Title: The Lubalian Rose
Rating: PG-13 to R
Summary: An alien plant has an unexpected effect on Kathryn Janeway.
Disclaimers: Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount. This work is not intended to infringe on their copyright and is not for profit.
The coffee mug materialized in the replicator and two slender hands reached for it. Anticipating the first taste, Starfleet Captain Kathryn Janeway lifted the cup eagerly to her lips. The aroma wafted up, teasing her nostrils and when she tipped the cup back at last, the hot energizing drink filled her mouth. Coffee, was the true nectar of the gods.
It had been a stroke of genius for her to order Seven of Nine to make the modifications to the replicator system a few days ago. The ex-Borg had complied, though she herself did not drink coffee. Nonetheless the parameters she entered made for a more palatable drink and far superior to the blends Neelix came up with.
Feeling much better with the cup of coffee in hand, the short, auburn-haired captain returned to her desk, able now to sort through the numerous objects cluttering her ready room, parting gifts from the Lubali contingent they had assisted. Voyager had come across the damaged vessel a week ago and the Starfleet crew had assisted in repairs before escorting the ship back to its home world.
Janeway had spent a quiet afternoon sorting through the Lubali gifts, trying to identify them and guessing at their purpose. There were odd looking vegetables and fruits that she was going to send to Neelix to cook or dispose of. Of more interest to her were pieces of wood work, a few carved artifacts, reminiscent of totems from Earth. There were also more functional items like a square box, handcarved and exquisitely detailed with shell fragments that would make a handsome addition to the objects on her shelf. She went over to the shelf now and placed the box next to the bust of an ancient Roman soldier.
In the middle of her desk stood a lush green plant approximately three feet in height. Branches jutted out with bushy leaves and ruby red multi-petaled flowers seemed to sprout constantly. The flowers reminded Kathryn of a Terran rose with one difference. No thorns. She walked over to the desk and bent her head, inhaling the sweet scent. Not just sweet but pungent too.
She ran her fingers along a branch, wondering if it was sturdy enough to survive transplant in the hydroponic gardens.
“Or maybe I should just keep you in a corner and enjoy you all to myself,” she said. As she spoke she continued to run her fingers down the stalk.
“Ow, blast it.” She gazed down at the puncture mark on her thumb. So much for the no thorns assessment. The thorn had been hidden in the stalk itself. Not that bad a prick, she decided as she examined the drop of blood that had welled up through the skin.
Since the starship captain was alone in her ready room, she did what people on every planet did whenever they pricked themselves. She stuck the thumb in her mouth and sucked on it. That simple action seemed to ease the pain and when she pulled it out, the bleeding had stopped.
Kathryn flexed the thumb experimentally, hoping it would be all right to use later during her Velocity match with Seven. It didn’t really hurt. She’d hate to cancel since the match was one of the highlights to her week.
Although she played with other crewmembers, Seven was the best opponent for Kathryn. The blonde was physically tall, strong, and blessed with excellent reflexes and superb hand and eye coordination. Add to that her youth and determination and it took all of Janeway’s skill and experience to beat the Astrometrics officer. Seven always gave her a great match. So far the ex-Borg had yet to beat the starship captain. And it was driving the young woman crazy.
Kathryn chuckled, remembering last week’s match when an irate Seven, her blonde hair spilling out like tendrils of frustration framing her lovely face, had thrown her phaser at the wall at Janeway’s last second win. Who knew, maybe tonight was the night Seven would emerge victorious.
Janeway stifled a yawn, feeling drowsy. It was 1500 hours, the time of day when the body’s biorhythms demanded a nap. Starship shifts weren’t quite that accommodating, so she usually made do with a cup of coffee. She reached for the mug again, and then found herself too tired to keep her eyes open.
She was suddenly dozing off.
This was no time for a snooze, Kathryn thought as she looked down at herself in disgust. She had never seen herself from that angle before, the way her auburn hair just sort of divided itself in the middle of her head when she was slumped over on her arms.
Whooaa…Wait a second. How could she look down at herself when she was there at the desk.
The chime on the ready room door sounded.
“Come,” she said automatically.
It sounded again.
“Come in,” she said, much louder this time.
“Tuvok to the Captain. Come in please.” The message came through the communicator.
Kathryn automatically tapped her chest and realized that she had no communicator…in fact she didn’t have a chest either. No wonder she felt weightless. She had no body.
Standing outside the captain’s ready room door, Commander Tuvok, Voyager’s head of security, glanced back at First Officer Chakotay on the bridge.
“Computer, locate Captain Janeway,” Chakotay said.
“Captain Janeway is in her ready room.”
“Chakotay to Janeway…come in, please.”
There was no answer. Tuvok lifted an inquiring eyebrow and Chakotay nodded.
“Computer, override ready room lock. Authorization Tuvok delta five nine.”
The ready room door opened and Tuvok stepped in. He reacted instinctively at the sight of the captain’s slumped body on the desk.
“Computer, emergency transport. Two to beam to sickbay!” he ordered.
Kathryn had watched in fascination as Tuvok entered the ready room. Now she felt herself caught up in a swirl of energy that ended when hands grasped her body and lifted it onto a biobed. The balding EMH began running a medical tricorder over her body. Obviously she was in sickbay.
“What happened?” The Doctor demanded.
“I found her unconscious in her ready room,” Tuvok replied.
I’m not unconscious! she declared, but no one could hear her.
“Is she in any danger?” the dark-skinned Vulcan asked.
“Her pulse is a little slow but strong and her respiration is slowed but regular, but she’s in no immediate danger. What caused this?”
“I don’t know. I will be in her ready room to determine the cause.”
Tuvok, don’t go, I want to talk to you! Kathryn exclaimed.
The Vulcan hesitated.
“I thought you were going, Commander?” The Doctor asked. An Emergency Medical Hologram, he was long on knowledge and short on bedside manner. “Is there anything else?”
The Vulcan was an empath…somehow or another Kathryn had to find a way to tell him about this out of body experience she was going through. As he went through the sick bay doors Kathryn attempted to follow only to discover that she could not. Damn! Something was keeping her stuck in sick bay. She glanced down at where she lay on the bio bed. Apparently she couldn’t go anywhere without her body. And at the moment her body wasn’t going anywhere.
“Regeneration cycle incomplete.”
The tall blonde in the plum biosuit opened her eyes, her inner chronometer confirming that a mere fifteen minutes had passed instead of the scheduled sixty. Immediately Seven of Nine’s gaze swept the cargo bay, searching for the individual usually responsible for halting her regeneration sequence, but she found instead her half-Katarian friend, Naomi Wildman.
“Seven, I’m so glad that you woke up,” the girl said.
“Naomi Wildman, I did not awaken. I merely ceased regenerating because someone changed my regeneration controls.” Seven cocked her head to one side, her optical implant lifting a fraction.
Naomi hung her head apologetically. “I had to do it. Otherwise you wouldn’t find out for an hour.”
“Explain. Has something happened to the ship?” The tall blonde stepped down from the Borg alcove and bent down to look the child in the eye.
“It’s not the ship. It’s the captain.”
Seven straightened to her full six feet. “Captain Janeway? What has happened to her?”
“No one knows. She was in the ready room and then something happened and now she’s in sickbay. And the Doctor isn’t telling anyone what’s wrong, and I had a hunch that you wouldn’t want to be regenerating at a time like this,” Naomi hurried to get the words out.
“You are correct. I am glad you ‘woke’ me. I will go to sickbay immediately.” Seven’s long stride took her to the cargo bay doors.
“I’ll go with you,” Naomi said, scurrying after her friend.
“You should return to the mess hall and Mr. Neelix.”
Naomi wanted to protest but the laser like look in the azure blue eyes brought a swift end to that idea.
“Okay, if you promise to tell me what’s wrong with the captain?”
“Then I will comply,” the girl said.
Quickly Seven moved down the corridor and into the turbolift.
“Deck Five.” She hoped this was only a case of the Ankarian flu that had been going through the ship and not something else. Another possibility was the captain had damaged herself. Janeway was notorious for not taking care of herself, working double shifts and consuming far too much coffee. Seven had pointed this out to her on several occasions, as recently as yesterday in the astrometrics lab.
“You should talk,” the captain said, taking a sip of her third cup of coffee. They were going over the scans Seven had completed.
“I do not drink coffee.”
Janeway grinned and put down her padd. “No, I mean that you rarely pause from working to regenerate and you consume far too little food.”
“I still draw power from the ship,” Seven pointed out, “and I need only regenerate for an hour a day.”
“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” the captain said. “You should have some fun, Seven.”
“I will have fun tomorrow night when we play Velocity and I beat you.”
Kathryn laughed, delighted at the boast. “That’s what you always say and you know what happens.”
Seven scowled as the captain left the astrometrics lab.
The Velocity match was the reason Seven had been regenerating. She needed to be at her physical best when she challenged the captain.
Now as the doors to sickbay opened, Seven caught sight of the captain lying on a bio bed The EMH was running a medical tricorder over her. Tom Paris who was assisting him glanced up.
Seven! Kathryn had been watching the EMH and Tom work on her body and was glad to see the young woman. Maybe she would be able to find a way to reach the Borg.
“Whoever it is, tell him to go away,” the Doctor said irritably.
“No, stay!” Kathryn called out.
To her relief, Seven stood her ground. Kathryn stuck close to the blonde.
“I came to offer my assistance, Doctor.” Seven approached the bed, taken aback by the captain lying under a blue sheet, her shoulders bare. It made the usually formidable woman appear surprisingly vulnerable. An unexpected mass formed in Seven’s throat. She swallowed hard.
“I have the knowledge of thousands of species in my eidetic memory,” she continued as the EMH cocked a skeptical eyebrow. “Perhaps some of it may be of use now in helping the captain.”
Let’s hear it for that Borg memory!
“What can you tell me about comas, Seven?” the EMH asked, as he injected a hypospray into the captain’s neck. No response.
“Coma is a state of stasis or unconsciousness when bodily functions…”
“I know what it is,” the Doctor snapped.
Kathryn couldn’t help laughing. Seven was so literal minded at times.
“Do you know how to bring someone out of a coma? I’ve gone through both Starfleet medical databases and she’s not responding.”
Twenty possible remedies were suggested by Seven and rejected by the EMH. Several because they would be poisonous to humanoid physiology.
Seven stared down at the captain. She had never examined the older woman’s face so closely. The usual lines of strain on her forehead were smoothed out and she seemed to be relaxed as though just sleeping.
“How is her brain function?”
“Synaptic patterns are normal. Circulatory and respiration systems are slowed but normal for someone in a deep sleep.”
“What has caused this?”
“If I knew what caused the coma, I might have a better chance of bringing her out of it,” the Doctor snapped.
“Tuvok found her in her ready room slumped over her desk,” Tom Paris said.
Seven had almost forgotten his presence.
So had Kathryn who looked over at the starship’s helmsman and medical assistant.
“He’s going over her ready room now to find out if something, a gas of some sort might have been emitted there.”
“I found no sign of a gaseous agent,” the EMH said huffily.
The Lubalian rose!
“Is she in any immediate danger?”
“No. It’s just very odd. I’m hoping that she will awaken by herself since nothing I’ve tried seems to work.”
A hail from the bridge interrupted them.
“Senior officers to the conference room.”
“Perhaps Tuvok and Chakotay have discovered something,” Paris said.
“Let us hope so,” Seven said grimly.
The flowering plant sat in the middle of the conference room table. Voyager’s senior officers took turns examining it.
“From what we were able to determine this plant may be responsible for the captain’s condition. Chemical analysis has shown that the flower emits a scent,” Tuvok said.
“Is it poisonous?” Tom Paris asked.
“Not according to the Lubali.” Chakotay spoke from the captain’s chair. “They have responded to our communication and say that the plant is not harmful. Its flowers in fact are used in perfume. It is entirely non-poisonous.”
“To the Lubali. Its effect on human anatomy could be different,” Seven said.
“Or maybe the petals, bark or leaves are poisonous. Could the captain have ingested any of that by accident?” Neelix asked.
“I don’t think the captain is in the habit of eating ornamental plants,” Lt. B’Elanna Torres, the ship’s half-Klingon chief engineer, snorted.
“What about the other gifts the Lubali gave the captain?” Ensign Harry Kim asked.
“We’ve examined them thoroughly,” Chakotay said. “They seem innocuous enough. Fruits and vegetables. Some carved artwork. A brightly colored piece of cloth. Seven, did the Borg encounter the Lubali before?”
“They did. But at the time of the encounter the Borg did not consider them worthy of assimilation. They had not yet reached warp capability. They would have added nothing to Borg Perfection.”
“Luckily for them,” Torres said.
“Indeed.” Seven replied blandly to the jibe.
“Could there be another reason for the captain’s collapse?” Kim asked. “She does drive herself pretty hard. Could she just have collapsed from some other reason?”
“I’ve told her before that she can’t work double shifts and skip meals,” the Doctor said from sickbay. “And while it is possible that she might have temporarily had a dizzy spell of some sort, to have this prolonged state of unconsciousness is very odd. Plus, I have not been able to rouse her from it with any of the usual stimulants at my disposal.”
“She has trouble sleeping,” Seven said softly. “She has told me this when we sometimes have our philosophical discussions late at night.”
“Did you have one last night?” Chakotay asked. His quarters were on Deck Three along with the captain’s and he had often seen the Borg coming and going.
“I did not see the captain last night. We were supposed to play Velocity tonight.”
“You might need to cancel your holodeck time. She’s not in shape to play Velocity tonight. Doctor, continue devising methods to revive the captain. The rest of us we do have a ship to run.”
“What do you plan to tell the crew?” Neelix asked.
“For the time being that she’s under the Doctor’s care in sickbay.”
“So little information may not allay their concerns,” Seven said.
“Informing them that their captain is incapacitated will cause their concerns to increase even more,” Chakotay pointed out.
Seven’s gaze locked with his. “The captain told me once that the truth is always preferable to a lie.”
Chakotay nodded. “She was right. But in this case I prefer that the crew not be told exactly how the captain is feeling right now. She’s only been in this coma for a few hours. She might wake up any minute, correct, Doctor?”
“If you say so,” he said dryly.
“For the time being, the captain is under the weather, understand?”
“What does that mean? Under the weather?” Seven asked.
“It’s a Terran expression,” Tuvok explained. “It means that she’s feeling sick for some reason.”
As the staff began to file out of the door, Chakotay detained Seven for a moment.
“I don’t wish to hear any speculation about the captain’s condition, Seven.”
“Speculation has already occurred. You should tell the crew the truth.”
“We’ll take it one day at a time and see how it goes. You have your orders.”
Seven chafed to be on the receiving end of orders from him. But she knew the captain’s respect for something called the chain of command.
“I will comply,” she said shortly, intending to return to the cargo bay and the rest of her regeneration sequence.
Before she could regenerate however she stopped at the mess hall to find Naomi Wildman.
“Seven, did you find out anything about the captain?” the girl asked, coming over.
Her words caused several crew members to look over at Seven. Aware that what she said would be repeated in the corridors and lower decks of the ship, the blonde did her best to deliver the words deliberately.
“The captain is under the weather. The Doctor is taking care of her in sickbay.”
“Then she is going to be all right?”
Seven gazed into the innocent eyes, not knowing what to say. As a Borg she rarely lied. Dissembling was foreign to her nature. And yet Chakotay had given her an order.
“She is resting for now. I hope to see her back in the captain’s chair very soon.”
Naomi smiled. “Good.” She hugged Seven. “Thanks, Seven. I feel so much better.”
Seven wished she did as well.
After a few days in sick bay Kathryn was climbing the walls. Or at least she would have if she had access to her arms and legs. Maybe it was the operatic arias that the EMH insisted on singing whenever he was alone. There was only so much Wagner she could stand. Her body continued to linger in unconsciousness, monitored by the EMH. Chakotay, Tuvok and some of the other senior staff popped in to see how she was. Although they tried to mask it, she could read the discouragement on their faces. From what she gleaned from their conversations with the EMH the crew had been told only that she was under the weather and convalescing.
After a week the Doctor beamed her back to her quarters and set up monitors on a bio bed in her living area. At first Kathryn was relieved to be back home with her familiar objects around but she soon became frustrated since she couldn’t access any thing. She couldn’t pick up a book to read, or take a hydro shower, or drink any coffee. For all those things she needed a body…and her body was just lying there.
The captain’s convalescence was a charade that fooled no one, as far as Seven of Nine could determine. In fact, most of the crew believed that Kathryn Janeway had fallen into another of her blue moods, something that happened once before when Voyager was traversing the Void.
“She’s probably holed up there, brooding about destroying the Caretaker’s array,” was one of the comments that Seven overheard in the mess hall. Sometimes she regretted having a Borg enhanced auditory system.
Chakotay did nothing to correct this impression of the captain and his inaction annoyed Seven. Perhaps he was growing used to sitting in the captain’s chair.
“He is acting as though he were the captain,” Seven complained to the EMH when she made her nightly visit to the captain’s quarters.
“Well, technically Chakotay is acting captain since the captain is incapacitated. As the Chief Medical Officer I would be the one to approve the change officially, giving him the captaincy.”
“You would never do such a thing!?”
“The ship needs a captain.”
“And it has one,” Seven said, glancing down at the redhead. The biobed had been beamed to the captain’s living area.
Well, at least Seven hasn’t given up on me yet.
“How is the captain today?”
“No change,” the Doctor replied.
“She should not be so isolated from her crew.”
“She’s not isolated. I’m here most of the time, except when you spell me in the evenings so my matrix doesn’t degenerate from too much use. And she has visitors. Tuvok came in an hour ago.”
He had spent the hour meditating and Kathryn had hoped that somehow she had reached him during the meditation. But with the Vulcan it was hard to tell.
“Chakotay does not allow any but senior members of the crew to come to her quarters to see her.”
“The captain doesn’t usually entertain junior members of the crew in her quarters,” the EMH pointed out.
That wasn’t exactly true. She had cooked dinner for Ensign Ballard once. If making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could be called cooking.
“I’m going to be in sickbay. My matrix was destabilizing a bit and Lt. Torres promised to take a look at it.”
“I will remain here with the captain,” Seven said. “I have been doing research on the matter of comatose patients.”
That’s my Borg!
“You have? What have you found?”
“In some instances the patient continues to listen to the words and actions of what is going on around them.”
“True enough. However if you’re suggesting we put a comatose captain onto the bridge.”
“I do not. She should be returned to sick bay, her condition made known to the crew and visitors allowed to interact with her.”
“Well, I disagree. I don’t want a parade of people going in and out of sickbay.”
And she didn’t want to be on display for the whole ship to gawk at! What was Seven thinking?
“In the case studies in the database I studied patients recalled conversation made when they were in a coma.”
The EMH looked at the blonde. “I could read the daily logs to the captain, I suppose.”
Great, just what she needed to go along with the opera. Kathryn wanted to gnash her teeth.
“The captain requires more than just the recitation of day’s events.”
Thank you, Seven!
“Her visitors must attempt to make personal contact with her.”
“Hmmm. So far her visitors seem to tiptoe around her as though she were really sleeping and they didn’t want to wake her,” the Doctor said.
“The whole point is to get the captain up.”
“Easier said than done. You talk to the captain. Maybe some of the stories about life with the Collective will scare her out of this coma.”
He nodded encouragingly to her then sauntered out of the captain’s quarters.
Good, they were alone. Maybe if she concentrated she could somehow communicate with Seven. They were usually on the same wavelength. Chakotay had told her once that they had a special bond. And even though the two women had fought and quarreled, there was also a grudging respect between them. Kathryn had also enjoyed taking Seven to her Da Vinci program, not to mention the Velocity matches.
Left alone with the captain, Seven did not know what to say to the comatose woman. No matter what the EMH thought, Seven did not think that stories about life in the Collective would be in order,
She looked around the captain’s quarters, trying to find something to talk about. Her family perhaps? Her mother Gertrude and sister Phoebe whose faces smiled from the small holoimage on a shelf. Perhaps she could try reading the captain’s favorite book, Dante’s Inferno, which lay on the table by the reading chair. Once when she had visited the captain, Janeway had been reading the book. Seven picked it up now.
Book in hand, Seven walked over to the bio bed. The captain’s respiration was slow and smooth. Instinctively, the young woman reached over and stroked Kathryn’s forehead, smoothing the auburn hair that was spilling over it.
Wow! Kathryn felt as though all her nerve endings were on fire from that simple touch.
Seven glanced down at her right hand. It was tingling for some reason. Usually if any hand felt electric sparks it would be her Borg implant on her left hand. She stopped the stroking and let her hand fall to her side.
No…Bring it back! I like it!
Seven found a chair and brought it over to the bed knowing that the captain would have hated to have Seven towering over her. The blonde wanted nothing more than for the auburn haired woman to be standing jauntily in front of her, hands on hips and chin thrust out.
She decided against reading the Dante. She did not completely understand the work herself.
“The ship continues to make its way to Sector Zero One Zero,” she said finally to the captain then paused. “Astrometric scans detect no hostile ships in the area.” This was unacceptable. The captain would not respond to such statements. In the database she had read that statements of a personal nature were most successful in being heard by a comatose patient.
“We all miss you, Kathryn,” she said, using the captain’s first name.
Stroking my face and calling me Kathryn, what next? Kathryn wondered.
“Naomi says hello.”
Such a cute kid.
“Mr. Neelix has brought you a card signed by all the crew.”
The Talaxian was a sweet man.
“I hope you don’t find your quarters too confining.” Thinking of confinement made Seven think of the brig.
“Do you remember when I first came aboard Voyager?”
How could I forget it? You were in full Borg armor and arrogant as hell.
“You confined me to the brig.” Seven’s eidetic memory played the scene loud and clear. “I was angry.”
To put it mildly.
“…hostile, throwing myself against the force field. You came into the cell, even though I threatened to kill you.”
That’s me, Captain Courageous.
“I regret saying that now, Kathryn.”
An apology from the Borg. This visit was full of surprises.
“There is no one I wish to live more than you,” Seven murmured huskily.
Oh, Seven…Then Kathryn felt another electric bolt shoot through her as Seven picked up her hand and held it for a moment.
Seven closed her eyes for a moment and enjoyed the tactile sensation of the captain’s small hand in her much larger one.
“You must wake up, please. The ship needs you. I need you. Your continued well being is necessary for me to function.”
Seven clasped the captain’s hand and pressed it to her heart, hoping that something of what she had said would be heard by the woman lying in the bed.