DISCLAIMER: All things Start Trek, people, places, aliens, that have been used in the shows and movies are copyright to Star Trek, its creators and Paramount. Some of the characters and information was taken from the show and some from book Mosaic by Jeri Taylor. I have mentioned parts from different episodes, some minor some major (Year of Hell), and have taken several lines from the show and incorporated them into the story. A special thank you to Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan for bringing Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine to life.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have differed from parts of the seventh season…Neelix's return to Earth with Voyager is just one of the differences. Also please note that Chakotay is somewhat of a dubious character towards the end of Voyager's journey, I'm not a fan of Chuckles so if you are, don't say I didn't warn you. I forgot to thank my beta readers, shame on me, Sarah and rt.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Odyssey
By Joan


Part Two

Chapter Five

Janeway entered the admiral's outer office and was greeted by his assistant. "Captain," the male Benzite stood up and came to attention.

Janeway hadn't run into too many of the blue skinned humanoids in Starfleet. It was an inconvenience for them to leave their home planet since they require methane in the air they breathe and have to wear a small device that supplies it. "Lieutenant, at ease, I believe the Admiral is expecting me."

"Yes, ma'am, go right in." He stood at ease until she had disappeared into the office and the door had swished shut behind her. He grinned a little as he sat down at his desk; he would definitely have his roommate's attention tonight, the braggart was always talking about the important people he talked with working in central communications, but having been able to be in the same room with Captain Kathryn Janeway, would definitely trump seeing someone over a view screen.

"Katie, sorry to take you away from your family, then keep you waiting all day, but this shouldn't take long." The admiral came around his desk. "Come, join me over here where we'll be more comfortable." He took her elbow in his hand and guided her towards the couch. "Still take it black, right?" He asked as he poured the dark liquid into two mugs.

She nodded her head and accepted the freshly brewed coffee. "Alright, Admiral, out with it. You said in the communiqué that there wouldn't be any charges, so I'm not here to be taken into custody."

"I talked to Dr. Hansen, had quite a nice visit actually. I believe there has been a … miscommunication between the two of you, Katie. She told me she was a very willing participant … in what happened. In fact she demanded to know who brought it to my attention. I think the two of you should talk." He finished and looked at her, trying to judge her reaction.

Janeway's eyes became unfocused as her thoughts returned to what should've been a joyous morning, but turned out to be one of, if not the worst, of her life with the things that Seven had said. "I can't believe it was a misunderstanding, Owen, I…"

"Listen to me, Kathryn." He waited for her to refocus on him. "She was under the impression that relationships had to be between a man and a woman. It's what she was taught by the Doctor. She also received the same type of message from Commander Chakotay. She explained she had researched homosexuality and unfortunately chose the phrase 'history' in her search parameters and ended up with articles from earth's 20th century which painted a very bleak picture. Katie, she thought she was protecting you."

He gave her a few minutes to digest what he had told her, then continued, "She thinks the Commander steered her wrong on purpose."

She sighed. "She might not be too far off base about that. After the night we were together, she did start dating the Commander. I felt like I was dying inch by inch, watching her with him. And he did make a point of letting me know about the two of them. Then a couple of weeks later, he came storming into my ready room accusing me of being responsible for Seven breaking it off with him. I hadn't been sleeping or eating very well and wasn't in the best frame of mind when it came to the Commander anyway, so it pretty much ended up with things said that shouldn't have been. After, we only spoke when we couldn't avoid it and only then about ships business."

"I normally wouldn't ask this, but under the circumstances I feel I need to know. Were you and he ever romantically involved?"

"Not long after we were stranded, there was a time when I thought we would have to be left on our own."

"When you both contracted that virus?" he clarified.

"Yes, but even then it wasn't something I really wanted. Then back aboard Voyager, he made overtures, but I made it clear I wasn't interested. What's this got to do with anything?"

The admiral rubbed his chin in thought. "He's lied to Dr. Hansen on more than one occasion. Basically told her it was his doing that got her to where she is now and that his testimony was the main reason you were cleared by the board." He leaned forward and refilled her mug. "And we both know that isn't the case and now she knows that also."

"I don't understand what happened to him." She drank the warm dark brew and savored the slightly nutty taste. "We had become such good friends. We had our differences of course, mainly because of some questionable decisions that I thought he made concerning Voyager and the crew. And of course some I made that he wasn't crazy about."

"Your Seven has a theory about that." He ignored her raised eyebrow at his implied comment that the young woman was hers. "She believes that the Commander was content without you as long as you weren't with anyone else. Once you developed feelings for someone other than him, he wanted to basically take away the rival for you affection."

"Owen, that's … ridiculous."

"Mm, I thought so too, until I thought about it a while."

"You can't really believe that, can you? How did he know about how I felt for her? And what if it had been a man I had become involved with?"

"Katie, you worked together and socialized together for seven years. I would think the senior officers would be able to read each other fairly well by then. And if it had been a man, I think he would've resorted to intimidation not seduction." He leaned up and placed his mug on the serving tray. "It is farfetched, but it does explain a lot. And I have to take everything into consideration. He believes he should be promoted to captain and given a ship, which won't happen after his performance with the review board. He doesn't know that no one backed his allegations against you. It seems he also tried to contact certain crew members after explicit instructions not to. His actions have pretty much sealed his fate."

"Good lord, Owen. How did it come to this? I can't believe this is because he's in love with me; people don't treat people they love this way."

"No, I agree. I think it's more of an obsession now. His ego is bruised and he's lashing out. He's going to be offered a lieutenant commander's rank and assigned to the supply depot on Mars for right now, if he accepts. In a way I hope he doesn't. If he's prone to vengefulness, he doesn't belong in Starfleet, much less on a starship or in command of one," he explained. "Of course this conversation never happened."

"Of course," she agreed.

He wanted to ask her what she intended to do about Dr. Hansen, but knew if he pushed her she would retreat. So he backed off. He hoped that one of the two women would come to their senses and make the first move. "Now, on to more pleasant things," he smiled, "How does having another Admiral Janeway in the family sound? Starfleet wants to promote you to Vice Admiral, Kathryn. It would make you the youngest to achieve the rank in the history of the 'fleet; younger than Kirk."

She placed her empty mug down and walked to the window. "I … I'm honored, Admiral." She kept her back to him. "But I don't want to spend my time sitting at a desk or heading diplomatic missions, no offense." She turned her head back towards him.

He watched her back as she had turned back to the pane of glass. "From what I read in your reports, you're very good at diplomatic missions. The negotiating skills you exhibited will probably end up as examples of how to deal with unknown entities at the academy."

She chuckled. "That was out of necessity; it doesn't mean I want to spend the rest of my career doing it."

"Then what is it that you want to do?"

She paused for several minutes, gathering her thoughts. "I spent so long out there … where my only focus was to get my ship and crew home, and now that I've accomplished that … I feel more lost here than I ever did in the Delta Quadrant." Janeway stared at the night sky, a deep midnight blue-black; the points of light visible since the outside lights of headquarters had been dimmed.

"What are you saying, Katie?" The concern was very evident in his voice.

"I need to be out there," she placed one hand flat on the glass and leaned into it; eyes looking into the heavens, "I don't belong here anymore, Owen. Don't ask me to be a show piece that Starfleet takes out and uses whenever they feel the need."

He had never known Kathryn Janeway to be melodramatic and the longing in her voice distressed him. He also knew better than to underestimate her intelligence; which is what he told Admiral Rutherford when he proposed they use Janeway in exactly the fashion she had just mentioned.

He took a deep breath. "I told Rutherford you wouldn't go for that. He assumed you would jump at the chance. He is a little old-fashioned in his thinking of what women want, which is probably why he's still a bachelor." He joined her at the window and leaned against the wall next to her. "Katie, you do belong here, you just need to take some time for yourself now that everything has been settled. You are the only crew member that hasn't had a chance to unwind; you've been under constant pressure since you returned. Go be Kathryn Janeway, not Captain Janeway for a while."

"I'm not sure I know how to be anything other than Captain Janeway anymore. Just about every time I tried to be Kathryn, it turned into a royal fu … screw up. Especially the last time." She turned to face her old mentor and friend. "I think I lost 'Kathryn' somewhere along the way."

"I think you'll find her again. Being with your family will help."

"Maybe, but I find myself holding back even with them. Mom has picked up on it already. I just feel so … disjointed and out of place," she admitted.

He studied her for several seconds, then arrived at a decision. He thought that maybe she needed to hear this now instead of later. "Sit down at the desk and let me show you something." He held out his chair for her and touched a control on the desktop that brought to life a 3-D hologram. "A few of us knew you would turn down Rutherford's idea, so I have another proposal for you. This is a brand new ship that we have been building since you transmitted the files to us that contained the slipstream drive information."

Janeway studied the image as it slowly rotated. "The saucer section is shaped more like the Intrepid Class, and it has a few more decks than the Sovereign Class."

"Yes." He confirmed. "She's being kept under wraps for now. She's one of a kind." Janeway looked intrigued and he knew he had her undivided attention. "This one is going to have a working slipstream drive. That's the reason for the 28 decks. Impulse and warp drive are separate from the slipstream and the more streamlined saucer section than the one on the Sovereign Class gives it less complications for the deflector array and sensors while the slipstream is engaged."

"So the drive does work? Has it been tested?"

"On the models and in the hololab; the test on an unmanned shuttle is scheduled in two weeks." It was the most energetic he had seen her since the first month of her return. "The wonderfully intelligent, talented and beautiful Dr. Hansen and her team worked out the bugs. They're installing a proto-type into the shuttle now for the test."

She still looked at the image in front of her. "What does this have to do with me?" A little of the twinkle returned to her eyes.

"Almost everyone is in agreement that the one person that has been there; knows what to expect and has proven she knows how to survive in the unknown, is the one that should be given the command of the only ship, for right now, that can return to the Delta, or any other quadrant for that matter. You are the only one with the experience to do this. Of course it wouldn't be like before; this ship was designed to fight the Borg, the Dominion, and the Cardassians. And with a handpicked crew that knows ahead of time where they could be going and the added bonus that the ship could return at any time, it should be less of a burden on you." He moved around and sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "I know this is more of a battleship and you're more of a scientist, but you've proven yourself a warrior, Katie, and this ship will at times be more of a science ship than you think. It has not only the highest armaments and defenses available, thanks in part to your future self; it has also been designed to carry a higher complement of science personnel. And she's yours if you say the word, Captain."

She was hooked, he knew it and she knew it. "What's her name and when will she be ready to be launched?"

He grinned. "You know, it's the darnedest thing, with all the excitement she hasn't been named and the bridge, captain's quarters and ready room have yet to be designed and furnished. You know someone that might have a few ideas in those areas?"

Janeway stared intently at the sleek white ship. "Yes, I just might know someone who'd be interested." She grinned. "Odyssey, that's what she's telling me her name is."

"How … appropriate. I thought you might suggest Voyager II."

"No." She fixed him with an intense look. "Voyager is one of a kind. There'll never be another one like her. Has Starfleet decided what's to become of her?" She couldn't bear the thought of her under another's command or being dismantled.

"Yes and I think you'll approve. She's going to become a museum and learning center that can teach people about the Delta Quadrant. She'll rest in the park area between HQ and the Academy. She'll remain entirely intact and functional, except the warp core will be powered down before she's completely opened to the public."

"Owen, I know she's an Intrepid Class ship and that as starships go, she's not very big, but you're talking about a ship that's 350 meters long."

"I know, but with much of the command center now underground, we've got the room. And to be honest, we hope that if people have the chance to see her, to be a part of her and the experiences she went though, it'll up the enrollment at the academy. We lost too many good people in this damn war and the sooner we can graduate qualified candidates the sooner we can rest easy." He sighed. "I don't suppose you'd want to fly her down from Mars? They're almost done with going over her and the systems Dr. Hansen modified."

"Thank you, Owen, I'd be honored."

He rubbed his hands together. "Good, it's all set; you can bring her down and be decorated all on the same day. We'll announce the arrival date and have the ceremony all set to go. But don't tell anyone about the medals, we'll keep that as a surprise addition to Voyager's arrival. Heck, invite Gretchen along and see if you can talk Phoebe into joining you also, that way we can have them here for the surprise without them knowing about it."


"Yes, you won't take the promotion, so a medal or two will have to do," he grinned, "and don't start griping; you have no say in the matter."

She rolled her eyes. She knew several of her former crew had been promoted in rank already, so she let his comment go. She grinned at the thought of Phoebe on a starship, and one under her command no less. "I'll see what I can do about Phoebe and Mom."

"Great, I'll set it up and let you know the date. Probably in a week or so."

"Tell me more about this ship." She stared at the image slowly rotating, giving her a detailed look.

"The new class of ship will be called Voyager Class." He grinned at her warm smile. "It's categorized as an Explorer-Warship Type IV. Twenty-eight decks, 150 to 200 officers, up to 780 enlisted and civilian personnel, but will probably only carry 400 to 500 for a normal compliment."

"That's a lot of crew. I thought Starfleet was headed more towards the smaller ships?"

"In most cases yes, but this one is the exception. She had to be a little bigger to accommodate the drive and the fact that her crew could be on their own."

"So she's got impulse, warp and slipstream propulsion?"

"Yes, or she will have. The engines still have to be built." He leaned forward, resting his arms on the desktop. "She's 3,250,000 metric tons, 101 meters high, 274 meters wide and 702.5 meters long and get this, you can land her on a planet. Well, if you can find an area large enough that is. Because of the drive, the saucer section can't be separated like the Sovereign Class."

"What about the armament and the defenses?" She leaned back with her mug clasped between her hands.

"Phasers are brand new type XIV, she'll have six torpedo launchers, two aft, two forward and one port and starboard and carry photon, quantum and transphasic torpedoes. The shields are high capacity multiphasic and she'll carry the deployable ablative hull armor."

The spark of life that had been missing from Janeway's eyes was returning. "How about the sensors? Also upgraded?"

He laughed. "Yes, high resolution up to 10 light years that can count the dust particles in a square meter, medium to 22 and low to 26. Is that the scientist in you or the warrior that is tired of being shot at all the time?"

She gave him a very unladylike snort. "Yes."

He shook his head and noticed the time. "Come on, let's get out of here and go home to dinner. I was told not to bother coming home unless I brought you with me."

She stood up and took one last look at the ship that was to be hers before the admiral deactivated the hologram. She knew something could still go wrong with the new drive, but she had a good feeling about it. She had every confidence in Seven and her ability to get the thing working now that she had the people and the resources at her disposal.


Chapter Six

Kathryn exited the shuttle in town. She had arranged to meet Phoebe for their postponed lunch and shopping day. She really didn't mind shopping, but that was usually because she could browse through alien worlds and learn about their crafts and products. And her sister did tend to go overboard sometimes, spending hours looking for things she really didn't need.

"Did you have to wear your uniform?" The curly headed woman stood in the classic Janeway clan pose, with hands on hips.

Kathryn held her hands up and shrugged. "I'm sorry; I forgot to take anything else with me." She laughed at her sister.

"What are you laughing at?" She looked at her feet to make sure she had on matching shoes and then at her ensemble to make sure she didn't clash.

"Your pose." She explained. "We met a group of aliens in the Delta Quadrant whose language relied a lot on gestures and I highly insulted them without meaning to of course, all because I placed my hands on my hips. It was a completely unconscious gesture on my part and if Neelix hadn't been there they probably would've had me shot at dawn." They walked out of the shuttle station and into the bright midday sun.

Phoebe laughed with her sister, all the while thinking how much she had missed her presence in her life. "So, where do you want to buy me lunch?" She hooked her arm through her sister's as they started towards the businesses that populated the main part of town.

"Just when did I agree to buy you lunch? As I recall this was your idea." She complained good-naturedly.

"Hey you're the one with seven years of back credits; I'm just a starving artist." She noticed the light that had been missing from her sister's eyes since her return was starting to reassert itself. "Was it a good meeting?" She had overheard her mother trying to pry the details or at least the reason for the meeting out of Admiral Paris after Katie had left yesterday, but had come up empty.

Kathryn chuckled. "Yes, it was a good meeting. And from what I've read, you're far from starving."

"You've read about me?" Her sister obviously didn't want to discuss the meeting, of course that didn't mean she would let it go for too long before pestering it out of her.

"Mom kept all your reviews and articles about your shows and I read them this past week." She pulled her sister to a stop and turned to face her. "I know I gave you a hard time about it in the past, but you really are exceptionally talented, Phoebe. I wish I'd told you that a long time ago. I should've known better than to leave something that important unsaid."

There was real regret in her sister's voice. "You mean because you might not have come back?"

"That's part of it, but anything can happen anytime and anywhere, not just in space."

"True, but you've told me now." They started walking again and several minutes passed in silence. "I never understood your obsessions either, with science or with being out there, and I gave just as good as I got." She stopped them again and looked into eyes that had changed over the past years, no doubt from things seen and experienced. "I still don't understand, but I'm proud of you and very glad you came home to us." After a quick and surprisingly bone-crushing hug, she turned Kathryn around and prodded her towards a restaurant that served food prepared the traditional way. "Now, enough of this mushy stuff, I'm hungry."

They were seated quickly, handed their menus and a waitress hurried over to take their drink order. After she left, Phoebe grinned. "Maybe it was a good thing you did have your uniform on. I've certainly never gotten this kind of service here. My sister the celebrity."

"It's just because of all the news reports; I'll go back to obscurity soon, so enjoy it while you can. I'm certainly not." She said while looking at the menu. "At least there's no leola root on it." She mumbled.

After they ordered, Phoebe rested her elbows on the table and propped her chin in her hands. "What did Admiral Paris want?"

Kathryn stalled her by taking a drink of coffee. "A few things, some of which I can't say right now."

"God … I'll remind you that used to drive you crazy when dad did it."

"I know and I apologize, but now I understand why he couldn't talk about some things. The only thing I can tell you is what you and mom probably don't want to hear."


"He asked me what I wanted to do next, after I come back to work." She clarified.

"What'd you tell him?"

"What do you think I said? I want a ship; I want back up there."

"Katie, you just got down here. I'd think you would want to stay for a while. Good lord, Richard is the same way. I just don't understand. He could stay here and still be a pilot for the shuttles, but no he has to be on a starship." She shook her head. "I love you both dearly, but I think you're both a tad bit loony."

"Don't knock it until you've tried it, sis. It gets under your skin and in your blood and before you know it, you're in love."

Phoebe sighed dramatically. "You and Richard sound just alike. So, did he give you one?"

"Katie Janeway," interrupted any response the captain might have given.

"Mary, how are you?" She recognized her old friend. She, Mary and Emma had been inseparable growing up, but she hadn't seen either of them since before she'd left for Starfleet Academy.

"I'm good. I should be the one asking you that question."

Kathryn smiled. "You remember my sister, Phoebe."

"Yes, I attended one of your openings in New York a few years back. Very nice work, I'm sorry I didn't get to tell you that at the time." She took one of the two empty seats. "Don't worry I'm not inviting myself to lunch, I'm just waiting on my husband. So, Captain, how does it feel to be the talk of the town?"

Phoebe's amusement was evident as she watched her sister. "Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the showing." She was still staring across waiting to see how Katie would respond.

Janeway raised her hands. "I swear, get one ship stuck in the Delta Quadrant and you just can't live it down."

After the laughter died down, several minutes past with the two old friends catching up. "You know," Mary turned pensive, "I didn't even know you had made captain and had your own ship until they announced it was lost. I thought you were set to become a great scientist, you loved it so much, what happened?"

"I did follow a science track through Starfleet Academy and my first posting was as a science officer. It was after that mission that someone I respected asked me if I'd consider a command track and after dad died, I decided to switch over and try it." There was no need to tell them about her and Admiral Paris' capture by the Cardassians during that mission even though it was no longer classified. She wasn't even sure Phoebe knew anything about it and there was no need to tell her if she didn't.

"I never got to tell you that I was sorry to hear about your father. I remember him and your mom being so patient with us when we invaded your house." She smiled, "Ah, there's my late as usual husband."

Janeway sighed as she saw the man headed in their direction. She noticed he seemed to be as leery as she did. Introductions were made and fortunately Mary and her husband were seated at another table.

"Where do you know that guy from?" Phoebe asked as she started on her lunch that was delivered.

"Mr. Cheb Packer and I met at the Academy Institute the year before I left to go to Starfleet Academy and dated for a while. We didn't part on good terms, he was upset when he didn't get into Starfleet and became rather bitter when I did."

"I don't think I ever met him." She continued eating. "He keeps staring over here by the way."

"I don't think you did either. That was the year you didn't know whether to be grateful I was going to be leaving soon or be angry at me for abandoning you." She smiled, thinking about the turmoil her younger teenage sister went through. "I can see Mary and him together. She always seemed to want someone to take charge and care for her. And he was always trying to be the ring leader of our group of friends."


Chapter Seven

"Mom," Phoebe called out as they entered the house.

"In the kitchen," the older Janeway answered.

"Yum, I smell brownies." The captain said; looking more like a kid even though she still wore her uniform.

Gretchen knew both her daughters couldn't resist her caramel brownies. "I just took them out of the oven. Have a seat and tell me what Owen had you go all the way to headquarters for."

"You mean because you couldn't pry it out of him yourself?" The captain asked.

"Did he tell you I called him?"

"Didn't have to, I can read you almost as well as you can read me." Kathryn replied smugly.

"Good luck getting it out of her, mom, she's just like daddy was. Can't tell you, it's top secret, my eyes only." Phoebe said as she plopped down at the table and grabbed a still warm chocolate square.

Her mother laughed and turned towards her eldest, but before she could say anything, Kathryn rendered her speechless.

"Hey, mom, how would you like to serve as my honorary first officer for a day or so?"

The sound that came out of her mother's mouth was somewhere between a snort and a squeak. And her sister was looking at her like she had lost her mind. "Come on, mom, I promise you won't have to do anything but sit there and enjoy the ride. What'd you say?"

Recovering from her surprise, she leaned forward. "What are you talking about, honey?"

"Starfleet has finally finished examining Voyager and Owen told me they were turning her into a museum. She'll be permanently stationed in the park area between HQ and the Academy. He asked me if I wanted to be the one to bring her down and suggested I ask you to come along." She explained and totally ignored her sister.

"I … I'd be honored."

"Hey, what about me?" Phoebe frowned at being left out.

"What about you? You're the one that doesn't like flying higher than a hovercraft." Kathryn reminded her. "Besides, I told him you got air sick and wouldn't want to go." 'Heh, I think I've got her to take the bait, now if I can reel her in.'

"I was eight years old and it wasn't my fault the pilot couldn't keep the car level."

"I did the best I could, there was turbulence from the storm, anybody would've had a hard time." Kathryn defended herself.

Just like old times Gretchen thought. "Now girls, there's no need to fight. I'm sure Katie can call Owen and tell him we're both coming. Can't you, dear?" She winked at Katie letting her know she knew what she was up to.

"Sure, mom, I can let him know."

Now that Phoebe was sure she wasn't being left out of anything, "Are you going to tell her your other news?"

Kathryn raised her eyebrow at her sister and leveled a force ten glare at her that she reserved for underlings that incurred her wrath. It didn't have quite the same affect on her sister, but she had the satisfaction of watching her squirm a bit.

"What other news?" Gretchen closed her eyes. 'No, please not yet, it's too soon.' "They've given you another ship." It wasn't a question.

"Yes, but it'll be a while before I take command." She hurried on. "They're still working on a few innovations that are being tested." She realized what she'd said when the color drained from her mother and sister's faces. 'Oh fuck me, I'm such an idiot.'

Gretchen Janeway had lost her husband and almost lost Kathryn to an experimental ship. A test flight that had gone wrong and crashed, and Kathryn had not only lost her father, but her fiancé.

"Mom, hey look at me." She was on her knees beside her mother's chair. "I'm sorry; I should've explained that better. The ship isn't experimental just some of the equipment going into it."

"I just got you back, Katie. I couldn't … parents aren't supposed to out live their children. When they came here and told me your ship had disappeared in the Badlands and possibly been destroyed, I didn't believe them. I told myself I'd know if you were … gone. Then after not hearing anything for so long, Starfleet officially declared everyone killed in action, I was so angry that I'd lost you. Mad at Starfleet for taking two people away from me, mad at you for following in your father's footsteps; just mad at the world in general. Phoebe can tell you, it was no picnic around here." She wiped her eyes. "Then they tell us they'd heard from the ship, it was lost in the Delta Quadrant. I was so happy you were alive. Then I did the projection, 60 more years baring a miracle or two or three. Yes, you were alive, but I realized I might never see you again. I might not live that long; you could still be killed. But then that miracle happened and you were home. I just … I don't want to think about losing you again. I'm sorry, honey, I know it's not right to expect you not to go back up there; I know it's your first love and your life. I'm just scared."

"It's okay, mom. I really do understand." She hugged her as close as she could. 'Good lord, what would her mother think when she found out the slipstream drive was in that ship and she wouldn't just be zipping around the Alpha Quadrant?'

Gretchen let her daughter go and stood up. "Let me go wash my face; I'm a mess I know."

As soon as her mother left the kitchen, Kathryn's head hit the table. "I can't believe I said that."

Phoebe had to agree. "And I thought they taught diplomacy in captain's school."

Phoebe walked out the back door looking for her sister. She found her leaning her back against the wooden fence that ran along the side of the backyard, looking up at the stars. "I figured I'd find you out here." She couldn't quite decipher the look on her sister's face. "So do they look any different from down here once you've seen them from up there?"

Kathryn lowered her gaze to meet her sister's. "I used to tell myself I'd visit each and every point of light in the universe."

"That would be a … universal undertaking."

"Ugh, that was bad, Phoebe, even for you." Kathryn groaned.

Phoebe grinned. "What's it like, really like, up there?" She tilted her head back to match her sister's pose.

"It's … invigorating." She noticed the confused look on her sister's face. "Space can be a harsh, uncompromising and unforgiving mistress; unrivaled in her ferocity and her superiority over us mere mortals. But the wonders she lets you glimpse from time to time is worth all the dangers she throws at you."

"What kind of wonders? It's a black canvas with dots of white."

Kathryn smiled at her sister's description. 'Maybe I can take a small side trip before binging Voyager back.' "Oh, Phoebe, the stars are so much more than that." She thought of a way to describe some of the things she had been privilege to witness. "I've watched their birth, witnessed their death, set foot on a planet that's never held another lifeform, danced among them," she paused and looked back to her sister. "I belong up there."

"You belong here." Phoebe was quick to counter.

"My family is here, but my life is up there." She refocused on the darkening night sky.

"You were 'up there' for seven years. Wasn't that enough? Why can't you take a job at HQ and stay down here?"

"A desk job would slowly kill me, Phoebe." Kathryn shifted her eyes back to her sister and cupped her face, rubbing her thumb tenderly over Phoebe's cheekbone.

"Your beloved space is likely to kill you quickly." She sighed in frustration. "I just don't understand. It's not like you'd have to give up Starfleet."

"Phoebe, what if you could only paint with … say two colors? Every painting you did from now until you stopped working. It would probably be okay for awhile, but then it would start to get boring; the same two colors over and over again. You'd eventually stop wanting to paint … you'd come to hate those two colors and in turn, you'd hate the work you created." She turned back to lean against the fence. "The same thing would happen to me. I'd come to envy then hate the people that were able to do the job I love doing, but wasn't allowed to do anymore."

"But painting isn't dangerous, Katie."

Kathryn laughed. "Life is dangerous, Phoebe." They started a slow walk back towards the house, knowing it was almost time for dinner. "So, you have no desire to live with Richard aboard his ship?"

"We've talked about it, but right now it's not feasible, he's on a small ship that doesn't allow family."

"And if he was on one that did?"

"I'd give it a try." Phoebe said; surprising her sister. "Besides, I'll get a small taste of it on Voyager's trip from Mars."

"Good for you, who knows, you might even learn to like it." She teased. "After all, there's no sunrise in space, so technically there are no mornings." She laughed at her sister's stunned expression.

Later that night, Kathryn was once again sitting on the porch staring into the blanket of stars.

"Can I join you or do you want some alone time?"

She smiled up at her mother. "Sit, please. Has Phoebe gone to bed already?"

"Yes, she just headed up." Gretchen sat down beside her daughter and the two women didn't feel the need to break the silence for several minutes. "I'm sorry about earlier today; I shouldn't have dumped all that on you."

"It's okay, I'm glad you got it out." 'Hello pot calling kettle,' her conscience snorted at her.

"Honey, you've had enough on your shoulders for the past seven years getting your ship home, then the idiotic review board once you got here, you didn't need me adding to it." She didn't fail to notice her daughter pouring another glass of whiskey.

"Don't worry, Mom." The captain saw the worried look when she filled her glass. "I don't drink every night, just every once in a while. Sometimes my mind doesn't want to shutdown and this helps."

"It was awful wasn't it? Out there." She studied her daughter and saw the shadow cross her face. "And I'm sure you glossed over the story with the Borg for our benefit."

"Do you really want to hear all the details?" She looked at her mother and let some of the feeling from the things she had experienced, the fear, the anger, the uncertainty, the pain have free reign.

"I … I think part of me wants to hide far away from knowing anything more than you're home and safe. Another part wants to know every single detail of what you went though, no matter how hard it would be to hear. Maybe it's a parenting thing; I couldn't protect you so I should have to suffer along with you."

"I think one of the worst things to deal with other than losing crew members, was the times when nothing was happening good or bad. Too much time to second guess myself, wonder if I had really made the right choices, given the correct orders." She placed one leg back down on the porch and pushed off giving the swing they were sitting in a bit of motion.

"Your father did that. But of course he was never put in quite the same position you were in. He never really liked giving orders, leading. He was a designer and inventor, at heart. But he loved the ships almost as much as you do."

"I remember the first ship he took me on, not the shuttle to Mars, but the first honest to god Starship. It was an Excelsior Class, the USS Lexington, and I fell in love." She laughed and shook her head. "It was from that point on that I decided I was going to live among the stars."

Gretchen remembered that day. It was all her eight year old daughter could talk about, for weeks. "I remember thinking then that I'd lost you to Starfleet already." She smiled at her eldest and squeezed her hand. "So, next week you can show me what it is about the stars that captured your heart and mind."

"I don't think I can do that between Mars and here."

"We'll see." She stood up to head into the house. "Don't stay up too long."

"Mom," Kathryn stopped her before she went thought the doorway. "Do you ever wish I had been more like Phoebe?"

That surprised Gretchen and she took several seconds to compose herself before answering. "I may have entertained that thought once when I thought you had been killed. But no, honey, the two of you are too special to me exactly the way you are." She smiled. "Now, if you want to discuss you learning how to cook like your sister, I might change my mind."

Kathryn groaned. "Goodnight, mom, I love you."

"I love you too, honey."


Chapter Eight

The shuttle flight to Mars was long and uneventful. Phoebe had struck up a conversation with a newlywed couple that were on the first leg of their journey home after visiting her family on earth. Gretchen was napping in her seat and Kathryn had her nose to her PADD going over the specs on the new ship.

Janeway was of mixed emotions about this flight and the next several months. On one hand, Voyager had been her home for the last seven plus years and she was sad she would never stand on her bridge again after tomorrow. On the other hand, she was extremely excited about the new ship. It was bigger, had more crew along with families, had more fire power and defense capabilities, but was going to be a science and exploration vessel also. And she couldn't wait to get her hands on her.

The admiral had told her she would only have a minimal crew compliment on Voyager for the return trip, but there wouldn't be anything wrong with taking the long way back. The admiral's way of saying it was okay to take her out for one last spin.

The landing was to take place at 1900 hours, then the dedication ceremony after that. What no one else knew other than Janeway and a few at HQ was the medal ceremony would take place tomorrow during the dedication with a reception after that.

The shuttle docked and off loaded its passengers with the captain leading the way. She knew which bay Voyager occupied and headed that way with Gretchen and Phoebe following. She had been told the clearance for the two women had been taken care of ahead of time, but stopped at the dock masters office just to be sure.

"Captain Janeway," he said as he met her at the door, "it be a pleasure, ma'am."

"Mr. Russell, nice to see you again." The old man had been a fixture at the docks for as long as she could remember. She had met him when she had been a child and her father brought her with him when he had a meeting here. "This is my mother Gretchen and my sister Phoebe; I'm told they've been cleared."

"Pleasure," he nodded at the two women. "All cleared to get aboard. I'm glad yer the one taking 'er home, Captain, she's a fine ship, she is."

"Thank you, Mr. Russell, and I agree with you, she's a damn good ship." She led the way from the office and towards the small hover craft that would fly them into the shuttle bay of the ship.

As they passed the large windows, Phoebe stopped and looked. "It's bigger than I thought it would be."

"She's an Intrepid Class, actually one of the smaller ships at the time she was built." Kathryn explained. "Let's get aboard and I'll show you around."

They disembarked in the shuttle bay and Kathryn headed them towards the turbolift and deck three. They were to have the VIP quarters next to hers. "I'm not sure who the crew is going to be for this but if you want to put your stuff in your quarters, we can head to the bridge and find out." The captain keyed the entry and the door swished open. Walking into the main living area she watched them look around. "Computer, how many life signs are currently on the ship?"

"There are currently 72 life signs aboard Voyager." The female voice readily supplied.

"Seventy two?" The large number surprised her. "There must still be a crew from the station aboard."

Kathryn led them next door to her quarters where she dumped her small bag on the couch.

"Nice." Phoebe remarked as she poked around the living area and bedroom. "Did you spend a lot of time in here?" The surroundings were pleasant enough, but she couldn't imagine staying for any length of time in the small space.

"I did." Kathryn sighed. "A lot of time on this couch or the one in my ready room, sitting and staring out at the stars and wishing the constellations were ones I recognized." She surprisingly admitted; looking like she was lost in thought.

Gretchen walked over and placed her hand on her daughters shoulder. "You're home now, Kathryn."

She refocused on her mother and smiled. "How do mothers always know what to say? Or is it just you?"

Her mother laughed. "We don't always; sometimes we have to guess." She squeezed her shoulder before removing her hand. "You just looked a little lost."

"Sometimes, after we returned, I'd wake up thinking it was a dream. I'd have to stare out at the stars to make sure we were really here. I guess being back on the ship, in these quarters, put me back there." Both women understood back there meant back in the Delta Quadrant.

"Well, Captain, why don't you show us more of your ship?" Gretchen suggested. She had wondered why Owen had recommended Katie invite them along. Maybe it was to give her daughter an anchor to hold on to. She would have to thank him when she saw him.

"Computer, state the time."

"The time is 1317 hours."

"We don't have time for a tour now." Janeway said. "We need to get to the bridge to start undocking procedures and make sure everyone is off that doesn't want to go for a ride."

"You know," Phoebe commented, "I could get use to this computer. I can see how it would make life a lot simpler."

The captain laughed as she attached a comm badge to her mother and sister. "You need to wear these at all times while you're aboard; except while you're sleeping of course, just put by the bed within reach."

A short turbolift ride later and Kathryn received one of the most pleasant surprises she had ever been given.

"Captain on the bridge," was loudly announced and 72 people that were crowded around, snapped to attention. Well, 71 people, little Miral Paris was a bit too little to understand Starfleet protocol.

Kathryn Janeway froze as she stepped off the lift and onto the bridge. Everyone here, except for Admiral Paris was a crew member that had come home with her. She managed a few steps further onto the bridge, but was brought up short as they started clapping.

As the ovation died down, she had to clear her throat a few times before she could say anything. "I … I don't know what to say."

"Well, dang, there's a first time for everything." B'Elanna yelled from her post by the engineering station.

That broke through Kathryn's heartfelt emotions, "Am I going to have to have a heart-to-heart with you, Lt. Torres?" Everyone laughed at the chief engineer and the captain, knowing that the former had been the recipient of a few dressing downs by the captain. "I thought most of you were still on leave?"

"We weren't about to miss this, Captain." Harry Kim said.

Tom Paris', "Nobody was going to fly this ship home but me," was added to the sentiment.

"Tuvok, I thought you were still on Vulcan?" She didn't say anything about his illness, knowing how private her friend was.

"I am well, Captain. As Mr. Kim said, I wasn't about to miss this."

She spoke to Ensign, now Lieutenant Wildman, and her daughter Naomi who had been the only child on Voyager until Miral was born. Neelix had tears in his eyes when she got around to him and he actually hugged her.

"Thank you, B'Elanna." The captain said sincerely as she stood in front of her.

"You're welcome."

She moved around to speak to several more crew members that waited to shake her hand and say a word or two. Then she was standing in front of Seven of Nine, who had donned her biosuit and pulled her hair back up into its normal bun for the occasion. "Seven."


She took Seven's hand in hers and held it gently. Several things passed between them in unspoken communication as they stared into each other's eyes. "Do you like working with the propulsion group?" They hadn't seen each other since Seven had testified at the hearing and taken the job on Mars.

"Yes, it challenges me, but not as much as you did." She replied softly. There were several other things she wanted to say, but of course this was neither the time nor the place for them. At one time that wouldn't have made any difference to the ex-Borg drone; she would've stated them anyway, consequences be damned. Every once in a while she longed for that simpler time; human codes of behavior were sometimes still an annoyance. Though even if she had the captain all to herself, she wasn't sure she could put a voice to the things she longed to tell her. And what bothered her the most, was wondering if she had a right to say them. Did Kathryn Janeway still care about her the way she did the night they spent making love to each other? Or was the pain she had caused the captain too much for her to overcome?

The captain finished making the rounds through the crew members and the time for the ship to leave the docking port drew near. The only member of the senior staff that wasn't present was Chakotay, but his absence wasn't commented on at this time, though several of the senior staff had talked about it between them.

Most of the crew dispersed to cover their duties leaving the senior staff on the bridge along with Gretchen, Phoebe and Owen who cradled his granddaughter in his arms. Tom took his position at the helm, B'Elanna at engineering, Harry at operations, Tuvok at tactical, Seven at the auxiliary ops console. The admiral sat down at one of the science stations, while he motioned for Gretchen to take the first officers chair. Phoebe sat to the right of her sister, watching the goings on. Since she had never sat foot on a starship, everything was new to her.

"Dock master to Voyager."

"Voyager here," the captain responded.

"You are cleared to bring thrusters online, Captain."

"Acknowledged. You heard the man, Mr. Paris, enable maneuvering thrusters." She moved forward to stand behind his right shoulder at the railing that separated the helm and command level.

His fingers swiftly flew over the controls on the console. "Aye, Captain, maneuvering thrusters online."

"Dock master, this is Voyager, we're ready for you to cut us loose."

"Aye, Voyager." There was a bit of a drop as the huge clamps that had been holding the ship at dock were opened and retracted. "Bay doors opening. You are cleared to exit the station, Voyager. Good journey, Captain Janeway. Dock master out."

"Steady as she goes, Lt. Paris. We wouldn't want to scratch the paint job now."

"Aye, Captain." He concentrated on slowly guiding the ship towards the bay doors. "You know, Captain, it won't take us long to get to earth. Are we just going to orbit until tomorrow?"

No one except the captain and the admiral were quite sure why they were leaving that day and not closer to the actual landing time of 1900 hours tomorrow.

"Mr. Paris," the captain's stern tone was one that the helmsman had become very familiar with over the past seven years, "are you suggesting we take a Federation Starship out for a joy ride?"

It was all Owen Paris could do not to laugh at his son, no wonder the boy had turned around so completely, Kathryn definitely had his number. He was also getting a clear view of how she had matured as a leader and captain over the years the ship had been lost. And it was reaffirming their choice to put her in command of the new ship. He couldn't be more proud if she was his own daughter.

"No, ma'am." He quickly stated and kept his eyes glued to the opening the ship was now gliding though and into the vast area of space beyond.

She walked the few steps back to the command chair, sat down and crossed her legs. "Well, that's a shame, Tom, because that's just what I had in mind."

He jerked his head around to see her smiling at him and he grinned in response before turning his attention back to the viewscreen. "Docking bay cleared, Captain."

"Half impulse power until we've cleared the station's space completely. Then set a course for NGC8429, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain."

From behind her came Harry's report. "Deflector fully operational and functioning, Captain."

Then from Tuvok, "Shields and weapons operating at 100%, Captain."

"Warp engines at your discretion, Captain."

"Thank you, gentleman and B'Elanna."

"Station cleared and course set, Captain."

"Warp six, Mr. Paris … engage."

There was a few seconds of a motorized sound as the nacelles elevated from their horizontal position, then the warp engines engaged and the stars became streaks of light through the warp field.

While Gretchen had traveled with her husband on a few space missions, it had been a very long time since she had been in space and Phoebe had never traveled in anything but a shuttle. The admiral was watching them both intently, he was planning on meddling again in the good captain's life, depending on how everything worked out, who knows, he might retire from Starfleet and take up a counseling practice. He saw Gretchen watching her daughter and Phoebe was starting to loosen her death grip on the arm of the captain's chair she was sitting next to. 'All good signs so far.'

"Now that we're on our way," the admiral got their attention, "I was assured that Mr. Neelix was going to serve dinner in the mess hall about 1800 hours tonight and would have a few things available throughout the afternoon if anybody was hungry."

"If he tries to serve us anything with leola root in it I'll blow him out the nearest airlock." B'Elanna stated.

"I don't know, Lieutenant," the captain said, "it would be a fitting end to the journey."

"The Captain is correct, Lt. Torres." Seven added. "If this is to be a 'sentimental journey', what better way to remember than to reconstruct some of the more remembered emotions, be they good or bad."

"Kahless, Seven, leola root? I'd rather encounter Species 8472 and the Borg Armada again than to have to eat that stuff."

"What is it, if I may ask?" Phoebe remembered Kathryn mumbling something about it at lunch one time.

"It was a food stuff, actually a root, that Mr. Neelix found that contained a good many of the nutrients we humanoids required. Unfortunately no matter how he prepared it, the taste was somewhere between what I imagine a rotten egg crossed with week old used gym socks would taste like." Kathryn explained with a grimace.

"Why eat it then?" Phoebe questioned.

Harry took up the explanation. "We had to ration the replicator use because we didn't always have the raw materials available to run them, so we had to find M-class planets that hopefully we could find edible forms of food, sometimes we lucked out and sometimes we ended up with leola roots."

"Yeah," Tom added, "but leola root wasn't the worst, remember the one week where everything he served was still moving across the plate? I think more people ended up in sickbay that one week than in the entire seven years. Did you ever try it, Captain?"

"I did, I ran out of rations the second day after he started serving it and tried to live on his coffee for two more before I broke down and had to eat it. But I refused to get sick; I figured it would be worse coming up than it had been going down." She laughed with everyone else.

Owen listened as intently as Gretchen and Phoebe and was just as appalled as they were. He knew more of the hardships the crew faced than they did of course, but some things just didn't get recorded into the ship's logs as more than 'low on food supplies, searching for ways to restock'.

"What was it?" Phoebe asked.

"I don't believe anyone ever had the courage to ask him." Seven answered.

"Hey, Captain," Harry spoke up, "do you remember the time on Cronus Prime when you were trying to negotiate for dilithium and before they would even consider talks you had to participate in their right to gather ritual?"

The captain groaned and closed her eyes. "Oh God yes, that was … enlightening to say the least."

"What happened or do I want to know?" Gretchen looked at her daughter.

The captain chuckled. "They were really a strange people. They had warp capabilities and traveled over their sector of space, but when on their home world, they … reverted back to a more primitive society. I thought their ritual would be some kind of symbolic ceremony and after we would sit down and talk trading." She shook her head. "Little did I know what awaited me."

"And after they explained it, it was all we could do to keep Tuvok from beaming you back to the ship." Tom laughed.

An eyebrow arched over a dark Vulcan eye. "Mr. Paris, as I recall, you were just as concerned as the rest of us. The Captain having to partake in a right of passage hunt alone and in their wilderness was not something that I deemed … an appropriate risk. Anything could have happened."

"But it worked out alright and we got our dilithium." Janeway stated.

"And the Captain ended up impressing them with her ingenuity and prowess as a mighty hunter for her tribe." B'Elanna added with a grin.

At her mother's, Phoebe's and Owen's questioning look, Kathryn explained. "In order to be allowed at the 'head table' in their gathering hall, which is where all their negotiations took place, I had to pass their ritual of hunting and killing an animal that was equivalent to earth's wild boar. While I really didn't want to kill any type of animal, we really needed that dilithium and this was the only planet in the area we had found that had any. The rules were no outside help, I was only to be given a knife and I had to complete the trial within three days time."

"Why you? Couldn't someone else take your place?" Phoebe asked.

"Actually, Commander Chakotay asked that very question since he would have been the logical choice for a ritual hunt. And he could have, but only if he challenged me for my leadership and won. And I really didn't want to fight the Commander to the death. And not only would I still have had to complete the hunt, Voyager would've lost her First Officer." Several chuckles were heard, though her crew had no doubt she could follow through on that boast. "So, they deposited me in a wooded area complete with knife and nothing else." She stood from her chair and started to pace around the bridge. "This knife was about five or so inches long and I really didn't think I wanted to get close enough to this animal to slit its throat as the other hunters assured me was the quickest way to dispatch it." The captain moved up behind the command chairs and leaned on the railing that ran along in back of them.

"How'd you kill it?" The admiral asked. He was just as caught up in the story as Gretchen and Phoebe.

"I decided to use the knife to make a few very long and very sharply pointed spears and hope that one of the animals would give me enough of a target to hit. I got lucky and one did. The Cronians' were suitably impressed and we got our supplies. I, on the other hand, wondered how the hell I kept getting myself into these things."

"As did your senior staff." Tuvok stated with his usual dry wit.

"You have to admit, old friend, your life was never boring." The captain countered.

"Captain, I assure you, Vulcans do not 'get bored'. Though I will admit however reluctantly, that you did … 'keep me on my toes'."

"You're welcome, Tuvok, I'm glad I could make your life exciting." The captain stated which started the laughter at the Vulcans' expense.

A little bit later the captain turned the bridge over to Tuvok and retired to her ready room. She ran her hand over the now empty shelf that had housed some of her personal belongings before they had been packed up and sent to her place in San Francisco. She moved up to the upper area and sat down sideways with one leg curled under her. She sat staring out the view port for several minutes before the door chime sounded.

She knew it would either be her mother or Seven and she wasn't sure which she hoped for. "Come."

The door opened and her mother walked in looking around. "I didn't imagine it like this. It's relaxing. I thought it would have a desk and a chair or two and that's all."

"Captains tend to spend a good bit of their time in their ready room. I think Starfleet wanted to make it comfortable for us. Come up here and join me. Where's Phoebe?"

"Touring the ship with B'Elanna and Miral."

"She's probably asking for stories about me."

"Your sister or Lt. Torres?"

"Yes." The captain grinned. "Lt. Torres was one of the biggest gossips on the ship. She couldn't rest until she uncovered ever little tidbit of intrigue and passed it along. And you know Phoebe is the same way."

"Sounds like this crew kept you on your toes." Gretchen sat down beside her. "It's inspiring and heartwarming to see the respect these people have for you." She placed her hand on her daughter's cheek. "You've grown into such a strong and admired leader, Kathryn. I shudder to think of all the things you've been through to obtain that growth."

"Are you still sure you want to hear them?"

Gretchen gave her an ironic smile. "No … but hear them I will when you're ready to tell them." She paused. "I really do need to know about you and what happened out there."

"Alright, I'll tell you; little by little, but you'll get the entire journey." She promised.

"There are a few other things I'd like to talk with you about, but I think they can wait until later. I think right now, I want to see this revolutionary Astrometrics Lab."

"I'll walk you down there." She started to get up.

"That's alright, honey, Dr. Hansen said she would be happy to give me the tour."


Chapter Nine

"Captain, we're in visual range of the nebula."

"Slow to half impulse, Lieutenant. And be ready to go to 60 percent magnification. I'll be right back."

"Aye, Captain." Curiosity coloring his voice.

"I have an artist for a sister, Mr. Paris, who happens to think space is a big black vacuum with little points of white lights thrown around." She replied as she headed for the turbolift.

"Ah, gotcha," he replied.

At the sound of the door chime, Phoebe yelled, "Come in."

"Come with me," Kathryn requested. "I have something I want to show you."

"Can't it wait? I was just starting this." She motioned to the sketch pad on her lap.

"No, it can't."

"We've arrived at the nebula then?" Gretchen asked as she entered from the bedroom.

"Alright, I'm coming." Phoebe stood up and grabbed her mother's arm. "If I've got to go, so do you."

Her mother laughed. "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

The three women entered the bridge and moved down the steps to the command level. "Okay, Tom, on screen."

The view that filled the large viewscreen in front of them had Phoebe unconsciously moving forward. "It's … it's beautiful."

Gretchen looked at her eldest and winked. She had known all along that Kathryn was trying to show her sister the beauty that existed in her world.

"This is almost an exact replica of what is known as the Boomerang Nebula, only a bit smaller." The captain explained.

"The colors are…" Phoebe paused, unsure of how to articulate what she was seeing, "stunning. So rich and alive. The images I've seen don't compare to seeing it like this."

"Yes they are. I look at it as a scientist and see the gases and dust and other elements. The ionization of these gases gives it its color -- hydrogen, oxygen, helium, nitrogen and others … but you don't want to hear a dissertation on nebulae." She smiled.

Phoebe looked at her sister and returned the smile. "I've always said that mankind could never quite produce the exact colors that nature could. This is just another example. I didn't realize it could be this … spectacular."

"There's so much out here that we see, but sometimes only with a scientific eye and we can become jaded at times. Sharing it with you brings back a childlike wonder to it. Like seeing it for the first time again."

Entering the mess hall, Janeway noticed most of the crew along for the final ride, were present, some standing in groups, others mingling between them.

"Captain." Neelix moved to her side.

"Neelix, it looks very festive in here. You've done a great job as usual."

"Thank you, Captain. I thought I'd put all those holo-images the Doctor took to good use. So that the crew that couldn't be here in person could still be along for the ride at least in spirit. If you'll excuse me, I need to get more food out."

As Neelix moved away, Gretchen took his place. "You disappeared earlier." The elder Janeway stated.

"I was … wandering the decks."

"Saying a private good-bye?" She guessed.

"Yes … I imagine that sounds foolish to you."

"No, not at all. Your father treated the ships he designed like members of the family, I'd expect no less from you."

"I came by it naturally then." They moved to the food tables. "Did you and Seven have a nice visit?"

"Yes we did." Gretchen smiled. She knew her daughter was fishing for information, but refused to take the bait. "She's a lovely and intelligent young woman who deserves to have a long life filled with happiness."

Janeway looked at her mother out of the corner of her eye, wondering exactly what transpired during that visit. "Yes she is, and I agree with you. She's been through so much in such a short time."

Gretchen let the silence grow, then changed the subject. "That was very sneaky of you earlier."

The captain raised an eyebrow. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, Mother."

"Uh huh." Gretchen grinned. "By showing Phoebe the beauty of space, you brought her into part of your world. Maybe eventually she'll understand this and you a little better."

"It works both ways you know. I never really understood her world until I saw some of the incredible things out here. And I don't think I would've noticed them, if it hadn't been for her. Without knowing it, she taught me to see with something other than a scientific mind." She turned her head to study her mother. "What about you, Mom? I have my career, Phoebe has her art and Richard, when are you going to have a world of your own again?"

"Honey, you and Phoebe are my world."

"Mom, you're so much more than a mother. You had you own career, hopes and dreams that you put on hold for us. Don't you want to pursue them again?"

"Funny you should mention that, I've been thinking about doing just that. And I've had an offer that I'm seriously thinking about."

"You plan on telling me what it is?" Kathryn asked after several minutes of silence.

"Not just yet, honey." Gretchen answered, not quite knowing how her daughter would feel about the offer she had received.

Part 3

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