DISCLAIMER: Voyager, and all it's characters belong to Paramount. I am not making profit from this tale it is purely for fun. No copyright infringement intended.
RATING V:R, S:NC-17(maybe)
WARNINGS: F/F interactions. If you are under 18, this is illegal where you live, OR the idea of two women in love/attracted to each other offends you PLEASE go read something else!
NAUGHTY WORDS WARNINGS: there are some, but they are not gratuitous, or often.
DARKSIDER WARNING: There is ALOT of lightside interaction here. You've been warned.
I would like to thank Wyrdemage, TJ, Nicole, and Rebelgirl for their Beta time. I have been bouncing ideas off of them, sending them stuff, bugging them and being a general nuisance for quite a while and they are ALL so wonderful to me! I love you girls!! <hugs>
By Cirroco DeSade
"So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
Even cold November rain"
Axel Rose- 1991
Standing in his office, he looked out into the sickbay. He had just finished updating his reports on the patients that inhabited the beds, and now watched for a moment, taking the chance to catch his breath, so to speak. Looking over at the first bed, he felt his heart would break-- if he had one. The tall Nordic beauty looked like an angel; Sleeping Beauty waiting for her prince. She was clad in the Starfleet uniform that she had proudly worn for just over a year; her long blonde hair gently fell over her shoulders and draped over the bed. There was nothing really wrong with her except a minor bump to the head and shock. She had fainted on the bridge when the news had come in... a first for her... and her head promptly collided with the station in front of her.
The whole ship was still reeling from the news. He himself hadn't had much time to contemplate or mourn. Yet he would dare say to anybody who asked his opinion that she would suffer the worst, would feel the most pain. All who knew her would probably agree. It was an irony of life, how a former Borg drone could feel so deeply and affect so many with her love. Over the years even her greatest detractors, the ones who had thought her to be nothing but the coldest of unfeeling life forms, had been won over by her heart.
The man in the chair next to her held a lonely vigil, relieved of his duty on the bridge to be with her. Harry Kim was one of the few who always gave her a chance, and over time, they had become the fondest of friends. He had originally held romantic notions for her. Like so many, her beauty had captivated him at first. However, over time they became like siblings. He held her daughter in his arms, cradling her until her mother might awake, feeding her a bottle and singing her a soft tune from his homeland.
All this pain and despair from one away mission gone horribly wrong. One too many disasters avoided he supposed; the ship's luck had finally run out. The doctor looked over the medical records of the Captain, her third in command, the ship's best pilot, and the ship's chief engineer, and he wished he could weep. If only he were as human as he felt; he would cry for hours. It was for the best he supposed. He could stay relatively intact while all those around him could grieve and mourn. Three of these records would have to be updated as soon as he did autopsies. The fourth he could only pray would turn out okay. It was out of his hands for the most part; the patient was in a deep coma and hanging on by a thread after hours of surgery. He sent an urgent mental plea to the woman to just hold on, to fight for all she was worth. Annika had already lost the man she considered a mentor and father figure. She had lost a friend. Worst of all, she had lost her wife, her baby's other mother. He did not think she should lose her best friend as well.
Three years earlier
"I do not understand." Seven would not look at B'Elanna. She was busy trying to control the cascade of emotions rampaging through her system. Tears were freely flowing down her face despite her best efforts not to let them fall.
"Look, I just can't be what you want. Maybe I'm just not ready for love; maybe I'll never be ready. I'm a much better friend than lover Annika." B'Elanna tried to lay her hand on top of Seven's but the blonde pulled away quickly and moved to the window.
"This is painful," the Borg stated.
B'Elanna approached her slowly. This was hurting her so much more than she imagined it would. A part of her wanted to take it all back, forget everything she just said but she knew it was better this way. She said softly, "What can I do?"
At first, the blonde made no answer. After a few moments, B'Elanna realized her shoulders were shaking as she wept and Seven answered. "Just leave."
Whatever she had expected, it wasn't this. "Are you sure you want to be alone?"
"Yes!" the Borg wailed. "Leave!" She commanded with a growl. The lip of the window under her left hand began to groan and bend.
B'Elanna jumped slightly and backed off slowly. Sighing, she finally turned and headed out of the quarters. As she reached the door, she whispered. "I'm so sorry Annika." Then the doors closed behind her.
B'Elanna stood out in the corridor with her hand upon Seven's door. 'Kahless, what have I done?' she wondered. Tears slowly fell from her eyes, mute testimony to her sorrow. She didn't know how long she stood there staring at the door but eventually she heard the swish of the turbolift doors down the corridor. Turning her face away from that direction, she tried to wipe the evidence of crying away. She made a hasty retreat to the turbolift, hoping whoever had just stepped off would ignore her and just let her be. When B'Elanna saw who had vacated the lift, a molten lump of distaste settled in her stomach.
Kathryn Janeway was just leaving the turbolift. She had spent a little extra time in her office this evening, going over reports. Not that unusual, yet she was tired and really wanted nothing more than a hot bath in her ensuite and an evening alone. The past few weeks had been too emotional. This was the first evening that Tuvok had left her alone and not insisted she come by for counseling.
Passing her half-Klingon engineer in the hallway, she felt a chill wash over her. The hybrid looked very upset; in fact, she looked as if she had been crying. The young woman had not attempted to acknowledge her and did not even look her in the eye. She just pushed past her hastily, stepping onto the lift and barking out "deck 9" in a husky voice.
The Captain stopped and examined the closed turbolift doors for a few moments, trying to puzzle together the odd behavior. Figuring it still had to do with the Klingon's anger over how she had treated Seven, she began to question how she was ever going to resolve their relationship. The ship couldn't afford for her chief engineer to hold so much animosity toward its Captain. Beyond that, Kathryn was miserable knowing that she had lost the good relationship it had taken years to build between her and the young woman. She genuinely cared for B'Elanna, and this conflict was something she yearned to fix quickly.
Shaking her head, she sighed and turned back towards her quarters. Just as the doors opened and she was about to pass through, a blood curdling scream, muted by starship soundproofing yet audible nonetheless, pierced the quiet of the corridor. Turning quickly in the direction from whence it came, she made her way down the hall to Seven's quarters. Just as she was about to press the chime she heard something impact upon the door and the sound of glass breaking. Surprised, she worriedly rang the chime twice in quick succession.
"I said leave me alone!" she heard from behind the door followed by more thumps and yet more tinkling of glass breaking.
The redhead was alarmed. Putting all the evidence she had together, she was even more puzzled than before. She wondered what could have left both of these women so upset. "Seven! It's Kathryn. Please, let me in." She called out, knowing the Borg's enhanced hearing would let her hear the plea through the door. After no answer came for several beats, she changed the pitch of her voice and leaned closer to the door. "Annika, please I just want to help."
Janeway was just about to override the security lockout; she had to make sure Seven wasn't injured. However the door finally opened, so the redhead crossed over the threshold carefully. The lights were lowered and she couldn't see the blonde anywhere.
The illumination from the corridor showed an explosion of white and red rose petals, stems, and tiny fragments of glass glittering on the carpet around the doorway.
Crunching over the debris gently, she looked around the room and found no further signs of destruction. Yet, she still didn't see the Borg. Finally, she called out softly, "Annika?"
"I am here," the Borg's voice came after a few heartbeats from the other side of the couch.
The redheaded woman moved around the couch, finding Seven sitting upon the floor. Her long, lanky legs were bent with her elbows resting on her knees. Leaning back slightly on the back of the couch, her long blonde hair was down, falling gently over her shoulders and down her back. The younger woman's eyes were firmly focused on the passing stars outside her viewport. Janeway noticed that the right side of Seven's face was covered with tear-tracks, and her eyes were slightly puffy from crying. Even as she watched, another tear slowly escaped the fully human eye and slipped down the aquiline features.
Janeway knelt down beside the blonde, resisting the temptation to reach out and hold her by the barest of margins. "Annika, are you alright?"
"I am functioning," Seven answered tonelessly. It was incongruous, how she sounded like the Seven of Nine who had first come on board, no tonal inflections, versus the slumped, relaxed posture, sitting upon the floor. Janeway knew that the Borg phrase was a defense mechanism, shielding herself from her own emotions. That the phrase was incomplete was the most telling though.
"I see you are 'functioning' Seven," she told Seven carefully. "Now, I want to know how you are feeling." Taking a chance, she sat down fully next to Seven, facing her, and placed her right hand upon Seven's right bicep, the pad of her thumb lightly tracing the starburst implant in that arm.
Seven closed her eyes when she felt that touch, another tear falling. Her head fell and she tried to repress the tide of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her yet again. She should have predicted that Kathryn would demand that she express her feelings even if she didn't understand them, or want to feel them. She briefly considered ignoring the request in the hope that the woman would leave her alone. Yet she knew that this redheaded enigma epitomized the phrase 'resistance is futile' more so even than the Borg.
"I am hurting, Kathryn. I seem to have more experience with the emotions associated with rejection and loneliness than all others, however they still affect me just as greatly as ever before," Seven stated in a deep, husky voice.
Janeway's heart broke at the simple message. She didn't know what had happened; yet she still felt guilt for her part in rejecting the former drone in her own cruel way. She stifled her feelings of self-recrimination, deciding to concentrate instead on being here for the young woman in the here and now.
"Tell me what happened?" Janeway asked softly, still stroking the arm under her hand.
"Lieutenant Torres decided that we must stop any romantic portion of our affiliation. Apparently, we did not feel the same for each other. She wishes to retain our friendship, but does not think she feels anything beyond sexual attraction for me. When she initiated a prelude to bonding to me in engineering it was evidently only pity and those sexual urges that motivated her." Seven delivered the monologue slowly in a monotone. When she was done, her breathing hitched despite her best efforts as she begun to cry again in earnest.
Reaching out, Janeway pulled the blonde into her arms, guiding her head down upon a strong shoulder with a hand upon the thin neck. "Oh, Annika," Kathryn breathed into the platinum hair. Seven succumbed to the support and care offered, sobbing helplessly. Holding her neck in her left hand, Kathryn rubbed small circles on her back with the right. "I doubt all she felt was pity Annika. And I am sure it was more than just sexual. B'Elanna just isn't like that. I think she genuinely cared for you and maybe that love scared her. I do not think she ever truly loved Tom. I really thought you two would make a great couple, especially after you two had become such good friends."
After a long time had passed, the Borg's tears seemed to slow and she spoke through a thickened voice. "I do not want to experience love anymore Kathryn. It is too painful."
Kathryn had no idea how to answer that charge. Her own life was a mess when it came to love. Even if she totally discounted her past loves, her heart's present desire was no less unfortunate. She had been fighting feelings for the woman in her arms for a long time. Their estrangement after sleeping together, the awful realization of her own culpability in the blonde's pain had only served to clarify her feelings. No matter how many nights she spent rationalizing why she couldn't love this woman, her heart told her she did. Yet, she felt bound to her duty to the ship to ignore her feelings. Beyond that, she felt bound by her own guilt to give this woman nothing but the very best her friendship would allow. She had vowed she would never hurt this tender woman again, and she would do everything in her power to keep her from pain.
"Love can be painful Annika, especially when it's not returned. Nevertheless, it can be the very best feeling in the universe. It is the most beautiful thing that a human being can accomplish. How did you feel when you were with B'Elanna?" Kathryn looked Seven in the eyes. "Would you give that up? Do not let this pain keep you from trying again one day. Give yourself some time to heal." Kathryn hoped her advice didn't sound as hollow as it felt. Her inner voice sneered and called her a hypocrite.
Seven finally sat back and looked into the older woman's eyes. The sky blue eyes pierced Kathryn, leaving her feeling exposed; yet, she would not flinch from the inspection. The Borg seemed to come to some conclusion, and then leaned back against the couch again.
"Thank you for holding me Kathryn. I am glad we are still friends. I did not really want to feel so alone. Silence and being alone are still very hard for me. I even crave the voices of the collective at times. The order of the hive mind is a very seductive call when there is nothing but the disorder of my emotions," Seven declared.
"I can't say I will ever understand that, yet I respect that it must be very confusing for you at times. I am very impressed by how much you've grown since you came aboard. Don't ever forget how much you have achieved Annika." Kathryn stated looking into Seven's eyes.
Silence reigned for a while, and finally the Captain decided to redirect the young woman. "So, are you satisfied with your redecoration of the doorway, or was that just a temporary arrangement?" She asked with a curl to her lip, and then nudged the other woman playfully.
Seven resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but a small smirk and slightly raised implant let the Captain know she had hit the mark. "That display was a very inefficient use of my time and space; Illogical also." Seven stood up fluidly. Reaching down to help her friend off the floor, she continued once the Captain was standing. "However the sound and sight was briefly satisfying." Shaking her head and smirking even more. "Another one of those 'human' traits I believe."
Janeway barked out a short laugh. "Careful, Annika. Next thing you know you might indulge in other human traits like sleeping late and contractions? And if you keep up this level of humor you may even grace us with a laugh." She winked at the blonde. "So, you want a hand cleaning this mess up?"
Seven shook her head. She walked over to a computer panel along one wall and her assimilation tubules snaked out interfacing with it. An instant later all of the debris shimmered out of existence, being transported directly into the recycler. "There are some advantages to being Borg, Kathryn."
The Captain shook her head and grinned. "Remind me to invite you over the next time my cabin needs to be cleaned. Want to go to the mess hall for dinner with me?"
The blonde stiffened. "I do not think I am ready to socialize this evening. I do not think I would be able to control my emotions if "
"I understand," Kathryn answered, stopping the blonde before she became more uncomfortable. Unfortunately, her stomach was very agitated and empty. "Well, I need food, so would you like to dine with me in my quarters?" she finally asked shyly.
Seven tilted her head considering. "Would it not be more efficient if I just replicated a meal for you here?" she asked.
The invitation caught Kathryn off guard simply because she had not even considered it. Even standing in the middle of the woman's quarters, she was still unaccustomed to the fact that Seven had quarters. So many years, all of their visits and meals taking place in the Captain's domain had trained Janeway's thinking. Chagrined, she accepted the invitation, and the two women enjoyed a simple meal together.
They discussed many things over the meal. Kathryn detailed the upcoming Nguener visit, and what she hoped Voyager would accomplish. Seven reviewed what she had learned through B'Elanna, slightly pained by the source. That led to Janeway giving the Borg advice on how to deal with the pain, counseling her to protect her own heart, and distance herself from the engineer for a brief time if necessary.
"I am definitely not recommending you cut her out of your life. You two do have so much in common and it would be a shame to lose your friendship. Just take a week or two away if you need. She'll understand." Kathryn advised.
They finished their meal, and continued their talk on the couch. Janeway suddenly noticed the late hour and yawned. Seven smiled at the woman. "Captain, thank you for your company this evening. It means a lot to me that you have stayed here to keep me company. However it is obvious that you are tired."
Janeway blushed. "Yeah, well. I had departmental report reviews this afternoon. Those are always exhausting."
They said their goodbyes and Janeway returned to her cabin. Both women were happier for having had their interaction, even if it was a terrible event that precipitated it.
Sitting on her couch in the dark, she trembled from the cold lump of pain that had settled into her heart. She wondered how exactly she got here. She was unable to remember the ride on the turbolift, unable to remember walking here or even sitting down. On autopilot, she had moved until she was sitting alone in the dark. Looking at the chronometer, she noticed that an hour had elapsed.
She wondered why was she so cold,. She wrapped her arms around her chest and shivered as if the chill came from the outside. It was as if she were standing in a snowdrift, not knowing how she got there.
Every time she closed her eyes she saw the pain etched upon Seven's beautiful face, and her heart ached knowing she put it there. A vision of those ice blue eyes tearing up danced through her mind and she began to cry also. Now she did at least. She didn't let herself feel then; wouldn't show the blonde how much it hurt.
Remembering reaching out to hold the blonde's hands, and the solid rejection, it sliced through her like a bat'leth. Feeling the Borg moving away from her, she noticed now that it was then that she began to feel so cold. The Nordic beauty was her warmth, not the 'ice queen' misnomer she had placed upon her oh so long ago. When she was forced to leave Seven alone, it would seem that all of her heat stayed behind.
All she felt now was so cold-- so alone.
Another glance at the chronometer. Time was slipping by in great big chunks unnoticed. Two hours since she left her alone. Would her life be measured in time away now?
She had to get up. She had to get away. She had to do something... anything.
She stood just inside the entrance of Sandrine's. How did she get here? Kahless didn't anyone notice how cold it was? It was so loud too. The laughter and smiling voices around her seemed to pierce her frozen heart like painsticks. Looking around at the happy faces, she wondered if she would ever again feel like she could fit in there. Harry and Tom were at the helmsman's favorite spot near the pool table, laughing with a group of women. Susan Nicoletti was busy chatting up a guy from biometrics that she admired. Chakotay, that big bearish oaf she had followed as a Maquis wore a face-splitting smile while talking to a circle of people over drinks. None of these places looked inviting to her. In fact, she felt repelled by the very idea of joining any of them.
She didn't know how long she had been standing just inside the doorway, but she knew she had to go now. She had to run away from the sight of other's pleasure.
Finding herself in the gym, she noticed it was empty. She made her way into the ladies locker room and changed in front of her locker. Another chunk of time had disappeared and she was atop a treadmill. She didn't remember how she got here, but she must have been here a while. She was sweaty and her hearts were beating hard in her chest. Yet, she wanted to weep because she was still so cold. Growling she pumped her legs harder, pushing the machine and herself. It was if she thought she could outrun the pain.
The rush of blood in her ears, the cadence of her feet upon the machinery lulled her into other places in her mind. A day in her youth where she outran everyone on the playing field only to discover they had stopped playing when she had joined. A night in the holodeck at the Academy, a fierce battle stopped by a pompous instructor who couldn't understand her need to test herself; suspended again for breaking the rules. Days of battle with the Maquis. Finally reaching the courage to communicate with her father only to be thrown to another quadrant, never to have the chance again. Wasted nights in Tom's bed; pumping the little human mercilessly, yet always falling short of her own release. His satisfied glow; her howl of frustration. How did he never know?
Humans with their mockery, their names and superiority. Klingons with their battles and myths, loud and boisterous; their disdain for weakness of emotion. Vulcans with their Pon Farr and logic. If Vorik had only stayed away from her, she thought for the hundredth time. Finally a Borg with her
"Lieutenant." The word didn't register with her but the hand upon her shoulder reached through at the pinnacle of her madness. She reached back and threw a wild punch at the fool who would touch her. Yet, her hand stopped in mid-air, grasped in a vice-like grip.
"Lieutenant Torres," Tuvok said more firmly. He had half-expected she might throw a punch. In her current state, it was one of many possible outcomes. Another at this point would be for her to continue to become more aggressive until he was forced to subdue her. He hoped that she would become aware and that would not be the case.
B'Elanna snapped abruptly back into reality facing the head of security, knowing she had just thrown a punch at the man. What was happening to her she wondered. She let her muscles go as limp as possible, and he released her fist. "I'm sorry Tuvok. Did you need something?" She asked.
"I was merely going to suggest that you had exceeded all rational time upon the treadmill. You have been running at full pace since before I arrived an hour ago. It would only be logical to stop now and re-hydrate," he answered.
Her head whipped around to the clock in shock. How long had she been here she wondered. Well over his hour, she knew. "Yeah, thanks. I guess I lost track of the time." She hopped away from him before he could answer and left the gym. His eyes followed her out the door, curious as to her state. Filing the odd behavior away, he concentrated on finishing his own routine.
B'Elanna made her way back to her quarters and turned on the hydro-shower. At this rate, she would be out of rations quickly, but she was covered in sweat and the walk back had made her feel even colder than before. Turning the heat all the way up, she placed her hands on the wall in front of her and let the water beat down upon her head, washing off her in waves.
Finally, the tears began to flow again. Her breathing hitched and she began to sob. The anguish that she had been trying to hide from came rolling over her in a wave, and suddenly she was on the floor of her shower. She threw her fists into the duranium lining as the sorrow for another love lost held her in its throes.
Exiting engineering, Seven felt a distinct sense of relief. After arriving thirty minutes early for her shift, and working through her scheduled meal-time, Lieutenant Carey was happy to accede to her request to leave thirty minutes early. He even admonished her for working too hard and compared her to B'Elanna. He was more than happy to deliver the evening's report to the Chief himself. Of course, he could not possibly know she was using the early departure as a way to avoid B'Elanna. The chief engineer herself would probably know, but Seven had no way of avoiding that. Her discomfort right now with the idea of being subjected to seeing B'Elanna while she was vulnerable to all her emotions outweighed the prospect of causing the engineer discomfort. She had left a personal message encoded on a PADD on the Chief Engineer's desk, asking for time and space to adjust to everything that had happened.
She had enjoyed her time in engineering but she was happy to be returning to Astrometrics. She was happy that Lieutenant Carey was feeling acclimated to his environs again. The workload in engineering was not too heavy, and the company had turned out to be very pleasant; indeed, she had made new friends she believed. Yet, she could not help believing that the situation would have become distinctly uncomfortable between herself and the chief engineer if they were forced to work too closely right now. Her own emotions were raw and she did not wish them to enter into her workday, or affect efficiency.
She passed many crewmembers getting ready for alpha shift. She gave everyone a nod of recognition. Another thing she noticed was that suddenly more people tended to smile at her. Things had distinctly changed in the last few months. She wondered if it was the effect of associating with B'Elanna, or just having to get to know more of the 'lower deck' crewmen during her time running the gamma shift in engineering.
As she entered the lift, one of the Delaney sisters joined her. Looking more closely, she distinguished the twin as Megan. The woman turned and smiled at her. "Seven. Hey, I hear we are getting you back in Astrometrics this week! We've missed you."
This was a surprise indeed to the Borg. She raised her eyebrow curiously and replied. "Indeed. I look forward to my return tomorrow Ensign Delaney."
The lift stopped on deck 8 and Megan started to get off. She turned back to the blonde and smiled with an unusual expression on her face that Seven didn't understand. "I look forward to seeing you then Seven."
The lift doors closed and both of Seven's eyebrows scaled up her forehead. The ensign was acting peculiarly in her estimation. However, she still couldn't always decipher human behavior and decided that it must be yet another instance of her inexperience clouding her judgment. She filed the incident away in her eidetic memory for later examination as the lift reached deck three and she moved gracefully to her quarters.
There was a senior staff meeting scheduled for 1100 hours this morning, therefore she could not enter into a full regeneration cycle. Her reports were prepared and she had already reviewed the astrometric data for the sector extensively. Nevertheless, she had no desire to socialize. She could not help but pace her living room, even if she found the effort an unnecessary expenditure of energy. As it was, she believed her over-excited emotions left her with too much energy.
After a brief while, she became disturbed by her level of agitation and decided to practice the meditation that Tuvok had taught her. She lit the ceremonial lamp and sat upon a large pillow that she had replicated for the purpose. Sending out a signal to her nanoprobes to absorb the excess adrenaline that had accumulated in her agitation, and to balance her neurotransmitter levels for calm, she began the breathing exercises.
At 1055 hours, she was present in the conference room, along with Tuvok, awaiting the rest of the senior staff. The meeting was simple, only reviewing what had occurred onboard the Nguener ship and preparing Voyager's visit to Nyrvon, the Nguener's new home world. In 50 hours time, the ship would meet with two Nguener light vessels. Apparently, there were special procedures for docking with their space station, and the assistance of the Nguener would be necessary. The precautions were part of a cloaking system put in place to shield Nyrvon from Llannari and Borg detection.
After reviewing all the details with her staff, Janeway dismissed them from the meeting. B'Elanna remained seated, looking at Seven with a questioning look filled with sorrow. The Borg looked at her briefly and shook her head in the negative. B'Elanna sighed and her shoulders slumped dramatically, but she rose, leaving the room silently.
Harry had been handing a PADD to a very distracted Captain, and had followed her line of sight to watch the exchange himself. The Captain left the room after acknowledging the ensign's work, leaving Harry and Seven behind. The Borg was almost to the exit when the Asian called out to her. "Hey Seven, wait!"
Seven halted and turned to look at him. "Do you require assistance Mr. Kim?"
"Well," he began slowly. "I couldn't help noticing that you look upset, and so does B'Elanna. I was wondering what was wrong. I mean I don't mean to interfere, but you look like you could use someone to talk to really, and that's what friends are for you know?"
As he was questioning her, he noticed that she looked down, avoiding eye contact. "It is nothing Mr. Kim. B'Elanna merely redefined the parameters of our relationship again. I will adjust. However, I need to regenerate. Thank you for your concern." She answered him and turned swiftly to leave. However, just as quickly he reached out and grabbed her forearm gently.
"Seven wait! Please." He said softly. "Please, I can tell you're in pain. You agreed to call me Harry, remember? We're friends, remember? I wouldn't be a very good friend if I let you just leave without making sure you're ok." He looked into her eyes and she felt compelled to look away again. "Look, it sounds like you have a lot you need to talk about. I have to get out on the bridge before Chakotay comes looking for me, and you said you need to regenerate, but can I make you dinner after alpha shift? I mean you could come by and talk, or not talk, it doesn't matter I just want to help."
Seven was extremely touched by the simple gesture, and the ensign's continual support and care. A single tear escaped her eye and he reached up and removed it. "I will comply Harry."
He cleared his throat and answered. "Good. I'll expect you at 1730 then, ok?"
She nodded and turned to leave. Suddenly, she stopped and placed a gentle kiss upon his cheek. "You are a good man Harry Kim." Then she was gone so quickly he didn't have time to respond.
"Two Nguener vessels decloaking ahead Captain. Lead vessel is hailing us." Harry Kim reported.
"On screen," the Captain commanded calmly.
A small dark Nguener female appeared with a friendly smile. "Greetings Voyager. I am First Marshall Ange of Aegis. We will be escorting your ship to Starbase Aquila Second. We are transmitting the flight-path we would like you to take now. When you get to the final coordinates, disengage your engines and shielding, and prepare to be tractored into a safe port. Any questions?"
Captain Janeway was surprised by the order to disengage her ship's shielding and engines, and it probably showed. "First Marshall, we were not told we would have to disengage our shielding. This will leave us vulnerable to attack, and assumes a lot. What kind of guarantees do we have of protection?" Janeway asked as diplomatically as possible.
"Captain Janeway, our people are looking forward to your visit. I am sure that First Marshall Ferzi informed you how rare it is that we encounter people in our sector like yourselves, who are so willing to live by higher standards. We are in your debt for rescuing one of our own ships. We would not allow you to come to harm on our own doorstep, where we have greater resources. That is why my ship has been sent to escort you back to base. After that, we will continue our routine flight around the bases and Nyrvon. We are one of two ships that are charged with protecting our home. In addition, if it makes you feel better, you may leave your weapons fully charged. It might make some of our engineers in Aquila a bit nervous to see such a massive vessel as your own come in with loaded weapons, but I would rather them be nervous than you, our guests." The Nguener woman said all this with a disarming smile throughout. If there was any artifice, Janeway couldn't see it.
Janeway decided to take the risk; in this instance, diplomacy may just be more important than the over-inflated sense of mistrust she had developed in the Delta Quadrant. "Forgive me, First Marshall. I did not mean to insult the Nguener's graciousness or hospitality. We will leave our weapons down to enter your base. I certainly appreciate how unfortunate it can be when engineering teams become too agitated, and I wouldn't want to be the cause of undue stress." Janeway smiled. "If you feel the journey into the base is safe and you will be our protection, I am sure we will be well guarded."
"Thank you Captain Janeway. It will be my honor to guard you and your trust," the small woman replied. "If you are ready?"
Janeway looked over at Tom Paris. "Mr. Paris?" He looked back and nodded. She nodded back to the Nguener woman on the view-screen.
"It was a pleasure to meet you Captain Janeway. Aegis out." The small woman responded and the view-screen was replaced with an image of space in front of them.
The Nguener ship Necessity and the other unidentified ship began to peel off, cloaking along the way. Next Aegis, began to peel away.
"Ensign Paris, let's follow our hosts flight plan, impulse power, engage." The Captain commanded.
Following the smaller vessel over the rings of a gas giant, they came into a stationary orbit and Paris called out curiously. "We've arrived at the coordinates, Captain. But I don't see a space station. And these aren't the coordinates for the Nguener home-world."
Chakotay and Janeway exchanged glances. "Ensign Kim?"
"We're receiving docking instructions that just reiterate the need to drop shields and engines from a stationary object just ahead with a Nguener signature." His voice was a little high, as if he was nervous. "But, I can't get a lock on a location, Captain."
"Captain, it would appear our 'berth' is decloaking." Tuvok stated succinctly from his position.
Everyone turned back to the view-screen and watch in astonishment as a chunk of space in front of them shimmered and the inside of a docking port of a space station appeared before them.
"Well, Tom, disengage engines. Tuvok, lower our shields please," the Captain stated in what she hoped was a solid voice. It had never occurred to her to find the entire space station cloaked. She also wondered why they were docking so far from Nyrvon. She just hoped that once they were docked, she would get some answers quickly, or this whole thing could become uncomfortable.
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