DISCLAIMER: This Star Trek Voyager story utilizes characters that are copyright © by Paramount Pictures. No infringement on their respective copyrights is intended by the author in any way, shape or form. This is an original story. The story and non-trek characters belong to the author.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: A very heartfelt thank you to Pam, Beta Extraordinaire. Your expert help and untiring dedication to this story is greatly appreciated. Also thanks to Victoria, for listening to me talk incessantly about the story and characters. Your support means a lot to me. And to WW for her continued encouragement and support.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a sequel to my Star Trek Voyager Story, Unexpected Arrival. It takes place approximately ten months after the end of Unexpected Arrival.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Into the Void
By RJ Nolan
Del looked up when she heard Kara's acerbic tone of voice. She didn't know what was bothering the woman, but she had been taking it out on Annika all morning.
They had suffered another setback in the schedule to launch the new probe. Harry and B'Elanna were having some problems. But Del didn't think that was the cause of Kara's attitude. It had started last night.
She and Seven had been enjoying a late dinner when Kara returned to their cabin. Del had been blasted by her churning emotions the second she stepped in the door. Kara had not acknowledged either of their greetings and quickly shut herself in her room. Seven had attempted to talk to her friend, only to be sharply rebuffed.
Kara was so tightly withdrawn into herself Del wasn't able to sense any clear emotions from her. Del's anger grew as she watched Kara with Annika. Not only had the woman hurt Seven by her gruff rebuff of her concern, but now she was doing the same to Annika. She had no trouble at all sensing Annika's hurt at the woman's cold demeanor. It just didn't make any sense. They had been getting along so well and Del had been sure she sensed a developing attraction between the two women.
Letting her temper get the best of her, she called sharply to Kara, "Lieutenant Jarvis, I wish to speak to you, now!"
Kara walked over to Del her face stony. "Yes, Commander."
Del pointed toward the door. "Outside," she ordered. Del knew if they remained in the room Seven and Annika would be able to hear their conversation even from across the room. Seven glanced over at her in concern. Del smiled reassuringly before following Kara out of the room.
As soon as the door closed behind them Del confronted Kara. "I don't know what your problem is, but Annika is trying to help us. You will treat her with the respect and deference she deserves."
Kara's shoulders slumped and she was assailed by guilt. She had been treating Annika badly all morning. It wasn't Annika's fault that she was already involved with someone. She had been stupid to even think she had a chance with the woman. After all, look at Seven and the wonderful relationship she had with Del; of course Annika would find someone too. Although she had to admit part of her shock had been the fact that it had been a man. She had just assumed Annika would be interested in women like Seven was.
Del stood quietly and let Kara work out her emotions. The tight control she had been exerting over her emotions dropped and Del was able to sense her guilt and remorse as well as a large dose of sadness.
Kara looked up into Del's face expecting to see anger burning in her eyes. She was surprised by the calm, contemplative look on her face. Kara flushed when she remembered Del could read her emotions.
"You're right I apologize, Commander," Kara said.
"I'm not the one you owe an apology."
"I'll apologize immediately."
"Good. Let's get back to work," Del said offering a slight smile.
Del turned to head back into Astrometrics.
Del turned back to Kara.
Del smiled easily for the first time all morning. "You're welcome."
The rest of the morning had been much more relaxed. Kara had, as promised, apologized to not only Annika but also to Seven. Seven had taken the apology in stride, but Del thought Annika was going to fall over from the shock. An apology was obviously something she had never experienced. Kara had seemed to sense Annika's reaction as well, and had gone out of her way to try and repair the damage she had done to their developing friendship.
Del rubbed her grumbling stomach; it was definitely time to get something to eat. With the tension in their cabin that morning neither she nor Seven had eaten much breakfast. Kara had skipped it altogether.
"What do you say we take a break and get some lunch?"
Seven looked over at Del and smiled. She knew how grumpy her lover got when she was hungry. "Think this Voyager has grilled cheese sandwiches?" she asked as she made her way over to Del's side.
Del laughed and wrapped her arm around Seven, pulling her close. "I'm sure they do." Del glanced over at Annika when she sensed a surge of emotion from her. The woman was staring at her arm that was wrapped casually around Seven. She easily sensed her shock, but there was something else there that had been so fleeting she hadn't quite caught it.
Del smiled at the blond. "What do you say, Annika, would you join us for lunch?"
Annika hesitated; she wanted to go with them, but going to the mess hall was usually a very uncomfortable experience.
Del experienced a sense of déjà vu as she remembered the first time she invited Seven to go to lunch. Del smiled at Seven and nodded toward her counterpart. It only took her a second to get it.
"Come to lunch with us please," Seven invited Annika.
Annika nodded her acceptance.
"Come on, Kara. Let's get some lunch," Del called.
Kara never even looked up. "Thanks anyway, you go ahead," she said with a dismissive wave. She was engrossed in one of the probe's log files.
Seven walked over to Kara and bodily dragged her away from the console. Annika watched in total amazement, bracing herself for the woman's angry reaction; she would never have touched anyone so casually.
Kara laughed good-naturedly and followed her friend over to where Del and Annika waited.
Del could sense Annika's confusion at the interaction between Kara and Seven, although her expression never changed. When Seven reached Del, she linked her left arm through Del's and placed her mesh-covered hand on Del's forearm. Del felt Annika's outright shocked reaction. Del grinned and shook her head. Oh yeah, this is going to be a very interesting experience to say the least!
Del glanced around the still buzzing mess hall wondering if coming here had been such a good idea after all. Their entrance had caused quite a stir. This was the first time they had come into the mess hall since their arrival. Up until now, all their meals had been in their cabin. Conversation had ground to an immediate halt as every head turned to watch the group's progress across the room. Once they were seated at a four-man table the whispers all around them had started as everyone tried to get a good look at the newcomers, especially Seven. Del tried not to react to the lustful looks being sent Seven's way. After meeting Annika she now understood the crew's reaction to Seven.
"Kara, how about giving me a hand getting some lunch?" Del asked. "I see an open replicator."
Kara was very aware of the interest their arrival had stirred and just where most people's attention was centered. She felt very protective of her friend and Annika too.
"Sure," she said with a smile before turning to Annika. "What would you like for lunch?"
Annika looked at Kara strangely. "I will ingest my nutritional supplement," she said starting to rise.
Kara placed her hand gently on Annika's shoulder, keeping her in place. "It's okay. Stay here. I'd be more than happy to get whatever you want."
Annika's eyes widened in surprise at the woman's casual touch.
Seven seemed to sense her counterpart's astonishment at Kara's touch. She remembered well how shocking it was when Del first touched her in such a friendly manner. It had taken some time for her to grow used to someone not recoiling at her touch or touching her.
"Would you like to try a grilled cheese sandwich?" Seven asked Annika. "They're my favorite. Or do you have a favorite food we could try?"
Annika turned her attention to Seven. "You eat regular food, not the nutritional shakes the doctor prescribed?"
Seven's nose wrinkled up in disgust. She had tried the shake after her taste buds had begun to function again. As several people had attempted to tell her it was truly revolting.
Seven shook her head. "Not any more. I prefer the different options offered by the replicator."
Annika regarded her counterpart curiously. "Doesn't everything taste the same kind of bland?" she asked quietly, hoping not to offend.
Seven smiled brightly at Del before turning back to Annika. "It used to until I tried grilled cheese sandwiches and chips. After that, things started to taste different. Didn't they, Del?"
Del's eyes grew wide when she realized what Seven wanted her to do. She shook her head slightly; this was not a good idea.
Seven looked at Del beseechingly. Seven was thrilled that she could offer something to her counterpart that she had never experienced. Despite the difference in appearance, Seven felt that Annika was very like she had been before Del came into her life.
Del sighed in defeat; she couldn't resist the pleading look in Seven's eyes. She tipped her head slightly acknowledging her silent request.
Seven beamed at her spouse. "We'll all have grilled cheese okay?"
Annika looked unconvinced, but nodded. Kara had watched the strange interaction between Del and Seven. She felt like a conversation had just taken place that she wasn't privy to.
Smiling at her friend, Kara acquiesced. "Sounds good to me."
Annika watched fascinated as Seven took a big bite of her sandwich then hummed in pleasure. She stared down at the food in front of her, but still hesitated. At the doctor's insistence she tried several different foods and found them all disappointing. Except for the texture they were just like her shake.
"Give it a try," Seven insisted gently, sparing a quick glance at Del to make sure she was ready.
Del hoped she wouldn't end up regretting what she was about to do. She quickly took a bite of her sandwich and got the taste firmly set in her mind.
Annika picked up the sandwich and took a tentative bite. Her eyes widened in surprise when the taste hit her tongue and she immediately took a second larger bite.
"This is good!"
As had been the case with Seven when she experienced her first real taste of food, Annika's voice carried a trace of emotion for the first time.
"Try the chips," Seven urged.
Annika picked up a chip and took a big bite.
"Like it?" Seven asked.
Before she could respond a very familiar voice interrupted.
"What are you doing here, Annika?"
Del and Seven both jerked at the voice and looked up into the sneering face of Ensign Daniels.
Annika hastily swallowed her chip. "These are the people from the shuttle we rescued."
Daniels glanced around the table dismissively until his eyes landed on Seven. "Well, well what do we have here," Daniels said with a leer. He had heard rumors about Annika's counterpart, but had assumed they were exaggeration. He had never thought of Annika as beautiful. She was just convenient. But this Seven, she was gorgeous. He felt himself grow hard when his eyes locked on her breasts displayed prominently by the tight suit she wore. He had never really paid that much attention to the suit Annika wore under her coverall. He knew Annika's breasts were large but damn, seeing them displayed like that wow.
Del ground her teeth when a surge of lust rolled off the Ensign as he leered at Seven. She barely resisted the urge to knock the leer right off his face.
"This is a private lunch, Ensign. What do you want?" Del growled.
"It's Lieutenant. And what's it to you? I just stopped by to see my girlfriend," he said arrogantly, placing his hands familiarly on Annika's shoulder.
It took all Del's self restraint to keep from pulling his hands off Annika. She could feel Seven's and Kara's seething anger and fought to control herself.
Del stood up. "That's Commander to you. Now was there something else you wanted?"
He had been so busy ogling Seven he had forgotten that one of the strangers was a Commander. Daniel attempted to curb his attitude; he knew how to play the game and challenging a Commander, even if she wasn't from this ship, was not a good idea.
"Commander," he said, seemingly politely, but his tone conveyed how he really felt.
He gazed once more at Seven, then turned his attention to Annika. "I'll be at your quarters at 1930; be there."
Without a further word he walked away, but not before Annika and Seven heard him mutter. "Arrogant bitch," under his breath.
Annika watched Bud walk away. She was surprised that he would be returning to her quarters so soon. He normally showed up about once a week. He had been there just last night.
Three pair of stunned eyes turned to Annika as the mess hall doors closed behind Daniels.
Annika looked at her tablemates curiously. "Do you know Lieutenant Daniels on your Voyager?"
"Yes, we know him," Seven said angrily. She couldn't believe that her counterpart could be involved with someone like that! "He "
"His counterpart is an Ensign on our ship," Del interrupted, cutting Seven off. She knew she was about to tell Annika about their Daniels. That had been Del's first inclination, but this was not their Daniels and he might not be the same type of person. Although, with the way he had leered at Seven she had her doubts.
Del looked at Seven and Kara and shook her head, warning them off from telling Annika anything else. Seven glared at Del.
Kara felt her stomach roll. She was sick at the thought of Annika being with Daniels. Why him of all people? Seven had told her exactly what had happened in the cargo bay between them. The man was very bad news. He had only been out of the brig a few weeks after completing his sentence for molesting Seven when he had landed right back in again and remained there. The story had quickly spread all over the ship. Daniels had been tampering with ship's sensors in an attempt to hide his activities even before being caught attacking Seven. He had been stealing their already limited supplies and stockpiling them. After Daniels was released from the brig, Tuvok had monitored his actions. He stopped him from stealing a shuttle loaded with the purloined supplies and deserting. Kara personally thought Janeway should have beamed him down to the nearest planet and good riddance.
She shook away the disturbing thoughts and asked the question that was on all their minds. "Have you been involved with Daniels long?" Maybe this was something new and Annika just hadn't realized what he was capable of.
"Almost a year," Annika said.
Del's heart sank. Annika must have become involved with Daniels around the same time she had appeared on Voyager and become involved with Seven. She had felt bad for her counterpart when she learned the woman had not survived. Now she felt horrible maybe if her counterpart had survived Annika wouldn't be involved with Daniels. Then again maybe she would. All things were possible in an alternate universe. That fact had been driven home to her by the differences between Seven and Annika.
It was soon obvious everyone had lost interest in lunch.
"Why don't we head back to Astrometrics," Del said.
She stood and began collecting the trays to return to the replicator. That's when she saw it. Seven's metal plate was a crumpled mess. Del could clearly see the impression of Seven's fingers in the mangled plate. She met Seven's regretful expression. Del quickly placed her tray over Seven's before anyone else noticed. She knew how much it bothered Seven when she lost control. In this case, she really couldn't blame her; she was still reeling from the shock of not only running into Daniels, but also finding out he was in a relationship with Annika.
Concerned about her wife and not thinking about where they were Del leaned down. "Don't worry about it," she whispered before placing a soft kiss on Seven's lips.
The blast of emotion from Annika reminded her they had an audience. Del stood and smiled at the stunned woman.
Del and Kara quickly cleaned up and they all headed back to work. The revelation of Annika's relationship was foremost in all three women's thoughts.
Annika flinched when the chime to her door sounded. She had never particularly enjoyed Bud's visits. It had not been so bad in the beginning. They used to go to dinner and to social events with the crew, but that had not lasted long. Bud became upset when she didn't act in a manner he considered appropriate. It eventually reached the point where he only came to her cabin when he wished to copulate. Having nothing to compare it to, Annika assumed that was what a relationship was like, but lately it was getting harder to accept.
She would have stopped long before this, except for one thing. Captain Janeway had been thrilled for her when Bud asked her out and they began dating. That was the one exception Bud made to their going out; they always attended events together if Captain Janeway was going to be present. The captain always greeted them and expressed her happiness at seeing them together. After the first time it happened, she had decided she would do whatever was necessary not to disappoint the Captain. She owed the woman more than she could ever repay.
Bud had made it very clear from the beginning what a sacrifice he was making by caring about her. Annika had always believed him. But now that she had seen how Seven and Del were together, she was seriously questioning her relationship with him.
Bowing to the inevitable she touched the release for the door.
"Get that off," Bud said, cutting her off and pushing his way into the cabin. He reached out and grabbed the front of her coverall and began to tug. He had been thinking about how Seven looked in her tight outfit all afternoon and wanted to see if Annika really looked the same.
He grinned lecherously when Annika stood before him in her biosuit. Oh yeah. "Turn around," he commanded.
Annika's eyebrow rose in surprise. "Do you not wish to go into the bedroom?"
Daniels grabbed her arm and pushed her toward the counter near the replicator. She didn't have a table just a small breakfast bar with two stools. He pulled out one of the stools.
"Turn around and face the counter."
Annika stiffened when she felt his fingers grasp the catch to her biosuit, but didn't protest. She couldn't help jumping a bit when he spread the back wide.
"Bend over " he ordered pushing on her back. "Oh .yeah," he groaned. "Now don't move."
Annika closed her eyes at the sound of his zipper being lowered. She grasped the counter tightly as he moved into position behind her. Hopefully, it would be over quickly.
Kara sat at the workstation in her quarters going over some data they had garnered from the probe. Everyone had been pretty subdued after the events in the mess hall. Annika had left immediately after shift ended. Kara wanted to follow her but had refrained. She had returned to the cabin with Del and Seven and shared a quiet dinner. They had talked about what they had learned at lunch. Seven was all for informing Annika about their Daniels. Del explained to them why that wasn't appropriate. She reminded them that no matter how much they all hated Daniels, Annika had been involved with him for quite some time and they had no real idea what their relationship was like. Kara didn't agree, but Del was her superior officer so she had no choice but to go along.
Kara looked up from her pad with a start when the door chimed. "Yes, what can I do for you?" she called. The door wasn't locked so pressing the chime would activate the com.
Annika didn't know why she had come here. Bud had left quickly after he had taken what he wanted. He hadn't even stay for his usual drink. He had been rough in the past, but nothing like tonight. She shifted her weight and winced at the tender flesh between her legs. As soon as he left, she fled from the cabin and came here to see her counterpart.
Unsure now of her reception, she was having second thoughts. Before she could make up her mind what to do, the door slid open.
Kara's eyes widened when she saw Annika outside the door in a biosuit like Seven normally wore; there was no sign of her usual coverall. More concerning was the fact that the woman actually looked upset. The hair around her face was damp with perspiration and her face was very flushed.
"Annika, come in please. Is everything alright?" Kara said, stepping back so she could enter.
"Is Seven here?"
"No, I'm sorry. She and Del are in the cargo bay. Seven needed to regenerate."
Annika had actually forgotten. Seven had told her earlier that she needed to regenerate. It was a measure of how upset she was; she never forgot anything.
"I will go," Annika said turning to leave.
"Wait, Annika, please don't go." Taking a chance, Kara reached out and laid a gentle hand on Annika's arm. "Is there something I can do?"
Annika looked directly at Kara for the first time. She could see the genuine concern in her eyes. She didn't know how but some how she knew she could trust this woman. And she desperately needed someone to talk to.
She nodded and allowed Kara to lead her over to the couch. She couldn't hold back a wince as she sat down. Now that she was here she wasn't sure what to say.
Kara had seen the flash of what looked like pain cross Annika's face and her concern ratcheted up a notch. They sat in silence for several long minutes. Kara sighed mentally when she realized Annika wasn't going to say anything.
"Did something happen tonight?" Kara asked gently.
"Do you copulate?"
Kara's mouth fell open in shock. Say what? "Huh?"
"Do you copulate with someone on your Voyager?"
Kara was totally confused, but decided to go with the flow hoping she would figure out what was going on later.
"Um no. I'm not involved with anyone."
Kara's confusion deepened when Annika's disappointment was almost palpable. Not knowing why, she never told anyone of her past, she found herself expanding on her answer.
"I was involved with someone, but that was before I was assigned to Voyager. I've never been in a relationship with anyone on Voyager."
"Did you copulate?"
Kara winced at the harsh word. "No, we didn't." Seeing Annika's reaction, she quickly added, "but we did make love."
Annika cocked her head curiously. She had heard the term before but never understood what it meant.
Kara stared at her incredulously for several seconds. She was involved in a relationship, how could she not know what making love was? Then again, she was involved with Daniels, which could explain a lot. Her eyes narrowed when she remembered Daniels ordering Annika to be in her quarters tonight. That bastard, if he hurt her, I'll kill him.
Kara jerked her attention back to Annika's question. "Sorry. Making love is what two people who love each other do. Copulating is what animals do. Well, people can too, but most people prefer to be in a loving relationship with someone who truly cares about them."
"Did you love the person you copu made love with?
Kara felt a rush of emotion at the thought of Maria. Her protective instincts kicked in, and she pushed the painful memories aside. She looked at Annika intent on cutting off this line of questioning, but one look into her trusting blue eyes and she couldn't do it.
"Yes, I loved her."
Annika shook her head regretfully. "I am not capable of love."
"That's not true. You just need to find the right person," Kara protested. And Daniels sure as hell isn't that person.
"I am Borg."
"No, you're a human with Borg implants. Look at Seven. Do you see her as a Borg?"
"No," Annika answered immediately.
"You're her counterpart, Annika. You're just as human as she is. You've seen her and Del together. Does Del treat Seven like she thinks she's a Borg?"
Annika thought back to all the caring touches she had witnessed between the two woman and to the gentle kiss she had seen them share in the mess hall. She shook her head.
"That's right, and have any of us ever treated you like we think you're a Borg?"
Again Annika didn't hesitate. "No. Never."
Kara, answering the call of her heart, reached out and gently took Annika's hand, clasping it between both of hers. "That's because you're not a Borg. You are a very beautiful, intelligent woman."
Annika looked down at her hand resting between Kara's and felt a strange thrill. She looked up and saw only truth and sincerity in the woman's eyes. Feeling a strange heat suffuse her face she looked away then back again unable to resist the pull she felt toward Kara.
Taking a chance, Kara broached the earlier subject. "What happened tonight before you came here?"
Annika shook her head. "It doesn't matter."
Kara looked into Annika's vivid blue eyes and saw the pain she was trying so hard to hide.
"It matters to me. If someone has upset you or hurt you, it matters, very much. You matter," Kara stated with conviction.
Annika stared into Kara's concerned hazel eyes. She gulped, surprised to feel a tear forming in her human eye as the memories of earlier assailed her. Her hand slid between her legs and cupped her tender sex protectively.
"Bud came to my cabin tonight he he hurt me," Annika stammered.
Bud, who the hell's Bud? Kara's anger soared when realization struck. "Daniels?"
Kara jumped to her feet as a blinding rage swept through her. "That bastard! I'll kill him!" she snarled.
"No, it was not his fault. I am not normal he..." Tears began to leak down one side of Annika's face.
Seeing Annika's hand pressed between her legs, Kara forced herself to be calm and sat back down next to her. She wasn't helping her like this, and Annika needed her help, not her anger.
"Do you need to go to sickbay?" she questioned gently. Annika shook her head. "Are you sure he hurt you you should " Kara stopped mid-protest when Annika shook her head adamantly. The last thing she wanted to do was upset her further.
Going on the instinctive need to comfort her, Kara reached out and tenderly cupped Annika's cheek, gently wiping away her tears with her thumb. She watched the woman's eyes widen. Worried she had gone too far, she started to withdraw. Before she could move, she felt Annika leaned into her touch. She smiled and softly stroked Annika's cheek.
Annika shivered at the sensations the gentle touch evoked.
Kara reluctantly removed her hand from Annika's face. She met Annika's eyes, holding her gaze. "Tell me what happened."
Annika nodded. "Bud came to my cabin like he usually does "
Kara fought to control her rage as the story of the evening's events unfolded. The worse part was the fact Annika made excuses for what the bastard had done. She blamed herself repeatedly insisting that she wasn't normal. Kara's wrath at what Daniels had done warred with her pain at how Annika had been abused.
"Then he zipped up his pants and left. He was meeting some friends," Annika concluded.
That bastard, I'm going to space him out the nearest airlock! "Annika, what he did to you was horribly wrong. Someone who cares about you would never treat you that way. He's just using you."
"I never really liked it, but he said it was part of all normal relationships. And Captain Janeway was so excited when I started dating him. I did not wish to disappoint her," Annika tried to explain.
"Did you try to talk to her after you started umm sleeping with him?"
"You mean copulating?"
Kara winced. "Yeah."
"Once but she did not give me a chance to explain. She just told me how proud of me she was that I had fully regained my humanity and integrated so well with the crew. After that, I did not spend as much time with her as I used to. The captain insisted it was important I spent time with Daniels and my friends, that I have a life of my own."
Kara could see that Janeway wanted for Annika what she herself didn't have: a relationship and a personal life aboard the ship. She knew how isolated and lonely Janeway must be with the distance she insisted in keeping from the crew. In that, she was sure, she was just like their Janeway. Kara shook her head in disgust, how could the woman be so blind.
"Captain Janeway would never want you to stay in a relationship with someone who was hurting you."
"But he really didn't hurt me that much before it was just very uncomfortable, until tonight. He forgot the lubricant."
Kara couldn't believe Annika was still making excuses for the slime. "She wouldn't want you to be with someone who didn't really care for you either. From what you've told me, there is no way he could care about you. You don't treat someone you care about the way he does you." Kara really didn't want to ask this next question but knew she had to. "Do you care for him, Annika are you in love with him?"
Annika shook her head adamantly. "No. I only agreed to go out with him because that is what I had been told I was supposed to do That's what humans do."
"Oh, Annika." Kara's heart was breaking for her. She had gone though so much in a misguided attempt to please Janeway and appear more human. She could only imagine what kind of lies Daniels had been telling her.
"Everyone longs for that special person to share their life with. But it has to be someone you develop strong feelings for emotionally, as well as physically. That person should feel just as strongly about you. Not be some guy who is just using you for sex."
"You do not think Captain Janeway would be upset if I stopped copulating with him?" Annika asked hopefully.
"No. I am positive she wouldn't be. You deserve someone who loves you, for who you are."
Kara watched as a wave of what could only be relief crossed Annika's face.
Annika allowed a sense of hope to flourish. Even though she knew it wasn't possible for someone to actually love her, at least now, she could stop feeling guilty that she was such a failure at her relationship with Bud. According to Kara, it was Bud that was the problem not her; she believed her.
Kara's heart fluttered in her chest when a shy smile appeared on Annika's face.
"Thank you," Annika said.
Unable to resist, Kara reached out and again gently cupped Annika's face. She smiled when Annika leaned into the touch immediately.
"I am so sorry that you got hurt. I wish I had been here before you ever got involved with him. You deserve the best Annika. Never doubt that."
Annika felt very strange. Her heart was beating rapidly and she felt an unusual tingling sensation where Kara's hand rested on her face. She lost herself in the woman's warm hazel eyes.
Kara started to lean forward, intent on Annika's soft lips. She caught herself and pulled back abruptly. What's the hell's that matter with you! After all she's gone through tonight, you're going to try and kiss her, she berated herself.
Annika saw something pass across Kara's face, and then the woman pulled away. She felt a sense of disappointment flash through her at the woman's withdrawal, but she didn't know why. All her insecurities came flooding back.
"I should go. I have taken enough of your time."
Kara started to panic. What if Daniels came back? "Don't go. You can stay here tonight."
The implant over Annika's eye shot up. She had never spent the night with anyone.
"You can take my room. I'll sleep on the couch. I don't want to you to be alone in your quarters tonight."
Annika sighed sadly. "I do not sleep," she admitted.
Kara thought quickly. She remembered talking with Seven about this very thing. "Have you ever tried?"
Annika nodded. "I was unsuccessful."
Kara could see how much it bothered Annika. "Seven had the same problem at first. It took her a number of tries to sleep."
Annika looked skeptical.
Deciding on a different track, Kara tried again. "You don't have to try to sleep if you don't want to. We could just work on the probe files if you wanted."
"What about Del and Seven?" Annika knew the three shared quarters.
"They would want you to stay here too." Kara reached out and gently stroked Annika's arm. "Please "
Annika felt that same strange tingling on her arm as she had when Kara touched her face. She found herself nodding yes without even being aware of it.
Kara smiled brightly. "Great! Come over to the desk and I'll show you what I found this afternoon."
Annika rose and willingly followed Kara over to the computer console.
Kara looked up when the door slid open and Seven and Del walked in. She and Annika sat together on the couch working on the data pad Annika had in her hand.
"Hi," she greeted her roommates.
Del and Seven stared at Annika in surprise. She was not only sitting close to Kara, but she was also wearing a silver biosuit identical to the one Seven had worn when she first arrived on Voyager.
Annika wondered at their reaction. She looked down and realized that she was dressed in just her biosuit. She had been so upset when she fled her cabin, she had forgotten her coverall. She crossed her arms over the front of her body, immediately uncomfortable.
"I will go," she said.
Kara placed a hand on Annika's arm gently restraining her. "No, please don't go." She ran her hand gently up and down Annika's forearm, until she felt the tense muscles under her hand relax.
Annika glanced at Kara and smiled hesitantly, but made no further attempt to get up.
Del was still having trouble believing what she was seeing. It had never dawned on Del that Annika had to wear a biosuit, but it made sense.
"No need to go. You're welcome here any time," Del assured. She didn't know what it was, but she could sense a closeness between the two women that had not been there before. She noticed Annika's easy acceptance of Kara's touch. Her curiosity was killing her, but she didn't want to interrupt whatever was happening between the two.
Seven was happy to see her counterpart with Kara. She had been shocked and angered by the events in the mess hall. Originally, she had been very angry at Del for not letting her tell Annika about Daniels, but when she had explained her reasons Seven had reluctantly agreed. She could almost sense the connection between the two women. Something had happened between the two while she was regenerating; she was sure of it.
Before Seven could begin to assuage her curiosity she felt Del's arm wrap around her shoulders.
"Well, if you two will excuse us, Seven and I are going to call it a night." It really was late and while Del knew Seven wasn't tired after just regenerating; she wanted to give Kara as much time alone with Annika as she could. "Come on, love," she urged Seven.
Seven opened her mouth to protest but caught a pleading look from her friend. Sighing in frustration, she followed her wife's urging and turned toward the bedroom.
Kara threw a grateful look at Del. Del smiled before walking away with Seven.
Annika watched them go before turning to Kara. "Do you not wish to sleep as well? It is late."
"No, I'd much rather stay here with you," Kara answered honestly.
A faint ghost of a smile lit Annika's face. The two women turned happily back to the pad they had been working on.
Seven gazed lovingly at the blond head resting comfortably on her chest. She reached down and gently stroked her fingers across Del's temple and into her hair. Del murmured in her sleep and pressed closer. Seven didn't need to sleep after regenerating, but she always went to bed with Del anyway. She enjoyed the chance to watch her sleep and just soak up her presence, even if she wasn't awake.
Seven glanced toward the closed bedroom door. Annika and Kara's voices had stopped several hours ago. She eased out from under Del, careful not to awaken her; it was still very early. Del grumbled in her sleep at the loss of her lover's warmth. Seven slid her pillow into Del's arms and leaned down to place a soft kiss on her lips before quietly slipping from the room.
Seven stopped in the doorway, surprised to find her counterpart present. She had not expected her to stay the night. Annika was sitting at the computer console, but her gaze was focused on the living room. Seven, curious as to what had attracted her attention glanced into the living room. Kara was curled up on the couch, sound asleep.
Making her way over to Annika, Seven stopped next to the desk. "Good morning," she said quietly.
Annika jumped; she had been so busy watching Kara sleep she hadn't heard Seven approach. When Kara's voice had trailed off mid-sentence last night, it had taken Annika awhile to realize she was asleep. Although she knew she should leave and return to her own cabin, for reasons she couldn't explain, she had felt compelled to stay. She had gone over to the desk where the computer console was, but found herself unable to concentrate. She was still trying to work through the strange feelings Kara evoked when Seven startled her.
"Hi," she greeted just a bit shyly.
Although they had worked together for several days, Annika had not had any one-on-one interaction with her counterpart outside of a work setting.
Seven motioned Annika over to the dining room table. She wanted to talk and didn't want to disturb Kara.
"Is everything alright?" Seven asked as soon as they were seated.
Annika looked at her quizzically.
"You seemed upset when we came in last night," Seven prompted.
Annika couldn't resist a quick look over at Kara. She wasn't even aware of the slight smile that graced her face.
"No, I am fine."
Seven caught the look on Annika's face as she gazed at Kara and grinned. Hopefully, Annika wasn't too serious about Daniels. It sure didn't seem like it from their interaction in the mess hall. She couldn't help shuddering at the thought of them together. Maybe, with just a little push, she would consider other options
"She likes you."
Annika's brow furrowed. "Who?"
"Kara likes you."
"I like her. You and Del too."
Seven shook her head. "We like you too, but Kara likes you as more than a friend." Knowing what a private person Kara was, she hoped her friend would understand and not be angry with her for telling Annika. She just hated the thought of her with Daniels and knew he couldn't possibly appreciate her like Kara would.
Annika's eyebrow shot up. She looked over at the figure on the couch again, her mind whirling.
Seeing the shocked look on Annika's face, Seven thought maybe Del was right. "Two people of the same gender can make love, like a man and a woman do," Seven informed Annika.
Annika looked at Seven in surprise. "Of course."
It was Seven's turn to be surprised. How was it her counterpart knew about same-sex relationships when she hadn't? And if she knew then that meant
"You are only attracted to men?" Seven asked, unable to hide her disappointment.
"I have never been attracted to anyone."
Seven was totally confused. "But you and Daniels?" Maybe this conversation wasn't such a good idea after all.
"He is of no consequence. I no longer wish to copulate with him," Annika stated firmly. She didn't want to talk about him. As far as she was concerned, it was over and done with now that she was confident Captain Janeway wouldn't be upset. She was much more interested in the revelation about Kara.
"How did you feel when you first met Del?" Annika interrupted.
Seven blinked at the rapid change in subject. Confused, but happy with her counterpart's decision, she turned her thoughts to those early days with Del.
"It was amazing, thrilling, and scary all at the same time. I had never felt so comfortable with someone in all my time onboard Voyager. I enjoyed just being in the same room with her. Whenever she touched me, I felt this strange tingling sensation.
That got Annika's attention. She had never experienced anything similar to what she did last night when Kara touched her. Daniels' touch had never caused such strange sensations.
"Touched you how?"
"It didn't matter. If she just touched my arm or my face it tingled." Seeing the intent look of interest on Annika's face Seven continued, "the first time we kissed I thought my implants were malfunctioning. It felt incredible."
"What about when you copulate, does it hurt?"
"What? No, of course not," Seven said, her shock apparent. "Del would never hurt me." Seven met Annika's eyes squarely wanting to make sure she understood. "Del and I have never copulated. We make love because we love each other very much."
Annika stared at her counterpart incredulously. "You love her?"
"With all my heart," Seven vowed fervently, "and she loves me."
Annika felt a flash of what could only be envy. She thought back on what Kara had said the night before. If Seven could love Del maybe, just maybe, she could love someone too. But the real question was, could anyone love her? Her gaze was once again drawn to the woman on the couch and she wondered
Seeing where Annika's eyes were once again locked, Seven smiled.
"You are attracted to her?"
Annika looked back at Seven, the uncertainty obvious in her eyes. "I do not know," she admitted. "I have never experienced the strange feelings I do when I am around her."
Seven's smile widened as Annika explained what she had experienced the past few days and last night with Kara. She still hadn't found out just what had prompted Annika to come to their cabin in the first place, or what had caused her to suddenly end her relationship with Daniels. What was more important to her was what seemed to be happening between the two women.
Annika looked over at Seven beseechingly when she finished. "Is that attraction?"
Seven only had her own experience to go on, but figured since Annika was her double, the feelings were most likely the same.
"I can only tell you that what you described is very similar to what I felt when I started seeing Del."
A hopeful smile spread across Annika's face. "What should I do?"
Seven grinned as she began to work out a strategy with her counterpart. She was so happy at the thought of being able to help Annika experience what she had with Del that she never gave a thought to how it would affect Annika when Kara along with herself and Del eventually returned to their own universe.
Del stretched, then frowned when her hand encountered empty space. She opened her eyes and found Seven gone. Glancing at the chronometer, she saw how early it was; she didn't need to be up for almost an hour. The sheets on the other side of the bed were cold so Seven must have gotten up awhile ago. Pushing back the covers, she went in search of her missing lover.
Del stepped quietly into the living area. A quick glance around showed Kara asleep on the couch, and Seven and Annika sitting at the dining room table. Their blond heads were close together and they were so intent on their conversation they had not noticed her arrival. Del could sense the intense emotions of the two women, the most prominent being excitement. Curious what the women were talking about, she made her way over to the table.
"Good morning, ladies," she greeted quietly.
Both women jumped. Seven looked up at Del innocently, but Del wasn't buying it for a second. Seven radiated a sense of pleased satisfaction. She wondered just what her wife had been up to.
"I should go," Annika said regretfully, not wanting to intrude on the two women now that Del was awake.
Del sensed Annika's sudden change in emotion. She smiled at her. "Don't leave on my account. Why don't you stay and have some breakfast with us?"
Annika's eyes met Del's and saw nothing but warmth and friendliness. She glanced at Seven, who smiled back and nodded her head.
She hadn't thought about it earlier when Seven joined her, but seeing Del in her pajamas reminded Annika that she was still only wearing her biosuit. After Seven and Del went to bed last night the discomfort of being seen in the tight suit had dissipated. For some reason that she couldn't explain, it didn't bother her for Kara to see her.
Del wondered at the sudden surge of discomfort she got from Annika. She had originally picked up her pleasure at the invitation. Seeing Annika put her arms in front of her body Del realized what the problem was.
She smiled down at Annika. "I hope you don't mind if we're in our pajamas?" she asked. "It's not like you haven't seen them before," Del teased.
Annika glanced up at Del surprised when she recognized the teasing tone in her voice. It was something she wasn't used to. The pajamas they were wearing were much more revealing than the normal outfits they wore. Feeling more at ease, and knowing that Seven wore her biosuit in front of everyone, all the time, she relaxed and dropped her arms to her side.
"I do not mind," she finally answered Del.
"Great. I'll go wake up the lump," she said with a laugh, glancing over at Kara, "then make us some breakfast."
Before Del could turn away Annika quickly stood up. "I'll wake her," she volunteered just a bit hesitantly. Annika looked over at Seven seeking her support.
Seven smiled at her and nodded encouragingly.
Seeing the silent interaction between the two women, and the pleased look on her spouse's face, Del once again wondered just what she had been up to. She would definitely have to talk to her later.
"Sure, go ahead. I'll start breakfast."
Seeing the look on Del's face, Seven hoped she would not be upset with what she had done. Smiling brightly at her, Seven got up and approached her wife.
"I'll help," she said before placing a warm kiss on Del's lips.
Annika watched in fascination as Del's arms wrapped around Seven and drew her close as the kiss intensified. It was so gentle, so different from what she had experienced. Realizing that she was staring, she turned away and made her way over to the couch.
Annika stared down into Kara's sleeping face. She was a bit unsure of how exactly to awaken her. Kara was the first person she had ever seen sleep.
"Kara," she called softly.
Annika waited for a bit, but got no response. She glanced back toward Seven and Del, seeking help. They were both involved in breakfast preparation and didn't notice.
She took a deep breath, trying to work up her nerve. After Kara fell asleep Annika had wondered what it would be like to touch the red-head. It had felt so incredible when Kara touched her face. Giving into temptation, she reached down and gently ran the thumb of her human hand back and forth across Kara's scarred cheek.
"Kara," she called again softly.
Kara's sleepy eyes slowly fluttered open. Not quite awake, she leaned into the soft touch on her face. She smiled sweetly and brought her hand up to hold Annika's in place against her face.
"Annika," she murmured huskily, losing herself in the vivid blue eyes above her.
Annika's fingers tingled where they rested on Kara's face. Time seemed to stand still as she lost herself in warm hazel eyes. She was unconsciously drawn closer.
"Hey, you two! Breakfast is ready," Del called without even looking over, totally unaware of what she had interrupted.
Both women jumped at the sound of Del's voice. Kara flushed when she realized she had Annika's hand pressed tightly to her face and immediately released her hand.
Annika felt a wave of rejection at Kara withdrawal. She jerked her hand back as if burnt, fearing the woman was revolted by her touch. She turned away, ready to bolt.
Kara saw the quick flash of rejection that passed over Annika's features before she turned away and cursed herself. She quickly jumped off the couch and placed her hand on Annika's shoulder.
Annika turned back, but refused to meet Kara's eyes.
Kara, taking a chance, reached out and placed her fingers under Annika's chin. She gently tipped her head up until their eyes met.
"I'm really sorry I fell asleep last night." Kara slid her hand down Annika's arm and carefully clasped her gloved hand. She could feel the mesh that covered the implant through the glove. Refusing to let go when she felt Annika stiffen, she was determined to let the woman know she was not rejecting her touch. "I'm very glad you stayed."
"You are?" Annika asked with a hint of hope in her voice.
"Yes, I am," Kara assured with a smile, instinctively stepping closer.
Del looked up and her eyes widened. Kara had Annika's hand clasp in hers and it looked as if the two were about to kiss. Sensing a strong surge of satisfaction, she glanced over to find Seven watching the two women. Not wanting to intrude, Del urged Seven over to the table and breakfast. Kara and Annika would join them when they were ready.
Kara fought the urge to give into her desire and taste Annika's lips. Knowing that wasn't possible, she carefully stepped back but kept their hands clasped together.
"Come on. Let's get some breakfast. Del makes great pancakes," she said tugging gently on Annika's hand.
Annika was a bit bewildered by the strange sensations coursing through her body, but followed Kara willingly.
They had gone over and over the data from the probe. While they had not been able to discover what caused the probe to explode, Harry had found something startling. Doing a spectrographic analysis on the data the probe sent back just before it was destroyed showed what appeared to be, for lack of a better term, a void at the center of the nebula.
B'Elanna had postulated if they could send a probe directly into the center of that void with enough velocity they might avoid it being destroyed before they saw what, if anything, was on the other side. Harry and B'Elanna had modified the engine of the probe to increase its power. Since it was the last probe in Voyager's inventory, to increase the chance of success, it was decided that they had to be closer to the void before releasing the probe. That required Voyager to go into the nebula.
B'Elanna looked down at Captain Janeway, seated in the center chair.
"Expansion wave is dissipating. We need to go in NOW!" B'Elanna said.
"Tom take us in," Janeway ordered.
Tom's fingers flashed over the controls and Voyager moved into the nebula.
Janeway looked back at B'Elanna.
"Almost there..." B'Elanna's eyes were glued to the screen at the science station. She reached out and quickly hit the launch button. "Probe away."
"Get us out of here, Tom," Janeway ordered urgently.
"Expansion wave beginning to peak," Harry warned. They had been monitoring the nebula continuously since the loss of the shuttle and had discovered the waves were starting to come at closer intervals.
Voyager raced for the outer boundary of the nebula.
"Here it comes," Harry called out stridently.
Voyager rocked as the gravimetric shear caused by the expanding nebula hit. Several people where thrown roughly to the floor as alarms blared.
Tom hung on for dear life as he struggled to guide Voyager to safety.
"Damage report," Janeway ordered as the ship came to a full stop outside the nebula.
"Minimal damage, shields down to 80%," Tuvok said.
"B'Elanna, what have we got?"
"Data coming in now. Putting it on-screen "
All eyes turned to the main viewscreen. It showed the probe speeding toward the dark void.
B'Elanna cringed when the image suddenly distorted then went black. That was exactly what happened prior to the first probe exploding.
"Probe just accelerated," B'Elanna said, the confusion apparent in her voice. She already had the probe at its maximum speed.
Several people gasped when the screen cleared and a dark void with a few scattered stars appeared. The image changed again almost immediately and the probe was back in the nebula.
Janeway turned and looked at her chief engineer. "B'Elanna?"
B'Elanna shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. It went through the center; I'm sure of it." She quickly scanned the nebula. "Probe is not registering on our sensors."
"Look," Tom called drawing everyone's attention back to the screen.
The probe was picking up something at the extreme limit of its sensors. It looked like a large mass, but the image was too fuzzy to decipher just what it was.
"Can you move in closer to that object, B'Elanna?" Janeway asked.
"Adjusting the probe's trajectory now."
The screen suddenly went black.
"What happened?" Janeway demanded.
B'Elanna cursed under her breath as she scrambled to try and pick up the probe's signal again.
"I lost the signal. Probe is no longer transmitting."
In a rare display of frustration in front of her crew, Janeway slammed her hand into the armrest of her chair.
"Harry, get down to Astrometrics and help Doyle enhance those last images. I want to know what that object was," Janeway ordered.
Harry hurried off the bridge to carry out the Captain's orders.
Janeway rose from her chair. "Chakotay, you have the bridge." Without another word, she disappeared into her ready room.
Chakotay sighed as the door to Janeway's ready room closed behind her. This was pointless, the three women were dead. Even if they had managed to pass through the void there was no way the shuttle could survive the repeated battering by the gravimetric waves.
After breakfast the women had retired to their respective rooms to get dressed. Since it was still early and they had some time before they were due on duty, Kara had asked Annika to stay and help her brief Del and Seven. She had been filling the women in on what she had found yesterday and the theory she and Annika had come up with.
Del's stared at Kara incredulously. "So you think this void is really a gateway?"
"That's the only thing that makes sense. Annika and I went over the data last night. We theorize that the forces being exerted on the fabric of space at the center of the nebula by the continuing expansion waves opened a hole in the space time continuum, not to another time, but to another universe.
"And that's how we got here through this gateway?" Del asked.
"Yes, I think because of the damage to the shuttle's starboard nacelle and our navigation system we actually got turned around and headed toward the void instead of away from it. It's also possible that there is a gravity well at the center that when we got close enough, pulled us in."
"We need to contact "
Del was interrupted by the simultaneous chirping of everyone's combadge.
Chakotay's voice came over the com. "Captain Janeway has called a staff meeting in ten minutes. Report to the main conference room immediately," was the terse message before the channel closed.
They looked at each other curiously before heading directly to the conference room as ordered.
Janeway was working on a data pad and glanced up when she heard her First Officer gasp. Seeing the look on his face, she quickly looked toward the door.
Janeway's eyes bulged at the sight before her. Standing side by side, deep in conversation were Annika and Seven. Both were dressed in their skintight biosuits: Seven, in her customary plum color and Annika in silver. The sight was stunning to say the least; it took Janeway's breath away.
Del and Kara entered just behind the two women. Del scowled when she spotted where every pair of eyes in the room were locked, even Tuvok was staring.
Kara became aware of the stares her companions were receiving at the same time as Del. As if they had rehearsed it, both women stepped forward at the same time. Del stood in front of Seven and Kara in front of Annika, effectively blocking them from view.
With the overwhelming sight momentarily hidden, Janeway came to her senses. Angry at her reaction, she slapped her command mask into place.
"Everyone take a seat. NOW!" she added sternly when no one moved.
There was a quick shuffling of chairs. Del took up position at the end of the table flanked by Annika and Seven. Kara sat next to Annika.
Janeway cleared her throat loudly. Her senior staff's attention remained on the two women near the end of the table. Del and Kara were taking turns glaring at the people around the table. The two former Borg seemed very uncomfortable with the attention, Annika especially. She had crossed her arms protectively across her chest.
"Lieutenant Torres " Janeway glared at her chief engineer when she didn't respond. "Torres, report!" Janeway ordered sharply.
B'Elanna forced her gaze away from the end of the table with difficulty. She looked over at Janeway and cringed at the force ten glare being leveled at her.
Quickly scrambling to her feet, she approached the viewer.
"At 0543, this came out of the center of the nebula." An image of a badly damaged probe of the same type they had sent into the nebula several days ago came up on-screen. "It had enough velocity that it came close enough to allow us to lock our tractor beam on it and pull it onboard."
"But I thought the probe we sent was destroyed," Harry piped up.
"That's correct, it was," B'Elanna confirmed.
Confused murmurs were heard around the table.
"It's from the other side from our Voyager," Seven stated.
B'Elanna stared at Seven in surprise. She had been puzzled at first, assuming it was the same probe they sent in. It wasn't until she examined it on a molecular level that she was able to confirm it came from the other universe.
"How do you know that?" B'Elanna questioned a bit sharply.
Del didn't much care for her tone. "Lieutenant Jarvis can explain that," Del said. "With your permission, Captain," she added politely.
At Janeway's answering nod, Kara rose and began to fill in the staff on what she had discovered and the theory they had come up with.
"So you're saying is that this is a two-way gateway between our universes?" Janeway asked when Kara completed her briefing.
"I'm assuming it's two-way. We know for a fact that it's possible to pass from our universe into yours. That's how we and the probe got here. We won't know for sure if it works the other way until the probe makes it through from this side. The first probe collided with the probe from the other Voyager while still inside the void. It never made it out into the other universe."
"Lieutenant Torres, how soon can you have our probe ready to go?" Janeway asked.
"I'm not sure. I'm still studying the probe that came through this morning. It appears its engine has been modified. I don't know why or what other modifications have been made. Those modifications could be critical to the probe making it through the void. Until I know for sure, I don't want to risk our probe. It depleted a lot of our resources to construct it."
Janeway quickly came up with a plan of action. "Lieutenant, continue studying the mechanical components of the probe and then make any modifications to our probe you think is necessary. Ensign Kim, give Lieutenant Torres a hand." Janeway looked down the table at Del. "Commander, I want you and your group to see if you can access the data modules of the probe and give me a detailed analysis. Annika, I'd like you to continue to assist them. Alright, people, let's get to it. Dismissed."
Del sensing Annika's uneasiness at the surreptitious looks being directed at her signaled her companions to remain seated. She glared at Chakotay when he paid just a bit too much attention to Annika as he left.
"Problem, Commander?" Janeway asked when everyone else had exited.
"No problem, Captain. I'll have Kara pull the data chips and download them to the Astrometrics computer. I'll have a report sent to your terminal as quickly as possible." With that, the four women rose and headed for Astrometrics.
Del had ordered Kara to retrieve the data modules and bring them back to Astrometrics for analysis. The probe was even more damaged than it first appeared. The outer casing had been breached in two places, causing severe damage to the small onboard computer. Since the core was heavily shielded, Kara assumed she could just pull the modules and download their contents. That turned out not to be the case, and she had ended up spending the last two hours trying to salvage an intact data module from the core. So far, they had been nothing but a scrambled mess.
Kara threw down the broken data wafers. "This is useless," she growled in frustration.
"Need some help?"
Kara started; she had been so engrossed in what she was doing she hadn't heard the engineer approach. The probe had been moved to a work-room just outside of main engineering. B'Elanna and Harry were working across the room on the probe they were building.
B'Elanna hadn't really had a chance to talk to the women from the other universe except over the com or in meetings concerning the probe. She had to admit she was curious about the women, as well as her counterpart aboard their Voyager.
"It looks hopeless; the modules that aren't in pieces appear to be fried. I can't get anything but static from them. I'm going to take a couple back to Astrometrics, maybe Seven or Annika will be able to get something out of them."
Kara couldn't miss the expression of dislike that crossed the engineer's face at the mention of the two former Borg. She never had much contact with the B'Elanna on their Voyager, but knew she and Seven were good friends. Although, she was aware of the woman's previous adamant dislike of Seven. She had been one of the most vocal opponents along with Chakotay against Seven remaining on board. That, of course, had been before Del arrived.
B'Elanna grimaced at the thought of the two women. As if having one Borg onboard wasn't bad enough! That reminded B'Elanna of a rumor she'd heard.
"Is it true the Commander is married to the Borg?
Kara glared at B'Elanna. "No, she's not married to a Borg. She is married to Seven, who happens to have Borg implants."
Kara had not known Seven except in passing until they became friends, but she knew how Seven had been thought of and treated by the crew. The crew's attitude toward Seven had changed dramatically, for the most part. There were still a few people onboard who resented her, but it had been quite some time since she heard her friend referred to as a Borg and it angered her greatly.
"I don't appreciate you referring to my friend as a Borg. And I would strongly suggest you never let Commander MacMillan hear you refer to her wife that way!" Kara snarled. "I'm going back to Astrometrics."
She grabbed the data chips off the console and stalked away.
B'Elanna was taken aback by the anger that had blazed across the woman's scarred face. She stared at her retreating back incredulously unable to believe she was claiming Seven as her friend. Not to mention the Commander, who was actually married to Seven. B'Elanna knew there was no one on this Voyager who would admit Annika was a friend. She knew of Daniels supposed relationship with the former Borg, but found it hard to believe he actually was in love with the woman. He certainly didn't act like it the few times she had seen them together.
B'Elanna shook her head. Their Voyager must be a very different place.
What the hell is the matter with these people, Kara fumed as she made her way back to Astrometrics. The chief engineer's comments and attitude toward Seven just reinforced the anger she had been feeling since yesterday. She had been trying to convince herself that things were different for Annika than they had been for Seven. Annika appeared more human and even had her own quarters as well as supposedly being involved with someone. On the surface, it appeared as if she was much more integrated than Seven had ever been. Now, Kara knew for a fact that it was all a facade: she didn't have any friends onboard; she didn't sleep or eat and she voluntarily let Daniels rape her whenever the mood struck him. How can everyone be so blind to what Annika is suffering? Kara silently raged.
She was so caught up in her thoughts she wasn't even aware of arriving back in Astrometrics.
Annika looked up when Kara stepped into Astrometrics. She had thought of nothing but the other woman all morning. She had never before had trouble concentrating, but today she had not been able to think of anything except the redhead. While she enjoyed Seven and Del's presence, she had missed Kara. It was a very disconcerting feeling.
Even from across the room she could see the angry look on the other woman's face. Annika felt an unaccustomed surge of anxiety. She hurried out from behind the console and approached Kara.
Annika didn't know why it bothered her that Kara was upset, but it did. Giving in to the impulse to touch, she reached out and laid her hand gently on Kara's arm.
"Is everything alright?" she asked, unconsciously echoing Kara's words to her the night before.
Kara jumped at the sound of Annika's voice and touch. She looked up, shocked to find her standing so close.
At the look that flashed across Kara's face, Annika jerked her hand back and quickly backed up.
Kara reached out and took Annika's hand in hers, silently urging her closer again. "It's okay. You just startled me." She looked around surprised to find herself back in Astrometrics. "I was so lost in thought I didn't even realize I'd walked back here."
Kara noticed Annika was once again dressed in her customary baggy gray coverall. She must have stopped on her way to Astrometrics after the meeting. Kara couldn't much blame her after the way everyone had reacted that morning in the conference room, even Janeway had been staring.
"Is everything alright?" Annika asked again.
Kara looked into Annika's warm blue eyes, surprised and pleased by the concern she saw.
"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you for asking," she said, giving Annika's hand a squeeze before releasing her. She wanted to talk to Annika about many things, but this was neither the time nor the place.
Kara looked around the lab, surprised to find her companions missing.
"Where did Seven and the Commander go?"
"Seven wished to run a program in Stellarcartography; Del accompanied her."
Kara was a bit surprised to feel a tinge of what could only be jealousy on hearing Annika use Del's first name. She tried to push away the unwelcome feeling. Annika had seen for herself just how much Del and Seven loved each other. Kara knew she was being ridiculous, but couldn't seem to help herself.
"You really like Del huh?" Kara questioned then immediately felt stupid.
Annika looked at Kara, puzzled by the question. "I like Del and Seven." Annika met Kara's eyes, remembering what Seven had told her. "I like you too, very much," she added shyly.
Kara grinned when an adorable blush covered Annika's face. "I like you, Annika a lot," Kara admitted with a blush of her own.
Annika felt a surge of joy at the apparent confirmation of Kara's feelings. She quickly went over all the advice Seven had given her that morning. Not quite able to believe what she was about to do, she plunged ahead never the less.
"Have dinner with me tonight?"
Kara's jaw dropped open in shock and she stared at Annika incredulously. Did she just ask me out?
Annika's face fell and her gaze dropped to stare at the floor. She had misunderstood after all. Seven had been wrong about Kara's feelings. She felt foolish; of course someone like Kara couldn't possibly want her. Daniels was right; he had told her repeatedly that no one but he would ever willingly be with her. She was Borg.
Seeing Annika's expression, Kara mentally slapped herself. What the hell's the matter with you? Now look what you've done. Kara could almost feel the pain radiating off Annika.
Kara reached out and grasped Annika's hand making her jump. "I would love to have dinner with you," she said sincerely.
"You would?" Annika asked, afraid to believe.
Kara again cursed herself. Determined to set things right, she met Annika's eyes, willing her to see the truth in them.
"Yes, I would. I meant what I said last night. You're a beautiful, intelligent woman. I'd be honored to have dinner with you."
Kara breathed a sigh of relief when a flush covered Annika's face and she smiled brightly. She unconsciously stroked the back of Annika's hand with her thumb.
"At 1800?" Annika questioned with a slight stammer.
She was distracted by Kara's touch. The gentle pressure of Kara's thumb rubbing across the back of her hand was totally throwing off her concentration. It was such a small thing, but it was causing tingles in very strange places.
"That sounds great. I look forward to it."
"You do?" Annika asked. She still found it hard to believe that Kara would want to spend time with her.
Kara reminded herself just who she was dealing with. After her experience with Daniels, it was no wonder Annika sounded so hesitant.
"Yes. I enjoyed our time together last night. I look forward to spending time with you tonight."
Annika felt a strange flush cross her face and her heart seemed to flutter at the look on Kara's face. She lost herself in Kara's sparkling hazel eyes. Kara released her hand and began to run her hand gently up and down Annika's arm. Annika shivered at the touch and unconsciously stepped closer. The air seemed to crackle between them.
Kara was mesmerized by the woman before her. Her hand moved to Annika's back and gently urged her forward until they were almost touching. Annika's lips parted slightly. Unable to resist, Kara answered the unconscious invitation in Annika's eyes and leaned in intent on tasting her soft lips.
They both jumped when the door to Astrometrics suddenly slid open. Both women flushed and Kara looked particularly frustrated at being interrupted.
Del was surprised when she realized what they had barged in on. Kara and more surprisingly Annika were radiating arousal.
Seven grinned at her counterpart, before grabbing Del's hand and pulling her passed the two women.
Deciding to go with Seven, and just pretend they hadn't seen anything, Del decided to give Kara and Annika time to compose themselves.
Kara sighed in frustration, but realized the interruption had probably been for the best. Things were moving too quickly, and all her old fears were rearing their ugly head. She and Annika really needed to talk.
Annika hadn't moved after Seven and Del barged in. She was still trying to cope with the strange sensations her body were experiencing. She felt hot and tingly all over. She was sure Kara had been about to kiss her and felt extremely disappointed she hadn't. It was strange. She never enjoyed Daniels' rough and sloppy kisses, but somehow knew it wouldn't be like that with Kara.
"Are you okay?" Kara asked quietly.
"We're still going to have dinner together right?" Kara wanted to make sure she hadn't gone too far and made the blond uncomfortable.
"That is acceptable."
Kara grinned. That was Seven's stock phrase and it had taken some getting used to. She had eventually figured out that it was just an ingrained speech pattern. The shy smile that very briefly flashed across Annika's face gave away how she really felt. Kara had always been grateful for Seven's friendship, but even more so now that it was having an unexpected extra benefit.
"Do you want to eat in the mess hall or should I come to your quarters?" Kara had thought about having dinner in the quarters she shared with Seven and Del, but wanted to spend time alone with Annika without the other two women being present.
Annika was suddenly unsure. She didn't want to go to the mess hall, but had no idea how to replicate a meal for Kara.
Kara watched Annika's eyes dim and misunderstood her hesitation. After what happened last night, she figured she must not want to go back to her cabin. A second possibility occurred to Kara and she felt a bit sick. Did Annika think she would do to her what Daniels had and was afraid to be alone with her?
"It's okay. How about we just go to the mess hall or you could come to my cabin? Seven and Del will be there, if you'd be more comfortable," Kara offered, unable to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
Annika could see that Kara was upset but didn't know why. "I wish to have dinner with you in my cabin, but I do not know how to replicate anything but my shake," Annika admitted, feeling totally inadequate.
Kara was swept by a wave of relief. This she could do something about. She reached out and grasped Annika's hand. "That's okay; don't worry about it. I can replicate us dinner. I'd be more than happy to."
Kara's heart tried to jump out of her chest when a full bright smile flashed across Annika's face and her eyes lit up.
"I'll come by your cabin at 1800 okay?"
Annika nodded happily.
Kara glanced over at Seven and Del, who appeared to be ignoring them. "We better get back to work."
Del looked up feeling the two women approach, their emotions were flowing off of them. She smiled happily when she spotted their hands linked together; neither one of them appeared aware of it. She had been a bit unsure about Seven intervening, but after Seven told her all that Annika had filled her in on, and sensing the woman's emotion now, Del felt confident that Annika really did have feelings for Kara and wasn't just trying to emulate her counterpart. While surprised, she was also relieved that Annika had decided to terminate her she couldn't even bring herself to call it a relationship with Daniels. Del knew there was a lot more to the story of the sudden breakup that Seven didn't know, but Kara seemed to. What was important was that both women were very happy. Although, Del couldn't help a quick flash of concern at where this was going. She was happy for Kara, but worried how it would eventually affect Kara and Annika when they found a way to return to their own universe and had to leave Annika behind.
"Were you able to get any intact data modules?" Del asked. Kara had contacted her earlier when she ran into problems.
"I extracted these." Kara offered the three data chips she had been holding in her hand to Del. "They were the only ones left intact. I couldn't get anything out of them. I thought maybe Seven or Annika could."
"Let's get busy and see what we can find out," Del said.
Captain Janeway stared at the image on the screen. When Harry had contacted her she had known just from the tone of his voice that they had found something significant, but she never expected this. She had immediately called a meeting of the senior staff. Although they had experienced it before, it was always disconcerting to see
A quick glance around the conference room showed the shock on the rest of the staff's faces.
"Harry, are you sure this image is correct and not just an error in the computer extrapolation?"
"Positive, Captain," Harry assured. He tried hard to convince himself after seeing the image that his crewmates had to be not only alive, but safe and sound. "I ran it multiple times and this," Harry said, changing the image onscreen, "is the original un-enhanced image."
There was no mistaking it the image was very blurred but it was definitely Voyager. The enhanced image made that crystal clear. Now the question was what were they dealing with?
Janeway rubbed her temples. She hated this kind of thing it gave her a headache. But she was buoyed by the fact that the chance that her officers were still alive just took a huge jump.
"Good work, Harry."
Harry blushed at his Captain's praise.
Janeway looked around the table. "Alright ideas. What are we dealing with?"
"The most logical explanation would be a temporal incursion," Tuvok said.
"I agree, but there is no way to know if we are looking at Voyager of the future or the past from that image," B'Elanna commented.
"How do we get our people back?" Janeway questioned her staff. She was met with silence.
"Do you really think our people are on the other Voyager?" Harry finally asked quietly.
"Yes. I'm sure of it. We are going to figure out a way to get them back!"
Harry smiled reassured by his Captain's confidence. He really liked Commander MacMillan and although he knew she was forever off-limits, he couldn't bear the thought of never seeing Seven of Nine again.
"Maybe we could construct another probe and attempt to contact the other Voyager, find out if our people are okay," B'Elanna suggested. "They're most likely working on the problem as well."
Janeway nodded. "B'Elanna, you and Harry get to work on replicating and construction of a new probe."
"I'd like to give them a hand, Captain," Tom piped up.
"Alright, Tom." Janeway stood up. "Dismissed."
Chakotay remained in his seat as the staff filed out. He could easily sense the lightening of the captain's mood. He looked at the image still on the screen and shook his head. He felt his stomach roil at the thought that he would have left the area immediately after the accident and in doing so sealed the fate of his fellow crewmates. Kathryn had been right all along.
He had been so lost in thought he hadn't realized he and the Captain were the only ones left in the conference room.
Chakotay rose with one last glance at the viewscreen. "I'm glad you were right," he said quietly before turning to make his way toward the door.
Always alert to any changes in the Engine room, B'Elanna looked up when her staff began to whisper. She spotted Commander MacMillan and the former Borg making their way toward her. She had contacted the Commander concerning the probe and asked her to come to engineering; she had not expected the Bo Seven, she corrected herself, to come with her.
B'Elanna hadn't been able to get Lieutenant Jarvis's staunch defense of Seven of Nine out of her mind. Was Annika's alternate that different to garner such support? Not to mention the fact that Commander MacMillan had actually married the woman.
"Commander," B'Elanna greeted politely.
Seven frowned when B'Elanna didn't speak to her.
"Lieutenant," Del said.
"Hi, B'Elanna," Seven greeted with a slight smile.
B'Elanna stared at Seven in surprise. Annika certainly didn't refer to her by her first name. She nodded her head in acknowledgement of her greeting then turned her attention back to the Commander.
"I wanted to talk to you about sending a message with the probe."
Seven looked confused by her friend's reaction, then she remembered. This was not her friend. Her shoulders slumped a bit as she thought about the people on Voyager who were most likely worried about them. She missed her friends.
Del reached out and gently squeezed Seven's hand. She could feel Seven's sadness at the realization that this was not their B'Elanna.
"What kind of message?" Del asked.
"I thought you could add a short message to one of the data modules and I could set it so that it couldn't be overwritten. The probe doesn't carry a lot of onboard memory. It is meant to act as an extension of the sensors and transmit data back. I could rig it so you could leave a short, maybe two minute message. We know that we're dealing with an alternate universe, and about the gateway. Most likely they don't."
Del nodded, well aware of the probes capabilities. "Is the probe ready to go?"
"Just about, I still have a couple of simulations I want to run on the engines. I already let the Captain know, we will be ready to launch the probe first thing tomorrow morning."
"Alright, I'll record the message now if you're ready," Del said.
B'Elanna led the way to the workroom where the probe was being assembled.
B'Elanna stared; she couldn't help herself. Commander MacMillan sat at a console recording her message. Seven stood behind her with her hands resting familiarly on her shoulders. Even though she knew the couple was married, it was quite another thing to see them so physically comfortable with one another, especially Seven. She had seen Daniels and Annika together at social events and she always looked stiff and distant when Daniels touched her as if she felt nothing. She quickly looked away when the Commander completed her message and stood up.
"I think that should do it," Del said. "My only concern is what if the probe is damaged as severely as the one we received from our Voyager? All the data modules were useless. The three that Kara managed to retrieve were completely scrambled."
B'Elanna frowned; it was definitely a possibility. Whether from the expansion waves of the nebula or from passing through the void, considerable forces were exerted. One look at the other probe proved that. It was very sturdily built and meant to survive in extreme conditions.
"Why not leave another type of message? Maybe on the probe casing itself?" Seven suggested.
B'Elanna stared at Seven, surprised that she would come up with something so original. Why hadn't she thought of that?
Del grinned at her wife and gave her a quick one armed hug. "Of course. That's a great idea. If they don't get the recorded message they might assume the probe is the one they sent." She glanced at B'Elanna. "You said it yourself. Our Voyager most likely doesn't know that we were dealing with an alternate universe. For all we know, they're not even aware that there is another Voyager. Since we were unable to get any data at all from the probe we also don't know what information they were able to get before it stopped transmitting. We have to assume they think we're alive or they wouldn't have sent in the probe. So we need something to prove to them that we are alive and make them investigate the probe closer. Problem is we don't have much room here."
Del stared at the small probe, trying to figure out where and how she could leave a message on the metal. An idea finally struck her.
"B'Elanna, do you have some type of torch that will cut into the metal of the probe casing but not go through it?"
B'Elanna rummaged through the tools on the table and came up with a small cylinder with an even smaller wand extending from the top.
"This is the smallest torch we have. At its highest setting it should be able to cut into the probe's casing." She removed the main access panel of the probe and handed it to Del.
"This panel was completely intact on the other probe. So it's the best place to leave your message."
There was not much room for a message. The probe was small, less than thirty-five centimeters across. The access plate was barely ten centimeters wide.
"What about your names and the star date?" B'Elanna suggested.
"That's a possibility. I was sort of leaning toward something more personal, so there would be no doubt it was me sending the message."
"B'Elanna will be the one who examines the probe," Seven said. "The message should be directed at her."
Del thought for a bit then a big grin appeared. Seven had given her an idea. "I've got it." She flipped the access plate over and got to work on the inside surface.
When Del finished she stepped back so Seven could see what she had written. As soon as Seven saw it she started to laugh.
B'Elanna's jaw dropped open in shock and her hearts pounded in her chest in reaction to Seven's musical laugh. The woman's face was transformed by her laughter; she was stunning. B'Elanna was embarrassed by her primal reaction to her. To cover her embarrassment, she picked up the hatch cover and read the words Commander MacMillan had engraved. She had done an amazing job with the tool at hand and the very small space she had to work with. The words were small but clear at least the print was.
She looked at the Commander quizzically. "I don't understand. 'Whisky Sour Anyone?'"
Del dissolved into laughter. At the growing scowl on the chief engineer's face she tried to rein in her amusement.
"Believe me, our B'Elanna will know what it means and that it's from us." Seeing the Klingon's impatient expression Del explained further. "A few weeks before Seven and I were married, we located a planet whose people were willing to trade with Voyager. I found in their market place a local liquor that closely matched in taste a liquor from Earth called Whiskey. At our wedding reception I introduced B'Elanna to an Earth drink called a Whiskey Sour. She loved them and drank them all night a whole lot of them," Del chuckled. "This stuff was not synthahol, and had a very powerful kick. She was incredibly hung over the next day and vowed never to drink that particular drink again. Said it was worse than a Klingon blood wine hangover."
B'Elanna was skeptical about the drink, but was more interested in the fact that her counterpart had even attended the wedding. Maybe she was friends with the Commander. She couldn't picture herself going to Annika's wedding.
Seeing the look of curiosity on B'Elanna's face, Seven spoke up. "Our B'Elanna stood up for me at our wedding. She is my friend."
"What? No way!" B'Elanna exclaimed loudly.
She was shocked by the obviously hurt expression that filled Seven's face. B'Elanna flinched when she glanced over at the Commander, her eyes blazed and anger seemed to radiate from her.
B'Elanna just couldn't imagine it. Seven, if anything looked more Borgish than Annika. She made no attempt to hide her implants and didn't seem to be bothered in the least walking around in the tight suit she wore.
Glancing back and forth between the two women B'Elanna began to feel very uncomfortable and a bit bad. It was very obvious that she had hurt Seven's feelings. That in itself was a shock. She never thought of Annika as having any feelings. A small part of B'Elanna began to wonder what her counterpart had found worthy of friendship with this woman. Were Seven and Annika that different? She knew herself well enough to know she didn't offer her friendship easily. What was she missing, that her counterpart had seen? It was certainly something to think about.
Seven refused to look at B'Elanna. She was deeply hurt by her reaction. She had been surprised by the distrustful and downright hostile reactions she got whenever they met members of the crew. It was a measure of just how much attitudes had changed on their Voyager and a vivid reminder of just how bad things had been on the ship before Del's arrival. She felt bad for her counterpart knowing that she was still subjected to those attitudes on a daily basis.
Surprising even herself, B'Elanna offered an apology. "Look, I'm sorry. Okay? It was just a shock. I mean Annika and I well, let's just say we don't get along very well."
Seven met the engineer's eyes for just a moment, then nodded sadly before looking away.
Del tried to rein in her anger. She always reacted poorly to someone hurting Seven's feelings. This was not the B'Elanna they knew and her attitudes hadn't been much different to start. She could sense B'Elanna actually did feel a bit bad about her reaction and decided to give her a chance. Figuring it was better to get away from the subject of their friendship with her counterpart, Del brought them back to business.
Del pointed to the plate in B'Elanna's hand. "You'll notice underneath the words I put in the current stardate and the phase variance between this universe and ours."
B'Elanna was relieved at the quick change in subject. "Think my counterpart will understand the significance?"
"Would you?" Del countered.
"No, not at first," B'Elanna admitted. "But I would be curious and try to figure out what it referred to."
"So would our B'Elanna. That's what I'm counting on," Del said.
The three women stood around uncomfortably for several moments.
"We should get back to Astrometrics. Let me know if you need anything else," Del said.
B'Elanna nodded in acknowledgement. She watched the two women walk away, the Commander's hand resting comfortably in the small of Seven's back. It was obvious she cared deeply for the former Borg. She shook her head in amazement before getting back to work.
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