Disclaimer: Paramount owns all Characters from the Voyager universe. No profit was made, written only for the enjoyment of Star Trek and Voyager fans spanning the countries.

Codes: J/7

Rating: NC-17, For explicitly graphic sex scenes between two women. There is also an attempted rape scene, but it is not explicit at all. If any of this offends you in anyway, please leave now, no harm done. Please be responsible, if you are under 18 or if this is illegal in your part of the world, go elsewhere. Violence warning, please beware.

Time period: End of Seventh season, except 'Endgame' has not and will not occur.

Notes: (There are probably errors, typos, bad sentences, inconsistencies, etc. I apologize and hope you enjoy it.)


>>> continued

Athena 

by Scar

 

Day 7, Evening:

Janeway sat up abruptly, grimacing at the soreness in her side.

"Computer, time." She ordered.

"18:50", the computer responded.

She had been asleep for hours. Her mind tried to focus. Her ship had been taken over by pirates. Seven! No, Athena… Colonel Nad… She frowned deeply, and the bad memories came back to her in a flood. She had taken a beating from Nad before hearing Seven's voice. Janeway called out to her, but didn't remember anything after that.

Janeway assumed that Athena had treated her wounds and left her here to rest. Looking under the covers, she found the visual evidence of her bruises and cuts gone. Her ribs were sore though. She estimated they had been fixed recently.

From her lack of clothing, it appeared Athena had undressed her as well. Janeway smirked at that before deciding to take a bath. It would soothe her muscles and help her to relax. She went into the ensuite gingerly. She turned on the hot and cold water and watched the tub fill. Testing the water for the right temperature, she then slipped her aching body into the tub.

Ah! It was so nice to soak in a hot bath. Her trapezius muscles ached badly from tension and stress. She relaxed around the hot luxurious water for over 30 minutes before extricating herself. She didn't want to look like a prune. She pulled a robe on and left the ensuite on route to the replicator in the main room.

Halfway into the room she stopped. Looking to her right, Janeway saw Athena sound asleep on her lounge chair. Her normal stoic features softened by sleep.

She quietly ordered her coffee and sat down on the couch nearest the lounge chair. She sipped her coffee while gawking at her lover. She sat there admiring the young woman's beauty and innocence for almost an hour before the blonde opened her eyes.

Blinking the sleep from her eyes, Athena gazed at Janeway worriedly. "Captain?"

"Comfortable?" Janeway teased.

"My comfort is irrelevant." She stated sitting up. "You should be resting. You were severely injured." Her voice was disquieted.

"I'm all right, just a little sore." She admitted.

"Yes, the Doctor said you would be for a few days."

"The Doctor?" Janeway grew concerned. Did he give away his presence to treat me?

"Yes, you were unconscious. You needed medical attention immediately. It's a good thing Lt. Paris was willing to cooperate."

"Tom?" Janeway repeated surprised.

"He is your pilot as well as your onboard physician. You do not remember him?" Athena became concerned at Janeway's confusion. "Perhaps, you should lie down." She went to Janeway.

So it was Tom who treated her. Chances are Athena and company were still not aware of the Doctor's program. That was a relief.

Athena sat next to the Captain. "Captain, I really think you should lie down."

"No," she said. "I'm ok."

"Even so, I insist." The young blonde was being persistent.

Kathryn sighed, "Ok." She even takes care of me when she can't remember me.

Athena held her by the elbow as they went to the bedroom. "Is there anything I can get you." She asked.

Athena was sure being nice, Janeway mused. "No, I'm all set. Thank you." She laid down trying to get comfortable and closed her eyes.

Athena was going to go back into the main room to let Janeway sleep, but she just sat there at the foot of the bed looking out of place, unable to move. She was trying, in her mind, to desperately comprehend all the things that had happened to her in the past seven days, but she was having trouble rationalizing how she responded to the events.

She had never helped injured prisoners before and she pondered the hidden meaning of her actions. Captain Janeway was technically her prisoner, yet Athena no longer thought of her as one. The fiery auburn haired woman carried herself as an equal and she was charming, kind and compassionate beyond what reason would dictate a captive should be to a jailer.

Athena speculated that giving into a physical relationship with this Captain could have clouded her better judgment, thus causing her current conflict. However, she did not regret the act and in fact, was grateful for the opportunity to personally experience something that was greater than herself. Janeway offered such pleasure instead of the constant pain Athena was used to and it was invigorating to know that something wonderful existed besides pain in the universe.

The physical nature of their relationship alone was so compelling and it was the major reason she had avoided Janeway those days in-between her having to energize. She was drawn to the Captain in an inexplicable way that she couldn't fathom let alone explain. It became a feeling deep inside that she did not want to end, but it also made her vulnerable in a way she had not been before and that frightened her. This feeling made her heart skip even now and she became afraid of the consequences of her decision. Did this intimate involvement with Janeway preclude her to rash decisions?

She had already made her decision so there was no going back now. Could she have intense feelings for this individual? At first, she would have said no. However, having seen her beaten and injured, Athena's heart had ached. It hurt to see her so vulnerable and fragile. She had felt such helplessness at that moment thinking the Captain was dead before she called out to Athena. Then it came back to her. The name Janeway had called out.

"Her name was Annika." Athena mumbled quietly while in her reverie.

Janeway opened her eyes lazily to gaze at Seven. "What? Did you say something?"

Athena snapped out of her introspection. "The individual I reminded you of… Her name was Annika." She said loosely.

Janeway's heart skipped a beat and her eyes opened widely. She was wide-awake now. "How did you know?" She asked desperately hoping.

"You called out for her, when you were injured." Athena recalled.

"I didn't realize." She said, disappointed. "I'm sorry." She dropped her eyes.

Athena moved closer, lightly resting a palm on Janeway's leg.

"What reason do you have to be sorry?" Athena asked gently. She did not understand why the Captain felt the need to apologize. "Unless you regret what you had with her? Do you now feel it was not worth the risk?"

"Of course not!" Janeway glared at Athena appalled by such a suggestion. Athena flinched in response. "It was definitely worth the risk!" She averted her eyes. "I loved her very much." She said quietly in anguish. I still do! She screamed silently.

"I apologize if I upset you. I was just wondering, how I reminded you of her." Athena asked curiously. "I will withdraw the question."

This conversation was becoming uncomfortable for Janeway with the emotional complexities that were involved, but Athena's question was an honest one. "No, I'll answer it. You look like her." Janeway reached up to undo the austere bun and let Athena's hair down so it flowed around her shoulders naturally. "She had blonde hair too." She said stroking it. "Her skin was like yours soft and… " She caressed her cheeks above and below the jaw line. Janeway sighed, bringing her fingertips to Athena's full lips. "Her lips…" Janeway couldn't do this and turned away removing her hand.

Athena grabbed her hand. "Captain, please… I realize, I cannot be this person you speak of, but I can act as an alternative to satisfy your physical needs." Athena offered herself openly. "If it will ease your pain." She stroked Kathryn's cheek tenderly trying to convey how sorry she was that she was in such pain.

Janeway heard the implied suggestion. It was probably the nicest pass anybody ever made at her. She was willing to be a substitute lover for Janeway. Little did Athena know, that she was no substitute. She was the real deal. The body was the same, the graceful way she moved, the voice and the words she spoke. They had made love the same way minus a certain amount of familiarity on Athena's part, which would be understandable because of the newness of intimacy for her, but it was still Seven's body.

Janeway would have to start all over again in a brand new relationship, if Athena agreed to stay onboard Voyager and… if she never got her memories back. Janeway would still mourn what she had with Seven, especially if she could never get it back. That loss was so profound, even with the object of her affections currently by her side.

Janeway was never one to pray, but she did at that moment to whichever god would listen. Please, let her have her memories back. She has been through so much pain in her life. She deserves a chance to be human and live out the remainder of a full life. She deserves it more than the rest of us do. We've been human all our lives. She's only existed for a little over ten years and most of it was as a small child. Five years alive as an adult is just not right even in this cold, hard universe. Please… for her…

She finished her internal rambling to find Athena still gazing into her eyes a bit perplexed at Janeway's silence.

Janeway put a hand to Athena's cheek. "That was very nice of you to say."

"You do not have to thank me. If you are in a forest and you find a precious flower, rare and unique. Do you let it die knowing it is valuable or do you attempt to cultivate it and assist it to grow?" The words came to Athena before she realized what she was saying, but they seemed right.

That was one of the most beautiful analogies that Janeway had ever heard. Janeway also wondered if Athena truly understood what she implied. She implied that she had stronger than casual feelings for her.

Feelings!? For me!? Perhaps not as strong as love, but something was there. Something she could work with and grow. Just like she said.

Kathryn beamed at her as tears came to her eyes. She smiled widely. "May I kiss you?"

"If you want to."

"I do." Janeway moved in deliberately to kiss the young blonde by pecking her on the lips before coaching her mouth open for more.

Feeling energized, Athena parted her lips allowing her companion greater access to her warm sweet mouth. Janeway pressed her body closer arms embracing her wantonly and pressed into the movement flicking her tongue into her lover's parted mouth. Her hands slid down from behind her neck to the smooth curves of the ex-drones hips. She brought them up feeling the breasts briefly through the material before fumbling to remove the clothing. Janeway broke the kiss to concentrate on taking off Athena's uniform.

"Cap-tain? Your injuries?" Athena questioned.

"I'll be just fine." She said suggestively. "I know you'll be careful." She slipped her hand inside the outfit that was already unzipped. She pulled the flap of clothing aside to reveal the tops of two mounds pushing out of the brassiere. She teased Seven's nipples lightly, even through the light material.

Meanwhile, Athena was nibbling Janeway's neckline before parting her robe apart. She hesitated wondering how injured she was.

"Don't worry, just don't squeeze." She smirked merrily. They came together again kissing ardently, touching each other's body sensually and with care. Athena's tongue slipped inside her lover's mouth easily to taste her. Electricity flooded both women, tingling their nerve endings into a state of raging arousal.

Motivated beyond reason, Janeway reached behind to unhook Seven's bra, letting the voluptuous breasts fall free. Janeway wasted no time cupping those filling her hands with their soft pliable warmth.

Invigorated, Athena followed suit, concentrating on delicately tasting those recovering breasts. They were trying go slow, but both women needed the contact of flesh.

She breathed on Seven's throat, tickling the hollow point of the young woman's throat and neck before kissing her there.

"Yessss…" Athena wheezed out as Janeway whispered what she was going to do to her. The erotic imagery causing a sharp inhalation.

Athena pulled on Janeway's robe to look down into the heated area then brought her eyes up to meet her lover's to convey her wish through their mutual steamy gaze. Janeway leaned to the side, removed her robe one end at a time, and tossed it away as Athena stripped off her pants, while they were lying on the bed.

Now, burning, hot flesh touched in a cascading effect as both women fondled each other generously. Passionate lips found each other again, this time a slow French kiss involving circling tongues and the sweet scent of ambrosia. Thighs began rubbing each other in earnest, anticipation.

Athena pushed Janeway back so she was lying on her back with the young woman carefully on top. While focusing her light attention on the twin peaks of joy, she nudged Kathryn's thighs apart, settling in-between.

She held herself up with her Borg-encased hand to keep her extra weight off, leaving her human hand and mouth free. She squeezed the nipples between her fingers, checking Janeway for any discomfort. When there was none, she switched between the two, covering the pink buds with her moist full lips, while slipping her only freed hand down to a smooth moistened thigh. A teasing caress, she purposely stroked up and down back and forth rubbing lightly over the swollen protrusion that was waiting for that special touch.

After an agonizing minute to Janeway, who was writhing with anticipation, Athena gingerly entered two fingers into the warmth of Janeway's depths, while her tongue licked and nipped at Kathryn's nipples. She slid her hand in between the two slick folds stroking up and back slowly for a few moments before gathering momentum.

Janeway arched her hips up furiously to connect with all Seven was giving her. She moaned her pleasure from deep inside her throat as she forcefully found Seven's mouth and kissed her hard consuming her. Heat fortified her body as she felt the in and out sensations coursing through her wet folds. The motion was lively but controlled, spirited but appeasing and pushed her senses over the edge engrossing her completely, numbing the pain.

Athena advanced fluidly into the wholeness that was her lover. Pushing luxuriously into the hot and churning folds of Kathryn's wetness and injecting all of her available passion, Athena poured herself into her lover's depths that eagerly accepted the renewed pureness of her humble offering.

Until reaching the apex, Janeway cried out in pure bliss. The crest having been reached, she spoke the name of her true love.

"Annika!!!" she screamed, her hands clenching the sheets tight.

The pinnacle of fruition was upon her, exploding in wave after wave of ecstasy. Her body lifted on its own in response to the exhausting task of multiple climaxes. She could feel the soreness of her ribs aching, but it was outdone by the pleasure of Seven's touch. Her head pounded in a head rush at how physically elevated her body was.

Athena was so tired that she almost slumbered heavily on top of her satisfied lover who was still writhing with the last ebbs of passion. She pushed her weight to the side resting for a few moments their chests heaving in unison.

Feeling thoroughly saturated with love, Kathryn felt it was her turn to pleasure her Annika. She rolled over and gliding her torso over her partner, squeezed a leg in-between the slippery inner thighs of the younger woman.

Seven looked flushed and spent, obviously not fully recovered. Janeway was cautiously concerned. "Are you all right." She asked breathily.

"Yes, just fatigued." She sucked in air, smiling. "I just need a moment."

Janeway waited patiently to start her ministrations. "Do you want to stop?"

"No, I'm ok…" Athena was as highly aroused as she was spent. "Please, don't stop." She whispered.

Janeway smiled widely as she trailed wet kisses down to the left fleshy mound pecking and tasting the pink areola. Then switching to the right one to suckle gently before returning to the sweet savory full lips of Seven in a heated kiss. Seven groaned into the hot breath so full of teeth and tongue, while her body wriggled in need underneath Janeway.

Janeway noticed that her lover was wet and moist. She entered her in a single swift movement while preparing her plan, causing a swift hiss of pleasure from Seven.

She wanted to stretch out the lovemaking to bring as much sensual pleasure and sensation to her partner as possible before hitting the apex of no return. Keeping her inner core from exploding prematurely, the older woman knew it was important to keep the proper pace.

At first, she stroked lazily, her fingers sliding into the slickness, feeling the texture of the walls, which were silky soft. Beginning her undulating rhythms at that point, Kathryn attempted to drive her companion wild with the slowness of the movement.

Then, she would grind her fingers around bending to see what pleasured Seven the most, while looking for those spots that caused the most reaction. Thrusting in slowly, bending and pulling back, she could tell Seven was being driven crazy by it.

Athena could hardly stand it. "Ahhhh!" Her body writhed underneath the torment.

Finally, Janeway increased the pace exponentially and the pleasure threshold by flicking her thumb over the hardened pearl as she filled her partner's inner world completely. Lunging in and out to find that g-spot of prurient release, she elicited a wild cry from her beloved. She advanced rapidly through the all consuming heated organ feeling her own body respond strongly as she gasped as how erotic the motion had become for her as well.

Seven panted in tune with the momentum, sucking in air, contracting her walls then exhaling on the upstroke. The blood in her capillaries boiled in her body at its core and pounded in her head. Kathryn molded her mouth to her darling kissing her passionately knowing the moment was almost upon them.

Janeway drove all her remaining energy into this act at this moment trying to sustain the euphoria before Seven's inner core headed for the imminent melt down.

"Kathrynnnn!!!" She wailed, reaching her peak and ejecting her inner core's liquid at full speed. Her body bucked up and down at reaching the summit of perfection. Beads of water and salt droplets were rolling off her body as she felt multiple convulsive orgasms tearing through her engulfing all that she was body and spirit. After the tremors died down, a sense of belonging overcame her.

Despite every body part dripping with exhaustion, she was intoxicated with joyousness. She was in paradise at what she was experiencing emotionally even though she couldn't fathom it mentally right now or put it into words. Hot tears fell from both eyes spilling over and dropping down onto her bare chest.

Athena simply laid there and sucked in large chunks of air as her body recovered. Janeway gulped in generous amounts of oxygen herself. She was very tired and slightly sore from their intensive lovemaking. She withdrew her fingers, slipping her body to the side and comforted her blown away lover by rubbing her stomach gently.

"Shhh," Kathryn murmured along with words of love in her ear and wiped away the tears of joy.

Athena laid content next to the lady magician who wielded the magic touch, her body slick with perspiration at the exertion. She could no long deny that her heart ached for this woman. She had already set things in motion, but hadn't committed to it. Finally she made the fateful decision knowing it was right one.

"I will assist you, Captain." She stated clearly. "You have my word." She felt she belonged with the Captain and in her heart she could not allow the crew of Voyager to be destroyed especially, since it would harm Janeway. That she could not allow. Even if it meant betraying her pirate family and death.

Janeway glanced at her lover's glazed over ice blue eyes and saw previously unexpressed adoration coursing through them.

Janeway was flooded with glee at this proclamation. Finally, Kathryn received the words of acknowledgement and better yet the trust that she had been waiting for and she was determined not to let her lover down.

Their eyes made contact, knowingly no words were needed as they laid in each other's embrace.


Colonel Nad blasted into Janeway's quarters looking around frantically for the two women. Not finding them in the main area, he proceeded to the bedroom with numerous soldiers at his side. "You!" he shouted. "Are under arrest, traitor!" He pointed to Athena.

This display he did not expect to see with both women being in a state of undress. He frowned disgustedly at seeing the metallic implants that adorned Athena's body, but he didn't comment on it. "I understand now, but it matters not. We know who you are."

Grimacing at him, Athena was already on her feet as two guards rushed at her. She flung them aside as four more guards sprang on her punching and hitting her into submission. Her strength was waning.

"Stop!" Janeway protested, throwing a sheet around herself, trying to stand.

Two guards moved to subdue her and Colonel Nad moved in behind them. She punched the first guard in the nose, knocking him over onto the bed, much to his surprise before the second one grabbed her arm. Colonel Nad was on her then with a long knife pressed to her throat, suspending any further resistance.

Athena's limited remaining endurance was fast leaving her as she was being belted across the face and punched in the stomach numerous times. Her body was giving out. She was constantly tired and was currently exhausted from her recently concluded sexual activities. There were simply too many of them as they wrestled her arms behind her and shoved her face to the floor pinning her body down.

Athena was inflamed at Nad. "You are nothing, but a dishonorable thief."

"And YOU are Seven of Nine, a member of this crew! A traitor!" He said disgusted, not realizing she didn't remember being Seven of Nine.

Athena was flabbergasted by the accusation. "What!?"

"I could execute her, right in front of you, you know. That would be unpleasant, wouldn't it?" He slapped Janeway across the face and paused waiting for Athena's reaction. He wanted her to fear his power. Gazing at her expression, it seemed to work. The blood had drained from her beautiful, pale face. Obviously she didn't want that.

"I know you will cooperate fully as long as I keep your lover here healthy." He ran the flat of the blade down Janeway's cheek to emphasize his point. "Correct?"

Athena's face was bright red, her eyes furious and hateful.

"Get dressed now!" he ordered, motioning the guards to let her up. She hesitated and he fixed that sentiment quickly by slapping Captain Janeway again, hard. "Get dressed now!"

Fuming at him, Athena did not need any more incentive and dressed quickly.


Colonel Nad and a dozen guards escort Athena and Captain Janeway to the Cargo Bay. Athena walked clumsily while changed in duranium hand and feet cuffs. He wasn't going to take any chances with her abilities. Especially if she was unstable or angry as she was now, evident by the deep scowl she wore on her face.

The Cargo bay doors opened with the guards pushing Janeway through followed by four guards and then Athena followed her in surrounded by eight sentries.

The crew stood up after they saw their Captain walk in looking fairly healthy. They gave obvious looks of relief at how well she looked now than compared to before. The senior officers noticed the look on her face that all was not well. Following her in was a very chained up, morosely agitated looking Seven of Nine.

Colonel Nad stood beside Athena looking proud at his accomplishment and glared at the Voyager crew.

"Voyager crew!" He shouted. "I have discovered the traitor in our midst." He waved his hand toward the chained Seven of Nine. "If you thought I would not discover her, you were mistaken."

He looked disgustedly at her. "Do you know what we do to traitors?" He said loud enough for all to hear. "Let me demonstrate."

Lt. Savor and Lt. Volan entered the Cargo bay and Colonel Nad met them near the door. "Ah just in time, gentlemen." He had a quiet conversation with the two stiff looking gentlemen, which took less than a minute.

Athena stared hard at them as she overheard what they had said. He walked back over to Athena with a big grin on his face.

He moved in close to her ear to whisper. "Let the games begin. You're expendable now, my dear." He paused to assess her mood moving away from her.

"However, I am feeling generous today." He said full of mirth. "I will let you decide who fights Volan. Perhaps, your Captain. She has proven a capable fighter or you can choose yourself if your feeling as generous as I am… Of course, neither of you would probably survive, but that is what makes it so… interesting." He looked around at the crew of Voyager, their faces rigid with disgust. He got their attention. "The fight is to the death."

Athena's eyes watered with anger and she swallowed at the fear building up.

"Colonel Nad," Janeway spoke up. "Stop this."

"I can't Captain. You see it's her decision."

"I will fight." Athena stated.

"A true martyr." Colonel Nad said.

"No!" Janeway said fearful and furious, but she was powerless to do anything because she was being held back by two guards. How could she win in her condition? She knew how tired and weak Seven was.

"The decision has been made."

Volan went over to Nad who shook his head back and forth violently. "Absolutely not. I'll release the ankle cuffs only."

"I require a weapon if she is allowed to keep those chains." Volan nagged.

"Certainly."

"Oh and by the way, if you lose, Seven of Nine, your Captain dies… Call it an incentive to fight well." He threatened. Athena met his eyes with pure hatred.

Captain Janeway was fuming by now and could only shake her head in disbelief as she and rest of her crew watched helplessly.

Volan took his position in the middle of the cargo bay waiting. A guard came through the doors handing him an ancient looking short sword, while another guard removed Athena's ankle bracelet and scooted away. Unsheathing the small sword, Athena noticed the embroidered handle and the intricate design etched into the blade itself. It was forged well and Athena hoped the sharp blade would not end up slicing her in two.

Volan started circling around her. He held the sword loosely in his left hand at first testing its weight and balance before firming up his grip. He was an excellent swordsman and fighter. He was arrogant and confident making him a dangerous opponent.

Athena stayed perfectly still piercing him with her hard gaze. Volan was not easily intimidated, but even he must be feeling an increase in adrenaline flow at having to facing her. Athena was certainly afraid and nervous. She felt she could win if she was healthy and uninhibited, but in her current condition, her confidence was low.

Then she thought of the Captain and the verbal threat if she lost. Basically, whether Athena survived or not, it did not matter, but Nad probably assumed this and forced her hand by threatening the Captain. A mistake on his part as far as she was concerned. She tightened the two-foot chain linking her handcuffs together. It would be her only defense and she intended to use it as a weapon if given an opportunity.

Finally, Volan came at her pointing the tip of the sword at her midsection in a quick jab. She moved aside easily to her left while blocking the sword sharply off to her right using the links in the chain. Volan smirked, and swirled the sword in a circle for showmanship purposes before attempting another attack.

This time he came in close holding the sword high before striking in a downward arc. He struck high, then low and to the side, which were all blocked to his frustration. All the while, Athena held that placid stare. She heard a small sigh from him, before he charged again.

This time he faked going high and went low, the point of the sword catching her uniform on the left side and shredding a hole through it, which tore at her skin to cause a minor flesh wound.

Her snug uniform offered less protection that her outer jacket, but at least the sword hadn't skewered her. She had another problem now as she was paying attention to the sword that whizzed by her, therefore not seeing the incoming right fist until it connected with her jaw.

She didn't have time to right herself and if she did the sword would be waiting for her before she could attack so she let the momentum take her backwards ending up in a roll many feet away from him so she had time to correct her stance. It was a solid hit the strike would have broken many jaws, but not Athena's. She didn't know her jaw was laced with duranium, but even so it still ached horribly.

Volan backed up so she could return to the center area before he started circling her again. As soon as she was in the middle, he attacked wide. He struck on the left, then the right then the middle before he would back off. He was trying to tire her. Little did he know that she was already fatigued and struggling to breath evenly.

She still had an advantage though. If she had to, there were parts of her body that contained thick deposits of metal, which should be able to sustain a moderate sword blow. It would, of course, depend on whether or not she was struck with the flat or the sharp part of the blade. She might have to take that chance in order to get in close. Close quarters battle was her strong area and her best bet at defeating him.

He came at her swinging the sword low in a wide arc toward her feet. She bent low, but was at a disadvantage. It was difficult to block such a low strike and then be ready for high one. Instead, she strategically followed the arc, hopping over the sword. Leaning in, struck a hard blow to his face with her Borg mesh hand knocking him over.

He looked dazed for awhile wiping his bleeding lip and as he stood up, Athena moved in to strike. He looked up and managed to bring the sword between them. However, the chain blocked the swords movement pinning it tightly between them as she tightened the chain around his neck. She had to hug her hands around Volan's neck to keep the chain tight to choke him and to keep the sword away from her face. It was a struggle as the sword was only inches away from both their faces. Volan fought for air as she attempted to choke him with the chain.

"Stop!" Colonel Nad yelled and guards came over to carefully separate the two combatants. ''Now… Continue."

Athena rested bent over, leaning her hands on her thighs. She was tired, exhausted and ill as she glared at Volan, who himself was gasping from almost being asphyxiated by her.

"I'm going to kill you." He threatened her. He was losing his edge, Athena thought. He never used to brag before. He is worried.

He attacked again and this time she decided to take a chance. As he came in, she guessed by his stance, which way the sword was going and she dove in close striking him in the stomach with her right human hand and then connected with an upper cut with her mesh hand before sliding out of his reach to his left.

As he stumbled back, spitting out a tooth, he face became animated in rage. Infuriated, he struck hard and furious, swinging full wide strokes with the blade left to right and from overhead. Finally the chain snapped and Athena twisted her body hard to the left as the chain busted letting the sword through. She didn't quite make it as the tip sliced into her upper right shoulder. She let out a cry before grabbing Volan's sword hand with her meshed one and squeezed hard. If she were healthy, it would have snapped the bones in his hands rendering the appendage useless, but in her weakened condition it only caused him intense pain.

She drove her left shoulder into his chest, so he would lose balance. She pulled him back toward using her Borg hand that was still over his sword hilt and positioned her body behind him. Her right arm came around his throat as her left resettled on his sword hand from behind. Volan felt goose bumps rise on his neck as he felt her breathing on him.

"Drop the sword and I may consider... letting you live." Athena offered him. Volan considered it carefully. From behind him, she could easily kill him. He wouldn't have enough time to stop her so he wisely dropped the sword.

"NO!" Colonel Nad shouted. "There is no conceding in this!"

"I have won. He has surrendered. There is no further point to this!" Athena said frustrated, but she did not loosen her grip.

"You do not command here." He yelled agitated. "No one has won. I don’t see a body." He pulled out his side arm, a pulse blaster and pointed it at her.

"Is he worth dying for?" Nad asked gruffly. "Kill him."

Athena was shocked. A leader who would sacrifice his own loyal soldiers for no reason was a truly evil creature. No one had to die, she had won.

Athena still had Volan in a tight head-lock as she stared right into Nad's evil eyes not deviating for an instant until he lowered his weapon. He paused to look at Janeway and walked over to the Captain.

"Kill him." Nad repeated his back to Athena.

"Sir?" Volan questioned aghast realizing his Colonel was serious.

Nad stood next to Janeway and pressed the weapon to her skull. Athena's eyes turned red and her heart rate doubled. Volan struggled, but she held on tighter molding her body to his to prevent escape.

"You have three seconds to comply." He said in her style of words.

"3…"

She blinked her eyes furiously trying to think, but there was no time.

"2…"

Her nose flared, a gasp escaped from her lips.

"Nad!!" Volan pleaded.

"1…"

Athena dared to gaze at Janeway and a snap could be heard echoing through the quiet Cargo bay. If she wasn't so tired she would have cried from the guilt of killing him in such a dishonorable fashion, but she had to save the Captain. Her Captain if what Nad was telling her was the truth, that she was really a part of this crew. She had so many questions and so little time.

She let his body fall to the cold floor. Clenching her fists in rage, Athena could only stare at Nad. A few tears of anger and anguish escaped her eyes. The adrenaline was wearing off. She winced at the prominent pain in her right shoulder. She glanced at it and tried to move it clenching her teeth, seething in the discomfort. It was bleeding proficiently down her uniform and onto the floor. She held her head up high ignoring it because there was little she could do about it.

Nad holstered the weapon. "Well done." He said and gave a hand signal to his men. Four came over and pointed their weapons at Athena, while two other guards removed her broken cuffs and replace them with new ones for both her wrists and ankles.

Colonel Nad went over to speak with Lt. Savor, who had a serious, disdainful gaze on his face. He was unsettled at having to watch Athena fight and obviously not happy with the way Volan was treated, although he would never admit it. Colonel Nad spoke with him for a few minutes before going over to Athena.

He looked at her victoriously, with a smirk on his face. "The Voyager crew is no longer required." He kept his voice down. "But you no longer remember them, do you? So, their loss shouldn't affect you too much. Because, I am going to execute--"

"I would not recommend that, if I were you." Athena remarked defiantly while glaring into his eyes.

He snickered. "How many times do I have to tell you, you are NOT in command here." He shook his head at her arrogance. "I will prove it to you!"

He raised his weapon pointing at a random crewmember.

"If the computer does not register, one hundred and forty seven crewmen, it has instructions to detonate the warp core!"

Nad turned to look at her hard. "You're bluffing!"

"I initiated a program that monitors their life signs. Voyager's crew complement as of Stardate 55645.2 is 147. The computer is programmed to initiate a warp core breach if the number falls below 147 and it is constantly monitoring those life signs. You should also know, if the crew compliment is over 147 by 0:00 hours on Stardate 55650.3, the computer will begin a 1 minute countdown with the same results."

"Then you will shut it down!" He spat verbally at her while lowering his weapon.

"No."

He put his pulse rifle to her neck and pressed into the skin. "You're going to pay for this!"

"I already have."


Colonel Nad left the cargo bay with a chained up Seven of Nine followed by 12 guards. He left the original five guards in the Cargo Bay. He gave them specific instructions to stun anyone who tried to rush them, no deviations allowed.

He stopped outside the brig and told the guards to take the prisoner in and secure her behind a force field. He continued to walk down the corridor next to Lt. Savor, deep in thought. "Lt.?"

"Yes," Savor replied.

"We're you… close to Volan." He asked, not really caring.

"No, not particularly sir." A moments silence. "However, he should have won."

"Yes," Nad laughed. "He was a good fighter though."

"Yes, but Athena is extremely intelligent and clever. She doesn't let anger or rage dictate her actions. She is also not afraid to die."

"We'll see," Nad mumbled, then added louder. "Didn't you train Athena in combat tactics?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I did, but she already possessed a considerable fighting skill before I added to it. I believe she is naturally strong. I simply attempted to teach her how to be more ruthless and cunning when she fought."

"It didn't work." Nad said stiffly. "She hesitated."

"Perhaps, but she did kill Volan when Captain Janeway's life was threatened. In the end, it was her morals that I couldn't change."

"Apparently so, but she hasn't won completely."

"You have a plan?"

"For her, oh yes definitely. In the meantime, I intend to pick this ship clean in the three hours we have left and I'll need you to coordinate that. However, before that, I want you to access Voyager's systems and find out exactly what this Seven of Nine did to the ship. See if you can reverse it, delay it or find an alternative."

"Sir, I am not as gifted as Athena in that department. I--"

"I am fully aware of that, Lieutenant. You have one hour then I expect you to report the results back to me."

"Understood."


A few minutes after Colonel Nad left the Cargo bay, Captain Janeway began plotting. She huddled with her senior officers in the back of the Cargo bay.

"I have no intentions of standing around here for three hours." The Captain said relentlessly as she eyed Tuvok and Chakotay. "I have some computer access. I believe I can bring the Doctor here to take care of those guards, however, I'll need to recircuit a combadge so I can notify him that its time." She didn't have her combadge thanks to Nad's quick intrusion into her quarters. However, she was grateful he allowed her to dress in her uniform.

"They deactivated them immediately, upon barricading us in here." Chakotay offered.

"I'm sure they did," Janeway replied. "but I managed to get limited transporter control using my command codes... so I don't think that will stop what I need to do with it." She motioned with her hand and Chakotay handed her his combadge. The Captain borrowed some of B'Elanna's small tools that she kept in her uniform pockets, which were not confiscated, much to her relief.

The Captain spent a few minutes taking the small cover off to get to the small components inside. The combadges were a simple technology and easily made, but difficult to work on by normal eyesight, as the parts tended to be rather small. However, Janeway being an astute scientist had rewired a few in her academy days for more than innocuous reasons so it posed no problem for her now. She just had to squint harder to see.

She finally accessed the secured channel that she had used to talk to the Doctor during those times she was in her quarters. This time however, she sent a coded message since the live two-way chat feature was disabled.

"Ok," She informed them. "That should do it. Now we wait for him to interpret my instructions… Shouldn't be too long." She grinned.

"Captain, are you sure the Doctor is up to this task?" Tuvok inquired.

"I know what your thinking Tuvok, and normally I'd be the first to agree with you, but we went over a variety of contingency plans in case something like this happened. I don't think he would let us down, despite his… lack of security training."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow just as the Doctor beamed into the Cargo Bay with a compression rifle raised.

"Everyone down!" Janeway yelled as soon as she saw him appear. She hoped the guards weapons were on stun, but didn't want to take any chances if what she overheard with Seven and Nad was true. A warp core breach would occur.

Almost everyone dropped quickly being Starfleet officers, except Naomi Wildman, who had to be brought down by her mother.

The Doctor had a stern look to his face, almost a scowl. He obviously took his task and Janeway's faith in him seriously. He surveyed his surroundings quickly and found the guards as they swiveled towards him.

"Drop your weapon!" one of them, shouted.

A split second later, two of the guards had fired in the Doctor's direction, but the laser fire went right through his holographic body. He fired off a wide beam dispersal shot, catching three of the five guards, who fell instantly. The other two fired more feverishly at him before he dispatched them as well.

There were a few tense moments as one of the shots ricocheted off an alcove and another off some storage containers, but luckily the errant weapons fire fizzled out and no one was struck.

Janeway was the first to get up after having watched the weapons fire dissipate. "Tuvok gather those weapons," she ordered immediately. Just in case, some guards popped in before they had a chance to acquire their own.

"Doctor!" she called wading her way through Starfleet officers to get to the front, where the Doctor was looking on at her proudly.

"Captain!" he greeted.

"Well done, Doctor." She said as he beamed with pride. "However, I still need your assistance. We need weapons. Deck 2, locker room."

"Ah yes, right away." he agreed and disappeared to retrieve them.

Janeway gathered up the senior officers and separated them into teams. B'Elanna was to take back Engineering with Chakotay's help and a few security guards, while Janeway and Tuvok attempted to take the Bridge with their own security backup. She sent Harry and Tom to Astrometrics to check where Voyager was located and its current heading.

Even as she barked out orders, Annika was on the back of her mind, knowing the young woman was probably in immediate danger. Janeway had to retake her ship. She just hoped she wouldn’t be too late. She finished with saying that if anyone ran into Colonel Nad with Seven to notify her immediately, because Seven was not in good health. The officer who found her was instructed to get her to sickbay immediately including stunning her if she was uncooperative.

The Doctor rematerialized with almost a dozen weapons in his full arms.

As soon as they were outfitted, the officers headed out to their designated locations, with Janeway, Tuvok and two guards heading out carefully to make they way to the Bridge.


Colonel Nad walked into the brig carrying a case. Two guards rushed in moving passed him pointing rifles at Athena while two other guards removed the bed from the brig area. They motioned her back against the wall and took her chains off. The guards attached her hands and feet to the wall using magnetic cuff attachments.

Nad put the case down and opened it. Athena could vaguely make out a wand of some kind and had a sinking feeling as what purpose it served.

"What do you think of my bracelets? They're electro-magnetic based with one ton resistance maximum and solid duranium too." He smiled widely. "I guess you won't be going anywhere for awhile even with your strength."

She hissed at the pain caused from the guards moving her injured arm and flexing the wound in the shoulder. It throbbed mercilessly.

The guards finished clamping her hands above her head and her feet slightly shoulder width apart. The guards finished and he ordered all of them out before proceeding.

"Now that we have some privacy I want you to tell me how to de-activate the self destruct program you initiated." He said patting his palm with a three-foot baton with a metallic tip sporting two prongs.

"Well, I'm waiting… "

She glared defiantly at him.

The corner of his mouth curled up in an evil grin. "We have plenty of time. Over three hours. Did you know, this little baton has over 30 settings… Tell me what you think of setting five."

He pressed it to her midsection, and a zap could be heard echoing around the small room. An unpleasant tingling sensation erupted in Athena's stomach that stretched out to encompass her whole body, her hands clenched into fists involuntarily at the shock.

After multiple shocks later, Colonel Nad was getting impatient and agitated. "You are one stubborn bitch, I'll give you that." He spat disdainfully, "but I'm not done yet.


Captain Janeway made her way along the winding corridor before stopping to peek around a corner looking for signs of enemy soldiers. She spotted three guards at the far end of the hallway talking lightly amongst themselves. She noticed all three were armed and they hadn't noticed her yet. She motioned for Tuvok to cover her and she darted out into the open firing as she knelt on her knee to make herself less of a target.

Since they were caught off guard, Tuvok hit a glancing blow to one as Janeway managed to drop another one instantly before they reacted. Janeway rolled to the other side of the corridor to take cover as the remaining alert alien fired on her. He continued a hectic barrage of firing while he screamed something at the injured but conscious alien.

Janeway guessed they were probably calling for backup, but she had no choice. There was no other way to the turbo lift. They had to incapacitate these guards before they could continue on to the Bridge.

One of Tuvok's security crew exposed himself too much in an effort to drop one of the remaining guards and took a shot in the left shoulder, which spun him backwards against the wall. His weapon clattered to the floor as he slumped over in pain.

"Ensign!" Janeway barked.

"I'm ok," he said through clenched teeth as he dragged himself to cover.

She was relieved. She certainly didn't need any warp core breaches right now. Risking a peek to spot the enemies position, Janeway barely had time to withdraw her face to safety before heated laser fire burned its way passed her. It passed so close, she could smell the heat in the air from it.

"Tuvok, can you see their position?"

"Negative."

The two remaining guards were clever. They had hunched down and pressed their bodies flatly against the walls, using the bulkheads to hide as they covered the opposite side of their attackers' position. Thus enabling them to see the instant a weapon appeared from around a corner.

This standoff wasn't getting them anyway and Janeway was getting impatient and irritated. Looking around, she found a Jefferies tube. She thought about it for a minute then told Tuvok to start a round of fire in ten minutes. Tuvok was about to protest when she disappeared in the Jefferies tube.

She closed the hatch behind her and followed the tube to the end of the shaft. It was warmer than she expected, but it could have been her adrenaline rush as well and she just didn't notice it until she ended up in a cramped environment. It was also dustier than she remembered and she made a mental note to have the ducts cleaned more often. These ducts were necessary to repair parts of the ship and letting them go by the wayside was unacceptable.


Her head hung listlessly, her body leaning hard against gravity, battle weary, sick, fatigue and torture all taking a heavy toll as Athena wished for an end to the suffering. She would have welcomed death if not for fleeting thoughts of a very headstrong Captain. She simply hung there waiting for the next round of punishment.

"Lt. Savor to Colonel Nad." The voice came across his wrist communiqué. Nad wanted to ignore it, but Savor's tone had a warning to it.

"Yes, what is it?"

"I am receiving numerous reports of fire fights. Originating on Deck 8 and I've gotten communiqués of an altercation on Deck 10, which would be Engineering." He paused. "Sir, I believe they are attempting to retake the ship."

That much was obvious! He thought scowling. He had wanted to take this ship apart, but since his guards were idiots, he wouldn't have time to indulge in even that. However, what made him most angry was the interruption to his interrogation of Athena.

"What's your current location?" he snapped.

"I'm on the Bridge."

"Janeway will be heading there first so make sure the men keep their settings on stun. I need more time, here to finish up."

There was silence at first before Savor responded. "Sir, are you still in the brig?"

"Yes," Nad drawled out, annoyed.

"As a suggestion only sir. It would be wise to keep… Athena alive. Janeway would not risk her life if we had her captive while trying to make our escape."

Nad was really getting pissed off until Lt. Savor interrupted his thoughts again.

"You can always finish what you started on onboard the Pak'Tar, sir."

Lt. Savor knew exactly what Colonel Nad had been up to. "Very well, transport everyone back to the Pak'Tar as soon as you're able. I'll join you shortly."

Nad briefly wondered if Savor had a thing for Athena. If he had, he would never let on or admit it. To do so would show weakness, especially since Nad would have to kill the blonde soon.


Crawling on her hands and knees in the Jefferies tube, Captain Janeway's progress was slow, but steadily. It was awkward crawling while sporting a heavy compression rifle in her left hand, but she didn't have any other way of carrying it. Her limbs were getting sore from all the crawling, but it was the many changes of directions that truly annoyed her before she thought she was where she wanted to be. She pressed her ear to the inside of the Jefferies tube door and hearing nothing positioned her rifle once again and opened the door to peek out.

Seeing nothing, she got out, closed the door and proceeded down the hallway keeping an eye out for the enemy. Coming to a corner, she smirked to herself. She had successfully gotten behind the enemy. She could make out the two guards backed against the walls firing at Tuvok every few seconds to keep him pinned. She would have thought their power cells would have run out by now, considering how much energy they wasted to keep Tuvok and his companions pinned.

She heard, Tuvok laying down fire moments later and she moved out from behind her cover, firing on one alien and dropping him, then she turned her rifle on the last one. He looked at her, disdain in his eye and his weapon still pointed in the other direction.

"Drop it!" She commanded.

Confusion, caused him to hesitate, but he went for the shot thinking he couldn't lose to a female. He went for the draw and Janeway fired blasting him into the wall, his body falling down unconscious.


"I hate being rushed!" He grumbled loudly to himself. Nad wanted to enjoy a little more before he had to leave. All of a sudden, Athena could smell him closer and she saw the glint of the metallic object. He lifted her head and proceeded to cut straight down her uniform from top to bottom. Fear coursed through her mind as the sound of him slicing her uniform off her, but he did not remove it. He just left the remnants of the ruined garment to hang there on her.

He peeked inside to eye her flesh, suddenly remembering the numerous metallic implants her body had. His face contorted into one of disgust. He could not believe he had wanted this… at one point.

"You’re an abomination!" he spat at her and smacked her midsection with the wand eliciting a gasp as the air in her lungs shot out forcefully.

"What do you have to say for yourself, monster, eh?" He slapped her across the face, causing her head to forcefully roll with the movement unable to muster any defense.

"Ha, it hardly matters now any ways." He said more calmly. "Tell me how this setting feels on bare skin…"

He pressed the torture device to her abdomen and she grunted in pain as fire coursed through her nerve endings.

"Hmm, that was only setting fifteen." He tapped a button on the device. "I bet that metallic object embedded in your abdomen conducts electro-magnetic pulses, doesn't it?"

She could barely keep her eyes open. The half-lidded ice blue orbs were pale and watering from the pain.

"No answer?" he teased, "Let's say we find out." He said jabbing the metal prongs into full contact with her stomach implant and simultaneously activating the device.

Athena screamed as the agony tore through her. The metallic implants were indeed more sensitive and doubled everything she felt conducting the energy pulse to her other cybernetic systems causing a body wide shock.

As her body screamed for mercy, her mind was undeterred by the pain and drifted to a visual of the Captain while amidst the physical ordeal. Tears came down her cheeks, not from the pain she was experiencing, but from the loss of the opportunity to get to know the individual she had come to care for. Regret filled her battered heart before she passed out.

Nad patiently waited for her to regain consciousness. The wait had aggravated him, but he wanted her awake. He wanted to rub his superiority in her face.

"Lt. Savor to Colonel Nad."

"What!?" he growled into his wrist device.

"I have transported to the Pak'Tar."


As soon as the turbo lift door opened up, Janeway noticed Savor press a button on his wrist PADD and transport away. She lowered her body as she exited the turbo lift, when a round of laser fire came her way. Tuvok, the Ensign who was injured and the other security officer backed up against the turbo lift walls to avoid being hit. Janeway took cover to her right of the turbo lift, behind Tuvok's station.

Risking a peek, she guessed that the rest of the guards were in a hunkered down position behind the helm console. They decided to fire some more before Janeway swore she heard the unmistakable whine of a transporter beam.

"Captain?" Tuvok called, noting the extended silence.

Crouching, she slithered under the railing preparing to fire only to notice they had indeed left. "It's clear," she said puzzlement in her tone. "They've left." She thought it odd they would pick this moment to evacuate.

She looked questioningly to Tuvok who had joined her on the Bridge, raising a brow in response. "That was a rather hasty departure." He stated.

"They have a cloaked ship off our port side. See if you can locate its position." She ordered, heading for her command chair. While he was running scans, she checked in with Tom and Harry and then Chakotay and B'Elanna. Their stories were similar. Apparently Nad's soldiers beamed out all around the ship at about the same time. She gave Chakotay instructions to have all the crewmen return to their stations then she ordered her first officer, Tom and Harry to return to the Bridge as soon as they could.

A sudden fear crept into her chest. Annika! "Janeway to sickbay! Doctor, do you have Seven?"

"No," the Doctor replied. "She hasn't been located."

"Computer! Give me the location of any bio-signature containing Borg technology onboard Voyager." She asked thickly, her heart in her throat.

"There are no Borg bio-signatures onboard." Was the only response, and her heart sank at hearing it.

She looked to Tuvok pleadingly. Tell me you have something!

"I am detecting no subspace variances, which could indicate a cloaked ship." Tuvok offered.

She stood up slowly, staring at the view, which only showed a black empty expanse of space. She walked closer to the screen, a look of utter sadness crept into her finely chiseled eyes, which were more grey than blue and would have bore a hole in the screen from the intensity of her gaze.

Her classical face registered sorrow as she whispered to herself. "He took her."


"Have they detected us yet?" Nad asked gruffly, while sitting in his command chair on the Bridge of the Pak'Tar. He was directing his question at his tactical officer who sat behind him and looked decidedly nervous.

"No, I do not believe they can detect us, while our cloak is up."

"You don't believe!" he shouted. "I suggest you be certain!"

"Yes, sir!"

"Korar, plot a course, Nekari system, Warp 6.9" Nad ordered to the navigator, who was three meters in front on him manning the helm position. Standing next to, but slightly behind Nad's command chair, Lt. Savor notice the hesitation in the pilot.

"Sir?"

Nad clenched his teeth. "I gave you an order, what are you waiting for?" Imbeciles, he thought.

"Sir," he started to explain subserviently. "If we go to warp, Voyager most likely will be able to detect us."

"What?!" Nad rolled his eyes. "Where did you get that information?"

He flinched, not wanting to answer. "Athena, explained the strengths and weaknesses of the… cloaking device."

He rose swiftly from his chair, his stance dominating and his chin sticking out. "Athena is NOT to be trusted. She probably lied to you."

The pilot stared at Nad, but did not respond.

"Colonel Nad," Savor spoke up, "He is correct." He added quietly.

The Colonel turned his neck sharply to gaze upon Savor, whom was considerably brighter then most of his other men. "How do you know this information to be accurate?"

"I know the information is accurate because I was with her when we ran the simulations. Athena found a discrepancy that could make us vulnerable. It is--"

"No other ship has been able to detect us before." Nad spat out disdainfully.

"No other ship has been as advanced as Voyager."

"Voyager is not that advanced. Besides, we've tested the cloaking device on several occasions in battle. What makes you think they will be clever enough to figure it out?"

"Because Athena was a member of their crew." Savor reminded him easily. "And if they are half as good as she is, then we should be… careful."

Nad glared at Savor with sharp, penetrating eyes. "Yes," he said pondering this new revelation.


Janeway was furious that Nad had taken Seven and she had no idea where his ship was or what direction they had gone. After Chakotay, Tom and Harry arrived on the Bridge, she called Lt. Torres to join them because she needed her expertise right now. The auburn haired officer could not accept Nad's escape so easily.

B'Elanna was the last to arrive and she immediately went to the Engineering station located at the front right side corner of the Bridge.

"I refuse to accept this!" Janeway spat across the Bridge, glaring at everyone. "They're nearby. They couldn't have gone far in such a short time period." Impatience was wearing thin on a very outraged Captain. Doing nothing was not her style.

"I don’t understand," B'Elanna asked checking her instruments. "Why can't we track them? Even the most sophisticated cloaking devices give off emissions and cause subspace shifts."

"Those scans revealed nothing out of the ordinary." Tuvok stated and Torres lowered her brow in contemplation.

"I need something more to go on people or it won't make any difference." Janeway added harshly.

"Captain?" the Commander asked tentatively from his chair next to hers. "What do you mean?"

Janeway sighed heavily and let her command mask down for a brief instant. She leaned wearily onto the railing next to her chair. "She's dying. She hasn't regenerated in over a month. She's sick, weak and severely injured. There isn't a lot of time left." She managed to say.

"This doesn't make any sense." B'Elanna blurted out.

Janeway turned her head to Lt. Torres.

"No emissions to trace, no subspace variance. They couldn't have gone anywhere." B'Elanna said speculating.

Janeway's quirked at this, hope glittering in her eye. "Elaborate."

"We would have detected a disturbance in subspace if they went to warp and although they could have gone to impulse power, they wouldn't have gotten very far."

"So they're nearby." Janeway frowned, "The only question left is, how do we find them?"

Silence overcame the crew as they considered this.

"We could employ an antiproton beam." B'Elanna offered first. "It usually works depending on how well maintained their cloaking device is."

"Would it harm the vessel?" Janeway asked.

"Not at all," B'Elanna replied confidently.

"How long will it take?"

"A few minutes."

"Do it."


"Full impulse," Nad ordered.

"Sir, have you considered your options if Voyager detects us?" Savor inquired.

"No," Nad folded his arms agitatedly and leaned back in his chair. "What am I supposed to consider, Lt.?"

"I… have an option sir," Savor started, then hesitated, because he didn't think Nad would appreciate this tactic.

"I suggest we trade Athena for safe passage." Lt. Savor stated evenly.

"Are you out of your mind!?" Nad yelled. "Are you suggesting I put my life in the hands of a woman?" he said, referring to Captain Janeway.

Savor lowered his eyes. "No, sir, not exactly."

"Then what are you suggesting?!"

"Athena is… important to Captain Janeway. She wants her back, safely… I'm sure."

"Yes, they are lovers, and probably were before, so what. I am not finished with Athena yet." He said icily. "And… keeping her here gives us a better chance at survival. What makes you think Janeway would let us live after we hand her over?"

"I spent a considerable amount of time reviewing their database. It was how I discovered, that Athena was really Seven of Nine, a member of Janeway's crew." His eyes shifted momentarily. "Janeway and her crew follow a code of honor so to speak. Rules of conduct that they consider very important. If she gives her word to let us pass in exchange for Seven of Nine, then her word is truth." Savor elaborated.

Colonel Nad chuckled lightly, at the absurdity of it all. Put my life in the hands of a female! Nonsense!

Lt. Savor saw the face of pride envelope Nad's harsh features. "Is revenge more important to you, than survival?" He asked firmly, and despite the nasty glare he received from Nad, Savor continued before his commander could object. "because it is my belief that Captain Janeway would rather let her lover die than let her reside in your… possession."

Nad would have killed Savor if he were any other alien, but he had to consider the suggestion, because Savor was more balanced than Nad was and even he would admit to having an irrational distrust of everyone.


"The antiproton beam is ready Captain." B'Elanna said, while glancing up at the viewscreen.

"Good," the Captain responded, "Deploy it now."

"Starting the beam from port side to starboard." B'Elanna informed them. Short beams of red pulses shot out from the deflector dish and traveled into deep space. "Continuing from aft to fore, ventral to dorsal."

B'Elanna checked her console and after a few minutes smiled. "I've found them."

"Where?" Janeway said firmly.

"Ventral to our position, approximately, two hundred thousand kilometer at bearing 000 mark 290."

"Thought they could hide right under us," the Captain remarked dryly. "Keep track of their position Tom, full impulse to those coordinates. Ensign Kim send out a hail."


Back onboard the Pak'Tar, the tactical officer's eyes widened. "Sir, Voyager is heading directly towards us and they're sending out a hail."

Nad growled, "What?!"

The Colonel stood up and clenched his fists. "How?!"

"I don't know sir!" he answered worriedly.

Nad turned to Savor, "Bring Athena to the Bridge!"

"That would be difficult, she's lapses in and out of consciousness." Savor responded.

Nad moved to stand before Lt. Savor grimacing. "I don't care. Even if you have to drag her here, bring her to me now!"

Savor nodded and left the Bridge heading for the cells on level 4, section b, where the prisoners were kept. Walking into the filthy section, he nodded to the guard and checked the area for Athena. He made the rounds checking each cell and at the end of the hallway he spotted her chained to the back wall, hanging by her arms. Her wrists were fastened magnetically by cuffs to metal backplanes that were attached to the wall. Her head was moving restlessly and Savor faintly heard moaning.

She must be in pain. The thought invaded his mind.

Walking up to her, he frowned and gently pulled her head back by putting his hand to her forehead. He gasped at the contact, not expecting the heat and perspiration from it. She was with fever he noted and her skin was white and clammy.

He looked at her ripped clothing and opening it with his right hand, scowled at the purple bruise on her abdomen. Nad did this, he thought squinting his eyes.

He brought his right hand up to lift her chin so he could look at her face. Her eyes were closed and the right one was swollen and puffy and she sported a few cuts, but to him she still looked rather lovely. Before he realized what he was doing, he brought his face closer to hers and kissed her lightly on her bruised lips. He lingered there awhile before he pulled back. For a quick instant, he felt ashamed at what he was and what he had done, but this was not all his doing. Yes, he gave away her true identity, but he had no choice so he shoved it down quickly.

"Guard!" He called as he let Athena's head down carefully. The guard came in swiftly. "De-magnetize the cuffs. Colonel Nad has requested that I bring Athena to him."

He nodded acceptance of the order already having received clearance from Nad to do so. The guard removed a small baton that was hanging from his belt and swiped it over the cuffs holding Athena's wrists. The cuffs opened and Savor caught Athena as she slumped forward. The guard snickered before leaving.

Savor could feel the warmth of her ragged breathing on his cheek and her breasts pressed against his chest.

He didn't want to aggravate her injuries so he brought a hand around her back and bent over to reach her legs. Scooping her up, he felt a strange affection for her as he cradled her in his arms. He shifted his arm slightly to keep his grip solid around her torso. Trepidation filled him as he headed for the Bridge.


"We're closing in on their position." Tom called from the helm position.

"Full stop, Mr. Paris. Any response from our hail?" She asked Harry.

"None."

Janeway grimaced. "All right," She said turning her head to gaze upon the occupant of the Engineering station, Lt. Torres. "Have they moved?"

The young half-Klingon looked up from her console, "No."

"The second that ship moves I want to know." She moved closer to the helm position to lean on the railing located behind Tom. "If that ships tries to go to warp fire on it."

"I will be unable to ascertain its exact position, while cloaked." Tuvok warned her.

"Take a guess, Mr. Tuvok." Janeway ordered confidently.

"You think he's going to try and outrun us?" Chakotay asked from behind her, seated in his chair.

"That thought did cross my mind and tracking a cloaked ship at warp isn't always successful so… I'd rather not take that chance."

"Ensign Kim," she called out. "As soon as they de-cloak scan for any Borg life signs. I want to do an emergency beam out before they raise shields."


The door to the Pak'Tar's Bridge slid open to reveal Savor carrying in his arms a groggy Seven of Nine.

"It's about time!" Colonel Nad yelled. "Janeway's practically on top of us and they've been hailing us for the last few minutes."

Nad looked at Seven and his grimace grew tighter. "Where are her handcuffs?"

"She is incapacitated, sir and barely conscious. I did not believe it was necessary."

He shrugged, "Bring her over here, and put her in my command chair. I keep a spare set on hand for just this type of occasion." He smirked retrieving them from under his chair and putting them on her roughly.

She moaned in pain and her eyes opened up halfway, but Savor could tell she had trouble keeping them open as Nad grabbed her chin so their eyes would meet. "It's almost over for you, so don't worry."

Savor looked at the Nad completely dumbfounded. Did this alien leader only live for torture?

"Sir!" The tactical officer shouted. "Voyager has a weapons lock on us."

"What!" He turned sharply. "How's that possible?"

"I don't know sir."

Nad looked at Savor like he would know, but the Lt. Shook his head 'no' vehemently, but he was more unsettled by Nad's behavior towards the helpless Athena.

Time to show her who's boss! Nad thought. "De-cloak, raise shields, bring weapons online and open a com channel to Voyager," he commanded icily, while leaning on his command chair, to glare at the occupant in his seat, a barely conscious and dying Seven of Nine.


"Captain, the vessel is de-cloaking," Tuvok stated.

Janeway whirled around. "Ensign?" She asked while standing in the middle of the Bridge.

"Scanning," Kim told her as he keyed his panel furiously trying to get a transporter lock on Seven, whom he hadn't found yet.

Janeway eyed him intensely.

"The vessel is completely de-cloaked." Tuvok stated.

"I've found her location." Harry informed them. "Attempting to--"

"They have risen shields." Tuvok announced.

"Harry?" Janeway questioned softly hoping.

He shook his head, "There wasn't enough time to get a lock and I noticed her life signs were very unstable. I had trouble locking on."

Janeway closed her eyes momentarily, feeling sickened and helpless, at their failure. "Ensign Kim," she started. "If you get another opportunity... I don't care if you have to do a wide beam transport or a skeletal lock."

"Yeah ma'am." He understood perfectly.

"Raise shields." Chakotay ordered, since the opportunity for transporting Seven had passed at the moment.

"They're responding to our hail." The Ensign advised.

Her face hardened, as she turned back to the viewscreen. "Put it through."

She did not expect the visual that came before her eyes. She gasped at the sight of the woman she loved before her. A feeling of utter helplessness seemed to engulf her being. Her heart dropped painfully in anguish over the sight of her beaten fiancé.

Janeway wasn't the only one appalled at Seven's condition. Mouths were ajar all across the Bridge and even Tuvok's face seemed tighter than normal.

Seven was slouching in what Janeway thought to be Nad's command chair. Her outfit was ripped and shredded to reveal more bruising on her abdomen and chest. Her head hung forward bonelessly dangling in front of her body, but the Captain took comfort in the unsteady rise and fall of the chest. She's still alive!

"Captain Janeway," Nad greeted her arrogantly. He was displaying her battered condition to Janeway as a show of his power and control. Janeway had to muster all of her command training in diplomacy to prevent an outburst based on her rage and anger.

"Nad." She said, the tone sounding oddly deep and hard. "I believe you have a member of my crew."

"You mean this traitor?" Nad teased, grabbing Seven's chin roughly and yanking her head up so Janeway could see the damaged face clearly. Moaning, the ex-Borg grimaced, opening her mouth, barring her teeth from the pain and discomfort. Her eyes fluttered half lidded, showing mostly the whites and it seemed she was trying to open them, but failed.

Janeway's heart sunk ever so low in her chest. Seven's countenance was deathly pale, bruises and cuts adorning her once perfectly blemish free face. The right eye was also swollen, turning bluish purple and her hair was completely disheveled as golden strands clung to the sides of her sweat-dampened face.

Sucking in a sharp breath of air at the disgust from Nad's cruelty, she attempted diplomacy, knowing it was almost futile to even try, even though her Starfleet background demanded it. She steadied her voice. "She has betrayed no one, Nad. She doesn’t remember who she is."

"Perhaps," he reluctantly agreed to the possibility removing his hand from her chin causing her head to drop down harshly to hang loosely on her neck denoting her semi-conscious state. "But it doesn't matter either way."

"It matters to me and my crew." Janeway declared sternly, not appreciating this display.

"Yes," Nad agreed, arrogantly. "I suppose it does. Therefore, I suggest you back off and let us be on our way if you wish for her to continue… say breathing." He said with a wave of his hand towards the ex-Borg.

"I can't do that." She replied gravely.

"Captain," Nad rolled his eyes humorously to himself, "I don't believe you understand the situation. You see, I am in control here. I have your crewman and I am willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure my survival. It is quite a simple request, Captain, unless you'd rather watch…" he alluded with his eyes what he meant.

Captain Kathryn Janeway was glad she was separated from him by the vacuum of space because she would have been sorely tempted to kill him armed or not, if he was standing in front of her.

"No," she said defiantly. "You're not going anywhere until you return her."

His smirk was gone now. "Who are you to demand anything?!" He said grabbing Seven by the hair and yanking her head back and up so it was facing the viewscreen.

The grunt of pain could be heard through the com link, causing Janeway to wince, which is exactly what Nad wanted. Janeway put her hands behind her back clenching them into tight fists. She could see that Seven was partially conscious with half lidded eyes and it hurt Janeway to know she had to endure this for their sake.

She cleared her throat and steadied her voice. "I am not demanding anything." She spoke calmly. "I am requesting politely that your return Seven and you can be on your way."

"Do you take me for a fool?!" he shouted.

Yes, I do, she wanted to say.

"I'll kill her!" He slapped her across the face and a cry of pain was heard as her body flopped over on the arm of the chair.

"Stop!!" Janeway spat out in a useless appeal. Her face became a picture of rage and pain as she saw an alien move over to prevent Seven from falling over the side of the chair. He held her and his face suggested he was more than aghast at her current treatment.

Janeway was about to play her last card when the alien spoke up.

"Nad!" Lt. Savor tried to plead with his eyes to his foolish leader and Colonel. "Let them have her!"

He yelled at his subordinate. "No, she is mine!" he said turning his ferocious gaze to Janeway.

"Like hell! You're not leaving here alive with her!" Janeway threatened him even though she knew what the inevitable outcome to her heart would be if she went through with it. She would never be able to forgive herself even if she knew Seven would have understood. "I'll destroy your ship before I let you leave here with her."

The senior staff looked at her oddly from their individual posts knowing the magnitude of her decision emotionally.

Nad's arrogant smirk decreased as he pondered this threat. "You're bluffing. I've seen you two together. I know what she means to you. You won't kill her."

Chakotay could see the pain radiating from every pore on his Captain's body at the threat she had made. Yet he knew it was no bluff.

She walked closer to the viewscreen, glaring daggers at Nad before stopping at the railing. "I don't bluff." She enforced. "Besides, if I let you leave here with her, she's dead any ways."

"The question you need to ask yourself," She added harshly. "Is whether or not you want to die for her? Is she worth that much to you?" Because she is to me! Janeway mind shouted.

Colonel Nad was seething and his face turned bright red as he cut the channel.

"He's firing phaser banks." Tuvok divulged.

"Return the favor, phasers only. Target propulsion, shields and weapons… Anything, but the Bridge. At least… " She added with trepidation. "Not yet."

Chakotay eyed her cautiously. If this didn't turn out well he feared for his friend's emotional stability.

The Bridge shook at the phaser blast, but not enough to knock them off their feet. "Damage assessment minimal. Shields down to 88%. Firing phasers." Tuvok said targeting the Pak'Tar.

Janeway watched apprehensively as the red beam arced across the cold expanse of space to land against the shields of the small ship, which caused fluctuations in the shield grid.


"Keep that shield grid from fluctuating! Full impulse, coordinates 180, Mark 100." Nad spat pacing up and down his Bridge. "I'll show her! Prepare to fire all--."

"Sir," Savor interrupted. "We are no match for Voyager in a head to head confrontation!" Savor frowned at Nad while he struggled to hold up Athena's dead weight as their ship shook from the attack.

"Shields down to 85%!" Gyron, the alien at the tactical station announced.

Nad stopped to glare at Savor, looking him up and down noticing how he held Athena next to his command chair. "You have become soft and afraid, Savor."

"This has nothing to do with fear or sympathy. Make no mistake, Janeway will not let you leave here alive with her!"

"Are you questioning my command abilities?" he threatened.

"No, sir." He said. "However, their ship is larger, faster and more powerful than ours."

He scowled moving back to his command chair, "Evasive maneuvers, we need to put some distance between us." he yelled to the navigator. "Follow these coordinates." He tapped in some commands into his side console. "Gyron, Korar…" he called to his tactical officer and helmsman. "We will only be out of range of their phasers for a few seconds." Nad squinted his eyes. "At that moment, fire three photon torpedoes, drop shields, cloak the ship, and go to warp 6!"

"Understood, sir."


"Our phasers, our ineffectual, Captain." The Vulcan claimed factually from his instrument panel readouts.

"They're moving away at impulse." Kim stated.

"This is taking too long!" Janeway announced frustrated. "We're running out of time. Tuvok, fire a low-yield photon torpedo at their propulsion systems."

"Captain…" Chakotay started to say.

Janeway motioned with her hand. "I know what you're going to say commander, but I really don't have any choice in the matter."

"Even with shields, a low-yield torpedo will cause significant damage to that vessel." He warned her.

"I'm aware of that." Janeway chided. "Tuvok…"

Tuvok rose an eyebrow, but readily complied concentrating on programming the proper settings. He noticed the Pak'Tar was trying to evade their previous phaser fire and he adjusted his targeting sensors. "Firing torpedo." He announced.

Ensign Kim's eyes bulged. "Their shields are dropping!"

"What!?" The Captain questioned turning a horrified look to Tuvok.

"I have already fired, Captain." Tuvok stated somewhat sharply with a hint or regret.

"Drop shields, try and get a lock Ensign!" she shouted.

"The vessel is cloaking."

Janeway ignored Tuvok concentrating on the view screen in-between worried glances to Harry… praying.

"They are firing photon torpedoes…" Tuvok declared.

Chakotay looked to the Captain knowing she wouldn't raise shields until the last second.

"I can't get a lock!!" Kim shouted.

Janeway watched the viewscreen as three torpedoes headed for Voyager, but it was the ball of yellow light that Voyager had fired toward Nad's ship that caused a knot in her stomach. It was on a collision course with the Pak'Tar's projected flight path even though the ship was disappearing before her eyes.

"Time to impact… 5 seconds."

"I'm sorry, Captain, her signal is fluctuating too much!" Harry had perspiration dotting his forehead frantically as he tried to lock on to Seven's bio-signature.

She looked from Harry to the front screen and saw nothing until Voyager's torpedo collided in a bright blinding light apparently hitting its intended target.

Janeway gasped, "Tuvok," she breathed out.

"Direct hit, their propulsion systems have been successfully destroyed. I am also detecting several hull breaches."

The ship started to appear and disappear before her eyes fluctuating as if the cloaking device was damaged.

"Life support?" she asked her face pale.

"Failing."

"Shields?"

"Negative, and their warp core is showing signs of energy build up."

Damn! They were so close to being able to transport her out! She couldn't hold out any longer. "Raise shields, Tom, get us out of the path of those torpedoes."

"Uh, Captain?" Tom said concerned as he veered the ship in a different direction. "Those torpedoes are following us."

That type of weaponry surprised the Captain. "Tuvok, fire counter measures! Tom evade those torpedoes!" Janeway shouted as he veered the ship sharply.

"Brace for impact!" Chakotay called out as the counter measures took care of one of the following torpedoes in a flash of exploding light.

The Captain held onto the railing tightly as the ship tilted more than 90 degrees. One torpedo went in-between the warp nacelles, however, the second one hit directly on the dorsal side of the ship, rocking Voyager harshly knocking Janeway, despite her grip, to the deck of the Bridge.

"Report!" Janeway shouted getting up as the rest of the officers recovered.

"Shields down to 55%. Minor hull damaged on decks 3 and 5." Tuvok replied.

"I'm detecting a large energy build from that ship!" Kim announced.

"Their warp core is destabilizing." Tuvok clarified.

"How long do we have Tuvok?"

"Not very long…" He responded with brutal honesty.

"Lower shields, Mr. Kim... find her." Please… her heart begged internally.

Lt. Torres decided to join Ensign Kim at his Operations console as they fought to get a lock onto Seven. Nothing they tried worked.

"Warp breach is imminent!" Tuvok announced loudly.

"Rais--" Chakotay was about to say.

"Wait! I have an idea!" Torres shouted.

"There's no more time!" the Captain shouted exasperated, they were out of time and her tone already expressed the heartache of her perceived loss.

"That ship is exploding!" Chakotay bellowed staring at the image on the screen. The enemy ship was coming apart at the seams, fire erupted from everywhere, in seconds there would be nothing to grab onto and Voyager would be caught near a warp core explosion with its shields down.

Suddenly, Nad, Savor, Athena and two unidentified aliens materialized on Voyager's Bridge in between the helm position and the command chairs.

"Shields!" Chakotay blurted out. "Intruders on the Bridge!"

Janeway whirled around eyes wide, in time to see their new guests coalesce into solid form.

Nad scowled fiercely clenching his fists at Chakotay as he realized where he was.

"Tom, get us out of here!" Janeway commanded knowing the shock wave was heading for Voyager.

The Colonel swung around to the sound of her voice and glared at her with intense hatred and loathing before noticing Savor, who was only a few feet away to his right, holding an unconscious Athena. He looked right into Captain Janeway's eyes, smirking as he pulled out a hidden dagger.

He knew he had seconds to make his move as every officer on the Bridge would be scrambling for a weapon, so he pounced upon his target hoping to strike a deadly blow before he was taken down. Janeway braced herself for the attack preparing to fight back despite his advantage until she realized he wasn't heading for her.

"NO!"

It was a mad scramble against time. Chakotay reached next to his console for a phaser as did Tuvok and Harry. Ayala also attempted to acquire a weapon and he was at Seven's station, the secondary ops console, which was directly behind the two command chairs.

Despite the risk to herself Janeway lunged to get between Nad and his intended target Seven, whom Savor held up in front of himself, unknowingly exposing her to Nad's attack. Savor looked up to see Nad charging him and watched in shock as Nad raised his dagger to strike. Instinctually he rotated his body, tossing Seven away from him as the long knife struck him between his shoulder blades. Pain engulfed him as it penetrated through his chest before he collapsed onto the deck.

The Captain's momentum carried Seven into her arms and she held on tightly breathing a small sigh of relief before looking up. Janeway held her breath as the events unfolded before her.

"Damn you, Savor!" Nad shouted pissed off that he missed his target. Unbelievably callous, he was going to pull the dagger out of his fallen comrade to finish his assault as three shots from Chakotay, Tuvok and Harry's phasers simultaneously struck his body sending his nerves into overload flopping him to the deck with his body convulsing from the shock.

The two other aliens known as Korar and Gyron stood immobile, confused at what was happening.

"Remain where you are." Tuvok ordered sternly moving around them brandishing his phaser in their direction. He tapped his combadge. "Security to the Bridge."

Chakotay went towards Janeway's position quickly to assess Nad and Savor's condition.

Janeway carefully lowered Seven to the deck, staring at her intently stroking her bruised and pale cheek. "She's still breathing." She said softly focusing solely on Seven.

Chakotay stood over Janeway amazed that Seven was still alive. She looked ghostly white. "Bridge to sickbay, medical emergency! Beam Captain Janeway and Seven to sickbay immediately."

She glanced up at him questioningly. He knew she wouldn't leave the Bridge if there was a crisis going on, despite the risk to Seven because of her position as Captain. So he decided to take that decision from her hoping she wouldn't be too harsh on him later.

"I'll take care of everything here, Kathryn." He said quietly as she and Seven began to de-materialize. He saw her nod in appreciation, her eyes conveying a heart felt thanks before she was gone.


A few hours later, Captain Janeway was in her Ready Room sitting at her desk, fidgeting and unable to concentrate on anything except her lover. She had left sickbay because seeing Seven in that condition was too painful and it made Janeway feel helpless, a feeling she was unaccustomed to and didn't handle well.

When the Doctor completely removed Seven's clothing to work on her injuries, Janeway nearly gagged at the extent of the damage to her chest and midsection. It was obvious she had been tortured and Janeway's eyes turned into dark pools of shadow as they shifted position to land on Nad who was lying unconscious on another biobed.

Both Nad and Savor were in critical condition so Tom had been working on them both to stabilize them until the EMH could assist. Even though the Doctor was obligated to help anyone who was injured, he made his decision quickly to assist Seven first.

The Captain took slow even breaths to calm her rage and anguish. Recalling that moment vividly, she felt tears sting her eyes before she heard the Doctor chime for admittance.

"Well?" Captain Janeway asked with fear in her heart. "How is she?"

"I managed to stabilize her biological functions; the bruises, cuts and the slash on her shoulder, but her technological functions will need an extended period of regeneration." He replied walking up to her desk. He looked tired, which was rare for a hologram.

Janeway closed her eyes shut tightly, leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Doctor." She said grateful.

The Doctor shifted in his stance. "Don't thank me yet."

Her eyes snapped open. "What do mean?"

He sighed, "Her cortical node has gone through a traumatic ordeal. There are numerous fail-safes built in, but… when I scanned her, I noticed evidence of a severe concussion, which explains the misalignment of her optical implant. Most likely caused from a shuttle crash. She was also using an incompatible non-polarized energy source to regenerate. This energy de-polarized some of her internal backup systems inside the node. I also found electro-magnetic residue, which caused more internal circuit damage to--."

"Doctor!" Janeway was getting frustrated. "Get to the point… Please." She didn't want a medical lesson describing the excruciating details of Seven's injuries. It wasn't something she was ready to deal with. She just wanted to know the cure.

"All right," he said easily acknowledging the reason for her impatience. "I don't know if her cortical node will be able to correct itself even after regenera--."

Janeway blanched, interrupting. "Is her cortical node failing?!" She demanded, her face showing barely restrained panic. She waited tensely for his reply.

"I do not believe the node will fail. However, it is damaged… and because of that Seven could become… " he paused, not enjoying this aspect of being a Doctor. "…Impaired."

"Impaired?!" Her tone was thick and mournfully expectant as her eyes bore into his. "How?"

He witnessed the barely suppressed bleakness in her gaze and looked away. "I don't know exactly, it's still too soon to tell and I'm not going to speculate, but she could have trouble with certain motor control functions among other things. Certain pathways have degenerated and regardless of whether or not the nanoprobes repair them, the function of muscular control resides in the neo-cortex, which in turn sends signals to the cortical node, which is currently barely functioning."

Lowering her head into her hands, Janeway tried to control the tumbling emotions of loss and grief that cascaded through her heart and thundered inside her chest.

"Will she live?"

"I believe so."

The Captain glanced at him questioningly.

"She is stabilized at the moment... and I'll know more after she regenerates."

Janeway sighed quietly, appearing to accept that fact for the moment. "What about her memories?"

"I don't know if she can ever regain her lost memories."

Sucking in a breath, Janeway rose from her desk and moved to the upper level near the sofa overlooking the passing stars. The Doctor stood there waiting for the Captain to reply but minutes passed with the room remaining oddly silent. The EMH became concerned for his Captain's emotional stability. She seemed to stare out detached at the moving stars.

"I don't know that she won't either, Captain." He added lightly trying to encourage her.

"Is she regenerating now?" She asked quietly.

"Yes, I am also monitoring her progress from sickbay and I have Tom frequently checking in on her." The Doctor replied.

"How long?"

"A week."

She turned her head partially in his direction considering a reply. The EMH could see the side of her face, a small twitch of her lips, the dreary water filled eyes. He knew an emotional war was raging inside the Captain just from the look on her face. Janeway didn't accept failure easily. This new dilemma causing her inner turmoil that she kept mostly hidden.

"I appreciate all your efforts, Doctor. Please keep me informed an any changes." Her voice was in full command mode again.

"Of course."

"Dismissed." She said evenly belying the dispirited blight encompassing her ravaged soul.


One week later, the Captain and the Doctor were standing before Seven's Borg alcove awaiting the completion of her regenerative cycle. Janeway stood rigidly and very apprehensive. Worried grayish eyes, tinged with blue, gazed sadly upon the stoic face of the ex-drone.

When the ex-Borg opened her eyes, the young woman immediately took a survey of her surroundings. That's when she knew something was wrong. Her right eye was blurry and she blinked it furiously to clear it and her left eye should have been perfectly clear, but it was not functioning. It consisted of a cybernetic implant to allow her to see, but at the moment it was not functioning period.

She tried to reach up and touch her left eye, but her left arm would not move. He right arm did and she gingerly touched her left eye, finding some solace in the fact that it seemed intact. Perhaps it could be fixed.

Captain Janeway thought Seven looked right at her but she did not acknowledge either of them. Janeway glanced to the Doctor who had already begun to scan the blonde with his medical tricorder. His brows lowered.

The blonde felt oddly numb in many areas of her body. She attempted to move off the dais of the alcove and found her legs were stiff and unsteady like tree trunks. She managed to move them but proceeded to fall. Reaching out with her only good arm, she grabbed hold of the metallic arm that jutted out between alcoves, but one just recovered still feeble arm was not going to hold her weight up. Her eyes widened in fear at her helplessness. Suddenly she found it difficult to breath and started wheezing.

"Doctor!" She heard a feminine voice call out and felt two sets of arms on her, which prevented her fall. At least she could feel both arms.

"I think we should get her to sickbay," The Doctor said frowning.

Janeway didn't like it and she immediately called out for an emergency transport to sickbay.

After regaining solid form, and getting Seven onto a biobed, the Doctor went to work. He commanded the medical arm to come out and cover Seven's torso. It was a more precise instrument.

The ex-drone was starting to panic inside. It was getting harder to breath. She heard strained loud voices and her right eye was still blurry. She couldn't see. She reached up with her good arm and found it blocked by a metallic rounded construct. She traced it with her human hand. It covered her entire torso. She was trapped.

"Let me out…" her voice cracked, barely audible as if it hadn't been used in awhile.

She tried again, her breathing becoming a chore. "Help me…" It still didn't come out very loud, but she felt a warm hand touch her seeking right hand.

"Seven!" Janeway asked. "What's wrong?"

The young woman tried to look to see who it was, but all she could make out was a blurry reddish image. Yet, she felt comforted by the voice and the presence this individual. Why was she addressing me as Seven?

She smelled the air. A scent faint, but memorable.

"You… are Captain Janeway?"

"Yes," the voice answered, husky and woeful.

It was all she could remember, at the moment. Her head ached so much. "I can't see… can't breath…"

Janeway became alarmed. "Doctor!"

"I know, I heard." He said sounding annoyed. "I'm going to have to put her on a ventilator until I can discern the cause." He scurried around the medical bay gathering hyposprays and an oxygen mask.

"It's ok. I'm here, love." The younger woman felt reassured at the words not understanding why at the moment just taking solace in them.

The EMH gave Seven an injection in her neck and she started to feel sleepy, but her mind was churning on a word. A word she couldn't let go as she gasped for air. It was just spoken to her in a gentle caring tone. She tried to recall hearing it before. Vacant memories almost there, but just out of reach so she couldn't grasp them.

"Love?" She blurted out questioningly. It came out louder this time so the Doctor heard it and he hesitated briefly before putting the oxygen mask over her nose and mouth.

The hand holding her squeezed tighter and she felt a soft delicate pressure on the back of her hand before she lost consciousness.


A few hours later, Janeway was still by Seven's side. The Doctor had given her a stool so she could at least sit down while she visited, but the overwrought Captain fell asleep shortly after, leaning against the bed while gripping Seven's human hand. Her head was lying on the side of the biobed with some of her auburn locks lightly touching the younger woman's thighs.

The Doctor had studied all of Seven's biological and technological scans. The nanoprobes fixed all her biological problems and 94% of them were functioning. He was correct in his initial assessment. There were numerous neurological pathways that were damaged. The brain scan showed the problem areas. The Doctor considered that he might be able to correct many of them with surgery.

It would be a complicated operation if he had to go in and correct each circuit breakdown manually, but it wasn't impossible. He decided to wake the Captain and inform her of their options.

"Captain?" he shook her gently until her eyes opened.

She shot up quickly, "Yes, what is it?" She responded assuming something was wrong.

"I need to bring you up to date on Seven's condition."

She blinked the blurriness from her eyes then they became pensive.

The Doctor told her he had fixed the simple problems earlier while Seven had been sedated. He had adjusted her optical implant, by re-aligning the optical nerve that connected to the cornea, so she could see. He explained about fixing a slight electrolyte imbalance, but that was insignificant as well, most likely due to malnutrition.

Then he told her about the surgery.

"The most serious problem is within her cortical node. It needs to receive signals from the cerebral cortex, where sensory perception, voluntary responses to stimuli, thought, memory, and consciousness reside in the brain. Due to the damaged circuitry, both the main and backups, the node isn't interpreting those signals correctly. There's also corrosion in many of the circuits that connect her eidetic memory to the brain. I would have to re-align those to improve her engram count."

"What's her condition now?" Janeway asked as she turned around to view the young woman.

"Right now, Seven's legs are numb, but responsive, although she is unable walk. We saw her use her right arm, but her left arm is unresponsive. However, both arms have sensation, despite the left arms immobility. Her lungs, are working perfectly, except the function that regulates her breathing isn't receiving the command from the cortical node. And her memory circuits have been damaged, which would explain the memory loss."

"I thought cortical nodes couldn’t be repaired. That you had to replace them?" Janeway asked while pacing sickbay in deep thought.

"Actually, it can... sort of." The EMH said cautiously "But that is where the greatest risk lies."

"Risk?" She glowered at him.

"I’m optimistic. I did a neurological resequencing on Icheb when he donated the node to Seven. The two procedures are very similar. The recovery might take some time and her strength won't be the same for awhile. She'll need physical therapy to regain full use of her legs and the left arm. The motor control functions are… intricate and complex. I can't add any new pathways. The fail-safes won't allow it and the node would shut down. But I can try to force the node to adapt by rerouting each function that is affected to another nearby working circuit, thereby doubling up the pathways within that function and allowing Seven's node to process the signals from the cerebrum properly."

Janeway had her arms folded. "What about the fail-safe that prevents tampering?"

"It's non-functional due to her injuries and I can't correct that. If I did it would notice my intrusion and shut down immediately. She would die."

"Is there any chance it could adapt later on and shut down due to your intrusion?"

He gaze faltered then. "Unlikely, but I can't say for sure, not absolutely."

Janeway let out a breath she was holding. "Doctor… I don't know about--"

"Captain," he interrupted. "You have to look at Seven's quality of life if we don't do the surgery."

"I don’t want her to die." Janeway said stringently.

The EMH looked on affectionately. He knew how much the Captain loved the young woman. It rivaled his own feelings.

"Neither do I, but perhaps you weren't listening to my earlier explanation. She's numb, can hardly move about, can't breath on her own and has no memory of who she is. With the surgery, I believe I can correct most of it."

Janeway stared at Seven with a heavy heart. I can't lose her, not again!

"I promise, I will do everything in my power to make it successful."

"I know, but either way, it has to be her decision." The Captain stated meekly.

"I agree."

Janeway rubbed her forehead, trying to compose herself. "Wake her up and explain the situation." She informed him.

She couldn't tell her. Janeway was afraid her voice would give her fear away and she wanted to be strong for Seven or Athena, who ever she thought she was.


The young woman didn't even have to think twice about the surgery. She agreed readily, not entirely understanding everything, except the condition she was in.

The implied danger of the operation was no hindrance to her decision. She would not live, like this.

The Doctor had explained the procedure to her briefly. Apparently, a device called the cortical node needed repair and the Doctor was going to attempt to correct it.

She took the opportunity to question him regarding her history and he gave her a quick summary. Her name was Seven of Nine and she used to be a Borg drone. She was a mindless automaton, who had been liberated from the collective. That was why she had the metal implants; the piece above her left eye, the spidery starburst near her right ear, the mesh hand, the implant on her stomach, her left bicep, her right thigh and left calf.

Apparently, they were a strange group of mixed aliens who forced their way of life on others by a method called assimilation. That explained why she was so different from everyone else. He told her she was apart of this crew. This was her home. Athena thought she would have to atone for what she had done to them, but none of this mattered if the operation was unsuccessful.

The EMH concluded the history lesson and explained that time was a critical issue, so she was prepped for surgery quickly as Tom Paris was called in for duty to be his assistant in the less critical tasks.

The Doctor then demanded that Janeway leave to get some rest. He would let her know when the surgery was done. Besides, he didn't want a stressed out emotional Captain hovering around while he was trying to perform a delicate operation.

The procedure took hours and the operation appeared to be a success. At least the Doctor thought so. He wouldn't truly know until she woke up and they figured out what she could and could not do or what she could or could not remember.


Captain Janeway updated the senior staff in a quick meeting in the Briefing Room to inform them of Seven's condition.

With a hardened face, she told them that Nad had died despite the Doctor's best efforts to save his life. His injuries from the multiple phaser blasts were too severe. However, Savor was out of immediate danger and although weak, was able to speak.

He asked if he could be brought to his home planet. It was where he lived before he was exiled to a life of piracy. He cooperated fully and began to explain to her how he had come to find Seven of Nine.

Apparently, when the Pak'Tar came upon the planet searching for something of value to steal, they had seen Seven's shuttle traveling towards the same planet and Nad gave the order to fire in hopes of acquiring the shuttlecraft. Colonel Nad ordered Savor to secure the goods, immediately after he had covertly shot her down, knowing the atmospheric radiation would not harm him.

Utilizing a cloaked shuttle pod, Savor had brought her damaged body back to their ship, and attempted to nurse her back to health. Nad allowed it wanting to ask her questions about the vessel since it was destroyed.

They only found a functioning weapon, a medical tricorder, some rations and some foreign tools on her. They didn't search long and found nothing of the shuttlecraft. They wondered how she had survived. Savor guessed she had set the auto-destruct on the shuttlecraft and transported to the planet, but from her injuries it wasn't quite successful.

Over the course of a few days, Savor convinced Nad to let her live despite her inability to give him any information. The Lt. sensed keen intelligence in her and knew she would be an asset in the long run.

Savor explained to Janeway that he taught her how to survive, the only way he knew how, as a pirate. Since she didn't know who she was, it was easier to integrate her into their group. She became one of them, learned their ways, their technology and became a vital part of the crew. She was the only one who could fix the cloaking device once it started to degrade.

They had initially thought the woman was alone not realizing at the time, that Voyager was nearby or that she was a member of that advanced ship. It simply did not occur to them.

Once Voyager had arrived to search for their missing comrade, unbeknownst to the pirates, Colonel Nad knew he wanted the vessel for his own. His eyes were so full of greed and lust when he spotted the sleek powerful vessel, but he also knew he couldn't take it head to head.

So the Pak'Tar simply left the area at impulse while cloaked, but Nad was determined not to lose the larger vessel's position. He wanted Voyager the first time he saw it, Savor had said concluding his tale because Janeway knew the rest.

That explained why Janeway couldn't find any visible evidence when she had searched. There was nothing to find and they had not considered looking for a cloaked ship, although the radiation would have made that discovery lucky at best.

Janeway wasn't fond of Savor because of his life choices. To stand by while a madmen hurt scores of people was an immoral thing to do on a constant basis, but she owed him Seven's life and because of that she was willing to let it go. In the end, he almost gave his life to save Seven's. He also gave Janeway the impression that he cared for her and wanted to turn his life around, so she agreed to bring him home.

Janeway ordered Chakotay to head to a planet called Chokra. It was close by and wouldn't take more than two days, which would give the young alien time to heal.

The senior officers gave the Captain their best wishes regarding Seven before the meeting ended. They knew of the proposal to Seven before she had left on that fateful morning and knew the Captain would never admit how much Seven's current condition was affecting her emotionally. So against protocol they gave her subtle encouragement any ways. Needless to say, Janeway had shining watery filled eyes after they had all filed out of the room.


Hours later, Seven woke up to a darkened sickbay. She laid there as images flashed through her brain. A lifetime's worth it seemed. She sat up quickly as the visuals appeared in her mind like it all just happened.

A child appeared in a red dress with blonde flowing hair crossing a field of wheat.

A long journey on a small ship, the Raven, with a man and a female. Her parents. Magnus and Erin Hansen. She was… Annika. It was a long journey, until the pale faced men came. She could not hide, they found her and they took her… to a large mechanical ship and then…

Then she became borg. Seven of Nine, the Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One, with no thoughts of her own, no feelings or desires. Her goals became one with the borg hive mind. For almost two decades she lived as an automaton, until a chance meeting and an unlikely alliance with a Federation vessel and a willful strong minded Captain changed all that.

She remembered trying to assimilate the Federation vessel after the alliance had proven successful, but she had failed. The Federation Captain, named Kathryn Janeway stopped her and forced her to stay onboard.

More images flooded her mind.

The slow process of becoming human. Learning to interact with the individuals of the small collective known as Voyager. The crew's subsequent fear and resentment of her. The growing pain of that rejection and the difficulties at being so different. Wondering if she would truly ever feel human. The struggle to be more like them yet not knowing how to accomplish that goal.

Years after her joining Voyager's crew, she changed internally. She started to acknowledge emotion within herself and started to feel something for a member of her new collective. They had even dated until eventually succumbing to a physical union. The images of making love for the first time flooded her cerebral cortex… Captain Janeway? No, Kathryn! I fell in love with Kathryn Janeway. She remembered! She had thought she finally understood happiness and contentment when Kathryn had asked her to marry her the evening before a shuttle mission and then darkness.

She sat up on the biobed and looked down at her hand to see the ring and knew the memories were true. Its golden hue couldn't be suppressed even in the dim light of sickbay.

For many minutes, the vision was muddled, then it cleared and she could see more. Events happening in her body, with her face. She was clearly not herself. She became appalled at her actions. She had lost her memories and became someone named Athena. So who was she now… Seven, Annika, Athena… both... all?

I have to speak to the Captain!

She assessed her condition. She felt ok considering, yet her legs and left arm were unusually stiff.

The Doctor was in his office with his back to her, so she shuffled gingerly over to a terminal grimacing along the way. She managed to transport herself to the corridor outside of the Captain's quarters without the EMH noticing.

The computers loud beeping startled Janeway awake. She sat up gathering her breath noticing that she had fallen asleep in her blue tunic and uniform pants.

Calming down her heart rate, she heard the chime again. Who would be bothering her at this hour? It must have been around one or so in the morning.

Then her heart skipped a beat and she thought it might be the Doctor with an update. God I hope nothing is wrong!

Jogging into the main room, Kathryn shouted to the computer. "Come!"

She stopped short on her way towards the entrance and watched confounded as a feeble Seven of Nine slowly and carefully walked in using the wall for support.

"What are you doing!? You should be in sickbay!" Janeway exclaimed quickly going to the woman.

"I needed to speak with you." Seven said her tone, desperate sounding.

"Where's the Doctor?"

"In sickbay, I presume. That is where I left him."

"You snuck out on him?! After surgery?!" Janeway slapped a hand to her forehead. "It's only a matter of time before he--"

"Sickbay to the Captain." His voice sounded tense.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"We have a patient who's gone AWOL! I request an immediate search--"

"It's ok, she's here. I'll return her personally. Janeway out." She cut off anything sarcastic he might have said. She didn't want an argument with him right now.

"May I sit down, Captain? I tire easily."

"We need to get you to sickbay."

"Yes, I agree, but after I talk to you. Please, it will not take long…"

Janeway sighed, but nodded assisting the younger woman to her couch. Janeway moved away to give her some space. She didn't know what to expect.

Seven did look healthier and a small smile crept into Janeway's features. She's alive!

"How can you ever forgive me?" Seven asked, her voice guilt laden.

"Forgive you! For what?" Janeway's smile left her.

"For the way I treated you."

"You treated me quite well, actually." Janeway said honestly, but Seven's ashen face didn't believe her.

"I almost struck you." She dropped her eyes to the floor.

"But you didn't, did you?" She said tenderly. "So forget about it. It didn't happen."

"I killed for you, mercilessly."

"That's not true and you know it. You had no choice… " Janeway patted the woman's leg lightly. "I have killed for you as well in the past and I will do so in the future if I have to… to protect you."

"I almost… " She choked on the words. "I considered forcing you to… " She said too ashamed to finish the statement. Tears ran down her face, appalled at her alt-egos actions, not knowing how to come to terms with it.

"If you felt that way, it's not entirely your fault. I did everything in my power to seduce you. I teased you right from the beginning, hoping it would make you remember." She remarked, regretting her own actions. "If anything it's my fault." She dropped her head. "Besides, if I had known how much pain you were in. I would have let you."

"You are making excuses to justify my actions." Seven said harshly.

"No, I am not." Janeway recanted forcefully.

"I should be punished for what I have done."

"What!?" Janeway exclaimed vociferously. "You have already suffered enough!"

"I do not deserve you." Seven's voice was low and pained.

"Stop this!" Janeway retorted frightened.

"You deserve better than me!" Seven forced out. "I am sorry, but you should give your… love to someone else!" She added morosely then weakly attempted to leave only managing to stand up on shaky wooden legs.

"Don't you dare!!" Janeway shouted.

Seven froze.

"I don't want anyone else, but you!" Kathryn cried out. "I'm not in LOVE with anyone else but you!"

Seven dared a sorrowful look at her lover. "But… how can you forgive me for this?"

"There is nothing to forgive!" Janeway inhaled air sharply forcing herself to calm down and consider her partner's feelings and how to respond adequately to them instead of attacking verbally.

Janeway turned her face away from Seven's depressed stare. "For over a month…" she said quietly. "I mourned your loss. Not knowing if you were alive. We couldn't find you no matter what we tried. Communications, transporters, nothing. Not even lifesigns, could be detected. The radiation interfered with everything." She paused. "I would have stayed forever, if not for the crew. I even tried to resign and stay behind in a shuttlecraft, but they wouldn't let me…" She said continuing. "It was difficult. I took time off, but nothing made the pain go away. I felt as if part of me had been ripped away and died with you… "

She reflected mournfully on how she felt during those days; alone, dejected, miserable, tormented. "You can't imagine how grateful I was to be given a second chance when I saw you that first time. I knew it wasn't you, but I wasn't going to give up that easily. I couldn't do that. I loved you too much for that and I still do."

Taking a deep ragged breath, she continued. "So, if you need space… if you feel differently now… and need to back out of our relationship because you can't remember us… " In anguish, she stuttered the words out. "That's your choice, but I hope you will always remember that there is love waiting for you here." She glanced at the ring on Seven's hand before she broke down and sobbed.

Janeway hadn't seen Seven's careful and subdued movement toward her while she was drowning in her anguish. A few seconds later, she felt warm arms embrace her drawing her into a hug as Seven slowly sat down next to her. "I am so sorry, Kathryn. I did not know if you still loved me after what I had done." She said through tears of joy. "I… I will always love you. You are my perfection, my Omega. Never forget that."

"Omega?" Janeway repeated, distracted by Seven's delicate kisses along her cheek, yet wondering how Athena knew about that. She carefully pulled Janeway's hair aside and kissed the nape of her neck in an attempt to soothe Kathryn's pain away.

"It is strange, feeling two sets of emotions for you."

"Two?" Janeway questioned dazed.

"It is difficult for me to separate what I as Seven had felt for you before and what I as Athena feel for you now. It will take time for the memories to merge properly… to abate the confusion I currently feel."

"Merge?" Janeway was so caught up in seeing Seven again and healthy that she had forgotten to inquire about the status of her memories.

"Please be patient with my uncertainty. My fear, I can promise you that as long as you forgive me, I will not withdraw from you. I give you my word."

"Your word?" Kathryn swallowed daring to gaze into the clear blue eyes before her.

"Yes, I do love you, even though I am having some difficulty separating the two personas. I do believe Athena loved you, only she did not know it. However, as Seven of Nine… As Annika Hansen. I know I love you... without a doubt. It is so much--" She asserted thickly with absolute adoration and devotion.

This moment in time froze as Janeway's mind finally focused on the meaning of those words. As the realization hit her, Janeway smiled brightly.

"Seven? Do you remember… us?" She asked shyly.

"Yes, Kathryn. How could I not?"

Janeway hugged her more fiercely. The surgery was a complete success! Her beloved had her memories back!

That explained Seven's excessive guilt and why she tried to withdraw so forcefully. Janeway would not let the young woman harbor any guilt for something she wasn't responsible for.

"Although, I still believe there is nothing to forgive, know with all my heart that I forgive you, Annika. Please, I beg you, don't let this keep us apart." Janeway squeezed tighter into the embrace, thankful for a second chance.

Seven tried to pull away and Janeway reluctantly withdrew from the tight embrace. Kathryn, the woman, truthfully never wanted to let go.

Seven looked at her seriously, her eyes wide. "You still wear the ring." She noted emphatically.

"Yes," Janeway responded. Not bothering to explain that she had taken if off temporarily, but put it back on as soon as she could.

"Despite my alleged death?"

"Yes, It was all I--"

"Shhh," Seven interrupted gently. "I did not take mine off either. Somehow, I knew it would lead to my past."

Janeway was momentarily alarmed as Seven cupped her face and brought it toward her own. Seven's emotion filled crystal blue eyes locked onto the deep ocean blue orbs before her.

"You are my wife to be." Seven whispered passionately.

Only a breath away, she parted her mouth, "Nothing can keep our love apart." She vowed before covering the fine wine shaded lips and the delicate mouth of the woman who owned her heart.

 

End


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