Annika


By: Jennica Williams

DISCLAIMER: I am not using Star Trek for profit. Paramount owns the characters, the ships, the uniforms, the biogel packs, even Neelix's food, I'm just here playing around with the ideas running through my head. No copyright infringement is intended.



Captain Janeway splayed both of her hands over the conference table before speaking. "As you all know, it is only a matter of a few short weeks before we are out of time. Our supplies are growing dangerously low and we need to replenish them."

"Captain, I still believe we could make use of the nebula three light years from here." B'Elanna Torres, the chief engineer, spoke up. "Seven has proposed a procedure which would allow one shuttle to tractor in enough energy to refuel us for at least a month."

"I read the report also." Janeway glared at the half-Klingon and former Borg. "Didn't it also include a seventy percent chance that the shuttle would explode during the process? That's too great a risk. I won't allow it."

"I can reduce the amount of-"

"Lieutenant, it's out of the question. I will not allow one crew member to die when I can prevent it. Seventy percent chance is too large of a margin. Get it down to twenty and I might consider it. Might." Janeway stressed the last word.

"That would not be possible." Seven raised the Borg implant over her eyebrow ever so slightly.

"Then I want more suggestions." Janeway stood up and began to pace behind her chair.

"I can cut back on energy use a little bit." Neelix offered. "We can serve more cold dishes. Although I know the crew will be disappointed, I know they'll understand the necessity."

Tom sighed in relief. "Anything..." He whispered. "To get rid of leola root casserole."

Chakotay shot the helm officer a quick glare and then looked back to Janeway. "I know the holodeck is running on a different power source, but is there any possible way we can make another attempt to convert the energy?"

Torres shook her head. "I already looked at it at the beginning. It's impossible with the supplies and tools we have. If I was back in the Alpha Quadrant, we might be able to get it to work...but probably not. I think those darn Starfleet mechanics did it on purpose so they wouldn't lose their precious holodeck time."

"The work of those 'darn Starfleet mechanics' has saved our ship on more than one occasion." Tuvok interjected. "Your condemnation serves no purpose."

B'Elanna opened her mouth to snap out a retort, but Janeway cut her off. "We're not here to debate the efficiency of the design of this ship. We're here to figure out how to make what we have last longer."

"I've been working on something, Captain." Harry Kim offered. "It's still in the planning stages- I haven't even tested it yet- but I think it might work."

"Well, what is it?" Tom Paris leaned forward slightly.

"I think I can make the tractor beam emit a magnetic pulse which will pull the nebula's particles toward the ship where we can access them more readily."

"Bring a small part of the nebula to us." Janeway nodded. "Devote all of your time to that. I'll have Lieutenant Brackwell cover your shift on the bridge. Dismissed."

Everyone began to stand and exit the room. Everyone except Seven of Nine.

"It won't work."

"Excuse me?" Captain Janeway turned to face the younger woman.

"Ensign Kim's proposal. By bringing the nebula here, you only risk a larger explosion."

"Harry will be bringing such a small amount that it will not be sufficient enough to produce an explosion."

"The shuttlecraft is still the wisest course of action." Seven stated boldly staring directly at the captain. "The possible loss of one should not out weigh the possible salvation of an entire crew. I am volunteering for the mission."

"Unacceptable." Janeway folded her arms across her chest. "You are not a drone on this ship. The loss of one does mean something to this crew. Something so important, the crew would rather die as a unit than lose one of it's members."

"That is illogical."

Janeway shrugged. "So are humans." She gave a short laugh at Seven's cocked eyebrow. "Go down to astrometrics and help Harry."

Seven turned on her heel and left the conference room, but she did not go to astrometrics. She went to the shuttle bay.

'The captain is wrong.' She thought to herself stepping aboard and checking over the systems. Even without energy coursing through the large machine, she knew everything was fine. Closing the outer door, Seven took the pilot's seat. She had rerouted all command over rides before the bridge was aware of her leaving the shuttle bay. Once outside in the void of space, Seven plotted an auto-pilot course directly to the nebula. She would arrive in less than three minutes- just enough time to reconfigure the small tractor beam on the shuttle.

The visual sensors on the hull of the Voyager recorded a blinding white flash of light that diminished to a dark blue-black core. Then it was gone. Seven never knew what happened.

* =/\= *

"Captain, I'm picking something up on sensors. Wait. It's gone." Lieutenant McKenna Brackwell's brow furrowed in frustration as her hands danced over the console. "Whatever it is just disappeared."

Captain Janeway stood from her seat where she'd been reviewing a report from engineering. "Have you determined what it was?"

McKenna frowned deeply at her console. "It's one of our shuttles." She watched the video playing back on her console and then quickly initiated a scan for debris. "Transferring image to main view screen."

The bridge officers watched as the small shuttlecraft glided smoothly out of the docking bay and proceeded toward the nebula. A blinding flash of light caused the crew's eyebrows to be raised in surprise.

"Who was on it?" Tuvok queried from his station.

"Seven." Janeway's brows lowered in anger.

"Yes, Captain. Records have confirmed that there was one passenger. Seven of Nine. But I am unable to detect any debris. There should be something where that explosion was."

"Kim to Captain. I have-"

"Just a minute, Ensign." Janeway raised her hand although Kim couldn't see it. "We've encountered a problem up here."

"Understood."

"Actually, report to the bridge. I need for you to run some scans."

"Aye, Captain. Kim out."

"Lieutenant, please go down to engineering and assist in what ever way you're needed there." Janeway closed the distance between herself and the Ops console and tried to run a scan. All captains were required to know how to fill in for any officer on his or her ship, but the Academy didn't prepare them to be experts at each station. No, the Ops expert was Harry Kim. If anyone could find the debris, he could.

"Captain?" Chakotay was standing at the edge of the console looking at her curiously.

"There should be some evidence of that explosion, Commander." Her voice took on a note of insistancy. "Debris, a few scraps of metal, even some organic residue among the molecules. There's nothing."

"Let me try something."

Janeway turned suddenly as the young Ops officer appeared at her side. "I want to know what happened, Harry."

He nodded once absent-mindedly, his face already bent over the console. Janeway smiled slightly, confident that Kim could handle the assignment and then moved to her seat.

"Ahh,.....Captain, I haven't found anything regarding the explosion, but I did find something else."

"What is it?" She turned to look back at the Ops station, but Harry was nodding toward the main view screen.

Janeway spun and saw the impending image of three large battleships swim before her eyes. "Hail them."

"I've got audio only." Kim broke in.

"Go ahead."

"We are the Duron. You will leave this sector of space or be destroyed." A gruff mans' voice came over the comm link.

"I am Capt-"

"Your rank is irrelevant. You will leave this sector of space. We are conducting-"

"We have lost one of our members. As soon as we have them back, we'll leave."

"-Military experiments and refuse to allow you any time in the sector." He continued as if Janeway had not spoke.

She signaled for Kim to cut the transmission. "Continue scanning for Seven's shuttle. I want to find her if she's still out there."

"They are powering-" Tuvok was cut off as the Duron ship's phasers hit the shields causing the deck to pitch and roll under their feet.

Janeway pulled her head up from where she had fallen to the floor. "Red alert!"

Seven groggily opened her eyes. The pain in her shoulder was nearly unbearable but she was Borg. She would survive. Pulling herself into a sitting position on the floor of the shuttle, Seven was barely able to see out of the view window. None of the stars looked familiar.

Where she was had to be of the least concern to her though. The shuttle was venting oxygen and plasma as it hurled through the darkness of space. A small M-class planet was just a few thousand kilometers away. She would be forced to attempt to crash land on it. Unfortunately, it was a heavily populated planet. In the upper hemisphere, she was lucky enough to find a patch of land that seemed to be free of large structures and people.

A red light flashed on the side of the console to indicate that life support was off-line. Just a few more minutes, she thought to herself knowing the temperature would increase dramatically as she entered the atmosphere.

Navigating the best she could under the circumstances, Seven guided the small shuttle through the clouds. The interior of the shuttle began to raise by five degree increments as sweat beaded up on Seven's brow. Suddenly, the clouds cleared away and she was able to see her landing site for the first time. The controls said that the temperature was a stifling 32 outside, but it looked as though a blanket of snow had covered the ground.

Ignoring the planet's strange weather, Seven tried to reroute power before the belly of the shuttle touched the ground. She was thrown from her seat as they skidded along field and was slammed against a bulkhead as it came to rest in the field of cotton.

* =/\= *

Her head was throbbing, but she was being told to wake up by someone leaning over her.

"Annika! Annika! Wake up!"

A hand gently slapped her face. Seven opened her eyes groggily and tried to peer through the fog her mind had created.

"Where am I?"

"Annika! Oh, thank the stars!" She was being cradled in someone's arms as they hugged her close to them. "Next time you want to go to France, just take the transporters like everyone else!"

"Excuse me." Seven struggled to pull herself from the young man's grasp. "I do not know who you are."

The man's dark eyebrows lifted in surprise. "You don't know me, Annika?" He reached forward and touched his hand to her Borg implant over her left eye. "What is this? Some new style in Europe?" She recoiled swiftly.

"No. I do not know you."

"I'm Lewis McNeil. Your fiancee."

"I do not have a fiancee." She struggled over the last unfamiliar word.

"What do you mean?" Lewis glanced over her limbs and, confident in his medical knowledge, decided she was uninjured. "Come on, I'll help you back to the house. There may be some internal damage that's been done. I need to get you inside immediately.

"I am undamaged." Seven stated forcing herself to stand. Quickly, she ducked back into the damaged shuttle craft. The consoles were still lit up and blinking rapidly. She ran a hand over them as Lewis watched over her shoulder.

"I didn't' know you knew how to fly a shuttle."

Seven was silently trying to compose herself as she stared in shock at the console. "I was not aware that I was in the Alpha Quadrant."

"What? Where else would you be?"

Seven eyed the man for a minute. He broke his gaze with hers. Those blue eyes were too cold. "I had assumed I would remain in the Delta Quadrant."

"The Delta...!??!"

Lewis shook his head. "Anything else?" He asked with a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

"My designation is Seven of Nine. Not Annika."

"It was a joke. I don't know how you got one of Starfleet's shuttles, but if you wanted to break the engagement, you could have found a better way than this." Lewis winked at her as his hand cupped her elbow to guided her from the shuttle.

As they neared the plantation's main house, Seven could see a girl sitting on the porch. One leg dangled over the edge of a chair as she was leaned back sideways in it. She wore cut off jean shorts and a baby blue pull over. A soft halo of golden hair fell about her shoulders as her blue eyes intensely scanned the book she held.

Lewis gaped between Seven and this girl before stuttering, "Annika?"

The girl's head snapped up and a smile graced her features as she spied her fiancee. "Lewis! I wasn't expecting you today." She closed the book, swung her bare feet down the weathered porch floor, and took a step towaweenim before seeing his companion. Her mouth fell open as she stared in shock.

An idea was already forming in Seven's head as she took in this Annika Henson's reaction. "If you are no longer concerned about my loss of memory, I would like to review my sensor readings on my shuttle." Seven turned on her heel and stalked back the way she had come. A flurry of whisperings and then the soft thud of Annika's feet hitting the grass told her they would follow.

There it was. Seven eyed the readings she had missed the last time. Of course, before she had crashed, she had only been interested in finding a suitable landing site. Once here, she had only wanted to find out where she was. Now, she knew what she was looking at and pondered it for a minute. "The tachyon readings are slightly more elevated in this region compared to the quantities we have logged in our computer."

"What's that mean?" Annika stepped hesitantly into the shuttle.

"It means that at some point the boundaries that confine the space continium fell away and my shuttle was transported through them."

Annika's clear blue eyes indicated she was still confused.

"I am from an alternate universe."

The eyebrows rose instantly to her hairline. "That's impossible. Right Lewis?"

"Ah...not exactly." Lewis frowned as though trying to remember a lecture from his Academy days. "If I recall correctly, it is quite feasible- under the right conditions."

"Apparently, the conditions were right. Now, I must recreate them."

"That, I know, is not possible."

Seven glanced up from the console and surveyed her alternate self and fiancee. "Where I come from, you don't say something is not possible without having the correct knowledge of the situation first. You do not have the correct knowledge or understanding to give me advice." Without another word to them, she knelt beside a panel in the back of the shuttle and began to reconfigure the isolinear chips.

Lewis left without saying a word, but Annika dropped to have a seat on the floor beside Seven. "I'm curious. What is your life like? Why do you live in the Delta Quadrant?"

Seven didn't glance up. "I was assimilated at the age of six and remained Borg for nearly twenty years. Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew removed my Borg implants and have tried to integrate me into the ship as a member of their crew." She plunked a chip on the floor. "They have failed." Standing quickly, the former Borg moved to the controls again. She could understand the language of the stars, but she did not know exactly how to go about recreating the scenario.

"How did you get to the Delta Quadrant? That's where you're from, right?"

Seven gave a short nod. "Yes. My mother and father were scientists on board the Raven which was on a scientific mission at the time of the attack."

"The Raven....." Annika searched her memory for why that was important. "My family was supposed to be on that mission, but mother and father decided to not go at the last minute. Mother found out she had been diagnosed with full body cancer. They stayed here so she could be treated."

Seven laid her hands on the console. She wasn't an expert at this. She needed help. "I need help."

"What can I do?"

Seven fought the strange urge to roll her eyes. "Get Ensign Harry Kim on the communications relay. He has assisted me in astrometrics and should be able to help me regarding this experiment."

Annika ran back to the house to quickly finish the task. Seven turned back to her console.

Minutes later, Annika returned with Lewis on her heels. "Ahem.." She was uncertain of what to call the woman wearing her face.

Seven looked up. "My designation is Seven of Nine. You may call me Seven."

"Ah, yes. Well,..Seven,...I have some bad news." Annika knelt down to where Seven was rerouting the power couplings. "I contacted Starfleet and they've informed me that Ensign Kim was killed in a conflict on the Cardassian border two years ago."

Seven didn't blink as she stared at the girl. Harry Kim, the one who knew the most of space anomalies was dead. "Get Captain Kathryn Janeway." She finally instructed. Janeway had been a scientist before she became a captain, Seven knew. Hopefully, this Janeway had followed the same path.

* =/\= *

"Captain, I'm not an expert on space anomalies," Tom began from his place at the helm, "But would you look at this?"

"What are you doing? Watching the stars?" Chakotay exclaimed gripping the arms of his chair as the ship lurched under the attack of the Durons. "You should be flying the ship!"

"What is it, Lieutenant?" Janeway bit out moving to stand behind him as she held fast to the console.

Tom's fingers jabbed at the numerical data streaming past the lower portion of the screen as he made a quick course adjustment. "Working on avoiding being hit, sir."

"Tuvok-" Janeway was cut off as the other ship launched another brigade of phasers on them.

"I am firing at will." Tuvok stated anticipating her question.

"Harry, are you picking up anything in grid 294 point 27?"

Harry bent over the data to the left of his console. The other ship, on the right, had been the focus of his attention. "Yes. It looks like it's some sort of space rift. Initiating scanning sequence." A moment later, he looked up startled. "Captain, it's artificial and looks to be a rift in the space time continium."

"Captain," B'Elanna's voice came over the comm system insistently. "We're experiencing minor systems shut downs. Be prepared for some operations to not work."

"Understood, B'Elanna." The captain turned around. "What can you tell me about this rift?" Janeway stumbled back to her seat and nearly fell into it.

"It's approximately three years old and appears to be the Duron's territory."

"Shields are down to 88 percent." Tuvok announced from his station.

"Their military experiment...." Janeway frowned and brushed a short strand of hair back impatiently as the ship's deck pitched again. "Can you get a lock on where or when this rift leads?"

"Negative." Harry blinked in surprise as the dot on his sensors suddenly disappeared. "Captain, it's gone." He reached a hand over to another panel to access the video playback of the outside view of the ship. Eyebrows flew to the top of his head as the rift glowed white hot before vanishing into a dark blue core. "Captain, I believe I have found Seven."

Janeway straightened up and twisted around in her chair. "Where?"

"In the rift."

"You think she was pulled in?"

At Harry's nod, Janeway turned back to the view screen and pondered her next move.

"Captain, they're hailing us."

"On screen."

Janeway stood and planted her hands on her hips as she glared at the Duron captain who offered visual and audio this time. The Duron solider, a stocky built man with pallid skin glared back.

"Have you had enough, Voyager?"

"We only ask that you allow us to retrieve one of our crew members who has been pulled into the space rift. Perhaps there is a compromise that can be reached by both of our parties." She ignored her first officer's confused glance.

"No!" The Duron leaned forward. "That rift is the key to my power. We will be able to travel a great distance and conquer a very distant land with it. If you were to damage it in any way, our take over may not be possible."

So much for Picard's way of doing it, Janeway thought. "Fine." She growled. "We will get our crew member back. With or without your permission."

"You will fail. You will be destroyed first."

The view screen suddenly went dark as the transmission was cut off.

"Tom, continue evasive maneuvers." Janeway sighed wearily as she stumbled across the bridge as another round of phasers caused the floor to shake under her feet. "Tuvok, return fire!"

"Captain, I have a suggestion." Harry's voice could hardly be heard over the din of phasers attempting to slice through their shields.

"What is it?"

"Our shields will protect us, but their shields are set to a varying frequency which allows some energy to enter. If we destroy the rift, their shields would be overloaded and they would be destroyed."

"We would lose any chance of helping Seven." Janeway shook her head.

"I'll go in a shuttle. The moment I have her and am back in Voyager's shields, you can destroy it."

"How do you plan to retrieve her?"

Harry smiled softly. "If I know Seven, she's half way back right now."

Seven glanced briefly at the data chip before throwing it against a wall in a brief fit of anger. Drawing in a deep breath, she calmed herself and retrieved the chip. Emotions were illogical. There was not reason for her to become discouraged.

"Can I be of assistance?"

The former Borg started at the sound of her captain's voice. "Captain!"

"Lieutenant Commander Kathryn Janeway-Tighe." The woman smiled warmly at Seven from the entrance to the shuttlecraft. "I couldn't resist coming immediately to meet you when I received the encrypted message informing me that you were from an alternate universe."

"Captain, I-"

"Call me Kathryn. I'm not a captain, after all. I decided to stay away from the command track." Blue eyes twinkled with laughter. "Justin didn't like the idea of me being his commanding officer and since my love has always been science, I stayed."

Seven merely raised an eyebrow at the woman's friendliness. "You are not like your counterpart."

Kathryn Janeway-Tighe came to kneel beside Seven as they ran over the data that would have to be recreated. They worked in silence for awhile before Janeway-Tighe's curiosity got the best of her.

"You said I'm not like her. How so?"

Seven glanced briefly at the woman leaning back on her heels. Long brown hair had been pulled free of the clip and now fell in loose waves about her face. Her Starfleet uniform sported the standard blue tunic and gray shoulders customary of the medical and science tracks (of present Alpha Quadrant) instead of red shoulders and a gray tunic for command levels. This Kathryn was more open with people, Seven couldn't help but think. "She is a captain, you are not." Seven leaned back down to her work, but glanced up again as Janeway-Tighe's laughter filled the shuttle's cabin.

"Of course I knew that!" She brushed a stray strand of hair impatiently from her face. "Tell me why you say her and my personalities are different. What is Justin like out there?"

"Captain Janeway is not married." Janeway-Tighe's face grew pale as the shock registered on her features. Seven hesitated. "I have heard through the rumors on the ship that her first fiancee was killed in a shuttle craft accident with her father."

Janeway-Tighe took a deep breath. "In the Tau Ceti system. My fiancee, Justin, my father, and myself were testing a new ship. We crashed, and I was thrown clear of the wreckage. To make a long story short, I saved Justin at my father's insistence." Teary blue eyes met Seven's. "I've never fully forgiven myself for losing Daddy, but I've never regretted saving Justin either."

Seven nodded briefly and turned back to the console. "I believe all of the damage to the power couplings have been repaired."

"Good." Kathryn brushed the tears from her eyes and stood up. Seven followed the older woman to stand at a console and access the logs to determine exactly what would have to be recreated.

"The captain is a lonely person."

"What?"

"Captain Janeway." Seven ran her hand laced with Borg implants over the console again. "It appears that a rift from my space to yours was recorded at exactly 1547:38 hours."

"That can't be recreated." Janeway-Tighe glanced over the information. "Wait. I've seen this before. We're studying it right now over at the science labs." Her eyes grew wide. "The Duron." Janeway-Tighe grabbed Seven's arm. "They're trying to open a rift from their universe to ours. Starfleet believes they wish to attempt to take over our system."

Seven pondered the thought for a moment. "You say they have been trying? It appears they have succeeded and my relocation is the result."

"Right." Janeway-Tighe straightened up and blew a wisp of hair from her eyes. "It's been happening almost at a regular interval for the past two weeks, but it's been around for almost three years. Starfleet is close to completely shutting it down, but before that can happen, we need to get you back through it. Although, there may be a risk of you running into the Durons."

"It's a risk I'll have to take." Seven decided quickly. "Help me reroute the main power supply through the alternate computer grid." She paused before continuing on their former subject of the captain. "It has been my observation while on Voyager that most humans have a close group of associates. The captain is an exception. Her only consorts, to the best of my knowledge, are the Chief of Security, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, and her first officer, Chakotay."

"Lieutenant Commander Tuvok? He's a Vulcan." Janeway-Tighe wrinkled her nose in distaste. "I have nothing against Vulcans. In fact, one of my colleagues, Lieutenant Vorik, is one. But I've met Tuvok." She shuddered. "And Chakotay? Didn't he join the Maquis after he dropped out of Starfleet? I dated him for quite a while we were in the Academy, but we broke up when he left." Janeway-Tighe shook her head. "My counter-part must be very different from myself."

Seven nodded. "She is." The younger woman glanced down at the console again. Captain Janeway was indeed very different from Lt. Janeway-Tighe. And right now, Seven wanted to be back in the Delta Quadrant with the crew of Voyager.

* =/\= *

Seven quickly glanced around the fields of Georgia and then at Kathryn Janeway-Tighe, Annika Henson, and Lewis McNeil. he s"Thank you for your assistance." She said in near monotone.

Annika wrapped her in an tight hug. Stepping back, they regarded each other with neutral blue eyes. "It was interesting meeting....well, myself."

"Indeed." Seven almost smiled.

Lewis shifted awkwardly to another foot. "Sorry I confused you with Annika." He said. Then, sticking out his hand, he grinned at her. Seven stared at the hand as though it was a snake. "Shake it." Lewis instructed.

Seven hesitantly put her hand in his and watched as they moved up and down. "This is a frivolous action with no purpose."

"Seven, you need to lighten up some." Kathryn came forward and wrapped the younger woman in a hug of friendship. "Go back now. But, don't forget us here. I think that you're more human than you give yourself credit for."

Seven lifted an eyebrow as she pulled away. "I do not believe so, Lieutenant."

Janeway-Tighe rolled her eyes. "I told you. Kathryn!" She laughed and gave Seven a light push towards the shuttle. "Get going now or you'll miss your transport to the next universe."

Seven stepped up to the door of the shuttle. Glancing over her shoulder, she gave them a brief nod. "Thank you Annika, Lewis....Kathryn."

Janeway-Tighe's face stretched in a smile as she waved to the younger woman. "I don't envy my counterpart." She whispered thinking of how much trouble Seven could be.

Once inside, Seven took her place in the pilot's seat and initiated the launching sequences. Within minutes, she was gliding toward the place where Lt. Janeway-Tighe had informed her the rift would be.

At the designated coordinates, Seven was not surprised to find a piece of the space fabric already exhibiting the searing white light she had barely glimpsed of last time. Plotting a course directly into the rift, Seven blinked as she flew in, and knew no more.

* =/\= *

Harry Kim's hands trembled as he initiated the pre-launch sequences in the small shuttle. He was still shaking from standing up to the captain about flying alone. There was no reason for there to be two people, he had pointed out. It would either work or not. Risking two people's lives was not necessary. But she was adamant. No crew member of hers would be allowed to take place in a solo mission.

Harry watched as Tom manned the pilot's seat and gently eased the last remaining shuttle off the docking floor and into the vastness of space.

"Voyager to shuttle."

Harry jumped in his seat and quickly took a deep breath to calm himself as Tom watched half amused. "Kim here." He said as his fingers hit the comm button.

"Just making sure you're still with us." Janeway's face smiled at him encouragingly. "Lieutenant Brackwell says that the rift is preparing to open and the Durons are closing it. Stick close to our hull."

"Aye, Captain." Tom answered. "Ten four!" He closed the comm link much to Harry's surprise.

"Ten four?"

"Old earth expression." Tom grinned.

"Ten four?" Janeway's brow erupted in wrinkles.

"I think he was saying 'Paris out' in twentieth century earth terms." McKenna Brackwell offered from her Ops station.

Janeway merely raised her eyebrows and exchanged a smile with Chakotay, who was at the conn, as she turned back to the view screen.

"Shields are at 74 percent." Tuvok offered quickly.

Janeway felt her stomach tighten as she gripped the arms of her chair. What kind of captain was she to allow a tiny shuttle craft to run around in the mayhem of a small battle?

"The rift is open." Brackwell interrupted her thoughts.

"Is there a shuttle?"

McKenna frowned as she glanced over her readings. "Yes. The other shuttle is moving into position also."

"Good." Janeway held her breath.

"Maneuvering so the shuttle is on our starboard side." Chakotay said glancing to the port side of the screen and the Duron ship.

"Port shield is down." Lt. Brackwell added. "The shuttle is moving closer to the rift."

"The Duron ship is still firing." Tuvok stated unnecessarily as the ship lurched. "I am returning with phaser fire."

"Just stall them until we get our shuttle back."

Kim's heart jumped in his throat at the sight of the tiny blue dot that appeared on his sensors. "She's just exiting the rift!" He exclaimed excitedly, his eyes peering through the front window of the shuttle.

"We'll be there in just a minute." Tom urged the shuttle to go a little faster knowing that all precious seconds were being counted.

"If you could hurry it up a little, we'd be very appreciative, gentlemen." Janeway's voice came over the comm as she was thrown against the back of her chair.

"Trying, Captain. Beam her out of there and let's get out of here!" Tom shouted at his friend.

"Already doing it." Harry turned around and watched as an unconscious, but unhurt Seven appeared.

"We're outta here!" Tom spun the shuttle in a quick one hundred and eighty degree turn as they raced toward Voyager.

"The shuttle has safely reached our shields." Lt. Brackwell nodded at Tuvok.

Tuvok glanced at Janeway. She closed her eyes for a moment. "Could we out run them?"

"Negative." Chakotay turned around from his helm position. "B'Elanna isn't able to give me anything more than warp 1. Our only choice is to destroy them before they finish us off."

"Shields are at 36 percent." Tuvok added. "We will still be able to withstand the explosion, but not if we continue to engage in the battle."

Janeway brought her hands down on the arms of her chair with a dull thud. She hated to destroy them and the rift, but there was no choice.

"Destroy the rift."

The bridge crew turned to see a weak Seven, propped up by Kim and Paris, enter the bridge.

"They are trying to take over the Alpha Quadrant." She added and then looked Janeway straight in the eye. "You told me so yourself."

Janeway hesitated only briefly before nodding to Tuvok. The view screen showed two small beacons of yellow light bursting from their ship before it hit the rift. The explosion was a spectacular display of whites and pinks and blues as the rift opened wide and then disappeared into a nothingness. After the episode was over a silence fell across the bridge. "I'm detecting no Duron ships." Chakotay finally broke the stillness.

Janeway nodded once. "Seven, report to the Doctor for an evaluation. Tom, take the helm and plot a course for the Alpha Quadrant. Warp 6. Continue scans for M-class planets."

* =/\= *

Captain Janeway stepped into the dark interior of cargo bay 2. Walking with a determined stride over to the Borg alcove, she depressed a button and stepped back.

Seven blinked several times and then tilted her head to the side as she took a step down. "Captain?"

"I wanted to check up on you." Janeway smiled briefly. "How are you faring after being to the Alpha Quadrant?"

"I am fine." Seven answered.

Janeway took a deep breath. "In your report, you mentioned that you met my counter-part. What was I like? You only called me 'the captain's counter-part.' Did I have the title of 'captain'?"

The curiosity in the captain's eyes was not missed by Seven. "No." Seven hesitated only a minute. "I met Lieutenant Commander Kathryn Janeway-Tighe. A science officer." Janeway's eyes grew wide in shock at the revelation. "In Tau Ceti system, you chose to save your fiancee instead of your father."

Janeway shook her head. "I regret that I was unable to save them," she admitted. "But I am glad that in the end, I didn't' save one and not the other." She looked at the former Borg. "I am also glad I chose command track instead of staying with science. If I hadn't, I would not have had the opportunity to serve on a ship with this family. Although none of us were too happy about being thrown 70,000 light years across the galaxy, we've come to accept this crew as a family. And personally, I wouldn't want to have not served as this crew's captain."

~ * =/\=* ~

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