posted August 2004
Disclaimer: The characters of Star Trek: Voyager are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringements are intended and no profit will be made off this story.
The Federation Starship Voyager glided through the Delta Quadrant at impulse. The seven-year residents of the stranded vessel had recently received a visitor from the future with a plan to return them to the Alpha Quadrant immediately. Captain Kathryn Janeway glanced up at her guest and saw her own eyes staring back at her.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway, from twenty-six years in the future, had attempted to convince the captain and her crew that the elevated neutrino emissions detected in a nebula in grid 986 were the key to getting home. The admiral had pointed out, “If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?” but the captain soon realized the admiral had not been entirely honest in revealing exactly what was in the nebula.
As Voyager had approached the center of the nebula, the captain and her bridge officers had quickly discovered why this particular region was infested with Borg cubes. The nebula had turned out to contain one of six transwarp hubs, which allowed Borg vessels to be dispatched to any region of space within minutes. An extremely angry captain had ordered the helmsman, Lt. Tom Paris, to turn the ship around, while an arrogant admiral had ordered him to adjust their heading and enter the hub. The captain and the admiral had taken a stand against one another on the bridge, until the captain finally won out.
Now Captain Janeway stood in the Astrometrics lab, looking up at her future self and listening to a very condescending lecture about how Voyager should simply enter the nebula, fight off any Borg vessels that tried to stop them, and take the exit aperture to the Alpha Quadrant. Despite the admiral's persistence, the captain had the majority opinion on her side in this debate, as she and her senior staff wanted to destroy the hub to wipe out a massive number of Borg vessels and help prevent the future assimilation of millions.
“ What the hell happens in the future for me to become like this?” Janeway asked herself as she listened to the admiral.
The captain convinced the admiral to take a walk with her, in hopes of continuing the discussion. The pair exited the Astrometrics lab and strolled together through the ship's corridors.
“I want to know why you didn't tell me about this,” Captain Janeway demanded of her older counterpart. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead as she walked, refusing to look at the silver-haired woman beside her.
“Because I remember how stubborn and self-righteous I used to be. I figured you might try to do something stupid,” the admiral replied.
Janeway felt her anger and frustration grow exponentially. “We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Borg. It could save millions of lives.”
“I didn't spend the last ten years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier so you can throw it all away on some intergalactic good will mission.”
“Maybe we should go back to sickbay,” Janeway offered.
“Why? So you can have me sedated?”
“So I can have the doctor reconfirm your identity.”
Both women stopped in the corridor and faced each other.
“I refuse to believe I could become as cynical as you,” Janeway informed the admiral.
“Am I the only one experiencing deja vu here?” the admiral asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Seven years ago, you had the chance to use the Caretaker's array to get Voyager home. Instead, you destroyed it.”
The guilt she still harbored over that fateful decision, the one that had stranded her ship and crew in the Delta Quadrant, pierced Janeway like a knife in the belly. In her heart, however, she was certain she had made the only decision her conscience could have allowed her to make. “I did what I knew was right!”
“You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew. You can't make the same mistake again.”
“You got Voyager home, which means I will too. If it takes a few more years, then that's...”
“Seven of Nine is going to die.”
Janeway's face dropped as she looked at the admiral in disbelief.
“Three years from now she'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager and die in the arms of her husband.”
“Husband?” Janeway asked in a stunned whisper.
“Chakotay. He'll never be the same after Seven's death, and neither will you.”
Janeway walked behind the admiral and kept her back turned to the older woman. A sick feeling washed over her, and her head began to pound from the horrid information she had just received.
“Now I understand what made her this way,” Janeway thought to herself. She swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat, and held back the tears that were stinging her eyes.
“If I know what's going to happen, I can avoid it,” she told the admiral, without turning around.
“Seven isn't the only one. Between this day and the day I got Voyager home, I lost twenty-two crewmembers. And then, of course, there's Tuvok.”
Janeway whipped around and faced the admiral.
“What about him?”
“You're forgetting the temporal prime directive,” the admiral teased.
“The hell with it!” Janeway barked at her.
“Fine. Tuvok has a degenerative neurological condition he hasn't told you about. There's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant. But if he doesn't get it in time...”
Janeway turned her face away from the older woman's gaze, her emotions churning within her, as the admiral brought her argument to a close.
“Even if you alter Voyager's route...limit your contact with alien species...you're going to lose people. I'm offering you a chance to get all of them home safe and sound today. Are you really going to walk away from that?”
Janeway looked at the admiral, wondering if her counterpart really knew what was the best decision for the lives of the Voyager crew. Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by Tuvok's voice over the comm.
“Captain, please report to the bridge.”
Janeway and the admiral exited the turbolift and stepped onto the bridge.
“Report!” Janeway asked as she strode to the center of the bridge.
“A temporal rift is forming off our port bow,” Tuvok informed her.
Janeway, with a raised eyebrow and the hint of a smirk, looked over at the admiral, who stood next to Tuvok.
“This is what I call deja vu.”
Janeway turned back to face the viewscreen and tapped her comm badge.
“All senior staff, report to the bridge.”
“Captain,” Ensign Harry Kim reported, “There's a small vessel emerging from the rift.”
“Can you identify it?” Janeway asked him.
Kim began compiling the data on his console as the turbolift doors opened. Janeway looked back to see Commander Chakotay and Seven of Nine entering the bridge. She felt her stomach drop when she saw Seven, as the admiral's words came rushing back to her.
“Seven of Nine is going to die.”
Janeway observed that as they walked onto the bridge side by side, Chakotay and Seven appeared to be quite close to one another. Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw Chakotay give Seven a small, discrete squeeze on the arm before the two separated to move to their respective stations.
“They're already involved,” Janeway realized. “How long has this been going on? Why the hell haven't I noticed it before?”
Janeway turned back to face the viewscreen and took a deep breath to avoid any display of emotion in front of her bridge crew. As she was attempting to clear her head and concentrate on the new situation that had arisen, Chakotay took up position beside her.
“She'll make it back to Voyager and die in the arms of her husband...Chakotay.”
Janeway felt her face turn red from...what? Anger? Jealousy? Betrayal?
“Do we have another visitor from the future?” Chakotay asked.
“Looks that way,” Janeway replied sharply before looking over her shoulder at Ensign Kim. “Harry?”
“It's a Federation vessel, Captain,” Kim responded.
“Try hailing them,” Janeway ordered.
“They're hailing us ,” Kim informed her.
The viewscreen instantly displayed a very attractive Human woman who appeared to be in her mid-twenties. The woman had shoulder length strawberry blonde hair, blue-gray eyes, and was wearing a Starfleet uniform similar to Admiral Janeway's in design. Her teal jacket indicated that she was a science officer, and she sported the two pips of a lieutenant. The entire bridge crew held their collective breath as they gazed at the beautiful young woman. Janeway took a split second to scrutinize her before confirming that she had never seen her before. But for some reason that the captain could not grasp, the new arrival seemed strangely familiar.
“I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager,” she greeted.
“I'm Lieutenant Erin Richards. I have come from thirty years in your future. It is imperative that I speak with Admiral Janeway, with your permission.”
Janeway turned and looked questioningly at the admiral. The admiral returned the look and shook her head to show that she didn't understand what was going on either. Janeway turned and faced the viewscreen.
“Thirty years? Starfleet waited four years to send a lieutenant after the admiral?”
The young woman attempted to hide a smirk, but was unsuccessful. This caused both Janeway and the admiral to raise an eyebrow at her.
“I'm not from the same timeline as the admiral. I exist in an alternate timeline, one which resulted from Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant three days from now...your time, of course.”
“Of course,” Janeway replied, shaking her head slightly. Temporal mechanics always made her head spin.
Janeway approached the helm and stood next to Lt. Paris, never taking her eyes off the woman on the viewscreen. “If you're from a different timeline, then why are you here?”
“You and Admiral Janeway will devise a plan to destroy the Borg transwarp hub while simultaneously getting Voyager home. That decision will cause a disaster for the Federation in my time. I have come to offer assistance in modifying your plan so the Federation will not be harmed.”
“And what would these modifications entail?” Janeway asked with a furrowed brow.
“I can explain the details to you after I speak with the admiral. There is classified information which I believe only the admiral should be made aware of, in accordance with the temporal prime directive. I hope you understand, Captain.”
Janeway leaned on the back of Paris ' chair with one hand and placed the other hand on her hip. She looked down at the deck and sighed.
“This is turning out to be one hell of a day,” she thought to herself. “First I argue with my future self, then I find out Seven is going to marry Chakotay. Now I have a lieutenant telling me Voyager's return is going to destroy the Federation in thirty years. Why did I even get out of bed this morning?”
The husky voice of the lieutenant roused Janeway out of her thoughts and focused her attention back on the viewscreen.
“Captain, I realize this may be overwhelming for you and you would like some answers, but may I have permission to speak with Admiral Janeway in private first?”
Janeway looked back at the admiral again. The admiral nodded her head to indicate her agreement to talk to the young woman. Janeway faced the viewscreen once again.
“Very well, Lieutenant. We'll beam you over.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
The viewscreen returned to displaying the countless stars outside the ship. Janeway turned to Tuvok and the admiral.
“Tuvok, I want you to take a security team and escort the admiral to the transporter room. I want this young woman behind a level ten force field until we know who she is and why she's here.”
Tuvok began walking toward the turbolift, expecting the admiral to follow. He stopped abruptly when he realized that Admiral Janeway hadn't budged from the spot where she had been standing a moment earlier.
“This is a bit excessive, isn't it, Captain?” the admiral asked Janeway.
“What do you mean?”
“The young lady seems rather harmless. All she wants to do is talk with me. I don't believe that deserves a security team and force field.”
“Sorry, Admiral. I don't want to take any chances.”
“I concur with the admiral,” Seven of Nine piped in.
Janeway turned toward Seven, who was standing at the auxiliary tactical console behind the command chairs. She raised her eyebrows as she locked eyes with the former drone.
“Oh? And why is that, Seven?” Janeway asked.
“As the admiral stated, the lieutenant is ‘harmless'. I believe her intentions are honorable and she may be trusted.”
“How do you know?”
Seven took a deep breath, straightened and sighed. She raised her ocular implant and shook her head slightly.
“I am uncertain. Perhaps it is what you call ‘intuition'.”
Janeway stared at her blankly for a moment, but then gave Seven a little smile and a slow nod.
“Very well. Tuvok, belay the security detail and force field. But I do want you to accompany the admiral and keep an eye open for anything suspicious.”
The admiral and Tuvok exited the bridge. Janeway turned to Kim.
“Harry, I want you to scan the lieutenant's shuttle. Transfer the readings to my ready room.”
“Aye, Captain,” Kim replied.
“Chakotay, you have the bridge,” she called out over her shoulder as she walked into her ready room.
Janeway moved so quickly across the bridge that she didn't hear Chakotay's acknowledgement of being left in charge. Once inside her ready room, the captain's posture collapsed. She rubbed her hand wearily over her eyes in an attempt to clear away all the emotions running through her. She took a slow, deep breath and approached the replicator.
“Coffee, black,” she ordered.
A steaming cup of hot, black coffee materialized. Janeway picked it up and took a sip, then made her way to the upper level of her ready room and gazed out the window, waiting either for the admiral to report back to her or for Harry Kim to provide her with details about Lt. Richards' shuttle. She began thinking about the young officer and how oddly familiar she seemed. Then her thoughts turned to the admiral's and Seven's respective reactions to putting the lieutenant in lockdown while the young woman spoke with the admiral.
“Maybe I was overreacting,” she thought to herself. There was something about this young lieutenant that gave Janeway a comforting feeling. Almost as if the woman were a part of her life. The captain snorted softly as she realized how silly that sounded. Yet, the admiral and Seven had clearly reacted in a similar fashion.
“Seven!” Again, the admiral's words replayed themselves in the captain's mind. “Seven marries Chakotay. Unreal.” She frowned and shook her head.
Suddenly, the chime of the ready room door interrupted her thoughts.
“Damn it,” Janeway mumbled under her breath.
She turned to face the doors.
“Come in!” she called out.
The doors slid open and Chakotay entered. Janeway bit the inside of her cheek to keep from blowing the raspberries at him.
“What can I do for you, Commander?” she asked with no enthusiasm.
Chakotay hesitated slightly, but proceeded to walk up the stairs while holding out a PADD to Janeway.
“These are the scans Harry took of Lt. Richards' shuttle,” he reported.
Janeway took the PADD without looking at Chakotay and began reading over the information.
“I thought he was going to transfer the data to my console in here.”
“I wanted to bring it in myself and find out how you're doing.”
Janeway glanced up at him.
“I'm fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to look over this information,” she stated as she held up the PADD.
She moved past him and headed for the lower level to take a seat at her desk. Chakotay remained standing for a moment and then followed her, a determined expression on his face. The captain seated herself behind her desk and continued looking over the shuttle data, completely ignoring her first officer. He finally took a seat in front of her desk. Janeway realized he had made himself a permanent fixture in the room, and decided the only way to get rid of him was to give in and talk to him.
“Was there anything else, Commander?” she asked flatly, looking up from her PADD.
“Kathryn, it's obvious something is wrong. I understand you've got a lot on your plate right now, between the admiral's plan to get us home and this lieutenant's prophecies of doom. But it seems there's something else bothering you, and as your friend and first officer, I'd like to know what it is.”
Janeway sighed and put down her PADD. She looked at Chakotay and nodded.
“You're right, Chakotay. I do have a lot to cope with right now. For the last few days, I've been arguing with my future self, which isn't an easy fight to win. Now we have a lieutenant from the future showing up to help us get home. Evidently, we'll be making a mess of her timeline. Otherwise, she wouldn't have needed to come back and clean it up.”
Janeway took a deep breath and looked at her console in a daze.
“On top of everything else, I found out that you and Seven are dating.”
Janeway could have sworn she heard a pin drop somewhere on the ship at that moment. It seemed as though Chakotay had stopped breathing. Janeway peered up at him and saw that his face was as white as a sheet. He averted his eyes.
“I'm sorry, Kathryn. I never meant to hurt you,” he said as he kept his eyes glued to the deck.
Janeway looked away from him and shook her head.
“Chakotay, you know how I feel about her. Why? That's all I want to know.”
Her first officer, at an apparent loss for words, glanced up at her.
“I can't explain why. It just happened.”
“Since when did you become so interested in Seven? For the last four years, you have done nothing but complain about her and continually question her loyalty. You even wanted to blow her out an airlock, for God's sake!”
Chakotay sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“I think it began when you started telling me about your feelings for her...all the things about Seven that made you fall in love with her. I'll admit, at first I didn't understand how you could develop such strong feelings for a former Borg drone, but after a while, I began to notice the same qualities in her.”
“So now you're telling me that I inadvertently helped you fall in love with her. Thanks, Chakotay. That'll help me sleep better at night,” Janeway shot back sarcastically.
“I'm not in love with her, Kathryn.”
“If you're not in love with her, than what the hell are you doing with her?”
The commander rose from his chair and walked to the upper level. He turned to face Janeway, who was still seated at her desk.
“Kathryn, it's none of your business. You're the one who refused to break Starfleet protocol and ask her for a date. Just because you have to follow every rule when we are 35,000 light years from Federation space doesn't mean that Seven has to go without companionship. It's not fair to expect that, especially when you don't have the courage to tell her how you feel.”
Janeway stood up and moved around her desk. She slowly ascended the steps to the upper level with her arms folded in front of her.
“You're right, Chakotay. I shouldn't have expected that Seven would never form a relationship with anyone else. If not you, it might have been almost any member of this crew. I will admit I was hurt that I had to hear it from the admiral instead of you.”
Chakotay glanced down at the deck before meeting her eyes.
“I am truly sorry, Kathryn. I didn't tell you because I knew it would upset you.”
“You must have entertained the idea that I would find out sometime.”
“Actually, I did. But I wanted to wait to make sure my relationship with Seven would last before I told you about it. Seven is a good person, but in many ways, she is still a drone. I wasn't certain she was capable of having the same kind of feelings the rest of us experience. With someone like that, it's difficult to predict whether or not a romantic relationship will work.”
Janeway bit down on her tongue and closed her eyes briefly to compose herself. She opened her eyes and looked up at her first officer.
“I suppose that's the difference between us, Commander. I see that Seven experiences every emotion that any other human being would. She simply has a different way of expressing what she feels. That is why I can honestly say I love her, and why you can say that you don't.”
Chakotay stood before her in silence, his expression unreadable. Janeway bowed her head briefly, collecting her thoughts, and then raised her chin to meet his eyes squarely.
“If this is what both you and Seven want, then far be it from me to interfere. But I will tell you that I think she deserves better. She should be with someone who loves her unconditionally, someone who will accept her ‘Borg drone' ways. That is what makes Seven unique. All I want is to know she's happy, and if you're what makes the grade, then I have to accept that.”
Janeway paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “As far as you and I are concerned...we are colleagues...nothing more. All those dinners we shared, and I poured my heart out to you about her...”
The captain held up her hands and shook her head. She desperately fought back an overwhelming urge to begin crying hysterically and to beat the living daylights out of her first officer at the same time. Collecting herself and pulling on her command face, she solemnly walked back down to her desk and picked up the PADD that she had been reading earlier.
Without looking up at Chakotay, she ordered, “You have the bridge, Commander. You're dismissed.”
Chakotay moved toward the door. He paused halfway to his destination and turned briefly toward Janeway as if to say something, but thought better of it and continued on his way. Janeway looked up at her ready room doors immediately before they slid shut behind the commander and caught a glimpse of Seven's troubled face looking either at Chakotay, who was walking toward her, or at Janeway seated at her desk.
“No doubt she's concerned for her FUTURE HUSBAND!” Janeway thought miserably.
Admiral Janeway and Lt. Erin Richards were seated at a table near the windows. Tuvok, who stood unobtrusively on the other side of the room, was the only other occupant in the mess hall at this time. His location permitted the admiral and the lieutenant to converse privately, but enabled him to keep a discreet eye out for anything suspicious.
The women were already deep in conversation. From Tuvok's perspective, the conversation was as clear as if he were seated at the table beside them. Aware that his acute Vulcan hearing was to blame for his unintentional eavesdropping, the security chief briefly contemplated standing outside the mess hall doors to allow the women more privacy, but felt it unwise to violate a direct order from the captain.
Nearly thirty minutes later, the two women rose from the table and embraced each other. Tuvok noted that the lieutenant towered over the admiral. They broke off their hug and approached the chief security officer, who stood at attention. Admiral Janeway stopped in front of Tuvok, looking up at him with a grin.
“Old friend, I know you heard every word of our conversation.”
Tuvok appeared slightly uncomfortable as his eyes flickered from the admiral to the lieutenant and back again. His posture somehow became even straighter as he remained stiffly at attention.
“I apologize, Admiral. I was ordered by Captain Janeway to remain with you, but I am unable to control my auditory acuity,” he stated in his dry Vulcan manner.
“Don't worry about it, Tuvok. I'm just glad it was you and not someone else who heard it. But I want you to follow my direct order that you are not to discuss my conversation with the lieutenant with anyone. Not even the captain.”
“I understand. You have my word that this conversation will go no further than this room.”
The silver-haired woman chuckled and patted him on the arm.
“You've always been a trustworthy friend, Tuvok.”
“Thank you, Admiral.”
The admiral glanced over at the lieutenant, then back at Tuvok.
“We'd better inform the captain why Erin is here,” she announced.
Admiral Janeway, Erin and Tuvok exited the mess hall and walked through the corridor to the turbolift. As they stepped onto the turbolift, the admiral called for them to be taken to the bridge. She heard a sigh escape the lieutenant, and watched as the young woman wiped beads of perspiration from her forehead and upper lip.
The admiral reached out and squeezed the lieutenant's upper arm gently. “Don't worry, Erin . Everything will work out fine.”
“She's never going to believe this. She'll see right through me.”
“How can you be so certain?”
Erin faced the older woman and rolled her blue-gray eyes.
“I know her very well, Admiral. If she suspects anything, she'll...well, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” the admiral laughed.
The lieutenant turned to Tuvok.
“Commander, I want to apologize for putting you in the middle of all this and asking you to withhold information from the captain. I know you have been a loyal friend and faithful officer to her for many years.”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow and tilted his head slightly as he addressed the young woman.
“Under ordinary circumstances, it would be a breach of protocol to withhold such information from a superior officer. However, in this instance, doing so will not prove detrimental to Voyager's security, and will prevent the captain from gaining knowledge that may violate the temporal prime directive. An apology is unnecessary, Lieutenant.”
Erin nodded and gave the chief of security a lopsided smile. “You don't have to call me ‘Lieutenant', Tuvok.”
“It would be advisable for both Admiral Janeway and myself to continue to address you as ‘Lt. Richards', even when no one else is present.”
“Worried about slipping up, Tuvok?” the admiral asked with a grin.
“Remaining consistent is the most logical course of action,” Tuvok replied.
“He's probably right. All this is going to be a waste of time if anyone realizes that I'm not who they think I am,” Erin remarked to the admiral as the turbolift doors began to part.
The bridge crew turned as the three exited the turbolift. Tuvok nodded to the two women and resumed his post at the main tactical station as the admiral and lieutenant made their way across the bridge.
Seven stood at her post on the bridge, contemplating what she had just heard.
“All this is going to be a waste of time if anyone realizes that I'm not who they think I am.”
She glanced over to see the two women entering the captain's ready room, and then shifted her attention to Tuvok. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary with him. Her Borg-enhanced hearing had allowed her to catch the tail end of a conversation that took place on the turbolift before the three stepped onto the bridge. Although she remained certain that Lt. Richards was fundamentally a trustworthy person, it disturbed Seven to hear such a statement. She failed to understand why Tuvok would permit such deception, and hoped the captain's safety would not be compromised because of it.
Seven sighed discreetly as she turned back to her console to continue her work. She began thinking of the auburn-haired woman seated in her ready room. The former Borg drone had acknowledged the attraction she held for the older woman during the first year she had spent aboard Voyager. However, her time in the Collective had furnished her with the assimilated memories of Starfleet admirals and captains, which included the fact that it was against Starfleet regulations for a commanding officer to become romantically involved with a subordinate. This knowledge had prevented her from pursuing the captain.
Seven's thoughts shifted to Voyager's first officer, Chakotay. They had been dating for several weeks at this point, and she had resigned herself to the fact that he would be the most suitable prospect on the ship for a long-term relationship. Chakotay had been suspicious of Seven when she first arrived on Voyager, and had never really trusted her during the years that followed. Within the past year, however, they'd had the opportunity to get to know one another better, while working together on several away missions.
Seven's continued exploration of her humanity had led her to the point of creating a holodeck simulation to learn more about romance and intimacy. Drawing on her attraction for the captain, she had originally programmed a Janeway hologram to assist her with these explorations, but felt it inappropriate to proceed any further, due to the forbidden nature of such a relationship in reality. Seven had inserted a Chakotay hologram as a replacement. As the ship's first officer, and a man who had earned her respect and friendship, he seemed to be a suitable choice.
Tom Paris, while working on his latest holoprogram and clearing out old holodeck files, had accidentally discovered Seven's simulation and had mentioned it to his wife, B'Elanna Torres. B'Elanna, in turn, had informed the first officer of Tom's findings. Seven had been completely unaware of this turn of events, but she had not failed to notice Chakotay's newfound interest in her and his flirtatious behavior. When the commander had asked her on a date, she'd accepted. Seven had discovered that a relationship with the commander was not an unpleasant prospect, but her heart remained with Voyager's captain.
Suddenly, she was snapped out of her musing by the voice of Tuvok at her ear.
“Is something wrong, Seven?” he asked quietly.
Seven stared blankly at him for a moment, trying to regain her composure. She realized that she had stopped working and had been staring at the closed ready room doors. Tuvok had come from behind his station to stand beside her.
“No, Commander. I was...thinking.”
“Curious. It is unlike you to daydream. Perhaps you should go to sickbay,” Tuvok suggested, with as much concern as a Vulcan could possibly show.
Seven felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment. She had always managed to present a cool and aloof exterior to her colleagues, which had earned her the moniker ‘Ice Princess', given by Lt. Torres. She knew “daydreaming” was out of character for her and felt awkward for being caught by Tuvok, of all people. She shook her head slightly.
“That will not be necessary. I am functioning within normal parameters.”
Tuvok looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Very well,” he replied, before returning to his station.
Seven watched him walk away and turned back to her console briefly, then glanced over at Tuvok again. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and approached him.
Tuvok looked up from his console.
“I am curious about Lt. Richards,” she informed him quietly, with her hands linked behind her back.
“What is it you wish to know?”
Seven's voice dropped to a near whisper. “I am concerned by a statement she made before the three of you entered the bridge. She indicated this would be a waste of time if anyone found out she was not who they think she is.”
Tuvok regarded her with a raised eyebrow and slight tilt of his head.
“I was unaware you heard any of the conversation that took place on the turbolift.”
“I am unable to control my auditory implant. I assure you it was done unintentionally.”
They regarded each other silently for a moment.
“Commander, do you know what Lt. Richards meant by her statement?”
“You overheard only one fragment of a conversation. There is no reason to be concerned. As chief security officer, if I believed Lt. Richards were placing the ship at risk, I would take appropriate action.”
Seven locked eyes with him for a moment, then nodded in acquiescence.
“Very well. I shall return to my post in Astrometrics.”
Tuvok returned her nod and watched her exit the bridge. He visually scanned the bridge crew to determine whether anyone had overheard his discussion with Seven. After confirming that the rest of the staff had been too occupied with their work to pay close attention, he resumed his work at tactical.
Captain Janeway stood on the upper level of her ready room, staring at the passing stars out the window and sipping her coffee. She tried to occupy her mind with thoughts of Voyager's newest visitor, and avoided thinking of her first officer in an intimate relationship with her heart's desire.
The door chime rang. Janeway took a deep breath in an attempt to bring her professional command deportment to the surface. She turned to face the door.
The doors slid open to reveal Admiral Janeway and Erin. They both stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked up at the captain standing on the upper level.
“So do you mind filling me in on what's going on?” Janeway stated dryly as she walked over to the couch and took a seat.
Erin exchanged a look with the admiral and ascended the steps to stand in front of the captain.
“I apologize for not sharing information with you right away, Captain. My intention is to make sure Voyager gets home and the Borg Collective is permanently destroyed. I have classified technology from the future to help me accomplish that, and I needed to confer with the admiral first, before presenting a plan to you.”
Janeway sat back on the couch. Her neck began to cramp from looking up at the lieutenant, who towered over her. She gave the young officer a nod.
“Why don't you have a seat, Lieutenant?” she said, as she gestured to the space on the couch next to her.
As Lt. Richards sat down beside Janeway, the admiral made her way over to the replicator.
Janeway looked at the admiral in surprise.
“I thought you gave it up?”
The admiral turned around with coffee in hand. She closed her eyes, inhaling the rich scent of the beverage. She slowly opened her eyes to gaze at the captain.
“I decided to revive a few of my old habits. From the sounds of Lt. Richards' plan, I'm going to have to start taking some risks again.”
Janeway raised her eyebrows at the admiral before turning her attention to the lieutenant.
“So what exactly is this plan the admiral and I come up with, and how did it cause a disaster in your timeline?” she asked, before taking a sip of her coffee.
“You and the admiral worked with the doctor to develop a Borg virus. Admiral Janeway was injected with the virus and flew her shuttle into the nebula. The queen is currently located within this particular hub. The admiral will attempt to negotiate with the queen for Voyager's safe passage. The queen will detect both the admiral and her shuttle, and will transport the admiral into her chamber.”
Janeway glanced up at the admiral with a lopsided grin.
“You are reviving your old habits.”
Lt. Richards flashed the admiral a brief smile and continued.
“The queen will assimilate the admiral. When that happens, the virus that the admiral is carrying will transfer to the queen and sever her link to her drones, throwing the Collective into chaos. During this time, Voyager will obliterate the hub and simultaneously ‘hitch' a ride inside a Borg sphere. The sphere will carry you into the Alpha Quadrant and you will destroy it from the inside. You will emerge safely just as the sphere blows apart.”
“So what will go wrong?”
The lieutenant sighed and bowed her head for a moment before answering Janeway's question.
“Not all of the Collective will be plunged into disorder. The virus that the admiral will transmit to the queen is not powerful enough to penetrate the entire Collective. There will be thousands of drones left unaffected.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “These remaining drones will band together and create a new Collective. One whose only purpose is to destroy the Federation.”
“The Borg tried to take over the Alpha Quadrant before, and failed. How could they possibly destroy the Federation with a partial Collective and no queen?” Janeway asked.
“The Borg Collective is like a bee colony. If the queen is destroyed, another drone is chosen to take her place. Once Admiral Janeway has been assimilated, the information about her technology will be transmitted throughout the Collective. Even though the admiral and her shuttle will be destroyed along with the queen and the hub, the unaffected drones will gain this knowledge. I believe they used this information to create more advanced weapons and shielding when they reestablished themselves. Starfleet's defenses are no match for what the Borg will create. Many of the Federation colonies will be annihilated...and Earth will be penetrated with an assimilation virus to turn all individuals into drones.”
Janeway set her coffee on the table in front of her and slowly rose to her feet. The admiral stood with one hand on her hip and the other holding her coffee cup close to her chest, staring out the window. Janeway began pacing about the upper level of the ready room, turning the new revelations over in her mind. After several moments, she stopped and broke the silence.
“If Voyager's early arrival leads to the destruction of the Federation, then I suggest we forget about the nebula and continue on our way.”
The admiral turned and faced the captain.
“That won't be necessary. Lt. Richards came here to assist us in executing this plan effectively. I think we should give it a shot.”
The captain shook her head.
“It's too risky, Admiral. I don't want to be responsible for millions of lives being lost just so we can get home a little earlier.”
Lt. Richards stood up from the couch and approached the captain.
“Captain, you can't afford to ignore this opportunity. I brought technology that will guarantee the success of this mission.”
Janeway held up a hand to interrupt the young woman and gave her a small, knowing smile.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm, Lieutenant, but there are no guarantees. Any number of things could occur without our knowledge, and the Federation could end up facing the same fate.”
Janeway turned away from her and descended the steps to stop in front of her desk. She glanced back over her shoulder at Lt. Richards.
“I'll have Harry and B'Elanna work on finding a way to open a temporal rift so you can return to your own time.”
Lt. Richards walked down the steps and stood facing Janeway.
“Captain, there is no way to send me back, and Voyager must return to the Alpha Quadrant now. I only exist because of the timeline you and the admiral will alter.”
The captain locked eyes with the lieutenant for several seconds.
“You've put me in a difficult position. If I allow you to execute your plan, there is the possibility the Federation will face repercussions down the road if the Borg are not completely destroyed. We may end up facing a similar future thirty years from now.”
Janeway turned slowly and walked around to stand behind her desk. She looked up at Lt. Richards and continued.
“On the other hand, if I keep Voyager on our current course and we ignore the nebula and the hub, I realize I could be putting your existence in jeopardy.”
Lt. Richards placed her hands on Janeway's desk and leaned over it slightly, looking the captain squarely in the face.
“Captain, it's not just my existence. There are many others you'll be risking. At this point in time, if Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant, many of your crewmembers will be able to pursue lives they wouldn't have had on Voyager. I'm talking about relationships, marriages, and children. And most importantly, the crew you have on board today will be alive to make such pursuits.”
A chill went down Janeway's spine as she listened to the lieutenant's argument. “Seven ”, she thought to herself. “ Seven will be alive if we go home now! Even if she marries Chakotay after we return, at least she will be alive. And the twenty- two others who would have died if Voyager takes the long way home will be able to live out their lives with their families. Including Tuvok, who will be able to receive the proper treatment he needs.” She glanced over at the admiral, who was still standing on the upper level of the ready room, looking at her intently. “Maybe going home now will prevent me from becoming a half-crazed Admiral. Hell, seven years of taking risks has gotten us this far, why stop now?”
“Alright, Lieutenant,” Janeway offered, “we can try it your way. But I want to see a detailed report of your plan. I want this to go off without a hitch.”
Lt. Richards straightened, smiled and nodded to the captain.
“I understand, Captain. In order to finalize this, I need to go to your Astrometrics lab. I believe Seven of Nine has recorded detailed information about the hub from her scans three days ago. Knowing the Borg's recent activity can help us formulate a more precise plan of action.”
Janeway nodded to the lieutenant.
“Very well. I can have Tuvok escort you, if you like.”
“That won't be necessary, Captain. I know my way around this ship from all the tours I went on as a child. Voyager becomes a museum on the grounds of the Presidio.”
Janeway held up her hand and grinned.
“I know. The admiral informed me of that. At least that's one thing that won't change when the timeline is altered.”
Lt. Richards and the captain shared a chuckle. The admiral smiled at the sound of the laughs coming from two different women, but sounding almost exactly the same.
“Very well, Lieutenant,” the captain stated with a smile, “you're dismissed.”
The lieutenant nodded to her and the admiral before exiting the ready room.
Seven of Nine glanced over her shoulder briefly as the Astrometrics doors slid open to admit the ship's newest guest.
“Lt. Richards,” she stated, acknowledging the young woman's presence.
When she received no response, Seven turned to face her visitor, raising her ocular implant and tilting her head slightly in confusion. Richards' face had turned decidedly pale, and she appeared unable to take her eyes off the Astrometrics officer.
“Lieutenant? Shall I escort you to sickbay?”
Richards seemed startled by the sound of Seven's voice, but quickly regained her composure. “No, that won't be necessary. I'm all right...Seven.” She rubbed her forehead with one hand and sighed. “It's just been a long day. A bit overwhelming, actually.”
Seven hesitated a moment, as if unsure how to respond to that, but there was something in the young woman's manner that compelled the former drone to reassure the lieutenant.
“I will be glad to assist you in any way I can. Perhaps it will make your day less... ‘overwhelming'.”
The young woman gave Seven a lopsided grin. “Thanks.” She approached the nearest console. “I'm looking for any data you may have collected on the Borg transwarp hub when you scanned it three days ago.”
Seven keyed in several commands, displaying the data on the console. The lieutenant immediately began to scroll through the information, reading intently.
“Is there specific information you require?” Seven asked.
“I'm trying to determine the respective courses taken by all Borg vessels in the vicinity of the hub during your scans. If we can create a precise map of the hub and approximate the location of any Borg vessels within the nebula, we'll be in a much better position to pull this off successfully.”
“What do you intend to do?”
Richards paused in her work, but kept her eyes on the console. “I have a virus powerful enough to affect the entire Collective. In order for it to work effectively, it must be delivered directly to the central plexus of the Queen's sphere.” She heard the almost imperceptible intake of breath from Seven, and glanced out of the corner of her eye to see the former drone staring blankly at the console, obviously processing this information.
“It is an ambitious plan,” Seven finally remarked.
“That's an understatement,” Richards quipped. She punched in several commands, initiating an active scan of the nebula. “I think I might be able to pinpoint the location of the Queen's sphere, if we can boost the power to the scanners.”
“Scanning from this distance will require a significant power increase. You should ask Captain Janeway's permission before proceeding. It will be necessary to divert power from other ship systems.”
Richards continued keying in commands, as Seven glared at her sharply. “I'm almost there. I just need to increase the resolution...”
The lieutenant never finished that thought. She was abruptly thrown backward onto the deck as the console in front of her exploded in a shower of sparks.
Seven immediately knelt beside the unconscious young woman and addressed Voyager's computer. “Computer, initiate an emergency transport to Sickbay for Lt. Richards.”
“Acknowledged,” came the computer's measured response.
As the lieutenant dematerialized, Seven quickly departed Astrometrics for Sickbay.