hadn't felt right. It was, as her
friend Jean-Luc had once put it, like that moment when, at the height of the hot grape
harvest with the sun beating down on you, you get a hint of October, of cold air and
rotting leaves filling your senses, but then it is gone and you are not sure if you have
time travelled or - if the future really does reach the present on the winds of
shifted in her seat thinking about the legendary Picard. That was a good bottle of
wine, Jean-Luc. She watched the candles
flickering on the altar emphasize the fading light outside.
Her mind drifted to her developing friendship with the Captain of the
Enterprise. He had been promoted so many
times since those days, but to her, as with most of Starfleet, he would always be The
Captain. In fact he preferred it. She loved him, without question. What a mind,
what courage. Courage to sometimes see
beyond ethics to the spirit of the thing. To
the very essence of rightness. He understood
the transience of such a position too - how for a split second there is a solution and
then you move on. How the difficult decisions
were never fully resolved in ones conscience.
have asked Seven what was wrong. I could have done that.
Jean-Luc had known how preoccupied she was in those early days, had known she was caught
up in her heart, before she had really understood it herself. He had invited her to dinner in Venice for a
little of the best of Alpha Quadrant to welcome you home
"You are pensive tonight Kathryn...?" Jean-Luc's
voice demanded her attention be brought back to the terrace where they sat overlooking the
masked revellers in the square below. He
leaned forward as he spoke, bronzed arm extended, pouring a rich vintage claret to sparkle
and rage against the sides of her glass before settling into promising aromatic rubiness.
considered him as she took her first incisive sip, holding the dark liquid in her mouth,
allowing it to swell through her senses, before swallowing.
It is curious how rarely I see him in uniform and yet how he wears his Starfleet
career like a second skin. He was
"Delicious. Forgive me, Jean-Luc. After all the years of countless choices,
subservient to a single goal, to one direction - to getting home - I now find myself in a
position of having a wealth of possibilities, but seemingly
leeway." Her fingertips caressed the
glass as though she were trying to absorb the wild fermented liquor through her skin and
into her heart.
He looked up
sharply, "You are prevaricating, my friend. What
her throat, watching two performers in grotesque masks of ecstatic joy and grief circling
around each other in a surreal pantomime. Story
of my life. She thought ruefully
gesturing towards them. Like
these, I am caught between reality and dreams I think.
I have so much to be grateful for
except the things I cant change. They
just stay with me: what might have been; what I could have done. It is all just illusion now of course. Self-deception and
fantasy. We are home and that is the reality. This is it. Every
other thought is a waste of time. I just have
to get on with it. She tried to keep
the disappointment out of her voice but she found Jean-Luc
observing her shrewdly.
what if it isnt just a fantasy? Are you willing to take that chance? Will you just let these feelings go? Experience tells me that some things must be
resolved, even if it is only inside. Prevaricate
with all the world if you must, Kathryn, but do not do that to yourself. Whatever is troubling you - find a way of being at
peace with it.
What is it? What is it? Why am I
here? What is it? She spoke aloud. "It is too late,
that's what it is." Her voice was
paper-thin in the holy space. It made her
feel alone, sitting among the wandering tourists and purposeful worshippers so painfully
aware of her solitude. "Small." She muttered to herself. "That's what Seven would say." Here, more than any other place on Earth, I can
make a map of my loneliness.
tourist, who had been staring up at a stained glass window above the south aisle, turned
to look at her. Kathryn didn't quite smile
and then looked away. She didn't exactly care
that she had been overheard and besides feeling a little self-conscious took her mind off
the idea of spending the rest of her life without Seven nearby. She looked back towards the Bajoran woman only to
find her standing in front of her.
sister," she said, "All time is one - it is never too late."
"Ha!" Exclaimed the Admiral. "Even in death?" Steady, old girl, this is no place to be
smiled. "That is not for us to judge. Death
is beyond our control, yet matters of the soul and spirit are eternal."
they are! Kathryn retorted
sarcastically. Her manners caught up with her then and so she added, Thank you
while nodding a quick dismissal to the stranger.
The Bajoran did not budge; instead she gazed down at the Admiral compassionately. Her hands, neatly folded in front of her, struck
Kathryn as hideously pious.
which is lost in the past cannot be lost in the future, unless you will it so. Only you can lose it again."
looked through her, startled and remembering her last meaningful conversation with Seven
future is to be viewed with scepticism." Seven's
face, as always, was deadpan. Captain Janeway could not tell if she was joking.
"Meaning?" Her low tone was seductive - but contained a
slight menace. They were walking towards The
Intergalactic Research Institute across an expanse of neat stone squares, to discuss a role
for Seven. No one would use the word 'job'
since it gave her too much status. Ostensibly today the Captain was on hand to do
something about that. It was the second time
she had seen Seven since the Borg had visited her in her temporary offices. The other
occasion had been at a cocktail party in honour of Admiral Paris' retirement. Seven had stayed exactly half an hour.
am a threat to humanity, then I should be incarcerated, but not where the Borg can find me
and if I am to be of benefit to humanity, then I should be kept safe where
apparently no-one at all can find me." She
looked at Janeway. Even you, she
seemed to be saying.
not laugh, she put her hand on Seven's arm, slowing their pace. "There are other choices you know. You are human.
You have the same rights as everyone else. You
must remember that, Seven. You can and should
make your own choices." Her coat caught
in the wind and flapped around them. Seven's
was fastened with buttons and a belt. It
seemed to not be affected by the weather - any more than Seven could be comforted by her
raised an eyebrow in her direction, her silence indicating more than argument would have
just how much she did not believe a word of it. Kathryn's
heart ached: once upon a time, Seven would have spat her derision straight back at her. These
are human sentiments to make you feel good. They are an illusion, nothing more. Words. Sentiment
and words! Now Seven's bleak acceptance troubled her.
Captain, I have choices. I choose to act in
the moment. To stay
now. I will not consider the past and I will
pay no attention to the future." There
was a greyness about her, a pallor. To
Kathryn it seemed as though she were sickening for something. As if living in the fresh air is damaging to her. She belongs in space.
hated to admit it, but she felt the same was true of herself. "Home" for her was an awkward,
uncomfortable experience. She felt hemmed in,
restless. She needed to experience the
fertile wastelands of faraway galaxies and live on the edge of quickfire decisions. Starfleet had other ideas, however and Captain
Kathryn Janeway had been forced to accept a new job: Goodwill Ambassador for the
Federation. Forced. With a promotion all neatly tied up.
given her no choice. In return for a five
year programme of lectures, diplomatic visits, peace missions and an honorary
professorship at The Academy, all the crew of Voyager would be officially welcomed home
with their records wiped clean. No Maquis
inquisition. No hauling the Captain or any of
the senior officers over the judicial coals of a tribunal for decisions made in the field. The fact that no Government from the Delta
Quadrant was likely to lodge a complaint about Voyager's actions - on account of being on
the other side of the universe - eased that decision.
The fact that Voyager contained advanced technologies, priceless astrometric charts
and research and not to mention enough anthropological data to keep the boffins employed
for a generation, underlined it. So everyone
- nearly everyone - went freely home to a hero's welcome and a career of their choice. But there were conditions. Secret agreements made between the Captain of
Voyager and her masters. She had got Voyager
lost in the first place and she would pay.
standing in front of the glass entrance to the IRI building. Sunlight ricocheted at sharp angles, causing her
to wince. Seven was looking at her, her face
a mask of control, of acceptance. Even
though I believed your words I always knew it would come to this. It seemed to say. She was looking down at Janeway, waiting.
mouth was dry causing her to swallow awkwardly.
we go in?" Was all that she could say.
sorry, Seven." The woman was nearly on
her knees, asking forgiveness of a woman who could not forgive her and of a God she did
not think either of them believed in. "I'm
sorry!" If only Seven had become angry
and challenged her. That would have
been better - she could have explained somehow. I
can't see you very often, but you will be all right, I have made sure of that. She winced as though she had been stabbed in
the belly. Betrayal? No! No - I did not betray you.
She drew in
a breath, a breath full of history. Millennia
of polish on wood and stone, sweet, but faintly bitter.
Like pink gin or like loving someone who has no idea what it is to love. Lifetimes of leather Psalters caressed and held in
devotion mocked her. The fading songs of past
worshippers pressed in against her on the cool air. Ghosts. It is all just ghosts and dreams.
doors spoke again. Someone leaving. She should go. This time, at least it had been better. Last year, Admiral Janeway, hidden in her
worshippers disguise, had wept. Tears
scorching her face with acid hurt. She would
not do that again. Ever. Rejection, after all, is a transformative emotion:
even indirectly felt, its subtle nuances leave long traces.
Once the hurt is gone, anger pushes the sharper arrows of pain away. At least, this is what she told herself. Never mind the fact that she had abandoned her
friend in the first place. Footsteps were
echoing through the Cathedral, reminding her of Seven's walk down the aisle. She did not need to marry him. Half the time, Kathryn was sure that Seven
had married Chakotay to get at her, to punish her. For
a moment she gave that thought full rein - anything was better than thinking about
betrayal. Her betrayal. But still her undisciplined heart returned to
that very moment: the moment of her own treachery
been five messages from Seven bleeping on her console.
All had gone unanswered. The
commanding officer noted how long it had taken Seven to learn this particular lesson. In the past, the Borg had been quick to learn and
would not expend energy on futile activities. Kathryn Janeway sat at her desk, fingers
linked together, examining her thumbs, listening to the last communication.
Janeway, this is Seven of Nine. I do not know
if you have received my other messages, but perhaps you have more pressing priorities to
attend to... I find living on Earth
confusing. So many choices but I do not feel
free. I do not like the structure I am
supposed to live by. I would like to talk with you."
She paused and her voice became achingly quiet.
"As we used to." On
Voyager. "If you have the time,
silence in the room as Kathryn pressed her thumbs together.
She would not feel guilty. Seven
didn't understand. Did not understand what
the alternatives would have been. This way
she gets to create her own future, eventually.
hardest adjustment of all, Seven, is understanding that I cannot be your guide
anymore." She whispered.
Federation understood that Kathryn Janeway's idiosyncratic independence was an apt quality
for a Starfleet Captain, but it was not a trait they wanted encouraged in their new Borg. Seven was far too useful. Her natural stubbornness was bad enough, without
the influence of the rogue Captain Janeway. Heroes
are vital to an organization like the Federation, but a political nuisance at home.
forward and punched the 'Reply as Message' button. The
console bleeped its readiness,
sorry Seven, I can't help you." Chewing
on her bottom lip, Admiral Janeway pressed 'Send.'
was why - THAT was why she married him, because the Captain was unavailable, she had
settled for the First Officer! Kathryn's
lip curled. "Coward!" Her eyes blurred with tears she would not shed. She examined her hands, now clenched tightly in
her lap. "You fool." She muttered.
It was not clear to whom she addressed the insult.
To Chakotay for stealing away her happiness - or to herself for blindly ignoring
what was obvious until it was too late. She
had erred and now she must suffer. Right
place then! She raised her eyes to the
altar and the humour quickly fled in the face of the pain of memory.
Even if she
lived another hundred years, experienced a thousand more adventures, nothing could hurt as
much as that moment three years ago when self-knowledge had hit her like the most potent
weapon ever devised.
arrived radiant in white at the altar. She
had knelt and been baptized as a child of God, then stood as a woman, placing her hands
inside Chakotays and word by word closed the door on Kathryn Janeway forever. Forget science.
Forget individuality. She did not
once look back at Kathryn. It still
infuriated her. It still impaled her.
Admiral had eyes for no one else. She was
seeing Seven for the first time. Was
experiencing the Borg's beauty as a physical sensation, consciously, for the first time. What was the matter with me? Why the hell didnt I see it before? Memory after memory played through her mind of
Seven and each one nailed her with iron pangs of agony.
She was losing her. In this very moment - she was losing her. Her legs had almost buckled beneath her. She was losing the Seven that she had helped
done this? The question that had played
through her mind. All that work! The careful, painfully slow lessons in humanity. In individuality.
She, Captain Janeway had insisted Seven learn to assert her own sense of herself. Had dragged her kicking and screaming from the
comfort of the hive mind to become the magnificent woman that was Seven of Nine. The very Seven who was now abandoning herself to a
life that mystified her former Captain.
Only in the
moment of Seven's wedding did Kathryn Janeway finally understand for herself what it was
to lose such absolute certainty. When it was
too late. She had always assumed that all she
had to do was call and Seven would be there. She
never once imagined what it would be like to lose her and she certainly had never thought
that Seven would change so much. She sighed. "You were wrong about that."
voices coming from the quire. I will go
soon... What did I expect? That Seven would
have none of the emotions of any spurned human being?
Kathryn sighed. Leather soles moved
neatly away and began to climb stone steps. The organist. She coughed slightly. I should have explained. But she couldn't. Could never, ever tell Seven what she had done.
reached into her coat pocket and pulled out the little hip flask she allowed herself for
this annual pilgrimage to her dreadful mistake. Mistake? She sighed again.
It had been the right decision. The
only decision I could make.
began warming up with a lightening fast discordant scale ascending higher and higher until
Kathryn's nerves stood on end. "Good grief!"
Her long fingers sped up to unscrew the little silver cap. She placed it carefully on the handrail in front
of her, taking the flask in her right hand. "Here
goes nothing. To -" She raised the flask in the direction of the altar and nearly
dropped it - so hard had her heart thumped in her chest.
Seven was standing there.
gracefully covered in a white silk scarf, which disappeared in immaculate style beneath a
light raincoat. Still buttoned-up
perfectly. Seven cutting a figure of pure
grace and light against the grey of the Cathedral and looking up at the dome above the
high altar. The blue of her eyes radiant
before its lapis lazuli. Kathryn
Janeway shivered in pleasure. Oh I could look at her forever.
Borg turned round to face the altar.
sucked a breath in, flushing with embarrassment as she remembered the flask still held out
stiffly before her. She lowered it
laboriously, the toast abandoned. Her mind
had emptied of thought, distracted by her legs which inexplicably had become rubbery and
were shaking. Instinct took over. Still watching Seven, she reached for the silver
cap but it slipped through her fingers, bouncing off the wooden prayer book shelf and
clattering in a series of seemingly thunderous crashes to the floor. Kathryn fell to her knees to gather it up, quickly
twisting the lid into place and stuffing the flask back into her pocket before raising her
head and daring to look at the Borg again. The
organist was playing a series of near-deafening chords and Kathryn prayed that he had
covered up the sounds of her clumsiness.
gone! Momentarily, Kathryn thought that
Seven had left, or had been a mirage for she was no longer standing. Then she saw her.
The Borg was kneeling and leaning forward onto the step of the altar, her right arm
outstretched. Her head was now uncovered and
her golden hair gleamed like a beacon. Kathryn
craned to see what she was doing. Had she
said something? Damn the cap!!! Seven stood and began to turn, just as it dawned
on Kathryn that she herself would have to move, in order to speak to her.
refused to work. What was Seven doing
here? Where was Chakotay? She wanted to turn and look for him, but dare not
take her eyes off the Borg, lest she should fade away.
Like a holy vision which only the mad can see. Kathryn gripped her black veil to her throat and
slid back on to the bench, eyes widening as Seven slowly completed the turn and looked
straight at her.
For a split
second their eyes were locked: wide with shock on the Borg's side and with alarm on the
Admiral's. She stopped breathing altogether. Her chest hurt.
the contact first, turning towards the north aisle - the furthest from Kathryns
position - and took off towards the great doors at speed.
Each sharp echoing footstep raised the level of Kathryn's panic. Leaping to her feet, she scrambled over the
kneelers, banging her knees on the benches. Ow! Damn!
"Seven!" The footsteps were fading. Seven had already disappeared into the gloom.
wait!" She was running down the central
aisle, grappling with her coat, her choking veil, her bag.
Damn these clothes!!! Panic
made the distance vast. Kathryn opened her mouth to call out again when the cathedral
doors banged. No - please God - let me
catch her! Outside in the maze of
tree-lined paths surrounding the monumental building, she would never find her.
the massive marble font at the foot of the central aisle and made for the right hand
doorway, trying to weave her way through the tourists lingering around the entrance. Maybe she hasn't left yet? Kathryn spun round to look back up the north
aisle, eyes glistening with the effort of trying to make Seven appear before her.
" Her voice was breathless and panicky. Somebody nearby tutted.
back springing towards the exit, feeling cold air about her neck as the door banged again.
the door! Wait -"
are you doing here?" Six foot of Borg
appeared from out of the darkness of the porch.
screeched to a halt suddenly faced with a furious Borg in full charge. She tried to catch her breath, backing away deeper
into the cathedral, instinctively trying to lure Seven away from the exit.
Kathryn swallowed. Seven - incensed and
flushed - advanced on Janeway.
very tall. She thought irreverently.
Her back came into contact with a pew, jolting her to stillness. The bag fell off her shoulder and onto the seat
behind her. She played for time.
are you all right?"
before her, deliberately using her height to make escape difficult. She would not be sidetracked.
Janeway, you will explain why you are here!" Her
eyes were wild. Her voice close to shouting. A quiet descended in the crowds around them.
looked up at the Borg, lost for words. How
do I tell her? It's crazy. I can't tell her that! She looked for a prevarication. I know, Jean-Luc, I know.
public space, Seven. Why are you
here?" Seven's eyes narrowed and, for an
awful moment, Admiral Janeway thought that the Borg might just accept her explanation.
not believe in God!" Seven announced to
the entire building. Her smugness began to
rile the Admiral.
exactly, no, but -" she raised a challenging face to the Borg - a posture which
forced her to lean backwards over the rail which bit into her. This is bad.
Surely this isnt what I was looking for
are not here for religious purposes. You
have been here before, for my wedding, therefore you are not a tourist." Seven
waited, staring the Admiral down.
no, but - "
you getting married?" The insolence
stung. It was like a smack in the face.
not, Seven - "
today?" Seven leaned over her, her chest
heaving from the exertion and from the need to threaten.
Candlelight flickered in the implant above her left eye giving it a life of its
own. Her breath fell on the Admiral's face.
hot, her face, red from the chase, became scarlet. She
felt awkward in her unfamiliar clothes. If
I lie, I will lose her and if I tell her the truth - God!
She let out
a laugh, half from the realization of the blasphemy and half from panic. She looked up at the Borg whose jaw was clenching
softly. People were milling around staring at
them. Kathryn Janeway tried to calm the
proceedings by lowering her voice.
this is hardly the place for such a discussion -"
Incorrect, Admiral Janeway, this is the perfect place." Seven settled back on her heels. "You have not answered my question." She raised her eyebrow. "Why are you here? Why today?" She repeated, insistently loud.
Kathryn looked down, putting her hand out to touch the Borg's arm,
all of her muscles in her forearm, drawing herself upright and repelling Kathryn's hand. It felt like an electric shock.
will answer, or I will leave." Her
expression was hard - like her body.
you threaten me, damn you!" Kathryn
pulled at the shoulder of her coat with her right hand, bringing the bag in her left round
to swing her forward and get her off the wooden rail.
The Borg took half a step backwards, though her energy was so pumped up that it
nearly knocked the Admiral back down with its force.
not command me, anymore! You are not my
friend! Threaten you?" Was that tears, maybe in her eyes? Kathryn watched in horror, feeling the
situation sliding even further out of control. Seven's
jaw was working as she struggled with herself, pacing away in agitation back towards the
font and the door.
you, Admiral Janeway? I should not
even bother to talk to you! I should IGNORE
Kathryn Janeway would wish that she had allowed the compassion she felt for the younger
woman to rule her response, but the Admiral was a proud woman. A proud, angry woman. She had waited many years to speak her heart and
suddenly patience was not an option. Dropping
her tone another octave she spoke with venomous, acid projection, so that her perfect
diction filled the entire space.
what the HELL do you think you have been DOING these last three years? When exactly did you contact me, Seven? Did I hallucinate your total and absolute
silence?" The Admiral, temporarily
forgetting her own culpability, was off the ropes and circling a Borg whose emotions were
rising to the surface with the measured certainty of a time bomb. Only later did she realise the number of
bystanders, standing in shocked fascination. Ghostly
faces which made no sense to her now. Only
later was she truly astonished at herself.
shouted back at her I contacted you!
some lobotomised automaton, contacted me. Not
you. Not Seven of Nine. Not - She
spluttered to a halt, two words lingering on her lips:
slowly on the spot, following the Admiral with incandescent eyes.
been married." She said quietly.
burned Kathryn Janeway. Stopped her in her
tracks, wheeling her around to face the Borg. On her face was an expression that Seven of
Nine, if she had paused to consider, knew well, because of its rarity. A particular deadly mask. It was the one, which for a split second always
accompanied the command, "Fire" on the bridge of Voyager when extreme force was
about to be put into action. It was the face
was in a flow all of her own. Her mentor,
her friend who had hurt her more than anyone in her entire life had the presumption
to attack her and Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One knew exactly what to do
in the face of a full frontal assault. Return
have you been doing, Admiral Janeway? Aside
from appearing on the news, making presentations, making the news, hosting diplomatic
dinners, attending charity galas and appearing on the news again?" Her volume had risen in order for it to carry over
the swathes of arpeggios from the organ. Sarcasm
seemed to drip down from the vaulted heavens.
been doing my duty. Kathryns
voice was cold and quiet. She was trying not
to see the new maturity in Sevens face, trying not to feel the effect of the young
womans blossoming beauty as it waged a private war within her body.
have been exercising perfect conformity. I
have witnessed none of the warmth and compassion that you so arrogantly preached when you
wrenched me from the Borg and forced me to become human! You, Admiral Janeway, are the automaton, not
I. Tears refusing to fall made
Sevens eyes shine with heart-piercing brightness.
The organ crashed to a crescendo and there was silence.
helplessness, desire and pain, Kathryn held Sevens stare clinging to the contact as
though she had slipped over the edge of a cliff and only her fingernails gripping the
sharp rocks of Sevens gaze could save her. Seven
was right. More than this, the affect of the
Borgs physical presence after so long apart was seriously hindering her command of
the situation and of her body. She
couldnt tell if she was panting from anger, exertion or lust.
fluttered in the Admirals line of vision and she turned to focus on a squat man
wearing the robes of a verger. His eyes
rolled in his head with anxiety.
please! He whispered, This is a
house of God. Kathryn broadened her
vision to encompass the circle of onlookers riveted to the spot by the spectacle of a Borg
and a famous Admiral fighting. He cleared his
throat. I recognise that this is a distressing time for you both, so why dont
you find a quieter place to
discussions? The coffee shop, say, or one of the side chapels? Quietly mind.
Otherwise I will have to ask you to leave.
He glanced nervously up at the Borg as though he didnt quite believe his own
looked at Seven too, her heart suddenly pounding with fear that the younger woman might
just leave. Seven had ignored the
verger and had been watching Admiral Janeway with the settling coldness of an ice storm. Impulsively the older woman moved to try to
balance it, to get control.
to me, Seven, I actually want to talk to you, alright?" Blue-grey eyes that had stared down the worst that
the Delta Quadrant had to offer had no effect at all on Seven of Nine.
three years of silence, you want to talk to me now?" There was scorn in the Borg's voice.
know." The Admiral swallowed, "We
need to talk. I- She felt her heart sinking as adrenalin rushed to announce the
possibility that Kathryn Janeway might just be about to disclose more than a long-held
secret, she was about to reveal her heart. Maybe
some form of the truth, anyway. I
need to talk to you, but" she looked around, "somewhere a little more private,
mmm?" She looked back down the aisle
Seven had originally come, from "Let's sit over there?"
her ground, her gaze boring into Admiral Janeway, anger and impatience making her
reluctant to give one single millimetre. The
verger fidgeted at the edge of their vision. Hidden
away out of sight, a choir began a bass profundo chorus which modulated into a
transcendent run of harmonies sending shivers up her spine. The andante chorus from Libera me, she
thought, Verdis Requiem. Oh how
fitting just after the Dies irae, the day of anger, of calamity, of misery
and bitterness comes a plea for peace. The
sopranos voice soared through the building, sharpening Kathryns hope with its
"I will explain,
Seven, I promise." She sounded firm, but
in her eyes there was a hint of a plea. Seven
well. The Borg executed a perfect turn
and marched off into the gloom.