A Fire of Devotion: Part 4 of 4: Hotter Than Hell: Chapters Eleven & Twelve (Finale)

Chapter Eleven

Seven of Nine hummed to herself while she did her routine diagnostics in the astrometrics lab. Everything was working fine of course, as it usually did, but she would not let pride in her work get in the way of her work. Just as she was wrapping, the noise associated with the detection of something new on long range scanners got her attention.
As advanced as the sensors were, some things just didn’t show up at certain distances. Given the distance according to the data, this thing was far enough away that for it to have registered now meant it had to be huge, easily larger than a Borg cube, but putting out far less energy or she’d have seen it sooner. She could only get a rough silhouette of the object, which was at the center of a field of debris, possibly that of another ship, and residing inside a Mutara-class nebula.

She forwarded the data up to Lieutenant Kim’s console on the bridge. If Captain Janeway decided this was something worth exploring, she and the bridge crew could take it from there. Seven finished her work in the lab, and immediately made her way to her quarters, where she and her wife Samantha would make plans for the latter’s upcoming birthday.

Along the way though, she stopped.

Wait, she thought, her mind going back to the rough silhouette of the presumably derelict ship. Why do I feel like I’ve seen that somewhere before?

On the bridge, Harry gave the data Seven had sent him from astrometrics a once over before forwarding it to Janeway. He hoped Janeway would give the order to investigate, though he couldn’t quite place his finger on why. The details on the ship were minimal given the distance. Even Voyager’s Borg-enhanced sensors could only do so much. Even so, something about it seemed familiar, like he’d seen that silhouette in images before. Perhaps if it had been something he’d seen personally it would be stronger in his memory.

I’ve seen that design somewhere before, Janeway thought as she reviewed the data Harry Kim had forwarded to her. For some reason it makes me think of the Deltan homeworld, but their ships never looked that, did they?

“Mister Paris,” she said, “adjust course to take us closer to this nebula. Just close enough to get a better look at that ship.”
“Yes, Captain,” Tom said.
“Active or passive scan, Captain?” Harry said.
“Passive,” Janeway said. “I hate to admit it, but I can’t put my finger on why that thing makes me nervous.”
She saw Tom look down at his console, only to shudder. “You aren’t alone, Captain. I’m getting a bad sense of deja vu here.”

“Fascinating,” Commander Tuvok said. “I also must admit to some trepidation about getting so close to this derelict vessel, despite being certain I have never seen anything quite like it before.”
“Didn’t Seven of Nine say she would get feelings like this while doing her research on the Borg degradation?” Lieutenant Ayala said.

“Yeah, I think she did,” Janeway said. “Ayala, take us to Yellow Alert. Tom, once we know exactly what that ship is, get us back on our original course, maximum warp.”
“Captain,” Tom said, “might I suggest we just do that anyway?”
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not considering it,” Janeway admitted. “But I’m also curious as to why this thing seems so damn familiar.”
“Understood,” Tom said.
It took barely an hour for Voyager to get close enough to get a more detailed scan of the derelict. It was definitely dead, no apparent signs of any sensor activity from it, passive or active. The viewscreen changed from a view of the stars outside the ship to a silhouette of the vessel as the long-range sensor’s real-time update began to fill in the details. Once the detail reached a certain point however, the bridge somehow managed to fall more silent than it had already been. Janeway thought she even heard the general background noises of the ship fade away, as impossible as that should’ve been while everything was still clearly working.

She stood up, and forced herself to walk closer, as if somehow seeing it closer would make it not true. She saw in her peripheral vision that Tom’s hand was shaking. But it was true. She had seen one of these ships before, though only from second-hand sensor data from a joint attack on the Deltan homeworld done alongside the Borg, years ago.

How could I have forgotten? she thought. How did we all manage to forget?

“That’s a Cyberman ship,” she said. “That’s not possible.”

“Do I get us the hell out of here now, ma’am?” Tom said.
“No,” Janeway said, surprising even herself. “I want to make sure that thing is as dead as it looks. If it is, we can go about our business. If not, we need to warn Starfleet as soon as the next communication window is open.”

Seven of Nine nearly knocked over several crewmembers as she bolted towards the bridge. She had no doubt that everyone on the bridge, unless they’d happened to be nowhere near any information sources during the short-lived Borg/Cybermen alliance, would recognize that ship. If so, they were going to need her expertise.
“Whoa, hey, Seven, where’s the fire?” she heard someone say. She turned, but walked backwards as she did so, so as to keep getting closer to the turbolift. She saw the visibly concerned face of Noah Lessing.
“I remember everything now,” Seven said, breathing heavily from her run. “I know why the Borg are dying, but right now I need to make sure we get out of this nebula alive.”

“No lifesigns,” Harry said, “and a sizeable hull breach on the opposite side of the hull from us according to scans.”
“I’m skeptical that the entire crew of this ship got blown out through that hole,” Janeway said. “I doubt the Cybermen could be smart enough to manipulate the Borg into an alliance and get away with betraying them, only to not have precautions in place to prevent something like that. Humanity figured out how to prevent that kind of disaster before we even sent manned vessels outside our solar system.”

“No sign of activity of any kind on the part of the ship,” Ayala said. “No sign that weapons are powering up, their warp drive, or whatever they use for FTL, is powered down. I think we’re looking at a dead ship.”
No one said anything, but the tension on the bridge melted away so fast Harry could swear he actually felt it. His own body felt considerably less tense.
“I suppose this means we can move on now,” Tom said.

“No,” Janeway said, smiling. “I think this means we can go home now.”
“What?” Tom said.
I agree, Harry thought. What is she talking about? And is she smiling like a school kid?
“Think about it,” Janeway said. “What do you remember about the attack on Delta IV now that our memories are restored?”
“Not much,” Tom said. “I was still in the academy. I remember being terrified the Borg were coming for Earth again.”

“The latest memory I have of that specific period,” Tuvok said, “was the Borg and Cyberman fleets both disappearing and hearing my commanding officer at the time say that the Enterprise-D had ignored orders and begun pursuing them.”

“Yes, but also,” Janeway said, standing up, “that the enemy fleet was headed for the Delta Quadrant.”
“How did you know that?” Harry asked.
“I was acting Captain of the Al-Bitani at the time,” Janeway said. “Owen Paris had just been promoted, and his replacement was waylaid because of the attacks. Before the combined Borg and Cyberman fleets left though, the Enterprise informed us about a key Cyberman weakness. Gold.”
“Gold?” Tom said, sounding like he didn’t believe that could possibly be true.
“We were under orders to go to any planets within less than a few day’s warp that had known gold deposits. We did, but by the time we’d gathered the material, it was over. Captain Picard sent a fleetwide report that the Cybermen had been defeated. The report included log data from the Enterprise. The Cybermen had advanced engines that had put them halfway from Federation space to Borg space in a matter of days.”
“And if the engine of the Cyberman vessel is intact,” Tuvok said, “it is possible we could use it, much as we have done in the past with other experimental types of engines, to return to the Alpha Quadrant in exponentially less time than we are currently facing.”
“With all due respect, Captain,” Tom said, smiling “You probably should’ve led with that last part.”

Harry couldn’t help but laugh at that, and surprisingly, Captain Janeway laughed too. Harry struggled to remember the last time he’d head her laugh.
“Yeah, you’re probably right, Tom. Commander Tuvok, assemble an away team. Just to be safe of course, modify the phaser rifles. We actually do have some non-synthetic gold in the cargo bay. And to think, I only took it from the traders we met last week to be nice.”
The turbolift door opened and Seven of Nine burst out, her breathing labored.
“Cybermen,” she said, “the ship we… why does everyone look happy?”
Harry, who was the closest to Seven, took a step to the side and patted her on the shoulder.
“The ship’s a derelict,” he said. “But we think we can use it to get home.”
“Oh,” Seven said. She looked around the bridge. “I suppose it would be too much to ask that we never discuss my rather abrupt entrance ever again? It was… mildly embarassing.”

“Yep,” Tom said.

Seven had wanted to go with the away team that was heading over to the Cyberman vessel, but Captain Janeway had assured her that there would be plenty of opportunities later and that Tuvok’s team’s only job was to assure that the ship was truly dead, and to restore the vessel’s life support if possible.
“What we need to do in the meantime,” Janeway said, “is compare notes. I imagine that your Borg memories of the Cybermen will have more details than what we have.”

“I believe so, yes,” Seven said. “Though that knowledge may also be corrupted.”

“How so?”
“I would need to have access to that ship’s memory banks if possible to confirm it, Captain, but I’m convinced that the Borg Degradation theory I’ve spoken of before is tied into the Collective’s alliance with and betrayal by the Cybermen.”
Janeway did not seem surprised, which was a surprise in itself to Seven.
“That makes a lot of sense,” Janeway said. “If the Cybermen intended to stab the Borg in the back, they’d want to make sure the Collective was in no condition to retaliate.”
“What I’d like to know,” Harry Kim said, “is how come we had no memory of what the Cybermen had done in the Alpha Quadrant until we saw that ship.”
“That wasn’t the Cybermen themselves,” Seven said. “It was the time traveler who allied himself with Captain Picard. His real name is unknown but he goes by The Doctor and is native to the universe the Cyberman originate from.”
Janeway smiled. “I see I was right in assuming you had more knowledge than we did. Prepare a data packet. As soon as Tuvok gets back we’ll have a senior staff meeting. We need to know as much about this ship as possible if we’re going to safely use it for our purposes.”
“I’ll get on that right away, Captain,” Seven said.

The Borg Queen had convinced herself she left the visible damage on the side of the Class-4 cube she currently occupied so that when she finally caught up Voyager, they would know that the Queen had personally been the one responsible for their destruction.

This was illogical. Revenge was a concern for organics. Symbolism was a concern for organics. But the Borg Queen’s state as the degradation accelerated had grown to the point where she no longer even noticed that the Collective had separated itself from her cube. It was common practice when a cube showed signs of an infection that could harm the Collective.
It had happened once before, with a Borg that had been corrupted by humans who had named it Hugh. Hugh’s cube was severed from the Collective, denied perfection, it and the rest of its cube’s drones left adrift, their fate not known until new knowledge was obtained from Starfleet on the second failed attempt to assimilate Earth.

It was all too late for the Collective, but neither they nor the Queen knew that. What she was aware of now was that the decline of the Borg was happening. It was taking longer to adapt and to regenerate. Reaction times had slowed.
The Borg Queen was certain that Captain Janeway knew it as well, and had taken advantage of it to escape this cube one human year prior. This alone, the Queen convinced herself, was why even though she’d been tracking Voyager ever since her Captain had planted the virus that had kept her from destroying Unimatrix Zero, they had not moved in to attack them. The cube had briefly lost track of Voyager some months ago, near a planet called Quarra according to the crew of the small freighter they had assimilated, but they had found the Starfleet vessel once again.

The Borg Queen’s physical form nearly collapsed as the rush of once-lost information returned to her all at once. On the viewscreen in her alcove, grainy due to distance and interference from the nebula, was a ship of a design that the Collective had paradoxically both forgotten and assumed would never see again.

“They did this,” she said aloud, the drones around her ignoring her verbal outburst. “It’s all so clear now. The Cybermen infected us. That is why we have been suffering these past several years. And now Captain Janeway has access to the source of this insult to our quest for perfection. We must approach this cautiously. We are but one cube, and a damaged one at that. There is no other vessel close enough.”

There were. The Borg Queen simply could no longer hear them. She did not know it, but the end of the Borg Collective as it had once been was coming.

“To avoid confusion,” The Doctor said from his seat in the briefing room, “I believe we should refer to the time-traveling alien who aided Captain Picard by his real name, seeing as I also am called ‘The Doctor,’”
“I would,” Seven of Nine said, understanding where The Doctor was coming from even though she was able to keep the two men separate in her mind easily, “except that name is unknown to anyone apart from The Doctor — the time-traveler, himself.”

“You said his species name was Gallifreyan,” Captain Janeway said. “Let’s just call him that.”
“Why would his real name be a secret, anyway?” Tom Paris said.
“Also unknown,” Seven said. “One theory is that his species only believe in sharing their given names with loved ones, such as blood relatives, spouses, children, etc. Another theory the Cybermen had was that it’s a matter of simplicity. It was never confirmed, but some sources they, well, assimilated for want of a better phrase suggest that a Gallifreyan’s name gets a new syllable added to it after any major event, such a wedding, a death in the family, a regeneration…”
“We’re getting sidetracked here,” Janeway said. “Back to the alliance with the Borg. How did it happen, why did the Cybermen betray the Borg, and how did this ship, out of all the ones the Cybermen sent to our reality, end up still being here.”

Seven of Nine summed it up as best she could, realizing that not every point was relevant, no matter how interesting she found it.
“…thus after The Doc-, the Gallifreyan succeeded in defeating the Cybermen, their entire fleet was destroyed. The Borg were able to remotely activate every single ship’s self-destruct mechanism. Shortly afterwards, the Conduit attempted to assimilate the Gallifreyan’s ship, but was stopped by the ship itself, acting through Commander Data. Once the Cybermen were destroyed, our universe began to revert back to what we would consider normal, with our memories of events altered.”
“None of which explains why this particular Cyberman ship is still here,” Janeway said.
“Or what happened to all the Cybermen on the ship,” Joe Carey said, sitting where B’Elanna normally would. “All we found were parts, but there’s no way that every single one of them could’ve been blown through that hull breach.”
“I have a theory on that,” Harry said, touching a few button on his PADD, bringing up detailed information on the sector of space they were in on the monitor. “Using astrometrics data, Seven and I determined that there had been a subspace sandbar in this nebula. It wasn’t stationary, like the one we were caught in a few years ago, but based on its observed trajectory, the Cyberman vessel would’ve been caught in it.”
“I believe once I’ve had a chance to look at the ship’s databanks I can answer these questions,” Seven said. “I would like permission to join the next away mission.”
“I was going to send you anyway,” Janeway said. “Carey, prep Vorik and Gilmore on what you learned about their engines while you were over there with Tuvok. They’re in charge of seeing if we use their technology to upgrade our own engines.”
“If we can’t?” Carey said.
Janeway sighed, and Seven suspected she knew what was coming next.
“Well, that ship is more than large enough to hold all of us, plus our belongings,” she said. “Hell, we could even fit our shuttles in there.”
“Captain,” Seven said, pulling up a schematic of the Cyberman vessel, and placing it side-by-side with an image of Voyager. “I believe we may not need to attempt to integrate the technologies at all. As you can see here, Voyager is small enough to fit in between the two circular protrusions that make up the middle and rear-most sections of the ship.”
“That could work,” Tom said. “We could use magnetic clamps to affix the ship’s landing struts to the Cyberman ship’s hull. And putting it right there,” he pointed at the monitor, “would protect Voyager if there were any sort of subspace or gravimetric shear to worry about.”
“I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here,” Janeway said, but Seven was convinced it was a viable plan. Certainly the fastest as well, as even if Cyberman technology could safely be integrated into Voyager’s, something she was skeptical about for security reasons, it would most likely take longer to perform the upgrades than it would to simply attach Voyager to the hull, send over a small team to man the Cybership’s controls, and-

Her train of thought was interrupted by the sounds of Tom Paris and The Doctors’ comm badges chirping simultaneously.

“Tom! Doctor, I need you in sickbay!” B’Elanna yelled.
“What’s wrong?” Tom said.

“It’s time!” B’Elanna said. “Get your asses down here now, because there is no way in hell I am doing this by myself!”
“You better go,” a smiling Janeway said. “And congratulations,” she added as Tom and The Doctor both bolted to the door. Once they were gone, Harry looked around the room.
“At the risk of sounding like an ass,” he said, “are we going to wait until after the baby’s out to continue with the plan, or do we do it while we’re waiting?”
“It’s a fair question to ask, Lieutenant Kim,” Janeway said, standing up, “but I think we’ll wait until we’ve had a chance to say hello to our newest resident. Dismissed.”

Marla Gilmore walked into the Cyberman engine room, Vorik close behind her. Lydia Anderson waited outside, holding her phaser rifle so tight Marla was afraid she might break it.

Considering what we know about the Cybermen and what they’re capable of, she thought, I don’t suppose I can blame her.

She went over to the nearby console to begin the process of powering up the ship’s engines. As they began to operate, more lights came on in the room, allowing her a better look at the Cyberman’s faster-than-light drive.

She gasped.
“Is there a problem Miss Gilmore?” Vorik said.
“Vorik? I think I’m in love,” Marla said, smiling like the proverbial child in a candy store.

Vorik’s eyebrow raised, but he didn’t make any comments about humans and their ability to form emotional attachments to inanimate objects like many Vulcans did. Marla figured he was probably just used to it at this point.

“It is certainly an impressive feat of engineering,” he said instead.
The sound of footsteps coming from behind them drew Marla’s attention, but the lack of phaser fire let her know that it was probably someone from Voyager, if not Lydia herself. She turned to see Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine enter.
“At ease Marla, I just wanted to get a look at… at…” Janeway’s jaw dropped as she looked up at the full extent of the Cyberman engine. Even Seven of Nine looked visibly awed. “Oh, you are beautiful.”

“Miss Gilmore,” Seven said, “if you would be so kind as to direct me to the memory core. I was told it wasn’t on the bridge.”
“Yeah, Cybermen don’t design their ships quite like any other race I’ve ever encountered,” Marla said. “The databanks are this way.”
“Thank you,” Seven said. “On an unrelated note, I thought you might like to know that Lieutenant Torres went into labor an hour ago.”
Marla smiled. “Remind me to give my congrats when we get back to Voyager,” she said. “How’s it going?”
“I do not know the details,” Seven said. “The Doctor will inform us once the process has completed.”
“Man, what a day,” Marla said. “We might get to go home 30 years early, and a new baby-”
Tuvok’s voice came out of everyone’s comm badge, cutting off Marla’s comment.
“Tuvok to away team. Long range sensors have detected a Borg cube entering the nebula. They will be in weapons range in approximately two minutes. Prepare for transport.”

“Wait,” Captain Janeway said. “Anderson, are any of this ship’s weapon’s operational?”
“The main weapon is, yes,” Anderson replied. “But it can only fire in one direction. The Borg cube would need to be within 15 degrees of the front end of this ship.”
“Get to the control center and get the shields, or whatever the Cyberman equivalent is, up,” Janeway said. “Gilmore, Vorik, get this ship maneuverable. Seven-”
Marla heard the sound and shouted for everyone to get to cover. Several Borg drones transported right into the heart of the Cybership’s engineering sector. Everyone had their phasers out, except for Marla who didn’t have one. She felt someone grab her, and looked to see Seven pulling her behind a console.
“Seven,” Marla said, pointing at a nearby metal arm that wasn’t attached to any body. “Lydia said the weapon on the hand is still operational and warned me not to touch it.”
“Got it,” Seven said, leaping towards the arm.

“Commander,” Ayala said, “the Borg cube has started transporting drones over to the Cyberman ship.”
Tuvok, sitting in the command chair, looked at the viewscreen.
“Lieutenant Kim,” he said, “enhance the image of the cube.”
“Sir?”
“I have a hypothesis,” Tuvok said. “Do it.”
The image on the screen zoomed into the approaching cube>

“I’ll be damned,” Harry said. “A Class-4 cube.”
“Not just any Class-4 cube, Mister Kim,” Tuvok said. “Look at the location of the unrepaired scorch marks on the outer hull. That is the same cube we boarded during the Unimatrix Zero mission.”
“Seven’s Borg Degradation theory looks to be accurate. That was a year ago and that cube still hasn’t fully repaired?”

“Ensign Brooks,” Tuvok said, “begin combat maneuvers. Mister Ayala, target the damaged areas of the cube and fire at will.”

“Aye, sir,” Ayala said.
If I am right, Tuvok thought, we can provide sufficient distraction for the away team to activate and use the Cyberman weapons. That should even the odds in this battle, if not turn them in our favor.

Janeway, Anderson, and Vorik made quick work of the first wave of drones. The second wave, the same number of drones as before transported in, and only three fell, the other two shrugging off the phaser blasts.
“They’ve adapted,” Janeway shouted. “Adjust frequencies.”
“Captain,” Vorik said, “I believe it is worth noting that it took two drones more than it usually does for them to adapt.”
“Noted,” Janeway said as she tapped the buttons on her phaser. Before she could finish however, a loud noise filled the Cybership’s engineering, and she looked up to see the two drones cut down by a volley of weapons fire she didn’t recognize. She turned towards its source, and saw Seven of Nine holding the arm of a dead Cyberman like a weapon.
Seven raised an eyebrow.
“Impressive,” she said.
“To put it mildly,” Janeway said. “We need to get to the control center before the cube sends any more drones.”
“The fact that no more have been sent already suggests the cube is planning to change tactics,” Seven said.
“Tuvok to away team, are you alright?”

Janeway tapped her comm badge to reply.
“So far,” she said. “Status report.”
“We have engaged the cube,” Tuvok said. “We have determined it is the same Class-4 cube we encountered last year.”
“Are you sure?” Janeway said, surprised at what she was hearing.

“Certain,” Tuvok replied. The damage caused by the core we overloaded remains largely unrepaired.”
“The Collective is in worse shape than I assumed,” Seven of Nine said.

The Borg Queen largely ignored the weapons fire coming from Voyager, only firing back occasionally. A small amount of damage had been done to the armor plating, but it was nothing that couldn’t be repaired easily once this was over. She focused on scanning the two vessels her cube was approaching, looking for two people in particular whom she wanted to speak to personally.

“Scans have confirmed the individuals designated Captain Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine are on board the Cyberman vessel,” the Collective’s voice said, and the Borg Queen smiled.
“Prepare a transporter lock,’ she said.

“Alert. Primary Cyberman weapon powering up.”

“This is not a concern. Our armor is more than adequate to…” The Queen stopped talking for two reasons. First, she realized that she sounded to herself less like the voice of the Borg and more like a leader; an individual. Second, she wondered why she was so unconcerned about the potential damage a Cyberman ship could do to her cube when she remembered all too well how many cubes she’d lost to the Cybermen when they’d betrayed their alliance.
Her eyes widened. She gave the cube the order to begin evasive maneuvers.
It was too late.

“Main gun is on-line,” Anderson said.
“I have a targeting lock,” Seven said.
Janeway leaned against the Cyberman ship’s equivalent of a captain’s chair, somewhat disappointed that it was far too large for her to sit in comfortably, but she didn’t need to be sitting to give her next order.

“Fire.”

Harry Kim couldn’t resist the urge to cheer as the viewscreen showed the weapons fire from the Cyberman vessel cut through the Borg cube’s armored plating, causing massive explosions all over it.

“Mister Kim,” Tuvok said, “Damage report.”
“The cube got lucky,” Harry said. “A lot of the shots they took at us missed wildly, but that last one they got in hurt our shields, and knocked our forward phaser banks off-line. It’s repairable, but will take a full damage control team several minutes.”

“Good thing they’ve stopped firing,” Ayala said. “That blast from the Cyberman ship hurt them pretty bad. I’m picking up no signs of active weapons anywhere on that cube. Hull breaches all over the place, at least one of the armor plates is just gone.”
“Lieutenant,” Tuvok said, looking at Ayala. “Prepare a full spread of photon torpedoes, and target the cube’s eng-”

“Anderson to Voyager! The Borg have the Captain and Seven!” Lydia Anderson’s voice shouted over the comm.
Harry gulped.
“Mister Kim, can you get a transporter lock on them?” Tuvok asked.
“Negative, sir,” Harry said, looking at one of the monitors on his console. “Some kind of interference field was put up just a second ago. That must be where the Captain and Seven are. It’s crude, we can beam through it, but not out of it.”

“Mister Ayala, prepare an extraction team,” Tuvok said. “Mister Kim, attempt to open a comm channel to the Captain.”

Seven looked around at the corridors of the Borg cube. It was a mess, to put it mildly. The few drones that were still mobile seemed overwhelmed by the sheer amount of repairs.
“Looks like we hurt them even worse than we thought,” Captain Janeway said. Seven hadn’t realized at first that the Captain had been beamed over with her, but she shook off the surprise quickly, checking to see that the Cyberman arm blaster she’d been holding still worked.
“I would’ve assumed the Queen would’ve transported us straight to her alcove,” Seven said.
“I wonder why she grabbed us instead of sending over more drones,” Janeway said.
Seven gestured at the state of the corridor. “Probably didn’t have enough to spare.”
“Tuvok to Janeway,” a garbled but still mostly audible voice came over Janeway’s comm badge. “Lieutenant Anderson told us what happened. Are you alright?”
“So far,” Janeway said. One drone, it’s exposed organic parts showing signs of severe burns that would’ve had a human in too much pain to walk, approached them, assimilation tubules waving about menacingly.
“Come,” it said, its voice garbled.
“The Borg Queen,” Seven said. “She must be here.”
“This may sound crazy,” Janeway said, “but I get the feeling her royal pain in the ass is going to try to bargain her way out of this. That would explain why we weren’t assimilated right away.”
“That is just one possibility,” Seven said. “She may try to get us to surrender.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that. Tuvok, keep a lock on our signal, but don’t beam us out until I either give the signal, or our lifesigns fluctuate wildly.”
“Understood, Captain,” Tuvok’s voice said.

“Lead on,” Janeway said to the drone, who, limping, turned around and headed down the corridor. Shrugging, Janeway followed it, Seven close behind.

When the two entered the room the drone led them to, clearly where the Queen had set up her central alcove aboard this cube, they knew why they hadn’t been beamed there right away. Even now, drones were clearing the floor.
“Captain Janeway. Seven of Nine,” The Borg Queen said, stepping out of her alcove and moving close enough so they could hear her over the sounds of repairs. Seven, glancing around for signs of traps saw, several meters above them, the cube’s vinculum. One of its supports was clearly broken, and one of the others looked little better. The last was stable, or so it appeared. One well placed explosion…

“It would seem we are at an impasse,” the Queen said. “My weapons are badly damaged. But so are Voyager’s and those of your captured Cyberman vessel. I admit, I had not expected that you simple-minded organics would learn to operate their superior technology so quickly. Shame you were only able to get one attack volley off before I was able to disable the main guns.”
“‘I’?” Janeway said, smirking. “When did this start?”
The Queen looked confused for a moment, then shook her head. “We.”

“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?” Janeway said. “The Degradation. You’re starting to lose control over the Collective, aren’t you.”
“Impossible,” the Queen said, defensively. “I am the Borg. We are Borg. This Cyberman virus has weakened us greatly, yes, but we will rebuild.”

Well, that confirms that theory, Seven thought.

The Queen stepped forward in an effort to look threatening. With her gaze focused on Janeway, Seven allowed herself to risk raising the Cyberman weapon slightly, focusing on where she’d need to fire. Now if the Queen could just take one more step forward…

“I will take that Cyberman vessel from you, Captain,” the Queen said, smiling now. “With it, we can cure this plague that has weakened our intelligence, our strength, made us a pale shadow of what we once were. And once that is done, we will begin anew our quest for perfection, bringing it to others in this galaxy.”
“Whether they want it or not, of course,” Janeway said. “What makes you think you can just take the Cyberman ship from us though? If you could’ve, Seven and I wouldn’t be here. You’d be over there. Or on Voyager. Or both. I think you’re trying to bluff me into surrender. Just goes to show how much that computer virus from another universe has rotted your brain.”
“We are Borg!” the Queen shouted angrily, taking the last step forward Seven needed, but now she was looking as much at her as at Janeway. Seven would only get one chance. She began doing the math in her head one more time. She was certain she already had the right firing solution, but for a shot this important, not just to her, or her family, or her crewmates, but possibly to the entire galaxy…
“We have lost many of our voices, but they will be replaced. A newer, stronger Collective will rise. The Cybermen failed. You failed. And your crew will be the first of my new drones. But not you yourselves, no. You, Captain Kathryn Janeway, and you, Seven of Nine, will see the last act I take as the emotional, petty, being the Cyberman virus left me. My last bit of spite before I return to being what I was always meant to be, a creature of logic, a part of a hive mind, will be this; I will decorate my central alcove with your bones!”
“Yeah,” Seven said, “Fuck you too.” She fired, hitting the one vinculum support, shattering it. The other, already damaged, snapped almost immediately from the weight. The Borg Queen moved to get out of the way of the heavy Borg device, but just as Seven had predicted, the Queen was unfamiliar enough with the concept of survival instinct, not having needed it for so long when she could just go to another body when the one she was in was destroyed, that she ended up stepping in just right the right place for the sharp bottom of the vinculum to pierce her skull. She didn’t even have time to scream. The drones however, they screamed, and fell over, and twitched violently.
“We should probably go now,” Janeway said, taking Seven’s arm.
“No doubt,” Seven said.
“Janeway to Tuvok, get us the hell out of here.”

Janeway looked around, wondering why Harry had beamed her and Seven directly to the bridge, but she wasn’t going to complain.
“Lieutenant Ayala, prepare a full torpedo spread,” she said. “Janeway to Anderson.”

“Anderson here. Glad to hear you’re alright, Captain.”
“I’m back on Voyager. Target the Borg cube and prepare another round. We’re going to finish this.”
“With pleasure, ma’am,” Anderson replied.

Janeway straightened her uniform, took her seat in the Captain’s chair, and looked at the damaged Borg cube on the viewscreen.

“Anderson, Ayala… fire.”
The two vessels, one Starfleet, one Cyberman, cut loose on the Borg cube, tearing it apart within seconds.
“Their warp core’s about to go critical,” Harry Kim said.
“Back us off,” Janeway said. “Janeway to away team, can you get that ship moving?”
“Somewhat,” Marla Gilmore’s voice replied.

“You’ve got…” she looked at Harry.
“Five seconds,” Harry said.

“Damn it,” Janeway said. “Hang on!”

The cube exploded, the shockwave spreading out in all directions. Voyager shuddered violently as it hit, but even as she gripped the arms of her chair, she could see on the screen that, amazingly, the Cyberman ship held, knocked back, but not showing any signs of damage.

That doesn’t mean the people inside weren’t hurt though, Janeway thought. Especially if they weren’t secured.
“Away team to Voyager,” Lydia Anderson’s voice said over the comm, causing Janeway to openly breathe a sigh of relief. “We’re alive. A little rattled, but alive.”

“Good to hear, Lieutenant,” Janeway said. “Good to hear.”
”Sickbay to the Bridge,” The Doctor’s voice said.
“Go ahead,” Janeway said.
“Is it safe to assume that the fighting is over?”
“That’s correct.”
“Good,” The Doctor said. “Then now’s the perfect time to announce that one Miral Paris has joined our crew, happy and healthy with her parents.”
Cheers filled the bridge, coming from Ayala, Brooks at the helm, and Harry Kim.
Janeway smiled, and even felt tears of joy well up in her eyes.
“This really has been an interesting day,” she said. “Give the parents my congratulations.”

“When can we see the baby?” Naomi asked, practically bouncing with excitement.
Seven just laughed, while Sam patted Naomi on the head.
“When B’Elanna and Tom say we can, sweetie,” she said.
“I am relieved the process went well,” icheb said. “It’s my understanding that the birth process, which is already difficult for many, is even more so for mixed species births.”

Sam winced, remembering Naomi’s birth and the unusual circumstances surrounding it.
“Yes, I’m aware,” she said aloud. “It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. After seven years, this could be our last day in the Delta Quadrant.”
“That’s not entirely accurate,” Seven said. “As fast as the Cyberman engines appear to be, it will still take us approximately six days to return to the Alpha Quadrant. Add an additional day if we choose to go straight to the Sol system as opposed to a deep space Federation colony.”
“Well, still,” Sam said, “as happy as I am, it’s hard to not to have mixed emotions about this. It’s the end of an era for us, really.”
“Understandable,” Icheb said. “I admit to having concerns of my own. I’ve never lived anywhere else than the Delta Quadrant.”
“Same here,” Naomi said, “but we’ll be okay. You’ll get to join Starfleet, and I’ll get to meet my Dad.”
“He’s going to be happy to meet you too,” Sam said.

“Seven,” Icheb said, “is the Captain planning to hold some sort of ceremony to mark the end of Voyager’s time in the Delta Quadrant?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Seven said, looking at Sam. Sam didn’t believe there were any such plans either, so she nodded her agreement.
“Why do you ask?” she said.
“In my lessons with The Doctor last week he spoke of a concept called catharsis,” Icheb said. “I believe that some catharsis for the crew prior to leaving the Delta Quadrant could possibly make it easier for them to readjust, or adjust in the case of myself, Naomi, Mister Jaffen, and Seven of Nine, to life in the Alpha Quadrant.”
Sam smiled, while Seven put down her PADD to give the boy a hug.
“That is an excellent idea, Icheb,” Seven said. “I agree with your assessment.”
Icheb smiled, and even blushed a little. “Thank you. Would either of you be willing to help me present the idea to the Captain?”
“I’ll do it,” Sam said. “Annie’s going to be on the Cyberman ship soon.”
“Oh, hey,” Naomi said, “I was thinking when we get to Earth we could get a pet.”
“Oh?” Sam said, wondering where this was coming from. Naomi hadn’t said anything about wanting a pet for years.
“I’m thinking a bunny,” Naomi said.
Sam tilted her head, and saw that Seven raised an eyebrow.

“Why a bunny?” Sam asked.
“Well,” Naomi said, “bunnies are usually prey animals, right? But a pet rabbit on a starship wouldn’t have any predators. It could be relaxed all the time.”
“Interesting,” Icheb said, “I had never thought to consider the bunny perspective before.”

Tom Paris leaned against the doorway to the bedroom of their quarters and watched as B’Elanna gently placed the sleeping Miral into her crib.
“I’m amazed she went down so easy,” Tom whispered. “Especially after all the excitement we just had.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” B’Elanna whispered back. “Most nights are not gonna be this quiet.”

“Well, luckily most of those nights are going to be back home,” Tom said.
“Especially with you at the helm,” B’Elanna said.
Tom sighed, hoping they weren’t going to have this discussion again. “I’m a new father,” he said. “Brooks can handle the Cyberman ship. Seven confirmed from the Cybership’s databanks we won’t run into anyone hostile on the trip home, not with the course with we’ve plotted. A few populated star systems might get a bit of a scare as we pass through, but we won’t be around long enough for them to shoot at us. And any anomalies along the way, we’ll be able to go around. Sue can do it.”

“I’m sure she can,” B’Elanna said. “But the fact is you’re a better pilot than her, and I do not want to take any chances when it comes to getting our daughter home safe. Talk to the Captain. Convince her to let you be on the team that operates the Cyberman ship.”
Tom wanted to argue this point, as he had before, but he knew he’d only be repeating points he’d made several times before in the past two days.
Time to graciously admit defeat, he thought. “I’ll talk to her at the ‘Farewell, Delta Quadrant’ party,” he said.

The cargo bays with their modular walls were the only place where all one-hundred twenty plus crewmembers could be gathered comfortably. It lacked the view of the stars that the mess hall had, but Captain Janeway wanted everyone gathered for this event; Voyager’s final day in the Delta Quadrant. And after all, right now the stars wouldn’t be visible in the mess hall viewports anyway, instead being filled with the gases of the nebula and the cold metal hull of the Cyberman ship that Voyager was now attached to.

For most of the gathering things had been light. The crew laughed and shared memories of the more amusing or bizarre events they’d encountered since the destruction of the Caretaker’s array and the merging of the Starfleet and Maquis crews. Static images of some of these events, taken from the ship’s logs and sensor records had been arranged on the walls like paintings, based on a suggestion made by Icheb.

It was inevitable she supposed, though, that someone would bring up some of the tougher moments they’d faced; the hardships, and losses. When that happened, Janeway tapped her glass of champagne, and quickly the rest of the crew turned to look at her while Jaffen placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Before we start our final mission here in the Delta Quadrant,” she said, “let us take a moment to remember those of us who didn’t make it to this day. It’s in their memories that we undertake this last journey, using the ship the Cybermen left behind and its engines to finally see our homes again. I say their names aloud so that, if they can hear us somehow, they know that we have not forgotten them and that their sacrifice was not for nothing.”

Janeway cleared her throat. “For Aaron Cavit, Veronica Stadi, T’Prena, Doctor Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Mitchell Fayed, Aka-Na-Tak, Bobby Androjnik, Kopor the Climber, Stockbridge, Thomas Merlin, Nihlus Kryik, Peter Durst, …”

Janeway’s voice began to crack, frustrating her immensely. She hadn’t even gotten to the end of Voyager’s first full year, and already the names became harder and harder to get out. Tuvok moved over to stand by her, and without missing a beat picked up where Janeway had left off, starting with Kurt Bendera. Janeway was not surprised that Tuvok had decided to include Lon Suder’s name. He was a murderer, but even still in the end he had died saving the ship, making it possible to retake it from the Kazon. If any of the rest of the crew found his inclusion controversial no one said anything. By the time Tuvok made it to Commander Chakotay’s name, the cargo bay was all but silent, the only sounds being made by a handful of crewmembers and Naomi Wildman sniffling, all seeming to be trying as hard to hold back tears as Janeway herself was.

“To absent friends,” Janeway said, taking a sip from her glass. Those who held drinks followed suit. Jaffen whose hand had never left her shoulder squeezed it gently.

“That was beautiful,” he said quietly, his own eyes seeming to be tearing up when Janeway turned to look at him. “I’ve been on ships that lost people before. I wish they’d gotten a send-off as touching as that.”

“It would be better if I didn’t have to give a send-off at all,” Janeway said, she and Jaffen moving off to the side as normal conversation amongst the rest of the crew resumed.
“Space travel can be dangerous even under ideal circumstances,” Jaffen said. “And you haven’t had ideal circumstances for seven years now. Yes, you’ve lost people. But most of the sentients under your command are going home today, and they have you to thank for that.”
Janeway allowed herself a small smile. “I can’t take all the credit,” she said. “A captain’s only as good as their crew. Without these other people here, I would never have made it past the Ocompa homeworld, if that far.”

“Sure,” Jaffen said, “but that goes both ways. You needed them, and they needed you.”

“Yeah,” Janeway said, sighing. “That’s going to make it that much harder when we get home.”
“What do you mean?”
“I intend to step down when we get back to Earth. Maybe take on a teaching job at the Academy, maybe just retire to Indiana.”
Jaffen briefly laughed, then covered his mouth apologetically. “I’m sorry, Kathy. But really, if I know you as well as I think I do, you’ll go crazy inside of a week if you do that.”

Janeway shook her head. “I’m just so tired, Jaffen.”

“So take a break,” Jaffen said. “I don’t know how vacation time works in Starfleet, but if it carries over you’ve probably got more time coming than I’ve ever had at every job I’ve held combined. At least that way, if you decide you want to get back out to the stars, it’s easier to come back from sabbatical than from retirement.”

Janeway smiled, remembering the stories of how many times the crew of the first Enterprise under James Kirk had ‘retired.’ “You’d be surprised, actually.”

“At least think about it,” Jaffen said.
“Okay, okay, you’ve convinced me,” Janeway said. “I’ll wait until we’re actually on Earth before I decide between retirement or just a long vacation.”

“I look forward to seeing it,” Jaffen said. “In person I mean. I know that holovids can only do so much. And speaking of looking forward to things, I hear you’ve chosen to lead the skeleton crew that will be piloting the Cyberman ship for the last day.”
“You heard right,” Janeway said. “The Voyager rumor mill does get things correct from time to time.”

“I want to be there with you,” Jaffen said. “I-”

“Okay.”

Jaffen stopped talking, looking surprised, and Janeway couldn’t help but laugh.
“You thought I was going to argue with you on that, didn’t you?”
“Well, to be honest, yes,” Jaffen admitted.
Janeway kissed him on the cheek. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have at my side when we reach Earth.”
“And I look forward to seeing the look on your face when you see Earth,” Jaffen said.

The away team stepped onto the transporter pad, excluding Tom Paris, Marla Gilmore, and Vorik who had already returned to the Cyberman ship to for the final leg of the journey home.
Janeway held Jaffen’s hand in hers and watched quietly while Seven hugged Samantha Wildman, and Megan Delaney tried to reassure her twin sister Jenny that everything we going to be fine.
“Just remember,” Jenny said, “if you get killed, I’m telling Mom.”
Megan laughed, as she stepped onto the pad.
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “Don’t worry, sis.”
“I love you,” Seven said to Sam.
“Love you too,” Sam said.
“Are we all ready?” Janeway said.

Everyone on the away team nodded, silently, except for Lydia Anderson who saluted before saying, “Ready to go, Captain.”

“Very well,” Janeway said. “Mister Mulcahey? Energize.”

Harry Kim yawned at his console.
“Mister Kim,” Tuvok said, “if you require additional rest, I am more than willing to provide it.”
“I appreciate the thought, Commander,” Harry said, “but there was no way I was going to miss this shift. Based on the calculations we did before shift change, we’ll be entering Federation space within a few hours, and Earth a few hours after that.”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “Very well, but I will relieve you of duty if I feel that your reaction times are clouded by lack of sleep.”

“I got plenty of sleep yesterday, sir,” Harry said.
Tuvok was skeptical, but he also knew better than to underestimate human resilience. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time Lieutenant Kim had pulled a double, or even a triple shift.
“Very well,” Tuvok said. “Ensign Brooks, alert the crew when we are about to enter Sector 001.”
“Aye, sir,” Sue Brooks said from her seat at the navigation console.

The man from the other universe, the enemy of the Cybermen known as The Doctor has had many qualifiers attached to his name. Among these are terms such as “magnificent bastard,” and “chessmaster.”

The Doctor couldn’t think of any way that any Cybermen would be left behind in the universe of the Federation and the Borg, but regardless he left something in place just in case. The Earth of this place was not his Earth, his adopted home, but he felt obligated to protect it nonetheless.

The device was not hidden, but because of its origin no Starfleet officer or Federation civilian who stumbled across it in Sector 001 would think twice about it, leaving it be, unexamined. That would be true even at this moment, when for the first time since The Doctor had returned to his reality the device activated. It detected Cyberman activity approaching. The device began to power up in order to perform its designated task.

“We’re approaching the outer edge of Sector 001,” Megan Delaney said, looking at her jury-rigged console set up in the Cybership’s control center.

“How long? Janeway said, stretching. She hated the chair that had been set up for her, but decided not to just request a new one be sent over from Voyager.
“Approximately thirty minutes ahead of schedule,” Megan said.
“Thirty less minutes I have to wait to see my family,” Tom said. “Including my Dad.”
“I imagine Starfleet Command will want to debrief us before allowing us to see our loved ones,” Seven said.
“Oh, I doubt that,” Janeway said. “That would make Command look bad. They’ll probably give us at least a day.”
“I’m more worried about the civilians,” Lydia Anderson said. “Didn’t Reg Barclay say we’re celebrities these days? We’re going to get swarmed by autograph seekers and excited schoolchildren.”
“You might,” Marla Gilmore said. “If I’m lucky they’ll let me visit my nephew before putting me up before a tribunal.”
“That was always a possibility,” Vorik said. “However, given the contributions you and most of your fellow survivors from the Equinox have made-”
The ship shuddered.
“I’m reading an energy spike,” Megan Delaney said.
“I see it, but I can’t get a fix on its location,” Seven said.
“What’s happening?” Jaffen said, looking like he wanted to do something, anything, to help but at a loss as to what.
“We’re being pulled towards it, whatever it is,” Tom said. “I’m putting everything I can into propulsion but-” The ship shuddered again, more violently this time, throwing nearly everyone to the ground.
“Janeway to Voyager!”

“Captain,” Tuvok said, responding to the hail, “a spatial rift has opened near our location. It opened as soon as we entered the solar system.”
“Detach Voyager and get clear,” Janeway said, “then beam us out.” The final part of her order was understandable, but the signal had started to weaken.
“Understood,” Tuvok replied. “Ensign Brooks?”
“Already on it,” Brooks said.
Voyager suddenly stopped shaking.
“Commander,” Harry said, “whatever the rift is, it stopped pulling at us once we detached from the hull of the Cyberman ship.”
“Is it still pulling the Cyberman vessel towards it?”
“Aye, sir,” Harry said.
“Bridge to transporter room 1,” Tuvok said, “the away team requires an emergency beam out.”
“Yes, sir,” Todd Mulcahey’s voice replied.
The bridge was silent. Tuvok touched a button on the arm console and the viewscreen switched to show the Cyberman vessel, struggling as it was pulled towards the rift in space that seemed to only effect it.
“Mister Mulcahey?” Tuvok said.
“I’m trying, sir, but I’m having trouble getting a solid lock.”
“Janeway to Voyager,” the captain’s voice said over the comm, still understandable but far more garbled. “Now would be a good-” Static. “Can you hear me Voy-”

“Oh no,” Tuvok heard Brooks yell as the Cyberman ship, turned violently and went engines first into the rift. There was a brief flash of light, and then the ship was gone.
“Bridge to transporter room 1,” Tuvok said. “Did you retrieve the away team?”

“I’m- I’m sorry sir, I was only able to get a solid fix on two of them.”
“Who did you retrieve?” Tuvok asked.
“Seven of Nine and Megan Delaney, sir.”
Tuvok heard Sue Brooks sob quietly, and saw both Lieutenant Ayala and Lieutenant Kim staring in disbelief at the viewscreen. He sat down quietly. His logic failed him as he tried to find something to say to the crew.

Harry Kim looked at the console, the computer registering the names of the Starfleet ships approaching them. He focused on the names and classes far more than he really needed to, not wanting to dwell on what he had just seen, afraid that the Cyberman ship had not just been yanked back to its universe of origin but possibly destroyed with both his captain and his best friend aboard.

The Galaxy-class ship Allegheny, the Prometheus-class Palmyra, the Nebula-class Sutherland, the Defiant-class Wolverine, and the one that he knew Samantha Wildman would’ve been happiest to see if she were on the bridge, her father’s ship, the Excelsior-class John Laurens.

Because he was focusing on his console he saw the light that signalled that one of the ships, the Allegheny according to the signal, was hailing Voyager. He told Tuvok.
“On screen,” Tuvok said.
A Quyth appeared on screen, his single eye a mixture of pink and yellow. The other captain was probably concerned that this wasn’t really Voyager but was part of some elaborate trick. If his memories had been triggered by seeing the Cyberman ship the way Voyager’s crew had been, Harry couldn’t blame him.
“This is Captain Hokor the Hook-Chest of the U.S.S. Allegheny to Voyager,” he said. “Is that really you?”
“This is Commander Tuvok,” Tuvok said, “it is… good to be home, Captain Hokor. We should be transmitting our IFF signal as we speak.”

“We’re picking it up on our end,” Hokor said, “but Starfleet’s a bit more paranoid than it used to be. I’m sure you understand. We’ll be escorting you back to Earth, where hopefully the necessary security measure to confirm your identities will go quickly and you and your crew can take all the time you need to see your loved ones.”
Hokor’s eye blinked, and the color in it swirled and became partially translucent.
“Commander,” Hokor said, “that other vessel, the one that was pulled into the rift we saw on our long-range sensors, I recognized it even though I’m sure I never saw it before.”
“A Cyberman vessel,” Tuvok said. “That will require some explanation that can be handled in our debriefing.”
“Cybermen,” Hokor said, shaking his head nervously. “Now I remember. I was still a Lieutenant when they attacked Delta IV. Glad it’s gone. I’m curious how your ship came to be attached to the side of one of their vessels.”
Harry winced involuntarily at that comment.

“We found it derelict in the Delta Quadrant,” Tuvok said. “We were able to use its advanced engines to return to the Alpha Quadrant within days. A skeleton crew was on the Cyberman vessel while the rest of us remained aboard Voyager.”
“I hope you were able to get all of your-” Hokor stopped, the color in his eye changing again. “Commander, where is Captain Janeway?”

Tuvok made a noise that Harry could swear sounded like a sigh, the closest to sadness the Vulcan had ever shown under circumstances outside illness or alien influence.

“I regret to inform you, Captain Hokor, that Captain Janeway, four other crewmembers, and a civilian were all still aboard the Cyberman vessel when it was pulled into the rift. We have no cause to believe they were killed in the process, but if they are alive I hypothesize that they are currently in the other reality, the one of the Cybermen’s origin. At this time, neither they nor we have the means by which to return them.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Hokor said. “I’m sure Starfleet will put their best people on trying to find a way to bring them home.
“Captain Janeway found a way home once,” Tuvok said. “It is logical to assume she can do so again.”

Samantha was so relieved to see Seven of Nine enter their quarters that it took her longer than she cared to admit to see that Seven was crying.
“Annie? What happened?”
“You- you don’t know?”
“No, I’ve been here the whole time. I heard we made it home, and there was the shaking but…”

“Something happened,” Seven said. “Megan and I were beamed off in time, but, the ship, the other ship…”
Oh no, Samantha thought. Seven collapsed into her arms.
“They’re trapped in the other universe, the one where the Cyberman ship came from.”

Samantha was about to ask who, but then she remembered who all had been on the other ship when they’d entered Federation space, and gasped.
Tom, Marla, Lydia, Jaffen, Vorik, the Captain, she thought.
“It’s not fair,” Seven said, “We were so close. This isn’t like falling down just short of the finish line, this is like getting shot at the finish line.”

Samantha just held onto her wife tightly, stroking her hair and whispering calming noise,. It was all she could to keep from breaking down in tears herself. Samantha felt two other pairs arms embrace her and Seven. She had forgotten that Naomi and Icheb were there too.

The four of them just held each other for a long time, no one sure what, if anything, to say next.

Chapter Twelve

Janeway struggled to her feet, still feeling dazed from when she and the others had all slammed against the wall. She was grateful that the Cyberman ship’s inertial dampeners, or whatever their equivalent was, hadn’t failed or she and the others would be so much splattered mess. She looked around. Tom had already gotten up and was frantically trying to hail Voyager, even though he had to know it was no use. Vorik was helping Gilmore to her feet, while Lydia Anderson was checking the back of Jaffen’s head for injuries.
“Report,” she said.
“We’re near Earth,” Tom said, sounding dejected. “Just not our Earth.”
“Can we contact them?” she asked. A part of her hoped that perhaps the Earth of this reality, the one where the Cybermen had originated, would have something they could use to re-open the rift just long enough to get home. At least the fact that Voyager hadn’t replied when Tom tried to contact them meant that, presumably, the rest of her crew had made it home.
Tom glared at the image of the planet on the main monitor.
“No,” he said. “I was able to tap into the satellite network. The Earth of this universe is still in the early 21st century, though unlike us they didn’t have a Eugenics War. This Earth is more advanced in their 2014 than we were in ours, but not enough to do any good. They don’t even seem to have noticed us yet near as I can tell.”

Tears began forming in Tom’s eyes. He punched the navigation console. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

Janeway wished she had the words to help Tom, but she just didn’t. He had every right to be upset after all. Being separated from people you loved by over seventy thousand light years was one thing, but now there was an entire universe and hundreds of years separating him from his wife and newborn daughter, a child he’d spent mere days with.
She looked back at the others. She could see sadness beginning to take hold over Anderson and Gilmore already. Jaffen seemed fine, if a bit dizzy. Vorik was as implacably Vulcan as usual.

Will we forget them too? she thought. Like we forgot about the Cybermen when they came to our universe? Or is it different for us now that we’re in their realm?

“So. What do we do now, Kathy?” Jaffen said.
Janeway took a deep breath. She felt deep down like what she was about to say was a lie, but she needed to say something to give her people hope. Her crew, anyway. Jaffen would be happy wherever they were so long as he was with her. That was something she was glad for at least.

“The barrier between our worlds has been breached more than once,” she said. “It can be done again. I don’t know how long it will take, but we will find a way. I’ve gotten my people home before, I can do it again. Hell, if we’re lucky, it won’t take us seven years this time.” She added a smile to that last line, surprising herself at how genuine it felt. This speech was as much for her as it was for the others.
“There is a man here, a time traveler, who helped Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise defeat the Borg/Cyberman alliance ten years ago,” she said, though Tom and Jaffen already knew that part. “If we can find him, I imagine he could get us home to our universe.”
“How do we find him though?” Marla Gilmore said.
“She’s right,” Tom said, slumped in his chair. “You heard what Seven said about him. He goes all over time and space, seemingly at random, in a ship smaller than one of our class 2 shuttles.”
Janeway thought about it for a moment. Tom was right about that, but she remembered something else from that briefing; about the kind of man the time traveler was. Everyone looked at her, patiently waiting for what she would say next.
“We make an impression,” she said. “Vorik, Gilmore, let’s get this ship in the best shape we can. Tom, go over this ship’s records. I want to know where the major hubs for information and trade are in this universe.”

“Ma’am?” Tom said.
“It’s simple. We fix this ship up, we go around looking for sentients in need, and we help them,” Janeway said, now feeling genuinely hopeful instead of just trying to project it. This plan she was formulating had so many ways it could go wrong, but it was the best she had.

Besides, she thought, is this really that much more difficult than some of the crap we went through in our own reality?

Vorik raised an eyebrow. “With all due respect, I fail to see how that helps us return to our reality, Captain.”

“This time traveler,” Janeway said, “this man who simply calls himself The Doctor, has been an enemy of the Cybermen for centuries. Sooner or later, word is going to get to him about a ship belonging to one of his oldest and most dangerous enemies going around doing good in the galaxy.”

“And if I were in his place,” Anderson said, “that sure as hell would get my attention.”
“Exactly,” Janeway said.
Jaffen walked over to Janeway and casually put an arm around her waist.
“I gotta say,” he said, smiling, “I like this plan.”
“Can’t hurt to try, I suppose,” Tom said, sighing.
Janeway looked up at the monitor. It was almost eerie how the Earth here looked just like the one she called home. She wondered for a moment if maybe it would be so bad to settle here if The Doctor never came.

No, she thought. I’m not ready to give up yet. Either we get to go back to our home, or we die here as heroes.

B’Elanna Torres cradled her daughter in her arms as she looked at the picture of Tom on the table in Admiral Paris’ home. Physical pictures weren’t the norm amongst the people of the Federation anymore, not with digital photo frames that could easily hold hundreds, even thousands of pictures instead of just one having been available to humanity even in the time before Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight. The practice had never gone away completely though, and with the fear that the Voyager crewmembers who were trapped on the Cyberman ship when it got pulled through the rift would be forgotten an ever-present reality, they went from a mere act of sentimentality to a necessity. The new project that Admiral Paris, Reg Barclay, Lewis Zimmerman, and others had started on Jupiter Station required physical copies of photos of the lost crew, any information they had on them written down on real paper. The computer records of them were not lost completely but were spotty, incomplete, and easy to miss unless you knew what to look for. Or even that there was something to look for.

“Thank you for letting me stay here, Admiral,” B’Elanna said.
“Please,” the Admiral said. “No need to be so formal. I’m off-duty, and you’re my daughter-in-law. Call me Owen. Besides, you don’t exactly have a place of your own right now.”

“That’s certainly true,” B’Elanna said. “I don’t even have a ship anymore.”
Owen Paris sighed. “You heard about that, huh?”
“I figured R&D would want a look at all that Delta Quadrant tech we brought back with us,” B’Elanna said, shifting on the couch slowly so as not to jostle the baby too much. “I don’t understand why they had to hide Voyager away though.”

“That was Nechayev’s idea,” Owen said, sighing. “She has this idea in her head that the new technologies inside Voyager would be a prime target for the Federation’s enemies. She’s not one hundred percent wrong, I’m sure the Romulans would love to have a look at that slipstream drive, even if it is burned out. But Elena is, well, Elena. Just keeping Voyager in the Sol system isn’t secure enough for her, she has to move it to one of her,” Owen groaned before completing the sentence. “Black Sites as she calls them. I don’t know if she doesn’t know the history behind that phrase or just doesn’t care.”
B’Elanna nodded. “I knew that there was a chance, even with the pardon, that I might not get to serve on Voyager again, but that doesn’t make the mental image of a bunch of Intelligence types pawing at her warp drive any easier to stomach.”
“With your credentials, record, and reputation,” Owen said, “I don’t doubt that once your maternity leave is up that you’ll be in anything less than high demand. There are a lot of captains in Starfleet who would kill to have an engineer with your skills on their team.”

“I don’t know,” B’Elanna said. “I might just try to join the team at Jupiter trying to figure out how to get Tom back from the other universe. If I didn’t have Miral, I’d be feeling so helpless right now.”
“I can see about that,” Owen said, surprising B’Elanna who just assumed that he would be against it, perhaps arguing that she was too close, too emotionally invested. “Fact is, having people there who have more cause to care than anyone about the people we lost in that rift is probably the best way to ensure that they aren’t forgotten. If my own science training wasn’t a few years out of date since becoming an Admiral I’d be there myself.”

“Maybe we’ll go to Jupiter together then,” B’Elanna said. “It would certainly make it easier for you to spend time with your granddaughter.”
“Speaking of,” Owen said, motioning towards Miral, “May I? I haven’t actually had the chance to hold her since you got to San Francisco.”
“Of course,” B’Elanna said.

Harry Kim stood outside the airlock to the U.S.S. Delaware, reluctant to go inside. He reached into his pocket and fiddled once again with the folded up paper photo he had of his best friend, what was his name? The one who was in another universe now, or something like that. Why was it so hard for him to remember the name of his own best friend?
“You understand, Lieutenant,” Lieutenant Ayala said coming up behind him “that the ship can’t take off from starbase with you standing in the connector.”
“Right, sorry,” Harry said. “I guess it just doesn’t entirely feel real. I guess I just assumed I’d be going back to Voyager once I returned to duty.”

“I did too,” Ayala said. “But I guess R&D had other plans. The jerks.”
Harry chuckled. “Yeah. Jerks.” He took a deep breath. “Okay, Let’s do this. At least I’ll have somebody from the old crew here. That should make it easier to adjust.”
“More than one somebody,” Ayala said. “Didn’t you hear? Todd Mulcahey and Susan Brooks got assigned to the Delaware as well.”
“I didn’t know that actually,” Harry said. “I’ll make sure to say hello after I report to the Captain.” The two men made their way through the open airlock onto the Nova-class ship. Harry had to admit it was a bit odd being on one of this class again, considering his last experience with one was the Equinox, but he didn’t want to dwell on it. He felt something in his pocket, not sure how it got there, but he figured he’d take it out later, once the Delaware was out of the Sol system.

He went through the open airlock first, Ayala close behind. The two quickly made their way to the nearest turbolift and rode it to the bridge, only to find it almost unoccupied. The only person there was a short haired red-headed human woman. Only when she turned around and Harry saw the four pips on her collar did he realize that this was his new commanding officer, Captain Kilkenny.
“Ah,” she said, smiling. “Lieutenant Kim. Lieutenant Ayala. You’re early. I would’ve arranged for you to meet the rest of the senior staff if I’d known. Welcome aboard.”
“Captain,” Harry said, standing at attention. “I look forward to serving with you.”
“And I look forward to hearing some of your war stories,” the Captain said, practically radiating enthusiasm. “I mean, you two served aboard Voyager. You’re practically legends, and here I am, the one who’s going to be giving you orders.”
Harry blushed. He looked over at Ayala, impressed at the man’s ability to maintain his composure. Harry turned back to face the Captain, but something behind him caught his eye, something sitting on one of the arms of the captain’s chair.

Is that a plush cat? He thought.
The Captain realized he was looking at something behind her and turned around.
“Oh, I see you’ve spotted Desmond,” she said.
“Desmond?” Ayala said.

“My kitty,” Captain Kilkenny said casually, as though it should’ve been painfully obvious to him and Harry. “He’s been with me since my first assignment; the Kilimanjaro.” She sighed. “She probably would’ve been my first command if we hadn’t lost her to a Dominion sneak attack during the war. Could’ve been worse though. Out of 900 crew members 893 made it out alive.
“But enough about old war wounds,” she said, her smile suddenly coming back. “Command has cleared us for departure at 0900 hours.” She checked the PADD in her hand. “Both of your quarters are on Deck 3. Feel free to get some rest before we head out.”
“Aye, sir,” Harry said.
“Aye, Captain,” Ayala said.

“A pleasure to finally meet you in person, Doctor,” Bruce Maddox said, extending his hand to The Doctor.
“Likewise, Commander,” The Doctor said, accepting the handshake offer politely.
“I was sorry to hear about what Starfleet Command decided to do with Voyager,” Maddox said. “Any plans, since you’re losing your sickbay?”

The Doctor looked around, his gaze falling on the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance.
“Not really. I have been offered a teaching position at Starfleet Medical,” he said. “I may take it, but not this semester. Some of my Voyager crewmates have invited me to meet their families. I think they feel they owe me since I treated them during our time together, as if I ever would’ve not. I imagine their spouses, children, and what not wish to thank me for making sure their loved ones made it home. I appreciate the sentiment, but because of it I can’t help but think about all the people on Voyager I couldn’t save.”

“I don’t think you need me to tell you even the best doctors Starfleet has can’t save everyone,” Maddox said.

“I’m well aware of that,” The Doctor, “but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.”

Maddox nodded, and turned to look at the bridge as well.
“I imagine that seeing the faces of your crewmates’ families might help. It won’t make the guilt go away, unless you decide to remove it from your program. But if Commander Data can learn to live with the downsides of having emotions, I doubt you will have any problems.”

“I suppose you’re right,” The Doctor said. “In that case I probably should go then. My first invitation just for today is meet with Lieutenant Carey and his family. Perhaps I’ll see you some other time.”
“I wouldn’t mind that,” Maddox said. “I can read the Voyager logs anytime I like, but hearing about it from someone who was there is an experience no report can properly convey. If possible, I can even arrange for you and Data to meet. He’s mentioned that he finds your story inspiring.”

The Doctor smiled. “I would very much love to meet with him. I’ll get in touch once I know I have some time to spare, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Seven of Nine pulled her robe tight around her as the air grew colder. She looked at the night sky on the Ktarian homeworld and was amazed at how many stars you could see, even this close to a major metropolitan area. She watched as off in the distance at the spaceport the ship that had brought her and her family here, the Starfleet passenger courier Lois McKendrick, took off.
Naomi was on the other side of the city, spending time with her father and his parents. Icheb had, mere months after arriving in the Alpha Quadrant, earned early entry into Starfleet Academy. Samantha had fallen asleep on a small couch in the room they were sharing while they were here, until their leave was over. Or so she’d thought until she heard Sam walk up to her. She didn’t turn to look as Sam slipped her arms around Seven’s waist and rested her chin on Seven’s shoulder.
“Trouble sleeping?” Sam said.
“Not tired yet,” Seven said. “Just… thinking.”
“Still hoping we’ll see them again?”
Seven didn’t need to ask to which ‘them’ Sam was referring.
“The barrier between the universes has been breached before,” she said. “At least twice, and that’s just what I know of. Who’s to say-”
“It’s okay, babe,” Sam said. “I think we’ll see them again too. If I know Captain Janeway as well as I think I do, she’s probably already got a plan in motion.”

Seven chuckled. “Probably an ill-advised plan with a low probability of success.”
“Yeah, well, those have worked out for her pretty well so far,” Sam said before kissing the back of Seven’s neck. “Now, if you aren’t going to come to bed, at least close the balcony doors. Ktarian cold winds can sneak up on you. And don’t forget we’re meeting my sister tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Seven said, watching Sam as she went back inside. Seven turned and looked up at the stars one last time before doing so herself. Even if her crewmates never did return from the other universe, even if they hadn’t survived the breach, she would make sure that they wouldn’t be forgotten.

~The End~

Dedicated to my Dad, an OG Trekkie, for introducing me to Roddenberry’s vision.

My biggest regret was that he didn’t get to see how this story ended.

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