CHAPTER TWO

 

 

The room was large and vaguely familiar but Janeway couldn’t place it.  She kept thinking she should know where she was but everything seemed different and strangely out of place.  All she did know was that she felt uncomfortable and predominantly aware that something was about to happen, over which she had no control and that it was something she didn’t want to be part of.

 

But what was going to happen and why couldn’t she remember?

 

Her dilemma increased as she became aware that people where beginning to surround her, a plethora of faces that looked familiar, were familiar but she couldn’t recognise them.  In vain, Janeway tried to attract the attention of some of the people around her but no one acknowledged her and it was as if they couldn’t see her.

 

She analytically considered two points.  Either she was invisible – unlikely. Or she was losing her mind. Probable!  Nothing could surprise her now, given what had been going on in her life lately.  Maybe the recent stress she’d been under .. were the cracks finally beginning to show?

 

Whatever was happening to her, she wanted to leave this place where she felt unwanted.  Trying to move, Kathryn found that she couldn’t, her legs ignored her commands, held tight by some unseen force. Usually a woman of formidable courage, Kathryn Janeway couldn’t stop the fear inside her from escalating.  Something was about to happen, something significant and wholly unpleasant. But she was trapped!  Her body began to tremble.

 

Then, as if some heavy hand moved her head, she was forced to look forward to the centre of the room where a translucent off-white mist had started to materialise. The vaporous mass began to swell, evolving into a rolling fog that insidiously crept towards her.  Suddenly given back her movement, she tried to side-step the fog, moving to the left and then the right but always the fog marked her, altering its path accordingly, and always drawing closer and closer to her.

 

In the unwelcome grip of an anxiety attack, her well honed survival instincts shouted at her to get away from the manifestation and run as fast as she could, but she couldn’t escape it.  Every move she made, the fog counter-moved and matched her, all the time getting nearer.  She tried to shout for help but no noise fell from her lips and no one came to her rescue.

 

Something started to emerge from the fog.  It looked like a bony, frail human hand that was carrying something. The hand grew into an arm and then a torso, and Janeway, the hairs standing up on the back of her neck, watched the revealing apparition as the bits of body grew into an entire shape of a person.  Finally, she found herself standing face to face with an elderly, grey haired woman who was smiling warmly at her, and who seemed entirely normal but for the fact her eyes were closed, as if the light in the room bothered her.

 

Janeway relaxed a little and allowed herself to breathe normally again.  How could this small and frail woman represent any threat to her? 

 

But then the woman opened her eyes and solid black, piercing orbs, like a raven’s, locked onto Janeway’s.  As if in concert, the elderly woman opened her mouth and a monstrous sound discharged, an unnatural screeching noise like a hundred screaming people dying in pain.  Never had so much hatred, animosity and loathing been targeted on her.  Pure fear paralysed her, compressing the air in her chest, insidious terror forcing the oxygen from her lungs.

 

As if everything moved in slow motion, Janeway saw too late the old woman’s hand move towards her, throwing something at her.  She couldn’t avoid it and when it hit her head, the sensation caused her to gasp as she felt something crawling through her hair and down over her forehead, slipping slimily into her eyes, stinging as it moved and bathing her in a hideous pungent smell which assaulted her senses.

 

The apparition now began to mutate and grow larger, distorting as it loomed over her powerfully. The shape was no longer the form of a woman but something more sinister and dark, and it was shouting at her.. shouting loud, angry words, but Janeway couldn’t make out their meaning.  She tried to yell out but couldn’t, still she was mute. Incongruously, everyone in the crowded room had stopped talking and now watched her, their faces pictures of disgust and abhorrence.  They started to chant, their voices in unison, the sound getting louder and louder.  She could just make out their words.

 

Murderer … murderer … murderer.

 

“No..ooooo!”

 

Admiral Kathryn Janeway shouted out as she bolted upright in bed, yelling herself into a state of consciousness. Catching her breath, entirely disorientated and still unable to accept that she was now awake and no longer in the clutches of the recurrent nightmare that had haunted her for months, she leapt out of bed, nervously casting her eyes around the room to reassure herself that it really had been only a dream.

 

Despite the overly cool environment of the space freighter on which she was travelling, the T-shirt she wore was damp with sweat and clung to her body.  Kicking away the blanket that was caught on her foot, she struggled to the small wash basin in the corner of the cabin, to douse herself with water and wash away the last chilling remnants of the nightmare.

 

Damn it!  Not again.

 

Pushing back damp hair from her face, she almost fell back onto her bed and sat on its corner.  Still nervous and edgy, for the dream always left her this way, she took a deep breath and was shocked to hear the quivering contained in the breath that she expelled.

 

Her whole body shaking as if from cold, Janeway pursed her lips in thought as she perused her surroundings.  A dull little cabin, fit for purpose only and with no pleasantries, it contained just a single bed, a mirror and wash basin.  But what else would you expect from an insignificant little space freighter bound for the Kobashi Nervima Belt.  She had paid handsomely to get the freighter pilot to give her illegal passage to the mining planet of Erebus Minor, once a notorious Cardassian penal colony.  Janeway could have waited another month for the one and only scheduled passenger shuttle but she hadn’t wanted to, and when fortune came her way with news of this freighter taking a consignment of drilling equipment to the planet, she hadn’t hesitated in cutting a very prosperous deal with the ship’s captain.

 

She only hoped she wouldn’t be too late and that the one she was looking for wouldn’t have moved on.  It had been another expensive venture, hiring a none too virtuous ‘low life’ to track down Seven of Nine to the planet, after she had left Risa IV.   Her ‘investigative detective’ had been a man of hidden talents and irredeemable skills who existed on the fringes of what the Federation considered morally and legally acceptable.  Not exactly the type of man Janeway enjoyed doing business with, but he’d come highly recommended by a colleague, who himself was reputed to work within the secret Section 31. This investigator knew his way around and could access the miles of confidential data, passenger manifests et al and there was no doubt, he had his own legions of cohorts providing him with information.

 

He had proved exceptionally expensive but very reliable, supplying her with the information she sought.  Which was why she was here, looking for Seven, light years away from Federation space, in an area of the galaxy difficult to access and undoubtedly one of the most hostile and dangerous places this side of the Delta Quadrant, with or without the presence of the Cardassians!

 

The auburn haired woman hung her head low and captured it in her two hands and sighed.  What in God’s name had gone wrong with her life in the nearly two years since Voyager’s return to Earth?  That return had been such a blessing, a chance to live again normally instead of wondering on a day to day basis whether she and her crew would be alive the following week.

 

But in the blink of an eye, she had lost Seven to her best friend, had received a promotion which had essentially robbed her of her ability to ever be a Starship Captain again and have command of her own vessel, had been placed in a desk job which although considered to be one of the best going for Rear Admiral rank, did absolutely nothing for her own sense of wellbeing.  Yes, it was an interesting job to be on the cutting edge of the latest intelligence but she yearned to be active again, to act on that intelligence, not sit and dish out the action to others.   Being an Admiral and the Federation’s latest hero wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

 

Despite pleading with the hierarchy to let her be reappointed to a more front line,  hands-on operational role, her masters came back at her with the monotonous and usual platitudes of her having to get used to being on Earth again, needing time to reacclimatise and readjust, needing opportunity to unwind and bond again with friends and family.  For crying-out-loud, if she readjusted anymore, she was going to irreversibly snap something!

 

Starfleet was not helping her, and neither was she doing herself any personal favours.  By her own manoeuvring and stage management, she had single handedly managed to cut herself off from everything she held dear in her unsuccessful attempt to ‘get over’ Seven of Nine and in doing so, had built for herself a sterile and barren existence, alienating herself from her own family and friends, using the paltry excuse of work.  Even her own mother had declared sorrowfully, the last time she had gone home, that she didn’t recognise the woman her daughter had become anymore and that whatever was bugging her, she ought to damn well get up off her arse and go fix!

 

Kathryn hadn’t reacted well to the maternal ‘ticking off’ and had had a few curt words with her mother, words she know regretted and had actually sent a recorded message home apologising, just before she boarded this freighter.  She still had some massive repair work to do with her sister, Phoebe, who had almost cut Kathryn off because of her heavy handedness with the mother.

 

All in all, right now, the great Kathryn Janeway felt very alone, out of sync with the world around her, out of touch with her family and friends and perilously close to entering a depressive state again.  Depression was the last thing she needed right now and she tried to stop thinking about her declining mental disposition – she needed all her mental acuity now and bags of it if she was going to find Seven and try to put things right .. if she could.  

 

But she had little else to do but think, being an unwelcome but financially fruitful passenger on this trip.  She remained seated on the bed, pulling the bed blankets around her as the cool temperature reacted on her sweat covered body and shook her head and yet again contemplated how she’d managed to get into this mess. But she knew the answer without having to think about it too hard for it really was quite simple.  The minute she had fallen in love with a certain ex drone, her heart had stopped being her own and was now the property of a half human, half Borg woman called Seven of Nine, whether the ex drone knew it or not.

 

Her entire success in life, her career in Starfleet, had been the cosy combination of the relationship between her head and her heart. The objective scientist but with compassion. Now that relationship was busted because her heart was no longer present and the head couldn’t function alone. Fine that Starfleet thought she was an outstanding officer, but she knew she was running on fumes. 

 

Hence the reason she was here. B’Elanna had put it quite succinctly, to find Seven and bring her home, and more selfishly, Janeway needed to get Seven back into her life in whatever capacity Seven would allow. She wasn’t sure she could cope without Seven anymore .. she certainly hadn’t done very well so far!  

 

What in Hell’s name was Seven doing to herself anyway?  Seven was a woman with many capabilities but a prostitute on Risa IV wasn’t what Janeway had had in mind when she’d rescued her from the Borg.  Neither was it as an engineer on a remote mining facility that was renowned for its illegal and dangerous quarrying operations, high death rates, lack of concern for its working population and total non-adherence to fundamental health and safety issues!  This was where Seven had moved onto after Risa IV and it thrilled Janeway skinny to know that was where she was now headed.

 

The Admiral’s thoughts were interrupted as the Captain of the freighter piped a message over the antiquated internal comm system informing the vessel’s crew that they were to proceed to landing stations and prepare for arrival at the planet within the next forty minutes.

 

None too enthusiastically, for she feared the reception she might receive from Seven, Janeway slowly started to dress and tether her long hair up in its usual bun.

 

Key objectives kept pulsating through the Admiral’s head, her mission that had brought her to this desolate planet.

 

Forget about your personal feelings, Kathryn.  Just find Seven and get her home. 

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

Erebus Minor was a barren and hostile planet, not a fit place to try to sustain any form of life, for its natural conditions were harsh and unforgiving.  Not that it had always been like this but then, that was another story.

 

It was a scorchingly hot, humid and dusty place, subjected to immense dust squalls and the far too occasional ion storm which would blow in almost without warning, destroying anything exposed, helpless and not bolted down.  Too many people died here this way. Add to this the frequent electric storms and sporadic earthquakes, inhabitants never quite knew whether they were safer below the ground or on top of it, such were the natural surprises which the elements threw at them.

 

A planet bereft of vegetation, of trees, there was always a red tinge to the sky, an almost predestined warning of what damage the planet could do to your health, and there were many here who referred to the place as ‘Hell’, or whatever name other species had for such satanic places.  Certainly, like Hell might be imagined, the air here was thin and the heat clawed at your chest, making it difficult to breathe when under pressure or exerting yourself. 

 

There was also the problem of the water which was rank and vile, contaminated and impossible to drink.  Large refineries had to cleanse the liquid, purifying it to a level which made it possible to both drink and wash in.  Recycled water was a treasured commodity here, and expensive.

 

This was why the planet had been a Cardassian penal colony during the war because it was a place in the galaxy forgotten by all, and which broke a prisoner’s spirit and reduced one to incalculable wretchedness.  Add to that the heinous torture and working regimes, and the Cardassians had the perfect slave planet. 

 

Now, with not a Cardassian in sight, no one lived here by choice, and it was suitable only for the crazy, the undesirable, those running from something or those ruled by their love of quick profit at the expense of high risk and possible death.

 

As in the Cardassian days, this place was a giant mining facility.  Under its tortured landscape lay a wealth of Bradiscite, a cheaper but more volatile substitute to Dilithium, and also Tetramorine, a carbon based microbe that gave off an explosive, yet powerful gas.  This latter substance had been banned by the Federation and other civilised societies because its power source, though impressive, was entirely unpredictable and whole ship’s crews had been destroyed by simple accidents and mishandling. 

 

But these rare commodities were cheap and therefore highly prized by those who didn’t care for health and safety aspects.  Also, logistics and location all considered conventional mining as too expensive this far out and consequently, ruthless business enterprises that cared not a toss for miners’ welfare and conditions, hired anyone who would work, asking no questions about their backgrounds, sometimes not even their names, and willing to pay very high credit for very dangerous work.  There was little mechanisation out here and much work was done the old fashioned way, like the Cardassians had cherished, by manual work.  Thus, the hours were long and the conditions often intolerably hard.

 

Civilisation was a mockery here, it simply didn’t exist.  There were no doctors, or at least not ones you wanted to trust, and if you made one mistake on this planet, you were dead, either due to the environment, the work or by an inhabitant who was most likely a psychotic mass murderer.

 

The turnover of life on this wilderness of a planet was high, too high.  Many came and few left, often their bodies crushed by some unfortunate accident or because they had crossed the wrong person at the wrong time and had ended up with a knife in their guts.

 

It was this place that Janeway stepped into, her mission to find Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One. 

 

After a brief survey, it seemed apparent to her that nothing had altered much since the planet’s penal colony days.  The conditions and misery still existed, it was just the Masters who had changed.

 

And this was where Seven was now?

 

Charming place, the older woman muttered as she moved with conviction to commence her search.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

Janeway had to wait to find Seven as the woman did not seem to frequent any of the usual communal places nor the insalubrious, unsavoury bars very often, but she was mindful of what one barman had told her, about everyone eventually having to visit one of the many bars if only to purchase the expensive clean, bottled water. 

 

So for three days and nights, she haunted the bars along the covered street complex, trying to not bring too much attention to herself and moving around in the shadows of these places.  Regardless, she had had a few close calls when drunken members of the male species had thought her a worthy candidate for copulation, regardless of her personal opinion.  However, a few gentle reminders of what a well trained person could do, and to what parts of the body, was enough to get them to move on to an easier and possibly more willing target.

 

Meanwhile, what she wouldn’t give for a good night’s sleep!  This hell-hole was a place for miners, not visitors, and consequently, there were no accommodation facilities available for the likes of her.  So she found herself ‘sleeping rough’, mostly in the garbage areas at the back of the complex, a place where people seldom went except to disburse of refuse.  In the small area assigned for garbage, she had managed to shin up, unobserved, the side of the concrete building that sheltered the rubbish from the planet winds, and hide in the rafters.  Here she felt moderately safe from predators, although she had managed to get precious little sleep.  She only hoped she’d find Seven soon.

 

It was on the fourth day that Janeway walked into ‘Bella’s Bar’ and spotted Seven with a group of people at the far side of the room.

 

Seeing the young woman at once filled Janeway with both exhilaration and uncertainty.  Having searched ruthlessly for her astrometrics officer, the Admiral now considered, nervously, exactly what it was she was going to say to Seven and more apprehensively, how Seven might react to her.  That she had ‘blotted her copy book’ with Seven, wasn’t in question and Janeway only knew one thing, that to approach Seven here in the bar was not the optimum place to attempt old camaraderie and rebuild any bridges.  So she stole herself outside into a poorly lit, open-sided connecting passageway that led off to all the different sleeping quarters, predicting that Seven would have to come this way sooner or later.

 

Janeway did not have to wait long.

 

Seven moved rapidly and alone along the throughway with efficiency of movement, eager to return to her accommodation and get out of the hot, humid and dusty walkway that was open to the natural elements. Almost at the end of the long corridor, Seven heard a movement behind her and at the same time, a familiar voice that made the blood freeze in her veins.

 

“Hello, Seven.”

 

The woman who had once been a killing machine for the Borg collective, visibly stiffened and turned to face the small familiar shape of the woman she had once known as Captain and friend.  The husky tones of Janeway evoked an emotional shiver down Seven’s spine.

 

She stared at Janeway as if she was a ghost, momentarily frowning, unable to believe the woman was here.  Where once she might have shared one of her small, coy smiles that denoted so much affection for her ex Captain, she couldn’t now, for Seven no longer considered the woman her friend.  Janeway had rejected her, ignored her – the one person she had held so dear and had trusted so much, had betrayed and let her down.  She felt only an increasing animosity towards the woman who stood before her now, older looking, slightly heavier and with darker, longer hair tied back in a loose bun.

 

For a while, both women just stared at one another and allowed the sight of the other to seep through into their consciousness, both strangely, temporarily unresponsive.  It was a bizarre, anomalous way for them to meet after all this time and it had clearly shocked both of them. 

 

For Janeway, she was face to face with the woman who simply stole her breath away – always had and always would.  Even now she could hear an internal voice of reasoning telling her to maintain her emotional distance, warning her that she was stood with the one woman who could destroy her, for how could she ever function properly around Seven without getting hurt, wanting her so much?

 

Candid thoughts crashed through Kathryn Janeway’s head, thoughts that Chakotay was out of Seven’s life now but rather than see the opening of an opportunity for her, she could only reason that if Seven ever chose to find someone else to love, it wouldn’t be her, not now, not after her own distant behaviour towards the ex drone.  Janeway only had to look at Seven’s face to realise Seven now harboured her nothing but ill-will.  Besides, Seven hadn’t ever shown any real personal interest in her, other than a deepening friendship - Janeway had been kidding herself.  

 

Both surveyed the other in this brief moment of frozen time, immediately appraising and analysing the one who stood opposite them, and of the two, it was Janeway who registered the most shock.   The change in her young, erstwhile apprentice beggared belief.  Gone was the cut of one once so immaculate and precise in appearance, whose hair had once been swept back attractively in a tightly held bun, a woman who had oozed sophisticated confidence and unbridled arrogance at every turn. 

 

Gone too was the sleek line of the clothing Seven had worn so unconsciously alluringly on Voyager, to now be replaced by dirty, torn, ill fitting overalls with heavy, well worn boots.  The once air of subtle vulnerability and innocence had been replaced by something essentially wild and dangerous, and where once the bright electric blue, inquisitive eyes had been, there were now orbs that registered enmity, sparking with anger and intensity. 

 

What part have I played in this? Janeway thought. Too much. 

 

Despite the looser fit of the work clothing, it was apparent to Janeway that Seven had lost weight, and in doing so, appeared taller.  There was a tense and uneasy edge to Seven, as if she was living on her nerves, ready for the fight and unable to relax.  The effervescent features that had, in the past, shone from the face of the attractive woman, were now replaced by thinner, drawn ones that whispered unhappiness and loneliness, and all beset by unruly, unclean and straggly hair.

 

Oh, Seven.

 

Janeway was at once torn between her desire to grab hold of Seven and wrap her arms protectively around her, and her own need to protect the remnants of a shattered heart that, the Admiral now knew, would never be repaired enough to allow her to move on. 

 

She contemplated how ridiculously ludicrous it was that her life had taken this turn.  After all her adult years, not ever being able to make a personal relationship really count for anything or make it work, so many times she had chosen the wrong path in love, either because pre-destined fate had some sinister, tragic outcome or she simply chose the easier – wrong – route of picking someone who wasn’t really in love with her, nor she with him.  The promise of a painless relationship, yes, but not a fulfilling one.  You should never live your life in economy drive.

 

Janeway looked at the woman who she considered so much her congruent self.  Though very different women, Janeway had always felt they were balanced, running parallel and it was this that had initially appealed to the Starfleet officer, followed shortly after by her heart.  How poignant that she should feel so powerfully drawn to Seven and yet, Seven had chosen another.

 

Positively horrified, Admiral Janeway, who had travelled so many light years to be here with Seven, now found somewhat disturbingly, that she didn’t know what to say to the woman.

 

Barely adequate, she did manage to push out a pathetic, “How are you, Seven?”

 

Seven didn’t instantly answer and seemed for a while, content to just continue to study the Admiral, as if trying to make the latter feel uncomfortable. It was working! Eventually, she spoke. 

 

“You came all this way to ask that, Admiral Janeway?” 

 

Just what I was thinking, Janeway admonished herself angrily as cold, penetrating eyes focused on her.

 

“How more efficient it would have been, and less intrusive of your time, to have simply answered just one of my messages.” 

 

Oh, touché, Seven.  Straight to the point.

 

The line was now drawn in the sand and with increasing awareness, Janeway comprehended, none too slowly, what had just occurred.  In her futile attempt to cocoon herself from the hurt of seeing Seven with someone else, her defensive behaviour had cost her dearly.  Cost her years of carefully constructed and nurtured friendship, but then she’d known that when she made her decision to step back from Seven.

 

She would have to have been both blind and dumb not too realise that the ex drone’s feelings towards her now were all entirely hostile.  Everything about Seven was threatening in behaviour towards the Admiral. The tall woman hated her.

 

Whatever else might have happened to Seven, it was crystal clear that the woman had taken Janeway’s reticence and forced silence very badly, and Janeway saw any of her hopes of redeeming their friendship, fading rapidly.  The salvage of this relationship was looking entirely fragile with hurdles of incredible magnitude to overcome.  How was she going to repair the disservice she had bestowed on the woman she cared so much for? 

 

She wasn’t!  How could she?  All she could do was focus on the objective of just getting Seven away from this place and back to Earth where she would at least have a chance again of some normality.

 

A stern, caustic voice bereft of passion and emotion, but hard and unforgiving, broke across the smaller woman’s thoughts.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Janeway heard the unspoken undercurrent, ‘You are not wanted’.  Steadying herself, she drew breath and replied as calmly as she could,  “I heard .. we all heard .. that things didn’t go well between you and Chakotay, and,” she paused to gather her thoughts, “I was .. we were all worried for you .. when we knew you’d left Chakotay but hadn’t come back to Earth.  I .. wanted to find out if you were okay, if you needed anything.”  Needed anything? Like I’m talking to someone who has been sick! 

 

Seven did not respond, but continued to stare hard at the Admiral as if appraising some inanimate, unattractive object.  The lack of response and stoic behaviour sent waves of disquieting apprehension through Janeway but she forged on regardless.

 

Truth.  I came to find you, Seven .. bring you home,” Janeway said softly.

 

Still no response from Seven.

 

Janeway had had a game plan in her head for when she found Seven but the plan wasn’t going according to schedule and this woman wasn’t reacting like the Seven she had once known so well.  Quite what she had expected she didn’t know, but this wasn’t it. 

 

“There are a lot of people back home who love you. We just want to help .. and ..”

Janeway sighed despondently, “and you don’t belong here, Seven.  Come back with me .. please.  Let me take you home, back to Earth.  I’ve got a passage booked on a freighter that leaves here tomorrow .. we can talk this through. Come with me, please.”

 

Seven still didn’t answer.

 

With every ounce of compassion Janeway could muster,  “Why are you here, Seven?  Why didn’t you come home?”  Words met silence.  “You need people around you who love you, who miss you, who are your friends.”

 

It was like talking to air.  Janeway sighed out loud,  “Please say something, Seven.” 

 

Seven moved a step closer to Janeway as if trying to study her face, and then she spoke quietly but with intensity that betrayed the aversion she felt to the older woman. Cold, sharp eyes watched Janeway.

 

“Words. Always words.” Janeway frowned in confusion as Seven spoke.  “Words are so important for humans, and I have come to distrust their insignificant meanings.  You wished to find me?  You have done so.  You wished to assess if I am well?  I am.  You wished to see if I am in need of anything?  I wish for nothing that you can offer.  You wished to tell me how much I am loved and how much I am missed?  You have delivered your message.” Seven paused before continuing, “You wished to tell me that you have come to take me home?  I am home.  Here.” Her eyes briefly scanned the surrounding area, “This is now my home.”

 

“No, Seven.  You’re not home, no one can call a place like this, home .. and I can’t leave you here.  You need to come home, where you belong .. on Earth with .. us.” Janeway had nearly said ‘me’ but her need to protect her own vulnerability had kicked in and the word had been deflected.  Part of her hated herself for the flagrant omission, especially in the face of someone who was so clearly hurting and broken in all the wrong places.

 

“You wish me to be with my own kind.”  Seven stated the words that Janeway had said to her so many years ago in a Brig, shortly after she’d been separated from the Collective.

 

“Yes.”

 

“We tried that once and your experiment did not work. Your precious Earth did not want me.”

 

My experiment?  “You never gave it a chance.”

 

“I do not wish to be like you .. human.”

 

“Come home with me, Seven.” Please come home with me!  None of the right words were coming out of Janeway – all her years of experience, negotiation, diplomacy .. she felt like an ill trained, non experienced novice. 

 

“I have no home!” Seven almost shouted, her voice filled with anger.  “How did you find me?” she questioned.

 

Despite the sultry, oppressing heat that wrapped itself around them both, Janeway felt frozen to the core.  “It wasn’t easy but credit and good connections helped.”

 

“Then you have wasted your time and credit, Admiral Janeway.”

 

Admiral Janeway.  Said with such dispassion, the tone cutting like a knife through the older woman.

 

Strands of loose hair now blew across Seven’s face, and she raised her right hand to remove them from her eyes.  Janeway caught sight of the nails on the young woman’s fingers, broken and filled with dirt that had obviously been there for some time.  Seven had always been so fastidious and compulsive about cleanliness, down to the tips of her fingers. 

 

Desperate to get through to Seven, Janeway changed tack. 

 

“Seven, I’m so sorry that things didn’t work out with you and Chakotay but that doesn’t justify your cutting yourself off like this,” her hand gesticulating in the air, motioning to the surrounding area, “ .. and turning away from everything you know, everything that matters.  Please,” she pleaded, “let me help.  Talk to me.”

 

As though some button had just been pressed, Seven’s whole demeanour turned menacing as she moved even closer to Janeway.

 

 Talk to you, like you did to me?  I wanted to talk to you once.  I tried to talk to you once, many times, but you weren’t listening, were you? You didn’t want to hear.”   Seven couldn’t hide the pain and the hurt.  “You did not want to talk to me then, as I no longer wish to talk to you anymore.”

 

“I didn’t know you were trying to contact me,” Janeway lied, instantly regretting it.  She’d never lied to Seven before and she hated what she had just done – all those messages the woman had sent, that she’d never responded to.  She could see that Seven didn’t believe her.  What she didn’t see was Seven’s hands clench into fists, the knuckles turning white, as she’d started to deny and lie to Seven.   She instinctively reached out to touch the younger woman on the arm, but before her fingers made contact, before any further paltry excuses fell from her mouth, Seven unexpectedly and with lightening speed struck out with a backhand blow delivered by a lethal left hand.

 

The blow struck Janeway across the upper part of her face, knocking her hard into the bulkhead of some metal enclosure behind, her head making solid and unforgiving contact with its rigid structure.

 

Janeway raised her own hand as if to protect herself but found she had more imminent problems as her legs buckled beneath her, sending her crashing, sprawling onto the reinforced steel-hard deck she stood on.

 

For a moment, unseen by the Admiral, Seven stumbled back, her face awash with shock and confusion. She seemed to hesitate, and stared at her left hand as if it were no part of her.

 

Blurry eyed, the fallen Starfleet officer shook her head to regain some clarity of vision which thankfully returned quickly, just in time to see Seven move to stand over her.  With amazing ease, Seven then reached down and, grabbing Janeway by her clothing, hoisted her up and pushed her back into the wall area.  Again, the older woman felt her head hitting something, registering a dull thud.  She wasn’t sure what hurt more, the back of her head or the throbbing, stinging sensation across her face.

 

Seven’s voice hissed with a dangerously threatening tone as she brought her face down towards Janeway’s.

 

“Do not concern yourself that I will send you further messages.  I will not.  But I have one last message for you personally and you would be wise to heed its sentiments.”

 

Janeway, still suffering from the shock of the attack, struggled to breathe but despite the threatening position she currently found herself in, could not stop her scientific mind from its analytical course.  She was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu, being once again in the company of a Borg Queen.  For this assailant possessed the same granite hardened and cold disposition, contradictory by nature, oozing sexual sensuousness. Janeway could not take her eyes off the fullness of the red lips before her.  Such a lethal combination of paradox;  power and yet vulnerability, beauty but danger.  Seven had not been the Queen’s heir apparent and favoured drone without good reason.

 

Seven spoke, “I said once that I would kill you.  If you ever come near me again, I will make good that threat.”

 

The Starfleet officer’s mind thought back in time to Voyager’s Brig, when a newly disconnected Borg from its hive had threatened the Captain, promising death as punishment for severing her from the Collective mind. That aggression and behaviour had been borne out of fear, unlike this. This was entirely personal.  

 

Seven let go of Janeway, who no longer supported, fell away from the wall and back onto the hard floor of the passageway.  She fell hard and felt a ripple of pain travel up her arm.

 

“Leave here and do not come back, not if you value your life.”  The younger woman’s voice was strangely dull and monotonous.  “You are not welcome and I do not want you here, or any others who feel they owe me any consideration.  Your promises of humanity were empty, better that I’d been left a Borg.”  She moved as though to leave but then stopped and turned back to face the prostrate form of the Admiral who was still down on the ground.

 

“I see now that I was used by you, to be discarded when no longer needed.”

 

“That’s not true.”  Janeway’s voice was hoarse, the residue of being winded by the initial blow and fall.  Apparently uninjured but smarting, both emotionally and physically, Kathryn Janeway started to rise and try to reason further with Seven but the tall woman quickly turned and walked away into the night, leaving the officer gasping for breath and struggling for her footing.

 

For a few minutes, Janeway was unable to find the strength in her legs and could only manage to pull herself to the wall and sit drained and exhausted against it.

 

Better I’d been left a Borg.  The words reverberated around Janeway’s head. Was this the galaxy’s way of retribution and this her time of reckoning?  Was all now concluded between herself and Seven, that she would spend the rest of her life with guilt and unrequited love as bedfellows whilst Seven would remain like an injured animal, unapproachable and hurting for the remainder of her days here on this planet - days that would probably not number many given the harshness of the place?

 

This was not the ending Janeway wanted.

 

 

 

*****

 

 

 

Seven of Nine moved to the side of the dark, shabby and squalid little room, and came to stand next to an unremarkable and plain table.  Alone, and with economic, minimal movement, she connected herself to a compact, portable machine that kept her Borg components fully functional and which, in turn, sustained those parts of her that were human.  Forever systematically linked, she was destined to remain both Borg and human, her pitiless and cruel inheritance, for the remainder of her life.

 

Despite being dressed more as a human than a Borg, there was little else that portrayed her as belonging to the human race.  Her rigid, motionless stance and unresponsive demeanour depicted her as a Borg drone temporarily removed of its characteristic attire.  Her face deadpan and pale, she looked unnatural, inhuman, for she stood so silently, so still.   

 

There was little excess weight on her bones as one would normally expect of a human being, especially female, neither did she seem to care for her outward appearance. Seven was dressed simply as ‘fit for purpose’, to aid her to perform whatever function the mining corporation wished of her.  She strove only to be ultra efficient and effective, to complete whatever work they gave her, regardless of how dangerous it was, and without the messy and disappointing turn of companionship or friendship.

 

She was desperate to regain that association of objectivity and the corresponding disassociation of any emotional need, those now valued structures of the mind she had once shared with the Collective. 

 

But today she found it so difficult.  She had not expected to come face to face with the one who had assisted her for so many years in re-connecting to her human half and neither had she expected to hit out at her.  Seven looked at her Borg hand .. she had hit Janeway with this hand!  Had that been her intention? How could she have done that? Was she so angry? Hadn’t she only meant to push the woman away?  But she had hit her  ..  and then threatened her.  The last time she had seen Janeway, they had been friends .. but that was all over now.

 

She tried to force Janeway out of her mind.  The woman was now in her past, she had told her to leave, that she did not need her.  She had ended up threatening her and showing her, first hand, a small example of what harm she could bring to the older woman if she dared to defy her. She would strive to be Borg again, to become unfeeling and unresponsive to external stimuli, for then she would never have to know again the intense pain of rejection.

 

But she had hit Janeway!

 

As the portable regenerator hummed into operation, the golden-haired woman who now fought so stoically not to have a heart, closed her eyes, and in doing so, was unable to stop pool-filled eyes from spilling over with tears that ran unchecked down her face.

 

 

 

 

 

*****