As the light faded the room seemed to be spinning all around her. The only thing that felt constant was the surface she appeared to be sitting on now. Her hands gripped the edge of it, hoping it would keep her still.
She heard a voice, "... two weeks. We'll be back before the holidays end."
The voice was familiar to her, and thankfully the room was slowing down.
"I'm not sure my folks will be happy if I ditched them at Christmas," another familiar voice said.
Kathryn focused on the voice, that seemed to work well. The room was now only a blur, there was a figure in sitting in her view.
"It's just once, and the night life is supposed to be the best. Kathryn agrees with me," the first voice said. Kathryn didn't dare turn her head towards the other voice in case the room span again. "Kath? You okay?"
"Yeah, just thinking," she replied.
The second voice seemed to scoff. "I thought this was a cultural visit. You know to see all the ruins, castles, churches."
"That's what I told my parents, and it isn't totally a lie," the first voice said playfully.
The figure grew more detailed, finally she recognised who she was sitting with. A quick glance between them as they argued and Kathryn knew exactly when and where she was. The two girls were her friends from High School, they drifted apart once they graduated and left to do different things. Now she felt like what Admiral Janeway must have felt like. Twenty nine years. When you said I'd be re-living my life, you weren't kidding Q. This better be just a joke.
The girl who the first voice belonged to turned her head Kathryn's way. "So, what do you think Kath?"
Kathryn was very grateful that a full cup sat in front of her, she reached for it as quickly as possible. "I... I don't know." A giant sip of the cup soothed her, if only for a moment.
"Come on, it'll be fun. We'll go sight seeing; universities, old cities, bars, castles. You know, all the touristy stuff," the first girl smiled.
The second girl gave her a suspicious stare, "what was the third one?"
"Cities," the first girl improvised.
Kathryn tried her best to remember this conversation and how it went, but it wasn't particularly memorable. I should keep things exactly as they are until I figure out what does need changing. "Where are we going exactly?" She raised her drink again, catching a blurry reflection on the rim of the cup. It was too distorted to see if she looked the same or not.
The first girl groaned into her hand. "Duh, England."
"She said exactly," the second girl said as she nudged her with her elbow.
She was right, but that was enough to jog her memory. Her friends, Daisy and Natalie decided to take advantage of their last Christmas together before graduation split all three of them up, by going away to England. Kathryn had turned them down so she could study. Starfleet Academy was her top priority then and she couldn't afford the time off, even at Christmas. She relaxed a little. This felt like a decision that wouldn't destroy the timeline. Then another thought came to her. It isn't small though. This decision may have helped her pass the entry exams. Going with them may change that and further down the line she wouldn't get command of Voyager. Maybe this was it after all.
"There's no hurry Daisy, Kathy hasn't finished her first cup yet so I have time to persuade you both," the first girl smiled deviously.
Kathryn barely heard her. Q did tell her that she'd have to make a sacrifice, maybe giving up Voyager was the sacrifice. She had no way of knowing. Q hadn't given her enough information. He did say he'd take her within a week of the decision. She tried to think of anything that may have happened while her two friends were away. Her sigh created a tiny tidal wave in her cup. I may as well be trying to remember what I had for breakfast nearly thirty years ago.
"All you want to do is go to bars and get drunk without worrying about parents," the second girl, Daisy said.
"Come on!" the first girl, Natalie whined. "We've been trapped in school since forever, next year we'll be going off to Academies or jobs. Then before we know it, we'll be tied down with babies and hubbies that'll never let us go. This is our only chance."
Something about that second sentence made Kathryn twinge a little, she had no idea why. She never had either of those things. Starfleet was first on her list and she had been engaged a few times, both ending in different but brutal ways. Then Voyager and her crew were her only concern. There wasn't time for anything or anyone else. She did remember the sting when Admiral Janeway told her that Chakotay and Seven would marry in the future. It was absurd to her as it came out of nowhere, but she put that down to jealousy.
"That's comforting," Daisy muttered.
Still that wasn't it. It just felt like to her that Natalie's entire argument had been nudged into her arm, with a hint hint on the end. Why? The holiday was the only lead but it didn't sit right with her. She expected something a lot more dramatic, especially with what she had seen. How was her following her two seventeen year old friends into bars going to repair cracks in the timeline? Now I know you're having a good laugh, Q. What choice do I have though?
"Why not," she said aloud, surprising both of her friends. Natalie's soon wore off and she smiled broadly.
"Well it must be a good idea if Kath is onboard," she said in Daisy's direction. She only sighed and shrugged. A slight nod later told her she was onboard as well.
Kathryn was regretting this already.
The room was spinning once again. This time though it wasn't a huge backward jump through time. It was the result of Natalie's insistence of drinking a cocktail in every pub they ended up in.
Kathryn leaned on the bar, hoping it would keep her from falling over. That was probably the only coherent thought she had. The future, the temporal paradoxes and rifts, Q, all of that was just a blur, like a bad dream. For a moment she'd forgotten she was supposed to be a seventeen year old girl on holiday. When she remembered all she could do was laugh at how ridiculous that was. She didn't notice a man approach her.
"Hello," his voice startled her.
"Who?" she stuttered, looking around for the source of the voice, even though it was right beside her. When she spotted him she had to crank her neck to see his face. He towered over her until he sat down on the bar stool. Then he was just slightly taller than her.
"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked. She noticed his dark eyes, dark hair... dark almost everything. Even his smile was a little unnerving, not that she'd given him the satisfaction of showing it.
"I'm not that drunk," she snorted.
The man didn't look offended in the least. He just chuckled. "No, you'd have to be to find that joke funny."
Kathryn briefly wondered if he'd leave her alone if she told him she was really a woman in her forties, reliving her youth to fix a temporal paradox. It would still be funnier than his so called joke.
"Sorry, the other guys were using that line on some of the girls in here and they'd fall for it," the man seemed a little annoyed. Is he serious? Maybe I should tell him I'm twenty years older than him. "I'm just glad there's a little class in this place."
She'd have to be a lot drunker to even believe him let alone fall for that. "Really? Does that work?" Kathryn turned so she could face him but she stumbled back, luckily landing on the stool behind her. She cursed inwardly for that. At least now she was able to get a better look at the buffoon sitting next to her. To her surprise the smile she had thought was unnerving was warm and a little charming. It suited him, he looked almost handsome. Damn, good thing I'm not a silly teenager anymore. She'd forgotten already, her face blushed. Nah!
"You're not from here, are you?" he asked.
Kathryn didn't dare shake her head in case it made the room spin again. "No."
"What's your name?" he smiled that smile again.
"Kath..." she had to stop herself, that smile was intoxicating. Stupid alcohol. Stupid teenage hormones. She didn't want him to know her real name, but it was a little too late now. "ey... Kathy er..." She spotted Natalie nearby trying to get poor Daisy to down a couple of shots. The drink was playing with her memory too, all she had to do was think of a surname. It came to her. "Williams."
"Hmm, that's a pretty name," the man said. "I'm Peter Taylor. Nice to meet you."
Somehow she knew this man was trouble, but at the same time he seemed nice enough. I can handle him if he gets too flirty. No problem.
Kathryn didn't need to hear the results, she could see it in her older cousin's face. All she could think about was how she got into this mess.
"Well actually, it kind of depends on what you did there," her cousin said eventually.
That was still under debate, Kathryn thought. She remembered going on holiday with her friends to England, she remembered the beginning of the first party, as well as the rest of the holiday. That particular night in question was blurred and hazy, but unfortunately she could remember the basics of it.
What she couldn't remember was why she had wanted to go in the first place. Studying for the Academy entry exams was all she wanted to do over the holidays. Why had she gone? That decision had been stolen from her mind. She didn't like that one bit.
"What are you going to do?" her cousin asked her.
"Nothing," was her first answer. Eventually she answered with a better one, "I guess I have someone to see."
"You do realise you may miss the entry exams. They may even ask you to wait until..." her cousin reminded her.
Kathryn nodded. "I realise that."
"This will seriously delay your career in Starfleet. Are you sure..." her cousin again tried to talk her out of it.
Kathryn felt oddly determined though. She was never one to shy away from a challenge. It was not like this had never happened to anyone before. A small smile crept onto her lips. "I'm sure. Just remember what you said when I'm the youngest Captain in Starfleet. I'll be sure to remind you if you don't."
Her cousin smiled and eventually laughed alongside her. "Not even death would stop you. What was I thinking?"
Kathryn just smiled back. Truthfully she still felt a little scared about what was to come. The decision she made two months ago may well have changed her life forever. Why couldn't she remember making it? It was the only thing truly bothering her.
Her bags were packed once again. She stood in between them, staring straight at the front door. She couldn't bring herself to go any further. This felt very wrong to her, she had thought about it more than enough over the last two years. It really was the right thing to do.
A tap at the door brought her back to Earth. Her hand reached for the door, she noticed it was trembling as she did so. To her relief her cousin Leanne was on the other side of the door, smiling warmly.
"Hey Kath, I heard," her voice was sympathetic.
Kathryn's throat closed up, the tears were threatening to appear. "Yeah, I said I'd do it but I can't."
Leanne's face fell, her hand clasped her cousin's shoulder. "Then don't. Take him with you."
"I heard that," a voice behind Kathryn said. Kathryn tensed a little and Leanne tried her best not to scowl as Peter Taylor walked over to the pair.
"I'll... just go and say bye to him," Kathryn said through her hoarse voice.
"He's asleep, I doubt he'll be able to hear you," Peter said, almost breaking into a smirk.
Kathryn caught it in the corner of her eye. Her body once again told her what she was doing was wrong. The smile he now had on his face reminded her of the night she met him. It reminded her how easily it was for him to lie and pretend to be something he was not. She could never remember why she had decided to go on that trip. All that she did remember was that at the time it seemed like an important decision. All of these thoughts brought back a question she had long forgotten.
"Leanne, can you give us five minutes?" she asked.
Leanne nodded, "sure. I'll wait outside."
"No, you shouldn't be standing outside at this time. The living room is fine," Peter said, gesturing to the door behind him.
"Oh, so there's a nice side to you being sexist," Leanne said in a mocking tone.
Kathryn was surprised to see he was a little offended at that remark. It made her feel a little better now that his smile was wiped off. "I'm not," he muttered.
"Uh huh," Leanne wasn't convinced. She gave her cousin a nod as she walked by the pair.
"So, second thoughts?" Peter questioned her.
That smile was back. It gave her the boost she needed to ask him. "What happened that night?"
She knew he would but it still annoyed her when he laughed in her face. "Did mummy and daddy not teach you about the birds and the bees?"
"I'm serious," Kathryn said, arming her best death glare. He was strangely the only one unaffected by it. Not that strange, she thought, he always had that men are better attitude. "I didn't want to be there, at all. I don't remember choosing to go there, but I did. I'll never figure that one out..."
"I assume you were drunk before you even packed your bags for that holiday," Peter sniggered.
Kathryn almost growled. "I'm not that woman. I don't do things I don't want to do, and I certainly don't get drunk and spend the night with the devil." She got another expected laugh, this one though chilled her to the bone. "I can barely remember the details after the introductions. Just tell me, I'm leaving anyway. What does it matter now?"
Peter's face turned a little serious. "You're right. It doesn't matter."
"I meant it doesn't matter to you," Kathryn grumbled. "You knew exactly what you were doing that night, despite being married already."
"Please, you know Susy and I were having problems," Peter said.
Kathryn was surprised he even admitted that. "That doesn't give you the right..."
"This isn't about rights..." Peter said.
Kathryn scoffed and muttered to herself, "you're not wrong there."
Peter used that smile that always unnerved her. "This is about legacy, blood, family, traditions. I don't expect a selfish Starfleet brat like you to understand that." He looked down at her two bags before smiling back at her, even more creepy than usual. "Let me get those for you."
Kathryn only stared after him as he carried her bags out of the house, her eyes felt so wide they started to water a little. "Leanne," she managed to say.
Her cousin only just heard her, she walked out of the living room and into the passage with her. "Kath. You ready?"
"Almost," Kathryn replied as she glanced back at her cousin. Leanne recognised that look. That look always resulted in Kathryn doing something impulsive, crazy, and sometimes controversial. Kathryn used it towards the door, at least she assumed she did. "Once we're outside, I may need your help with something."
"What?" Leanne asked warily.
Kathryn shrugged casually as she looked back to her cousin. "I just forgot something, that's all." The smile Leanne got confirmed what she was thinking. She couldn't help but smile back.
"It's only going to be a few weeks. Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
Kathryn heard a laugh behind her. It didn't make her feel any better. She looked at her case lying on her bed. The next thing to go in was her lucky coffee cup.
"Of course. I'm going to talk to strangers, steal their sweets. Oh and I won't tell you but I'll probably invite the whole town to the house. What could go wrong?"
"Wow, the sarcasm metre just blew up," Kathryn muttered to herself. The cup was now carefully wrapped up in so much paper, the cup looked three times its usual size. She turned around once that was safely packed in between some clothes. "I'm sure you could have gone further though."
She got a shrug as her answer. "Probably," the young man in front of her said anyway.
"It doesn't matter if you're two, twenty two or a hundred and two. I'm still going to be looking out for you," Kathryn said, arming a fake scowl. "You haven't escaped me yet."
"I dunno," he smirked. "You've got your own ship now. You won't want to come back."
He didn't mean it to but the last sentence gave her a heavy feeling in her chest. It wasn't long after her father died in the line of duty that she decided to quit Starfleet. She didn't want to put anyone else through what she went through. He had talked, or rather argued her out of it. She smiled slightly, she never thought her stubbornness could be beaten. Just as well.
"And then what? You'd hang around the house cooking and cleaning? You'd hate that. I'd hate that." He smiled and looked out of the window. "I don't want you to someday hate me for it either."
Kathryn remembered toying with the same decision when she took him back to Indiana. In the end she decided that it would be better for him to set an example, to give him someone to look up to. Somebody to be proud of. However the cost was too great. Losing her father almost destroyed her, she couldn't do that to him.
"I chose to have you," she struggled to say through a hoarse throat. "... and I chose to defy your father by bringing you home with me. I'd never blame you, understand? I just don't want you coming home to find a faceless Starfleet officer on the doorstep, waiting to tell you the bad news."
"I'd rather be proud of you for doing something you love, than come home everyday to see you miserable... cos of me," he had said. There was no winning with this boy. He had even said that to her face, not whilst staring at the window. He was deadly serious, and right.
She couldn't believe that she had been beaten by a kid as well. That thought filled her with more pride than she would admit to.
"It'll probably be made out of coffee knowing you," he said.
Kathryn looked up at him with worry. Had he been talking this whole time? Her face went a little red. "What, what will?"
The boy in front of her laughed briefly. "I knew the C word would do it." He shook his head. "You were thousands of lightyears away."
There was that feeling in her chest again. "Sorry, I just... What would be made out of coffee?"
"Everything probably," he smiled. "Sorry, you're going to be late transferring to USS Nescafe if you start thinking about that."
"It's Voyager," Kathryn pretended to scold him. "It's strange. It's a new ship but when I looked around it felt... familiar."
She got a shrug. "Inside all the Starfleet ships look the same."
"I suppose," Kathryn sighed. It wasn't just the corridors of the ship; its name, the specifications of it, the tour she was given, the people she met. Kathryn couldn't help feeling she had heard and done it all before. Obviously she hadn't. Voyager was her first command and it was fresh out of Utopia Planetia, more or less a new class as well. She never got nervous when assigned to new vessels, so that wasn't it. The mission itself wasn't out of the ordinary or particularly difficult. What was making her feel so uneasy? "Last chance, come," she found herself blurting out.
"I can't," he looked uneasy too.
Kathryn sighed. He was a boy in his early twenties. A boy that age didn't want mummy crowding him. He wanted, no needed some freedom. "All right. I'll see you in a few weeks." Her chest got even heavier, it was really starting to annoy her not knowing what it meant. She tried to shake it off. "Be good."
As she expected she got his usual smirk, "I won't."
It wasn't her first deep space mission and it wouldn't be her last. So why did it feel that way?
Kathryn thought she misheard. Her eyes widened and the blood drained from her face. The oddest part was the feeling that this had happened before.
"We're on the other side of the galaxy," Harry couldn't believe it either.
She felt like such a liar, not that she planned this or had any idea that this would happen. That's what she thought though. When she stared at the array on the viewscreen in front of her, she felt a twinge of familiarity. How could this be?
The memory faded into the black she was staring at through her Ready Room window. She had sensed somebody walk into her office, silently waiting for her to finish. A brief glance to her left told her who it was.
"Are you all right, Captain?" he asked.
"Yes Tuvok, fine," she lied to him. He wasn't going to fall for that, but why not try?
As she expected he approached her. "I checked the crew manifest, your son isn't listed."
"He's twenty one, Mr Tuvok, I didn't..." Kathryn almost hissed in response.
Tuvok stood by her side. "He was twenty on your last mission when he joined you. This is the first one you haven't brought him."
Kathryn bitterly smiled, "isn't that ironic?" Tuvok only responded by raising his eyebrow. She turned to face him. "I'll be fine Tuvok, really. It's him I'm worried about. In a few weeks Starfleet will consider us lost and he'll..." her throat almost closed up, stopping her from finishing her sentence.
"You've raised him well, he will be fine. He'll survive," Tuvok said.
Kathryn's bitter smile grew, she fought the tears in her eyes. "Seventy years! I won't even be here, let alone..." she sighed to stop herself. "I thought it would be two weeks and I'd be back, there was no point in disrupting his life to bring him. Just one mission I leave him behind. Now I will never see him again. It's almost like someone's playing a joke on me." She turned back towards the window to stare at the stars no Human had seen before. "On all of us. The good thing is he doesn't have to be trapped here."
"Indeed," Tuvok agreed.
Kathryn stared at one particular star, it was a lot closer than the others. "The weirdest part is that ever since I've been here, ever since Kim said those words, I've had the strangest feeling of déjà vu."
Tuvok's eyebrow sprung up even higher. "Déjà vu, Captain?"
"I had a feeling the Kazon would attack the array, I recognised the Ocampan homeworld. Meeting the Neelix character made me think I should lock the door to the Mess Hall, then he asked to join the ship," Kathryn replied. Tuvok didn't know what to make of that. "I've done this before, but..." Her head shook, "they say déjà vu is literally you doing the same thing again, only you don't remember doing it before, hence the strange feeling. Getting stuck in the Delta Quadrant, this couldn't have happened before."
"The Kazon wanted access to the Underground, the planet could have looked like another you'd seen. The Mr Neelix one seems like what Humans would call common sense," Tuvok said.
Kathryn couldn't help but smile. He made perfect sense but she couldn't shake that feeling away. The only thing that was different was this conversation. Everything from the moment that wave tossed Voyager into the Delta Quadrant, in fact even the start of the mission, was familiar to her. Most of the time she didn't know what would happen, but when it did it felt so obvious that it would. She'd get feelings that some stuff would happen, for example she knew that Neelix would turn her personal galley into something horrible. It hadn't happened yet but she couldn't help feeling that it would. For now she hoped that Tuvok was right and she could concentrate on finding any shortcut home. For her crew's sake, for her son's sake.
Captain's Log Stardate 51129.8: We are responding to a distress call from a system only ten minutes away at warp nine. They describe a cube shaped ship approaching and then the transmission cuts out. Cube can only mean one thing, so I've called for Red Alert and Battle Stations. I only hope that we can make it in time.
The Ready Room doors opened, Kathryn hurried out of them. "Report!"
Chakotay looked across at her just as he climbed to his feet. "We're entering orbit now. No sign of Borg activity."
Kathryn's face paled, "we're too late?" Her attention turned to her Opps officer. "Where did the distress call come from, Mr Kim?"
"The Western continent. There seems to be no sign of any damage," Harry answered as he worked. Like everyone else he looked a little relieved. A different panel got his attention, it beeped several times at him. "We're being hailed."
"On screen," Kathryn ordered.
Harry nodded while Chakotay took a step closer to Kathryn. He leaned in close to whisper, "is this one familiar?"
Kathryn shook her head. "No." Before she could say anything else the viewscreen switched to show an alien man sitting behind a desk. "Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the USS Voyager. Can we be of assistance?"
The alien man bowed his head. "Captain Janeway, thank you for answering our call for help. However the strange object has already left."
"Was it a ship?" Tom butted in before anyone else could ask the same thing.
The alien man frowned. "When it landed we tried desperately to communicate with it or scan it. Nothing was getting through. All we got was strange energy rea..."
"Wait, it landed?" Chakotay said in disbelief.
"Definitely not familiar," Kathryn whispered to him.
"Yes. It landed in the middle of the city," the alien answered.
Harry glanced down to double check his readings, he got even more confused. "There's no damage though. How?"
"We do not know," the alien man replied with the same confused look. "An object that size and where it landed, should have decimated the city. It landed and left. It was very strange."
"The Borg have certainly changed their tune," Tom commented.
The alien man shook his head, "this wasn't the Borg. Whatever it was, was made entirely of energy. That wasn't the strangest part though. This is why we called you, Captain."
"Oh?" Kathryn frowned.
"Our people who were within the cube's landing spot, claimed that they were transported somewhere else," the alien explained. "Not only that but when the cube left they were returned to where they were, but they were not alone." He had the entire Bridge crew in suspense by now. "The cube seemed to drop off some aliens at the same time. Most of them, matched the lifesigns on your vessel."
"Human," Harry stuttered.
Kathryn's wide eyes met with Chakotay's briefly, she looked around the Bridge at everyone who was there. They all looked a little shocked and confused, except for Tuvok who just looked curious to her.
"Yes, they said they were," the alien man said.
"How many?" Kathryn dared to ask.
"Fifty two," the alien man replied. That answer took the entire room by surprise. "We've been trying to find out if they know anything about the cube, but they would not discuss it. Their leader may be more talkative, at least I hope."
"Can we speak with him or her?" Chakotay asked.
The alien man sighed and bowed his head again. "I can arrange it, but it may take a while. He only said he wanted to make sure his people were all accounted for. He hasn't returned yet."
"A cube object lands in the middle of your city, drops off aliens, and you let them do their own thing. A bit risky, don't you think?" Tom said.
"Tom!" Kathryn warned him.
"I can assure you, we haven't. Our Security forces have done our best to round them all up, talk to them, so we can rule out an invasion. The leader, well we had no hope of stopping him. I have people keeping an eye on him but..." the alien answered.
"Once he comes back, tell him about us. We can then discuss this here. The last thing you want is more aliens beaming down," Kathryn said.
"Of course, Captain," the alien said with a smile. The viewscreen changed back to a view of the planet.
Kathryn turned on her heel to have another look around her Bridge. "Any theories?"
"Normally I'd say it was an invasion. It sounds like one," Harry replied. "We wouldn't do that though. We can't either."
"Perhaps it was some sort of vessel, only it was so advanced these aliens couldn't scan it," Chakotay suggested.
Tom turned his chair around to join in the conversation. "Or have their cities crushed by it?"
"It's still the most likely theory. Though what were Humans doing on board it?" Kathryn said. "I guess we'll get some answers soon."
The senior staff had mostly gathered around the table, two of them hadn't arrived yet. Kathryn stared out of the window as she waited for them to arrive.
"It's not like Seven to be late," Harry commented.
Tuvok's eyebrow raised, "no it is not."
"I did ask her if she knew anything about this cube," Kathryn said without turning back.
Chakotay entered the room whilst glancing behind him. He hesitated at the door, leaving it open. "Captain?"
"Uhoh, that isn't a good look," Tom said warily.
"Our guest is here," Chakotay said.
Kathryn turned her chair around so it was facing the table. She grew a little concerned as she caught the uncomfortable expression Chakotay had on his face. "That's bad, why?"
"When I did my introductions, he insisted on seeing you right away," Chakotay answered. "I'd barely got the word Voyager out of my mouth..."
"Why wouldn't he be happy to be onboard a Starfleet ship, especially when you've been kidnapped by Borg wannabes?" Tom said.
Chakotay had to resist a groan. "He already knew he was coming aboard a Starfleet ship, Tom."
"Fine, we wanted to see him anyway," Kathryn said with a shake of her head. "There's no need for this drama, Chakotay."
Chakotay didn't look so sure. "All right." He gestured his arm towards the open door. When he did somebody walked in to stand beside him. Kathryn's eyes widened immediately.
"James?" she almost stuttered.
"Mum," the newcomer said with a relieved smile.
Most of the room's eyes widened at this point. "Mum?" Tom managed to whisper.
Kathryn rushed out of her seat to greet him. The rest of the room, excluding Chakotay and Tuvok looked at the nearest person, getting more confused by the minute. The pair meanwhile hugged tightly.
"What... how are you here?" Kathryn stuttered.
When she pulled away James pulled his own awkward face, Chakotay did the same. "I could ask you the same thing. We all thought you were dead."
"That's a long story," Kathryn said through her smile. "Yours sounds like it would be more interesting."
James looked around the room, frowning as everyone stared back with shocked and confused looks on their faces. He directed it back to Kathryn. "I dunno, yours stars the creepy crew." Kathryn glanced at her staff, her smile faded. "You'd think they had never seen a Human before."
Chakotay cleared his throat, a smirk formed on his face. "Perhaps it's time, Kathryn."
Kathryn sighed, she knew he was right. She glanced briefly at James, who seemed more focused on Tom's bewildered stare. It was developing into a smirk, unlike the others. "What else is there to say? I have a son, he's here... somehow. Can we get over it?" Nobody really changed their expressions. "Why is it so shocking!?"
"You've never mentioned him," Neelix bravely piped up.
"Nobody asked," Kathryn said defensively. "It wasn't easy you know. It was just painful to mention. Tuvok has been a friend of mine for many years, so naturally he knew. Chakotay, well when we were trapped on that world for two months, it was bound to come up."
Tom finally broke into a snigger, he desperately tried to stop it. The death glare could only be seen in the corner of his eye, but it was enough to get him to quieten it down. "I'm sorry. I just thought, Seven... no wonder you took to her."
"What?" Kathryn growled.
James cringed a little, he knew what was going to happen next. He looked towards Chakotay, "coffee time, maybe?"
"Good idea," Chakotay nodded. He quickly disappeared out the nearby door.
Kathryn didn't hear this exchange, she walked slowly over to Tom. "What does that mean?"
"Um well. Blonde, creepy eyes..." Tom started to stutter. James only frowned at that comment. "She's about the same age. Oh and Harry, similar age too and you mothered him."
"Shut up Tom," B'Elanna warned.
"So, the cube. You want to know?" James quickly interrupted before Kathryn could reach Tom.
Kathryn's eyes narrowed enough to make Tom squirm, she kept them that way as she turned her back on him. "Yes, we do. I don't have to explain you, do I? Imbecile," she said the last word while looking over her shoulder. Tom winced again.
"Well remember when you told me to avoid England, just in case I ran into Dad," James said with an awkward smile. "Considering how big the place is, I liked the odds."
"Hmm," Kathryn resisted the urge to scold him.
"Well naturally I decided to go," James said. He shrugged off the brief scowl he got in return. "I heard there was erm... something in Manchester I had to check out."
"Something?" Tuvok questioned.
"Probably a girl," Tom whispered and winked at B'Elanna. She gave him the smile that told him to be careful.
"Um, I'll leave that part out," James said, cringing slightly. "Anyway I wasn't there a day when the sky turned purple. The entire city just stopped when they saw it. Next thing anybody knew a giant cube was falling from the sky."
Chakotay returned holding a large mug of coffee. Kathryn's eyes lit up briefly when he brought it over to her. He stood at her side while she sipped at it.
"So the same thing happened on Earth?" Harry's eyes widened in shock. "What happened, did the cube not destroy anything like it did here?"
James nodded. "Yeah, but that's not the weird part."
"Alien drop offs?" Neelix questioned.
"No," James answered. In the corner of his eye he saw Kathryn downing the cup, her eyes going extremely wide as she did. He quickly reached out to snatch it off her. "Jesus, you couldn't get a bigger cup Commander Chuckles?"
Chakotay looked a tad offended, "it's Chakotay." That went away when Kathryn started pouting angrily, even more so when James started to drink the rest of the cup. "You wanted her calm."
"Yes, I also wanted her sane," James said once he was done.
Most of the room had seen all of this and were again looking at James in shock. Tom of course was the first to vocalise it, "that was the most badass thing I've ever seen. No one takes Janeway's coffee off her."
"I do," James said as he pulled another frowny face at the helmsman. "Anyway..."
"I mean you should have seen what she did to Tuvok once," Tom continued anyway. He stopped when he was faced with a death glare, but not Kathryn's. It was just as effective he thought. He shrunk into his seat.
"I see he's a chip off the old block," Chakotay whispered to Kathryn.
Her pout disappeared, she instead looked proud but a little angry too. It looked to Chakotay like she was just scrunching her face.
"The cube?" Tuvok said.
James nodded, "yeah anyway..." He glared again at Tom, he shook his head in response. "The weirdest part was I should have been crushed by the thing. Instead I was transported into this plain room. There was a lone computer describing a game. It explained we had to play it or we'd die."
"That is strange," B'Elanna said. "Not just the game part. It sounds like you were transported into the ship when it landed."
"Maybe," James shrugged.
"So you don't know anymore than we do?" Harry looked a little disappointed.
"I'm not done. The game was this odd tournament beat 'em up. We won and we were dropped off back where we were," James said. "I figured somebody should report this to Starfleet, if they didn't know already, but..." He stared down at the floor with a frown.
Kathryn looked a little concerned, she placed a hand on his shoulder. "But what?"
"They put the whole city on quarantine. Nobody was allowed to contact anybody outside the city," James replied. The room again looked a little shocked, Tuvok even showed some surprise. "The exception was me. An armed team insisted I come with them. That's when it gets a little weird."
"It wasn't before?" Tom blurted it out. He winced at himself for it.
"To cut a long story short mainly due to what happened there..." James said, he gave Kathryn a glance that told her they'd talk later. "Another cube arrived, this time I stood under it on purpose. Inside this one wasn't just a game..." he paused as he thought about how to explain it. "There was an army."
"It was an invasion," Chakotay said quietly.
"Considering that everyone was let go when we won, I worried that if we did again the army would follow. So..." James said awkwardly.
"You lost," Kathryn finished for him.
James nodded with his eyes closed, he frowned as well. "It worked, the army came with us."
"How come they didn't try to stop you then?" B'Elanna asked.
"Some did. Most of them weren't aware or couldn't get to the game area. It's still not really clear," James replied.
Tuvok's eyebrow was raised again. "If this cube is a vessel, a one with an army on it, how come you didn't unleash it on this planet?"
James shook his head. "I can't tell you that. All I can say is they no longer exist."
"Why, why can't you tell us that?" Kathryn asked with concern.
"It doesn't matter," James muttered with a little anger in his voice. Kathryn was a little surprised. "I can tell you though that losing doesn't just whisk the inhabitance away with it, it's not even supposed to do that. I missed one of the cubes on another planet and saw for myself." He turned to Kathryn and lowered his voice, "I've already said way too much."
"Interesting," Tuvok said. "If I understand you correctly Starfleet do not want the general populace to know about the cubes."
"You got that from that?" Tom said in surprise.
"The quarantine, banning communication, and the hints he can't tell us everything. It was simple," Tuvok said.
B'Elanna laughed quietly, Tom gave her a hurtful look. "He's right. Though why would Starfleet do that?"
"Possibly because they do not want to alarm their people about a deadly threat," Seven said from the doorway.
"Seven?" Chakotay said.
Seven walked over to the command team and the new arrival. "The same reason the Omega Directive was secret."
Kathryn thought about scowling at her for that, but she noticed James didn't look that interested in it anyway. "What can you tell us?"
"There is no official name for these anomalies. They are simply known as Game Cubes to some races, or plainly Cubes," Seven answered. "They are not ships, although it may seem that way. The Borg have not been able to decipher exactly what they are. Most of what they learned is from other races."
"Business as usual," Harry remarked.
"What they know is exactly what our guest has told you. The simulation is won, the people inside are set free and the cube leaves. The simulation is lost, the cube destroys everything in its path, including the people it has taken," Seven said. "There is a way to save the people inside it. I assume Starfleet knew about it and told him."
"Wait," Harry said, his face whitened. "It destroys everything? You mean the second cube in Manchester..." Everyone looked over to James who was back looking at the floor, guilt was very obvious on his face. "My god."
Kathryn directed a concerned glance to James, she placed her arm around his back to comfort him. "It's not your fault. You were caught in an unwinnable situation."
"I saved the city from being slaughtered by an invading army, only to get their city ripped apart instead. I don't know what's worse," James muttered. He shook his head, "I keep telling myself the army wouldn't have stopped in Manchester, but it doesn't help."
"The Captain's right. Do the Borg know who actually is responsible for this?" Chakotay said towards Seven. He glanced briefly at Kathryn, she thanked him with a small smile.
"No, but there must be an intelligence behind it. The Borg have wanted to assimilate them for many years," Seven answered.
"I'll bet," Tom commented.
James sighed as he lifted his head back up. "We've been trying to find a way back for months. Everyone were so happy to hear about you being here. Confused naturally, but hey."
"So you know where we are?" Kathryn asked him.
James nodded, "vividly. Most Cubes land in the Delta Quadrant. Since the aliens didn't have any clue what we were, it didn't take much working out."
"Do we have room for all your friends?" Chakotay wondered out loud.
"It doesn't matter, we'll figure something out. Unless someone wants to stay we're not leaving a soul behind," Kathryn said. "The question is will another cube attack this planet, should we stay for a while?"
"There's no way to know out here," James answered.
Chakotay frowned in his direction, "out here?"
James closed his eyes and silently berated himself with a mutter. "Forget it. There isn't just Humans in my group now. There are others, all of them want to get home. I don't know what to do, none of them want to continue Game hopping now but Voyager may not be going in the right direction."
"Why don't we bring them aboard, Seven might be able to find out where they need to go," B'Elanna suggested. "If we're going that way they should come. If not..."
Kathryn nodded and smiled, "sounds like a plan." Her smile disappeared when she turned to James for confirmation. He didn't look so sure. "What? You said that they're safe whether they win or lose..."
"It's not that simple. Some games are just simply games, but most of them tend to be brutal death matches. You can't die in a game but you definitely can get injured seriously. Also if you lose, there's a lot to live with," James said, ending quietly.
"It maybe some's only way home. What's different between now and then?" Tom said.
James glanced towards Kathryn with a guilty and sad look on his face. "Nothing, 'cos I... I won't be staying, I'm sorry."
Kathryn's eyes went a lot wider than they do even after too much coffee. "Yes you are!" she snapped.
"No I'm not," James said without flinching. Kathryn bit her lip in anger, he was just as stubborn as she was. This was going to be a long argument. "I can't abandon the ones who will be left behind. You wouldn't, so why should I?"
Chakotay had to clear his throat, Kathryn tossed him a brief glare in response. "Um, you can tell the others how to survive lost games. It's a bit silly to lose your rare chance to be with your people to help others to find theirs," Chakotay said.
"No it's not. This is exactly what I'm supposed to do," James said quietly. "I'm sorry," he said to Kathryn.
Kathryn stared out of the window, she couldn't bare to look at the last remaining person in the room. Anger still brewed inside her, she kept it under control for now.
"That's a little difficult to believe," she eventually said.
"Yeah, I thought so too," James nodded. "There's no other way to explain the things that were in that army though. Unless you think fading into dust instantly when you die is normal."
"Vampires. This is ridiculous," Kathryn muttered. "You're not a child anymore. Surely you can think of something more believable."
James glanced to one side briefly, a sigh escaped him. "You just don't want me leaving."
"Oh I'm sorry!" Kathryn sarcastically snapped as she swung herself around. Her hands went to her hip. James looked a tiny bit nervous now that she had done that. "How dare I!" She tried to calm herself down with a sigh. "How did you think I was going to react?"
"Like this," James replied. "How do I convince you I'm not just making this up?"
Kathryn's hands fell by her sides, her head shook. "I don't think you are. Years ago we reached a planet to get food supplies. A Security team went down to investigate first, see if it was safe."
"They were murdered," James finished for her.
"No," Kathryn said. "They just disappeared, as did the rescue team. We never did detect any lifesigns, humanoid anyway, yet a ship left the surface and shot into high warp. The shuttle was all that was left, but it was trashed. Whoever it was stole parts from it. We never found out what happened to the awayteams, we got distracted by something else."
"I see," James mumbled.
Kathryn turned her back on him again. "We were there two months, nothing out of the ordinary happened again."
"So you believe me then?" James dared to ask.
Kathryn laughed bitterly. "That you're a super hero that fights vampires, and giant cubes that fall out of the sky which plays games to destroy cities. What's not to believe?"
"I wouldn't call me that," James said uncomfortably.
Kathryn scoffed, "what would you call yourself then?"
"I don't know. There is no name for it. Starfleet say that for a few centuries we've been called Slayers, but that's not..." James said.
"I was going to go with insane," Kathryn laughed bitterly again.
James looked down at the floor, that comment hurt him more than he liked. "You knew. I was always different. Now that there's an explanation for it you act like this is new and ridiculous?"
"It is ridiculous!" Kathryn spat at him, once again swinging around to face him. Her anger dissolved when she saw his upset face looking to the floor. "You're my son. I don't want to lose you, again."
"I know. Wouldn't you do the exact same thing in my position?" James argued.
Kathryn sighed deeply. "You... you're not me and I'm not you. Yes I would, but I wouldn't expect you to just cos I would."
"What if I don't go, and those people go into more Games on their own. They run into a death match game which they can't win, an entire city is obliterated," James said.
Kathryn quickly butted in, "you wouldn't know, and besides..."
"I can barely live with myself knowing that Manchester had at least a cube shaped hole in it. It could have been flat lined by the damage, killing thousands. I can't do that again. I can't live with it. It's too much," James continued.
"But that could still happen if none of them chose to go. Are you saying you'd still leave anyway?" Kathryn asked with a tear in her eye.
"That's true, it could," James said in a worried voice.
Kathryn stepped forward to grab both of his arms, "you can't be everywhere at once. From what you've explained Cubes can land anywhere, anytime. You couldn't possibly be in the right place every damn time, and you can't be expected to win everytime. Didn't you say you missed one cube as you were too far away to get to it? Imagine being on the wrong side of the quadrant and that happens again."
"Stop!" James snapped. "Why are you doing this? You're just convincing me I should go, at the very least I can stop a few."
"We've got sixty thousand lightyears to travel. We can drop you off anytime we spot one, even transport you right underneath it. Surely that is more than or just as effective than your plan. At least this way you're not alone," Kathryn argued. "Please, think about this. Promise me."
"You don't think I've paid attention all these years? You knew it was going to be hard to go to the Academy and be my mum, but you did it anyway. You volunteered for the most challenging missions you could find. You risked your life more than once to save others. You could have died so many times, leaving me all alone..." James countered.
"You said you were fine with that, that you'd rather be proud of me..." Kathryn stuttered.
James nodded, "I am. That's the point. You've been a good example."
"Ugh, if I knew that my decision to join Starfleet would convince you to devote your life to playing games, I wouldn't have," Kathryn grumbled.
James smirked slightly, it made her shake her head. "I don't want to leave with you being angry with me. I hoped that you'd support me, be proud of me."
"I always was. You don't have to be some silly Slayer thing to do that," Kathryn said.
James' smirk faded away into a frown. "I don't have a choice. Face it, I'm a freak. I always thought why not do something with it?"
"Yes and how many times did doing something with it get you into trouble?" Kathryn couldn't help but chuckle. "Nothing's changed, has it?"
"No," James replied.
Kathryn let herself sigh one more time. "You are just like me. Once you set your mind to something, you'll do it. I haven't a hope in hell in convincing you. All I can do is support you and hope that this isn't the last time I see you."
"Of course it won't be. The Delta Quadrant is huge. What were the odds that we were in the same system at the same time?" James said.
Kathryn smiled and nodded. "I'll hold you to that. Didn't I tell you, you're not escaping me that easily."
"Damn," James commented.
Kathryn mockingly scowled at him. "At the very least stay with us until we find a new cube. One might not appear here for years."
James nodded, "sounds like a plan."
"Come in," Kathryn called glumly. She tried to pick herself up with the cup of coffee in front of her. As usual it didn't work the way it used to.
Chakotay entered holding a PADD in his hands. "Weekly status report."
"Mmm hmm," Kathryn sighed. Her hand reached out to take the PADD. He handed it over while studying her face. She barely looked at it before returning to her coffee.
"Kathryn..." Chakotay said.
Kathryn's sigh cut him off. "It's been a year since he left. I wonder how he's doing."
"About that," Chakotay said reluctantly. Kathryn glanced up at him with wide eyes. "Seven and her new assistant have something Game related they wanted to show us."
Kathryn seemed a little disappointed to his surprise. "That? He was working on some early warning system. Games only take thirty seconds or so to land. What's the use in a scanner that detects them from a distance?"
"You've thrown down every idea he has. This one has merit," Chakotay smiled.
"He's just a silly boy that likes to build useless toys," Kathryn snarled. "Remember that stupid dimensional transporter he cooked up last week? The idiot just transported himself into Neelix's leola root patch."
"You haven't liked him since he deleted your babysitting program," Chakotay laughed.
Kathryn's eyes narrowed in his direction. "I never finished it, and it was more than a babysitting program. It's about possible ghosts, drama and..." Chakotay couldn't stop laughing. "He said he did it to make room for better things. You don't delete one program to make room."
"Two," Chakotay said once he stopped laughing. "He deleted Captain Proton. He said it was offensive. Tom hasn't spoken to him since."
"Fine, he can do one good thing," Kathryn groaned. "Fine, I'll humour him this once. If Seven wasn't working for him I wouldn't even look at him."
"Not to mention it's Game related," Chakotay smiled.
Kathryn almost growled at him, she held it back for now. "Yes I'm so selfish for looking into a possible life saving device. I'm terrible that way."
Chakotay's smile grew, "don't you miss the déjà vu days?"
"No," Kathryn replied with a snarl.
"We should really spell it with a X, it would warn people that if they want to come in here, expect X rated views."
Seven had tried her best to ignore him, but this comment she had to ask. "X rated?"
He turned to look at her, frowning in disgust. "Don't you have any other clothes?"
"I do not understand you," Seven said honestly.
"Of course not. I'm too complicated and intelligent for even you to understand."
He was the only one that could make her roll her eyes on this ship. Even Neelix wasn't this grating to her. "Perhaps we should get back to work, Mr Damien."
"It's just Damien," he groaned. "I thought Borg were smart. Though then again, they do need billions of people hooked up to each other to survive. Forget I said anything."
Luckily for both of them the doors opened behind them. Kathryn and Chakotay walked inside. "How's it going?" he asked.
"I finished my work on this days ago," Damien said proudly. "I've just had to spend the rest of the time explaining it."
"It would have only took two minutes but you preferred to talk about how great you are the whole time," Seven retorted. Kathryn didn't even try to hold back a smirk and then a giggle. Damien directed a glare in both girls' directions.
"Can we get to the point please?" Chakotay tried to calm everyone down.
"Yes, I do have better things to do," Kathryn huffed.
Damien's eyes narrowed. "This could be the only way home, but you're right, let's talk about coffee snorting and chair occupying."
"Damien we've been through this, you can't talk back to the Captain," Chakotay quickly said. He saw the steam rising from her in the corner of his eye.
Damien shrugged casually, "why not? She doesn't treat me with any respect." He passed a dirty glance to Seven. "I guess you have to wear a catsuit and get breast implants to get anything around here."
Chakotay got a nasty image in his head, he quickly shook it off. "Please don't do that."
"No problem, I'm not desperate enough like her," Damien smiled.
Seven's Borgified eyebrow raised quite high. "Perhaps we should discuss what we called them here for."
Damien raised his hand up to wave, but he just kept it front of Seven's face. "I'll explain this as simply as I can..."
"Shouldn't be too hard," Kathryn muttered.
Damien chose to ignore her for now, "Game Cube emerges from, let's call it subspace. No, let's call it a different place."
"Subspace is fine," Chakotay butted in.
"Fine. When it does it disrupts the planet's atmosphere, giving us that purple effect," Damien explained in a degrading voice. Kathryn pretended to look at a watch she didn't have. "Usually that's the first warning you get, but my scanner detects the Cube moving through subspace into our space. It then tracks its emerge point." He got a blank stare from Kathryn, just as he expected. "Ok. Cube comes out, scanner can see it before it does..."
"I get it!" Kathryn snapped. "That still doesn't give us much time to act."
"Of course it does. These measly systems will only detect something within a certain distance anyway," Damien said, gesturing to the controls. Seven took more offense at that than the hand in face. "My scanner can only work within the limits of the sensors here. Plenty of time to land and..."
"Land?" Chakotay didn't look so sure. "I thought these things land in cities, towns. How are we supposed to land in a cube's path?"
Damien shrugged, "that's not my problem."
Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Why don't you do something more suited to your talents." She shoved an empty cup into his hands, "coffee, black!"
"I thought that was your only talent," Damien sneered in return.
Chakotay noticed the steam slowly turning into a black cloud of smoke. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said quickly.
"There is one other thing," Seven piped up. Damien scowled at her for it. "Until we can figure out how to disrupt the frequency which kills the people in the cube when it is lost, we can't risk doing anything."
Chakotay frowned in her direction, "but I thought James gave you everything."
"He did, we just have no way of knowing if it will spare Voyager too," Seven said.
Damien's eyes rolled, "you mean you have no way. I do. The cube wipes out everything that is rooted to the surface, the frequency obliterates everything that isn't, Voyager included. I've seen alien cars and pedal bikes being dropped off after a won cube. As long as they're not in the buildings, they take anything that's moveable."
"Maybe we should find a way to modify it, we may be able to avoid the city destroying part," Chakotay said thoughtfully.
Damien groaned, he was surprised when Kathryn did as well. "Why don't we try winning, then we won't have to worry about any of that crap," Kathryn said. "Seven, activate the scanner."
"It's my scanner," Damien grumbled.
Kathryn ignored him and continued, "as soon as you find one, if you have to, take helm control and take us straight there."
"Captain," Chakotay warned. He carefully gestured her to one side. "I don't have to tell you that you're acting irrationally."
"So why did you?" Kathryn muttered. She turned on her heel and swiftly walked out.
"Phew, I can breathe again," Damien sighed in relief. Seven's eyebrow raised again. "You telling me you don't smell it?"
Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Perhaps you could be a little more grateful Damien. If it wasn't for her son, you would have been killed by the second Game Cube."
"That would be like thanking my insane mother for all the wonderful things I've done," Damien said with contempt.
"Yes, when we get back to Earth I'll be sure to thank her in person," Chakotay said dryly.
"Good luck with that one," Damien smiled gleefully. Chakotay swore he saw some malice in his eyes when he did. He shook it off, it was just Damien after all.
"Perhaps we should test to see if the scanner will work before landing Voyager on its first use," Seven suggested. "Also we won't have time to cross any bridges. The cube takes seconds land, that's not enough time to find a safe landing spot."
"God, just land on top of a building. Voyager's not that heavy," Damien groaned.
Chakotay and Seven didn't even bother giving him a blank stare, they ignored him completely.
"If there's no place to land, we don't," Chakotay said.
Seven disagreed, she sighed. "The Captain will not do that. She will want to help the people and find her progeny."
Damien almost snorted into laughter, he caught it in his throat. Chakotay bothered this time to look at him. "I understand now. The chest. How else would anyone like her? Progeny."
"It is the correct term," Seven pointed out.
"Of course it is," Damien said in a patronising voice. "Trust me, she won't find James. There are Cubes being spat out in any random direction every few minutes, some even to places we've never heard of. This is just a very long express ticket home on many different trains going in different directions, not a miracle machine. Though I could probably invent that too."
"She found him once, it can't be that hard," Chakotay said as he turned to leave.
Damien rolled his eyes, "the hard part isn't finding a cube, Chuckie. It also isn't the actual game itself. If you think you can just board a cube and go straight home, you're as delusional as your Captain. Factor in searching for her son, and you know she won't stop 'till she does, and we're not looking at just a seventy year trip. You're never getting home."
Chakotay stopped at the door, he breathed in deeply and out again. Damien and Seven saw his fists clench.
"Then why did you waste your time on a Cube detector?" he asked.
Damien laughed, passing a smile in Seven's direction. Her blank stare and obviously her outfit made that disappear and he turned back. "I'm a genius. It was because I could. Besides, the Game system is interesting, unique. I'd love to learn more about it."
"It is fascinating," Seven agreed.
Damien groaned, "eugh, don't put me off. We've barely scratched the surface. Where did we go between Cubes, can a Cube really go anywhere? What's its limits, its weaknesses. How far can a weapon like this go? Why was it made, by who?"
"Okay I get it," Chakotay interrupted him quickly. He turned back around to face them both. "If we can use this system to get us even a lightyear closer to home, it's worth it. If we learn more about it, even better. However I'm not willing to jeopardise this ship or anyone in a Cube if we're not ready. We'll test it."
Seven gave him a nod, but Damien didn't look so sure. "It works. I used a simpler design of this to help the group reach the Cubes in time. After that missed one, the Slayer wanted to make sure it never happened again."
"The first cube we detect, set a course," Chakotay ordered. "We're just not going in it until we see it for ourselves." He turned to leave once again.
"Really? I'm smarter than her," Damien protested. Once he had gone he growled in frustration and rushed after him. "That crazy Captain is just going to fly us straight in, you can't stop her."
"Will you make up your mind?" Chakotay groaned as he walked down the corridor.
Damien stopped for a moment, then continued on. "What?"
"First you want to go in, then you don't cos we'll never get home, then you want to so you can learn about it. Now you're worried that we're going in," Chakotay explained.
"I don't care about going back to Earth. Nobody there appreciated my greatness," Damien scoffed.
Chakotay stopped and swung around. Damien had to stop to avoid a collision. "Again, make up your mind."
Damien's face stiffened a little, his jaw bones flared. "You weren't listening. The Cubes rarely hit the Alpha Quadrant, you can't just sit in a cube and wait until it eventually shows up in the right spot. You don't know where it is until you leave it, then you have to wait for the next one. You then believe that if you had just stayed you'd be where you wanted to be..."
"I was listening. This is why we should learn more about it before we dive in head first," Chakotay muttered. "It doesn't explain..."
"It does. I'm a scientist, so going inside a Cube now or later doesn't make any difference to me. I just don't appreciate my work being degraded like it was," Damien said.
Chakotay smirked at him, "if you were a scientist you'd know that everything must be tested, and..."
"It was tested in the field, I told you!" Damien shouted at him.
"You've made changes to it, that warrants further testing. A scientist would know that. You're just a little boy who knows too much," Chakotay said.
Damien gave him a cold glare, he took one step closer. "Your Captain is so obsessed with her just as impulsive freak of a son, she'll not only dive in to the first cube she sees, she'll do a somersault and twist. You know that." Chakotay's smirk disappeared, he did know that. "Like I said, when we go doesn't matter to me. I just thought I'd warn you." He continued glaring at him as he walked by him. "Don't want to die before we even get inside, do you?" he whispered.
Chakotay shook his head and gritted his teeth. His fists were still clenched from before.
"Oh please, that little spot in my ear is just trying to act superior. He does this all the time," Kathryn grumbled as she paced her Ready Room. "I asked him if he was so smart, why didn't he go to the Academy? His answer was he was too good for them."
"He has a point, not about the Academy anyway," Chakotay said softly. "If Voyager could surf the Cube network all the way home, then James would have told us that. He'd still be here."
"He wouldn't want to risk putting us in any danger," Kathryn said quietly, her head fell slightly.
The look on her face made Chakotay feel terrible, but now wasn't the time to worry about that. "You wouldn't either, would you?"
Kathryn armed her best death glare. Chakotay steeled his nerves to go up against it, but he could feel his insides withering. "Are you saying the whole Game Cube idea is an unnecessary danger?"
"I'm saying we should be cautious and not hop into the first Cube we find. I know you never said it directly, but you will try to anyway," Chakotay said.
"What, because I'm just a weak little girl who misses her baby?" Kathryn grumbled.
Chakotay shook his head, "no, because you won't want to stand by and just scan while a city is torn apart by one of these things." Kathryn's glare faded a little, it gave him some breathing room for now. "There's a lot to consider; a landing spot, whether Damien's right and Voyager comes with us, what if we lose the game, where will we end up? We may end up even further away than we are now."
"I like the way he waited until he finished his scanner before warning us," Kathryn said, rolling her eyes.
"We knew all of these things before then," Chakotay reminded her.
"Maybe, but I don't trust that little toad. He's playing us," Kathryn said. Chakotay wasn't convinced, he sent a frown her way. "Now that it's done, he suddenly has issues about how it's used."
"He's a chore, we all know that. It doesn't mean he's plotting against us. Your constant teasing doesn't help either," Chakotay said. Kathryn's glare threatened to grow again. "By your logic, Tom's an evil mastermind."
Kathryn burst out laughing. Chakotay tried to hold it back, but he couldn't, he burst into laughter as well.
Chakotay was the first to recover, but he had to wipe a small tear from his eye first. "Seriously though. Damien talks and then talks some more. He can't help bragging. I find it hard to imagine him scheming something, and being able to keep quiet about it. The only problem is a lot of the time, he's right."
"What exactly is he right about? We don't even know if his scanner works," Kathryn said now that she was calm again. "Wasn't Seven the one that said there may be a problem. He was the one whining that everything was perfect and we shouldn't question him."
"Kathryn," Chakotay tried to interrupt.
"From what you said, he only did that scare mongering because you weren't kissing his feet and saying how great he was. He's just an overgrown child throwing his own toys out of the pram," Kathryn said.
Chakotay smiled and nodded, "I know that."
"Then what?" Kathryn said, her eyes stared him down.
Chakotay looked uneasy at the look she was giving him. "Damien didn't have to say anything. I know you well. I just think there's many reasons to think this through. You can't just dismiss them because they come from somebody who is annoying."
"I knew that the Alpha Quadrant was a long shot. It doesn't mean we have to give up without even trying," Kathryn said. Before she could be interrupted she continued, "also the landing issue isn't one. Voyager is small enough to maneuver under the cube and land safely on any large structure without causing any damage. Don't think I've just decided to go in guns blazing without thinking about it."
"What about the games themselves?" Chakotay dared to ask. "Didn't James say sometimes, most of the time they're usually brutal fights to the death. A few members of James' group were injured during their trip, so..."
"He also said it was impossible to actually die in them," Kathryn muttered.
"That's not the point. What if we've got dozens, hundreds of these things waiting for us on our journey? It's a lot to ask," Chakotay said.
Kathryn sighed as she looked down towards the floor. "You don't think we should do this at all."
"I think we should inform the crew what could happen, get their say. It's their lives we're discussing," Chakotay answered. "The Cubes aren't going away anytime soon, what's the hurry?"
"Astrometrics to Captain Janeway."
"Still," Chakotay said.
Kathryn's eyes only half rolled as her hand went up to tap her commbadge. "Yes?"
"Subspace disruption on planet 05, sector 17498. We're in range," Seven's voice replied.
"Might as well take a look," Kathryn said.
Chakotay nodded lightly. "Should I tell Harry to contact the planet, warn them?"
"Good idea," Kathryn agreed.
"Not such a good idea," Tom commented just as the ship trembled.
Kathryn narrowed her eyes towards the viewscreen. The planet was dead ahead, but in its path were an armada of alien ships. Each one fired a red ball of energy at them every few seconds.
"Hail them again!" she snapped.
Harry shook his head. The next hit forced him to grab onto his station to avoid losing his footing. "They're not answering."
"I think they are," Tom said.
"Astrometrics to the Bridge..."
"Now's not the time Seven," Chakotay warned.
"If the readings are correct, the Game Cube should be emerging from sub space in one minute."
"Yeah, I'd recommend diving. Take a run and jump," Damien's voice said.
"It's not our only option. We can retreat," Chakotay said mid tremble.
Kathryn gripped the railings near the helm tightly, she was still staring straight ahead at the viewscreen.
"Shields are at 10%, Captain. We cannot take anymore of this," Tuvok reported. "I agree with the Commander."
Kathryn noticed a small part of the atmosphere churning, changing colour. It was only a matter of seconds before they were a deep purple.
"Game Cube is beginning its emergence."
"How many people are directly under that thing?" Kathryn questioned.
Chakotay's shoulders slumped. Thankfully Tuvok was on his side, "Captain, even if we survive the journey through the alien's attack force, we will just confirm their fears that we are the ones responsible for the Cube."
"How many!?" Kathryn hissed.
Harry swallowed the large lump in his throat, only just. "Two hundred thousand Captain."
"Versus a hundred and fifty of us," Kathryn said. She sensed Chakotay about to argue with her without even looking at him. "Don't say it. This is their first Cube or they wouldn't be blaming us. None of those people will know what to do. We do."
"Do we?" Tom stammered.
"Take us in, Mr Paris," Kathryn ordered.
Chakotay tried to pull himself out of his chair, but one last weapon hit threw everyone backwards.
"Shields are down!" Tuvok yelled.
"Captain, we'll not make it," Chakotay argued.
Kathryn nodded in agreement. "You're right. We have no choice now. Tom!"
"What?" Tom stuttered. He found Kathryn behind him already, clutching onto his shoulder. He decided to keep his next thought to himself. "Yes ma'am."
The alien ships continued their weapons fire on the defenseless ship. Voyager tried to dodge every one of them as she lurched forward towards the planet. A few shots pierced its hull but that didn't put the starship off, she continued into the atmosphere. The alien ships held off their attacks when the starship plunged into the clouds. They instead just followed Voyager down, two of which dared to go in via the purple storm clouds nearby, destroying them instantly.
Voyager wasn't much better inside. The entire Bridge shook violently, stations were sparking uncontrollably.
"We're too close," Harry warned, his voice vibrating along with the ship.
Tom quickly wiped the sweat from his brow with his arm. He found that difficult as everything was shaking. "I know, I know."
"Captain, two of the enemy ships have been destroyed. The others have held off their attacks. We can safely retreat now," Tuvok suggested.
"No! We're going in," Kathryn snapped.
The clouds on the viewscreen broke apart, now everyone could see the alien city below them. The only piece of the skyline that could be seen was a dark purple, the entire city had a black shadow cast over it.
Despite breaking free of the clouds, Voyager still trembled but not as violently as before.
"It's just above us," Harry stuttered. "Dropping fast. We need to find somewhere to land."
"I'm looking but unless we want to land on a sky scraper..." Tom stuttered.
Kathryn's grip on his shoulder tightened, "it'll have to do."
Tom shook his head, "we'd have to slow down to accurately do that. That cube though, it's not giving me room to breath."
"Harry, let's see it," Kathryn ordered.
Voyage continued its decent towards the city, however only a mere kilometre above it was a huge cube shaped object blazing down from the sky. As Voyager tried to level off towards a tall building, the cube gained in.
Tom's whole body was sweating at this point, he worked as fast as he could. The purple on the viewscreen wasn't helping either.
"Let's not see it," Chakotay barked towards Harry. He nodded nervously.
The whole Bridge trembled even harder than it did while Voyager was in the clouds. It was bad enough to make standing people who weren't holding on tumble to the floor.
"Two hundred metres," Tuvok warned.
"This is going to be rough, hold on," Tom almost squeaked.
Kathryn took his advice and tried her best to get back to her chair. The trembling was too much and she fell to the floor.
"One hundred," Tuvok warned again.
The landing struts emerged from Voyager's belly as it closed in on the top of the sky scraper. The cube however kept its fast speed and closed in.
The people below began to panic and run as the cube enveloped the tips of the larger buildings. Like they were nothing it kept going at the same speed. It was chaos as everyone ran in different directions, clambered over anything in their way.
Voyager was within metres of the roof but it was too late. The cube caught up with them, its edge touched down on top of the saucer. The people who weren't running below watched in horror as the starship was ripped apart in a fiery explosion. Even worse, the explosion didn't even slow the cube down. It kept coming. The only change was the cube's colour distorted, lines flashed across it. Their own vessels flew out of the clouds, all but one collided immediately with the cube and were ripped apart like Voyager was. The last one turned tail and flew back up into orbit.
Nobody stood to watch it now, they joined everyone else and ran in all different directions. It didn't take long for the cube to hit the ground. When it did the screams stopped, an eery silence took over the entire city.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The sun was blazing, there was barely a breeze. Everyone were taking full advantage of it. The parks and beaches were full, outdoor shopping areas were so crowded nobody could see where they were going. Shuttles had been mostly abandoned as their owners preferred to walk in the sun instead.
Nobody expected it. The blue sky was still empty only seconds ago. Everything went black. Every single person stopped what they were saying and doing to look up to the sky which had suddenly been filled with black clouds. Panic started to set in as every single night light that had switched on to accommodate went straight off, one by one.
"You have failed," a voice boomed towards him.
Q felt a little intimidated by it, which was unusual for him. "I know."
"Your confidence in the Humans once again leads to your downfall, Q," the booming voice said. "We will find another..."
"No," Q butted in. "I know what went wrong. She remembered too much. It lead to things even I couldn't anticipate until it was too late. Just give me one more chance, I'll fix it."
"You cannot send her back again. Kathryn Janeway is dead," the booming voice reminded him.
If he was in Human form he would have been tempted to give him a finger, or just shake his head. Instead he only spoke, "I don't have to. The deed is done, it just needs a slight tweaking, that's all."
"You can guarantee that her memory will be truly wiped?" the booming voice asked.
"Of course," Q answered.
"If you could do that, why didn't you do that in the first place?" the voice demanded.
Q let out a sigh, "you saw what happened when her future self meddled with time travel. I wanted to avoid that again."
"You promised us that the changes you made would in itself avoid it," the voice said.
"Well it did," Q chuckled grimly. The voice grunted, he didn't sound amused. "I'll fix it. I swear. I will not fail again."
"See that you don't. We still haven't forgotten your past transgressions, after all," the voice threatened. Q's whole being winced at his words. "I trust you understand me."
"Completely," Q answered.
Part One << >> Part Three