DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my imagination in this Star Trek: Voyager / Stargate: Atlantis crossover story. Star Trek: Voyager belongs to Gene Roddenberry, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor, Paramount Studios, UPN, Viacom and whoever else owns pieces of the Star Trek franchise. Stargate: Atlantis belongs to MGM, SciFi various individuals and companies and whoever owns them.
SPOILERS: For ST:V and SG:A – to the end of their respective series (although focusing on the first three years of Atlantis). Everything beyond is definitely takes a dive into the wide ocean that is Alt-U.
WARNING: Descriptions of slavery/forced prostitution (nothing graphic); violence; mature themes.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ladyjanus03[at]yahoo.ca

Be My Homeward Dove
By ladyjanus


Part 5

B'Elanna and Elizabeth are talking animatedly as they enter the living room and catch sight of Tom in front of the television. Their conversation dies abruptly, and Tom curses his lack of foresight; if he'd been thinking, he could have pretended to be asleep in the bedroom and perhaps caught some inkling of what they were planning for the next Cabaret.

Tom had started the Cabaret about six months ago—another in the long line of holodeck diversions that has become popular with the crew, like Sandrine's, the Resort, Talent Night, Insurrection Alpha, and Fair Haven. To add some spice and mix it up a bit before the crew lost interest, he'd suggested boys against girls, with the non-participating crew as judges and the winners sharing a special holodeck day-pass the captain has offered and a pot of replicator credits—courtesy Tom's not so clandestine betting pool. So far, the men have won three of the match-ups to the women's one win—much to B'Elanna's eternal ire.

For this last one, Tom and the guys had drawn the short stick, and so had performed their Cabaret first—with everything from Chip 'n Dale dance routines, to tap dancing, to old Vegas-style lounge acts, to classic jazz and swing—keeping within his rules that it had to use old Twentieth Century music and dance forms. Usually Tom liked to do Sinatra, but this time, he'd wowed them with a singer named Michael Bublé, so he'd expanded the rules of the musical repertoire accordingly to encompass the first half of the Twenty-first Century.

B'Elanna and the girls were supposed to perform their routines a week later, but then the captain had been kidnapped and all thoughts of such diversions had gone out the window. But now that they have Janeway back, are safely beyond the reach of Fen'Domar—his Sunbirds proving their worth battle beyond his expectations—and are speeding their way across the Mija Confederation, Tom has given the ladies an ultimatum of a week to get their acts ready or forfeit the contest.

But he is worried. It's been more difficult than usual to get any information on what the girls are planning—even from Jenny Delaney—and eying Elizabeth's tall, lithe figure in her loose, flowing exercise outfit, he knows that B'Elanna is taking every advantage of having a real, living Twentieth/Twenty-first Century native to advise her team.

Can't get more expert than that, he thinks ruefully.

"What are you still doing awake?" B'Elanna asks as she leans in over the back of the couch to kiss him. Even after so long, her spicy, musky taste is still intoxicating.

"Too early to sleep, so I thought I'd catch an episode of Knights of the Round Table," he replies.

"Oh?" Elizabeth turns her gaze to the television where Lancelot is sparring with another knight, swords flashing and clanging over the Medieval-themed music.

"Yeah—it's not usually my thing, but I was inspired to look it up by your story that Merlin was really the Ancient, Moros. If you want to watch, I can go back to the first episode; I'm only five episodes into the series."

Elizabeth laughs as she curls into the corner of the couch. "Thanks Tom, but no. Even before I knew of the Stargate program or Atlantis, I usually avoided these so-called 'fantasy epics' because they often mangled the myths so badly—and they were generally terribly acted. It's like scientists and science fiction; a lot of the science staff on the base either hated watching the stuff because of their terrible scientific inaccuracies, or loved to watch the shows just to catalogue the errors. Apparently Dr. Parrish even made up a drinking game based on how many things they got wrong in each episode of one particularly egregious program. Although, many of them did like the purely escapist nature of the programs as well, and the good shows tackled a lot of social issues that many mainstream television programs were still not addressing in a meaningful way."

"So, what do you want for dessert, Elizabeth?" B'Elanna asks; since they'd started rehearsals, she's taken to bringing the other woman in for a nightcap of coffee and dessert afterwards.

"Mmm, I think our workout tonight deserves something truly decadent—Belgian waffles with dark Belgian chocolate mousse, fresh raspberries and whipped cream."

B'Elanna groans as she turns to tap the request into the computer. "Kahless, you know the best desserts."

The other woman's face falls; her smile disappears as if someone hit a switch and turned off some inner light.

"Elizabeth?" Tom can't help the concern in his voice; the change in her demeanour is so abrupt. "Is something wrong?"

B'Elanna hands them each a plate of dessert, then returns to the replicator for the coffee. Elizabeth plays with the whipped cream using her spoon.

"It's silly," she says at last.

"What's silly?" B'Elanna asks, placing the coffee service on the table and sitting next to Tom to enjoy her dessert.

"Nothing," the other woman replies quietly before taking a bite of her dessert.

"Come on, Elizabeth," Tom coaxes, "one minute you're happy as a clam and twice as smug—no doubt about whatever nefarious plan you and Bella have cooked up for your Cabaret—"

She can't help but sputter a laugh at that. "Do I sense a certain amount of worry, Mr. Paris?"

"Of course not!" he retorts. "And don't try to change the subject; it's about the captain, isn't it?" he realises with sudden insight.

She flinches as if slapped.

"What about the captain?" B'Elanna asks around a mouthful of dessert. "I thought you two were spending more time together since the whole pissing contest with the Cazenchin was resolved." At Elizabeth's start of surprise, she grins. "What? You thought it was a secret? Elizabeth, you've been bossing her around—forcing her to eat, get more sleep ... having sleepovers ... I think it's safe to say that everyone with eyes knows how you feel about her," she says. After all, everyone knew how Kathryn felt about you even before you woke up in sickbay."

Elizabeth's shock renders her speechless for a few moments. "Everyone knows?" she croaks.

"Well, maybe not Harren and maybe a couple of shield emitter techs down on deck thirteen working gamma shift haven't heard yet," B'Elanna teases.

Elizabeth looks down at her dessert again. "I thought we were discreet," she whispers hoarsely. "I didn't think anyone noticed our dinners."

Tom laughs to dispel the sudden tension; the last thing he, B'Elanna, or the crew want is to scare Elizabeth away from the captain. "Of course you and Janeway are discreet," he says, reaching for her trembling fingers. He removes the dessert dish from her grasp and places it on the table.

Holding her cold fingers between his palms, he kneels before her. "I don't think that either of you know any other way to be. But after a decade out here, we also know and love our captain, and the woman who materialised on the Delta Flyer with you collapsed in her arms … the woman who arrived in sickbay, while the nanites were torturing you, was definitely not our captain. She's a woman we've seen very rarely, especially in the last few years, and believe me, Elizabeth, when Kathryn Janeway shows up, the crew knows almost immediately. But I think everyone is aware and adult enough to know that any relationship needs space and privacy to grow. We all just want her—and you—to be happy."

"And we definitely know you make her happy," B'Elanna continues with a bright smile. "So what's the problem?"

Elizabeth manages a wan smile. "Oh God—life can certainly throw you some curveballs. I don't know what the problem is exactly, other than I think I may have scared her off during that first dinner in her quarters."

"What do you mean?" Tom asks curiously; his skin begins to tingle as a sudden thought takes root in his mind. Perhaps this is a woman who can go toe to toe with Janeway; she'll always strive to understand her—and more than that, really pursue the captain.

"Since the sleepover—in fact, since our first dinner—she's been a bit ... distant," Elizabeth replies thoughtfully. "Not cold exactly—she's never cold—" She glances at Tom and B'Elanna from beneath long lashes framing shy green eyes and blushes. "And she's great to talk to, but she's not the way she was that first night. That night she was flirty … seemed to be having fun and really enjoying herself as we chatted. She seemed very ... ah ... interested, but I think I may have taken our flirtation too far, too quickly. I was teasing her about her reputed lack of cooking skills and we got onto the subject of what I liked to cook. I told her about the dishes my mother had taught me, and about the recipes I'd acquired over the years. Everything was just so light and fun, I commented that what I really liked to make were desserts—that I'd had a fling with a sous chef in Paris one summer and that he'd taught me a few things both in and out of the kitchen."

Tom stares at the woman open-mouthed and all he can think is, God, she moves fast!

She squirms under his incredulous gaze. Before he can help himself, he starts to laugh. B'Elanna joins him a moment later and he is literally rolling on the floor, laughing himself to tears.

"Well I'm glad I can provide you both with such great amusement," Elizabeth says in annoyance.

Tom sits up, still chuckling as she shoots him a dark look. "Sorry, Elizabeth, but I dare say, I don't think that our captain has ever been so charmingly propositioned before. I'd say she is indeed very ... ah ... interested in you. I'd bet she probably wanted throw you down on the dinner table and have … ah … her wicked way with you then and there."

As Elizabeth's blush deepens, B'Elanna growls, "Yeah, and the moment she realised what she was thinking, she shut down and retreated behind her almighty Starfleet protocols. She's my friend and I love her, but by Kahless, I will never understand that woman."

"Starfleet protocols?" Elizabeth asks quietly, concern replacing humour.

"Yeah, the ones that say 'thou shall not fuck your subordinates'—the holy tenet a lot of captains see as the be all and end all … will adhere to even under these crap circumstances," B'Elanna says with derision.

Tom bristles visibly at her words. "You know damned well that's a shitty and simplistic way of putting it," he says rising from the floor. "Starfleet culture is something you, Chakotay, the Maquis—in fact, most of this bloody crew have never bothered to try and understand! And because you don't do so, you'll never really understand Kathryn Janeway."

"Starfleet bloody culture!" More derision drips from B'Elanna's voice; perversely, Elizabeth is both shocked and relieved to hear the profanities colour their vocabularies. She doesn't swear much, but has to admit she was half afraid that she'd have to be on good behaviour for the rest of her life.

"Enough!" she barks, wading into the obviously old argument between the spouses, looking from one angry face to the other. "B'Elanna, if there is one thing I've learned is that military culture—for all that it is an artificial social construct of rules and regulations and rank—it is indeed a valid culture, and right now, from what Tom seems to be saying, it's something I need to understand. Tell me about Starfleet culture, Tom," Elizabeth says quietly as B'Elanna throws herself into the arm-chair and attacks her dessert.

"All right," he replies eying his sulky wife. "The first thing you have to understand is that Starfleet is something Kathryn Janeway was born into, not something she entered as a nearly-formed adult of seventeen or eighteen."

"Her father was Vice Admiral Edward Janeway," B'Elanna mutters. "He was one of Starfleet's premiere engineers and ship designers thirty to forty years ago."

"Yeah," Tom chuckles again. "Everyone always focuses on Edward and the Janeway family name, but it's Captain Janeway's mother you might want to focus on—Gretchen Janeway has probably had the clout to write her own ticket on any Starfleet ship in the alpha quadrant since she learned to talk."

"What do you mean?" B'Elanna asks in confusion.

Tom gapes in shock. "Good lord, B'Elanna!" he sputters. "Have you never thought to look up who your captain's mother is?"

"I know that she's a civilian—a mathematician—connected in some way to a couple of the old Starfleet families," B'Elanna replies with a shrug, "but I never really paid much attention to which."

"And that's the difference between Starfleet, and Starfleet born and bred," Tom drawls. "Oh, dear old Mama Gretchen is connected alright," he continues. "If I remember correctly her maiden name is Ekaterina Gretchen Sati-Chekov von Teichmann."

"What?" B'Elanna gasps in utter disbelief; this obviously means something to her.

Tom grins like a cat that's eaten an entire aviary full of canaries and washed them down with a few litres of the best cream.

"Well, she usually went by Dr. Gretchen von Teichmann, and after she married, Dr. Gretchen Janeway, but her father was Admiral Helmut von Teichmann and her mother, Admiral Ekaterina Sati-Chekov," he says, obviously enjoying his wife's flabbergasted expression.

"Who are they?" Elizabeth asks; there's a curious breathless quality to her voice.

"Starfleet royalty," B'Elanna whispers. "Two of the most celebrated admirals to come along in the last century—right up there with Kirk, Spock, Pendleton, Sayun, Biramitoch ..."

"Gretchen's uncle, her mother's half-brother, was Admiral Aaron Sati—the Judge Advocate General who laid down many of the modern Starfleet regulations," Tom continues. "Among her living relatives are Judge Norah Sati and Ambassador Nathaniel Chekov—and of course one of Gretchen's grandfathers just happened to be Admiral Pavel Chekov."

Tom laughs again in the stunned silence. "And the Janeways are no slouches either; not when you count all those admirals—at least one per generation—and not to mention a few Archers back in direct descent to the Captain Jonathan Archer, the first captain of the first warp 5 starship, Enterprise."

"Oh gods," Elizabeth says hoarsely. "So royalty—and all the expectations that go with it."

Tom nods, still smiling gently. "And if Voyager hadn't got stuck out here, I have no doubt that our lovely captain would be at least Commodore Janeway or even Vice Admiral Janeway by now. That's why I say that even more so than anyone I've known, she's the epitome of 'Fleet culture—as an old Academy friend once observed about another scion of Starfleet royalty; "she probably came out of the womb saluting"."

Elizabeth can't help but smile at the ridiculous image of an infant Kathryn saluting her father, even though her heart feels like it is breaking. "Well, I've certainly been around the military long enough to know about fraternisation rules," she says hoarsely. "You mean that because of Starfleet's fraternisation regulations, she won't have an intimate relationship with someone on her crew."

Tom's gentle smile doesn't falter as he takes her hand again and sits next to her. "No, I mean that because of Starfleet's fraternisation regulations, she won't initiate an intimate relationship with someone on her crew."

"It's the same thing," B'Elanna begins as Elizabeth suddenly registers the import of his words and the distinction regarding his interpretation of Kathryn's mindset versus her own.

"No it's not—Elizabeth understands," Tom replies.

"She won't initiate a relationship with someone on her crew because we're all her subordinates," Elizabeth says slowly. "But, is there anything to prevent a subordinate from initiating a relationship with her?"

"Give the young lady a prize!" Tom chortles, stroking her cheek as B'Elanna gasps a startled, "What?"

Tom turns his gaze on his wife; an exceedingly bitter look flashes across his face. "You've never wanted to know any of this—and the last time I tried to explain it to Chakotay was after he'd rescued us from Quarra. He was all cut up about the seeming ease with which she'd started a relationship with Jaffen and how upset she was to leave her lover behind. Anyway, he threw me into a bulkhead, told me to mind my own fucking business, and then a couple of months later, he started dating Annika."

Tom chuckles as his wife glowers. "He threw you into a bulkhead?" she growls in outrage.

"It was over three years ago, B'Elanna—you can hardly get mad at him now!"

"Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Because there was no point," Paris retorts. "It was chaos and we were all still shell-shocked from regaining our memories and being on Voyager again. Emotions were raw—besides, he apologised later. There was nothing to do but let it go."

"Kathryn and Chakotay?" Elizabeth asks hoarsely; she's noticed an odd tension sometimes between Janeway and her first officer.

"They've only ever been friends, Elizabeth," Tom says quickly.

"Because she never allowed anything to happen," B'Elanna accuses standing there defiantly.

"No, because she went as far as she could—and yes, it was her adherence to regulations that stopped her. But he wasn't willing to do what it took to close the deal, because it meant bowing to Starfleet regulations. No, he just waited for her to break the regs—as if by doing so would prove she cared—and when she didn't, he simply went around with his heart on his sleeve and everyone blamed her for his heartbreak because obviously she didn't care," Tom says sarcastically. "Everyone always harps on her love of protocol and regulations, but no one takes a moment to think about what they mean to her—what they mean to someone born to Starfleet … and what it means every fucking time she has to break one of them to save her crew."

"It shreds the soul," Elizabeth whispers. "Well, I certainly know about the things one does to keep one's sanity intact. The fraternisation protocols are something she won't compromise … can't compromise, especially for herself. They're her line in the sand."

"Exactly," Tom replies looking at her in admiration. "Everyone always remembers Regulation 47; an officer should not initiate an intimate relationship with a subordinate crew member under his or her command—blah, blah, blah! It's even more frowned upon with captains and senior officers, because it's a regulation about power and coercion. But Starfleet isn't some heartless, monolithic organisation; it recognises that it can't control who people fall in love with, nor does it seek to—"

"But it has to protect its weaker members from coercion by more powerful members," Elizabeth says, following his train of thought to its logical conclusion.

"Yeah," he says smiling sadly. "Like I said, people remember Regulation 47, but hardly anyone remembers the corollary, Regulation 48, Subsection 12, which simply states that there is nothing to prevent a crew member from initiating a relationship with another who is his or her senior, provided that the crew member who is more senior does not show favouritism on his or her paramour while on duty."

Elizabeth stares at him, her heart in her throat. "You mean all I have to do is ask her?"

Tom nods, chuckling heartily. "Well, the actual regulation legalese is a bit more involved than that and there is a formality that should be taken care of if you're really serious about going by the regs—"

"A formal Declaration of Intention, duly signed, witnessed and filed with your immediate superior," B'Elanna says quietly as she sits down next to him again.

"Exactly, B'Elanna," Tom replies, wrapping his arm around her waist and kissing her ridged forehead. He turns his twinkling gaze back to an expectant Elizabeth. "Everyone knows it's there, but hardly anyone ever uses it. It's kept on the books for a reason though, and we can download the form for you right now. Once you've filled it in, B'Elanna and I can witness it, and since your new Diplomatic Affairs Office falls under Tuvok's supervision, you would file it with him. He would then affix his approval and route it to the … ah … officer in question for a response. If we hurry, we can make it into the queue before he sends his daily report to the captain—otherwise, he'll send it tomorrow."

Her stunned silence drags on as a herd of elephants stampede through her stomach.

"You don't have to do it tonight," Tom says quickly; she can see the sudden uncertainty in his expression. "You can take your time and think about it—"

"No! I want to!" Elizabeth yelps eagerly and then flushes with embarrassment. "I guess I just can't believe it's this easy."

"Well I doubt that any relationship with Kathryn Janeway will be easy," Tom chortles. "But letting her know of your interest and that you're serious about pursuing a romantic relationship with her is relatively simple."

Lieutenant Commander Tuvok has just finished his daily security briefing for the captain when his computer chimes, alerting him to another item in his daily briefing queue. He frowns, mentally reviewing the expected reports for the day and can find nothing outstanding.

Curious now, he opens the file and as the contents are displayed, he's struck by an involuntary reflex that has his eyebrows crawling towards his hairline. Taking a moment to bring his expression under control again, he reads the document thoroughly with as much dispassion as he can muster, given its surprising contents. After a moment's contemplation, he affixes his thumbprint to the signature box in the authorisation section and attaches the document to his security report.

With an efficient series of taps on his console's interface, he routes it to the captain's incoming queue. Sitting back in his chair, he ponders his steepled fingers and—though he would have denied it had there been anyone to see it—he smiles.

It's already past 2300 hours and racing towards midnight when Kathryn looks up from the PADDs of research proposals and daily briefing reports littering her desk. Rubbing her forehead tiredly, she contemplates calling it a night, but the Captain wins out, insisting it will only be worse tomorrow.

As she fetches another cup of coffee from the replicator, she tries to decide which one to tackle next—Annika's proposal to start developing naquadah-based subspace sensor arrays or Tuvok's daily security report. In the end, Tuvok's report wins out because; a) its contents are apt to be more immediately relevant to the day-to-day running of Voyager; and b) although both reports will be incredibly dry and humourless, the security briefing has the distinction of being much shorter than the Giga-quad length tome Annika calls a proposal and expects her to wade through immediately, if not yesterday.

However, she takes a few moments to sit back in her chair and savour her coffee, rolling her shoulders to lessen the tension in them. She allows her mind to wander and it inevitably goes straight to the only destination it has been interested in going lately—Elizabeth.

To say that the beautiful brunette has been occupying more and more of her thoughts is an understatement. There are moments—especially during their dinners—when her connection to Elizabeth feels so strong, Kathryn barely has the presence of mind to keep from pressing the woman up against a bulkhead and allowing all her heated fantasies free reign. And she knows Elizabeth is interested—her 'come-hither' gaze and flirtatious little comments can hardly be classified as innocent—but Kathryn can't be sure that her interest isn't some sort of gratitude or transference of affection for rescuing her from the slavers. From the brothel.

All her life, Kathryn has been leery of taking advantage of or harming someone in a vulnerable position; from her ex-boyfriend when she was a teenager—taking his verbal abuse when she got into Starfleet Academy and he didn't—because she was too young and naive to simply walk away from him; to an ensign with a crush that bordered on obsessive when she was still a young lieutenant; to Harry Kim when he'd first come on board so green and needing his captain's approval so desperately that it had taken all her strength not to mother him; to Tom and his need for redemption; or to B'Elanna and her need to prove herself. She hopes that she has been a good captain and mentor for all her junior officers.

Even in her personal friendships she feels obliged to follow the regs. No, only three times on this journey has she allowed herself to feel anything for a crew member far outside the proscribed boundaries of captain and subordinate, and each in its own way has led to disaster.

Kes, the daughter she'd dared not keep, and who'd returned from her journeys insane and determined to kill her.

Annika, the daughter she'd dared to keep, and who'd stayed with the ship, but had grown into an angry and jealous young woman who'd let Kathryn know in no uncertain terms—a few days before her marriage to Chakotay—that the only place Kathryn Janeway occupied in her life was that of Captain ... and "stay away from my husband!" So outside her duties to the ship, and despite Kathryn's best efforts, Seven ... Annika no longer interacted with her captain and mentor.

That's it, Captain, no more daughter surrogates for you. Turning from the bitter memory, she swallows another mouthful of coffee.

And Chakotay? Her conscience goads her. Her deteriorated relationship with her first officer since his marriage will always be a source of great regret. She sometimes wonders how it might have been if she'd been able to break that ingrained need to adhere to the fraternisation regulations and simply gone to him, despite her misgivings about being in love with him, surrendered herself and taken whatever he had to offer.

She makes a face as she swallows another bitter gulp of black coffee; no time for such maudlin thoughts. Chakotay and Annika are married now; even if she had been interested, he was forever verboten.

Turning her attention back to her console, she brings up the security briefing.

Her mind is on automatic as she ploughs through Tuvok's dry prose. There's nothing specific that requires her attention—drills went as expected; average reaction time is within acceptable parameters, if a bit slow. Tuvok attributes this to anticipation of the upcoming Cabaret and notes that reaction times are apt to be better after the crew has had R&R, be it on the holodeck or shore leave.

On another note, his and Lieutenant Rollins' weapons design team agree that adding naquadah focusing rings to the phaser array should allow them to sustain a blast for thirty-three percent longer without appreciable attenuation of the beam or appreciable increase in the amount of energy needed to power the phasers. However, they've deemed the mineral too dangerous to add to the photon torpedoes—it could potentially destabilise the warhead containment unit and it wouldn't increase their yield by more than a few isotons anyway.

Kathryn grins and affixes her thumbprint to authorise their research into the naquadah-based phaser enhancements; Elizabeth's arrival has certainly opened a new realm of research Starfleet has never really considered and she's glad for it. Out here, innovation means survival.

The small file attached to the end of Tuvok's report comes as a surprise. It's simply labelled with her name, rank and serial number; Janeway, Kathryn Marie; Captain, USS Voyager; JKMá59113å9571ð. With one finger, she taps it tiredly.

What now?

Declaration of Intention


Name: Elizabeth Siobhan Weir

Date of Birth: October 14, 1970. See ship's log, stardate 58548.5, USS Voyager re: Details of temporal and omnicordial displacement of subject, Dr. Elizabeth Weir.

Age: See medical log, stardate 58548.5, USS Voyager re: Details of alien nanite infestation and repair of life-threatening injuries in patient, Dr. Elizabeth Weir.

Chronological ~ 410 years

Physiological ~ 35 years

Psychological ~ 40 years

Current Rank: Not Applicable; Civilian Consultant, USS Voyager.

Current Position: Ambassador & Chief Negotiator. See ship's log, stardate 58548.9, USS Voyager re: Details of appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Weir to the position of Ambassador & Chief Negotiator for USS Voyager.


Name: Kathryn Marie Janeway

Date of Birth: May 20, 2334

Age: 46 years

Current Rank: Captain

Current Position: Captain, USS Voyager


I, Elizabeth Siobhan Weir, a mentally competent being of legal age for my species, hereby, without coercion or undue influence, file this Declaration of my intention to pursue an intimate, personal relationship with Kathryn Marie Janeway, a mentally competent being of legal age for her species.

Date of Declaration: December 19, 2380

Time of Declaration: 2208 hours

Signature: Elizabeth Siobhan Weir

Witness # 1: Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer, USS Voyager

Witness # 2: Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris, Chief Helmsman, USS Voyager


Name, Filing Authority: Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Chief of Security, USS Voyager

Date of Filing: December 19, 2380

Time of Filing: 2215 hours

Authorisation Signature: Lieutenant Commander Tuvok

Kathryn stares at the document slack-jawed for endless moments. She's so shocked that she doesn't realise she's sitting there just looking at it with tears streaming down her face until everything goes completely blurry and suddenly the screen goes blank. It takes her a moment to consciously realise that her terminal has simply timed out.

Drying her eyes, she hastily taps in her codes and retrieves the security report, dreading that it's all been a hallucination or a practical joke. But the file is still there firmly attached to Tuvok's report, and as she opens it again, she lets out the breath she doesn't know she is holding.

She reads it again, gut twisting as if some unseen hand has reached into her belly and tied her insides into knots.

"Elizabeth, do you know what you're doing?"

Her own voice in the still room startles her; she hadn't planned to say that aloud. She notices the signatures again; Tom and B'Elanna. Have they somehow persuaded her to do this? As the thought registers, her chest tightens and she finds it impossible to breathe.

Damn it! Why couldn't they just mind their own business! Now they've ruined everything! she thinks in a panic.

And Elizabeth isn't a grown woman with a mind of her own? her conscience goads her as the sobs come now, hard and gut wrenching. Is she a child or an imbecile to be led around by the nose? Is that really how you think of her?

Kathryn drops her face into her hands. No, Elizabeth isn't a child or an imbecile, but there's just so much to consider.

Excuses! What's there to consider, Kathryn, or should I say Captain? What are you really afraid of? What is Captain Kathryn Janeway really afraid of? That Elizabeth won't back off when you get scared ... when you start quoting regulations to her ... Hell, by sending the Declaration, she's put you on notice that she already knows all your arguments ... all your excuses and she won't let you dismiss her so easily.

"No sir-ree, Katie-dear," her mother's laughing voice rings disconcertingly in her inner ear now. "She's on to you, and you know she won't let you go!"

Kathryn dries her eyes and tries to focus on the Declaration again. "I, Elizabeth Siobhan Weir," she reads hoarsely, "a mentally competent being of legal age for my species, hereby, without coercion or undue influence, file this Declaration of my intention to pursue an intimate, personal relationship with Kathryn Marie Janeway, a mentally competent being of legal age for her species."

It's so simple ... such a simple passage that means so much. And she's waited so long to receive it; she's convinced herself that she never will.

Suddenly, she realises that from now on, everything that happens in this relationship is up to them both. But in this moment, an unbearable onus has been taken off her shoulders.

"Can you bear this burden, Elizabeth?" she whispers. "Can you bear the weight of me and all I'll bring to lay at your feet? We barely know each other, but I want this so badly ... I want you so badly and I'm so tired of fighting myself."

Kathryn touches the Respondent icon and the final section of the document opens; she looks at the choice of responses, takes a deep breath and chooses.


Name: Kathryn Marie Janeway

Date of Response: December 19, 2380

Time of Response: 2352 hours


I, Kathryn Marie Janeway, a mentally competent being of legal age for my species, hereby, without coercion or undue influence, accept this Declaration of Intention filed by Elizabeth Siobhan Weir for the purposes stated within.

Signature: Kathryn Marie Janeway

Elizabeth gives an involuntary squeal of happiness and claps her hands over her mouth as she re-reads the message she's been anxiously awaiting for the better part of the last two hours.

Tom chuckles and leans in over her shoulder to look at the completed Declaration. "I knew it! I knew she'd answer before midnight," he says as he hugs her. "And it looks like you have Papa Tuvok's wholehearted approval as well to date his little Katie-Jane! I dare say he's very excited—for Tuvok, that is."

Laughing her relief, she says, "But you said that there was little chance that he wouldn't authorise the document. I don't see anything that indicates approval or disapproval; he didn't even include a note saying 'here's your completed form'. So how can you look at it and tell that he approves at all, much less that he's excited?"

Tom grins as he taps something into the computer and she finds she's looking at two computer file dates with a slight discrepancy in the time logs. "Number one, he sent this copy to you a full minute before he logged it to the public notice board—not that it's a big deal, but it's definitely not standard protocol and if there's anything Tuvok stands for it's protocol. Usually, a declaration simply tacked up on the notice board and you find out with the rest of us riff-raff that she's said yes." He laughs again as she blushes. "And number two, he didn't simply send the message to your comm account, he pinged the message to this terminal in these quarters directly, which tells me that he asked the computer for your location and if you were awake. He wanted to put you out of your misery as quickly as possible—look, he sent it at 2354. That's less than three minutes after the captain logged her acceptance response—in fact, it looks like he was waiting up for it. Believe me, that's the equivalent of our stoic Vulcan kicking up his heels and doing a jig!"

Elizabeth can't help the giggles that bubble out of her, filled with equal parts relief, excitement and trepidation.

"So she said yes?" B'Elanna asks lifting a bleary head to peer over the back of the couch.

"Yeah," Elizabeth says sheepishly. "Sorry I woke you up."

B'Elanna waves off her apology as she stands up and yawns widely, stretching like a cat. "Then ask her to dinner and the Cabaret," she suggests. "It can be your first public date."

"And I'd suggest you have dinner in your quarters first," Tom says gently. "The privacy will help with any nervousness or awkwardness you're both bound to feel."

"Just don't be nervous when it comes to your Cabaret routines," his wife grouses. "We have a lot of male asses to kick!"

Tom frowns. Elizabeth laughs and laughs.

"You lucky dog!" Roberto Ayala's greeting and resounding slap on the back makes Noah Lessing jump, dropping the basket of vegetables he'd been gathering in the airponics garden. As the dark-skinned man retaliates with a friendly swat, Ayala laughs and squats to help him pick up the spilled produce.

"What are you talking about?" Lessing demands.

"You didn't know you won the pot?" his friend says incredulously. "Paris posted it this morning, about half an hour ago—your bet was the closest with Christmas Day."

"The Doc has me on a reduced work schedule for the next couple of weeks, so I've been down in the 'ponics pipes for almost an hour doing a bit of preventative maintenance on the system," Lessing replies. "Then Chell asked me to get some veggies for lunch. You mean the captain and Dr. Weir—"

"Oh yeah!" Ayala crows loudly. "A declaration was posted to the public board around midnight. How'd you guess? Man—that woman works fast when she really wants something!"

Lessing laughs, a full, rich, rumbling sound. "Come on Roberto, you've seen Dr. Weir—tell me you're surprised."

"No, I'm not surprised that they got together," Ayala says. "Anyone with eyes to see knew where they were headed. But you have to admit that was quick."

"Definitely," Lessing chuckles again as they gather up the last of the wayward vegetables. "But the captain deserves an early Christmas present, don't you think?"

"Oh yeah! So what are you going to do with your ill-gotten gains?"

"It was already half-spent the moment you told me," Lessing laughs as they put away the gardening tools. "Presents for Naomi and Icheb—and definitely going to go a bit more elaborate on what I was planning to get Samantha—"

"Think you can spare ten credits?" Ayala asks hopefully.

Lessing eyes him shrewdly. "You already owe me three from last month."

"I know," Ayala replies grinning. "And I'll pay you back." He pulls a PADD from his pocket and hands it to the other man.

Lessing studies the information for a moment and looks up in surprise. "Oh boy! This what I think it is?"

Ayala laughs and picks up the basket of vegetables. "If you think it's an engagement ring, then you're spot on," he says. "I want to give it to Meghan for Christmas, but I'm ten credits short."

"Another one bites the dust," Lessing says shaking his head at the loss of yet another bachelor. "Sure, I'm feeling generous today—consider it a Christmas gift, but you still owe me those three from last month."

"Thanks Noah," Ayala says sincerely.

"Well, we'd better go collect my winnings from Paris before I spend any more of it," Lessing says as they head to the exit. "The shyster has to get his cut and I think there are two ladies who would definitely benefit from a bit of a Christmas bonus—after all, they did help me win it!"

Ayala roars with laughter as they leave the cargo-bay that had been converted into a garden.

As the doors clang shut, Chakotay comes around the divider that separates the vegetable garden from the smaller flower garden. He's carrying an arrangement of red Heart's Desire, delicate lace fern and silver Dalani orchids in a small vase. Annika will already be at her station, but she always appreciates the small touches he brings to their home.

He's two days into his Gamma shift rotation, and came down to the garden—as he does each morning when he's on this schedule—to meditate and unwind before heading to bed.

"Now I know what had Ayala, Bristow and even Sarnik so distracted after their break last night," he mutters, frowning at the shut door. In fact, it seemed like the entire shift was buzzing with subdued excitement, but each time he attempted to figure out what was going on, they'd clam up.

"Kathryn and Elizabeth?"

Even saying it aloud seems foreign on his tongue; Kathryn has never given any indication that she was interested in women. Suddenly he remembers Ayala's words, "A declaration was posted to the public board around midnight last night."

A declaration. Kathryn had sent a formal Declaration of Intention to the other woman last night, which had been accepted and posted to the Public Board.

A knot of formless anger twists in his gut. So much for the Captain not getting involved with a member of her crew!

You've nothing to get angry about! he chastises himself firmly. Kathryn is a grown woman—a free woman—who can do what she likes, and you ...

And you're a married man, a little voice mocks.

The flowers in his hand suddenly seem dull, lifeless.

Elizabeth hums as she reviews the information they've received from the Mija regarding their neighbours in the sector. Although they planned to resupply at one of the Mija's outposts on the far boarder, it is of particular concern as within three months, Voyager will encounter a region of space devoid of stars for nearly four hundred light years.

The crew has been through a similar Void before, so getting as much into storage as possible is of highest priority. Annika's briefing had been an eye-opener for Elizabeth; her Earth's ships crossed such voids in hyperspace—indeed traversed the void between galaxies so quickly—that such planning never really occurred to her except in a vague theoretical sense.

"How long this time Seven?" Kathryn had asked as she stared at the area of space plotted on the large astrometric screen.

"Approximately four months at warp 6.5, captain, on the optimal course I have charted," the young woman replied, overlaying the course for the senior officers gathered in the lab.

"That's not too bad," Chakotay said yawning broadly as he tried to banish the sleep from his eyes; Elizabeth realized that this summons must have woken him up after less than an hour's sleep. Kathryn glared at him before giving a wan smile.

"All right then, but this time I want to make sure we're as stocked up as we possibly can be on everything," Kathryn said firmly, returning her attention to the large volume of space devoid of stars. "Commander Torres, I know we have a lot of raw materials in storage, but I'd an inventory of manufactured components as soon as possible—paying particular attention to those components that are hard to replicate or manufacture. Perhaps we can trade for them." As Torres nods and murmurs her acknowledgement, Kathryn turns her attention to Elizabeth. "Dr. Wier, I want you to work with Commander Chakotay regarding the logistics of contacting those societies and governments we'll have to deal with."

"Yes captain," Elizabeth replied smartly, looking down at her PADD and pulling up various inventory lists. "I'll get right on it. How long do we have before we get there?"

"A little less than three months," Kathryn replied. "So let's get started on possible ports of trade and planets to forage on before we attempt the crossing."

"Understood," Elizabeth said. "I take it you've all been through this kind of thing before."

"In a manner of speaking, yes," Paris replied with a grin. "Let's just say that everyone nearly went stir crazy—"

"You mean more than usual?" she quipped.

"Way more than usual," Harry laughed. "We were facing two years of complete nothingness." Elizabeth's eyes widened in surprise as he continued, "Lucky thing we found a short cut through a subspace portal after a couple of months—I'd never been more happy to see stars again."

Kathryn gave a tight smile, as if remembering something exceedingly unpleasant. "All right everyone," she said briskly after a moment, "let's get started—it's going to be a long couple of months."

However, although she's just had a large load of work dumped on her desk, she can't help the light-hearted feeling that permeates her entire being, and it's all because of Kathryn.

"You're in a good mood."

Moira Jarvis' voice startles her, shattering Elizabeth's sense of peace; she didn't even hear her office door open.

"Moira—what are you doing here?" she asks, trying to regain her calm.

The red-head smiled. "I just thought I'd check up on you."

"Why? Did I forget an appointment?" she asks in confusion. "As I recall, our next one is at 2:30 pm tomorrow."

"No, you haven't forgotten an appointment," Jarvis replies quietly.

"Then why are you here?" Elizabeth is annoyed now, but she can guess the answer.

The other woman's blue eyes narrow and her lips thin to a displeased crease. "All right," she says sitting down in the chair on the other side of Elizabeth's desk. "If that's the way you want to play it. Computer, lock the door—privacy mode for this room until I release it; Jarvis beta-one-one-rho-alpha-phi-three-epsilon."

"Acknowledged; privacy mode engaged. Door will be sealed until authorised command is received."

"Now, don't you think it's a little too soon to be sending her declarations of any kind, much less a Declaration of Intention?"

All Elizabeth's defensive hackles rise at Moira's high-handedness and she fights hard to control her anger. "That is none of your business. It's between me and Kathryn."

"Everything about you is my business right now," Moira replies evenly. "Kathryn Janeway made it my business ... you made it my business when you consented to me as your therapist."

Elizabeth looks away from those piercing blue eyes with a sudden feeling of defeat. "You don't approve of me having a relationship with your captain," she whispers, her words hoarse around that tight knot in her throat that threatens to cut off her air supply.

"My approval of your relationship with Captain Janeway has nothing to do with this," Moira says quietly. "And the fact that it's the first thing you thought of says a hell of a lot about where your head is at right now, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth couldn't help but flinch at the accusation inherent in those words.

"What I am concerned about is the rate at which this relationship seems to be progressing. You've only been here for a little more than three weeks—after being in an intense situation for a few days with the captain. Not to mention everything that happened to you before she got there. Don't you think you should spend a little more time getting to know her first?"

Elizabeth barks a bitter laugh as she meets the other woman's gaze defiantly. "I already know everything I need to know about Kathryn," she says, anger making her tone harsh and ugly. "So don't worry about me—I know what I'm doing."

"Who says it's you I'm worried about?" Moira says and Elizabeth gapes at her in shock. "Have you even given any thought to what this means to her? What this would mean to a woman who has spent the better part of the last decade alone? A woman who lost her fiancé and the family they were no doubt planning—because you and I both know she won't have kids while we're out here ... while she's captain. She lost everything, Elizabeth, when she stranded this ship and crew in order to save an entire civilisation. Have you thought about that?"

Elizabeth looks down at her desk and is silent for a few moments; she's ashamed to admit that she hasn't given anything but the most cursory thought to those issues. She's counting on time and simply being with Kathryn while they work through anything that might come up.

Moira continues gently, "Look, I'm not disapproving of your relationship with the captain—in fact I think it would be a good thing for the both of you. But a formal Declaration like that means something, Elizabeth, and she'll be coming to this relationship with certain expectations I'm not sure you're ready for."

Elizabeth meets her gaze again. "You mean sex—Kathryn would never do anything I'd be uncomfortable with."

Moira's gentle expression turns to one of deep frustration. "Saints above!" she snaps. "How is she to know what you're uncomfortable with if you don't talk to her, Elizabeth? Does she know not to approach and attempt to touch you from the back? Does she know what simple, innocent actions or words will trigger a flashback or a nightmare for you?"

Again, Elizabeth flinches and feels as though her heart is breaking.

"You can't continue to make these assumptions about her—yes, she's observant woman, and she's kind and thoughtful. She wouldn't do something on purpose to hurt you; but how do you think she's going to feel if she does something by accident?"

All Elizabeth can hear in the silence is her own ragged breathing as she fights to keep her tears at bay. Tom Paris' jovial voice over the comm system makes her jump at the sudden interruption.

"Paris to Weir."

She's grateful for the interruption and quickly taps her commbadge. "This is Weir," she croaks before discretely clearing her throat. "How can I help you, Tom?"

"Would you have time to come down to the shuttle bay right now? It's about your shuttle."

Elizabeth meets Moira's gaze and after a moment the other woman nods, her expression inscrutable.

"I'll be down in a few minutes."

"Thanks Dr. Weir!" he replies enthusiastically. "See you in a few minutes; Paris out."

"Computer, release privacy mode and unlock the door; Jarvis beta-one-one-rho-alpha-phi-three-epsilon."

"Thanks," Elizabeth husks, rising from behind her desk as the computer acknowledges the order.

Moira catches her hand as she attempts to walk past. "It's not simply about sex," she says quietly. "Although that is a part of it—it's about intimacy and trust. I need you to think about this, Elizabeth ... really think about it before you two get any deeper into this relationship."

Elizabeth nods. "I will. I promise."

"Dr. Weir!"

Elizabeth is deep in thought as she follows Tal Celes to the turbolift—she still has only a vague idea where the shuttle bay is and the young woman needed a break—when she hears her name called out with definite childish happiness.

Moira's admonishment is still ringing in her ears, but she turns, and plasters a smile on her face as Naomi Wildman gallops down the corridor, gangly arms and legs flying.

The half-alien girl has recently been through a growth spurt, and although she's only nine years old, she looks thirteen. Kathryn, Icheb, and the girl's mother follow at a more sedate pace. They're all wearing brightly-coloured exercise clothing.

"Dr. Weir—" Naomi gasps again. "Mom said that I could ask you if you'd be willing to give me dance lessons." She gazes at Elizabeth expectantly, thin body literally vibrating with excitement.

"I didn't mean this exact minute, Naomi," Samantha admonishes in exasperation as they catch up.

Kathryn chuckles as she meets Elizabeth's bemused gaze; she's been teaching Naomi and Icheb to play velocity.

Elizabeth is surprised to learn how much Kathryn participates in the crew's lives ... especially the children's lives. From teaching the young ones science and mathematics, to mentoring Icheb through the Starfleet Academy cadet program, Kathryn somehow finds the time—on top of her duties as captain, not to mention occasionally acting as engineer or science officer when needed—to just be with the children, even if it's for an hour on the holodeck teaching them to play tennis or velocity.

Samantha is always looking for activities to expand her scientific-minded daughter's education and interests—activities Naomi invariably ropes Icheb into participating in as well. Therefore, in addition to velocity and tennis with Kathryn, the two youngsters have music lessons with Ayala and Kim, chess and kal'toh with Tuvok, and gardening with Noah Lessing.

The blonde woman shrugs smiling apologetically at her daughter's excited intrusion.

"Ah ... I'd be delighted to teach you to dance, Naomi," Elizabeth replies, chuckling softly as the girl squeals and capers about the corridor, pulling a reluctant Icheb into an impromptu jig.

Stopping suddenly, she flies over to Elizabeth and pulls her into a tight hug. "Oh thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she gushes happily.

"You're welcome," Elizabeth says softly, her voice husky with emotion at how little it takes to bring joy to this child. Turning to Sam, she continues, "I'm headed down to the shuttle bay right now, but why don't we get together after dinner and go over our schedules—see where we can fit dance lessons in."

"Thanks Elizabeth," the other woman says gratefully. "I really appreciate this."

"No problem," Elizabeth replies, before turning to the young man. "Well Icheb, what about you? Would you like to learn to dance also?"

The boy stiffens, and Elizabeth can see a flash of horror ghost through his eyes at her gentle teasing.

"No!" he yelps. "I mean that it's quite all right, Dr. Weir," he says stiltedly as he tries to regain his composure. "I mean that I don't have any space left in my schedule for extracurricular activities. If you'll excuse me, I must get ready for my lesson in ... in stellar cartography."

"And you, young lady," Sam says to her daughter as the boy hurries away, "need to get ready for your health science lesson with the Doctor."

"Aw Mom!" Naomi complained in the manner of every child since the beginning of time, but her mother is having none of it as she takes the girl's hand and drags her down the corridor. "Thanks again, Dr. Weir!" Naomi calls as they round a corner and disappear from view.

Kathryn's soft chuckles catch Elizabeth's attention. "Well I knew sooner or later she'd rope you into something," she says, eyes twinkling. "I'm just surprised it took her this long."

As Celes chokes on her laughter, Elizabeth eyes the captain, grousing good-naturedly, "And you couldn't warn me?"

"Now where's the fun in that?" she teases.

A spark kindles between them and, before she thinks about it, Elizabeth returns the flirty quip with one of her own.

"Oh, you'd be surprised at the things I consider fun, Kathryn."

The captain's blue eyes widen in surprise and she blushes beet red. Shaking her head, she bobs a slight bow in Elizabeth's direction.

"Touché, Dr. Weir, touché," she says quietly, dabbing her face with her towel. "So you're off to the shuttle bay?"

"Yes, Tom's going to try to get into the shuttle again and he's requested my presence," she replies as they resume their walk to the turbolift. "Although, I don't know what help I can be without the nanites. Want to come along?"

Kathryn glances down at her attire, shrugging as she joins Elizabeth and Tal in the lift. "Sure, I don't have anything scheduled at the moment—it's my day off."

As the lift travels through the bowels of the ship, they chat amiably about Elizabeth's new job as ambassador, Tal's duties as her assistant, and how the office set-up was coming along.

By the time they reach the shuttle bay, Elizabeth realises that Kathryn has effortlessly managed to get a detailed progress report from her and has suggested ways to expedite some issues. She realises that it is this ability, to lead people in the direction they need to go, is one reason that Kathryn was only thirty-four—according to Tom Paris—when she'd made the rank of captain, despite having started out as a science track officer instead of a command track officer.

The shuttle bay is bustling with people when they enter. Tom is in his element directing the assembled crew to their assigned tasks, while Harry is consulting with B'Elanna at the room's central computer console.

Catching Elizabeth's surprise at the number of people present, Kathryn laughs softly. "It's time for our regular quarterly shuttle repair, maintenance and diagnostics," she explains as most of the crewmembers—armed with PADDs and other instruments—disappear into the shuttles and larger Delta Flyers.

The cylindrical puddlejumper sits on the deck, looking very out of place among the small, sleek Sunbird fighters parked off to the side. Elizabeth shivers at the sight of it; it had almost been her coffin, and there have been moments when she'd wished she had never been removed from it alive.

Kathryn's gentle hand on her back steadies her … warms her. There is understanding in those gentle blue-grey eyes. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth smiles gratefully at her friend, and tries to relax.

"Dr. Weir! Captain!" Tom calls excitedly, beckoning them over. "Sorry to drag you down here, Dr. Weir, but we've tried everything we could think of to get in—we were about to try a subspace resonance pulse to break through—"

"But there's a chance that the pulse will wipe out the computer system," Harry chimes in, "and we'd really like to avoid that if we can."

"I see," Elizabeth replies quietly. "But as I explained before, I was only able to access it because of the nanites."

"Yes, but you recently mentioned that you had similar types of shuttles in Atlantis as well," Tom says eagerly. "You've been calling them puddlejumpers, so we didn't make the connection, but in your drawings they look identical to this shuttle. You said that John Sheppard and your other pilots flew the puddlejumpers. How? I presume they didn't have nanites—"

Comprehension dawns on Elizabeth and she smiles at him, unable to believe her own blindness. "I see—sorry it didn't occur to me to mention it before, but John and the others could fly the Atlantis puddlejumpers because they had the Ancient Technology Activation gene."

Elizabeth is suddenly uncomfortably aware of more than a dozen pairs of eyes—including Kathryn's—staring at her in disbelief.

"What?" B'Elanna growls; all work stops in the shuttle bay as everyone looks at the irate chief engineer.

Tom shuts his mouth with an audible snap before saying, "You need a special gene to operate it?"

Nodding, Elizabeth replies, "Yes, the Ancients used a biological lock to keep their enemies from being able to access their technology, but ensuring that they or their descendants could. And even if you had a functioning gene, there is a mental component as well to operating most of their technology. John had a very strong version of the gene, therefore he was the best at accessing Ancient technology—I didn't have the gene and Carson's retroviral gene therapy never worked on me."

Another few moments of stunned silence pass before Harry says in a tentative voice, "Maybe someone on the crew might have the gene?"

"What are the chances of that?" Tom says glumly, clearly disappointed.

"Probably quite slim," Elizabeth replies gently. "Even on my Earth, the gene—especially in a form strong enough to activate Ancient technology—was fairly rare. Furthermore, this is an Asuran-built ship—that's why I could access it via the nanites. I don't know if they would have included the biological component of the lock." She walked over to the ship and peered at the hull near the rear hatch. "There should be an access panel somewhere here … if we can open it, you might be able to interface your technology—" she mutters as questing fingers reach towards the small ship.

"Elizabeth—the force field!" She hears Kathryn's urgent warning too late, but instead of being repelled by the energy barrier, her hand comes to rest on the cool metal of the hull.

She jumps back, startled by the quiet hiss as the hatch begins to lower. "What the hell?"

Tom gives a whoop of delight as the lights come on in the small ship.

Elizabeth turns to Kathryn in shock; she feels her heart racing, but the blood is draining from her face. "What's going on, Kathryn?" Her friend looks at her in confusion and all Elizabeth can feel is panic. "I don't have the gene and the Doctor said that the nanites ... you promised me they were gone, Kathryn!"

Taking Elizabeth trembling hands, Kathryn strokes them gently. "Calm down," she says, blue eyes radiating concern as Elizabeth begins to hyperventilate. The shuttle bay is again silent and all eyes are on the two women.

"Let's think about this logically," Kathryn continues. "The nanites are gone—I'm sure of it, but we can have the Doctor scan you again if that will put your mind at ease."

Elizabeth nods, but anxiety still twists in her gut. "But what if the biological nano-cells they repaired me with—what if those are biological nanites with the same Replicator programming?" she asks fighting her rising hysteria and losing as tears gather and begin to roll down her face.

"Wait a minute, Dr. Weir," Tom says excitedly before Kathryn can speak. "You took a retroviral therapy to try and obtain a functioning copy of the gene?"

"Yes," she croaks, regarding him in confusion through her tears. "There was so much in Atlantis that I couldn't access—but the therapy didn't work."

Laughing, Tom takes out his tricorder and scans her quickly, concentrating on her head and upper torso. "But the question is why it didn't work," he says tapping some instructions into the instrument. "The problem with early gene therapies was that researchers often had very poor control over where the new gene inserted in the patient's DNA. Using targeted sequencing helped, but it was still pretty much a crap-shoot a lot of the time. But simply because it didn't work, doesn't mean that it wasn't still there."

"I don't understand," she whispers hoarsely as she dries her eyes with trembling fingers, trying to bring herself under control again.

Instead of answering, he calls out, "Paris to sickbay—Doc, I'm sending you some scans of Dr. Weir. Can you identify the gene I've found flanked by what looks retroviral sequences?"

"Of course I can!" the Doctor says irritably. "I've already made note of it and meant to ask Dr. Weir—it looks like someone tried a crude form of gene therapy on her. Although why they would use it to insert a piece of junk DNA is beyond me."

Paris' eyes widen in shock. "Junk DNA?"

"Yes, extraneous genetic material accumulated from earlier stages in the evolutionary process—Mother Nature rarely throws anything out, you know," the Doctor quipped. "With a tweak here and there, she simply re-tasks existing genes to perform a similar or new function or she just turns them off. However, no one has ever found a function for this particular sequence of DNA in Humans."

"Well you have now!" Paris shouts excitedly. "Its name and its function are the same—the Ancient Technology Activation gene. Take a look at those scans again, Doc; it just activated in Dr. Weir and she just used it to release the biological lock on her shuttle craft."

"What!" the Doctor yelps in shock. "I'll be right down."

"Doctor," Kathryn says, holding Elizabeth's gaze with a speculative look. "What is the prevalence of this gene in the Human species?"

"It's present in most Humans in one form or another, captain," he replies to Elizabeth's consternation. "It all depends on the particular allele or form of the gene a person carries. The particular allele that was inserted into Dr. Weir's genome is prevalent in about one to three percent of the Human population."

"Carson Beckett, my CMO on Atlantis, who came up with the gene therapy, used General Jack O'Neill's gene for the template, since the General, like John Sheppard had the strongest form of the gene we'd ever encountered," Elizabeth says considering his explanation carefully. "Carson's own form of the gene was considerably weaker and it took a lot of effort and concentration on his part to work the Ancient technology in Atlantis. That's why part of John's duties was to go around the city with the scientific teams, carefully activating the technology for study. Some of the more ubiquitous things, like the transporters, only needed activation once and then anyone could use it regardless of whether they had the gene. Other things, like many of the weapons systems, needed someone with the gene to activate it each time it was used. "

"Fascinating!" the Doctor says excitedly. "I'd love to hear more about this, Dr. Weir. However, your original or native form of the gene—which by your account appears to be non-functional—is much more common, accounting for about fifteen percent of the Human population. And of course, there are homologues of the gene in most other Humanoid species—"

"What?" Elizabeth looks at Kathryn in shock. "We never found anything like the ATA gene in any other species but Humans in our galaxy or Pegasus—and only those populations that were demonstrably descended from the Ancients or intermarried with them. But I still don't understand how I can have the gene now—the therapy didn't work."

"The nanites, Elizabeth," Kathryn answers gently. "Remember, they repaired everything. Dr. Beckett's genetic therapy didn't work because he couldn't properly control where the gene inserted into your DNA—if it inserted in the wrong place, it wouldn't work. But if the nanites saw that it was in the wrong place, then they would logically do what they were programmed to do—they would fix the error."

"The captain is quite correct, Dr. Weir," the Doctor continues as he enters the shuttle bay. "In fact, in those cells in which the therapy had inserted the gene, the nanites deleted your native copy of the gene and inserted the functional therapeutic copy in its place. But for those cells that didn't take up the therapy, they left them alone. However, in the nanocytes they created, they only used the functional copy, minus the retroviral bits, which probably means that you probably have quite a strong affinity for the Ancient technology now. So basically you're a chimera—a sort of genetic mosaic—when it comes to this particular gene."

"Well, I couldn't have explained it better myself!"

Elizabeth whirls to face the open puddlejumper from which that achingly familiar voice issues.

"John?" she croaks in disbelief, tears welling up in her eyes again; around her, phasers appear in the hands of Voyager's security officers.

"Hey Liz'beth," John's gentle drawl greets her as the puddlejumper's heads-up display flashes into existence in the cockpit. John Sheppard's transparent image floats in mid-air.

"John," she whispers again, trembling in disbelief. "How?"

"Well, it's not so much John Sheppard at your service, Liz'beth," the image says with John's trademark boyish grin, "as it is Puddlejumper Sheppard reporting for duty."

"Puddlejumper Sheppard!"

He chuckles softly at her outrage. "Yes, well just call me Sheppard. I'm not so much John Sheppard as I am your idea of him created by your mind while you were in stasis."

"My idea of him?" she says faintly in confusion.

"Elizabeth," Kathryn says gently. "I think what Sheppard is saying is that he's an AI—my guess would be that he is an interactive avatar the ship's artificial intelligence created from your memories, dreams and subconscious desires to interact with your mind while you were in stasis."

"But puddlejumpers don't have artificial intelligences," she protests.

"Oh yes we do," he drawls with a broad grin. "What do you think interacted with your pilots' minds, Liz'beth? I just happen to be a little more anthropomorphised than most—four hundred years of constant awareness and being linked to a Human mind will do that to ya."

"But I was in stasis," she protests again.

"But your mind was still active," Kathryn explains holding her gaze, forcing Elizabeth to concentrate on her. "We've seen it before—for some types of long-term stasis, it's necessary to keep the person from succumbing to a type of isolation psychosis. An interactive virtual environment produced by the stasis computer, or in this case the AI, helps the mind remain active and sane."

"Remember the Aurora, Liz'beth?" Sheppard continues and she nods shakily as it all begins to sink in. "The Ancients on board that ship remained in stasis and hooked into their virtual world for over ten thousand years—"

"Ten thousand years?" Harry yelps.

Sheppard chuckles again. "Yeah, hyperdrive problems—and trying to make an interstellar journey at relativistic speeds gets you nowhere fast. Anyway, emergency stasis functions were built into all Ancient ships—for something as small as a puddlejumper, the entire ship becomes a stasis container."

Kathryn regards the hologram shrewdly. "Sheppard, I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway; you're on board my starship, Voyager. Can you tell us how you and Elizabeth got here? Elizabeth doesn't have the knowledge to explain how you came to be here."

"I take it we're no longer in our universe?" he says soberly.

"That's correct."

"I figured that—what with smashing through the dimensional barrier in hyperspace and all," the hologram replies, a sorrowful look on his face as he regards Elizabeth. "I wasn't even supposed to be a hyperspace ship at all—the Replicators got the idea from your mind because you knew that Rodney was able to hook a hyperspace generator up to one of Atlantis' puddlejumpers. Anyway, Captain Janeway, Elizabeth wasn't exactly in a rational state of mind when she escaped from Oberoth—she found ways of thwarting him again and again, not only when she helped the real John Sheppard and the rest of her team escape, but every time he tried to probe her for information. Somehow, she managed to see through his illusions in very short order. It made him more brutal in his tortures as time went on.

"That last time, he made her watch everyone she loved die in a firestorm that engulfed the city, literally boiled the ocean away. But instead of breaking her mind and succumbing to his control of her nanites, she pulled a Matrix on him and somehow transcended him—she began to exert control on the Asuran core and therefore their entire environment both digital and physical."

"She pulled a Matrix?" Paris asks in confusion.

"The Matrix was a movie exploring themes like the nature of reality and illusion, what it meant to be human versus machine," Elizabeth replies, her gaze still fixed on Sheppard's hologram. "What did you mean when you said that I transcended Oberoth? My escape—everything is just a nightmare jumble to me."

Sheppard smiles another devilish grin, chuckling heartily. "I mean, my darlin' Dr. Weir, you decided that within Asuras, all those silly rules—like gravity—underpinning the physical world, no longer applied to you."

"What! What do you mean I decided that the rules of the physical world no longer applied to me?"

"Well, you began to levitate, run up and down vertical walls … pass through solid objects—well solid Asuran Replicators anyway … explode the Asurans with your mind—I think you blew Oberoth up at least three times!"

His laughter is infectious and Elizabeth can hear Voyager's officers chuckling with him, but all she feels is a strange tension in her gut.

"Of course, each time the core computer would him again—but he definitely wasn't a happy camper."

"I don't understand. How is any of that possible?"

Her voice trembles and he sobers up immediately as he holds her gaze.

"It was possible precisely because you were in Asuras, Elizabeth," he replies gently, "and Asuras was as much a digital place as it was a physical one, and all of it controlled by the city's core computer, which was also the centre of the Asuran group mind. Now considering what Captain Janeway's people have just told you about your Ancient Technology Activation gene—"

"You mean it was active even then?"

"Liz'beth, it's probably been active since Rodney activated the nanites to repair your injuries. You just had to learn to control it. Now consider that everything on Asuras—including the Replicators—is basically Ancient technology …"

"Oh my God."

He smiles at her stricken face as she stares at him in mute comprehension. "Oh yeah—it was like the most powerful Ancient possible suddenly appeared in their midst."

"Then why didn't I just ... take over?"

"Because you didn't know how or why you could do those things, and you didn't care. All you could think about was getting away from them … from Oberoth. I told you; you weren't exactly rational when we escaped." She feels the warmth of Kathryn's hand slip into her own as she steels herself against his quiet voice. "You were reliving that last nightmare over and over—watching John and Rodney burn … watching Teyla curling her body around Jinto trying to protect him from the flames." Elizabeth turns into Kathryn's embrace, her body shaking with the force of her tears as Sheppard continues quietly.

"We'd initially set course for Atlantis when we escaped, but after a particularly vivid episode, you just wanted to go home to your mother—to Earth. And in that split second, you ordered me to change course for Earth, and because our minds were so fully interconnected through the nanites, I obeyed instantly. By the time the alarms went off and the fail-safes tried to engage, it was too late; we'd already smashed into the hyperspace barrier, destabilizing the hyperspace window."

"Why?" Tom Paris asks curiously.

"Because you're not supposed to change course in hyperspace," he replies gently. "It's too dangerous, unless you really know what you're doing. You're supposed to drop out, recalculate your trajectory and then jump back in. All pilots are taught that."

Tom's voice is soft and compassionate. "But Dr. Weir wasn't a pilot."

"No she wasn't," Sheppard says with equal compassion in his voice. "The accident took us sort out of hyperspace and mired us in some weird plasma nexus phenomenon—moving us along what seemed to be the same trajectory we'd entered at, but it was like we were trying to move through molasses. I also determined that we had a small amount of hyperspace somehow wrapped around the ship like a cocoon, which seemed to buffer us against the energies in that place. However, with no reference for this phenomenon or any idea when it would end, and with Elizabeth's mental and physical state deteriorating, after ten days, my protection subroutines came into play, and my primary purpose switched to preserving her life for as long as possible."

"So you put her into stasis and hooked her mind up to a virtual world," Kathryn finishes as she gently strokes Elizabeth's hair.

"Yes. Anyway, at the end of it, we slammed through another hyperspace barrier, which nearly destroyed me, slagged my hyper-generator and compromised my environmental system. I had only five days of life support left, but I found that we were back in the Milky Way, and since Elizabeth knew that the Tau'ri still monitored the Ancient beacon frequencies, I activated an emergency beacon. But by the time my astrographic analysis determined that almost four hundred years had passed, and I realised that I wasn't picking up any of the usual transmissions or hyperspace activity, the Fen'Domar had found us. With my life support just hours from crapping out, I calculated that although they weren't Human, they were close enough physiologically, and advanced enough technologically that Elizabeth would have a greater chance of survival among them."

His last quiet words echo in her mind and she's distantly aware that her cries have grown louder, more hysterical and there's not a damn thing she can do about it but hold onto Kathryn while she screams.

… a greater chance of survival among them … a greater chance of survival among them … a greater chance …

She doesn't hear the hiss of the Doctor's hypospray. She doesn't hear when Kathryn calls for a site to site transport.

Part 6

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