DISCLAIMER: We, the authors of this particular work of fiction claim no profit or protégé, and mean no disregard to any reviewing or sovereign party. By extension and addition, we mean no disrespect to anyone associated with the development or portrayal of the fictional characters contained within this work or the universe in which they inhabit. This work of fiction’s primary purpose remains free, personal entertainment as well as the possible entertainment of others.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: In this chapter, we're just opening the door a little wider Reading the previous chapter is recommended. If necessary, please visit Chrissie's Transcripts Site for a reliable transcript of The Haunting of Deck Twelve or StarTrek.com for a more detailed synopsis.
SPOILERS: The timeline begins shortly after Life Line in Season Six.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
BETA: Captain Java
Running Up That Hill
The Haunting of Deck Twelve Vignette
By ladydameon & Lain Stardust
[After the episode ]
Waiting patiently outside Holodeck 1, Seven of Nine was rather surprised when Captain Janeway briskly ambled down the corridor despite the aid of the tritanium cane. She expected the older woman to arrive at least five minutes late to their scheduled activities due to the captain's current convalescence. Although she would never wish any ill upon her captain, Seven had developed a great fondness for Janeway and had taken satisfaction in their interactions.
Once Janeway was within acceptable conversing range, the Borg offered her typical greeting which the captain brightly returned. Seven instructed the computer to load a program and the pair entered. She enjoyed this particular Holodeck program introduced to her by Janeway as it managed to create a sense of serenity. The duo had already visited the picturesque setting three times.
Being low tide at mid-afternoon, the waves crested and broke a great distance from the coarse, sandy shore that was dotted with shells, both fragmented and whole. The water's color was the typical grayish blue of the mid-Atlantic along the eastern coastline of what used to be the United States. The seagulls called in the distance as they glided above their heads on the salty ocean breeze. The sky was clear and blue as the white-yellow sun descended to eventually slip beyond the western horizon filled with rolling sand dunes and tall, sweeping grasses.
Silently, the pair walked along the shores of Cape Henlopen. During their first stroll together, Janeway had explained to the ever attentive Seven of Nine the historical significance of the area and her own personal connection to it.
"I assume by your silence that Neelix had no problems with the children." Janeway relished the sand between her naked toes as the swash gently rolled over her feet, it being her habit to quickly divest herself of footwear and roll up her pants-legs when they utilized one of the beach scenarios. She glanced over at Seven who had adopted a similar state. Seeing the ex-drone attempt to traverse sand in high-heels had been quite comical, but thankfully, the captain managed to keep a straight face.
"He told them about the electromagnetic life form." Seven tried not to sigh from her exasperation over the matter.
"There's no harm in that," Janeway countered.
"When their regeneration cycles were complete, I was inundated with questions regarding the creature's existence and validity of Neelix's story." The entire situation was most inconvenient. "For the last few days, they have attempted to access information regarding Deck 12, Section 42 and researched any available sensor data pertaining to the events of the creature's arrival on Voyager." Seven paused in her summary when she noticed Janeway's smile. "You find this amusing, Kathryn."
"A little," Janeway admitted lightly. She could only blink as Seven stopped walking.
"Your order was that they not be aware of the creature."
"Neelix violated that order."
"Perhaps, but the creature was leaving."
Janeway chuckled and nodded. "You have to know when to pick your battles, Seven." Not waiting for a reply, she resumed walking, pleased when Seven followed suit. A few moments passed before the captain suddenly stopped and stabbed her cane into the sand. Leaning against the aid, she asked, "What happened?"
Briefly, Seven considered denying that anything had happened. "The children attempted to access restricted files after they collaborated the story with Naomi Wildman. Ultimately, they would eventually have succeeded had Icheb not alerted me to their activities."
"Experimenting with covert operations now, are they?" A grin threatened as Janeway studied Seven's deepening frown. "Don't tell me you don't see the irony in this."
"Indeed." Seven took a step, indicating her desire to resume their walk.
The Doctor had been quite pleased with Seven accompanying the captain on her Holodeck strolls, especially the beach scenario, as it offered suitable low-impact resistance exercise.
Sensing any further teasing would not be appreciated, Janeway shared a bit of her rationale for the entire situation as a peace offering. "It's not like they wouldn't have eventually found out. I just didn't want their curiosity to get the better of them and potentially get Voyager in a bad situation before we found a compatible nebula."
"They are erratic."
Clearly amused, Janeway replied, "They're children."
"Yes, I am quite aware."
"As I recall, you had a similar conversation with Chakotay a few months ago, and from what I can tell, there's been considerable progress." The captain really was proud of how Seven of Nine had eventually taken to her guardianship over the four children. All parties concerned had grown and settled exponentially. As she had taken them under her wing, they had taken her into their hearts. But after the incident with Icheb's parents, Janeway hoped the other three would have an easier time when (or if) they left Voyager.
Seven allowed the current topic of conversation, which she had no desire to continue, lull into a comfortable silence.
"How are the compartment modifications going?" Janeway asked.
"For the hand phasers?" Seven asked for clarification. Her eyes were drawn to the fiery streaks in the captain's hair, highlighted by the setting sun. At Janeway's nod, she continued, "Commander Tuvok and I believe we have established satisfactory protocols. The compartment and phaser will only become active when an Intruder Alert is sounded and the children are present to claim the device. You should have a report outlining the suggested protocols tomorrow afternoon."
As they continued, Seven was all too aware that Janeway was steadily losing momentum. "Icheb has opted to undergo more advanced training with Tuvok."
"From what Tuvok has told me, he's made remarkable progress, takes his responsibilities very seriously."
"Icheb has also proven to be an invaluable assistant in dealing with the other children."
Smiling, Janeway turned and walked inland a few steps. Using her cane, she gracefully dropped down onto the warm, dry sand, safe from the rolling swash. "You're proud of him," the captain said, softly.
It was hard to keep the evidence from her voice as Seven replied, "Icheb will be an asset to Voyager one day." She dropped down onto the sand, much to her distaste.
An enigmatic smile slowly crept across Janeway's face. "He's always been an asset."
Seven turned, looking intently into her captain's eyes, searching her face. Try as she might to divine any deeper meaning, she could not. However, the look was now familiar and Seven was no longer anxious over the induced feelings.
The four children rescued off a damaged Borg Cube several months ago had done wonders for Seven of Nine. They had thrust her into a greater understanding of humanity and, most importantly, a greater understanding of herself. However, the growth wasn't simply amongst the Borg. All of Voyager had been affected by the children, and Captain Janeway wholeheartedly believed the ship and crew were better for it.
A breeze off the ocean tousled Janeway's hair. She smiled, closing her eyes as she turned her face into the gust.
The young woman continued to curiously observe her companion. She wished to inquire about the peace this illusion created and possibly, how she may obtain her own someday. However, this was not the moment for such discussions as Seven was getting apt at reading Kathryn Janeway's body language and the signs of fatigue.
"How does your physical training with Commander Tuvok progress, Kathryn?" Seven asked, breaking into the serenity with a definitive purpose.
Opening her eyes, Janeway casted a sideways glance at Seven, aware of the unique criteria in which the young woman used her name. This was an important question. One in which the young woman expected an answer. "Some days are rougher than others, but it gets a little bit easier every day. I dare speculate that he's enjoying this, taking some sort of perverse pleasure from torturing me."
"I am pleased. However, your exhibited stamina today does not equate to your previous intervals of improvement." Seven tilted her head, inclined her implant in an attempt to prompt a confession. After a beat, she said, "You have not utilized your cane as you should whilst on the Bridge."
Narrowing her eyes slightly, squaring her gaze on Seven, Janeway set her jaw. "Conjecture."
Sighing, the captain asked, "Who ratted me out?"
"Lieutenant Paris and Commander Tuvok have both expressed concern to the Doctor regarding your physical limitations." Seeing Janeway shake her head, Seven added, "They do not wish for you to inadvertently injure yourself and prolong this situation." There was no real need to mention that Mr. Paris had asked her directly which, in turn, led her to a conversation with the EMH.
A snappy retort was on the tip of Janeway's tongue, but she held it. Taking a slow breath, she gazed back out into the rolling surf, absently poking her cane into the sand. It wouldn't due to lash out at Seven of Nine. The young woman had risen far beyond the call of duty. A feather-light touch on the back of her hand drew her attention back to Seven.
Timidly, the younger woman asked, "Kathryn, would you please continue to use the cane until the Doctor deems it unnecessary?"
Janeway could only nod. The clear relief in those large blue eyes seemed to pull at her somehow.
The rest of the hour easily slipped away as the pair enjoyed the ocean surf. Upon deactivating the program, Seven of Nine deftly retrieved their discarded foot wear. After slipping back into her shoes, she aided Janeway and silently escorted the captain back to her quarters.
Stepping inside the opened pneumatic doors, Janeway flashed a crooked smile, saying, "Thank you for the lovely evening, Seven." She honestly relished their interactions, but continued to hold back in expressing her enthusiasm as it wasn't clear how it would be received.
"Always." The word was light and warm. Snapping to, Seven quickly asked, "Do you require any additional assistance, Captain?"
The smile slipped into a grin. "No, I don't think so, but you'll be the first one I call if I do."
It was meant to be a quip, but Seven took it as matter-of-fact. "Acceptable," she nodded, taking a step back. "Goodnight, Captain." With that said, the Borg turned, heading towards the turbolift.
Janeway simply looked after her. "Goodnight, Seven."
To Be Contined
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