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.
Erin sat in her shuttle contemplating her next move. She opened a hidden compartment in the front of the shuttle and pulled out a framed holoimage. She stared at it for several moments before pulling it face down on her chest and leaning back in her seat. Her thoughts were interrupted when the door to her shuttle opened. Erin looked up to see Captain Janeway and Seven enter.
“I hope you weren't planning on going anywhere,” Janeway stated as she walked to the front of the shuttle and took a seat across from Erin .
“No. I was just thinking,” Erin replied solemnly.
Erin watched Seven kneel down next to the captain and rest her arm on Janeway's leg. The young woman gave the former drone a lopsided smile.
“You told her.”
“Yes,” Seven answered with a slight tilt of her head. “Under the circumstances, I believed the captain should be informed of the truth.”
Erin nodded. “Well, so much for the temporal prime directive.”
Janeway flashed her a quick grin, and then turned her complete attention toward the young woman's proposal.
“ Erin , there has to be another way to deliver this virus. If we consult with the doctor, perhaps he can...”
“There is no other way,” Erin interrupted. “I've exhausted every possible resource to induce the virus to remain stable outside of the body. It's an extremely particular pathogen, and if any alterations are made, it will not work as effectively.”
Janeway focused her eyes on the deck in thought as she unconsciously began to lightly stroke Seven's hand, which was still resting on her knee. After a few moments, she looked back up at Erin with an idea.
“You had mentioned earlier that the admiral had originally gone into the hub carrying a virus...”
“This virus will kill the admiral instantly. She wouldn't even have a chance to get past the shuttlebay doors, and the Borg certainly aren't going to assimilate a dead body.”
“So the only way this virus can be effectively delivered is for you to physically carry it into their hub?”
“Yes. It's not exactly the way I imagined it would happen, but I'm afraid I didn't plan ahead very well before I opened that temporal rift.”
Erin glanced down at her console briefly before looking intently at Janeway and Seven.
“This is the only way to save the future of the Federation...and myself.”
“Explain,” Seven demanded in a confused tone.
Erin sighed and let her shoulders relax in a tired, defeated posture.
“I had no intention of revealing my true identity to the two of you. In fact, I planned on carrying the virus into the Collective and leaving behind a PADD for you both to read. In it, I would have explained who I was and told you about certain aspects of my life that I wished to change. Obviously, things didn't turn out that way.”
“Obviously,” Seven replied with a raised ocular implant.
“ Erin ,” Janeway beckoned. “What exactly do you want to change about your life?”
Erin leaned forward in her seat and handed Janeway the holoimage that had been resting on her chest. Both the captain and Seven stared at the image before them. It was a holoimage of both of them with Erin . The captain had silver-white hair and was wearing a Starfleet uniform exactly like Admiral Janeway's. Seven's hair was still mostly blonde, but lighter from the white coming in. She no longer wore a biosuit, but instead was attired in dark trousers and a sea-blue silk shirt, which made her eyes look even bluer in the image. Erin stood between them in a Starfleet uniform. Janeway and Seven immediately recognized a part of themselves in Erin 's face in the picture. All three were smiling, and they appeared to be at some sort of Starfleet function.
“That image was taken about two years ago, right before the Borg attacks began. It was the last big Starfleet dinner before...everyone became drones.”
Janeway and Seven looked up at the younger woman in surprise.
“Well, I guess I can start from the beginning. I'm sure both of you are curious to know how you ended up married to each other, with a child.”
The captain and her Astrometrics officer both nodded eagerly. Erin smiled to herself, knowing the anticipation was killing her parents.
“After Voyager returned home, Starfleet promoted you to Admiral,” she began, looking at Janeway. “You were held in the highest regard not only for guiding your ship and crew through uncharted space for seven years, but for destroying the Borg...or so they thought. You lived alone in an apartment in San Francisco . You kept in touch with almost every Voyager crewmember, except two: Chakotay and Seven. No one knew how to contact them, or where they were located. Six months later, you received a visitor out of the blue.”
Erin paused and looked at Seven. “It was you. Things didn't go so well in your relationship with Chakotay, and you went to the one person you knew was always there for you.”
Erin leaned back in her seat in a more relaxed position, crossing her long legs at the ankles while resting her clasped hands on her abdomen. She looked back to the captain.
“Seven moved in with you as a platonic friend, but within a few months, that changed. After a year, the two of you were married. Another year after that, you both decided you wanted a child, so Seven underwent a few surgeries to remove certain implants. She became impregnated with an egg that contained both your DNA...with the doctor's help, of course.”
“Of course,” Janeway remarked. She regarded Erin briefly before asking, “Why would Seven go through extensive surgeries to have a child, when I'm fully capable of carrying?”
Erin smiled to herself and sighed. “She wanted to do something that would symbolize her humanity, not only for herself, but for you as well. Physically carrying your child was it. I believe you were as reluctant then as you are now, but I assure you, everything will turn out fine. And my Borg nanoprobes and internal implants have never caused me any problems. If anything, they've helped increase my resistance to disease, and promoted faster healing from injuries...as you both know. The Doctor could have removed Seven's nanoprobes from her egg, I suppose, before inserting your DNA, but in retrospect, I'm glad he didn't.”
Erin uncrossed her ankles and leaned forward in her seat again. She straightened her posture and took a deep breath before continuing.
“Anyway, Seven's surgeries or pregnancy won't be the problem. It's what came out of it all—me.” Erin averted her eyes toward the shuttle console and shook her head slightly. “I wasn't what you would call the ‘ideal' child. I used to get into a lot of trouble while growing up, and I caused a great deal of stress for both of you.”
Seven raised her ocular implant and tilted her head at the younger woman. “When I cared for the Borg children, my research indicated that ‘getting into trouble' is a common occurrence among adolescents. I am uncertain as to why you feel it necessary to alter your entire life because of this.”
Erin looked at Seven and shook her head. “It's not just some everyday teenage mistakes. My behavior followed me into my adult years and embarrassed both of you, as well as myself.”
“Can you be more specific?” Janeway inquired.
“Seven was also held in very high regard after Voyager's return. She regained most of her humanity and became an extremely caring and nurturing individual. People in the Federation looked up to her. She gave them hope that maybe one day, their loved ones who had been assimilated by the Borg could be severed from the Collective and brought back to them. As Admiral Janeway and Seven of Nine's daughter, the respect and admiration everyone had for both of you was automatically extended to me the day I was born. I knew that, and took full advantage of it. I walked through life thinking that everyone owed me something, and nearly everybody I met was only too happy to oblige. As if that wasn't enough to turn me into a spoiled brat, you two let me get away with murder at home.”
Janeway glanced over at Seven, who was studying Erin with large eyes. The captain then looked back at the younger woman skeptically.
“Are you saying that Seven and I caused...or will cause...a life-long behavior pattern for you?”
Erin offered the captain a shy smile and sighed. “Yes and no. I realize I brought most of my problems on myself, but it didn't make matters any easier for me to know that whenever I did something wrong, there would be no repercussions. You didn't intentionally spoil me. I am your only child, and you simply wanted to give me the best that life can offer. Unfortunately, it backfired when I entered Starfleet and was expected to follow orders from commanding officers.”
The young woman nodded toward the holoimage in Janeway's hand. “Three months after that image was recorded, I lost my commission and was court martialed. The only thing that kept me out of the Federation penal colony was that the fact that I was your daughter.”
Erin glanced up at Janeway and saw that the captain was visibly shaken up from her story. Janeway passed her hand over her face, as if to clear her mind.
“What exactly did you do to receive a court martial?” Janeway asked after several moments of silence.
Erin leaned back in her seat and sighed. “Well, I disobeyed direct orders from my captain, I allowed Federation technology to get into the hands of an enemy, I broke the prime directive on several occasions, and I instigated a conflict with a species called the Zembriar during first contact.”
“Oh,” Janeway stated in shock. In all her years in Starfleet, this was the first time she had heard of one lone officer causing so many problems for the Federation...not to mention that this was her own daughter.
“I'm sorry that I have to tell you all this. I did a lot of things in my life that I'm not proud of. I am ashamed of myself, but most of all, I am ashamed of the embarrassment and humiliation I caused both of you. You deserve to have a better daughter than the person I turned out to be.”
Erin hung her head in shame and stared at the deck plating of the shuttle. She could no longer bear to look into her parents' faces, even though technically, they were not her parents yet.
“The insignia on your uniform in this image indicates you were a lieutenant. How were you able to obtain such a rank if you were considered by Starfleet to be a ‘troublemaker'?” Seven asked.
Erin met Seven's eyes and nodded toward Janeway. “Being Admiral Janeway's daughter has it privileges. When I was at the academy, my instructors didn't report any of my behavior problems, and my classmates covered up for me. When I graduated and began receiving assignments, my commanding officers gave me verbal warnings only, and left a lot of details out of my permanent record. I was able to sail through the ranks without a hitch, until what turned out to be my last assignment.” Erin averted her eyes once more. “I became an extremely arrogant individual. I had no regard for authority and didn't care about anyone else but myself.”
Janeway sighed in her seat as she straightened her posture. Erin knew it was aggravating for the captain to hear about a Starfleet officer having such blatant disregard for protocol.
“Perhaps we should discourage you from entering the academy. Another career may be more suitable for you,” Seven offered hopefully.
“No. I loved being in Starfleet. I loved being an explorer. I simply never learned that certain actions really do have consequences. I guess that's the one thing in my life I would like to change.”
“What do Seven and I need to do differently?” Janeway asked.
Erin sat in thought for several moments. Finally, she looked up at Janeway and blurted out, “The accident in Astrometrics was my fault. Seven warned me not to increase power to the scanners, but I didn't listen to her. She covered up for me by telling you that she was the one who did it.”
Janeway leaned back in her seat in shock. She hadn't expected to hear such a confession, especially when it included the fact that Seven had lied to her. She looked over at her Astrometrics officer, who returned her gaze with regret in her eyes.
“I'm not trying to cause a conflict between you two,” Erin went on. “I wanted you to know the truth. And I wanted to give you an example of what has repeatedly occurred in my life.”
“Which is...?” Janeway prompted.
“Seven has always covered for me. Whenever I got into trouble, she would try to correct the situation herself and keep it hidden from you.”
“ Erin ,” Janeway began. “I'm not a counselor, but in spite of our permissiveness, there must have been some other factor that triggered this continual pattern of getting into trouble.”
Erin gave a slow, sympathetic grin to the captain. “There was. You.”
“Me?” Janeway asked in surprise.
“You weren't around much when I was younger. You spent a lot of time working late at Starfleet headquarters, and most of those nights, you never came home. It wasn't because things were bad at home, it was because you had two wives and two daughters. One set was Mother and me...the other set was Starfleet and your commitment to duty.”
“Oh...I see,” Janeway responded, with a disturbed look on her face.
“If Kathryn becomes an admiral, her responsibilities will greatly increase. It is understandable that her time at home would be compromised,” Seven offered in Janeway's defense.
“That's what you always say,” Erin retorted. “And that's also what caused me to act out inappropriately. Now that I've had a chance to look back on all the things I did, I realize that most of it was attention-seeking behavior.”
Erin glanced over at Janeway. “I was trying to get your attention. Make you stay home more often. Of course, it didn't work, because Seven would hide my behavior problems from you. She didn't think you needed the extra stress of learning how much trouble your daughter could get into.”
The young woman sighed before continuing. “I didn't always act out to try to get your attention. I started off by overachieving. I thought that if I did really well in school and remained at the top of my class, you would notice that and tell me how proud you were of me. Over time, when I received no response from you, I just gave up...and that's when I went to the other extreme.”
“My God, Erin,” Janeway exclaimed. “I'm so sorry.”
Erin titled her head and favored Janeway with a crooked smile. “There is no need for you to apologize. I take full responsibility for what I have done to myself. I can only speculate that if things had been different for me growing up, my attitude and the choices I made would change.”
All three women fell silent, each turning over pieces of the conversation in their heads. After several moments, Erin gently reached toward Janeway to take back the holoimage, which the captain was still holding in her hands. The captain and Seven watched their future daughter stare at the image with a look of torment on her face.
“I'm sure your parents are proud of you, Erin,” Janeway said softly. “After all, you've taken it upon yourself to travel back in time to save the Federation.”
Erin continued to gaze at the holoimage while she nodded her head. “You may be right, Captain. But that's something I will never know. Unfortunately, my parents' distinctiveness was added to the Collective.”
“Your parents were assimilated by the Borg,” Seven confirmed.
Erin nodded. “After I was kicked out of Starfleet, I returned to Indiana to live with them on our farm. Shortly afterward, the Borg attacks began. The Borg were in the process of overtaking much of the North American continent. Starfleet attempted to keep their higher ranking officers safe, and we were moved to the southern hemisphere until they could devise a plan to get all of the survivors off the planet without the Borg detecting us. Unfortunately, the plan came too late.”
Erin propped up the holoimage on the console. She continued gazing at it as she finished her story.
“One night, we set up camp with about a hundred other Starfleet families. Everything was quiet at first, then at about 0200 hours, drones began closing in on us.” Erin shook her head slightly, with tears brimming in her eyes. “I tried to get both of you out of there, but there just wasn't enough time. You both screamed at me to run. I stood there for what seemed a long time, unable to move. Looking back on it, I guess it couldn't have been more than a minute or two. I saw each of you assimilated by drones. I finally snapped out of it when they started coming toward me. I took off running and never looked back.”
Erin glanced over at Janeway and Seven. “I ran to a small shuttlecraft...we had just installed a cloaking device on it a few days earlier. Only six of us escaped from Earth that night. We went to the Tajora colony, which the Borg had not invaded yet. I spent over a year sifting through Borg debris so I could find components to modify a shuttle and open a temporal rift to come here—where it all originated.”
Seven stood up abruptly and walked to a console behind the pilot's seat. Janeway remained in her seat as she felt tears filling her eyes. She looked down at her hands and began flicking one thumbnail with the other as a distraction. Erin glanced back and forth between her future parents. She'd originally had no intention of telling them about the horrific reality all three of them would face if the Borg were not obliterated, but now, under the circumstances, she had felt it necessary.
Finally, Seven turned partly around and peered at Erin over her shoulder. “Are you certain this virus will completely destroy the Collective?”
“Yes,” Erin replied as she stood from her seat. Her face began to lighten as she allowed herself to regain hope that Seven might assist her.
“Does that mean you will help me with the delivery?” Erin asked enthusiastically.
Seven gazed at Erin for a moment before glancing over at Janeway, whose expression was unreadable. The former drone looked back at Erin with a sigh.
“I wish to see all the data you have in regard to this virus. After I review the details, I will give you my answer.”
Erin dipped her head in acknowledgement. “Okay. That sounds fair enough.”
Erin stepped around Seven to a nearby console and began downloading her data. Janeway got up from her chair and walked over to stand beside Seven. She lightly stroked Seven's arm as both women watched Erin complete her task. Finally, the young woman handed Seven a PADD.
“Have you consumed any nutritional supplements today?” Seven asked with concern on her face.
“What?” Erin responded to the out-of-the-blue question. “Umm...no, I haven't.”
“Perhaps you should go to the mess hall and eat while the captain and I review this data.”
“Okay,” Erin said slowly. “I guess I'll just wait for you there.”
Seven gave a brief nod before approaching Erin and placing her left hand on the side of her daughter's face. Erin 's large blue-gray eyes gazed gently into Seven's large blue eyes. Both women smiled at each other.
It suddenly occurred to Seven that neither Erin nor Kathryn had flinched when she'd touched them with her Borg-enhanced left hand. Their response was quite different from the way Chakotay had reacted during the time she'd dated him. He had purposely avoided her left side, and she had caught him staring at her hand with a look of disgust on his face. Seven had assumed this would be a normal reaction from all humans, until now. She realized that only those individuals who truly loved her were able to see past her Borg implants and look into her soul, the way Erin was looking at her that moment.
“I am sorry for what has happened to you, Erin Hansen Janeway,” Seven remarked softly.
Erin just nodded. Seven leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead before wrapping both arms around the younger woman. Erin returned the hug and buried her face against Seven's neck.
“I miss you, Mama,” she said, as she began sobbing. “I just want to make everything right and bring you both back to me.”
Seven felt the dampness on her neck as Erin continued crying. She stood there for several moments, holding her daughter and allowing the young woman to release the sadness within her. Seven's peripheral vision caught a glimpse of Janeway wiping tears from her eyes. Erin finally loosened her grip on the former drone and sniffed her remaining tears away. Seven reached up and wiped the tears from Erin 's face.
Janeway approached Erin and squeezed her arm gently.
“Why don't you get yourself something to eat in the mess hall,” Janeway said as she smiled gently. “I heard Crewman Chelle makes a mean Bolian omelet.”
Erin laughed and nodded as she rubbed the remaining tears from her eyes. “I'll have to try that.”
Janeway gave her daughter a lopsided smile. “Seven and I will find you once we have reviewed your data.”
“Very well,” Erin replied. Just before she exited the shuttle, she turned around and looked at both Janeway and Seven. “I want you to know that no matter what you decide to do, I will respect and stand by your decision. I just don't want you to miss the opportunities you'll have if you return to Earth now.”
As the door whooshed shut behind the young woman, Janeway and Seven stood together, alone on Erin 's shuttle. Janeway noticed Seven lifting her left hand closer to her face. On the tip of Seven's metal-encased index finger stood a droplet of water. Janeway immediately realized it was one of Erin 's tears. Seven was studying it closely, and she suddenly turned to Janeway.
“She is our daughter, Kathryn,” Seven stated with a pained expression. “I cannot allow her to hurt like this. I must help her.”
Janeway gazed up into Seven's blue eyes and nodded. “I know, Seven.”
Erin sat alone at a table eating her Bolian breakfast. She sat half lost in thought and half listening to the conversation between Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres, who were sitting at the table next to her. B'Elanna was complaining about how uncomfortable it was to be pregnant, while Tom tried his best to be sympathetic. Crewman Chelle strolled toward their table with a steaming bowl of chili and set it down in front of B'Elanna.
“Here you are, Lieutenant. One bowl of Red Alert Chili, as ordered,” Chelle told the Chief Engineer enthusiastically. “I hope you enjoy it.”
“Thank you, Chelle,” B'Elanna replied as she picked up her spoon to start digging in. Chelle nodded and returned to the kitchen.
Tom looked at the bowl with disgust. “How can you eat that for breakfast? That can't be good for the baby.”
“Mind your own business,” B'Elanna snapped back as she shoved a spoonful in her mouth.
Tom sat staring at her for a moment, and then glanced over at Erin, who'd been unable to completely hide the amused expression on her face. She felt Tom's eyes on her, and turned to him with a smile.
“Don't worry, Tom. Miral is tough enough to handle that,” she reassured him, as she pointed to B'Elanna's bowl.
“Oh,” Tom blinked. “You know our daughter?”
Erin nodded in response. “ Oh yes, Mr. Paris. I know your daughter very well ,” she thought to herself. She felt her cheeks flush as she remembered the night she and Miral Paris had gone out together after Erin had graduated from the academy. Miral was a few years older than Erin , and wanted to give her a graduation gift she wouldn't forget. And Erin certainly had never forgotten it.
They had been attracted to one another for years, but knew that they could never have more than a secret one-night stand, because of their parents. B'Elanna would never have approved of any romantic involvement between the two young women. She'd always maintained that Erin was arrogant and self-centered, and wasn't overly fond of the idea that Erin and Miral were even friends. Erin 's parents, on the other hand, didn't approve of anyone who dated their daughter. To them, no one was good enough to have the privilege of Erin 's company.
Erin 's thoughts were abruptly interrupted when she heard a coffee cup slam down on the other side of her table. Tom and B'Elanna stopped bickering long enough to look up and see that it was Chakotay. After regarding him briefly, they returned to their breakfast.
Chakotay took a seat across from Erin and gave her a beady stare. Erin stared back at him, with anger rising up in her.
“Do you mind if I join you, Lieutenant?” he asked sharply.
Erin took a bite of her omelet, chewed slowly and swallowed before answering.
“Commander, it's considered polite to ask such a question before you sit down.”
Tom snickered from the table next to them. Chakotay glared at the helmsman before turning his attention back to Erin .
“I didn't come here to join you in a meal. I wanted to discuss something with you.”
“I can't imagine what you and I could possibly have in common to discuss,” Erin noted while shoving another forkful of food in her mouth.
“Seven? Seven what? The seven seas? The seven wonders of the world?”
“You know damn well I am talking about Seven of Nine,” Chakotay hissed.
“Don't concern yourself with Seven of Nine, or the captain, for that matter. I want you to stay away from both of them.”
“Just who the hell are you...” Chakotay began to yell.
Erin held up her hand to silence him. She glanced around the mess hall and saw that everyone had stopped eating and was staring at her and the first officer. Chakotay closed his mouth and followed the young woman's gaze. His face reddened slightly from embarrassment as he focused on her again.
“Seven and I were developing a romantic relationship,” he told her in a lowered voice. “Everything was fine until you came aboard. I want to know what is going on with you two.”
“Commander,” Erin replied as she leaned forward. “If you are suggesting that Seven and I are romantically involved, you are one sick bastard.”
Erin could see the confusion cross over Chakotay's face. She put her fork down and leaned further over the table.
“Seven of Nine is my mother.”
“Your mother?” Chakotay asked in a whisper. He sat lost in thought for a moment as he attempted to process what the young woman was telling him. He finally looked back at Erin . “If Seven is your mother, then who is your father?”
“Well, for all practical purposes, it's the captain,” Erin replied.
Chakotay simply stared at her. Erin realized she was going to have to spell it out for him. “Seven of Nine and Captain Janeway are my parents. In my time, they were married for nearly thirty years. They had a daughter together, who turned out to be me. My name is Erin Hansen Janeway.”
“I thought your name was Richards.”
“For God's sake ,” Erin thought to herself, “ this guy really is an idiot .”
“In an attempt to protect the timeline, I used an alias to conceal my identity.”
“I see,” Chakotay replied. Erin observed his facial muscles tense slightly from anger. She took this as a sign that her words were finally sinking in.
“Look, Chakotay,” Erin said with a sigh. “My parents really love each other, and I think you know that. Without going into all the details, let me tell you that you and my parents felt a lot of anger and resentment toward one another for several years. Besides, we all know that you don't really love Seven, so why get all worked up over it?”
Chakotay averted his gaze and sighed deeply before meeting Erin 's eyes again. “You're right. I don't love Seven,” he finally admitted in a quiet voice. “I love Kathryn.”
“I see,” Erin said slowly. She looked down at her plate in thought and then glanced up at the first officer. “So you began dating Seven because...?”
“It may sound strange, but I know how Kathryn feels about Seven. I suppose it was my way of assuring myself that they would never get together,” he explained, with eyes cast downward. “It gave me the comfort of knowing that since I couldn't be with the one I truly wanted, at least I had her prized possession.”
The young woman's eyes widened slightly as she considered the first officer's words. “That's really sadistic. But in some strange way, I understand what you're saying.”
Erin and Chakotay sat in silence together at the table, neither knowing what to say to the other. Finally, Erin spoke.
“I came back in time to make a few changes for the future. Maybe we can make this one of them,” she began softly. “Both the captain and Seven had considered you a good friend at one time, before all this occurred. I'm sure they didn't enjoy being in conflict with you all those years. Accept reality for what it is, Chakotay. Give them your support. I don't think there are any two people in this universe who were meant to be together more than my parents. There is nothing you can say or do to change that, and if you try to change it, things will only be worse between the three of you.”
Chakotay regarded her for a long moment before dipping his head in acknowledgement. “I understand, and I'd like to apologize for my abrasiveness with you. I let my emotions take control before learning all the facts.”
“It's alright, Commander. You didn't know who I really am.”
Chakotay nodded and sat in silence. He was unsure what else to say to the young woman. He realized, in fact, that there was nothing he could say to her. Although Erin had been evasive about exactly what had happened between him, Janeway and Seven in her time, he knew that he must have tried to come between the captain and his former girlfriend after their return to Earth. He also acknowledged that these events had completely destroyed his friendship with both women, to the point that their daughter had developed an intense dislike for him. He made a silent vow to use this information to prevent that from happening again.
The commander glanced up at Erin and offered her a polite nod with a grin. “If you'll excuse me, I need to get back to the bridge.”
Erin gave Chakotay a quick nod before he exited the mess hall. She picked up her fork and resumed eating. The young woman could feel the presence of familiar eyes watching her. She glanced up and saw Seven standing at the doorway opposite the one Chakotay had exited a moment ago. Erin quickly abandoned her plate and walked over to meet the former drone.
Tom and B'Elanna discreetly watched the two women conversing by the door.
“I can't believe we didn't notice it before,” B'Elanna whispered to Tom.
They both continued glancing over at Seven and Erin. Both women stood facing each other at the same height, possessed the same build, and spoke with the same full lips. Erin's gestures and facial expressions were similar to Seven's, but with the addition of Captain Janeway's trademark body language.
“Who would have guessed that the captain and Seven would have a kid together,” Tom remarked quietly.
B'Elanna turned back to face Tom squarely.
“Stranger things have happened,” she replied. “I doubt anyone would have predicted you and I would be having a child together. Myself included.”
Tom responded with a sarcastic smile as he popped a piece of peanut butter toast in his mouth.
“Mind if I join you?” Harry Kim asked as he set his plate down on the end of the table.
“Pull up a seat, Harry. B'Elanna and I were just discussing love matches of the Delta Quadrant,” Tom replied with a smirk.
“What?” Harry asked as he took a seat. He looked from Tom to B'Elanna and followed the chief engineer's gaze toward the Astrometrics officer and Voyager's new visitor.
“There she is,” he sighed.
Tom stopped chewing his toast and looked at Harry questionably. B'Elanna turned her attention to the ensign.
“There who is?” she asked.
“Lt. Richards,” Harry replied, keeping his eyes on the attractive woman at the mess hall door.
Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other and started laughing. The operations officer was taken aback by their amusement.
“What's so funny?”
Tom smiled as he reached over and patted his friend's shoulder. “Poor Harry. So far you've fallen for the wrong twin, a hologram, a Borg drone, a rebellious woman from a xenophobic race, a dead woman, and now her .”
“What's wrong with her?”
“Trust me, Harry. You don't want to mess with that one,” B'Elanna offered. “Seven would probably string you up by your toes, and the captain will have you walking the plank.”
“Seven and the captain? Why would they care if I were interested in Lt. Richards?”
“Her name isn't Richards,” Tom remarked casually. “It's Janeway.”
Harry sat with a dumbfounded look on his face, staring at Tom. B'Elanna leaned over and patted the ensign's hand.
“She's the captain's and Seven's daughter, Harry,” she informed him. “And knowing how protective they both are, I'm not sure they'd approve of you putting the moves on her.”
Harry looked back and forth between the two lieutenants before glancing at the door to see Seven and her daughter exiting the mess hall. He hung his shoulders in a defeated posture.
“I give up,” he pouted.
Tom and B'Elanna finished their meals, trying to conceal the laughter that would have arisen at the expense of their lovesick friend.
Erin and Admiral Janeway busily prepared the admiral's shuttle for the final mission that would allow Voyager to return home. Both women had stayed up all night working on the project, which included disassembling Erin's shuttle to ensure that the future's technology wouldn't make the trip home with Voyager.
Erin had attempted to strongly discourage the admiral from making the journey into the Borg hub with her. The admiral had just as strenuously argued that she should be allowed to accompany the young woman. The doctor had interrupted their heated debate to point out that it would be beneficial for the admiral to join Erin, carrying the virus that had originally been used. He believed that the admiral's virus would create enough chaos to allow Erin to deliver her virus undetected.
The young woman was secretly relieved that the admiral would be coming along for the ride. Although this Admiral Janeway was a version of her mom who never married or had a child, Erin still felt parental comfort from the older woman, and her presence on this assignment made it less frightening.
Erin completed her work at a console in the rear of the shuttle. She moved to the front of the spacecraft and took her seat next to the admiral, who was finishing keying in commands at her station. Erin watched the silver-haired woman briefly before casting her eyes down toward the deck. The admiral, sensing the younger woman's sorrowful mood, stopped her work and turned to face her.
“Erin, are you having second thoughts about this?”
“No. I just hope this works, because I...”
The young woman turned away, her eyes brimming with tears.
“I can't go through this again,” she finally revealed, after several moments of silence.
“I don't want to go through this again, either,” Admiral Janeway responded with a soft smile, in an attempt to comfort Erin.
“No, that's not what I mean. If this doesn't work, then I'm going to have to watch my family and friends be assimilated once again.”
Admiral Janeway leaned toward Erin and grasped the young woman's hands.
“Erin, this will work. We have spent the last 24 hours going over every detail, and between Seven's experience and your extensive research on the Borg, I don't believe we've missed anything.”
Erin smiled at the admiral as she wiped the tears from her eyes. They sat in silence, lost in their own thoughts for a moment.
“Admiral, I have to admit that I'm a little frightened. I've never been on a Borg vessel with live drones before, let alone the Borg Queen.”
“I've boarded several cubes and spheres in my day,” the admiral replied with a grin, “and the fear never goes away. The adrenaline will keep you moving to get the job done.”
Admiral Janeway gently cupped Erin's worried face with her hand. She understood the fear and anxiety the young woman was experiencing, and could only wish that it didn't have to be her own daughter. In her heart, she had come to accept Erin as her child, in spite of the fact that the young woman had never existed in her own timeline.
“And Erin, I promise that I will not leave your side during this mission. We'll get through this...together.”
Erin smiled and nodded to acknowledge the admiral's promise. Admiral Janeway lightly stroked the younger woman's cheek before dropping her hand to pat her on the knee.
“Let's finish getting this shuttle ready. How much time do we have left?” the admiral asked as she turned toward her console.
Erin drew strength from her Starfleet training, taking advantage of this final opportunity to become the officer she was meant to be. She glanced up at the chronometer.
“We have less than an hour, Admiral,” she stated with determination in her voice. “Perhaps we should run a diagnostic over all the systems again.”
“Sounds good to me...Lieutenant,” the admiral replied with a wink.
Erin chuckled and began keying commands into the shuttle's computer. She'd made the decision to put her doubts and fears aside and concentrate on putting all her energy into making this plan work. She knew its outcome would be crucial in determining what would happen to the Federation, herself, and her parents, whom she wasn't going to disappoint again.
Seven of Nine stood in front of the windows in Captain Janeway's living area, her hands linked behind her back as she stared out at the passing stars in thought. The captain was in her bedroom getting dressed after taking a sonic shower in an attempt to feel ‘human' again. They had both stayed up all night helping the admiral and their daughter prepare for today's mission. At 0500 most of the work had been completed, and Janeway and Seven had found themselves being shooed away by their future daughter. Erin had insisted they both try to get some rest for the day's upcoming events. Reluctantly, the two women had made their way to the captain's quarters, where they ended up cuddling on the couch together, talking and kissing instead of sleeping.
Thoughts of Erin kept running through Seven's mind as she stared out the window. Suddenly, she found her attention drawn to delicate hands that began sliding around her waist from behind. Seven offered a small smile as she turned to face the auburn-haired captain, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman.
“Do you feel ‘human' again?” Seven teased.
“Yes, I feel much better,” the captain replied with a smile.
Seven's brow furrowed and she tilted her head slightly as she noticed a large dark spot on Janeway's neck.
“There is a hematoma on your neck,” Seven said with concern, examining the injury.
“The common term is ‘hickey',” Janeway informed her. “I'll need you to run the dermal regenerator over it before we leave. It's a bit unprofessional for a captain to be seen in uniform with a large hickey on her neck.”
Janeway returned to the bedroom to retrieve the dermal regenerator. Seven followed her with a questionable look on her face.
“You developed a ‘hickey' because I kissed your neck?”
“No,” Janeway smiled as she glanced back at the former drone. “It's because you sucked on my neck. You'll have to be more careful in the future.”
The captain placed the dermal regenerator in Seven's hand.
“I apologize for causing you such pain, Kathryn,” Seven stated with regret as she began running the instrument over Janeway's neck.
“It doesn't hurt,” the captain replied. “As I said, it just doesn't look very professional.”
Seven continued passing the regenerator over Janeway's neck until the offending mark had completely disappeared. She set the device down on a nearby table and lightly ran her finger over the smooth, healed skin.
“Perhaps in the future, I will find a more discreet location on your body to ‘suck on',” Seven offered in the most seductive voice Janeway had ever heard.
Janeway looked up into the large blue eyes and cleared her throat in an attempt to moisten the dryness in her mouth. She felt her knees wobble slightly. The captain wrapped her arms around the former drone not only to show her affection, but also to remain standing in an upright position.
“Mmmmm,” Janeway moaned. “If you keep talking like that, we may never leave these quarters.”
“Perhaps that was my intention,” Seven replied, with distress evident in her voice.
Janeway blinked at the abrupt change in mood. She gazed into the beautiful face and saw that the former drone was on the verge of tears. Janeway slowly brought her hand up to caress Seven's cheek.
“Seven, I thought we had discussed this,” Janeway said softly. “I don't want to send Erin into that hub any more than you do, but she's given us a glimpse of what will happen...both to us, and to the Federation itself...if we don't do this.”
Seven lifted her hand to cover the smaller hand that was caressing her cheek. She closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath.
Suddenly, an idea popped into the former drone's head and her eyes flew open in excitement.
“Kathryn, perhaps Voyager could ignore the hub and continue on its original course.”
“Seven, we can't...”
“If we do not provoke the Borg now, the Federation may not suffer such severe consequences in the future.”
Janeway took a step back. She knew it was unusual for the younger woman to make such an irrational suggestion, and realized that Seven's emotions were spurring this conversation.
“What about Erin and the admiral? We have no way of sending either one back to their own time, and even if we did, I couldn't send Erin back to such a dismal place.”
“Erin and the admiral could remain on Voyager,” Seven offered hopefully.
Janeway turned away from Seven in thought. The auburn-haired woman, for a fleeting moment at least, had entertained that very idea herself. The reality, of course, was that putting such a suggestion into action would complicate matters even more, and still not guarantee the Federation's safety.
The thought of sending her own daughter to face the Borg Queen made Janeway's skin crawl. As a captain, however, she knew it was their best hope to save the Federation, her family–to-be, and her ship and crew. But how could she explain that to Seven, who at this point was so emotionally distraught she couldn't think objectively?
Janeway looked up at her Astrometrics officer, who was standing in her customary posture, with hands linked behind her back.
“Seven,” the auburn-haired woman beckoned softly. “Even if we decided not to use the Borg hub, Erin and the admiral would not be willing to stay onboard. They both went to a great deal of trouble to help us make it home safely.”
“We will reach the Alpha Quadrant safely, Kathryn. In sixteen years. The admiral will assist you with your command duties, and Erin will work with me in Astrometrics. We will be able to make amends for the parental errors we committed during her youth.”
Janeway rubbed her chin lightly as she shook her head.
“No, Seven,” she stated in a gentle, but firm, voice. “Erin is nearly thirty years old. There is no way to make up for that many years, especially considering that you and I haven't been part of her life until now.”
“Our...counterparts...from the alternate timeline raised Erin and made those mistakes. You and I had nothing to do with that, so we can't possibly make amends for experiences that we didn't share. What we can do is think of Erin's arrival here as a gift.”
“A gift?” Seven's brow furrowed in confusion.
Janeway nodded. “She has given us the opportunity to see what kind of parents we could become.” The smaller woman averted her eyes, a stricken look on her face. “Apparently, I will become my father.”
“You have always spoken highly of your father. Why would you not wish to model yourself after him?”
Janeway moved out into the living area of her quarters, gazing at the passing stars though her living room windows, as Seven followed. The captain began to rub her throat absently.
“My father was a great man, a respected and dedicated Starfleet officer,” she began. “I have always looked up to him, but his spousal and parenting skills did leave a lot to be desired. He often stayed away for weeks at a time due to Starfleet obligations, and when he did come home, he spent most of his days holed up in his office, working. He rarely had time for my mother and sister, let alone me. And when he did have time for me, I felt as if his love and attention were rewards to be earned, rather than gifts bestowed unconditionally. I solved advanced mathematical equations and studied quantum mechanics at an early age, in the hopes that I could gain his attention and make him proud of me. Unfortunately, that never happened. It was only years later, after the damage had been done, that I discovered how much he truly loved me, and by then, it was almost too late. My father died shortly thereafter.”
Seven approached the smaller woman from behind and slid her arms around her waist. Janeway leaned back against the comforting body and sighed.
“I never imagined that I could treat my family the same way,” Janeway continued. “I'm going to have a beautiful wife and daughter, and I don't want to continue making the same mistakes.”
“You have not made any mistakes, Kathryn. Our life with our daughter has not yet begun.”
“I know. That's why I need to take advantage of this second chance we've been given.”
“You are not the only one who will commit errors in judgment,” Seven remarked as she leaned forward to look into Janeway's face. “I will make faulty decisions, as well.”
Janeway looked up into Seven's blue eyes and gave her a small smile. Seven dipped her head to kiss the tip of Janeway's nose before tightening her embrace around the smaller woman. Janeway held on to the strong arms wrapped around her and closed her eyes as her head rested against the soft bosom behind her. Both women remained silent as thoughts of Erin and their future lives continued to run through their minds.
Suddenly, Seven voiced another inspiration. “Kathryn?”
“Mmm?” the captain responded with closed eyes.
“What if we were to continue on our original course, keep Erin and the admiral onboard, and still have a child together?”
Janeway's eyes popped open. She knew the former drone was grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to keep Erin on board, and turned partly around to look into Seven's eyes.
“Are you proposing that we raise our version of Erin here in the Delta Quadrant?”
“Yes. It would prevent confrontation with the Borg and allow us to have the experience of raising Erin from infancy.”
Janeway turned completely around to face the former drone. She rubbed her hands lightly on Seven's biceps as she contemplated her reply.
“No, Seven. I've spent the last seven years worrying about Naomi Wildman living aboard Voyager. I was a nervous wreck when we had all the Borg children on board. I certainly can't imagine raising a child of our own while trying to command a starship.”
“I will make provisions to care for her while you are on duty,” Seven responded matter-of-factly, as if she had already planned for any objections Janeway might offer.
“That's not what I mean. I'm talking about the dangers of day-to-day life on a starship in uncharted territory...battles, spatial anomalies, all the risks we've faced in the past and will face again. I would be forced to question crucial command decisions, because I would always feel the need to take Erin's safety into account.”
Seven's shoulders slumped in defeat. She had exhausted every idea to avoid assimilating her own daughter and sending her into the Borg hub. She had also grown close to the young woman over the past few days, and did not want her to leave. Janeway seemed to sense Seven's thoughts as she leaned up and kissed the full pouting lips.
“I'm sorry, sweetheart,” the captain said softly. “But I want to go home, marry you, and raise our daughter on Earth. And as I said before, this is our second chance with Erin, and I believe we should take full advantage of it.”
Seven knew there was nothing she could say or do to counter Janeway's decision. She also knew the captain was right. The thought of sharing a life with Kathryn on Earth, while raising their daughter together, made Seven glow warmly inside. But she knew that in order to have such a life, she must follow through with the promise she'd made to the Erin who awaited them in the shuttle bay.
The captain, aware of Seven's internal struggle, attempted to lighten the mood. “Besides, I don't want to get stuck with my counterpart onboard for the next sixteen years.”
Seven raised an eyebrow, causing her ocular implant to rise.
“I find it amusing that you have such distaste for Admiral Janeway.”
“Mmm,” Janeway responded as she walked to her desk to obtain her four gold pips.
“I find her...appealing.”
“Oh?” Janeway stopped and looked at her questionably. “I'm not sure whether I should be jealous or not.”
Seven approached Janeway and took the pips from her hand. She began placing them on the captain's uniform.
“You should not be jealous,” Seven reassured her. “She is genetically identical to you, only advanced in age. It would have been intriguing to have both of you aboard Voyager permanently.”
“She'd counter every decision I make and we'd be arguing constantly. I don't find that intriguing.”
“I was speaking of our personal life with her,” the former drone explained.
“Seven, what are you getting at?” Janeway asked suspiciously.
“I assume that if Voyager were to remain on our current course, I would move into these quarters with you as our relationship progressed.”
“Yes, I'm sure that would happen.”
“With the admiral on board, it would be necessary to make a few minor adjustments,” Seven continued as she smoothed Janeway's collar.
“What kind of adjustments?”
Seven looked squarely at Janeway with a sincere expression on her face.
“We would require a bed that accommodates three individuals.”
Janeway's mouth dropped open, but before she could object, her comm badge chirped.
“ Sickbay to Janew ay.”
The captain shook her head to clear her mind and erase the image Seven had just put there.
“Go ahead, Doctor.”
“ I have prepared the pathogens for you. You may pick them up when you are ready .”
“We'll be there shortly. Janeway out.”