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. The awards used are ones that have been mentioned in the Star Trek universe except for the Purple Heart.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Odyssey
By Joan


Part Three

Chapter Ten

Voyager's flight through Earth's atmosphere and into San Francisco had been broadcast worldwide and attended by a multitude of Starfleet personnel, Academy cadets and civilians. It had taken less time than the landing itself for the image of the sleek ship banking over the Golden Gate Bridge with fireworks exploding in the background to be the most viewed program from the news agency's imaging site.

The dedication was relatively short, followed by a memorial service for the crew members that had been lost in the Delta Quadrant. The ceremony that publicly pardoned the Maquis and instated or reinstated the crew members that had requested it into Starfleet had been well received by all. The award presentations had been saved until last. The entire crew had received the Extended Tour Ribbon for exceeding an obligated tour of duty. That award had met with a few chuckles. All crew members had also received the Purple Heart for injuries received in the line of duty; it was generally assumed that at one time or another during the seven year journey, each of them had been injured at least once. Several received the Cochrane Medal of Excellence; Harry, B'Elanna, Tom and even Seven though she wasn't Starfleet, for their innovative work in their departments. The Doctor had even been awarded the Surgeons Decoration for his work with Seven and for all the previously unknowns the Delta Quadrant threw at him. Janeway had requested she be the one to award each and every medal. Her Purple Heart and Extended Tour Ribbon were pinned to her dress uniform by Admiral Necheyev.

Everyone had thought that had ended the ceremony until Admiral Ross had stepped to the podium. Janeway had even been surprised when the admiral recalled her to the stage and proceeded to award three other medals to the captain of Voyager; the Starfleet Medal of Valor in recognition of remarkable leadership, exceptional conduct and acts of personal bravery, the Starfleet Decoration of Gallantry for extreme bravery in the line of duty, the Starfleet Medal of Honor for valor in actions above and beyond the call of duty. All but a single individual had thought they were well deserved.

Chakotay had not received the message from Starfleet that had been forwarded to him from his cousin, in time to join Voyager's last flight, but had made it back to San Francisco to be at the ceremony.

At the reception that followed, Janeway had surreptitiously watched him watch her. "Commander." She had circled around and come up to him from behind.

"Captain." He said with a hint of contention, staring at the extra three medals she had been given.

"What's your real problem with me, Chakotay, and please don't insult my intelligence by insinuating I was the one that insisted Seven end things with you." She acknowledged the greeting she received as two officers passed by.

He stood silently for several minutes before he spoke. "Alright … when you didn't want a relationship with me, I could understand that, the ship, the crew and the mission to get home was your sole focus. I told myself it wasn't that you didn't want me, you didn't want anyone. The holodeck program … a distraction and Kashyk was someone you had to pretend to be close to in order to ensure our passenger's safety."

He paused as a couple of people stopped by to offer their congratulations, then continued his explanation as they moved away. "Then you and Seven started spending more and more time together. When she was first integrating into the crew, I could see you as her mentor. Then I told myself the two of you spent time together because of the scientific knowledge she possessed; that she could discuss things with you that I couldn't. I wasn't as well versed in the sciences; I couldn't keep up with you on those topics. Then, I noticed another change … both of you were constantly invading each others personal space, you touched her … her arm, her hand, her shoulder and she allowed it. You were the only one she would allow to touch her. Even when we 'dated' she would tense when I put my arm around her. Your touch she leaned into, like she craved more."

"Don't tell me you're a bigot, Commander, I never would've expected that from you."

"No, I really don't understand it, but I don't care who ends up with who. I wanted you to think Seven didn't want you and I wanted to see if I could make you jealous."

"So, you proceeded to hurt two people that you profess to love, friends that for all you knew cared about each other … all because of you ego, your pride?"

"No … because I loved you, Kathryn. I wanted you to be mine…"

"I hate to be the one to tell you this, Commander," she interrupted him, "but that's not love. Love is wanting the best for someone even if it's not with you. There is an ancient Chinese proverb; 'If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was. We do not possess anything in this world, least of all other people. We only imagine that we do.' I suggest you think about that."

His jaw clinched and he turned to face her. "I've decided to stay in Starfleet … I'll be assigned to the supply station on Mars, while you will be stuck here behind a desk, according to Admiral Rutherford. And Mars is where our Borg is working, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to … persuade Seven to pick up our relationship again."

She smiled, surprising him. "I seriously doubt that, Chakotay, she knows about the lies you've told her and her reaction was … well let's just say she wasn't very pleased." Her smiled slipped from her face as he angrily turned and left the gathering.

Janeway noticed a group of people, her mother, sister, B'Elanna, Seven, Tuvok and his wife T'Pel as they stood listening to something Tuvok was saying, all but T'Pel was laughing. She hung back, not joining, she was afraid she would chase Seven away, who had been avoiding her on the flight and after.

"Wait, you're telling me that our Captain Janeway, the same person that had me in her ready room on numerous occasions, chewing me out every time I lost my temper, was in the middle of a bar fight?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes, Lieutenant, I believe my statement was completely coherent. It was just before we returned to the Alpha Quadrant; we were docked at the Donkor Station needing repairs after several days of fighting through extremely persistence pirates. The station itself was rather dubious at best and had a reputation for harboring travelers with questionable character traits. The Captain, after several days of dealing with the station master, made a statement about wanting to 'drown her sorrows' and before I could reply, Mr. Neelix had pulled her into a bar. I believe the correct term for the establishment would be 'a dump'."

A raised eyebrow was his only reaction to the laughter that erupted. "Sorry, pray continue, please." Phoebe managed to say.

"One of the inebriated patrons mistook the Captain for someone who would … enjoy his attentions and she naturally took offense."

"Naturally." Gretchen echoed. "What happen then, Mr. Tuvok?"

"Before I could extract the Captain from his hold on her arm, she … as Mr. Paris would say, 'cleaned his clock'. Unfortunately, he ended up disrupting another table of equally intoxicated clientele, who in turn came after the Captain. Soon the entire bar was in on the altercation."

"I can't believe my diplomatic sister was in a bar fight much less actually started it."

Seven remembered the talk throughout the ship after the incident occurred. She had been halfway to sickbay to see for herself that Kathryn was indeed alright before turning around and returning to astrometrics, reminding herself that the captain probably would not appreciate her concern. It had been three weeks since their night together and they had been avoiding each other ever since.

"Indeed, while the Captain is a very accomplished and skilled negotiator," Tuvok was saying, "she also has to 'cut loose' every once in a while. I just wish she would choose to do so when I am not around."

"You've known Kathryn for a long time, haven't you?" Phoebe questioned the Vulcan. At his nod, she continued, "I'll just bet you have a treasure trove of stories to tell."

Janeway decided it was the perfect time to interrupt. "He does and he will not be telling them, unless of course he wants to start answering to Crewman Tuvok in the near future." She smiled at him.

That comment garnered what would've passed as near to a smile as he would ever get. "Of course, Captain," he responded stoically.

"Dr. Hansen," she turned toward Seven, "may I have a moment of your time?"

"Certainly, Captain." The two women walked over to a relatively quiet corner.

"Seven, I spoke to Chakotay a few minutes ago. He told me he was going to be stationed on Mars and he alluded to the fact that he would be … pursuing you." She glanced in the blonde's direction before looking away again; she didn't want her to see the devastation Kathryn still felt from the rift between them.

"That is … unfortunate. I will have to make sure he knows that would not be the wisest course to follow." She wanted so badly to explain to Kathryn why she had done what she did. But even after what Admiral Paris had said, she was still apprehensive and she could see the pain in the blue-grey eyes that wouldn't hold hers. Pain that Seven had caused, when she walked away that morning after Kathryn had revealed her feeling … her love for Seven.

"Seven … I know…"

"I'm sorry, Captain, but I really must be going." She said before rapidly walking away.

Janeway was dismayed. The time they had spent together just after their return had been buffered by Gretchen and Phoebe. But time spent with just the two of them was still extremely strained. She wondered yet again if Seven had lied to Admiral Paris just to protect her.

The next couple of months passed quickly. Janeway stayed mostly in San Francisco and traveled to and from Mars as work on the new ship continued. The astrometrics lab, the slipstream drive and a few other Borg related improvements that Voyager had returned with, were being integrated into the ship. She was mostly able to stay away from Seven, though occasionally she had to seek her out to discuss one of the new systems.

The captain was currently on one of many trips to the ship yard and stopped by the Starfleet Propulsion Lab to discuss one of the modifications with Seven on the deflector array. She had put it off on her last trip remembering how the woman had literally run away from her at the reception.

"Captain, can I help you with something?" Leah Brahms folded her arms across her chest. She had walked into Dr. Hansen's lab to find Janeway standing there.

"I was looking for Seven. Do you know where she is?" Kathryn matched the other woman's confrontational pose with her hands on her hips. She had met this woman only twice, but they seemed to have developed a mutual dislike for one another, though not surprisingly, as Dr. Brahms' aversion of anything Starfleet was well known.

"Not at the moment, but I can let Dr. Hansen know you were looking for her when I see her tonight." Leah did not like this woman at all. She was the incarnate of everything she detested; she was Starfleet through and through. They were forever stealing her people away and putting them on starships, in the middle of confrontations that they never came back from. Such a waste of creative potential.

"Thanks, but if she's working late, I can come back to see her then."

"Oh, no, you miss understand me, we're not working, we have a dinner date." The doctor saw her statement hit its mark when Janeway visibly flinched. 'Good,' she thought, 'maybe if she thinks we're involved, she won't try to get this one back.'

'I guess Seven took what Owen said about women being together to heart, maybe it was just me she didn't want to be with.' "Dinner date?" She moved around the lab feigning interest in various objects. "Your husband going along on that date, Dr. Brahms?" She turned and stared into the dark haired woman's eyes.

"My husband is of no concern to you, Captain."

"He's obviously no concern to you either. Or maybe it's Seven that you're not concerned about, but I am. I won't stand around and let you hurt her or use her."

"My, how noble of you, but she's not a part of your crew anymore. And I'll do anything I have to in order to keep her part of my team. She has a brilliant mind and I can use her here."

"Use her, being the operative words I imagine. I've heard the stories about you. You'd lead her on; develop a romantic relationship with her when you care nothing for her, just to use her mind to better yourself. What about her feelings?"

"Feelings?" She laughed. "They don't concern me. But I assure you, Captain, I'm not trying to steal her work, she'll get full credit."

"Feelings are irrelevant. Sounds a lot like a Borg drone, are you sure you're human, Doctor?" Janeway taunted.

"I think you should go, Captain, I have work to do and so do the members of MY team."

"Alright, but I want you to understand, Dr. Brahms, if you hurt her in any way, shape or form … there won't be any place you can hide that I won't find you."

"Is that a threat, Captain? I assure you, I'm a lot more valuable to your precious Starfleet than one captain."

Janeway moved over to stand in front of the doctor and leaned into her personal space. "That may be, but there won't be enough left of you to find out once I get through with you." She left Leah Brahms with her patented glare that had been known to leave officers, crew and eight foot aliens cowering in their boots.

The doctor tried to rub away the goose bumps that had erupted on her arms for several minutes after Janeway left. "No wonder that woman survived seven years in the Delta Quadrant. It's a good thing her ship is almost ready, I don't think I want to find out if she was bluffing or not. Because something tells me she could very easily back her words up."

Seven had heard the entire exchange from a doorway that led to another lab. She waited until Leah had left before re-entering her domain. It was very clear to her that Dr. Brahms had lied to her about their 'dinner date', which was to be a working dinner here in the lab.

'It was obvious that Kathryn thought I was interested in Dr. Brahms, but she still cares enough to try to protect me. Now all I need to do is find out if it is because she feels responsible for me or because she still cares about me. Maybe it is not too late to correct my error.' Seven mused as she went to the computer on her desk to contact Admiral Paris.

The answer to her inquiry came back all most immediately. Seven was surprised by the content of the message, but proceeded to contact Gretchen Janeway, asking for a meeting, which was granted for the next morning. She packed up a few of her personal PADD's to take with her, even if her request was turned down, she didn't think she would be returning to work with Dr. Brahms. She left a quick missive for the doctor cancelling their dinner, stating a personal emergency, then left the lab complex heading for her quarters. There she packed her clothing, which was the only thing she owned other than the book of poetry that had been given to her by Janeway in the second year Seven had been aboard Voyager, and headed for the shuttle bay where she could board a transport to San Francisco.


Chapter Eleven

"I wonder what Dr. Hansen wants." He looked to Gretchen Janeway who had been in his office when the communiqué had come in.

"I believe she wants to be assigned to a certain starship." She answered with a grin.

"You really think so?" He questioned, then mumbled, "It's about time. I'd started to give up on them."

"I might be getting older, Owen, but my ears still work. Just what is it that you know about my daughter and the good Doctor?" She pinned him with a respectable imitation of her daughters glare.

He held up his hands. "It's not my story to tell, Gretchen, really. You'll have to get it out of one of them." He sat down beside her and changed the subject. "How are the selections coming?"

She let him get away with it. "Almost complete, just a few more positions to fill."

"I really didn't think you'd agree to this when I proposed the idea to you. I can't imagine you leaving the farm for this long."

"It's time, as my eldest stated, for me to do something for myself. And spending time with her is something that I really want to do. But, if she has any reservations about this, I won't go through with it. I just want you to be prepared in case."

He laughed, "I'm actually not sure how she'll react. Seven years ago I would've bet my life on her pitching a fit. But now, if I had to guess … I think she'll be all right with it."

"I don't know, Owen, having your mother working on the starship you're commanding is not something too many people would consider a good thing." Owen had approached her months ago about heading up the civilian science team that was going to travel aboard the new starship. "And to top it off, Richard has asked to be transfered to her ship. Has she approved that?"

"I don't know. Almost every position is strictly voluntary, she won't let me assign anyone since there is always a chance of something happening to the new drive and possibly leaving the ship stranded again. Of course this is a little different; that is a known factor now, and families can travel on the ship, which is the one thing she was discontented about. She's always shied away from a generational ship. She has never been comfortable with the possibility of taking noncombatants into a battle situation."

"I know there are always chances of a battle, but I would think it was less of a chance now, after the war."

"Mm, you'd think. But unfortunately tensions are still running very high. Relations with the Cardassians are still very tense, the Romulans and Klingons aren't getting along, don't repeat that, and even with the surrender the Dominion and Breen are still looked at as a threat, and the Borg even with the Queen's demise or supposed demise, they're an unknown factor right now."

"How do you know the Borg Queen is … dead? Wait, it probably has something to do with my daughter and even if you could tell me, I more-than-likely do not want to know." She rubbed her hands down her face. "Which reminds me, I was going to hit you next time I saw you. Telling me to get her to talk about her experiences; she told us about taking Seven from the Borg, my god, Owen, I nearly had a heart attack and she probably left out some of the rougher parts."

"I'm sure she did. Some of the review board had nightmares after hearing the crew tell some of their stories and most of us have been in more than a few tough situations. But I knew she was more apt to open up to her family even if it was the abbreviated version of the story, quicker than she ever would to a counselor. Is that the only thing she's talked about?"

"She's told plenty of humorous things, but so far that is the only horror story I've heard from her. Someone has her busy with a new ship."

Gretchen had dinner waiting on her daughter that night when she entered her apartment. "Hey, honey, you look tired."

"A little, but I'm use to it. What smells so good?"

"A new recipe. You, Phoebe and Richard get to be my guinea pigs. They'll be here…" the doorbell interrupted her, "right about now."

Despite the fact that she was tired, Kathryn enjoyed spending time with her family. Richard had been very intimidated by her when she had interviewed him for a position on the new ship since he was meeting her as his possible commanding officer, even though they had met a month ago as family.

"So, sis, you giving my husband a job or not?" Phoebe asked as they sat around the living room after dinner, drinking coffee.

"Phoebe." Richard looked mortified. "I asked you not to push." The man looked very uncomfortable, his tall skinny frame tried to disappear into the chair he was sitting in. His fair skin showing his blush and his blonde hair looking even lighter than it normally did. His brown eyes pleading with his wife not to embarrass him anymore.

"Would it help to know that I'd decided to come along with him?"

This was obviously news to everyone but Richard. "Help him get the job or help me decide to turn him down?" Kathryn asked with a straight face.

"Ha, ha, very funny." Phoebe glared at her sister.

Kathryn grinned. "Actually, Richard, I was going to meet with you tomorrow, but since you're here tonight, how does lead pilot on the beta shift sound to you?"

"I … I think it sounds wonderful, Captain. You won't regret it, I can promise you that."

"The only thing I might possibly regret is being on the same ship with my sister. Thank god it's a big one." Everyone but Phoebe laughed. She just stuck her tongue out at her sister.

"Well, since this seems to be the night for news, I guess I'll tell mine." Gretchen claimed their attention. "As Kathryn knows, I've been considering going back to work and I've been offered a position."

"Have you decided to take it, Mom?" Kathryn asked.

"That is entirely up to you, honey." At the confused expression, she elaborated. "Owen asked me to hire and head up the civilian science staff aboard your ship. I told him I would put the teams together, but it would be up to you if I was going to be heading it or not. It would mean we would have a lot of work related contact."

"So, Mom," Phoebe grinned, "is it that you don't think you could take orders from your daughter or is it that you don't think she could give them to you?"

"Oh, there's no question who would be in command of the ship and giving orders, Kathryn would tolerate less from us than the rest of her crew, I'd imagine. My only question would be how the two of us being on the ship would affect her orders." She stared at her silent daughter.

"What do you mean?" Phoebe asked.

"What she means," Kathryn said, "is how would I react to a possible deadly situation with my family on board." She stood and moved to the fireplace, watching the flames flicker. "Even though Tuvok was the only person on Voyager I had served with for any length of time, the crew became a family to each other, and being a small ship, over time I came to know most everyone on board fairly well. And yes, I had to order people on away missions that they sometimes didn't return from, and other times order the crew to do things that would cause most sane people to question my sanity. But I knew it had to be done, just as I know it would have to be done this time." She turned back to her mother. "But how would being on the ship with me, affect you? You've heard one story from me; you've heard the press' speculations, but not the real truth. We could easily be back in the Delta Quadrant facing some of those threats again and believe me; Voyager and by association myself, have made a few enemies there. There are several alien races that would not look forward to seeing a Federation ship again."

"While I'm not aware of the specifics, I'm well aware of the fact," Gretchen cleared her throat, "that it was possible stubbornness that kept you and your crew alive more than once. I think in the long run, it would be easier to be there than it would be to wait here, not really knowing what's going on. Besides, who is going to keep you and your sister from killing each other?" She added as she stood and wrapped her arms around her daughter.

"So, Phoebe, you never liked to follow my 'orders' when we were kids, you going to be able to do so now?"

"Hey, I'm just a civilian, as long as you keep in mind I'm not in Starfleet, we should be fine. It's him," she pointed to her husband sitting beside her, "that has to figure out if you're being his sister-in-law or his commanding officer."

Richard shrugged. "The way I see it, if you've got that uniform on you're the Captain."

"A good rule to follow, normally. Tonight I just didn't have time to change, the shuttle form Mars was a little late getting here."

"You saw her then?" Richard's eyes lit up. "There's a lot of gossip going around about her, but no one knows what, if any, of it is true. They say there isn't another ship exactly like her, that's she's a completely new design."

For a split second, Kathryn thought he was asking about Seven, then realized that couldn't be. "Every ship out there even if they were built exactly alike, is different. They all have a distinct personality." She smiled. "But I know what you're asking and I'm sorry, but I at this point I can't officially say anything. You'll be on her soon enough, Richard."

"It will seem like an eternity." He sighed.

"It'll pass quickly; you'll be doing a lot of flying over the next month or so, the Sovereign II is what you'll be checked out in to get the feel of a larger ship. It has a little quirk or two with the engines at full impulse, but if I can get the hang of it, I know you can."

"Oh no, they're going to talk ships. They'll be at it all night." Phoebe leaned her head against the back of the couch and faked a loud obnoxious snore.

"Alright, I give. What would you like to talk about, dear?" Richard goosed her ribs until she laughed and grabbed the finger poking her.

"How about what's really important … like what's the color scheme of the cabins or quarters I think you call them? And how big are they? Oh and just how many holodecks are there?"

The next morning, Gretchen arrived early to her office, but her first appointment still beat her there. "Dr. Hansen, come on in." She moved around behind her desk in her temporary office. "Have a seat. Can I get you anything … tea? Or are you a coffee drinker like my eldest?"

"No, thank you, Dr. Janeway. I do not require liquid refreshment at this time." She sat down even though she still preferred to stand most of the time, especially when she was nervous. "I never understood the Captain's fascination with that beverage."

Gretchen laughed. "She inherited that particular trait from her father, he was the coffee drinker. I'll have a cup in the morning, but prefer cream and sugar; I can't stand it black."

Seven quirked a corner of her mouth into a slight smile when she realized the older woman was indulging in polite chatter. She surmised her nervousness must be showing. "I believe the entire crew thought she was addicted to the substance. She even drank Neelix's; I think the term she used was 'sludge', when the replicators were not functioning. She even had the ship fly into a nebula when we detected an energy source, stating 'there's coffee in that nebula'. Unfortunately it did not work out."

"That sounds like my daughter." Gretchen laughed. "So, Dr. Hansen, what can I do for you?"

"I am here to request a place on the civilian roster with the Captain's new ship." Seven stated formally.

"Why? You have an ideal position and many more resources available to you where you are now."

Seven contemplated her answer, partial truth, whole truth … she had a feeling Kathryn had received her intuition from this woman sitting in front of her and if that was the case, nothing but the entire truth would work. "Dr. Janeway, when your daughter severed me from the Borg, I was very angry and very scared. I did not remember being anything but Borg. When I tried to contact the Collective, she threw me in the brig. When she came to see me, with information on a six year old girl that had her human life end and her Borg life begin, I told her I would kill her if she entered my cell."

Seven heard the sharp intake of air, but wasn't interrupted. "That did not stop her, of course, she entered anyway. She told me I was Annika Hansen … she had retrieved the information about her and her parents who had been taken by the Borg 18 years before. I struck out at her, but she just held me and comforted me … she gave me a chance for life as an individual, to eventually make my own decisions both good and bad. I have made both in my short human life span. One very bad one, I would like the chance to rectify, but I cannot do that without being with her. Please, Dr. Janeway, I am asking you to give me that chance."

Gretchen watched the emotions … sadness and pain mostly, that inhabited the blue eyes before her. Not so much when she was talking about being taken, but when she spoke of Kathryn. "You're in love with her," she announced. A little surprised by her discovery, but it did explain one thing about her daughter's despondent demeanor since she had returned; Kathryn was also in love with this woman.

"Yes, I am. But I had been misinformed about a few things and I hurt her and myself in the process. Not that that is an excuse for doing what I did, but I recently overheard a conversation that has led me to hope that she still cares for me and I have to try … I need this opportunity."

"What if you can't … fix things with her?"

"Then I will try to at least be her friend again. I have always said I was half Borg, half human, but the truth is, I am just half … without her. She was my enemy, my savior, my mentor, my friend, my family, my … love. I need her in order to be more than just half a person; I need her to be complete."

Gretchen leaned forward, resting her arms on her desk. "Something has been … slightly off with Kathryn since she returned. I think I now understand part of what has been wrong. I believe she also needs you to complete her." She paused for a minute. "You are certainly qualified for just about any position on the ship and it so happens, Astrometrics needs a department head. You wouldn't happen to know of anybody that might be willing to work under two Janeway women would you?"

Seven's face lit up and her blue eyes sparkled. "Two?" Seven questioned when the statement registered.

'Oh my, I can certainly see why my daughter fell for her.' "Admiral Paris asked me to head up the civilians on board and Kathryn said she'd be willing to have her mother on her ship, so you'd be stuck with the two of us. Now, as far as your other problem goes, she can be an extremely stubborn individual, but I'm sure you know that. You're going to have to be patient and subtle with her, but don't give up."

"I am Borg." Seven explained at Gretchen's curious look, "Resistance is futile."

Gretchen smiled. 'She's beautiful, intelligent and seems to be just as stubborn as Kathryn; my headstrong daughter might've met her equal in this woman.'

Seven left the older Janeway's office, happier than she had been in a long while. She avoided the area where Voyager now rested, the ship was attracting multitudes of people and she was well recognized as 'The Borg' and people tended to crowd around her asking questions and in some cases, ridiculing her. It was something she had fully expected but combined with the shear number of people, made her nervous.

Getting back to her quarters, she discovered a communiqué waiting for her. She wasn't surprised to find that it was from Dr. Brahms, asking Seven to get in touch with her as soon as possible. Deciding to get it over with, she contacted the doctor's assistant and was put through.

"Dr. Hansen, I thought you said it was a personal matter, if you had let me know Starfleet had summoned you again, I could've put a stop to it. I won't have my people dropping everything and running back to Earth every time they snap their fingers."

"Dr. Brahms, Starfleet did not snap their fingers. This was a personal matter. And you know as well as I do that the project I was hired for has been completed. Everything that I have been working on for the past month has been for your other ventures, nothing to do with the slipstream drive."

"But…" Leah stopped and took a breath to calm down, "you need to be integrated into them now. As you said, your work for Starfleet is complete."

"No, actually it has just started. I am to be assigned to … another project now. That is why I requested an interview with them." Seven wasn't about to tell the woman she was going to be working on the new ship, especially after hearing Kathryn and the doctor the day before.

"Dr. Hansen, Annika, you have an incredibly brilliant mind and a work ethic that even surpasses my own. You can do so much more if you stay here and work with me than you could if you only work for them. I'm certain you feel you owe Starfleet a debt of gratitude, but surely what you've done for them over the past few months has more than repaid them."

"You are wrong, Doctor, I never felt that I owed Starfleet anything. The only person I may have owed was Captain Janeway. And I believe the two of us have repaid each other many times over. I do not understand your hatred for Starfleet and more importantly anyone associated with it, but in particular Kathryn Janeway, especially since she is such a brilliant scientist in her own right. But I am not really curious enough to find out."

"Don't you see, that is the very reason. She had an opportunity to attend the Daystrom Institute; she went to Starfleet Academy instead. Then when it was announced that Voyager was lost along with Captain Janeway and crew, I realized she'd switched to command and left science altogether, she'd completely sold out and become just another Starfleet soldier. Such a waste."

"It is you who does not understand. Being a captain has made her so much more than just one thing … she is a scientist, an explorer, a diplomat and yes she is a soldier when she has to be. But the most important thing … she is my friend and I respect her even when I disagree with her. You, Dr. Brahms, could learn a lot from her … I know I did. As I said before, my work with you has concluded, I will not be returning to the lab unless there is something else to be done regarding the new drive. Goodbye, Doctor … Seven out."

She smiled after she cut the transmission. Her life was definitely looking up. 'Now, if I can get Kathryn to give me another chance, I will have no complaints.'

"You want me to do what?" Captain Janeway stared at the three admirals standing in her office at headquarters.

"Be the guest speaker at graduation. You might not have taken the promotion to admiral yet, but while you are here you're the new kid on the block so to speak, so we're taking advantage." Owen explained.

"It's no big deal." Admiral Necheyev stated. "You stand there say a few things that relate to the opportunities they have waiting for them, how privileged they are to be a part of the 'fleet, that sort of thing; just try not to put them to sleep like Rutherford did last year."

Janeway came out from behind her desk. "I remember Admiral Hampton speaking when I graduated; I think several people were actually snoring." She thought about the idea for a few minutes. "Okay, but I have a condition."

"Good lord, Kathryn, do you always have to make things difficult?" Alynna asked. "Never mind, I already know the answer to that. What is it?" she sighed.

"Nothing to drastic, I assure you," she grinned at them. "I'd just like to try and make it not so boring for them, change the format a little."

The three looked at each other then back at Janeway and Jovik, the Vulcan spoke for the first time since entering, "Acceptable."


Chapter Twelve

The graduating class of Starfleet Academy, all 1127 of them, were restless. They had been anticipating and arguing about who the guest speaker was going to be for the past several weeks. They had already sat through Head Master Admiral Korson's address, the awards for special merits given to the outstanding students and the 'pinning' of their ensign pip. As the auditorium lights dimmed and a single spotlight lit the stage, the cadets sat up a little straighter and a hush fell.

"Space, it's called the final frontier … the last place left to explore … to discover new worlds, to seek out new civilizations…" she stepped onto the stage and into the spotlight, "and sometimes new enemies." Janeway moved to the center of the stage.

"You are the explorers, the defenders, the fighters, the peacekeepers of today and tomorrow. You will leave these classrooms, your friends, your families … some of you will set foot on a starship, a new planet, observe the birth of a star, the death of a sun, the swirling gases of a nebula for the very first time.

"It's these memories, these experiences that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives, that will shape each and every one of you into the officers and individuals you shall become.

"I remember sitting where you are listening to the speaker at my graduation talk about pride and duty … the pride you should feel every time you put your uniform on and your duty to Starfleet and the Federation and its people. And it still applies now, but I believe that after four years at this institution all of you already know about those two things. If you didn't, you wouldn't be sitting here now.

"So, I'd like to do something a little different." Janeway looked off to the side of the stage to where the professors and admiralty sat. "I see a few nervous individuals," she grinned. "They should've known I would push things just a little." The cadets laughed.

"First I'd like to get them to turn the auditorium lights up and get this one off me." Somewhere behind the scenes, the command was given and the computer complied. "I want to talk to you about honor. About honoring the organization you represent, the job you do whether that's on a ship or planet side, the people you work with and command and that command you and about honoring yourselves. Because if at anytime in your career you can't look yourself in the mirror and honestly say that the decisions … the choices you made were to the best of your ability and knowledge and for the greater good, then maybe you should be in a different occupation."

Her hands clasped behind her back, Janeway slowly paced across the stage, pausing to look at the cadets periodically as she spoke. "Sometimes those decisions might not be the most popular … they may result in people being injured or killed … or being stranded 70,000 light years from home … then you hope and pray to whatever deity that you believe in, that their sacrifice wasn't in vain. And you remember them and honor them every day for the rest of your life." She paused for several seconds letting that sink in.

"Now to be completely unorthodox…" she peered at Starfleet's upper echelon again, "they're looking very worried at the moment," she smiled. "I know there are stories going around about Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant that keep getting wilder and wilder with each telling, so I'll answer a few questions if I can," she added quickly.

With many cadets voicing their questions all at once, Janeway couldn't make out individual questions, though one word did come through loud and clear. "It seems many of you want to hear about the Borg. Why does that not surprise me?" she quirked smiled. "Okay, but one at a time. You on the third row." She pointed to the young man in the gold uniform of operations.

"Captain, how was it one solitary ship was able to transverse Borg space without the crew being assimilated?"

As much as Starfleet wanted to keep the details under wraps, most of the basic story was already common knowledge. "It all started because of a crazy captain that was unwilling to add 100 years to Voyager's journey by going around Borg space, which of course still didn't guarantee we would be able to avoid them. Getting though the area was partly skill from the entire crew, the ingenuity of our EMH, the stubbornness of that crazy captain I mentioned, the fact that the Borg had more to worry about with a threat a lot worse than one small Federation Starship, but mostly it was a lot of luck. Most of the people I've had the pleasure of working for and with will tell you if it came down to having skill or luck, they'd take luck every time." She didn't mention that Voyager's luck was mostly from Kes' boost of almost 10,000 light years; the Ocampa wasn't common knowledge yet.

"What's your question?" She pointed to a nervous young woman wearing the red of a future command officer.

"Captain, how did you make the choice to deal with the Borg over Species 8472? Some say more power to them if they could kill the Borg."

"Good question." She looked to the powers that be, questioning them with a raised eyebrow. Their answer was a shrug of their shoulders, a silent okay to answer the cadet. "Every one of you has read and studied the horrors of war … one of those being the battle of Wolf359. Some of you lost family and friends and saw through simulations the destruction the Borg accomplished and what Starfleet lost in the process of stopping them. In the blink of an eye, Species 8472 destroyed 15 Borg Cubes." She heard the murmurs and let it sink in. "The power to do that was unfathomable. They had attacked one of my crew without provocation. It took them less than 60 seconds to destroy an entire planet and kill hundred's of thousands. And we had no way of knowing if they would stop with the Borg. At the time, the Borg was the lesser of two evils if you will. And at the time we had no way of knowing that it was the Borg being … well, Borg and had tried to assimilate Species 8472, which is what drove them to attack." She paused to gather her somewhat scattered thoughts, trying to decide exactly how to communicate her next point.

"There is one thing that I tried to keep in mind when dealing with the Borg, they were once someone's family and friends … they were assimilated against their will and with no will of their own, assimilated others. I have killed Borg that have threatened my ship, crew and myself. But if I had 'terminated' Seven of Nine instead of giving her a chance at living as an individual again, I would have been sentencing not only her to death, but my crew as well. There were many times the only reason we made it through a confrontation or a region of space was because of her knowledge and ingenuity, Borg ingenuity. And I also would've lost the opportunity to know a very unique person that I am proud to call my friend."

There was a lot of murmuring throughout the auditorium. 'No doubt many of these people lost family and friends at Wolf359, but if it gets them thinking and makes it easier on Seven to live among them, then I've accomplished what I wanted.' Janeway glanced over to see Admiral Rutherford glower. 'Damnable old fossil and his bigoted thinking'. She thought and turned her attention back to the cadets. "Any more questions?" She pointed to a science graduate in teal and black.

"Captain, how did you make the decision to destroy the array that stranded Voyager?"

She paused for a split second trying to figure out exactly how to answer that question. "It was a decision made with the greater good in mind. A lot of variables went into that end result; the fact that the 'Caretaker' would have destroyed the array if the battle between Voyager and the Kazon ship hadn't damaged it was just one of them. These types of decisions are ones that as each of you advance in rank, will end up making in your career, decisions that affect not only you and the people you serve with, but their families as well."

It seemed like several minutes passed before another stood and asked, "Captain, the scuttle butt is that you're going to be taking command of another ship soon, would you be willing to give a few wet behind the ears but capable Starfleet Academy graduates a try?"

"I see the gossip still breaks the warp 10 barrier around here, nice to see some things haven't changed." Laughter spread throughout the auditorium, lightening the atmosphere. "When I am assigned a ship, of course I would. But I wonder if HQ would be a little hesitant to assign a crew to me, since I kept the last one for seven years." The laughter that traveled through the graduating class was loud and boisterous.

She called a halt to the questions after answering a few more. "I'd like to leave you with a poem that was written by a young pilot, some 400 plus years ago during the conflict of the 1940's called World War II. He composed this in a letter home to his parents after having flown his aircraft at what was at that time, higher than any one had ever ventured, 30,000 feet. Sounds ridiculous in this day, but at that time the people of Earth had only been flying for about 40 years, so it was quite an accomplishment. The wonder he saw and felt as he flew above the earth was translated into his words and the sentiment behind them, I think, still rings true even today."

'Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings'
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.'

There was several seconds of silence. Possibly because some of the young imaginations were remembering their first flights and how they felt at seeing the vastness of space and the wonders it held for the first time and others that had never been in space yet imagined what their first time would hold.

Then almost as one, the cadets stood and started clapping. Probably not just for the poem that surely stirred their feelings or the speech that reminded them why they had spent the last four years studying; not just out of respect for the captain that stood before them, but for the person that had done what many said was impossible, survived in uncharted and in most cases hostile space without anything to fall back on and without any help from Starfleet, she had returned her ship and crew home. They knew they had the privilege of being addressed by someone that, whether or not she wanted it, had become not only a Starfleet legend, but an inspiration to the explorer, the adventurer and the warrior that resided in each of them.

Captain Kathryn Janeway bowed her head graciously to the cadets and left the stage. It was at that point that she fully realized how much she had changed in the past seven and a half years. She had always been a follower … of the rules, regulations, and of the hierarchy of Starfleet and the Federation. And she would still uphold the principles of both those organizations, but being the sole authority for so long, had made her an independent cog in a vast machine and she wondered if they had given her another ship simply because they didn't know quite what to do with her. 'Out of sight, out of mind … so to speak.' She grinned to herself as she left the building and tilted her head up to bask in the warm welcome sunlight.


Chapter Thirteen

"Commander Chakotay." An ensign stuck his head threw his boss' office doorway. "You asked me to tell you when another supply order came through for the new ship."

"Let's see." He held his hand out for the PADD the ensign was holding. "It looks like they might be getting ready to launch. At least they've named her and we need to change our records to read Odyssey NCC-79520, still no record on who's commanding her. What are the odds in the betting pool now?"

"Well, you didn't hear this from me … but 36 to 1 that Picard will give up the Enterprise, 4 to 1 that Riker will take it, 2 to 1 that it's Humphreys, 8 to 1 that Torell is the new skipper and 12 to 1 that it's Janeway's ship."

"Janeway? Do you really think they'd give her another one? Especially one like this; I'm sure they wouldn't want to lose it, even if the rumors of the new drive are false. Besides, they assigned her to a desk at HQ, to keep an eye on her no doubt."

The ensign didn't have any idea what caused the rift between his boss and his previous captain, so he prudently kept his admiration for her to himself and changed the subject. "They're asking for the supply order to be filled as soon as possible."

"Let me know when you've got it together, I want to take it over myself and see if I can get a look at this ship. This will be the first time they haven't sent someone for the supplies."

A lot of the essential crew had been on board for the past several days. B'Elanna had been given the position of chief engineer and had been splitting her time between the engine room and working with Seven on learning the quantum slipstream drive. Tom, the alpha shift pilot, was on board early simply because his wife was, and had been introducing his daughter to the ship and anybody that would stand still long enough. They planned on leaving Miral with her grandparents for a couple of weeks, so she could get to know them. Tom thought it was going to be harder on him to leave her behind than B'Elanna.

Janeway was spending most of her time on the bridge bringing systems online or in her ready room getting to know some of the crew she had only met once during the initial interviews. Most of the civilians she hadn't met at all since they were interviewed by her mother or the various department heads. This ship was bigger than her two previous commands and she was going to have to deal with 500 plus crew members, both Starfleet and civilians.

"Janeway to Janeway."

Captain Janeway grinned and shook her head at her mother's sense of humor. It was also her way of letting her daughter know that it was not an official situation. "It's a good thing the computer recognizes voice patterns otherwise it would've probably blown a sub-processor or two by now."

"Very funny. Phoebe and Richard are on board, you think we could pry you away for a couple of hours tonight for dinner?"

"I'll try, but I can't promise anything, Mom. By the way, I don't have the complete list of civilian personnel from you yet and the computer and communicators need to be programmed."

"I've got it ready now; can I send it up with Phoebe? She wants to see the bridge for some reason."

The only people on the bridge were Lt. Harry Kim, who had requested to once more serve as her alpha shift operations officer and Lt. Commander Tuvok, the only person that had been with her for each of her commands. He surprised her when he once more asked to be her chief of security. She had really thought he would ask to be transferred to a position on Vulcan to be with his family, though T'Pel was going to be with him for awhile this trip. "Sure, send her on up."

A few minutes later the turbolift doors swished open and a dark red curly head poked out looking around. "This is bigger than the other one." She noticed the overall shape of the room to be octagonal. It did have the same three levels like the one on Voyager, with the large weapons/tactical station on the upper level where she stood, directly behind the command center that was located on the center level, which had one large chair that was surrounded by what she assumed to be computer access consoles which were flanked by two smaller chairs, one on each side.

She noticed Lt. Kim at the operations station located to the left of the command area. He looked up and smiled a greeting to her. She saw the large viewscreen was activated and looked out into the docking bay. In front of the screen was the lowest area of the bridge, the helm and navigation stations. Off to the side of that were two auxiliary science stations. She saw Kathryn at a station that mirrored operations and walked over to her watching as she manipulated the large board in front of her.

"Engineering to bridge … the thrusters are on line."

"B'Elanna, I'm showing port, starboard and forward, but no aft." Janeway stated. "Hold on." She stood up and moved from the engineering station down the three steps to her command chair and then down three more steps to the helm. "Nope, aft thrusters according to every station on the bridge are off line. You've got to have a glitch on your board."

"Kahless, you'd think they'd built enough of the things to get it right. Give me a few minutes to find out what's wrong. Engineering out."

Janeway laughed and moved back up to where her sister stood. "You have something for me?"

Phoebe handed over the PADD her mother had given her. "Buy me a cup of coffee?"

"I could definitely use one. Tuvok, I'll be in my ready room." He nodded and she headed through the door located midway along the starboard side of the bridge.

As you entered the ready room, you had three steps down to the area where a desk was located at the far side of the room by the viewports along with two chairs for visitors. The numerous consoles around the desk were to keep the captain apprised of all systems on the ship. To the right of the entrance was a small door that led to an en suite. To the left of the entrance, three steps up took you to a sitting area with a couch, small table and two chairs, along with a table that would accommodate four people for a meeting or perhaps a lunch and a replicator. The couch was once again positioned beneath the forward viewports.

Janeway placed the PADD on her desk and headed up the two stairs to the replicator where she ordered two coffees. She placed them on the table in front of the couch and sat down, rubbing her eyes.

"Starfleet ought to employ a decorator." Phoebe stated as she looked around. "Everything is in grayish blue or grayish black. And the new uniform colors; at least the old ones were a bright red. Seeing a bunch of them at once really brings out the dull colors … could you get anymore boring? At least the science ones are teal."

"Phoebe, this is a starship not a vacation ship and I kinda like the new muted colors for a change. You'd probably have everyone in pink or orange or god forbid, lime green," she laughed. "Come sit with me a few minutes before I have to go back to work."

"That's another thing." She said as she joined her sister on the couch. "Why don't you get someone else to do all the work? I mean being the Captain ought to be good for something."

"I know you think I should sit around and delegate, but that's not the way most captains run their ships and I intend to run my ship just like I always have, which means I need first hand knowledge of every system on here." She paused and drank a little of her coffee.

"By the way, how many of your old crew are on this ship?"

Kathryn was surprised by the question. "From Voyager … 62."

"I was wondering if I could get their names. I know about B'Elanna, Tuvok, Harry, Neelix, and Tom, but I'd like to talk with them all."

"Mm, why?" She looked a little warily at her sister.

Phoebe patted her sister's leg. "Nothing bad, I'd like to try a series of sketches and/or paintings that depicts the seven year journey. And who better to ask than the people that lived it."

"Oh … I … that's a wonderful idea, Phoebe. I can't think of a better person to do them either." She complimented her sister. "You should check with the Doctor when he comes aboard, he was somewhat of a … what's the term … shutterbug with a holoimager at all the gatherings we had. You'd be able to put faces with the names."

"The Doctor? You mean the EMH; I thought I heard you say he had to choose a name."

"He does." She shook her head. "It's going to be a problem if he doesn't hurry up, since we're going to have two doctors on this ship. Maybe I can get the counselor to work with him on it."

"Tell me about the ship." Phoebe asked, as she turned sideways on the couch to face her surprised sister.

"You want to know about the ship? I don't suppose you want an overview of the warp propulsion system?" She grinned as her sister stuck her tongue out. "It has eight holodecks, twenty-eight decks, a crew of 350 Starfleet personnel made up of both officers and non-commissioned, 150 civilian scientists, and 78 adults and children that are traveling with spouses and/or parents. You can decorate your quarters however you see fit as long as you don't paint the walls in glow-in-the-dark colors."

"Hey, I was six years old when I did that. Besides, I think you should let me paint the hull; it's such a boring color. A dark blue with a few constellations and a nebula across the top would be good. Just think how it would blend in."

"I'll pass your suggestion on to Starfleet Command, but you might find it a little difficult to paint when we go to warp, you'd be too busy trying to hang on."

"Ha, ha, very funny."

Kathryn grasped her sister's hand and lightly squeezed. "There's also a large arboretum on board with simulated sunlight that you might find a good place to work. I know this is going to be quite a change for you. I hope you'll give it a chance though."

"Harry, how are you?" Chakotay couldn't believe his luck, not only could he find out whose ship this was, he might be able to look around a bit.

"Lt. Commander." Harry took the PADD and looked over the manifest. "Kim to Neelix."

"Neelix here, Lieutenant."

"The supplies you requested for the galley are here, cargo bay four."

"On my way, Mr. Kim, Neelix out."

"So," Chakotay tried again, "you and Neelix … anybody else from the old crew on board?"

"There are a few more of us." Harry moved around the hovercraft checking the manifest against the containers, then nodded at the crew waiting to unload.

"How about a look around?" He tried a disarming smile. "No one has been able to get passed the cargo bay yet. And believe me; everybody on the station has bets going on from whose ship this is to whether it really does have a working slipstream drive."

"Sorry, Commander, no unauthorized personnel allowed."

"Come on, Harry, how about a little inside info. I thought we were friends."

Harry stopped watching the unloading and looked the taller man in the eyes. "Were friends, Commander. Everyone knows how you twisted the truth to the review board, trying to make the Captain look bad. Many of us were called back and specifically asked about what you tried to imply. No one backed you up … I myself told them you had been acting strangely towards her for the last couple of months before we made it home and had … distorted the incidents."

"Well, I might've known all Starfleet crew members would back her. Tuvok's her friend and you and Tom were her pet projects. And of course Seven was her token 'good deed' along with the Doctor."

"No," B'Elanna's entrance had gone unnoticed. "The Maquis also backed her, by telling the truth I might add. You were the only one with an agenda against her. And I've spoken with Seven, I know the lies you also told her. What happened to you, Chakotay? Why did you turn against her … against all of us?"

He stood there looking back and forth between them; his teeth grinding together in anger. "Why don't you ask her since all of you are such good pals." He turned and walked over to the now empty hover craft. With one last look at the three people, as Neelix had joined Harry and B'Elanna, he exited the ship and headed back to his department.

Seven returned to astrometrics after she had finished in the engine room, and found Gretchen waiting for her. "Dr. Janeway."

"Annika, I just wanted to let you know that I turned over the final civilian roster to Kathryn a little while ago."

"Thank you for informing me." She stated as she moved around to the different consoles bringing the lab online.

"Look, I know this is none of my business," she moved over to stand beside the taller woman, "but I have some advice if you'd like to hear it."

Seven paused and looked down at her fingers resting on the controls she was programming. "Please."

Gretchen placed her hand on Seven's shoulder. "Talk to her as soon as possible. I know you're nervous, but the longer you put it off, the harder it will be to face her and the more she'll question your motives."

"My motives? Explain." Seven turned her head towards the older woman.

"She'll wonder why you didn't come to her immediately after talking to Admiral Paris and finding out that the relationship between the two of you would be acceptable. If I know my daughter at all, she'll think you lied to him because of some misplaced loyalty to her for saving you from the Borg. You know how stubborn she can be and how she punishes herself for things she thinks are her fault."

"I never told you about my conversation with the Admiral, how did you know?"

"I finally got it out of him one night after I told him I'd given you a job," she smiled. "When you talk to her just keep in mind that she's going to be scared…"

"Kathryn Janeway is not scared of anything." Seven interrupted.

Gretchen grinned at the way she jumped to defend her daughter. "There are only one or two things that can send her running scared … her feelings and being hurt by people she loves. How did she react after the two of you were together and you started dating the Commander?"

"She withdrew from everyone." Seven thought back. "I started keeping an eye on her; I was worried at how she was acting. She had only done that once before when we went through a void … a dead area in space. This time, after spending six point four days in her cabin when not on duty, she started spending time in the holodeck and in the gym on board. And she started taking all away missions whether they were dangerous or not. Tuvok was not happy with her decision about those and neither were some of the senior staff. When I stopped 'seeing' the Commander is when it turned hostile between them. There were several times I thought they would come to blows during the staff meetings."

"Her withdrawal isn't surprising. She did that after her father and Justin were killed, she blamed herself."

"She told me the story … she also blamed herself for each crew member on Voyager that died." Seven let go of past thoughts and focused on the woman standing beside her. "Thank you for the advice, I will ask to speak with her tonight, once she is through on the bridge."


Chapter Fourteen

Janeway had only been in her quarters for a few minutes when her door chime sounded. "Come in."

Seven took a deep breath and entered. "Captain, I was wondering if I could have a few minutes of your time."

"Of course, Sev … Dr. Hansen, is there a problem with the drive?"

"No, the slipstream is online and operational." Seven stood with her hands clasped behind her back so their shakiness wouldn't be noticed. "I wanted to speak with you about … a personal matter." Seven wondered which of the two of them looked more ready to bolt.

"I'm not sure that would be a good idea. I don't think we…"

"Please, I should have done this months ago, but I was scared … scared to face you after what I did. I need to explain why I thought what I was doing was for the best." Seven pleaded.

Janeway clinched her fists so tightly that her nails dug into her palms. "Owen told me what you said … that you thought you were protecting me." She walked away, turning her back to the blue eyes that looked miserable. "When I severed you from the Borg and wouldn't let you return to the collective; forced you to become human, you accused me of not giving you a choice. You said you'd never make that mistake, yet you did the very same thing to me … to us."

"Yes, my research and information was flawed."

"Yes, it was and I could've explained that to you, if you had loved and trusted me enough, I would have."

"I do trust you, Kathryn, and I do love you, more than I know how to convey."

"Do you? That's a little hard to accept after what happened. Do you know what it felt like to see you with someone else? With him … after you told me you didn't have feelings for him. I didn't know what to think … had you lied when you said that? Did you run to him thinking he could protect you and keep you safe from me? Did you think I'd try to force you to have sex with me again?"

"You never forced me, Kathryn, I thought if the crew saw me dating a male that they would not come to the realization that I longed to be with you … that I was in love with you." She wanted to reach out and touch Kathryn, but she didn't think it would be welcomed at this point. "Do you not love me anymore?"

Janeway rubbed her temples and sighed. "If it were only that simple. I still love you, Seven. I can't turn it off just because … you hurt me. I just don't know if I can trust you not to hurt me again. Those weeks you were with him … they nearly killed me," she reluctantly admitted.

"I will show you that you can trust me again and that I love you, if you can give me a chance. And I promise I will never hurt you like that again." Seven now realized this was a conversation they should have had a long time ago.

"How? The ship is leaving."

"I take it you haven't had a chance to go over the civilian roster? I'm your new Head of Astrometrics."

Janeway jerked her head around. "But … your position with Dr. Brahms."

"I was never very comfortable with her. And after I overheard your conversation with her, I thought that you might still care for me and I might have a chance to 'win you back' since you tried to protect me from her insincere attentions."

"I didn't know you were there." Kathryn moved over to the replicator and asked for one cup of hot chocolate that she knew Seven favored and one cup of black coffee.

"I know. I contacted Admiral Paris that afternoon and he put me in touch with your mother for an interview. I was in her office the next morning and she offered me the position."

Janeway handed her the mug and moved away. She wasn't sure if she should hug or yell at her mother for giving Seven and her another chance. "Did you and the Commander…?" she swallowed; wondering why she felt the need to have this question answered. She guessed because it had been driving her crazy, her imagination running wild. "Were you and he ever…?"

"No." Seven interrupted when she understood what it was that Kathryn was trying to ask. "I kissed his hologram but found it undesirable. Then I thought to be fair, I should try it with the real thing … but it proved to be less desirable than the hologram. Maybe because by that time, I had experienced everything that I would ever desire, could ever desire with you."

Kathryn smiled. "You know he accused me of being responsible for you breaking up with him. It must have been a day or two after you broke up. He came storming into my ready room; he must have stewed about it for a while, because he was furious. I'd never seen him so animated. I always wondered about his calm demeanor; wondered what would set him off, I got my answer--his ego."

"I am sorry; he asked me if it was because of you. I denied it, but I must admit I paused before I answered him. It must have been enough to make him suspicious."

"That and the fact you still don't lie very well."

She inclined her head in acknowledgement. "What did he say to you?"

"Basically he accused me of being so alone and unhappy that I had to make everyone around me as miserable as I was. That I had ordered you to stop seeing him, using Starfleet regulations as the reason, when he knew it was because I wanted you for myself and couldn't have you, so I'd make sure no one else would have you either. I continued to let him rant and hang himself. I confined him to quarters for three days after his outburst and told him if he mentioned it again in anyway, he would be spending the rest of the trip in the brig."

"The brig would have been a satisfactory preference."

"Why, did he bother you?"

"He would always manage to show up wherever I happened to be; he never confronted me, he would just be there. He would also deliver orders personally when contacting me over the comm system would have been more expedient and efficient. He also contacted me while working on Mars, inviting me to dinner or some other excursion. But that was after you had warned me, so I was expecting it and very explicit in my refusal."

"I'm really surprised he didn't resign from Starfleet when he was demoted and assigned to the supply depot."

"I was also surprised, though he might yet, since things still do not seem to be going his way." Seven moved to stand beside the captain. "Kathryn, I want us to have a chance … to be a couple, to date. Is that something you also want?"

She turned to face the taller woman and cupped her cheek in the palm of her hand. "I don't think I can tell you no," she smiled. "My heart keeps telling me you are my anam cara."

Seven searched though her vast knowledge. "I do not know the meaning of ann-imm karrah."

"It's Irish, it means soulmate."

Seven gave Kathryn such an incredible look of shear delight the captain thought for sure her heart had stopped. "But, Seven, we will take things slowly this time."

"I will comply." She grinned and rested her forehead against the captain's.

Janeway met Admirals Paris, Necheyev and Jovik as their shuttle landed. The three of them made the trip to see the Odyssey launched. As they walked through the station, they seemed to pick up more and more personnel that assumed since the brass was here, the rumors of the new ship's departure with most of its secrets still locked away was true.

There had been plenty of betting, plenty of speculation, the new drive, new weapons, new shields, who the captain was … but none of it could be substantiated.

"So, Kathryn," Owen grinned, "how has it been so far having your mother and sister on board?"

"Truthfully, I haven't had much of a chance to see them. We've been bringing the systems online and running checks," she answered.

"That's what your staff is for, Kathryn." Alynna stated. "You sit on the bridge and give orders, they do the grunt work."

"And to think I spent all morning crawling through Jefferies tubes replacing blown EPS relays."

Owen laughed. "Between the three of us, we might be able to find the relay, but Kathryn, give her a spanner and she could take this ship apart, put it back together and have it running better than it originally did. Probably with a few parts left over."

They continued to the ship and Owen went to meet his wife who had come up that morning to pick up her granddaughter, if they could pry her away from her parents.

B'Elanna noticed that she seemed to be taking the impending separation a little better than Tom. She wondered if that was a legacy she had inherited from her mother, since she hadn't been the most nurturing of parents. Though it could just be that she had been extremely busy and Tom hadn't had anything to do.

Chakotay waited in the observation area near the docking bay that held the Odyssey. He knew Kathryn had been spotted on the station accompanying the admirals and he wanted a chance to speak with her. He had done a lot of thinking and soul searching after seeing Harry and B'Elanna, and wondered if it wasn't too late to build a few bridges instead of burning them. After all, if Kathryn was on earth and he was on the station and no longer under her command, there might be a way to convince her he did care for her, especially since he had learned Seven was leaving with the ship and no longer a distraction for the captain.

"Maneuvering thrusters online, Captain." Tom called from his seat at the helm.

"Impulse and warp operational." Seven stated. She had been asked by B'Elanna to man her bridge station. The chief engineer wanted to remain in main engineering during the inaugural launch.

"Long, medium and short range sensors online and functioning, Captain." Harry reported from his ops station.

"Weapons and shields at 100 percent and deflector fully operational." Tuvok stated formally.

The launch was being broadcast throughout the ship by the computer and most of the non-essential personnel had gathered in the mess hall and lounge or along the outer corridors to watch the ship leave the station since many of them had never been though it before. They could also view what the bridge was seeing on the main viewscreen transmitted throughout the ship as well.

The captain glanced to her right at the dedication plaque. The poem she read at graduation had been engraved on it and she wondered what the young man who wrote the poem would compose if he had been privy to the view she would be seeing very shortly.

The official naming and dedication ceremony had taken place yesterday with very little pomp and circumstance; the unveiling of the plaque and the christening of the ship. Champagne was no longer used, but was replaced by the combined waters from the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Artic Oceans since the starship's hull would never glide through their waters as their 'ancestors' had done.

"Admiral Jovik, Admiral Necheyev." Chakotay acknowledged the two people that walked over to view the ship being brought to life.

"Beautiful, isn't she?" The slim, blonde woman stated. "And she's one of a kind."

"That's what we've been hearing, but no one was giving away any details," the commander responded. "Wasn't Kat … Captain Janeway with you earlier? I wanted a word with her before she left."

"Yes, she was," the woman answered. "Could one of us help you with anything?"

"No thank you, Admiral, it's a personal matter," he explained. "She hasn't left before the big show, has she?" He looked back out the window.

"No, Commander, that would be a little difficult." She smiled at his confusion and remained silent, knowing he was about to learn exactly where Janeway was as the dock master's voice filled the room.

"Odyssey, this is the dock master … docking clamp release on my mark in three, two, one … mark."

The big ship shuddered for a split second before the thrusters caught and held it stationary as the station's double bay doors slowly opened.

"Docking clamps cleared; the ship is yours, Captain Janeway … good journey to you and your crew."

"Thank you, dock master." Janeway replied. "Port thrusters, Mr. Paris … move us away from the dock."

"Aye, Captain."

Chakotay frowned. "I don't understand. Is she being stationed somewhere other than Earth?"

"No, Commander," Owen stood on his other side, "Odyssey is her ship."

"When was that decided? I thought she was to be stationed at HQ?"

Owen smirked. "Always has been her ship if she wanted it. She and B'Elanna have been up here for months, hell, I think the two of them built the nacelles and warp core on their own, and being stationed at HQ was just until Odyssey was ready to launch." He watched the ship slowly move away from the bay and glide towards the opening doors. "Kathryn belongs on the bridge; I truly believe she was born to command a starship."

The flashing yellow lights turned to solid green, signaling the doors were fully open. "Aft thrusters, Lieutenant. Mr. Kim, any ships in the vicinity?" Janeway asked as they crept forward.

"Yes, Captain, sensors show 36 within … um, a thousand square kilometers." Harry reported wide-eyed.

"Man, they're really packed in there." Commander Viktor stated. The Bajoran first officer was several inches taller than the captain and had short dark hair and dark eyes that sparkled with humor. He was newly promoted to the rank of full commander and Janeway had been a little reluctant to select him for the position, but he had done his training for first officer under Riker and Picard and they had recommended him.

The ship was emerging from the station as Tom laughed, "I wonder how many have run into each other."

"Let's not add to that, Mr. Paris … ahead one eighth impulse and take us through the path they've kindly left open."

"Aye, Captain."

It took several minutes to clear the congestion and hit relatively open space. Each ship lining their path had opened their comm lines and broadcast a series of ship 'horns' as the Odyssey passed. Janeway could never remember to look up how and why that tradition had started. "Set a course for DS4, ahead warp three, engage." Janeway stood up and addressed the crew on the bridge. "Nicely done everyone. Commander, you have the bridge, I'll be in my ready room."

"Aye, Captain," the commander formally responded.

"Dr. Hansen, could I see you for a minute before you head back to Astrometrics?"

"Of course, Captain." Seven stood and followed her through the ready room door.

Janeway leaned back against her desk and reached for Seven's hands. "Would you like to have dinner with me tonight in my quarters?"

"I would, but Gretchen has invited me to dinner, along with Phoebe since Lt. Long will be at the helm tonight and if you will check your personal messages, you will see an invitation for yourself as well."

"Damn, I wanted you all to myself."

Seven smiled. "Tomorrow night?"

"We'll be docking at DS4 and picking up the rest of our crew, then the next night is the official inaugural ship's dinner," she sighed unhappily. The two women had not had an opportunity to spend any time together since their talk.

"Yes, I believe Neelix was asking your mother for a few recipes for that event."

"Mm, I'm surprised she hasn't tried to take over the galley yet." Kathryn laughed.

"I believe she will be content if she can cook for her family every once in a while. This job has kept her very busy so far."

"Good, now if I can just find something to keep Phoebe busy and out of trouble, I'll be happy."

"I am sure there is no need for concern, she will discover a diversion she can pursue that will capture her imagination and keep her occupied."

Kathryn winced, "Me too and that's what worries me."

Part 4

Poem 'High Flight' by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. is used without permission.

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