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 Eight

Chapter Thirty One

"Captain's Log Startdate 55843.6. Odyssey is in route around Breen Space to the far side to investigate a white dwarf believed to be in the process of collapsing and possibly going supernova, though previous charting of this area doesn't support a binary system and readings from our long range sensors haven't been able to confirm or refute this yet. In another 20 hours at warp 7.5 we should be in position to confirm. Astrometrics is running continuous sensor sweeps of the region.

"End Log."

It was late when Janeway left her ready room and officially turned the bridge over to Viktor who was on the beta shift this week. She was on deck two walking towards her quarters when she ran into her sister.

"Hey, sis, you're working late tonight."

"I never seem to get finished with all the reports that pile up." The captain slipped her arm through her sister's and lead the way to her quarters. "Were you seeing Mom or is there something you wanted with me?"

"Mom is dining with Danu. Couldn't I just want to spend time with my big sister?" Phoebe saw the eyebrow climb upwards. "Okay, so I wanted to ask you something."

Janeway laughed, "Sit down," she said and moved towards the replicator. "You want something to drink?"

"A glass of wine would be great."

"White okay?" At Phoebe's nod, she asked the computer for two glasses of white wine, chilled. Getting comfortable she asked, "So what can I do for you?"

Phoebe sipped from the glass. "Mm, nice," she placed it on the low table in front of the couch she was occupying. "I want to know if it would be okay to observe a staff meeting. I promise I won't say anything or get in the way. I just wanted to do some sketching of the staff while in the briefing room." She finished in a hurry. "Besides, other than the rescue and the one time something happened while you were chewing me out in your ready room, I've never really seen you work."

Janeway stared at her sister. "I really don't have a problem with you attending, there's nothing right now that's being discussed that's classified. Though I can't imagine you being interested in watching us talk about a white dwarf star or the normal day-to-day running of the ship. However, you do know that the meetings are held in the morning, as in before noon; not your idea of mornings."

"Very funny," she glared at her sister. "I happen to know that tomorrow's meeting is in the late afternoon."

"Already talked to mom, huh?"

"Yes, though I was still going to make the ultimate sacrifice and get up early if it wasn't." She made a big dramatic production, leaning back, sighing and throwing her arm over her eyes.

"Don't give up your current livelihood, Phoebe, you'd starve."

She smacked her sister on her knee. "So, mom said 1700 hours tomorrow, should I come up with her?"

"You can do that," she rubbed her forehead.

"You look tired. Have you had anything to eat?"

"I had some soup this afternoon."

"You always forgot to eat and sleep when you were studying, looks like that's carried over. It's a wonder you didn't starve to death before you got home. Why don't I make us something?"

The door chime sounded before she could answer. "Come in."

Seven entered. "Kathryn, Phoebe, I did not mean to interrupt."

"Its okay, Seven," Phoebe stated, "I was just going to make us something for a late dinner, care to join us?"

"Let me guess, Kathryn has once again forgotten the fact that she is indeed human and needs certain amounts of nutrition to keep functioning?"

"You got it."

"I will be happy to join you." Seven still stood with her hands clasped behind her back.

The captain chuckled, "You haven't eaten either. And I just happen to know you logged on and off duty the same time I did."

Seven's implant over her eye rose sharply. "And I know that you only had coffee for breakfast, where I at least had a required nutritional supplement."

"Seven, coffee is a required nutritional supplement for me," she grinned.

"She's got you there, Seven." Phoebe broke in. "Come and get it." She placed three salads with grilled chicken, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and croutons on the table. "What may I pour for madam to drink?" She asked the blonde haired woman who was inspecting her dinner.

Seven tilted her head at the implied formality. "Water with a twist of lime if you please, garcon."

Janeway unfortunately tried to laugh and swallow a sip of wine at the same time.

"Are you all right, Kathryn?" Seven asked and received a nod of assurance.

"Serves you right." Phoebe looked at her sister as she continued to laugh after catching her breath, then looking at Seven, "I can tell you've been around her for too long."

The meeting was very relaxed and informal. And as promised, Phoebe sat quietly in the back corner with her sketch pad. Janeway was sitting in her chair at the head of the table with her elbow on its arm and her chin propped in the palm of her hand, her fingers splayed on her cheek. "Dr. Hansen, if you please, show us what your scans have revealed."

"Certainly, Captain," she stood up and moved to the computer display panel. "The information from the scans definitely show a white dwarf but not in a binary system. The helium has been exhausted and the core has contracted. In theory, this white dwarf, given enough time, could possibly become a black dwarf. We need to be closer to correctly analyze the rate of cooling." She concluded and returned to her seat.

"Wow," Harry said, "I wish we could prove or disprove that theory."

Janeway smiled at his enthusiasm. After seven years aboard Voyager, he still at times reminded her of a fresh out of the academy cadet. "Me too, Harry, but I'm afraid that won't happen in our lifetime or many lifetimes to come."

"How come, Captain?" the chief medical officer asked. "It's been a few years since my astrophysics classes at the Academy."

"Simply put, it would take billions of years for it to radiate away its remaining energy, growing cooler and dimmer, and to disappear from view. The universe is just not old enough for any black dwarfs to actually exist," she explained. "Though at this point in its life, we might get a nebula out of it to study."

The senior staff exited the briefing room to the bridge as the meeting broke up.

"Captain, sensors are picking up two ships on an intercept course." Lt. Toric reported from his ops station.

"How long to intercept, Lieutenant?" she asked.

"On present course, fifty-two hours, ma'am."

"Lt. T'Lora, can you identify them?" Viktor asked tactical.

"Attempting to do so now, Commander." T'Lora rechecked her findings. "They're Borg." Only because she was Vulcan, was she able to keep her facial expressions placid.

"Borg?" echoed across the bridge.

And it was only Janeway's years of command experience that kept her from throwing a fit. "Well, I guess it was too much to hope for that I wouldn't have to hear that word again, at least for a while." She mumbled more to herself than the crowded bridge.

"Captain?" a couple of people queried.

"Run continuous scans on them, I want to know what kind of vessels they are and how many lifesigns are aboard. Lt. Long, drop to impulse, but continue on our present course. You have the bridge, Commander Viktor; I'll be in my ready room."

Janeway gave herself a minute to sit back in her desk chair before she once again summoned the senior staff. Starfleet had been in agreement with her about needing to confront the Borg vessels. Taking a deep breath and making sure her command mask was in place, she entered the bridge.

"Ensign Flynn," she said to the human female manning navigation, "plot an intercept course for the vessels. Lt. Long, engage warp six."

"Aye, Captain."

"How long until rendezvous, Mr. Toric?" Viktor asked.

"At warp six, 27 hours, Commander."

"Route all sensor data to the briefing room. Viktor, notify all senior staff to report, also have Dr. Hansen and both the Doctor and Dr. Collins join us. Oh," she had another thought, "it might be a good idea to also have Counselor Gazsi join also."

"Aye, Captain." He swallowed heavily; he had seen the aftermath of Wolf359 and had read the reports of Voyager's confrontations with the Borg and wondered how in hell this one woman had faced them as many times as she had and lived to tell the tail. 'I guess I'm about to find out.'

Fifteen minutes after the commander had called the senior staff; they filed into the briefing room and took their seats.

Janeway leaned forward, resting her arms against the tabletop. "As most of you heard, at 1834 hours, long range sensors picked up two vessels on an intercept course with us. Scans revealed them to be Borg." She heard a sharp intake of breath from the staff members that weren't present at the earlier meeting. "We have just under 27 hours before we're in contact with the lead vessel; the second is about four hours behind."

"Do we know what types of vessels they are?" the Doctor asked.

"No, not yet. I have tactical and ops running continuous scans. The nearest Starfleet ship is three days away from our position and headed this way, but we'll be on our own until then."

"Just like old times." Lt. Paris stated and chuckles filtered around the table.

"Not quite, Lieutenant." Seven stated. "Before we knew what to expect from the Borg… now we do not."

"Seven's right." Janeway leaned back in her chair. "They are now an unknown adversary since the Queen should be dead."

"Why are you assuming that?" Dr. Collins asked. "I'm assuming it has something to do with how Voyager returned?" The records of the missing ship's timely return had been classified and even with the speculation that flew around the Starfleet ranks, it had mostly remained a mystery.

Janeway knew this wasn't how she wanted her mother to hear the story, but since she was a member of the senior staff even though a civilian, it couldn't be helped. "Only the admiralty and a few people sitting at this table are aware of all the details of Voyager's return and the way it came about." She sent an apologetic look her mothers' way. "When my… future self came back in time to, as she explained, 'put things right' and get Voyager home quicker than in her time, she admitted that it would probably be a one way trip for her. Thought she did say she had forgotten how stubborn I… she could be, that was after we had decided to try and destroy the transwarp network instead of using it to get home."

Kathryn took a quick look at her mother and couldn't decipher the look on her face… 'not a good omen', she thought. "She and I came up with an alternative plan or more to the point, she did and convinced me to go along with it. To make a long story short, Seven and the Doctor re-programmed a few nanoprobes and I, she, Admiral Janeway…" she paused and pinched the bridge of her nose. "This is why I hate temporal mechanics. Anyway, she was injected with them. She then used the network to get to Unimatrix Zero and the Queen, knowing she would be captured. She infected the Queen when she was assimilated."

"What if… the Queen wasn't the one that did the assimilating?" Harry questioned.

"Harry," B'Elanna shook her head, "how many times did Captain Janeway and Voyager kick the Borg's ass? Do you really think she'd let one of her drones have that privilege?"

"It's still a possibility, " he stated.

"What are you thinking, Captain?" Viktor asked, bringing the topic back to the present. "That maybe she's not dead or that the Borg are operating on their own?"

She shot him a grateful look. "I don't know and I'd hate to hazard a guess at this point." Janeway admitted. "Once my future separated from her past; our memories or knowledge of each other and our actions also separated. I have no idea of what really happened, only that I assumed she was successful because no other vessels came after us."

Janeway let that information sink in before continuing, "Starfleet agrees with me that we need to confront these vessels and find out what they're up to. We're to gather any information we can about the status of the Borg as is stands now, also…"

"Bridge to the Captain."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"We've identified the lead vessel as a Borg cube, but it is still too far away to register individual lifesigns. I've sent the scan information to the briefing room 3D display."

"Thank you, Mr. Toric, Janeway out."

"Captain, do you think it could be one of the vessels that some of the Borg form Unimatrix Zero took over?" Tom asked.

"It could be, but we're going into this mission treating it as hostile until proven otherwise. Also, Starfleet wants us to try and capture the vessel intact." She punched a few commands into the small panel located by her chair and a hologram of the Borg cube that was pursuing them was displayed over the center of the table.

"A tall order," Tuvok commented.

"But a reasonable one," Seven stated. "What better way to study a species than to examine how it lives."

"We'll only have about four hours to work with before its friends show up. Commander Viktor, I want you to work with Commander Tuvok to plan for every scenario with the main objective of capturing this cube."

"Aye, Captain." Viktor stated.

"We will have a team ready to board the vessel if we aren't immediately attacked. Mr. Tuvok, I want you at tactical during the operation, Lt. Kim and Lt. Torres are going to be keeping tabs on the away team, I'm counting on the experience the two of you have to get the team back no matter what. Seven, I want you in astrometrics monitoring the data that's being downloaded, it might give us an edge on capturing the vessels without a battle."

Seven opened her mouth to protest, but decided she would argue with the captain after the meeting. It was a definite sign of how much she was progressing, since it was plain to see how upset she was at Janeway's plan.

"Commander Viktor, Lt. Paris, Lt. Toric and Lt. T'Lora will be on the away team. Tuvok, pick a couple of people from security and B'Elanna, give me an engineer that can think quickly on their feet. Also, I want engineering to work with Seven on how to move that cube in a hurry if we have to, we're going to do everything in our power to get it back to Starfleet." She looked to her mother, "Dr. Janeway will know which of her people would be able to assist you on that front. We need everybody working together on this."

"Captain," Tuvok stated calmly; though he knew good and well what her reply would be, "you have no one on the mission that has experience in being on a Borg vessel. In fact Mr. Paris is the only person that has any experience at all with the Borg," he prodded her.

"I'm leading the away team," she informed him. "I believe I have sufficient experience."

"Captain, I must protest." Viktor quickly spoke up.

"As I also must," Tuvok added though he knew it would do no good.

"Duly noted, gentlemen, but I'm going. Call it a hunch or a gut reaction, but something tells me I need to be there. Tuvok, be sure to brief everyone about what to expect. The main objective if we aren't able to secure the cube; is downloading the data nodes; we need to find out what's happened to the Borg during and after Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant. We have 25 hours to get ready and I suggest everyone take some time to get some sleep also. If there's nothing else… dismissed."

"Captain, I would like a moment of your time." Seven made no move to stand.

"I'd like a word with you also," Gretchen stated. Those were the first words she had uttered since the meeting started and she was surprised she had said them without the trepidation she was feeling.

Janeway sighed and settled back into her chair. 'Might as well get this over with,' she thought. "All right, which one wants to go first?"

The other two women looked at each other and Gretchen inclined her head in acquiescence.

"Captain," Seven wanted to plead her case formally no matter how much she would rather confront Kathryn. "I believe I could be of more use to you accompanying the away team."

"Seven, I need you and the others here. The other vessel is at most four hours behind. There is no one I trust more than you, Tuvok, Harry and B'Elanna to get us out of there if it or anything else becomes a problem."

"If I go, there would not be a problem." Seven countered with certainty in her voice.

Janeway was not surprised by the audacious declaration, but a little put out none-the-less. "That's a bold statement considering what happened last time we were on a Borg vessel together. I seem to remember you created my problems that time." She leaned forward, pinning Seven with an irritated glare. "I need you here, if we can secure the cube, who better to work with the others on how to get the damn thing back."

"The Queen gave me no choice. It was me or Voyager's crew would be assimilated." Seven retaliated, addressing the accusation.

"You had the choice of coming to me, but you didn't trust me or the crew. The same crew I might add, that had defeated the enemy the Borg couldn't," she leaned back.

"I never thought you would come after me." Seven whispered. "Never thought you would risk your crew or yourself to save an ex-Borg drone that for all you knew had already been assimilated again." Seven smiled, "I do not think the Queen could believe it either. She was rather startled when you came charging into her inner-sanctum alone and only armed with a phaser rifle."

"Um, she wasn't the only one. You should've seen the expression on your face. Believe me, if the situation hadn't been so dire, it would've been funny."

"All right, Captain, I will stay aboard Odyssey. But I will monitor the away mission from Astrometrics and I insist that transporter control be routed though there. B'Elanna can just as easily work from the lab."

"That's doable; I'll let her know." She had almost forgotten her mother was still there. "You've been awfully quiet."

Gretchen took a deep breath. "Every new thing I learn about those seven years… I'm not sure if I should admire your courage, your convictions, your tenacity… or wonder if you've gone completely insane." Her voice rose a bit at the last statement.

Kathryn laughed. "I could always count on your honesty, Mom."

"Bridge to the Captain."

"Janeway here."

"We've scanned the first vessel, ma'am, it has just over 6,000 lifeforms and it has been damaged by weapons fire."

"Have you determined what type?"

"Borg, Captain."

"Any information on the second vessel, Mr. Toric?"

"A class four tactical cube, Captain."

"Thank you, Lieutenant, Janeway out."

"I take it that's not a good thing." Gretchen guessed, by the look on her daughter and Seven's faces.

"Let's just say it could be better." Janeway commented.

Seven added, "It is a highly efficient assault vessel that is equipped with the best in Borg weapons and defense capabilities. And even though this ship was designed to 'hold its own' against the Borg it is not indestructible and the outcome would most likely be determined by not only skill, but a good bit of luck."

"You think my luck might be running out, Seven?" the captain asked, somewhat amused.

"No, not at all; I would put my life in your hands any day. Your skill is exceptional as anyone who was with you in the Delta Quadrant knows. And your luck is legendary… everyone on Voyager considered you their lucky charm."


Chapter Thirty Two

Tuvok was at tactical even though he was in command of the bridge. Harry was at his ops station. B'Elanna and Seven were in astrometrics and had just finished testing the audio and video links from the away team who were in transporter room three, preparing to beam over. Gretchen entered the lab with Phoebe and Mark following behind. A raised eyepiece and a surprised look from the two occupants already there, greeted the trio.

"Lieutenant, do you and Mr. Kim have their shield frequencies yet?" Janeway's voice came through the audio.

"Captain, their shields are still regenerating. They're not a problem at this time." Harry stated from the bridge.

Seven switched the video feed to Commander Viktor's perspective in order to see Kathryn.

"Well that simplifies matters somewhat, at least for the moment. How long until they're operative again?" Janeway asked.

"The shields are partially functioning now, but ten minutes should have them up and running at full capacity." B'Elanna stated.

"Get those frequencies people." The captain stated then addressed the transporter operator, "Energize."

B'Elanna and Seven looked at each other as the team disappeared and reappeared on the cube. The same dark environment with the greenish tinge permeated the vessel. The atmosphere actually left a metallic taste in your mouth.

"Easy," the captain addressed the group. "Remember, no threatening moves; don't interfere with them." Then her comments were directed to the people on Odyssey that were monitoring them. "Sure seems like business as usual to me." She stated as they watched the drones moving into and out of alcoves. Several of them were working on systems or on clearing out debris from the confrontation that caused the damage.

A few of the team started slightly when drones passed within inches of them. "All right," Janeway regained the team's attention. "Lt's T'Lora and Toric, there should be an access point down that way," she pointed to her left, "where you can download the information. She caught Tom and one of the security people's eyes and motioned for them to go with the two lieutenants.

Ten minutes into the mission, Lt. Kim reported that the shields had fully regenerated but were still down. At fifteen minutes, the lieutenants were continuing the download of the data nodes and the captain's group had accessed the cubes navigation system trying to determine the projected course. Also curious was the weapons systems had stayed offline along with the shields. They had also been watching over a drone's shoulder who had been tracking the trailing cube.

All of their intrusions had been ignored until one drone walked directly up to them and addressed them. "Species 5618, human," then turned his attention to the captain. "You are Janeway of the starship Voyager." He continued to look only at her, waiting for a reply.

"Captain, should I…" Viktor was beginning to raise his rifle.

She held up her hand to halt the commander. "Yes, I'm Janeway."

At her confirmation the drone raised his arm and extended his assimilation tubules. There was a split second before phaser rifles were raised.

"Dr. Janeway." Seven stated and looked at Phoebe and Mark.

"I'll take full responsibility for them being here, Seven." Gretchen assured her.

"That is not what worries me." She replied and turned her attention back to the away team waiting in the transporter room.

"I know, but I couldn't very well tell Phoebe she couldn't be here, since I was just as determined to watch."

All of them turned their attention to the screen as the team appeared on the cube.

"Tuvok to Astrometrics, do you have a lock on the away team?" He questioned as soon as they appeared on the Borg vessel.

"Yes, Commander, there's nothing interfering with the lock while their shields are down." B'Elanna confirmed.

"If they raise the shields Lt. Kim will work on establishing their frequencies and transmit it to you. I am not certain this was the wisest course of action for the Captain to take." Tuvok stated, not aware of the audience in the lab.

Seven spoke up, "Commander, need I remind you that at one point you did call Captain Janeway reckless?"

Tuvok replied, "I believe I rephrased that statement and said reckless was too mild a word to describe her actions at that particular time."

A small smile appeared on Seven's face. "Indeed, Commander, I stand corrected."

"Tuvok out."

"Seven, shouldn't the drones be aware of the download by now?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes, they would be aware that something has tapped into their systems," she stated; curious that the intrusion was not being contested.

The five in astrometrics along with the bridge crew who were also monitoring the team on the viewscreen, suddenly became tense as one of the drones purposely walked directly to the away team.

The phaser rifle fire was absorbed into a Borg forcefield that had been erected between the away team and the drone. He then turned to an access panel and inserted his tubules. A projection of the Borg Queen appeared.

"We met again, Captain Janeway. This vessel was sent to find you."

Janeway stood her ground. Tilting her head to the side she replied, "All that trouble just for me, imagine that. Should I be impressed?"

A look of anger flashed across the Queen's face only to be quickly replaced by one of amusement. "You have caused us many problems and much unpleasantness; one small human, an individual with only one mind became the Borg savior and would-be destroyer rolled into one. You fascinate us. Do you know how many millennia it has been since someone fascinated us?"

"Well, thank you for tracking me down to tell me that. I can now cross fascinate the Borg off my 'to do' list."

"You are going to provide me years of enjoyment, Captain." A smile and tilt of her head accompanied the sentiment.


"Oh yes, I will have you. You will spend eternity by my side."

"Life as a drone? Been there, done that, didn't like the hair style."

"You misunderstand, you won't be a drone… you will retain your individuality, your thoughts, your memories. Your mind will be linked with only mine," she moved through the forcefield to stand directly in front of the captain.

Janeway halted the personnel that reacted to the queen's movement. "She's just a hologram," she assured them. "She can't do anything to us."

The queen's hand moved up and her fingers trailed down the captain's face. "Soon, Captain Kathryn Janeway, soon you will be with me. Companions for all eternity." The queen vanished, the drone retracted his tubules and turned back to face the team.

"This vessel is set to self destruct in 60 seconds."

"Toric and T'Lora, have you finished the download?" Viktor questioned.

"Almost, Commander."

"Hurry," the captain added, "we have 50 seconds until this vessel is destroyed."

"Got it," Toric announced.

"Now, B'Elanna."

The away team dematerialized from the cube and rematerialized in the transporter room. The captain tapped her comm badge, "Helm, get us out of range, warp eight."

The ship turned away and jumped to warp, speeding away from the cube just before is exploded.

"Report," the captain barked as she entered the bridge with Viktor right behind her.

Tuvok answered. "No damage, no report of injuries."

"The other Borg cube?" she turned to Lt. Kim.

"They've adjusted course and speed to match ours," he informed her.

"Lt. Paris," she addressed him as he took over at the helm, "keep our present heading but slow to warp six. Viktor, I'll be in Astrometrics. You have the bridge." She reentered the turbolift.

"Anything useful in that download?" B'Elanna asked Seven.

"I would say interesting more than useful." She had just finished downloading the information from the tricorder as Janeway entered the lab.

The captain wasn't surprised to find her mother here, but Phoebe and Mark's attendance she hadn't expected. "What have we got?" She knew Seven wouldn't reveal anything that would be considered classified in front of their audience.

"More to the point is what we do not have." Then she explained, "The data nodes have been erased except for this mission. The 'Queen' sent the cube specifically to find you and deliver the message. But why they just delivered the message, I do not know." She stated with only a slight inflection in her voice to show her anxiety.

"Captain," B'Elanna turned to her commanding officer, "the cube trailing this one might be the one sent to take you."

"One cube, I don't think so, Lieutenant." Janeway stated. "If the Queen survived, which I can't believe, the Borg would have data on the upgraded armor and weapons Voyager used. But even so, sending one cube, even a class four would be an iffy prospect. And why warn me just to come after me a few hours later? No, I think the 'Queen' is playing with me."

"Are you thinking it might be under the control of Borg from Unimatrix Zero?" Seven asked. "Maybe it was the one that damaged this cube."

"Yes," the captain answered. "I think it was tracking this cube more than us." She tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Viktor, alter course to intercept the second cube and go to yellow alert."

"Aye, Captain," the inflection in his voice betrayed his curiosity.

"Have the senior staff in the briefing room in half an hour, Janeway out." She looked lost in thought for several seconds as she leaned against the console and propped her chin in her hand. "Dr. Hansen, consider yourself senior staff if Dr. Janeway would be so kind as to loan you to us for the time being."

"Of course," both doctors answered as Janeway acknowledge them and left the lab.

"What is she thinking?" Phoebe asked. She and Mark had stayed quiet and still, hoping they would be forgotten and not asked to leave during the exchange.

"I don't know." Lt. Torres stated. "But on Voyager when she got that look on her face, we just went ahead and went to red alert."

"She is going to go after the Queen again." Seven stated with confidence and dread.

"I don't understand, I thought the Queen was killed or destroyed or whatever that virus would've done to her," Gretchen said.

"We thought that also." Seven was still staring at the doorway Kathryn had disappeared through. "But she will make sure."

"You mean go back to the Delta Quadrant?" Mark spoke for the first time.

"To the Delta Quadrant, to Borg space, to the Queen's complex, to the Queen's chamber." Seven relayed in a grave tone.

"Kahless, she would, wouldn't she." The engineer was working up a head of steam. "Damn, enough is enough, Seven. You and the Captain have risked yourself time after time when it comes to that bitch."

"What do you propose, B'Elanna?" Seven was already processing several scenarios, but she couldn't, at least not yet, come up with a way to keep Kathryn from going after the queen.

Both women were so caught up in their own thoughts they had once again forgotten their audience. "B'Elanna Torres, this is Kathryn Janeway we are talking about. Do you actually think…" she was interrupted.

"Hell no, she's too damned stubborn for her own good. She'll jump in head first once again and damn the consequences, at least to herself."

Seven sighed, knowing the engineer was right. "Let us go over the away mission again; perhaps there is something in the recording of the Queen that we missed before." Seven cued the recording and they turned their attention to the large screen.

When the recording had played through, Gretchen placed her hand on Seven's forearm. "What did she mean 'been there, done that'?"

Seven turned to B'Elanna, both waiting for the other to respond. After what seemed like several minutes, Seven suggested, "I think… this is something you should be discussing with Kathryn."

"She's been assimilated, hasn't she?" Gretchen whispered with such apprehension that Seven and B'Elanna wished they were somewhere else.

"That's silly, Mom." Phoebe sounded a lot like she was trying to convince herself. "I'm sure she was just trying to provoke the Queen or whatever she was."

"She's right, Gretchen," Mark added. "I mean there would be implants, like Dr. Hansen's if that were the case."

"Seven's right; this is something that Kathryn should answer," Gretchen stated. "And right now these two have work to do and we need to let them get to it."

Seven and B'Elanna watched the trio leave the lab. "Oh boy," the engineer stated, "I'd hate to be the Captain having to explain that one, especially to my mother."

"Gretchen is very understanding; she was married to an admiral after all." Seven reminded her.

"I know, but she looked really scared. And there is a difference when it's your child."

"I believe she has resigned herself to hearing things she probably would rather not know." Seven stated and turned back to see if the computer's analysis of the recording had seen something they could not.


Chapter Thirty Three

The senior staff, both medical doctors and Seven were sitting in the briefing room, waiting for Janeway who was last seen entering her ready room a half hour ago.

"Viktor to the bridge; is the Captain still on a comm link to Starfleet?"

"No, sir, it was terminated six minutes ago."

Janeway knew she was late for the meeting she had scheduled, but she continued to stand, staring out the viewports in her ready room. She and surprisingly all the admirals were in agreement that the status of the Borg, and especially the queen had to be known. What they had disagreed about was the chance for the civilian contractors on board to be given a choice of staying or disembarking the ship.

Starfleet felt the contractors knew what could possibly happen when they signed on, which was true, but Janeway felt that a possible trip to another quadrant was a little bit different than actually going after the Borg. She also stated that if something did happen and the ship was stranded, it would be easier to replenish resources for fewer people even if they did at least have an idea of where to actually look this time around. She had won her point, but it had taken a good bit of persuasion on her part.

She forced her eyes away from the starfield and replicated another cup of coffee and took it with her to the meeting. She offered no apology for her tardiness as she took her seat at the head of the table. "All right people, what do we know?"

B'Elanna started, "There was absolutely no info in the download to offer any explanation on what happened in the encounter between the Queen and Admiral Janeway or of the aftermath of that meeting."

The Doctor spoke up, "There is no way the Queen would've been able to live, the virus would've destroyed her."

"If she was the one to assimilate the Admiral," Harry reminded them.

"I agree with what B'Elanna said before. There's no way she would've let a drone do it," Tom said.

"But there's no way to know that for sure," Dr. Collins pointed out. "Would the virus be strong enough to kill her if another drone did the assimilating?"

"It was created quickly," the Doctor admitted. "If my understanding of the hive mind is correct, it should've caused problems, especially within the Unicomplex, but how much damage I'm just not sure. A lot would depend on how quickly they could compensate for it."

"It is illogical to speculate in this manor," Tuvok stated. "We should assume that the Queen is alive and well and plan accordingly so we are ready for any contingency."

"I agree with the Commander," Viktor said. "If we expect the worse and prepare for it, we can only be pleasantly surprised if things turn out for the better."

"Seven, I don't suppose there's anyway to answer any of these questions from the projection of the Queen? Was it a recording or maybe where it originated?" Janeway asked.

"I can be certain that the image was that of the Queen. I can also be certain that she sent the vessel to deliver the message. But that could have been her last order to the hive mind before she perished. She would have known that the Admiral Janeway she faced was a future representation of yourself after the assimilation process started, just as she knew to send the sphere after Voyager in the conduit." Seven answered. "I cannot speculate on anything else with any confidence," she added with an apologetic tone.

"But the image interacted with you, Captain. That couldn't have been programmed." Harry reminded them.

"Yes, she did react to Captain Janeway, but that could have been a manipulation by the drone," Seven stated.

"Bridge to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead, Ensign Corrid."

"We're receiving an audio only communication from the other Borg vessel, Captain."

"On our way, Janeway out." The occupants of the briefing room filed onto the bridge. "Let's hear it, Mr. Corrid." Janeway told the Ferengi operations officer on the gamma shift.

"To all ships, we are a Borg vessel that has been disconnected from the Borg Collective. We are tactical cube 17642, we mean you no harm. We are trying to contact any Starfleet vessel… To all ships, we are a Borg vessel…" the ensign cut the channel at the captain's hand motion.

"Try hailing them." Commander Viktor directed.

"No response," the ensign stated.

"Scans indicate their long range communications array has been damaged." Lt. K'Vel announced from his post at tactical. The Klingon had been surprised when Commander Tuvok had not relieved him when the Vulcan entered the bridge.

"Ensign Arric, increase speed to warp eight," the captain ordered the pilot. "Continue trying to hail them, Mr. Corrid."

"Aye, Captain," both responded.

"I don't think there's anything we can accomplish right now." Janeway stated. "But I want the alpha shift on the bridge before we intercept the second cube."

The senior officers left the bridge, most heading for the mess hall and a bite to eat while they had the time.

The alpha shift was on the bridge 20 minutes before they were scheduled to intercept the cube. Seven had taken the navigation station beside Tom at the helm. Everyone was subdued, going about their duties without the normal chatter.

"Mr. Kim, are we in range?" Viktor asked.

"Yes, sir, they should be able to pick up our communication now," he replied.

"Open a channel," the captain stated. "Borg tactical cube 17642, this is the Federation Starship Odyssey, respond."

There was static, then… "Odyssey, thank you for responding. We have information; we are trying to get a message to Captain Kathryn Janeway. We understand Voyager has returned to the Alpha Quadrant."

The captain raised an eyebrow and looked first to Seven, then Tuvok, then to the rest of the bridge. One of the first questions that came to them all was how they would know that if they had been disconnected from the Collective for almost two years.

"We would like to request a meeting," the static filled voice continued. "We should rendezvous with you in ten minutes."

"That would be acceptable." Janeway stated. "Our scans show your weapons are offline, if would be advisable to keep them that way."


"Odyssey out."

"How many lifesigns aboard?" Viktor queried.

"Scans indicate 27,104." Harry replied. "All Borg," he added since the vessel was no longer connected to the hive and therefore could in theory, contain other lifeforms.

"Drop to impulse, Lt. Paris." Viktor directed and turned his head a fraction to study the captain who was sitting calmly in her command chair seemingly without a care in the universe. He wasn't sure how she projected the aura of tranquility. Having the Borg Queen have a personal vendetta against you, no matter how many times you had faced them was not something to be taken lightly. And other than showing a little fatigue from lack of sleep, she didn't seem to be very concerned about her predicament. 'She either had nerves of duranium or isn't afraid of anything,' he thought.

'Maybe I should've taken that desk job.' Janeway mused as she worked on keeping either her command mask or a bored expression on her face. 'Never let them see you sweat, Katie,' she reminded herself.

The crew was alternating their attention between their consoles and the image that was growing larger on the viewscreen.

"They're hailing us," Mr. Kim stated.

"On screen," Viktor stated.

The image that appeared on screen was one that was recognized by Seven and Janeway from Unimatrix Zero. "Captain Janeway."

"Axum," the captain stated a lot calmer than she felt after she heard a surprised intake of breath from her lover.

To say Seven was surprised was a gross understatement. The figure on the screen was the person she remembered, but his appearance was that of a Borg drone, though with hair and a less deathlike complexion.

"I was hoping to have a chance to speak with you, Captain Janeway," he said.

"You stated you had information," the captain replied, "and a message."

"Yes. May I transport over?"

Everyone on the bridge had phasers that had been set to a rotating particle beam. The entire security department had been equipped with rifles and was stationed throughout the ship since the encounter with the first cube. Tuvok had seen no reason to rescind that order.

"We'll beam you over," Janeway stated. "Tuvok."

Axum materialized on the bridge. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Captain. We were all pleased to hear Voyager made it home."

The gamma shift personnel retook their stations as the others headed back to the briefing room once again. Janeway looked at the austere room and decided that if she had to spend much more time in it, she'd let Neelix have his way and decorate the bare, bland walls.

Janeway went around the table introducing her senior staff before they got down to business. She wasn't very happy about the way their guests' eyes lingered on Seven and wanted to get the meeting over with.

Axum drew his attention back to the head of the table. "When you helped us regain our freedom from the collective, we were on the far side of the Beta Quadrant. The five of us that could now remember our individuality, sat out to disconnect the rest of the vessel from the central plexus before the Queen destroyed us, then we helped the others on our vessel. Out of the roughly 130,000 drones on board, we were able to release almost 50,000 and have them regain their individuality and we've been commandeering other ships and deploying ourselves between them and disconnecting at least some of the drones. That's why we were tracking the other cube."

"Do you have any knowledge of the Queen?" Tuvok asked.

"Yes, we know the virus that if we understand correctly, your future self," he nodded at Janeway, "released, killed her. Whatever is controlling the hive now, we know it isn't the 'original' Queen. But I'm sorry to say we don't know what it is."

"Do you know where this… new Queen is located?" Seven asked.

"In all certainty, no. But with the information we have been able to gather, we believe she is located near another transwarp hub in the Gamma Quadrant on the far side of the area that is controlled by the species you call the Dominion."

"Not in Borg space?" Viktor asked. "Why would whoever this is move her complex out of defendable space?"

"We don't know," he replied. "We'd be happy to give you the information we've been able to collect. It's really just bits and pieces, but I think we've arrived at a fairly logical location."

"So, you are trying to locate her?" Seven asked, as an inkling of an idea started to form in her mind.

"Oh, yes." Axum explained. "We want to try to free as many drones as we can, and the best way to do that is to 'cut off the head of the beast'."

Janeway remembered using that expression herself once before. Though this time is seems one grew back in its place. "The message you have for me?"

"Ah yes, I'm afraid you are a top priority of hers. We had a run in with a sphere about a month ago and were able to learn that this 'new' Queen basically wants you captured."

"We learned that also before the cube you had been chasing self-destructed," Viktor responded.

For the next hour, Axum outlined their plan to find and kill the current queen, while trying to free as many drones as possible. Janeway agreed to let the two medical doctors on the tactical cube have access to the EMH. His success with removing many of Seven's implants was something they were interested in learning.

As the meeting was breaking up, Axum stopped Seven. "Annika, can we talk before I go back?"

Seven nodded to Kathryn that it would be all right and Janeway reluctantly left them alone in the room.

"Annika, it's so good to see you again. I really never thought we'd get a chance to actually be together in the 'real world'." He smiled and placed his hand on her arm.

"Axum, I can't." She moved away; putting a bit of distance between them.

"I know I'm not… I don't look too good with all this still attached." He incorrectly guessed that the trouble was with his appearance.

"That is not the problem… there is someone else."

"Oh." He looked away. 'Damn, this might turn into a complication. How am I going to get her to go with us now?' he wondered. "I guess it was too much to hope that you wouldn't become involved with someone else."

"I am sorry, but what happened between us was not…"

"It's all right," he interrupted. "Is it very serious?"

"Yes," she blushed. "I am in love."

There was an awkward pause then Axum cleared his throat. "Well, maybe we'd better chart that information for you about the Gamma Quadrant. If you'd show me this Astrometrics Lab of yours, we can get started."

Most of the next two days, Seven spent in the lab with Axum. Janeway would stop in when she had a few minutes to check on their progress which wasn't progressing very quickly since the Borg's information didn't quite correspond with the Federation's.

When she was being honest with herself, Janeway admitted she wasn't very happy about the two of them spending so much time together. Seven had said he had been more than just a friend in Unimatrix Zero. Janeway was still trying to wrap her mind around that one. It wasn't like their actual bodies traveled there, just their minds, so how could Seven's mind relay the 'thought' of a kiss or a touch when she had never experienced them before for herself? Oh sure, she had the assimilated knowledge of thousands of species at her disposal and surely she had known what a kiss was and the mechanics of procreation, but she up until then, had never experienced the touch for herself. 'If I'm not careful,' she thought, 'this line of thinking will drive me crazy.'

It was 2117 hours and the captain was still in her ready room after another lengthy communication with several admirals at HQ. They had informed her that the crews were working around the clock on readying the ship that was currently being outfitted with the slipstream drive, but it would still be another six to eight weeks before it would be space worthy. They were still in agreement that it was imperative to discover what had transpired to the Borg Collective and what their strategy was now.

The chime interrupted her thoughts. "Come in."

Seven entered and held out a PADD. "Here is the hypothesized information that lead Axum and the others to believe the 'new' complex is in the Gamma Quadrant."

Janeway reached out and took the PADD; her eyes never leaving Seven's. "Thank you. Have you eaten?" A shake of the blonde head. "Me either. Would you like to join me? I haven't seen a lot of you in the past few days."

Seven smiled, "Yes, I would very much like that."

Together they left the ready room and headed for Janeway's quarters, where Seven replicated a simple pasta dish for them.

"Kathryn," Seven paused, "you are planning on going after the Queen, are you not?"

"I'm planning on going after answers. We're not even positive a queen exists." She answered as she recycled their dishes.

Seven stood and moved behind the captain, wrapping her arms around the body of her lover. She sighed in contentment as she felt the tension ease out of the smaller woman and her body lean back. "I want to stay with you tonight," Seven said as she nuzzled the neck that had tilted to give her better access.

Janeway turned in the arms that held her, wrapping her arms around the trim waist. "I want you to stay, also." She said before she kissed the sensual lips of her partner.

Seven moaned as Kathryn's tongue brushed across her lips, parting them, she allowed the warm wet muscle access. She loved kissing Kathryn. The feelings the older woman invoked throughout her body made her legs weak, her pulse race and her sex throb with need. She leaned her upper body against the captain's, pushing her back against the bulkhead and ran her hand down to the firm butt, pulling their lower bodies tightly together.

"Wait," Janeway said as she ended the kiss.

"I want you now." Seven replied with urgency, grinding their pelvises together.

"And I plan on you having me, but in the bedroom. I plan on being comfortable when we make love."

Seven quickly pulled Janeway into the bedroom and wasted no time in stripping off both their uniforms. Kathryn ended up sitting on the edge of the mattress leaning back on her elbows as her boots and pants were pulled from her body. "Computer," Seven addressed as she stood up and glazed down at her lover's rather startled expression, "lights one quarter."

Janeway was a bit surprised by Seven's impatient behavior and if her body's reaction to it was any indication, turned on also. As the lights dimmed the captain had the presence of mind to log them both as unavailable unless there was an emergency.

"Do you know how much I love to look at your body, Kathryn?" Seven leaned over and lifted Janeway's legs, placing her feet on the bed. With her legs bent, Seven then placed her hands on the older woman's knees and pushed them apart, opening her lover fully.

"Not as much as I love looking at you," she responded as her legs parted. She thought for a second that Seven might debate that if the hungry look on her face was any indication, but all thoughts of discussion left her mind when Seven's hands slowly burned a path down the inside of her thighs. Her head fell back and she moaned as she concentrated completely on the feelings flowing through her body.

Seven lowered herself to her knees between Janeway's legs. Her hands bypassed her lovers wet center, moved up her stomach and grasped the smaller firm breasts, massaging them and rubbing her palms against the stiff nipples.

"Please, more," Janeway pleaded as she felt the light touch of hands on her body.

"More where? Here?" Seven asked as she pinched and rolled the ridged peaks between her thumbs and index fingers. "Or here?" she leaned her upper body into the wetness between her lover's legs.

"Yes." Janeway answered as she tried to press her lower body into Seven and move against her.

Seven allowed the contact as her mouth latched onto Janeway's breast, alternating between sucking the smooth flesh and teasing the erect nipple with her tongue.

Moaning, she grasped the blonde head and held it to her. As good as it felt to have Seven make love to her breasts, she needed her attentions elsewhere. "Annika, please… you're driving me crazy."

Seven smiled to herself as she sucked the flesh into her mouth one last time before letting go. "Kathryn, you normally have more patience than this."

"To hell with patience, Seven… I need you now." She encouraged her lover by pushing the blonde head down her body.

Seven complied and moved her head downwards; pausing to run her tongue over the exposed flesh, then in and out of the small bellybutton, before she placed a kiss on the thatch of neatly trimmed auburn curls. She could smell the musky sent of her lover and breathed in deeply as she slowly ran her tongue thought the moist folds. She spent several minutes sucking them into her mouth, flicking her tongue over them.

"Your fingers… inside me, please, love." She raised her hips in the air, encouraging Seven to take her.

Two fingers poised at her lover's entrance, she moved her lips around the pulsating bundle of nerves, sucking it into her mouth and thrusting her fingers inside simultaneously.

"Yes, harder," hips hanging in mid air while fingers and mouth worked her to climax.

Seven could feel the inner muscles contracting around her digits. Twisting and curling them up, she touched the spot that sent the smaller woman over the edge again.

"Annika… enough," she said and collapsed back to the bed, trying to catch her breath.

Seven climbed on the bed and straddled Janeway's stomach. Leaning forward and kissing her. "I need you, Kathryn." She stated in a voice filled with hunger and desperation, as she pulled her lips away.

"Move up," Janeway stated. "I want to taste you."

Seven complied quickly and lowered herself to meet Kathryn's mouth. She knew it wouldn't take very much stimulation for her to orgasm. "Please, Kathryn… with your tongue."

Janeway knew her lover's climax was hard and fast when she took her that way. She spent a few minutes to satisfy her desire for her partner by sucking the pulsating clit into her mouth, playing with the nodule before inserting her tongue into her lover.

Seven's hips stilled as she felt the long tongue enter her, moaning at the feelings it sent vibrating through her body. "Oh, Kathryn, that… ugh," spasms rocked her as she came, her hips bucking while two arms circled her thighs, trying to hang on.

It took all of her strength not to lose contact with her lover as Seven climaxed. Looking up at her, "You're beautiful when you come." The blonde head was tilted back, the hair falling over her shoulders and her chest heaving, pulling in much needed oxygen.

Seven fell forward, fortunately catching herself and bracing her upper body on her hands, before rolling off to the side. Janeway also turned and propped her head in her hand, looking down on her recovering partner whose chest was still rapidly rising and falling, bringing to notice two of her most visual attributes.

Smiling, the captain knew how to take advantage of a situation when it presented itself. She leaned over and took the offered 'attribute' in her mouth, grasping it with her teeth and biting down lightly.

"Kat… Kathryn?" Seven was surprised at the feelings starting to stir so soon within her. It normally took several minutes for her desire to escalate once again. A deep chuckle was her only answer as the body of the smaller woman hovered over hers.

The next morning, Janeway woke up before her lover, who had cuddled up next to her with the blonde head resting on her shoulder. She lay there content to hold Seven until she felt the younger woman stirring. "Good morning, love," she smiled. "I'm not sure what got into you last night, but it was incredible."

Seven sat up and turned away; swinging her legs over the side of the bed.

"Annika?" What is it?" When Seven refused to turn around, she thought the younger woman might be ill-at-ease about her urgency and need from the night before. "Love, there's no reason to be embarrassed," she tried to assure her.

"I am not. But I need to speak with you about something… something very important." She turned around when she felt the hurried movements from behind her.

'No, not again.' Janeway thought as she quickly stood up and grabbed her robe, wrapping it around her. The only thing she could think of, was that Seven was pushing her away again, which led to the thoughts of how much time the woman had been spending around Axum… her first love. And she knew the pull of a first love… after all; it had almost devastated her when she lost hers. "You're leaving with him aren't you?"

The pale, hurt expression that turned to face her, made her breath hitch in her throat. "How did you know?"

The captain ignored the question. "So, was last night just a sympathy fuck?" She turned her back on Seven and didn't see the confused expression.

"What do you mean?" Then it dawned on her, "Kathryn, I am not leaving you. I am going after the Queen with the help of Axum and the ex-drones on the cube." She moved to the other side of the bed and turned Janeway to face her. "I love you and once we have removed the threat to you, I will return."

It took a minute for her to realize what Seven was saying and for her to stop shaking, then another minute for it to sink in. "No," she pulled back. "I won't have you going off on your own. We have to stick together; that's how we've always defeated her and the Borg. Our individuality, our diverse ideas and experiences are how we came out ahead each time we faced them. If you leave, we lose part of our advantage and I won't know what's happening to you. I can't protect you if you leave. Please, Annika, don't ask me to let you go."

"But that is why I have to go, to protect you."

"What if she captures you? Don't you know she would use you to get to me? Don't do this, Seven." Janeway pleaded.

"She will not get me. Kathryn, I have to go, please understand."

"No, I'll order you to stay." Tears threatened to fall.

"I will not comply. I will not sit by and watch her come after you. I cannot… will not do that when I can prevent it."

Kathryn pulled away, becoming the captain once again. "We're going after answers with or without you, I think we'd have a better chance with you, especially if something happened to the drive, but it's your decision, Dr. Hansen."

Seven felt her lover pulling away emotionally and physically. "Please, Kathryn, give us time to find and deal with her before you do anything."

The captain picked up her clean uniform. "This ship is going to the Delta Quadrant after we drop off some of the civilians and take on supplies," she walked into the en suite and sealed the door behind her.

Part 9

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