A Star Trek: Voyager Story (J/7)
BíElanna sighed as she stood in the observation room and waited. She watched the Captain, who was sitting on the couch, playing kadis-kot and chatting with her child with a delighted smile. It wasnít often she saw the older woman smile like that. She knew why Seven was torn about taking this happiness away from her. But she also knew the Captain. This was not how she would want to live her life if she had any suspicion this wasnít real.
"Seven?" Kathryn called out as she looked over her shoulder, towards the kitchen and her wife. "Is lunch ready yet? Emmaís stomach is growling."
"Mom, I think that loud noise was YOUR stomach," Emma countered with an amused smile, causing a frown as Kathryn looked down at her stomach.
"Well SOMEONEís stomach was growling and we shouldnít keep it empty!" Kathryn declared, causing Emma to giggle and hop to her feet. My, how the daughter had grown, BíElanna thought with surprise, watching the young girl hold a hand out and easily help her mother to her feet.
BíElanna smirked, noting how Emma was almost as tall as Kathryn.
"Can you make it to the kitchen in your weakened state, Mom? Or do you need some help?" Emma teased.
"Watch it, young lady. You may be an honors scholar and my pride and joy, but remember. . . ."
". . . Iím still your mother and I can make your life miserable," Emma repeated the familiar and well-used warning with a smirk.
"And donít you forget it," Kathryn confirmed, wrapping an arm around her waist with a grin as they walked to the kitchen counter.
"Doesnít Gretchen still tell you that?" the dream Seven said with amusement, setting sandwiches down on the counter as Kathryn and Emma sat on the stools. Kathryn looked at Seven with a silent "thanks a lot" glare.
Emma chuckled, earning a "watch it" glare from Kathryn, making Emma laugh more.
"Children," Kathryn said, rolling her eyes.
BíElannaís eyes widened when Seven suddenly appeared in the kitchen, next to her dream-self. "Kahless," the Chief Engineer hissed with alarm as Seven turned towards her dream counterpart and sucked in a surprised breath.
"Whatís wrong?" Kathryn turned, hearing Sevenís gasp.
Seven exhaled with relief when the double was suddenly gone. Intense curiosity and longing prompted the former Borg to reach over the kitchen counter and cover Kathrynís hand with her own.
Kathryn eyed their hands then her wife, who was acting oddly. "Seven?" Something was definitely off.
"Your hands . . . are soft and warm," she said with amazement.
Kathryn eyed her curiously. "I . . . uh. . . okaaaay," she said, thinking the comment odd. "Darling, maybe you should eat something," she joked uncomfortably, squeezing her hand as she slid her sandwich back towards her.
Seven forced a smile but held onto her hand, having missed the contact.
"Mom, Iím going to go outside to ride, OK?" Emma asked eagerly.
"You forfeiting the game?" Kathryn challenged, looking back at the kadis-kot board.
"I was going to win in two moves anyway," Emma said with a confident smirk.
"Uh huh. Well, donít be too long. Your Grandmother and Aunt Phoebe are coming by for dinner," Kathryn said. "Iím sure they would like to visit with you for more than ten minutes."
"Yes mom," Emma moaned, rolling her eyes. She hopped off her stool and rushed out of the house before Kathryn could scold her about her attitude.
"Kathryn?" Seven came around the counter, still holding the older womanís hand, unwilling to let it go.
"Hmm?" Kathryn looked up with a smile as Sevenís other hand slipped behind her head, pulling her into a desperate kiss.
When her wife pulled back, a delighted smile filled Kathrynís face. "Wow. That was . . .," she said huskily and didnít bother to finish her sentence before pulling the willing blonde into another kiss.
Seven was amazed how real this all felt, the softness of her lips, the moist warmth of her mouth. The feeling of longing and arousal that grew inside was very real as their kiss continued. She could understand why Kathryn wouldnít question whether this was real or not. It felt addictively real. She suddenly stiffened, realizing the danger in just how much she wanted to just stay in the loving cocoon of Kathrynís embrace. She forced herself to remember her mission; she had to bring Kathryn home.
As their lips parted, Kathryn found herself pulled into a tight hug. "Do you trust me, Kathryn?" Seven whispered into her ear with desperation, loathing the thought of causing her lover any pain. She had one chance at trying to get through to Kathryn before BíElanna selected the negative setting.
"Of course I do," Kathryn said, pulling back, wondering what was upsetting her wife.
"You must listen," Seven said firmly, looking into her eyes.
"Okaaay," Kathryn said slowly, with growing concern.
"This . . . is a dream," Seven said bluntly, pulling back to glance around the Indiana farm house before returning her serious gaze to Kathryn.
Kathryn smirked with amusement at Sevenís odd humor. "Yes, yes it is. A dream come true, darling," she readily agreed, caressing her wifeís arm.
"No," Seven said with frustration. "That is not what I meant," she continued with concern, finding it difficult to get her point articulated. "Do you remember the Uttuskans?" She tried again, feeling as if she was caught in an undertow, unable to swim against the strong currents of Kathrynís thoughts.
Kathrynís smile faded, really not thrilled with that topic of conversation. "Hard to forget them - especially when I screwed up so royally with you," she said uncomfortably. "Are you feeling all right, darling? You look a bit . . . tired," Kathryn interjected, caressing her wifeís cheek, then feeling for a fever.
"Kathryn . . . ." Seven said with urgency, indeed feeling tired.
"Look, why donít you regenerate?" Kathryn offered. "You probably could use it after last night," she added with a satisfied smirk. "Donít worry about a thing, Iíll take care of dinner. . . ."
"Kathryn . . . ." Seven repeated with frustration. As much as she tried to argue, she found Kathrynís thoughts too overwhelming, apparently muting anything she didnít want to discuss. Sevenís stomach dropped, knowing that the device that had been helping protect Kathrynís happy dream existence would soon bring her pain.
"Donít worry, I will follow the recipe to the letter. Believe me, I donít want to sit through another dinner listening to Mother and Phoebe complain about how I tried to kill them with my cooking again."
"Kahless," Seven uttered miserably, having failed Kathryn again.
"Iím sorry," BíElanna said in a pained whisper and winced as she pressed a button and slowly turned a dial on the console.
A tweep from the communications console in the den sounded, causing Kathryn to sigh and try to ignore it. She was more interested in defending her culinary honor.
"I know Iíve had my troubles in the past; but I am confident, Seven, I can cook something consumable without requiring the Doctorís services," she said with a smirk.
Another tweep sounded.
"Iíd better answer that," she said with mild irritation, brushing her hand lovingly against Sevenís cheek.
"We need to talk. This is not . . . ," Seven tried again, misery filling her voice.
"Seven, darling. Please regenerate? You really donít look well. We can talk after," Kathryn interrupted with a grimace that turned into worry. "Should I call the Doctor??" She suddenly asked.
"No," Seven responded tiredly. "I will regenerate after your call," she said, which seemed to satisfy Kathryn, who tapped the communications console.
"Admiral??" she said with surprise, seeing a familiar gray-haired manís image appear on the comm screen.
"Captain! Iím relieved I could get through. The EDF field is causing havoc with our communications," the older man blurted anxiously.
"EDF field?" Kathryn said with confusion, then looked back at her wife, who stumbled into the kitchen counter, causing plates to clank together as she felt a sharp pain in her temple. "Seven?!?" She called with concern.
"I am . . . all right," she said tightly, steadying herself. Like Kathrynís kiss, the pain she had just experienced felt startlingly real.
"I knew something was wrong. Iím going to call the Do. . . ." Kathryn said, interrupted by the Admiral.
"Captain, please implement crypto sequence alpha 3 gamma 1," he said.
"Admiral Torgan, can this wait?" She asked impatiently, looking back at Seven with worry. "My wife needs . . . ."
"I am all right," Seven interjected firmly. "Finish with the Admiral," she said, getting a frustrated grimace.
"No, Captain. This can not wait. The crypto sequence, please," he urged.
"Understood," she said with irritation and tapped in the sequence causing a flicker in the screen and a UFP security banner to appear at the bottom of her display.
"Admiral, encoding complete. Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on?" She said, glancing back at Seven with concern.
"Captain Janeway, we are canceling your leave. Youíll need to pack quickly. A shuttle will be picking you up in fifteen minutes."
"Transporters are unreliable with this EDF problem."
"Three Borg cubes are heading towards Earth," he said. "We expect them to arrive in 36 hours at warp 9."
"How could they have gotten so close without detection?" Kathryn said, dread filling her heart, as she turned towards her wife, who was in obvious pain from the tense look on her face.
"We canít pinpoint the specific location of the vessels but have been able to get a general course from the outposts and bases that have suffered from an intense EDF field. They have been disrupting transporters and communications. Thousands have already died - and they have not yet attacked directly."
"Are you even sure itís the Borg? They havenít been known for their subtlety . . . ." Kathryn said.
"Yes, we are sure. Weíve intercepted and decrypted some of their communications," he said tersely, then added with a wince "Sheís coming to Earth."
He didnít have to explain. The Queen was going to make a personal appearance, Kathryn thought with a sense of dread that she had never felt before. But then, she never had so much to lose before.
"What actions have been taken so far?" Her eyes focused on Seven, who stood with a tight look on her face.
"We have activated the planetary defense array and shield."
"We damn well better do more than that, Admiral. Theyíll adapt," Kathryn said with frustration. "Of course, if Starfleet had agreed to adopt Sevenís random phase distortion algorithm, weíd be able to stall them longer," she said with irritation, surprising Seven, who blinked. In spite of the gravity of the situation, Seven thought that algorithm sounded extremely fascinating.
"How long before you could upgrade our planetary defenses with the algorithm?" Kathryn suddenly asked Seven, turning to look at her expectantly.
Seven stared at her a moment. "I . . . I can not predict how long, not having had access to the planetary defense networks," Seven said honestly. "And there is a high probability the algorithm would not sufficiently delay their penetration of the shields," she noted with confidence, certain a simple algorithm wouldnít be able to stop this nightmare.
"Captain, you canít possibly think I could convince Starfleet that a former Borg should be allowed to tamper with the defense network as the Borg are approaching! Thatís insane!!"
Kathryn wanted to argue but knew he was right. Starfleet command would not - especially now - allow Seven access to the planetís last defensive recourse.
Exercising great restraint, she remained focused on the problem at hand and asked, "What else is being done, Admiral?"
He sighed, calming down from the absurd suggestion. "Iíve ordered the Starships in adjacent sectors to return to Earth," the Admiral responded. "USS Endeavorís the closest, but even at maximum warp, Captain Kim wonít arrive before the Borg. We only have one ship close enough to intercept them before they get to Earth. Itís Voyager."
Hearing the name of her ship gave her some of hope, until she remembered itís status. "But sheís in the middle of an overhaul," Kathryn said with a wince.
"Sheís what weíve got," the admiral said tensely, adding "And sheís yours."
"What happened to Captain Gilrayne?" Kathryn said with surprise.
"Sheís returning from leave on one of the vessels weíve recalled to Earth."
"Understood," Kathryn said weakly, feeling like she was in the same category as Voyager - all that they had at the moment. What did she expect? She hadnít commanded a starship in a long time. Such a long time, that some of her junior officers on Voyager now had their own commands.
Kathryn knew she could have had another starship upon her return to Earth. Perhaps even a promotion and eventually exceeding the rank of her father, she considered. Yet instead, she had turned down a promotion and chose a low-key Captainís desk job at headquarters because she wanted more time with her family. She knew she had sabotaged her career. But she was determined to see her child grow up and be an involved parent, unlike her own father.
"Weíll leave as soon as my mother gets here to watch over Emma," Kathryn said uncomfortably, never having left Emma before. But she had to go meet the threat and not wait until it came into her back yard . . . and to her daughter. She prayed her years at a desk hadnít made her too rusty to pull this off. But with Seven at her side, she was confident they had a very good shot.
"We?" The Admiral asked with a frown.
"Seven and I are a team - and I think at the moment, youíll need her scientific expertise more than a veteran of a few Delta Quadrant skirmishes," Kathryn said.
"Captain, you know how Starfleet feels about . . ." he said with great concern.
"For Godís sake, Admiral. Iím not accepting a "no" about this!" she snapped. "We donít have many options and with Seven of Nine, weíll get some."
If Seven didnít dread what was coming, she might have taken great pleasure in Kathrynís unwavering confidence and support.
"Very well, Captain," he said with a defeated sigh. "I have my work cut out for me with Starfleet; but you have my support. Torgan out."
"Good God," Kathryn uttered with exasperation. Turning towards her wife, she looked at her with concern. "Are you feeling up to this?" She asked uneasily, needing her at her side now more than ever.
"We have no choice," Seven said, standing tall, adding "I donít want to lose you."
"So youíll come and keep me out of trouble?" Kathryn joked weakly.
"Without you, I am incomplete," Seven blurted in an uncharacteristic rush.
"Hey," Kathryn stepped up to her wife and caressed her cheek. The touch was so dangerously real, Seven thought as Kathryn added "I love you too."
"This is a nightmare, Kathryn," Seven said urgently, placing her hands on Kathrynís shoulders and looking into her eyes, trying to get through to her.
"I know. But Iím not about to let the Queen destroy us or our family. I promise you, I wonít let her," Kathryn said with such conviction, Seven almost believed she would succeed in this futile endeavor.
"I know that Iím a thorn in her side, but I donít think she traveled all this way just for me," she said, her tactical mind engaging. "Sheís always wanted you back, Seven. And Iím certain she would consider Emma an equally valuable addition to the collective," Kathryn said with worry, then added with tenuous hope "maybe she doesnít know about Emma."
"I am certain she knows everything about us," Seven said miserably, wishing she could just wake Kathryn up.
Kathryn saw the worry in Sevenís eyes, compelling her to continue with a confidence she didnít feel. "So, she knows," Kathryn said dismissively. "And maybe she thinks she has more leverage over me now because youíre my wife and we have a child . . . ."
The words offered in support suddenly made Seven aware of one possible reason for Kathrynís desire for their relationship remaining private. Fear. A basic fear of being made vulnerable. They had so much to discuss, Seven concluded, hoping they would get the opportunity.
". . . but weíve stopped the Queen before. And weíll make damn sure we stop her this time," Kathryn vowed.
Seven nodded weakly. "We are stronger together, than apart. Are we not, Kathryn?"
"Thatís my girl," Kathryn said, forcing a smile. "How are you feeling physically?"
"I am operating within . . . I am uncomfortable, but I will manage. However, I am curious as to why EDF fields are suddenly affecting my implants," Seven said pointedly, getting a curious look from Kathryn. "They never had an effect before."
"The Queen knows you are a serious threat, Seven. I wouldnít be surprised if she modified the fields to affect you," Kathryn suggested.
"No doubt," Seven said flatly and sighed, concluding that if she were actually able to shout "WAKE UP," Kathryn would find some way to rationalize the odd behavior.
A familiar hum alerted Kathryn to the arrival of a shuttle. "That must be my mother," she said anxiously as she squeezed Sevenís arm and left the house with Seven following closely behind.
"Mom!" She called out as the shuttle door opened and Gretchen and Phoebe appeared.
"Kathryn!" Gretchen returned the greeting happily.
"I need your help," Kathryn said with urgency, wiping the smile off her motherís face.
"It must be serious, Katie never asked for help before," Phoebe said wryly, looking at their mother.
"I need you to look after Emma," Kathryn said, ignoring her sisterís jibe.
"Whatís going on, Kathryn??" Gretchen frowned.
"I donít have time to explain everything but there are three Borg cubes heading towards Earth. Seven and I have got to stop them before they get here," Kathryn explained anxiously.
"You want to leave your daughter . . . with us? With three Borg cubes coming?!?" Gretchen blurted with amazement.
"What else would you have me do? Take her with me and deliver her right to the Queen??" Kathryn responded with frustration.
"What about you getting your daughter and wife out of harmís way?" Gretchen suggested angrily.
"I need Seven with me and I am trying to keep Emma out of harmís way," Kathryn snapped, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"If they are coming to Earth, why arenít you taking Emma away from here?!?" Gretchen asked, clearly upset with her daughterís proposed actions.
"And run away from my responsibility?!? Iím a Starfleet Officer!" Kathryn blurted incredulously.
"The last time I talked to you, your job was behind a DESK! Surely there are other Starship Captains with more recent experience they could recruit for this suicide mission!"
"Itís not just about Emma or Seven, Mother. We are talking assimilation of the entire planet! Thereís no one else . . . ." Kathryn snapped.
"And you are the only one who can stop them? My, my, Katie, I knew you had quite the ego; but I never could have imagined how much of one," Gretchen said derisively. From the pained wince on Kathrynís face, Seven knew Gretchenís words were more powerful than punches. Gretchen Janewayís opinion meant everything to Kathryn. "We are talking about you taking responsibility for your family. But no, duty before family," Gretchen said contemptuously, then added bitterly "Just like your father."
Seven cringed, never before having observed Kathryn and her mother argue so caustically. In the holodeck simulations, Kathryn was occasionally irritated by the stubborn womanís comments. However, she always knew her mother only wanted to help her, even if it seemed like nagging or meddling. But now there was a cruelty to her motherís words that viciously preyed upon Kathrynís fears and uncertainty.
With supreme effort to keep voice even, Kathryn responded "Seven and I have to try and stop them from destroying everything. Now, will you, or will you not, look after Emma?"
"I am well aware of what the Borg can do, Kathryn. And you have the ability to keep your daughter and wife safe - but you choose Starfleetís call. You know, I thought my prayers were answered when you married Seven, but you really didnít change, did you? Iím just sorry you thought it was a good idea to raise a child. Now you have two people who have to pay for your mistakes," Gretchen spat with great frustration. "Go, do your almighty Starfleet duty. I will look after your daughter," Gretchen said with disgust, her eyes of disapproval bore into her daughter, who flinched.
Seven desperately wanted to defend Kathryn, but could not. Kathrynís emotions and thoughts were too powerful to get through.
"Nanna! Aunt Phoebe!!" Emma called out happily as she emerged from the barn and spotted her family.
As Emma approached, Kathryn looked at her mother, her command mask firmly in place. "A shuttle is coming for us shortly. I need to talk to Emma. Please go inside," Kathryn said crisply to her mother and sister.
"Aye Aye, Captain," Gretchen said derisively, snapping out a crisp salute before marching towards the house.
"Starfleet," Phoebe muttered as if a curse, following her mother.
"Why are Nanna and Aunt Phoebe so mad at you?" Emma said with a frown as she watched her relatives enter the house.
Kathryn put a hand on her daughterís shoulder, gaining her attention.
"Weíve got a problem with the Borg. They are coming to Earth and your mother and I have to go stop them."
Emma looked at her then Seven anxiously. "Both of you?"
Kathryn winced. "Yes. If there is any chance of stopping them, I need your mother with me."
"What about me? I can help," Emma said, panic welling up. "Let me go with . . . ."
"No. I canít take you," Kathryn said firmly. "If weíre unsuccessful, there will still be a chance for you to escape . . . ."
"But I can help! Please . . . donít leave me," Emma said, tears rimming her eyes.
"Emma, we have to," Kathryn said with anguish. "There is nothing but Voyager between the Borg and Ear . . . ."
"You should take me! I can help!" Emma interrupted, uncaring of what her mother was trying to say.
"I canít!" Kathryn snapped, frustration clearly in her tone and rigid stance.
"You can, but you just donít want to! I hate you!!" Emma cried out and rushed back to the house.
Seven saw the pain flicker across Kathrynís face. "Kathryn . . . ," she managed to utter, wanting to ease Kathrynís hurt.
"We should get ready," Kathryn interjected briskly, her command mask securely in place as she walked towards the house, as if she were afraid to hear Sevenís opinion as well.
Seven could feel the burden her lover carried. She knew that as Captain, Kathryn had privately agonized over many of her command choices, accepting the heavy burden of the costly consequences if she was wrong. But as a mother and daughter, Seven knew this decision, the only one Kathryn Janeway could possibly be expected to make, and her familyís clear disapproval, however illogical, was tearing Kathryn apart like no other decision she had ever made.
Unfortunately, dreams were driven by emotion, not logic, Seven considered.
Seven sat with Kathryn in a small shuttle on their way to Utopia Planitia to rendezvous with Voyager. The name of the shipyard struck her as rather ironic since where they were heading would likely be anything but paradise.
Analyzing the heated argument between Gretchen and Kathryn, Seven did not believe the real Gretchen would ever act so cruelly towards Kathryn. The elder Janeway had married a dutiful Starfleet officer and remained married to him until his death. From what Kathryn had relayed to her and from what she had learned from the holoprogram, Gretchen Janeway was not weak-willed. She would not have put up with being treated poorly. Surely, if she felt so angry about his frequent calls to duty that took him away from his family, Gretchen would have either fixed the situation or left him. With mild consolation, she concluded the entire debate was only an artificial construct that served to exploit Kathrynís fears, just as their daughterís reaction to their mission had been.
Seven frowned at the way their daughter had acted. Surely, in real life, their daughter would have developed a respect and understanding of the Borg and what her parents were about to do. At least, no daughter of hers would act so selfishly and illogically, she concluded with conviction, glancing at Kathryn, who remained silent throughout the trip as she stared out the view port.
"The shuttle is inefficient," Seven said, once again trying to start a conversation. She knew a shuttle ride served to prolong Kathrynís agony. Once she was busy with trying to save Earth, her agony could be better compartmentalized and pushed down more easily, Seven concluded, having seen Kathryn often throw herself into work to avoid dealing with her emotions. But sitting here, waiting, thinking, and feeling guilty ... that was indeed a nightmare for this starship Captain.
"You heard the report, the transporters are unreliable with this EDF problem," Kathryn explained tiredly.
"Of course. In addition to my implants, the EDF field must have also been altered to affect the transporters," Seven said flatly, gaining a curious look from Kathryn, who started to say something then sighed and nodded. "I am surprised she did not think to alter the EDF field to affect warp drives," Seven added sarcastically.
"That would be im . . . possible," Kathryn said hesitantly, glancing curiously at Seven again.
"I had thought that the case with my implants and the transporters," Seven said, eyeing Kathryn with a pointed look.
Kathryn regarded Seven thoughtfully. "Good point. Iíll have engineering run a diagnostic," she said, causing Seven to sigh.
When she finally saw Voyager in the distant dry-dock, Kathryn spoke again. "You know, I had dreamt about getting Voyager back - but certainly not like this," she noted. "This is a nightmare," she added, shaking her head.
"You can wake up from it, Kathryn," Seven managed to quickly offer, gaining another curious glance from the woman, who snorted without amusement.
"Yeah, after I step on the bridge, save Earth, go home and grovel to my family, Iíll call it a day," Kathryn said sarcastically.
Seven frowned with frustration at how hard it continued to be to get Kathryn to really listen to her in dream realm. Even when Kathryn was at her most stubborn, Seven had always felt that at least she was heard and her points understood. Well, until her emotions got in the way, Seven thought guiltily, knowing her points about Dre Gatta were born from jealousy, which the Starship Captain had no patience for.
Gazing out the window at Voyager, Seven considered Kathrynís admission about wanting her back. She wondered why she had never seen Starfleet or Voyager . . . or any ship for that matter as a part of her dream until now. "Do you miss this?" She suddenly asked, looking at the ship in dock then Kathryn.
"Voyager? Or Command?" Janeway asked, as they got closer to the ship in question.
"Either. Both," Seven said.
"Seven, it doesnít matter now, does it?" Kathryn blurted with irritation.
"It does matter. To me," Seven said softly. Kathryn looked at her sharply, then sighed in defeat.
"Yes. I guess I do miss this," Kathryn said reluctantly, motioning out the view port at her old ship. "But I wanted a family, with you."
"Why did you think you had to give up one thing you loved, for another?" Seven asked curiously.
"What the hell are you doing? And why are you doing this NOW?" Kathryn snapped.
"It is important to me to understand your decisions. And I am not confident I will have the opportunity to discuss this with you in the future," Seven said honestly, surprised to be able to converse on a topic she wanted. She wasnít going to waste the opportunity.
Kathryn winced at the disturbing lack of confidence in their success. She pinched the bridge of her nose, attempting to stem the growth of a massive headache. She was unsuccessful.
"Why do you relate wanting a command as inconsistent with being a good parent?" Seven prompted, not sure if Kathryn was intending on answering.
"Not wanting, Seven. Having," Kathryn corrected her tersely, wishing she could get up and leave. But that was rather difficult to do in the small shuttle without a space suit. And something told her that Seven was fully aware of that fact.
"You would still be an excellent mother, even if you had a command," Seven said with confidence.
"How?? I would have less time with Emma. Thatís not fair to a child!" Kathryn argued.
"Your opinion that you can not be a good mother while commanding a ship is based on fear - not logic," Seven responded.
"I wouldnít want a command if I had to be away from either of you," Kathryn countered.
"You know there are generational ships specifically designed for . . . ," Seven offered with surprise.
"And constantly subject our daughter to threats?!?" Kathryn interrupted with amazement.
"You are assuming only you will be responsible for dealing with threats towards our family. In addition to the shipís security force, I believe I am quite capable of dealing with threats towards our family," Seven argued as the shuttleís docking ring engaged with Voyager with a thud and hiss.
"We have three Borg ships closing in on us now," Kathryn said as they stood to leave. "Tell me, Seven, if Emma was here with us now like she wanted, do you honestly think we could concentrate on fighting the enemy without being distracted by . . . ?" Kathryn challenged heatedly as an explosion off the port bow violently rocked the shuttle.
"God. Theyíre already here . . . ." Captain Janeway said with dread as the force from another explosion slammed them into the bulkhead. "Are you all ri . . . ?" Kathryn asked, reaching out for her wife as they were enveloped in a green light.
"Doctor?" Chakotay asked with concern, looking at Seven and Tuvok, who both appeared distressed in their meld with Kathryn. Seven twitched slightly before her nose began to bleed.
"Seven is being injured," the Doctor said with surprise, glancing at his medical tricorder.
Chakotay ran into the observation room, startling BíElanna. "Sevenís getting hurt out there," he announced with concern.
"They are on the Queenís ship - Sevenís fighting drones," BíElanna explained unnecessarily with a wince.
He cringed, watching Seven receive a blow to the face.
The Queen held Kathrynís neck in a deadly grip, easily able to break her inferior human body with a quick twist. She smiled serenely as Kathryn helplessly watched her wife fight against a half-dozen drones. Seven managed to knock down drone after drone, but not without sustaining some injuries. As she grew fatigued, her injuries started to increase. Unfortunately, the downed drones got back up after a moment to continue their attack.
More drones joined in the attack, none seemingly interested in assimilating their former drone, only punishing her, Kathryn noted as her wife was overwhelmed. She cringed in horror as one drone managed to grab Seven and toss her face-first into the bulkhead with a sickening crunch.
Chakotay winced and rushed back out to the Doctor, who looked up to Chakotay gravely. "Her zygomatic and jaw bones are now broken," he said with a concerned frown. As he pulled out his bone knitter from his medical kit he shook his head gravely. "Iím not sure how much of this Seven can take, even with her Borg enhancements."
"You really surprise me, Captain. I had thought you would be harder to capture," the Queen said softly in her captiveís ear. Kathryn couldnít help but cringe at her unwanted proximity.
"Seven!" Kathryn called urgently, seeing Seven finally crumble to the floor from the repeated blows, too weak to fight the drones that surrounded her. "You really surprise me," Kathryn countered angrily. "Isnít it an inefficient use of energy to beat someone before assimilating them?!?"
"She is worth the energy," the Queen said easily, a slight smile curling her lips. With a nod to the drones, the barely conscious Seven was hauled to her feet and brought towards them. A slight tilt of the Queenís head prompted one drone to lift his implant-laden arm, which sprouted snake-like tubules.
Tuvok sucked in a breath and abruptly severed the meld.
Seven blinked, feeling drained from the fighting and the sudden, jolting separation from the meld. After a dazed moment trying to gain her bearings, she looked at Tuvok with disbelief. "No! You must continue," she cried out.
"You were going to be assimilated," he said calmly. "There was no telling what . . ."
"I do not care! She should not be alone. I must be with her," Seven said angrily. "Continue the meld at once!" she demanded, grabbing his hand forcefully.
Tuvok looked at her a silent moment, his refusal clear. A slight narrowing in his eyes was the only indication of the pain her powerful grip caused.
"Seven," Chakotay said sharply. "The Captain wouldnít want you to risk yourself - or hurt Tuvok."
Frustrated, Seven glanced at Tuvokís hand with a twinge of guilt and slowly released it. Lowering her head in defeat, she knew she had failed Kathryn yet again.
Kathryn blinked with surprise when Seven disappeared. "They beamed her out, didnít they?" She said with sudden hope, eyeing the irritated Queen. As long as Seven was free, there was a chance, Kathryn thought, reveling in their small victory as the Queen turned towards her.
"A minor inconvenience," she said dismissively, tilting her head as she processed the scans of the area. "Ah. There she is," the Queen said easily, as Kathrynís heart dropped and Seven rematerialized before them.
"Kahless!" BíElanna said with a wince, watching the dream Seven being assimilated.
"Seven," the Queen said with pleasure, smiling at the new addition to her collective. "Welcome home."
Kathrynís gut clenched painfully seeing Sevenís beauty once again marred by numerous, grotesque implants; her hard-fought journey to humanity over the years was cruelly reversed in a matter of minutes. Oh Seven....
The drone Seven slowly turned towards the Queen. Her attention was diverted to the familiar human woman beside her. A woman she had known in her past, imperfect life. Raising her hand as tubules extended, she announced to the one designated Kathryn Janeway "You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own."
BíElanna watched with distress as the Captain looked her wife in the eye with such sadness. "I love you, Seven. I am so sorry," Kathryn whispered, feeling the heavy burden of guilt for her failure as a Captain, as a daughter, as a spouse....
The drone Seven paused curiously, considering the words as she looked at Kathryn intensely.
A flicker of hope sparked at the hesitation. Maybe the power of their love was stronger than the pull of the collective . . . and their Queen, Kathryn thought.
"Love," Seven said softly, tasting the word as she looked at the human closely. ". . . is irrelevant. Resistance is futile," Seven finally continued and stepped closer, suffocating what little hope Kathryn had.
"Not yet, Seven," the Queen said silkily, turning to the beaten Captain. "I want Captain Janeway to witness humanityís final and greatest achievement; perfection," she added as multiple viewscreens suddenly appeared around them, forming an arc around the Queenís dais.
Kathryn attempted to keep a neutral expression as she watched the Utopia Planitia yards, swarming with small Borg vessels.
Kathrynís former ship that had successfully fought the Borg before, valiantly engaged the enemy once again as she tore free from the mooring lines that no one had time to unlatch. Limping out of the drydock under impulse power, she fired furiously, but futilely, unable to penetrate the Borg shielding.
The enemyís phasers rained down upon Voyager with ridiculous intensity - as if the Borg were trying to punish the vessel for her past victories. Her shielding was no match for the assault. The hull was viciously ripped apart, exposing the decks that Captain Janeway had toured for nearly six years while stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Kathryn swallowed hard, seeing bodies of the brave men and women sucked into space, drifting away from the dying ship. After many minor explosions and the destruction of both nacelles, the core was finally breeched.
A spectacular explosion filled the viewscreens, causing Kathryn to wince at the intense light.
Voyagerís heart-wrenching destruction which consumed the drydock, also destroyed dozens of smaller Borg ships. But that was no consolation. It simply made no difference; there were just too many.
Taking an uneasy breath, Kathryn knew of no one who could stop them now. The recalled Federation ships were still too far away. She shut her eyes, willing herself to think. There had to be something that could be done, she considered, reminding herself where there was life, there was hope.
As the Queenís ship approached Earth, Kathryn watched the beautiful blue planet get larger in the viewscreen. She frowned, noting two Borg cubes already orbiting, pulsing an eerie green as the shields absorbed the impotent blasts from the Earthís weapons. As she had predicted, the Borg cubes fired back through the planetary shields as if they didnít exist. Kathryn wondered if she had given up too soon on the idea of upgrading those shields. Seven would have at least made them work harder to get through them, Kathryn thought defiantly. She briefly glanced to her wife, who now stood rigidly among the other drones, watching the destruction of their home with inhuman detachment.
Oh Seven, is there any of you left?? Kathryn silently cried and forced her gaze to a screen in time to see several large pieces of the orbiting defense grid hurl towards the Earth, becoming orange fireballs as they entered the atmosphere.
With surgical precision, batteries of planet-side weapons were destroyed by the orbiting cubes. Cities all over the world were systematically invaded as wave after wave of drones beamed to the surface.
Attempting to escape the chaos, thousands of small ships of various shapes and sizes fled the planet, only to be fired upon, one-by-one. Streaks of molten debris fell back to Earth, leaving dark trails of failure to scar the sky.
Knowing what awaited her family, Kathryn didnít know whether to hope or fear they had gotten onto one of those ships.
"They continue to resist. However, assimilation is progressing and 63.7 percent complete," Seven reported efficiently.
"God, this is worse than the Kobayashi Maru," Chakotay said with frustration to BíElanna, who could only nod.
"Yes. This is personal," Seven agreed numbly.
"Iíll . . . wait out there," he said awkwardly, looking at Seven with sympathy as he left the observation room.
The Queen smiled as she watched Captain Janeway bear witness to the fall of humanity.
"I am rather disappointed, Captain. You have always asserted that the individuality your people enjoy is far superior to the Borg collective. Yet why is it, your people can so easily be conquered?" The Queen asked, not expecting her guest of honor to answer. Captain Janeway was too preoccupied with the carnage displayed before her.
Kathryn could not keep her emotions buried as towns and cities tried to fight, but crumbled under the overwhelming number of Borg drones. There was so much death, she noted in horror, watching thousands upon thousands who dared to resist, perish. Clinically, she already understood the magnitude of devastation the Borg caused when assimilating a species. She had encountered the arguably lucky survivors, heard the terrifying stories, seen the remains of once great civilizations. Yet the magnitude of destruction that accompanied the Borgís assault against humanity, against her home, shook her to the core. She watched the precious symbols of human accomplishment now come under attack.
Her thoughts drifted throughout Earthís rich history as she tried to recall the origin of one of the worldís most beautiful buildings. The fleeting information crystallized just as the Taj Mahalís brilliant white dome and spires blew into thousands of pieces under unrelenting phaser fire. She stared at the viewscreen, where only a large pile of smoldering ruble was left from the monument symbolizing the Mugal Emperorís profound love for his wife.
She glanced at another screen, prompting a memory of how she wanted to become an archeologist after discovering Egyptology as a little girl, just as the Great Pyramids of Giza and the guardian Sphinx returned to the vast desert as piles of rock and sand, to never again inspire another child with their greatness.
Her heart ached, recognizing the profound losses were signaling the end of human achievement.
She almost laughed at the absurd and trivial thought that filled her head - a delicious cup of coffee she had at a cafť in Paris - just across from the Eiffel Tower, as it was severed in half, its top plummeting into the screaming crowd below.
"How valuable is that individuality now?" the Queen asked.
"Why must you destroy everything?" Kathryn said, her voice thick with emotion as she watched miles and miles of the Great Wall crumble, the Clock Tower tumble, the Romanian Palace of Parliament, St. Peterís Basilica, the Ryugyong Hotel, Sydney Opera House all become charred ruins.
"They are monuments to your individuality. They are all...irrelevant," the Queen explained.
Kathryn numbly watched the continued slaughter, intimately familiar with two of the locations. One was Starfleet Headquarters, which had been overrun and had quickly succumbed. The second location was the nearby Academy. She watched as young midshipmen, the future of Starfleet, vainly fought with impotent phasers as the Borg advanced upon them. She knew well, how limited the armory was and how unprepared these . . . children were. They were out-armed and out-numbered and yet they fought courageously with what little they had. She was never more proud of the younger generation. A generation that would never grow into the positions of authority they had been training for, she thought with a mournful heart, seeing no one left to fight as the last midshipman took a blast to her chest, dying instantly.
Kathryn watched the Borg infestation of her planet, knowing rescuing one or two individuals was difficult enough. But how does one recover an entire planetís worth of people, Kathryn wondered, already knowing the bleak answer - you donít. But where thereís life, thereís hope, she reminded herself. Wasnít there? Was there any hope left?
The Queen smiled, walking over to her dais and stepping up. "Our journey together has just begun, Captain," she announced as a green light enveloped them.
Kathryn found herself standing planet-side, next to the Queen. It was day but the sky was black; rising smoke from nearby communities hung stagnantly overhead. She winced from the acrid odor that polluted the air. Glancing frantically around the familiar Indiana field and home, she prayed her family had somehow fled to safety, that somehow one of those small ships escaped; but all she could see was the army of drones, including Seven, surrounding them.
"I have admired you, Captain. In our past encounters, you have proven an intriguing opponent," she admitted, tilting her head thoughtfully. "I had always considered that the collective would benefit from your addition. And it soon will."
Kathrynís expression tightened as the drone Seven looked at the Queen and nodded to her silent command before heading towards the farm house, flanked by two other drones.
"But imagine my fascination to learn that you and Seven had produced a new individual. I am looking forward to meeting your daughter, Captain."
Kathryn kept silent, but the chill in her blood warred with the burning hatred that swelled for the Queen. Any thoughts of trying to attack the Queen were interrupted by yelling, as two drones emerged from the farmhouse, dragging a struggling Gretchen and Phoebe with them.
"Kathryn!" Gretchen called out, spotting her daughter.
"Donít do this," Kathryn pleaded to the Queen.
"Do you not wish your family to have vast knowledge and power? To be part of something greater than themselves?" the Queen responded curiously, looking at the frightened and angry women before them.
"But you destroy the very things you think will get you closer to perfection!" Kathryn argued. "That is illogical!"
"Kathryn?!?" Gretchen nervously called out to her daughter, who looked at her miserably.
"You do not want your mother and sister to know perfection?"
"I . . . Please . . . donít assimilate them," Kathryn said desperately, prompting the Queen to eye her a thoughtful moment.
"Please??" The Queen said with interest, tasting the word. "So many have begged us to spare their families," she said, walking up to the older woman, who continued to struggle. "Denying them perfection is what they have asked of me. I find that . . . illogical," the Queen said distastefully, nodding to the drones who held Captain Janewayís mother and sister.
Kathryn looked into her motherís and sisterís frightened eyes as tubules extended from the drone hands.
"Oh Kathryn, why didnít you take her away?" Gretchen moaned sorrowfully before her neck was painfully pierced. She and Phoebe cried out until the pain became irrelevant.
Silent tears fell as Kathryn came face-to-face with the two new drones.
The drone Seven emerged from the farm house with a firm hand on the shoulder of a confused and scared girl.
"Mom?" Emma called again, looking up at the frightening but familiar woman. No longer did her eyes acknowledge her with any warmth; one of them had been replaced with a monstrous, protruding device that glowed an ominous red. No longer was her skin a flawless cream, now marred by metallic devices and unnaturally gray skin. Gone was the golden hair, her mother occasionally let her braid, even though she was less efficient....
Spotting Kathryn, Emma cried out "Mom!!" and struggled against an unyielding Borg grip. "LET ME GO!" She screamed at her Borg mother.
Seven breathed unsteadily as moisture rimmed her eyes. BíElanna ran a shaky hand through her hair in frustration.
"Mom??" Emma called in alarm as the drone Seven roughly pulled her arm as they approached the terrifying Queen.
"She is an amazing child, Captain," the Queen said with a smile as she looked at the trembling child and caressed her cheek. Emma recoiled from the unwanted touch. "The collective will benefit from her distinctiveness."
"No," Kathryn choked out.
"You should appreciate the perfect symmetry in having Seven assimilate her, Captain. She gave birth to her imperfect human form, and now she will give birth to her perfect, Borg form," the Queen noted with a smile.
Seven lifted her hand as tubules sprouted. "Mother! Please . . . Donít hurt me," Emma cried out fearfully.
"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated . . . ."
Tears fell down Sevenís face as she shut her eyes, unable to witness the devastating act.
"Annika, no!" Kathryn pleaded, causing the drone Seven to look up. At the hesitation, Emma managed to squirm out of Sevenís grip. Seeing her daughter run, Kathryn quickly shoved a drone out of her way and ran after her daughter into the barn.
"Seven, look!" BíElanna said with hope, causing the miserable Astrometrics officer to open her eyes. The act had been delayed . . . but for how long, Seven wondered.
"MOM!" Emma said as Kathryn entered the wooden structure. She desperately dove into Kathrynís embrace.
After an indulgent but brief moment of holding her precious girl, Captain Janeway stood back. "Emma, help me with the doors - quickly," she commanded, prompting the young girl to immediately grab the other end of the wood slat she picked up and help place it on the door. They rapidly secured all the openings as the uneasy horses whinnied and stomped their hooves.
Rushing to the corner of the barn, Kathryn dropped to her knees, quickly searching beneath the hay for something. Her hand found a metal ring, which she firmly pulled, opening a trap door in the floor. Reaching in the small space, she grabbed a box and pulled it out.
"Come now, Captain," the Queen called from outside the barn. "Hiding in a barn behind a wooden door? You can not run away from your or your daughterís destiny," she said.
Kathryn stared at the door with miserable resignation. She was unable to stop them from destroying Voyager and the Earth. She failed to stop them from taking Seven and her mother and sister. But she could stop them from taking Emma, Kathryn thought with a sick feeling, looking at her beautiful, frightened daughter who put on an amazingly brave front in the face of sheer terror.
"Whatís that?" Emma asked, looking at the box.
"A phaser," Kathryn said uncomfortably, opening the lid.
"Will that be enough to stop them?" Emma questioned, eyeing the small weapon skeptically as her mother took it out of the box.
Kathryn stood and pulled her daughter into a desperate hug, wishing with all her heart it would be enough. She kissed her temple and whispered into her hair with profound despair. "No."
"Mom?" Emma asked in confusion as her mother took a deep breath and stepped back.
The phaser was fired. Twice.
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