DISCLAIMER: The characters, the ship, the stars, indeed, perhaps my first born child, all belong to Paramount/Viacom. No money was made, no trinkets exchanged for the use of these characters. I just took them out for a spin around the park and brought them safely home. I promise. If the concept of two women falling in love is not your cup of tea…or you are not tall enough for this ride, please have a lovely time somewhere else.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is dedicated to Elizabeth, with sincere gratitude and warmest affection. Thanks for everything…and I do mean everything. Special thanks to AbyKitten for her help and support.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Nature of Evil
Kathryn Janeway stood in the living area of her darkened quarters, watching as the stars, distorted by the warp field, slipped by the hull of her ship, like glimmers of moonlight on silken black water. They were finally underway again. God, it seemed like months, not mere days since they had come to this place, this small planet in the middle of a boundless nowhere, hoping for supplies, perhaps even a friendly word to make them feel not so alone out here in the Delta Quadrant.
Instead they had found death and destruction, evil on a scale that Janeway still had trouble comprehending. Some part of her prayed to whatever god would listen, that she never would comprehend it, never would become so inured to the horror that one being could inflict on another to ever begin to understand what had wrought this sacrilege.
Rubbing her arms against a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature, she slowly turned from the view port and crossed the short distance to her bedroom, pausing in the doorway to study the silent beauty of the occupant of her bed. A living reminder that even in the midst of evil, redemption can be found.
The U.S.S. Voyager, NCC 74656 had been traversing a relatively barren area of space for three months, with no chance to restock dwindling supplies, no opportunities for shore leave for an increasingly unsettled crew. It had been six years now that they had been in the Delta Quadrant, too long, too far from home. The majority of the species they had encountered had been of a less than welcoming nature. Although they had managed to travel over 30,000 of the 70,000 light years it would take them to reach the Alpha Quadrant, they were still in for a long journey, one that seemed longer at times like these. There seemed to be no planets, few stars, and even fewer distractions for Kathryn Janeway's ever-valiant crew.
A passing traveler had told them of the Ti'Niri, a generous people, known to welcome all visitors to their world. The Ti'Niri were an old civilization, warp-capable, yet more interested in art and philosophy than space exploration. Still, the traveler assured them that the Ti'Niri would be more than able to supply Voyager with all of its needs, including some much needed shore leave. The Ti'Niri homeworld was only a few light years off their present course. The planet seemed like a Godsend. If only they had known they would instead be afforded their own personal preview of Hell.
Initial scans had revealed a small, M-class planet, very similar in size and appearance to Earth. Coming within hailing distance of the planet, the Captain had attempted to contact the local representatives. There was no response. Voyager continued to try to hail the planet on all COMM frequencies, but to no avail. Finally they came into visual range of Ti'Niri.
"Continue to hail them Mr. Kim, and run passive scans only. After all, we are visitors," Janeway ordered, a puzzled expression in her blue-grey eyes.
After a few moments, Harry Kim had looked up from his console at Ops with an odd expression on his face, frown lines etched into the normally smooth, young forehead.
"Captain, I'm not reading any life signs. I mean ANY life signs." he stated, bewilderment clear in his voice.
"Scan for organic matter, Harry," Janeway ordered. "Perhaps this species simply doesn't register on our normal sensors."
Harry's face had taken on an unusual pallor as he ran and reran the sensor scans. Finally he looked up, disbelief and traces of horror on his face.
"I'm reading approximately thirty-six million separate organic masses consistent with average Humanoid body mass," the young Ensign said slowly.
"All all dead, Captain," he added so quietly that Janeway thought she misheard him.
"Did you say, all dead, Harry?" Even Janeway's voice was uncertain in the face of such a possibility.
"Tuvok, confirm. There's got to be some mistake. Thirty-six MILLION dead? It's incomprehensible," the Captain stated, rising from her chair and moving up the ramp to the upper level of Voyager's bridge.
"Incomprehensible it is indeed, Captain. Unfortunately however, it would appear to be true." Tuvok's voice betrayed no emotion.
The Captain turned slowly to regard the viewscreen, the sight of the planet Ti'Niri spinning placidly in space, only serving to add to the surrealism of the moment.
"Tuvok, you and Harry continue running scans. I want to know what the hell happened here. Notify the Doctor of what's occurred and tell him to start analyzing all available data. We need to know what killed these people before we even think about beaming down," the Captain ordered, her command mask firmly in place.
"Chakotay, you have the bridge. I'll be in Astrometrics. Maybe Seven can come up with some additional data."
"I don't want this to go further than the senior staff at this point," she added. "There's no reason for the rest of the crew to be told until we have some hard answers. Understood?"
It was only alone in the turbolift that Janeway allowed the command mask to slip, the sheer weight of the tragedy finally beginning to settle on her. Dear God, thirty-six million dead. An entire race just gone. How could something like this happen? A plague perhaps? Some natural disaster that Voyager's sensors hadn't picked up? She couldn't quite wrap her mind around it. She knew one thing though. They wouldn't leave this planet until they found out.
Kathryn Janeway sat at the head of the table in Voyager's main conference room, silently waiting for the last of her senior staff to arrive. It had been twenty-one hours since Voyager had arrived at the Ti'Niri homeworld to find this debacle. They had located approximately three hundred and sixty separate areas, obviously prison camps of some sort, all with at least one hundred thousand corpses. According to scans the victims ranged in age from mere infants to the very old. It was quite clear that this was no plague, no act of a vengeful God. The Ti'Niri had been murdered. The questions remained though, of how and why and by whom.
"All right, let's get started. Doctor, have you been able to determine how these people were killed?" the Captain asked, her voice harsh from exhaustion.
The Doctor hesitated, glancing over at B'Elanna Torres, Voyager's Chief Engineer, who had assisted him in running his scans. If it was possible for a hologram to feel pity or remorse, than the Doctor was overwhelmed by those emotions. What he and B'Elanna had found had shaken both of them to the core. He found it difficult to know where to begin.
"Doctor? I realize that as a physician this must be very hard for you but please, tell us what you've discovered," Janeway said gently.
"Yes, I'm sorry, Captain. The cause of death appears to be removal of all physical, electrical energy from the bodies. Most humanoid species have brain functions that are the direct result of electrical impulses that travel through the brain and thus through the rest of the body. The electrical impulses fire from one synapse to another, allowing the body to channel commands to the heart, to the limbs, etc. From what Lt. Torres and I have been able to discover, the devices surrounding the camps in essence removed all the electrical energy from the bodies of the Ti'Niri," the Doctor explained gravely.
"How is that possible B'Elanna?" asked Chakotay, Voyager's First officer.
"We aren't sure yet. I think that we're going to have to beam down and examine the devices in person. I don't know enough about them to risk bringing one onboard the ship. Besides it will allow the Doctor to get a first hand look at the, well, at the bodies."
"I'm not sure about the wisdom of sending my crew down to a planet that is to all intents and purposes a huge crypt. How do we know that whatever killed the Ti'Niri won't do the same to an away team?" A frown creased the Captain's forehead.
"From what we can tell Captain, the devices were activated by remote control, probably from a ship in orbit. As long as Voyager keeps an eye out for possible threats the away team should be fine," B'Elanna said firmly, her eyes meeting Janeway's squarely.
"All right," the Captain ordered, "Tuvok, you and B'Elanna and the Doctor take an away team down and see what you can find. I want comm channels to remain open though just in case. Take two of the crewmembers from exobiology along to help with the examinations."
"Seven," she continued. "I want you to continue scanning the surrounding area, for any inhabited planets, for anyone we can contact who might have some knowledge of the Ti'Niri, of their enemies, of any reason why this occurred. Chakotay, as our ad hoc counselor, I'd like for you to set up a schedule to see any crewmembers that might be having difficulties with this tragedy. Neelix has already offered to assist you in any way possible."
"Actually, Captain, the Doctor and I were hoping that we could include Seven in the away team. As it now stands we are going to have to beam down in full environmental suits. Her Borg nanoprobes will allow her to stay on the surface for a longer time period," B'Elanna requested almost grudgingly. "Besides, I could use her help taking a look at this equipment."
Janeway hesitated a moment. She never liked sending away teams into potentially hazardous situations, and this one had all the makings of trouble waiting to happen. The fact that she had some very strong, undeclared, and unresolved feelings for Seven just added to her dilemma. However, Kathryn Janeway didn't get to wear the four pips by allowing her personal feelings to supercede what was best for her ship and its mission.
"Fine, take Seven with you. Harry can continue running the scans. Anything else? No?"
An hour later Tuvok, B'Elanna, Seven and the Doctor, along with two ensigns from Exobiology, beamed down to the surface of the planet. They had chosen a spot close to the center of the planet's largest city, about a quarter of a kilometer from one of the enclosures. As they walked toward the site, they began running closer scans.
"Nothing," B'Elanna muttered, incredulity in her voice. "Nothing larger than animal life alive."
"Affirmative, Lieutenant. It would appear that our preliminary scans were accurate," Seven stated calmly, her voice devoid of inflection.
B'Elanna stopped walking, turning to glare in disbelief at Seven, her face partially obscured by the shielding of her environmental suit.
"Kahless! You can't even muster up a little emotion, a little sorrow, that an entire race seems to have been slaughtered?" B'Elanna exclaimed, her outrage intertwining with contempt, twisting together in a thread of emotion.
"We are here to complete a mission. My 'emotion' would do nothing to accomplish that mission. If you require that I display such unproductive behavior, then perhaps it would be better if I returned to Voyager."
"Lieutenant. Seven. This entire discussion is counterproductive. Please resume our progress toward the enclosure. And continue with your scans." Tuvok interjected, stepping neatly between the two women.
With one last look of animosity, B'Elanna started back up the road toward the site. After a momentary pause Seven followed, her eyes seldom looking up from her tricorder. She was in fact quite discomfited by the results of their scans. As a Borg drone, she had participated in the assimilation of millions. However Seven was no longer Borg. This massacre had troubled her deeply. Three years seemed to her sometimes to be an insufficient amount of time to fully understand and master the constant swirl of emotions that threatened to be her undoing. The fact that humans managed to function at all with the ever- widening range of feelings that engulfed her, seemed to Seven to be something of a miracle. The Captain assured her that she would adapt. The fact that the Captain herself was the cause of a good majority of Seven's emotions seemed to elude Janeway, and Seven was loath to inform her. After all, it was clear that telling the Captain, Kathryn, how she felt about her, would merely bring on further feelings, in this case, feelings of pain and grief and loneliness. For it was equally clear that while the Captain cared for Seven, her feelings were those of friendship, not love.
Pushing her thoughts of the Captain to the back of her mind, Seven covered the remaining distance to the outside perimeter of the enclosure and stopped, her senses overwhelmed at the site that met them.
Tall trees, their green branches reaching in silent, desperate plea to the heavens, stood quiet sentinel over the bodies of the Ti'Niri. They lay everywhere, in small groups, in solitary bleakness, acre upon acre of them. Some had fallen in poses of supplication to forgotten Gods, others with their faces turned up in hope or despair toward the imperturbable sky, while all around the stillness of death hovered in the air on soundless wings.
None of the away team spoke for a long time, each of them trying without success to grasp the visual before them. Finally the silence was broken by the muffled sob of Ensign Wildman.
"My God," she cried, her voice carrying the horror that all of them were feeling.
"I do not believe that even your deity can help them now," Seven murmured, her voice low and full of emotion.
Six hours later the away team beamed back aboard Voyager. B'Elanna and Seven had scanned and studied the devices, gaining enough information to make a reasonable supposition as to how they functioned. While they had been working, the Doctor and Ensign Wildman had examined some of the bodies, confirming the Doctor's original hypothesis, that the Ti'Niri had been killed by having the electrical energy that powered their brains extracted by the emitters surrounding the camps. Now the crew of Voyager knew how the Ti'Niri had been killed, but they still didn't know why, or by whom.
"B'Elanna, Seven, what did you discover about these devices?" Kathryn Janeway asked, though some part of her didn't want to know the answer.
The Senior staff were again ensconced in the Conference Room. The faces of those around the table showed the strain of the last few days. Even the Captain was exhibiting signs of exhaustion and stress. It was difficult orbiting a virtual tomb, unable to help, unable to do anything but wait for her crew to find out what had happened here and why.
"As far as we can figure, Captain, the devices work somewhat along the lines of the containment fields that the crew of the Equinox used. When activated together they form their own containment field. That's why whoever did this gathered the Ti'Niri into these camps. Apparently the devices can only work within a certain radius of each other. Anyway, Seven and I discovered that when linked the devices can then be set to extract energy, any electrical energy available within the field. That includes the electrical energy used to power the humanoid body. The devices then store the energy, which can be transferred, or used as a power source."
"But what a minute, B'Elanna. The amount of energy produced within one humanoid brain is miniscule. Doesn't it make more sense to assume that this is just the preferred method of execution for this race? I find it difficult to see how such a small amount of energy would even make this a worthwhile enterprise for them." Janeway responded.
"However Captain, if you multiply that amount by thirty-six million, the amount of energy captured is significant. Enough to power any number of devices, even starships." Seven stated matter-of factly.
Glancing at Seven with an expression of disdain, B'Elanna turned toward the Captain.
"As I said it is similar to the method that the crew of the Equinox used to enhance their warp drive. All that would be necessary is an engine configuration set to utilize this type of power supply and it would be, as Seven put it, an efficient fuel," B'Elanna finished, the scorn for Seven's characterization evident in her tone.
"Then why leave the devices behind?" Harry asked, "Why wouldn't they take them with them to wherever they went next?"
"The devices themselves are not valuable. And some vital components were damaged in their use. It would be more," Seven hesitated a moment before continuing. "It would be more efficient to simply create new devices then to rebuild the components of these and transport them."
"So what you are all saying is that the Ti'Niri were slaughtered to provide fuel for some alien fleet?" Neelix spoke for the first time since the meeting had begun. The expression of pain and grief and horror that crossed his normally cheerful face mirroring what they all were feeling.
For quite some time all that could be heard was the quiet breathing of the senior staff. Finally, the Doctor broke the expansive silence.
"Captain, what are we going to do about the remains?"
Janeway looked up sharply, distress evident on her face. With all the time and effort that the crew had invested in trying to find out what had killed the Ti'Niri, she had given little thought to how they were going to respectfully dispose of the remains of thirty-six million people.
"I'm not sure, Doctor. I wish that we knew something about their beliefs, their views on death and afterlife. I would hate to commit a further sacrilege by desecrating their remains."
"Harry, see if you can link into their computers and find out anything you can on funeral rituals, accepted methods of burial, whatever you can locate."
"Yes, Captain." Harry nodded.
"Seven, I want you to continue the scans Harry was running. See if you can locate anyone who might have some knowledge of a species that utilizes this sort of energy for anything."
"Chakotay, help Harry with the information, see what the two of you can find out about the Ti'Niri. Once you find out, get B'Elanna to assist you and start thinking of some ways we can honor their beliefs and give them a proper burial."
"All right, let's get to work. Dismissed."
Kathryn Janeway sat behind the desk in her Ready Room, ostensibly looking over this month's departmental reports. Her mind and her heart weren't in them though. It was almost impossible to not think about what had occurred on the blue and green globe spinning indifferently through space beneath the white hull of her ship. Kathryn had read the reports of the away team. Some, like Seven's and Tuvok's, were factual and sparse. Ensign Wildman's had been filled with emotion, with the horror of what they had seen. Even B'Elanna's had been less than professional, laced with anger and outrage at the fate of this people.
Janeway decided that the emotion was worse, that by engaging in a display of grief and horror that the focus shifted too much, so that it became more about how they reacted to the tragedy than the tragedy itself. Something about the bare recitation of facts, the list of the sheer numbers of the dead, served to make it all the more obscene to her.
Sipping her now cold coffee, she picked up the Engineering report, intent on accomplishing something. As she did the chime to her Ready Room sounded.
The door slid open to admit Chakotay and Harry Kim. Both looked tired and drawn. They had been pouring over the information from the Ti'Niri databases for hours now, trying to locate any information on funeral beliefs.
"Well, Captain, it took some looking, but we found something." Harry stated wearily.
"Though their beliefs have changed somewhat over the centuries, with technological advances altering methods of doing things, it seems that for most of their history the Ti'Niri have believed that a funeral pyre, or cremation cleanses the soul for the afterlife."
"Would phaser fire be considered comparable to actual flames?" Janeway asked, her mind already considering the possibilities.
"We think so. We've consulted with B'Elanna and we think that we can utilize the power supply on the planet to run our transporters, so that we don't place an undue strain on the ship's power supply. Then we can just use a few short phaser bursts." Chakotay explained.
"Transporters? Why transport the bodies? Why not simply target each of the camps?"
Glancing sideways at Chakotay, Harry waited for the Commander to explain.
"We thought that we could transport the bodies to the planet's moon, and then use the phasers. That way, if at some future date some other race decide to colonize Ti'Niri, they won't be desecrating a sacred burial ground. I'm not sure how I would feel trying to build a new life on the site of so much death."
"I appreciate the sentiment Chakotay, and I know how much the sanctity of the dead means to your culture, but it seems a waste of resources. Whether we vaporize the bodies on the moon or where they are, they died there, and nothing is ever going to change that," Janeway said gently, pushing her hair back from her face with an exhausted sigh.
"True, but what about the animal life that could possibly be harmed or destroyed if we fire phasers at the planet?"
Sighing deeply this time, Janeway smiled wearily at her two officers.
"I'm no zoologist, but it seems to me that the natural order of things has already been shot to hell. I don't believe that it will make that much difference to the environment."
"Please Captain. It just seems wrong to dispose of the bodies where they are. They undoubtedly experienced pain and fear in those camps. Don't they deserve to be moved to a place of dignity before their souls are cleansed," Harry pleaded, his young face troubled.
Kathryn met his stare for a long time before nodding her head slightly.
"All right. Do what you need to do. Let me know when the arrangements will be complete. We'll have a ship-wide service before we fire."
"Aye, Captain. And thank you."
"You're welcome, Mr. Kim."
It took almost a full day, utilizing the power supplies on the planet to supplement Voyager's own energy resources, to beam the bodies of the Ti'Niri to the arid surface of their moon. A memorial service was set for 2200 hours. With her Senior staff surrounding her, all in dress uniform, Janeway signaled Ensign Kim to open a ship-wide channel. Taking a deep breath, the Captain began to speak.
"Something terrible happened here. Something obscene, something unspeakable. Yet we must speak of it, we must remember it. We must remember these people. We never met the Ti'Niri. But I know that they weren't so very different than you and I. They worked, they laughed, they dreamed, hoped, wept, played, envisioned for themselves and their families better lives, better dreams, greater happiness. And in a single instant all that was taken from them. An entire race of people, by all accounts generous and kind, wiped from existence. There can be no greater crime than genocide, no act more heinous."
"So now it falls to us, not to avenge this act, but to commit it and the Ti'Niri to our collective memory, to make certain that they will live on in our minds, and hearts. We must in essence live for them. If we are to truly honor their memory, we must laugh more, cry less, revel in the warmth of friends, and never allow our regrets to blind us to the fact that our time is finite. I pledge that we will honor them and we will never forget."
"A beacon has been placed in synchronis orbit around Ti'Niri, to tell future visitors about the people of this planet, of their accomplishments, and of their tragic fate. Voyager has uploaded an immense amount of data regarding the literature, science, and culture of the Ti'Niri, which we will carry with us back to the Alpha Quadrant. In this way, we will insure that their people and their way of life will never be forgotten."
Nodding to Tuvok at Ops, Janeway finished quietly.
"We commit their souls into the hands of their Gods. Safe journey."
In a burst of phaser fire the remains of a race vanished forever from the galaxy. In the ensuing silence, the strains of a bagpipe playing "Amazing Grace" echoed through the corridors of a small starship, far from home.
Before leaving the Ti'Niri homeworld, Kathryn Janeway had decided she wanted a few more answers. Six diferent away teams were dispatched to various areas of the planet, in an attempt to discover some clue to who had commited this act.
This away team had been working for hours now, the Ti'Niri sun hot overhead. Logically Harry knew it hadn't been that long, though it seemed like days had passed. As he worked, a story from Earth's Christian Bible came back to Harry. It told of the day the sun stood still in the heavens, an endless day full of grief and turmoil. He had the strangest feeling that here on this planet, thousands of light years from Earth, an ancient God had forestalled this sun in its trek across the heavens, bearing mute witness to the end of a race.
"Ensign Kim," Seven's voice carried over to him. "I require your assistance."
Stepping gingerly over the now cold remains of a campfire, Harry walked over to where Seven was standing, holding what looked like a small communications nodule in her hand.
"Is that what I think it is?" he said.
"It would appear to be some sort of data storage device, if that is what you were 'thinking'."
"We need to get this to Tuvok," said Harry, an edge of excitement in his voice, "This may be able to tell us what happened here, or at least who did this."
Raising her left eyebrow, and thus her ocular implant, Seven regarded Harry for a few seconds before stating, "Ensign Kim, you have an unmatched facility for stating the obvious."
"Seven to the Captain."
"Janeway here. Anything wrong, Seven?"
"We have located what appears to be a data storage device in the main camp in the capital city. With your permission, I will return to Voyager and attempt to download its contents into the ship's computer."
"Permission granted. In fact I'll help you. I'll meet you in Astrometrics. Janeway out."
"They would appear to be log entries of some sort. With your permission I will download them and then we will be better able to ascertain their contents." Seven stated somewhat needlessly.
After all, the Captain was standing right there and had no doubt come to the same conclusion. Nevertheless, Janeway nodded to Seven to continue. Kathryn knew she should just return to the bridge and let Seven work, but lately she had found herself using any excuse to spend some time alone with the beautiful young woman. Seven was engrossed in trying to access the data stored in the nodule, her fingers flying swiftly over the panel in front of her. Kathryn couldn't help but marvel, for the thousandth time, at the extraordinary progress Seven had made in three short years. As a child, Kathryn Janeway had watched with amazement and fascination as a small, grey web of silk had transformed itself, opening to reveal the most delicate and beautiful of creatures, carefully spreading its fragile wings in the Indiana breeze. She often felt that same sense of wonder when she looked at Seven as she had at that butterfly all those years ago.
Kathryn was interrupted from her musing by the sound of Seven's voice.
"I believe I have found a method to access the information. It will take approximately two hours to translate the contents. Shall I notify you when I have finished?"
"Just bring them by my ready Room, OK?"
"Of course, Captain."
Two hours later Seven stood in Janeway's Ready Room as the Captain read with astonishment and growing horror the first of log entries that Seven had transferred.
Log Entry: I am uncertain of what I should say, how I can even begin to describe the things that have happened. I only know that I must do this.
My name is Ka'Lari. I am a Minister to the Council of T'En, head of Science and Technological Development. I am being held with thousands of others in this makeshift camp, set up in the recreational park at the center of our Capital. I had this data node in my hand when we were captured and managed to hide it in my clothing. We were not searched too thoroughly. I do not believe that our captors consider us much of a threat.
We don't even know who they are, our attackers, our conquerors. No one I have spoken to has ever seen their species before. They made no attempt to contact us, no demands were issued. They simply descended upon us like locusts on a field, thousands of their ships filling our skies, so that even with the naked eye they appeared to darken the horizon. Our leaders tried to communicate with them but they were not interested in our entreaties. We offered them supplies, technology, anything we could think of to appease them. They laughed and said that all we had would be theirs soon enough. There was minimal resistance. We are not a militaristic race. Our few defenses were overwhelmed so quickly.
Then the horror began.
Their soldiers were everywhere, herding us like sheep into the streets. They had no regard for gender, for age, for anything. They simply ordered us to march, dealing quickly and brutally with any resistance. The air was filled with cries of fear, cries of outrage, screams of the injured, and the terrible silence of the dead. They marched us to the park, once a source of joy for so many, a place of nature and beauty, of play with friends and family. It has now become our prison.
Thousands of us are here and more are being brought in every day. We are without shelter, forced to sleep out in the open, vulnerable to the elements. They will not tell us what they plan for us. They will not even tell us who they are, what they call themselves. They say it does not matter. This fills me with fear like nothing else. Surely the victors have always wanted the vanquished to know them, to remember their names with terror. Some part of me believes that we will not live to recount the events of the past few days. That is why I must record these things, so that somehow, sometime, someone will remember us.
The entries told of the conditions in the camp, the rumors that similar camps had been established all over Ti'Niri. Many of the prisoners had been put to work, constructing what appeared to be emitters of some sort, surrounding the camp. No one knew what the emitters were for however, and their captors only laughed when questioned about the purpose of the strange objects.
Janeway found it increasingly difficult to read the logs. It was clear that Ka'Lari held little hope for her people. Besides, Kathryn already knew the tragic end to this story. Ka'Lari, obviously intent on leaving behind some testament to her people's accomplishments and character, recorded the strength with which they faced this torment, of their compassion toward one another. She told again of her family, of her sister and mother, and the many happy times they had shared; though she did not know where they were or what had become of them. Kathryn couldn't help but think of her own mother and sister, so far away in the Alpha Quadrant, and of whether she would ever see them again. Sometimes it seemed as if she had as little chance of getting her ship and crew home as Ka'Lari did of freeing herself and her people.
Kathryn carefully set the glass of whiskey and soda on the low coffee table in front of the couch. She picked up the book of poetry she had laid there, settled back against the cushions and began to read. Skimming through the pages, she came upon a poem by a twentieth century woman named Elinor Wylie that resonated familiarly in her mind as she read it.
My body is weary to death of my mischievous brain:
I am weary forever and ever of being brave;
Therefore I crouch on my knees while the cool white rain
Curves the clover over my head like a wave.
The stem and the frosty seed of the grass are ripe;
I have devoured their strength; I have drunk them deep;
And the dandelion is gall in a thin green pipe,
But the clover is honey and sun and the smell of sleep.
The words of the poem seemed to slip sideways through Kathryn's mind, brushing against long-hidden memories like cobwebs against her skin, light and fleeting, not quite real. She remembered feeling like that after the deaths of her father and her fiancé Justin; so very tired of being brave, longing only to sleep, forever if possible.
The events of the past few days had brought back to her all the old insecurities, all the doubts and regrets of the past six years. If an entire civilization could simply be wiped from existence with such callous disregard, what real hope did one small ship of 141 people have of crossing the vast expanse of half the known galaxy to return safely home? And what, if any, guarantee was there that there was even an Earth to return to, she wondered. The news of the Federation war with the Dominion, and the extermination of all the remaining Maquis by the Cardassians had rocked them all to the core. There was every possibility that the Federation had been defeated and forced into indentured service to the Dominion.
Despite Seven's best efforts, they had been unable to locate anyone in the surrounding star systems who had ever heard of the aliens who attacked the Ti'Niri. Perhaps they were nomads, traversing this area of space merely by chance. It was unlikely that the crew of Voyager would ever know who the aliens were, or why they had committed this horrendous act. Kathryn wasn't sure she wanted to know. She honestly wasn't certain whether she was strong enough to look that kind of evil in the face and not feel compelled to react with rage and violence.
Sighing deeply, Janeway absently rubbed the back of her neck, the tension of being the Captain of a lost starship only made worse by the discoveries on Ti'Niri. She was midway through Ka'Lari's logs, having read with grim distaste and sadness the accounts of the treatment of the Ti'Niri by their murderers. For that was the only word for the perpetrators of this act - murderers. This had been no act of self-defense, not even one of revenge. It had simply been an act of amoral cowardice, an act of evil.
Evil. Kathryn had always been hesitant to use that word to describe another race or culture. Her Starfleet training told her that different cultures have different ethical standards, different concepts of morality, of right and wrong. But this massacre had nothing to do with morality. This was the willful, malicious destruction of an entire race for completely self-motivated reasons, for profit.
Glancing at the chronometer Kathryn realized it was 0230 hours. She knew that she should at least attempt to get some sleep. She had just changed into her nightgown and was preparing to order the computer to lower the lights when her door chimed. She hesitated briefly, considered having the computer inform her visitor that she had retired for the evening. Her duty to her crew won out however.
The door slid open with a slight whoosh to reveal Seven of Nine.
"Captain, am I disturbing you?"
"I was just about to try and get some sleep. What can I do for you Seven?"
"I am having difficulty Captain," Seven said, her voice oddly subdued. "Difficulty with the nature of evil."
Janeway stood motionless for a moment, her eyes locked on Seven's.
"So am I Seven, so am I," Kathryn said wearily. "Why don't you sit down? Would you like something to drink, some tea perhaps?"
"Thank you, Captain. That would be acceptable."
Walking over to the replicator, Janeway ordered coffee for herself and a soothing lemon herb tea for Seven.
Handing Seven the tea, Janeway sat down on the couch beside her, closer than she usually sat to anyone, her knee pressing lightly against Seven's, sensing that Seven needed the comfort of that physical proximity. And knowing that she did herself.
"Why don't you tell me what's troubling you?" Kathryn coaxed.
"I have been attempting to ascertain the exact definition of evil. I have researched approximately 702 previous incidents of genocide or mass slaughter in order to compare all of the relevant similarities. I had hoped through cross-referencing the reasons for such attacks to reach some rational conclusion as to the nature of evil. Despite my efforts however, I still do not understand what evil is or how it continues to exist."
"I'm afraid that you have been trying to answer a question that has plagued the universe since time immemorial Seven," Kathryn said gently. "But I don't think that you're going to find the answer in quantifiable terms or tangible calculations. Evil is one of the great intangibles, almost impossible to define, and even harder to stop."
"What was done to the Ti'Niri. I was not prepared for the emotions it evoked in me. As a Borg I witnessed and participated in the assimilation of entire races. I should not feel all of the things I feel," Seven murmured confusion evident in her sky-blue eyes.
"What do you feel Seven?"
"Sorrow. Grief. Horror. Outrage at the perpetrators of this act. Confusion. I do not understand why such a thing should occur. To the Borg, assimilation is viewed as growth, as allowing beings to move to a higher plane, a higher purpose. I know now that this view is flawed, but even the Borg would perceive this act as waste," she said, the words coming slowly, "Yet I am also aware that there are many, including many on board Voyager, who see the Borg as evil. "
Kathryn sat silently for a moment. She knew what Seven was asking, knew she had reached the logical conclusion that if the Borg were evil, then by extension Seven herself, having been Borg, was evil as well. Janeway also knew that she alone could dissuade Seven from that belief.
"I think that the definition of evil lies in the intent. Evil requires malice. It requires knowledge of right and wrong coupled with a complete disregard for that knowledge. Killing in itself isn't necessarily evil, but the enjoyment of it, the pleasure derived from taking away the life, the future of another being is evil," Kathryn stated firmly, her eyes never leaving Seven's.
"As a drone you had no intent Seven, you were simply acting as part of the Collective will. Do you remember Arturis telling us that he bore no ill will toward the Borg, that they were simply a force of nature, acting on their collective instinct? He said that he blamed me because I had a choice. That's where the true definition of evil lies Seven, in the choice."
"So you are saying that it is not the action itself but choosing to act that determines whether or not the action is evil?"
"Yes, and the reasons behind the choice. Though for humans genocide in any form, for whatever reason, even self-preservation, is wrong."
Seven's face registered confusion. "I do not understand, Captain," she stated.
"Don't understand what, Seven?"
"You seem to be contradicting yourself. If only the intent behind the action determines that the act is evil, then how can you state that genocide is wrong, regardless of that intent?"
Kathryn sighed. She should have known better than to think that Seven would simply accept what she said as the gospel truth. Even something that she knew Seven desperately wanted to believe.
"All right Seven, I'll give you an example, and then perhaps you'll understand."
"Several years ago, the USS Enterprise had the opportunity to destroy the Borg, once and for all," Janeway explained, "They encountered a drone, injured, alone and took him on board the Enterprise. They thought that it would be possible to infect the drone with a cybernetic virus that would be spread throughout the hive, effectively destroying the hive mind and eliminating the Borg in one fell swoop."
"Obviously this did not occur, as I am here having this conversation with you," Seven returned, looking somewhat disturbed.
"No Seven, it didn't occur. Captain Picard realized that regardless of danger the Borg posed to the Federation, posed to the entire Alpha Quadrant, annihilating an entire race, even the Borg, was unacceptable. Despite the fact that the Borg almost defeated us at Wolf359, and were continuing in their attempts to assimilate the entire quadrant, there was something too abhorrent, too against our basic beliefs to allow them to carry out the plan."
"As Tuvok would say, that is illogical Captain. The Federation knew of the Borgs' intention to assimilate them, knew that the chances were very good that the Borg would in fact succeed in that goal. Therefore, in an act of self-preservation, they should have acted to destroy the Borg when the opportunity presented itself."
"Sometimes it's better to face even the possibility of death knowing that you did the right thing."
"It would appear that your concepts of right and wrong are based more on emotion and sentiment than on any factual or logical basis. I find this confusing. Had I been in Captain Picard's place, I would have utilized the virus."
"I must say, aside from the moral issue involved in decimating an entire race, I'm glad that he didn't use the virus. If he had, you would never have joined this crew. And I have no doubt that Voyager would have been destroyed several times over without you. You are very important to this ship, Seven."
Kathryn wanted to say more, to tell Seven how much she had come to mean to her personally, but she held it back, afraid to open herself up that much, terrified that she might not be able to step back from that abyss in time to save herself.
Kathryn could see that Seven wanted to believe her. Reaching out, she took Seven's hand in her own, gently running her fingertips along the Borg-enhanced mesh covering. Janeway knew that Seven was discomforted by most peoples' response to her remaining implants. Underneath that cool, arrogant Borg exterior was a very fragile heart, easily wounded by the often-insensitive remarks and actions of her crewmates.
Seven's eyes were focused on the contact of the Captain's fingers and her own. It felt like small, individual shocks were being sent through the sensors in her implant up her arm and down the length of her spine. She stared at their two hands, intertwined on the Captains knee, as if she could actually see the electrical connection.
Janeway herself could feel that connection as well. She longed to pull Seven closer, to put her arms around her and stroke that silken hair and remove that look of confusion from those incredible eyes. She knew she couldn't.
"Besides, Seven most of the really important things in life, friendship, loyalty, love...They're all based on emotion and sentiment. It seems only right that morality should be as well. Most of the time it is only possible to really see something by viewing the opposite. Without goodness, based in love, we would never recognize evil."
"It is almost impossible to comprehend the overwhelming blackness of midnight never having seen the sun rise on a new day," Kathryn said softly, Seven's hand still held tightly in her own.
"So it is only because I have experienced what it means to do good, to do the right thing, that the full significance of evil has made itself apparent?"
"Yes, you know enough to choose."
"Perhaps the beings who committed this act did not know," Seven queried, though the doubt in her own statement was clear on her face.
"No, Seven, I think we're all aware that they knew. They just didn't care."
"I believe this discussion has now come full circle, Captain."
"Has this helped you at all?"
"I believe so, Captain. Thank you for your assistance," Seven said quickly, rising to her feet and moving toward the door before Kathryn could stop her.
"I didn't mean you had to leave Seven," Janeway said, a small smile touching the corners of her mouth.
"It is late and you were about to retire for the night. I appreciate your help. It has been a long and difficult day. I should regenerate."
"All right Seven, if you're sure. I want you to know that I'll be more than willing to discuss this further if you feel you have any more questions."
"Thank you. Goodnight, Captain."
The conversation with Seven and the feelings that it had conjured up left Kathryn wide-awake and restless. She sipped at her now cold coffee, turning over in her mind all the things that had been said, and all the things that hadn't been said. Hadn't been said by her. She had been aware for some time now that her feelings for Seven, once protective, even somewhat maternal in nature, had altered radically. She also knew that as the Captain it really didn't matter what she felt or what she wanted. Captains did not become involved with members of their crew. Period. Kathryn doubted seriously that Seven in any way returned those feelings, could return those feelings. If she was in love with Seven, it was simply her misfortune. Certainly not the first she had encountered out here in the Delta Quadrant, and most definitely not the last.
Kathryn forced herself to at least attempt to get some sleep. The gruesome discovery on Ti'Niri had everyone on board on edge. It certainly wouldn't help to have a Captain who was even more on edge from lack of sleep. Sighing deeply, Janeway ordered the computer to lower the lights and climbed into bed.
For Kathryn Janeway, Captain of the USS Voyager, it was a very long, sleepless night.
After all their efforts it seemed that the only thing that the crew of Voyager could really do was bear witness to the events that had left a kind and cultured people as only a small footnote on an obscure page of the galaxy's history. Janeway couldn't help but wonder if her race would one day meet such an ignominious fate. Certainly the Ti'Niri were not the first civilization to have such tragedy befall them. Civilizations had always risen and fallen like this, like the constant wash of the sea onto the shore, currents moving in and out, waves breaking onto the sand, leaving their mark for an instant and then being swallowed back into the yawning maw of the ocean.
All that was left to do now was to commemorate. A twentieth century activist named Mother Jones once said, "Remember the dead and fight like hell for the living." Kathryn Janeway had always seemed to live her life by that principle. For right now though, it was time to remember.
Kathryn hesitantly picked up the PADD that lay on her coffee table, uncertain even now of accessing it. On the PADD was stored the data retrieved from the Ka'Lari's logs. Settling down on one end of the couch, and steeling herself for the task at hand, Janeway began to read the last of the log entries.
The final entry caused Kathryn's breath to catch in her throat. As she read it, tears, silent and fierce, began to slide down over elegant cheekbones, falling steadily to dampen the soft grey-blue undershirt of her uniform.
Log Entry: It is raining again. The ground of our "camp" is now a virtual sea of yellow mud. It covers everything, gets in your eyes, in your mouth. It pulls relentlessly at our feet as we try to walk to the area where food is distributed. I have no appetite myself. Besides, the less I eat the more there is for the children. Regardless of the circumstances, I am still a government Minister, and these people are my responsibility. Though for how much longer I don't know. Rumors abound, most contending that the emitters they are forcing us to install will be the instruments of our destruction. Perhaps they will.
I cannot sleep. I see it every time I close my eyes, even for an instant. I see her face as they dragged her away, see her struggle, trying to break free. She is so full of life, so sure, so damned sure of everything. Of course, I know that she isn't. Know that she's young, that she hides her insecurities behind a wall of arrogance, of unemotion.
I watched as they took her away, saw the look of, of what , fear, and astonishment, and regret even, in her beautiful silver eyes. I screamed for her, cried out her name, Amir'a. I begged her not to go, not to leave me. I tried in that briefest of instants to tell her what I could have taken a lifetime to tell her and still not had enough time. How much I love her. How she brought light and hope and forgotten joy to my empty life. How seeing the childlike wonder of discovery on her face made me see all the wonders I had missed. How much I need her. Sweet Gods, how I wasn't really alive, just existing, until I saw her face. She couldn't hear me. I know I will never see her again, at least in this life.
Part of me hopes that the rumors are true, that death awaits us all. If it does, then I humbly ask forgiveness of the Gods for my faithlessness and pray that they will let me see her, my lovely Amir'a, one more time and tell her all the things my cowardly heart never let me say.
Kathryn couldn't control the sobs that rose from someplace deep inside her, from the heart that she thought she had managed to harden to all things. For once she let go, let the tears overwhelm her, crying for the Ti'Niri, for Ka'Lari and Amir'a, and also for Kathryn Janeway. She cried until her chest ached, and her throat felt raw and swollen.
Kathryn had seen death before, more times than she cared to remember. She had witnessed the destruction left in the wake of the Borg. Those deaths had been in the heat of battle, in wars fought to preserve the Federation, to end tyranny, to save the lives of innocent people. For the Borg, there hadn't been death but assimilation, to their collective mind an addition, not a loss. But this, this massacre wasn't anything other than waste, as if the Ti'Niri were no more than animals to be slaughtered. There are some things too large to absorb, too much to wrap your mind around, she knew. This was one of those things. She tried to focus on the larger picture, the millions murdered. Tried to remember all that they had been, all that they had lost, and all that would never be. All she could think of though was the last of Ka'Lari's log entries.
<God, I need to stop this, she thought>
<I should just try to get some sleep>
<I won't though. I'll just lie there, not sleeping>
Images swirling through her mind like dry, colorless leaves caught in a chill winter's wind, Kathryn sat down at the workstation in her quarters and attempted to put her wayward thoughts into place.
Kathryn Janeway's personal log, Stardate 53172.4:
I just read the final log entries from Ka'Lari. Words fail me somehow. I can't begin to describe the sense of horror, or helplessness. The last entry in particular left me sobbing on the couch in my quarters.
I could have written that log. It's so strange to find yourself in the writings of a dead woman you never met, on a planet you never even heard of, in a place you never wanted to be.
I wonder, have I become like Ka'Lari, too frightened, too disconnected from myself to even admit what I know I feel, what I know I want. Who I know I want. God, have all these years alone robbed me of the very Humanity I insist that Seven should acquire? Yes, acquire, like it's some trinket picked up at a dinghy market on some godforsaken planet.
Besides, what right do I have to burden her with my feelings, with me? I don't even know if she truly understands what it means to love. Worse, I'm not sure that I do anymore. I've done things in the past few months I never thought I'd do. The reasons were right, at least they used to be. I wonder sometimes how far I am from becoming like Ransom, from forgetting everything I believe in. I find myself clinging to the notion that I can still be shocked, still be horrified. As long as I am still able to feel outrage then there is hope. When that is gone then I'll be the one in need of lessons in Humanity.
Chakotay said that my reasons for chasing Ransom weren't really about Seven being trapped on the Equinox. As usual, he was only partially right, I'm afraid. Ultimately, everything has to do with Seven. I think that that's what frightens me the most. Some part of me knows that if I ever let her in, I'd lose myself in her completely. Someone once said that it is only in surrendering to love that we are saved. I'm not sure I could survive that salvation. Perhaps I'm just destined to eternal damnation. God knows, there are times it seems the only explanation for our situation.
What has happened to me? How can I sit here and feel sorry for us, for my ship and crew, after having seen the devastation on Ti'Niri? We are alive, reasonably well, our ship intact. What more could I ask for ?
Seven. I could ask for Seven. I could do the one thing Ka'Lari never got the chance to do. Tell this extraordinary woman how I feel about her. I guess it doesn't really matter if she feels the same for me. Love is supposed to be undemanding, selfless. I honestly don't know how much longer I can stop this . I know I don't want to keep denying my feelings. I also know that I must. I'm her Captain. That's all I can be
The soft chime of her door interrupted Kathryn's musings. Glancing at the chronometer in dismay, she realized how late it was. There was only one person on board Voyager who regularly visited the Captain at such odd hours. The one person Kathryn knew she wasn't up to facing, at least now, in this vulnerable state. She quickly ended her log entry and just as quickly brought down the command mask that divided Kathryn Janeway from Captain Janeway. It was second nature to her after all these years, like breathing. Walking over to stand by the viewport she said firmly, "Come."
She had expected to see Seven standing there. Instead the solid form of her First Officer stood framed in the doorway. Kathryn let out the breath that she had been holding.
"Chakotay. It's late. What can I do for you?"
"I'm sorry, I know it's late but I wanted to check on you. I didn't get a chance to talk with you about what we saw down there on the planet. Are you all right? I know how hard this must be, especially with the similarities to the Equinox. I guess I just wanted you to know that I'm here if you need someone to listen," he said softly, genuine concern evident on his face.
"I'll be all right, Chakotay," Janeway replied, not quite meeting his eyes.
"It's a lot to take in, isn't it? Have you finished reading Ka'Lari's logs yet?" his voice gently prodded.
Kathryn looked up at him warily, searching his expression, trying to tell if he was leading her somewhere she wasn't prepared to go. All she saw was kindness and worry; yes he was worried about her. She debated simply saying no and telling him thanks, but it was late and she was going to bed. Some small part of her wouldn't allow that however.
"Yes. I just read the last entry. Pretty powerful stuff wouldn't you say?" her voice much calmer than she felt.
"Definitely. It's such a horrible tragedy, all those lives, and all those futures gone. Thank the spirits that Ka'Lari managed to make those logs. Now, the Ti'Niri will be remembered. I can only hope that my people faced their end with such dignity and grace," Chakotay said slowly, obvious emotion in his voice.
Kathryn's face softened a bit and she laid her hand on his forearm.
"I hope so too, Chakotay"
"I'm not certain what the Ti'Niri believed about an afterlife but I hope that Ka'Lari found Amir'a again. That she was able to tell her how she felt for her," he said, his eyes never leaving Kathryn's face.
He knows, she thought. Or at least he suspects.
"I think I know where you're headed with this. I'm not sure I want to discuss it," her voice sounding slightly uneven.
"You need to talk to someone, Kathryn. It's obvious that it's tearing you up inside. You've been trying so hard not to give into your feelings that you're in danger of not feeling anything at all. No," he said, raising his hand to forestall her protest. "Hear me out. Look at what happened with Ransom and Lessing. It seemed like you had lost some of your humanity, Kathryn. It's as if by not allowing yourself to feel love, to feel all of the wonderful, positive emotions, that all you have left are the negative ones."
"It's time to stop building these impenetrable fortress walls, Kathryn. You said yesterday that you would make sure that the memory of the Ti'Niri would be honored. Honor it, Kathryn. Honor Ka'Lari's memory by not repeating her mistakes, by not waiting until it's too late. I can't think of a more fitting tribute to their memories."
"I appreciate your concern, Chakotay. But I'm not going to have this discussion. I can't," she said, ineffable sadness clouding her face.
Turning away from him, Kathryn stared out at the few stars that glittered against the blackness of space, like small diamonds tossed away by a careless god.
With her back to him, he could see the tension in her shoulders, under the thin material of her undershirt. Chakotay knew that there was a battle being waged inside Kathryn Janeway that rivaled Wolf359 in intensity and potential for harm. He waited silently, having said all that he dared to convince her to act on her feelings. It had been clear to him for at least a year now that the protective feelings Janeway had for the former Borg drone had altered, deepened into something much stronger. It was evident in the way Kathryn looked at Seven, the casual touches, the sheer amount of time, off-duty and on that they spent together. At first he had been upset, feeling a sense of disappointment. But it had been clear for some time that though Kathryn cared for him, she would never return his feelings. Now he had the opportunity to help her find happiness. She was his friend and he would do all he could for her, even help her find the courage to tell someone else she loved them.
Finally, after what felt like a slightly abbreviated eternity, Kathryn turn to face him. Her back straight, her shoulders set he knew she had made a decision.
"Thank you for being such a good friend to me Chakotay. I fear I don't really deserve it most of the time. But I'm grateful nonetheless." Janeway said quietly, clearly a dismissal.
Placing his hand lightly on top of hers, he said, "Goodnight Kathryn," and silently left her quarters.
Kathryn turned back to look at the stars through the viewport. These were same stars that generations of Ti'Niri had gazed up at, dreamt under, wished upon for wealth, or power or love. The stars, cold and remote, showed no sign of regret that the Ti'Niri would never again trace their constellations in the sky.
Sitting down again at her station, Janeway resumed her personal log entry.
Personal Log, Kathryn Janeway, supplemental:
Chakotay came to see me this evening. He said he wanted to make sure I was all right. I'm not. I haven't been for ages. But, for the first time in a very long time, I think there's a chance I could be. I think he wanted to urge me to talk to Seven, to tell her that I love her. To tell her that she fills an empty space in me that often feels as wide and deep as the Delta Quadrant itself. I told him I couldn't discuss it. The truth is I guess I don't really need to anymore.
I don't want to be like Ka'Lari. I don't want to face the possibility of a future alone. The thought that ten or fifteen years from now I will look back with such profound regret is not acceptable. I told Seven once that in order to grow one had to learn from not only their mistakes but also the mistakes of others. It's time I learned that lesson. A poet from Earth once wrote that he did not want to die, only to find he had never lived. Neither do I.
Kathryn realized she was crying again by the time that she reached the end of her log entry. They were different tears though, not of loss and pain but of relief.
"Seven to Janeway."
The hail took Kathryn by surprise. She hesitated briefly, before she responded.
"Yes, Seven, what is it?"
"I apologize for the late hour but I wish to beam down to the planet, Captain. I had hoped that perhaps you would agree to accompany me."
"Why Seven, why do you want to beam down?"
"I realize it is an unusual request, Captain, however after our conversation last night I felt that I needed to, I believe the term is, 'pay my respects' to the Ti'Niri. As we will be departing this system at the beginning of Alpha shift, this seemed the only time."
Touched by the inherent kindness of the gesture, Janeway found herself agreeing to meet Seven in Transporter Room two. Turning to look at Seven standing next to her on the transporter pad, Kathryn's breath caught, overcome by the emotion she had been grappling with for so long.
Kathryn realized that whatever doubts she had about the rightness of her feelings had vanished, like fog dissipating from the fields in the warm light of the morning sun.
Standing on the transporter pad, Kathryn Janeway made a command decision. She would not die as Ka'Lari had, so full of regret, knowing that her pride and stubborn will had prevented her from knowing and sharing love. Intellectually, Kathryn knew that this probably wasn't the wisest course of action. It certainly didn't adhere to Starfleet guidelines and protocols. And it posed grave possible harm to her heart. Her heart however, knew with absolute certainty that this was the only decision she could live with, regardless of the outcome.
Glancing back at the crewman on duty, Janeway nodded. "Energize."
As the whine of the transporter faded away, the brittle, soul-crushing silence of the dead world enveloped them. Nothing stirred in the tepid breeze. It seemed that never again would anything grow or flourish here on this scarred ground, though the rain would continue to pour down life from the unseeing heavens.
They had beamed down to a spot not far from the center of the capital city. Graceful buildings rose around them, testament to a love of beauty and the need to express that love. The architecture was elegant, refined and built to withstand the tumultuous passage of time with dignity. Seven found that it reminded her greatly of the woman walking at her side.
They walked slowly through the vacant streets. Neither of them appeared to notice when their hands joined, the mesh covered fingers of Seven's left hand intertwining with Janeway's, their bodies pulled closer as they continued on. Both knew instinctively that they were headed for the park, the site of the prison camp where Ka'Lari's body had been found along with so many of her people.
They stood, finally, at the edge of the camp; both lost in their own thoughts. Squeezing Seven's fingers tightly between her own, Janeway quoted softly,
"For this her loveliness was carved/and carved as silver is: /For this she was brave: but she deserved/ A better grave than this."
Hearing the sadness, the wistfulness in her Captain's voice pulled at Seven's heart. She longed to erase all the pain that Kathryn felt.
Seven turned deliberately, searching Kathryn's face, eyes the color of a summer sky meeting eyes the color of a stormy winter sea. All of the feelings withheld out of fear, all of the words unspoken, everything hidden deep in their two hearts passed silently between them in that gaze. Kathryn knew that Seven was waiting for her to act, unsure herself of how to proceed. Tugging gently on Seven's hand, Kathryn pulled her close, tenderly slipping her arms around Seven's waist, feeling with a sense of such joy that she had come home. Amazing to feel joy here, where so much pain had been felt, where so much had been lost. She and Seven had come here to honor the memory of the Ti'Niri, of Ka'Lari and Amir'a and all that they had felt and experienced.
So Kathryn Janeway did the one thing that she knew would honor them the most. She brought life and love back to their barren world. She delicately cupped Seven's beautiful face in her hands and she kissed her. She felt the incredible softness of Seven's lips against her own, drank deeply of the flavor of her, of lips that tasted like rainwater on the sweet skin of an apple. Drawing back to look into Seven's eyes, Kathryn said the words that Ka'Lari never had the courage to say. "I love you, Seven. With all that I am, I love you."
The smile of wonder and beatific joy that transformed Seven of Nine into Annika Hansen was all the response that Kathryn needed. They stood there for a sweet eternity, trying to silently convey all that their two lonely hearts had withheld. Bending her head, Seven claimed Kathryn's mouth again. As the two women stood there kissing in a desolate park on a dead world, a soft rain began to fall. It felt like a benediction from the Ti'Niri, for this act of love that somehow redeemed them all.
Finally pulling away from the sanctuary of Seven's arms, Kathryn touched her com badge. "Two to beam up, Chief. Directly to my quarters."
As the transporter beam gathered them up Janeway said a silent prayer of gratitude to Ka'Lari. And a promise to spend the rest of her life telling Seven all that she meant to her, and how much she loved her.
They materialized in Kathryn's quarters. Both women stood for a long moment, caught in each other's gaze.
"Seven, come and sit with me. We should talk about this, about us."
Seven sat gingerly on the couch, back straight, knees together, seemingly poised and in control. Only the twitch of the muscles in her jaw, moving against clenched teeth, betrayed the turmoil and uncertainty.
"What did you wish to discuss, Captain?"
"Kathryn, Seven, call me Kathryn. And I'm not sure really. Us I guess. What just happened down there on the planet. I told you I love you. I guess I'm wondering how you feel. How do you feel?"
"Oh," Kathryn said, a hint of sadness coloring her voice, "I just thought...I mean I assumed that you returned my feelings. I am sorry, Seven."
Kathryn turned away from Seven, her head bent, staring intently at the pattern of light that fell from the viewport across the carpeted deck, as if the lines and shadows would provide her with some way to respond, some explanation.
"My actions were inexcusable Seven. I hope that you can forgive me and we can try to put this behind us," Kathryn said finally, her voice laden with regret and wounded pride.
"Capt...Kathryn," Seven said, rising from the couch to move to Janeway's side, "I did not mean that I am uncertain about how I feel for you. Merely that I am uncertain of how to deal with the amazing influx of thoughts and sensations to my cortical implant. I do not know how to process all that I am feeling."
"Of one thing I am certain however. I love you. As much as I am able. I simply cannot assess how much that is at the moment."
"Oh," Kathryn breathed again, "Are you sure Seven? You're not just saying that because you know it's what I want to hear, or because I'm your Captain, are you?"
"No. Despite my regard for you as Captain of this vessel, there is nothing that could force me to tell you this but the need of my heart."
Kathryn smiled sweetly up at her, and Seven reached carefully with her right hand, gently cupping Kathryn's cheek. So slowly, that at first she thought she was imagining it, Kathryn watched as Seven's lovely face bent towards hers. At the feel of the soft pressure of Seven's lips on her own, a small moan escaped Kathryn's throat. Encouraged by this response, Seven slid her arms around her Captain, pulling her with gentle force against her, till their bodies seemed to meld.
They lost all sense of time and place, knowing only the flavor and texture of each other, hands and mouths exploring, discovering, eliciting soft moans and sighs and whispers. Finally, of unspoken, mutual accord, they moved languidly, deliberately towards Kathryn's bedroom. Now that they had committed themselves to this course of action, there was no hurry, no mad rush. This was something to luxuriate in, from which to take delight and joy. Stopping by the side of the bed, they began the slow, sweet ritual of undressing each other, stealing kisses, savoring silken smooth skin, seeking out all those hidden treasures. Then finally they fell to the bed, beginning in earnest to learn all there was to know about each other, mapping with skilled and loving hands the wonder of their two intertwining bodies and intermingling souls.
Kathryn reached down to run her fingers through silken blonde hair, then down the soft curve of Seven's cheek, the tips of her fingers just brushing the star-shaped implant that graced the spot just below her right temple. Seven was lying between Kathryn's legs, resting her cheek contentedly against the babysoft skin of Kathryn's inner thigh.
"Come here," Kathryn growled softly.
"No. I wish to remain right here," Seven responded, languidly rubbing her cheek against the thigh lying under it, marveling at the texture.
"Forever?" her lover inquired, just the hint of a smile touching her lips.
"Can that be arranged?" Seven asked, obvious interest in her tone.
Janeway laughed, a low husky chuckle that always seemed to Seven like a palpable caress.
"I'm afraid someone might miss us eventually."
"Regrettable. However at least I will be able to inform Mr. Neelix that I have finally discovered a taste that I enjoy."
Kathryn raised herself up on her elbow to get a better look at Seven's face. Seven was absently stroking her fingers through the damp auburn curls between Kathryn's legs, that half smile she used whenever something amused her sweetly turning up the corners of her mouth.
On seeing that look on the Borg's lovely face, Kathryn relaxed, snorting softly. She had been afraid that the conversation she knew was coming, about discretion and public disclosure, had arrived already.
"Was that a joke, darling?"
"It seemed an appropriate time for humor."
Pleasantly surprised at her young lover's ease in, what could have been an emotionally fraught situation, Kathryn fell back against the pillows, chuckling softly. A blissful smile on her lips, she gave a sigh of absolute contentment. However, soon, a small frown creased her forehead. Seven was unfamiliar with social etiquette and it fell to Kathryn to make certain that Seven didn't inadvertently say something publicly that they both would regret.
"Ah, Seven, darling, just so we're clear, that wouldn't be an appropriate topic of conversation with Neelix, or anyone else actually."
Seven raised her head slightly, quirking her left Borg-enhanced eyebrow at Janeway.
"It was a joke. You need not be concerned Kathryn. I will be discrete."
"Just checking. Now come here."
"I've thought of something else you can do with that mouth besides make jokes, like kissing me senseless."
"If that is all you require I assure you I can accomplish that task quite successfully from right here."
Standing in the doorway to her bedroom, Kathryn watched Seven sleeping. They had made love into the wee hours of the morning, both finally succumbing to sweet slumber, wrapped in each other's arms. Kathryn had awoken to the exquisite sight of Seven, sleeping so peacefully beside her. Propping her head on her hand Kathryn had watched Seven sleep, amazed at the changes. Without the mask of cool arrogance that she normally wore, Seven looked like one of Bottecelli's angels. Even the harsh reminders of her time with the Borg, the metallic implants that glowed softly in the light from the viewport, only enhanced her beauty. Odd, Kathryn thought, that a race bent on finding perfection could overlook it right it its midst.
After a long time spent simply watching Seven sleep, Kathryn slipped silently out of bed and walked out into the living area of her quarters. Tomorrow there would be consequences to deal with, because Kathryn was confident that there would be a certain amount of resentment that after six years of being alone, the Captain had taken a lover, a former Borg drone to be precise. But it had been Kathryn's choice, Seven's choice. They had chosen love, belonging, a shared life over the emptiness and longing of being completely alone. If there was intent required in evil then there must be intent required in goodness as well. It must be the choice to honor love wherever or however it finds us. For in the act of choosing to venerate love our redemption is found.
Kathryn felt for one brief instant as if all of the Ti'Niri were there with her, silently granting a benediction and a heartfelt expression of gratitude. She was not a person inclined to prayer, but this once Kathryn Janeway prayed to whatever god would listen that she would never understand the evil that had brought down a benevolent people. And she prayed that she would never forget that the nature of evil can always be defeated by the redemption found in the nature of love.
Moving silently across the space between the door and the bed, Kathryn slipped off her robe and eased into the bed beside Seven. Seven turned instinctively in her sleep, wrapping her arms around Kathryn and burying her face in the hollow of Kathryn's neck, her breath warm against her skin. Sighing softly, Kathryn gently kissed the top of that silver-blonde head and closing her eyes, surrendered to seamless sleep. Voyager moved swiftly through the stars, a sleek white shape, skimming through the blackness, again on its course for home. Whether Voyager ever reached the Alpha Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway had already found her home, thousands of light years away, lost among the stars.
Return to Voyager J/7 Fiction
Return to Main Page