Title: The Enemy Within
Summary: A dangerous alien is aboard Voyager and sometimes Janeway's instincts let her down.
Warnings: This is a horror story (or at least a horrid story). A bit late for Halloween 'though that's when I had the original idea.
Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager is the property of Paramount/Viacom. I am merely having a little fun with her characters
Thanks: Endless thanks to Steff (rebelgirl) for beta'ing this monster
USS Voyager - The Brig
"You keep me here against my will," said the smooth voiced alien. She threw herself against the force-field again and was driven back, clenching her streamlined face against the pain.
"You sound surprised. Would attempted murder be treated any differently on your world?" asked Captain Janeway.
"Yes. I would be skinned, eviscerated and then my remains would be tried for failure to kill." The alien laughed and a shiver ran down Janeway's spine. "But I would not be incarcerated and held against my will. You are barbarians."
Janeway hid her disgust and replied as coolly as she was able, "Justice takes many forms. Had you succeeded in murdering any of my crew I might have been more inclined to follow the local custom."
"I did not ask you to rescue me Captain Janeway. But you did and now I am honour bound to destroy you and your crew."
"I've heard enough. We will set you down on the next empty habitable planet. In the meantime, enjoy the comfort of your cell." Janeway smiled angelically into the glistening blue-black eyes and marched out of the brig, ignoring the whistling scream of fury and the fizz and crack of the force-field as the alien hurled herself at it for the fourth time. Chakotay fell into step beside the captain.
"I tell you Chakotay there are days when infinite diversity seems like a very bad idea." Janeway shook her head trying to obliterate the memory of finding Lieutenant Holmes, alive but half-skinned. She turned her thoughts to the more appealing prospect of Seven of Nine. "How was Seven's final examination?"
"All clear. The Doc reckons she can return to normal duties, although I think that order has missed the boat. Seven has been back for several days."
"I still don't really understand the Borg's need for the cortical inhibitor. It would appear redundant in a drone." Janeway had heard the official explanation but it seemed off to her.
Chakotay shrugged. He had little desire to understand the Borg. It was enough not to be one. Instead his thoughts turned on Kathryn's obsession with the blonde ex-drone. He wondered if she realised how obvious it was and, in particular, how painful for him.
"Well Seven is rid of hers now." continued Kathryn innocently, not noticing Chakotay's expression. "And I for one, am looking forward to her taking her final steps back to humanity."
She stopped outside her quarters, raked a hand wearily through her hair and winced at the pain in her shoulder. She made a quick decision.
"Would you mind if I gave our dinner a miss? I'm feeling pretty tired and banged up and you can blame Seven for that. She beat me at velocity for the first time yesterday, three times actually because I wouldn't admit defeat." Janeway smiled at him ruefully. "Removing that inhibitor has done the world of good for her game."
He smiled down at her and hid his pain deep inside. His soft voice betrayed no disquiet.
"Of course. Have an early night Kathryn. You earned it today."
She smiled gratefully at him and watched him walk away, an evil part of her almost laughed at the dignity he showed. He was so horribly patient with her and she treated him so badly. It would have been pathetic except their lives out here were anything but pathetic.
She entered her quarters and was surprised to find the lights at one half and soft music playing.
"Who's there?" she asked, too tired to be able to work out if she was annoyed or simply puzzled.
From the shadows, Seven of Nine stepped into view and smiled at her. For a second Kathryn had trouble breathing. The Borg was beautiful, blonde hair flowing over her slender shoulders, sparkling blue eyes enhanced by a dress of shimmering cornflower blue. Even the blue-black, shining star implanted in her right arm gleamed like precious stones adding an exotic darkness to the Nordic princess. Involuntarily Kathryn stepped backwards.
"Am I repulsive to you?" Seven asked and something close to hurt shadowed the sky-blue eyes.
"No!" said Janeway too emphatically. "I .. You surprised me and I think there have been a few too many of those today. Surprises that is."
"I apologise for the intrusion Captain. I'll leave now."
"No Seven. Stay. I didn't mean you should go just yet; I wanted to talk to you." Janeway smiled shyly. "You look beautiful Seven." She tried to collect herself. "What is the occasion?"
Seven ignored her question. "You are tired Captain, let me help you." She sounded more confident and moved closer until she was standing only inches from the small captain. "Elevated breathing, temperature also, erratic heartbeat. Perhaps you are not well or perhaps there is some other cause."
Disconcerted by the cool assessment, Janeway backed away a little. "I'm fine Seven. I just need some rest." She rubbed her eyes. "I must be getting old, .. never felt tired like this before."
"You need more than rest." stated Seven of Nine. There was unmistakable arrogance in the cool voice.
"Really. And you would know what I need I suppose?" said Janeway with an edge of sarcasm.
"Yes. It is obvious."
"Is that so?" Annoyed by the knowing tone, Janeway drew back and went to get herself a drink from a tall bottle standing by the replicator. The whisky burned her throat but the warmth afterwards was worth it. Sighing, she undid her jacket collar which seemed unusually tight. When she turned round again Seven was again standing very close; Janeway was touched with a little panic.
"Seven whatever you may like to think, I would like to get some rest if you don't mind."
Seven nodded. "Of course. I will assist you."
"I don't need any help Seven ..." Impassive, the ex-drone stooped and lifted the captain without effort; then carried her through to the bedroom, ignoring the furious protests. She laid the struggling woman quite tenderly on the bed and stood for a few moments as though undecided. Janeway glared at her. Righteous anger and humiliating need coloured her icy demand. "What the hell has gotten into you Seven? I will not ..."
"You," interrupted Seven.
"What do you mean?" asked the captain, barely controlling her anger that threatened to detach her habitual mask of command.
Seven leant low over her and replied with great gentleness. "You have 'gotten into me'. I think about you constantly, imagining your thoughts, dreaming of your expressions, hearing your voice when there is no-one there. When I cannot see you it's like a physical pain. When I do see you it hurts as much and each casual dismissal brings darkness. And each day, when I know that I am to see you, " she smiled as though embarrassed by her own foolishness, "I know what it is to walk on air."
The Starfleet captain, vanquisher of Borg and Hirogen, could not find a single word. Their eyes locked and Kathryn held her breath. Seven years of self-control were slipping away; seven years in thrall to the stifling demands of duty, guilt and responsibility, distorting her emotions, her dreams and even her friendships, as effectively as any device the Borg could produce.
"You already know that I love you Kathryn."
Expecting to be kissed, Kathryn tensed, although even she could not have said whether it was fear or anticipation, but Seven stood up again. Kathryn tried not to be disappointed. The Borg was frowning. "Banal words compared to what I feel for you, what I want for you. Now that I can express those feelings without inhibition."
Janeway watched, fascinated as the fabulous blonde stretched upwards, languorously reaching for the ceiling, every curve and muscle delineated. "As to what you want ..." Seven's voice dropped lower and she turned to look into Janeway's eyes and a shock of desire, half recognised, shivered through the latter's body. With the same casual grace, the Borg unexpectedly bent down and pinned Janeway's wrists to the bed, disregarding all attempts to wriggle free. "You need this." She leant down and softly kissed the elegant mouth and then again more firmly.
Janeway jerked her mouth away and stared angrily up at her captor, the blood thundering in her ears, driven too fast through her veins by an explosive mixture of love, rage and lust. Seven might well be right she thought bitterly; maybe Voyager's captain needed sex. She had to regain some control; this is what holodecks are for, she reminded herself and felt the humiliating sting of memory, thinking back on her useless attempts to moderate her loneliness with artificial companions; not much help to lost and lonely captains, hopelessly in love with members of their crew.
"Seven I cannot allow this. I thought you understood my situation," she asserted but her voice shook and the blue-grey eyes were shadowed with longing. Wasn't this what she had imagined in so many idle daydreams? "I'm the captain. We have discussed this many times."
Seven of Nine almost smiled. "You cannot be 'The Captain' everywhere and forever Kathryn. I will not allow you to be captain here any longer." She did not release Janeway's wrists although the captain had ceased to struggle. "Here I will be in command. That is what you want isn't it?"
Seven gazed into the wilfully impassive face. Janeway used her years of command training to mask any reaction. Ignoring the sudden stab of uncertainty, Seven returned her mouth to the soft, sweet lips They remained stubbornly closed. The ex-drone released one of the captain's wrists and delicately trailed her Borg fingers along the captain's thigh. She was gratified to see fearful desire shade Kathryn's slate-blue eyes. Seven decided to play for advantage and bent to kiss the captain's neck. She was rewarded with a light moan, quickly stifled, but not quickly enough. With fresh courage she licked and kissed her way across the soft skin to the raging pulse point.
Janeway gasped again. She felt Seven bite into her neck and muffled a scream. Her resistance crumbling, her arms circled the Borg trying to pull her close. Seven braced herself, and pulled back, not allowing any contact other than her mouth. The Borg was not going to lose control now. "Seven, please."
"Kathryn. Let go. Trust me." Kathryn let her arms fall back. She shivered as Seven unfastened the Starfleet jacket. "I'm going to undress you."
Slowly and inefficiently, Seven removed her clothing. Inefficient because she stopped to caress and kiss every new discovery. Kathryn was beside herself but Seven would not be hurried. At last she lay naked under the Borg's gaze. Even then Seven seemed to think they had all the time in the world. She laid her Borg hand on Kathryn's exposed stomach stroking slowly, considering the contrast between the completely human body, squirming against the touch of the mechanical construct, and the thing that touched her.
"You are very beautiful Kathryn. This is not. How can you stand to be touched by it?" She lifted her hand so that Kathryn could see the evidence of her Borg past. Janeway was shaken by the disgust in Seven's face. The captain slowly reached out and took the metal threaded hand in hers. She drew it down to cover her breast.
Seven's expression lightened a little. "Beauty wants the beast," she murmured. "And she shall have her." With that she bent to kiss the exposed breast, taking the soft flesh into her mouth, circling the pebbled tip with her tongue. Kathryn's back arched at the contact. The Borg hand still covered her other breast, the powerful fingers delicately raking across the swollen nipple, stroking and twisting. Not roughly but hard enough to make Kathryn sob.
In the hours that followed she did more than sob. Seven allowed her no respite unless she begged for mercy and beg she did, losing herself and every scrap of her famous restraint. Even when the Borg eventually decided to bring herself some release, Kathryn had no control, was allowed no active part. The tall blonde, sliding her lanky body over the smaller woman's smooth thigh, rode to a shuddering climax, even as her fingers thrust again inside her lover, driving her to helpless entreaty. Finally exhausted and spent, Kathryn Janeway slept cradled in strong arms. As she drifted off to sleep Seven murmured in her ear. "Safe with me my love, nothing can harm you."
7 AM. SHIFT BEGINS IN ONE HOUR. THIS WARNING WILL BE REPEATED IN FIVE MINUTES.
Kathryn Janeway opened her eyes and winced. She rolled on her back.
"Oh my God," she breathed. Closing her eyes didn't help. A rush of images crammed themselves into her memories. She opened her eyes again and noticed something lying on the next pillow: a PADD. She levered herself up onto one arm and tapped on the message screen. A short message scrolled across.
'Sorry to leave before you woke; I required a period of regeneration. I hope you are not too tired this morning Kathryn. You are very beautiful when you sleep; I watched you all night (what was left of it). I will see you in the senior team briefing, although it will be difficult to wait that long. I love you.'
"What have I done? How in hell am I going to sort this mess out?" She sat up and untangled herself from the sheet. 'I have to speak to her.' Full of energy, Kathryn Janeway bounded from the bedroom to the shower. As the water ran down her skin she noticed several bruises. 'Rough enough for your fantasies Janeway?' she mocked.
She was out of the shower after only a few minutes and dressed quickly. Ten minutes later the captain stood at the door of Cargo bay 2 trying to find the courage to enter. 'Don't be so weak Katie. Oh I forgot,' she sneered, 'that's the new Janeway; begging permission from her lover.' She cringed at the memory and the contempt stiffened her resolve.
She entered the cargo bay; the green glow of the borg alcoves beckoning to her through the gloom. "Computer, lights on full," she instructed and walked determinedly to stand in front of the alcove. Seven stood silently, held fast in the grip of the regeneration cycle, angelically calm. 'She is gorgeous,' was Kathryn's involuntary reaction.
"Computer, end regeneration cycle," she said firmly, ignoring the dizzying wave of lust that weakened her knees and released another flood of distracting memories.
REGENERATION CYCLE INCOMPLETE
Seven opened her eyes and hesitated before looking down.
"Kathryn," she breathed.
"Seven," acknowledged Janeway trying to keep the tremor from her voice. "We have to talk."
The ex-drone smiled wearily. "Is this where you tell me that our love can never be? That a starship captain cannot have any relation with a member of the crew." Janeway was silent, wrong-footed again. "There is no need to concern yourself Kathryn. No-one will know. I expect nothing from you. And if, in the night, you are lonely, all you have to do is call. I will wait." Seven stepped down from the alcove. "If that is all you wished to discuss, I am required in Astrometrics. We have a full day."
Kathryn wanted to protest but could find nothing to protest about as she had come to say exactly that. Not the lonely night thing obviously. It could never happen again.
"Seven, it doesn't seem right .... "
"Kathryn I understand. Your situation makes it too hard for you ..... "
The red alert siren went off and the emergency lights started to flash. Janeway's hand was on her comm badge before she was even aware of having moved it.
"Janeway to Chakotay. What's happened?"
"The prisoner has escaped from the brig. Two security guards are dead." Janeway felt sick momentarily then her command mask flipped back in place.
"On my way. Has the prisoner been traced?"
"No. It's disappeared."
"I want full internal security scans. Armed crew at every access point. All senior staff are to report the briefing room. Janeway out."
Janeway was white-lipped with fury. Seven knew how much the captain hated to lose anyone and, inevitably, she blamed herself. There was something exciting about the stone-cold anger radiating from those eyes, darkened now to slate grey, and the low harsh voice.
"Seven you're with me." The Borg fell into step behind her leader as they marched to the turbolift. "Bridge." said Janeway. They stood in silence. All personal thoughts had been driven from Janeway's mind. She imagined all the ways the alien may have escaped, hardly able to wait for the lift to arrive so she could hunt it down and make it pay for what it had done to her crew.
"She warned you," said Seven quietly watching the captain's face.
"The alien warned you that she would kill you and your crew if you didn't kill her first."
"Are you saying it's my fault?"
"It is a consequence of your decision."
"We don't murder prisoners." Janeway told her stiffly.
"Such a stance has consequences. In this case, fatal ones."
The lift arrived and the doors opened before Janeway had a chance to reply. Angry, she ignored Seven and headed for the briefing room. Chakotay, B'Elanna and Tom were there already; Harry was still on the bridge programming the internal sensors.
"Where's Tuvok?" Janeway snapped angrily.
"He was called to the brig. No one wants to touch the bodies before he has seen them," said B'Elanna ominously. "They are going to be sent up to the Doc. for examination."
Janeway hesitated for just a moment. "Why?"
"They were mutilated. Gutted," was the short reply. The engineer was angry and revolted, all mixed up with a little fear. She had already checked on her baby three times.
The red alert sounded and simultaneously Janeway's comm badge chirruped.
"Kim to Janeway."
"Go ahead Harry."
"You'd better get back here Captain. There's been a series of explosions in engineering." Even filtered through the comm link, Harry's distress was evident. Cursing under her breath she almost ran the few yards to the bridge, slowing as she entered, asking calmly.
"What's the situation Harry?"
"The explosions were in lower engineering. Reports are confused but there are casualties. Force-fields have gone up around the area. A level eight plasma fire is burning. Sixty-five percent of the engineering decks are on fire"
"Quite possibly." interjected Chakotay, scanning the preliminary security reports. "Captain, the warp core is in danger, we may have to vent engineering."
"Make sure all the crew are out and then do it," she ordered without hesitation.
He grimaced "That may not be possible. The rescue team report that most of the crew are trapped on the far side of the fire and the transporters went off-line when the power circuits were destroyed. It seems the crew cannot be evacuated without first extinguishing the fire."
"Damn. I'll get down there. Harry, do what you can to control the fire. Tom, close down all engines if you can. B'Elanna and Seven come with me. Chakotay, you have the bridge. Keep me informed."
The three women entered the turbolift without speaking though, under her breath, B'Elanna was cursing steadily. Janeway put her hand on the half-Klingon's shoulder. The lift stopped on deck 12 and the captain and her team entered the Jeffries tube connecting the deck to upper engineering. They descended the ladders, moving fast, in silence, until they arrived at the foot of the tube.
"We have contained the fire within a force-field but it is unlikely we can maintain the containment for more than a couple of minutes at best."
"Tell the crew to get out now Chakotay, anyway they can, Jeffries tubes, maintenance crawls whatever they can access."
Janeway gestured to Seven to open the hatch to the main corridor. Cautiously she complied. Heated air from the corridor flooded the tube and in moments, the women were perspiring.
They entered the deck 12 corridor only a few yards from the main entrance to upper engineering. The doors were hanging half open, demolished in the first explosion and across the gap they could see a level ten force-field, shimmering as it held back the extreme heat radiating from the devastated engine room. Through the distortion, figures were visible running about on the lower decks. Some were crouching, trying to hide themselves from the searing heat. A blue sea of molten plasma, one story high, was floating in a containment field. As they watched helplessly, the plasma began leaking through the containment and then burst free and poured through engineering, overrunning screaming crewmen.
"Captain, we must vent engineering or the fire will spread to the rest of the ship." Seven's calm voice interjected above the lacerating noise. "And we will have to eject the warp core if we are to have any chance of saving it."
Janeway could not disguise her terror and pity. "There are still people alive in there Seven. I can see them."
"You cannot help them Captain," said Seven very gently and took the captain's hand as though trying to convey strength to the small red-head.
Janeway withdrew her hand and fingered her comm badge. No-one could help her with this. She had no choice left; the situation every commander feared. "Janeway to Chakotay. Dump the warp core and vent the main engine room." Pain and guilt twisted at her heart.
"Yes Captain," answered the first officer, gravely. B'Elanna Torres sank to her knees and howled as her colleagues and friends of seven years were condemned to death.
The warp core slid smoothly down the guide rails and fell away from the ship. Seconds later, the emergency vents opened. Everything not tied down flew towards the vacuum, spilling out of the wounded ship in a fountain of plasma, equipment and bodies. Janeway could have sworn that she heard the desperate crew shouting for help although she knew that was nonsense.
Without the glow of the warp core and the light from the plasma fire, engineering was now in total darkness; a dark hollow tomb. She shut her eyes against the images and the tears. "On my oath as a Starfleet officer. It will pay." She repeated in a voice, choked with rage. "It will pay."
Seven was monitoring the damaged decks with a tricorder. She seemed almost obscenely calm but her hands shook a little. "The fire is extinguished," she announced. "The damaged area may be re-pressurised now." She looked at Janeway expectantly.
For a tiny eternity the captain did not react. She spoke at last and there was no emotion in the voice, her pain disappearing behind the cold mask of command. Janeway had to move on. There were procedures to follow; protocols to endure. She could not allow herself to feel, not yet, possibly never. "Chakotay; seal the vents and re-pressurise main engineering.
"Acknowledged Captain." Almost immediately the vents closed.
"Seven, find Tom Paris and take a shuttle. Try and recover any bodies."
Seven nodded once and left.
B'Elanna sat on the floor and stared vacantly into the dark, lifeless void that had formerly been main engineering.
Janeway spoke, her voice quite low. "B'Elanna."
The engineer did not react.
"Lieutenant Torres are you listening to me?"
The chief engineer looked up at her, the dark eyes, anguished hollows.
Janeway allowed no pity in her voice. "Assemble whatever engineering crew you can find. I want an assessment of the damage and a plan for recovering the warp core and regaining warp power."
B'Elanna did not move.
"Lieutenant obey your orders." Janeway's voice was slow and measured as though talking to a simpleton, but her words were brutal. "I have no time for you to disintegrate like a whining petaQ Torres. Get on your feet and get me that assessment."
B'Elanna flinched. Sluggishly, she rose to her feet and whispered. "Yes Captain." The half-Klingon shook her head, trying to concentrate. "We can set up an operations room in the engineering sub-station on deck 12. Most of the assessments can be done from there."
"Good. Keep me informed and let me have a preliminary report as soon as you're able. I'm going back to the bridge."
Torres watched her go, the slim body ascending the Jeffries ladder at speed. After the captain had disappeared, Torres activated her communicator. "Ensign Wildman."
"Is everything okay Sam? How are the kids?"
"Naomi is a little scared and Miral wants her feed but they're fine. There are terrible rumours flying about B'Elanna. Is it true we've dumped the warp core?"
B'Elanna could hear the fear leaking from her friend's voice. She didn't know what to say. "Sam I can't talk now but it'll be alright, I'll speak to you later. Torres out." She hesitated and then a new determination rose in her. Her daughter and her husband and all her friends were depending on her holding together. Without the warp core they were as good as dead. "Computer ship-wide announcement. This is Lieutenant Torres. All engineering crew are to report for duty, to the engineering sub-station on deck 12, immediately."
Janeway re-entered the bridge to find Chakotay and Tuvok discussing the best way to find the alien. Chakotay was heated. Tuvok was Vulcan.
"Tuvok we have to start armed searches and sweep each deck. The internal sensors are revealing nothing."
"The alien may no longer be aboard Commander."
"With respect Tuvok, nothing has left this ship. Somehow it is masking its presence here."
"Or, it masked its departure, although I do not believe the alien's technology was sufficient to allow such cloaking in either case. However the sabotage of our systems is impressive."
"Explain Tuvok." prompted Janeway.
"The explosion in engineering was apparently triggered by generating a feedback loop in the EPS conduits. In order to set this up, the alien had to override three separate security systems without detection. It was a considerable technical feat Captain."
Harry chimed in.
"Perhaps it's some kind of shape shifter and is disguised as something else. Or perhaps it's a mind reader."
"Too many guesses in that suggestion Ensign. I want facts." Janeway said harshly. "Tuvok, organise security into search teams and start a deck by deck search. Seal off each deck when it has been searched and cleared. I also want to know how the alien breached our security. Harry, I want you to rerun the internal sensor sweep and this time I want every molecule of material on this ship examined and identified. Anything out of place or unusual and I want to know. What is the status of the away team?"
"They are on their way to the debris field, it's drifting away from our position. Seven reported that they have identified twenty-two bodies. They will try and isolate them and then use a tractor beam to bring them back to Voyager."
"How many more missing Chakotay?" She asked brusquely, hiding her dread in the voice of command.
Chakotay was not fooled. "Four bodies have been found in Engineering and five wounded. Twelve crew are not accounted for."
"Why so many Chakotay?" she asked, shocked at the numbers of dead. Voyager had not experienced those kinds of losses since they were first transported to the Delta quadrant.
"The explosion occurred at 07:53. Many of the alpha shift had arrived early for their shift and the gamma shift were still on duty," he added unnecessarily.
"I see." She pinched her nose.
Chakotay continued. "I have instructed the doctor to expect the bodies. When he has identified them, they are to be stored in Cargo Bay 1. A detail of volunteers is being organised to look for the missing ..."
"Captain," interrupted Tuvok, "Voyager is powering main phasers. It is targeting the shuttle."
"Override now Tuvok. Janeway to away team. Raise shields immediately."
"I am unable to override. Voyager is firing."
"On screen." The view screen activated in time to see the blue flare of the shuttle's shields as a full phaser blast struck the small ship. "Away team. Evasive manoeuvres. Get out of range now. Computer. Captain's emergency override. Shutdown main phasers; authorisation Janeway gamma five zero omega." She waited and the seconds stretched to eternity.
"Main phasers are disabled Captain. They have powered down," said Tuvok.
Janeway let out the breath she was holding.
"Away team to Voyager," said Seven's cool voice. "We have suffered minor damage and no injuries. We are able to complete our mission before returning to Voyager."
Janeway almost smiled with relief. "Good but make it quick Seven. Be efficient."
"Indeed Captain. Seven out."
Janeway sprawled back in her command chair. Where the hell was the intruder and how was she using Voyager against her own crew? An obvious question struck her. The intruder must be launching her attacks from a command station somewhere. "Tuvok. Try and trace the source of the command that fired the phasers."
"I have already attempted to do so Captain." His voice indicated vague disapproval at being asked such an obvious question. "The command file has been deleted. As in the case of the EPS sabotage, all records have been erased."
"Alright, where did that command come from?"
"I believe it was part of the same command set. On deactivation it self-destructed."
"It thinks of everything. Keep trying to track it Tuvok; I want a list of any places on a Voyager where a seven foot blue lizard could hide and gain control of the ship. Chakotay you have the bridge. I going to brief the search teams, visit sickbay and boost morale a little, then B'Elanna to discuss repairs."
"Is it sensible to put yourself in the line of fire?" Chakotay asked dutifully, but with little hope of curbing her impulse to be on the front line. As the losses mounted the captain's sense of self-preservation would decrease.
"Everywhere on this ship is in the line of fire Chakotay. Do you think the bridge is less of a target than a corridor on deck six?" She grinned at him, a little forced humour, but he responded in kind.
"Thank you for that thought Kathryn. We all feel much better now." The sense of fear lessened amongst the bridge crew. If the captain and commander could joke then things weren't that hopeless.
"The shuttle is returning to Voyager Captain" reported Harry.
"Good. Ask Seven to join me in engineering in 10:00. In the meantime she is to help you with the sensor sweeps. And Chakotay, tell Tom to report to the EMH for assignment. We're not going anywhere for a while, unless B'Elanna works a miracle."
B'Elanna Torres was feeling distinctly useless. The few remaining engineers had been unable to effect a single meaningful repair. Every time they analysed a problem, they needed something else and that was either destroyed, also in need of repairs or unreachable in the gloomy hell hole that was main engineering. The environment in there was so hazardous, that she could not allow more than two personnel at a time to enter the area, and then only if they were wearing full protective suits. She decided to concentrate on one thing and that was preparing the ship to receive the warp core. The weakened lower hull, transporters, main deflector, replicators, lower deck communications, lower deck turbo lifts, port torpedo tubes and the port impulse engine would have to wait. Her team of twenty-three, mainly beta-shift engineers were showing the strain as well and she would have to pace them carefully.
She had split the small group into two double shifts but grief and fear were not conducive to clear thinking or concentration and the chief engineer was having to check every piece of work. A surviving alpha-shift engineer had shown such distress, that she had to be relieved from duty and was now in sickbay under sedation. For her own part, B'Elanna would not allow herself to think of all the companions and colleagues, whose charred bodies now lay in cargo bay 1.
The report she gave to Janeway an hour later was not significantly different. While Janeway scanned through her report, B'ELanna, for want of anything better to think about, observed Seven of Nine. She was uncharacteristically lounging against the wall, watching the captain. The possessive look caught B'Elanna's attention and she wondered if something had happened between them; it was none of her business of course. She dragged her mind back to present.
"Seven can you help here?" She asked, desperation overriding her normal reluctance to engage with tall Borg. "I need every competent pair of hands I can muster. Some of my crew are barely capable of changing a fuse."
"If the captain is agreeable then I will do so." The tall blonde looked to Janeway for confirmation.
Janeway didn't look up from the report as she gave her assent. "Fine. Recovering the warp core is our priority." She was very disturbed by what she was reading. They were unlikely to be going anywhere for four or five days and that was being optimistic. Janeway handed the report back to B'Elanna. "Take whatever resources you need B'Elanna. There is nothing more important than getting the warp core back on line."
"Apart from destroying the intruder," Seven muttered.
"Apart from that." agreed Janeway in a low hard voice. She turned to go. "I'll see you later Seven."
B'Elanna was taken aback to see a lazy smile spread over Seven of Nine's perfect features. Then Seven noticed her expression and the smile was wiped away instantaneously leaving the familiar impassive gaze.
"Where should I begin Lieutenant?"
"Kahless knows. Everything needs doing. We would struggle if we had a full shipyard at our disposal. Well we haven't so we improvise. We need to realign the main energy converter cells before we can even think about re-installing the warp core. So let's start with that."
"A reasonable plan Lieutenant."
Apart from B'Elanna and Seven, who were fully engaged in the Herculean struggle in engineering, the senior staff had gathered in the briefing room to review progress.
" .... she must have been destroyed in the plasma fire and then sucked into space." said Harry vehemently.. "There have been no further attacks since the fire and the search of the decks, and the sensor scans have found nothing."
"You're forgetting the attack on the shuttle Harry" Chakotay said patiently.
The young ensign looked a little annoyed. "That could have been a pre-arranged booby trap. She might have set it before she died."
Chakotay let his doubts show. "I wouldn't like to bet the ship on that theory Harry. It may be that she has been hampered by the high levels of monitoring and is just waiting for us to drop our guard.
"True," agreed Tuvok, "We do not know enough about the creature's capabilities and cannot be sure that she has not evaded our scans. I would counsel extreme caution Captain."
The captain covered her frustration at the lack of progress. "Agreed. All security staff are to remain on full alert and keep scanning. If it moves we may be able to detect it." There was a long silence. Unwillingly, Janeway turned her attention to the EMH. "Doctor. Report."
"I have identified all the bodies recovered in the shuttle and several more that were found in engineering. There are still eight crew unaccounted for. It is likely that their bodies were completely destroyed in the fire. All of the crew injured in the explosion are now on the road to recovery including the most serious plasma burn victim; I have developed several techniques which are, I believe, quite unique."
Seeing that the Doctor was about to indulge in a bout of self-congratulation and observing his captain's darkening expression, Chakotay intervened. "That's excellent but what about the psychological effects Doctor?"
The EMH grimaced. "Less good news there," he admitted. "I have three crew under sedation and another six being treated for traumatic stress. I am afraid there may be many more who are simply not coming forward for treatment. It is very important that I identify any crew members who are having difficulties."
"That would be everyone Doc," said Tom bluntly.
"I may be able to help a little," Neelix interrupted earnestly. "I have found that many of the crew want to discuss their fears but do not want to do so with the Doctor. Sorry Doctor," he muttered apologetically. "So I have been encouraging off-duty staff to get together and we just, well talk. Seems to help some of them, well I think it does." He shrugged self-deprecatingly. "I may be able to direct the most disturbed to the Doctor."
Janeway smiled at him with real affection. "Thank you Neelix. That sounds excellent." She drew herself up in her chair. "If no-one has anything further to add then let's get back to it gentlemen. Dismissed."
B'Elanna propped herself against a bulkhead and wiped the sweat from her eyes. After eleven hours of back-breaking, dangerous work, they had managed to clear sufficient debris and replace or repair enough components to allow the warp core to be put back. Not that it would work or power the engines. That would take another four days at least, but it was a good start. She was even feeling a little amused as she watched a distinctly filthy ex-drone wriggle out of a maintenance hatch. Adding Seven to the team had been like adding three chief engineers. Nothing seemed too difficult for her and she had laboured unstintingly. "Good job. Why don't you take a break for a few hours?"
Half-expecting the blonde to decline, B'Elanna was surprised when Seven responded promptly. "Thank you Lieutenant. I need a rest. It seems to be very warm in here."
"I'd noticed. Environmental controls are playing up." Or being interfered with. She didn't voice the fear that immediately sprang to everyone's mind. "I'll get someone to have a look."
"I will return in exactly 120 minutes." Seven rose on her impossibly long legs and strode from engineering. Torres thought she heard the Borg ask the computer for the location of Captain Janeway. Definitely something going on there.
"Okay people if Seven needs a rest then I'm guessing you do too. One hour break everyone. I want a volunteer to collect whatever you fancy from the mess-hall." She made a face, remembering that without replicators there wasn't likely to be much that anyone would fancy. "Well, get what you can. Charlie, you and I need to look at the environmental controls. It is getting very warm."
"Come." Janeway responded automatically to the entrance buzzer.
Seven entered. She had cleaned herself up and replaced her biosuit and she was carrying a steaming mug that she placed on the desk in front of the captain. "I wondered if you required a coffee."
Janeway was touched and puzzled. "How on earth did you manage that? All the replicators are off-line."
"I had previously replicated a supply of the necessary beans," Seven replied evasively. Janeway continued to look enquiring and the ex-drone looked embarrassed. "I was interested in your addiction and wished to study it further."
"Hmm. I'm not sure how to feel about that. But thank you anyway Seven. I was resigned to a coffee-less existence for the duration of this crisis." She smiled and mentally suppressed the immediate physical response generated by Seven's presence. "How are the repairs proceeding?"
"Better than expectations. Lieutenant Torres is working too hard."
Janeway nodded and took the hint. "I'll order her and Tom to take a break together; go and see Miral. Thank you Seven. Is that everything?"
"No. Are you alright Kathryn?" Seven moved closer to the desk.
The captain shrugged, met the intent blue-eyed gaze with a half-smile and said laconically. "I am functioning within acceptable parameters as you used to say."
"Do not try and divert me Kathryn." Seven leaned across the desk and placed her hands over the captain's.
Janeway pulled her hands back and tried not to appear panicked. Seven was too close. She stood up too quickly and backed away from her desk, knocking her chair over in the process. Not a smooth move Katie. Cursing herself for a clumsy fool, Janeway sidled away from the desk, to stand looking out at the stars.
Straightening herself, Seven smirked. With a few short strides, she stood behind the captain, only inches from the small woman. "An ineffective tactical retreat," she whispered in her ear.
"I'm aware of that Seven," said Janeway half-irritated and half-aroused. She groaned as Seven closed the remaining gap and wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling the captain back to press against the length of her body. "Damn." She swayed slightly and Seven tightened her hold to support her. "I don't have time for this Seven."
"You have six point four minutes." said Seven inexorably, her hand stroking lower.
"What happened to all that understanding of my position as captain?" Kathryn sounded a little choked.
"We may die. Your position as captain is then irrelevant but I do not wish to wait for that occurrence." One hand slipped inside the captain's waistband as the other unfastened her jacket and cupped her breast.
Janeway groaned and tried to wriggle free. "I can't allow this" she protested in a low rough voice.
"If it makes you feel better Kathryn, you are not allowing it." As Seven said this, her fingers slipped lower, sliding slowly in hot wetness and the captain shuddered. "Ready for me," murmured Seven.
"Seven stop this. Please."
"Do you really want me to stop?"
The slender fingers stilled within her and Janeway bit back a moan and held herself rigid, suppressing the urge to move against them, trying to control her rapid breathing. Gradually Seven withdrew her hand but her other arm held the captain fast. Almost without intention Janeway let her head fall back against Seven's shoulder.
Chakotay pressed the buzzer to the ready room and entered without waiting to be called, a first officer's privilege. He regretted it even before he spoke. The captain pushed Seven away but the flushed face and disarray told him enough.
"Kathryn! What in hell's name is going on?" he blurted, the pain of the moment driving his original purpose straight out of his mind. He could not hide the anger swelling inside him. And the acute sense of injustice.
Captain Janeway re-asserted herself. With an effort of will she ignored the sea of mortification that was engulfing her. She was angry enough with her own weakness to offer no quarter to Chakotay. "You have something to report Commander? I am right in supposing you had a reason for coming in here?"
Chakotay glared at Seven his fists bunching. Slowly he recollected why he had come here in the first place. His shoulders sagged. "Bad news. Security have found another body."
Janeway flinched for an instant. "Who?" She asked very quietly.
"Tal Celes. They found her in Astrometrics. She's been dead for maybe an hour."
In the background Seven of Nine mumbled something unintelligible and he remembered that Celes was one of her crew.
"Dammit, I was hoping that Harry was right." said Janeway grimly. "Why her?"
"Perhaps she found something." suggested Seven.
Chakotay looked at her oddly. He tried to disregard his rising resentment towards the cool blonde. "Good guess. We think she may have. Her blood was not the only blood found at the scene. There was some alien blood and what appears to be scales from the creature. It looks as though Celes stumbled across the creature and it killed her. It may have been wounded when she found it."
"Give me some good news Chakotay. Tell me you know where it went."
"No. I'm sorry Captain."
"This is impossible. It just appears from thin air, kills and then disappears again like some fairy tale monster. I'm not buying this Chakotay. We are missing something." She straightened her jacket and fastened it. "Briefing room now. All senior staff." She stalked from the room leaving Seven and Chakotay to sort out who should follow first. The rivals looked at each other.
"After you Commander," said Seven, too politely and quirked her implant knowingly.
Chakotay was infuriated. "Leave her alone Seven. I'm warning you."
Seven didn't bother to pretend not to understand or to hide her contempt. "And you believe 'leaving her alone' is what she needs after seven lonely years of responsibility and command. It is unsurprising that you have failed with her." She lowered her voice to sound almost confiding. "What she needs, Chakotay, is an equal, someone to challenge her, someone whom she cannot defeat, someone to fill her dreams and .... her bed." She pushed him aside. "I do not think I will give way to you Commander, after all."
"This isn't the end of this conversation Seven of Nine." He glowered after her.
B'Elanna sat in her quarters and watched Tom play with Miral. The baby giggled happily as he fooled about for her. It seemed surreal, having an all-too-rare moment together, dressed in the bulky protective suits. Janeway had been immovable on the subject of getting some rest. After long hours of concentrated effort the recovered warp core was now back in place and the captain had insisted that B'Elanna take a break. The environmental suits were just an unwelcome precaution. All crew were to wear them at all times and helmets had to be kept within reach. The orders were not popular, since the suits were uncomfortable to work in, inconveniently bulky and did not ease the underlying fear amongst the crew.
Loud giggles caught B'Elanna's attention. Tom was pretending to hide behind his hands and then popping out. His daughter thought he was hilarious. "Hey, you finally found someone who understands you," she jibed.
He grinned at her. "You bet. Cos you're my little angel aren't you baby-face?" He cooed at the delighted infant and tickled her toes as she shrieked with joy. He laughed. "Well at least you find me funny, don't you sweetheart? Not like your mother, my other little angel."
B'Elanna scowled and pretended to be angry. "Less of the 'little angel' Paris. I'm a big bad Klingon."
"Not to me." He looked at her seriously for a moment before Miral poked him in the eye and he howled in mock anguish. The lights went out. The darkness was absolute.
"What the ...?" exclaimed Tom. And then the emergency lights came on and they both breathed again. Almost immediately those too were extinguished. Darkness flowed around them.
"Get her in the enviro-crib Tom. Now."
"Damn. Where the hell is it? Okay. It's okay. I've found it. I need some light B'Elanna."
B'Elanna fumbled for the light on her suit. As her fingers closed on the switch she felt her stomach lurch in a sickening transition to zero gravity. Tom swore emphatically and she could hear Miral crying. Zero gravity was disturbing enough when you had been trained for it. B'Elanna activated the light. A bizarre scene met her eyes; Tom was gently spinning in the centre of the room, the crib containing Miral clutched in his arms. He was only a few inches from the ground but it might as well have been a mile as he was unable to reach any surface.
"I'm a bit stuck here B'Elanna, can you reach anything?" he asked. Apparently unflustered, he activated the light on his own suit and carried on sealing Miral into her enviro-crib as they rotated slowly. Tom had always boasted that he had aced all the zero-gravity courses at Starfleet academy.
"I think so," B'Elanna rplied. She was about to push her hand against the wall when a movement near the ceiling caught her attention. Directing her light up at the ventilation duct she could see a dense white smoke trickling into the room. "Kahless!"
"That does not look good," agreed Tom.
In the seconds that followed, her reactions accelerated beyond conscious thought. The two environmental helmets were floating a few feet from her. She pushed herself at them and used her momentum to direct one to Tom. "Catch." To her relief he did but the small impact from the helmet was enough to start him moving towards the ceiling and the spreading white pall. Hampered by the crib Tom was unable to get his helmet on. She snatched the other helmet and jammed it over her head, fumbling with the sealing mechanism.
As she floated nearer Tom she found herself upside down. Using her arms and legs to generate some movement, she initiated a gradual rotation about her own axis. She raised her knees to get at the switch that would activate her gravity boots and then slowly extended her legs, timing the movement to bring her boots into contact with the floor as she rotated to an upright orientation. She felt the contact and the welcome tug as the boots held fast. Twisting her body, she made a grab for Tom's leg. For a sickening instant she thought she'd failed, before her desperate fingers tangled with the material of his suit and she pulled him effortlessly downwards.
"Helmet. Now." She gasped, holding him tight and grasping the handle of the crib with her free hand. Tom didn't need to be told twice. He pulled his helmet on and activated the seals and his gravity boots. B'Elanna let him go, to check the seal on Miral's crib. The baby was howling and B'Elanna had to crush her desire to hold the frightened child.
Tom hugged her and for an instant they clung to each other before he let her go. "Nice job Lanna, let's get the hell out of here." Tom's voice, mediated through the helmet communicator, sounded distant. They walked to the door with the slow deliberate steps enforced by the gravity boots. The door stayed shut.
"The power's gone. I'll get the manual override." B'Elanna bent to the override lever and forced the door open. She stepped back. A wall of white gas floated in the corridor. "What in Kahless' name is this stuff Tom?" She asked, trying to keep the panic from her voice as the wall gradually began to seep into their room. Miral continued to cry, her wails penetrating the unnatural silence.
Tom checked the environmental read-out in his helmet display. He sounded calm. "Nerve gas, simple formula, easy to make in large quantities; so now we know what our uninvited guest has been doing in her spare time. We're safe inside the suits. It's not corrosive."
They advanced into the corridor and B'Elanna swore loudly, as the light from their suits penetrated the poisonous fog. Ten feet away an ensign was suspended, motionless and contorted in the air, his helmet barely inches from his grasp. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, B'Elanna could see the light from other suits. Some were moving. A few were not. "Torres to Janeway."
"Janeway here. What's happening?"
"Tom and I are on deck 6. We've lost lights, gravity, power and environmental controls. Some kind of nerve gas has been released. We have casualties."
"Same everywhere except decks one, two and engineering for some reason. Make your way to deck 2 B'Elanna. Take as many crew as you can find on the way. Head for the escape pods. I'm giving the order to abandon ship."
"What? You can't be serious." B'Elanna yelled, shock making her forget the niceties of the Starfleet chain of command.
Janeway ignored the breach of protocol, she understood the chief engineer's feelings. "I want everyone off Voyager B'Elanna, except for the security teams, and 'everyone' includes you and Tom. If we cannot find and destroy this thing then we won't need an engineer or a pilot. As things stand I cannot protect the crew. Tuvok, Chakotay and myself will stay to lead the search teams. Harry and Seven are staying also, to coordinate the search and to try and counteract any further use of Voyager's systems. Everyone else is to leave immediately. I'm sorry B'Elanna. Janeway out."
B'Elanna and Tom exchanged slow looks. Tom shook his head.
"Of course you know why she wants both of us off the ship," said B'Elanna, bristling with indignation.
Tom nodded. "Miral," he said shortly. "Yeah I know. But she's right. We're not actually necessary for this. Don't go off on some Klingon honour crusade Lanna. No one doubts your courage."
She hesitated and the anger died within her. "I suppose you're right. I guess we should be grateful." She shook her head. "Come on Tom. Let's get moving. It's a long climb up to deck 2."
Tuvok was thinking. There was something entirely unsatisfactory about the accumulated data before him. The logical conclusion to which he was being driven would not please the captain but nonetheless his arguments were valid. "Captain before we start this search I must lay before you certain facts which have a bearing on what we are looking for."
Janeway recognised that voice. Tuvok had something to say that she wasn't going to like. "What is it Tuvok?"
"I do not believe we are looking solely for the creature that escaped from the brig."
Janeway looked at him blankly.
"I have studied the creature's ship and it is wholly improbable that it would be capable of carrying out the technical manipulation of Voyager. The level of technological achievement is completely insufficient. Her species are only recently warp capable and it would seem from their recorded history that even that technology was stolen. Furthermore, covert action would be highly abnormal behaviour. The Dren are very violent but not subtle. They consider it dishonourable to kill their enemies in any way apart from tearing them to shreds in open combat."
"You're saying there's something else aboard."
He shook his head. "Captain, given the nature of the attacks, the most logical suspects would be amongst Voyager's own crew." Janeway gaped at the Vulcan.
Chakotay was also appalled and seeing Kathryn's shocked disbelief, he stepped in to the argument with some confidence. "This is ludicrous Tuvok. You cannot expect anyone to believe that one of us is capable of these acts of butchery. And what about the first two deaths, the security guards? They were torn to shreds. No crewman carried out those murders."
"I concur that Chapman and Hendy were killed by the creature when it escaped," conceded Tuvok. "But the subsequent incidents were not, in my view, the work of the Dren female."
"What about Tal Celes?" Chakotay persisted. "Her throat was cut."
"Entirely unnecessarily. She died when her neck was broken. The incision in her throat was made afterwards. I repeat, the most logical suspect for the later incidents is someone from the crew."
Janeway was struggling with Tuvok's theory. Rationally she acknowledged what he said was possible and fitted the facts yet she found it almost impossible to accept that one of her own crew could do this. "But why would anyone do this? It makes no sense for a member of the crew to destroy Voyager. We need each other." Janeway could not see any member of her crew as a mass murderer. When she tried to visualise what sort of person it could be, she simply drew a blank. Her crew were family. "What about the Dren?" She asked. "I know you say it couldn't carry out the sabotage but it's still free, that's quite a coincidence Tuvok." His answer did not help her peace of mind.
"I am unable to provide any suggestion as to motivation Captain; it does appear most irrational. Perhaps the Dren is able to manipulate minds. There is some suggestion of telepathic abilities, though I am speculating. Suffice to say, the perpetrator is clever, well acquainted with Voyager's systems, cautious and apparently completely amoral."
Chakotay was openly scornful. "I'm afraid Tuvok that I don't recognise this person you're describing. If you could add height, eye colour and gender we might have a little more to go on."
The sarcasm was not wasted on Tuvok. He replied with a touch of asperity. "I too, would be grateful for a detailed description of the suspect. However the lack of such information does not affect my deductions Commander."
"Kathryn. I don't think we should waste any time on this nonsense." Chakotay seemed almost angry.
The captain responded sharply. "We have to 'waste time' on it Chakotay. Neither of us may like it but it is possible." He looked as though he was going to carry the argument on but then stopped and dropped his gaze to the ground. Kathryn stood by the ready room console and watched without seeing, the incoming damage reports. Finally she turned to look at two senior officers. and spoke decisively. "For the moment I want to keep this between the three of us. Tuvok, reanalyse the sabotage, but this time concentrate on the possibility that these incidents were not perpetrated by an intruder but by someone who already possessed all the necessary access codes. In the meantime Chakotay, carry on with the planned search of the ship."
"You think it could be a member of the senior staff?" Chakotay's voice sounded disbelieving.
"Chakotay," she sighed. "It may be more than one person, they may not even know themselves. I want them eliminated from the list of suspects Chakotay. I have to know who we can trust."
B'Elanna shook Neelix's hand and wished him luck. He swung the airlock door shut. That was the third escape pod ready to go. Four more were still loading. She tried not to think about all the empty pods that were not needed.
She looked round for Tom. He was busy counting heads, while joking with a couple of hefty engineers about the weight limits in the pods. He looked over at her and waved. She waved back. Another two minutes and they would be ready to go. She picked up Miral's crib and hoisted it over her shoulder. The baby seemed to have adjusted to the weightlessness and was now sleeping quite soundly. B'Elanna still felt uncomfortable about leaving Voyager and her comrades but a part of her was relieved to get Miral and Tom away from the stricken ship.
"Naomi to B'Elanna," said a small voice. She smiled. The small Katarian was in the last pod with Neelix and her mother. "See you later B'Elanna and say hi to Pookey for me." B'Elanna smiled at the little girl's nickname for Miral - Naomi had assured her that she made it up but it was real Klingon.
"Will do. See you later shortie. Look after your mother."
"Okay. Bye. And I am not short!" Replied the small girl with an indignant giggle.
"If you say so shortie." B'Elanna grinned and closed her communicator.
WARNING. ESCAPE POD LAUNCHING PREMATURELY. ALL PERSONNEL TO VACATE THE LAUNCH BAY IMMEDIATELY. IGNITION IMMINENT.
"Oh God no! Everyone, out of the launch area." B'Elanna shouted into her communicator on the open channel.
She started to run as fast as the gravity boots would allow. Voices were yelling over the comms channel but she could not make any of them out above the howling scream of the pod engines, warming up behind her. She threw herself and Miral through the main door, into the tiny control centre and yelled at the ensign on duty. "What in Kahless' name are you doing? Abort the launch."
"I can't sir, I'm trying." The ensign was in tears.
B'Elanna pushed him aside. "Dammit they're all launching." She slammed her hand on the comms panel. "Emergency control to all pods. Close your hatches now. Seal them now. Computer override emergency launch."
CANNOT COMPLY. EMERGENCY LAUNCH IN PROGRESS.
"I know that dammit. Abort. Authorisation Torres alpha seven four gamma."
CANNOT COMPLY. EMERGENCY LAUNCH IN PROGRESS.
"Seal the god-damned airlocks then."
CANNOT COMPLY. AIRLOCKS ARE OPEN FOR BOARDING.
B'Elanna stared at the view screen. She could see Tom and a dozen other crew running for the exits. Someone fell down just short of the exits. Tom hesitated and turned back.
"No dammit. Run you fool," she whispered.
He bent to help the fallen crewman back to his feet and they started to run again. She watched, unable to look away, as the fifteen escape pods lifted off and the enormous forces being generated by their wake, plucked him from the exposed deck, together with the other stray crewman, and blew them about like leaves in a hurricane. An escape pod exploded; debris hurtling back against the ship. She lost sight of Tom. Desperately she looked, but it was impossible to distinguish him amongst the cloud of objects.
She jabbed at her communicator. "Tom. Where are you? Answer me damn you." There was no reply. Just crackling silence. She stood staring into the gathering darkness for several minutes until Miral's whimpers caused her to look down.
She crouched down. "It's alright baby, everything is going to be alright. Nothing's going to hurt you. Everything is going to be just fine. Mama's going to make damn sure of that, if I have to kill every living being aboard this ship."
Forty seconds later Janeway, Chakotay and Seven of Nine together with half a dozen security officers arrived to find the small group of traumatised survivors cowering by the closed blast doors. Where's Lieutenant Torres and Lieutenant Paris?"
The ensign from the control centre gaped at her stupidly. "Did you hear me ensign?" she barked and half-lifted him by the collar.
"She took off Captain, took a blaster and her baby and just went."
Janeway gripped his collar harder. "And what about Mr Paris?"
The ensign didn't seem to be able to speak any more, he just pointed at the empty space behind the blast doors. Janeway let go of the terrified crewman.
"No. Not Tom," she mumbled. The anger inside her froze another level. "Chakotay, Seven; find B'Elanna. Is that understood? I don't want to lose anyone else." Seven placed a hand on her shoulder. Janeway shook it off and Seven felt a sharp thrill as the captain's grey eyes sliced though her. "Don't waste time," she snarled, her voice hard, like cold gravel. She turned her back on the ex-drone. "Janeway to Tuvok. See that all the access points to these decks are guarded or sealed. Shut off power to all systems completely. Main computer, sensors, life support, everything. Use emergency power packs for sick bay. What isn't there she can't use against us. And let me know the status of the remaining escape pods as soon as possible."
Seven hefted her blaster and signalled to the security officers to follow. They opened a hatch into the nearest Jeffries tube and descended into the darkness to search for the missing engineer.
Chakotay followed them but hesitated at the mouth of the Jeffries tube. He wanted to say something but the brittle rage on Kathryn's face stalled him. She wanted no words of comfort from him or anyone else. At least she wants nothing from that damned Borg, he reassured himself. The Commander lowered himself into the tube and watched as the hatch was closed. He heard the locks slide shut. In the closed darkness, he pulled his helmet on and turned on his suit light which illuminated the tube for a few yards. He could hear the security team getting further away but made no effort to catch them. Instead he crawled along a side passage leading to a parallel tube.
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