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Incursion

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§1§

After seven years in the delta quadrant, Voyager and her crew finally made it home. They received the welcome Kathryn expected; handshakes, pats on the back, hugs, speeches, and parties which seemed never-ending. Everyone wanted a piece of them. Talk shows, news programs, even the entertainment world sent offers to her office at Starfleet Headquarters for cameo roles in television and movies; one such group wanted to do a documentary. The offers went on for months until she finally made a general statement; sending it to every major studio and stated she was not an actor and had no desire to appear in any project but appreciated their interest. Finally, the offers - for the most part - slowed down.

Even with all the attention, she couldn’t feel more alone. All the people she’d come to care deeply about and think of as a second family had moved on with their lives. In all the time she was stranded, she never thought for a moment that she would long for the days she spent on Voyager, nor wish she were back in the delta quadrant. It was ironic to have come so far and want back what she’d spent seven years of her life trying to accomplish. It was also strange to think of Earth as alien. So much had changed, including her, the people she used to think of as good friends had become strangers to her now. There were seven years of history she hadn’t been a part of, and despite their protests, things would never be the same between them again.

In her younger years, she imagined what her life might be like at this point. If she had never managed to attain the rank of Admiral as she had now; where would she be? Would she be married to Mark as she planned? If so, would they have had any children? It was pointless to speculate, but she couldn’t help feeling cheated out of a normal life. Even now she felt resentment, but this time it was toward Chakotay and Seven. She had no right to feel that way, and honestly, she didn’t want to. They were her friends, her family, and it wasn’t as if she had any claim to Chakotay, he was free to do as he wished. In reality, he had done the one thing she wouldn’t: move on with her life, and now she was paying for it.

In her new position as Admiral, she had the ability to check up on everyone. Though they weren’t her crew any longer, she was still looking after them. Chakotay had been offered a teaching position at Starfleet Academy. It was rocky for the first couple of months, but he eventually won over his students and has become quite popular in the planetary sciences department. Seven was hired on as a civilian specialist contracted to work in Starfleet’s stellar cartography division and occasionally as a consultant to the temporal and physics department. Tom and B’Elanna declined the offer to join Starfleet and moved to Los Angeles. B’Elanna was offered a position at a research and development station where Tom also works as a test pilot. Tuvok returned to Vulcan in order to devote some much needed time to his family before he returned to duty at the rank of Captain where he was given command of the new Voyager class, designed specifically as an all-around support vessel for a yearlong shakedown cruise. Harry was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant upon his return, and then again to the rank of Lieutenant Commander six months later. At the moment he’s on Jupiter Station working alongside Lieutenant Commander Barkley on a number of projects including Pathfinder. Since his return, the Doctor has been working at Starfleet Medical and advocating holographic rights. As for Kathryn, she was promoted to the rank of Admiral and given a desk on the eleventh floor of Starfleet Command where she is the head of the entire science division for the Federation, not to exclude her role as one of the Admirals who are the heart of the fleet’s commanders. She didn’t want the job because she felt she hadn’t earned it, that the offer was given due to her popularity as a hero in the public’s eyes, making the promotion meaningless.

“Admiral.” Came her assistant’s voice over the com.

“Yes, Commander.”

“Admiral Duke is calling an immediate meeting of the council.”

“Did he say what it was about?”

“No, only that it was urgent.”

“Tell him I’m on my way.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

§2§

Entering the chamber, Admiral Duke looked up to see who it was. “Admiral Janeway, have a seat, as soon as Admiral Kerrigan arrives we’ll get down to business.”

Doing as asked, she couldn’t help but wonder what this meeting was about. Judging by Duke’s expression, he appeared uneasy. Watching him study the data PADD in his hand, he kept looking to the door and back again. When Admiral Kerrigan arrived five minutes later, he began to speak.

“I’m sure you’re anxious to know why I’ve called this meeting. Six hours ago, a listening post near the edge of the beta quadrant, detected a fleet of ships heading toward our border. We know they’re not Dominion, but as to who and what they are we haven’t a clue. Their ships are advanced, much more than ours, and they use some sort of scattering field which disrupts our sensors. We can’t tell exactly how many ships they have, but we do know that they’re traveling in great numbers.”

“Has anyone tried to contact them?” Admiral Rainer asked.

“Yes, but so far there’s been no response. To be honest, we’re not even sure if our hails are getting through. If they are they’ve chosen to keep silent, but they haven’t appeared threatening.”

“I believe it would be in our best interest to have a fleet of ships standing by in case things get ugly.” Admiral Summers suggested.

“It’s already been done,” Duke said. “President Astor has been informed of the fleet and is taking steps in order to find out what they want. If anyone has any further questions or suggestions now’s the time.”

As the other Admiral’s tossed idea’s back and forth, Janeway sat quietly and listened. At times she wondered how anything got solved when the group usually argued over the tiniest details.

“Admiral Janeway, you’re being awfully quiet; do you have any thoughts?” Duke asked.

“Only one.” She replied. “We know they’re coming our way, but I think we’ve overlooked one simple question. Where did they come from? During Seven’s time with the Borg, she’s encountered many different species all over the galaxy, if they possess such advanced technology the Borg would have tried to assimilate them.”

“I wish I had an answer to that, but I don’t,” Duke said. “All I do know is that we’ve got a fleet of ships headed our way. Until we’re able to communicate with them we won’t know why they’re coming. If or when that happens we’re responsible for any decision we make regarding them. I just hope they didn’t come all this way just to pick a fight.”

“So do I Admiral.” Janeway agreed with a knot in her stomach. She didn’t like the situation at all.

“When there’s more information I’ll reconvene the council. If there’s nothing else, you’re free to go.” As she was leaving, Admiral Duke called her name and gestured for her to reenter the chamber.

“Yes, sir?”

“Out of everyone here, you have the most practical experience in dealing with new alien species. So, what I’m trying to say is that I’d like you to be the one who makes contact. If everything goes well we’ll send in an ambassador. Do you think you’re up for a job like this?”

“All I can do is try Admiral, but I should point out that even though I’ve been trained to deal with first contact situations I am by no means an expert.”
“Who is when it comes right down to it?” He replied with a slight shrug. “All I know is that you possess more experience than the entire council combined, I would be a fool not to take advantage of it.”

She smiled. “I appreciate the compliment, but I’m no miracle worker.”

“You got your ship home in one piece after seven years in the delta quadrant; I’d say that was miracle enough.” He replied returning the smile. “There’s a transport leaving in twenty minutes for Jupiter Station. Once there, you will board the Janeway; any questions?”

“No.”

“Good, I’ll be sure to pass along any information we get.”

“Thank you.” She replied. Leaving, she couldn’t help thinking about the ship they’d named after her, and who was commanding it.

§3§

For more than ten generations her people have lived unchallenged by any race, until recently. Their technology surpassed those species who lived in their corner of the galaxy. Recently that all changed, for the first time in centuries they were forced to abandon their world and flee to the stars, and into the unknown.

Her people had been careful to conceal their power - which should be the case of any advanced species - knowledge is a responsibility as much as it is a burden, and it is unrealistic to believe similar species would do the same. In the face of such power, it’s nearly impossible to resist temptation. In all her years, Shoshanna has seen how power can change a person.

Standing before the door to the Executor’s chamber, she ran her smooth yellow-orange hand in front of the identifier. Once she was granted access, the once lit chamber was shrouded in darkness. In the center of the room was a three-dimensional holographic display of the Matriarch of the Zeratual: Balin. She was reptilian, like the rest of her species, her skin hard as stone; the brown scales protected her well.

“Entaro Adune Executor Artanis.”

Studying the image, he responded with the same greeting before asking. “What is our status?”

“The information we gathered from our scans of the outpost are complete, we have also downloaded and translated their language. The species we encountered are called Terrans, but they are not the only space fairing species in this quadrant. Based on the data, these include Vulcan’s, Klingon’s, Bajorans, Cardassians, and Romulan’s to name a few.” She paused as he nodded absently and continued to study the image. “Executor, I have never questioned your judgment or decisions, but in this case, I believe we are making a grievous error in contacting the Terrans. I also believe we should have arrived cloaked, by showing ourselves openly we risk a potentially dangerous encounter.”

“I appreciate your honestly Prefect Shoshanna, and your candor; it’s these traits I find most admirable, but in this instance, I must disagree with your assessment. If we do not enlist allies, any hope of defeating the Zeratual will be lost.”

“But why make our presence known so quickly? We should take the time to study them in further detail in order to determine if the information we have regarding their principles are correct.”

“In another time I would have done so, but time is a luxury we cannot afford. If we suddenly appeared from the shadows they would be reluctant to trust us. No, if there is hope they must not be misled.”

The long tendrils emanating from her head were turning a deep orange, indicating that she was nervous. “You are wiser than I and know more about the universe, but I cannot help feeling apprehensive.”

“I understand.” Artanis replied, his eyes finally meeting her gaze. “We are doing what is necessary, sometimes that means taking risks. For us to do nothing would certainly be our demise.” He explained gently - more so than what his position called for - but Shoshanna has always been loyal, and therefore, felt she had earned his respect and friendship. “Go now, we will speak again once we’re ready to make contact.”

“Yes, Executor.” She replied before leaving him alone to his thoughts.

§4§

Stepping out onto the bridge the tactical officer Lieutenant Hayes stood at attention and announced. “Admiral on the bridge.”

“At ease.” She said seeing the captain standing to face her. With a smile, she headed for him. “Captain Tuvok, those pips look good on you.”

“Thank you, Admiral.” He replied. “I was informed that you would be arriving but was not informed why.”

“Once we’re underway I will explain everything.”

Giving a nod he said. “The final diagnostics are complete; we are ready to depart at any time.” Gesturing to the command chair he said. “If you wish, you may give the order to break orbit and set a course.”

“Thank you, Captain.” She replied her smile widening and took the seat he offered. Activating the internal com, she said. “This is Admiral Janeway to all hands, prepare for departure.”

“All stations report ready.” Ops officer Lieutenant Commander Keffer announced.

“Very good.” She said. To the helmsman she ordered. “Take us out.”

“Yes, sir.” Lieutenant Strass replied, unaware that the person she was addressing preferred to be addressed by rank.

Breaking orbit, Janeway passed on their coordinates. Jumping to warp, none were truly aware that they were leaping into history.

§5§

“We’re approaching the fleet,” Strass announced.

“Slow to impulse. Mister Keffer, hail the lead ship.”

“They’re hailing us.” He replied sounding a little astonished.

“On screen.” Seconds later she saw an orange-yellow figure with long fleshy tendrils emanating from its head. There was no mouth or nose she could see, only smooth skin where one should be. Its eyes glowed with a piercing blue light that somehow managed to frighten and fascinate her, along with a body so muscular and massive it filled the screen.

“Entaro Adune Terrans, I am Executor Artanis of the Dabiri. Who am I addressing?”

“I am Admiral Kathryn Janeway. May I ask why you’re traveling with a fleet of ships?”

“I am prepared to answer your question, but first there is a matter which I need to discuss with your representative.”

“You may discuss it with me; I am authorized to speak for my people.”

Giving a nod he said. “We should meet. Would you prefer your vessel or mine?”

“Ours will suffice. I’ll have my people make the arrangements. We should be ready in about fifteen minutes. Is that acceptable?”

“Quite. Until then Admiral Kathryn Janeway.” He replied, his arms crossed across his chest and bowed slightly before the screen went black.

“What do you think Tuvok?” She asked looking to the seat beside her.

“I am uncertain.”

“So am I.”

§6§

Over the last year, Chakotay had run into almost everyone he served with on Voyager, but the one person he could never seem to reach was Kathryn. He knew she was busy - especially since she was one of the voices of Starfleet Command - but was always unable to catch her. Every message he left with her aid or sent to her apartment went unanswered. Was she avoiding him deliberately or was it her job that kept her too busy to return his calls? He had a feeling it was the former rather than the latter.

She was hurt by his relationship with Seven; he saw it in her eyes when she asked him about it. Logically he shouldn’t feel guilty; she was the one who kept him at arm’s length, letting him get close but not too close. If he had some indication that she would be ready to have a relationship he wouldn’t have agreed to go out with Seven, she was the one who came to him, but that was over now. Less than three months ago they parted amicability and went their separate ways but decided to remain friends. It took a while to realize that they were in love with other people; her with Axum and he with Kathryn. It seemed too late to pursue her considering how much time has passed, and his heart ached with the knowledge.

Asleep, he dreamt he was walking through the tropical rainforest in Africa when a being of light appeared in his path. “She is in danger.” Came a feminine voice, one he recognized but couldn’t place.

“Who are you?”

“You must find her.” It replied ignoring his question.

“I don’t understand. Who am I supposed to find?”

“Awaken,” Was the only reply.

His eyes snapped open; his body covered in sweat. Catching his breath one name came to mind, Kathryn.

Chapter Text

§7§

Appearing on the transporter pad, Tuvok and Keffer were there to greet Artanis and his companion. “Welcome, I am Captain Tuvok and this is my tactical officer Lieutenant Hayes.”

“Entaro Adune, this is Prefect Shoshanna.”

“If you will follow me I will take you to the briefing room.”

On the way there Tuvok couldn’t help wondering why these people were here. If they were forced to come here - who or what could do that? Their technology was far more advanced than anyone in the alpha quadrant, which meant that if someone were chasing them, their technology was even more impressive.

Stepping onto the bridge, there wasn’t a single person who wasn’t staring at them. “I believe everyone has work to complete,” Tuvok said, and the group went back to what they were doing, not any less interested in who the strange aliens were, or what they wanted.

When the door hissed open, Janeway stood to greet them. Both Artanis and Shoshanna crossed their arms across their chests as Artanis spoke. “Entaro Adune Admiral Kathryn Janeway.”

Smiling she said. “You don’t have to say my whole name, Admiral Janeway or just plain Admiral will suffice.”

“As you wish. Admiral Janeway allow me to introduce my most trusted companion, Prefect Shoshanna.”

“An honor,” Janeway said returning the slight bow. “Forgive me if I’m about to offend both of you, but what does Entaro Adune mean? I’m assuming it’s a greeting, but our translators can’t decipher it.”

“You are correct.” Artanis replied. “We have studied your language and cannot find the correct sequence of words to describe it accurately. The closest translation we can come to is brother to brother.”

Giving a nod, she gestured to the table. “Let’s be seated, and you can tell us what brings you to the alpha quadrant.”

It felt odd to sit while discussing matters of importance, but in this case, he would set aside his awkwardness. “We are not here by accident; there is a purpose to our presence.” Artanis began. “We have studied your history, and in that time you have accomplished and survived much. This quadrant has faced enemies far superior and managed to avoid extinction, which is commendable, but what I’m about to reveal may frighten you.

“Thousands of years ago my people believed that we were the only sentient species in what you call the beta quadrant. We have traveled among the stars and believed ourselves to be chosen by the universe, that we were superior to all life. It didn’t take long to discover the depth of our arrogance when the Zeratual came.”

“Who are the Zeratual?” Janeway asked, giving him her undivided attention.

“A reptilian race. Most have at least four legs, some more. Their skin is extremely dense and can withstand energy weapons. Small arms are useless. They can regenerate their wounds rapidly and survive several hours in a vacuum. But most importantly they are relentless. For years we tried to drive them away from our world and lost the battle three of your months ago. But the most unsettling truth is that they are on their way here. Because we were driven from our world we could not stand by and allow them to conquer yet another species.”

Janeway sighed, feeling as though she were being put into another situation beyond her control. “I appreciate your warning, but our technology is not as advanced as yours. If your people could not defeat them then how do you suppose we can?”

“We have the means if you have the will.”

Falling silent, she mulled it over before speaking. “I need to discuss this with my colleagues.”

“Certainly, but don’t take too long, they are coming.”

“I will return to my vessel unless you wish me to remain.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll hail you when I know something.”

“Very well.” He replied standing along with Shoshanna. Crossing their arms across their chest they bowed slightly and left with Keffer and Tuvok just behind.

She didn’t like what she heard; in fact, it scared the hell out of her. The race Artanis described made the Borg look like children playing with tinker toys. Seven might have heard of them, both races were in the beta quadrant and both had kept to themselves for hundreds of years. Why now? Why choose this moment to bring in other races? She couldn’t be sure if Artanis had told her the whole truth, but she also had no reason to doubt him. They could have just as easily torn through their defenses and shot them all straight to hell but didn’t; unless winning their trust was part of the plan.

Now you’re being paranoid. Her inner voice spoke out. Not everyone has an anterior motive. It wasn’t hard to assume the worst considering how she’s been treated since she got home. Admiral Duke was the only member of the council besides Paris, who honestly cared about her opinions. In fact, he was one of the people responsible for nominating her for the position once Admiral Bishop retired and received nothing but dislike and hostility from the others - especially from Admiral Susan Kerrigan. From the beginning, she made her feelings quite clear that she didn’t believe she had the experience to be a member of the council.

Janeway didn’t agree that she didn’t have the experience, only that she didn’t earn the position through sheer hard work. She was pushed into the role because of her instant celebrity and popularity. At first, she refused the role, content with her rank of Captain, knowing that she had at least earned her command. Both Admiral’s Duke and Paris changed her mind. Now here she was a little over a year later wishing she hadn’t let them talk her into it, but at the same time feeling the need to prove herself and thinking that this situation was the key to accomplishing that goal. Making her way into Tuvok’s ready room, she accessed his desktop monitor and set a priority message to Admiral Duke’s office.

§8§

After Chakotay’s attempt to contact Kathryn through her aid had failed, he sought a higher source. When Admiral Paris took his call, he looked perplexed by it, wanting to know the reason.

“Commander, I’m still not clear as to why you need to speak with her or why it’s important; I need facts, not a gut feeling.”

Sighing he replied. “If I told you how or why you wouldn’t believe me. Look, I know we don’t know each other, but we both know and care what happens to her. If I’m wrong about you-”

“No.” He interrupted. “I do care, so I tend to be cautious, but you both served together for seven years and if you meant her harm you could have done so long ago. I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything.”

“I understand,” Chakotay replied with a smile. “Thank you.”

“I’ll contact you when I know something one way or the other. Paris out.”

As the symbol of the united federation of planets replaced Paris’ face, Chakotay felt as though he’d spoken to the right person.

§9§

Seven wasn’t sure why she had been summoned to Admiral Duke’s office, or why she was being escorted by two security guards. The situation felt
uncomfortable to begin with but seeing two high-ranking security officials outside his office didn’t serve to ease her discomfort.

When she was standing before them, her escorts departed, leaving her with the two security officials guarding the door. “I was brought here to see Admiral Duke, I am-”

“We know who you are.” The man to her right interrupted as the man to her left began scanning her with a tricorder.

“She’s clean.” He said.

With an acknowledging nod, he tapped his com badge. “Admiral, your guest here.”

“Send her in.”

Stepping aside, he activated the door. When it opened, she saw a man and woman in uniform along with a woman in a gray suit.

“Come in.” The Admiral said with a smile motioning her forward, she complied. “Seven of Nine, I’m Admiral Duke, this is Admiral Kerrigan, and this is Federation President Joan Astor.”

Seven gave them all a nod in turn as they were introduced. She knew who the president was and her vice president James Crane. When she arrived on Earth, she made a point of learning everything she could about the most important issues and people. “Why have I been summoned?”

“We need information, and because of your time with the collective, you would know more than us. Please have a seat.”

“All right.” He said sitting behind his desk, Kerrigan and Astor sat facing him with their head turned toward Seven. “During your years with the Borg, have they ever encountered a race called the Dabiri?”

“Yes, the Borg encountered their species three-hundred years ago in a remote sector of the beta quadrant piloting a small vessel. They were assimilated, but their homeworld was never found.”

“I see. What about a race called the Zeratual?”

“No.” She answered then asked. “May I ask what this is about?”

“There is a fleet of Dabiri ships on the border of Federation space. They claim that there is a race named the Zeratual who are on their way here to conquer the quadrant. Admiral Janeway called to inform us of their intentions and wanted to know if you could give us any information you might know about either of them.”

“The Borg did not gain much knowledge, but from what they were able to extract from their minds, they are extremely private people. I find it puzzling that they would make contact with another species.”

All three individuals exchanged a series of looks before Duke trained his eyes on her. “Thank you for the information. I will keep in touch should we require your assistance in the future, you are dismissed.”

She almost questioned him, wanting to know what this was about but restrained herself. She had learned over the years when to keep silent, and when to press for more, now was not the time.

When she was gone President, Astor said. “Are you sure she can be trusted?”

“If Admiral Janeway believes she can then I trust her judgment,” Duke replied.

“I think you put too much trust in her,” Kerrigan said.

“Perhaps, but it’s my choice. Now, if you will excuse me I have work to do.” He said to Kerrigan. Looking to the President he continued. “When I know more you’ll be the first to know.”

“Thank you, Admiral.”

§10§

“Owen, it’s good to see you,” Duke said shaking his hand. “I haven’t seen you since your granddaughter’s birthday party a few weeks ago.”

“Yes Brian, she’s getting bigger every time I see her,” Paris replied and offered him a seat. Taking it, Owen sat beside him on the sofa.

“So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

“I got a call from Commander Chakotay.”

“The same Chakotay who served as Admiral Janeway’s first officer on Voyager?”

“The very same. He claimed that he had to see her because he believes she’s in danger.”

Duke looked suspicious. “Why would he think that?”

Owen shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. He said it was just a gut feeling, but there was something in his eyes that makes me think it was more than that.” He paused, picked up his water glass from the coffee table before them and took a drink. Holding it in both hands afterward, he rested his arms on his thigh and said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever met Commander Chakotay or were aware of how close he and Admiral Janeway were. They served together for seven years trapped on a small ship with no contact besides those on board. They were alone, cut off from everyone and everything; you can’t live that way for long without getting to know someone pretty well. And as crazy as this sounds, I believe him despite my better judgment. If you had seen the look in his eyes, you might of as well.”

“Perhaps, but even if I believed him I would need a reason to pull Admiral Janeway from the field.”

Setting down his glass Paris replied. “Eventually we’re going to have to recall the Janeway and her crew, along with a representative of the Dabiri in order to determine if we should get involved. Who’s to say he couldn’t be here when that happens?”

Duke nodded. “I’ll let you know once the recall order is given.”

“Thank you Brian,” Owen replied as he watched him stand and leave.

§11§

Janeway had informed Artanis of Admiral Duke’s decision, and of course, there were objections by Artanis’ second, but he came none-the-less, Shoshanna by his side. They traveled with them onboard the Janeway back to Earth - which made her uncomfortable. What did she really know about the Dabiri’s intentions? They could just be using them to discover where their base of operations are for an attack. It was possible, but she didn’t think so, all though she couldn’t be certain.

Once they arrived on Earth; she, Artanis, Shoshanna, Tuvok, and two security guards made their way to Admiral Duke’s office. When they arrived, Tuvok and the guards were asked to leave so he might speak with the alien’s alone.

“Admiral Duke, this is Executor Artanis and Prefect Shoshanna.” Janeway introduced.

“Entaro Adune Admiral Duke.” Artanis greeted in his people’s custom.

“Greetings.” He replied offering him his hand which confused him. “It’s called shaking hands; it’s how we greet others.” Understanding, he took it. “Admiral,” he said looking to Janeway, “there is someone waiting in your office, I can discuss the situation with the Executor in your absence.”

“I’m sure it can wait until-”

“I’m sure it can, but I can take over from here. You can join us when you’re finished.”

She didn’t like this. Three days ago, he was telling her how much she was needed, how she was the perfect choice to make contact with the Dabiri, now he seemed as though he couldn’t wait to get her out of his office. What the hell was going on here? “Certainly Admiral.” She replied. Looking to Artanis and Shoshanna she mimicked their standard practice for saying goodbye, then left.

The harsh clipped tone did not go unnoticed by Duke, he knew she felt alienated by his choice to send her out, but he also knew the reason for it. When she saw who was waiting for her she might be more understanding of his decision, at least he hoped.

“Now, shall we sit and discuss what it is you want from us?”

§12§

Janeway wasn’t certain as to who was waiting for her, and Admiral Duke hadn’t given her any indication. There was a part of her who was curious, and another which was annoyed.

Entering the waiting area, her aid had left for the day, so she wouldn’t get any information as to who was waiting until she stepped into her office. Standing before it, she felt defiant, not wanting to go in, and for a moment almost said to hell with it and walked away. The only reason she didn’t was that she needed to stay on Duke’s good side if she were going to prove to everyone that she was capable of doing this job. Activating the door, she saw a man with his back to her until he heard the soft hiss and turned around.

Surprised she asked. “What are you doing here?”

Caught off guard by her reaction to his presence Chakotay replied. “It’s been more than a year since we saw each other and the first thing you can ask is what am I doing here? I guess Admiral Duke and Paris didn’t tell you I was waiting.”

“Admiral Paris knew? Well, that is interesting.” She replied regaining her bearings.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Perhaps he was and perhaps he wasn’t, it didn’t matter, she had work to do. “Did you come for any reason in particular?” She questioned trying to be nonchalant.

“Why haven’t you returned my calls? I know you’ve received them.” He asked taking a couple of steps toward her.

Standing her ground, she didn’t want to back away and let him see just how uncomfortable she was. “I’ve been busy. Being a member of the board of Starfleet Command allows me very little free time.”

“You haven’t been that busy.” He countered. “Not so much that you couldn’t return a call.” When she didn’t reply, only stare back impatiently he said. “I know you’re angry with me, and I understand.”

“Why should I be?” She asked, pretending not to know what he was referring to.

“Don’t stand there and act as though you don’t care, I know you remember?” Her expression changed slightly, not much, but it was enough for him to tell she was uncomfortable. “I’m sorry you had to find out that Seven and I were seeing each other on your own. I was going to tell you, but the timing never seemed to be right.”

The cool exterior she was trying to exude was forgotten. “The day you decided to date would have been good. You let me believe for more than three weeks that nothing had changed. I shouldn’t have dismissed your rainchecks so casually even though I had the feeling something was going on with you. I always knew you would move on eventually, but Seven? You tried to blow her out of the cargo bay after the first few days she was on Voyager; then when I decided to keep her on board after her connection to the Borg was severed, you kept telling me it was a bad idea. Then days before we’re about to make it back home I find out the two of you are seeing each other. How am I supposed-” Realizing what she was about to say she cut herself off. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation when I’ve got a hundred things to do.” Turning, she headed for the door.

Rushing forward, he grasped her by the upper arm and spun her toward him before grasping her other arm to hold her still. She tried to break his grip, but it was useless, wishing she had gone with her first inclination and not entered her office. “Restraining a fellow officer without just cause is a court-martial offense.”

“If that’s the way you want it, but you’re not leaving until we’re finished, and you’ve heard what I have to say.”

“If it will get you to leave then so be it.” She replied angrily.

Saddened, he released her. “I didn’t go out with Seven to hurt you, just as I wasn’t delaying in telling you about it for the same reason. Hell, it wasn’t as if you gave me any clue that you might be upset by it. You insisted our relationship remain professional, plus you didn’t give me any indication that you would be interested in pursuing one later. I was lonely Kathryn, and when Seven approached me I decided to give it a shot.” Sighing, he looked down for a moment and rubbed the back of his neck feeling awkward. “I wanted to tell you how I felt about you for years, but you didn’t want to hear it, how I still feel about you.” Reacquiring eye contact he said. “All though Seven and I are no longer seeing each other, I’ve always been in love with you.”

“Is that supposed to make it right?”

“No, I just wanted to tell you in case I never get another chance. I don’t expect you to just forget what’s happened, but I hope we can start over.”
She could feel the old wound in her heart beginning to ache again. “Are you finished?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll be leaving - unless you plan on keeping me here.”

Shaking his head, he watched as she turned and left him alone.

Chapter Text

§13§

When she entered Admiral Duke’s office, both Artanis and Shoshanna were gone.

“Admiral,” Duke began, “I’ve arranged quarters for our guests, they’ll be here with us for a time until their fleet arrives.”

“Then I assume you believe them.”

“After a fashion. Let’s just say I’m leaning in their favor.” He replied then added. “If these Zeratual are as ruthless as they say we’re going to need all the help we can get.”

She nodded. “First the Borg and now this. I’m beginning to think we’re cursed.”

He chuckled. “It does appear that way doesn’t it?” Seeing she had become distracted with her thoughts he asked. “How is Commander Chakotay? I didn’t have time to speak with him.”

“Fine.” She replied making eye contact.

“Good.” He said leaning back against his desk. “Because he’s going to be working with us for a while, as is Seven of Nine.”

She looked panic-stricken for a second before forcing the feeling aside, but it didn’t go unnoticed. “I see.”

“You’ve been distracted from the moment you walked through that door. Is there something going on I should know about?”

“No, I’ve just been preoccupied with the Dabiri and the Zeratual.”

“Are you sure that’s all?” He asked slowly, studying her facial expression and body language.

“Yes.”

Frowning he said. “I’ve gotten to know you over the last year.” Then held up a hand to silence her in case she decided to interrupt. “Not as well as others.” Letting it fall he continued. “But I’ve seen enough to be concerned with your behavior. Ever since you returned from the delta quadrant people who know you have noticed a drastic change in your personality. You work extremely long hours, decline to participate in any social activities unless you have to, and are prone to mood swings. I haven’t mentioned it because I thought that whatever was bothering you would solve itself in time. Now I can’t order you to tell me, but as your friend, I’m concerned by what I’m seeing, and as your commanding officer I’m telling you to resolve what’s bothering you because I’ll pull you from this mission. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” He replied. Smiling slightly, he continued. “Go home and get some rest, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Giving him a curt nod, she left without a word, angry as ever and thinking. “Chakotay, why did you have to walk back into my life?”

§14§

Darin Masterson had no clue that today was a day he would never escape. He and his partner Lilith Burton were piloting their usual course for Centru to deliver goods and medical supplies. Leaning back in his pilot chair, Darin folded his hands behind his head and released a peaceful sigh, making Lilith smile.

“I could make this trip blindfolded.”

“I know what you mean. I could easily fall asleep right now.”

“One more day and this run will be finished.” He commented closing his eyes and daydreaming. “I can see myself on Risa now sitting in a deck chair by the water, a cool drink in my hand, and everywhere are raving beauties falling over themselves to get to me.”

Lilith rolled her eyes as she focused on the helm. “In your dreams.”

“Exactly.” He replied opening his eyes and dropped his hands. “In my fantasies, I always get what I want.”

“Well, be sure you don’t let it go to your head or you’ll be disappointed.” She teased as Darin gave her the old go to hell look.

“You’re just jealous that my imagination is superior to yours.”

“Ha! You wish! If there’s anything you lack it’s that.”

“Could you-” The console in front of him beeped, getting his attention and causing him to cut himself short as the ship dropped from warp.

“What’s going on?”

“A disruption in subspace. According to these readings, it could be almost anything. Wait.” He said tapping the console.

“What?”

His eyes grew wide, his face turning ashen. “Get us the hell out of here.”

“Why-”

“Just do it! We’ve got a fleet of ships emerging!”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” She replied turning the freighter around.

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” He demanded bringing up the shields and accessing the weapons. He didn’t, and that’s what scared her most.

“Do they see us?”

“I can’t tell, but you’d better get us back to warp, and fast.”

Each vessel was different - just as each person is different. The changes in shape separated them, but their red-black colors made them the same. Its mottled color reminded Darin of hot lava as it slithered across the ground, consuming everything in its fiery path. His eyes kept sliding across its surface, unable to stay focused on it for more than a few seconds. There was something unnatural about the ships, and it terrified him.

“They’re locking on. If we’re going to get away now’s the time.”

Frustrated, Lilith pounded the console with both fists. “Their energy output is scattering the warp field; I can’t activate warp until we’re at least three-hundred meters away.”

Sharing her frustration, he said. “It might as well be a million. We can’t hope to outrun them at impulse.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” She snapped.

They were both frightened; it didn’t surface exclusively for just one person. “You’ve got-” He stopped; his eyes back to the console. “They’re firing!”

“Evading!” She shouted, accessing helm control.

The first shot missed, the second hit their starboard nacelle, and the third took out their engines. If they had any chance at all at escape it was gone.

Activating the distress beacon, he wasn’t thinking that no one would pick it up, and even if someone could they’d be dead long before they got there.

The ships approached as he closed his eyes to face his inevitable death, but it didn’t come - at least not yet.

“They’re coming through the hull,” Lilith announced.

Opening his eyes, he looked at her and asked. “Where?”

“The primary cargo hold. They’ll be coming through that door any second.”

Accessing his console, he began to check if they had enough power to erect a force field. They did, but it wouldn’t last long, a couple of minutes at least. There was pounding on the door, and they both turned to look at it startled by how loud it was, but what kept them staring was the huge dent. Whoever they were, they were strong. Suddenly, the door was beginning to slide open and several sets of limbs shot out through the opening. The shock got him moving before Lilith grabbed a phaser from beneath the console. Facing the door once again he set it to kill and said. “Computer, modulate force field to admit a type one phaser discharge.” Then fired. They both heard a shriek, and if the alien had retreated neither could tell due to the rapid moving sets of limbs.

Above them, they heard the sound of metal tearing. Looking up, Darin pointed his weapon as Lilith kept hers pointed at the door firing. Eventually, the aliens would breakthrough, it was only a matter of time.

The door slid open with a loud clang, and it was then that they saw them clearly. Their bodies were the same mottled reddish-black and were reptilian-like with hard densely packed scales. Moving on four legs, they threw themselves at the force field. Lilith kept firing, but every time one went down another seemed to take its place.

“Get-” was all Darin got out before the alien’s descended from the ceiling, but these looked different. Though their skin had the same hardened scales; they stood upright and possessed a more humanoid form.

Turning her weapon toward one of them she fired, the alien shrieked and stopped as another ascended upon her. The scream she released when the alien impaled her stomach with its talons was the last sound she would ever make.

§15§

When Janeway stepped into Tuvok’s briefing room with Artanis and Shoshanna, she purposefully avoided looking at Seven and Chakotay, choosing to focus on Tuvok.

“Executor, Prefect, you remember Captain Tuvok.”

“Of course.” Artanis replied and greeted him in his people’s usual custom.

“It is an honor to see you again,” Tuvok said with a slight bow of his head.

“This is Commander Chakotay and Seven of Nine, they will be working with you and your people.” She said keeping her eyes focused on their newest allies.

“Entaro Adune Commander Chakotay and Seven of Nine. I look forward to working with you.”

“Shall we sit?” Janeway suggested, and they did.

“I have studied the data regarding your technology and believe we can adapt it to interface with our own; however, it will take several days.” Seven said.

“We may not have that long.” Artanis began. “If our people could have access to your systems, we may be able to shorten that time.”

“Perhaps,” Tuvok replied. “At the risk of offending you; how can we be certain that you or your people won’t attempt to gain tactical knowledge on our capabilities or defenses?”

“You’ve seen our ships. If our intention was to invade, there is little you could do to prevent it. We came in search of allies and found you. Perhaps together we can eliminate a very real threat.”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” Chakotay added, his eyes glancing from Artanis to Kathryn. She was looking at their guests and keeping her attention focused on them. It hurt to see her treating him as if he were invisible.

“Your people believe you can use diplomacy in order to solve disputes, but not every race adheres to your principles. The Zeratual will leave you little recourse but to fight back. They are not interested in cooperation and mutual understanding; the only thing they do care about is domination. If you choose not to heed my warning and attempt to make peace with them, I hope you’re people survive long enough to rectify that mistake.”

“You appear certain in your judgment.” Seven commented.

“You do not know them as we do, but you will soon enough.”

“Whether we all agree or not, the decision has been made,” Janeway said. “We will approach the Zeratual using the modifications provided by Executor Artanis. If they-”

“I apologize for the interruption.” Came Tuvok’s XO’s voice. “But there is a priority transmission for Admiral Janeway from Starfleet Command.”

“Route it to my ready room Commander,” Tuvok replied as Janeway gave him a nod and stood.

“If you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course.” Artanis replied.

Chakotay carefully studied her body language, and even though he hadn’t seen her in more than a year, could tell she was worried. Something had happened, or at the very least, she had been expecting it. When his gaze shifted to Tuvok, he could see he knew it too.

Entering Tuvok’s ready room, she took a breath before sitting in front of the monitor and activating the signal. Admiral Duke’s face greeted her, and by his expression, knew something had happened.

“Kathryn, we’ve got a problem.” He said dropping all formalities, which instantly made her whole body go strangely numb; he never referred to her by her first name unless there was something seriously wrong.

“What’s happened?”

“It’s started.”

“Already?”

He nodded. “Unless you know of another race who can disappear without leaving an emissions trail, then yes. One of our scout ships picked up a faint distress call when they arrived the ship who sent it had been torn apart.”

“Weapon’s fire?”

“Physically.” A shudder ran through her. “There was some kind of thick enzyme covering the hull fragments, we have yet to determine what it is or what it’s used for, but it’s pretty complex; our boys in the science department are still trying to analyze it.”

“Could you send me the data? Perhaps Artanis can identify it.”

“I was thinking the same thing.” He replied, then keyed in a sequence. “I’m sending it to you now.” Once she confirmed she had it he continued. “As you may already know, it’s standard procedure for large transport companies to record internal and external images. Normally conversations aren’t recorded unless the distress signal has been activated. What I’m about to show you is an image captured by their starboard camera, and it’s the only one the rescue team could salvage.” Patching it through, Janeway saw several large mottled reddish-black ships. “The voices you’re about to hear are those of Darin Masterson and Lilith Burton.”

“They’re coming through the hull!” Came a female voice.

“Where?!” This one was male.

“The primary cargo hold! They’ll be coming through that door any second!”

Abruptly the transmission ended and returned to Duke’s image. “That’s it, but I think it’s enough.”

Janeway was stunned and horrified on more than one level. Seeing this she knew for certain that any hope of avoiding a fight was impossible. They were in it now, all the way up to their necks.

“I’m putting you in command of the Janeway, I’m sure Captain Tuvok will understand; then I want you to meet with the fleet in sector zero-three-seven.” She nodded. “I wish like hell this hadn’t happened.” He said releasing a frustrated sigh.

“I know, none of us do.” She replied as if saying it left them little choice.

When she reentered the briefing room fifteen minutes later all conversation came to a halt, their attention once again returning to her. She had taken a few extra minutes to live with what she’d been told moments ago, but it didn’t help much. “I’ve just spoken with Admiral Duke, and despite our intention to avoid a direct confrontation, we no longer have that option. My orders are to assume command of this ship and proceed to sector zero-three-seven.” She said looking at Tuvok before focusing her gaze on their guests. “Executor, if you would contact your people and have them meet us there-”

“Consider it done.”

For the first time, she looked directly at Seven. “Begin working with our guests on intergrading their technology. Commander, you can assist.” She said without so much as a glance in his direction. “Excluding Tuvok, you’re dismissed.”

Rising slowly from his seat, Chakotay watched her as he moved around the table for the door. He found himself battling a war on two fronts, and it was still unclear if he could withstand either of them. There was nothing he could do about the Zeratual, but as for Kathryn; he would make another attempt at reconciliation before they reached their destination.

Chapter Text

§16§

Kathryn was tired, not just emotionally and mentally, but physically. It had been a long grueling day, and all she wanted was to crawl into bed and forget about it for a few hours - to let both mind and body rest. In less than four days they would join the fleet, and from there fate would dictate the rest.

Entering her quarters, she was struck by the lights, then by Chakotay’s form sitting on her sofa. “How did you get in here?”

Standing he replied. “I used your old access code; you should really consider changing it.”

Frowning she let a few seconds pass. “What do you want?”

“To talk.”

“You know most people ask to see someone before breaking into their quarters.” She said crossing her arms. “Besides, there’s nothing to talk about.”

“Oh, I think there is.”

Closing her eyes, she replied. “I’m not the slightest bit interested in anything you have to say unless it’s about work, and maybe not even then.”

He could feel anger rising to the surface to accompany the hurt he felt but didn’t let it get the better of him. “Look, Kathryn, I didn’t come here to start a fight. I came because we need to resolve what’s happened between us in case we never get another chance.”

“There is no us Chakotay, you made sure of that.”

“Like hell! You’re the one who kept pushing me away all those years. Not once did you give me any indication that things would change between us. Was I supposed to just wait around for the rest of my life?” When her lips pressed into a thin line he didn’t think she would answer at all.

“You’re right, it’s all my fault. Is that what you want to hear?”

“No,” he replied exasperated as he approached. “What I want is what I’ve always wanted, for us to be together. I can’t change the past any more than you can, but we can change the future. I know my dating Seven hurt you and I’m sorry, that was never my intention. She showed interest, so I decided to give it a shot. I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t work.” Standing before her, he reached out and gently grasped her upper arms. “I knew because my heart belonged to someone else.” Slowly her eyes moved to meet his. “You. It’s always belonged to you; you just never stepped up and claimed it.”

Tears welled in her eyes as much as she didn’t want them to. Bowing her head, she asked softly. “What is it about you that makes me feel this way?”

“What way?”

“Like I’m going crazy.” Taking a breath, she continued. “No one has ever made me feel like this before, not even Mark. Yes, I was hurt when he moved on with his life and married someone else. Even when I learned he had a son it didn’t affect me the way it did when I learned you and Seven were dating. Until then, I always thought you would wait for me.”

“Kathryn I-”

“I hate this feeling,” she interrupted, not really listening, “and I hate what it’s done to me. How can I move on when I can’t let go of the hurt I feel?”

“I’m not expecting that things between us are going to change overnight, all I ask is that you give me a chance.” Falling silent, she said nothing, there was nothing left he could say. “I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight Kathryn.” Staring at her a moment longer, he attempted to burn her image into his memory before leaving her alone.

§17§

When they arrived to join the fleet, Janeway was surprised to see not just one of the largest Federation fleets ever collected since the battle at Wolf 359, but those of Bajoran, Vulcan, Cardassian, Klingon, Romulan, including countless others.

“Would you look at that,” Chakotay said in awe. “I wonder how Starfleet persuaded so many races to sign on.

Artanis tilted his head questionably. “How do you mean Commander?”

“There are a couple of major races here that really don’t get along with the rest of us. The Romulans are paranoid and aggressive by nature, as are the Cardassians. The Bajorans were enslaved by the Cardassians years ago, so it’s quite a shock to see them together without a firefight.”

“I see.” He replied thoughtfully before asking. “Do you believe there will be a problem?”

“It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think so. Now if we survive this that could change.”

“Mister Keffer, hail the fleet,” Janeway ordered.

Within seconds, Admiral Duke’s face appeared. “Admiral, I’m glad to see you made it. Has the interface with the Dabiri’s technology been successful?”

“So far, all though it hasn’t been field-tested yet.”

“Our upgrade has gone well, but like you, we haven’t had the time to test it and we won’t have the chance to. With the new sensor upgrades we’ve located the Zeratual fleet, they will be in Federation space in about twenty-five minutes.”

“Have you devised a plan of attack?”

“Executor Artanis’ liaison has given us tactical information regarding their strengths and weakness, but it’s still anyone’s game. Also, have you learned anything about the substance I sent you data on?”

“If you don’t mind Admiral, I’ll let Executor Artanis explain.” She said before stepping aside to let him approach.

After conveying his standard greeting he said. “The enzyme you encountered is not unknown to us. The Zeratual secrete it for a variety of uses; to digest food, eat through alloys, even as an extra layer of protection. We have discovered over time that if you polarize your hull point 31 degrees, the substance can’t attach itself.”

“Thank you, Executor.”

“Certainly. I must tell you that their ships are organic, but more than that, they’re alive.”

“You didn’t mention that their ships were sentient.”

“Not sentient, alive, there is a difference.”

Giving a nod he said. “I suggest we finish before their fleet arrives.”

“Agreed.” Artanis replied before the Admiral severed the link.

“Executor, may I see you in private,” Janeway said and he followed her into Tuvok’s ready room. Once they were behind closed doors she asked. “Why didn’t you tell us about their ships before?”

“I’ve studied your people’s beliefs, and if I had divulged that information you may have refused to become involved. We needed you to understand how dangerous the Zeratual truly are for yourselves.”

Shaking her head slightly, she let out a frustrated sigh. “You just don’t get it. If you had studied our beliefs you would see that we don’t make any decision until we have all the data. Now if we’re going to work together, you need to tell me everything, no holding back.”

“I apologize for the deception Admiral, but you must understand that we’re not used to dealing with other species.” He replied humbly. Crossing the room, he headed toward the row of windows; his hands clasped behind his back as he visually took in the mass of ships that surrounded them. “There is something you should know about the Zeratual’s leader Balin that I’ve been keeping from you.”

“And that is?” She questioned facing his back.

“She wasn’t always Zeratual.”

“Then what was she?”

“Dabiri.”

Janeway’s eyes grew wide. “Are you telling me that she was a member of your species?”

“Yes. Years ago, she was captured by them and altered on a genetic level in order to suit their needs.” His glowing blue eyes closed momentarily as he thought back to that horrific day when he saw her after the alterations, and how his heart went suddenly numb. “She was the best of us, a true leader, and the greatest love of my life. I could have spent the next ten eternities with her, but they took that from me by turning her into that creature.” Opening his eyes, he gazed blankly out the window. “She was my soul mate, and now I’ve been forced into a position where I’ll have to kill her. At first, I thought I’d go mad, but when I thought of her strength I pushed on even though my own life felt meaningless.”

“Now it makes sense,” Janeway said in understanding. “With your level of technology, you should have been able to repel them, but once they captured your wife, they would learn your weaknesses.”

“Yes.” He replied turning toward her, his glowing blue eyes trained on her form. “But with your people and intergraded technology, we can defeat them.”

Staring back at him, it was impossible to determine anything by his facial expression when his features seemed nonexistent. “You understand that by telling me this I’ll have to tell my colleagues.”

“I had no doubt that you would.”

She nodded before continuing. “I’ll let you know what we decide.”

§18§

“That’s just great.” Admiral Duke commented with a loud frustrated rush of air through his teeth.

“What do you want me to tell him?”

Closing his eyes for a moment, he composed himself a little before opening them again. “We didn’t ask to become involved in this war, but we are. Despite everything, we’re still in danger and have to protect our people. As for getting the other Admiral’s involved I don’t see what good it would do since we’ve already committed ourselves. For now, I want you to keep this between us, I don’t want to distract the others. If we survive I’ll tell them then; is that understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Giving a nod, he cut the transmission.

§19§

The Matriarch, the woman that all species who encountered her kind fear, stood submerged in a thick brown gooey substance up to her neck. Hearing someone enter the chamber, she opened her once blue glowing eyes and trained her red ones on the visitor.

“Balin, we are but a breath away from the opposing fleet and you are here. You should already be in the inner sanctum.” The reptilian male hissed.

The two red orbs glowed brighter as she stared at him. Suddenly he was in immense agony and writhing on the ground. “Have you forgotten what I am so easily that you would risk death? If I so choose I could prolong your suffering until you’re begging me to kill you. Remember that, and mistakes such as the one you just made will be minimized.” Slowly the intense red glow receded, taking the pain with it.

When he could move again, he used the little strength he regained to roll onto his stomach and push himself up onto his hands and knees. “Forgive me. I was only motivated by my desire to protect you. I apologize if my tone offended you.”

He was a liar, and she could smell it just as most people smell something foul. “Leave me. I will join you shortly.” As he began to stand she demanded. “No, on your hands and knees. You will crawl from my presence, then you will prepare the helix.” For a second she saw anger ripple across his face, the sight brought a twinge of enjoyment. After a moment’s hesitation, he began to crawl toward the door. When he was gone, Balin began to emerge.

She was never too far that she couldn’t hear or see the great eye. It was ever watchful over her, mostly because it both loved and hated her, just as she both loved and hated herself. From the instant she emerged from the evolution chamber to become the thing she is now; a battle was being waged between the person she was and the person she was becoming. Until that time, she had never felt the seduction of cruelty, her nature had always been fair, choosing to show kindness and compassion, but this thing she had become craved suffering. For two long months, she had tried to resist, but the eye would not allow it. Eventually - as with all struggles - someone must lose. She gave in, but there was a part of her - however tiny - that was still uncorrupted. In moments when she felt she would lose herself completely; she retreated to that tiny space in her mind, and for a moment, felt almost like herself again. Those moments had grown shorter, for the eye knew of this sanctuary and entered her mind in order to destroy it. However, like all traits, the deeply rooted can never be completely eradicated, but the eye had been sated by her current behavior. She was executing his will, and for that, he allowed her some peace within herself.

Stepping out completely, her once smooth tan skin was now hard and scaly. The brown goo clung to her, embedding itself into every crevice. Because her species had no mouths, they absorbed nutrients through the pores of their skin, the evolution chamber had not changed this trait.

Moving into a small circular chamber, the door closed around her before water cascaded from a nozzle to wash away the think substance. As she stood lightly rubbing the scales to expedite the process, wondered how the next few moments would play out, because in a very few minutes she would be engaged in battle.

The person she used to be was nearly gone, the man she once loved would be part of a battle that the species of this quadrant wouldn’t soon forget. In her mind, the eye spoke. “It is time to instruct the Suliban.”

§20§

“Admiral,” Lieutenant Commander Keffer began, “I’m picking up a distortion in subspace, it’s the Zeratual.”

“Battle stations,” Janeway ordered from what normally would have been Tuvok’s chair.

“I’m getting instructions from Admiral Duke. He wants us to hold our fire until he’s either spoken with the Zeratual and worked out a truce or they fire first.”

“Acknowledge his instructions Commander.”

“Here they come.” He said looking down at this console as the rest of the bridge crew focused on the viewscreen.

The fleet that emerged was massive. Their ships - jagged and nightmarish - filled the screen. Janeway felt the knot in her stomach grow tighter. She had seen these ships before.

“We’re getting a transmission from the lead Zeratual ship, they’re broadcasting it to the entire fleet,” Keffer said before an image filled the screen.

Two glowing red eyes appeared in the darkness as the figure moved forward, the form began taking shape.

“I am Balin.” She began speaking slowly, carefully. “I know who you and your newfound allies are. The Executor has given you false hope, but I’m certain he’s also given you reason to fear me. Our quarrel is not with the Federation - at least not today. Give us the Dabiri and we will leave; if not, then we will take them by force.”

Suddenly Admiral Duke’s voice broke through. “If you have no quarrel with us then perhaps you’d care to explain why a lightly armored civilian cargo vessel was viciously attacked by your ships?”

Her red eyes glowed brighter for an instant, that being the only indication of her anger. “I say again; give us the Dabiri and you will be spared. Decide now before I decide for you.”

“Negative. We will not cooperate with terrorists. If you want them you’ll have to take them.”

“I will give you one-” Balin began but was cut off by the Admiral as he spoke directly to the fleet.

“All ships, activate jammers.” He ordered. “To those ships who have armor, deploy it now and move to protect the rest of the ships who don’t. Remember, do not fire unless they fire the first shot.”

“When he cut the link Janeway said. “You heard him.” Looking to Tuvok she asked. “I know every ship doesn’t carry multi-phasic torpedo’s, but do you?”

“Yes Admiral, we currently possess sixteen.”

“Good.” To tactical she said. “Mister Hayes, prepare to fire a full spread at the lead ship.”

“I’m on it.” He replied working the console.

“We’re almost within range of the fleet,” Strass announced.

“They’re preparing to fire, but I don’t detect an active weapons lock. From what I can tell, they’re attempting to lock onto Admiral Duke’s ship.”

“Wait a minute, something’s wrong,” Keffer informed from ops. “They’re unable to deploy the armor. The shield modifications are interfering, if they can’t activate either of them they’re a sitting duck.”

“Fire the multi-phasic torpedo’s, perhaps we can draw their attention.”

Watching the view screen, Kathryn saw the torpedo’s hurling toward their target. At the same moment, the Zeratual’s released a particle charge. Seconds after their torpedoes hit, the Admiral’s ship was hit as well.

“I’m detecting a core breach,” Keffer said. “They’ve got thirty seconds to avert it. The Zeratual’s weapons are offline.”

“Can we transport the crew out?”

“Perhaps some, but we’ll have to retract the armor.”

“Do it.”

“Beginning transport.”

“Balin’s ship is retreating, but the others are continuing to fight,” Hayes announced.

“We can’t worry about them now but keep tracking them.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

Seconds later, the turbolift doors opened and Chakotay stepped out. Turning, she glanced at him before turning back. “They’ve got it covered in engineering, so I thought I’d come up and see if anyone needs a hand.”

“You can man the sensors, Commander Keffer has his hands full at the moment,” Janeway replied, and he accessed the console directly behind the command chairs.

“Commander,” Tuvok began speaking to Chakotay. “Admiral Duke’s ship is experiencing a core breach; have they been able to advert it?”

Scanning the ship, it didn’t take but a second to give him an answer. “No, they’ve got less than ten seconds.”

A blast rocked the ship, causing consoles to explode and throw people into walls or to the floor. Commander Hayes was thrown back, severe burns covering his face, hands, and chest.

Picking himself up, Chakotay saw him fall to the floor motionless. When he approached, he checked for a pulse and found none. Standing he accessed his console and saw what he had been doing. Less than a third were transported aboard. Picking up where he left off, he continued until the ship exploded. The light was so bright everyone raised a hand to shield their eyes. When they cleared, it was gone.

Turning, Kathryn hesitated a second when she saw where Chakotay was. “How many?”

“Almost thirty-five.”

“And the Admiral?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

For an instant a numbness overcame her, then it shifted to anger. “Strass set a course for Balin’s ship.”

“May I remind you, Admiral, that we are needed here.” Tuvok pointed out. “The Matriarch’s vessel is unimportant compared to her fleet.”

Janeway saw Strass hesitate. “I refuse to allow her to escape. If we can capture her ship then we might be able to put an end to this.”

“Collision alert!” The computer blared.

Looking to Chakotay he said. “It’s Artanis’ ship.”

“Strass!” Janeway shouted, but there was no need to explain what she wanted.

Angling down, everyone felt a rising sensation in their stomachs. Janeway fell to the floor face first when she didn’t have anything to hold onto, the ship missing them by meters.

“They’re heading after her as well,” Chakotay informed as Tuvok helped Janeway to her feet.

“Follow them.” She ordered Strass retaking her seat. “If we have any chance of finding out what Artanis is up to we can’t lose them.”

“Aye, sir.” Strass acknowledged.

“How’s the fleet doing?” She asked, waiting for anyone to give her an answer.

“With the jammers functioning, they’re driving back the Zeratual fleet.” Lieutenant Hayes answered.

“Good.” She said with a sigh of relief. “Once we’re out of jamming range, try hailing Artanis’ ship Chakotay.”

He smiled, catching that she had called him by his name, it gave him a greater sense of hope that things between them might be all right again. “Aye Admiral.”

Just when she could see their ships, a green pulse shot’s out from Balin’s ship’s aft section. Artanis’ ship was able to maneuver quickly out of the way considering that their ships were more agile, but they hadn’t been so lucky. The pulse expanded; taking on a grid-like appearance just before colliding with it, bring the Janeway to a dead stop and draining their shields. The armor was holding but would be dissolved in a matter of hours.

“Report,” Tuvok demanded in his usual tone.

“We’re stuck in some kind of energy net, but it’s also made up of the same acidic enzyme Artanis warned us about,” Chakotay answered.

“Damn,” Janeway muttered. “Hayes, polarize the hull to point 31 degrees, that should keep it from sticking.”

He nodded and began the procedure, then in a couple of seconds, he shook his head. “It’s not working.”

“Can we use the passers to cut our way out?”

“Maybe, but at this range, we could only cut out a small opening. The phaser turret can’t move more than a couple of meters in any direction.”

“Could you cut a hole large enough for a shuttle to fit through?” She asked.

“I think so.”

“Do it. Commander, inform shuttle maintenance to prepare the Flyer for launch, I’ll meet them there.”

“Admiral,” Tuvok said standing. “I believe I know what you are planning and should point out that if you peruse the Zeratual ship the Delta Flyer will not survive a direct assault.”

“I know, and I don’t plan on starting a fight. Trust me Tuvok, I didn’t come this far just to get myself killed. Finding Balin may be the only way to end this.”

He gave a reluctant nod and tapped his com badge. “Tuvok to security, send a team to meet Admiral-”

“Belay that.” She interrupted. “What I have to do has to be done alone. I won’t risk any more lives on this, and you need everyone at their posts.”

“Regulation 26A-”

“I’m aware of the regulations Tuvok, and in the past, I’ve agreed to adhere to them but not today. I don’t have time to debate this with you.” She said staring him in the eyes, hoping that he’d eventually understand.

“Very well Admiral, but for the record, I am protesting this decision.”

“Noted.” She replied before heading to the turbolift and caught Chakotay’s eyes for an instant. In them, he was pleading with her not to do this but knew she would do it anyway.

Tuvok turned to watch her go, and before turning back around, caught sight of Chakotay’s despairing face. Taking a seat in his chair he said. “Lieutenant Hayes, charge phaser’s and begin cutting.”

Chapter Text

§21§

It was foolish to head out alone and she knew it, but at the same time felt it was the right thing to do. Her life felt empty despite the prospect of Chakotay’s desire to be a part of her life again. How could she let the hurt she’s been feeling since making it back to Earth go? Could she ever? Those were only two of the many questions that plagued her.

Speeding toward Artanis’ and Balin’s ships, she had just arrived to witness a firefight. Both ships were in bad shape and decided to use the diversion to her advantage. Maneuvering, she coasted beneath Artanis’ ship using only the thrusters to guide her into position before putting the shuttle on gray mode. Using sensors, it was easy to pinpoint Balin’s location now that their shields were down. Taking her weapon of choice - a compression phaser rifle and a handheld phaser on her belt, she initiated a sight-to-sight transport. Materializing inside the chamber, she turned and shot the controls for the door in order to keep the guards in the corridor from coming in right away before refocusing her attention on Balin.

When she turned back, stood motionless as her eyes took in the distortion ring, and in its center was a figure she couldn’t make out, but the voice is what gave her away.

“It is done. Do you have Archer?”

Listening, she could hear another voice answer. “Not yet, but we will, it’s only a matter of time.”

“Do not test my patience Silik. You have one hour to find Archer and bring him here if not, you will be punished for your incompetence.”

“I understand.” He replied, and Janeway could hear the fear in his voice.

The door behind her began to open. Moving away, she hid behind a console and trained her rifle on the door, no longer listening to the conversation. Within seconds, it opened and Artanis entered.

“Balin!” He called holding out a weapon. “Come out of there. It’s over.”

“Nothing’s over until I say it is.” She answered.

Making her way around, she watched Artanis approach the distortion ring before falling to his knees in agony, releasing his weapon and grabbing his head. Having seen enough, she stood and moved forward, aiming the rifle at her. “Stop or I’ll fire!” She didn’t continue to stare at Artanis, blocking out any distractions. Firing, the beam hit the ring but dissipated.

Rushing forward, she made her way to the ring and swung, the rifle seemed to pass through her. “Stop this!” She demanded, trying to get her attention, and once again, she wouldn’t. It was then she realized that if she were going to save Artanis, she would have to enter the ring. Taking a breath, she gripped the rifle and entered. Nausea washed over her, feeling as if her stomach were doing summersaults, and looked up to see her clearly. Lifting the rifle, she swung, hitting her in the head and knocking her forward. She didn’t dare fire while inside, not knowing what would happen.

Balin stumbled, then fell face-first through the ring and onto the floor. Hearing a man’s voice, she turned her face away to see who it was coming from. Through the haze, she saw a figure on the other side.

“What’s happening!” He demanded.

Behind her, she could hear several voices. Glancing over her shoulder, she could barely make out the shapes but was seeing enough to know that she should be extremely worried. It was the four-legged creatures she was warned about by Admiral Duke and knew that if she had any hope of surviving, she would have to take her chances with the man on the other side.

Setting the phaser rifle on overload, she pulled the hand phaser from her belt and sat the rifle on the floor. She would have to destroy the platform in order to keep them from following, and by doing so, cut off her access point. Taking a breath, she said to herself. “Here goes nothing.” And jumped through. Silik was surprised when he saw the figure emerge from the distortion ring and land on top of him, knocking him to the ground.

Rolling to the side, Janeway came up in a crouch and backed up against the wall, her weapon pointed at him before shielding her eyes. A bright light blinded him when the rifle exploded. When she looked up, the distortion ring was gone. Focusing on the mottled yellow-skinned man she demanded. “Who are you?”

Eyes burning, he didn’t answer; only lay on the floor clutching at them. He couldn’t get up, the pain prevented it. “My eyes!” He cried.

“Get up.” She said ignoring him. “Or I’ll shoot you.”

The words registered in his brain, and he fought against the pain and sat up.

“Good. Now I want you to tell me where I am and why you’re working with Balin.”

Balin. He thought. So that’s its name. If his ability to shapeshift hadn’t been sated as punishment, he would have killed this woman immediately. His vision blurry; he turned his head toward her, waiting for the pain and blindness to pass. “Helix.” He answered. “And as for Balin, my association is none of your concern.”

“Is that your name or the name of this place?” He didn’t respond. “All right.” She replied, knowing that it wasn’t important at the moment. “This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to take me back to her ship-”

He laughed. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

Furrowing her brow, she said. “Then you better find a way to make it possible.”

Still laughing he replied. “If it could be done we wouldn’t be here.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I think I’ve told you enough.” She was becoming clearer, in a few more seconds would see her clearly. “The only way you’re going to get anything else out of me is torture, drugs, or mind control, and I doubt you have the will, ability, or stomach for it.” By the time he spoke the last word, he could see she was human.

“Well, since you’re going to be uncooperative.” She replied, then fired, stunning him. Now she would have to find a way out of here and somehow get back to Federation space, that is if she knew where here was. Phaser extended, she made her way carefully down the corridor and hoped she wouldn’t run into any more trouble.

§22§

“Captain Archer to the bridge.” Came T’Pol’s voice over the internal com. Leaving his office, he stepped out to find the bridge on emergency mode and headed for his chair.

“Captain, we’re detecting a Suliban vessel three degrees starboard,” T’Pol explained taking her seat at the science station.

“It’s adrift,” Malcolm added, “and from what I can tell it’s takin one hell of a beating.”

“Are there any other Suliban in the area?”

“Negative,” T’Pol answered.

“Life signs?”

“Due to the level of thoron particles aboard, I can only discern one occupant whether they are alive or dead I cannot say.”

“Malcolm, grapple the ship and tow it into the launch bay and have a security detail meet us there. T’Pol, inform Doctor Phlox of the situation and have him join us. Travis, when the ships onboard get us the hell out of here. I don’t feel like running into anymore Suliban today.”

“Yes, sir.” He agreed whole-heartedly.

§23§

“All right Malcolm, let’s see what we’ve got,” Archer said taking a step back to let him and his detail check it out first.

Opening the hatch, smoke bellowed from the opening. Allowing it to clear he stepped inside, phase pistol extended. Carefully, the detail approached the cockpit. Malcolm was surprised when the door opened, having expected it to be locked. In the dim light, he could see a figure slumped down in the pilot’s seat. Ever cautions, he made his way toward it and was surprised to see the person had hair. Carefully he lifted their head, and when the initial shock wore off said to his security detail at the door. “Get the Captain.”

§24§

Archer couldn’t help staring at the woman as she lay unconscious in sickbay, wondering who she was and how she came to be in a Suliban ship. “Captain.” Doctor Phlox said upon seeing him.

“How’s our patient?”

“Lucky to be alive. Some of her internal organs were bruised expect for a puncture to her liver and right kidney. I had to make an incision in order to attach the molecular graphs directly across the wound to seal it, including a dermal strip to close the incision.”

He nodded then asked. “Is she human?”

“So, my scans tell me, but as to who she is I can’t say. I can’t find her DNA sequence on file. It’s as if she doesn’t exist.”

“Has she regained consciousness?”

“Not yet, but I haven’t given her the chance. I had to keep her sedated until I’d finished treating her injuries.”

“How long before you can wake her?”

“Oh, I’d say another twelve hours, it will take at least that long for the molecular graphs to hold the punctures closed.” He paused thinking, and Archer could tell there was something on his mind.

“Is there something wrong Doctor?”

“Possibly.” He replied staring down at her with his arms crossed. “During my initial scans, I found several pieces of technology scattered throughout her body. I haven’t been able to determine their purpose, but what I can tell you is that they’re very complex. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Archer stared at her, this mystery who came from nowhere. “Thank you, Doctor. Call me when she’s awake.”

“Of course.”

Tearing his eyes away, he headed for engineering to check on Tucker and Reed’s progress.

§25§

“Any luck?” Archer asked approaching them at the workbench in the shop.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Captain,” Tucker said staring down at the small device they’d found attached to her chest. “From what I’ve been able to figure out so far, part of it looks like some kind of communications device, but nothing I’ve ever seen.”

“And the other part?”

He sighed. “I haven’t been able to figure that out yet. Maybe T’Pol’s seen something like this before.”

“I’ll send her down when I get back to the bridge.” He said then looked to Malcolm and asked. “What about you, any luck?”

“It’s definitely a weapon.” He said holding it up. “And it shares the same basic design as our phase pistols but it’s a lot more powerful and a lot more advanced. Do you see these buttons here?” He said pointing to two gray buttons on top. “They’re settings. Each of these buttons can increase or decrease the intensity of the beam. “And this one.” He continued pointing to the white button between the two gray ones. “It’s a stun setting, and the red one below it is the trigger.” Turning it over, he pointed out a round gray button. “As for this one, I have no idea.”

“Are you two thinking what I’m thinking?” Archer asked resting his hands on the table leaning forward.

“That she’s from the future?” Tucker said.

“Exactly. She and Daniels could be from the same agency who’s trying to stop this temporal cold war he told me about.”

“If that’s true, then why would she arrive half-dead in a Suliban ship?” Malcolm questioned.

“I don’t know, but when she wakes up I plan to find out.”

§26§

Pain was the first sensation she felt even before she’d opened her eyes.

“How are you feeling?” Said a male voice. “Are you in any pain?”

She nodded, unable to speak just yet. The pain was practically unbearable. Feeling something placed to her neck, she felt a slight prick.

“You should be feeling better within a few minutes.” She heard him say and slowly opened her eyes to see three people standing around her. One was a human male, the other a Vulcan female, and the third from a species she couldn’t place.

“Welcome aboard.” The human male said with a slight smile. “My name’s Jonathan Archer, I’m the Captain of this ship.”

Archer, the name struck an immediate chord.

“This is Sub-Commander T’Pol and Doctor Phlox.” He introduced, but she didn’t look again at any of them, her eyes still focused on him. “And you are?”

She didn’t reply at first, her mind racing to recall what she heard Balin say to the mottled skinned alien. “Kathryn Janeway.” She answered finally and tried to sit up but stopped, releasing a cry as a hand flew to her side.

“Easy,” Archer said as he and Phlox helped her sit up and turn to sit on the edge of the bed.

“You must be careful,” Phlox began; you’re still not quite fully healed. Until the molecular graphs have completely taken hold you risk pulling them loose and causing another hemorrhage.”

Through the sudden burst of pain, she held her side and asked. “Why didn’t you use a sub-dermal regenerator? It would have been more effective.”
T’Pol raised an eyebrow as Archer and Phlox exchanged curious looks.

“I need to contact Starfleet Command and let them know what’s happened. How far are we from Federation space?”

“Federation?” T’Pol questioned.

It was the tone followed immediately by the sudden silence that got her attention. Opening her eyes, she looked up to see Archer staring back at her. “I think we need to talk.” He said.

It was then for the first time she noticed his uniform, including the state of her surroundings, and began to wonder not only where she was, but when.

§27§

Twenty minutes later and dressed in one of their uniforms, Kathryn sat at a table in what Archer called the situation room with everyone’s eyes on her. The physical pain she had been experiencing subsided for the most part, but their stares made her uncomfortable, and as always, summoned a mask of indifference. Looking back at the faces around her, Doctor Phlox was not among them. The two she recognized were Archer and T’Pol, as for the other three men and women, she would have to wait until he introduced them.

“Ms. Janeway, this is my first officer and chief engineer Charles Tucker, armory officer Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, our linguists Hoshi Sato, and our Pilot Travis Mayweather.” Archer introduced before getting down to business. “We’ve been studying the two devices you had on you when you were found, and I must say that they’re extremely advanced.”

Hearing him point that out made her immediately think. “I’ve just contaminated the timeline. Interjecting before he had the chance to continue she said. “I know you have many questions Captain - I know I would in your position - but I can’t answer any of them.”

“Why not?”

“Temporal Prime Directive.” She replied hating to do this to him considering how many times she’s had those same words spat at her.

“We already know about the temporal cold war.”

Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Temporal cold war?” She questioned.

“Yes, I’m sure you’re probably familiar with a man by the name of Daniels - considering that you both work for the same agency.”

“Wait a second.” She said raising a hand as if that alone would silence him. “I don’t know who you think I am, but I don’t know anything about a temporal cold war, or any man named Daniels.”

Now he looked just as confused as she did. “Then perhaps you could tell me where you’re from?” He asked leaning forward. “If you don’t come from the same century as Daniels, you obviously come from one where this Federation he spoke of exists since you asked how far we were from it.”

Leaning back in the chair she sighed. God, she hated time travel; it always gave her a headache. If she were going to find a way back she would have to break the temporal prime directive and just bending the hell out of it was no longer an option - if that option ever existed. “All right Captain, I’ll tell you what I can, but in return, I’m going to need your help.”

Staring back at her he wondered if there would ever be a time when the information he wanted didn’t have a price tag attached. “Agreed.”

“Before I answer any of your questions I have a few of my own.”

“Go ahead.”

“First,” she began holding up a finger, “what year is this? Second, what is the race whose ship I escaped in? And third, who is Daniels and why do you believe I was working with him?”

Letting out a long breath Archer said. “This might take a while. Perhaps we could continue this conversation over dinner?” He asked and she nodded.

§28§

In the private dining room, she sat across from Archer. To her left sat Tucker and to her right was T’Pol. Once he’d told her what year it was and who the Suliban were he finished by telling her what he knew about Daniels.

“As I said before, Daniels is from the thirty-first century. He claims he came here in order to prevent the failure of Enterprise’s mission. Apparently, there are several factions who want to see us fail and will do whatever they can in order to accomplish that task. Why they want our mission scrubbed I don’t know, and Daniels wouldn’t say; but whatever the reason, they’re willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. Now that I’ve answered your questions perhaps you’d care to answer some of mine.”

“I’ll try.” She replied holding a steaming cup of authentic coffee between her hands.

“The man Daniels I mentioned before claimed to be from the thirty-first century. What century do you come from?”

“The twenty-fourth.”

He nodded. “Perhaps you can explain what or who the Federation is. I assumed at first that it was the name of the agency Daniels worked for but now I have the feeling I’d be way off the mark.”

“Not necessarily.” She replied slowly. “The Federation isn’t an agency per se, but a collation made up of several diverse species.”

“Who created this collation?” Tucker asked.

“We did, or at least we will. Years from now Earth will transform into a world where poverty and suffering simply don’t exist.”

“Sounds too good to be true.”

“I’m sure it does.” She replied with a smile before taking a sip of the black liquid.

“I’ve been wondering how you fit into all this,” Archer said. “Especially after you said you needed to contact Starfleet Command. What exactly is it that you do?”

“I’m an Admiral in Starfleet, what I do doesn’t matter, what does is that I care about the principles and ideals of the Federation; and as a member, will do everything I can to defend them.”

He smiled, admiring her convictions as he watched Janeway’s eyes touch T’Pol’s face. “Something wrong Sub-Commander?”

“As I’ve said before, the Vulcan Directive has determined that time travel is impossible.”

“I can see how you might think so, but I can say with absolute certainty that it is,” Janeway said.

T’Pol stiffened slightly, allowing Tucker to change the subject. “Admiral I’m curious about the device we found on you when you arrived. I’ve been able to determine that it’s used for communication, but there were also another function I couldn’t figure out.”

She smiled. “Very good Commander. You’re right, it is a communication device, as for its second function I think it would be best to leave it a mystery. I believe I’ve polluted the timeline enough for one day.”

“Then I suppose you wouldn’t care to explain the devices Doctor Phlox found in your body,” Archer said.

Stunned, she sat down the cup. “He hasn’t tried removing any of them?”

“No, not when he didn’t know what would happen.”

Relieved, she let out the breath she’d been holding. “I think I’ve answered enough questions.”

“Agreed. I’ve arranged some quarters for you, I’ll take you there.” He said.

Pushing back, she leaned forward to grasp the table and stand, when she did, was immediately reminded of the incision their doctor had made to the right of her stomach when he repaired the damage to her organs.

“Let me help you,” Tucker said getting up and giving her a hand.

Once she was on her feet, Archer walked beside her and stood close in case she needed any further help. When they were in the corridor she said. “I’m going to need my communicator and phaser back.”

“I’ll be sure you get them, but for now, you should sleep.”

They walked in silence, and it was during that period she began thinking about the implants they’d found. She would be risking a lot by telling him about the Borg, but if there was a way to somehow protect humanity by making him aware of their existence, they might be able to create a defense.

Once inside the small cabin, he said. “Sleep well Admiral, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Captain,” she said, and he turned back to face her, “I’m sorry I haven’t answered all your questions, I know how frustrating it can be, but before you leave I want to tell you about the implants your doctor found.” Once they were seated she continued. “Now I won’t go into detail about what they do, mostly because it would take too long and you wouldn’t understand the science involved. But, I can tell you that we didn’t create them.”

“Then who?”

She sighed, trying to decide how to explain. “You’ve only been in space for a little over a year, and so far you’ve met your share of unique and dangerous species. But there are far more powerful races out there, most of which you will never encounter in your lifetime. The species who created these implants will become one of humanity's greatest threats.”

“Who are they?”

“They’re called the Borg.”

“The Borg?” He questioned, and to him, the name sounded ominous. “Where are they located?”

“The delta quadrant.”

Surprised he asked. “Are you saying we’ll be able to travel there?”

“Not exactly, but we do have information about the quadrant.”

“How did you gain this information?”

“That’s another long story, but what you need to know is that this race is extremely advanced. They use technology to augment their bodies and assimilate any species whose technology can be of use to them. They are fearless, relentless, and driven by a single fortified will to conquer. Several years ago, I and two of my crew had been assimilated by them but managed to escape when my ship and crew returned to rescue us.”

He sat stone-still, frightened and fascinated by what she was telling him. “Tell me about this assimilation, what exactly are you assimilated into?”

“The collective. When a person is turned into a drone they lose their freedom and individuality, they also share each other’s thoughts. Their sense of self is lost, and from that moment on only answer to one being, the Borg Queen. I’ve encountered her several times over the years when my ship was in the delta quadrant.”

“Wait a second, I thought you said you didn’t travel there.”

She smiled. “When you asked if humanity will be able to travel there I didn’t exactly say yes. Several years ago - in my time - my ship was pulled seventy-five thousand light-years to the delta quadrant. And before you ask how this was done you wouldn’t understand, even now I don’t completely understand it myself, but that’s not why I brought this up.

“The Borg in my time have assimilated thousands of species and continue to assimilate thousands more. It’s only been within the last few years that we’ve been able to hold our own against them. I know,” she said holding up a hand, “it sounds insane, but I’m willing to provide you with information and the methods we’ve used to resist them. It will take your people years to develop a defense, but I think - in time - you’ll find a way to beat them.”

When Archer left five minutes later, he was more disturbed by what she’d just said than anything he’s ever learned up to this point, and for the first time, wondering if this mission wasn’t indeed a bad idea.

Chapter Text

§29§

Seeing the haunted look on Archer’s face when he entered his quarters Tucker asked. “You don’t actually believe what she said do you?”

Looking at the monitor he stared at Janeway as she lay on the bottom bunk in Daniel’s old quarters. He had done this for two reasons: one, after Daniels was supposed to have been killed he had Trip set up a surveillance camera in case someone tried or managed to get in to retrieve anything that might have been hidden there. Two, he wanted to see what she would do when she thought she was alone, perhaps use another device they hadn’t found on her, or if she lied about knowing Daniels, might have been sent to retrieve anything he’d left behind.

“I don’t know.” He answered truthfully. “But so far she hasn’t given me a reason not to.”

Tucker shook his head slowly. “A race of cybernetic beings who cruise through the galaxy and abduct people into their exclusive club. Hell, the only thing you have to do to get in is possess technology.” He said sarcastically, but inside he was rattled. He wanted very much not to believe - even for a second - that such a species exists. When Archer didn’t respond, only watch her laying on the bunk, turned that fear into anger. “I’m getting sick of her attitude, she’s almost as bad as the Vulcan’s spouting off about how we couldn’t possibly understand the science involved in her little gadgets.”

“Trip,” Archer said firmly and turned his eyes on him. “I know you’re scared, and you know what? So am I. The future she described sounds pretty grim but based on what she’s told us humans are still a major player in the universe, that we’re going to be all right. Borg or no Borg.”

“So, you’re saying you buy it?”

He sighed. “I’ve seen a lot over the last year - we all have - and what she’s told us about the future is far more than Daniels ever did. So, like I said, I don’t know if I believe it, but she hasn’t given me any reason not to.” He finished as his eyes moved back to the monitor. “Wake me in four hours and I’ll take over.”

Tucker nodded, not knowing what to say as Archer went to his bed and lay down. It would be hard to find sleep, but eventually, it would come.

§30§

For three hours Tucker had watched her as she slept, waiting, hoping, that something would happen. Something that would prove this woman wasn’t from the future, he needed to believe that more than anything; because if he could, the awful feeling he’s had upon witnessing her conversation with Archer would go away.

The monitor flickered once, and only for an instant. It got his attention, making him sit up a little straighter but that was all; his eyes were still focused on Janeway’s sleeping form.

§31§

When she heard the door slide open and saw the light shining in from the corridor, she sat up. A man with dark hair and wearing the same uniform as she and the crew stepped inside, but the door remained open.

In the dim contrast of light and dark, he held out an object to her and said. “Admiral Janeway, I need to get you out of here before Tucker realizes there’s something wrong.”

She didn’t move. “Who are you?”

“Daniels.”

“You’re the man Captain Archer thought I was working with.”

“Yes, now take this so we can get out of here, there isn’t much time.”

After a few seconds, her eyes adjusted enough to see it was a bag. Taking it, she started to open it when he placed a hand over hers, stopping her mid-motion. “It’s all there Admiral, trust me, I don’t plan on leaving anything you brought with you here.”

Giving a nod, she moved somewhat slowly to her feet. “Hold out your hand.” He said sounding rushed, which to Janeway came out sounding annoyed and gave him a sharp look. “Please.” He said finally, realizing his mistake, and she did.

Pulling out a small device no bigger than a key card, he pressed it against her palm. A blue flash emanated, startling her briefly. “It’s a code that will allow you to pass through the portal I’ve opened for you, but it will close in less than ten minutes with our without you, and I wouldn’t advise staying.” Operating another device, they transported over to his ship.

“Strap yourself in, the forces we’ll be entering are extreme. Just fasten the harness and hold on to something.” He instructed engaging the engines.

“How did you know I was here? Better yet, how did you know where to find me?” She asked as they pulled away from Enterprise in full stealth mode.

“Admiral,” he replied clicking his tongue against his teeth, “tsk, tsk, tsk, you should know better than that considering how many times you’ve violated the temporal prime directive.”

“In my century that directive doesn’t exist yet.”

He fell silent for a moment as he focused his attention on plotting the correct coordinates. “All right, I’m going to send you back through in a pod, when you get there it’s very important that you do exactly what I tell you. This battle you were engaged in before you stepped through the distortion ring on Balin’s ship was supposed to end in forty-seven hours, but when you disappeared on her ship the war progressed much longer than it should have.”

“How long?”

“Three months, one week, five days. Tuvok’s ship named after you never made it back to the battle and was destroyed by a ship from the Zeratual fleet.” Kathryn looked horrified and felt a quick numbness overcome her. “Are you saying all of them died?”

“Not exactly, but fortunately we won’t have to find out if you do exactly what I tell you.”

“Can Admiral Duke be saved as well?”

He shook his head. “No, I’m sorry.” He paused a second, giving her at least that much time to process it before continuing. “When I return you through the portal it will be near your shuttle. It’s important that you get back to your vessel and return to the Janeway, allowing Artanis’ ship to peruse her alone.”

“If I do that he’ll die.” She protested.

“Yes, he might, but that’s all you need to know. If you don’t do as I’ve told you this could happen again or change the future. By the way, what you said to Captain Archer about the Borg will be lost. I understand what you were trying to do, and I’ve been tempted to turn a blind eye to some events because the altered outcome was better than what happened, but I never have, and I never will.”

“Out of curiosity, what would have happened if Captain Archer had been allowed to remember what I told him?”

He frowned. “Are you sure you want an answer to that?”

On the inside, she shuttered and thought no, but on the outside, she tried to keep her mask of indifference in place while saying yes, but it had slipped. “Yes, I’m sure.”

With a sigh, he stared straight ahead and answered. “Let me put it this way if we had allowed Archer to remember what you said about the Borg we would have become more like them.”

“What are you saying? That we become them?”

“In a way. But in order to truly resist the Borg in your era, humanity - for the most part - would be a race of cybernetic beings. Those who were cybernetic would keep their individuality, but at the same time lose a part of it as well.”

She sat back in the chair stunned. One piece of information on the Borg was enough to throw the entire timeline out of whack. That in itself was overwhelming.

“We’re here. This is where you get off.” He said slowing the ship to a stop, turning toward her. “Just step inside the pod in the back and you’ll be on your way. Good luck Admiral.” He finished unlatching her strap.

Slowly she got to her feet, and when she bent forward, felt the pain in her side shoot up her ribcage and down through her leg. Stopping mid-motion briefly, she waited for the sensation to pass.

“Are you all right?” He asked putting out a hand to steady her.

“I’ll be fine.” She assured through clenched teeth. “I’d almost forgotten Doctor Phlox’s incision.” When the pain lessened she began walking again. Stopping just shy of the door she turned and asked. “One thing I’m still unclear on. Why have you made yourself aware to Captain Archer - much less anyone?”

Glancing back at her he replied. “Let’s just say that there are several factions who don’t want his mission to succeed.”

Giving a nod, she watched him return his attention to the console before leaving. In the short corridor was another door. When she opened it, saw an energy grid. Taking a seat inside the pod, seconds later it was launched. As she waited to go through the portal realized for the first time how close she came to never seeing Chakotay again, and that realization froze her solid. How long was she going to cling to those deep-seated feelings of betrayal before she let go of them? At the rate, she was going, probably never. At that moment she made a promise to herself, if she were able to set things right and survive the battle, she would attempt to set things right between her and Chakotay.

There was a sudden jolt, and if she had not strapped herself in she would have been tossed from one wall to another. Within seconds a brilliant blue light blinded her. Another series of bone-rattling jolts followed, then all was still. Opening her eyes slowly to adjust, she could see red spots floating before her, a common occurrence when a person is exposed to a bright light, always seeing the opposite color of what they saw. When they had cleared enough for her to see clearly, she could see the Flyer less than ten meters away.

Hailing the Flyer, she accessed the on-board computer with a command code and activated the transporter. Once onboard the computer immediately stated. “Core breach detected on alien vessel.” Powering up, she began moving away. “Thirty seconds until core reaches critical levels.” Finally initiating the warp drive, she jumped to warp before the pod exploded, taking its technology with it and headed back to the ship. On sensors, she could still see Artanis and Balin’s ships, and for a moment she was tempted to go back and try to save Artanis but didn’t. She hated it, but if she did the chances were good that she’d end up either dead or back in the past. Neither prospect seemed thrilling, and to top it all off, the incision was bleeding.

§32§

The phasers had only managed to cut out openings big enough for a shuttle to fit through - which was fine. If they launched the four remaining shuttles they could free the ship.

Almost half an hour had passed, and they were only a quarter of the way finished when a ship emerged from subspace: Zeratual. Immediately they begin firing at the shuttles, seeing that the Janeway wasn’t going anywhere.

“Can we get a clear shot?” Tuvok asked his tactical officer, Lieutenant Hayes.

“No sir, they’re staying well out of our area.” He answered frustrated.

The Delta Flyer class shuttles could do some significant damage, but it was uncertain whether they could disable the ship.

“The Stinger has sustained damage to their engines but is continuing to fight. The Avenger is heavily damaged and won’t last much longer. The Marauder and Dragon are in fairly good shape.” Hayes informed.

“Recall the Avenger and have it continue cutting us out,” Tuvok ordered. “Perhaps we can at least free the turrets and provide assistance.”

“Yes sir, recall order sent and acknowledged.”

The dogfight continued to remain strong, and Chakotay who was piloting the Dragon had managed to keep the shuttle from taking too much damage. “Come on.” He said softly. “Just one good hit.” A shot rang out in his direction and clipped the wing. He was sent spinning out of control, almost hurling into the Janeway and missing by meters.

“Captain, I’m detecting another ship approaching.” Ensign Lee announced from Ops. “It’s small, but since our long-range sensors are down I can’t make out who it belongs to.”

Tuvok stared at the view screen watching and couldn’t see it but was put at ease when Lee finally said. “It’s the Admiral.”

As Janeway approached she could feel herself on the verge of passing out from blood loss. The blue uniform she wore was stained with a large dark blob, but she had to stay focused, the Janeway and her crew were in trouble. “Just let me get through this.” She muttered.

Suddenly Tuvok’s voice filled the cabin. “Admiral, Commander Chakotay’s shuttle was sent hurling point thirty-two degrees starboard. Could you go after him?”

“I’m on it.” She answered, her words becoming sluggish.

Tuvok picked up on it right away. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, just tired. I’ll be back in a minute.” She tried to assure but wasn’t convincing, even to herself. Speeding after him, it took almost a minute to see him on sensors. And readied the tractor beam. Locking on to him would be tuff considering how quickly he was moving. It was touch and go for a moment, but she managed to lock on before passing out.

When the shuttle stopped spinning, Chakotay took a second to regain his bearings before hailing the other shuttle and received no response. Unable to make contact, he transported himself over to find Kathryn unconscious in the pilot’s seat. As he grasped her hand and pressed his fingers to her wrist to find a pulse did he notice the large dark blob on her side. “Oh, Kathryn.” He breathed. “What happened to you?” He asked knowing she couldn’t answer him. Carefully he sat her hand in her lap and took the co-pilot’s chair. Transferring commands to his console, he headed back for the Janeway and hoped she would make it until he got her to sickbay.

§33§

The door opened, and Artanis entered. “Balin!” He called holding out a weapon. “Come out of there. It’s over.”

“Nothing’s over until I say it is.” She answered.

Approaching the distortion ring, he fell to his knees in agony. Releasing his weapon, he grabbed his head. He tried to fight it, force the pain out but couldn’t. Her mental abilities had grown in strength, whether it was due to the transformation he didn’t know. In his mind, he tried to reach her through the haze of agony and didn’t know if he was getting through. “Please Balin, don’t do this. The woman I spent countless hours with under the purple langa trees and whispered words of love to one another like a sonnet is still in there somewhere, they couldn’t have taken all you were from you.”

In the tiny place where she kept the woman who still remembered who she was and the love she held for her husband, heard his words and fought her way to the surface. “Artanis, my life. I haven’t forgotten you.” He heard her say. “I can’t stop it, the eye won’t allow it, it will is too great, but you can help free us both.”

“What must I do?” He asked, trying to hold on.

“Mind surge.”

Summoning the last of his strength, he absorbed the energy around him and channeled it along the same invisible band of energy she was using to turn his brain into goo. She screamed when the wave hit her and fell forward through the distortion ring and landed face first before him. The ordeal left him too weak to crawl toward her, his life force slipping away, as was hers. Reaching out his hand, he sought hers and grasped it; she grasped it tightly, not wanting to let go. “I’m sorry for everything. I love you Artanis, my life.” She managed to say in his mind before she no longer had the chance. “And I you my love.” He replied at the last moment before life left his body. She could feel it slip away and knew she would be joining him soon. It was the only comfort she had left, knowing that in a few seconds they would be together again, in a place where the eye could not touch them.

Chapter Text

§34§

She could hear someone’s voice but couldn’t place it; the fog clouding her brain was beginning to clear. Forcing her heavy lids open, it took more than a minute before her eyes focused and the face of the Doctor took shape.

“Welcome back Admiral.” He greeted with a smile. “It’s good to see you’re finally awake.”

“Where am I?” She asked groggily.

“Starfleet Medical. Captain Tuvok brought you here after the battle.”

“Did we win?”

“So, it seems. You’re very lucky to be alive.”

“So, people keep telling me.” Then asked. “Where is Artanis? Did he make it back?”

“I’m sorry.” He replied sadly.

She nodded, having expected it. “How’s Commander Chakotay?”

“He’s fine, you managed to rescue him before you lost consciousness.” She let out a long-relieved breath and looked up at the ceiling as he continued to speak.

“I’m curious to know who treated your injuries.”

“Someone I ran into when I left to pursue Balin’s ship.”

The door swished open and Admiral Paris stepped inside. “How are you feeling?” He asked approaching her.

“A little groggy, but I’m fine.”

“Good.” He replied before looking to the Doctor. “Could you leave us alone for a moment?”

“Yes, sir.” The Doctor said and walked away.

“Admiral, I need to ask you about the jumpsuit you were wearing when you were found.”

“Such as?” She questioned, knowing what it was.

“How did you get it? Our analysis confirms it was the same uniform the crew of the first Enterprise wore.”

Sighing she replied. “It’s a long story.”

“Well, I’ve got plenty of time.” He said crossing his arms.

“It began when I boarded Balin’s ship.”

§35§

She was kind of surprised when Admiral Paris told her how the Zeratual withdrew from the fight suddenly, but she was fairly certain as to the reason. Balin was dead. She hated it, but it was likely that Artanis had perished along with her; once the battle was over the Dabiri left to return home.

For the last five days since she was forced to take some personal leave in order to rest, was now going stir crazy. Every square inch of her apartment had been cleaned more than once, and all the while she couldn’t get Chakotay or the past few weeks out of her mind, nor Admiral Duke’s death. Out of everyone besides Admiral Paris, he had been her greatest ally, now that he was gone there didn’t seem to be much point in keeping her current position.

Standing in her kitchen with flour up to her elbows, she was attempting to make pie crust from scratch. Soon the task seemed more difficult than originally anticipated when the monitor in the living room began to beep, indicating an incoming transmission. Rubbing her palms, she tried to wipe away as much of the flour as she could before taking a hand towel to continue the practice while heading into the living room and stood before the monitor. “Accept transmission.” She instructed and saw Admiral Paris’ face appear.

“Admiral, I’m sorry I caught you at a bad time, but I have a proposition for you to consider over the next week before you come back to work.”

“What is it?” She questioned slowly.

“Before Admiral Duke was killed, he expressed to me that if anything happened to him he wanted you to take his place as head of the council. I know it’s a big step and there are bound to be some hurt feelings, but I and the majority of the council would support it.”

She was visibly overwhelmed by the offer, not having expected it, and didn’t respond right away. “I . . . uh . . . don’t know what to say.”

“That you’ll think about it.”

She nodded. “I will.”

With a smile he replied. “See you in a week.” Then cut the transmission.

After the initial shock wore off, realized what had just happened. She had no intention of taking the job, just as she had no intention of keeping the job she currently held. At this point in her life, she no longer had the luxury of time, and it seemed to be passing at an alarming rate.

Just as she’d walked back into the kitchen to clean up, the monitor began to beep again. With a sigh she turned and accepted the transmission, expecting it to be Admiral Paris, the Doctor, or her mother or sister; but it was none of them. The face that greeted her was one she’d seen for seven years when she was still stranded in the delta quadrant. “Chakotay.” She breathed.

“I just got back from a lecture on Mars and wanted to see how you were.” He said timidly.

“I’m fine.”

“That’s good.”

Silence fell between them - which wasn’t anything new. “So how was the lecture?”

“Boring.” He replied with a smile and a nervous chuckle, attempting to make a joke.

She laughed, feeling just as nervous and uncomfortable as he did. Taking a breath, she asked. “Are you busy right now?”

“No.”

“Would you like to come over, maybe have a cup of coffee?”

He smiled fully, feeling the tension fading rapidly. “Love to.”

“Good.” She replied, a smile on her lips. “I’m sending you the address. See you in a little while.”

He gave a nod and terminated the link with the smile still on his face, as was hers.

§36§

Sitting across from each other, Kathryn held her mug of black coffee between both hands and stared down at it. She didn’t know how to begin exactly without sounding foolish, but she would have to say something. “Look Chakotay, I know the last time we spoke it wasn’t the most pleasant, but I’ve had plenty of time to think once I realized how stupid I was behaving. What happened or didn’t happen between you and Seven is none of my business. I suppose I was angrier at myself than either of you because you found the courage to move on when I couldn’t.”

His eyes took in her form, noticing immediately that she felt uncomfortable, then again, so was he. “I understand how you feel. If the roles had been reversed and it was you who had moved on I would have been just as hurt by it. But on the other hand, I hadn’t a clue if you cared about me the way I care about you. If at any time I thought there was a chance for us to be together I wouldn’t have gone out with Seven.”

Again, she fell silent, unsure as to what to say next, and Chakotay did the same. “Maybe . . . we can start over and try to let go of the past. That is if you still want to.”

Meeting her eyes, he smiled. “I’d like that more than anything.”

Smiling back, she had a feeling things would finally go right this time.

§37§

The day before she was supposed to return to work she went to see Admiral Paris in his office. When he saw her, wondered what her visit was about. “Admiral Janeway.” He greeted meeting her in the center of the room and shook her hand before gesturing to the sofa and joined her. “What can I do for you?”

“I came to talk about the offer you made.”

“Yes?” He asked slowly seeing the conflicted look on her face.

“First I want you to know that I appreciate the offer, and after much thought, I’ve decided to decline.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” And he was.

“That’s not all I’m afraid.”

“Oh?” He questioned.

“I’ve also decided to resign my current position.”

“Might I ask why? You’ve done such a wonderful job.”

“Thank you, sir, but my reasons are personal.”

Studying her body language, he could tell she was uncomfortable with the conversation, namely his question as to her reason for leaving. “This doesn’t have anything to do with Admiral Kerrigan, does it? I know she’s given you a rough time ever since you were made a member of the council but-”

“No, it’s not her.” She said interrupting. Then as an afterthought added. “Well . . . maybe a little; but I wouldn’t leave my position because of it.”

Suspicious he asked. “You’re not planning on leaving Starfleet all together?”

“I’ve been thinking about it.”

“Don’t. You’ve been one of the fleet’s most outstanding officers. Besides, you’ve been in the fleet most of your life; what would you do if you left?”

“I’d find something.”

“Listen,” he said leaning forward, “before you make that decision let me come up with an alternative. I’m sure you’ve had your fill of space travel for a while, so let me see what can be arranged. All right?”

She nodded. “I really should be going. When will I hear from you?”

“In a few days.” He replied sadly, hating to see her go but knew it was probably for the best. She hadn’t been happy with her position and knew she felt alienated by the other admirals in the council. Perhaps it was best she explore other options, and he would help her, not just as a colleague who would hate to see an officer of her caliber go, but as a friend.

§38§

Three days later she received a call from Admiral Paris. His alternative seemed interesting, but it also left her questioning her ability to perform the position well. Give her a starship, a crew to command and she was in her element but step away from that and she felt lost.

Two months passed, and with the first day of her new job less than an hour away, she lay in bed with the covers pulled over her head. Why was she letting it intimidate her?

“Rise and shine sleeping beauty,” Chakotay said entering the bedroom. They had been living together for nearly a month and a half now.

“Let’s not and say I did.” Came her muffled reply through the comforter.

“I think not.” He replied lightly, holding a cup of coffee and sat down on the edge of the bed next to her. “Besides, you wouldn’t want to let this fresh cup of coffee go to waste.” She said nothing, nor did she make any move to take it. Instead, she decided to stay hidden. Setting the cup on the nightstand, he reached up and pulled the comforter down and held it as he leaned over her with a smile. “You’re going to do fine, don’t worry.”

She wasn’t so sure. “I’ve never taught a class before.”

“Neither had I until we made it back to Earth. And it was tough for a while, mostly because of my Maquis background, but you won’t have that problem. Those cadets are going to look at you and be awestruck.”

“You say that as if it weren’t a bad thing.” Those ‘cadets’ you spoke of may very well look at me and be exactly that. If they’re hanging on my every word and take it to heart, I might say or do the wrong thing, that kind of damage could get them killed one day.”

The smile widened. “Don’t you think you’re reading too much into it? Granted it could be a risk, but life is full of them, we know that better than most people. It’s true that every cadet is impressionable and look to us for the wisdom of our experience, but you can’t let that get to you. The only thing any of us can really do is try to prepare them for what’s out there and teach them the tricks we’ve learned along the way. And you have plenty to teach.”

She smiled, knowing he was right. The fear of failure still stayed with her but was willing to give it a shot. “I hope you haven’t forgotten how I like my coffee.”

“Straight up. How could I forget?” He replied smiling back.

§39§

As the weeks passed, she became more comfortable with her teaching position, as she was with having Chakotay to come home to. It seemed second nature having him there, waking up to his face every morning. How did she ever manage to keep him at arm’s length all those years?

Lying beside him, she propped herself up on one elbow and watched his face as he slept. A few days ago, she discovered she was pregnant but hadn’t told him yet. They had never really discussed having children, and even though they’d known each other for years, the romantic side of their relationship was only a few months old. She would have to tell him soon; he had the right to know.

Rolling onto his side away from her, she moved in close behind him and wrapped an arm around his waist, her cheek resting against his shoulder. Feeling her, he opened his eyes and moved his hand to rest over hers. She had been clinging to him more than usual, especially as they lay in bed. He also noticed that she hadn’t been sleeping well lately. In the morning he would wake alone, she having gotten up and dressed at least two hours earlier.

Giving her hand a gentle squeeze, he rolled onto his back so he could see her face. “What’s going on with you lately?”

“What do you mean?” She replied as if she hadn’t a clue as to what he was talking about.

“Don’t lay there and pretend you don’t know. I know when there’s something on your mind. Now, what is it?”

Dropping her eyes, she took a few seconds to prepare. “I’ve been waiting for the right time to tell you, but so far there hasn’t been.”

“Tell me what?” He asked giving her his undivided attention.

“I know we haven’t discussed it; but how do you feel about becoming a father?”

His face went slack in surprise. “You’re pregnant?”

She nodded. “A little over a month. I just found out a few days ago.” She answered then met his eyes. “You didn’t answer my question.”

He was hardly able to believe it, locking eyes with her. Regaining his bearings, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her softly, sweetly. When the kiss ended he cupped her cheek and caressed it with his thumb. “The only way I could be any happier about being a father is if you said we were having twins.”

She smiled relieved and thanked God that they weren’t. One baby was an overwhelming prospect, to begin with; two would be more than she could handle at this point. Even now she was still adjusting to the knowledge that there was a new life growing inside her.

“How do you feel about becoming a mother?”

“A little scared. Besides some contact with Naomi and Miral, I’ve never really been around babies, I’m not sure if I’m ready for this.”

“We’ll be ready, and I’ll be here every step of the way.” He assured.

Laying her head on his chest he hugged her to him. “I’m sure we will.”

Though they both had their concerns; they would become loving and wonderful parents to two boys and one girl. Each would flourish under their care and make their own mark on history, as would their children. The line that began with one Starfleet Admiral and one Commander ex-Maquis would be distinguished, ensuring that their legacy would live on.

The End