The Totem by Nova
Nova may be contacted at theowlet@hotmail.com

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PART ONE:

now here i go again i see
our crystal visions
i keep my visions to myself
it's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and
have you any dreams you'd like to sell
dreams of loneliness like a heartbeat drives you mad
in the stillness of remembering what you had
and what you lost
and what you had
oh and what you lost

Stardate 52216.1

A sudden gust of wind catches her hair, tossing it into her eyes. She lifts her hand from the oar to brush it away. The sea ripples as the wind carries past her and on beyond her field of vision. But she is not interested in the wind, or the sea. It is more efficient to keep rowing. And rowing...

An indeterminate period of time has passed and she pauses again aware of the rough surface of the oar in her right hand and the different sensation of her Borg implanted left. She raises that hand before her eyes, studies the strips of metal that run down each finger and cover the tips.

How incongruent,

her mind seems to say. Here and now in this place. Looking up, she takes in the vista around her; the blue-green sea, darker blue sky.

The sun is beating down unrelentingly. The colours are clear and sharp, nothing artificial. No glowing power matrices or relays, just sea and sky.

No one else. No other drones to be seen with her optical sensors, or heard in her mind.

No boats on the sea or Borg cubes in the sky. Empty, blank, uncluttered ...alone.

I am Borg and I am alone?

"Regeneration cycle complete," the computer spoke and beeped its gentle attention getting tone. Seven of Nine snapped her eyes open and gazed slowly around her. The Borg alcove of Cargo Bay 2 hummed with electrical energy, green lights flashing in arcs and a softer white light glowing from hidden recesses. Ahead of her was the workstation with Voyager's colour coded controls. She lifted her hands from the alcove rests and stepped down from the dais. Already the sensations and images were beginning to fade. This was unacceptable. She keyed in a sequence and began to speak.

"Seven of Nine daily log entry: I believe I have dreamed again. I do not understand the nature of these latest images. In this series, I found myself in a small craft surrounded by water. I did not know what I was meant to do, though I found it acceptable to propel myself with the use of ..."

she paused unsure of the word. "I believe they were oars." Her face took on a perplexed look. "Intriguing. Were it not for my feelings of being alone and displaced, I might find this scenario of interest. As it is, I find the image to be disturbing. I am confused and I would prefer if I were not subjected to these emotions. Apprehension and fear," she spoke slowly, "are inefficient and have no place in my neural pathways be they alert or regenerating." She ended the recording with a satisfying jab to the console and left the cargo bay for astrometrics.

the bridge

Captain Kathryn Janeway re-crossed her legs and took a sip of coffee. Alpha watch had just begun and the new bridge crew were settling into their stations. Ahead of her at the helm, Lieutenant Tom Paris lightly touched his controls and raised his eyes to the unending starfield ahead. Beside her, Commander Chakotay shifted slightly in his seat engrossed in the report on the padd he held. To the rear of the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok and Ensign Kim manned their consoles in silence. The hum of the warp core and the ever so slight vibration of the deck comforted her and she closed her eyes momentarily.

A picture flashed before her consciousness, fleeting and inconsequential, but then for a moment, it froze. She was standing in a room full of people and it was very noisy.

A dream. She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes and picked up the coffee mug again. Walking about the room, she approached many of the people, but no one seemed to be interested in speaking to her, nor for the matter, did they even seem to notice her. They looked past her or over her head as if she were not there.

"I should be so lucky in real life," she mumbled under her breath. Chakotay looked up from his padd, but realized she was not speaking to be heard. He favoured her with a slight smile before resuming reading.

With little effort Janeway wiped her mind clear and busied herself with the latest star chart projected onto to the small console to her right.

later

A full shift had passed, the computer chiming the changeover, before Seven of Nine left the astrometrics lab and headed for deck five. What she was about to do she found distasteful but the images that had arisen from her regeneration cycle still nagged at the back of her consciousness. Her work was becoming inefficient.

In sickbay, the Doctor was at work before a monitor in the glassed in office. He looked up as Seven approached and tilted his head enquiringly. "Seven, what brings you to sickbay?"

"I am experiencing images in my mind that I find disturbing." The tall half Borg half human locked her hands behind her back, carefully watching the hologram's expression.

"How very curious," his brow ridges lowered and his eyes narrowed. "Were these images the result of eating the mushrooms in Mr. Neelix's salad?"

"No," Seven answered with some force. "I have not consumed any salad." The inflection she coloured the word salad with made it clear that she would find it strange if anyone were to eat such a thing.

"Just checking." The Doctor stood up from his desk and reached for a medical tricorder. "One can never be too careful when it comes to... lunch."

Seven inclined her head at him acknowledging the parallel he had drawn in their use of words. Though his conversational style often frustrated her by it tangents and unusual expression of the obvious, she still found she recalled his ironic wit long after she had departed from his presence. A part of her wondered what that meant.

The Doctor passed the probe back and forth near her cranium as he watched the readouts on the hand held device. "Please describe these images, Seven."

"They are disturbing to me."

"Indeed," the Doctor raised an eyebrow. "So you said." He snapped the probe back in place on the tricorder and leaned a hip on the desk as he waited.

"I do not know where they come from but they are there in my mind when I complete my regeneration cycle."

"Ahhh," the Doctor smiled broadly and slipped off the desk to circle behind her. He took a last look at the normal readings on the tricorder and snapped it shut.

"This vocalization holds what meaning?" Seven followed his movement with her eyes and glanced at the tricorder. "Am I malfunctioning and having hallucinations ... again?"

"No, Seven," the Doctor completed his pacing and stood before her. "You are dreaming."

"I do not dream." She regarded him evenly. "Possibly you are malfunctioning." The Doctor allowed a smile to play across his features despite the seriousness of her pose and took a moment to compose his reply.

"When you were with the Borg, you were constantly aware of the thoughts and voices of the Collective in your mind." He paused as she nodded. "Even when you were regenerating." Seven nodded again but with less certainty. "Though maybe not to such an invasive extent."

"The thoughts of the collective consciousness were never invasive."

"To you, perhaps, when you were still a Borg. But you are no longer linked to all those minds. You are alone in your thoughts." He could not help but take note of how her face coloured when she absorbed this. "Your mind is left to it's own devices and one of those human devices is to dream. With the change in your physiology toward humanity it is not inconceivable that your brain would reestablish such a simple human thing. It poses no threat nor can it cause harm."

"The images are nonetheless troubling," she squeezed her hands together behind her back. "I request you do something to stop them from invading my consciousness."

The Doctor replaced the tricorder carefully on the desk. "I cannot remove your dreams, Seven. You must learn to adapt. Most humans find dreaming a pleasant experience, oftentimes reminding them of past experiences and people they have met. And sometimes dreams serve to focus our attention on something of importance which may have slipped from the waking mind." He paused, noticing that nothing he said seemed to have given Seven any comfort, so he tried another tack. "What is it about these dreams you find so disturbing?"

She shifted before him exhibiting nervousness. "In all these ... dreams ... I am always alone."

"Ahhhh..."

Beta Shift, ship's time nineteen twenty-one hours

Captain Janeway was losing. Seven of Nine easily sidestepped the disk, tracked it with her phaser and blasted it off the back wall. It hurtled toward the Captain's mid-section and she sucked in her breath as she pivoted on her right foot to allow it to pass centimetres from her. She quickly realized she'd chosen the wrong foot, when the disk bounced off the back wall and clipped her left shoulder while she was still trying to bring the phaser in her right hand around to bear.

Full contact. Game to Seven of Nine. Match count five games to two for Seven of Nine.

Seven stood up straight and rocked back on her heels looking satisfied. Janeway wiped the sweat from her hand on the leg of her exercise pants and continued to watch her opponent. Strands of Seven's blond hair had pulled loose from their tight binding, clinging to her cheeks and neck with sweat. Her usually pale complexion was coloured from exertion and her light blue eyes were bright with anticipation and interest.

Janeway, sometime during this match, had begun to appreciate this different look for Seven. It was so much more appealing than her everyday rigid, cool appearance. She was so much less the analytical Borg drone, and so much more the eager young woman. A different, much more appealing person.

"Computer. Begin round."

They exchanged several hits on the disk before a blast from Janeway sent it skidding off the floor plate toward Seven who, with a flick of her left leg, threw herself into a roll along the deck and into the wall.

So much the young woman, Janeway thought, moving on autopilot to try to get behind Seven

. With beautiful long legs and lovely muscled arms. Feminine, but so unaware of any appeal she has physically. How could she not see the beauty of her own intent blue eyes, generous mouth and straight, strong teeth when she looked in the mirror?

Seven blasted the disk in the upper corner of the holodeck game area and took several quick steps back as it caromed erratically. Her steps brought her into collision with Janeway and she put her hand on Janeway's shoulder, pushing off as the disk zipped between them.

The captain felt her stomach clench. And those eyes when turned on me are enough to assimilate ... Her thoughts were no longer coherent and her gaze remained locked on Seven even though she heard the sound of the disk as it hit the wall and knew it would then hit her. The impact just below her shoulder blade brought back some reality, enough for her to realize that the proximity of the young woman had triggered a very real physical reaction and it was not for the first time. When Janeway paused to review in her mind what had just happened, it had nothing to do with the disk or the game but everything to do with her opponent.

She was still staring intently at Seven and felt her face begin to flush. Quickly she turned away covering her embarrassment by retrieving her towel.

What is happening to me? Am I attracted to her?

Wiping her face and the back of her neck, she tried to dismiss the thought, picturing herself jamming it back into a box with a heavy lid, but the thought would not heed her. The box popped open and in her mind Seven appeared, standing only inches from her as Janeway inclined her head to look up into the eyes of the taller woman. Janeway's gut clenched again and she felt the breath forced from her lungs as if a weight rested on her chest.

And deep inside her a spark ignited. A spark of sexual arousal.

Oh ... my ... God!

"Captain, you are distracted." It was a statement, not a question. Seven lowered her phaser and moved to stand beside Janeway. "You are not providing me with suitable opposition."

Drawing on her captain's control, Janeway forced her eyes off Seven. "You are perfectly correct as always, Annika. I am not suitable today." If Seven noticed the use of her human name, and she must have as nothing slipped past her, she did not react. Janeway herself did not realize until she had called up the holodeck controls to halt the program.

"You do not wish to continue the game in this unsuitable state?" Seven paced up to her and stood very close behind.

Oh, I am suitable, dear girl. More than you might be able to know. And if you keep standing so damn close to me you may find out how very suitable things between us can really be!

Janeway bit her lower lip trying very hard to not notice the woman behind her--the woman whose body heat she could feel despite her own flustered state. She hit two keys at once and the computer beeped an error tone at her.

"I am here and you are here," Seven intoned and Janeway could feel the breath on the back of her neck. "You will learn to adapt. We shall continue."

Janeway took a deep breath. She needed to relax; an idea popped into her mind. "No, we shall not. I have something else." Only then did she allow herself to look over her shoulder at Seven. She was curious what the reaction would be. Seven raised her right eyebrow speculatively.

"Perhaps another game? One more suited to your mood?" She used the word tentatively as the concept of moods was new to her.

You should be so lucky!

"No. No game." Janeway abandoned the tactile interface and cleared her throat. "Computer, end program." The Velocity play area dissolved, to be replaced by the stark grid.

"Load program Janeway-home-front-porch 2."

Seven's eyes swept with interest over the scene now displayed before her. They were standing on the expansive verandah of a wood frame house. The screen door leading into the interior was behind them, and to their left a comfortable looking seating apparatus hung from chains attached to the roof above. Beyond the porch a dirt yard stretched toward a large, red barn and beyond that, fields of corn swayed in a sudden breeze. The sky was low, heavily overcast, pregnant with rain. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

Janeway breezed past Seven, taking the phaser from her hand, now much more in control. "Nothing to shoot here, Seven, except maybe a few chickens and ducks." She set aside the weapons, sat down on the porch swing, and patted the place beside her. "Come, sit down, take a load off." She felt a tingle of anticipation as the tall woman eased herself into place as asked, but did not try to suppress it.

This is my comfort place. I am in perfect control of myself.

Seven was speaking. "A load off what?"

Janeway found herself grinning. "Nothing. It's an expression meaning to relax." Seven's eyes played over the re-creation and for a long moment she said nothing as thunder boomed closer.

"You can relax here?"

"Oh, yes." On the table to the left was a pitcher of lemonade, but only one glass. Janeway poured and handed it to Seven. "Drink this." Seven took the glass and began to intone her speech about not requiring sustenance. "Never mind that. Sometimes you don't have to need it to drink it." She waved her hand. "Try it, it will refresh you." Seven stared at Janeway quizzically for a long moment, a moment which the Captain found excruciating, yet pleasing.

The ex-Borg took a slow sip and the ice in the glass tinkled. "I find this liquid very tart."

"It's supposed to be. That's what's refreshing about it." Janeway smiled again and turned her attention outward to the oncoming storm. "I used to sit here as a child and watch the storms roll in across the fields." Thunder cracked sharply. "It helped me realize my own insignificance in the scheme of things."

"You are not insignificant," Seven sipped. Janeway had turned to face the young woman, putting one leg up on the seat and drawing the knee to her chest. "In fact," Seven of Nine continued. "You are the least insignificant of the crew." Janeway could almost feel her pupils dilate.

"Might that be a compliment?" In her mind's eye, she drew back the fishing rod to cast.

"Compliments serve no purpose."

"Don't be so quick," Janeway levelled her gaze at her crewmate. The hook was snagged in a tree behind her. She switched tactics. "Tell me, Seven, how do you feel when you are complimented for doing a good job?"

"The point is irrelevant. I always do a good job." She said the last with some sarcasm.

Janeway laughed lightly; sometimes Seven was so predictable. "Yes but how does it make you feel?" She pressed. The storm was closer now, thunder causing the porch to vibrate. Seven was looking at her with an expression of impatience that seemed to say if you must.

"It gives me some ... pleasure." She hesitated, tasting the words as she had tasted the lemonade. "More so when the compliment comes from you." Janeway felt her breath catch in her throat and she sat up straighter.

"And why is that?" The line was free of obstruction and soaring out over the still pool of water.

Fishing.

Why do I find it necessary to try to draw out of this woman what I want her to say? Because she would never say it on her own? And I need to know how she feels. Why? In hopes she might feel for you what you know you feel so unequivocally for her?

Where do these feelings come from? Suddenly I find myself lost in attraction to a woman. Not that she is the first woman I have fallen for, but this seems so much more intense. Because it's happening right now, silly!

Seven was regarding her with a steady gaze. "You wish to gain the advantage over me by having me state the obvious." Lightning flashed and it began to rain.

Careful, she's much more intuitive than you give her credit for.

"No, Seven, I'm not trying to gain an advantage." She said it though she was not sure if she believed it. "I just want you to explore your feelings."

"My feelings ..." Seven shifted and extended her hand with the glass toward Janeway to take. "It is my feelings for you that you wish me to explore?" The question was delivered without hidden meaning, a simple statement of fact. Janeway looked at the glass. It was half empty. She drank the rest in two gulps.

Just what feelings do you want her to explore, Katie? Feelings or feelings? And can she have feelings? She's young and inexperienced; any kind of feeling is new to her. But how can she not have feelings? Even if she doesn�t know what they are that doesn't mean they're inconceivable! And now I want so bad to be the object of those feelings!

Janeway felt her face flush again, driven by her own thoughts. Seven waited patiently, seemingly oblivious to the colour in the Captain's cheeks. Quickly, Janeway's control slipped back into place. "Of course I want to know what you think of me, Seven. Your thoughts and feelings matter very much to me and I .�" She realized her sentence was running on and shut her mouth.

"That is gratifying to me, yet I am confused by this conversation."

"How so?"

"I have come to understand human relationships are multifaceted, existing on different levels. You have in some instances referred to me as your friend and I understand now this is different from being your crewman. I do not know whether you wish me to speak of my feelings for you as a crew member or as your friend."

Janeway was smiling.

She's getting it. She knows the different aspects of relationships and even can understand friendships. That's a start. Can love be far beyond that? Suddenly she felt very guilty.

You're pushing this too fast, Kathryn. You can't expect her to keep up. Besides, she might end up saying exactly what you want her to say just to please you. Oh, yes that would please me!

The Captain opened her mouth to respond and was interrupted by the computer's attention tone.

The time is now twenty-hundred hours.

Rain splattered unceasingly across the yard and the fields and Janeway felt extremely reluctant to leave the simulation even though she knew Paris and Kim were waiting to begin their hour of holodeck time. Seven rose with her and they paced across the porch.

"Computer, exit."

The door opened and, indeed, Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris were standing outside. Janeway watched as Paris's eyes widened when he took in the holodeck scene.

"Computer, end program," Janeway said quickly.

"Have a good game, Captain?"

Paris had a smile playing at his lips when she drew abreast,. Janeway would have answered, and might even have put him in his place, were it not for Seven, who intoned in her most Borg-like voice: "I was victorious."

"Aren't you always." Paris entered the holodeck with a somewhat confused Kim behind him. The door swished shut.

Seven stood with her hands behind her making no move to leave. "Captain, do you wish to continue our conversation?"

Janeway looked at her and again noticed the strands of hair falling over her face. She resisted the urge to push them out of the woman's eyes. How would she respond�I so want to touch her ... where were we?

She forced herself to speak. "No Seven. Not now. The interruption made me lose my train of thought."

"Your thoughts have been most easily distracted this session." To a prejudiced Janeway, her look seemed more intense, almost knowing.

"They have indeed. We will continue at another time." Janeway paused as a crew member walked by.

"Good night, Seven. Sweet dreams." They went their separate ways each with different thoughts about the word dreams.

later

Showered and dressed in her nightgown, Captain Kathryn Janeway sipped a glass of replicated wine and sat on her bed. Her mind was alive with thoughts, all of them connected to very beautiful young, ex-Borg who was now a part of her crew. And she had come on board Voyager against her will, severed from the only life she knew; all for what?

To satisfy your own sense of justice, Captain Janeway? You wanted her to be redeemed, but to what end? Who will be happy? Seven of Nine/Annika Hansen, or you?

Those thoughts were futile and she stomped them savagely back down. Not every decision was perfect or without unforeseen consequences. But the decision had been made, and in truth, Seven was coping and adapting well. She had not become instantly human, but she no longer wished to rejoin the Collective.

It has been so very difficult for her. The learning process is long and fraught with trouble.

How many times have the two of us disagreed? She might have been part of a hive mentality, but she could not be more independent. Or defiant.

Janeway ran a hand through her hair. Disagreement and even defiance did not trouble her as much as they had at first because she felt Seven was learning the reasons behind the command structure and was beginning to accept that there will be times when she may not agree but she must still obey her captain.

And you are her captain.

That thought rang in her head for a long moment. She had felt attraction to members of her crew before. Stranded on that planet with Chakotay, she had allowed herself to feel, and that had ended as fast as it had started once they were back on Voyager.

Was that because I am the captain, or was the feeling just not truly there? That hardly matters now; the question is, when does being a captain stop me from pursuing a relationship with someone on my crew?

When my ship is 70,000 light years from the Federation and surviving on a combination of Starfleet rules and delta quadrant adaptations? Who could possibly object to my allowing myself what I have allowed for the crew, and what they would most likely have taken anyway?

She sighed deeply, swung her legs up onto the bed and leaned back into the cushions. Pressing her eyes tightly closed, she continued to rationalize.

Seven of Nine was someone they had met on the way from here to there. She was neither Starfleet nor Maquis. Not at all what the brass at Starfleet Command would consider a "crew member" in that sense.

But it's not what Starfleet thinks, it's what I think. I'm ultimately in charge of the morale of this crew; it's what matters to them that means the most. To me. Then, what about me? Would they not allow me this happiness?

None of this would matter in the slightest if Seven of Nine was not interested. At least not until the next time she took aboard a gorgeous Borg. Janeway laughed at herself and drained the rest of the wine.

And what was it about her anyway? She was certainly physically attractive now that she had been released from the metal and plastic of the Borg and allowed to develop into the woman she was inside all that armour. Was there anyone on board, male or female, who did not turn their head to follow her with their eyes as she walked down a corridor? But Seven was immune to these attractions. Wasn't she? Her concentration on a task was paramount. Efficiency was everything. Of course she would not allow her mind to wander to thoughts of a romantic nature while she was intent on work.

But she is beginning to realize there is more to existence than work. All work and no play makes a very boring Borg and dreadfully tiresome human. It is in these instances, times when we are on the holodeck playing Velocity, or just sitting in the messhall, that I see that odd look cross her face. That look that makes me wonder what thoughts are ticking through her head. Not thoughts about the warp core or thoughts about astrometric charts, no, these thoughts seem all too human. Like the way she looked at me this evening.

Janeway shook herself with force. It was all too easy to believe what she wanted to believe. To see Seven as the girl at the high school dance just waiting to be asked out onto the floor. To think she might have developed feelings that were more than just work and friendship related.

But why the heck not? There is nothing rational or logical about attraction. Look at yourself, Kathryn. You have felt drawn to her ever since that day in the brig when she lost the Borg indifference and became a vulnerable young woman. And you reached out to comfort her. But now that vulnerability is so hard to see; I'm sure no one else can see in her what I do. I know it's there, that humanity, that individuality, that character ... that sexuality.

She snorted to herself as she slid off the bed and turned down the covers. "Lights." The room darkened and she slipped in and pulled the sheet over her.

Don't you wish, Katie. Don't you wish ...

Continue to Part 2

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