DISCLAIMER: See Chapter 1

The Traveler
By H.W.

Chapter 21

Earth, the city of San Francisco, Starfleet headquarters.

Five hours later, eleven o'clock pm local time.

Admiral Nechayev was about to enter her office, but stopped just before stepping into the range of the sensor that would open the door when her aide caught up with her.

"So, how did it go?" Frank asked. He had been Nechayev's aide for the last five years as they had worked together to get through the Dominion war. The 'Admiral' and 'Ensign' had disappeared years ago, when they were alone.

"As I assumed it would. A bunch of talk back and forth, and in the end they all figured that they don't want to burn their hands so they leave the decision making to me since Voyager falls under my command anyway. Paris was the worst. Going on and on about how we should give all of them the benefit of the doubt. But as soon as I asked him if in that case he was taking responsibility, he suddenly got quiet."

"So what did you decide?"

Nechayev stepped up to the sensor and both of them entered her office. "Well, since all of the Maquis were pardoned when the Dominion war started, I decided that they will not be prosecuted, and if they want they can keep the Starfleet ranks they now have and continue to serve in Starfleet."

"And what about the Borg drone?" Frank waited till Nechayev was sitting in one of the two lazy chairs that were in her office before he took the other one. They might have been on a first name basis, but she was still his superior.

Nechayev laid her head back for a moment and sighed. It had been a long day of meetings and listening to all kind of experts, *Well,* She thought. *Experts and 'Experts'. Some of those morons couldn't find a spaceship if it fell on them.* "They also gave me the honor of deciding how to handle her. So I decided to have her imprisoned. No way am I going to let a Borg drone run around in the Federation."

Frank looked at Nechayev doubtfully. "Do you think that after the drone being part of their crew for several years, that they will just turn around and place her under arrest?"

"Frank, I don't really care. If they place her under arrest, great. If they don't then we will arrest her when they arrive. And if they decide to let her off the ship somewhere in the Delta Quadrant, then that is also fine with me. But I give you my word that that drone will not set a single foot on Federation soil."

"And I give you my word that she will."

Both Nechayev and Frank jumped up and out of their chairs when suddenly three tall figures appeared at Nechayev's desk. One of them was sitting in Nechayev's desk chair. From the way the sitting woman had reacted to what Nechayev had said, the admiral suspected that the three had not just beamed into her office, but had been there for some time, disguised by some sort of personal cloaking device. "Who the hell are you, and how did you get in here?"

"I am Empress Shadeen, I am the ruler of the Followers, the race that will assist Voyager in getting home," The woman who was sitting in Nechayev's desk chair said. Nechayev understood only too well that the woman was sitting in the admiral's chair for the purpose of playing mind games, wanting to give the air of being in total control of her surroundings. "And how we got in here is not important right now. The reason why we are here is: We are here to talk about your ill-fated decision to have Seven of Nine arrested."

Nechayev felt strange standing in front of her own desk, looking at someone sitting in her chair. She guessed from the build of these strangers, and from the militaristic uniforms they were wearing that they belonged to some kind of warrior race like the Klingons. Going on this Nechayev decided on what approach to use. "You know, if you wanted to talk to me then this should have been done in a normal way. I really don't appreciate you showing up here and demanding to talk about that drone. And I certainly don't like it that you come in here and call my decisions ill-fated. I made a decision as far as that drone is concerned and I don't see a reason to change that."

"Oh, but there is a reason, a really good reason," Shadeen countered. Though she didn't show it, she liked Nechayev's reaction. It showed that Nechayev was a soldier at heart, and not a politician. "You do not want to force me to react to your actions, that I'm here now is already bad enough. You really do not want to see just how far I will go to keep Seven of Nine out of a Starfleet holding cell."

Nechayev placed her hands flat on the desk and leaned closer to Shadeen, not caring in the least that the two other strangers came a little closer at her action. "You know, I really don't like to be threatened. Just who in hell do you think you are, coming..."

"Who do I THINK I am?" Shadeen interrupted. "Think? No, not think, know. I know exactly who I am. I am Empress Shadeen. Sole ruler of my race and my Empire. Commander and Chief of more than forty thousand warships," Shadeen made a dismissive wave with her hand before continuing. "Not counting the single purpose troop transporters or anything less of course. More than seventeen thousand of those forty thousand ships are scout ships. Each one of them capable of destroying multiple numbers of your precious Sovereign class spaceships." Shadeen stood up and looked down into Nechayev's eyes. "More than nine thousand of those ships are heavy destroyers and more than five thousand of those ships are battle cruisers. One single battle cruiser is capable of destroying your entire precious Starfleet."

Shadeen also put her hands on the desk and leaned forward some before continuing. "But besides that, I am also the Commander and Chief of more than ten million Imperial guards and thirty-six billion soldiers. No, I know exactly who I am. I am Empress Shadeen, ruler of the Followers and the Empire, protector of our Chosen, Seven of Nine, and her mate. And besides being their protector, I also have the honor of being allowed to call them friends."

Shadeen walked around the desk until she was standing less than an arm's length away from the Admiral, looking down on the far shorter woman. "No, I know exactly who I am. The question is; who are you going to be? Are you going to be one of the Admirals that will be meeting with one of the ambassadors of my Empire to discuss our mutual friendship? Or are you going down in the pages of your precious Starfleet history as the woman that is accountable for the LAST page of your precious Starfleet history, its total annihilation? You fear an ex-Borg drone being inside Federation territory? You have nothing to fear from Seven of Nine. Now, me on the other hand... me you should fear. Because I gave you my word that Seven of Nine WILL walk on Federation soil as a free person. And I now also give you my word that I will do everything within my power to make sure this happens. Even if this means the annihilation of Starfleet."

Nechayev looked up at Shadeen for a moment and got the impression that Shadeen's words had been true. But the fact that she had never heard of this person while she supposedly ruled such a big Empire, and the fact that she could not believe that this Empress would truly start a war over such a little thing like someone being allowed to set foot on Federation soil, made Nechayev say a very convincing, "You are bluffing."

"Try me."

That was certainly not the reaction that Nechayev was expecting. She had assumed that this Empress would now start with negotiating to find a common ground that they both could live with. This Empress had boasted with all she supposedly commanded, now was the time to talk, thought Nechayev. She looked up to Shadeen for a moment longer and finally had to admit that she lost the 'one over.' She gave a little smile before shaking her head and walking around her desk to her desk chair. Once she was sitting comfortably, she indicated one of the two chairs on the other side of the desk, offering it to Shadeen to sit in. "Neh, you win. I didn't become Admiral by being stupid. I DO think that you are bluffing, but I'm smart enough to know that anyone who is capable of getting undetected into Starfleet headquarters, one of the most secure places in the Federation, can be more trouble than a former Borg drone can ever be."

Satisfied with the reaction, Shadeen sat down before asking her next question mostly to clarify, "So Seven of Nine is free to enter Federation space together with the rest of Voyager, and no actions what so ever will be taken against her? I would be greatly... displeased if something like that were about to happen."

Nechayev thought about it for a moment, she had given the order to have Seven arrested because she didn't trust anything that had something to do with the Borg, but she also had to admit that Jean Luc Picard was living proof that ex-Borg drones could become productive members of the society again. She didn't like the man, but he still was one of the best Captains Starfleet could boast. "Very well, but I do insist on the following in return. First, the drone will go through a full debriefing, telling us all we want to know about the Borg collective. Second, I want her to undergo psychological testing, I want to see what her views are on the things that we find important in the Federation. And third, I want her followed by Starfleet guards every time that drone is anywhere near a Starfleet building, until the time I deem her no longer a threat."

Shadeen was about to refuse Nechayev's demands but took a moment to look at things from the Admiral's perspective. The Admiral had no proof of the Followers' powers, the only thing she knew was that suddenly some strangers had appeared in her office, telling her what they want from her, pretty much from the first word they spoke. The admiral had no way of knowing what kind of person Seven of Nine was. She had to think about the people she was sworn to protect.

"As long as Seven of Nine willingly agrees to undergo these procedures and is not held in captivity during that time, then I agree. But... I insist that two Follower guards of my choosing are present during all of this. They will only be there to ensure that our Chosen is not harmed in any way. As long as she is not, the guards will be noting more than witnessing. Under those conditions, and as long as Seven of Nine does not object, nether will I."

"Agreed," Nechayev said. From what she had read about the drone, the admiral knew that Seven of Nine could not be that much of a risk. The drone could not get the support that the crew of Voyager showed, or some Empress throwing her wannabe might around if she didn't rate that behavior because of her character. It was just that Nechayev hated anything Borg, it was not easy to forgive and forget when the Borg collective had killed some of your family. "I guess I can treat her the way I treat Jean Luc Picard, I just stay away from her."

"That is your prerogative." Shadeen agreed. "But you will miss the chance to get aquatinted with two truly extraordinary people."


"Seven of nine, and her wife to be, B'Elanna Torres." The way Shadeen had made that simple statement, made it clear that B'Elanna and Seven only came as a one package deal, shun one of them and the other would go too.

Nechayev nodded her head in understanding. "Well then, now that we got that settled, care to explain a little bit more about yourselves? Where in the Delta Quadrant you come from, about your history and such?"

"Certainly," Shadeen agreed. She looked over to the male Follower and as if she had asked for it, he took a small device out of his uniform and handed it to her. Shadeen placed the device on the desk between herself and Nechayev and took a moment to go through some menus on a tiny screen before leaning back. A holographic projection came from the device and within a second a small copy of the universe was drifting on eye level above the desk. Shadeen was just about to say something when she was interrupted by an emergency signal coming from her communicator. "Speak."

{Empress, we are picking up the signatures of Borg transwarp corridors. The Borg will be arriving in this sector within seconds.}

The operative was barely finished speaking when the red alert went off on the base. Clearly, Starfleet had also picked up on the arrival of the Borg. "How many ships are we talking about?"

{At this time more than six hundred ships have already arrived, there are already more than three thousand corridors created, and more are appearing with every second. I think it is safe to say that there will be more than five thousand ships. Most ships are cubes, but ships of every Borg type are present.}

"Maintain status and position for now and await orders."

{Yes, Empress.}

During the conversation Shadeen had with her ship, Nechayev had been busy confirming that the Federation's nightmare had become reality. "If you will excuse me, I have a war to fight." Nechayev said and headed to the door.

"Admiral, if I may have a little more of your time, a few minutes." Shadeen saw that Nechayev was about to refuse and added, "If you have to fight this Borg force, those few minutes are not going to help you, and you know it."

Nechayev stopped dead in her tracks and turned around to Shadeen. She was fully prepared to give the tall woman a quick lesson in Starfleet resilience. But when she turned around and saw the calm face of this strange woman, something inside her made her swallow her original words. Instead she said, "You have five minutes."

Shadeen nodded her head in understanding and motioned Zerisan and Carizon closer.

"Well," Carizon opened, "At least now we know why the Borg wanted the Suridigen, I'm surprised they didn't think of this before. The Borg know that the only reason the Federation was able to win the little fights they had with the Borg was by ingenuity. But even the best ingenuity will not stop thousands of ships, billions of drones."

"The Borg have been used to little resistance," Zerisan ventured to guess, "Us not withstanding, for almost every race in the universe, ten Borg cubes in a unstoppable force. Maybe they needed until now to come up with the most simplest of plans, overrun the Federation with the sheer quantity of drones and ships."

"That, and the fact that they might be able to assimilate billions of drones in a couple of days, building thousands of space ships takes time, even for the Borg." Shadeen leaned back against the Nechayev's bureau and closed her eyes for a moment, thinking. "I have a decision to make, do I get involved in this or do I stand aside and do nothing? Suggestions?"

Carizon spoke up first. "It is my duty to point out that this does not concern us at all. We are far from our territory, the Federation does not fall under our protection, and despite the scale of it, this is still nothing more than a battle between two expanding forces that have collided and are now in a fight to see who will conquer who."

"But what does your heart tell you?" Shadeen asked.

"I do not have to tell you what my heart tells me, you already know. I am an Imperial Guard after all. The Federation or the Borg. Easy choice."


"I'm thinking of what Carizon just said. This does not concern us, and the Federation is far from our home. So my question is: What are we doing here in the Federation, with two hundred battle cruisers, and over two million Imperial guards, at the precise moment that the Borg try to take over the Federation?"

"We are here because of our Chosen." Shadeen said, seeing where Zerisan was going.

"Indeed, a Chosen that has told us much about her plans for when she returns to the Federation, that told us about places she wants to visit. I do not think that the Borg would let her visit those places. Our Chosen can't visit the Starfleet Academy when the Borg have destroyed it. And also, The Traveler said that Seven is already a member of our race. The Traveler reminded us of the first rule in our constitution. We came here because of a potential threat to our Chosen. The Traveler guides us along the path of our history because he already knows what will become of us millennia from now. Knowing all of this, one could say that the Traveler wanted us here today, in force. I doubt that he would want us here so that we could sit by and do nothing while the Federation gets destroyed."

"Good point," Carizon agreed.

"I really wish the Traveler would simply tell us what he wants from us, instead of working with hints and clues," Shadeen said, her decision was really already made from the first moment the Borg appeared. She wanted to hear what the others said in case they had a valid point for not interfering.

"As the Traveler told B'Elanna, if he was to straight out tell us what we should do, we would never do it. The Followers are ruled by none but their Empress or Emperor. The Traveler does not rule us; he guides us. Even now you, my Empress, could make the decision not to get involved in this. He guides us, it is up to us to decide if we want to follow his guidance." Zerisan was quiet for a couple of seconds before asking, "The Borg have not attacked us here, this is not a part of space protected by us, and I don't think that the Federation would like being overtaken by us any more than being overtaken by the Borg. How are we going to make this our business?"

"Good question, any suggestions?" Shadeen had a few ideas herself, but first wanted to see what her advisers would come up with.

"We could try an alliance," Carizon ventured to say.

"An alliance?" Zerisan asked. The word was seldom used, "The Followers are not in the habit of forming alliances."

"True," Shadeen agreed, "But it has been done before, as you know. As a matter of fact, the Empire itself comes forth out of an alliance between the Followers and the Naturalists. They gave us the knowledge of advanced science, like transwarp, and they taught our scientists everything they knew. In return, we gave them sanctuary from their predators. Nowadays we do our research ourselves. Since we took over protecting the Naturalists, they have given up technology almost all together and they returned to their preferred state of being one with nature. But the first two millennia they were the ones that invented all our technology. That alliance more than sixty millennia ago made the Empire."

Shadeen was interrupted by Nechayev speaking up, "The Borg have just started to beam forces down to the Mars colonies and several Starfleet ships have already been destroyed," Nechayev pointed to the view screen mounted on the wall. It showed thousands of Borg ships and a few explosions that were obviously the Starfleet ships being destroyed. "You have run out of time, Empress."

"My decision is made. Admiral, might I interest you in an alliance between the Follower Empire and the Federation?"

"What?" Nechayev was a bit surprised by the question that had rolled so casually from Shadeen's lips. "Empress, at this point I would be interested in anything that helps the Federation. Even if this was an alliance between the Federation, the Founders, the Breen, and the Cardassians."

"You did not answer my question with a straight and clear answer, Admiral."

"Yes! Yes, I'm interested in an alliance. Now, can I go fight my war?"

"No need." Shadeen opened the com. link to her ship and gave the order to be put on the main Borg frequency. "This is Empress Shadeen to Faydi'ce, Queen of the Borg. Be advised that The Empire and the Federation have just entered into an alliance. The Federation is as of this point under full Follower protection. Stop your attack right now and no further countermeasures will be taken. Continue your attack and we will retaliate."

Nechayev was surprised to see that the Borg actually stopped firing on the Federation ships for a moment, apparently she had underestimated the power this Empress could wield.

Seconds later, the voice of the Borg Queen came back over the communication channel.

{We have attacked the Federation before. We have a claim that succeeds your alliance. We will take over the Federation, and we will destroy any Follower that stands in our way. The Federation will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.}

"They have restarted their attack," Frank said, even though the others could also see that on the view screen.

Shadeen sighed at the stubbornness of the Borg queen. "Very well, if she wants a fight with us, she can have one." She activated her com. link again and requested a link to all ships, ship wide reception. "This is Empress Shadeen. I have just offered the Federation an alliance with the Followers. They have agreed to this alliance. At this point, the Borg are in the process of attacking the Federation, I can not allow this to go on. We have to, and will, protect our alliance partners. In a moment I will order a full force attack of all Follower troops currently within Federation space. Fight this battle as if you were protecting our Homeworld itself. Show the Borg Queen, who did not heed my warning, that the title 'Imperial Guard' is more than just a name. Show her what the Imperial Guards are made of. Know that for this I will be fighting at your side, not as your Empress, but as Commander of the Guards. Make your commander proud. Captains, de-cloak and start your attack, beam Guards down to the planets if necessary. Protection of the Federation is the primary goal. Secondary goal is to destroy all Borg ships within Federation space. May the Divine Ones guide you in this battle. Attack."

As soon as Shadeen said 'attack' something changed on the view screen. Somewhere from behind the satellite that provided the view screen image, came ships flying past it. Huge battle ships, far bigger than anything the Federation possessed. Nechayev suddenly realized that everything the Empress had told her was true. "You really would have destroyed the Federation if I had not agreed to lay off that drone."

"Conquered, not destroyed," Shadeen corrected. It was a small difference in words, but a big difference in meaning. "The Federation I would have conquered, but Starfleet I would have destroyed." Shadeen's lips turned up in a little smile. "I bet right now you are glad that you did not call my bluff."

"Very glad," Nechayev agreed while watching on screen how the new ships reached the Borg ships and how their weapons were slicing through Borg cubes as if they were made of plain old iron without force field shielding.

"Now, if you will excuse me, I have a war to win." Shadeen said.

"We, we have a war to win," Nechayev corrected. "I'm not going to stand by and do nothing while you are fighting to keep my world safe."

Shadeen nodded her head in agreement. "We have a war to win. Do you want to accompany us, or do you have to stay here?"

"You have a com. link that the Borg can't jam?"

"Of course."

"In that case, I'm coming with you. Frank, let the other admirals know what's going on. I'll be in touch."

"Yes, admiral," Frank said, already walking over to the view screen. By the time he had reached it, the others had disappeared in a purple light.


After the battle.

The door closed behind Nechayev and she continued to walk silently behind Shadeen and Zerisan while they crossed through the big room of which Nechayev by now knew was called the secondary bridge. Not that Shadeen had spent much time here during the battle, only a few minutes, but it was enough to know the room.

Even though Nechayev heard every word the two women were speaking, she was only paying half attention to it. The last seven hours had gone by in a blur. Only now, after the battle, did she have time to truly think. *My god, only seven hours. These people wiped out that Borg force in only seven hours.* thinking of the number ' seven' reminded her of another 'seven'.

*These people were only here because of that drone. She is the true reason why the Federation still exists, she is the reason we now have an alliance with a force so powerful that it exceeds our wildest imaginations. Shadeen already told me that, if we wanted, the alliance between the Federation and the Followers could continue after this fight. Zerisan said that she has a good candidate for the post of Federation ambassador to the Followers. I must say that I was surprised by her choice, but what the heck. If they want that Klingon to be ambassador than that is fine with me. Everybody knows anyway that the real work is not done by the ambassadors, it is done by the nameless people at the embassy. The Ambassador is just the person who signs their name on the dotted line, their signature representing the signature of all the people they themselves represent.*

Nechayev slowed down and focused her attention more on the two women when they reached the throne and stopped walking.


"Shut up. You may be my Empress, and you may be able to scare away the doctors, and you may even outrank me during the battle. But now the battle is over and for a few minutes I, as your wife, outrank you. Now, sit down, be still and let me look at your wound."

"It's only a scratch, love."

"I'm well aware of your 'scratches.' If it was only a scratch, it would not still be bleeding. After all, 'my' WOUND healed more than one hour ago. And I know that you got your 'scratch' before I got my WOUND. Now sit."

"Yes, ma'am."

Nechayev looked at the interaction between the two women and knew that she was looking at a private moment. There was no rank here, this was simply one woman being concerned about her wife, and that wife reassuring her worried partner that she was fine and that there was no reason to worry.

While Zerisan was healing Shadeen's wound with a dermal-regenerator, Nechayev looked around the room and saw how the operatives there were concentrating fully on the screens in front of them. Apparently they were well aware of what they were supposed to see and what not... or where they? She could see the trace of a smile on more than one face. No, they were allowed to see this, it was just that they were trying to give their Empress and First Lady a moment alone, as far as that was possible with fifty other people in the room. Her eyes went back to Shadeen when she spoke up.

"Stop trying to hide your amusement at me being ordered around, Carizon, and get over here. I want numbers."

Zerisan finished what she was doing and took a step back. "I'm sorry my Empress, I should not have said that. I should have saved that for our private quarters."

"And I love you, my wife. You were right and I was being stubborn. You had every right to say what you said." Her eyes drifted to Carizon and when her eyes found his, they locked for a moment. When his smile widened, Shadeen gave up. "Yes, yes, I know. I'm mushy, so what? I just fought a battle, in which hand to hand was included, and now I desperately need some time alone with my wife."

Zerisan stepped closer and caressed Shadeen's face softly with the back of her hand. "You, my dear, are the same as I am, you are under Zanzedeen's spell, or to use the more common word; you are horn..."

"Be that as it may," Shadeen interrupted, "We have some things to settle yet. Numbers."

Nechayev saw how all three of them were suddenly all business.

Carizon looked at the padd he had taken along and started with the numbers. "Three hundred thousand wounded..." He looked at Nechayev and explained for her benefit, "With wounded, we mean that they have wounds that require a doctor to heal. If someone has a wound of the kind our Empress just had, they are not considered wounded," He looked back at the padd and continued, "Fifty thousand of those are severally wounded, and twenty thousand are still critical. We lost six thousand guards and one thousand soldiers, mainly engineers carrying out repairs while the ships were under fire."

"The soldiers fought with the Guards, they will get their ceremonial firing with the Guards."

"Their families will be blessed by this Honor, my Empress," Carizon said with approval.

"They deserve no less. Were there any casualties under the minors?"

"Unfortunately, my Empress, five children did not survive."

"You know what to do." Shadeen's voice had not changed, but the others knew only too well how the death of minors affected the Empress.

"Yes, Empress. The schools will be notified within the hour. Others will not fill the places in their squads. They will not be forgotten."

Now that the casualties were taken care of, Shadeen could finally ask the question of which she knew the answer, but still dreaded to hear it, afraid that the answer might be different. "And Xakana?"

"Our daughter is fine, my wife. Can you not feel it?" Zerisan asked.

"I can, but I also need to hear it."

"Heir Xakana has not been hurt, my Empress," Carizon agreed, after checking the Padd just to be sure. Knowing how he himself was longing to go to his wife, Carizon brought the attention back to the list. He wanted to get it over with so that his Empress and his First Lady could have the time alone that they so desperately needed. "As by your order, the Borg force that was in Federation space has been totally destroyed. We ourselves lost nine cruisers. As you could see from the number that I just mentioned, the crews were able to safely evacuate to the other ships and engage the self-destruct. The Borg did not get any of our technology. Another twenty-one cruisers need major repairs before they can make the journey home. I already requested a repair ship; it will arrive in four hours."

"You did well on requesting the repair ship," Shadeen wanted to make it clear that she did not think that Carizon had made a mistake. "However, you can sent it back to its base. I have different plans." Shadeen looked at Nechayev, making it clear that she had certainly not forgotten the Admiral. "Admiral Nechayev, it seems that some of my ships were damaged in the recent battle, may we make use of your Utopia Planitia shipyards, orbiting Mars?"

Nechayev was clearly surprised by that. "Um, sure, but, you do realize that they were heavily damaged by the Borg, they will need to be repaired themselves first. And even then we would not know how to fix your ships."

Shadeen dipped her head slightly, indicating that she understood that. "That is not much of a problem, we will of course help you in reconstructing the shipyards, which will be the perfect opportunity to upgrade them to a standard where they can actually repair Follower ships. And after that, we will be happy to instruct your engineers in how to repair Follower ships. All of this will go a long way to building a good relationship between our people, do you not agree?"

"Very much so," Nechayev agreed, "But I saw how careful you were about the Borg not getting any of your technology, I think it is only fair to warn you that there is a history of things disappearing from the shipyards. No matter how much we try to fight it, things from the shipyards do occasionally find their way onto the black market."

"I appreciate your honesty, but this will not be the first time we have enhanced shipyards. We know how things work there. The first enhancement we normally make is to security. Believe me, none of our technology will get to someone who has no business with it."

"Tell me," Nechayev suddenly asked, "Is building a good relationship also the reason why you let Starfleet and Federation ground troops participate in this battle? I saw what happened. On more than one occasion your ships concentrated on protecting our ships instead of engaged the Borg yourselves, letting us fight the battle while you gave backup. The same with the ground forces. You concentrated more on protecting us than getting rid of the Borg. I have seen one of your ships being fired upon by countless Borg ships, but your ship didn't fire back... on those ships. Instead it concentrated on keeping the USS Enterprise from being destroyed. I even think that the only reason you lost ships to begin with is because you were taking the fire for us."

Shadeen didn't answer the question as such, rather she simply started to explain. "History has taught us that it is wise to let the people we are protecting join in the fight, if they are capable of doing so. Because if we do not then in the beginning they will be glad that they are still alive, but as time goes on they forget about the much stronger force they were facing and only remember that we robbed them of their chance to protect themselves. And soon after that, they start to resent us. But now, now we helped Starfleet fight off the Borg. And a thousand years from now your history will say that it was Starfleet that won this battle, with a little help from us. Starfleet personnel died today, history will remember them as the heroes of this battle. We protected your flagship from being destroyed today. But your history will tell about how at one point the mighty USS Enterprise took on thirty Borg cubes at once today and came out victorious. And what will your history say about us? That we helped you defeat the Borg. And that we lost five of our ships in the process. Today's battle, Admiral, will bring forth many Federation heroes, and gratitude towards us for the help. And gratitude for the fact that our people were willing to, and did, die helping to protect you. And that is how it should be. We will remember our fallen ourselves, we will have our own heroes."

Nechayev understood what Shadeen was saying. She had no delusion about the fact that the war would have ended differently if the Followers had not gotten involved. Without a doubt, she would have been dead or a Borg drone by now if it had not been for the Followers. But still, it felt damn good that she had helped defending the Federation, that she had helped in making her home safe. "Well, I have things to take care of, like telling the other Admirals in more detail what's going on. If you will excuse me."

"Certainly, I myself have things that need my attention, including that I have to entertain some guests at my home."

"Ah yes, the Voyager crew," Nechayev said, knowing what guests the Empress was talking about.

"Actually, I will be entertaining the senior staff of Voyager later in the day," Shadeen quickly checked her timepiece, "In eight hours to be exact. But the guests I will be entertaining this morning are only two of the senior crew, the only two that are staying at my palace during their stay at our Homeworld. You remember my dear friends, Seven of Nine and her fiancée, B'Elanna Torres?"

Nechayev recognized a clear reminder, or a subtle threat, when she heard one. Shadeen was focusing the attention back to what had brought the Followers to the Federation to begin with; Seven of Nine. And Shadeen's mentioning of where Seven was staying certainly didn't escape Nechayev. "Don't worry, I keep my word, I will be sure to inform the others of the reason why you were here to begin with, and the deal we made concerning Seven of Nine."

"As long as we understand each other."

"We do," Nechayev stated firmly.

Shadeen changed the subject, indicating that she considered the subject closed, "With your permission, Admiral, our damaged ships will take up orbit around Mars and in two days, when the victory celebrations are over, we will begin upgrading your shipyards. One of my aides will contact you in two days. He will be the contact person between our two races until the Embassies are established."

"I look forward to it." Nechayev made a step back and nodded slightly in the direction of first Shadeen and then Zerisan. "Empress, First Lady." After that she turned around and left the room, vowing to her self that once the debriefings of that drone... of Seven of Nine began, she would keep a close watch on the procedures. If this Seven of Nine was able to awaken such loyalty in these people, then there must be more to her than what she had read in Seven's file.

Nechayev still thought that the debriefings had to be done, and she would personally see to it that they did. But, her way of seeing Seven had changed. Now she wanted those debriefings because of the treasure of information they were sure to bring. Nechayev decided to make sure that the debriefings would go very smooth for Seven, making it into something where the former drone wouldn't mind talking about what she knew. Who knew what would come of having decent conversations with the former drone. Maybe this Seven of Nine would turn out to be someone she could actually like.

"Well," Zerisan said, "In less then four hours we will meet with Seven and B'Elanna, it will be interesting filling them in on all of this. They will ask why we were here, what will you tell them?"

"The truth."

"That simple?"

"Yes, and of course, I will also inform them that it is normal for the Chosen to bring ONE major change to the Followers. Since Seven has now brought that change, we will not be looking at EVERY move she makes. I think she will like hearing that. She will know that she will forever be intertwined with us, but from now on she will have to take a backseat to me."

Zerisan laughed at Shadeen's joke. "You mean, she will become less important to the Followers than their Empress is to them, but she will always be important to the Followers. At least as important as his Eminence Danzoc."

"Indeed," Shadeen agreed, "But for now, my beautiful wife, we have three hours to kill. You have any suggestions on what to do with them?"

"Oh, I have several, but I would like to tell you them in private."

Shadeen took Zerisan's hand and stood up. "Carizon, the First Lady and I will be taking a few hours of rest. Make sure that everyone that was involved in physical battle, and their partners, also take a few hours of rest."

Carizon smiled at the retreating forms of his Empress and his First Lady, "Yes, Empress. It will be done."


Two weeks later.

"Dropping out of transwarp, now," Tom said while he pushed the buttons to make this happen.

All of them were quiet for a moment while they looked at the scrap heap that once where the Utopia Planitia shipyards. They had taken the first hit from the Borg attack. The only reason they still existed was because Federation ships had arrived before the shipyards could be totally destroyed. Now, two weeks later only one of the repair bays had been repaired to the extent that it could be used to repair ships again. It would be months before all repair bays could be used again. It was estimated that it would be a year before all repairs on the shipyards would be completed.

But part of the reason why this would take so long was because it had been decided to use this tragedy as an opportunity to rebuild the shipyards in a different way. After the shipyards had been originally completed, it was quickly decided to keep the limitations of the shipyards in mind when designing new ships. After all, it was easier to design a new ship in a certain way than to rebuild the shipyards to accommodate the new design. But now, using a little advice from Follower engineers, and the necessary Follower technology, the shipyards were being designed in a way that they could be fitted to any form of ship up to a certain mass. The Followers' Battle Cruisers could be easily repaired in the new shipyards, once they were finished, but the immense Followers' cargo ships still would have to be repaired in a Follower shipyard, if they were ever to be damaged to begin with.

Tom finally broke the silence, "As I said before when they told us what happened, I'm not sure if I would be glad or sorry that I missed this."

"If we would have been here, we would have been dead," Ensign Rebecka Witt spoke up. No one questioned the presence of her and Ensign X on the bridge, it just seemed fitting somehow. In these last weeks the precise relationship between Rebecka and Kathryn had become clear to everyone and no one wanted to stop Captain Janeway from experiencing the fulfillment of making it home together with her fiancée. And the presence of Ensign X was also clear to everyone. She was the one who had gotten the Empress's word that Voyager would be brought all the way to the Alpha quadrant.

Ensign X sighed while shaking her head softly. "Such a waste of life. Thousands of Federation crew dead, thousands of Followers dead, and I don't even want to start guessing how many drones there were on those thousands of destroyed Borg ships. Shadeen said for a reason, 'You do not want to know'."

"Tractor beam is disengaged, the ISS Kirdaq wishes us a pleasant journey." Tuvok said from his station, immediately followed by Tom.

"Course to Earth is laid in."

Janeway took a moment to look to the empty first-officer chair, wishing things could have been different. Chakotay had visually paled when he was told what had happened in the Federation. For a moment, Janeway thought that she had gotten it through to him that Seven was not a threat to the Federation, but more of a blessing. That was until he started to explain his point once again. Saying that this was proof of how dangerous Seven was to the Federation, how easily this same force could be turned against the Federation. She had asked him to give her his word that he would leave Seven alone, no matter how things went with the Starfleet court-marshal. He had told her not to worry, it was too late now, there was nothing he could do anymore to help the Federation. It was only later that day that Janeway realized that he had never given her his word. And for the first time since knowing him, she had felt that she could no longer trust him. Was he sincere when he said that he would leave Seven alone? She could not say.


"Yes, ma'am."

It wasn't long before the view of Earth started to fill the view screen, bigger and bigger it became until the continents were clearly visible.

"Retract view screen and drop blast shields."

Seconds later the Voyager crew was no longer looking at an image of Earth on a screen, they were looking at the real thing. It was smaller now, without the view screen enlargement, but it was a hundred times more real. It was one of the most unforgettable sights that anyone on the bridge had ever seen. B'Elanna took Seven's hand and brought it to her lips, placing a small kiss on the knuckles. Which made Seven lean in and softly kiss her fiancée. They saw Rebecka going to Janeway's side and take the Captain in a one armed hug. "We are home Kathryn, we made it. You brought your crew home."

"We are home," Janeway repeated, not caring in the least about the tears that were rolling down her face. "We are home."


One year later.

Seven stopped to look at a scratch on the wall and a smile came to her lips. She remembered that this was the place where it all really started. Back then when B'Elanna had thrown the tool she was working with, Seven had thought that the scratch was a rather impressive dent. Now Seven knew better, now she knew things that were truly impressive.

To stand at the Imperial gathering fields and have three million Followers shout your name after the official ceremony of being adopted into the Follower race; that was impressive.

To stand in front of the Klingon high counsel and say that she would stand up to anyone who were to question her marriage with B'Elanna, only to have Chancellor Martok himself say that they were not stupid enough to try and come between a match worthy of Kahless himself; that was impressive.

To have B'Elanna stand nervously in front of her and hear those beautiful words 'I do'; that was impressive.

To see B'Elanna give life to their daughter; that was impressive.

To hold her daughter in her arms; that was impressive.

To have B'Elanna be the last thing she saw at night, and the first thing she saw in the morning. To have the words 'I love you' be the first words she heard every morning; that was impressive.

Seven was brought out of her musing by the sound of doors sliding open. She looked down the corridor and saw Captain Janeway coming out of Astrometrics. Janeway could have been an Admiral by now, but she had declined that position, instead she had focused on getting the command that she wanted, and she had succeeded in that. The next day, exactly one year to the day that Voyager had arrived home, Voyager II would leave the Utopia Planitia Shipyards with Captain Kathryn Janeway in command. Seven herself had been offered the rank of Starfleet Lieutenant soon after Voyager had made it home, not long after that she had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and two months earlier she had been promoted to Senior Lieutenant Commander.

There had been a slight uproar when the crew manifest of Voyager II had been put together. A lot of Starfleet Captains had objected to the large amount of high-ranking personnel on Voyager II, they said that it would have been a lot better to divide the crew over the other ships needing personnel. But it had been to no avail.

The Starfleet admirals had remembered whom they owed gratitude to and so the Voyager II manifest had included names as: Captain Janeway, Senior Commander Tuvok, Commander B'Elanna Torres, Senior Lt. Commander Seven of Nine, Lt. Commander Tom Paris, Lt. Commander Harry Kim, Lt. Neelix, Lt. Doc Zimmerman, Lt. John Cary, Lt. X, Lt. Rodriguez, Lt Rebecka Witt.

As a matter of fact, except for the twenty-three people that had chosen for civilian life, everyone who had served on Voyager would also serve on Voyager II. One of the main reasons of this was that many had made their life and family onboard Voyager. Severed from the people at home, many had found a new partner onboard Voyager. And for those that had not, like Lt. Wildman, their partner would accompany them on the ship. It had its advantages that the Voyager II was a generation ship with a two thousand strong crew. Half of it made up of Followers, half of it made up by Federation personnel.

Voyager II was one of the most advanced ships ever designed, by Federation, and Follower standards. A science ship that would continue the work that Voyager had started, but was built with, and from, the most advanced Follower technology. There had been a long, very long, list of people that wanted to serve on this ship. So the partners of the people that had served on Voyager were only too happy to jump on the opportunity to join their partners in becoming a crewmember on Voyager II.

"Seven, what are you doing here?" Janeway asked while she came closer to the blonde until she was standing beside her.

"I assume that I am doing the same as you, Captain, making a last round of Voyager, taking in the memories, before she is put in the Imperial space museum."

"And you would be assuming right," Janeway said with a smile, "It feels kinda strange to put this lady in a museum, as if she is just an old relic. Especially when she could just as well be refitted and used for who knows how many more years."

"At this point she is more valuable as a piece of history than as a spaceship. Now she will go on and be a focus point of the start of the Followers/Federation alliance. Even refitted, she would soon be surpassed by the new generation of ships being designed as we speak. Voyager would never be anything more than a... ferry service, bringing people from one end of the Federation to the other."

"You're probably right, Seven," Janeway agreed with a sigh. "Anyway, tell me, how is little Annika doing? And how is the Ambassador?"

"Our daughter is fine, doing as well as can be. And B'Elanna is doing fine also... you like calling her Ambassador, why?"

Janeway laughed, "I just find it funny that the woman that broke Cary's nose... twice, is now the Federation Ambassador to the Followers."

"B'Elanna agreed to that only because it is purely a ceremonial position. She has nothing to do with the actual politics."

"I know, Seven. But I'm sure that you also know that the Followers insisted on that position for B'Elanna because she COULD speak in the name of the Federation if she wanted to. She does have that power. The Followers wanted someone in that position with that power that they could trust not to use it to further their own needs."

"We are indeed aware of this, Shadeen told us as much."

"How is the Empress? I haven't seen her in a while. I was busy with Voyager II... and um, as you know, I was away on my honeymoon till last week."

"The Imperial family is very well. B'Elanna and I just arrived back from the palace shortly before coming here, B'Elanna is in Engineering right now."

"Of course, where else would she be."

"Indeed," Seven agreed.

There was a moment of silence and they both realized that the conversation was quickly becoming more than a simple 'hello.'

"So, how about some company on your last round of Voyager?" Janeway asked. She didn't mind having a conversation in the corridors, she had done it often before, but she liked to walk while talking. It always felt strange to her to be standing still inside a corridor and talk.

"Certainly," Seven agreed. She started walking to Astrometrics and Janeway followed, even though she had just come from there. "I assume you and Rebecka enjoyed your honeymoon?"

"Yes, very much. We would love to have you and B'Elanna over one day to tell you all about it."

"We would like that."

They entered Astrometrics and Janeway's eyes drifted to the place where Seven used to stand when she was working. It triggered an unpleasant thought, and she thought it only fair to tell the woman standing beside her, looking at the same place. "Seven, I received some news about Chakotay..."

"I know, Shadeen told me. He is free on good behavior and they even offered him a teaching position at the academy."

"Damn," Janeway said impressed. The news wasn't even official yet. "It must be very handy being good friends with an Empress who has the best security agency ever heard of."

"It is very convenient at times," Seven agreed. "Shadeen also told me something not even the Federation knows."

"Oh?" Janeway asked, she was surprised how well Seven was taking Chakotay's release.

"Yes, shortly before Chakotay was released, a Follower agent injected him with a certain chemical and told him that the chemical could be remotely activated. If he ever comes close to me again, he will be killed."

"What?!" Janeway could not believe her ears. "Tell me your joking."

"I am not. However, the agent has not told Chakotay the truth. The purpose of the chemical is to make it easier to keep track of him. No matter where he will be in the future, the Followers will know where he is. And if he ever comes up with another ill-advised plan, they will apprehend him long before he can even get close to me. In any case, I do not wish to spent time talking about him, would you like to accompany me to Engineering? I want to see B'Elanna."

"Of course," Janeway agreed and they left Astrometrics. "Have you both already been to your quarters on Voyager II?"

"We have. Our quarters are... spacious."

"As are mine," Janeway agreed. "An advantage of being on a generation ship. Quarters are designed with children in mind. Having extra rooms for children, and the need for private moments for the parents certainly was not forgotten. Did the installation of an alcove for you go without problems?"

They stepped into the turbolift and gave the command 'Engineering' before Seven answered. "It did, however, we did not install a Borg alcove. When the Followers heard that I still needed an alcove, they insisted on designing something for me. They put the technology needed into our bed, and when I now need to regenerate I can do so in my normal night's sleep, in my bed, having B'Elanna in my arms."

"What do you mean 'when the Followers heard that you still needed to regenerate?" Janeway asked surprised. "I thought they knew this."

"They know that I have met the Traveler, and that he gave me back my memories of being with B'Elanna ever since we were children. They assumed that the Traveler had also taken away my need to regenerate."

"They have a point. Any idea why he didn't?"

"Having to regenerate is a part of me, a part of who I am. If he had changed that, he would have changed me. I might have done things differently than how I do them now."

"So I have to remember that I still need to order you to regenerate every once in a while," Janeway joked.

Seven's voice sounded serious, but Janeway had seen that small smile. "I assure you, that will not be necessary. I used to put off regenerating because of how it made me feel; different, not one with the others. But B'Elanna changed that. She accepted me the way I was. She made me realize that I am simply me. No longer Annika Hansen, but also no longer Borg. I am Seven of Nine. And part of my existence is that on occasion I have to regenerate. And beside that, B'Elanna, Annika, and I have already spent several nights in our quarters on Voyager II and I have used the regeneration device. The Followers designed it in such a way that it is not really a different feeling from normal sleep. I certainly do not mind using the regeneration device while I am sleeping with B'Elanna in my arms."

They had left the turbolift and had reached Engineering where they saw B'Elanna. While they headed towards the Klingon, Janeway asked, "I'm surprised that the Followers didn't object to their Chosen and the Federation Ambassador traveling through space on Voyager II, there is a certain chance that you will be put in danger during our travels."

"We are just as safe on this ship than we would be anywhere else in the universe." B'Elanna, who had heard the question, said.

"If not safer," Seven agreed before giving B'Elanna a quick kiss hello.

"Why do I have the feeling that I'm missing something here?" Janeway asked. She had long grown used to the couple's public displays of affection when they were off duty.

"With a ship like Voyager II, and all the guards." B'Elanna said, as if that explained everything.

"What guards?" Janeway asked, getting slightly annoyed.

"You mean you don't know?" B'Elanna asked. "Kathryn, have you never noticed the small purple band under the rank insignia of the Followers that will accompany us on Voyager II?"

"Of course I have noticed. Every Follower I have ever met has that. I assumed that this was simply part of the insignia design, or a sign that they were a soldier."

"No, Kathryn, if all the Followers you ever met had it, then you have only met Imperial Guards. After all, every Follower is a soldier, why would they need a sign saying that they are soldiers if they can't be anything else? No, those small purple bands are an indication that they are Imperial Guards. There will be one thousand Imperial Guards on Voyager II. Even your first officer, a Follower, is a Guard."

"So are you trying to tell me that I will have a mutiny on my hand every time you two are in danger?"

"No," B'Elanna disagreed, "It means that beside the Federation personnel, you also have one thousand highly trained Followers, prepared to die to keep the ship and the crew safe. And talking about your first officer and the Followers..." B'Elanna changed the subject away from the Guards. She didn't want Janeway to keep asking about what the Guards would do. Shadeen had explained to her and Seven what kind of orders the Guards had. It was very unlikely that the Guards would ever do anything more or less than be good Voyager II crew members. But there was indeed a very slight chance that the day would come that the Guards would take over the ship. Only a one in a million chance, but still a chance. "...How do you feel about Voyager II being commanded according to the Follower system?"

"Well, I have to admit that it took me some time to get used to the idea, but now I think I like it."

Seven took a moment to look around Engineering, knowing that this would be the last time she would see it. There were a lot of memories in that room for her, but after they would leave it this time, they would have to start making new memories on Voyager II. What had been a working practice the last months on Voyager had been made into an official duty roster for Voyager II. Seven would be the acting head of Astrometrics, supervising and delegating, but she would only work there for fifteen hours a week. The rest of the time she would leave Astrometrics to her second in command, Lt. Rebecka Witt, and she herself would help B'Elanna in engineering. The both of them would do special projects and during the time they were doing this, B'Elanna's second in command, Lt. John Carey, would take over the day to day business of engineering.

When Seven heard Janeway say that she liked the Follower system, she focused her attention back on the Captain. "I must admit that I would have thought that you would be more opposed to having to share your authority."

"Well, I wouldn't really call it sharing, Seven. In fact, the system is not that much different than the Federation system. I, as Captain, make all the decisions on the bridge and my orders are to be carried out immediately. And I also make all the other decisions, just as it is normal for a Captain. The only difference is that now in senior staff meetings the senior staff has the power to overrule my decisions by a seven to three vote. I have done some reading on the subject when Starfleet had informed me that they were going to use the Follower system on Voyager II at the Followers' insistence, and in practice about one order each year is reversed by the senior staff. So in practice there is no real difference between the Federation system and the Follower system."

"But that is still something looming over your head," B'Elanna said, it was not like Janeway to take this so lightly.

"How about a last look at the bridge?" Janeway asked, having stood in Engineering long enough. Seven and B'Elanna nodded their heads in agreement and Janeway proceeded them out of the door and into the corridor "Truthfully, I see it more like a safety net. When I saw the first draft of the Voyager II blueprints, I was shocked by its specs. I talked about it with Rebecka that night and I told her that I wished we had such a ship the first time around. And Rebecka being Rebecka, she told me that she was glad we didn't. She forced me to think honestly that night. And I saw her point. There have been moments in the Delta Quadrant where I acted like I lost my mind, I did things that should have gotten me court-marshaled. And the crew could really do nothing about it save starting a mutiny, simply because they had to follow the orders of the Captain. Can you imagine that mindset and combined with a ship like Voyager II? A ship that that has standard permission to travel at speeds up to warp fifteen, limited permission to go warp twenty in case of severe emergencies? And I'm not even talking about the true potential of those engines. But besides that Voyager II has a weapon and shielding system that is even better than that of an Imperial Battle Cruiser. Voyager II might be a science ship, but it outclasses a standard Imperial Battle Cruiser on everything but the mass transporters that a Cruiser has and Voyager II doesn't. Can you imagine if we had this power to our disposal when we run into races like the Vedian or the Hirogen? I would have started a war with them instead of getting out of there. I think in the state I was in on some of those occasions, I would have even taken on Species 8472 with just one ship."

"But now," B'Elanna said, seeing what Janeway meant, "Now you might order us to follow a ship and we have to do it since you are the Captain. But once the senior staff gets together in the conference room, we can overrule your decision."

"Indeed, and I can't even cheat by not holding a conference. The second in command can also call for a senior staff meeting. As I said, it took me some time to get used to the idea, but I think this will be in my benefit," Janeway smiled to them before they got into the turbolift and added, "That and the small detail that this time around, if I'm doing something stupid, when I get home in the evening, Rebecka will be there to ask me what the heck I think I'm doing." They stepped out of the turbolift and onto the bridge and their eyes were immediately drawn to the large window. The Blastshields were down and they had a clear view onto the Voyager II.

From the distance they were at, the ship could be mistaken for the original Voyager, but that was only until one started looking more closely. Voyager II was bigger, a lot bigger, her length surpassing the length of the USS Enterprise E by one hundred meter (300 ft). It had a crew of two thousand, but keeping in mind that it was a generation ship, there was room for two thousand five hundred people. The crew quarters design was amongst the most spacious ever heard of on a Federation ship. They were designed as a place to live in for a part of one's life instead of for just a couple of weeks. And besides that there were also a few gardens, clubs, and gathering places, places where people could meet and spend some time.

As it was standard on all Federation ships that held families, the saucer section could be separated from the rest of the ship, but unlike Federation ships, the saucer section was not weaker than the rest of the ship, it only lacked the heavy engines. Once separated the saucer section would only be able to travel at normal warp, an impressive warp 9.9999998, but still only normal warp.

There were only ten shuttles onboard, but since they were standard Follower shuttles, they functioned as standard shuttles as well auxiliary fleet if the crew of Voyager II ever needed to be at more than one place at one time. There also where two Follower scout-ships onboard, the same kind Voyager had encountered a little over one year earlier, with the small difference that they had been refitted to hold extra science equipment. The idea was that these ships would be used for planetary missions and landings while Voyager II would stay in orbit. Janeway personally was not so sure about that approach, but she had not driven her point home on this during the design of Voyager II. She thought that even though she saw no need for the scout-ships now, it might be handy to have them somewhere in the future.

Voyager II did no longer had a Captain's yacht, but in the same place where the Captain's yacht had been on Voyager, Voyager II now had an Ambassador's shuttle. This was the most powerful and shielded type of shuttle the Followers had. The shuttle was almost all engines, weapon banks, and shield generators. Built with the sole purpose of getting dignitaries safely from point A to point B. Its design had been slightly changed to make it fit into the lines of Voyager II. No one would ever see it as anything else than part of Voyager II's hull, until it would be launched. The thinking behind this concept was that if ever, for some bizarre reason, an enemy was able to destroy Voyager II's shuttle bay, the Ambassador's shuttle could still launch to help defend Voyager II.

The general layout of Voyager II was pretty much the same as it had been on Voyager. Crew quarters in the saucer section, labs in the lower section, Engineering more towards the end, close to the engines, and the shuttle bay right between the nacelles. Astrometrics was no longer a place tucked away in some convenient empty space on deck four, it now held one of the most spacious labs in the lower part of Voyager II. Janeway had noticed that Astrometrics and main Engineering were located on the same deck and she had wondered if this was just by chance or if there had been a reason for that. Finally she had decided not to dwell on it for too long and simply call it a coincidence in design. Surly the designers had not done that with B'Elanna and Seven in mind. And if they had, than Janeway surely didn't want to know it.

"She's beautiful," B'Elanna finally said. Almost all the cervices pylons had been removed, except for the six main pylons. And they were only still there so that Voyager II could ceremonially start its journey straight out of the Utopia Planitia shipyards. There were no longer small ships darting back and forth in front of Voyager II. Even the paint-droids were long gone. From their angle they could see the official name of Voyager II, it read: 'CSS Voyager II CSSN 1.' They were looking at history in the making. Even without having ever left the shipyards' Voyager II had already made history. She was the first ship that would carry the letters CSS. No longer USS (United Space Ship) or ISS (Imperial Space Ship), no, now it was CSS, Combined Space Ship. And Voyager II would also be the only ship ever to carry only a single digit number, the 1. This to indicate that Voyager II was the first ever ship that was built by the combined efforts of the Federation and the Followers.

"She is the best there is," Janeway agreed, "Has Tom told you about the tests he did in the academy's holo-room?" Janeway continued without giving Seven or B'Elanna the chance to say that he had, and that he had practically been drooling while he had done so. "She can outmaneuver every known ship stronger than her. True, she is not as agile as this Voyager is, Voyager II is a lot bigger after all, but it's not much of a difference. She is fast, agile, strong, and all of it designed not to bring destruction, but to bring knowledge."

"Have you already made a decision on where we will be going?" Seven asked, "Do you plan on going back to the places we already visited with this Voyager?"

"I was sorely tempted to do just that," Janeway agreed, "To go back and see what had become of the people whose lives we touched. But no, other missions have already been developed for that. Other ships, other Captains will retrace our course through the Delta Quadrant. Deepen the contacts that we made, and try to rebuild some of the bridges we unfortunately burned. No, we won't be going back, let those races experience some real Federation diplomacy. However, we will be going back to the Delta Quadrant. On our journey home we made an as straight as possible line between where we were stranded and the Alpha Quadrant. We really only saw a little bit of the Delta Quadrant. I plan on exploring some more there. In the area far away from our first journey."

Janeway sighed, and took a last look around the bridge. Her eyes fell on the door to her ready-room and for a moment she was tempted to go in there one final time. But she knew that she was only really prolonging the inevitable. Instead, she turned to B'Elanna and Seven, "Well, ladies, how about we start the new chapter in our lives?"

Both women gave a small nod of agreement and Janeway gave her last and final command to the computer of Voyager. "Computer, three to beam on to the bridge of the CSS Voyager II."


At the same time in the palace of Empress Shadeen.

"I heard that the Chosen and the Ambassador are in the Alpha Quadrant, preparing to take Voyager II out on her first run?" Carizon asked.

"You heard correctly," Zerisan agreed. "Voyager II leaves Mars orbit tomorrow."

"I'm sure that they were excited to start their work on such a new ship."

"They were, but they were also saddened that now that they will be traveling on Voyager II, they can not visit us as much anymore, or spend time on their planet. They said that they were going to miss us, and their Tertra cats. They wish they had more time to spend with us and the animals, and yet be on Voyager II."

"I can understand that space missions prevent them from coming here every two weeks, like they have been doing for the last year," Carizon started, not seeing the problem of not enough time, "But we Followers live to be on average three hundred years old. And Tertra cats have been known to live for more than two hundred years on occasion. Seeing that you both are still less than forty years old, and since the Chosen and the Ambassador know their Tertra cats since they were little kittens, I don't really see the big problem here. There will be enough time between space missions. And eventually the Chosen and her mate will tire of traveling and settle down, that is how it always had been."

"The problem..." Shadeen spoke up for the first time since Carizon had entered the private kitchen of the Imperial couple, "... is that humans only live to be one hundred and twenty on average. And it is not that much different for Klingons."

Carizon took a sip of his juice before speaking. It always made him think when he was doing something as simple as sharing a meal with the Empress and the First Lady. No one who hadn't seen it for him or her self would ever believe that the two woman would do the same things others would do. Sure, there was a full kitchen staff to take care of the Imperial family, but every once in a while, the busy Empress would take over making a little meal for her wife. No one would ever insult the Empress by saying that her cooking skills were better than those of the Imperial kitchen staff, she herself knew that this was not the case. But for Zerisan, it always was the best food ever prepared for her. The love made it so. That the ruler of the Empire, according to a lot of people, the most powerful mortal in the universe, would take the time and care to stand in a private kitchen and make her wife an evening meal. Nothing could be better than that.

"But I still don't see the problem, what has how long humans or Klingons live got to do with this? We are talking about the Chosen and..." Suddenly he started to understand, "They don't know. They think that they only have a limited amount of time. But why has no one told them about the Traveler's reward to his Chosen and their mates? It is after all the reward for the fact that the Traveler uses the Chosen for a certain amount of their life."

Shadeen thought about that for a moment. "They have accepted their life the way it is now. They were lucky that the change Seven was going to bring was brought almost immediately. As you know, normally it can be years, decades after the Chosen has been chosen before they bring the change. Since they were not exposed to our close scrutiny for so long, they don't suspect that they still are going to be rewarded by The Divine one. They have no idea how true their words were when they said 'for eternity' in their wedding vows."

"But shouldn't they know..." Carizon started again.


It took a moment for them to realize that suddenly a fourth person was in the kitchen. A split second later they realized who it was and they were quickly starting to get out of their chairs so that they could kneel down.

"No, stay seated," The Traveler said while he himself went to sit down in one of the chairs. He looked at the three others for a moment, seeing that all had lowered their eyes and were waiting for him to speak. No surprise there. At least they had stayed in their seats, sometimes it was a pain being almighty.

"About Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres. They do not know yet, and I would like to keep it like that for some time. Let them live their life thinking there is nothing special. They can still hurt, they can still bleed. They just do not know that no matter how severe the wounds are they will always heal quickly and completely. It will be more than twenty years before one day they will realize that they still look as if they haven't aged a day since they got married. When they then come ask you if you know how this can be, then you can tell them that the true reward for being a Chosen is that the Chosen and her partner get eternal life. I told Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres that there was one thing they did not know yet, this is that thing. Once they find out, it will take them several weeks to get acquainted with the idea of being immortal, but soon the realization that they will truly spend eternity together will make them meet each new day of their existence with joy and happiness."

"They live happily ever after?" Zerisan ventured to ask, reminded of the old saying.

The Traveler smiled and slightly nodded his head before answering. "Yes, you could put it like that. They live happily ever after."

The End

(Yes, I know, it's corny. But it's my story, and I'm a sucker for happy endings. I want Seven and B'Elanna to live happily ever after, and since it's my story, they do. No 'till death will us part', for it never will.)


Start: I can't really say for sure, but chapter 2 was posted on VJB on 3-22-2001

Finished 12-24-2002

Yikes, one year and nine months.

I'm sorry I made you all wait so long. At least I kept my promise and finished the story.

I hope it was worth it for you to hang in there.

Thanks for all the positive reaction I have received. They always made my day. I can't really describe what it is like to see a message dropping into your inbox that tells you that you did really well on writing the internal struggle of a half Klingon or a x-drone.

Or if someone tells you that your NC-17 scene is one of the best they ever read, especially because the story is not an excuse for the NC-17 chapter, but that the chapter really fits into the story.

It was great to receive something like that. And it always made me go; "I did that?????

Thank you all.


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