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FLAMMABLE ICE

 

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat quietly, trying to concentrate on the leather bound book she held in her lap. Words drifted past without meaning, and after reading the same paragraph twice, she put the book down on the arm of the chair.

 

Until recently, she had been spending her nights with Seven Of Nine, her Astrometrics officer.  Seven had taken up her off-duty time with demands, both intellectual and physical in nature. When Seven's apparent interest in her became much more personal, Janeway realized she could no longer sustain the level of contact. It was now thirteen days since that fateful conversation in her quarters.

 

Seven now made no requests on her time. They still had the occasional game of velocity, but it was always at her suggestion and Seven seemed mildly uninterested their matches.

 

Janeway had been outraged at the string of intrusive personal questions Seven had volleyed at her. She allowed her Irish temper to take over.

 

It all seemed rather silly now.

 

 

Her first officer, Commander Chakotay had informed her earlier they were coming into the range of an M class planet. It occurred to Voyagers Captain that if she was feeling the strain of the last few months, then perhaps her crew could also do with a break. She had noticed that Tom and B'Elanna had been fighting more often of late.

   

Perhaps some downtime on this planet would also give her a chance to rekindle some of the friendship that she had felt developing between herself and Seven.

 

"Janeway to Kim. Plot in a course for the M-Class planet in the next system"

 

"Yes Captain. On course "

 

***

 

Janeway marched onto the Bridge at the end of the Gamma shift, just as Voyager entered the orbit of the Class-M planet. She was two hours early for her shift.

 

"Harry, I have the bridge, for a few moments."

 

“Captain. We have done all of the preliminary scans and the planet seems to be a reasonable place to stop off, Harry said with enthusiasm

 

"Thank you, Mr. Kim"

 

Janeway watched him as his eyes burned a trail to the young red-head seated at the helm. Well Katy, his interest in Seven seems to have waned. 

 

"Report," Janeway barked, as she sat gracefully in the Captains chair.

 

"Report on what, Captain?" Harry asked immediately, running his fingers over his station.

 

"The planet, Harry." Good god, was she losing her touch?

 

"Oxygen, xenon, nitrogen atmosphere. Surface almost entirely sedimentary with a few igneous outcrops and no signs of any recent volcanic activity.  There are a few life forms present on the surface and none appear to be dangerous.  There are, however, a number of aquatic life forms in the oceans that look a little largeeh.  One sun and two moons are affecting the planet. The climate compares well with earth norms, although the equatorial regions are prone to sudden storms"

 

"Okay, Okay Ensign Kim, I get the picture. She said smiling.  Prepare landing parties, and make sure nobody goes in paddling with out a tricorder. My orders."

 

 

"Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

 

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two."

 

"Harry, I believe that you still have two hours to go. Keep scanning for anything we may have missed." She said exiting the bridge

 

 

***

 

"Seven?" Kathryn called out as the doors to Cargo Bay 2 opened.

 

My god what is she doing sitting here in the dark? Thought Janeway

 

"Captain, Seven responded immediately from the darkness.

 

"Have you regenerated at all in the last twenty-four hours?

 

"No, Captain, I have not."

 

Seven struggled to get up from her sitting position but refused the offer of Janeways hand.

 

“Was there something you required, Captain?

 

"Well, yes. I wondered if you would like to spend some time with me on the planet. It does look rather beautiful from what we've seen so far and it has."

 

"No, I would not. The planet is unremarkable; it has no mineral deposits and I do not see any advantage to Voyager in my having visited it.  I would prefer to spend time here researching our course back to the Alpha Quadrant."

 

 Janeway noted dark circles under the borgs eyes. "Seven, why have you not being regenerating successfully?"

 

Seven tilted her head. Do you not know, Captain?

 

"I don't know, please tell me."

 

"The Doctor has been encouraging me to try sleeping rather than regeneration. My attempts have not been successful."

 

As Seven manoeuvred herself into the alcove, Janeway suddenly felt lost for words. "She has been going through this without me. Have things really drifted this far?"

 

"Seven?"

 

There was no response.

 

"Seven could we talk about"

 

“I do not wish to talk." Her eyes closed as the regeneration cycle began.

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

“Please state the… Ah, Captain, how may I help you?

 

“Seven tells me that she has been attempting to sleep at your suggestion. Would you care to explain? Taking in the tone of the Janeways voice and her pose, the Doctor decided to tread lightly.

 

“Well, Seven's physiology has now adapted to the point where sleep is a viable option. She still needs to regenerate for short periods every 10 days, however,” he said, tinkering with a tricorder.

 

“And just where has she been sleeping?” God, the man could be infuriating. Don't tell me you've been allowing her to sleep in cargo bay…”

 

“Really, Captain! This was all in my report, as was my suggestion that Seven be allocated suitable quarters. Of course I have not been letting her sleep in the cargo bay; she has been sleeping here where I can monitor her progress.

 

“Oh.” She lowered her head, embarrassment causing her cheeks to flush. The doctor sniffed huffily. Well it doesn't seem to be doing much good, she added weakly.

 

“She was progressing well until about 13 days ago when her sleep patterns became extremely erratic. I am at a loss how to explain it.” He looked directly at Janeway who was pinching the bridge of her nose and straightened his shoulders. You are overdue for a medicalagain. She was on the way out the door before he finished his sentence.

 

“Resubmit the report on Seven,” she said before the doors closed behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

By all accounts, the planet turned out to be more of a success than Janeway could have imagined. Neelix had come back from the surface with a number of samples for the hydroponics bay that he claimed were ideal for cultivation.

 

Tom and B'Elanna had asked her if she would marry them. She wondered how long that would last and said that if she saw no bruises in the next year, she might consider it. Both took this in good humour.

 

Harry, it seemed, had a rather strange encounter while trying to entice his new girlfriend into the waters around the northern hemisphere. He had been greeted with the face of a creature that did not  look at all happy to meet the young ensign. The creature had frowned and said something like "Meh" before slipping back into the ocean.

 

Both Chakotay and Tuvock had chosen the time to meditate, and they were still on the planet. Others had chosen to go back and forth between the planet and Voyager. Only herself, Seven and the boy who didn't like picking up diseases had not beamed down.

 

What was his name again? Janeway reflected with an amused grin. 

 

Late in the evening, she decided that she would recall the last few teams back from their trip.

 

The sound of her chime startled her and she hastily wiped tired eyes.

 

"Come."

 

In strode the Borg.

 

"Captain, I was in error. The planet does have some remarkable features. Would you accompany me now to the surface?"

 

Janeway stumbled in her response but eventually managed an answer. "Odd how, Seven?"

 

"There are igneous outcrops that on initial scans appear to be obsidian on a planet that is almost entirely sedimentary."

 

"Yes, we already know that, Seven. Were you not paying attention?" Janeway said with a slightly amused grin.

 

"Yes, I was.

 

"Hmm," Janeway smiled broadly.

 

"Captain, over the last 10 days I have been studying the course that this ship must take on its journey back to the Alpha quadrant. I have found something unusual about this planet. Our sensors have detected a planetary system 4 light years away. The pattern of planets in this system is repeated on the surface."

 

Seven paused slightly to analyse the Captain's response to the information. Seeing nothing but bemusement on Janeway's elegant features, she continued.

 

“The pattern is repeated on several of the land masses on this planet, mapped out by igneous outcrops."

 

 "Well yes that is interesting, but Seven, it's late..." 

                                                                                                                                                           "The stones move. The pattern disintegrates and then realigns with different views." 

 

Janeway raised forward in her seat with a shocked expression. 

"What! Well, by all means we should investigate. And lets take William Telfor with us. I hear that he is becoming agoraphobic again."

 

Sevens ocular implant hiked several millimetres up her brow at the mention of Telfer but she made no comment.

 

"And Seven, I think it could wait until morning, don't you? We could spend some time on the planet. Make a detailed study. Have a break." Janeway smiled brightly.  She had gotten her way, after all.

 

“Oh, and Seven?

 

“Yes, Captain.

 

“You will need more suitable clothing for this mission. Ask the Doctor if you need help.”

 

Seven nodded briefly and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

The three officers had decided to visit one of the land masses in the southern hemisphere of the planet, mainly because few of the Voyager crew had visited the area. Janeway suggested that they could also make this an investigation of the plant and limited animal life in the region. They were to take enough supplies and equipment for a 10-day period.

 

Voyager was then to leave orbit and take a detour to a planet in another system that Icheb had detected contained significant quantities of dilithium . The journey would take the ship no more than five days, so the small landing party was more than adequately prepared for any eventuality. Voyager was to contact them after they arrived on the planet and if all was well, send down their supplies.

 

The party beamed down to a small area in the forest about a kilometre from the location of an outcrop. Scanning for any signs of harmful plant life, Janeway was surprised to see that only three plant forms and one species of fungi were poisonous and even these were not life threatening. The air was filled with the sound of unseen bird life.

 

The vegetation was a great more luxuriant than Janeway had imagined from their scans. Although the canopy of trees was not high, light from the mid day sun still had some difficulty filtering through to the forest floor. Occasionally, the dark green of this forest was broken by the lighter green of an area without a canopy.  In these small gaps where light filtered through, the colours of the flowers, reds, yellows and blues seemed almost luminescent in all shades of the three primary colours.

 

Janeway picked up one of the flowers from the base of a tree. She tried to recall where she had ever seen such a colour, such a pale blue iridescent beauty, she brought the flower to her nose and was overwhelmed by an ester like scent.

 

It was little more that a whisper when she articulated the words. But both Seven and William heard, "Seven." She looked at her two crewmates somewhat ashamed of herself for having spoken aloud. The flower brushed against her lips as she lowered it. Now looking at it she saw that some of the blue colour had been brushed from the petal and a pale beam of blue light shone up at her.

 

"Captain, are you well?" the blond had turned to look at her, with some concern evident in her normally abrupt tones. Running a scan over the flower and then several other flowers from the forest floor she stated, "It would seem that this species has the ability to store light energy directly, there is no need for concern." Seven reached up to the captains lips to brush away the residue from the petal. 

 

Janeway shock at this gesture, the feel of Seven's fingers on her lips left her slightly light headed. She was aware that her heart rate had increased and the muscles in her stomach contracted violently. Seven's fingers continued their subtle brushing movements until the powder had been removed. Janeway eventually pushed her hand away in order to still in reaction she was having to her touch. Seven watched her eyes and wondered at the effect she was having on her Captain. This was rather unexpected, perhaps I should have touched her like this before, thought Seven.

 

 

 

"You called my name." She said softly, studying the flower that Janeway still held.

 

"I'm sorry, we should carry on." It was all she could manage unable to trust her voice to say anything more.

 

 

After several more minutes hiking through the forest the trio cautiously approached one of the smooth dark outcrops of stone running different scientific scans on their tricorders.

 

 "The chemical composition is largely silicon with significant amounts of H2O trapped as water of crystallization and a number of trace minerals." William stated, his voice shaking slightly as he stood closer to Seven.

 

"Well Seven I see nothing remiss about this aside from the obvious geological implications" said Janeway snapping her tricorder shut. "Could the stones have been placed here, by some ancient civilization, perhaps?"

 

"Captain, they move."

 

"Well then, there must be something we're missing," she said brightly, intrigued by the puzzle.

 

 

Seven took a few more steps towards the stones and slowly reached out to touch one. "Seven what the hell are you doing are you doing?" screamed William.

 

She turned towards him and then to the Captain giving her what the Doctor had told her was a, "reassuring look." 

 

"Organic not lithic."  Seemingly feeling there was no need for further explanation.

                          

The moment her hand touched the stone all hell broke loose. A small naked humanoid female emerged from the amorphous form and ran off into the undergrowth, screeching with delight. Then a tall well-muscled youth emerged and chased after her. As the stone disintegrated to reveal two more humanoids William fainted, briefly clutching at Seven's thigh before he went down. Janeway turned to look at his prone form, wondering, how the boy had ever made it into Star Fleet before turning back to the two naked women now standing before them.

 

 

 

"Your child has fainted" the taller of the two stated rather unnecessarily as she stared down at him. "Did we scare him?"  Her verdant eyes flitted between Janeway and Seven.

 

Seven looked at the Captain horrified at the thought that she too may be about to faint but to her relief the Captain had quickly recovered her composure. "I'm sorry, I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Star Ship Voyager and these are two of my crewmembers, Seven of Nine and Cadet William Telfer." "Seven do you think you could try rousing Mr Telfer?"

 

As Seven bent down to administer a hypo spray to William's neck Janeway turned her attention back to the two women. They were both extremely striking. Their dark brown skin almost seemed to glow in the fading light of the late afternoon, and looking them up and down briefly, she noted that they had purple markings running from their hair line down the sides of their bodies rather like the Trill. Their bodies were angular and slightly gaunt. Their eyes captivated the captain. Startling green with splinters of purple. It was the flashing of those incredible eyes that gave the women their chief expression of beauty.

 

"Captain Janeway, Seven. We are pleased to meet you. I am Iliana, this is Kera and these are our children Cefan and Tannis." Her slender elegant hand pointed to the youth carrying the small girl towards them. "I'm sorry that we startled you it was not our intention to cause harm". She reached out and pulled the now conscious William to his feet. Her hand remained in his and Janeway noted that the look of surprise on his face become one of warmth as he looked into Iliana's hypnotic eyes. He smiled shyly at her.

 

"Iliana, Kera we are the ones who should beg your forgiveness, we were unaware that this planet was occupied" A look of self-satisfaction passed between the two women.

 

"Your technology is not familiar to me, could you explain how?"

 

"Seven!"

 

"We have attempted to avoid any contact with outsiders that may threaten our existence Seven." Iliana replied, extending a hand to touch her. Seven shifted uneasily.

 

"You are replicating the pattern of the planets around your home world?" Janeway made a mental note about teaching Seven how to ask questions without them sounding like accusations.

 

Kera answered, "Yes, it started as a signal to others that they should land here, but none ever came, so now the ritual is more of a memorial." She lowered her head to Iliana's shoulder.

 

Seven glanced at the couple's two approaching children, before addressing Kera "You are both female, are these offspring your bio." Thankfully, she was cut off by a hail from Voyager.

 

 

"Voyager to Captain Janeway, Please respond."

 

"Yes Chakotay, what's the problem?"

 

"Captain there is an ion storm approaching, we cannot stay in orbit for much longer. How do you wish to proceed?"

 

"Send down the supplies, we are fine. Oh and Chakotay could you send down a teddy bear."

 

"That will be for Telfor," was clearly audible in the background.

 

" Of course. Enjoy your holiday Kathryn, Voyager out."

 

 

As soon as that metallic supply case appeared, the son of the two women yelled. "We cannot have that showing on the surface, Tannis and I are detecting another presence." He cradled the now whimpering child closer to him as his parents closed their eyes and turned their faces skywards signalling silence with their hands.

 

"It's the hunters, please gather your things and come with us." Not seeing any reason to argue with their hosts Janeway nodded to Seven and William, and between them, they lifted the supply case. Seven lifted the case easily but William struggled a little as he attempted to keep an eye on his footing and move at Seven's pace. Cefan handed Tannis over to Kera and moved behind William to shoulder some of the burden. Keeping a steadying hand on William's waist the three moved more easily following Kera's lead.

 

They travelled this way for around an hour, shifting the supplies and Tannis between the six adults. Periodically either Iliana or Kera would move off into the undergrowth and come back with various tubers and fungi. Janeway could noticed that their group did not seam to be following a particular path, but she instinctively trusted these individuals and for once she let herself be guided. This also gave her an opportunity to analyse her reaction to Seven's touch.

 

Certainly, she had reached out a hand to Seven on a number of occasions, usually as a gentle acknowledgement that she was aware of Seven's discomfort in certain situations or as an act of compassion when she knew that Seven was hurt. She could never recall being touched back. Her reaction had been undoubtedly sexual in nature. Seven was a beautiful woman and one that she had come to rely on in many ways one of the most important being to dispel some of the loneliness of her position. By the time she smelled the distinctive ozone odour of the ocean she had irritably concluded that she had a crush. This emotion was potentially infuriating and exhausting and wholly inappropriate for a Star Ship captain and she would smother it in true Kathryn Janeway fashion.

 

 Congratulating herself on a problem solved Janeway fell into step with Kera curious to find out more about the hunters and how the family had detected this threat. Kera said that although she had never seen the hunters they had been described to her by one of the few inhabitants of the planet that had escaped them as rather reptilian in appearance. Haakon had also told them that he had been taken from his home planet and along with many other individuals been let go, only to be relentlessly perused by the hunters until he was the only one of his kind left. She was surprised when Kera started to giggle.

 

"What's so funny?"

 

"You are fortunate to still have one of your crewmates, he stood on Haakon's tail which has been quite sore since he caught it in a reef several weeks ago."

 

Janeway had to concede that this was indeed quite amusing but she sobered the tone by informing Kera that the hunters sounded a lot like the Hirogen and the inhabitants certainly correct to fear them. The Captain was no nearer to finding out about the strange powers the family had, being told simply, "We feel their presence just as we felt yours."

 

 

 On one of the rotations, Iliana handed Tannis over to Seven. The child peered at Seven as she was bundled into her arms. "You tickled me," she said as she reached out to touch Seven's ocular implant.

 

"Indeed. It was not my intention to "tickle" you." Replied Seven hoisting the child higher on her hip, wondering what being tickled felt like. "Was the sensation unpleasant?"

 

"No it was funny." Seven eyed Janeway's compact bottom as they followed, idly wondering about the effects of different sorts of touches.

 

 

"We're home." Squealed the child wrestling herself from Seven's arms. Seven looked around sceptically; there was nothing in the immediate vicinity that could be described as a 'home' in any conventional sense. She looked expectantly at Captain Janeway to instruct her on how they should proceed. Tannis and Cefan were already scrambling underneath a leafy bush down into what appeared a hole in the ground.

 

Janeway was at a loss herself as she looked down at the hole, but she was aware that even this terrifically understated 'home' was preferable to being caught out in the open by the Hirogen. Luckily, Iliana started to issue instructions to William to push the supply case down and that Cefan should pull it through at the other end. This accomplished she motioned the three crewmembers to follow.

 

Once in the hole, Janeway had to struggle to push her way through. It was claustrophobic, not to mention dirty and wet. She hoped that William would not panic in the confined space. After a few moments, she felt Cefan's strong hands grip the shoulders of her tunic and drag her into a much larger space in which she could stand up. It was pitch black and she could see nothing, so she gingerly felt for the walls of the cavern and stood back against them. Seven was the next to come through and Kathryn reached out to pull her to her as they awaited the arrival of William and Iliana. Seven stumbled slightly in the darkness and in an attempt to steady herself her hand came into sharp contact with Janeway's left breast. Oh god, thought Janeway as she griped the young woman's arms and pulled her alongside.

 

"I'm sorry Captain." She felt anything but sorry. The touch to Kathryn's breast had given her a great deal of information that she committed to memory. She would review her data later.

 

 

 

Once both William and Iliana were through Janeway detected the strong sent of the flowers she had smelt earlier in the day. There was the sound of light tapping against the cavern walls and the whole area lit up in soft blue pastel light. Seeing clearly now they were able to follow Iliana and Cefan down a series of winding steps cut into the tunnel floor until they found themselves in a much larger cavern.

 

The walls of the cave were smooth jet black and seemed to be formed from the same material that the family had emerged. It was a beautiful sight. The walls and floors of the cave were decorated with brightly patterned fabrics. Some were tight geometric designs and others held naturalistic depiction's of flora and fauna, obviously not native to this planet.

 

 The light source in the cavern came from what appeared to be plant roots that had penetrated the roof and walls. Many of the roots had been woven into intricate exotic sculptures.  The cave contained a comfortable living area with a number of tunnels leading off into what Seven assumed were sleeping areas. Most impressive of all there was a lake large enough to contain a vessel of around 10 meters in length to the side of the living area. The lake glowed pale blue. Seven scanned it concerned that it may be harmful to their health and found that the light had been created by the presence of a significant percentage of harmless bioluminescent organisms.

 

Despite the absence of an obvious source of warmth, the cave was a comfortable temperature.

 

“All the exits are sealed,” called out Kera, who was now fully clothed.

 

The others also left the room and came back in clothing much to Janeway's relief.

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Once they were all settled on cushions in the centre of the cave Janeway gave Tannis the teddy from the supply case. The child thanked her and took it over to Iliana to ask what it was.

 

Iliana looked pleadingly towards Kathryn who explained that it was a representation of an animal from earth.

 

 Late in the evening, once Cefan and William had gone off to play Kadis Kot, the four women were left alone. Janeway's eye was drawn to a large tapestry on the wall above Iliana's head. It was an abstract image and she unable to decide what was being depicted. The colours were rich with violent flashes of red, yellow and purple in what looked like a sea of more muted blues and greys. Is that your home planet? she asked carefully.

 

Iliana rubbed her eyes briefly before replying. Yes, that was happening as we left. Amongst other things.

 

Seven was shocked out of her analysis of the captains expressive hand gestures by implications of this statement. The oceans were boiling, she stated tilting her head to the side in order to get a better view.

 

Both women nodded. How did it happen? queried Janeway her voice awed with the horror of a natural disaster on such a scale.

 

“Our scientists thought they had found an inexhaustible source of energy below the ocean floors and underneath the permafrost. They called it flammable ice. They were trying to extract this ice from several seas...”

 

Seven's brow wrinkled. You are referring to methane hydrates, only stable below 233 Kelvin and 10 times normal atmospheric pressure. It was unwise to attempt such a procedure...

 

She was distracted by the captain squeezing her thigh. I think we can take that as a given Seven, she said slightly sharply. Please go on Iliana.

 

Despite the censorious tone of her voice, Seven noted that she had not removed her hand. It stayed where it was for 1 minute 32 point 7 seconds.

 

Kera continued the story. Our planet was already so polluted with carbon dioxide that all they did was hasten the inevitable. The sea temperatures had risen so much that the hydrates were already surfacing and igniting naturally.

 

“My god, “ breathed Janeway. “Thermal runaway.”

 

“They had been drilling mainly on continental platforms and caused several landslides which in turn created a wall of water 15 meters high that devastated six coastal regions,” added Iliana.

 

“I'm sorry,” whispered Janeway. “It is unbelievable that a society capable of warp technology would allow this to happen.”

 

“We were not capable of warp technology otherwise we may have been of more interest to the Borg,” answered Iliana offering Seven a lopsided grin. “Our society was build on creating and maintaining divisions between its peoples and we the guardians of the forests were considered outcasts because we still retained and celebrated our abilities. Our planet was visited many times by different species but only we knew of them and after many years of trying to get the others to see that what they were doing would lead to disaster, we decided to leave.”

 

 

 

They talked long into the night, before going to bed. On entering the room allocated to them, Janeway was slightly taken aback at the sight of a double bed. Are you going to be able to sleep Seven? she asked over her shoulder as she entered the small bathroom. Seven nodded briefly and waited until the captain had finished in the bathroom and had climbed into the left hand side of the bed.

 

She was conscious of fatigue. As she eyed the captain, it became clear to her that this attempt at sleep would be less than successful given that the object of her desire was less than half a meter from her. Although Seven stood still during regeneration she had found that in sleep she moved a great deal, having more than once found herself on the floor of the sickbay. She was concerned that she may accidentally injure the captain in her sleep. It would be a long night she surmised.

 

Janeway stirred and looked up," are you coming in, or do you intend to stand there all night?"

 

"I intend to come in," she stated flatly. Kathryn had closed her eyes again and seemed to be asleep. Slowly she took off her clothing and boots and after placing them on the empty chair she lay down on the outer half of the bed. Janeway was not moving but she could hear her  breathing softly. It gave her an exquisite sense of intimacy.  As she moved further into the bed she felt the warmth emanating from Janeways body, she lay her head on the pillow facing her back.

 

At first Seven had not  wanted to spend so much time on the planet. She had judged the study of this ecosystem as irrelevant and she was still confused about the way Janeway had treated her the night she had attempted to establish if the captain may be available.

 

 Seven had to admit that her line of questioning that night might have not been the correct way to proceed. She was encouraged by the effect her touch had on the captain and decided she must be more careful in her attentions towards Janeway but she was still at a loss on how to move the matter forward.

 

The thought of touching Janeway was exhilarating but also provoked anxiety . She looked at Janeways hair lying on the pillow, her nostrils flared at the clean scent of it. Her hand moved almost by its own volition to reach out and feel it. The softness surprised her but the contact was not enough she wanted to put her mouth were her fingers had been, her hand rapidly retreated. The urge was too unexpected, too powerful.

 

Seven turned on her back and mentally solved the Schrodinger equation for cobalt, soon she too drifted off into sleep.

 

***

 

Janeway awoke first feeling better that she had in many months.  Seeing that Seven was still asleep, she went for a slower. 

 

When she came out of the bathroom Seven was dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed examining the end of her fingertip.

 

"Is something wrong Seven?"

 

"Matter," said Seven

 

She frowned and reviewed her last sentence.

 

"Okay... Is something the matter Seven?"

 

Seven turned her head towards her. There is matter in my eyes."

 

"That happens when you sleep, darling."  Janeway could have kicked herself.

 

Seven studied her, colour hand risen in her cheeks. Another element to analyse.

 

 

 

 

"The hunters have gone," said Iliana once they entered the communal area, "but there is a storm brewing so it's better to stay in." The sudden and terrifying storms were one of the reasons that few of Voyagers crew had chosen not to visit the area around the tropics.

 

They spent the day doing various domestic tasks and entertaining Tannis. In the early evening Kera suggested that Seven might help her repair the fishing nets that were hanging up to dry at the side of the lake.

 

Seven was not enthusiastic about this task and Kera's incessant chatter diverted her musings on the subject of the Captain.

 

"You should come fishing with me tomorrow Seven."

 

"I do not know how to fish, I would be of little use to you," replied Seven thinking that if the odour of these nets were anything to go by then fish must be highly unpleasant creatures.

 

"Go on Seven, it might be fun," Janeway called out to her from the other side of the lake.

 

"I do not..." began Seven looking at Janeway. "Very well I will accompany you," she said, never taking her eyes off the captain.

 

 

***

 

 

Janeway was enjoying her time with Iliana preparing the evening meal. This gentle domestic space of other beings was giving her the opportunity to do things she rarely had a chance to as the Captain of Voyager. They were peeling and dicing large tubers that looked like potatoes. She had offered some of the food from their rations but after smelling it, Iliana had declined it adding with a quirk of her sensuous mouth that she, "valued the health of her children."

 

Janeway was examining the bowls hung up on the kitchen wall. They were mainly made of straw tempered pottery and inlayed with bright vitreous deposits in zigzag patterns. You make your own pottery. She asked.

 

“Well yes, Cefan made those when he was little. The good bowls are in that cupboard to your left.”

 

“He is a talented artist, they are beautiful.” said Janeway taking one down to examine it. Iliana smiled.

 

“Are you lovers?” Iliana suddenly asked taking the captain by surprise.

 

“Pardon?” croaked Janeway almost dropping the bowl.

 

Iliana looked quizzically at her. You and Seven. Are you lovers? she repeated.

 

“Why no, whatever would make you think that?” said Janeway struggling to regain her composure. She carefully put down the bowl.

 

Iliana saw why this small compact woman was the captain of a star ship. Janeway's eyes were boring into her making her wish she had never asked. You seem so close and she loves you. Perhaps the feeling is not mutual... she trailed off.

 

Kathryn was stunned by the revelation. How do you know that she...that she loves me?

 

“When she first touched us we felt her emotions.  We detected her Borg signature when your ship first came into orbit. We were concerned and stayed hidden but when we came into physical contact with her we found that there was no danger.” Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. “She seems confused, but the feelings of love are overpowering.  Feelings of love for you.” She paused alarmed at the reaction Janeway was having. She was gripping the edge of the table tightly, her knuckles showing white. “I am sorry Kathryn, I have spoken out of turn.” She said as she reached for Janeway's hand.

 

Both Kathryn and Iliana looked down to where their hands had just touched. You have never told her. Iliana said gently. It was not a question.

 

“I did not know before now.” She said weakly.

 

“Come here.” She was enfolded in strong arms. She relaxed into them.

 

“Trust me to choose a planet of shape shifting empaths to take a vacation,” she murmured into Iliana's shoulder. She felt the woman above her smile into her hair.

 

“Is that what you think we are?” asked Iliana stroking her back.

 

Janeway pulled back out of the embrace. Are you not? 

 

In way of answer, Iliana took her hand again. Do you see, all that we can sense from you is what you can sense from us, if you give yourself the chance Kathryn."  

 

 

The loss of an entire planet enfolded before her. "Oh my god," she whispered weakened by the waves of horror.

 

“What you felt from me is all that I can feel from you."

 

"I am so sorry,"

 

 

 

***

 

 

 After another night during which neither of them got much sleep Janeway decided to face the situation.

 

"Seven, I would like to talk to you about.."She paused and cleared her throat. About us.

                                                                                                                                                                                            They  were interrupted by Seven's comm badge. "Telfor to Seven of Nine."

 

She groaned loudly. "Go ahead, answer it, Janeway sighed.

 

"Seven here."

 

"Seven, Kera is ready to go out fishing," he said

 

"I will join her shortly, Seven out." She raised her eyebrow. "Fun?"

 

Kathryn smiled breaking the tension. "We will talk later," she said softly.

 

 

“How is this vessel powered?” asked Seven.

 

“There are solar panels there, just where your hand is,” answered Kera.

 

“An efficient design,” she complemented.

 

The water was of such clarity that Seven could count every ripple in the sand of the seabed some 6 meters below her. Further out she noticed small branch like structures scattered on the sand. What are these structures?

 

“Coral, these pieces will have been broken off in the storm,” replied Kera. “The coral formations start 10 meters further out.”

 

“Are they plants?”

 

“Animals or rather colonies of animals. Would you like to dive down to get a better look?”

 

“I do not know how to swim,” she regretfully answered.

 

“Look Seven, over there,” said Kera pointing to the right of her

 

She turned her gaze to the surface of the sea.  Shoals of tiny fish were leaping out in several places on the surface giving the illusion of fleeting fountains of liquid gold where their pellucid scales caught the early morning sun. This ocean was rich and full of life. Seven was fascinated.

 

The coral bed was equally fascinating. The variety and shape of the structures as well as the profusion of colours amazed her. An intriguing collective, she remarked.

 

They dropped four traps over the side at the edge of the reef that Kera indicated were for shellfish and travelled further out to where the larger fish were located. In no way would Seven have described this experience as 'fun'. She was getting hot and slightly burned in the sun and the whole process was more intricate then she had assumed. Kera kept releasing specimens that she caught, deeming them, 'too small.' It was inefficient and frustrating.

 

“Kera, may I ask you a question regarding your appearance when we first encountered you?”

 

“Of course Seven, what do you want to know?”

 

“Initially when we approached your bodies were composed mainly of silicon but you are an organic life form. Explain.”

 

Kera smiled at her, lifting one of the weights she had been using on her fishing line. Scan this, she said holding it out to Seven.

 

Seven scanned the metal weight. Mass number 207 point 2, it is lead. She looked questioningly at her companion.

 

Kera took the lead sample from her, holding tightly in her left hand she closed her eyes. Scan it again.

 

The metal had changed colour but strangely not weight Seven noted. Her eyebrow arched as she scanned the object. A mixture of tin and germanium she concluded. You can alter matter at the atomic level in your bodies?

 

“Yes, but other objects will not stay altered for long,” she indicated to the metal. “It is changing back.”

 

“The Borg have no reference to this activity.”

 

“They must know something about it,” sighed Kera.

 

Seven nodded at the truth of this statement.

 

 

 

Eventually in the late afternoon when they had a sufficient number of large fish, they moved back towards the shore to retrieve the shellfish traps. The traps contained a number of creatures strongly resembling the thing Chapman had presented to her on their 'date'. Seven did not wish to be reminded of that occasion. 

 

As this catch was landed, the boat suddenly shook.

 

“Kera my dear how nice to see you,” said a creature Seven had never seen the likes of before. He had pale purplish translucent skin. His head seemed too large for what she could see of his body. The purple sunken eyes were small in comparison to an enormous mouth that was lined with a row of very black teeth.

 

“Haakon, how are you?” said Kera bending to kiss his cheek. “This is Seven of Nine from the Star Ship Voyager,” she added.

 

“She seems a little calmer than some of her crewmates,” he said looking her up and down. “My tail is paining me,” he added gesturing vaguely behind himself with webbed fingers. “I'm going south to see if cooler waters will help.”

 

“Perhaps we could use salane herb paste to sooth it,” suggested Kera. “I'm sure Iliana has some at home.”

 

“I've tried it. There was no improvement.”

 

“May I scan it?” requested Seven and proceeded to his nod. Analysing the results she concluded with, “you require medical treatment.”

 

“Sharp isn't she?” he said winking at Kera.

 

Seven's brow furrowed. The wound contains traces of human urine, said Seven with a faintly disgusted look on her face. It is hindering the healing processsignificantly Harry it seemed had been given rather more of a fright than he had cared to admit to. When Voyager returns we will provide you with medical assistance.

 

“Oh what a darling, I‘d be ever so grateful” he smiled. “Well I must be off, see you soon Seven and thank you.” He slipped below the surface and swam off.

 

“You are welcome,” Seven murmured to his retreating back.

 

 

***

 

Janeway choose to spend the day analysing the cliffs that dramatically rose from the beach. She hopped an analysis of the planet's geological past would give her a clue to why no larger life forms other than birds inhabited the land.

 

 She also did not want to stray far from the beach concerned that she had not inquired whether Seven could swim or not.

 

The strata were well preserved and unmarred by any significant tectonic events other that isostatic recovery, which made the job rather easy. By midday she had concluded the survey and had obtained a potassium-argon date from a thin volcanic layer half way up the cliff. She had found nothing to indicate that the evolution process on this planet had been interrupted, the fossilized remains indicated a steady progression from the primitive to the complex and included several species that could have made the move from sea to land.

 

Climbing to the top of the cliff, she sat to rest and watched the small boat. The two occupants were barely visible but she could pick out Seven's blond hair.

 

Now that she'd admitted the truth to herself about Seven she wondered at the power that had allowed her to keep these feelings buried. She had comforted herself with the idea that she was an important maternal influence in Seven's life and now that this contrived façade lay at her feet, she wondered how it ever had been built in the first place.

 

Seven was not a child.  It was not motherly instincts that saw her  seeking out Seven's company every opportunity she could and it was not motherly love that saw her weeping alone night after night when Seven was no longer there. How could I have been so blind? she thought, I could have lost her. It was unsettling to acknowledge that she could have kept something of this magnitude submerged and even to still deny it after she'd almost fainted when Seven brushed her fingertip across her lips.

 

 Rising and walking along the cliffs edge for several kilometres pondering these thoughts, she came to an flattened un-wooded area where the cliffs had dropped almost level with the beach. The tide was going out and she decided this would be a good opportunity to walk back along the beach. She was climbing down when her hand dislodged a loose stone, unremarkable enough except this stone has clearly been shaped and one of the flattened sides was engraved. Scanning the area, she detected a stone oval structure below the surface the end of which was beginning to fall down the slope due to erosion. Whatever this was, it had been here for a very long time.

 

Amidst growing alarm Janeway refined her scan and found that the oval contained the desiccated remains of a large humanoid. There was enough organic material to determine both the age of the body and the species. Oh god, this is not one of their hunting grounds, it's their home world. She carefully replaced the fallen stone.

 

When she returned to the cave she immediately sought out Iliana and told her what she had found.

 

“How old is the body?” asked Iliana clearly alarmed, drawing Janeway out of earshot of Cefan and William who were busy building a barbeque on the beach.

 

“Around nine thousand years, it's a more primitive life form but the DNA indicates that it is Hirogen,” replied Janeway.

 

“Is there any evidence that the grave was visited recently?” she asked

 

“Thankfully no.”

 

“They must have killed off every land based life form on this planet and then moved into space in search of more prey,” Iliana looked puzzled, “but there are no significant ore deposits here, how could they get into…”

 

“My best guess is that they hijacked a vessel that landed here and expanded further out,” sighed Janeway. “The question now is what are your people going to do?”

 

“Kathryn, we have been here for 19 years and have come to no harm. Their visits are infrequent. We will just have to be more careful.”

 

“I admire your resilience,” said Janeway smiling.

 

“I am just being practical,” sighed Iliana.

 

“Boat's home,” squealed Tannis from further down the beach.

 

 

***

 

 

 They sat down to a meal of barbequed fish and shellfish with various root vegetables and flat unleavened bread. Seven was reluctant to try the lobster like creature until Janeway, a slice in hand fed it to her. She chewed on it gingerly and finally pronounced it 'adequate.'

 

William watched the captain's and Seven's interaction during the meal with interest. They were sitting unusually close together and Janeway's hand frequently landed on Seven's knee as she discussed various methods of food preservation with Iliana and Kera. Seven's eyes fluttered closed, her nostrils flaring during these touches, and she'd actually groaned when the captain had fed her some of the food. Cefan caught him staring and tickled him on the ribs and they run off chasing each other down the beach.

 

“It's nice for Cefan to have some male company for a change,” remarked Kera,  “all the other families on this coast have girls.”

 

Janeway watched them splashing each other in the sea and thought, oh dear.

 

 

 

After they had finished eating, Janeway said, Would you like to go for a walk along the beach Seven?

 

It was now almost dark and the sun was a blob over the dark mass of a far off island. Moving beyond the cave's inlet with its suspension of chromatophores the sea became an inky blackness. The beach was lit by light from the two moons.

 

“Kathryn, may I hold your hand?” The voice was tentative, unsure.

 

Janeway held out her hand and gently clasped Seven's human one. Do you believe in fate Seven?

 

 Seven was so utterly absorbed by the feeling of Kathryn's hand in hers she almost missed the question. Fate. A superstition that humans use to ascribe meaning to random events?

 

Janeway grinned. No I suppose you don't, she said, lightly rubbing Seven's palm, sending her stomach into spasm.

 

“The night that I threw you out of my…”

 

“I was attempting to ascertain your availability. I regret that failed to convey this in an appropriate manner.”

 

“I had no idea, and I regret that I was not more patient.”

 

“Would you have been receptive if I had asked to hold your hand?” Seven asked shyly.

 

“In all honesty I don't know Seven.” She gestured to her surroundings with her free hand, “perhaps it's this planet, it's beauty, the romanticism…” Seven stopped dead in her tracks.

 

“You are preparing to leave me once Voyager returns!” Her voice resonated with unconcealed distress as she wrenched herself   from the captain.

 

The captain turned to her, reaching out to tilt her chin. Seven I could no more finish this now than end my own life, she whispered. I simply did not know that you were on my horizon, she finished softly.

 

 Seven accepted this with a slight nod. If you had known that I was on your horizon would you…”

 

Janeway smiled slowly, Held your hand? Yes. Although frankly I think, 'are you frigid,' would have met with the same response. She laughed and pulled Seven closer.

 

 Walking quietly on for several meters Seven concentrated on the myriad of emotions, she was feeling. Looking down at their joined hands she asked, Do you feel as I do when you are holding my hand?

 

“How do you feel?” Kathryn whispered suddenly aware of only physical sensations. The faint lavender like smell from the shrubs that lined the beach compounded the effect making her struggle for breath.

 

“As if you have reached inside my body,” breathed Seven, as she watched the captains eyes close and her mouth open to emit a gasp of air.

 

As her eyes opened again and focused on Seven's face she said simply, How could I ever have denied you to myself?  Seven…”

 

“Captain?”

 

“Kiss me.”

 

Seven was not sure she could. Even the thought of kissing this woman had caused a chain reaction of feelings  that she was unsure if she could remain standing. As she bent forward, determined not to disappoint Kathryn, the feel of the captain's breath brushing over the fine hairs on her upper lip caused her knees to buckle and she did fall, bringing Kathryn down on top of her. Their breasts and groins collided eliciting a muted whimper from Seven as she tensed her buttocks to push firmly against Janeway's sex.

 

“Oh god Seven,” hissed the captain, as her thigh slipped between Seven's legs.

 

Seven who had been near to coming from the moment Kathryn had said 'kiss me' surged against her and came in a series of broken sighs.

 

“Seven, did you just..,” panted Janeway

 

II believe so, whispered Seven struggling to breathe normally.

 

Janeway's eyes misted, I love you  Seven, she said gently, brushing her fingertip over Seven's lips. Her lips opened and she grazed her teeth along the tip of Janeway's finger. Their eyes locked as Janeway brought her mouth down on Seven's

 

 

“Voyager to Captain Janeway.”

 

“Fuck,” said Seven who had inadvertently activated Janeways comm. badge.

 

“Pardon!” said Chakotay. “Captain are you ok?”

 

“Yes, Chakotay I'm fine,” she groaned, “could you give us an hour or so to clear things up down here before beaming up?” she added, pulling herself up from Seven's body.

 

“Of course Captain. Voyager out.”

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

 

“Your ship has is here,” said Kera smirking as they arrived back at the cave. “Nice walk?”

 

Iliana nudged her partner giving her a stern look.

 

Janeway smiled tightly and brushed her hand through her hair horrified to discover that it was full of sand. Turning to Seven she saw that the tight bun had unravelled and Seven was pulling a piece of fossilized coral out of her hair. Oh well things couldn't get any worse, she thought until she noticed William and Cefan hand in hand approaching them.

 

Janeway cleared her throat, Iliana we are going to take a detour to your home world to see if we can be of any help and then we'll come back here to give you a report. It should take around 10 days.

 

“Thank you Kathryn,” she said embracing her tightly, “it would put our minds at rest although I don't think you will be able to do anything.”

 

“We'll see,” she said hugging back. Drawing out of the embrace, she handed Kera a set of coordinates from which Haakon could be beamed to Voyager for medical treatment.

 

“He'll get these tonight,” promised Kera. “Thank you Kathryn.”

 

“Captain could I stay here until you return?” asked William quietly.

 

She turned to Cefan's mothers. It's ok with us, answered Iliana putting her arm round him.

 

Janeway nodded to him and felt the unmistakable twinge of an oncoming headache due in approximately 10 days time. Come on Seven, lets get packed.

 

 

***

 

 

 

“Who the flying fuck are you!” screamed the extremely irate creature in sickbay at the startled Doctor.

 

“Sir really, I'm just trying to treat you injured tail.”

 

“Are you mad! I don't have a fucking tail you imbecile,” yelled the creature

 

“Medical to Janeway.”

 

“Yes Doctor?”

 

“Could you come down here and bring Seven. Your friend from the planet is being less than cooperative.”

 

The appearance of the Captain and Seven did little to calm the situation. The creature now behind a force field craned his neck and screamed; If I'd ever met anyone as ugly as that pair in my entire life I would have certainly remembered it!

 

“He doesn't have a tail,” remarked Janeway.

 

“That is not Haakon,” added Seven.

 

Janeway tapped her comm. Badge, Harry could you give me the coordinates you used to beam up the gentleman who is currently in sickbay.

 

She handed the padd to Seven. These coordinates are 2 degrees out Captain, she said accessing a console. The creature disappeared and was replaced a few seconds later by Haakon.

 

“ Seven don't you think we should have apologized before beaming him off the ship?” asked Janeway pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

“He insulted you,” said Seven by way of an answer.

 

“Ladies, how nice to see you,” greeted Haakon as he pulled himself onto the biobed.

 

The doctor scanned his tail, This won't take long, a minor repair, he said arrogantly. Seven needs to regenerate. He said over his shoulder.

 

“Haakon, I apologize for the inconvenience,” said the captain patting his hand, “feel free to request anything you require while you are here.”

 

“Thank you dear, you're very sweet.”

 

She gave him a brief amused nod. Come on Seven, I'll walk you home.

 

 

***

 

B'Elanna was having a bad day. She was almost off duty when three photodiodes blew in one of the consoles. The equipment needed to repair the problem was located in Cargo Bay Two. She considered sending Celes but decided the job would be done faster if she did it herself.

 

On her way down to the Cargo Bay, she hoped that Seven would not be in residence. The Borg gave her the creeps and this had worsened since she had found that Seven had been studying her and Tom. His apparent forgiveness of her behaviour grated on B'Elanna's nerves.

 

As she entered the Cargo Bay she was pleased to note that the bitch was not in her lair, she breathed a sigh of relief and headed to where replacement diodes were stored. She did not hear the doors swish open but clearly heard the command.

 

“Computer seal Cargo Bay, Borg encryption code Theta One Seven Alpha.”

 

Her skin cooled, she was sealed in with the ice queen. As she turned to confront Seven she noticed the captain was with her. Why had the drone sealed the doors? She knelt down and watched the pair through a gap in the storage cases.

 

Seven sat down on the dais with her back against the alcove. B'Elanna had never seen the Borg sitting before but her jaw dropped as she watched Janeway straddle  Seven's thighs. Seven wrapped her arms around the slight frame of the captain and began to steadily kiss her neck. Evidently, Janeway was enjoying this a great deal given way she was moaning and rubbing her hands up and down Seven's back. B'Elanna was rooted to spot both fascinated and repulsed at the same time.

 

 

Seven stopped kissing Janeways neck and gently tilted her head down.

 

“I want to…”

 

“Don't say copulate Seven you'll make me laugh,” said Janeway moving in to kiss Seven on the mouth.

 

“That is not what I was going to say,” smiled Seven. “I was going to say....” She whispered something into Janeway's ear.

 

The captain bit her bottom lip. Oh my, she groaned. Where did you learn to talk like that?

 

 

Where indeed, thought B'Elanna nastily. God they're not thinking of screwing here?

 

“Well?” demanded  Seven.

 

“I thought we were going try to take things slowly,” answered Janeway

 

“I have been taking things slowly for one year, two months, six days...”

 

Janeway giggled. Ok Seven. Come to my quarters for dinner tomorrow night and we'll see what happens.

 

“I shall spend that night with you,” stated Seven.

 

“Yes and now the sooner your regenerate the sooner tomorrow night will come,” said Janeway standing up offering her hand to the Borg.

 

“That statement is errant nonsense Kathryn.”

 

Seven unsealed the doors before drawing the captain into a searing kiss. Darling stop, anyone could come in.

 

Seven smiled at her and moved into her alcove. Once Seven's cycle began, the captain stood for a few moments gazing at her. Beautiful, she said and then turned and left.

 

 

Moments later B'Elanna also left. She was going to find Telfor and ring the effete little bastard's neck until he told her everything that had happened on that planet.

 

The end