven.  “No, dear.  Not at all,” she said with a big smile that slightly faded as she tried to explain.  “Her actions are based on what she truly believes in her heart to be the right thing for you.  You should never doubt that,” she added with conviction, glancing at the young woman who had a never-ending supply of questions.

“What if . . . what she truly believes was something you disagreed with…strongly?”

Gretchen noted the painful uncertainty in Seven’s crystal blue eyes.  In spite of all her impressive knowledge obtained from her time with the Borg, Seven of Nine still had so much to learn about the human condition.  The more time she spent with Seven, the more she understood why Kathryn was so very protective and careful with the young women who bravely navigated these emotionally turbulent waters.  Without a mother to guide and nurture her, Gretchen considered sadly, taking a deep breath to stem the tears that were far too late for the innocent child lost to the Borg.

“A parent molds a child into hopefully a strong, self-reliant adult with compassion and common sense.  I don’t always agree with my daughters’ choices and opinions.  I didn’t agree with Edward at times.  But I have always tried to listen and understand them.  And when it was clear they would not change their mind, I had to trust them and hope for the best,” she noted with a thoughtful sigh.

“But you tried to make Edward . . . bend, when you strongly disagreed.”

“Yes.  But I respected his convictions, even if I thought they were misplaced.  I would not have respected him if his position could have been easily swayed by the opinions of others.”

“Including yours?” Seven challenged.

Gretchen chuckled softly.  “As aggravating it was to disagree on the few things we did, I respected his strength of conviction.”

“And if he did not bend as you wished, and made a grave error?”

“I’d be there to pick up the pieces,” Gretchen said with a small tight smile.  “It is difficult to balance the desire to support someone you love with the desire to protect them.  At what point do you become controlling and suffocating?  Is that true love?  Trying to manipulate someone?  Sometimes you have to let them make those mistakes you think they are making, hoping the mistake really isn’t that bad, or that they may understand something you don’t and you are . . . wrong,” Gretchen said with a small shrug.

Seven shifted uncomfortably.  “Have you ever been silent when you believed Edward was making a bad decision?”

Gretchen looked at her a moment and nodded.  “Before we were married.  Actually, before we were dating.”

“Explain . . . please,” Seven added softly, intently focused on the older woman.

“Rebecca Schiller,” Gretchen announced with displeasure.

“The astrophysicist?” Seven responded with surprise, having read several papers from the accomplished woman.

“Yes.  She was a friend and Edward managed to get himself engaged to her,” Gretchen said with irritation even after all these years.

“Why?” Seven asked bluntly, making Gretchen smile.

“She met all his criteria,” Gretchen said, causing Seven’s eyes to glance away thoughtfully.  “She was beautiful, had distinguished standing in the academic community, and of course, doted on him,” Gretchen said, rolling her eyes.  “Everything he could possibly want.”

“But . . . ,” Seven said then finished with honest confusion.  “I do not understand.”

“Matters of the heart can be a murky business, Seven.  Unfortunately there is no technical manual or chart to rely on,” Gretchen noted.

“Of that, I am well aware,” she offered with disapproval.  “The Doctor provided me some counsel in that area.”

“The . . . Doctor?” Gretchen repeated with surprise, wondering what kind experience a hologram would have with matters of the heart.  Perhaps that explained Chakotay, she considered with a slight wince.

“Yes.  Although, his training modules on social etiquette and holographic dinner guests were far more useful.”

“Of course,” Gretchen said with a slight cringe.  “Well, the training most people usually have is trial and error, by dating different people,” she said.

Seven looked at her with displeasure.  “That is inefficient.”

“True,” Gretchen allowed with an amused smile.  “But how else are we to really learn about ourselves, our needs, our wants . . . our desires in a mate?  We also learn who might fulfill those needs and wants the best.”

“You sought . . . perfection,” Seven offered, tilting her head slightly.

“Oh no,” Gretchen chuckled.  “If I did, I would have been very disappointed,” Gretchen added with mild amusement.  “What I was seeking was someone who … would complement me,” she said, then smiled as she thought of Edward and continued.  “Someone who would help me to be better, who would make me want to be better.  Someone who . . . I could be myself with and who would still love me, faults and all.  Someone I could be furious with yet still know our love would always weather any storm.  Someone who made me happy - who I wanted to make happy.  Someone who could make my heart soar,” Gretchen said wistfully, then looked at Seven with a sheepish smile for her long speech.

“That sounds like . . . perfection,” Seven said with soft reverence. 

“You are a romantic at heart, aren’t you, Seven,” Gretchen said warmly.

“I had not previously considered several of those less . . . tangible attributes of a relationship,” Seven said uncomfortably.  “However, I believe those things you describe are relevant.”

“I think they are essential.  And if those things are missing?  You’d know - like being given replicator food,” Gretchen added with a smirk.

Seven eyed her a moment, before her gaze dropped thoughtfully.

“But your husband . . . was engaged to someone else,” Seven said, confused.  “How did you let that occur?”

Gretchen smiled.  “He had no idea I was so captivated by him.  He was dashing, and had a quiet strength and intelligence about him,” Gretchen said with a thoughtful sigh.  “I knew he was the one,” she said with conviction, then added flatly, “. . . well, until he got engaged.”

“You did not inform him of your attraction to prevent the engagement?”

Gretchen looked at her with disapproval at the thought  “Oh no, dear.  I couldn’t do that.  Rebecca was a friend and very much smitten with Edward.”

“That is illogical.  For Edward to make the best decision, he needed all the pertinent data.”

“If I had said anything, I could have lost two friends.  I didn’t even know if he’d ever think of me as more than a friend.  They seemed happy together; who was I to interfere?”

Seven looked at her a moment.  “Ultimately, he chose you.  How did he make the correct decision, if you had not informed him of his error?”

Gretchen smirked at her conviction of Edward’s error.  “Well, I suppose he started to see things a bit differently when their small engagement party encountered a few difficulties.  The replicators were damaged after an unfortunate power surge, so I helped out with the food,” Gretchen said with a small smile.  “A wood fire, a makeshift pizza oven, and farm-fresh food from my parents’ and neighbor’s farm and I was in business – I made a pretty good meal, if I do say so myself.”

“You helped them . . . celebrate their engagement?”  Seven asked with a frown.

“I couldn’t very well abandon Rachel and Edward in their time of need.”

Seven looked at her a curious moment.  “So, the adage the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is true?”

Gretchen chuckled, “well, more like he saw how poorly Rebecca handled adversity.  She was a perfectionist and never good under everyday pressures.  And one thing he had learned about himself was how much he appreciated a self-sufficient woman who could deal with the problems life throws at you.”

“And he then realized you were the correct choice and sought you?” Seven ventured.

“Oh he sought me, alright,” Gretchen grumbled, shaking her head.  “He needed a shoulder to cry on.”

Seven frowned.  “He cried on your shoulder?” she asked, annoyed that personal interactions too often defied common sense or logic.

“Not literally.  He needed to talk through his doubts.  He was terribly conflicted.  He still thought Rebecca had many redeeming qualities.  She did – and I told him so.”

“Why did . . . I do not understand,” Seven said with frustration.

Gretchen eyed Seven a long moment before answering.  “When you care for someone, you try to put their best interests ahead of yours.  I cared for both Rebecca and Edward.  They had to figure out their relationship on their own, without my interference.  And I wasn’t going to approach him, at least until he officially broke it off with Rebecca.  And even after he did, I waited several months before making my interest known.”

Seven sighed with irritation.  “I . . . I am not understanding your explanation.  Why would it matter when you entered into a relationship?  You two ultimately were best suited for each other.” 

Gretchen nodded, appreciating Seven’s frustration.

“I valued Rebecca’s friendship, Seven.  To steal away “her man” would not be what a friend does,” she explained patiently.

“But you could not steal what was not hers.”

“Facts are not always clear when emotions are involved.  Sometimes people are reluctant to admit a relationship is not working or has been a failure and search for someone to blame.”

Seven sighed.  “What if he had erred again and sought other companionship?”

Gretchen winced.  “He did date after his breakup with Rebecca.”

“Why would you allow that??”

“I wasn’t in a position to “allow” him to do anything and I was deliberately slow in letting him know I cared for him more than a friend.”

Seven frowned.   “Why were you deliberately slow?”

“Seven, with the emotional upheaval, such as an end of a serious relationship, people tend to make more bad decisions by jumping immediately into another relationship, the “rebound relationship.”  A relationship they would not normally want if they had took their time and got to know their partner.  I did not want to be Edward’s rebound relationship.”

“That does not make sense.”

“After a failed relationship some people might feel inadequate or like they might have done something wrong or were too demanding or unfair.  Oh, there are so many emotions to deal with – especially when you’ve broken up a very serious relationship.”

“Even though the break up is the logical decision?”

“Even though,” Gretchen smiled gently.  “After a failed relationship, some people feel like they need to be in a relationship, any relationship, to not be a failure.  They love the idea of being in love and pursue it, maybe even finding amazing passion - during the early days.  But when the couple starts to get to know each other, they may find there isn’t a foundation for a good, long-term relationship, that there really isn’t the love they had hoped existed.”

Seven frowned and noted softly “that mistake can be made even if not in a . . . rebound relationship.”

Gretchen eyed Seven, who stared at the floor thoughtfully.

“Yes.  We’ve covered the trial and error nature of dating.  There are some who don’t want to get too serious and are happy with just dating various people.  And for those who want the commitment and long term relationship, sometimes they get engaged and married, even when they are aware of the less than optimal relationship.”

“There appears to be more negative than positive aspects to intimate relationships,” Seven said uneasily.

“It may appear that way.  But I’d gladly go through every bad date and heartache again,” Gretchen said, unable to not yawn before finishing her thought, “because they taught me what I wanted and brought me to Edward.”

Seven had so many more questions but the yawn reminded her she was intruding upon Gretchen’s rest.  “I would like to continue our discussion after you have had sufficient rest,” she said abruptly and stood.

“I’m sorry, Seven,” Gretchen said guiltily.  “All I need is a cup of coffee.”

“That is illogical.  You need to sleep now and we will have opportunities to discuss more in the future,” Seven said firmly.

Gretchen smiled.  “All right, dear.  It’s a rain check.”

Seven nodded curtly.  “Good night, Gretchen.”

“Good night, dear.  Have a pleasant regeneration.”


Seven returned to her dark stateroom contemplating all that Gretchen had told her. 

Her head tilted curiously when she glanced at her console that was flashing with a message.  She sat down and brought up the screen.  A slight smile appeared as she entered an algorithm.  The smile faded as the computer beeped the rejection of the algorithm.  She tried another decryption algorithm, then another.  Finally her fourth worked and the screen displayed a smirking Captain Janeway.

“42.02 seconds.  A whole tenth of a second faster, Seven.  I’m impressed.”

Seven took a long breath before responding.  “And how are you, Captain?” she said politely, causing Kathryn to chuckle.

“Good.  Thanks for asking.  I’m not interrupting your regeneration, am I?” Kathryn asked and sipped from her mug.

“No.  I have not commenced my regeneration cycle yet.  I have just returned to my cabin.  Is this not your sleep period?”

“Uh . . . yes,” Kathryn said with a slight wince.

“You should not be drinking coffee.”

Kathryn looked down at her mug then looked up.  “How are you so sure it’s coffee?” she challenged.

Seven only answered with a raised ocular implant.  

Kathryn chuckled, conceding it was highly unlikely she’d drink anything else in a mug.  “I have never had a problem sleeping because of drinking coffee,” she declared.

“Then there is another reason you are not sleeping?”

Kathryn shook her head.  “I guess . . . I just wanted to check in.”

“I am glad you did, Captain.  The day is not . . . “ Seven offered, pausing to find the precise word, “complete without our communications,” Seven offered, noting Kathryn’s surprise then pleased smile.

Seven saw the Captain was about to say something but an odd look crossed her face.  When she did speak, Seven concluded the Captain had censored herself.

“So . . . have you planned what you are going to do on Vulcan?  I know the Science Institute is anxious to talk with you, but there are a few sights worth seeing there too,” Kathryn said with an encouraging smile.

Seven tilted her head slightly and looked at the Captain, considering it was not the first time she had seen that odd look, or concluded the Captain had censored her words just before speaking; there were two times she was certain of on Voyager and eight since their arrival in the Alpha Quadrant, predominately during their visit to the Janeway farm.

Kathryn felt uncomfortable from Seven’s continued scrutiny, prompting her to fill the awkward silence.  “But then, I suppose you’ll find the discussions on quadramentional variables and their application to slip stream mechanics sufficient recreation,” she joked weakly.

“Perhaps.  However, I am interested in your suggestions,” Seven said, seeing what looked like relief. 

“Excellent,” Kathryn said with a grin.  “The hanging gardens of To’ Votar are not just beautiful but the engineering involved is . . . breath taking,” Kathryn said with appreciation.

Seven listened, finding herself more interested in Captain Janeway’s enthusiasm than the impressive gardens themselves.