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What Can Be
The shuttle continued along its course. No matter how often its young pilot checked, it never wavered. Lt. Commander Paris Janeway sat slouched in the pilot�s chair gently strumming her long, metal-tipped fingers against the control panel. With her other hand, she held a cup of coffee partially balanced on that same panel. She was en-route to her newest assignment, one that would have her serving under Captain Harry Kim as his chief science officer. The new promotion and placement should have thrilled Janeway, well at least the woman she had been. The Borg had changed that, efficiently and without remorse. She checked the course yet again, still cruising through the Delta Quadrant�minutes away from the U.S.S. Texas.
The problem with transwarp technology is that the littlest things tend to disrupt the conduit. A nearby moon, for example, could throw an object completely off course� or completely out of time. The chances of the latter taking place are very slim, but the way Paris� luck runs, a slim chance is all it takes.
She wouldn�t make it to The Texas, not on time anyway.
The resulting shock wave threw Janeway from her chair, tossing her across the cockpit like some flimsy rag-doll. The last thing she noticed was that the side tactical panel was coming awfully close to her face, awfully close� and then she saw the one thing that seems to bring her comfort these days; her best friend�s handsome face.
Captain Kathryn Janeway sat slouched in her command chair eyeing the small display between her and her second in command. The readouts were rather bizarre, even by her standards. "ETA?"
Ensign Harry Kim stood calmly at the operations console, fingers flying over the panel with practiced ease.
"Another twenty minutes� the transwarp field is still degrading. I�m not sure we�ll make it in time."
Janeway responded with a curt nod, and turned to face her second in command whose tattoo crinkled in dark amusement.
"I never thought I�d see the day when Borg technology with Starfleet markers would show up. Besides Voyager I mean."
Janeway�s eyes lightened to a softer gray bathed in blue, "Neither did I."
The shuttle lay hanging in space, discarded like a toy. The warp cells flickering erratically against the darkness that surrounded it. The hull looked as if someone had randomly punched holes along it, with their attention eventually gathering around the cockpit. Janeway sat hunched in her chair eyeing the view-screen pensively.
Tuvok glanced up from the tactical console to meet his captain�s gaze.
"This is the signature that we were picking up earlier. I�m reading only one life-sign on board, rather weak."
Janeway contemplated for mere seconds, "Beam the life-sign to sick bay and inform the Doctor."
Turning to look at her first officer, Chakotay, Janeway spoke softly,
"You have the bridge. I�ll be in sickbay welcoming our newest guest."
She peered down at the figure clothed in a red and gray Starfleet uniform. The first thing she noticed was the Borg implants that stood out against the pale face. The spidery implant that framed the young woman�s eye reminded the Captain of something similar Voyager�s resident ex-Borg sported. But this was slightly different. Instead of terminating as it reached her temple, the implant extended until it disappeared into her hairline. The young woman was also lacking the starburst implant that Seven of Nine had on her right cheek. Another similarity was the metal framework that encased her hand, except as opposed to Seven, this woman had it on her right. Glancing up from her inspection, Captain Janeway looked up to meet the even gaze of her holographic doctor.
"Obviously she was assimilated by the Borg at some point� anything to indicate who she might be?"
The Doctor looked rather smug as he answered.
"It is common practice for Starfleet com badges to have the identity of the wearer encoded within the badge itself. I�m sure that if she is, indeed, a Starfleet officer, it will be encoded into her com badge."
Shooting the annoying little holographic man a force five evil look, Captain Janeway reached down to gently remove the said item of interest. Reaching back, the Doctor plucked a tricorder from the tray stationed behind him. He then handed it to Janeway, who immediately began accessing the badge. What she found startled her.
"Lt. Commander Paris Gretchen Janeway� 768990.1."
Snapping the instrument shut, she glared at the Doctor.
"I want this verified, I don�t care how long it takes, just do it!"
Hitting the communicator on her chest, Janeway opened a channel to her Chief of Security.
"Tuvok, I want anything that can be salvaged taken from the shuttle. Try to focus on any data files and the like that may prove useful as to identifying who our guest might be." The response was quick and precise.
Turning on her heel, Captain Janeway exited.
The Captain almost stumbled into the hall outside sickbay, tripping over her own feet. It felt as if someone had hit her in the mid-section� hard. Her mind was tumbling over itself, thoughts and emotions becoming one huge, jumbled mass. What if it�s true? What if she�s from another dimension? What if she�s from the future? What if it�s a plot by some enemy we�ve made while out here? Could she be a Trojan Horse? This thought actually stopped the captain in her tracks. She began to rifle through all the aliens who would have the motivation and technology to pull something like this off. The list was pretty short, but there was a list. Focusing on this, she entered the turbolift and headed for the bridge.
Lt. Commander Paris Janeway lay unconscious on the biobed, while the energetic EMH ran a multitude of scans on her. As the Doctor ran his medical tricorder over his slumbering patient, his eyebrows furrowed in thought. The quiet swoosh of the sickbay doors alerted the Doctor of his captain�s entrance.
"Report," she said rather curtly. The artificial lighting of the room glinted off the hologram�s bald head as he glanced up at the captain.
"I performed the biological scan that you requested, and the information that we retrieved from her com badge was accurate� she is indeed your daughter."
A slight frown curved Janeway�s thin lips downward, she had expected as much� but� Janeway raised her hand to strike the com badge on her chest, but the Doctor opened his mouth to say more, stopping her movement.
"Umm, as you can see," he gestured toward the patient�s face, "she has been assimilated by the Borg. You stated that this might prove to be promising information, and as such I looked into it. To do that, I had to cross-reference the intricacy of her implants with the only other person who has been subjected to the Borg for an extended period of time." He paused to gauge Janeway�s attentiveness.
"Seven of Nine is the only crew member I could use in this regard. So, I compared the two, in terms of mechanical components and� genetically." He paused, this was proving harder then he thought.
"Seven of Nine is her other parent."
Just as the last item of information left his mouth, the Doctor took an involuntary step back, as if anticipating the captain to suddenly lurch forward. She didn�t. Her infamous command mask had come down, however, revealing the confusion and astonishment that lay beneath. She stepped closer to the biobed, peering down at the features her ship�s newest guest possessed. Janeway couldn�t deny that the woman was her spitting image, she could never claim otherwise. The young woman�s auburn hair was set ablaze anytime the lighting caught it just at the right angle. The classical features showed prominently upon her face, while her lips were a perfect medium of the Captain and Seven�s. Her small, compact form was also very reminiscent of the older Janeway. Tearing her eyes away from woman�s face, she brought her gaze back up to meet the Doctor�s.
"You haven�t told Seven yet� have you?" she whispered.
Her eyes were searching, pleading. Taking on a compassionate look, the Doctor gently rested his hand on her forearm.
"No, I thought it would be best coming from you� given the circumstances."
The captain was torn between throwing up and being eternally grateful. Glancing down again at the younger Janeway, the captain sighed and turned to leave. Before she could, however, the Doctor moved up beside her. "Captain, I think it would be wise to tell her here� she could see the patient and possibly ask questions. And, I could give some support."
The redhead actually seemed to think about the proposal, until the thought of Seven�s reaction being witnessed by anyone but her clamped down on the train of thought.
"No, I�ll do it� she needs this explained just the right way."
Looking over her daughter�s face one more time she slowly turned and walked toward the door.
"Notify me, immediately, if she wakes up."
Seven of Nine stood looking at the huge view screen, raking her eyes over the interstellar map projected there. Her hands glided across the controls, barely glancing down at the panel as she worked. Hundreds of complex calculations and theorems were being displayed, in her mind and on the panel. She knew about the new arrival, in that the individual was using a mixture of Starfleet and Borg technology that allowed her to come here. Seven was taking all the information they had gathered to use in Voyager�s own effort to blend the two technologies. Everything else surrounding the pilot,
she was blissfully unaware of. She suddenly heard the captain�s quick footfalls outside Astrometrics, and prepared herself. She didn�t know why; but every time she was in the captain�s presence, it was if her stomach knotted itself up into a warm bundle. It was really bad whenever Janeway gave her that look, that look that told her that the captain was pleased, or touched in some way. If she closed her eyes she could see that soft expression, sending her heart skipping. It was completely illogical and completely pleasant.
The captain entered in her usual speedy way.
"Seven, I need to talk to you�"
Janeway�s expression softened.
"About something important�"
Captain Janeway and Seven stood in holodeck 2 waiting patiently for the computer to finish transferring the data that Tuvok collected from the shuttle. Janeway held a PADD in her right hand, glancing at it every couple of seconds, the only display of irritation the captain indulged. The majority of what they had found were visual files; the only text file was the young woman�s Starfleet record, which had been horribly corrupted when the shuttle�s computer core had been damaged. Tuvok and the chief engineer were still working with it. With Seven in tow, Janeway had traveled to the holodeck to view the images and the stream video they had salvaged. The two women were both a little bit nervous as to what might be displayed� a peek into their future perhaps? The mellow feminine voice finally announced the completion of the data transfer.
"Finally," Janeway whispered. Turning to Seven, she tried her best to look calm.
"Here�s the first file�"
Suddenly standing before the two women were three people. One was the officer in sickbay; the other two were strangers. A tall, very handsome man stood arm in arm with Paris, while a tall dark haired woman leaned against her smiling broadly. All of them were wearing the same black and gray uniforms as the unconscious officer wore. There was something oddly familiar about the young man, as if the captain had met him before. Dark brown eyes sparkled beneath almost non-existent brow ridges, while his posture had a James Dean feel to it. Seven made the connection first.
"The male seems to be Lt. Torres and Ensign Paris� son, if I am to assume they are still together in the future."
The captain made a mental note in regards to Seven�s last comment before responding. "Yes, I noticed that too."
Finally, two sets of eyes focused on the woman. I wonder who she is, thought Janeway. Pausing a second she instructed the computer to move on to the next picture. In the place of the three friends stood Paris and Chakotay, wearing boxing gloves, black t-shirts, and silvery trunks. A proud smile dominated the first officer�s face, while Paris� lips curved into a sly smile. Looking pointedly at the captain, Seven stated the obvious. "Our child partakes in Chakotay�s �barbaric� hobby?"
Flushing ever so slightly at the implied accusation, Janeway glanced at the tall blond beside her.
"Well, I�m sure they take the utmost precautions�"
As the two progressed, they found dozens of pictures containing Janeway�s family, two rather sculpted gentlemen (deemed a part of the Hansen family), numerous friends of the younger Janeway, and another young man who appeared to be Paris� younger brother. Janeway made a mental note to ask Paris about that later. An apparent Starfleet Academy graduation, several pictures commemorating promotions, and a multitude of Paris participating in several multicultural activities littered many other files. After four and a half hours of viewing the data, the Doctor interrupted the two women� Paris Janeway was awake.
The captain and her Astrometrics officer entered the sickbay to find the Doctor being interrogated rather harshly by the patient, leaving the hologram at an apparent loss. Paris� posture spoke volumes, she was not happy� and it looked as though she expected the Doctor to instantaneously fix it. Upon hearing the doors swish open, the compact women swiveled her head ever so slightly to glance at the person who was entering. What she saw halted her mid-sentence. Bringing her entire body around in one fluid motion, Paris snapped to attention. Her eyes focused slightly right of Captain Janeway�s face, as if refusing to actually acknowledge her presence. The captain tried not to notice the rude sentiment and began welcoming her guest.
"I see you�ve met our EMH."
She gave a slight nod in his direction, allowing the Doctor to relax ever so slightly. Inclining her head toward the hologram, she pinned the captain with her own Janeway command glare.
"The Doctor and I have known each other for a while now, considering he is the one who brought me into the world, and monitored my journey through it."
She turned to fully face the energetic bald man.
"It was not my intention to be so� curt with you, Doctor, I apologize."
Paris turned her attention back to the captain, her face conveying the annoyance bubbling beneath the layer of her weaker mask of command.
"Now, can someone kindly explain what I�m doing here and what�s going on?"
Seven, who had been silently observing the entire scene with the same interest she usually displayed during social interactions, quietly stepped forward to assist her captain. "Your shuttle, which was outfitted with a mixture of Federation and Borg technology, came into contact with the gravitational pull of a nearby moon. This sparked a chain of events that caused the transwarp field to alter its cohesion, sending the shuttle back in time."
Paris looked at her mother sheepishly.
Paris had the feeling that the ensuing conversation was going to take awhile.
Sitting there in the star-streaking light that bathed the entire room in its illumination, Seven gazed at her through low-lidded eyes. She sat there peering quietly up at her, wondering at the play of light on the older woman�s face. Kneeling down in front of the blond, Janeway gently began running her fingers up Seven�s thighs. Leaning forward ever so slightly Seven brushed her lips across Janeway�s brow making the both of them quiver. Tilting her head to meet the searching lips, Janeway met Seven in a searing kiss. Passion played across the two soon-to-be lovers for quite some time before Seven pulled away gently. Looking down into the darkened blue eyes of her captain, Seven whispered softly�"I love you Kathryn�"
With a quiet moan, Captain Janeway looked up at the chronometer displayed conveniently by her resting head. It was 03:00 hours and once again, Janeway�s rather interesting dreams involving Seven of Nine awoke her feeling empty. If only she could tell the woman how she felt�
Shoving away all of the rampant thoughts twisting around in her head away, Janeway grabbed the uniform lying haphazardly off the edge of her bed. Dressing as she walked towards the door, Kathryn decided to walk it off.
The alert siren along with the sickening red tinge that bathed the halls gave the scene a feel of blood filling the atmosphere. You could almost feel it, smell it, and taste it. She stood there gripping the compression rifle with sweaty hands. The deck was eerily quiet. Walking stiffly down the hall, she came to a two-way intersection. Peering around the nearest corner, she glimpsed the Borg that littered the hallway. They seemed to be attached to the walls, while the laser eyepieces sent a zigzag pattern along the bulkheads and surrounding air. Feeling the breakfast she had hastily eaten start to march back up her throat, she swallowed several times to push it back into place. Eyes roaming the group of emotionless machines, Paris started forward again. She hadn�t taken two steps when three drones grabbed her roughly, seeming to have materialized out of thin air. She was being dragged somewhere; her mind only focusing on the fleeting scenery of the bulkheads they passed. Finally they stopped, and Paris was shoved to her knees, making her about eye level with a Borg midsection. A part of her refused to look up, knowing what was in store for her; another part was determined to find out� needing to know. Slowly bringing her eyes to look at the drone�s face, Paris� heart and stomach sank. It was the Borg Queen, and it was time for one of her numerous "lessons." Jumping to her feet, Janeway spun around, only to be faced with Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine� both drones. Horror and hatred rose suddenly in her chest as she backed up and away from the sickening pair. But, with every step she moved backward, the closer the two got� somehow herding her towards the Queen. She was mere breadth away from the rancid presence of the "perfected" monarch when she started to scream. It was if the act alone would free her�
With a muffled scream, Paris was jolted out of bed and into an almost standing position. Looking frantically around, she finally noticed that instead of a Borg cube, she was in her guest quarters. Breathing an internal sigh of relief, she tossed the covers aside and finished stumbling into a standing position. Grabbing the newly replicated uniform from the chair sitting by her bed, Paris left her quarters. She wondered the surrounding corridors until she found the mess hall. Quietly entering the dark room, she walked over to the replicator mounted on the opposite wall. "Coffee," she mumbled. "Black." Taking the metallic cup to the wrap-around sofas that lined the walls, she seated herself by the large windows dominating the large room. The only thing that illuminated the room was the replicator control panel and the silently streaking stars that sailed pass Voyager. The quiet filled moments that passed gave Paris a sense of calmness, a fleeting sensation that would leave the second she exited the mess hall. Suddenly hearing footfalls outside the door, Paris immediately straightened up and tugged her uniform into place. She didn�t have to glance at the opening doors to realize who it was. Captain Kathryn Janeway strode quietly into the room, her elegant stride communicating the femininity that lay beneath the command.
The gray-blue eyes that had always reminded the younger woman of the warm, western sky before dawn, now bore into Paris� own pale blue orbs as they focused on her reclining figure.
"Up a little early this morning, aren�t we?"
Paris glanced at the approaching woman hurriedly, taken a few moments to smooth out her tired features.
"To be honest," she started quietly, "I haven�t really gone to bed. My sleeping patterns have been erratic sense my severing from the collective, and plagued by� unpleasant images," she stopped suddenly. Why had she revealed so much? The older woman seemed quite taken aback by the admission.
"Well," she started.
Paris cut her off quickly, "I�m sorry Captain. It was not my place."
Standing quickly, Janeway�s daughter exited.
The young Janeway sat there listening to the discussion as if the subject wasn�t actually her, but some stranger she had never met. She was completely unconcerned, which was apparent in her posture. Her eyes followed the conversation and those that spoke, finally resting on Seven. Paris never considered herself to really resemble the Hansen side of the family tree, but certain aspects shone through. The apparent arrogance that rested itself upon Seven�s features also graced the youthful Janeway�s.
As she sat there fondly gazing at her mother, another part of her mind began picking up the subtle changes in the air. It was becoming warmer, a humid heat. The air itself was taking on a thicker texture. It wasn�t until Paris started sweating that she noticed. And Borg do not sweat. Running a tentative hand over her forehead, she began scanning the room. There. There, standing behind Captain Janeway was a faint shadow, which was slowly beginning to solidify. Paris quickly scanned the room again, seeing if she was indeed the only one who was noticing the phenomenon. She felt a cold sliver of panic begin to well up inside her. Forcing that aside, Paris looked pointedly at the older women. The figure was finished with its materialization. She stood there, the Borg Queen, and stared at Paris. Just stared. Paris couldn�t help but stare back, back at the cold, sterile mechanization that comprised her body. Couldn�t help but stare at the dark, soulless eyes that peeked from beneath her crown of wires and alloyed computer components.
"No," Paris whispered.
Seven glanced up from her PADD at the young woman, lifting an eyebrow in a questioning gesture. A sinister, humorless grin suddenly spread across the Queen�s face, and peering gleefully down at the captain, she extended her assimilation tubules towards Janeway�s neck.
"NO! Get away from her!"
Paris was screaming now, forcing eight pairs of eyes to look at her with a confused gleam. The Queen ignored her, jamming the withering wires into the captain�s neck. Paris, standing now, watched with sickened fascination as her mother began changing right before her eyes. The starburst implants began erupting from her cheeks and forehead. Swiftly, the captain sprung from her chair and rounded the table, while beginning to slowly advance on the hysterical woman. Paris Janeway could only see the drone that had taken her mother�s place, terror and hatred bristling along her spine. Paris began backing away from the horrid sight, while mumbling incoherent soothing phrases to herself.
Suddenly, Paris� back came into contact with the cold bulkheads that encased the conference room. Fiercely closing her eyes, she silently slid down the wall; as she came to the floor, she drew her knees to her chest and began sobbing.
"Why, why must you keep haunting me� you�ve taken everything I am, leave me alone�" the voice was devoid of any hope, of any opposition� the voice of someone who has been completely broken.
As the captain leaned down to gently touch her daughter, the huddled figure flinched in anticipation.
"Please, no more lessons�"
And with that, Paris Janeway slumped into an unconscious heap on the carpet.
The memories of summer nights at her grandmother�s, of her Academy days, and of numerous happy times playfully skittered across her mind�s eye. She took a great deal of comfort from the display; her heart drank in the joy and comfort that blanketed her awareness. Maybe, a part of her suggested, I can stay like this forever�
The Delta Flyer tore through the surrounding space with a vengeance. The warp engine roaring with power and a feel of its intense strength gave the two pilots comfort. Lt. Com. Mathew Paris and Lt. Michelle Prete sat in the forward cockpit, studying the readouts that the computer spewed onto the view screen intensely.
"What if we�re too late?"
Michelle�s eyes shone with fear, mirroring the look that Matt had been wearing for the last few days.
"I don�t know," reaching across the navigational panel, he gently took Michelle�s hand and continued.
"Let�s just assume that we�re not, and that Paris is handling the situation like she always does; with complete confidence and Janeway pizzazz."
The young woman�s eyes suddenly sought the floor, "But Matt, that was before� they took her�"
Mathew Paris winced at the comment, and he quickly turned back to the streaming bits of information.
"Captain, the ship will be in range in approximately� 2 minutes and 14 seconds."
Captain Janeway acknowledged Tuvok with a slight nod, and once more turned to face the large view screen that dominated the bridge. It seemed as though they would be having some more visitors, and Janeway privately hoped that they were going to help with the current situation.
A few minutes later, the new retrofitted Delta Flyer sat directly off the starboard bow of Voyager�s main hull requesting permission to beam aboard and see their fallen friend. Raising a sleek eyebrow into his hairline, Tuvok reported crisply to the captain. "We�re being hailed Captain. They�re requesting permission to come aboard." Acknowledging the chief of security, Janeway swiveled her head around to face Ensign Kim.
"Open hailing frequencies please Mr. Kim."
Returning her attention to the forward view screen, she watched as it filled with the picture of two vaguely familiar faces. Recognition suddenly played across the red head�s face, causing her features to light up. The two Starfleet officers posed alongside her daughter in the numerous visual files that Janeway had viewed earlier now sat quietly in front of her. The man spoke first, his voice barely concealing his worry.
"Captain Janeway? I need to speak with you and some of your command staff concerning a friend of ours who we believe is� lost. I�. I can�t really elaborate, but we�ve tracked her here. We�d like to come aboard and� see her at least?"
Finishing his little spew, the darkly colored man sat back slightly to let Janeway decide. Whatever these two newcomers may be; they were the only ones who might have the capacity to save the fallen officer. Pausing for the briefest of moments, Janeway nodded her accent.
The turbolift doors opened with a gentle swish as its three occupants quickly exited out into the hall. Captain Janeway led her two newest guests to sickbay as they discussed Paris� condition. Her back was a stiff, straight line; Captain Janeway�s movements were clipped and slightly jerky. Her throaty voice filled the empty hall as she spoke quietly to her companions.
"The Doctor isn�t exactly sure of the cause, but he has detected weaknesses within the cortical implant itself. He called them �soft spots� and it�s these points of weakness that are causing her coma. The information stored within the cortical processor is bleeding into the surrounding brain tissue, triggering behavior changes and a series of other problems. Seven is working with our EMH, hoping to help repair the damage."
The tall, quiet woman, whom Lt. Commander Paris had introduced as Lt. Michelle Prete, coughed slightly to get the older woman�s attention. Her voice was a deep, melodious sound, contrasting slightly with the tall, trim body that it accompanied.
"Have they made any progress?"
Captain Janeway swiveled her head to meet the dark gaze of the woman
Michelle�s jaw clenched tightly in response as her gaze sought out the floor. Resting a reassuring hand on the young woman�s arm, Matt addressed the captain.
"I�m not sure if we can help or not, given the condition she�s in� but, we did bring some medical supplies along with a complete copy of her medical history."
Prete�s tall frame was hunched over her small duffel bag as she pawed through the various items stuffed within. Slightly behind her stood Mathew who was also rummaging through the two large bags that he had crammed into the shuttle with them. The holographic doctor hovered expectantly over their shoulders as they continued the impromptu inventory. Seven of Nine and Voyager�s captain stood next to the biobed where their daughter�s unconscious form lay, both faces unreadable masks. As her gaze came to rest on one item in particular, Michelle�s back stiffened suddenly as she turned slightly to address her friend.
"Matt�did you pack this?"
Craning his neck, he plucked the small device from her duffel bag and brought it up to eye level. It looked to be a modified cortical stimulant, with a series of holographic nodes integrated into its surface.
Turning it gently in between his large hands, his face turned thoughtful. Peering quietly over his shoulder, the Doctor examined it with a critical, while knowledgeable, eye.
"What is it?"
"A device that Paris and Dr. Natalie Stevens were working on� its supposed to link directly into the brain and provide a holographic representation of whatever the person is thinking or feeling. Dr. Stevens intends to help patients with mental psychosis� wait�" Mathew�s dark head turned to gaze at Michelle intently. "Didn�t the Captain come to see you a few hours before I arrived at your quarters?"
"Yes, he did. He came to discuss how far the search had progressed� why?"
"How long did he stay? Long enough to put this in your bag?"
Michelle�s gaze turned inward as she replayed the encounter several times in her head, focusing on where the captain had been while they were talking. Squeezing her eyes closed, she moaned.
"We talked in the living area, my bag was there on the couch. Even if we get back only seconds after we left, Captain Kim can have us court-martialed. He saw all of it, Matt� we can�t cover this up liked we planned."
His dark features lit up with a rueful smile.
"Oh well, I always wanted to follow in my Dad�s footsteps."
Two dark heads, on opposite sides of one platinum blonde, bobbed emphatically as they discussed the shadowed lump in front of them. A richly masculine voice was clearly heard above the two, more feminine octaves.
"I�m telling you, we can�t reconfigure the connection that way!" Mathew�s hands gestured angrily towards the biobed as he continued. "If it were to be suddenly dropped, POOF! there goes our patient."
Seven of Nine�s stiff, monotone voice cut through the young man�s angry outburst.
"We can use Voyager�s computer core to process the data and reduce the stress on her implant."
Two sets of dark eyebrows shot up as they contemplated the calm, cool remark. Matt snickered as he considered the idea.
"Momma knows best."
Winking at Seven, he and Michelle lead the way to Engineering.
"This was not one of your better ideas, Paris!"
"It would�ve worked if you hadn�t jumped so soon! Just give me a few minutes, and I�ll think of something."
"You said that half an hour ago!"
The little auburn-haired girl chewed her lower lip nervously as she glanced down at the rocky shoreline below them. In her nine years of life, her and Matt had gotten into enough trouble to make any Ferengi proud� but this was certainly one of their bigger mistakes.
Here they were, attached to a single harness, with two rope seats, dangling from one of California�s largest seashore cliffs. This had seemed so simple when Paris had thought it out yesterday�
"Remind me again why we didn�t bring our com badges?"
"Because then our parents would know where we were, and we don�t want that�"
Matt mumbled darkly in response�
Captain Janeway turned away from the holographic pair and pinned the Doctor with her fiercest command glare.
"We�ve established that it works, so why are her thoughts still being projected?"
"We can�t simply drop the connection; we wouldn�t be able to reestablish the link, the risks that would be associated are too great. We could cause permanent damage that would make higher brain function practically impossible."
Captain Janeway shook her head in frustration, while quelling the urge to smack the Doctor up side his pointy little head. Her headache that had been building for the past twelve hours had now reached an unbearable level. The piercing pain was settled right behind her eyes, and if she closed them, colored spots pulsating in time with her heart beat could be seen along the edge of her vision. Taking a steadying breath, she brought her focus once more to the problem in front of her.
"I�m not comfortable with the knowledge that we�re now privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings; we�re invading her privacy and who she is as a person by displaying them for all to see."
The holographic doctor bobbed his head slightly in acknowledgment as he listened intently. Glancing over at the projected images playing out before the two of them, he addressed the older woman.
"I understand that Captain, but we couldn�t know that the connection would be this fragile, or this difficult to duplicate."
"Fine," she rumbled. "I want this holodeck restricted to everyone except you, me, Seven, Lt. Commander Paris and Lt. Prete." She paused to rub the bridge of her nose, forcing her mind off the pounding force within her skull.
"I also want everyone to get some sleep, we�ve been at this for more then thirty-two hours, and we�re not going to help her like this."
Escaping into the blissfully dim atmosphere of her quarters, Captain Janeway immediately began peeling away her uniform. Trying to stave off her exhaustion until she stumbled towards her bed, the captain headed purposefully for the replicator.
Grabbing the newly materialized cup of warm brew, Janeway headed for the bathroom to finish preparing for bed.
Twenty minutes later, the petite woman was curled up on her wrap-around couch, replaying the last two days in her mind. She�d had barely enough time to register the events, let alone process them in any coherent way. Sighing quietly to herself, she allowed her head to fall back onto the plush surface of the couch. Thoughts of Seven immediately began surfacing as she allowed her body to relax. Love, marriage, children� all the things that Janeway had never really allowed herself; she�d forfeited any kind of personal life for her career. But now� now, she was faced with the possibility of having all that with the one person she found herself falling for. She�d never truly given her heart to another, but Seven had taken it without asking or realizing that she had.
As her tired eyes began to drift shut, her door�s annoying chime startled her awake. Eyeballing the door with a mixture of annoyance and frustration, she contemplated briefly as to who it might be.
Definitely not Chakotay, not even he has the brass set to come bother me this early in the morning�
Standing up with an exhausted moan, Janeway grabbed the silk robe that lay strewn over the arm of a near-by chair.
Facing the plastic slab that served as her door, Janeway punched the entry button mounted on the wall next to her. An impossibly slim, trim figure clad in a mixture of pale and dark blue filled the doorway.
Ask, and ye shall receive�her mind quipped evilly.
Standing in front of the holodeck doors, Captain Janeway warred with herself. She needed time to focus, to think about what Seven had said in her quarters only an hour before. Love, Seven had spoken of love and feelings she didn�t� couldn�t understand, and Kathryn had merely nodded, sympathizing, but not really hearing all that had been said. Her heart had screamed in agony as the blonde sitting before her had spoken of desire, need� and she had come to Kathryn, asking, needing advice. She came to a �motherly figure�, Kathryn thought bitterly. But, it had never been maternal for the captain� not even from the very beginning. The iron will and the startling intelligence that peeked behind eerily pale eyes had caught the officer�s attention from the start. When the Doctor had presented his �masterpiece�, the newly recovered Seven of Nine, Janeway had almost collapsed right there in front of Chakotay and the Doctor. Somehow the holographic being had created a beauty that matched the brain housed within, which Janeway had been sure was an impossibility. From that moment on, Janeway had forced her feelings aside, and focused on the woman Seven would eventually be. A woman Kathryn had ached to be with� to spend the rest of her life with�
Her mind returned to the present once more� and the harsh truth that she was fighting to ignore. Seven loved someone, someone she was not willing to approach. Even now her chest tightened in sorrowful pain as she contemplated who it might be� who might be stupid enough, thick enough not to notice Seven�s interest. And why had she immediately come here, to the holodeck? Why would she continue to torture herself by bearing witness to a daughter she would never know, of things that would never be hers? Shaking her head vigorously, Captain Janeway lifted trembling hands to access the holodeck and step into the world her heart desired most.
"They�re beautiful, especially on a night like this� the stars, I mean." Paris slumped further down against Matt�s chest as the two of them sat on the beach peering up at the twinkling canopy.
"And we�ll be back among them in less then a year." Mathew�s barrel chest rumbled as he spoke, the rich timbre of his voice relaxed Paris even more. It was during these dwindling times alone together that Mathew caught a glimpse of the young woman beneath the tough fa�ade.
"We�ll always be friends, won�t we Matt?"
Janeway smiled contentedly and wrapped her uniform clad arms around his neck as she snuggled up against him.
Paris giggled helplessly as her and her brother James shot past the swaying cornfields that surrounded their grandmother�s house. Weaving in and out of the tall stalks, they chased after each other in a chaotic version of hide-and-go-seek.
"Paris! Watch out, I�m going to get you!"
"Not a chance!"
Children�s laughter floated all around as the two continued their chase. Suddenly running into something very solid that had not been there moments before, Paris let out a surprised yelp. Startled, pale blue eyes rose to meet ones exactly like them.
Standing before the slightly panting, younger version of her wife, Seven smiled down at her oldest. Dressed in a soft, white button-down shirt tucked into a well-worn pair of jeans and her golden locks loose around her shoulders, Seven looked relaxed� and very beautiful. Tilting her head to see her other child, Seven addressed them both.
"Time for dinner, children� it�s your Mom�s turn to cook, so we don�t want to keep her waiting."
James and Paris� noses wrinkled slightly at the news.
"Has Mom been trying to replicate Uncle Chakotay�s stew again?"
Sweet, musical laughter rang out and wrapped itself around the gaping captain as she looked on in wonder. Seven� human � god, she was beautiful�
"No, I�m not sure what she�s been making, but I�m sure we�ll all like it."
Captain Janeway�s eyes narrowed slightly as a sudden realization hit her� there was no structure to the sequence of memories, no discernible pattern. Why?
The holographic image was changing again, this time portraying a burning bridge of a Starfleet ship�
A thickening haze of smoke continued to bath the bridge and muffle the tense commands of the captain. Several fires had broken out behind her post and even more were peppered along the rest of the large command area. Wires and sparks rained down from the flickering lights above, hitting officers as they fell. A sudden explosion behind her, and the resulting flash of heat, made Janeway wince involuntarily as she heardthe sickening thud of Ensign Parks hitting the floor. Without thinking, Paris transferred weapons control to her still functioning operations post. Another flash of neon green energy filled the view screen as the Borg cube fired again upon the crippled ship.
"Captain, weapons are gone, as is life support." Janeway�s voice was cool and measured as she reported the ship�s status.
The tall, broad shouldered figure of her captain turned to meet her gaze. His jaw twitched in anger and frustration as he regarded his officer. Looking at her always seemed to steady his nerves, just like her mother used to so many years ago. Kim�s eyes softened slightly as he continued to regard her. Finally breaking eye contact, Captain Harry Kim activated the ship-wide com system.
"All hands, this is the Captain� I am giving the order to abandon ship. I repeat; all hands are to leave their posts and proceed to the escape pods."
His dark eyes sought Janeway�s out once more. "I need another officer to activate the self-destruct." Paris nodded grimly in response.
"Computer, activate self-destruct. Authorization, Kim, Harry, Captain,
"Self-destruct activated. Five minute count down. This is your last audio warning."
The captain glanced at the helm officer, the only other soul alive on the
bridge, as he relayed his intent.
As the trio neared the exit, another bout of Borg fire caused several consoles to explode around them. The captain crumpled neatly onto the floor as metal and plastic slammed into his right side. Without saying so much as a word to each other, the two women grabbed each of the captain�s arms and hauled him off the bridge.
The trip to the section of the ship where the escape pods were took only a few moments as the two women limped slightly under the man�s heavy frame. Rounding the last intersection, Paris came to a dead stop as she gazed at the empty slots were escape pods should be. Mumbling a colorful Klingon curse, Janeway motioned for Michelle to stay put.
"I�ll be right back, I�m going to see if there�s any left."
Running along the smoke filled hall, Janeway�s feet were in perfect step with the strobing red lights lining the walls. There, at the end of the long stretch of hallway, stood one escape hatch. The panel to the left blinked furiously, indicating the pod�s readiness. As Paris turned to race back up the hall, she stopped suddenly. Again facing the panel, her heart sank deeply into her stomach� the escape pod was a class C, only able to hold two crew members. Sighing deeply, she trotted off to meet up with Prete and the captain�
The alternating red lights and shadows made it difficult for Paris to focus on Michelle�s features for more then five seconds at a time.
Her face clouded slightly with indecision as she looked around at the eerie hall, then at Janeway.
Elegant fingers caressed and silenced Michelle before she could finish. "I know," Janeway whispered softly as she leaned forward to kiss the other woman gently. Paris pulled back slightly and chuckled. "You, me, and Steven are going to have to have a long talk when all this is over." A pause. "I�m sorry."
Michelle�s dark brow furrowed in confusion. "Why, none of this is your fault� you haven�t done anything."
"Not yet." Janeway�s fist shot out and connected squarely with Michelle�s jaw, just below her right ear, sending the taller woman careening into the wall. The brunette folded immediately.
"Thanks Uncle Chakotay�they never taught us that one at the Academy." Grunting slightly as she drug the prone body over to the escape pod hatch, Paris mumbled her explanation to the unconscious woman. "Sorry I� *grunt* � had to. The second� *grunt*� you found out that the pod only�damn, you�re heavier then you look!� holds two� *wheeze*� you�d have insisted on staying behind� *pant*� and you know how we Janeways are about being chivalrous."
Finally depositing the limp figure into the pod, Janeway straightened to activate the release controls. The hatch snapped shut as the pod burst from the ship�s outer hull.
Seconds later, bright neon green bursts of energy began filling the surrounding hallway as Paris quickly backtracked to the bridge.