DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. Star Trek: Voyager is the property of Paramount. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To qhfletcher[at]gmail.com
By quiethearted (QH Fletcher)
As Andy Sachs walked towards the fountain in Paris, she looked down at the phone in her hand. Miranda. Her first instinct was, of course, to answer, but she mentally scoffed at the Pavlovian response. After all, the preceding months had trained her to ask how high on her way up each time Miranda had ordered her to jump. Though, since no one ever asked Miranda anything, Andy just aimed for the sky and hoped for the best as she leaped into the unknown. Her lips curved in rueful smile as she heard her mother's voice floating through her mind. Just because Emily jumps off a cliff, does that mean you have to follow? Andy chuckled softly, the sound leaving a bitter residue in the crisp air. She hadn't actually jumped this time, more slipped and fallen, was still falling, deeper and deeper every day. Now she found herself deeply in love with her ferocious boss with no hope of ever hitting bottom. It was that which had driven her to walk away, using Miranda's treatment of Nigel as her excuse.
The events of the James Holt luncheon had forced her to see the negligent way Miranda treated her subordinates and how the Dragon Lady rewarded loyalty. How long would it be before Andy felt the lash of Miranda's betrayal? She blinked back tears, realizing that it would kill her heart when that happened. And it would happen. Miranda cared for nothing and no one outside of her children and Runway. They defined the extent of her world and her heart. The rest was superfluous and easily discarded, to be ground under a Prada--clad heel when it suited Miranda's whim.
Andy reached out to toss the insistent phone into the fountain, but hesitated just before releasing it.
"Careful. You wouldn't want to drop that nice phone in the water," a deep voice cautioned.
Andy glanced to where an older man sat on a bench nearby. Reluctantly, she brought her hand with the phone back to her side.
"No, I suppose not," she murmured.
He tilted his head to the side and observed her for a moment.
"American, huh? Nice change from all the French accents I've heard this week. Paris is nice, but I miss a good cheeseburger, myself. What about you?" His voice was warm and comforting with its soft Midwestern accent.
"Yeah, me too. This definitely isn't home," Andy admitted.
"So you here for work or vacation? I mean, if you don't mind me asking?" He smiled a warm, genuine smile that felt good after the events of the last eight hours.
"Work, or at least, it was work. I'm not sure if it's anything now."
"Work not going well, then," he guessed and nodded towards the crowd of reporters across the street. "You with that circus? Whatever it is they're wound up about, I'm sure it'll die down by tomorrow."
She had no idea what the next day would bring, nor the next hour. What it wouldn't bring, she realized, was Miranda in all her frigid, fiery glory, and in that moment Andy realized not seeing Miranda every day was a far worse concept than what the ruthless woman might later do to her heart. She sighed and glanced back to where the iconic white coiffure was just disappearing through the doorway across the square, a deep clinching feeling in her chest at the sight. Not being in Miranda's presence was a known and immediate detriment, whereas the events of some far off someday
"It tends to be like that around my boss," Andy commented. "You don't know what's going to happen from moment to moment, but you know it'll turn bad soon enough."
He nodded in understanding. "Well, like they say, forewarned is forearmed. You can always prepare for the bad, protect yourself from the fall out."
The phone gave off its tone again, a certain stridence to the ringtone that only Miranda's calls could achieve. With a sigh Andy answered.
"Yes, Miranda Just a breath of fresh air Right I'll be right there." Ending the call, Andy turned back toward the venue, and with an absent wave to the man, she hurried across the street as fast as her Jimmy Choo's would allow. Well, forewarned is forearmed, as he said, she thought as she pushed her way through the milling reporters. She'd just have to fortify her heart as best she could against the day Miranda finally betrayed her as well. Andy never a doubted for a moment that such a day would come to pass.
Kathryn Janeway strolled into the conference room, sipping from the ever--present cup of steaming coffee. Settling into her accustomed chair, she mused on the fact that she truly loved the drink, the hotter the better, almost as much as she loved Her eyes latched onto the svelte blonde that sat at the other end of the conference table, and the stalwart captain heaved a mental sigh before pushing the thought away. This was neither the time nor the place to become fixated on her strange fascination where the young woman was concerned. Janeway was convinced such thoughts were entirely inappropriate. Starfleet captains did not spend their time gazing at their much younger Astrometics officers. No matter how beautiful luscious voluptuous sexy delicious Slamming a fist on the table, she clamped off that chain of thought, oblivious to the rest of her staff's startled movements. Suddenly aware they were all now sitting at attention, she flushed slightly and covered by starting the meeting.
"Well, let's get to it. B'Elanna, report," Janeway growled.
Having already read the morning reports, Janeway listened on autopilot while her mind drifted once again to its favorite forbidden topic. Seven was wearing the blue biosuit today, the one that made her eyes an even deeper shade that reminded Janeway of the Sea of Mars. It always gave her the urge to immerse herself in their depths as she often had done in those clear waters. Janeway could remember the way her heart had raced with excitement as she'd slid into those cerulean depths for the first time, much as it did now when she looked into Seven's eyes. The explorer in her couldn't help but be intrigued by the mysteries she saw there, just as the woman in her warmed to the sweet fragility that she often glimpsed.
Janeway clutched at her coffee cup as a wave of dizziness washed over her, the room seeming to recede from her consciousness for a moment before slamming back with shocking clarity. She couldn't suppress a gasp as she slumped back in her chair.
"Captain!" Seven's voice cut through Janeway's fog, concern clear in the tone.
"I'm fine, Seven," Janeway assured as she ran a hand over her face. "Maybe a bit too much caffeine. Quickly deflecting the rest of the staff before they could become too concerned by her actions, Janeway asked, "Tuvok, you were saying?" She wasn't at all surprised that Seven had been the first to react. The tall blonde was always the quickest to respond to any seeming difficulty her captain had. Borg reflexes, Janeway thought as she often had, once again experiencing a warm feeling at being the object of Seven's attentions. But again, Janeway pushed the thoughts away. No, Seven was simply loyal to her new collective and its perceived queen, not to Kathryn personally. If those clear blue eyes seemed to be focused on her a bit more than they had in the past, it was only Seven's internal directive to ensure the safety of the collective and by extension its leader. It had nothing to do with Janeway as a person, a woman.
It was her last thought as the dizziness returned to pull her down into darkness.
Kathryn Janeway opened her eyes, blinking slowly as the Sea of Mars came into focus. What? No. Seven. Seven's eyes. I was looking into them, thinking about the sea when
"What happened?" she rasped, breaking contact with the shimmering depths.
"You lost consciousness, Captain," the EMH informed her as he stepped into her line of vision while simultaneously running a medical tricorder over her body. "Your body seems to be in a slight state of temporal flux."
With a groan Janeway draped an arm over her eyes. She hated time travel. Really, really hated it. She could feel the headache beginning to pound at her temples.
"Has Chakotay scanned the ship?" she asked.
"Right here, Captain," his voice drew nearer. "No sign of temporal flux or subspace rifts anywhere else. It seems to be localized to you."
"How'd I get so lucky?" she snapped, not really expecting an answer. "Ideas? Theories?"
"It is possible the ship passed through an isolated tachyon eddy," Seven proposed. "Though no such radiation registered on the ship's scanners, Ensign Kim is continuing to scan this area of space in case we encounter more."
"Thank you, Seven." Janeway sighed and dropped her arm. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she sat up only to be hit by another wave of dizziness as soon as she stood up. She smiled her thanks as Seven steadied her.
The doctor continued to run his tricorder sensor over her.
"You seen to still be in a state of flux, Captain. It would be better if you remained in sickbay for the time being," he advised.
"Am I a danger to the ship?" Janeway growled.
"I can't say for sure, but no, I don't believe so," he admitted reluctantly.
"The crew?" she pushed.
"In that case, Doctor, I'll take your recommendation under advisement," Janeway stressed the word making it clear she had no intention of remaining there. "In the meantime, I'll be in my Ready Room. Seven, Chakotay, you're with me." Yanking on the hem of her tunic to buy a moment while the world steadied, she strode from the room.
An exhausted Andy let herself into the Priestly townhome, moving as quietly as was humanly possible in four-inch stilettos on a highly-polished marble floor. She set the book on the appropriate table, positioning it as close to the center as possible before turning to hang the dry cleaning in the closet. She almost let a smile curl her lips at the sound of whispered voices on the stairs behind her back, but ruthlessly she fought it down. She had made her decision in Paris, and she was determined it would last more than three days. Guarding her heart against Miranda had to include placing the same barriers against her offspring. The twins were too much like their mother not to. Schooling her face into a bland expression, Andy turned, closing the closet door as she did so.
"I believe you two should be in bed," she kept her tone even and quiet, taking a page from Miranda's book.
The look of surprised mirrored on two identical faces let Andy know they hadn't expected such a cool greeting. For a moment her heart went out to them before she stomped on it with a sharply spiked heel.
"B-but Mom is at an event," Cassidy ventured.
"And she won't be happy to come home and find you aren't asleep. Back upstairs you go. I've had a long day, and I need to get home," Andy insisted. The twins had developed the habit of waylaying her on the nights their mother wasn't home for discussions on all manner of things that interested them. When they found out that Andy's parents had divorced when she was around their age, they'd had a million questions. Having been too young at the time Miranda's first marriage had fallen apart, they didn't remember their own parents splitting and so had all kinds of concerns about what to expect and how their lives would be in the aftermath if their mother's marriage to Stephen did the same. Andy had slowly become both confidante and friend, but that had to end now. She was Miranda's assistant, nothing more. In truth, she couldn't afford to be more, so whatever relationship she had with the twins could no longer continue. Not waiting for a reply, she forced the feeling of guilt from her heart and turned on her heel, exiting the townhouse.
"What did we do?" Caroline asked, a tremor in her voice and the sheen of tears in her big blue eyes.
"Nothing," Cassidy said with narrowed eyes. "I guess women are no different than men. They all leave eventually. "
"But Andy's not like that," Caroline attempted to deny as a single tear brimmed over and slid down her cheek. "Something's happened. It has to have. We have to find out what and fix it. Please, Cass, we have to."
Cassidy nodded stiffly. "And if the problem is Mom?"
"Thenthen we'll just have to fix that, too," Caroline stated with a firmness that sounded a great deal like their mother.
"Delusion of grandeur much?" Cassidy asked with a bitter chuckle. Like anyone could fix anything about their mother. "Let's go to bed. We'll figure it out tomorrow." She pulled her twin up by the hand and led her up the stairs with an arm slung around her shoulder.
The computer's chirping to announce a visitor at her door broke through Kathryn's concentration on the book she was reading. She had always had an affinity for the written word, but this particular volume had always been one of her favorites. A gift from her father, the flowing script was filled with the thoughts and emotions of a long deceased ancestor. One of a set of ten volumes, Kathryn had read this particular text so frequently over the years that she could recite long passages from memory, but tonight something seemed different. Kathryn couldn't remember the words leaving her with such a feeling of disquiet before. There was a tinge of bitterness to the words that she couldn't recall from previous readings. With a shrug she closed the book to call out.
The doors slid open, and Seven stepped into the room, advancing to stand near the chair Kathryn lounged in.
"Captain, I wish to know if you are still experiencing the same symptoms," Seven stated assuming her habitual stance of parade rest.
Kathryn drew a slow breath, unsure for a moment how to respond. She had never liked to be perceived as less than fully in charge, believing that a captain should appear strong and unflappable at all times; however, Seven had proved the exception to more than one of Kathryn's personally held beliefs over the years. She gestured with the book in her hand calling Seven's attention to it.
"This is a journal, a diary of sorts, kept by one of my ancestors several hundred years ago. She was an exceptional woman. I've read these pages several times a year since before I entered the Academy. They've been a great source of comfort and strength to me over the years." Kathryn paused to gather her thoughts, glancing up to see Seven leaning her head to the side in that way she had that bespoke intense concentration. "Tonight I don't perceive the words in the same way, Seven. There's something off about them, a bitterness I don't remember being there before. Is it me, my perception, or has there actually been a change? I don't know."
Seven nodded once in understanding.
"I have continued my scans," Seven began by way of explanation. "I can find no further anomalies than those connected directly to yourself. " Her voice drifted off as if she were unsure of what to say next.
"Theories? Conjectures? I know you too well not to realize you have an opinion on this, so spill it," Janeway ordered, pushing herself to sit upright.
"I would prefer to have more facts," Seven hedged but gave in as her captain arched one elegant eyebrow. "It is possible that the variations are specific to you because only you are in a state of flux, that you are the time anomaly."
Kathryn was silent for a moment as she reasoned out what Seven was saying. Her eyes widened slightly as she reached the inevitable conclusion.
"You think something has caused a change in the time line, that my existence is in question." The concept was unsettling to say the least. If her own life was being wiped away, what about her mother, Phoebe, or her father? How far back did the changes go? Family trees had so many branches; would it even be possible to find where the change had occurred? She instinctively rejected the idea and all its ramifications. "Surely, Ducane and Relativity will set the time line back the way it should be, if there's been an intercession."
"If the deviation is subtle and the far-reaching effects benefit the future in some way or cause very little change to the future, it is conceivable that no correction would be made," Seven argued.
"So if they think it's preferable that I never existed, they'll let things go as they are," Kathryn murmured. And really, would that be such a bad thing? Without her, Voyager might never have become stranded, so many lives wouldn't have needlessly become lost. As if reading her thoughts, Seven interjected.
"Captain, the temporal distortions are localized to yourself as an individual. There is no change in Voyager or any of the other crew, no reports of unknown or past crewmembers appearing where they should not," her voice softened just the slightest. "It would seem Voyager and her crew are exactly where they are meant to be regardless of the existence of Kathryn Janeway."
Kathryn found the idea jarring. She had functioned for so long carrying the guilt of having been the sole cause of Voyager's being stranded in the Delta Quadrant that to think otherwise seemed mere smoke and mirrors. The wave of dizziness that swept her this time was from a far different source, the thought that the responsibility lay not with her but was fated to happen regardless of her involvement.
"There is more, Captain," Seven interrupted her thoughts. "There has been one additional source of the temporal signature. It seems that one other is directly affected by your not existing."
"One other?" Janeway questioned. Whose life could she have had such a profound impact on that the person too would cease to exist along with her? "Who is it, Seven?"
"Myself, Captain," Seven stated dispassionately. "It would seem that without your influence I would not now be aboard Voyager."
An icy chill ran down Kathryn's spine.
"How do we fix this?" she demanded without further thought.
Miranda Priestly finished another long string of orders she routinely gave to her assistants with a sharp, "That's all!"
"Right away, Miranda," Andréa responded before turning on her heel and striding back to her desk.
Fingertips drumming lightly on the desk's glass surface, Miranda watched her newly promoted first assistant walk away. Dissatisfaction twisted her lips before her neutral mask once more slid into place. It wasn't that Andréa wasn't good at the job -- she was. Perhaps the best first assistant Miranda had ever had. The young woman had a knack for anticipating Miranda's every need. No, her job performance was not in question. When Emily had achieved her year in the position the previous month, Miranda had not hesitated to move her to Nigel's department and elevate Andréa.
It was more that the young woman simply no longer acted in the ways Miranda was used to anymore and hadn't been since their return from Paris five months earlier. To be more accurate, the change had taken place when Andréa returned from getting her "breath of fresh air" after the James Holt luncheon. Her new behavior seemed to be directed only toward Miranda herself. With everyone else, Andréa was her normal, friendly self, though perhaps she smiled just a bit less frequently. With Miranda though well, there were no smiles at all. Andréa was polite, showing the proper deferment to her boss, but there were no more friendly greetings in the morning, no more soft smiles when their eyes met. In fact, Miranda could not remember the last time the young woman had met her eyes at all. She seemed to always be looking just beyond Miranda's shoulder.
Even her girls had noticed a change. Cassidy had commented on it the previous evening, stating that Andréa no longer took the time to chat with them when she dropped off the Book at night. Until that moment, Miranda had not been aware that her assistant had taken the time and made the effort to befriend her children. They missed that friendship, just as Miranda missed the smiles that had so frequently come her way in the past.
Rising, she moved to stand before the broad expanse of windows behind her desk, staring out at the city skyline. It was a pose she assumed whenever she found herself faced with a quandary to which no immediate solution was found. Miranda remembered standing in this same place while she decided how best to punish Andréa for invading the upper levels of her home, though in truth, it was more for interrupting the argument with Stephen and seeing Miranda during one of her more vulnerable moments. Miranda had never stopped to question herself as to why Andréa seeing her as anything but her usual strong, confident self had infuriated her so, putting it down to not wishing for her authoritative image to be besmirched; however, more and more she was questioning her reactions of late.
Andréa's behavior was perfectly professional, so why did it irritate her so? And why had the foolish girl withdrawn from the twins? It wasn't like Andréa to be unkind. Unless was Andréa distancing herself from everyone named Priestly? It seemed the only answer. But why? Miranda's actions in Paris had been entirely necessary to ensure Runway remained firmly under her own control. Nigel had long since forgiven her, especially once he had seen the ungainly horrors that James had insisted on using for his premiere men's line. Even Jacqueline had jumped ship after that, though her reputation had taken a direct hit first, effectively eliminating her from Irv's arsenal. Not that Miranda for a moment thought that the sneaky little man was done with his harassment. No, Irv might be licking his wounds momentarily, but he would be back. Like the fly that always seemed to appear in the house during the holidays, he'd continue to buzz around annoyingly until he was firmly squashed. Although she looked forward to that day, Miranda wanted to focus on the more pressing issue of what to do about Andréa Sachs because there was no way Miranda would allow things to continue as they were.
"New girl," Miranda called in her quiet voice, then waited a moment for the frazzled second assistant to make her way into the inner office before launching into a long string of instructions that would occupy her for the rest of the day, suiting Miranda's needs perfectly. With the second assistant out of the office, Andréa would be forced to interact with Miranda directly for the rest of the day.
Janeway sat on the couch in her ready room, sipping from a steaming mug of coffee. Her mind turned the situation this way and that, but to no avail. She knew the journal she'd been reading was different but couldn't quite put her finger on what was off about it. There was just a sense of bitterness that hadn't been there before. Then there was the issue of what exactly to do about it all. If it were just herself to consider, she'd do nothing. The loss of her own existence seemed to have little impact on the here and now, a fact that left her with a sense of disquiet. Had she really impacted on the lives of the people around her so little? Well, on everyone's lives but Seven's. The symptoms Seven had described to her were different than her own. Several smaller implants had become active and she was experiencing strange tingling in her extremities, something Janeway thought might be associated with the resurgence of her implants. It was clear Seven was at least somewhat reverting to her previous Borg state, but how far did it and would it go? Whatever the answer, Janeway wasn't willing to take the risk. She had to fix this. If not for herself, then for Seven.
The chirp of the door chime interrupted her musings, and Kathryn pinched the bridge of her nose as she granted permission to enter. She glanced up as Chakotay strode in the room.
"Kathryn, Harry says the scans have revealed a new source of the fluctuations," he began only to be cut off by Janeway.
"Seven. They're coming from Seven."
He hesitated a moment before continuing.
"Yes, that's what Harry told me. I understand Seven and B'Elanna are working on a plan to send you back to find the disruption in the timeline. Are you sure that's the best idea?"
Janeway studied him for a moment before answering.
"Best idea? No, I'm not sure at all," she said before taking a healthy swig of coffee. "But it's the one I'm going with. Whether I exist or not, Seven has lost enough. The Borg do not get her back."
He nodded, one corner of his mouth turning up in a wry smile.
"I thought as much. You have a tendency to go flying in where Seven is concerned."
"She's a valued member of this crew," Janeway's voice held a warning tone. She really disliked his tendency to be willing to sacrifice Seven to the given threat of the moment.
Chakotay held his hands up, palms out, in a disarming manner. "I'm not saying she's not and in this case I agree with you in principle if not in theory. You've had an effect on a great many lives just since I've known you. There's no way to know all the minute ripples that could come from this."
Nodding her agreement, Janeway set her coffee down and dropped her head against the back of the couch.
"I wish I was surer about where to intervene. I have a set of journals that have been in the family for centuries. Not diaries exactly, more a collection of turning points in different people's lives. It's become something of a tradition to keep one. The problem is a person doesn't often realize they've reached a turning point until after the fact." She lifted her head to fix him with a worried glance. "I can tell where the accounts suddenly began to feel different with me, but not when the instigating event occurred exactly."
Chakotay nodded as he sat down on the couch a short distance away. He rubbed his fingers over his tattoo, a habit he'd developed when deep in thought.
"Put Seven on it. She found your other ancestor, Shannon O'Donnell. "
Janeway lifted her head and nodded. She'd had that thought herself, but hadn't wanted to add to Seven's workload. Still, with her single-minded approach, she would be the most likely person to pinpoint the exact date they needed.
"Good idea. I'll talk to her about it. Once we know when we're going, we'll be better able to plan the details." She dropped her head into her heads and groaned. "I hate time travel."
Miranda Priestly was seething. Her second assistant was setting all new records for errands run in the fastest time while tottering around on four-inch heels and Andréa was still managing to avoid looking directly at her. As Miranda strode from her office and through the halls of Runway, staff members were diving for cover, trying to avoid becoming the focus of her ever-growing ire. She stalked into Nigel's office with the subtly of a hurricane.
"What is wrong with that girl?" she hissed furiously.
Nigel very deliberately placed his pen down and drew off his glasses.
"And 'that girl' would refer to?" he asked, being the one person at Runway who could survive asking Miranda anything.
"Andréa, of course," she snapped while delivering up a withering glare.
"Ah," Nigel nodded suddenly seeming to have a clearer picture, but irritatingly needing more details, as demonstrated by his follow-up question. "What exactly has she done? Messed up your schedule? Coffee not hot enough? Insulted an important designer?"
"Well, no," Miranda admitted, suddenly feel rather foolish. "She's been remarkably competent and efficient."
"Then what has you flying through the hallways and frightening the minions?"
Miranda couldn't suppress a tiny, evil curl to her lips as she envisioned clackers diving under desks, but it was wiped away by the thought of a certain brunette who neither dived, nor appeared to notice.
"She's being " Miranda halted, not quite sure how to describe exactly what Andréa had been.
"Being what, Miranda?" Nigel nudged gently.
"Not .nice," she finished helplessly, feeling even more foolish.
Propping an elbow on a folded arm, Nigel rested his chin on his thumb and stroke his cheek with a forefinger. "Nice? You mean she's been rude?"
"No, not rude exactly. Just not..." Irritated that she couldn't phrase what she was perceiving accurately, Miranda changed tacks. "Really, Nigel. How do I know what she's not been? That's why I came to you. You're Andréa's friend. What's wrong with her?"
"I don't know exactly," Nigel admitted. "But if I were willing to hazard a guess, I'd say that what's wrong with Six is you."
"Me?" Miranda stared at him as if he'd suddenly appeared clad in dustbin rejects.
"Yes, Miranda, you. " Nigel rubbed his eyes. "Most things boil down to you with Andy."
"What could I possibly have done to her?" she asked astonished.
Risking an eye roll, Nigel sighed. "Let it go, Miranda. Andy is doing her job. You have no complaints about that. The rest will work itself out or not, but either way it shouldn't affect anyone's performance here."
Feeling thoroughly chastised and not liking the emotion in any way, Miranda drew her spine up into a rigid line. "Are you implying I'm behaving unprofessionally?"
"No, I'm saying if you continue this, you will. There is nothing in Andy's job description that requires her to smile at you." He laughed as her eyebrows shot upward. "Oh, yes, I've noticed. Everyone has noticed, but most write it off to the natural reaction to working so closely with the Dragon Lady."
Miranda sniffed at the epithet. "If she's so unhappy, why does she stay?" she asked. It made no sense for Andréa to remain where she was miserable; her own three divorces proved that.
Nigel fiddled with the pen lying before him. "Perhaps she believes that in a different way she'd be even more unhappy elsewhere."
"Must you be so oblique? Simply say what you mean, Nigel," she huffed, crossing her arms defensively.
"You're getting as good as you're giving, Miranda. Be happy with that or change it. It's up to you." Picking up his pen, he went back to work.
Staring wide-eyed at the man who had just effectively dismissed her, Miranda spun on a heel and stalked out. Nigel had become much too familiar since Paris. He didn't seem at all concerned with being fired, and Miranda couldn't bring herself to re-instill that fear in him. What did he mean she was giving as good as she was getting? She was acting no differently toward Andréa than she ever had. It was Andréa that had changed, not her. She stopped in the hallway as a thought occurred to her, oblivious to the fact that everyone around her had paused as well. Was it possible that Andréa had adapted to Miranda? Was she reflecting back what she perceived Miranda wanted in an assistant? Yes, that had to be it. Well, Miranda would just have to change that attitude immediately, but how best to do so? Musing on the problem she started walking again, heading back to her office and her next meeting.
Janeway gripped the back of her chair as another wave of dizziness struck her. She took a slow, deep breath and waited a moment for it to pass before seating herself at the head of the conference table.
"All right, people, let's begin. Some of you already know pieces of this. I seem to be in a state of temporal flux. It would appear that someone or something is altering the timeline of my ancestry. There doesn't appear to be any far-reaching effects as far as Voyager or the majority of you are concerned, though Seven is having similar episodes." She glanced at Seven for confirmation only to find herself interrupted.
"That is incorrect, Captain," Seven glanced away uncomfortably.
"Well, yes, you're experiencing a slight resurgence of your implants," Janeway conceded. She narrowed her eyes as the normally cool blonde seemed to fidget under her observation. "What aren't you telling me, Seven?"
The doctor cleared his throat. "Perhaps I can make it clearer for you, Captain. Seven is experiencing a re-awakening of certain dormant implants, but that isn't the greatest concern. It seems the musculature of her limbs is atrophying. "
"Why?" Janeway snapped, irritated that she was just now finding this out.
"The tissue appears to be decomposing, Captain," the EMH offered by way of explanation.
"How does living tissue just suddenly start decomposing?" She growled as her heart clutched in her chest. Was it possible Seven was dead in the altered timeline? She couldn't bear the thought.
The doctor glanced at Seven who gave a small nod in return.
"There are alterations in the cells throughout Seven's body with the exception of the head, shoulders, brain and spine, the core of the central nervous system," he rushed to explain.
"Why would those areas not be affected?" B'Elanna wondered aloud.
It was Tuvok who responded to her query.
"Because that is the only living tissue remaining in a Borg Queen," he stated in his clipped tones.
Janeway clamped her mouth closed on a gasp as her coffee threatened to make a re-appearance from her roiling stomach.
Andy fidgeted with her bangs, irritated with the way they brushed against her eyelashes. She really needed to get them trimmed and had planned to go snag one of the hairstylists today to get it done on one of her trips through that department. That was, she'd planned to do so before Miranda had chained her to the desk for the day.
It was now after 3:00, and Andy hadn't even managed to grab a snack much less lunch. She had been running late this morning so had skipped breakfast to make up the time. Not being a person who could go the entire day without eating, she grew more irritable as her blood sugar dipped, and the room seemed to echo the rumblings of her empty stomach. If she didn't get something to eat soon, Miranda would have to step over her unconscious body to get to the next meeting. That was assuming she noticed Andy lying on the floor at all. Perhaps that was the Dragon Lady's goal for the day, to push Andy into a state of collapse. If so, Miranda could do a victory dance shortly.
Andy's eyes narrowed at yet another perceived example of Miranda's lack of concern for her as a person. The hollow feeling in her stomach inched upward toward the vicinity of her heart, her full lips thinning as they pressed tightly together. It was all just more proof that Andy was right in locking away any tender feelings toward one Miranda Priestly.
Women could clearly not be trusted to value another's heart. It was a recurrent theme in Andy's life. First her mother had walked away as if her daughter had meant nothing to her. Then her best friend Lily had turned her back on Andy as if their lifetime of friendship was of less value than Lily's three-year friendship with Nate. How could Andy expect Miranda to be any different? The truth was that she couldn't. Miranda was perhaps the most honest of the three. She didn't even pretend to care. The best thing Andy could do was appear to feel the same and by not showing any sign of caring for Miranda.
Janeway grabbed at the table as the strongest wave of dizziness yet rolled over her, darkening her vision. She fought to stay conscious, locking her eyes on the person in front of her as a point to focus on. That it was Seven only helped to rivet her attention, especially as she saw Seven clench and shake her fully human hand as if experiencing a sudden pain or loss of sensation. With steely resolve, Janeway forced away the darkness until she could draw a cleansing breath.
"I want solid plans for correcting the alteration to the timeline. You have three hours, then I want everyone back here. Dismissed," she snapped. "Seven, I need to talk to you for a moment."
After the room had cleared, Janeway sat for a moment allowing her mind to clear.
"You felt it, too," she said at length.
"Yes, Captain. It was as if my hand wasn't there for a moment, and then just as suddenly it was."
"Whatever is happening in the past, it's not a sudden occurrence. It's something insidiously making small changes here and there to achieve a final outcome," Janeway mused.
"I believe you are correct. It will make it more difficult to undo," Seven said.
Janeway nodded. "Assuming we can find the right time period in the first place." She slid a data padd along the table to Seven. "This is a copy of that set of journals I told you about. The change I mentioned occurs in the third volume in late 2005 or early 2006. See if you can pin the date down any more specifically than that."
Picking up the padd, Seven rose. "Yes, Captain," she said and started for the door only to stop and turn back. "I am going with you." It was clearly not a question.
With a sigh, Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. What choice did she really have? It was Seven's life, too.
"Yes, Seven, you're going, too," she acquiesced.
With a nod Seven strode out, already engrossed in the contents of the data padd.
Janeway paced her ready room too agitated to even stop for coffee. Seven would be the Borg Queen if she failed. She fought the rising nausea that occurred each time she allowed that thought to surface. Her beautiful Seven carved down to a brain and spinal column to control the collective. She balled her fist wanting to strike out at something someone. With a growl low in her throat, Janeway stalked across the room and flung herself on the couch. She would fix this, and if she got her hands on the ones responsible, they would pay dearly for threatening Seven with this horrible mutilation of self and individuality.
"Come," she snarled as the door chime sounded.
The panel slid back to admit B'Elanna, who moved into the room with a hesitance unknown in her half-Klingon personality.
"Yes, B'Elanna?" Janeway sighed and rubbed her eyes. It wouldn't do to take her frustrations out on those around her.
"I think I've found a way to get a shuttle craft to move backwards through time. The only thing is it may be a one-way journey and I'm going, too," B'Elanna stated raising her chin in a no-nonsense manner.
Janeway studied her, deciding which statement to broach first. She elected to take on the one which seemed the least incendiary.
"Why one way?"
"We can use the main deflector to open a rift just wide enough for a shuttle to get through. Seven's knowledge of subspace corridors should help us pinpoint the location. We can't hold it open indefinitely. Just long enough for the shuttle to get through. The problem becomes when to open it to let the shuttle back. There's really no way to know, and the main deflector may not withstand more than two attempts," B'Elanna finished.
Janeway nodded and rubbed at the tension in the back of her neck preparing to tackle the next issue.
"I appreciate your concern, B'Elanna, but Voyager needs you here in case the main deflector overloads during one of the attempts."
"I assume that Seven is going because this directly affects her," B'Elanna stated not waiting for Janeway to nod. "Well, this is affecting me as well, not in the same way as the two of you, but still affecting me. I keep having these flashes. I find myself either deferring to Carey as if he were my superior or standing in the Brig. I snapped at Harry for saying good morning. I almost hit Tom. It's like for a moment they weren't my friends anymore, and never had been."
Janeway gestured for the other woman to sit and rubbed her hands over her face. How much worse could this get? How many more would be affected?
"I didn't think I had that direct an influence on your life," she mused and almost smiled as she realized that wasn't the first time she'd expressed the same thought recently.
B'Elanna rested clenched fists on her knees. "You took a chance on a volatile, rebellious half-breed and made her your chief engineer. I've grown from being that person because of your trust in me. Without it, I don't think I would have been in as good a place. From the flashes I'm getting, I know I wouldn't have."
Reaching over and resting a hand on one tight fist, Janeway smiled.
"I think you underestimate yourself, B'Elanna. As for your going on the away team, an engineer might come in handy, though we'll have to do something about hiding your ridges. There aren't too many Klingons in early twenty-first century North America."
B'Elanna laughed, easing up on the tension in her hands.
"Or Borg drones," she joked. "I was thinking about that. A small Holo-emitter disguised as a piece of jewelry should cover Seven's implants. As for me, I think the doctor should be able to fix things with a dermal regenerator. Speaking of the doctor, he had me come down and check on possible glitches in his program. It seems he's noticing pieces of his program missing at times, and then they are suddenly back."
Janeway chuckled a bit cynically. "Don't tell me. Pieces that he's added since I gave him autonomous control of his program."
B'Elanna grinned and nodded. "Guess you affect lives in more ways than you realize."
"And I suppose he wants to come along, too," Janeway said, rolling her eyes.
"Well, he is directly affected, and Seven really should have him around. Not to mention I can't exactly go to the nearest medical facility if there's a problem," B'Elanna continued to make her case.
Janeway held up her hands in defeat. "All right, all right! The four of us, but no one else, no matter how directly this impacts them. Get to work on making the changes to the deflector. Get Seven to help you. I want to go as soon as possible."
B'Elanna rose and headed for the door only to be called back.
"And, B'Elanna, find us a way back," Janeway said, mindful of what being stuck in the twentieth century had done to Captain Braxton.
"Aye, Captain," B'Elanna agreed and swung around to stride through the door.
Emily blew through the door of Nigel's office not unlike Miranda had done earlier that day.
"What in bloody hell is going on with Miranda and Andrea?" she demanded.
Sighing, he flung his pen onto the desk. How was he supposed to get any work done today with these constant interruptions? Grabbing a tissue, he removed his glasses and began to clean them.
"Emily, exactly what concern is it of mine or yours whatever might be happening with them?" He didn't wait for an answer but barged ahead. "Has it affected our lives in any way up to now? Made more work for us? Interfered with doing our jobs?" He paused and waited for an answer.
"Well, no, but" she began only to be cut off.
"No! That's right. It hasn't. So why concern ourselves with it?"
"Because Miranda just tossed the entire Valentino shoot since the tide was going out instead of coming in," she informed him smugly.
Throwing up his hands, Nigel felt like tearing out his hair, and he would have if he had any hair to tear.
"That was a $120,000 shoot! It will cost more than that to replace it, and she's the one who said to do it during low tide!"
"Mmmmm, yes so, I repeat, what's going on with them?" Emily pushed.
Nigel dropped his face into his hands and sighed."I don't know," he said, voice muffled in his palms. "I honestly don't know, but it started in Paris. That much I'm sure of. Miranda did something, or said something, and Andy will not forgive her for it."
"So what do we do about it?" Emily wanted to know.
He shook his head sadly. "There's nothing we can do except wait for them to work it out and hope the entire magazine isn't destroyed in the process."
Kathryn Janeway sat in the pilot's chair of the Delta Flyer waiting to give the order for the rift to be opened. It had finally been decided that they would have one week and then the rift would be opened again. If the away team wasn't in place to come back through at that time, they'd be stranded in the past. It wasn't an ideal solution, but it was the best they had. Seven had narrowed the time frame Janeway gave her to as close an approximation as she could determine with the information she had. She had studied the recorded history of the time and thought she had even found a way to get them close to Janeway's ancestor without raising suspicion. Janeway looked back over her shoulder at her small crew.
B'Elanna sat at the Engineering station making last minute adjustments to the Flyer's deflector array and synchronizing with Harry on board Voyager. Seven's hands flew over the board of the Tactical station inputting trajectory and speed information in long strings of complex calculations to control the subspace conduit that would take them to an exact time and location.
"Everyone ready?" Janeway asked and waited for their responses.
"Aye, Captain," B'Elanna responded immediately.
Seven finished a lengthy stream of numbers and symbols before nodding. "Yes, Captain. I am ready."
With a smile at her Borg's phrasing, Janeway turned back to her console. "Let's do it then. Voyager, engage deflector."
A blinding white beam shot through the darkness of space and struck a fixed point where a rift began to shimmer and slowly widen.
"Taking us in," Janeway advised as she maneuvered the small craft towards the ever-widening tear in space and time.
There was a bright, blinding flash, and when it cleared, Voyager hung alone in the inky blackness while its crew murmured prayers to various deities for their friends' safe return.
Andy cleared the baggage area in record time and strode through the sliding glass doors of the airport while pulling her small suitcase along behind her. Reaching the passenger pick-up area, she stood off to the side and looked around for a familiar face or vehicle. Seeing neither, she made her way to bench and sat down to wait. She really hadn't given anyone much notice about her impromptu trip, least of all Miranda.
The previous evening, after Miranda had left for the day, Andy had sat at her desk waiting for both her co-worker to return from the last round of errands or the Book to arrive, whichever came first. The more she thought about the events of that day the angrier she had become. Not once in the interminably long day had Miranda made any effort at all for Andy to get away from that desk for even five minutes. Oh, she hd called Andy into her office often enough and had given her endless instructions, making sure each time to insist she execute them from her desk under Miranda's watchful eye. It was ridiculous! Were it not for Serena and Nigel, Andy would never have even had a chance to get to the bathroom. They'd come into the office every few hours and carried on a contrived conversation ostensibly with Andy who used the time to slip into the ladies room. On one such visit, Serena had slipped her an apple and a package of crackers along with a note saying the food was from Emily who didn't dare come near the office in case Miranda tried to chain her to the other desk. It wasn't until Miranda left for the day that Andy felt safe stepping away from her desk without some form of subterfuge.
As she'd sat there at the end of the day, Andy had realized that she could not go through another day of this new, unique torture Miranda had devised. She had typed up her resignation with the intention of giving it to Miranda along with the Book. A short time later, after the second assistant had dropped off her final collections and gone home, Andy had left the building and hurried toward the car where Roy had held the door for her. Just before she reached the car, she'd collided with someone, sending the Book and her bag to the sidewalk. Bending to pick up the items, she'd looked up and was surprised to see the man from the square in Paris kneeling to help her.
"Hey, don't I know you?" she asked, then realized how that might sound. "I mean, you were in Paris not long ago, right? On the bench near the fountain?"
"Well, hello, again," he said, smiling pleasantly. "Yes. As they say, it's a small world."
"Yeah, I guess so," Andy agreed, though it felt a bit strange to be seeing him again.
"Things quieted down around that boss of yours, I hope," he continued, handing Andy the Book.
Andy's lips twisted in a bitter smile. "Nothing is ever the way you want it to be with Miranda," she responded cryptically.
He nodded as if he understood perfectly, though Andy didn't know how he could. "Well, you strike me as a strong young woman. I'm sure you're up to the task." With another nod, he excused himself and continued on his way.
Andy stared after him for a moment before Roy cleared his throat, diverting her attention. She ducked into the car and fastened her seatbelt. While Roy shut the door and rounded the car to take his place behind the wheel, Andy thought about what the man had said. She was strong, strong enough to get through whatever Miranda chose to dish out. She flipped open the Book and stared at the envelope that held her resignation. Giving it to Miranda was a little too much like giving in and admitting defeat. No, Andy wasn't going to lose. She'd make her year and then walk away, dignity intact. With a determined move, she tore the envelope in half, crumpled it and stuck it in her bag. She'd get out of this with her heart intact, and Miranda would not win.
When the car pulled up in front of the townhouse, Andy gathered the Book and the dry cleaning that Roy had picked up earlier. She was in and out in moments, leaving no time for anyone to waylay her. Though she thought she heard a faint call of "Andréa" as she closed the front door behind her, Andy kept going. The last thing she wanted was to see Miranda tonight. She needed time to regroup and decide how to handle the next few months. She needed to get away, and the safest place she could think of was at home with her dad. Pulling out her phone, she went online and began to search for a flight.
Just as they exited the rift, Janeway felt the world around her begin to spin. She gripped the board in front of her while trying to hang on to consciousness.
"Seven! Take the helm!" she gasped.
"I can not, Cap tain. I am mal..func tioning." Seven responded brokenly.
"B'Elanna!" Janeway called to the engineer.
"P'taq! I don't answer to you!" B'Elanna snarled.
"Computer, activate Emergency Command Hologram. Authorization Janeway Omega three," Janeway whispered a moment before she lost consciousness.
"Please state the nature of ," the EMH began as he came online. As command procedures surged through his program, his uniform changed to red and he moved to the helm and assessed the situation. They had exited the rift with the Sun between them and the Earth to hide their appearance since their cloaking technology could not be activated while in the rift. The shuttle was now hurtling toward the Sun. As he reached for the helm control to divert their path, a snarling half-Klingon jumped on his back.
"I'm sorry to do this, Lieutenant, but I don't believe the Captain planned to land this shuttle on the sun," the doctor said as he reached up and performed a Vulcan neck pinch on B'Elanna. As she slumped unconscious, he lowered her to the floor and reached to input a new course heading. Satisfied that they were in no danger of being immolated as the Flyer slowed to a stop and held steady in space, he reverted to EMH mode and, turning to the captain, assessed her for injuries. Retrieving a hypospray, he pressed it to her neck and waited a moment, until she began to come around.
"Just rest for a moment, Captain. I need to see to Seven and Lieutenant Torres." He moved away to give Janeway a few minutes to herself while he checked on the others.
"We were headed for the sun," Janeway commented.
"I managed to stop us in time, though Lieutenant Torres had other ideas. I'm afraid she's going to have quite the headache when she awakens," he advised.
"You knocked her out?" Janeway guessed, leaning her head on the back of her chair.
"Vulcan neck pinch. She was in full Klingon battle mode. I thought it the safest choice."
Janeway turned her chair to face him and nodded her agreement. "Is Seven all right?"
"I am functioning, Captain," Seven answered her. "I was not able to control my extremities at that moment."
Rubbing a hand over her eyes, Janeway sighed. "We can't keep having these episodes. Two of us collapsing and B'Elanna attacking the nearest person is going to get us noticed."
Seven began to input data into her console. "I believe I have narrowed the incidents to an ancestor who lived in New York City. She was quite a prominent figure in the fashion industry. According to the journals you gave me certain events that should have happened on this date now have not. I will have landing coordinates for us in a moment, Captain. I have engaged the cloaking device and shifted our orbit sufficiently to allow me to access various city records. "
B'Elanna chose that moment to groan loudly. "Kahless, my head hurts! What hit me?"
"Nothing hit you, Lieutenant," the doctor replied. "I merely rendered you unconscious for a moment."
"I hope you had a damn good reason, or I'm going to program you the same headache," she snapped.
Janeway's lips curled in a small smile as she shook her head at the irascible engineer. "It was that or fly straight into the sun, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes and climbed to her feet rubbing her neck. "That's a pretty good reason. I take it we had another episode?"
"You are correct, B'Elanna Torres. I am now inputting landing coordinates. There is a building that is being renovated near the office where the captain's ancestor works. Work was suspended on this building for a period of six months. There is a helicopter landing pad on the roof. Security guards perform a routine check of the lower floors of the building twice a day, but do not include the roof," Seven advised as she continued to input data.
"So how do we get close to this multi-great grandmother of yours?" B'Elanna asked the captain as she moved to the engineering station and began to engage the cloaking device.
Janeway gestured to Seven to answer the question.
"According to the journals and Starfleet's historical database, Captain Janeway's ancestor is named Miranda Priestly. She is the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, a monthly periodical. It would appear that Miranda Priestly requires a new assistant on a regular basis. Extrapolating from her previous actions, I believe she will dispense with the current one some time today. I have placed a 'resume' for myself in the databanks of the company. I will have an 'interview' in the next two days," Seven finished as she turned to look at B'Elanna. "I have established credentials for the captain and yourself in the fashion industry as well. Captain Janeway will be a photographer, well-known in her field but not connected to fashion as of yet. You will be her assistant."
"A photographer's assistant," B'Elanna huffed. "That's the best you could do?"
"No, it is the best you could do," Seven corrected. "You are not tall enough to be a model by the prevailing standard. You lack the necessary maturity for Miranda Priestly to trust you as a photographer for Runway and you do not have the skills to work within the magazine in any capacity that would involve interaction with the editor-in-chief."
"Borg, so help me," B'Elanna began.
"B'Elanna, I'd prefer you with me," Janeway said quietly to head off the argument that was brewing between the two women. It seemed to work since they both stopped bickering.
Emily whirled into Nigel's office and ducked down below the half-glass wall.
"Is there a reason you're in hiding, Emily?" he drawled, looking over his glasses at her from where he stood before a light board.
"Shhhhhhhh," she cautioned, flapping both hands at him. "She'll hear you."
"I'm assuming by 'she' you mean Miranda," Nigel guessed.
"Yes! She's got her bleedin' knickers in a twist. Andrea is out, and the second is about to slash her own wrists, if she doesn't go for Miranda's throat first. I will not be chained to that desk again!" Emily rose to peek over the solid half of the wall. "Bloody hell! Here she comes!" She duck-walked across the room and hid under Nigel's desk.
He calmly turned back to the images he was studying only to be interrupted again by Miranda.
"Where is Emily?" she demanded.
"I'm hiding her under my desk," he responded while leaning forward to study a particular picture a bit closer. "I think Antoinette has the belt on upside down in this one."
"I do not care if Antoinette is upside down. Does no one work in these offices anymore?" Miranda sniped.
Nigel placed a large X over the image with his pen and began to study the next one. "I believe one would call what I am doing working."
"Yes, yes, yes," she waved him off. "Then you are a majority of one. Andréa has deserted me, the new girl is completely worthless, and no one seems to know where Emily is. What am I supposed to do? Answer the phones myself? Run my own errands? I haven't had fresh coffee in over an hour. This day is a complete disaster." She stalked out without waiting for an answer.
Nigel smiled to himself and continued what he was doing. "You can come out now, Emily. She's gone."
Crawling out from under the desk, Emily fixed him with an accusing glare. "You told her where I was!"
He glanced at her before putting an X over another image. "The point is not that I told her. The point is whether she believed me, which she did not. I would suggest you find a new place to hide before this one becomes 'the last place she looks.'"
With a squeal Emily scurried out, and Nigel chuckled to himself. Just another day at Runway. He paused for a moment as he thought of Miranda's interesting choice of phrasing over Andy's absence. Deciding he'd have to keep a closer watch on that situation, he reached for his phone and sent a quick text. Andy seemed perfectly healthy the day before, and he doubted she'd suddenly been stricken with an illness sufficiently bad to keep her from work. Andy was never sick, unlike most of the other women who worked there. There were some benefits to eating it seemed. Something else had kept Andy away today, and Nigel intended to get to the bottom of it.
Andy sat at the table with her father, listlessly pushing around the lunch he had made them. She forced herself to take a bite; she was losing far too much weight. If she didn't make more of an effort to eat, she'd soon be the new zero as opposed to the new two, which was really a four anyway and only served to make her think of the person who dictated all the intricacies of size and perfection, Miranda. That thought brought her back to pushing her food around on the plate.
"Want to tell me about it?" Richard Sachs asked as he watched Andy play with what was normally one of her favorite meals. "I know my cooking hasn't gotten that bad in the last year."
Giving up the pretence of eating, Andy laid her fork down with a sigh. "I've made a big mistake, Dad," she said in a tremulous voice.
Following suit with his own utensil, Richard tried to reassure her. "It can't be that bad, Andy. Maybe I can help."
Propping her elbows on the table, Andy dropped her face in her hands. "It's huge, enormous. The stupidest thing I've ever done," she lamented, her voice muffled by her palms. "I fell in love with Miranda."
Richard laughed, sure his daughter was joking. "Seriously, Andy, what's wrong?"
Andy groaned and raised her face to stare at her dad, unhappiness etched in every feature. "I am serious. I'm in love with Miranda Priestly, which is the height of futility since she'll never look at me sideways." The more she thought about it the angrier Andy got. "I mean, you should have seen what she did to Nigel in Paris. She just crushed his dreams with no thought for anyone or anything but her beloved Runway. I don't think she's even capable of loving anyone, except her daughters, of course. Them, she adores. The rest of us are merely useful. We'd better stay that way, though, or she'll trash us first chance she gets. I doubt she even has a heart."
With the hint of a smile curling one corner of his mouth, Richard folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate before leaning forward earnestly. "Andy, I know you, and you could never love her if that were true. I can't say I'm happy with the situation, but the heart wants what it wants. I've never known it to ask anyone's permission first. You've evidently seen something in Miranda that the rest of us haven't. So why don't you tell me what's really got you scared?"
"She'll never love me back, Dad," Andy whispered, tears shimmering in her large brown eyes. "I just have to get over it and get through the rest of my year. Then I can start making a new life for myself far away from Miranda Priestly."
He nodded, reaching over to lay a hand over one of her smaller clenched fists that now rested on the table. "I suppose you're the best judge of that," he admitted thoughtfully. "But are you sure you're right?"
Andy's face hardened as her resolve came to the fore. "She's no different than Mom or Lily. Miranda has no more heart than they do. I won't be involved with someone like that, no matter what I might feel right now. If you'll excuse me, I didn't sleep much last night. I think I'll lie down for a while."
Richard nodded and watched as she left the room, her food basically untouched. This time it was he that held his face in his hands. He knew Andy had taken her mother's leaving hard, but he'd never realized just what it had done to her sense of trust until this moment. Lily's desertion evidently hadn't helped the situation at all. Now to find herself in love with a woman who by all appearances was unable to maintain a romantic relationship had to be an unbelievable stressor for Andy. That she wasn't eating was clear and worried Richard a great deal. It was a repeated behavior that concerned him. After Rachel, Andy's mother, had left, Andy had almost had to be hospitalized due to malnourishment. She had reacted in a similar way over Lily's desertion, though not to that extreme. If his daughter really was in love with Miranda Priestly and felt the situation to be as hopeless as she expressed, she might actually starve herself. It wasn't simply that Andy didn't eat in these situations, she couldn't. Her stomach would become so twisted from stress that food simply would not stay in her system. For a moment, Richard felt an unreasonable anger towards these three women who had so needlessly hurt his baby girl.
If Rachel wanted out of the marriage, she should have simply said so. Richard was not the type of person to try to hold someone who did not want to be with him. He would have gladly taken primary custody of Andy and worked out any type of visitation that Rachel had wanted, anything that would have kept the two in each other's lives. Rather than face him, his wife had dropped Andy off at his mother's one day and kept going. Richard had come home from work to an empty house and a note telling him she wanted out and not to try to contact her. The divorce papers had arrived in the mail, and all arrangements were handled between their lawyers. She had not even appeared at the courthouse for the final decree. Perhaps he should have remarried, given Andy the example of a happy, successful relationship, a step-mother who stayed and made a home with them. He had never met anyone he loved as he did Rachel, though, and couldn't see himself settling for less.
Lily was in many ways similar to Rachel, always lagging behind Andy in maturity. She was the gregarious, party girl in that friendship and had, in many ways, brought the shyer Andy out of her shell. Never one to accept change well, unless it was at her own instigation, Lily had attended the same college as Andy, not because she liked or particularly wanted to go to that school, but because it was easier to not interrupt the security of a known friendship. In Richard's opinion, Lily had been accepting of Andy's relationship with Nate because she introduced them, in Richard's opinion. Andy was with the man Lily had picked out for her, one who saw life with her own narrow view; so that worked. It was only when Andy began to develop friendships and interests through her job at Runway, when she began to stand up for herself and to put Miranda's demands ahead of Lily and Nate's, that Lily had felt challenged. Unable to force Andy back into the old mold, Lily had played her final card, threatening to end the friendship unless Andy quit her job and returned to being the Andy that Lily was comfortable with. Andy had refused, and, unable to back down, Lily walked away devastating Andy.
Sighing, Richard began to clear the table as he continued to think. Miranda Priestly was another strong woman, a type that Andy seemed drawn to. He had noticed her obsession with Miranda when he had visited his daughter in New York months before, but he had never expected it to develop into a romantic interest. He supposed he should have since Andy tended to follow a pattern with such things. She was attracted by quiet strength, intelligence, and the perception of security. Andy always seemed to be obsessively intrigued by those traits to the exclusion of everyone else; she almost developed tunnel vision -- the person became the focus of her interests. Rachel had been much the same. It was an intense evaluative reaction that distracted them from what was happening with their heart until suddenly they found themselves caring deeply for the person.
Richard couldn't help thinking that Andy, like Rachel, was frightened by the intensity of her feeling for another person. Nate had been safe to love, as Andy had never truly been in love with him, a fact supported by her relative ease in letting go when he moved to Boston. Though she recognized her feelings for Miranda for what they were, she was fighting them, terrified of Miranda's rejection. But would Miranda reject her? Never having seen them together, Richard didn't think he could comfortably hazard a guess, though like any father he couldn't imagine anyone not loving his daughter in return. There was no way for him to advise Andy without that vital piece of information, so all he could do is trust her judgment and support her in any way he could.
"New girl," Miranda called in a tone even softer and icier than her norm. She waited until the girl appeared before her desk before raising her Starbucks' cup and holding it out. "What is this?"
"Yo-your coffee, Miranda," the girl supplied.
"No. No, this is not my coffee. This is swill, frigid, icy, incorrectly constructed swill. Surely someone with your educational background can tell the difference between coffee and swill, but then perhaps not. Taste cannot, after all, bet taught. One is either born with a palate, or one is not. And you. Were. NOT."
"I-I'll get you another," the new girl offered, taking a step towards the door.
"And how do you propose to do so? Who will answer the phones in your stead? ME?" Miranda scoffed in a deadly tone. "Oh, but of course, I have nothing better to do. It's not as if I have a hundred decisions to make concerning this month's edition. No, I have limitless free time and will be more than pleased to do your job for you. In fact, as long as I'm doing it, you will no longer need to. Contact Human Resources on your way out and have them send up a new you, preferably one with a palate." Miranda flipped her wrist, negligently waving the sniffling girl from her office, eyes narrowed as she watched the foolish woman grab her bag and scurry toward the elevator.
Really, how did they expect her to get anything done with such grossly inefficient people occupying the desks outside her door? And for that matter, where was Andréa? It was much more preferable for her to be here not being nice, than to be absent altogether.
She frowned as the phone began to ring and continued to do so uninterrupted. Was no one going to answer that?
Janeway shuffled through the stack of padds in front of her, checking the contents of each of them. She was sure there were ten volumes, but only nine were present. Could Seven have erased one? And why would she? Intent on asking, Janeway looked up as she heard someone step into the room from the cargo hold where Seven was changing for her interview. Any thought of asking questions were instantly lost as she beheld a tall blonde in a form-fitting red skirt and sweater and impossibly high heels. Janeway's eyes started at the red-heeled clad feet and moved slowly upward over long, well-formed legs to an impossibly short skirt that started at mid-thigh. She swallowed convulsively at the expanse of revealed thigh before her eyes moved on to rounded hips, and an impossibly narrow waist offset by large, rounded breasts lovingly molded by a soft sweater. A deeply rounded neckline showed just enough cleavage to have Janeway biting her lip to suppress a whimper, without being obscene, though it was close.
"Nice outfit," Janeway rasped, her voice sounding hoarse to even her ears.
"It is sufficient for the mission," Seven stated in her no-nonsense tone.
B'Elanna, who had been patrolling the building for unwanted company, stepped back into the ship just in time to hear the Borg's comment. She chuckled as she gave Seven a head to toe once over. "What's your mission? Global seduction?" she quipped.
"That will be quite enough, Lieutenant," Janeway growled, not at all pleased with the idea of Seven seducing anyone. Well, anyone who wasn't her, though she clamped down on that thought at warp speed. Remembering what she had intended to ask Seven, she continued, "Seven, did you delete one of the volumes of the journals?"
"No, Captain, I did not," Seven responded instantly. "I did notice that one was missing after our earlier episode. It would seem that one of your antecedents either no longer exists or is no longer within your direct lineage, therefore not in a position to contribute a volume."
Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. "Yes, I was afraid of that."
"Are you feeling all right, Captain?" asked the EMH who had just materialized in the room.
"I feel somehow less, but nothing that would affect my ability to command," Janeway replied. She continued on quickly to divert his attention. "Seven's obviously ready for her interview with Miranda Priestly. What did you come up with to mask her implants? We obviously just can't hang a holo-imager on her if Seven's clothing is any indication of what she'll be wearing."
Stepping over to the replicator, the doctor input a request and waited as a small velvet covered tray appeared. Retrieving it, he turned to the others and laid it on the table. On the tray lay three small, gold rings.
"Since it will not have to hold data as large as my own program, B'Elanna was able to synthesize just the visual projection technology used in my holo-imager into the micro-circuitry that I concealed within one of these rings." He offered one of them to the captain.
Turning the ring this way and that, Janeway could perceive no difference between it and any other gold band, save for a small slit on one side. "Why three?" she questioned.
"There's one for each of you. The one you're holding is Seven's. You'll notice the small depression in one area. Pressing your thumb nail into it will activate an immediate transport back here to the Flyer. Consider it a failsafe device. The advances in inoculations against disease and the natural evolution of the human immune system, as well as Seven's Borg technology and B'Elanna's Klingon physiology, makes it imperative that none of you be examined by medical personnel in this century. Should you become injured without loss of consciousness, you can activate the sensor to transport you here for medical care," he finished, obviously pleased with himself.
"And if we're unconscious?" Janeway asked, seeing the flaw in his plan as explained.
"The ring will automatically register that and transport you the moment it senses no one else is near."
She could almost see him mentally patting himself on the back. Still, in this instance, she supposed he had cause to. "Well done, Doctor," she complimented him. "Seven." Janeway turned to the other woman and reaching for her Borg hand began to slide the ring onto her third finger. Suddenly, the symbolism of what she was doing hit Janeway and she looked up into impossibly blue eyes, losing herself in their depths. I wish, she thought before she could exercise her normal iron control. For a moment she thought she saw an echo of her own feelings in Seven's eyes as she felt her hand taken and the chill of metal sliding over her finger registered.
Janeway and Seven transported to an alley near the Elias-Clarke building. As they walked down the street, Janeway kept subtly, she thought, sniffing the air. Something smelled wonderful.
"It is coffee, Captain," Seven supplied with a faint curl to her lips.
"What? Seven, I wasn't " Janeway stopped as Seven lifted an eyebrow in a doubtful expression. Though she had seen Seven with her implants masked on at least one other occasion, Janeway was again struck by how very beautiful her Seven was. The denial she had planned died on her lips. "Yes, all right. I wonder where it's coming from." She began to look around for the source of the enticing aroma.
Seven pointed across the street to a shop with a large sign over the door that read "Starbucks." "It is an establishment that serves various forms of coffee drinks, Captain. I came across it in my research. It is apparently Miranda Priestly's favorite source of that drink."
"Hmmm. Maybe I should check that out while you're having your interview. I'll just wait for you over there." Janeway continued to speak though she never took her eyes off the intriguing Starbucks. "You have that 'cell phone' device B'Elanna rigged up to disguise your communicator? You can call me on that if you get delayed."
"Of course, Captain," Seven responded in a wry tone.
Janeway took a step away, then stopped and turned back to Seven. "Be careful," she cautioned, her concern apparent. "We don't know what's causing these spells yet."
With a nod, Seven headed into the building and, after a longing glance, Janeway went in search of the source of that heavenly smell.
Miranda ignored the incessant ringing of the phone. Once she had discovered how to activate the caller ID on her console, she had used it to simplify her day. A quick glance now told her whether the caller was someone she wished to speak with or not. If the response was negative, she merely allowed it to ring until they gave up and ceased to bother her. While she insisted her assistants never let more than two rings pass, she did not believe that applied to herself as her time was much too valuable for such nonsense. Only the truly important people would be allowed to reach her in the first place, so for Miranda it was business as usual, though a tad louder than she preferred.
As yet another call rang in, she rolled her eyes, wishing for perhaps the hundredth time since she had sent the last new girl packing the previous afternoon, that Andréa would settle whatever emergency had befallen and return to her place at Miranda's side. It really was too much to expect Miranda to function at optimal efficiency with all these tedious details eating at her time and attention. Why she was expected to concern herself with them she could not fathom. That's what assistants were for. The fact that she currently did not have one manning either of the desks outside her office was not her concern.
Reaching for her phone, intent on calling Nigel and instructing him to drag Emily to one of the desks and chain her in place if necessary, Miranda was startled when the phone suddenly ceased ringing and a voice spoke in the outer office.
"Miranda Priestly's office No, I am sorry. She is about to go into a meeting." Miranda heard the clack of keys as someone typed something into one of the computers. "Yes, that is correct. She wishes twelve skirts for today's run-through No, I do not believe anyone has been delegated to collect them. You will simply have to deliver them." Miranda arched an eyebrow at the imperiousness of the tone. "Yes, I realize you are calling from Calvin Klein's showroom. Are you aware you are calling Miranda Priestly's office?... I see. Well, if you do not choose to deliver the skirts, that is certainly your prerogative; however, they will then not appear in Runway. Whose profit margin do you believe this will affect most drastically?...A wise choice. Delivery at 4:00?" Miranda's eyes widened as an extremely beautiful cool blonde head gazed around the corner at her. Speechless, she held up three fingers. "Ms. Priestly prefers 3:00," the blonde continued before ending the call and walking into Miranda's office.
Miranda looked her over slowly, wondering why this one hadn't graced the cover of Runway already. "And you are?" she asked in chilly tones, though anyone who knew her could tell she was impressed by the blonde's handling of the skirt delivery.
"Annika Hansen. I have an interview with you for the position of second assistant," Seven informed her, handing over the résumé' she had compiled after thorough research into the best format and credentials to use.
Miranda looked over the "one page wonder" carefully. Impressive. Equal to Andréa's, in fact, though without the strong leaning towards journalism. This one had studied art, design, and business. "Why should I hire you?" Miranda asked, laying the résumé' aside and going through the formalities.
"I am eminently qualified. There is no one else currently answering your phones. There are currently fourteen items needing attention that are beneath your notice." Noticing that Miranda's neutral expression had not changed, Seven spent a few seconds processing the information she had gathered on the woman in order to find the one fact that would sway Miranda. Confident that she had found it, Seven said, "You prefer a Starbucks venti, no-foam, skimmed latte with an extra shot, served at exactly eighty degrees centigrade or 175 degrees Fahrenheit."
Looking down at the other papers on her desk, Miranda began to rattle off instructions. "Take the desk on the left. Notify Human Resources the position has been filled. Call Donatella and change our lunch to any day I'm not available. Cancel my meeting with Irv and move it to next week. I'll need to see the budget projections for the next six months as well as the final budgets for the last twelve. Find out where Emily has been hiding for the last two days and move any deadlines she has forward by at least six hours." Hide from me, will she? "Notify Jocelyn and Nigel that the run-through is now at 3:30 instead of 4:30. See that they get the skirts when they're delivered, and I want coffee. Ten minutes. That's all." Miranda looked up and was surprised to see the new girl nod and turn away without a pad or pen in sight. She barely suppressed the sigh that threatened to escape. For just a moment she had hoped.
Turning back to her work, she wondered how long she should wait before calling Human Resources herself.
Janeway was seated at a table drinking from a very large coffee cup when she saw Seven walk into the Starbucks and proceed to the counter to place an order, all the while keying information into one of the hand-held computer interfaces that B'Elanna had provided them. Knowing that the ex-Borg didn't care for the taste of coffee, she hoped it was a sign that the interview had gone well. As Seven glanced her way, Janeway waved her over.
"Does this mean you got the job?" she asked as Seven came to stand in front of her, thumbs still rapidly moving over the small unit.
"Yes, Captain. I believe that it does. I have a list of tasks to complete as well as retrieving an adequate serving of coffee for Miranda Priestly," Seven looked up as one of the baristas called to her. She moved to the counter and took the proffered cup only to hand it back to the stunned young man. "This is inadequate. I specified 175 degrees Fahrenheit; this is 173.2 degrees. You will remake it to the desired temperature immediately." She walked back to the captain to continue their conversation, never once having paused with her inputting.
"What is the significance of the variation in temperature, Seven?" Janeway asked.
"For the coffee beans to release the maximum amount of the essential oils necessary for optimum flavor and aroma, the water must be at exactly 175 degrees. Higher temperatures cause these oils to evaporate whereas lower temperatures do not allow for a full release. It is the temperature Miranda Priestly prefers as well," Seven explained without ceasing in her task.
Janeway laughed. "I should put you in charge of my replicator. It never seems to get the coffee hot enough."
"I will make the necessary adjustments when we return to Voyager," Seven assured her, still thumbing the interface.
"Seven, what are you doing?" Janeway finally gave in to her curiosity.
"Miranda Priestly gave me a list of tasks and a direction to retrieve her coffee in ten minutes. I have 3.2 minutes left to comply."
Shaking her head, Janeway took a sip of her coffee. "I believe she meant she wanted the coffee in ten minutes, Seven, not the entire list of tasks as well."
Seven looked up as she assumed her normal parade rest stance. "It is inconsequential, Captain, as I have completed the assignment. I must retrieve the coffee now. I have arranged for you to meet with an individual to obtain quarters for your photography studio. The information is in your hand-held unit. I will return to the shuttle when I have completed my day's tasks with Miranda Priestly." Spinning on her heel, Seven took the remade coffee from the barista and, with a nod that it was acceptable, left the establishment, her long legs eating up the distance as she returned to Elias-Clarke and Runway.
Miranda had worked her way through the stack of paperwork and was examining the proof sheets from the last photo shoot when her nose twitched. Coffee. She glanced to the side just as Seven placed a large Starbucks cup near her hand on the desk. Miranda lifted a pinkie and rested it against the cup. Hot. She lifted the cup and took a sip. Perfection. Perhaps she should hold off on calling Human Resources, at least until Andréa returned. Annika could handle phone calls and get Miranda's coffee order right, so she wasn't entirely hopeless.
Miranda looked up to where Annika stood with her hands linked behind her back in a vaguely militaristic pose. Interesting. A military background had not been mentioned in her résumé'. Miranda stored the information away for later perusal and opened her mouth to dismiss the woman.
"Miranda, I have notified Human Resources that the position is filled. Your lunch with Donatella Versace is canceled. The meeting with Irv Ravitz will occur on Wednesday next week. The budget projections and final budgets are in your in-box. I can provide you with hard copies if you prefer. Emily Charlton has been moving through the building, changing location approximately every 23.4 minutes. She is currently located in a small office located at the back of the offices of a publication titled Auto Universe. She has, however, been there for the last 2.6 hours. It is possible she considers this a safe place to avoid being found. She has been notified that her deadlines are now due 7.2 hours prior to the original stated times. Nigel Kipling and Jocelyn Baker have received the new time for the run-through. Nigel Kipling has sent a 'clacker '" Annika looked perplexed by the term, but continued. " to receive the delivery of skirts from Calvin Klein. He will rejoin Jocelyn Baker after he has completed reviving Emily Charlton. Is there anything else you would like for me to do?" Annika finished.
Miranda's eyebrows had steadily risen throughout the recitation and she stared at Annika momentarily speechless. "Umm. No, that will be sufficient," she murmured and watched as Annika strode from the room. It appeared she would not be calling Human Resources after all.
"Where's Seven?" B'Elanna asked, turning from the replicator with her dinner tray in hand.
"Working late again," Janeway replied, adjusting the focus on the camera she held to take a picture of the engineer. She referred to the padd lying before her on the table before making a few more adjustments and taking the next shot.
"She's only been there three days and she's worked late every one of them. Runway must be the Borg version of heaven, non-stop work and death to anyone who smiles. Miranda Priestly should start a collective of her own. Seven can assimilate the clackers for her," B'Elanna quipped before sampling her entrée. She grimaced and pushed the tray away. "Thousands of restaurants in this city, and we're stuck eating this. It tastes worse than gagh."
Ignoring the comment about the replicated food, Janeway explained Seven's absence. "Miranda has Seven delivering something called The Book to her townhouse every night. Evidently it's an honor to be allowed to do so on such short acquaintance."
"Better be careful, Captain. If Seven turns out to be Miranda's dream assistant, you might not get her back," B'Elanna teased.
Janeway gave B'Elanna a narrow-eyed glare. "If Seven didn't join the Think Tank, I doubt she'd join the clackers."
B'Elanna shook her head in disagreement. "I don't know. No one here has ever heard of the Borg. Seven might fit right in."
"Nigel, have you seen that that popsicle Miranda hired?" Emily hissed, storming into his office.
Idly wondering if there was a woman in the building who didn't walk into a room like a weather front, Nigel gazed at her over the top of his glasses. "She's been here three days, Emily. Since she's not wrapped in a cloak of invisibility all day, I've seen her several times, and each time have wondered why Miranda has her manning a desk instead of placing her on the cover of next month's edition."
"She's hardly that attractive," Emily sniffed.
"Annika is equally as beautiful as Serena." He held up a hand to forestall her protesting squeak. "Different but just as lovely. With both Annika and Six in the front office, Irv will be too busy ogling to remember what he wants to harass Miranda about next. I see that as a plus for everyone involved."
"You're bloody insufferable," she snapped.
"I'm bloody right. Annika is highly efficient, and Miranda is in a much better mood for it. Now if Andy would just get back here, we all might get some work done," Nigel turned back to the images he was studying sending a not so subtle hint to Emily.
"Right. Well, I'll leave you to it then." She stalked out.
Sighing, Nigel removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. They were all working long hours the last couple of days with the print deadline rushing toward them. Whereas most of the staff was complaining, Annika seemed to thrive on the increased work load. Miranda was in a better mood where the work itself was concerned, but he was able to see an underlying sadness that deepened with each day Andy Sachs didn't report to work. He was beginning to see a picture forming, but the fact that Miranda was involved made his suspicions highly unlikely. He'd just have to wait for Andy to come back and see what happened then. In the meantime, Annika was highly efficient, anticipating the editor's demands in a way only Andy had managed before this, and Miranda was thrilled. It was a good day at Runway.
Seven let herself into the townhouse and moving quickly, hung the dry cleaning in the appropriate closet. She had just placed the Book on the table designated when she detected a presence moving through Miranda Priestly's quarters. As it was clear to Seven that Miranda Priestly was in a room two stories above at the back of the quarters, and the individual moving along the upper corridor was 36.3 kilograms in weight, Seven deduced it was one of Miranda Priestly's offspring. As the child could have nothing to converse with Seven about, she turned to the front door, stopping with her hand on the knob when a small voice spoke behind her.
"Where's Andy?" the girl asked from where she stood halfway down the stairs.
Turning, Seven evaluated the child. Something in the shape of the mouth reminded her of another red-head. "Andrea Sachs is still on leave," she stated.
"Is she coming back?" the small redhead pushed, coming to the bottom of the staircase.
"I do not know," Seven responded. "What is your designation?"
"My designation?" the girl frowned, clearly unsure what Seven was asking.
"Your name," Seven clarified.
"I'm Cassidy. Miranda is my mother. Did she fire Andy?" It was evident Cassidy was not giving up until she had a satisfactory answer.
"Andrea Sachs is still employed at Runway. You are friends?" Seven watched as the small face hardened in a way that disturbed her. She would not like to see the same expression on Naomi Wildman's face.
"No, not any more. Andy doesn't want to be our friend. We're just kids," Cassidy snapped.
Seven leaned her head to the side and studied the small human. "Naomi Wildman is of a similar height and weight, though younger than yourself. She says she is my 'best friend.' I believe that means I am hers as well."
"Really?" Cassidy asked and then seemed to think of something else to ask. "What's your designation?" She grinned, evidently amused to be copying Seven's form of speech.
"I am Annika Hansen, Miranda Priestly's second assistant. " Seven didn't see a reason to answer the first question as she had not stated an untruth in saying Naomi Wildman was her best friend. She supposed Captain Janeway was also a best friend of a type, too, if that was possible. "Cassidy Priestly, may I ask you something?"
"Sure," Cassidy sat on the step behind her, prepared to have a talk with this strange, new assistant.
"Can an individual have more than one best friend?" The answer was suddenly very important to Seven as she had no desire to give up either of her perceived best friends.
"Well, yeah. I think so. My sister Caroline is my best friend, and I thought Andy was becoming one too, but I guess not. You can have best friends for different reasons. Like Lucy James is my best friend at school," Cassidy explained.
Seven nodded, relieved that she could keep both her best friends. "Thank you. It is the designated time for your regeneration period. You should go to your alcove, as should I."
Cassidy laughed. "You have an interesting way of talking. English isn't your first language, is it?"
"It was my first," Seven corrected. "But not the one I spoke for the majority of my life. Roy Williams is waiting to transport me. I must go."
"Bye, Annika," Cassidy called as she rose and ran up the stairs.
Seven watched her go and couldn't help missing Naomi Wildman. Miranda Priestly's offspring was most unhappy that Andrea Sachs no longer wished to be her best friend. Such an action was unacceptable if it caused the child pain. Seven resolved to correct the matter as soon as possible.
Janeway was moving about the roof, snapping pictures of the glittering skyline when she heard the light clack of heels behind her.
"Finally done for the night?" she asked, not turning from framing the next shot.
"Yes, Captain," Seven answered, coming to stand beside her.
Janeway glanced at her, easily perceiving the pensive look on the porcelain features. "What's wrong, Seven?"
"I met Cassidy Priestly tonight. She is Miranda Priestly's offspring."
After waiting a moment in which Seven did not continue, Janeway prodded her. "Well, that would be a good thing, right? Did you learn anything from her? What might have changed in Miranda's life recently?"
"Cassidy Priestly is unhappy." Seven seemed to search for what else to say. "She does not believe Andrea Sachs wishes to be her best friend any longer. It is unacceptable."
One corner of her lip curled in a hint of a sad smile as Janeway lowered the camera and turned to face Seven, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder. "Sometimes friends change their minds, Seven. It's also possible that their lives are just going different ways. It isn't often that adults stay friendly with children if they no longer have contact with one of the parents."
"Andrea Sachs is still employed at Runway. There is no reason she cannot remain friends with Cassidy Priestly. The child is upset. This must change," Seven stated in that adamant tone that let Janeway know arguing would indeed be futile.
"Seven, the Prime Directive does not allow us to interfere in these people's lives," Janeway began, feeling she had to try anyway.
"We are attempting to reset the timeline. Will that not interfere?" Seven replied with unerring logic.
"I yes, I suppose it will," Janeway sighed. "We just need to minimize our interference as much as possible. "
"How are we to know what has been caused by the altering of the timeline and what has not? Perhaps in the original timeline Cassidy Priestly was not meant to lose her best friend," Seven reasoned.
Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose against the throb of a beginning headache. "I hate time travel," she muttered before addressing the woman waiting for her response. "We don't know, Seven. That's why we have to be careful and change as little as possible until we're sure what exactly needs to be corrected. We just need to keep gathering information. Make your report, and then you need to regenerate. Tomorrow's Sunday, and you don't have to work, so I'd like to check out more of the city. Maybe take a few pictures. B'Elanna and I set up the studio today. We're going to need some actual pictures to show Miranda, and I need more practice."
Seven turned on her heel and began to stride away only to stop. She stared straight ahead with her back to Janeway for a moment in silence before finally speaking.
"Cassidy Priestly has your mouth, though it is .36 centimeters wider. The corners turn down when she is unhappy. I did not like it." Seven continued to board the shuttle without waiting for a reply.
Andy let herself into her apartment, dropping her bags just inside the door. With a sigh, she walked over and collapsed on the couch. The flight back had been horrible, full of turbulence and irritable passengers. She dropped her head into her hands with a sigh. Tomorrow she had to go back to work, that was assuming she still had a job. Running away had been a stupid thing to do, but she'd needed the distance to get her perspective back. Her walls were back in place against Miranda. Now she just had to keep them there.
With a groan, she rose, and retrieved her suitcase and purse, carrying them into the bedroom. She unpacked, putting the clothes back in her closet and dresser. Her dad had insisted she do her laundry so she wouldn't have that facing her when she got back, something she had groused over at the time but was now thankful for. Stowing the empty case in the back of her closet, she gathered her night clothes and headed into the bathroom for a shower.
She was back moments later, drying her hair with a towel. Deciding she couldn't put it off any longer, she dug her cell phone out of her bag and turned it on for the first time since she'd board the plane to Cincinnati days earlier. One text from Nigel and six voicemails from Miranda. Six? I am so dead. Miranda had called twice a day, and she hated voicemail. Putting off the inevitable, she opened the text from Nigel first.
Are you alright? Call me. N.
She'd see him soon enough when she got to work the next day, so she replied with that information. She headed for the kitchen to fortify herself with a glass of wine before dealing with Miranda's messages. After several healthy sips, she listened to each in turn. They were all very similar, Miranda demanding to know when Andy would be back. With each message her voice became softer and colder until Andy was straining to hear the fourth one. Messages five and six consisted of a huffed sigh followed by a long moment of silence before the call was disconnected. Yet, not once were the words "You're fired" uttered nor any of the million euphemisms Miranda had perfected to replace them over the years.
Evidently, Andy still had a job, though why Miranda had kept calling after the first time was a puzzle. It was unlike the woman to keep doing so. In Andy's experience when Miranda didn't hear from someone after attempting to contact them, she simply pushed it from her mind knowing she would hear back eventually and prepared the severity of her verbal evisceration of them in direct proportion to the length of her wait. With six messages, Andy couldn't help but wonder if Miranda would leave large enough pieces of her for her dad to have something to bury.
The real issue was, did she respond to any of the messages tonight or just wait until the next day to face Miranda in person? With a hopeful glance at her clock, she groaned. Still early enough to call, though texting might be a better idea. Cowardly, but still better than listening to that icy voice tear into her tonight. She wasn't quite ready for that yet. Mind made up, she tapped in a quick message that she was back and would be at work the next morning, hitting send before she could change her mind.
Not expecting a reply, she rinsed out her wineglass and headed for the bedroom. She really could use a good night's sleep, not that the odds were in her favor. She had just slipped into bed and reached to turn out the lamp when her phone pinged with an incoming text. Thinking it was Nigel replying to her earlier message, she opened it without looking.
Annika has taken over many of your duties. We will discuss new ones tomorrow. MP
Annika? Who the hell is Annika? Andy wondered. Sighing, she tossed the phone on the bedside table without replying, knowing Miranda would not expect one. She could only imagine what new duties Miranda had planned for her. Probably cleaning the toilets on the ninth level of hell. Turning over, she attempted to sleep, sliding into the depths much easier than she would have imagined now that she was back in New York and near her own personal devil.
Andy arrived a few minutes early the next morning only to find that Miranda's office was already perfectly laid out in readiness for the editor's appearance. Wandering back to her desk, she pulled up the day's schedule to see if there were any last minute details that needed handling, but that too had been done with precise notations on what had been arranged. Her email in-box told her much the same story, with all work-related emails already having been responded to and only a few personal notes remained. A few of my duties! What the hell is left? Andy thought.
Before she could figure out what to do instead, a tall blonde walked in with a Starbuck's cup held tightly in one hand. How the hell is she carrying that without getting burned? Andy watched as she placed it on Miranda's desk at a precise angle to the already present schedule. The blonde returned to the outer office and put away her coat and bag. She then placed a call on the office line, murmured, "Hold for Miranda Priestly," and put the call on hold. She finally came to stand precisely at the front corner of the junior assistant's desk just as the elevator dinged. A moment later, Miranda strode into view, removing her coat and handing it to the blonde. Handing it to her? What the hell has been going on around here?
Miranda continued on into her office without acknowledging Andy's existence and seated herself behind the desk. She took a sip of the coffee and almost purred in delight. Andy fixed a cool glare on the blonde.
"Annika," came the quiet voice from the inner office. The blonde immediately moved in response, causing Andy's eyes to narrow even further.
"I want reservations for two at that restaurant that serves the poached salmon I like at one. Call Vera and have her send the dresses for tomorrow's shoot in the next hour. Tell Nigel I need four recommendations for accessories to go with them before lunch. The brunette model will never do. Has no one ever heard of using conditioner on their hair? I need headshots for a replacement. And get me DeMarchelier. That's all," Miranda finished.
Andy expected to hear the usual "Yes, Miranda" and to get her share of the work to do. She was surprised when Annika responded differently.
"Your reservations are noted on your schedule for the day. The dresses arrived 20.2 minutes ago. Nigel Kipling's recommendations for accessories are in the red folder along with images of the dresses, though there are five recommendations, not four. The blue folder contains images of all the available brunette models. Patrick is holding on line one. I will now go move Emily Charlton's newest deadline up by 2.4 hours, unless there is something else you need."
"No, that will do. Thank you," Miranda murmured, already engrossed in the headshots.
Thank you? This woman has killed Miranda and replaced her with a double! It was the only explanation that made sense to Andy.
"Welcome back," Nigel said.
Andy jumped, startled since she hadn't seen him come in, so intent was she on the interaction between Miranda and Annika. "Nigel, you almost gave me a heart attack," Andy exclaimed, placing a hand over her pounding heart.
"Good morning, Annika," he said to the blonde who walked through on her way to terrorize Emily in Miranda's stead. "She's hiding in the ladies room outside Natural Woodsman on the fifth floor, Annika."
"Nigel Kipling," Annika said by way of greeting. "I will seek her there."
"Let me introduce you. Annika Hansen, Andrea Sachs, first assistant. Six, this is the new second, Annika Hansen," Nigel completed the introductions.
Annika looked at Andy, clearly intrigued. "Your designation is Six? That is acceptable as my own is Seven. I prefer it to Annika."
Andy exchanged a glance with Nigel who shrugged in response.
"You like being called Seven?" she asked.
"That is correct," Annika said hesitantly. "I am used to it."
"Nigel calls me Six because that's the size I wore when I first started working here. You're nowhere near wearing a seven, so how'd you get that nickname?" Andy wondered and could almost see the wheels turning in the blonde's head.
"I was the seventh of nine assistants," Annika supplied after another brief hesitation.
"And who would need nine assistants?" Miranda asked, having come to stand in her doorway, drawn by the conversation.
"My previous employer, Cap-Kathryn Janeway. She is a photographer," Annika answered.
"A photographer who needs nine assistants? That's a rather large staff. She must be extremely successful. Why have I never heard of her?" Miranda continued.
"She does not work in New York, though she is currently in the city. She has opened a studio not far from this location," Annika explained.
"European, then?" Nigel asked.
"She is from Bloomington, Indiana," Annika answered.
"I wish to see her work," Miranda stated unequivocally. "According to Patrick, his staff is decimated by the flu. Were it anyone else, they would never work for Runway again." She gave a pointed look to Nigel before returning to her desk.
Annika turned to Nigel and asked, "Why is DeMarchelier an exception?"
"Because he's saved Miranda's bacon more than once," Andy commented.
"Why would preserving a cured meat make him exempt?" Annika asked.
Nigel laughed, already used to Annika's literal turn of mind.
"Six means that DeMarchelier has helped Miranda when other photographers have failed in their duties," he explained. "You better go destroy Emily's day so you can contact this Janeway. Miranda waits for no one."
With a nod, Annika left in search of Emily, already contacting Janeway on her handheld.
"What are you thinking, Six?" Nigel asked in the quiet tones he used so as not to be overheard by Miranda.
Andy knew her eyes would reflect the hurt she was feeling, though she tried to stuff it behind her carefully constructed walls. "I've been replaced, Nigel."
He reached out and took one of her hands, patting it with his own. "Not where it truly counts, Andy," he assured her enigmatically. As a softly spoken "Andréa" filtered into the room, he nodded toward Miranda's office. "She hasn't been happy with you gone the last few days. You better get in there."
Janeway was perfecting her technique with airbrushing a photo in the twenty-first century computer that sat on the desk in front of her while B'Elanna was adjusting the lighting for one of the many set-ups she had practiced so far that morning.
"Is there a reason we're doing this?" B'Elanna asked, kicking at yet another cable that meandered across the floor. "We couldn't just fake it?"
"From what I've read in the family journals, added to what Seven has reported concerning Miranda Priestly, she'd see through us before we even begin. We need to be as authentic as possible, B'Elanna, and that takes practice. The actual photos we'll create using our own resources and the replicators to save time, but it will help to know how far from perfectly accurate we need to be in the finished product. I'll have Seven evaluate these tonight to calculate the right error ratio," Janeway said as she delicately manipulated the stylus on the digital pad under her hand. "Actually, I'm rather enjoying this. I may program a similar arrangement in Master DaVinci's studio once we're back on Voyager."
With a sigh B'Elanna adjusted the tilt on yet another lamp and compared the result to the photo she held in her hand. She looked up as Janeway's handheld chirped, glad of anything that would interrupt the tedium.
"Miranda Priestly wants to see my portfolio. I suggest we get changed. It's show time," Janeway grinned with that unholy glee that usually led them all straight into trouble.
A short time later, they materialized in the same small alley that Janeway and Seven had used the previous week. As she tottered along in the ridiculous heels the doctor had replicated for her along with the outfit she now wore, B'Elanna growled under her breath.
"I'll never understand how you and Seven walk in these things," she grumbled.
"Every added inch helps when most of your crew is taller than you are," Janeway replied, laughing.
"Yeah? What's Seven's excuse? Easier to look down your nose at everyone when it's a foot above their heads?"
Janeway sighed. "B'Elanna, Seven doesn't feel superior to you."
"Sure, she does. Just ask her sometime," B'Elanna disagreed, irritated that as always the captain sided with the tall Borg.
She noticed Janeway glancing at her from the corner of her eye before the captain continued. "I seem to remember someone who felt that being the first to lash out would protect her from anyone else doing so. Not the best way to make friends, but given enough time her fellow crew members saw through that, and she made a place for herself on Voyager. Seven's just trying to do the same."
B'Elanna didn't respond, preferring to concentrate on not breaking her neck in the ludicrous shoes. She did have to hand it to Seven. B'Elanna could barely walk in them on a level surface, and she'd seen Seven running over uneven ground in similar shoes many times. Even with Borg enhancements it was quite a feat, but then Seven was always performing miraculous feats to save one or more of the crew, including her. Like this mission there was no overt danger that they were aware of, but even if there had been, Seven would still have marched in ahead of the rest of them, ready to do battle to protect her collective. B'Elanna realized with guilt that it didn't even matter how the Voyager collective treated her back, Seven would always sacrifice herself for them without question. She sighed to herself as the thought that a half Borg might have more honor than a half Klingon left her with a decidedly uncomfortable feeling. She was extremely grateful when they walked into the Runway offices, and she was able to push the thoughts away for more immediate concerns.
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