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Voyager is back home in the Alpha Quadrant and life is going well for Kathryn Janeway. She is now an admiral and is engaged to be married to Seven of Nine. However, an old adversary from the Delta Quadrant makes an incredible claim that will impact her life and the lives of the ones she loves. According to members of the Think Tank, they have her daughter. Is this an elaborate hoax? And, if true, how will she bring her daughter home?

This story is set right after Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant. Background sources used are Voyager episodes Threshold, Omega Directives, Pathfinder, Think Tank and Endgame. Certain facts were taken from other episodes as well. Other background information on the early life of Captain Kathryn Janeway is found in the novel, Mosaic. Materials from DS9 episode Rejoined, and DS9 novels, were also used.

Any scientific references to genetics are a creation from my warped mind.

The characters of Morgan and Hiro are my own creations.

Paramount pictures own both Star Trek Voyager and DS9. I am not making any profit from these stories.

This Story contains the depiction of love between two women. PG17



DISTANT ECHO

By cygirl1. November 1, 2006

X

Part One

X

CHAPTER ONE

X



Please, this has all been a misunderstanding. Captain Janeway has deceived you. We can straighten this situation out for both of our benefits,” Kurros reasoned, while managing to maintain his outwardly calm and non-threatening demeanor. He found it usually worked to present a meek façade to those whom you conducted business. This time, it appeared not to be working. “We can help you achieve any goal you desire. Just let us be reasonable and discuss this.”

The Hazari commander snorted in disgust and said disparagingly, “You can give us nothing that we cannot take from you. Be thankful that we do not throw you, and your friend, out of an airlock.”

The Hazari commander was under the impression that there were only two members of the Think Tank present, Kurros and Fennin, a tall reptilian alien, who stood meekly in front of a habitat tank that held Xyglys, another Think Tank member. When the commander asked what was in the tank, Kurros told him it was a Grutokian sea creature given to them by a client. Moreover, removing it from the tank and exposing it to air caused it to secrete a poisonous gas, which would melt the flesh off the bones before one could take a breath. The Hazari crew quickly moved away from the area surrounding the tank.

The Hazari crew was stripping the ship of her cargo, which consisted of items collected over hundreds of years, in payment for the Think Tank’s help in solving many planets’ life threatening problems. In most instances, these items were vital to the client’s planet in some way, but were demanded as part of the bargain.

Kurros tucked his hands in the full sleeves of his long brown robe. Closing his eyes, he telepathically communicated his distress to the original Think Tank founder, Bevvox, a glowing bioplasmatic life form contained in a variable gravimetric environment. Bevvox was easily overlooked by the Hazari, and passed as a piece of the ship’s machinery. “They are taking everything we have gained over the past century. What possible use could they have for items they cannot even comprehend?” Kurros mentally wailed.

His mind received Bevvox’s thoughts clearly through his implanted translator. “It matters little. We have unlocked the secrets of each item. In addition, we have stored the pertinent information in our data banks. We must now devise a plan to remove ourselves from this situation.”

Kurros opened his eyes in time to see two Hazari trying to lift X92, an advanced artificial intelligence who was another member of the Think Tank. The Hazari mistakenly thought X92 as a piece of technology and not as a member of the Think Tank. He quickly accessed his implanted translation device to communicate mentally with X92. “X92, initiate a countdown, and activate some lights, as if the Hazari have activated a dangerous device.”

Just as the Hazari started to lift X92, an ear-splitting siren sounded and red lights flashed. This caused the two to cease their activities and drop X92 quickly back in place.

What in the name of Potales’ three balls is making that racket? Shut it off!” bellowed the commander.

Kurros screamed, “Do not touch it, or it will detonate immediately and obliterate this parsec of space and all in it! We must leave, and leave now! If we leave now at warp nine, we may have a slight chance of escaping its destructive power!”

Huh…Abandon ship. Leave everything! Bridge, emergency beam out, now!” demanded the Commander.

Adding further dressing to the ruse, Kurros ran screaming toward the Hazari Commander and in a beseeching voice said, “Please, take us with you!” The last thing Kurros saw, before the boarding party beamed off, was the sneer on the commander’s face.

Kurros smirked smugly and said, “X92, you can stop that infernal noise now, before you shatter Xyglys’ tank.”

X92 abruptly abated the ear splitting squeal and sinister flashing red lights. The Think Tank’s ship headed in the opposite direction from the path the Hazari ship traveled, and out of that sector of space.

 

XXX

CHAPTER TWO

XXX

It is necessary that a method is found to neutralize Voyager in her journey through this quadrant. If we fail to do so, we risk Captain Janeway informing other denizens in this quadrant of our method of conducting business. Voyager’s path to the Alpha Quadrant is almost identical to our planned route. In truth, this route does not retrace any of our previous ones, thus removes us from contact with previous clients, who may feel exploited by our past business agreements,” surmised Bevvox, founder of the Think Tank.

Fennin, the tall reptilian member of the five, stated the obvious, “We underestimated Janeway’s ability to realize that we deceived her. What she lacks in superior intelligence is more than compensated by her innate cunning and her ability to correlate sequences of events to conclude that a deception was enacted.”

Rubbing his cheek in thought, Kurros replied, “Voyager may still be open to negotiations. Not for the Borg, of course. Captain Janeway will never part with her. However, for some other item of value to us, besides their silence.”

Would it not benefit us more to destroy Voyager?” Xyglys noted.

Kurros held both palms out in a gesture of denial and shook his head. “Voyager could not be so easily destroyed without risk to us. If we followed that course of action, others in the Delta Quadrant would know of our deed. Do not forget the old Bareto adage, ‘The Universe has a billion eyes, ears, and mouths.’ Someone would come across wreckage and analyze it, and send out messages of what transpired. There could be survivors to spread news of the event. Why risk being ruined? No, we must find Janeway’s weakness. We must discover what she, or better yet, her society and species holds most dear. What would they risk their lives for without question or thought of danger or death?”

X92’s thoughts filtered through the translation device, “The micro-borer did attach itself to one of the Borg’s finger pads when she touched my faceplate during communication. It then entered Voyager’s mainframe when she accessed one of Voyager’s computer terminals. It proceeded to send us data until it ceased functioning. I have not analyzed the data, but it may contain information we can utilize in discovering a factor that will ‘persuade’ Janeway to negotiate with us on our terms.”

Kurros smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Brilliant, X92. We will analyze the ship’s logs and database for items of interest. X92 analyze the logs for any technology or discoveries that may be of interest to us. Especially, any information pertaining to Borg technology. This Seven of Nine may have data and research stored. Leave no file unopened.”

5.622 hours later, with all data from Voyager analyzed, the members of the Think Tank came to a meeting of the minds to share their findings. Kurros, standing with eyes closed and hands tucked into his sleeves, requested X92 to report any significant technological discoveries that would be of value.

There are various Borg components incorporated into Voyager’s shields and sensors. In addition, there is some preliminary research into transwarp technology. There is one log remaining. This log has Borg encryption codes that are proving most difficult to unravel.”

Fennin reported, “Janeway’s record contains nothing we can utilize. However, her medical records do contain one odd, but perhaps irrelevant, fact. She and her helmsman, Tom Paris, produced three offspring while in a mutated form. This mutation occurred due to the accelerated evolutionary process caused by exceeding warp ten. Voyager’s doctor reversed the process for Janeway and Paris. The three offspring remain on the planet. There was no known procedure to de-evolve the offspring, since their genetic material was not evolved, as was that of their parents.”

Bevvox, the founder of the group, observed, “Though the mutated young are interesting, I do not think we can use them to our advantage. Borg technology is tempting and warrants further investigation. However, we do need to consider the possibility that many cultures in this sector would be hesitant to utilize it in fear that the Borg would be able to detect it on their sensors and trace it to the source. I propose, for now, that we forgo any dealings with Voyager and use our hyper-drive to jump light years ahead of her. This will not only put us clear of Voyager, but, in addition, give us the opportunity to waylay her, if, on further analyzes, we decide that we do want the Borg technology.”

Xyglys said, “As we know, the hyper drive engines are still in the experimental stage. They would be very risky unless we used them for very short bursts. It would take months to get far enough ahead of Voyager to have leeway to execute our endeavors.”

Kurros sighed in resignation. “While it is not an optimum choice, it is perhaps the best choice. It‘s a pity really. I would enjoy seeing Janeway bow to our demands.”

All agreed to follow Bevvox’s recommendation.

XXX

Two days later brought about a radical change in plans due to X92‘s cracking of the Borg code.

Daily log, Seven of Nine, Stardate 51781.4. For 3.2 seconds, I saw perfection…The Omega Molecule. I have no words to describe this phenomenon. I would gladly spend the remainder of my life in studying...perfection. I am sure the scientist in Captain Janeway regrets the destruction of all records pertaining to our discovery. However, she is a Starfleet Captain, and what Starfleet mandates, she will carry out. She can do no less.”

Janeway had found the most powerful element in the Universe. The one, who possessed the knowledge of the Omega, and the power to use it, would rule the Universe.

We have gone over all the ship’s logs pertaining to the time frame preceding this log entry. The logs, three weeks prior to this date, and three weeks preceding, do not indicate any irregularities, or contact with other species,” Reported X92.

Bevvox speculated, “It is obvious that Janeway acted under orders, put in place by Starfleet, to destroy the Omega should they come across it. She erased all evidence that they discovered anything out of the ordinary.”

We could retrace their path,” said Fennin.

X92 replied, “Janeway has altered the records going back, and forwards, from Stardate 51781.4. We could spend decades searching for the source. In addition, she would destroy all Omegas in her path.”

Kurros said, “This, friends, is worth confronting Janeway. I have been thinking about Janeway’s mutated offspring. The one constant factor in Humanoid societies is the protection and rearing of young. We may have a bargaining tool...her children.”

Fennin replied, “You forget, Kurros, Janeway abandoned these offspring. She appears to have no nurturing instinct for her offspring and may have no desire to have them in her custody.”

Kurros rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Captain Janeway may not have any nurturing instinct, as of yet, due to the unique nature of her mutation when these offspring were conceived and birthed. The offspring in their current state are of a different species, though evolved from current Human genotypes. They may not be sentient, or may be so advanced we are but an amoeba to them. I believe that if we present these offspring to her in Human form she will do all in her power to obtain them. Her moral beliefs would play a major factor in her decision to safeguard her young. You also have to factor in the father. Lieutenant Paris hails from the same social community. The probability is high that he shares with Janeway the same core beliefs and values. No. This will succeed if we present them with Human offspring.”

Fennin interjected, “All is moot unless we can transform these creatures into Human form.”

Kurros continued his argument, “We can use similar principles to that which Voyager’s doctor used in reversing the transwarp evolutionary syndrome.”

Fennin cautioned, “You assume that the offspring have inherited the mutated protein sequence possessed by their parents. In all probability, this may be a unique characteristic found only in individuals who go through the process of increased evolution. The genetic coding of the offspring may not contain this protein since they never evolved, as did their parents.”

Xyglys interjected, “You are aware that my species go through stages of evolutionary genetic changes before reaching adulthood? If we can combine the enzyme that contains the proteins that cause this effect with their genes, it may act as the catalyst we need. We would then need to expose the treated creatures to an artificial temporal distortion field with negative polarities. This, I believe, will de-evolve their genes, thus achieving the results we want. Using the temporal distortion field with positive polarities, my species has been able to speed genetic changes at a much greater acceleration, thus producing an adult in minutes, instead of the decades it takes now. In lower life forms, when negative polarities are applied, they did de-evolve. However, we have never applied this to our species, or any sentient species.

Also, be aware that any method we employ would render the subject with no memory and leave only instinct. They will possess a normal brain and the intelligence that they inherit from their parents, but lack knowledge to use that intelligence, much as a neonate. They must go through a long learning process, which may take years, just as it does in the normal development of their species from neonate to mature adult.”

Fennin noted, “We have several other factors to consider. We do not know what the growth rates of this amphibious species are. They may already be mature and have gone through one, or more, mating cycles. In addition, if there is any combination of male and female, they may have already mated and produced young.”

Kurros, taking a deep breath, said, “We will span that blackhole if we come to it. Now, we need to discover if the offspring have survived.” Placing his hands back in his sleeves, Kurros continued, “There are certain procedures that can greatly accelerate the learning process and the retention of what is learned. An individual in which these…procedures are applied will learn in months what now takes years. This will not increase, or decrease, the intelligence level they have inherited.”

Fennin said, “I am assuming the method that you speak of does not utilize the technique of gene splicing. In my investigation into Federation laws, it is unlawful to alter the gene sequence with splicing the genotype for intelligence. If we do this to the offspring, this will prohibit them from entering many professions in the Federation. Janeway would hold us accountable.”

Kurros replied, “No, I thought to introduce certain enzymes to the learning and memory centers of the brain right before the de-evolving process. While minute traces of these enzymes may show up in certain testing procedures, it will be thought a benign, naturally occurring product of the planet on which the offspring were born.”

Xyglys inquired, “You are referring to the Oprepian enzyme? It is prohibited on many planets and would mean our incarceration for life if it is discovered that we posses it…and our deaths if we utilize it.”

Kurros smugly answered, "Who is to know if we do not keep records and the offspring are taken to the Alpha Quadrant?”

Fennin asked, “Where would we obtain this enzyme?”

Kurros, looking pleased with himself, declared, “I happen to have several samples in my possession. After all, I believe in being prepared for any transaction and providing our clients with many options.”

Bevvox informed the group, “At maximum warp, and utilizing the shortest route, it will take 21 months to reach the planet where the offspring are located. If Voyager continues her estimated route to the Alpha Quadrant, it would take an additional 39 months for us to be in the vicinity of her projected coordinates. However, if we employ the hyperspace burst drive, in short 15 minute bursts every 26 hours, we would reach our destination in 17 months, and Voyager in another 30-32 months.”

Fennin protested, “The drive has not been refined. It poses too great a danger. We may find ourselves stranded in hyperspace for a long time.”

Bevvox added, “That is why we must use a short burst and wait 26 hours for the antimatter phase shift to realign. If monitored carefully, for even a minute flux, we could immediately drop out of hyperspace. This, my friends, will be worth the venture. I believe the odds are on our side.”

 

XXX

I am detecting only one life sign, located at latitude 48.7, longitude 52, which closely matches both the mutated genetic codes of Janeway and Paris that we obtained from Voyager‘s medical records. This signature is stationary and located near a briny estuary situated near the mouth of a river, which empties into the planet’s fourth largest ocean,” Intoned the flat, tinny, artificially produced voice of X92.

Kurros wondered briefly if the other two offspring perished, but was pleased that one had survived. “Good. The laboratory is ready. Commence beaming the subject to the prepared examination area. Come, Fennin. Let us see what offspring Captain Janeway has left.”

Kurros ran his medical scanning device over the one-meter long amphibious, salamander-like creature. He had to sedate it, as it attempted to bite him with its wide and muscular jaws. As he worked, he relayed his findings to the others. “A female, appearing to be right at the cusp of late adolescence and full maturity. She is slightly malnourished, but showing neither long-term signs of severe malnutrition nor any history of severe trauma to the body or internal organs. She is negative for any disease processes or congenital abnormalities. She should be able to go through the procedure with no adverse reactions. I will leave her sedated and proceed with injecting the enzyme to the areas of the brain discussed earlier, and then we will proceed with the rest.”

XXX

CHAPTER THREE

XXX

 

Sprout, do not throw objects into Xyglys’ tank,” exclaimed Kurros. “Would you like to have objects thrown on you while you are sleeping?”

There was a thoughtful look on the teenager’s face. “No, Kurros. I am sorry, I did not think.”

You should always think through the possible consequences of actions that you take, Sprout. Tell me, what did you think the consequence of your actions would be?”

Sprout put her right thumbnail between her teeth and started to chew it, something she often did while thinking.

Before she could answer, Kurros chastised her. “Sprout. Do not chew your fingernails. It is disgusting behavior. Now, answer the question I posed to you.”

She ceased this activity and answered, “I was conducting an experiment to see which object would float and which would not. I did not think Xyglys would mind.”

Did you seek her permission?”

She hung her head, her dark red shoulder length hair falling forward onto her pale face. “No.”

Why not?”

She took a deep breath through her nose and replied, “She is sleeping, and I did not want to wake her.”

Kurros went on in his soft but firm voice, “Could you not have waited until she awoke and then seek her permission?”

Sprout pushed out her bottom lip in thought then answered, “I did not want to wait. It would take hours for her to wake, and I did not want to wait that long.”

I see, and you thought since she was sleeping you would go ahead with your experiment. You did not even consider that your actions might have harmed her if one of the objects had struck her.”

Wrapping her arms around herself, Sprout answered, “No, Kurros, I did not. I am sorry.”

Sprout, you must learn patience and consideration for others. You should have asked her permission. Moreover, always try to think through any action, or experiment, you conduct to include any possible dangerous outcome as well as the beneficial ones. It could mean your survival or that of a colleague. Now, go to your quarters and think why you should have asked her permission. Later, when Xyglys is awake, you shall apologize to her.”

Still hanging her head, she answered, “Yes, Kurros.” Then she turned to go to her quarters.

Kurros knew that she was not attempting to harm Xyglys in any way. Curiosity led her to do this. However, she must learn the possible outcome of her actions. Perhaps he was expecting too much too soon. She was, in reality, only eight months old. Her learning had come a remarkably long way in only a short time, due to the Oprepian enzyme treatment.

Earlier in her development, she was into everything: pushing buttons, opening panels, and generally keeping everyone vigilant and on guard least she harm herself or blow up the whole ship. You had to hide every loose object or she would have it torn apart to see what made it work. They taught her quickly that certain areas and things were off limits. If she wanted to know the function of an object, one or more of the group would tell her, and, in X92’s case, show her through a holographic projection with any schematic she wished to view,. She received, as part of her learning, puzzles and simple mechanical toys with cogs, gears, and winding mechanisms, which she could take apart and put back together. Later, she received primitive electronic devices to study and assemble. She had the ability to determine how these objects worked and in what sequence to place components. Soon, he would give her more sophisticated components with which to construct devices.

He surmised that it was her father from whom she inherited this ability. Records from Voyager showed that he had a high mechanical aptitude, as well as superior spatial awareness. No doubt why he chose to be a pilot. His hobbies, rebuilding antiquated petroleum-fueled vehicles, and his collaboration with Ensign Kim in the construction of the Delta Flyer, demonstrated his mechanical aptitude.

She had her mother’s love of discovery and learning new things. She would spend hours in front of her computer‘s holographic screen researching the spatial phenomena she saw, of course, at her own level of current language skills and knowledge, which were accelerating rapidly.

She was, at present, on the reading and understanding level of a standard Human 13 year old. In another four months, she should be able to read and understand at the level required for entrance into Starfleet Academy. This would be close to the time they would intersect Voyager’s path. He thought Captain Janeway would be most appreciative of this. He would not inform her of the enzyme. Is she questioned Sprout’s current level of development, he planned to tell her it was a new technique developed for those with severe brain damage, which, in effect, stimulated the brain cells for rapid processing of information. If she objected, he would tell her that she would spend years teaching her daughter how to read, write, and function, on even the level of a 12-year old.

Sprout had a mind of her own, no doubt inherited from Janeway. For the most part, she was eager to please and compliant with rules the rules of the Think Tank. Although earlier in her development she was non-compliant.

She was a horror those first few weeks after her emergence; engaging in temper tantrums if she did not get her way, flinging herself on the deck and screaming at the top of her lungs, and thrashing and rolling around as in a seizure. Fennin said to ignore her, which is what they did to hatchlings on his world. When the young saw their behavior was not effective, they would learn to work with others to get what they wanted. Indeed, this advice worked after two long nerve-wracking weeks. Each member would go about his business and ignore her during one of her tantrums. If she threw her food on the floor because she did not like it, she did not eat that night. If she threw her possessions, she did not get them back. Soon, she learned to control her temper and to work out compromises. However, she could be stubborn at times and want to argue every point and rule. And to his surprise, her arguments were often logical.

Yes, he thought, Captain Janeway will not be disappointed. Besides being intelligent, she was physically attractive by most humanoid standards. Physically, she resembled both parents, having her father’s build, tall and slender. She stood at 5’7.5”. She might yet grow another half-inch before reaching full adult maturity. She had her mother’s general face shape, seen in her high cheekbones, the shape of her nose, eyes and chin. The eye coloring was more that of the bright blue of her father. She had his mouth and placement of eyebrows. Her hair was a dark red, not the auburn of her mother’s. At her emergence, he estimated her age to be 15.9 in Human years. He would miss her, but to harness the power of the Omega Molecule was too overwhelming to give up.

XXX

She had lost something and realized that it was trust. Trust she had in Kurros and the others. Kurros stated that he had never meant to deceive her. He would have informed her, in time, of her heritage when she was at a stage in her development to understand. He stated that the time had come for her to learn who she was.

It had started out with what she thought was an innocent inquiry. Moreover, it resulted in a misinterpretation of what she thought were facts. She had assumed that Kurros was her parent, as biologically she had very similar physiological characteristics to his own. They were both Humanoid, and he was the only Humanoid on the ship. He took an interest in her safety and wellbeing. He taught her how to take care of herself. He provided her with food, clothing and shelter. He was interested in her intellectual development. Was this not what a parent did for their offspring? She had asked him if he were her only parent by means of parthenogenesis, or if she had another parent with whom she shared her genetic makeup. He had said nothing at first. He stood and appraised her with an analytic stare. He had sighed and informed her it was time she learned the truth about herself, what she was, and why she was aboard their ship.

What she learned about herself and her origin was bewildering. She could not fathom that the story he told had anything to do with her. How her biological parents were aboard a starship just a few months away. That he was going to reunite her with her parents. She wanted no part of it. Kurros, and to some extent the four others on the ship, were more her parents than those who had abandoned her. No. This was her home. She wanted to stay. He told her that would be impossible. Their travels and mission often led them into some very dangerous situations, which could be life threatening. She would be safer with her parents. She reasoned that if her parents had truly wanted her, they would not have abandoned her on that planet. Forget that they did not know how to transform her to a Human. They should have still taken her with them and attempted to discover a way to transform her. Why did he want to give her over to them? He had told her because they owed Captain Janeway a debt of gratitude for her part in a prior mission. He would not elaborate on the details of the mission, or what Janeway’s role was, but Kurros taught her to take nothing said or done at face value. She was sure the ‘owe’ part could have several meanings on many different levels.

He allowed her to view selected information about this ship, Voyager, from tens of thousands of light years away. He also let her view selected information on her parents. She had at first refused to look at this information. She would not acknowledge these Humans as her parents. She had gone to the others and pleaded her case. They had only agreed with Kurros. She felt unwanted. They had lied to her with their silence. What other information were they withholding from her?

Finally, she gave in to her curiosity and accessed the information on the two Humans. She was not impressed. This Captain Janeway had gotten herself, and her ship, stranded thousands of light years away from their home. She was not intelligent enough to find a way to get them home again. Her father was inferior to her mother in rank, which proved, he was even less intelligent. Kurros could find another way to repay them for their assistance.

She knew that the purpose of the Think Tank group was to solve problems. She knew they outstripped her in intelligence. That must be it. She inherited her inferior intelligence from her parents, and Kurros and the others, did not think her intelligent enough to contribute. They thought her unworthy. As for her genetic parents, they had thought her so unworthy as to abandon her. This fact was perhaps the one that hurt the most.

XXX

Since our long range scanners have failed to discover Voyager in the projected vicinity, we should stay in normal space until we find some ship, or a nearby planet, that may have information on them. I surmise that Voyager should be within a few days of our present location,” Bevvox rationalized to the others.

XXX

Three days later a Talaxian freighter from a nearby colony contacted them. The news was, to say the least, distressing. Voyager had made it back to the Alpha Quadrant; of this, they were positive, as her Captain had contacted a former Talaxian crewmember, by the name of Neelix, through an artificial wormhole. This wormhole was only large enough for a small stream of energy to enter and to exit. This wormhole was created by a Federation communications system called the Midas Array. The Think Tank members were familiar with the Midas Array, as Voyager’s logs contained a substantial amount of information pertaining to it. It could prove useful in contacting Captain Janeway in the near future.

What was truly stunning was that Captain Janeway had somehow managed to enter into Borg space and use the Borg transwarp hub for Voyager’s trip home. How did Janeway do it? Again, they had underestimated her abilities.

They would visit the Talaxian Colony, which lay less than two weeks away from their current position. This Talaxian, Neelix, had been aboard Voyager when the Think Tank had their encounter with Janeway. They would have to gain enough of his trust to do business. They would need to use this Midas Array to contact Captain Janeway. Of course, they would be willing to pay for access to the wormhole generated by the Array. A colony was always in need of some service or item. After all, an enemy force occupied the colonists’ native planet, Talaxia, and could not lend them support. It would be in the Talaxians’ interest to do business with them. Besides, the Think Tank had a key that would more than likely buy this Neelix’s support: Sprout. Talaxians were strong on family ties and support. He would more than likely be eager to reunite his friends’ daughter with them; of that, Kurros was certain.

XXX

CHAPTER FOUR

XXX

This news pleased Sprout. Voyager and her genetic donors, as she referred to her biological parents, were back in the Alpha Quadrant where they belonged. True, Kurros had made it known that she could not stay. She was hurt and angry, but did get some amount of satisfaction from their plans having failed.

She had known something was wrong, as Kurros had not been his dutiful self in reminding her it was time to eat, or time for her lessons. She asked him what was transpiring. He, at first, told her it was business between him and his associates. She informed him it was her business, too, as it concerned her and she was no longer a child. By Federation standards she was an adult, having turned 18 a month ago. He looked at her as if she were a stranger or some new discovery. She just looked right back at him with a calm, assured look, which told him she was right, and he knew it. He had nodded and told her he would discuss it with the others. She went over to one of the consoles and drew up one of the small view screens to search for anything of interest near their current location. She knew they were discussing something to do with her as they had shut down her implanted translator. It was much too quiet: No conversation, as they were using just their thoughts to communicate. X92, Kurros, and Fennin could communicate by voice, but Bevvox and Xyglys only by thought. Thought communication gave her a terrible headache and made her nose bleed if she used it for more than two minutes. She wished for them to conclude their discussions and inform her of their decision.

XXX

Kurros stated, “She is an adult, after all, at least in the Federation. She is able to formulate accurate decisions based on the evidence presented. In fact, I would say that her logical approach to actions and consequences is beyond her years. We need not inform her of the Omega Molecule.”

Bevvox asserted, “Agreed. We invested a lot of time in her, time that we could have used to pursue our prior agenda. If there is no way for us to trade for the Omega, there may be some culture we can trade or sell her to.”

Kurros angrily retorted, “No, she stays with us in that event.”

Your reason is clouded by an attachment to this Human. I founded this coalition, Kurros, the decision is mine, or better yet, we will cast a consensus.”

I will not participate, and I will leave. You need me, Bevvox. I am the only one that Janeway will deal with. She is Humanoid and more inclined to accept my offer. The majority of species in the Delta Quadrant, as in all Quadrants, is Humanoid. You would not be able to communicate with 90 percent of them. Xyglys is so alien to them they would think of her as non-sentient. X92 is a machine. They would deal with a Borg before they would deal with a machine. However, many Humanoid races would find Sprout attractive. She is also well spoken. Many cultures would more readily listen to her than to me. She can act as our representative or…bait.”

Xyglys laughed, or what passed for laughter in her species. “Kurros has become both father and mother to her. His fry is ready to leave the egg pouch and he wants what is in her best interest. Is it not so, Kurros?”

Kurros nodded. “Yes, I admit I do think of her as my child. However, that does not have any bearing on what I am proposing. She possesses self-confidence and presence, as well as intelligence. With the proper training, I believe she would make a very good representative for us.”

Bevvox acquiesced. “You have persuaded me. Even if we contacted Captain Janeway, she does not speak for the Federation and may not have the information on the Omega that we need. However, she may be able to persuade Seven of Nine to part with the knowledge. What information she has on Omega will be part of her eidetic memory. After all, Janeway freed her from the collective and she may believe she is indebted to her.”

Kurros, rubbing his chin, replied, “We need to turn our efforts to opening up a way from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha, so that the trade may be made. However, Janeway must come to us. We do not go to her. I do not trust Janeway. She would lay an ambush.”

Bevvox said, “It is settled. Let us formulate a plan.”

XXX

Kurros informed Sprout that they would find a way to return her to her parents. Sprout had argued that Janeway did not want her, which is why she left her on the planet. Why would she change her mind? Kurros said this was because she had been a different species. Now she was ’Human’.

Sprout knew that Kurros was not being truthful. He taught her never to take a word or discussion at face value; a simple explanation could disguise and hide very different meanings. She had a feeling he was keeping something from her. She would find out for herself. Little did they suspect, when they excluded her from their discussions, that she was not only utilizing the computer to access the viewscreen, as she was allowed to do, but had been able to obtain the data codes to unlock the portion of Voyager’s logs that had been denied her. She had broken the codes over several days by positioning her small hand computer close enough to the console to pick up voice commands and hand movements. They had been careless. They had overlooked her computer, not realizing that it was active and recording their private codes each time they required information from the main frame. She would have her computer display all information on Kurros and the others. Especially, information from Voyager’s logs. Perhaps she could discover information to assist her in uncovering what they had hidden from her.

XXX

CHAPTER FIVE

XXX

Neelix felt he was the happiest man in the Delta Quadrant. He now had a family and a community that looked up to him as a leader. He was also the sole Delta Quadrant Ambassador to The Federation, and kept in regular contact with Starfleet and his former Captain, now, Admiral Janeway.

This not only afforded him a fair amount of prestige among his own people, but also among other races. The Talaxian Asteroid Colony was on its way to becoming an important place to visit, and the only place that had direct communication with the Alpha Quadrant. Indeed, it was worth going out of your way to visit and offer discounts on supplies and needed equipment, just to stay in the Ambassador’s good graces. Of course, it was customary to send a few gifts to the Ambassador, as a token of good will. After all, the speculation was that it would only take a short while for the Federation to find a quick and safe way to travel to the Delta Quadrant. This would open up many new trade opportunities that could make one very, very rich. In addition, the area surrounding the Colony would more than likely be the Alpha Quadrant’s entry point when that happened. The Colony already had plans in the works to build a commerce area and docking ports. Long-term plans were to commandeer other close by large asteroids for additional living space as well as areas of commerce.

Moreover, Neelix’s opinion mattered on just about every plan or action, however large or small. Neelix also served an important role for the Federation. He was the eyes and ears to any news, rumor, or gossip concerning the remnants of the Borg, and of any threat from other species in the Delta Quadrant that could affect the Alpha Quadrant.

Yes, Neelix was the ‘go to man’ of the Delta Quadrant.

XXX

Neelix was just getting ready to leave his large Ambassadorial office when he was stopped in his tracks by the sudden appearance of a familiar being. “What do you want? Say, I remember you. You leave. We have nothing here for you,” Neelix exclaimed, his eyes squinted, tried to look stern.

The holographic form of Kurros softly replied, “Hear what I have to offer first. I’m sure the information I possess will not only be of interest to you but for your Captain Janeway as well.”

Still glaring at Kurros, Neelix responded sharply, “I doubt that. I need nothing from you. Nor does Admiral Janeway. Now, depart from here or I’ll find your ship and blow it to dust.”

Kurros, his hands tucked in his sleeves, replied with a smile, “Admiral Janeway? This is all for the better. As Admiral, she may have the authority to retrieve something of value she left behind. You can help her do this if you allow me to contact her through the Midas Array.”

Not a chance. Now, take your holographic self and leave.”

Kurros bowed his head slightly and said, “You mean, Ambassador, she would not want her own flesh and blood? She would not want to be united with her child?”

Neelix, struck dumb for a moment, recovered himself and snorted disparagingly. “What trick is this? Admiral Janeway has no child. Why, I would have known about it. Now, you listen to me. I want you gone from here by the count of 10, or I will send out every ship we have to search you out and blow you to bits...”

Kurros put up his holographic hands to halt Neelix‘s threat and said, “I will send you my proof through your communications system. View it. If you need more proof, I will provide that also. I will be in contact with you in 12 hours. The decision is yours, Ambassador.” With that, the hologram disappeared.

Kurros sent an information packet detailing Sprout's discovery, and the methods used to augment her genetic material. He also included her genetic chart, as well as a report on her physical and mental development. Included in this information were holographic images of Sprout through her past three years, engaged in activities such as asking questions and studying lessons. At first, Neelix decided he would not even open the communiqué, as it would contain nothing but lies. He did not doubt that Kurros and his cohorts could make up a plausible story. No. He would just ignore it. Nevertheless, it would not hurt to review the lies as it could give him future insight on how the Think Tank operated. He would access the data later, when he had time.

Neelix had just tucked Brax in for the night after telling him a bedtime story. Dexa was reading the latest novel from Be’ena. Neelix decided to spend some time going over different reports. He went to his computer console and saw that the message light was blinking. He had almost forgotten about the packet of lies Kurros was sending him. ‘Well, why not. Let’s see what this Tagglocian slime worm has sent.’ Thirty minutes later he did not know what to think. It all seemed plausible to him.

Dexa, come here and view this and tell me what you think. I must warn you, this Kurros and his cohorts are about as honest as Kazons.” Neelix nervously rubbed his hands together and started pacing.

Dexa took the seat in front of the computer and started reading. She glanced up at her pacing spouse and said, “Neelix, I can’t concentrate when you do that.”

Yes my Sweets. I think I’ll take a walk and get some exercise. I’ll be back in around thirty minutes.”

When Neelix returned, Dexa, still seated, was looking at the video of Sprout. She immediately turned and stated, “Get Dr. Podda over here as fast as you can. Let her view this. Neelix, I...I don’t know what to think. It all looks plausible to me.”

Neelix inquired, “Don’t you think she looks like Admiral Janeway? Of course, I can see some of Paris in her, too.”

Dexa replied honestly, “Humans all look alike to me; I had a hard time telling them apart when I was on Voyager, except some were male and some female.”

Hee, hee, well after living with them for seven years I got pretty good at telling them apart, hee, hee, hee.”

XXX

Dr. Podda shook her head, baffled at the information she just read. “I don’t know, Ambassador Neelix. This de-evolution procedure is beyond what Talaxian Medicine knows. I could scan the young woman and verify that she is Human. Even get genetic evidence you could send to Admiral Janeway. She can have the genetic test compared to components of both her makeup and that of the child’s father. Beyond that, there is nothing more I can do.”

Neelix nervously rubbed his hands together. “Yes, yes, good idea. In nine hours, Kurros will contact me. I can demand that he bring the girl here and let you examine her and obtain the genetic sample you need.”

Dr. Podda agreed, “Very well. Contact me when you have the child.”

Neelix continued to rub his hands together. “Dexa, what will I do if it is Admiral Janeway’s child? Moreover, what does Kurros want in exchange for her? I can’t leave her to those…kidnappers.”

Dexa put her arms around Neelix and hugged him. “You will think of something, my Sweets. You always do”

XXX

What if I don‘t want to meet with this…Ambassador Neelix?”

Kurros tilted his head to one side and asked, “Why do you continue to defy us? We have had this conversation before. You will not stay.”

Sprout growled, “Uhgggh, I do not know why I continue to waste my time arguing. You lied to me when you said you owed Janeway a debt of appreciation. I am the key to persuading Janeway to give you something that you want. Seven of Nine, perhaps?” She smirked when seeing the stunned expression on Kurros’ face. “Do not bother denying it. I was able to slip through your codes and access most of Voyager’s logs. I know what you are, Kurros, what all of you are. You are predators. You prey on the needs of others for your, so called, assistance. However, at too great a price, for you leave them, in many ways, worse off than before. You taught me well, Kurros. Everything has a price.”

Kurros bowed slightly in acknowledgement and said, “You are brighter than we thought, and have the cunning of your mother. Nevertheless, I will be honest. You are nothing but the means to obtain something we want. Even if this venture fails, you may find yourself traded or sold.”

Sprout went silent, and looked at Kurros with eyes wide in disbelief. She felt like crying, and her eyes started to water. In a voice full of hurt, she said, “You would do that, Kurros?”

It has been discussed.” He dropped his gaze in obvious embarrassment and perhaps, shame.

She studied him closely for a moment, and then came to a decision. Her eyes now shuttered and cold, she said in a sharp voice, “I will do as you wish.”

She turned to go and ready herself to meet Ambassador Neelix, but stopped, and turned. Laughing derisively, she stated, “I do believe Janeway will not play your game. I am nothing to her. I am sure what you want in return for me is too much. She would get a poor bargain. If you hope to gain the Borg, Seven of Nine, you will have gained your own demise. She will destroy you, as you have nothing to hold her here. I admit that I have a grudging respect for Janeway. She has outwitted the Borg, and you. That is no small achievement for one who is of an...inferior species.” She turned and headed for her room.

XXX

CHAPTER SIX

XXX

Daily Log. Pendolian Stellar Time. 7461.7213. All that I have known, since my first waking memory, has ended. I have no family, no friends, and no sense of who I am. I know what I am. I am a freak of science and of nature. An accident to be forgotten by those who are my parents. I am but a commodity to those that made me as I am now. A commodity to trade, for what I do not know. Yet, Kurros will fail in his plans. He, and the others, have their superior intellect, but lack the innate ability to extrapolate from the actions of others their intended path.

I have read about my maternal parent, Captain Janeway. She has the ability to stay one-step ahead of her enemies. She has the ability to put herself in their place and say, “If I were in their place, this is the next action I would execute.” I am her progeny. I am developing this ability. I do not need great intellect. Too much intellect and belief in your superiority leads to hubris. Hubris allows you only to see one aspect of yourself through a narrow tunnel. You fail to see the stones at your feet. It is the stones that will trip you. I am a stone.

XXX

It had been four days since Neelix first met Sprout. If this was a trick, an illusion, it was, without a doubt, the best that he had ever seen. He could see both Admiral Janeway and Tom Paris in her makeup. Unlike Tom, or even Admiral Janeway, she was reserved and mostly silent. Neelix did the talking for both of them: Telling her how he knew both of her parents well. How Janeway was the shrewdest, smartest, bravest, and best captain he had ever met. How her father was the best pilot he had ever known, could create the best holo-adventures, and loved to build fast ships. She just let him talk. Saying nothing really, asking a few questions about the technology used in building the colony or the various functions of equipment she saw in the medical bay.

Dr. Podda took DNA samples and ran various tests, including brain scans. She asked Dr. Podda what she was doing and asked to see the many instruments and how to read the information. She asked no questions about her parents, or the Alpha Quadrant. It flummoxed Neelix that she lacked interest in her parents and heritage. These were important matters to Talaxians. Perhaps these…kidnappers had done something to inhibit her emotionally, or left out something in the process when turning her into a Human. Well, that was the least of his worries. In two hours, Admiral Janeway would contact him for his monthly update, and he would send Kurros’ request for a conference. He would also send the data on her daughter he obtained from Kurros, along with their own data, for her to analyze. He pitied both Admiral Janeway and Tom Paris, for there might well be heartbreak all the way around. He would do all at his end to assist Admiral Janeway and Tom Paris in getting their daughter to them.

XXX

PART TWO

X

CHAPTER ONE

XXX

The bronze and black placard on the wall next to her new office door read, ‘Admiral K. Janeway’. ‘Gods, that was my father’s title. I don’t think I can get used to that without thinking my father has somehow miraculously appeared…or the former version of my older self.’ She had gone by Captain for so many years; it had almost become her official first name. That time and place were now behind her. The present and future were what she had now, a future that was looking pretty good, ‘Thank you, Admiral Janeway.’

She turned her attention to the old-fashioned oak door and pressed down the polished, cool, brass handle to gain admittance. The door and handle were an anachronism from the past, linking that past to the present, showing that power and command remain a constant, even in the here and now. There was no computer chime to announce a visitor. One must have the courage to knock and wait for the power within to grant entrance: To turn the handle, cross the threshold, and enter into the lion’s den, to bell the beast before it devoured you.

Surveying the interior from the open door, a large picture window drew her gaze, offering a view of San Francisco Bay, and the majestic San Francisco Bridge, stretching over the harbor like a comet’s tail. The Bridge was as much a symbol of this city as were the old antiquated cable cars that had been in service for centuries and were still running up and down the hills. Earthquakes toppled much of the Bridge into the bay below, once in 2024 and again in 2283, then the Breen attack during the Dominion war destroyed it. However, each rebuilding adhered to the original look.

Her gaze next rested on the soothing shades of muted blues of the carpet and decorative drapes. The walls were bare, waiting for the occupant’s choice of art to give the room that personal touch. Decorating and art really were not one of her strong points, despite having taken art lessons from a hologram of Leonardo da Vinci. She would consult with Phoebe on the appropriate ‘Admiral’ art to hang on the walls. Smirking to herself, she thought, ‘I will have to stress the ‘appropriate’, or Phoebe will have my office looking like who knew what….a Risian Pleasure Palace or some nightmarish landscape out of a Klingon’s worst, or maybe best, dreams.’

In the back and center of the room, and facing the door, were an oak desk and a large, tobacco brown leather chair. She wondered if the pieces were the real McCoy and not replicated wood and leather having the same look, feel, and textures. Her mother, ever the Traditionalist, swore she could tell the difference between the natural product and the replicated. “It’s the smell,” she would proclaim. “That is the one thing that can never be replicated”. Her mother and sister had a ‘nose’ for what were real wood, leather, cloth, and food. To Kathryn, real and replicated all looked, felt, tasted and smelled the same….except of course for Phoebe’s coffee, whiskey, and her mother’s cooking. Nothing replicated could ever match the taste or smell of those genuine articles.

She entered her office and strode toward her desk and chair, her right hand lightly caressing the desk’s surface in passing. Turning the chair toward her, she gracefully slid into it, wiggling her behind a little to get the proper fit. Putting her arms on each armrest, she pushed with her feet to twirl the chair around a few times. ‘Hmmm, not a bad fit.’ She surveyed the room noted that it was twice as large as her ready room on Voyager. ‘Rank does have its privileges.’ On the left side of the room was a large rectangular conference table with six medium blue chairs. Sitting parallel to the table, and against the front wall, was a small bar made of oak and polished to a rich brown, its surface graced by several crystal decanters and a rack of crystal glasses. She would have to check it out later to see if it contained the appropriate ‘medicinal’ supplies.

She noticed the replicator next to the bar and hoped the program for coffee produced a drinkable brew. ‘Perhaps I can bribe Phoebe to brew up a pot for me to take to work each day.’ Turning her attention to the desk, she noted the stack of PADDS; one set to the side was blinking for her immediate attention. Grabbing the PADD, she quickly scanned it for the item of today’s briefing: A request from Commander Tokale for additional ships to patrol the area around the Breen sector due to suspicious activity. She had plenty of time to go over the details before the first meeting. Lightly tossing the PADD to one side, she marveled at the size of the desk. ‘Gods, this is the size of the pool table at Sandrines and as empty as the deserts on Mars.’ The only other objects she saw were a communications and computer module. Her bust of Leonardo could go on the right outer edge. In the rest of the space, she would place family pictures, and pictures of Voyager’s crew taken while still in the Delta Quadrant. Of course, her favorite picture was the one taken a few weeks ago of herself and Seven sitting in the swing on her mother’s front porch, Seven dressed in a white poet’s shirt and dark linen trousers. She, still in her Starfleet Uniform, having just returned from her ‘interrogation’ by Starfleet brass.

That night had turned out to be a special night when each woman said to the other, “I love you” for the first time. Every day since that night, they kept saying those three words to each other, and hearing them was still as wonderful and magical as the first time she heard Seven say, “I love you”. Somehow, she knew that the words would always be magical when Seven said them to her.

Her thoughts traveled back to the Delta Quadrant, where she was not only the Captain of Voyager, but filled the role of Admiral and Ambassador. That time and place were literally thousands of light years away. Her eyes turned a pensive sea gray blue, as images, people and places flashed like a strobe in her thoughts. Crewmembers left behind in death, each young face and name forever chiseled into her memory. Harrowing escapes from Vidiians, Hirogens, Borg, and other hostile species. Also, friendlier encounters, where Voyager was received with friendship, and they were able to take much needed respites on the journey home. There were friends made, and left behind, but never forgotten: Neelix, Kes, Amelia Earhart, and so many others. She brought home to Starfleet new technologies, some stolen from the Borg. She chuckled in amusement. Not only technologies; she had stolen and kept for herself the Borg Queen’s most prized possession, Seven of Nine, the former Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. This one young woman alone made the journey worthwhile, and she would gladly do it all over again just to have her.

She remembered the first time she saw Seven stepping out of that lone alcove on the Borg cube as the Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. The young Borg had intrigued her. It was obvious, even with her Borg armor and attachments, that Seven was someone special and not your average mindless drone. No, the Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One had what other Borg lacked: a personality, and the ability to make her own decisions and take her own course of actions. Of course, at the time, those decisions were paramount to what was good for the collective. Still, she was no mere automaton. The fact that Seven was born of Human parents, who were citizens of The Federation, gave Kathryn the needed justification to free her, even if she did have to double-cross the Borg Queen to do it. The Bitch had it coming. How many times had she double-crossed them?

From the beginning she had felt herself strongly drawn to the young woman. She had a gnawing desire to see what lay beneath the armor and implants, to delve into Seven’s mind, and discover what made her so unique. She attributed this desire to her love for ‘scientific discoveries’, but now, thinking back, she knew that her motivations might not have been so pure. The fact that Seven did not want any part of individuality worried Janeway little. After all, Seven could not remember a time when she was not Borg, and Janeway wanted to help her discover that her true nature was Human, that being free to follow that nature was more rewarding than having your thoughts directed by the will of the collective, or the Queen.

Later, with the removal of Seven’s armor and most of her implants, she found herself attracted by the Borg’s cold and austere beauty, combined with Borg efficiency and a brilliant intellect.

Her heart ached knowing all that this beautiful young woman had missed by not having a childhood and loved ones to nurture you: The simple things that were important in a young person’s life, such as birthday parties, climbing trees, playing tag, and going to your first dance.

She would be Seven’s guide back to Humanity. She thrived on their ‘philosophical discussions'. Seven’s refusal to follow orders that she deemed ‘irrelevant’ intrigued and invigorated, as well as, challenged her. This battle of wills kept her on her toes. Seven was more like a willful adolescent, not quite child and not quite adult, deliberately breaking her parent’s rule in a demonstration of independence. And, like an adolescent, testing the limits of her power to make decisions, and having to reap the consequences necessary in preparing for adulthood.

Seven drew her attention as a Ferengi was drawn to a vault of latinum. Many a night, after her shift, she would go to cargo bay 2 just to gaze upon the young woman with wonder, and, yes, with longing. Seven was never aware of her nocturnal vigilance…of her…what…caring and concern? ‘Yes, Katie, and more, be honest, she was your obsession.’ She would never admit it at the time. She had duties far beyond that of the average Starfleet Captain.

She was Seven’s superior, and her crew would perceive any relationship, other than friendship, as a weakness. Not only that, but her professional actions, as pertained to Seven, would come under scrutiny. Any orders pertaining to Seven would be dissected to see if they were flavored with favoritism. Therefore, she lived in hope that someday she would be free to claim Seven’s affections. How? She did not know.

There was also another, not so noble feeling, she harbored for the young woman. She had a most definite proprietary feeling for Seven. Seven was hers. She had fought the Borg Queen for her, and won. Seven was her prize by right of conquest. ‘To the victor goes the spoils’ and woe to him, or her, who tried to take that prize from her.

She thought back on that ‘Chakotay’ business Seven had engaged in and gave a small shudder of abhorrence and felt a surge of anger. ‘Gods, the nerve of the man strolling onto my bridge all smug and smirking, sitting down next to me, and announcing his “so called” relationship with ‘my’ Seven of Nine.’ It had been all she could do not to jump up, smack him up against his head, and knock off those disgusting blue chicken tracks. Instead, she had put on her best Cheshire Cat smile to wish him well. Thinking all the while, ‘no way, this is not going to happen.’ Someway, she would make Seven see sense. She hadn’t fought the Borg Queen, Ransom, and the Think Tank, to get Seven back just to let her ‘waste’ herself on some phony wooden drugstore Indian.

She had fumed all night long, tossing and turning, while sleep evaded her. She remembered thinking of at least thirty different ways she could ‘off’ the fool to make it look like an accident. She had said to herself, “Damn, it must be just one of Seven’s forays into Humanity. I bet you all the coffee in Brazil that Holographic Sawbones is somehow behind this. He is about to get his light bulbs unscrewed for good. Chakotay, what does he see in her. Damn, the jerk had wanted to space her.” She remembered him spewing out all that phony ’doom and gloom’ prophesying that Seven would betray us, as it was in her nature. She remembered a sudden nauseating thought hitting her, ‘Good gods, Katie, he is after her body. That is what it is. It has to be. Seven is like a babe in the woods, with Chakotay the big bad wolf. No, make that a horn dog. Bet that’s his totem animal. Katie, you have to do something.’ That something turned out to be the intervention of Captain Kathryn Janeway’s future self, Admiral Janeway.

XXX

CHAPTER TWO

Two months earlier

XXX

They had done it. With the sacrifice made by Admiral Kathryn Janeway, Voyager had made it back to the Alpha Quadrant. After a stunned silence, on the Bridge, for almost 2 minutes, it finally started to sink in. With tears, cheers, and jubilation, the lost sheep had returned to the fold. Just forty nine hours to what was home for most, and a symbol of Starfleet to all. Terra Firma, Earth, Gaia.

Already, Starfleet channels were flooded with messages to loved ones and friends on Voyager. Most of the crew stayed wide awake; many afraid if they closed their eyes and slept, they would wake up and it would have all been a dream, a cruel trick played upon them by a malevolent Delta Quadrant culture, much like a similar incident that occurred earlier in their journey.

Captain Janeway had shut herself up in her ready room, stealing an hour or two of light sleep, on their forty-nine hour journey home. This time, they were not alone. Flying escort were dozens of Starfleet vessels, of all classes, that rendezvoused with Voyager at the coordinates where she emerged from the Borg transwarp corridor. Starfleet had destroyed the one Borg sphere on Voyager’s heels, and the corridor collapsed behind them, sealing off the main doorway to the Alpha Quadrant. This incident would perhaps prevent a Borg incursion for a very long time.

Now Janeway, and her command crew, except for B’Elanna Torres-Paris and Tom Paris, in sickbay with their newborn daughter, were aboard Enterprise as guests of Captain Jean Luc Picard and Admiral Hayes.

Introductions were made, and the mood was jovial, except for Seven of Nine, who hated any sort of party gathering, and, oddly enough, Chakotay. He sat in the opposite corner from Seven, his features taciturn and brooding. It was obvious that he was looking everywhere, and at everyone, with the exception of Seven. ‘Trouble in Paradise?’ Janeway pondered. ‘Now, that we are in Federation space, has Seven finally come to her senses?’ She would talk to Seven later and find out what had happened. For now, she had to stay in her role of the Fearless Captain Janeway, who had brought her small ship and crew home, beating all odds.

Glasses of Chateau Picard were poured and passed around. They toasted Voyager’s return home. Janeway toasted her crew and officers.

Then she gave a withering look to Commander Will Riker and said with a growl in her voice, “Mr. Riker, I hear you have already been circling my crew looking for recruits for Enterprise.”

Will nodded his head to Janeway, lifting his glass in a salute, and said, “Can you blame me? They are among the best seasoned crew in Starfleet.”

Captain Picard, hearing the comment, stated evenly, “The Dominion War left us with thin ranks. The war took a terrible toll of experienced crew and officers. Kathryn, when you get back to Starfleet, you will find quite a few commanders and captains still in their twenties, with virtually no experience in coming up through the ranks and learning all the nuances of command.”

Janeway looked stricken. “I knew we were hit hard from reading the reports that came through the Midas Array. I had no idea it was that bad.”

Admiral Hayes, shaking his head sadly, said, “It was devastating. Your seasoned crew, who are in Starfleet, can expect promotions and many offers. They will have their pick. And you, yourself, Kathryn, can expect your pick of any of the new vessels being built at Utopia Shipyard.”

Janeway thought for a moment before inquiring, “What about my Maquis crewmen? They served Voyager and Starfleet well. Without them, we would not have made it back. I can vouch for Chakotay; he will make an outstanding captain. B’Elanna Torres kept our ship flying on a wing and a prayer. I think she held it together by sheer will power. From what you are telling me, Starfleet can ill afford to turn down this opportunity.”

Admiral Hayes smiled smugly. “Rest assured, Kathryn, we know a good thing when we see it. With the pardoning of the Maquis, there will be no problem in signing on those of the former Maquis who wish it.”

Suddenly, Seven’s voice was stridently inquiring, “What of myself and Icheb? What plan does Starfleet have for us?”

Janeway, glancing over at the young woman, saw that she was no longer seated but standing rigidly in her customary Borg pose she took when upset. Her now glacier blue eyes were boring into Admiral Hayes’ eyes with the intensity of a phaser set on kill. Janeway kept her voice level and said, “Seven, let me handle this, I’m sure…”

Seven turned that laser gaze onto Janeway. “No, Captain. Both you and I know that Starfleet has made a decision on what disposition to take in regard to the future of myself and Icheb.” Turning her attention back to the Admiral she stated, “It would be inefficient for Starfleet not to have done so. Am I correct, Admiral?”

Admiral Hayes cleared his throat and donned what he hoped was an appeasing smile. “Annika Hanson, is it…may I call you Annika?”

Seven, still in her ‘Ice Queen’ mode, answered frostily, “You may not. I prefer you refer to me as Seven of Nine.”

Janeway stifled her guffaw. ‘And that is Ms. Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One, to you, windbag.’

Admiral Hayes conceded with a nod. “Seven of Nine, you and the other Bor…boy have nothing to worry about. We are aware of the special situation that both you and the boy are in, and will do our best to help both of you to acclimate to society. Starting the day we get back to Earth, Starfleet will take custody and responsibility for the care of both of you, and guarantee your safety and well being.”

We will not comply,” Seven stated frostily.

Janeway quickly read between the lines of Admiral Hayes’ comments and came to a quick conclusion. Seven and Icheb would be taken into Starfleet custody for other, less than honest, reasons. “Admiral Hayes, with all due respect, you can’t mean that. Seven has family she has not seen since she was a very small child…An aunt, grandparents, and cousins, who are eagerly awaiting her return. She has family she needs to connect with and they with her. Both she and Icheb are no longer Borg, nor are they part of the collective. I assure you, Admiral, Starfleet intervention will do more harm than good. If there are concerns, I will vouch for them both. Tuvok has started adoption procedures for Icheb and has been granted legal guardianship of the boy by the Vulcan Embassy until the adoption is finalized.”

Will Riker amusedly interrupted, “This entitles the boy…Icheb, according to Vulcan law, to all the rights and privileges of a Vulcan citizen. Starfleet will have no jurisdiction over him.”

Captain Picard interceded, “Seven is a full citizen of the Federation with all its rights and privileges. In addition, Starfleet has no jurisdiction, as she is not a part of Starfleet. Federation law plainly states that Starfleet can only take a citizen into custody if that citizen poses a threat to the Federation, or its allies. I have talked to Seven, in part to gauge if she was a danger to the Federation, and have concluded that she poses no threat. We should give her the honor and acclamations she deserves for saving Voyager from destruction on many occasions. Without her, Voyager would never have made it home.” Captain Picard looked at Janeway and continued, “Captain Janeway knows Seven better than anyone, and it is my strong recommendation that Captain Janeway be appointed to temporary guardianship until this situation is concluded. I will go to any hearing the Federation, or Starfleet, may deem necessary, and testify that Seven is not a threat.” Picard, staring hard at Admiral Hayes, added, “After all, Admiral, I am an expert on individuals severed from the Borg.”

Seven dipped her head slightly in deference. “Thank you, Captain Picard."

You are more than welcome, Seven.”

Admiral Hayes cleared his throat and said in an appeasing tone, “Why yes, I think that is an excellent idea, Captain Picard. I am sure, after I explain it to Starfleet, they will agree.”

Janeway could not help but think that Admiral Hayes would tell them Starfleet’s plan could very well explode in their faces. It would not hurt to throw them a bone. “I am sure, at some date in the near future, Seven will agree to tell Starfleet everything she knows about the Borg.” She gave Seven a force ten stare and hoped Seven would agree.

Seven looked slightly amused at Janeway but conceded. “Acceptable, Captain.”

They put the subject aside, and the conversation turned to other topics.

XXX

After the gathering on Enterprise, Janeway and her officers beamed back aboard Voyager. Leaving the transporter room, Janeway placed her hand on Seven’s shoulder to gain her attention. “Seven, I would like to discuss a few things with you. Please accompany me to my quarters.”

Yes, Captain.”

Both women kept silent on the way to Janeway’s quarters. Once there, Janeway immediately ordered coffee, black. “Anything to drink for you, Seven?”

Janeway expected Seven’s usual reply of ‘I require no liquid refreshment at this time’ and was surprised when Seven answered, “Thank you, Captain. Earl Gray tea please.”

One cup of Earl Gray tea, hot.” Handing Seven the tea, Janeway inquired, “Seven, I didn’t know you liked tea.”

Seven, taking the cup from Janeway, answered, “Captain Picard offered me a cup, and I accepted. I find that I appreciate the taste.”

Janeway gave a slight smile and said, “I didn’t know that you and Captain Picard had met earlier.”

You were occupied, Captain, with preparing final reports to give to Starfleet. He asked Chakotay’s permission for me to beam over for a discussion.”

You like Captain Picard, don’t you?”

I find him…interesting. I knew him as Locutus of the Borg. I was curious to see how well he has adjusted to being severed from the collective.”

Do you mind my asking what you discussed?”

No, Captain. He inquired how well I have adjusted to severance from the collective. I informed him it was difficult at first, but that I have adapted, with your assistance. He also inquired if I wished to return to the Borg. I informed him that was not my wish, that I was now an individual, free to my own thoughts and actions, that I now thought the Borg flawed in that perfection could not be achieved by suppressing freewill or thought.”

Janeway nodded in acknowledgement and sat on the sofa. Leaning back into the cushions she looked at the young woman and said, “Seven, have a seat.” She indicated with her head a place next to her on the sofa. She was surprised when Seven complied. Any other time it would have been, “I prefer to stand”. ‘The Doctor’s lessons on etiquette must be working.’

Janeway took a sip of her coffee and carefully placed the cup on the coffee table. Turning herself in Seven’s direction, she studied the young woman for a few seconds. Seven looked back at her inquiringly. “Seven, I’m sorry about the situation Starfleet Command has put you in. I want you to know part of my reason for accepting any guardianship role is for your own protection, not because I do not trust you, or think you aren’t capable of looking out for yourself. I feel that you don’t need a guardian and Starfleet is over reacting. But this will give me a legal reason to intervene on your behalf should things get…sticky.”

Seven frowned. “They do not trust me, Captain. They fear the Borg, and for all intents and purposes, I represent what they fear.”

Janeway moved a little closer to Seven. “Truthfully, Seven, I had no idea Starfleet would react this way. I can only surmise that the recent conflict with the Dominion has everyone extra cautious and, frankly, a little paranoid. I’m sure they read my logs that contained reports on how well you served Voyager; putting the crew’s interest and safety before your own. When we get back to Earth, I want you to know that I’m obtaining civilian legal counsel for you.”

Seven inclined her head. “I will accede to your wishes if you surmise that course is required, Captain.”

I believe in preparing for all possibilities, Seven.”

Seven raised the implant over her left eye and said with a small smirk, “Indeed.”

Janeway put her right elbow on the back cushions and leaned her head into her right palm. “Seven, have any of your relatives contacted you?”

My aunt Irene Hansen has contacted me and stated that she has a room all prepared for me at her home.”

That’s good, Seven.”

Seven frowned slightly. “It is not. I do not wish to stay with her.”

Janeway drew her head up from her palm and inquired, “Why, Seven?”

She has indicated that I have grandparents, aunts and uncles, and many more relatives, who wish to meet me. She informed me that there will be…. family gatherings to attend. I find that I am apprehensive. I do not know these...relatives.”

Seven, I can understand being apprehensive and uncomfortable with people you really don’t know, but you’re their only link to your parents. After all, Seven, they lost a son and a daughter, sister and brother, whom they loved very much.”

They will ask questions. Questions I prefer not to discuss. Questions that will cause me pain.”

Janeway slid over, placed her arms around Seven, and hugged her close. “Oh, Seven, I do understand. I don’t look forward to talking to the loved ones of my crew who died. It’s very painful. However, I owe them that much. It’s painful for them, also, Seven. They need these ghosts put to rest so that they may have closure and go on with their lives.”

Seven swallowed hard, her right eye tearing up and said in a small voice, “I do not know what to tell them.”

Tell them the truth, Seven. Your parents were assimilated by the Borg, and it’s not known for sure if they are still alive.”

Do I inform them that I saw my father as a Borg drone and that the Borg ship he was on was destroyed?”

Seven, you don’t know if he died on that ship. Tell them only that their fate is unknown. That is the truth.”

Janeway was somewhat surprised that Seven turned into her embrace and returned her hug, pressing herself against Janeway, and saying, almost in a whisper and close to her ear, “Thank you, Captain, I will visit my aunt and relatives.”

Seven pulled back and Janeway released her hold, feeling a little breathless and stimulated by the soft breath that had caressed her ear. ‘Wow, Katie. Right. That was only a hug of thanks, nothing more, even if your hands are tingling.’

Janeway took her last swallow of coffee, more to have time to get her thoughts under control than to frame her next questions. ‘What are you waiting for; you’re not going to find out unless you ask.’ “Are you going to stay with Chakotay after your visit to your aunt’s?”

Seven looked at her pointedly. “Why should I?”

Well, Seven, you are seeing him in a romantic way, are you not?”

Seven coldly replied, “No, I have terminated my relationship with the Commander.”

Oh my, Commander is it?’ “What happened, Seven?”

I came to the conclusion that any relationship with the Commander would not be productive. We have no common interest. He did not elicit in me any significant emotional or physical response. I found him to be unsatisfactory as a potential mate.”

Hoh boy.’ “I assume you informed him of this.”

I did.”

What was his reaction?”

He tried to persuade me that I was mistaken, that I needed to give our relationship more time. I informed him that more time was futile. He became angry and accused me of …playing with his affections, and reminded me that it was I who pursued him. I apologized for my miscalculation in judgment. He told me to give him a chance to prove that I was mistaken. It is his belief that if I… ‘sleep’ with him…that is a euphemism for copulation…”

I know what it means, Seven.” It was all Janeway could do to hold back her ire toward her first officer. “What happened next, Seven?”

I informed him that I had no physical attraction for him and the act of copulation would not change my decision. He put his hands on my shoulders and forcefully tried to kiss me. I pushed him into the bulkhead, and he fell to the deck. As I departed, he called me a bitch and a dyke. I failed to see why he called me a term used to designate a female canine. I was unfamiliar with the term ‘dyke’. Later I researched the term and found ‘dyke’ to designate…”

I know what it means, Seven, and he should not have used either term.”

I believe he must have struck his head when I pushed him into the bulkhead and became temporarily disoriented when he referred to me as a bitch. However, his second designation in addressing me is accurate, though I think his intention was to use dyke in a derogatory manner. Some find this term offensive. The correct word would be lesbian.”

Janeway felt her mind go numb for a second. ‘Great Gods, Katie. Is she saying what I think she’s saying?’ “Oh, I, uhm…are you sure you’re a …lesbian, Seven?”

I am positive, Captain. I find my true romantic interest to be toward females.”

Janeway felt hot and cold then hot again, “Then…why all this…interest...in dating Chakotay?”

In my interaction with The Doctor on dating, he had me study information that he downloaded. This information pertained only to heterosexual relationships. I had only observed mating behavior between a male and a female. That was between Lieutenant Paris and Lieutenant Torres. I had not thought to analyze my attraction to females in the context of choosing a mate. I now realize that I had erred. I researched the word dyke. This led me to a further study of female homosexuality. I have concluded that my attraction, and interest, in Humanoid females is within the scope of normal Humanoid sexual behaviors and has a genetic base. I then accessed my cortical node and discovered that male and female homosexuality exists in 99.6 percent of the species known to the Borg. Those that do not have instances of male or female homosexuality are often those that are hermaphroditic, or those species that have more than two sexes. Species 498, the Antolians, possess the highest percentage of lesbianism, consisting of 89.643 percent of the female population. The lowest percentage occurs among Cardassians at only 6 percent. I also …..”

Janeway, coming out of her temporary shock, interrupted, “OK, Seven, I get the picture.” ‘Boy and how I get the picture, Seven dressed in a black negl…don’t go there, Katie, this is not the time to visit that little scenario.’ “Well, Seven, this is….a surprise.”

Indeed.”

Beepblip.

Damn, I should have put a privacy lock on the communicator.’ “Captain Janeway.”

Captain, I received a message from Starfleet Command wishing a conference with you in 10 minutes.”

Thank you, Mr. Kim. I will be in my ready room in three minutes, route it there please, Janeway out.”

Aye, Captain.”

Seven, I want you to know that after your visit with your aunt you are welcome to come and stay with me anytime, and for as long as you want. I will be staying at Mom’s the next seven months until the rent agreement with the tenant now residing in my apartment has expired. Mom won’t mind, in fact I’m sure she will enjoy having someone to discuss the latest mathematical theories with, and I understand that you’re learning to cook. She could never get me or Phoebe interested. I think she would enjoy teaching you. We also need to decide where to locate your alcove. Icheb’s is going to the Vulcan Embassy. When are you due for your next regeneration?”

I am overdue by 22 hours 3mins and 32 seconds.”

Janeway tried her best force 10 stare, but since this was not a severe transgression, she only managed a force 5. “Seven, I’m ordering you to go and regenerate, now. We don’t know how long it will take to have your alcove ready.”

Very well, I will regenerate. In the future I may no longer depend on my alcove for energy. I am now starting to ingest more solid nutrients, and have been able to initiate short periods of sleep. This has extended my need to regenerate to once every sixteen days. As time passes, and with increased ability to digest solids and sleep longer hours, I will be able to eventually go without regeneration.”

My, Seven, this is news, I didn’t know you had progressed that far. What brought this on?”

I think it will be more efficient. My alcove does require a great amount of space and energy. I also find that I enjoy the flavors of many different foods and beverages.”

Janeway, smiling, replied, “I will have Mom prepare some of her special dishes for you. I think you will enjoy them. I know I will after seven years of replicated food and Neelix’s cooking.”

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye and turned up the corners of her mouth in a small smile. “I would enjoy that, Captain.”

Janeway gave a pleased smile. “Now, I have a meeting to attend, and we will discuss your alcove later.”

Janeway and Seven stood up at the same time. “Thank you, Captain.”

Janeway, on impulse, reached out to the young woman and gave her a quick hug. “You’re very welcome, Seven.” Seven gave a shy smile, and both women left Janeway’s quarters.

XXX

CHAPTER THREE

XXX

Voyager had arrived at McKinley station 3 hours earlier. Janeway felt drained and melancholy, mainly due to getting very little sleep, or rest, and being immediately sequestered by Starfleet Security and Admirals Paris and Sylvanus. It was a joy to meet with Admiral Paris again. He had been one of her father’s staunchest friends, and Janeway and he had gone through a lot together, including capture by the Cardassians.

Admiral Sylvanus was another matter. He was just barely cordial and appraised Janeway with shrewd brown eyes that looked as though they had x-ray vision. The reason for his behavior was soon apparent: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. He, and Admiral Nechayev, wanted Seven and Icheb taken into custody as soon as Voyager docked at McKinley Station. That Admiral Paris, Admiral Ross, and Admiral T’Benak thwarted his wishes made him set against giving Janeway an easy time.

I hear you persuaded Captain Picard to interfe…intercede on behalf of the Borgs aboard Voyager.”

Janeway clenched her teeth before replying, her voice lowered and almost coming out in a growl. “On the contrary, Admiral, Captain Picard graciously interceded on his own accord. I did not ask him to do so, nor did Seven of Nine. He did so only after concluding that Seven was no longer Borg or a threat to Starfleet. After all, who else would know about being a former Borg better than Captain Picard, who has more experience on the subject than anyone you could find in Starfleet Command.”

He stared hard at her, but Janeway did not flinch. He was a fluffy tribble next to some of the beings she had had the pleasure to butt heads with in the Delta Quadrant.

Admiral Paris, ever the peacemaker, came to Janeway and Seven’s defense. “Now, Randall, this is not the time to go into this matter. Who better than Captain Janeway, and Captain Picard, to assure us that Seven of Nine represents no threat to the Federation. Kathryn signed the paperwork and now has legal guardianship of Seven of Nine, and the boy is in the process of being adopted by Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, and under the protection of the Vulcan Embassy. We do not need to bring this up now. Kathryn has not even been home yet. This can wait. This should be a time of congratulations for a job well done.”

Admiral Sylvanus’ chocolate brown face looked even darker as he sarcastically replied, “As for a job well done, that remains to be seen at the debriefings and hearings.”

With that, he got up from his chair and curtly nodded his head at both Janeway and Admiral Paris. “Admiral, Captain, I have staff to consult before Voyager’s departure for Earth.” He turned smartly and walked away.

Janeway grimaced and said, “That went well.”

Admiral Paris replied, “Don’t worry, Kathryn. After all, you’re a hero and he won’t make a big of a deal out of Seven, or make your hearing an official interrogation.”

I hope you’re right. After seven tough years in ‘exile‘ I don‘t relish being court martialed and spending an additional ‘exile’ in a Starfleet penal colony.”

I read your logs, Kathryn. You bent a few rules, and may have ‘fractured’ a few. But you did what was necessary, as all good captains do. As for the Prime Directive, well, given the circumstances and where you were, you had no recourse but to use your own ’interpretation’ of them. I’m not saying your hearing will be a cake walk, but believe me, you’ll come through it with flying colors…with just a tap on the wrist instead of a slap.” Admiral Paris said with confidence. And with a gleam of speculation in his eyes, thought, ‘Yes, Kathryn, the Delta Quadrant has seasoned you. Your future in Starfleet is on an ascending star. And we can use a resource like you.’

 

They talked of other subjects relating to the possible time schedule for debriefings of the crew. They agreed that these would not take place until the crew had a much-needed respite of two weeks to see family, and wind down. Janeway was not as fortunate, only getting a week before she had to go for debriefing and hearings.

Admiral Paris informed her of the reception waiting for them on Earth. Voyager was to do a flyover of the San Francisco Bridge and touch down at a selected spot on Starfleet Headquarters’ parade ground. They would disembark and be escorted to a room at Starfleet Headquarters for a small party for crewmembers and their families. Later, Starfleet would host a more formal welcome home party. Those crewmembers who had no family, such as the former Maquis, would have Starfleet personnel assigned to them. Those Maquis from other planets, such as Bolia and Bajor, would have the respective representatives from their embassies to assist them.

Go get some sleep, Kathryn; it will be a long, long day tomorrow.”

XXX

She rested her forehead tiredly against the clear aluminum window in the living room of her quarters. Feeling the cold from the pane gave some slight release to the headache she had developed. She closed her eyes against the bright blue and green orb of Earth. She shuddered slightly from fatigue and stress. As much as Admiral Paris tried to convince her all would be well, she knew from experience, as the daughter of an Admiral, and later as a Starfleet Officer herself, there would be some problems. That was the nature of the beast. The decisions she made in the Delta Quadrant would affect her career in some way, she was positive of that. Either for good or ill. Starfleet might be an old institution, and things might seem to move slowly at times, but change did happen. There was not only her future to think about, but also that of some of her crew, especially, Seven of Nine. She felt both a heated anger at Starfleet and a cold fear grip her.

She would protect Seven. It was not only her duty, but also her desire to do so. She had faced down the Borg Queen for Seven. She would not be alone this time, with only a few close friends to assist her. She had her family. Her mother was a formidable force, and, having been the wife of an Admiral, had insight into the inner workings of Starfleet, its laws, and how the political machine worked. She also knew how to use this insight. Her mother had hinted once that she knew things that current Admirals would resign over, if certain information ever leaked out. Her mother would never use blackmail for personal gain, but Janeway had no doubt that she would use whatever means necessary to protect her daughters and the people they loved. The people she, Kathryn, loved. And Seven was foremost. ‘And you do love her, Katie. You will no longer be her captain. You have no excuse now, Katie. Claim her before some other woman does.’ Janeway had a feeling that Seven would not be averse to her attention. She believed the young woman did harbor feelings beyond friendship for her, and she was certain Seven did not think of her as a motherly figure. It was in the way Seven challenged her, sought her out for their philosophical discussions, even the way her eyes would soften when looking at her, and that luscious mouth would slightly part. Probably the way Kathryn herself looked at Seven.

The age difference was a tad over 14 years; nothing when one considered the Human life span was around 127 years. Seven, in many ways, was older than anyone she knew from having been assimilated by the Borg and having the memories from thousands of species. She no longer thought of Seven as a child or innocent. Though she might be inexperienced in love, or in knowing how to express emotions adequately, that did not mean she was unaware of her feelings and emotions. She knew that Seven could be single-minded and relentless in her quest for what she wanted. Janeway hoped she was what Seven wanted.

To be honest, she wasn’t surprised that Seven was a lesbian. She had sensed it as Seven gained more experience in her ‘Humanity.‘ The old adage of “It takes one to know one” was generally true. There was no scientific proof that homosexuals had some built-in extra sense to detect this in someone they had just met, but many believed in this ability. Janeway found that her extra sense was right the majority of the time, and she had only a genetic 7/12 for homosexuality.

The majority of Federation member worlds accepted same sex orientation as a normal genetic occurrence.

During the twentieth and early twenty first centuries, on Earth, geneticists had speculated that homosexuality was determined genetically. Dr. Yong Ming had discovered the genes that determined a person’s sexuality at the mid 21st century. By that time, the old stigma and taboos were mainly gone, except for certain religious beliefs held over from the Dark Ages. It was not just one gene, but consisted of 24, that when joined in varying combinations, ran the gamut from mild attraction to the same sex, to one hundred percent attraction to the same sex. Both her and Phoebe’s genetic combination was at a 7/12, indicating that their strongest attraction would be to women. A 12 would result in a 100 attraction to the same sex, a 1 only a slight interest in pairing with the same sex. She never asked what her parents’ quotient was. Not all of the population possessed the set of 24 genes, thus, the largest group was exclusively heterosexual.

She had had a torrid love affair with another woman while at the Academy, and even a few casual liaisons. She felt a stronger attraction to women than to men. However, at that time she had liked to think that it was the person, and not the gender. Her relationship with Justin, she realized not too many years ago, was not so much from a strong attraction to him, but because her father had really liked Justin and was pleased that they were involved. He had almost thought of him as a son. She did not want to disappoint him. She did love Justin, but was not in love with him. He was supportive of her goals, an adequate and considerate lover, good looking, intelligent, and they had many similar interests and got along well. However, there was not that deep emotional and passionate bond she knew she would find with a woman.

At the time, focusing on her career goals remained primary. She feared the intensity of her passion if given to a woman would be her undoing. If she should meet the right woman she could easily lose sight of her goals. Men were emotionally safer. Looking back, she realized that in the long run, it would not have worked with Justin, or even Mark.

Mark was more a friend than a lover. He was not inspiring or exciting but…just comforting. At the time of her engagement to him she had her career as a Starfleet captain to add passion and excitement to her life. At that time, it was enough. Mark was just like a comfortable armchair you fell into when you came home all worn out from all of the excitement that Starfleet offered.

At that time her passion was for Space, discovery and of course, career. That had been then. Now, she was ready for something more in her life than just Starfleet. Seven years in the Delta Quadrant had given her all the discoveries and excitement she could process.

She was tired of always being in command and in control. She wanted, no, needed, someone to nourish the woman beneath the accouterments of command. She needed to connect with someone in both a spiritual and emotional way. She wanted passion, wanted it to consume her. She wanted to give love and receive love in return. She wanted someone who shared a love of science and learning. She also wanted the house, the picket fence, two dogs in the yard, and a lover to keep her warm at night. Maybe not the actual house and fence, but what they represented: a place to nest and a mate to share it. She wanted Seven of Nine. She knew that Seven would fill her heart and soul to overflowing. She would give her the love and the understanding that only a woman could give her. Janeway wasn’t going to sit back and wait for Seven to approach her. She would take the initiative. She would court Seven, wine and dine her, bring her flowers, and show Seven just how important she was in her life.

She would make her see that she, Kathryn Janeway, was all that Seven needed. She had no more excuses. She was no longer Seven’s captain. The only Captaincy Kathryn Janeway wanted with Seven of Nine, was to be the Captain of her heart. That was the one command position Kathryn Janeway was prepared to fight for, and win. She could be relentless in her pursuit. She could be like a force of nature, a tornado or tidal wave. Unstoppable.

XXX

Janeway felt energized after managing to grab 6 hours of much needed sleep. She also knew that the adrenaline rush of finally being able to set foot on her home world was partly the cause for her high energy. Before entering the Bridge for, perhaps, her final journey on Voyager, Janeway had contacted her mother just to update her on their arrival schedule and to ask permission to place Seven’s alcove in the guest bedroom, if needed.

Of course, Kathryn, I’m eager to meet Seven. Your recent correspondences have me intrigued. From what you said in the communication packets you sent, she is a remarkable young woman.”

Janeway smiled, her eyes bright. “That she is, Mother. I’m sure you and she will get along very well. You’ll have someone with whom to discuss mathematical theories, and since she has taken up cooking as a hobby, you’ll have someone who can share your recipes.”

Gretchen had a knowing smile on her face as she looked at her daughter on the comm vid screen. She could see clearly her daughter’s bright expression and heard the warmth in her voice when she spoke of Seven. “She is welcome to stay as long as she likes, Kathryn.”

Janeway let out a small breath of relief. “Thank you, Mom. Can you do me another favor? Seven’s aunt, Irene Hansen, is meeting her when we disembark. Would you and Phoebe meet with Ms. Hansen and stay with her while all this is going on. Seven tells me she comes from a very small village in Sweden. Starfleet headquarters and grounds are probably many times larger than the village.”

Gretchen nodded in agreement. “Send me her comm number and I will contact her. We can have her transport in at the station here and pick her up. Also, she and Seven should stay with us as the hour will be late when the celebrating is through, and she will more than likely be exhausted due to the time differential.”

Thank you, Mom, I will send the information you need.” Janeway sighed a little and her face sobered. “I missed you, Mom. I even missed that reprobate sister of mine. I can’t wait to see both of you in the flesh.”

Oh, Kathryn, it’s like a miracle. You know, I never really gave up hope. I always had the feeling that you were alive. I think if you had died, I would have known somehow.”

Janeway said with a catch in her voice, “Well, I’m very much alive and plan to stick around for a long time...if I can survive the welcoming ceremony, and the debriefing and review boards.”

Gretchen laughingly joked, “The debriefing and the review board will seem like a walk in the park compared to sitting through all the official interviews with the press, and the award presentations you will have to attend in the coming days. I know how you hate to sit through speeches, but I’m warning you now, Kathryn, you better prepare yourself.”

Janeway groaned. “Mother, you’re not helping matters. I might as well get back on Voyager and look for another Caretaker Array to take me back to the Delta Quadrant.”

Gretchen’s face sobered for a moment. “This is a very big event throughout the Federation, Kathryn. Everyone who is anyone wants to horn in on the ceremonies and celebrations. Any embassy, who has a member of their species on your ship, wants a piece of the action, so to speak. Your arrival, and the ceremonies afterwards, will be broadcast all over the Federation. Fortunately, the party tonight is informal and for your crewmembers and their families...and of course, a few Admirals have to make an appearance. But don’t worry too much, Kathryn; the list of speakers is limited to Admirals Paris, Ross, and Hayes.”

Janeway groaned again. “Not Admiral Hayes. We will be there forever, and at the same time be bored out of our gourds. You are just cruel, Mother, Phoebe has corrupted you.”

Dear, I think it is the other way around. I won’t tease you any more.”

Janeway snorted. “Well, the main thing is, my crew will be reunited with family and friends. Even those who have no family, or whose families are too far away to make it in time, will have representatives from their home worlds to greet and escort them while here on Earth. Well, Mom, guess I better sign off and make sure everything is shipshape before leaving McKinley and returning home.”

I have to get ready for tonight’s shindig myself. Kathryn, I want you to know, I love you and will be there for you during the coming few weeks…and for as long as you like.”

I know you will, Mom…I love you too, see you in a few hours.”

Janeway swallowed hard, trying to squelch the ache in her throat and jaws from holding back the tears. She stood and straightened her uniform, now outdated. However, the crew had decided to wear them one last time, partly because of pride in their accomplishments achieved while wearing the now obsolete style. Also, because they would stand out from the rest of Starfleet who would attend the ceremonies. They would mark them as special…having done the impossible. The old uniform forever would remain in their memories as their badge of honor. Composing herself, and wearing her command mask, Captain Kathryn Janeway exited the ready room and stepped onto her Bridge.

Report!” Janeway barked out, as she gingerly stepped down the steps to the bridge and slid into her command chair, next to Chakotay, seated in his first officer’s chair on her left.

All stations secure, Captain,” reported Tuvok.

Janeway acknowledged his announcement with a small nod. “Mr. Kim, contact McKinley control for the ‘all clear’. Mr. Paris, prepare to disengage the holding locks at my mark and slowly take us out the bay doors at impulse speed…maintain that speed until otherwise notified.”

Aye, Captain.”

Harry Kim announced, “All clear, Captain.”

Mark.”

No sound of the locks were heard disengaging from the docking area of McKinley Station, nor was any momentum or movement felt as Voyager slipped out of the dock and turned to head out the bay doors, but that didn’t stop many from imagining that they felt it. After seven years on one vessel, you found yourself attuned to every little minute change in sound and vibration.

Voyager slid, silent and ghostly, out of the bay doors, her bow pointed towards Earth. All eyes, on every deck, turned towards the view screens and the remarkable sight of Earth, shining green and blue in the blackness of space, an oasis in the desert of almost every waking thought in their long, long, journey home.

Mr. Kim, open all ship wide communications and view screens.”

Ship wide communications and screens opened, Captain.”

Captain Janeway stood up from her chair, and standing in front of the main view screen, began talking, her face sincere with a bit of sadness around the eyes. “This is your Captain speaking. I have thought long and hard of the words I would say on this momentous day. Somehow, the words I had planned have eluded me. I’m now speaking straight from my heart. You are, without doubt, the finest crew in the Federation. You have persevered through insurmountable odds, even when it seemed hopeless. We were alone in the Delta Quadrant with no Starfleet or Federation to depend on when we desperately needed help, and no allies to give us shelter. We had no one to depend on but each other. No one to trust, but each other. I trusted in each one of you to come through and bring us home, and you showed me that my trust was not misplaced. This ship did not bring us back to our homes….each and every one of you brought us home. I am so very proud of each of you. I will look back on these days and know that this was, without a doubt, the finest crew I ever had the privilege to serve. You have made history, and for generations to come young cadets in Starfleet, and our descendants all over the Federation and beyond, will study and read of the odyssey of our little ship and her valiant crew, and marvel. Future generations will say that we were heroes, and that our like is seldom seen. Godspeed and good fortune attend you through whatever the future holds for you. Janeway out.” Janeway motioned to Harry Kim to cut communications.

There was silence on the bridge for a few long seconds as the Alpha crew digested the Captain’s speech.

Tom Paris, turning his seat and his head slightly, broke the moment. “Captain, it has been an honor. I cannot express my thanks enough that you gave me a chance to….prove myself worthy of wearing this uniform. I know B’Elanna feels the same way. Miral couldn’t have a better Godmother.”

Janeway’s lips curled up slightly on the corners. “Thank you, Tom; you should be proud of your service to this ship. You exceeded my expectations. I am proud of you, proud of you all.”

Her glance fell on Seven, standing at her station, her head turned to her left and looking back at Janeway with eyes that, instead of their usual frosty blue, seemed to radiate a warm heat. Janeway felt her breath catch for a second, and she then let it out, with only a slight inclination of her head in acknowledgement. Seven returned the nod, a small smile caught in the corners of her lips.

Janeway had noticed earlier, when entering the Bridge, and doing a quick survey, that the young woman did not have her usual biosuit on. Now, she was able to study her for a few moments, noticing that her hair was down and pulled into a ponytail at the base of her neck, softening her austere look. Seven was dressed in a stylish pair of dark blue linen trousers and a lighter blue, long sleeve pullover sweater. She was not looking as imposingly tall as she normally did, and Janeway saw that she had traded those ridiculous high-heeled shoes she normally wore for a pair of flat-soled black boots. Janeway liked the look. It made Seven appear more comfortable with herself and more approachable. ‘Approachable to whom, Katie?’

Tuvok’s voice brought her attention back to the Bridge. “Captain, we have picked up an escort. I am detecting the presence of 32 Academy Stingers off the port and starboard side. They are from the Red, Blue, Green, and White squadrons. Also, running escort behind us are the Enterprise, Tallahassee, Shenandoah, and 28 vessels of other classifications.”

Put the aft, port, and starboard views on all screens for 60 seconds, Tuvok, then return the screens to our view of home.”

Aye, Captain.”

That’s quite an escort, Kathryn,” Chakotay said.

Yes it is, Chakotay.” ‘I’ll be damned if I will use his title if he won’t use mine. I can’t say I’ll miss him, but I do wish him luck, just not where Seven is concerned.’

Captain, we are entering Earth’s upper atmosphere,” reported Harry Kim.

Tuvok, raise shields.”

Shields raised, Captain.”

The screen filled with a view of the African Continent, the sun already at mid morning. Voyager continued eastward, passing over India, Indo-china, and the Pacific, descending into the shadow of night ahead, and racing away from the sun.

Keep her steady, Tom.”

The sky above them was studded with stars, and, below them, the Great Pacific Ocean seemed to swallow up the night. Rising in the east was a dim glow, a false dawn, blanketing the continent of North America, growing ever brighter: the lights from America’s towns and cities guiding Voyager home. Then they were there, San Francisco, the center of the universe, for the Federation and Starfleet.

Ensign Kim, trying to keep the tears out of his voice, said, “Captain, all air space has been cleared for Voyager’s flight pattern.”

Janeway, a lilt to her voice, said, “She’s all yours, Mr. Paris, just don’t hit the bridge.”

Aye, ma’am.”

Janeway smiled at the ‘ma’am’. ‘I guess this could count for crunch time.’

Voyager swooped low and headed towards the San Francisco Bridge stretched across the bay, the lights along her span stirring a memory for Janeway of a spider’s web stretched between two green stalks of corn in the field next to her Indiana home. The morning dew caught on the strands of web, reflecting the rays of the rising sun, each drop a sparkling rainbow diamond.

One more pass over the bridge, Tom, and put her down between the marker lights on Starfleet’s parade ground.”

Voyager descended slower and slower until she hovered over the field as a hummingbird, and lightly landed. Home.

XXX

CHAPTER FOUR

XXX

Captain Janeway and the Bridge crew remained on Voyager after all the other crewmembers had disembarked. An area around Voyager had been cordoned off and only family allowed within the inside perimeter. Outside, the public and press viewed the homecoming. The Voyager crew was met with tears, embraces, and backslaps, from old friends and family.

Dozens of Starfleet Security personnel surrounded the crew, and their families, and escorted them to waiting land vehicles for their short trip to Starfleet’s largest meeting and banqueting area, for an informal ‘welcome home’ party.

Security remained outside the ship to keep souvenir seekers, the curious, and the press away. Starfleet also sent in a detachment of technicians, and other Starfleet personnel, to start a systems check and a shakedown.

Among this group was Starfleet’s top security experts, who undoubtedly were there to investigate, and perhaps, confiscate, the Borg alcoves in Cargo Bay 2. As Seven would say, this proved to be ‘futile’. Janeway had already transported both Seven’s and Icheb’s alcoves to a small Vulcan Ambassadorial ship berthed near Voyager when she was docked at McKinley Station. A Vulcan ship that just happened to leave Mars a few hours before Voyager’s arrival at McKinley station, and just happened to have developed some sort of warp equalizer flux problem that needed to be repaired before it reached it’s final destination, which was the Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco. Seven’s alcove would be moved later to a location that would be safe and convenient for her.

Janeway was still unsure how long Seven would visit her relatives and was a little apprehensive that she might not take her up on her invitation.

Tuvok said, “All personnel have disembarked, Captain, and a Captain Jordan has requested permission to board Voyager with his teams to do the required shakedown.”

Tuvok, have him wait a few minutes until we have all disembarked.”

Very well, Captain.”

All eyes were on Janeway, waiting for her to dismiss them. She stood up and cleared her throat, which for some reason felt tight and closed. Looking for a few seconds at each member of the Alpha Bridge crew, she said, “I want you to know I have enjoyed working with you through these seven years.” Then, glancing at Seven, she added, “and the past four years.” Returning her attention to all of them, she continued, “You have become my family. For seven years, I have sat in this chair with you beside me. I know I was hard on you, but believe me, I didn’t give you anything that you couldn’t handle, and all of you came through with flying colors. Many of you will go on to continue your careers with Starfleet. I have already put in the paper work for promotions for each of you. Believe me, you earned it. If the time comes that I have another ship, you will be the first I call, but before that happens, I have a feeling that other Captains will give you an Admiral’s pay to get you to serve with them.” There was subdued laughter. Captain Janeway, putting up her hands, continued, “Every one of you holds a special place in my heart. Let’s make a pact to always try and keep in touch.”

Tom, as always, was quick with the quip, “Believe me, Captain, you’ll be seeing me more than you would like. Remember, one of your duties as Miral’s Godmother is to babysit.”

Everyone laughed, except Tuvok. However, his eyebrows did slightly lift. Even Seven had a look of amusement.

I look forward to it, Tom. Dismissed!” Tom smiled and quickly walked out to join his wife, child, and family.

Chakotay stood up. “Kathryn, may I escort you out?”

Thank you, Chakotay, you go ahead, I have something to do before I leave.”

He nodded. “See you at the party.”

Tuvok stood before Janeway. “You have proved to be an exemplary Captain. It was an honor to serve with you.”

Janeway took his hand and squeezed it, quickly letting go, knowing that Vulcans were sensitive to the emotions of others through touch. “Old friend, what would I have done without you?”

I have often asked myself the same question, Captain.”

Tuvok, is that a joke?”

Vulcans do not joke.”

Tuvok, I want to thank you for arranging the safe removal of the alcoves.”

It is my duty, Captain, to protect my son, and my friend, Seven of Nine. I could not have done otherwise.”

Thanks again, Tuvok.”

Tuvok raised his right hand in the ancient Vulcan symbol of parting and said. “Live long and prosper.” He then departed the Bridge.

Harry tried hard to hold back his tears, but they seeped from the corners of his eyes and slowly rolled down his cheeks. “Captain, I…”

Janeway grabbed him in a hug. “It’s all right, Harry; I know what you were going to say. Just know that I am proud of you. You will make a fine Starfleet Captain one day, of that I am sure.”

Harry drew himself up into a stance at formal attention, feet together, head up, stomach in and chest out. “Thank you, Captain.”

Janeway tried not to smirk. “At ease Ensign, before you sprain something.”

The young man smiled, turned smartly on his heels, and left the Bridge.

That just left Seven, standing in her stiff Borg pose, staring at her captain. Janeway spoke first, “Seven, I’m proud of you. You have come a long way since I severed you from the collective. ‘Thank you’ does not seem enough. Your strength, knowledge, and selfless acts of courage brought us from the brink of destruction on many occasions. I feel you, more than anyone, brought us home.”

It was your future self, Admiral Janeway, who brought us home.”

No, Seven, we would never have made it this far if it hadn’t been for you. There is so much more that I want to tell you, but now is not the place and time. Go now. I told my mother and Phoebe to look out for your aunt and stay with her until you disembark. Then she’ll go with us to the reception. They will be waiting for you, and I will be just a few minutes behind.”

Captain…thank you for…showing, and teaching me what it means to be an individual. I find I do not have the words to express to you all that I feel. Perhaps there are no words.”

A single tear glistened and trembled in Seven’s long golden lashes and fell down her right cheek, leaving a wet trail. Janeway put her arms around the young woman’s shoulder and pulled her close. Seven hesitated for a moment and then slipped her arms around her Captain’s chest, placing her palms against her back. Janeway, with eyes closed, whispered close to Seven’s right ear, “Trust me, it will be all right, I promise you, I’ll help you and be there for you.”

Seven drew back and stared into Janeway’s eyes. “Yes, Captain, it will be all right.”

She turned and walked off the Bridge, leaving Janeway alone to say goodbye to her ship. No, more than a ship: her mistress for seven years. Voyager was a living being, with a heart and spirit. They had come through for each other. Now it was time to part. Voyager would go through a refit with Starfleet’s newest technologies, new furnishings, and have a proud new Captain, who would feel honored to command a ship with such a glorious past. She hoped he, or she, would treat this ship as a dear friend, to give her their all and accept all that she had to give them.

XXX

Captain Kathryn Janeway started her long walk down the gangway, not looking back, eyes forward, but nonetheless, she was aware of the small crowds standing in the cordoned area clapping and cheering her. Most crewmembers were at the reception, but some remained.

The press was shouting questions to her over the heads of, and between, Starfleet Security guards, who were standing at attention to prevent the journalists from crossing the secured perimeter. Press cameras pointed her way, the camera operators vying for the best spot to get a clear view.

Before she was halfway down, Captain Jordan met her; he came smartly to attention and saluted her. This custom had generally disappeared over the last couple of centuries and now was rarely used. It was a chivalrous way to honor another officer for an achievement above, and beyond, the call of duty.

Captain Janeway, sir, it is an honor.”

Janeway returned the salute as was customary. “Thank you, Captain…”

Captain Andrew Jordan, sir.”

Ah, you’re here to secure my ship. Every one has disembarked. I won’t keep you from your duty.”

Thank you, sir.”

He turned and waited for her to pass before going up the gangway into Voyager. There they were, her mother and Phoebe, waiting at the end of the gangway, both with radiant smiles and tears in their eyes. Janeway stepped off the gangway and into her mother’s arms, holding her close, both crying unashamedly.

Mom.” That was the only word she managed to utter for a long 30 seconds as the tears streamed down her face.

Gretchen, drawing back slightly, quickly looked her over. “Daughter, let me look at you.”

Janeway smiled, wiping her eyes with her hand. “Nothing your good cooking won’t cure, Mom.”

See, Mom, I told you a captain lives by her stomach.” Phoebe’s gray eyes were shining with unshed tears; she grabbed her sister by the shoulders and pulled her into a tight embrace, saying in a mock, severe voice, “Don’t do this again, Katie.”

Phoebe, I missed you, too. And for your information, it’s an army that lives by their stomach, not a captain.”

Well, Sis, we’ll see about that when mom fixes some of your favorite dishes, like pot roast and caramel brownies.”

Janeway looked her sister over. Phoebe had her light chestnut hair in an attractive French braid, and her figure was as slim and trim as it was on the day Janeway left for her mission to the Badlands.

And some of your delicious coffee?” Janeway lifted her brow and said hopefully.

I knew it. You didn’t miss me at all. It was my coffee you missed.”

Janeway laughed and said, “And it took you this long to figure it out?”

No. I knew it all along; I just wanted you to admit it.”

Gretchen’s voice said in mock sternness, “Girls, let’s wait a few days to start the bickering.”

Phoebe looked at her sister and stuck her tongue out. Janeway smiled devilishly and whispered loudly, “Later.”

XXX

Sandwiched between her mother and sister, their arms around her waist, Janeway searched for Seven and her aunt. She scanned the remaining crew, who had made a point to give her and her family privacy by conversing with each other.

Mom, where is Seven and her aunt?”

Phoebe answered sourly, “Hiding from the so-called press, after they badgered her with hateful questions.”

Janeway, a shocked look on her face, asked, “Wha…what do you mean?”

Gretchen, her voice angry, said, “She means, Kathryn, the poor girl was not even down the ramp before the journalists recognized her and began screaming across the barricades at her, ‘How many people did you assimilate? ‘Is it true you assimilated half the crew of Voyager and the Captain herself? Weren’t you with the Borg at Wolf 359?’ And other such…trash. It gets worse. Apparently, there was a small group of civilians who either lost loved ones to the Borg, or just hate and fear them in general. They were calling her ‘murderer’ and said she should be terminated, and to get back to Borg space where she belonged. Seven just froze and stared at them for a moment. It was obvious the questions and comments distressed her. Her aunt was with us and went up the ramp immediately to her. We also followed. The poor girl was in shock. We helped her aunt coax her down the rest of the way. The mob wouldn’t let up. If Starfleet Security hadn’t been there, they would have come across the barricade.”

Phoebe interjected, “Goddess knows I wanted to grab a phaser off one of the guards, and have at them.”

Janeway clenched her teeth, her eyes hard gray granite, mouth set in a tight line, face flushed and in an angry voice said, ”Damn, I should have come out with her. Where are they now?”

Gretchen gave a satisfied smile and stated, “You have a loyal crew, Kathryn. They and their families closed ranks around us. Several of the crew were upset themselves and tried to cross the barricade to uhh…make their feelings known. Thank goodness security stopped them, or there would have been a riot.”

Janeway was pleased. It had not been easy for most of her crew to come to accept Seven of Nine. This act proved that they now thought of Seven as one of their own.

Gretchen went on, “I had security take her and her aunt to the aero limo that has been reserved for us.”

Janeway gave a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Mom. Well, let me talk to some of the families of my crew and then we can be on our way.”

A short time later several Starfleet Security personnel escorted Janeway, Gretchen, and Phoebe, to a nearby waiting V.I.P. aero limo. This vehicle had enough space to seat 16 individuals. A Security officer opened the door closest to the driver for Janeway and her family. Janeway let her mother and sister enter and then told the officer she would take the seat behind them, which held Seven and her aunt. Janeway slid in next to Seven and settled herself in the seat and put on her safety belt, even though the trip would last less than three minutes. Seven was staring straight ahead, her left profile towards Janeway, and her hands on her lap.

Janeway took Seven’s right hand in her left and squeezed. “I’m so sorry, Seven. I should have been with you.”

It is irrelevant. You could not have prevented what occurred,” Seven said in her cold Borg voice.

Look at me, Seven.” Seven turned her head and her eyes met Janeway’s in the dimly lighted limo. Janeway noticed her eyes were cold pieces of ice. Janeway gently said, “Please, I know this has upset you. It would upset me, too. However, this was only a few protesters and the press. The press is always looking for something to sensationalize. As for the others…they were just looking for someone to blame.”

Before Seven could reply, her aunt firmly stated, “You listen to her, Annika, she is right; it is in the nature of Humans to look for a scapegoat. It will be you this week and someone else the next.”

Seven, her eyes still on Janeway, answered in a strained voice, “This hurts, Captain. I know I had no choice in what I did as a Borg drone. Still, I feel…guilty.”

Janeway gently squeezed the young woman‘s hand and said, “You feel guilty because that is a Human thing to do. We often feel guilty for things that we did and were out of our control. I still feel guilty that we were stuck in the Delta Quadrant, even though it was not anything I could have foreseen. I feel guilty when I send crew on dangerous missions and they are injured, or die. But you, Seven, you are the victim. There was nothing you could have done to stop what you were forced to do. You learn, Seven, to move on and away from the guilt. If you do not, it will destroy you. I want to find a good counselor for you, Seven, and I want you to go. Will you do that?”

Seven lowered her eyes and sighed wearily. “If you think it will help me in dealing with this…guilt…I will, Captain.”

Irene patted Seven’s Borg hand and stated, “Annika has a cousin around her age who is a psychologist. She may be able to help.”

Janeway put her hand under Seven’s chin and lifted her head, and said, “Seven, I will be here for you, and so will my family and your family. This will get better, I promise.”

Seven’s gaze softened, the ice in her eyes thawing. “Thank you, Captain”. She next turned to her aunt. “Thank you, Aunt Irene.”

Irene hugged her around the shoulders and said, “It will be all right, you will see.”

And Seven did see. If her Captain were there with her, it would indeed be all right.

XXX

CHAPTER FIVE

XXX

Janeway thought the obligatory smile on her face was stuck there forever. At first, the smile had been genuine. As soon as she and her family, and Seven and her aunt, made their entrance to the party she was met by applause, by not only her crew and their families, but also around 25 various Starfleet Officials and many government VIPs.

She had wanted this to be just a small get-together so she could meet the families of her crewmembers, and then call it a night. She couldn’t wait to get under the covers in her old bed at home, in her old room, and just sleep for a week. However, Starfleet was very much a political institution. Besides Admiral Ross, Admiral Paris, and the longwinded Admiral Hayes, there was the equally longwinded Prime Minister of Earth, Demetrius Usuloff. Janeway had to keep that damn smile on her face. She took a seat on the stage in full view of everyone there. Well, she could relax her face a little. Gods, she could recite their entire seven-year voyage in the time it took the Prime Minister’s speech to end.

Her eyes scanned the mostly standing audience. It was hard to make out the faces with the spotlights turned toward the stage. She was looking for one face in particular, wondering where she might be. She almost missed the Prime Minister’s closing comments to her. Focusing her attention back on what was going on around her, she saw the Prime Minister walking towards her.

He stopped in front of her and smiled his most ingratiating political smile and said, “I would like to present you, and your crew, the key to our fabulous city by the bay, San Francisco.”

Janeway stood quickly, shaking his right hand and thanking him profusely. He handed her a large, foot long, gold key tied with ribbons in Starfleet blue and white. Holding it up for the audience to see and waiting for the applause to diminish, she said to her crew who were present, “Just remember…behave. I may no longer be your captain, but I don’t want to come to the brig to sign you out.”

Of course, this generated laughter and some wag in the audience shouting out, “Captain, who will bail you out if you’re in there with us?” Janeway laughed along with the audience.

She shook a few more hands and went down into the audience to mingle with her crew and their families.

After a while, she finally made her way over to her mother and Phoebe. Irene was with the two and Seven was a few yards away engaged in conversation with the Delaney sisters and their parents, and Harry Kim and his parents. The Delaneys had worked in astrometrics with Seven. Whatever they talked about, she could see that Seven had just finished a comment that amused the group as they were laughing, the two sisters protesting that whatever Seven told the group was exaggeration on her part.

She heard Seven say, “Obviously, both of you suffer from some lapse of memory. Perhaps both of you are afflicted with ‘space psychoses’. You have forgotten I have eidetic memory.”

Janeway noticed that Seven seemed much more relaxed and sociable. Gretchen was conversing with one of her father’s old mentors, Retired Admiral Finnegan, who must be at least a hundred years old. She learned he had finally retired five years ago. Gretchen was introducing Irene Hanson to him, and the old goat was slobbering on the knuckles of her right hand in what he thought was a courtly kiss. Janeway had to admit Irene was a handsome woman, with attractive white hair, almost as tall as Seven, and with the same ice blue eyes. She could tell that Irene had been a striking beauty when younger. It showed in the bone structure of her face.

Phoebe had wandered off and was engaged in conversation with a young woman in civilian dress. Janeway smirked and thought, ’Pheebs is about to talk ’art’ or try and pick the young woman up. Come to think of it, probably both.’

Janeway decided to go up to Seven and steal her away at an opportune moment. Perhaps, go outside in the garden area so they could talk and get some fresh air. She walked up to the group Seven was in and stood by Seven’s right side as she listened to Harry Kim regale the group about the time Tom tried to get Seven to interact in his Captain Proton holostory.

Harry was in high spirits and said, “Seven was supposed to be Constance Goodheart and keep Satan’s Robot occupied, while Tom and I saved Earth. As Satan’s Robot approached Seven, she just stood there and said, “I am Borg,” reached out and turned off the thing and told Tom, “The robot has been neutralized, may I go now?” Needless to say, that put a kink in Tom’s little adventure.” Everyone laughed, and Harry, seeing Captain Janeway said, “Captain, tell them how you played Queen Arachnia to save the ship.”

She held up her hand. “Another time perhaps. I need to step out and get some fresh air.”

Seven turned to Janeway and asked, “Captain, I require fresh air also. May I accompany you?”

Sure. I would like that.”

Seven excused herself from the group and walked towards the mezzanine with Janeway who noticed that Seven looked just a little unsteady on her feet. Janeway stopped once they reached the mezzanine and said with concern, “Seven, are you all right?”

Seven brought her glass up to her lips and took a slow sip of the contents and looking at Janeway over the rim with half lidded eyes said in what sounded like a flirty voice, “Captain, I am more than….all right.”

Janeway opened her eyes wide in surprise and asked concernedly, “Seven, is that what I think it is you’re drinking?”

Seven smirked and in a voice an octave lower than usual said, “If you are thinking it is champagne…. you would be correct….Captain.”

Seven, how much have you had to drink?”

Seven closed her eyes for a few seconds, opened them, and stared at Janeway with what seemed to be unfocused eyes. “Not enough. Oh, look, somehow the champagne has disappeared from the glass. I will get another glass. May I get you a glass, Captain?”

Janeway took the glass from Seven’s hand and placed it on a nearby table. Taking the young woman by her left arm, she headed quickly for the steps that led to the garden. She growled, “I don’t want any, and neither do you, Seven.”

Seven looked at her perplexed. “But my glass is empty. I must refill it. Captain, where are you taking me?”

To get some fresh air, Seven.” Janeway held Seven by her right elbow, leading her to the walkway into the garden. She spotted a Starfleet Cadet, one acting as a waiter, out getting some air. “Young man, do me a favor and go to the kitchen and see if you can find two cups of coffee, both black, and bring them out to the gazebo.”

He stood at attention, eyes wide with delighted surprise and hero worship and said, “Yes sir, Captain, sir.”

Janeway thought, ‘Yeah, this is definitely crunch time.’

Seven stopped before reaching the gazebo and, gazing up, exclaimed, “Look, Captain, the moon. This is my first time viewing it.”

Janeway looked up in puzzlement and exclaimed, “What? Seven, that’s a Chinese lantern. How much did you drink?”

Seven stumbled up the gazebo steps and flopped onto one of the padded benches, pouting her lips and said, “You are angry with me. I have disappointed you.”

I’m not angry with you, and you have not disappointed me. I’m just concerned. You know it only takes a little alcohol to affect your cortical node.”

Seven wailed out, “I have failed you. You will not want to be my friend now that you are no longer my Captain.” Seven put her hands up to her eyes and started to cry.

Seven, of course I am your friend.”

Seven sniffed and looked at Janeway. “But will you be my friend all of the time and not part of the time?”

Of course, Seven, why wouldn’t I be?”

On Arturis’ ship you said, “I am your Captain, which means I can’t always be your friend.”

Seven, I am your friend always. Have no doubt of that.”

Seven’s smile was radiant as she replied, “Captain, I will be your friend always.”

Janeway smiled in return. “Seven, since I am no longer your Captain, call me Kathryn.”

Seven blinked her eyes once in surprise and said, “I… thank you, Captain….Kathryn”.

The young Cadet, bringing Janeway’s order of coffee, interrupted them. She took both cups and dismissed the Cadet. Handing one to Seven, she ordered, “Drink this, Seven. It will help you feel better.”

Seven took the cup and looked at its contents. “Capt…Kathryn, I do feel…better.”

Janeway snorted in amusement. “Believe me, Seven, I don’t think even your nanoprobes are going to help your hangover. Now, take just one more order from your Captain, and drink.”

Seven brought the cup up to her nose, sniffed and screwed up her face in displeasure before declaring in a disgusted voice, “It is coffee. I do not care for the taste.”

Seven, please trust me. This will help neutralize the effects of the alcohol. Now, drink up.”

Seven swallowed the contents in a few large gulps. She screwed her mouth into a grimace and uttered, “It is… yucky.”

Janeway snickered. “I see you’ve been taking descriptive English lessons from Naomi.”

It is an adequate description, is it not?”

Janeway gave a lopsided smile and replied, “To each her own.”

Seven was quiet for a moment and suddenly said, “Capt….Kathryn, I do not feel any different.”

Believe me, you will. The coffee will just help ease the symptoms.”

Seven gaped at Kathryn unabashedly for a few long moments. “I find you…esthetically pleasing, Kathryn.”

Janeway dryly said, “Why, thank you, Seven. But in the state you’re in, you would find Neelix esthetically pleasing.”

Seven looked puzzled for a moment and replied, “I think not. I do not wish to engage in non-productive copulation with Neelix.”

Janeway felt her eyebrows crawl up her head and her mouth gape open in surprise, ‘Oh boy, Katie. In Vino Veritas.’ She cleared her throat and said, “Seven, let’s get up and walk around some.”

Seven got unsteadily on her feet and swayed. Janeway put her right arm around Seven’s waist to keep her from falling.

Seven, alarm in her voice, exclaimed, “I am malfunctioning. I cannot stand.”

Janeway helped her to sit back down. ‘She seems to be getting worse rather than better. Maybe I should contact The Doctor.’ Janeway still had her communication pin on and tapped it. “Janeway to The Doctor.”

Yes, Captain, what can I do for you?”

This is private. I need to see you…alone, out in the gazebo in the garden. It’s important.”

I’ll be right there.”

Seven tried to lie down on the bench. “Why is everything moving? Is this a typical San Francisco earthquake? I am not functioning within normal parameters.”

Seven, I just contacted The Doctor. He will be right here.”

Seven sat back up, her hands around her stomach. She began swallowing in loud gulps. Janeway acted quickly. “Get up, Seven.” She pulled the young woman up and over to the railing on the dark side of the gazebo, pushing against her back and forcing her upper torso to bend over the railing just in the nick of time. Seven heaved several times into the bushes below. Janeway put a steadying hand on her back. “Stay put, Seven, to make sure the vomiting stops.”

A sound of footsteps and The Doctor was to the right of Janeway, viewing the scenario. “Seems like too much celebration.”

Janeway gave him a force ten stare. “Do something Doctor, and that’s an order.”

Smugly the Doctor smiled. “In case you have forgotten, you are no longer my Captain.”

Janeway, arms folded across her chest, her nostrils flaring, retorted, “I am until I officially turn over Voyager to Starfleet. If you don’t do what I ‘ordered,’ I will turn you over as a piece of Voyager’s equipment, and you can start your new career scrubbing out plasma conduits.”

Hm, I don’t have my little bag of medical marvels with me. Dr. Seymour Leet is here. I will ask him to have ‘the cure’ beamed to me.”

Do it.”

Seven stood back up, looking pale, her lips in a frown.

Over here, Seven. The Doctor just requested something to make you feel better.” Janeway led the young woman to the bench and sat down beside her, her right hand still on Seven’s upper back.

The Doctor came over with a hypospray and some sterile wipes. As he applied the hypospray to the side of Seven’s neck he remarked, “Lucky for you these functions always have a doctor on hand with the needed cure…seems this is a common occurrence at Starfleet parties.”

Janeway stated, “Thank you, Doctor.”

He handed the wipes to her and said, “Don’t make a habit of it.” He left the two and headed back to the party.

Janeway opened the sealed package and drew out a large folded damp wipe. Turning Seven’s face to her, she began wiping her mouth and face. “Feeling better?”

Seven lifted up her eyes and looked at Janeway with a grieved expression. “I am sorry. I have ruined your party.”

Janeway twitched her lips in a smile. “No, you didn’t, Seven. I expect at least 80 percent of the crew will imbibe too much food and drink at this function. Believe me, you won’t be the only one needing a hypospray tonight.”

Seven frowned and stated, “I will never consume champagne again, even if it is required at Starfleet functions.”

Janeway looked at Seven with a puzzled expression and inquired, “Where did you get that idea, Seven?”

Phoebe informed me it was required at these functions to always have a glass of spirits in your hand, or others would perceive you as unsociable.”

Janeway snorted. ‘Phoebe, hmm …figures.’ “Seven, that is not true. Phoebe should have told you juice would have worked just fine. Or, in fact, a glass of spirits sipped slowly over the course of the evening if juice is unavailable. You do not have to drain your glass in 10 seconds and then go and get a refill.”

I did not, Kathryn. I consumed the contents of each glass in approximately 4.2 minutes before receiving a refill. Several times, I would be in conversation with others, and one of the Cadets would come by and replace my empty glass with a full one.”

Janeway curiously inquired, “Just how many glasses of champagne did you have, Seven?”

Seven turned her head slightly to her right for a moment before replying, “I am not positive as my cortical node is malfunctioning, but I believe it was eight.”

Janeway wryly smiled and said, “Well, Seven, that many drinks would knock a Klingon out for the night. Let’s go find my mother and your aunt and call it a night. This has been a long day, and it is beginning to catch up to me.”

Seven nodded. “Very well, I am still not functioning within acceptable parameters. I have …learned my lesson.”

Janeway chuckled. “Believe me, Seven, I have said that same thing after many a Starfleet blowout, and so will you.”

Seven was confused by the statement. “Capt…Kathryn? Why would I learn a lesson and then have to say I learned the same lesson again after another Starfleet…blowout?”

Janeway rolled her eyes and said, “You’ll see. Now, your with me, Seven. Let’s go.”

XXX

The party was winding down when the five women departed for the Janeway Homestead. The aero limo would take them a couple of blocks to a Starfleet transporting station reserved for Starfleet Personnel only.

Neither Janeway, nor Seven, informed the other three women of Seven’s earlier ‘infirmity‘. Seven looked just a little pale, which could easily be explained away as a result of the grueling last few days. They were transported to the transporter station on the outskirts of Bloomington, where they retrieved Phoebe’s aero car, which was parked in the lot reserved for transporter customers. Phoebe drove, with her mother sitting next to her, and Janeway, Seven, and Irene in the back seat.

Earlier, Janeway sent most of her belongings to a storage facility in San Francisco. She transported her new uniforms, civvies, and personal items to her mother’s home in Indiana, along with a few items of casual clothes belonging to Seven.

Seven had decided now was the time to rid herself of the biosuits she had to use to maintain her bodily functions. Now that she was eating and sleeping more, the biosuits were no longer necessary.

In addition, her biosuits would make her stand out even more as being ‘different.’

Another reason was she did not want to appeal to anyone’s prurient interest. She knew from past monitoring of the vitals of fellow crewmembers what reactions the suit caused, mostly in males, but also in some females, as well. That had passed in time as the novelty wore off, but it still happened on occasion. At first, their reactions were ‘irrelevant’, but as she became more acclimated to being ‘Human’, she was uncomfortable when she noticed their arousal.

The only exception, of course, was Captain Janeway. Seven felt satisfaction, and later, certain stimulation herself when she was aware that Kathryn was ‘aroused’. Of course, for the past two years just being near her Captain caused Seven to feel desire, although she tried to suppress this feeling since Janeway adhered strictly to the unwritten rule that a Captain should not fraternize with the crew or become involved in a romance. A rule that Seven thought irrelevant since she was not an official crewmember. However, she knew that Captain Janeway believed that she was her superior. “I am your Captain, which means that I can’t always be your friend.” Seven had a vague recollection of discussing this subject earlier that night. Was she remembering correctly that Captain Janeway stated she was not her Captain any longer but her friend…and to call her Kathryn? She could not recall the entire conversation due to the effect of the alcohol on her cortical node. She would inquire of Kathryn later what all had transpired at the gazebo.

She returned her attention to the conversation around her, which was general talk between Gretchen and Kathryn on the latest news concerning their Indiana neighbors.

Gretchen said to Kathryn, “Mark is home for awhile…sans wife.” This riveted Seven’s attention onto the older woman. Gretchen continued, “They divorced two months ago. I heard she is now the assistant to another professor, at Florida State University. I’m not sure what happened.”

Phoebe sarcastically commented, “He probably bored her to death. Honestly, Katie, if you had married him you would be volunteering for deep space missions on a regular basis. What was the big attraction any way? Good in the sack?”

Janeway, who was sitting behind Phoebe, lightly slapped the back of her sister’s head. “That ship left the station a long time ago, and I’m not signing up to serve, if it should pull back in.”

Phoebe snorted. Seven felt distressed. She knew who Mark was. Kathryn had talked about how she was once engaged to him.

Seven contemptuously stated, “He does not deserve you, Captain. He is flawed.”

Everyone laughed, even Janeway.

Phoebe agreed, “You got that right ,Seven.”

Gretchen warned her daughter, “Now that you’re back, he may want to take up where you two left off.”

Janeway snorted derisively. “Not a chance.”

Seven felt Kathryn’s right hand close over her left and squeeze before letting it go. Janeway kept looking straight ahead. Seven was confused. Did this signal that Kathryn would give her ‘a chance’? Should she ‘bide her time’, an expression she once heard Tom say to Harry Kim, advising him to “play it cool” and “not jump the gun.” ”You got to bide your time and wait for Megan Delaney to make the first move.” Tom continued with his advice to Kim, “After all, you don’t want to come on like a ‘Vulcan in Pon Farr’. Makes them think you’re desperate. And she’ll ‘warp’ out of there in a nanosecond.”

She had asked The Doctor the significance of the terms, and he explained the meanings. She wondered why a person just did not come out and say what they meant, instead of using all those “euphemisms.” The Doctor said if she wanted to learn more, she needed to look in the computer files for Patricia Todd’s book. “A Beginners Guide to Understanding Popular Euphemisms and Sayings of Earth and How to Use Them.” It had indeed proved useful. Perhaps she should ‘test the waters’ or better yet, ‘stake her claim’. She thought of how she could go about the latter and recalled the information on dating she had studied. Perhaps she could start by bringing Kathryn flowers when she visited two weeks from now. Perhaps she should take her out to dinner. After all, a girl liked to be ‘wined and dined’. Of course, it would be a place that would provide a quiet, intimate dinner with soft music and...no dancing. Definitely, no dancing. She did not want Kathryn to know she had ‘two left feet’ and there was always the risk of dislocating Kathryn’s arm. She inwardly cringed when she remembered her one date with Lieutenant Chapman.

Everyone was ready to turn in for the night when the five women arrived at the Janeway Homestead. Irene was to have the guest room, and Seven would have Phoebe’s room. Phoebe would be staying in her studio loft, which was attached to an efficiency apartment and built over the large garage.

Kathryn took Seven upstairs to Phoebe’s room, which was next door to her bedroom. Seven’s satchel was on the bed, along with a clean towel and washcloth.

Now, if there is anything you need, I’m right next door. The bathroom is right across from my room.”

Thank you, Captain, this is sufficient.”

Janeway smiled and said, “Kathryn, Seven, remember we discussed this earlier?”

Seven reflected for a moment. “I seem to recall such a conversation, though my memory was impaired by the champagne I ingested.”

Janeway gave a lopsided smile. “Are you feeling all right? Do I need to get you anything?”

No Ca…Kathryn. I am fine, though feeling some fatigue. I believe I may be able to sleep tonight.”

Janeway agreed. “The last few days have been wearing on all of us. I think I’ll be out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow. Well…good night Seven.”

Good night…Kathryn.”

Janeway impulsively stepped forward and hugged the young woman, feeling Seven’s soft breasts press against her own, and noticing without her Borg heels increasing her height, Seven ‘fit’ much better against her body. Seven put her arms around Janeway and hugged her back.

Janeway released her hold and stepped back a couple of steps. “I’ll see you in the morning at breakfast.”

Seven’s smile was wide, and her eyes twinkled “Tomorrow, Kathryn.”

XXX

CHAPTER SIX

XXX

Her dream scattered and fled, leaving her disoriented to time and place. With a start, she bolted upright. ‘Red Alert’. No… not Voyager…..home. Yes, she remembered now. Home.

Phoebe was softly knocking at the door and saying, “Sis, get up. Breakfast is almost ready, and you’re the last one up.”

She threw back the covers, sliding into her slippers and housecoat and crossly said, “Alright, alright, I’m up. Give me time to take a quick shower, and I’ll be right down.”

Ten minutes, Sis, or we start without you.”

Janeway opened her door, hurried into the bathroom, and set the shower controls. ‘No time for a long hot one.’ She quickly got under the warm spray, running a soapy washcloth over her body, quickly rinsed, jumped out, and dried off. Back in her bedroom, she dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a dark blue, long sleeve, pullover cotton shirt. She put on a pair of white crew socks, but decided to forgo the shoes and put them on later.

Hurrying down the stairs, she caught a quick whiff of fresh biscuits, bacon, and, of course, coffee. She entered the dining room where everyone was already seated. She slid into the seat next to Phoebe. Seven was directly across from her and Irene next to Seven. Her mother took the end of the table, now the head since her father died. “You could have started without me.”

Gretchen looked at her daughter. “Kathryn, this is your first breakfast home in over seven years. We couldn’t start without you.”

Phoebe muttered under her breath, “I could.”

Much to her pleasure, her coffee cup held the steaming brew that was Phoebe’s specialty.

Taking the cup, she held it up to her face and sniffed deeply, eyes closed, and took a sip. “Uhmm. You know, I missed this most of all while out in the Delta Quadrant.”

Everyone piled their plates full. Seven had a small amount of everything. Janeway watched her across the table, noticing that her hair was down around her shoulders, and she was wearing a pale yellow short sleeve blouse. She watched, mesmerized, as Seven delicately took a bite of her scrambled eggs, taking a quick sniff before she put them in her mouth and chewed slowly, deciding if she liked the taste. Janeway saw her eyes widen a little as she took another bite, apparently enjoying the taste. She continued to watch as Seven took a sip of orange juice from her glass and slowly licked her tongue over her upper lip to remove a drop. Janeway was lost to all around her; focused on what Seven was doing with her wet pink tongue and those luscious lips.

She felt an elbow in her side. “Wake up, Sis. Mom’s been trying to get your attention for at least a half a minute.”

Janeway felt her face flush, quickly put the coffee cup up close to her mouth, bent her head slightly to sip, hoping to hide some of her embarrassment.

Kathryn, is everything ok, you have hardly taken a bite.”

She felt her face heat up even more. “Everything’s fine, Mom. I just have to get a little caffeine in my system before I dig in.” She took a piece of crisp bacon and began to eat, eyes on her plate and avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Phoebe begin talking about her latest art pieces. “It is various collages combined with wire sculpture that acts as a frame for the different pieces of the canvas. It represents that moment in time when waking from a dream to full consciousness; the time where illusion and reality merge.”

Seven, looking intrigued, commented, “I am just beginning to experience dreams since I have initiated sleeping as part of my daily functional routine. I know that I dream, but upon waking, cannot remember what it was I dreamed. I only ‘sense’ if they were disturbing or pleasurable.”

Phoebe, her interest piqued, replied, “Seven, you must come up to my studio after breakfast to see some of my latest pieces on dream interpretations.”

Seven turned up the corners of her lips in a quick smile. “Thank you…I would enjoy that.”

Janeway felt a small alarm go off. Phoebe was like a woman magnet. She drew women to her. Janeway remembered Phoebe’s favorite pickup line. “You have perfect bone structure. You would make a great subject for my next painting.” Next thing you knew, you would see her ‘subject’ leaving the studio late the next morning. She doubted Phoebe was up all night painting…with the lights off. Seven had just discovered her orientation and would be vulnerable if Phoebe was interested in her. ‘Katie, be honest, you fear Phoebe is interested in what you consider yours.’ She quickly and firmly stated, “Phoebe, it will have to be some other time. I promised Seven I would show her around the Place today.”

Phoebe would not give in. “She can do that when she comes for a stay in two weeks.”

Kathryn retorted, “Well, she can wait two weeks to see your studio and art…that will give you plenty of time to make your…den of iniquity…presentable.”

Phoebe, her voice an octave higher, shot back, “Den of iniquity? Why, you…”

Gretchen interrupted, “Girls, please. Seven and Irene have to leave in an hour to transport back to Sweden. She won’t have time today. Seven will be back in two weeks, and then she’ll have time to do those things.”

Seven was both amused and puzzled by the bickering. “You are correct, Gretchen, the two activities will commence when I return in two weeks.”

Janeway knew she was acting childish and peevish, but Phoebe always managed to push her buttons.

After breakfast, Janeway cleared off the table, scraped the dishes, and set them by the sink. It being a traditionalist home, Gretchen didn’t have a replicator, and much to the two girls’ chagrin, did not have a dishwasher. Growing up, the girls had taken turns cleaning off the table, washing and drying the dishes, and putting them away. Today, Gretchen assigned the chore of washing the dishes to Phoebe. Gretchen would come in later and put them away.

Having dried the dishes, Janeway headed out to the living room, taking a seat on the couch next to Seven. Irene had invited the Janeways to visit her and was describing the local attractions, and when was the ideal time to visit for skiing. The two Irish setters got up from their place on the rug and went to the door, barking to warn off an approaching intruder. Gretchen had the two go back to their spot on the rug and sit. There was a knock at the door and Gretchen opened it and exclaimed, “Sylvia, come on in and visit.”

Janeway grimaced. ‘This is just what I need, Mark’s mother showing up’.

Sylvia was of medium height with light brown hair and dressed in the latest fashionable style from New York. Gretchen introduced both Irene and Seven. Janeway, displaying the manners taught her, stood up as Mrs. Johnson descended on her with a sorority girl squeal, loosely hugging her and giving ‘air kisses.’

Kathryn, let me look at you, why you haven’t changed a bit. Oh, I love that hairstyle, and shorter hair looks so good on a woman your age. Why, I’m just so excited that you made it back. Mark is, too. Why, he called last night and asked me to come by and visit to see how you’re doing. He would have run right over as soon as he heard that you were back, but he is teaching a Philosophy class at Mars University this semester. He told me to tell you he would be by to visit as soon as he got back. Why, I haven’t seen Mark this excited in a long time. Lately, he has been sinking himself into his studies. I suppose it has to do with that… Latinum digger he just divorced. What he ever saw in her, why, I just don’t know. Women like that know how to trap a man when they are vulnerable. Poor Mark, he kept up hope for so long that you would be returning. Well, you know how men are, they always need to be babied, and “Ms. Ferengi” was right there to take advantage of him….”

Janeway hoped her grimace looked like a smile. ‘Shut up already. Give me a ship full of Hirogens any day. What did I do in a past life to deserve this?’

“….and he said he will try to call you when he gets a break. Why, the man can’t wait to hear your voice. Well, look at the time. I have to run. I don’t want to be late for my Daughters of the Confederacy meeting. Well, Kathryn, I’ll tell Mark how well you look. Oh, and nice meeting you, Ms. Hansen and Ms...Ah…Eleven. Bye all.”

Gretchen walked Sylvia to the door and closed it behind her. Janeway groaned and rolled her eyes. Phoebe was letting out peals of laughter from the kitchen.

Janeway instructed her mom, “If he calls, tell him I am unavailable, and take a message.”

Kathryn, you’re going to have to see him sooner or later.”

Janeway groaned again. “Not if I can arrange another trip to the Delta Quadrant.”

Irene noted the time and stated that she and Annika better get hustling or they would miss their scheduled departure on the Transporter. Seven quickly rose from the couch and headed for the stairs, Janeway right behind. Seven went to her room and checked the Velcro closings on her bag, checking the fastenings, her back to Janeway, who followed her into her room.

You have a good time at your aunt’s. I will spend the next week arranging for the installation of your alcove and finding you a good lawyer.”

Seven answered in a cold Borg voice, “Acceptable.”

Janeway said in a concerned voice, “Seven, turn around and look at me.”

Seven turned, and placed her hands behind her back in her old Borg stance, eyes cold.

Seven, what’s wrong?”

I am…apprehensive.”

Seven, I’m sure that your relatives will be nothing but accepting of you. Believe me; you’ll have a good time.”

Seven’s apprehension had more to do with Mark inquiring about Kathryn. She feared that Kathryn would be interested in resuming her relationship with him. She was unsure how to tell Kathryn this.

Just then, her aunt called from downstairs. “Hurry, Annika, Phoebe has the aero car out front. We do not want to be late.”

Seven turned and picked up her bag from the bed and headed downstairs, Janeway, with a concerned look on her face, right behind.

Gretchen hugged Irene good-bye and invited her back for a visit, promising she would visit Irene in Sweden soon. She next gave Seven a long hug and told her when she returned in two weeks, they would have to try some recipes that she had not used in years, as her girls were fussy eaters and, growing up, preferred replicated food.

Seven smiled and stated, “I believe I would like that.”

Irene sat in the front of the aero car with Phoebe. Janeway joined Seven in the back seat. Phoebe and Irene were engaged in a conversation pertaining to where the best ski areas were in Sweden, and what was the best time of year for the optimal powder.

Janeway glanced over at Seven, seeing that she still had that icy Borg look. She thought to lighten the mood. “You know, Seven, when you come to visit I want to take you to San Francisco and show you the city. I think you will like it. They have some great restaurants that you will enjoy.”

Seven glanced at Kathryn and replied, “Acceptable.”

Janeway went on, “Of course, I would like to do anything that you want. I have all that leave built up, and I cannot think of anything that I would enjoy more than spending time with you. We could plan trips to anywhere you would like to go.”

Seven nodded her head, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead.

Is there any place particular you would like to go, or anything special you would like to do, Seven?”

Seven turned and looked into Kathryn’s eyes. She spoke softly and in a low voice. “I would enjoy seeing the willow tree that was your secret refuge as a child. I would like to see the ‘swimming hole’ where you went on hot summer days, and the stream where you would fish. I would like you to take me to the apple orchard where you, Phoebe, and your friends, Mary and Emma, picked the fallen fruit and hid in the hedgerow to ‘ambush' the boys, bombarding them with ‘rotten apples’. I would like to pick blueberries, weave garlands of wild flowers, and walk among the rows of green corn. I want you to show me all the places that were ‘special’ to you Kathryn.”

This statement moved Janeway. Looking softly into Seven’s eyes, she took her left hand with her right and stroked her fingertips lightly over the mesh covering the hand. “Oh, Seven, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see these places with you…to see them through your eyes.”

Seven smiled, one of her rare, radiant, heart stopping smiles. “Thank you, Kathryn.”

Janeway kept Seven’s hand in hers for the rest of the short trip. They both remained silent. Seven knew if Kathryn’s ‘past’ should encroach on the future, their future, she, Seven of Nine, would prevail. One lesson she had learned as a Borg, ‘Resistance is Futile.’

XXX

Janeway got into the passenger side of the aero car after seeing Seven and her aunt off. She hated saying good byes. However, she was used to them. That was the life of a Starfleet Captain. She smiled that secret little half smile that women in love smiled when thinking about that one special person.

She had hugged Irene Hansen and whispered into her ear, “Call me if you need me…you know?”

Irene whispered back, “I have your number. You are a good person, Kathryn Janeway. Thank you for bringing my Annika back.”

I would do it again.”

She had walked over to Seven, who was in a bear hug from her sister. “Seven, you will just have to sit for me so I can paint your portrait. My hands are just itching to pick up the brushes and begin.”

Janeway had wryly thought, ‘That better be all they’re itching to do.’

Phoebe went on to say her goodbyes to Irene.

Janeway smiled up at Seven. “I believe I like you in flat heels. I don’t have to get on my toes to do this.” She gave Seven a quick kiss on the cheek.

Seven blushed and smiled shyly. “I believe when we next meet, I will remove my foot wear.”

Janeway chuckled. “You do that.”

Seven sighed. “I will miss you, Kathryn.”

I know. I will miss you too. However, it will only be for two weeks, and I think you will enjoy meeting your relatives. Besides, I wouldn’t be much company with all the debriefings and hearings coming up next week. Time will pass quickly.”

Seven smirked. “I am familiar with time relativity, Kathryn. Time will seem relatively long until I see you again.”

Janeway smiled, surprised. “Oh my, Seven, that is a very sweet thing to say.”

Annika, come. We will be late,” Irene called out.

Seven smiled and looked for a long moment into Janeway’s eyes. She turned and Janeway watched her walk away.

Phoebe abruptly brought her back to the present with her enthusiastic declaration, “Wow, Sis, that Seven of Nine is to die for. Beauty and brains. I think when she comes back to visit I’m going to take her to dinner at this fab-u-less restaurant I know in Paris, and show her the sights.”

Janeway retorted, “Over my dead body. Phoebe, leave her alone.”

Phoebe smirked and glancing at her big sister, said, “Why, Sis, you’re talking like a jealous woman….unless you are a jealous woman. Hmm?’’

It’s none of your business. Phoebe, I mean it. She has no experience when it comes to dealing with the type of games you play, so leave her alone.”

Gee, Sis, since when are you her mother? She looked like an adult to me…very adult. She can make up her own mind, can’t she? Give me one good reason, just one good reason, why I can’t go out with her. And I will leave her alone.”

Janeway turned and gave Phoebe a force 10 stare. “Because Phoebe, I have…feelings for her, and I think she may…be feeling the same about me.”

Phoebe looked at her sister sharply before returning her attention to driving. “You mean, you’re in love with her, don’t you Katie?”

Janeway hesitated for a moment and replied, “Yes, I am.”

Phoebe chuckled and then reached over with her right hand and took Kathryn’s left. “Sis, I figured that out months before you came home. Every other word in your packets to us was Seven this, Seven that. I’m sorry I teased you. Well…maybe not. I just wanted you to admit it.”

Janeway playfully punched her sister's arm and smiled. “Well, what do you think?’’

I think you picked a winner this time.”

Kathryn squeezed Phoebe’s hand. “What do you think Mom will say?”

Phoebe laughed. “Hallelujah, will miracles never cease! Besides, I think Mom and Irene already know.”

Janeway blurted out, “What do you mean?”

Well, Sis, you weren’t exactly wearing your poker playing face at breakfast this morning. All of us saw you staring across the table at her, all lolly headed and googie-eyed. Looove was just written all over your face.”

I wasn’t ‘lolly headed and googie-eyed’…was I?” Janeway put her face in her hands and said, “I was, wasn’t I?”

Uh, huh. Mom noticed and looked at you two with that smug, satisfied look she has when she gets what she wants. Irene was smiling, too. Seven was the only one who didn’t notice. She was too busy eating. Everyone noticed, that is, everyone but you, that whenever you were in Seven’s vicinity, she was giving you the lolly-headed and googie-eyed look. Well, maybe the Borg version. Nevertheless, her look spoke Loooove. So have you told her yet?”

Janeway sighed. “No. I just haven’t had the right opportunity yet. I do plan to tell her when she comes to visit. Pheebs, don’t go blabbing your mouth. Mom may know something is going on, but I want to know for sure Seven feels the same way.”

Sis, trust me. Seven feels the same way. I won’t tell Mom…if you let Seven pose for a portrait. Believe me, you have nothing to worry about. Why, since you’ve been gone, I have given up my wild ways.”

Pheebs, you are so full of bullshit I could flick a seed on you and spit, and the seed would sprout. If Seven wants to pose for a portrait, that’s fine with me, as long as she has her clothes on. And you will have to give it to me when it’s finished.”

Gee, Sis. I’m an artist not a voyeur. OK, it’s a deal. It will be a wedding gift to you two.”

Pheebs!”

Phoebe snickered and said, “Ok, so, no painting. I’ll keep that for myself and give you two a toaster oven, instead.”

XXX

CHAPTER SEVEN

XXX

Despite Seven’s misgivings, she was enjoying her visit with her aunt. She had been there for three days already. Today, the Hansens and the Thorsons descended on the house for a family reunion. At first, she was apprehensive and wished nothing more than to flee. Her aunt assured her everything would be fine. And it was. She met both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. She had some small discomfort when her two grandmothers hugged her and cried. However, no one inquired about her parents, or her assimilation. Seven did not know if this avoidance of the topic was because it would be too painful to them, or too painful for her. Whichever it was, she was grateful. Seven would call Kathryn tonight and tell her of today’s events.

Kathryn had called last night to inform her that she had contacted the Vulcan Embassy concerning a date to have her alcove delivered, and to give her an update on Icheb, who was leaving with Tuvok in a few days for Vulcan. Seven would call him before he left. Their conversation had been on topics ranging from the dates for Kathryn’s debriefing, to an appointment Kathryn had with a Federation rights lawyer, M’Tath, whose home planet was Caitia. He was reputed to be the best in the Earth sector. They avoided any conversation of a more personal nature, perhaps due to shyness and not knowing how to express what both women felt was a new, and unsteady, step in their relationship. She promised Kathryn she would call and tell her how the family reunion turned out.

Seven had been in a discussion with her cousin, Lars Thorson, on the topic of Dimensional Rifts, when Lars excused himself to refill his plate with pastry. One of Seven’s female cousins, Hiro Thorson, approached her. Seven had met the young woman and her parents, Niklas Thorson and Aiko Saitou Thorson, earlier and learned that the parents were Professors at the Ikato Institute in Ikato, Japan. Niklas was her mother’s first cousin. Hiro stood out from the rest of the relatives in that she had dark brown hair cut just below her ears, and green eyes, which Seven thought was a pleasing combination. Hiro was of shorter stature than either the Thorson or the Hansen women, Seven herself being 5’ 9”, in her bare feet. Seven knew Hiro to be 5’5”, the same height as Kathryn, as she had used her Borg enhanced vision to get an accurate measurement.

Hiro Thorson, how may I be of assistance?”

Hiro smiled in amusement. “Annika, I was wondering if you have a few minutes to accompany me outdoors. I am finding it a little too warm in here, and would like some fresh air…and to get to know you a little better.”

Seven inclined her head. “Very well.”

She followed Hiro out the front door and up a well-trodden path that led to a small stone-enclosed meadow.

I always enjoy visiting Sweden, but especially during ski season. Are you going to be here then, Annika?”

Perhaps.”

They came to the stone fence, and Hiro brushed off one of the large, gray, smooth topped stones to sit on. Seven stood in her familiar Borg pose, hands clasped behind her back.

Wouldn’t you like a seat?”

Seven almost said, ‘I prefer to stand’ but decided to sit on the stone fence, about three feet from her cousin.

Aunt Irene asked me to talk to you. She thinks I could be of assistance in locating a psychologist…to help you make the transition from being in Space all your life to now living on Earth.”

Seven looked at the young woman without blinking. “That is an incorrect statement. I have promised Kathryn…Captain Janeway… that I would consult with a psychologist concerning…..emotional resonances of my time as a Borg drone. Aunt Irene informed me that your are a psychologist and she would request your assistance in finding a suitable individual to help me …deal effectively with these issues.”

Hiro gave Seven an assessing look. “Will you share some of the issues you would like addressed? I assure you this will be confidential. This will help me find a counselor suited to your needs.”

Very well. I find myself having feelings of guilt in association with the thousands of beings I assimilated. Borg drones have no free will to direct their own actions. However, I was no ordinary drone. I was the Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One. The Queen chose me as her successor. While I was a part of the collective and followed the mandate of the collective, I was not bound to adhere to the will of the collective, but to that of the Queen. My role as Tertiary Adjunct gave me authority to direct other drones to carry out the Queen’s command, and if severed from the collective, I could, and I did, order drones to perform acts that were central to the Borg quest for perfection. I, acting on the Queen’s authority, ordered the assimilation of thousands, and the death of thousands more. I find these…acts… regretful, and feel deep remorse for having performed these acts…I find it hard to come to terms with what I did.”

Hiro turned towards Seven and placed her hand on Seven's shoulder.

Oh, Annika, I understand. You were just a child of six when assimilated, and you had spent close to 20 years as a Borg. That was all that you had known. Tell me. At the time you were ordering and performing assimilations, did you once believe it was wrong?”

Seven tersely stated, “I did not.”

Why, Annika, why didn’t you feel that what you were doing was wrong?”

Feelings and emotions were irrelevant. As a Borg, I had no emotions. Our goal was perfection, and assimilation of other beings was assisting us, and them, to reach perfection. As Borg, I had but one goal, to reach perfection.”

In other words, Annika, you knew of no other way to reach perfection. I know that the Borg think that emotions are irrelevant, and this is suppressed in a Borg, is it not?”

Yes.”

Any emotion that you had would have been buried by your link to the collective mind, and your link to the Queen. Correct?”

Yes.”

When did you begin to feel emotion, Annika?”

When I was severed from the collective mind.”

When your thoughts and emotions were no longer controlled?”

Seven looked away for a moment, then back at Hiro. “I have heard this before from Captain Janeway. I know it is logical and truthful: That I knew of no other way to act, other than what was instilled in me by the collective. However, my emotions lead me now to feel guilt.”

Hiro smiled sadly. “And that, Annika, is part of what makes us Human. I know of two individuals outside of Starfleet who have worked with Federation citizens severed from the Borg. I will get with them and relate what you told me. You will present a challenge, in that you spent your childhood as a drone. There are treatment therapies that have a good success rate with individuals severed from the Borg. However, assimilation occurred as adults and they spent a short time in the collective. If you were not my cousin, I myself would take your case.”

Seven looked confused. “I do not comprehend why the fact that we are related would determine if you would…take my case.”

Hiro gave a quick smile. “Well, relationship factors would add a whole other dimension that could adversely interfere with treatment and vice versa. I want to get to know you better through the bonds of friendship and not through the constraints of Doctor/Client dynamics. I want you to call me Hiro and not Dr. Thorson.”

Seven thought for a moment. “Acceptable. I, too, would like to be your friend, Hiro. You may call me Seven, as do my friends.”

Hiro gave a big smile, moss green eyes shining, and squeezed Seven’s left bicep, giving her a flirtatious look. “Seven. That has always been my lucky number. Let’s go back to the house and get something to drink. I’m thirsty, and we can toast our new friendship.”

Hiro stood up and took both of Seven’s hands in hers. Seven noticed that Hiro did not mind touching her Borg hand, and was not ill at ease with her. “I would like liquid refreshment if it does not contain alcohol. It has a debilitating effect on my cortical node.”

Hiro snorted. “Alcohol also has a detrimental effect on my brain cells if I drink more than one glass. Would grape juice do?”

Acceptable.”

With that, both women headed back to the house.

XXX

CHAPTER EIGHT

XXX

 

Janeway felt she had done battle with half of the Delta Quadrant. In fact, she would gladly take on the Kazons, Hirogens, and even the Borg, rather than what she had just gone through with Starfleet pounding her with every decision she had made while in the Delta Quadrant. She was surprised they didn’t drag in a few Vulcans to mind meld with her and dig out every emotion she ever felt when making a decision. As it was, she was sure that one of Admiral Sylvanus’ aides was a Betazoid. Damn, maybe all of the aides were Betazoids. They told her the ‘inquisition’ was finished but that they might call her back for further questioning.

If anything were to sink her career with Starfleet, it would be having made a deal with the Borg or that Rudy Ransom business. She had told them it was ‘better to deal with the Devil you know than the one you don’t’. She was well aware that the Borg were a major threat to life everywhere. However, anyone who could make the Borg ‘get out of a Klingon bar before the Blood Wine ran out’ was an even bigger threat.

Species 8472 were so distinctly alien to anything the Federation had ever known. To them, Humanoids were vermin to be exterminated. The survival of any of the Borg not destroyed by Admiral Janeway’s virus, would perhaps, stop an invasion of 8472 long enough for The Federation to prepare for them if they decided to invade. Which she was certain would come at some time in the future.

As for Ransom, she had no longer considered him Starfleet. He was a mass murderer, and his crew had proven that they were accomplices, as they would not cooperate in stopping him. Noah Lessing had cooperated in the murders. He could not use the old excuse, ‘I was only following orders’ as was evident by his refusal to help Voyager stop even more murders. She had to use any means necessary to stop Ransom from murdering even more of the beings, and to keep him from harming her crewmembers taken captive, Seven of Nine and The Doctor. She would not leave any of her crew behind if there were any way to get them back, as long as her ship was not jeopardized. She did not regret that she had led Lessing to believe he would die, but if you were to question Tuvok, he would tell you that he had set up a force field that would surround Lessing when one of the creatures appeared. Her only regret was that Chakotay stopped the action. If he hadn’t she could had gotten the information she needed before anymore innocent lives were lost. She would let history be the judge.

She could tell that her statement “Let history be the judge” did not sit well with a few of the admirals. She could actually see a few squirming in their seats. And a few avoided eye contact. They knew that if, for any reason, she were punished too severely, or punished at all, for this ‘transgression’, they would be on trial with the public throughout the Federation. Now, she had to wait for their decision regarding her future. Would they demote her, expel her from Starfleet, court martial her, or let her keep her rank? Frankly, right now, she didn’t give a damn. She was just too bone tired to think, and had a major headache to boot.

XXX

It was all she could do to drive Phoebe’s aero car home. Good thing she had the help of auto navigation or she might not make it home. Now, for a long hot soak in the tub, coffee, a little snack, and bed for at least the next 9 hours. She had to get her beauty rest. Seven was coming tomorrow to stay for an indefinite period.

She had kept in touch with her over the past 2 weeks and was relieved that Seven was enjoying herself, even finding a cousin with whom she was developing a friendship. It seemed as if Seven’s cousin, Hiro, had taken the young woman on various excursions around Sweden and Europe. She needed to not dwell on her present problems and show Seven a good time. She should focus just on Seven and their relationship, which she hoped would go one step further in seriousness and commitment.

She parked the aero car and trudged tiredly up the steps of the front porch. She could hear the two dogs barking a greeting on the other side of the door. She opened the screen door, but before she had a chance to turn the front door knob, it quickly opened, and she almost fell into the arms of Seven of Nine. Kathryn looked up at the young women standing against the light in the foyer Her hair down and bathed in the muted light, glowed in a gold cloud around her face. Janeway sucked in her breath, dazzled for a moment by the view ‘She looks like an Angel’. She put her arms around Seven and stepped wearily into her embrace. Seven gathered her close and she leaned into the warmth, resting her head on Seven’s shoulder.

Seven had her arms close around Janeway, her face against her hair. She said concernedly, “Kathryn, you are not well. Come with me and sit on the couch, and I will get Gretchen.”

No, darling, I‘m just very tired, that’s all.”

Seven took in a breath of delighted surprise at the term ‘darling’. She knew that the word denoted someone who was cherished and beloved. She had never heard Kathryn use the term before. She knew Kathryn was reserved by nature. Seven knew that the sentiment behind the word was sincere. Kathryn would not call her ‘darling’ unless she felt Seven to be what the word designated.

She kept her left arm around Kathryn’s shoulders and guided her to the couch, where Janeway fell back into the cushions.

Gretchen came from the kitchen with a plate of caramel brownies. “Here, Kathryn, this will perk you up. Phoebe is making a pot of coffee for you. Seven, would you care for a cup?”

Seven grimaced slightly. “No thank you, Gretchen, I find I do not appreciate the taste as does Kathryn.”

Seven sat on the couch close enough to Janeway to feel her body heat without actually touching her. Janeway groaned in ecstasy as she took a big gooey bite of brownie. “Uhm, just what the doctor ordered.”

Seven looked confused. “Kathryn, are you ill?”

No, Seven, just exhausted.”

Why would The Doctor order you to consume caramel brownies?”

Janeway snickered. “Not ‘The Doctor’, Seven. It’s an old Earth expression meaning what you are doing at that moment makes you feel better.”

Seven raised her left eyebrow in contemplation. Janeway saw that she was dressed in a white poet’s shirt of light cotton, with a V-neck, and sleeves gathered at the elbows. Her hair was down about her shoulders. She looked tanned and fit. “Seven, I thought you were due tomorrow. Is everything all right?”

Yes, Kathryn. Aunt Irene had a Fall Festival planning meeting to attend today, so I decided to come early. I contacted Gretchen, and she stated it would be acceptable, and to make sure that I brought my ‘appetite’ for dinner.”

Well, I’m glad you’re here.” Janeway patted Seven on her left knee.

Seven smiled shyly. “As am I, Kathryn.”

Phoebe came in carrying a big mug filled with hot black coffee. “Here, Katie, take a swig of this. All the caffeine will boost your energy.”

Janeway took a large gulp and closed her eyes in bliss. “Pheebs, one of these days I’m going to have you teach me how to brew this.”

Seven observed the obvious pleasure on Kathryn’s face “Phoebe has instructed me in how to prepare her special brew. Your mother has also instructed me in preparing her caramel brownies. She states she will give me the…honor of cooking the next batch.”

Janeway glanced at her sister. “That’s nice of you and Mom. Seven has found a new hobby, cooking.”

Phoebe replied, “Mom has also volunteered to teach Seven to cook several dishes.” I told Seven the way to a Captain’s heart is through their stomach, and she was eager to learn.”

Janeway hissed, “Phoebe!”

Phoebe put her hand up and covered her mouth as if she revealed something she weren‘t meant to do, then snickered.

Gretchen had just come from the kitchen, having heard the jest. “Phoebe, behave.”

Phoebe rolled her eyes.

Seven looked closely at Janeway’s face, which was now a bright red. “Kathryn, you are ill.” Looking beseechingly at Gretchen, she said, “Gretchen, Kathryn is ill. Her face is flushed. Perhaps she has a fever. Her face looks similar to Naomi Wildman’s when she had a fever.” She put her hand on Janeway’s forehead.

Janeway sighed and exclaimed, “No Seven, I am not ill, nor do I have a fever. My face is flushed because Phoebe can’t keep her mouth shut, and has embarrassed me. That’s all”. She shot a force ten glare at her sister who smirked and made a face.

Gretchen tried to hide her amusement. “Phoebe, Kathryn has had a hard day and doesn’t need you teasing her.”

Hey, I was just trying to cheer her up.”

Seven looked at Janeway in a perplexed way. “I do not understand. What is it Phoebe has done that would embarrass you, Kathryn?”

Nothing Seven. I’m tired, let’s just drop it. Come out and sit on the porch swing with me. I could use some fresh air.”

XXX

The early September night was cool and dry. Janeway took a deep breath, letting the familiar smells of home put her at ease. The drying stalks of corn in the field next to the house rustled slightly in the night breeze. The large leaves of the Sycamore trees around the house clattered against each other. Soon, they would fall, and she and Phoebe would rake them in large piles and take them to the mulch pile in the back yard.

Seven sat silently by her, using her right leg to push the porch swing back and forth, its smooth rocking motion a relaxing balm. Crickets serenaded the night with their trill, an ageless call to attract a mate. “So, Seven, tell me about your visit to your aunt’s.”

It was enjoyable. I did not know that I had such a large family.”

Is that a good thing?”

I believe so. They were all very…kind. Many are in the scientific fields, and we discussed many topics of interest.”

Somehow, that does not surprise me, seeing that both of your parents were scientists. Seems to run in the family.”

Indeed.”

Tell me about your cousin, Hiro. You seemed to spend a lot of time with her.”

Seven smiled her eyes bright and voice more animated. “Her father, Niklas Thorson, was my mother’s first cousin. Which makes her my cousin twice removed. Her mother is of Japanese descent. Both are professors at Ikato University. Hiro resides in Japan and is a psychologist. She located a counselor for me, to assist in my…emotional difficulties.”

I’m glad, Seven. You must have enjoyed her company. Every time we talked, you told me about the places you two visited.”

I enjoyed her company. She wanted to show me…a good time. We visited many prominent places in Europe: Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, and ‘caught some rays’ on the Riviera. She is planning to take me to other places. She is interesting and…entertaining company.”

Janeway wondered, ‘Should I be worried that this is more than ‘family’ looking out for her?’ “I noticed you have a tan.”

Yes, Hiro stated I needed to ‘shed’ the pale, ‘Space Face’, appearance. She is of the opinion that my tan ‘sets off’ my hair and eyes, and is attractive.”

Uh, Oh’ “It does, Seven. Of course, you are attractive without the tan.”

Janeway could just make out Seven’s smile by the light cast through the living room window.

Thank you, Kathryn.”

I missed you, Seven.”

I missed you, also, Kathryn.”

There was an awkward silence. Janeway thought, ‘Gods, I’ve lost my nerve. Declaring my love is more difficult than I thought.’

Seven looked directly into Janeway's eyes and said, “You love me.”

Janeway felt as if someone had shot her with a phaser set on stun. “What did you say?”

Seven replied firmly, “You love me. When you arrived earlier, you referred to me as ‘darling’, instead of my name. Darling designates a person who is cherished and beloved, does it not?”

Janeway melted and reached out to stroke Seven’s cheek. “Oh, darling, I very much love you, and have for quite some time.”

Seven caught Janeway's right hand, which was on her cheek, and brought it to her lips and kissed the top, her voice strained with emotion, “I love you Kathryn. I, also, have loved you for some time.”

Both women were still, almost afraid to move, as though they would break the spell. The golden light from the living room window was enough for Janeway to see into Seven’s eyes, which burned with a silver fire. Janeway closed her eyes and leaned forward, chastely brushing her lips over Seven’s. She drew back enough to break contact but still feel the heat from those luscious lips. She breathed in Seven’s breath and leaned in once more to place a longer and firmer kiss. Seven twined her right hand through Janeway's hair, cupping the back of her head, and pulling her more firmly into the kiss. Both women parted their lips slightly in an invitation to explore further. Janeway freed her right hand from Seven’s grasp and wrapped both arms around her, pulling Seven tightly against her, breast to breast.

Seven felt Kathryn push her tongue gently between her lips and softly stroke her tongue, feeling the warm, wet softness against warm, wet softness. This was almost more than Seven could process. She let go of the analytical part of herself that was always there standing on the outside of any personal interaction she had with others, accessing, scrutinizing, and dissecting her actions and emotions. She immersed herself in emotion and senses: Touch and tasting Kathryn’s mouth, feeling the heat and softness of her body, hearing her muffled deep groans.

Janeway groaned and pulled away to catch her breath, looking into Seven’s eyes, now half lidded with desire, the pupils large and dark and holding her enthralled. “Oh, darling, you take my breath away.” Janeway felt a quivering in her stomach that sent tendrils of desire up to her chest and down to her groin.

Seven pulled Janeway back to hold her in a tight embrace, hungrily claiming her mouth, her tongue hot and firm in its caresses. Seven then stood up and pulled Janeway off the swing and hugged her more firmly, molding Janeway against herself, wanting to take all that Janeway was into herself, and needing to pour all that she felt into Janeway.

Once again, Janeway broke their kiss, breathing harshly. “Seven, we need to stop. I don’t want anyone to come out and catch us, and I need to sit down and catch my breath. You’ve taken it away.”

Seven sat back on the swing, her breathing shallow. She felt her heart drumming hard against her rib cage and a heat in her stomach and groin. She did not analyze these sensations, as she would have normally done, measuring pulse, temperature, and respiration. Some core part of her that had escaped assimilation was very much in control. This part of her instinctively knew this was desire, lust, and the knowledge that she had found her mate…her beloved.

Janeway scooted closer to Seven and leaned her back against the young woman’s side, laying her head back against Seven’s right shoulder. Seven slipped her arms around Kathryn’s waist and pulled her closer against her, placing both hands on her stomach. Seven nuzzled the auburn hair and Janeway felt her breath tickle her left ear and shivered.

Seven’s voice was a delicious and low trill, “I wish to continue kissing you, Kathryn.”

Janeway rested her arms on top of Seven’s and placed her hands over both of hers. “Uhm, darling, there will be more kisses. I can guarantee you that. But we need to slow down, or this could lead to something we’re both not ready for.”

You are referring to copulation. Why must we ‘slow down’? I believe we both are ready to mutually engage in that activity.”

Before Janeway could reply the porch light coming on and the sound of the front door opening startled her. She sat up straight, breaking contact with Seven, as Phoebe was coming out the front door.

Hey, you two, let me take a holo snap or two,” Phoebe said while holding up her small holopictures Camera.

Janeway rolled her eyes in dismay and said, “Pheebs, not when I’m worn to a frazzle and look like I’ve been dragged through a plasma conduit.”

Phoebe cajoled her, “Come on, Sis, if you don’t like them, I will delete them. Hey, Seven, what do you say? Just put your arm around her shoulder and pretend that you like her.”

Seven gave Phoebe a cold appraising look. “I do not need to…pretend. I love Kathryn, and she loves me.”

Phoebe theatrically sucked in her breath. “Oh, my dear, didn’t any one tell you? Starfleet Captains have a girl in every port?”

Seven replied, “You are being facetious.”

Janeway said, “Of course she is, darling. It is artists who have a different girl on their arm at every gallery opening.”

Well, I have an image to maintain.”

Boy, you set yourself up with that one, Pheebs. But I will be nice.”

If you want to be nice, let me take your picture.”

Janeway sighed. “Will you leave us alone if I do?”

Phoebe pretended she was undecided and then gave in. “Hmm. Maybe...for now.”

Kathryn put her left arm around Seven’s waist, and Seven put her right arm around Kathryn’s shoulder and pulled her close.

Ok, smile…You’re not smiling. Come on you two, you are supposed to be happy. Look into each other’s eyes now.”

Janeway and Seven gazed into each other’s eyes and smiled.

Phoebe exclaimed, “Got it.” She hurried over and hugged her sister and then Seven. “I’m really happy you two finally came to your senses, and Mom will be too. Let me call her out here. MOM, COME QUICK AND BRING THAT SHOTGUN! We’uns is gonna have a wedding.”

Janeway yelled, “PHOEBE!”

Seven looked at Janeway and replied, “I would like a wedding, Kathryn, but I do not understand why we would need a…shotgun.”

Janeway just dropped her head into her hands and groaned.

XXX

CHAPTER NINE

XXX

Janeway looked in the mirror at her reflection and straightened her uniform. She was wearing the current design with the gray jacket over the red command shirt. It had only been 4 days since the debriefing had ended. She got a call yesterday to be at Starfleet Headquarters today at 10:00 am and go to room 24.

She was somewhat apprehensive, wondering if they had more questions for her, or if they planned to give her their decision. She had planned a trip today with Seven to see the Grand Canyon, Earth’s biggest ditch, as Daddy called it.

After the night of their admission of their love for one another, Seven had decided to regenerate a night early. The next morning she took Seven for a walk to discuss some important issues regarding their relationship. Janeway wanted to take things slow. Not for her sake, but for Seven’s. She felt the young woman needed time to know what she was getting into. Seven had never really seen her, warts and all. She had tried to explain to Seven why the young woman may not be ready for a ‘committed’ relationship.

Seven would have none of it. Seven had arched her left eyebrow and coldly said, “Kathryn, perhaps it is you who wishes not to have a committed relationship with me.”

Janeway assured her that was not the case. Seven proceeded to dissect all of her arguments. In the end, Seven prevailed, and they were now engaged to marry, on a yet, undecided future date. Gretchen was delighted, and was pushing for a wedding in May or June, which was only eight to nine months away. Phoebe stated she would be in charge of the decorations and had two places for the ceremony in mind, the Community Hall, or the Old Friendship Church that dated back to the early 20th century. Nothing was settled as of yet, but she was sure Mom and Phoebe would ‘work’ on Seven to do what ‘they’ thought was best.

Seven had called her Aunt Irene to announce her engagement. Irene also had her ideas where the event should take place, which was in the garden of a small local church that was centuries old. She informed Seven that she should wear her great grandmother’s wedding gown. She would go and get it out of storage as soon as possible.

Seven next called her cousin, Hiro, and told her the good news. Janeway secretly thought ‘let her know Seven is taken, just in case she had ideas.’

Janeway would prefer going to a Justice of the Peace, but when she suggested this, three pairs of eyes stared at her as if she had uttered a profanity in church. She left the decision to Seven. Whatever Seven wanted was fine with her. Despite the entire row about the nuptials, Janeway was elated. Having Seven love her was just as exciting than getting her first ship or her Captain’s pips.

The next topic discussed was taking their relationship to the physical level, or copulation, as Seven termed it. Janeway had asked her to use the term ‘making love’. The term ‘copulation’, was just too clinical and made her think of two lab rats in an experiment.

Seven wanted to initiate it right away and had said, “My room can be utilized for this function, or we can utilize your room.”

Janeway, ever the romantic, wanted to plan a little vacation somewhere private and exclusive, away from the all-seeing eyes of Phoebe and all-hearing ears of her mother.

Darling, I want it to be just the two of us in a private setting. I don’t want to have to sneak around to your room like an adolescent.”

Seven’s reply was, “Why would we need to…‘sneak around’? We are engaged, and in many cultures, especially on Earth, couples ‘make love’ before matrimony.”

Janeway's response was, “Darling, please, just let me have my way in this.” She had put her arms around Seven’s neck and drew her close, whispering sultrily in her ear, “I’ll make sure, very sure, you won’t regret it.”

Seven smiled. “Very well.”

It did not get past Janeway that she was acting like the reluctant virgin from one of her romance novels, and Seven the eager and experienced lover. Knowing Seven, she had more than likely downloaded and read every iota on lesbian sexual pleasure, and Seven would be the one teaching her a thing or two…or more. Kathryn had to admit, their late night make-out sessions on the porch swing the last few days, made her want to drag Seven to the nearest bed and completely ravish her. In six days time they would be leaving for an exclusive little Villa in the Greek Isles for a week of romantic bliss and plenty of ravishing.

Janeway hurried down the stairs, loudly announcing, “I’m leaving.”

Seven came out of the dining room where she was assisting Gretchen in creating corn shuck wreaths for fall decorations. Janeway put her arms around Seven’s waist and demanded, “Give me a kiss for luck.”

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye and said, “I do not believe in luck.”

Well, give me a kiss anyway.” Seven pulled Janeway against her and leaned down to firmly press her lips against Janeway's in a long passionate kiss.

Seven, if you keep kissing her like that, she will be late.”

Janeway tore her lips away from Seven’s, her face red. “Mom.”

Gretchen grinned. “If you get a break, try to call us to let us know what is happening.”

I will, Mom.” Janeway gave her a mom a quick hug, took Seven’s hand, and pulled her toward the door. ”See me off, darling.”

Seven accompanied Janeway to Phoebe’s aero car. She put her arms around Kathryn’s waist and kissed her again. “Kathryn, I will wait for you to come home.”

Janeway stroked her cheek. “Darling, I don’t know how long I will be.”

I do not care. I will be up when you arrive here.”

They kissed one last time, and Janeway got in the driver’s seat and, waving to Seven, headed for the Transporter Station.

XXX

“…..and in view of the tough decisions you had to make on your own while in the Delta Quadrant, along with your ability to weld two divergent crews, one not Starfleet, into one crew governed by Starfleet principles. You demonstrated extraordinary leadership ability under adverse circumstance, and we believe you can best serve Starfleet in a position where you can apply your expertise in helping our organization to rebuild, following the Dominion War. It is our decision to promote you to Rear Admiral. Congratulations, ‘Admiral’ Janeway.”

Admiral Paris chuckled. “Admiral Janeway, do you have anything you want to say?”

Janeway sat across from the five Admirals, with a stunned expression on her face. Quickly regaining her composure, she replied, “May I have time to think it over?”

Admiral Nechevey glared. “Janeway, we need you in a position of responsibility as soon as possible. We have a fleet to rebuild, and we need you to assist in overseeing the training of officers to man that fleet.”

Admiral Ross added, “I can understand your desire to remain a captain. I, too, want to stand on a ship’s deck again. If time and circumstances were different, that would be a possibility. Now, it is of paramount importance to get our fleet up and running. We not only have the Dominion to contend with, but the Breen, and perhaps threats from the Delta Quadrant. We don’t know how badly the Borg were damaged, and there is always the threat from Species 8127.”

Janeway smirked. “In other words, I have no choice.”

Admiral Sylvanus scrutinized her with his dark eyes and answered, “You always have a choice…‘Captain’. We need a command officer on Deep Space Four and one on Rigel 2.”

Janeway inwardly shuddered. ‘The two worst Hell Holes of the Quadrant.’ “I accept, with one condition, that I am allowed the next two weeks off. I need to finish some personal business.”

Admiral Paris agreed. “I don’t see any pressing need for you to start right away. This will give us time to set your office up and find you a list of Aides to choose from.”

Admiral Ross stated, “One more item we need to discuss with you. We understand that you are the legal guardian of Seven of Nine. We would like to arrange a time for her to meet with a few Starfleet Intelligence officers to be…debriefed.”

Janeway paused for a few moments. ‘Interrogated, you mean’ “That can be arranged. I would have to consult with her legal counsel for any...stipulations he may require in having…my fiancée…Seven of Nine...debriefed.” Janeway didn’t want to announce her engagement as she and Seven had planned an official announcement at the upcoming official Voyager Welcome Home banquet. But, given Admiral Ross’ ‘request’, she felt it prudent to make her relationship to the young woman known. This would detour any harsh methods of questioning and any threats.

There was a stunned silence and then Admiral Paris grinned and said, “Well, looks like congratulations are in order.”

Admiral Paris’ statement seemed to give the other four Admirals time to recover and they too congratulated her.

.

Janeway inclined her head. “Thanks. We plan on having a Starfleet wedding and of course you are all invited. We haven‘t made an official announcement yet, and I would appreciate it if you would keep this quiet, until we do.” She had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from laughing at the sour look that Admiral Ross was trying to hide. She then gave him a force ten stare and he caught it, his face registering a certain amount of shock. ‘Yes, just so you get my meaning. Seven is off limits to any underhanded Starfleet Intelligence questioning.’

XXX

Janeway parked the aero car by the side of the house. She heard Phoebe squealing in the back yard and walked back to see what was causing the ruckus. Phoebe and Seven had an old washtub filled with sudsy water and were in the process of giving one of the dogs, Rusty, a bath. Seven had a huge grin on her face and Phoebe was trying to keep Rusty from jumping out of the tub. Phoebe had soapsuds in her hair and on the front of her shirt. Seven, somehow, had escaped getting very drenched but did manage to get the front of her red sweatshirt wet and a few soapsuds on her pair of cut off jeans. She wore her hair in a ponytail, and Kathryn thought she looked adorable. Seven was holding the water hose with her hand on the spray nozzle.

Phoebe ordered in a rushed voice, “Quick, Seven, rinse him before he runs off.” Seven carefully approached both the soaped-up dog and Phoebe, who was trying to keep him from making a break for it. Seven quickly rinsed the suds off Rusty and jumped back. Phoebe let go of Rusty's’ collar, but was not quick enough to get away before Rusty shook himself from nose to tail, showering her with cold water.

Ugh, now I will have to get a shower and change clothes.”

Janeway laughed, causing both Seven and Phoebe to look up. Seven dropped the water hose, bounded toward Janeway, and gave her a quick hug, stepping back and assessing her. “You are back earlier than I anticipated. Did your meeting proceed to a satisfactory conclusion?”

Janeway smirked and wryly said, “That’s a matter of opinion. Why don’t we go into the house…I have something I need to tell all of you, and I need to sit down to do it.”

Phoebe exclaimed concernedly, “Gee, Sis, now you got me worried.”

Seven took Janeway’s hand and proceeded to walk with her to the house.

Once in the door, Phoebe went to find Gretchen, and all four women took a seat in the living room, Janeway next to Seven, still holding onto her hand.

Gretchen was concerned. “Kathryn, what happened?”

Janeway kept her poker face and asked, “Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?”

Seven quipped, “Kathryn, the order that you relay the information in is irrelevant.”

Janeway replied, “The good news is I’m not going to get court-martialed.”

Gretchen stated, “I didn’t think you would be, Kathryn.”

Prepare yourselves for the bad news,” She paused for dramatic effect, “I got promoted to Admiral.”

Phoebe screamed, and Gretchen came over and gave her daughter a hug.

Seven stoically replied, “What does this mean for us, Kathryn?”

Janeway hugged her. “It means we will be sticking around on Earth for a long time now that I won’t have a ship.”

Seven looked closely at Kathryn. “You are not pleased.”

Janeway shrugged her shoulders. “Well, Seven, it was that or having the choice of being commander of one of two places I wouldn’t send my worst enemy.” Janeway wryly added, “I will adapt.”

XXX

The following chapter contains scenes of a mature nature. Also, note I use 'Kathryn' instead of 'Janeway' as I believe this denotes more intimacy in the expression of love.

XXX

CHAPTER TEN

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Seven held Kathryn’s hand as they walked upon the golden sandy shore of the aqua green lagoon. She thought this was indeed an aesthetically pleasing place to take her and Kathryn’s relationship to a newer level of expression. Kathryn looked so beautiful in her loose white shirt and white knee length cotton pants. She was mesmerized for a moment by Kathryn’s hair, tousled, and catching the rays of the red setting sun causing it to look like a dark flame.

Tonight would be their first night of 'making love'. Seven was both excited and apprehensive. Why these two emotions should be in tandem baffled her.

Kathryn leaned against her smiling. “Let’s get back before it gets dark. I’m famished. I’ll order the restaurant to bring us something to eat. Would you like anything in particular?”

Seven brushed her loose hair out of her face and looking at Kathryn, stated, “You choose for me, Kathryn. I have never ingested nutrients from this culture.”

When they got back to their cottage, Kathryn placed the order while Seven took a sonic shower. Seven returned to the patio dressed in a knee length, light blue, silk robe, tied at the waist with a matching sash and her hair loose about her shoulders. Kathryn looked her slowly over, noticing how the color suited her. Kathryn informed her to keep a lookout for their food order while she took a warm shower. She showered and then dried herself off, pulled on a soft green caftan with embroidery around the neck, and joined Seven on the screened-in patio, catching the aroma of the food that arrived while she showered.

Seven drew Kathryn to her, ran her hands down and back up her body and giving her an appraising look, said, “You are…beautiful, Kathryn.”

Kathryn smiled. “Thank you, darling. So are you.” She kissed Seven and nibbled at her bottom lip. Seven pulled her tighter against herself and deepened the kiss. Kathryn drew back, breathless. “Uhm, darling. I believe if we are going to continue with this activity, I need some nourishment first.”

Seven gave a slight smirk and said, “I agree with that assessment, Kathryn.”

Kathryn looked toward the table at the bowls and platters of food. She sniffed and said, “Uhm that smells delicious.”

Kathryn pulled out a chair from the small, round, blue and white mosaic table and seated herself across from Seven. Soon, both women were enjoying skewed lamb with small pieces of braised bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and eggplant. There also was a fresh Greek salad with feta cheese, pita bread, and a side plate of Greek olives and grape leaves stuffed with spicy rice. To drink, they had a mixture of apricot and citrus juice.

This is very good, Kathryn.”

I’m glad you approve. Wait until you have dessert.” Both women enjoyed the last rays of the setting sun over the Aegean. Various shades of rose and lavender streaked the sky over the sea, which reflected the colors back as wine red and purple.

Kathryn got up, and took a small pot of coffee she had ordered over to the chaise lounge and sat down, putting the pot on a mosaic coffee table that was the same color as the small breakfast table.

Darling, why don’t you bring the plate of pastries over here and sit by me.” Seven placed the plate of pastries on the coffee table and sat beside Kathryn, her right hip and leg touching her. Kathryn poured herself a cup of the strong Greek coffee. She reached over to the plate and removed a small square flaky pastry covered with honey. Seven watched as she took a bite then closed her eyes. “Uhm, these are almost as good as caramel brownies. Here, have a bite.” Kathryn held out the piece of pasty close to Seven’s mouth.

Seven took a bite between her teeth. Her eyebrows arched up, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a pleased smile. “This is very acceptable, what is it?”

It’s called Baklava and is made of layers of flaky pastry, nuts and honey.” Kathryn put the rest of the piece in her mouth and chewed. Her fingers were sticky with the thick honey. “Let me go over to the table and get some napkins. This can get messy.”

Before she could get up, Seven reached for Kathryn’s hand and brought her confection-covered fingers to her lips, placing one finger at a time in her mouth and licking the honey off each one. Kathryn drew in her breath. The sight of those luscious lips covering her fingers and the feel of Seven’s tongue caressing each one, sent a jolt of desire through her body. Kathryn looked into Seven’s eyes and closed her own and leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss on the honey covered lips and gently running her tongue on first the top, and then the bottom, to remove every drop.

Seven pulled her close and deepened their kiss, her tongue darting out to touch Kathryn’s tongue. Seven’s hands stroked up and down her back. Kathryn moved her hands down Seven’s sides and then to her stomach, undoing the belt that held her robe closed. She opened the front of the robe and her hands encountered smooth warm flesh, and a thin metal band that followed the contour of Seven’s hip and waist. She realized that Seven was not wearing anything under her robe. She stopped abruptly in surprised delight and ran her hands up Seven’s sides until she felt the warm swell of her breasts. Her hands moved over the silken warm skin at the tops of Seven’s breasts, palms spread. She stroked over the hard puckered nipples and stopped, taking the fullness of each breast in her hands and gently squeezing. She caught Seven’s moan in her mouth. Seven pulled away and looked at her, eyes round and bright in the dusk.

Kathryn growled deep in her throat, “Oh Darling, you feel divine. I want you so very much.”

Seven stood, her breathing rapid, pulled Kathryn up, and led her to the bedroom. She lay on the cool coverlet, her robe falling open, and pulling Kathryn on top of her, wrapped her arms tightly around her. She brought Kathryn’s lips to hers and kissed them passionately, devouring them and pulling from her a whimper.

Seven wanted more. She wanted to feel all of Kathryn against her. She reached down as far as her hands could go and pulled the caftan up. Kathryn lifted slightly and Seven slid it over her arms and head and threw it onto the floor. Seven rolled over, placing Kathryn beneath her and sat up on her knees between Kathryn’s legs. She gazed transfixed, her lips open, her pupils large with desire, want, and need.

You are beautiful, Kathryn.” She placed her hands over Kathryn’s breasts, feeling their firmness and the hardness of her nipples. Kathryn reached up and pulled Seven down, one arm around her waist pulling tight, the other twined in her bright hair, holding her head and took Seven’s lips with her own to feed her burning need.

This time Kathryn turned them over. Straddling Seven’s thighs, she got up on her knees and explored the young woman’s body with her eyes and hands. “So very beautiful.” She gently touched a small star burst above Seven’s left breast, leaned down and reverently kissed it. She moved her cheek against Seven’s left breast feeling the softness and warmth. She turned her head slightly so that her lips covered Seven’s puckered, erect nipple, and took it gently between her lips, sucking lightly and flicking it with her tongue.

Seven groaned and held Kathryn's head closer. “Oh, Kathryn, I…you...”

Kathryn went to her other breast and nuzzled underneath, rubbing her face lightly back and forth. She moved up to the nipple and placing her lips around it, gently nipped. Seven arched, letting out a long, “Ahhh”. Kathryn returned to Seven’s mouth once again plundering it. She moaned deep in her throat, the sound caught by Seven and echoed back again into Kathryn’s mouth. Kathryn left her lips and placed soft kisses on the implant above her eye before moving on to Seven’s right jaw, where she gently kissed the starburst. She placed soft kisses down Seven’s shoulder and over her collarbone, going to the implant on Seven’s right bicep and leaving a kiss there. She moved further down Seven’s torso, her breath wafting warmly against Seven’s skin. She kissed along the thin metal implant that followed the contours of her hips and dipped toward her apex. To Kathryn, it looked like a piece of exotic ornamentation and did not distract from the woman’s beauty. She moved down to Seven’s right thigh to run her tongue over the teardrop shaped area of mesh.

Kathryn then moved to Seven’s apex and breathed deeply the womanly scent of arousal. She moaned deep in her throat and placed light kisses on the inside of each thigh. Seven clinched at the coverlet and Kathryn moved her left hand to grasp Seven’s right. Kathryn moved her right hand down to Seven’s center, stroking gently through her golden pubic hair. Seven whimpered loudly, pulled her legs up and further apart. Kathryn parted the wet folds of her labia and gently placed her tongue in the wet cleft gathering up Seven’s essence. She placed her mouth over Seven’s clitoris and gently suckled, sliding her tongue slowly back and forth.

Seven sucked in a sharp breath, pulling her hand free from Kathryn’s grasp, running it through the auburn hair, and cupped the back of Kathryn’s head to bring her more firmly against the source of her heat. Kathryn reached both hands under Seven’s buttocks and brought her more firmly against her face and mouth. She buried her tongue in the well of Seven’s wetness and feasted.

Seven’s breath came in short gasps. Her left hand clutched frantically at the coverlet as she felt the rise of sharp pleasure, her body straining, searching for that pinnacle from which she could fall and free herself from this delicious ache. Her groan burst out loudly, raw and primal, from deep inside her chest. Pleasure pierced her with such intensity that she saw myriad lights beneath her eyelids, and her body heaved in its release. Seven thought she would die from this. Kathryn continued to love her, and Seven felt herself caught once more in an explosion of light and feeling.

She felt depleted and could not move. Her breath was harsh in her chest. There were no words she could find to describe how she felt. The power of this manifestation of love, of Kathryn’s love, filled her with awe. She felt Kathryn move up her body and wrap her arms around her, kissing the tears from her right eye.

Kathryn murmuring, “Oh my Angel, you were amazing, so beautiful when you came…so very beautiful.”

Seven put her arms around Kathryn and held her close as Kathryn stroked her face and placed small sweet kisses on her eyes, cheeks, and lips. Kathryn lay on her side, sifting Seven’s hair through her fingers and placing kisses on her brow and the top of her head. Seven turned to lay on her side, snuggled up against Kathryn, her head on Kathryn’s shoulder and her leg thrown over Kathryn’s hips. She gently stroked her lover’s breasts and ran her finger tips around the puckered nipples, feeling the pebbled areolae.

Seven rose up and straddled Kathryn’s hips and leaned down on her elbows, staring into Kathryn’s eyes. “I…cannot find the words to … express the way you made…make me feel. It is more than anything I ever experienced. Even more than the elation I experienced when I observed the Omega Molecule. Thank you, my beloved Kathryn.”

Before Kathryn could reply, Seven placed a searing kiss on her lips, parting them with her tongue, and seeking the heat within. Kathryn twined her arms around Seven’s shoulders and brought her down to cover her, breasts pressing on breasts, abdomen on abdomen. She needed to feel the solidness and heat of her lover to confirm that she was real and this was not somehow a dream, a fantasy. Seven again placed her weight on her elbows and withdrew from Kathryn’s lips. Looking into eyes, now blue with desire, she undulated slowly, rubbing her full breasts over Kathryn’s, their pubic hair tangling and pulling.

Kathryn caught her breath and let it out as a long moan, “Make love to me, darling. I need you to…take me.”

Seven’s warm breath tickled Kathryn’s lips. “Yes.” She kissed Kathryn’s swollen and tender lips for a moment, and releasing them, said, “You will guide me in learning how to pleasure you.”

Kathryn drew her back down for a long and searing kiss. They both parted to breath once again.

Darling…put your hand between my legs and touch me.”

Seven slipped to her side, slowly sliding her right hand across Kathryn’s abdomen and through her pubic hair, coming to rest on slick warm wetness. She moved her fingers through the wetness, sliding them back and forth between the labia and stroking the swollen knot above the wet opening. Kathryn moaned and pulled down Seven’s head to her breasts. Seven nuzzled the soft breast, taking a swollen nipple in her mouth, sucking and lightly grazing it with her teeth. Kathryn shivered with a need for release, her center straining against Seven's hand.

UHHH, Oh, yes. Darling, please, I need to feel you inside me.”

Seven’s middle finger easily slid through the silky wetness, her palm rubbing Kathryn’s clitoris.

Ohh, another finger, darling.” Seven slid her ring finger in. Continuing to stroke, she moved her head to the other breast and began her loving of it.

Harder, darling, rub harder.” Seven increased the tempo and pressure. Kathryn began to raise her hips and undulate. She grasped Seven’s hair, her fingers digging into her scalp. Kathryn’s breath was coming in short harsh gasps, all of her focus channeled to the intense core of carnal fire between her legs. Seven’s mouth tugging her nipple was the catalyst that shattered her into a million pieces of sensation. Seven felt the smooth warm walls clamp her fingers in a protracted hold, followed by a warm gush of liquid. She felt Kathryn loosen the tenseness of her body and heard a long guttural sigh. Kathryn relaxed her hold on Seven’s head. Seven removed her lips from Kathryn’s breasts, and her soaked warm fingers from the source of Kathryn's heat. She brought them to her nose to inhale. Kathryn’s essence triggered an ancient instinct of mating and bonding.

She moved down Kathryn’s body and spread her legs further, taking Kathryn in her mouth, her tongue penetrating the source and eagerly tasting and drinking her nectar. Seven heard a sob as Kathryn drew up her legs, opening herself wide for Seven to take all that she needed and all that Kathryn could give. Seven withdrew her tongue and licked up and down Kathryn’s opening, then suckled her clitoris, and once again penetrated Kathryn with two fingers. Kathryn moved her hips against Seven’s mouth and fingers and Seven met the thrust in a rhythmic counter balance. Kathryn harshly sucked in her breath and shuddered, releasing herself to Seven’s ministrations. She reached down, pulled Seven up into her arms, and pressed her mouth to Seven’s, tasting her own essence. Seven wrapped her arms around Kathryn and drew her head down to her breasts, pressing soft kisses into her hair and whispering her love. Kathryn felt close to tears. She rested her head on Seven’s breasts for a few minutes as she caught her breath.

She then lifted herself off her lover, and facing Seven, stroked her cheek softly, swallowed hard, and said, “Oh, my angel, my love. I can’t find the words to tell you how wonderful you are, let me show you.”

Seven gave a breathtaking smile, her eyes shining, and said, “My beloved, that would be more than acceptable”.

XXX

CHAPTER ELEVEN

XXX

Seven pulled the silky blue half-slip up her legs and over her lacy, bikini cut panties. She took the long, floor length, sapphire-blue silk dress off the hanger, slid it over her head, and settled it around her, smoothing it down and checking the fit in the mirror. She arranged the shoulder straps and adjusted the fit of her breasts into the built-in support. The neck plunged halfway down her cleavage. She turned to look at her back reflecting in the mirror, noticing the backless and daring plunge going to her waist, showing two small implants below each shoulder blade, used to take in energy when she regenerated. There was the implant on her left bicep, and of course, her left hand and wrist were Borg. There was a slit in the left side of her dress starting just below her hip and going all the way down, and when moving, it exposed a small mesh implant above her knee. She felt self conscious, and debated if she should wear it. She then decided if her implants did not bother Kathryn, then why should she worry.

This was the official Voyager Welcome Home banquet, and celebration of Kathryn’s promotion to Admiral. Phoebe had found the dress in some boutique on a recent trip to an art show on Alpha Centuri. She said it had Seven’s name written all over it, but she could not find her name anywhere, even using the infrared filters in her implant. She decided this must be another euphemism. Kathryn had told her to try it on, and if she did not like it, she could always wear the new sky-blue one. As she was checking the fit, Kathryn came into the guest room from taking a shower. She was wearing her mint green, terry cloth robe.

Janeway abruptly stopped and gave a low whistle, smiling widely she declared, “Oh my, you look stunning, darling. I‘m really going to have my work cut out keeping all the admirers at bay.”

Seven smiled back, her mind made up to wear the dress.

Janeway retrieved her new Starfleet dress whites, which were lying on the bed. They consisted of a short white jacket with gold trim and a red band around the wrist, the white shirt to wear underneath, and the black trousers with a red stripe bordered by gold trim, which ran down each leg. She still would wear her Captain’s pips until she received her Admiral’s bar at the ceremony tonight.

Seven brushed out her hair until it was shining and lay sensually around her shoulders. She watched Janeway's reflection in the mirror, admiring how her tan face and scattering of freckles looked with the white shirt, and how fit and beautiful she looked. Seven, also, had tanned in the Mediterranean sunshine. They had been back just six days from their trip to Patmos. Seven had experienced many wonderful first times, ones that she would repeat frequently with Kathryn, especially now that Janeway had moved from her room to the one Seven occupied.

When they had returned from their trip, Janeway had taken her luggage up to her room, with Seven right behind her carrying her own. Janeway, seeing Seven enter her bedroom and putting her bags by the closet, immediately understood what was happening. She had protested that they could not share a room as she would feel strange making love in her mother’s house, and have her mother know what they were doing.

Seven informed her that Gretchen already knew that they went to Greece to ‘make love’ so why would it matter. Janeway's face turned red, and she retorted that her mother knew no such thing. Seven stated she had informed Gretchen that they planned the trip to ‘make love’. Gretchen instructed her to have a good time, but make sure they left the bed long enough to eat regularly. Seven added, “To keep up our strength.” Janeway did not have any excuse then not to move into the guest room with Seven, as that was where Seven‘s alcove was. Besides, she did not want to disturb her mother’s sleep with any noise they might make if they had opted for Janeway's room. Seven took ‘noise’ to mean their making love, as they both were vocal at certain points in the process.

There was a knock on the door and Phoebe’s voice inquiring if everyone was decent. When informed that they were, she opened the door, carrying a small box. Seeing Seven, she let out a wolf whistle and said, “Oh my Gods, Katie, you can’t let her go out looking like that; there will be a brawl over her.”

Janeway smirked. “Believe me, Seven can take care of herself, but if anyone below admiral steps out of line, I’ll space them. However, Pheebs, I’ll depend on you to flay any top brass who get fresh.”

Not a bad idea. I’ll peel off any of the cute ones for myself.”

If Alynna Nechayev is your idea of cute, then start peeling,” Janeway said facetiously.

Phoebe gave a shiver and grimaced. “Gods, that woman scares me. Bet she would throw you down, snap your bones, and suck out the marrow.”

Janeway laughed at this.

Seven raised one eyebrow and wondered why Nechayev would do that. She did notice that Phoebe looked aesthetically pleasing with her thick chestnut hair hanging smoothly past her shoulders, wearing a light green Bajoran dress smock and darker green loose trousers. “Phoebe, you are aesthetically pleasing in that…ensemble.”

Why thank you, Seven, I know if you are telling me that, then it is true. Now, sit down so I can put a little red on those gorgeous lips.”

Janeway exclaimed, “As long as you don’t tart her up like a Dabo girl.”

I’m an artist. I don’t do cheap, space habitat trash.” Phoebe stood back to admire her work. “Da Dah! Now Sis, how does that look?”

Janeway put her brush down and looked at those luscious lips. “I just hope that’s the kissable kind. I don’t want it all over my face when I go up on stage to make my speech.”

XXX

CHAPTER TWELVE

XXX

Starfleet cadets, in their dress whites, were at the huge entrance door to greet arrivals and park their various vehicles. Phoebe drove this time. Sitting next to her was Gretchen, dressed in a light lilac pantsuit with crystal glass beads sewn around the bodice. A young cadet opened the door and reached out his gloved hand to assist her from the car. A cadet also opened the back door to assist Seven. He extended his hand and took her right to assist her from her seat. Seven stood waiting for Janeway to exit the car. Janeway had brushed aside the hand of a young cadet, giving her a force ten glare. Janeway also had to glare at two of the valets who stood open mouthed with their eyes appraising her fiancée. One of the two noticed her glare, quickly springing to attention and saluting. “Welcome Sir.” This caused the second to come out of her stupor and salute. “Sir.” Janeway ignored them, placed her left arm along Seven’s, and took her hand.

The door was opened by two more cadets, allowing the women to enter. There were many of her crew and their families, and friends, in the lobby. Seeing Janeway, they started to clap. Gretchen saw an old friend and went to talk to him; Phoebe went to look for some refreshment. Tom and B’Elanna noticed them and walked over. Tom eyed Seven and stated, “Seven, you look fantastic. That color looks great on you.”

Seven inclined her head slightly. “Thank you, Lieutenant Paris.”

Tom stepped back. “Please, Seven, call me Tom. We’re not on Voyager anymore.”

Very well, Tom.”

B’Elanna smiled, looking at Janeway’s hand linked with Seven’s, she cocked an eye and said, “So, Captain, is there something you want to tell us?”

Janeway gave her a deadpan look. “What do you mean?”

B’Elanna snorted. “Ok, be that way.” She turned her attention to Seven and said, “Hey, Seven, is there something you want to tell us?”

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye. “Should there be?”

B’Elanna turned back to Janeway and said, “I’m part Klingon don’t forget. We have ways of making you talk.”

Janeway smirked. “I’ll remember you said that when you need me to babysit Miral. How is my youngest crewmember?”

Tom, a smile on his face, said, “She’s a doll. That is when she’s asleep and not screaming like a wildcat for something to eat.”

She must get that from her mother. I’ll catch up with you two later. There are more families of my crew I would like to meet.” Janeway, still holding Seven’s hand, went to mingle.

Tom stated, “Too bad we were just betting rations while on Voyager, or I would’ve cleaned up.”

B’Elanna gave Tom a hard look and blurted out, “Tell me you didn’t have a betting pool on the Captain and Seven getting together.”

Tom pulled his dress white coat collar from his neck and protested, “Err, I…it was a long time ago, before we got married. I swear, B’Elanna. I haven’t bet or had a pool since.”

B’Elanna crossed her arms and glared at him through slit eyes, lips pressed together and said, “Uhmmhuh. I bet.”

XXX

 

 

Janeway was the guest of honor and sat at the head table with Seven, Gretchen. and Phoebe to her right. Many toasts were made, and Janeway noticed that Seven took very small sips of champagne. Finally, after finishing dinner and dessert, and the cadets clearing the tables, everyone turned his or her chair to face the stage. Admiral Paris and Admiral Hayes were on stage to give the official Starfleet speeches on what a great feat Voyager’s crew had performed and how this would go down in history. After the speeches, different crewmembers received recognitions and promotions. Harry received a promotion to a full lieutenant, skipping over the rank of lieutenant junior grade. Tom also received a promotion to full lieutenant. Tuvok received the rank of a full commander. And B’Elanna received the rank of lieutenant commander. Janeway had talked to Chakotay earlier, and he told her he had decided to opt out of Starfleet and go back to help his people recover from the Dominion attack. He had spoken briefly to Seven, both very polite and cordial to each other. Janeway noticed that he kept glancing at their clasped hands but did not say anything. He, and all the rest, would learn soon enough if there was any significance to this gesture.

After all the promotions and congratulations, Admiral Paris started praising the merits of one Captain Kathryn Janeway. Finally, coming to the end of this speech, he announced, “Starfleet has gone through a rough time as everyone knows. We are rebuilding from the devastation of the Dominion Wars. We need the best to help us rebuild Starfleet to a standard higher even than before the war. To do this, we need good, strong leaders at the fore. It is, without doubt, a great honor to announce that we have promoted Captain Kathryn Janeway to Admiral.”

Applause and cheers drowned out the rest of the speech. “SPEECH, SPEECH, SPEECH!” rang out from the audience and Janeway took the stage and held up her right hand for silence. “I accept this position with humbleness and thanks. If it weren’t for my crew, all of you, I would not be home today to take this position. I want you to know that each and every one of you assisted in my becoming the person I am today. I learned from you that two divergent groups could meld into one crew and work together. It is what you taught me that I will take with me into my position as Admiral. Thank you.”

The cheers were deafening. Janeway again held up her hand for silence. “I have another announcement to make. I stand up here one of the happiest, if not the happiest, person today. This happiness was given to me by one special person who, to me, is my heart, and who has agreed to become my wife. Seven, come up here, please.”

The room again exploded with cheers and claps. Seven left her seat and in a stately manner, walked to the stage and up the short flight of stairs, taking Janeway's hand at the last step onto the stage. There were a few wolf whistles in the audience. Janeway put her left hand on her hip and gave the audience her best force ten stare. “I hope those whistles were meant for me.”

This brought on laughter and hoots. Seven looked at Janeway and gave one of her dazzling smiles. The chant went up from the audience, demanding that their former Captain kiss her fiancée. “Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her!” Janeway, who still had Seven’s left hand in hers, let it go to pull her into an embrace and said in a whisper, “Let's not disappoint them, darling.”

Seven raised her left eyebrow and smugly smiled. “Indeed. I will comply.”

The two women stepped into each other’s arms and proceeded to kiss chastely for at least 10 seconds, amidst the cheers of Voyager’s former crew and their families.

XXX

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

XXX



After two months in her new role as Admiral, Janeway had discovered there was a lot more to the job than sitting behind a desk and attending meetings. You had much more paper work to do, tons of it in fact. She understood now why Admirals had aides and staff assistants. At present, she had two aides, Ensign Tanal Lirila, a young Bajoran woman just out of the academy, and Ensign Daniel (Danny) McElrath, his red hair and Irish brogue a dead giveaway of his country of origin.

Under Janeway’s command were two new departments; one responsible for analyses of anything having to do with the Borg and another for monitoring possible threats from the Delta Quadrant. She also had the task of helping to reconstruct Starfleet's Advanced Officer Training for those recently appointed commanders, and captains, and any in line for upcoming commissions.

Starfleet hired Seven as a civilian expert on the Borg.

Seven’s debriefing and questioning by Starfleet Intelligence had turned out to be amicable, no doubt due to the young woman’s engagement to now, Admiral Kathryn Janeway. It did not hurt that her lawyer, M'Tath, accompanied her to each interview. The big seven foot Caitian male, with his lion-like head, four inch incisors, yellow cat-like eyes, and hands sporting retractable three inch claws, would make you think twice about putting the screws to his client. Not to mention, he had never lost a case, and knew the law inside out.

Neelix was Janeway’s eyes and ears in the Delta Quadrant, and she contacted him every 32 days through the Midas Array for a report. Contact was initiated from the Federation end to receivers located at the small Talaxian colony where he had remained. Unfortunately, the receivers did not have the vast amount of energy needed to open up a wormhole, so the only time Neelix could transmit and receive was when the Array opened the micro wormhole for five minutes. The power use, and the strain on the Array, allowed for only infrequent and short contact, as the Array’s primary function was in keeping in regular contact with the far-flung outposts in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

Neelix impressed Janeway with his diligence in gathering information from various sources and passing it on. She was glad that she had had the foresight to appoint him the Delta Quadrant’s Ambassador to the Federation. Since the Midas Array was the only way to establish communications between the two quadrants, his little colony was quickly becoming an important hub for commerce, and Neelix, himself, a very important personage.

He sent his reports by communications packets and Janeway found them very interesting. Neelix could easily tell whose information was trustworthy and whose was not. His reports relayed the various stories he had heard from traders that stopped at the Talaxian colony. He would place notations on some of the stories to the affect that those who told them were charlatans, or were honest and reliable. She had relayed one unreliable story to Seven, how a Murxxian trader swore he saw the Borg Queen on a space station in sector 17 running a betting ring on the Tsunkatse fights. In fact, according to the trader, she used the knowledge gained from contestants assimilated over the centuries to predict the winners based on the history of the fighters, their opponents, and the won/lost history of each match. The Queen was now very wealthy. Seven, though no longer in the collective, was outraged that anyone would consign the Queen to such an ‘irrelevant, illogical, and menial endeavor.’ She knew the alleged sighting was false. However, this didn't stop her outrage that anyone would invent such a fabrication and distribute it. She became even more annoyed when Janeway threw herself on their bed, put a pillow over her face, and attempted to smother her erupting laughter at Seven’s reaction. Seven was not amused. She stated she would spend the night in her alcove. Since regenerating was not due for another week, Janeway had no choice but to beg for forgiveness or sleep alone. Begging won, hands down.

XXX

Janeway sat at her desk waiting for the Array to establish communications with the Delta Quadrant. She had her small desk communicator on active, ready to receive Neelix’s packet. Later, she would transfer the packet to other departments for analysis. Transmission was to begin in ‘10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.’

Neelix’s face appeared on the viewscreen, looking somewhat somber.

Ambassador, it is good to see you again.” Janeway noticed the expression on Neelix’s face.

It is good to see you, Admiral. Give my best to Seven and the others. Uh, I have some…interesting news of a personal nature, Admiral.”

Neelix, is everything all right with Dexa and Brax?”

Oh, things are fine with us and the colony, yes indeed. It concerns you, Admiral. I don’t know how to tell you, and don’t even know for 100 percent, if it is not some kind of hoax.”

Janeway sat upright in her seat. “Go on, Neelix.”

Well, Admiral, you and Tom Paris have a...ah...well, it appears that you and Tom have a...daughter.”

Janeway reared back in her chair, a baffled expression on her face. “Am I hearing you right? What is this about a daughter? Is this some kind of Talaxian April Fools joke?”

Neelix sighed. “Admiral, you know me. I would never in a million light years joke about something like this. I have sent all the records and information we have on her.”

Janeway was both angry at whoever perpetrated this hoax and shocked. “Go on, Neelix.”

Well, seems like that Kurros fellow and his ah...associates...”

Kurros! I would believe the moon is made of green cheese before I would believe anything he said. He is a con artist. What is he after, Neelix?”

Well, Admiral, he just wants to talk to you on the Array, ah, about returning her to you. I…I’m sure he wants something, but what, I have no clue.”

You know, Neelix, Tom and I never…we never did anything that could even remotely lead to producing a child, let alone my carrying one without the whole ship knowing it. This is just some hoax. If you see this Ferengi scam artist, send him packing with a phaser aimed at his back.”

Beepbeep, ’60 seconds until the end of transmission.’

I sent you the information, Admiral, along with the girl’s genetic scan done by our doctor, for your review. Admiral, I will be in contact with you at the same time next transmission for any orders you may have. I must say, she does, ah, look a lot like you, ah... more like you than Tom. Very observant, and appears to be intelligent. Images are included in the information.”

10 seconds’

I’ll get back to you, Neelix. In the meantime, keep a close eye on our ‘friend’.”

I will do that, Admi...”

End of transmission’.

Janeway pushed her communications button. “Lirila.”

Yes Admiral.”

I am not to be disturbed for the next hour for any reason, understood?”

Understood, Admiral.”

XXX

PART THREE

XXX

CHAPTER ONE

XXX

Janeway had the feeling of having been blown out an airlock. She went to Admiral Paris’ office right after viewing the information and doing some preliminary research in Starfleet’s medical base. She just marched into his suite, had his aide inform him that this was an emergency, and demanded his immediate attention. Paris viewed the information and was aghast. If the evidence was borne out, this was his granddaughter.

They would meet with Dr. S’Tren and have her analyze the information received. He would break the news to Tom, a duty he was not looking forward to doing. He assured Janeway he would do all in his power to bring the child to the Alpha Quadrant. After meeting with Dr. S’Tren, and presenting her with the evidence to analyze, Paris advised Janeway to take the rest of the day off. They could do nothing more, and he was leaving to inform his son of what had transpired. Janeway decided she would go home and inform her family. She needed them to help her through this. She also knew this would be like a photon torpedo blast to her family. Moreover, this would have an impact on her and Seven’s relationship. In what ways, she did not know. This last fact had her feeling a little uncertain and worried.

XXX

 

Seven was updating Starfleet’s data on the Borg, when she heard Kathryn‘s Starfleet issue aero car arrive. It was obvious when Kathryn walked through the door that she was deeply distressed. She walked right into Seven’s arms and hugged her close, laying her head on Seven's shoulder.

Her voice was shaky. “I…Please, darling, just hold me.”

Seven led her to the couch and sat with her, pulling her close again. “Kathryn, you are distressed.”

Kathryn took several ragged breaths. “I don’t know where to begin, or what to say. It’s just so…so…unbelievable.”

Seven pushed her back slightly, her hands holding Kathryn's shoulders. She searched the obviously distraught woman’s face and said with concern, “Kathryn?”

Janeway looked into Seven’s eyes, her voice strained and shaky. “I may have a daughter.”

Seven’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

At least, there is a good possibility I do.”

Explain.”

I don’t know where to start. Where‘s Mom and Phoebe? They need to hear this. I don’t think I can repeat it but once.”

Kathryn waited until her mother and sister had joined them in the living room before she informed them what had occurred. Kathryn had asked that they not interrupt her while she relayed the information.

That is all I can tell you. Tomorrow, Admiral Paris, Tom, and I will have a conference. By then Dr. S’Tren should have some answers on the genetic information Neelix obtained from his doctor.”

Seven firmly stated, “I will go with you.”

Thank you darling. I would like that.”

Gretchen stated, “Kathryn, I will go, too.”

Phoebe also volunteered. “Count me in.”

Thanks, Mom, Phoebe.”

Gretchen asked, “You say that Neelix actually met the girl face to face?”

Yes. He states in his report that she is quiet, but inquisitive, and seems to be very intelligent. He thinks she has more of a resemblance to me than Tom. I must agree. From the images sent to me, I can say, without a doubt, she is a Janeway. Phoebe, she favors you except for the dark red hair. Owen Paris stated his mother had the same color hair. She is an attractive young woman.”

Nova, Sis. What’s her name?”

Kathryn grimaced slightly, “I don’t know if she has one. She apparently goes by the name, ‘Sprout'. I cannot imagine anyone choosing that name, except as a nickname. No other name was mentioned in the information I received.”

There was silence for a moment, and Janeway continued, “I just can’t wrap my mind around this yet. I had the computer immediately do an analysis of her genetic scan and correlate it with all known genetic scans in the Federation's Genetic Registry to see if it would match any Human DNA in our banks as possible parents. Two names came up as a 100 certainty for parents. She is my and Tom Paris’ child. My gut feeling is this is not a hoax. I believe that Kurros' story of finding our…evolved offspring is possible. There is no other explanation. It appears they were somehow able to break into Voyager's computer files and download the daily logs. They would have had to in order to find the location of the planet where our…ah, offspring resided. How much more Kurros managed to download I’m not sure. I strongly suspect that Kurros obtained my medical records and that of the crew. How they managed to do this, I have no idea. The method used in de-evolving her DNA appears to be scientifically possible. We should know more tomorrow. My only fear is, if she truly is my daughter, how do we get her here.”

Seven drew Kathryn into a hug and said, “Kathryn, we will find a way. I am Borg. Failure is not an option.”

Oh, darling, I have no doubt that you can bring her here.”

Kathryn excused herself to go and rest. She had a horrible headache and needed to take something for it. Seven went to the bedroom with her and pulled the blinds to darken the room. Kathryn had removed her uniform and slipped between the covers, Seven bent over and kissed her on the forehead.

Do you require anything?”

No, darling. I just need to be alone for a little while.”

Very well. I will return later to assess your condition.”

Later, Seven returned to inquire if Kathryn would like her to bring supper. Kathryn refused, stating she was not hungry.

When Seven retired for the night, Kathryn was not in the room. She went down the hall to the bathroom, but it was empty. She saw a light coming from beneath the door from what was once the office that belonged to Kathryn’s father. Seven knocked and rather than wait for an answer, entered the room. Kathryn was on the computer doing research.

Kathryn?”

She did not raise her eyes from the computer screen. “I couldn’t rest. I might as well spend time doing something constructive. You go on to bed, and I will join you later.”

Seven hesitated, and then said, “Very well.”

Kathryn did not retire until the wee hours of the morning. Sleep eluded her as her thoughts raced over and over on the possible scenarios that could happen. She felt Seven turn and reach her right arm around her waist and pull her close.

We will succeed in bringing your daughter home, Kathryn.”

Oh, darling, you know Kurros will demand a ransom payment. I’m worried that it may be something I am unable to provide. And no, darling, he is not getting you. When we have her, what then? I have no idea how to be a mother, especially to a teenager. I’m not sure I want the responsibility of motherhood. I don’t know her. What if I don’t like her? What if she hates me? How will she adjust? After all, she has only been self aware for three years at most. She will have problems, and I don’t know how to deal with them. Then there is us. It hardly seems fair to you. She will impact our relationship in ways we can’t even foresee.”

Seven nuzzled her left ear. “I will adapt. I was in a similar situation when you severed me from the Borg. You guided my return to Humanity. She will not only have you, but she will have Gretchen, Phoebe, and me. She will have Tom and his family. Do not fear, Kathryn. She will adapt. Now, you must sleep so that you achieve sufficient rest for tomorrow’s meeting.”

Kathryn sighed and closed her eyes. “I love you, so very much. Having you here with me makes it all better.”

I love you, Kathryn. I would not want to be anywhere else but here with you.”

Kathryn smiled and closed her eyes. Feeling a lot more positive about the future, she did manage to sleep fitfully for the next few hours. However, the worries would not go away and haunted what few dreams she had. One positive she knew. Seven would not give up until they found a way to get her daughter home. The rest could wait until she was actually here.

XXX

CHAPTER TWO

XXX

 

You’re telling me that the girl is my daughter?”

Dr. S’Tren, her dark Vulcan features remaining passive, nodded. “Admiral Janeway, with the genetic evidence presented, I have concluded she is your and Lieutenant Paris’ child. I would have preferred to take the genetic samples from the subject myself. Since this is impossible, I can only analyze the data sent by Dr. Podda. We also ran simulations on the method used to de-evolve her DNA to produce her current state. The results are inconclusive due to the unavailability of the enzyme employed to act as a catalyst, but it is the opinion of my colleagues that this method is feasible.”

Janeway sat ashen faced, her mouth in a tight line. “How will I…we...ever be able to get her here, with us, where she belongs?”

Seven took her hand, held it in both of hers, and leaned close, whispering, “Kathryn, I will find a way to bring her to you.”

Gretchen and Phoebe were on the other side of Janeway, both with somber faces.

Across the conference table, Tom groaned and hid his face in his hands. “God, if these…monsters have harmed her, I’ll…”

B’Elanna placed her hand on his back to comfort him, his mother, Rachel, telling him it would be all right.

Admiral Paris sat stony faced. “I will assign a team and resources to assist us in getting her here. I will contact Lieutenant Barclay to head the team. He is currently working on a project to use Pathfinder and the Midas Array to create a larger wormhole.” He turned to the middle-aged Vulcan doctor. “Thank you, Dr. S'Tren. We may need you again. I will contact you if we do.”

Dr. S’Tren nodded and said, “I will do what I can to assist you.”

Seven said, “Admiral Paris, I have extensive knowledge, as does B’Elanna, in working with transwarp technology and singularities. I believe we can assist Lieutenant Barclay.”

B’Elanna spoke up, “Seven is right. I will do anything I can to help.”

Admiral Paris considered their request for a moment. “I see no reason why both of you cannot assist Lieutenant Barclay. We will need to bring the other Admirals into this. I’m sorry, Tom, Kathryn. I know we wanted to keep this quiet. Under the circumstances, that may not be possible.”

Janeway sighed and said resignedly, “No, I suppose not. I would like to extend my 5 minute time allotted to contact Neelix to a longer session. I want to converse with Kurros as soon as possible. He may have a way to get from the Delta to the Alpha Quadrant in a manner of days, even hours.”

Tom interjected, “Admiral Janeway, I would like to be there when you do.”

Janeway studied him across the room. ‘He is the child’s father.’ “Of course, Tom. However, when we are with family as we are now, call me Kathryn.”

Tom wryly replied, “Yeah, it would seem strange calling the mother of my oldest daughter, Admiral, when not on duty.”

There was subdued laughter around the table.

Admiral Paris cleared his throat. “Same here. Call me Owen. I will call an emergency meeting to commence as soon as possible. I know this is a difficult time…for all of us. The girl is my granddaughter. Let us not forget, through her, we are now family. I believe that if we work together as a family, she will be with us very soon.”

XXX

Shortly after their conference adjourned, the rest of Starfleet Admiralty summoned Janeway to an emergency meeting. All were sympathetic. However, they were only able to allot a few resources. Starfleet was still in a state of being rebuilt and could not spare as much as Paris and Janeway would have liked. Lieutenant Barclay was to be temporarily assigned to the project.

Admiral Sylvanus and Admiral Nechayev were reluctant to allow Seven of Nine on the project. The excuse they used was her civilian status. However, Janeway knew it was because she was once Borg. Janeway vowed to resign as Admiral and assured them that Seven would no longer provide the vast store of information on the Borg if she were not included in the project. Admiral Paris hinted at past favors due: the old ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.' All those present agreed that Seven of Nine and B’Elanna Torres-Paris would join Barclay’s team.

Janeway received an allotment of 12 minutes on the Array. The Midas Array/Pathfinder could only be utilized every 32 days due to the power source. This was a cyclic pulsar. Every 32 days the pulsar produced the gravimetric energy needed. They would have to wait another 30 days to make contact with Neelix. Seven and B’Elanna would begin the next day working with Barclay and his team.

Admiral Paris suggested that Janeway take the next few days off to get some much needed rest. She had not had much sleep for the past two days since she had examined the information received from Neelix. However, she stated that she intended to come to work and do as much as she could to keep herself busy for the next thirty days. In addition, to see if she were able to devise a plan they could use, as well as research the possible use of any current wormhole experiments in the Alpha Quadrant.

Admiral Paris informed her that a Trill scientist, Dr. Lenara Kahn, had been working on producing an artificial wormhole with some limited success. Seven stated she would be interested in reviewing Kahn's work.

Janeway wanted to meet privately with Tom to discuss some issues concerning custody, and possible problems involved with their daughter’s transition to what would be a traumatic life change for her. They would need to have support mechanisms in place. This would have a great impact on, not only the child, but, also, the two families involved. Janeway knew she was fortunate to have a supportive family and mate. She knew this was not going to be an easy time for all concerned. Her one fear was failing to get her daughter from Kurros. This she was not prepared to accept.

XXX

Seven was concerned for Kathryn’s health, both physically and emotionally. Kathryn had failed to sleep last night and had not consumed enough nutriment during the day. On the way home from the conference, she was distant and silent. Seven had hopes that tonight Kathryn would get the sleep she needed and wake up with an appetite. She would be diligent and make sure Kathryn got the care she needed.

Janeway was bathed and in bed trying to get comfortable. She was irritated as Seven was not in the bedroom waiting for her. She felt the need for Seven to hold her and tell her everything would be all right. Myriad questions plagued her mind. 'I’m afraid it will take years to find a way to reach her. What if we do reach her and it turns out to be a hoax? What if we do bring her here: I have no experience or desire to be a mother. What if she hates me?' She could not make her mind shut off.

Seven came in and shut the door behind her. She sat on the bed by Janeway, holding a glass of milk and a plate with a grilled cheese sandwich and a brownie. “Kathryn, I require you to sit up and consume the nutrients I have brought you.”

I’m not hungry.”

Irrelevant. You have not met your nutritional needs for the day.”

Janeway snapped, “What part of ‘NO’ don’t you understand?”

Seven lifted her left eyebrow in amusement. “I comprehend the meaning of ‘NO’, Kathryn. What part of ‘resistance is futile' do you not comprehend?”

Janeway pulled the covers over her head.

Seven decided on a new tactic. “I have failed.”

Janeway sat up. “What do you mean, Seven?”

I have failed in being an adequate mate for you.”

That’s ridiculous. In what way?”

Is it not the role of mates to care for the wellbeing of each other? Your refusal to comply with my wish to care for you indicates that you do not think me worthy to be your mate.”

Give me that plate. This is blatant manipulation. You know that?”

It is effective. Gretchen has instructed that you consume the warm milk. It will help you…relax.”

Janeway took another bite of her sandwich and a big gulp of milk. She gave Seven, who was watching her intently, an annoyed look. “Must you hover over me like a hen with only one chick?”

Seven looked at her puzzled. After a few seconds, she grasped the meaning and decided it would be a good idea to leave. “I will bathe.”

Janeway finished the sandwich, brownie and milk, and put the empty plate and glass on the bedside table. She turned off her lamp and lay down, pulling the covers close around her.

Seven returned from her bath and crawled in bed, moving over to Janeway. “Kathryn, roll over, I will massage your back.”

Without a word, she rolled onto her stomach. Seven straddled her hips and begin to rub her shoulders and back.

Janeway groaned in pleasure. “Oh, love, that feels divine.”

It is meant to relax you.”

Uhm, it is.”

Seven continued with the massage. Minutes later she noticed Kathryn’s breathing had changed and realized she had fallen asleep. She settled herself against Kathryn, reaching down for both the sheet and light quilt and pulled them up around them. Putting her arm around Kathryn’s waist and pulling her close against her warmth, she whispered next to her ear, “I love you.” The three words she had vowed to herself that she would tell her beloved Kathryn every night.

XXX

Note: I have given Kathryn and Tom’s child the last name ‘Paris-Janeway’ instead of ‘Paris’ or ‘Janeway-Paris’. This is due in part, to the fact that the parents are not married. Technically, the child would take the last name of Janeway. However, Kathryn, as a courtesy to Tom, has included his last name.

XXX

CHAPTER THREE

XXX


Janeway remarked on the overcast skies as she and Seven rode in her staff aero car to the Transporter Station. “Looks like rain. I just hope it doesn’t sleet. Snow, rain, I can take, sleet is another story.”

Seven had decided to ride with her to Starfleet Headquarters today. She was to meet B’Elanna at Kathryn’s office, and the two were to go over to meet Reginald Barclay at nine.

Thanksgiving is next Thursday. Mom has invited your aunt, and she will be here. Is there anyone you would like to invite?”

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday is it not?”

It started out that way. Now, it is celebrated on many worlds that were settled by colonists whose ancestors came from America.”

I will invite Hiro.”

I think that’s a great idea. I’ve been looking forward to meeting her."

She has, also, expressed an interest in meeting you.”

Janeway glanced over at Seven. She was wearing a blue wool turtleneck with Scandinavian designs and a pair of cream wool pants. Her hair was done up in a French braid. Phoebe had taught her how to do this.

You look nice today.”

Seven glanced over at her and gave her a wide smile. “Thank you.”

Janeway reached over and rubbed Seven’s leg. “I want to apologize for being such a grouch last night.”

Seven turned and stared at her. “There is no need to apologize. I understand.”

Janeway gave a lopsided smile. “You are so good to me, and I shouldn’t have snapped at you. Do you forgive me?”

Kathryn, there is nothing to forgive, but if it will make you feel better, I forgive you.”

Janeway squeezed her knee. “Thank you, darling. Will you join me for lunch?”

Do I dine with you in the Admirals' dining room?”

Yes, you do. You will be my special guest and can have anything on the menu that you want.”

Does your invitation include any of your colleagues?”

Just you and my undivided attention for an hour.”

Seven smiled. “Acceptable.”

XXX

Janeway’s desk communicator beeped. “Admiral.”

Yes, Danny.”

Lieutenant Paris is here to see you.”

Send him in.”

Janeway put aside the PADD she was reviewing and walked over to the replicator for her second cup of coffee. Tom walked in the door.

Tom, have a seat. Is there anything I can get you?”

Tom sat in the chair indicated at the conference table. “No thanks, Admiral, I’m fine.”

It’s Kathryn. Remember?”

Sorry. Kathryn.”

Janeway took the seat across from him. “We need to discuss our…daughter. It seems our past…relationship, such as it was, has come back to haunt us.”

Tom’s face turned red. “Ah…Adm…Kathryn, I want to apologize for what happened.”

Janeway held up her left hand in dismissal. “I think you already did that once. It wasn’t your fault. I don’t even remember half of it. Especially, the part about being on the planet and the, ah… birth of our offspring.”

Well, yeah, I guess we were under the influence of something we couldn’t control, you know, being lizards and all.”

Janeway chuckled. “Lizards? More like amphibians from what the information states. Nonetheless, it seems we now have a child in common. We need to discuss her future and what course we need to take when we get her here. And I believe we will get her here. With Seven, B’Elanna ,and Lieutenant Barclay working on this, it won’t take long. What are your thoughts and feelings, Tom?”

Tom moved to sit up straighter. “Frankly, I’m still in shock. And…I guess I feel a little guilty. If I had known there was a way to …change them to Human form, I would’ve taken them with us.”

Janeway sighed. “I won’t say I don’t feel some guilt. The truth is there was no known method to de-evolve them. At the time, I think we made the right decision to leave them in the environment into which they were born.”

I suppose. I just wonder what happened to the other two. I read Kurros’ report, which indicates that only one life sign registered...that of our daughter. Still…”

I know, Tom, but we can’t change the past. At least…not legally. We now have a daughter. How is B’Elanna taking this?”

Tom smiled. “Very well. She feels that the child is her responsibility also. You know, being my daughter and Miral’s half sister. She vows to track the Peta'Qs down and spill their guts if they have harmed her in any way.”

Janeway barked out a short laugh. “That’s the B’Elanna I know and love. Seven states she will adapt. Mom would like her to have her primary home with us, if that is ok with you. I know both you and B’Elanna have your hands full with careers and a baby. Besides, we have to keep in mind that she is not an infant or young child. The scans done by Dr. Podda show her to be approximately 18.2 years old by Human standards. That is, physically. Mentally, she is above the norm for intelligence. How much above, we will not know until we have her tested. I’m concerned more with her emotional development. In reality, she is only three years old. How much emotionally can she have developed during that time? Mom states that after raising two girls through all stages of development she thinks she has the skills to handle her.”

Well, as you know, my mother is away from home a lot on business, and Dad, you know how it is with Admirals. I think your idea would work out for the best. This is strange, you know. She is physically 18, and I’m 31. I mean, I’m only 13 years older than she is.”

Janeway cringed. “What does that make me? I'm twenty four years older. Damn, this just gets worse. A twenty four year old woman and a thirteen year old boy. That makes me look like some kind of a pervert.”

Tom said amusingly, “Yeah, a lot of people will envy me thinking that you and I…ah…forget I said that.”

Janeway stared hard at him for a moment then snickered. “Well, in a way we did. She‘s living proof. To hell with what others think. This is our business, and in a short time this will be old news.”

You got that right. Kathryn, if she is physically over 18, won‘t she be considered an adult? I mean, what if she decides to go her own way and all?”

Janeway rubbed her hand through her hair. “I've already thought of that. In actuality, she was born six years ago and has only been in her Human form for three. I will have her psychologically evaluated. If her psychological profile shows she is not ready to go out on her own we can have her declared incompetent and unable to make her own life decisions. More than likely, the Court will require periodic psychological reviews to determine when she is competent enough to act in her own best interest.”

There was silence for a few seconds, both processing the information received from the other.

Tom, have you thought about a name for her? I don’t think 'Sprout' is exactly the name I would choose. I was thinking about naming her after my father: Edwina.”

Well, my Grandmother Paris’ name was Morgan. I thought that might fit since it means 'sea warrior' or 'from the sea.' You know, since Kurros found her in an area by a sea. And Dad says her hair is the same color as my grandmother‘s.”

Janeway thought for a moment. “Morgan Edwina Paris-Janeway. I like it.”

Tom smiled. “Yeah, me too.”

Janeway reached out and took Tom’s hand. “I think you will make a good father for her, Tom. You have a lot to teach.”

Tom smiled. “I wonder if she would like to help me rebuild an old 2006 Harley Davidson Street Bob I happened to come across the other day.”

Janeway laughed. “Kurros did say she has an advanced mechanical aptitude. She could probably rebuild it and have it running in no time.”

Tom laughed. “Yep, she’s a chip off the old engine block.”

XXX

CHAPTER FOUR

XXX



Lieutenant Barclay continued, “We have Pathfinder using five million teradynes of gravimetric surge from the pulsar to open the micro wormhole. We can generate more teradynes, which is required to open a larger singularity. But, this would cause a massive subspace reaction.”

B’Elanna thought for a moment. “So, basically, any tachyon beam used on the pulsar larger than sixty terawatts results in subspace particles reacting to normal space and could wipe out the surrounding area of space? We’re not talking about taking an ambassador class starship through the singularity. Just a small scout ship or even a shuttle. How big a risk is that?”

Too big a risk. We have already run simulations on opening a larger wormhole. The results were not successful.”

Seven was busy entering data on a PADD. “The wormhole could be made larger if a tachyon beam was directed into the terminus at the destination point. This would not result in a rupture of subspace since they do not exist at the same points.”

Barclay thought for a second. “That idea has been theorized. But you would need someone on the other end, which is in the Delta Quadrant, to coordinate the simultaneous projections of the beams.”

B’Elanna remarked, “Hey, Seven. Think Neelix and his friends could manage it?”

It would take some time and resources. Perhaps too much time. They would need a source of tachyon.”

Lieutenant Barclay added, “Depending on the teradynes that can be generated, we can determine how big the wormhole that can be opened. But, Seven is right. This would take some time, since Pathfinder is only functional every 32 days. We would need Neelix to locate a Pulsar, or another source, a red or brown dwarf star. He would then need to send the gravimetric readings to us. We would need to interpret the data and design a plan, send it back to Neelix, who would set up the array needed... Well, I think you get the picture. The least time we could expect is four to five months. Seven, you have been researching Dr. Kahn’s method on opening an artificial worm hole?”

Yes. She was successful in opening one for 23 seconds before it collapsed. However, it proved to be unstable when she sent a shielded drone through. The tetreion field in the singularity reacted to the probe’s shielding and caused it to collapse, which resulted in a massive graviton wave. I am working on possible Borg armor plating and modulating Borg shielding to avert the interaction, which resulted in the collapse. However, at this time a prohibitive thickness of armor is required to protect the ship. This would render the ship with significantly reduced abilities to reach even warp one, and put a tremendous strain on the engines. Transporters and sensors would be ineffective.”

Barclay nervously gnawed his right thumbnail. “ A… a Volga class tug has increased hull strength and a strong engine. Even at twice its mass it could carry the armor and still go through the singularity.”

B’Elanna noted, “Time it just right going at warp one, and we could be through in less than 23 seconds.”

Seven listened intently. “We would still need sensors to navigate. That is the reason I am researching a method to use shielding in combination with less armor.”

B’Elanna swore, “Kahless in Grethor, I don’t want to use the Midas Array. We don’t know if the Think Tank will blast us to dust coming through the wormhole, or we get ourselves stuck for 32 days waiting for it to reopen. We've got a lot of enemies in the Delta Quadrant who would love to settle old scores. I like Seven’s idea. We find a way to combine Borg armor and a force field and use Kahn‘s method.”

Seven nodded. “Agreed.”

Barclay rubbed his hands together. “I concur. Now, how about getting lunch. I know this great place that has the best Reuben sandwiches in San Francisco, my treat.”

B’Elanna shouted, startling Barclay. “Sandwich, that’s it! A force field placed between thin plates of Borg Armor. Tetreions won’t pass through the armor, and the graviton force can’t crush it, as the force field will shore up the outer armor plating.”

Seven worked quickly on her PADD, entering in information. Barclay paced, deep in thought. Seven looked up from the PADD, her eyes crinkled at the corners and her mouth slightly turned up. “It will work. We will run simulations. We will also need a place to conduct the experiments. I will talk to Kathryn concerning the Borg armor removed from Voyager, and that which is in Starfleet Storage from Wolf 359.”

B’Elanna exclaimed, “The Delta Flyer. It has tetraburnuim alloy hull plating, and would not need that much preparation. Reg, you’re the boss, what do you say?”

Barclay rocked back and forth on his heels. “Boss says, let’s start making a list of what we need. After lunch.”

XXX

CHAPTER FIVE

DELTA QUADRANT

XXX



“We will boost the singularity from this side with the neutrino particles from the nearby red dwarf. We only need to position eight deflector shields on the third asteroid to beam the neutrino particles into the micro wormhole when it opens. Our simulations show that this will widen the wormhole to allow the passage of a small craft. Once the craft is through, we can shut our side down, resulting in only the original micro wormhole. We make the trade and reactivate the deflectors to once again widen the wormhole to send them back.” Bevvox explained.

Xyglys continued the discussion, “Since the micro wormhole needs the energy to come from both ends of the corridor, they would not be able to duplicate it in the Alpha Quadrant since that is the original corridor opening.”

Kurros rubbed his hands together in satisfaction. “I can easily trade for eight deflector shields and have them positioned within 6 days. When Janeway contacts us, I will tell her the plan. We will have her come in a shuttle. Unarmed of course. I will inform her if we detect any weapons coming through with her, we cloak and disappear and she never gets her daughter. It will work.”

Bevvox added, “We are weeks away from obtaining the one element in existence that will make us Gods. Omega.”

 

XXX

CHAPTER SIX

ALPHA QUADRANT

XXX

I’m stuffed to the gills. I think I ate enough for two people.” Hiro was sitting on the porch swing with Seven, after having shared Thanksgiving dinner with her and the Janeways. Aunt Irene had accepted the invitation also.

To the gills? I am not aware that you possess that biological apparatus for breathing. That is an euphemism for having surpassed your comfort threshold for the intake of nutrients, is it not?”

Hiro replied in her best Seven imitation, “Indeed.”

Seven raised her left eyebrow and tried to look serious. “You are… teasing me.”

Yes, I am. I only tease people I like.”

Seven’s mouth had a slight lifting at the corners, “So does Phoebe. However, I have observed that Kathryn often does not find it amusing.”

All a part of the dynamics of sibling rivalry, my dear Seven. I’m sure Kathryn can dish it out to Phoebe. Instead of knocking the snot out of each other, they fence with words. It can go over the line from friendly to verbal abuse. But, from the little I’ve seen between the two, it’s a game of wits.” Hiro pursed her lips. “Do you mind if I ask how your counseling is progressing?”

I am pleased. I have had six sessions, to date, with Dr. Williams. I find her to be very insightful and compassionate. I do not feel she is judging me. Her perspective is to compare my experiences as a Borg to the equivalent of growing up in an abusive home, or similar to a person who is subjected to the ‘brainwashing’ of a malevolent cult. I am beginning to understand why I have certain emotional ramifications from the actions I was forced to do.”

Hiro reached over and hugged Seven. “I’m glad.”

The screen door opened, and a voice acclaimed jokingly, “She’s mine. Go to the Delta Quadrant and get your own.”

Hiro snorted in amusement. “I think you got the pick of the litter.”

Janeway sat on the banister by the swing. “The Captain always gets first pick of any booty taken from a captured ship.”

Seven replied wryly, “Kathryn, I was already aboard your ship when you proceeded to…kidnap me.”

Janeway threw up both hands in surrender. “I’m guilty as charged. But notice I didn‘t hold you for ransom. I knew even back then you were meant to be mine.”

Seven gave Janeway an assessing look and dryly stated, “Indeed.”

Janeway winked at her and then turned her attention to Hiro. “Hiro, I want you to evaluate my daughter, Morgan, when we get her here. We need an assessment on her emotional and psychological state. Especially, as it pertains to her ability to function on her own. We will need to know what to expect and how to deal with whatever problems she will have. You heard part of the story. I will give you a copy of the information we have.”

I would be glad to do so. After I evaluate your daughter, I would need to schedule a few sessions with all of you and discuss the findings, and what problems are to be expected.”

Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. “That can be arranged.”

Hiro stated, “Sounds good. You know, I think I hear a piece of that pecan pie Seven baked calling my name.”

Seven smirked, “It is Borg pecan pie. Resistance is futile.”

Hiro lifted her left eyebrow and dryly intoned, “Indeed. I will comply.”

With that, she got up from the swing to go back into the house.

Janeway took her place on the swing next to Seven. “I’m glad I got to meet Hiro. She is a nice young woman. Interesting and intelligent, as well as pretty. Must run in the family.”

I have observed that both my mother and father’s families do have a preponderance of scientists and doctors.”

Just goes to show you that you have a natural intelligence that has nothing to do with assimilating the thoughts and memories of thousands of species. Of course, I always knew that.”

Seven looked askance at her. Before she could answer, an aero car pulled up and parked in front of the walkway. A tall, slightly overweight man in his forties got out of the driver's side. It took Janeway a moment to recognize him. She flatly stated, “It’s Mark.”

Seven stood up. “I will terminate him.”

Janeway quickly stood and grabbed her left arm. “Seven. Promise me you won’t make a scene. He’s old history and has nothing to do with me and you.”

Seven did not say a word. She stood stiffly with her hands clasped behind her back.

Mark came bounding up the steps and grabbed Janeway in a long tight bear hug. “Kath, my god, let me look at you.” He pushed her back, his hands still on her arms, his eyes appreciatively looking her over. “You’re just as beautiful as I remember. I thought you were lost to me forever. Seeing you here is an answer to all my prayers.” He pulled her to his chest again. Janeway tried to extract herself from his grasp.

A chill voice declared, “You will release her.”

Janeway felt a grasp on her right shoulder, as Seven roughly pulled her back against her body and put a protective, as well as, a possessive arm around her waist.

Seven, please, let me handle this.”

Kath, who is this and what is going on?”

Seven coldly stated, “I am her mate.”

Mark’s eyes popped wide open, and he went slack-jawed. Janeway tried to free herself from Seven’s grasp, only to feel her tighten her hold. “Seven.”

Mark, still in shock, inquired, “Kath?”

Mark, I would like you to meet my fiancée, Seven of Nine, nee Annika Hansen.”

Mark took a step back, looking as if a phaser set on stun had shot him. “Your…fiancée?”

Seven raked him up and down with a disdainful look. “What part of the word ‘fiancée’ do you not understand?”

Mark looked closely this time at Seven’s cold disdainful face and the possessive hold she had on Kathryn. “I…I don’t know what to say. This…is a surprise.” He kept looking at Seven, his displeasure showing. “You’re that Borg everyone’s been talking about.”

Before Seven or Janeway could reply, the screen door was opened, and Gretchen’s voice was heard, “Mark. Well, what a surprise. Won’t you come in and have some pie?”

Mark drew his eyes from Seven and forced a smile on his face. “No thanks, Gretchen. I already ate all I can hold at Mother’s. I really came over to see Kath.”

Well. I suppose you two have a lot to discuss. Seven, why don’t you come with me and let Kathryn...talk to an old friend. I’m sure she has a lot of news she wants to catch him up on.”

Janeway managed to turn herself around in Seven’s arm to face her and whispered, “Please, darling. I promise you, there is nothing to worry about. I love you and only you. Go with Mom. This won’t take long.”

Seven looked into Kathryn’s eyes and saw the sincerity and open declaration of love. “Very well.” Seven let her go and gave Mark one last freezing look before entering the house with Gretchen.

Janeway turned to Mark and went into her old ‘Captain’ mode: All business and no nonsense. “Walk with me.” They descended the steps and walked out through the gate, taking an old path that skirted the cornfield and led to Miller’s creek.

Slow down Kath, so we can talk.”

Janeway slowed her walk. “Listen, Mark, I don’t know what you expect from me. What we had is dead and in the past, where it will remain. Do you understand?”

No, Kath, I don’t. This isn’t you. Since when do you prefer women? The rumors must be true. That Borg has assimilated you or has some control over you. My god, she isn’t even Human. She is a Borg, a monster!”

Janeway stopped walking and faced him, It was all she could do to keep from slapping him. She ground her back teeth, her face red and nostrils flaring. Her voice was one of cold, but controlled rage, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. She is more Human than the rest of us. Don’t you ever say anything like that about her again. Do you understand? I love her more than I have ever loved anyone. She has touched my very soul. Something no one else has ever been able to do.”

Mark put his hands on her shoulders and Janeway immediately moved back from his grasp. “Don’t touch me.”

Mark held up both of his hands, palms out. “I won’t, Kath. Just listen to me. I love you. I waited every day for three years thinking you would come back. Three years, Kath. I’m sorry. I should not have given up hope and gotten married. That was a mistake. I didn’t love her like I love you. Please, Kath. You loved me once, and I still love you. Give us another chance.”

Janeway sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Mark, I want you to understand. Even if you had never given up, even if we had gotten married before I was lost, it would be over. Once I met Seven, I instinctively knew we belonged together. I want you to let go of any hopes you may have about the two of us. If I had never met her, we still would not be together. I lived life on the edge for seven years, and the one promise I made to myself was if I ever got back home, I would not compromise my life for Starfleet, for you, or for anyone else. I will live my life how I want, and with whom I want. She is whom I want. I am fortunate in that she wants me, too. I think it best that you do not contact me, ever. I’m going back to the house now. I’m walking there alone. Wait, and then you can get in your aero car and go.”

Janeway turned and walked back up the path, leaving Mark standing there, a look of disbelief and shock on his face.

XXX

Kathryn came back from her bath, removed her bathrobe, leaving her body bare, and crawled across the bed. She snatched the PADD Seven was reading and threw it aside. Straddling Seven’s waist, she bent low and kissed her on the lips. “This is a holiday, darling. No work. Unless you want to ‘work’ on keeping me satisfied.”

Seven smiled and drew Kathryn down for a long languid kiss. Releasing her, Seven ran her right hand through Kathryn’s hair and down the back of her neck and over her shoulder to her left breast, pausing to feel her nipple harden, then back up to her cheek.

Kathryn nuzzled her palm. They heard the muffled sound of the front door closing, and a few seconds later the sound of footsteps going up the stairs.

Seven had her head cocked to the side. “That is Hiro, I recognize her footsteps.”

Hmm, I thought she would stay longer at Phoebe’s talking about all that dream mumbo jumbo.”

Seven rolled to the side causing Kathryn to slide off her. “I had anticipated that they would…discuss more than dream interpretation.”

Kathryn looked closely at Seven and gave her one of her lopsided grins. “Were you hoping they would hit it off and start…something?”

Seven inclined her head. “That possibility had occurred to me.”

Kathryn snorted in amusement. “I don’t believe they’re each other's type. Friends yes, lovers no.”

Explain.”

OK. They are too much alike for one thing. Phoebe needs someone who is more subdued and will keep her in line. Hiro would just aid and abet her behavior, and vice versa. Phoebe is off to different art openings all over the Federation. I think this is the longest she has ever stayed home. Hiro has her own practice and can’t just leave at a whim. Besides, there is the age difference. Phoebe is almost forty and Hiro is what, twenty six, twenty seven?”

Twenty three. There is 14 years difference in our ages, Kathryn. Should we not be together because you are older?”

Touché. Twenty-three and with a PhD in psychology. She must have started college when she was fourteen.”

She was twelve.”

Oh. In that case she might be too mature for Phoebe.”

You are being facetious.”

Kathryn quickly got on her knees, pushed Seven on her back, and straddled her. “Facetious, am I?” She started tickling Seven. Seven laughed aloud, pushed her off, and straddled her. Kathryn tried to give a force ten stare. “I am not ticklish.”

We shall see.”

Kathryn clamped her mouth shut and held her arms tightly against her sides. Seven easily pried one arm away and started tickling her ribs. Kathryn said through clamped teeth, “I am not tic…” and then lost control, loudly laughing. “No. Please…stop.”

Seven stopped right away, noticing Kathryn‘s red face and teary eyes. “Kathryn. I am sorry.”

Kathryn sat up. “I‘m ok. So much for the power of positive thinking, guess I’m still ticklish.” She leaned against the headboard. “Now, what was it we were doing before we got sidetracked?”

Seven smirked. “I do not need my eidetic memory to know what we were doing. I will show you.”

She put her arms around Kathryn’s shoulder, and leaned over, kissing her lips. Kathryn nipped Seven’s lower lip and pulled it gently with her teeth, let it go, and gently touched it with the tip of her tongue. Seven moaned and deepened the kiss, opening her mouth and using her tongue to open Kathryn’s mouth. Their tongues met and caressed, causing each woman’s breathing to accelerate.

Seven lowered herself down on the bed taking Kathryn with her. She moved her lips to the side of Kathryn’s neck to kiss and nibble.

Kathryn supported herself on her knees and hands, feeling her nipples harden as she brushed against Seven’s breast. Seven ran both hands down Kathryn’s side, down to her buttocks, and squeezed and massaged each cheek.

Kathryn lowered herself fully onto her love’s warm softness, kissing her passionately. She moved slowly down, kissing Seven’s throat then the implant above her left breast. She licked a path over her full breasts and then took a swollen nipple in her mouth, sucking and flicking her tongue over it. Seven moaned. Kathryn moved to the next nipple to lavish it with love.

She felt a strong throb in her groin. She positioned her center over Seven’s right thigh, bringing it down onto Seven, the contact causing her to groan. Seven lifted her thigh more firmly into Kathryn, feeling her rough pubic hair and warm wetness. Kathryn spread her legs wider to open herself and feel more of the firm warm flesh beneath her. She reared up onto her hands and thrust herself slowly back and forth. Seven placed her hands on Kathryn‘s hips, and pulled her firmly against her thigh. Kathryn’s breath came in short bursts, and she moved her hips faster and in shorter thrusts, grinding herself into her lover. She moaned deep and long and threw back her head, her hips thrusting harder. She arched her back and cried out a long “Ahhhhh.” Seven gazed at her face, flushed with ecstasy, eyes tightly shut. She felt the rush of warm wetness bathe her thigh. Kathryn collapsed onto Seven, her breathing almost a sob.

Seven held her close against her breasts, nuzzling her hair. “Oh Kathryn, my beloved, I cannot find the words to tell you how you make me feel. You are my Omega.”

After a few moments, Kathryn lifted her eyes to Seven’s. “Hmmm, darling, you don’t need words. I know your feelings for me in all of my senses. You tell me in your touch, in the taste of your kisses, your voice, in the scent of your arousal, and I can see your feelings in your eyes. However, most of all, I know it in my heart and soul. Trust me, darling. You have nothing to fear from the ghost of my past. You are the one I want for now and always.”

Seven looked deep into shining blue eyes. “I…that is…beautiful. Thank you, my beloved.”

Kathryn lifted herself up from the softness beneath her. She leaned down and placed tiny kisses on Seven’s lips. “Don’t (kiss) thank (kiss) me (kiss) until (kiss) I show (kiss) you (kiss) how (kiss) much (kiss) I (kiss) love (kiss) you.”

They kissed with mouths open and tongue stroking against tongue. Seven felt an ache in her breasts and groin. She broke the kiss, groaning, and pushed Kathryn down to her breasts and thrusting them upwards for Kathryn to take in her mouth. She twined her right hand through Kathryn’s hair and pulled her towards her left breast. Kathryn sucked the hard extended nipple into her mouth, grasping it with her teeth, then sucked and played her tongue around the hardness and areole.

She felt the pleasure of Kathryn’s loving attention shoot down to her groin. The intensity so sharp and defined, the walls of her vagina tightening, causing her to suck her breath in sharply through a small tremor of orgasm. Kathryn moved to her other breast and began the play all over again. This time she brought her hand down to Seven’s warm wet center, pausing briefly to coat her fingers with the wet seepage. She spread it to Seven’s clitoris. Seven jerked her hips at the contact and opened her legs wider. Kathryn entered her, first with one finger and then with another. Her palm pressed against the rigid protuberance, and she began slowly sliding her fingers in and out, caressing the silky warm walls, her palm massaging the hard knot. Seven pushed her hips up, encouraging Kathryn to increase the tempo. Kathryn removed her mouth from the now tender nipple and brought her lips up to deeply kiss Seven’s open mouth, catching the small moans borne on hot breath. She felt Seven stiffen, draw her mouth quickly away to breathe in deeply, and then let go a cry of pleasure. Kathryn felt her fingers clenched hard, then released as a warm flood of wetness coated her hand. She continued gently stroking, feeling the small flutters of Seven’s walls. Seven nuzzled Kathryn’s neck by her right ear, her left hand stroking up and down Kathryn’s back. She kissed Kathryn deeply, feeling her tongue enter her mouth and start from the beginning, once again.

XXX

CHAPTER SEVEN

DELTA QUADRANT

XXX

Sprout tried hard not to sneeze. She was appalled that the different vents and ducts in the Think Tank’s ship were so dusty and dirty. For the last three days she had been mapping out where the different vents led. She had also been placing various primitive transmitters behind the grates in various areas of the ship. Mostly, in the areas she was now restricted from entering, the areas where her five mentors held their meetings in privacy.

Ever since she had accessed the main computer and downloaded Voyager's information, Kurros had restricted her movements to the kitchen area, her room, and a small arboretum. He had also locked her computer, and her handheld one, out of the mainframe. Fortunately, for her, they did not turn off her translation implant, as she was not in the vicinity to hear their conversations when they had their ‘private’ discussions. Unfortunately, for them, they failed to confiscate her electronic toys. She guessed they thought them too primitive to be of use. She had enough primitive transistors and silicon chips to put together simple but effective listening devices. These used frequencies to broadcast that were now obsolete, and the more sophisticated security devices were no longer programmed to detect them. She had a small radio receiver hidden in her room. This allowed her to eavesdrop constantly day and night.

She got the idea of using the ducts from Voyager’s log, which mentioned their use various times as a means to escape or conduct surveillance on unsuspected enemies, who had taken the ship. She found two ducts in her room, a repair corridor in the floor under her bed and the air circulation vent in the ceiling, which she could easily reach by pushing her desk underneath, and then placing her chair on the desk to give her the height needed to push it open and go through. She hated having to crawl through the ducts. They were dimly lit, cramped, and dirty. After using them, she would clean her coveralls and herself in the sonic shower.

She was afraid to open the grates, which led to the bridge where X92 and Xyglys resided, sure that they would detect her. Transporters were off limits as they were located in a corner of the bridge. She also avoided the engineering section where Bevvox was located in his containment field. This did not keep her from placing her devices behind the grates. Also off limits were the storage facilities where was kept all the various items that had been ’payment’ from different species. This area, she knew, contained all sorts of detection devices.

She could access the area where the two escape pods were located. This area was not secure, and she had the shortest route from her room to that area well marked with yellow iridescent paint from her craft supplies. She placed a mark at every branch intersection to let her know the way. Red marks led to the engine room and light green to the bridge. She took satisfaction in going right under the crew's noses in gathering information. It was also…exciting. In a way, it was like beating your opponent in a strategic game.

She had gathered enough information to know that the Think Tank would boost open a micro wormhole originating in the Alpha Quadrant, and that Janeway would, she hoped, come through to retrieve her, leaving in payment all the information she had on her discovery of the Omega molecule. Sprout knew from her studies what this molecule represented. She doubted Janeway would give them what they wanted. After reading all she could find on Janeway, and the Federation, in Voyager’s logs, she knew that her maternal genetic donor would find a way to get her. It was in Janeway’s nature. She would consider Sprout her responsibility, as she had Seven of Nine. She had freed Seven of Nine from the Borg because Seven was genetically Human. Sprout was genetically Human and Janeway’s progeny.

Seven of Nine intrigued her. Seven of Nine had been Borg from early in her childhood until adulthood. She had had to learn what it meant to be Human. Sprout would have to learn what it would mean to be Human. Perhaps Seven of Nine could assist her in this endeavor. She hoped Janeway and Seven were friends. Perhaps she could be Seven’s friend also.

XXX

CHAPTER EIGHT

Alpha Quadrant. Deep Space Nine

XXX

Ah, come on Seven. You gotta drink to our success. Tea doesn’t count. It‘s gotta be alcohol or synthehol, isn‘t that right, Reg?” B’Elanna ended her comment with a hard slap to Reg Barclay‘s back, almost knocking him into one of the establishment's patrons, a tall gray Humanoid seated on a bar stool, with a perpetual frown to his wrinkled prune like face.

Regaining his balance, Barclay straightened his Starfleet tunic and smiled. The three had had a celebratory dinner earlier at a fancy dress Bajoran restaurant located on the station‘s promenade. B’Elanna was wearing a knee length black dress, showing her neat trim figure. Seven had let her hair down and was wearing a form fitting knee length red dress. They had decided to continue the celebration at Quark's Place.

Reg backed up B‘Elanna’s cajoling. “It is traditional, Seven. I’ll even buy the first round. What will you ladies have?”

Blood wine for me, and Blondie will have a glass of champagne.”

Seven remembered her vow to never drink champagne again after her experience at Voyager‘s homecoming party. “I will have Earl Grey tea.”

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “Come on, Seven, I know you like champagne. What’s the harm in one little glass?”

I have already consumed a glass of wine at dinner. I have also vowed to never indulge in champagne again.”

B’Elanna sneered. “Vowed? Why would you vow to do something crazy like that? You join some kind of strict religious sect?”

Before Seven could answer, Reg handed her a glass of champagne and B’Elanna a mug of blood wine.

He had a foamy mug of ale. “I see a table over there, let’s sit.”

When all three had settled at the table, Seven pushed her drink towards Reg. “I thank you for the drink, but I must decline.”

Yeah Reg, Blondie is turning religious on us. No drinking, no vices, and no fun.”

Reg embarrassedly laughed. “I…ah…can I get you something else?”

Geez, Seven, now you’re insulting old Reg here by not accepting the drink. What gives with this vow thing anyway?”

Seven sighed. “I consumed too large a quantity of champagne at Voyager’s first homecoming celebration, resulting in my cortical node malfunctioning. I vowed I would not repeat the experience.”

B’Elanna rolled her eyes, and then smirked. “Well, Seven, one or two drinks won’t fry your circuits. Besides, look around you. Does this look like a Starfleet Party? It’s just me, you, and Reg, celebrating the fact that our test shuttle made it through the wormhole without blowing up. So the vow doesn’t count.”

Seven tipped her head slightly to one side for a few seconds before deciding. After all, she was trying to adapt to social situations. “Reginald Barclay, I will accept your offer of one drink. Thank you.”

My pleasure. Now, let’s drink to our success.”

All three touched glasses in a loud clink. B‘Elanna offering the toast, “To Dr. Kahn and her genius in paving the way.” B’Elanna chugged down half of her drink.

Reg lifted his mug for another toast. “To us, the Three Musketeers of Starfleet Science.”

Seven added, “To our success in bringing Morgan Edwina Paris- Janeway home.”

Hear, Hear”

Seven took a small sip and placed her glass back on the table. Reg had only downed half of his drink. B’Elanna finished her drink and slapped the mug onto the table. She then belched loudly and turned red. “Whoops, sorry, been awhile since I had a drink. I couldn’t drink the stuff when pregnant.” She waved over the Ferengi server and ordered another round. “OK, Seven. Finish that one up before the server gets here with our next round, you don’t want to leave any drink in the first glass before he serves your second. It's bad luck.”

I do not believe in luck.”

I do. You want to see me worry and make myself sick, thinking things will go wrong?”

Reginald threw in his observations. “It’s true, Seven, engineers are a superstitious lot.”

B’Elanna smirked. “It’s really an old Klingon custom. I just want everything to go smooth. So drink up, Seven, or it will be your fault if things go wrong.”

Seven picked up the glass and took a few sips. “I will limit myself to only two glasses.”

Reg agreed. “Me too, B‘Elanna. We do have to leave for Earth in a few hours.”

B’Elanna snorted derisively. “What a couple of nambies. You two are going to jinx the whole thing. Anyway, Seven has to buy the next round for our luck to hold. Then, we can leave.”

Seven looked skeptical but did not want B’Elanna to ‘worry‘. “Very well, I will purchase the next round. Then you will have no reason to 'worry' since the required … conditions will be met.”

B’Elanna smiled. “Thanks, Seven. Now I can sleep tonight knowing our luck will hold.”

XXX

And that’s why I named my cat Neelix.”

B’Elanna laughed. “Well, Reg. I don’t know how Neelix would feel about you naming your fleabag after him, but he had better be glad you don’t own a targ.”

Seven stated dryly, “I do not think the targ would mind.”

Reg sprayed the last swallow of his ale and started coughing violently. B’Elanna pounded him on the back. “Good one, Seven. I didn’t know Borg had a sense of humor.”

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye. “Borg do not. I was referring to the fact that the targ would not mind the name Neelix, as it is a non sentient life form.”

About that time, the owner of the establishment, Quark, came over with a tray topped by two drinks. With an ingratiating smile on his face he said, “Ladies, here are your drinks.”

Seven looked up, puzzled. “We did not order these.”

Quark answered, almost offended, “Why, tonight’s special is buy three drinks and get the fourth free. You also get free tokens to play Dabo. Only at Quark’s will you get a deal like this.”

B’Elanna looked over at the Dabo table. The shapely, half-dressed Dabo girl was spinning the wheel, trying to draw customers. “Yeah, well, can’t win much with no one to bet against.”

Quark smiled, showing his sharp teeth. “It will soon be crowded when my patrons see such lovely females having such a good time…'winning'.”

Reg whined, “Don’t I get a free drink and tokens?”

Quark quickly and smoothly answered, “It’s ladies night for the freebies…However, since you are a friend of these lovely ladies, I will give you your next drink half price.”

B’Elanna quickly picked up her fourth mug of blood wine and drained it. Standing up, she said encouragingly, “Come on, Seven, drink up. I feel lucky tonight.”

Seven hesitated and looked at her new glass of champagne. “We agreed on only three drinks. This would be my fourth one.”

B’Elanna leaned over, took the glass of champagne, and took a small sip. “UH HUH, just as I suspected. This stuff is so watered down it would take a whole case to get a fly buzzed.”

B’Elanna handed the glass to Seven who looked at the contents, held the glass to her nose and sniffed, and took a sip. “I can detect no discernible difference in the contents of this glass when compared to the prior three glasses.”

B’Elanna folded her arms across her chest and rolled her eyes. “That’s because the minute amount of alcohol floats to the top, and you just sipped all of it off. The rest is just water. Come on, Blondie, drink it, and let’s hit the table before our luck runs out.”

Seven hurriedly drank the contents of the glass and got up to follow B’Elanna to the Dabo table, Reg close behind.

Both women were unaware of the admiring stares from the majority of the patrons, both male and female, following their progress to the table.

Seven and B’Elanna received their free markers from the Dabo Girl. Seven couldn’t help but gawk at the scantily dressed woman and wonder how she got her Dabo outfit to defy gravity and stay on her shapely body.

Wake up, Seven. Pick a level, color, and place a marker on the one you think is a winner.”

Seven couldn’t make up her mind between the blue of Kathryn’s eyes, or red, her once favorite color.

Come on, Seven. Play.”

She placed her marker on blue. The wheel turned with a carousel of colors and sound. When the wheel stopped, lights and bells went off. “DABO!” Seven looked with surprise at the winnings pushed before her.

B’Elanna remarked testily, “Beginners luck, that’s all.”

B’Elanna placed her markers on the table, and Seven followed suit. The wheel turned again. “DABO.”

B’Elanna drew her pot towards herself. “HAHA. I’m lucky tonight.”

The next round, Seven won.

By this time, they had attracted a crowd to the table, everyone thinking the table was on a hot streak. Other players placed wagers.

From some stroke of luck, Seven and B’Elanna were winning enough to stay in the game. Seven knew something was ‘wrong’ with the game. The odds just didn’t add up. She just wasn’t able to figure out why. She felt somewhat ‘off’ in her thinking process. Perhaps the lights and sounds were on some frequency that interfered with her cortical node.

Hey, Seven, get with the game. You won again.”

Before the next game could begin a short, flashily dressed Ferengi approached Seven, looking her up and down and leering. “Hey, Sweet Bite. How about a little stroke on the lobes for luck?”

Seven looked at him as if he were an insect and coldly replied, “I think not.”

This did not deter him. “Hey, just one stroke. Your girlfriend won’t mind. She’s too busy winning.”

You are mistaken. She is not my girlfriend. Admiral Kathryn Janeway is my girlfriend.”

The Ferengi laughed. “You mean that ugly little ‘humon’ female who got lost in the Delta Quadrant is your girlfriend, and an Admiral? I’ll pay you double whatever she is now paying you to ….Uuuack!!!”

Seven lifted him up by his coat lapels to face level, her lips in a sneer and her face flushed. “You shall be terminated.” She tossed him up on the Dabo wheel, sending markers flying everywhere.

There was a mad scramble for the markers. Soon tempers flared and fists started flying. Someone pushed a patron into Seven, who immediately pushed him away and into a group of Klingons, who joined the fun.

B’Elanna, with a wicked smile on her face, joined in the fray, socking anyone who came near. Reg ducked flying fists to make his way to Seven. “Let’s get B’Elanna and get …aheee.” An angry and upset Bajoran shoved Reg and sent him careening onto a tabletop, where he rolled off to land on his back.

Seven started flinging bodies left and right, clearing the way to reach B’Elanna. She failed to notice that some of the bodies she was throwing around like rag dolls were wearing Starfleet Security uniforms. The last thing she remembered was the lights going out.

XXX

Hey, Seven, wake up.”

Seven sat up and then immediately lay back down on the hard cot. “Where am I, and why does my head hurt?”

Well, Seven, we are in the brig for, umm, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest ...and public intoxication.”

Seven sat up on the edge of the cot and saw that she and B’Elanna were indeed in the brig. “It is your fault, B‘Elanna Torres-Paris.”

B’Elanna looked wounded and said in outrage, “My fault? You were the one to start the fight. I was just minding my own business, winning at the Dabo table.”

Seven eyed B’Elanna coldly and said, “If we had stopped at one drink, we would not be here. Where is Lieutenant Barclay?”

B’Elanna sat down beside Seven. “Since he wasn’t involved in the…uh…fracas, he wasn’t arrested.”

Seven lifted her left eyebrow. “I do not remember what occurred, except Species 563 insulted Kathryn. However, he was adequately punished.”

B’Elanna snickered. “Yeah, Seven, that’s the problem. You threw the little Targ Turd onto the Dabo wheel and all Grethor broke loose.”

Seven ignored this statement and said, “We need to leave now, or we will miss our ship back to Earth.”

B’Elanna grimaced. “Uh…Seven, I got some bad news for you…that ship left about two hours ago.”

Seven’s eyes went wide with alarm and in a voice that was on the verge of panic said, “B’Elanna, we must be back before Kathryn and Tom contact the Delta Quadrant. They may need our support. She will worry why we are not on the USS Pilgrim.”

B’Elanna patted Seven on her shoulder and said cheerfully, “Hey, no sweat, there’s always a Starfleet vessel heading to Earth.”

Seven was not appeased. “We must contact her to let her know we will not arrive on the scheduled ship.”

Uhm, Seven, I don’t think you have to worry about that. Reg already contacted her. Kathryn has already had a talk with Captain Kira and arranged our release. Reg is with the head of security, Lieutenant Ro, signing our releases as we speak.”

Seven groaned and closed her eyes and said resignedly, “Kathryn will be angry, very angry.”

B’Elanna patted her on the back again and said reassuringly, “No she won’t, Seven. I will explain things to her.”

Seven stared at B’Elanna as if she had two heads and declared, “Then I am …screwed.”


XXX

PART FOUR

X

CHAPTER ONE

XXX

 

Admiral Janeway stood by Tom Paris as they waited for Pathfinder to contact Neelix in the Delta Quadrant. They had decided to be the only two present when the call came in. Both families were in Admiral Paris’ office awaiting word of what would transpire. Tom nervously rubbed his sweating hands on the sides of his pants legs.

Contact with Delta Quadrant established. Transmission in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.'

Neelix’s face immediately appeared on the screen. “Admiral Janeway, Tom, good to see you. Been awhile.”

Tom grinned. “That it has, Neelix.”

Janeway then took command of the conversation. “Neelix, how quickly can you arrange a meeting with Kurros?”

Well, Admiral, he’s here just outside my door. With your, ah, daughter, I might add. He sort of figured you might want to talk to him.”

Put him on, Neelix.”

Neelix disappeared from view for a few seconds. Then Kurros appeared. His visage was, as always, placid and his voice calmly modulated. “Congratulations on your promotion…Admiral.”

Janeway glowered. “Cut the crap, Kurros. Before we continue this conversation, I want to see my daughter.”

Kurros smiled sweetly and answered, “And you will, Admiral, and ah, Lieutenant Paris. I think you both will be pleased. She is intelligent and healthy. Why I have treated her as I would my own daughter, and my colleagues have been family to her.”

Tom angrily burst out, “That had better be true, or I will track you down and make you wish you were in another galaxy.”

Janeway put a restraining hand on Tom’s shoulder. “Tom.”

Kurros held up his right hand, palm out, and with a wounded look on his face, said “I assure you, she has not been mistreated in any way. We saw to her every need. Her education far exceeds that of what is required to enter Starfleet Academy, and her intellectual development is advanced for her age. You can ask her yourself if we have not treated her well.” Kurros turned to the side and called, “Sprout, come and meet your parents.”

He moved out of the way, and Sprout walked in and faced the screen. There was a long silence as both parents and daughter studied each other.

Janeway noticed her face first, the high cheekbones, arched eyebrows over bright blue eyes, and well shaped nose and mouth. Dark red hair falling in thick waves to her shoulder. ‘She is pretty.’ She held her head high, and her gaze was steady. Janeway cleared her throat. “You are well, you have been treated well?”

Sprout kept her expression and voice neutral. “Yes. I have been treated very well.”

Janeway was searching for something to fill in the awkward silence when Tom stated, his voice a little uncertain, “We hope to bring you here soon. Ah, you have a half sister, you know, Miral. I think she will enjoy having an older sister.”

Sprout looked closely at him, her expression not changing, and just nodded her head.

Janeway looked decidedly nervous, losing her command stare. “Tom is right; we hope to have you with us very soon. I think you will like it here. You have relatives who are looking forward to meeting you. Do you have another name besides Sprout?”

I do not, just Sprout.”

Janeway forced a smile. “Well, we have one for you. How does Morgan Edwina Paris-Janeway sound? Of course if you don’t like it, we could change it.”

Sprout answered in her quiet and softly modulated voice, “The name is acceptable.”

Janeway noted that she undoubtedly picked up her voice modulations and calm expression from Kurros.

Tom smiled. “Morgan was the name of your great grandmother Paris, and Edwina is the feminine form of your Grandfather's name, Edward Janeway.”

Sprout just stared at him indulgently, then looked from one to the other. “You are not mates. With whom shall I reside?”

Janeway smiled, less nervously this time. “We think it best that you reside, for the time being, with my mother, your grandmother…of course I will be there, as well as my sister, Phoebe, and my fiancée, Seven. You can see your father and his family as often as you wish.”

Sprout opened her eyes wide for a moment in surprise and said with some excitement coloring her voice, “Seven of Nine? She resides with your mother?”

Janeway smiled genuinely this time. “Yes, we plan to be married in a few months. It is our hope that we will have you home in time for our wedding.”

Sprout arched her eyebrows and asked, “She…she is to be your mate?”

Janeway said, “Yes, yes she is. I assume you know who Seven is through Voyager’s logs?”

Sprout returned to her evenly modulated voice. “Yes, I had access…”

They heard a voice from the side. “Sprout, please wait out in the lobby with Fennin and Ambassador Neelix. I have things to discuss with your parents.”

Sprout looked at her parents one more time. Tom stated, “Hey Morgan, hope to see you soon.”

Janeway added, “I, as well.” Sprout nodded and gave a small smile before walking away.

Janeway glared at the visage of Kurros. “Kurros, what price are we to …pay for the ransom of our daughter? And how do you propose to get her here?”

Kurros smiled smugly. “I am sending you the packet with the information on the method we will employ and the conditions in which you can cross over to the Delta Quadrant. You can do this at the next opening of the singularity. As for the price, it is just information, nothing more. We require all the data you have on the Omega molecule and the location where it was found.”

Janeway drew her head back slightly in shock. “Well, Kurros, you obviously found something in Voyager’s log that mentioned this molecule. However, I can’t help you. We purged all the information we had to its location. I do not have access to the coordinates any longer.”

Kurros’ smile turned into a smirk. “Do not attempt to deceive me, Admiral, or I will guarantee you will never see your daughter again. Get that Borg of yours to tell you the location, and the way you and she were able to contain Omega, for what was it, 3.2 seconds? She should have it stored in her eidetic memory.”

Janeway ground her back teeth. She had no intention of turning over any information to Kurros but decided to dangle the carrot anyway. “I will have to discuss this with Starfleet.”

Kurros stated, “That is up to you. Regardless of their decision, you will not get your daughter unless I receive the information. I will see you in 32 days. Follow the directions in the packet I am sending you and, again, bring the information. No further discussion is necessary. Now, I will leave the remainder of your time for your business with Ambassador Neelix.”

Janeway blew her cool. “Damn you, Kurros, get back here, we need to discuss this further.”

This was to no avail. Neelix came into view. “They are beaming back up to his ship.”

Janeway nervously ran her hand through her hair. “Neelix, just keep an eye on things for me, please. I know this may not be a secure conversation. I cannot tell you if we will be there in 32 days or contact you by the Array. Try to look out for our daughter.”

Neelix puffed out his chest and answered, “You can trust me, Admiral.”

XXX

Janeway and Tom met with the family members in Admiral Paris’ office and assured them that Morgan was fine. Janeway would view the broadcast for sensitive information and send any information on Kurros’ specifications to open the wormhole to Lieutenant Barclay, Seven, and B’Elanna to study. All three had returned to McKinley Station in the wee hours of the morning. Seven had contacted Janeway on a telecommunication monitor, waking her, to say that they were going straight to Starfleet headquarters, and she would see her later that day.

Janeway ordered Tom not to mention anything about the Omega Molecule, in the meeting. While in the Delta Quadrant, she had ordered all of the records purged, and those involved, not to even breathe the name ‘Omega’ or face court martial. She now had to report what occurred in the Delta Quadrant to Admiral Paris, despite the directive that the incident should be buried at the time it happened. She had no choice since this was the ransom price demanded by Kurros.

She had just relayed the information to the Admiral in the privacy of his office.

Apparently, information surrounding the molecule was contained in the logs that Kurros was able to obtain, despite my orders to eradicate all references to it.” She left out the part that Kurros’ had implicated Seven in his demands. She would question Seven herself on this subject.

Admiral Paris leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin. “Giving them the information on the Omega molecule is out of the question. My suggestion is to have Barclay and team get the Delta Flyer, or another ship, ready as soon as possible, open up a wormhole in a section of the Delta Quadrant far enough away from the Talaxian colony to not be detected, but close enough to reach it quickly.”

I agree. I don’t trust Kurros not to get us over there, get what he wants, and destroy us, or strand us. I’m sure one of his stipulations will be for us to enter into the system with a small vessel, and unarmed.”

Admiral Paris nodded. “I expect Barclay and Team to have answers later today. In the meantime, we will have to call a conference with the other Admirals and clue them in to the demands, and do any damage control on the Omega leak before they view your conversation with Kurros.”

Janeway sighed. “You know, that was over three years ago and details have a way of getting fuzzy over time, especially if the records are no longer in existence. It is apparent from what he said, he just obtained a minimal amount of information, or he would not be demanding locations and methods used to contain the molecule. I doubt that we will ever know how Kurros obtained the information. Since it happened on my watch, I will take full responsibility.”

Admiral Paris waved his hand in dismissal. “We reviewed Voyager's logs, and I can assure you nothing about Omega was found. Starfleet would prefer that this information be buried and forgotten. Attempting to open personal logs of Voyager’s non Starfleet members would involve going to civilian courts not bound by Starfleet mandates. This could take months, if not years. There would be media leaks and speculations. No. I can tell you this is information we would want to send to Deep Space Zero.”

XXX

Seven, B’Elanna, and Reg presented their findings on Kurros’ method of making the micro wormhole larger, to Admiral Paris and Janeway. Reg Barclay finished the review. “The method Kurros wants to employ is already known to us. The drawbacks are that the enlarged wormhole can be terminated at either end. This could result in the craft going through the corridor being…destroyed.”

Janeway looked over her PADD containing the report. “Dr. Kahn’s method looks to be our best choice. Using that, we could take the craft through and enter the Delta Quadrant secretly and will not have to sacrifice weapons. How long will it take to have the Delta Flyer ready?”

Seven answered succinctly, “Three days, Admiral.”

Janeway's eyes widened in surprise. “Only three days?”

Seven nodded. “Yes, Admiral. We anticipated the success of opening a singularity and had our team commence with the modifications in our absence.”

B’Elanna and Reg concurred.

Admiral Paris smiled. “I will contact Captain Kira and have her ready the Defiant. Admiral, have you decided who will go on this mission?”

Janeway glanced quickly at Seven, knowing what she had to say would not be well received. “Yes. I will go, Tom, Tuvok and Lieutenant Ayala.”

Seven looked surprised. “Kath...Admiral. I will accompany you.”

Janeway held up her right hand to stop any other comment. “The decision has been made.”

Seven went into her Borg stance, hands behind her back, voice cold. “That is unacceptable.”

Janeway gave her a force ten stare. “The best people for the job have been selected.”

Seven stated in a chill voice, “Your decision is flawed. You will require one of our team to assist in your safe return through the corridor.”

Reg Barclay nervously broke in. “Ad…Admiral Janeway. Seven is right. The return has to be coordinated just right. Ah…you only have a 23 second window of opportunity.”

Admiral Paris looked up from his PADD. “Your specs state that you will coordinate different times for the wormhole to be opened. If they accomplish their mission and return to the coordinates where the Singularity will reopen, what is the problem?”

Reg stuttered. “Si…Sir. It is ah…If for example something were to go ah... Well, this has never been done before with an artificial wormhole. Of course the ah…Borg...”

B’Elanna stepped in. “What Reg is saying, is that we have sent drones through with the new shielding, and one unmanned shuttle, but we would like one of our team to go through and use various sensors to record the opening of the singularity from the other side. We thought Seven would be more suited to this. She can also check any stress on the armor and force field and correct for any abnormalities.”

Seven interjected, “Do not forget, I have superior hearing and eyesight. I have also been trained in martial arts. I believe I could substitute for Lieutenant Ayala.”

Janeway’s sharp gaze rested on Seven, her face flushed and mouth held in a tight line. “Very well. The team will consist of me, Tom, Tuvok and Seven. We will meet first thing in the morning and go over the plans.”

Seven inclined her head. “Thank you, Admiral.”

Janeway gave her a hard look and merely nodded. The meeting quickly wrapped up. Janeway stood and got Seven’s attention, stating in her command voice, “Seven. Please accompany me to my office.”

Seven swallowed hard. “Yes, Admiral.”

XXX

Janeway walked down the hall to her office suite, Seven a half step behind her, noting the stiff back. They quickly entered the suite and stopped briefly at Danny’s desk, the red haired ensign alertly waiting for orders. “Danny, hold my calls for the next hour.”

Yes, Admiral.”

Janeway, with Seven in tow, entered her office, shutting the door behind them. Janeway went to her desk and sat in her seat. She put her PADD down on the desk and placed both arms on the surface in front of her, resting her hands on her desk. She still wore her command mask when she gave Seven a measured look. “Have a seat, Seven.”

Seven stood stiffly in front of her, hands clasped behind her back. “I pre…thank you, Admiral.” Seeing the cold gray eyes boring into her, she prudently decided to take the one seat in front of the desk.

Janeway breathed in deeply. Her voice held the firm whip of authority. “Don’t ever challenge my decision in front of my peers and colleagues again, Seven. Is that understood?”

Seven blinked her eyes, which slightly widened. “Yes, Admiral. I…”

If you do not agree with a decision I make, tell me later in private.”

I am sorry. I will do as you wish.”

Janeway leaned slightly back in her chair, still wearing her command mask. “Seven, I know that you are inexperienced when it comes to certain… social situations that the rest of us take for granted. But please, In the future try not to let your…social activities get out of hand and lead to getting yourself in trouble. I may not be able to help you the next time. How you act in public not only affects you, but also affects me. I am now in a position where everything I do is scrutinized, not only by Starfleet, but also by other members of the Federation and non-Federation entities. As my spouse, you in a way, represent me. I know that is unfair, but unfortunately, it is true. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Seven paled slightly. “I apologize. I will not consume alcohol again. Nor will I indulge in games of chance.”

Janeway bit the inside of her cheeks to squash her amusement and maintain her command facade. “I’m not expecting you to go that far, Seven. You know your limits, just don’t overindulge in alcohol again, and, in the future, please refrain from barroom brawls.”

Over indulging in alcohol was not my intent. B’Elanna informed me…”

Say no more, Seven. I will have a talk with B’Elanna later. She is not off the hook yet. ‘Especially after I told her to keep an eye on you,’ Use your own judgment and common sense.”

Understood, Admiral.”

What I tell you now is not to be repeated to others, or to be mentioned where others may hear you. Do you think you can follow this order?”

Seven’s expression went cold. “Admiral, if your opinion is that I cannot be trusted, then refrain from divulging any information.”

Can you be trusted to obey my orders, Seven? That’s all I’m asking. A simple no or yes will suffice.”

Seven’s face flushed red. “Yes.”

Janeway looked away from Seven to organize her thoughts. She pinched the bridge of her nose and then looked back at her. “Kurros informed me that he will not give me…Morgan, unless I give him the location where the Omega molecule was discovered, and the methods we used to contain it for 3.2 seconds. As I recall, we were the only two who knew it was in existence for 3.2 seconds. Seven, how would Kurros know this…after I ordered no mention be made in any records?”

Seven took a deep breath in surprise and then let it out. “I am at fault. I entered a reference into my personal logs. I encrypted it with Borg codes. I believed this was adequate protection against any attempt to open the log. I…”

Janeway interrupted. “What … reference exactly did you put in your logs?”

Seven recited, “Daily log, Seven of Nine, Stardate 51781.4. For 3.2 seconds, I saw perfection…The Omega Molecule. I have no words to describe this phenomenon. I would gladly spend the remainder of my life in studying...perfection. I am sure the scientist in Captain Janeway regrets the destruction of all records pertaining to our discovery. However, she is a Starfleet Captain, and what Starfleet mandates, she will carry out. She can do no less.”

Janeway got up and walked around her desk to stand in front of Seven, who remained in her seat. She folded her arms across her chest and said firmly and with a little anger, “I realize at that time you often refused to obey my orders. I hope you have learned your lesson. If you want to continue to work for Starfleet, Seven, even in a civilian position, you must follow orders. And this means the orders I issue in my position as an Admiral. If you can’t do this, resign your position as a civilian advisor.”

Seven stood up quickly, forcing Janeway to step back and coldly said, “Do you wish me to also…resign my position as your intended spouse?”

Janeway stepped forward into Seven’s space, her eyes fixed on those of the young woman. “Is that what you want, Seven?”

Seven’s right eye watered, her nose turning red, her bottom lip slightly trembling, and dropping her eyes from those of her lover said in a shaky voice said, “It is not.”

'Ok, Katie, you’ve made your point, now kiss and make up’ Janeway stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Seven, pulling her close. Seven lay her cheek against Janeway’s head, trying to hold back the tears. Janeway gently stroked her hair and softly said, “Darling, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you. I need you in my life.”

Seven drew back and looked into Janeway’s eyes and in a distraught voice said, “I am sorry that I have failed you.”

Janeway brushed a tear from Seven’s right cheek. “You haven’t failed me. I am to blame. I should have discussed what it means to be a Starfleet Admiral's spouse weeks ago, and what behavior is expected when you are working for Starfleet. As for the Omega… log… I think you learned a belated but valuable lesson. As for the brawl and ending up in the brig, we will chalk that up as a lesson learned the hard way.” Janeway chuckled, then smirked and said, “Later, I will tell you about the brawl I got involved in when a Cadet, and what punishment was meted out. Right now, I want you to go to my restroom and dry your eyes. I plan on taking the most beautiful woman I have ever known out to dinner.”

Seven smiled tremulously but felt relief that Kathryn had forgiven her.

She and Janeway moved towards each other and kissed tenderly in an affirmation that their conflict had been resolved and their love was strong.

XXX

CHAPTER TWO

XXX

Neelix had no idea what transpired when Kurros communicated with Admiral Janeway. Whatever Kurros said did not set well with her, as was apparent with his last image of her. She was one pissed off woman. He knew Admiral Janeway well enough to know that getting her angry was not a wise idea. She had a way of evening the score. There were plenty of bullies in the Delta Quadrant who would testify to that.

He had sent his ‘spies’ out a couple of weeks before to observe the Think Tank’s ship and make a daily report to him on their movement. So far, it had stayed several kilometers from the colony and out of the asteroid field.

Several traders had reported that they had done business with Kurros. He had purchased several shields from them. So far, it was a total of eight. Kurros also ‘rented’ space from the colony on one of the asteroids, to set the shields up. He had explained that they were to be used to open the micro wormhole wider by using a gravimetric field from a nearby red dwarf. This would pose no danger to the colony. Kurros stated the wormhole would be opened wide enough to allow Admiral Janeway to enter in a small craft. He had also promised that he would leave the shields, and the information on how to use them, to the colony as part of the rent payment for Neelix’s cooperation. This would open a 'trading' corridor every 32 days to the Alpha Quadrant, and his little colony would be on its way to becoming one of the major powers and trade centers in the Delta Quadrant.

Neelix had called a meeting with the colony’s council to go over the proposal. Neelix had given them a history of the Think Tank’s less than honest dealings. They decided to let Kurros install the shields. However, the colony would post a number of small ships armed with weapons large enough to destroy the shields quickly if it looked like any harm were to come to the colony, other ships, or harm to the micro wormhole itself. Neelix relayed this to Kurros with a promise that he would personally hunt him down and destroy him if they broke any of the stipulations, or tried any underhanded trick. Kurros assured him that there was no trick. He would make the deal with Admiral Janeway; she would get her daughter and return safely to the Alpha Quadrant. Neelix would have all the information to operate the array and the Think Tank would be on their way.

Kurros had refused to reveal what he would get out of it. Neelix would do all he could to keep his promise to Admiral Janeway and Tom Paris. He owed them a lot, and he was not a man to forget his friends.

XXX

Personal log. Pendolian Stardate. 79427. I am Morgan Edwina Paris-Janeway. This is to be my new name when I go to the Alpha Quadrant. My father called me Morgan. Here, with Kurros and the others, I am Sprout. One who has emerged or has begun to grow from seed. I am not so obtuse or naive to think they named me this because I had my beginnings as an entirely different species. I was Sprout because I sprang from the seeds of their plans and ambitions. They have nurtured me on knowledge and learning. Now I have grown to become more than what I was. As Morgan, I will continue to grow. What fruit I shall bear remains to be seen.

I find that I am no longer angry with my parents. I am curious about them, as I am sure they are curious about me. I am particularly curious about my mother. There was much information regarding her in Voyager’s logs. She is strong, she is a leader, and she makes decisions and expects others to follow them. Will she relate to me as she does to those under her command? I am not her equal for I have no experience in making decisions for others or leading others. I have only recently begun to make decisions for myself. I am particularly interested in her relationship to Seven of Nine. My mother seemed pleased that they are to be mates. On several entries in Voyager’s logs, it notes that Seven of Nine did not adhere to my mother’s orders. Perhaps, when my mother is not being Admiral, it is Seven of Nine who makes the decisions, and my mother who follows. I shall observe.

Seven of Nine intrigues me. She was a Borg drone until my mother severed her from the collective. She, like myself, had no childhood, being assimilated by the Borg early in her life. She has an intellect that far exceeds even those who possess a higher than average intellect. She is, perhaps, someone who will help me adjust to my new life. I do not know her, but I think I already like her.

Voyager’s logs also reference my father on many occasions. He is not a leader as is my mother. Perhaps this is because he is young. He was an integral part of Voyager’s operations. I also noted he had a penchant for not adhering to regulations. My mother had to reprimand him on occasion for not following orders. Once, she had him put in the brig and demoted him to a lesser rank. His mate is B’Elanna Torres. She was the chief engineer of Voyager. She was a leader and issued commands to those under her. She was a minor leader though, but still a leader. I wonder if she issues commands to my father and he follows. I shall observe them.

I have a sister. She is an infant. I am curious as to an infant’s learning process. I was never an infant but emerged almost mature. I learned quickly. From my studies, Humanoid infants do not learn as quickly as I did. This will be interesting to observe. It seems when I go to the Alpha Quadrant I will be engaged in a good amount of observing.

I find that the prospect of going to the Alpha Quadrant is both exciting and sad. Exciting as I shall experience new things and have opportunities to learn and further my development. I am sad because I leave behind me those that were my family. Despite what my purpose is to them and what they truly are, I will miss them. Kurros especially. Perhaps it is because he looked after my well being and was patient in teaching me. I sense that he will truly miss me and that he does regard me with affection, as I do him. Time and space interact and intersect more than what we know, so perhaps I will see him again one day, after I go to the Alpha Quadrant.

XXX

CHAPTER THREE

XXX



Janeway stood in front of her mission operatives and Lieutenant Barclay’s team. “Lieutenant Barclay assures me his team can have the Delta Flyer ready in two days. Our departure is three days from now. The Enterprise will transport us to Deep Space Nine in 3 days at maximum warp. Captain Kira will use the Defiant to open up the wormhole. We have 23 seconds to exit into the Delta Quadrant. We will be approximately 4 hours from our objective at warp seven, which is the Talaxian colony. I’ll let B’Elanna explain how we can enter into the colony without our presence being broadcast all over the system.”

B’Elanna took Janeway’s place at the podium. She held up a small rectangular object the size of a Starfleet communicator badge. “This object is a photon beam projector much like the Doctor and holodecks use. You attach it to the outside of your clothing. When activated it admits a holographic disguise around you to make you appear as another person or species. We programmed these to take on the appearance of Talaxians. Should someone scan you, your Human, or Vulcan, physiology will also appear as Talaxian. If the Delta Flyer is scanned, it will read as a small Talaxian trade vessel such as Neelix owns. I hope that these Peta'Qs do not have instruments that can filter out our devices and discover who you really are. Any questions? Ok, Reg, your show.”

Reginald took the podium, slightly nervous. “I...I'm here to discuss the artificial singularity…ah…wormhole. This is not a permanent wormhole. It will only remain stable for 23 seconds after opening. This is plenty of time to allow a small vessel, such as the Delta Flyer, to go through. We feel confident that the special shielding on the Flyer will work. Once you are through, the wormhole will close. The problem here is that once your mission is accomplished we will not know it on our end of the wormhole. Therefore, we will open the wormhole, at the same coordinates, at certain intervals on different dates, in hopes that you will be at these coordinates and can return through the wormhole. If you are unable to do so after a set period of days, you will need to contact us through Pathfinder at its next scheduled communication with Mr. Neelix. Seven has the Stardates for the times that the wormhole will be reactivated. Good luck. Hope to see you all safely back and with the Admiral and Tom’s daughter. Rest assured, Commander Torres-Paris and myself will be here covering your backs.”

Janeway took the podium again. “Any questions? Yes, Tuvok.”

Has Mr. Neelix been informed of our plans?”

No. When we last spoke I indicated that we would either converse with him through the Array or come through it based on the information Kurros gave us. We do not know if the Think Tank is able to monitor our communications with Neelix. We are hoping the element of surprise will catch the Thank Tank napping. I hope that we will be home for the Yule season. At least by Christmas Eve or Day.”

Tom piped up. “Geez. I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet. Anyone have any ideas what to get an 18 year old girl?”

B’Elanna answered with a smirk, “Her own private com link, key card to the aero car, and a credit account.”

Everyone laughed, save for Tuvok and Seven, the latter thinking she would have to ask Kathryn why that was amusing.

XXX

CHAPTER FOUR

XXX



Kathryn stood, with her hands on her hips, surveying Seven’s precarious perch on the seat of a dining room chair. “Seven, please be careful. I don’t want you to fall and break that beautiful neck of yours.”

Seven held a piece of mistletoe tied with red ribbon. It was an easy reach for her to tack the piece over the wide opening that lead from the living room to the dining room. She gingerly stepped off the chair and moved it a few feet back to the dining room table.

Kathryn stepped under the mistletoe and looked up. “That looks very nice, darling. Now come over here and let’s see if it works.”

Seven’ quirked her lips in a smile and replied, “I shall comply.”

She stepped into Kathryn’s arms, putting her arms around her waist, bending her head, and pressed her lips to those of Kathryn’s.

There they go again, like chickens after a June bug. Get in here you two and help decorate this tree.” Phoebe stood in the living room in front of a green seven foot spruce tree, with a box full of antique Christmas ornaments.

Seven broke the kiss, and both women smiled at each other, then headed toward Phoebe and the tree.

Kathryn surveyed the tree. “You get that at Marco’s tree farm?”

Sure did. I cut it myself.”

Seven breathed deeply. “It has a pleasing scent.”

Kathryn handed her an ornament to hang. “When we were kids, we always wanted one of those state of the art artificial trees. Mom and Daddy wouldn’t hear of it. Now it just wouldn’t seem like Christmas without a real tree.”

They heard the front door open and the sound of the foyer coat closet open then close. Gretchen came into the living room, cheeks red. “It’s starting to snow again. Girls, when you get a chance go out to the aero car and remove the packages and place them under the tree.”

Phoebe blurted out, “Oh, goody, more booty.”

Gretchen gave Phoebe an admonishing look. “Don’t go shaking and poking the packages. These are some last minute things I picked up for Morgan.”

Kathryn smirked and turned to Seven. “Phoebe always rooted out the hiding places for presents. She would try to figure out what was in the wrapped packages. Even those that did not have her name on them.”

Phoebe huffed. “It wasn’t only me. You did it too.”

Did not. I wanted it to be a surprise on Christmas morning.”

If you say so. What did you get her, Sis?”

Mostly clothes and underwear.”

Phoebe nodded. “A girl can’t have enough underwear. You can never find a clean pair of undies or bra when you need em.”

Gretchen slyly commented, “You could if you did your laundry weekly and not let it pile up.”

Phoebe had to have the last word. “See what I mean. You can’t have enough underwear. I got her a collection of classic music chips and bath salts, perfume, and lotions. Seven what did you get her, socks and hose? That’s another thing you always need.”

My presents are what a girl her age truly appreciates. Her own private com link, and credit account. I would have given her a key card to my vehicle, if I owned one. I gave her one to Kathryn’s staff car instead.”

Kathryn gave Seven a force ten glare. “Seven?”

Seven smirked. “I bought her a PADD, robe, slippers and pajamas.”

Gretchen was sorting through another box of ornaments. “Looks like we got everything covered. I have several coats, items of clothing, hairbrush and comb, barrettes of various kinds, certificates for shoes and boots that she can choose herself. And, of course the socks to go with them. I'm sure the Paris' have loaded up on gifts, too.”

Kathryn sighed deeply. “I do hope we’re back for Christmas, with Morgan.”

Seven put her arms around her and drew her close. “We will not fail. That is not an option.”

Gretchen went to both women and put her arms around them. “I have a strong feeling she will be with us soon, very soon. It’s the same feeling I had when all had given up on you and Voyager.”

Phoebe also joined in the group hug. “With a Janeway and Seven of Nine leading the way, I have no doubt when you leave tomorrow, you will find her in time to bring her home for Christmas.”

Kathryn smiled, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “Mom, make sure Phoebe doesn’t poke and shake the presents that are not hers.”

I give you my word, Kathryn; I won’t let her do that.”

Phoebe protested, “Hey, that’s breaking a family tradition you know. Well, I guess I‘ll have to pass the mantle on to Morgan. You know. Show her all the hiding places and how to peek through the paper without tearing it.”

All four women laughed.

XXX

CHAPTER FIVE

DEEP SPACE 9

XXX



 

 

All four of Morgan’s rescue team were in the process of checking the systems on the Delta Flyer. They had chosen to dress in non-issue gray combat shirts, and trousers tucked into black combat boots. They carried non-issue Romulan type phasers and communicators. This way, if scanned, nothing would give off a Starfleet resonance.

Seven looked at the stats on her panel. “Defiant has begun to generate a subspace tensor matrix. It will take approximately 1.26 minutes to reach thirty thousand Cochrane range.”

Janeway barked orders, “Alright, everyone, make sure you're secure. Tom, get ready to proceed at Seven‘s mark. Warp six.”

Aye, Admiral.”

Tuvok, have weapons on line as soon as we emerge. You never can tell, we might land in a Hirogen hunting pack.”

Weapons systems ready, Admiral.”

Seven reported, “Tensor matrix at twenty thousand Cochrane range, Twenty five thousand Cochrane range, thirty thousand and holding. Defiance’s deflectors are beaming magnetron pulse. Singularity opening. Mark.”

The Delta Flyer shot into the singularity at warp six. They felt very little turbulence. Colors of the singularity swirled around them as if caught in the eye of a hurricane.

Seven reported, “Thirteen seconds before singularity collapse. Nine seconds before singularity collapse. Four seconds.”

Suddenly, all around them was the inky blackness of space with a smattering of stars.

Good job, Tom. Report.”

Seven answered, “There appears to be no damage to the hull or internal wall shielding.”

Tuvok reported, “All weapons and systems are on line.”

Janeway leaned back in her seat. “Tuvok, engage our holographic hull disguise. We’re in the Delta Quadrant. Never can tell who’s lurking around out of sensor range. Tom, keep at warp six until we are within 1000 kilometers of our objective then drop to warp two.”

Aye, Admiral.”

Janeway tapped the fingers of her right hand on the chair arm and remarked, “The Delta Quadrant where friends are few, foes are plentiful, and sometimes you have trouble distinguishing the two.”

XXX

Neelix was in the kitchen of his modest apartment instructing Brax how to prepare Rytir egg soufflé. He was dressed in a colorful red, orange, and purple apron with a matching chef’s cap. Brax was dressed similarly.

Just beat it enough to mix the ingredients.”

His wife, Dexa, calling from the living area, interrupted him. “Sweets, you have an important call from your secretary.”

Sweets, tell him to take a message, today is my day off.”

A few seconds later, she came to the kitchen entrance. “He states it is very important. Two traders have news on a Borg sighting close to here and want to meet with you as soon as possible.”

Neelix took off his apron and hat. “Humm, that looks stirred enough. Put it in stasis until I return, and we will turn out a masterpiece for your mother.”

XXX

Neelix straightened his coat and sat upright in his chair. He notified his secretary to send the call to him. The screen went blue and then displayed a scene showing the faces of two Talaxians, a female and a male.

The female addressed him, “I am Quilla and this is Hux. We have important business that we must discuss with you in person.”

Neelix paused for a second. “Why can’t you tell me over the com link?”

Hux answered, “This is of a very sensitive nature and concerns the Borg, and our welfare. Can you ensure us that your link is 100 percent safe from tampering?”

Neelix bit his bottom lip. “Where are you now?”

Our ship is within 2 kilometers of your colony, behind a small asteroid. We have transporters and are within range from your coordinates.”

Very well. I give you clearance to transport to these coordinates.”

A few seconds later he heard the sound of a transporter and the two Talaxians appeared before his desk. He noticed both were taller than the average Talaxian.

Hux immediately drew out a device and scanned the room before saying, “All is clear, Admiral.”

Before Neelix’s eyes, the forms of the two Talaxians wavered and then refocused into those of Tuvok and Janeway.

Neelix stared, open-mouthed.

Well, Neelix, aren’t you going to greet two old friends.”

Neelix smiled and laughed. “Captain…I mean Admiral and Mr. Vulcan. How did you get here?”

Tuvok lifted one eyebrow. “We transported in according to the coordinates you provided for us.”

Janeway smirked. “Let’s just say, we found a back door into the system. We have Seven and Tom on the Delta Flyer, which is disguised as a small Talaxian vessel much like the one you own.”

Neelix beamed. “Have them dock at my private area. I will order no one to approach the vessel, and station guards. You can all join me for supper. It will be like old times. Why, I’m teaching Brax to whip up some Rytir soufflé. There’s plenty to go around. Too bad I didn’t know you were coming, or I would have baked a Leola root pie.”

Janeway felt her stomach lurch, and she inwardly shuddered but outwardly smiled. “I‘m sure Tom will be disappointed. I know I am.”

XXX

So you see, Admiral Janeway, we know the Think Tank is out there, but since they keep cloaked, we don’t know exactly where. My …ah…eyes and ears believe it is near the third asteroid where they installed their shields. The few times they have de-cloaked are when they used their transporters, and it has always been in that area, even when transporting to the colony.”

Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. “Do they ever come to the colony to trade or bargain?”

Neelix scratched his whiskers. “Kurros has been here two times and the tall reptilian once, with Kurros and your daughter. This was on the last date you communicated with him. Any other dealings we have had have been via their holographic communications, and always with Kurros. The same when purchasing something they need from other traders. Kurros makes the deal by holographic imaging, and they beam the articles to the ships, and the ships beam their items to them.”

Janeway looked at her crew. “Any ideas how we can get them to de-cloak or, better yet, lure Kurros into beaming somewhere to nab him?”

Tuvok spoke up. “How did they set up the shields?”

They beamed them into place and hired a Talaxian crew, through me, to finish the details. I picked the crew myself. Hey, wait, Kurros was on the surface to direct what they wanted done.”

Tuvok’s eyebrows slightly twitched. “Admiral, if somehow a few of the shields were displaced, I believe they would again need to hire a crew to help realign them. This would require supervision. The ship would also need to de-cloak to transport Kurros to the surface. The Delta Flyer could be nearby and transport Morgan from the ship before it cloaks.”

Janeway gave a feral smile, looked at Tuvok, and replied, “Better yet, we could be part of the work crew and take Kurros hostage, as a little extra insurance. Seven, you will transport Morgan off their ship when it de-cloaks. Tom, as soon as you have her, get the hell out of weapons range. Hide in the asteroid field. Tuvok and I can always get back here via the ship the work crew traveled in and contact you later.”

Seven coolly inquired, “How are we to interfere with the alignment of the shields without being detected? It would be logical for them to monitor the shields constantly, would it not?”

There was silence for a few long seconds as everyone tried to think of a plausible solution. Neelix blurted out, “Space Pirates! We recently had a small pirate ship come through and steal a few construction items from the surface of our asteroid. It was one of those hit and run jobs. I have just the fellow in my employ that can carry this off. Grab a couple of shields and be gone before their sensors pick it up.”

Janeway again bared her teeth in a predatory smile. “Let’s do it.”

XXX

 

Janeway and Tuvok were sitting in the small transport ship with four Talaxians hand picked by Neelix to assist in fine-tuning the two replacement shields. Neelix had arranged for the disappearance of two of the shields within four hours after their dinner. A few minutes after the heist was done, Neelix issued a general alert to the colony and surrounding vessels to take extra precautions as known pirates were in the vicinity.

Six hours after the alert, Neelix’s operatives reported that the Think Tank had purchased two shields from a nearby trade ship. The next day, Kurros, or a holographic image of Kurros, hired six workers through Neelix, to meet him on the asteroid surface at a specified coordinate early the following day. Both Janeway and Tuvok donned Talaxian space suits, complete with helmets and a small nondescript equipment bag, which contained hand phasers. Their helmets contained a small radio device tuned to a special narrow band frequency in order to communicate with the Delta Flyer. With any luck, the Think Tank would not pick it up. If they did, it would take some time to separate it from the scrambling code that Seven had devised. They had activated their holographic disguises before donning the suits. Janeway squirmed in her seat, disturbing Tuvok who gave her a speculative look.

My back itches. Why is it some part of me itches when I can’t scratch it?”

Perhaps it is your imagination.”

It sure doesn’t feel like my imagination.”

A few minutes later, the small vessel sat down on the surface, and all the crew departed. They were to wait until Kurros arrived to begin. Of course, all the crew was Neelix’s operatives. As soon as Kurros beamed down, they would take him into custody. Hopefully, Seven and Tom would have Morgan.

A few minutes later Kurros beamed down. He wore a bulky light blue space suit and a round clear helmet, much like the ones seen on Tom‘s old 20th century movies. All six of the crew immediately surrounded him. Before he realized what was transpiring, Janeway and Tuvok had their phasers trained on him. Janeway disguised her voice and said, “Kurros, put your hands behind your back, don’t even think about contacting your ship.”

Kurros stood frozen to the spot. “What is the meaning of this?”

Do it.” Janeway motioned for Tuvok and another of the crew to take his arms, put them behind his back, and cuff them.

Kurros protested, “Why are you doing this? What do you want?”

Janeway glared at him through her helmet. “Shut up and don’t try anything. If you attempt to transport we will not hesitate to shoot you with the setting on full power. Your colleagues will get back charred pieces.”

Janeway thought for sure she would have gotten a message from Seven. She looked at Tuvok. “Hux, any news?”

Negative.”

Just then, they both picked up Seven’s voice. “Alpha to Delta.”

Go ahead, Alpha.”

We have failed to get a lock on our target. An unknown shielding device interfered with our attempts. They have cloaked.”

Janeway took a deep breath. “Understood, lock on these coordinates.

Three to beam up.”

XXX

Kurros materialized with the two others on the bridge of a small ship. He was stunned for a moment at having come face to face with Seven of Nine. He quickly gained his composure and surveyed his surroundings, spotting Tom Paris at the helm. His helmet was removed by one of his captors.

This is clearly Janeway’s doing. Where is she?”

The smaller of the Talaxians had taken off her helmet and was removing her space suit. Her image flickered and then became Janeway’s image.

Seven. Scan him for any weapons and communications device. Have him remove his suit very carefully. Kill him if he even looks like he is starting to transport.”

Janeway glanced over at the viewscreen and noted their route was through many asteroids and debris fields. She turned her attention back to her…guest. “Have a seat, Kurros.”

Seven pushed him into a nearby seat. Both she and Tuvok had phasers trained on him. Janeway stood above him with her hands on her hips and glared hard at him. “Why couldn’t we transport my daughter off of your ship?”

Kurros smiled sweetly. “Why, Admiral, we knew you would try something like this, so we put up a field to prevent any attempt to use your transporter.”

Is there any way around this field? I warn you, answer truthfully.”

Or what…Admiral?”

Janeway gritted her teeth and slapped him hard across the face and hissed, “Starfleet regulations carry no weight here, Kurros. This is a personal matter. Now talk or I will take pieces out of you until you do. Understand?”

Kurros rubbed his left cheek, which was turning red. He quickly complied. “There is no way to shut it off except from the ship. We made sure of that.”

Tuvok, hail their ship. Tom, if they answer, take us to the spot the communications originate from.” Janeway kept her features hard as she continued to stare at Kurros who actually quavered.

Tuvok informed her, “I’m getting no response, Admiral.”

Alright, Kurros, you understand the routine.”

Kurros swallowed hard. “They will not answer except on the frequency of my communications device.”

Seven located the device and removed it from Kurros’ suit, handing it to Janeway. She held the small flat silver disk up to Kurros. “Hail them.”

Open channel. This is Kurros. Admiral Janeway is here and needs to speak, please open com channel on the frequency they are using. Do not, I repeat do not, attempt to transport me.”

A few seconds later X92 was seen on the Flyer’s viewscreen, his tinny voice demanding, “Give us what we want, Admiral, and we will give you your daughter.”

Janeway tried not to snort. “Do you speak for your collective?”

This is Bevvox speaking through X92. I am the leader.”

Very well, Bevvox. You know we have Kurros. We propose a trade. My daughter for the safe return of your colleague.”

No. You may do to Kurros as you wish, Admiral. We can function without him. Your daughter for the Omega information.”

If I give you this information, how do I know I will get my daughter, unharmed?”

We have no use for her save as a tool for your cooperation. I warn you, Admiral, I will review the information you send to check for it‘s validity, both for the area you located it in, and for the method of containment Seven of Nine used. If either looks to be a deception, I will have your daughter terminated slowly before your eyes.”

Janeway managed to keep her command presence. “Give us time to prepare to send the information to you. We do not have it in our computers, and Seven must download it before we can send it. We will need at least an hour.”

No Admiral. You have 10 minutes. We will contact you again.”

The com link was broken. Seven looked at Janeway. “I can download the information from my cortical node in less than 2 minutes, Admiral.”

No, Seven. I will not give them the information.” She looked again at Kurros. “If she is hurt, you will die by inches and beg me to kill you quickly.”

Kurros looked decidedly upset. “Admiral, do with me as you wish. What they say is true. They will kill your daughter. I can perhaps prevent that from happening. Let me return and I will tell them I have the information. While they are confirming it, I will disable the shields to allow you to transport her off the ship.”

Janeway snorted. “Not a chance, Kurros. I don’t trust you.”

Admiral, please, I love Sprout as if she were my own. I swear to you, if there were another way, I would tell you. The only thing I have to do is beam on board the ship, tell them I have the information, and disable the field. I will also disable the cloak. This will allow you to target our propulsion. They will not suspect. It will only take a few seconds.”

Janeway looked into Kurros’ eyes. “If you do what you say, what will become of you?”

Kurros smiled sadly. “They may kill me, Admiral. Perhaps slower than what you would. But Sprout will be where she belongs, safe, with you.”

Before Janeway could reply, Tuvok interrupted. “Admiral, a small cylindrical object six meters in length and nine meters in circumference has emerged from a space approximately 3.1 kilometers to our starboard. It is heading toward us at sub warp.”

XXX

CHAPTER SIX

XXX



Morgan had just entered the galley, to prepare herself a light lunch, when the lights began to flash amber. This signal only activated when there was a possible threat to the ship. She exited the galley and ran down the short corridor to her quarters. She went to her hobby table and pulled her small radio receiver out of its hiding place in a box of innocuous electronics parts. She could only pick up X92’s voice and that of Fennin’s. Apparently, someone was attempting to contact the ship, for what reasons was not discerned.

She decided she would use the air conduit to take her to the Bridge, where she would be close enough to intercept the thought speech of Xyglys and Bevvox. She would just have to put up with a headache and nosebleed.

She tied her hair back and quickly put on a pair of dark blue overalls. She pushed her desk over to the vent and placed the chair on top of it. She climbed up on the desk and then stood on the chair. Pushing the vent grate open and out of the way, she pulled herself up into the dusty cramped corridor. She followed the iridescent paint markers until she came to the branch that led to the Bridge. She could already pick up the spoken voices. She stealthily crept close to the Bridge grate. Now she could use her implanted translator to pick up the ‘speak’ thoughts of Bevvox and Xyglys. They were speculating on who had attempted to contact them and if they should contact Kurros. A few seconds later, a hail was coming from Kurros.

Morgan felt that her heart had somehow lodged in her throat. Her mother was here and demanding her release in exchange for Kurros! Morgan felt the warmth of blood drip from her nose and onto her upper lip. She wiped at her nose with her sleeve. The sides of her head began to tighten, a sure sign of an approaching headache. She could not stop now; they were discussing her. What she heard next almost made her blood freeze and her breath stop. Bevvox would kill her if Janeway did not acquiesce to his demands. Then communications ceased, apparently terminated by one of the Think Tank members. She heard, in her mind, Bevvox order Fennin to get her and bring her to the Bridge. She was stunned. She felt faint, and her heart pounded so hard it would surely explode. What should she do? Run; get off the ship, but how? The escape pods. She scurried along the conduit and came to the junction where the tunnels branched. Which one, which way? Yes, there are the yellow paint marks. She hurried quickly along, knowing that Fennin would be at her door by now. He would hail her, and if she did not answer in a minute or two, he would open the door to her room and see the chair on her desk. He would observe the open conduit grate and contact one of the others to track her through her implanted translation chip.

Time seemed to crawl though she was making good progress. Finally, she was at the grate to the pod bay. She kicked the grate out with her feet and dropped to the deck. Quickly, she got to her feet and scrambled to the nearest pod. Opening it, she jumped in, seated herself at the main control panel, and pressed the launch button. A safety harness immediately surrounded her. She then heard the short count down for launch: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” The abrupt acceleration slammed her back into her seat and she felt a crushing sensation of her chest. The pod headed away from the ship at sub warp. A distress signal immediately activated.

She was shivering from both fear and adrenalin. Her chest hurt, and she found it hard to breathe. ‘Please, Mother, I hope you are nearby to get me off this thing.’ She felt a momentary disorientation and noted her vision suddenly blur then focus. “Mother?”

XXX

CHAPTER SEVEN

XXX





Admiral, life sign readings from the pod are Human. I am initiating transport.” Tuvok’s voice was calm and cool.

Janeway looked toward the small transport area and heard the whine as a figure materialized. She was shocked at the appearance of a dirty, bedraggled Humanoid with a blood-smeared face. Even more shocked when the figure looked at her and exclaimed, “Mother?”

She quickly recovered herself. “Morgan!” She looked her up and down for injuries. “Sit down over here.”

She indicated a chair against the bulkhead. Seven was already there with a medical scanner and immediately began running it over the obviously shaken and shivering young woman.

Janeway turned to look over her shoulder toward the helm. “Tom, take us out of here, maximum warp towards our rendezvous point. Tuvok, set shields to stop any attempt at transport. Seven, contact Neelix and tell him thanks for his help.”

Janeway took the scanner from Seven and checked the readings. They appeared to be within the normal range, no injuries, despite the blood. She went to a nearby cabinet and returned with a blanket. Kneeling beside her daughter, she wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. “Here, this will keep you warm.”

Kurros came up to Morgan and knelt at her other side. “Sprout, know that I would never harm you.”

Janeway gave him a force ten stare. Morgan nodded her head, still shivering and unable to speak. Janeway retrieved the medical kit, removed a hypospray, and inserted a vial. “Kurros, does she have any allergies to medications or any other substance?”

None that I have found, Admiral.”

Janeway looked down at Morgan. “Morgan, I’m going to give you something to make you feel better. It will not hurt, I promise.” She gave her daughter a reassuring smile. Janeway placed the hypospray onto her neck and injected the medication.

A few seconds later Morgan stopped shivering. She looked at Janeway and smiled shyly. Janeway returned the smile.

Tom walked up to the two, informing Janeway, “Seven has taken the helm.” He studied his daughter, smiling widely. “Hi…I’m glad to see you again. I mean, I’m glad to see you here, with us. Uh, is there anything I can get you?”

Water, please?” She said almost in a whisper. She rubbed her hands, which were dirty, over her face, in an attempt to remove the grime and blood, only making it worse.

Janeway stood up and glared over at a now standing Kurros. “Is this the state you keep her in, filthy and unkempt?”

Before he could answer, Morgan frowned and scrunched up her nose. “I crawled through the air conduits to escape to the pod, and they are dusty and dirty.”

Kurros added, “I assure you, Admiral, Sprout has good grooming habits. I am curious to find out about her escape.”

Before Morgan could answer, Janeway interceded, “All in good time.”

Tom returned with a large glass of water. “Here you go. Admiral Janeway, I mean, your mother, can show you where to clean up.” Tom looked at Kurros. “You can come with me to the front. Don’t try any funny stuff or I‘ll make you suck space vacuum.”

Kurros and Tom departed, and Janeway touched Morgan on her shoulder. “Here, I’ll show you where the facilities are. We have a small sonic shower, toilet, and sink. I’ll show you how to operate them, and get you some clean clothes to wear.”

Morgan stood, and Janeway placed her hand on her elbow to guide her. She noted that Morgan was a few inches taller than she was, and of a slender build. Janeway showed her the facilities and then opened a nearby bin and looked through the packaged clothing, retrieving a Starfleet issue undershirt and underwear, sweater and outer pants that she thought were in her daughter’s size range. She also gave her a kit containing a brush, comb, toothbrush, and other toiletry items and instructed her on the use of the facilities. “I will be right outside the door if you need anything.”

Janeway closed the door to give Morgan privacy. Seven came up to her and inquired, “Kathryn, what is the status of her condition?”

She appears fine except for some initial shock and a nose bleed.”

Seven studied Janeway closely. “What is the status of your condition, Kathryn?”

Janeway sighed. “I’m fine.” She paused for a second and added, “You know, Seven, our plan went well up to the point Kurros’ cohorts decided not to trade for him. I was almost ready to trust him and go along with his ideas. It seems Morgan somehow figured out what was going on and escaped on her own. I have yet to get the details of how she managed to do so.”

Seven lifted her left eyebrow and replied, “She has undoubtedly inherited her ability to extract herself from dangerous situations from you, Kathryn.”

Janeway snorted. “Or from Tom.”

Seven disagreed, “I think not. After all, Kathryn, he was unable to extract himself from the situation which caused him to be demoted and incarcerated in the brig for 30 days.”

Janeway snickered. “You have a point there. Let‘s hope she has inherited Tom’s good qualities.”

And they would be?”

Janeway rolled her eyes. “Seven, I hope you are being facetious.”

Seven smirked. “Perhaps.”

XXX

Morgan sat quietly drinking milk and eating a light lunch of tomato soup. Her father had recommended it, telling her it was one of his favorite foods. She liked the taste and wondered what other foods from her parents' culture she would enjoy. She had answered all of her mother’s questions pertaining to her escape. Janeway had commented at the end of the questioning, “Clever girl. I am impressed. You showed initiative and ingenuity.”

Morgan blushed and had a shy but pleased look. “Thank you.”

Kurros was amused that she had used her learning toys to construct listening devices. “Admiral, we have underestimated her intelligence and ingenuity just as we underestimated yours.”

Janeway replied, “The one thing I learned as a Captain was never take anyone or anything for granted, lest you turn your back and get bitten in the butt.”

Morgan was pleased that Kurros would go with them to the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway had warned him that he could face charges for attempting extortion of a Starfleet officer, but that she would consider dropping charges if he would work for Starfleet in a capacity as a scientist.

He had agreed. “I, like Spr…Morgan, have known nothing but the Think Tank since early childhood. I believe it is time for me to discover what it means to live on my own and make decisions on what I think best without approval from others.”

Janeway warned him, “Just remember, I will be watching. And any of your prior ‘charity’ work will not be tolerated.”

Kurros grinned. “Agreed, Admiral.”

XXX

 

 

Morgan was particularly interested in Seven of Nine. She covertly watched her as she checked various readings and interacted with others. She noticed that Seven frequently watched her mother. When she conversed with her mother, Seven’s whole demeanor changed from cool indifference to warm awareness. Seven had not initiated a conversation with her, nor had Tuvok. She wondered if this were a Borg trait as her readings of Voyager’s logs showed that he was once assimilated.

She was reaching for her glass of milk when a piercing pain shot through her head and then…blackness.

XXX

Janeway saw that Morgan was finishing up her meal and went to the replicator to request a small bowl of vanilla pudding for her daughter‘s dessert. She had just turned around when Morgan cried abruptly and pitched out of her seat onto the floor. She started thrashing violently. Janeway ran to her and knelt by her side, trying to hold her.

Seven was by her side with the scanner and medical kit. “She has increased brain neural patterns initiating from a very minute area behind her right ear.”

Kurros, his voice excited, blurted out, “They are sending an energy pulse though her translation implant. Hail them, Admiral, before they kill her.”

Tuvok reported, “Admiral, I cannot filter out the signal, nor can I locate the ship. The signal seems to be originating at various coordinates, and the ship remains cloaked.”

Kurros reached out and stopped Janeway from giving Morgan an injection. “No. That may cause further damage and will have no effect on the implant.”

Janeway raised her voice, the stress evident, “Hail them!”

Immediately, Fennin came on the view screen. Seven held Morgan while Janeway rose and looked at the screen, her face twisted in rage. “Stop what you’re doing, you’re killing her.”

Fennin replied, “The information, Janeway, now, or watch her die slowly before your eyes.”

Seven shouted out, “I have her stabilized; however, my nanoprobes are quickly being neutralized by an unknown energy pulse from her implant. I can continue to transfer my nanoprobes for approximately four minutes until they are depleted.”

Janeway immediately cut communications. She turned to Seven and saw that Morgan had stopped the seizures and was lying without movement on the deck with Seven’s assimilation tubules in her neck. Janeway felt immediate alarm and revulsion at seeing what Seven was doing. She felt a sudden panic grip her and experienced a vivid flashback of assimilation tubules painfully injected into her own neck. She forcefully squelched the panic; realizing Seven was attempting to save her daughter's life.

Tom shouted at Janeway from his pilot’s seat, his voice on the verge of panic, “Do something, Admiral, give them the damn information.”

Janeway quickly grabbed Kurros and pushed him forcefully against the bulkhead. She growled in his face, “How do we stop them?”

Kurros was pale. He nervously licked his upper lip and said in a concerned voice, “The implant must be surgically removed. When attached to the skull, under the skin, microscopic fibers filtrate through the bone and attach themselves to the brain. You do not have the equipment here to remove it.”

Janeway gritted her teeth. “This is more than a translation device, what else is its function?”

It enhances any telepathic abilities she has and allows her to communicate by thought. We can also use it to monitor her whereabouts.”

Janeway pushed her elbow against his throat. “You had better find a solution, and quick.”

He coughed and wheezed but managed to say in a raspy voice, “There is another way which I believe will work. Allow me to contact the ship and tell them I am in the process of obtaining the information from Seven. I will instead, input a code into an information chip to shut down all systems in the ship. My colleagues will want to verify the information. When on board, I will download the chip. The ship will drop its cloak and shields. Target the engines and communications. This is our only chance to save her.”

Janeway eased back and let him go. She commanded him in a stern voice. “Do it.”

Tuvok had just hailed the Think Tank vessel, and Fennin appeared on screen. Kurros stepped forward in front of the screen and smiled. “You can stop now; we have gotten what we want. The Borg is downloading the information as we speak. She should be finished in 5 minutes. I will beam back aboard with the information.”

Fennin hesitated then stated, “Bevvox states three minutes.”

Very well, I am sure she can do it in three.”

Communications were cut. Kurros went immediately to a console and Janeway handed him a small crystal chip to insert into the computer.

Do you have time to enter the code?”

Oh yes, Admiral, plenty of time. In fact, it is done just about…now.”

Seven’s voice was strained as she stated, “Kathryn, I can only continue for 60 seconds.”

Kurros stood. “Admiral, take good care of her. She is someone special. Tell her I am sorry. And that I love her.”

Janeway nodded. “Kurros, for what it’s worth, thank you for what you’re doing and thank you for my daughter. Tuvok, open communications and prepare to transport.”

Kurros faced the screen as Fennin came into view. “I have it. They will transport me in 10 seconds.” Communications were cut, and Kurros stepped onto the small pad.

Tuvok reported, “Admiral, their ship is ready for transport. I am transporting now.”

Janeway heard the low whine and watched a sadly smiling Kurros dematerialize. “Get those phasers and torpedoes ready. As soon as they appear, and their shields are down, fire at targeted areas.”

Janeway turned to look at her daughter and Seven. Seven had removed her tubules and was sitting wanly by Morgan, who remained prone but was starting to moan a little.

The cloak has been dropped and weapons have hit targeted areas, Admiral.”

She turned to the screen in time to see several explosions from the Think Tank ship. Tuvok turned to her and said, “Their ship’s engines have been destroyed as well as their communication array.”

Janeway let out a long sigh. “Tuvok, take over for Tom for a while.”

Yes, Admiral.”

Janeway quickly went over to where Seven and Morgan were. She knelt on the floor and picked up the medical scanner. She ran the device over her daughter’s head, hoping there was no brain injury. She closed her eyes and let out her breath. Morgan showed no sign of brain damage.

Morgan groaned again, and her hands went up to her temples. “My head hurts.”

Janeway patted her shoulder. “I’m giving you something for the pain and to relax you.” She reached over for the medical kit, took out a small vial, and inserted it in the hypospray. She administered the injection on the opposite side of the neck from where Seven had inserted her tubules.

Tom quickly knelt beside her. “She’s ok, Tom. Just a bad headache. I gave her something for the pain and to relax her.”

I’m going to let down one of the cots and put her in it. I’ll stay with her for awhile.”

Janeway nodded. “That’s a good idea, Tom.”

Tom got up to go to a back bulkhead to pull out a cot, cover it with sheets, and retrieve a pillow from a bin. He returned and Janeway helped him get an unsteady Morgan to her feet. Tom then picked her up in his arms and carried her to the cot.

Janeway turned to Seven and ran the device over her. Seven looked at her and smiled. “I will need to regenerate when we return home.”

Janeway leaned over and hugged her. “Thank you, darling, for protecting my daughter. I’m glad you came with us. Without you and your nanoprobes she may have died.”

Seven nodded. “I could do no less, Kathryn. She is your daughter, Gretchen’s granddaughter, and Phoebe‘s niece. She is also my daughter.”

Janeway stroked Seven’s cheek. “That she is, darling, that she is. Now, I’m ordering you to go rest. Tuvok and I can handle everything until we get to the rendezvous point.”

Seven stood and wryly stated, “Aye…Admiral.”

Janeway tried to give her a command stare. “See that it’s done.” Seven smirked slightly and headed towards the back for a much needed rest.

XXX

CHAPTER EIGHT

XXX



Morgan had never seen so many sentient beings in her life. She stood on Deep Space 9’s upper level and viewed the busy concourse below. She had, of course, read about and studied different species but had never had the chance to meet any, save for the members of the Think Tank and a few of the Talaxians at the colony. She was only on a planet’s surface one time. This was with Kurros and Fennin, but the planet was unoccupied, only having non sentient life forms and flora.

Tom was by her side, also surveying the scene. “Hey, want me to get you something to drink?”

Morgan glanced at him and smiled. “Thank you, no." She lightly touched the translating device attached to her shirt. "Father, will I receive another implant, or will I have to wear this translation device all the time?”

Well, you will just have to learn standard Federation when we get home. Really, the only time anyone uses a translator is when we leave Earth or you go to some of those places on Earth where they still converse in regional languages.”

Morgan pointed to the crowd below. “There is Mother and Seven.”

Tom waved. “Hey, you two, wait there, and we’ll be right down.”

Captain Kira Nerys accompanied the two women. The three stopped and waited by the side of a small Kiosk.

When Tom and Morgan reached them, Janeway informed him, “Tuvok is delivering the Delta Flyer to the Bravo’s shuttle bay. We leave in 20 minutes. Captain Kira, let me introduce you to my daughter, Morgan.”

Captain Kira smiled warmly. “Welcome to Deep Space Nine. How are you feeling?”

Morgan smiled shyly and replied, “I am well, thank you. Dr. Bashir said I may have a headache for awhile, but, so far, I have none.”

That is very good. I wish you could stay longer. I would like to show you the station.”

Janeway stated, “Some other time, Captain. Right now I want to get my daughter home for Christmas.”

Captain Kira nodded. “Ah yes, one of Earth's major religious celebrations. There are many on the station who celebrate it.”

Tom snorted and wryly said, “Yeah, I see Quark’s has his Christmas decorations up and is offering some special drink called ‘Jingle Bell Sleigh Ride’.”

Captain Kira smirked. “Better that than what he called his special last year…‘Jesus Juice’. He offended many of the followers of that particular religion. I had to order him to change the name to something that wasn’t offensive. Quark actually believed that naming an alcoholic beverage after a deity was a way of paying homage.”

Janeway and Paris laughed. The story was lost on Morgan and Seven, who had puzzled expressions.

Janeway declared, “Guess we should be heading out. Captain Kira, thank you for your cooperation. I hope to visit here again and not in an official capacity.”

Admiral Janeway, I am happy that this turned out well for you, and you too, Lieutenant Paris. She looked at Morgan. “It was nice meeting you. You must visit again sometime. I will personally take you on a short trip through the wormhole.”

Morgan’s eyes lit up. “I would like that, Captain Kira.”

Good. I will escort you all to your ship.”

XXX

 

Janeway, Seven, and Morgan were assigned the largest V.I.P quarters on Bravo. Tuvok and Tom shared the smaller one, which was still spacious. Janeway used her authority as Admiral to tell Captain Wingate to proceed to Earth at maximum warp.

This was the first time he had met the Admiral. At first glance, she wasn’t what he expected. After all of the stories making the rounds of Starfleet about some of her adventures in the Delta Quadrant, he had expected her to be tall and Amazonian. However, it didn’t take him long to see the presence of authority and strength of character in the way she carried herself. She exuded power and confidence in her walk, stance, and speaking. He had a feeling she would be a major force in shaping Starfleet in the years to come. Other admirals, like Hayes and Paris, would long be forgotten, but the name Janeway would go down in Starfleet history.

XXX

Seven was instructing Morgan on how to play Kadis Kot while Kathryn was using Captain Wingate’s ready room to prepare reports for Starfleet on their mission. So far, they were tied at two games apiece. Seven had won the first two, but Morgan soon evened the score. Seven was impressed with her ability to learn the game so rapidly. Seven was setting the board up for game number five, when Morgan let out a big yawn.

You require sleep. We shall participate in this activity at another time.”

Morgan didn’t say anything for a moment, and then looked at Seven inquiringly. “May I ask you a question?”

You may.”

What are my mother’s expectations for me?”

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye in surprise. “Why do you not ask her?”

Morgan dropped her gaze and then looked back up. “I…I do not know. I…am uncertain how I should…be…around her.”

Seven was surprised at the uncertainty in the young woman's voice. Morgan, despite her age and lack of experience, had an air of confidence in her bearing. Seven turned her head slightly to the left, so that she could use her implant to look more closely at the young woman, as if this action would somehow allow her to ‘see’ what was causing her uncertainty. “She will expect you to be yourself. Why would she expect otherwise?”

Morgan thought. ‘Be myself. I do not know myself any longer’. “When she severed you from the Borg, did she not expect you to become Human?”

Perhaps. That may have been her expectation when she first severed me. However, I will never be completely Human, and Kathryn has come to accept that fact and to value many of my Borg attributes. Kathryn loves me, Seven of Nine. If I should lose the part of myself that is Borg, I would not be the individual to whom she has given her love.”

Morgan thought for a moment. “You were born genetically Human. I was not. She may not accept me as she has you.”

Seven then understood that Morgan feared rejection from Kathryn. Perhaps fearing that Kathryn would reject her as she had done in the past when Morgan was in her original form. Not only rejection from Kathryn, but also from others, just as those in the Think Tank, who had reared her, had rejected her. Seven knew what it was to feel the sting of rejection. For so long many on Voyager had rejected her. She now understood that Morgan's seemingly confident bearing was a facade. Seven had hid behind a facade of superiority.

Your concerns are unfounded. Kathryn is accepting of the differences in others. In her capacity as a Starfleet Officer, she has had the opportunity to interact with non-Humans and many differing points of view and personalities. Indeed, she has realized that those individuals that do not share her particular beliefs, or background, may have solutions to problems she may encounter in her role as an officer. She still seeks counsel from many of these individuals. She has given them her trust and friendship. Commander Tuvok is one such individual.”

Morgan wrinkled her brow in thought. “Was he not Borg like you?”

No. The Borg assimilated him for a short period of time. He is Vulcan. Both Vulcans and Borg are logical in their approach to solving problems. However, Vulcans think as individuals, and control emotions. Logic is their goal. They recognize the importance of diversity: ‘Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.' Borg are not individuals but are one unthinking part of the whole. Diversity is not valued, as it does not lead to perfection. Logic is a means to obtain perfection, which is the goal of the Borg. Emotions are irrelevant, individual thought is irrelevant, and uniqueness is irrelevant, except in so much as it can be assimilated and used to obtain perfection.”

Morgan gave Seven a quizzical look. “Do you wish to obtain perfection?”

Seven’s lips quirked upwards in an amused smile. “What is perfection, Morgan Paris-Janeway? Since my severance from the collective I have discovered that there are as many interpretations of perfection as there are individuals in the Universe. I believe that the Borg definition of perfection is flawed. Perfection is an individual goal, toward which each strives, but will never achieve. It is fluid and never constant, changing definitions as you journey toward it. To achieve perfection is to stagnate. However, the journey you take to reach perfection is to experience immense satisfaction in the many and varied steps that you accomplish.”

Morgan thought for a moment while Seven put away the game. She then tipped her head to one side and repeated to herself, “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. I like that.”

Seven gave one of her megawatt smiles. “Indeed.”

XXX

CHAPTER NINE

XXX

USS Bravo made the trip from Deep Space 9 to McKinley Station in 70 hours 46 minutes and 37 seconds. In Indiana, it was 12:30 AM December 25, Christmas Day.

When Morgan and her rescuers departed the ship, Gretchen, Phoebe, Owen Paris, Rachel Paris, B’Elanna, and a sleeping Miral met them. Morgan did not know how to react to the attention she received from adoring grandparents, stepmother, and aunt. She behaved in a polite but reserved manner. She blushed frequently, only speaking when spoken to.

Owen had obtained one of Starfleet’s Ambassadorial shuttles to take them back to Earth. He obtained special clearance to deliver the Janeway family practically to their doorstep. The Paris family and Tuvok were going back to San Francisco where Tuvok would go to the Vulcan Embassy. The Paris’ would return later Christmas Day for dinner at the Janeway residence. Upon arriving home, at 1:25 AM, all retired to get much needed rest, and Seven to regenerate, for the big day the next morning.

Morgan was given her mother’s old room. She felt confused, bewildered, and missed Kurros. She hoped he was well and the others would not harm him. She turned her head into her pillow and cried herself to sleep.

Kathryn lay in bed watching Seven regenerating in her Alcove. She could not sleep. Seven had stated she would only need four hours to regenerate to replete her nanoprobes. Kathryn thought about Morgan. She felt uneasy around her, not sure how to relate to an eighteen year old, who just happened to be her daughter. She knew how to relate to Cadets and green ensigns her daughter's age. She was their Superior. Rules were in place for protocol. There were no rules that she knew to establish protocol when it came to relating to one's children. She would have to seek her mother’s advice on this one. Who should know but Mom, after having raised two daughters from birth to adulthood.

It bothered her that Morgan seemed reticent and awkward in her presence, perhaps picking up on her own uneasiness and uncertainty. Morgan had no problems seeking Seven’s advice and counsel in the short time they were together. Seven was attentive and seemed to enjoy her role as mentor. Morgan also seemed to be comfortable around Tom, listening attentively to his stories. Kathryn made mention of this to Seven a few hours before reaching McKinley Station. Seven informed her that perhaps Morgan feared rejection. Kathryn could not understand why Morgan would feel that she would reject her. Why did she not feel that about Tom?

Seven had given her a comforting hug and said, “She seeks my counsel because she recognizes that we are similar. She had no childhood. All that she learned, her morals and how to function as an individual, were taught to her by Kurros and the other members of the Think Tank. I cannot remember my childhood, indeed, the Borg assimilated me at six years of age. All that I learned and believed, before you severed me, was what the collective imparted to me. You accepted me, therefore she hopes that you will accept her. What she learned about you, she learned from Voyager's logs. You were, and remain, the Alpha. You decided what course we should take. In a sense, you decided who lived and who died by your decisions to place your subordinates in situations that could cost, and did cost, lives. Tom is not your equal. To her, he has the same status as herself. If he should reject her, it would hurt. However, your rejection would devastate her. You are now the most important person in her life. You are the one individual whose opinions and expectations for her will matter most. For now, her actions will be predicated on what she believes you want from her. You, yourself, Kathryn, know that choices in life are often based on what one perceives will please a parental figure. Give her time, Kathryn ,and explain to her that you did not knowingly reject her. Show her that you accept her for what, and who, she is.”

Kathryn knew Seven was right and she asked, “How did you become so wise, Seven?”

I am Borg.”

XXX

CHAPTER TEN

XXX

Christmas Morning started at 8:30 AM with Seven and Gretchen preparing breakfast. Earlier, Seven had finished regenerating, crawled into bed, and cuddled close to Kathryn. Kathryn was sleeping soundly as evidenced by her breathing, the rhythm of which soon lulled Seven into sleep.

Phoebe opened the back door and stomped the snow off her boots, Gretchen complaining about the melting snow and how Phoebe had better clean it up before someone slipped and broke their neck. Kathryn was soon up and stealing a piece of crisp bacon before the platter was set on the table.

Gretchen, catching her, gave her an admonishing look. “Kathryn, go wake Morgan and get her down here for breakfast.”

Kathryn went up the stairs thinking, ‘This is unbelievable. I have a daughter. Whether I like it or not, I‘m her mother. Who would have thought?’

She knocked on the door and heard a loud groan. “Morgan, it is time to get up.”

A few seconds later a sleepy Morgan opened the door, her hair rumpled, and wearing a long sleeve nightshirt with her universal translator pinned on the front.

Morgan, put your housecoat on and the slippers Mom gave you and come on downstairs. You may want to wash your face and comb your hair before you do. ‘Gods, listen to me, sounding like a mother already.’ I’ll wait for you if you like.”

Thank you, Mother.”

XXX

Kathryn walked into the dining room with Morgan behind her. Everyone inquired if she had a good night. Conversation was kept light. Morgan seemed to enjoy the scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and biscuit with honey but would not touch the bacon when she found out it was from an animal. Gretchen gave Kathryn a look that told her she had better have a discussion with her daughter concerning her eating habits. After all, this was a Traditionalist homestead. Morgan had seconds of everything. Kathryn was sure this would please Mom, as she was a devout believer that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

XXX

Morgan sat with Phoebe by the lit Christmas tree. Since she could not read English, it was her job to hand Phoebe the gifts, while Phoebe handed the correct one to each woman.

Kathryn and Seven sat close together on the couch, and Gretchen took the easy chair. Morgan was not only excited by her presents, but also loved to see what everyone else received. Finally, Phoebe came to the largest package under the tree. It stood a good 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

Now for the one everyone has been dying to know what is in it. This is Seven's from Katie.”

Phoebe pushed it over to Seven, who looked at it curiously. Phoebe huffed, “Come on, Seven, the suspense is killing me. I can’t imagine what's in it, unless it’s air, as it weighs next to nothing and doesn’t make any noise when I shake it.”

Kathryn exclaimed, “Phoebe, one day you're going to shake the wrong package, and it will explode in your face.”

Seven stood up and ripped the wrapping paper off. She opened the top and peeked inside. She reached her hand in and started pulling out tissue paper. There seemed to be no end to it. Morgan couldn‘t stand it and got up to look into the box on the other side from Seven. Seven had to bend over to remove all the paper, finally having to tip the box on its side and slowly pour the contents out. At last, she came to a small stuffed brown teddy bear.

Phoebe exclaimed, “All that for a stuffed bear? Someone has a warped sense of humor.”

Seven blinked, and opened her eyes wide, when she noticed the red ribbon around the Bear’s neck, with the attached gold ring, set with a good sized solitaire diamond. Seven exclaimed, “Kathryn? Is this an engagement ring?”

Kathryn smiled, her eyes bright, and voice pleased. “It is, darling. Here, let me put it on your finger.”

Phoebe clapped. “It’s sure enough official now. You have the ring to prove it.”

Seven hurriedly sat down, drew Kathryn into her arms, and began kissing her. Phoebe rolled her eyes and looked at Morgan, seeing the young woman's huge round eyes and gaping mouth. “Get used to it, Kid. They’re all the time lovey dovey, kissy huggy.”

Morgan was mesmerized. “Wh…What are they doing?”

Phoebe did a double take. “Kissing. That’s what two people do when they love each other. Boy Howdy, but you need an education, and quick.”

Finally, the two stopped kissing. Kathryn, breathless, exclaimed, “Wow, maybe I should buy you a diamond ring everyday.”

Gretchen stated, “Alright, you two, you can do that later, I want to see the rock. Hurry up and get it on her finger.”

XXX

CHAPTER ELEVEN

XXX

 

It had been a long but rewarding day. The Paris family arrived for dinner, bearing tons of presents for their newest addition, which she would open after everyone had enjoyed their meal. Morgan seemed more relaxed and sociable. Miral fascinated her. B’Elanna instructed her how to hold the active five month old and even showed her how to change diapers. Tom remarked to Kathryn that he could already see the benefits of an older daughter, as babysitters were in short supply. Miral readily let Morgan hold her and tried to grab handfuls of her red hair.

After dinner, Morgan again sat by the Christmas tree, this time on a blanket with Miral, who was …helping…her to open the presents. The gifts Morgan received excited her and she proudly showed them to everyone. Even holding up her underwear and bras for her father and grandfather to admire. Phoebe and B’Elanna tried to smother their laughter. Not directed at Morgan, but at the red faces of Owen and Tom, who tried to be cool and would made comments such as, “That's very nice.” “Oh, how pretty.”

Phoebe, looking at an embarrassed Kathryn, stated, “Yep. You need to have a grownup woman talk with her but soon, as in A.S.A.P.”

Kathryn inwardly groaned. She was not prepared to give her daughter the ‘birds and the bees’ talk. Perhaps she could get mom to do it.

It was evening when the Paris family left. Kathryn, Seven, Gretchen, and Phoebe had cleared the table and put away the leftovers. Phoebe and Gretchen were putting away the clean dishes when Kathryn left the kitchen and walked through the dining room to stop at the opening to the living room. She looked at her daughter fast asleep on the blanket by the tree. She smiled, both somewhat relieved that Morgan had seemed less tense in her presence, and that she herself was more relaxed.

Seven came up behind her and put her arms around her waist. “Morgan had a …good time, Kathryn.”

Kathryn, still looking at her sleeping daughter, replied, “I believe she did.” She turned to Seven and looking up at the sprig of mistletoe, stated, “Umm, how fortunate for me that I stopped under the mistletoe. You owe me a kiss."

Seven smiled and kissed her. Kathryn sighed. “Seven, I will need your help, as well as Mom's and Phoebe’s, with Morgan.”

I will gladly assist in whatever is required of me.”

I believe this ‘mother’ thing is going to be more demanding than being Admiral.”

Seven raised the implant over her left eye and replied, “Indeed. However, ‘we’ will adapt.”

THE END (FOR NOW)