The thick taste of metal sickened and overwhelmed the starship captain who was captive in a static body which was not her own.
Wanting to squirm but being hooked in place by various coils which ran like microscopic webs throughout her body, Kathryn Janeway was awakening into hell.
Flesh had been replaced by metal across her torso, down her spine, in her arms and legs and neck.
There was also metal in her skull but her eyes still felt like her own although she could not yet open them.
She breathed inwards, it was painful.
Confused and afraid, she tried to yell.
Only managing a silent groan she then attempted to force her sore and restricted body to move again.
Her implants and armoury was too extensive.
Slowly losing consciousness as a solution was secreted intravenously directly into her neck, her increasingly desperate struggling deceased and she became still once more in her regeneration chamber.
Sudden weightlessness made her queasy and afraid as strong hands lifted her from her stationery position. Wrapping under her legs, they carried her away.
Three voices were distinguishable.
She tried to fight them. She fought her fatigue and the ghosts of her constraints, jerking her withered arms and legs at random and coughing weekly through a throat which was dry as the sun.
She felt like she was wearing a coat of lead, but still she tried to use it, swinging her heavy arms and legs and whipping her head back and around.
Hands caught her face. They smoothed her sore, greasy skin, and a woman's voice spoke soothingly to her.
Her frantic heartbeat was throbbing in her ears and she could not understand.
Continuing to fight, her eyelids slowly opening and her eyes stinging, Kathryn growled, unable to form speech but swinging her limbs ever more violently.
The voice was hushed, urgent, and it took the older woman a few moments to realise that she had understood the words.
It was a voice she recognised. And as the soft hands continued to smooth her skin, the captain's resistance depleted, her body becoming limp.
She did not know who was there or what was going on.
But she trusted the soft voice.
A deeper, familiar, voice then spoke clearly, "Voyager, four to beam up".
Suspended in the darkness before her floated a huge, ashened-grey sphere.
Its surface was rugged, crumbly, and it rotated slowly on its slanted axis.
Gradually, tiny distant lights began to appear behind the mass. A moment later, a huge crown of light started to swell from behind it.
The sphere came closer, rumbling and crumbling into vacuum, but Kathryn remained still, fascinated.
As the sphere continued to approach, and aware she must be dreaming, Kathryn willed herself to wake up.
The ashened planet grew larger and the captain began to see the outlines of countless bodies within the ash surface.
Looking like they had long since been consumed by flames, goose pimples travelled over Kathryn's body and she began to panic.
Again, she found herself unable to move.
Faces she recognised appeared beneath the ash. Mouth's moving they spoke silent words to her.
A mass of arms and legs suddenly sprang from the sphere , and the planet's surface appeared to churn with the tentacles of a lost species.
Unable to run from the now fast-approaching limbs, two arms finally grabbed her and shook her.
Kathryn struggled and cried as the face of a woman appeared amongst the crawling bodies.
It was a young woman with large eyes and round lips and the deceased young woman attempted to climb from the bodies, to join Kathryn in the stillness.
Amazed and afraid at the face she recognised but could not place, young woman spoke to her name and suddenly she knew...
Kathryn's eyes flew open.
Immediately squinting away from bright lights, she promptly threw up .
The heavy armoury she had been wearing had been removed and her body was bare but for her medical gown and a blanket.
A pair of hands made to steady her and she flinched from their touch.
She saw another hand holding a bowl which had caught her vomit.
Again she heard voices, voices she knew, but her confusion and memory loss caused her only fear.
Shivering in a pale body still compromised by many metal implants, she attempted speech, but her sore, dry throat caused her only wretch.
A new, clean bowl was presented in front of her by a hand adorned with a metal exoskeleton.
Disbelieving of what she was seeing, she shook her head sharply in denial, articulating finally a strained "...no....no...."
Attempting to climb from her biobed, she received an instruction in a voice she now recognised immediately, "Kathryn, you must rest..."
Whimpering, she looked upwards into the clear, blue eyes of a woman she knew to be her lost love, Jeri.
Chest tightening with distress, she turned fearfully from Seven and repeated, "...no......no..."
With a deep breath and a huge effort, the captain groaned in pain she finally got to her feet and stood barefoot and shivering on the sick bay floor.
New hands were reaching for her now but she fought them off, struggling to control her breathing and telling herself that all of this was a long and drawnout dream.
But the nightmare about the dead planet and the arm's had been a dream...
So full of fear and confusion, she just wanted to cry. She was so afraid, and she did not want to see Jeri's body talking to her, looking at her.
The loud hiss of the sickbay door opening roused her suddenly and she looked upwards.
Chakotay entered. And upon seeing the captain on her feet, hastened towards her.
His tired face shone with relief.
She glared at him.
Stopping a short distance from her, the first officer stared dumbfounded as his captain ignored him, then slowly began to shut her eyes.
One more time she willed herself to awaken.
"...Doctor?" Enquired the concerned Chakotay, and Kathryn scrunched her eyelids shut, wishing she could close her ears.
This was too much.
Voices and movement continued around but she ignored them all and none of them tried again to touch her.
She could not remember where she had been before waking up in this nightmare. But she wanted more than anything to awaken in her bed at home on, comfortable home in Los Angeles.
A gentle hand upon her arm followed by Jeri's soft voice requested, "Kathryn, please sit down ..."
But her eyes were shut tight and after a brief moments indecision, she shirked her arm away from Seven's touch.
"...leave me alone .." the Captain pleaded, her voice weak and strained with distress and fatigue.
She wondered why this nightmare Jeri was addressing her by her full name "Katherine" and not "Kate".
She curled her shoulders and body inwards and loved herself into a ball on the floor.
Her heavy head and limp hair behind her knees, and her arms wrapped tightly around her legs, she gave in to her emotion and allowed herself once more to cry.
Why couldn't she waken? Why was she trapped in this Voyager nightmare?
Why was Jeri there?
Why had she seen a planet of ash and limbs?
Where were her children? Why had Jeri died?
Why was she here in this nightmare?
Why wouldn't she waken?
In desperation to wake up, she turned and sank her teeth firmly into her forearm.
"No" admonished Seven of Nine, who lowered herself to the floor next to her and gently and unobtrusively wrapped one arm around her lover's shoulders. Kathryn curled further inwards but she did not shake Seven off as the young woman took her bitten arm in her other hand, holding the older woman kindly but firmly.
The captain quieted as she continued to allow herself to be held by this apparition of her lost lover.
She told herself that she would wake in the morning and all would be as it were .
She remembered the face of her daughter and her trembling lips curled into a small smile.
She would see Danielle again. And they would all be a family.
Or was that the dream, a life where she was reunited with the child she had given away?
Kathryn grimaced once more in despair.
Her tears streamed like tap water.
What was real?
She no longer knew.
To be continued...