| Part 1 | Part 2 |
Tuvok, Voyager's Chief of Security, asked permission for entry into Captain Janeway's ready room, a palpable sense of disquiet settling over him as he waited. If a Vulcan were capable of dread, he would be feeling it acutely at this moment. But Vulcans did not feel such emotions. At the Captain's sharp "Come!" Tuvok stepped into the room, the doors swishing open and then swiftly sealing the exit behind him.
"Tuvok," Captain Janeway said, "I really don't want to be disturbed right now. So unless this is important..." she allowed her voice to trail off and leaned back in her chair. Tuvok observed that her face appeared gaunt, shadowed. Janeway raised a hand to her temple, rubbing her fingertips over taut flesh. "Well? What is it?" she demanded, raising tired eyes to his.
Tuvok shifted uncomfortably. It was illogical for him to hesitate, to wish that he did not have to have this conversation with his Captain. Reality was not going to change simply because he wanted it to, so he must deal with the situation directly. "Captain, it has come to my attention that a crime has been committed against a senior officer."
Janeway sat up sharply. "What kind of crime?"
"Criminal sexual misconduct."
"A sexual assault?" Janeway exclaimed. She leaned forward, placing the palms of her hands on the desktop. "What happened? Who was involved?"
He looked down at the data padd he carried in his hand. "I believe these logs will answer any questions." She took the padd and accessed the first entry, her features growing visibly pale.
"Have you read this?" she asked, her voice tight, wary.
"Yes. She turned it in as evidence when she surrendered herself into custody."
"Where is she now?"
"Let her go," Janeway said quietly.
"But Captain, the events described in those logs--"
"Are between her and me."
* * * * * *
3 Days Earlier-- Unusus IV
She was aware of the woman almost from the moment she walked onto the stage. Staring at her intently, watching as she danced. She was not alone. A man sat with her-- dark, brooding features, observing the show with a cool disinterest. He would not be a good customer.
In the time she had been here, a little less than two weeks, Alessa had learned much about who would pay for her services, and who would not. The male looked around the room with a slightly bored expression, and she quickly turned her attention back to the woman. She did not seem bored. Far from it. She watched Alessa's movements as if she were entranced, unable to look away, her gaze hungry. Aware of her interest, Alessa found herself responding to it, dancing towards her, catching her eye. She made sure the woman was watching as she moved to the center energy conduit. With practiced ease she leapt 6 meters in the air and grabbed the cable, then flipped upside down, entwining one leg in the glowing conduit as she did. She proceeded to slowly lower her entire body down to the stage, using only the strength of her thighs. When she reached the floor Alessa arched her back, causing her breasts to become even more prominent, and crawled forward.
A miner was standing at the end of the stage, waving at her with a credit in his hand, so she moved towards him. Alessa thrust her hip forward and lifted the shimmering, see-through gauze that she wore as an outer covering. She allowed the miner to place the credit inside the band of her silver briefs, then turned away, searching for the gray eyes that had been staring at her. But when Alessa looked back towards their table, the woman and her companion were gone.
She continued the rest of her show, surprised to find that she was somewhat disappointed. Alessa did not see many female customers, and regretted that the woman had not stayed longer. Most of the customers were male-- miners who whiled away the hours and their credits between duty shifts. Very few women entered the bar who were not dancers themselves, and fewer still showed much interest in the entertainers. But that did not explain why Alessa continued to think about the woman long after she was gone. There was something about her, something unique that tugged at Alessa's mind, piqued her interest.
When she walked off stage 2 hours later, Cahores pulled her aside. "You have an exhibition," he said, pointing towards a side room. Alessa frowned. She detested this part-- the private rooms where she was supposed to go and give some guest a personal show, and perhaps more. She had not done more than dance until now, but she knew that soon she would be expected to copulate with one of the customers. "That's where the real money is," Cahores often said, and she was reminded every day that she owed him for saving her from the ship crash.
Alessa herself remembered nothing before waking up in the club nearly two weeks ago, but she could see the evidence of surgeries that had been performed-- the odd eyepiece that adorned one eye, the silver starburst beneath her ear, the mesh on her hand. Various metallic ridges also lined her abdomen, which, along with her similarly colored briefs and top, gave the illusion that she wore some elaborate costume. She was no fool, however, and could tell that these implants and the accompanying faint scars had been with her longer than two weeks. But Cahores swore that he had invested a lot in her, and he demanded that she return on that investment. If Parehau Station had not been a full four days' journey across the radiation fields, she would have left him long ago, no matter what he said. But she had to earn the 4000 credits needed for passage to the Station somehow, so she stayed. And really, where else did she have to go?
Sighing, she nodded and moved to the exhibition room, silently hoping that the guest would not be a Buoark-- a particularly odious smelling species with tentacles and viscous skin. The guard opened the door and let her in, closing it firmly behind her. She and the customer would now be locked in the room for an hour, no matter what they decided to do with the time.
As her eyes adjusted from the lights of the stage, she immediately sought out the center chair where the occupant had already been placed. She recognized her immediately, the auburn hair and intent gaze. It was the woman from the bar. For some reason the woman had opted not to divest herself of her outer coat, so she sat there completely covered in the long black garment, leaving her face and hands the only skin visible. For the first time, Alessa felt the urge to cover herself, feeling suddenly self-conscious in comparison because of the expanse of flesh she revealed. You are being irrational, she told herself. You are in control here. And she was. As was customary, the woman's wrists had been strapped to the arms of the chair, so the dancer was in complete control of whatever happened in the room.
The woman spoke, her voice husky. "Are you alright?" Alessa felt a shiver run down her spine at the sound.
"Of course," she responded, surprised that the woman would think that she was damaged. Perhaps the woman was commenting on her implants. Alessa raised her left hand, flexing her fingers. "It does not hurt," she said. She tilted her head, realizing the woman may have meant something else. "Does my appearance displease you?"
The woman shook her head, obviously surprised herself. "Not at all."
"Good," Alessa smiled slightly, and moved to the wall to push the button that would begin her musical accompaniment. She had to step over a black bag that she had not noticed previously; she realized that it must belong to the customer because Cahores liked to keep the rooms empty except for the center chair. As her favorite selection began to play, Alessa turned to face the woman again, moving towards her. "I will dance for you now."
"No, wait. This isn't what I had in mind. I only want to talk to you." The woman pulled at the straps on her arms. "Release me from this and--"
"Did Cahores not explain the rules?" Alessa asked, stopping in front of the chair. "The customer must remain bound."
The woman seemed to be growing angry. She strained at the armstraps and spoke a name, one that Alessa did not recognize, and said to release her immediately. "That's an order," she added.
Alessa's eyebrow lifted, feeling that her authority was being challenged. And in this room, she was the final authority. "You do not understand," she said, leaning forward. She placed a hand on either side of the chair, clutching the armrests, leaning in so her cleavage hung close to the woman's face. "While we are in this room you will do as I say. I am in command here, not you." The woman looked up sharply at that, and Alessa felt a thrill shoot through her-- the sudden desire to tame this woman, bend her to her will.
"You will speak when spoken to. Answer only when asked, do you understand?" The woman looked back at her silently, stubbornly clenching her jaw. In response Alessa reached forward and roughly grabbed the hair at the nape of the woman's neck, pulling her head back and exposing her throat. Alessa could see the pulse jumping in the smooth flesh, and she had the sudden urge to kiss it. She leaned down and pressed her full lips to the warm skin, tasting the slight saltiness of it, the hint of sweat and musk, sucking on it gently. She could feel the pulse increase under her touch, speeding up by 14.8 percent. Then she nipped sharply at it with her teeth before pulling back to study the woman's expression. There was surprise there, but still that stubbornness. "If you do not obey me," Alessa warned, "I will take off your clothes and leave you here for the guard."
Of course she would do no such thing, but the woman did not know that. She could see the sense of doubt flicker across her face, quickly settling back into an enigmatic expression that Alessa could not read. A sudden sense of irritation washed over her, and she knew that she wanted that expression to melt away into one of submission... desire.
Alessa began to sway in time to the music, undulating her torso and hips as the woman watched. As she danced she moved forward until her knees were almost touching the customer's, then she leaned in and blew into the woman's ear, pressing her breasts into the woman's chest. She could sense her respiration increase, but still the woman's expression never changed. This only infuriated Alessa more. The woman would respond to her! She climbed onto the chair and settled herself over the customer so she was straddling her lap. The woman's eyes widened as Alessa slowly divested herself of the gauze covering her upper body. Alessa dropped the gauze onto the floor, then reached behind her back to unfasten the silver cloth that bound her breasts. The woman quickly turned her head away.
"Look at me," Alessa ordered, grabbing the woman's jaw and turning her head back around. The woman stared up into Alessa's eyes, steadfastly refusing to look down. Alessa quirked her eyebrow and released the restrictive material with one hand, allowing her breasts to bounce free. Still the woman refused to look. Then Alessa began to touch herself-- tease her own nipples until they were hard, thrusting proudly. If she leaned forward she could push her breasts into the woman's face. She imagined those wine-colored lips replacing her fingers and closing over her own nipple, and she moaned in spite of herself.
The woman's steadfast expression slipped slightly, and Alessa saw her eyes dip for just a moment to the breasts before her. She quickly looked away, but not before her face had turned to crimson. Alessa reached forward and gently caressed her cheek, feeling the heat beneath her mesh-covered fingertips. "Your temperature has risen-- are you damaged?" she murmured. The woman looked up again, shaking her head mutely. She was only inches away from Alessa's breast, and instinctively Alessa's hand slid to the back of the woman's neck, pulling her toward a nipple that was already puckering in anticipation.
"No!" the woman cried out, her voice hoarse, and pulled away. Alessa frowned. She knew the woman wanted her-- she could measure her physiological responses, she could tell by her scent. Yet for some reason the woman seemed determined to act as if she did not desire her. Perhaps this was a game. Alessa had to admit that it was a very interesting game, but one that the woman was destined to lose. Then again, perhaps that was what the woman wanted.
Although the customer was unable to touch her, Alessa was encouraged to touch the customer, and she did so now, sitting back to run her hands up and down the woman's chest, carefully unfastening her outer coat. "You will enjoy this much more without this garment." She was inordinately pleased to find that the coat itself had an inner lining made of soft fur. She pushed it back onto the woman's shoulders, revealing a red and black uniform beneath. "This is the uniform of a soldier," she noted, rubbing her hands familiarly over the woman's chest. She could feel the woman's nipples pebbling beneath her fingers, even through the thick material of her uniform. "You are a commander of some sort," she deduced, noting the pips on her collar. "A lieutenant?" she guessed. "A general? No... a captain. You are a captain," she said, again feeling that slight tugging at her brain that she had felt when she'd first seen the woman-- that sense of awareness, almost of vague familiarity.
The woman's eyes seemed to darken, as Alessa repeated the designation again, trying out its appropriateness. "Captain..." Then suddenly she leaned down and pressed her lips to the other woman's, kissing her firmly, passionately. After a moment she pulled away, tugging on the woman's bottom lip with her teeth before releasing her. "Captain," she said again, finding that she liked calling her this, "I am going to touch you now."
"Don't," the woman said. Alessa ignored her and ran her hands up the black and red jacket. "Please, stop this."
Alessa smiled. "You will say 'please' again. I promise you." She noted the immediate jump in physical response that the woman's body underwent at her words, and knew that this protest was only for show. Alessa also noted that her own body was responding similarly to its close proximity to the woman. With surprise, she realized that she was actually considering the possibility of copulating with this customer. In fact, the idea definitely appealed to her.
She proceeded to unfasten the captain's jacket, trailing her fingertips over the gray sweater beneath, feeling the woman tremble, fighting her response. It only inflamed her further. Alessa placed her hands in the woman's collar and tore the sweater apart, rending the material with surprising ease, making the woman gasp as the four pips flew from her collar to clatter across the floor. Allowing her hands to boldly roam over warm curves, Alessa leaned down to add her mouth-- pressing her lips to the woman's skin, kissing down from her neck to the hollow of her collarbone, down further to the undergarment that covered the woman's breasts. Alessa could see the nipples straining beneath the material and bent down to one, sucking on it through the cloth. The captain's breath caught, and Alessa could sense her heartbeat increase exponentially. After a moment Alessa became frustrated by her inability to taste the woman's skin, and she tore that garment away as well.
Alessa paused to admire the woman's exposed body-- breasts more full than her garments had hinted at, and hardened nipples that seemed to be beckoning to her. "You are perfection," Alessa whispered. Then she slowly took a nipple in her mouth, pulling it between her teeth to suck on it, roll it with her tongue. She was gratified to hear an involuntarily moan escape the woman's lips.
But when she began to unfasten the woman's pants, the captain bucked against her. "No! Don't!" She lifted her head to see the woman watching her with wide, almost frightened eyes, and Alessa was filled with a wave of tenderness. "Do not worry. I won't hurt you," she whispered. Alessa leaned forward and pressed her lips to the woman's, kissing her softly this time, until the woman tentatively began to respond. As Alessa's tongue slipped between hesitant lips, she encircled the woman's back with one arm and carefully lifted her from the chair so their upper bodies pressed together in a most pleasant fashion. With her free hand she pushed the woman's pants and underwear down to her knees.
After a moment, Alessa lowered the woman back to the chair, and the captain gasped as her bare flesh slid against the coat's fur lining. Alessa moved to kneel in front of the chair, and as she did she pushed the woman's garments down her legs, over her ankles and to the floor. She could see the woman's chest rising quicker with each nervous breath. "Trust me," she said, and began to caress the woman's calves, trying to make her touch soothing. "I will not do anything that you do not want me to do." She pulled the woman forward in the chair slightly, so that her skin was caressed by the soft fur lining. "Do you like that?" she asked, watching her facial expressions.
"No," the captain responded. "I want you to put my pants back on." But Alessa knew that the woman didn't want any such thing. She pushed the woman back slowly in the seat, then pulled her forward again, allowing her to enjoy the sensation of tender skin rubbing against silken fur. Alessa then slightly parted the woman's legs and pressed her lips to the inside of a trembling thigh, just above the knee. She heard the woman's sharp intake of breath as she kissed the soft skin, licked at it, then pulled tender flesh between her lips, nipping at it gently. She turned her head and treated the other thigh to the same sensations, conveying slightly more passion as her gentle nips turned into a more insistent sucking.
Alessa continued moving her head from thigh to thigh, subtly forging a course that pushed the woman's legs further apart until her mouth was mere inches from the juncture she longed to explore. The closer she got to her goal, the faster the woman's breath came until Alessa pulled back slightly. "I want to taste you," she murmured, opening the woman's legs further with her hands. Her own respiration increased as she stared at the slick folds that were revealed. "Do you want me to?"
"No," the woman said, her voice ragged.
"As you wish." Obediently Alessa bent her head again, studiously avoiding the area she desired. She continued to kiss along the woman's inner thighs, sucking on the tender flesh-- but she did not go any further. After several moments, she asked again, "Do you want me to taste you?" Again the woman said no, her voice barely a croak. Alessa was amused to note that although her voice said no, the woman unconsciously slid her body forward in the chair, exposing even more glistening flesh. Alessa reached up to caress the woman's breasts, stretching her arms forward as she bent her head so that her position took on an oddly supplicating appearance. Her tongue ran in closer and closer circles to the center of the woman's desire, until she pulled back, allowing her breath to lightly stir the dark curls. She looked up, her gaze questioning, and repeated, "Do you want me to taste you?"
The woman, on the verge of tears, finally gave in. "Yes..." she moaned. Alessa smiled, and obeyed the woman's request. "Oh God, yes..." the captain whispered, as Alessa pressed into her with her lips, and began to lick upwards slowly. Alessa savored the flavor, the sensation, greedily sucking the woman's abundant offerings, her tongue tracing a path back and forth over sensitive nerve endings to dip into her hot center over and over again. She wanted this moment to last forever. Alessa added two fingers to her tongue's explorations, gently gliding over sensitive flesh until each digit was coated with the woman's juices. Then she easily slid her fingers inside warm walls, making the woman cry out in pleasure.
As her hand began a slow thrusting, Alessa kissed her way back up the woman's body, trailing her lips and tongue over smooth flesh until she was even with the woman's face. She balanced on the chair with one knee while slipping her other thigh between the woman's legs to fortify the rhythmic thrusting of her hand. "Are you ready?" she whispered, capturing the captain's gaze and holding it.
"Yes..." the woman groaned.
"Not yet," she cautioned. She could feel the woman's muscles beginning to tremor slightly. "Wait until I tell you."
The woman took a shuddering breath, but nodded, never averting her eyes from Alessa's. As her strong fingers continued to thrust deliberately, pulling almost all the way out before pushing in slowly, Alessa watched the woman's face, felt her struggle not to give in to her pleasure. She waited until the captain's eyes closed involuntarily and she began to grit her teeth, biting down on the cry that was fighting for release.
"Are you ready for me now?" Alessa murmured. The woman could only nod, every muscle in her body tensed, shaking. "You must say it."
The woman knew immediately what Alessa wanted. "Please," she moaned, surrendering completely.
Alessa smiled, triumphant, and quickened her fingers' pace. "Then come for me," she purred into the woman's ear, licking her earlobe. "Come for me, Captain." The woman cried out and Alessa felt inner walls close over her fingers, convulsing around them as the body beneath her went rigid. She continued to thrust into her, until the woman was arching upwards, clutching the chair arms with white knuckles as she pressed wantonly against Alessa's hand and thigh. As she came a second time the woman threw her head back against the chair, her voice strangling on a high-pitched sound that fell just short of a shriek.
Feeling the shudders begin to subside, Alessa's fingers slowed to a stop, then she kissed the woman again, this time gently, tenderly. "Oh, Captain..." she breathed, removing her hand slowly. "That felt wonderful. I hope that was as pleasurable for you as it was for me."
"I know one way to find out," the woman said throatily. "Release me. Let me go and I will touch you the way you touched me." Alessa did not hesitate, pulling on the armstraps, breaking them with a strength she hadn't known she possessed. She stood, pulling the woman up with her, and slid her hands inside the fur-lined coat to caress the captain's back. She touched her lips to the woman's and was greeted by a response that was hungry, passionate. Alessa moaned and tightened her arms, pressing their bodies closer together. The feel of bare skin against her own was so distracting that Alessa took no notice that her embrace was not being returned. She did not realize the woman had pulled an object out of her coat pocket until it was too late, and the hypospray was pressed into her neck. A hissing sound was the only warning before she felt a tingling begin at her throat and quickly spread through her head. She pulled back, looking at the woman with wide, disbelieving eyes. As she fell to the ground, her last sight was of the woman looking down on her, her expression unreadable, then she was aware of nothing more.
* * * * * *
She awoke with a start, eyes adjusting quickly to the brightness of the room. Then she became aware of a pain in her head, and a vague, almost electrical sensation. And suddenly she was being bombarded with data-- the cellular make-up of the ceiling, the spectrum of light conveyed by the lighting fixtures, the amplitude of the ventilation unit's buzzing, the frequency of the hum caused by the warp core. Immediately her mind seemed to expand outside of her surroundings to embrace theories of quantum mechanics, astrophysics, exobiology-- then her mind expanded even further, and she became aware of the collected knowledge of thousands of species, trillions of individuals. She gasped, overwhelmed by the impossible amount of data, thinking that her cerebral cortex would surely explode, and then just as suddenly all the information receded, and she was left with one thought: I am Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix 01. I am Borg.
The last thing Seven remembered was being on the Delta Flyer with Harry Kim after they had crash-landed on Unusus IV. She had told him that she would erect a distress beacon on the hull to contact Voyager. She remembered feeling dizzy as she left the ship, but could recall nothing after that. She touched her temple experimentally, looking for some evidence of a wound.
"You're undoubtedly experiencing a headache." The Emergency Medical Hologram appeared beside her, his bald head gleaming under the ceiling lights. "Your cortical implant was badly damaged in the crash. You suffered memory loss and some of its processing capabilities," he chirped, smiling much too brightly for someone delivering such grave news. "But we've been able to stimulate your nanoprobes to effect repairs. A few more of these and you'll be as good as new." He lifted a hypospray to her neck and injected its contents into her with a hiss.
The sensation sparked a memory of another hypospray being pressed to her neck, and someone else standing over her, over "Alessa." Then she was experiencing Alessa's memories as well, and she saw herself working in Cahores' bar, performing privately for one of the customers, kissing her, touching her intimately... Seven's eyes widened and she jerked up into a sitting position. The Captain! "Where is Captain Janeway?" she looked around the room, but there was no one else there.
"On the Bridge, I assume," the Doctor said, staring down his nose at her as he prepared a second hypospray.
"I must see her," Seven exclaimed, and threw back the blanket that had been covering her body. She stood, not caring that she was now nude, and started toward the door.
"But we haven't finished your treatments!" The Doctor quickly intercepted Seven, putting himself between her and the door. "And besides, as much as the crew would probably enjoy the view, I doubt the Captain would appreciate you showing up on the Bridge looking like that," he smirked.
At the Doctor's comment Seven looked down at herself, a rushing sound beginning to pound in her ears. "You don't understand. I must see the Captain," she whispered. "I must speak with her."
The Doctor saw that Seven was beginning to sway, and grabbed her elbow to lead her back to the bio-bed. "Later," he said. "You can talk later. I'm sure she'll be by to check in on you soon." He helped her onto the bed and brought the blanket up to her shoulders, then administered a second hypospray before leaving Seven to rest.
I have to apologize, explain what happened,Seven thought. But what could she say? How could she explain her behavior when she didn't understand it herself? Captain Janeway was no doubt disgusted with her, disappointed in her, with what she had been, what she had forced the Captain to do. Silent tears began to slide from her eyes. What have I done?
The Doctor was wrong. The Captain did not come to see her while she was in Sickbay. Seven waited, hoping, but she never came. Time and again she started to contact Captain Janeway herself, but each time she stopped. It was apparent that the Captain did not want to talk to her, did not want to see her. And although she had rebelled against the Captain's wishes in the past, Seven sensed that in this instance she did not have the right to force the issue.
Once the treatments were completed, Seven was sent directly to Cargo Bay 2 to regenerate for 16 hours, a relatively short period considering the amount of time she had been away from her Borg alcove. Ironically, the energy conduits that she had used while dancing on Unusus IV had provided an unexpected beneficial aspect-- they had actually helped to sustain her Borg systems, so she did not need to enter a protracted regeneration period.
When she came out of regeneration, Seven rushed to her workstation, hoping that the Captain had broken the imposed silence and tried to contact her. When she saw that there was indeed a message waiting for her from Captain Janeway, Seven's heart rate jumped 34%. She opened the message with trembling fingers.
It was a text message only-- dry, to the point, official. But still it was from the Captain, and Seven read the words over and over.
Please report to the conference room for a debriefing at 0900 hours. Be prepared to give a report on your stay on Unusus IV, up until the time Tuvok and I discovered you in Cahores' establishment. Tuvok will continue the report from there. Do not mention in your official logs anything that happened after Tuvok and I entered Cahores' bar. This is an order.
The Captain did not want her to reveal to the senior staff what had occurred between them, that much was evident. But Seven did not need to be told that-- it was too private, too shameful. How could she admit to anyone else what she had done? She could not imagine speaking about this to anyone but the Captain herself. Perhaps the Captain intends to provide an opportunity for private discussion after the meeting, she thought, feeling herself calm immediately at the prospect.
As she had with every message she had ever received from Captain Janeway, Seven archived the text in her personal data file. It was a habit she had developed years ago, when she was first on Voyager. At one time she had told herself that she did it out of some need for efficiency, but her eidetic memory made that rationalization implausible. Now she just did it automatically, without questioning herself, or wondering at the desire to hear Janeway's voice that sometimes made her replay old audio messages.
For a moment Seven considered pulling up one of those old audio files now, but she shook such thoughts away as irrelevant. She needed to do more than just hear the Captain's voice. She needed to talk through the emotional ramifications of her actions with the only person who could truly understand what had happened on Unusus IV, the very person that she had...touched.
Seven realized that she was somewhat at a loss-- she didn't even know the proper terminology for what had occurred between herself and the Captain. She had no idea how to begin identifying the feelings that touching the Captain had evoked... that the memories still evoked. Seven noted with interest that although her mind now had trouble deciphering her actions, her body had seemed to have an instinctive knowledge as to how to behave-- what to do, where to touch, how to impart the most pleasure.
Of course she understood where her body had learned the mechanics of copulation. As a former Borg drone, Seven had access to the collected knowledge of thousands of species' sexual practices. She had also researched Voyager's data banks extensively over the past 4 years for any information on human sexuality, the one aspect of humanity that somehow managed to both fascinate and completely elude her. Yet none of this could offer Seven any insight into her own motivations, or provide any satisfactory explanation for her behavior. Seven did not know why she had relentlessly continued to touch the Captain even when she had been ordered to stop, nor did she understand the desires that their physical intimacy had awakened in her. But most of all, Seven could not answer the one question that now plagued her more than any other: What would have happened if the Captain had not had access to that hypospray?
* * * * * *
Although he was considerably early, Commander Tuvok was not the first person to arrive for the debriefing. He found Seven of Nine already seated at the conference table, waiting.
"Seven," he said in greeting as he sat down.
"Commander." She nodded to him, then returned her attention to the data padd she was studying.
They sat in companionable silence for several minutes, neither one seeing the necessity to engage in idle chatter. One by one the rest of the senior staff began to arrive-- first Neelix, then Ensign Harry Kim, the Doctor, Commander Chakotay, and Lieutenants B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris. These people apparently did see the point in idle chatter, however, as the noise level in the room rose exponentially with each new arrival welcoming Seven back to Voyager and inquiring as to her well-being. Seven answered each person concisely while continuing to devote her attention to her padd, although Tuvok did note that she looked up sharply every time the doors opened.
The last to arrive was Captain Janeway, who was uncharacteristically late. "Good morning, people," she said brusquely, barely glancing around the room before taking her chair at the head of the table. "Let's get this started." The clipped tone of voice immediately alerted the staff that the Captain was in no mood to sit through an extended meeting. "Mr. Kim, please begin with your report on the Delta Flyer's crash," she ordered.
"Yes ma'am." Mr. Kim sat up straighter in his chair. "As you know, Seven and I ran into an ion storm that forced us to make an emergency landing on Unusus IV. We crashed in the middle of a radiation field, and both Seven and I were thrown from our chairs. I must have blacked out then. When I came to, Seven was pulling me away from a fire on the control panel. She got the fire out, but 78 percent of the Delta Flyer's systems had been knocked off-line, including the communications array. We needed to erect a beacon on top of the Flyer to boost our distress signal enough for Voyager to be able to receive it. Seven volunteered to do it, saying that her Borg physiology would not only protect her from the radiation, but that she could have the beacon up and running before I could even finish putting on an environmental suit. She stepped outside the shuttle at 1500 hours. That was the last I saw of her. When she didn't come back after 30 minutes, I began to grow concerned. I put on an environmental suit at 1538 to go look for her, but a dust storm made visibility almost impossible. I attached a lifeline to the Flyer and searched a 40 meter parameter around the ship, but she was gone."
Tuvok leaned forward slightly, gaining the Captain's attention. "We know that Seven of Nine was able to install the beacon, because Voyager honed in on its signal within 6 hours. As for Seven herself, she has stated that she has no memory from the time she stepped out of the Delta Flyer until her arrival at the mining colony. However, the Doctor and I have been able to piece together enough evidence to devise a theory as to what happened to her."
"When I examined Seven," the Doctor piped up, "I found evidence of two separate traumas to the head. We believe the first one occurred during the crash. A second injury may have occurred while Seven was climbing down form the Delta Flyer. Perhaps she was disoriented, dizzy from the original injury, or the high winds may have caused a fall. Whatever the reason, we theorize that the additional trauma knocked Seven unconscious. When she came to, her ability to access her cortical implant had been damaged to the point that she didn't know who or where she was."
Tuvok picked up the thread of the report. "The radiation fields on Unusus IV are characterized by winds of up to 170 kmh, and rampant dust storms that can decrease visibility by 98 percent. We have deduced that when Seven awoke she was unable to see the Delta Flyer, and began to wander away from the craft. We estimate that she was picked up by a Buoarkan trade ship approximately 14 hours later."
"Kahless," B'Elanna swore under her breath.
"Of course any other humanoid would have died within the first hour of exposure," the Doctor said, glancing at Lt. Torres. "But fortunately Seven had her Borg nanoprobes to protect her. Nothing quite as efficient as coming with your own microscopic repair crew," he added with a tinge of irony. "However, the prolonged exposure to the radiation apparently exhausted the nanoprobes' reparative abilities to the extent that they were unable to effect repairs to Seven's cortical implant once she was rescued. So when the trade ship deposited her at the mining colony, not only did Seven not have any memory of who she was or where she came from, she also had no way to regain those memories."
"A full-scale search was begun once we recovered the Delta Flyer and Ensign Kim," Tuvok added. "Unfortunately our efforts were hindered by the radiation. We were forced to search by making short sweeps of the radiation fields, using only the limited sensory capabilities of the shuttle crafts. The search was not expanded to the mining colony until the 5th day, where we proceeded to search for Seven on foot. She was found on the 12th day by Captain Janeway and myself, working in a local establishment under the name Alessa."
"Luckily for her," the Doctor interjected with a smirk, "Seven's new 'employer' required that she come in constant contact with certain... energy conduits. The energy from these conduits seemed to have helped sustain her implants, so Seven survived quite well even without her Borg alcove..."
As Tuvok and the Doctor gave their reports, all of the officers could read along on their own data padds. Lt. Paris had started reading ahead to the next section when his head suddenly shot up. "Wait a minute! Am I reading this right?" he exclaimed, glancing from Tuvok to the Captain. "You mean the two of you stumbled in on Seven performing in some strip club?" He grinned towards the young Borg. "Talk about luck-- what are the odds that you'd be found by about the only two people on board who haven't been guilty of fantasizing about that exact scenario?"
"Hey!" B'Elanna Torres smacked his arm. "I think you'd better rephrase that," she said, sounding offended. It was unclear whether she was being playful or serious.
Tom turned to his wife of only a few months, completely missing the glowering looks that both Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine were aiming at him. "I did say 'about the only two--'"
"Mr. Paris, I think we can do without the side commentary," Janeway interrupted.
Perhaps because he was still focused on his wife's reaction, Tom failed to hear the note of warning in the Captain's voice and unwisely tried to justify his comments. "But Captain," he said, leaning forward with a conciliatory smile, "I just meant that Seven was fortunate to be found by two people who would never dream of taking advantage of--"
"Mr. Paris!" the Captain snapped. "I said that's enough!" She turned the full force of her formidable glare on him until Tom began to squirm in his seat. "Tuvok," she growled, "would you please ignore 'Ensign' Paris and continue with your report?"
Although he wasn't quite sure what he had said that was so objectionable, Tom had the good sense to look abashed and mumble quickly, "My apologies, Captain."
"At this time," Tuvok said, ignoring Lt. Paris per the Captain's instructions, "Seven of Nine is best suited to continue the report."
Janeway nodded, while looking down at her padd. "Go ahead, Seven."
Tuvok watched the Captain curiously, thinking that her behavior was very unusual. She seemed tense and quick to anger-- her implied threat to reduce Lt. Paris in rank being especially inordinate since she was usually quite tolerant of his attempts at humor. But most notably, Captain Janeway had not looked at Seven of Nine once since the meeting began-- an odd occurrence indeed. And now as Seven gave her report, the Captain stared down at her own data padd, almost as if she were deliberately avoiding the very sight of the young woman.
In fact, the Captain has been acting in a peculiar manner ever since the Buoarkan trader directed us to the establishment where Seven was performing on Unusus IV, he thought. He and the Captain had been searching the crowded entertainment district of the mining colony for days with little success-- unsurprising considering that there were 23 million inhabitants and the only scanning technology they could use while on foot were their short-range tri-corders. The Captain had just made an obscure, yet fitting comparison between their search for Seven and a quest for a needle within a haystack, when Tuvok happened to overhear an idle conversation between two Buoarkan traders.
One of the traders was describing a female that he had found wandering in the radiation fields who seemed to be "made of metal." Tuvok asked the Buoark to describe the woman in greater detail, which he agreed to do for a price. Captain Janeway then offered him double what he asked if he would lead them to the woman. When he refused, the Captain drew her phaser and convinced the trader that it would be in his best interest to comply. He quickly led them to Cahores' establishment, where he explained that he had dropped off the woman 12 days prior in exchange for "medical supplies." The trader then left them at the entrance without even collecting his payment.
The bar they entered was a no-name place, no different from any of the 41 other bars they had been searching, full of drunken miners and heavily armed guards who attempted to keep the peace with varying degrees of success. There were 5 women dancing on 3 different stages, but none of them was Seven. He and the Captain decided to find a table and wait.
As they waited, Tuvok had to persuade 6 different males to leave their table. The male-to-female ratio of the mining colony was 89% male, 9% female, and 2% other, which meant that any woman tended to be accosted if she were in a public place. Usually the presence of another male would deter most suitors, but in bars the rules were apparently different. Tuvok even had to use the Vulcan nerve pinch on one particularly ardent admirer, much to the Captain's amusement. He was just about to suggest that they return at a less crowded time, when Janeway gasped. He followed her gaze to the stage, and saw Seven of Nine. But she did not look like the Seven that he knew. Her long hair had been released from its usual efficient bun, and instead of her bio-suit she wore little more than two strips of silver cloth and a sheer cloak. As the music played, Seven danced between 3 luminescent energy conduits. She flipped upside down onto one and slowly slid down the entire length, using only the strength of her thighs to lower herself to the floor.
The Captain seemed to be especially intrigued by Seven's athletic prowess, because Tuvok had to call her name 4 times before she answered him. He voiced his concern that Seven had looked right at them, but had not displayed any hint of recognition. Janeway postulated that Seven was in danger and being held against her will, which may have made her disregard their presence. She thought that it would be best to attempt to make contact with Seven away from the main stage, out of site of the numerous bystanders. Janeway said that she did not want to arouse the owner's suspicions or instigate any sort of confrontation with the guards, so she volunteered to pretend to be a customer for the "exhibition room." This would allow her to make contact with Seven while Tuvok readied the shuttlecraft. The Captain explained that she was the logical candidate to contact the young Borg, because as Seven's mentor she and the young woman had developed a unique bond based on trust and respect. This made the Captain particularly sensitive to any feelings of self-consciousness or embarrassment that Seven might have over her current 'occupation.' She also pointed out that it would not be very logical or believable for a Vulcan to try to convince anyone that he wanted a private audience with an exotic dancer. Tuvok readily agreed.
They discussed their plan as they quickly returned to the shuttle craft and retrieved the proper supplies. The Captain packed a transport signal enhancer into an accessory bag; it would be necessary to triangulate their position in order to ensure that the transporter was not disrupted by any interference from the prevalent radiation. The idea was to transport Seven and the Captain out of the establishment with as little interaction as possible with the bar's occupants. The Captain also took a hypospray, her only weapon if the guards tried to interfere with their escape since all patrons were searched and forced to leave phasers at the entrance. The Captain departed at 1013, leaving Tuvok behind to wait for the signal to beam her and Seven aboard. When over an hour passed and the Captain had not yet contacted him, Tuvok began to grow concerned. He was about to contact one of the other away teams for assistance when Janeway finally gave the command to transport at 1204.
When he beamed the two women aboard, Tuvok was surprised to see that Seven of Nine was unconscious. The Captain would only say that Seven had not recognized her even after an extended discussion, so Janeway had been forced to use the hypospray to subdue her. The Captain then refused to elaborate further. She also refused to remove her overcoat, leaving the garment fastened up to her neck for the entire trip back to Voyager. Once they were safely within the confines of the shuttle bay, the Captain initiated a site-to-site transport and transferred Seven to Sickbay, alone. This was surprising in and of itself, because the Captain customarily accompanied any injured crewman to Sickbay. But it was even more surprising because in this case, the injured crewman was also the Captain's friend. She had begun to avoid Seven even then, he realized.
"...transport to Parehau Station was 4000 credits. I had raised 2467 credits by the 11th day, when the Captain and Tuvok entered the bar." Tuvok returned his attention to Seven, who was finishing up her report. As she did, she placed her padd on the table and looked to the Captain expectantly.
Captain Janeway still did not look at Seven, but she met Tuvok's eyes evenly. He noted that Seven stiffened, and quickly returned her attention back to her own padd. "Please complete the report, Commander," Janeway said. He lifted his brow slightly as he began. He and the Captain had spoken in great length about his report on the previous day, and she had been very explicit in her orders about which details were to be mentioned, and which were not. If the Captain did not want the rest of the crew to know the specific length of time that she had spent with Seven before beaming onto the shuttle, then that was her prerogative as Captain, and he would abide by her wishes.
* * * * * *
Seven remained seated, watching as the members of the senior staff filed out of the conference room. She was gratified to see that the Captain did not leave immediately, but stayed to look over her data padds. Perhaps she is staying to allow me the chance to speak with her? she thought hopefully.
Unfortunately her hopes were quashed a moment later when the Captain called out to her First Officer as he was leaving the room. "Chakotay," Janeway said, "may I have a word with you?"
"Captain?" Chakotay asked, returning to the table.
"I'd like to go over these departmental reports with you," she said. The tribal tattoo on Chakotay's forehead crinkled in surprise. The Captain never, ever wanted to talk about departmental reports until the last possible moment before they were due. And these reports weren't due for another week. To his credit, Chakotay didn't question her but simply sat down at the table again, taking the padd Janeway offered him.
Seven watched as the Captain seemed to become engrossed in conversation with her First Officer. She knew that she should probably leave-- the Captain was making it very obvious that she did not want to speak with her. She has not even looked at me since entering the conference room. Does the very sight of me disturb her so much? She sighed, and retrieved her own data padd as she stood. The Captain may not want to speak with her, but the time for non-communication was over. Seven wanted-- no, needed-- clarification about Unusus IV from the only person who could provide it.
A moment later the young woman was towering over Janeway's chair, holding her padd uncertainly in front of her. Chakotay looked up at Seven and stopped talking, waiting for the Captain to acknowledge her Astrometrics Officer.
Janeway glanced at Chakotay, then followed his gaze. "Yes, Seven?"
As gray eyes met pale blue, Seven's enhanced Borg hearing picked up the Captain's sharp intake of breath. Seven immediately looked away. She found that she was unable to look at Janeway directly, her mind suddenly bombarded with images from the last time she had seen those eyes. "I would like to speak with you, Captain," she said, surprised that her voice could sound so emotionless when it seemed like her entire being was suddenly awash in emotion.
"I don't really have the time right now," Janeway responded coolly.
Chakotay's facial tattoo raised along with his left eyebrow. It wasn't like Kathryn not to want to speak to Seven-- she had always made time for her young prot�g�. And since these departmental reports could definitely wait, he began to wonder if there wasn't something else going on here.
Seven shifted, ducking her head slightly, and straightened her shoulders. "It concerns my report on Unusus IV."
"I see." The Captain nodded slowly. "Your report seemed thorough to me."
Seven's shoulders shifted again, and as her fingers drummed on the data padd Chakotay realized with surprise that the normally emotionless Borg was... nervous. "I wish to speak to you about what happened in Cahores' bar," Seven clarified.
The Captain leaned forward, folding her hands in front of her on the table. "I do not think there is anything left to discuss."
"But there is!" Seven exclaimed.
"Then go ahead," Janeway said, waving her hand to include Chakotay. "Tell us what's on your mind."
"Unacceptable," Seven stated, her voice sharper than she intended. "I would prefer to speak with you in private."
Chakotay coughed, drawing attention to himself. He sensed one of the pair's infamous arguments coming on, and wanted to excuse himself immediately before the verbal torpedoes started firing. Whatever was going on between the two head-strong women, he wanted no part of it. "Captain, we can finish this later--"
"Wait, Chakotay." The Captain's tone of voice indicated that it was not a request. She turned to Seven. "I have no secrets from the Commander. Anything you can say in front of me you can also say in front of him. If you're not willing to do that then we have nothing to talk about."
Seven looked from Janeway to Chakotay and back again, her jaw muscles working. "Then I was mistaken. We have nothing to discuss." She turned on her heel and strode out of the room.
As the doors hissed shut behind her, Chakotay turned to Janeway. "Kathryn--" he started, but she was already raising her hand to stop him.
"Belay that," she growled, and gathered her data padds. "I'll be in my ready room." And with that, she was gone.
* * * * * *
The doors to Cargo Bay 2 swished open and then closed behind her as Seven entered and stormed over to her terminal. I must speak with the Captain! Seven's fingers clenched around her data padd. But how can I if she refuses to see me alone? With a frustrated cry she heaved the padd across the room. It slammed into the far wall, splintering into small pieces with a decidedly satisfying crash.
The brief feeling of satisfaction disappeared quickly, however, as Seven surveyed the remains of the data padd. That was illogical, she thought, and inefficient. She was no closer to speaking with the Captain than she had been before. Seven grudgingly admitted to herself that she had been hurt by the Captain's dismissal of her. It was obvious that she had grown too accustomed to the Captain making herself readily available to her, willing to answer any questions about humanity that Seven might have, whether it be day or night. Captain Janeway had once warned her that although they were friends, at times the Captain would be unable to act as her friend because of her command position. Perhaps this is one of those times. Seven also found it disquieting that the Captain had made no attempt to inquire as to her mental or physical welfare. Even B'Elanna Torres, with whom she shared an often-antagonistic relationship, had asked Seven if she was "alright." Of course the Captain would have received an official report on her condition from the Doctor, but Seven had come to expect a certain level of personal attentiveness from Janeway. The fact that the Captain had displayed no concern for her-- that she had not seemed to care whatsoever-- that hurt most of all.
In addition, Seven was perturbed by the Captain's claim that she had no secrets from Commander Chakotay. The implication that the Captain was willing to share the intimate details of what happened between them on Unusus IV with the Commander made Seven consider throwing her entire workstation against the wall. She acknowledged that such feelings were completely irrational, however, because it was obvious to her that Captain Janeway had only said that in order to avoid a conversation about the incident. Seven could just not fathom why.
Understanding that verbal communication was only one method of gaining information, Seven began to analyze the nonverbal data she had received from the Captain. She thought back to the way the Captain had looked up at her in the conference room, the sharp intake of breath, the pupils that had dilated slightly in those gray eyes. She wondered at these physical responses-- what could they mean? Was the Captain... afraid of me? She shook the idea off as preposterous. Surely the Captain knows she has nothing to fear from me? Unless I did something to cause her unease... Her mind then turned to her own physical response to the Captain-- the immediate increase in respiration and heart rate that had occurred when their eyes met, the slight sense of queasiness in her stomach, the familiar tingling in her fingertips that often coincided with Janeway's presence. Standing over the Captain, much as she had on Unusus IV-- I wanted to touch her again, Seven realized in surprise. I wanted to touch her the same way I did in the exhibition room. If Commander Chakotay had not been present--
Seven frowned at the thought. It was a concept she couldn't wrap her mind around, that brought up too many emotional implications. She would never willingly do anything to harm the Captain-- the very idea was anathema to her. Then why did I want to touch her again, even though I do not think she would have allowed it? There must be a reason for such thoughts. Is it possible that shared intimacy creates a physical need for more of the same intimacy ? She decided to turn her attention to the vast Voyager database for answers. I must address this logically. If there was a physical cause for her feelings, then she could be treated medically. Seven accessed her work console and quickly began to download any pertinent information, basing her search parameters on what she considered to be the most relevant terms: "copulate," "restraints," and "nonconsensual." Her eyes widened in alarm as she began to read the search results.
According to the Voyager data banks, there was a definition for what she had done to the Captain. It was very clear on this point-- the act of physically restraining a superior officer and forcing him or her into an act of copulation was a criminal offense. Seven gripped the sides of the console. Surely the Captain must realize that I have committed a crime? Why would she not provide the appropriate punishment? Seven's Borg hand tightened on the console so hard her fingers began to dig into the metal. It is obvious-- the Captain is trying to protect me. That is why the Captain will not discuss Unusus IV with me-- if she does so she will be forced to punish me. I cannot allow her to do this. If I have committed a crime, I deserve to be punished.
Seven retrieved a new data padd, and set it up to record her description of all the events that she had left out of her initial report on Unusus IV. If the Captain would not deal with her transgression directly, she knew who would.