A Star Trek: Voyager Story (J/7)
"Report!" Captain Janeway barked as she emerged from the turbo lift and stepped onto the bridge. Her confident stride hesitating a moment when she saw a familiar sight on the view screen. Now the ship vibrations made sense - if she chose to believe they were actually traveling through a wormhole. Her surprise was shared by all who arrived with her.
With her command mask hiding her unease, Captain Janeway strode confidently towards the officer of the deck, Megan Delaney.
Any feeling of relief that help had finally arrived was immediately squashed when Megan saw the arrival of the Captain in her dress uniform and Seven in her breathtakingly beautiful gown, clear evidence of just how monumental an interruption this was. She had just gotten back into the Captain’s good graces and finally obtained her command qualifications for bridge duty. And after today, her third time at the conn, she guessed she’d be lucky if she would be allowed to ever set foot on the bridge again. If they actually lived through this, that is.
Jennifer, who was manning Operations, felt similar dread, wondering if she had pissed off some Deity, who had obviously doomed her life to spectacular embarrassment and failure.
"Report, Ensign," Captain Janeway repeated, snapping Megan out of her guilty haze.
"A . . . A Borg debris field suddenly appeared," Megan blurted helplessly, causing Kathryn and Seven to share an uneasy look. "And then we ran into subspace mines in the debris and somehow," she said with a cringe. ". . . somehow we’ve entered a fissure that was the opening to a wormhole. We couldn’t determine how to exit without over-stressing the hull," Megan blurted with a wince, clearly distressed.
Kathryn paused, trying to digest the incredible story, vaguely wondering if this all a big, stupid, practical joke; but the clear misery on Megan’s face told her otherwise.
"All right," Captain Janeway said slowly, with forced calm, briefly glancing at the view screen again to see the eerily familiar blue threads of energy that formed the worm hole.
Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim arrived and headed to their stations.
"Tuvok, do you detect any Borg vessels in the wormhole with us?" Janeway asked to address her first concern.
Hearing the words "Borg" and "wormhole," Harry and Tom glanced at each other anxiously.
The response relieved Captain Janeway, who nodded and looked at her best pilot, who took over the helm. "Tom, steady as she goes. At least until we know more," she said.
"Aye, Captain," he responded.
The ride immediately improved when he took over. Thank God, Kathryn thought, then looked to Jennifer expectantly.
"The long range sensors never picked anything up, Captain," Jennifer offered, needing to explain she wasn’t as incompetent as it appeared. She pointed out her data to Harry, who now stood at her side at the OPS console.
"She’s right," Harry confirmed.
"Captain, the Astrometrics sensors recorded a localized spike in gravimetric shear and neutrino emissions approximately 3.74 seconds before the interspacial flexure and debris field appeared," Seven offered Kathryn, who looked at her with surprise, then joined her at the console to look at the readings for herself.
"Hmmm," Kathryn grunted with a nod.
Jennifer quickly reviewed Seven’s data and saw the blip. "I missed it," she said dejectedly, looking helplessly at her sister, who offered a cringe of sympathy.
Captain Janeway eyed the troubled officer. "Ensign, even if you had seen it coming, you wouldn’t have been able to avoid it," she offered bluntly, the comment surprising Jennifer, who nodded hesitantly but felt inordinately better.
"Can you to determine from these readings where we are headed? Or how long before we get there?" Kathryn asked Seven hopefully.
Seven frowned. "Negative," she said with a disappointed sigh.
"Very well," Captain Janeway said neutrally, careful not to show her worry to the crew, though Seven could see it subtly reflected in her tense carriage.
God help them if they were headed back deeper into the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn thought as she returned to pace in front of the Captain’s chair.
"Captain, the shields are at 85% and degrading approximately 3.2 % per minute," Tuvok reported neutrally, as if he were reading the crew manifest, instead of just revealing their shields would fail in less than 27 minutes.
Megan bit her lip as she wondered why she ever thought qualifying for bridge duty was a good idea.
"Seven, what are our options on exiting the wormhole before our shields fail?" Janeway asked as an insidious feeling of pessimism began to grow. No, she silently admonished herself. She was not going to accept that after all they had been through, Voyager would be destroyed by an unexpected wormhole - on her wedding day of all days, damn it!
"We have insufficient information to calculate a safe, early exit path. There would be unacceptable risk that the hull stresses would exceed their design criteria, as the Delaney’s have pointed out," Seven offered, wishing she could offer better news.
The Delaney’s looked at each other with surprise, feeling vindicated. But that wasn’t really comforting; both would prefer to be wrong and alive, than right and dead.
Kathryn could feel several eyes on her, anxiously waiting for her to find a solution. It wasn’t the first time the Captain was placed in that position; it was her job, after all. Captain Janeway took a fortifying breath and pushed aside her doubts to tackle the problem at hand. "Tuvok, if we increase speed to maximum warp, how will that affect our shield degradation?"
Tuvok tapped a few calculations into his terminal and responded "Negligible; I calculate an increase in degradation by 0.003%."
Kathryn smiled slightly at that bit of good news. "Mr. Paris, increase speed to maximum warp."
"Aye, aye, Captain," Tom said.
"Seven? Based on known wormhole data, I’d like you to estimate an average transit duration. We need a bogey for how long our shields need to last, even if it’s only an educated guess," Captain Janeway said, then sighed wistfully, looking at her amazing bride, guessing that Seven had to be the most overdressed bridge crew member in Starfleet history.
Seven’s optical implant rose. "I will endeavor to provide the most precise "bogey" I can, Captain," she said dryly.
Janeway smiled, then turned to look at the uneasy twins. "Megan and Jennifer," she said, gaining surprised looks. "I want you to go to engineering and help LT Torres to find all possible ways to extend our shields beyond the standard power diversions. Something tells me we’re going to need to be creative," Captain Janeway said wryly, her optimism contagious.
"Yes, Ma’am!" they said in unison and quickly left the bridge on their mission.
"Bridge to Engineering," Janeway said.
"Go ahead, Captain," LT Torres responded.
"The wormhole is impacting our shields. Using standard power diversions, our shields will be gone in about 35 minutes at the current degradation rate. I need options for an extended period."
Kathryn glanced to Seven, who continued to diligently work the calculations. "We’re working on that. I have sent down the Delaneys to assist you. I want you to put them to work. Understood?" Janeway said, her tone brooking no argument.
After a slight hesitation, LT Torres responded. "Understood. We should start conservation protocols immediately."
"Agreed," Kathryn responded. "Bridge out. Harry, cancel the red alert," Captain Janeway said with mild irritation, the klaxon and lights having become annoying.
"Aye, Captain," he responded.
"All stations, this is the Captain, rig for reduced power. Conservation protocols are in full effect until further notice," Captain Janeway announced. The lighting on the bridge immediately dimmed in response.
Janeway looked to Tuvok. "Mr. Tuvok, we need an exit plan in case whatever destroyed the Borg on the other side has similar plans for us."
"Enemies of the Borg could be friends of ours," Chakotay offered softly as Kathryn paced.
"And if they are like Species 8472?" she asked, then added unnecessarily "I’d like to be prepared."
Chakotay nodded, unable to fault her caution.
Finished with her calculations, Seven looked up from her console. "Captain, I have calculated a bogey."
Kathryn faced her expectantly, hoping for a break.
"Performing a parametric analysis of the intensity and duration of the neutrino emissions and gravimetric shear observed prior to the interspacial flexure event with data for known worm holes, I estimate the total transit time at maximum warp to be approximately 63 minutes," Seven said, pausing on the word "approximately" with distaste, almost as if it pained her to say the word.
Kathryn blinked, clearly surprised by the time. Sixty three minutes?
"I am unable to be more precise," Seven offered, irritated by the inherent imprecision of her estimate.
"It could be worse," Chakotay offered, having also caught Janeway’s look, which he assumed was unease.
"Yeah, it would be a bit harder to sustain shields for 63 hours," Tom chimed in, trying to help keep things upbeat, oblivious to his Captain’s misgivings.
"Let B’Elanna know," Janeway told Seven absently.
Seven tapped her console. "Engineering acknowledges receipt of the . . . bogey," Seven reported, noticing Kathryn nod and hesitantly glance around the bridge, clearly perplexed by something.
"That means we have . . . 54 minutes to go," Harry said.
Seven wondered what Kathryn was thinking, though knew much weighed upon her mind. Her curiosity grew exponentially when she saw Kathryn finally look down at her hand and finger her wedding band a thoughtful moment, almost as if it held the secrets to the universe.
"All we need is an additional 19 minutes for the shields," Tom said, casting a look back to Harry.
"Piece of cake," Mr. Kim said with forced optimism.
"Captain, based on my limited scans of the Borg debris field, I have a preliminary exit strategy," Tuvok announced.
"Let’s hear it," Janeway said, eyeing her Security Officer as she continued to absently finger her wedding band, finding comfort in its weight upon her hand.
"Assuming the subspace mines were the sole weapon used to cause destruction of a Borg vessel and that we will encounter the same weapons, firing a standard photon torpedo pattern, using modified torpedoes just prior to our exit, should adequately clear out a path for Voyager."
"That’s a lot of assumptions, Tuvok," Chakotay said with concern.
"Indeed," Tuvok said.
"And if we do not encounter mines?" Captain Janeway asked, returning her gaze to the viewscreen, her mind still pondering the familiar sixty three minutes.
"The torpedo modification I am intending will cause them to only detonate in subspace. Spacecraft in the vicinity will not be affected unless they are in the range of an exploding subspace mine."
"Good. Make it so, Mr. Tuvok," Captain Janeway said, staring at the disturbing blue tendrils of energy, that looked just like the Uttuskan worm hole they traveled through for . . . sixty three minutes.
"Aye, Captain," Tuvok replied.
"And now we have 53.0 minutes to go," Harry said, earning a glare from Chakotay.
"You’re not intending to announce every minute, are you?" the Executive Officer asked.
"Not every minute . . ." he mumbled defensively, though that had been his plan.
"You could use the computer to announce the time for you, Mr. Kim," Seven offered.
Harry frowned. "That would sound too much like a self-destruct sequence," he offered with a cringe, causing Seven to nod, understanding his position.
"Mr. Kim, why don’t you just let us know when we reach 5 minutes? That should be sufficient," Chakotay interjected.
"Yes, Commander," Harry said with a sigh.
Seven glanced over to Kathryn, who appeared to ignore the chatter as she focused intently on the screen. Unable to sit, Kathryn started to pace again. A few minutes later, Kathryn finally sat and leaned over her armrest to speak privately with Chakotay, who huddled towards her. Thanks to her Borg cochlear enhancement, she could hear what Kathryn was saying.
"If we end up further away from home, we’re going to have a morale problem on our hands," Kathryn said softly.
"True. But we still have a wedding reception the crew will want to throw," Chakotay said with a grin.
"Well that would help my . . . ," Captain Janeway started to respond but Lieutenant Torres and the Delaney’s arrived on the bridge.
"Captain!" B’Elanna said as soon as she emerged from the turbolift.
"I certainly hope you have some good news," Janeway said as she stood.
B’Elanna cringed a bit. "Well, I have some news. We have a way to sustain the shields just long enough to get through."
Janeway frowned at B’Elanna’s hesitation. "How?"
"Divert life support . . . as soon as possible."
"We’ll be without it for . . . 49 minutes??" Harry said with concern.
"The oxygen in air will be consumed and drop to 10 %. The human crew members will fall unconscious before we reach the end of the wormhole," B’Elanna said.
"Emergency oxygen masks?" Janeway quickly countered, not wanting to accept she’d be unable to see her ship through this.
"They only last for 3 to 4 minutes, tops, enough to evacuate compartments. They’re not intended to be a substitute for life support," B’Elanna responded. "And we don’t have time or power available to put the crew in stasis."
"Wonderful," Tom muttered, glancing back at B’Elanna unhappily.
"The time of unconsciousness should not cause any permanent damage," B’Elanna offered with a wince.
"On the bright side, we won’t know if something bad happens...." Tom offered, getting a glare from B’Elanna.
"Not all the crew will be affected as quickly as humans . . . ," Janeway noted, glancing at Tuvok.
"There are four species that should remain conscious - Vulcan’s, Bolian, Klingon, and Borg," B’Elanna noted.
"Technically, Borg are not a species," Seven offered. B’Elanna rolled her eyes.
"What about the temperature drop?" Captain Janeway asked, glancing at Seven, whose optical implant rose, unapologetic for her desire for accuracy.
"The ship’s temperature will decrease to negative 14 degrees Celsius by the time we exit," B’Elanna offered, having thoroughly investigated this.
Not comfortable but manageable for the short period, Kathryn considered then asked "And there are no other options?"
"Not in the time we have, Captain," B’Elanna said with a cringe. "Other options require manual rerouting of systems, which we simply can not do in less than two hours, under the best circumstances. Captain, we really need to do it now," she stressed anxiously.
Kathryn eyed her Chief Engineer for a brief, but critical, moment before giving the order. "Mr. Kim, reroute life support power to the shields, now."
B’Elanna nodded with relief and pride. The Captain took her unpopular, but necessary, recommendation based on trust. She wondered if the Captain understood how much that meant to her.
"Aye, Captain," Ensign Kim said, taking a fortifying breath before tapping his console. To those who were intimately familiar with the many sounds of a starship, it was unnerving to hear the comforting, subtle hum of the CO2 scrubbers suddenly stop.
"Open a ship-wide channel, Harry," Captain Janeway said, getting a nod as Harry tapped his panel.
"Channel open, Captain."
"This is the Captain. In order to sustain our shields through the wormhole, all available power has been diverted to the shields, including life support. All crew members should limit activity to the bare minimum to minimize oxygen consumption. Human crew members will be the first affected by the decrease in oxygen and should immediately transfer their stations to automatic control or if the station is condition red critical, a Vulcan or Bolian relief should be found. After transferring your duties, inform Commander Chakotay and report to your quarters for the duration of the trip. Captain Janeway out."
"Sickbay to Bridge."
"Go ahead, Doctor," Captain Janeway said, rubbing the back of her neck.
"A little warning would have been nice," the Doctor complained.
"I agree, Doctor," Captain Janeway acknowledged wearily. "Please deactiveate yourself again until we get through the wormhole and resume normal power operations."
"Captain, when life support is interrupted the EMH automatically activates for a reason - the crew may need medical attention," the Doctor argued.
"I understand the medical protocol, Doctor," Janeway responded coolly. "However, your ability to provide that medical attention will be severely impacted if the ship is destroyed. We need every bit of energy for shielding, which is the first priority. You should program yourself for immediate activation upon our exit. Understood?" Captain Janeway said tersely.
"Yes, Captain," the Doctor said reluctantly. "Emergency Medical Hologram going off line . . . again," he announced unhappily.
"Seven? I want you to pilot when Mr. Paris is unable," Janeway said.
"Yes, Captain," Seven responded with a crisp nod.
"No heroics, Tom. I need sharp reflexes at the helm. When you feel the first signs of being light headed, get Seven to relieve you," the Captain said, looking at her pilot pointedly.
"Yes, ma’am," he said with a sigh.
"Mr. Tuvok, you will relieve me when I am incapacitated."
"I’d better get back to engineering. Vorik and I will be busy," B’Elanna said, getting a nod from Captain Janeway.
"Captain, 92% of the stations have reported in that their turnovers are complete," Chakotay announced.
"Very well. Let me know when they are 100%."
Janeway looked at Harry curiously. After a moment, he understood and glanced down to his console. "45.2 minutes," he said, getting a nod.
Kathryn shared a silent look with Seven before her eyes slowly drifted down over her elegant form. When Kathryn finished her appreciative look, she gazed into Seven’s eyes with frustration and sighed heavily. With a final roll of her eyes in weary amazement for their luck, prompting a sympathetic smile in return, the Captain sat in her chair to wait.
After fifteen minutes, Kathryn glanced at the small status display at her side. Oxygen in the ship’s atmosphere was now at 15% and she was beginning to feel it. Her heart rate had increased and her breaths were deeper as her body tried to compensate for the reduced oxygen. Knowing impaired coordination was another symptom at these lower levels, she started to ask Tom how he was doing but was interrupted when the ship shuddered.
"Tom?" She asked, knowing the helmsman failed to compensate for some turbulence.
"I’m fine, Captain," he said stubbornly, shaking his head as if that might help clear it.
She shook her head, knowing it was difficult to admit not being capable; but it was too dangerous to allow Tom’s performance to degrade any further to appease his ego. "No, you’re not. Seven?"
"I said I was fine!" Tom snapped back as Seven stepped down from her station to assume the helm.
"And I said you are not," she swiftly and firmly countered. "You are relieved, Mr. Paris," Captain Janeway said crisply.
"Come on, Captain. Please. I can still fly her...." Tom pleaded as Seven now stood at his side, looking to Kathryn for instruction.
"Return to your quarters, Mr. Paris. And don’t waste any more oxygen arguing," Janeway countered tersely.
Tom clenched his fists but realized the Captain was right and his judgment was impaired. "Yes, ma’am," he said dejectedly and relinquished his chair. He looked at the Captain apologetically. "Sorry, Captain."
"After we get through this, the drinks are on you," Captain Janeway said, getting a relieved look from her helmsman. "Dismissed."
"Aye, Captain," Tom said regretfully and left the bridge to the three remaining bridge officers, Captain Janeway, Tuvok, and Seven.
She watched Tom leave the bridge, leaving her with Tuvok and Seven, two people she had complete faith in, knowing they would do everything possible to see Voyager through this, as would all her crew. She was a lucky Captain to have such capable and loyal people in her command. Her breaths were more frequent and belabored as her body reacted to the decreasing oxygen. Instinctively, her hand reached down beneath her seat for her emergency oxygen mask. She pulled it out but did not put it on right away, knowing she would need to conserve oxygen if she planned on remaining conscious to see where they ended up. Her eyes fell on Seven, who sat at the helm keeping the ship on course, much like she had kept a lost Captain on course, Kathryn considered. Thank God she had, Kathryn thought.
She shivered, her body feeling the notable decrease in temperature; Kathryn really did not like cold. Looking at the worm hole on the screen, she really hoped they were not headed in the wrong direction. The crew had already been through too much, she considered guiltily. At one time, she would have been personally devastated by that thought. But Kathryn had realized that whatever her future held, she could take comfort in that she would not endure it alone. She couldn't help but smile at the beautiful woman, who was still wearing her exquisite gown. It seemed their shared fate was to apparently do everything the hard way, she considered with a chuckle.
Realizing her mind was wandering, and that she had managed to draw the concerned attention of both Tuvok and Seven, she frowned.
"Mr. Tuvok. It's time . . . for you to . . . relieve me," she said with great difficulty, not just from the lack of oxygen but from her inherent reluctance to acknowledge she was becoming incapacitated. Like Tom, she considered. Kathryn looked at the Vulcan whose brow rose, the only evidence of his surprise that she had not clung onto command longer.
"Aye, Captain," he said.
"But . . . I think . . . I'll just . . . stay here," she added, uncertain whether she could leave the bridge under her own power, her fatigue so great.
Her eyes met Seven, who glanced at her with love and confidence, wanting Kathryn to know she had made the right decision.
"Eyes on . . . the road," Kathryn scolded the young woman, whose ocular implant rose as she faced forward with a small smile of amusement.
"Yes, Captain," she said pointedly and announced "We are 5.2 minutes away from the exit."
Kathryn nodded and finally lifted the mask from her lap and sucked in precious oxygen that fed her starving lungs. GOD she hated the idea of suffocation. It had been a fear since she was a child when her family had taken a trip on a shuttle craft that got damaged. Clearly, that experience had not derailed her Starfleet ambitions, but it had stayed with her and made her appreciate . . . breathing.
Maybe Seven could find a nice, warm, oxygen-rich planet for a honeymoon, or they could lock themselves in a warm, oxygen-rich chamber for a few days. Although, that might not be such a good idea with the sparks they were bound to create, Kathryn considered with a knowing smile and sucked in another precious breath from the mask.
The minutes passed slowly and Kathryn noticed with irritation the small green indication on her mask had turned yellow; the oxygen was nearly depleted. She frowned, thinking it would be really annoying to pass out so close to the exit. Glancing at Chakotay's chair, she recalled every station had a mask. While the other stations were a bit too far for her, Chakotay's chair was doable she considered, taking a last breath from her mask and claiming its final volume of oxygen.
With Herculean effort, she managed to stand and shift herself to Chakotay's chair. While amazingly awkward, she still felt a ridiculous amount of satisfaction in being able to accomplish that simple task. Seeing Seven's concerned eyes on her she frowned.
"Fly," Kathryn once again scolded her as she reached down beneath the seat and retrieved the mask.
"You are truly the most stubborn person I have ever encountered," Seven noted and returned her attention to the view screen. Tuvok's brow rose, unable to argue.
"And don't you . . . forget it," Kathryn countered, taking a measured breath.
"We should be exiting the wormhole in . . . 35 seconds," Seven announced.
Kathryn's hopeful anticipation was immediately tempered when she heard Tuvok announce "Torpedoes are armed," reminding her that they still had a potential problem ahead even after exiting the wormhole. She knew if they had an all out battle against another ship, Voyager would be an easy target; her skeleton crew would be recovering from reduced power operations while the rest of the crew were recovering from a lack of oxygen.
"20 seconds," Seven announced then began counting down each second. Too bad Harry missed out on the countdown, Kathryn though wryly.
"One . . . ," Seven said, then glanced with concern to Tuvok, whose brow rose again. "We should have exited," she said anxiously.
"Shields are down to 1%," he announced as the ship began to shudder violently.
"My estimate was in error," Seven said with alarm.
"Shields are gone. Hull stresses on Decks 6 through 12 are exceeding design limits," he announced.
Kathryn looked at her small display with concern as hull breaches occurred on Decks 11 and 7. Lights around the bridge flickered and several consoles crackled as overhead lights popped. A maintenance access panel blew off the wall, flying several feet towards Tuvok, who managed to dodge the projectile as he isolated the decks with the breaches.
Kathryn knew more breaches were imminent as the ship continued to be tossed around in the wormhole like a small raft on a stormy sea.
Seven's fingers were a blur as she rapidly entered course correction after course correction, keeping the ship from colliding with the wormhole’s energy strands. But no matter how many adjustments she made, she couldn't prevent the wormhole from pulling Voyager apart by the seams.
Finally, some hope appeared on the viewscreen; They could see the end of the wormhole. Tuvok shielded himself as a spark jumped up from his console that lost power and grew dark. "I am unable to fire the torpedoes," he said with urgency.
"I'm . . . transferring control," Kathryn gasped, running on adrenaline and the metered oxygen from her mask. As she tapped in the codes to reroute the fire control, she received a small shock from the small console. She shook her hand with a growl of annoyance. When she finished, she looked up to the screen and blinked, feeling very light headed. Not trusting what she was seeing, she barked "Say when!"
"Fire," he said crisply.
She immediately tapped her console, firing the torpedoes just as her small terminal blew. The last thing Kathryn remembered was intense pain as a plasma arc traveled up her arm and flared when it hit the oxygen mask.
Kathryn heard faint voices around her, unable to understand them as she tried to open her eyes. When she finally did, the bright lights assaulted her and she cringed, which caused an unpleasant throbbing on the side of her face.
"She’s awake!" Tom beamed.
"Welcome back, Captain," the Doctor said with a chipper voice.
"Status?" Captain Janeway said groggily, her voice cracking. She felt like she had been hit by a shuttle.
"You suffered some plasma burns. But I was able to patch you up and you can’t even tell. You’re as good as . . ." he rattled off proudly.
"No. The ship . . . ." she countered with irritation, instinctively fingering her wedding band. She suddenly stopped speaking and glanced down to her right hand. "God no," Kathryn hissed with paralyzing dread. Her ring was gone.
"Are you feeling all right, Captain?" the Doctor asked the clearly distressed woman.
The sickbay doors whooshed open and Seven of Nine entered with a crisply folded uniform in her arms, drawing Kathryn’s attention away from her hand.
"It seems my timing continues to be off," Seven said with concern, seeing Kathryn looking intently at her. "I had expected to return before you woke," she added, placing the clothes on another biobed before joining her side.
Kathryn stared at her, her heart pounded as she looked over her silver biosuit with unease. Good GOD, no, she thought with panic as she sat up and struggled to get off the biobed.
"Whoa, Captain," Tom said with alarm, steadying the older woman, who was still weak.
"Kathryn?" Seven said with worry, supporting her other side. "What is wrong?" she asked, startled by Kathryn’s intense anxiety.
Without a word, Kathryn grabbed Seven’s right hand and inspected it. With a muffled moan of profound relief, Kathryn stared at the glorious gold band and looked into Seven’s face with tears rimming her eyes.
Immediately realizing the source of Kathryn’s fear, Seven pulled her into her arms. "We are married, Kathryn," Seven confirmed softly, tenderly caressing, then kissing her wife’s head. Her heart broke, fully understanding Kathryn’s fear. Kathryn clung to her, letting let out another moan of tearful relief.
The Doctor and Mr. Paris glanced at each other uncomfortably and quietly retreated to allow the two women their privacy.
"My ring’s gone," Kathryn blurted miserably into Seven’s shoulder, grateful for the comfort of her arms.
"The Doctor removed it to treat you. You had third degree burns, Kathryn," Seven offered, slightly grimacing at the unnerving memory.
Kathryn slowly pulled back with a confused look. "We were going . . . through a wormhole," she said, hesitating uncomfortably as if that memory might not be real.
Seven’s heart broke for Kathryn, who’s uncertainty was understandable. "Yes," she confirmed. "And remarkably, we made it through without any casualties," Seven offered, and add with a small smile "thanks to your obstinate refusal to leave the bridge. Your caution and preparation was prudent; we encountered subspace mines."
"My console blew up," she recalled with a wince, recalling the pain as well. "So the ship is . . . ?" Kathryn asked anxiously, also remembering Voyager shaking apart.
"Kathryn, before we discuss the detailed status of your ship," Seven interjected seriously. "I first must rectify an unacceptable situation," she announced gravely, causing Kathryn to look at her with concern as Seven went to the medical tray. With infinite care, she picked up the treasured symbol of their promises to each other and returned to Kathryn’s side.
Kathryn blinked, her eyes started to water again. She knew it was only a piece of metal . . . but it meant so much. As Seven gently grasped her hand and looked her in the eye, Kathryn could see Seven felt the same. And she was grateful.
After slowly slipping the ring on, for a second time in their one day of marriage, Seven encased Kathryn’s hand with both of hers and offered sternly "You do realize, the only acceptable reason for not wearing your wedding ring is a medical emergency?"
Kathryn smiled and nodded in full agreement. Seven always seemed to know how to lift her spirits, she considered, reaching up with her free hand to caress the side of Seven’s face. "God I love you," she said earnestly, looking into Seven’s eyes that sparkled happily.
"Which is fortunate, since we did get married," Seven offered with a raised ocular implant.
Kathryn chuckled as she slid her arms around Seven’s waist and pulled her in for a kiss. When their lips parted, Seven tenderly caressed Kathryn’s cheek.
"Have I mentioned I love you?" Kathryn chuckled again, enjoying the feel of Seven in her arms and the love in her heart.
"Yes. However it is acceptable and expected that you repeat that to me often."
"I don’t think that will be a problem," Kathryn said confidently with a grin, that faded when she recalled she had not gotten a full report on the condition of her crew and ship. "So the ship and crew are all right?"
"Both are a bit . . . battered but nothing beyond repair. If you ask Mr. Paris, he would tell you the crew is more than all right," Seven responded, making Kathryn look at her curiously as Seven slipped out of her arms and picked up the clothing she had brought. "I have a uniform for you. I did not think you would wish to greet your guests in a medical tunic," she said with a mischievous spark in her eye as she handed the clothes to Kathryn.
"Guests?" Kathryn said weakly.
"Yes. You are going to be quite busy for the foreseeable future," Seven said with a bit of regret. However, she understood what being married to a Starship Captain would entail, accepting and respecting that duty.
Kathryn looked at Seven with a cringe. "Don’t tell me . . . we’ve inadvertently trespassed in someone’s territory and I’m going to need to grovel for forgiveness."
Seven’s optical implant rose as she considered Kathryn’s words. "Fortunately, no. However, there are several people who wish an audience with Voyager’s Captain. Commander Chakotay has been attempting to appease them, but they still wish to meet with you as soon as you have recovered sufficiently."
"You know, suddenly I’m not feeling all that well," Kathryn said dryly, punctuating her comment with a feeble cough.
"Your guests have been kept informed of your condition by Commander Chakotay," Seven countered with a smile of amusement.
"Hmmm." Kathryn eyed her with a frown as she removed her blue tunic and put on her uniform. "So the engines are working?"
"They need recalibration to return to optimum performance but . . . ," Seven responded, then paused curiously with a raised optical implant and asked "Why?"
"Just wanna know if we could make a quick get-away, if needed," Kathryn offered wryly, as she picked up one of the four pips.
"Repairs would be prudent before attempting Warp speed," Seven countered as she stepped closer. "Allow me," she said with a small smile, holding out her hand, surprising but pleasing Kathryn.
"So . . . the species is friendly?" She asked, handing over the pip.
"There are actually several species in this . . . collective," Seven said thoughtfully, making Kathryn wince at her terminology. "However, from our initial encounter, it appears they are friendly," Seven offered, pinning on the first pip.
"Well, that’s a nice break for a change," Kathryn said flatly as Seven smiled with amusement and pinned on the second pip. "But I don’t like to assume anything. I hope Tuvok is still keeping a close eye on them."
"I am certain he is."
"Warp capable, I assume?"
"Yes. They have had warp for several centuries," Seven offered, pinning on the third pip.
"Good," Kathryn said with relief, pleased she did not have to worry about the Prime Directive.
Seven pinned on the final pip and formally announced "your uniform is complete, Captain."
"Thank you, darling," Kathryn said and smiled, unable to resist planting a light kiss on her lips. Deciding that was rather nice, she leaned in and kissed Seven again, a bit more firmly. When she attempted a third kiss, she was surprised when she was prevented.
"Your guests?" Seven scolded her, amused by Kathryn’s frown.
With a heavy sigh, Kathryn tried to look on the bright side. "Well, maybe they have advanced technologies that will help us get home."
"My research would indicate that unlikely. However, they are amenable to helping us get home; they have already provided several technicians to assist the crew in hull, shielding, and several system repairs," Seven noted and walked towards the sickbay exit.
"What?? By whose authority are they on MY ship?!?" Kathryn snapped with irritation and alarm as she followed Seven out of Sickbay.
"Commander Chakotay’s. He welcomed the help, as did B’Elanna," Seven responded, earning a look of disbelief as Kathryn caught up to her. "It was a logical decision," she added.
"I thought you said the ship was "more than all right"?? Kathryn complained as they stopped in front of the turbolift.
"Actually, Mr. Paris had said that about the crew. Kathryn, there was structural damage from the wormhole after the shields failed; my estimate was in error. The ship was damaged and you were significantly injured as a result," Seven said tightly, her self-reproach and burden of guilt clear - and unwarranted, Kathryn fully believed.
"Seven, it was an estimate," Kathryn emphasized. "I knew that when I asked for it. We all did. And we’re here now discussing it, so it couldn’t have been all that bad," Kathryn said with a reassuring smile.
Seven nodded hesitantly, her stubborn guilt slowly eased by Kathryn’s unwavering support.
When Kathryn took her hand, she protested unconvincingly, for her face lit up with a small pleased smile. "We are on duty."
"Give me a break, we just got married," Kathryn countered as the turbolift arrived. "And I should be able to hold my wife’s hand if I . . . ." she lectured as the doors whooshed open.
"Captain! I’m glad you’re okay!" a crew member interrupted her as he exited the turbolift with a big smile. "Plasma burns are nasty things," he added with a cringe.
"That they are, Chief Tunny," Kathryn agreed, then glanced at her wife with a smirk before leaning towards him and asking conspiratorially. "Chief? You don’t think the crew would mind if I hold my wife’s hand in the corridors while we’re on duty, do you?"
"Captain, you could do damn near anything you want today, I’d guess," he said and laughed, clapping her heartily on the back as he passed by, surprising the Captain with his familiarity and exceedingly good will towards her. Although she just did get married, Kathryn thought happily.
"Thanks, Chief. That’s good to know," she said with a grin, pulling Seven into the turbo lift.
"Ready Room," Seven said, eyeing Kathryn with amusement.
"So . . . ," Kathryn said coyly, turning towards her and attempting a look of innocence . . . and failing. "Chief thinks I can do damn near anything I want today."
"And what do you desire to do?" Seven asked as Kathryn stepped closer.
"Start our honeymoon," Kathryn said, placing a gentle kiss on her lips.
"As would I, however you have . . ."
"Guests. Yeah, I know," Kathryn finished the sentence with an unhappy moan as the turbolift doors whooshed open on Deck One.
Kathryn smoothly tucked Seven’s hand in the crook of her arm, as if they had always strolled together like that, and left the lift.
"I am not sure I will get used to this," Seven said, pausing to look down at her hand on Kathryn’s arm.
"Indulge me," Kathryn said with a smile, patting Seven’s hand.
"I suspect that will be a more frequent than rare occurrence," Seven offered dryly, prompting a chuckle as they were greeted by two more crew members, who headed towards the Bridge, carrying boxes of tools.
"It’s wonderful to see you, Captain Janeway," one of them gushed with an enthusiastic smile as they passed. "Welcome back," the other crew member said as the two headed towards the bridge.
Kathryn looked perplexed and turned to look at the two crew members in odd-looking Starfleet uniforms, who had just passed her. She didn’t recognize their faces either. "Who the hell are they??"
"Those are two of the 32 technicians here to help, as I have mentioned," Seven noted.
"But they are Starfl . . . ," Kathryn argued, then abruptly fell silent, her eyes immediately sought and searched Seven’s in disbelief.
"I know you will need proof. Let me show you," Seven said with a pleased smile, gently pulling on Kathryn’s arm to lead her to her ready room and that proof.
"No," Kathryn said, firmly rooted in place. "No. Just tell me. I want . . . I need to hear it from your lips, Seven," she said uneasily.
"Very well," Seven said with an understanding smile. "The worm hole Voyager traveled through terminated in the Alpha Quadrant. At standard cruising speed, we are 53.23 days from Earth. You have succeeded in bringing your crew home, Kathryn," she said with admiration.
Kathryn looked at her, still unable to believe.
Seven sighed sadly. "The Uttuskans have already taken too much from you, Kathryn. Do not let them also rob you of the joy you deserve," she said emphatically. "You did it. You brought Voyager home."
Kathryn shook her head, not accepting those amazing words. "Seven, you are telling me that we finally get married, and during the wedding, my greenest bridge crew stumbles into a Borg debris field and a wormhole . . . that just happens to take us to Alpha Quadrant??"
"Correct," Seven said and watched Kathryn blink, still unable to accept the situation. "Perhaps you should be comforted by the implausibility of the circumstances," she offered.
"Oh?" Kathryn responded with surprise.
"If someone was trying to convince you that Voyager had returned home, surely the circumstances would be more . . . believable," Seven suggested.
Kathryn blinked, pondering that oddly logical comment.
"And if you were dreaming this, would you really be dreaming . . . this?"
Kathryn blinked at her. "I can honestly say this scenario would never have crossed my conscious mind," she said wearily, wondering if her subconscious mind might have. She chuckled weakly, then looked at Seven a long moment, seeing love and patience. As the incredible news started to sink in, many emotions crossed her face, each one, Seven felt privileged to witness.
"So . . . ," Kathryn said hesitantly. "We are in the Alpha Quadrant?"
"Yes, Kathryn, we are. I wish I had a way to eliminate all your doubts. All I can do is tell you what I know to be true and to show you."
Kathryn once again sought Seven’s embrace and held her tightly.
"We’re going to Earth," Kathryn uttered in wonder, indulging for a final quiet moment in the comfort in her wife’s arms before their lives would change dramatically. "Things are going to get crazy," Kathryn warned warily.
Seven pulled back, responding with a challenging look and raised optical implant.
"All right, perhaps "busy" or "different" would be a better description of what we are going to face," Kathryn amended with a roll of her eyes.
"Whatever is ahead of us, Kathryn, we will face it together."
Kathryn looked into Seven’s confident eyes, her heart swelling with love. She could almost believe anything was possible. No . . . anything was possible, she concluded as a smile grew. With a gentle kiss on Seven’s lips, she took her hand.
"Let’s go see what awaits us," Kathryn said with a grin, getting a nod of agreement.
And they did, hand in hand.
Thanks to Trusty for proofing.
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